Sugarbaby, part 1

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"Not to be rude, but is there anyone else here that can serve us?"

I stood at the side of the community-bench table with my order pad and pencil, trying not to let my jaw unhinge and hit the floor of the Angel's Seat Café. My customers just stared at me with fixed smiles.

I knew dang well who they were—alumni from Aidan Falls High—and they were back in town for the big Homecoming game this weekend. But most of all, they were fans of Rex Alvarez, former star quarterback and current big man on campus out of town at Texas-U.

Oh...and a former boyfriend of mine.

I was used to this kind of disrespect. A girl couldn't mess up in the epic style I had by stepping out on Rex one drunken, stupid night and expect to be loved by all of his admirers. His many, many admirers.

So I didn't ask why station two wanted someone else to wait on them. No, sir, I merely smiled in return like a blue-collar sweetie as my throat tightened around the words I needed to say.

"You bet." I stuffed my order pad into the apron tied at my waist and tucked the pencil behind my ear. "Someone'll be right with you."

"Thank you"—the crew-cut guy squinted at my nametag as if he didn't know who I was—"Jadyn." Then he ignored me and started chatting with his girlfriend like nothing had gone down.

As I turned around, my temper brewed under my skin, but I kept it in check, still smiling as I passed the long tables filled with pre-game diners. The aroma of locavore Tex-Mex food spiced the air, sharp and heavy, while the sound of Ryan Adams filled my ears, too loud, too overwhelming. Everything was pounding at me while, in my peripheral vision, the coffee bar blurred by with its repurposed train car wood, then the railroad lanterns, the potbellied stove, then my coworker Carley as I blew past her toward the kitchen. From the way her eyes widened at the sight of me, I knew I'd better get to the back before I let loose with a few choice cusses. I didn't curse much, but this seemed like a good time.

"Would you take station two?" I asked between my teeth. Bravo for holding back the cuss.

"Sure." She followed me into the steamy kitchen. The owner, Jackie Carson, didn't even look up from plating food.

"I appreciate it," I said.

"What's the problem?" Carley was still on my tail.

"They're here for Homecoming."

Carley had moved to town right before spring, but that didn't mean she was well versed in all things Aidan Falls, even if she'd heard a little something about Rex and the drama that'd happened around him last summer.

I shouted to Jackie. "Is it okay if I take a little break?"

My boss gave me a thumbs up, her short blond hair all over the place as she called for pick-up. "Carley!"

"Be right there." Carley followed me to the back screen door, tugging at my Angel's Seat Café T-shirt to slow me down. "Does station two hold one of those grudges against you? Or are they just being rednecks and...?" She gestured to me.

She didn't have to say a word about the color of my skin—light brown, half-and-half. I'd grown up with that skin my whole life, dealing with sneers from some, unwelcome comments from others about my white dad and black mom, even though kids were always careful about being too vicious since my parents had gotten in that crash near the fairgrounds when I was seven, leaving me to the care of my great-uncle, bless his soul. Most of this town had always accepted me, though, especially at church, back when I'd gone. Also, we lived a stone's throw from Austin. There were definitely a few more tolerant pockets here than most places—if you looked in the right spots.

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