“And you young lady are stunning, everything about you radiates goodness and beauty, Chance would’ve been a fool not to lock you down tight. It’s too late for Staffey and me now, no good raking up the past, or the pain that accompanies it.”
“You loved Staffey,” I stated, and Leslie waited a few seconds before nodding.
“Yes, I loved him so much, and Staffey left for me to seek a better life. Samuel never understood it wasn’t the trappings I wanted or needed; it was just him. But Del and I made a good life together, it just ended, that’s life.”
“Staffey’s stubborn,” I said smiling, and Leslie let out a bark of laughter.
“Oh, I know Clio, believe me, I know.”
“Staffey wants you, and he’s going to get you, and you’ll be my new Stepmom!” I exclaimed and clapped my hands together in joy. Leslie looked confused. “I signed the adoption papers the same day Staffey came home, I’m legally Staffey’s daughter. When you get your head out of your ass, you’ll be my Mom!” Leslie gaped in shock.
“Get my head out of my ass!” she exclaimed and laughed again. “There’s that backbone I always knew you had. I see Chance has been working his magic on you, you’re becoming more outspoken!” Leslie chuckled amused and linked her arm through mine as two men approached, one was Rooster and the other I guessed was Diesel.
“Clio, you’re too close to the edge of the forecourt sweetness, try not to get so near to the entrance,” Rooster chided, and I nodded. “Meet Diesel, he has the plans and catalogues for you two to glance through for shit and designs. We’ll escort you over to the shop and get shit started.”
“Is there a lot to go through?” I asked naively, and Diesel raised an eyebrow at me, okay that was a yes. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the four men who’d been watching me the other day, they were staring again with leers and smirks.
“Rooster who are those men?” I asked, and Rooster craned his neck to look over his shoulder.
“Mechanics, there a problem?” he muttered as the mechanics saw Rooster staring and returned to work.
“No, I just wondered, they don’t wear cuts,” I side-tracked not wanting to cause a fuss. Rooster stared at me with that piercing gaze and huffed as the two men led us across the road to the shop. Rooster unlocked it, and Leslie gave a slight sigh of relief when she spied a table and chairs set up.
“I was worried about sitting on those rickety things again,” Leslie quipped with a nod to the old chairs. Rooster snorted and muttered his had cracked when he’d sat on it. Diesel at once began taking measurements, and Rooster jotted them down while Leslie and I went through paint colours. With Diesel’s help, we picked a pale blue and cream for the walls and white for the trimmings. Diesel helped select a darker blue for accents and then ordered the paint in.
Diesel talked us through the re-wiring, he planned to rip it out and re-do from scratch and then install new heating discreetly. Professional to the bone, Diesel showed us the lights he’d picked out which suited our image of an old-fashioned tearoom and then showed us the kitchen appliances. In accordance with the plans, one half of the baker shop would be bricked up to make the large kitchen, with the counters in front. Diesel planned to brick up the doorway in the second shop and only have one entrance to the tea rooms, that entrance he intended to be in the shop part.
Once we’d done everything, Rooster muttered about getting food and disappeared leaving us with Diesel. Leslie picked up the counter catalogue and began flicking through, and Diesel showed us what he’d had in mind. I smothered a grin when the shop door opened and Staffey stepped through carrying food bags. Leslie resembled a startled rabbit, and Staffey resembled the fox.
“Brought my girls’ lunch,” Staffey grinned, his grin daring Leslie to say something. I glanced at her and Leslie’s mouth pursed, and she took the high road.
“Thank you,” she replied icily, and Staffey’s grin got even bigger. Diesel tapped the catalogue, and Leslie turned her attention back to it. But even so, I could see Leslie was aware of Staffey’s every move. Staffey let out a chuckle, and Leslie’s back stiffened, and then he bent over and kissed the top of my head.
“Don’t know if they’re still your favourite but I bought chicken tacos,” he said, dragging out a chair and sitting next to me. My eyes widened, and I made ‘gimmie’ motions with my fingers. Staffey laughed, and I revelled in the deep rich laughter, I’d always loved hearing him laugh, and it was as good now as it had been in my memory.
“Mine!” I exclaimed as he pulled out two and then handed a couple to Diesel, who without pausing in his perusal of the catalogues, took a deep bite of one.
“You used to love carved ham and pickle, heavy on the pickle,” Staffey said, turning to Leslie and handing her two huge sandwiches. Her eyes widened at the size of them, and Leslie turned to Staffey with a bemused expression.
“How much do you think I can eat?” she asked snottily.
“You always had a healthy appetite woman, don’t tell me that’s changed for rabbit food!” he asked gazing at her. I should, maybe, have felt uncomfortable at the emotion in Staffey’s eyes but instead, I felt heartened, Staffey needed someone like Leslie. Leslie wouldn’t take his bull and had enough fire in her to stand up to him and give Staffey what for when he needed it. Leslie was the kindest person I knew and had a good heart. Yes, I’d heard what she’s said earlier but judging by the look in her eye, I’d take it with a pinch of salt.
“I’m older now, not as active,” Leslie demurred but still took a big bite of the sandwich.
“I can help you get active again,” Staffey said cheekily, and Leslie choked on her food. She glared as she washed it down with a bottle of water, and Staffey leaned back and looked smug. That was a spark to the fire as Leslie’s eyes flashed.
“Get your dirty mind out of the gutter Samuel Staffey. I’m not interested in your kinky aspirations!” Leslie snapped, and Diesel’s head shot up to stare at the two of them.
“Woman, who said anything about getting down and dirty? You hear me say that Diesel? I merely said I’d help you get more active, I meant the gym or running,” Staffey replied all innocence. “But if you wish to get kinky lady, you just have to crook your finger, I’ve learnt a few things over the years.” Diesel snorted in amusement, and I moaned.
“No, no! I don’t want to hear about my Dad’s and future Stepmom’s sex life!” I moaned, and Diesel and Staffey both broke into laughter. Leslie turned to me with a look on her face that called me traitor. Deep inside, I was gleeful, maybe I should have been jealous, perhaps wanting Staffey to myself. But he’d so much love inside him, I wanted Leslie to receive that love and revel in it. It was apparent there was still a spark between them, and I planned to fan it into a roaring fire.
“I think this countertop,” Leslie said giving Staffey and I both a level glare. Oh yes, this is the woman I wished to call Mom. Leslie was precious, and I wanted Staffey to be happy, and Leslie was what he needed to be satisfied.
“Yeah,” Diesel said glancing between two of the most influential people in my life. Conversation turned to the fittings, but I still felt that spark between them and I caught the fiery glances that Leslie and Staffey swapped. I picked out ovens for my kitchen and made a vow to push these two together as much as possible.
An hour later, Staffey left to be replaced with a woman called Penny and her husband, Texas who was Rage’s secretary. Texas was a big man, nearly as big as Bear and Penny a dainty little thing. They were both older than me, and Texas gave off the same dangerous vibes that most of Hellfire and Rage did. But it was tempered by the expression in his eye whenever he looked at his wife and the fatherly aura surrounding him. I discovered that Texas had a grown-up daughter called Rosie, and Penny had two children called Gregory and Daisy.