“So, you all work together?” Rhett asks, joining in the conversation for the first time. I can’t help but notice the way his eyes stay trained on Kiersten, as if he finds her fascinating.
“Nathan and I are partners on the ambulance. Kiersten works in dispatch. So, same field, yeah, but not in the same area.”
“That must be fascinating. Do you ever get any crazy calls?”
Nathan and I exchange a glance. “Crazy stupid or crazy annoying? There’s never a lull in the calls from people who should have called their therapist instead of 911. Kiersten gets the most interesting calls, though. We’re only routed to the ones that need medical assistance.” Nathan answers his friend.
“Ugh. Just last night. A lady called to report a man wearing only his underwear, singing ‘Joy to the World’ while taking down the snowman her children made, Jet Li style.”
“What?” Rhett laughs, then sits back as the waiter returns to deliver our drinks. “What does someone even do for that?”
“A lot of times it’s drugs or alcohol, so the cops will check the person out for that. Although, there are times it’s just some random, impulsive person who felt like having a little fun. They most likely get told to go home with a warning.” Kiersten picks up her mule for a long drink. “Oh, it’s so good.”
I agree after a long drink of my own. There’s nothing like a perfect mule. Cold, refreshing, with that coppery bite from the mule mug.
“Last week, there was a call that someone had stolen the driver’s side door off some guy’s truck. And there’s this repeat caller who always thinks someone’s out to get him. He’s been known to put booby traps around his residence.”
“What did he call for this time?” Nathan asks as he passes around shots and limes. I snag two glasses and he raises his brows at me, so I stick my tongue out at him. Then I pile two limes on my napkin.
“Mmm.” She swallows her drink and sets it down, excitement shining in her eyes. “He thought someone had the blueprints to his house and was digging a tunnel for access.”
“Holy fuck. That’s crazy. Who are these looney tunes so I can avoid them?” Rhett jokes.
“Sorry, buddy. That’s privileged information.” She wears a wide smile of her own.
“What is it you do?” I ask him. I know him by name from stories Nathan’s told, but other than that, this is my first time meeting him.
He looks uncomfortable with my question. “I run a pest control business.”
Kiersten and I turn to each other at the same time. My eyes slide away first. “In town?”
“Yup. Chuck’s Exterminator. Chuck was my grandfather.”
The problem with small towns is everybody is connected. In short, Nathan’s good friend is also a good friend of Law’s. Can my world get any crazier?
Nathan lifts his glass and nudges me with his elbow. “All right, kids. Those of you brave enough to embark on this drinking quest, raise your glass.”
The three of us comply, raising our shots to meet at the center of the table.
“To letting go of the past,” Nathan shouts, his eyes sliding to glance at me. “To new friends, and a new year full of fresh beginnings. To lo
ve. And second chances. To trying something new and rekindling something you used to enjoy. Most importantly, to us. Family. Good health. And friends.”
A lump of emotion swells in my throat. In so many ways, his words ring true to all the different aspects of my life. He and I. Law and me. Evelyn, Kiersten, and my life in Arrow Creek. Moving on from the shame and guilt of my past and learning to forgive myself. Opening up to a happy future, one I’ve worked toward and deserve.
“Here!” Rhett cheers, and we all clank.
As I lick the salt, I don’t miss the way Kiersten stares at Rhett while her tongue swipes her hand. Total flirt. She’s so going to home with him tonight.
We take down the tequila together. It burns, but slides down smooth, and I shove a lime slice in my mouth. After the first, we take the second, and a chorus of glasses thud against the wood table.
“Enough of that. I need to go nurse my mule or I’m not going to make it past ten o’clock.” I chase the tequila with my other drink.
“Amateur.” Rhett throws in with a smile.
“Should we dance?” Kiersten frames it like a question, but she’s already out of her seat and swinging her hips to the tempo.
My head swims with the amount of alcohol I’ve already drunk. Food would be good. A waiter walks by with a plate of wings at that precise moment, and my mouth waters. “I’m going to get a bite to eat. Then I’ll join you.”