“Hey, Nic, when you gonna give a guy a chance?” A deep chuckle followed Jimmy’s attempt at snagging that date he’d been working on for months.
I didn’t even take the time to turn and acknowledge him. The man pulled the same shit every Friday and Saturday night. He was at least five years older than me and had a beer gut the size of a pregnant woman’s in her last trimester. He was harmless, but he loved to fire me up. Guys like him were one of the things that came with working in a small-town bar and grill. Lucy’s was the place to be, and all the hopeless men seemed to flock to it, hoping to get lucky.
“Come on, sweetheart, just a chance is all I’m asking.” I heard a few more chuckles from the men he was sitting with. They too had heard this song and dance, time and time again.
“I’ve given two chances to two different men in my life, and both times I got screwed over. Ain’t gonna happen again, Jimmy.” I continued to clean off tables as the night came closer to an end.
Most people in town knew the details of my story. They knew the heartache I felt when Ryker left and never returned. They watched as I moped around town, missing him with everything inside me. They watched as I slowly began to self-destruct and fall to pieces.
I should have been smart enough to realize when Tyler Murphy started hanging around me that he had an ulterior motive. But I was young and vulnerable, and he saw right through it. He was able to catch me at my weakest, and nine months later I had a sweet little baby girl to show for that one night of drinking. Now, I wouldn’t change the fact I was a mother to a darling three year-old angel, but I sure would change who her daddy was.
Tyler has only seen his daughter a handful of times in her short life, and he had made every one of those times all about him. He was a worthless piece of shit, and most days I thanked God he kept his distance. I didn’t want Tori to be influenced by her father. He was too drunk to see straight practically every day of the week, and I didn’t want my baby girl to have that type of disappointment in her life.
“Lay off, Jimmy.” Speaking of Tyler, I closed my eyes tightly as his voice grew louder and closer. The moment his hand touched my hip, I spun around and shoved the half-empty beer bottle I’d been holding in his face.
“Touch me again and you’ll be picking glass shards out of your head for weeks.”
Tyler narrowed his eyes and smirked. “Still feisty as hell.” He backed up and held his hands out in surrender. “You know how much that turns me on, babe.”
“I also know we could put a dress on a pig and you’d still sport wood,” I fired back and walked off toward the bar to empty my arms. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with Tyler’s shit. “I think you need to spend less time worrying about getting laid and more time providing for Tori. You know, your daughter.”
“Come on, Nicole, don’t be like that.” He gave me his best charming smile while taking a seat on the barstool on the other side of the bar. “I’ll give you some money next week.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ve been hearing that same shit from you every month. When do you plan on following through? A child is not an occasional responsibility, it’s an every-damn-day and-night obligation. When are you ever gonna grow the hell up?” I could feel my ears getting hotter with every word I spoke. “You are twenty-five years old, and I swear to God, most twelve year-olds have more sense than you do.” I slammed the bottles into the garbage can and fought to control my anger.
“You didn’t think I was that bad the night you crawled in bed with me.” This was Tyler’s game. He was always throwing our one night of nothing special in my face.
“That’s not the way I remember it at all. I remember being upset and you continued mixing drinks for me. It’s sure is funny that after about the third one, I remember nothing until I woke up the next morning and looked over to find you. Hell, I even contemplated gnawing off my own leg for fear of waking you if I moved it from beneath your legs.” His smirk had finally fallen from his face. “All I wanted to do was wash that mistake from my memory. Forget I ever believed you actually wanted to be a friend. The only good that ever came of that night was Victoria, and I wish more than anything your sorry ass wasn’t her father. Because that little angel deserves more than what you could ever give her.”
Tyler pushed up from the barstool, and it fell to the ground behind him. The few people that were still lingering around the bar turned to watch as he leaned in, placing his hands on top of the bar. “What do you expect me to be, more like your sweet Ryker?” When Tyler said the name, his nostrils flared with irritation. “Just face it, Nicole, no one will ever be able to be who you want. Everyone that tries will just be competing with him. But you need to remember this.” His cockiness returned, and my heart was racing. The mention of Ryker always got a reaction out of me. “He left you, without looking back. Not so much the perfect man, if you ask me.”
Without thinking I lunged at Tyler and swung my fist, and it connected with his lower lip. A set of strong arms wrapped around me from behind, and I knew it was Greg, the bartender.
“Get out of here, Tyler, before I turn her loose,” he said.
Tyler licked the small amount of blood on his lip before backing away with a smirk. “See you later, Sweet Pea. Give Tori a kiss good night from her daddy.”
I tugged at Greg’s hands, trying to get away, but he only held me tighter. “Slow down, darlin’, that man ain’t worth the time or the energy.”
He was right, I knew that, but it still didn’t tame the need to beat his ass. Tyler Murphy was and would always be a worthless drunk. He played games, and I refused to allow him to play me.