Bailey and Curt are back for their third installment featuring candy hearts, awkward conversations, and a little heat. We also get to meet Craig, the owner of the bar Bailey met Curt at in “The Night Before Thanksgiving.”
“I don’t know why they don’t just alphabetize these,” Bailey muttered as he searched the shelves of spices. He stumbled as a small child ran into his leg. Grocery shopping on a Wednesday evening was not supposed to be this hectic.
Craig leaned on the handle of the cart next to him. He’d taken the evening off and had offered to accompany Bailey shopping, although Bailey suspected he was really there to gather information. Craig was no gossip, but years of bartending — not to mention being Bailey’s best friend — had resulted in a certain interest in other people’s lives. Craig spent so much time listening to everyone’s problems, he’d become accustomed to getting details out of Bailey that no one else did. “Same reason I have those little menu placards on the bar.”
“Huh?” Bailey glanced over his shoulder. “What does your menu placement have to do with grocery store organization?”
“Both encourage impulse buys. You see a bar menu and suddenly remember you love onion rings. You see basil and suddenly remember you’re all out.” He shrugged. “It’s brilliant marketing, really.”
Bailey sighed. “I just need cardamom. But onion rings sound good. Want to grab some food on the way home?”
“I could eat. What are you so wound up about, anyway?”
“I’m not wound up.” Bailey studiously avoided looking at Craig. “I’m trying to plan dinner.”
“Last time I checked, you hadn’t even invited the guest of honor.” There it was: Craig’s ulterior motive.
“I will. I don’t want it to seem like a big thing.” Bailey finally located the cardamom seeds. “Because it’s not.” He deposited the jar in the cart and started walking toward the front of the store.
Craig pushed the cart and caught up with Bailey. “So it’s, what, a not-romantic dinner with your maybe-boyfriend on Valentine’s Day?”
Bailey refrained from giving Craig a snarky look. “At least I’m not going to be pouring beer for lonely travelers all night.”
“Touché.” Craig rolled up behind him as he got in line and started unloading his groceries. “Maybe I’ll get lucky and meet a hot guy whose flight gets canceled at the last minute. I’m sure I could think of some way to cheer him up.”
This time, Bailey did glare.
“Oh, hey, you need these for dessert.” Craig tossed a box of candy hearts on the conveyor belt. “Maybe you can use them as a conversation starter. Break the ice.”
“Keep it up and see if I cover for you next time you need someone to take care of the bar.”
“Just trying to be helpful, man.”