(This fic is born of an unhealthy attraction to Mayhem on the Allstate commercials-Dean Winters is a hot piece of work! Then when I saw the new Werther's candy commercial right afterward, I could not resist a pairing. I have no idea how long this will go, but it will be a mostly serious urban romance about two unlikely people falling in love. Have fun reading!)
You're in Good Hands
The night air slipped chilly fingers into Elsa's long blue wool coat as she strolled past the shops of her neighborhood. A quick resnuggle of her soft red scarf, however, remedied the nip in the breeze and she turned her attention back to windowshopping. The glowing windows of a candy store triggered memories of her childhood and she paused in her stroll long enough to purchase a small white paper bag of caramels.
A few steps further brought her to the door of her favorite café and she was delighted that even though she'd arrived during the peak of the dinner hour, Evan, the maitre d' that evening, greeted her by name and seated her right away in a quiet table not too far from the bar. She ordered a mixed green salad to begin and glanced around the restaurant while she waited, enjoying the scene of happy couples and cheerful families busy with their meals and their lives.
The front door opened to admit a man in a trim black suit, his dark hair disheveled slightly by the wind. He spoke to the maitre d' in a quiet voice, and Evan nodded and directed him toward a seat at the bar. The man walked toward her, his eyes flickering around the restaurant as if he were looking for someone. Then his eyes lit on hers.
The crack of breaking glass sounded without warning from behind the bar as Raoul uncustomarily allowed a wineglass to slip through his fingers to the tile floor.
Everyone in the café looked up in surprise except for the man who approached her. His eyes never left hers as he strode purposefully toward his stool, only two seats from her table, giving her a friendly yet slightly rakish smile before turning away to face the bar.
Raoul paused long enough in the cleanup of the breakage to take the man's order for a whiskey—neat. Once the man's gaze left her own, she studied him from behind the shield of her water glass. His dark suit lay smooth and impeccable across his shoulders. A shadow of stubble grazed his strong jaw, but he didn't look unshaven—he just looked . . . sexy. His cheek bore an angry red scrape and a small white bandage pulled together a cut at his right temple. She wondered what had happened to him.
As if he knew she studied him, he turned, whiskey glass in hand, and his eyes met hers once more.
Startled, she hastily set down her water glass, knocking her knife off the table in the process.
Before she could begin to reach for it, he'd retrieved the errant utensil from the floor and smiled at her once more in that friendly, yet rakish way.
"Do we know each other?" she asked, and though she attempted a frosty disinterest, she found her question more filled with curiosity instead.
"I don't believe so," he replied in a deep voice that held a rough edge to it, much like his appearance—perfectly tailored, yet slightly disheveled.
He was hitting on her, she realized as he passed the knife into her hand, his fingers almost but not quite brushing hers in the process. Any other time she might have been nervous or affronted, but this time with this man, she couldn't help but be intrigued.
With a boldness that surprised her, she held out her hand and introduced herself. "Elsa," she offered with a smile.
"Tyler May," he responded, taking her hand in a warm, strong grasp.
She offered him a seat, which he took with a smile less rakish and more genuine. He ordered his own dinner, a medium rare steak, and for dessert she gave him a caramel from her little white sack.
They kept the conversation easy and innocuous about favorite books and movies and places to visit in the city. She discovered that he worked for a large insurance company and finally guided the conversation around to asking how he'd injured himself.
"I was a little too close to a tree limb that fell on a car," he admitted. "Does it look really awful?"
Without thinking, she reached across the table to turn his face toward the light. "Not so awful," she teased as she examined the scrape more carefully. He sat very still beneath her touch and she realized he was holding his breath. She grazed his jaw as she moved her hand away, the stubble of his beard pulling at the soft skin of her fingertips.
"What are you doing tomorrow night?" he asked, his voice suddenly soft. "Can I call you?"
"Yes," she answered. "You can call me."
He searched his pockets for a pen, but Elsa came to the rescue and jotted her phone number down on a scrap of the white paper sack she hastily tore free.
He paid for her dinner, despite her protests, and hailed her a cab outside as the hour had grown very late. "I don't know which way she's heading," Tyler instructed the cabbie, "but stay away from 45th and Elm. It's a bad intersection. Take Montrose instead if you need to go that way."
He held the door open for her as she slid into the seat of the cab, the bag of caramels somehow spilling out onto the sidewalk. Quickly, he crouched to gather the loose candies, pressing them into her hands.
"These are for you," she whispered as she placed several back into his fingers. He nodded and dropped them into his coat pocket before carefully closing the door.
As the car pulled away from the curb, she settled into her seat, not quite able to resist a backwards glance at this stranger she'd met in a café. Tyler May still stood beside the street, watching her drive away. The lights went off behind him one by one as the restaurant closed. Then the cab turned onto Montrose.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I cannot believe I am writing this! I have so many other projects to work on! But you know, I have discovered that sometimes my original work (as Arley Cole-The Blacksmith's Daughter and Leigh Daley-Storm Duty, which is out Oct 10 at Amazon and more) benefits from my doing a bit of fanfiction on the side to grease the creative wheels so to speak. And I'm not stopping my Lost fic Grace Period as Arcole either. But this little piece came to me and I'm just going to have to hope maybe a few readers will like it and migrate over to buy some of my real fiction so I can make a living as a writer. But if you discover it and like it, please oh please review! I can write without reviews but reviews make my day!