Disclaimer: It’s been a while since I’ve written one these disclaimers so let’s cover all the bases here. I don’t own these characters. I’m simply borrowing them and taking them for a spin. They belong to All My Children, and as to who owns that, well, your guess is as good as mine at this point. I’m just borrowing them for purposes of this story. Now that that’s out of the way, on to the (hopefully) good stuff.
A/N: This story is alternate universe (AU) and not connected to “Things Change”. Here’s some background. There are no kids. Bianca and Marissa are single and in their mid to late twenties. Krystal is not Marissa’s biological mother, but she is a family friend. Marissa’s parents are Roy and Lydia Tasker, and they are both still alive. As for Bianca, Erica is still her mother and well, still Erica. Kendall is still her sister and Greenlee her cousin. I think that covers the basics without giving away too much. Oh, there is a place here that does have a Kegs & Eggs event on St. Patrick’s Day, and well, I thought it worked as the title for this story. Hope you enjoy!
“Come on, Binx! Tell me you’ll come out with Greenlee and me tomorrow night to Krystal’s. Please!”
Bianca sighed and looked at her sister. “Why do you want me to tag along so badly, Kendall?”
“Because you’re my little sister, and it will be fun. You could use some fun in your life. You deserve it. You know what they say, all work and no play makes Bianca a dull girl!”
“A St. Patrick’s Day bash for singles isn’t really my idea of fun. Everybody is just going to be drinking and trying to hook up, and I’m not really in the mood for that. Besides, I’ll just slow you and Greenlee down.”
It was Kendall’s turn to sigh now. Her little sister had been through a brutal breakup and was still nursing a broken heart. Kendall didn’t remember the last time a genuine smile crossed her sister’s face or the last time she laughed. It took everything she had not to hunt her sister’s ex-girlfriend down and string her up in the town square. “Bianca, it’s been almost a year. I think you should get out and see what’s out there. I’m not saying you have to hook up with anyone, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll meet someone. Someone nice. Someone who could maybe make you smile. I just want to see you happy. I miss your smile.”
Bianca slumped onto her sofa as the painful memories reared their ugly heads. She had had to go out of town for work, and the business trip would have her missing Reese’s birthday. As luck would have it, Bianca had been able to wrap things up earlier than had been planned. She had decided to surprise her girlfriend and not tell her she was coming home a day early, just in time for Reese’s birthday. Bianca ended up being the one who was surprised when she walked into their apartment and found Reese in their bed with another woman. That had been bad enough, but Reese made it even worse days later when she called. At first, the blonde apologized, but it quickly went downhill when she tried to shift the blame for her cheating onto Bianca. That’s also when she found out that this wasn’t the first time she had cheated. The normally mild-manner brunette lost it. Bianca, along with Kendall and Greenlee who were more than happy to help, cleared their apartment of everything that had belonged to Reese, including their bed. Kendall, who never really liked Reese, had rented a dumpster for the abrupt house cleaning, and it was quickly filled with all of the blonde’s belongings before it was hauled away to the dump. As Kendall had pointed out, it had almost been a year, but sometimes, the pain was still fresh. It left Bianca wondering if she would ever be ready to trust someone again. “I’m just going to be a drag for you guys.”
“No, you won’t. Look, you might as well just say yes now because I’m not leaving until you do.”
The younger woman eyed her sister who was still grinning at her with a determined glint in her eyes. Maybe, she was right, at least about going out. It couldn’t hurt, could it?
Kendall sensed her sister was wavering and decided to go in for the kill. “You can leave whenever you want, and I promise I won’t say anything. Just try it for thirty minutes. Please, for me.”
Bianca huffed. “Dammit. You don’t play fair. You know I can’t say no to you when you pout like that.”
“So, you’ll go?”
“Yes, I’ll go. Thirty minutes and that’s it!”
“Deal! You won’t regret it, Binx.”
“I doubt that.”
“We’ll pick you up …”
“No, you won’t. I’m driving. That way I know I can leave whenever I want. I’ll meet you there. Now, would you get out of here? I need to get ready for work.”
Kendall chuckled. “Okay. I’m going. Krystal’s, tomorrow, 5:00. See you later! Love you!”
“Love you too.” Bianca just shook her head as her sister raced off. She knew Kendall meant well, and maybe, she was right.
Marissa Tasker walked into Krystal’s and smiled. This was her first time visiting the restaurant, and it was exactly as the owner had described it to her and her parents. It also matched photos of it on its website. Marissa chuckled when she thought about that. Krystal was not the most tech savvy person. She had explained how people were telling her how much she needed a website to Marissa’s parents, Roy and Lydia, but had no clue where to even begin. Roy and Lydia in turned told their daughter about their friend’s dilemma during one of their weekly phone calls. Marissa suggested contacting Pine Valley University’s IT department and see if one of the students would be interested in tackling the endeavor. It would give them experience as well as some money. Krystal jumped on the idea and ran with it.
Opal came out from the kitchen to see a young redhead looking around the restaurant. “Good morning. Can I help you?”
Marissa glanced over to the counter and smiled at the older woman behind it. “Good morning. I’m looking for Krystal.”
“She’s in back. I can go get her though. Who can I tell her is looking for her?”
“I’m Marissa Tasker.” The redhead held out her hand.
Opal shook the younger woman’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Marissa. I’m Opal Cortlandt.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Opal.”
“Let me go get Krystal for you. I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
Marissa continued to look around when someone else walked into the restaurant. She glanced over and saw a stunning brunette woman. Their eyes locked and a smile appeared on both of their faces. The moment was broken by Opal’s reappearance.
“Krystal will be right with you, Marissa.”
“Good morning, Bianca. You’re running a little late today. Do you want your usual?”
Bianca tore her gaze away from the beautiful redhead and smiled at the older woman. “Good morning, Opal. Blame it on Kendall. She stopped by earlier. Yes, please. Oh, could you add a chocolate chip muffin to it as well?”
“Of course.” Opal went about making Bianca’s coffee. She had caught the unspoken exchange between the two younger women, and found it very interesting. It was definitely something she would have to file away for later. Opal was friends with Bianca’s mother Erica, and as such, was privy to the details of the younger woman’s breakup. Her heart ached for Bianca because she was such a sweet and kind soul, and she deserved so much better than that blonde witch. If Reese knew what was good for her, she would stay far away from Pine Valley because there was a host of people ready with pitchforks. Opal also knew that Bianca hadn’t shown any interest in anyone else since the breakup, but seeing how she was looking at the redhead, maybe, just maybe that was changing.
“Morning, Bianca.” Krystal appeared and smiled at the brunette as she made her way to Marissa.
“Marissa! It is so good to see you!” Krystal hugged the redhead.
“Hi, Krystal. It’s good to see you too. Mom and Dad send their best.”
“How are they doing?”
“They’re doing great. Mom just got promoted.”
“Oh, she got it! Good for Lydia! She deserves it.”
“She really does, and you know Dad.”
“Roy is probably prouder than a peacock.”
Marissa laughed. “He is, and he took her out to a fancy dinner to celebrate. Once I get settled here, they’re going to come visit.”
“That is wonderful! It’s really been too long since I’ve seen them. This place keeps me busy, and there’s Jenny.”
“How’s she doing?”
Bianca glanced over to the table where Krystal was talking to the redhead. She was curious who the young woman was and her relationship to Krystal. Bianca was straining a bit to listen to their conversation without being too obvious. Her name was Marissa, and her family seemed to be good friends with the restaurant owner. The most interesting fact she picked up was that Marissa was moving to Pine Valley.
“Here you go, Bianca. One latte and one freshly made chocolate chip muffin.”
The older woman leaned in and whispered. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about her, yet, but I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Bianca blushed. “I … I … I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Uh huh.” Opal winked knowingly and handed the purchased items to the younger woman. “Are you coming tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I am. Kendall talked me into it.”
“Well, she gets a free coffee then for talking you into it. I’m glad you’re coming. Have a good day.”
“You too, Opal.”
As she and Krystal talked, Marissa couldn’t help but glance over to the brunette standing at the counter. She’d heard Opal call her Bianca. It was a beautiful name for a beautiful woman, and Marissa would like to know more about her. She didn’t want to be too obvious though.
Krystal watched as Marissa’s eyes followed Bianca as she walked out the door. This was definitely an interesting development. She had known Marissa all her life, and to the best of her knowledge, the younger woman had only had dated men. There appeared to be something Krystal didn’t know about her however because she seemed interested in Bianca. Maybe, Krystal could help Marissa out with that.
“So, what do you have planned for today?”
“I’m going to stop by the new apartment and start unpacking.”
“You start work the week after?”
“Good. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow? We’re having our annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. There will be Kegs and Eggs in the morning.”
Marissa had overheard Bianca saying she was going to be at the restaurant tomorrow, and the redhead would be lying if she said she wasn’t intrigued by the breathtaking brunette. “That sounds fun. I think I will stop by.”
“I’m glad. It looks like Bianca will be here.”
“Who … who is Bianca?” Marissa stammered. Had she been that obvious?
“She’s the young woman that was just talking to Opal. Bianca is probably the sweetest and nicest person I know. She’s also single.”
“Really?” Marissa couldn’t mask her surprise at hearing that. “How? She’s …”
“She’s very beautiful.” Krystal finished the younger woman’s thought. “Someone was a damn fool.”
Marissa nodded. “They’d have to be.”
It was 7:00 in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day, and Krystal’s was packed with patrons getting an early start celebrating the day. This particular morning rush had a special name to go along with the holiday, Kegs and Eggs. The Kegs and Eggs celebration at Krystal’s was an annual tradition in Pine Valley, and this year’s crowd had it off to a rousing start. The taps were open and flowing with Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, and several other Irish beers along with some American standards and craft beers, some of which were of course dyed green, while the kitchen was cranking out every egg dish imaginable that was on the menu.
Marissa entered the bustling establishment and also walked straight into someone she wouldn’t mind getting to know a great deal better. “Good morning.”
Bianca, who was on her way out, glanced up and smiled brightly. “Good morning. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”
A couple walked in between the women. “Excuse us.”
“Oh, sorry.” Bianca took a step back, coffee and carryout bag in hand. She was suddenly self-conscious of standing there and blocking the entrance. “I … I should go. I need to get to work.”
“Sorry, my bad. It was nice seeing you again.” Marissa smiled.
“Yeah, it was.” Bianca blushed before leaving.
To Marissa, that blush only made the brunette even more beautiful.
“Marissa! I’m glad to see you.”
“Morning, Krystal. Good to see you too. It’s packed in here.”
“I’m sorry. Good morning. I need a huge favor.”
“I’ll try to help if I can. What’s up?”
“I’m sorry to hear that. What’s wrong?”
“It seems that she picked up a bug at school yesterday, but she was feeling better this morning. I just got a call from Tad, and he told me she had gotten sick again. Unfortunately, he can’t stay home and watch her because he has to go to court and testify in a case he’s been working on. This means …”
“That you need to go home and watch her, right?”
“Yeah, I do. And as you can see, we’re slammed and will be all day long. I hate to ask because I know you’re enjoying the few days off you have before you start your new job, but …”
“You need some help here.” Marissa said as she noted the slightly overwhelmed expression on her friend’s face.
“Yes. More specifically, how are your bartending skills? Still as good as I remember?”
Marissa laughed. “Not to brag, but yeah, they are. So, you need me behind the bar?”
“If it’s not too much to ask, yes. That would be amazing.”
“You got it. I really didn’t have any plans for today anyway. Where can I put my purse?”
“You can lock it up in my office. Let’s go store that, and then, I’ll make some quick introductions and show you where everything is.”
After Krystal had introduced Marissa to the other members of the staff, the young redhead waved her off. “Go take care of Jenny. I’ll figure things out, and if I have any questions, I’ll ask Opal. Don’t worry about us.”
“She’s right. We’ve got things under control. You go take care of your little one.” Opal assured her friend. “Besides, I’ve got a good feeling about Marissa. I think she’s going to be just fine. I’ll keep an eye out on her though for you and make sure nobody tries anything.” Opal knew her friend was a little protective of the younger woman.
Krystal smiled gratefully. “Thank you. I’ll be back as soon as I can. If you need anything while I’m gone, just call. Marissa, thank you so much for doing this. I owe you.”
Marissa winked. “I’ll keep that in mind. Now, go.”
With that, Krystal rushed out.
Opal turned to the younger woman. “Krystal said you were pretty good behind a bar.”
“I worked at a bar to help support myself while I was in law school.” Marissa followed the older woman behind the bar and gave her brief summary of her experience.
“Harvard? Very impressive. You have something lined up?”
“I do. That’s actually why I’m here in Pine Valley. I start at Thompson, Stevens, Montgomery, and Cortlandt the week after next.”
“Really? Well, they are very good.”
“They have an excellent reputation, and I know what it means to have them ask me to join them. Okay, I think I know where everything is.”
Opal nodded. She liked this young woman. Marissa seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, down to earth, and nice. “If you need anything, just yell. Christy looks like she needs me.”
Marissa smiled and turned to a waiting customer. “Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What can I get you?”
Bianca was able to duck out of the office a few minutes early and somehow managed to find a parking spot close to Krystal’s. That was a nice surprise considering how packed the restaurant was. Bianca was a little anxious. On her last two visits there, she had run into Marissa, and Bianca would be lying to herself if she said she wasn’t intrigued by the woman and wouldn’t mind getting to know her better. This also had her a little scared. Bianca hadn’t really been attracted to anyone since her breakup, but this woman had definitely sparked something inside of the brunette, something she hadn’t felt in a long time. That’s what scared her because she wasn’t sure if her heart was up for taking another chance only to have it crushed again. With that in mind, she wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted to see Marissa.
As Bianca entered Krystal’s, she scanned the room, and the brunette couldn’t stop her smile from forming or her heart from skipping a beat when she saw a certain redhead behind the bar. Marissa was busy serving the customers at her station, but they all seemed to be smiling and chatting with her. Bianca took a deep breath and walked over. She waited patiently until it was her turn to be waited on.
Marissa’s face lit up when she saw Bianca. “Hi! You again.”
“Hi. Yeah, me again.”
“Running into you here is becoming a bit of a habit. One that I like. We haven’t officially been introduced yet though.” Marissa held out her hand. “I’m Marissa Tasker.”
Bianca shook the offered hand. “I’m Bianca Montgomery. It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too. What can I get you?”
“I’ll have a beer.”
“Which one? We have a wide variety.”
“Surprise me.” Bianca said as she took a seat on a barstool.
Marissa studied the brunette for a moment and then nodded. She picked up a pint glass and went to a tap. The redhead returned a moment later and placed the drink in front of Bianca. “I got you a Smithwick’s. I think you’ll like it. If you don’t though, just let me know, and I’ll get you something else.”
Bianca took a sip and hummed appreciatively. “I like it.”
“You’re not just saying that?”
“No, I really like it. Excellent choice. Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome.”
“Hey, Marissa, the Guinness keg blew.” One of the other bartenders called out to the redhead.
“Okay. I’ll take care of it.” Marissa turned back to Bianca. “Be right back.”
Just when Bianca was giving up hope of Marissa returning, the redhead reappeared behind the bar.
“Sorry about that. I checked the other kegs and found a few more that needed to be changed.”
“Oh, I should probably go. I don’t want to take you away from work.”
“You’re not keeping from anything. Besides, I don’t work here, at least not officially.”
Bianca was confused. “I’m not sure what you mean. You don’t work here officially?”
Marissa chuckled. “Nope. Hang on for a second. I’m due for a break. Would it be okay if we talked?”
The brunette thought she detected a hopeful tone in Marissa’s voice, and something told her to just go with it. “Okay.”
“Great! I’ll be right back, again.” Marissa ducked in the back for a minute. “Hey, Janie, I’m going to take a short break. You should be good with the kegs for a while.”
“It’s about time, Marissa. You haven’t taken one all day. Make sure you grab something to eat.”
Marissa saw something that looked and smelled great. “I think I will. Thanks.”
The redhead poured herself a glass of iced tea and smiled when she found the seat next to Bianca was now free. “Is this seat taken?”
Bianca smiled and moved her purse. “I was saving it for you. I’ll have you know that I had to fight a couple of people for it too.”
“My hero. I hope you weren’t hurt battling for it.”
“Nope. I’m good. I used my ninja like skills to handle them.”
Marissa laughed. “Remind me not to get on your bad side. I come bearing food. I hope you like chili cheese fries.”
Bianca smiled brightly when she saw the dish. “I love them! They’re my guilty pleasure.”
“A woman after my own heart! Dig in.”
“No, you eat them. You’ve been working hard. I can order some.”
“You have to eat some because I can’t eat in front of you if you’re not having something. They’ll just get cold then and be a waste.”
Bianca rolled her eyes at the redhead’s reasoning. “When you put it like that, okay. I want to pay for half though.”
“It’s not necessary. It’s one of the perks for working here today.”
“Not officially though, right?”
Marissa grinned. “Right. I guess I should explain. I’m just helping Krystal out today. She had to duck out earlier to take care of Jenny. She wasn’t feeling well, and Tad had to go to court.”
“Is Jenny okay?”
“Yeah, Krystal said she picked up a bug, but is doing much better. When I was stopped by this morning, Krystal asked if I could help out, and I said sure.”
“Ah, that’s why it’s not official. How do you know Krystal?”
“She and my parents are good friends, and I’ve known her for as long as I can remember.”
“So when she asked you to help out …”
“I couldn’t say no.”
“That’s really nice of you.”
Marissa shrugged. “It’s what friends do.”
“So, you’ve bartended before? I’m thinking you had to have because you really look like you know what you’re doing behind the bar.”
“Yes, I did, in college. I had a scholarship, but it only covered so much. I needed the money for things like rent, food. You know, little things like that.”
Bianca laughed. “Yeah, those are kind of important. Where did you go school?”
“Boston.” Marissa didn’t like to throw around where she went because it might seem like she was bragging.
“Where exactly in Boston?”
“Outside, actually. Cambridge.”
“You went to Harvard?”
“On scholarship? That’s impressive. What did you study?”
“You’re a lawyer. Now, your argument over the chili cheese fries makes sense. Definitely a lawyer thing to do.”
Marissa laughed. “Hard not to sometimes.”
“I’ll have to keep that in mind. Do you have something lined up?”
“I do. That’s actually why I’m here. I’m going to be an associate at Thompson, Stevens, Montgomery, and Cortlandt.”
“Congratulations! They’re a great firm, even if I am a little biased. My uncle is Jackson Montgomery.”
“Jack Montgomery, of course. I didn’t make the connection with the last names. I like him a lot. He’s brilliant and has an excellent reputation, and I’m not just saying that because he’s your uncle. I really mean it.”
“I believe you.”
“I’ll be working more with Caleb Cortlandt. He wouldn’t be related to Opal would he?”
“A cousin of her husband.”
“And I thought Devon was small.” Marissa shook her head.
“So, you’re from Devon.”
“Yes. Enough about me. Tell me about yourself.”
“I grew up here. I have a sister, and her name’s Kendall. I work with her.”
“Really? I love their products. What do you do there?”
“I do a few different things. I’ve worked in marketing, some accounting, even a little modeling which was not my idea.”
“Jack of all trades, huh? Why didn’t you like the modeling?”
“I’ve never been comfortable in front of the camera. I’d rather be on the other side of it. I feel self-conscious, and don’t really think I’m that great at it. Like seeing me would convince someone to buy a certain product.” Bianca sighed.
“You’d convince me. There’s something about you that is special.”
Bianca blushed. “Anyway, I want to do something else. Besides, my Mom is the natural in front of the camera. It loves her.”
“What’s your Mom do?”
“Oh, um, she’s a model, a professional.”
“Come on. You can’t just leave it at that. Who is she?”
It took a few seconds before Marissa made the connection, and she studied Bianca. “Wow. I can see it now. It’s the eyes. You have her eyes.”
Again, Bianca blushed. There was something about Marissa and the way she looked at her. Bianca couldn’t stop blushing or smiling. “My grandma says the same thing.”
“If your grandma is anything like mine, you know there’s no arguing with her. My Mom is a big fan of your Mom.”
“What?! No! I … I didn’t mean to say that I’m not. I …”
Bianca laughed as the redhead stammered.
Marissa just looked at the brunette in shock as she realized Bianca was teasing her. “Wow. That’s just not nice.”
“Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. You should have seen your face. It was adorable.”
It was Marissa’s turn to blush. “I guess I can forgive you. What I was trying to say is that I’ve been so busy with school, work, and studying for the BAR exam that I haven’t had much of a chance to do anything else like watch TV. I did however catch your Mom’s interview with that conservative talk show host. I have to say that I was impressed. By the time it was over, I swear I saw that host shaking. Your Mom scared the crap out of her and deservedly so.”
Bianca smiled as she remembered her Mom’s interview. She was on tour promoting her latest book and had been booked to appear on the talk show of a popular conservative. The host started off with pleasant enough questions but quickly changed her tone and decided to go after Erica’s recently stated endorsement of the Supreme Court’s decision which legalized same sex marriage. The woman thought she had the upper hand on the diva, but she learned the hard way that she was wrong and had, like others before her, greatly misjudged her guest. Erica went on the offensive and soon had the host nearly reduced to tears. It was extremely gratifying to Bianca that her mother supported her so fiercely. When she first came out to her mother, Erica was shocked but quickly came around, and now, she was her daughter’s biggest supporter. “Yeah, I was pretty proud of her. People need to learn that you don’t cross Erica Kane.”
“I definitely got that impression. What about your Dad?”
“Oh, he died a few years ago.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. You didn’t know.”
“You said modeling wasn’t what you wanted to do. What is it you want to do?” Marissa asked.
“Well, I have my master’s in psychology and am currently working on my doctorate.”
“Dr. Montgomery. Has a nice ring to it.”
Bianca grinned. Not only did she like the way it sounded, but she really liked hearing Marissa say it. “Yeah, it does.”
“Do you want to hang a shingle up somewhere?”
“Actually, no. Do you want to know what I really want to do?”
“Yeah, I really do.”
“I want to open a shelter to help abused individuals, especially children. I want to give them a safe place to go to, one where they can get back on their feet, get the help they truly need.”
Marissa listened to Bianca and was captivated by the brunette’s passion as she spoke from the heart about helping others. The woman was amazing, and Marissa wanted to know more about her. She thanked the universe that she was lucky enough to run into Bianca the past two days.
“Who’s the redhead?” Kendall asked as she tilted her head in the direction of the woman talking to her sister. She and Greenlee had arrived a few minutes ago. It was only after the duo had found a spot at the bar where Opal was working that Kendall had spied Bianca.
Opal looked and smiled. “Oh, that’s Marissa Tasker. Her parents are old friends of Krystal’s from when she lived in Devon. Marissa is moving here from Boston to work at Thompson, Stevens, Montgomery, and Cortlandt.”
“Is she a lawyer, paralegal, or what?”
“She’s a lawyer, and according to Krystal, she graduated at the top of her class from Harvard.”
“Really?” Kendall was impressed. “Why is she working the bar?”
“No, that’s the not important question. The important question is whether or not she’s qualified to work behind the bar on this oh so important holiday?” Greenlee asked in a semi-serious tone. It was St. Patrick’s Day after all, one of the busiest days for bars and pubs throughout the many countries that celebrated the day. If a bartender didn’t know what they were doing, it could get ugly very fast.
Opal laughed. “Oh, she’s more than qualified. While she attended Harvard on scholarship, Marissa worked at one of the most popular bars near campus to earn money. Krystal said she was pretty good at it. That’s why she asked her if she could help out today. Krystal had to duck out for a bit to check on Jenny. She wasn’t feeling good today, and Tad had to go to court to testify. So, Krystal asked if she wouldn’t mind working for a few hours. Marissa jumped right in. When Tad got home and was able to take care of Jenny, Krystal came back in. We were still slammed at that time so Marissa just stayed. Krystal was right about her. She’s been a godsend behind the bar.”
Kendall considered what she’d told about the redhead. She sounded nice, but this concerned her little sister. Kendall needed more information. It was then she saw Krystal and waved the woman over.
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day, ladies.”
“Same to you, Krystal. Opal was telling us that Jenny’s sick. How’s she feeling?” Kendall asked.
“Much better. Thanks for asking.”
“So, Opal was also telling us about the woman talking to Bianca.”
Krystal glanced over her shoulder and saw the younger women talking as if no one else existed. “Oh, you mean Marissa. She’s a sweetheart. I’ve known her all her life. Her parents are good friends of mine and are probably the nicest and most down to earth people you will ever know. Marissa definitely takes after them. She seems to have taken a shine to your sister.”
Kendall nodded as she continued to observe the couple. Her sister looked happy. “Bianca’s smiling and laughing. I can’t remember the last time she did either. She’s beautiful.”
“She really is. So, Krystal, tell us more about Marissa. Is she interested in women?” Greenlee decided to get straight to the point. If the redhead wasn’t, Greenlee didn’t want her leading Bianca on. She’d had enough heartache and sure as hell didn’t deserve anymore.
“Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think she was. As far as I knew, she was straight. When I saw her talking to Bianca earlier though, it had me questioning that. I decided to investigate because I know what Bianca’s been through, and I don’t want to see her hurt again. While Jenny was taking a nap, I called Roy and Lydia, Marissa’s parents, to catch up and ask them. They told me Marissa had told them a few months ago that she was bisexual.”
Opal patted Krystal’s arm. “Look out. Trouble’s here.”
The women saw a cocky, blonde man make his way to the end of the bar where Marissa and Bianca were. Marissa was now back behind the bar working again. Bianca was seated on her stool and continued to talk to Marissa while she filled drink orders. The four women knew the man well, and they all knew he was nothing but trouble.
“JR Chandler, that son of a bitch.”
Marissa nodded toward the blonde man who suddenly appeared next to Bianca. “Hello. What can I get you to drink?”
“I’ll take a draft and your phone number.” JR winked.
Bianca had to stop herself from laughing when she saw Marissa’s expression. The line JR used was one she had obviously heard before.
“Sorry, but no.”
“One, I don’t know you, and two, I don’t give my number out to people I don’t know.”
“We can change that. My name is JR Chandler.”
“Hi. Here is your beer.”
JR grasped Marissa’s hand before she could move it away. “Tell me your name. How else can we get to know each? You know mine already.”
“I’d like my hand back please.”
JR released his grasp. “Sorry. Look, I tell you what, I’ll tell you more about myself. My father is Adam Chandler. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He owns Chandler Industries. It’s a Fortune 500 company, and one day, it’s going to be mine. Say you’ll have lunch with me, and I’ll get the corporate jet to take us to Paris.”
Marissa tuned JR out as she served the numerous customers clambering for drinks. As he droned on about himself, the redhead would glance at Bianca every chance she got and smile.
Sensing he was losing the redhead’s interest, JR tried another tact. “Oh come on. I’m a nice guy. Tell her Bianca.”
The brunette shook her head. There was no way Bianca was going to help JR. “Keep me out of this, JR.”
“Wait. Don’t tell me. You’re interested in her.” JR laughed as he saw Bianca blush. “Oh, this is rich! You really think you have a shot with her, Bianca? You couldn’t hold onto your last girlfriend. Everybody knows that you found her …”
“That’s enough!” Marissa said forcefully.
“What? You really should know this, especially if she has a crush on you. Bianca …”
Marissa was around the bar in a flash and in JR’s face. “I said enough! Why do you have to attack her? She hasn’t done anything to you. Bianca has just been sitting here, not bothering anyone. Just because she doesn’t want to help you hit on me is no reason to attack or embarrass her. Besides, if you ask me, she was doing me a huge favor.”
“What are you saying?”
“Wow. Are you really that dense? I’m not interested in you. I don’t care that your father owns a big company or that you’re worth millions. None of that impresses me. You actually showed me who you really are when you went after her. You should leave.”
JR scoffed. “I could have your job, you know that right? You’re nothing but a bartender. You should be flattered that I’m showing you any type of attention. There’s a roomful of women who would kill to be with me.”
Marissa waved her arm to the room. “Have at them then, but you still need to leave.”
“You can’t talk to me like that. I’m going to find Krystal and have you fired.”
“I don’t think so, JR.”
The man turned to see Krystal standing behind him along with a furious Kendall and Greenlee.
“Krystal, you need to keep your staff under control. This one just tried to attack me.”
“That’s not true, and you know it, JR. She was defending me from you.” Bianca stood and was now eye to eye with JR. “You were being a complete ass as usual. You’re also just pissed off that she’s not interested in you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t give me that. You’ve been hitting on her for the last half an hour, and she hasn’t been paying you any attention.”
“You are such a bit…”
“Don’t you even say it. Get out while you can still walk.” Marissa glared at the man.
Krystal knew Marissa meant what she said. She could see it in her eyes. “You heard her, JR. Get out. You can either leave on your own or have help.”
“I’ll be more than happy to help you, JR.” It was taking every ounce of strength that Kendall had to not slap the crap out of the man. He’d taken great delight in her sister’s suffering for some unknown reason, and Kendall had had more than enough of him.
“You know, I don’t need this. I’m going to go to someplace a whole helluva lot better than this dive. Maybe I’ll call the health inspector though. Who knows what kind of violations they’ll find here given the right incentive.”
Krystal just smiled. “Go right ahead, JR. Maybe I’ll give Adam a call, and let your daddy know what you’ve been up to tonight.”
That got JR’s attention and had him leave the restaurant quickly with his tail between his legs.
“Are you alright?” Marissa asked, her concern for the brunette clearly evident.
“I’m good. Thanks for defending me. How are you?”
“You don’t have to thank me, but you’re welcome. He’s an ass. As for me, I’m good too. Thank you for defending me.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I’m really sorry for what he …”
“Hey, it’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. He’s nothing but a self-centered, entitled jerk who had absolutely no right to attack you like he did.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself. You okay, Binx?”
Bianca smiled seeing Kendall. “I am. Kendall, Greenlee, this is Marissa Tasker, and she’s part of the reason that I’m okay, a big part actually. Rissa this is my sister Kendall and my cousin Greenlee.”
Marissa grinned hearing the shortened version of her name. Only her parents called her Rissa, but she’d be lying if she said she didn’t like how it sounded coming from Bianca. Yeah, she really liked it. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you. You both look familiar for some reason.”
Kendall and Greenlee didn’t miss what could only be described as a goofy grin from the redhead as Bianca introduced her. They both found that very interesting and filed it away.
“It’s nice to meet you, Marissa, and you couldn’t be more right about Dipshit. That’s our nickname for him.” Greenlee smirked.
Marissa laughed. “I like it. It fits.” She then remembered JR’s threat. “Oh, Krystal, I’m sorry for losing it. The last thing I want to do is cause you any problems. You’ve been so nice helping me get settled. I just couldn’t stand there though and do nothing while he went after Bianca. It’s kind of my fault. I was ignoring him because he was being completely obnoxious hitting on me when I clearly wasn’t interested. Her only so-called offense was not agreeing to be his wingman when it came to me.”
Krystal was amused as the young woman rambled. It was something Lydia did. “Marissa, stop.”
“It’s okay.” Krystal chuckled. “While I didn’t hear everything, I heard more than enough. Plus, I know Bianca, and I know you. Neither one of you would do any of the things that he said you did. You’re right about JR. He’s a spoiled brat who has this sense of entitlement. He loves to walk around Pine Valley and act like he owns it.”
“Exactly. And we’re his subjects.” Kendall added.
Krystal hummed her agreement. “I meant what I said to him. He’s not welcome here, not anymore. I also think I’ll follow through on my threat and call his father. I think Adam needs to know what his son’s been doing.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m positive. I’m proud of you, and I know your parents would be too. What you did? I expected no less of you.”
Marissa sighed in relief. The last she wanted to do was cause her friend any problems. “Thanks.”
“Why don’t you take a break?”
“I just had one.”
Krystal held up a hand to stop the redhead’s protest. “I know, but you’ve been working all day, and since you’re not letting me pay you, humor me and take a break.”
Marissa gave up. “Okay.”
“Good. I’ve got to get back to the kitchen.” Krystal turned and walked away.
“Wait a minute! You said you work at Fusion with your sister and cousin.”
Bianca nodded. “Yeah.”
“You neglected to say that they own Fusion.”
“Oh. How did you?”
“How did I figure it out? I saw them on Shark Tank.”
Greenlee grinned. “You did?”
“I thought you said you didn’t get the chance to watch much TV?” Bianca asked.
“I don’t, but the professor I had for contract law had us watch the show. It gave us a look at different types of deals and such. The show deals with verbal contracts and also discusses various types of patents. It’s pretty interesting.” Marissa turned to Kendall and Greenlee. “I don’t want to give you a big head or anything, but the two of you are kind of legends back at school.”
“Of course we are.” Greenlee stated with pride.
“School meaning Harvard?” Kendall asked.
“Krystal told you.”
“Actually, it was Opal who I’m sure got it from Krystal.”
“Ah. Yes, I graduated from Harvard. I’m guessing you know where I’ll be working.”
“Yep, that would be a good guess. Trying to keep how smart you are under wraps?” Kendall asked.
“What? No. Sometimes when I tell people where I went, they think I’m bragging.”
“You should brag a little. It’s impressive and something to be proud of.” Bianca said.
When Marissa blushed, Kendall glanced at Greenlee and shook her head. Damn if they weren’t cute.
“So, back to us. How legendary are we?” Greenlee asked.
Bianca rolled her eyes. “And why are they legends?”
Marissa chuckled at Bianca’s reaction. “Well, the episode they were on was far and away the most popular.” She turned back to Kendall and Greenlee. “You walked in with a detailed plan, were able to answer all of their questions, and refused to be bullied. You gave an accurate valuation of your company, and all five sharks made offers. You ended up striking a deal with two of them. In addition to showing how smart you are and getting a great deal, you were also pretty damn entertaining. Very impressive.”
“You know something? I like you. Good job, Bianca.” Greenlee winked at the brunette. “Come on, Kendall, I see a beer with my name on it, and you’re going to buy it for me.”
“I am, huh?”
Kendall turned to Marissa. “It was nice meeting you, and maybe we’ll see each other again.” Kendall had no doubt that they would. She then hugged her sister and whispered to her. “I loved seeing your smile again. Hopefully, I’ll see it more often. Oh, and Binx, I like her.” When they separated, Kendall started to follow Greenlee but stopped to glance back at Marissa and Bianca. “Have fun.”
“We really need to do a road trip to Harvard.”
“We do?” Kendall looked at her friend.
“Yes, we do. It’s our civic duty. You heard Marissa. We’re legends there which means we need to share our knowledge, our experience with those who look up to us. It’s only right.” Greenlee reasoned.
“Plus, there’s the possibility of young, hot guys looking to be educated in another way.”
Greenlee grinned. “There’s that too. Who am I to stop the thirst for higher education?”
Kendall laughed. “Who indeed? You’re such a giver. Maybe, we can get Bianca and Marissa to go with us. I have a feeling that wherever one goes, the other will be sure to follow.”
“How long until we need to rent a U-Haul for them?” Greenlee cracked.
“That is a very good question.” Kendall smiled as she glanced back over at her sister and the redhead.
“They’re nice and seem like a lot of fun. They also seem like they’d have your back.” Marissa said as Kendall and Greenlee headed to the bar.
“You’re right. They have definitely been there for me more times than I can count.”
“I’m sure they’d say the same thing about you.”
“I try. I have a feeling you’re the same way, Rissa.”
Marissa grinned again.
“You called me Rissa. My parents are the only ones that have ever called me that.”
Bianca’s eyes grew wide. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I did that. It just slipped out. I …”
“It’s okay. It’s more than okay actually. I really like you calling me that.” Marissa said shyly.
“You do? I’ll keep that in mind.” Bianca grinned.
Kendall kept an eye on Bianca and Marissa throughout the rest of the evening. Marissa was back behind the bar working while Bianca was seated on the stool she had occupied for most of the evening at the redhead’s station, and the two continued to talk and flirt. Kendall saw that the smile never left Bianca’s face, and after a while, she glanced at the couple less and less and had some fun of her own.
When closing time rolled around, Bianca was still at the bar while Marissa cleaned up her station.
“Here.” Krystal handed Marissa her purse and a very thick envelope.
“Your purse. I’ll finish cleaning up. You’ve had a long day. Go home and get some rest. Breakfast will be on me tomorrow.”
“Thanks. What’s the envelope for?”
“It has your tips in it. Don’t even try to argue with me. If you won’t let me pay you, at least take your tips. You definitely earned them. Now, go. It was good seeing you, Bianca.”
Marissa took the envelope and put it into her purse. “Goodnight, Krystal. I’ll see you tomorrow to take you up on that breakfast offer.”
“Goodnight, Krystal.” Bianca said as she held the door open for Marissa.
Once they were outside, Marissa turned to Bianca. “Where are you parked?”
“Just right over there. What about you?”
“Believe it or not, that’s my car right behind you.”
Bianca laughed, and the two crossed the street. They stopped by their cars and gazed at each other. Neither really wanted the evening to end. Bianca was hesitant, and Marissa could sense it.
“Thanks for staying and keeping me company tonight.” Marissa said.
“I had a good time. I’m glad I ran into you.”
“Me too. I was wondering if I could call you sometime. Maybe we could do lunch or dinner? I have some tip money burning a hole in my wallet.”
Bianca blushed. “I’d like that. I’d like it a lot.”
Marissa smiled brightly. “Great! Could I get your number?”
“Only if I can get yours.”
The women exchanged cellphones and typed their numbers into the devices.
“I should go. I have to work tomorrow.”
“Okay.” Marissa nodded, and then, she had a great idea. “How would you like to join me here for breakfast tomorrow? It should be a lot less crowded than it was today.”
“You don’t want to sleep in?”
Nah. It’s overrated, especially if it means I miss the chance on spending time with you.”
“Smooth, Counselor, very smooth. I’ll meet you here tomorrow. How’s seven sound?”
“Sounds perfect.” Marissa took a chance and quickly kissed Bianca on the cheek. “Goodnight.”
A goofy grin appeared on Bianca’s face as Marissa got into her car. “Goodnight.” The brunette followed suit and got into her own car. She fastened her seatbelt and watched Marissa drive away. “St. Patrick’s Day is definitely my new favorite holiday.”