This time I was alone managing the café. Al was off today, Calvin neglected to tell me. Once I got started with my shift, I decided to stop my internal complaints because Wednesday mornings were never as busy as Mondays, and I was getting an extra day off with pay to devote to my art. During a slow period, mid-morning, I made a mango smoothie with soymilk for myself. In between dancing to the pop music playing throughout the store and slurping, I heard someone say, “Nice tat.”
I froze, recognizing his voice immediately in disbelief. Based on the sound of his voice, the object of my obsessive thoughts stood a few inches away. I turned around, praying I didn’t look too crazy dancing. “Excuse me?”
“The tattoo on the back of your neck, the flower. I like it.” Dressed in a gray suit and blue tie, as handsome as the devil, Tre smiled and placed both hands on the counter.
I self-consciously touched my tattoo, having forgotten that the image of a sunflower was visible when I wore my hair up. “Thank you. Um…can I help you?”
“Yeah, I need you to make me another cherry vanilla latte. I swear I never had one as good as yours. You must have the magic touch.” He appeared ready for work, but his staff was absent. There were also no other customers in line or in the café. Just me and him. Utterly alone.
I blushed. “Thanks, but I only followed the directions. We all make it the same except we may be the only café that offers cherry flavoring. So, do you want cherries and whip cream on top again?” I tried to contain my excitement and respond in a professional manner as I moved to stand directly in front of the counter, mere inches from him. I can’t let him get to me again now that I’m a grown-ass woman.
“Yep. This time I want four cherries and whip cream, please.” He tilted his head and looked at me. “I definitely think it’s you and it’s not just the cherries. I’ve had two more lattes at two different places since I had the one you made for me, and all I could think was that Raini Blue makes the best iced vanilla latte.”
I almost couldn’t breathe. How did he know my name? Did he really remember me? “What? How did you know my name?”
He frowned slightly and then pointed to my very visible name tag on my uniform shirt. “Am I pronouncing your name right?”
“Yeah.” Disappointment reigned that he didn’t remember me, though deep down I’d already known that he meant more to me than I did to him. And he probably never knew my nickname. Only Royalty and my family called me Raini instead of Lorraine, and I used my middle name, Blue, as my last name now.
“Did I say something wrong?”
Crap. My expression must have shown on my face. “No. I need to fix your order so you can go. I can only imagine how busy you are.”
“Yeah, I’m always busy, and I don’t have much time today, but I also wanted to see you again.” He lightly touched one of my hands that rested on the counter.
At his almost caress, a small jolt traveled my body and I backed up. “Um, let me make your drink.”
Tre raised one eyebrow. “No need. I really don’t want a drink. I used it as an excuse to see you again. I was hoping you were alone.”
“You came here just to see me?” My feet remained planted on the floor, too nervous to move toward him again.
“As if you don’t have men hitting on you all of the time?” His eyes were so gorgeous and sexy as he grinned.
I folded my arms. “You’re hitting on me?”
“Isn’t that obvious?” he teased. “I show up again, as busy as I am, smiling in your pretty face, to get a latte that I could get anywhere or have any of my staff pick up for me. Man, I got to work on my game. Usually women know when I want them.”
“You’re the mayor. Why would I assume you were trying to talk to me?” I refused to acknowledge that he said that he wanted me, as if we were talking about the weather. I stared at him, wondering what he really wanted. He couldn’t possibly be so attracted to me after seeing me once that he would come back to my job during the middle of the week alone. He had to remember me.
“I am the mayor and a single man attracted to a beautiful woman.” Tre drummed his fingers on the counter. “A woman that I can’t stop thinking about.”
I remained silent, unsure how to respond to his direct approach. This man wasn’t playing with me.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you my number, and if you feel comfortable, text me your number.” He pulled out a card from his wallet. “I promise I’ll call you no matter how busy I am.” His cell rang and he checked it. “I got to run. Call me and we can have dinner or do whatever you want. I would love to take you out and get to know you better. Hope I see you soon, Raini.”
As he hurried away, I held the card in my hand and stared at the gold embossed lettering, knowing I would never use it. I would never be comfortable around him or in his world. I intended to throw the card in the trash, but instead put it in my pocket. I guess I wanted proof that seventeen years after he kissed me, Tre LaSalle finally asked me out.
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