Excerpt from Kindred Salvation
“Here’s your pie, Al.”
The man looked up as she placed his order on the counter in front of him, always a smile on his weathered face no matter how hard his day had been. “Why, thank you, Gloria.”
“My pleasure. Can I git you a top up?” She held the coffee pot over his cup, already knowing his answer.
“You sure can. Keep ‘em comin’.”
When she was done pouring, she said, “Alright, well I’ll be over cleaning tables if you need anythin’ else.”
As she stacked her tray high with empty dishes, Glo tried to ignore the throbbing ache in her feet. Thankfully she was nearing the end of her ten-hour shift and was trying her best not to imagine the feel of her toes sliding into her fluffy, purple slippers.
Ten minutes. . . that was all it was, and with her apartment only a couple blocks away she’d be watching trash TV with a cup of cocoa in hand then climbing into bed before she knew it. That was about the extent of her life: work, TV, sleep, rinse, repeat. It had been that way for so long now she’d forgotten what it was like to actually have some fun.
The bell over the door chimed and Glo looked up expecting to see her boss, Arnold, who was due in to take over her shift. The guy was usually like clockwork so she was surprised to see it wasn’t him. She busied herself wiping over a table while swiping glances at the man. His head hung low and his face was obscured by a black brimmed hat. His black, knee-length coat was wet from the rain and Glo noticed his boots were covered with dirt. He walked past the counter where Al was too busy enjoying his pie to notice, and sat down in the furthest booth which was next to the restrooms.
It wasn’t only regulars that ate at Arnold’s, they had their fair share of strangers passing through all the time, but there was something about this man that gave Glo a strange feeling and she found herself having to pluck up the nerve to go over to his table to take his order. After placing a loaded tray down on the end of the counter, she made her way over to the stranger, taking out her pad and pen ready with pseudo-confident strides.
Glo noticed the man hadn’t looked at the menu. Instead, his eyes were drawn to whatever he was feeding between his fingers. When she got to him she saw it was a book of matches.
Taking in a breath, she switched on her work-friendly voice. “What can I git you, sir?” she asked, pretending there was nothing wrong; there was nothing wrong, so she had to stop being such an idiot.
In the awkward silence that followed, the thud of her own heartbeat echoed through her ears, but when the man finally looked up at her, his clean-cut face calmed her unbidden nerves. Fair eyebrows—which she guessed would match the color of his hair—framed unusually striking eyes that at first glance looked pale blue until she noticed a hint of lilac. They were warm and inviting and she found herself unable—or maybe unwilling—to look away. He was about as regular as any other guy so Glo wondered why he made her feel so strange. In fact, she was a little concerned about those feelings, especially as she couldn’t determine whether this stranger made her feel uncomfortable or. . . comfortable. Thankfully, the thought quickly passed her by and the man’s voice cut through her crazy thoughts.
“Coffee please,” he said with an accent she couldn’t place. His face was stoic as those eyes stared into hers for a few seconds before lowering to her name tag. “Gloria? That’s your name?”
“Uh, yeah. That’s why it says it right here.” Glo kept her smile as she tapped the plastic name pin with her pen. Then she quickly turned her attention to her pad to write his order down. When she looked back at him he nodded.
“Pretty name,” he said before looking down at the matches again.
Okaaaay. . . maybe this guy was a little strange. “Git ya anythin’ else?”
“Just the coffee.”
“Sure. Be right back.” The moment she walked away she let out a long breath. Why did she get all the nut-jobs on her shift? Not including Al, of course. He was the sweetest—a man who worked too damn hard for his age.
She returned to the stranger’s table, placing his cup of steaming hot coffee in front of him to much of the same vague response. “You let me know if you need a top up.”
Well, all hope had gone for a tip from that guy.
Coffee pot still in hand, she approached the brown-haired woman who was sitting with her newspaper. “More coffee?”
“No. Thank you,” she said politely and as Glo took the woman’s empty plate, the door chime went again. This time Glo and her feet were thankful to see Arnie rushing in, all windswept and waterlogged.
He stood there and shivered as she rushed over to him. “Damn rain storm was just waitin’ for me to leave the house,” he said as he removed his hood.
Glo helped to remove his coat. “Arnie, did you walk in this weather?” No wonder the poor guy was late. “You’ll catch ya’self a mighty fine cold if you carry on.”
“Oh, now. . . I’ll be alright. Stop your fussin’, ” he said, wiping the rain from his face with his hands. “Bit o’ rain never hurt anyone that I know of. Besides, it’s dying down out there now. How’s it been, sweetheart?”
“Steady. We had a rush on early evenin’, but it’s been pretty quiet for the last couple hours. These three are the only customers we’ve had for almost an hour.” She followed him into the kitchen and went to the side room to grab her coat. “Hey, Arn. . . just wanna let you know there’s a guy who seems a little off. He’s only drinking coffee, and hasn’t done anything wrong, but I thought I’d mention it.”
The big man stopped in front of her as he tied his apron round his back. “Want me to call someone? Git you a ride home?”
“No, I’m fine,” she replied as she pulled up her hood. “Not gonna dissolve, Arn.”
“As long as you’re sure. And don’t forgit to call to let me know you got home safe.”
“Always do. See you tomorrow.” After emptying her tip jar over by the register, she caught a glimpse of the stranger who was quickly looking away from her. Her spine tingled, but she ignored it and went on her way.
* * *
The woman watched as Gloria headed for the door, but her triumph at finally finding her was hampered by the man who’d walked in twenty minutes ago. Putting her paper down, she got up and fastened her jacket for effect, leaving a five-dollar bill on the table. Then, before leaving, she glanced over at the man in black, confirming who—or what—he was. He looked over at her, but thankfully because of what she was and her ability to disguise herself, he didn’t recognize her. Last thing she needed was a showdown right there and then. And there would have been if he’d have known who she was.
As she left she heard a man call goodnight to her, but never answered back, too focused on her subject to care about pleasantries. Standing in the doorway sheltering from the lashing rain, Nhang pulled out her cell while she watched her target walking down the street. “It’s me,” she said when her call connected.
“It’s definitely her.”
“Then, why the hell are you talking to me? Go after her.”
Oh, Varesh was gonna love this next part. “She has a guardian.”
“Shit! Which one?”
“That asshole with the bad attitude, Raziel.”
The line was quiet for a moment, which was much better than the anger she was expecting.“Nhang, this is going to be trickier than we thought. If they’re watching her already. . .”
“Don’t worry. I’ll get the job done. I’m just gonna need more time. The angel didn’t know who I was so I still have an advantage.”
“Make sure you keep it. This one isn’t getting away from me.”
“Oh, I will.” She hung up. Don’t worry, she thought. This bitch will be easy.
Now it was time for Nhang to do what she did best: she was about to make a new best friend.
Want to read more? Kindred Salvation (Divine Hunter #3) is releasing on 9th March.