Story of Us (Love Unexpected)(6)

By: Jody Holford

Declan smirked, giving Sophia a you-can’t-hide-for-long nod. “That’s Sophia’s dad. She’s been gone a long time, but she’s back now. And we’re lucky to have her. We’ll have a staff meeting this week to introduce everyone, but for now, why don’t you show her around?”

“I’ll show you the office first. And the break room. Our kitchen staff is probably already prepping,” Cora said, jumping into her duty with ease.

Dec grabbed some half-empty bottles from a shelf before saying, “I can show her the office. I’ve got to get her set up on my laptop, anyway. I just need to change a couple of kegs.”

“Okay, boss,” the waitress said with a cheeky grin.

Declan shook his head and walked to the far end of the bar, out of sight. Cora led her into the kitchen, where she met two line cooks who barely looked old enough to be in the bar. They, too, recognized her last name, and Sophia realized news of her arrival, and employment, would travel before long. You can’t avoid them. She didn’t intend to. Not for good, anyway. The plan was to get her bearings, secure employment and some semblance of control over her life, and then visit her family.

Cora showed her the coolers, the break room, storage, and the kitchen exit. Leaving the kitchen, they turned the corner to walk down the hallway she’d come down when they’d arrived this morning.

See? She knew how to make things happen. Her plan was in motion. She just wished the nausea that kept her company would abate. Everything is going to work out fine. If she said it enough, she might believe it.

“So, these are customer restrooms. This one here is for staff only. And this is Declan’s office.” Cora opened the door, and Sophia stepped into a surprisingly organized and neat space. It was a decent size with a desk, chair, and a small couch against one wall. There was a door to what Sophia figured was a closet. It was mostly covered with a ‘Welcome to the Dark Side’ poster.

Cora gestured to it. “That’s the entrance to the upstairs apartment. It can be accessed here or up the stairs out back.”

Her interested piqued, upping her heart rate. Maybe she could solve more than one problem today. Sophia bit her lip, thinking for a moment. “There’s an apartment up there?” Did Declan live at his bar? Vague memories of Marcus telling her, a while back, that he’d helped Dec move flitted through her mind.

“Yeah, Dec used to live up there, but he bought a house not too long ago,” Cora said. She pulled her phone out of her apron pocket and glanced at it.

Before either of them could say anything else, Declan appeared in the doorway.

“Hey.” He looked at Cora. “A few customers have shown up. Can you handle the floor and the bar for a bit?”

She put her hands on her hips and narrowed her thick lashes. “Pretty sure I can handle a couple of regulars who couldn’t rustle up their own breakfast.”

“Thanks for the tour,” Sophia said.

“No problem. Glad to have you here,” Cora said with a wave.

Declan came all the way in and leaned against his desk. Meeting her gaze, he held it, saying nothing. She felt like a fool for the way her heart fluttered from his intense gaze. Had she learned nothing? Flirting with a coworker, her boss no less, and Declan James at that, was a new level of ridiculous. Won’t happen. Can’t happen.

“Thanks for giving me a chance,” Sophia said, mostly because the silence was unnerving, but also because she needed a distraction from the butterflies flitting around in her stomach.

“Didn’t have much choice. You told me I wouldn’t be sorry. Felt like a challenge,” he said.

Sophia laughed and took a couple steps, so they were standing closer together. She had little doubt that he wouldn’t have hired her if he hadn’t wanted to. “You still like a challenge, huh? Same old Declan?” She remembered her brother and Declan getting into some interesting situations. According to the gossip, Declan never backed away from a dare.

He frowned, crossed his arms over his chest. She did her best not to watch the way his muscles bunched when he did that.

“You were just a little thing when your brother and I were hanging out. What do you know about the old Declan?”

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