Dalton, Zeke, and Taylor were reading over their menus, once again covered in soot and sweat, each hooking his hard hat over his knee.
“So, my mom wants to start the trip at Yellowstone,” Hannah said, putting miniature lids on tiny cups for Delaney children. “We’ve been there at least a dozen times, but she wants to start there, so that’s that. I want to go down the whole West Coast and see what LA is like.”
“Have you ever been?” I asked, distracted by the dirty men near the window. I would have to win them all over, not just Taylor.
Hannah shook her head, waiting for me to answer my own question.
“Yes,” I said, remembering my own trip to LA, “with Blaire.”
“See? You can travel with her.”
“It was for a medical conference. I spent all day in the hotel room. I think she only brought me to help her with her bags while she shopped.”
“Oh. That sounds kind of … awful. But at least, if you got sick, she could take care of you. She’s a doctor, right?”
“A cardiothoracic surgeon. She’s rated as one of the top five in the country.”
I grimaced. Blaire did not like dust or people who were overly chatty or overly happy, and she hated to be looked in the eye, as if anyone without a PhD was her equal. That was why she was a surgeon. If she were the best—and she was—her bedside manner wouldn’t matter as long as she fixed what was broken.
The one thing she couldn’t fix was the one person she’d broken.
“Falyn? Table five is asking for their check,” Kirby said.
“Oh!” I tapped on the touch screen, and a receipt began to print. I ripped it off and stuck it in the black leather bill presenter before bringing it to a family of four.
“Thank you so much,” I said, smiling. “Have a great day.”
I checked on my other tables, filled a few glasses, and then approached table three.
“Hi, boys. Are you having the same today or something different?”
They all dipped their heads in unison.
“Same,” Dalton said. “You’ve ruined me for the real stuff.”
“Be right back.” I spun around, trying to treat them like anyone else who had just come in off the street.
I returned to the bar, put together their Cherry Cokes, and carried the tray to table three with a polite smile.
Zeke hummed with satisfaction after taking a gulp from his Cherry Coke.
“Did Trex quit?” I asked, making sure not to make too much eye contact with Taylor.
Dalton, Zeke, and Taylor all traded looks.
Then Taylor addressed me, “Trex isn’t on our crew. We met him at our hotel.”
“Oh,” I said. “Are you ready to order? Or do you need more time?”
Zeke squinted at the menu. “You serve breakfast all day?”
“It’s a very thin pancake. Phaedra serves hers filled with a soft hazelnut chocolate. Then she folds it, dusts it with powdered sugar, and then drizzles it with chocolate.”
“Chicken wrap,” Dalton said. He handed me his menu, reminding Zeke to hand over his.
After some hesitation, I asked Taylor, “And for you?”
He lowered his menu and looked straight into my eyes. “I want to hang out again.”
“Pardon?” For a moment I mused that a second chance might be on the menu.
Taylor sat back and sighed. “I know what I said, but that was when I thought you were just playing hard to get. I didn’t actually know you were impossible.”
Taylor let his menu fall to the table. “I didn’t mean it when I swore that I’d never ask you out again.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t mean to promise me something?”
He thought about that for a moment. “Right. I take it back.”
I made a face. “You can’t take back a promise. You think I’m going to agree to a second date with a vagrant who takes back promises?”
“You just said we went on a date,” Taylor said, a Cheshire Cat grin spreading across his face. His teeth seemed even whiter against the dirt on his face.
“The café is really busy today,” I said.
“I know,” Taylor said. “Just think about it.”
I looked up at the ceiling and then back at him, pointing at him with my pen. “No. Do you want the wrap, too?”
His grin vanished, and he crossed his arms, deflated. “Surprise me.”
“You got it.” I swiped Taylor’s menu and took the order back to Chuck.
“Did he ask you out again?” he asked.
“Brutal,” he said, shaking his head at me.
“He just wants to hang out,” I said. “He’s not heartbroken or anything.”
“If you don’t like him, why do you look like you’re dying to giggle like a schoolgirl?” Chuck wiped his sweaty brow with his forearm.
“No, he doesn’t know. Phaedra asked the same thing. Why would I suddenly start telling everyone?”
Chuck shrugged. “Just asking. You know, Falyn … I’ve offered before—”
“No, Chuck. You’re not paying my way to Eakins. You already do too much.”
“How much money do you need? Can’t be much more now?”
“Nope. I’m almost there. Every time I’ve gotten close, something’s come up.”
“And when you paid that ticket for Kirby?”
“And when you got sick a couple of years ago?”
“Are you still paying on that hospital bill?”
“No, I paid it off a few months ago. Thank you.”
“You should let us help, Falyn. You’ve helped people, and this is important.”
“Yes, it is. That’s why I have to do it on my own.”
I looked at table three. Taylor glanced over at me, and we locked eyes for a moment.
“Or at least, mostly on my own.”
Chuck busied himself again with the soup. “That is going to be one pissed off young man when he figures out what you’re doing.”
My chest sank in. “I already feel bad enough.”
“Good. At least you still have a conscience.”
I looked down at my feet, feeling worse by the second. The high I’d felt moments before was completely replaced with guilt. “Did Phaedra go to the back?” I asked.
“Oh,” I said, knowing it would be a while before I saw her.
The Delaneys waved to Kirby as they gathered their children to leave. Marie carried the twins’ carriers, so John could handle their toddler. The girl was being carried over John’s shoulder, her little feet kicking wildly as she screamed.