An excerpt from EVENINGS WITH BRYSON by Tina Martin
Part of the Family First limited edition box set (only 99 cents!)
Release: February 9, 2021
A man’s loud chuckle took Kalina’s attention away from her aunt. She looked over at the source of the laughter and it was him, Mr. Coffee himself, sitting a couple of tables away from her.
He looked at her and said, “Sorry…didn’t mean to laugh out loud at your conversation. That was rude of me.” Still amused, he flipped through the magazine he’d obviously been reading while a smug smile remained on his face.
“What was so funny about my conversation?” Kalina asked, watching him shift his body in her direction and for the first time this evening, she got a full look at his face – a handsomely carved face that made her heart skip a beat. For a moment, she’d forgotten what she asked him until she saw his slender, attention-grabbing, firm lips move. And his voice was deep, dark and thunderous; a voice that could talk a woman into just about anything.
“Well, for one thing, nowhere in the marriage vow does it say that a man is obligated to give a woman a child or vice versa.”
One eyebrow raised, Kalina said, “Your point?”
“My point is, your argument that the marriage would be a breach of contract, because the man doesn’t want children, does not stand.”
Edith nodded. “Bryson has a point, Kalina.”
Bryson? A frown ripened in Kalina’s forehead. “You know this guy, Edith?”
“I know Ms. Edith well,” Bryson answered before Edith could respond. “I’ve been a patron of this café for years, but I’ve only been coming here at around this time for the last three weeks. Have you not seen me here before? I’m not difficult to miss.”
You arrogant… “No, I haven’t seen you here before, but it’s not like I was looking for you either.”
“I wasn’t looking for you, but I see you here every evening around this time, talking to your laptop. You know, I’ve never heard anyone refer to a computer as their best friend…” He looked amused before his lips grew into a smile, one that showed off a mouth full of blindingly white teeth – like the sun rays reflecting off of a fresh snowfall.
“And on that note,” Kalina said, turning away from Bryson and back towards her laptop, “I have work to do.”
“Speaking of work, that’s why you haven’t seen me before,” Bryson said. “Your eyes are glued to your computer screen twenty-four, seven.”
Edith quickly hurried from behind the counter when she saw Kalina’s frown deepen. Standing next to her niece now, she said, “Um, let me properly introduce you two. Kalina, this is Bryson Blackstone. Bryson, this is my niece, Kalina Cooper.”
Bryson stood up, walked to Kalina’s table and extended his hand to her. “Nice to meet you, Kalina.”
“I don’t shake hands,” Kalina said snippily. “And since my eyes are glued to my computer screen twenty-four seven, I better get back to work.”
Bryson smirked, lowering his hand. Her attitude certainly didn’t match her beautiful face and that silky, chocolate skin tone of hers. And her eyes – those gorgeous, black, almond-shaped eyes nearly quieted him – they almost stole his voice by making him lose his train of thought. And while he was standing there, stricken by her beauty, he’d forgotten what his next plan of action was. Oh yeah, that’s right – he would say something to get under her skin. So finally responding to her, he said, “You mean, you have to get back to answering an email on a topic in which you obviously know nothing about?”
“Excuse me?” she asked, her head cocked to the side.
Well, that didn’t take long, Bryson thought. Even the frown in her forehead couldn’t distort her natural beauty.
Edith sauntered on back behind the counter when she saw a new customer come in. Besides, she wasn’t about to get in the middle of this argument.
“Marriage,” Bryson said. “You don’t have a ring on your finger, and I don’t see any indication of one ever being there, which tells me you’ve never been married. So what advice are you going to give this poor woman who’s on the brink of ruining her life and marriage to a man she’s probably head over heels in love with, simply because he’s changed his mind about wanting children?”
“Okay, first of all, I didn’t ask for, nor do I need your help, advice or opinion on—”
“So what’s your reply?” he interrupted, inviting himself to her table by taking the empty chair across from her. “What are you going to tell this woman?”
The nerve of this conceited, self-centered…
Kalina leaned back in her chair, staring at the self-satisfied look on his face. Who did he think he was, barging his way into her conversation like he had a right? And who was he exactly? Some creepy coffee shop stalker? He did say he’d been coming there for three weeks. How did she not remember him? And how on earth was her aunt on a first name basis with this jerk of a man?
“I’m waiting,” he said, then crossed his arms over his chest.
The motion had her glancing at his hand. He wasn’t wearing a wedding band, so what did he know about marriage? Or maybe he was married, but kept his ring in his pocket…one of those men. And if he was one of those men, how was he in any position to offer anyone advice about anything.
“Okay, then,” Kalina said, sitting straight up in her chair again. If this Bison, Bryson or whatever his name was, thought he was going to have the upper hand with her, he had another thought coming. “How would you respond to the woman?”
“How would I respond?” Bryson asked.
“Yes, since you’re an expert on marriage and all. The private conversation I was having with my aunt has somehow intrigued you enough to interrupt us, so tell me, Bison—”
“Bry-son,” he corrected.
“Whatever…what would be your perfect response to this woman. I’m dying to know.”
“I’m not sure,” Bryson responded.
“Well, would you look at that?” Kalina said with raised eyebrows. “Now you’re not sure.”
“Only because this is not something I can answer on a whim. Sensitive topics such as this requires careful consideration.”
Kalina nodded and flashed a phony smile. “You’re right. It does, which is why I’ve been stuck on this question all day long, and the reason why I was discussing it with my aunt. But, I tell you what Bry-son…” Kalina took one of her business cards from a side pocket on her laptop bag. Handing it to him, she said, “Since you don’t think I have what it takes to answer the question, you do it.”
She watched him smile wide, his teeth a stark contrast to his dark chocolate skin tone. He took the card from her grasp.
“My email address is on the card. I will expect your email reply by tomorrow night.”
Bryson scanned over her business card, then looked up at her again. “You don’t include a phone number on your business cards?”
She smirked. “Sure don’t. There are a lot of crazies out here.” Case in point…
With a smile on her face, Edith, watching from behind the counter, shook her head. Kalina had no patience for men, she knew, but Bryson Blackstone wasn’t just any man and he seemed to have taken an interest in her.
“All right. I’ll send you an email then, boss lady.”
Short of rolling her eyes, Kalina said, “You do that. Now if you would excuse me, I have to glue my eyes back to my computer screen.”
“Right.” Bryson stood up tall, towering over her table with a set of long legs and broad shoulders like that of a football player. He slid her business card into his shirt pocket. “It was nice meeting you, Kalina.”
Ugh. Go away already…
She flashed him the phoniest smile she could muster and returned her attention back to her inbox. She had hundreds of emails to answer and she wanted to get through at least fifty of them before the shop closed, especially since she needed to get some sleep tonight. She was going to visit her mother in the morning and that experience was tiring enough in itself. She didn’t want to arrive exhausted and quick-tempered, so sleep was a must. It was going to be a long day.