All In (Full Tilt Book 2)(10)

By: Emma Scott


The bartender turned his gaze to me, his features softening under his rust-colored beard. “Call you a cab, sweets?”

I nodded and whispered, “Thank you.”

Big E got the bar-back to cover him, and half-carried me and my guitar through the dim confines of Le Chacal to the curb outside. Our own Thursday night routine.

The New Orleans night was cool and breezy, the neon sign of Le Chacal bright against its brick façade. I tried to muster a shred of dignity as we waited for the cab, but the sidewalk kept slipping out from under my feet. One more drink and I might black out. I wondered what would happen if I did? Would I end up in the back of Jonah’s limo?

“Put me there, Big,” I slurred. “Where he is. It’s the only place I want to be.”

“Teddy?”

“No.” My shaking head stilled. “Maybe. I miss him too. I miss them all. But I left and…that’s the end of the story.”

Big E tightened his grip on my waist as the cab pulled to the curb. “You came here from Las Vegas, right? I think you said so once.”

“So?”

Ignoring my question, he told the cabbie my address and helped me into the backseat. There was something about Big E’s cool expression I didn’t like. Even drunk out of my mind, I could sense he was up to something.

“What, are you going to tell Rufus about this? Lose me my gig?”

“Never,” Big E said. He leaned his bulk into the open door. “But I told you, sweets. I’m not giving up on you.”

He shut the door and banged the roof of the cab to tell the driver to head out. I slumped back in the seat, a vague sense of disquiet humming along my nerves, making me itchy.

The French Quarter was a murky blur on the other side of the taxi window, giving way to the darker rows of shotgun houses in my Seventh Ward neighborhood.

Vegas had been brown. Beige. Pale yellow and light blue. New Orleans wore the colors of time and vibrant history. Chipped paint in red and white. Green everywhere: the greenish-brown river, green bayou, green air thick with humidity. Green plants and bushes and weeping trees.

I stumbled up the short walk to my front door. It took three or four tries to get the key into the lock because the porch was dark.

Jonah’s whiskey lights had long since burnt out.

Inside my tiny shotgun, I dropped onto the couch, my bag and my guitar hitting the ground with a twang. My head sank against the cushions and my eyes closed.

There is beauty everywhere, even in the things that scare you the most…

I came awake with a gasp. Sprawled on my couch. Not Jonah’s. No ugly green and orange afghan on my shoulders, no glass art on the coffee table. The clock on the wall said I’d been out for twenty minutes. A sobering twenty minutes. Or maybe it was Jonah’s words echoing in my ear.

Beauty in the things that scare you the most.

What scared me the most was letting the pain in. Or out, rather. It was already in me. It lived in me. I had to keep it down deep, drown it, so it didn’t break me apart into tiny pieces.

I went to the kitchen to make my nightcap. A shotgun house is aptly named: in days of old, you could aim a shotgun from the front door and shoot it straight to the back door. Every room in my small house was lined up in a row: Living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. A straight line to the back porch. A simple route, easy to stumble along. Important details in the home of a 24/7 drunk.

I opened a cabinet holding more bottles than food. My nightcap was vodka over ice with a splash—a tiny splash—of water. I carried the glass to my bedroom.

Like the rest of my place, the bedroom was filled with second-hand furniture. Pieces I’d picked up from yard sales when I’d first fled Vegas for New Orleans. It had a ‘shabby chic’ charm the home and garden shows were always crowing about, but mine was more shabby than chic.

I needed a couch to sit on—sometimes sleep on if I didn’t make it to the bedroom—and so I bought a couch. In orange. I needed a chair so I bought a chair. It was blue. The area rug over the hardwood floors was multicolored. Hell, even the exterior of my house was painted in sea green with sky blue trim and a maroon door. Colors everywhere, like the rest of this city. Except for one place.