The Rocinante might very well be the only biker coffee shop in the country, but it had over time become one of Naomi’s favorite places to spend the day coding.
The space was full of masculine metal lines and gelled seats that molded around your form like it was cushioning you from earths gravity without being mistaken as too soft. The spacious parking in the front had plenty of room for the hogs and gruff riders that naturally found themselves at Holden’s door.
And then there was the coffee. The coffee was to die for.
It might have something to do with the almost obsessive nature Holden had about finding quality beans. He’d developed and fine tuned a system of roasting for each type of bean. He sniffed and ground and sipped and sighed daily.
His partner, Alex, wasn’t much better when it came to the machinery they used. The caresses and soft Texan tones he used when speaking to the espresso machine could only be described as erotic. Whenever one of them started acting up he would coddle it like it was a scorned lover that needed to be won back.
But the best thing, Naomi thought as she entered one last line of code before sitting back to give her aching shoulders and tired eyes a rest, was how quiet it was. There was no need for ambient, alternative rock floating over the speaker system. The people who came into Holden’s came for the coffee, the free WiFi, and the silence.
Naomi stretched her shoulders and took a look around the shop, considering if she wanted to get one of Alex’s brownies while she took some time away from the screen, when she noticed a sturdy man sitting in the far corner with a large simple cup of coffee, staring with mild interest at one of the muted TVs that bordered the top of the walls.
Holden’s, being a coffee shop that somehow had become a haven for lone riders on what was most assuredly the more classed up side of town, was used to being a landing pad to the Starbucks rejects. She’d seen more than her fair share of men who looked like they were built from solid rock, but they never seemed as effortlessly still as this man.
Naomi couldn’t help but give him an extra look over as he stared at the program on the TV. His hair was buzzed, a couple days worth of stubble coating his jaw, and his skin clear except for the light shadow of a bruise along the back of his jaw. But his eyes were bright blue and his eyelashes long. The only thing keeping him from being a pretty sort of man was the shear size of him.
Naomi, having sized up the man and feeling the need for another round of espressos, was convincing herself that one more moment of looking wouldn’t do any harm, when his eyes flickered to hers, almost as if he sensed her gaze. They both sat still in their seats, looking at each other for several moments before he gave her a nod so small she could have imagined it, took a sip of his coffee, and turned his clear eyes back to the news.
Shaking off the feeling of his gaze, she grabbed her card and walked up to the counter where Holden was already putting together another series of espresso shots for her next round of fixing the program she had been commissioned to work on.
“Here you go, Naomi. Anything else?” Holden wiped his hands and smiled his full smile at her, always so happy behind the counter with his beans.
“Yeah, get me one of Alex’s brownies, will you?” Alex, overhearing their conversation, nodded to them as he opened the case to get her order.
“Hey, Holden?” She brought her voice down to almost a whisper and leaned over the counter before he could walk away. He raised an eyebrow in curiosity. “You know that guy over there?”
He looked as she nodded over her shoulder in the mans direction.
“Amos? What about him?” His back straightened and his face took on a serious quality. “Is he bothering you?”
A lot could be said about Holden, and lots had been said about him, but one thing was for sure: If Jim Holden considered you one of his family, he protected you at all cost. It was endearing, if at times a little too much.
“Na,” she smiled, thanking Alex for the brownie placed in front of her. “Just curious.”
It was almost closing and as much as Naomi wishes she could spend all night in her little corner working, she knew that if she didn’t get home soon and onto regular coffee, the temptation to keep knocking back espressos would win over her desire to get any kind of sleep tonight.
Programming and espresso were all good and wonderful until your coding started to suffer from your lack of sleep and you spent the next day correcting mistakes.
As she slipped her laptop into her bag and started bundling her things together, the sound of an overly loud motorcycle pulling up in front caught the attention of everyone in the shop.
“Kaka,” she swore. The face revealed by the black helmet was one she could have gone without.
From the corner of her eye should could make out the man–Amos–as he stood from the chair he had been occupying for the last several hours. He looked calm, but something, just underneath the surface, screamed of someone coiling themselves, ready to spring the moment it was needed. Naomi had seen few people who could prepare themselves without tipping off everyone in the room, much less who tried to hide their actions. Most were more bark than bite, too eager to show the world what they were made of.
The door opened and Cyn walked in, big smile on his face as his eyes landed on her, bag packed and in hand.
“Hoy, copeng!” He sidled up to her table and sat down, arms spread out on the chairs around him, legs spread. The picture of ease. “Thought I might find you here. Spending a little time with your Inyalowdas.” His eyes swept over the room, taking in everyone in the room and apparently satisfied with his ability to catch her unaware.
“What do you want?” Naomi stayed standing, unwilling to give him the time he obviously needed.
“What? Can’t a coyo say hello for no reason?” He shrugged his shoulders.
“Ji-ral. I know what you’re here for and you’re not getting it. Now you can go crawling back to Marco and tell him to keep to our deal and don’t let da bap hit you on the way out.”
She tightened her grip on her bag and made for the door, but Cyn stood, his hand on her arm holding her back, making her lose her grip on her bag. She winced as it hit the floor, hoping the laptop wasn’t broken beyond repair. She could feel Cyn’s breath on her neck, close enough that the moist air felt sticky and sick.
“Marco don’t like your deal anymore. Says he needs the code to shut down that back door you built into our project, and to do what’s needed to get it.” His hand tightened painfully on her arm. She’d have a nice set of bruises tomorrow.
“Dzhemang,” she spat at him. He laughed as he let her go, swinging back his arm, ready to strike.
In that moment Naomi could see Amos take a step forward, ready to step in, but she was faster, her arm flying through the air and landing squarely against Cyn’s nose.
He staggered back, clutching his nose in pain, as she rounded and planted her boot squarely between his legs. He howled in pain and sank to the floor with a howl. She bent over his form, not an ounce of guilt felt over his bloody nose.
“You don’t get to touch me without my permission, sasa ke?”
Amos walked passed her and to Cyn as the boy bled and swore, grabbing him by the scruff of his collar. “Want me to take this outside for you?”
Naomi almost laughed at the neutral look on his face, like putting battered people on the sidewalk with the trash were an everyday occurrence.
“Can’t have him bloodying up Holden’s floor.”
Amos smiled and she felt her cheeks heat at the appearance of dimples in his cheeks. She couldn’t help but smile back.
She waved to Alex and Holden as she exited the shop behind Amos and a still whimpering Cyn.
“So….” Amos turned to face her and grinned, mouth tilting to one side.
“Why didn’t you step in,” Naomi asked bluntly, curious. “I know you were ready to. What stopped you?”
Amos turned his blue eyes on her, giving her a quick look over that didn’t feel of the leering she sometimes got. “Looked like you could handle yourself. Wasn’t wrong.”
Naomi stared as he turned and walked down the sidewalk to a bike that was all well cared for chrome and leather, a bulging canvas saddlebag strapped across the back, smeared with grease.
“See you around,” She called to him before making her way to her own bike, a small smile on her face.
“Looking forward to it, Boss.” He smiled broadly, dimples appearing once again, as he started his bike and pulled away.
So am I.