Annie smiled gratefully at the waiter - Stu his name badge said - as he set her Surf Swell cocktail in front of her, along with a glass of iced water.
"Your food should be up in a few minutes. We're rather busy tonight."
"No hurry. It's my first night here, and I plan on watching every sunset for the next two weeks from this chair."
"I'll be sure to reserve it for you," Stu said with a warm smile.
"Enjoy your signature cocktail. Auggie's famous for them."
The mention of his name caused Annie's control to slip, and her fingers shook just for a fraction of a second as she reached for the tumbler. She took a deep breath and picked up the glass, the blue liquid and ice cubes swirling around. "Tell - tell him thank you - for me."
"I will. Anything you need, give me a shout."
She'd ordered the drink blindly off the list, but seeing the bright blue swirling liquid again brought back memories of last year, when she sat at the bar, wondering what type of "signature cocktail" of his she'd like to try. Her eyes had gone to the Surf Swell 'cause it included shots of rum and Patron, and she'd asked how strong it was 'cause she'd never had tequila. The mix of curacao and pineapple nearly masked the alcohol content, and she'd downed it quickly and ordered another.
The memory spurred her curiosity, and she couldn't bear it any longer and turned around. Her table was across the room, but even over and between heads and bodies of other patrons and the few people at the bar watching football game, she recognized the wavy brown hair and tanned skin. He was smiling as he worked, and she felt a tug in her chest that completely belied her brain's edict that she'd ignore last year.
"You gotta give me tips on how to make those cocktails of yours, Aug," Stu said, coming behind the bar.
"Just follow the recipe," Auggie replied. "Why? Want to join me behind the bar?"
"Only if I could wait on girls like that blonde over there every day."
Auggie wanted to do several things right then, but he bit his tongue to stop himself from telling his young college student part-time waiter that the blonde's name was Annie, and he should treat his customers with more respect. But to do so would be telling. Not many people on the wait staff were still there from last year, and the young man wouldn't understand why he knew her so well.
Her order of the Surf Swell gave him half a hope that she had, indeed, remembered him. It was the cocktail he'd prepared just for her that one night she'd gotten sloshed. As orders had settled for now, he looked over at her, holding the glass and sipping the bright blue liquid. God, he wanted to see her face again. Even if she didn't remember him or their time together, he'd just like talking to her again.
His reverie was pulled back to the present as a waitress came behind the bar, order ticket in hand. "Hey, Lena, what do you got for me?"
"Four mojitos for the guys sitting outside," she said.
Auggie didn't miss the "inadvertent" brush of her fingers against his as he took the ticket off her. A beautiful student in her last year at UCSD, Lena had worked at the hotel for a couple of years now and made no secret of her attraction to him. He was flattered and had even gone out with her once, but Lena wasn't a one-man woman, as he quickly found out. She flirted heavily with everyone, and rumor had it she was even involved with the hotel's manager.
He wasn't celibate in the least, but any woman he dated knew at the outset that no promises were being made. Actually, Annie was the first woman who'd kept his attention after parting. He'd wondered about it and almost asked his friends if that had ever happened to them, but he never did.
An hour and a half later, Annie's belly was full, she'd seen her first of 14 gorgeous sunsets, and, courtesy of another Surf Swell and two longnecks of beer, she was glad she didn't have to drive home. Only a dozen steps away was her bed. The dinner crowd was gone, she noticed, and a few others had come in for drinks. With inebriation, Annie's agitation and annoyance with Auggie grew. She wanted to just let it go, but the question still rattled in her mind. What happened last year? Why did he leave a number that obviously wasn't his?
Damn it, she thought to herself. She spent a lot of money to come here, and her first night was being ruined.
With a sigh, she drained the bottle of beer and picked up her purse. She walked confidently - surprising considering the amount of alcohol running through her system - to the bar and sat at the end.
"Another for the road?" she asked, clanking the empty bottle on the bar.
She nearly lost it completely when his eyes met hers. He apparently hadn't seen her approach, and his head whipped around to her in surprise. Chocolate brown, Annie thought, and never wavering when he looked at her. That's what she first noticed last year, what drew her to him in the first place. He had a way of making her feel like they were the only two people in the world.
"It's good to see you again, Annie," he said, effortlessly pulling a cap opener out of his pocket and sliding a full bottle across to her.
"You remember me?" she squeaked, her inebriated lack of control showing.
"Of course. How could I forget?"
He said it so soft, with just a hint of sadness, and for a few seconds, Annie nearly forgot that she was the wronged party in this duo. "If you say so," she responded, mentally cringing as her words came through with more bitterness than she meant.
An order from the other end of the bar pulled him away, but he kept glancing her way throughout the minutes he was gone. Annie tried to ignore the looks, but the TV was playing an uninteresting football game, and the beer suddenly tasted like sawdust in her mouth. She was methodically picking at the label when she saw him return.
"How long are you here for?" he asked, setting a glass of iced water in front of her.
She hadn't requested it, but was grateful, all the same.
"Two weeks," she replied. "A proper vacation this time around."
"Much better than five days, huh?"
"I've deserved it," she said with a shrug, though inwardly her heart leapt that he'd obviously remembered the year-old details.
"Work getting to you, huh?" he asked. "Cooped up 50 weeks out of the year behind a desk, nice to get out, huh?"
Annie laughed and said, "Hardly." Then, upon realization that she'd never told him anything about her, she added, "I'm a translator. I live in New York City, but over half of the year, I'm traveling all over the world."
"Wow, that's amazing. I've never been out of California."
"Mm, even if I lived here, in paradise, I'd still want to get away, see what's out there."
"So, out of every other beach community in the world, you came here," he said.
"Yep," Annie said, taking a sip of the cool water. Its coldness seemed to clear her palate and mind slightly.
"Can I ask why?"
Her eyes rose to meet his, and the unspoken answer flared up between them. The heavy wood of the bar separated them, but his expressive eyes and a countenance that held hope took her back, once again, to that night when he stood in front of her in her room, asking her to tell him to go. Annie thought that she just liked the area, and southern California seemed to be where she felt the most relaxed, but she knew what he meant.
Why this hotel, in particular, when dozens dotted the area?
She knew the answer, even if she didn't want to admit it to herself, but before she completely prostrated herself before this man, she needed to know one thing.
"I called you when I got back, you know."
Annie saw the look of confusion on his face, but was too caught up in her own emotions of frustration and confusion to even try to decipher it. "I dialed the numbers, exactly as you had written them, but you didn't answer. A woman did, who said she never heard of you, and I had the wrong number."
She paused then, downing the rest of her water. He hadn't taken the opportunity to respond, so she took it to mean what she initially surmised. "There really was no need for the gesture," she said. "I was leaving, we both knew that, so…"
With as much grace and shattered confidence as she could muster, Annie picked up her purse and stood. "Please – please bill all of this to my room," she said. "It's 108."
Then, fighting every urge pulsating through her to look back, she walked away.
A/N Well, what do you think? Do you like making this a cast AU? I need other characters to round out the story and figured most of them would fit nicely into minor roles, especially given their actions on show and what I plan to do with the story.
I kind of agonized over when they should meet, what should happen, and how long to draw out the misunderstanding of these star-crossed lovers. Hope I did it justice.
Please leave a word of review. And, (she writes with a wink and a smile) not just to say you're glad I'm back. LOL I'd really appreciate some feedback on this. Thanks!