She was eating a scone when he first saw her.
Or, well, she was trying to. It was what had caught his attention. Standing in line, trying to look inconspicuous beneath his dark shades and Rangers cap, he spotted her tearing the dense pastry in half.
He'd never seen anyone look so distressed trying to eat food. She took a deep breath and with shaky hands pulled the scone apart once more, making four even squares situated on each corner of the napkin. He watched her throat as she swallowed thickly and his brows knitted; her delicate fingers tore the pastry into eights, and she raised one of the bite-size morsels to her lips, forcing herself to chew.
He thought she might be pretty. There were certainly signs of it. However, it was difficult to be attractive with one's face pinched in repulsion. Her completion was pale and he thought she might hurl the teensy bite at any moment. A smirk broke across his features when she finally stopped chewing, let out a deep sigh and visibly relaxed.
Yes, he smirked; she was pretty. Thin and athletic beneath her pink cardigan and flowy white blouse, her blonde hair was pulled back and her large, brown eyes were shining in triumph down at the seven remaining morsels of scone.
Quickly, he turned and ordered his double bacon, double egg breakfast sandwich and a large coffee. Fortunately his feeble disguise was proving unnecessary here. None of the baristas behind the counter cast him a second glace, and the two men in suits chatting about external hard drives did not look like hockey fans. Still, from time to time he was recognized. And while he liked many of the perks that came with fame, being stalked while getting breakfast was something he tried to do without.
He'd planned to eat on his way to practice, but instead found himself before her table, smirking down as she painfully chewed another bit of scone.
"Hey," he said, sliding into the chair opposite her and nodding slightly towards the remainder of her breakfast. "You okay?"
She swallowed quickly and her cheeks paled. "Yes. I am doing well. Thank you."
He laughed, loudly, and she sunk lower into her seat. "Wow. That was a pretty formal answer. You sure everything's alright?"
Her head tilted to one side, ponytail swinging as she blinked. "I apologize if I gave you the impression that something was not right."
"Hey, no need to apologize," he grinned, flashing her his two rows of white teeth. Usually attractive girls he approached in cafes weren't so polite. That is, unless they found out who he was. Then they were never so modest.
She noticed that his nose was slightly crooked, as though it had been broken and reset on several occasions. The small imperfection was nice, because otherwise he was impossibly handsome, even with sunglasses. Strong jaw, wide shoulders, tanned skin, and dark hair flipping out just around the base of his ball cap.
"You just look like you were having a rough time. I thought if there was something wrong with your scone I could take it back for you."
"Oh." Her hands dropped the next morsel of pastry back onto the napkin to clinch together in her lap. "No, there's nothing wrong it."
"I'm Nate, by the way."
He didn't offer his hand, but simply leaned back, making himself comfortable at her table. She'd been forcing herself to eat breakfast, a scone loaded with a carbohydrates and a skim-milk latte that still managed to be two, maybe three hundred calories. It made her stomach tighten into knots, and as much as she didn't want to admit it, this Nate was proving to be a distraction to the pain of her meal.
So she answered simply, "Julie."
"So, may I ask why you're having so much trouble with that?"
A morsel of vanilla bean scone pinched between her fingers, and she sighed. "That's not really a first-date kind of question."
He laughed. "Good thing this isn't a date."
"Well, then good thing I don't have to tell you."
Shrugging, he took a long sip from his paper coffee cup. She wondered if he knew how much sugar was in his latte. Her eyes darted to his sandwich resting on the table. The outside wrapping was slick with moisture, the grease inside bleeding through. She felt the bile rise in her throat and her eyes darted upwards to meet his. Or where his eyes should have been.
"Why are you wearing sunglasses indoors?" She frowned. "Why are you wearing them at all, actually; it's raining outside."
"I don't want to be recognized," he answered, and began unwrapping his breakfast. She watched him while he took large bites, bits of egg and melted cheese falling out and dropping onto his napkin. Between bites, he continued. "Do you like the Rangers?"
Her fingers still fiddling with a bit of scone, she shook her head. "Sorry, I'm a Maple Leafs fan."
"Ouch," he laughed. His mouth was wide and amusement lit his features. She briefly wondered what his eyes looked liked before deciding she didn't care. "That's harsh Jules."
"Julie," she corrected quickly. "And it's not harsh, exactly. I love everything about New York, but my father back in Toronto would have a heart attack if I admitted to liking the Rangers. Or well, any hockey team other than the Leafs."
One of his thick brows quirked, "You're Canadian?"
"Half. My mom's from the states."
"And you grew up?"
"I grew up… all over." She popped another fraction of her breakfast into her mouth and chewed carefully. Nate had long since finished his sandwich and had balled up the paper wrapping where it lay forgotten between them.
"Well, that's cryptic. I'm starting to think you want me to leave you alone." The grin on his features never faltered and he showed no sign of getting up.
Julie smiled shyly. "Okay. I'll try again. I was a ballerina. When I was very young we moved quite a bit so I could study with the best teachers." Her upper body teetered back and forth, fidgeting nervously. "After I was twelve I joined a troupe and never stayed in one place very long."
"A traveling troupe at twelve? Sounds cruel," he frowned. "Worse than making you a Maple Leafs fan, I'd say."
She laughed and hid her amusement by taking another small sip of coffee. It wasn't so bad, she realized, eating with another person, being distracted from calorie counting and self-deprecation.
"So, are you still a dancer then?"
"No." Biting her lip, she tried to make eye contact. However, it was impossible with the stupid dark shades he wore. She hoped he didn't think he looked cool. A bit mysterious, perhaps, but mostly just ridiculous. "I have not danced for almost a year."
"Well, you're not missing anything. Ballet's incredibly boring."
Her heart clinched painfully in her chest. "It is anything but boring, but it turns out it's just not for me."
Opening his mouth to say something, Nate was cut off by the boisterous tunes of The Beastie Boys. Julie wrinkled her nose at the sound while he fished his phone from his back pocket.
"Shit," he cursed. "I'm late. Gotta take this."
He got to his feet and zipped up his jacket in preparation for the rain, but paused as though just remembering the woman still seated at the table.
"Nice meeting you Jules," he grinned. "We should do this again sometime."
With that, he answered his phone and pushed out of the coffee shop and into the rain. Not bothering to ask for her number, or her last name. Not that she would have given it to him.
Julie blinked as he disappeared into the crowd of umbrella toting suits and brightly dressed tourists. With a deep intake of breath, she turned back to the four small bits of pastry staring ostentatiously back up at her.
Chewing on her lower lip for a moment, she decided this was New York and she'd probably never meet the ball cap-sporting, sunglass-wearing stranger who helped her eat breakfast for the first time since checking out of the Upstate Treatment Center.
This one is much different than anything I've ever written before, but I'm actually really excited about it.
Thanks so much if you made it through the prologue. Extra thanks if you enjoyed and are interested in what's to come. :D I hope to get the next one up soon!