Caroline took the tray with the drinks back to the table full of hotties. “Here we go: four cold beers and four shots of whiskey.”
“Salute,” Brent said and all four picked up and drank their shooters without another word, smacking the shot glasses back down on the table and chasing them with beer.
“How about some food with your booze?” Caroline took her pad back out of her the short black apron with Sharky’s
embroidered across the front in bold teal lettering. The apron, along with black shorts or long pants and a matching teal polo shirt, was the restaurant’s standard uniform. Caroline had opted to wear shorts with hers though Ryan always wore long pants.
“What do you recommend, Caroline?” There he went with her name again, making a volcano spewing butterflies erupt in her tummy.
“Honestly, it’s all pretty good, especially if you like fried food. The catfish basket is on special tonight, comes with french fries and hush puppies.”
“Sounds perfect.” His gaze never left her face.
“Sounds good to me too.” Tanner ordered the same thing.
“I think I want a burger. Can I get the bacon double cheeseburger?” Brent asked as he handed the menu to her.
“Sure thing, and you?” Caroline turned toward Derek.
“Do you guys have salad?”
“Oh my God!” Brent hemmed and hawed, disparaging his ginger friend’s manhood.
“I just like to be healthy,” he protested vigorously.
“I can get you a salad.”
“No, God forbid I not bloat up like these three while we’re out tonight. I’ll get the chicken sandwich with mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, and pickles. And I don’t want any fries.”
“You don’t have to eat them, but they come with the basket. You pay for them either way.”
“I’ll eat them,” Brent said, and the group erupted in laughter.
“Of course you will. You’d eat the legs off the table.” Jake elbowed Brent playfully.
“You’re lucky you’re my boy or I wouldn’t take that.” Brent laughed at his own expense along with the rest of his friends.
“I’ll go put your food order into the kitchen and come back and check on you guys soon.”
“Don’t be gone too long, Caroline.” Jake’s sexy voice sent a bone-chilling shiver up her spine.
After Caroline submitted their order to the cook, she hurried off to check on the rest of her tables. Sharky’s was packed with tourists excited to visit the Crystal Coast, leaving Caroline with more than enough to keep her jumping all night long. She managed to check on Jake’s table a couple more times and refill their drinks but didn’t exactly have time to stick around and chat. They asked for their checks a lot sooner than she had hoped, and Caroline begrudgingly obliged.
“Thanks for joining us tonight. I hope everything was good.” She handed them their individual checks.
All the men nodded and agreed the food and service had been good.
“And congratulations on completing your degree.”
Jake grinned from ear to ear, clearly proud of his accomplishment. “So when do you get off work, Caroline?” His green eyes were so gorgeous they put the rainforest to shame.
“Not until closing at ten, and then I have to help clean.” She pursed her lips and shrugged.
“The concert should still be kicking by then. Maybe you could meet up with us,” he said.
“Umm…” Caroline didn’t know what to say. Fantasizing about eye candy was a lot different than going off with four guys she didn’t even know. “You guys are going to the concert at the pier?”
“Yeah, we’re heading there after we leave here,” Tanner spoke up while brushing his honey-blond bangs back from his forehead.
“Maybe Ryan and I will check it out if we’re not beat when we finish up here.”
Jake’s face fell. “Is Ryan your boyfriend?”
Caroline laughed. “No…I’m not his type.”
Jake eyed her and tilted his head. “Well, then he has bad taste. What’s his type?”
“The kind who wears boxer shorts and muscle shirts,” Caroline said with a wink.
“Oh, that explains it.” Jake’s cheeks turned slightly red as he averted his eyes and chuckled.
“It doesn’t explain it to me,” Derek said.
Tanner gave Derek the side eye. “Did you eat paint chips as a kid?”
“No.” Derek still didn’t seem to get it.
Jake sighed, shaking his head. “I’ll explain it to you later.”
All four men paid in cash, tipping generously, and that was it. They headed out the door and out of Caroline’s life though Jake would likely be in her fantasies for some time to come. She doubted she’d head out to the concert after work, but part of her wished he had asked for her number.
The rest of the evening moved along in a blur—lots of food, lots of drinks, and lots of people pulling her in all different directions until about nine o’clock, when two equally wonderful things happened. The crowd started to thin out, and even better, Jake returned, sat at the bar, and ordered some coffee.
As soon as Caroline made sure the few customers she had left at her tables were all set, she went over to say hello. As she approached, her heart started thumping harder. The things he’d said before…he was probably just doing the same type of mindless flirting a lot of customers do with their waitresses. It probably didn’t mean anything. Caroline swallowed down the nerves jittering up from her belly and into her throat. “You weren’t enjoying the concert?”
Jake looked up from his coffee and as he set eyes on Caroline, his worried expression melted away and his face lit up. “Not that eighties cover bands aren’t my life, but it was loud and crowded…lots of flashing lights. I’ve not been in the mood for that sort of thing in a while.”
“I hear ya. Well, I’m glad you came back to see us. Let me know if you want anything else to eat. We have really good apple fritters.”
He twisted on his bar stood and patted his perfectly flat stomach. “I better stick to coffee.”
“All right then. I’ve got to check on my tables.” Caroline waved as she headed off. Had she imagined the heart-pounding, spine-tingling connection between them every time they looked into each other’s eyes?
By the time Caroline’s last customers left the restaurant, she had already wiped down all of her other tables and cleaned the waitress station.
She was just about to check the restrooms when Ryan came up behind her. “Would you go talk to him before he goes into a caffeine coma?”
“Huh?” Caroline turned to look at Jake and shrugged.
“He’s downed two coffees and has been nursing the third for the last fifteen minutes. He keeps looking in your direction. Home slice is not here for the java.”
Caroline wrinkled her nose and furrowed her brow. “Please don’t ever say home slice again.”
Ryan laughed. “Deal if you’ll go talk to him. I’ll tidy the restrooms. You go tend the bar.”
“That’s an offer I can’t refuse.” Caroline ducked into the ladies’ room, calling out to make sure no one was in the stalls before Ryan entered. She checked herself out in the mirror, tidying up her hair and smoothing her uniform. Ryan held the door for her as she exited. “Okay, I’m ready and it’s all clear.”