Hoping to dodge a scandal that could destroy her personal life and her career, Alex fled grad school for a summer job in tiny Potterville, West Virginia. She didn’t expect the town cupids to orchestrate a “chance” meeting with Marc—a sexy, brooding rock star who appreciates her love of poetry. But Alex doubts he’ll want anything more if he discovers the indiscretion she can’t forgive herself for…
Marc came to Potterville to get some space from his band and clear his head. But before he knows it, he’s intrigued with the waitress at the local diner. Alex is not only smart and beautiful, she’s inspiring his songwriting and taking it to the next level. Soon he’s falling for her—and then she runs away. For the first time, Marc is chasing after a woman—and giving both himself and Alex a chance to heal past hurts and take a chance on the future…
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Waiting For A Girl Like You
Drawn to the Rhythm Series
By Christa Maurice
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Christa Maurice
All rights reserved.
"Alex, I'm switching you and Tina." Ida touched her shellacked hair.
"Okay, tomorrow I'll start outside." Alex headed away from the register. Half an hour and she was off for the day. About damn time. The gravy that the adorable, little darling dumped on her apron at the beginning of lunch was starting to crack as it dried, and the weight of today's tips would have her walking with a tilt.
"No, I mean now."
Big-haired, thick-waisted, hometown charm Ida was not kidding. Alex turned back. "Excuse me?"
"I need you to cover outside now."
Alex pursed her lips before she refused. Saying no last time had worked out so well that she might need to delete it from her vocabulary. "Why?"
"Because I want you to wait on Marc." Ida tapped one of her neon pink nails on the window. Alex could only assume she was pointing at the Marc under discussion, but didn't care enough to look. She should never have said the day could only get better. Tempting fate, it was. Instead, she scanned her tables — her former tables. Three of them were about to get up, and Tina would decide they had to split all the tips, meaning Tina was going to clean up while Alex got the short end of the stick.
And none of this was worth arguing about.
"Fine. Did you tell Tina?"
"I will after I pick up them tables getting ready to go." Proving Ida wasn't a complete ogre. She'd make sure Alex got her tips, at least. That still didn't answer what Alex had done wrong to be sentenced to work on the patio.
Alex went outside. Tina was nowhere to be seen, which was why her tips sucked. Alex cruised the tables. Of the ten tables that composed Tina's section, eight needed something. Table nine was happy, but running low on drinks and roughly ten minutes from finishing. At table ten, the guy was on the phone.
"Well, Dez, I guess you should have hooked up with a lawyer instead of a personal trainer." He scowled, looking dark and dangerous. Thin, long legs, and shaggy dark hair. The kind of guy who would have made her heart go pitterpat when she was sweet little sixteen, but she wasn't a sweet little anything anymore. Roger took care of the last of that. The bastard.
"No. Not another dime." The man at the table said into the phone. "The sucker bank is closed."
Sucker bank. Good one. Alex gestured at the bare table, nothing but the daisy in the little vase in the center and a half empty sugar caddy.
The guy shook his head. "How many times do I have to say no before you believe me?"
Alex mouthed that she'd be back. He at least needed a place setting and water.
Drew met up with her at the drink station. "Sorry, I've been trying to keep up, but I can't do two sections, and Tina is on another break." The alfresco seating at Ida's Diner used to be a mechanic's garage so the seating was in the bays and on the cement apron out front and the drink station was in the former office. Very kitschy and cute like the rest of the town. Drew had the nine tables in the old service bay. "What did you do to get exiled out here?"
"No idea. Ida just told me I had to switch. I'm off in a half hour, anyway. Can you prep me five glasses of water?"
Alex made a round with utensils, napkins, and straws. Table Ten was still on the phone, but not smoking, just playing with the cigarette. He didn't look like he was about to commit a felony anymore either, just a misdemeanor.
"What I'm asking you is how she got this number." He twiddled the cigarette between his fingers like a tiny baton. "That's not an answer."
Alex arranged utensils on the placemat. A new conversation.
"Jody, listen to me very carefully. Client information is privileged. You don't give it out to anybody. If they don't have it already, they don't need it. I am the client. We don't want to have to let you go, but this is a serious infraction." He mashed the cigarette on the table.
Alex shuddered. Table Ten was going to fire this Jody person over the phone. What an asshole.
"No, Candy will not be able to save your ass this time. Candy understands how important it is for the public to not have my private number even when that particular member of the public used to be married to me. Plus, Candy is in China picking out a child."
Drew probably had that water ready. She needed to get it delivered. How bad an infraction was it to give out a phone number to somebody he already knew? Maybe it was worse when you had friends who went to China to pick out children.
"Jody, she's my ex-wife for a reason, and she already soaked me for six million dollars."
Six million dollars? Alex reappraised Table Ten. Jeans, but good jeans. T-shirt featuring a guitar and a snake — must be a concert shirt. Wristwatch. Wait. Tag Hauer wristwatch.
"Jody, Jody, please stop crying." Table Ten caught Alex's eye and frowned.
Shit. Busted. Alex opened her hands in a menu gesture to cover for why she was hanging around the table. This was a restaurant and he didn't have a menu in his hands. Two and two made a perfect excuse.
Table Ten shook his head and mouthed, "Paul."
Ida had shifted her out here to wait on this guy, the cook knew his standing order, he had an ex-wife who had "soaked" him for six million dollars, a Tag Hauer watch, and some sort of administrative assistant. The hair was too long for the average businessman, and the jeans were too trendy and expensive for a politico or a tourist. Therefore, Marc at table ten was somebody very exclusive sitting at a diner in Potterville, West Virginia.
Nothing in this town fit. When her cousin Angela said she could make a mint in tips waiting tables over the summer in this little tourist town that didn't seem to have any special draw outside of the landscape, Alex hadn't believed her, yet a mint she was making.
The waters Drew prepped for her had been sitting long enough to sweat. She dropped them off, careful not to linger at table ten. She was there long enough to pick up that he was now talking to Tessa about Jody giving his number to Dez, the ex-wife, who soaked him for the six million dollars. Not that money was the main goal of her life, but one had to pause when numbers like that started flying around.
"Hey, Paul." She pushed through the kitchen door. "There's a guy at —"
"I know. Marc." Paul gave a little shiver of excitement as he pushed a plate across the service table. "Take him this plate."
Alex pointed at it. "This plate."
"Yes, this plate."
"This very plate."
Paul shook his finger at her. "Don't get sassy with me."
Alex grinned. Paul was yet another thing that didn't fit. A world-class chef cooking at a diner in the West Virginian mountains. Maybe Marc with the Tag Hauer came for Paul. In a past life, Paul had been a chef in New York and had followed Cassandra Geoffrey here when she moved back after her divorce, but Cassie was now remarried and living in California either all the time or most of the time. Angela hadn't been too clear.
The plate looked like five-star quality. Mushroom sauce trailed artfully over a thick, juicy steak. The baked potato should have been on the cover of a magazine. The crisp, golden skin split to allow a perfect square of rich yellow butter to melt into the fluffy mash with a sprinkling of fresh chives over top. The herbs had been clipped just this morning from the garden Paul maintained in his backyard. The salad balanced in such a perfect tower that Alex wasn't sure she'd get it to the table without having it topple over. A crystal wine glass filled with jewel-toned red wine completed the meal. More incongruities. Ida's didn't serve wine, and they didn't serve anything in crystal. Everybody else in the place was drinking out of old Mason jars.
Maybe Paul would cook up this meal for her one day if she asked nice.
At table ten, the cigarette was gone and Marc was on yet a different phone conversation. At least she assumed it was a different conversation since he referred to the person on the other end as man three times while Alex set out his meal. He was smiling now and beamed at her when she finished. A standard thank-you beam of someone too busy to speak to the help, but something about it shot down her spine with electric heat and triggered an insipid smile in return.
All her tables were good for the moment, so Alex ducked into the ladies room in the garage. Ten minutes left before she could hang up her gravy-stained, crackling apron for the day. She washed her hands and her face before stopping to examine herself. Dilated eyes, flushed cheeks — maybe she was coming down with something. After work she could head back to Angela and Finn's and let her cousin fuss over her.
She rounded the tables again, but dinner was ending, so more people were heading out than seating, which lightened the workload. Through the restaurant window, she could see Ida pouring on the local flavor at the register and Paul circulating tables, receiving his laurels. Marc at table ten was either still or again on the phone with his meal untouched.
"I just wanted you to know what happened, Sandy."
Dez, Jody, Tessa, Sandy — the man was awash in women.
"I have to go. If I don't have this steak at least half eaten before Paul gets here, he'll cry or something." Marc picked up his knife. "Yeah. Yeah. Bye, Sandy." He tapped the disconnect button on his Bluetooth. "Don't ever get married."
"What?" Alex stopped in the act of taking his empty water glass.
"Never mind. How are you?"
"Yes, you." He cut into the steak. "Paul is an artist."
"He is. Enjoy your dinner." Alex turned away from the table, intent on turning over the remainder of her tables to Drew and getting out of here.
"Aren't you going to answer the question?" Marc asked.
Alex turned back. Potterville should change its name to Incongruity, West Virginia. "I thought it was rhetorical."
"No. How are you? Enjoying working here for the summer? You are just here for the summer, aren't you? I don't remember seeing you before."
"Yes, I ... My cousin lives in town, and she told me I could earn a lot of money waiting tables here. The tips are really good." Alex clutched her hands together, hoping it would anchor her to reality. So far, no good.
"Who's your cousin?" He forked a bite of steak into his mouth.
"Mm." He nodded like that fit something together for him. Heaven only knew what, but since this was Incongruity, West Virginia, it could be anything. Or nothing.
She tried to pull off a professional smile, but it felt broken. "Enjoy your dinner."
Drew was at the drink station when she got there. "Almost time."
Alex checked her watch, a cheap little number she'd fished out of a bargain bin at a Big Lots. It kept time. That's all she needed it for. "Past time, sucker. They're all yours. This is table ten." She shoved the glass at him.
"The special table."
"Exactly." She emptied her tips into her purse and tossed the dirty apron into the hamper. "See you tomorrow."
Instead of going past the front of the restaurant, Alex ducked behind and walked down the street toward Angela and Finn's house. Tourists stuck to the main drag. The restaurant, the churches, the library, the elementary school, the square. All the stuck-in-time, Americana Main Street they came to indulge in. They didn't tend to wander into the neighborhoods behind so much. It would be too much like going backstage at Disneyland.
The night was turning out nice. Clear and breezy. All week it had been sweltering hot, which was why she preferred to work inside the air-conditioned restaurant, and why Tina had been stuck with the concrete patio. Do good work, get rewarded. That was the theory. Alex licked her lips. Marc at table ten would make for a great reward. No, no, don't go there. Some things are better off as a mystery. She wanted to crawl in bed with Percy Bysshe Shelley. She'd been trying to finish that biography for a week now.
* * *
"Well, what do you think?" Paul asked.
"Spectacular as always, Paul."
"She is lovely, isn't she?"
Marc glanced at his half-eaten steak. Was Paul getting chummy with the food now? Ida would blow a gasket if he wanted to change the restaurant to vegetarian. "She?"
"Alex. Your waitress. I told Ida she had to send Alex out to wait your table."
The matchmakers were at it. Marc drew a deep breath while the information settled around his shoulders. Better than Paul going vegetarian at least. "Is that so? I'm pretty sure I can find women on my own."
"I'm sure you can. You could walk into the middle of the street and throw a rock and come up with a dozen, but nobody wants to see you make another mistake like Desiree."
"I was divorced from her long before I met you."
"And you've been through half a dozen since who were just not suitable." Paul put his hands on his hips. "You need to get laid by someone who isn't looking at your bank balance, and if there's anyone, it's Alex. She isn't what you'd call a material girl."
Right. She'd made the comment about coming here to make money. Of course, she was talking about tips, not fishing for diamonds and Bentleys. "Paul, I came to town to relax."
"If you wanted to relax, you wouldn't be in the one town on the planet where you were most likely to be recognized."
"I could be recognized anywhere."
Paul poked the table with one straightened finger. "People come to Potterville hoping to see a member of Touchstone. We can read you, boy-o. You want companionship." Paul slid into the chair across the table. "Keep eating while I lecture you."
"Okay." Marc cut into his steak. "You've been spending too much time with Ida."
"Now, I know Alex isn't your normal type," Paul began, ignoring Marc's comment. "She's a bit on the slender side, but she's very bright, and she deserves a break. She's working on a master's degree and pinching every penny along the way. Angela says she had a boyfriend, but there was something scandalous about it, and she broke up with him. Right now, she's in the perfect place for a nice summer fling. And for that job, you, my dear, are an ideal candidate."
"Got this all planned out, do you?" A summer fling wouldn't be a hardship, and this Alex girl wasn't hard on the eyes, either. If he did it right, they could part as friends at the end. Unlike Jason who tried to have a fling and ended up married to the girl. Not that Cassie was a disaster. Cassie was probably the luckiest thing that had happened to the band since Candy made friends with Ronnie Bauer's son, but Marc didn't plan to get married again anytime soon. Not until he got this Desiree thing taken care of, and that might require a hit man.
"Yes, we do. Right now, she's staying with Angela and Finn in that thimble Finn calls a house. We think you should invite her to stay in the guest cottage on the mountain."
"Why didn't you tell Cassie to do that?"
Paul flushed and turned away.
That was telling. Cassie had promised the house to Marc for the summer so he could play recluse if he wanted and still have adulation in easy reach. She wouldn't want to inflict some woman on him without permission. Paul and Ida wouldn't think twice, and they wouldn't stop until they succeeded. They played a long game.
"Just give her a try." Paul stood up. "Don't tell her it was a set up. She's even more prickly than you are."
"And if she's not interested?"
"Then I guess you are not all you're cracked up to be, sugar." Paul patted his cheek and walked away.
Paul was spending way too much time with Ida.
* * *
"How was it tonight?" Angela asked before Alex crossed the threshold. She and Finn were sitting on the couch watching television like good, normal people. Since it was after nine, John-John must have been in bed.
Alex had not paused in her route across the living room toward the hall. Finn's weird OCD routines freaked her out, and she really needed to spend some quality time on her own mental health before she could deal with someone else's. Besides, she had to be invading their space. They were being very generous letting her stay, and she didn't want to be any more of a burden than necessary. "Pretty good. My purse weighs a ton so I'm going to be up late rolling coins."
Excerpted from Waiting For A Girl Like You by Christa Maurice. Copyright © 2015 Christa Maurice. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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