The voice came from right behind her, startling her. She turned around as a hand pushed a dollar bill across the counter toward the waitress.
“Give the lady anything she wants.”
Surprised, she found herself staring at a young man who flashed her a pearly white smile. He had a rakish face, just handsome enough to give a girl pause. His jet black hair was slicked back, leaving one lone curl drooping smack dab in the middle of his forehead. Geri made a fist to keep herself from reaching up and brushing back that single strand.
“Whaddaya say, miss? Care to order something now?” Ruby asked again.
“Uhh, yes. Cheeseburger and a chocolate shake, please.” Geri gave her a grateful smile. Ruby nodded and left to give the cook the order.
She rotated around to thank her benefactor. “Thank you. That was a nice thing to do.”
“Roddy,” the young man told her, giving her another commercial-worthy smile. “Name’s Roddy Carvelle. Friends call me Hot Rod.”
“Hot Rod?” She managed to suppress her snort of amusement. Instead, she held out a hand. “Geraldine. My friends call me Geri.”
He took her hand, but rather than shake it, he continued to hold it. She felt his thumb caress the back of her knuckles. The simple caress sent shivers through her. Pleasant shivers.
Oooh, not good, Geri. Pull away.
She tried to withdraw her hand, but he refused to let go. For the time being, for some reason she couldn’t explain, she allowed him to continue stroking it. At least she knew he’d eventually have to release it when her food arrived.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked with an amused smile. The question was irrelevant. She knew he was flirting with her, and for once she found herself liking the attention. It was tentative and somewhat innocent. Besides, there was no way it could lead to anything serious.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” He grinned at her with those big blue eyes. “I’m holding a beautiful woman’s hand.”
She tried to extricate herself again with no luck. The charm bracelet jingled with the effort, drawing his attention to it.
“That’s pretty. I like the little carousel. Does it move?”
“Yes, it does.”
“It suits you.”
This time she couldn’t help snorting. “How old are you, Roddy?” She expected him to go on the defensive. He didn’t.
She threw a knowing glance around the place. “And you’re still a student?”
“I got held back in sixth grade. Is that a crime?”
She gave a slight shake of her head. “Not if you’re graduating this year.”
His grin widened. “Class of fifty-nine, sweet cheeks. Not quite at the top of the class, but at least I’ll be in the procession.” He seemed proud of the fact. In fact, something about his attitude struck a chord with her. Yes, he was flirting, but there appeared to be an underlying intent. A nice, provocative intent.
“Why are coming on to me, Roddy?”
“Why not? You’re a beautiful woman.”
“I’m twelve years your senior.”
“Guess that means I’m twelve years your junior.”
Geri sighed and finally managed to pull her hand free to join the other clutching her purse. “Nice try, Roddy.”
A look of honest disappointment shadowed his face. “Was it something I said?”
“I’m too old for you,” she flatly stated.
“Says who?” He scooted closer, spreading his knees when he hooked the heels of his shoes on the stool’s footrest. Geri couldn’t help but to drop her eyes to his crotch. The fabric was so tight around his genitals, it wasn’t difficult to see the bulging outline. In fact—her gaze slowly crawled up his abs, his chest, and shoulders. The simple white t-shirt was just as constricting. There wasn’t a muscle it didn’t outline. Faintly, she wondered how his body would feel beneath her hands. Or between her legs.
Stop it. What the hell are you thinking?
She glanced up, realizing she hadn’t answered his question. A moment later, a plate landed on the counter at her elbow.
“What about you, Hot Rod? The usual?” Ruby waggled her eyebrows at him, and Geri got the impression this wasn’t the first time he’d tried to pick up someone. The diner was probably his favorite hangout.
Picking up her burger, she bit into it. It gave her the chance to hide her amused grin when he ordered a Coke. Once Ruby handed him his drink, Geri wiped her mouth and fingers on a napkin.
“Answer me a question?”
“Where is this supposed to lead? I mean, how do you expect tonight to end? With me becoming another notch on your belt?”
Roddy tilted his head. “I was rather hoping to get to know you better.”
Her use of the expletive surprised him. “Excuse me?”
“You want to get into my panties, don’t you?”
Whirling around, she leaned in close enough to where no one could overhear, even without the jukebox blasting Chuck Berry.
“What would you say if I told you I was from the future? That I’m not supposed to be here? What if I told you that in my time, this place is nothing but a burned-out shell because in two more days, an accident will destroy this place?”
He stared at her. Judging her. Trying to figure out if she was pulling his leg or crazy. Or both.
“Prove it,” he finally said.
Prove it? How?
Through the big plate glass windows, she saw a car pull out of its slot. As it exited onto the road, she caught the drive-in’s lights reflecting off her own vehicle parked on the other side of the road.
Sliding off her stool, she grabbed his hand. “Come on,” she ordered, giving him a tug.
“Where to?” His sexy grin was back.
“To prove to you I’m telling the truth.”
Roddy quickened his steps to make it appear it was he who was leading her outside. A couple of boys threw catcalls at them, but she ignored it. Once they exited, the muggy evening air was oppressive. Already regretting her actions, Geri eyed the We Are Air-Cooled sign in the diner’s window and wished they could go back in. That was a damn good hamburger she’d left behind.
Roddy tried to shove his hands in his jeans’ front pockets but they were so constricting, he could only get his fingers inside. “I’m ready. Where’s your proof?”
“Across the street. Come on.” She waved for him to follow and proceeded across the parking lot, past the stalls, to where her vehicle was parked.
She was halfway across the street when something snagged her jacket. Looking down, she saw it was the charm bracelet. One of Donald Duck’s feet was caught in the sleeve’s hem. Rather than work it free, she undid the clasp to slip it off.
The music suddenly stopped and the lights faded. Alarmed, Geri turned around to face absolute darkness. The single glare from the corner street lamp outlined the dilapidated shell of the drive-in that was overrun with weeds, covered in graffiti, and vacant.
Her legs went out from under her and she collapsed against the hood of her car.
“No. No.” She shook her head. “It was so real. It was… Roddy…”
She ran her tongue around inside her mouth. She could still taste the hamburger. A bit of gristle was caught between her teeth. Lifting her hand to her nose, she sniffed. The smell of onions clung to her fingers.
“Then how? How did…”
Her secondary memory kicked in, reminding her why she was there in the first place. Retrieving the flashlight from her car, she churned the handle to where it gave off a steady beam and went back to the diner.
Inside, the place looked exactly as it had when she’d shown it to Pickerell. And on the counter sat the leather portfolio where she’d remembered him placing it. Grabbing the folder, Geri hurried out of place and returned to her car.
On her way home, she argued with herself. Did she or did she not go back to 1959? Did she or did she not have a hamburger? Did she or did she not encounter a young man named Roddy Carvelle, who had a penchant for older women?
“Roddy Carvelle. Hot Rod Carvelle.”
She knew what she was going to do when she got home. She would do an internet search to see if such a person actually existed. And if he had…
If he had or had not survived the fire.
She wondered, half in fear, what she would discover.