Evan especially loved the double chocolate chip ones. Because of that, I always baked a few extra in case I sold out before he got one. How he wasn’t a hundred pounds heavier, I didn’t know.
As soon as I had everything organized, I did what I always did at the end of the day and Googled my name. I was terrified that my past would pop up one day without warning. The records might not exist in the eyes of the law, but they existed in people’s memories.
A year or two after my gramps died, I went off the rails. I was a dumb kid still grieving for the one man who had loved me unconditionally.
My fall from grace wasn’t pretty. I fell in love with the wrong guy and did bad things—mostly house robberies and selling prescription drugs. But then one time, I held a gun to someone’s head.
Memories slammed into me, and my heartbeat tripled. The room spun. I grabbed the prep bench and counted back from ten. When I got to one, I wasn’t any better.
From beneath the bench, I snatched up a brown paper bag and breathed in and out, in and out, in and out.
Eventually, my heartbeat slowed, and my breathing returned to normal. The guilt I always carried inside, pulled me back in time and filled me with self-loathing.
My hands tremored so bad that night, and I had to use every ounce of willpower inside me not to squeeze the trigger, but luckily for everyone, the gun hadn’t been loaded. Something I didn’t know until after the fact.
The gun was still in my hand when the police arrived. After that, I went into a secure juvenile detention facility. It was as shady as it sounds. I still count my stars that the state hadn’t tried me as an adult. If they had, I would still be serving time.
There were two options for me after my release, go back to what I knew or turn my life around. I took option B and turned my life around. I earned my GED and then got into culinary school two years later.
The path wasn’t an easy one. I busted my ass and worked three jobs. Graduating took four years, but as soon as I did, I applied for a small loan and was approved. Not too long after, I bought my truck—used and beat up as hell. A little bit like me.
That had been a year ago. I mostly worked festivals and concerts, things like that, but once a spot opened up at the park, I lobbied hard and won.
Snack Attack had given me a future worth looking forward to, and that was something I couldn’t jeopardize by falling in love with Evan.
We were having a crazy hot September, and the last thing I needed was another cup of coffee. But I hadn’t seen Willow nearly enough today, and it was closing time.
Shit had hit the fan with Josie, who wanted to kill my brother for interviewing the person she’d wanted to hire, but Noah had done the right thing. Aubrey was way too talented and way too qualified to do Josie’s donkey work.
I strolled through the park towards Snack Attack. Smoke billowed from the truck’s engine, and I broke into a run.
The bottom half of Willow’s body hung from beneath the hood.
“What’s going on?” I asked when I reached her.
She jumped down, her lips twisted, and her forehead furrowed. “Your guess is as good as mine. There was banging, then a clunk, then smoke poured out. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“Can you call a mechanic?”
“I tried. Since Labor Day weekend is coming up, everyone has plans. I can’t leave it here overnight. That’s against the lease agreement. Shit.” She tunneled her oil-smeared fingers through her hair. “I don’t need this headache.”
I took out my phone and dialed my mechanic’s number. He worked on all of our cars and was always available to us at the drop of a hat.
After I hung up, I said, “My guy will be here in thirty. Don’t worry, Willow. Your truck will be up and running in no time.”
“Thank you for doing that.” Her hazel eyes filled with appreciation.
“I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for me. If I can’t get my caffeine, I’m an asshole. And you know how I like it.”
She managed to smile. “Are you flirting with me?”
I shrugged. “What if I am?”
“You’re seriously flirting with me when my business is in the crapper?”
“Your business isn’t in the crapper. My guy will fix whatever’s wrong.”
Her face crumpled. “What if he can’t fix it? What if I can never open again? I can’t afford a new truck.”
I reached out and curled my hands around her shoulders. She visibly shuddered, and her eyes widened. This was the first time we’d ever touched. I wanted more. Much, much more.