Chapter 19 – Kara
Kara was in a wistful, dreamy daze that Tuesday morning as she looked back over her experiences and how they had led her to this moment—and to Peter, who was supposed to visit her at Mercedes Beanz for the first time today. She was happy that she would finally get to meet Peter’s beloved rescue dog Amanda. She wanted to hear more about her. Kara was working alongside Jeremy that day, and he picked up on her misty-eyed, moony vibe.
“Are you reliving past loves or thinking of someone new?” he asked. “You seem a little out of it this morning, Kara.”
“Sorry, I’m just in a thoughtful mood. I have a friend who is stopping by in a while. It’s kind of slow this morning, so would you mind if I take a ten-minute break and meet him outside when he comes?”
“There it is! You said him, so that’s why you’re floating around in a dream state. I don’t mind you taking a break though. Mom’s here in the back if I need some help for a minute. My only condition is that I get to check out this new boyfriend of yours.” Jeremy shot her a toothy grin.
“He’s not my boyfriend, Jeremy. He’s just a friend, a nice guy I met who is interesting to talk to. I just want to say hello.”
She cut him off there as a young woman approached the counter to place her order. After she and Jeremy took care of it, Kara got out from behind the bar to do a little cleaning of the dining area and to get away from Jeremy’s teasing for a minute or two.
As she tidied up, her thoughts drifted back to the previous Thursday night at karaoke. She thought that Don’s friend Sharon, who in her opinion showed just a little too much bust in her tight tank top, was awfully backhanded with her compliment of Kara’s dress. When Kara had seen it at the department store though, she knew she had to have it—and shoes to go with it.
She was consciously trying to step up her game with Peter, even though she still didn’t know where things would eventually lead. So maybe the outfit was a little over the top for Flannery’s. She still believed it might have done the trick from the look in his eyes. Kind of like when Danny first laid eyes on Sandy in her tight black outfit at the end of Grease. Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic, but she still thought the dress had the desired effect.
Peter hardly sang at all that night. He seemed more interested in relating his story to Kara, as well as learning more of hers. Still, she thought she might have to tone down her dress a little this coming Thursday night. Maybe Sharon would be there again, or Callie and Orlando, so it might be better to fit in more with the casual atmosphere of the place.
She also reviewed the new information she’d learned about Peter. She smiled as she recalled learning the meanings of their respective names. She thought “Vivacious” as a meaning for Sparks was hilarious. But she wouldn’t mind that as Peter’s pet name for her. However, she couldn’t think of anything cute to make of “Gold Nugget.”
Kara had been saddened some by Peter’s story about losing his parents, but she enjoyed hearing the tale of his brother and their band. Kara still wasn’t sure how Peter had ended up overseas with the government, or how he was able to retire at the age of 48, but she knew she would eventually get a lot more information about the handsome writer’s history. And she hoped she hadn’t bored him with her own story. There just wasn’t a whole lot besides college and the Navy for her to talk about yet. Her life was a work in progress after all. And she didn’t want to dwell on past loves, especially not when chatting with Peter.
And why had he asked about past experiences with an older man? I really tried hard to deflect that question, she thought. I hope he bought the idea that it was someone else that I knew who’d had a fling with her professor. Maybe it would have been better just to refuse to answer.
Kara felt her phone vibrate in the back pocket of her jeans as she finished straightening up the dining area and headed back behind the counter. She checked her incoming message, trying to keep her phone’s screen away from Jeremy’s prying eyes.
“We’re done at the vet and heading your way. I’d like to order a large café mocha and a blueberry muffin, if you have it. We’ll be there in five minutes,” Peter’s message read.
She texted back: “I’ll have things ready in a jiffy. The muffins are great here. Meet you outside.”
She told Jeremy that her friend was just down the road and would probably arrive around 9:30. She said she knew it was rather early for a break, but she really wanted the coffee and food to be great so her friend would become a repeat customer. Jeremy assured her again that the break wouldn’t be a problem and that he would personally make the best mocha ever. Kara took a large, fresh blueberry muffin out of the case and placed it in the shop’s toaster oven to warm it for a minute.
Peter sent another text message once he’d arrived and said he would be waiting for her outside. Jeremy handed her the mocha in a to-go cup and wished her luck as she placed the muffin in a Styrofoam container, grabbed a couple of napkins, and carried the items out the front door.
And there was Peter, sitting at one of the patio tables with Amanda on a leash and sitting nicely beside him on the sidewalk. Kara loved her huge doggy grin and happy brown eyes. Her coat was a lustrous black, and it was easy for Kara to see that Peter obviously took great care of her.
“Hi, Peter. Hello, Amanda!” she said as she moved to sit down. “She’s so well-behaved! Here’s your mocha, Peter, and a fresh, warm muffin.”
“Oh, thanks, Kara. I hope I’m not imposing on you too much. Amanda was a trouper this morning. She got her shots and yearly exam with no problem. She’ll let the ladies at the vet’s office do anything they want to her without a single complaint. She loves women, probably because her trainers and the daycare staff are all female and spoil her so much.”
Amanda got up to come nuzzle at Kara’s hand just then and check her out. Kara was delighted to give her a pat on the head as she assured Peter that his visit was no imposition at all.
“Trainers, huh? So she’s been to obedience school?” she asked.
“Yes, when I found her she was pretty wild and completely non-socialized. She was also infested with fleas and intestinal worms. So after I took care of her physical health needs and had her spayed, I spoke to the woman at the kennel and daycare place down the street from here about socializing her with other dogs and ended up bringing her to six Saturdays of obedience classes. Now being part of a pack and playing all day is her favorite thing in the world. I let her stay all day and play at daycare every Wednesday and Friday. She’s always worn out when she comes home.”
Peter paused to take a bite of the muffin and a sip of coffee. “This is delicious, Kara. My compliments. I’m looking forward to coming back tomorrow when I can spend more time.”
“There’s no need to rush off today, Peter. I have ten minutes I can spend with you and Amanda. It’s kind of a slow day, and one of my co-workers is tending the shop right now.”
“Is he a spiky-haired blond guy?” Peter asked.
“Yes, that’s Jeremy, the owner’s son.”
“Well, he just checked us out.”
She laughed. “He’s such a Nosey Parker. So tell me more about Miss Amanda Gildon.”
“I really don’t know anything about her history. A year ago, I found her pitifully huddled under a tree on a highway median and took her to an emergency veterinary center. Like all rescue dogs, she has a number of issues. Thankfully, hers are more psychological than physical. She’s scared to death of car headlights, so who knows how long she was trapped on that median. She won’t chew on dog toys, so I don’t even waste my money on those anymore. And I bought some tennis balls to try and teach her to play fetch, but she turns tail and darts through her dog door into the house every time I’ve tried to throw a ball.”
He paused to take another bite of the muffin.
“That’s so strange and sad, Peter. What can you do about any of that?”
“Not much. I tried out some ideas that the trainer gave me, but all to no avail. So at home, she’s content to stick with the routine we’ve developed. She gets twice daily walks on the days she’s home, and she’s otherwise content to lie on a dog bed in my office while I work or beside me on the couch as I’m watching television. Of course, I have to be touching her when we’re on the couch.”
“She obviously loves and trusts you. It’s probably because you take such good care of her.”
“Thanks, I try. Like I said, I try to spoil the ladies whenever I can.”
He finished the muffin and pulled his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans. “I have to take her home now, and you have to get back to work. But I’ll be back for a while tomorrow. How much do I owe you for this delicious continental breakfast?”
“It’s on me today. You can pay tomorrow when you come by,” she replied.
“No, I insist.” Peter pulled a $20 bill out and gave it to her. “The change goes in the tip jar.”
“That’s very generous, Peter. Are you always such a big tipper? I noticed you gave quite a bit to Olivia last week.”
“I’m generous now because I can be. Besides, you, Olivia, and even Cowboy Don deserve it for taking such good care of me. You’ll notice that at Flannery’s I’m never without a beer. And Don leaves me alone when I want, or let’s me sing all night.” He smiled as he put his wallet away.
Peter took the cup with the remaining coffee and loaded Amanda into the front passenger seat. He said a fond farewell and waved to Kara as he got in to go home. She smiled and waved back from the doorway before returning to work.
She rang up Peter’s order on the register and paid for it with the $20. She gave a $10 bill to Jeremy as his portion of the tip and put the remaining change in the tip jar on the counter.
“Wow, thanks. So you’ve got yourself a sugar daddy now, I see,” Jeremy smirked. “And a handsome one too. I might need to get one of those for myself.”
“Would it kill you to just say thanks and leave it at that?” Kara asked in consternation. “Really, Jeremy, he’s not my sugar daddy. Would I be working here if I had a real one?”
“Hey, I’m just teasing,” he said defensively. “Thanks again for the tip…I’m just saying that’s the kind of daddy issue I wouldn’t mind having.” He laughed.
“Hush! I don’t have any daddy issues, but maybe sometime you can tell me all about yours.”
“Oh, I have a bunch. I wouldn’t even know where to start. And you can’t shush me, girlfriend. So you say we get to check this guy out again tomorrow? Sandy will be working, so she’ll have a chance to weigh in too. And I have superb ‘gaydar,’ so I’ll be able to tell if he’s even a little bit gay.”
“Jeez, Jeremy! You just never stop, do you? He’s just a friend and from what he’s told me, he’s straight as an arrow.”
“I’m sure he hasn’t told you everything there is to know, so let me be the judge of that,” Jeremy said as he wiped down the equipment behind the counter. Neither of them mentioned Peter again for the rest of the day.
After work, Kara received a text message from Amelia, asking how the new job was going. She replied that everything was great, and also mentioned that she had taken Amelia’s advice on getting to know Peter better. She said that he had stopped by the coffee shop earlier with his adorable dog.
Her message prompted an immediate phone call from Amelia St. Ives. “So what’s up with this mysterious older man?” Amelia asked. “You have to tell me every juicy detail!”
Kara related that she was now a regular at Thursday night karaoke, and she’d had several lengthy and in-depth conversations with the handsome older man. She said that she felt relaxed and free around him, and in their talks, she’d found out quite a bit about him.
“He’s divorced and seems to have a preference for free-spirited and much younger women,” Kara told her friend. “Maybe he’s helping to bring out the lighter side of my Gemini personality.”
“Of course he goes for younger women. He doesn’t want to buy some old cow for milk if he can get it for free from some hot young milkmaid.”
“Oh, Amelia, you make it sound so tawdry. I don’t think it’s like that. He writes about his past romantic experiences, and he says he’s almost finished with his first novel. He told me I inspired him to change it from a gloomy story to a happy one. So I guess I’ve become some sort of a muse.”
“And I’ll bet you love him buttering you up like that, don’t you? Be careful or you’ll end up being a jilted ex-lover who’s the subject of his next book.”
“I think it’s me who’s been the flirtatious one in this whole deal, not him. He doesn’t seem to be pushing an agenda, and I like that. You know how some guys are nudging for sex and/or a relationship from the first date? I’m getting none of that. We’re just enjoying each other’s company. So I invited him to Mercedes Beanz today and he’s coming back tomorrow.”
“I know you fantasize about this guy, but do you know where you want to take this thing yet, Kara? I mean you can have any guy you want if you set your mind to it. Just beware of the potential consequences when you choose.”
“To answer your question, I like where we’re at now, but I might like something more. We’ll have to wait and see. Now, how are things with you and Drew?”
“We are taking a little break while he figures out his work situation and whether or not he wants to stay in Atlanta or uproot and move. We’ll figure it out. I’ve been kind of busy myself, so not a lot of time or desire to go out and mess around. Things would be so much easier if you were here. We could hang out together, just like the old times.”
“I know, Amelia. I miss you and Florida a lot. I think I just have to ride things out here for now and see where it all leads. I’ll keep you posted though. You can count on it.”
Amelia said she would hold her friend to that promise before they said their goodbyes.
Later that evening, Kara finished the first smutty novella she’d purchased. She thought the hottest thing about it had been the gorgeous administrative assistant’s lustful fantasies about her older boss while she tried to maintain her composure in the office. And very predictably, her dreams came true when they ended up having steamy sex in a broken-down elevator one night after working late. The couple ended up in a relationship, and her boss went to work for another company at the end so his young paramour wouldn’t be forced out over a conflict of interest on the job. Of course, the reader was led to believe they lived happily ever after.
Kara was hungry to read more stories in the same vein, but she wanted something meatier. Maybe she could find something like the mysteries she loved to read. She thought one particular full-length novel in the erotic romance category sounded promising, so she purchased it. The story supposedly involved a young, attractive female attorney who becomes obsessed with a much older, rich and suave lawyer with a rival firm. It probably has less sex, but much more intrigue, she thought as she began to read it.
But as it turned out, not only was there the potential for more intrigue, the young attorney’s erotic fantasies were even steamier than in the previous story she’d read. Reading the tale made Kara even more hot and bothered, enflaming her own fantasies about making love to Peter Gildon. She longed to see him once again, and it gave her only small comfort to know he would come to the coffee shop again tomorrow.
Kara, Sandra and Jeremy were all busy the next morning, buzzing about as they served a large number of customers. Kara was grateful for the business; it kept Jeremy’s precocious pestering to a minimum. But she was sure he would start back up again after Peter had come and gone.
Things started to slow down a little before 9:00, and Sandra was the first to mention anything about Kara’s new friend. “So, Kara,” she said in a hushed tone when Jeremy slipped off to the back for more supplies, “I hear you had a handsome, older gentleman come to visit you yesterday.”
Before Kara could answer, Jeremy was back and butting in. In an awful fake Southern accent, he said, “Yes, our dear Kara had a gentleman caller come to visit. I do declare, he is a winsome rogue!”
Both the young ladies laughed at his silliness, and Kara blushed a little. “Yes, he’s a friend. And he’s coming back this morning. In fact, he should be here any time now.”
“Fantastic! I’d love to meet him,” Sandra replied.
A few minutes later, Peter walked in and strode toward the counter. He was wearing khaki pants and a blue golf shirt, and he was carrying a hardback book in one hand. Kara thought he looked hotter than ever. She introduced him to Sandra and Jeremy before asking him what he’d like to order. She watched as his smoky eyes looked to the menu board on the wall and he checked out the food items in the case on the counter.
“I really liked the café mocha I had yesterday,” he told Kara while Sandra stood beside her. “I’m not sure what I’d like to eat today though. Maybe you ladies could recommend something.”
Sandra piped up before Kara had a chance to say anything. “I really like the bear claws, but everything we have is good,” she said, starry-eyed. Kara was quick to chime in that she loved the bagels.
“A blueberry bagel and cream cheese it is then,” he said, pulling his wallet from his back pocket and handing Kara a $20 bill. “The rest goes in the tip jar.”
“Thanks, Peter. Why don’t you head back to the reading area and I’ll bring your order when it’s ready,” Kara said. He was still carrying the book he’d brought in as he walked away.
As the three baristas scrambled to work on Peter’s order, Sandra whispered to Kara that she thought Peter looked stunning—both front and back. She asked if Kara was dating him. In a hushed tone, Kara replied that she wasn’t and reiterated that they were just friends.
Ever the busybody, Jeremy joined in the conversation. “I think both of you want something more than friendship. It’s pretty obvious you have the hots for him. Don’t you agree, Sandy?”
“I don’t know,” the strawberry blonde said. “Maybe Kara isn’t into older guys. It’s kind of a taboo, even though a lot of women our age fantasize about it. Most never act on their impulses though.”
“Like you never acted on your fantasy of making it with that couple of doctors you used to babysit for!” Jeremy said slyly.
“Jeremy! I told you that in strict confidence. I’m never sharing secrets with you again!” Sandra snapped. She was clearly becoming irritated with Jeremy for throwing in his two cents when she was trying to have a girls’ moment with Kara.
“Well, I could certainly get into an older man like him,” Jeremy commented. “But sadly, I don’t see a trace of gay in the poor man.”
“You’re both terrible!” Kara proclaimed as her co-workers grinned and handed her the coffee and bagel to deliver to Peter. Kara was a bit shocked to think that Sandra may have some bisexual tendencies. Or maybe those were just fantasies she would never act on.
She found Peter sitting and perusing a paperback book he had taken from the bookcase. He thanked her for bringing his order as she set the items down on the small table beside his chair and handed her the book that he’d brought in.
“I think you’ll find this interesting and informative,” he said. “It’s the first in a series about how positive thought and action bring about positive results. It’s been an immense inspiration to me. That copy is yours to keep.”
“Thanks, Peter. I’ll definitely make time to read it. And if I like it, maybe I’ll buy others in the series. I see you found something to read.”
“Yes, action/adventure. That’s what I like to read most. But I’m not so good at writing that sort of thing.”
“I’m sure you’re very good at writing in your chosen genre.” She smiled down at him. “I’ll leave you to your breakfast. Enjoy!”
“Thanks again, Kara. Your co-workers seem nice. Maybe I’ll come out front in a bit and watch your interactions. I’m something of a people watcher, you know. I hope it doesn’t make any of you nervous.”
“No, I don’t think it will. Come out whenever you want. They behave when there are customers present. Well, most of the time, that is. I know you have somewhere to be, but I like the fact you can stay a while longer today.”
When she returned behind the bar, she told Sandra and Jeremy to be on their best behavior when Peter came back. With sheepish looks, they both returned to their duties and served other customers who were coming into the store.
After a while, Peter brought his coffee up to the front and sat at one of the pub tables across from the counter. Kara noticed he had brought the paperback he’d found with him, but as he sat down, he pulled his phone from the black leather case clipped to his belt. He began to tap on the screen, and Kara saw a broad smile sweep across his face as he obviously ran across a humorous website. After he’d finished his coffee and thrown away the cup, he came to the bar to say goodbye to Kara.
“I was just reading our horoscopes for the day. I’ll send you the link to the site. I got a kick out of them,” he said, grinning. “I have to get going. I’m going to take this book with me, but I’ll bring something to replace it in the book exchange next week.”
“I’ll have to check out that horoscope site. I have my daily Gemini forecast sent to my phone, so I can compare the two.”
“That could be fun. Thanks for the coffee and bagel. I’ll say goodbye now. I have to take care of some business. I’ll see you later.”
She watched as Peter walked out to his car. He does look good from the back too, she thought.
Half an hour later, Peter sent a text to her with a link to their horoscopes, along with a message saying he’d almost forgotten to send it. He apologized and told her to enjoy the readings.
When Kara’s break time came, she smiled as she first read the daily horoscope for Aquarius: “A member of the opposite sex will shower you with kindness today. Open your heart to this person and throw caution to the wind in future meetings. Only then will you reap further rewards.” Yes, she thought, further rewards may be coming his way.
Next she checked out Gemini, and it made her laugh out loud: “A strikingly attractive acquaintance shows more than a passing interest in you today. Use the fun-loving, flirty side of your Gemini personality to win the heart of this intriguing person. Don’t hold back!”
“What’s so funny?” Jeremy asked in passing. “Is your new boyfriend making fun of us and our tiny little coffee shack?”
“No, I’m just reading some funny horoscopes.”
“Oh, I don’t believe in that mumbo jumbo.”
“Sure, they can be vague and very open to interpretation. No one said you had to believe. I just thought these were very specific and very funny.”
“Oh yeah? So what does mine say for Capricorn?”
“It says you need to behave today if you want to get positive reinforcement and cooperation from those around you.”
“Ha, very funny.”
“No, it really does say that.” Or maybe something along similar lines.
“Whatever,” Jeremy said dismissively as he stalked off.
Before Kara left Mercedes Beanz for the day, she sent a text to Peter about their horoscopes: “I hope I showered you with kindness. You’re always kind to me too, so stand by for further rewards. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”
She read his reply when she got home: “Looking forward to more of your fun-loving, flirty and vivacious side, Gemini!”
Kara laughed and thought of the perfect rewards to bestow on her Aquarian friend.