Hearts at Play

By: Melissa Foster

The Bradens, Book Six



Love in Bloom Series



Chapter One


KAT BURST THROUGH the stockroom doors of Old Town Tavern, nearly plowing into Brianna.

“Jeez, Kat. What the hell?” Brianna Heart had been working since noon, and she had another two hours to go before her ten-hour shift was over. She didn’t have the energy for Kat’s drama. Not tonight, when she still had to muster the energy to pick up Layla, her five-year-old daughter, from her mother’s house, get her to bed, and then make invitations for Layla’s birthday party.

“Patrick Dempsey is here. I saw him. He’s sitting at a table in the bar. Oh my God—he is even hotter in person.” Kat flipped her long blond hair over her shoulder and tapped her finger on her lip. “I wonder if he’s looking for a date.”

“Kat.” Brianna shook her head. “You’re crazy. You always think you see famous people. Not a lot of famous people are clamoring to get into Richmond, Virginia.”

“Bree, I’m telling you. I think I need to change my underwear.” She looked at Brianna and furrowed her perfectly manicured brows. “Oh, honey. Here. Let me help you with your hair. You could be the prettiest bartender slash waitress out there and you know it. Well, besides me, of course.” She began fluffing Bree’s straight, shoulder-length brown hair.

Brianna shook her head. “Please. If it is Patrick Dempsey, I’ll be the last person he’s looking at.” She wiped her hands on the little towel she kept looped over her belt at all times—because she didn’t have time to breathe, much less go searching for something to dry her hands on.

“Oh, come on, Bree. Don’t you want to get out of this place? What better way than with a famous sugar daddy?” Kat looked at her reflection in the glass and flipped her long blond hair over her shoulder again.

“Ugh. No, thank you. The last thing Layla needs is that kind of lifestyle, and the last thing I need is to stand in the stockroom talking about fictitious people. I love you, Kat, but I gotta get out there.” She patted her back pocket. “I need the tips. Layla’s birthday is coming up.”

“I can’t believe she’s going to be six. Gosh, that went quick. What does she want?”

“A puppy, a kitten, a bigger bedroom.” Brianna sighed. “But I think I’m gonna get her a winter jacket. Kill two birds with one stone.” She winked as she headed out of the stockroom and up to the bar. A quick scan told her that Patrick Dempsey was definitely not there. She snagged the empty glasses from the bar and wiped it down.

Mack Greenley, the manager of the bar, sidled up to Brianna. She’d worked for Mack for the past five and a half years, and though she was twenty-eight and he was only thirty-eight, he’d taken her under his wing as if she were his daughter.

“Booth.” Mack was a big man with a mass of brown hair and a thick, powerful neck.

“Got it.” Bree wiped her hands on the towel, grabbed an order pad, and went to the only occupied booth in the small bar. It was Thursday night at seven o’clock. Another half hour and the bar would be packed for Major League Baseball playoffs. Brianna focused on her order pad, thinking about Layla’s birthday and wishing she could afford the time or money to get her a pet, like she wanted. But as a single mother, she couldn’t balance working fifty hours each week with taking care of Layla and a pet. It was just too much. She pushed the thought away and feigned a smile.

“Hi, I’m Brianna…Bree. What can I get you?”

The guy in the booth lifted his head in her direction, and Brianna’s breath caught in her throat. She felt her jaw go slack. The man’s thick, windblown dark hair looked as if someone had just run their hands through it. While kissing his glorious lips and feeling that sexy five-o’clock shadow on their cheek. Jesus, he does look like Patrick Dempsey…on steroids.

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