A storm was brewing.
Lightning flashed behind the tilted Venetian blinds and gusts of wind whistled through the poorly sealed frames of the diner’s windows as Amy Hastings quickly wiped down the stainless countertop in preparation of leaving for the evening. Fingers of tree limbs still awaiting the first burst of spring waved like gnarled witch hands outside, casting eerie shadows upon the blinds. The approaching storm outside warned Amy to hurry before it broke over the town of Paradise, Louisiana, the little hamlet she’d called home most of her life. Not wanting to be caught in a thunderstorm in the poorly lit, pot-holed parking lot of the diner, Amy entered the kitchen to give the oven and grill a final once-over before heading home. Just as she rounded the range, thunder clapped following the lightning of a moment earlier, driving a squeal from Amy’s lips and sending her ducking for cover within the shadowed kitchen.
“It’s just a storm, Amy. Get a grip,” she whispered aloud, straightening and attempting to bolster her flagging courage. Hadn’t she always been afraid of thunder and lightning, all the way back to her girlhood? Knowing this, she refused to turn on all the kitchen lights, using only the feeble glow from the parking lot fixtures outside to locate her purse and sweater under the utensil rack. As she reached for her belongings, a slight tinkle of the bell over the diner’s outer door signaled a customer’s entrance, even though the restaurant remained dark and obviously closed for the night. Damn!
Rolling her eyes and wishing she’d gotten the door locked earlier Amy hollered, “We’re closed! Come back tomorrow!”
She paused, waiting to hear the bell jangle again to signal the person’s departure. It didn’t. Only the rising sound of the wind howling around the corners of the diner and the scraping sounds of branches upon the window panes answered her announcement. Staring at the trees’ moving shadows upon the opposite wall, Amy tried to convince herself she’d imagined the sound.
Just when she’d halfway assured herself she’d been mistaken, the wind abated momentarily and Amy distinctly heard a slight shuffle along the dining room floor. She froze, breath arrested in her throat, foot hovering bare inches above the floor as she held her breath and listened. There!... Again! It was the sound of a cautious footstep, as if the owner did not want to be heard. Cocking her head to follow the surreptitious sound on the other side of the swinging door, Amy cast her eyes wildly about for a weapon, any weapon, with which to protect herself. Heartbeat loping now, breathing returning shallow and fast, Amy’s frantic gaze latched onto the cast iron frying pan waiting on the grill top for tomorrow’s breakfast rush.
Reaching out soundlessly, her cold fingers grasped the pan’s handle and she hefted it like a bat, ignoring her slightly trembling arms. Suitably armed and fortified with a deep breath, Amy tip-toed to the hinged kitchen doors and tried to peer through the port hole windows. Too dark.
“Shit!” she breathed, resigned to the obvious. It was time to do or die. Amy promised herself she wouldn’t go down without a fight, sucked in more air, straightened her spine, and shoved through the chrome doors with the fry pan raised and a quavering challenge on her lips, which went unspoken because at that same moment lightning flashed through the closed blinds and another clap of thunder resounded almost directly overhead. Instead she squealed like a school girl, lifting the frying pan over her head like a shield.
As the thunder’s reverberations faded into a muted drumroll, Amy heard a scrape and a hiss to her right, where the flare of a match arrested her attention from behind the skillet. A shape took form in the flickering match light. She watched with widening eyes as a large, long-fingered hand lifted the flame to illuminate a high cheek-boned silhouette around a cigarette dangling from hard, male lips.
“You gonna fry me some eggs with that, darlin’?”The intruder asked around the cigarette he’d just lit, sucking in the nicotine high on a cloud of smoke, dark eyes reflecting flames trained on Amy.
Although remaining in shadows, Amy recognized her visitor with trepidation and dread; Julien Trudeau, former bad boy of Paradise. She’d heard he’d returned; had even seen him from a distance, though she’d carefully avoided him. Lowering the skillet fractionally, Amy watched as he stepped slowly out of the gloom and into the secondary light from the parking lot as it filtered through the shades and onto his face. Her breath caught in her throat, suspended as Amy apprehended the differences thirteen years made on a person, especially this person. Of medium height, Trudeau remained as slim and wiry as an eighteen-year-old, but there the resemblance to the high school youth she’d fumbled with in the backseat of his car ended. Oh, he still had the bladed cheekbones and sinfully dark eyes that had promised a rebellious cheerleader excitement and thrills, but now the stubbled face and tousled, chin-length, ebony hair over his eyes gave him a new air of danger, as did his smugly glittering gaze.
|Johnny Depp||as Julien|
|Keri Russell||as Amy|