A little earl as I have a party Saturday at my house. Enjoy.
Drew kept an eye on the clock in his family’s gift shop in Cannery Village. It was nearly two. He wondered if Mark would even show. Part of him figured he would not. He’d been sort of surprised Mark had agreed in the first place.
The gift shop, owned by his mother and stepfather, was one of those typical shops one found in seaside harbors. It contained T-shirts, sweatshirts, California knickknacks, sea life statues, and pictures…basic souvenir type stuff. It had been in the Village for years, since Drew was just a boy. Just then, the shop only had two old ladies as customers gazing at the hats in the corner that read Newport Beach.
“Ma, I’m going to take my lunch break if it’s okay,” Drew called to his mother, who was in the back area.
“Okay, honey, I’ll be right out.”
Drew waited for his mother to appear behind the counter and then he hurried from the shop and down the few doors to Java Central.
A perusal of the small coffee shop indicated what he’d feared. No Mark. He sighed with disappointment. Even though he expected it, he still couldn’t help feeling cheated.
“Hey, Drew, you want your usual?” Louise asked. She was a college student and pretty with red hair and freckles.
“Yeah, thanks,” Drew said, walking up to the counter to wait for his coffee. When the little bells tingled above the door he didn’t even turn around. He just paid his money and moved over to add cream.
“May I help you, sir?” Louise asked.
“I’d like a regular coffee, please.”
Drew turned quickly. “Mark!”
Mark raised a dark eyebrow. He was dressed in a navy suit and carried a briefcase. He really was handsome in a very polished sophisticated way. His eyebrows looked like they’d been shaped even.
“You did say two on Wednesday at Java Central, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah, I did.” Drew grinned. “I’ll be over at that table by the window.” He took his seat and waited for Mark to come over and join him. When he did, Drew couldn’t keep his happiness from showing.
“You look pleased with yourself,” Mark commented.
“No, I’m actually pleased with you.”
“How so?” Mark reached for a packet of real sugar, not the fake stuff, Drew noticed. He added it to his black coffee.
Drew shrugged. “Honestly, I expected you to stand me up. I’m glad I was wrong.”
“I almost did. This isn’t exactly convenient for me.” Mark glanced around the shop. “Where do you work anyway?”
“At a gift shop a few doors down.”
“You going to college?”
He laughed. “How old do you think I am?”
“I don’t know.” Mark shrugged, stretching his suit coat across his broad shoulders. “Not much over twenty-one.”
“Wrong. I’m twenty-seven and my college days are over. I have a degree from the California Institute of Art.”
Mark frowned, clearly in disapproval. “Then what are you doing working at a gift shop?”
Taking a sip of his coffee, Drew shook his head. “The shop belongs to my parents. Last year my stepdad was diagnosed with cancer. He’s having trouble running the shop so I’m helping my mother out for now. Before that I’d been teaching art at the Institute. I’ve had to take a leave of absence and move back to Newport Beach.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Any relationship with your father?”
Drew shook his head and reached for another little cup of half-and-half to add to his coffee. “I don’t have a father. Well, I don’t mean I was hatched or anything. Mom was artificially inseminated. No clue who the donor was.”
“It’s very admirable of you to give up your life to help them.”
“I don’t consider it giving up my life. Anyway, what about you? Why don’t you tell me about yourself.”
“Me? I’m boring as hell.” Mark took a long sip of his coffee.
Drew smiled. “I know you work all the time. Why is that?”
“I have a stressful job. Law work requires a lot of hours.”
Drew tapped his foot on the table leg as the song played overhead. It was one of his favorite new songs. “Well, yeah, maybe it does, but what about Nathan and…um…the other one.”
“Yes. They’re partners in the firm with you, right?” At Mark’s nod, he continued, “No one speaks of them being workaholics.”
Mark snorted. “I’m not a workaholic.”
Drew smirked. “No? Seems like everyone says you are. You don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Neither do you. Or do you?” Mark’s eyebrows shot up.
He laughed. “No, I don’t. Had one a few years ago but he dumped me.”
Mark eyed him. “He dumped you?”
“Is that so hard to believe?” he asked, amused. “You want to hear something scandalous?”
The other man raised only one of his an eyebrows this time. Sort of like Spock from Star Trek. Drew liked the way he did it. Sexy as hell. “Yes, go for it.”
“My boyfriend was one of the teachers at the school. I mean, one of my professors back when I was a student. I guess he liked the excitement of being with a student, and when I wasn’t any longer he decided to end it.” He laughed.
“You sound more amused than hurt.”
Drew nodded. “Yeah, I guess that’s true. To be honest, it’s not like I ever thought he was my happily-ever-after guy or anything. I wasn’t in love with him. What about you? A good-looking guy like you must have had a boyfriend or two in his past. What are you? In your thirties?”
Mark glanced away. “Sure, I had a boyfriend I cared a lot about once.”
He wanted to ask for details, but something in Mark’s body language told him not to press it. Drew pushed aside his natural nosiness and glanced at his watch. “I’m afraid my lunch break is just about over and I have to get back to the shop.”
“Okay. I’ve finished my coffee anyway.”
“Listen, thanks a lot for coming all the way here. I know it was a big deal for you.” Drew brushed at the lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes. “Maybe you’d like to come again next Wednesday?”
Mark stood. He looked doubtful and Drew tried to hide his disappointment. “Maybe. I’ll think about it.”
Drew smiled and stuck out his hand to shake Mark’s. “Thanks for coming. I hope to see you again.”
The man did shake his hand but made no promises.
They exited the coffee shop and Drew waved as Mark got into his navy Lexus. With a sigh, he went back to his mother’s gift shop. He seriously doubted he’d ever see Mark Stevens again.