Finding Home Excerpt © J.M. Adele 2017
Like the rest of town, Lucy’s Diner was stuck in a time warp. They had the jukebox to prove it, complete with vinyl records. It had a nice homey feel to it, though—another thing she’d miss while she was gone.
The bell on the door jingled as it slapped shut behind her. An aromatic cocktail of grease and coffee hung on the air, assailing her senses, and triggering her hunger. Chelsea turned and waved to Angel as she drove off shaking her head. Her friend thought she was crazy, meeting a strange man who wasn’t hanging around for long. She’d learned to be more selective and trust her instincts when it came to men, despite her impulsive tendencies. Unwilling to repeat the fatal mistake from her past.
Maybe she was crazy, but there was something about him… She wasn’t completely irresponsible. The diner was her turf and it was safe. There’d be people here that would look out for her.
She had this under control.
Chelsea’s blue gaze roamed the cracked red vinyl booths, until they landed on the deliciousness that was Greyson Stranger. She didn’t know his last name, so Stranger it was, and that’s how she wanted it to stay. This was just a short detour to let off some steam before she had to get back to the serious business of paying for her sins.
Her smile stretched wide as she watched him take her in, the heat in his eyes blazing. His long, dark hair hung over one eye, brushing the tops of his wide shoulders. He leaned back in the chair and rested his arms across the table in front of him, with a hint of a smile in greeting.
Slowly walking towards him, she kept eye contact, half because she wanted to make an entrance, and half because she couldn’t look away.
“Is this seat taken?”
Greyson waved his hand across the booth as if to say, “Be my guest.”
Chelsea slid into the seat and rested her chin in her hands, still staring at him.
“Hi.” He smirked.
“Yeah. I’ve ordered a piece of pie and sweet tea. I didn’t know if you were gonna show up, so I figured I’d… fill up my body…” He wiggled his fingers to put air quotes around his use of her phrase. “… before gettin’ back on the road.”
At the mention of his body, Chelsea’s eyes dropped to his straining T-shirt again. It was hard not to look. The man was gorgeous. “Well, sugar, if I invite a man somewhere you can always guarantee I’ll show up. A piece of pie and some sweet tea sounds mighty fine right about now.”
The waitress appeared in time with Chelsea’s declaration. “Hi sweetie, good to see you again. You having what he’s having?” The older lady stood with pencil and pad poised, and a ready smile.
“Okay, hun.” She bustled back behind the counter.
Chelsea turned back to her companion. “So, tell me about your first kiss?”
Greyson’s mouth dropped open and he huffed out a laugh. “Excuse me?”
“First kiss. Come on. Spill.”
“Mindy Lawson, second grade, on the swings. How about you?”
“Decker Turner, two years old, in the playpen.” She grinned. “What did you think you’d grow up to be when you were a kid?”
“Superman… How ‘bout you?”
“Lois Lane.” The corner of her mouth kicked up as she batted her lashes playfully.
A deep laugh rumbled out of him, sending tingles down her neck.
“Do I get to ask a question?” He raised a dark brow.
“Only if it’s not personal.”
“Your first kiss isn’t personal?”
“No.” She shrugged.
“So, I can’t ask what your last name is?”
“Or your number?”
“Nooo.” She shook her head, dramatically.
He sat up straight and scratched the stubble on his chin, one side of his mouth quirked. “Arrabbiata or Carbonara?”
“Ooh, good one. It depends on my mood. Arrabbiata, most of the time.”
“Spicy… Nice.” He leaned towards her, his eyes dipping to her lips for a second, before seeking her gaze again.
She put her hands on the table, mirroring him as she leaned forward. “Red or white wine?”
“Whatever goes with the dish.”
“I like an adventurous man.” The smile broke out on her face again.
“I’m on the biggest adventure of my life.”
“Where ya headed?”
“Isn’t that a personal question?” He raised a brow and moved his hand closer so their fingers touched.
“Touché. Yes, it is.”
The clink of plates on the table broke the intensity between them.
Chelsea took in a desperate breath as they both leaned back. “Thanks, Doreen, you’re a darlin’.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie. Enjoy!”
They each took a forkful of pie, and chewed as their eyes roamed over each other. The taste on her tongue was amazing. The country song playing on the jukebox barely registered over the sound of Grey’s lips smacking together as he enjoyed his food. He made a low hum in his throat, and she let out a whimper. It was the most intense foreplay she’d ever experienced.
She couldn’t help feeling sad at the thought that this couldn’t go anywhere. It should have been a warning signal, when fleeting hook-ups were the only relationships she dared to entertain. The type she could control. Maybe it hadn’t been wise, starting something with this man. It echoed of her past. Of a stupid decision that cost a life. She feared she was setting herself up for a painful experience, rather than the fun she’d hoped for.
Picking up her glass, she gulped down some cool, sweet tea, looking away from him for a beat.
“Feelin’ a bit heated, sugar?” The amusement was obvious in his voice.
The glass thunked on the table as she put it down too forcefully. “I am. You wanna get out of here?”
“What’s the hurry? Are you tired of me already?”
“Nope. It’s just the opposite. I’m afraid I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but like the greedy girl I am, I’d like to gorge myself some more.”
She had lost her everlovin’ mind.
His jaw tightened and he paused, his eyes flashing to her mouth. She watched that jaw loosen as he continued to chew and swallow slowly. His gaze drifted back to hers, and he picked up his drink, draining it in one long chug before pushing the glass away.
“You’re a wild one… Tempting.”
He sat so still with his eyes boring into hers, his face an intense mask. His eyebrows had dropped. He looked almost angry… or maybe frustrated. It did nothing to dispel the heat that gathered in her core. If anything, the hint of fire in his eyes set her desire for him at furnace level. She’d never experienced an attraction like this before, putting her at a distinct disadvantage. She needed to be the one in control, and she felt anything but.
“I need to get back on the road. If I don’t get out of here now, I’m never going to leave,” he muttered, before he stood. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out his wallet, and threw some green onto the table. His warm palm caressed her cheek, as his thumb drifted across her bottom lip. The touch set off all sorts of tingles, further awakening parts that had no business being excited in a 1950s diner.
Chelsea’s heart thundered in her chest as he leaned down to place a soft kiss on her lips. The barely-there touch seared more than the hottest chili.
“The first kiss is always personal,” he whispered in her ear, before walking out of her life.
She sat for the longest time, staring at where he’d been sitting, trying to calm the hell down. Wondering what the fuck had just happened, and why she suddenly felt so bereft. Like her carefully planned future now had a gaping hole she had no idea how to fill.