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The Caffeinated Grape (A Buzby Beach Novelette) Chapter 04


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.


The long way home on Buzby Beach meant driving south past the Coastal Towers and then north up Sound Street to Bridge Street. Donovan turned right on Bridge and then right on Center Street. Donovan cruised slowly through the center of town until they reached Eleventh Street. A left on Eleventh and another left into the driveway brought him to the door to his garage.

Donovan left the car in neutral, with the parking brake on, and got out to enter his key code. He got back in the Boxster as the garage door opened and pulled it in next to his Mustang.

Dallas was half asleep on the passenger side. Donovan retrieved her overnight bag from behind the passenger seat and then went around to help Dallas out of the car.

“Are we there?” Dallas mumbled as Donovan helped her to her feet.

“We’re at my house,” Donovan replied. “Can you handle the stairs, or do you want to take the elevator?”

Dallas snorted. “You have an elevator? Let’s take the elevator.”

The elevator in Donovan’s townhouse wasn’t much larger than a phone booth and existed to meet accessibility requirements. He and Dallas squeezed in and rode up to the second floor.

“Having an elevator sure beats taking the stairs,” Dallas commented when they’d stepped out into the second-floor hallway.

Donovan showed Dallas where the guest room and guest bathroom were. He set her overnight bag on the table under the window in the guest room.

“If you need anything, my room is just at the other end of the hall.”

Dallas stifled a yawn and said, “I’ll keep that in mind. Goodnight, Donovan, and thanks.”

She put her arms around his neck and gave Donovan a gentle yet lingering kiss on the lips. Then she released him and said, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Stunned by the kiss, Donovan stood mute as Dallas backed into the guest room and closed the door. He touched his fingers to his lips before turning and finding his way to his room.


Donovan closed his door and got ready for bed. He’d just laid down when his phone signaled he was receiving a video call. At that time of night, Donovan knew it must be Thomas. His older son was a Chief Warrant Officer deployed to Korea on a twelve-month tour as a medivac helicopter pilot.

“Hi, Dad,” a chipper and wide awake Thomas said when his image appeared on Donovan’s screen. “Did I wake you up?”

“No, you didn't. I’d just gotten into bed. tonight was the grand opening of my friends’ coffee and wine shop.”

Thomas laughed. “It must have been some party if you’re just now getting to bed.”

Donovan yawned. “It was. So how are things in the ROK?”

“Pretty quiet considering all the things you hear in the news these days,” Thomas replied. I called to let you know my commander approved my mid-tour leave request. I’ll be home for the first three weeks of August.”

“That’s great news, Tom!” Donovan exclaimed. “I’ve got a room ready for you here in the condo. We’ve got a pool here, and it’s a short walk to the beach.”

“Sounds awesome, Dad,” Thomas replied. “I’ll let you know when I get the details of my flights. You should probably try and get some sleep.”

Donovan yawned again. “You’re right. I should. Talk to you soon. Love you, Tom.”

“I love you, too, Dad.”

Thomas signed off. Donovan set his phone on his nightstand. As he reached to turn off the light, there came a knock on his door.

“It’s unlocked,” Donovan called out.

Dallas stuck her head in the door. “I heard you talking. Is everything all right?”

Donovan nodded. “My son Thomas called from Korea to let me know he’s coming home on leave in August.”

“What good news,” Dallas said. “I’m looking forward to meeting him. Right now, though, I’m going to try and get some sleep. Good night Donovan.”

“Good night,” Donovan said to the closing door.

Sunrise was a couple of hours old when Donovan woke up on Sunday morning. He got out of bed and stretched before heading into the bathroom. When he came out, he dressed in khaki shorts, a Navy blue Salt Life t-shirt, and his Rainbow flip-flops. Suitably attired for a Sunday morning at the beach, Donovan headed downstairs to the kitchen. Light snoring from the guest room caused him to pause at the top of the stairs. He considered knocking on the bedroom door and then thought better of it.

Donovan had just settled into a chair at the patio table when the sliding door opened, and Dallas said, “Who does a girl have to know to get a cup of coffee around here?”

Donovan laughed, rose from his seat, and took a moment to admire the daffodil yellow tank-top and form-fitting white shorts Dallas was wearing before saying, “That would be me. I only have two kinds of coffee: Starbucks House Blend and Starbucks Decaffeinated House Blend.”

Dallas lowered her chin and frowned. “Why would you have decaffeinated coffee in your house?”

“You ask an excellent question,” Donovan said as he took a regular House Blend K-Cup from the tray and inserted it in his Keurig. “Will’s girlfriend, Kate, only drinks decaf.”

“At least you have a good reason,” Dallas admitted. She looked at his stove and in the oven. “Has this ever been used?”

Donovan shook his head. “The only kitchen appliances I’ve used are the Keurig and the fridge. Speaking of the refrigerator, if you want any cream, it’s on the top shelf.”

Dallas opened the fridge and gasped. “The creamer is the only thing in here. What do you do for food? Do you eat out every meal?”

“You don’t expect me to eat my own cooking, do you?” Donovan joked. He put an insulated mug with an outline of North Carolina on it under the Keurig’s spout and pushed the brew button.

Dallas held out the bottle of creamer. “Bailey’s Irish Creamer. I assume it’s non-alcoholic.”

“There’s not a bit of alcohol in it,” Donovan assured her as he took the bottle and put it on the counter.

“Seeing as you have no food in your house, Donovan,” Dallas pointed out, “what are we going to do for breakfast?"

Donovan rubbed his chin. “Last week, I had breakfast at Stack’ Em and Crack’ Em, so this Sunday, I was going to go to Pancake Palace. Don’t let the name fool you. They do great omelets.”

“A great omelet sounds like just the thing for me,” Dallas said.

Donovan handed Dallas her coffee. “First, we sit out on the patio and enjoy the view of the pool while we have our first cup of coffee.”


As they drank their coffee, Donovan led the conversation around to Dallas’s history.

Dallas looked into her coffee cup. “Do you want it all at once or in installments?”

“I’d like for you to tell me what you feel comfortable sharing. We’ve hit it off so well, and I like you, Dallas. I want to get to know all about you.”

Dallas looked up from her cup and smiled. “I like you, too, Donovan, a lot.” She took a deep breath. “Okay. Here goes."

“I’m from Mobile, Alabama. You already knew that. I married young, as soon as my husband finished boot camp. We moved to Jacksonville. He did his Marine thing, and I started studying nursing. Then came the Gulf War, and I became a war widow.

“Now comes the part you don’t know. After earning my certification as a Licensed Practical Nurse, while I was working and taking classes to become a Registered Nurse, I discovered I had ovarian cancer. I was only twenty-three. One radical hysterectomy and six months of chemo later, I was declared cancer-free.”

“I’m so sorry. Dallas. I can’t imagine how tough it must have been to go through all that.”

Dallas took a sip of her coffee. “Yeah, it was. It’s also the reason two long-term boyfriends wound up breaking up with me. I couldn’t give them children. Hence my not getting into a serious relationship with anyone for the last ten years.

“I kept working and going to school. Now I’m single, almost forty, a certified nurse practitioner, have a job I love working for Doctor Laningham and thought I was happy with my life the way it was.”

Donovan frowned. “You’re not happy anymore?”

Dallas smiled and reached to take his hand. “I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time, Donovan, thanks to you. All this time, something was missing. When I met you, I knew you were what I’d been missing.”

Donovan pushed his chair back and gently pulled Dallas into his lap. He cupped her face in his hand and traced her cheekbone with his thumb. Slowly, he moved his face closer until their lips met. This was no brief kiss. Donovan’s lips parted, and his tongue teased its way between Dallas’s lips until her tongue joined his in a sensual dance that left them both breathless.

When their lips finally parted, Dallas lay her head on Donovan’s shoulder so he couldn’t see the tears of emotion in her eyes. Donovan’s arms were wrapped tightly around her, and at that moment, there was nowhere else on earth she wanted to be.

Donovan's story continues in Chapter 5

© 2021 DW Davis