The other girl’s lips stretched wider, and Farica gulped back a laugh.
Oh my, she thought again.
The only way to describe Kady’s smile was to liken it to one of those creepy demonic faces in Lucy Hale’s Truth or Dare.
Kady’s distress turned into concern when the Blackwood twins started coughing and a moment later, everyone else, Farica included, was coughing alongside them.
“Are you guys alright?” she asked anxiously.
Aidan and Thornton could only keep coughing, the only way for both men to keep themselves from laughing over the waitress’ failed attempt at smiling.
Kady started wringing her hands. “Should I call 911?”
“It’s, ah, fine now,” the police chief finally managed to say. “Sorry about that.”
“Must be something in the air,” his twin said gruffly.
“But if it were the air,” Kady ventured uncertainly, “isn’t it weird that I was the only one who didn’t seem affected?”
“Guess that makes you healthy as a horse,” Thornton said.
“Must be the Coloradan in me,” Kady joked.
Aidan nearly winced. Unlike most of Hartland’s residents, he and the twins, along with the town mayor, were third-generation Wyomingites, and it was galling to have to let the girl’s words slide.
“Are you guys sure you’re really alright?” Kady was asking.
But since this was the most relaxed he had seen Kady in their presence…
“Just a bit of a headache,” Aidan lied.
There was not a single hint of Kady’s usual panicky expression now, and as she fussed over the twins like a mother hen, the other men in the cafe made careful study of the scenario before them.
Good old Aidan, to always find the most peaceful way to resolve things, and in this case, their police chief appeared to have found the best way to stop Kady from fleeing like she usually did whenever any one of them was around.
Having picked up on the twins’ strategy, the rest of the guys had no qualms in deliberately adopting a meeker and graver personality when speaking with Kady, and with every ‘yes, ma’am,’ and ‘no, ma’am,’ uttered, they were treated with the delightful sight of Kady increasingly brimming with confidence.
By the time Monday rolled in, and Farica had John Lennon’s Jealous Guy (aptly, as it would turn out) playing in the background, Kady had finally relaxed enough in their presence to stop bumping into tables whenever any of the local guys popped in.
In rare cases, such as with the incredibly charismatic duo of Ethan, the florist next door, and his close friend, Dr. Ronan Slater, Kady had even gained the ability to speak coherently and smile without looking psychotic, and it was this exact scene that greeted Slade when he arrived back from Laramie.
Exhausted and already short-tempered, Slade could feel his mood turning violent when the first thing he saw upon entering the cafe was how well his Kady was suddenly getting along with other guys.
He had not worked nonstop, nearly going without sleep the entire weekend, just to fucking see Kady fall for another man, goddammit.
Stalking towards her and ignoring the interested looks he was getting from the other locals, Slade only came to a halt one small step away and waited.
After thanking Ethan and Ronan for their orders, Kady turned around and bumped straight into her boss’ hard chest.
“Hello, little chick. Miss me?”
A strangled sound escaped Kady, and after throwing him a look of fear, she scrambled away from the billionaire like he had fucking body odor.
Kady managed to trip four times – a goddamn record, the billionaire thought dourly – before finally making it to the kitchen. Even though not a single person in the cafe had spoken, Slade could feel everyone’s gazes smirking at him…
“I’m goddamn charging the lot of you double, motherfuckers.”
This time, everyone did laugh since, just like Slade, all of them had billions in their disposal, and so such threats meant nothing at all.
Back in the kitchen, Kady made herself busy helping Elizabeth in prepping the insanely popular starters from the fall menu. At five-fifteen, Farica poked her head in to order Kady to get her ass off to Laramie.
“But it’s just thirty minutes—”
“No arguments,” Farica cut in firmly. “It’s the first day of the semester, and you’re the new girl in school—”
“Thanks for the reminder,” Kady said with a wince.
But the older girl only blew her a kiss. “You’re welcome.”
After changing into a long-sleeved boyfriend shirt and leggings, Kady made her way out through the back door, and as always, the dreamy, feel-good sight of Elizabeth’s herb garden made her smile and sigh. Colorful plant boxes, and peeking between the fresh green leaves was an assortment of cute little figures from Beatrix Potter’s beloved series.
I should do my own version outside my bedroom window, Kady thought to herself as she headed out. But instead of Peter Rabbit and company, she could—
Kady jumped back in surprise.
A dusty black truck rumbled in front of her, and seated behind its wheel was none other than her boss, whose expression would make the Grim Reaper look friendly.