About the Book
Downbeat by Jodie Larson Jodie Larson is a wife and mother to four beautiful girls, making their home in northern Minnesota along the shore of Lake Superior. When she isn’t running around to various activities or working her regular job, you can find her sitting in her favorite spot reading her new favorite book or camped out somewhere quiet trying to write her next manuscript. She’s addicted to reading (just ask her kids or husband) and loves talking books even more so with her friends. She’s also a lover of all things romance and happily ever after’s, whether in movies or in books, as shown in her extensive collection of both.
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Published on July 26, 2018
Series: Lightning Strikes #4
Jodie Larson is a wife and mother to four beautiful girls, making their home in northern Minnesota along the shore of Lake Superior. When she isn’t running around to various activities or working her regular job, you can find her sitting in her favorite spot reading her new favorite book or camped out somewhere quiet trying to write her next manuscript. She’s addicted to reading (just ask her kids or husband) and loves talking books even more so with her friends. She’s also a lover of all things romance and happily ever after’s, whether in movies or in books, as shown in her extensive collection of both.
The hostess looks up, smiling brightly at the three of us; more toward Pax than anyone else. “Welcome to Smash. Just the three of you tonight?”
Pax nods. “Yep. A booth if you have it.”
I almost gag as little miss thing turns on the sweetness while grabbing three menus from the stack. “Anything you want.” To add to the mess, she bats her eyelashes like she has dust in her eye.
Without warning, Pax grabs my hand with his left and Jayce’s with his right, sending a clear signal to Miss Bubbles as we make our way through the restaurant, finding a quiet booth near the back.
“Your server will be right with you.” A huge change in demeanor as she slinks back to her post. Pax smirks while taking the seat across from me and Jayce. Much to his displeasure, I take the outside of the booth, which means Jayce won’t be able to run out and play like he thinks he can.
“What does everyone like on their pizza?” Pax doesn’t even look at the menu. Something tells me he comes here often. Though it doesn’t surprise me. This will be our second date at an arcade. He did warn me he likes to play video games.
“Cheese,” Jayce loudly proclaims.
Pax looks to me for verification. “It might be better to order him a personal size if they have it. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with something simple and plain.”
He smiles as if he understands my double meaning. “Nothing wrong with simple. But if you’d like something different, I’ve got just the thing for you.”
“I’m up for something new.”
Jayce looks between Pax and me, his little brows drawing together. “Am I still getting a cheese pizza?”
I kiss the top of his head. “Yes, buddy. You’re getting cheese.”
A tall younger guy walks up, clearly in his early twenties. “Hey, guys. Have you had a chance to look everything over?” His unruly blond hair and tanned skin tells me he doesn’t spend as much time here as I would think he does.
“Yeah, I think we’re ready to order.” Pax looks over and I wordlessly nod, letting him choose. I’m not picky with my pizza toppings. Everything tastes good when it’s baked in cheese. “We’ll get a kid’s cheese pizza and a large drunken barbecue chicken.”
Interesting choice. But I trust Pax’s judgment so I’ll go along with it.
“Anything to drink?”
Jayce chews his lip. I know what he’s gonna ask for before he opens his mouth. “Can I get a soda?”
I shake my head. “Milk would be better.”
Pax pipes up. “A chocolate milk and two Diet Cokes.”
Todd, according to his lopsided nametag, nods his head while writing our order down. “You got it. Should take about a half hour, so feel free to enjoy the arcade. Everything’s included in the price.”
Really? A free arcade? I guess I should have looked at those pizza prices closer. We’re probably going to shell out fifty bucks a pizza to make up for the games.
Jayce starts fidgeting with his shirt. “Mama, can we play?”
“Sure, bud. Let’s go.” Pax slides out of his side while Jayce crawls under the table to escape. Normally I’d be upset if someone undermines my decision, but I can’t be mad at Pax for wanting to do things with my son. Jayce even grabs his hand and drags him to the bright lights and sounds across the room.
I follow behind, not wanting to miss the show. They walk by all the machines first, most of them too tall for Jayce. Then they see it, sitting near the wall. A table-top Pac-Man machine. I haven’t seen one of those in years. And it’s the perfect height.
Jayce grabs one controller while Pax takes the other. You’d think he just won the lottery.
“You ready?” I ask, hovering my finger over the start button.
Okay, then. The music starts and the two of them play against each other, running from the ghosts and gobbling up as many yellow pellets as possible. At first, they agreed to share the power-ups. As time passed, it was every man – or boy – for themselves.
I practically have to drag them away from the game as I look over at the table and see our pizzas arrive. “Guys, food’s here.”
“One more game, Mom,” Pax says, fully invested in trying to beat Jayce’s score. Yeah, he’s getting his ass kicked by a five-year-old.
I bite my lip to hide my grin. “Come on, guys. Our food is gonna get cold.”
“We’re almost done, Mama.” Jayce’s tongue hangs out the side of his mouth, deep in concentration.
I think I’m back to throttling Pax.
Jayce claims victory, jumping out of his chair with his arms in the air. “I won!”
Pax leans over and offers a fist bump. “Nice job, bud.” Jayce returns the gesture and runs over to give him a hug.
“After we eat, can we play something else?” He looks between me and Pax with expectant eyes.
“If you eat most of your food, we can stay and play for a bit.”
Apparently, it’s a race back to the table because he’s sitting down and dishing himself up before Pax and I get to the restaurant section.
“He’s a good kid,” Pax says, resting his hand on the small of my back. “And for the record, I let him win.”
I look up and smirk. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Okay, I’m back to kissing him.
Pax leans down and kisses the shell of my ear. “You’re beautiful, in case I failed to say it earlier.”
I look down at my beachwear and cringe. After sitting in the wind, I can only imagine what my hair looks like. “I think you’ve been playing too many video games. It’s obviously warped your brain.”
He pulls us to a stop at the edge of the table. “Don’t do that. Don’t play off my compliment like I must be crazy. You’re beautiful and amazing and every day I look forward to learning something new about you.”
Heat creeps up my cheeks as I stare into his beautiful hazel eyes. So deep and sincere; more green than brown with little flecks of gold around the pupils.
I almost forget where we are until a small voice pulls me back to reality. “Mama, you gonna eat?”
Pax and I shake our heads and smile, laughing to ourselves.
“Yeah, buddy. We’re gonna eat.”
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