“Good evening, Sir. What can I get for you?” asked the petite waitress.
Kwon looked straight into the pair of light brown eyes he thought he’ll never come to see face-to-face again.
“Hello. We meet again,” he said. When he’d thought of those he might see when he come to this town he had dismissed her name. Somehow he had imagined her living someplace else, exploring the cities or cruising the seas. After that incident the night of her eighteenth birthday, he had never returned to their villa again, aware that he’d crossed the line that shouldn’t have been crossed.
He hoped Gain didn’t remember that one awkward kiss.
“Oh .. Hi.” Her eyes widened in recognition and she smiled at him. “What brings you here?”
For a moment he’d thought of telling her he’d come here searching for something that he’d found in his younger years. Something he couldn’t really explain to anyone. Something. A feeling maybe. Or something more but not definable.
“Well, I heard the coffee here is great.”
“You’ve come to the right place. But really, it’s not as fancy as you’d probably get in the city.”
“It’s okay. The atmosphere here is better.” Even at night, the view from the diner was breath taking.
Their eyes met and held in a moment of pure appreciation for what Mother Nature had graciously given their little corner of the world.
Gain brought his coffee and the steak he added into his order and then hurried away to take care of other customers. The meal was one of the best he’d had in a long time, food made for taste instead of presentation.
Coming here is the right decision. The tension that had been dogging him receded. It didn’t go away completely but ebbed enough for him to relax his shoulders.
“Are you here to see Jungmin?”Gain stopped by to refill his cup.
“But he’s not home.”
“I thought he has stopped taking projects overseas?” Jungmin is a professional photographer for a magazine about humanity.
“He will after this one. He felt this assignment needed him so he took it, said it will be his departing gift.”
Darn. He wasn’t going to be able to stay at the villa if Jungmin wasn’t there. He’d already counted on the wide-open spaces and the fragrance of sweet pea to lull him to sleep.
“I’m surprised you didn’t call him first.”
“I didn’t know I was coming until I got here.”
His answer raised questions to her head but she decided to keep it to herself. “I’ve got to get back to work.” And then she walked away.
Gain let the smile drop the minute she entered the kitchen. She’d been worried that maybe Jungmin had sent him. But it seemed he was looking for her brother, not trying to find out what trouble she’s in. He’d looked surprised to see her at the diner. She knew he had to be, the wealthy Sons can support generations. Gain wondered what brought him to their town.
She waved good night to the cook and left before she gave in and returned to the side booth where he sat and spend the evening chatting and catching up on each other’s life. The parking area for employees was well lit and she approached her truck quickly with no trepidation. But the stencilling on the side made her pause. Villa Grande.
Tears burned the back of her eyes as she thought of her situation. The Villa is in danger, and it’s because of her own stupidity.
“You trusted Lenny too easily. That had always been your ultimate weakness, trusting people – strangers for that matter, too easily. And look what it did to you?”Her friend Adrienne said when she found out about her boyfriend running away with her money and leaving her with lots of debts.
Her entire world is in danger of falling apart and she’s at the end of the line. She’d tried everything she could; sold all her horses so she could have room to board horses for townspeople and nearby areas, leased part of the grazing pasture, reduced helpers in the villa and took a job in the diner. But still, there was more debt that she could cover.
“Gain.”Kwon called out.
Damn. Instead of a clean getaway now I have to face him again.“Yes.”
“Why are you working?”
“I like working.”
Gain had never been able to look anyone in the eye while she lied. She kept her eyes on her purse pretending to get her car keys.
“You look tired,” he said.What was Jungmin thinking to let her work in a diner when there wasn’t any reason for it?
She glanced up to him and met his gaze. He compelled her to tell him the truth and she did. A little bit, a sop for her conscience. “I am. Double shifts.”
“Why are you really working here?”
“Don’t know,” she shrugged her shoulder to add effect. “The food, the people, I guess.”
“Yes, it’s too quiet at the villa.” That was true. With the hands gone and Jungmin on assignment, she needed some conversation to distract her.
“Will you give this to Jungmin when he comes back?” He held out a piece of paper with her brother’s name printed on it.
“Sure,” she said, trying to convince herself that this meeting is just like any other meeting of two old friends, telling herself that whatever she’d felt for him had died a long time ago. Childhood crushes are supposed to end and be forgotten easily. It had been eight years for God’s sake!!
But somehow her hormones are going against her rational mind. Her skin tingled when their fingers brushed, her breath seemed harder to come by and her heart beat a tad faster. Chills spread up her arm at the short contact, her breasts felt heavy and for some reason her feet seemed rooted to the ground.
Gain recognized the signs. Desire.Lust.
Not now, not again, she thought. Last time she had followed her impulses around him she’d ended up broken-hearted. She had come too far from that love-struck eighteen year old girl to behave that way again, or at least at twenty six she’d like to hope she did.
“I’ll insert it in the next letter I’m sending him.”
She didn’t like the way he made her feel.
I’ve to go.” Gain tugged her hand out from under his and pivoted away from him.
She already had taken several strides when he called her again. “Yes.” she answered.
He put his one hand inside his pants pockets while the other rubbed the bridge of his nose when he stepped closer to her. “I owe you an apology.”
Heavens, don’t go there! Gain pleaded silently. “I can’t imagine why.”
He moved another step closer, so close she could smell the coffee he’d drunk that evening. “For that kiss I stole when you were eighteen.”
“You didn’t steal it.”
“It felt like it after I walked away without a word.”
“It’s been what, eight years? I barely remember an embrace that long ago.”
No. But I’d rather die than admit it. She shrugs and unlocked her door. Gain climbed into the driver’s seat and started the ignition when she saw him move close to her window.
“It haunts me,” he said simply and flashed a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
For the first time in three months, that night she didn’t dream of the Villa, of the diner or of Jungmin beating the crap out of her runaway boyfriend. Instead, a pair of liquid brown eyes plagued her dreams.
A trial … Thoughts?