Beverly had, for some insane reason, managed to wake up thirty minutes earlier than normal, and had twenty minutes before her first lecture of the day started. If this had happened on any other day, she would have spent her time in the library on campus, but her eyes had been caught by a sign reading Cynthia's Coffeehouse, and it led her to the small business tucked away on the corner of the street across from school. She'd gotten three hours of sleep the night before, so coffee just made sense; plus, locally owned coffeehouses were always so wonderfully cozy.

Tucking her scarf tighter around her neck and trying to ignore the stinging cold wind against her fingertips, she pulled the door open, soaking in the warmth and happily breathing in the smell of freshly ground coffee beans.

Small, square, wooden tables lined the two walls nearest the door, while the wall at the back held well-stocked shelves of coffee beans and hand-painted coffee mugs. All in all, Beverly could see herself spending quite a lot of time inside the little shop; this time of day seemed to be good, too, since the place was empty at the moment.

She'd taken two steps to the counter when her eyes settled on the barista standing behind the counter, his head down as he cleaned a coffeepot. Pausing for a beat, she was amused to find that he was the exact opposite of what she would have expected in such a quant place: hulking, with shaggy, brown hair that dusted the tops of his shoulders, chiseled features, and an arm covered in tattoos that disappeared under his shirt sleeve. His appearance screamed, Don't mess with me, while his occupation protested with, I love making coffee!

There was nothing wrong with it, either way, so Beverly went up to him with the same countenance her mother had said to use constantly: Smile and wave, Bev.

"Hi," she greeted cheerfully, swinging her backpack to her stomach so she could slip her wallet out. "How are you this morning?"

He startled violently, hazel eyes wide as he jolted his head up and spotted her. There was a beat of awkward silence before he cleared his throat a bit and greeted her stiltedly, "Hello. Fine. Thanks. What can I . . ." he trailed off, his eyes darting away, and—though Beverly wasn't positive—she suspected that the light dusting of red on his cheeks was a blush.

Aw, she cooed internally, he's shy.

"Sorry," he tried again, meeting her eyes for a quick moment, the fingers of one hand tapping rapidly against the counter. "Uh, what can I get for you?"

Smile still in place, and far more genuine now that she knew he wasn't all that intimidating, Beverly shrugged. "It's my first time here. What do you recommend? I like chocolate, if that helps."

She mentally patted herself on the back when he relaxed minutely, probably happy to be on familiar ground. "Our double chocolate mocha is the best in the city. Or that's what Cynthia says, anyway." He chuckled, gaze still firmly planted on the coffeepot in his hands. "She's right, I think."

"Okay," Beverly laughed, figuring Cynthia was the owner, since the store was named after the woman. "I'll take that, please."

"Sure." He told her the total, took the money, gave her the change, and started on the drink, all without making eye contact or even really looking at her.

She would have been insulted, had she not realized he was just uncomfortable. Taking a step away from the counter to let him work peacefully, she let her gaze drift over the various merchandise, before shifting it onto the many intricate paintings hung up on the walls. Dark forests, animals, beaches, sunsets, sunrises, and many others littered the walls, all holding various emotions and techniques.

"Wow," she breathed, stepping over to a lifelike image of a mountainside, a lone bird flying in the deep blue sky. Turning back to the barista, she asked, "Do you know who painted these?"

The poor thing startled so bad he almost dropped the mug in his hands. Spinning to eye her, his gaze darted between the painting and the floor almost sheepishly. "Cynthia did some. I did the others."

Beverly tried in vain to keep her jaw from falling open. Not only was he a barista, super handsome, and adorably shy—he was a gifted artist, as well. She had to work to keep herself from visibly swooning. "No way! Did you really? These are amazing; did you do this one?" she pointed at the image of the mountainside, one eyebrow cocked expectantly.

He nodded, face turned back towards the mug as he added chocolate drizzle over the foamed milk. "Yes. And thanks." He set the drink on the counter, and she waltzed forward to take it, waiting until his hands were gone so she didn't give him a heart attack by accidently touching him.

A single sip had her sighing out in pleasure, and she saw his lips quirk upwards slightly, even though he was only half-facing her, his attention mainly focused on restocking something or other. "Thanks." she told him happily, hands clasped around the mug. "It's delicious. What's your name?"

She caught a split second of his shocked hazel eyes before he confessed stiffly, "Griffin. My name's Griffin."

Waiting a beat, Beverly decided he wouldn't ask for hers, so she took the situation into her own hands. "I'm Beverly," she held out her hand, glad when he took it, even if the handshake was brief. "It's nice to meet you, Griffin."

His eyes met hers then, and his smile was stunningly bright when he replied, "You too, Beverly."

Pushing down the sudden bout of oh-wow-but-he-is-adorable-when-he-smiles nerves, Beverly sent him one last grin before retreating to a small table tucked in the corner of the store, settling down and slipping her computer out of her backpack.

She booted it up, her eyes darting to Griffin (who was half-hidden behind a large, fancy-looking espresso machine) while she waited for it to start up. Normally, she'd be on her way to class right now, perfectly content to get there early and mess around on her phone while she waited for the professor to show up; in this situation, she didn't mind putting it off for a while.

After all, she'd be able to work on a paper for a different class, whilst also enjoying a delicious mocha and the barista.

Yes, she mused with a little grin, watching as Griffin's muscles flexed while he worked to take apart the espresso machine, local coffeehouses really are great.

Her gaze drifted away and to a small television that had been settled right above the entrance, and she had to bite back a wary sigh when she saw the news report flashing on screen: Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex Still Prevalent at Local College.

True, her school had lots of issues with those three temptations, but—in reality—what college didn't? Put together thousands of college students, most of whom were still hormonal teenagers struggling with self-control, and the results tended to be a bit messy.

Ah, well. She tore her gaze from the TV and returned it to a still oblivious Griffin. She'd never fallen into the peer pressure that existed at campus and was proud of that fact; she'd much rather stay in a coffeehouse like this one than go out and get high, drunk, or lose her virginity to a frat boy. I'll just stay here, in my little bubble.

So long as the issues didn't get worse, she'd be just fine.

*Crawls out of a hole and brushes off dust, dirt, and leaves* Why, hello there, kiddies! Glad to see me? It's a rhetorical question, of course-I know you are. LOL.

Anywho, it's a pleasure to be back, and with a story in tow! This bad boy was originally supposed to be a one-shot, but, as with anything I touch, it is much longer than it's supposed to be, and is currently approaching 40,000 words . . . so, I hope we'll get to know one another a little bit better on this wild and possibly-quite-long ride. Strap in, kids; this is going to get crazy!

Feel free to drop a review in that little box down there; I always enjoy knowing who's joining me for another adventure. If it's your first time with me, then welcome aboard! There are tissues next to the ice cream freezer, and we love lots of cliff with our hangers. :) Updates will be three days apart, as per usual, so no sweat there.

Now, just as a reminder: All thoughts, characters, plots, yada yada, and so on belong to me, so please don't copy anything without my permission. Kay? Thanks. :)

As the cool kids say, "Let's kick it!" (does anyone actually say that, anymore, or is it just me?)

Seeya in a few days,