1. Take A Chance
Just a brief note before starting.
This book is short and a wrap-up novella for The Triad Series. It will probably be between 22-23 chapters in all. It is also completed on my patreon page which is at www.patreon.com/rkknightlybooks.com. The book is available at the $2/month tier.
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“Don’t look now, girl, but Leo’s coming over to say hi again,” Kiara said as her gaze focused over Emily’s shoulder.
“You know he has a live-in girlfriend, don’t you? Like as in he’s seriously off-limits?” Emily shook her head at her friend, who always seemed to be eye-fucking the handsome owner of the local café that was just blocks away from her small studio apartment.
“Yes, but you know Sofia don’t care if he flirts. She has that man’s dick on lockdown, as we all know. If it gets people to pay more for the cause of keeping this place open, she doesn’t care if he walks around with his shirt off to drum up more clientele.”
“Jesus, Kiara,” Emily muttered. “I don’t flirt with taken men. I can barely flirt with single men. I don’t have a flirtatious bone in my body.”
“Bone in your body? Can’t say I don’t like the sound of that, pretty lady.”
Emily jumped in her seat before narrowing her eyes to lasers at her best friend, Kiara. That girl loved it when Emily was caught off-balance. She could tell by that wicked smile of hers.
“It’s nothing,” Emily said, swinging her head up to meet with Leo’s steely-blue gaze. “Kia here is just being a pain in the ass as usual.”
Kiara Jackson, her friend and co-worker at the law offices of Sanders, Clay and Nimowitz, was a fucking caution. The two of them usually shortened their office name, calling it SCAN, so they didn’t have to say the whole thing. SCAN was easy to say, whereas all three names were a god damn mouthful.
“Ass is good.” Leo was still in full flirt mode, letting his eyes twinkle as he smiled down on Emily and Kiara. “Ass is always a damn fine idea.”
Em’s thighs tightened as his voice became a low, husky growl. His eyes had dropped down to the curve of her ass, her left leg slung over the other, crossed at the knee and accentuating the arc of her jeans-covered rear.
Her mouth twitched, eyes widening minutely as she looked down at her cooling latte and lukewarm blueberry muffin.
Bean There, Done That was a mom and pop coffee shop in The Mission in San Francisco that was cinched in between a taqueria and a corner Walgreens. The hipper, more tech-driven, gentrifying residents in the area were more likely to frequent the small businesses over the Peet’s and Starbucks that lined the streets of the affluent city. Em and Kiara simply came because they liked the friendly, cozy atmosphere, and Leo did make a mean latte—espresso too when one needed the extra caffeine boost.
Plus, Leo was devastatingly easy on the eyes.
At 31 years of age, Leo was unmarried, though his steady girlfriend, Sofia Devereaux, had lived in the loft above the café with him for many years. They both worked as co-owners and managers of the café, seemingly without even a ripple or undercurrent of any tension in their business-personal relationships. They melded seamlessly together, and there wasn’t a day that went by that you didn’t see one of them working the floor, a smile on their face and a pep in their step.
Leo was broad-shouldered, with a body built for surfing, which he sometimes did on his days off when the weather was fine. He had naturally sun-lightened hair, crystal blue eyes, and chiseled features.
And a nice bulge in the front of his pants, or so Kiara had claimed. Emily wasn’t one for staring at someone’s clothed crotch unless it was planted directly in front of her eyes.
His skin was golden-tan, the scruff on his cheeks and jaw always looking like it was two days old. They covered the vaguest hint of dimples when he smiled, something that made Emily want to both swoon and clench her legs together. The man looked like fun and probably tasted like danger, the mischievous quirk of his half-smile always hinting at the hidden pleasures such a mouth could bestow upon you.
It was sink or swim, and Emily wanted to run for her life.
Her last boyfriend was back in Tahoe, along with her whore of an ex-best friend. When she’d looked for a new job far away from that shit-show being played out daily in front of her, she’d gotten a call from Sanders, Clay and Nimowitz, and she’s hopped into her car after getting the job, grateful for the opportunity of a fresh start.
Her starting pay wasn’t the greatest, but with a little help from her savings, she was able to make it work. The rent was ridiculously high for her studio apartment, but it was better than sharing a house with a bunch of people she didn’t know and didn’t know if she’d care for. Her brothers, Stefan and Case, along with her two dads, helped her make the move, though Emmett had tried to convince her to let them pay for professional movers who would do the job at astronomical prices.
So, Emily Reznick was on her very own for the first time in years, far away from any family, and eager to make new friends—better friends than the ones she’d grown up with in her tourist-driven town.
Kiara and Emily had grown close immediately, both finding a kindred and like-minded spirit in the other. Their looks were completely at odds with the other, Kiara being a mocha-skinned beauty with lush lips and a wild, untamed mass of hair that matched her fun-loving spirit.
While Kia had a to-die-for hourglass figure, Emily had gentler curves, was a little bit shorter, and one year younger at 25 to Kia’s 26 years of age. Em’s auburn hair and violet-blue eyes were all courtesy of her mother, Callie, who’d wept an exorbitant amount of tears when her daughter decided to move away to the big city.
Leo often flirted with the two of them, Emily more so since Kia had a boyfriend. Em didn’t know why he seemed to flirt harder with her than any of the other single females that came in for a cup of java and an eyeful of sexy coffee barista/owner. She looked nothing like his girlfriend, who had black hair and melted-chocolate eyes.
Maybe he just didn’t know when to turn the flirt off.
In any event, Sofia never seemed to mind, and she was liable to flirt as well—with both men and women. She was completely honest when telling people that she was bisexual and found beauty in both the male and female form.
Sofia too flirted with Emily, but it never bothered her, and it was always a little more playful than sexual, unlike Leo.
Come to think of it, the other full-time barista that worked so often when Kiara and Emily came in on Saturdays was also a flirt.
Maybe it was part of what the two co-owners looked for in an employee. Friendly, fluent in English, and flirty.
“Tuck! You got those scones ready?” Leo called over his shoulder. “I want to try them out this afternoon to see if they’ll sell.”
“Almost!” Tucker called from the doorway to the back room.
“You should try the blueberry since you seem to like the muffins so much,” Leo suggested, still smiling that all-too-knowing, all-too-sexy smile of his. His eyes drifted down to her half-eaten muffin, which Emily was fingering nervously.
“They’re so moist and sweet,” she replied anxiously.
“Then you’ll love the scones. It’s my mother’s old recipe, and I wanted to try it out ever since we got off the ground. I’ll bring one out to you. On the house.”
He was suddenly walking away, and Kia’s entire body shook with laughter as he ambled off toward the cash registers to get an idea of the scones’ readiness.
“My God, Em. When’s the last time you got hit on, for fuck’s sake? That man was totally undressing you with his eyes. Oh, but you wouldn’t know since you were staring at that fucking muffin instead of the hot daddy that was seriously eye-fucking you.”
“He flirts. I don’t,” Em quipped briskly. “Someone asks me what I’m doing on any given night, and I’m more likely to answer with, calling my mother and binge-watching Netflix.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve always been horrible at it. Like, dismally so. Besides, he’s like that with every single woman that comes into the café, whether Sofia is here or not.”
Kiara shook her head and took a sip of her coffee. “No one would ever think to look at you interacting with any good-looking man that you had two fathers and two sets of twin brothers involved in polyamorous relationships.”
“So what? If I wanna live like a nun, that’s up to me. Now, can we please finish our drinks so we can get out of here? I feel like my face is going to go up in smoke any minute.”
It was true that her pale cheeks were quite red, and getting darker the more Kia teased her.
It was almost a shame they couldn’t properly harness the energy it took for that much blood to flow into Em’s cheeks whenever she was even mildly embarrassed. Like wind turbines in the North Bay, it would probably help with keeping the Earth green—sustainable energy or something like that.
Emily quickly got down to eating the rest of her muffin, gulping down her cooling latte in between bites so she and her red cheeks to walk out of Bean There, Done That with some dignity retained.
Sofia was finally painting the walls in their third bedroom. It was the lilac color she liked—the type of lacquer that supposedly only needed one coat. She liked to keep busy, even on her days off, and this Saturday was no exception.
The woman had the energy of a hummingbird’s wing with the grueling work ethic of an ant colony. Even on a really bustling day at the café, she had more than enough energy to spare. Just watching her sometimes made Leo shake his head and wonder where she got it all. It couldn’t be the coffee. For someone in the business of serving up a caffeine jolt, she only drank one cup a day to start off her morning.
Leo walked in to see that his girlfriend was nearly three-quarters of the way done with the room, and she’d probably get the rest completed by bedtime, possibly even sooner. The walls had been a dull eggshell that morning when he’d left to open the store with Tucker.
“Lookin’ good,” he said approvingly, nodding his head in appreciation. “You’ll be done by midnight.”
“Yeah,” she scoffed. “And have to get up to open up shop at 5 AM. Horribly early hours. Why did we open a coffee shop and not a book store again? I’m still wondering that after four years.”
“Because book shops are passé,” he rebuffed quickly. “Everyone buys online now, e-books and paperback. Barnes & Noble will soon go the way of the dinosaur, Sof.”
He sauntered up to her, circling his arms around her from behind before placing a soft kiss at the crown of her head.
“That’s a shame. I wish there were more physical books nowadays. I like having something in my hand to hold onto.”
“Need something in your hands? I’ll give you something right here.” He crashed his hips into her ass, his cock lengthening as he ground into her soft curves. “People nowadays want to save some trees, so e-books are more popular—especially around these parts.”
She wiggled out of his arms, laughing. “Em and Kia stop in today?”
He nodded, grinning. “Like clockwork. Every damn Saturday. I could set my watch by them. They must have a standing date for noon every week.”
“You flirt like mad with her again?”
He was completely unashamed, his grin widening even more. “Of course. What do you take me for? Some rookie? I could get that girl to blush if I so much as hinted at something moderately risqué. It’s fucking adorable.”
She flashed her own half-smile at him. “You still sure she’s the one? I mean, I know how I feel about it, but she seems awfully…well, good.”
“Maybe next time she goes out with Kia, we can tag along,” he offered, not at all put off by Emily’s demure personality. Underneath, she could be a tiger, he just knew it. “Or, I could just ask Kia when they’re hitting the club next. I know she and Davonte like to have her tag along. I honestly think Kia’s just trying to get her laid. I heard them one time talking, saying that Em hadn’t gone on a date since moving to San Francisco. It sounded…well, I don’t think her last boyfriend was all that great to her, if I caught the undertones of their conversation correctly.”
“A shame. Such a beauty. That guy probably fucked her up for serious relationships. But clubbing would be good. She’ll be drinking a bit, so it should smooth some of her harder edges and get her to listen to what we could offer her. I don’t know how she feels about women, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Worst thing that could happen is that she stops coming in for coffee.”
He agreed with a nod. “I’d miss seeing her, but I’d like to try. Ever since Grace left us…well, we both don’t always have the same taste in women now, do we?”
Sofia grinned, rolling up on her tiptoes to give him a kiss. “We certainly don’t. And, like you, I’d rather take the chance of being rejected than never know what could be.”