THE 27 CLUB
New American Library
Coffee Beans Part II
Time to get down to business.
I stomp out of the bedroom and down the stairs. The TV is on and I can hear the weatherman announcing the same info the driver relayed to me. “Tropical Storm Angela seemingly having stalled out once it passed over Cuba is picking up wind speed as it makes its way toward the Florida Keys.”
The rain is still beating down, but there are no calls for evacuations so I can only assume I am fine staying here.
Determined to get this conversation over with, I’m stopped dead in my own tracks. Nate is standing in front of a built-in coffee maker, waving his hand frantically up and down cursing under his breath, “Motherfucking piece of shit.”
“What happened? Did the Miele not do what you told her to do?”
I feel like I’m watching him in slow motion.
Without warning, the air crackles.
He’s momentarily taken aback, but then a look of amusement crosses his face. “Zoey Flowers, you are . . .”
Words pop into my head—sexy, beautiful, hot as hell, fuckable.
Where did those come from?
That grin lingers on his mouth. “Your brother’s sister, without a fucking doubt.”
Tears prick my eyes. Not the words I hoped to hear, but so much more meaningful.
His face contorts, the glow of amusement gone from his eyes, shadowed by something darker. He sets two cups of coffee on the counter that separates us. “Hey, I’m really not good at this stuff. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
I swipe the drops away. “No, really, it’s okay. I just miss him. That’s all.”
Nate’s hands grip the counter and his head falls. “Yeah, me too.”
Silence sweeps the vastness of the space, but strangely it’s not uncomfortable.
His gaze lifts. “Zoey, it’s nice to finally meet you.”
I can’t help but be charmed. “It’s nice to finally meet you too, Nate.”
He clears his throat and a bit of shyness seems to cross his face.
I fear I might be staring, so I avert my gaze to look down at the counter and it lands on the two cups. “Are those lattés?”
His head lifts at the same time mine does. The connection is immediate—a jolt of electricity travels between us and I swear I see a little smile—not a smirk, but an actual smile on his face.
The most adorable boyish grin.
My belly flutters and I can’t help but return the smile, feeling a little shy myself.
“Yeah, well that’s what they’re supposed to be. I didn’t know what you drank, but thought I’d try these.”
I move closer, close enough that my hipbones nudge the edge of the counter. “Lucky for you, I’ll drink anything made with coffee beans.”
Then it hits me, that his hair is the color of the finest imported coffee beans.
“Yeah, lucky for me,” he repeats.
Taking a seat on one of the barstools, I blow on the top of the latté. The froth is not exactly froth-like, more like big soap bubbles or maybe clumps of soured whipped cream.
“You’re a schoolteacher, right?” he asks.
“Something like that,” I say. “I’m employed by the University of Rochester. You’re a landlord, right?”
His lips tip up a fraction. “Something like that.”
I laugh. “Just kidding. I know all about you—big successful CEO of an up-and-coming development company, who buys unprofitable businesses, turns them around, and then sells them.
Zach said you are very business savvy.”
This is true, but what I fail to mention is Zach told me so much more about him.
He raises one brow in the sexiest way. “You’re going to make me blush if you keep talking like that. But it sounds to me like you’re leaving some crucial things out. I’m sure your brother must have given you some dirt on me.”
How does he know Zach told me all about his inability to commit, his obsession with work, and his need to always be in control? He never spoke of him in a demeaning way though. No, rather Zach seemed to idolize this man. The words integrity, hard working, and respectful always followed anything that might have been construed as negative. Zach once mentioned that he thought something must have happened that triggered Nate’s extreme behavior.
He could understand that.
Honestly, so could I.
“Z never could give a compliment without making sure to put a little bite in it. My guess is he would have said something like this: “Big shot asshole of some rising development company.”
I shrug. He did have my brother pegged. “Maybe it did go more like that.”
He smirks, and God help me. I have to look away.
I try to tuck my emotion aside by sipping on my latté. It tastes more like water, but the coffee lover in me is distracted by the trouble that’s watching me.
His eyes seem to darken as they follow the liquid into my mouth and then down my throat.
His breath seemingly goes shallow as if he’s picturing my mouth on something else.
My imagination must be in overdrive. I shake it off and point to my cup. “Not bad.”
He takes a sip of his and practically spits it out. “Not bad! It tastes like shit.”
I can feel my lips turning upward again. I swear I haven’t smiled in so long that I snap and just let the laughter roll through me—my body quaking, my hair bouncing like a lion’s mane.
Nate stares flabbergasted, and I can see his body tensing.
Once I’m finally able to speak, I manage to say, “Really, it doesn’t taste terrible. You just have your timing and ratios off, that’s all. Steam the milk a little longer, and add more beans.”
He sets his cup down and gives me a skeptical look.
“I used to work at a coffee shop when I was in college. I can show you if you like?”
Our gazes lock.
When he doesn’t respond, reality crashes down around me. I can’t let this become flirtatious.
I clear my throat. “Well, anyway, can we get back to why you’re here in the middle of the night? You can be honest with me—have you been staying here?”
A muscle twitches along Nate’s jaw, but he doesn’t answer me. Instead, he picks up his cup and turns to the sink, dumps his full latté down the drain, and then walks to the back of the house in the darkness.
My head twists so my eyes can track him.
He flicks a light switch on and twists his own head.
I know he must have caught my stare, and God knows what possessed look I might have had on my face. I quickly turn back.
“Zoey, I think we need to talk.”
“I know we do. And Nate, it’s okay. Really. I don’t mind that you’ve been staying here,” I reassure him as I turn back around.
He opens one of the many sliding glass doors and the sound of the storm gets louder. “Come over here. I want to show you something.”
Something draws me toward him.
He’s a man of authority. I can tell he’s used to getting his way, but I’m not usually one to submit to dominance. I’ve been around it enough at work—male professors are the poster children for authoritative personalities.
But still I move forward, approaching him with caution.
The sound of the waves crashing against the shore is beautiful. With the door open the smell in the air is pungent in the most delicious way, or maybe that’s Nate—clean, fresh, manly.
Without realizing it, I’m standing right in front of him. I get lost in the wind, the air, the sound—and him. I tilt my head back to look at him. I’m tall, but he’s almost a head taller than I am—he must be six-two. Something about his proximity makes my body feel possessed.
It’s nothing like I’ve felt before.
He steps out the door and onto a covered deck, scrubbing his stubbled jaw. “I told you I’m shit at this kind of stuff so I’m just going to get this over with.”
Relief takes over.
Here it comes.
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RELEASE DATE: March 3, 2015