Jaxon "Jax" Sinclair never thought she'd be stuck doing dishes at the Dirty Diamond Bar on a late Friday night. All she wanted was a night out with the girls, celebrating Alicia's reunion with Damien, but Grady had cornered her when she walked into the Dirty Diamond, and she let her soft heart get in the way of her plans. With a swipe of her wet hands, she tried to get a maddening piece of hair off her face, but it stuck like glue. After a while, she gave up, looked down at her now sweat-stained camisole, and spied a run in her new stockings.
I swear Grady O'Neil owes me big time. If we weren't cousins, I would have told him off after asking me to pitch in. Jaxon went on filling the dish rack while trying to ignore the ache in her lower back and the headache that seemed to pulse behind her eyes. Then she heard the dish cart being sent back yet again and practically snarled as it came through the elevator.
"How anyone can handle this is beyond me," Jax said as she lifted the dirty glasses and dishes out of the elevator. Slapping one dish after another into the water, she caught a glimpse of herself in the window and groaned at the sight of her thick brown hair that was once in an intricate knot at the base of her head. It was now almost unraveled and sticking up in places. Her makeup was smudged or even better yet, off her face for good, sweat running down her face and neck.
"Thank god no one is here to see me look like something the cat dragged in on a stormy night," Jax muttered as she wrestled another tendril of hair off her neck but she gave up after the whole mess of hair came down It had her longing for a cool drink, some food, and her bed. Not necessarily in that order either.
With a sigh, she got back to work and hoped Grady paid her for this favor. It was enough to help bus tables or pitch in as a waitress or bartender but dishwasher?
"I know now never to let myself get talked into a career change as a dishwasher," Jaxon mumbled as she finally slid the last dish in the pan and then into the sterilizing unit. With a happy hum, it kicked on and Jax finally relaxed against the wall as she tried to ignore the agony in her feet, back, and everywhere else.
"Jax, hey, you down here?" Grady called into the kitchen.
"Yeah, I'm in here, Grady." Jax answered her cousin, owner of the Dirty Diamond Bar.
Grady walked into the kitchen, the smells of sandalwood, beer, and smoke from the bar upstairs wafted in the air after him. Giving him a wan smile, she closed her eyes as the stress from bending and being on her feet most of the night had her aching in ways that were so not pleasurable.
"Planning on entering a wet t-shirt contest?"
"Are you insane? I look like I was hung out to dry. You owe me big time. I never want to look at water again, unless it involves two men, a bottle of wine, and a hot tub!" Jax said.
She grimaced as Grady reached for her shoulders and started to massage the knots out of her neck. She purred as the kinks seemed to slowly unknot and the beating drum behind her eyes became a bearable ache.
With her eyes closed, Jax said, "You know you should open a spa instead of this dive bar. You do need more help though, Grady. This is getting out of hand with Rex not showing up three days out the schedule. Have you decided what you're doing about it?"
"I decided to can the bastard after this latest stunt. I'm really sorry, Jax, for asking for all your help these last few weeks. I do appreciate it. Let me thank you. Can I take you to dinner tomorrow night at the inn? Please," Grady said. He finished massaging her neck and Jax turned to face him. "You deserve that and more but, alas, I can't pay you what you're worth in gold so how about dinner and let me pay for a change?"
Jax weighed the idea of food at the Dragon Inn versus the fact she couldn't cook, and answered, "Sure thing, cousin, and I plan to order the most expensive thing there." Feeling as if she'd been hit by a truck, she got her legs to work a bit, though it took some effort on her part, and slid her shoes on. "I need to get my ass moving and get home so I can grab some sleep before helping Alicia at the Dew Drop."
"I'm walking you out to the car, Jax, and don't even think to tell me about how capable you are and all that crap. I'm not letting you walk around out there without an escort. My god, if anything happened to you, Aunt Muriel would have my head on a stick and parade it through town, carping all the way." Grady shuddered at that thought of Jax's mother yelling at him. "I don't know how you do it, dealing with her the way she is. When will you let me in on your secret on how to deal with her? She's like a banshee on a really bad day! And that's saying a lot on the natures of banshees too!"
Jax smirked and Grady helped clean up some of the leftover dishes before turning the lights off for the night.
"If you think I'm giving away my secret on how to stay sane around my mother, you got another thing coming, Grady. I'm not about to let the rest of the family find out how easy it is to deal with her. That's my own secret weapon." She laughed at the look on his face and tweaked his nose, as they started to go out the back door into the cool night air that felt so damn good on her heated skin.
With Halloween days away, the town was getting ready for the Harvest Festival that was always entertaining for the residents as they enjoyed hayrides and a bonfire; Main Street was turned into a place where one could find unique items for the holiday such as cider, donuts, and more were offered free to the guests that roamed the town. The culmination of the festival was the annual trick-or-treating night for the kids to enjoy. Scary ghosts, witches, and other bump in the night creatures that came out at this time of the year as kids scampered around trying to scare people, and it always seemed so magical to Jax. The town was going all out this year as pumpkins, scarecrows, and more seemed to pop up daily. She'd always enjoyed Halloween, especially the way the kids loved to dress up in their costumes and run around yelling "Trick or Treat" and getting lots of candy.
The night sky was so clear it was like looking at a picture. Stars twinkled brilliantly; a soft breeze blew some of the leaves on the ground as the moon glowed in the night sky and she felt the aches slowly ease their grip on her body a little more...at least until she spied Rodrick ushering three women into his Mustang.
Her lips turned down as she watched him drive off. "Does that man ever go home alone?"
"Oh, bloody hell, Jax, leave the man alone. It isn't like you two are an item or anything. Sweet Christ, you've made your feelings known about his lifestyle the last several years. Let the man enjoy himself. So what if he has three women? It isn't like he is married or anything," Grady said as he ushered her toward her car. "Why can't you just leave Rod alone for once? Why needle him constantly?"
Jax opened the door of her beat up Ford Mustang. "I'm not on his case constantly, Grady. I just find Rodrick Dracon to be the most annoying man on this planet and he needs to be taken down a peg or two."