He was at my heels in seconds. I stormed back to the trail and continue down the hill, his work boots and worried gaze keeping up with every step.
When I reached the parking lot where only one car remained – his no doubt – I realized I didn’t have a ride home. I place my hands on my hips for a few seconds before deciding I would rather walk home then deal with this crazy mute any longer. I turned away from the black Jeep Wrangler and stocked off in the opposite direction.
His hand clasped over mine, stopping me in my tracks. I made the mistake of looking at him.
God damn, those eyes.
He jerked his head towards his Jeep. “Coffee?”
My jaw set. “Why? What’s the point?” I don’t think I had ever been so baffled by a man in my entire life. “What do you want?”
A very faint smile painted his lips. “Coffee,” he repeated. He ran his thumb over my hand. “With you.”
I looked around the forest. Why was I even considering going with him? No, it was worse. I was definitely going with him – I had already decided. I stomped my foot on the ground in frustration. Is this the source of his strange magic? He just strings girls along until they’re desperate for that kiss? Some kind of messed up psychological game?
He continued to pull me in like a tractor beam while I deliberated. He shoved his hand in his pocket and looked at the ground, now smirking.
I scoffed. “What?”
He looked up again and shook his head. He gestured once again to the Jeep.
“Fine,” I muttered.
He tightened his grip on my hand, his smile now larger and, oh god, so gorgeous. And charming. And kissable.
To my surprise, he pulled me right past truck to the entrance of the parking lot. We headed down a side road towards town, the asphalt crunching under our feet, and the trees looming darkly overhead sending down a few spare drops of rainwater every few seconds.
Not more than a half mile down the road, the heavily wooded area to our right opened up just enough to reveal a small cabin about a quarter-mile off the road. We followed a dirt path through the darkness.
Weren’t we supposed to be going to a coffee shop?
As my view of the cabin improved, I couldn’t help but have flashbacks of campy high school horror movies. If my calculations were correct, we were headed to an abandoned shack in the woods where we would try to make out, only to be accosted by a hooded stranger with a bloodied weapon.
Jax snapped to attention, quickly pulling his hoodie off and insisting I put it on. It was cute – especially considering it was still damp from the rain.
When I was finally finished fumbling with the hoodie and could see again, I realized that the cabin was not a cabin, in fact. It was a small, quaint coffee shop with nothing but a small hand carved sign over a glass front door that read “Coffee in the Woods.” The outside was very plainly decorated, nothing but log construction with one large window with a pair of red velvet curtains halfway pulled across the inside. A number of heads bobbed and chatted inside, looking so cozy and warm in their little sanctuary from the darkness.
We had stood a good twenty feet outside the entrance of the café for several minutes before I realized that Jax was staring at it through his thickened eyebrows, his visage heavy and guarded.
I squeezed his hand in question.
He relaxed slightly, swallowed, tossed me a pained smile, and pulled me towards the door.
The jingle of bells accompanied our entrance. A heavy log wall ran immediately to our right covered with a beautiful piece of what looked like original artwork – an incredible mountain scape with deep purples, blacks, and rolling browns.
To my left was the most miraculous display case I had ever seen. It expanded the width of the shop, an array of dark but colorful lights lighting the inside, each color morphing slowly and beautifully into the next. Inside sat a scrumptious array of muffins, scones, donuts, cupcakes, sandwiches, baguettes, cheeses, sliced meats, crepes, German pancakes…every delicacy, foreign or domestic was represented in that long case. I swear I graced the floor with a drip of drool.
A woman appeared behind the counter and smiled wildly at Jax. “Mon cher! Ca fait longtemps! Comment ca va?”
In typical Jax fashion (I know, it’s like I know him now), he just nodded and then pointed at a couple of items in the case.
He turned to me. “Ches?”
I did a double take. Did I tell him my name?
The woman behind the counter interrupted my thoughts by jabbing her hand in my face and speaking in a strong French accent. “Ches? It’s your name? Enchante! I’m called Madame Pinot.”
I brightened. Someone to talk to? Hell, yes. “Madame Pinot. Like the wine?”
She laughed. “Perhaps. But this you don’t tell Beau, here.”
I chuckled with just a hint of reservation. Beau? His nickname? Or a term of endearment?
My question was soon answered. Jax ordered a couple of coffees and picked up two sweatshirts embroidered with “Cafe in the Woods.” As we carried our things into the seating area, a few guys from a large group gathered near the window stood up and approached us jovially.
“Beau!” one cried, “It’s Beau, he’s back.”
A very skinny man with chiseled features slapped him on the back. “We haven’t seen you for a while, man. You back to join your people?”
Jax shrugged him off.
“I guess not,” mumbled the other who wore a light gray MSU sweatshirt. “Come on, man, I promise we won’t make you talk.”
Jax glared, grabbed my hand, turned around and flicked his middle finger behind him.
A collective “Oooooooooo” along with applause rang out behind him.
“Okay, calm down you bunch of babies,” rang out a female voice. Jax and I glanced back to see a larger woman with long curly sand-colored locks, tight jeans, and a pair of clunky cowgirl boots step forward. She nodded to Jax. “Good to see you, Beau. Come back anytime.”
Jax blushed red, but he nodded back. He guided me around another log wall to a more secluded area at the back of the cafe, right next to a gorgeous roaring fire.