The person behind the desk is a stranger.
It’s a man with long, wild reddish-brown hair, a beard that hasn’t seen a trim in probably months, and thick, assertively male eyebrows with a whole zip code of their own. He’s sprawled out, wide legged, in the receptionist’s chair, dwarfing it.
He’s also vaguely familiar, which means he’s probably the groom Hanna said she’d send my way, a guy whose bride put her foot down at the eleventh hour and demanded he spend a day getting “the works.” Lily must have left the door open when she came in, and he helped himself to a warmer place to wait, even though it’s not yet ten.
“There are plenty of chairs in the waiting area if you need a place to sit!” I call out cheerily, gesturing at the comfy armchairs on one side of the room. “That one’s mine.” I approach the desk. “Let me block some time out for you. You’re in luck because we’ve got plenty of room for walk-ins this morning. I’ve got someone who can do the hair and beard, and I can do your eyebrows if you want that, too.”
His eyes widen. “What’s wrong with the hair, beard, and eyebrows?”
Yikes. I definitely got the wrong end of that one. “I’m so sorry! I was expecting a client with a beard this morning, and I totally assumed you were him. But you’re…obviously not. You must be here for something else. Massage? Or a dip in the springs?” Ugh—it’s never good to start the day off insulting a potential client, even if he’s sitting in my chair. “There’s a ten-percent-off coupon here with your name on it, an apology for my making assumptions about who you were—”
“No.” He scowls. “I’m not here for any of that. I’m here because due to circumstances beyond my control and yours and probably even God’s, I’m your new receptionist.”
I laugh, reflexively. And then I realize I’m the only one laughing and my laughter sort of…falls off a cliff.
“Yeah,” the bearded stranger says. “It’s not even remotely funny. Although I think my grandfather would have disagreed. I’m pretty sure he’s laughing all the way to hell.”
“Your grandfather,” I repeat. I’m so lost, I couldn’t find my best self with a compass and map.
He stands and holds out a hand. And I realize he actually wasn’t manspreading. He was taking up all that space in the chair because he’s legitimately huge—at least six-two and built like a warrior god. He wears worn jeans and a T-shirt that reads, I’m a chemist. To save time, let’s assume I’m never wrong.
“Quinn Hott,” he says. “Hanna’s brother, Fox Hott’s second-youngest grandkid. And your new receptionist.”