Smokin'

By: Shirley Penick

To the heroes in our lives. From everyday heroes (male and female) that help us over rough patches in life to the men and women risking their lives for our freedom. Thank you for your love, caring, compassion, and dedication.





“I NEED THREE kid’s menus.” The woman directed her three offspring to their chairs. She moved the container holding the seasonings to the side, put the sugar and sweeteners on an adjacent table, as well as the jams, took the knife out of the rolled napkins for two of the place settings and sat with a huff.


Amber smiled. “We have the children selections listed on the last page and we can scale down any of the other entrees, if needed.”

“I’m not concerned about the food you are offering, I’m sure it’s fine.” She waved her hand as if the food was immaterial. “I need three kid’s menus.”

She’d already told this woman once, but she could repeat herself. “The children’s choices are on the back—”

The lady turned the menu over and glared at it then turned her glare to Amber. “Are you telling me you don’t have children’s menus? What kind of place is this? Let me speak to your manager. Now!”

Okay this woman was starting to piss her off, but she was determined to be a professional. Amber cleared her throat. “I own this restaurant, I am the manager.”

“Well, in that case, why don’t you have a proper children’s menu?”

“I’m sorry—”

“Like these.” The woman reached into her ginormous purse and threw a dozen pieces of paper on the table. Some flew onto the floor—crayons rolled out of the papers, across the table, and onto the floor, scattering in all directions. “We’ve been in every restaurant between here and Bismarck, North Dakota and they all have children’s menus. It gives them something to do while they wait for their food. Otherwise they make a mess and get into trouble. It’s common practice. When was the last time you left this podunk town? You need to get out more. Besides that, you don’t look old enough to own a restaurant. What are you? Twenty-two?”

Amber’s cheeks grew hot as everyone in her restaurant stopped to watch the rude woman. She opened her mouth to say that she was twenty-five, but couldn’t get any sound to come out.

From the corner booth, Jeremy put down his napkin and stood up. He walked over to the table. “Excuse me ma’am, I’m afraid it’s all my fault. Amber commissioned me to create a children’s menu to go along with the theme park, and I’ve been too busy on my book tour to get it done. I’m Jeremy Scott, the author of the Tsilly Adventure books.”

Amber stood there gaping at Jeremy. Everything he’d just said was a straight out lie, except for the part about him being the Tsilly books’ author and having been on a book tour. He was such a cutie, and when he turned on his charm women had no choice but to surrender to it. He had dark hair and dark eyes and Amber would bet money his body was amazing from being on the fire department. Most of the guys in town and some of the women were volunteer firefighters and she knew they kept in shape. Her brother, Chris, included. Jeremy and Chris had gone to school together from kindergarten right on through high school. He was pretty much a fixture in her restaurant for lunch and sometimes dinner, unless he was out of town on a book tour. He wasn’t exactly Mr. Personality; normally he was quiet and laid back, so him coming to her rescue with such a pack of lies was totally out of character, but very much appreciated.

The woman looked awestruck. “Oh, Mr. Scott! My children love your books. I didn’t mean to imply you…”

Jeremy laughed. “I have some advance copies of my latest release out in my car. How about I get your kids each a copy, to keep them occupied while they wait for their lunch? It’s not exactly a children’s menu, but it would serve the purpose. You go ahead and order while I run out and get them.”

The woman gushed, all fight and rudeness had evaporated. “Mr. Scott that would be wonderful. Children, what do you want to eat?”

Jeremy winked at Amber as he turned to go get the books. Her cheeks heated and not from embarrassment this time. She was not going to let a wink distract her from her job. He was a cutie, but a player—he always had some new woman on his arm. Not recently that she could recall, but still. She turned toward the table and started taking orders.





JEREMY HUFFED AS he jogged out to his Jeep to get the books for that obnoxious woman. Sometimes, fame came in handy. How dare that battle-ax take Amber to task. It wasn’t her job to keep that woman’s rugrats under control. Amber probably did need to have a children’s menu, but it was rude to embarrass her, in her own restaurant. She was a hard-working business woman who kept half the town fed, and she was so darn pretty to look at. Her food was great, but he could admit to himself that watching her bustle around was a good half of the reason he ate there every day. He’d been infatuated with Amber for years—not that he would admit that to anyone.