Once in my room I dried my red curls and donned my usual attire of jeans, a hoodie, and a pair of worn Vans sneakers. Looking in the mirror, my ears perked up at the sound of the front door opening. Liza was here. I sighed, taking in my bloodshot puffy eyes and rat’s nest of a high ponytail. Not sure what kind of look I was going for. Was “copper wiring clusterfuck” a thing? Wanting and needing to go, I deemed myself presentable enough to be seen in public. With my bag slung over my shoulder I made my way down the hallway to the kitchen where I found Liza putting her purse and bag of knitting down.
“Good morning, Miss Chapman,” she said.
“Liza, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Evie?”
“I guess one more time.” Her round cheeks puffed into a smile. “I was about to ask if Miss Evelyne and you had a good night, but by the looks of your tired eyes I think I know the answer.”
“Yeah. Well, what are you gonna do? It is what it is for now.”
I didn’t mean for my reply to come out as clipped as it sounded. There just wasn’t anything constructive to add. The current situation I was living in just was. Besides, I didn’t want to waste a second yammering on about the unchangeable. Lucky for me, Liza understood, so hopefully I didn’t come off as too much of a bitch. I said a quick goodbye to her as my legs dragged me out the door.
The first stop was Dough-Mates, a local café owned by my best friend, Maine. When we were kids she had dreamed of having her own little bakery someday. All her hard work and determination paid off three years ago, when, at the age of twenty-four, she became a business owner. Instead of making a bunch of different baked goods, Maine decided to focus on her favorite things in the entire world, doughnuts, and coffee. Only Dough-Mates wasn’t your average plain glazed doughnuts and black coffee joint.
Originality and sugar flowed from her fingertips, creating decadent doughnuts such as apple cider dipped in a caramel glaze, coconut cream filled, and espresso with a side of whisky sauce just to name a few. The assortment of coffees ran the gamut from the traditional French vanilla and hazelnut to the adventurous maple bacon flavor. Teetotalers in town also had a wide array of choices, from green matcha to any kind of herbal tea you could imagine. Maine had really outdone herself and I was so proud of her accomplishment.
As I entered the quaint cozy café, Maine was waiting for me with a mug of coffee aimed in my direction.
Taking the mug, I breathed in the strong aroma that brought my senses to life. “Did I ever tell you how much I love you?”
“I can see it in your puffy eyes,” she teased.
“How’d you know this was just what I needed instead of my usual mocha latte?”
“I saw you fall out of your car. Rough night?”
“Rough couple of nights.”
“I’m sorry, Ev. Is there anything I can do to help?”
I tipped my cup toward her before bringing it to my lips. “This is all I need. This and a soft place to land.”
“The sofa is calling your name.” Just then the bells over the door jingled. Maine’s gaze shifted toward the new customer. “Hey, I’ll be right with you.”
“Go, I’m headed to my home for the next half hour,” I said, walking toward the fluffy sofa.
I sat my coffee and purse down on the small end table and nestled into the warm cushions at the far end of the sofa. The place was quiet at the moment, which was perfect. My entire body relaxed as my eyelids began to feel heavy. Before I knew it, sleep had overtaken my body.
Out of nowhere I heard a low-pitched throated cough. I couldn’t distinguish if it was a dream or if someone had invaded my space. My eyes cracked open and I felt an initial heaviness in my chest at knowing I was not at home in my bedroom. As the sleep fog began to lift, I realized I was still at the café.
Opening one eye wider, I made out the silhouette of a large figure sitting at the other end of the sofa looking down. I shifted, grabbing the shadow’s attention, causing dark lashes to rise and revealing a pair of espresso-colored eyes directed right at me.
“Jesus Christ,” I loud whispered as the most beautiful human being I had ever seen came into view.
“Actually, it’s Butler, but thanks for the vote of confidence.”
The deep creamy smooth baritone of his voice matched his eyes and his name. Butler. But-ler. Bu-u-tter. Creamy luscious smooth Butler. I pushed myself up to sit straighter.
Clearing my throat, I mumbled, “I must have dozed off for a minute.”
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