Pretend It's Love(10)

By: Stefanie London


He rolled his eyes and stepped backward. “No, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I won’t play happy families. You’ll have to wait until Gracie gets knocked up.”

“Don’t say knocked up.” She scowled.

“I gotta run.” He turned, shoving a hand into one pocket to fish around for his car keys.

“Wait!” She scurried back into the kitchen and returned with a cardboard tray filled with plastic containers and glass jars. “I made sauce and some sweets. Chocolate cannoli and kraffen.”

“The apricot ones?” His tastebuds were already cheering for the delicious doughnut-like pastries.

“Of course.” She sent him away with another guilt trip about settling down and finding a wife.

By the time he arrived at First the sun beat down in full force. His leather jacket felt like a straightjacket, stifling him, so he stripped it off and threw it onto the back seat. With a cardboard tray of food balanced in the crook of one arm, he stepped out into the sunshine and kicked the car door closed behind him.

“It’s already crazy in there.” A voice caught his attention as he walked toward First.

Noah leaned against the side of the restaurant, shielding his eyes with one arm. He looked as though he’d been put through the wringer.

“Busy?”

“Yep. Totally nuts.” Noah shook his head. “You’re going to be in for a treat tonight.”

Great. Fridays were crazy enough anyway with several of the office buildings in the block using First as their after-work watering hole. There were also a few clubs in the area, which meant they got a lot of younger customers having dinner and pre-drinks before a big night out. Fridays were rowdy, and normally he thrived on the hustle and bustle of a busy night’s trade, but today his energy was failing him.

Probably because his head was filled with a confusing mix of his pregnant ex and the redhead from last week.

“Excellent,” he said, not bothering to hide the sarcasm.

“Oh, more treats from Mama Chapman?” Noah peered into the box and fell into step beside Paul.

“Don’t even think about swiping any of this.”

The bottles and containers were labeled with sticky notes and his mother’s looping, barely legible cursive. Most of the bottles were labelled Des or Paul, but sure enough there was a bottle of pasta sauce and a container of pastries that had “Noah” written on it.

“Score!” Noah reached in and grabbed his items, halting Paul so suddenly that the tray wobbled precariously.

He was about to let out a string of expletives when his attention caught a colorful flash.

“Tiger!” he called out, shoving the tray into Noah’s hands.

Libby turned, shaking her head at him. “I told you not to call me that.”

She had a box in her hands, a folder sticking out the top. Her mass of copper hair was piled onto her head in a way that looked messy and yet totally perfect. A bright red dress skimmed the tops of her knees, swirling in the light breeze. Again she wore stupidly high heels that looked sexy as all hell.

“How’s the ankle?” He looked pointedly at her shoes.

Her lips melted into a sheepish smile. “I was housebound for a few days but there wasn’t any permanent damage…just a big dent in my pride.”

“And yet I see you haven’t learned anything about choosing appropriate footwear for walking down the street.” He wandered over to her and lifted the box from her hands. “Let me carry that for you.”

“Don’t you have your own things to worry about?” She gestured at Noah.

“Nah, he can handle that.” Bottles of vodka with girlie logos on the front filled the box he’d taken from her. “I assume this is your product.”

“You assume correctly,” she said as they walked, her heels clicking on the pavement. “I had a meeting with your brother.”

“And?”

She gave him the thumbs down signal. “No good.”

“Why?”

His brother was a huge champion for local business. In fact, he stocked several beers from Victorian craft breweries, and he ordered a chunk of his morning pastries from a woman who ran a catering business out of her home. Why not give Libby a chance?

“I don’t think he feels that these type of cocktails suit the clientele.” She sighed. “He was very polite, but I didn’t get much out of him.”

“That sounds like my brother.” He shook his head. “I can talk to him for you.”

They stopped beside a bright red car, and Libby fished around in her bag for her keys. “You would?”

“Of course.”

She opened the side door and bent over the backseat, pushing boxes to the other side. Red fabric stretched across the perfect curve of her ass as she leaned forward, sending Paul’s pulse skyrocketing. Teetering on her heels, she wiggled backward and braced her hand on the car door as she stood.

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