“You should start making a habit of it.”
“You sound like my dad,” she joked.
“I’m serious, Izzy. When I talked to the police last night they asked about the girl’s hair color.”
The tone of his voice caused a shiver to snake down her spine.
“It looks like this guy is targeting brunettes.
I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but as of now that’s the only thing they’ve found in common with the women. Or at least that’s all they’d tell me. You need to start paying attention to the people around you.”
“Oh.” Self-consciously she fingered a dark curl. Technically she had auburn highlights, but she doubted some maniac would make the distinction. And Adam was right. She should have known better.
“Yeah, so just be extra careful. Toby’s going to increase our night security after what happened.”
“Good.” She fell in step with him as they walked to his truck. In a surprising move, he held the door open for her. She’d never quite understood the phrase before, but damn butterflies danced in her stomach when he did. It was more proof of his southern upbringing.
When he slid into the driver’s seat and started the ignition, she shifted in her seat and caught a whiff of his spicy aftershave and something else.
Something all Adam. Something all man. She cleared her throat. “Where exactly are you from?”
He spared her a quick glance before reversing.
“Why do you ask?”
“Hmm, southern manners, a sexy accent I can’t quite place. I know you’re not from here.”
“You think my accent is sexy?” His words were laced with amusement.
She nodded. “You know it is, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that so quit fishing for compliments. And you still didn’t answer my question.”
His lips curled up slightly at the corners. “I’m from Louisiana.”
“Is that where your family lives?”
A low rumble emitted from him and it took a second for her to realize he was laughing. The deep sound reverberated around the cabin of the truck, enveloping her and completely taking her off guard. She’d never heard him laugh. Not really. This was actually more of a chuckle, but she liked the rich sound. Maybe a little too much.
“You should think about a career in journalism.” He shook his head and took a left turn.
She leaned back against the seat and bit her lip.
She did have a habit of drilling people without realizing it. Growing up it had been tough to distinguish between people who wanted to be her friend because of her last name and those who simply liked her. Old habits die hard, she supposed.
“My family lives in Savannah now,” he said as they steered into the restaurant parking lot.
For a moment she considered not saying anything, but since her family lived there as well it might seem odd that she wouldn’t naturally mention it. “Mine does too.”
“Small world,” he said as he put the vehicle in park.
She stared at him, looking for any sort of recognition, but his face remained impassive.
He’d never let on that he knew who she was. Just because his family lived in the same city didn’t mean anything. She had to stop looking for ulterior motives from everyone she met.
The parking lot of Mad Dog’s was already full and once they stepped inside, it was obvious they were the last ones to arrive. At least the meeting hadn’t started yet. All the servers, bartenders and hostesses sat spread out across three tables and booths in the corner of the restaurant, waiting for the meeting to begin.
Adam placed a protective hand on the small of her back and her nipples tightened at the feel of his hand on her body. “I’m going to find Toby before the meeting starts,” he murmured in her ear.
The feel of his warm breath on her neck sent a ribbon of awareness curling through her. “Okay.”
She weaved through the empty tables until she reached everyone. Ignoring the curious stares, she slid into the empty seat next to Carolyn.
“Did you arrive with Adam?” her friend whispered too low for the three servers sitting on the other side of the big booth to hear.
Instead of answering, she shrugged. “Forget about that. What’s going on with you?”
A fiery blush spread across her friend’s cheeks.
“I’m… I won’t be bartending anymore.”
“What? Why?” She frowned at Carolyn.
Carolyn glanced across the table, and Izzy followed her gaze. The other servers weren’t paying attention to them. One was busy texting and the other two looked half-asleep.
Her friend leaned in closer. “I’m pregnant,” she whispered.
Suddenly the dull chatter of the restaurant stopped. Izzy shifted in her seat and looked around. Everyone was staring at them. Turning back around to face her friend, she mouthed “sorry” to Carolyn before taking a sip of her coffee, pretending to ignore everyone.
After a few minutes, everyone resumed talking while waiting for their boss to arrive. Carolyn leaned in and whispered again, “I’ll tell you everything after the meeting.”
Izzy nodded in agreement and leaned back in her seat. This was definitely not the kind of conversation they could have here. She had a ton of questions, though she had a fairly good idea who the father was.
She’d caught Carolyn and Toby in his office once and while they hadn’t been kissing, they’d been standing much closer than was appropriate for employer and employee. Not to mention her friend had looked like a deer caught in headlights when Izzy had stumbled upon them.
Carolyn was a beautiful woman. Petite with big breasts, stick-straight shoulder-length blonde hair—not from a bottle—and a year round healthy tan. She looked like a typical Florida beach bunny. Or a Barbie doll.
Everyone quieted as Toby and Adam walked through the swinging door from the kitchen.
Normally Izzy drifted off during these meetings, but something told her she’d be interested in what her boss had to say today.
Adam slid into the empty seat next to her, and the dark gaze he raked over her caused an involuntary shiver to work its way throughout her entire body. Her breasts were still sensitized from when he’d simply placed a hand on her back. If a simple look and touch turned her on so much, she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen when they finally got naked together. Well, if they ever did.
“Thanks for being so prompt, everyone.”
Toby’s voice jerked her back to reality. “Last night there was an incident after closing hours, but thanks to Izzy and Adam what could have been something horrible turned into nothing.”
As he continued to talk about how the restaurant would be increasing security and how great sales had been lately, she zoned out, only picking up key words.
She gnawed on her bottom lip as her mind wandered. It had been nearly a week since she’d called her father. Guilt clasped a firm hand around her heart, but she shoved it away. Every time she called just to chat, he tried to convince her to move home. Something she wasn’t ready to do yet.
It wasn’t that she didn’t love him. Hell, she’d even gotten a degree in Business Development to make him happy, but she couldn’t stand the way he smothered her. More than once she’d thought about working for him, but she wasn’t sure if she could tolerate his management techniques. He tried to micromanage her personal life. She didn’t need him doing that to her professional life, as well. Deep down, she knew he meant well, but it didn’t erase the fact that she was an adult and deserved to be treated like one.
The final straw had been when he’d talked to one of her supervisors at her last job on her “behalf.” As an assistant special events planner at a museum she hadn’t been very high up the ladder and that was fine with her. She’d liked getting the entry level job based on her own qualifications and merits. After a stupid conversation at Sunday brunch when she’d simply been venting about some issues she was having with one of her coworkers her father had taken it upon himself to interfere. She’d been livid when her boss had called her into her office and told her what happened. In college he’d made a stink to the dean one semester when she didn’t get the schedule she wanted and while that had been annoying, interfering with her job was way too much. It had been beyond embarrassing. He owned half the real estate in Savannah—including the museum she’d worked at—and he’d felt it was his right to butt into her life any way he saw fit.
Maybe moving to a small town to bartend wasn’t the best way to deal with him but it was the only way she’d known how to escape without going too far away. It had been easier than she thought to put in notice at the museum. She’d loved working there but it wasn’t what she wanted to do forever. Hell, she still had no clue what she wanted. Certainly not work at a restaurant forever but this was as good a place as any to figure it out.
She glanced up when Carolyn nudged her. A moment of panic seized her. Had she missed something important? Was everyone expecting a response from her?
Relief coursed through her that no one was looking at her and Toby was simply talking.
“…And Carolyn is no longer going to be bartending. For those of you who don’t know, she just graduated so she’s going to be taking over the accounting for Mad Dog’s. Which leads me to an important announcement. Adam will be working behind the bar with Izzy for the next two weeks, but I will be looking for a permanent replacement.
I don’t think any of you know, but Adam will be moving back home in two weeks. A few of you have voiced interest in bartending so see me after the meeting…”
She knew Toby was still speaking, but everything around her funneled out. Next to her Adam shifted in his seat. She could feel his gaze on her, but she avoided making eye contact as she built a pyramid out of sugar packets.
He was leaving? It shouldn’t matter that he hadn’t told her, but for some reason she felt almost betrayed. Totally irrational, she knew that.