Today's Reading

"You just made my day."

"That's what it's all about, isn't it?" Charley motioned toward the foam art. "Why don't you show that to your customer? Brighten her day."

Not a bad idea. Perhaps it would elicit a few words from her—or initiate a conversation.

He set the cup on the counter as she approached and offered her his most engaging grin. The one that usually turned female heads. "Your personalized skinny vanilla latte."

Lips flat, she gave his handiwork no more than a fleeting perusal. "Thanks."

Not only was the lady immune to his charm, she had no interest in extending their conversation.

Fighting back an irrational surge of disappointment, Zach put a lid on the drink. "Enjoy."

"Thanks." She hurried toward the door, pulled her umbrella out of the stand, and disappeared into the gray shroud hanging over the town.

"I think my attempt to brighten her day was a bust." He folded his arms as the rain pummeled the picture window.

"Oh, I don't know. Sometimes the simplest gestures of kindness can touch a heart in unseen ways."

Zach didn't try to hide his skepticism. "Assuming the lady's willing to let her heart be touched. She didn't exude much warmth."

"She may be hiding it behind a protective wall. Could be she's dealing with a boatload of heavy stuff. That can dampen a person's sociability."

Zach's antennas perked up. "You know anything about her?"

"Nothing much—though she seems familiar." He squinted after her. Shook his head. "It'll come to me. Anyway, I spotted her on the wharf Monday, sipping a brew from your fine establishment. She was sitting alone on a bench during one of the few monsoon-free interludes we've had this week. I got gloomy vibes. Like she was troubled—and could use a friend."

Zach wasn't about to question the veracity of Charley's intuition. The man was legendary in these parts for his uncanny insights and his ability to discern more than people willingly divulged.

Present company included.

How Charley had realized there was an unresolved issue in his past was beyond him. He'd never talked about it to anyone. But the man's astute comments, while generic, were too relevant to be random. As a result, on more than one occasion he'd been tempted to get Charley's take on his situation.

Yet as far as he could see, there was no solution to the impasse short of returning to his former world and toeing the line—and that wasn't happening. The new life he'd built these past two and a half years suited him, and now that he was settled in Hope Harbor, he was more convinced than ever his decision to walk away had been the right one.

"You still with me, Zach?" Charley's lips tipped up.

"Yeah." He refocused. "You think she's a visitor?"

"I'd classify her more as a seeker."

What did that mean?

Before he could ask, Bren appeared at his elbow. "Here you go, Charley." She popped a cinnamon stick into his drink, snapped on a lid, and handed the cup over the counter.

"Thanks. It's a treat to have authentic Mexican coffee available here in our little town."

"We aim to please." The door opened again to admit what appeared to be a family of tourists, and Zach lifted his hand in welcome. "Everyone must be in the mood for coffee today."

"Count your blessings." Charley raised his cup in salute. "I'm off to the taco stand."

"I'll try to send a few customers your direction."

"Always appreciated. Maybe Kat will stop by."

"You know her last name?" He kept an eye on the newcomers as they perused his menu board and examined the offerings in the pastry case.

"No. But I may find out if she visits my truck. Or she might come back here again and you can take another crack at breaching that wall she's put up. See you soon." He strolled toward the door.

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