I took on a challenge of writing a short story in just two days. I plan to publish it in Kindle format but wanted to give a little sneak peek of chapter one for my faithful followers. I’d love to hear your comments. To read the rest of the story, stay tuned for the publishing alert. Merry Christmas, everyone!
“This is possibly going to be the second worst Christmas of my life,” I lament, as I gaze in the mirror, picking at the large blemish that appeared overnight on my forehead. I turn and look at my best friend, Janie, who sits on the edge of the bed, a look of irritation on her face.
“I think you’re being a tad overdramatic, as usual,” she says.
“Overdramatic? Easy for you to say. Your life is working out exactly as you planned. Ten bucks Mac does something over the top for you for Christmas. You don’t have to face another holiday alone with your cat,” I say, rolling my eyes to the sky.
“First of all, you’ve been invited to a ton of places so if you choose to sit home having your pity party, that’s your choice. Second, I deserve to be treated well by Mac.”
I lean against the dresser and sigh. “Of course you deserve it.” I run my hands through my thick black hair. “I just meant…well, it must be nice to be in love.”
Janie stands and walks towards me. “It is nice. It will happen for you. But it would help if you would get out of the house more, you know. Hanging out here watching home improvement shows and petting your kitty definitely limits your options. Unless he’s the Fed Ex guy, he isn’t going to ring your doorbell.”
I throw my head back in laughter. “Petting my kitty?”
Janie grins. “Figure of speech.”
“I’ll say.” I turn and glance at my reflection once more. “I’m ready for some adventure. I want to do something exciting.”
“Like what?” Janie asks.
“I don’t know.” I dot the blemish with concealer. “Maybe a trip somewhere. I could write about it.”
“Yea, you could. Is that how you want to spend the holidays?”
I shrug my shoulders. “Why not? That is the one benefit of having zero family- no obligations.”
“I guess that’s true. You could come skiing with us.”
“Thanks, but I’m not interested in being your third wheel. I’m sure Mac wouldn’t love it either. He’s gotta be sick of me by now.”
“He’s not at all sick of you. He likes you a lot and he thinks you’re hysterical.” She leans back on her elbows. “Hey, since we’re on the subject, he has this guy he wants—”
I throw my arms in the air. “A set up? No way! You know how I feel about those. It never works out.”
“That’s an exaggeration, Paloma. Why not be open minded? He just moved here and started working with Mac a month ago. He doesn’t know anyone in Phoenix and he’s really good looking, the David Beckham type.”
“Well then, I’m sure he won’t have any trouble meeting a nice girl,” I say, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Geez, you’re a stubborn one. Is one dinner gonna kill you? You don’t have to marry the guy, you know.”
I know she’s right and I do need to be more open minded if I ever want to meet someone. I also know that I’m getting tired of my solitary writing life. I just need to decide if opening up to potential heartache again outweighs spending the rest of my life alone.
“Listen, Loma, I know you’ve been hurt but unless you want to be alone forever you have to try.”
“Just one dinner? If you don’t like him, then it’s no big deal, right? At least you get a nice meal out of it.” She smiles.
“Okay? Seriously? That’s awesome.”
I run my hands through my hair once more, something I do when I’m uncomfortable. “You’re right, Janie. What else am I gonna do?”
“I’ll call Mac and tell him to set it up.” She grabs her phone. “His name is Jackson.”
I plop down on the bed. Jackson? Can’t imagine calling out that name in the throes of passion. It sounds so… vanilla.
Janie speaks animatedly with Mac, setting up the dinner for tomorrow night. She snaps her phone shut. “All set. Mac will call Jackson today.”
“You don’t know that he’ll say yes.”
“He will. I showed him a picture of you already. He thinks you’re smoking hot. Plus, it’s not every day you get to meet a bestselling author.”
“He’s going to be disappointed when he meets me.”
“Why do you say things like that? You know you’re gorgeous. You did model for five years.”
“I wasn’t talking about what I look like. I come with a lot of baggage.”
“You’re too hard on yourself, Loma. Everyone over the age of twenty comes with baggage.
“Not the kind of baggage I have. I’m like the dark cloud of love.”
Even I can’t hold back my amusement at this comment. I burst into laughter while Janie releases her girlish giggle.
“You’re crazy, girl. I will say it was a little nutso for a couple of years there, but I’d hardly call you a dark cloud. Besides, without all that drama, you wouldn’t have had the material you needed to write The Broken Love Series. Now you’re practically famous.”
I nod my head. “I agree with you on that part. Those books changed my whole life. Of course, now everyone expects another series just like it and I’m stuck. I haven’t written a word in months.”
Janie narrows her eyes at me. “That’s because you need inspiration. Again, you can’t just stay holed up in your house waiting for Prince Charming.”
“You have a point.”
“I know I do. This is a good first step. Regardless of how it turns out, at least you started.”
“Can we move on from my pathetic love life and on to our shopping plans for the day?” I say, and dab some powder over the Mount Fuji on my forehead. “Man, I wish I had some of that goop they used on my zits when I was modeling. That stuff was amazing.”
“I kinda like it that you get zits. It evens the playing field a little bit.” Janie laughs. “If you weren’t so nice and humble, you’d be the girl other women hate.”
“Gee, thanks. I think.”
“You’re welcome.” She stands and tousles her fiery red waves.
“I love your new haircut, by the way. Did Stacy do it for you?”
“Yep. My baby sis is getting pretty good at it. She’s thinking of moving to LA and trying to get a celebrity hairstylist gig. I think she’s good enough.”
“She totally is. She’s the only one who cuts my layers exactly how I like them. It’ll suck for me if she moves.”
“We could go visit every six weeks. You could get your hair done and we can shop.”
“I guess I could do that. I’m still getting used to having all this money.”
“I can only imagine. Rags to riches, that’s you.”
I flashback to my life just one year ago. I could barely pay the rent for my tiny apartment in Scottsdale. With no family to count on, I was close to moving in with Janie. Then inspiration struck and I wrote the racy little book that became an instant bestseller. Amazing.
“Ready to go?” I say, and pick up my handbag.
“I am.” She puts on her jacket. “Did you decide if you are going to buy a house or not?”
“I don’t know. It makes sense but I still don’t know if I want to stay in Arizona. I’m still flirting with the idea of living in Italy. I’d love to learn the language and learn more about my heritage.”
“You’re the only person I know who could pull that off. What about Spain? Your mom’s folks are from there. Maybe there are still some relatives you could meet.”
“Maybe. I just feel more connected to my dad’s homeland for some reason.”
“Makes sense. You were closest to him before the accident.”
I shoot her a look. She knows damn well she isn’t supposed to talk about that.
“Sorry, Loma. It just came out.”
I shake my head, not wanting my thoughts to turn back to that horrible day. I still don’t understand how I was the only survivor. I have nightmares at least once a week.
“Change the subject, Janie.”
We walk briskly to her silver Audi, a birthday gift from her rich fiancé.
“Where do you want to go first?” she asks. “I was thinking we could head over to The Biltmore.”
“Perfect.” I smile. I know she didn’t mean to upset me.
I can’t believe I’m actually going on a date tonight. I can’t even remember the last time. I hope I still remember how to make small talk. I go in my closet to pick out something to wear. Maybe the little black cocktail dress I bought yesterday. I pull it off the hanger and stare at it. I think it will work.
I finish brushing out my hair and putting on my makeup, thankful the biggest zit on the planet is in remission. I decide to keep my look simple. I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard to impress him. After all, he’s the one who should be trying to impress me.
I wish I could’ve convinced Janie to let me meet them at the restaurant. I want my own car in case I want to get away early. She wouldn’t hear of it, of course, so here I wait for them to pick me up.
I pace my living room, my stomach jumbled in knots. Why am I so nervous? It’s not like I’ve never been on a date before. God knows, I’ve been on enough to last a lifetime, it’s just that nothing ever stuck. Only Tristan.
I hear the knock at my door and a wave of adrenaline washes over me. I open it, relieved to see it’s only Janie standing there. She looks awesome in a shiny gold dress.
“Ready?” she asks.
“As much as I’m going to be.” I grab my cashmere wrap.
“You look awesome, Loma. You’re gonna knock him dead.”
I blanch. “I hope not.”
“Sorry. Sometimes I just don’t choose the right words.”
“It’s okay. I know you don’t mean anything by it. You can’t help that I’m so sensitive.”
She throws her arms around my neck and squeezes me tight. “Don’t be nervous. He’s really nice, so just be yourself.”
We walk to the waiting car. Mac rolled out the Lexus SUV tonight. I’m actually not sure how many cars he has. I guess real estate tycoons need toys too.
Janie opens the back door and we both jump in together.
Mac turns around and smiles at me. “Hey, Paloma. How’s it going?” I laugh a little inside every time I hear his strong New York accent.
“Great,” I say, trying to sound calm and self-assured.
“Jackson, this is Paloma,” Mac says, as the man sitting next to him turns around.
I look upon the dazzling specimen of male beauty sitting in front of me. Well, at least Janie wasn’t exaggerating. This guy is hot.
He smiles, filling his face with gorgeous white teeth and succulent lips. His dirty blond hair frames his face nicely and the goatee adds an edgy, bad boy appeal. His eyes match the color of a clear, blue sky. If I’m not mistaken, I think I detect the beginnings of a tattoo peeking out the top of his pressed, white shirt. My thoughts shift quickly to wondering how he looks undressed. Wow.
“Pleased to meet you.” He reaches back to shake my head. “You look lovely.”
I smile and shake his hand. “Thank you.”
All of a sudden, I’m actually looking forward to this evening. We pull up in front of the Ocean Club at Kierland, a place I used to long to eat but it was way out of my price range. Nowadays, I could pay for all of us without thinking twice. Pretty sweet upgrade.
“So,” Jackson twists in his seat to face me. “I hear you’re a bestselling author. I admit I haven’t read your work.” I love his deep, masculine voice. He simply oozes sex appeal.
“I wouldn’t have expected that you had read it. It’s most definitely a chick book.”
“What makes it a chick book?”
“You know, it’s a romance. Women like romances.”
Janie chimes in. “It has a ton of sex in it too. It blew up as soon as it was out. It was exactly what women were waiting to read.”
“Interesting. What’s it about, besides sex?” Jackson asks.
I’m usually confident talking about my writing but I never have to explain it to men. Janie saves me by jumping in again. “It’s about this dominatrix. She seduces this nice
guy who just moved to the big city and basically ruins him. It’s awesome.” She laughs.
I love her enthusiasm for my books.
“Is it based on a true story?” he asks, with a grin on his face that causes my girly bits to tingle.
“I’m afraid not. It’s just the outcome of a very active imagination.” It’s actually my revenge fantasy, but I’ll keep that to myself.
“I find your response even more intriguing,” he says, and turns back in his seat.
Janie nudges me in the side and whispers, “I think he’s into you.”
“He doesn’t even know me,” I whisper back. “He is hot though, I’ll give you that.”
She grins and nods her head as we get out of the car.
I notice right away that Jackson is built like a brick house. His clothes hug his body and I can detect his lean muscles through them.
He walks towards the restaurant door, his hands in his pockets; an elegant and slightly cocky stance to his gait. What a man.
He reaches the door first and holds it open for us, brushing his hand against my lower back as I pass by him. I glance up at him and am greeted with a most seductive smile.
The hostess shows us to our table. I’m expecting Jackson to hold my chair out for me and I’m more than a little surprised when he doesn’t, but then again, Mac doesn’t for Janie either. Maybe that’s an outdated expectation.
Janie looks at me with a look on her face that tells me she knows I’m thinking about Tristan. He always held the chair for me.
“Don’t go there, Loma,” she warns.
“I won’t,” I say, but we both know I already did. Tristan was the gold standard of men. I always forget though, he was a complete ass in every other area. He’s the reason I’m such a mess today.
I sit down quietly, hoping I don’t accidentally play the compare every man to Tristan game all night. I sigh.
“Is something wrong, Paloma?” Jackson asks me.
“No, not at all.” I smile.
Janie rubs my arm. “She’s been on a book tour the last three weeks. I’m sure you’re just a little tired.” She shoots me a look.
“Yep, I’m sure that’s it.”
“That must be very exciting for you. Do you travel often?” he asks.
“Not really. This is my first book tour and I only went to a handful of cities, the ones where I have the majority of fans based.” I explain. “I hear you just moved to Phoenix?”
“Los Angeles. I felt like the real estate market is pretty tapped out there, so I came to the next closest big city. Plus, I knew Mac back in college and we’ve kept in touch.”
“Do you like it here so far?” I ask.
“Yea, it’s similar to the LA lifestyle but not as overbearing. Plenty of beautiful women here, like yourself.” He grins again, that grin that says I’m the one on his menu tonight. I can’t say honestly that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind.
“Janie says you used to model?”
“Yes, just a few years. In high school I fit the profile, tall, thin, and pouty. I got picked up by an agency and modeled in Paris and Milan for a couple of years. That was a long time ago though, I haven’t modeled since I was eighteen.”
“How old are you now?” he asks.
Janie smacks his arm playfully. “Did you really just ask a woman her age?”
“Just curious.” He shrugs. “I’m just very interested in your pretty friend here, Janie.”
He certainly doesn’t hold back his thoughts, does he?
“I’m twenty-seven. I don’t mind telling you.”
“I’m surprised you don’t already have a man,” he says.
“I have very high standards,” I reply, dryly.
“I bet.” He smiles again, melting me with his dazzling teeth.
The server approaches and asks for our orders. Janie orders the lobster and filet, the same thing she always gets. Mac laughs as soon as she orders, causing her to blush.
“Ma’am?” The server asks me.
“I’ll have the rib eye topped with crab and hollandaise.”
“Excellent choice.” He turns to Jackson. “And for you, sir?”
He looks up at me and locks his eyes with mine. “What I want isn’t on the menu.”
“But I’ll have the same as the lady.” He grins at me.
“Certainly, sir.” The server takes our menus and walks away quickly.
Jackson reaches over and softly touches my hand, sending ripples of expectation through me. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since the last time I’ve had sex. Jackson seems like a good reason to end the dry spell.
My eyes shoot over at Janie. She gives me the look of encouragement I need.
“You’re flattering me, Jackson.”
“Call me Jack, and you deserve to be flattered. I’m sure you know this, but you are a very beautiful woman. What is your heritage?”
“I’m half Spanish and half Italian.”
“Ah, that explains your hazel eyes and olive skin. Very striking.”
“Your parents must be so proud that they produced such a beauty,” he says.
I hear Janie suck in her breath. Mac drops the piece of bread he’s eating and I’m sure all the color just drained from my face.
“What did I say wrong?” Jackson asks, noticing everyone’s reaction.
“Um, Jackson, Paloma’s parents died two years ago.”
His face fills with concern. “Jesus, Paloma, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Of course you didn’t. It’s okay. It’s just…hard this time of year, ya know.”
“Yea, of course. What happened?”
Mac takes over. “It was a car accident. Her parents, and her brother and sister, all died on impact. It was awful.”
I lower my head.
“Wow. I’m really sorry. I can’t imagine.”
“I was driving,” I say, softly.
“What? You were with them?” he asks.
I nod my head. “We were driving to Vegas. Another car veered into our lane causing us to go off the road. The car rolled and when it stopped everyone was dead. Except me. I was the one without my seat belt on. I have no idea why I didn’t die too.”
“The police say that Paloma lived because she was thrown from the car. It saved her from the repeated impact.” Janie explains. “They said it was miracle.”
“Some miracle,” I murmur. “I lost my entire family that night.”
“You didn’t lose everyone, Loma. You still have us.” Janie says. She always tries to cheer me up that way.
“Were you hurt?” Jackson asks.
“Yea, I broke a wrist and my leg.” And my heart.
“You don’t have any extended family?” he asks.
“No, my parents immigrated here back in the sixties. It was just us. Now, it’s just me.”
“She had a boyfriend at the time, but the loser couldn’t handle her grief.” Janie says.
I look up at her with a scowl on my face. He does not need to know all of this.
“Can we talk about something else now, please? I don’t want to ruin our dinner with my sad life.”
“Your boyfriend left you while you were dealing with this kind of loss? What kind of a guy does that?” Jackson asks.
“The asshole kind.” Janie says.
“In his defense, I was pretty tragic. I couldn’t even get out of bed for a month.”
Jackson shakes his head. “There is no defense for his behavior. Most people would be devastated by something like that. There is no excuse.”
“I agree. I never thought he was good enough for her.” Mac says. “Then he tried to get her back after she hit it big with the books.”
“Yea, again, can we talk about something else?”
“You didn’t take him back, I hope?” Jackson asks.
“It’s really none of your business,” I say, stuffing sourdough bread in my mouth.
“No, I guess it isn’t. But I’m interested,” he says.
“Good for you. Maybe I’ll write a book about it.”
“Okay, okay. I can see this has taken a negative turn. I apologize.”
I chew my bread silently. See, this is why I don’t go out. I always end up talking about this stuff. Of course I took him back. Over and over again for years. He was the love of my life. At least I thought so.
“Hey,” Jackson says, trying to lighten the mood, “where can I buy your books?”
“At a bookstore.” I say. My mood is officially sour.
He raises his eyebrows at me but says nothing.
Janie shakes her head. I’m pretty sure I just ruined this date.
I stay silent throughout our meal, listening to my three dining companions chat about various topics. Right away, I can tell Jack is a very smart man. Part of me wants to join in but my mood is sullen and I just want to return to the safety of my home, where I can choose my interactions with people.
The server returns with a dessert tray and we all look over the selections. Jackson finally speaks to me.
“Would you like to split the crème brulee, Paloma?”
I do love that dessert. “Sure.” I smile, trying to smooth over my earlier surliness.
He grins. I appreciate his attempt to interact with me again, even though I don’t deserve it. He orders the dessert and leans back in his chair.
“I hope I didn’t make you hate me,” he says.
“Why would I hate you? I’m the one being the jerk.”
“You’re not being a jerk. I hit a nerve and I’m sorry. I hope you’ll give me a second chance?”
“A second chance at what?”
“A date with you. We can start over. I’d like to get to know you.”
“I don’t think you want to do that. I’m pretty messed up.”
“I think you’re interesting, a little mysterious, and definitely beautiful.”
I cock my head at him. Maybe I should give him a chance. What do I have to lose?
The server returns with our desserts; crème brulee for us, and a chocolate mousse cake for Janie and Mac.
“Oh my gosh, this looks incredible,” Janie exclaims.
“I agree,” I say, looking at the luscious strawberries topping the creamy custard.
Jackson digs his spoon in and lifts it up to my mouth. “Take the first bite, Paloma.”
I take the decadent dessert into my mouth, and close my eyes as it dissolves on my tongue. It’s incredible; creamy, sweet, and rich.
“Is it good?” he asks, staring at me.
I nod my head. “Yes, it’s amazing.”
I watch as he takes a bite. “Mmm, I agree.”
We each take turns scooping the creamy goodness into our mouths, silently staring into each other’s eyes. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the sensations flowing through my body.
The server returns with our check and Jackson reaches for it, beating Mac.
“I’d love to pay.”
“No, it’s our treat, Jack,” Mac says.
“I insist. Without your offer, I’d be spending another boring Saturday night at home. I’ve had a great time tonight.” He grins at me.
How could he possibly have had any fun sitting next to the ice princess all night. He must be easy to please.
Jackson pays and we walk back to the car.
“Let’s get in the back, Loma,” Janie says.
“Okay.” I climb in the back with her, ready to girl talk as quietly as we can.
“So, you like him?” she asks.
“I don’t know. He’s hot but I don’t know if I’m ready yet. I was such a jerk at dinner.”
“Yea, you were, but you recovered nicely. At least he gave you another shot.”
“Who knows why.”
“Because, despite your sometimes shitty attitude, you’re an awesome person and anyone who spends time with you can tell. Give the guy, and yourself, some credit.”
“Will you go out with him again if he asks?”
“I suppose. Why not?”
“Yea, why not?”
We pull up to my rented loft apartment. I love living in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, but I hate walking into my oversized space with no one there but my cat and my lonely thoughts.
“Thanks, guys. See you soon.” I say and open my door to get out.
Jackson jumps out of the car. “I’ll walk you to your door, make sure you get in safely.”
I glance back at Janie, who gives me the thumbs up. We walk to the front entrance.
“Thanks for walking me in, Jack. It’s a guarded building though, very safe.” I smile.
“I have an ulterior motive, Paloma. Certainly, you know that?”
“I don’t get it. How can you be interested in me after how I acted at dinner? I think I should warn you, I’m in no position to get involved with someone, physical or otherwise.”
“Your guard is unbelievably high, you know that? I don’t know why you think it’s so odd that I could be attracted to you. If I’m not mistaken, I thought you were attracted to me too. Can’t you just open yourself up to the possibility that there could be something between us?”
I buzz us into the lobby and walk to the elevators. I lean up against the wall behind me.
“I’m more trouble than you think, Jack.”
“Why don’t you let me decide that? Maybe I could use a little trouble in my life.” He grins and I find myself wanting to kiss him. I actually want to kiss him.
“Give me a chance, Paloma. You might like it.”
What else can I say. I have a totally hot guy asking me to give him a chance at dating me. I did say I could use a little adventure in my life.
He leans in close to me, his arms at both sides of my head. “Just a chance, that’s all I’m asking for.”
I nod my head. “Okay, but you’ve been warned.”
“Fair enough. Now, I’d like to kiss you goodnight.”
I lift my chin up to him in affirmation. He lowers his head down until his lips meet mine. His soft lips press gently against mine. His hot tongue sneaks into my mouth, dancing sensuously around mine. I feel his hands slide up the back of my neck, his fingers tangling in my hair. Despite my apprehension, I allow my body to respond, pressing against the hardness of his muscles. My heart feels as though it’s going to beat right out of my chest.
Our kissing slows and Jack pulls back just slightly, his forehead touching mine.
“There’s quite a bit of passion hiding under your guarded demeanor.”
I say nothing, panting softly against the wall.
“You should be kissed, and often.” He grins.
“By you, I suppose?”
“If you’ll let me, then yes. I’d like to be the one.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“No, I don’t. Will you let me get to know you?”
I shift my eyes to the floor.
“Paloma, look at me.” He pulls my chin up. “We can take it slow, as slow as you need. I know you’ve been hurt, I get it. There must be a reason you agreed to go out with me tonight?”
“Janie made me,” I mutter.
“You don’t strike me as someone who does things just because someone else wants you to. Isn’t there a little part of you in there that wanted to? Did you have any fun tonight?”
“I did have fun. I agreed to go out because it’s been…let’s just say it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the company of a man. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen though. I wasn’t expecting to feel attraction.”
“Oh, so you are attracted to me?” His tone teases me.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Nothing about you is obvious.”
We stand staring at each other. My whole body is on fire from his too brief touch. This is a very unexpected feeling.
“I’d like to go out with you again.” He strokes my cheek with the back of his hand.
“Okay,” I say, quietly. I’m at least flattered by his persistence.
He exhales and smiles. “Thank you. I’ll call you soon.”
He leans in again and brushes his lips, ever so tantalizingly, across mine.
“Goodnight,” he says.
I watch as his amazing body walks out the lobby door. I walk into my apartment and for once, feel a little excited.