Scarlet is content to be the product of two very different cultures and slightly oddball parents. She has her job, her home, and her family so why would she want anything else?
The wild magic in her veins is looking for an outlet, and it wants to bring for the next generation.
With no prospects in her area, the Crossroads is offered as a chance to find a mate, so Scarlet packs light and heads out to seek the man she hasn’t even thought about.
Hiro is an architect doing design work for the Crossroads as he has for years. When he sees the lady with brilliant hair dismissing an eager suitor with the deft twist of her wrist, bringing the idiot to his knees, Hiro knows that he wants to find out what brought her to the Crossroads, even if he can’t offer it to her.
She flipped the cards over, one by one. They said the same thing no matter how many times she drew them. She was at a crossroads. Love at the crossroads.
Scarlet growled and pulled the cards back into a deck. She was going to be late for work, and nothing made folks who needed caffeine more aggressive than having to wait for it.
On her way to the front door, she paused to put her shoes on while her hand groped for her apron.
“Scarlet, you are going to be late,” her mother’s voice called it out from the kitchen.
“I will be on time if I leave now. Night, Mom.”
“Have a good shift, dear.” Her mom remained in the kitchen, working on dinner.
Scarlet smiled and closed the door behind her as she headed out of the house, down the path, and into the woods. It took her five minutes to make it through the thick shade, but she eventually came out in an area as wide open and bright as the path had been dim.
She pulled her apron on and was finished tying it when she walked through the door. The place was busy with hikers and locals. She stuck to the wall and made her way past the counter and into the back. “Hey, Dad.”
He smiled. “You are right on time, Scarlet. What is your mom up to?”
“Making your dinner. My guess is you have half an hour.” As she spoke, she started pulling the coffees that weren’t simply coffee. Her mouth may be moving, but her hands were busy. Her hands were always busy if she could manage it.
They cleared the backlog with Sara taking orders and Scarlet and her father filling them. They worked well together, not stumbling into each other, and soon, the shop was full of folks who were happily slurping their coffees.
Arthur Wilson cocked his head and left Sara at the counter for a moment while he went to the small office. Scarlet followed him.
“What’s up, Dad?”
“What did the cards say, darlin’?” He smiled slowly.
“They were weird. They kept saying that I was at a crossroads. That love would be in the crossroads. I have no idea what it was about, but six layouts later and it was the same. I am stumped.”
He sighed. “I will walk you back to the house tonight, and I will explain what it means then. Okay?”
She gave him a thumbs-up and headed back to work. Six hours of working the shop and closing up would drag by; she had the feeling that she was going to hear something important. She almost flubbed her next order just thinking about it.
She worked away from the front and just kept the coffee flowing. Their mix of locals, campers, hikers, and the occasional lost soul who could smell coffee were as lively as ever.
When they announced the closure of the shop, it was met with groans. The run for the last of the pastries made an intense ten minutes, but the happy faces that left the shop were a great way to end the night.
“I’ll take the shop if you take behind the counter?” Scarlet smiled.
“Of course. You keep it clean enough for surgery back here.” Sara grinned and started scrubbing.
Scarlet wiped down the tables, top and bottom, wiped off the chairs, and then went to get the broom.
As she swept, she hummed. There was nothing she liked better than a clean wood floor. Sara got the mop ready for her, and when all of the pastry, paper, and pebbles were cleared up, it was time to give it a good scrubbing.
Sara went through and put the chairs and stools on the tables, leaving a clear path for Scarlet to finish mopping up. The floors gleamed, and the smell of coffee and lemon oil filled the air.
“Okay, Sara. Have a good night. I’ll lock up.” Scarlet waved her off.
“See you later, Scarlet. Have a good night.”
Scarlet washed out and hung up the mop in the back. There was always a need for a clean mop, and keeping it ready for action was important.
The warm water felt good on her hands as she scrubbed up. The dishwasher was running, the washing machine for aprons and towels was whirring, and the moment that all the mechanicals were quiet, she hung up the wash in the back entryway where the staff came and went. It was open to the air and guarded with netting to keep out mosquitos.
A third check to make sure that the door was locked and she moved through the coffee shop toward the back, turning lights off as she went.
She wasn’t worried about locals breaking into the shop. All the trouble they had had over the years were due to campers trying to get grabby. Her dad had sorted them out, but then, no one expected a big foot to come charging out of the woods when his daughter called.
Scarlet wrinkled her nose at the memory. For some reason, when confronted by eight feet of snarling and hairy furious father, they had all pissed themselves. It was definitely not dignified, nor was the high-pitched scream that came out of them afterward.
“You are amused by something.” Her father’s voice came out of the woods.
“Of course. I am a cheerful person by nature.” She grinned and followed the deep shadow into the unending midnight beneath the trees.
“It was not a cheerful smile.”
She snickered. “No, it was not. Good catch.”
He turned and gave her a smile with his white fangs and red eyes glowing. “It was an easy guess. You are my blood, after all.”