Out of the Dark

By: Megan Hart

Her feet weren’t made for nonstop dancing in four-inch heels, but Celia Henry was giving it her best shot. This hole-in-the-wall dive bar might have the worst decor she’d ever seen, but it also had the best DJ she’d ever heard. Every time she thought she’d have time to catch her breath or grab a drink, Lisa was pulling her back out onto the dance floor for another song. And, since this was Lisa’s last night out as a single woman, Celia wasn’t about to be the party pooper who ruined it for her.

All of them—Celia, Lisa and four of Lisa’s college friends—in their short summer dresses and fancy shoes stood out from the other women wearing jeans and T-shirts and shit-kicker boots, and wasn’t that the point of a bachelorette party? Men had been buying them drinks and dancing with them all night long, and so what if maybe the men were a little more…hirsute and a little less…fashion-conscious than Celia was used to, it was still a lot of fun. Those shit-kicking farmers really knew how to get down on the dance floor, not like the guys in clubs she was used to, who stood in the dark corners with their drinks in hand, bobbing their heads to the beat while they checked out every girl’s ass. Nope, these dudes knew how to get their freak on to every single line dance ever recorded and quite a few Celia’d never heard.

“See?” Lisa crowed as she pushed back the “bridal” veil attached to her hair with plastic, penis-shaped barrettes. “I told you this was gonna be great!”

“How’d you even find this place?” Celia shouted over the heavy, driving beat of a metal/pop mash-up she didn’t recognize. Celia’s cousin lived for designer shoes, purses and coffee. Frog’s Hollow had a beat-up interior and an anything but high-scale menu—frogs’ legs? Gross! So not Lisa’s style.

“Denny and I found it one day when we were out driving around.” Lisa leaned unsteadily to talk into Celia’s ear. “I mean, who knew, right?”

Celia laughed as she put out a hand to keep Lisa from toppling over on her peep-toed pumps. “Right. Listen, I need to grab some water. Are you going to be okay here?”

Lisa tipped her head back, eyes closed, arms flung wide. “Of course! I got my girls with me, right?”

Celia had met her cousin’s friends only a few times before and had never seen any of them, or Lisa, for that matter, so drunk. Amy was grinding with a guy wearing a trucker cap and a plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves torn off. Melody and Brit were grinding with each other, to the delight of a circle of dudes all in T-shirts with variations of the John Deere tractor logo on them. And Dana…where the hell was Dana, anyway? Celia began to feel more like a kindergarten chaperone on a field trip to the zoo rather than the designated driver.

“Where’s Dana?”

Lisa opened her eyes with a grin that turned to a surprised O when she tipped forward into Celia’s ready arms. “What? Who? Where?”

Celia waited for her cousin to throw in a “why,” but when she didn’t, said “Dana. Your friend? She was over by the bar a minute ago, but now she’s gone.”

Lisa made a show of looking but let herself get carried away by giggles and the apparently too-tempting offer of a young dude in cuffed jeans and a wife-beater who was offering her another beer. “Oopsie, be right back!”

Celia, left on the dance floor, took the chance for a break. She scanned the room for Dana’s difficult-to-miss blinking red penis necklace, but didn’t see her. She did catch another tasty glimpse of the table in the back corner of the bar, though, the one occupied by a group of men who looked as out of place here as Lisa and her friends. They all wore jeans and boots, a couple of them wore baseball caps and one wore a flannel shirt—but it was clear they were not part of the regular Frog’s Hollow crowd, either.

One in particular had caught Celia’s eye. A couple inches taller than his friends, no hat to cover his short dark hair or obscure his equally dark eyes. His western-style shirtsleeves had been rolled to show off a set of truly bitable forearms, and the snap front had been left open to reveal a plain white cotton T-shirt underneath.

Yum.

She had to pass right by their table to get to the bar, and there was no doubt she turned heads. Also no doubt that it had been awhile since Celia had felt this giddy from male attention. This…free. She took her time with the once-over she gave the table, too, lingering with a grin on the mother-of-pearl snaps on the front of that dude’s shirt before giving him a wink he returned with a smile of his own. She’d have done more than let her gaze linger, but she really needed to get a drink of water to soothe her parched throat. And eventually use the restroom. And find Dana. Oh yeah, and maybe find a place to sit and get the pressure off her aching toes.

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