Writer’s Retreat, Part 2

Summary: MC (Charlotte) ventures into town and gets to know the handsome bartender.

New to the series? Catch up here: Part 1

The Hull Hole was every bit the dive bar she’d expected it to be, and Charlotte couldn’t have been more pleased. It felt like a glorious contrast to the high end house she was staying in and for the first time since she’d arrived, Charlotte felt like she could exhale.

“So what brings you to Hull?” the bartender asked as he leaned an elbow on the bar. He was extremely good looking in an All-American kind of way, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a physique that made Charlotte certain the guy had played football in high school, probably college as well. She could easily picture him as the quarterback with a cheerleader on his arm, letterman jacket draped around her shoulders.

“I needed a quiet place to work, so a friend offered me the use of his cabin,” she said, taking a sip of her beer.

“Oh yeah? What kind of work do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a writer.” She watched him raise his eyebrows in surprise.

“Really?” he asked. “I’m impressed, that’s really cool. Have you written anything I might’ve read?”

Charlotte laughed.

“Not unless you’re part of my immediate family,” she joked. “My first book wasn’t exactly Harry Potter.”

“What was it about?”the bartender asked.

“College,” she said. “Kind of based on my friends, all the drama.” Charlotte felt herself blush. “I don’t know, it was kind of dumb.”

“Hey, I don’t think that sounds dumb,” he said. “That sounds like something I’d like. I always wanted to go to college but it never really worked out, so I’m forced to live vicariously through books.” Charlotte hesitated unsure of what to say, and the bartender seemed to read her uncertainty. “I was all set to go to the University of Maine, but then my mom passed away and my dad wasn’t doing too well so I stayed behind to help out to keep this place afloat,” he said, gesturing around the bar. “The one year turned into two, which turned into three, and now it just seems too late.”

“It’s never too late,” Charlotte insisted. “Lots of people go back later in life. In fact, I once watched a news story about a woman who didn’t go back to school to get her degree until she was in her eighties. You have plenty of time!”

The bartender laughed.

“True, but I’m kind of settled here. I own my own business and everything,” he said.

“You own this place?” Charlotte asked. “That’s great! I really like the vibe in here.”

“It is good for a brooding writer,” the bartender joked, tapping her wrist with his forefinger. “But no, my dad owns this place, I’m just filling in a little bit while he recovers from knee surgery. No, I actually own the flower shop next door.”

“Seriously?” Charlotte asked. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a flower guy.”

“And what exactly is a flower guy?” the bartender asked with a grin.

“I … you know, as soon as I said it, I realized that didn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Charlotte said as she put a hand over her eyes and the bartender laughed.

“Hey, Chris, can we get a couple of beers?” a man’s voice interjected.

“Sure thing,” the bartender called. “Be right back,” he said to Charlotte. She looked up and followed him with her eyes down the bar to see a couple of guys sitting down at the other end. One of them looked familiar and it took a moment to realize the one who had called out for the bartender was the same park ranger she’d met at James’s cabin. He wasn’t wearing a uniform this time; instead, Charlotte watched as he shrugged out of a black leather jacket to reveal a plain white t-shirt. God, he was even more gorgeous than she remembered.

Zig glanced over at her and caught her watching him. Charlotte felt her face flame with embarrassment but he just smirked and raised his beer bottle to her. She nodded and lifted her own glass in return before taking a sip, trying to quell the slow burn in her abdomen from the intensity of his gaze. One of the guys next to Zig said something so Zig looked away from her to his friend. Charlotte dropped her gaze to the bar, her cheeks still hot.

“You know Zig?” the bartender asked as he came back to stand in front of Charlotte.

“No. Well, not really,” she said, flustered. “He showed up yesterday when I got here to drop off some information about the ranger station.”

The bartender nodded. “Good to have on hand, especially if you’re out in one of the cabins.”

“I am,” she said. “I’m borrowing it from a friend.”

“Nice friend,” the bartender said, nodding with approval. Charlotte nodded, not really in the mood to discuss James at that exact moment.

“So. Flowers,” she said, trying to regain her composure. “How’d you get into that? Did you have a really green thumb as a kid or something?”

The bartender smiled. “Something like that. I used to garden all the time with my mom when I was a kid and she really encouraged me when it came to flower arranging. I always liked it because it was a chance to create something beautiful for someone and each flower has a different meaning.”

“Like roses representing love and lilies for funerals?”

“Exactly, but there’s so much more than that. You can express everything you want to say with the right flowers without ever having to say a word.” He blushed suddenly. “I guess I shouldn’t start trash talking words to a writer.”

“No, no, I get what you mean,” Charlotte reassured him. “Besides, as much as I love words, sometimes they’re inadequate when it comes to expressing exactly what you feel.”

“Isn’t that sacrilege for a writer to say?” the bartender teased. Charlotte shrugged.

“Maybe,” she conceded. Charlotte thought for a moment and then smiled. “I just remembered a line from a poem I used to love. It’s by ee cummings and it says, ‘flowers resemble beauty less than our breathing.’”

The bartender considered that. “So, what you’re saying is that both of our professions are completely moot?”

Charlotte laughed.

“Yes, exactly.” She drained the last of her beer and pulled out her wallet. “Alright, I should get going if I’m going to get any writing done tonight.”

“This one’s on me,” the bartender said, waving away her wallet.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, consider it a welcome present,” he said as he smiled that grin that Charlotte was sure had won over every cheerleader in high school. Maybe the whole school if they’d put his face on a poster for class president.

“Well, thank you,” she said as she pulled out a five dollar bill and set it on the counter anyway despite his protests.

“Hey, I just realized I never asked your name,” he said. “I want to look up your book.”

“Oh, no, you really don’t have to,” Charlotte said. “But my name is Charlotte Ford.”

“Good name for a writer,” he said. He held out his hand. “Chris Powell. Nice to meet you.”

“You, too,” she said. He flashed a final grin at her before another couple at the bar claimed his attention. Charlotte turned and headed towards the door but before she walked out into the cool Maine evening, she looked back over her shoulder. Chris glanced over at her and winked. Then her eyes settled on Zig, who had turned to watch her leave. He smiled at her, a slow, languid smile, and Charlotte could feel a blush creep back up her chest.

It’s just the beer she told herself. But, of course, she knew she was lying.

Part 3

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