Page 2 of We Were Once

“Do you know who you are?”

“I’m learning every day. All I’m saying is life is happening all around you. Look up from the books every now and then.”

Turning around, she takes one last glance around the apartment. “You need a pop of color in here. I can send sofa pillows.”

I get what she’s saying. She’s the queen of décor and has strong opinions regarding my life. She’d love to not only throw some pillows on my couch but also put a man in my life.

She never understood that good grades are much more rewarding than spending time with boys who want nothing more than a one-night stand. “Don’t send pillows,” I say, grinning.

A sly grin rolls across her face. “You can snuggle with them, or a guy—”

“You want me to date.” I sigh. “I get it.”

“College guys aren’t the same thing as high school boys.” She takes her purse from the couch and situates it on her shoulder as she moves to the door.

I roll my eyes. “Could have fooled me.”

“You just haven’t met someone who makes your heart flutter.”

“You’re such a romantic.”

Kissing my cheek, she opens the door, and says, “Take care of yourself, honey. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” I close the door and rest against the back of it, exhaling. After two months working at my father’s clinic and then staying with her in the city for the past two weeks, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to have time to myself, and silence. Pure, unadulterated—Knock. Knock.

I jump, startled from the banging against my back. Spinning around, I squint to look through the peephole, and my chin jerks back.

A guy holding a bag outside my door says, “Food delivery.”

“I didn’t order food,” I say, palms pressed to the door as I spy on him.

A smirk plays on his lips. Yup, he flat out stares into the peephole with a smug grin on his face. Plucking the receipt from the bag, he adds, “Chloe?” The e is drawn out in his dulcet tone as if it’s possible to make such a common name sound special. He managed it.

I unlock the deadbolt but leave the chain in place. When I open the door, I peek out, keeping my body and weight against it for safety.

Met with brown eyes that catch the setting sun streaming in from the window in the hall, there’s no hiding the amusement shining in them. “Hi,” he says, his gaze dipping to my mouth and back up. “Chloe?”

“I’m Chloe, but as I said, I didn’t order food.”

He glances toward the stairs, tension in his shoulders dropping before his eyes return to mine. “I have the right address, the correct apartment, and name. I’m pretty sure it’s for you.” He holds it out after a casual shrug. “Anyway, it’s getting cold, and it’s chicken and dumplings, my mom’s specialty that she only makes on Sundays. Trust me, it’s better hot, though I’ve had it cold, and it was still good.”

He makes a solid argument. All the information is correct. I shift, my guard dropping. I’m still curious, though. “Your mom made it?”

Thumbing over his shoulder as though the restaurant is behind him, he replies, “Only on Sundays. Me and T cook the rest of the time.”

“Who’s T?”

“The other cook.” He turns the bag around. Patty’s Diner is printed on the white paper. Then he points at his worn shirt, the logo barely visible from all the washings.

“And Patty is your mother?”

He swivels the bag around and nods. “Patty is my mom.”

My stomach growls from the sound of the bag crinkling in his hands, reminding me that I haven’t eaten in hours, and chicken and dumplings sound amazing. Only “culinary cuisine,” as my dad would call it, was acceptable when I was growing up. Comfort food didn’t qualify because anything with gravy instead of some kind of reduction was a no-no.

Grinning, he pushes the bag closer. “As much as I’d love to stay here all night and chat about the mystery of this delivery, I have other food getting cold down in the car. You’re hungry. Take the bag and enjoy.” He says it like we’re friends, and I’m starting to think we’ve spent enough time together to consider it.

I unchain the door and open it to take the bag from him. Holding up a finger, I ask, “Do you mind waiting? I’ll get you a tip.”

As if he won the war, two dimples appear as his grin grows. The cockiness reflected in his eyes doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s more handsome than I initially gave him credit for.

Handsome is a dime a dozen in Newport. Good genes passed down long before the Golden Age run in the prestigious family trees of Rhode Island. So good-looking guys don’t do much beyond catch my eye.

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance