Never Stopped Loving You
really needed a friend right now. Like they used to be.
    And also someone to hide behind in case Tate and his judgmental staring returned to the bar too. Though as the seconds ticked off and neither stepped in, she figured Tate was right alongside Wade and hopefully keeping the peace between Wade and John. That was one thing she could count on. Tate was respectable and all about the upkeep on the Chester name even though he didn’t put the hours in at the farm. There would be no parking-lot fighting so long as he stood watch.
    With a quick slip, she skirted around two couples dancing to a slow tune and found her bar stool. It was hard to climb on with the heavy weight still strapped on her shoulders. Before Wade grabbed John by the neck, the truth had been on the tip of her tongue. Then Wade ruined it. She looked at “Bartender Brandon,” as Whitney had called him, and shoved away the lightweight fruit mix. “Rum and Coke. And nothing diet.”
    Whitney’s brow lifted as he got to work. “What happened?”
    She started to answer with the truth, but with the crowded bar and music to talk over, no thank you. She was trying to maintain a reputation. “Nothing.”
    Whitney’s face fell. A long breath slipped past her lips. “Don’t push me out. Not again.”
    Kara put her hand over Whitney’s. “I’m not avoiding you, just not here.” She glanced around, already knowing people were watching her. Hell, she’d gone out with John. Wade followed with Tate, and now she was back inside alone. “People are already watching, I don’t want them listening in too.”
    Whitney’s tongue clicked in her mouth. “You’re right. Let’s go.”
    Get off this stool? The ends of her nerves were fried. If she managed to get on her feet, the odds of walking across this room without shattering into a thousand pieces were slim to none. She knew this was a bad idea. Knew she never should have come to the bar, but it was hard to tell Whitney no. And Whitney had wanted to come here so, damn it, she was going to suck it up and be here. “No. No, really. I’m fine. You’re still having a good time.”
    Tasha, Patrick’s wife who she’d met earlier at the farm, dropped in a chair on the opposite side of Whitney. Her arms stretched over the bar top. Her palms flat, fingers spread wide as she stared the bartender down in a similar motion Kara had just performed. Damp tendrils of curls surrounded her pinked face. The ponytail that had been swinging and bouncing a few hours earlier was now halfway down the back of her head. “Make it something strong and make it fast.”
    Whitney glanced to her with a brow raised. Kara didn’t know what she was thinking, but it didn’t take seconds to find out when Whitney glanced to the bartender. “And make it to go.”
    Bartender Brandon laughed. “Nice try, Whitney. This ain’t no fast-food joint where I sack it up for you and toss it out a window. You order it here. You drink here. Then you leave.”
    Years ago Kara would have pictured Whitney batting her eyes and making this begging noise thing from her throat. Kara had seen this in action several times, but it didn’t happen. Instead she stared the man down. “I want a bottle, Brandon. A full bottle of something and then we’re going to get out of your hair.”
    His brow rose as he mixed. “No.”
    Whitney’s grip on her purse straps tightened. “Don’t be a jerk. Give us something good and these three women hanging over your bar will be out of here before our PMS unloads on your customers and wrecks everyone’s night and your tip jar.”
    He stared at her a moment and Kara laughed silently as he debated between the bottle or getting three women off his bar.
    His chin lifted. “Where are you going with it?”
    Whitney’s brow rose. “To our cars. We’re going to take turns smackin’ the hooch while driving the strip between the local high school and First Baptist Church. Back and forth. All night. Spittin’ out the window and

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