Blitzed by the BillionaireBy: Alice Ward
“That’s okay. I really feel like being home right now. Tomorrow night?”
“It’s a date,” he agreed. “Go home, take a hot bath, and pamper yourself. I’ll call you when I leave the club.”
I leaned in for a quick hug and then turned toward the door. “Have a good practice,” I called over my shoulder.
“Thanks, baby. I’ll talk to you soon.”
The sound of his basketball bouncing off of the court echoed down the hallway as I made my way out of the building. I slid behind the wheel of my blue Prius, a graduation present from Uncle Walt, and drove out of the King neighborhood and into a much older, more white collar Irvington area.
When my parents passed away, I was left with just shy of a quarter of a million dollars in life insurance money. Half of it was safely in the bank, earning interest. I’d spent the other half on a small condo about twenty minutes away from the school. If I’d gotten my way, I’d have bought something closer to work. But Walt insisted that I live in a safer area. He didn’t believe the King neighborhood was as revitalized as the locals claimed.
I pulled into my parking space and quickly retreated to my unit before any of my neighbors spotted me. After the day I’d had, I was in no mood to make forced, friendly small talk.
I changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, pulled my hair on top of my head, and settled in on my soft white sofa to binge on reality television. After three hours of watching spoiled socialites choose their wedding gowns, I realized I’d forgotten all about dinner. And the meal I was craving came from a diner that didn’t deliver.
I’ll call it in but eat at the counter so I don’t have to deal with the take-out trash.
I padded across the beige carpet in my socked feet and retrieved my phone from my purse. I called in my order and was told it would be ready in fifteen minutes.
That doesn’t give me time to change. I’ll probably run into half of my parents if I leave the house looking like this. Screw it. My job is to teach their children, not wow them with my fashion sense.
The Day School was technically a public school, so families weren’t charged tuition. But the school’s innovative teaching programs drew both the lower income families in King as well as the more affluent families in my neighborhood. Some days, I felt like I couldn’t turn around without tripping over someone from the school. But I was starving and didn’t have time to worry what they’d think of my sweats and oversized t-shirt. I stuffed my feet into laceless sneakers, grabbed my purse, and set off for the diner.
I arrived ten minutes later and found the parking lot nearly empty. A bell chimed when I pushed open the heavy glass door and the smells of bacon, coffee, and pie hit my nose. A short, curvy woman with curly grey hair greeted me as I sat down at the counter.
“What can I get for you, darlin’?”
“I called in an order for Emily,” I explained.
She looked at a little notepad. “Chicken fry with mashed potatoes and salad?”
“That’s the one.”
She turned to the order window, where a small bowl of ranch covered lettuce and tomatoes waited atop a bucket of ice. She delivered it to me with a set of silverware rolled in a paper napkin.
“Your steak will be up shortly. What can I get you to drink?”
“I’ll have a Coke, easy on the ice,” I replied, mixing the salad with my fork.
She filled a tall plastic cup and slid it across the counter. I took a long drink and shoveled lettuce into my mouth with a saltine. The bell chimed again and a few moments later, the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen sat down two stools away from me. I felt my face flush hot and kept my eyes fixed on my bowl.
“Back so soon, Ethan?” the waitress asked, passing him a menu.
“What can I say, Gladys. I dream about your apple pie.” His voice was warm and deep, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at him.
“Water with lemon?” she asked, already filling his glass.
“Yes, ma’am. And I’ll have my usual.”
“You got it,” she replied. She jotted a few words on a ticket, tore it off her pad, and hung it in the window. “Order up, Earl,” she called into the kitchen. She turned back to my new dinner companion with an almost star-struck grin.
I don’t blame you, Gladys. This guy looks like a statue of a Greek god brought to life.
“So how was practice?” she asked. “Think you’ll be ready next month?”
“I think so,” he told her. Before he could say more, the bell chimed again and a group of a dozen teenagers filled the diner. They spread out in four of the six booths and a few clustered around the jukebox. My meal appeared in the window and Gladys delivered it before setting off to greet her new customers. I stared down at my giant, gravy soaked plate and felt myself blush again.