I’ve received and verified the references you provided. You’ve done well and I am pleased by your promptness. It speaks well of you. Please find attached three references of my own. If you are satisfied with what you see, you don’t need to reply. Instead, I invite you to meet me for coffee…
I look over the address he’d provided and type it into my phone’s GPS before adjusting my mirrors and backing out of the driveway. Martina had been more than happy to keep an ear out for the boys after I’d tucked them in bed.
“Thanks again!” I’d said as I handed her the baby monitor.
“Hey, anything to get you out there inspecting the market. Where’d you meet this guy anyway?”
“No,” I’d scoffed. Then cleared my throat and said under my breath. “Craigslist.”
She’d cackled and shooed me out the door.
So now I’m driving to a coffee shop. And it’s not an hour away. How had I not known there was one this close?
I’m nervous. His references had been fine - one from an Air Force chaplain, another from a previous employer at a Houston legal firm. This is intriguing to me and I try to imagine what kind of career might rub shoulders with such seemingly unrelated contacts. Undoubtedly, he’s seen the outside world and that’s a comfort. But still, I’m nervous. Why am I even going?
Despite what I let Martina believe, I’m not headed out for a date.
This is a consultation.
I can’t think of this guy as potential boyfriend material. That’s not what he advertised. I’m relieved about that, actually. I’d always hated that about the dating scene - hating wondering when we’d crossed that line from “seeing each other” to “dating”. That line is so damn ambiguous and facing the ambiguity is part of why I’ve been hesitant to open myself up to pursuing another relationship. I need to know exactly where I stand and exactly where he stands.
Maybe that’s why Jake had caught my attention. Unapologetic. Demanding. And before I even lay eyes on him, I can succinctly title him in my mind: Kinky Sex Coach. Of course, it remains to be seen if he’s a narcissistic boor, but I guess I’ll find that out soon enough because here we are. I look up at the sign over the door of the gas station-turned-coffeehouse. Holy Grounds: Coffee and Church Supplies.
I get out and lock the car, reflecting on the unique tendency East Texans have of selling the most incongruous items under a single store roof. Donuts and Fishing Equipment. Lingerie and Sound Systems. Burgers and Automotive Consignment. I guess there’s not enough of a customer base to warrant opening a store with a single niche so they double their chances of financial success by appealing to a broader - and totally unrelated - clientele.
A bell over the door tinkles as I walk in. It’s pretty full. A couple of good old boys. A group of middle-aged women with Bibles open in front of them, listening attentively to a silver-haired lady with jerky arm movements. And in the corner, a dark-haired guy in jeans and a gray V-neck t-shirt. He has a newspaper spread open on the table in front of him and he’s whittling a small block of wood over it, the shavings falling in curls onto the paper. This is the identifier I’m supposed to look for. Whether you show up or not, I’ll be at the corner table, carving.
I do an about-face and walk right back out the door before he sees me. This is crazy. I’m meeting up with a guy who posted a personals ad on craigslist! Am I really that desperate, that unforgivably naive?
I fiddle with my keys. On the other hand, sharing a cup of coffee isn’t the same as signing a contract. Lighten up. This is just a fun way to spend an evening. Think of the great story you’ll have.
Finally, squaring my shoulders, I open the door and stand for a moment as if I’m looking for him, as if I hadn’t already highlighted his location in my mental map of the coffee house. His eyes flicker up and meet mine, the knife in his hands momentarily still, then just as quickly he returns to his whittling.
I pass the Bible study group and the good old boys and pull my cropped denim jacket over my chest before approaching his table. When I’m within three feet of the table, he stands without warning and holds out his hand to me, meeting my eyes.
“I was hoping you would come back in,” he says, grasping the hand I offer. His is rough, the grip firm. I’m five-foot-nine and I still have to tip my head to look at him - he must be at least five or six inches taller than I am. He’s athletic without looking like a bodybuilder; which is good because I can’t stand guys who look like they’ve been trying too hard.
I blush and start to stammer something idiotic, then just give up and admit the truth. “Sorry, I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Perfectly normal to be nervous.” He keeps his eyes on my face in such an un-creepy way that I’m instantly just a hair more at ease. “Jake.”
He pulls out a chair for me and folds the newspaper over itself, careful not to lose a single shaving. A young woman in a polo and khaki pants saunters over to the table. “Y’all wanna order now? Or d’ya need a bit?”
I watch the way he turns his full attention to her, meeting her eyes and bestowing a brief smile that is neither condescending nor flirtatious. “We’ll take coffee. Decaf. Bring the sugar and creamer to the table. And do you have any cinnamon back there?”
“Sure thing. I’ll bring it out.”
I narrow my eyes. As it happens, I only drink decaf (I hate caffeine jitters) and there is almost nothing so tantalizing in this world as the smell of coffee and cinnamon. But I resist the urge to comment on our similar tastes - and on his authoritative ordering style.
“So, Nora,” he folds the whittling knife into a case and leans forward to tuck it into his back pocket, “You want to learn the art of being a submissive.”