JOHARI GOES KINKY - EXCERPT

"Yikes!" JJ called to the customer entering her little coffee shop, All Day Breakfast. "Didn't your mama ever tell you to carry an umbrella on cloudy days? Looks like one of those crazy intermittent showers the weatherman predicted soaked you on the way in the door. You're wetter than a puddle."

Ignoring the big friendly grin plastered on her face, her cheery if admittedly lame greeting too, the customer approached the take-out counter, his features expressionless, his shoe's rubber soles squeaking.

Ugh. Her poor ears. That noise. A cross between a wet kiss and plunging a clogged toilet bowl. His shoes literally sucked. Comical as all hell. She shouldn't laugh, though. Nope, she shouldn’t go there. Cracking up would be so un-nice.

Girl, a mischievous voice inside her urged, kick nice to the curb. Nice gets you exactly nothing in life. Didn't your landlady just hike the rent even after telling her nice as pie you couldn’t afford another increase?

Unable to help herself, JJ allowed a teeny-tiny giggle to escape her tight lips, only one, before clamping down on her inappropriate hilarity.

"Sorry," she said contritely.

Stony silence met her apology. The customer didn’t acknowledge her existence in any way, shape, or form. In fact, he looked everywhere but directly at her.

Weird how the guy completely avoided her eyes. And, go figure, she stood right there in front of him, right there behind the counter measuring dry ingredients for blueberry muffins into her favorite and only slightly chipped mixing bowl. What was wrong with him, anyway?

Maybe nothing. Maybe, like her, he was having a bad day. Hey, it happened. Or maybe, unlike her, he was incredibly shy. That happened too.

To get his attention, she gestured wildly with her wooden spoon, flour dust flying everywhere. "Are you aware your wet shoes make these weird eek noises when you walk? Well they do. And I think someone should tell you. I'm electing myself the messenger. Don't shoot me, 'kay? After all, I’d want to know if I was having one of life's embarrassing moments. For instance, if spinach somehow managed to get itself trapped between my two front teeth. Or -- or -- say a low-flying seagull used the back of my jacket for target practice. You know, something blush-worthy like that."

She took a deep breath. "Anyhow -- I shouldn’t have laughed at your expense, which is why I said I was sorry. And I am. Sorry, that is."

No response.

Not every customer had to like her. Or even "get" her. No argument, she could get a bit whacky, her sense of humor off-the-wall irreverent too, especially if she were dragging her butt. Evidently this customer found her personality irritating rather than friendly. And that was okay too. Popularity didn't necessarily translate into brisk coffee sales.

But it sure as heck couldn’t hurt.

So she'd take one more shot at connecting with this somber guy on a personal level, just one, and then she’d dial back her Miss Congeniality routine. "You know, you really are sopping wet."

"It's raining."

Well, yeah. As in buckets. Was he for real?

She sighed. At least he said something. For a minute there, he had her worried. He might've been the walking dead for all she knew -- there was a lot of that zombie stuff going around, at least in books and at the movies. As it turned out, though, the customer was simply a master of understatement and a man of few words. Just because she talked way too much and overstated everything didn't mean everybody else on the planet had to. It wasn't always about her. When would she learn to shut it?

Probably the same time she learned moderation in all things.

"Right." She smiled freely, with no restraint whatsoever. "It's raining, all right. Falmouth’s thirty percent chance of precipitation turned out to be more than drizzle, didn’t it?"

He shrugged.

She very nearly fanned herself. The customer's soaked windbreaker clung to his upper torso like plastic wrap, revealing hard male muscle beneath. Those were some seriously killer shoulders, broad without being steroid bulky. She liked. So much so, she inspected his ring finger.

All clear.

Now she was psyched. Fantasy on! But with the usual precautions.

First rule in peeping: Do not get burned while checking out the goods.

Easy-peasy. Going stealth would ensure she didn’t get caught.

Second rule: Never do a sister dirt.

Problematic. Not all married men wore wedding bands. Some took them off for reasons -- cough, cough -- unknown. Scoping out someone already taken was poor sportsmanship and conduct unbecoming to a lady. Plus, it was totally tasteless. Not to mention uncool.

Third rule: When in doubt about the second rule, find out for sure before proceeding.

Rule number three didn't apply here. Where was the blame in looking at merchandise clearly on display right under her nose? Besides, the blame game was getting old fast. She'd quit smoking cold turkey -- no patches, no hypnotism, no E-Ciggies -- and censoring her thoughts was going the same way, banished to the hinterlands, wherever they were. A brand-new her was breaking out, a bold woman who saw what she wanted, went after it, and scored.

At least in her rich fantasy life.

"There are no free lunches in life," her customer read from the blackboard menu located behind Johari on the wall. "But WiFi comes complimentary with your coffee at All Day Breakfast."

After quoting her coffee shop's catchy slogan, which, by the way, she wrote herself, her customer made a big point of scanning her cafe's half-dozen tables, all of which were empty, his survey taking in the genuine faux granite laptop bar that ran the entire length of the front window.

He shook his head, raindrops twirling off his thick shaggy mane like water from a salad spinner. “Hard to believe, a smalltime operation like this offers free internet access.”

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