“Welcome to Stacks, pretty ladies. What y’all havin’ today?”
The two women on the other side of the counter’s eyes went a little wider when I spoke, and they glanced at each other, exchanging grins before they gave me their attention again.
“Can you… say that again?” one of them asked, flipping thick, wavy hair over her shoulder as she leaned over the counter.
I suppressed a smile. “Beg pardon?”
They exchanged another look, and the one who hadn’t spoken before chimed in. “Beg pardon,” she repeated, giggling as she touched her friend on the shoulder.
Fine #1 had her bottom lip pulled between her teeth, and was looking at me like she wanting to sop me up with a biscuit. “What y’all havin’ today,” she said, with an exaggerated southern drawl that was supposed to mimic mine. “Say it again.”
“Aw, come on now,” I laughed. “Y’all can’t be teasing a man about his accent. I can’t help it.”
Fine #2 sucked her teeth. “Can’t help it? Why would you want to? Looking like this, and sounding like that… boy please. You need a southern belle?”
“I do make a good sweet tea,” Fine #1 added.
I shook my head. “Well, in that case… What y’all havin’ today?”
The two women made the same “Mmm.” sound at the same time, then turned to laugh at each other. “We’ll both have a short stack.”
I nodded. “With the bourbon maple cream sauce, and pecans, right?”
Fine #1 smiled. “Actually, I don’t think we’ve ever tried them like that… have we?” she asked, turning to her friend.
“Nah, just plain syrup is fine.”
I put a hand to my chest like I was wounded. “Plain syrup? Now why on earth would you want plain syrup, when you could have Vermont maple blended with Kentucky bourbon, stirred in with freshly whipped heavy cream, reduced over low heat to the perfect consistency, then poured over Stacks’ famous pancakes, loaded with brown-sugar roasted pecans?”
“Well damn. When you describe it like that…”
I grinned. “I thought so. And you need a couple of slices of our signature maple-cured, pecan smoked bacon on the side, right?”
“How about,” Fine #2 started, leaning forward so that her – nice, might I add – breasts were practically sitting on top of the counter. “You hook us up with whatever you think is good… and let me know how we can hook up after hours for something even better?”
I lifted an eyebrow, and tried not to give in to the smile playing at the edges of my mouth. “While I do appreciate a woman who is bold enough to ask for what she wants, I’m afraid I have to decline the second half of your suggestion. I’m a faithful man, darlin’, and someone has already captured my heart.”
She smiled. “Well, darlin’, I’m not asking about your heart. I’m asking about your d—”
“That is unavailable as well.”
She and her friend both groaned. “Lucky girl. Just the food is fine then. Are you going to write our order down?”
I shook my head. “No need.”
I turned around, facing the kitchen behind me and grabbed an apron from the hook at the beginning of the line. As I tied it on, I turned to see my customers watching with their eyes wide.
“Oh, you’re just showing off now,” Fine #1 said, shaking her head. “You mean to tell me you’re about to cook the food too?”
I smiled as I lifted my shoulders in a shrug. “I do what’s necessary around here, ladies.”
Behind me, someone sucked their teeth. “Harlan, are you up here harassing the customers again man?” Jamar clapped me on the shoulder as he came to stand beside me. “Why don’t you move along, and let me show these ladies how it’s done?”
“Hey, who trained you, young man?” I asked, chuckling as I turned to him.
He raised an eyebrow. “Young man? Like we’re not almost the same age?”
“Boy please, I’m a legend around here, you can’t compare yourself to me,” I joked, shaking my head at Fine #1 and Fine #2.
Jamar nodded, grinning. “Okay, okay, you might have done the teaching, but that don’t mean the student can’t surpass the master.”
I scowled. “Surpass the master? Do y’all hear this? Kids these days, you know?”
“Oh, I know plenty about arrogant-assed kids these days,” a deep voice rumbled behind us. I knew without turning around that Sidney “Stacks” Scott would be standing behind us with his arms folded, looking sternly at Jamar and me, wondering why one of us didn’t have our ass at the grill. “Ladies… these two knuckleheads aren’t out here disturbing you, are they? You’ve been taken care of?”
Fine #2’s face took on a sly smile as she cut her eyes in my direction. “Well, not exactly in the way I’d have liked, but the service has been great. And…,” she glanced at Jamar, then giggled with her friend. “It looks like a new prospect may have just arrived, so… we’re good.”
Stacks smirked a little, then shook his head at us. “Well, if the order is taken, where is the food? Let’s see those skills you two are boasting about. Or do I have to show both of you who the real legend is around these parts?”
Stacks and Jamar kept going with their back and forth as they went to the grill, but I looked up as the door opened. I unlooped the apron from around my neck, and fixed my mouth to give the customary “Welcome to Stacks” greeting, but the words died on my lips when I saw who’d walked in – easily the baddest chick on the planet.
Smooth, glowing skin, the same rich, creamy color as the brown-sugar pecans we offered as pancake toppings. Perfect little upturned nose, and perfect pouty lips on a perfect heart-shaped face. Her hair was thick and glossy, straightened into sleek, blonde-tipped layers that complimented her pretty face and rested around her bare shoulders.
Her big brown eyes landed on me, and her upper lip curled, just a little bit. Her eyes went wide like she wondered why I was looking at her – apparently she hadn’t seen herself in a mirror – and then she cut them away from me and walked to the opening in the counter that led into the kitchen.
Her soft coral dress fit closely over her breasts and stomach, then flared out to barely skimmed mid-thigh, showing off more of her pretty brown skin. If I could just switch places with her dress, I’d be a happy man.
“Daddy,” she said, and a huge smile spread across Stacks’ face before he turned around, opening his arms wide to pull her into an embrace.
“Short Stack!” he bellowed as he hugged her tight, lifting her up off the floor. “Why didn’t you tell your old man you were coming to town?”
She smiled that perfect smile of hers as Stacks lowered her back to the ground. “I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“Well you certainly achieved that.”
Behind him, Jamar – with his thirsty ass – cleared his throat, and Stacks glanced over his shoulder. “Oh, Jamar, this is my daughter. Sweetheart, this is Jamar, our new grill cook.”
Jamar frowned a little. “New? I’ve been here almost two years.”
“Yeah, but she hasn’t been here in that long. So, you’re new to her,” I said, moving my hands to my pockets.
Stacks chuckled. “And of course, you already know Harlan.”
Subtly, she rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, then let out a quiet sigh. “Of course.”
“Hey now, don’t be like that,” Stacks said, touching her arm.
Instantly, she took on her innocent expression again. “Don’t be like what, Daddy? Where’s mom?”
She pushed herself up on her toes, planting a kiss on her father’s cheek before she shot me one last hostile look and flounced through the doors that led to the office.
Sydnee “Short Stack” Scott.
The pancake heiress.
And apparently, still not a fan of mine.
Two years later, and I guess she was still mad.