Champagne & Chaps(10)

By: Cheyenne McCray

“Sure you can.” She rested one hand on her steering wheel. “Deal?”

He paused a moment. “There’s a little place down the road that serves a great lunch. A place called Rutgers Café.”

“I saw it on my way to the store.” She smiled. “Meet you there.” He gave a nod and a smile and she buzzed up the window.

The cafe wasn’t more than three minutes from the store and in moments she was parked in front of it. She grabbed her purse and waited for Derrick to pull up in his truck.

He held the door open for her and she walked into the café. The delicious smells of fresh baked bread and grilled meats made her stomach rumble. A waitress seated them and gave them each a menu.

The waitress, whose nametag said Janine, seemed less than friendly with Derrick and Sabrina frowned.

“I didn’t know you worked here,” he said to Janine as she took their drink orders.

“Obviously, or you wouldn’t have come in.” Janine left with a sharp turn away.

Derrick looked at Sabrina. “You’re probably wondering what that was about. I guess it’s because she had a thing for me and I just wasn’t interested and didn’t ask her out. That woman must hold a grudge, and seeing me with a pretty lady like you set her off.”

Sabrina decided it would be best to avoid talking about that topic anymore. “What’s good here?”

“Pretty much everything.” He looked over his menu. “Haven’t had a bad meal here.” He glanced up in the direction Janine had gone and added, “Yet.”

When Janine returned, she brought their Cokes with a couple of straws. Sabrina ordered a Reuben and the waitress took the menu.

Janine turned to Derrick. “And what do you want?” The emphasis on ‘you’ and the tone of her voice made it clear she would have preferred that he had turned and walked right back out that door.

He seemed to ignore her attitude and ordered the roast beef sandwich. Janine snatched his menu and again she walked away with a stiff spine.

While they waited for their food, he mentioned the weather and she hoped that wasn’t going to be the highlight of their conversation.

“I’ve never seen you around before. Did you just move here?” he asked.

She set her cup down and shook her head. “I live in Tucson. I’m visiting a friend for the summer.”

“How was your trip down here?” he asked.

“It’s not too far from Tucson, so the drive wasn’t bad,” she said. “I actually enjoyed it. This part of the state is beautiful.”

He gave a nod. “I’d have to agree with that.”

Janine returned with their plates of food. She set Derrick’s down a little harder than necessary then left.

“It’s wonderful,” Sabrina said after she’d eaten a bite. “I love a good Reuben and this is a good Reuben.”

“This isn’t half bad,” he said although from the looks of it, his bread was stale. No doubt Janine had made his “special”.

“Thanks for lunch,” he said.

“You saved me.” She gestured with her sandwich. “I appreciate it so much.”

He shrugged. “My pleasure.”

“So you said you ranch.” She set her sandwich down and wiped her fingers with her napkin before picking up her cup of soda. “What exactly do you do?”

“Work with cattle, maintain fences. Whatever needs to be done,” he said as she sipped her soda through a straw. For some reason she felt like he was being a little evasive, but it was probably her imagination.

“My sister, Izzy, lives in Tucson,” he said. “Will you be going there at all this summer?”

With a nod she said, “Yes. My mom isn’t doing well, so I’ll probably head to Tucson maybe once a week.”

“I send packages to Izzy for her kids most weeks,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of money. Maybe you wouldn’t mind giving them to her when you’re in town?”

“Sure.” She smiled. “I’d feel like I was repaying you then.”

“That would be great.” He grinned. “I’d really appreciate it.”

“Have you lived in this part of the country all your life?” she asked.