When I was in junior high, I discovered Mary Stewart’s books. And I LOVED THEM! I loved the mystery tinged with romance, the hint of magic, and the dreamy locales! When I first started writing, I wanted to be a Mary Stewart, but I quickly learned it’s hard to write with any authenticity about places I don’t know well. Although, I do love to travel, and I’ve been to lot of places, unless I was really paying attention it’s hard to paint a proper picture of a place. Still, I thought I’d give it a go with my latest work in progress, an untitled novella that will be published in the Authors of Main Street summer box set. So, although the beginning of this story begins in soggy Seattle, it quickly heads to South America where things really heat up.
If you’re writing or reading an international romance, please leave us a teaser in the comments. Be sure to leave a buy link!
Also, if any kindhearted person has a title suggestion, I’m open.
In a hazy room filled with flashing lights, throbbing music, and hundreds of beautiful people, Adrienne felt like a mallard surrounded by swans. And she longed for a peaceful bit of swamp. A woman in a silvery dress resembling plastic wrap pushed past her, leaving behind a stench of perfume. Adrienne sought out a corner where she’d be less likely to be touched or bumped into, but the best refuge she could find was a bar stool. She hiked herself onto it and checked her watch. Was it too early to go home? Meanwhile, a man wearing a floral shirt brushed up against Adrienne and sloshed his drink on her.
“Oh, clumsy me,” he said, “So sorry!” After setting his drink on a nearby table and grabbing a handful of napkins, he patted her down.
Adrienne shied away from the man with his lingering fingers and over-powering cologne. Silently she cursed Sebastian because somehow this was all his fault—even though he wasn’t here. She didn’t know where he was. And she didn’t know why she was here at this awful party. She slid off the barstool and weaved through the laughing and smiling guests, making her way to the restroom.
Stephanie snagged her wrist. “You’re not escaping.”
“This was a bad idea,” Adrienne told her. She pulled her wet blouse away from her skin and the warm scent of wine wafted over her.
“And you think moping at home is a better one?”
Adrienne’s phone buzzed. She scrambled to open her sequin clutch bag.
“Huh-uh.” Stephanie snatched the purse. “No! He doesn’t get to talk to you.”
“How do you know it’s him?”
“I don’t.” Stephanie turned her voice into a purr. “Come on, sweetie, have some fun. You don’t need him.”
Adrienne blinked back tears. “He’s my husband.”
“But he hasn’t acted like it in months…maybe even years.” Stephanie opened the purse and sighed when she checked the phone.
“It was him, wasn’t it?”
Stephanie handed the purse back to Adrienne and slipped her arm around Adrienne’s waist and tried to urge her back into the thick of the crowd. “Let me introduce you to my friend Geoff. He’s an artist, too.”
“No, video games.”
Images of bloody computer graphics flashed in Adrienne’s mind. A creature carrying an automatic weapon crashed into the room and began firing. Blood spurted. People screamed. Adrienne shook the visual from her mind. “I have to go,” she said. “I really need to talk to Sebastian.”
After thanking the hostess and following her direction to the room where the coats had been gathered, Adrienne stepped into the bedroom, closed the door, leaned against it and battled tears. She took a deep breath and a glance at the coats and jackets heaped on the bed. Ninety percent of them were black—like hers. But wait, why was there a shoe amid the jackets? Two shoes. No, four shoes.
Oh dear, what was that couple doing on the bed, buried beneath the coats? And how would Adrienne ever extract hers without interrupting? She quickly left, sans coat.
Outside, away from the party’s crush of noise and people, Adrienne breathed a little easier. The misty air blurred the headlights of the cars splashing down the black and shiny roads. Reflections of the store’s neon advertisements glistened on the slick sidewalk. The cold damp penetrated Adrienne’s blouse and the mean breeze twirled around her legs. Why had she let Stephanie talk her into going to a party full of strangers? Because it was better than spending another evening alone.
On the drive home, Adrienne tried to rehearse all the things she needed to say to Sebastian, but instead, she choked on all of her tears.
Nick stared in horror at the computer screen. “How did this happen?” His voice, usually so deep and melodic, came out in a whisper.
“Come on,” Steph elbowed him, “you have to admit this is amazing for business!”
Nick pulled his gaze away from the YouTube channel to give his cousin/assistant what he hoped was a terrifying glare. She was like a sister to him. He had backed her when her parents had thrown a fit about her purple hair and multiple piercings. He had chased off her loser boyfriend. He loved her and thought the feeling mutual, but all of those warm fuzzy feelings were evaporating as he watched himself singing on the internet and realized she was the one to blame.
Steph grinned back at him, wiped her hands on her apron, and pointed her chin at the line snaking around the counter of the Taberna de Música. “They don’t just come here for coffee, you know.” She patted his shoulder and practically skipped out of the office.
He watched her join Jon behind the counter and say something to the guy next in line who threw back his head and laughed.
Nick had to remind himself that they weren’t laughing at him, were they? He glanced at the computer. According to the page views, so far about a thousand people had watched the video of him singing at his cousin’s Pedro’s wedding. There had to be millions of amateur videos of people singing at weddings—why would a thousand people choose to watch him? Of course, it didn’t help that his cousin’s bulldog, Lester, dressed in a tux, and gave Nick his rapt attention, his big head swinging in time with the music. How had Nick not noticed that at the time? He replayed the video, curious about what else he’d missed.
Jon strode into the office. “Are you still obsessing over that?”
Nick shook his head, closed the laptop with a sharp click, and pushed away from the desk. “Nah.”
“I don’t know why you want to hide your talent beneath a bushel.” Jon was studying to become a youth pastor and liked to spout Biblical phrases. “You have a gift. You have to let it shine.”
Nick interrupted before Jon could start singing, This Little Light of Mine. “No, I don’t. What I have to do is keep this shop afloat.” Nick thought about going out and wiping down tables—his standard go-to when his accounts were all caught up—but the fear that some of the guests had seen the video froze him. He paced across the room.
Concern flashed in Jon’s eyes. “We’re doing fine, right?”
“Well, yeah.” Nick stopped and clapped a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. We’re doing great.” In fact, they were doing much better than he’d projected when he’d opened the café. He’d patterned the shop after his uncle’s in Argentina. Like any standard coffee shop, they served hot beverages and a smattering of baked goods, but what set them apart from a Starbucks was their open microphone for musicians, poets, and comedians. They also sold vinyl records and vintage sound systems.
Nick’s thoughts drifted to his Tio Jose and he fought a wave of homesickness. But moments later, the sound of his own voice jolted him back to the here and now. He glanced at the closed laptop before bolting out of the office.
He halted behind the counter and stared at the TV screen in the corner of the room. All the patrons in the shop turned to stare at him before bursting into applause and cheers. Stunned, Nick backed away. Moments later, without any real recollection of how he’d gotten there, he found himself in the service closet wedged between a shelf of cleaning supplies and a hamper of dirty aprons. He pulled out his phone, sank into a squat, typed in the YouTube channel, and found the video of himself and Lester.
Five thousand views.
How is this happening? His head spun. There weren’t even five thousand people in his Tio Jose’s entire village. He let this process before he climbed to his feet. So, five thousand views. Everyone was watching Lester. Not him. And as Steph had said, this would be good for the shop. Publicity was publicity. He checked his reflection in the mirror and smoothed his thick dark hair, before squaring his shoulders and heading back into the fray. The patrons had at least doubled. The shop had an occupancy capacity of three hundred, and while they were nowhere near that number, they still had twice as many people as was typical for a Thursday afternoon.
He glanced outside at the weak January sun attempting to singe the edges of gray clouds. The rain was good for business. But so, apparently, were musical dog videos.
A blinding light flashed, making Nick blink. Had someone just taken his picture?