Her stomach was rumbling by the time the server delivered their combination appetizer platter. The aroma of the food and the sizzling plate made her stomach clench. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was now 9 p.m. Without heeding the server’s warning to be careful of the hot dish she reached for a loaded potato skin, pulling her hand back when a splatter of oil landed on her hand. Ignoring the pain she reached again and lifted one to her mouth, knowing the blisteringly hot cheese would likely shred the roof of her mouth. She grimaced as the potato skin in her hand fell to the table when someone bumped into her trying to squeeze by. The grimace turned into a frown when a second person bumped into her and she turned to glare.
“Sorry, tight quarters in here.” The offender’s lips turned up at the corners as he stared down at her. Someone pushed into him trying to get by and he was forced further into her space. She didn’t back up and for a moment they were a hair’s breadth apart. A voice over the mic, followed by the clashing of drum cymbals, severed their connection.
“Sorry about that.” He nodded as he pushed through the crowd.
Val stared at Mia who was now avoiding looking at her.
“Seriously…you’re going to stand there and pretend I didn’t just watch you go speechless because of some guy?”
“I need a drink, you want anything?” Mia threw over her shoulder as she escaped to the bar, ignoring the fact that she had an almost full glass still in front of her.
She had no idea what had just occurred, but she also knew Val wouldn’t let it go. She ordered a glass of water and looked at the crowd’s reflection in the mirrored wall behind the bar. She told herself that she wasn’t searching for him, but as she slowly sipped her drink, in no hurry to get back to the table, she kept looking for a tall, dark-haired man wearing reflective sunglasses. By the time she finished the glass, the lights started to dim signaling the show was about to begin. She grabbed two more sours and weaved her way through the crowd.
“You can have this on one condition.” She held the glass up above the table. “No more questions. I don’t know what that was and I don’t want to talk it about. Okay?” Just as Val nodded, a guitar started playing.
“Hey, we’re Lodestone and we’re happy to be opening for Southern Sons tonight. We hope you enjoy the show.” A group of women near the stage started clapping and shouting; their raucousness only dying down when someone started singing.
“Like a wildflower, you blow in the wind. You’re a wildflower, strong and true, bearing up under everything that comes your way. A wildflower, you bend but don’t break.”
Mia looked at Val and frowned. “Who the hell are Southern Sons? That kind of sounds like we need to get the heck out of here.”
It also explained all the cowboy hats, tight jeans and cowboy boots.
Val shrugged. “I don’t know. Tonight is supposed to be Emerge, an R&B cover band.” She laughed. “That’s probably why the guy at the door looked at me so funny.” She turned somber again. “I’m sorry. Do you want to go? We can stop and have drinks someplace else.”
She turned to Val. “No, we’ll be okay. I hope. Though if people start converging on us, you better pull that pepper spray I know you carry around with you out of your purse.” She half listened to the band, country music not really her thing, though this band had a good rhythm and seemed to have a bluesy feel to it.