The phone startled her so badly that she shot three
feet in the air and dropped the remote once again.
It hit the floor, took a bad bounce, and somehow acti-
vated the volume button. The soft buzz of the snowy
screen turned into a booming shriek that made the
television's speakers vibrate and crackle.
Dropping to her knees, Buffy punched the off button
on the front of the TV, then dove for the phone.
"Hello?" she nearly sang.
"Buffy? Hi, it's Riley Finn. How are you?"
Her heart, which had been soaring with the eagles,
took a sudden turn for mother earth.
"Oh, hi, Riley," she said, forcing herself to remain polite
in the manner her mother had never ceased drilling into
her. "I'm fine. How about you?"
"Fine, too, thanks for asking." He cleared his throat. "I
saw you earlier...you were filling up your car?"
So much for not being noticed.
"Really?" she asked, trying to sound surprised. "Well..what
do you know about that?" Buffy rolled her eyes, disgusted
at how lame she sounded.
On the other end of the line, Riley chuckled. "Actually...it
got me to thinking that it's been a while since we got
together...." His voice trailed off, a clear hint in his tone.
Buffy closed her eyes tight, rubbing her forehead. "Oh, yes,
I guess so." She just was not in the mood for this discussion
at the moment. "Um...I can't really make plans right now,
Riley," she added, shifting from one foot to the other, wishing
she'd let the machine field this call for her. "I'm just so busy."
He sounded disappointed, and she began to feel
guilty. Riley was a good man, one of the few still out
there. He'd always treated her well, and he deserved the
"But," she went on, hoping she was going to be able
to do what had to be done without chickening out. "I did
want to talk to you about...something. Maybe...."
"Well, great," he interrupted, his voice cheering right
up. "How about dinner tonight?"
There was no way she could have dinner with Riley. She
knew that as clearly as she knew her name and address.
Sitting in a restaurant, waiting for the right moment to
bring up the fact that she had no further interest in pursuing
any relationship other than a casually friendly one...the very
thought of it made her stomach tighten in protest.
"Well, dinner won't really work for me," she said quickly. "I
sort of already have plans....but maybe we could meet for
He hesitated, then said, "Sure, all right. Coffee would be
great. I can pick you up and..."
"No," she cut him off. "I'll meet you at the Espresso Pump...if
that's all right?"
"Okay, sure. What time?"
She glanced at the clock, surprised to see that it was nearly
6:30. "An hour?" That would work well for her. She could
get it over and done with, and get home early...just in case
Buffy dressed carefully for her meeting (she refused to
call it a date, and appointment sounded like she was
seeing him for a job interview) with Riley.
She didn't want to give him the impression that she was
trying to attract him by dressing the way she might were
she meeting Spike instead, so she reverted back to old
habits and took the 'prim and proper' approach.
After donning a slim denim skirt and a pale blue
sweater, she applied a light amount of make up and
put up her hair into a neat french braid. She skipped any
sort of fragrance, and the only jewelry she wore was the
silver bracelet watch her mother had given her for her
When she was satisfied with her appearance, she
grabbed her keys, locked up the house, and drove
Parking on the street was scarce, and she drove past
'the Pump' and headed for the public parking garage on
the next block. After grabbing a ticket from the machine,
she swung into the first available space, her tiny car
dwarfed on either side by SUVs designed to transport a
family of at least twelve.
Riley was waiting for her, sitting at one of the outside
tables. He smiled as she walked towards him, rising to
his feet and pulling out the chair next to his.
'Hey, Buffy...you look great." He leaned over to drop a kiss
on her cheek.
"Thanks, Riley," she said quietly, making herself accept
the brief contact. "You, too."
It was a true statement. Riley Finn was a handsome man,
there was no denying it, and most women would probably
think her mad as a March Hare for telling him what she
was here to tell him.
His eyes, a steady, clear gray, looked into hers with frank
admiration as he grinned a little shyly.
Buffy sat down and scooted her chair in, setting her
purse on the ground beside her.
"I waited to order,' Riley said, sitting down himself and
handing her a menu with an extensive list of the various
coffee drinks offered.
But Buffy had no interest in experimenting with exotic
flavors or outlandish concoctions. When the waitress
appeared, she ordered a plain cup of coffee.
With a brief look of surprise, Riley did the same.
"So," he said, after the waitress departed. "You've
Inwardly, Buffy groaned. She also had no interest in
the making of small talk, but the situation required it.
"I have been, yes."
They bantered back and forth for a few minutes, then
Riley gave her the opening she'd been hoping for.
"Look, I was wondering," he said, giving her one of his
guileless grins, "the bank is hosting a charity event. It's
a banquet for MADD...uh...with dancing after," he added
quickly, as though sweetening the deal. "And I'd really enjoy
it if you'd agree to accompany me."
This was all she had to hear. "Thank you for asking..."
She hesitated, and he sat back in his chair. "Why do I get
the feeling I'm about to be shot right out of the sky?" he asked,
his expression registering visible disappointment. "There's
a 'but' coming, isn't there?"
"Well.....yes." The waitress arrived with their coffee, and
Buffy waited until she was gone to continue. "I can't go out
with you, Riley."
"You can't go to the banquet...or not at all?"
"Not at all."
Giving her an appraising look, he took a sip of his
coffee. "Let me guess...there's someone else." It wasn't
"And it's serious?"
"Yes. Very serious."
She felt completely confident that it was. Men
who weren't serious surely didn't drop tantalizing hints
about diamond rings, no matter what her mother had
said about some of them using every trick in the book in
order to "get into a girl's pants."
That argument had no basis in fact. Spike had been into
her pants long before he'd brought up the jewelry angle,
so tricks were hardly necessary.
"Mind if I ask who? I mean...it hasn't been THAT long since
we went out, and you're already serious?"
Buffy detected a definite note of disapproval in Riley's
tone. Forgetting completely that she would have felt the
same way not that long ago, she immediately went on the
"It happened very suddenly, and it's no one you know. He's
Riley's brows arched. "A musician? You mean classical? He's
with an orchestra?"
"No," she shook her head. "Not classical. And he's with a
"Well...what instrument does he play?"
"Guitar," she murmured.
Now he really looked surprised. "The guitar?" he echoed. "You
mean...this is a ROCK band?"
He looked highly amused, which only irritated her. "I don't see
what's so funny about it," she said. "Yes, it's a rock band. He plays
the lead guitar AND he's the lead singer. In fact...it's HIS band."
Riley held up both hands in a 'whoa, slow down' gesture. "Okay,
okay...I didn't mean anything by it."
"Yes, I can see that."
"Buffy..." He reached across the table and took her hand. "I mean
it, I'm sorry. You just never struck me as the 'rock and roll groupie'
It was quite possibly the worst phrase he could have used. Her
head snapped up and she snatched her hand back. "I'm not a
groupie of ANY type," she informed him. "And I don't understand
where you get off making that kind of comment anyway. You
don't know me all THAT well, Riley."
He tried to placate her. "Okay, you're right. I'm sorry...that was
out of line."
She nodded. "Yes, more than a little bit."
"I know. And I AM sorry. Okay?"
He smiled at her, a boyishly charming grin that would make most
women's knees quiver...IF they'd never been on the receiving end
of one of Spike Devlin's smiles.
Appreciating his sincerity, she allowed herself to be mollified. "For-
"Good." He settled back in his chair and picked up his coffee
cup. "So...what's his name, if it's not too nosy a question?"
Buffy hesitated, fairly sure that her answer was going to set off
another display of the 'you've gotta be kidding mes'. "Spike,"
she answered succinctly. "Spike Devlin."
"Spike Devlin?" Riley straightened up in his chair. "From 'Blue
Eyed Devil'? THAT Spike Devlin?"
"You...you've heard of them?" She didn't know why she was
surprised. Half the world had heard of them by now.
"Yeah, of course," he said, nodding. "They're great. I have
their CDs. Did you....you must have met him when they were
at Union Jack's?"
"That's right, I did. " He looked so impressed that, for a moment,
she was certain he was about to ask her if she could get him an
autograph. "A couple of weeks ago, and then I...." She was about
to tell him about her sojourn to San Francisco when his facial
expression suddenly changed.
"I heard a story," he said, his grin widening as he pointed a
finger at her.
She knew what was coming.
"There was this girl there...the first night they played. She was
in the audience...and he actually left the stage to talk to her in
the middle of a song."
Buffy sighed. She'd never hear the end of that particular tale, she
just knew it.
"It was YOU?" Riley went on. "It WAS...wasn't it?"
"Yes, it was me," she told him. "That was the night I met him."
"A couple of my tellers were there that night. Is it true that you
ran out on him?"
It was public knowledge, she could hardly deny it. "All true."
Leaning his elbow on the table, Riley propped his cheek on his
hand. "Come on....you have to tell me about it."
"I most certainly do not."
"Buffy....you're rejecting me for another guy. The least you can
She gave in easily. Telling him about it was easier than arguing
the point, and he HAD been very accepting of her new relation-
ship...even though she suspected that it was more the identity of
the new man in her life that swung the ball in her favor.
Sketching the story out briefly, she omitted the wildly personal
details, finishing up with the arrival of the mysterious videotape.
Riley listened attentively, laughing at the appropriate places.
"That's quite a story," he said, "and I'm really glad for you,
Buffy. Not because of who he is...but because he makes you
She returned his smile, feeling light years better than she had
been a half hour ago. "Thanks, Riley."
He leaned over the table and cupped her chin in his hand,
tilting her face up. "I hope he appreciates how lucky he is,"
he said quietly. "Because you're something special."
She opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by the
sudden sound of a high performance car revving it's
engine at the red light just a few yards from the patio of
the Espresso Pump.
Turning her head to see who was causing the din, she
found herself staring directly into the sapphire gaze of
the 'Blue Eyed Devil' himself.....
.....and he did NOT look happy!