Working in a coffee shop and spending his nights alone is all Neil thinks he can handle after returning from military service. When Detective Macon Chance starts flirting with him, his first reaction is to dismiss it. Rather than admit his attraction, Neil tells himself he finds Chance annoying.
But the detective is nothing if not persistent. Despite the obvious spark between them, nothing is simple. Both men have plenty of issues of their own to sort through if they’re going to make it work.
“Neil, can you make a large mocha, please?” Janice said, looking at him and fluttering her eyelashes unnecessarily. He just nodded and started steaming some milk.
He had excellent peripheral vision, so could clearly see the cop, or whatever he was, walking around to the other side of the bar. Neil kept his head down. Maybe the guy would think he hadn’t noticed, so he wouldn’t expect conversation.
“Can you put extra whipped cream on that?” the guy asked. He had a soft southern drawl that sounded almost old-fashioned. Neil bit his lip hard just to keep from smiling.
“Sure,” Neil said, still not looking up.
“You’re quick on the draw with that machine,” the guy said, and Neil felt a twinge of embarrassment, followed by a flash of anger.
“You do something enough times, that’s what happens, I guess.” He put an overly generous amount of whipped cream on top and sprinkled it with chocolate shavings.
The drink seemed incongruous with tough guy persona of the man he was handing it to. Neil wondered if it was for someone else until he pulled off the lid and ate a large mouthful of the cream. Then he looked up with a ridiculous grin and said, “Thanks for the extra. See you next time.”
“Have a nice day, sir,” Neil said, then turned away quickly to rinse out the milk pitcher. He wasn’t sure what the hell he was feeling, but he knew his face was flushed. He was irritated for sure. Anything else, he didn’t really care to think about just then.
“He was totally flirting with you.” Janice had come over and was leaning against the bar counter, completely in his way.
“I doubt that,” Neil said. “Can you move, please? I have shit to do.”
“‘I doubt that,’“ she mocked, using a nerdy voice and furrowing her brow. She laughed at him in a light, yet terrifying way that he’s sure is unique to teenage girls. “Why wouldn’t he? You’re the cute guy in his coffee shop. It’s a total cliché.”
“Oh I don’t know, because he’s probably not gay? Anyway, what makes you think I’d be interested anyway? He’s old.”
Janice rolled her eyes. “So are you.”
Neil refused to answer that. He wondered how old the guy was, anyway. In his thirties, certainly, but it wasn’t really his face that gave it away. It was the way he carried himself. Confident, and a little tired, like he’d seen a lot of life.
The next time the man came in, Neil was wiping down and refilling the condiment bar, and Aisha was behind the counter. He saw her get him a regular coffee, in a mug rather than a to go cup, then lean casually against the counter, sipping at it as he chatted with her. She actually giggled at one point, and her hand went to her mouth. The man grinned and brushed a lock of stray hair off of his forehead. Neil wished Janice had been there to see it, because she could learn something about what flirting was.
The guy found a table along the side wall and pulled out some papers from a folder he’d brought in. From the corner of his eye, Neil saw him glance up as he passed on his way to the back. He was careful not to look over there.
Aisha sidled over and said, very quietly, “His name is Macon. Macon! Can you believe that? I think I’m in love.”
“Because he has a hillbilly name? What is wrong with you, woman?”
“He’s a police detective,” she continued, ignoring him.
“He’s a redneck. Your daddy would kill you,” Neil guessed. He didn’t know much about Aisha’s family, but it seemed like a somewhat safe bet.
“Him, not me,” she said, giggling.
The Cop, which was how Neil always thought of him, kept coming in a few times a week. It was always around eleven when the place was pretty empty. Most days he’d get a coffee, but occasionally he’d get one of those mochas, and it was always when Neil was working the espresso bar.
“You’re the only one who gives me enough extra whipped cream,” he’d said once. Neil had laughed politely and handed him the cup.