Heart's a Mess
Author:Scott, Kylie

Their restaurant manager of ten years gave them a sweeping, scalding glance. Marie had been with them so long, she’d become a part of the family, a sister almost. Well, to him and Duncan. How John felt about her, who knew? John often had all the emotional responses of a rock.

 

Marie swept out without further word. Violet, sadly, stayed in place, staring at all the damning evidence. “Well, at least my name’s not on there.”

 

“It’s kind of a funny story.” Duncan rolled to his feet, one hand covering his burgeoning black eye. “A-actually.”

 

“Don’t,” Alex warned, climbing back into the upright position a little more slowly. He hurt in more ways than one. His whole world had filled with pain. No hangover could compare.

 

“Fix this,” his brother John ground out, then left.

 

Duncan wandered out after him. “I’m gonna go get some ice.”

 

“Yeah, you do that,” Alex muttered, wandering over to stand beside the stunned woman. What the hell must she think? He cleared his throat and gathered his excuses. They didn’t come easy. “I’m so sorry about all this, Violet. You should never have been exposed to such unprofessional behavior, let alone this.”

 

He waved a hand at the whiteboard. Fuck. It got worse every time he saw it, especially considering how it must seem from her perspective. The jazzy little doodle of lacy lingerie Duncan had done in the corner just compounded the issue. His brother had quite the artistic streak. “Umm, listen, you’re new here so you don’t know us very well yet. But we would never—”

 

“It’s fine.” Green eyes stared back at him, wide and unblinking. She had the strangest expression on her face. He couldn’t read her at all. In her high heels they stood almost eye to eye, but it didn’t help one iota. It felt as if she looked right through him. “Really, Alex.”

 

“It is?” he asked.

 

“Yep.” Her smile had sharp edges. “Boys will be boys. Let’s pretend this never happened.”

 

“But—”

 

“I really should get to work. You should probably mop up your face. Your lip’s bleeding a little there, in the corner.” The woman started backing away as though she couldn’t get out of there fast enough. As if he were poison. “And we’ll just forget this ever happened. Okay? Great.”

 

“Great?”

 

“Great,” she confirmed with that uneasy smile. Then she left. Warp speed couldn’t compare.

 

For minutes he watched the doorway, waiting. Nothing happened. He was too stunned to be relieved. That and he hurt. His knuckles ached and his lip, as told, was indeed bleeding from one corner. But the major catastrophe had been diverted, somehow. Everything had turned out fine. Huh.

 

Excellent. Great.

 

Alex put his hands on his hips and took a deep breath, first one and then another, searching for some calm. Yep, a nice, big inhalation, straight through his nose…

 

It sent the faint floral scent rushing through him. Pouring in and filling every atom of his being, better than any drug.

 

His head shot up. “Fuck me.”

 

*

 

Violet limped to the staff room at the end of her shift, more Band-Aids than she’d ever imagined possible adhered to her feet. Damn those sexy, confidence-enhancing shoes. Kill them in a fire. Being sacked would have been preferable to spending ten hours standing up in them. Never, ever again.

 

“Hey, Violet,” a voice said from behind her.

 

A truly lovely male voice with just the right amount of rough dwelling in its seductive depths. The things that voice had said to her last night. Take it off. Touch me here. Don’t stop. You feel soooo damn good, sweetheart. Her temperature spiked at the memory, as if she were baking beneath the summer sun. Alex apparently loved to talk and she definitely loved to listen.

 

But this was bad. What she needed was to remove her shoes. Remove her shoes, get a drink and then to bed. But not with him, never ever, ever again with him. Because that would be asking for trouble. She’d had enough of that in her life.

 

“Hi, Alex,” she said without turning. The visual stimulus wasn’t required. Nor was him catching sight of her suddenly all-too-obvious straining nipples. Stupid, perky pricks. “I thought you were behind the bar until closing.”

 

Sunday through Thursday the restaurant closed at nine and the bar at eleven. Her hopes and dreams of a smooth and speedy getaway had rested upon it. Her need to get the hell away from him sat right up there with her need to remove her shoes. Escape couldn’t be more than nine, ten meters away at most. She only had to get out into the hallway and then through the back door. Her car couldn’t be another five or six meters after that. Fifteen meters say, and she’d be home free. She could do it. She could and she would, whilst keeping her job, because he didn’t remember.

 

On one level, his drink-induced amnesia niggled. But on a hundred more she felt profoundly grateful for the fact. All night she’d taken her drink orders to Duncan, doing her best to avoid Alex. Her eyes, however, had strayed toward the man every chance they got. He’d given her a few bland smiles. Comforting, impersonal nods and nothing more. She’d felt safe, up until now.