I noticed him the first moment he stepped into the diner, along with every other female both young and old. There was something about him that made it hard to look away. Maybe it was the smooth confidence in his stride, or his boy band good looks. Whatever the reason, I found it nearly impossible to not stare, even in the presence of my boyfriend.
His eyes shifted to mine and lingered long enough to make my heart flutter. There was something in their glint that struck me as lonely, but it was overshadowed by something else swirling beneath the surface of the rich honey color, something intriguing I couldn’t name.
“Is it love at first sight, Tessa? Because it sure looks like it to me and I’m not the only one noticing. Sam seems like he could crumble the table with his bare hands right now,” Rachel said, refilling a sweet tea pitcher.
I glanced over my shoulder at Sam. Rachel was right; he didn’t seem happy. I’d better get a grip on myself or else we were bound to have another argument.
“Hardly,” I muttered, grabbing out a menu and tucking it under my arm before picking up Sam and Kyle’s tray of food.
“He is eye candy, though, don’t deny it,” she said with a shit-eating grin.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not, but I’m not about to go there either.”
“Oh, I would.” She glanced over at Kyle. “Well, maybe just a little, not full force or anything.”
“Yeah, well not everyone can be as bold as you.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded.
“Nothing.” I winked and headed toward Sam’s table.
During the length of space from behind the counter to Sam and Kyle’s table, I allowed myself one glance in Mr. Dreamy’s direction and that was all it took to make my heart start racing again. Golden blond hair, tanned skin, a muscular build—he was the total package.
I fumbled setting their tray of food down, nearly dumping crinkle-cut fries in Sam’s lap.
“What’s up, Tessa, pretty boy over there got you all flustered?” Sam asked with a slight chuckle, but I could see the seriousness pooling in his baby-blue eyes.
“Whatever.” I grinned, attempting to seem nonchalant. “You guys need anything else?”
“Nah, we’re good,” Kyle answered, glancing between Sam and me nervously.
“I need you to stop staring at Prince Charming over there,” Sam muttered under his breath.
I put a hand on my hip. “Really, Sam? Are you seriously that jealous?”
“Maybe,” he said firmly.
“It’s part of my job to notice when people come in and where they sit,” I snapped. “I’m gonna go hand him this menu; don’t have a heart attack.”
Maybe I was being slightly defensive, the guilty always are, but Sam’s jealousy had been way out of control lately and for no good reason. We’d had one conversation where I’d told him I didn’t plan on staying in this tiny town after graduation and he’d been going bonkers since. At this point, Sam had become more like a bad habit I found hard to break than a boyfriend.
I slowed my pace and relaxed the muscles in my face, attempting to look friendlier before I reached Dream Guy’s table.
“Hey. I’m Tessa; I’ll be your waitress tonight. Can I get you something to drink?” I asked with a smile, sliding the laminated menu across the tabletop.
His amber eyes met mine as he returned my smile with a pearly white one of his own. “Hi, sure. I’ll take a sweet tea, please,” he answered, his voice sultry and hypnotic sounding.
“Sweet tea,” I repeated unnecessarily as I walked away.
What was wrong with me? I didn’t normally act so stupefied and giddy because of a guy.
“Seriously girl, you’d better watch that pep in your step from Mr. Cutie. Sam’s gonna start growling and go all territorial on your ass,” Rachel insisted.
I pursed my lips together while I poured a sweet tea. “He’s being a complete jerk tonight. I could be smiling at eighty-year-old Mr. Garret and he’d pick a fight with me about it.”
“Well, Kyle and I are still wanting to go camping with you guys tomorrow night, but if the two of you are going to be at each other’s throats, then we’ll take a rain check,” she said.
“Hello, it’s your birthday! I’m not about to let mine and Sam’s problems ruin our camping trip on your birthday!” I assured her.
“Good, because I’d hate to have to kick your ass.”
“Funny,” I sarcastically said as I pushed past her.
Sam caught my wrist as I walked past his table. “Can you tone down your smile a bit; I can’t stand seeing you flirting with someone in front of me.”
What the hell was everyone’s problem? It wasn’t like I was drooling over the guy!
“Here’s your tea. Are you ready to order?” I asked without looking at him. I didn’t need anymore crap from anyone tonight.
“Yeah, actually I am,” he started, but then paused. “Look, I don’t mean to speak out of my place here but… is that guy bothering you?”
I raised my eyes to his. “What guy?”
A crooked grin sprang on his face. “The one who’s looking over here like he’s going to tear into me any minute.”
“I’m so sorry.” I sighed. “That’s actually my boyfriend and I’m not real sure what his deal is tonight.”
“Some guys just don’t know how to handle having a beautiful girlfriend.” He smiled, his eyes never wavering from mine.
Was he for real? Because I was far from beautiful compared to a lot of girls in this town. I was flat-chested with the body of a twelve-year-old. I had dirty-blond hair and mud-brown eyes. Seriously, beautiful didn’t even come close to what I was; he should try average.
Nonetheless, my cheeks blushed all school-girl like at his words. I tore my eyes away from his and focused back on my pad and pen in hand.
“Thanks,” I replied. “So, what can I get you?”
“Right, sorry. I’ll take a bacon cheeseburger with double bacon and fries, please.”
“Okay.” I scribbled his order down as fast as I could. “It’ll be out shortly.”
The sound of my name coming from his mouth stalled my heart for a split second and sent a jolt of warmth through me. Not because of the sheer fact that he’d remembered my name—I knew I’d only given it to him five minutes ago—but because of the way my name had rolled off his tongue... like he was caressing each syllable with his mouth. It was enough to make me blush a shade darker.
I ripped out his order and placed it in the basket before making my refill rounds. When I came to Sam’s table, he was fuming.
“Are you hanging out with me tonight after your shift or your new boyfriend?”
“You’re being a real jerk, you know?” I snapped before stalking away to finish my rounds.
“You can do better,” Dream Guy said once I’d reached his table again.
My lips formed into a small smile at his words. “He’s not usually like this,” I lied.
I chuckled unintentionally. “Well, most of the time anyway.”
“Life’s too short to waste on someone who’s not a complete jerk most of the time,” he insisted. “I’m Jace, by the way, Jace Fowler.”
“Nice to meet you, Jace,” I said, enjoying saying his name maybe a little too much. With a smile on my face, I moved to the next table of mine and continued with my refills.
After learning Jace’s name, I found it extremely hard to concentrate on much of anything else besides him. My eyes seemed to always find their way to him and each time our gaze locked, my lips curved into a tiny smile.
“Tessa Morganton, am I witnessing you flirting with your eyes?” Rachel asked, startling me so badly I dropped the tray I’d been wiping clean.
“Flirting with my eyes? Is that even possible?” I countered, bending to pick up the tray.
“Sure is. It’s a skill I happen to have mastered,” she said and then shot me a look that made me think she wanted to eat me up like a piece of strawberry cheesecake.
“Yep, you’ve got that one mastered all right.” I chuckled.
I could have been mean and told her she needed to practice more, but the truth was she didn’t. Rachel was practically a teenage goddess. If she looked at any guy the way she’d just looked at me, he’d more than likely be fine with it. At 5’6 with chin-length, dark-brown hair, big hazel eyes, a slender frame, and a full set of pouty lips, Rachel could get away with a lot of looks I couldn’t.
“Order up!” Dewey shouted from the kitchen window. My heart beat a little faster when I realized it was Jace’s food.
I made my way to his table trying not to seem eager, especially while passing Sam.
“Here you go,” I said, setting the burger basket down in front of him. “Do you need anything else?”
“I’m fine, thank you.” He smiled.
My eyes traveled over his face looking for any imperfection, but found none. There was no acne or freckles, only a tiny scar above his right brow, but even that seemed perfect. I crammed my hands into my apron pocket and walked away before I began salivating at the mouth.
Ten minutes later I noticed Jace waiting in line to pay and couldn’t help but feel disappointed he was leaving already. I was cleaning off his table when he came up behind me and gently tapped me on the shoulder.
“Here, I’m not cheap. I swear,” he said, handing me a ten.
“I didn’t—thanks,” I cut off my fumbled words and took the ten.
Our fingertips made the briefest of contact then, and flickers of warmth sparked under my skin from it. Startled, I jerked away and met his gaze. A wild sense of awe and suspicion mixed within his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered softly. “What did you say your last name was?”
“I didn’t... but it’s Morganton,” I answered carefully, thrown off by his odd question and the strange way he stared at me.
“Tessa Morganton,” he whispered like he knew me, but couldn’t place me.
Curiosity ignited the amber color of his eyes, and I felt my cheeks blush under his intense stare.
“Tessa, could I get a refill?” Sam shouted from four tables over.
“I’d, uh, better go,” I said with a nervous smile as I walked away.
By the time I’d reached the counter for a pitcher of tea and turned, Jace had already left the diner
A mysterious stranger she can’t stay away from. A birthmark with a hidden meaning and one bite that changes seventeen-year-old Tessa Morganton’s destiny forever…
Life for Tessa had been steady and calm—with the exception of her overly jealous boyfriend—until the moment Jace Fowler walked into her life.
Jace—incredibly charming with boy band good looks—is someone whom Tessa can’t seem to stay away from… no matter how much she knows she should.
After surviving a strange animal attack, Tessa learns just how mysterious and secretive Jace really is and that his secrets not only involve himself…but her as well, making Tessa question everything she’s ever believed regarding her life and those around her.
Jennifer Snyder writes Young Adult Edgy Contemporary novels as well as Young Adult Paranormal Romance novels. She resides in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two children. Jennifer finds great joy in blank notebooks and a smooth writing pen.
Feel free to visit her blog at http://jennifersnydersblog.blogspot.com or on Twitter: JennSnyder04