“Didn’t your hook-up just leave?”
Nate shrugged. “My dick’s not dipped in gold like yours, but I don’t have a problem getting girls either.” He flashed me a grin. “But if you want to go and pick him up, I wouldn’t mind sticking around and finding a new hook-up.”
“Yeah. Have fun. I’ll get him.”
“All right.” He paused. “You okay?”
Was I? I shrugged. The Kate thing was a problem that I didn’t know how to reign in.
I didn’t answer him. I didn’t know how and I didn’t want to lie. When I pulled into Quickie’s, I didn’t see Logan. Sending him a quick text, I waited, but there was no answer so I got out. When I went inside, there was still no Logan, but I saw Marissa behind the counter.
She was biting her lip as she waited for my reaction.
“What are you doing here?”
Her hand shot up in an awkward wave before her cheeks grew red. She looked down and her hand slammed to the counter, spilling her water. “Oh shit.” She lunged for the napkins, knocking over another glass of liquid and then groaned. “Oh my god.” The second glass tipped onto the register and she began repeating, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” over and over again as she looked around. “There’s no towel. Nothing. My uncle will kill me. I swear.”
I grabbed a bunch of napkins and began piling them on top of each other, absorbing the first pile of liquid. When I had enough, I slid it over. She was still jumping in a circle, frantic, so I started wiping up the second spill. Leaning over the counter, I was finishing off the register when she squealed, grabbed her coat from under the counter, and pivoted back to me. She was ready to use her coat to absorb it, but she froze when she saw the spills were already cleaned up.
Her hands dropped. “Oh.”
I grinned. “It’s done. No damage.”
“That’s so embarrassing.”
I checked my phone. Still no reply from Logan, but I asked again, “What are you doing here?” After sending another text to him, I added, “Working a gas station at night is dangerous. You shouldn’t be here.”
“I know. He knows.”
She was picking up the soaked napkins now. A few slipped from her fingers and fell back with a splat. When she tried picking them up again, they broke in half. “Dammit.”
“What?” she looked up. “Oh yeah. My uncle runs this gas station. I don’t normally work, but there was a family emergency and he asked if I would fill in. I’m only here for a little bit. He’s on his way back.”
“Your uncle owns Quickie’s?”
She nodded. “Yeah.” She gave up trying to pick up the napkins by hand and grabbed a trash can. Holding it beneath the counter, she swiped all the napkins into it, then groaned when she saw the puddle of liquid that hadn’t been absorbed. “These are cheap napkins.”
I frowned. “I guess.” There was still no answer from Logan. “Have you seen my brother? I’m supposed to pick him up from here.”
“My brother.” She was still focused on cleaning the counter. “You know Logan? My brother. An inch shorter and leaner than me. Is this ringing a bell?”
She flushed. “I’m sorry. Yes. He’s in the back.”
“In the back?”
“He was really wasted so I told him he could lay down in the back.”
“He’s passed out?”
She nodded, her cheeks were red, but it spread to cover her entire face. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, looking nervous again. “I’m sorry. I texted Nate. Logan told me not to text you before he passed out. He said you needed to get laid so, um, I texted Nate instead. I’m sorry. I should’ve texted you or called you or I don’t know.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” She started to leave the counter, but cursed and stopped. “I can’t leave. I’m sorry or I would show you. It’s just through the back door. He’s on the couch back there.”
“Okay.” I frowned at her.
She waved at me. “Go. Take care of your brother. My uncle is coming back now.” A sweep of headlights flashed in the window as a car pulled into the lot. “See. That’s him.”
“Okay.” I waited until I saw a guy hurrying inside. A harassed look was on his face, but it morphed into alarm when he saw me.
“What are you doing here?” he started forward.
Marissa hurried around the counter and held him back. “He’s a friend, Uncle Ben. He’s a friend. That’s it. His brother is sleeping in the back.”
“I know you.” He pointed at me. “You leave her alone. She’s a good girl.”
At the warning, the slight concern I had felt for Marissa left. In its place, the old emptiness and anger settled back in. They were like a second layer of skin, and it wasn’t until then that I realized they had lifted for a moment. It was because of Marissa. They didn’t press so hard on me when I was around her, but they were back and I’d gone back to being the bad guy.
“No, no. He’s going. He’s getting his brother and he’s going.” She waved at me. “Go.”
When I ducked into the back office, Logan was sitting up, cradling his head with his phone in the other hand. He saw me and blinked, dazed at me. “Mason? Did you just text me a bunch of times?”