“There he is again.” Katie ducked behind the cash register and pointed toward the open area of the coffee shop.
Elsie stood on tiptoe. “Who?”
“That guy I told you about who has been in here every night for the past five nights. Every time I look over there, he’s looking at me.” Not that Katie was opposed to the looks, but there was something about this particular guy that made her insides quake, like she’d never seen a good-looking man before.
Giving up on the pretense of glancing, Elsie opted to stare. “He’s cute. What’s the problem?”
“I think he wants to ask me out.” The thought had her hands trembling, and her mouth going dry.
“And that would be a bad thing, why? Mocha Latte small!” Ella called out to the woman waiting with the baby carriage. “Have a good day.”
“I’ve just come out of one relationship. I don’t want to go straight into another one.” That wasn’t entirely honest. She didn’t just come out of the relationship. She and Justin had been over for almost eight months now.
Elsie snorted. “Yeah, cause eight months is like yesterday, right? You and he were over a long time before you broke things off with him.” Her eyes lit up. “Why don’t you go ask Mr. Handsome if he wants to ask you out?”
Heat rushed up Katie’s neck. “What? No way. I can’t do that.” For one, even the thought embarrassed her.
“Fine. I’ll do it for you.” Elsie started toward the swinging door that separated the back of the counter from the front of the shop, but Katie hurried after her and caught her arm.
“No. Don’t. He’s looking again.”
“Then go ask him. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Katie imagined all sorts of things. Still, the guy continued to look at her, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a crooked grin. She turned her back on her him and adjusted her hair out of his line of sight. “I’ll just go over and see if he needs a coffee refill.”
“We don’t offer free refills.” Elise wore a smirk.
“Today we do.” Clutching the coffee carafe for courage, she slipped out from behind the counter and marched, well, shuffled, toward the man’s table.
Seated in the far corner of the shop, he had a laptop in front of him, a briefcase on the floor, and a tablet to his right. He looked all business, and her stomach knotted. What if she was wrong?
“Would you like a refill?” Her voice squeaked.
He looked up, giving her a full view of beautiful, blue eyes. Sliding his cup closer, he smiled again. “Sure.”
She poured the fresh coffee carefully. “Listen, I know this might sound strange, but I’ve been seeing you in here a lot this week.”
Now he studied her like she was a prize science project. “I like to work here. The atmosphere’s good.”
“Oh. I thought there might be another reason.”
“Like?” She had his full attention.
Great. Perfect. She’d made a fool out of herself. “Never mind. Enjoy your coffee.” She turned and began a quick hustle back to the safety of the barista station.
“Hey,” he called out to her, stopping her in her tracks. She didn’t look back but heard his chair scrape against the tile. “You thought I wanted to ask you out?”
Could her humiliation get any greater? “I said never mind.” Now she picked up speed and made it behind the counter. A part of her wanted to duck into the stock room, but only she and Elsie were manning the front so she couldn’t hide.
He walked up to the counter next to the register and laid a dollar and some change next to it. “That’s for the extra coffee since I know it’s not free.”
“Thanks. Fine. Thanks.” Katie wanted him to go. As fast as he could.
“You weren’t wrong.”
Her hands stilled on the jug of milk. “What?” From the corner of her eyes, she saw Elsie’s huge grin, but all she could focus on was the man’s beautiful smile.
“Been a while, and I’m out of practice.”
“Me, too.” Katie slid the money off the counter. “So you do want to ask me out?”
“Well, yeah.” He scratched the back of his neck. “Because honestly, the coffee here sucks. So what do you say?”
“I’d say it would be nice to know your name first.”
“Benjamin. Ben for short.”
Katie untied her apron. “I’m off in ten minutes.”
A slow grin spread across his face. “Then how about we go get some better coffee?”
Beth sifted through the layers of lace inside her grandmother’s woven basket. Each touch brought back memories of sitting at her knee while Grandma told her stories of queens and kings who lived happily ever after. What Beth wouldn’t give to hear her sweet, melodic voice again.
Her fingernail caught the edge of a piece of paper, and she dug into the lace to retrieve an envelope that bore her name. Her grandmother’s familiar handwriting tugged at her heart, and she held the note close to her chest before withdrawing a lilac-scented piece of stationery.
Beth, this lace is yours. I hope you will use it for the wedding dress of your dreams. Love, Grandma.
“Grandma, you always were trying to get me married.” Beth swiped away tears before tucking the note beneath her leg. “If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.” She returned her attention to the basket in search of the delicate, blue lace her mother wanted. Instead, her fingers encountered another envelope—a note addressed to Lucas.
Beth’s heart quivered. Lucas Bryant. She’d spent most of her high-school years pining over him, hoping he’d start to feel something for her. They’d shared one dance at the prom, and he’d given her a gentle kiss on the cheek before wishing her a good night.
After graduation, she’d given up, but she’d never forgotten him. How could she when he lived right next door to her grandmother? Every time she came to town, she saw him. And now, her grandmother wanted her to see him again. She could put the letter in the mail. Or she could walk next door and give it to him like an adult.
“He would have asked me out by now, Grandma. I don’t know why you never could accept that we weren’t meant to be.” Reluctance in every move, she got to her feet.
The cool, fall air caressed her face as she crossed the grass to Lucas’ house. He opened the door on the first knock, an uncertain smile on his face.
“Hi, Beth. Didn’t think you were still here. Come on in.”
“It’s taking longer than I thought to clean out grandma’s house.” A lump formed in her throat.
He put aside the hammer he’d been holding and waved her toward the kitchen. “You look like you could use a cup of coffee.”
What she didn’t need was to be closer to him. “No, I-I can’t stay. I just found this in Grandma’s lace basket and wanted to bring it to you.”
Lucas’ brown-eyed gaze settled on the front of the envelope. “Mattie always did like to hide things in that basket.” He took out the note, and Beth watched as he read the cursive lines.
Even as curious as she was, she couldn’t ask him what her grandmother had written. “She left me one, too. Told me she wanted me to have her basket of lace. She hoped I’d make the dress of my dreams.”
“Well, this makes a little more sense then.” He held the note open with two fingers so Beth could read it.
Lucas, Beth has the lace. Now all she needs is a reason to make the dress.
Tears, a combination of embarrassment and grief, rolled down Beth’s cheeks. “I’m so sorry. Grandma was always a romantic at heart.”
He cleared his throat and looked down at the ground. “There’s more to it than that.”
“What do you mean?”
His gaze stayed on his boots while his hands folded the envelope into a tiny square. “Mattie knew that I…”
After a long pause, she prompted him. “That you what?” She caught a fleeting glance at his face before his gaze dropped again.
“This isn’t the right time, Beth.”
Her heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t be trying to tell her…no, it was impossible. “We’ll be putting Grandma’s house on the market soon.” She hoped the words didn’t sound like a push.
“What?” His gaze lifted. “I didn’t think you’d sell the house.”
“I can’t live in it. It has too many memories. As soon as I get it cleaned out, I’ll be going back to Asheville.”
“Then you won’t have a reason to come back to Brevard, I guess. And here I was thinking I was doing the right thing by waiting.” He sighed. “It’s never easy to know when it’s too soon.”
She placed a hand against his chest, and his heart raced beneath her palm. “Lucas, what is it?”
He blew out a breath and curled his fingers around hers. “Mattie knew I had feelings for you.”
She wanted to melt into him. “What? After all these years…you never said anything.”
“I know. I wanted to, planned to, but you left right after high school. Then you were dating that guy.”
“I’m not dating him anymore.”
His gaze lifted and connected with hers. “My parents wanted me to focus on education.”
“And you did what they wanted you to do. I always wondered why I never saw you with someone in school.”
A small smile curved his lips. “Dad wasn’t well.” He stopped and looked down, his silence reminding Beth of his father’s passing almost immediately after graduation.
“I’m sorry. I know it still hurts.” She took a step closer to him, offering silent comfort.
“It does. I wasn’t myself for a long time after he passed. It took me some time to get back on my feet. By then, you were dating someone. I figured I’d lost my chance.” Their gazes connected. “I’m better at swinging a hammer than I am at talking about things like this. So if it’s too late…”
“It’s not.” She took his hand in hers. “There’s plenty of time.”
“When do you have to go back to Asheville?” He captured her other hand and threaded his fingers through hers.
“I’m a freelance artist, remember? I can make my own schedule.”
Hope lit up his eyes. “So you can stay for a while?”
“I think it’s going to take me longer to clean out grandma’s house than I originally planned.” She gave him an impish smile. Inside, she wanted to dance across the lawn, but outwardly, she remained composed, a lady as her grandmother would have wanted.
“Well,” he brushed a tendril of hair away from her cheek, “maybe you can make some time for dinner.”
“I think that’s possible.”
“Yeah?” He tipped her face up with two fingers underneath her chin. “I’ve been waiting a long time to kiss you, Beth Harrister, but I’m going to wait a little longer.”
Disappointment flowed through her veins. “Why?”
“Because once I start, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop.” His lips touched her forehead.
Her breath stalled in her throat. “Dinner then? Tonight?”
She took a step back from him, reluctance in every move. Their gazes held as she moved away from him, down the steps, and out onto the vibrant, green grass.
Back inside the house, she knelt at her grandmother’s basket. “Thank you, Grandma. Thank you for never
giving up on anything…especially us.”
I have a contemporary romance Christmas novella releasing in November, and I'm excited to share my cover with you! Look for some excerpts in the next few months! This is less than 20,000 words so an easy read for an afternoon!
The hurricane had finally passed. Kate stuck her head out the window and sniffed the air. It didn’t have that wonderful after the rain scent. She wrinkled her nose and looked over her shoulder at her cocker spaniel. “I bet you need to go out, don’t you, boy?”
Gus barked in response, and she gathered his leash, her legs still trembling a little. Okay, a lot. She’d just weathered her first hurricane since her move to the east coast, and she could guarantee it would be her last. Next time, she’d evacuate.
Tenants came streaming from their apartments, shouting questions to their neighbors. Kate had only moved in only two weeks ago and with her job and studying, she hadn’t had time to get to know anyone.
“Come on, buddy.” She guided Gus down the steps and into the grass. Thundering footsteps had her shrinking back against the brick wall. Three men ran past her, all muscled and tanned.
“Are you okay?” A deep voice pulled her head to the right. “You look a little shaky. First hurricane?”
Kate nodded. “And last.”
He smiled, his warm, brown eyes offering reassurance. “This one wasn’t too bad. Category two, but they can still do a lot of damage. Is your apartment okay?”
“Fortunately. The ones on the end didn’t fair so well.” She ran a hand through her hair, wincing at the tangles. She’d spent the last two hours buried in a bathtub with Gus in her lap. He was a wiggler when he was scared, and her hair had taken the brunt of his anxiety.
“Yeah, I know. I’m in an end unit.” He lifted a muscled shoulder in a half-hearted shrug before sticking out one hand. “I’m Matt.”
“Kate.” Her hand felt so small in his. Suddenly self-conscious, she tugged her hand free and clasped Gus’s leash close. “Any idea how long it will take the power to get restored?”
Matt rubbed the back of his neck. “A lot of that depends upon what caused the outage. If power lines are down, it could be a while. And if your guy is anything like mine, he probably doesn’t care for the dark.”
Kate’s gaze met his again. “What kind of dog do you have?”
“Golden Lab. He hates storms so much I took him to my grandparents when I knew this one was definitely going to hit. They have a generator.”
“You stayed on purpose?” She couldn’t keep the surprise from her voice. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be insulting, but I stayed because I really didn’t know any better.” She clapped a hand over her mouth and winced. “I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”
He laughed, making her relax a little. “It’s okay. Yeah, I stayed. My sister’s a doctor, and she’s stuck at the hospital. And I wasn’t leaving town without her. Listen,” he thumbed over his shoulder, “a bunch of us are going to the pool to cook out if you’d like to join us.”
“No, I’d better not. I have to get back to study as long as I can while there’s still light.”
“Oh.” Matt took a step back. “You’re still in college.”
“Med school.” She corrected his assumption she was a co-ed.
He studied her for a second before realization dawned on his face. “Wait a second. Do you live in 301?”
How did he know where she lived? “Why?”
“Because a med student called the police on me last Saturday.”
“You were the one having the party? The noise level was through the roof.”
“Yeah, it was my grandmother’s 85th birthday party. She did get a little wild.”
Heat climbed up the back of her neck. “It was your grandmother’s party?”
He nodded, a big smile on his face.
She grimaced. “Okay, so maybe I’m a little sensitive to noise right now.”
“You don’t say?” He shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I remember when my sister was still in school. We could drop a cotton ball on the floor, and she’d complain.”
“And I can really understand why. Just when I think I have things memorized, my mind goes blank.”
“I’d be happy to help you study…since I can’t have any loud parties now.”
The teasing in his voice erased her embarrassment. “Okay, you’ve made your point.” Gus whined and tugged on the leash. Reluctantly, Kate began walking. “I’d better take him.”
“Right. So how about that help?”
“You were serious?”
“How do you think my sister passed?”
“Got any extra candles?”
He fell into step beside her. “I think I can scare up one or two.”
“Hope you like anatomy.” The second the words left her mouth, she burst out laughing. “I mean…”
“I know what you mean, and I do. Very much.”
Over the last several nights, I've been on a movie binge. I do this several times a month when I need a break from the series that I binge or I'm in between series. So this past week, I watched movies I wanted to go to the theater to see but never found the time to do it. You may feel differently about these movies than I did, but here we go!
The love story between Hazel Grace and Augustus is captivating, heartbreaking, and poignant. Two teenagers who've both faced or are facing cancer battles find something unique in one another that draws them together.
If you're looking for an emotional movie, Based on the bestselling novel by John Green, The Fault in Our Stars doesn't disappoint. You'll laugh, cry, and rage against the inequality of life. But you won't stop watching. At least, I couldn't. It was a truly memorable movie, although, I'm not sure it's one I could watch more than once. Watch it and see for yourself!
Imagine falling in love with someone you can't touch. In fact, you have to stay at least five feet apart from them or you both could die. That's what Stella and Will endure. Two cystic fibrosis patients in the same hospital, they meet, fall in love, and share a beautiful love story that is both heart wrenching and inspiring.
Five Feet Apart is more than just about love. It's about sacrifice, challenges, and living your best life despite them. Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson are both strong-willed, determined (about different things), and ready for different lives they can never have.
This movie stayed with me long after it was finished. I'm not sure I'll watch it again, but then, I won't have to because I'll never forget it.
I'm still on a binge and am looking forward to two more movies this week that I've been wanting to see. What about you? What movies have you binged? What are your favorites?
As we're all still adjusting to the changes in our everyday lives, I've been thinking more and more about the people who have helped get me through the most difficult parts of this lock down—my friends. I'm fortunate in that I have those friends who are there regardless of the time of day, regardless of what's going on in their lives. They're just there. I hope I am as good of a friend. I know I try to be.
I heard this song by The Script for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and the lyrics really hit home because it's as if they were speaking directly from me to my friends.
I've got friends that will run through walls
I've got friends that will fly once called
When I've nowhere left to go
And I need my heroes
I've got friends that will run through walls
Do you have friends like this? I hope so because everyone needs someone. I'm blessed to have more than one someone, friends that I consider my heroes.
I know we're all in the midst of this crisis, that we're trapped inside our houses for a large portion of the day, and we can't see our family and friends. So tempers can get short and tensions can run high. The walls are closing in, and you just want to be out and about among people again. I get it. That's definitely me, which is why I started forcing myself to have fun at home.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Having to force yourself to have fun? But I'm so work-focused that usually my time at home is spent working. Time outside my house is what I consider fun time. But now that I can't go out as much, I'm challenging myself to do other things, things I used to do a lot more and some I've never done before.
I've gone back to working on jigsaw puzzles, which I used to do a lot more. I just finished one two nights ago, and I'm already jumped into another one. Sometimes, I listen to music or a talk while I'm working on them. It's very relaxing.
I'm getting into plants. This is a new one on me. I've never cared for taking care of plants, gardening, or any of that, but a plant I had gotten in 1997 was dying, and I freaked out. It has a special meaning to me so I called a friend, and she talked me through how to help it. Next thing you know, I'm online looking for other plants (that are kitty-safe) and ready to buy gardening supplies and planters so I can fill up my patio with pretty flowers!
I'm video-chatting so much! Never really cared for this before, but since that's the only option, I've gotten used to it. I can show my friends what I'm doing and vice versa, and I'm actually starting to prefer it over just talking on the phone.
I'm reading autobiographies and behind-the-scenes books. Love them! I'm a big Star Trek fan so I'm reading books by the actors. I have a list of other books that I'm looking forward to reading as well. It's so relaxing to curl up with one before bedtime and dive into someone else's life!
I'm creating so many graphics for my social media out of photos I take while I'm out for my daily walk. That's another thing that I've started since lockdown. I started a walking program around my neighborhood, and I take pictures and videos while I'm out and about. I live in a gorgeous neighborhood with fountains, lush grass, geese, beautiful trees and foliage, and even an occasional alligator. It's fun to see what new things I can find on each walk!
And I'm also rewatching classic comedies like The Golden Girls and The Nanny and diving back into some 1980s shows I haven't seen in forever like Cagney & Lacey, T.J. Hooker, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King. I turned eighteen in 1986 so these shows are a part of my childhood, and I'm enjoying reliving them!
That's just a few of the things that I'm doing so I can shut off work mode for a while. What are you doing? Have you started a new hobby or project since the stay at home orders? I'd love to hear about them!
The world is in turmoil right now, and it's easy to get caught up in watching the news 24/7 and let everything else pass you by. But focusing on goals helps keep me productive, and i don't go stir-crazy! I'm also limiting my social media time, especially Facebook, as too much negativity can dull any progress.
Along with the above, I also wrote thirteen posts for Hidden Remote and began working on a pitch deck for a movie. If you aren't familiar with what those are (as I wasn't until my agent filled me in), you can find out more here. Yesterday, I finished the pitch deck and had another article accepted so I'm right on track for my goals for this year.
I've found that keeping track of my goals like this keeps me accountable. Years and years ago, I had a goal of writing every day. To date, I have kept up with that goal. It's easier now because I'm in the habit of writing every day.
So what you doing to work toward your goals?
My website has changed a lot, mainly because my writing focus is shifting. While writing novels will always be my first love, I have been writing more essays, articles, and guest posts, and recently, I became a contributor for Hidden Remote, which is an entertainment website devoted to television and movie news and insights.
So what does this mean for future books? I'm still writing, but, lately, I've felt drawn to more nonfiction than I have fiction, although I am writing flash fiction and short stories. So while I'll still be working on books, I'll do so more slowly. It's kind of nice not feeling like I'm in a hurry to finish a novel. The only deadlines I have are for the publications I'm doing freelance writing for. And those seem to come more easily to me.
Again, writing novels will always be my first love, but I don't feel the muse as strongly as I used to. Maybe after focusing more on nonfiction for a while, I'll be drawn back to fiction. In the meantime, I hope you'll find something you like in the articles and essays I write. Many of them coming up are human interest stories which are really close to my heart.
This doesn't change how I'll post to my blog. I'll still participate in blogging challenges, keep you updated on what's going on in my writing life and my regular life, and throw in an opinion here or there. But I'll also be sharing links to new creations as soon as they go live on the internet so you'll have more of me to read, in a manner of speaking. I hope you'll continue to follow along!
As the world grows angrier and angrier, and people fight over the smallest of things, this is a reminder that we all need. We don't know what anyone is going through, and it doesn't take an effort to simply be kind.
My thoughts, experiences, challenges, and goals. Right here. At least once a week or so. Oh, and opinions, too. Those will definitely come in. Join me!