Jeremy simply shook his head and chuckled. “Don’t mind him. He’s really shy. Sorry if we caused you any trouble, miss.”
“Alice,” I breathed. “My name’s Alice.”
He grinned at me, brilliant and dazzling. He stuck his hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you, Alice. I’m Jeremy Rodriguez. My buddy there’s Max Cato. And well–” He gestured to the rest of his crew, but most of them had already left. “And they’re gone, so I guess you’ll only need to remember two names.”
“Does this mean you’ll be stopping by again soon?”
“Probably. We really liked the service.”
A little laugh escapes my throat as my cheeks reheat. “Let me guess, you’re the smooth talker while he’s tall, dark, and handsome?”
Jeremy chuckled. “Do I not fit the criteria, too?”
I blushed harder than I’d ever blushed in my entire life. “I mean, you’re more tall, bright, and handsome. You don’t really have the brooding thing going for you.”
He burst into laughter. It was difficult not to laugh along with him. I tucked a strand of my red hair behind my ear, sheepishly glancing away.
“Would it be alright if I gave you my number?” he asked me.
My smile evaporated at the question, returning to something more neutral and professional. Flirting was one thing, but actually exchanging contact information? That was a different situation entirely. I threaded my fingers back together as I pushed memories of Kellan away. He used to always check my phone to make sure I wasn’t texting any other men. Sometimes he’d sneak into my Instagram app and block old high school friends of mine without my knowledge. Kellan used to always say that it was a mistake, or that he wasn’t thinking straight because he got so jealous at the thought of me with someone else. I used to think it was endearing at first.
Right up until it wasn’t.
I shook my head slowly, smiling gently to let Jeremy down easy. “I’m sorry. I… I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Jeremy, unperturbed, smiled at me and shrugged his shoulders. “Alright, no problem. Can’t blame a guy for trying, right? I’ll see you around, yeah?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, sounds good.”
“Have a good night, Alice.”
I watched as Jeremy left, just like the rest of them, catching up to Max in the parking lot of Jessy’s Diner. The soft blue glow of the restaurant’s neon sign casting them in gentle light. Jeremy threw his arm over Max’s shoulder, and Max immediately shrugged him off. I observed their mouths moving, but couldn’t make out a word.
Cookie whistled behind me. “Hot damn, I wish I had myself a fireman.”
“You’re not cute enough to get yourself a fireman,” snorts Wilma.
Cookie let out a dramatic gasp. “You take that back.”
Wilma ignored him and tugged on my hand. “Come on, sweetie. The Patterson’s order’s up.”
I nodded and sighed, still a little dazed from having two strong men swoop in to save me. It felt like something out of a movie or soap opera. “Right,” I said slowly. “I’ll be right there.”
I didn’t know how Jeremy did it sometimes. He was always able to go up to a cute girl and start chatting her up like it was nothing.
He was a talker. Words came more naturally to him than they did to me.
I normally didn’t care. The guy had been my roommate for a little over three years now, and we were dorm mates back when we were going through training together. It was safe to say I’d learned a couple of tricks to tune him out when he was being particularly annoying. I’d usually resort to earplugs or putting my ear buds in and blast music on the highest setting –a universal sign to fuck right off. But today, for some unknown reason, I wasn’t able to ignore him like I usually could.
Jeremy sighed for the fourth time that hour. “She was so pretty. I can’t believe she turned me down.”
I snorted, “Don’t be a pussy. Get over her.”
He clicked his tongue and wagged a mischievous eyebrow at me. “You’re just saying that so I give up and you can go back later to ask her out yourself.”
Jeremy wasn’t entirely wrong. I thought the waitress was gorgeous. It was a shame such a beautiful woman was working in a rundown diner like Jessy’s –and the night shift, no less. That wasn’t exactly the safest time for a young woman to be out, as those asshole bikers made plenty clear. It was a good thing me and the team decided to stop by the joint for a bite to eat after a long day of fighting fires. It boiled my blood to imagine what would have happened to the poor girl if Jeremy and I hadn’t stepped in.
I could still see her bright red hair as clear as day. Her long, wavy locks had been pulled up into a loose bun, flyaway strands reminding me of bright orange sparks beneath the warm orange lighting of the diner. Her light blue uniform dress was a size too small for her, fabric hugging her curves in all the right places. The front of her uniform did very little to hide her obvious cleavage, though I did my best not to stare. Alice, I learned her name from Jeremy, was an itty-bitty thing. She was probably a whole foot and a half shorter than me. If I really wanted to, I swore I could pick her up and put her in my pocket.