SWEET SPOT SERIES
Jake tempered his excitement as he hurried around tourists strolling from shop to shop. One block. Two. He turned left at the end of the second and immediately saw Battista’s.
No one could miss the Italian restaurant. Not with the stone façade, the muted red, green and cream colored banner across the front. He hurried on until he stood before the building. His gaze behind the dark sunglasses studied a painted sign of what looked like the Tuscan countryside.
He took a deep breath to compose himself. In just a few short minutes he could very well be face to face with Tony, someone who’d never really left his thoughts in all these years. In an effort to collect his roiling emotions, he retrieved the brochure and flipped it open. Standard stuff. A menu, directions to the business—nothing out of the ordinary. Not until he folded it closed and noticed the back.
Immediately, stunned thoughts crashed inside his head. There was a note from the current owners, Tony and Gabi Santoria. His mouth sagged open as he sank to a concrete bench in disbelief.
He’d come this far for what? To discover that he’d lusted after a straight man who was now married?
Jake rested the back of his head against the stone behind him and closed his eyes, giving himself more time to digest the two entwined names. How could he have been so wrong? Unless… His eyes flew open. What if this Gabi was Tony’s sister? He wracked his brain, thinking of the past. Had Tony ever said anything about a sibling? Nothing. And he would never know if he didn’t get off his ass and go inside and find out. He rose with purpose, took a deep breath and opened the door.
Swiping off the sunglasses, it took a second to adjust to the dim interior. Once that was accomplished, he walked through the foyer, past the lounge and restrooms, and stopped at the hostess station, subconsciously enjoying the many different aromas wafting about to mix with one another to create a mouth-watering anticipation for anyone who was hungry. Ducking his head around the corner, Jake realized he’d accidently picked a good time to visit. It was two forty-five. Therefore only a few tables were occupied.
The sign said to wait for seating, so he did as he watched a slim woman with short blonde hair move from table to table, checking on customers. Gabi? Couldn’t be. Or at least he hoped the woman wasn’t. She was fair of skin and didn’t look like she possessed any genes attached to a Mediterranean heritage.
As she turned she spotted him and hurried over. “Hi. I’m sorry I didn’t see you standing there. Welcome to Battista’s. Would you like a table?”
“No thank you, ma’am. I was passing through the area and, well, I wanted to see if the owner was around.”
“Well, you found her. At least one of us.” She stretched out a hand. “I’m Gabi Santoria.”
Jake swallowed hard and took her hand knowing, but not wanting to admit there was no way in hell this woman could be Tony’s sister. “Nice to meet you,” he returned. “I stopped by because I’m wondering if there’s a Tony Santoria here. He and I were in basic training together in Florida about twelve years ago. Not sure if he ever mentioned me. My name is Jake Sunday.”
“Jake?” She peered at him closely.
For a quick moment, Jake thought maybe she’d heard of him, until she continued.
“I…um, don’t remember him ever saying anything but, yes, Tony was in basics in Florida.”
“Is he around or could I leave him a message?”
“Yes. Yes, he’s here.” Gabi pointed to the first booth as she stuffed menus back into a wall pocket. “If you’d like to sit and wait a minute here, I’ll go get him. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t left with our son for little league practice yet.” She took a step back. “I’ll go grab him.” She turned and waved at a waitress moving across the room. “Sarah? Can you keep an eye out if someone comes in? I’m going to take a short break.” The other woman nodded and went about her duties.
Jake’s jaw clenched as he stared at Gabi’s back until she disappeared through the kitchen’s swinging doors. His fists curled around the edge of the table.
They had a son.
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