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Firecracker

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  • 7.5
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I can’t and won’t drag another person into my hellscape. I could never do that to someone. Let them invest their time and heart with me because it will only end in heartache. So now you know my secrets, the truth. A troubled past has left Kat running from relationships. That is until rockstar musician, Jackson, disrupts her carefully controlled life, challenging her to take a risk and open her heart. A passionate romance about taking chances, letting go of the past and opening up your heart to the possibility of love.

The Beginning

A loud laugh cuts across the general noise of the bar interrupting my concentration and making me glance up in time to see a large group of men entering through the main doors. “W*nk*r bankers,” I mumble to myself grumpily noting their sharp suits that probably cost more than most people make in a month, before plastering on a ‘happy face’ in an attempt to hide my sour mood. I am the barmaid and, even if I despise this particular class of customer, it doesn’t make sense to give them any reason not to tip well. My mood is made worse as crowds of women seem to part automatically for them as if they are some biblical phenomenon. Typical, I think to myself as they high-five and slap each other on the back for having finally made it across the room complete with various phone numbers and, in one case, a limpet on his arm. Argh, it makes me want to vomit.

“What can I get for you guys?” I ask, flipping my hair back off my face and adopting my most flirtatious tone. They are paying customers and these guys are par for the course when working in a bar in London’s financial district. While I studiously listen to their jumbled requests and start pulling pints, my attention is suddenly grabbed by a guy standing at the back of the group. In contrast to the others, he is wearing jeans and a light-blue button-down shirt that seems to match his piercing eyes. Urgh! A cold, wet sensation, suddenly makes me aware that I’m not paying enough attention to what I’m doing when the pint in front of me suddenly overflows and splashes all down my legs.

“Oh sh*t,” I mutter as I aggressively pull wads of paper towels out from the container on the wall before attempting to mop up the mess. Seriously, today is not going at all like I planned. The guy in front of me lets out the most annoying laugh, seriously this dude sounds like a donkey, and I have to resist the urge to pour the pint that I am holding all over him. I scowl, using my deadliest look, perfected since working in the bar. A look essential when you are a five-foot blonde working in a bar frequented by the lords and ladies of the financial world. Yes, it is Capitalism at its best, and they can’t wait to tell you just how much better they are than you because they drive a supercar and screw old people out of their pension funds. Yeah, I’m not bitter at all. The guy flinches slightly and shuts the hell up which is a welcome relief.

When everyone is finally served, including Blue Eyes, I watch them meander towards the back of the bar and take a seat in one of the large, raised booths. Taking advantage of the brief lull, I finish cleaning up the mess I have made all over the floor, swearing under my breath and trying to force myself into a better mood.

Usually, I love working behind the bar at C*ck&Tails, even with the kind of pretentious idiots we usually attract from the nearby high-rise offices. Normally, I can find humour even in the most stressful situations but tonight is an aberration. I briefly consider calling out to one of the other bar staff or even Finn, the bar manager, who disappeared into the office about twenty minutes ago with a buxom blonde in painted-on jeans, to come out and take over but, hey, at least one of us should be having a good night.

Instead, I take a deep breath and close my eyes briefly as I attempt to find some sort of inner calm. Most of the time I walk around feeling numb, and today of all days I would welcome that. But it’s the ten-year anniversary of my mother’s death, and all I feel is anger and a simmering irritation with anyone whose life seems better than mine. Usually, my sister would be around, and we would hole up for the day in my apartment with ice-cream and chick flicks, but Sophie is in Borneo tracking down orangutans for a travel piece she has been commissioned to write. So, instead, I am… alone. Volunteering to work had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now I am not so sure.

I let out the breath I haven’t even realised that I have been holding when I see Finn emerge from the back, a self-satisfied smirk all over his face. His blonde friend looks like the cat that got the cream, but little does she know that Finn is probably the biggest man-wh*r* around and the only cat around here is him; this little canary is nothing more than a half-hour distraction, and after getting what he wants, he will chew her up and spit her out. I hold up my hand to let him know that I am taking five and he nods, a sad smile on his face.

Finn has been my best friend since we met on the first day of university; I was lost and bumped into him, sending his books flying and landing ungracefully on my arse. We bonded over my apology coffee and have remained firm friends ever since, so he knows exactly what today means to me. As I pass him, he gently squeezes my hand, murmuring, “Take as long as you need, Kat.”

Escaping into the ladies’ toilets, I take a moment to make sure no one is watching before locking myself into the end stall and doing my best to temper my emotions. A stray tear escapes and I hurriedly swipe it away, not wanting any weakness to be on display. Plus, I really can’t afford to mess up my eye makeup and end up looking like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family.

When I finally gain some semblance of control, I let myself out of the stall and head over to the row of sinks to run my wrists under the cool water. I glance down and realise my hands are shaking under the gentle flow from the tap. This is not good. Come on, Kat, I think to myself. Let’s just pretend it’s a day like any other. “Oh, for f*ck’s sake,” I hiss, hating the fact that I’m feeling so vulnerable today. I close my eyes and visualise putting on a suit of armour. As each element clicks into place, my breathing starts to slow, and the churning feeling in my stomach begins to settle. When the final piece is in place, I concede that I’m good to go. Just as I’m about to leave the bathroom, I notice movement on the large flatscreen that sits above the mirror.

Cock&Tails

When Finn was renovating the bar, he came up with this crazy idea of sticking screens in both the male and female toilets with cameras pointed at the sinks so that the guys could see and hear the girls gossiping and vice versa. A couple of the guys from the ‘wanker banker’ group are standing in front of their mirror. “Jeez, that barmaid is hostile tonight,” Donkey-boy, as I have nicknamed him, says as he washes his hands. “I was hoping to score with her tonight. Apparently, she goes home with a different guy each night and last week James said she gave him the best head he has ever had.”

I scowl but stay silent as I realise that they haven’t noticed me on their screen. “Yeah, I hear she is a total slut,” a skinny guy with blonde hair replies. “A guaranteed good lay and she never sticks around in the morning. She’s like a guy like that. A total pocket rocket, if you know what I mean?”

Just then Blue Eyes steps forward and glances at the screen. His eyes connect with mine,

Heroes

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