Valerie Rhodes sat in Mellow Mocha, the local coffee shop, taking in all her surroundings. The college students in the corner, huddled together in what looked like the ultimate last minute cram session. The two girlfriends catching up on their mid-week 'girl talk'. The older couple sharing a turkey club sandwich.
And then there was the gorgeous man, who always ordered the large coffee. Strong and black. Just like he looked. His name was Jaden. She'd heard it enough times when the barista called out his order.
Jaden was the classic tall, dark and handsome. Her heart rate kicked up a notch every single time she saw him walk into Mellow Mocha. She usually saw him in the mornings before she went to work and on Saturdays, when she spent the morning relaxing. Sometimes when he would come in on Saturdays, she would notice him working on his laptop, or reading a book. And on the rare occasions that he acknowledged her presence with a nod or small smile, Valerie thought she would melt out of her chair.
She was sitting in her favorite spot, the comfy love seat right next to the fireplace. It didn't matter what time of year it was, she loved sitting there. But her favorite time of year was right now, early winter, when it was just beginning to snow and finally cold enough for them to start lighting the fire place.
It was the perfect spot to be in every time the door opened, letting in a blast of wind and snow flurries.
It was also the perfect spot to people watch. More specifically, it was the perfect spot to watch for when Jaden walked in.
She'd just got done paying for her drink when he came in. He shook his arms to warm up, then headed for the counter toward her. She headed for her seat and as they crossed paths, he looked down and smiled at her.
She'd shyly returned his smile then shuffled off to the love seat to sit and wait for the barista to call her name and drink order so she could go back and get it.
She reached in her bag and pulled out the mystery novel she was currently reading. She was several pages in and completely engrossed when she heard her drink order being called out.
"Chai tea latte with a shot of peppermint."
The warm smoky voice clearly did not belong to the barista who'd taken her order. She slowly peered over her book to see Jaden standing over her, holding her cup out in front of her, with a heart-stopping smile on his face.
She sat there looking at him for a moment, in slight shock. In the year and a half that she'd been frequenting Mellow Mocha, since it opened up on the same street as the bank she worked at, she couldn't recall him saying more than an occasional hello to her.
He smiled then said, "Our drinks were ready at the same time, so I figured I'd save a trip. You looked so into your book."
Finally, she reached up and took the cup from him. Her fingers brushed against his slightly and she felt a jolt rush through her body.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
"No problem..." he tilted his head to the side to look at the name on her cup, "Valerie?"
She nodded. "Yeah, that's me Valerie."
"Is that your real name?"
She looked up at him, wide-eyed. "Excuse me?"
He shrugged. "I've heard people sometimes like to give different names when they give their drink order."
She shook her head. "Valerie is my real name."
He nodded. "Good to know. I'm Jaden."
I already know, she thought, but didn't say out loud. Instead she said, "Nice to meet you, Jaden."
"It's nice to meet you too. Well, nice to finally officially meet you."
They stared at each other for another awkward moment before he cleared his throat and said, "Well, I won't keep you from your book any longer."
She nodded and held up her cup. "Thanks again for bringing this to me."
"Anytime," he said with a smile. As he began to walk away, he nodded his head toward the book in her hands. "That's a great book by the way."
She looked at him and smiled. "You've read this?"
He stopped then walked back toward her. "Oh yeah, I've read that entire series."
"Really? I just started this one."
"How are you liking it?" he asked. He gestured toward the chair facing her. "May I?"
"Of course!" She hoped she didn't sound too eager for him to be joining her.
Jaden sat down, took a sip of his coffee then said, "I've read the new one already."
"Get out of town!" Valerie said, slamming her book down on the coffee table in between them. "How is that even possible? It doesn't come out for another two weeks!"
Jaden leaned forward and crooked his finger, beckoning her toward him. Almost through no volition of her own, she moved forward until they were nearly nose to nose.
"I've got a secret," he said, in a hushed tone.
"What?" she breathed, nearly trembling at the feel of his warm breath so close to hers. He pressed his lips near her ear and whispered, "The author's agent is my best friend."
Valerie leaned back and looked into his dark eyes. She watched as a sexy grin spread across his lips.
"You...you know J.T. Cruise's agent?"
Jaden sat back and smiled at her. "Been thick as thieves since elementary school."
He held his hand out to her. "Jaden Coleman, at your service."
She took his hand, and that small jolt she felt earlier was now a full blown spark.
"Val...Valerie Rhodes," she said.
"And what is it that you do, Valerie Rhodes?" he asked, caressing the back of her hand with his thumb.
"I'm the manager at the bank down the street."
"A bank manager?" he said nodding, "That sounds..."
"Incredibly boring?" she said, finishing his sentence and finally pulling her hand away.
He grinned sheepishly and she laughed out loud. "It's all right. That's the general assumption about my job. But there's a lot more to it than most people think."
He nodded. "I'll just have to take your word for it. How long have you been a manager there?"
"About three years. I was assistant manager for two before that."
"And you enjoy what you do?"
"Yes, I do. I received my Master's in Finance. I love numbers."
"Well, it certainly sounds like it."
"What is it that you do, Jaden?"
He opened his mouth to speak, when the beeping of his cell phone interrupted him.
"I'm sorry, I have to take this. Will you excuse me?"
"Of course," she replied.
He stood and walked away before answering the phone.
She watched him as he spoke into the phone. A shadow crossed his face then a few moments later he hung up.
He walked back over quickly.
"Speaking of work, duty calls. Perhaps we can finish this conversation another time."
"Sure," she said, smiling.
He picked up his coffee. "I'm looking forward to it. Goodbye Valerie."
Jaden swore as he stepped outside of Mellow Mocha into the freezing cold. He'd finally decided to introduce himself to the gorgeous woman named Valerie who always order that french vanilla latte with a shot of espresso, except on the weekend. Then, she ordered tea with peppermint flavor in it, like she'd done this evening. Just as he was getting to know her, his job had called him.
He'd actually been heading to the restaurant next door, when he looked in the window and saw her at the counter ordering her drink. Since he usually only saw her in the mornings, he was caught off guard when he saw her there on a Wednesday evening.
He figured maybe it was fate or luck or something else along those lines, so he decided to go ahead and go in. He only ordered coffee because it was something quick. By the time one barista was done pouring his coffee, the other was placing Valerie's drink on the counter. Just as she opened her mouth to let Valerie know her drink was ready, he smiled and said, "I've got it Marcy."
The young barista blushed and nodded, then went on to the next customer.
He was frustrated that their conversation had been cut short, but there wasn't much he could do about it then.
It wasn't like he could tell his job, "Hey I know there's a high-risk situation going on right now, and you need me to negotiate, but can you wait for me for a few minutes? At least until I get this beautiful woman's phone number."
No, he certainly couldn't do that. No matter how tempted he was.
So now he was inhaling his coffee and hurrying to his car. He hopped in, started the car and turned on his lights and sirens.
Thankfully he wasn't far from the scene of the crime. When he arrived, he headed straight for his captain, where they'd set up a command post.
"What have we got boss? Angry husband?"
When he'd gotten the call, all that he'd been told was that there was a domestic dispute that had gotten out of hand and the location. The fact that a negotiator was being called in to diffuse the situation meant things had escalated to dangerous proportions and there were weapons involved.
Bernard Nixon shook his head. "Angry wife."
Jaden looked up at Bernard as he finished putting on his vest and raised an eyebrow at him.
Bernard shrugged. "The wife came home early from a business trip and found the husband in bed with another woman. You know the score."
Jaden whistled and shook his head.
Bernard continued. "The wife went and found one of the husband's guns."
"No, but the mistress is in there still with them."
Jaden sighed as Bernard handed him a bullhorn.
"Mrs. Polaski, this is Jaden Coleman, with the Metropolitan Police Department. I heard you are having some problems in there, and I'm here to help. But I need you to answer your phone and let me know everyone is all right."
He held a phone in his other hand waiting for the wife to answer.
"Mrs. Polaski, if you don't answer the phone, how will we know everyone is ok?" Jaden said through the bullhorn. "We don't want to come in by force. Please answer the phone."
Finally she picked up.
"Hello?" Her voice was scratchy, probably from screaming at her husband and his mistress.
"Is this Nora Polaski?" Jaden asked, in a gentle tone.
"Hey, this is Jaden Coleman, MPD," he repeated. "Is everyone all right in there?"
"For now," Mrs. Polaski said through gritted teeth.
"Help!" Jaden heard a man's voice shout. "Come in and get this crazy bitch!"
"Shut up! You cheating bastard," Mrs. Polaski shouted.
Jaden looked over to Bernard. "Mr. Polaski is beginning to escalate the situation."
"Get her to calm back down," Bernard encouraged.
Jaden nodded, and put the phone back up to his ear. "Mrs. Polaski–"
"I can't believe this! All the years I've given to you, and you cheat on me with this whore!"
A high pitched scream rang out into the night air.
"Mrs. Polaski?" Jaden said, "Nora? Talk to me. What's going on?"
"I ought to shoot them both right now," she cried out, "My life is ruined."
"No, your life isn't ruined. Yes, this is something bad. You were betrayed in one of the worst ways possible. But the only way your life will truly be ruined is if you pull that trigger. You can rebuild your life, without him."
There was silence on the phone.
"What do you say Mrs. Polaski? Why don't you put the gun down and let them go?"
Half an hour later, they were able to get the angry wife out of the house.
Bernard walked up to Jaden and patted him on the back roughly.
"Once again, you've done it. And in record time it seems."
Even though it hadn't taken long to convince the woman not to kill her 'rotten, low down cheating husband', as she'd put it, handling these possibly high risk situations could be draining. Not to mention he'd just completed his shift when he decided to go and get something to eat.
His thoughts drifted back to Valerie as he drove home. They'd danced around each other at Mellow Mocha for over a year now, with their flirty smiles and nods. When she caught his eye through the window, he decided that maybe now was the time for them to finally talk to each other.
He looked at the time. He'd only been gone an hour, maybe she was still at the coffee shop.
When he got to the next intersection, he hit a U-Turn and headed back in the direction of Mellow Mocha.
He figured he may as well go for it. If she was there that would be great, if not, then he could just go and get dinner like he originally planned.
He was a little more than pleased when he returned and saw Valerie sitting in the same spot, with her nose pressed in the book.
He actually found it refreshing, in an era where more and more people were using some form of electronic as a reading device, to see that she appreciated the feel of a good book.
If he were honest, J.T. Cruise's books were the only physical books he still read; and that was only because his best friend, Jeff Baldwin, was the author's agent. Jeff was usually busy traveling the world with his best client, so they tried to get together about once a month to catch up, and if J.T. had a new book out or coming soon, Jeff always brought him a copy.
Valerie was so into her book, she didn't notice Jaden coming toward her, so he took the opportunity to openly admire her.
The light from the fireplace gave her skin a warm glow. It was a smooth mocha color, and looked like the color of some delicious concoction they'd create in the coffee shop. In the mornings, when she was getting her coffee before work, she wore her shoulder length hair down. It was dark, with honey colored highlights that matched her eyes. This evening she had it pulled back in a ponytail, the way she wore it on Saturdays. She was still wearing a business suit, so she must have came right after work, but she had her suit jacket slung over the back of the sofa with her winter coat.
He watched as her delicate and perfectly manicured fingernails turned the page in her book. He could tell by the quick intake of her breath, she'd reached a very interesting part of the book. It didn't seem possible, but she burrowed her face deeper into the book.
"Getting good huh?"
Valerie jumped at his voice and dropped her book on the floor.
"Jaden!" she said, looking up at him surprised.
Jaden reached down and picked up the book. He chuckled as he held out the book toward her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
She shook her head, smiling as she took the book from his hand. "It's ok." She scrunched her eyebrows. "Are you done with your work already?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I was able to handle the situation pretty quickly."
"Back for another cup of coffee then?" she asked, grinning at him.
Damn she has a beautiful smile, he thought to himself.
"I think I've had my fill of coffee for the day. Do you mind if I join you...again?"
"Not at all," she said, sitting her book down.
"Actually," he said, as he sat down. "I came back, because I was hoping, you'd still be here."
"Me?" she asked.
"Yes, you. I've seen you in here almost every morning for over a year, and we've never really spoken. I was on my way to the restaurant next door and was surprised to see you in here in the evening, so I decided to come and finally speak to you."
"So you served me my coffee as a way to speak to me?"
He shrugged. "I thought it was slightly creative."
She giggled and looked at him through her eyelashes. "It was very creative."
"Well, since I'm on a roll, I'm going to go ahead and ask."
"Ask what?" she said, confused.
"If you would like to spend time with me somewhere other than this coffee shop."
Her eyes grew wide. "Are you asking me out?" she asked quietly.
"Yes, I am."
She sat there for a moment, thinking. He figured she was going to say no, then she finally smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I'd like that."
"Great. Are you free this weekend?"
"How about we meet here around seven on Saturday?"
"That sounds good."
Jaden watched as Valerie looked up at the clock on the wall. "Oh man, I didn't intend to stay this long. Tomorrow is my day to open the bank. I'd better get going."
"I should get home too." He wanted to offer to walk her to her car, partly because he felt like it was his duty, but mostly because he just wasn't ready to say goodbye. But since this was the first time they'd officially had any real interaction, he didn't want to come on too strong. Well, no more than he had so far, considering he'd already asked her out.
When she stood, he followed suit.
"Let me help you with your coat," he offered, after she put on her suit jacket. He picked up the larger coat and held it out for her. Her shoulder brushed against his chest as she slid her arm in. He inhaled the intoxicating scent of the perfume that surrounded her. She smelled just as good as she looked.
She turned and looked up at him.
"Thank you," she said, smiling.
He walked with her and stopped in front of the door.
"I'll see you this Saturday," he murmured.
"Saturday," she repeated.
"Stay warm," he said, then opened the door for her.
"You too." Then she turned and dashed out of Mellow Mocha. He watched as she hurried down the side walk and reached her car. Once she drove off, he went to his car and started off home, food forgotten.
The only thing on his mind now was Valerie Rhodes and their date Saturday night.
Thoughts of her would be more than enough to keep him warm on this cold winter's night.
|Available on Amazon.|