“Hey, how are you?”

The raspy, baritone question pulls my head out of my coffee daze and I stare up at him in confusion for a few seconds. If I was still in Chicago, this question would make me think I know this guy, but that’s not possible. He’s too hot and manly and…muscly. I’m pretty sure I’d remember a guy like this if I’d met him before. Thankfully, even with my lack of coffee for what feels like ten thousand hours, I remember again that I’m in Kentucky and people are actually nice here. They say hello to strangers and make polite conversation.

Either I’ve forgotten how to make polite conversation after living away for so long, or I’ve become one of those women who gets all weird and giggly around a good-looking guy.

“I’m great! I haven’t showered in twenty-four-hours or looked in a mirror since I got here, and I’m thinking about licking my shirt because I need coffee to live,” I ramble.

With a giggle.

So, option two it is.

Even without a mirror I can feel a trail of dried drool on my cheek from sleeping while sitting up in a hospital chair for the last four hours. Glancing down at my hands I see my knuckles are now covered in black smudges of mascara from rubbing my eyes, which means there’s even more of that shit smeared on my face. My twenty-four-hour lip stain is only covering my top lip since I worriedly nibbled it off the bottom one during my travels, and the long, blonde beach waves of my hair now resemble something in the Medusa family going by the frizzy, fly-away strands I can see out of the corner of my eye. The tailored black dress pants and sleeveless pink silk blouse I wore to work yesterday were wrinkled and stained long before he spilled coffee on me, so I can’t even blame him for that part of my appearance. The only good thing about any of this right now is that Emma Jo decided to check herself into Baptist Health Hospital in Louisville, an hour away from Bald Knob. It’s bad enough I’m so close to my hometown, running into someone I might actually know when I look like road kill would be worse.

“You look like you’ve had a long night,” he tells me with a soft smile.

Okay, so having my horrible appearance confirmed by the hottest guy I’ve ever been in the same room with is right up there with running into someone I know.

“Still the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen, though.”

I giggle. AGAIN. Not only do I giggle, I reach up and smack his chest playfully.

“Oh, stop!”

The girly giggling continues as my palm flattens against his pectoral muscles and the lack of caffeine in my system is evident when I have to stop myself from asking him if he’s some sort of super hero or something.

I mean, Jesus, it’s like he’s carved from stone.

“So, um, are you here visiting someone? I mean, um, you’re not wearing a hospital gown? So I guess you’re not a patient? Do you live around here?” I ask stupidly with another giggle, my voice rising a few octaves with each question like one of those idiot DePaul college girls I hate.

The smile on his face quickly falls and the dimples in his cheeks disappear, probably because I’m still standing here with my hand pressed to his chest like some sort of touchy stalker, giggling and sputtering like a twelve-year old.

Honestly, what is wrong with me? I just broke up with my boyfriend of five years and one of my oldest friends I haven’t seen since high school is lying a few feet away in a hospital bed after getting the shit kicked out of her. Am I seriously getting googly-eyed over a stranger in the middle of this chaos? It’s the lack of coffee, that’s got to be it. I now have blood running through my veins instead of the usual Kona beans, and I’ve clearly lost my mind.

“I’m a friend of Emma Jo’s. Just wanted to check on her before I went to work,” he tells me, his eyes searching my face for a few seconds before he lets out a sigh and moves away from me.

Thankfully, his movement forces my hand to drop from his chest and I don’t have to suffer through any further mortification by him asking me to remove it and stop touching him. What he says finally catches up to my slow-working brain, but before I can ask him how he knows Emma Jo, he steps a few feet away, grabs something from a side table, and holds it out to me.

“I brought an extra coffee. You could probably use some liquid crack right about now.”

My laughter comes out in a high-pitch, nervous twitter when he uses my favorite words for coffee and the reason why I chose them as the name of my shop. I snatch the travel mug out of his hands as fast as I can and bring it to my lips before I start rambling about my shop like an idiot.

As soon as the warm liquid hits my tongue, I moan against the plastic lid and the pounding headache I’ve had since my plane touched down in Kentucky quickly fades away.

“See you around,” he mutters with a nod, looking back over his shoulder at Emma Jo one last time before moving around me.

With the mug still attached to my lips, my eyes follow him as he walks toward the door, and I’m thankful he doesn’t look back at me as he goes. Otherwise, he’d see that I can’t stop looking at his great ass in those faded and tattered jeans he’s wearing, or how coffee dribbles out of my mouth and down my chin while I continue ass-gawking until he disappears around the corner.

“Farewell, Hot Guy. Sorry for molesting your chest muscles. Here’s to hoping we don’t meet again, because I can never come back from that pathetic display,” I whisper into the room as I hug the travel mug of coffee to me and go back to my chair next to Emma Jo’s bed, flopping down to finish my liquid crack and wait for her to wake up.

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