"Truth or Dare, Mr. Bailey."
It seemed to be a question, but the blonde woman with the intent blue eyes said it like a statement. Luke had no idea how he was supposed to respond, so he kept his mouth shut and waited for his prospective employer to explain.
"Spin the Bottle. Seven Minutes in Heaven. Sneaking beer from the garage fridge and hoping tonight you might finally get a chance for some time alone with that girl or boy of your dreams. A chance to relive those middle-school days when everything was new and unexplored. You remember what that felt like?"
She seemed to expect a response so Luke nodded. Better not to speak yet. Eyes and ears open. Mouth shut. That was the main lesson he'd learned during his five years in prison.
"That experience is what my bar offers." Mary Scott was so full of energy and excitement she made Luke nervous. "My Parents' Basement gives customers a taste of innocence, an opportunity to meet and flirt like they did at parties when they were young. But with alcohol." She smiled, a flash of white teeth that was dazzling. "And trust me, Mr. Bailey. People drink here like they would in any other bar. But they also play games, dance, listen to music from their past and remember what it felt like to be young and uncertain and full of hope."
She spoke with the enthusiasm of a televangelist and looked at him with bright eyes that demanded a response, so he nodded again even though the kind of party she'd described hadn't been any part of his youth. Drinking malt liquor, huffing aerosol spray and screwing girls on an old mattress in an abandoned house was the kind of party he remembered from when he was thirteen.
"The ambiance of the club creates a level of intimacy with strangers right away, a focus for conversation as they start sharing memories. Basement is a great pickup place."
Why was she trying to sell him on the bar? All he wanted was a damn job anywhere at all. He'd gotten a special exemption from the terms of his parole so he could be employed in a bar. She didn't need to convince him this was a great place to work.
Ms. Scott was looking at him, and this time it seemed something more was required than a nod, so Luke spoke. "Sounds good. I'd be happy to work here."
"About that. Joann told me a little about your history. I know how hard it can be for, um, ex-cons to find employment, and I'd be happy to hire you, but do you have any experience tending bar?"
Luke felt his shot at a decent-paying, legitimate job slipping like sand through his fingers. Of course it had been too much good luck to expect. His first impulse was to lie, tell this woman anything she wanted to hear in order to get the damn job, then learn fast. But she'd figure out his ignorance soon enough and know he was a liar. Maybe it was better to start with the truth. See how that worked for a change.
"I can pour whiskey or mix it with Coke. Nothing too complicated. But I'll learn. Ms. Horton suggested I pick up a guide and I've been studying it, and if you want me to, I'll take a bartending course or something." He swallowed any shred of pride and prepared to beg. "If you give me a chance, I swear I won't blow it."
But You Can Walk Toward It...
Widower John Banks knows a thing or two about grief, and immediately recognizes a kindred spirit when he finally meets the handsome, haunted gentleman he's admired from afar. And in fact, the two men discover shared passions and the possibility of a forever love—if they can overcome social taboos, and their own fears....
A HeroesandHeartbreakers.com Original Short Story
"Helen has weaved a delicately balanced story of intrigue, secrets and passion, which practically melts the pages." -Bare Naked Words
"The love story between Talon and Jade continues in Obsession. An apt title to be sure, because everyone is obsessed. Dear Ms. Helen Hardt, I toss many profanities your way for making me wait. Though I give you my deepest gratitude for building the anticipation of what I’m sure will be an epic culmination to an amazing series. " -Heroes and Heartbreakers
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Jade Roberts is in love with Talon Steel but no longer welcome in his home. While she resolves to move on, she still longs for the passion she and Talon shared…and when her boss asks her to dig up information on the Steels, she’s only too happy to comply. Talon and his brothers are hiding something, and Jade is determined to find out what it is.
The moment Talon saw Jade he wanted her, ached for her, craved her…and now his desire has become his obsession. He knows she deserves better than his broken soul, but he can’t stay away from her, and he finally confesses his love. If he and Jade are to have a future, he knows he must make peace with the dark shadows and horrors of his past.
But as Talon begins his journey of healing, Jade uncovers some startling secrets…