Copyright © 2016 Marianne Stephens
   Some images from:
Excerpt:The Next Level by Carol Lynne
Running late, I slammed the door of my shitty Camaro before rushing to the backdoor of
Mac’s Roadhouse. I should have known there was something wrong with the car when I’d
bought it for a steal from one of the used car places on State Avenue. The short hallway that
led to the restrooms was lit only by the dozen or so neon beer signs-most of which Mac bought
for a song from an antique dealer. The bar itself was decorated in a similar manner. Mac had
quirky tastes when it came to finding shit to put up, and just when I thought he was finished
hanging old sports memorabilia, farm implements and vintage motorcycle parts on the walls, he
started on the damn ceilings. I knew for a fact that the dust on the dozen or so antique bicycles
that hung overhead was at least an inch thick, but I refused to climb a ladder to clean the stupid
things, and Mac didn’t seem to care.
“Sorry I’m late.”
Mac, my best friend, pseudo big brother, and boss, glanced up from the clipboard he’d been
using to take inventory. “You okay?” He did a double take and whistled. “Damn. You look like
I knew my eyes were still swollen from an entire night spent crying, but did he have to point
it out? “Thanks for the sympathy.”
I pulled out another tissue and dabbed at my running mascara. I should’ve known better
than to put on makeup before coming to work.
Mac narrowed his dark brown eyes and came out from behind the huge bar he’d bought at
an auction in Dodge City. “What’d that fucker do now?”
I hated the concerned expression on Mac’s devastatingly handsome face. Seriously, it kind
of sucked that my best friend had to be the hottest guy in the Kansas City metro area. His
business partner, Ryder, wasn’t bad to look at either, but Mac had the witty charm that seemed
to draw people in, while Ryder was one of those strong, silent-types who always left a girl
wondering what he was thinking.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” Mac asked. “This is all Brad’s fault.”
“He came home from work, ate the spaghetti I’d cooked him, then after he’d had a big slice
of pie I’d bought at Kroger, he handed me an envelope that contained divorce papers. He said I
just don’t do it for him anymore.”
I still couldn’t believe my husband had dumped me two weeks shy of our eighth
anniversary. Our marriage hadn’t been smooth sailing the last few years, but I’d chalked it up to
the stress of trying to conceive a baby. Never would I have guessed that Brad was so unhappy
he’d go behind my back and file for divorce without even telling me first. I looked down at my
jean shorts and bar T-shirt and sighed.
“No wonder I don’t do it for him. Look at me. I went from the hot girl he met in high school
to the frumpy housewife who has no ambition other than to work in my best friends’ bar four
nights a week.”
“Oh, honey.” Mac held his arms out to me, and normally, I’d accept his comfort without a
thought, but the last thing I needed was to break down again an hour before the bar opened.
We were down a waitress, so lucky me, I get to work another twelve-hour shift.
I held my hands out in front of me to stop Mac’s forward progress. “Don’t. If you start
coddling me now, I won’t last the night.”
“Who said anything about coddling? Maybe I just wanted to feel those perfect tits of yours
against me.”
I groaned. “I’m not in the mood to be teased.”
“Who said I was teasing?” Mac wound a tendril of my hair around his forefinger. “You’re
still the prettiest girl in town.”
Although he was full of shit, it was nice to hear. Mac had always gone out of his way to
compliment me. Sure, I’ve thought about what sex must be like with Mac and Ryder, but I need
their friendship like I need air, and I’ve seen the way they go through women. Yep, you heard
that right. Mac never fucked a woman without Ryder. I still haven’t figured out why they
bothered to take someone else into their bed, because, believe me, if I had either one of them,
I’d be satisfied without looking for outside action.