A bag of cheese puffs help a romance to get started.
Angie squinted at her calendar next to the refrigerator and frowned. Valentine's Day. Just what she needed – to be reminded of her eternally single status. The doorbell rang. She opened the door and peered into the hallway. Empty. Either it was the bratty kid in 2G pressing buttons, or UPS got the wrong apartment – again. A brown box addressed to "A. Raines," Apartment 3D, rested on the floor at her feet. She let out a long breath and glanced at her watch, frustration winding through her limbs. She could only spare a couple of minutes to deliver his package before she had to leave for work.
Angie pursed her lips. She frequently got his mail. Well, she assumed it was a him, but for the life of her, she had no idea how you could confuse Ramirez for Raines. Picking up the package, she marched up the stairs and knocked on his door, hoping he could hear the noise over the loud Lady Gaga song coming from the apartment. Angie frowned. Even Lady Gaga had a Valentine.
The door flung open. "Hey, I—" He paused in mid-sentence, his wide, lush lips curving into a heart-stopping smile. Her stomach fluttered in response. "A" must stand for Adonis.
"Hello," he said.
"Hello," she replied, practically mute.
Dear Lord, Adonis wasn't wearing a shirt and he stared at her like she was Aphrodite. Cupid was up to no good today. Adonis' gaze dropped from her eyes to her shoulders, to her breasts. She inwardly chuckled. Nursing scrubs did nothing for her figure. Angie's gaze appreciated him in the same manner. A small cut next to his right eye with sutures and yellowing bruise caught her attention and her nursing instincts kicked in.
"What happened?" She reached out with her hand, concern rushing through her, then she drew back, not wanting to be too forward.
Confusion splayed across his face, then he pointed to his eye. "This here? Oh, it was nothing – just an elbow to my helmet."
"I'm a professional hockey player." His smile melted her insides.
"Let me take that." He scooped the box she held into his arms. "Come in for a second. I'm Andrew, but my friends on the team call me Drew."
"The girl in 2D?"
"Yes." She stepped into his apartment.
He turned down the radio and placed the box on the table. "Are you a nurse?"
"At Cedars Sinai. What team do you play for?"
"The L.A. Kings. They just moved me up from the AAA team which is in Manchester, New Hampshire." He opened the box and drew out a bag of cheese puffs.
Angie chuckled. "Someone sent you junk food?"
"Hey – that's my mom, and you can't find this brand of puffs in L.A. They're my favorite."
She tried not to stare at his wonderfully proportioned pecs. "Are they that good?"
"You bet. Try one." He offered her a puff.
The treat melted in her mouth. "Wow. That's really good."
"I can't go without them." He peered into her eyes. Something intense flared between them. A need? A want? Desire?
"Did you grow up around here?" she asked.
"I'm from the East Coast."
Her gaze caught the time on her watch and she groaned. "I'm late."
"Sorry, I don't mean to hold you up. Want another one?"
"Sure." How could she refuse? Again, their eyes met. Adonis had warm, intense cerulean eyes that pierced her soul, hinting at a deep inner sincerity. He straightened his shoulders, betraying a confidence and assurance she'd rarely seen in the men she knew.
Angie clasped her hands in front of her. "Well, ah, thank you for the cheese puffs."
"Thank you for delivering my package. Sorry there was a mix up." He put the bag on a nearby table.
Angie slowly drifted toward the door, wishing she could stay and eat the rest of the bag with him for the remainder of the afternoon.
He placed his hand on the doorframe and with the other gently touched her elbow. "Say, when do you get off today?"
"Can I meet you for coffee?"
"Are you sure?"
"My game should be over by nine. How about the shop on the corner?"
"That's the one."
"Don't keep me out late."
He raised two fingers. "Boy Scout's honor."
"You were a boy scout?"
"Yep. It's hard to believe."
"No, actually, it's quite easy. Nice meeting you, Drew."
"Same here, Angie." He released her elbow and she walked out, her stomach fluttering in warm knots.
Valentine's Day was a lonely, cold holiday. In school, none of the boys had ever noticed Angie. That was fine with her. All men gave her were headaches. Last year there was Dr. Lemay, one of the trauma doctors in the ER. He bought her a box of chocolates. Angie graciously accepted them until she saw him kissing Nurse Grace in the break room. Needless to say, the chocolates found a new home in the trash can. Okay, she was a professional, dedicated to helping others, but wasn't she entitled to at least one decent Valentine's Day in her life? She walked into Coffee Heaven and found Mr. Edison behind the counter. An older gentleman, he took pride in knowing his regular customers.
"Good evening, Miss Ramirez. How are you? Would you like your usual chamomile tea?"
"I'd love that, thank you."
He busied himself with the teapot and Angie settled herself at her favorite table next to the window. Two other couples sat in booths next to the wall sharing chocolates and coffee. Angie would rather have a cheese puff. Glancing at her watch, she discovered it was ten past ten. If Adonis stood her up, she would officially boycott this holiday for the rest of her life.
The bell over the door jingled and Drew walked in holding a bag of cheese puffs and smelling of soap and spice.
"Hello, Mr. Raines, your usual?" asked Mr. Edison.
Drew winked at the barista. "Yes, please."
"You're polite for a hockey player." Angie grinned.
"My mother raised me to be a boy scout and a gentleman." He sat across from her and offered her the bag. "Puff?"
"Thanks." She popped one into her mouth and it melted instantly. "So, what's your usual?"
"Warm milk. Yours?"
"How was work?" he asked.
"Hectic at first. I'm a trauma nurse."
"You work in the ER?"
"Yep. How was your game?" She ate another puff. These little treats were addictive – like him. She found talking to him easy.
He shrugged his shoulders. "It went into overtime."
"We did." A sweet smile curved across his lips. "Shelton flipped me the puck and I chucked it in."
"You're proud of yourself, aren't you?"
"I was distracted thinking of you and our date the entire game."
Her checks warmed and she pointed to her chest. "Me?"
Mr. Edison walked over holding a tray. He set her tea down, offered Drew his drink, and held up a red rose, winking at Adonis. "I thought you might need this."
Drew finished his cheese puff and took the rose. He sniffed it, then offered it to Angie.
"Be my Valentine?" His voice dropped to a husky whisper.
How could she refuse? She took the rose from him and smelled the petals. "Only if the cheese puffs come with it."
He chuckled. "Of course."
"Well, well, well, I thought you two would never meet." Mr. Edison crossed his arms, grinning.
"What do you mean?" asked Angie.
"You miss each other by minutes when you come into the store and I thought you two might make a cute couple if you ever met, so I played Cupid."
"How?" Drew arched an eyebrow.
"I paid the kid in 2G ten dollars to put your care package in front of Miss Ramirez's door."
Angie didn't know if she should laugh or cry. Bless Mr. Edison, sweet old man that he was.
"I'll leave you two alone now." He walked off.
Drew slid his hand over Angie's. His smile warmed her down to her toes. "This has got to be the best Valentine I ever had – I found a girl who likes cheese puffs as much as me."
"And I found a gentleman hockey player."
He kissed her knuckles. Who knew Cupid could be so clever? Sitting back, she enjoyed Drew's company – and his cheese puffs.