Story of Us (Love Unexpected)(7)

By: Jody Holford

She tilted her head to the side. “I might have been younger, but all the girls talked about you. Including my sisters.”

He groaned, making her laugh again. “And of course, everything that everyone said was absolutely true.”

Crossing her own arms, she hoped she seemed more confident than she felt. “If that’s the case, then you deserve your legend status.”

Like he felt uncomfortable, he ran a hand through his hair and rounded his desk. He pulled a second chair over and gestured for Sophia to sit beside him. He took the rolling office chair that had been tucked under the desk and opened his laptop. When he swiveled in his chair, their knees touched.

If you’re going to work here, you need more than resolutions, you need some damn restraint. Okay, he’s hot. Duly noted and observed. He’s not the only hot man you’ve ever met. Though, she didn’t know any that she’d dreamt about at thirteen that would be able to inspire fantasies this many years later.

“I’ll show you the scheduling. We’re down two waitresses, leaving us with only six. I have a stack of resumes I haven’t been able to get to, so that’ll be your first task. There are three bartenders including myself. We could probably use another, but maybe just a part-timer. I have a rotation of seven kitchen staff, but we need a dishwasher, like, yesterday.”

Feeling more at ease with the conversation, Sophia leaned in to look at the spreadsheets he brought up. She inhaled a teasing hint of his sexy cologne. It was outdoorsy and crisp. It made her feel alive. Focus, Sophia. She’d heard the words so many times growing up that now, even when she only said it in her head, it was her father’s voice.

“You bought a house,” she said.

Declan turned his head. Their faces were close enough to share the same air, but neither of them moved back. “I did. Never thought I’d want the responsibility of a mortgage on something other than this place. But…I don’t know, in the last year or so, I’ve been restless. Like I needed more than a crash pad upstairs.”

Perfect transition. “Cora mentioned that, too. That there’s an apartment upstairs. Any chance you’d consider renting it out?”

Declan straightened in his chair and turned it so they were facing each other, knees almost touching. “To you?”

She didn’t want to ask for favors, but she nodded.

His lips tipped down. “I just signed a lease with a new tenant. If I’d known you were coming, I would have held off. Sorry.”

Warmth flooded her cheeks. Could she possibly ask him for more in one day? “Please, don’t be sorry. I just thought I’d ask.”

The furrow in his brow deepened. “But you’ll stay with your parents then, right?”

Sophia looked at the spreadsheets and reached out to click the mouse. “The schedule looks straightforward in terms of staff. I’ll start looking through the resumes today and see about scheduling some interviews. I can look at your invoices, deliveries, and accounting. I’m guessing you don’t mind if I take over placing orders and reaching out to vendors?”

She felt his eyes on hers but didn’t turn her head.

“Sophia,” he said. His breath whispered over her cheek.

“I’m good with taking over the books, as well. I’d like to take a look at what specials you run, which nights, and the different ways you’ve pulled in crowds over the last six months. It’s a new year, might be time to try some new things. Do you have bands?”

He waited, and the only sounds were the gentle buzz of the computer and their combined breaths. Hopefully only she heard the heavy beat of her heart.

His fingers came to her cheek, and he turned her to face him. It was a nothing touch, and he dropped his hand quickly. But the heat lingered in that spot. “Are you going to stay with your parents?”

Stretching her mouth into a phony smile, she shook her head. “No. Would you move back in with your parents at twenty-eight?”

He snorted out a laugh, leaned back in his chair, and gripped the armrests. “Not in this lifetime. I love them, but no way would I bunk with them again. But that’s different. I haven’t been gone ten years.”

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