Authors: Stephanie Haefner
Two months had passed since Jilly and Colin had kissed and made up, and it was a glorious two months. Who knew love could be this blissful?
With the surge of new customers, and the steady influx of profit, Jilly was able to hire a few employees and expand her operating hours to dinner on the weekends. With a small loan from Colin that she was diligently paying back, she was able to remodel the inside of the café for maximum seating capacity and upgrade her kitchen. But she refused to buy new tables. She liked her eclectic look, and the place was looking pretty spectacular.
“Are you ready?” Colin asked as they stood at her door, ready to open for her official Grand Re-opening Party.
He leaned and placed a kiss on her nose then yanked the door open. Colin greeted guests and Jilly seated them. Her new employees began circling and pouring water, handing out menus and baskets of bread. Charlene played waitress for the night and started taking food orders.
“I better get to work,” Jilly said and headed to the kitchen where her new sous chef was busy prepping. Orders began pouring in and they banged them out one at a time.
After the initial rush died down, she turned to her kitchen assistant. “You okay in here if I leave for a little while?”
She smiled. “I got it under control.”
Jilly stepped out from the kitchen to a bustling café, exactly what she had always dreamed of; happy people eating her food. She saw lots of faces she recognized, and many she didn’t. She waved to Sandra and her husband, daughter, and son-in-law, then searched and found Colin standing near a table. As she stepped closer, she realized it was his parents.
“Hello, dear,” his mother said as she stood and hugged Jilly, kisses to each cheek.
When she released her, Jilly turned to his dad. “Good evening, Mr. Rutherford. How are you?”
“Very well, thank you.”
Things were still strained between Colin and his dad, but they’d talked a few times and he seemed to be coming around. Baby steps. His showing up tonight was a huge leap in the right direction.
“I’m impressed with your menu,” he said.
“Thank you. I hope you enjoy your meal.” Jilly met Colin’s gaze, glee and a bit of shock on both their faces.
“Some of the guys from the shop just walked in,” he said. “Excuse me.”
Colin left the table and Jilly excused herself as well. She checked on her guests and cleared away some plates from a table. She sailed past Colin and Charlene just in time to hear the introduction to her possible future boyfriend.
“Charlene, I’d like you to meet my friend Joe.”
“Hi! So nice to finally meet you.”
Jilly checked back in the kitchen and jumped in with her sous chef. They’d already developed a wonderful partnership.
“Hey, Jilly?” Charlene said, sticking her head into the kitchen. “There’s a woman here to see you.”
After wiping her hands on a towel, she headed for the hostess station, holding out her hand as she approached. “Hello! I’m Jilly. How can I help you?”
The woman shook her hand. “Hi! I’m Gloria Morgan from Soothing Waters Day Spa. Everyone is going nuts over your cookies.”
“That’s so wonderful to hear.”
“Any chance we can double the order?”
The standing weekly order was already for twelve dozen cookies plus a few dozen other assorted pastries. “Absolutely.”
“Great. Our clients are so appreciative that we’re offering healthy options for them.” She smiled then looked around the café. “You’ve got a great turn-out for your party. Any chance I can get a table? I’m dying to try one of your pasta dishes.”
“Absolutely.” Jilly showed her to an empty table and made sure she was well taken care of. She stepped behind the counter, observing the room, finding it hard to hold back tears.
Jilly thought about her mom and wondered if she was proud, if she had properly honored her memory. She pictured her sitting in the café, smiling and laughing, enjoying the night. Sometimes it was hard to remember, but if she tried real hard, she could still hear her laugh. She had a great laugh.
Colin joined Jilly, a kiss to the spot on her neck just under her ear. “Is it everything you dreamed it would be?” he asked.
She turned to him. “Everything and more.” Her dreams had never included such a wonderful man to share it with. Someone who loved her for her, who supported her and genuinely wanted the best for her.
Her mother would definitely be proud.
I’d like to thank Nicole Kuhn for inviting me to do this. It was a fun challenge! Thank you for answering all my dumb questions and listening when I was freaking out. And thank you for creating such a beautiful cover and giving my Jilly her lavender hair.
Huge thanks to my editor, April Larrechea. You were there at the beginning of my writing career and I’m so glad you can help me with this venture.
Stephanie Haefner is a wife, mother of two, and contemporary romance novelist from Buffalo, NY. A member of Romance Writers of America and the Western New York Romance Writers subchapter, she loves creating sassy heroines and tossing them into sexy circumstances. When not writing, she celebrates her sassiness with dance and zumba classes, and her nerdiness with boybands and Disney World.
Visit Stephanie online: