“It’s a long story, Will. Come up with me?” Ella asked. Will’s sharp gaze was locked on Tomas as he stepped between her and Tomas and, almost absently, nodded his answer to her.
Tomas stood his ground as the furious man visibly struggled with a decision. He could understand the man’s dilemma. Ella broke the thick silence, “Tomas, I can’t thank you enough for helping me today. You will always be a welcome guest at the Sugar & Salt.”
“I might take you up on it, Ella. I could do with a good coffee,” Tomas replied, directing a smirk towards the man she’d referred to as Will.
“He helped you? What with?” Will asked, turning to Ella.
“Do you have time? Let’s go up. I’ll tell you everything. Bye, Tomas.” Ella tugged on Will’s arm and he followed reluctantly.
Tomas waited until the pair disappeared into the same building that housed the coffeeshop Sugar & Salt. So, she also lived in the same building. Although the man’s hand had moved to the small of her back as they entered the foyer, it didn’t look like he was her boyfriend. Sure, he was worried about her and seemed to have taken an instant dislike to Tomas, it still didn’t feel like the two were romantically involved, Close friends, more like.
Tomas shrugged off the interest in the woman and her friend and strode toward the coffee. He really could do with a good coffee right about now. New York in January was malicious, to say the least. Why the boss had decided to load up here this time round, he couldn’t begin to guess. But hopefully, this was a one-off and not a long term change.
He took a bit of time to look the little coffee shop over. She’d done a great job with keeping the 1920s theme that defined the facade of the whole building through the interior of the small shop. The round little distressed wood tables, the colorful cushions on the chairs, the delicately carved wooden display cabinet housing pretty little cupcakes, pastries, sandwiches and wraps, all contributed to the quaint ambience. Including the tall, shapely woman who was currently speaking animatedly, with her entire body, in the phone held in the crook of her shoulder and neck.
The dainty tinkle of the bell that was meant to alert her to his entry only garnered the raising of a hand and wiggling of long, slender fingers as a response. Well, Tomas was happy to wait. The view was fantastic!
It wasn’t long before the woman ended the call with a sweet, “Prends soin de, ma cherie. I’ll see you after work.”
And then the beautiful woman turned around. Large eyes, slanted upwards like a cat sat above a tiny, upturned nose. The round face was saved by high cheekbones. The pillowy, kissable lips and thick, corkscrew curls completed the exotic picture. Her eyes narrowed as she took him in, “So, Tomas...you saw the asshole who attacked Ella?”
Tomas’s gaze was helplessly drawn to the pearly teeth in beautiful contrast to her golden skin. A sharply arched ebony eyebrow went up. “Well?” She asked.
“Yes. She’d taken care of the attacker herself, but I was there.”
A smile, quite like a proud parent, lit up her face, “You betcha she can take care of herself. You want a coffee? Sandwich? How did you get involved?”
Tomas gave her little more time, if the torrent of questions wasn’t yet over. But as she waited patiently for him, he decided to tackle the questions in sequence. “Coffee will be good, thanks. Large, black, no sugar. Nothing to eat. I was passing by when I heard the scuffle.”
The woman nodded and turned to the coffee machine.
“What’s your name?” Tomas asked
“Chantelle. You can call me Tilly,” she supplied.
“You from NoLa, Tilly?” Tomas asked, finally placing the tiny inflection in her speech that’d been nagging him.
“Yep.” Her golden eyes sharpened as she took him in in a new light. Then with a slow grin she said, “Nice to meet you, Tomas. You want your coffee to go?”
No way he was leaving without talking more to this beauty, “No. I’ll have it here, thanks.”
Tilly handed him his mug before turning to serve another party of three that’d walked in. Instead of taking one of the tables spread around the little shop, Tomas leaned his hip against the counter and waited patiently as the group selected and picked their drinks together with what would make their lunches.
“You here for work or pleasure?” Tilly asked as she waved bye to the customers, clearly regulars as she seemed quite friendly with them.
“Work. But pleasure is always welcome,” Tomas answered, grinning wide to bring out his dimple which had a hundred percent success when it came to women. “When do you finish up here?” He added
Tilly’s grin was as wide, if not wider than his own. “Presumptuous much?”
Tomas shrugged, “I know where to get the best Jambalaya in the entire world.”
“Too bad. I’m vegetarian,” Tilly replied with a sweet smile.
Tomas opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. With a sigh of relief, he turned at the ding of the bell. A new customer was exactly what he needed to think of something else to tempt the beauty on the other side of the counter.
“Hey beautiful. How did the boss’s meeting go?”
Tomas stiffened at the familiar way the new man addressed Tilly. Had he, indeed, been too presumptuous. Of course!
“Shut up, Buzz!”
Not the boyfriend, then. Or maybe they’d had a fight. He held back the desperate urge he had to go to the woman’s defence. He couldn’t afford to step in it again.
“Jesus, Tilly. Give me a break. Just trying to be nice, babe,” the blond man put his hands up in defeat.
“Well, then don’t babe and beautiful me,” Tilly snapped. The hint of a smile that was playing around her lips took away the sting of the reprimand.
“Ok, M’am. So, how’d it go? Is she not back yet?”
Tilly’s lips set into a serious line, “Someone attacked her Buzz. Sh - ”
“What?” The man thundered. What was this man to these girls? He wasn’t Ella’s boyfriend - he was very clearly hitting on Tilly. But even with Tilly, it seemed more of a joke than serious. Tomas waited patiently, curious to see where the conversation would go.
Another ding of the bell had the three of them turning around to see a tall man, sporting a completely shaved head and glasses walk in. His sharp, black as the night eyes took swept over the three of them. He seemed to note the coffee in Tomas’s hand and asked Tilly, “What’s up?”
Tilly shot Tomas an apologetic look. Well, that was encouraging. Probably. Tomas decided to hang around longer.
“Buzz, Joe, Hear me out completely before interrupting me, alright?” Tilly took charge. Only after the two men nodded did she start talking again. With quick efficiency she recounted what she knew of the incident in Central Park, ending with, “Legend is up there with her right now.”
The two men who’d so far ignored Tomas turned to him.
“It seems like we owe you a thanks,” Buzz said.
Tomas shrugged, “She’d pretty much taken care of the thug herself.”
Tilly took off her apron and walked around the counter. Walking right up to Tomas, she asked, “You feel like a tour of the Big Apple, Tomas?”
Tomas looked at Buzz, but he was already out of the back door, presumably heading to Ella’s apartment. Joe pushed his glasses up on his nose, and frowned at Tomas.
“Absolutely! Let’s go,” Tomas grinned, nodded at Joe and led the way out of the little coffee shop which was for too active for its size.