“Bottoms up!” An alpha’s voice cried out through the near-empty bar as he raised a glass of whiskey to his companion, a beta who looked like he was about one drink away from collapsing into a coma.
“Yeh…buttoms uh…” His buddy groaned, trying and failing miserably to raise his Jack and Coke in celebratory response.
The alpha didn’t seem too bothered by his pal’s condition, and tossed his drink back like a conquering king celebrating a recent victory. His name was Timothy—or Tom, I couldn’t remember. I should have, considering how few people were actually coming into the bar these days.
“Bottoms up, eh?” Timothy or Tom asked me, flashing me a grin as he slammed his glass down on the clouded epoxy bar top.
“That’s right,” I replied with a nod as I wiped away the mess left by the group of college boys who’d just left. Bottoms Up was the name of my bar.
It was strange to think of it that way—my bar. It was really my parents’ bar, but when they’d died last month, I’d been forced to take it over and run it, despite having no idea what I was doing. I was trying my best but things weren’t looking good. Fewer and fewer people were coming in, and the payments I was having to make to the Galloping Jackals, a local biker gang that liked to extort any business in “their territory,” were draining the cash reserves I had. I was having a hard time seeing how I’d manage to keep afloat if things kept going like this. I’d already stopped paying myself a salary and had started sleeping in the spare room upstairs. Heaven it was not.
It wasn’t every day you saw an eighteen-year-old omega owning his own bar, and I wasn’t even sure it was completely legal, but then again, who around here was going to tell on me? I was a hard-luck case and everyone knew that. Orphaned at eighteen, with no mate and no real friends to help me, running a business on my own. Thank God I had no enemies, or I’d be in real trouble.
“Percy!” Timothy or Tom roared as I turned back to the sink to wash out my rag.
“What can I do for you?” I asked without turning around.
“Why ain’t you got yourself an alpha yet?” he asked. “I mean—goddamn, look at that bubble butt of yours! You tellin’ me nobody else has noticed it but me?”
“Oh, no,” I replied, rolling my eyes and shaking my head. “They notice it. I get comments nightly.”
“I bet my hard-ass dick you do!” he bellowed, slapping a hand against the bar top. “Why ain’t you let one of them scoop your ass up yet then?”
I shrugged, finally turning around to face him. This kind of harassment was par for the course around here, and I’d learned to let it slide off my shoulders. “Guess I just haven’t felt true love’s touch just yet.”
“Hah!” he cackled, opening his enormous, yellow-toothed mouth and tossing back the rest of his whiskey. “You know what true love’s touch is, boy? True love’s touch is a nice thick alpha cock pressing against your tight hole.”
“Jesus Christ,” I muttered, turning back to the sink.
“It’s that feeling when you sliiiiiiide into a nice fresh ass!” he continued. “It’s that feeling of dropping a nice fat load on a pretty omega’s face! You know what true love’s touch ain’t?”
“No,” I groaned. “But I can bet you’re going to tell me.”
“Some mystical bullshit about feelings or knowing you’ve met the one!” His voice was like old aluminum siding being ripped off a building. I shuddered as Johnny, the bartender who’d been here when my parents owned the place, brushed past me.
“Last call, boys,” he growled, putting both hands on the bar top, letting them know he was the one in charge. Johnny was about six feet tall, brawny, with a military crew cut and an attitude. He also despised having to take orders from me, “the kid.”
“What are you talking about, Johnny?” Timothy or Tom snarled, looking up at the dirty clock hanging above the door. “It’s barely 11:30!”
“And you two are barely conscious,” he retorted, folding his arms across his chest. “So, either take your sweaty, stinkin’, no-good asses outta here on your own, or I’ll gladly escort you outside and use your faces to open the door.”
As much as Johnny and I didn’t get along, I had to admit, he had a way with words. If there was a prize for most poetic bartenders in Texas, I’d have to believe Johnny would be a contender every year.
Timothy or Tom gave Johnny a side-eye glance. I could see him contemplating his options: either go peacefully, or start some shit. I really hoped it wouldn’t be the latter, and after a long pause, the old drunk finally cracked a smile.
“All right, tough guy,” he cackled, saving face as he got to his feet and dug a sweaty stack of bills from his pocket. He slapped his companion in the neck to get his attention. “Come on, rummy. It’s time we gotta get!”
His buddy somehow managed to stagger to his feet, swaying back and forth like a weeping willow, his eyes closed like a zombie. He even groaned like one.
“Got—gotta git?” he asked nobody in particular.
“Gotta get,” Timothy agreed, slapping the bills down on the bar top. “Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure. Percy, keep that booty tight, boyo.”
“You know it,” I replied with as much sarcasm as I could muster. It went completely over his head and he winked as he turned around. He wrapped an arm around his friend and helped him to the door before kicking it open and staggering out into the parking lot. I felt the warmth of the summer air flood into the bar before the door swung shut behind them.
“Thanks, Johnny,” I said.
“One of these days, kid,” he replied. “One of these days I’m gonna be gone and you’re gonna have to learn how to handle the riff-raff on your own.”
“Well, I’ll just pray you never leave me, Johnny,” I retorted with a forced smile. “Ron! We got any more O’Doul’s?”
Ron’s always cheerful voice came from the back. “Sure! Be right up!”
I sighed, wiped sweat from my brow with the back of my hand, took a deep breath and looked around the empty bar. It shouldn’t have made me happy to see the place without a single customer in it—but it did. This bar had never been my dream. It had been my parents’, and after they passed, it simply fell on me.
I’d always wanted to be a writer, but when I took over the business, that had taken a bit of a back seat. Sometimes I’d have enough energy left in the evenings to get a little done, but more often than not I was so exhausted that by the time I hit my mattress, (which was just upstairs in a tiny apartment that used to be a store room) I was out like a light. But it was almost midnight, and if nobody else came in within the next five minutes, I was closing up shop and heading upstairs to get some work done.
I was a few pages into my cozy mystery about a town on the coast of Massachusetts, and I had started writing before actually plotting the whole thing out, so I had a lot to do and I was itching to get back to work. But just then, the door swung open and the last guys in the world I’d want to see came walking in.