A soft wind blew off the Mississippi, carrying with it the sounds of the French Quarter, as Raphael and I settled in at a table outside the cafe. Soft lights illuminated the space. The entire cafe smelled of sugar-coated, deep-fried dough. White powdered sugar dusted the ground under the cafe tables. The scent of chicory-flavored lattes filled the air. Outside the cafe, horse-drawn carriages rattled down the street, carting starry-eyed tourists around to see the sights.
"Beignets," the server, who had a soft creole lilt in her voice, said as she set down a red plastic basket overflowing with sweet pastries fried to a honey-gold hue, powdered sugar heaped on top like a mouth-watering mountain of goodness. "And two cafe au laits," she added, dropping off two white coffee mugs before she slipped back to the kitchen.
"Bon appetit," Raphael said, lifting his mug. He set the cup to his mouth then winked at me.
I lifted the coffee and inhaled deeply. The sweet scents of coffee, cream, sugar, and the light scent of chicory wafted off the brew. I took a sip, savoring the flavors. Divine. The slightly nutty taste of the coffee blended perfectly with the sugar and cream.
"Do the locals come here or only the tourists?" I asked.
"Everyone comes to the Quarter for beignets. Bourbon Street, well, that's a different story," he said, setting his coffee down.
If my ears could have fallen in love, they would have. His rich Cajun accent made my knees weak. I'd barely been in the Big Easy for two months, and somehow I'd managed to catch the attention of the best looking guy in my class at Tulane...and, an added bonus, he was a local. When he offered to show me around, how could I say no?
Raphael lifted one of the beignets and took a bite. The powder left a sweet shadow on his lips.
I giggled. "You have a little sugar...."
I tapped my lips.
Raphael leaned in toward me as if he wanted to kiss me. Nervous butterflies filled my stomach. We'd been dating for two weeks. It was time, but I still felt stupidly shy.
I laughed, grabbed my napkin, and wiped his mouth for him, causing him to smile. But I saw the disappointment behind his eyes. Ugh. What was I waiting for?
"Now you," he said, motioning to the basket.
Grabbing the pastry, I leaned over the basket and took a bite. The hot dough was crunchy on the outside but hot and sweet on the inside. The taste of sugar melted in my mouth alongside the buttery flavor of the crispy, sweet, fried dough.
"Oh my god," I whispered. "So good."
Raphael smiled, his eyes fixed on my face. "You have a little sugar..."
Raphael leaned toward me again, setting his hand on my knee. He slid his chair closer to me and gently reached out and touched my chin. "There," he said, looking at my lips.
This time, I didn't resist. He pressed his lips against mine. His mouth was hot and sweet. The taste of the sugar and coffee flavored his kiss, but somehow I imagined he tasted like that anyway. He stroked my cheek as he kissed me, and I started to feel dizzy from the heavenly sensation.
On the street outside, a saxophone player started blowing a sweet melody. Hot wind blew off the Mississippi, catching with it the scent of night-blooming jasmine.
When Raphael finally let me go, I sighed contentedly.
"Sweetest beignet I've ever had," he said, touching my cheek gently.
I shifted my chain and leaned against him, resting my head on his chest. "I think I'm going to love it here," I said, closing my eyes and listening to the sound of Raphael's heart beating alongside the sound dulcet tones of the New Orleans saxophone.