Chapter Seven

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Luke Maguire had just finished restocking the muffin display when Zoe stepped into the Regal that afternoon.

The bell over the door rang twice as she entered—once as she opened the door, then again as it swung shut behind her—but Luke had looked up before the first had even sounded. The man had a sixth sense for knowing when there was somebody about to enter his café, and those startling golden eyes had been on her the moment she had begun to open the door.

"Afternoon, Zoe." He pulled another muffin from the box he'd been using to fill the fridge and offered it to her as she approached. "New flavour: apple and cranberry. Try it so you can tell our customers how delicious it is."

She took it from him. It smelled amazing to her empty stomach. "And if it's bad?"

Luke winked. "Tell them you loved it anyway."

Zoe never got tired of seeing Luke behind his own counter. When he was on the clock as her boss she most often saw him in business suits and expensive Italian shoes, his sandy, eighties-length hair tied back and his large, gold watch on full display. But while he was working alongside her or Matt, he donned the same apron that they wore over casual jeans and dark t-shirts that made all of his golden features stand out like he'd been specifically designed to look that way. He liked his shirts tighter than her father did—and so did the local women.

He popped the lid back onto the box as Zoe threw her bag into the back room, tied her apron around her waist, and broke off a piece of muffin.

Luke watched her pop it into her mouth before he said, "How are you doing today? Xavier said you weren't feeling the best yesterday."

"Better." She stuck another piece of muffin into her mouth and savoured the taste. It was better than she had expected. "It was probably just one of those twenty-four hour bugs that people get. I'm feeling fine now."

"I'm glad to hear it. I think this place might have fallen apart without you here to hold the fort."

Another bout of guilt pulsed through Zoe. After everything that Luke had done for her and her father—given her a job, guided her father through several tough financial times, been a friend after her mother's death—they were going to up and leave him without a word. Nothing could have made her feel worse. And yet she had to force a smile and pretend like nothing was amiss.

Selfishly, she hoped her father was having as tough a time as she was at lying to everybody they knew.

"I'll get started on the tables." She slipped the rest of her muffin into the fridge for later. "I'm sure Ms Donahue won't want me at the counter while she's trying to seduce you."

Luke chuckled. "She makes things too easy."

Eleanor Donahue had been fixated on Luke since he had moved to town—a mere month after her husband had left her for a woman almost half his age. Zoe thought it was a little sad. Matt thought it was the most amusing thing in the world.

If Luke was working, it was guaranteed that Ms Donahue would be making an appearance, wearing her nicest clothes and doused in half a bottle of expensive perfume.

"Don't men like that?" Zoe asked with a half-smile. "An easy woman?"

"Some do. I like a challenge." Luke fixed her with a fatherly look—the one that both he and her father would get whenever they were about to bestow some piece of wisdom onto her or Matt. "Never make it easy for a man to get what he wants from you, Zoe. He'll only keep you around for convenience. If you want to make sure he really loves you, make him work for it."

"I'll keep that in mind," Zoe said.

Ms Donahue entered the café then, the usual cloud of perfume following not a second later, and Zoe slipped out into the dining room with a sympathetic look Luke's way.

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