Reluctantly Lycan (Dakota Wolves Book 1)(2)

By: Jez Strider


“Jak, I’m leaving.”

He gave an unintelligible grumble. Marala sighed and picked up her purse on her way out. She checked the door twice to make sure it was locked. The low class part of New York wasn’t quite in the slums, but it was close. Every time she left Jak alone she worried about some drugged out loser breaking in. It wouldn’t have been the first time. At least they were both working during that burglary.

The walk to work took about thirty minutes. Mara had made the trek nearly every day since she’d run away, pregnant and alone. Her gaze drifted downward and she walked without thinking about how to get to her destination. She had fled with enough money to rent the apartment and take a few weeks off after her son was born. Since then, life had been work… day end, day out.

Pausing in front of the diner, she finally lifted her head and looked around. Normally, George the mailman greeted her with a wave. She grew concerned before remembering it was a Sunday. Everything else was the same as the previous day. The ‘D’ on the diner sign flickered, familiar faces filed inside when Hilary unlocked the door, and there Marala was, dressed in Pepto pink and a stupid hat.

What would my life have been like if I’d stayed?

That idea led to bad thoughts and regrets. She forced it from her mind, entered the restaurant, and clocked in. It was far too late to change the past.

“Rough night, Mara?” Hilary asked, holding out an apron for Marala.

“Insomnia.”

“I thought your admirer might have kept you up all night with steamy sex. I know better than that, though. You’re too uptight.” She placed a hand on Marala’s arm and led her to the door. “He’s here already.”

Hilary blatantly pointed so Marala pushed her coworker’s hand down. “He’s not into me. He likes the pie.” The man came to the diner most days and seeing him was one of the few things she looked forward to. Not that the conversation had ever gone past the weather or waffles.

“Your pie,” Hilary said.

“Ugh, you’re disgusting.” Marala couldn’t help but smile a little, though, as she watched her loyal customer unfold his napkin and place it in his lap.

His name was Taylor Andin. She’d read it on his credit card the first time he’d bought lunch and she had been his waitress. He was a tall man, not overly broad, but lean and athletic. His hair was spiked a little and gelled, but not very long. Brown eyes, high cheekbones, and a friendly smile rounded out his face. Marala couldn’t bring herself to admit it, but she had a crush on him.

“Mara?”

She blinked a few times. “Right, sorry. Let me get to work before I fall asleep.” With a swipe of her hands down the front of her uniform, she smoothed the fabric and headed toward Taylor’s table.

“Lovely as ever, Ms. Mara,” he said, tilting his head back to gaze up at her with a warm grin.

“Mr. Andin. You’re far too kind.” She could feel herself blush. The effect threw her off since she typically despised most men who flirted with her. “Having the usual or would you like to be adventurous today?”

He bit his lip lightly. “Should I take a chance and try something new?”

The way he eyed her made it difficult to form a response. She pretended to make a note on the paper in her hand. “I’d go with the usual.”

Taylor leaned back, one arm stretching over the cushion of the booth seat. “If the lady says the usual, then that’s what I’ll have.”

“Great. I’ll have your coffee out in a jiffy.” She turned on her heels and disappeared into the kitchen. In her mind, letting a man like that get to you meant one thing… trouble.

~*~

Taylor ate his dessert, one of the diner’s “homemade” key lime pies, as slowly as possible. He gulped down his cup of coffee each time Marala had refilled it so she would have to return to his table that much sooner. The woman fascinated him. How were her eyes a color he had never seen? Why was she so standoffish? Was that her natural hair color? He grinned to himself on that last one, wanting to check for himself if the carpet matched the drapes.

When he could manage it, which was often, he would take a cab across town from where he lived to eat at the restaurant. If not for a friend promising the best pie in town, Taylor would have never eaten in the diner and never encountered the beautiful waitress.

She was on her way back again with the coffee pot. He placed his hand over his cup and shook his head. One more sip and he predicted he’d burst. “I’m good, thank you.”

Marala nodded and tore off his check slip, placing it face down on the table. He noted her long fingers and that the nails were chewed to the quick even worse than usual.

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