Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Something about those eyes... #HolidayRomance #LaterInLife #MFRWHooks

Cherry Pie and Misteltoe book cover

Happy Wednesday! For today’s Book Hooks hop, I’ve got a snippet from Cherry Pie and Mistletoe, a later-in-life holiday romance set in lonely diner, just off the Interstate. In fact there is an Algonquin Diner off I-84, in the rural reaches of central Connecticut, a throwback to an earlier, simpler time. The first time I saw it, I thought it belonged in a story.

The Hook

Hey! Anybody here?”

I was back in the kitchen, scraping a week of congealed crud off the griddle, when he came into the diner. We hadn’t had a customer since four p.m. and I’d figured I should do something useful with my time. At ten thirty on a stormy Christmas Eve, I really didn’t expect any business, but our sign out on I-84 reads “open until midnight”, and I’m a woman of my word.

I peered through the order window. A stocky figure shrouded in a green parka stood by the counter, stomping his feet and rubbing his bare hands together.

He must have noticed me, because he flipped back his hood and flashed a grin in the general direction of the kitchen. “What’s a freezing guy gotta do to get a hot cup of coffee around here?” He looked more amused than annoyed.

Sorry—I’ll be right out.” I wiped my filthy hands on my apron and checked the little mirror Hank had installed over the prep table. White hair had escaped from the thick plait hanging down my back, making a fuzzy halo around my face, but overall I didn’t look too disheveled. I smoothed the wrinkles out of my Algonquin Diner shirt and limped through the swinging doors.

“’Evening! Sorry, I’m alone here tonight.”

He nodded, his smile lighting his whole face. “I’m just grateful you’re open. It’s colder than a witch’s tit out there.”

Coffee, you said?”

Black, please.”

Close up, I could see he was older than I’d expected from his energetic manner—almost my age, I guessed. Abundant gray frosted his wavy brown hair, deep lines framed his mouth and pepper-and-salt stubble darkened his weathered cheeks. His eyes, though, belonged to a much younger man. They glowed chocolate-brown, shot through with hints of gold, reflecting and amplifying the warmth of his smile.

Something about those eyes—something about this man—made me think of summer, of summers long ago in fact. Sunlight sparkling on the lake, dappled green shade on fragrant grass, the aching sweetness of skin against bare skin…

Working on automatic, I poured dark, steaming liquid from the carafe into a mug, grabbed a teaspoon and set both down on the Formica surface in front of him. He’d shrugged off his jacket and scarf. Underneath he wore faded jeans and a plaid flannel shirt open at the throat. I caught a glimpse of tangled gray chest hair. He was not fat, just solidly built, burly, bear-like—exactly the sort of body you’d want to curl up with on a cold winter night.


When he leaned closer to examine my name tag, I caught an unexpected whiff of his aftershave. Old Spice, my dad’s favorite, once more swinging me back into the past. Nostalgia tightened my chest. Tinsel garlanding my hair, mistletoe an excuse for excess, blizzards spent in bed. Lovers’ faces—lovers’ flesh—Christmases past, warmed by feverish kisses and the wild joy of discovery.

I brushed my hair away from my face, as if I could sweep my mind of the memories, and tried to regain my composure.

You’re very welcome. What’s it doing out there?” Condensation fogged the diner windows, reflecting rainbows from the little plastic tree in the corner but blocking out any glimpse of the weather.

Connecticut special,” he answered with a chuckle. “Sleet and freezing rain. The temperature’s dropping, though. Radio says there’ll be snow later.”

Driving must be hellish.” I scrubbed a towel back and forth across the already spotless counter, needing to do something with my hands. What I really wanted was to comb my fingers through that lovely, silver-threaded hair. “You are driving, right?”

Another laugh, rounded and full, coming from deep in his chest. “Yup, that’s my eighteen wheeler out there, taking up your whole parking lot.”

I grinned. His good nature was contagious. “Well, I don’t think you’ll have much competition. You want anything to eat, by the way? Tonight I’m the cook as well as the server.”

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Adriana said...

I'm always a sucker for later-in-life romance, and I love how you convey her initial reactions to him, the memories and feelings he triggers.

Maggie Blackbird said...

What a lovely scene. I just LOVE the imagery painted throughout. I could see the diner and see them. It made me wonder if this is Mr. and Mrs. Clause!

Becky Flade said...

I love this. Makes me yearn to get snowed in with a sexy silver-haired stranger

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