liya walked into the diner and immediately tripped. Why were there so many people standing in line to place an order? Sparks flicked on the end of her fingers and she clenched her hand trying to keep that to herself. And yep, she tripped again over some biker’s legs.
She peaked up he wasn’t a happy biker. His big beefy hands reached for her making her flinch.
“Leave the lady alone.” A man with the voice of a god stepped from behind the counter and caught her when she tripped a third time.
Well, that was different. Someone coming to her rescue. The smell of food distracted from the male for a minute. Then his scent brought her eyes back to focus on him. She licked her bottom lip nervous about being so close to food she couldn’t afford and a male that was making her dizzy with his intoxicating scent.
“Hi, I’m Julian.” The whole line of hungry patrons groaned.
“You’re supposed to be cooking not flirting with chicks who can’t even stand on their own two feet.” One angry customer yelled from the back.
She could stand on her feet it was just that she was starving. All right she might be a tad clumsy on top of that but there was no need for them to yell about it.
Maybe she should say something. What did you say when the male holding you had thick black hair that brushed his collar and green eyes that were more beautiful than the vast ocean waves of a sea of untouched new grass? Nothing, you just stared and enjoyed it while it lasted.
“What’s your name nymph?”
Aliya looked down she was a solid fourteen. No one confused her with a nymph. It was too bad he was going blind since he was so hot.
“My name is Aliya.”
“Have you eaten Aliya?”
“Not today.” Or the day before or the day before that, but she’d keep that to herself.
“Then we’ll have to rectify that.”
“She can go to the end of the line like everyone else.” The biker called out shooting visual daggers at her.
The others behind him were agreeing, and some were calling out things that made her feel like a lump of coal.
She needed to get out of here before things got out of control.
“I can shut this line down and Aliya will be the only one eating.”
Everyone got silent and watched her instead. Julian made sure she was steady and then escorted her to a seat at the bar. The person sitting there graciously allowed her to sit.
She smiled a thank you and sat because her head was woozy, and she was about to fall on someone again.
This place was truly a hole in the wall. So why did it have so many people waiting for food? The tables were all filled, the ones standing would have to eat outside or in their cars. In the biker’s case, he’d have to eat on his bike.
“Who wants fries?” Julian’s deep voice rang out. Every hand there went up in the air.
She glanced at the menu there only seemed to be a few things on it.
“How many of you want chicken sandwiches. Six hands shot up in the air.
“The rest of you want burgers?” They nodded, and Julian went to work. “What do you want little Aliya?”
He could be good for her ego if only he had been around years ago.
“How much is a hamburger?”
“Ah, come on man. The chick doesn’t even have money.” She looked back at the same biker. If he was ever in trouble, he could forget about her helping him.
“One more comment and there won’t be any food for you for the rest of the week.”
The biker bit his bottom lip looking contrite. How could such a big man look like a child?
“Julian, you know I didn’t mean anything. I’m just hungry.”
He gave a grunt and then started making sandwiches and packing up fries.
“Chickens up.” He handed the food over to the female at the register who started ringing them up.
He turned, dropped more fries and started on the burgers. It took him forty-five minutes to clear the place, but he did it. Finally, he set a plate of fries and a burger before her.
“Eat before you pass out.”
She really couldn’t afford the meal, but she was too smart to tell him. She picked up the burger and groaned it tasted so good. No wonder there was a line out the door. It could be that she was so hungry that the burger tasted like the food of the gods. She didn’t think so. Full or hungry she’d drool over how this tasted. Looking around she pulled the plate closer to her and hunched down over it.
“No one will take your food.”
She nodded but couldn’t stop herself from protecting what little she had.
She picked up a French fry and had to fight the urge to stuff them all in her mouth. When her plate was empty, she looked up and into Julian’s green eyes.
“Thank you. I can wash dishes or sweep the floor. Whatever you need done.”
“It’s paid for.” The woman at the cash register called over to her.
“You didn’t have to do that.”
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t like seeing you hungry.”
She gave him a slow smile and slid to the edge of the stool she was sitting on. The last time she had taken something was how she ended up in this mess. The heat of her hands made her self-conscious. She curled her hands into a ball hoping he wouldn’t see the current playing around her fingertips.
“Hang on, I’ll walk out with you. We’re done for the day. Hattie, I’m going to be gone for a while.”
“Thanks, Julian for all you’ve done. I’ll be happy if you decide to come back. It was nice meeting you Aliya,” she walked away to turn off the lights.
“Hattie owns this place. I help her cook sometimes.”
“Be thankful you have a job.” She bit her tongue not meaning to say that.
“Where’s your job?”
“Gone, like smoke leaving through a window.”
“Sounds like an interesting story. You can stop doing that.”
“Trying to hide the current dancing around your fingertips.”
She got off the stool and made her way to the door. “Thanks for dinner.” She opened the door and walked out.
There was still electricity playing around her fingertips. She stopped so she could concentrate. The current put itself out. This way she might be able to flag down a ride. She had no idea of where she was going. The desire to get away, to run as far and fast as possible is what drove her.
Pictures of her own cabin in the woods made her smile. Someplace safe where she could live out the rest of her life.
Darkness had fallen completely before she saw a pair of headlights coming toward her. She stuck out her thumb, hoping that was how it was still done.
An eighteen-wheeler pulled up next to her. The door opened, and a friendly face looked out.
“Hi, you need a ride?”
“I do.” She gave him a large friendly smile before patting her back pocket. “Darn, I left my wallet at the diner back a-ways. I’m going to have to go get it.”
“I’ll turn around and take you.”
“That’s too much to ask of you.”
“I insist, climb up here.”
The loud purr of a bike engine caught her attention. It stopped on the other side of her trapping her between the two vehicles.
“I know you’re mad at me, but did you really have to run out?”
She turned to see Julian’s green eyes and his drop-dead smile. She cast a nervous look at the man in the cab of the truck.
“Sorry, my guy and I got into a bit of a shouting match. I got pissed and started walking. Thanks for the offer of a ride.”
“A pretty little thing like you shouldn’t be on your own.”
“Aww, that’s what my guy says. You’re right.” She dropped a kiss on the side of Julian’s mouth and hoped she didn’t explode from need. He handed her an extra helmet and a leather jacket. When she was hugging him tightly, he pulled off turning in the opposite direction.
She didn’t know where they were going, but anywhere away from the man in the truck would be an improvement. There was something about his friendly face that sent chills down her back.
Her eyes wanted to drift close while her grip tried to loosen. She needed to lay down soon.
“Stay awake Aliya. We’re almost there.” Julian’s voice echoed in the helmet. She tightened her grip and tried to focus on the road. When a small cabin came into view. He parked the bike and helped her off.
“You need sleep and then we will talk.”
She wanted to argue, but she was running on fumes. The first meal she had eaten in days was sapping the little strength she had left to digest it. He had already seen the current. What more did she have to hide?
He took her into the cabin leading her to a bedroom. Aliya did the one thing she knew not to do. She trusted someone. Kicking off her shoes she climbed in bed hoping it was all a horrible dream.