Rolling into the coffee shop parking lot, I put my motorcycle in neutral and drop the kickstand. Unclipping my helmet, I hang it on the right handle and head inside for a warm dose of liquid caffeine. Last night, I woke up at three a.m. Unable to sleep, I started painting the image from my dream. Each dream I have is as fantastic as the next, but this one was especially intricate in detail. In the dream, blue fire swirled around me as if it had an essence of its own. From my fingertips, I wielded its power. The possibilities of what I could do were limitless. My brush stroked ravenously, bringing the vivid images of color to life on canvas. When I collapsed back in bed, exhausted, my eyes returned to the painting. Staring back at me was a resemblance of myself—exquisite and eerie. My eyes, an electric blue, share the same shade as the fire. Looking into those luminous orbs, there’s a secret she holds, a power she’s eager to unleash.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion my dreams are my mind’s escape from our boring reality. Being adventurous and curious has led me to research many subjects, particularly the supernatural. Unfortunately, the closest I’ve come to anything of the former has been from movies, books, and art.
With my turn to order next, I rattle off my request to the barista for a cappuccino and a muffin. She takes my name and I leave the counter in search of a quiet corner. Dropping my backpack on the cushioned bench at my favorite window spot, I pull out my tablet and sketch pad. My email inbox is filled with ads for painting tools and, of course, makeup because I’m addicted to it, as well as adventure tour ads to feed my inner adrenaline junkie. Skipping over the ads, I click on an important email from Susan, the art gallery director of the 369 Studio Gallery, one of the swankiest galleries in New York. It took me two years to get a show there. I breathe a breath of relief when all her email includes is a confirmation that my art has been delivered and, tonight, they’ll begin preparation for my show tomorrow.
Raising my head to the call of the barista brings my attention to a stunning man at the counter. Beneath a gray beanie is a messy mop of blonde hair with curls peeking out the bottom of his hat. Sunkissed golden skin is visible outside of his blue, short-sleeve shirt, white shorts, and leather flip flops. Not only is he handsome, but his beachwear causes him to stand out among the regulars. He’s definitely not from New York. He probably just flew in from a beautiful island on his private plane. Ugh, why can’t I meet a man like that?
Gathering my cappuccino and muffin, I catch beach stud eyeing me. Eyes as beautiful and blue as a turquoise ocean meet mine. A flutter of excitement and attraction shoots through me, drawing my lips into a curve. Beneath his heart-stopping eyes is a strong jaw, lips you want to kiss, and the kind of eyelashes women pay to glue on their lids. His features leave him in two categories—model or actor.
Not wanting to turn our moment into something awkward, I turn away from his golden angelic face, releasing a breath and all the butterflies with it. Back at my table, I peel away the wrapper from my muffin. Taking a bite, blueberry flavor bursts in my mouth and soothes the hunger pains in my belly. One of the things I like most about this coffee shop is the cute designs they make in the cappuccinos. Today, mine has five white leaves that are disbursed as my lips form over the edge of the mug.
Three tables down, beach stud is sitting alone with a cappuccino and laptop. As if he senses me ogling, he angles his head and pierces me with those sparkling ocean eyes. To be nice, his lips upturn in a kind smile. I’m sure he’s used to women staring.
Returning my attention to where it belongs, I shoot an email off to Susan, thanking her for the work and preparation she’s doing to ensure a smooth art show. The second email I send is to my cousin, Rachel, and my mother, Claire. It’s been a couple of weeks since I updated them on my activities, and I know they’ll be excited about the art show. With those emails sent, I turn off the tablet and reminisce about my vivid dream. More details come to mind, and I doodle on my sketch pad. Several minutes later, the image of a man with a scar on his cheek is looking back at me. I’m left wondering about the cause of that scar, then chuckle aloud at my ridiculous thoughts. The man is a figment of my imagination, yet I’m thinking of him as a living being. I need a boyfriend, I work too much, and now, I sound like my mother.
Gathering my belongings into my backpack, I swing it over my shoulder and head out to my motorcycle.
I’m halfway to my motorcycle when I hear my name called with male bravado. Turning toward the voice brings me face-to-face with beach stud. Taking a step back, I finger the mace bottle dangling from my backpack. Just because he’s handsome doesn’t mean he’s not a threat.
“How do you know my name?”
The left side of his jaw flexes as he smiles. “I heard the barista call your name.”
“Oh, right. What can I do for you?”
“I’d like to ask you out for coffee, but since we both just finished a cup, how about dinner?”
Is that a hint of an accent I hear? Irish maybe? My eyes sweep up and down, taking in his tall height, toned arms, and broad chest. Can this guy get any more attractive? I’m guessing he wins over every woman he sets his alluring eyes on.
“You’re tempting, honestly, very tempting, but I don’t do flings or one-night stands, and you look like you won’t be here in New York very long.”
Beach stud reaches out and snags my wrist as I turn away. My gaze whips to his hand, and he immediately drops it.
“You’re right, I won’t be here very long. I’m here on business for two weeks, but I would love to have someone local show me the best of New York.”
“What makes you think I’m local?”
“Just a guess.” One hand slips into a pocket while the other rests on his beanie and rubs his head. “Are you always this hard on men when they ask for your company?”
“For my company?” Laughter shakes my shoulders and curls my lips. “Around here, when men ask for a woman’s company, he wants to pay her for sex.”
A pink hue fills his cheeks. “That’s not what I’m asking for. I prefer sex to be consensual and for there to be passion.”
Goosebumps pebble on my arms as those words leave his lips. Goodness, it’s painfully obvious how attracted I am to him.
“All right, enough of the sex talk.” Pulling a business card out of my back pocket, I hand it to him. “I don’t give out my number to people I just met, but I’ll be at an art show tomorrow at the 369 Studio Gallery. Meet me there, and I’ll show you around town after. That work?”
Beach stud pockets my card with a triumphant grin. “It does. I’ll be there.”
“Great. What’s your name?
“Griffin Hughes. It was a pleasure to meet you, Selene.”
“I’ll decide if I feel the same tomorrow.” I give him a smirk, and he laughs.
“I have my work cut out for me then, don’t I?”
As I walk away, I raise both hands in the air. “Just giving you the full local experience.”
Griffin remains there, glistening in the sun like a golden statue, watching me get on my motorcycle and ride away.