room, but I’ll sleep in my own bed as long as possible, thanks.”
Growing up, Katie had always been jealous of Josh’s sister. She’d hated leaving the Northern Star at the end of her mother’s workday and every year, when she made a wish on her birthday candles, she’d wished to live at the lodge. When she outgrew birthday wishes, she daydreamed about Josh realizing he was madly in love with her and asking him to marry her. As his wife, she’d spend her days helping him run the Northern Star and her nights in his bed. When her dad died, though, she turned her focus to saving the barbershop, and her dreams of being Mrs. Kowalski faded into the constant low hum of attraction that wouldn’t die.
She must have nodded off, because the next thing she knew, Josh was nudging her arm, her neck felt permanently kinked to the right, and they were parked outside the barbershop.
“Why didn’t you wake me up?” she asked, trying to get her head back in an upright position. And she was pretty sure she had a seat belt mark across her face. “I was supposed to keep you company while you drove.”
“Figured if you nodded off, you must need the sleep.”
After taking her seat belt off, Katie scrubbed at her face, trying to shake off the grogginess. She hated napping. Those first few seconds when she wasn’t in her bed and didn’t know what time it was always disoriented her.
“Go eat something and get some sleep.”
“Thanks for the ride,” she said, opening the door to a blast of cold.
“Stay away from Max.”
She might have argued the point with him, but it was too freaking cold to stand around having a pissing match. Instead she flipped him off as he drove away.
She’d just unlocked her door, which was next to the barbershop’s door, and gone up the stairs to her apartment when her cell phone rang. The caller ID said it was Hailey Genest, the town’s librarian. “Hello.”
“Have you eaten yet?”
Katie flopped down in her battered recliner, which might have been as old as her Jeep, and sighed. She knew she had peanut butter and jelly, but she wasn’t sure the last loaf of bread she’d bought hadn’t become a science project already. “Not yet. Josh and I went to the hospital to see Mom and I literally just got home.”
“Getting better. They seem pretty confident she’ll come home Monday.”
“Good news. Now, how about you meet me at the diner for supper.”
“It’s really freaking cold out there.” It would take forever to warm up her Jeep.
“I heard you’re moving in with Josh.”
Katie laughed. “Technically, yes.”
“Diner. Fifteen minutes. You know there’s no sense in putting me off.”
“Fine. But make it twenty.”
* * *
Katie waved to Ava, the older woman who worked the two-to-close shift at the diner, and then to Gavin in the pass-through window before sliding into the booth Hailey had chosen. It didn’t escape her notice they were sitting as far from the coffee counter as possible, which meant Hailey was expecting juicy details. She was going to be disappointed.
“I ordered us both hot chocolate,” Hailey told her. “With extra whipped cream.”
Hailey and Katie hadn’t been very close as kids. Hailey was two years older than Mitch so, other than a notorious tumble with him in the back of her dad’s new car, she hadn’t socialized a lot with the Kowalski kids and Katie was almost always with them. As adults, though, they’d become good friends. They even looked a little alike, though Hailey was curvier and her blond hair was lighter.
“Hot chocolate sounds perfect,” Katie said, and she almost got whipped cream on her nose when she leaned down to inhale it the second Ava set it in front of her.
“You girls know what you’re having?”
“Do you have any of Gavin’s macaroni-and-cheese left?” Hailey asked. “I’ve been hearing about it since last night.”
“I think there are three servings left. You want to try it,