With a calculating glance, she studied the stubborn male as he plunked his
“It’s on the house, Chief.” She nudged the to-go cup toward him as he reached for his wallet. “You know that.”
Anyone else hearing the no-debate tone in the man’s voice would have backed down. Erica flattened her palms on the counter and leaned toward the impossible male, now eye level with her as he bent to tug open the flap on his cargo pocket and dig out his wallet.
From the narrowed gaze he directed her way, he didn’t appreciate the gesture.
Before he could hand over payment, Erica swiveled away from the register and grabbed the tray of her homemade double-fudge brownies layered with mint frosting. With a beveled spatula, she slid a brownie out of the pan and onto a tray, resisting the urge to swipe the gooey chunk that broke off one corner and pop it into her mouth.
“Exactly. And every single morning I have to leave cash with Tim or stuff it in the tip jar. Which makes me wonder—” he crammed bills in a cow-shaped glass jar then reached for his drink— “when you’re going to realize you’re running a business. Not a charity.”
Speaking of charities . . . Seeing her moment of opportunity, Erica looked up from stacking the brownies and opened her mouth to make one last attempt to change his mind.
And forgot what she was about to say.
Tyler had been a regular at Penny U the last four weeks. She should be immune to the arresting power of those steady grey eyes by now. But in the early morning light, they appeared almost blue from beneath the bill of his navy Maple Grove PD ball cap. He had fascinating eyes, eyes that shifted and pulled someone into their depths without trying. Eyes too somber for a guy in his early thirties, even one in his line of work.
Caught in the mirror of his evaluating stare, Erica’s hand froze, leaving one square of chocolately goodness suspended mid-air on the spatula. Her pulse kicked up as if she’d downed a doubleshot of espresso.
“Watch it.” Tyler reached to rescue the brownie about to eat tile.
Erica righted the tilting spatula, spiraling away from him as she did so, and deposited the dessert safely on the tray. She turned at a slight angle to avoid his probing gaze and jabbed at another brownie. If she’d been checking the man out, it was only because she needed to size up her opposition. She had a mission and needed to gauge his mind frame if she wanted the best chance of winning him over. The town council meeting was tomorrow night. Her last chance.
Erica risked another assessment of Tyler, strictly tactical. An impressive man, and incredibly good-looking, which wasn’t fair since she didn’t go for a guy in uniform. But he looked rather approachable at the moment, for an emotionally detached sort of guy. Her gaze drifted to the cute little cleft in his chin her fingers itched to touch, maybe because it seemed to be the only dent in his hard shell.
Just because he wasn’t her type didn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate the authority and confidence he projected, the strength of his bearing whenever he walked into a room. Altogether he actually looked . . .
“. . . really good.”
“Those brownies.” Tyler jutted his chin toward the tray. “Can I grab one for later?”
Erica licked her lips and breathed in resolve. When Tyler reached for his wallet again to pay for the brownie, she held up a hand. “Okay, I’ll make a deal with you.”
“I’ll deliver free brownies to the station every day through Christmas.” Erica slid the bag holding his own decadent dessert across the counter toward him. “And coffee.” Ian would strangle her. Profits had taken a dive since Lovett’s Tea Shoppe had opened. It was a temporary setback that happened any time a new business opened, but Ian refused to believe it.
Tyler drove the door closed with his boot, swung around and took four long strides toward her, the forcefulness of his steps making her straighten. She backed up, but she was already against the pastry case, so she had nowhere to go. He planted himself in front of her, making her feel even more puny than her five-two frame, and studied her.