The Night Is A Harsh Mistress
by A. Catherine Noon
Rachel sighed. She’d taken a break at a Borders just around the corner from the 7-Eleven. It had been fun to zone out and people-watch for a while, but eventually she got bored and wandered toward the exit, through the New Releases. As she approached the door, a quick footstep nearby was her only warning before a man jostled her.
“Hey!” she blurted.
“I’m so sorry,” a familiar voice said.
“Oh!” she blurted out loud. Great, Raych. Real smooth.
“Well, if it isn’t Sara! Fancy meeting you here!” he said, eyes twinkling.
“We just keep bumping into each other,” Rachel said with only a trace of grumpiness. He had sharp elbows.
He sobered. “Can I buy you a coffee to make up for it?”
Rachel hesitated. She glanced out the door at the waiting parking lot, and her empty car. She made up her mind and nodded. “Sure.”
He smiled again, flashing very white teeth, and she wondered if he, like Viktor, had them whitened, or if they were naturally that clean. He seemed unfazed by her scrutiny.
She got a Chai and he ordered a triple espresso. She blinked. Must be tired, or he had a high tolerance for caffeine. Given how high-energy he was, she wasn’t really surprised.
“So. What are you doing at Borders in the middle of the day?” he asked when they sat at a table near the window.
She studied him. “I just needed a break,” she hedged finally. “You know how it is.”
He chuckled and took a sip of his drink. “Indeed. I was here getting a present for my mother.”
He said it with no trace of embarrassment and Rachel was impressed. If it was a line, he was playing it well. He gets gifts for his mother, does he? Did he think that would impress her?
Grudgingly, she had to admit it did, at least a little. “That’s nice of you.”
He shrugged. “We’ll see. It depends what I buy.”
She laughed in spite of herself. “True.”
“I mean, she probably wouldn’t like a book on the history of cars, I don’t think.”
Rachel grinned at him. “Probably not.”
He grinned back, his face easy and open. His hair was styled neatly over his ears, just brushing his collar. A light brown, almost blonde, it made him seem younger than the wrinkles at his eyes implied he was. He took a sip of his espresso and studied her.
“You didn’t get anything?” he asked after a moment.
She shrugged. “Nothing really caught my eye.”
“What do you like to read?”
“James Clavell, some of Leon Uris, that kind of thing.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Really? Did you read Mitla Pass?”
She nodded, warming to him in spite of herself. “I thought it was one of Uris’s best. What did you think?”
A half hour passed like lightening and then he set his now empty cup on the table a little regretfully. “I do need to get that gift for my mother. But, meet me for dinner?”
She blinked. “Dinner?”
“You know, after lunch but before bed?”
She felt herself blush and deliberately ignored the concept of ‘bed.’ “Dinner is good,” she mumbled.
“Okay. Tomorrow at, say, seven?”
“Where shall I pick you up?”
She made a split-second decision. “Let’s meet there. How about Georgetti’s?”
He brightened. “That sounds good.”
They separated near where they’d begun, next to the New Releases. She floated out to her car. It felt like she’d had a triple espresso. The week was looking up.