“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .”
Several heads turned, and a few people chuckled as the deep baritone voice belted out the first line of the song seemingly every person around the world hummed, sang, or whistled as the warm weather turned cold and December crept up before anyone was ready.
“How are you doing today, Mr. Anderson?” Chloe Hitman asked as she wiped a cloth across the pristine wood counter in front of Joseph Anderson. She clearly could see he was in a mighty fine mood this cold December first.
He had big plans for Chloe. She was a fighter, but for anyone to think they could battle him was downright laughable. Joseph had yet to fail when he truly wanted something. And he was sitting at the bar of Chloe’s beautifully redone restaurant with a plan of action.
He was in the mood for a wedding.
“I’m wonderful,” he told her. “Now you tell me—what did you do with these counters?” he asked.
She grinned, the smile lighting up the dimly lit place. She’d owned it for only about six months, and she’d already made magic happen. It was difficult to get a table without reservations . . . unless you were Joseph Anderson, of course.
“I went to this amazing wine bar in Oregon, of all places, and saw a counter with lights embedded in it. I knew I had to make it happen, so voilà, here it is,” she said. She’d been involved in every single detail of this place, and it showed. She took pride in all she did. That was why Joseph wanted her, and only her, to finish up his kitchen at the veterans center that he’d been involved in each step of the way.
“It looks like constellations,” he told her as he looked a bit closer.
She clapped her hands. “Exactly!” she exclaimed. “I wanted something unique that would fascinate people.”
“So you want to keep them sitting here for hours?” Joseph said.
“Yep. I want them to have a great experience from the time they walk through the front doors until they step back outside. I want them to feel they can sit here all night.”
“I love the way you think,” Joseph said as he pulled out a cigar.
“Now, Joseph, I know you don’t often hear the word no, but you know there’s no smoking inside,” she said with a chuckle as she shook her finger at him.
He sighed as he held the fine cigar in his fingers.
“Of course I know that. I just like to hold it while I sip a fine glass of scotch,” he said.
She chuckled. He truly had picked well when he’d chosen her. She was a true gem.
“It would be amazing to live a life without rules. I can’t imagine what it feels like,” she said.
“I follow the rules,” Joseph assured her. “I just tend to make up my own as well.”
That got another laugh from her. “I can’t imagine what this world would be like without rules,” she said. “As much as I complain about them, I do appreciate law and order.”
“And if there weren’t rules, it wouldn’t be any fun to break them,” Joseph said.
“That’s a very good point,” she said. “Now, let’s get down to it. What has you in my place on a Thursday night? You’re a busy man, and I’m surprised to see you all alone.”
“Am I bothering you?” he asked.
Her eyes widened. “Not at all,” she quickly assured him. “It’s always a pleasure to visit.” Then she smiled. “Though I have been warned about you.”
His smile fell away as his eyes narrowed. “Warned?” he said.
She laughed, not at all falling for his usual tricks. He might have to be a little more cautious around this one. He liked it a lot.
“Yes, I’ve been warned that you like to meddle in people’s lives. And I’ve definitely been told when you’re acting all innocent is when you’re the most dangerous.”
She placed a hand on her slender hip and gave him a smiling challenge. He was truly going to enjoy taking her down. He couldn’t even imagine what fun her and Brandon’s children would be. They were both smart, funny, and beautiful. Those kids were going to be a delight.
“The fact that I enjoy helping out those I care about has nothing to do with meddling. I just like to get things done, and I pick the best of the best to accomplish that. Does my track record for success say anything less?” he challenged.
She sighed. “No one can say you don’t have the golden touch.”
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