Out of the Ashes(3)

By: Anne Malcom

“Okay, I’m giving the coffee a hundred and twelve and the pancakes a solid nine and a half. I deducted half because I feel like they could be improved by adding chocolate chips to them,” I declared, leaning back in my seat.

Lexie nodded at me. “I’m seconding the coffee, and I’m hugely impressed a town this small has embraced acai bowls. I must say this one is hells good.”

I rolled my eyes. “I fail to believe that any acai bowl could be “hells good.” It’s a crime to breakfast foods everywhere that that can be considered appropriate as a meal. It’s a smoothie poured into a bowl. It’s like cold soup,” I said, my nose curled in distaste.

Lexie folded her arms. “Acai is a super food and it does wonders for your immune system. It’s full of antioxidants and is a much better way to start the day than with processed sugars and bleached flour,” she told me in a scolding tone.

“The only way, other than coffee, to start a day is with sugar. That’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning,” I argued. “That and the possibility Jensen Ackles will finally realize he’s in love with me,” I added dreamily.

Lexie sighed. “I don’t know how you’ve stayed this skinny, Mom. You should need a crane to get you out of the house,” she said, scrunching her nose at me while she looked me up and down.

“I don’t know how my daughter learned about acai and freaking quinoa when such things are sacrilege in my mind,” I countered.

“A little thing called the Internet,” she replied.

I frowned at her. “Well, that’s got to stop. No more surfing the net for ridiculous health foods. Strictly porn and gambling from now on,” I ordered.

Somehow my daughter had become a health freak of epic proportions. It wasn’t my doing. For the first thirteen years of her life I didn’t even know if I had bought a broccoli, let alone freaking kale or whatever the fad vegetable was. But suddenly my budding teenager had come home declaring we buy things such as salad and hummus. I had complied, more out of shock than anything else. I had thought it would be a passing fad, like those weird jelly bracelets things I had been obsessed with as a teenager. But this healthy eating thing had stuck in a way tacky jewelry could not.

Lexie’s grin dimmed and her eyes went wide, her jaw slackened slightly as her attention went over my shoulder.

“I know you can’t be satisfied after that bowl of goo, but please do refrain from drooling on the table, Dollface. We’ll get you a muffin to go.” I patted her hand, assuming such a look was at someone else’s breakfast.

Blue eyes darted to me. “Don’t look now, Mom, but some seriously hot guys have just entered the building.”

“Scale rating?” I shot at her. This wasn’t our first rodeo.

She contemplated. “Off the charts.”

I stilled, my coffee to my mouth. “Off the charts? Hotter than that firefighter we saw saving that kitten one time?” I asked in disbelief. That wasn’t possible. You get a hot firefighter, combine that with an adorable furry animal, you get a perfect score on the Lexie and Mia hot guy chart.

“Blows him out of the water,” my daughter declared.

I slowly swiveled my head to get an eyeful of this record breaker. There had never been an “off the chart” before. Lexie and I were very particular with our rating system.

What my eyes fell on told me the record books had been broken. We may as well just set them on fire and be done with it now. No man would ever compare to what we were gazing upon. The three men standing at the counter were hotter than Hades. I didn’t think men like this existed in real life. They were all tall, like tall. And built. Not in a gross steroid freak way, but in an ”I’ll bench press a car then chop wood with my bare hands” type built. One was joking with the woman at the cash register, an easy smile on his face. He was rocking a freaking amazing man bun and he looked like some kind of badass surfer. Every part of his face was chiseled and perfect, apart from a slightly crooked nose, which made him look more rugged and twelve times hotter. Another one was talking into a cellphone, his inky black hair brushing his collar, a tender look on his handsome and rough face. I totally envied whoever was on the other end of that call who made such a badass look like that.

It was the last one who drew my attention. I didn’t know why but my eyes seemed to be locked on him. They were all big, but he was big. Not fat. That guy didn’t look like he had an ounce of body fat on him. Huge, in a way that every woman liked because he exuded power and strength. He also exuded something else. Menace, danger, and something I couldn’t put my finger on. His hair was cut close to his skull and his features were hard and masculine. My eyes rested on his goatee. Now, I would never consider myself a goatee fan, but I sent a little prayer up right then and there to thank the Creator for them. His face was blank and it looked like he never cracked a smile. Every inch of him looked rough, dangerous and forbidding. He was beautiful. I didn’t miss the fact that all of their impressive bodies were covered in ink. This wasn’t cheap scribbles; from what I could see it looked awesome. I also didn’t miss the leather cuts they were wearing, ones that had insignias on the back. Ones that usually communicated some type of gang.

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