Elliot was so glad that the cartel had changed their plans and the big bust would not be happening this weekend. This small community was hopping with excitement about the fireworks being shot off over the lake. Sandy was closing the restaurant at nine, so all of the staff could go to the fireworks.
Steven said that a bunch of his friends were having a get together at the lake and invited everyone at the restaurant to come. He made a special point of telling Cara she was welcome too and promised no one would bother her. That made Elliot suspicious, and he hoped Cara was too. He didn’t plan to go to Steven’s thing. He wanted to try to find a decent spot to watch the fireworks in peace, but if he thought Cara was going to go to Steven’s party, he would too.
The restaurant had been the busiest it had ever been. They had large orders of fried fish and chicken, potato and pasta salad, home fries, and every other family get together menu item Elliot had ever heard of. He and Jason had come in early that morning and started making stuff that could go into the cooler. Sandy had been taking orders for a week, so they knew what people were going to be looking for. Besides doing the takeout orders, the restaurant itself had been packed up until seven-thirty. That’s when people started heading to the lake to find a good spot to watch the fireworks.
During the last half an hour of clean up, Steven said to the girls, “You guys should come out to our party. My crew has been there since four o’clock and had the best seats you can get for the fireworks.”
Megan said, “My fiancé is going to pick me up here, so we’ll talk to him about following you out there. “
“What about you ladies?” Steven asked Sarah and Cara.
Sarah looked at Cara. “Michael, Sandy, and Jason are going to ride out there with me. You want to come with us?”
“I don’t know,” Cara said cautiously, still not trusting Steven.
“I’ll go too, and I’ll drive out there,” Elliot said. “That way if you want to leave I can bring you back to town.”
“Great,” Steven said, a little less enthusiastic “We’ll have the whole team out there.”
“We’ve got some food left from the orders that didn’t get picked up,” Elliot said, turning to Sandy. “You want to take them out there?”
“You think your friends will be hungry?” Sandy asked Steven.
“Hell yes! We’re always hungry,” Steven said.
“Let’s do it,” Sandy said.
Jason, Elliot, and Michael gathered up the leftover food. Sandy, Sarah, Megan, and Cara got the to-go boxes. By the time the restaurant officially closed at nine o’clock, all the food was loaded and ready to go.
They split up into different vehicles. Michael rode with Steven instead of Sarah. Jason decided to ride with Elliot. Megan rode with her boyfriend, Tom. Sandy went by herself, and Cara rode with Sarah. They looked like a convoy with all five vehicles following Steven out U. S. Highway Sixty to Menifee County road Eight-oh-one. Steven took them a few miles down the road to a small cove directly across from the dam. There were several cars lining the road and filling whatever grass was available.
There was clearly a party going on along the rocky shore line. Several people were playing in the water. Elliot was sure there was probably some alcohol floating around even though Menifee County was a dry county.
“We’ll follow Steven to where he stops and then get people to help us unload the food. I’m going to turn around after we get everything out and park closer to the dam side so if Cara decides this party is not her thing I can take her back to her car,” Elliot told Jason.
Jason said,” Sounds good to me.”
When Steven stopped in the middle of the road, several guys came up to greet him. Elliot made a mental note that there was a mix of ages among the men, but most of them seemed to be in their late twenties to early thirties, with a stray old man amongst them.
Elliot pulled up beside Steven and yelled to him, “Where you want the food?”
One of Steven’s friends, a burly blond man that might have been Steven’s cousin came to the driver’s side window. The guy had been drinking but was not drunk. “Hey, I’m Chase. Just hang out here for a minute, and we’re going to start unloading the food and taking it down to the tables we have set up on a flat spot by the water. A bunch of people brought food, but we’re glad you guys did too. Way more people showed up than we thought.”
“Cool,” Elliot said.
Jason hopped out of the truck and started helping unload. When they were done, Chase came back and told Elliot, “We got it all.”
“Where can I turn around? I want to park closer to the dam. I may have to leave early.”
Chase pointed further down the road. “There’s a driveway about a hundred feet up. You can turn around there.”
“Thanks, man,” Elliot said and pulled away. He noted that Sandy had parked on the far side of the cars going further out eight-oh-one in case she wanted to leave early too.
Elliot turned around and found a safe place to park along the road. He grabbed the folding chair he kept behind the seat of his truck, and walked back to the path, not far from Steven’s Ford F250, which led to the patch of rocky beach that was completely covered by people. Fireworks were shooting off from other places, and the lake and the moon were shining creating a beautiful atmosphere. If there weren’t so many other people here, this would be a perfect spot to watch the fireworks.
Jason found Elliot and brought him over to a cooler that was filled with beer and sodas. Jason took out a beer and Elliot took a soda. There was no way he was drinking with this crowd. He didn’t recognize anyone he’d met over the last few months of living in this area, except the people he worked with at the restaurant.
Sandy and Sarah brought folding chairs down from their vehicles and set up a semicircle of the group from the restaurant. Cara was sitting on a big rock next to Sandy looking very uncomfortable.
Steven walked over from where he’d been standing with his friends. “What do you guys think? Great view of the dam, huh?”
“This is great, Steven,” Sandy said. “Thanks for inviting us.”
“Wow, this is fantastic,” Tom said. He put a folding chair down next to Sarah for Megan and then opened his chair.
“Yeah, this is awesome,” Elliot said and jumped at the boom of the first fireworks being shot from the dam.
Jason sat down on a large rock next to Cara. “There’s a cooler full of drinks over there,” Jason said, pointing to where Elliot and he got their drinks.
Sandy looked up at Steven. “Did you add the drinks we brought to the cooler?”
“Sure did,” Steven answered. “You want me to bring some over?”
“Nah, I’ll get my own,” Sandy said and grunted as she heaved herself out of the chair. “Damn those chairs need a lift for us older people.
Cara jumped up from her rock. “I’ll come with you. Megan, Sarah, Tom, what do you guys want?”
After everyone had put in their drink order, Cara followed Sandy to the cooler. “How ya doing?” Sandy asked.
“I’m fine,” Cara said.
“You seem a little nervous,” Sandy observed.
“All these guys checking me out is making me a little anxious,” Cara admitted.
“Just stick close to our group, and you’ll be fine,” Sandy said. She, too, had noted the hungry looks some of the unattached young men had given Cara and Sarah.
The fireworks started going up in a steady flow, and everyone stopped what they were doing to sit and watch the lights sparkle over the lake. The reflection on the lake was like seeing the fireworks twice. Elliot was kicked back with his booted feet propped up on a rock. He noted that Cara was glancing over her shoulder at a group of guys that were standing together. The guys were watching her walk back with Sandy.
Jason was watching the guys too. He leaned closer to Elliot and asked, “You don’t think Steven was setting Cara and Sarah up so he could try to hook them up with some of his friends, do you?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Elliot said. He saw a group of girls earlier that seemed to be completely fried. They were either drunk or stoned or both. All of them were stumbling around and hanging on one or two guys. The fact that Chase seemed to be supervising all of this was not lost on Elliot. He committed Chase’s features to memory and would have Mark and Dana look into him.
The fireworks were getting close to being over when Chase sauntered over to their group. “Hey ya all! I’m glad you came out with Steven.” He sat down on a large rock not far from Cara and Jason. “Steven says you all are new to the area.”
“We’re not,” Megan said squeezing Tom’s hand. “We’re from Morehead, so we’ve been out here several times.”
“Cool,” Chase said.
“I’m from Lexington,” Sarah said. “My parents keep a boat out here, but I haven’t been out here for the past few years. This is the first summer I haven’t taken classes in two years. I’ve never been out here for the fireworks.”
“We have,” Megan said, “but we usually watch from the dam. This is way better.”
“What about you, Sandy?” Chase asked. “What made you want to open a restaurant here?”
“I have to admit that I’d always been a city girl until I joined the military. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my life, and when I retired, I decided I wanted to go someplace quiet. I fell in love with it out here, but there’s not a lot of places to eat that are not chain restaurants. That’s the one thing I missed from the city. Then, I got bored, so I decided to open my restaurant. That way I had good food and something to do with my time,” Sandy explained.
Elliot smiled. Sandy was great with telling her made up story, mostly because some of it was true.
“What about you?” Chase asked, surprising Elliot.
“Well,” Elliot began and sat upright. “I came out here from Maysville when Sandy hired me right out of culinary school.” He put his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “I recruited my friend Jason for the summer because I knew he is on his way to being a great chef.”
Chase grunted and nodded. “Steven says you’re from some farm in the southwestern part of Kentucky and that you’re a queer.”
Elliot sat up straighter. “Just because I’m not trying to screw everything not nailed down doesn’t mean I’m gay. I was raised to always respect women, so I don’t let my tongue wag out of my head at the sight of every pretty girl like Steven does.”
“What about you?” Chase turned his attention to Jason.
Elliot could feel the heat of Jason’s fear, who he knew was, in fact, gay. Before Elliot could stand up for him, Sarah said, “Jason and I are talking.” She turned to Sandy. “We didn’t want you to know because we knew you aren’t a fan of anyone dating while working together for you.”
Sandy nodded. “I’m not a fan, but as long as you two don’t let it interfere with your jobs, that’s fine. But the first lovers quarrel at the restaurant; you’re both fired.”
“Yes ma’am,” Jason and Sarah said in unison.
Now, Chase turned his attention to Cara. “Yes, I’m gay,” Cara said, answering Chase’s question before he could ask. “And quite frankly, it’s none of anyone’s business.”
Chase laughed. “Steven said you were a little spit fire.”
Elliot stood. “The fireworks are over, and I don’t know about the rest of you all, but starting to cook at eight o’clock this morning has caught up with me.” He held his hand out to Cara. “You ready. I promised I’d give you a ride whenever you were ready, but I’m kind of ready now.”
“Me, too,” Cara said, standing and wiping the dirt off her butt.
“Oh come on,” Chase said. “I didn’t mean to offend you all.”
Sandy and Jason stood too. “I’m with Elliot. We started this day pretty early after working until close to two a.m.”
Sarah stood. Jason folded her chair and took her hand. “We’ll meet you at your Jeep, Sandy.”
Tom and Megan stood too. “We appreciate you letting us hang out with you all for the fireworks,” Tom said holding out his hand to Chase.
Chase stood and took Tom’s hand. “I hate that you all are leaving so soon. The party’s just getting started.”
“We have all been working our asses off today,” Megan said. She folded her chair, and Tom took it from her. “I didn’t start as early as everyone else did, but it was the busiest day we’ve ever had. I’m whooped.”
“That’s cool. Maybe another time,” Chase said. “My uncle owns several acres out here, and we have a party just about every weekend.”
“Well, maybe we’ll make it to another one,” Tom said.
Chase looked up to the group making their way up the bank to the road. “Be sure to bring your friends, especially that hottie Cara. I don’t think she’s met the right guy yet.”
“We’ll let her know about your invitation,” Tom said and put his arm around Megan and started walking toward the road.
Steven came up beside Chase. “What do you think?”
“I think we need to keep an eye on them. I’ll have Uncle Sam look into them,” Chase said. He slapped Steven on the back. “You were right about that Cara girl. I think she’s a filly that needs to be broken.”
“I thought you’d like her,” Steven said with a sinister laugh.