by Laurie Larsen
Book 3 in the Murrells Inlet Miracles series
Haley Witherspoon drove her Acura into the parking lot of Winners Lounge. She parked underneath a street light and hoped that it would still be lit at two in the morning. She cut the engine and peered around. Not exactly her kind of place. She’d never frequented Winners Lounge before. She’d never been in this part of Myrtle Beach before. And she’d certainly never walked into a bar alone before.
In fact, she may even go so far as to rename Winners Lounge to Losers Lounge.
But, when Blake asked her out on their first date, listening to his band perform, she’d said yes. And, when she’d asked all her girlfriends to join her so she wasn’t sitting there by herself all night, they all had reasons to say no. She thought they were legit. Or, at least she hoped so.
She’d be fine. Blake wouldn’t have invited her here if she would be in danger. Would he? Honestly, she didn’t know him well enough to know. She’d only met him once.
Just to be safe, she said a quick internal prayer, Lord, be with me tonight. Keep me safe. Watch over me.
She took a deep breath, checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror and opened the car door. Game time. She strode purposefully to the front door, letting out a pent-up breath once inside. She scanned the room for a table with a good view of the band. Finding one, she walked straight there and sat down. She checked her watch. Nine pm. The band should be starting any minute.
A waitress stopped by and she ordered a light beer and left her tab open. Once it came, she took a long, fortifying sip. She definitely didn’t want to get drunk tonight, but she needed something to occupy her attention while sitting here all by herself. She picked up her phone. She could web surf until the band came on. She checked the time again. Nine ten. Where were they?
Two girls about her age approached her. “Haley, right?”
“Blake told us to watch for you.” They joined her at her table, climbing up into the high bar stools. “I’m Lindsay. Jake the drummer is my boyfriend. And this is Helen. She’s with the bass player, Robbie.”
“Oh, hi!” Relief flooded through her body and most likely, out through her voice. “So nice to meet you. I’m Haley.”
They chuckled. “Yeah, we know.”
Haley rolled her eyes good-naturedly. This, she could do. She’d always made friends easily. Her friendly personality had always made her approachable and accepting. She suddenly felt a sense of community. Three gals watching and cheering on their men. “We’re with the band,” she imagined them telling onlookers. A sort of sorority. Instant membership because of Blake.
Finally, the band took the small stage in the corner. Haley clapped and cheered, then realized she was the only one at the table doing so. She looked at the girls.
“Look, Helen,” Lindsay intoned. “A band groupie virgin.”
The comment flustered Haley and she frowned and swiped at her hair. “What do you …?”
They both laughed. “We’re not criticizing. We both went through it too. Everything’s so new and fresh and fun when you first start coming to these gigs. You’re excited, you clap and cheer. But after a couple hundred of these you start to tarnish.”
Haley gave them a grim smile. A couple hundred? They must’ve been with their boyfriends for years.
The band was all set up now, and Blake took the microphone, his guitar strapped over his shoulder.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Winners Lounge. We’re Ace in the Hole. Let’s let it roll.” The music took off, a cover of a favorite Bryan Lucas hit, and Haley immediately settled into the tune. The song wrapped her in a blanket of familiarity and the band blended great together. Guitars, a keyboard, drums. “Oh my gosh, they sound great!” she yelled to her tablemates over the noise. They nodded.
Then Blake started singing. She didn’t know if he was trying to imitate country superstar Bryan Lucas, but he sounded just like him. His voice was clear and deep with just a little bit of raspy on the corners. She couldn’t take her eyes or ears off him. He closed his eyes as he cradled the mic in his hand, swaying his hips along with the melody. He dipped his head back to hit the higher notes, and then when he opened his eyes, he zoomed in on Haley. A rush of adrenaline traveled down her esophagus and settled deep in her core. She went breathless.
They finished the first song and Haley didn’t care what the more seasoned girlfriends thought. She jumped off her barstool and clapped and yipped for Ace in the Hole. They were fantastic. The rest of the bar clapped quietly. Blake smiled and winked at her, then started in on the second song.
Haley got absorbed in the first set, listening to every lyric, every note, every stanza. The band’s solid sound overwhelmed her, especially Blake’s singing. This man had talent.
The set ended and while the band was putting their instruments down, she turned to the girls. “My gosh, they are good! Why are they still playing in little tiny dives like this? Have they tried to get a recording contract? They deserve a shot!”
They stared at her, each of them raising one eyebrow, as if in unison. “Gee, Helen, why didn’t we ever think of that? You mean they could be playing nicer bars? Stadiums? Recording music? Hmmm. Maybe we need to look into that.”
The way she phrased it, and the deadpan monotone of her voice clued Haley in that she was being mocked. “Oh. So, they have tried? And what, hit roadblocks?”