LENGTH: 6,829 words
This story is included in the anthology, Working Men
Barista Austin falls for Seth Jackson the moment the man enters Lakeside Cafe. Seth seems just as interested, but Austin’s too shy to pursue a relationship on the other side of the counter. When Seth visits with a male “friend” in tow, Austin worries he might have missed his chance.
Seth’s just as suspicious of Austin’s best friend, Josh, who hangs out at the cafe. A lunch date offers a chance to clear the air between them. Will Seth and Austin make a special blend, or will Josh turn things sour?
From the moment he walks up to the counter and turns those pale blue eyes my way, I know I’m lost. He wears a meticulous suit, crisp and freshly pressed, cut to accentuate his narrow waist and the swell of his butt. When he smiles shyly at me, I grin foolishly back. Suddenly I’m all too aware of the dingy white apron I wear, the ground coffee under my nails, the new, too short haircut exposing my ears. I smooth my hand across the shorn top of my head, then wipe both hands on my apron. “Good morning,” I say, stepping to the counter.
“Good morning, Austin.” His voice is deeper than I expect.
A grin threatens to split my face. “How do you know my name?” I want to hear him say it again.
He points at my chest, where the nametag I wear proudly proclaims I’m Austin, manager-in-training for the Lakeside Cafe. I roll my eyes and try not to blush. Ducking my head, I toy with a tear in the countertop and notice the initial ring he wears -- SBJ. I want to know what each letter stands for, but I’m not the type to ask. But he holds out a hand and, as if he can read my mind, says, “I’m Seth.”
I’m too startled to do anything but shake his hand. His touch is warm and strong, and almost reluctantly I let go. “What can I get you this morning, Seth?”
When I glance up, those baby blues gaze back. Damn, he’s hot. I know I’m staring but I can’t help it. For a long moment he doesn’t say anything, just watches me, and I want to say something witty but nothing comes to mind. Great time to choke up, Austin, I chastise silently.
Just as I’m about to ask again, he nods at the small clapboard on the counter, where today’s special is written in my sloppy handwriting. “What’s a Mocha Locha Latte?”
Though the ingredients are written on the board, I like talking to him, so I lean over the counter to read the board, all too aware he doesn’t step away from me. His hand rests on the counter by my arm, and I want to touch him again but I don’t. “Chocolate and amarillo and --”
“Amaretto,” he says, laughing. When I look up at him, he’s so close I can smell the warm musk cologne he wears. “Amarillo is a city in Texas.”
“I’ve never been there,” I say, smiling.
He smiles back. “Why not?” His fingers brush against my arm accidentally, causing the hairs to stand up at the touch.
Are we flirting? God, I hope so.