Coffee Shop Girl (Coffee Shop #1) - Katie Cross
“This place needs to burn to the ground.”
My barista, Anthony, shoved a coffee mug into the sink as he stomped away. Milk splattered the floor at his feet as he tore around the cabinet, heading for the door. The bitter scent of burnt coffee lingered in the air.
Halfway into the Frolicking Moose Coffee Shop, I stopped. “What happened?”
A car pulled up at the drive-through window, the driver peering into the mayhem I’d just walked into myself. I set aside my purse, taking in spilled chai powder, a broken mug on the floor, cream on the counter, and a few hastily tossed dollar bills next to the register, which lay open—bills spewing from the wrong slots.
Anthony held up his hands. “I’m done. This place is a freaking disaster. Not even an MIT genius could work here.” He started to back away. “The espresso machine stopped working, and the register won’t shut. Again. I burned a batch of coffee while following the ridiculous directions you gave me, and three people have been waiting for ten minutes out there. Five have already driven off. Oh, and the steamer probe is busted.”
I used my hip to push the cash drawer closed, but it kicked back out. The lights weren’t registering. The words espresso machine sent a prickling sensation down my back. “Did you grind the beans?” I asked.
“Did you put ground espresso beans in the machine, Anthony?” I whispered.
Half-hysterical, I hurtled to the machine. “We covered that yesterday! There’s already a grinder. Now all the espresso drinks will have grinds in them. We’ll have to rinse the whole thing out.”
“Whatever. I’m done. You don’t even have to pay me, Bethany.” He walked backward now, steps away from disappearing forever. “I’m out.”
“Wait!” I called. “Please, not today. Give me just one hou—”
The front door slammed shut.
Panic pulsed through me. Why did he have to do this today? Today, when I had the biggest meeting of my life!
I quelled the fluttery sensation in my stomach, squared my shoulders, and let out a breath. I’d get through this and still attend my meeting with Dad’s old chum. My absolutely life-altering appointment.
Good thing I’d worn my favorite lipstick today. There’s no power like a woman with the right shade, even at eight o’clock in the morning.
“All right,” I said, keeping my voice modulated. “It’s okay. I can still meet with Dave and get the funding I need to start the—”
A bang on the window brought me out of my spiraling anxiety.
“What’s going on in there!” A scowling, white-haired man shielded his eyes from the sun. He squinted from beneath bushy eyebrows. “Where’s my coffee?”
I could do this. Moderating disasters was my jam. Thanks to Mama, I’d been doing it my whole life. Tearing an apron off a hook, I slipped it over my pantsuit and bustled over to the window in knock-off Louboutin high heels. The bells on the door jangled, admitting someone I barely saw out of the corner of my eye. I called out, “Just a minute!” over my shoulder.
“Hi there.” I turned back to the drive-through and pasted on a bright smile. “Just a quick shift change. Sorry about that. What did you order?”
My gaze returned to the inert machine. I paused, then held up a finger. “Ah . . . those aren’t available right now. The machine is . . . prepped for the cleaners.”
He scowled. “Fine. Black coffee.”
“I can do that! The last batch of coffee burned, but I’m putting a new pot on. Would you mind waiting?”
The old man flipped me the bird and punched the gas. His tires squealed away. Stunned, I blinked, then let out a long breath. One down. Three cars waited behind him.
The first driver pulled up with an angry glare, and I clenched my teeth. Fantastic. Mrs. Jones, the wrathful old lady that the whole mountain town of Pineville feared.
“Good morning, Mrs. Jones,” I said with a forced smile.
“My coffee ready yet?”
Her nostrils flared. “I’ve been in line for fifteen minutes.”
“I understand, and I apologize. I—”
“I didn’t give my order to you.”
“Did he quit? Is your business falling apart? You’ll never be your father, you know. You’re doomed to fail.”
My jaw tightened until I thought my teeth might break. Heart pounding, I let out a long breath. “The coffee will be another eight minutes.”
Ten, actually, but let her wait.
She rolled her eyes. “I’ll make it myself. It would probably be faster to harvest my own beans.”
With that, her ancient Cadillac window eased upward, then her