On my way to the pool tables, I snatch a bat from under the counter and a bottle of beer from the case. I hate bar fights.
“Call the cops,” I shout to John, hoping he heard me.
The crowd is already thick with rubberneckers, so I squeeze and push my way to the edge of the group, circling around two twenty-somethings arguing about a fair shot and who the better player is. Once again, the fragility of the male ego astounds me. They’re not going to like a woman getting involved.
With every ounce of authority I can muster, I shout, “Hey!”
They don’t even turn to look. Well, have it your way.
I grab the beer by the neck and smash it on the empty table closest to them. The sound seems to register. Finally, they get quiet long enough to look over. I imagine they’re not entirely sure what to make of me—bat held in one hand, resting lazily on my shoulder, broken bottle in my other hand, the jagged shards still tinkling onto the ground as I wave it.
“Now, then. You can take this outside, or wait for the cops.”
They stare at me, wide-eyed, and I wonder whether we’ll reenact a cheesy movie scene where they ask, Oh, yeah, what are you gonna do about it? And I respond with, It’s been a while since I had batting practice, while swinging the weapon in a full circle to stretch my wrist.
My lips twitch at the image.
Apparently, they don’t have the same sense of humor, because they say nothing. Glancing around at the audience, they back away and go to their respective corners.
I shrug, trying to ignore the adrenaline-laced pounding of my heart and weakness in my legs—the aftermath, when I realize I’ve done something that could have turned out badly. At the same time, I’m rather smug over diffusing the situation.
Spinning back toward the bar, my nose collides with a wall of male chest. To see his face, I have to take a step back, though I really don’t need to. I know who it is.
“What are you doing?” I demand. My voice is harsher than intended and I blame it on the skittering of my pulse, which has nothing to do with my recent pseudo-heroics.
Casanova looks down at me. “I thought you might like some help. Are you okay?”
Red flashes in my vision, as I realize he was directly behind me and likely the reason the two guys stopped their arguing.
“I’m fine. And I didn’t need any help.”
The look he gives me is filled with skepticism. Whatever. He doesn’t have to believe me. He just needs to get out of my way.
“Look, I’ve seen fights get ugly. A bat may not have done any—”
I bring the bat up between us, partly as a blockade for my own sake, and press the end against his abdomen. It’s hard and unyielding, and I’m momentarily sidetracked imagining him without his shirt.
“Excuse me. I need to get back.” I press harder, hoping to push him to the side, though it becomes obvious the only way he’s going to move is when he decides to.
“You need a bouncer or some guy to handle—”
My frustrated growl shuts him up and I march past him to the jukebox. I need a song. Punching in the numbers for The Pussycat Dolls’ I Don’t Need a Man, I let the rhythm wash over me. Nicole Sherzi-however-you-say-her-last-name can say it much better than I can. I return to the counter without looking back at Casanova.
“What happened?” Ashley asks as soon as I step around the side.
“Just a bar fight. I need you to go sweep up the glass, though.” After my not-so-grand exit, I really don’t want to go back over there.
“And you got in the middle of it?” She flashes John a coy smile and he shifts in his seat, looking uncomfortable. “So that’s why you keep such a strong guy around.”
She’s batting her damn eyes at him again.
Looks like we need to talk after we close. While I have no doubt John would be able to keep his behavior professional at work, Ashley seems the type to bring emotions into everything. That is, if something were to happen between them. I may have to institute a no fraternization policy, which should go over well. This is why I hate working in other places—politics.
She leaves to clean the broken glass and I serve a few drinks, mulling over my behavior from earlier. I refuse to believe Casanova is right and I need a man to handle things like bar fights. I’ve been okay in the past, but it’s never actually become violent. Hating the idea that he might be right, I decide to ask John what he thinks. When I locate him, though, I see Casanova pulling up a stool beside John.
“Who’s the hot guy?” Gina appears to my right, squeezing in between two couples at the bar. She elbows one guy in the back and he shifts to see who did it. Giving him an apologetic look, she turns back to me.
“Which hot guy?”
“Oh, come on. The one by John. The one you were staring at.”
“Or were you staring at John?” Her focus is now entirely on me.
And all I can do is gape.