Home > New Jerk in Town (Carolina Kisses, #2)(4)

New Jerk in Town (Carolina Kisses, #2)(4)
Author: Sylvie Stewart

When I think about it, I’m lucky my car chose to die where it did. This wasn’t some scheme God cooked up to trick me or teach me a lesson or some such bullshit. Nope. It’s a pitstop and an opportunity to relax, that’s all.

But as soon as I turn, I know I’m in deep trouble. Because standing outside the kitchen with her hands clasped together in delight is the world’s most adorable grandmother—the beloved kind you can never say no to because she thinks you fart rainbows and brags about you to all her friends.

That whole conspiracy thing just regained a hell of a lot of merit. I send a silent touché to God. “Well played, big guy. Well played.”

 

 

“And you’re sure I can’t be Maria?” I ask Camille (a.k.a. Grandma).

I’m beyond the point of no return, I’m sad to say, and have somehow been coerced into being the newest server at, wait for it... Schnitzel with Noodles—or “the SWiN” as the locals apparently call it.

Believe me, I know.

My back straightens in the booth with a new thought. “Or what about that lady the captain ditched to be with Maria?” My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I seem to remember that chick being hot. And there’s no way I’m making good tips while dressed in the outfit Camille just handed me. It covers all the goods and some—which is great for a fourteen-year-old in wartime Salzburg, but not so much for me.

“Baroness Schräder? Don’t be ridiculous.” Camille points to a sign over the bar behind her that reads “Schräder Haters” in that unmistakable Gothic lettering. “She’s not welcome here.”

“Right. How silly of me.” I muster a smile while I contemplate, not for the first time, exactly what kind of crazy train I’ve just boarded.

“And I already have a Maria.” Camille’s smile gleams as she gestures toward the kitchen where the girl who warned me away is presumably sewing clothing out of ugly-ass curtains.

“And you’ll need to wear your hair in braids.” She nods and pats my hand on the table between us.

Oh, hell no. Not only does she want me to dress like a circa-World-War-II home-schooled child, but I have to wear braids too? If Jenna could only see me now, she’d be snort-laughing her ass off.

“Now, dear, I’ll give you a copy of the menu to take home with you and study before your first shift on Tuesday.” She slides the leather-bound folio toward me. “You can come in this weekend to shadow and get the lay of the land.” I flip the folio open reflexively.

And… dayum.

My eyes scan the menu and don’t find a single entree under twenty-five bucks on the whole thing. In fact, some run closer to the forty-dollar range. Is everything here made with truffles or something?

I close the menu and smile, this time a genuine one. “Well, at least I’m not Gretl.” Camille would probably make me wear a diaper.

“Don’t be silly, dear.” Camille shakes her head in bewilderment, causing a silver curl to fall over one eye. “She’s too young to be a server.”

The crazy train has officially left the station, heading for dingbat central. And it appears I have a first-class ticket.

I’m blaming this on TV too.

 

 

“Honestly, I’d recommend selling it for parts and getting a whole new vehicle. Transmission replacement is gonna cost you 2500 if you’re lucky.”

I gape at the guy as he fishes for something in the pocket of his Carhartts, casual as can be—as if he hasn’t just upended my world. I can’t afford a new car. Hell, I can’t even afford the off-season rate at a cheap motel while I wait for my first paycheck. Damn my conscience for making me wire my entire emergency fund to my ex.

I inhale, willing calmness to settle over me. I’ll just have to hope the restaurant does brisk business and its patrons prefer to tip in cash. Although, from the mouthwatering scents emanating from the numerous pots and pans I spied in the kitchen, brisk may prove to be an understatement. Fingers crossed.

After the strangest interview of my waitressing career, I hurried my ass so fast to the ladies’ room that I hardly had time to notice the nun crossing her legs designating the correct door. Then Camille took me to the kitchen to meet Rayna, her chef, where I also introduced myself to the grumpy convent misfit. However, instead of telling me her name, she instructed me to call her Maria and left without shaking my extended hand. Rayna was downright delightful in comparison, and she didn’t even break a sweat as she juggled cooking three different dishes and chatting with me. She inspired more confidence than Camille and Maria, that was for sure. But it would still be at least two weeks before I got a paycheck.

“And you’re sure it needs replacement? Not just a little adjustment here or there?” I conjure up a flirty smile as a last-ditch effort, hoping it might buy me a miracle. The guy is kind of cute in a bad-boy, always-has-a-spare-cigarette sort of way. But it’s no use. Zeb—if his name badge is to be trusted—returns my smile with an expression laced with too much pity for my liking.

“Sorry, sweetheart, but she’s given up the ghost.” And out comes the pack of cigarettes. At least he has the good manners to offer me one before lighting up.

“No thanks.” I wave him off, racking my brain for what in the hell to do next. Come on, Jill, think. “Um, you don’t happen to know of any cheap places to stay around here, do you? I mean, ones that aren’t…” I was going to say, “sketchy as hell,” but realize maybe I shouldn’t go there. I shrug instead.

Running a hand over his slicked-back hair, he eyes me up and down. Oddly, it doesn’t come off as rude or lascivious, despite my salsa boob, tight jeans, and previous attempt at flirting. “I’m assuming you’re looking short-term?”

“Maybe a month or two?” My nose threatens to wrinkle because I don’t want to be in this town any more than my car wants to be dead in it. But I need to make some money and get another car before I try to figure out where the hell I’m meant to be and how in the world I’m going to straighten out my life. I allow myself a fraction of a second to contemplate asking my ex, Hank, for the money back, but no. No. Absolutely not. I owed it to him for the way I ditched him with the apartment lease and, well, everything. No. I can figure this out.

Zeb nods back at me before anchoring the cigarette in the corner of his mouth and pulling a phone from his back pocket. His grease-streaked thumbs type as he talks around his cigarette. “Stop by Roasted. It’s a popular hangout for locals who can afford a cup of decent coffee but can’t stand Starbucks. Lots of postings on the wall there for things like local services, short-term rentals, and rideshares. You can probably hook up with someone looking to rent out a room. You know, cash deal. Avoid fees and taxes and shit.” He finishes typing and asks for my number to forward the listing.

Setting aside for the moment that this guy assumed I’d be cool with an under-the-table arrangement and I’m not, say, an undercover cop or something, I immediately (and shamelessly) pull out my phone.

“If anybody asks for a reference, I’m happy to oblige.” He winks and exhales a cloud of smoke from the side of his mouth. I can’t help but wonder if Zeb’s seal of approval would be to my benefit or not.

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