Sundown & Serena
Promise Me Origin Tales - Book 12
Neither human stripper Sundown nor virgin were-halfbreed Serena knew how their futures would change when catalyst vampire Devlin Dalcon walked into their lives. Sundown was just looking to party and forget her tragic past; Serena was hoping for excitement and love, to be swept away from the dull routine of her short-order cook job and solitary life. Will these very different women finally face their fears in time to seize their own dreams of happiness?
A normal weekday night in the diner, with me still busy flipping burgers at five minutes to closing. For us restaurant workers, ten at night meant the end of the workday, though the attached lounge was open until one a.m. The city of Rio de Janeiro loomed close enough to send us nightly traffic in Penedo, our small tourist town on its outermost outskirts, but too far away for any of the glamour or wealth of its inhabitants to fully reach us.
Don’t think about that, Serena. Longing for what you don’t have won’t bring it to you. You’ve got a job to do. Just do it, so you can get home to bed.
My boss, Fred, was standing nearby, griping about the cost of beef. Then he abruptly switched topics. “Serena, I need you to fill in for Patty,” he said gruffly. “She’s going to be late again.”
Big surprise. Patty was late for almost every shift she worked, and I always ended up working an extra hour while she had one last screw with whatever man she was calling her boyfriend this week. Yet Fred would never fire her. Patty’s double D figure brought in the customers late at night, and her Latin good looks got the tourists in the mood for drinks in the adjoining lounge when she waitressed. Which was fine by me, as I always needed the extra money, anyway.
I nodded without looking at him, and finished my last orders, putting them on plates for him to take to our last customers. Then I undid my apron, and hung it on a nail. “I’m taking a fifteen minute break,” I said, and headed outside to get a little air. Fast food tasted good, but the heavy grease sometimes got to my nose. I was part fox and part coyote, one of the mixed blood weres. Tonight, the scent seemed to cling to me like a second skin.
I looked up, leaning against the outside of the building, taking deep breaths to clear my head. The stars were somewhere above me, but I couldn’t see much of them. The diner was located on a tourist strip, and the lights from the many nearby attractions lit up the skyline in both directions.
It would be nice to see the stars, I thought to myself futilely. Nice to be walking along some beach, and have someone to talk to...
“Jazz, get your ass moving!” a raucous voice yelled out, drawing my attention. Two men were hurrying into the front door of the diner, a third man trailing behind by a few paces.
Great. We were closing the kitchen in a few minutes, but Fred wouldn’t tell these men that; he liked money too much. But he wouldn’t be the one to cook their food. In short, there went the rest of my break.
I took one last look at the sky, then headed back inside. Fred was waiting for me. “Can you take care of the three men that just came in? Patty’s still not here, and I need a smoke.”
I nodded, and headed over to the table they were sitting at. “What can I bring you, boys?”
All of them ordered beer. I brought that to them quickly, and asked them for their food orders, hoping it would be something simple that wouldn’t need to be defrosted first. They asked for another minute. I nodded but stayed there as they looked at menus, because I knew as soon as I moved away, they’d be ready to order. Customers were always like that.
While I waited, I looked them over, trying to determine where they were from. They were all wearing jeans and short-sleeved button down shirts over T-shirts. They didn’t look like tourists, but they weren’t dressed like local men in khakis and tank tops. Also, they were too pale skinned. Their tans were light, as if they spent most of their time in the dark. Curious.
The one who seemed to be the leader was tall, with short straight blond hair, styled so that the top was a little spiky. He had blue eyes of a light color, and fair skin. He wasn’t so much handsome as masculine looking; his body was powerful, his upper body heavily muscled.
The man next to him was so handsome as to be almost delicate-looking. His hair and eyes were a rich color brown, like chocolate, and his hair was styled too, but in longer, loose curls hanging over his eyes and collar. He was also heavily muscled for his size, though not so much as his blond friend.
The last man had dark hair, and his skin was darker than his friends, almost swarthy. His five o’clock shadow was dark, and he had brown eyes, his expression affable.
Still, even as good-looking as this trio was, I wanted to go home. “Are you ready to order?” I asked impatiently.
All three men looked up. There was blatant interest their collective gaze almost immediately, which made me blink several times in surprise. I wasn’t Patty, with her large breasts and her sultry bedroom eyes. I’d always thought of myself as plain. My skin was deeply tanned from being outside, and my body was fit, but not overly curvy. My brunette hair was long, normally falling halfway down my back in rich waves. Right now though, my hair was under a hairnet, tightly coiled up in a bun, and my body was covered in a large apron. I wasn’t sexy, I just looked like a frumpy lunch lady. But their stares were telling me the opposite.
I blushed, and looked down at my pad of paper, pen poised.
The leader cleared his throat and began to give me his order. His voice had an odd faint growl to it, as if he were on the edge of action, tensed for something to happen. I shifted my weight, uneasy, but began writing.
As soon as I had their orders, I retreated to the kitchen, where I began to make their food. As I got the meat out, and began to cook the burgers, it dawned on me suddenly why they were interested. Those men were werecreatures of some kind. And somehow, they knew I was a wereanimal, too. They’re attracted because I’m a female. That’s all there is to it.
Relieved I’d solved the mystery, I settling into making the food. Patty came in a few minutes later. She went over to their table, and spent a little time flirting with them, trying to make sure that the tip she would get for bringing them the food I was making wouldn’t be too small. I shook my head at her antics, but said nothing. I was used to her games.
I looked over every once in a while as I cooked, but didn’t see the men doing anything interesting other than talking to each other. Were they just in town for the night? I had never seen them come in before, and I worked every night now, except Sundays.
I finished the food, and Patty took it over to them. They wolfed everything down in minutes, and then asked her to bring the bill. I sighed in relief. I am so ready to go home. I went in back, took off my apron, and grabbed my purse.
“Darlin!” Patty said, coming in the kitchen door in a rush. “Come on out! Those men you waited on want to compliment you on the food.”
I gave her a look that said she had to be kidding me.
“I’m not kidding,” Patty said, her eyes sparkling a little. “They want to talk to you. They’re waiting by the register.”
Nervous, I put down my purse, and went out to see what they wanted, wondering if this was a joke of some kind. But the three men were waiting for me at the counter. When they saw me coming, the swarthy one nodded to me and left the others, going outside. I reached the other two and looked at them expectantly. “Yes?”
“Hi,” the blond one said, giving me a bold smile. “I’m Vince. This is my friend, Nick.”
“Hello,” Nick said, nodding. He was the handsome one with the brown hair.
“We wanted to compliment you on the food, and see if we could talk to you outside for a moment.”
Butterflies were fluttering in my stomach, but I mustered a smile. Hadn’t I just been hoping for someone to talk to? “Sure. Let me get my coat. I’m heading home.”
“We’ll meet you out front,” Vince said with a smile. He and Nick left by the front door.
Patty really wanted to know what was going on by her expression, but I just gave her a winning smile, and got my things, leaving out the back door. I took my time walking to the front of the diner, feeling excited but also shy. I’d never been out with a man before, much less two at once. Maybe they want to take me for a drink? What do I say? Do I want to go out with them?
It might be fun to go out with a man. I decided that I’d say yes, if they asked me for a drink. It wasn’t like I had anyone else interested in me. We rarely had younger single men come out this far from the city. Everybody born here went to Rio or another big city, as soon as they could afford it. This slowly decaying strip was a place for local retirees, tourists, and poorer senior citizens. To be honest, the five or so eligible decent-looking men that lived in town had never even given me a glance. Coupled together, that had led to a whole lot of nothing; I had never so much as been on a date before.
Nick and Vince were waiting for me near the entrance. When they noticed me approaching, both came over to meet me. I looked at them shyly, and didn’t say anything.