A Different Blue Page 34

I was working the Thursday dinner shift one evening when Mr. Wilson came into the cafe with a pretty woman in a big fur coat. Her hair was a mass of blonde curls pinned up on her head, and she wore little diamonds at her ears as well as black stilletos and fishnet stockings. She was either coming from somewhere uber fancy or was one of those women who had never outgrown dress-up. The fur coat was so out of place in the cafe's southwest décor that I found myself trying not to laugh as I approached their table to take their order. She shrugged out of her coat and smiled up at me brightly when I asked them if I could bring them something to drink.

“I am so thirsty! I'll have a whole pitcher full of water, luv, and a massive order of nachos if you have them just for starters!” she chirped in accented supplication. She was British too. I looked from Wilson to the woman and back again.

“Hello, Blue,” Wilson smiled up at me politely. “Blue is one of my students, Tiffa,” he offered, introducing me to the woman across from him.

Tiffa's eyebrows shot up in disbelief as she gave me a quick once over. I had the feeling she didn't think I looked like a student. Her hand shot out, and I took it hesitantly.

“Are you the one who took the gun from that poor boy? Wilson's told me all about you! What a beautiful name! I'm Tiffa Snook, and I'm Darcy's, er, Mr. Wilson's, sister. You'll have to tell me what to order! I could eat a unicorn and pick my teeth with his horn! I'm absolutely famished.” Tiffa rattled all of this off in about two seconds flat, and I found myself liking her, in spite of her fur coat. If she hadn't mentioned the family connection, I would have thought Darcy liked older women.

“Tiffa is always famished,” Wilson added dryly, and Tiffa snorted and threw her napkin at him. But she laughed and shrugged, conceding the point.

“It's true. I am going to have to run for hours to work off those nachos, but I don't care. So tell me, Blue, what shall we order?”

I suggested several things, wondering all the while what Tiffa Snook exercised in if she wore fishnets and a fur coat to eat at the cafe. I could just see her clomping on the treadmill in heels and a baby seal-lined sweat suit. She was as thin as a rail and quite tall, and she exuded energy. She probably needed to eat like a horse – or a unicorn – just to fuel her energy level.

I found myself watching Wilson and his sister throughout their meal, and it wasn't just because I was their waitress. They seemed to enjoy each other's company, and their laughter filled their corner frequently. Tiffa was the one who seemed to do the majority of the talking, her gestures and hands movements accenting everything she said, but Wilson had her giggling uncontrollably more than once. When they finally signaled that they wanted their check, Tiffa reached out and took my hand as if we were old friends. It was all I could do not to yank it back.

“Blue! You have to settle this for us! Darcy here says you know something about carving. There are some fabulous carvings in the shop there, that I saw on the way in. You wouldn't know anything about them, would you?”

I was stricken with sudden self-consciousness, and for a minute I didn't know how to respond.

“Uh, what would you like to know?” I answered cautiously.

“Darcy says it's your last name carved into the base of each one. I told him they couldn't possibly be yours. No offense, luv, but they are seasoned, if that makes any sense.”

“They're mine,” I blurted out. “If that's all you need, here's your check. You can pay at the register. Thank you for coming in.” I rushed away, breathless, and barged into the kitchen like someone was after me. I found myself actually looking for some place to hide, as if Wilson and his sister would actually chase me and tackle me to the ground. After a minute of cowering, I marshalled enough courage to peek through the swinging doors separating the kitchen from the dining room.

They were browsing the gift shop, pausing beside several of my pieces. Tiffa ran her fingers along one of them, commenting to Wilson, though I couldn't hear what she said. I was struck with self-consciousness all over again, horror and elation warring in my chest. I turned away, not wanting to see more. It was close to closing time, and the cafe was almost empty, so I managed to hide out in the kitchen, doing my closing duties, waiting for them to leave.

About half an hour later, Jocelyn, the night manager, came bursting through the double doors into the kitchen, her face wreathed with smiles.

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh, Blue! That lady in that sweet fur coat? She just bought all your carvings. Every one of them! She put them on her credit card and said she would send a truck to pick them up in the morning. You just made like $1000 bucks! There were ten of them! She had me walk behind her with a calculator, and we added them all up, plus she added a $200 tip for you because she said they were 'pathetically underpriced!'” She waggled her fingers, indicating quotations.

“She bought all of them?” I squeaked.

“All except one, and that was because the guy she was with insisted that he wanted it!”

“Which one?”

“All of them!”

“No, I mean, which one did the guy want?”

“The one closest to the exit. Come here! I'll show you where it was. He took it with him.”

She squealed like a little girl and turned, racing from the kitchen as I scampered behind her. I was kind of surprised by her obvious excitement for me.

“There! It was right there!” Jocelyn pointed at a large empty space on a shoulder-high shelf. “It had a funny title . . . The Arch? Yeah! I think it was that one.”

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