Home > Heart Strings(5)

Heart Strings(5)
Author: Melanie Moreland

“I was busy at work.” I paused then looked around. “Are you always here at this time?”

He grinned, his face transforming into one of mischief. “Nope. I was waiting for you.”

“Me?” I squeaked.

“I waited last week, too. You know, the night you pulled your little stunt.”

“I didn’t see you when I got back.”

He shrugged. “I got hungry, so I went across the street and got something to eat. I saw you come out of the station, and I made sure you got home.”

“You-you what?”

“I followed you.”

I stared at him. He said it as if it meant nothing. As if following someone were normal. I swallowed, a frisson of fear running down my spine.

He chuckled, the sound low and rich. “You should see the look on your face right now. I bet you’re trying to decide if you should run now or call the cops, aren’t you?”

I licked my dry lips. “Um…”

He held up his hand. “That came out wrong. I saw you come out of the station. I stepped outside the coffee shop and watched you walk to your building.”

“How do you know it was my building?”

“I’ve seen you come out of it as I’m passing by,” he explained. “I wasn’t ‘following you,’ following you.” He held up his hands. “Honest, Lottie. I only made sure you got there safely. Then I went back inside and finished my burger.”

I mulled over his words.

“You shouldn’t be walking alone at that time of night.”

I snorted. “You sound like my father. It’s a short walk.”

He lifted one shoulder. “Just saying.”

“It’s a safe neighborhood.”

He shifted a little closer. “Still, the thought of something happening to you…” He closed his eyes, and a shudder went through him. “I don’t like it.”

“I’ll be careful,” I promised, wondering why his words caused a warmth to spread in my chest. He sounded as though he cared. For some reason, I liked thinking that he did.

“Why were you waiting for me?”

He pulled in his bottom lip, worrying it, then lifted his hand, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. His unexpected touch sent a shiver down my spine.

“You’ve looked exhausted the past few nights. More than usual. I wanted to ask…” He trailed off, clearing his throat.

“Ask?” I prompted.

“Ask if you would let me take you for coffee? Get something to eat with me?”

“Oh,” I breathed out.

I wanted to. I wanted to go with him anywhere he wanted to go, listen to him talk. Spend some time with him. Get to know him. Still, I hesitated.

“It’s a public place. You’ll be perfectly safe.”

“I’m not worried about that, Logan.”

He ran a hand through his hair, impatiently pushing the strands off his forehead. It was a useless gesture since they fell right back into his eyes. He glanced away, then met my eyes, his gaze sad, voice pained. “You don’t want to be seen with me? Is that it? A street musician?”

“No!” I insisted. “That isn’t it at all!”

He stood, extending his hand. “Then come with me.”

I didn’t want to ask him if he could afford it, if he’d made enough money today to eat out again. I decided I would simply grab the check when it came. I let him take my hand and tug me from my seat. I had to lean back to see his face.

“You’re really tall.”

“And you’re not.”

“I’m average.”

He bent low, a smile ghosting his lips as he chuckled, his voice a low hum in my ear. “I would never call you average.”

“I meant height-wise.”

“Well, I’m not. I’ve always been in the top percentile for that statistic.”

“I think you’re probably in the top percentile in many areas.”

He grinned, tugging me beside him, keeping me close. His towering stature made me feel safe.

“I guess you’ll find out, now, won’t you, Lottie?”

I could only nod.

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

Lottie

 

 

He led me across the street to the coffee shop where I assumed he had watched me the other night. He was obviously a regular, smiling familiarly at the waitress.

“Hey, Macy.”

“Hi, Logan. Coffee?”

He glanced at me for confirmation and nodded at her. “Two, please.”

“Coming right up.”

We sat down, Logan setting his guitar case on one of the empty chairs. I looked around, curious. I had passed the place many times but never come in. It was a throwback to another time, when people congregated to share their day. Formica counters and tables, chairs with torn vinyl, and an aging linoleum floor made up the space. Despite its age, it was meticulous—counters polished, the floor spotless. There were some older men at the counter, drinking coffee, eating pie from cases that displayed the slices. Domed glass covers showed cakes piled high with frosting. The smell of coffee and the grease from the hot grill at the back permeated the air, making my stomach grumble.

“Best cheeseburgers in the city,” Logan informed me, not even looking at the menu. “As long as you eat meat.” His lips twisted into a frown. “Are you one of those girls who only eats salads? Is that why you’re so thin?”

“I eat meat. And I’m not thin,” I added, defensive.

“You are. You’ve gotten thinner lately.”

I crossed my arms. “Exactly how closely have you been watching me?”

Macy appeared, setting down our steaming cups of coffee. “You eating or just coffee?”

“Two specials, Macy. Extra cheese on both.”

She walked away before I could speak.

“Maybe I’m lactose intolerant.”

“Are you?”

“No.”

“Moot point, then. Besides, I saw you have coffee a couple times. You always add cream.”

“Logan…”

“Lottie,” he teased.

“You haven’t answered my question.”

He took a long drink of coffee, his eyes never leaving mine. The steam from his cup swirled around his head, his long fingers wrapping all the way around the large mug.

He set it down, resting on his arms. “How closely have I been watching you?”

I was almost afraid to hear the answer. “Yes.”

He traced the handle of his mug a couple of times. “Close.”

“Why?”

His reply was slow. “Because I think you need someone to watch out for you.” He lifted his soulful eyes, the light shimmering in his whiskey-colored irises. “And you came to me first.”

“I did?”

“That day in the subway. I saw you walking—your shoulders were hunched, and you looked so sad. When you sat down, I felt this need to do something to make you feel better. So I started playing for you.”

“For me? I thought it was, ah…” I stumbled, unsure how to say the words.

“For money?” he guessed accurately.

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