Early Access: The Taste Of A Smile Part 7 ‘Combo Deal’ Excerpt



How are you? I hope this has been a good week so far. If not, it’s almost weekend … Or rather: you’re halfway there! 😀

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Enjoy the excerpt and see you back here on Saturday!


Mary checked her phone.“Shit,” she mumbled.

Hannah still hadn’t replied to her message.

Mary reluctantly placed the device back on her desk and reached for the cup of coffee with a tired sigh. Mary had woken up at 4 AM and hadn’t been able to go back to sleep. She had gone to work early instead.

Her eyes were burning and a dull ache in the back of her head was making it hard for her to focus. Her patience was wearing thin too. She was waiting for news about Lucile and she hadn’t heard any apart from what Lex had shared yesterday.

Not that Hannah had to keep her up to date, of course. She evidently had better things to do. Mary wasn’t even part of the family. But she was worried and she had hoped to get some good news by now.

Reading her emails as a distraction had not exactly helped. It had only made her more grumpy. The many messages from Lex had a lot to do with that.

The shitty part? Mary had promised to respond to every single email. That was the deal she had made with Lex after she had heard the news about Lucile yesterday.

Mary had been shocked to find out Lucile had had a stroke. It had been even more unsettling to hear that Lucile was still in intensive care with no guarantee of a good outcome.

Mary had felt the tears stinging as she thought of her old boss fighting for her life. Lex too had looked sullen and lost. They had sat in silence for a few minutes, staring down at their hands.

Once the first shock had worn off, Mary had decided there was only one thing she could do to make things a little better. She could make sure Hannah had absolutely nothing to worry about when it came to the store.

“You’re right. We cannot call Hannah. Can we find a way to get through this week?” she had asked Lex.

Lex pursed her lips, thinking. “Maybe we can compromise,” she said.

Mary nodded eagerly. “I’d like that. Any suggestions?”

“What if I agree to follow the schedule you came up with?” Lex said slowly.

Mary gestured for her to keep going, knowing Lex would want something in return.

Lex pointed at Mary’s laptop. “I’ll look into the numbers after work and you’ll answer my questions over email the next morning?”

It was a comprise she could live with, Mary thought.

“Okay, that works for me,” she had said.

After that, she had hardly seen Lex for the remainder of the day. Karen had shown Lex the personnel side of things. Once the store was closed, the assistant manager had sent Mary a text on her way home.

Lex had been a cooperative student all day, it said. Mary had been glad to hear it, but still had her doubts about Lex. And so she had spent a large part of the night staring at the ceiling and listing all the things she didn’t get.

For example, why hadn’t Lex told her about Lucile’s stroke as soon as she had walked into the store? Surely this was something she should share immediately rather than in the middle of a fight?

In the morning, Mary had hoped to see an update in one of Lex’s emails, but there was none. Lex had only sent questions about the store. Or rather: the bottom line of the store.

Mary now had to explain why several products got a prominent spot in the store. Or why they weren’t pushing the hot chocolate more. Lex had even sent suggestions to reduce the number of coffee specials and to cut staff.

Mary reread Lex’s last email with a deep sigh. “This can’t be what Hannah had in mind for the future,” she thought.

Doubts had kept creeping up in her mind all night and morning. Maybe she had made a mistake? Perhaps she shouldn’t have accepted the promotion? Her biggest regret was leaving her team and customers behind in the uncaring hands of Lex.

Mary had worked so hard to give this place a unique atmosphere. Leroy Chocolates had so much to offer to people who wanted to discover new flavors. The whole team was focused on helping customers find the perfect treat.

Mary had tried to explain the basics of her approach to Lex yesterday, but Hannah’s cousin had seemed unimpressed and, worse, uninterested.

Hannah had said that convincing Lex would be her first challenge on the new job. But opening Lex’s eyes to a different approach seemed like an impossible task. Mary wasn’t even sure she wanted to try.

“Maybe Hannah overestimated me,” Mary worried. She looked down at the notepad on which she had written all Lex’s questions. Mary traced the lines on the paper.

“Why is this woman getting under my skin so much? I have never been this insecure before,” she thought.

She pushed herself up and walked to the glowing review of the store on the wall. “Results of my approach in black and white,” she thought. She had yet to see proof of Lex’s success, right?

Mary studied the picture in the newspaper clipping. It showed the café filled with customers chatting and sipping their drinks. Maybe dealing with customers first-hand will give Lex a new perspective?” she wondered.

Mary loved her customers, but she wouldn’t say helping them was easy. She decided then and there she would change the schedule. She would arrange for Lex to work behind the register today instead of at the café.

Lex could observe Chrissy in the morning and then work the register by herself in the afternoon. Mary smiled as she remembered her own disastrous first day behind the register. She doubted Lex would have a better experience.

Actually, she was sort of counting on Lex getting into some kind of trouble. It might be the best way to get her to realize she had no idea what she had gotten herself into.

Maybe it would force Lex to start listening to Mary now and then. Yes, Mary decided, Lex needed to stop being so damned sure of herself all the time.


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