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The Caffeinated Grape (A Buzby Beach Novelette) Chapter 06

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DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.

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Donovan’s party got lucky and were seated at an outside table with a view of the ocean. The breeze coming off the water offset the day's heat. Donovan, Dallas, and Will ordered sweet tea. Kate ordered lemonade. Everyone but Donovan ordered a salad. He ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with seasoned fries.

“Hey!” Donovan said when Dallas purloined one of his fries. “Those are my fries.”

Dallas finished the fry and said, "But you don't mind sharing, do you?"

Dallas's sad pout was too much for Donovan. He pushed his basket of fries closer to her. She smiled and ate another one.

Donovan spied Kate and Will sharing a look.

"What?" Donovan asked.

"Nothing, Dad," Will replied. "I didn't say a word."

As the server was clearing away their plates, Will suggested they head to Donovan's townhouse to change for the beach.

"Kate and I brought out bathing suits. They're in the Jeep."

Donovan asked Dallas, "Do you need to go home to change?"

Dallas smiled and shook her head. "I always keep a beach bag in the trunk just in case."

Donovan chuckled. "Just in case an unexpected opportunity to go out on the beach pops up."

"Exactly," Dallas replied.

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Back at the townhouse, Will retrieved his and Kate's bag from his Jeep, and Dallas grabbed hers from her Boxster.

Will pulled his dad aside and asked, "Did Dallas spend the night?"

Donovan leveled a sharp look at Will and replied, "Dallas stayed in the guest room. I was a perfect gentleman, and she was a perfect lady."

Will raised his hands in surrender. "I believe you, Dad."

"You and Kate can take turns changing in the guest bathroom."

It wasn't long before the four of them regrouped in the family room, ready to head to the beach. The walk to the beach was a short one and took them past The Caffeinated Grape. The shop was closed for the day, and the sign said they'd reopen Monday afternoon at four.

"Aren't Becky and Cedric afraid being closed on Monday mornings might discourage some folks who might otherwise have become regulars?" Kate asked as they walked past The Caffeinated Grape.

Dallas glanced back at the door and said, "Their only other option is to stay open both times every day and never take a day off."

"Do they have any other help than the two of you?" Will asked while they waited for a chance to cross Ocean Street.

A car stopping for the crosswalk allowed the group to cross the street while delaying the answer to Will's question until they'd reached the sand.

"The Dedhams aren't making enough to hire anyone just yet," Donovan explained. His head swiveled as he looked north and south for an open spot big enough for the four of them.

"Don't they pay you and Dallas when you work in the shop, Mr.Thornton?" Kate asked as they started towards an area Donovan thought would suit.

Donovan waggled his head from left to right and said, "We've got sort of a barter worked out. We help Cedric and Becky out when they need us, and we get all the free coffee we can drink."

Kate, an accounting major at NC State, clucked and shook her head. "You should be careful about that sort of arrangement. There's all kinds of labor law and tax implications you and your friends could get in trouble over."

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Donovan was all too aware of how his and Dallas's informal arrangement with Becky and Cedric could run afoul of labor and tax laws. He thought he had a solution but wasn't sure how the Dedhams would take his proposal.

"I've been giving the situation a lot of thought myself, Kate," Donovan said as he spread the brightly striped beach blanket on the sand. "Right now, though, I just want to enjoy the beach and not think about business."

The other three murmured their agreement and, having liberally applied sunscreen while changing, settled down on their towels to soak up some sun. Dallas's phone beeped after twenty minutes, letting them know it was time to roll over.

"Using a timer to know when I've had enough sun makes me feel like a pot roast," Donovan quipped as he started to roll over.

"Don't get comfortable yet," Dallas warned him. She reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of sunscreen. "I need you to lotion my back."

Donovan did not object to the task.

Before he started, Will and Kate told him they thought they'd go for a swim to cool off. Donovan told them to have fun and then turned his attention to applying sunscreen to Dallas's back.

Dallas undid the back strap and neck strap of her bikini top. "Make sure you don't miss any spots," she instructed Donovan.

"Do you want me to do your legs, too?" Donovan asked with raised brows.

"Well, of course," Dallas replied, smiling coyly. "You wouldn't want them to get overcooked, would you?"

Donovan bit his lip and shook his head. "No. I wouldn't want that."

Dallas's bikini bottoms weren't quite a thong, but they didn't cover much, and Dallas kept herself in the kind of shape that even in her early forties, she looked good in such a bathing suit. Donovan found as he worked his way up Dallas's legs that he was having difficulty catching his breath. Dallas murmured happily as Donovan finished his chore. He put the bottle of sunscreen back in her bag.

"Do you want me to rub any lotion on your back?" Dallas asked Donovan.

Donovan laid down on his stomach, crossed his arms under his head, and said, "No, thanks. I think I'll be fine. Besides, you're all situated and comfortable."

Dallas gave a contented hum and said, " Yes, I am."

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The second time Dallas's watch signaled, she announced it was time for a quick dip in the ocean to cool off. She deftly retied the next strap of her bikini while still lying down and then carefully rolled over, sat up, and retied the lower strap.

"You've had some practice at retying those straps, haven't you?" Donovan complimented Dallas.

She chuckled and said, "I don't usually have anyone with me to help me with them. Next time I'll ask you. You wouldn't mind, would you?"

Donovan smiled and shook his head. "I wouldn't mind at all."

Will and Kate returned to the blanket just as Donovan and Dallas stood up to go down to the water.

"How's the water?" Dallas asked Kate.

Kate picked up her towel and said, "Still a bit on the cool side but not bad. Refreshing."

"Sounds good," Dallas said. She took Donovan's hand and tugged him toward the water. "You do know how to swim, don't you, Donovan?"

"Just you try and keep up," Donovan challenged.

They ran into the water and dove into the first breaking wave they encountered. When the water enveloped him, Donovan felt the sensation of being cleansed from the world's worries that full immersion in the ocean often brought him. He came out of the backside of the wave feeling alive and refreshed.

In short order, Donovan swam beyond the breakers into the relatively calm area of swells where surfers often rested between waves. He rolled into a back float and let himself enjoy the rhythm of the swells. Dallas soon joined him.

"The lifeguard's not going to whistle us in, is she?" Dallas quipped as she went into a back float alongside Donovan.

"We’re not too far out, or she would have blown her whistle and waved us in by now," Donovan observed after a glance at the shore. "Besides, we're not the only ones out this far."

"We're the only ones without surfboards," Dallas noted.

"There's a guy at the north end of the island who gives surfing lessons," Donovan said as he moved his hands back and forth to help himself stay afloat.

"Are you thinking of taking surfing lessons?" Dallas asked, sounding amused.

"Nah," Donovan answered. "I tried surfing a long time ago. It wasn't for me."

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They floated in companionable silence for several minutes. Then Dallas announced they should probably head into the shore.

"There's a pile of laundry at home no one else is going to take care of," Dallas said as she transitioned from a back float to treading water. "And I need to log into work to see what tomorrow's schedule looks like."

Donovan started treading water, too. "You will stay for dinner, though, won't you?"

"I really can't, Donovan. I'm sorry." Dallas started swimming to shore.

Donovan tread water for several seconds before following her. Dallas was already drying her hair when Donovan reached the blanket. Will and Kate were packing up their things. Donovan picked up his towel and started drying off.

"Dad," Will said after wrapping his towel around his neck. "Kate and are going to head up to the house to shower and change."

"Y'all go on ahead," Donovan said from under his towel. "You, too, Dallas. I can manage the blanket."

Will and Kate left to go to the townhouse.

Dallas tied her towel around her waist. "I don't mind waiting for you."

Donovan draped his towel around his neck. "You don't have to. I know you're in a hurry to get going."

Dallas's eyes narrowed, and her lips pressed into a thin line. She stepped closer to Donovan and poked him in the chest.

"I'm not in any hurry to go. I don't want to leave at all. Or I didn't until you started acting like a boy who'd got his feelings hurt. But there are things I need to do at home and things I need to do for work. So stop acting like I'm trying to run away from you.”

Donovan rubbed his neck and said, "I sorry. That was petty of me, I know. I don't know why I said it. I guess it's just because today has been so great I hate to see it end."

Dallas put her hands on his shoulders and pulled him down for a kiss. “There will be plenty of other days like this,” she promised.

Donovan's story continues in Chapter 7

© 2021 DW Davis