The smell of coffee tugged me awake, out of the dream of a warm, sandy beach where I walked alone, waves lapping at my feet. I lay for several minutes trying to figure out if I was still dreaming. The aroma of coffee upon waking was something straight out of my childhood and I couldn't recall ever, in my adult isolation waking up to that smell in my house.
I sat up, frowning at my feet on the brown carpet with the cream swirl. No, definitely not a dream. I could smell coffee. Downstairs in my kitchen coffee was brewing. I clenched the edge of the mattress as my heart suddenly double timed and a knot formed in my gut. I live alone.
With every muscle tensing, I eased off the bed and tiptoed toward the door. The aroma grew stronger as I pulled it toward me. For only a moment, I hesitated. Who in the world would be brewing coffee? How had they got in?
One way to find out, sister. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and crept down the stairs. At the bottom I paused again and listened. The only sound was the ticking of the hall clock that hung on the wall facing the front door. I looked up at it. Six a.m., way too early for me.
The front hall extended to the back of the house and the kitchen door was the last one on the right. I could tell from the way the light fell that it was opened. I always closed it. I hesitated, looking left and right, and all around the room. No weapons. Fire poker in the living room but I didn't want to risk going back. Mentally I smacked my forehead. Pistol in the nightstand drawer. I shook my head and move forward, hugging the wall.
When I reached the doorway I stopped again. My heart was pounding like a pile driver and I had to force myself to slow my breathing. I sounded like a marathon runner on his last legs. With a final deep breath I stepped around the door frame and into the kitchen and came to an abrupt stop.
He smiled slowly, a steaming cup halfway to his mouth. Leaning against the counter, his hands cradling the cup he looked perfectly at home. His eyes crinkled at the corners and he winked one of the green eyes at me. “Morning beautiful.”
I blinked. I rubbed my eyes. I frowned and shook my head.
“I've made a fresh pot of coffee for you and there's a fresh danish in that white bag.”
I looked at the small white bag lying in the center of the table and then quickly back at the tall man leaning against the counter in my kitchen. I had no idea who he was or how he got in and while I thought it was a nice surprise to find something so delectable in my kitchen, it was more disturbing than nice.
“Who are you?”
He laughed, tilted his head slightly forward and gave me a chiding smile. “You do know you're running late for work?”
I gasped and turned to run back up stairs.
With some annoyance I slapped the buzzing alarm with one hand and with the other, threw the covers back and, in one smooth motion, I sat up and frowned at my feet on the brown carpet with the cream swirl. I yawned and shook my head. What had that been about? I hated coffee.
The doorbell sounded and I shook my head. Who in the world came calling at, I squinted at the clock, 9:00 a.m.? I gasped. I was late for work.
I darted across the room and ran down the stairs two at a time. Whoever it was was standing on the buzzer. When I reached the door I yanked it open, ready to give the miscreant a piece of my mind. I looked up into the face of the man who'd been standing in my kitchen, what.. moments ago?
“Good morning. You wouldn't happen to have any coffee on, would you?" In his hand he held a small white bag.