Cass Reed nursed a stale beer as she picked at her paper-lined basket of cold steak fingers and soggy French fries. Cigarette smoke stung her eyes and twangy country music assailed her ears. Behind her, rough-looking men and women shouted at each other to be heard over the incessant clack of pool balls smacking together. It was the end of her first day traveling Route 66.
Illinois and Missouri had been a whole lot of nothing. The ride was bumpy, the low speed limits made her long for the Interstate, driving with the windows down had given her a headache, and Janis had called every hour to check up on her, as if she wasn’t thirty-three and capable of taking care of herself. Toledo felt a million miles away. Cass’s shoulders sagged and her vision blurred. If anyone had asked, she would have said it was the cigarette smoke making her eyes water. Loneliness was like a maw in her gut. Exhaustion buzzed in her head.
She should have flown to Los Angeles like a sane person. If she hadn’t already been two days into her road trip, she might have turned around. But she was in Kansas, and her new job started in two weeks, and going back home–no, not home, not anymore–would have felt like failure. Cass rubbed at her eyes with the heels of her palms. She wasn’t willing to give Nicholas or Michelle the satisfaction. She would press on. They would never know how angry she was. They would never know how much his betrayal hurt. She had worked hard to maintain her dignity all through the divorce, but in the end, she was the one running away. She couldn’t go back.
After a deep breath, she raised her head. Maybe it was time to just go back to the motel, try to get some sleep.
Movement in her peripheral vision made her look, and what she saw shoved the divorce and the bad day right out of her mind.
He was tall and lanky, dressed in a dark t-shirt and snug blue jeans, and he leaned against a wooden support column at the edge of the dance floor. His crew cut was in need of a trim, but the hard line of his jaw and his full lips made up for it. Cass met his eyes. His lips twisted into a smirk and he pushed away from the column. It took her muddled brain several seconds to realize that he was swaggering straight toward her.
Cass dropped her gaze back to her food as a shiver went up her spine. ‘What the hell?’
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