Sequel to It Was Never About the Coffee. Maddie and Chimney are starting to date, but she's a busy nurse, and he's a firefighter who's basically always on duty. Can they figure out their schedules, or will this break them?
Maddie rushed out the door, waving away Omar's protests, hoping that she could make it to the coffee shop in time. She was on her break, and she was going to get some damn coffee.
Coffee with her boyfriend.
She flushed, hurrying down the busy LA street in her pink scrubs. Her hair was in braids today, and they whipped at her face. She pulled out her phone, shooting a quick text to Omar. Just tell me what to order for you
Iced mocha latte double shot was his almost instant reply. She laughed, sliding the phone back into her pocket, and pushed the door open to the coffee shop.
Howie was already inside, standing in line looking down at his phone. He was in street clothes today, and her heart warmed. He'd left out he part where he was off today. She licked her lips, trying to figure out how to say hi. How did one say hi to the person who when she'd last seen him she'd been making out with him after discovering that he was her brother's coworker?
Her phone buzzed, and she pulled it back out. You coming? (Howie)
Turn around (Maddie)
Howie swiveled, eyebrows arching, and a grin spread over his face. "Hi," he said, bouncing from one foot to the other. "How are you?"
"I'm good," she said, a smile spreading wide over her own face. "Have you ordered yet?"
"Nope, just got here," he said. His eyes swept her outfit. "I've never seen you in pink before," he smiled.
"Well, it's a special day," she smiled. "I thought it deserved a special pair."
"Why is the day special?" He questioned, an eyebrow raised, but the way his lips were twitching seemed to indicate that he knew exactly what she was talking about.
"Because I'm getting coffee with you," she said, her cheeks suddenly flushing. She pressed her hands against them, trying to cool down. It was a hot day, hopefully he'd think it was from rushing. "I ran over here," she admitted. "Didn't want to waste anytime."
"Well, hey, next time why don't I just meet you at the bench outside the hospital?" Howie said. "I don't need you wasting time on your break walking here, plus I don't want to tire out the most valuable member of the ER."
Next time. She flushed. The phrase had so many connotations, so many expectations...yet she didn't mind it.
"That would be nice," she said. "I always get the same thing anyway. You will have to bring coffee for Omar, though, or he will never forgive you."
"Who's Omar?" He asked, raising another eyebrow.
"Next," the barista called, and Maddie nodded at Howie. He turned around quickly, and walked forward.
"Hi, a large coffee," he began.
"Would you like cream with that?" The barista interrupted, and Howie shook his head.
"Black is fine," he said, and turned to Maddie.
"Are you together?" The barista asked.
"Separate is fine," Maddie began, just as Howie said, "Together."
There was an awkward pause. "I don't want to interrupt what is obviously a moment for you," the barista said. "But there are people behind you."
"Together," Howie said, and Maddie flushed.
"Okay, but you're getting Omar's too now," she said. "Large cappuccino with skim, no sweetener. Large iced mocha latte with a double shot."
Howie swiped his card, and the barista took their names.
They stepped off to the side to wait, and Maddie tried to figure out what she wanted to say. "I didn't mean for that to be awkward," she finally said, knowing from years of living with Doug that it was always better to be safe rather than sorry.
Howie was now the one who flushed. "Listen, I didn't mean to assume, so that's my bad," he said. "I figured it would be easier on the barista, but you can totally Venmo me or whatever makes you feel more comfortable."
"Sounds good," she said. "I'll hook Omar up with your number so he can send you his too."
The barista called their names, and Maddie grabbed hers and Omar's. "Do you want to sit inside?" Howie asked.
"I'd rather walk back to that bench you mentioned," she admitted. "So we're not in a hurry."
"Of course," he said, darting in front of her to open the door. He slid a pair of sunglasses out of his pocket as he passed through; she was surprised at the feeling that jumped in her chest at the sight of him in aviators. He looked good.
They walked down the street, and Maddie was grateful to be able to take this a lot slower than she had on her way over. "Listen," she said, taking a sip. "You did not tell me that this was your day off. I was led to believe that this was convenient for both of us, and now I feel bad for making you come all the way out here."
"It is convenient," he protested, laughing. "I'm going to go shopping in the area, I swear."
"How long was your drive?" She demanded, and he paused. "I'm not sure exactly where you live but it can't have been less than twenty."
"Thirty five," he said. "But that's just because it was morning traffic."
"It's LA, Howie," she teased. "The traffic never ends."
He paused on the sidewalk, and she turned to face him. She could just see his eyes glinting behind the tint of his sunglasses. "Maddie," he said. "Would you believe me if I said it was worth it?"
The timbre of his voice had lowered by just a little. She swallowed, feeling an itch to step closer. She could tell even through the sunglasses that his gaze had dipped to her lips, and she found her own gaze lowering.
A passerby jostled Maddie, and Howie swore, grabbing the coffee from her hands. "Fuck," Maddie said, looking at her now sticky hands. "The one day I don't bring my purse."
"I can carry these, let's just get you back to wash your hands off," he said, easily juggling two coffee cups in one hand. That also made something start up, deep in her belly. It was like everything he did, even the most mundane actions, was a turn on.
She hadn't felt like this in a very long time.
They moved a little quicker, and Maddie gingerly took Omar's coffee from him. "I will be right back," she said. "I'll give this to him and be right out."
"I'm holding your coffee hostage," he joked, and Maddie grinned over her shoulder.
She walked back in, seeing Omar waiting at the desk. "Took you long enough," he said. "What did you do, spill it everywhere?"
"That was just LA patience," she said, handing him the coffee. "I need to wash my hands, someone bumped me."
"What about Howie?" Omar called after her, but she ignored him.
She washed off as quickly as possible, hurrying back outside to where Howie still waited. He stood by the bench, in his casual white shirt, and jeans. He glanced up at the whoosh of the automatic door, and again, smiled when he saw her.
She took her own coffee back from him. "Thank you," she said, taking a sip. "For helping out back there."
"No worries," Howie said. "I just wish I'd seen it coming."
She shrugged. "Can anyone ever see that coming?"
"It's LA, it's expected," he said. "Is your break up?"
"I've got a few minutes," she lied, pretending she hadn't seen the clock as she left the ER. Omar would cover for her, he owed them for the coffee.
Howie nodded. "So," he started. "We should do this again."
"We should," she said. "I work the same shift tomorrow."
"I will try to be here," he replied. "I work, though, so no promises."
"No worries," she said, and felt an odd heaviness descend over them.
Howie stepped closer, and there was a sticky tension in the air that had nothing to do with the LA heat. She knew there were both thinking the exact same thing, but they were both scared of acting on it.
Yes, that kiss on Saturday had been damn nice, but she didn't know if she was actually ready for their relationship to turn physical...even if it was all she'd thought about since then. "I'll text you," she said, stepping back, forcing a brightness that she did not feel into her voice. She felt strained, like her body was physically protesting that she'd stepped away.
Howie took the clue, nodding. "I'll reply," he teased. "See you later, Maddie."
She waved, and hurried back inside. The cool air was a welcome balm on her very heated cheeks. Omar saw her, and raised an eyebrow.
"No comment," she said, and Omar just smirked.