fiddled with the screen, and inserted ear buds. She slipped the
phone back into her pocket, and hummed to the music as she started
her brisk morning walk.
Aaron started his motor and made a U-turn,
leaving a distance of several car lengths between them.
Anna didn’t hear the engine or notice the
truck keeping pace behind her. She raised a hand in greeting as she
passed an elderly woman waiting while her shaggy dog lifted its leg
on a hydrangea bush. The small poodle turned its rheumy eyes on
Anna, its stumpy tail wagging. Anna stopped to let it sniff her
hand before she scratched its ears.
“Good morning,” she said, nodding to the
Aaron kept the car idling, his foot on the
brake as he waited for Anna to continue walking, but instead she
ducked into a coffee shop. He pulled into a parking space, then
strolled through the cafe entrance.
Already at the counter, Anna plucked the buds
from her ears, letting them dangle from her waistband. Aaron could
hear the tinny, faraway sounds of a Bob Marley reggae tune.
Anna bent over and pulled off one of her
sneakers. “Could I have white chocolate mocha, please? And a lemon
poppy seed muffin.”
Balancing on one foot, she pulled a
ten-dollar bill from inside her sock to pay the clerk, beaming at
him all the while. The young man, too busy staring at her cleavage
as she bent over, didn’t notice the damp, crumpled bill. “Keep the
change,” she said, smiling.
On top of the world, Anna wondered if she
were betraying her best friend by enjoying the morning and looking
forward to a job interview.
She flinched when she recognized the deep
voice behind her say, “I’ll have the tall Caffé Americano.”
She turned to glare at the fire chief. Tall
and muscular, he towered over her in the coffee shop. He grinned at
Anna, his lips crooking to one side. Anna stared into the green
depths of his eyes.
“Morning Miss Johnson,” he said.
Anna lifted her chin defiantly. “Following
Aaron didn’t respond. He paid the clerk,
stood aside, and read the morning edition of the Eaton Daily News.
He was just another customer.
Seconds later, he picked up the steaming cup
of coffee the clerk placed on the counter, then headed outside, the
newspaper tucked under his arm. He sat at a bistro table and once
again pretended to read. Minutes later, Anna came outside and sat
at a nearby table. Over the top of his newspaper, Aaron watched her
lick the whipped cream off the beverage, fascinated as her tongue
danced along her upper lip.
Anna sensed Aaron’s eyes caressing her and
for several heartbeats tried to ignore it. When her eyes darted to
his, he averted his gaze to read the newspaper.
She pulled out her cell phone and checked her
text messages, furtively glancing at Aaron. This morning, he wore a
black T-shirt and blue jeans. Black sunglasses were tucked in the
top pocket of his T-shirt.
Aaron glanced over the newspaper and caught
Anna studying him. He smirked, noting the blush that flooded her
Embarrassed, she stood and put the lid on her
chocolate. She tossed it and the uneaten muffin into the trash.
“For the record, I’m going home,” she said. “You can stop following
She walked away, tucking the headphones into
her ears and adjusting the volume. Her shoulders sagged as she
headed down the sidewalk back towards Gretchen’s house.
Paper swamped Phoebe Allen’s desk. Anna
navigated the canyons made by towering stacks of books as she
entered the small room. She transferred magazines and manuscripts
from a nearby chair to the top of a squat bookcase before
“I’m afraid I’ve let things pile up,” Phoebe
said, not apologizing. “Don’t worry, I have the syllabus you need
She foraged on her desktop, brushing aside
folders and papers until she found the one she needed.
“Ah, here we go. Your class is held once a
week, Thursdays from six to nine