“Kate, your dad is on the phone.”
Kate Grady finished counting the pills in her tray and spilled them into an amber vial. “Thanks Amy,” she said to the counter girl. Taking in a deep breath through her nose, Kate let it out slowly through her lightly glossed mouth. After her father’s fall and subsequent broken hip, Patrick Grady wasn’t adjusting well to his temporary lack of mobility. He called her at least twice an hour just to make sure she wasn’t running his pharmacy into the ground.
“Hi Dad.” Kate tried to sound cheerful, but as this was probably the hundredth call of the day, her patience was wearing thin.
“Hey Katie, I forgot to tell you when I called before,” Patrick said, “I hired a new delivery boy.”
“What’s wrong with Kevin?” Kate smacked her hand on the counter, nearly spilling her coffee. She lifted the mug, took a sip and placed it out of harm’s way.
“Does Kevin know?”
Their current delivery “boy” just celebrated his seventy-second birthday. A retired firefighter, Kevin Finnerty had been running deliveries for Grady’s Pharmacy for the past ten years. He was reliable and efficient, and Kate didn’t want to step on his toes.
“He knows.” She heard her father sigh and could picture him dragging his thick fingers through not-so-thick white hair. Before she could ask another question, Patrick cut her off. “Look Katie, Kevin doesn’t want everybody to know, but Lizzie isn’t feeling so good.”
“Oh.” Kate didn’t know what else to say. She cleared her throat. “Well, who is it?”
She rolled her eyes, thankful her father wasn’t able to see the childish gesture. He’d reprimand her despite the fact she was a full grown woman.
“The new delivery boy.”
“Oh right,” he said and cleared his own throat. She wondered if he was thinking back to when her mother first got sick. “Remember little Johnny O’Brien?”
“From next door?”
The child in question flashed through her mind. The last time she’d seen Johnny, he’d been skin and bones topped off with a mass of white-blond hair. A mouth full of braces and coke-bottle glasses didn’t help his appearance.
“How old is he?” she asked. “Can he even drive?”
“He’ll be graduating from Penn State in December.”
“I bet that went over well,” Kate chuckled. In the Minooka section of Scranton, PA where she grew up, you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Notre Dame fan.
“Yeah well, you just raise ‘em and hope for the best,” he grumbled. “They don’t always do things you’d approve of.”
Kate flinched. Just when she thought things were getting back to normal with her father, he made a comment like that. He’d been upset when she took her freshly printed pharmacy degree to Philadelphia and set up house with her boyfriend, Thom Chambers.
She still wasn’t sure what upset him more, the fact that she’d left home or “lived in sin”. Patrick hadn’t spoken to her the entire time she and Thom were together and it was only since her mother’s death two years ago, they’d had any semblance of normalcy in their relationship.
“Anyway,” her father’s voice sounded gruff, “Johnny said he’d stop in today to set up a schedule. He’s on summer break, so his hours are pretty flexible.”
“Okay, Dad.” She made sure he didn’t need her to bring anything home, hung up the phone, and picked up the next prescription.
Kate hated when her father withdrew, but she didn’t know how to seal the rift. Once upon a time, she’d been a real Daddy’s girl. Unfortunately, as soon as she’d chosen to follow her own path instead of taking the road he’d so carefully mapped for her, Patrick had cut Kate out of his life. Her mother’s illness had brought her back home, and it was Megan Grady who reminded her hard-headed husband that life was too short to hold grudges. Sadly, he forgot that lesson every once in a while.
Still, Kate had walked Patrick Grady’s definition of the straight and narrow for over two years now. How much longer could he hold on to his disappointment? She cringed at that last thought. Considering her father’s stubborn Irish pride, probably forever.
Kate sank onto a wobbly stool, slid her strappy sandal off and rubbed her instep, groaning out loud. Thank heaven it was nearly closing time. Her sound of pleasure still hung in the air when the bell over the door signaled a customer’s arrival.
Slipping the sandal back on, Kate stood and rounded the corner. She nearly tripped at the sight of the man walking toward the counter. Finger-combing blond hair off his face, he looked around the pharmacy. His profile had been hot, but full on his face took her breath away. With perfectly chiseled features, high cheekbones, and a hint of a dimple in his chin, the man could be a movie star.
When she realized she was staring, Kate blushed to the roots of her hair. “Can I help you?” she asked, adding an extra bit of professionalism to her tone, hoping to make up for the fact that she’d shamelessly ogled the man.
His smile revealed perfectly straight, white teeth and twin dimples.
She’d always been a sucker for dimples.
“Katie? You cut your hair.” Twinkling blue eyes met hers.
He seemed to know her, but Kate would swear she’d never met him before. He wasn’t the kind of person a girl would forget.
“Your hair,” he said, unnecessarily pointing to her head. “Last time I saw you, it hung to the middle of your back.”
Kate studied him, trying to figure out where she may have seen him before and still drew a blank. And since she’d just cut her hair six months ago, his comment didn’t offer her much of a time frame.
“Do I know you?” she finally asked.
He chuckled, a deep rumble that went right through her, touching every erogenous zone in her body.
“We grew up next door to each other,” he said. “I was a couple years behind you, but...”
Kate gasped. She actually gasped out loud.
The last time she saw him, he’d been so skinny a light breeze could have blown him over.
“I grew a little bit.”
Kate cringed when she realized she’d spoken that thought out loud.
“I can see that.”
Had that sultry tone come from her mouth? The surprise that flashed across his face told her it had. Interest flashed in his eyes, scaring the hell out of her. His gaze shifted from her eyes to her mouth and back again. Definitely interest.
Kate had to nip this in the bud. The last thing she needed was to turn into a modern-day Mrs. Robinson.
“My dad said you’re going to be our new delivery boy. When can you start?”
His lips curved into a smile. “When do you want me to start?”
Deciding to ignore his double entendre, Kate picked up a clipboard and flipped through its pages searching for the weekly employee schedule.
“Kevin is in at ten tomorrow.” She clutched the clipboard hoping to hide her shaking hands. “Why don’t you come in then and he can show you the ropes?”
“Great. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He looked like he was about to say something, but stopped. With a wave, he turned and walked out the door, his cologne lingering on the breeze created by the closing door.
Kate dropped onto the stool.
She remembered the day his parents brought him home from the hospital. Remembered the gawky little boy with huge horn-rimmed glasses riding his bicycle past her house. And God help her, she remembered the perfect shape of his ass as he walked out the door.