Amanda Cook doesn’t know who is following her or why. She is just a simple college student planning out her future, working at the neighborhood taco shop, and living with her great aunt. When her best friend’s cousin, Mitch, arrives back in town he immediately steals her heart, but someone else wants it more. Her paranoia grows when she spots the same car at odd places around town and starts getting strange letters in the mail. One night after class a man tackles Amanda and wrestles her to the ground. As she fights to escape, she realizes that her stalker could be someone she knows.
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Aunt Faye always said to trust your instincts, but at seventeen, I haven’t learned yet what my instincts are. My strong first reaction was interest, curiosity, maybe even flattery. I know now I was wrong. ”Taco Pedro. May I help you?” Amanda Cook sighed, her pen poised over the pad, the top chewed down to the refill. Why the owners couldn’t install an electronic register was beyond comprehension. It is the eighties!
An old-fashioned cash register sat in the middle of the counter that separated the cooks from the customers in the tiny fast food establishment. The metal speaker in the drive-thru looked like something from an old drive-in movie theater, but it worked and appeared to be crash resistant.
“Hello? Where did you go?” The disembodied male voice interrupted her thoughts.
She pushed the button that allowed him to hear her. “I’m sorry, please repeat your order.” “Two tacos, iced tea, and a date.”
Amanda laughed. “Sarah! Get out here. We’ve got another Romeo in the drive-thru.” She clicked the button again, “That’ll be $2.57 for two tacos and iced tea.”
“What about the date?”
“Sorry, I don’t date customers, but thanks for asking.” Amanda flipped her brown ponytail behind her slender shoulders before she tucked taco meat into the shell. The spicy smell of ground beef and salsa permeated the air. “Sarah, you’d better hurry, or you’ll miss this smooth talker.” She had heard the flush before her best friend joined her, zipping her size four jeans.
“Jeez, can’t I even take a bathroom break? What’s this about Romeo?” Sarah quickly washed her hands and checked her image in the mirror above the industrial metal sink. Amanda smiled. Her best friend was Cover Girl pretty, perfect make-up, perfect hair, petite form and dressed “to kill” as her mother always said. The noise of the car faded as it moved away from the metal speaker and up to the take-out window. The headlights sliced the uneven drive, illuminating the weeds in the vacant lot east of them. ”What did he order?” Sarah asked. She peeked around the corner of the window to get a glimpse.
“Two tacos, iced tea, and a date. Interested?” Sarah smiled as she perused the driver outside the window.
“Oh yeah, he drives a black Camaro. Excellent.”
Amanda handed the sack of food to Sarah and glanced at the customer’s car. “Give it your best shot, girl.”
“He’s been coming in for a couple of days. I’ll get the tea.” Sarah’s short walnut colored bob bounced as she went to fill the cup with ice. She took her time so she could get a good look at the guy behind the wheel. “He’s not bad.” Sarah slid the window open, gave him her most dazzling smile and leaned far enough to show a hint of cleavage. “Here you go.”
“Hi,” he said, showing a mass of gleaming white teeth in a tanned face. “Every move you make, I’ll be watching…” The band Police on the radio serenaded them. Amanda stepped in beside Sarah to hand him his order. He stared into Amanda’s hazel eyes, ignoring those of her vivacious friend.
“Here’s your order. Thanks for stopping at Taco Pedro.” Sarah stepped back from the window. “Men. Go figure,” she mumbled.
Amanda grabbed the edge of the window and prepared to shut it.
“WAIT.” He held out his hand blocking its closure, a huge class ring shined in the light. “I mean…hi, I’m Evan. Evan Clark. What’s your name?”
She looked at his bright smile and couldn’t help but give one back. “I’m Amanda.” Shaking his cold hand gave her a jolt. “Enjoy your dinner.” She closed the window, turned back to Sarah and rolled her eyes. “That was weird. His hand was like electric. I must have static built up from my clothes or something.” She couldn’t put her finger on what it was, but something about Evan Clark made Amanda feel intrigued. They turned their attention to the sound of a car in the drive-thru.
“Back to work,” Sarah said, and punched the button for the drive-thru speaker. “Welcome to Taco Pedro, may I help you?”
The bell over the front door rang. Her ponytail swung as Amanda turned to help the walk-in customer. “Guess we’re going to have a busy Tuesday night after all,” she called over her shoulder. Amanda smiled as Andrew Roman, her neighbor and second best friend in the world, came in the door.
“Hey, Amanda, what’s up?”
“Hey yourself, Andrew. Are you hungry again? I know for a fact your mom fixed dinner two hours ago.” Amanda grinned.
He lifted his slender arm and flexed a slight but very real muscle. “A guy has to keep up his strength.” He winked at her.
“The usual?” He nodded his mop of black hair. “Yeah, a taco burger, burrito and a Coke.”
“Hot sauce?” Amanda loved the way his dark brown eyes crinkled in the corners when he smiled, and from the dreamy look Sarah was giving him – so did she. “Always.”
“I am not covering the drive-thru all night,” Sarah grumbled at Amanda. She squeezed around Sarah and smiled while she began making his order, but when she glanced in the parking lot, it turned into a scowl.
“Hey Andrew, see that black Camaro out there?”
“How could I not? Cool car.” “Do you know a guy named Evan Clark?” She got Andrew’s Coke and joined him at the counter, her back to the parking lot and the black automobile.
“Not that I recall, why? Does he drive the Camaro?”
“Yeah.” Amanda went to the now empty food prep counter and finished assembling Andrew’s order. She glanced up at Sarah chatting with the drive-thru customer about high school football. “Oh, man, you’re kidding. I was at that game. Farmer High kicked your butts.” There was a muffled reply from the car before Sarah said good-bye and closed the window. “That was Rod from Midtown High School. I met him at the football game. He remembered I worked here and decided to try the food. I think he just wanted to see me again.” She thrust out her chest, huffed onto the nails of her right hand, and shined them on her jeans.
“Of that, I have no doubt,” Amanda said.
“Hey Andrew, how are you?” Sarah kissed his cheek.
“Fine, thanks.” He shifted his gaze to Amanda, “The Camaro is gone.”
“What?” Sarah sauntered to the tiny shop sink in the back to wash the grease from her hands for the hundredth time that night.
“That guy who came through before. I noticed him hanging out in the lot. There’s something about him. I don’t know what…but he was kinda cute,” Amanda said.
Straightening his six-foot frame, Andrew looked bigger than Amanda remembered. “Did he bother you or should I be jealous?”
“Well, yeah, he bothered me.” Sarah tucked her hair behind one ear. “He didn’t even know I was alive.”
Andrew watched Amanda’s face. “I can’t imagine anyone not noticing the lovely Sarah Finney, but hey, Amanda’s no slouch.”
Batting her lashes, Sarah stuck out one hip. “Oh, I know that, but she’s so quiet that most guys don’t even notice her. I’m easier to talk to.”
“I’m not that quiet!” Amanda narrowed her eyes and handed Andrew his sack, already spotted with grease.