Friday Flirtations: Next Crowd Chooses Romance (CCR)

Pull up some chocolate and sit a spell. The CCR that I did for the Love, Lust and Lipstick blog hop went so well that I’m going to do another one in May. Three lovely readers cast a vote all three times that I asked for a decision, so I decided to involve them in the next story.

I asked Shannon to send me a name and attributes for the heroine, and I received Samantha: a tall woman who “drinks like a fish and plays pool like a shark.”

Jeri sent me the hero who I think will be the perfect compliment to Samantha: Levi, a scruffy rebel, who rides a 1947 Triumph motorcycle and waxes philosophical after a few beers.

I asked Janet to choose the genre. I knew she was trouble when she wanted me to introduce a brand new character in the middle of April Showers 🙂 So I wasn’t surprised when she gave me a tricky genre: Slipstream. I have never read a slipstream romance, and if you don’t know what slipstream is, the best I can say is it moves in and out of what’s real and what is fantastical. I think the 1947 Triumph motorcycle will be the perfect vehicle to move our heroes in and out of reality.

I’ll let you know next Friday when the story will start. If you’re new to the site, I made a page for April Showers so that you can read it in its entirety.

April Showers Final Part

Dear Readers,

Thank you so very much for all of your comments and subscriptions to my email feed. This is the last day of the Love, Lust and Lipstick Stains blog hop. Be sure to get in all of your entries for the drawing–one of the prizes is a Kindle!

I’m finishing up the blog hop with the final installment in April Showers. I hope you’ve had as much fun reading it as I have had writing it. The vote went to Mark! Please enjoy.

 

April Showers Final Part

by Evelyn Aster

Mark gripped her arms and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you he’d called. I didn’t think he’d just show up looking for you.”

She squirmed out of his grasp—rain beating down on her face as she looked up at him. “But why? Your job is not to decide who I get to talk to. I make those decisions.”

“Because when I first started working for you, you were on the verge of divorce, and he convinced you to stay with him. Something inside me told me he was going to try to get you back again. And I couldn’t stand to watch it. You’re a smart, beautiful woman and I love you.”

Tessa stepped back. Her mouth hung open and the raindrops fell in. Sure, he’d been flirting with her earlier, but she hadn’t equated it with love. “I, I can’t talk about this right now. Please don’t follow me.” She turned around with his coat still on and ran until a taxi stopped for her.

She sat dripping inside of the cab. One ex-husband and one assistant—she couldn’t help but notice her heart grew cold at the thought of Rick and warmed at the thought of Mark. But it was a rainy Friday night—not the type of evening suited for decisions of the heart. She needed to sleep on it.

#

Tessa sat in flannel pajamas with her feet up on a chair, a cup of coffee on the kitchen table and an e-reader in her hand. The storm from the night before still pattered down on her roof and brought a chill back into her house like Rick had brought turmoil back into her heart. She tried to read the words before her, but her mind gave them no meaning. She always liked the idea of her and Rick together, but the reality never matched it.

A knock at the door startled her. She set aside the e-reader and walked until she could look through the peephole. Crap. It was Rick.

She opened the door and saw he was drenched with a dozen red roses in his hand. The porch roof rattled under the raindrops. She sighed. She didn’t like roses because of the thorns, but Rick thought they were the only romantic flower out there. “What do you want?”

He held the bouquet out and said, “I’m really sorry about the way I treated you. And I’m sorry about last night. If Mark–”

“Leave Mark out of this.”

Rick’s eyes narrowed like he suspected something was going on between them. “I didn’t think I should just show up here and I couldn’t think of any way else to see you.”

“It’s over, Rick.”

Rick dropped the flowers to his side. “Are you with Mark now? I always knew he wanted you.”

Despite trying to keep a straight face, her eyes widened. She’d never thought they were anything but professional. Except Mark had been very caring during everything that had happened—over and beyond even the best assistant. God, she was an idiot. “No, I’m not with Mark. You and I are not good for each other. We should’ve never tried to have children–”

“No, we were great together, and I want children with you.”

“But I can’t have them. And they aren’t a bandage for all the hurt between us. You went too far in the divorce. I can’t be with you again.” She shut the door and leaned against it.

“I love you, Tessa.” He called.

She kept the door shut and stood at it until she heard him walk away. Tears brimmed at the thought of never seeing him again, but she blinked them back.

#

After a shower and lunch, she sat at the kitchen table still trying to read, but the doorbell rang. Damn it. It had better not be Rick again. She stomped to the door and flung it open. A delivery man stood there with a bouquet of spring flowers—purple and pink with raindrops rolling off the petals in momentary beauty. She caught her breath; they had to be from Mark.

The storm finally stopped as she signed for the flowers. She took them and noticed a letter sized envelope in the middle. She set the flowers in a vase on her table and opened up the letter.

Dear Tessa,

Last night is not the way I wanted to share my feelings for you. I imagined something much grander, but the words just flew out of my mouth in panic. If you’re with Rick right now, I wish you well and know that he’s the luckiest bastard in the world.

If you’ve made up your mind to stay divorced, please consider going out to dinner with me tonight. There’s so much I want to say, and I’m not much good at Jane Austen length letters.

Either way, I think our time working together has come to an end. I’ve accepted a job in the marketing department. Of course, I’ll help you transition to someone new, but I think we both know it can’t go back to the way it was, and I don’t want it to. I want us to be so much more.

Please call me,

Mark

Oh, god. He’d finally taken a better job and was moving on. The marketing department was on a different floor; she wouldn’t see him anymore except at Christmas parties. What would she do without their chats over morning coffee, their laughter over lunch and their banter at the end of the day when—her thought ended on the realization that they always talked as if they didn’t want to leave each other to go home at the end of the day. Damn.

She was in love with him.

She dashed out to her living room where she’d left her purse and phone. As soon as the phone was in her hand, she pressed her finger over his number. It only rang once before he said, “Tessa?”

“Mark.” She had no idea what to say.

The pause seemed to go on forever. “Did you get my flowers?”

Tessa hit her palm on her forehead. “Yes, they’re lovely. Thank you so much. I want—is it possible–” Tessa took a deep breath. “I don’t want to wait until dinner to see you.”

The doorbell rang. “Answer your door,” said Mark.

She ran to the front door and slammed it open.

Mark put his phone in his pocket and said, “I stalked the deliveryman here. I didn’t want to wait until dinner either. I take it Rick isn’t here?”

Tessa put her phone in her back jeans’ pocket and shook her head. “We’re through. We’re divorced. I’m done with him.”

Mark held out a hand and caressed her cheek. “I’m sorry I didn’t trust you to make that decision. I just can’t stand not being with you any longer. Everyday I come to work I want to take you in my arms and tell you how much you mean to me.”

Tessa pressed his hand to her cheek and said, “I know I’m a little slow sometimes, but when you said you were leaving me for marketing, I realized how important everything you do is to me. I can’t give up talking and laughing with you. I should’ve realized it a long time ago.”

Clouds broke apart and the sun’s rays shone through. The world smelled as if it had just stepped out of a shower scented with wildflowers. He pulled her to him and said, “The past is done. Let’s move on together and not look back.”

She wrapped her arms around him—her heart beating happiness mixed with anticipation throughout her body. Their lips pressed together, washing euphoria over her. They kissed until the last of the rain dripped off of the porch roof and then went inside to a blissful afternoon in her bedroom.

###

If you enjoyed my off the cuff writing, please buy my new and first release Through the Paintings with a fuller plot and professional editing. You can buy it at Jupiter Gardens, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ARECoffee Time Romance and Smashwords.

ST_ThroughthePaintings_432

 

 

April Showers Part Three

For those of you who have just tuned in, I’m running a sort of “choose your own romance” story this week for the Love, Lust and Lipstick Stains Blog Hop. You can read Part One here and Part Two here. Also, remember to enter the Giveaway here.

You guys made it hard on me tonight by having a tie. I decided the important part seemed to be to know what her ex-husband wanted. I hope you enjoy how I wrote the compromise. Please vote at the end, and please pass the link on to anyone you think might have fun with the story!

April Showers Part 3

by Evelyn Aster

Tessa let go of Mark and placed her hands together on top of the table before looking up at Rick. His eyes had the puppy dog look that always made her cave, but not today. “Quit being rude to Mark. If you want to talk to me, just call me. I’m busy right now.”

“Mark’s been screening my calls and you got a new number.”

Tessa tried to stay stoic when he said Mark had been screening his calls. She hadn’t told him to do that. “There’s always Facebook,” she said.

Rick glanced around the table; everyone had fallen silent. “All right then.”

To Tessa’s surprise, he walked away. It wasn’t like him to give up without getting his way. Maybe something was really wrong, but there was no reason he should come to her about it. They had pretty much severed everything about their relationship, and without kids, they never had to see each other again—ever.

People at the table tried to make small talk, but she felt their eyes on her. Her knuckles were white. The waitress came by, and Tessa managed to order a round of beer.

Mark shifted so his arm was stretched out on the top of the booth behind her, but not touching her. “Are you okay?” he whispered.

She took a deep breath and relaxed her hands. “How many times did he call?” she asked in a low voice.

“Once a day since Monday. I’m sorry. I know I was out of line.”

She caught a joke somebody made and laughed at it but was really trying to figure out how she felt about Mark not telling her Rick had called. She needed to have a talk with Mark. Whatever his intentions were, he still should’ve told her Rick had called—in the very least so she wouldn’t be sitting here feeling like someone had slammed a filing cabinet into her.

The waitress arrived with the beers and put a glass of red wine in front of Tessa. “From the gentleman over there,” she said.

Tessa didn’t need to follow where the waitress pointed to know that Rick had sent it, or to taste it to know that it was Merlot. Damn it. She said, “Excuse me,” to Mark but he didn’t get up.

“Don’t go,” he said. “What could he possibly have to say to you that would be to your benefit?”

“I don’t know. Maybe if you hadn’t been screening my calls he wouldn’t be here at all.”

Mark set he’s jaw as if he wouldn’t let her go. “Come to dinner with me tonight.”

“What? I’m sure you realize I’m not happy with you right now. So get up.”

“You deserve so much better than him. Don’t cave into whatever it is he wants.” Mark stood and Tessa scooted by him without replying.

Rick sat alone at a table on the other side of the bar. She rolled her shoulders back and marched over. “What happened to the woman?” she asked.

“Who?”

“The woman I saw you with when I first entered.”

He shrugged. “I have no idea. I didn’t come with her. She had just sat down when you arrived.”

Tessa rolled her eyes—women always flocked to him. “What do you want?”

“Could you please sit down?”

“No. We’re divo–”

“I think I made a huge mistake divorcing you.”

The world fell away—no bar noise or sights. Just his sincere blue eyes remained. She’d cried herself to sleep many nights wishing he would say those words, but now that he had, the flood of forgiveness she’d planned didn’t pour out—it didn’t even trickle. The sincerity in his eyes masked an underlying confidence that she would take him back, and it grated on her.

“That’s it? No apology? Just that you’ve made a mistake? How about, ‘I’m sorry for blaming the miscarriage on you,’ or ‘I’m sorry for demanding ten thousand dollars from you in the divorce proceedings.’ How did your lawyer put it? Something like ‘wasted fertility money because she ultimately rejected the baby.’”

Rick jumped up and tried to take her hands, but she snatched them away. “Tessa, please. I was getting to that. I’m really, really sorry about all of it. I was a world class dick. But it was like you didn’t think the miscarriage affected me at all—it was just you.”

Her body shook in rage. She wanted to punch him. Instead, she said, “You refused to say anything about it. Whenever I brought it up, you changed the topic.”

“Because I couldn’t deal with it. It was so unexpected after everything we’d done to get you pregnant. I was an asshole, and I realize that now. Please give me a second chance. I won’t screw it up.”

The moment surrounded her like a bubble and made her feel suspended out of time. He wanted her back, finally. She’d just been daydreaming about snuggling with him while it rained outside. And now she could have it.

She shook her head and the bubble popped. She could never have the imagined life. To much sadness and pain pushed them apart. “No,” she said. “You’re about six months too late on the apology. And I didn’t deserve the treatment I got in the divorce. We’re through.”

She turned on her heel and walked straight out of the bar and into the rain. She realized for the first time that she still had Mark’s coat on her shoulders. She put her arms through the sleeves and started walking—to where, she had no idea.

Before she reached the light, a hand fell on her shoulder and turned her around.

Who do you want it to be: Mark to console her, or Rick to beg for forgiveness some more?

April Showers Part 2

springflinghop

Welcome Blog Hoppers! This week is sponsored by the lovely ladies at Love Lust and Lipstick Stains. You can click on the picture above to see the list of other blogs on the hop or click on the frog icon to the side. There’s also a giveaway going on at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/06395848/ . One of the ways you can enter is by following my blog!

For the hop, I’m trying something new that I hope you enjoy. It’s a sort of choose your own romance. Thanks to all the readers who voted on the first part! Tessa is letting go and finds someone unexpected at the bar. Please read part two of April Showers and let me know what she should do next. If you missed part one, it’s here: April Showers Part 1.  I’ll post the next part of the story tomorrow according to the vote. Keep coming back the rest of the week to see the story unfold as chosen by the readers.

April Showers Part 2

by Evelyn Aster

Tessa dropped his hand and pushed a stray strand of blond hair behind her ear. It was one thing to step out for drinks after several months, and another to start flirting with her assistant. “Thanks for your help,” she said. “I think I’m okay now.”

“Sure,” he said and headed towards the double doors. He didn’t appear to feel slighted or embarrassed so maybe he’d just been being helpful and not flirting at all. Tessa brushed out imaginary wrinkles in her skirt and caught up to him.

She found herself admiring the way his suit fit his shoulders and masked the muscles beneath. He worked out during his lunches, and she’d seen his perfect abs in passing once. Geez. The memory made her blush. She’d still been married when that had happened. She shouldn’t recall it so clearly.

He pushed the door open for her just when thunder boomed as if the lightning had been straight above. The rest of the group jumped and looked up as they stood at the corner waiting for the light to change. No one was paying attention to Tessa and Mark as they walked slowly towards the group. Half-way there, the rain showered down on them with no warning sprinkles.

Mark shrugged off his coat and draped it around Tessa without even asking. She tried to protest. “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly. You’re getting soaked now.” And damn he looked good with the shirt already clinging to his body. She averted her eyes.

“I figure I can’t win in this situation.” His hand slid from her shoulder down to the small of her back before he let her go.

“Oh, and how’s that?” Their knuckles bumped and she had to resist the growing temptation to hold his hand. They were both professionals just heading out for a friendly drink with the rest of the crew after a long month.

“I don’t give you my coat, we get to the bar and you complain to everyone how your assistant is trying to make you sick by allowing you to get soaked. Or, I give you my coat and you complain that I’m trying to be chivalrous and not allowing you to be the beautiful, independent woman you are.”

Tessa gave him a sideways glance when he said beautiful. “Sounds like you need a new boss. I think your deftness at moving through such tricky situations is under appreciated.”

They caught up to the rest of the group right as the light changed. Tessa tried to comb through her wet hair but knew it did no good.

“I could never leave her,” he said.

“Why’s that?”

“She could never figure out my intricate filing system and the company might sue me for malicious intent.”

Tessa pushed him away as they crossed. “You always think you’re so superior. I don’t know why I put up with you.”

“Admit it. You’d be lost without me.”

There was snark in his voice, but a pang of guilt hit her all the same. When they reached the corner, she took his elbow and made him stop with the rain still drenching them. “I don’t think I’ve ever really thanked you for keeping me on track this year. You’re the only one who really knew everything that happened, and it meant more than you know to be able to confide in you.”

He reached out and touched her cheek with his fingertips. “You can always count on me.”

Okay, she was not imagining his sincerity or the slight yearning in his voice as he spoke—both things she’d desired from her ex-husband for so long. She turned towards the bar and said, “We’d better get inside before they’ve decided we’ve washed away. She walked to the door, opened it and enjoyed the blast of bar noise as she entered.

Screens showed sports, a juke box blared music from the nineties and everyone tried to talk over it. Mark stepped behind her and said, “Oh shit.” He took her by the shoulders and twisted her to the right. “There’s everyone in those booths. Looks like Beth is saving you a seat.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” His voice sounded tight.

“Old girlfriend?”

“Something like that.”

Curiosity mixed with jealousy made her turn to try and figure out which woman would be Mark’s ex. She’d never seen pictures of girlfriends on his desk now that she thought of it. Mark kept pushing her towards the table as if he didn’t want her to figure out who it might be. She twisted her head until it wouldn’t go any further and stopped—her feet planted to the ground as if she were part of the building.

Rick sat at a high table, laughing at something the woman he was with had just said.

What the fuck was he doing here?

It wasn’t like they’d drawn out territorial lines on a map, but his office was several blocks down. He didn’t even like Harrigans, or so he’d claimed whenever Tessa had asked him to meet her there after work.

“Just keep walking, Tessa,” pleaded Mark next to her. “He didn’t see you walk in.”

Tessa stood immobile. She wanted to go yell at him to get the hell out, but then she’d look like a real bitch. His head turned and their eyes met. They were light blue, like her own, but he wore the lines of age better. The smile in them changed to sadness. Tessa’s stomach twisted up.

Mark whispered, “Come sit with us. You’ve worked hard for so long. Don’t let him ruin this afternoon too.”

Unable to think clearly, she allowed Mark to lead her to the table. She sat next to Beth, and everyone scooted over to make room for Mark to sit next to her. He took her hand again under the table, and she squeezed it hard. She made herself smile and said, “So what are we drinking today? Beers for everyone?”

Jeff said, “If you’re buying, lets make it a round of their best scotch.”

“I’ll compromise and buy everyone a cosmo, but you have to drink it with your pinky up.” Everyone laughed, and Tessa was unsure how she was even talking with Rick on the other side of the room. Except he wasn’t. He was standing at their table. Mark squeezed her hand.

“Hey Tessa.” His voice was deep with a resonance that always made her ache when they were in bed together.

Everyone stopped talking.

“Hey,” said Tessa without looking up.

“We’re here celebrating closing an account, so why don’t you leave and let her enjoy herself for a change,” said Mark.

“You can call off your guard dog Tessa. I just came here to talk to you. I’ve been waiting for an hour hoping you’d come here. Could you sit at a table with me?”

Tessa stared straight at the table. He could’ve just called if he had something to say. He didn’t need to make a scene in front of her team. But his voice at the end had sounded almost desperate. What could possibly be the reason? She so didn’t want to deal with this right now.

What should Tessa do: go talk to her ex-husband or stay with her coworkers?