A Little Broken
Jessie Braden thought she had it all. A husband, a new baby – her life was on course, exactly what she always wanted…Until one day, she loses everything.
Ruined and broken, she’s left alone to pick up the pieces of her life. Unable to cope, she spontaneously packs up and moves across the country, hoping that new scenery will help.
Once in sunny Florida, she finds an apartment and a job but while Jessie is surviving, she isn’t living…until one night she meets someone. Dominick.
Desperate for an escape from the pain of her memories, she relents to his unerring determination and agrees to spend time with him.
Through his patience and understanding, she will learn that she’s not ruined…she’s just a little broken.
“I just sat you a hottie, Jess,” Courtney, one of the diner’s only hostesses, whispered in her ear. “He’s at thirty-four, and he’s alone!”
Jessie raised her eyebrows. It was almost nine o’clock and she was pretty sure she was going to be cut soon. It was a slow night. Nodding, she grabbed her order book and made her way toward her newly, and only, seated table.
“Hello, can I get you something to –”Jessie stopped midsentence as familiar honey eyes looked up at her. In the light, he was even more handsome than he’d been just hanging out his car in the dark. His face was clean shaven, revealing a strong jaw line and a kind smile. She could smell his cologne and it was amazing, manly and musky at the same time.
“Jessie! What a surprise seeing you here. I didn’t know this was where you worked!” Dominick said, smiling up at her. Something in his tone told her that it wasn’t really a surprise to him, and that he was here, in her section, on purpose.
“Donald, right?” Jessie said, secretly enjoying the look of indignation that filled his face as she called him the wrong name. She knew his name, how could she not? She’d been thinking about their encounter for the last two days.
“Dominick. Dominick Wace,” he corrected her, still smiling.
“Ha. You sound like James Bond. Okay, Dominick, what can I get you to drink?”
“Hmm, how about a coffee?” he answered, eyes sparkling.
“Sure, I’ll be right back,” Not giving him a chance to saying anything else, she went in search of Courtney. She found her in the prep area, giggling with Layla, Jessie’s serving partner for the evening.
“Courtney, did he specifically ask to be seated in my section?” Jessie asked as she poured Dominick’s coffee, and gathered sugar and fresh cream from the cold storage.
“Yeah, and good for you, girl! He’s so hot!”
Unsurprised, she walked the coffee over and placed it in front of Dominick.
“You do know that stalking is illegal in all fifty states, right?” she asked him, trying to make it sound tart and unfriendly, but failing.
“Stalking is only illegal if it has malicious intent. I don’t think the law says anything about a man’s determination to get a beautiful woman to agree to go out for coffee. I mean, it’s coffee. Everyone loves coffee, right?”
“I’m allergic to coffee,” she told him. Liar, liar pants on fire a small voice, that sounded a lot like the ‘old’ her sounded off in her head.
“Why, Pinocchio, I believe your nose is growing,” he teased.
“Okay, so I’m not allergic to coffee, you caught me.”
“Go out for coffee with me, Jessie. You won’t regret it. I promise to not hog the cream and sugar.”
Jessie thought about it. For every reason she had to not go, she came up with four more on why she should. If she were to tell the truth, she didn’t really want to go home. Every night she was home alone, with nothing but her own thoughts. Maybe Toni was right, maybe she should get out, make an effort. But with that thought, she was scared. She’d built up a wall between her and the world, and wasn’t sure she could handle it breaking down.
“I can’t,” she said, holding up a hand to stop him when he opened his mouth, “I have to work. You have, after all, come to sit in my table, keeping me from being cut for the evening.”
“Oh, that’s an easy fix,” he said, casually.
“It is?” she asked him, staring. His complete confidence shook her as well as intrigued her.
“Sure it is. UNCLE!” he called out, loudly, causing several of the few customers to turn to look at him. He just shrugged at them, and looked expectant as he sat there. Within a few seconds, Mr. C came out of the back office, walking toward them both with a small smile playing on his face.
“Ah, Dominick, I thought I heard you out here, harassing my staff,” Mr. C. said, laughing as he took Dominick’s hand and clapped him on the back in a familiar hug.
“Now, Uncle, I’m not harassing your staff. We do have a bit of a dilemma here, though. You see, I’ve asked this pretty young lady to accompany me for coffee twice now. The first time, she turned me down flat, if you can believe that! This time that I asked, she said that she can’t because she has to work.”
Mr. C’s smile widened, as he looked from Dominick to Jessie. Jessie was sure that she was turning six shades of purple from the attention, and for not seeing the familiar qualities between the two sooner. She really was off in her world.
“Ah, a beautiful woman turning you down? What is this world coming to?” Mr. C teased.
“A travesty, Uncle. A travesty, I tell you!”
Jessie couldn’t help the grin turning up her lips as she watched the two men banter back and forth. Mr. C chuckled deeply from his throat.
“Well, truth between family and all, I cut Jessie ten minutes ago. She just doesn’t nag me about it like my other employees,” he said, winking at Dominick. Jessie was starting to feel like there may be an underlying conspiracy going on.
“So, Jessie, there’s no reason you can’t go for coffee with me,” Dominick said, his smile lighting his entire face.
“Fine,” Jessie sighed in agreement. She could admit when she’d been beat, and she couldn’t hold a candle to the manipulations of these men.
Mr. C surprised her by clasping her hand gently.
“Have a good time, Jess. You deserve it,” he said softly, before nodding goodbye to his nephew.
Standing, Dominick held his hand out to her. “Come on, pretty lady. Let’s blow this pancake stand.”
Jessie stared at his hand, unsure if she should take it. Her uncertainty must have shown on her face because Dominick stepped a little closer to her.
“It’s okay, Jessie. It’s just a hand. It’s just coffee. No big deal. Well, except for the coffee. Coffee is a big deal.” He wiggled his hand a little bit, and as a small chuckle escaped her, she placed her hand in his. She gripped it, holding on tightly, and wanted, for once, to not just let go.
About the Author-
Juli Valenti grew up in Arkansas and currently resides in Florida with her husband and two boys. Working a full time job, as well as owning her own editing company, along with a full time family, her life is crazy but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Juli is currently working on several other true-life inspired novels.
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