Home > No Other Love (The Pink Bean #6)

No Other Love (The Pink Bean #6)
Author: Harper Bliss

Chapter One

 

 

“Best make things look spic and span,” Mia said as she handed Annie a cup of coffee. “The boss is stopping by today.” She shot Annie one of those smiles Annie had seen her use on the customers to great effect. Inspired by being on the receiving end of one of Mia’s smiles, Annie had tried smiling at people like that, but she instinctively knew her own attempts didn’t have the same effect. She practiced sometimes in front of the mirror while washing her hands and she simply didn’t have a Mia-smile.

“Sheryl or Kristin?” Annie asked, still amazed that she was able to get a real cup of coffee in her own book shop. Not the instant stuff she used to brew. It was part of the deal she had made with the Pink Bean owners. They leased part of her shop and Annie got all the free coffee she wanted, on top of a bunch more visitors through the door.

Annie needed the clarification on which one of the two was stopping by because last time Mia had said the boss was dropping in, Annie had mentally prepared for Kristin only to have Sheryl show up. There was a distinct difference.

“Kristin,” Mia said. “We have some numbers to crunch. Sheryl is not much of a number cruncher.” That smile again.

Annie nodded, while she wondered if she had time to run upstairs and drag a comb through her hair. It sometimes felt as though Kristin was her boss as well as Mia’s, even though that was probably not the right way to describe it. Annie checked her watch. It was before eleven. Not that she was banned from her own house, but she knew Jane preferred she didn’t come upstairs too early in the morning, or until her wife had ventured down for her first Pink Bean coffee—and social interaction—of the day.

Besides, Annie had a perfectly able comb in the downstairs bathroom, which they’d had remodeled to include a stall for customers and Pink Bean employees.

Annie didn’t want to admit to herself that she was nervous because Kristin was due to arrive. The success of the Pink Bean in her shop was of crucial importance. If Kristin and Mia didn’t sell enough coffee, they would pack up their coffee machine and move elsewhere. Annie shook off the thought. Mia had told her time and time again that the decision to join forces with Annie’s shop was influenced by much more than purely business. Still, Annie felt like she had to impress.

The door of the shop opened and both Mia and Annie looked up. It was always a guessing game whether the person walking in was after coffee, a book, both, or none.

Annie didn’t need to look at Mia to know a smile was spreading on her lips. Annie smiled too at the sight of Lou.

Lou gave Annie a wave and headed straight for the coffee counter to kiss Mia on the lips. All this young love on display. Annie wasn’t entirely sure how that made her feel. She was happy for Lou, who had suffered a bad breakup in Brisbane, and she and Mia made a great couple. That wasn’t the issue. It was witnessing what the beginning of romance looked like that put her out sometimes. The energy between them was palpable. It had been a long time since Annie had felt that kind of energy buzz through her.

Annie had known Lou for a long time and she wasn’t the type to engage in too much public canoodling. Yet Annie saw her melt under Mia’s smiling gaze. She was still looking at them from her place by the cash register when the door opened again. This time it was Kristin. Annie nearly jumped to her feet, even though that door opened countless times a day and it was hardly the first time Kristin had come in to see how everything was going. Annie was happy Mia and Lou were preoccupied with each other so they hadn’t noticed her reaction.

Having spotted Lou, Kristin headed straight for Annie, and stood at the counter. Just as Mia kissed Annie on the cheek every morning when she arrived, so did Kristin when she bestowed a visit on the second Pink Bean branch. When Mia kissed her hello, Annie didn’t even think about it. It was as automatic an action as actually saying hello. But with Kristin it was different.

At first, Annie had believed it was because Kristin’s demeanor was, in general, a little more uptight, and it was always more uncomfortable kissing someone like that, but then she’d had a good hard look in the mirror—probably while she brushed her hair in anticipation of Kristin’s arrival—and she had realized it was all down to herself. She was the one having an issue. It had been a disconcerting feeling. One that manifested itself again now, as she stood in front of Kristin thinking of suave ways to peck her on the cheek.

Annie stepped from behind the counter—her safe space from where she observed all the goings-on in the shop—and put a hand gently on Kristin’s shoulder before letting her lips touch down on Kristin’s smooth, cool cheek.

“How’s business?” Kristin asked. She really wasn’t one for small talk.

“Mine or yours?” Annie scampered back behind the counter.

“Mia will tell me about mine once she’s done schmoozing with her girlfriend.” She rolled her eyes and Annie couldn’t help but grin. “Yours.”

“Sales are up!” Annie exclaimed. “It can’t be denied. Who said print was dead?” Oh Christ. Was she no longer capable of having a normal conversation with Kristin either?

“I believe it was your wife who came up with those words of wisdom.” Kristin glanced at the display of Jane Quinn books they had set up right next to the counter—a massive feather in Mia’s cap. “How are those doing?”

“Not too bad, although Jane cringes every time she comes down and sees all of her books presented like that. And word must have spread, because the other day she was having a coffee just as someone was browsing her books. The person put two and two together, bought one, and promptly walked up to Jane to have it autographed.”

“She must have loved that.” Kristin sniggered. Apparently she was beginning to know Jane and her solitary ways.

“I had to bring her coffee upstairs for the rest of the week.” Annie grinned. “But it’s good to push her out of her comfort zone once in a while. She needs that. That’s why this was such a good idea.” She pointed at the coffee machine, then at the book display. “And this as well. She’s Jane Quinn, for crying out loud. She should take some pride in that.”

“We’re all different,” Kristin said matter-of-factly.

“Aren’t we just.” Talking about her wife, who was toiling away upstairs on her next book, made Annie feel guilty about overthinking kissing Kristin hello. “And that’s why I love her so dearly.”

“Hello and goodbye.” Lou joined them. “I need to rush to Darlinghurst for my next class. Someone’s been having a bad influence on my punctuality.”

Kristin shook her head. “I’ll give her a stern talking-to.”

“Please do.” Lou shot them both a wink and left the shop.

“Talk to you later, Annie,” Kristin said, and sat down in the exact same chair she always did, waiting for Mia to join her.

When nothing much was going on in the shop, Annie usually read. She used to easily go through a book a day, but since the Pink Bean had set up shop, she was lucky to make it through a book a week. Today, Annie willed her attention to remain on the book she was reading, but having Kristin in the shop, made it that much harder to focus.

 

 

Chapter Two

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