I knew it was a mistake, coming in for coffee. I’d avoided this place at this time for months, just in case …
And there he was. All those months ago the barista, Gary, had told me he wanted to see me again but I’d told him I wasn’t interested. After the morning I’d sat across from him, I’d changed my habit of stopping for a treat for Bella and myself after we did out weekly grocery shop. We usually got our drinks before shopping but we were running late today thanks to a mostly sleepless night and there was no way I could tackle the shops without my coffee fix.
He was too much of a temptation, a complication I didn’t have time for. A man I didn’t deserve. Not like the woman with him, standing close as she smiled up at him. Tall and slim in her yoga pants. A woman who had time for yoga had time for a man like him. Bella laughed at something the cashier had said to her and the blonde looked away from him to glare at us and something in me relaxed.
What had I been thinking? Why had I worried. Sure, he’d asked about me right after I’d walked out on him, but to avoid my coffee fix for weeks … I was crazy. He wouldn’t even remember me, he probably bought women coffee all the time, and if they didn’t run out on him, he probably did more than that. With his back to me and the woman’s attention back on him, I let myself look him over again. The rear view was nearly as good as the front, those broad shoulders tapering down to slim hips, his jeans hugging his tight butt, then those long strong thighs.
“You’re usual Claudia?” I looked up guiltily but Kylie just grinned at me. I guessed she’d enjoyed the view too.
“Yes please Kylie.” I handed over money and she called out my order to Gary then stepped away to make Bella’s milkshake.
“Mama I want strawberry,” Bella told me for the third time.
“I know darling,” I assured her then she grabbed onto my leg. clinging like a limpet.
“Mama the man is staring at me.”
I look over and of course it’s him. His green eyes meet mine and he looks surprised. By me? By my daughter? Not that it matters.
“It’s okay baby,” I soothe Bella with my hand on her head and she relaxes a little.
My eyes are drawn to the woman who is glaring at me for some reason. Maybe she doesn’t like small children in coffee shops? We wont be in her way for long though, I can see Gary piping the whipped cream onto my drink.
On cue he called out, “Coffee’s ready.”
“Thanks Gary,” I say with a smile as he passes my drink over.
I turned back to the counter where Kylie has Bella’s milkshake waiting but before I can pick it up I feel a touch on my shoulder. I’m beyond surprised to find his hand on me and the blonde beside him doesn’t look too happy about it either.
“Are you going to run away from me again?” His voice washed over me, low and deep.
“I ah,” I shake my head, not knowing what to say.
“Mama.” Bella tugs on my hand giving me something to focus on.
“Sorry baby,” I murmur as I grab the milkshake and give it to her.
“Can we maybe sit down?” He gestures to an empty table and Bella makes the decision for me, going over to put her milkshake on the table top then proudly climbing onto the chair. I follow her but don’t sit, too nervous and feeling like if I do I’m committing to something.
He has no such reservations.
“Wow that looks like a great milkshake,” he says enthusiastically to Bella.
“Yup, it’s strawberry.” Bella smiled, obviously charmed by him. She doesn’t get a lot of male attention so I’m not overly surprised.
Feeling like a fool standing there I sit down and take a sip of my coffee, my eyes closing in bliss.
“The coffee is still good,” he says wryly, sipping his own brew.
I nod then look behind him where the blonde is watching us. “Does your friend want to join us?” This is the most bizarre situation!
“My what?” He starts to turn then stops and frowns. “Really?” He mutters under his breath. “I don’t know her, we were both waiting for coffee and she asked me out,” he explained.
“Is she waiting for an answer?” I try not to look at her but her glare is like a magnet.
“I said I was busy,” he all but whispers to me and it’s hard not to laugh at the look of panic on his face.
“So your plan is what? Ignore her until she goes away?” I say amazed and he has the decency to look uncomfortable.
“I’m Bella,” Bella announces then takes a sip of her shake. “Who’s your name?”
“I’m Ryan,” he, Ryan introduces himself, even holds out his hand to my baby who gravely shakes it.
“That’s my Mama.” Bella gives me a chin tilt introduction but keeps hold of Ryan’s hand.
“Hi Bella’s Mama,” he tuns those green eyes on me, his lips lifting in a smile, and I forget to breath for a moment.
Before I can respond the blonde is there, her hand on Ryan’s shoulder. He looks up at her, looking genuinely surprised.
“Maybe you could give me a call sometime.” She looks at him with a flirty smile.
“No I really couldn’t, I’m a little busy here.” His rejection coupled with his smile at Bella is harsh and I suck in a breath of shock.
“Fine, your loss,” she snaps and walks away.
“She was rude Mama, she didn’t say ‘scuse me,” Bella whispers, her little eyes wide.
“Really rude,” Ryan agrees with a nod. Then he looks at Bella seriously. “Excuse me Miss Bella?”
“Yes Ryan,” she giggles at him.
“May I have my hand back?” He leans towards her and mock whispers, “I’d like to shake your Mama’s hand now.”
Bella lets go with another giggle and he holds his hand out to me. “I’m Ryan,” he introduces himself again and I have no choice.
I slide my hand into his, hope he doesn’t notice the tremble and I even manage to say my name. “Claudia.”
“Claudia,” he repeats with a nod, his thumb stroking the back of my hand. “Beautiful,” he says and I feel trapped by his eyes.
“That’s my name!” Bella to the rescue. “Bella says beautiful.” She smiles at us.
“It sure does,” Ryan agrees and he looks at Bella, freeing me from his gaze. “It’s the perfect name for you,” he says with a smile and Bella preened.
Who can blame her, this man-god with the green eyes, smiling and charming, and making her feel as special as she is.
“So do you come here for coffee often Bella?”
“I don’t have coffee silly,” she laughs at him. “Just shakes, ‘member?”
“Oh of course.” He winces, overacting really badly for her. “So do you come here for shakes all the time Bella?”
“Every week after shopping. We’re late today,” Bella sighs mightily. For the first time ever I’m regretting my baby’s vocal skills.
“Speaking of which, we really should get going,” I interrupt before Bella tells all of our secrets.
“So you are going to run away again?” His green eyes pin me to my chair.
“No, we just have things to do,” I say weakly because yes, I am running.
He’s gorgeous, charming, already I can see Bella likes him. If we don’t get out of here in the next five seconds she’ll be trying to find ways keep him.
“Shopping,” Bella sighs again. “It’s so boring,” she says as if it’s torture.
Ryan clutches at his chest as if mortally wounded. “But I love shopping!”
“We’re not doing the good shopping for toys and books.” Bella frowns at him.
Ryan sucked in a breath and pressed his hand to his chest. “Do not tell me you are shopping for fruit,” he gasped.
Bella giggled and nodded. “And milk.”
“But, that’s my all time best shopping!” Ryan’s eyes went wide.
“You should come shopping with us then!” Bella had played right into his hands of course.
“What do you say Bella’s Mama? Can Ryan come shopping?” His grin told me he knew I was trapped. If I said no Bella would be upset, if I said yes … well therein lay the real problem. If I said yes, I was going to like him even more and so would Bella.
I didn’t want to break my baby’s heart, now or later. What to do?
Part 7 read the rest here