Home > No Gentle Giant : A Small Town Romance

No Gentle Giant : A Small Town Romance
Author: Nicole Snow

 

1

 

 

No Gold Rush Town (Felicity)

 

 

There’s one rule, and one rule only, that holds steady in my life.

When things are going too good, it’s got to be bad.

Some folks win the lottery. They find love, fortune, fame, whatever they’re after, and it comes to them nice and easy-peasy.

Like putting in a mail-order for happiness and getting it delivered right to their front door—a shiny golden lump of giddy perfection, all signed, sealed, and delivered.

But for me?

Nope. That gold’s always turned out false, ugly, and made for fools.

And I’d be a ginormous fool to believe my current run of good luck isn’t about to turn around and kick me in the face with a karmic force that could rival a bull.

So, maybe that’s why I don’t know what to do with the fact that business at my little café is just about jumping through the roof.

The steady stream of happy customers, from regulars to tourists, just keeps coming.

Solid revenues that keep me in the black instead of familiar crisis red.

It’s shaping up to be a nice little nest egg—no pun intended, when my place is actually called The Nest—left over from the run of winter snow bunnies.

Plus, my latest side venture. Roasting my own beans and selling them online at a premium markup is going pretty well. Even with the discount I give my friend Clarissa Regis to keep the new Chicago branch of her expanding Sweeter Things shops well supplied, co-branding as Sweeter Grind.

I should be overjoyed. Breaking out a birthday party kazoo. Toasting my fortune with a strong tropical drink that has a fun roller coaster for a straw.

With all the trouble I’ve had just keeping the lights on at The Nest...this is a freaking miracle, and I should be freaking out with joy.

Instead? I’m looking over my shoulder with bated breath.

Just waiting for that other shoe to drop like a thundering jackboot.

Sooner or later, it always does.

Trust me.

This won’t last.

I’ve kinda learned to enjoy the little moments I have before they’re torn away from me.

If living in the moment is a survival mechanism, then it’s serving me well. This temporary calm right here, right now, has me pretty content.

The soft lights illuminate the intimate little clusters of customers gathered around for a little chatting and a lot of coffee. The fragrant scents of their brews—from bitter dark to blond and sugary-sweet—fill the café from wall to wall.

Call me weird, but I can smell every last nuance of my drinks, and remember what touches created that exact smell.

That little sprinkle of nutmeg and the dash of vanilla in a foamy cappuccino.

The heavy cream making that latte a little smoother, a little richer, a little closer to heaven.

The precision needed to make a dark roast that strong and bold, not bitter and burned.

It’s the little things that make sure my customers enjoy their experience, and never forget the first sip that left them jonesing for more.

It doesn’t matter if the drinks are disposable, gone faster sometimes than the time it takes me to actually make them.

Everyone who comes to The Nest feels like coming home when they catch that aroma, that taste, that special vibe.

Which is why I’m squinting, working on getting the taste juuust right for Andrea Silverton’s whipped mint mocha freeze when the bell over the door jingles, announcing a new customer.

I can’t look up just yet, not until I pile the whipped cream on top in a perfect cone of frosted mint-coffee dream. I narrow my eyes and give it a finishing swirl before I come back to earth.

“Ta-da!” I say, pushing the coffee shake across the counter.

Andrea, Blake’s punky purple-haired daughter, grins at me.

I don’t see that Clark boy with her today. But I give it about ten minutes before he’s here to steal her off into a corner where they’ll sit with their heads together, giving each other moony looks—until Blake comes to drag her home, pick up his wife, and ever-so-reluctantly give Clark a ride, too.

He’ll warm up to the boyfriend eventually, right?

He’s got plenty of time to try, considering his wife, Peace, is in here almost every night, strumming her guitar and serenading a very thirsty crowd.

“Thanks, Feliss,” Andrea says, flashing me a peace sign and a wink, irreverent as always. “How much do I owe you?”

“On the house tonight,” I tease. “Your stepmom’s my best entertainment.”

Andrea grimaces, glancing over at where Peace Silverton perches on a stool, fingers plucking softly on the strings. Her voice rises in a soothing, hypnotic melody over the murmurs of the crowd. “Jeez, enough with the stepmom stuff. She’s my friend.”

“Okay, babe. I’ll stop reminding you what a dirty old man your dad is.”

“Felicity!” Andrea sputters, swiping up her drink and going red to her ears.

“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.” I have mercy, though, especially since I have customers waiting. Laughing, I shoo her off and snag a towel to wipe down a few drops of condensation off the gleaming lacquered bar. “Go steal a seat before they’re all gone.”

She sticks her tongue out at me, and I pull up a smile for my next customer. I start to open my mouth—only to realize it’s a fresh face.

A kid, maybe eleven or twelve.

This dark-haired, gangly, raw-boned boy who looks like he’s just growing into his hands and feet.

Someone new here in Heart’s Edge but who’s already made himself at home, considering he’s been adopted by the town’s local oversized marmalade lump.

Mozart the cat trails after him, twining around his ankles and mewing loudly.

The boy looks down with the devotion of someone who’s trying not to trip over his feet or the purr-ball.

On second thought, I think I’ve seen him a couple times recently? Might’ve served him sodas for a dollar.

I never got his name before he was gone, ducking his face beneath his shaggy fringe of hair and always fidgeting with a camera dangling from his neck by an adjustable strap.

But this is the first time I haven’t seen him alone.

A few seconds later, there’s another jingle of the bells on my door, and a tall, bulky shape I outwardly call Mr. Cold Brew strolls inside.

Inwardly, there’s only one name that truly fits—Cold Brew the Barbarian.

I’m not exaggerating.

Almost seven feet tall, with biceps bigger than my head, I don’t think he’d even need a hilariously big fantasy-novel sword to eat an army of evil brutes for breakfast. Just a really big spoon.

He’s one tall, dark, and deliciously mysterious drink of whoa, mama, perched on two honed columns for legs that would probably scare the most shredded kangaroo on the planet.

...look, I never said I had a promising career as a stand-up comedian, did I?

Seriously, Alaska Charter hasn’t been in town that long. But he’s made one banging dent on every single woman’s midnight fantasies, including—especially—mine.

Just long enough to leave an impression that hits my lady-bits like lightning.

Just long enough to notice when he disappeared for the winter, too, after months of seeing his tall, loping stride bust through the door every day while he worked on that big construction project in the valley.

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