“ ‘In summary,’ ” Cami, one of my very best friends, and a business partner, reads from the Portland Tribune, “ ‘Seduction is a restaurant unlike any other I’ve experienced. The food is delicious, the wine bar impressive, and the ambiance so sexy, it will take your breath away. I highly recommend this restaurant for your next date night.’ ”
“I want to send that reviewer flowers,” Mia says with a wide smile. “Who would have thought that just six months after opening this place, we’d already have a review like this?”
“Well, it’s a no-brainer that they’d love the food,” I reply, and reach for the paper so I can read it again for the fifteenth time. “You’re a genius in the kitchen, Mia. We’ve known that since we were in high school.”
“I still get nervous, especially now that I never know who the customers are going to be. We didn’t even get a heads-up that this guy was going to be here.” Mia bites the cuticle on her thumb and frowns. “Maybe I should add to the menu.”
“The menu is perfect,” Cami replies with a shake of her blond head. “He loved us.”
We smile at each other, and finally I do a little happy dance in my seat. We haven’t opened for the day yet. Kat and Riley, the final two business partners in our fivesome, haven’t arrived. But Mia, Cami, and I have read this article over and over again, smiling and dancing.
Because damn it, we’ve worked our asses off since we opened the doors six months ago. All of our eggs are in this basket. We can’t fail.
And we won’t.
We hear the front door open and close, and I expect to see either Riley or Kat, but instead Jeremy saunters into the dining room, looking all rumpled and messy from sleep. His eyelids are still heavy. His chin is scruffy. His blond hair is standing on end, still in chaos from my fingers last night.
Jesus, this man makes my hormones work overtime.
He grins and kisses my head, then picks up my coffee and sits next to me.
“Why are you here?” Cami asks with a frown. “I’m in too good of a mood to have to pretend to like you.”
I glare at my best friend, but she just shrugs.
“My girlfriend is here,” Jeremy replies and sips my coffee. “I missed her.”
“Please,” Mia whispers with a roll of the eyes. My friends used to like Jeremy, in the beginning, but now they make it no secret that they don’t care for him. But they are just overprotective. They don’t want to see me get hurt. Sure, he’s a musician. Not a particularly gifted one at that, but he does well, booking gigs for his band, Hells Roses, regularly.
And, oh my God, what the man can do in the bedroom should be a felony. He makes me laugh, and despite his arrogant persona around everyone else, he has moments of real vulnerability and sweetness when we’re alone.
Is he the one? Probably not, but I’m pretty much convinced that the one was invented by romance novelists and Disney.
“Be nice,” I snap and continue to read the paper. “We got a kick-ass review in the Tribune,” I inform Jeremy with a grin.
“Of course you did,” he replies and kisses my cheek. “Are the music reviews in there too?” He snatches the paper and shifts through the pages, then reads through the reviews of the music and club scene in Portland. “Not one fucking mention?”
Cami catches my gaze, then crosses her eyes in annoyance. I simply shrug. He’s not in the restaurant business. He wouldn’t understand what a big deal this is for us.
“I’ve been thinking,” I begin, and lean my elbows on the table. “Now that business is picking up, I think we should add live music on the weekends.”
“Sorry, cupcake,” Jeremy says with a sigh. “We’re booked.”
Thank God. Jeremy’s band isn’t the one I’d want for my place. But rather than jab at his ego, I simply smile and kiss his shoulder.
“I know, babe. But I’d still like to bring in someone. Maybe just a one-person act, just a microphone and a stool, you know?”
“We can afford it,” Cami replies with a thoughtful frown. Cami is our chief financial officer. She handles all things money, and she’s a wizard at adding up figures in her head. “Who are you thinking?”
“I don’t know.” I reach for my coffee mug and frown when I see that Jeremy has sucked down every last drop. “Babe, will you please run over to Starbucks and get us more coffee?”
“I forgot my wallet,” he replies with a scowl. I reach into my bag and pass him a twenty. “You got it.”
“Oh, and one place you might look for a musician,” he adds as he steps away from the table, “is the open-mic night at Crush this Saturday. There are usually some good acts there. I’d bet you’d find what you’re looking for.”
I grin at my sexy boyfriend and blow him a kiss. “Thank you.”
He winks and saunters out of the restaurant. When the door closes behind him, Mia shakes her head at me. “Seriously?”
“Open mic night is a brilliant idea,” I inform her.
“That’s not what she’s talking about,” Cami says. “Jeremy is a douche bag.”
“He is not.” I roll my eyes and sit back in my chair. Okay, maybe he has douchey moments. “He’s sweet. And sexy.”
“And mooching off of you. His wallet was in his back pocket,” Mia argues. “And I’ll bet all of this month’s chocolate budget that he’s staying with you too.”
“His roommate moved out, and he couldn’t afford his place alone.”
“Addie.” Cami reaches for my hand. “You are not a doormat.”
“He doesn’t treat me like a doormat.”
“Yes. He does.” Mia sighs and takes my other hand. “You deserve so much better.”
“I love you both,” I begin, my stomach heaving. “I know you just want to protect me. Jeremy is a good guy. I like him.”
“Okay.” Cami sips her coffee, then shrugs one slim shoulder. “But when he breaks your heart, we’ll be here.”
“Let’s talk about this open-mic night. Who’s going with me?”
Mia and Cami exchange glances.