Truck Stop Tempest by Krissy Daniels
“Look at me,” Tito ordered. Or maybe it wasn’t an order. Maybe his deep voice or the dark inflection that marinated his words made every syllable sound like a command.
On impulse, I obeyed, raising my eyes in a slow drag to meet his.
Those eyes. Dark and stormy. An exotic clash of browns and greens warring over prime real estate.
“Why do you do that?” he asked.
“What?” I feigned interest in my napkin.
A heavy hand covered mine. “Look at me.”
Again, I did as ordered.
“Whenever you feel uncomfortable or challenged, you look down.”
With great will, I held his gaze. “I. Um. Sorry. Habit. It’s how I was raised. Eyes down. Don’t argue. Obey your Elders.”
“Elders?” He laughed. “How old do you think I am?”
“No. I mean, Elders, as in, the men who are leaders—” I clamped my lips shut before spilling my ugly truth. “I mean, yeah, you know, like people older and wiser. Parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, you get the picture.”
Not missing a beat, he argued, “You started to say men who were leaders? Leaders of what?”
“Leaders in the church. The um, the church I grew up in.” I’d said too much already, but I couldn’t stop rambling. “We were punished if we disobeyed or showed any disrespect. Um. But. I don’t belong to that church anymore. I don’t agree with their beliefs. That’s why I moved to Whisper Springs. To get away.”
Tito’s face hardened, eyes narrowed. The weight of his scrutiny was suffocating. “Punished how?”
I wanted to flee. “Let’s talk about something else.”
Stone cold silence. My breakfast threatened to make a reappearance. After agonizing seconds, his glassy eyes cleared.
Tito leaned over the table, jaw clenched, his face inches from mine. “Listen to me, Tuuli. When we’re together, when we’re talking, you hold your head up. You look at me. Whatever is happening between us, you hold your head high. If you don’t like what I’ve got to say, look me in the eye and stand your ground. Got me?”
I nodded, biting my lip to hide the quiver.
He grabbed my chin and stole a kiss. A simple, sweet assurance. Then he held my gaze again. “Your eyes are full of secrets and stories. They are devastating and beautiful. Please don’t keep them from me.” With that, he pushed away from the table, pulled cash out of his wallet, and dropped it between our empty plates. “Come on. Let’s hit the road.”
My legs moved to follow. My guts, my heart, and my head lingered, not ready to leave the spot where I’d caught a rare glimpse of the real Tito Moretti.
The man who would most likely ruin me.