He waved at her on the way out and headed back to his truck. Mai itched to get settled, but he had to grab provisions. Food, water, coffee.
Mai decided to stop in town for a latte. He loved milk and coffee together so much. It was an addiction, but it was the one he had, so he’d take it. There were a metric fuckton of coffee shops in town, but the one that caught his attention had a huge, carved wooden bear standing in front. Steeping Spirit.
He pulled in and parked then wandered into the shop. The smell of coffee and chai hit him, and he breathed deep.
“Oh, I know that face. That’s an ‘I need coffee’ face.”
Oh, lord, that woman was stacked to the ceiling. She wore a little tank top and shortie shorts, and she grinned at him as if he were a wolf’s supper.
The place was adorable, as well—rustic and filled with good smells of pastry and cream and coffee. Every wall was lined with tables, and the center of the place held huge couches and low tables. There were mugs on tiny shelves all along the counter.
“Are those for if I get a coffee for here?” He was curious more than anything, but one cup called to him. The curves of the sides and the odd, almost quirky twist of the handle fascinated him.
“They are. Those don’t leave the shop. Most of them are handmade by a local artist.” She grinned wide. “What can I get you?”
“I think a small latte.” He nodded to the leaf-green cup that really spoke to his gut. “Can I have the green one?”
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry. That’s Ash’s cup. No one uses that one.”
“Ash?” The name brought back a flood of memories from his younger, happier days. He saw a flash of the greenest eyes, a wild mass of hair and a pointed chin. Laughing, singing, dancing in the firelight, tail up and pale in the moon.
She nodded. “He’s a local artist, guide, jack-of-all-trades. Great guy, but that’s his cup.”
“Oh.” His nose quivered, searching for any hint of a familiar scent.
“He made it, dug the clay and everything. He even signed the bottom.”’
Maicoh blinked. “I know it’s gonna sound weird, but can I see the bottom? I won’t touch it.”
“Sure.” She shrugged and winked. “It’s not particularly fragile, honey.”
“Thanks.” He took the cup from her and turned it over in his hands. His heart stopped for a moment at what he saw.
The scribble was familiar as his own breath. The stylized wolf paw had been on every note Ash had ever written, from grade school to goodbye.
Goodbye had been the hardest, no doubt about it. Fucking futile, too, since Mai had been driven out of the pack, too.
“You okay, man? You’re white as a sheet.”
“Yeah. I…yeah. Can I get that latte to go?” Mai handed back the cup, his whole body feeling numb.