Pre lockdown life, just as I started writing Book 2 of THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER series, I got distracted by two characters. My mind kept drifting to Ava and Hart from COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS. Having spent July rereading and republishing COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS, I couldn’t shake the two of them from my mind and I felt like I could get a short piece out of their story.
I became obsessed with them and as I’ve written before, all I wanted for my personal satisfaction was to write their beginning as Ava explained it to Garrett, Walsh, and Porn to the point of what happens in COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS.
While writing Ava and Hart’s story, I realized that Hart is connected to THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER series by two words uttered by Ava in COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS: digital forensics. He’s connected to Maia. Maia’s connected to him and she even makes a brief appearance in their story. The connection wasn’t intentional but it just works. I look forward to his appearance in Book 3.
I wrote Ava and Hart’s story for me. I wanted to know them better. I wanted to hear their beginning. Now that I’m done with their story, I feel a bit of sadness in my heart. Their story and happiness brought a little bit of love into my own life, but like many things, it has to end and I must continue to write in their honor. I may marry their story into COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS but that isn’t a priority for me at this point. For now, their story has been told and I am happy.
So here it is…
COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS: AVA AND HART
Ava and Hart’s story take place prior to the fateful Friday in Coffee and Conversations.
One unexpected night brought them together.
This is their story.
Read an excerpt below or purchase their full story HERE. (PDF file)
COFFEE AND CONVERSATIONS: AVA AND HART
Pulling the door to the coffeehouse open, Ava felt an arm loop around her waist and pull her away from the very place she hoped would salvage the rest of what she considered the worst day of her life.
“Come on,” Mo said, dragging her further away from the coffeehouse. “You’re coming with us.”
“Mo, I’m really not in the mood,” she asserted.
“A perfect reason to come,” the heavily inked server said as she tightened her grip.
Ava struggled against Mo but couldn’t escape her clutches. Mo was as powerful and strong as her blood red lipstick. “Can this be considered kidnapping?”
Mo let out a laugh. “Hart, Ava wants to know if this could be considered kidnapping?”
“Is it against her will?” a male’s voice asked from the front of the pack.
“Yes!” Ava answered back.
She watched as a man in a dark denim jacket and black jeans stopped walking, letting the others pass around him. As she and Mo stepped up beside of him, he fell in step with them.
“Where did you come from?” he asked.
“My mother’s womb,” Ava snapped.
The man laughed. “Mo, let her go.”
She shook her head, sending raven fingers of hair around her face. “Nope. She’ll try to make a run for it, and I want Ava to come with us tonight.”
The man eyed Ava with an arched brow.
“Oh, for fucks sake,” she sighed. “Mo, if I agree not to run and go wherever it is you’re going, will you please let me go?”
“You supply me with coffee and tea,” Ava answered. “Do you think I’m going to jeopardize that?”
Smiling, Mo let go of her. “If you run, I will ensure you are never served again.”
“My word is my word.”
With that Mo stepped away from her and bounced ahead to others in the group.
“Thank you for the rescue,” Ava said to the man next to her.
“You’re welcome,” he replied as they continued to trail behind the others.
“I’m Ava,” she said and extended her hand.
“Hart,” he replied as he shook her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise,” she replied as her heart fell quiet inside of her.
“Non womb answer. Seriously, where did you come from? You weren’t inside the coffeehouse with us.”
“Oh jeez, that’s what you meant,” she said as she slapped her hand against her forehead. “I was walking in as you guys were walking out. That’s when Mo made her abduction.”
Nodding, Hart was thrilled Mo grabbed Ava to join them. “She can be as rambunctious as a puppy sometimes.”
“I only know the serious server side of her.” Waving a hand towards Mo, she added, “This side is new to me.”
A grin crawled across Hart’s face. “Puppy or toddler jacked up on sugar. Take your pick. Both are correct.”
“Have you known her long?” Ava asked.
Hart shrugged his shoulders. “No and yes at the same time. Not my traditional group of friends,” he answered, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “She might not have kidnapped me, but she does serve me and our circles cross like a Venn diagram.”
Ava laughed. “Are you a regular?”
“Does going everyday count as a regular?”
“How about you?”
“Same as you,” she answered. “How come I’ve never seen you before?”
Hart shrugged his shoulders. “I’m usually in early mornings or when the drunks want to sober up. I’ve seen you in there before though. You’re always with a book.”
Ava smiled. She liked that he didn’t say with three guys even if those three guys were her best friends and chosen family. “Well, now I feel really rude for not noticing you. Sometimes, I can live in my own little world.”
“Don’t be,” Hart replied, “like I said, you were reading and that’s always a great escape from reality.”
“Do you read a lot?”
Hart nodded. “A lot of reference books for work, occasional nonfiction, and I am a sucker for anything by Stephen King.”
“Favorite King novel?”
“The Stand,” Hart answered. “Proud to say I have a mint first edition copy.”
“With the cover by John Cayea?”
With Ava’s question, the arrow landed dead center of its target. Hart had noticed Ava more than once at the coffeehouse. She was often sitting on their hideous green couch with her attention focused on a book. On the few occasions he observed her with her three male friends, a twinge of jealousy would always seep into his veins. More often than not, Ava lost in a book is what he witnessed, and that’s what caught his attention the first time. Her down-to-earth beauty, dark brown hair and doe eyes were the icing on the cake. Now, as she walked next to him, he was even happier Mo had grabbed her to join them. “Impressive. You know your books.”
Smiling, Ava admired the way Hart’s eyes danced to her question. “To say I’m a nerd is an understatement. I have an unnatural ability to remember things that are completely useless.”
“Like who did the cover art for the first edition copy of a novel?”
“I’m really good at useless trivia.”
“Too bad we are not doing trivia.”
“Dare I ask what we are doing?”
“Bar Olympics,” Hart answered.
“Dare I ask what that involves?”
“Do you know that bar Fahrenheit?”
Ava nodded. “But I’ve never been.”
“In the basement, they have set up life-size games. Connect Four, Jenga, shuffleboard, video games, you name it. It’s there. It truly is an adult playground of childhood games. Each quarter, we all team up for Bar Olympics. Winning team has free drinks or coffee for a month.” Kicking at a stone on the sidewalk, he sighed. “It is one of the most intense and competitive nights ever.”
“Sounds like you’re dreading it?” Ava said as they crossed the street.
“Only because it often brings out the ugly competitive side of everyone.”
“Who are the reigning gold medal winners?”
Hart raised his hand with a smile. “Teammate is not here to defend his reigning title though.”
“If I bribed you with coffee, could I be your replacement teammate?” Ava asked as they continued to follow along behind the pack.
“You don’t have to bribe me,” Hart answered. “Reigning winners assign teams.”
“Can I bribe you with coffee to not stick me with Mo?” she asked with a smile.
Hart laughed. “You don’t have to bribe me,” he said again.
Before Ava’s brain could form a thought, her mouth spat out, “If you don’t take me up on any of my bribes, how am I going to see you again?” Every cell in her body froze. Ava’s unrequited attraction to her best friend, Garrett, a sun-kissed surfing Aussie was the antithesis of Hart with his black hair and dark eyes. The tattoo creeping out of the back collar of his jacket was atypical for her too. Hart was the opposite of everything she adored from afar.
Hart’s stomach tightened into a knot. Had he heard her correctly? She wanted to see him again. Was it true? He knew his next words would either kill his chance or increase the reality of seeing Ava again by tenfold. “If you still feel that way after the competitiveness of tonight, there is no doubt in my mind we’ll see each other again. No bribes needed.”
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