"Any plans this weekend?" the kind old professor asked as he slowly packed his bag. Kady looked up from her screen, relaxing her furrowed dark blonde eyebrows. She took her cat-eye thick-rimmed reading glasses off and bit her natural minty lip-balm drenched lip.
"Uh yeah – my family and I are going away to our hunting cabin." She said as she fiddled with her pencil.
"Oh yes that's right – you wanted to go home early for that tomorrow." He said and she nodded; she was hoping he would remember about her family's little tradition.
"Well that'll be just fine." He decided and she perked right up.
"Really?" she asked and he nodded.
"This old office will be waiting for you to come back – nothing's going anywhere. Why don't you just take the day off?" He chuckled as he waved his arms around his library-esque office. He was the head of UBC's Anthropology Department and she was his second-year intern trying to grease the wheels so she could make the field school next spring.
"Thank you so much Professor Kearney!" she exclaimed and he waved goodbye, a smile under his bushy white moustache. She had liked him from the get-go; she had had him in her first year and decided that he was the guy she needed to get in with. He said he liked her spark and hadn't seen such a strong love for the subject in a very long time. It had made her smile so wide she thought her insides might burst.
She quickly wrapped up her data entry from his chicken scratch notes and hauled her own notebooks into her gray canvas backpack. She grabbed her phone and dialed while she packed.
"The Hemingway." A darkly warm, gruff voice answered – she knew he'd pick up.
"My table ready?" She asked; phone clutched to her ear as she swung her olive green military coat over her peach and cream sweater and wound her dark cerulean scarf around her neck.
"Bad day or a good day?" he asked, the pub was loud in the background. She glanced at her brown leather wrap watch – if she hurried she'd make the hockey game.
"Why do you care?" she snorted as she slipped her laptop into her bag and snatched her keys out of one of the many pockets. She kept her keys in the little narrow long pocket on top of the main flap, along with her collection of pens, pencils, highlighters, and other school supplies.
"I'm a bartender – I need to know if you're drinking beer or whiskey." He said and he could hear her smile through the phone.
"Oh, well in that case it's been a good day."
A riot of wildly anarchic, honey blonde hair surged its way through the door and towards the corner table. He cocked his head and watched for a pair of busted up cowboy boots to ramble their way across the worn floor, he knew no one else had hair like that but he also knew she barely ever wore a different pair of shoes. Cowboy boots sighted, he raised his eyes and found an iridescent pair of icy mint blue ones. A single sepia island floating in the lower section of her left eye melted the frozen ocean abyss. God she had long lashes.
"Hey trouble, wassup?" she said, her naturally shaped brows rose in greeting as she tossed her signature hello. As she pitched her backpack onto the table he couldn't help but chuckle.
"The girl with the bag fulla notebooks." He said and she smiled. She had selected that table specifically. It was right next to the bar, so she was close enough to get her drinks delivered to her but yet she wasn't seated at it, so she didn't look like an alcoholic. It was far enough from the speakers so that she could hear herself think but still catch the words of The Hemingway's rock and country blend that she loved so much. It had a big enough table and bench to spread all her books out on and an outlet so she could charge her laptop. It was a fifteen-minute walk from home and a two-minute drive, her little Jeep Wrangler could find parking any day of the week due to its hairpin turn radius and tiny frame. Since she lived on the street she could park for free too. Her seat also had prime views of the street and of a TV – which her beloved Canucks now played on.
"Score?" she asked as he carried out her Bud in a bottle. She hated glasses. He hated that she drank cheap beer and on several occasions had convinced her to try a different kind but alas, she was still drinking Bud.
"Nil-nil, puck dropped about three minutes ago. Two shots on us; Garrison, Hank, and Burrows have shot for us." He filled her in and she grinned as she took a swig.
"What's with the smile?" he asked and she laughed.
"Kearney gave me the day off tomorrow – meaning I can get to camp like half a day earlier than anticipated." And he chuckled. Though she dressed like a typical Vancouverite and attended one of the top forty universities in the world, this girl was a redneck through and through.
"I'm surprised you don't have any sorority business to attend to. Now you can be a hick sooner than you thought." He teased. She was a Kappa Gamma girl, complete with a tiny anchor tattoo – the location of the tattoo was still secret to him.
"You're just jealous you can't go 4x4-ing and target shoot and drink beer all day." She tossed back and he shrugged.
"I am – I have to work." And her jaw dropped.
"No way! Jace that sucks." She said and he nodded.
"I thought you and your parents we're gonna get together?" she asked.
"We were – don't know if I'll make it on time." He sighed and she looked around.
"When's Tyler off?"
"And when's he back?"
"Tuesday, why?" and she grinned.
"Be right back..." and she scooted out from her table.
"Kady..." Jace warned and she tossed him back a killer smile,
"Watch my table!" he groaned as he went back behind the bar and started mixing drinks, his eyes on her.
She touched Tyler's arm as she spoke to him, and when he gave her an answer she didn't like she pouted those perfectly bee-stung, pale pink lips of hers and begged. Tyler sighed and then gave her a smile. She grinned a mega-watt one in return, touching his arm again before heading back over.
"What did you do?" Jace asked her and she smiled. The speckles that danced across her face accentuated her tan, it was fading but the freckles gave it staying power.
"Tyler has a date on Tuesday and is trading for your shift tomorrow so he can make it." She said as she glued her eyes back on the television screen.
"You're going on a date with Tyler so I can see my parents?" he asked and she just about spat out her beer.
"Hell no – I set him up with my friend Catherina."
"Thank god." He laughed.
"You still road tripping up with The-One-That-Got-Away?" he asked her and a cloud of pain flashed over those eyes. He blinked and it was gone, was it even there?
"Yes." She stuck her tongue out at him as any mature nineteen-year old would and focused her attention back on the screen.
They did this almost every night. On hockey night, he served people and talked with her on commercial breaks. On regular nights, she talked with him when he wasn't too busy mixing drinks.
That was another thing she loved about The Hemingway – it was never dead and never crazy busy. It was lively most hours of the day – she stayed here working until the wee hours because it was open late and then ended up here again in the morning for their famous cheap Hung-over Breakfast.
"How's Zeppelin holding up?" Jace named her massive longhaired German Shepherd as the first period ended. She looked up at him and was taken aback by how bloody attractive the guy was.
"He's still a little loopy from the meds." She said and he smiled, that trademark lopsided smirk of his was toxic.
"Poor guy. He'll be up to your morning death wish soon enough." He said and she rolled her eyes.
"It's not a death wish – wouldn't be able to keep up with my team if I didn't." she said. She played starting defense for the UBC Thunderbirds women's soccer team; she sported number thirteen.
"Nothing wrong with running Kade, there's just something wrong with running before noon." He winked as a skinny brunette walked up and starting flirting with him. Kady smiled and pulled out her Moleskine notebook labeled Methods & Ethics and started flipping through last class's notes. They had a test the day after she got home from the cabin and she wanted to be prepared.
"I don't understand why you don't just by full notebooks." He said as he snatched her old bottle away and replaced it. The sudden motion had taken her breath away too – but he seemed to have had that affect on her ever since they met.
"Because! The idea of a shelf full of little black notebooks, labeled by my class, easily accessible knowledge...that really appeals to me." She said as she turned to look at him. He was standing a little too close for comfort, he had done it on purpose but no one else but her would be able to tell.
"And it's got this little pocket that I can stick photographs and diagrams in." she said, looking away from his whiskey eyes that were so outrageously amber they were bordering on rude just for existing.
"I have them for more than just class, you know." She said, suddenly a little embarrassed by her habit. He didn't need to know that she color-coordinated her highlighters with her page tabs or only wrote certain things in certain colors of ink.
"Oh?" he asked, raising one of those thick dark brows, in particular the one with the thunderbolt shaped scar that bisected it. Lacrosse injury.
"Yeah, I have one for every trip I've gone on. I have one for recipes, one for numbers, one for lame-ass drawings, one that I carry around with me everywhere, like a little day planner. Only I write lists in it, and thoughts. And stuff. They have printable pages that you can stick in yourself on their website so you can customize it..." she trailed off, embarrassed again.
"You have a lot of knowledge at your fingertips." He said softly smiling as he traced his long finger over the curve of her notebook. She made the mistake of looking up at him and got lost in those pools of melted amber; they glittered darkly. The stubble that ran along his strong jaw and taunt cheeks was the same shade of espresso as his hair. The hair that was styled in the exact way that made her want to run her fingers through it. It was an effortless I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-after-a-hot-night-and-can't-be-bothered-to-fit-it-because-it-looks-sexy style. She rocked the homeless version of that look often, as her own hair repelled any sort of styling.
"Jace! Get your ass back here!" the other bartender Max called and he loped off, his stupidly large frame weaving easily through the throng and towards the back. It was dinnertime. Her stomach growled as a reminder that she hadn't ate since breakfast, which was a simple fruit smoothie and omelet. She hoped Jace's broad shoulders would push their way back to her so she could order some dinner.
"Fish tacos, extra guac and hot pepper sauce, half the cilantro and another beer." Jace slid the plate under her nose and her mouth watered. The second period had just ended and she had cracked her notebook again.
"How did you know?" she asked as she polished off her beer and handed him the bottle.
"It's Friday, 'Nucks are on. It's Taco Night." He grinned as he stepped away – she didn't miss the large swell of his biceps trapped in his tight black tee as he held a massive tray of drinks. The wait staff must be backed up.
She bit on her baby pink nail, analyzing which taco to eat first before digging in. God, they made the best tacos.
By the time she had finished the Canucks were up two over the Bruins with two minutes left – nothing made her happier. Except maybe when Dixie came home from the shop with brand new 31's and a lift kit, that Jeep tore though the bush like no other.
"You studying tonight?" Jace asked as he brought her a glass of water in a mason jar. She smiled thankfully at him as he took her plate and empty beer bottle away.
"Yeah, I think I want to get some of my terminology done before I go."
"Zepp gonna be okay?" he asked and Kady glanced at the time. Leah would have gotten home an hour ago. He was good for another few.
"He should be. Leah took him for a walk with Basil." Basil was her best friend and roommates English Bulldog.
"Want a tea or anything?" he asked, he knew her so well.
"Maybe in half an hour or so. Thanks Jace." She smiled at him and he nodded.
"You're the one who got me outta my shift tomorrow." And he slipped behind the bar again.
They had met at a party a friend had dragged her too; it was at a friend of her boyfriends at SFU. Jace played lacrosse for SFU along with the boyfriend. He was two years older than she and had grown up in Point Grey, attending one of those prissy elitist academies. She was from Surrey and had gone to Catholic School – it was a much lower end budget private school but she loved it just the same.
She had asked him point blank why he was bar tending when he obviously could afford not to work. He had simply shrugged and said he didn't want to rely on his parents more than he needed to. His father was the head of a multimillion dollar construction company, Jace's business school degree would help him take over the family business one day. He didn't relay that information to her until he was several keg stands in. They had hit it off remarkably and he had invited her down to The Hemingway to check it out. That had been over a year ago, and here she was still.
Maybe it was the fantastic environment, or maybe it was the ridiculously attractive bartender that kept her coming back but she loved the place. She also loved being friends with Jace. He was funny, smart, and laid-back. Yeah he flirted with everything that moved and got more ass than a toilet-seat, but he offered sound advice to her about everything, and in return she ate at his bar most days. And nights.
"Leah?" Kady asked as Leah pushed her way through, two leashes in her hands. The Hemingway, like a lot of places these days, was dog friendly.
"He's being staring at the door holding his leash in his mouth since I came home." She giggled as Zeppelin found Kady and wagged his tail, patiently waiting for her affection as he butted his massive tan and black head against her legs. She cooed as she leaned down and rubbed his ears. After he was satisfied he took up his usual position at her feet, right next to the heat vent. The floor to ceiling windows also gave him a good view of what was going on outside.
"There's the brute." Jace said as he came out. Zeppelin saw him and crawled across the floor to greet him. Jace was the only guy that Zeppelin trusted, besides Kady's dad and her brother. She had always wondered why.
"I got something for you. I hear you had a rough week." He said as he handed the big puppy a piece of meat. Zeppelin wagged his tail but didn't take it.
"Eat Zepp."Kady commanded and he delicately pulled it from Jace's outstretched hands.
"I can't believe how gentle he is." Jace marveled as the dog chewed it up, his tail wagging furiously.
"VPD kicked him out of K-9 unit training after only one day for that exact reason. Their loss, my gain." She smiled as she rubbed his ears.
"Alright, been nice folks. But I have to go, Marty has some stupid reading I have to attend." She rolled her eyes as she waved goodbye to Jace.
"You gonna come home?" Kady asked, noting she had Basil with her.
"Probably not." Leah said and Kady nodded as she watched her beautifully dark friend leave.
"One tea." Jace said as he handed her a steaming cup of Earl Grey, one sugar. It was in her favorite worn blue mug. She smiled at him and he returned it. He shouted last call and a surge of men made their way to the bar.
"Tea? That's your poison?" a guy asked as he slid in next to her. Zeppelin growled from under the table.
"Easy there...holy cow your dog is huge." The guy said and Kady smiled.
"He just doesn't like men. He'll be fine, he doesn't bite." And the guy grinned and introduced himself as Connor Monday.
"What's a pretty thing like you doing in the corner of a seedy bar drinking tea?" he asked and she smiled and pointed to her notebooks.
"Studying." She said plainly. He was kind of cute. In a typical polished Vancouverite kind of way.
"And what are we studying?" he asked, his blue eyes coy.
"Methods and Ethics of Anthropology." She said and he raised his brows.
"The study of humans? Fascinating." She hated it when people defined it like that – it was so much more.
"I find it that way." She smiled softly and he grinned.
"Let's get outta here – my place is only a few blocks away. We'll split a bottle of wine and you can tell me all about Amthropology." And she cringed internally.
"Anthropology." She corrected and he shrugged nonchalantly.
"Potato-patato." He eyed the door and then her again.
"You're the hottest woman in this joint you know that?" he asked and she shook her head.
"I think I'm gonna stay right here and just study." She declined politely and he coughed.
"Pardon you?" he looked extremely taken aback that she had declined his apparently divine offer.
"I do not want to sleep with you." She spelled out slowly and he pushed back away from the table. He swept her cup off the table, she gasped as it slammed against the bar and cracked in half.
"Fucking uptight virgin." He cussed at her as he turned.
"Hey buddy." Jace grinned before clocking him hard enough to send him straight into tomorrow. Zeppelin was up and pacing, his ears back and teeth bared.
Kady was trembling as she collected the bits of her cup off the floor. By the time she had, Jace had kicked Connor Monday to the street with the toe of his black motorcycle boots. Zeppelin barked, something he rarely ever did before Connor tried to kick him. Zeppelin neatly avoided him and nipped him on the heels, Jace glaring as Connor stumbled down the strip.
Kady held the three parts of her cup together and tried her hardest not to cry.
"You okay?" Jace asked as he came back inside, Zeppelin licked her arm and she turned to smile at her two heros.
"Thanks boys." She smiled at Jace and kissed Zeppelin on the head.
"He broke my cup." Kady pushed her lip out and Jace smiled softly as he sat across from her. He held the pieces of the cup up and sighed.
"What happened?" he asked, even though he knew what happened. He had heard most of their conversation.
"He was trying to get me to come home with him. I said no, and he called me a 'fucking uptight virgin' and broke my tea." She said trying not to cry again.
"What a dick." Jace swore.
"I mean he's right, but he didn't have to break my cup." And Jace couldn't help but laugh at how torn up she was about her cup.
"What do you mean?" he said and she looked at him. He had never known her to be the girl to go home with just any guy; in fact, he had never known her to go home with any guy. She hadn't even really dated since he'd known her.
"You're not uptight or high strung Kady." He said when she didn't answer.
"But I am a virgin." She breathed as she met his eyes bravely. He paused. This bombshell sitting across him was a virgin? Who the hell wouldn't have snapped that up already? She was stunning, beautiful.
"How?" he finally managed to stutter.
"I don't do casual sex. I don't do half relationships; I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. I take a while to fall in love with someone. And an even longer time to fall out of love with them. I...I mean I'm single so we can see how well this is going... it's kind of old-fashioned of me but, its how I've always been." She exhaled, her eyes glued to her cup.