Gerard watched helplessly as the curious woman easily outdistanced him, her rapid strides taking her far on the city sidewalk lightened by the dawn. Bloody office job making him soft! The price of success being no decent time in the gym, and no good run in years, coupled with a nasty case of jet lag equaled him huffing and puffing within two blocks of the café.
"Damn it," he said between gasps, leaning forward and clutching his side. Pathetic, truly pathetic, if Cassie caught him like this she would never allow him to forget such humiliation. Gerard straightened his back and shook it off in case she watched him from her flat's window located across the street. His glory days of championship, university rugby long gone, he proudly dragged himself back to the café and swore to attend to his physical fitness. To be outstripped by a girl, within two blocks, shameful!
'Ah, but what a girl. I could chase her all night and want for nothing.' Her eyes, they grabbed his attention first. Well, after her painful assault on his private region that is; once he saw her, really saw her...Good Lord, she was gorgeous! Dark brown hair nearly black, eyes so green to be emerald but with layers of infinite variation, and her lips! He blushed thinking how close he came to kissing her without permission once she pleaded for his forgiveness. Then they shared a powerful spark of static electricity, she fled, and he was compelled to pursue her. Something about this woman pulled at him, made his righteous anger dissolve like cotton candy on the tongue. He suspected she tasted as sweet. Gerard groaned as the erotic image of tasting her bloomed in his imagination...along with other areas that obviously weren't as damaged as he feared.
The sudden discomfort in his lower torso required him to remain outside the café as he regained his sense of humanity and shed his inner caveman. Fortunately, during their brief, yet intense exchange, he took the time to notice she wore no wedding band. Funny how that became second nature once he passed thirty, and edged frightening close to forty. Never used to care as a young man, but then he never planned to marry or much cared about a lady's status. Had been called a cad in his day, but things changed as one aged. Feeling calmer, he entered the café and approached an employee. Something the woman said stuck in his memory and he decided asking an employee might clarify it.
"Pardon me, that woman who ran out, do you know her?" he asked a young man wiping a table. The employee glanced up, but continued cleaning.
"Our early bird? That's Sarah Williams, she's here every morning during the week and you took her spot."
"Yeah, man, she's sits there every morning before she goes to work. No wonder you pissed her off." The employee did stop working then, stood up, and glared at Gerard, "And thanks for blowing my tip, by the way."
"Pardon?" the young man's blatant rudeness stunned Gerard.
"Sarah leaves whoever saves her spot a big tip and you mucked it up."
"I...well." Having no polite response for the boy, Gerard blinked a few times before spinning on his heel and walking to the exit. His desire for a peaceful morning coffee and paper ruined, he left them both at Sarah's infamous seat.
"Wait, wait," Cassie said between laughs, "she did what?"
Gerard glowered at his little sister, his brow cocked, "I'll have you know I could've been seriously injured!"
"I know..." she sniggered behind her palm, collapsing upon her couch.
"I'm still quite sore...there," he protested.
"It's not funny, Cassie."
"Of course not."
Gerard's scowl wavered as he watched his sister belly laugh at his expense. Her lithe, petite body wriggled on her couch while her high-pitched giggles steadily cracked his proper British reserve. He never could stay serious around her. He treasured his time with Cassie; ever since their parents divorced while they were both adolescents, splitting them up to live on opposite sides of the pond. A mere boy of fifteen, he returned with his father to England, leaving Cassie with their mother to grow up in America at the tender age of ten. They carried dual citizenships and spoke with oddly skewed accents of American and Britishhers sounding more American than hiscame from spending so much time puddle hopping between countries as they grew up. Even now they traveled back and forth as often as possible; her being a New Yorker and he a Londoner.
"Fine, it might be a bit funny," he grudgingly conceded, sitting next to her on the couch with scowl firmly in place. Cassie head-butted his shoulder, giggling.
"Absolutely, big brother, I wish I could've seen your face!"
"You're seeing it now. You know I only have one scowl."
"True," she agreed, turning her light blue eyes up to him, "Still don't get how you romance so many women with that stupid scowl."
Gerard smirked and flung an arm around her shoulders, "I don't scowl at all the girls, just the lucky ones, luv."
"Be still my heart, Jer," Cassie fluttered her eyelashes and pretended to swoon complete with the back of her hand pressed to her forehead.
"Always, but you love me anyway," she said, teasing as only a younger sister could. Gerard kissed the crown of her head.
"You know I do." They sat in companionable silence for several minutes.
"So, what did Melinda say before you left?"
Melinda Worthington...his on again, off again fiancée of five years. He shrugged, "She told me she'd consider reestablishing our engagement once I returned home."
"And how do you feel about that?"
Two weeks in New York before he flew back to London, assuming his architectural firm's proposal was rejected. Otherwise he might very well become a semi-permanent American resident again while he worked on the immense project offered by New York City.
The mayor's office released word two weeks ago for a worldwide competition for the 9-11 memorial to be designed and build on the hallowed ground of the destroyed twin towers. His firm craved that project like a jonesing addict. Gerard being their best architect, they set him to the task and shipped him off to the Big Applelaptop and creative juices on tap. His appointment with the mayor scheduled for a week from today, he planned on finalizing his design before then. Usually weeks were poured into the design phase, but Gerard worked magic with his inspired, otherworldly concepts. But after this odd morning he mentally altered his agenda: with extra energy applied towards his work, he could devote his early mornings to the coffeehouse staking out Sarah's reserved seat. With a bit of luck he'd meet her again before his two weeks expired, and then...
"Sorry? About what?" he asked Cassie, coming back to the conversation.
"Melinda, what she said," Cassie shifted to look directly into her brother's eyes, "where's your brain, Jer? Do you even care what Melinda thinks?" 'Oh, please, please let him not care!'
"What? Of course I care." Cassie waited patiently for his answer.
"Well, I just..." Gerard verbally stumbled, his thoughts confused. What did he think about Melinda? No, not about her, about what she thought about their re-engagement; argh...things used to be so clear but now...suddenly mucked up he felt confusedmucked uplike the coffeehouse.
"Wow, she really did a number on you."
"Who?" he asked, wistfully, staring at the window facing the coffeehouse.
"Who?" Cassie parroted sardonically back to him, "Her, you git, your coffeehouse girl. What's her name?"
"Sarah Williams," he replied instantly.
"Right," she drawled out, "this Sarah must be something. I haven't seen you this twisted up over a woman in...Well...never."
Gerard came back to his senses, "Don't be daft, I'm not twisted up over a woman I've barely met; especially one who nearly damaged my precious bits."
"Ha! Liar," she taunted. "You forget who you're talking to. You have no power to fool me."
Gerard lightly shoved his sister off his shoulder, standing up from the couch, "This conversation is finished. I need to work and I need for you to grant me peace and quiet." Cassie jumped up next to him and bowed.
"Yes, Your Majesty." He rolled his eyes, exasperated, and ignored her giggles as he retreated to his private nook Cassie carved out of her studio apartment for his personal use.
"Cassie, must you?" he called back over his shoulder, "You know how much I dislike it when you call me that."
"But it's so much fun, and you really are so majestically bossy. I think you're just a little bit more British than I am, Jer."
"And bloody proud of it!" He shouted back.