Warm liquid ran down my calf. It worked its way from my ankle into my brand new Kate Spade pumps. Pooling under my foot, I felt the heat rise all the way to my cheeks. I lifted my head and stared up at the cloudless sky. The sun warmed my skin even more. Confusion followed the heat as it spread through me.
If the sky was clear and I wasn’t standing in the shower, where the hell was this water coming from? I looked down. The confusion was replaced with horror. This is not happening. Not today.
“I am so sorry!” a deep voice behind me shouted over the buzz of early morning commuters. “Baxter, no!”
The sound of a puppy whimpering mingled with the man’s disappointment. Did this dog just pee on me?!
I glanced around the lobby of Starbucks. There were two people ahead of me and about fifteen behind me in line. It was 7:30 am on a Monday morning. There was no way I was giving up my spot. I’d been in this line for fifteen minutes. My foot and shoe would have to wait.
“Baxter!” he called to his dog again but the chocolate brown puppy plopped down on the sidewalk next to me. His deep black eyes peered up at me, melting whatever anger I’d just felt. I reached down and patted his head. He tilted to the side, giving me access to his ear. I obliged his silent request and scratched behind his ear.
“What a cute boy you are Baxter,” I said. My voice ticking up an octave or two as I slipped into the voice reserved for my baby sister and, apparently, dogs. My sister, now twenty-five, hated it. But Baxter seemed to appreciate it. “You’re just cute enough for me to forgive your for peeing in my new favorite shoes.”
“Let me buy your coffee,” the man said. I didn’t bother looking up at him. Baxter had my full attention. His hand grazed mine, sending a jolt through me. I jerked my hand away. I may have forgiven Baxter, but this human should have known better than to bring his non-potty trained puppy to the busiest Starbucks in downtown Nashville on a Monday morning.
I shrugged, acknowledging the fact that he’d effectively used his dog’s potty break to cut ahead in line. The lady behind me groaned but I ignored her.. “Sure, that’d be great.” I stepped up to the counter and decided to treat myself. “I’ll take a venti iced skinny cinnamon dolce latte with an extra shot.”
He cleared his throat.
“And a whole grain bagel, toasted with cream cheese.”
“Anything else?” the young barista asked. I shook my head. “Name?”
“Maddie,” I replied.
“Tall Americano, please.” I detected the tiniest hint of annoyance in his voice. He brushed my shoulder as he stepped past me to pay.
“Thank you,” I said and turned away, leaving him to deal with the bill. I walked carefully towards the station with napkins and pulled out a handful. Sitting down at the closest table, I slipped my shoe off and soaked up the dog urine with the napkins and attempted to clean my foot.
“I’m Lucas,” he said. After offering to take the napkins and throw them away, he sat down in the seat across from me. Baxter settled at my feet, seeming to have given up on his human. I didn’t blame him. Lucas cleared his throat. He extended his hand and I shook it, ignoring the sweat that soaked his skin.
“Oh, I’m Maddie. You’ve got a sweet puppy, here.” I reached down to pat Baxter’s head again. “Just need to work on his social and bathroom skills. Preferably on knowing when and where it’s appropriate to relieve himself.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled. “We are working on it, huh big guy?” Baxter lifted his head and yawned. I did not believe the two were on the same page.
“Bagel for Maddie!” I excused myself from the lack of conversation to retrieve my bagel. I didn’t need or want it, but it was the least he could do. When I took my seat next to him again, my eyes drifted over his jeans and up his torso towards his face. The sharpness of his jaw and the depth of his blue eyes took me by surprise. His hand was grasping his chestnut brown hair, and a long frown settled on his lips. They looked soft. It was a stark contrast to the hardness the rest of his body carried. His soulful eyes were deeply imbedded in dark circles.
“Puppies are a lot like babies,” I said. My comment hung in the air for a moment before he allowed the tiniest smile to flirt with the corner of his lips.
“He doesn’t sleep much.”
“How old is he?”
“Six months, I think?” he said. “I rescued him a week or so ago. He was dumped on the side of the road by my parent’s house.”
“Awe, who could abandon a face like that?” I said, cooing.
“I know, right?” He yawned again.
The barista called my name and his. Before I could get up, he was on his feet and walking towards the counter to retrieve our respective drinks. I couldn’t help but stare at the way his jeans curved perfectly around his butt. My cheeks reddened and flames spread through me. If there was ever a time I was grateful to have been peed on, this was it. Some people imagine how quarters might bounce off an ass, but my mind was not at all on quarters as I studied the way he moved. I could think of a few things more enticing than quarters.
My body responded almost as quickly as my thoughts. It shouldn’t have surprised me. I’d been single for almost a year and a half now. I’d been on a few dates, but nothing promising. I insisted it was too soon when friends tried to set me up. I didn’t think I was ready. But watching Lucas, I was beginning to think the time had come. I was ready to dive back into the dating pool. Or just a random night of fun with a hot guy who’s dog had already stolen my heart.
“Your latte,” he said, handing me the cup. I was careful to not touch him this time. I didn’t trust my body to respond appropriately. He slipped his hand into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so jealous of a wallet. “Here.”
He handed me a white card. Lucas Moretti. I ran my finger over his name. Below his name was the name of a local real estate firm and a phone number.
“That’s my cell,” he said. “Don’t worry, I won’t try to sell you a house.” This time, a real smile crossed his face, wrinkling the tan skin around his eyes.
“Oh,” I replied. I pulled my own card out from my purse and handed it to him.
“Maddie Anderson,” he said, drawing my name out. Each syllable slithered off his tongue. I watched his lips move and tried not to imagine just how magical they would feel against mine. “Is Maddie short for Madison?”
“Amanda,” I said, shaking my head. “I hate the name Mandy, but there were seven Amandas in my school. So, I picked Maddie.”
Tugging at a strand of my blonde hair, I twisted it around my index finger and thumb. Over and over. Each time dropping it so the curl cascaded down my shoulder. I recognized this as my nervous tic. I glanced around the cafe, trying to decide whether or not to make eye contact. When my gaze finally landed on his face, he held his eyes on mine. Still smiling, neither one of us broke the stare. I couldn’t look away. Baxter laid his head down on my foot, resigning to his fate of being stuck in this cafe. Neither Lucas or I were willing to make the first move. I needed to get to work, but I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I’d rather be doing with this man I’d just met.
“Let’s get dinner sometime, Maddie short for Amanda.” He smirked.
“You’ve got my number,” I said and stood. I decided to play it cool. He didn’t need to know I’d been holding my breath waiting for him to ask that very question. I knelt down to give Baxter one final ear scratch. “Bye, Baxter. Don’t go peeing on any other girls today, okay?” His head bobbed up and down as if he’d understood my request.
I offered Lucas a quick wave before ducking out of the cafe and back onto the busy street. My heart raced when I turned back and noticed him watching me walk away. I could only hope that my skirt was giving him the same thoughts his jeans had given me.
Taking a long, slow sip of my free and extra potent latte, I forced a smile and pulled open the door to the office building. I shouted a greeting to the security guard and walked through the large, ornate lobby. I scanned my badge at the elevator and closed my eyes. I took three deep breaths, letting each one in and out slowly and deliberately. Today was going to be a good day. Today was my day.