Always on My Mind - Bella Andre Page 0,2

side of the store had a deli counter, several refrigerated units holding eggs and cheese and milk, plus shelves weighed down with canned food.

She grabbed a bag of chips and walked up to the register. The teenage boy behind the deli counter turned bright red. “Wh-what can I get y—” He swallowed hard and reached up to loosen the neck of his T-shirt. “—you.”

Even as it occurred to her that maybe she should have gone back to the car for her scarf to wrap around her dance outfit, she enjoyed the appreciation in his eyes. Just because she was done with men didn’t mean she didn’t still want to be wanted by them. That way she could have the pleasure of kicking them all to the curb—except for sweet teenage boys, of course.

“What’s the best sandwich you’ve got?”

His eyes went wide at her question, as if she’d asked him for the answer to how the earth rotated on its axis rather than just about cold cuts and bread. And boy, was he working hard to keep his eyes on her face rather than letting them drop to her br**sts, which were pretty much on full display in her outfit. It was so cute that she wanted to leap across the counter to hug him for making her feel pretty again, at least for a few seconds of adolescent adoration.

“Um, I don’t know.” He swallowed hard again before turning to scan the list of sandwiches handwritten on the board behind him. “Maybe the Muffuletta?”

“Sounds good.” She put down the chips on the counter as he started to ring her up. “I’ll also take the strongest cup of coffee you can brew.”

Who knew how much longer she’d be out driving these farm roads before she found a place to stay for the night? She did have the rental car for an entire month, after all.

He took her money from her with a shaking hand, and when she said, “Could you tell me where the bathroom is?” he dropped it all on the floor, then hit his head on the open register drawer when he went to pick it up.

Clearly not trusting himself to speak this time, he simply knelt on the floor and pointed toward the back of the building with a shaky hand. Lori figured it was a good idea to give him a break while he made her sandwich; she’d hate for him to slice off the tip of a finger with the meat cutter just because she was standing too close in barely-there spandex and glitter.

After quickly taking care of business, she looked at herself in the mirror and would have laughed if she hadn’t been so horrified by the mess she found in the reflection. With quick and efficient professionalism she fixed her hair and makeup. She’d always subscribed to the idea that if you looked good, you felt good, but today she had a feeling mascara and lip gloss weren’t going to fix much of anything.

After leaving the bathroom, she took a few moments to look around a little bit. On second glance, the General Store was pretty cute inside, a little farm “superstore” with groceries and clothes and chicken feed, clearly all of equal importance to the people who lived here. One table had a Local Authors sign on it and she stopped to scan the books of poetry, novels, and a couple of nonfiction tomes on farming techniques. The books gave her a sense of the community that this store supported, likely made up of farmers and their families who had been here for generations.

She’d been part of the dancing community for so long she hadn’t ever looked for any other world to belong to. Especially not when Sullivan family events with her mother and seven siblings were frequent enough to take up any free time she had.

But now, even the thought of dancing made her sick to her stomach. Her ex had wooed her with dancing...and then betrayed her with it. Once upon a time, she’d danced for herself, for the pure joy it had given her. Until these past few months, when she’d been little more than Victor’s puppet, dancing to try to please him. By the time she realized that nothing pleased him, she’d forgotten how to dance for any other reason. And now, it felt like there was a dead, numb zone inside her where her heart used to be.

She supposed she’d find another community to belong to in time.

Lori was