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- Small Texas Town
- Second chances
Cora Hamilton needed to get out of town fast!- With her ex due out of prison, the last thing she wants is to be around when he comes knocking on her door. For him, Cora is unfinished business. She needs to run.When her new boss finds her sleeping in her car in the parking lot of his bbq restaurant in Wishbone, Texas, Cora questions her decision.She’s a day late and her new boss is understandably unimpressed. Cora’s no pushover and she’s damn good at her job, as she intends to prove if he’ll just give her a chance.Duke Wilson knew he was taking a risk hiring his new manager sight unseen but Cora Hamilton’s resume and references were the best.If his restaurant is to be the success he wants and his life less stressful, he needs her. Despite the fact she let him down before she even started work, his gut tells him she’s as desperate for a break as he is.But can he get past her lies and trust her after her abysmal start and let her do the job he hired her for?
Intro into chapter one
Intro into chapter one
Duke Wilson put the cash in the safe, shut the door and spun the dial with a sigh of relief. Thank the Lord this night was finally over. He rolled his shoulders, stood up and stretched his back. Too long bending over his desk doing the books after a full day on his feet was giving his body aches he didn’t want to acknowledge. It made him feel older than his thirty-four years. Technically still a young buck. Shame his body didn’t get the message.
He flicked off the light, stepped out of his office and shut the door behind him with a resounding thud. Three years of hard slog and finally he was beginning to see the steady income and repeat customers. You didn’t start a business like a restaurant and hope for quiet evenings trade.
“Night, Duke.” His kitchen hand walked toward him, dark shadows under his eyes.
He patted him on the back as he passed. “Night, Chris. Thanks for a great night’s work. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He followed the young man down the hallway toward the back entrance to let him out. “Get some rest, you hear? It’s going to be a big one. We have a few large parties coming in. Maybe after the weekend it will slow down and we can all catch up.”
“I will. About time you headed home too. You’ve been here since before lunch yesterday.” Chris pulled on his jacket before he got to the back door of the restaurant.
“Don’t you worry about me. I’ll look at hiring a new manager tomorrow.”
“So you still haven’t heard from the woman who was s’posed to start today?”
“Nope.” Duke tried to keep the venom from his voice as he opened the back door and saw the young man out before locking it behind him. All he needed to do was a quick
round of the restaurant to make sure everything was ready for the lunch crowd tomorrow, check the kitchen and double check the gas was off, and the windows and doors locked, and then he could head for home.
Duke covered all bases in record time before grabbing his keys. He went to the back door, opened it and armed the alarm before pulling it shut behind him. He skipped down the stairs to the parking lot and pulled up short. A dark SUV was parked near his truck. What the heck? He slowed his pace. His muscles tensed, on edge, alert as he approached, each step a whisper on the ground.
If someone was waiting to rob him, they would be shit out of luck. He made it a policy to never carry the days takings. Everything was locked away in the safe for pick up the following day by armored guards. He slid his keys in his back pocket to leave his hands free and approached the darkened vehicle.
A sudden movement in the driver’s seat made him jump back. A woman’s sleepy face appeared at the window. Her eyes locked onto his. She screamed.
Duke held up his hands, trying to calm her down before things got out of control.
She sucked in a breath, her hand on her chest. He indicated that she should open her window and after giving him a wary glance, she let it down a couple of inches, still keeping a wary look on her face.
He crouched to try and minimize her fear, mindful of the tremor in her voice. Last thing he wanted to do was frighten her more than she already was.. “What’re you doing here? I’m about to close up the parking lot. You should move on.”
Defiance flared in her eyes. “Lock it up? You can’t do that.”
“Look, lady. I can do what I like. I own the place and I lock it up at night. Now if you don’t want your vehicle stuck in here until lunchtime tomorrow when I get back, I suggest you go park it somewhere else.”
He stared at her hard trying to place the face or the voice. “And you would be?”
A bundle in the back seat moved and he heard the voice of a young boy through the crack in the window. “Mom. I’m cold.”
His stomach dropped. What next? “You have a child in there? Listen, lady, do you need help?”
She wound the window all the way down, a look of resignation on her tired
face. She patted a hand to her hair and looked down at her lap before she spoke. “I’m Cora Hamilton. Your new restaurant manager.”
Crap. This wasn’t how he wanted to greet his new employee. He wanted to see her over
his office desk and tear her out for not showing up when she’d said she would. Preferably yesterday when she’d promised to arrive and take up her position.
Her chin rose a fraction. “Sorry I didn’t make it yesterday. We had car problems and couldn’t get here any earlier.” She bit her lip and looked down at her hands again.
“You should’ve called. I was about to hire someone else or squash the position.”
“I’m sorry. It was unavoidable. Everything went wrong. I called when I left but nobody answered – the restaurant must have been shut. And we were on the road early this morning and I thought it better to get here as soon as I could rather than
keep trying to call.” She turned around and spoke to the child in the back seat. “Lay down and try to sleep.”
Duke could hear his mother’s voice in his ear chiding him to mind his manners and help where he could, especially those less fortunate than himself. “Why are you sleeping in the car? Surely you’d arranged for somewhere to go before you moved
“We did but since we’re running late, they let the apartment to someone else and didn’t bother to let me know until I arrived. All the motels I tried were full so we had no choice. I was planning on looking for something after I started work. Even if I have to look as far afield as Waco, I’ll do it.”
The town of Waco might look close on the map but it was a good thirty-five minutes away in light traffic. Not ideal for someone who would be keeping long hours.
“You should’ve called me.”
“I tried, okay?” Fire burned in her eyes before the shutters came down and her expression turned neutral.
“You can’t stay here.”
Her throat moved as she swallowed. Cora glanced away, and he couldn’t see her reaction.
“See that black truck? It’s mine. Follow me home. You can have the guest room for the night.” Duke cut her off before she could protest, hoping she wasn’t getting the wrong idea.
Her head whipped around, eyes wide, staring at him, her mouth open.
Duke held up his hands ready to calm her down before she got the wrong message.
“Don’t worry. I live on the family ranch. My mom would kill me if she found out I’d left you here when there’re perfectly good bedrooms at home you could use.”
He felt silly blaming his mother but it was true. She’d string him up if she
found out this woman and her child were sleeping rough. Grandpa would take great pleasure in helping her too. Especially if it was for a staff member and most definitely a woman and child. Duke’d never live it down. Besides, nobody argued with his mama. Not if they knew what was good for them.