Time for another installment of Rick & Leann’s story. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up here.
Rick tapped his fingers on the edge of the table. He had worried when the other waitress brought his salad out to the table. Thought maybe something had happened to Leann. In two minutes? Not likely. Then, she had brought their food out. Her smile had been strained, but it was still there.
He hadn’t minded Todd’s silence while they ate. It was a rare thing, but he had other things on his mind than keeping conversation going. For once, those things had nothing to do with a case. They were all firmly entrenched with a dark-haired, gray-eyed waitress who he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about for months.
Maybe he should just ask her out.
Yeah, right. She probably had someone else in her life. What would she want with a single father who was still mourning his dead wife? He shook off that thought as he saw her weaving through the tables. That smile was back, but it looked forced. His stomach clenched at why she seemed so off today. Usually the smiles and jokes came easily. Something had happened though. He wanted to know what it was. To fix it for her. If only he could get her to tell him. What had she said earlier? It doesn’t have anything to do with you. It had been a non-answer to a question of his own. And answer enough in its own right. There was something going on and no, she wouldn’t tell him.
He’d gotten answers out of more uncooperative witnesses than her.
“Todd, why don’t you use the restroom before we head out?”
The boy sucked up the rest of his drink then slid out of the booth. He crossed paths with Leann on his way to the other side of the dining room, and she patted the top of his head. He looked up at her and grinned. Rick closed his eyes at the sight, torn between happiness and guilt. Tessa would understand. She wouldn’t still want him to be grieving after all this time.
He opened his eyes again to watch her approach the table, her own eyes wary. He wanted to tell her she didn’t have anything to worry about. He wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. Something made him think she wouldn’t believe that for a second. That somebody had hurt her. Maybe still was. He kept his eyes on her as she moved closer. He’d never seen any signs of physical abuse on her. Some men were excellent at hiding it. And not all pain was on the surface. He was well aware of that.
She reached the table and laid a small black folder on the table. “Todd said you two were heading out.”
He nodded. “It’s getting late, and we still have to drive home.”
His head felt like it was on a spring, it kept nodding so much. “Canon City.”
She sputtered for a moment. “That’s, uh, a good drive for dinner.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “I’d say it’s worth it.” Before he could weigh his words or really even think about them at all, he said, “I’d like to see you again, Leann.”
He thought she’d flush but instead her face drained of all color. He saw her throat move as she swallowed. Then, she seemed to recover, but he still saw the panic in her eyes. Like a wild animal that was being hunted into a corner. Even her smile was wobbly. “I’ll be working again tomorrow night if you want to waste your gas and time to come all the way here for dinner.”
“I wouldn’t consider that a waste of time or gas.” He reached out to take her hand. “But, I meant away from here.”
She shook her head quickly. “I can’t. I can’t date you.”
“Why not?” He glanced down at the hand he held in his. No ring on her finger. He couldn’t remember seeing her wear one.
“I just can’t,” she said, pulling her hand away. “My life isn’t simple, Rick. Not in the least. I can’t just drop everything for a date.”
“You think mine is? I have work too. And a son. A son who still misses his mother, and I’m not sure how to help him.” He cast a glance towards the restrooms, hoping that son wasn’t coming back yet. “Especially when he’s getting good at pretending everything’s fine.”
Her face had paled even more, if that was even possible. “I know what it is to not know how to help a child when they’re hurt. And I’m sorry. But, I still can’t date you, Rick.” She took a step back from the table. “I have to get back to work.”
He watched her scurry back to the kitchen. That was the best word for it. Then, he rubbed his hands over his face. He’d really screwed that up, hadn’t he? Next time he came, she’d probably request him to be seated somewhere else. Then, he paused. She knew what it was like. That’s what she’d said. Something twisted inside him. She had a kid too. She must. That only made him more intent on helping her with whatever she was facing.