If you missed the PROLOGUE catch up here.
Talent To Work
Two years later
“I see you survived just fine with me being gone for the week,” Liam said to his cousin Aiden Fierce on the first Wednesday of February.
He and Aiden had flown to Las Vegas last week for a food expo. Aiden was putting his line of spices and sauces out in stores now as well as their website and knew this would help more than just his online presence. Everything his cousins did for their pub and brewery seemed to have the Midas touch. They’d worked hard for it too.
“Always,” Aiden said. “And you look nice and refreshed. Glad you stayed longer?”
The expo ran all last week, but Aiden was only there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving Liam to run it for the last two days. Since he normally had Monday and Tuesday off each week, Aiden paid for the hotel room until Monday morning and told Liam to enjoy his time there and have some fun.
He had. He even came home with more money in his pocket than he left with.
Now he was back and ready to get to work. “Yes. Thanks again for taking care of the room for those extra days. I could have done it.”
“You could do a lot of things, but you wouldn’t have if I didn’t force it. You always were cheap with your money. Knowing it was paid for, you’d damn well not let the room go to waste.”
He didn’t think he was that cheap. Not like his cousin Ivan Andrews was. He spent money but was careful where it went.
It’s not like he was rolling in it like his cousins, but he was doing so much better than he ever had before.
When he’d lost his temper, which rarely happened, and walked out on his job two years ago, he’d started making calls and sending out resumes the next day. In the restaurant industry, chef positions were filled fast and normally within days of the resume being received, if not from a phone call asking if there were openings. Contacts helped tremendously.
More than a week went by and no one was returning his calls and he started to realize the huge mistake he’d made. He was good at his job, but you don’t do what he did to the boss.
He shouldn’t have worried though. He’d told not one family member what had happened, yet Aiden was the first call he got telling him to get his ass to the pub ten days after he’d quit. He’d been hesitant to take it when he didn’t want anyone to think it was a charity job—even if most didn’t even know they were related.
He’d never told a soul in the restaurant world Aiden Fierce was his cousin. Then they’d want to know why he wasn’t working for Fierce. And if he never had, then they might wonder if he wasn’t good enough. Or worse yet, if he did work for them he might get exactly what he never wanted people to think…family pity.
In the end he did take the job and was put in charge of the pub and hadn’t looked back and took nothing for granted.
He’d set out to do it on his own and he did. Aiden told him to get his head out of his ass and put his talent to work. At Fierce he was thriving more than ever before, having the creative freedom he’d always dreamed of but never thought he’d get. Especially not here.
“It didn’t go to waste and I came back flush. Even better.”
“Good for you. I bet you invested it rather than splurging on something fun.”
He had. No use saying it though. “So anything I missed while I was out pulling the arm on slot machines?”
Aiden laughed. “See. Cheap. Slot machines because you could entertain yourself longer than craps or blackjack.”
Again, the truth. But one of those pulls netted him five G’s.
“To each their own. Brody and Cade would have been tossing hundreds on the table. Mason and you would have been more conservative but still played the same games.”
“Ella wouldn’t be caught dead in a casino,” Aiden said, laughing, talking about the only girl of the quintuplets. Liam was the same age as them, but on their mother’s side. His father, Connor O’Malley, was Jolene Fierce’s brother.
“Never,” Aiden said. “Neither would Ivan. Hell, he wouldn’t even pay the money to go to Vegas.”
“Devin would have forced him on the plane,” he said of his other cousins on Jolene’s side. Devin worked for Mason at the brewery and he would have been one to go out and have fun in Vegas too. Devin’s younger brother, Ivan, might be forced to go, but he wouldn’t spend a dime if he could avoid it.
“Very true,” Aiden said. “So onto the good and bad news. What do you want first?”
“Bad,” he said. “Then it gives me something to look forward to.”
“Dean left when we were in Vegas last week.”
“Shit,” Liam said of one of his best line cooks in the pub. “Worse though because we know how much you hate interviewing.”
It’d been common knowledge that Aiden didn’t like to interview. He did it because he was picky about who worked in his restaurant or pub, but if he could push it off to his wife, Nic, at times. He did.
His wife, that was hand-selected by Aunt Jolene years ago for Aiden personally with no one knowing.
“I do. And the good news is I didn’t have to. My lovely wife took care of it before I came home.”
“Sweet,” he said. “When do they start?”
“She started last week and she’s good. She’ll be in later today and I’ll introduce you. Want to know about her?”
“Nope,” he said. “I’ll learn everything I need to when we are working side by side. I’ll form my own opinion then.”
He never wanted to hear other’s opinions but rather would figure it out on his own.
“I figured you’d say that.” Aiden glanced up to look out of the glass window in his office. Liam turned his head and saw his Aunt Jolene talking with Aiden’s wife, Nic. Both of them turned and waved. “I wonder what my mother is doing here. You better run.”
“What?” he asked. “No. She isn’t pulling one over on me. We all know she set up Devin and Hope. She thinks she’s being cute and moving onto me. Not happening.”
“We all say that,” Aiden said. “Or said it. Yet everyone falls for it somehow. Most times we don’t even know how it happens.”
“It’s not happening to me,” he said firmly.
“You know your calm demeanor always drives her insane.”
“Which is why I overact it with her too,” he said, laughing.
Aiden shook his head. “I’m glad you’re back.”
“Me too,” he said, turning and getting to work.
He didn’t get very far before his Aunt Jolene came running over to him. That woman never moved slow. Liam continued on his path to the pub kitchen but slowed his steps down more. It’d drive his aunt nuts that she’d have to almost crawl beside him.
“Liam,” Aunt Jolene said. “Welcome back.”
“Thanks, Aunt Jolene. What brings you here today?”
His aunt and uncle retired years ago, leaving the day-to-day operations of the pub and restaurant—the whole franchise—in their children’s hands. “I was talking to Nic. I’m going to have Evan for the day tomorrow and asked if I could take Anthony too. The two boys always have fun together.”
Aiden’s son, Anthony, had turned two not that long ago, Brody’s son, Evan, a few months prior to that. The toddlers got together and ran around like Tom and Jerry getting into everything and anything. Liam got tired just from watching them, but his aunt loved every minute of it.
“I’m sure,” he said, still walking slowly.
His aunt would take a few steps faster and get ahead of him and then have to stop and wait. He loved doing this to her. She shot him a look that she knew what he was up to.
“So you’ve got new staff. I bet you’re thrilled you didn’t have to interview her.”
“Interviewing doesn’t bother me that much,” he said. “I’m not like your son. I just hate to lose anyone and Dean was a good worker.”
“He was ready to leave,” Aunt Jolene said. “His passion is pastry and cake design and there isn’t much of a need for that here above what Aiden has on hand. I keep telling Aiden to expand and he tells me he knows what he is doing.”
He laughed. “Aiden sure does. I’m happy for Dean getting what he wants though.”
“Everyone should get what they want.”
They finally got to the kitchen, him pulling up the special menu on the computer. The pub would be opening in twenty minutes. The prep staff would have gotten everything out that needed to be. The specials didn’t always fall under him running the grill. He had moved around and could, but he stayed there the most and kept the pace smooth and the flow for what Aiden expected.
“They should,” he said, looking everything over. “Anything else you needed from me today?”
“No. Just wanted to welcome you back,” his aunt said, sighing. There was more going on, he knew it.
“And you just did.”
“Valentine’s Day is coming up soon.”
“Yes, it is. I’ll be working like I do most holidays. No, I don’t need you to introduce me to anyone.”
“I didn’t say I had anyone for you.”
“You always have someone for me,” he said. This had been going on for over a year. It’d just increased in the past few months. He could get his own woman when he was damn good and ready.
He wasn’t ready. He worked a crazy amount of hours and they were all nights and weekends. He’d found most women didn’t care for that.
“I don’t think so this time. I’ve decided to give up on you. I don’t have the patience that you do. You’re too slow for my liking.”
He laughed. “It’s the perfect pace for me.”
She squinted one eye at him. “Fine. I get the hint. You have a good day.”
She turned and all but ran out of the pub kitchen toward Nic’s office in the back.
Dodged that bullet.
“You didn’t get anywhere, did you?” Nic asked.
“No,” she said to her daughter-in-law. “I can’t stand there and wait him out. I thought I could, but he made me almost crawl to keep his pace to get to the kitchen.”
Nic grinned. “He does that on purpose.”
“I know he does. He wanted to know who I was trying to set him up with and I said I was giving up. He’s too slow.”
“You don’t think he believed that, do you?” Nic asked.
“No clue. I can never figure him out as much as I wish. I’m going to count on you to tell me how it goes when he meets Margo later. When does her shift start?”
“She’ll be here at three. I might be gone by then. You’re going to have to ask Aiden if you want to know. And you owe me for this. I hate not being completely honest with my husband.”
She put her hands on her hips and stared at Nic. “I didn’t ask you to lie to my son. What did you lie about?”
“I didn’t lie about anything. He was thrilled I interviewed and hired Margo. He never asked if you picked her or not and I didn’t volunteer it.”
“Then that isn’t lying,” she said, sitting down in the chair across from Nic.
“You’re right. And the only reason I was willing to let it go is because you always put the business’s interest first.”
“That’s right. I do. I recommended you and it worked out wonderfully.”
Nic smiled. “It did. And I’ll always be thankful for that. Margo had a good strong resume and great references. She got a hard knock being terminated for the reason she was, but we can deal with that here. It won’t happen again.”
“No,” Jolene said. “We’ve got security to take care of that. Not to mention most people won’t mess with my boys.”
“I felt bad for her but so far she is working out. I’m sure she’ll get along with Liam well.”
“Everyone gets along with Liam,” she argued.
“They do. He’s easy to be around. But you and I both know you want something. That might not happen.”
“I know. It’s a chance I’m willing to take. I know my family well.”
Liam was the calm in a storm, but when his fuse was lit, if he couldn’t extinguish it before the end, all hell could break out. She was thinking it was time a storm sucked her nephew up.
“You do,” Nic said. “I’ve no words on what you are doing. But if my husband gets wind of this—and you know he will—I’m not saying I don’t know your intentions.”
“I’m hurt you think I would ask you to lie to my own flesh and blood.”
Nic smirked at her. “Talk about a lie and a guilt trip there.”
She narrowed her eyes. “You fit in too well in this family. Speaking of that, I think it’s time Anthony had a sibling. Don’t you?”
“I’m not falling for it, Jolene. If or when Aiden and I want another child, we’ll do it on our time.”
“It was worth a shot,” she said, smiling. “Anthony loves being around other kids.”
“And there are plenty in this family for him to play with. Go bug one of your other daughters-in-law.”
Her shoulders dropped. “I can’t. Alex says she is done. Cade wants more, but Alex said unless he can figure out a way to carry them, the twins knocked everything out of her. She isn’t doing it again.”
“Cade can’t change a diaper without gagging and Alex is sick of watching it. She has double duty going there. Pun intended.”
“I know. Cade never did outgrow that. Aimee has two already and said Evan is more than a handful and she isn’t sure she is ready just yet.”
“That’s right,” Nic said. “We all work.”
“I worked too,” she said.
“Not until the kids were in school,” Nic said.
“Daycare is hard to find for five kids. And it’s expensive,” she argued.
She’d wanted to go back to work earlier than she had, but it was easier to just talk things through with Gavin back then on the pub. If she needed to fill in, she could normally get one of her siblings to watch the kids for a few hours but knew it was hard on everyone.
“It is,” Nic said. “What about Jessica and Ella?”
“Jessica said she isn’t sure she wants more. The twins are three. Now is the time to try for another. They are out of diapers and self-sufficient.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Nic said.
“Ella wants another. Madison will be one in a few months. Hopefully she is next. Or you?” she said. “You’re younger than Ella.”
“Which means I’ve got more time. And speaking of time, I’ve got work to do.”
“Fine. I know when I’m being dismissed.”
Jolene got up and walked out. She saw Aiden in his office and popped her head in. He lifted up from his phone and said, “No. We aren’t working on another baby, but I sure do enjoy trying to make one.”
Her shoulders dropped. “You’re wife sucks telling you what we talked about.”
Aiden laughed at her as she turned and left. Her plan was in motion and now it was time to wait and see what her slow nephew did next. That would have to be good enough.