World on Edge: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller (World on Edge Book 1), стр. 2

hand across his mouth. “Cold. The way I like it.”

“Want another one?”

“Not yet.” Joe took another slug of the beer. “Does the jukebox play anything other than sad country songs? I’m not in the mood for a wishy washy, pinkie in the air, milquetoast type of song. I’m in the mood of some good old rock ‘n roll.”

The bartender leaned into Joe and asked in a low voice, “Don’t you like country?”

“In fact, it’s my favorite, but not tonight.”

“Suit yourself, and don’t say I didn’t warn ya. There’s rap and zydeco. Some rock ‘n roll, but if I were you, I’d leave it alone. Those guys,” he jerked his head toward a table of five, “like country, and they don’t take kindly to people changing it to anything else.”

“Really?” Joe’s interest piqued and he felt a challenge coming on. He ran his hand over the three-day old growth on his face, thinking.

“Besides, we’ve got a local singer coming in.”

“Who?”

“Don’t even know her name. Probably some local teen. Doubt it’ll be a showstopper. If she sings anything other than country, she’ll be booed off the stage.”

“Too bad.” Joe twirled the beer a couple of times and took another pull. “I’ve seen some good talent in these kinds of places.”

The song on the jukebox ended, and Joe casually strolled over to it, located next to the group of five roughnecks. He bumped into a chair where one of the men was seated. “Excuse me,” he said in a barely audible voice. The man returned a go to hell scowl. Joe quietly smirked to himself. He perused the selections on the jukebox, running his finger along the plastic cover until he found the perfect song. He dropped a quarter in the slot and selected the song.

There was no slow guitar strumming or gentle musical lyrics for an introduction, only the eardrum busting, pulse pounding beat of the drums and some bad-ass cords and lyrics. Joe strolled back to the bar, hips thrust forward while strumming an imaginary guitar, keeping beat to the classic rock ‘n roll piece. The high-octane song was what he needed to get him out of the slump he was in and inject some life into the place.

The bartender offered Joe another beer and a bowl of popcorn. “It’s on the house. I was gettin’ tired of listening to country too.”

Joe took a handful of popcorn and as he brought up the beer to wash the kernels down, two jabs to his shoulder interrupted his culinary pleasure.

Joe glanced at the guy, a mean-looking forty-something roughneck, arms crossed over his barrel chest, hands darkened with dirt and grease. The guy stared daggers at Joe.

“Can I help you?” Joe asked in a tone speaking loud and clear for the guy to get lost.

“Yeah!” the man yelled over the music blasting. “As a matter of fact, you can. See the door over yonder?” The man dipped his chin in the direction of the door.

Joe didn’t answer. He was tapping his foot to the beat of the music, while playing an imaginary set of drums on the bar, followed with an imaginary pop of the cymbals.

“You can help yourself right out the door,” the man said.

Joe casually took a swig of beer. “Don’t think I will. I kinda like the vibe of this place.” Joe picked up the imaginary drumsticks and played along with the drum roll, reaching a crescendo.

“Me and my buddies like it here too, and we like a certain type of music. Something soft and peaceful. So, do yourself a favor and make yourself scarce.”

Joe’s gaze drifted from the man to the table where he had been sitting. Four men returned a stare that meant business.

“I’m all out of favors,” Joe said.

The man put his hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Don’t make me—”

Joe shot up out of the bar seat like he was a greyhound waiting for the bell to ring at the races. The man didn’t have time to react. Joe stood eye to eye, all six foot one inches of him, and while the man had about thirty pounds on Joe, he wasn’t as quick.

“Why you no good—”

The blaring music came to an abrupt stop. As if on cue, everyone swiveled to face the jukebox where a young woman was bent over, twisting her body, one arm thrust behind the jukebox. Mouths dropped open at the sight of her shapely derriere filling out a pair of jeans. She stood and held up the end of the electrical cord. “It was kinda loud in here, and it’s my turn to entertain y’all,” the woman said in an affected southern drawl. She pulled a chair to the center of the stage and sat.

Someone booed, another one tossed an ice cube on the stage, and before the man or Joe had time to exchange uppercuts, the tapping of the stage microphone got their attention.

The woman, around twenty-five, announced, “Hi, I’m Lexi Carter, and I’ve got a few songs for you tonight.” She tucked her long brunette locks behind one ear then adjusted the height of the microphone until it was even with her full lips, shiny with gloss. Though she was young, she acted with the poise of a veteran performer with years in the business who had introduced themselves a thousand times. Although the bar patrons didn’t know, her queasy stomach indicated otherwise.

A hush fell over the crowd, and all eyes were on the singer on stage, her timeless beauty enthralling the male clientele, while the females in the place eyed over her style, thinking of ways to emulate the tight-fitting jeans tucked into her boots, a lacy white top, loosely tucked and showing just enough of a turquoise belt buckle.

Joe’s eyes dropped to Lexi’s left hand, specifically her unadorned ring finger. One raised eyebrow unintentionally belied his interest.

A few