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“I really like that top. What’s it called?” Awaiting Cassie’s reply, Alec reaches across the table and places his hand underneath the elastic forming the low, plunging neck line of her top. His fingers lightly rub the lacy bra underneath.

“It’s called a peasant top.” She gently removes his hand from her blouse. “Should we skip breakfast and go somewhere private?”

Before Alec answers, a voice interrupts.

“Would you two like to order something?”

The waitress has been standing there for minutes, but neither of them noticed her.

“Mom!” Cassie springs from her seat and embraces her mother. She points to Alec. “Mom, I’d like you to meet a good friend of mine. This is Alec Thornton.”

Alec’s face turns ashen and he feels his throat tighten. Cassie’s mother, the lady behind the counter and one of his clients, stands before him. He controls his breathing to remain calm, and the two of them lock eyes. He decides Cassie need not know of their arrangement and he hopes her mother feels the same.

He politely says, “Hello, Mrs.…Montgomery, I assume?”

“Yes, it’s Montgomery. Pleased to meet you, Alec.” The two shake hands. Alec relaxes for the moment.

Mrs. Montgomery sits down next to Cassie and they engage in small talk.

“I can’t talk but for a moment. I’m working until six. What are you two doing out so late, or up so early?”

Alec avoids her gaze and doesn’t react to her attempt at humor. He instead pretends to be interested in a conversation occurring in the next booth over.

“Alec picked me up at a party and he remembered me saying you worked here and he wanted to meet you. And we were hungry and this is the only place open this time of night.”

Alec catches Mrs. Montgomery’s eyes, but he’s having trouble reading her. He remains quiet as mother and daughter chit chat for a few more minutes.

Mrs. Montgomery, reacting to the man behind the cash register, stands, and with notepad in hand says, “What can I get for you two?”

Cassie says, “We’ll both have waffles with blueberry syrup.”

Mrs. Montgomery writes the order on her pad. “Anything else?”

Cassie turns to Alec, who faces in the opposite direction. “Alec, anything else?”

“I’ll have a cup of coffee. Black.”

Mrs. Montgomery closes her notepad. “It’ll be here before you know it,” and then disappears behind the counter.

Cassie frowns. “You weren’t very friendly. That’s my mom and you acted like she wasn’t even there. What’s wrong with you? You’re so moody.”

He may have messed up an opportunity for sex later on, so Alec attempts to repair the damage. “I’m sorry. I guess your mom intimidates me. Besides, I thought you two wanted to catch up.”

Cassie reaches across the table and runs her fingers across Alec’s forearm. “When we’re done eating, why don’t we go to the barn and see your boat. It should be private enough for us, don’t you think?”

The tension exited with Cassie’s mother, and Alec’s earlier good mood has returned. He’ll deal with the ramifications of this recent revelation at a later time.

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