“Sure. What about the fifties diner on the square? Ben says it’s great and I’ve been dying to try it.”
Ben. I hate the feeling I get when she says his name. I’m really going to hate taking her back to stay at his place again. It pisses me off that he thinks he has a chance with the woman I’ve claimed. Maybe he needs a warning so he’ll back off.
“I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”
The diner is exactly what it sounds like and Laurelyn is all smiles when we enter. “Oh, it’s retro, just like a real fifties diner. Can we sit at the bar?”
The decor is exactly as you would imagine—a black-and-white checkered floor down to red vinyl-covered barstools with lots of chrome. She reaches for a menu on the counter stuck behind a napkin holder and passes one to me. “I don’t know why I’m even looking. I already know what I want—a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake.”
A waitress wearing the classic dress and white apron approaches us. “Do you need a minute to look over the menu?”
I figure a burger is as good as anything else I’ll find on the menu. “No. We’ll have two cheeseburgers with fries and a couple of chocolate shakes.”
Laurelyn replaces the menus and scans the surroundings. “I’ve always thought of the fifties diner theme as an American thing, but I guess it’s not.”
I hear an old song playing overhead and I decide to try to stump my little musician. “Okay, musical genius. What song is this?”
She doesn’t have to listen because she already knows. “‘In the Still of the Night’ by The Five Satins.”
It amazes me how she knows. Always. “How can you possibly have all that information in your head?”
“It’s a gift. Oh, wow. A jukebox!” She flies off her stool and stands over the jukebox viewing the song selections. She’s so into the music, I don’t think she realizes she’s keeping time to the music with the shake of her hips. Wow, I love her ass. Especially when she shakes it like that.
She digs into her purse and drops several coins into the box. When she returns, she’s grinning. “What?” I ask out of curiosity.
“Nothing. I just like this place,” she shrugs. “I’m glad you’re the one who brought me here.”
“Me too.” The alternative pisses me off.
Our lunch arrives and Laurelyn makes no pretenses about enjoying her meal. The girl loves a cheeseburger and a milkshake. I’m not used to it. Mostly because this isn’t the type of restaurant I would take any of my companions to, but also because they always order salads and eat like birds.
I like watching her eat while she enjoys the music playing overhead. The next song starts and she points up to the ceiling, cueing me to listen as she bites her bottom lip and moves her shoulders with the beat of the song. She waggles her eyebrows. “This is one of the songs I play. Do you know it?”
Of course. It’s a classic. “‘These Arms of Mine’ by Otis Redding.”
As we finish eating, she continues my education on the artist and name of every new song. “Do you think, sleep, breathe music all the time?”
“Pretty much. I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to. It’s in my blood and I have to have it. When I’m in a writing mode, it’s weird how such simple acts can trigger lyrics in my head.” She peers over her shoulder. “You see that man and woman over there?”
I hadn’t noticed anyone in this diner except her, so I glance at the couple she’s talking about. I see a man and woman sitting across from one another in a booth. They’re probably in their early twenties and having what appears to be an intense conversation.
“They’re breaking up. I see the pain in their eyes and it makes words come into my head. When it hits me, I’ll write it on anything until I can get to my guitar. I see potential song lyrics happening all around me.”
She’s right. This is in her blood. Only someone genetically engineered toward music could come up with the things she does. “And what would a song about us sound like?”
She looks up as she slurps the last drink of her milkshake and shakes her head. “No way. I’m not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.”
We’re driving back to Avalon with the top down and Lachlan is exceptionally sexy behind his sunglasses. I can’t resist taking out the phone he gave me and snapping a picture of him. He briefly takes his eyes away from the road as he glances in my direction. I take the opportunity to snap a frontal shot. Oh, my. He is so good-looking.
“No pictures with your personal phone. Ever.” His words are rigid and I wonder what the big deal is.
I innocently hold up the phone he gave me. “It’s not my personal phone. It’s the booty-call device you sent me and I want your picture on here so I can see your handsome face pop up when you call me.”
I realize it’s the first time I’ve called it that in front of him. “Booty-call device?”
“Yeah. If we’re being honest, that’s what it is. You’re the only person who knows the number and when you call, it’s always to make arrangements to get together. We both know what we’re going to do, so that’s what it is.”
He glances at me again. “Laurelyn, you’re not a booty call.”
“When I agreed to this relationship, you told me there would be no pretending. Please don’t go back on your word now and try to act like this is more than it really is. It’s unnecessary.”
He pulls the convertible over on the side of the rural road. “I’m not pretending this is anything more than a short-term relationship, but I like being with you even when there’s no sex involved. That means you’re not a booty call.”
I melt into a puddle in the passenger seat when he says he likes being with me. Damn, I like being with him too, even if I know it’s only temporary. It’s too bad we don’t live closer and I only get three months with him.
He reaches over and caresses my cheek with his hand. “You got it, babe?”
I love to hear him call me that. I don’t say anything, but nod instead. I’m rewarded when he leans over to gently kiss my lips. “Good. I’m glad we’re on the same page.”
After he pulls back onto the road, he reaches for my hand and rests it against his thigh. I lean my head back against the seat and let my hair go without trying to keep it wrangled. I savor this time with Lachlan. These moments will eventually come to an end. But not today.
The ride, however, does come to an end when we’re back at the vineyard. Lachlan takes my hand and places a kiss against it before we get out of the car. It helps makes this arrangement feel more like a relationship. But as sweet as it is, it doesn’t change the fact that all of this will be short-lived.
I notice a white truck in the drive and I wonder if one of the vineyard employees has returned early or if Lachlan has company. “Someone’s here.”
“That’s Mike’s truck. He’s the handyman, so I guess he had a maintenance job. Wait here.”
Wait here in the car? That’s a little on the weird side, but I do it anyway. A few minutes later I see Lachlan walking out of the house with a man. They shake hands and he gets into his truck to leave.
Lachlan walks over to the car and opens my door for me, but says nothing about the man or why he’s at the vineyard the day after Christmas when all of the other employees are still off for the holidays. Of course, it’s not my business, so I don’t ask.
When we’re inside, Lachlan grabs a coldie (his name for beer), and we go into the living room to hang out. “Today is Boxing Day. If we were in Sydney, I’d take you to the harbor to watch the start of the yacht race to Hobart.”
“I’ve never heard of that before,” I reply.
It’s a big day for hitting the after-Christmas sales. And there’s a lot of sporting events planned for today. Australia’s National Cricket team had a test match scheduled this morning, which is a big deal around here.”
He grabs the remote for what he refers to as the idiot box. “I need to see if we won.”
After he sees the results of the game, he turns the television off. “That’s enough of that. Will you play something for me?”
I can’t resist his request or the urge to play since I haven’t touched it today. I play several of Lachlan’s requests, but he gets that wrinkle in his brow and I know he’s thinking hard about something. “What’s on your mind?”
He watches me a second before he says anything. “I was just wondering if, when you’re back home and you’ve become a huge success, if you’ll write a number-one hit about us?”
I watch my fingers strum the strings so my eyes don’t have to meet his. I don’t want to see them when I explain. “Because the best songs are written from the heart and the emotions you feel must be one extreme or the other. I’d have to be desperately in love or devastatingly hurt by you.”
Lachlan settles back onto the couch and kicks off his shoes, casually propping his feet on the coffee table. “Have you ever experienced either of those things?”
“I’ve never been desperately in love.”
“Does that mean you’ve been devastatingly hurt?”
I think of Blake and the way I felt when I found out he was married. “I’ve been hurt and it felt shattering at the time.”
“I don’t think you can’t have one without the other, so the two must coincide.”
He sounds like he knows a little something about love and pain. “Is that your opinion because you’ve experienced both?”
He laughs loudly and I look up from my guitar. “Hell, no. I’ve never been in love, so no one has ever hurt me.”