Breathing His Air (Bantorus MC #1)By: Debra Kayn
The deep, rich scent of Colombian bean filled the eight-by-six shed on wheels. Tori Baldwin pulled the grape lollipop out of her mouth, tossed it in the garbage, and flipped the switch for the florescent green Open sign. Let’s make some money.
She slid the window open and leaned outside. “Welcome to the Coffee Shack. What can I get you this morning?”
An over-happy mother in an SUV with two kids sitting in the back seat held out a five-dollar bill. “I’d like a small latte, no whipped cream, please.”
“Coming right up.” Tori stuck the small cup under the dispenser and turned to the woman. “Love advice is free with any order.”
“Excuse me?” said the woman.
“If you have a question or problem with your love life, I’ll give you advice on how to get back on track and smiling.” She slipped a drinking lid onto the cup and passed it through the window, taking the woman’s money. “Anything at all. I’m here to help.”
“No, thanks. With kids and a husband I don’t have time to even think about a love life.” The woman laughed and waved off the change. “Keep it.”
“Thank you.” She shrugged and waved to the next customer to pull forward.
A German shepherd leaped over the lap of the driver and barked at her. She stepped away from the window, grabbed a dog biscuit from under the counter, and set the treat on the ledge. “What can I get you today?”
“Straight, black coffee. Large.” A husky man with a dirty baseball cap pushed the dog down and followed it up with a pat. “Stay, Sergeant.”
“Beautiful dog you have.” She poured the drink, added the lid, and handed it through the window. “Love advice is free with every purchase. Is there anything I can help you with today?”
“Love?” He chuckled. “I don’t think so.”
“Come on, you look like a guy some woman would be happy to meet.” She handed over the doggy treat. “Ask me anything at all.”
His brows rose and he kept one hand on the dog. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”
“Dude … you won’t regret it.” She grinned.
“Where’s the best place to pick up women in this town?” He glanced in the rearview mirror. “Try to answer that one, ’cause I’m not having any luck. I’m a long-haul trucker, so I’m not around much but when I’m home, I’d like to have a little company. Maybe a home-cooked meal if you know what I’m saying.”
“Gotcha.” She flipped her hair behind her shoulder and leaned forward. “Saturday night at Cactus Cove, there’s a waitress by the name of Ginger. She’s tired of normal pickup lines, so be blunt and upfront. Oh, and she has a cocker spaniel, so she loves dogs.”
“Heh.” He removed his hat, ran his hand over his forehead. “Maybe I’ll stop in there. What can I lose, right?”
“Not a penny. Ginger has brown hair down to her shoulders. About — she held her hand a few inches above her head — this tall. A real sweetie. Tell you what I’ll do. Give me your name. I’ll drop a few hints about you tonight when I go there for dinner.”
He studied her, shook his head, and the laugh lines around his mouth deepened. “I can’t believe I’m doing this … ”
“Dwayne,” he said.
She handed him the change. “Great. Here you go, Dwayne, and good luck with Ginger.”
“Uh, thanks.” He glanced back at her as he drove away, shaking his head in amusement.
Tori hadn’t been joking. Ginger was looking for a steady man in her life.
For the next four hours, customers came and went. Tori refilled the machines and prepared for the next wave to arrive when the line emptied. Only working the morning hours would be enough to finance her stay in the quiet, off-the-main-road town of Pitnam, Oregon, and put away a little cash each week for her next trip. Once she locked up for the day, she’d have enough time to check out the town and do her own thing.
She wiped down the counters, sealed the containers of coffee, and closed the blinds. Pitnam offered her enough entertainment for a while and was big enough she wouldn’t have to form any lasting relationships.
For a brief time, she’d allow herself to fit in. She’d pretend she had what everyone else did. Then when the newness wore off and people started growing too close, she’d move on and reinvent herself somewhere else.
She never regretted her nomad life. Not a single second thought happened during the day. But when she laid her head on the pillow to go to sleep, her dreams consumed her. When those wishes became too hard to control, she ran. A new location, new customers, and a new start.
Hearing chest-thumping noise that rattled the mobile shack and sent the paper cups to falling on the counter, she glanced out the screen door. A group of men on motorcycles cruised around on the gravel, riding in a circle and stirring up dust.
Well, they’d have to come back tomorrow for coffee. She was done for the day.
After locking the Coffee Shack’s door, she walked around and double-checked the lock on the hitch. Unable to afford insurance, she devised a barrier to keep anyone from hooking onto the trailer and stealing her only source of income.