| 2 | Quieting Night ||

She gasped, when he grabbed her breast with the napkin in his right hand. “You’re damn lucky it’s iced coffee.”

She stood there lost for words while he palmed her. Whether in an attempt to dry her off or grope her, she wasn’t certain; though, she was, for some reason, ok with the latter. She should have pulled away in shock and told the man she was capable of cleaning herself up. That, however, would have been the sensible thing to do. She was in no state to be that.

A smile pulled up the edge of his lips. Mischief tugged the corner of his dark eyes as they raked over Lacey’s face and then along the trail of coffee running down the front of her shirt.  

He went to the counter for more napkins and returned to help her dry off.  

She watched him while she got coffee off her face. She’d look away when their eyes would catch. She took in the difference in his appearance: long hair, facial hair trimmed into a goatee. His mouth set in a way that told her he was troubled. She cocked her head to the side, racking her own brain, wanting to know what was going through his.

“Thanks.” She said, when he finished. Her voice was barely above a whisper, but her heart thudded in her ears. She’d dreamt, and even the best of those that felt so real paled in comparison to how she felt in that moment. It was absurd, she knew, but she couldn’t stop the feeling, the thoughts, any more than she could stop the sun from setting in the west.  

“What are you doing here?” She’d been so focused on not staring at him for too long that she forgot everything else going on in her life; until, his question brought reality back to the forefront.

“It’s a coffee shop.” She snapped, embarrassment settling in her bones when her inner brain answered his question. She didn’t want him, of all people, to know that someone stood her up. She cleared her throat.

“Why don’t I buy you another coffee considering it was my fault we, uh, ran into each other, uh, literally.” She presented a polite smile. “Then maybe you can tell me what’s bothering you.” She eyed him from the side as they walked to the counter.

His dark brows pulled even tighter together. “I’m fine.” They got in the line, and she kept her eyes forward for as long as she could. He was even more handsome than she remembered. His hair was long now, falling a few inches past his shoulders, dark as midnight. His thick, black eyebrows branched over each onyx eye framing those abys-like dark eyes, slender nose, and his finely shaped lips. Her body ached, recalling the places they touched.

She startled out of her thoughts, when she felt his finger running down her arm. The sensation sent a chill through her body, goosebumps lined the expanse of her appendage and sent her nipples to attention.

“How do you take your Coffee?” He said, his attention went from her damp shirt to her face. A smirk pulled up the corner of his mouth before he faced forward.

“I-I wasn’t going to, uh, fine,” She turned her attention to the barista. “Green tea sweetened with honey, please.”

The lady nodded a look of annoyance on her pretty face. “The total is seven-eighty-three.” She said, before rolling her eyes.

Devlin put the money on the counter before she could get her wallet. “Hey,” she stated, frowning up at him. “I was supposed to get it.”

He shrugged, tucking the change in his pocket. “You can make up for it by sitting with me.”

The corner of her mouth pulled up as she held his eyes.

She nodded. “Okay.”

“So, let me get this straight.” He said, while they waited for their drinks.

She raised an eyebrow and brought her frowned-up face to look at the handsome fiend.

“You went to a coffee shop, but not to actually get anything?”

She sighed, trying to ignore the heat that was pushing up her cheeks. She didn’t want to meet the blind date. It was all her friend’s idea, which reminded her to finish the heated conversation that was interrupted when she ran into Devlin. “It doesn’t―”

“You were meeting someone. Weren’t you?” He was reading her face with his dark, seeing gaze. “And, they didn’t show?” His voice was hesitant, searching. “Goddamn.”

Her gaze fell to her feet. She wanted to curl up in a small ball and disappear. She didn’t want to be there; she didn’t want to see the look in his eyes knowing that she’d been rejected in the most horrible way.

“Maybe I should just―” She paused. when she felt the warmth of his hand on hers. The contrast against the cool countertop made her shiver. A shiver, that trailed through the veins in her body, slow like liquid nitrogen. Their eyes held each other for a long moment before he picked up their drinks with a smirk.

“Come on.” He said, gesturing her to follow him. “I’ve had an eye on my spot by the window ever since some computer nerd left it.”

She looked around for some unknown reason before meeting his gaze.

He frowned. “What, you think your dickhead date is going to show up?”

She flinched as the situation settled in.

“Shit,” Devlin continued, unprompted. “Let his punk ass show.” That was more a grumble to himself.

The implication, for some odd reason, excited her. As if he would be her knight or something. She laughed to herself. What would he do? She shook the thought. It didn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. “Maybe I-I shouldn’t. I should― maybe just―.” She sounded as confused as she felt. Her urgency and discomfort could easily be interpreted as the disappointment from her date not showing, but it was more out of fear of him haunting her for another five years.

“Sit.”

“Dev―”

“Have a cup of coffee, or tea? What could it hurt?” The mischief in his eyes and on his face did not go unnoticed.

A lot. It could hurt a hell of a lot. She had this obnoxious, giddy, weightless thing going on in her gut pushing up to her chest. Electricity seemed to zing from him to her and back. She never thought she’d be so close to him again. Had the feelings been the same then? Had she felt these things then? She couldn’t remember. How could she forget? Maybe forgetting was a defense mechanism.

“Hypothetically,” Devlin said, breaking through her onslaught of questions.

She raised an eyebrow at his word choice. “Mhm.” She was intrigued.

“If you get something from someone that you don’t trust, can you trust what they gave you?”

She frowned, her eyes falling to her mindless stirring of the green tea. “Well, it depends on what they gave me.”

“A journal that belonged to someone they knew you would trust.”

“Hmm,” she tried not to let her curiosity get the best of her. Instead, she kept playing his game. “Well, I would want to know how they came across such a journal, how long they had it, and what their motives are for giving it to me. What is the journal telling me? Why would this hypothetical, untrustworthy person wait until that moment to give it to me? I think once I got those answers, I’d―” She broke off when his phone buzzed, informing him of a message.

“What if you didn’t have time to ask those questions?”

The phone buzzed again. “Well, I suppose I’d―” Again, the phone buzzed.

“What would you do?”

“I’d read the―” Another buzz. “Are you going to answer them or what?”

“It’s nothing.” His dark brows pulled together.

“Something if they keep trying to get a hold of you.”

He grumbled and wiped his hand down his face. “It’s just about this damn wedding.”

She perked up. “Wedding?” Was it his wedding? Who was the lucky woman? Discomfort and a deep feeling of disappointment hit her.

“My brother’s.”

The dread quickly filled with joy. “Brother?”

He nodded. “He’s got a―” He frowned. “Ah,” Rubbed his chin. “Difficult lady.”

It was her turn to frown. “Difficult? What does that mean?”

“She wants everyone in dresses, tuxes, and ties―” He broke off and glanced over at her. “I’m sure I’m barking up the wrong skirt. You like those sorts of things, right?”

“Weddings?” She knew symbolic hearts were bursting from her eyes like from a cartoon. “Oh, I love weddings. There’s something so beautiful about the exchange and the deep emotional vulnerability. Professing love and eternal intent in front of all the people you care about. It’s magical.” A smile pulled at her lips, and her mind drifted back to her special day. It was right out of a storybook. She had to go through four wedding planners to get it right. Bridezilla was not the word she used. She just liked things right.

“Figures.” He let out a gruff laugh, then caught her eye with a curious look in his. “How much do you love them? Like, would you go to a complete stranger’s wedding?”

“Sure, I would.” She blinked, realizing what was unfolding, or at least, what she thought was happening. She frowned and found his eyes. “Are you―”

“I need someone who’s not cheap or trashy to go with me.” He shrugged. “I mean, if you’d do it for a stranger, why not for me?” That smirk hit her like an open-handed slap.

What! She shouted in her head. Was she crazy or just glutton for punishment? Or maybe the wanton little slut inside her was hoping she could have her way with him after the love-saturated air cleared. She pushed that thought down. “Will you be wearing a suit and tie?”

“Unfortunately,” he grumbled, sipping the coffee.

“Well, then. I’d love to attend.” She cocked her head to the side. “I can’t imagine you dressed like that.” Despite the dressy looking red shirt, which seemed to fit into his whole Devil-may-care vibe, she couldn’t imagine him in a full suit and tie.

He raised both his eyebrows. “Really, you’ll go?”

She nudged him with her shoulder. “You look surprised.”

He laughed, hovering the edge of the coffee cup to his lips. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that simple.”

“Well, I’m not as difficult as some may think.”

He laughed out loud this time, which made the corners of her lips twitch. She wasn’t sure if she’d heard him laugh before. Or, atleast, she didn’t remember if she had.

She cleared her throat, trying to push her memories aside, but she couldn’t with him so close. “That’s a nice shirt.” She broke through the tension with the intent of lightening up the mood. That’s what Rita would suggest. What she’d want.

His eyebrows loosened as he turned his head to glance over at her. “Red’s my favorite color.” He mumbled, before turning back to his cup.

“I’m not sure I have one,” Lacey replied, pulling the tea toward her.

“I’d have thought it was pink, or better yet, white. Clean, pristine.”

“The most difficult to keep clean.”

“Not with a lot of bleach, or better yet, Oxyclean.”

She smirked, surprised he knew what Oxyclean was, not to mention that he’d ever used it. She glanced over at a smiling Devlin.

That dimple. Did she notice before if he had a dimple? She didn’t take him for the Oxyclean type, even though he was well-dressed in clean black jeans and the blood red dress shirt. Anyone else that saw them there might have thought he was just an ordinary guy on a date.

She knew better.

His tanned skin looked rich next to the sheened fabric of his tailored shirt.

“Black,” She heard herself say.

“Your favorite color?”

She laughed at the way his handsome face twisted into a look of confusion. “No. You asked at the counter how I take my coffee. That’s how I like it, black. I prefer French press. Occasionally, I put in a few white chocolate chips.”

“Sugar and cream in one. Sounds very,” Devlin eyed her from the side. “Efficient.”

She liked his facial hair. Well-manicured goatee and mustache. Really accentuated his lips. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more he looked like the prince of darkness himself. She wasn’t sure why that realization was immensely intriguing.

She exhaled and took a sip of her tea. What was she doing? What was he doing? This was crazy. She found it hard to believe, that even in five years, Devlin Sinn was looking for anything new. She wasn’t certain why her mind even went there.

It was the damn wedding.

Chillout, Lacey. It’s just a wedding. It’s just one of the most romantic displays of love and affection surrounded with love and family and friends and hope and beauty, and did she mention love? That’s why she loved weddings. As much as she gushed over Valentine’s day, there was no event quite like a wedding to showcase humans at the pinnacle of their capacity to care and connect.

How could he― no, how dare he extend this invitation and have her wrapped up in a moment that she could never have with him.

She frowned.

Would she want to have that moment with him?

She laughed inside.

That was silly to even entertain the thought.

She glanced over at him, and her chest tightened.

What would it be like waking up to this man every morning?

She looked into her drink again.  

Morning.

She laughed.

She was certain she’d never see another morning. Not if he had his way with her the night before.

Lacey, she scolded herself.

They sipped their drinks in silence. She glanced over several times and saw him in thought. Her mind wandered to his hypothetical scenario, and she wanted to know more.

“Well―” Lacey started, but stopped when their words collided. “You go first?” She liked the sound of her name rumbling in the low baritone of his voice.

“For rescuing my ass out this wedding sling, I want to take you somewhere.”

She raised an eyebrow, skeptical, but curious. “I suppose we kind of rescued each other today.”

He smirked, and his dark eyes gazed over her face with intent to see her, to take her in. “I’m not your knight, Lacey.”

She knew that, but still was held captive by his roguish beauty, by his honesty. It was enduring, even when he shattered her doe-eyed dreams of a happily ever after.

He pushed up off the chair and held his hand out to her. Her eyebrows quirked. She took his extended appendage, not taking her gaze from his face. They tossed their cups, turned a left out of the coffee shop, and strolled at a comfortable pace down the sidewalk, hand in hand.

She looked down at their hands and up at the man next to her. She swallowed.

Don’t think too much into it, Lacey. She scolded herself. She looked at their hands again. When he squeezed hers, she looked up to his face and found those intense eyes contemplating her.

She tempered her restless innards and found her shoes.

Whatever the hell she was doing, it felt, well, good, dangerous and terrifying, but good. All those things were foreign, were missing, and she hadn’t realized until the moment she felt them again, until the moment she saw him again.

After a couple blocks, he slowed his stride, and his low voice graced her ears in the quieting night. “We’re here.”

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