“Your entire breakfast didn’t cost five dollars,” she said, still thrusting the bill in his direction. “And I didn’t even refill your coffee!”
“Yeah, I noticed that.”
“Take it back,” she ordered.
“No.” Truman leaned against the fender of his patrol car.
Sadie took a single step toward him. “I’m warning you, McCain.”
“Are you threatening an officer of the law?” he teased.
“Just take it!” She took another step forward. “And don’t you ever, ever, call me Sadie Mae.”
“Let’s make a deal,” he said. “I call you whatever you want me to, and you keep the tip.”
“I don’t want you to call me anything,” she said, her voice softer as she came closer. “And I certainly don’t want your…your pity tip!”
He couldn’t help himself. He laughed. “Pity tip?”
“Well, what else would you call it? I gave you lousy service.”
On purpose, he was sure. “Yeah, but I figure you have potential. One day you’re going to be a great waitress.”
“Bite me,” she said, stepping forward to slip the five-dollar bill into his breast pocket.
“When did you get back?” he asked before she could make a quick escape.
“How long are you going to stay?”
He saw the not very long in her dark eyes, but she answered, “A few days. The family just, you know, needed some help.”
“Johnny couldn’t make it?”
Sadie rolled her eyes. “My hot-shot cousin is much too busy to be bothered. Since I was available…” She shrugged. “Here I am.”
Sadie was surly, she was not happy to be here…and still there was something about her that made Truman want to smile. “Working lunch today?”
“Not if I can help it. Sorry if I was rude,” she added, turning around slowly to return to the coffee shop.
Truman took the five from his pocket and rolled it up tight between his fingers. “Sadie?”
She obediently turned around, and he stepped forward to drop the bill down the front of her too-big uniform. If his aim was even halfway decent, it would get caught in her bra. “Have a nice day.”
Sadie sputtered and went in after the five, but by the time she had it in her hand Truman was behind the wheel and backing out of the parking lot.
Things could not possibly get any worse. All she wanted was a nap. Half an hour. Maybe forty-five minutes. Jennifer leaned over the bed. “I am not cleaning up that mess,” she whined.
Sadie didn’t bother to argue with her cousin. Arguing with Jennifer was always a waste of breath. No matter how logical the argument, Jen refused to lose. “I thought this was your regular job,” Sadie said as she left the bed.
“Yeah, but I have to draw the line somewhere,” Jennifer whined. “Room 119 is a mess.”
“You already said that,” Sadie grumbled.
“And it stinks.”
Jennifer was an apparent afterthought, eight years younger than Sadie, a full eleven years younger than her brother, Johnny. Lillian had always claimed that she’d been too old when she’d had Jennifer. She hadn’t had the energy to handle a difficult child. From the outside it had always looked to Sadie as if it had become easier for Lillian and Jimmy to let Jennifer have her way than to discipline the brat.
At the moment, Sadie couldn’t even remember what it was like to be twenty-two. And she had never been spoiled the way Jennifer had.
Johnny was the only Banks son, the eldest, the responsible one. He was a real-estate bigwig in Dallas, and made it to Garth only slightly more often than Sadie did. Jennifer was the baby, pretty and pampered, coddled by the entire family. Why should she leave? She had it made here. Sadie was still the oddball, caught in the middle and never quite feeling like she was part of the family, even though they had all done their best to make her feel like one of them.
“You’ll do it?” Jennifer practically wailed.
“Yes, I’ll do it,” Sadie said. At least she had traded in her pink waitress uniform for something more palatable—jeans and a plain white T-shirt. Of course, over this she added an apron with several pockets, deep pockets that held cleansers, plastic bags and rags for wiping down counters and desktops. Not exactly her dream outfit.
“You’ll help, right?” she asked, just as Jennifer turned in the opposite direction.
“No way,” Jen yelled. “That room stinks.”
“Great. It stinks.” Sadie glanced across the parking lot to the busy Lillian’s Café. A county patrol car was parked near the door. Truman’s? Surely not. There were other places in Garth to eat lunch. Not many, but a few.
If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought he’d been flirting with her this morning. Ha. Even if he had been, it was a waste of time. He’d had his chance, and he’d blown it. She took some small measure of comfort in knowing that she could kick his ass, if she wanted to.
Not quite fourteen years ago she’d offered her virginity to Truman, and he’d turned her down. In retrospect, she’d been a kid and he probably hadn’t wanted to go to jail, but still…he shouldn’t have laughed. The rejection had been humiliating enough, but for him to laugh at her when she’d been so in love and decidedly serious about seducing him, that was just wrong.
She wasn’t sixteen any more, and she wasn’t a lost little girl clinging to what she thought was love. But the truth of the matter was, she still found Truman just a little bit too attractive. Her childish infatuation had died a long time ago, but she still had a soft spot for the guy. The last thing she needed was to get involved with a man from Garth. She’d never escape. She’d be effectively and completely sucked in. Instead of quick trips where she stayed a couple of hours, tops, she’d be forced to remain here for days at a time.
Best to avoid Truman as much as possible, Sadie decided stoically. Aunt Lillian would just have to find someone else to take the morning shift if Mary Beth called in sick again. Sadie was desperate. If she had to spill coffee on some poor unsuspecting customer to get out of waitress duty, so be it.
Even better, she’d hire a new waitress ASAP.
The cart laden with towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies was still parked outside room 119. Sadie knocked, shouted, and then used her key to open the door. The room was, as Jennifer had said, a mess. The covers on the bed had been torn off, drawers were opened and one was even on the floor. A bottle of wine had been emptied…all over the floor and the bed. Crackers had been crushed and scattered, too, and so had what looked to be cubes of cheese.
And Jen hadn’t been kidding when she said it smelled. Oh, what was that? The cheese? Sadie leaned over the bed and sniffed at a cube. Yikes, that was part of it.
She snapped on a pair of latex gloves. Trash can in one hand, she walked around the room picking up offensive garbage. Food, mostly, along with the occasional wrapper or empty bottle. She couldn’t believe that there were people out there who didn’t pick up after themselves in the most basic way. What slobs.
A bottle of spray cleaner and a soft rag worked wonders on the nasty surfaces. Still, there was only so much a good scrubbing could do. She stripped off the sheets, being very careful that only the latex gloves came into contact with the linens. Yikes. No matter how bad her life got from here on out, she could always be assured that there were women out there who had it worse.
Linens stripped, Sadie snagged her trash can once again. As she neared the bathroom, the smell that had hit her as she’d walked into the room got worse. Holding her breath, she leaned over a small trash can just outside the bathroom, expecting to find a stack of nasty diapers. Nothing.
A knock on the open door made Sadie jump and turn. She squinted. A shadow filled the doorway, cutting off the sunlight. A tall, broad-shouldered shadow.
Truman leaned against the door jamb and grinned. “A woman of many talents,” he teased.