Kat glanced at the clock for the hundredth time that hour. How was it possible time was actually moving slower than usual? Could such a thing even be possible? She stared at the secondhand of the clock and watched it creep like something out of a bad horror movie and realized it was entirely possible. 

The French bistro style clock had been a bargain find. She’d bought it at a yard sale last year in Summerville, just about a half hour’s drive from Charleston. It had been so dirty and grimy, it was hard to really see its potential. And yet it had called to her, and she knew it had once been beautiful. The little old lady who sold it to her told her it was from a real bake shop in a small province in France that had never recovered after the Germans had swept in. Her husband had taken her there years later and bought the clock as a souvenir. 

Kat bought the clock right then. She spent the next few days taking it apart, cleaning and polishing all the pieces and even repainting the smaller details to make it perfect. When she was done, she’d given it to her Aunt Lucy for Christmas that year. Her aunt mounted the restored clock inside the bakery the very next day. 

That clock was a labor of love and now all she wanted to do was throw her flour sifter at it and watch it break into a hundred little restored pieces.

She glared and the clock’s second hand froze in mockery, as if understanding how close she was to an uncharacteristic act of violence.  

In the last twenty years, The Bake Shop had only closed early twice. The first time was on September 11th, 2001 – as the whole world ran home to watch one of the first attacks on American soil in the modern era. The second was the day of Uncle Clark’s funeral.  Obviously the release of the new Vampyre’s Crossing book wasn’t as monumental as either one of those events, but that didn’t mean Kat didn’t wish time would hurry the hell up already. She couldn’t wait to close the doors, run across the street, harass her friends then be the first person in line to get her copy of the book she’d been waiting a whole two years for.

Two years!

Kat stared and still it read 6:15.

“You suck,” she whispered to it, not wanting to think about how crazy she sounded right then. Another fifteen minutes and she was free – too bad it was the longest fifteen minutes of her life.

Grabbing a damp dish towel, she headed towards the front of the goods display and wiped it down for the twentieth time. She’d gone through the whole closing checklist half a dozen times. Cleaning, sweeping, moping, washing, prepping. You name it, she’d done it. Then did it again, and still her day wasn’t over. As much as she would’ve loved to just shut off the lights and lock the door behind her, Kat just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Aunt Lucy was a good woman and prided herself in running a successful business – and a lot of that had to do with her work ethic. She didn’t open late, she didn’t close early, and everything was done right. People knew what to expect and appreciated her for it. Kat, for good or worse, had taken her aunt and uncle’s example to heart.

She would wait till 6:30 pm on the nose before closing for the night – even if it killed her. 

Kat was mentally calculating how many seconds were in fifteen minutes when the tiny bell on the door dinged, letting her know a customer had just stepped inside. She bit down on the inside of her cheek to keep from cursing out loud. It would be just her luck on the day she needed to leave on-time, some idiot came in a few minutes before closing to grab some cinnamon buns for the road.

She turned and quickly plastered a fake smile on her face, but when Kat’s eyes fell on the male specimen standing directly behind her, she nearly felt them melt out of their sockets.

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