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Chapter I

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I -

He selected a small glass and threw in a handful of ice cubes before pouring in the freshly brewed peach tea, taking care not to fill it all the way to the top. The steam rose and surrounded him with the fruity aroma, which calmed his frayed nerves as the little girl in the dining area continued to throw an ear-splitting tantrum that even her parents stood no chance of abating. The other patrons in the café were quickly growing irritated at the banshee-like screams, and the staff hurriedly swarmed the tables, offering free samples of cake in order to buy some time.

He finished making the drink and grabbed a pink straw on his way out of the kitchen. His long legs allowed him to maneuver quickly across the floor, reaching the source of the café's misery within seconds. With a polite smile, he offered the drink to the child, whose gaping maw finally clamped shut at the sight of the glass of tea. She stared at it inquisitively, taking in the fresh peach slices floating on top of the ice cubes next to the parasol drink umbrella. After nearly a minute, she reached for the glass with chubby little hands.

The silence was deafening. It seemed that everyone in the café was holding their breath, waiting to see whether a Shut-It-Up potion had been concocted. The girl brought the straw to her lips and took a sip. Everyone watched her warily as the moment of truth came upon them.

Suddenly, her expression brightened as she broke out into a cheerful smile. "Yummy!" she exclaimed and proceeded to practically inhale the beverage through the straw.

There was a unanimous sigh of relief throughout the café, and the other patrons turned back to their own tables to talk amongst themselves again. The staff returned to performing their duties at the normal pace, glad for the reprieve.

"Well, I'll be damned," the father muttered in a thick Southern accent, watching his now-silent daughter in astonishment. He swung his gaze to the young man standing over them. "I'm impressed, son. What's that drink you gave her?"

"It's peach tea with honey, lemon juice, and peach slices. I thought she'd like it," he said and gave the girl a friendly grin.

She beamed up at him, looking much more adorable now that her face wasn't contorted with rage.

"You've got yourself a fine eye for calmin' the young'uns," the mother piped up. "Took one look at my Angela and knew exactly what to bring her. What's your name, darlin'?"

"Hakan Kramer, ma'am."

The father regarded him with a genial expression. "I'll tell you what, Mr. Kramer. If you could bring out your manager or supervisor or even the owner if he or she is available, I'd like to recommend you for a raise."

Hakan could barely conceal the amused note in his voice as he said, "Well, sir… if it's the big boss you're looking for, he's standing right in front of you. I'm the owner of Whiskey Tea Café."

x-x-x-x-x

"Hey, good job shutting up that little brat earlier," Luke remarked, wiping down his last table. "Jesus, that was a prime example of why I hate kids. I told you opening a bar instead of a café would've been a better idea. That way, we wouldn't have to deal with people's annoying spawn."

Hakan laughed as he swept the floor around the entrance. "Give me some credit for at least having alcohol here. Bailey's Irish Whiskey will always be a staple for the signature drink."

"Whiskey tea does not count as an alcoholic drink. Half a shot of Bailey's? Come on, that's just sad." Luke straightened and grinned impishly. "Just say the word and I'll go out and grab a handle of Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey for the café. Fix that wimp-ass tea crap right up."

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