Piece by Piece, Evergreen Grove Book 4

 

Piece by Piece cover

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ETHAN’S HIT A ROUGH SPOT
So I caught my dad in bed with my ex-girlfriend.
My best friend cancelled our plans to celebrate my birthday.
Decided to drink away the betrayal.
Made out with a cardboard cutout of a celebrity in front of my new roommates.
Got in a bar fight.
Hooked up with that pretty bartender whose sad smile I’ve secretly been painting pictures of since forever, but she shoved me out the door with hardly a word.
Did I mention the tattoo I don’t exactly remember getting?
And that’s only Saturday.

Now I need to pick up the pieces of my messed-up life.

LEEANNE’S HAD A TOUGH LIFE
What do you do when you’ve lived in the same small town your whole life and you feel as if you’ll always be stuck in the same rut, like a piece of busted wagon wheel? Well, maybe you start by hooking up with the first decent guy who walks into your bar.

 Maybe once you do, it’s hard to get him out of your head even though you try. And maybe, just maybe, you find out he makes you laugh even more than he makes you want to shout his name.
If you’re me, you don’t even know what to do with a guy like him. A little piece of happiness…that feels downright dangerous.

“What can I get for you, sir?”

And here we go in three…two…one…

“Sir.” I snort. Maybe I’m still a little drunk after all. “I’m not a sir. I’m just… Whatever. You know me, LeeAnne. I come in here all the time. I’m Ethan. My best friend Michelle is friends with Cassie, who lives with that guy Jake who works here sometimes, who also, I don’t know, probably sat at a boxing match next to Kevin Bacon once or something. I’m Ethan.”

“You said that already.”

God, I want to beat my head into the jukebox for being a raging moron. Except I think, maybe, her smile warms up a little. Maybe dumbassery is working in my favor at this particular moment.

“So, yeah. I’m repeating myself. I do that. Anyway, you look sort of sad and I’ve been having a crap day myself, you know? Maybe we could go out sometime. Coffee or whatever. Nothing fancy. Unless you like fancy. I’m open.”

Dear Ethan: Shut your face before she slaps you in it. —Your Last Remaining Shred of Dignity

For hardly a second, her smile slips. Like the professional she is, she puts it back fast, only her eyes dim another notch.

She sticks her pen behind one ear. “You think I look sad, so you’re inviting me out for coffee?”

Yeah, I guess the logic fell a little short. “I know some good jokes.”

Now her smile takes on more of an I’m-humoring-you sort of expression. “That’s a sweet offer, Ethan, but I’m afraid I don’t date customers.”

Uh-huh. She’s shut me down in a super kind but firm way, and my first instinct is to leave her alone and walk away. Not do anything that might rock the boat or be bothersome.

Yesterday, I might have.

Well, yesterday I wouldn’t have even asked her out. After all, I was still pining for the girl I stupidly thought was my soul mate. My soul mate who was sleeping with my dad. Can I get a yeesh with a side of gaaah?!?

Yesterday was yesterday. Or maybe it’s already after midnight and yesterday was actually two days ago. Not so sure. Point is, today is a new day and a new Ethan. Today, I have to give it one more try. Especially since she called me “sweet” and that’s just fucking unacceptable.

“Right. I hear you. It’s an understandable policy. Makes total sense. Can I just ask one favor?”

She shifts her weight to one leg, popping out one of those gorgeous hips and pursing her lips like she knows I’m about to try to feed her some horseshit. I guess she’s not wrong. I’m not trying to be an asshole, I’m just done being the nice guy.

The nice guy gets nowhere. I’m so fucking done being the nice guy.

I mean, I’ve got no problem with being kind. You know, being considerate. My mom taught me to treat others with respect, and I’m still sure that’s a good thing. I do have a problem with being kept on the line as the affable idiot who’s always around, knowing damn well he’ll do whatever because he’s hoping for more.

I have a problem with people thinking nice equals doormat.

Being nice got me nothing but kicked around. More than once. Fuck that business.

Sure, I’m channeling a little anger right now. It’ll die down. Pinkie swear.

I grab LeeAnne’s order pad, swiping the pen from behind her ear. I like the way her eyes widen and her cheeks stain when my hand brushes her hair. She doesn’t look mad, but she looks surprised and maybe sort of amused. It’s cool to see some light in those dark eyes.

“You know,” I say. “There’s this kickass kebab place over in Pender. Sometimes I’m like seriously craving food from there, but then I ask around and nobody else wants savory meat on a stick. So I don’t go because eating alone is no fun, you get what I’m saying?”

“I don’t really—No.”

Yeah. I ramble. A lot. Especially if I’m nervous. Which is almost always. “So all I’m saying is, I’m really good company if you’re ever in need of some. Company. You can ask around. People like me, and I’m not at all creepy. Zero spree-killings so far this year.”

“It’s February.”

“I stand by my track record.”

   

 

 

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