Excerpt: Be My Queen

Lavender opened the restaurant door. “I still don’t see why. What are you getting?”

The place was loud and crowded, but cheap. Even the salads were cheap, which was why Lavender had agreed to go out with her friends tonight.

Vish laughed. “Why ask? You always get the same thing.”

Why change the subject? Because Lavender didn’t need a man in her life. She didn’t want one. Boyfriends were for real girls.

A hundred eyes turned their way. Lavender straightened her back. She refused to be intimidated.

“Look,” whispered Alana. “Those guys are watching us.”

Lavender stared at the menu board. Her salad was exactly where it’d been last time.

“A couple of cuties and a handsome guy.” Vish stepped up to a cashier and ordered.

Lavender shelled out a chunk of her meager supply of money to the other cashier. She didn’t have time for men. Her world was perfectly balanced between…

Well, her life wasn’t balanced at all, but her secret was safe, and that was all that mattered.

“The one in the glasses is cute.” Ariel giggled.

Lavender bit her lip. She was not going to make a fool of herself by turning. The kid behind the counter slid her tray across. She carried it to the drink machine, where she put a slice of lemon in her water.

Caiside had wiped down the only open table and its benches with a damp towel from the people behind the counter. The guys still watched them. Two of the younger ones teased a third. They needed a better hobby.

Lavender slid onto the bench with her back to the gawkers. She poured half her dressing onto her salad, put the lid back on, and shook it. Ariel and Alana slid onto the other bench. Their trays were full of yummy goodness.

Vish bumped Lavender with her elbow. “Let me in.”

Lavender slipped out and Vish took the inside space. By the time Lavender was back in her seat, Caiside had her tray and slipped in after. Lavender ate with her arms pressed to her sides. That kept her from bumping her friends, and kept her hands away from the delicious fries on Ariel’s and Alana’s trays.

Lavender ate ice cream for money. She had to cut calories somewhere.

Ariel pointed at herself and turned her finger to Lavender.

“What?” Vish turned. “That guy with the boys… He’s standing up. And coming this way.”

A man in blue jeans and a leather jacket entirely inappropriate for the warm night stopped at their table. “I’d always heard that LA was full of beautiful women, but I didn’t really believe it until you five walked through that door.”

How cheesy. But the other girls laughed. Lavender kept her eyes on her salad. Why wouldn’t he just walk away?

“My name’s Diego and—”

The other girls protested. He didn’t look Hispanic. His blue eyes were looking straight at Lavender. They moved down from her face and back up. Guys were so obvious. Still, her breasts were her best feature and one hundred percent natural.

Diego pulled out his wallet and passed his ID to Ariel. “See. Diego Greene. I was named for my father’s best friend. I go to the doctor’s office or any place that uses first names and the nurse looks at the paper, then at me, and tells me that she’ll call me when she’s ready for me, but it’s Diego’s turn now. It’s the hair, I think.”

He ran his hand through his dark blond hair.

The others laughed again. Caiside stood. “Do you want to sit here?”

No!

Vish and Ariel giggled. They would.

“Thank you. But I’d rather sit here.” Diego pointed to the space between Ariel and Alana.

Directly across from Lavender.

The others giggled. This wasn’t funny.

Vish looked at his ID. “You’re a long way from home.”

“True, but I plan to make the most of my vacation.”

Vish tried to pass her the ID, but Lavender didn’t want to know anything about him. If he left, would the flutters leave her belly? She’d paid good money for her dinner, so she shouldn’t waste it.

“She’s Lavender.”

Betrayed by her own roommate.

“Lavender.” His voice was a hand against her skin. “Hello, Lavender.”

Vish poked her. “Say hi back.”

But Lavender wasn’t about to acknowledge him in any way. He was already too close, too handsome, and too attentive for comfort.

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