This is from an unpublished New Adult suspense novel.
After a little while, Kenzie tapped me on the shoulder. I knew it was her. Even with my back to her and my gaze on the metal counter beneath the pass-through, I could see her bright red sneakers which totally clashed with her bubblegum-pink uniform. But I still jumped about a mile.
It pissed me off. Fear always did.
I whirled around, and she took a step back. “Don’t do that!” I snapped.
“What crawled up your ass?” She held out a napkin. “The guy who was sitting up front left this on the table. No tip. Just this.”
“So why are you showing me?” I didn’t take the napkin. My chest was so tight I could barely get any air, and adrenaline blurred my vision. I didn’t care what the guy at the front table had left. If he was gone, that was all that mattered.
“When I gave him the check, he said he had something for you. I’m guessing this is it.” She folded her arms and studied me. “Damn, Elianna, you’re white as a ghost. And you’re shaking. Do you need to sit down?”
“No.” I leaned against the counter and tried to breathe. The guy was gone. If I focused on that, I’d be okay. I still didn’t remember exactly who he was, but he was almost definitely someone from my past. Someone I was better off forgetting.
I’d had lots of men like that in my life before foster care.
Kenzie rested her hand on my arm. The last thing I wanted right then was anyone touching me, but I knew she meant to be comforting, so I let her.
“He was kind of creepy,” she said. “I don’t blame you if you’re freaked out. He’s gone now. It’s okay.”
“Kenzie, you have other customers.” Bill leaned out the pass-through. “Elianna, is everyone in your section covered? They all have water? Coffee?”
“She needs a break,” Kenzie said before I managed to squeak out a sound. “I’ll take care of her section for a few minutes.”
Bill gave me an intense look. I couldn’t meet his gaze, so I focused on the counter again.
“Okay,” he said after a second or two. “Out back, Elianna. Kenzie, go do your thing.”
He ducked back into the kitchen. Kenzie held out the napkin. “I know you don’t want to see this, but he said to make sure you got what he left for you. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but it might be important. Who was he, anyway? He acted like he knew you.”
“Maybe he did.” I took the stupid piece of paper. I didn’t care what it said. I just wanted Kenzie to leave me alone so I could hide in the back room before I broke down. “I’ll talk to you later. Bill’s going to get pissed if we keep standing here.”
“Yeah.” She rolled her eyes and trotted off to check on the customers.
I didn’t read the creep’s message until I’d shut myself in the back room, safe and quiet. I sat on the folding metal chair, the only piece of furniture in there. Bill hadn’t set up the room for comfort, only to give employees a place to get off their feet for a few minutes.
My hands shook as I unfolded the napkin. The guy had recognized me. Whether I could put a name to him or not, he was someone I’d encountered before. I prayed I was wrong. That he was some weirdo who’d seen me on the street here in town and developed a crush on me or something. The town wasn’t so huge that I wouldn’t have seen him around if he lived here, but it was big enough I might not have actually met him before.
That had to be it. He had to be some creep around town. Not anyone from the past.
But the words on the napkin confirmed my deepest fear and told me exactly who I was dealing with.
I choked back a scream. The napkin slowly drifted toward the floor.