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The Caffeinated Grape (A Buzby Beach Novelette) Chapter 02

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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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Girl meets boy

Over the next several days, Donovan spent a few hours each afternoon at The Caffeinated Grape taking work-in-progress photos and refining the shop’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The day Cedric and Becky activated their order screen and connected to the bank, Donovan was their first customer. It was the second customer who caught Donovan’s attention.

Donovan was sitting at a table with Cedric and Becky enjoying the first official cups of coffee brewed at the combination coffee and wine shop when there came a knock at the door. Becky looked toward the door and squealed before jumping up and running to admit the dark-haired lady who was knocking.

“You made it,” Becky gushed as she ushered her tall, tanned friend in the door.

“I told you I’d come and be your first customer,” her friend replied as Becky locked the doors behind her.

Donovan and Cedric rose from their seats. Cedric approached the attractive newcomer with the dazzling smile and gave her a hug and a kiss on the check, receiving like in return.

Becky then took Donovan by the arm and said, “Dallas, this is our friend Donovan. He’s the one I told you has been helping us with all the online stuff.” She tugged Donovan closer to Dallas. “Donovan, this is my best friend, Dallas. We worked together as nurses for years.”

Dallas looked Donovan up and down even as he did the same to her. From her open-toed sandals to her painted-on blue jeans and her form-fitting black tank top, with her dark brown eyes to her short jet-black hair, Dallas was a knockout. When their eyes met, they both smiled.

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A bottle of white, a bottle of rose'

“I’m delighted to meet you, Donovan. Becky’s been telling me all about how you’ve been helping them out this week.”

“The pleasure is all mine, I assure you,” Donovan replied as he took her outstretched hand. Dallas had a firm grip. Her hand felt warm and fit Donovan’s like it was made for that purpose. As he started to release Dallas’s hand, she gave his hand an extra squeeze, and her smile widened.

Cedric suggested they all sit down and have a drink. Dallas insisted on buying the first round.

“After all, I did promise to be your first customer.”

The others kept mum about Donovan having already bought a cup of coffee. As Becky would point out later, Donovan was just testing the system.

The round Dallas bought was a glass of the house white wine for everyone. This round was used to toast the success of the new endeavor. Donovan bought the second round, a glass of the house rose’. His toast was to new friends and new beginnings. Cedric and Becky begged off any further rounds, giving as their reason the early hour at which they’d have to rise to be ready for the grand opening at seven the next morning.

Have you had dinner?

Donovan walked Dallas to the door. As they stood on the sidewalk, he asked her if she’d had dinner.

“To be honest, no, I haven’t, and I am feeling a bit peckish.”

“Dead Tom’s is just up the street, and they have a decent menu,” Donovan suggested.

Dallas looped her arm around his. “Are you asking me on a date?”

“I am if this,” he patted her arm, “means yes.”

“This,” Dallas replied, flexing her arm, “most definitely means yes to dinner.”

Dead Tom’s was bustling with customers, but most were in the bar at that time on a Friday night. Donovan and Dallas were shown to a two-top in the small dining room after a short wait.

“You’re not a vegetarian, are you?” Dallas asked after the hostess took their drink orders.

Donovan chuckled and shook his head. “Not me. I’m more likely to give up vegetables.”

“I’m glad,” Dallas said as she picked up her menu. “Because I’m in the mood for a steak.”

Their server brought their drinks - sweet tea for both - and took their order: a six-ounce sirloin with a loaded baked potato and a side salad for Dallas, Parmesan-crusted swordfish with steak fries and steamed vegetables for Donovan.

When their server finished taking their order and left the two of them alone, an awkward silence fell over the table. Dallas waited patiently for Donovan to break the silence.

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First first date in twenty-six years

“I feel I should warn you it’s been a very long time since I’ve been on a first date,” Donovan confessed. He sat straighter in his chair. “I don’t know if Becky told you, but my wife and I divorced last year. We’d been married twenty-six years.”

Dallas leaned forward in her chair. “Becky did tell me. I feel awful about what happened with your wife.”

“Thank you,” Donovan said. He tipped his wine glass toward Dallas and asked, “Have you ever been married, or did you choose the life of a single nurse?”

A far-away look came into Dallas’ eyes. “My husband and I only had eighteen months together before he deployed in the first Gulf War. He was killed over there. I’ve been on my own since.”

“You never met anyone, never remarried?”

Dallas shook her head. “I threw myself into my work, earned my Masters, and eventually became a Certified Nurse Practitioner. Only last year, at Becky’s insistence, did I leave the crazy schedule of being a hospital nurse and take a job working in a surgeon’s office. Now, I keep regular hours, have Friday afternoons and weekends off, and have time for a social life.”

Donovan leaned forward and folded his hands on the table. “And in that year, an attractive, articulate, intelligent woman like yourself hasn’t found someone special.”

“Maybe I’ve been waiting to meet a certain attractive, articulate, intelligent man who knows how to make a woman feel special.”

The arrival of their dinner postponed any response Donovan might have made to Dallas’s remark. Throughout the meal, Dallas asked Donovan about growing up on a farm, what it was like raising two boys, and why he decided to move to Buzby Beach in the wake of his divorce. By the time they mutually decided to forgo dessert, Dallas knew quite a bit about Donovan. Donovan, however, felt he knew very little about Dallas.

The night is still young

“The night is still young,” Donovan observed as they left Dead Tom’s. “Do you feel up to a walk on the beach?”

Dallas chuckled. “You really have been out of circulation for a while. Thank you, but no, I’m not dressed for a walk on the beach. Considering we both promised to be at The Caffeinated Grape in time to help with the grand opening tomorrow morning, maybe we should call it a night.”

“I guess you’re right,” Donovan conceded reluctantly. “At least let me walk you to your car.”

Dallas smiled and took his arm once again. “I would expect nor accept anything less.”

Donovan found himself wishing it wasn’t such a short walk back to Dallas’s car, a late model Porsche Boxster.

“You drive a Boxster? Very nice!”

Dallas rubbed her hand lovingly over the fender. “What do you drive?” she asked Donovan.

“A ’15 Mustang GT,” Donovan told her.

Dallas looked around and, not seeing a Mustang, asked, “Where is it?”

“It’s at home in the garage,” Donovan revealed. “Everything is so close on the island I just walk everywhere.”

“In that case,” Dallas said with a smile, “get in, and I’ll give you a ride home.”

“That’s okay,” Donovan said. “It’s only a couple of blocks to my place.”

Dallas shook her head and laughed. “I know you’ve been out of the game for a while, Donovan, but when your date offers to drive you home, you should graciously accept and, upon arrival at your home, invite her up for coffee or a nightcap. She may accept, or she may decline, but she’ll appreciate the invitation either way.”

Donovan accepted the ride and did invite Dallas up for coffee. She politely declined. She did give Donovan a brief kiss on the lips before they said good night. Donovan stood at the end of the short walkway leading to his unit’s door and watched Dallas drive away.

Donovan's story continues in Chapter 3

© 2021 DW Davis