“Why isn’t Willa doing that then?”
Merrow shrugged. “You’ll have to ask her about that, but suffice it to say anything happens to her and the Ellinghams aren’t going to be happy.”
“You going to sit guard on her then?”
“No.” Merrow lifted his coffee to drink. “You are.”
“You want the Ellinghams to be happy? Then I need to show up for work.”
Merrow put his cup down. “I’m sure they’d rather have you keeping an eye on their prize jeweler. I’ll clear it with Julian, but unless you hear otherwise from me, assume that Willa is now your new job.”
“What do you want me to do exactly? Just show up and never leave? She’s going to think I’m a stalker.”
A sly smile crossed Merrow’s mouth. “You’ve already taken her to lunch. Put on the full-court press. Get her some flowers. Take her to dinner. You know. Romance her.”
Nick squinted. “I’m sorry, who are you again? Because you do not sound like the master sergeant I served with.”
Merrow laughed. “Bridget gave me a crash course in wooing when Ivy and I first got together, and you see how that’s turned out.”
“Whoa, now. You two ended up married.”
“So? You’re the one who told me you were looking to settle down. Put down roots, you said.”
“Yeah, but a gargoyle and a fae?”
“Stranger things have happened in this town.” Merrow’s eyes brightened with the roguish light of experience. “Trust me.”
Willa tied the drawstring at the waist of her tank top style sundress and checked herself in the mirror. It was weird to be in her apartment at six in the evening. Even the light in the place seemed different. She should be behind the counter, handling the pre-dinner shoppers who wandered through her store around this time.
Instead, Ramona was handling them. With help from her sister and co-worker, Valerie. Willa rolled her eyes. Two brownies were running her shop without her there. She’d be lucky if they didn’t give friends and family discounts to everyone who came in.
Dinner with Nick would still be worth it, though. Whatever it cost.
A big smile broke out on Willa’s face. Dinner with Nick. Honestly, when he’d come into the shop that morning, she’d thought he was there to check on his watch band. Happily, he was not.
She did a quick twirl in her dress. The blues and greens did nice things for her eyes. Jasper swatted at the hem, then pounced on her foot and bit one of her toes. She yanked her foot away and pointed at him. “No, bad cat. You’re going to ruin my pedicure with your fangs.”
She reached down to ruffle the fur on his head. “Maybe if I feed you, you’ll stop thinking I’m dinner.”
She got him a fresh dish of food then slipped into her sandals, grabbed her purse and went back down through the shop to meet Nick. She shut her computer down before locking her office. The girls wouldn’t need anything in there, and Ramona had a key to lock up when the night was over.
As she walked out of the back room, Ramona whistled. “Don’t you look nice for dinner with lover boy?”
Willa arched a brow. “He is neither my lover nor a boy.”
“I heard that,” Valerie said, smirking as she showed a customer a pair of earrings. She had the same big brown eyes and explosion of curly hair that Ramona did, but Valerie’s was twice as long and currently dyed deep cranberry red. “But you can fix that first one if the date goes well.”
“Are all brownies this meddlesome?”
Ramona and Valerie looked at her at the same time. “Yes.”
“Okay, I give. Have a good night. Call if you need anything. I won’t be far away.” Assuming Nick was taking her somewhere in town, which was the most likely scenario.
“We won’t need anything,” Ramona said. “Have fun.”
“I will.” With a little wave, Willa left the store and went to stand out front where she’d agreed to meet Nick. She was a few minutes early, but she wasn’t staying in the shop and bantering with those two anymore.
Preparing herself to wait, she glanced down the street. There was a fair crowd out enjoying the evening. But one man stood out above the fray. She smiled. Nick was already approaching the store.
Her nerves settled as he grew closer. “Hey there.”
“Hey.” He smiled back. “You look good. Really…good.”
“So do you.” He did things for jeans and a white dress shirt that should be immortalized on a billboard. She could only imagine what his butt looked like in those jeans. The thought made her instantly warm. Good grief, the man got her all wound up way too fast.
She nodded. Sure. That was one way to describe what she was feeling. “Where are we going?”
“Guillermo’s. It’s not far.” He gestured down the street. “You good to walk?”
“Great.” He started in the direction he’d pointed.
She fell in step beside him.
“Have you been there?” he asked.
“Nope, and unless they deliver, I’m not even sure I’ve eaten their food.” She dodged to avoid oncoming pedestrians and brushed against him. Hard as a rock. “Wow.”
Crap. She’d just said that out loud.
“Wow what?” He glanced at her.
“I, uh, I just realized I don’t get out much.” Nice save. Not that she wasn’t willing to run into him again. She’d just learn to keep her mouth shut next time.