It's Thursday, and my kids are nearing the end of the Summer Vacation That Never Ends, and I'm making steady progress on the second draft of The Battle of the Boyfriends. So I'm feeling like sharing a deleted scene from The Husband Games today! But first – have you entered Page By Page Inside-Out Review's Rafflecopter for some of my books? Do it today, y'all!! Time's almost up! (And if you already have all of my books, share the love and tell a friend!)
And now, for your reading pleasure, the spoiler-free (but not profanity-free) version of how CJ got hired at Suckers, the anti-wedding-establishment bar in the Most Married-est Town on Earth. He's brought his brother, Father Basil, along for the ride. Enjoy!
* * *
When CJ and Basil pulled up at Suckers, those Help Wanted signs were impossible to ignore. More productive than getting shit-faced too. CJ would be in Bliss for a while, and he needed cash for Utah. Plus, he could stand to have more reasons to spend less time at the rectory.
He’d worked a variety of bars—from a rooftop joint in Brazil to a polished study in an Irish castle hotel to holes in the wall in a variety of holes—and Suckers sat in the middle of the spectrum. It smelled faintly like latex and stale beer but the floors were clean and, despite the pimpin’ décor, the clientele appeared to be the dependable Midwestern stock that didn’t cause a lot of problems. For a Monday evening, Huck was doing a good bit of business.
CJ and Basil took seats at the middle of the curved bar between three single guys in matching Bliss Bachelors baseball jackets and a middle-aged couple enjoying beers and burgers.
Huck shuffled up to them. “Whiskey?” he said to CJ.
Hell, yes. A few of them. “A job.”
Huck studied him for a long minute. “You certified?”
It was voluntary in Illinois, but CJ had it. He gave a nod.
“My fair share.”
Huck glanced at Basil. “You brought references.”
“I suppose I’ll vouch for him,” Basil said. “But only during work hours.”
“How long you here for?” Huck asked CJ.
Wasn’t that the question. “Through Knot Fest.”
“Don’t look so happy about it, boy. You got experience, then you know that face ain’t gonna make you any tips.”
“He’s mighty prickly these days,” Basil said. “Family speculation is he hasn’t had relations with a female in a few years.”
“Jesus, Basil,” CJ muttered. Could’ve said the same to himself. Wasn’t right that female relations made him think of a dark-haired piece of work he’d met in a confessional. Wasn’t right that thinking of that dark-haired piece of work made his body stir either.
He’d just found out she had a kid, for crissakes. A kid, a family. A purpose.
Everything he’d looked all over the world for.
“Watch your mouth,” Basil said. “And you might want to talk to Cinna. She’s the one who started the pool.”
As if he’d suspect any of his other siblings of taking bets on when one of them would next get laid.
And there he went thinking about Natalie’s mouth again.
Basil’s eyebrow twitched. “But I do admire you for taking sexual intercourse with the gravity the Lord intended.”
“That right boy?” The sympathy in Huck’s eyes broadcast one clear message: even the old guy got it more often than CJ did.
“Does it get me hired?”
“Naw, but you did right good with the royalty Saturday night. Reckon that’s good enough reason to try you out. You can start Wednesday. If you’re good, I’ll keep you. But if you start depressing the customers with that puppy dog shit, you’re done.”
“Oh, and by the way, Wednesday’s ladies’ night. I ain’t gonna say nothing if you use it to solve that little problem of yours.”
Bliss. Right. “You’re a king among men, Huck.”
The old guy wheezed. He cocked a finger pistol at CJ. “Maybe you got some good stuff in you after all. Whatcha drinking tonight?”
Basil ordered a tea—regular, not long island—and CJ asked for a beer. Because the whiskey wasn’t going to get him what he wanted.
Huck was back with their drinks quickly. “You playing in the Golden Husband Games?” he asked CJ.
“Hell, no.” Sit in a parade and smile for his in-laws, sure. Make a spectacle of himself to fool people into thinking he’d been the world’s greatest husband? No.
“Too bad,” Huck said. “Like to see more common folk take some of those honors the royalty likes to save for themselves. Like they got the market on what makes a good marriage. You know who makes up the majority of this town? Folks who clean houses and run the grocery stores and donate their time to the churches and the VFW. But do they ever get recognized for their contributions? No, sirree. It's all them folks baking fancy cakes and selling fancy dresses and making it so a man's gotta pay near on sixty bucks to get flowers to put on his wife's grave.”
CJ felt for the guy. “How long's she been gone?” CJ asked.
And CJ thought he had it bad. He’d only buried one wife. “Aw, jeez, man. I'm sorry.”
Huck smacked the bar and guffawed. “Aw, boy, you thinking I buried 'em? No sir, not me. Still paying alimony to all three. Will be 'til the day I die, or the day I don't got no money no more. I was talkin' 'bout Jeremy's gramps. Had my eye on his Evelyn myself back in the day, I did. Shoulda stole her when I had the chance. Woulda been cheaper in the long run.”
A tired businessman at the end of the bar signaled Huck, and he shuffled on down the way.
“Productive day, Princess,” Basil said.
CJ grunted into his beer.
“Keep this up, next thing you know, you’ll be settled with a house and a job and a real future.”
An image of Natalie’s kid popped into his head. Those wide, dark, curious eyes wouldn’t leave him alone. “Don’t get your hopes up.”
“You talking to me, or you talking to you?”
Basil was watching him, except the pompousness was gone. So was the holier-than-thou. In fact, the frankness of the question scraped something raw deep in CJ’s center. “Of the two of us,” CJ said, “I’m not the one who likes to hear myself talk.”
“I can’t speak for what Serena would’ve wanted, but God took her and left you here for a reason. Might want to think about that.”
Not if CJ could help it. Because he didn’t think God had much to do with taking Serena.
Nope, that was all CJ and that damned deployment she’d taken to make a point about not giving up her military career to have a dozen babies of their own.
Bothered the shit out of him that Natalie thought her marriage ending was bad.
At least she’d gotten a little family of her own out of it. “Save it for your homily, Father Mom. Me and God are good.”
CJ and the rest of the world, though—that was starting to feel like another story.
* * *
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