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The Most Eligible Bachelor Bella Winters 2022/7/22 14:15:17

“Then you keep chugging at those numbers,” I smiled back. “I’ll find my way around.”

The town really was small. The main street was barely wide enough for two cars, and was probably a congestion hazard if anyone parked on one side. With the scant number of people moving abou

t, I doubted that happened much anyway. The stores stood in rows next to each other, small enough to pass for kiosks. There was hardly more than two people in each one, and as I walked down the street, heads turned to watch the new guy in town.

A guy could really escape here.

Which was why Chuck’s reaction to my not wanting to tell him a last name, or pay with cash, didn’t seem very surprising. I wondered how many people had lodged up in his motel for weeks on end just to get away from it all, without a worry in the world that anyone would find them. Ludwig certainly had its small-town charm, and it probably didn’t see too many strangers. Especially one who looked like me.

It explained why everyone was staring a bit too hard.

I found the diner easily, pushed back a bit from the main street to allow for a parking space where two trucks sat idly side by side. The bar beside it, Joel’s, had music coming out the open door, and I wondered how many people were actually inside this time of the day. Actually, the fact that any business was open surprised me. The population was probably a little shy of two or three hundred people, if that. Booth was a small town. Ludwig was just a dot on a map that didn’t even merit a stop light on Main Street.

I walked into the diner, the small chime above the door bringing everyone’s attention to me. Other than the girl behind the bar and two guests, each occupying his own booth, the place was empty. From inside the kitchen, the soft sound of sizzling escaped through the small window, and the aroma of something savory being deep fried wafted through the diner.

I nodded at the other guests when they didn’t stop gazing at me, and pulled up on one of the stools directly in front of the girl behind the counter. She smiled at me, all fake cheers that hid layers of lost sleep, and passed me the menu while smacking her gum.

“Chuck says you guys make the best burgers in town,” I said, pushing the menu back.

The girl nodded. “Hell mister, we make the only burgers in town. Not much to compare with.”

I smiled. “Then give me your best. And an order of those onion rings.”

She nodded, called out my order through the window to the kitchen, and then grabbed a pot of coffee and placed a cup in front of me.

“New in town?” she asked. The way she eyed me made me feel like I was the newest animal on display in the local zoo.

“How could you tell?” I asked, giving her a wry grin.

“Staying at Chuck’s, huh?”

“Only motel in town,” I replied. “Great guy.”

“Here on business or pleasure?”

I took a sip from my coffee. “You folks don’t get a lot of tourists, do you?”

She smiled at me, blew a bubble with her gum and let it pop. “I’ll get you that burger.”

The chimes rang again, and I turned around just as Ashlyn walked in. She stopped in her tracks when she saw me, hesitated for a bit, then smiled awkwardly.

So much for getting her out of your head.

“When I said I’d be seeing you around, didn’t expect to see you so soon,” I said as she approached.

“There aren’t that many places where you can go,” she said. “It’s a small town.”

“I’ve been hearing that a lot,” I smiled. “You guys running it as your tagline or something? Welcome to Ludwig, We’re a small town. Bump into you later.”

“That’s city talk for sarcasm, right?”

I laughed. Touché. This girl’s fun.