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Once Upon A Princess
By Holly Jacobs
SilhouetteCopyright © 2005 Holly Jacobs
All right reserved.
"I need a job."
Just one week before, when Parker Dillon had uttered those words to her two best friends, Shey Carlson and Cara Phillips, she hadn't known what she was letting herself in for. And now here she was a working woman -- a waitress extraordinaire.
Okay, so maybe she wasn't quite extraordinary yet.
Most shifts she wasn't even totally competent, but it had only been seven days and her business degree hadn't exactly prepared her for a waitressing career path. But Parker frequently reminded herself that all she'd ever wanted was to be ordinary, so maybe being a less-than-extraordinary waitress was okay.
"Hi, may I take your order?" she asked the people at her newest table at Monarch's, her friend Shey's small coffeehouse on Perry Square in Erie, Pennsylvania.
A man and two children looked up.
A man and two children who looked rather familiar.
The man wore a black turtleneck sweater and black jeans all topped by a black leather jacket. His hair was black, as well. Not some dark brown bordering on black, but a true black. Despite the dark color, it looked soft.
Not that Parker wanted to be invited.
She didn't have time for men.
Not even darkly handsome ones.
So she concentrated on the two youngsters and smiled. "Who's first?"
The girl grinned and said, "I'd like a hot chocolate and one of those blueberry muffins, please."
Parker wrote the order down, then turned to the boy. "And you?"
"Hot chocolate and a chocolate donut."
The man cleared his throat.
"Sorry, Uncle Jace." The boy looked at Parker and added, "Please."
The man wasn't their dad.
For some reason, Parker's heart did a queer little double beat.
He -- Uncle Jace -- turned from the children and looked right at her.
Parker noted that his eyes were as dark as his hair. Deep and penetrating eyes. They looked at her as if they could see more than her well-worn jeans and ponytailed blond hair.
He peered at her as if he knew things about her, things that she'd rather no one know.
"Coffee," was all he said in a low voice that sounded as if someone had taken sandpaper to his vocal chords.
Something within her stirred at the sound.
"Cream and sugar?" she asked, her voice oddly breathy.
It figured, she thought with a small smile. Of course Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome took his coffee black.
"Be right back."
She headed over to retrieve their food, but couldn't help one quick glance over her shoulder. Uncle Jace appeared to be scolding the kids, who were both wearing guilty looks.
"Hey, that's some hunk," Shey said as Parker came behind the counter. "Too bad about the kids. Like they say, all the good ones are taken."
"They're not his kids. They called him uncle."
"Not too bad, then. I don't see a ring." She was looking past Parker toward the table. "Do you know him? He's watching you."
Parker turned, and sure enough he was. He shifted his gaze back to the kids, but he'd been studying her. "I can't quite place him, but he looks familiar, like I should know him."
"So ask him," Shey said.
That was Shey in a nutshell.
She was the kind of person who always cut to the chase. She didn't have the time or the patience to pussy-foot around issues.
Shey only had one speed: full-steam ahead.
She'd been the one to spearhead Parker and Cara into forming a partnership and opening the two stores. Parker had her degree in international business. And although Perry Square wasn't exactly international, it felt good to use some of her education to put together a business plan. She'd been the stores' financial backer and business manager. Having a healthy trust fund had made things much easier.
Full-steam-ahead Shey had taken responsibility for Monarch's Coffeehouse. And Cara, who was the quietest of the trio, had surprised them all by not only managing Titles, the adjoining bookstore, but really enjoying it.
Each of their positions had played to each of their strengths. It had been perfect.
The stores weren't generating a huge profit yet, and that hadn't been a problem until her father cut off her access to her trust fund. That's why she'd taken the vacant waitressing position to help make ends meet.
Both her friends had argued against it, but most of the time Parker was enjoying it. Eyeing Uncle Jace, she had to admit she was enjoying today, and this particular table, more than most.
"Go on. Ask him if you two know each other," Shey prompted again.
"That's okay. It's not important," Parker said as she poured the hot chocolate into a cup.
"Come on now, Parker, he's a hunk. You should just go for it. You're on a roll lately," she said with a chuckle. "So why don't you roll his way? Nothing can be as hard as standing up to your father. By the way, he called again...or rather, his secretary did. You're supposed to call him back. He said it's important."
"I don't think so." Parker topped the hot chocolates off with whipped cream and got a coffee cup.
"You should call your father," Shey scolded. "After all, what's he going to do? You've said no. You're an adult, free to make your own decisions. And just because you've decided not to go home, not to give in to his demands, that doesn't mean you should cut yourself off from your family. Family is important."
Excerpted from Once Upon A Princess by Holly Jacobs Copyright © 2005 by Holly Jacobs. Excerpted by permission.
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