When Jude first walked into Vic’s Cae at just after seven-thirty, the only other customer was old Frank Carter sitting in the corner booth. As far as Jude knew he was here every morning and had been for years, even back when Vic himself had owned the place. Vic died before Jude ever moved to Sutter’s Bay and his son, Adam, owned the place.
Jude approached the counter and sat down.
Adam walked over wiping his hands on his apron. “Morning, Jude. You want coffee?”
“That would be great, thanks.” He picked up the tattered menu.
Adam brought his coffee in a chipped white mug and folded his muscular arms across his chest. The man was pretty good looking. Well, for someone in their forties anyway. He even had a touch of silver at his temples. He always wore the same thing every time Jude had seen him. Jeans and a tight white T-shirt.
“You look like hell,” Adam commented.
“Yeah. You got some Baileys for this coffee?”
Adam raised a brow. “A little early for that.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. You got some anyway?”
Adam bent beneath the counter and brought out a small bottle. He poured a dollop in Jude’s coffee. “What else can I get you?”
“What’s the special this morning?”
“Short stack, two eggs, choice of bacon or sausage.”
“All right, I’ll have that. Poached with sausage.”
Adam nodded and moved away, off toward the window to the kitchen.
Jude sighed and sipped his doctored coffee while still trying to push the dream…nightmare out of his mind. He hadn’t had the dream in a few months but he never went too long without thinking of that day.
The bell over the door jangled and Jude glanced in the direction to see who had entered the café. He blinked. The man standing there was a stranger. A fucking incredible one.
The stranger wore a black cowboy hat of all things, but he was tall, really tall, over six feet Jude guessed, and built of solid muscle. The hair he could see that wasn’t covered by the hat appeared to be the color of chestnuts. Blue jeans framed his backside and he wore a charcoal gray button-down shirt. Jude would bet five dollars he wore cowboy boots. In order to know for sure, though, he’d have to lean back on the stool which would make his perusal pretty damn obvious.
The man sat at the counter several spots away from Jude. Adam approached him, had a few words, and then brought the man coffee
Jude picked up his own mug and tried not to drool. Adam walked over to him with the coffee pot, offering him more.
“Bad dreams again?” Adam was one of the few people in the area who knew the truth of what caused Jude to flee San Francisco. Most people assumed he had a bad break up.
“How’d you guess?”
“You look like hell and the drinking is pretty early even for you.”
Jude grimaced. Even for him? Did Adam think he was an alcoholic or something? “As a matter of fact I did have the dream and it was awful thank you very much.”
“When was the last time you talked to Dr. Carew?” Adam referred to Sutter Bay’s very own psychiatrist. If anything ailed you, residents of the small city would give you the unsolicited advice of speaking to the good quack.
“I spoke to him at the grocery store. Nice polite chap.”
“I’m serious, Jude.”
He stared hard right back at Adam. “So am I.” He flicked his head just slightly in the direction of the café’s newest arrival. “Who is that?”
Jude raised an eyebrow. “Rex?”
“Uh-huh. He’s from Texas.”
Jude smirked and glanced the cowboy’s way. “Never would have guessed. Is he just passing through Sutter’s Bay?”
“Nope, he set up shop here,” Adam said.
“Doing what? Roping cows?”
Adam grinned. “Nah, he’s a vet.”
Jude tugged his bottom lip with his teeth and eyed Rex Warner with renewed interest. “A vet, huh? Competition for old Gonzalez?”
“Actually, Dr. Gonzalez plans on retiring before the end of the year and Dr. Warner is taking over his practice.”
“Well, aren’t you in the know?” Jude rolled his eyes and took another long swallow of his coffee. “Pardon me for asking and all, but did I just step into Mayberry?”
The other man shrugged. “You asked. Be right back with your breakfast.”
Jude couldn’t seem to look away from the new vet. Any minute now the man would turn around and demand he stop staring. In a way, Jude sort of wished he would because at the moment, Rex Warner didn’t seem remotely interested in glancing in his direction.
It was unnerving, really, the man refusing to look his way. Usually when someone blatantly stared it became so noticeable you couldn’t help but look. Not so Rex.
Jude coughed. Frank Carter glared his way, but Rex didn’t even move. His eyes were locked on the menu Adam had given him earlier.
He sighed and gave up. What did he care if some straight cowboy noticed him anyway? He got up from his stool, went around the counter and grabbed the coffee pot to refill his cup. He resisted adding more Baileys after Adam’s implication a few minutes before. He was about to set the pot back on the warmer when he noticed Rex Warner’s cup.
Shrugging, Jude walked over to the man and poured coffee into his half-empty cup. He waited for Rex to look up. The man had set his menu down and had picked up a newspaper.
“Eggs over easy, bacon crisp, fried potatoes, and an English muffin.”
“Right, I’ll tell your server.”
At that, Rex did lower the paper and stared at Jude.
He decided then and there dark chocolate eyes framed with long, black lashes ought to be illegal. The man was a bloody god, no doubt about it.
“Your hair is green,” Rex said, his gaze flickering up to Jude’s dyed green curls.
“Yes.” It wasn’t a question, but Jude answered it as though it was and that was all he managed to say. He just stood there staring at Rex, the coffeepot in hand.
Adam came hurrying over and with an eye rolling look at Jude grabbed the coffeepot. “Um, sorry, Dr. Warner. I’ll be with you in second. Jude, your breakfast is at your seat.”
Jude wanted to say something else, but couldn’t begin to think of anything that would sound halfway intelligent so he sauntered back to his seat and picked up his fork to eat his breakfast.
He felt more than just a little bit ridiculous. He’d finally managed to get Rex’s attention and all he’d done was stare as though the man were a zoo exhibit.
He reminded himself the dude was likely arrow straight and completely off limits to him. Besides, Jude was not looking for anything but mind numbingly great sex which he had wisely decided to seek outside Sutter’s Bay where no one would know him. Best to keep it that way.
He ate his food quickly, probably too quickly as he barely tasted it, and then threw down his money on the counter. He was suddenly quite anxious to be done with Vic’s.
“Thanks, Adam,” he called as he rushed through the door.