Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 1
Author’s Note: This is an original story featuring characters from my Christmas short, Their First Noelle, coming from Evernight Publishing, Dec 13th.
The promise of fall nipped the air, but they didn’t notice. No, they rarely noticed much beyond each other, to the envy and amusement of the world around them. I’d never seen a bicycle like theirs, modified with a passenger seat between the handlebars and the front wheel, but I saw it every morning these days. She couldn’t walk, much less pedal a bike, but it didn’t stop them. He drove and she knelt in her special seat, with a pillow to cushion her.
I sighed, resting my chin on my hand, watching as they rode by.
An elf should be able to find love like theirs. Or at least a date. Sure, I might be retired and well over two hundred years old, but the humans didn’t know that. I couldn’t talk about my two centuries in Santa’s workshop, but I could manage. With a glamour to hide my pointed ears, I passed as a woman in her mid-twenties, so I didn’t have to invent some huge life story.
But I hadn’t so much as shared a cup of coffee with someone since my retirement party.
Speaking of coffee, I needed mine before my maudlin brain turned into a sappy puddle.
“Noelle Duncan.” Turning my name into a scolding, Nick Haversham, co-owner of Heavenly Brew, sat my pumpkin spice latte down on my table. His hands found his hips and he studied me with warm, laughing eyes.
I avoided his gaze and sniffed my coffee. Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin, cream. I loved humans and their seasonal coffee fetish.
“Yes?” Ah, good. I sounded amused. Curious. Not dreamy and moony. Cause a girl could do some serious dreaming and mooning over Nick.
“Your hair is red,” he said.
“It was green yesterday.”
“Yesterday was summer,” I said. “Today is autumn.”
“So it’s a seasonal thing?” he asked. “I mean, purple in spring, green in summer, now red for fall. What do you do for winter?”
“Been keeping track, huh?” I smiled behind my mug. “Guess you’ll have to wait and see.”
I caught Nick’s grin from the corner of my eye and almost dropped my coffee.
“So that means you’ll be here for Christmas?”
I met his gaze fully, startled by the anticipation in his tone. He sucked in a breath when he saw my eyes.
“Wow. Red eyes, too.” The muscles in his throat worked as he swallowed. “Didn’t know they made contacts in red. I mean, non-demon, non-vampire red. Yours look sort of… natural. I like them. I think. Yeah, no, I do.”
He babbled. I tried not to notice how cute he sounded doing it.
“Thanks,” I said. Best not to mention they were natural. I’d end up in that Area 51 place the conspiracist club talked about during their get-togethers here every fourth Wednesday. “And yes, I plan to be here for Christmas.”
Kris Winters, Nick’s business partner—and personal partner, if rumors were true—called Nick back to the counter. Nick waved his way and leaned down. His warm breath tickled my neck.
“Remind me to tell you about my wish list,” he said.
He returned to work before I could reply, leaving me with mouth dry, heart pounding. Was he joking? Or flirting? I stared too long, I knew it. Kris caught me. His eyes flickered from me to Nick and back. I looked away first.
The moment passed and my coffee went cold long before my heart and mind settled.
The bicycle couple came round again. As they passed by the coffee shop, she pushed up and he leaned down. Their lips met in a smiling kiss to melt the hardest of hearts.
My marshmallow heart didn’t stand a chance.
A fresh mug appeared on the table. I glanced up to find Kris standing there. Another six-feet and change of yum. Santa help me, but I frequented this shop for the fantastic coffee. Really. The breath-stealing eye candy was a bonus.
Best. Bonus. Ever.
“On the house,” he said, voice soft and deep, his expression giving nothing away. He took the cold mug from my hand, his fingers brushing mine.
Some autopilot portion of my brain pulled a smile out, like a rabbit from a hat. Ta-dah!
He walked off and I wondered.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.