Cheesy on the Eyes by Teagan Hunter

Slice One


Growing up, I was the kid who made little old ladies shake their heads and purse their lips by being a little too loud and a little too wild.

I don’t know how many times I caught my mom staring at me with a poorly hidden smirk as she shook her head. “You’re your own kind of special, Thea,” she’d tell me.

Her words were never harsh, always endearing, and not incorrect.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a conundrum.

I love getting my hands dirty tearing motors apart as much as I love getting my nails painted bubblegum pink. I’d rather wear dresses than jeans, but you’ll never catch me in heels. And if I pick up a book, give me a good horror story, though my go-to movies are those dorky romantic comedies where the guy always gets the girl.

This is why I’m not surprised when Simon—the owner of Slice, the hottest pizza joint this small coastal town has to offer—sets my order down with a frown.

“One of these days, Thea, I’m gonna give you the boot if you keep coming here and spreading out like you do while still refusing to eat my cooking.”

“I am eating your cooking,” I argue, grabbing a fry from the basket he just placed in front of me and popping it into my mouth.

He shakes his head, arms now crossed over his thick chest. “That is not my cooking. Any idiot can toss a couple fries into the fryer.”

“Well, you’re my favorite idiot, if it makes you feel any better.”

He huffs out a laugh. “You wanna compliment me? Order some damn pizza next time.”

“Gross. Why would I do that?”

“Because”—he gestures around the space—“in case you haven’t noticed, this is a pizzeria!”

I scrunch my nose. “Is that what the awful smell is?”

Simon narrows his eyes, the wrinkles at the corners reminding me of my father’s. He towers over me with downturned lips. “I swear…”

“Oh, please.” I wave him off. “Don’t bother with the empty threats. We both know you enjoy my quirkiness too much to get rid of me.”

“You don’t like pizza, Thea. Pizza! It’s the most beloved food in America and you hate it. That’s weird on its own. Then there’s the fact that despite your asinine distaste for it, you still come here—frequently, I might add—to work like it’s some sort of coffee shop. It makes no sense.”

“Ah, ah, ah.” I wag my finger at him. “You just unknowingly answered your own question.”

“I didn’t even ask a question.”

“You implied one.” I shrug. “The reason I come here is because I love coffee.” Simon opens his mouth to say something, but I hold my hand up. “I love coffee and sweets way too much to be around that sort of temptation. Do you think I can work with those delectable smells wafting into my nose all day long and not indulge? Impossible! So, I come here, to a restaurant that serves food I don’t crave, all so I can still fit my ass into my jeans.”

Simon tucks his lips together, trying not to laugh at my reasoning.

Which, I admit, is a little silly.

But I know me. I have zero self-control. If I see something I want, I go after it, and that especially applies to sweet treats. I started coming here about six months ago when I realized I’d gone up two sizes in pants after just a year of being manager at my dad’s auto shop. And since I have a hard-and-fast rule about not taking work home, Slice seemed like the least tempting option.

I raise a brow at him. “So, are we good now?”

He lets out a sigh, shaking his head and grinning at me. “I still really wish you’d give the pie a try, but I respect your self-awareness when it comes to your weaknesses. Besides, you remind me of my late wife, a whole hell of a lot. That’s the real reason I let you stick around.”

“You mean it’s not my charm?”

He snorts. “Enjoy your fries, Thea. I’ll be back with another sweet tea for you.”

“That’s why I keep coming back, Simon. It’s not for the gross pizza—it’s the service!” I call out toward his retreating back.

A group of tourists on their way to the bar stop dead in their tracks at my words. Their eyes bounce back and forth between me and Simon, obviously concerned about the quality of the food.

“Don’t mind me. I hate pizza.” I shrug, popping another fry into my mouth.

The couple looks horrified,