The smoke cleared, and he rolled his eyes with disgust. Finney barreled through the waning daylight in a direct path for the gas station. Just his luck.
If ancient Theodora flipping him the bird wasn’t weird enough, Finney had her beat. Brown sauce covered her apron. Something—spinach?—stuck in a messy glop on her chin. In her fist, a wooden spoon bobbed as she marched forward. All she was missing was her intimidating skillet.
“Do something to fix this,” she said by way of greeting. “I’m not up to babysitting a grown woman.”
A second phone call, and he gritted his teeth. He yanked up the receiver then slammed it down. “Go away,” he said with the last of his patience. “I’m having a bad day.”
Finney paused by the double doors. “What’s your problem?”
“Problems, as in plural. They’re none of your business.”
“Don’t get sassy with me. Why, you look like you could bite someone’s head off.”
“Don’t tempt me.”
The cook went silent. Ridiculously, she lifted her dukes. “You want a battle? Bring it on. I can go ten rounds, seeing that Mary’s already got me at wit’s end.”
“I don’t fight women.” He found his coffee mug on the workbench and drained the last cold gulp. “What do you want?”
Approaching, she planted her feet. She was a good eight inches shorter. Even so, he moved back. Given his recent batting average with women, he was taking no chances.
Finney smacked the wooden spoon against her thigh and he flinched. “Mary talked to the mayor this afternoon,” she revealed.
Concerned, he ditched his irritation and found compassion. “And?”
“She wouldn’t explain. So we argued. Who would’ve guessed Mary has a temper like a West Coast forest fire when you get her going? The tears were worse, though.”
Tears? What had the mayor said to upset Mary? With effort, he squashed his concern. For once, he wouldn’t play the role of Mr. Fix-it. “Finney, I know better than to get between two women if they’re fighting. You and Mary have a problem? Fix it yourselves.”
“You aren’t listening.” She whacked her thigh again and he jumped back. “Mary was so upset, she dropped a platter of my beautiful trout on the floor. My trout! Ten minutes later, she ran clean into Delia. Knocked right into her like a Mack truck overturning on the highway. Now Delia’s taking orders with a fat lip. You’ve got to get to the bottom of it!”
“I do?” Like hell.
“She’s not herself. Dropping china, spilling coffee all over the counter. I was by the stove and she bumped me so hard, I hit the flames. Pulled back before I torched myself.”
She thumped on her abundantly endowed chest. He spotted black singe marks over her breasts. For the love of—
“Mary’s still upset?” The urge to protect her grew strong. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Talk to her.”
“Talk to her or I’ll kill you.” The cook emphasized the threat by whacking him on the chest with her spoon. He yelped, and she added, “I’ve got orders to rustle up and she’s not fit for polite company. I sent her to her room. Delia tiptoed up there and heard crying. Go talk to Mary. Make her feel better.”
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