“There he is again.” Katie ducked behind the cash register and pointed toward the open area of the coffee shop.
Elsie stood on tiptoe. “Who?”
“That guy I told you about who has been in here every night for the past five nights. Every time I look over there, he’s looking at me.” Not that Katie was opposed to the looks, but there was something about this particular guy that made her insides quake, like she’d never seen a good-looking man before.
Giving up on the pretense of glancing, Elsie opted to stare. “He’s cute. What’s the problem?”
“I think he wants to ask me out.” The thought had her hands trembling, and her mouth going dry.
“And that would be a bad thing, why? Mocha Latte small!” Ella called out to the woman waiting with the baby carriage. “Have a good day.”
“I’ve just come out of one relationship. I don’t want to go straight into another one.” That wasn’t entirely honest. She didn’t just come out of the relationship. She and Justin had been over for almost eight months now.
Elsie snorted. “Yeah, cause eight months is like yesterday, right? You and he were over a long time before you broke things off with him.” Her eyes lit up. “Why don’t you go ask Mr. Handsome if he wants to ask you out?”
Heat rushed up Katie’s neck. “What? No way. I can’t do that.” For one, even the thought embarrassed her.
“Fine. I’ll do it for you.” Elsie started toward the swinging door that separated the back of the counter from the front of the shop, but Katie hurried after her and caught her arm.
“No. Don’t. He’s looking again.”
“Then go ask him. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Katie imagined all sorts of things. Still, the guy continued to look at her, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a crooked grin. She turned her back on her him and adjusted her hair out of his line of sight. “I’ll just go over and see if he needs a coffee refill.”
“We don’t offer free refills.” Elise wore a smirk.
“Today we do.” Clutching the coffee carafe for courage, she slipped out from behind the counter and marched, well, shuffled, toward the man’s table.
Seated in the far corner of the shop, he had a laptop in front of him, a briefcase on the floor, and a tablet to his right. He looked all business, and her stomach knotted. What if she was wrong?
“Would you like a refill?” Her voice squeaked.
He looked up, giving her a full view of beautiful, blue eyes. Sliding his cup closer, he smiled again. “Sure.”
She poured the fresh coffee carefully. “Listen, I know this might sound strange, but I’ve been seeing you in here a lot this week.”
Now he studied her like she was a prize science project. “I like to work here. The atmosphere’s good.”
“Oh. I thought there might be another reason.”
“Like?” She had his full attention.
Great. Perfect. She’d made a fool out of herself. “Never mind. Enjoy your coffee.” She turned and began a quick hustle back to the safety of the barista station.
“Hey,” he called out to her, stopping her in her tracks. She didn’t look back but heard his chair scrape against the tile. “You thought I wanted to ask you out?”
Could her humiliation get any greater? “I said never mind.” Now she picked up speed and made it behind the counter. A part of her wanted to duck into the stock room, but only she and Elsie were manning the front so she couldn’t hide.
He walked up to the counter next to the register and laid a dollar and some change next to it. “That’s for the extra coffee since I know it’s not free.”
“Thanks. Fine. Thanks.” Katie wanted him to go. As fast as he could.
“You weren’t wrong.”
Her hands stilled on the jug of milk. “What?” From the corner of her eyes, she saw Elsie’s huge grin, but all she could focus on was the man’s beautiful smile.
“Been a while, and I’m out of practice.”
“Me, too.” Katie slid the money off the counter. “So you do want to ask me out?”
“Well, yeah.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Because honestly, the coffee here sucks. So what do you say?”
“I’d say it would be nice to know your name first.”
“Benjamin. Ben for short.”
Katie untied her apron. “I’m off in ten minutes.”
A slow grin spread across his face. “Then how about we go get some better coffee?”
Beth sifted through the layers of lace inside her grandmother’s woven basket. Each touch brought back memories of sitting at her knee while Grandma told her stories of queens and kings who lived happily ever after. What Beth wouldn’t give to hear her sweet, melodic voice again.
Her fingernail caught the edge of a piece of paper, and she dug into the lace to retrieve an envelope that bore her name. Her grandmother’s familiar handwriting tugged at her heart, and she held the note close to her chest before withdrawing a lilac-scented piece of stationery.
Beth, this lace is yours. I hope you will use it for the wedding dress of your dreams. Love, Grandma.
“Grandma, you always were trying to get me married.” Beth swiped away tears before tucking the note beneath her leg. “If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.” She returned her attention to the basket in search of the delicate, blue lace her mother wanted. Instead, her fingers encountered another envelope—a note addressed to Lucas.
Beth’s heart quivered. Lucas Bryant. She’d spent most of her high-school years pining over him, hoping he’d start to feel something for her. They’d shared one dance at the prom, and he’d given her a gentle kiss on the cheek before wishing her a good night.
After graduation, she’d given up, but she’d never forgotten him. How could she when he lived right next door to her grandmother? Every time she came to town, she saw him. And now, her grandmother wanted her to see him again. She could put the letter in the mail. Or she could walk next door and give it to him like an adult.
“He would have asked me out by now, Grandma. I don’t know why you never could accept that we weren’t meant to be.” Reluctance in every move, she got to her feet.
The cool, fall air caressed her face as she crossed the grass to Lucas’ house. He opened the door on the first knock, an uncertain smile on his face.
“Hi, Beth. Didn’t think you were still here. Come on in.”
“It’s taking longer than I thought to clean out grandma’s house.” A lump formed in her throat.
He put aside the hammer he’d been holding and waved her toward the kitchen. “You look like you could use a cup of coffee.”
What she didn’t need was to be closer to him. “No, I-I can’t stay. I just found this in Grandma’s lace basket and wanted to bring it to you.”
Lucas’ brown-eyed gaze settled on the front of the envelope. “Mattie always did like to hide things in that basket.” He took out the note, and Beth watched as he read the cursive lines.
Even as curious as she was, she couldn’t ask him what her grandmother had written. “She left me one, too. Told me she wanted me to have her basket of lace. She hoped I’d make the dress of my dreams.”
“Well, this makes a little more sense then.” He held the note open with two fingers so Beth could read it.
Lucas, Beth has the lace. Now all she needs is a reason to make the dress.
Tears, a combination of embarrassment and grief, rolled down Beth’s cheeks. “I’m so sorry. Grandma was always a romantic at heart.”
He cleared his throat and looked down at the ground. “There’s more to it than that.”
“What do you mean?”
His gaze stayed on his boots while his hands folded the envelope into a tiny square. “Mattie knew that I…”
After a long pause, she prompted him. “That you what?” She caught a fleeting glance at his face before his gaze dropped again.
“This isn’t the right time, Beth.”
Her heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t be trying to tell her…no, it was impossible. “We’ll be putting Grandma’s house on the market soon.” She hoped the words didn’t sound like a push.
“What?” His gaze lifted. “I didn’t think you’d sell the house.”
“I can’t live in it. It has too many memories. As soon as I get it cleaned out, I’ll be going back to Asheville.”
“Then you won’t have a reason to come back to Brevard, I guess. And here I was thinking I was doing the right thing by waiting.” He sighed. “It’s never easy to know when it’s too soon.”
She placed a hand against his chest, and his heart raced beneath her palm. “Lucas, what is it?”
He blew out a breath and curled his fingers around hers. “Mattie knew I had feelings for you.”
She wanted to melt into him. “What? After all these years…you never said anything.”
“I know. I wanted to, planned to, but you left right after high school. Then you were dating that guy.”
“I’m not dating him anymore.”
His gaze lifted and connected with hers. “My parents wanted me to focus on education.”
“And you did what they wanted you to do. I always wondered why I never saw you with someone in school.”
A small smile curved his lips. “Dad wasn’t well.” He stopped and looked down, his silence reminding Beth of his father’s passing almost immediately after graduation.
“I’m sorry. I know it still hurts.” She took a step closer to him, offering silent comfort.
“It does. I wasn’t myself for a long time after he passed. It took me some time to get back on my feet. By then, you were dating someone. I figured I’d lost my chance.” Their gazes connected. “I’m better at swinging a hammer than I am at talking about things like this. So if it’s too late…”
“It’s not.” She took his hand in hers. “There’s plenty of time.”
“When do you have to go back to Asheville?” He captured her other hand and threaded his fingers through hers.
“I’m a freelance artist, remember? I can make my own schedule.”
Hope lit up his eyes. “So you can stay for a while?”
“I think it’s going to take me longer to clean out grandma’s house than I originally planned.” She gave him an impish smile. Inside, she wanted to dance across the lawn, but outwardly, she remained composed, a lady as her grandmother would have wanted.
“Well,” he brushed a tendril of hair away from her cheek, “maybe you can make some time for dinner.”
“I think that’s possible.”
“Yeah?” He tipped her face up with two fingers underneath her chin. “I’ve been waiting a long time to kiss you, Beth Harrister, but I’m going to wait a little longer.”
Disappointment flowed through her veins. “Why?”
“Because once I start, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop.” His lips touched her forehead.
Her breath stalled in her throat. “Dinner then? Tonight?”
She took a step back from him, reluctance in every move. Their gazes held as she moved away from him, down the steps, and out onto the vibrant, green grass.
Back inside the house, she knelt at her grandmother’s basket. “Thank you, Grandma. Thank you for never
giving up on anything…especially us.”
My thoughts, experiences, challenges, and goals. Right here. At least once a week or so. Oh, and opinions, too. Those will definitely come in. Join me!