Twice in a Blue Moon

Page 9

The sleep—not to mention the view—she scored last night seemed to have served her well: she was smiling in that modest, contented way of hers and wearing her favorite red cardigan from Penney’s, which could only mean she was in a decent mood.

It was either that or the simple truth that Nana loved nothing more than a schedule. Other than Christmas and New Year’s Day, she opened Jude’s at six thirty every morning and closed at four every afternoon, on the dot. And in between, she prepped pie crust, put in her vendor orders, checked and double-checked the cash registers, butchered and marinated the chicken in buttermilk and paprika for frying the next day, made all the side dishes fresh, and slow cooked the brisket while I washed dishes, mopped floors, and set tables. Mom made lemonade, peeled apples, peaches, and potatoes, made lemon curd, and then took whatever leftover food we had from the lunch crowd down the road to Monte Rio, where the same people waited every night for the one meal they’d get that day.

Nana waved at someone over my shoulder, pulling me out of my sleepy thoughts. I assumed she was flagging down the waiter for some coffee, but Luther’s voice rang out across the restaurant: “Our two favorite ladies!”

Heads turned, and the girls at the table beside ours gaped at Sam as he made his way over. A weight dropped from my chest to my stomach. I knew I’d see him again—hoped I’d see him again—but I didn’t think it would be over breakfast with Nana, before I’d had a chance to remind him not to mention what I’d said about Dad.

“Okay if we join you?” Sam asked.

He must have directed the question at me, because a beat of silence passed before Nana jumped in: “Of course. We just sat down.”

Across from me, beside Sam, Nana pulled her napkin onto her lap, smiling up at him, and then over to Luther, who sat down to my left, patting my knee affectionately.

I finally worked up the nerve to drag my eyes to Sam’s face. His arms were enormous—an anatomy lesson in individual muscles, tendons, and veins. His blue shirt stretched across his chest—Bob Dylan’s face was mildly distorted by pectorals. There were a few lines on his left cheek, like he’d come straight from the pillow to the hotel restaurant.

Although he looked as exhausted as I felt, he met my gaze with a lazy, flirty grin and I was reminded again of the way our bodies dragged against each other when he put me down last night. I hoped the flash of heat that blew across my skin didn’t show on my face, because I could feel Nana looking at me.

He blinked away and nodded when the waiter asked if he’d like coffee, and then lifted a hand to his stomach, mumbling, “Starving,” before wandering away toward the buffet.

The teenagers at the table next to ours followed him with their eyes glued to his back, all the way to the spread of meats and cheeses. I couldn’t blame them: Sam Brandis was hot.

Beside me, Luther seemed content to enjoy his coffee, adding four packs of sugar and a generous helping of cream. “I hope you woke up to a beautiful view?”

“We sure did.” Nana shifted uncomfortably in her seat across from him. I knew her well enough to understand that she’d already thanked him—she didn’t want to have to say it over and over. “Many thanks . . . again.”

Waving a hand to dismiss this, Luther lifted his cup to his lips and blew away the steam. “Women care more about those things than men do.”

I felt a defensive wave rise up inside me, and saw it mirrored in Nana’s expression. She forced her face into an amiable smile. “Hmm.”

Luther tilted his head to me. “These two were out late last night, huh?”

Tires screeched, laying down black rubber tracks in my brain.

Nana went still, before tilting her head in question. “These . . . two?”

He glanced from me to where Sam was presumably tearing his way through the buffet. “Our grandchildren seem to have hit it off.” I would have taken a moment to appreciate Luther’s delighted laugh if he hadn’t been currently destroying my life.

Nana looked at me again, eyes sharp. “Really.”

At this, Luther’s delight visibly wilted. “Oh. Oh, dear. I hope I haven’t gotten Tate into any trouble,” he said. “I’m a light sleeper and woke up when Sam walked in around three.”


Nana’s eyebrows disappeared beneath her bangs. “Three?”

I pressed my hands to my forehead just as Sam returned to the table with a plate piled high with eggs, sausage, potatoes, bread, and fruit. I’d never stayed out past curfew—eleven—and Nana thought that was too late of a curfew.

“Three?” Nana asked him. “Is this true?”

Sam slowly lowered himself into his chair, looking around the table in confusion. “Three what?”

It was so unbelievably awkward.

Nana pinned him with her deeply intimidating brown eyes. “You were out with my granddaughter until three in the morning?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, “but we were asleep for a lot of it.” He did a double take at her deepening horror. “On the lawn. Just—sleeping.”

Nana’s face had slowly gone from ashen to pink to red, and Sam winced over to me, stage-whispering, “I’m not helping, am I?”

“Nope.” My voice echoed from where I was trying to crawl into my cup of tea.

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