By noon the parlor was crowded. Shana worked the pizza side and Catherine, a grandmotherly woman in her early sixties, dealt with the ice-cream orders. Catherine had been recommended by the Olsens and was great with kids. Shana had already learned a lot from her.
A young red-haired man with two children about three and five came in and ordered a vegetarian pizza and sodas. While Shana assembled the pizza, she watched the man with his kids, admiring the way he entertained them with inventive games.
Jazmine rolled into the parlor, stopped to take off her skates and before long was deep in conversation with the father and his two kids. Shana couldn’t hear what was being said, but she saw the man glance in her direction and nod.
A couple of minutes later, Jazmine joined Shana in the kitchen, which was open to the main part of the restaurant.
“Hi,” Shana said, sliding the hot pizza from the oven onto the metal pan. As she sliced it, the scent of the tomato sauce and cheese and oregano wafted toward her.
“Who?” Shana asked distractedly as she set the pizza on the counter. “Do you want to take this out to the guy with the kids?” she asked.
“Can I?” Jazmine beamed at being asked to help out.
Her niece carefully carried the pizza to the table and brought extra napkins. She chatted with the man and his children for a few more minutes, then hurried back to Shana, who was busy preparing additional pizzas. “He asked me to introduce you.”
Jazmine’s eyes widened with impatience. “I was telling you earlier. He’s divorced and he wants to meet you.”
“Who? The guy over there with the kids?”
“Do you see any other guy in here?”
The restaurant had any number of patrons at the moment, but the young father was the only man—and the only customer looking in her direction. He saluted her with a pizza slice.
Flustered, Shana whirled around and glared at Jazmine. “Exactly what did you say to him?”
“Me? I didn’t say anything—well, I did mention that you broke up with Brad, but that was only because he asked. He said he’s been in here before.”
Shana didn’t remember him.
“I told him that my uncle Adam said you’re the kind of woman who needs a man in your life.”
Shana’s heart stopped. “You didn’t!”
“No.” Jazmine hooted with laughter. “But I thought it would get a rise out of you.”
The kid seemed to think she was being funny, but Shana wasn’t laughing.
“Are you interested? Because if you are, let’s go say hello to him. If you’re not, it’s no big deal.”
Shana needed to think about this. “Promise me you didn’t tell him I’m single.”
“I did, and I said you were looking for a husband,” Jazmine said gleefully. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Shana felt the blood drain out of her face. Slowly turning her head, she saw the father still watching her. She jerked around again and noticed that Jazmine was grinning from ear to ear.
“Gotcha,” she said and doubled over laughing.
Shana was glad someone found her embarrassment amusing.
Jazmine had her nose pressed against the living room window early on Sunday afternoon, waiting for her uncle Adam. He’d phoned the previous Monday, promising to take her out for the day. He’d mentioned the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, where there was a large Dale Chihuly exhibit.
Shana was almost as eager to see the lieutenant commander as her niece was, but for distinctly different reasons. She had a thing or two she wanted to say; he didn’t know it yet, but the lieutenant commander was about to get an earful. How dare he suggest she needed a man! Every time she thought about it, her irritation grew—until she realized she couldn’t keep quiet for even one more day.
At twelve-forty-seven precisely, Jazmine dashed away from the window and announced, “He’s here!”
“Good.” Shana resisted the urge to race outside and confront him then and there. She’d need to bide her time. She’d waited this long—ten whole days. What was another five minutes?
Jazmine held the screen door open, swinging it wide in welcome. “You aren’t late or anything,” she boasted so eagerly it was endearing.
“Hiya, kiddo,” Adam greeted Jazmine and gave her a big hug. “It’s good to see you.”
“You, too! It didn’t seem like Sunday would ever get here.”
Shana stepped forward, saying, “Hello, Adam,” in cool, level tones.
He grinned boyishly and for an instant Shana faltered. But no, she wasn’t about to let him dazzle her with one of his smiles. Not this time. Her defenses were up. As far as she was concerned, he had some serious explaining to do. Still, she had to admit this guy was gorgeous. Well, gorgeous might be a slight exaggeration, but with those broad shoulders and the way his T-shirt fit snugly across his chest, she couldn’t very well ignore the obvious. His arm was out of the sling now.
“You’d better grab a sweater,” Shana suggested and Jazmine instantly flew out of the room, eager to comply so they could leave.
This was the minute Shana had been waiting for. “It’s time you and I had a little talk,” she said, crossing her arms.
“Sure,” he said with another of those easy grins.
Again she faltered, nearly swayed by his smile, but the effect didn’t last. “I want you to know I didn’t appreciate the comment you made about me being—and I quote—‘the kind of woman who needs a man.’”
To his credit, his gaze didn’t waver. “Jazmine told you that, did she?”
So it was true. “As a matter of fact, Jazmine has repeated it any number of times.”
“I see.” He glanced toward the bedroom door; Jazmine hadn’t come out yet.
Shana sincerely hoped she’d embarrassed him. He deserved it. “I don’t know where you get off making comments like that but I have a few things to say to you.”
“Go right ahead.” He gestured as though granting her permission to speak. That must be how it was in the military, she thought. These officers seemed to think they could say and do whatever they pleased—and they got to boss other people around. Well, Shana wasn’t military and she felt no restraint in speaking her mind. And she refused to call this guy by his title. He wasn’t her commander.
“Are you married, Mr. Kennedy?” She already knew the answer and didn’t give him an opportunity to respond. “I believe not. Does being single make you feel in any way incomplete?” Again he wasn’t allowed to answer. “I thought not. This might come as a shock to you, but I am perfectly content with my life as it is. In other words, I don’t need a man and your insinuating that I do is an insult.”
“I’m not finished yet.” She held up her hand, cutting him off because she was just getting started. Before he left, she expected a full apology from Adam Kennedy.
“By all means continue,” he said, his pose relaxed.
His attitude annoyed her. He acted as though he was indulging her, which Shana found condescending. “Since you’re single you must want a woman in your life.” She gave him the once-over. “In fact, you look like a man who needs a woman.”
To her horror, Adam simply laughed.
“I was trying to make a point here,” Shana said in as dignified a tone as she could manage.
“I know,” he said and made an attempt to stifle his humor.
That only served to irritate her further. “Never mind. I can see my opinion is of little interest to you.”
Suddenly they both turned to see Jazmine, who stood rooted in the bedroom doorway, a sweatshirt draped over her arm. “I should’ve kept my mouth shut, right?” she murmured apologetically. “I’m afraid Aunt Shana might’ve taken what you said the wrong way.”
“So I gathered.” He looked down, but Shana saw that the corners of his mouth quivered.
“Shana’s right, you know,” Jazmine stated for Adam’s benefit, as she moved toward them. “You do need someone special in your life.”
Adam’s smile disappeared.
Aha! She wondered how he’d feel being on the other side.
“Jazmine took your comments to heart,” Shana primly informed him. “She tried to match me up with a divorced father of two.”
Adam’s gaze shot to Jazmine.
“Well…It didn’t work out—but I’d be a good matchmaker.”
As far as Shana could tell, Jazmine was completely serious. That had to stop. She certainly didn’t need her niece dragging eligible bachelors into the pizza kitchen every chance she got.
“He might’ve been interested, too,” Jazmine added. “He seemed really nice.”
“I don’t need anyone’s help, thank you very much,” Shana insisted.
“Hold on,” Adam said, glancing from one to the other. He motioned at Jazmine. “Go back to the beginning because I think I missed something.”
“I found out he was single and I told him my aunt was, too, but that was all I did. She wouldn’t let me introduce her.”
“This is entirely your fault.” Shana felt it was important that Adam understand it was his comment that had begun this whole awkward situation.
“You’re finished with Brad,” Jazmine reminded her. She turned to Adam and added, “He’s the guy previously known as the-man-I-used-to-date. Sort of like Prince. That’s what Mom said, anyway.”
Adam burst out laughing.
“There is a point to this, isn’t there?” Shana asked her niece.
Jazmine nodded and threw one fist in the air. “Get out there, Aunt Shana! Live a little.”
Adam laughed even more.
“You think this is funny, don’t you?” Shana muttered. He wouldn’t find it nearly as funny when Jazmine was busy selling his attractions to single women in the museum.
“I’m sorry.” But he didn’t look it. For her niece’s sake, she resisted rolling her eyes.
“I think it’s time we cleared up this misunderstanding,” he said and gestured toward the sofa. “Why don’t we all sit down for a moment?”
Shana didn’t take a seat until Adam and Jazmine had already made themselves comfortable on the sofa.
To her chagrin, Adam smiled patiently as if explaining the situation to a child. “I’m afraid Jazmine read more into my comment than I intended,” he began. “What I said was that some women seem to need a man in their lives. I wasn’t talking about you. Although, of course, any man in his right mind would be attracted to you. You’re a beautiful woman.”
“Oh.” It would be convenient if Shana could magically disappear about now, but that was not to be. “I see. Well, in that case, I won’t hold you up any longer.” She sprang to her feet, eager to get them both out the door before she dissolved into a puddle at his feet. “I—that’s a very nice thing to say…” She stared at her watch.READ MORE >>