Cal laid his thick forearms on the table, his tawny eyes wide as they dug straight into me, and he said, "I want to know everything about you."
Oh, he was a treasure. All that wide-shouldered strength and those soulful gazes. He was sweet in a quiet, bashful way. He was also built like a wide receiver and that made his sweetness just a touch more endearing.
And he'd been watching me?—following me?—for months.
That was a fun little recipe for early morning oddness. When viewed under a certain light, it was creepy. But that wasn't this morning's light. Cal didn't worry me. If anything, I was fascinated. A bit flattered too. And I could handle myself.
"Mmhmm." I stirred my matcha latte. He was still doing it—watching me—but now that I knew, I warmed under the attention. "Spoken like a true stalker."
His gaze snapped away from my hands and up to my face.
"No, no, that's not it," he stammered. "What I said back there, I know it sounded bad. That's not what I meant. Honestly, it never went beyond noticing you on the trail. Lime green Asics." He laughed, nodding toward my shoes. "I'd never do anything, you know, I'd never." He dropped his head into his hands and huffed out a long sigh as he rubbed his eyes. "I'm not a stalker. I'm sorry about all of this. I should go."
His ears were pink. He was blushing, and even though he was waiting for the earth to open up and swallow him whole, I was charmed. "No, don't go," I said, touching my fingers to his forearm for a second. "You have a nice, big cup of coffee here and I really can't eat this scone by myself."
Cal looked up at me, then he eyed the lemon scone smothered in blueberry glaze. I was sure it would be a two-biter for him. He looked like the kind of man who could actually, truly eat a horse and then ask for the dessert menu. He'd demolish a tray of my mother's meat pastelitos before they cooled from the fryer. "I don't want you to feel uncomfortable."
"It takes a lot more than that to make me uncomfortable. Really, I've seen it all. I'm good," I said, waving him off. "Anyway, I took a picture of your license plate and texted it to my assistant in case you decide to torture me in your basement or kill me in the woods." Cal rapid-blinked at me as his mouth fell open. "It's too early to joke about that? Okay. I'll hold off a little longer."
I broke off a corner of the scone for myself and passed the rest to Cal. He gave the pastry a resigned grin and said, "Can we start over? Please? You're so beautiful and I can't think. I've wanted to talk to you for the longest time and you'd think that would've been enough to decide on something smooth to say but nothing is coming out right."
Biting my lip to keep my dimples under control, I studied Cal. How did I miss this man at the pond? There were laugh lines around his eyes and just a few silver-white hairs on his temples, and the hint of a tattoo hiding under the sleeve of his old t-shirt. How could I have missed this?
"Okay, let's start over." I reached across the table, my hand outstretched. "I'm Stella Allesandro and I zone all the way out on my morning walks. I blame *NSYNC."
Cal laughed, but he didn't release my hand. "I'm Cal Hartshorn and I approach women by mowing them down to see if they like being underneath me."
A shocked laugh burst from my lips and I felt heat rising to my cheeks but I couldn't focus on the obvious innuendo he offered when there was more curious business at hand.
"Hold it right there," I said, leaning closer to peer at him.
"You can hold it anywhere you want it," he murmured.
"I'm sure." I held up a finger as my shoulders shook with silent laughter. "You keep them coming, Cal Hartshorn."
"I keep them coming like you wouldn't believe, Stella Allesandro," he replied. "Like you would not believe."
Laughing, I said, "Stop being obscene for a minute."
He had the balls to pull an appalled face. As if I was the one with all the bawdy comments here. "Obscene? I'm not obscene at all."
"You hide behind all your shy-boy awkwards but you're filthy," I said.
"Would you rather I hide with you in your cool-girl pretties? It might not look like I'll fit but you let me worry about that."
Another surprised laugh rumbled in my throat. "You…you should've talked to me a long time ago."
"I suppose that's as good as I'm going to get this morning," he said. "I mean, you haven't dumped coffee in my lap or run screaming."
You made it this far! Gold star for you! Another gold star for knowing that I can't travel back in time to fix any of the typos that might appear in this email (I'm sure there are some because I am not AI, thank the goddesses). Thanks for rolling with humanity!
If you truly don’t want to hear from us anymore, you can Unsubscribe or Manage Preferences. We’ll still love you and promise not to take it personally. After all, it’s only email, right? It doesn’t mean you don’t like, like us, right?
You are receiving this email because you signed up at www.katecanterbary.com, registered for a bonus epilogue at the end of a Kate Canterbary book, or downloaded a special event anthology in which Kate participated.