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“House of Cards”
Miss Parker enjoyed her second drink. She was in a small bar in downtown Dover. It was still early – barely past seven p.m. - and not many customers were present. Only one couple sat in the back and one older man munched on a king-size burger while his eyes were glued to the tv-screen in the corner.
She looked again at the barkeeper who had immediately piqued her interest. He was a good looking man, tall and very well build. His black hair was cut short, though one could see that it cringled slightly.
His eyes met hers again and he smiled. He had an enticingly beautiful smile that made her - almost involuntarily - reciprocate.
They had already been engaged in some small talk before, since he had only her as a customer on the bar. His name was Daniel and he was actually a student of economics, writing on his PhD during the day. It was not her style to engage in any meaningless small talk with strangers, but somehow she enjoyed the little nothings she exchanged with this attractive bar tender.
It wasn’t her style to leave work so early either. But her life had changed drastically lately and she didn’t care anymore.
Ever since she had come back from Carthis, everything went downhill. Her ‘father’s’ jump into the ocean, the revelation about her true paternity, her last conversation with Jarod, it all had taken its toll. She refused to stay at the Centre a second more than absolutely necessary, so she had left already at six with the strict order to call her only when there was a solid lead on the pretender.
Tonight she felt like having a drink or two in a bar rather than sitting at home all by herself. That’s why she had ended up here, now in the company of an incredibly good looking bar tender, who - she had realized at the very first second – was well aware of the effect his looks had on women.
Daniel was twenty eight but somehow looked older than that. He had told her his age in a side remark, and at her surprised expression he immediately elaborated on it with humor in his voice.
“What can I say, my way of living took at least three or four years off my lifespan and added at least three or four wrinkles to my face.”
“Living on the fast lane, uh?”
“Yeah that too,” he admitted with a chuckle. He also told her that he had attended evening school for four years while working full time for an insurance company. He clearly had done it the hard way. Since he also became a father when 22, he had to support his little girl who he adored but now lived with her mother.
He had taken two jobs at a time, sometimes even three. He worked during the week, went to classes at night and jobbed here at the bar every Friday and Saturday and sometimes worked as a DJ in a nightclub on Saturday after this bar had closed.
Miss Parker looked at him in awe. And she had thought her work schedule was demanding!
She indicated with a slight nod that she wanted another drink. The bar had filled somewhat but was not crowded. It was a weekday after all. Daniel placed another scotch in front of her and went on to tend to the other costumers. She followed him with her eyes. He was forthcoming and the perfect bartender to all of them.
Among the few new customers, most of them men in front of the TV-set, were two women, who sat in one corner ordering cocktails and tequila in between. They were literally tripping over themselves to get his attention. Chuckling and whispering to themselves, while as soon as he came around, unable to keep the hungry look from their eyes. He flirted with them, complemented them and even offered them a tequila ‘on the house’.
Miss Parker smiled inwardly. Daniel was a pro. They were hooked, line and sinker. She was ready to bet a fortune that, from now on these two would show up here on every Friday, every Saturday and every other day they could manage. And spend a whole lot of money on the drinks, as long as Daniel would be serving them.
Rather unusually, Miss Parker herself was – except once - neither hit on, harassed or offered a drink. That was thanks to a little story she and Daniel had made up earlier, for all the men on the bar to hear and see. She had offered Daniel quite an extra tip, if he’d go along with the ruse, and he played it very well. Though he refused any ‘compensation’ from the beginning, with the simple explanation that he knew why she did it, and he was only too happy to go with the story. She was his ex, and he had asked her to come and to talk, on the verge of getting her back.
After a few minutes he was again tending to her. With a curiously broad grin in his face he started to clean some glasses. Oh, he was so sure of himself.
He wore glasses, they accentuated his handsome face. It was a model with slim metal frames and the glasses had just a shade of blue. She was in the mood of teasing him a little.
“So tell me, your own bright and shiny appearance blinds you so much that you need shades indoors?”
He took off his glasses and glanced at her. “This you mean? No,” he said, looking around and lowering his voice. “I have some problems with my eyes and the lights in the bar are making it worse. So the optician prescribed them.”
They were not to offer better sight, he simply had to wear them as a protection from artificial lights. Outside he needed real sunglasses most of the time. And than he added with another trademark smile: “But you know, ever since you entered this rotten place, a certain light in here became so bright, I felt the need to put on the dark shades!”
She was about to give him an “Ooh please!” for this apparently very lame flirting when she looked up and saw his sincere face, still smiling but very sincerely so! He was truly adorable!
The bartender kept on flirting with her. With his eyes as well as with some remarks. He even mentioned that he’d be off duty at eleven. A not so subtle hint for her to wait for him. An invitation of sorts. She was tempted. Why not? He was good looking, and definitely the type of man who had engaged in more than one one-night-stands in his life. It was her chance of a promising night of sex without repercussions, without commitment. And it had been so long.
And what do you know, Parker thought dryly, it’s eleven and I’m still here.
Daniel exchanged a few words with what was apparently the owner of the bar, grabbed a jacket and a set of keys from underneath and looked up at her expectantly.
If he comes with ‘your place or mine’ I’m going to shoot him. Lost in that thought, she missed that Daniel had obviously said something.
“I was just wondering, if you would want to go to a coffee-shop before you drive,” he offered with a slight nod at her empty glass in front of her.
Well, she had downed quite a number of drinks, not that it would keep her from driving if she’d really wanted to, but tonight she had a different idea.
“You got a car?” she asked while putting down a few bills on the counter and getting off the barstool.
“Ah, no, not tonight. I usually take public transportation when getting out early enough.”
“Good, I’ll tell you where to go,” she said, taking out her car keys and throwing them rather unceremoniously into his direction. Miss Parker was actually surprised that he really caught them, with a knowing smirk on his lips.
Since he didn’t come up with the cheap line she had expected, she decided to make the move. That was the way she did things: her way or the highway.