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Boats Against The Current


“Bartender, another please.” Kolt said, setting down his coffee mug with a defiant thunk on the low counter.


“That’s your third cup this morning,” the barista said, pressing the grounds for a shot of espresso and locking it into the machine.


“What’s your point, Will? Just fill the mug and nobody gets hurt.” 


Will rolled his eyes, but poured the steaming shot into Kolt’s mug before topping it with his usual blend of sweet cream, dark chocolate, and cinnamon. “You know this stuff’ll kill you one day if you keep drinking it at this rate.”


“Hey,” Kolt said, saluting Will with his mug and echoing its moniker. “If it ain’t Baroque don’t fix it.”


He took a sip, letting the dark roast sweep across his tongue as he wove around the smattering of tables and chairs. It was surprisingly slow for a Saturday morning. Only a few guests milled about, their steady chatter adding to the music of grinding coffee beans and steamed milk. There was hardly a moment of the night or day where he couldn’t hear the drone of the shop through the floorboards of his apartment upstairs, but he didn’t mind. The scant hours they were closed were the ones that got to him, bringing a silence so still it was deafening.


As he neared the exit, he spotted a girl in the corner booth. She wore a light knitted sweater that hugged her slim figure. Her brown hair was half pulled up in a bun, a few shorter strands falling loose at her temples. He had seen her before, always in the same booth with a chai tea latte and a book. The only thing that seemed to change was the title on the cover and whether the drink was hot or iced. 


Kolt had walked past her a million times, so he wasn’t sure what made him stop. He knew he should get back upstairs, wait for his cousin to arrive for renovations, but he couldn't quite get his feet to move. He slipped into the seat opposite her, instead.


A few moments passed before she looked up, blinking away whatever world the words in her book had conjured, returning to this one. Whatever clever line he’d had been about to say fled from his mind the moment his eyes met hers—two dark pools like liquid bronze. She quirked a brow, fighting back a curious smile even as it graced the curves of her elegant lips. “Nice mug.”


He shrugged. “What can I say, I’m a fan of the pun.”


Gosh, did he really just say that?


“Hmmm,” she said, placing a thumb between the pages to mark her spot as she leaned forward. “And what other literary devices are you fond of? Metaphors, symbols, tropes?”


He almost missed her question, sidetracked by the smattering of freckles like constellations along her cheekbones. Though he wasn’t sure what she was getting at, he played along. “Tropes.”


“Why?” she asked, issuing the question as if it were both an invitation and a challenge.


“Because I like when they’re predictable—when the knight saves the princess and the wicked witch gets a house dropped on her head. But I also like when they’re flipped on their side—when the princess saves the knight and it’s Dorothy the house gets dropped on.”


“That’s a little dark,” she said, though it was matter of fact and not accusatory.


“It is,” he said, stroking a thumb along his lip. “But it does make the story all the more interesting, doesn’t it?”


Her eyes sparkled with mirth as they appraised him. “It most certainly does.” 


He knew what she saw when she looked at him—a shock of dark hair like the spilled ink that often stained his fingers, green eyes sharp as emeralds, and a physique that made him look like he spent more hours in the gym than he actually did. Ripped black jeans and an acid wash denim jacket over a white T-shirt completed a look most girls easily fell for.


Reading people was usually something that came easy to him, but Kolt could not for the life of him discern what she was thinking. Her gaze had left him feeling stripped bare. 


She glanced at her watch before folding down a corner in her book and stowing it in her bag. Slipping the strap over her shoulder, she rose to her feet. Kolt did the same, resisting the urge to close the distance between them and slide his fingers through her hair. He clenched his fists at his side, doubling the effort when she bit her lip and looked up at him through dark lashes. “I’ll see you around,” she said, leaving Kolt stunned, staring as she walked away.


“Wait,” he called, hurrying after her. “You never told me your name.”


“No,” she said, with a glance back at him. “I didn’t,”


“Well, don’t you at least want to know mine?”


She shrugged, but a smile teased her lips all the same—the sunlight igniting copper tones in her hair that Kolt found himself unable to look away from. “I haven't decided yet.”


He watched the door close behind her, so distracted that he hadn’t realized Xander had finally arrived. “Who was that?” His cousin asked, looking between Kolt and the door. 


“I don’t know,” Kolt said with a grin. “But I’m going to find out.”

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