“Wait,” he called to her back. “What should I get?”
When she turned around to look at him, her face had softened and there was the hint of a smile on her lips, giving him a glimpse of the woman she might be underneath her fatigue. When he and Curtis had been spending days and nights building their app, he’d had times when no amount of coffee would help to keep his eyelids open. And here she was, even managing a smile. It was impressive. And intriguing.
“Get the Elk Chips. Roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, peppers, sausage, and cheese all in one big pile, topped with sour cream and salsa. It’s basically everything you could want in a breakfast.”
“And what if I’m a sweet guy?” he asked, attempting an easy, flirtatious tone, something he’d never had much success with. However, now that he’d seen her smile, he didn’t want her to leave the table and he was going to give it everything he had.
She mustered another small smile. “Huckleberry pancakes. Babe picks the berries herself—at patches she won’t tell anyone else about. If you’ve never had real huckleberries, you should get those. Babe makes the huckleberry syrup, too.”
“I’ll have that, then. I want you to remember my sweetness.” God, he’d meant that sincerely, but even he could hear that he sounded like an ass covered in slime.
Her smile disappeared, replaced by raised eyebrows and suspiciously narrowed eyes. “Was that supposed to be a pickup line?”
He shrugged, chagrined. “I’m just trying to make your day better, not worse.”
Her eyebrows remained up. “So pickup line or not?”
Smooth, he wasn’t. She probably heard cracks like that all the time from random men who walked into Babe’s Diner and wanted to see a smile on her face.
“Somewhere in between,” he offered, trying to verbally back away without fully retreating.
She continued to look unimpressed. “You know, pickup lines are almost never successful with women, and especially not when delivered halfheartedly.”
He laughed at the truth of the matter. The town sign had said the population was 692. On his way to the diner he’d seen a vet’s office, a bar, a hardware store, and a steakhouse, but no McDonald’s. So it wasn’t that she was sick of all the strangers coming in and hitting on her, he realized. It was that he’d tried, struck out, and then was being a coward about it.
“You’re right,” he said, shaking his head at himself. “Well, here’s the honest truth. I suck at being smooth. If I’d wanted to impress you, I should have talked nerdy to you. I’m good at that.”
To his surprise—and apparently to hers, too—she laughed. Her entire face brightened. For a brief moment, the dark circles were gone from under her eyes and the little Christmas bells hanging from her ears jingled. Pleasure filled his chest. He was as proud as if he’d just dragged an enormous dead animal to the cave of the woman he was trying to impress. At least he knew enough not to bang on his chest.
“That was better,” she said with a smile and a shake of her holly-tipped pen. “Huckleberry pancakes it is. Comes with bacon or sausage.”
She nodded, a hint of a smile still present on her lips. “It’ll go with your sweetness.”