I patted Cookie on the hands. “I’m alright, there’s nothing I need, and I like both of them equally as much.”
Wilma gawked. “Do you like like them?”
I shook my head. “What is this? High school? Come on, I want to get to work.”
Cookie clicked his tongue and grinned. “My baby girl’s all grown up. She’s got men looking after her.”
“It’s not like that,” I insisted. “They’re just really sweet.”
Wilma gave me a skeptical look, but said nothing. Apart from Cookie’s dreamy sighing, work was the same as it always was. A flood of people came in as soon as Jessy’s Diner opened for the morning. The crowd mostly consisted of construction workers looking for a quick cup of joe before they started their days, as well as older couples interested in our current buy one, get one free senior promotion.
Getting back to work sooner rather than later was turning out to be a smart choice. It was easy to fall into the rhythm of things, to block out the fact that I almost died last night. I didn’t want to think about the flames, or about being trapped, or that I’d lost everything. I just wanted some semblance of normality, some kind of life line to keep my sanity in check. I knew that if I stayed at Max and Jeremy’s place, I’d probably break down into tears because there was nothing to do except think and reflect. No, I’d much rather keep busy, taking down orders and sequencing my stops so that there was a steady flow of food going out to customers while dirty dishes were dropped off in the dish pit.
I deliberately hung out by Wilma’s fry station, allowing the scent of greasy fries, grilled burger patties, sizzling bacon, and bubbling cheese fill my nose. I needed something, anything to get rid of the memory of smoke. I could still recall the sickly-sweet burning of wood, of plastic. It was so overwhelming that it gave me a headache just to think about. I don’t know what I would have done if Max and Jeremy hadn’t shown up when they did. If they’d been a minute later, would I have died? Would I have been burned to a crisp along with all of my things?
A heavy sigh escaped me. This was exactly why I needed to go back to work. I needed to get my hands dirty. I wanted to concentrate on how sore the arches of my feet were after running around all day. I needed something to distract me from this sensation of dread and impending doom looming over my head. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen. That fire –it came out of nowhere and spread so quickly. It moved like it had a purpose.
Like it was planned.
I shivered and pushed the thoughts from my mind. While I waited for my food orders, I decided on focusing on something else. Maybe something nice, like how warm and safe I felt watching television with Max and Jeremy. Max had been quiet all evening, but I could tell he was happy. He didn’t have to say anything for me to know, I just did. I could read it in his body language, in the softness of his dark eyes. And Jeremy –well, he was an open book. We just clicked. I counted my lucky stars that they let me stay with them.
I’d barely been conscious when Jeremy carried me out of the fire. And I was only half-asleep when Max carried me to bed. My thoughts suddenly shifted to their big, strong arms and their rough, hard hands. I wondered what it would be like to be held by the both of them at the same time. It’d be wonderfully overwhelming, all-encompassing. A part of me really wanted to run my hands up and down their hard chests, wanted to study every ripple of muscle under their skin. It was hard not to be attracted to Max or Jeremy, and the two of them combined was starting to be a real test of my will power. I wondered what it would take to get them both out of their clothes, their lips searing against my skin as they worked their way down to–
Wilma slapped her hand down on the silver bell sitting on the serving counter. “Order up!”
“Coming, coming,” I said, blinking hard a couple of times to keep my daydreams from getting too risqué. There were children in the diner, for goodness sake.
The rest of my shift went by quicker than a flash. I only started to run into problems when I realized Kayla had shown up an hour late to her shift, and a massive party of twenty came in without a reservation about fifteen minutes prior to my scheduled end time.