Chapter 23

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Kayla's gift of persuasion had finally paid off. For her, not for me. She'd convinced me to spend my Saturday evening at Mazzeria's instead of at home with Jack. My parents still needed to hire more people, and despite their penchant for being bad at everything they tried to do, business was booming. People loved the maze theme, and even I admitted that the gluten free crust pizza tasted just as good as the gluten-filled crust. Kayla had just as much to do with the restaurant's success as Carlo and Becca. Someday, we'd be watching her inauguration on TV, telling people we knew her when.

I worked the greeting station as hostess, while Kayla and two others handled the tables. Kayla put me up front because in theory, it was easier than waitressing, but between the crowds swarming in and people coming for their pick-up orders, I wanted to pull my hair out and scream. Then, he walked in. Of all the pizza joints in all the county, he had to walk into mine.

I cursed silently as Shelby, pulling on her brother's arm, bounced up to greet me.

"Mazie, Mazie, Mazie!"

"Shelby, Shelby, Shelby." I grab a couple of menus. "Table for two?"

"Why haven't you come to a dance class?"

"I'm still weighing my options." I imagined Blake eyeing me, but I refused to look in his direction to confirm. "A table just opened up. Follow me."

Walking them to their booth, Shelby gave me a rundown of her week. Her turtle was sick. She had begun to rehearse for a big dance recital in November. Her parents were out of town this weekend and she was stuck making sure Blake didn't self-destruct.

I stopped moving and Shelby collided with my back. Make sure Blake didn't self-destruct. Such a strange choice of words. "Here's your table. Your waitress will be right with you." Handing them their menus, I avoided looking in Blake's direction like I'd turn into a pillar of salt if I saw the whites of his eyes. "I've got a line forming. Talk to you later, okay?"

"What's with her?" Shelby ask him as I walked away. If he responded, I didn't hear it.

A few minutes later, my mother emerged from the kitchen. "Take your break, honey. Why don't you go talk to your friend?"

"Kayla's too busy to talk."

"No, I mean your boyfriend. Not your boyfriend. Your friend who's a boy." My mom's cheeks turned pink. I'd picked up the easy blushing gene from her. "You know. The one with the adorable sister."

"Pass. I will go get an Italian soda, however."

I made myself a cherry soda and sat at the bar, swirling my straw around, eyes turned away from where Blake sat.

Or where I though Blake was sitting.

"We have to stop meeting like this."

I jumped at the sound of his voice. "Jesus." Blake had taken the stool next to mine. "What are you doing here? Did you leave Shelby all by herself?"

"She's playing with the maze table. She'll be fine for a minute."

"Okay, let me rephrase that. Why are you here sitting next to me trying to talk to me? Two days ago, you accused me of ruining your life—a crime I'm innocent of, by the way, and now you're acting... chummy."

He studied the floor for a moment. "I'm sorry about that. I know you didn't tell Dakota anything."

"Damn right I didn't, though I'd love to tell her off." I took a sip of my soda. "Why the change of heart?"

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