Title: Hot Chocolate with a Sprinkling of Love
Disclaimer:The usual. Major characters not mine. Minor characters are.
A/N: Happy Holidays! At last! At last! Another Bobby & Sue story! This one is complete but needs a last reading for tweaking. I hope you love it enough to review it. Oh yeah, it's an AU story featuring my favorite ship.
A/N: Apologies for not completing Parallel Lines. Just can't seem to wrap it up! Hope this makes up for it.
Summary: Sometimes you can find love in the most unexpected ways.
Hot Chocolate with a Sprinkling of Love
"Hot chocolate, please," ordered a pretty blonde as she put down her packages. She reached into her purse to pull out her wallet.
"One hot chocolate coming up," said the cart vendor. "Two thirty-nine."
She looked in her wallet in dismay. There were no small bills. "I don't suppose you have change for a fifty?" she asked hopefully.
"Sorry, lady," the man said regretfully. He pointed to the sign on his cart. "No bills larger than a twenty."
Suddenly, a hand thrust a five-dollar bill between the vendor and the woman. Both looked up.
"Allow me," a tall, attractive man smiled. "And make that two hot chocolates."
"Right," grinned the vendor.
The blonde turned to the man behind her. "I can't let you pay for me! I don't even know you," she protested.
He dropped the change from the vendor into the tip container and accepted the two steaming cups handed to him. He held one out to the woman. "Easily remedied. Bobby Manning at your service and here's your hot chocolate with my compliments," he grinned.
She debated whether or not to accept when the vendor chirped, "Take it, lady. It's paid for."
Reluctantly she reached for the cup. "Thanks." As she bent down to pick up her packages, her new acquaintance leaned over, too.
"Here, let me help," he uttered picking up one of her bags.
"I'm fine," she insisted. "I can manage."
"Not a problem," he said cheerfully.
"You don't even know where I'm going!" she persisted.
"Well…you look like you were heading in that direction," he nodded to his left. "And as it happens, so am I. So, shall we?"
She hesitated for a moment unsure of what to do.
"I don't bite," he offered guessing at her indecision.
"Oh! I didn't mean…I wasn't…," she began flustered that he was able to read her mind. Get a grip! she admonished herself. He wasn't asking her out on a date. They were only walking in the same direction. "All right," she finally agreed.
"Perfect," Bobby responded sincerely.
As they sipped their chocolate, he took a surreptitious glance at the woman beside him and found her peering over the top of her cup at him. He flashed a dimpled grin.
"I've introduced myself," he hinted.
"Sue Thomas," she answered. "And thank you for the hot chocolate. You didn't have to."
"My pleasure, Sue Thomas. I'm always glad to help a damsel in distress."
She frowned a bit. "I don't know if that qualified as being in distress."
"Did you want that hot chocolate?"
"Then that's good enough for me." He held up her package. "Christmas shopping?"
She nodded. "Just a couple more gifts and I'm done. You?"
"I have a list and like Santa, I'm checking it twice," he joked.
"Have you checked off anyone on your list naughty or nice?"
"It's only a week before Christmas!" she exclaimed.
He grimaced. "So the calendar and innumerable advertisements inform me."
"Why haven't you started?"
"I don't know. The adrenaline rush of last minute shopping?"
Eyebrows raised, she said pertly, "Try again."
He shrugged. "Habit, I guess. When you're a single bloke you don't have someone to drag you shopping."
"Means a guy, feloow," he supplied.
"Oh!" That was a new word for her, she thought. "No girlfriend, sister or mother?"
"No girlfriend, no sister and one mother Down Under."
He looked at her with a tinge of surprise. Usually the accent gave him away. Maybe this sheila was pulling his chain. Funny. She didn't look the type. "That's right. Also known as Australia."
"Australia. You're a long way from home."
"Home's here now. Came for college and never left. I like it here. What about you?"
"Two brothers and parents all in the Midwest."
"You're a long way from home, too," he pointed out.
"Not as far as you."
"I like it here, too," she smiled.
He liked this woman. He wouldn't mind getting to know her better. He decided to take a chance. Bobby suddenly stopped.
"You've stopped. Is something wrong?" she asked.
"No female to help me," he began pointing to himself, "and you apparently still need to finish your shopping. What say you drag me along with you? Or I drag you with me? I could use some feminine advice."
"We'll be surrounded by people in public places," he pointed out. "We won't be alone, if that's the problem."
Sue gazed at his eager face. "All right," she heard herself saying to her surprise. "When?"
His face beamed at her response. "Great! For a minute there, I thought you were going to turn me down." He thought for a moment. "Well, there's no time like the present. Are you free after work?"
"Wonderful!" They continued walking. "We could meet at say…six?"
She nodded again. "Where?"
He frowned as he tossed his cup. "Done?" he asked as he held out his hand.
She put her cup into his hand. "Done."
"I'm not much of a shopper," said Bobby as he dropped her cup into the trash bin. "Where do you suggest?"
Sue caught the beginning of what he'd said but missed the rest when he turned to toss the empty containers.
"What did you say?" she asked as soon as she could see his face. "I couldn't see your lips."
He looked puzzled. "My lips?"
"I need to see your lips so I know what you're saying. I'm deaf," she explained.
Bobby looked momentarily stunned. "I'm sorry. Is that why… I had no idea…." His voice trailed off.
"It's all right," she reassured him noting his embarrassment. "Most people don't realize I'm deaf until I've irritated them by constantly asking them to repeat what they said," she joked. "You were saying?"
He looked thoughtful and then repeated matter-of-factly, "I was just asking where would you suggest. I'm not much of a shopper."
"I was planning to go back here," she said holding up her shopping bag with the store's name prominently splashed across. "We could start here and then go to other stores."
"Works for me." He looked at her questioningly when she stopped in front of a tall building. "Why are we stopping?"
"Because this is where I work."
"Really?" he exclaimed. "What floor?"
"You won't believe this," he said, "but I work here, too."
She looked at him in disbelief. "What floor?"
"The ad agency?" It was a prominent one in the city.
"Spot on. And you?"
"A publishing firm of children's books."
"Isn't it amazing how two people can work in the same building and not know it?" he said incredulously.
"It's a big building," replied Sue. "Twenty-seven floors. You're lucky if you know the people on your floor."
"True." He thought for a moment. "Well, this solves one of our dilemmas."
She looked at him quizzically.
"Now we know where to meet. I'll just come down to your office when I'm done," he proposed happily.
Sue grimaced. She wasn't sure she wanted anyone at work to know she was meeting Bobby. There would be questions that she didn't want to answer.
"Something wrong?" Bobby asked when he noticed her expression.
"What if I meet you downstairs in the lobby?"
He opened his mouth to ask why when he snapped it shut. If he got too nosey, she might change her mind and decide not to go at all, he thought. "Fine." The elevator doors opened and a surge of people entered.
When her floor number lit up, she turned to say, "Thanks for the hot chocolate," before she stepped out.
"Any time," he called back as the doors closed. He smiled at the other occupants of the elevator pleased with himself when he realized he was still holding her shopping bag. "I guess I'll just have to go to her office whether she likes it or not," he reasoned to himself.
He jauntily strode to his office nodding and smiling to his co-workers as he went down the hallway.
"Hey, Bobby!" called out a voice. He turned.
"Jack! What can I do for you?"
His co-worker eyed the package Bobby was carrying. "You've actually been Christmas shopping and it's not December 23? Who says miracles don't happen?"
"Very funny," said Bobby sarcastically. "As it so happens, these are not mine. They belong to a very attractive blonde on the seventh floor."
Jack looked at him quizzically. "And how did you wind up with her packages?"
"It started with a cup of hot chocolate."
"Hot chocolate? Now you're not making any sense at all," declared Jack. "But that's okay, I'm used to it coming from you. Anyway, we need to see Mac about the proposal for that cosmetic firm. I think they like it but want a couple of changes before the campaign begins."
Bobby sighed. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if one day we make a presentation and the client accepts the whole proposal lock, stock, and barrel?"
"Wonderful but not gonna happen," said Todd realistically. "C'mon."
"Let me just drop this off, take off my coat and I'll be in there."
"I'm timing you."
"You took a long lunch break," commented Lucy when Sue returned to her office. "Looks like it was a productive one."
"No peeking," cautioned Sue as she put down the full shopping bag. "Oh no!" she cried in dismay. Bobby still had her other one!
"What?" Lucy asked in alarm.
"Um…nothing," covered up Sue. She did not want Lucy asking any questions! "I just remembered I forgot to get a present for someone."
"You still have a few days before Christmas to finish up," Lucy said to soothe her friend. "You want to go after work?"
For the second time in the space of a minute, Sue was at a loss for words. "Um…I can't."
"Oh?" asked a surprised Lucy. "I thought you said Dan's out of town."
Dan. She'd forgotten all about him.
Lucy eyed her friend. "You have to work late?" she hazarded a guess.
A little white lie would avoid a lot of questions like these, thought Sue. "I kind of told this author I'd finish the first revision before the holidays," shee said as she hung up her coat and stowed her purse away. Lucy didn't have to know that that author would be in Arizona visiting family until after the New Year's.
"Oh, okay," Lucy said as her friend returned to her desk. "But, if you feel like going shopping after work one day, let me know. You know I'm always game for shopping." She turned to leave the room.
"I know," smiled Sue settling herself in her chair. "Lucy?"
She stopped with her hand on the doorknob, "Yeah?"
"Do you know anyone in that ad agency on the nineteenth floor?" Sue asked casually.
"The ad agency," repeated Lucy. "Well, as a matter of fact, I do. Actually, she used to work there until she got married and had a baby. But her husband still works there. Any particular reason why?"
"No reason. I was just looking at the directory while I was waiting for the elevator. It's such a big firm I just wondered."
Lucy gave her friend a strange look.
"That's not like you to ask something like that," she replied. "What's up?"
"Nothing," answered Sue as nonchalantly as possible.
Lucy's curiosity was now thoroughly aroused but she decided to let it slide. "Okay, if you say so." She pointed to Sue. "Before I forget, Ted wants your feedback about the artwork on MJ's latest book. I put it on your desk. It's on the top."
"Good. I've been waiting for it."
"He said to give him a call when you've taken a look."
"Okay." She reached for the pile of messages on her desk. "Thanks, Lucy."
Lucy headed back to her desk closing the door behind her. Sue rifled through her messages and separated them into urgent and not so urgent. In half an hour she was able to take care of the most pressing ones.
Reaching for the envelope from the illustrator, Sue slid out the sheets for MJ Leland's latest picture book of the adventures of Eryn Puppy. She quickly scanned each page nodding with approval.
"Good work, Myles," she said out loud to no one. Gathering the sheets, she walked over to her drawing table and placed them next to the text so she could better scrutinize the artwork.
She was thoroughly absorbed in her work, writing notes for the illustrator to make changes when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned.
"You have a visitor," announced Lucy, her thumb point to the man behind her. It was Bobby.