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.In the last forty minutes, we’d had a mere two new patrons approach the coffee bar, so we were a little surprised by the arrival of a new customer, until we realized we hadn’t gotten one.Coming through the door at long last, was my ex-husband.Anxious to grill him, I closed my cell phone and set it down on the counter—an act I would soon regret.TWO“WHERE were you? I couldn’t reach you? What happened? Why didn’t you call?”A moment after barking these charming queries, I wanted to take them back.Matt and I functioned best when we communicated in a cordial, businesslike manner.The tone I’d just used had more attitude than a jilted fiancée on Dr.Phil.Matt didn’t appear bothered by it.He walked up to the coffee bar, flashing one of his confident, masculine smiles.“Sorry, honey.”Behind the counter, I tensed even more.“Honey” was a term of endearment appropriate for a married couple.We were no longer married.I’d pointed this out several times.Matt never disagreed.He usually turned sheepish, saying it was a hard habit to break.“Well, please try harder to break it,” I’d told him just last week, “because you’ve clearly got a pretty steady ‘honey’ these days, and it’s not me.”“I mean, you’re right, Clare,” Matt quickly amended.Beneath a new charcoal cashmere sweater and black camel hair jacket, his muscular shoulders shrugged.“I would have called, but I couldn’t get a signal, and Joy wanted to come down for the tasting.”“Okay,” I said.“But where.wait! Did you just say Joy’s coming?”“She’s here.That’s the reason I’m late.”My spirits instantly lifted.I hadn’t seen my daughter in nearly three weeks, and I was used to her stopping by almost every day—if not to see her mom, then at least to get her vanilla latte fix.“I was on the Upper East Side anyway,” Matt explained, “and I checked in on her.She needed a ride downtown, so I hung around until her shift ended.”This was Joy’s internship year in culinary school, which was why she was not taking classes in Soho.Instead, she was working all hours in the hot, new Upper Eastside restaurant Solange and over its even hotter gas burners.She’d be taking one more year of classes after the internship, guiding her through courses in restaurant management and marketing, and finally she’d graduate.“Where is she then?” My head attempted to bob around my six-foot ex to see where the heck my daughter was hiding.Matt jerked a thumb towards the front door.“She saw someone she knew on the next corner.She wanted to say hello.”Matt then began studying the customers in the coffeehouse.It didn’t take long.There were only about a half-dozen men and women sitting at the Blend’s cafe tables, reading books and magazines, going through work papers, or typing away on laptops.“Where’s my man, Ric?” he finally asked.“Ric? Ric who?” asked Tucker Burton.“Federico Gostwick.” Matt checked his watch.“He was supposed to meet me here.Clare, have you seen him?”“First of all, you didn’t mention he was coming tonight.And secondly, I haven’t seen him in over ten years.”I’d known Ric Gostwick fairly well back in my twenties when I was still married to Matt—in other words, ancient history.After we divorced, and I moved to New Jersey, Ric had quickly fallen out of my newly collapsed social circle.“Maybe he dropped by already and I didn’t recognize him,” I said.“Doubt it,” Matt replied.“I’m sure you would have recognized him.He hasn’t changed much at all, apart from his wardrobe.He’s dressing a lot differently these days.”“No more ripped jeans and Sting T-shirts?”Matt laughed.“Try tailored slacks, suede jackets, and Italian shoes.”“Yummy.” Tucker laughed.“A GQ man.”“He didn’t use to care about clothes.” I met Matt’s eyes.“Like somebody else I know.”Matt frowned and looked away.“What’s that about?” Tucker asked me.“I can’t imagine,” I said.Matt’s gaze returned, this time to spear mine.“You know what it’s about, Clare.”I did, actually.I just didn’t like it.Matt was a down-and-dirty Third World trailblazer.Meeting with coffee farmers on their high altitude plantations in Central and South America, East Africa, and Indonesia, he routinely traversed treacherous terrain and quasi-lawless territories, which meant he used to be more worried about packing proper hiking boots and a dependable weapon than displaying the latest designer duds on his athletic physique.Over the last year, however, that had changed.At first, he’d begun dressing for success while trying to secure investors to expand our business.Then he became involved with Breanne Summour, disdainer-in-chief of Trend magazine.Our coffeehouse had a charming location, but Breanne’s circles were among the stratosphere of international cafe society.Matt’s travels with her were now taking him to different worlds, not just different countries.She’d taken to dressing him differently, too.Using her relationship with top clothing designers, she’d been gifting Matt pieces of clothing worth thousands of dollars.One evening, I suggested in passing (admittedly, after a few vinos with dinner) that Breanne’s infatuation with him had to be based at least partly on his willingness to be treated like a life-size Ken doll.“I can’t very well escort Bree to society events wearing old jeans and a sweat-stained safari hat,” Matt had snapped in reply.“I’ll thank you to remember, Clare, that when I help her, she helps me.And when she helps me, she helps our business.”As I continued glancing at the front door—not for any sign of Ric but of my one and only little girl—Matt checked his watch again.“I don’t understand what could be keeping him.I thought by now he’d be here and you would have started the tasting for our best baristas.Is everyone here?”“Dante Silva couldn’t make it,” I said.“He called and said he was running a fever so I told him to stay in bed.”“Dante who?” Matt asked.“Oh, right.I hired him about three weeks ago, before you got back from Brazil.He’s very good—trained at a coffeehouse near Brown.”“Sorry, guys,” Esther broke in.“But if you don’t start soon, I’ve got to bolt.”“Then let’s start,” Matt said, shrugging out of his exquisite camel hair blazer.While he pushed up the sleeves of his cashmere sweater, I poured the hot water (simmering but off the boil) over the beans in the French press, gave it a quick stir to start the brewing process, replaced the lid with the plunger in the raised position, and hit the timer (four to five minutes is optimal for the French press method).As I set up cups on the counter, I enjoyed the aromatics of the brewing decaf.Seductive and sweet, they promised a rich, flavorful experience to come [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]