Home > New Jerk in Town (Carolina Kisses, #2)(3)

New Jerk in Town (Carolina Kisses, #2)(3)
Author: Sylvie Stewart

His smug tone has me shaking my head as I grab a seat on the barstool next to him. “You sure do have that elderly population all sewn up, don’t you? I guess I’ll let you have that while I settle for the nubile young things wandering around town instead.” Never mind it’s the offseason and the beach is deserted.

“Help yourself, my friend,” he replies without hesitation as his stool swivels in the direction of the kitchen. “I’m more than fine.”

My gaze follows his to where Rayna stands by the double kitchen doors, smiling and waving goodbye to a dark-haired woman. As the woman moves to the restaurant’s front door, Rayna turns to us and approaches. But I’m not looking at her. My eyes are glued to the back of the brunette as her denim-clad ass sways out the door, and the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear I just saw a ghost.



Chapter Two




I blame it on TV.

I mean, if it weren’t for Brothers of Moon Bay choosing this town for filming, I wouldn’t be here at all. Instead, I’d be back in Sunview hanging out with my sister, Jenna, and my nieces, shoving my face full of popcorn while binge-watching Schitt’s Creek and getting drunk on cheap wine. Or maybe I’d be on my way to some glamorous job awaiting me in Charleston while the man of my dreams sits twiddling his thumbs in anticipation of my arrival. But no. Fate or God—or whatever—is enacting some grand plan without my permission.

Okay, fine. I was the one who convinced my parents all those years ago that selecting one’s family vacation destination based solely on the filming location of a CW show was perfectly logical. Damn teenage me for being an unrelenting, yet adorable, nagger.

And, yes, I am the one who insisted on this ridiculous journey to “find myself” as thirty began its looming countdown. But, to be fair, I never expected my stupid subconscious to lead me down memory lane and steer my piece-of-shit car here. To the only place where everything made sense and the last place I want to be right now. I mean, surely winter in Charleston or Sunview would be highly preferable to the off-season in a beach town, right?

But after two months of drifting, here I am, still no closer to the meaning of life, yet ever closer to an empty bank account. This thing is turning into more of an Eat. Pray. Sleep-in-my-Car. situation with each passing day.

I tip my face up to the ridiculously perfect blue sky with its puffy cotton candy clouds and huff out a breath. It doesn’t even have the decency to form a cloud of condensation. Stupid, perfect weather. “Seriously?”

When no reply comes, my eyes drop back down to the “Help Wanted” sign I’ve been trying to ignore in the restaurant window before me, and I snag my bottom lip with my teeth.

“Don’t go in there, Jill,” says the reasonable half of my brain before the idiot half butts in. “What can it hurt? We have to pee anyway, so why not?”

The urge to cross my legs threatens to overpower me at the suggestion. I’ll just ask to use the bathroom and be in and out in two minutes. This is merely a brief stop on my way to my true destination and not God’s way of telling me I’m about to be Carolina Beach’s newest resident. ‘Cuz that ain’t happening. I’m choosing to pretend God is not directly to blame for my engine giving out in this town, stranding my broke ass in front of this restaurant and its dumb sign.

Can you blame me for suspecting a conspiracy?

“You think you’re so smart,” I mumble under my breath as I swing the glass door open and a stale, tinny rendition of a strangely familiar tune plays from somewhere above my head. By opening the door, I also seem to have lifted the lid off an old music box in need of tuning. It takes me a moment to place the song, and then it hits me at the same time my eyes adjust to the indoor lighting. “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Jenna and I used to watch that movie all the time. I’d always insist on playing Maria and make her be Captain von Trapp—and Mother Superior, of course. A swell of nostalgia runs through me, and I have the urge to call her right now and wave the white flag before begging her to come rescue my ass and take me home. But that feeling is overtaken by the oddest sensation of just having trespassed into another realm. One where time suspended in 1938 Austria and vomited kitschy shit everywhere. And I mean everywhere. What the actual f—

“We don’t open for another hour.” A gruff female voice startles me, and I back into the door, pushing it all the way shut and bringing the music to an abrupt halt.

Since she’s not looking my way, I can only see the woman’s profile as she sits at a table near the back of the dining room rolling silverware. I’m pretty sure there’s a horror movie out there that starts like this, but now I really have to pee. So I tempt fate and take a step closer. The woman appears young—maybe mid-twenties—and her blond hair is cut in a short style that feels somehow familiar.

“Sorry. I…” And then it hits me. She’s Julie freakin’ Andrews—complete with her Maria-spinning-on-a-mountaintop dress. Of course, it isn’t actually Julie Andrews, unless Dame Andrews got a facelift and her plastic surgeon is a certified genius. But the blond bowl cut and the Alps get-up are a dead ringer.

I quickly gather myself. “Sorry. I was just hoping to—”

But she cuts me off. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll turn right around and escape while you can.” She finally looks up at me, her expression bored as she scans me from head to toe. I realize I’m less than impressive in my current outfit of ripped jeans and a faded “Boobytrap backwards is Partyboob” t-shirt that I’m almost completely certain has a salsa stain over my left nipple. What? You try driving while eating a taco. But it’s not like I’m out to impress Julie—or anyone else, for that matter.

And I’m too distracted trying to quell my urge to ask her for a little “The hills are alive” action to even begin contemplating the ominous nature of her warning. Instead, I attempt a friendly laugh. “No, I’m just here to use the restroom.”

The sullen convent dropout tilts her head, sending me another disinterested frown. She’s very good at it. “It’s your funeral.” She rises from her chair and stalks through the double galley doors of what I assume is the kitchen, her dress and petticoat flouncing in her wake.

My eyes skip around the dining room, catching sight of a row of glassy-eyed dolls and a herd of goat marionettes tangled in one another’s strings, and my good sense finally catches up with me. Surely, there’s a restroom somewhere a bit less creepy. And, besides, everybody knows when the world’s best nanny tells you to hightail it, you hightail your ass and be quick about it.

Unfortunately, I’m not quite quick enough to evade the new voice that stops me just as my hand reaches for the door.

“Wonderful! I’ve been looking for a new Louisa.”

I paste a regretful smile on my lips and pivot back to tell this new woman that there’s been a misunderstanding. That I just had to pee, but the urge has been freaked right the hell out of me, thank you very much. I’ll find a cheap local garage to tow my car and be out of town in two days, tops. Not that I want to blow what money I have left on that piece of crap, but a girl needs a car, right? And, hey, I can enjoy the peace of the off-season beach-town vibe while I wait.

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