Jessie hesitated mid-stride when she saw her mom. Her once long blonde hair, now spiky-short was covered with a pink baseball cap turned jauntily to the side, its long bill covered in sequins. Jessie recovered and rushed to envelop her in a hug. She felt the small thin frame of her once healthy mom and refused to give in to the tears that gathered in her eyes.
“Mom, why didn’t you let me know earlier? You’ve lost so much weight.”
“Damn cancer. Didn’t want to bother you. I’ve been coping,” she said, hugging her back. “It’s just this chemo. It knocks me out. And the drug I’ve been getting to give me more stamina doesn’t seem to be doing anything.”
“Can you go home now? It’s after six.”
“Yes, I just need to talk with Marc for a minute, then I’ll head out. James will be home tonight and we’re planning a quiet evening.”
Jessie bit her tongue; she didn’t want to talk about James. “Who’s Marc?”
“I’m surprised Sarah didn’t mention him. Come on into the kitchen. We’ve added another chef so Sarah can have some days off. She’s been working too much already, and since we’re doing so well, I want to expand the restaurant hours.”
She was not prepared to see the most handsome man she’d ever set eyes on.
“Marc, meet my daughter Jessie. Jessie, this is our newest addition Marc DeLuca.”
Jessie was captivated by the liquid brown eyes that looked deeply into hers. Curly brown hair escaped from under his black beret, and his deep brown complexion contrasted with the white chef’s jacket.
He smiled as he stepped forward and took her hand. “Pleased to meet you, Jessie. I’ve heard a lot about you from your mom and from Sarah.”
His touch and perfect smile sent shivers of joy up her spine. She looked up to the tip of his six foot frame and swallowed. His build was powerful and magnificent. If ever there was a time not to lose her voice, it would be now.
“Pleased to meet you, too,” she said a breathlessly. She hoped she didn’t sound like an idiot.
“Marc, I’ll need you to close up tonight. Can you write up the order for Wednesday morning delivery?”
“Sure, not a problem, Beverly. You go home and rest and I’ll see you Wednesday.” He turned to lock eyes with Jessie. “I understand we’ll be seeing you around here now.”
She cleared her throat and touched the tip of her tongue to wet her dry her upper lip. “Yes, I’ll be helping mom so she can concentrate on getting stronger.”
“I’ll certainly be looking forward to getting to know you better.”
“Yeah, me too.” Man, how stupid was that? “I mean, I’ll be looking forward to getting to know you, too.” He made it so she couldn’t think straight. How was she going to function working around him every day?