The entire PALE series in one complete package!
Trixie is a wise-cracking waitress trying to work her way through college when a late-night storm blows in a stranger. He's not like the usual customers with his pale skin and dark clothes. Her kindness to him is rewarded with an invitation to his house in the country, and she finds herself in a sticky relationship when he returns her kindness with more than just a thank-you. A three-part series featuring love, lies, and laughter.
“Where in the world have you been?” Sheila shrieked at me.
That was the greeting I got on entering the diner, my old stomping grounds of employment only a week before. I’d come in to see how everything was going, but not to tender my resignation. My place with my current boss, John Benson, was still too fragile for me to want to quit my reliable, if poor, diner position. Just a few days before was the day he’d admitted his affection for me in the bathtub, and where I’d decided to sift through my emotions of the coming days and weeks, maybe months, to see how I felt. I found a lot of cobwebs brushing through those emotions.
I sheepishly smiled at my overactive friend, and was grateful there weren’t many customers this late at night. “In another part of it, but sorry for going missing for a few days. Things got, well, hard for me-” and my employer, “-and I guess I just lost track of the calendar. It wandered off and I still haven’t hunted it down.
Sheila put her hands on her hips and scowled at me. “Trixie Calhoun, I think you forgot about me. After all these years of working together you forget me in a week.”
I slid onto one of the diner stools and cupped my chin in my hand with a smile on my face. “It’s only been a few days,” I countered.
“It’s felt like forever!” Sheila whined. “The boss has me working even more shifts and all the regulars keep asking where you are and when you’re coming back.” She leaned over the counter and gave me a stern look. “You are coming back, aren’t you?”
I sighed and shrugged. “I don’t know, but you’ll be one of the first people to find out.”
Sheila was puzzled over my uncertainty. “Don’t know? I thought you were just going to be gone a week.”
“My plans kind of hit a few speed bumps-” in the form of his nice abs, “-and it turns out he’s going to be needing me for a bit longer.” Forever, if he had any say in the matter.
“What kind of speed bumps?” she asked me.
“The kind that keep me from coming back here soon,” I replied.
“That’s not an answer,” she complained. She searched my eyes, and I looked into hers; it was like looking into a house where all the lights were switched off because somebody forgot to pay the bill. “You’re not telling me something. What is it?”
“I lost a pound?” I suggested, which was true. Sex really does help a person lose weight.
“I’m being serious,” Sheila sullenly argued.
“So am I.”
“If you’re staying with this guy it must be because you want to. You never do anything you don’t want to,” she mused. Her eyes widened and a squeal escaped her lips. “Is he giving you a fortune to care for him?”
I scoffed. “I wish, but the money’s not bad.” At least that’s what was promised; I hadn’t actually seen a dime of it yet.
Sheila threw up her arms. “I give up. Why are you staying with him?”
“Maybe I like his company,” I let out. My face instantly blushed when a sly smile slid onto Sheila’s face.
“Like his company, huh?” she repeated in a mischievous voice. She inched close to me so our faces were only a few, well, inches away. At least she had the decency to lower her volume to normal-human rather than ear-splitting. “Have you had sex with him?”
I choked on my spittle at the forward question, and Sheila slammed a hand on the table in glee. “You have! You sneaky, dirty little girl you!”
I jumped over the counter and slapped my hand over her mouth. The other patrons looked at us like we were insane, which was never far from the truth. “Are you trying to tell the whole city about it?” I hissed at her.
“Hn nre, nh,” she mumbled out through my hand.
I rolled my eyes and removed my hand. “What?”
Sheila’s voice was a soft whisper. “I said I’m sorry, Trix. I didn’t mean to be so loud.” Then that evil smile crept back on her face. “So is he terrible? Has he showered you with diamonds yet?”
“No, no and, before you ask any other stupid questions, no,” I replied. “I’d also rather not talk about it-”
“He’s not using you, is he?” she softly gasped.
“-here,” I finished. I tilted my head and glared at her sheepish expression. “Do you think I’d be a person somebody could use?” She shrugged, and I rolled my eyes. “The answer to that question is no.”
“Then what’s going on between you?” she wondered.
“What time do you get off?”
“Then I’ll pick you up and we can hit up one of the food places around campus. They’re always open that late,” I suggested.
“Your treat?” she pleaded.
I sighed and nodded. “My treat.” Sheila squealed and clapped her hands. I wondered at her child-like-well, everything. It almost made me jealous; almost.
I picked her up at midnight and we drove to one of the popular burger joints just off campus. Cars were piled as deep as the triple stack burger specialty and we squeezed our way inside to find all the tables were full. I was about to suggest we go somewhere where there was enough room to inhale and exhale when somebody waved to us from a corner booth; prime real estate for comfort and privacy.
Sheila tugged on my sleeve and nodded at the waver; it was the guy I’d met at the library the other day, Will Tanner. “You know him?” she asked me.
I nodded and dragged her over to the booth. We slid into the curved, cushioned seat with me sandwiched between the two and I could finally breathe out. “Thanks for throwing a lifesaver to us. I thought we were going to drown in that crowd.”
He smiled and looked us over. “I’m sure someone would’ve saved such pretty girls from that fate.” He nodded at Sheila. “Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, Sheila, this is Will Tanner. Will, Sheila,” I introduced them. I was surprised when Sheila curtly nodded her head at the guy; she was usually so bubbly I expected to see her float up and pop.
Will didn’t seem to notice her stiff manner, and instead turned to me. “When I saw you get out of your car I remembered that you didn’t come visit me after our meeting,” he scolded me.
I shrugged. “I got caught up in some stuff and didn’t have time. So what have you been up to? Saving more damsels in the library?”
“And fending off dragons,” he laughed. “But to be honest I don’t get out much. Sometimes I just sit here and watch people just to feel like I’m a part of their lives.”
That didn’t quite square with my recollections of our last conversation. “Didn’t you say you were on the football team?”
He smiled. “You have a good memory. Yeah, I’m on the team but I don’t feel like I belong, you know? I was thinking about quitting and focusing more on my studies. Speaking of which, I should probably be going. You still have my number and address?” he asked me.
I patted my purse. “Entombed somewhere in here for all eternity,” I assured him.
Will laughed. “Then you have the upper hand on me. Any chance I can get a phone number or address?”
I shrugged. “Sure, why not?” He pulled out a pen and paper, and I reached for them but Sheila tugged on my arm. I turned to her and she feverishly shook her head. “What? What’s wrong?” She didn’t reply in words, but instead turned to Will with a dark glare on her face.
Will smiled back at her. “I get the feeling you don’t like me,” he guessed.
“You’d be right,” she shot back.
I jotted down my number and quickly passed it back to Will. “Sorry about my friend here, she’s a little strange.”
“No problem. Your phone number would be worth risking my life for,” he replied. He patted me on the back and slid out of the booth. He waved to us and disappeared into the crowd.
I turned to Sheila with some confused thoughts. “What the hell is wrong with you? You look like you actually wanted to get physical with him, and not in the baby-making way,” I asked her. If she had been any more hostile there would have been declarations of war.
She turned away with a sullen face. “I met that guy before. I guess he didn’t remember me,” she mumbled.
This was a news flash. “Met him where?”
“He used to be my boyfriend.”
“I’m guessing that didn’t break up so well,” I replied.
Sheila stiffly shook her head. “I broke up with him because I found out he was going out with two other girls at the same time.”
I cringed. “That’s the kind of guy I just gave my phone number to?” She nodded, and I playfully glared at her. “Why didn’t you try to stop me?” I hissed at her.
“I did,” she hissed back. We sounded like arguing snakes.
“Why didn’t you try to stop me harder,” I emphasized.
“Because you’re just too stubborn.” It was hard to argue with that one.
I sighed and from my purse I removed the piece of paper with his information. I tore it into two and tossed the pieces onto the table. “That’s one problem taken care of.”
“I hope so…” Sheila muttered.
“Why are you hoping? Why not believing?” I asked her.
She shrugged. “Because that guy’s a little weird-”
“That explains how he got on with both of us.”
“-and more stubborn than you.”
I let out a fake gasp of horror. “Say it ain’t so!” I softly exclaimed.
That cracked a smile on Sheila’s serious face. “It’s just that he tried to get me to come back to him, but I went to the other girls and asked them about it. I guess he’d been trying to get them back at the same time, too.”
“That guy’s got balls. Three of them to handle that many girls,” I mused.
“He only had two. One of the other girls made sure of that when she cornered him and tore into him.”
“Literally?” I guessed.
“Literally. I heard he had to have some of his-” she pointed down at her lap, “-pieced back together.
I cringed; hell hath nothing on a woman cheated on by her boyfriend. That guy was lucky to be alive, though it wasn’t lucky for me. “Anything else I should know about Mr. Perseverance?”
“He can be a little possessive, which is why he tried to get us all back.”
“Doesn’t sound too bad.”
“He walked us to our classes to keep other boys from talking to us.”
“A knight in green armor.”
“And he came to our apartments whenever he could, even when we weren’t there.”
“Now you’re starting to creep me out. How’d you know he’d been there?”
“Because I found him sitting on my couch a couple of times.”
“Nothing wrong with that-kind of. He just wanted to be there-”
“He didn’t have a key to my apartment.”
I cringed. “Um, let’s just forget about him and hope he does the same to me,” I suggested.
“Good because now that we’re alone I want you to spit it out,” Sheila commanded; I obeyed by spitting into my hand and holding it out to her. “Not that! We’re alone, so tell me about your new boss, the pale guy.”
I glanced around the crowded, noisy room. “I don’t think this was quite the alone place I was thinking about.”
“Do you know any of these people?” she asked me. I shook my head. “Then we’re alone in a crowd, so out with all the juicy details.”
Her request conjured up some very specific images. “I don’t think I’m going to go into that much detail,” I told her.
“You know what I mean!” She playfully grabbed me by the collar and shook me. “Now tell me everything!”
“Well, there’s not much to tell,” I teasingly replied. I dramatically crossed my arm over my forehead and titled my head back. “I claimed his heart when first we met.”
“You shouldn’t have been an actress,” Sheila playfully replied.
I dropped my arm and the act. “You’re right, I would’ve been too good for the cameras, but to answer your question, again, there really isn’t that much to tell. I have a boss-with-benefits relationship with him until I decide how I feel about him.”
Sheila’s face drooped. “That’s it?” she asked me.
I snorted. “You act as if we should be playing hide-and-go-seek with each other’s clothes.”
Sheila slid her chin down onto the table. “I was at least hoping for something mysterious about him. Does he look even more like Dracula without his clothes?”
I rolled my eyes. “He looks like most everyone else without their clothes, naked.”
She scowled at me, but her eyes widened and she sprang up from the table. “If you’re not going to take advantage of this then maybe I can. Any way he can introduce me to his rich friends?”
I evilly grinned. “He doesn’t really get out all that much, that whole vampire-appearance thing, but he has an uncle that might be available. He’s just slightly used by life.”
“Slightly used by life?” Sheila repeated.
“Yes. He’s about fifty.”
“On second thought maybe I’ll just keep looking for my own rich man,” my friend remarked. And thus ended my short but memorable matchmaker career. “So how long are you going to take to figure out you want to go out with your boss?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been dodging Cupid’s arrow for so long I bet his quiver is empty and he’s abandoned me to a life of being an old maid.”
“Just remember that even with his pasty skin he’s a rich guy and girls all over the city would kill to get even a date with him,” she reminded me.
“We’ll just have to hope they kill each other and leave us out of it,” I quipped.
“That’s easy for you to say. I bet you’re living in his house now, aren’t you?” Sheila teased.
I surprised her by shaking my head. “Nope, still in that dingy apartment.”
“What? Why?” she exclaimed.
I tilted my head in her direction and raised an eyebrow for added effect. “We’ve only known each other a week. In that short a time I wouldn’t move in with the Queen of England if she offered me the best room in Buckingham Palace.”
Sheila threw up her arms. “I give up. You really don’t know how to milk a good situation.”
“I’m not majoring in agriculture,” I countered.
“Right, rocks.” She playfully knocked her fist against my head. “Just like your stubborn skull.”
“Hey, careful with that. I’m still using it,” I laughed. My stomach interrupted us with its mournful cries of sorrow. “But how about we get some grub before I decide to be a cannibal?”
“I thought you’d never get around to that,” Sheila replied with a smile. “Oh, and don’t forget about that creep, Tanner. He might come back to bite you in the ass,” she warned me.
“I won’t forget,” I promised; I cared too much about my ability to sit.