The sound of the bell chiming above the coffee shop door is all too familiar. The feeling of the finished oak of the front door underneath the palm of her hand has been ingrained into her mind as she visits her favorite coffee shop every morning before heading into work.
“Riley!” Rob, the coffee shop owner exclaims. “How are you today?”
Riley smiled at the elderly man, as she does every morning. “Hey Rob, I’m good. How are you?”
Rob shrugged his shoulders and held his hands up to his establishment, “I can’t complain now, can I?” He chuckles to himself. “Would you like your usual, sweetheart?”
The 24-year-old nodded her head with a smile as she dug into her bag for her wallet so she could pay for her coffee. As she waited for her coffee to be finished, she looked around to see if there was anyone else inside. A young woman near the back of the coffee shop, a college student, was typing away on her laptop with what looked like an Intro to Psychology textbook next to her. She did not miss those times, yet she vividly remembers being in the same exact position as the younger woman just a few years ago. Instead, it was with a Marketing Concepts textbook and a few different notebooks filled with social media marketing strategies.
“Here you go,” Rob handed over her coffee as she gave him cash as payment in return. He opened up the register and as he was about to hand over her change, she waved her hand.
“Don’t worry about it,” Riley smiled. “Keep the change.”
Rob smiled, “You say that every morning. Eventually, my coffee shop will be running business as usual with you as my only customer!”
“Take it as appreciation for making such great coffee for me every morning!” Riley shrugged. “For many years at that,” she added.
Rob thanked her once again before assisting another customer that just walked in the door. Riley finished grabbing her sugars, creamer, and cardboard sleeve before walking out into the sunshine of Seattle, Washington.
Riley continued her walk to work as she usually parks her car at a nearby parking garage, walks to The Coffee Bean to get her morning caffeine before heading down the street a little farther towards her work.
She couldn’t complain about her career. During college, she worked her ass off and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a double major in Marketing Science and Social Media Management. Right after college, she was able to connect with one of her dad’s employees and was able to snag a job as a Social Media Marketing Assistant. After a year, she was promoted to the Marketing Manager and was easily making $65,000 a year. For a 24-year-old out of college, that isn’t too bad.
As she walked up the dozens of concrete stairs leading to the front lobby, she noticed a news crew talking to a few police officers as one was putting up another ‘Wanted’ sign. She sighed.
Bodies have been missing left and right over the past few months, and it wasn’t just in Seattle. Surrounding cities have also reported missing persons over a similar timespan. Riley counted up the total in her head.
It has to be nearly a dozen now.
The brunette opened the tall glass door and walked into the security booth. She worked for a large Fortune 500 company and they took their security very seriously, especially since the start of the disappearances. She scanned her badge at the front and then walked through the scanner as her bag was being checked by the police officer that usually works an extra shift there.
“Hey Riley,” Officer Herrera stated. “How are you this morning?”
“I’m fine, how about yourself?” She smiled and took a sip of her coffee.
“I’m alright,” he sighed and looked outside the glass doors towards the news crew and his fellow officers from Seattle PD. “There is another kid missing. 21-year-old male, senior at Seattle University.”
Riley also looked over towards the crowd, “Still no leads?”
The older gentleman shook his head, “It’s the third one this month and of course the parents are terrified. I would be too if my kid went missing.”
“I’m sure you guys will find something though.” She picked up her belongings and wished Officer Herrera a good day as she also greeted the secretary sitting at the front desk. Once she pressed the elevator button to go up to her floor, a buzz on her wrist notified her that she received a text.
Duke Adams: Good morning beautiful ;) I got you a coffee! One day, you won’t need to buy one every day when you can make one at my place!
Riley sighed and even grimaced a little bit. Duke is known for being the womanizer on her floor, and apparently, he is now caught up on her. Even after several attempts of declining a night on the town and avoiding getting wrapped up into going over to his condo for a ‘work thing’.
Hey, I already got one...as usual. She typed as she walked into the elevator and pressed her floor level, 17.
It wasn’t even a few seconds later that she saw the gray bubbles form at the bottom of her screen indicating that he was typing back.
Duke Adams: I figured, but I’m sure it doesn’t satisfy you as good as mine ;)
Upon reading the message, she rolled her eyes. Other women might find it disgusting or cringy, but at this point, she was used to it after about a month of this. She hopes that one day it will be all over and Duke will move on, but today is not the day.
Once the elevator doors opened, she walked across the marble floors all the way to her office, and there he was, standing in his typical navy-blue three-piece suit with caramel-colored leathered accessories.
“Hey Duke, how are you?” Riley sighed as she brushed past him standing with the extra coffee and walked over to her chair. She placed her bag on her desk and started up her MacBook desktop so she could start on some work for the day.
“Hey sweetheart, I’m doing well.” Duke turned and now faced her. He placed the extra coffee cup on her desk in front of her and took a sip of his own. “It’s just the way you like it,” he gestured towards it.
“You truly don’t know the way that I like it,” Riley rolled her eyes as Duke raised his eyebrows.
“What?” He questioned and pointed to it, “It’s how everyone likes it.” He then shoved his hand into his pants pocket and smirked at her.
“Duke, I’m going to say it again,” Riley spoke slowly, making sure she got her point across. “You are not my type, so please move on.”
Duke’s face turned up into a grimace, “That’s what you say now, but just you wait. I will have you begging for me by the end of the quarter.” He said as he started walking out. He opened her office door, but before he walked out, he gave her a wink.
Riley’s face turned into a frown of disgust as she saw him walk down the hallway through her glass walls, probably heading to accompany some other woman on her floor. She really didn’t know how she even gave him the impression that she would remotely be attracted to him.
For starters, he’s the wrong gender.
It’s not like she is in the closet or still trying to figure out who she is. She knows she is gay and has been for many years now. She made the realization her Junior year of high school and definitely had her fair share of hookups and relationships throughout her college years, but she never catches herself yelling it down the hallways at her job. She has only been working here for a little over a year, but her sexuality has never really come up in conversation. She doesn’t have a girlfriend, nor is she in the market for one. During her senior year of college, she vowed off females so she could focus on her studies and finding a job after graduation.
Her parents knew as well. She officially told them before heading off to college for her first semester as a freshman, but they already knew. She guesses she wasn’t as secretive as she thought she was being around other women. They welcomed her with open arms and exclaimed that they still loved her no matter who she is in love with. Besides her parents, the only other person that is close to her that knows is her best friend Raegan. They have known each other since elementary school and Riley claims that Raegan knew about her sexuality before she even did.
As she continued reflecting, she started opening up her emails to see if there were any new announcements to the new marketing campaign that she spearheaded last week. The first draft of it is due tomorrow morning to the Department Head of Marketing and she wanted to make sure her team is ready to present it to the board.
The good thing about her job is that there is always something happening so it makes her really focus on the task at hand and not counting down the minutes until she is able to shut down her computer and walk back down to the parking deck.
The presentation is finally completed as her workday came to an end and after clicking the save button a few too many times, just to be sure, she shut down her computer and locked up her office for the night.
Thankfully, she hasn’t had another run-in with Duke today and she wanted it to keep it that way. On her way down to the front lobby, she looked out of the tinted windows of the glass elevator. The elevator was placed at the front of the building so everyone would be able to look outside as they traveled up and down the floor levels.
A small crowd of protesters holding up a few signs were gathered near the announcement board on the side of the street. It was the same area where the news crew was interviewing the small group of police officers this morning. As the elevator lowered, she was able to see a few of the signs and the reasoning behind the protest.
It looked like some friends and family members of the people who have gone missing over the past few months. As the elevator dinged, Riley stepped out onto the marble and tiled floor and headed towards Officer Herrera.
“When did they arrive?” She asked as she walked up.
The older gentleman sighed and placed his hands above his duty belt, “They arrived an hour before lunch and they haven’t moved since. Seattle PD is about to be down here to try and handle it, but I have a feeling it is only going to escalate.”
Riley nodded her head, “It seems that way. Don’t they realize they could just go out and try and find them?”
The officer shook his head, “I don’t think it’s that easy. I was talking to a few of my buddies who are on a few of the cases and there are zero leads. They have been looking everywhere and asking many different people many questions, but whoever did this really covered up their tracks. There is no evidence to go off on.” He looked over towards the crowd of people, “I feel bad for saying this, but at this point, there is nothing else that Seattle PD can do. We have multiple search parties out looking for them. A few of the K-9 units are out with some of the mounted officers. They are looking through all nearby parks and trails, but no updates yet.”
Riley hummed in acknowledgment and wished her officer friend luck as she exited the building. She felt bad for these people. Their loved one is gone without a trace and no one can find them. She grieved for them all the way to her car and the way home, but once she entered her empty apartment, another feeling washed over.
Granted, Reagan wasn’t supposed to be home yet for another few minutes, but she did wish there was someone to come home to every night. Although she did vow herself off women for her senior year of college, she didn’t think it would extend to two years.
“I guess I just haven’t found the right one,” She whispered to herself as she placed her bag on the kitchen table and headed into the kitchen to heat some leftovers up from last night’s lasagna dinner.
She was just taking her first bite when her best friend came rolling through the door.
“I swear, traffic on that road is horrible at this hour!” the light-skinned, curly-haired diva exclaimed as she walked through their front door and dropped her things.
Riley smiled over at her, “You did decide to take a position on the busiest side of the city, you know.”
“Don’t remind me,” Raegan sighed as she took off her Medical Insurance Agent badge and placed it into her purse. “The pay is nice, though. I hope to be done paying off my student loans within the next ten years.”
Riley nodded in agreement as she silently thanked her parents in her head for paying for all of college. Her father is an owner of a huge stock company and her mother owns two businesses, so they all knew that FAFSA wasn’t going to award her with any scholarship or grant money, so her parents paid all of it for her. She knew she was extremely lucky to have parents with the means to pay for her school, but that didn’t stop her from working all throughout college so she could build up her own savings before heading out into the real world.
“Lucky you don’t have to worry about that,” Raegan sighed as she opened the fridge and then closed it again before grabbing her phone and began ordering takeout. “I wish I had rich parents,” she mumbled before requesting her usual Chinese tray. “Do you want anything?” She asked as she pivoted her phone down so she was able to talk to her without speaking directly into the microphone.
Riley shook her head and pointed to the lasagna that she was currently eating with both hands, exclaiming that she was obviously eating her dinner.
Raegan shrugged her shoulders, “It’s a common question! After a long day, I don’t mind eating more food.”
Riley chuckled and she continued eating her dinner, as her roommate went to get her card from her purse to pay for her food.
The familiar bell chime was heard once again as she pushed open the door to The Coffee Bean. Riley walked in and stood right behind the person who was currently ordering.
Whoever was ordering was ordering a lot of coffee.
The woman was dressed in dark jeans, that hugged the muscles along her thighs quite well in Riley’s opinion. The black leather jacket was wrapped around her with a bit of a navy shirt popping out. Black waves flowed down a little past the woman’s shoulders, but that wasn’t what got her attention. It was the two little tight braids on each side of her face while the top of her head was pulled back into a small ponytail.
Rob then came out from the back holding a large paper bag. Riley knew he kept them in the back for people with large orders. Rob then gathered multiple drink holders and placed about a dozen of coffee cups all ranging in multiple sizes, coffee creamers, and toppings in them.
“Is that everything for you, darling?” Rob asked the woman in front of her.
“Everything looks perfect, Rob.” The woman husked in a low, raspy voice. “Thanks again for hooking us up with all of these. We just got back from a long trip so of course, half of them wanted coffee.”
The woman’s chuckle after she finished speaking was gorgeous sounding. Riley has never heard someone chuckle so beautiful.
Rob laughed, “Oh Lauren, nothing has changed. How long was the trip this time?”
“About five months,” Lauren replied. “We were up in the Canadian mountains, which was nice, but it feels great to be home again,” she added as she handed over a platinum card to pay for the order.
Riley has only seen that type of card one other time. Her father has one.
Rob took the card and ran it through the machine as Lauren gathered the coffee cup holders and placed them in the bag carefully. She grabbed the bag by the handles as she received her card back from Rob.
“I am really glad you guys are back. The past few months have been quite questionable. Have you heard the news?” Rob asked a little more underneath his breath, but Riley was still close enough to hear.
Lauren nodded, “That was the big push for us returning. Don’t worry, we will find out what is going on.”
Rob gave her a small smile, “Good, I have been very worried. How is your dad?”
“He’s alright,” Lauren stated as she put her card back in her leather tri-fold wallet and placed it in the back pocket of her jeans. “He is quite worried too. He doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Rob nodded, “Well, I hope you guys figure it out soon. Have a good day, Lauren.”
Lauren waved as she started to turn around, “Bye Rob, and thanks again!”
As Lauren’s face came into full view, Riley felt her breath get caught in her throat. Lauren was extremely gorgeous. Her large chocolate eyes contrasted well against her tan, olive skin. The tight side braids on either side of her face really accentuated the woman’s cheekbones. Riley also noticed that this woman had the sharpest jawline she has ever seen.
They gave each other a small smile in passing as Lauren then walked out of the coffee shop. After taking a silent deep breath to try and calm her racing heart, Riley stepped up to the counter to order her own cup of coffee. That is when she noticed the ID that didn’t belong to her.
She recognized the owner as she met her just moments ago. She grabbed it to make sure though.
Lauren Jeanne Mikaelson
That was her. Another thought didn’t cross her mind as she instinctively ran out of the small shop to find the woman walking down the street, carrying the large bag full of coffees at her side.
“Miss Mikaelson?” Riley called out, holding up the stranger’s ID. The woman turned her head to find the woman who called her name holding up what looked like a driver’s license. “I think you might have left this.”
Lauren walked up to her, “Thank you so much. That was kind of you.”
Riley smiled at the kind stranger, “It was no problem. I would’ve wanted someone to do the same for me if I left my ID somewhere.”
“I appreciate it,” Lauren grabbed the card and placed it into her wallet before shoving it back into her back pocket. When she looked up, Riley noticed a slight gold glimmer in Lauren’s chocolate eyes. Lauren said thanks again before walking off and then Riley headed back to the coffee shop to get her morning caffeine before heading into work.
“Hey sweetheart,” Rob greeted her as he was wiping down a few tables. “Usual?”
Riley nodded, “Yes please.” She got her card out of her bag and waited patiently as Rob walked behind the counter again and started working on her order.
“It was nice of you to hand her ID back,” Rob mentioned as he grabbed an empty cup. “I’m glad you saw it because I for sure didn’t.”
Riley smiled, “I guess it was my good deed of the day. It seemed that you knew her, anyway.”
“I have known her family for about twenty years,” Rob explained. “She was about 7 years old when I first met her, so it has been nice to watch her grow up. Although, it does make me feel old sometimes,” he chuckled as he finished up her drink and handed it to her.
Riley smiled along as she handed over her card, only one thought in her head. She could’ve sworn that Lauren’s eyes turned a slight bit of gold before turning back to brown. Would the sunlight really do that?