I’d like to re-introduce you to Regan from my Independence Day story set in the wonderful little town of Lake Point (where Tag & Michaela live). I first introduced her months ago when her car stalled out and died…and she was rescued by a cowboy. At this point in the story Regan has managed to get herself a job and a place to stay.
She’s crushing on her rescuer, Clay, a little bit…but her past experiences hold her back. Myrtle (Tag’s aunt) is her boss…and meddling in her life as much as she does anyones:
Regan rushed into The Diner so fast she forgot to let go of the door and got yanked backwards. Her finger smarted and she cursed under her breath. “Crap, damn, ow.”
“Well there you are, sunshine.” Myrtle set two full plates down on the bar for the waiting customers. “I was getting worried about you.”
“Sorry. Sorry.” Regan shook out her hand and shed her coat. “The alarm in the apartment didn’t go off.”
“How did your first night in the new place go?”
Thanks to Myrtle, Regan had found a nice, small, and furnished apartment to rent that wasn’t too expensive. Although it was someone’s finished basement, she had a front and back door, a kitchen and bathroom. Her bedroom and living room were the same room, but there was a large walk-in closet that would have been great if she still had all her clothes. “It was okay.”
“Just okay?” Myrtle handed Regan her apron as she passed. “You were all excited to not be sleeping in the motel. Is the apartment not comfortable?”
“No. It’s great. The bed is stupid-comfortable.” Regan tied off the apron and scanned the room. Lucky for her there weren’t a lot of customers yet. Her guilt was mildly alleviated that she hadn’t left Myrtle in the lurch.
“Oh, right. It’s just—I’ve never stayed anywhere alone.” From living with her parents as a child, onto her roommate in the dorms her one semester in college, and then right in with Tony, she’d always lived with someone else. “I thought it was just the hotel, but I’m just not used to being alone.”
“Everything is much louder and quieter all at once that first time.” Myrtle squeezed her shoulder. “I know how it feels.”
“I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually. It’s just weird.” Weird, creepy, scary, whatever one would call it. Either way, Regan had tossed and turned all night. Without any sleep the night before, she feared she’d end up dragging her feet all shift.
“Be a dear and cut those lemons for me, would you?” Myrtle hacked away at a head of lettuce behind the counter. “And how is Clay?”
“What?” Regan stopped with the knife barely through the rind. “Why would you ask me that? I mean, what?”
Myrtle chuckled. “Sorry. Just you two seem awful chummy.”
“He’s been nice.” Regan focused on cutting the lemon. Sure, she found Clay attractive, I mean what girl wouldn’t drool over a tall, dark, and handsome cowboy straight out of a movie. One with brains, and gorgeous forest-green eyes, and…what the hell are you doing? Regan’s shoulders sagged and she focused all her attention on the lemon in front of her. That lemon was far safer than thoughts of Clay. Last thing she needed was a man. After Tony, she’d be find never even being friends with another guy.
“Regan?” Myrtle’s hand rested on her shoulder. “What is it, child?”
Myrtle’s attentions made Regan aware of the tear on her cheek. Regan hooked her finger and wiped it away with her knuckle to avoid lemon juice anywhere near her eye. She cleared her throat and tried to come up with a good explanation. After everything, it seemed silly to miss Tony, he was the reason she’d left.
“You miss your family?”
“No.” Regan closed her eyes, cursing her frank admission. Years ago she’d given up hope of her family caring anymore. They’d disowned her when she’d left college, or rather flunked out. She sighed. “I don’t know. My head is a mess.”
“Your head? Or your heart?”
“Must have been tough leaving everything.”
She hadn’t had much to leave, but it still kept her up at night. The effort it had taken to leave had been herculean. “I just don’t know if I did the right thing.”
“Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do.” Myrtle tossed the lettuce into a bin, and started in on the carrots. “I’ve been there a few times in my life.”
Regan had little doubt Myrtle meant what she said. “I guess.”
“You happy here?”
“Here?” Regan glanced around the small, neat café. Only a few tables were full, but she already knew all their names. Despite being in New York, which she’d heard was full of rude cities and people, this place had a small town feel like where she’d lived in Illinois. “I think so. I don’t really know it that well, yet.” Why she’d made it conditional, she didn’t know. Instinct, maybe. Instinct to keep guarded.
“You know their names?” Myrtle shook her peeler toward the occupied booths.
“Then you know it well enough. Lake Point is a good little town. Once you know the lie-abouts like them, you’re in.” Myrtle paused to wink before she resumed her attention to the carrots. “I think sometimes you just know in your heart when you’re home, and you can relax.”
“What if you don’t trust your heart?” Though she’d kept her words quiet, Regan could still feel Myrtle’s strong gaze on her. Heat flamed her cheeks and she gathered the cut lemons into the bucket. “I should go put these in the cooler.”
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