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~ Chapter Two ~
Max Williams glanced toward Nina’s house as he passed by, trying not to be conspicuous. He missed her.
He pulled one shoulder up in a shrug. He even missed their tutor sessions. Raising his chin a fraction of an inch, he closed his eyes for a brief moment and recalled the scent of her perfume. Light and airy, something fruity. Mango? He couldn’t be sure. The scent wafted through his mind once more, but its identification remained a mystery. He’d wanted to ask her, but never got around to it.
Regret rose within him once more, as it always did when thinking of her.
Since that night he hadn’t spoken to her, except through a few cryptic texts.
‘I can’t be your tutor, anymore,’ she’d typed.
‘But why?’ He’d returned.
‘I think that’s obvious,’ she’d answered.
‘Well, it isn’t,’ He’d sent back.
‘I’m a Christian, Max, and I sinned against my God.’
Anger swelled within him and he’d typed back, ‘Whatever. Just remember this was your choice.’
Humiliation filled him. He’d wanted to take back those mean, hastily-typed words so many times he’d lost count.
He stopped at a red light and checked his phone, hoping by some miraculous means she realized he was thinking of her and decided to text him. Of course she hadn’t.
He let his phone drop back to the seat and accelerated when the light changed to green.
Should he call her? As soon as the thought crossed his mind, he shook his head. No, it wasn’t a good idea, especially since six months had passed.
Why couldn’t he get over it? What was it about her?
Yes she was pretty and had a way about her, for sure. And he missed that. But he missed her more. Her sweet smile and soft-spoken manner were very attractive. Unlike most of the girls on campus, she had morals.
Guilt washed through him—And look what he’d done to her. He’d known she was a Christian. She’d tried witnessing to him on more than one occasion.
He’d known she was attracted to him. That’s what had given him the courage to follow her upstairs that day six months ago.
If he hadn’t reached out and grabbed her, would she have come to him willingly? Something inside him said no. She wasn’t that kind of girl.
If he believed in a god he would pray for help, but he didn’t. The idea was too far-fetched.
Anger rushed through him and with a jerk of his arm, he swung the vehicle into a hard right and pulled into his family’s restaurant. He slammed the gearshift into park and turned off the engine.
Unlike Nina his family wasn’t funding his college education he had to work for it. And he hated working in the restaurant. He wanted to do something manly, not languish in a restaurant.
He reached the glass front door and pulled it open, the bell tinkling a warning of his arrival.
The first thing he saw was his mother behind the counter, her graying hair pulled into a ragtag bun at the top of her head.
She looked up and smiled at him in welcome as she rubbed a dishrag across the scarred Formica counter. “Max, you made it on time today.”
“It’s a nice surprise, right?” He leaned across the counter and kissed her wrinkled cheek. Concern filled him at how rundown she was looking. And here he’d been being ungrateful about working here.
“Go ahead mom. I got this.” He gently took the dishcloth from her hand and dipped his head toward the back.
Felicity Williams sighed and dipped her head in agreement. “Okay, but just for a few minutes, though. I guess a piece of that chocolate pie your sister made earlier will sit right well on my empty tummy.”
Max laughed. “Yes it will.”
“Do you want me to cut you a piece, son?” Felicity Williams asked as she disappeared through the kitchen door.
He raised his voice a bit. “Nah, I’ll have one later.”
He moved around the counter and proceeded to finish wiping it down. His mother loved this place and kept it spic-and-span. He shouldn’t be such an ungrateful brat.
After a few minutes he threw the dishrag into the pan they kept under the counter and raised his eyes to peruse the dining room. His eyes locked gazes with none other than Nina Moore’s father.
Ice water filled his veins and his heart pounded in fear. Did he know?
The sick feeling inside him grew, sitting like a heavy rock in the midst of his gut. But then Gary Moore’s gaze slid away and relief filled Max’s whole being.
He wiped his forehead, not surprised to feel the sweat spread across it. It was in that moment he decided he was going to see Nina Moore.