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Sweet Heat at Bayside(9)

By:Addison Cole

"No. It's fine. I work in film, remember?" Harper said confidently. She  was a lot like Desiree, a beautiful blonde with a sweet demeanor. But  just like Desiree, Harper was strong and could stand up for herself. She  was also an earthy, hippie girl who never got flustered, which meant  she'd do just fine working with the guys.

Serena felt a streak of unexpected jealousy. She was really being  replaced. As much as she wanted to go to Boston, it made her feel a  little like a torn-out page in a notebook. She'd served her purpose, but  no one was irreplaceable.

"In film, everything escalates," Harper said. "People raise their voices  at the littlest things. I'm used to it." She looked down at her notes  and said, "What else should I know?"

They'd already covered the office organization, client relations,  contracts, and emergency contacts, including plumbers, electricians, and  others.

Serena leaned closer and lowered her voice, even though she knew the  guys couldn't hear beyond their own battles. "Dean is the peacemaker. If  they're all three in the office and Rick and Drake get into it, just  glance at Dean, and he'll settle them down. But when he's not here, it's  best to let them hash it out, unless they're out here, in your space.  When that happens, step between them. It's a visual reminder that  they're not alone and there's a female in their presence. They'll  usually calm down like scolded children or take it behind closed doors."         



Harper laughed. "Men are so funny. It's like they think it's fine to be  Neanderthals when they're alone, but if a woman is around they want us  to think they're cool, when really we just want them not to kill each  other."

Serena thought about that. "When I was in college I worked at a clothing  store, and my boss would yell at anyone, anytime, anywhere. He was  shameless."

"That would stink."

"It did, but these guys aren't like that. If they're arguing, you know  it's about something that's really important to them. Don't get  concerned or take it personally if they storm out of the office. That  usually means they can't control their emotions, so they go outside and  end up running a few miles while they yell at each other. They typically  come back in better moods. Sweaty, but smiling."

"Maybe I should try that instead of yoga. Did you hear that Emery is going to start a couples yoga class?"

"Why does everything happen when I move away? I would love to see her  get the guys out there. Actually, I've seen Dean and Emery do yoga  together, but they make it look sexy and romantic."

They talked about exercise for another few minutes before circling back  to Harper's new duties. Serena's thoughts lingered on the idea of doing  yoga with Drake, his big hands guiding her, keeping her steady as they  exchanged energy. But she quickly pushed those thoughts away. They were  all wrong, especially today.

After Harper was all set to start working Saturday and had left the  office, Serena got busy with the music store designs. Rick and Dean  stormed out of Drake's office, startling her. Dean blew past and walked  directly out the front door. Rick paced like a hungry tiger beside her  desk. Serena glanced into Drake's office and saw him standing with his  back to her, arms crossed, staring out the window. Was he thinking about  last night, too? Wondering why she'd turned into a fumbling dork around  him?

"He's in a rotten mood," Rick said.

Tell me about it. "You all survived. That's a good sign."

"For now." Rick stopped pacing, his face a mask of irritation. He had  the same dark hair as Drake, though he wore his short. They both had  dark eyes, like their father, but until Desiree had come into Rick's  life, his eyes had always seemed tortured. Rick had been only fourteen  when they'd lost their father, and while she knew Drake and Mira had  long ago dealt with their grief, Rick had bottled it up until he'd  wanted a shot at a future with Desiree. Desiree and Drake had finally  helped him through his grief, and he'd been a different man ever since.

"How many more candidates do you have lined up for tomorrow?" he asked.

They'd interviewed several people for her position, and Drake had found something wrong with each and every one of them.

"Two. But don't worry. Harper agreed to work from eleven until three  each day until we find someone. That'll get you through the busiest  hours. I've contacted temp agencies, but Drake doesn't seem very  receptive to that idea."

He nodded. "Harper's fine. Thanks for all your hard work. Listen, I know  you're crazed, getting everything done for the music store and the  resort and trying to figure out how to move your life to Boston, but I  just want you to know how much we appreciate all that you've done here.  Don't let Drake's bad mood mislead you. You know how he hates adjusting  to new things. This is hard on him. He's going to miss you a heck of a  lot. We all are."

"We both know that's not true," she said quietly. They'd made major  design changes at the last minute when they were redecorating the  cottages, and he'd never flinched. "Drake has no trouble adjusting to  change. He has issues with me leaving him in a lurch. But thank you for  the kind words. I know how much you appreciate my helping out. I've  loved every minute of it." She stole another peek into Drake's office.  He was sitting at his desk now, watching them. His eyes were sad, and  the smile that appeared was clearly feigned. She quickly shifted her  attention back to Rick. "I'm going to miss all of you, too. Even the  growly one in there," she said more lightly than she felt.

"Desiree said the girls are helping you finish packing tonight. Is there anything us guys can do to help?"

"Other than showing up for the goodbye party tomorrow night? That's all I  really need. A happy send-off, because I know I'll cry all the way to  Boston despite being excited to start my new job."

"That I can do, but no tears, please. You'll only be a short drive away,  and I have to deal with my brother losing his mind. I'm not sure I can  deal with both." Rick stepped around the desk and embraced her. "I'm  going to miss your smiling face."         



Serena breathed deeply, trying to ease the emotions bubbling up inside her. "Thanks. Now my makeup will smear."

"You don't need it anyway," he said as he dug his keys from his pocket.  "I'm heading down to Yarmouth for a meeting. Text if you need me."

"Okay. I hope your day gets better." She inhaled deeply, grabbed the  design swatches and catalogs she'd collected for the music store, and  her laptop, steeling herself before heading into Drake's office.

He was standing by the window again. She wanted to confront him about  last night, to get it all out in the open like they usually did when  something was bothering them. But her pulse was racing just thinking  about actually saying it out loud. And if it hadn't been an almost kiss,  she could do without another dose of mortification.

"Drake? Do you have a minute?"

"Sure." He turned around with a cold expression that quickly warmed to tepid.

She swallowed hard, as hurt as she was angry. "I have all the design  elements for the shop, but I want your final okay before I approve the  orders." She set the books on the desk, spread out the fabric swatches,  and opened her laptop, glad to have something to focus on besides the  questions zooming through her mind. Drake moved beside her, standing so  close she felt his tension as her own.

"You sure you're okay to do this right now?" she asked. "We can go over  it later or tomorrow morning if you need some time to … process whatever  happened with Rick and Dean."

"I'm fine." His lips tipped up just enough for her to know he wanted to  be okay with their interactions, but clearly it would take as much  effort for him as it was taking for her.

She leaned over the laptop, navigating to the site she wanted to show  him. "I know we agreed on the sofa already, but I found this one and  contacted the distributor. If you like it, they have one that was custom  made for another shop, but that customer ended up going with something  else. I like the rounded back, and it's a little longer than the other,  but it would really help define the sitting area. People like things  that are unique, and I think the shape alone will encourage people to  stay longer, pick up a music book or an instrument, and get comfortable.  The more time spent in the store the better. We always say the key to  returning customers is developing friendships, right?"

He leaned over her shoulder, his chest brushing against her back,  sending her mind reeling to last night, when she'd been teasing him  about showing him pictures and he'd tugged her against him. She'd  laughed from the teases, but also as a cover from the awareness of his  hard body and the strength of his arms, which had gripped her in  unexpected ways. She'd wanted to turn in his arms, to confront him about  why he'd pushed her away all those years ago.