Atlanta will be a new start, Kellen Edwards thought as he pulled his car between the two white lines outside of the Starbucks, across from the hospital where he’d now be continuing his career. He had a new position, three new positions actually, and a new life away from the stressors that had plagued him in Louisiana—namely, his ex-girlfriend, Trisha. The last image he had of her was her naked, lithe body pinned between three men; one behind her with his hairy knuckles gripping her hips, one alongside her olive skin that had hints of caramel and a rose tattoo beneath her ribcage, and the other, dangling his uncircumcised penis in front of her mouth like a twisted fisherman.
He had a soft spot for women the size of Texas, but that would no longer be the case. Sex would just be sex, no strings. He’d go back to his college days of unscrupulous behavior, tearing at his sleeve until only the threads of his heart remained. And when that familiar loneliness interfered, washing over him on mornings when the temperature outside was perfect, and the spot next to him empty and as cold as a winter morning, he’d ignore it. Maybe, if possible, he’d pick up even more shifts at work although his schedule was already so full, he had to write in time to sleep and visit with his family.
He pushed open the door, got out of the car, and made his way across the street. He wasn’t much of a coffee drinker, but with his new lease on life and his dreadful hours, it made sense to at least try to pick up the habit. It was also shameful to be both of Spanish and French heritage and spurn the idea of coffee drinking.
He held open the door for a woman that was walking out, the gleam of interest in her eyes evident.
“Thank you,” she said, batting her long lashes, her mouth painted in a reddish-pink lip color. Her skin was beautifully tanned, her hair dark.
He flashed her a smile. “You’re welcome. It’s the least I could do.”
“Least you could do for what?”
“It’s my first week living in Atlanta and I’ve already been graced with the presence of a beautiful woman. I should be thanking you.”
Her head fell and she bashfully tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Oh. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Actually, if you’re not—”
The sound of laughter stopped him in the middle of his sentence. Kellen’s head turned, almost automatically, towards the sound and everything came to a screeching halt. The blushing woman in front of him became a blur as his gaze landed on the dark eyes across the café that found him the minute he glanced over. His entire no-strings-attached speech in the car, and all his memories about Trisha went out the window the minute he laid his eyes on the woman behind the counter.
You are mine.
He wasn’t declaring her his. Somewhere inside, she already was. It was something he felt.
He looked down at the eager woman, still waiting for him to ask her out. “Excuse me,” he said, brushing past her to make his way to the counter. The woman behind the counter’s dark eyes were still on his as he drew nearer. He didn’t have a clue what the inside of the coffee shop looked like, but he could tell those eyes swirled even darker the closer he became.
“And how may I help you,” she squinted at his chest, “Dr. Edwards?”
He looked down and pulled off the name tag that had been affixed to his blazer from a mixer at the hospital earlier.
“I’d like a,” he took a quick glance up at the menu, “grande medium roast, nothing fancy. For Kellen.”
When their eyes met again, he felt the charge between them. He wanted her. And though he could somehow tell the obstacle for that to happen would be great, almost as if they’d known each other in a previous life, he didn’t have a care in the world.
“A grande medium roast?” she repeated. “Is that it?”
He nodded. “Yes, that’s it.”