Chapter 1 — Hannah
The morning rush died down as fewer orders were placed. Men in three piece suits rushed to their offices or courtrooms. Doctors glancing at their watches were long gone. Mothers, breathing a sigh of relief, walked out after dropping their children off at school or daycare.The trickle of beverages needing to be made allowed one worker to step back from making drinks to clean the spare espresso machine. All the cafe workers began to move at a slower pace as the rush ended. Even the noise within the cafe was muffled as the loud voices left for work and school. It was as though the entire cafe sighed in relief from the end of the morning chaos.Hannah took in a deep breath as she handed a customer the large cappuccino she had waited patiently for. With a smile, the woman took the drink and quickly ran out to catch her bus. Hannah's eyes darted around the floor, seeing there was no one else in line waiting to place their order. Being busy was great, but having it end to take a breather could be better.Seeing that all the workers were doing their assigned clean up tasks, Hannah checked the figures on the cash register. She nodded, pleased with the numbers. They didn't quite make their goal, but they had still done a large volume of business. The owner of the coffee shop would be pleased when she reported it to her later that day. That helped make the day go by smoother as well. Happy bosses meant happy employees.Before completing her managerial tasks, she glanced around the cafe as usual. That was a habit she had acquired after being robbed one night. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way. As her eyes moved over the customers who were still there, she couldn't help but smile a little.Mrs. Harmon sat in the far corner with her new tablet her children had gotten her for her last birthday. The elderly lady had learned how to Skype on it and now every day came to the cafe to talk to her grandchildren who lived across the country. Not having internet at home, she used it as an excuse to get her special drink each time she came in. Hannah had to help her connect to the cafe's internet each time as she always inadvertently changed some control. For someone who didn't know how to use the 'new -fangled' gadgets she was a pro at disabling. It was a joy to watch the woman's enthusiasm for something that Hannah and her generation took for granted.Then there was Josh, the local geek. He used the coffee shop as his office where he met clients who came to him to set up websites and give advice on how to deal with the blue screens of death they had. For some reason they actually believed those ads that said they could remotely fix that problem. He was the one they turned to when all else failed, which meant they paid out of the nose. Hannah suspected he could afford a permanent office but loved having coffee made for him so close at hand.Two elderly men sat at a table outside where they liked to argue over the latest political topic. Hannah had deftly maneuvered them outside a year ago when their discussions got so heated that others got involved. She loved the men, but they could cause a riot at a peacekeeping convention.Her eyes paused as they landed on the most recent of daily additions to the cafe family. Meeting her green eyes were a pair of steely black ones that refused to blink. They commanded her attention. Her heart skipped a beat. These were eyes that had been watching her for several weeks. They were eyes that would not leave her in peace even in her dreams.Hannah was the first to blink. She didn't miss the slight pull of his lips in victory. With a nod of politeness to him, she continued with her work. Anger coursed through her as she noticed her hands shaking. It wasn't the first time a handsome man had given her attention. And handsome he was. She just didn't have to act like a silly school girl when he was nearby.Marcus Critton was well known in the city and beyond, at least in the more secretive circles. Hannah knew exactly who the dark-haired man was. His picture was not unfamiliar to her as it had been in the papers and on the news many times. He was the leader of a powerful crime family that moved about in the underworld of drugs and money. That was what the police and district attorney said. Critton and those who worked for him claimed successfully to be in the business of entertainment as in bars and hotels as well as imports. Despite the authorities' attempts to get him behind bars, they could find nothing to warrant an arrest.Hannah didn't want to assume the worst about anyone, but she also wasn't naive enough to swoon over a man, even a powerful man, giving attention to her. Yes, he was handsome with chiseled features that spoke of a Mediterranean blood somewhere in his lineage. He had an air about him that drew women to him like flies to sweetness. Hannah had watched as women stared openly at him. A few openly flirted with him, but he barely gave them a glance.From the moment he had walked in with his two men just a step behind him, his eyes had zeroed in on Hannah. She hadn't done anything to attract him. Going about her business keeping the coffee stocked and dealing with customer issues, she had not given him much notice aside from seeing a goodlooking customer until his third visit.She had been making drinks that morning. Handing them off to the customers, she had wished them all a good morning with a bright smile. She had done the same with the handsome man who gave her a sexy 'Good Morning' back to her. Yes, she noticed him. It was hard not to notice someone who looked like they stepped out of a fashion magazine. She thought he had been through the line in previous days but wasn't a hundred percent sure. When one wasn't a regular, she only vaguely remembered them.But today she really noticed him. His eyes seemed to penetrate into her mind and beyond. It was as though he was calling out to her. She couldn't help but acknowledge the call. She was after all a red-blooded female looking at what many would consider a god of a man, but that was as far as she'd go.Giving credit where credit was due she saw as one thing. Openly flirting with a customer, especially a customer with a shady reputation, was something entirely different. Hannah always looked for the ethical way to approach a situation. So, treating him like any other customer despite the way he took her breath away was the high road she took.Each day after that he lingered at the pickup plane when he took his coffee and she was on bar. He'd start a little small talk that never lasted long as other customers were in line but he made sure his presence was known. He set it up where she knew he was there and very aware of her. If he needed anything else, he'd send his men up to get it while he kept his eyes on her.Hannah couldn't pinpoint the exact feeling his attention gave her. Yes, she was flattered, but a part of her had warning bells going off. Then again nothing had gone beyond the little attention he had given her. There was nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all in a sexy smile and dreamy eyes.She went about her business and tried to ignore the shiver that went down her spine when she was in view of him. A few glares from other women were directed at her as they realized where his attention really was. Thankfully, he left mid-morning which gave her some relief throughout the day.She was also thankful as she had to clean up after them.The attention he gave her might have been flattering, but the mess they left behind got her heated in an entirely different way. Maybe he felt like it was beneath him, but in the end she had to do it. That was one aspect that kept her reaction to him tempered. Who needed a messy man in their lives?
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