Published by Roane Publishing on March 27th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Harper Grey is fed up with over-bearing men.
Her father wants to sell the family hamburger joint to her brother because a woman could never make it successful.
Harper knows she has the same flair for business as her mother, and sexy Navy SEAL Patrick O’Brien dares her to prove it to the world.
When duty calls and Patrick must leave her side, will Harper be strong enough to make her dream a reality?
“I’m scared.” I’m standing outside of my favorite coffee shop, waiting for the barista to call out my coffee order. My cell phone glued to my ear.
“He should be there any minute right?” Patrick’s warm voice sounds in my ear. He left earlier than either of us wanted last night. With a morning meeting with an old Navy buddy, he had no choice. Is it right to miss someone you’re barely dating?
“Yeah. What if he says no?”
“Then you start looking for a business loan, you do something, anything else,” Patrick replies firmly. “You’ve put in too much prep work just to give it up.”
“You think I can do this.” I hate the way the quiver in my voice makes me feel weak as if I were thirteen again and the tree scraping against my bedroom window is scaring me.
“Harper, you’re the smartest girl I know. You can do anything. You just have to believe. Are you going to be okay? I can head over.”
“You told me last night that you haven’t seen Terry in over five years. You stay there and meet your friend’s train.”
“You’ll be just fine. You know that, don’t you?” The confidence in his voice steadies me.
“One large skinny mocha and a small oregon chai,” the barista shouts.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll call you back later.” Clicking on my cell, I drop it into my pocket. I accept both coffees and head for one of the small tables outside.
“Hey, just in time.” Tony drops onto the empty seat. The mid-morning sun shines on his thinning, dark hair.
Thank God, I take after Mom. If all goes well, I’ll have a full head of hair when I’m sixty. I slide over his skinny mocha.
“Thanks for ordering. I hate to wait. I used to drink Breve’s, full of half and a half and whipped cream, but the Doc yelled at me. Now it’s diet yuck.” He takes a sip of his coffee and shudders. “Dad says you’re dating Patrick O’Brien. That’s an impressive choice…for you.”
“I am dating Patrick that much is true.” I can do this. Tony’s a jerk, but I need the business loan.
“So what is this all about? Please tell me it’s not about that damned restaurant again.”
“I offered to buy Just Burgers from Dad.”
“Dear God why!?”
If I wasn’t so angry, I’d laugh at the look of shock on Tony’s face. “Because I can make something of it, Tony. Don’t do what Dad does, just hear me out. I’ve spent a lot of time researching it.”
“Just Burgers has both feet in the grave, Harper. That restaurant is in a bad neighborhood. Hell, even the clientele has completely given up on it. It would take a miracle to pull it out.” Tony rubs his forehead. “Only an idiot would buy it.” He holds up his left hand with an imperious gesture.
“So you don’t want to hear what I have to say? How can I change this restaurant around? You won’t even go with me to talk to Dad?” I drop my purse onto the table. The folder I so carefully prepared falls out and onto the floor.
“I don’t care about your research. Harper, you’re just like Mom. You want to do something so badly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a good idea or not.” Tony chugs his drink. “Be serious for once. Let this go. I’ve spent the last six months convincing Dad not to sell it to you. Now it’s your turn to run. Take your business degree and go settle down with that Navy guy, raise a couple of kids like mom did.”
My eyes dart from Tony to the Barista calling out more coffee names. Before I know it I’m out of my chair and moving backward. “Sorry,” I mutter to the occupant of the chair behind me, more out of reflex than for any other reason. Everything is so clear now. Tony spent the last year sabotaging me, and I never saw it coming. They’ll let Just Burgers die. I always suspected that Dad held Mom back. Since her death, Just Burgers seemed to go further and further downhill. How far could it have gone if they had supported her? Picking up my coffee I take another swig, tears of anger forming behind my eyes.
“You’re just like Dad. You both know everything, except you’re both so wrong.” My words rise considerably; heads swivel in our direction. “I’m glad I’m like Mom. She had her head on straight. Do you want to know something else? Neither you nor Dad came to my graduation because you couldn’t. You’re both chauvinists. It will never occur to either of you that you could have helped me, but no, you know all.” I air quote. “At least, I’m not afraid of failing. You took the boring route, Tony. Anyone can be an investment counselor. I’m going to do something with my life. And if I don’t, it won’t be because I didn’t try.”
“Now, Harper, stop being stupid. Just think about what I did for you. I saved your life. So go live it. Go get a receptionist job somewhere. Get a job that doesn’t taint your skin with the scent of burnt meat on a daily basis.” Tony shudders.
Stunned, all I can do is stare at him.
“Order up for Lisa, sugar-free caramel latte.”
“I’ll get it myself.” A woman a few seats away snaps at her date.
As if her words were a catalyst, my dream of red walls and Friesen horses appears as vivid as if I had just painted it. I don’t need Just Burgers. I can start my own restaurant! The anger I felt for Tony disappears. I can stand here and argue with him, but that’s what Tony wants. He wants to be the star of his one-sided play. Life as an investment counselor must really be boring if this is what he does for attention. Resolve builds inside me until my body feels as if it’s an oak tree, oozing with strength. I don’t need him; I never needed him. Tony wants me to fail. The only way to prove him wrong is to do this myself!
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