Red Stone Security Series, #14
Author note: As all books in the Red Stone Security series, this book can be read as a stand-alone.
Tegan didn’t turn around at the sound of the little bell jingling over the front door. She knew exactly who was coming into Kimmy’s Cakes and Coffee at seven thirty in the morning. Callan Fitzpatrick. Recent military vet, quiet and sweet, he’d been coming in here every morning for the past month to flirt with Tegan’s boss, Kimmy.
Well, sort of flirt. The two of them were hopeless—and adorable—as they danced around each other. She hoped Callan worked up the courage to ask her friend out.
“I’ll have your order in just a sec. Kimmy’s coming in later—Brendan’s got a fever. So you’re stuck looking at me this morning.”
“That’s not exactly a hardship.” A deep, familiar, and oh-so-sexy male voice made everything inside her go still. Not Callan, but his older brother, Aaron. The man affected her in ways she didn’t even want to think about.
Especially since most of the time he didn’t seem to even like her.
Pasting on her most pleasant expression, she turned from the espresso coffee grinder. Like always, she felt a jolt of awareness when she saw him. Something—everything—about him called to her on a level she didn’t quite understand. Tall, dark, and perpetually surly. Except when he had his five-year-old son with him. Then he was actually human. Unfortunately for her, Aaron was alone today so that meant she got the surly version. Though, so far he actually seemed to be in a decent mood.
“That almost sounded like a compliment.” Smiling, the action more nervous than anything, she reached for the stack of to-go cups.
He lifted one of those big shoulders. “Just the truth.”
She so did not know what to make of that. “Same order as always?”
“Yep.” He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and looked around the shop curiously, as if he cared about the feminine French-style decorations.
Kimmy was obsessed with fleurs-de-lis and they were everywhere. Even the miniature chandelier, which was more for decoration than actual use, had little dangling fleurs-de-lis that glittered when the sun hit the shop just right. Since it was almost Christmas, there were a few extra decorations, including a small tree in one corner with red and white little fleurs-de-lis ornaments Kimmy had made herself with a lot of glitter, paint, and ribbon. Tegan tried to ignore the fact that she’d be alone again this Christmas, but seeing it splashed everywhere, even at work, made it difficult.
Aaron didn’t come in here very often, but Tegan still figured his intent observation of the place was to avoid looking at or talking to her. Which made something perverse in her flare to life. She wasn’t sure what it was, but his refusal to look at her made her want to make him talk to her.
“Coming right up,” she said as she moved to the economy-sized coffeemaker. She’d already ground the beans this morning. And unlike the majority of customers who wanted a specialty drink, both Fitzpatrick brothers drank their coffees black with sugar. This would be her easiest order of the day. “Feel like mixing it up this morning?” With her back to him, she glanced up in the mirror over the prep station.
He was looking at her back with a mix of emotions. Annoyance and…hunger? She blinked. That couldn’t be right. Well, the annoyance was probably spot on, even if she didn’t know what she’d done to bother him. Maybe he just didn’t like redheads. Which was ridiculous, since gingers were awesome.
“How so?” he rumbled in that deep voice that flowed right through her like hot chocolate on a winter day, warming her from the inside out.
She ignored what the sound of it did to her insides. “Go wild, get some cannolis for the guys at work. They would be eternally grateful, trust me.” She knew he worked for the same security company her friend Julieta’s husband did, though she wasn’t precisely sure what he did. Just something to do with personal security.
He made a grunting sound of derision. “No, thanks.”
“Fine, but you’re taking a few chocolate macarons to give to Dillon. They’re on me.” Because she adored Aaron’s son. The kid was always so serious when he came into the shop and she enjoyed making him smile. Usually Tegan’s dog, Kali, did that job with no problem when she was here. It was hard for anyone not to smile when a sweet Siberian husky was giving you kisses and wagging her tail like you were the most important person in the world to her.
His entire body—muscular, trim, and fit—went still. “How do you know he likes those?”
She lifted an eyebrow. “Uh, because I work here and he comes in two days a week with your mom.”
He blinked, as if this news surprised him. Uh-oh, maybe it was a grandma-grandson secret since Bree Fitzpatrick did let Dillon get whatever he wanted. Like, always. She literally never said no to the kid when he asked for something. Tegan was about to backtrack when he nodded. “Yeah, bag some up.”
“Want to get some lemon ones for Bree? She loves them.” She held back a grin, wondering if she was pushing him too much.
Those brown eyes that weren’t just a plain, boring brown but had amber flecks in them watched her with curiosity. “I can see why Kimmy hired you. You’re very good at upselling.” Again, she wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not. His tone and facial expressions were impossible to read. Frustrating man.
“Well, yeah, I’m awesome.” Now she smiled at him, unable not to.