I finished posting Garren’s story last week, and it is all here now. I almost have Rick & Leann’s story finished now. If you’ve read Duty to Protect, you may recognize them as Lisa’s mom and stepdad. I’m going to share the first scene from it today. And it will have a happier ending. 😉
Leann hurried through the back door of the restaurant and tossed her purse on top of the coat rack. “Sorry, sorry,” she said as she rushed over to punch her time card. “I know I’m late.” She’d barely looked at her boss, but she could see her standing there in the doorway to her office. “I’m sorry,” she said again, tying the apron around her waist.
“It’s ten minutes, Leann,” her boss said, stepping out from the doorway and reaching for her shoulder. “I’m not going to fire you for ten minutes.”
“It’s becoming a habit though.” She didn’t look up as she stashed her order pad and pen in her pocket.
Leann sighed and finally looked up. “He said he got held up at work. He just likes to make me wait. He doesn’t seem to realize it’s Lisa he’s hurting with these games.”
“I doubt he cares,” the other woman muttered. “Anyway, you already have one table. I got them drinks, but he said they’d wait for you to order.”
She could feel her cheeks warm as her boss smiled at her. There was only one customer who regularly insisted on being seated in her section. It was one reason she looked forward to these weekend shifts even though it meant counting on her ex to watch Lisa. “Guess I’d better get out there then.” But, she grabbed a piece of candy from a bowl on her way through the kitchen.
It didn’t take her long to spot them at a table almost in the corner. And she felt the smile slip across her face. The man’s eyes met hers as she came up to the table, and she saw the sparkle in them as she slipped behind the boy. His head came up when the candy hit the table in front of him. The smile spread across his face instantly, taking some of the sadness out of his eyes. She always liked when she could do that.
“What can I get for you gentlemen this evening?”
That brought a laugh from the boy. That was even harder than a smile that pushed out the sadness. “Hello, Leann,” the man said.
Why did her name from his lips always make her heart speed up? Her breath catch? Her skin warm? It shouldn’t. She should know better than to fall for those things. Again. Kenneth had done that to her once. She pushed those thoughts from her head and smiled at him.
“Rick.” Then, she turned to his son. “Hello, Todd. How have you been?” It was always easier to talk to him than his father.
She would almost think he was a carbon copy of his father. If it wasn’t for those brown eyes. No, they weren’t even brown, closer to golden. Rick’s were just as deep, but green. Like his darker coloring, the eyes must have come from Todd’s mother as well. She didn’t know where the woman was, but she’d never seen her. She hoped she hadn’t just skipped out on the two of them. She didn’t understand how anyone could. Granted, she only saw the two of them for a couple hours a week at the most. She only found herself wishing for more time.
Stop being ridiculous, she reminded herself. They weren’t hers to have. No matter how much flirting her and Rick did.
“How have you been, Leann?”
Rick’s voice brought her attention back to him. She wished she’d kept her eyes averted. She could see the serious look in his eyes that meant he was studying absolutely everything about her. She tried to school her features before he noticed she was upset.
And failed. Miserably.
He reached out and took her hand, rubbing his thumb over her skin. “What’s going on? You okay?”
She didn’t want to, but she drew her hand back. “Fine. Everything’s just fine.” She could hear the hard edge to her voice. It’s not like she wasn’t used to it. Kenneth had never put her or their daughter first. Especially when he could use it to keep control. She should be resigned to it. But, the concern she could still see in Rick’s eyes was about to undo her. “Can I get your orders? I was late and don’t want to get caught loitering at one table.”
“Amber’s never cared before.” But, Rick handed her their menus. “We’ll have our regular.”
She nodded and wrote down their typical order before taking the menus. “I’ll have your basket of rolls out in just a few minutes.”
She started to turn away, but Rick reached out and grasped her hand. “If something was wrong, you’d tell me, right?”
“Why would I, Rick? It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
He dropped her hand, and she turned away before he could see the hurt in his eyes. But, it had only been the truth. It didn’t have anything to do with him. And it wasn’t his job to try to protect her.
No, what she had to worry about was protecting her daughter. She’d been hurt enough by her own father. There was no way Leann would bring another man into her life to hurt her. And she had to protect herself too. Because she didn’t think she could handle having her heart shattered again.