Leslie leaned against the counter in her kitchen, enjoying the cool morning breeze that carried through the open window at her back. The rising sun splashed shades of orange around her, the ambiance soothing her.
She fumbled with the pendant that lay about her neck. The medium, John Brown at Lily Dale, had given it to her over the weekend. She’d taken Megan’s advice and spent the weekend in the small community. The experience put to rest some of her anxieties dealing with the loss of Charlie. John insisted she wear the pendent, claiming the stone embedded in the round gold plate would help ease her pain.
He also told her of a myth that went along with that particular stone. If broken in half, the owner of each piece would find one another and true love would bloom. Of course, that was just a fanciful myth, impossible with all the billions of people inhabiting the earth. She smiled nonetheless. Her mind wondered, imagining some handsome man out there who may own the other half of her stone, a man meant just for her.
With a sigh, she pushed away from the counter, picked up her purse and keys, and headed to work. One of two secretaries for the small four lawyer firm, she’d been there for eleven years and she still loved it, even though some days were difficult to muster the courage to walk through the door. She’d met Charlie there, had fallen in love with him there. But no matter how hard it was some days, she could never see herself not crossing the threshold into the homey office. The camaraderie amongst her co-workers, she’d realized months after Charlie’s death, was one of the few things in her life that kept her waking each morning.
Of course, Leslie had one stop before her work day began—coffee and a muffin from the local coffee house.
* * * *
The scent of freshly brewed coffee mixed with the smells of fried dough and sugary sweet icing permeated Leslie’s nose. The cool air inside the donut shop contrasted with the warm, humid air outside, causing goosebumps to prickle her arms upon entering. With a quick, full-body shiver, she took her place in line.
“I’d like a medium coffee, double cream, triple sugar and a cranberry-lemon muffin.”
Leslie’s brows drew together in curious bemusement. At first, the mesmerizing timber of the male voice ordering before her and the sight of his well toned body did funny little things in her belly. Her mind had him almost undressed and in her bed. That is until his order struck her in a strange way.
The same thing she ordered everyday.
“Can I help the next in line?” a woman’s voice asked. Now, standing at the open register next to the man, she placed her order; medium coffee, double cream, triple sugar, and a cranberry-lemon muffin.
Chancing a look at him, she glanced up and…froze. His eyes penetrated deep within her. Her face grew hot from the intensity of his stare. He glanced down at the pendent resting on the exposed flesh of her chest. His brows drew together.
A strange reaction passed through her; a feeling that she knew this man.
He grabbed his coffee and muffin and walked away, leaving her staring, dumbfounded, at the space he no longer occupied.
Leslie snatched up her own order, attempting to quell the awkward moment that past between her and the handsome man with dark brown eyes. But a niggling of something unknown remained under her skin.
Stepping into the cool morning, coffee and muffin in hand, Leslie walked to her car. She stopped. The man stood beside a car, which happened to be parked beside her own.
A horn honked. Startled, she dropped her coffee. The hot liquid splattered across her feet.
“Damn it.” Bending down, she picked up the empty cup and lid. She straightened, and gasped as the man strode toward her. Her heart skipped a beat. She looked to the car she still blocked then took a few steps out of the way.
“Are you okay?”
The deep gentle tone of his voice rumbled over her, through her. His fingers brushed over her wrist. She blinked, shook her head, and forced her mind away from the tingling of her skin where he touched her.
“Yeah. I, umm…yeah, I’m okay.” She tilted her head and looked up at him. “Do I know you?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve just recently moved here. But you do seem familiar to me, too. My name is Jake. Jake Gray.”
Jake. A strong name. Images she had earlier of him all but naked flashed through her mind. He offered his hand and she took it, slightly embarrassed for the vivid scene she’d played out in her head inside the coffee shop.
“It’s nice to meet you, Jake. I’m Leslie.”
“Leslie,” he repeated. A smile curled his lips, softening his features. “I want to apologize if I appeared rude in there.”
“That’s okay, but thank you.” She returned his smile with one of her own.
Their hands remained locked, neither of them attempting to break the contact.
“Your necklace…” His hand rose and his finger caressed over the gold circle. For a brief second his finger made contact with her skin. She sucked in a breath and closed her eyes; an incredibly warm sensation zipped and zinged throughout her entire body. “The stone that is set on the pendent is very rare. I have a pendent similar to this one with the same stone.”
Without preamble, Jake asked, “Would you have dinner with me tonight?”
And without hesitation, Leslie replied, “I would love to."