“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?”
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