The new barista at Grey Wind Café is ridiculously beautiful and absolutely infuriating. He’s been here for two weeks, now, and Brienne is already thinking of whether Cat will forgive her if she stops supplying the café with baked goods, even though she’s done so for close to two years. For some gods-know-what reason, the barista—Jaime Lannister, though any mention of his family name will darken his face—has made it his life’s mission to drive her mad. He has also, as it turned out, claimed all the opening shift, which means Brienne has to see him every morning.
It truly is exhausting. It is doubly so this morning, since one of her ovens broke down—she thinks it might be the gas regulator or something—so she only had one oven to work with, and thus only managed to bake half the things she was supposed to bring. She’s been holding back tears too, because she really does not have cash lying around to get a new oven, which means she will have to run at half capacity and probably not be able to pay Pod, so she’s going to run the business alone indefinitely.
Jaime looks up from the counter at her, and the smaller stack of boxes in her hand. He frowns. “Where’s the rest of it? And you look—”
Jaime closes his mouth, but his frown only grows deeper. He takes the boxes from her and place the contents in the display case. Brienne takes a seat at one of the tables, watching him. She should go back to the bakery. She should try to bake as fast as humanly possible with only one oven working. She should look up if there’s cheap second-hand oven to be had, even if she probably would have to scrub it with vinegar before she can bake anything with it.
But she’s exhausted and the café at opening hours is quiet and empty as the streets only begins to wake up and at least the view here is nice. When he’s not taunting her, he is truly handsome. She wonders why he’s here, being a barista. In this part of the city, so close to Baelor University, the baristas are half his age and probably some graduate student looking for extra cash.
“You’re staring,” he says.
So she is. She looks away, already feeling the blush growing on her face. She wishes she could be one of those people who blush flatteringly, but like everything else related to her body, her blush only serves to make her uglier. “Sorry,” she says. “I should go. One of my ovens broke down and that’s why I only brought half. Tell Cat I’ll bring the other half around eleven today.”
He brings out a mug—not the type they use to serve the customers with, but a personal one, an electric blue with gilded gold handle and rim—and sets it down in front of her. She doesn’t know what’s in it exactly, but it’s topped with a slightly wonky latte art heart.
“You make latte art for your own coffee?”
“Technically, this is your coffee, not mine.”
“And you just had it sitting there waiting for me to arrive?”
“Every day for the past week, but I kept losing my nerve. I never managed to get the heart right. Not even today, but you look like you need it.” He smiles, and it’s perhaps the first time she’s on the receiving end of a smile of his that isn’t teasing or customer service.
She tries very, very hard to ignore the implications of his words and actions just now, because she has bigger things to worry about, like her broken oven and impending poverty. Instead, she takes a sip of the coffee because she does need it, then nearly spits it out because, “How much sugar is in this?”
Jaime shrugs. “Three pumps? You look like you’re a three-pump syrup kind of girl.”
Brienne sets the mug down and pushes it away from her. “I’m not a syrup kind of girl at all, and I seem to remember you mocking me for being a boring, bitter person when I admitted to it.”
“I remember. But my point with this coffee is that I think,” he pauses, flashing a grin that’s both teasing and sincere, “you’re very sweet.”
As if scalded by the perfectly warm coffee in front of her, Brienne jumps out of the chair. “I have to go.”
“Of course,” Jaime says. “Remind me, where’s your bakery again?”
“Evenstar Bakery, by the Blackwater Bay. Why?”
“Oh, no reason. Just making sure I didn’t misremember it. Good luck on the oven.”
Brienne hovers for a few seconds, not knowing what to say. In the end, she settles with, “Thanks.” Then, she leaves.
Four hours later, at eleven, she bursts into the café again with the rest of the baked goods as promised, charges into a very smug-looking Jaime, and demands, “Did you just buy me an oven?”
“If I say yes, will you finish the coffee I make for you tomorrow?”
Brienne pauses. Turns beet-red. Stammers, “If you don’t put any syrup in it,” drops the boxes on the counter, then hightails out, feeling the heat of Jaime’s toothbrush ad smile on the back of her neck.