Thelma's Song - Excerpt
Copyright © Afton Locke, 2022 - All Rights Reserved
"Jean-Luc included a little bit of everything. Maryland crab cakes, fried oysters, and bluefish, the catch of the day."
"Looks delicious. Where's mine?" Thelma asked.
He indicated his chair and headed toward the doorway. "It's all yours."
She remained rooted to the floor, feeling like the world's biggest fool. "I-I thought we were going to eat together."
So much for making some friends here.
"I'm too busy to eat during the dinner rush, remember? Enjoy," he said before closing the door.
For a moment, she stood glaring at the plate of food with her arms crossed. Bastard. Still, she couldn't fault him on going back on his word. She'd gotten the stains out of his lousy tablecloth, and, in return, he'd awarded her with the best meal on the house.
He'd merely stuck her in here out of sight of the white diners, and he had better things to do than eat with her. She stepped behind the desk and threw the roll at the door.
Men! Weren't they all the same?
No, at least Tom Lewes wasn't the type to exploit a woman sexually, thinking he could get away with it because she was black. Cali had told her how Jonathan had made advances on her when she'd worked as a cook for his family. Thelma didn't even want a man, so why did she care whether or not Tom showed any interest in her?
Next, she sat down and glared at the meal. Her stomach rumbled.
I earned it. May as well eat my reward, right?
She nudged aside the parsley garnish with her fork and bit into the crab cake, amazed at how good it tasted. Money had been tight in Baltimore, so seafood dinners had been few and far between. By the time she worked her way to the fish, glazed with melted butter and lemon, she nearly purred. To wash it down, she drained half the sweet tea.
Instead of bolting out of her seat, she studied the room. Getting to know him without his presence. It would serve him right if she snooped around. Why had the lout locked his desk? Did he think she had sticky fingers?
The first thing she spotted was a small picture on the corner of his desk. She'd been so full of hurt pride, followed by a heavenly seafood coma, she hadn't noticed it before. A rosy-cheeked young woman with merry eyes and windblown hair posed with him at the waterfront.
They both smiled as if they hadn't a care in the world. She must be Betty.
When the door opened, she expected it to be Donna to clear the dishes. Instead, Tom entered. Why did he always look so serious?
"How was it?" he asked, pointing to the empty plate. "Did it meet your expectations?"
"The food exceeded them, but the company was lacking." She headed toward the doorway. "Thanks for the dinner. I'll be going."
"I told you, I was busy earlier." Those intense green eyes held her in a trap stronger than a fish net. "You look...nice."
She must have gotten drunk off the food because his mouth, usually a firm slash, held a hint of softness.
"Thank you." Walk out. Stick to the laundry. "Your daughter was very pretty."
The frown returned. "How....? Oh, you must have seen the picture. Those were happier times."
Unable to help herself, she picked it up, seeing a different girl in her place. "You must miss her terribly."
"Yes." He all but yanked it out of her hand and set it back on the desk. "I should put it away."
"I take it you were close?"
He turned away as color crept up his neck and face.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Lewes. I didn't mean to pry."
His gaze snapped back to her. "Then don't."