Home > Tossed Into Love (Fluke My Life #3)(9)

Tossed Into Love (Fluke My Life #3)(9)
Author: Aurora Rose Reynolds

“It will be okay. You just pulled the veil off, and he’s seeing clearly now. Sometimes men need a wake-up call. I think you just gave him his.”

“He’s a jerk, Peggy . . . ,” I tell her while reminding myself of that fact.

Okay, so he can be sweet on occasion . . . but for the most part, he’s been nothing but a jerk to me.

“I can see why you’d think that.”

I don’t think that—I know it, I think but don’t say.

“I can’t wait to see how this plays out. I’ve been reading romance novels for a long time. It will be nice to see a real-life one play out right in front of my eyes.”

Blinking at her, I wonder if she’s crazy. Actually, I don’t wonder—I know she must be.

“Now stop hiding in here. I need you out front with me. There’s too much testosterone in this place, and I don’t like being outnumbered.”

“I’m washing the dishes,” I point out, not ready to go back out there.

Not yet and maybe not ever again.

“Do not hide.” Her harshly spoken words make my back get tight. “Do not hide. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

“I . . . I’m not hiding, Peggy,” I lie. “I’m washing the dishes.”

Getting even closer—so close I have no choice but to move away—she turns the water on, grabs the sponge from my hand, rinses it, then sets the pot to dry.

“Now you’re done.”

Looking at her and then at the pot, I shake my head. I turn the water back on to wash my hands. Figuring Peggy will stay until I obey, I follow her out to the front of the shop. The cute blonde is gone, but unfortunately, Antonio is not. When his anger-filled eyes find me, I fight the urge to bite my lip.

“I gotta head to the station in about an hour. Do you mind helping Hector close again tonight?” he asks.

“That’s fine.”

“Tomorrow I’m gonna talk to Dad about hiring someone else to help out so you don’t gotta be here,” he says.

Nausea turns my stomach while tears start to burn the back of my eyes.

“Are you saying that you’re getting rid of me?”

I can’t believe him. Seriously, I cannot believe him. Here, I’m happy. I feel fulfilled. And it’s the kind of fulfillment that comes from hard work. I haven’t had that feeling in a long time, and he wants to take it from me. If Peggy’s right, he wants to take it from me because I have a date. A date that I don’t even want to go on.

“You don’t actually work here, Libby. You know that,” he states.

My stomach twists, and my throat clogs.

“I like being here,” I tell him, watching his jaw clench. “I know you don’t get that because you”—I point at him—“obviously don’t. But I”—I jerk my thumb at my chest—“I like being here. So, no. You’re not going to talk to your dad about finding someone else. He doesn’t need to worry about that right now, and neither does your mom. And if you don’t like that, then too bad. You need to get over it, because I’m not going anywhere, Antonio.”

“Libby—”

“Just stop,” I hiss, leaning toward him. “God . . . just stop being a jerk.”

I pull my eyes from his, feeling everyone else’s eyes on me. I ignore them and go to the counter where we make pizzas. I check all the supplies. Noticing that some things are low, I start to refill them; then I make a list of things that need to be ordered, which is something that Martina normally does. Eventually, I go back out to the front of the shop and wipe down tables and chairs.

“He’s gone, honey,” Peggy says.

I look up from another table that I’m cleaning and find her, Marco, and Hector all watching me closely, looking worried.

“Libby . . . ,” Marco calls. My eyes meet his. “We love having you here,” he says.

Those stupid tears I have been fighting suddenly fill my eyes.

“Chiquita,” Hector says. I look at him, seeing him blurrily through my tears. “Marco’s right. We love having you here.”

“Thanks, guys,” I say shakily while I wipe at my cheeks. I duck my head and get back to work, trying with all my might not to think about Antonio.

Chapter 4

BOILING OVER

LIBBY

After knocking on Martina and Tony’s front door, I peek through the side glass pane and smile when Martina’s eyes meet mine. She called me at Christmas to tell me that she and Tony were home, so I made plans to see her before my blind date this evening.

“Cara!” She greets me with a smile when she opens the door, then reaches out and takes hold of me to pull me in for a hug. “How are you?”

“I’m good. How are you?” I ask, hugging her back just as tightly.

“We’re home, so I’m happy,” she answers as she leans back to smile at me. “Come on in. Tony’s taking a nap, but we can have a cup of tea in the kitchen.”

“Sounds good.”

I follow her down a short hall, past a living room on the right and a half bath on the left. When we reach the kitchen at the end of the hall, she makes us each a cup of tea and then leads me into the dining room. Taking a seat at the dining room table, she sits close to me.

“Sugar? Milk?” she asks.

I take both from her, adding a dash of milk to my tea and a scoop of sugar.

“Thank you.” I stir my tea, then sit back in my chair.

“How have things been going at the shop?”

“Busy like always, but between Antonio, Peggy, Hector, and Marco, things are going smoothly,” I answer, hoping to reassure her.

“Antonio said you’ve been a big help,” she says quietly.

Her words surprise me.

“I . . .”

“Has he been nice to you?”

No.

“Yes,” I lie. “It’s been good. There is nothing for you and Tony to worry about.”

“We’re selling the shop,” she says suddenly, catching me off guard.

I cough on a gulp of tea I swallow down the wrong pipe.

“Wh-what?” I ask as she pats my back hard.

“The doctors don’t want Tony going back to work, not for a while. They’re still very worried about him.”

“I thought he was okay,” I whisper.

Her face softens as she reaches out and takes my hand.

“He’s okay, cara, but owning a business is stressful. He cannot have that kind of stress in his life. Not now. Not ever again.”

“I understand. What does Antonio think?”

“Tony wanted to hand over the shop to Antonio to run full-time.” She pauses, pulling in a breath. “But our son has never been interested in running the pizzeria. He loves his job as a fireman. He’d never be happy running the shop. Plus, he’s seen the toll the business has taken on his father.”

I give her hand a squeeze, hating the turmoil I see in her eyes.

“And we’re not getting any younger. We had plans—plans to travel and see the world, but we haven’t done any of those things. Tony getting sick has made me realize what we have missed out on. I don’t want us to miss out on anything more.”

“So you’re really going to sell?”

“Yes, we have an appointment to meet with a Realtor in a couple of days. We rent the space in the building, but we own everything in the shop. Hopefully it won’t take long to find a buyer.”

“How does Tony feel about this?”

“He’s devastated, but he knows that if he keeps going like he’s been going, he won’t be around much longer. More than he wants the shop, he wants to watch Antonio find a woman and start a family of his own someday.”

“I hate that there won’t be a Tony’s anymore. That I won’t get to go into the shop to hang out with you,” I tell her softly, and wet fills her eyes.

“Just because there won’t be a Tony’s doesn’t mean our relationship will come to an end. I still expect you over for tea and gossip regularly.”

I laugh. “You can count on that,” I agree, taking another sip of tea as she does the same.

   
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