Chance had the limo wait while he rode the elevator up to Freddie’s third-floor apartment. The building, a post-second world war brick edifice had seen some wear on the outside, but the interior was well-maintained and clean. No doorman stood duty so he located the apartment buzzer next to the name Poole, as she’d instructed, and once bid entry, found the single elevator.
The apartment door opposite the elevator opened as soon as he alighted from it.
“You must be Chance,” a woman he knew without a doubt was Freddie’s mother said. “I’m, Annika, Fredrika’s mother. She’s running a little late and asked me to greet you. Come in, come in.”
The apartment ran true to the original design. Railroad track rooms, one after the other off a long, spacious hallway. Hardwood floors that had seen many feet trample over them were, surprisingly, shiny, the wood glowing brightly. Photographs lined the hallway walls from one end to the other. He recognized a teenaged Freddie with her arm slung around a sullen, younger Lindsey.
“Well, look who it is. Mr. French Roast and a corn muffin.”
Chance grinned at the teen as she sashayed into the wide living room Annika had led him to. At her side she held the hand of a small girl with red hair mimicking her mother’s and grandmother’s and startling blue eyes now wide with interest as they perused him from head to toe.
“You’re tall,” she told him. “I’m Dawn. I’m five.”
He crouched down in front of her and held out his hand. “How do you do, Dawn? I’m Chance. I’m thirty-nine.”
She glanced at his hand, but didn’t shake it, instead declaring, “You’re old.”
“I know,” he said, rising and sighing theatrically. A tiny tug pulled on his lips. “Some days it’s a wonder I can get out of bed.”
“Mommy says you’re taking her to a party.”
“And that I can’t come ‘cuz it’s a grown-up party. That’s not fair.”
“Life’s not fair, peanut,” Lindsey said as she lifted the child in her arms. “Get used to it while you’re young.”
“Lindsey Marie, the things you say.” Annika shook her head. To him, she said, “Fredrika will be right out. She got involved with something and lost track of the time. Would you like something to drink? We have water or I can offer you beer.”
“He drinks coffee, ma,” Lindsey said. “Buckets of it.” She rolled her eyes as she plopped down on the couch with Dawn still in her arms. The child giggled as they bounced.
“I’m fine, thanks,” he said.
“So, Fredrika tells me you’re a lawyer.”
“I think I would have made a good lawyer,” she said, nodding, a smile tripping across her face. “I like a good argument.”
From the couch, he heard a muffled, “No lie,” and clamped down on the laugh that threatened to seep from him.
“Okay, I’m ready. Sorry.”
He turned and simply lost his breath.
Gone was the ponytailed, overall-wearing, sneaker-shod barista he’d come to know. A vision in deep green had taken her over.
The simple, short-sleeved dress fell from her shoulders to cascade in a simple line to her waist, then flared out to billow just below her knees. Since he’d only ever seen her hair pulled up and back, high on her head, he was shocked at how long it was hanging free and loose about her in a tumble of waves. She’d gone simple on her makeup but managed to look fresh and utterly alluring. A tiny-heeled shoe completed the outfit.
She’d never looked less like someone named Freddie.
“You look lovely,” he said, finally finding his tongue.