Beneath Winter Sand(7)

By: Vickie McKeehan

“Take your time,” Caleb called out over the noisy chatter. “We aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.”

“She likes you,” Drea whispered to her brother once Hannah had gone on to the next table.

Caleb rolled his eyes toward his sister. “She has a job that depends on tips which generally equates to friendliness and good service.”

“BS,” Cooper chimed in. “You’ve been eyeing that woman all night. There’s interest in your eyes, brother.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, she’s nice to look at,” Caleb returned, refusing to let Cooper get under his skin tonight. “I’m single and unattached. I can look all I want.”

Cooper wrapped an arm around his wife. “Although I’m married I still know a hot body when I see one.”

Eastlyn tugged on her hubby’s hair. “Just don’t go acting on that hot body,” she cautioned in a mock warning.

Coop grinned and whispered something suggestive in his wife’s ear. But not low enough that Caleb couldn’t hear the evocative phrase.

“Jeez, guys,” Caleb groaned. “Give me a break, get a room. The sooner the better. That goes for all of you. You’re all making me—”

“Jealous?” Drea piped up.

“No. More like sick to my stomach. I’d’ve been better off staying at home and watching one of the bowl games on TV.”

“No, you wouldn’t have,” Landon chided. “Drea’s right. That woman likes you. You’d be crazy not to see it for yourself. You stay home on a night like tonight and you’d miss her checking you out.”

“She’s not checking me out,” Caleb protested. Best not to admit he thought otherwise. And the idea made him almost giddy. He couldn’t blame it on the beer as he hadn’t had that much alcohol.

As the night wore on, he simply ignored the gentle jibes from his family, waiting out the hour when he could leave and get home to some peace and quiet.

Just before midnight Durke brought out the champagne and started popping corks. Hannah dutifully handed out little plastic flutes, circling the room with a tray laden down with glasses filled with bubbly.

As the clock approached the midnight hour, the countdown began, and with it, Blue Skies tried out several rousing renditions of Auld Lang Syne, much to the delight of the crowd. Around the room, the choruses were boisterous as cheery toasts went up, hailing in the new year with more cocktails, which thrilled Hannah. More booze meant more tips.

After the festivities began to wind down and the last drink had been poured, the throng began to thin out. By the one o’clock curfew there was only a handful of hearty souls left to shove out the door and send on their way. Durke wisely herded them out with instructions to depend on their designated drivers for a safe ride home. But many had already thought ahead. They’d walked there on foot and would get home the same way under their own power.

Durke turned the lock on the door and leaned back, letting out a loud sigh. “What a night. I thought closing time would never get here.”

Along with Geniece, Hannah dutifully began to bus tables, collecting the empties and clearing away glasses, piling her tray to the brim to cut down on trips back and forth to the kitchen.

Hannah unloaded everything on the pass-through ledge leading into the kitchen near the bar sink. She turned to watch Durke near the cash register as he began counting out the day’s take.

“Did you think it’d be this busy tonight?” she asked as she tossed paper napkins and other trash into the garbage bin.

“Nobody warned me, that’s for sure. For such a small town, they showed up in hordes.”

“Lucky you, lucky me. I must’ve made close to four hundred in tips tonight.”

“Same here,” Geniece piped up with a grin. “A day at the spa, here I come.”

Hannah sighed in ecstasy. “A spa sounds great. But right now, all I want is to get off my feet. That means tallying up what I owe to the house and get out of here. If my math is correct, that’s forty bucks to the house.”

A tired Durke smiled. “You girls keep that. Both of you worked your tails off for it tonight. Besides, I decided when I bought this place that my waitresses wouldn’t have to pony up a share of their tips. Manning the bar allows people to leave me a few extra bucks in the tip jar. That’s enough for me.”