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Home > Promised (One Night #1)(4)

Promised (One Night #1)(4)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

‘I know.’ I rest my hand over hers and hold it in place while she silently reflects. I don’t remember my mother very well, but I’ve seen the proof; I’m a carbon copy of her. Even my blond hair falls strangely similarly into waves that cascade over my shoulders, almost making it seem like too much hair for my tiny body to carry. It’s incredibly heavy and only behaves if rough dried and left to do as it pleases. And my big navy-blue eyes that match my grandmother’s and my mother’s have a glassy reflecting quality. Sapphire-like, people have said. I don’t see that part. Make-up is a pleasure, not a necessity, but it’s always minimal on my fair skin.

Once I’ve given her enough time to reminisce, I take her hand and place it by her bowl. ‘Eat up, Nan,’ I say quietly, continuing with my own soup.

Dragging herself back to the here and now, she carries on with her supper, but she’s quiet. She’s never got over my mother’s reckless lifestyle – a lifestyle that stole Nan’s daughter from her. It’s been eighteen years and she still misses my mother terribly. I don’t. How can you miss someone you hardly knew? But watching my nan slip into these sad thoughts every now and then makes it just as painful for me.

Yes, there’s definitely something to be said about making the perfect cup of coffee. I’m staring at the machine again, but today I’m smiling. I’ve done it – the correct amount of foam, the smoothness like silk and the little dusting of chocolate, forming a perfect heart on the top. It’s just a shame that it’s me who’s drinking it, not an appreciative customer.

‘Good?’ Sylvie asks, watching with anticipation.

I hum and gasp, setting the cup down. ‘The coffee machine and I are now friends.’

‘Yay!’ she squeals, throwing her arms around me. I laugh and match her enthusiasm, looking over her shoulder as the door to the bistro swings open.

‘I think the lunchtime rush is about to start,’ I say, breaking free from her grip. ‘I’ll get this one.’

‘Oh, she’s full of confidence,’ Sylvie laughs, moving to give me access to the serving counter. She beams at me as I make my way over to the man who’s just arrived.

‘What can I get you?’ I ask, getting ready to jot down his order, but when he doesn’t answer, I look up and find him watching me closely. I start shifting nervously, not liking the scrutiny. I find my voice. ‘Sir?’

His eyes widen a little. ‘Er, cappuccino, please. To take away.’

‘Sure.’ I snap into action, leaving Mr Wide Eyes gathering himself, and take myself to my new best friend, loading the handle thingy and securing it successfully into the holder – so far so good.

‘That is why Del won’t sack you,’ Sylvie whispers over my shoulder, making me jump slightly.

‘Stop it,’ I say, retrieving a takeaway cup from the shelf and placing it under the filter before pressing the correct button.

‘He’s watching you.’

‘Sylvie, stop it!’

‘Give him your number.’

‘No!’ I blurt too loudly, quickly checking over my shoulder. He’s staring at me. ‘I’m not interested.’

‘He’s cute,’ Sylvie concludes, and I have to agree. He’s very cute, but I’m very uninterested.

‘I don’t have time for a relationship.’ That’s not strictly true. This is my first job and before this I spent most of my adult life caring for Nan. Now I’m not sure whether she really does still need the care, or whether it’s just my excuse.

Sylvie shrugs and leaves me to finish my second round with the machine. I finish up, smiling as I pour the milk into the cup before releasing a drop of dust on the foam and securing a lid. I’m far too proud of myself and it’s obvious on my smiling face as I turn to deliver the cappuccino to Mr Wide Eyes. ‘Two pounds eighty, please.’ I go to place the cup down, but he intercepts me and takes it from my hand, ensuring contact as he does.

‘Thank you,’ he says, pulling my eyes up to his with his soft words.

‘You’re welcome.’ I slowly take my hand away from his, accepting the tenner he hands me. ‘I’ll get your change.’

‘Don’t worry.’ He shakes his head mildly, running his eyes all over my face. ‘But I wouldn’t mind your phone number.’

I hear Sylvie chuckling from the table she’s clearing. ‘I’m sorry, I’m in a relationship.’ I punch his order through the till and quickly collect his change, handing it over to him and ignoring Sylvie’s snort of disgust.

‘Of course you are.’ He laughs lightly, looking embarrassed. ‘How stupid of me.’

I smile, trying to ease his awkwardness. ‘It’s okay.’

‘I don’t usually just ask any women I meet for their number,’ he explains. ‘I’m not a creep.’

‘Honestly, it’s okay.’ I’m feeling embarrassed myself now, and I’m silently wishing he’d leave before I throw a coffee cup at Sylvie’s head. I can feel her staring at me in shock. I start to rearrange the napkins, anything to take me away from the uncomfortable situation. I could kiss the man who walks in behind, looking like he’s in a hurry. ‘I’d better get this.’ I indicate over Mr Wide Eyes’s shoulder to the harassed-looking businessman.

‘Oh, yes! Sorry.’ He backs away, holding up his cup in thanks. ‘See ya.’

‘Bye.’ I lift my hand before looking to my next customer. ‘What would you like, sir?’

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