Ben was skating on thin ice with his manager. With a local wine festival taking place that weekend, The Hollow Bean was busier than usual and he was struggling to keep up. He’d been warned once already that the next time he f#%ked up an order, it was coming out of his pay.
Unfortunately, all these tourists kept ordering drinks that sounded more like dessert than coffee. What the hell was a warm and toasty graham cracker latte anyhow? According to Corey, the harried barista toiling away next to him, it was an abomination. And now he had to make three of them for a group of blonde twenty-somethings dressed identically in skinny jeans, tight white t-shirts, and puffy black vests who were waiting impatiently for their orders.
“Hey.” A tall guy with a loud, booming voice stepped up to the counter and waved his cup in front of Ben’s face. “This isn’t what I ordered.”
Under the watchful eye of his manager, Ben took the to-go cup from the man’s hands and checked the cardboard sleeve to find out what it was supposed to have been. It turned out the problem wasn’t with the drink itself; rather, that the guy had grabbed the wrong order.
“Unless your name is Nancy, I’d think not,” Ben replied, taking note of what it was so he could make another one for the actual Nancy before she complained too.
“What did you say to me?”
Ben gritted his teeth. He’d only worked at The Hollow Bean for a couple of months, but during that time he’d seen the worst of humanity. So many people treated service staff like complete garbage. He just hoped he hadn’t been one of them back in the day. “Just let me get these coffees to them—” he lifted his chin to indicate the three blondes “—and I’ll remake yours.”
The guy harrumphed, but didn’t add anything else. Probably because his gaze was glued to the girls, his eyes raking over the tallest one with undisguised greed. It was a look Ben recognized well—it was the one he wore whenever he was in the same room as Maeve and he thought she wasn’t looking.
Having successfully handed over three graham cracker whatevers, he set about remaking the guy’s drink, trying not to eavesdrop on the phone conversation he was having.
“I should be able to wrap this up in a week or two,” he was saying. “The company that currently occupies the building is a nonprofit so they won’t be able to fight Hartwell for long. Mmm-hmm. Yeah, that’s right. Kids Matter, Teach Younger, Mentor Forever … something like that. I know it definitely has to do with kids. Exactly. We should expect some push back from the community because of that, but I figure once Hartwell ponies up a few grand for a new playground or something, that should shut the yokels up. You know how small towns are.”
Ben abandoned the milk he’d been foaming and Corey slammed down the bottle of hazelnut syrup he’d just picked up. Ben looked around, noting that the entire coffee shop had come to a silent standstill—something Coffee Douche was completely oblivious to.
“Look, that’s not my problem. My job is to get in, get the papers signed, and get the fuck out. Why should I care about some kids I’ll never meet? You know how these bleeding heart liberals are. They want to help everyone, and meanwhile, they’re not actually helping anyone. The condos will do a lot more for this ridiculous town than some old abandoned school, you know?”
With a fury he’d never felt before, Ben untied his apron strings and pulled the fabric over his head, dropping it into the bin of used linens. He had no idea what had come over him, but hearing this guy talk about this mentoring organization so dismissively made him want to do something proactive to stop it.
He felt a hand on his elbow, slowing him down. “What are you doing?” Corey hissed. “You can’t knock the f#%ker out. You’ll definitely get fired then.”
Ben lifted the wooden counter that separated employees from customers and stepped through. Dropping it back down, he turned to Corey. “Oh, I’m going to fight him, all right. Just not how you expect.”
They thought this takeover was going to be a walk in the park? Well, the joke was on this Hartwell character because he was going to have to go through him first. River Hill was just a town full of yokels, huh? They didn’t think the nonprofit would be able to put up a fight because they couldn’t afford a fancy lawyer? He might not work for a high profile firm anymore, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t go toe to toe with the best of ‘em. Hell, a few short months ago he had been the best. It was time to brush off the rust and prove he still had what it took to win cases. This asshole and the developers he worked for were going down.
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USA TODAY bestselling author Rebecca Norinne writes steamy contemporary romance featuring strong, determined heroines and sexy, dominant heroes with guaranteed happily-ever-afters.
When not writing, Rebecca can be found watching rugby, drinking craft beer, or traveling the globe in search of inspiration for her next story. Originally from California, Rebecca currently resides in Dublin, Ireland, with her husband.
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Jamaila Brinkley writes historical romance with a hint of magic. Her Wizards of London series features thieves, duchesses, witches, and more indulging in mayhem and romance in Regency England. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and was a finalist in the Romance Through the Ages contest in 2015.
Jamaila came to romance as an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and found that her favorite historical romances seemed ripe for an injection of magic. Her favorite historical period is currently the Victorian era, and she’s never happier than when immersed in a multi-book family series.
Jamaila lives outside Baltimore, Maryland in a house that is perpetually under renovation with her husband and twin toddlers. You can find her blogging about romance, writing, parenting, cooking, and more on her website at www.jamailabrinkley.com, and posting pictures of her lunch on Twitter as @jamaila.