I gaze around me and see any number of cute round wooden tables available, and I can tell the seating wraps around to the other side of the encased pastry display. I like to watch people so I choose a seat in the middle of the cafe so I can see what’s going on around me. Not that I should be watching people. It seems I have studying to do. How very ironic for the school teacher, I think with a tiny snort, that has me reprimanding myself for poor manners I can no longer afford.
It’s not long before the college age boy behind the counter rings up my White Chocolate Mocha, and since it’s two o’clock and I haven’t eaten, I justify a chocolate muffin the size of Texas, and lamely promise to eat low fat popcorn --my ‘go to’ diet solution--for dinner. Finally, I’m sitting at my table, waiting for my coffee to be made and nibbling on my chocolate delight. Regretfully, I break out my netbook, wishing it was the other, not to be named, brand computer, but feeling hopeful I can afford one soon.
Once I’ve powered up I set a wine taster’s guidebook on my table. Flipping through the book, I find it is written with an assumption I know something about wine. I find Amazon on my search bar and type in ‘Wine for Dummies’ and get several choices. By the time I’ve picked one and I’m ready to read, my coffee has arrived and I sip the piping hot sweet concoction. It’s heavenly and I mentally roll back my sleeves and start reading.
I have no idea how long I have been reading, but I’m halfway through the ‘dummies’ book, I still feel like a dummy, when I hear, “You must be Sara.”
I look up to find a beautiful Hispanic woman in her mid-thirties with big striking brown eyes. She is wearing an apron, so I assume, she works here.
“Yes,” I respond. “I’m Sara.”
“I’m Ava, the owner here.” She sets a cup in front of me. “White Mocha. My guy Corey at the register told me what you ordered. Mark called over here and said to get you whatever you’ve been having on the house as a reward for perfect scores.” She laughs and rolls her tongue making a sexy sound. “Sounds sexy.”
I roll my eyes rather than my tongue. “If being tested on everything from art to opera is sexy, please shoot me now.”
She laughs. “I should have guessed. I know the crew next door well enough to know he’s put them all through the wringer.”
“How long have you known them?” I ask, thinking of Rebecca.
“I’ve been open five years and I’ve known Mark that entire time.” She wiggles a brow. “Why? You want gossip?”
I perk up at that. “You have gossip?”
“Honey, I always have gossip.” The phone rings and she glances over her shoulder. “Corey’s on break. I’ll be back.”
She rushes away and a sudden tingling sensation dances along my neckline and draws my attention to the edge of the pastry bar to my left. My lips part in surprise at the incredibly sexy man sitting a few feet away, and not just any incredibly sexy man, but the same man whose been haunting my thoughts almost as much as Rebecca these past twenty-four hours. Chris Merit is here. I can’t believe it. My stomach does a crazy butterfly flutter as my eyes meet his, and I see amusement in his expression. Not only is he here, I know he’s been watching me, and I have no idea how long he’s been here.
Why didn’t he come over? Why isn’t he coming over now? Should I go to him?
“I’m back,” Ava declares before I can decide what to do next, but I can barely pull my eyes from Chris. When I finally do, he’s still watching me. I can feel it in every inch of my body. I am so hyper-sensitive to this man I cannot focus on what Ava is saying. There is only Chris.
The bells on the coffee shop door chime but I barely hear them. I’m still looking at Chris and he’s still looking at me. His eyes are warm and I am warmer. I’ve known plenty of good looking men, but this one affects me beyond good looks, he sets every nerve I own to tingling.
“He comes here almost every day,” Ava whispers, and my gaze jerks to hers. I glance beyond her and see her employee has returned.
“You mean Chris Merit?” I ask, hungry for what insights into the artist she might share with me.
She nods. “There’s something about him, aye?”
“Aye,” I agree wholeheartedly.
“It’s the mystery I think. No matter how I try, I can’t draw him into a conversation of any substance. Well, that, and let’s just face it, the man makes denim and leather look as edible as chocolate.”
The bells ding again and a group enters the building. Ava sighs. “Regretfully I must attend the counter. We’ll have to chat later.”
I muster a smile, still feeling Chris’s stare, still tingling all over. “I suppose that steals my excuse to put off my homework.”
“Homework,” she repeats and rolls her eyes. “Mark really is the proverbial principal with a ruler in his hand. I feel sorry for his employees. How about lunch one day this week? We can set it up before you leave.”
“Yes, great,” I agree without hesitation. Ava seems quite nice and surely she knew Rebecca. Knows, I correct silently. There is no past tense. Rebecca is fine. “I’d like that.”
My cell phone rings and Ava scurries off to help her customer who has now morphed into several more. I dig my phone from my purse and forget everything but the call when I see Ella’s number. ”Ella?” I answer excitedly.