Della

The lunch shift was brutal on Sundays. I thought that only in Macon, Georgia did everyone with a pulse attend church. I was wrong. This was a southern thing. At exactly12:05pm, the floodgates opened and every table in the dining room had become full with a wait at the door.

I had wondered why I hadn’t been put on the lunch shift for Sunday before now. This explained it. This was ‘pros only’. I leaned against the wall in the kitchen and pushed the fallen hair out of my face. Somehow we’d survived. The last table was just finishing up and paying their tab.

“The only good thing about Sundays is the tips. I swear I’m gonna quit every week when it’s over. Then I count my money,” Jimmy said with a wink and pulled out the roll of money he had tucked in his pocket.

“That was crazy,” I agreed.

Jimmy chuckled. “Yep. Good thing is, it’s over. You can go home.”

Home. Tripp’s condo wasn’t my home. And today I wasn’t sure I was staying there any longer. I hoped my tips were really good because I might need to pack up and hit the road. Tripp had called last night to let me know he was headed home to visit. I didn’t know if that meant he wanted me to move on out now. Or if he was expecting us to share the condo.

I had bad dreams and many nights I woke myself up screaming. Sharing the condo with Tripp didn’t sound like the best idea. But leaving Rosemary didn’t sound appealing either. I liked it here. I liked Bethy and Jimmy and I liked… Woods.

“Girl stop frowning. It’s quitting time,” Jimmy said in a teasing voice as he walked by me and tossed his apron into the dirty basket.

I managed a smile and nodded. “I think I need a nap,” I replied and took off my apron too. I wouldn’t be getting a nap. There was a good chance that Tripp would be there when I got back. If not he would be later today.

“I got a hot date. No time for sleeping. See you tomorrow morning,” Jimmy called out as he left the kitchen.

I followed him. Once I was outside the clubhouse, I pulled my hair out of the bun I’d twisted it up into and let it hang free. It was giving me a headache. I wasn’t used to having my hair pulled back so tightly.

The sound of a car door slamming caught my attention and I turned around to see Woods’ truck parked in his reserved space. His fiancée was stalking around the back of the truck with fire in her eyes.

“Just one meal, Woods. Really? You can’t play nice for one goddamn meal? What is wrong with you? Am I that abhorrent to you that you can’t even be civil to me in front of our parents?” Her loud shrill voice carried across the parking lot. This was not my business and I needed to get in the car and leave. But I couldn’t. My eyes were locked on Woods as he stepped out of the truck. He looked annoyed.

“You got what you wanted. You, and our fathers, won. I caved in and agreed to this. But I don’t want it. I will never want it.” The bored tone in Woods’ voice was almost too low for me to hear. If I hadn’t been so focused on him I might not have heard his hard reply.

“Really? Well, then you don’t have to have it. Because as much as I want this thing between us to work and as much as I want a husband who will be an asset to the Greystone name, I do not want to live with a man who hates me. I can do better than that. I’m a fantastic catch, Woods Kerrington. I don’t need you,” she spat out. Her body was trembling with anger.

I felt sorry for her. She was right. No woman deserved this. The unmoved expression in his eyes looked annoyed if anything.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ve just had a lot on my mind today. I shouldn’t have acted the way I did at lunch. My dad pushes my buttons the way no one else can. What I said and how I acted was not because of you but because of him.”

My heart hurt. The flash of sadness in his eyes had only been there for a moment but I’d seen it. I wanted to hug him and make the sadness go away. But I couldn’t. He wasn’t mine to hug.

An elegantly manicured hand rested on his arm. The rage that had caused her to tremble just a few seconds ago was gone. Her shoulders had relaxed and her body was leaning toward him. Her voice was no longer loud enough to carry over the parking lot and I didn’t hear what she said. I only saw the acceptance on Woods’ face as he nodded. Her arm snaked around his and they walked inside the clubhouse together.

I opened my car door and tried hard not to think about the makeup sex they were probably going to have in his office. I couldn’t think about it and remain calm. My attraction to Woods was a door I needed to close. He was a friend only. The bitter taste in my mouth as I drove away and headed toward the condo only got stronger. I knew how it felt to be touched by Woods.

A familiar Harley-Davidson was in the space beside mine. Tripp was here. I had to decide what I was going to do and fast. Maybe he would ask me to leave. Maybe I wouldn’t have a choice.

I made my way to the door of the condo and started to unlock the door when I decided it was probably better to knock. I wasn’t staying here alone anymore.

I knocked and waited.

Tripp opened the door almost right away and his friendly smile turned into a frown. “You got a key. Why’re you knocking?” he asked, stepping back and letting me in.

“Well, you’re home now. I felt weird walking into your place without knocking.” I replied. This was awkward. I needed to leave.

“Me coming home to visit doesn’t change anything. You have a key, your stuff is here, you can come and go as you please. Don’t let me being here bother you.”

So he wanted me to stay? I hadn’t expected that. Not really.

“I was thinking I might pack up and hit the road. I’ve made enough money to get me further than Dallas this time.”

Tripp tilted his head to the side and lowered his eyebrows as he studied me. “You leaving because I’m here?”Yes. “No,” I replied instead.“Why don’t I believe you?”Because I was lying. I shrugged.Tripp let out a sigh and closed the door. “Come on blue eyes. You and I need to talk and I want to do it while drinking a beer and looking at the Gulf.”I followed him as we walked down the hall and into the kitchen. He stopped and grabbed two beers out of the fridge then turned and tossed one to me. Luckily, I caught it. Tripp nodded his head toward the French doors leading out onto his balcony overlooking the water. I stepped outside first.“Have a seat,” Tripp said as he came up behind me. The warmth of his body was startling and I quickly moved to sit down in one of the chairs sitting around the patio table.Tripp smirked at me as if he could read my mind and took a seat in the lounger stretching his legs out in front of him and leaning back. “God, I’ve missed this place. Not the people in it but the place itself.”That was odd. Everyone I’d met missed Tripp. Did he just mean his parents or did he truly not miss anyone here?“You enjoying it here?” he asked, turning his head to look over at me.“Yes. It’s a nice place,” I answered truthfully.He grinned. “Yeah, it is.”“Why are you in Dallas then?” I asked. I’d heard from everyone else why Tripp had left but I didn’t know the whole story.“My parents wanted me to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted freedom. So I left. I couldn’t be free here.”But he had come back.“I won’t be here long. The need to travel and experience life will get to me soon enough. I resigned at the bar. I’m positive Jeff is screwing the newest bartender. I can’t keep working for that man. Besides, Dallas was getting old.”Was this his way of telling me I could stay? I wasn’t sure I wanted to. He didn’t know me. I didn’t know him really. If I stayed here he’d learn more about me than he probably wanted to know.“I should be moving on along anyway. I’ve enjoyed staying in your place. It’s really nice.”“Are we back to this again? I didn’t come here to run you off. I don’t want you to leave. At least not yet. You’ve only been here a few weeks. Enjoy the coast a little longer before you head out. I promise I’m a good roommate. I don’t snore and I don’t drink out of the milk carton unless it’s almost empty and I’m finishing it off.”His teasing tone made me smile. It was time I was honest with him. I couldn’t lie my way out of this one. He’d think I didn’t like him and I couldn’t let him think that. Not after he’d been so kind to me.“My leaving isn’t because I’m worried you’ll be a bad roommate,” I began and stopped. What did I say here? How did I explain this without sounding crazy?“Good. Then there’s no problem,” he finished for me. That wasn’t true, however.“Yeah, there is. I’m the problem. I’m not exactly easy to live with. I… I might not snore but I have bad dreams. They might… No, they will wake you up. I also have anxiety issues. I can hide it but if we’re living together then you’re going to end up seeing me at my worst. I, I’m just not… living with me isn’t something anyone wants to do. Trust me. I need to just be on my way.”There I’d said it. He could read between the lines.Tripp sat up from his reclined position and put his feet on the ground. I watched as he leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees and staring at me. I swallowed nervously. I didn’t want to answer questions about this. If he made me remember too much then I’d show him exactly how insane I could be. I started to count sheep in my head. It helped fight off other thoughts.“If that’s the case then you don’t need to be living alone anyway. How are you supposed to deal with that shit all by yourself? You’re not,” he paused and pressed his lips together tightly. I could tell he was choosing his next words with a great deal of care. “I’ve got my own demons. Ones that I keep tucked away. We’re a pair you and me. Both of us not ready to stay in one place and wanting to explore the world. I think we could be really good friends. It’s why I gave you the keys to my place and sent you here. Who says we have to travel alone? I’m tired of being alone all the time. Why don’t we let this be a trial run? We both stay here a couple of weeks and see if we can put up with the other one.”I let his words sink in. Responding to that was hard. I hadn’t been expecting it and I wasn’t sure what I thought about it. He wanted to travel around together? Didn’t that seem intimate? We barely knew each other. But then if we shared a condo for a few weeks we’d know each other much better and he would be very sure that he couldn’t deal with my crazy shit by then.I wasn’t going to overthink this. “Okay. Deal,” I replied.A slow smile spread across his face. That would all change really soon. Possibly tonight.“Also, warning. Jace is happy I’m home. He’s coming over tonight and he’ll bring friends. I hope that’s okay.”Things around here were about to get a lot more social. I needed to adjust.