Home > Beautifully Cruel(4)

Beautifully Cruel(4)
Author: J.T. Geissinger

I grimace. “Thank you for over sharing. I’m scarred for life.”

“Anyway, g’night.”

She closes the door. I head straight for my own room before I can hear any battery-operated devices roar to life and lock myself in for the night.

 

It’s raining again the next day, dumping on me as I run from my last class to the parking structure. My head stays dry, but that’s about it. From the waist down, I’m soaked.

I throw the umbrella onto the back seat of my beat up Corolla, set my laptop and books on the passenger seat, dig my keys from my purse, and start the car. Though it’s May, spring in Boston is unpredictable. There’s been a nasty cold snap recently. I’m freezing my ass off, shivering like mad. The air conditioner never worked, but luckily the heater’s a champ, blowing warm air onto my icy cheeks after only a few minutes.

I make a quick stop at the apartment to change into my uniform and grab a bite to eat, then I head out again, this time in galoshes, my heavy winter coat zipped all the way up to my chin.

When I walk through the door of Buddy’s, Carla takes one look at me and starts to laugh.

“You look like you’re going on an expedition to the Arctic.”

I send her a withering scowl. “You’re from here. Yankees have an unfair advantage in the cold.”

“You’ve lived in Boston almost two years, kiddo. Your thin Southern blood should’ve thickened up by now.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I mutter, waving her off and wishing I’d had the good sense to apply to law school in Florida or California. I could have a tan and blonde highlights right now, instead of being soggy and frostbitten.

In the kitchen, Diego’s at the grill, flipping a burger. He jerks his chin at me in a hello as I pass. His white teeth flash as he smiles. “You’re almost late again, chica.”

“I’m almost a lot of things, Diego.”

His smile grows wider. “Almost in love with me?”

This is our ongoing joke. I actually think it’s his ongoing joke with every female under seventy years old, but he gets away with flirting outrageously because otherwise he’s gentle and sweet, not lecherous.

“Not quite yet, but I’ll let you know if it happens.”

“Ah, you’re breaking my heart!” He clutches his chest dramatically, then flips the burger and starts to whistle, instantly forgetting about his pain.

He’s hot in a way that creeps up on you. At first glance, he seems ordinary. Not tall or short, not stocky or thin, just an average, brown-haired, brown-eyed, twenty-something guy.

Then one day you’ll notice he has a great smile. A few weeks later you’ll realize that his ordinary brown eyes have quite the irresistible sparkle. Then at some point he’ll surprise you by lifting something heavy and you’ll notice the impressive flex of muscles underneath his white T-shirt.

That’s when the whole picture becomes clear and you think, Huh, he’s cute.

But then you dismiss that thought because you don’t sleep with co-workers, and the last thing you need is another relationship distracting you from your own damn goals.

Goals, for instance, like graduating from the law school you can’t afford but are killing yourself to complete so following your ex halfway across the country where he was starting his pre-med program wasn’t a total waste of time.

In the employee break room, I stash my purse and coat in my locker and leave my dripping galoshes near the back door. I change into the comfy shoes I keep here and wind my hair into a messy low bun with an elastic, then tie a fresh white apron around the waist of my uniform.

It’s the classic diner waitress dress, complete with short skirt, starched white collar, and white cuffs on the sleeves, but in black, instead of the typical pink or blue gingham.

So instead of looking like “kiss my grits” Flo from that old TV show Alice, I look like a hotel maid.

I think Carla makes twice the tips I do because of her big boobs and her willingness to lean over and stick ’em right in a guy’s face when she leaves him the bill, but I do okay. Plus the owner, Buddy, is flexible with my school schedule and lets me have as much time off as I need.

The first few hours of my shift are busy. It’s dinner time, and we have lots of regulars. By the time ten o’clock rolls around, however, the crowd has thinned. By eleven, there’s only one guy sitting at the end of the counter, staring glumly into his coffee. By midnight, he’s gone, too.

Then it’s just me, Carla, Diego, and my growing certainty that I’ll never see the wolf again.

I scared him off with my terrifying tales of rural Texas. He probably thinks my favorite hobbies include shooting at woodpeckers in my underwear, getting into fist fights at NASCAR races, and making beer runs to the convenience store with my pet goats riding in the back of my pickup truck.

Just when I’ve given up all hope, the bell over the front door jingles, and there he is.

The tall, dark, and handsome stranger who can unsettle me with a look and hasn’t told me his name once in eleven months of coming here.

He stops a foot inside the door and stares at me, standing frozen behind the counter.

He makes no move to come closer or sit down. Dressed in his usual black suit and tie, his hair slicked back, his beautiful dark eyes burning as they drink me in, he looks like a supermodel assassin.

I’m gripped by an insane urge to run across the restaurant and throw myself into his arms.

Carla sails past with the coffee carafe in one hand and a mug in the other. Under her breath, she says, “OwOooo!”

My heart in need of a defibrillator, I watch breathlessly as Carla approaches the wolf. She says something to him, gesturing to a table in her section. Still staring at me, he shakes his head. She glances at me over her shoulder, grins, then turns back to him and says something else, too low for me to hear.

He glances back and forth between the two of us, hesitating, then licks his lips.

It’s such a simple, mindless gesture, but so sexy I almost groan out loud.

Carla feels it, too. She rocks back on her heels. When she turns around and heads towards me, her jaw is slack and she has the glassy-eyed look of someone who’s been hypnotized.

This time when she sails past me, her voice is unsteady. Her words come out in a breathy rush.

“I told him I’d send you over, my ovaries just exploded, great buckets of owl shit, I need to go lie down, that man is fire.”

“Carla.”

She stops and looks at me.

“Give me the coffee pot.”

She looks down at it in her hand like she has no recollection of picking it up.

I know the feeling.

She thrusts it at me, along with the mug. Then she heads to the back, probably to lock herself into a stall in the ladies room for a vigorous session of self-pleasuring.

I can’t blame her. I haven’t even exchanged a word with him yet and my panties are already smoking.

Heat throbbing in my cheeks, I approach him, stopping a few feet away and trying desperately not to glow with self-consciousness. “Hi.”

“Hullo.”

His voice is husky. His expression is somber. He looks like he’s not entirely sure exchanging this simple greeting with me is a good idea.

But I’ve been examined under the gazes of enough men to know that whatever the cause of his ambivalence, however deep it might run, he’ll stay and talk to me.

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