It was December twentieth, and they were looking for something new to do. Tired of the same old hangouts in their own neighborhood, they drove around the city, looking for some new excitement--or at least some new scenery around them--as they did the same old thing. "Hey, let's go in there, man, shoot a game of pool, decide what to do," his buddy suggested.
Turning his head to look out the passenger window at the bar, Joe Lopez questioned his pal's decision. "What do you wanna go in there for?"
Shrugging, Eddie answered, "I dunno. I'm thirsty, and there's a parking spot. How often you find a spot like that?"
Joe agreed. "Alright, let's go have one in there. But if it sucks, we're outta there after one."
He saw them as soon as he walked in the door, and was immediately thankful for the serendipitous parking spot. He noticed the redhead especially. Her back was to them, but she looked at them as they entered, and he caught a glimpse of her face before she turned away, a mass of flowing auburn hair falling down her back, warm and inviting above snug fitting, dark Levi's. Elbowing Eddie and nodding in their direction, Joe said, "Nice scenery in here."
Whistling slightly, Eddie agreed. "Not bad at all. Nice to check out the view in new sections of town sometimes, huh? Hey, go rack 'em at that table. I'll grab us some beers."
"Nah, nah, nah," Lopez smiled at him. "I know what you're up to. I don't want you wrecking our chances right off the bat by saying something stupid."
"I won't say anything dumb! Fuck you, man. Like you're some hotshot Latin Romeo anyhow. We're here to shoot a game of pool. Go rack 'em."
Like all customers in a not-so-crowded bar, the women had turned around to see who was entering when the two strangers came in. Taking a quick glance as they walked through the door, Marie had already been impressed by the stranger on the right. He was medium height with broad shoulders, short black hair, and gleaming dark eyes. Unfortunately, the one on the left was making his way to the bar while his buddy was taking off his jacket and settling near the pool table in the back. She liked the way he moved, a self assured swagger that began in his shoulders and moved with a subtle rhythm throughout his torso and legs as he walked. She found it sexy, and a bit cocky.
Halting next to her, Eddie ordered a couple of beers then turned his gaze on her and immediately broke his promise to Lopez by uttering one sentence: "So, what's your sign, baby?"
She answered crisply, "Yield."
As the answer registered, a slow grin broke across Eddie's face and he chuckled to himself. Stuck up bitch, is what he thought about her. So he looked past her and to her friend. Eyeing her, he licked his lips as she returned his gaze. He winked at her. She laughed, and he thought that was a good sign. The bartender placed the bottles in front of him and he paid, but lingered until he heard his name being called from the back.
"Yo, Eduardo," the voice rang, with perfect Spanish enunciation on his name. "I got 'em racked back here, come on." Slowly, eyes on the blonde, Eddie scooped up the bottles in one hand and turned and headed toward the back.
Throwing a long curl of red hair over her shoulder, Marie turned and looked toward the back of the bar. The one she previously noticed was chalking a stick. Never removing her eyes from him, she told her roommate, "You know, that's our table. We won it, our quarters are up there. Our names are on the board."
"Oh, come on, Marie. Let 'em have it. We aren't playing anymore."
"No, it's the principle of the thing," she said. "Besides, it's getting late. It's gonna get busy soon. If they hog that table, we'll never get it back."
"No, you just want to go back there and hassle them."
Dropping her jaw and looking at her friend with mock offense, Marie raised a hand to her chest and exclaimed sarcastically, "Who? Me? Hassle someone? No, what's fair is fair. They want the table, they have to beat us. Come on," she instructed, picking up her drink and striding toward the back.
As she got close, she saw the one she was interested in hovering over the end of the table, his left arm stretched out over the railing as his other one aligned the stick with the cue ball, the sinewy muscles of his forearm stretched taut. Just as he moved back, preparing to strike and break, she reached down and snatched the white ball off the table.
He rose and stood ramrod straight, fixing his gaze upon her. She wondered briefly if she had miscalculated as she saw the knit of his brows and shadow of anger move across dark eyes. Not flinching, she realized she hadn't made a grave error as he looked at her face and the hostility dissipated as rapidly as it had appeared. A grin crept across his features, revealing defined cheekbones and softening his dark eyes.
"What, you got rights on that cueball or something?" he asked as one brow arched.
"No. I have rights to the table," she replied, nodding to the chalkboard behind him. "These," she pointed to the quarters on the railing, "are mine. And I last won on the table. If you want it, you have to beat me." Her friend smiled at Eddie apologetically behind her.
Turning around, he inspected the chalkboard, and read the only name not crossed off. "Marie, huh? Okay," he said simply. "I'm Joe."