It’s a gorgeous Saturday here in Albuquerque with blue skies for miles. Tons of leaves finally fell from my trees last night, but it’s warm this afternoon. I hope your day is as beautiful even as we mourn for France around the world.
I’d like to share the beginning of Veteran Hearts. This story takes place in between Masked Hearts and Thankful Hearts, but it’s a complete stand-alone filled with a lot of sex for such a short story. Enjoy!
1| Ginger Tea Latte with Extra Foam
Jessica sat at a round table by the window of the Holiday Cafe. She gripped her Ginger Tea Latte with extra foam in one hand and her tablet in the other. Outside, a car with bright headlights drove through the parking lot, but she was looking for a truck.
Kyle would arrive at any second.
Her hand tightened on the cup. Maybe she’d scared him away. Maybe her not so subtle hint about where she wanted the relationship to go had been too much.
A planet shown brightly against the blue twilight sky, calming her nerves as she stared at it. She loved turning the clock back so night fell earlier. For the first time, she felt as if autumn had actually arrived. When Kyle showed up, it’d be the perfect evening—if he showed up. Of course, he would, wouldn’t he?
For fuck’s sake, they were grown adults, she could recommend that kind of book if she wanted to.
She turned her gaze back to the book on her tablet, but her mind remained on Kyle and the desire to move their relationship forward—way forward.
The first time he’d walked into the cafe on a Monday night, she’d caught her breath. He had thick coffee colored hair she wished she could brush her fingers through and even darker eyes that turned her insides soft as the foam on her latte. He’d worn a forest colored t-shirt tucked in—very unusual for men in Albuquerque. But it was his voice that really pushed her desire over the edge: deep and smooth as milk chocolate.
She startled and looked up when she actually heard his voice speak the words she’d heard for the first time two months ago: “Hey, Chloe. A Ginger Tea Latte with extra foam.”
Jessica smiled when he turned around and nodded to her with his eyes crinkling in a grin. He was even the same age as her: thirty-five.
When he turned back to Chloe, the barista, Jessica checked out his perfect ass in his snug jeans. So many times she’d wanted to run her hands down to his butt while giving him a long kiss. She took a deep breath and steadied herself by checking the time on her tablet: 6:00 pm. Right on the dot as usual.
Chloe chatted with him as she rung up his order. After he’d paid, he walked right to her table instead of waiting for the drink.
He moved with confident strides that said he was a man in control. But when he talked, he was always soft spoken—a contrast. The first night they’d met, they’d had a great conversation about books and decided to meet again the next week. They’d agreed to read and discuss The Martian, which she’d hoped to turn into a movie date, but it’d never happened. At least he’d promised to meet her the next Monday for another book and then the next Monday and the next for two months now.
Kyle sat down, his face changing to the color of the Red Planet.
Jessica gave an impish grin, set her tablet down and wrapped both hands around her cup.
Kyle said, “That wasn’t romance. That was porn.”
Jessica gave a mock gasp and flipped a strand of long blond hair behind her shoulder. “I can’t believe you said that. Porn has no emotions. This couple had a deep connection.”
“Oh, I’d say it was deep. The book spent several pages telling how deep into her he was.”
Jessica snorted and stared down at her lap. Heat flared in her face. She didn’t know if she was more embarrassed by his comment or the snort. But there was no turning back now. Two months of enjoying Kyle’s company over Ginger Tea Lattes with extra foam and without sex was too long.
She jutted her chin out and said, “That’s what you get for making me read that hard sci-fi book last week.”
“You’re a scientist. I thought you liked sci-fi.”
“Not hard sci-fi. I don’t need to read detail after detail about some solar array. That’s my real life.”
“So I guess your real life doesn’t involve sex at every angle you can possibly think of.” He stared straight into her eyes as he spoke with his voice barely above a whisper.
She stole herself against the intensity of his dark eyes and forced out her reply. “My life hasn’t involved sex of any sort for far too long.”
He leaned forward and slid his hands across the table as if he would encircle her hands around the cup. Her skin tingled in anticipation of his touch. She’d been waiting for this for two months. She should’ve suggested a smut book sooner.
But Chloe walked up dressed in combat boots, camo pants and a green t-shirt that said Holiday Cafe.
Kyle withdrew as she set a teacup with a light froth on top in front of him.
She said, “One Ginger Tea Latte with extra foam.” She turned to Jessica and asked, “Are you ready for another?”
Damn it. She was ready for a long-awaited sign of affection from Kyle. “Uh, no not yet.” She couldn’t believe Chloe had walked up right then. Chloe knew she was frustrated with how slow the relationship was moving. Surely she’d seen that he was just about to hold her hands.
Kyle leaned back in his chair. One hand took the handle of his teacup, and he lifted it up to take a sip.
Chloe slapped a flier on the table with an American flag in the background and text saying something about a special coffee. “I hope the two of you can come to our Veterans Day Coffee. It’s next Monday so you won’t have to change the day you meet or anything. Troy Sandoval’s baking all the pastries, and I know he’d love to see you, Kyle.”
Kyle stared at the flyer with the teacup halfway to his mouth. Something akin to anger glinted in his eyes. Jessica had hoped he’d ask her to the Poetry Slam the cafe had hosted for Halloween, but he’d only commented that poetry wasn’t his thing. By the look in his eye, maybe he was anti-war too.
Jessica realized the silence had gone on too long. “Uh, thanks. I’m sure I’ll be here for it,” she said.
“Great,” said Chloe with a smile as if nothing was wrong. She turned on her heel and strode back to the counter.
Kyle set his cup down and put a hand on top of the flyer. Jessica watched as he slowly curled his fingers together, crumpling the paper.
“Is something wrong?” asked Jessica.
He stopped, midway to a fist, appearing distraught.
Compassion swelled inside Jessica, making her do what she’d been too timid to do for two months.
She reached out and put her hand on top of his.
Her whole body glowed like a candle at the first contact. He relaxed his hand beneath hers until it was flat once again along with the paper.
“Sorry,” he said, staring at her hand on top of his. “We were having a good time and the reminder was unexpected.”
“I’m a veteran. I like to forget that I am.”
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