Story of Us (Love Unexpected)(12)

By: Jody Holford

Sophia’s eyes sparkled. “Yes! That’s perfect. That’s exactly the idea. You close early on Sundays, so we’ll make it for the Sunday after you schedule the staff meeting.”

Happiness hummed along his skin, and despite the attraction threatening to choke him, he knew he’d made a solid business decision. One day and she was an asset.

“One more thing. I don’t want people to feel like I’m stepping on toes. Some people will remember me, but a lot won’t. I want your staff to feel like I understand them. I haven’t worked a restaurant or pub in a long time, so I think I should take a turn working the floor at least one shift and maybe even the kitchen.”

Declan straightened so he was a full head taller than her and scrunched his brows. “Why the hell would you want to do that?”

Matching his stance, she stiffened her own shoulders and met his gaze. “Because in order for your staff to feel like I understand them, I have to literally walk in their shoes. I’ll take a couple of opening shifts, a couple closing, and maybe do split shift as bartender. I’ve done all of it before. You know that. It’s like riding a bike,” she said, then frowned. “I think.”

“I didn’t hire you as a goddamn fry cook, Sophia. You have a degree in marketing and business.”

“I do. And I specialize in PR. Which means I know how to approach people and get them on my side. This will accomplish that quicker than anything else. People love a boss who’ll jump down in the trenches with them.”

Frustration zipped across his skin when he thought of her serving beers to the regulars or, worse, some handsy idiots he didn’t know. Declan always did his best to make sure his waitresses felt safe and comfortable to do their job, but they flirted, and he watched for any sign that they wanted him to step in. With Sophia, the thought of watching some random dude flirt with her turned his stomach in a new and troublesome way.


She slammed the book shut. “Excuse me?”

Cora called his name from the waitress station. “I need those beers, hon.”

“Be right there.”

“We’ll discuss this later,” she said, walking past him. She stopped at Megan and Adam and said something he couldn’t hear over the sound of his blood pulsating in his ears. It shouldn’t bother him. It made sense, the whole walking-in-their-shoes thing. But hell. All he could picture was the attention she’d get out on the floor. She’d get it regardless, but it would be different if she was serving customers. Shouldn’t bother you. She’s an employee. With damn good ideas.

“Dec?” Cora called, looking over at him.

Shit. He didn’t need to be distracted like this. If she wanted to waitress, that was her call. He’d hired her because it was clear she knew what she was doing. He just hoped he did.

After filling Cora’s order, Declan joined his friends again as Adam was throwing some cash down on the bar top.

“He’s not going to be happy,” Adam said, glancing up from helping Megan with her coat.

“Who isn’t?” Declan stared at them.

“Adam thinks you’re going to be mad that I invited Sophia for dinner. I know she’s from here, but she’s been gone a long time. She could probably use some friends. Stella is having a BBQ this weekend, so I invited her.”

Declan started to say something, then stopped. He leaned on the counter, pressing his palms to the cool top. “I’m going to Stella’s this weekend.” What the hell was Meg up to? It was obviously going to be harder than he thought to keep Sophia in her assigned categories of employee, friend, and buddy’s little sister. He did not need Adam’s wife meddling.

Eyes wide with faux innocence, she nodded. “So, she can come with you.”

“Megan,” Declan growled. This was the same woman who’d tried to find Adam a wife. At his buddy’s request—just one of the ways his friend had almost screwed up the second-best thing to ever happen to him. At the time, Megan had asked Declan for ideas on how to hook people up. She was not fucking hooking him up with the only woman he couldn’t have. The thought tightened his airway.

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