Without thinking, I bend my arm and throw the rolling pin like a tomahawk . . . straight at the head of the guy who’s standing just inside the kitchen door.
The guy I didn’t hear come in.
The guy who catches the hurling rolling pin without flinching—one-handed and cool as a gorgeous cucumber—just an inch from his perfect face.
He tilts his head to the left, looking around the rolling pin to meet my eyes with his soulful brown ones. “Nice toss.”
Logan St. James.
Bodyguard. Totally badass. Sexiest guy I have ever seen—and that includes books, movies and TV, foreign and domestic. He’s the perfect combo of boyishly could-go-to-my-school kind of handsome, mixed with dangerously hot and tantalizingly mysterious. If comic-book Superman, James Dean, Jason Bourne and some guy with the smoothest, most perfectly pitched, British-Scottish-esque, Wessconian-accented voice all melded together into one person, they would make Logan fucking St. James.
And I just tried to clock him with a baking tool—while wearing my Rick and Morty pajama short-shorts, a Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt I’ve had since I was eight and my SpongeBob SquarePants slippers.
And no bra.
Not that I have a whole lot going on upstairs, but still . . .
“Christ on a saltine!” I grasp at my chest like an old woman with a pacemaker.
Logan’s brow wrinkles. “Haven’t heard that one before.”
Oh fuck—did he see me dancing? Did he see me leap? God, let me die now.
I yank on my earbuds’ cord, popping them from my ears. “What the hell, dude?! Make some noise when you walk in—let a girl know she’s not alone. You could’ve given me a heart attack. And I could’ve killed you with my awesome ninja skills.”
The corner of his mouth quirks. “No, you couldn’t.”
He sets the rolling pin down on the counter.
“I knocked on the kitchen door so I wouldn’t frighten you, but you were busy with your . . . performance.”
Blood and heat rush to my face. And I want to melt into the floor and then all the way down to the Earth’s core.
Logan points toward the front of the coffee shop. “The door wasn’t bolted. I thought Marty was going to replace the broken lock?”
Relieved to have a reason not to look at him, I turn around and get the lock set out of the drawer—still in the packaging. “He bought it, but we got swamped the other day and he didn’t have time to install it.”
Logan picks it up and turns it over in his hands. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Do you need a screwdriver?”
“No, I have tools in the car.”
I lean my elbow against the counter, looking up at him. Logan’s really tall. And not just because I’m a minute five foot one. He’s like, tall-tall. Long—like a sexy tree. And solid—broad across the chest in his black dress shirt. Strapping.
“You’re like a Boy Scout, huh?”
It’s my attempt at flirting—probably only slightly less effective than Dirty Dancing’s “I carried a watermelon.”
He does the mouth-quirk thing again.
“Not even close.”
There’s a bad-boy edge in the way he says it—a heavy hint of the forbidden—that gets my heart pounding and my jaw eager to drop.
To cover my reaction, I nod vigorously.
“Right, me neither . . . Never been a—”
So vigorously that my elbow slips in the flour on the counter and I almost knock myself unconscious. But Logan’s not only big and brawny—he’s quick. Fast enough to catch me by the arm and waist to steady me before I bash the side of my head against the butcher block.
“Are you all right, Ellie?”
He leans down, looking at me intently—a look I’ll see in my dreams tonight . . . assuming I can sleep. And, wow, Logan has great eyelashes. Thick and lengthy and midnight black. I bet they’re not the only part of him that’s thick and lengthy.
My gaze darts down to his promised land, where his pants are just tight enough to confirm my suspicions—this bodyguard may have a service revolver in his pocket, but he’s got a magnum in his pants.
“Yeah, I’m good.” I sigh. “Just . . . you know . . . tired. But I’m cool . . . totally cool.”
And I shake it off, like I actually am.
He nods and steps away. “I’ll fix the lock now. And I’ll give you the key afterward. Keep it with you; don’t lose it. From now on, you lock the door behind you when you leave, and you keep it locked when you’re home by yourself. Understand?”
I nod again. Livvy must’ve been talking to him. It’s not my fault keys abandon me. I put them in a specific spot, so I’ll know where they are for later—and I swear to God, they sprout legs and run away.
Slippery, little Houdini bastards.
After I take the last pie out of the oven and set it on the cooling rack, I fly upstairs to get dressed for school. I don’t have the time or the wardrobe that some of the girls at my school have, but I make the most of what I’ve got: dark jeans, a sheer pale-pink short-sleeved top with a white tank underneath, black flats and a black leather jacket I found at the consignment shop last year.
I like jewelry, I like to jingle when I walk—like a human music box. So, it’s cheap rings on every finger, cheaper bangle bracelets on my wrists and a long silver dangly necklace.
I don’t contour my face or fill in my blond eyebrows with dark brown pencil like Kylie Jenner—I’d end up looking like that freaky female serial killer if I tried. But I do use under-eye concealer—practically a whole tube of it—plus a little mascara and light pink lip gloss.
When I hop down the back steps a few minutes before six a.m., Logan is done with the lock and talking to our waiter Marty in the kitchen.
Marty McFly Ginsberg isn’t just our employee—he’s my and Livvy’s big brother from another mother. If our mother were black, Jewish, gay and cool as shit. Marty’s the bomb-dot-com.
“Hey, Chicklet.” He hugs me. And the man doesn’t scrimp on his hugs. “How are you doing? Did you hear from Liv?”
I nod. “Did she send you the pic of her room?”
Marty sighs. “Like she died and went to Nate Berkus heaven.” He brushes a green-tipped strand of my hair away. “How were things around here last night?”
“Fine.” I yawn. “I haven’t slept yet, but that’s not news.”
Marty grinds the coffee beans, fills two filters and starts brewing the first of many pots of coffee. “How’s your dad holding up?”
“Fine, I guess. He didn’t come home.”
It’s not a frequent thing, but it’s happened often enough that it’s not a big deal. At least not to me.
Logan slowly turns my way. “What do you mean?”
I shrug. “He’s still not home. He was probably upset about Liv leaving, got tanked and passed out on Mulligan’s bar or one of the benches between here and there. It happens sometimes.”
The bodyguard’s eyes seem to spark—like a fire’s been lit inside him. “Are you telling me you spent the night in the flat upstairs, all by yourself, with an unlocked fucking door on the ground floor?”
“Yeah. But I had Bosco with me.”
Bosco is our shih-tzu-Chihuahua mix. He’s not exactly guard dog material—unless his plan is to startle intruders to death with his so-hideous-he’s-cute face. And if a burglar happens to try stealing hot dogs from the fridge, he’ll never make it out alive. Bosco would rip a throat out for a hot dog.
“It’s not a big deal, Logan.”
Logan looks at Marty and a secret, He-Man-Boy’s-Club look passes between them. When he turns back to me, his face and voice are hard. Definitely pissed off.
“We’ll take shifts—me and the lads. We can stay down here in the diner if you’re uncomfortable having us in the flat, but someone will be here with you, round the clock, from now on. You won’t be alone again. Yeah?”
I nod slowly, feeling warm fuzzies in my veins, like my blood is carbonated.