Julian Grayson is taking a break
…from his cheating fiancée
…from his band
…from his life in the spotlight
Charlotte Clark is devoted to her work
…to save the world
…to help the homeless
…to get a broken man back on his feet
When Charlotte Clark offers to pay for Julian Grayson’s coffee, the world-famous drummer assumes she wants something from him. But Charlotte has no idea who he is, and Julian can’t resist keeping up the charade—being incognito is a novelty and a relief. He’ll have to tell her…eventually. But as Charlotte cheerfully undertakes to transform his life, Julian realizes there’s something about her that gives him what he hasn’t felt in years: hope.
In front of her, the guy reached into his back pocket and cursed.
“Um…cancel my order,” he told the cashier, his voice so low and deep it was almost a growl. “I forgot my wallet.”
Without hesitation, Charlotte stepped forward and smiled at the young cashier. “Hi, Carly,” she began, reading the girl’s nametag, “if it’s okay, you can add his order to mine.” She was feeling pretty good about herself and her gesture, but when she turned and looked up at the man she was helping, she couldn’t help but gasp.
Jet-black hair and silver eyes—which were currently glaring at her. There wasn’t even a hint of a smile and if anything, he was borderline snarling.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked.
Charlotte had met enough people who were down on their luck to know that sometimes pride was a huge deterrent to them accepting help in any form. “I heard you say you had forgotten your wallet and just figured I’d help.”
Her shoulders relaxed even as her smile grew and she laughed softly. “What do you mean, ‘why’?”
“Ma’am?” the cashier asked. “What can I get you? The line’s getting backed up.”
“Oh, right. Sorry.” Although she was a little miffed at being called “ma’am.” At twenty-seven, she didn’t consider herself old enough for that title, but she’d deal with that later. “I’ll have a tall mocha Frappuccino and a blueberry muffin, please.” Then she handed her credit card over before looking back at the angry man.
“I don’t need anyone to buy me coffee,” he growled.
Undeterred, she smiled and accepted her card back from the cashier. “Oh, please. I know I get cranky when I can’t have my coffee, and you look like you could use it. It’s not a big deal. Really.” She stepped around him to go wait at the other end of the counter for their order. For a minute, she didn’t think he would follow, and she had to hide her smile when he finally did.
“I could have just gone and grabbed my wallet and come back,” he argued. His voice was low, but there was still heat in it.
She shrugged and offered him a smile. “Now you don’t have to.”
They stood in silence until their order was placed on the counter, and Charlotte thanked the barista and then smiled at the man. He still hadn’t picked up his coffee or muffins, and she wondered just how stubborn he was going to be.
“Look, if it bothers you that much, just…pay it forward,” she said.
“Pay it what?”
“Forward. You know, next time you’re in line and notice someone in need of a hand, help them out.” Her smile broadened even as he looked at her as if she were crazy. “Anyway, enjoy and have a great day!”
Without waiting for an answer, she walked out of the coffee shop and across the street toward the park benches where she could sit and see the beach and enjoy the fresh air. It really was a beautiful day out and there was no way she wanted to waste it sitting inside.
Sitting down, she pulled the muffin out of the bag and was about to break off a piece when someone sat down beside her.
Her unkempt man.
With her sunglasses on, she was certain he couldn’t read her surprise, and she did her best to sound casual as she asked, “Would you like to join me?” For the life of her, she had no idea why she would even suggest such a thing. It was obvious he was annoyed with her and really, just because she tended to be trusting didn’t mean it was always the right thing to do. For all of her speculation, she had no idea who this man was.
“What is your deal?” he asked a little suspiciously, but not snarling or growling nearly as much as he had been inside the coffee shop.
He nodded. “Why’d you buy my breakfast? What’s it to you if I didn’t have my wallet?”
For a moment Charlotte could only stare. Was this guy for real? Here she was doing a nice thing and he was giving her crap for it?
“It was just coffee and two muffins,” she reasoned pleasantly. “It wasn’t a big deal, and like I said, just pay it forward.”
That should have been the end of it, but considering he didn’t move or say anything, she figured it wasn’t.
Now she started to feel a little uneasy.
Looking around, she tried to see how many people were around. It was early and people were out walking on the sidewalk and down on the sand, so she relaxed. She could handle this.
“What is it you want from me?” he finally asked, his scowl back in place.
Charlotte turned to look back up at him and frowned herself. “Excuse me?”
He sighed in agitation. “You heard me. What is it you want? You want me to sign something?”
Sign something? What the…?
“Look, Mr.…?” She paused and waited for him to fill in the blank, but when he didn’t, she was the one to sigh. “I’m Charlotte, by the way. Charlotte Clark. I’d prefer not to keep calling you ‘angry guy’ in my head.” And when he still didn’t answer, she stuffed her muffin back in the bag, grabbed her coffee, and stood. “I honestly didn’t mean to offend you, okay? I just thought it would be a nice thing to do and then we’d both be on our way—me feeling good and you feeling thankful. Obviously, I was wrong. So… I’m sorry if I was mistaken and if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and enjoy my breakfast elsewhere.”
Her heart was hammering in her chest as she moved around him and walked back along the sidewalk to the crosswalk in hopes of finding someplace else to sit and eat. The whole time she complained in her head, because she seriously enjoyed sitting and watching the waves crash and all the sights and smells of the beach.
Stupid angry guy messing with my good morning.