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One| It's raining money

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I stared at the hundred-dollar tip on the table, wondering if this was a mistake. I'd been known to flash a smile and remember orders with the best of them, but even I knew my waitressing skills weren't deserving of that Ben Franklin.

"Sweet baby Jesus," Stacy said, her tone a few octaves higher than usual. "What'd you do, give him a kiss?"

He had been the guy in the black motorcycle jacket, who'd strode in and ordered only an orange juice and yogurt, the two cheapest things on the Barney's Diner menu.

"It must have been my stellar service," I said, pocketing the note before the other waitresses caught wind of it. We were supposed to pool our tips together at the end of a shift, only we made a pact early on to keep the tips we earned for ourselves.

"Oh, sure," Stacy said, getting out her washcloth before wiping down the table. "Must be that award-winning sarcasm you dish out to everyone."

"Hey," I said touchily. "I don't see you with a hundred-dollar tip."

"That's because I don't have that cute, girl next door thing going on."

I scoffed at that. Stacy might not have been cute, but she was the definition of sexy: small and curvy with curly black hair, brown skin, and a jaw so defined it could probably cut glass.

She paused her strenuous scrubbing to examine my face. "So, what are you going to do with the money? Hit the casino? Treat me to dinner? Treat me to—"

"Pay the bills." I grabbed my car keys from my pocket before swiping my employee card through the clock-out machine.

"Wow, dream big, Meg."

I rolled my eyes, giving her a quick hug before making my way out of the cracked double doors. It was early September, but seasons didn't matter in the small town of Pinewood. It was either  hot or cold, no in-between.

I flicked up the hood of my black leather jacket, about to head on over to my dinosaur of a truck, when I saw him in the distance—the guy who'd left me the tip. He was leaning against his motorcycle with a cigarette in his hand, staring out into the bleak unknown. Before I could stop myself, I grabbed the hundred-dollar bill from my pocket and marched on up to him, tapping him on the shoulder.

Slowly, he turned to face me. Recognition flashed across his handsome features. He opened his mouth, but I was already waving the note in his face.

"Thank you," I said,  "but I can't accept this."

The corner of his mouth twitched. He cocked an eyebrow, his eyes flitting to the bill in my hand before finding their way back to my own. "Why?" he said, his tone laced with amusement. "It's a tip."

I'd barely looked at him in the diner, where I usually got through my shifts on autopilot, but up close I could see he was closer to my age than I'd thought, around nineteen or twenty, with the kind of rugged handsomeness only boys who broke your heart possessed.

"I brought out apple juice instead of orange juice and I nearly spilled your yogurt on your jacket," I said. "Not exactly the kind of service that warrants such a hefty tip."

It felt wrong taking a tip I didn't deserve, a tip I hadn't worked for. I'd grown up knowing I had to work hard for the things I wanted, and taking that tip–no matter how much the money would have come in handy–felt like taking the easy way out.

"So, you're telling me you don't want it?" the stranger clarified.

I looked at the note again, thinking about all of the things I could do with it. I could buy the weekly groceries, or pay the bills on time for once, or stow it away in my secret college fund, but no matter how appealing those things seemed right then, I couldn't silence the voice in my head, telling me to do the right thing.

"I like tips I work for," I said, my gaze unfaltering, "and I don't deserve this one."

The stranger looked at me for a moment, his dark eyes quizzical as though trying to figure me out. "If you say so." He took the note back, causing our hands to brush. I pulled away as he slipped it into his back pocket and slid on his shiny black helmet.

I stepped back as he hoisted a leg over his bike. For a second, he looked at me through the gap in his visor, his brown eyes almost honey-colored under the glare of the street lamp. Then, without another word, he kicked up his bike stand and revved the engine, tearing down the street before disappearing under a cloak of night.


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