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The radio jolted her as she started her car. She spun the volume knob, checked her mirrors, and rolled out of her driveway. She was nearing the end of a long week, and today was a big day with a new seasonal brew being released. She was going in even earlier than usual to set up the display because her store’s last seasonal debut was a disaster. Everything took way longer than expected and she got stuck having to set everything up just as the store was opening, so avoiding a repeat disaster would be a big plus.

“I need coffee.”

Her store had been plagued with staffing issues and she barely kept afloat during her much of the week. Luckily, things were finally getting sorted out and by late Wednesday operations were almost normal. She was focused on keeping the momentum going and finishing the week smoothly and quietly. Two shifts remained between her and the weekend; an opening shift and a closing shift. She was tired and struggling but could feel the pull of the finish line.

Tomorrow the company would be announcing the winners of the International Management Competition. Running a café was chaotic and demanding, but she enjoyed it; she excelled in her role and was well-liked by senior leadership. Having been recently promoted and already in line for another advancement, she received encouraging feedback regarding her changes to win the competition this year.

She was hopeful yet anxious and tried not to get her hopes up. The top performers from each store in the state would be going to a national conference in Seattle. It had been a long time since she took a vacation and the thought of the trip was enticing. Trying to think back to the last time she took time for herself she thought, *I haven’t had a chance to take 5 minutes for myself in years, much less a trip.*

Seemingly on auto-pilot, she made it to work.

*Ugh, here already?!*

The feelings of dread were quickly pushed aside at the promise of a deliciously fresh brew. She exited her car and walked leisurely towards the store entrance, enjoying the cool morning air. The forecasts called for beautiful weather the next few days, a welcome break from the dreary, rainy days that had been going on for what seemed like months. She pictured herself on her patio having a cocktail.

“Why, yes, I believe I will,” she told herself as she reached for her building keys.

The front door was already unlocked and she saw the maintenance and cleaning crews finishing up for the day.

“I haven’t been here this early in a while!”

Someone had already started a pot of coffee.

“Even better,” she whispered to herself as she poured a cup.

She opened her laptop and as it woke up she took her first sip of the day.

“Mmm that’s good. That’s real good.”

She spun her office chair out, took a seat, and leaned back as far as she could. Her eyes closed and she let her mind slowly drift, letting her eyelids get heavy. The chime of the computer brought her back to reality, she stared at the screen as her desktop loaded. She opened her usual programs and began her reports, hoping to get a head-start before the morning rush. The cleaning contractor popped her head in.

“Ok, we’re all done, señora, thank you.”

“Thank you guys so much, you have a great day!”

The lady handed her a bag with “Miss Amy” written on it in black marker.

“Vegan tamales, for you, señora.”

“Again?! You guys are too sweet to me, thank you so much! I really can’t thank you enough!”

She spun out of her chair. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.”

She walked to the exit, and on her way grabbed two bags of coffee beans. She quickly swiped her card at the terminal and entered her comp code.

“Have a great weekend and have some coffee for your family on us, it’s the least I can do, you all are so good to us and do such a great job.”

The lady took the bags of coffee, “Oh thank you, señora Amy, thank you,” she waved and made a prayer-hands gesture as she got in the van with the rest of the workers and drove off. She heard the noise of maintenance workers.

*What are they even doing here?*

The sound of clanging metal and power tools made her fear for her machines. After a few minutes, the noises stopped they began taking tools back to their truck.

*Thank God, they’re leaving.*

She hurried to the door and opened it for them. “Thanks guys, have a good one!”

“Out you go,” she whispered to herself as the door shut.

It was still dark outside and the store was now quiet again. She lazily stared outside, taking a moment to compose herself until the sound of footsteps interrupted.

“Jesus, now what?!”

She could see the reflection in the glass door; it was another maintenance worker walking towards her with a clipboard. She spun around, ready to ask what they were doing and what time they would be done.

“Good morning…” he greeted her before she could say anything.

He glanced at her nametag, acıbadem escort “…Amy? We’re just finishing up here.”

“Hi, good morning,” she replied, losing her train of thought completely. “ guys were….” she closed her eyes and brought her hand up to her face, “I’m sorry, it’s been a hell of a week, you guys are—”

“No worries, actually the reason we came in is for a recall on one of the coffee machines.”

“Oh! Makes sense, I was wondering…” His eyes were dark, yet inviting and warm.

“We’re actually in town doing some safety recalls for a couple of other stores that use these same types of machines. My boss called me and asked me to try and get some of these other accounts done while I’m we’re in the area because we’re from out of state and we fly home tomorrow.”

“I see, yeah I remember seeing an email about it now that you mention that.”

“Yeah, turns out one of the drive motors for the grinders has a possible defect. It could have excessive resistance in the wiring, which can cause the motor to work twice as hard and overheat, potentially leading to a fire.”

“That doesn’t sound good!”

He went on about the machine and she began to lose interest in what he was saying. It wasn’t the meaningless technical details that distracted her but rather the tone of his voice. He smiled as he spoke and seemed to take joy in what he was saying. She was oddly comforted by his description of the machine’s circuitry. His eyes were dark and mysterious, yet inviting; every time she tried to focus on what he was saying, she would get lost in his comforting demeanor.

Reaching towards the top of a machine, he continued explaining the scope of his repairs. She was nowhere near tall enough to see where he was pointing but she stood closer to him and made an effort to see. She quickly took her eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to focus herself. As she inhaled she noticed how good he smelled; clean yet woodsy and masculine. He finished his commentary and looked at her, smiling. As her mind continued to drift she realized he was waiting on her to respond. Her eyes opened wide.

“Well!” she shook her head. “Again, thanks for going out of your way, it’s one less thing to worry about.”

“Any time, it’s my pleasure. Here’s your copy of the invoice, just give us a call if you need anything else.”

“Ok, thanks again! You have a great day!”

He grinned, “You do the same.”

Chapter II

Her mouth dropped as she heard her name called. Everything went into slow motion and everyone was muted temporarily as she processed what just happened. She snapped back to reality and heard her store applauding and cheering, everyone looking directly at her. She had won the International Management Competition!. She walked hurriedly to her boss and shook her hand.

“Congratulations! You have done a wonderful job for our organization and you have an amazing store and staff.” She was overwhelmed and in shock, she knew she had been working hard but never fully considered that she could win. She gathered her focus and spoke into the microphone.

“Thank you so much! I’m honored to even be considered for this and I’m just floored and can’t believe it! I’m very much looking forward to representing the company in Seattle, thank you again.”

Her boss gave her a big hug and handed her a gift basket.

“We can’t wait to see you there, Amy, congratulations again!”

Her heart was pounding as she tried to take it all in. She would be taking a trip on the company dime! Even though it was a work conference, she had heard from previous attendees that it was more like a paid vacation. Her mind switched between excitement and panic, as she would now have to pack and prepare to travel for the first time in years.

She exited the conference area and went inside her office, placing the gift basket on her desk. Peeking inside, she noticed a bottle of champagne. “Oooh, I know what I’ll be drinking tonight!” Just then, one of her baristas popped in.

“Congratulations! We heard the great news!” She ran up and hugged her.

“Thank you so much! I really couldn’t have done it without you and your hard work day-in and day-out, all of you, really.” She loved her staff and was always glad to see them. Exhausted as she was, her adrenaline was pumping and her mood was lifted.

“Five hours to go, let’s do this!”

The rush of customers came and the shift was underway. The flow of customers remained steady through the evening and everyone was worked together efficiently as usual. Occasionally she’d look across her store and smile, feeling thankful yet still in disbelief.

Before she knew it, the crew began their pre-closing cleaning duties.

“That time already?!” She slipped into her office, ran her reports from her computer, and began to print. As the printer ran, she checked on her employees.

“We’re just about done akbatı escort here,” her closer handed her a clipboard with a sign-off sheet.

“Great, let me just do the walkthrough and I’ll get you guys out of here!”

She briskly walked the store, checking off the items as she went. “It looks great in here, thank you, guys!”

She signed the sheet and tossed the clipboard and document on her desk.

“You are free to go, thanks for your hard work tonight!”

“Thanks, Amy! It was great working with you as usual. Congrats again, by the way, I bet you’re pretty stoked to go on that trip?!”

“That you, oh my gosh! Seriously you guys are the best, you made it easy for me. I am excited, actually! Also extremely anxious because I have to pack and haven’t traveled in forever!” Her employees waved as they left the store together.

As she walked back towards the office, she noticed a few drops of water near one of the machines. She grabbed a towel and wiped it up before going inside her office and sitting down at her desk.

“Crap, I forgot to make myself a drink!”

She got back up and went to the coffee machine and began making her end-of-shift brew. As the machine ran, she noticed the same drops of water again near the machine.

“What the…?”

She looked closely and saw another drip. Looking upward, she saw a small stream of water running down the side of the machine. She continued to trace it, until she reached the top of the machine.

“It looks like the back of the machine is leaking, what the hell?!” She looked around, thinking out loud.

“This is where those maintenance guys were working, I wonder if they did something to cause it!”

She ran back to her office and began searching her emails. Her boss handled all the maintenance contracts and she had no clue what the company was called or what their contact info was. She picked up her phone and called her.

“Answer, please…ugh….” The phone rang and rang, finally reaching her voicemail. “Hey! It’s Amy, call me if you get a chance. Thanks, bye!”

She tapped her phone against her chin, thinking. It came to her.

“The invoice!” She shuffled through her desk and found the document left by the maintenance guy. In the corner was the company letterhead with contact information including the service department.

“Yes!” she yelled, dialing the number. The phone began ringing.

“Ugh, pleeeeease pick up!”

*Thank you for calling Global Tech Consulting, service department, how may I direct your call?*

“Hello, yes, I have a leak in my store, and I believe one of your maintenance crews was here yesterday working on this equipment and I’m not sure if…”

*Oh, we certainly apologize for any issues! Let me take a look here, one moment.*

Hold music began playing.

*Thank you for holding, we do see the visit to your store here in our tracker. Since the work is covered under warranty, we will dispatch a field technician to you right away.*

“Really?! Fantastic, thank you.” She wondered how long it would take and began to get irritated at the thought of being stuck at work even later than it already was.

*Ok I have just dispatched a technician, you should be getting a text notification shortly. Is there anything else we can help you with?*

“No, that is all, thanks again!” She hung up and then said into the phone, “you can send that cute guy that was here yesterday.” She threw her head back and laughed to herself.

She sat back down at her desk and gathered her reports, hoping to have everything done and maybe–if these people showed up in a reasonable amount of time–she would be able to leave on time. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the gift basket.

“You know what, screw it.”

She pulled the champagne bottle out, took it over to the ice machine and placed it inside.

“Who knows how long these people will take.”

She took her hair down and looked upwards towards the ceiling, then closed her eyes, exhaling deeply, massaging her scalp and freeing her hair.

Her phone buzzed. It was a notification from the maintenance company.

*Your service technician should arrive in approx. 10 minutes.*

She felt slightly relieved as 10 minutes was a lot sooner than she expected. She smiled at her phone, hurried back to her desk, and began powering through her closing reports.

Her phone chimed again. *Your technician will be arriving in ETA: 1min.*

Headlights lit up the front of the store as she walked to the entrance and unlocked the door. She squinted through the lights and could see a guy getting out of the car. As he closed the door and locked it, the lights turned off and the dark outline of his body came into focus. As she tried to focus on his face, she caught a whiff of his cologne, her heart stopped as she was instantly transported back to their first meeting.

He stepped out of the aksaray escort shadow and she saw his face. Her emotions were a mix of disbelief that her half-joking wish came true combined with finding herself lost in his gentle and inviting smile. Just as she realized she was probably staring blankly at him his voice snapped her out of it.

“We meet again.” His calm and friendly voice took a bit of the edge off her nervousness.

“Hi! Lucky me!” She tried to act normal. “I thought you all were headed back to…?”

“We were supposed to fly back to Texas, but our flight got cancelled. They couldn’t get us on another one until first thing tomorrow morning, so I was just back at the hotel doing nothing. I saw this call come through our dispatch system and I recognized the store, so I answered it. Sorry you’re having an issue, mind if I take a closer look?”

“No…I wouldn’t mind at all. Let me show you.”

She opened the door and he followed her inside. He was wearing the same clothes as before but this time a t-shirt instead of a work shirt. His shirt fit snuggly against him and outlining his broad shoulders and chest.

“It’s this machine here,” she pointed and led him.

“There’s a leak that’s coming from the back of it,” she turned on her phone flashlight and pointed it towards the location of the leak. He pulled a small flashlight from his belt and leaned over the counter, sticking his head behind the machine.

“Ah, yes, I see it.”

She heard his voice, muffled from behind the machine. His shirt rode up and she glanced at his stomach and waist. She could see he was wearing UnderArmour underwear, and his stomach looked muscular and strong.

“I think it’s just a loose connection to the water pipe, actually, I don’t think it’s the machine.” He twisted his body, laying down on his back on top of the counter. His shirt rode up a bit more, he had light body hair and he looked fit. His belt had a metal buckle and as her eyes continued to wander lower he pulled himself up. Her eyes shot back up to his.

“I think you have a plumbing issue actually, looks like the water connection into the machine. I almost hate to ask but how available are your building maintenance people?”

“Ugh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them once!”

“You know what, hang on, let me check my truck…” He went out to the back of his truck and she watched him rummage through his tools and parts. He returned, climbed onto the counter, and laid down on his back, once again looking behind the machine. He looked downwards at her.

“Would you mind reaching over and holding this flashlight?”

“Sure, should I just…” She awkwardly tried to lean over him but couldn’t reach the back of the machine. He grabbed the light and pulled it towards him, which pulled her between his legs and against his body.

“Perfect, just hold it right there.” He began to work and she heard the clinking sounds of metal and tools. She was pressed up against him, stretched out holding the flashlight. He was twisting and turning slightly as he wrenched and she felt his muscular body under her. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to enjoy his body squirming underneath her. Suddenly he began sliding out and she leaned away from him as he stood up.

“Ok, I think it’s fixed! Shit, I’m sorry, did I get grease on you?”

“No, no, you’re fine!”

“Luckily I had another fitting in the truck and I was able to replace it. I put a special sealant on there. The only thing is it takes 30-45 minutes to cure, unfortunately I have to stay here and make sure it works. So you’re stuck with me a little longer. You know what, these types of water lines typically run to the ice machine. Can you show me where that is so I can check it?”

“Sure! It’s right over here!” She walked briskly, showing him the way.

“Ah I see it, let me just check this.” Just as he opened the lid to the ice machine, she remembered the champagne bottle she left in it.

“Ah, sorry, don’t mind that,” she said as she grabbed the bottle and quickly walked it towards her office. She set it on her desk and closed the door. “That was from a, uh…”

“Oh, it’s all good, that’s probably the best place for it, chill it quickly, huh? Don’t let me stop you!” He laughed, looking at her as his hands traced the back of the machine.

“Yes, actually, that’s precisely why I put it there,” she smiled at him, relieved at his laid-back nature “…and since you insist!” She twisted the wire off and expertly popped the cork, holding onto it. He barely noticed as he inspected the ice machine. She grabbed a clean coffee cup and poured herself a nice-sized drink, then took a long gulp. “Care for some?”

“Oh, no, I’m good thank you, you go ahead, I appreciate it though!” He continued inspecting the machine.

The champagne sent a relaxing wave across her body. She closed her eyes momentarily, taking a long, slow breath.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying, I’m glad you’re here.” She stared into her drink, wondering if she should keep talking. “I mean, here in my store helping me out. I just…it’s been a hell of a week and I was freaking out that it would never end and I’d never make it home tonight, and you showed up again to help me out. And you’ve just been really cool and chill and made me feel comfortable, especially working late here alone.”

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