Val smiled as the waitress brought him a menu.
“What can I get you, hon?”
“A coffee.” He glanced over the menu items. “I’d also like a bowl of chili with a grilled cheese sandwich.”
“Sure thing. Anything else?”
“That’s it for now.” He handed her the menu and rubbed his hands together for warmth. The weather sure did suck. He hadn’t planned on the sudden blizzard taking over the parts of the country he visited. He’d thought he’d never make it out of Denver when he had a scheduled layover and the snow had grounded them there for an extra three hours. Now, he was stuck in Des Moines until O’Hare reopened. It crossed his mind more than once that he should drive the rest of the way. He could possibly be home by morning instead of spending another night in a hotel room instead of his own bed.
The waitress brought him a coffee mug and saucer. She held a pot of steaming black coffee and poured him some. He smiled his gratitude and lifted the hot mug with both hands.
“You still going to the Windy City, Clay?” the waitress asked one of the customers sitting at the bar.
“Yeah. Got to have the load there by morning.”
“You’d better be careful. There’s a blizzard taking over the city. The news said they’ve gotten twenty-four inches of snow in the past few hours.”
Val glanced over at the man. Seemingly, there wasn’t anything special about him. He faced away from Val, wearing a soft gray sweater paired with faded denim jeans. A Carhartt jacket draped over the back of his seat and a pair of thick work gloves rested next to him on the bar while he finished his meal. Much like Val, he’d chosen some kind of soup and a sandwich.
“I’ll be okay.” The man named Clay sipped at his drink. “I can get through any kind of weather. That’s why they pay me the big bucks.”
The waitress gave him a look of concern. He must be a regular, Val thought. Someone who either lived in Des Moines or frequented there. The news was playing on the small, outdated TV behind the bar, and Val watched it, seeing the drastic dumping of white shit Mother Nature thought was freaking hilarious. This could have waited until he was home. He’d lived in Chicago for the past five years, but when Mother Nature got pissed off, he was usually out of the city.
The waitress brought Val his food, and he thanked her for it. The man named Clay glanced over his shoulder and locked eyes with Val. It wasn’t every day Val saw such a pretty color of blue-gray eyes. He sat there completely mesmerized until the guy spoke.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” Clay pulled out his wallet and laid a few bills on the bar.
“Chicago,” Val said, dipping his spoon into the chili. “Sucks to be me, I know.”
The deep chuckle from the other man sounded warm and friendly. “Let me guess, flying?”
“Yes. My second layover. The first was in Denver for three hours.” He ate a bite of his food, enjoying the spicy taste as the warmth soothed the coldness he felt. His wet clothing didn’t help matters much. He needed to get back to the hotel and dry off.
“Wow. I hope you’re not anxious to get home.”
Actually, he was. He wanted to sleep in his own bed and eat his own food. He had so many things to do at the office when he got back, he didn’t even know where to start. So many people thought when he took business trips that they were glorified vacations. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
“Actually, I am. I was thinking about driving. Do you think the roads are clear enough to get there by morning?”
The man shoved his wallet back in his pocket and reached for his jacket. “I don’t know really. I have a load I have to get to Chicago by morning so they have to be to some extent for me.” He glanced out at the icy roads in Des Moines. “You could ride with me. My truck has chains for traction if I need it. It’d be better than riding in some compact car that’s so damn small your knees bump the dash and your head grazes the ceiling.”
Val stopped with the spoon halfway to his mouth. The man with the sexy blue-gray eyes had invited him to ride?