The lobby had a full wall of windows facing the setting sun. Brightly colored chairs, arranged in pairs, bathed in the sunlight. Ash tried to sit in one but bounced right back up to pace in front of a row of turnstiles. As he walked past them the security guard-cum-receptionist glanced up, narrowing his eyes at Ash. Ash raised his hands in a surrendering hands-off gesture and walked back to one of the comfortable-looking chairs by the windows. He had too much nervous energy to sit. He crossed his arms and frowned at the chair, but then a moment later decided he didn’t want his first real impression to look defensive and dropped his hands to his sides.
He heard voices coming from the far side of the turnstiles. He spun around, sighing out his disappointment when he spotted three men in jeans and collared shirts chatting animatedly as they pushed through the turnstiles. He was about to drop into a chair again when he heard Crandall’s voice carrying down the hall.
Ash suppressed a smirk. Crandall was being… Crandall. “I told you,” Crandall said. “I don’t fucking care. Just. Shit. Here.” Crandall appeared around the corner and pushed through the turnstile. “Hey, Ash, you owe me more than a coffee. This girl is a pain in the ass.”
Crandall stopped in front of Ash and glanced over his shoulder. Ginger had stopped just past the turnstile, shyly studying Ash. The sunlight shined off her pale red hair and glossed her small round lips as she offered him a small smile. “Hi,” she said softly. “Crandall, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?”
“You know who he is.”
She was adorable. Ash had suspected Crandall hadn’t noticed just how pretty Ginger was, but even assuming Crandall had other things on his mind, Ash was still pleasantly surprised at the woman standing beside Crandall.
“Ashland Keating,” Ash said offering his hand.
Crandall snorted. “Ash this is Ginger. She, you know, pestered me to meet you.”
She took his hand, and Ash turned it in his, lifting it to his lips to place a gentle kiss on her knuckles. “A pleasure to meet you, Ginger.” Ash smiled, his nerves no longer bouncing wild butterflies in his stomach. She charmed him with just that shy smile. He took a small step backwards and took her in. She was nearly as tall as he was, which worked for her while he always felt short. She was slender, but curvy too. She dressed like she cared about her looks without coming off as vain. Ash liked her snug jeans with embroidered swirls down the sides of her legs. Though if forced, he’d have to admit he liked her legs more than the jeans that encased them.
And her eyes.
And her small, round mouth with pale pink lips.
And her voice when she giggled at his old-fashioned greeting.
It took him only a second or two to look her over and meet her gaze again, and in that brief moment, he was smitten.
“May I have my hand back?” she asked. When Ash started, and then nodded, Ginger giggled again, obviously pleased with his reaction to her.
“I was about to head out for some coffee. Would you like to join me?”
“I’d like that,” Ginger said.
“Shit, you didn’t say you were bringing her too.”
Ash tore his gaze away from her summer sky blue eyes to frown at Crandall. “This was the point,” he started, but trailed off. True, he hadn’t said specifically he’d invite her. Mike had warned him months ago that everything was face value with Crandall.
“Come on, Crandall.” Ginger reached for his arm, but then pulled back and clasped her hands together. “Can we please call a truce for one coffee break?”
“For fuck’s sake, that’s not what you said this morning.”
“Crandall…” Ash recognized the pleading in her eyes, begging Crandall not to ruin the moment, or make her look foolish. Ash knew Crandall didn’t understand, or didn’t care. Sometimes he wasn’t quite sure even though Mike swore Crandall was alright once you learned to navigate his gruff exterior.
“Hey, okay, this is my fault,” Ash said. He touched Ginger’s arm lightly and loved the smile she turned on him in return. He focused on Crandall, but let his hand linger. “I’ll bring you back something, and we’ll catch up for dinner. Does that work for you?”
Crandall narrowed his eyes and stared hard at Ash. Ash was starting to get used to that reaction, though he still couldn’t make heads or tails of it. When Crandall spoke, it was all Ash could do to not laugh at him.
“I suspected you were using me to get laid,” Crandall said. “But I couldn’t convince you to give it up and relax, so I dismissed the idea.” He turned his glare on Ginger, but she only turned her nose up and pretended to look anywhere else. “You could use it though, so I’ll forgive you for a large extra cream and extra sugar.” He turned back toward the turnstile and waved his badge in front of the reader. Once he walked through, he glanced back and said, “And make her tell you where she got that cupcake. I’d stake a vampire for another one of those cupcakes.” He grinned wickedly, and then Ash did start laughing. It was a sight he’d rarely seen. It must’ve been one amazing cupcake.