by Kat Heckenbach -
Piper found nothing wrong with being called a servant, because she found nothing wrong with being a servant. And she could deal with the older woman’s attitude. She’d surely dealt with far worse.
But tears stung her eyes because those hateful words had come from Nik’s mother.
How had a woman like that raised a guy like Nik?
He stood beside Piper, arm tight around her waist. His eyes were narrow slits.
“She is not a servant, Mother,” he said in a hard whisper. “She’s only here covering for one of the waitresses who called in sick. She’s a chef!”
His volume increased and his nostrils flared. “And not just a chef. Your favorite. That ‘culinary masterpiece’ you were raving about the other night—she created that recipe!”
Heat rose to Piper’s cheeks at the pride in Nik’s voice. Pride in her. She chewed the corner of her lip, leaning into him.
The woman’s eyes widened as she sat at the table, hands wringing the cloth napkin. Her jaw moved as if she were about to open her mouth, but her lips stayed together. Her gaze flitted back and forth between Nik and Piper. And then she placed the napkin in her lap and looked down as she smoothed it with fingers ringed in sparkling gems.
“Well, a chef is a different story indeed.” She cleared her throat, and lifted her head to look at Piper as if nothing had happened.
Piper felt Nik stiffen.
“You have completely missed the point, Mother.”
Nik slid his arm from Piper’s waist and reached down to grab her hand, then tugged her away from the table.
Piper stumbled behind him until they’d passed the next table, then ground to a stop. “Nik, no.”
He turned to look at her, anger flaring in his eyes. “I will not spend another moment around that woman.”
“She’s your mother.”
He huffed and stared past Piper’s shoulder. “She’s so judgmental. Even if you were a waitress, she had no right saying that. I’m sick of it. She may have married for money, but I intend to marry for love.”
The floor seemed to sink out from under Piper’s feet, and she gripped Nik’s hand tighter to steady herself. Okay, he said marry, and he said love, but he’s just speaking in general terms…it doesn’t mean me…Piper pushed the bubbles of thought to the back of her mind. There was time to think about that later. She closed her eyes.
“I haven’t seen my mother since I was six. I barely remember her.” She opened her eyes. Nik’s face had softened. She gently brushed his dark bangs aside, and held her fingers against his jaw. “You only get one mother.”
He gave a half-smile and nodded, then pulled her into his arms. “Okay, I’ll go apologize.” Then softer, “But if she keeps it up, you have my permission to poison her food.”
“Stop it!” She pushed him away and smacked his arm. Then she turned back to the table.
Nik’s mother glared at them over a pinched nose and twisted lip as if she smelled something offensive.
Piper inhaled and squeezed Nik’s hand. She tilted her head toward his and whispered, “I may take you up on that.”