“Hey, what do I need to do now?” she asked as she walked up behind him.
“Go look at all the bathtubs and shower units.” His hand brushed against her shoulder when he pointed, and there was definitely a spark. Not a big, overpowering one, but it was there and it worried him. “Basically, that’s all we have to pick out today. The rest of the list is already in Billy Joe’s hands.”
“He works here. I do a lot of business with all of the employees,” he answered.
When they reached the display, she stopped and crossed her arms over her chest. “There’s not a lot of difference, is there? This one is the cheapest.”
“And there’s a reason it’s the least expensive. We’d be replacing it in a year if we have a lot of guests. They’re lined up by price. Keep going all the way to the end and feel the difference with your hands. Check the thickness of the wallboard and, more importantly, check the warranty. Think about how often you want to tear out walls and replace the unit,” he said.
Buying fixtures is like getting into a relationship. Melanie’s voice popped into his head. You need to be sure that the one you get has a fifty-year warranty and won’t fall apart with use.
We had that kind of relationship, darlin’. He stood perfectly still, hoping that she’d say something else, but she didn’t.
“This is going to involve a lot of plumbing,” Jolene said.
“Before we get done, we’ll probably have the whole house refitted. And maybe most of the electrical wiring redone.” He was a little aggravated that Jolene had broken the magic by speaking. It might be weeks before Melanie said anything else. And what did she mean by that comment about relationships? What they’d had couldn’t be compared to bathtubs and showers—not by any stretch of the word.
What we had, with “had” being the key here. There was her voice again. I keep telling you to let me go and move on, Tucker.
“I can’t,” he said out loud.
“Can’t what?” Jolene frowned. “Who are you arguing with?”
“Myself, I guess,” he muttered and quickly changed the subject. “Move on to the last one in the line. That’s the one I’d pick. It’s got a lifetime warranty and . . .”
She laid a hand on his arm. “Okay, partner, if you’re sure.”
“I’m not real fond of redoing bathrooms. Putting in a new one isn’t so tough, but trying to redo one in such a tiny space is a bitch.”
“Well . . .” She dragged out the word. “Then you can pick out this stuff and I’ll work on the antiques and pretty things.”
“I can agree with that, but I would like to see what you pick out before you buy it,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t trust you to choose gorgeous things, but I want to be sure the pieces will fit where we want to use them.”
“Deal.” She stuck out her hand.
There was another bit of chemistry when he took her small hand into his, and he didn’t like it one bit. He couldn’t be unfaithful to Melanie again—he’d felt guilty as hell the few times he’d had one-night stands in the past couple of years. They hadn’t done a damn thing to ease the pain, anyway. He certainly hadn’t felt anything for those women. So why was he feeling sparks now?
Give a bunch of stir-crazy folks some loud country music, a few beers, a pool table, and maybe let them do some two-stepping or line dancing, and they’re happy. By the looks of the parking lot that Friday night, there was going to be a full house at the Gator.
When Jolene rapped on the door, Dotty opened it immediately. “I thought you might be here soon. We’ve got a few minutes until opening. Want a root beer while we wait?”
“Yes, ma’am, with a shot of vanilla. But why wait?” Jolene tied an apron around her slim waist and tucked a towel in her hip pocket. “I’ll get it. Since there’ll be two of us tonight, which end do you want me to work?”
“I can see you’ve worked with more than one bartender.” Dotty twisted the cap from a bottle of icy-cold root beer and gave it a shot of vanilla.
“You haven’t?” Jolene took a long gulp.
“Couple of times, but it never worked out. We got in each other’s way too much. I’ve held down the place with only my ever-changing bouncers since my Bruce died.”
Jolene hopped up on a barstool beside Dotty. “We split the bar down the middle. I’ll take one end, and we stay out of the other’s way, unless one of us gets a rush and the other one hasn’t got a customer. That way we don’t get confused about who we’ve served. Do you run tickets or is it cash when ordered?”
“Cash,” Dotty said.
“How do we do the register?” Jolene asked. “I used a code at the Twisted Rope. The journey tape let the owner know at the end of the night how many drinks were served and how much tip money belonged to each of us.”
“Well, in this establishment I’m going to trust you, chère. We sell. We get paid. We put it in the register and make change if we need to. Tips go in our pocket and we don’t take time to count them until the night is done,” Dotty told her.
“That’s a lot of trust. I could rob you blind,” Jolene said.
“But you won’t or I’ll tattle to your aunt Sugar.” Dotty smiled.
“You are a tough one, Miz Dotty.”
“Had to be with this job. I’m going to open the door now. You get the far end, and I’ll work this one. Get ready for the first rush.”
“Thank you.” Jolene hugged Dotty. “For not letting Flossie and Lucy talk you into firin’ me.”
“Us Cajuns got to stick together.” Dotty hopped down off the counter and crossed the wood floor.
She was right about the first rush. Thank goodness most everyone started off the night with bottles of beer or pitchers. A half an hour had gone by before someone even asked for a Jack and Coke. It was after that when Flossie perched on a barstool on Jolene’s end of the bar and asked for a strawberry daiquiri.
“What in the devil are you doin’ here? After the fit you and Lucy threw about me working here, I’m surprised that you even set foot in the Gator.” Jolene made the drink and put it on the bar.
Flossie handed her a bill. “Havin’ a daiquiri. Listenin’ to a little music and . . .” She leaned across the bar and crooked her finger for Jolene to come closer. “Makin’ sure that Lucy ain’t here. Some old gray-haired guy came today and flirted with her. Said he was comin’ to the bar to do a little dancin’ tonight.”
“And if she is? Isn’t that her business?” Dotty joined them from the other end.
“Hell, no! It’s my business.” Flossie sipped her daiquiri and gave her a thumbs-up sign. “If she’s on her hallelujah wagon, then we have to go to different churches with her every week—Wednesday night, Friday night, and every other event. I’m the one that catches the flak, since you have to run this bar. If Lucy’s not on the wagon, then we only have to go once a week.”
Dotty patted Jolene on the shoulder. “And when she’s on her wagon, I have to get up early on Sunday, because some of them churches have two services and she wants to go to the early one,” Dotty said. “You know she won’t come to the Gator, Flossie, because she knows what I’d say. She’s probably down at the Southern Comfort.”
Flossie’s drink sloshed as she slapped the bar with her bare hand. “Well, crap, I didn’t think of that. If I find out that she’s out drinkin’ and screwin’ around, I may not speak to her for a month.”
“Aww, if she’s doin’ that, then she’ll go to more than one service on Sunday and pray for a crop failure,” Dotty laughed.
“Crop failure?” Jolene asked.
“Honey, you go sow wild oats on Friday and Saturday nights, then you go to church to ask God for a crop failure so them wild oats don’t sprout up and grow.” Dotty giggled.
“Hey, sweet thang, could I get a pitcher of Bud Light?” A man waved a ten-dollar bill over the top of Flossie’s head.
Jolene grabbed it, drew up a pitcher full of beer, and passed it between Flossie and the guy next to her. “Change?”
“Naw, dawlin’, you keep that.” He winked.
“Thank you.” Jolene put the price of the pitcher in the register, shoved what was left of the bill into her apron pocket, and used a bar rag to clean up the spilled drink. “So do you see this guy that’s about to push Lucy off the amen bus?”
Flossie spun around on the stool and scanned the bar. “Nope, but I sure wish I did. I’m going to finish this drink and go home. Next weekend I’ll check out the Southern Comfort if she mentions going out with him again.”
Flossie found a table with some folks she knew near the back of the bar. Jolene didn’t even notice that she was still there until a few minutes after midnight, when Dotty handed her another vanilla root beer. “Thank God you’re here. I swear this is the busiest we’ve been in five years. You must be a magnet.”
“Don’t know about that, but I’m sure glad I wasn’t workin’ the bar alone tonight,” Jolene said.
“That’s just another reason why you should quit this place and come to work for me.” Flossie parked herself on an empty barstool. “I won’t work you nearly as hard, and I’ll pay you a better salary.”
Dotty snapped a towel at her. “That’s enough out of you, or I’ll tell Lucy you was checkin’ up on her.”
Flossie ignored Dotty and focused her attention on Jolene. “Make me one of these things to go.” Flossie held up her empty glass. “If I’ve got to sit through Mass on Sunday, I should at least have something to ask forgiveness for.”
“You okay to drive?” Jolene asked.
“Honey, I come from a long line of moonshine runners. My grandma and grandpa moved over here from Kentucky after Grandpa made a fortune in ’shine. I can hold my liquor and sell a dead man a new coffin, and Lucy ain’t the only one who can please a man in more than fifty ways. I’ll see you Sunday after church.”