“Hey. How are things?” I ask him.
“Good. Sid’s worried about you. He wants you to call him, but like I told you before, I don’t think it’s wise to make any phone calls right now.”
I need to call Sid, but I feel awkward phoning him for some reason. “Can I come home?” I pull off the road when I reach a small gas station. I put my car in park, leaning my head back, trying to keep the tears at bay.
“Nothing. I just want my life back,” I fib.
“Autumn, you know you can’t. Not yet.”
“Soon?” I ask on a whisper.
“Angel, I wish I could tell you the cops caught the guy or that they have a lead, but right now, they’ve got nothing. You’re safe there.”
That’s a joke; I’m in more danger here than I was back home. Why am I so upset about this?
“Did you hear me?” Link asks, pulling me from my thoughts.
“I asked how you and Kenton are getting along.”
“Oh, fine… You know, he goes his way and I go mine,” I answer casually.
“What are you leaving out?”
“Guess what? I got a job in Nashville at a hospital,” I say, changing the subject. I do not want to talk to Link about Kenton. They were friends long before I was in the picture.
“That’s good news, Autumn, but…” He clears his throat, and I can’t tell that he’s trying not to burst my bubble. “I know you’re a long way from here, but that doesn’t mean you’re one hundred percent safe.”
“Only you know where I am, right? So I should be okay.”
“Just be careful…and keep Kenton up-to-date about what’s going on,” he tells me.
“Will do,” I say, knowing that I won’t be doing anything like that at all.
“Call me if you need anything.”
“Okay. Talk to you later,” I say softly, hanging up the phone. “May as well go get breakfast,” I mutter to myself, putting my car back in drive. I reach a small town after fifteen minutes, pull into the first restaurant I see, get out of my car, and head inside.
The place is small, with a total of five booths and a long counter that stretches the length of the diner, which has short barstools lining the front of it. I walk to a small booth in the back, pushing my bag across the seat before sitting down. The smell of bacon and eggs has my mouth watering.
“What can I getcha, sugar?” asks a pretty, older woman with dark-brown hair that’s in a bun at the top of her head as she pulls a pen from behind her ear.
“Coffee, pancakes, bacon, and eggs.”
Her head lifts, looking at me. “A woman who’s not afraid to eat,” she smiles. “Be back with your coffee.”
As soon as she leaves, I take out my cell phone and pull up my Kindle app. Any time I need a break from reality, I read. There is nothing better than going on an adventure or imagining two people falling in love.
“What’s your name, sugar?” the woman asks, making me jump in my chair.
“Autumn. Thank you,” I say when she sets the cup down in front of me.
“I’m Viv. You got man problems?” she asks, sitting down across from me like it’s completely normal to sit with someone you don’t know and ask them such a personal question.
“Never mind. I see it in your eyes that you do.”
“I—” I start to tell her that I don’t when she cuts me off again.
“My mamma was able to see things, you know?”
“Sure,” I agree, because who am I to judge? For all I know, her mom could have a gift.
“Well, I can see things too,” she says. I watch her, wondering where she’s going with this. “The guy you like, well… He’s kinda an ass, like my old man used to be,” she tells me, leaning forward like it’s a secret between us.
“Well, you see, he doesn’t know what to do with what he’s feeling, so he’s an ass.” She shakes her head. “You hear what I’m sayin’?”
I have no idea what she’s saying, but she’s dead-on that Kenton is an ass, so I nod my head in agreement.
“Make him grovel. Whatever you do, you make him pay for being an ass**le.”
“Got it.” I smile.
“Now, when you do forgive him”—she shocks me by grabbing my hand—“what you’re feeling right now will be worth it in the end.”
“Uh, okay,” I tell her, patting her hand.
“All right, now you just sit back and I’m going to feed you the best pancakes you’ve ever eaten in your life. Food makes everything okay.” She stands, leaving me wondering what the hell just happened.
Viv comes back a few minutes later with a plate overflowing with pancakes, bacon, and eggs. She sets the plate in front of me before taking a seat across from me again.
“So I take it you’re new around these parts?”
“I just moved here,” I tell her, my mouth watering from the smell coming from the plate.
“Did you move here to be with the ass?”
I can’t help but smile at her name for Kenton. “Um…no, and we’re not together. I mean, we have never been together.”
“Whatever—tomato, tomatoes.” She waves her hand at me, and I can’t help but smile at the way she messed up the saying. “You got family ’round here?” she asks, sitting forward in the booth like my answer is really important.
“No.” I shake my head, taking a bite of bacon.
“Well, you need to come over and have dinner sometime. My ass makes a mean brisket.” She smiles, watching me take another bite. “Good, right?” she prompts.
“Very.” I nod, covering my mouth.
“You should come over next Sunday. We close the diner early that day and have a big Sunday meal with all the fixings. My daughter and my niece are a little younger than you, but I would guess my nephew is about your age, though he doesn’t always show up. I’m sure the girls would like to show you around. One sure way to get your man to mind is to find another man to show him you can have someone else if you want to,” she rambles, and I can feel my eyes growing in size, so I cut her off.
“That’s very nice, but—”
“No buts. Dinner’s at three. We eat early. I’ll give you my address. I expect to see you there,” she says, standing up, and before I can come up with a good reason not to have Sunday dinner with her, her ‘ass,’ and their families, she disappears behind the counter and starts taking care of other customers.