“Hello? Earth to Marco?”
Owen Wilson waved his hand in front of me. I twisted my stool back to the bar.
“Sorry about that? What were you saying?”
Cos and Owen exchanged a look. I didn’t feel inclined to apologize. “I was watching Rae shoot pool. Need I say more?”
Cos chuckled. “You don’t. Have to admit I’m enjoying the view myself,” my brother said as Brooke bent to shoot. The two ladies were paired with Hudson and Thayle and seemed to be holding their own.
“You guys are slammed,” Cos said as Owen grabbed another beer from the cooler.
“Thanksgiving eve,” he said, coming back to us. “But this is packed even for us.”
“Why do you think that is?” I asked, catching Rae’s eyes. She winked at me, and it took every bit of self-control just to wink back and not walk over there and pretend to show her how to shoot as an excuse to touch her in all the right places.
Unfortunately, Rae already knew how to play pool. Didn’t mean another pointer or two would hurt.
“Man, he has it bad,” Owen said, which is when I realized he’d been talking to me again.
“Owen asked if you thought the new push by the tourism board was working,” Cos said for my benefit before taking a swig of beer.
“Could be,” I said. “But it looks like a lot of locals here to me. Just the holiday, I guess.”
“Speaking of business being busy, I can’t believe Devine,” Owen talked to us while he continued to serve drinks, a testament to how long he’d been in the business. Of all the places he owned, KC’s was his favorite, he’d always said, and Owen was happier to be behind the bar than he was sitting behind a desk.
I tried, and failed, not to look guilty. My guess was Cos did the same because Owen looked between us. “What are you two not telling me?”
“Nothing,” Cos said, unconvincingly.
Owen’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
I cleared my throat, spun in the stool and watched as Rae made one hell of a shot. “Nice,” I yelled over to her, Rae curtsying to me when she realized I watched.
“He’ll know soon enough,” Cos muttered to me. Reluctantly I spun back around.
“Guess we have to mention it now,” I said, knowing the cat was out of the bag. I looked Owen straight in the face, curious to catch his reaction. “We may have the inside scoop on Devine Bakery’s buyer.”
The fact that we knew something Owen didn’t was as much of a surprise as Dorothy and Rich selling the bakery in the first place. Everyone had been devastated when they made the decision. But his health hadn’t been great, and it just made sense. They were disappointed that neither their nephew, Hudson, or even Thayle, who was like an adopted daughter to them, was interested in taking it over. But both already had their hands full at Grado.
On the other hand, Dorothy and Rich were pretty happy with the buyer.
“Well? Who is it?”
I glanced back at Cos one last time. He nodded. This wasn’t public knowledge yet, but it would be soon. And we trusted Owen. It was just a bit . . . complicated.
Of course, I wasn’t going to abate his curiosity so easily.
“Ah, great,” he said. “Someone who has no idea what Devine means to this community.”
“Devine?” Cos clarified. “Or the cinnamon donuts?”
“Both,” Owen reached for an empty glass on the bar, filled it, handed it to the customer, and came back. “Ok, spill.”
“Ahh, not so quick. How about another clue.”
“You are such an asshole,” my brother said. “It’s—”
“Eh eh,” I admonished Cos. “Make him work for it.”
“How about I make you work for your next beer?” Owen nodded to my near-empty glass.
“Just one more hint. Ok two. It’s a woman, and she knows a lot about running a family business.”
“A woman,” Owen said aloud as he cashed out a couple at the end of the bar. “I know Thayle’s not taking over. Is it Min or Brooke? Rae? Seems like they’d all be a bit busy to take on a new business.”
“No, but you’re close.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Cos leaned forward, spoiling my fun. “Lusanne.”
I watched Owen’s face carefully. He was the reason, after all, Lus had almost backed out of the deal. Well, that and not wanting to leave Bridgewater. But with her parents retiring and selling their pizza shop saying they wanted to spend winters in Florida, the decision to move here had been made easier.
Knowing Lusanne always wanted to open her own shop, but not necessarily one like her parents or brother with such late hours, Neo had called her immediately as soon as Thayle told him about Rich and Dorothy’s plans to sell.
It was why Tristano and Lus had come to visit a few months back.
But the other reason she’d hesitated even though Lus loved the idea of a bake shop, especially an established one like Devine in a town reminiscent of Bridgewater, plus having family nearby—well, he was standing in front of us.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked.
Poor Owen looked like he was going to pass out. For such a big guy, it was a strange look on him.
“You ok, man?” Cos asked.
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m ok.”
But clearly, he wasn’t.
No one knew exactly what happened between Owen and Lusanne when she’d come for a visit last spring, but from her dodginess about him, and Owen’s refusal to talk about it, we all knew one thing for sure. Something happened between them, and I had a pretty good idea of what that something was.
“Are you causing trouble over here?”
Rae slid in beside me. Immediately my arm went around her waist. I pulled her to me, kissed her and held on tight when she moved to sit.
“Always,” Cos said. “What can I get you guys?” he asked she and Brooke, who also came back to the bar.
The ladies ordered, and as they did, I whispered in Rae’s ear. “Sorry you lost, but I may have a consolation prize for you.”
“Oh really?” she said, as content to be tucked by my side as I was to have there.
“Really,” I sat back up, and then noticed Owen’s face. He wasn’t ok at all. If I’d realized the news would have upset him as much as it did, I’d never have screwed around with him.
“Owen, I’m sorry man. I was just messing around.”
He blinked, as if it took a second to hear me. “No,” his brows furrowed. “No, no. It’s fine. No big deal. I’m glad it’s staying in the family, so to speak. Like you said, she knows how to run a small-town business. I’m just surprised she’s leaving the family back in Bridgewater.”
“You told him about Lus?” Rae guessed, oblivious to what happened between Owen and Lusanne. Not that any of us had much of an idea of what that was.
“We did. Owen,” I said again. He looked up. “You sure you’re alright?”
He finally smiled, more like himself. “Absolutely. Next round is on the house.”
“What’s the occasion?” Brooke asked, sitting down next to Cos.
“Tomorrow’s for family, but tonight is for friends. I’m glad to have you guys all here.” He poured himself his own draft, and we lifted up our own. “To friends and to good times.”
“To friends and good times,” everyone said, clinking glasses.
I leaned once more to Rae, “And to consolation prizes.”
“May they live up to my high expectations,” she said, laughing.
“Oh they will, love. That’s a promise.”
→ It’s a bonus book! Entry Level, a holiday bonus novella to the GVV series, is coming Dec. 15th. Preorder it here.
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