Chapter 1:

No Clouds In My Coffee

The Great Investment

‘It’s raining? Again? Every time I get out of that goddamn office, it has to rain; or it’s traffic. Goddamn cars. Goddamn weather.’

Brimming with the good mood of a wet cat, our gloomy character had just gone out for a lunch break, or more precisely, a break from his incompetent subordinates at his ‘beloved’ firm.

‘Not even in the mood to eat now, but coffee wouldn’t be a bad idea. ‘No downpours or showers’, my ass.’

Now with a straight goal in mind, he made his way into the nearest coffee shop that entered his vision, leaving behind a watery trail that made the girl with the mop sigh in defeat. The coffee shop had a diner feel to it, but it was rather small, with just three tables near the windows and a counter with several bright red shiny seats.

He made his way to it with high hopes of avoiding any unnecessary small talk. Those hopes were short-lived as the red-head sitting on one of the stools next to him decided to shift her attention from her book to our grumpy character.

The girl eyed him up and down tactfully, going from his face, his clothes and even his accessories, making sure not to linger too long and attract his attention.

‘Thick head of dark hair, blue eyes, tall build, early thirties or late twenties… oh, that watch isn’t something that you’d buy at a cheap store, now is it? Seems you’re doing quite well for yourself, Mr. Handsome stranger. Don’t see any ring on his hand either. The scowl, I could do without, but I would love to be the one to make him smile. Hmmm, wonder how I can start up a convo with this guy without being too obvious? I guess coffee would be an easy option since we’re both here for that.’

“Looking to get your caffeine fix?” She quipped giddily.

‘Oh Lord, what have I done to become the main character in someone’s deluded café diner love story?’ he inwardly grunted while trying to keep his gaze on the menu.

“I get it; I’ am also a grouch without my cup of java.” The redhead was relentless in her pursuit of a flirty conversation.

‘ Why do people think this type of approach is effective is beyond me. Is it supposed to be quirky? Maybe if I sit still and continue ignoring her, whatever deity is in charge of me will be merciful enough to give me peace and coffee.’

“Hello! What will your order be?” The light female voice behind the counter interrupted the one-sided interaction.

‘About time.’

“Double espresso. Large.” He said in a dry tone.

“Yes, siiir.” The sarcasm in the barista’s voice did not seem to either amuse or annoy him, which was good considering his current mood.

She then shifted her attention to the redhead beside her foul-mood customer, and asked her courteously:

“Will you be having anything else?”

The question was enough to distract the chatty lady from her amorous endeavors.

“Aaah, no.”

“I’d think so after 3 ristrettos; amazed you’re still grounded.” she muttered under her breath.

He let out a short unexpected snort. It wasn’t all that funny, but he probably was glad that he wasn’t the only one in a surly mood. Looking up to his right, he noticed that the stool once occupied by the quirky red was now empty.

Finally, he deemed it was safe enough to take a seat and enjoy his steaming espresso. Alone, and without any interference.

“Can I take your pack of sugar if you won’t be having it?”

He looked up to the person behind the counter; seemed to ponder her question and gave a curt nod.

The barista quickly took the sugar packs and stuffed them in her apron’s pocket. She then took out a notepad and started writing something down. He could hear her softly muttering calculations under her breath and his once disinterred brain was now curious to know why was she calculating sugar packs. ‘Are cafés that tight with their sugar? If so, why didn’t she put them back with the rest of them?’ It was getting a bit frustrating that his brain was asking so many useless questions that spawned others, just as useless.

Distracted by his meandering thoughts, he failed to notice that he was staring insistently in her direction.

“What? “She asked while looking up from her notepad. “It’s not stealing if that’s what you’re wondering.”

Caught a bit off guard by her sudden interjection, he just shook his head and lowered his gaze while thinking of an appropriate answer.

“Was staring into space.” That was all his brain power could come up with at that moment.

“Coffee to your liking?” She inquired in a rather absentminded tone.

”Yes.” Surprisingly, that wasn’t a polite lie. The coffee was actually quite good.