Page 17

 Kim Karr

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The waitress doesn’t wait for us to go to the counter to place our order. Instead she comes over to our table. “Haven’t seen you around here in a while,” she says.
“I know. I’ve definitely missed the food.”
“Ruby just left.”
“That’s too bad. I haven’t caught up with her in a while.”
The waitress whose name I don’t know pulls out her small pad of paper. “What are you two having?”
I look across at S’belle and motion for her to go first.
“Coffee with cream and sugar—oh, make it decaffeinated—and whatever pie he’s having.”
The waitress glances over to me. “Coffee, but not that decaf crap, and two slices of the triple-crusted blackberry pie.”
The waitress closes her pad. “Coming right up.”
My eyes lift toward S’belle’s, and a smile crosses her face. “Good choice.”
“Yeah, I’ve been known to make a few.” I grin at her.
A yawn escapes her mouth.
“Am I boring you?”
“No, it’s just been a long day.”
“Well, drinking decaf isn’t going to help that.”
“Yes, it is.”
I give her a questioning look.
“Coffee is coffee.”
Man, this girl is quirky . . . it’s such a turn-on.
The waitress returns with our coffees and I watch as S’belle turns hers into a cup of steamed milk. A few minutes later the pie arrives and we sit happily across from each other drinking coffee and eating pie. Glances swap back and forth and there is no doubt what we’re both thinking about.
She pushes her half-eaten slice of pie in front of her. “I’m so full. That was delicious.”
“Next time we come, you have to try the apple. It’s just as good. I promise.”
Twirling her spoon in her coffee and staring in her cup, she asks, “Who’s Ruby?”
“She’s a waitress here I met last summer. I helped her out with a few things and we got close.”
“So she was your girlfriend?”
I raise my eyebrows. “No, she’s dating my buddy now. I introduced them.”
“Oh,” she says, and I notice she hasn’t looked up from her cup yet.
Hmm . . . she’s not jealous, is she?
I feel the need to explain further.
But then she looks up with a raised brow and says, “I would never have pegged you for a matchmaker.”
I shrug and grin back at her.
Her cell phone rings and she takes it from her purse. “Excuse me, I have to take this.”
I nod.
“Hello,” she answers. “No, I didn’t forget about it. I’m going to drop it off tomorrow.”
There’s a pause and her whole body tenses. “Okay, I’ll meet her first thing in the morning.”
Another pause and her eyebrows scrunch. “I didn’t know she wanted to see it first. I’m sorry.”
Without a good-bye she presses END on her phone.
“Everything okay?” I ask.
She nods and I swear I see tears welling in her eyes. “That was Tate. We miscommunicated about the bride approving her cake topper for her wedding tomorrow.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Did he hang up on you?”
She lowers her gaze. “He was done talking.”
Exasperation clear in my voice, I ask, “Why are you still working for that ass**le?”
“He’s not that bad. And not only do I need the experience, but the connections I’m making are invaluable. My plan is to quit by the end of the year.”
“At least you have a plan that includes dumping him.”
She looks a little forlorn and rests her elbows on the table with her chin in her hands. “Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you quit your job this summer?” she asks me.
I sit forward and reach across the table for her hands. “Are you serious? That job was never for me.”
She giggles. “I was very surprised when you told me you were the wedding columnist for the LA Times.”
“I hated every f**king minute of it, but like I told you, I was in a bad place. I needed money and wasn’t thinking clearly. I didn’t realize staying at that job was only adding to my unhappiness.”
She sips her coffee as a couple of minutes of silence pass between us—and with all that cream in it, by now it must be cold.
“So, how did you end up acquiring both Surfer’s End and Sound Music?”
“Ah, now, that’s a story. . . .”
Time rushes by as I open up to her in a way I haven’t opened up to anyone in a very long time. I tell her about my time in Australia—which led to my freelance gig for Surfer’s End magazine and my eventual takeover of it once I had the money. I explain to her why I finally wrote the piece about the drug cartel that I had investigated—because people deserved to know. I even tell her about training Trent before he went off to college in Hawaii with hopes to compete in surf competitions.
The large silver-rimmed clock on the wall has ticked past two a.m. when I notice her glance up at it.
“Hey.” I point to the watch I gave her. “Doesn’t that work?”
She glances down at it. “No. It’s stuck on seven o’clock.”
“Is the battery dead?”
She shrugs. “I’m not sure. It just stopped working, but I can’t stand not having it on my wrist.”