From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar

As a Book Reviewer I received a free ebook copy of From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review. From Fame to Ruin is not Jina S. Bazzar’s first novel, but it is her first New Adult and College Romance novel.

From Fame to Ruin is a novel about two people who meet and fall in love, but Carol wasn’t counting on falling in love. This was just supposed to be a weekend fling – something to take her mind off the problems she had to face and deal with when the weekend was over.

Four years later, Carol is facing another crisis and believes the only person she can turn to is the man she walked away from after a weekend she never forgot.

This novel is written in two different time frames and two different settings. It is written in the two main characters’ Points of View, but there is one chapter written in another character’s Point of View.

From Fame to Ruin is a book about love, betrayal, misunderstanding, and crime. It has romance, danger, and suspense.

The main characters, Carol and Ricardo, are easy to like and care about. Though I found the pacing of the plot a bit slow sometimes and thought the story could have been shorter, I cared enough about the characters to keep reading. When the crime was committed and the criminal became part of the story line, I was definitely hooked and turning pages as I tried to figure out who the criminal was.

Ms. Bazzar writes deep, interesting characters and a very thorough storyline.

I do want to caution my more sensitive readers. This novel contains some profanity and some sexual scenes between unmarried people, though the sexuality is not explicit or detailed.

If you like a complicated storyline that includes suspense, mystery, and romance, you will like From Fame to Ruin by Jina S. Bazzar. Ms. Bazzar is a talented writer and I give From Fame to Ruin 4 stars.

Pointe Shoes and Sugar Plums by Tomi Tabb

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Pointe Shoes and Sugar Plums is a novella by Tomi Tabb. It ties in with her “Unexpected Royals” series. As a Book Reviewer I received a free ebook copy of this novella and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review.

Pointe Shoes and Sugar Plums gives us a little more of Jenna’s story. Jenna is mentioned in Ms. Tabb’s first book in her “Unexpected Royals” series – Dancing with a Royal. It is near Christmas and Jenna hopes to be chosen as one of the five dancers who will be chosen, from her school, to dance in The Nutcracker ballet.

Tomi Tabb does an excellent job of explaining the life of a ballerina or a dedicated ballet student. She is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject. Ms. Tabb also includes some of the male dancers who are the partners of these ballerinas, and Jeremy is Jenna’s counterpart and has been for quite a few years.

Pointe Shoes and Sugar Plums is a wonderful story that gives the reader an inside look into the ballet. It is also the story of a dancer coming of age and a blossoming romance.

I enjoyed Pointe Shoes and Sugar Plums and hope that Ms. Tabb will write more about Jenna and Jeremy in an upcoming story as I feel as though, in this novella, there story has just begun.

I give Pointe Shoes and Sugar Plums by Tomi Tabb 5 stars.

Designing for a Royal by Tomi Tabb

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As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of this book. Designing for a Royal is the third book in the “Unexpected Royals” series by Tomi Tabb. It is the story of Clarissa Lee, an up and coming fashion designer in London and Patrick Nelson, the Lord of Renbrook. Both Clarissa and Patrick have been greatly hurt by people they have loved, and both struggle to trust again, but when they meet, there’s definitely an attraction.

Tomi Tabb has done it again. Just as in the first two books in her Unexpected Royals series, she has created characters the reader will love and be happy to invest their time in their story. In addition to Clarissa and Patrick, there are other characters that add to the story—some you will like and some you may dislike. Tomi Tabb’s characters always endear themselves to readers.

In Designing for a Royal, Ms. Tabb has included an unexpected twist that adds suspense and a bit of mystery to the story. However, I did feel this particular subplot in the story could have been wrapped up better. I had my suspicions and kept waiting to find out if my suspicions were correct. It wouldn’t have mattered to me if I were correct or not, I was just looking for full closure on this subplot. Ms. Tabb did wrap it up, but it didn’t have that “finished” feeling.

Even with that one piece seemingly missing full closure, I must admit, I again greatly enjoyed the story of Designing a Royal and, once again, Ms. Tabb’s mains characters will live on in my memory. I highly recommend Designing a Royal to anyone who enjoys a good, clean romance story with some humor mixed in. I also highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about modern day royalty, although all of Ms. Tabb’s characters are fictitious. As a matter of fact, I recommend all three books in the “Unexpected Royals” series. Each can be read as a stand alone. However, there are character ties that connect each book.

Thursday’s Thoughts, Questions, and Comments About Writing

I’ve been very busy trying to finish the revisions on my upcoming novel and working my way through finishing a Flash Fiction writing course and Ted Dekker’s Creative Way novel writing course. I’m also helping writers by reading and reviewing their books. Reviews are so important in helping writers to sell their books.

That’s why when Bea Stevens let me know she’s offering her book for Free for the next four days (ebook only), I decided to put this here for all of you to see. My Thursday posts are all about writing and helping other writers. I hope some of you will take advantage of Bea’s Free book, read it, and write a review for her.

Here’s the link for it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Foot-Forward-Liberty-Lawrence-ebook/dp/B07913RZBX/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Bea+Stevens&qid=1602703293&s=books&sr=1-1

Flash Fiction Friday: Mysteries, Love, and Tea

Mysteries, Love, and Tea

by Kelly F. Barr

Brad hated his train commute back and forth to the office everyday. The train was often crowded and nearly everyday, whoever sat next to him would reek of cigarette smoke, turning his stomach and engaging his gag reflex. He’d be forced to stand, his laptop bag over his shoulder and briefcase in his hand, or find another place to sit. If he stood, he’d arrive to an empty home with an aching shoulder and arm.

Today had been no different, and it had been a standing day. He turned the key in the lock and let himself into his empty house—no one to greet him and no sound except for the hum of the refrigerator. His mom and dad suggested he get a pet, but he wasn’t a cat person and didn’t want to have to walk a dog before and after work everyday.

What he wanted was a woman in his life, but all the women he’d met so far, since moving to Boston, were either shallow or more interested in his money than him, or weren’t interested in a long-term relationship. He sighed, moved to the kitchen and paged through the menus he had in a basket on the counter, pulling out the ones for restaurants he knew delivered. It was Friday and he was beat—didn’t feel like cooking or going out.

After ordering a pizza, bag of chips, and a two-liter bottle of root beer, he trudged to the bedroom to get out of his suit and tie. Exiting the bedroom in a comfortable pair of lounge pants and a sleeveless t-shirt, he slouched in his favorite chair, grabbed the t.v. remote, hit the power button and started flipping channels. He had just settled on a college basketball game, when the doorbell rang.

After paying the delivery guy, he put two pieces of Italian sausage pizza, oozing with cheese, on a plate, along with a handful of chips. He put ice in a glass and poured root beer over it. Then he returned to his favorite chair.

The basketball game ended at ten. Brad cleaned up his dinner items, ate a slice of the now cold pizza, put the rest in the fridge, along with the bottle of root beer, and went to bed.

Monday morning Brad stood on the platform in a crowd of people, once again waiting for the train. When the train pulled up, screeched to a halt, and the doors opened, people pushed to get through the doors. Brad didn’t even attempt to grab a seat, but instead stood and held onto the handrail.

As the train began to move, he saw a woman with waves of chocolate brown hair falling to her shoulders, slender legs beneath a tan skirt, and a book in front of her face. She seemed completely oblivious to everyone around her as she frequently turned the pages. Her eyes never left the book until the conductor’s voice came over the speaker, announcing they were entering Downtown Crossing.

That was Brad’s stop, but it appeared this woman planned to get off there as well. As she closed her book, he noticed she was wearing turquoise framed glasses over eyes the same chocolate color as her hair. She wore pink lipstick on bow-shaped lips. When the train stopped, she stood, picked up the briefcase at her feet, and when the door to the train car opened, she brushed past Brad sending the scent of sweet pea and violets to his nose. He moved to follow her.

He weaved in and out of other commuters to keep the woman in view. It helped that she was wearing a bright pink blouse. Though it was no easy feat, he managed to follow her to the street. She turned the same direction he did on the sidewalk. He could follow her much more easily now that the crowd thinned out a bit. As they drew closer to the office building where Brad worked, he wondered if she could be heading to the same building. However, she entered a skyscraper three buildings before his.

For weeks, the woman with chocolate hair and eyes rode in the same train car as he did, always reading a book during the ride. Brad wondered how to interrupt her reading and introduce himself, but his mind kept coming up empty.

Then one day, the train lurched to an unexpected stop and her book toppled to the floor. Brad bent and retrieved it, their eyes met as he handed it back to her, and he said, “Hello.”

She gave him a small smile, took the book, and said, “Thank you.”

Her voice was velvety soft like a caress upon his skin. “My name’s Brad.”

“I’m Laney.”

“What are you reading?”

“I enjoy mysteries, especially cozy mysteries. This is an Aurora Teagarden mystery called ‘A Fool and His Honey’ by Charlaine Harris.”

Brad grinned. “Catchy title. Do you enjoy tea and gardens as well?” He quirked an eyebrow.

Laney gave a little chuckle that sounded like water bubbling over rocks in a stream. “Actually, I do.”

“Maybe I could take you to tea some time?”

“Downtown Crossing,” the conductor’s voice came over the speaker.

Laney rose, met Brad’s gaze, and said, “That sounds lovely. How about this Saturday?”

Brad’s lower jaw went slack, but he regained control quickly. “Saturday would be perfect. Say two o’clock?”

Laney nodded. “It’s a date.” She reached into a pocket on the front of her briefcase, pulled out a business card and handed it to him. “Call me on your lunch break and I can give you my home phone number and address.”

Brad nodded, took the card, exited the train, and walked to his office with a new spring in his step.

Saturday afternoon, Brad took Laney to a Japanese tea house and garden. They enjoyed sitting in the garden sipping Japanese tea and getting to know one another. As they were leaving, Brad took Laney’s hand in his.

Wrong Place, Right Time by E. B. Roshan

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About the Book:
Anna Belko is a young woman living in the city of Dor. There is unrest in the city. Anna meets Boris Merkovich at a cafe called Oksana’s, when she stops for a cup of tea. A relative of Boris’s was killed but he doesn’t have time to grieve because he has to run the cafe. He nearly spills a pot of tea in Anna’s lap, and she prays for him.

Boris is deeply touched by Anna’s prayer for him and so begins a love neither of them expected.

However, stuck in a city filled with hatred, it soon becomes clear that the hatred isn’t just “outside” and Boris and Anna’s relationship is threatened.

The story, though centered around Anna and Boris, includes several other characters, including Anna’s parents and one of her brothers, whom she is close to. The story is filled with danger and troubles between the Sevian people and the Tur people.

As the violence escalates near their home, Anna’s parents decide to move to Dovni where things are not so volatile. Anna remains behind with her brother.

My Review:
The plot kept me turning pages. The characters captured and held my attention. The characters were realistic, and I cared about them and what happened to them. My heart ached for Anna and Boris as they struggled with their environment and their feelings for one another.

E.B. Roshan did an excellent job showing the difficulties of living in an area where danger and hatred are a part of everyday life. Not only did E.B. Roshan clearly show the dangers, Roshan did an excellent job expressing the thoughts and feelings of the people stuck amidst the struggles.

The story was very well written. Though it was a story about hatred and violence, the violence was not overly descriptive or gory.  It did not need to be to touch the reader’s heart and help the reader understand the setting and what was happening. I also liked how Roshan showed that hatred is a choice and no one has to allow it to consume them.

E.B. Roshan wrapped up the ending quite nicely, but even so, I was sad to finish the last page and say goodbye to these characters.

I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written story filled with struggles and different types of loving relationships.

I give this story 5 stars.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Chocolate Part 2

Every once in a while, one of my flash fiction stories just seems to need a little more, so I hope you will enjoy the second part of Love and Chocolate.

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Photo by Thalia Ruiz on Unsplash

Love and Chocolate Part 2

Sonnet’s cell phone rang as she slid into the driver’s seat of her car. She didn’t recognize the number and decided to let it go to voice mail. She buckled her seat belt, then started the engine just as her phone rang again – same number. She tapped to answer. “Hello?”

“Sonnet. This is Armand, from The Everything Chocolate Café and Bakery.”

Oh, yes. Armand, hi.”

Hi. We are going to have live music this Friday night at the café/bakery. A female duo, one plays cello and one plays the flute and the violin. They’re mostly instrumental, but also sing a few songs. They call themselves ‘Class Act’. They’ll be performing from seven to nine. I get off at eight and thought I could join you for the last hour.”

Sonnet smiled. “That sounds great. I’ll see you Friday.”

She hung up the phone, still smiling. She pictured Armand in her mind – his chocolate brown work t-shirt revealing his firm pectoral muscles, his biceps straining the sleeve openings, wavy hair the color of caramel, and those slate-gray eyes. She sighed and shoved her phone into her purse, then pulled her car out of its space, and headed for the parking garage exit.

Friday, Sonnet, distracted at work, watched the clock, waiting for quitting time. At three o’clock, Marcy, her secretary, buzzed over the intercom. “Ms. Warren, Brindenburg’s mayor is on line one.”

The mayor? Sonnet lifted the receiver, held it to her ear, and hit the button for line one. “Good afternoon, Mayor. What can I do for you?”

I know this is short notice as Christmas is just over two months away, but Brindenburg’s Christmas sales were down last year. I would like you to plan a couple events that will bring in some tourists and boost our shops’ sales.”

I’m sure I can come up with some ideas. Let me brainstorm with my assistant, and I’ll get back to you Monday. Does that work for you?”

That will be fine. Thank you.”

Sonnet grabbed a pen and tablet and rushed over to Chad’s office. She told him about the phone call and they began sharing ideas, Sonnet writing down the best ones.

She didn’t notice when five o’clock arrived, but glanced at the clock at five fifteen. “Oh, I’ve gotta run. Let’s meet early Monday – seven a.m.? That will give us an hour or two to come up with more before I call the mayor.”

A short time later, Sonnet walked into The Everything Chocolate Café and Bakery. She stepped to the counter.

Armand looked up and smiled. “Good evening, Sonnet. What can I get for you?”

I’d like a white hot chocolate, please.”

You got it. I’ll bring it to your table in just a couple minutes.”

Sonnet sat at a table for two along the wall where she had a good view of Class Act setting up their equipment.

Armand brought her cup of hot chocolate and a plate with a cupcake on it. He placed both in front of her.

She looked up at him. “I didn’t order a cupcake.”

I know. It’s a bittersweet chocolate cupcake with cherry fruit filling and white chocolate frosting.” He winked at her.

You are going to spoil me.”

That’s part of my plan.” He grinned. “I’ll join you soon.”

She smiled as she watched him walk back behind the counter. She savored the cupcake, one bite at a time, and sipped her white hot chocolate while enjoying Class Act’s music. Soon Armand moved the other chair beside her, giving him a better view of Class Act, as they stopped for a ten minute break.

So, how was the cupcake?”

It was delicious, and so is this white hot chocolate.”

I’m glad you liked them. How did you get the name Sonnet?”

My mother loves Shakespeare, especially his sonnets, and she and dad wanted an unusual and artsy name for me.”

I see. I like it. It’s very unique, and it fits you well.” He smiled.

Would you like to know my full name?”

He nodded.

Sonnet Monet Warren. My father is a painter, and Monet is his favorite watercolor painter.”

Wow.”

Sonnet quirked an eyebrow at him. “Wow, what?”

Wow, what a great name. Just like I said before, a beautiful name for a beautiful lady.”

Sonnet’s cheeks grew warm and she covered them with her hands, hoping Armand wouldn’t see her blush.

Class Act returned and resumed their performance, so their conversation stopped. About halfway through this set, Armand reached over and took Sonnet’s hand in his. She liked the way her hand fit in his and how he held hers in a firm but gentle grip. A couple times he caressed the back of her hand with his thumb.

When the performance ended, Armand locked eyes with Sonnet. “I don’t have to work tomorrow. How would you like to visit our arts district with me?”

I’d love to.”

He smiled, they rose, and he walked her to her car. “May I pick you up at ten in the morning?”

She turned to face him, her back to her car. “That would be fine. I’m four blocks down, left on Duncan Street, number 312. The front of the house is yellow with sky blue shutters.”

They stood looking at each other a moment, and just as the silence between them started to become uncomfortable, Armand leaned toward her and lowered his head. He pressed his lips to hers and gave her a soft, brief kiss. As he began to pull back, she leaned toward him, reached up and, with a gentle pull, brought his head down so that their lips met again. This time the kiss lingered, lips pressing more firmly before parting.

I’ll see you tomorrow,” she spoke in a near whisper.

I look forward to it.” He reached and opened the car door for her.

As she drove away, she kept her eyes on him, in her rearview mirror, until he faded into the darkness.

Flash Fiction Friday: Love and Chocolate

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Photo by Thalia Ruiz on Unsplash

Love and Chocolate
by Kelly F. Barr

After a week of unpacking and organizing, Sonnet was finally settled into her new home and ready to explore Brindenburg. She grabbed her purse and stepped out the door. Just a block from town, she decided to walk on this beautiful breezy autumn day. As she strolled down the sidewalk, she paused to look into the shop windows. She passed a bakery, a jewelry store, an antique shop, and a candy store.

When she came upon a tea shop, she stepped inside. The aromas of peppermint, cinnamon, and raspberry greeted her. Three shelves of glass jars holding a variety of loose leaf teas beckoned her to come closer.

As Sonnet stepped farther into the shop, the lady behind the counter looked up. “Hello. May I help you?”

Sonnet smiled. “I just moved to town and I’m exploring the shops today. I love tea.”

“Well, welcome to Brindenburg and my tea shop. I have green teas and black teas. I have fruity, spicy, classic, and a few exotic teas. If you can’t find something you’re looking for, just let me know. Feel free to open the small jars to sample the scent of the tea.”

Sonnet sniffed six different types of tea and decided to purchase three ounces each of four of them. The woman bagged Sonnet’s selections, placed the bags in a small, decorative shopping bag, and handed them to Sonnet.

“I hope you enjoy your selections. My name is Tara. Please come again.”

Sonnet smiled and stepped back out onto the sidewalk, where she crossed the street and started back toward her apartment, while peeking into the shop windows on the other side of the street. She passed a women’s clothing store, a Chinese restaurant, a women’s accessories store, and a pizza shop.

She paused as a couple stepped out of a shop in front of her. She caught a whiff of chocolate and looked up at the shop’s sign, “The Everything Chocolate Café and Bakery”. Her mouth began to water and her stomach rumbled. When the couple passed, she stepped into the café/bakery.

She let her eyes wander over the chocolate candies, chocolate coated items, and baked goods in the glass display case.

Just as she moved her eyes to the large black chalkboard that listed drinks, sandwiches, salads, and chili, a smooth male voice asked, “What can I get for you today?”

Still studying the board, she said, “Um…”

This is your first time here, isn’t it?”

She moved her gaze from the chalkboard, and her eyes locked with slate gray ones in the most handsome face she’d ever seen. “Um, yes. I … um … I’m new in town.” She mentally kicked herself for stumbling over her words.

Well, in that case, let me introduce myself and tell you a bit about our options.” He smiled at her and her heart skipped a beat. “I’m Armand, and everything we sell is either chocolate coated or has chocolate syrup or cocoa as an ingredient. Our coated items come coated in white, milk, semisweet, or dark chocolate, and many of our baked goods come with those choices of frostings. So, what will it be?”

Um … do you have any suggestions? Something that won’t keep me from one of these delicious looking desserts?”

How about one of our sandwiches? We have ham or turkey with white American, cheddar, or swiss cheese with our hazelnut chocolate spread on our homemade chocolate bread.”

That sounds good. I’ll take the ham and American, please.”

And to drink?” He winked at her and added, “I recommend the chocolate strawberry lemonade.”

She nodded.

First name for the order?”

Sonnet.”

He looked at her, one eyebrow raised. “Sonnet? Like the poem?”

Yes.”

He stared at her a moment, then said, “You can have a seat and I’ll bring that out to you shortly.”

Just ten minutes later, Armand delivered her food and drink to her table. “May I inquire as to your favorite chocolate dessert?”

Chocolate cake.”

How would you like a piece of moist dark chocolate cake with a white chocolate cream filling and semisweet chocolate and caramel frosting?”

That sounds divine.”

Sonnet swallowed the last bite of her sandwich and sipped the last of her lemonade.

Armand returned to her table and placed a small plate and fork before her. On the plate was a rectangular piece of the cake he had suggested. 

As Armand walked away, she stabbed the fork into the cake, lifted a piece to her mouth, and released a quiet moan of pleasure as the flavors delighted her taste buds. She took her time savoring the cake, then moved to the counter to pay her bill.

Armand rang it up. “That will be $18.55 please.”

She handed him a twenty dollar bill and a five dollar bill. “Keep the change.” She turned to go.

Sonnet.”

She turned back to him.

Don’t forget this.” He held up a white bag.

I didn’t order anything to go.”

Consider it a welcome to the neighborhood gift.” He held the bag out to her and she took it. “I hope I’ll see you in our café/bakery frequently.”

She chuckled. “I’m afraid that wouldn’t be good for my waistline.”

Well then, maybe I could show you more of Brindenberg? I have a feeling you’d enjoy our arts district – unique things to see or shop for, as well as upscale dining.”

She smiled. “I think I’d like that. I, uh, could give you my number.”

He grabbed pen and paper and wrote as she spoke.

When she exited the café/bakery and was certain she was past its windows, she lifted the bag to peek inside. But before opening it, she saw, written on the outside of the bag: Sonnet – a beautiful name for a beautiful lady. Heat raced up her neck and into her cheeks. She opened the bag. Inside was another piece of that wonderful cake and two white chocolate covered strawberries.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Real Love Challenge

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Photo by Марьян Блан | @marjanblan on Unsplash

Aiden watched a beautiful brunette pick four red tomatoes and place them in her shopping cart. She walked, her shoulders pulled back, eyes straight ahead, exuding self-confidence. He followed her down the aisle. When she stopped to choose a bunch of bananas, he passed her and searched her left hand—no ring.

He moved toward the checkout, waiting for her to approach a register. As she exited the aisle and approached, he feigned interest in a magazine and rolled his cart forward so that it collided with hers.

He looked up. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going. Are you okay?”

She looked at him, the corners of her mouth twitching. “I’m fine. Now, if you’d be so kind as to move your cart, I’ll pay for my items and be on my way.”

“Oh yes, of course.” He pulled his cart back, allowed her to enter the checkout lane, then pushed his cart in behind hers. “My name’s Aiden Berkley. And you are?”

“Not interested.” She pinched her lips into a flat line.

“I’d really like to treat you to coffee … to make up for crashing into your cart.”

When her eyes met his, he smiled. “There’s a coffee shop right around the corner.”

“I don’t think so.” She paid for her items, grabbed her bag, and pushed her cart toward the cart return area.

Aiden tried not to drum his fingers or tap his foot while waiting for the cashier to ring up his few items. When the cashier finally bagged his last item and said, “That’ll be $12.50,” he handed her a ten and a five.

“Keep the change.” He grabbed his two bags, returned his cart, and rushed out the door, scanning the parking lot for the brunette.

He spotted her just as she was ready to climb into the passenger side of a sky blue Lexus sedan. His lower jaw dropped. Maybe she was way out of his league. He shook his head and ran toward the car.

He reached it just before she shut the door. He leaned down to look in at her. “If you’re busy today, how about lunch tomorrow?”

She sighed and rolled her eyes.

He remained standing hunched over, smiling at her.

“Look, Aiden Berkley, isn’t it?” She waited for his nod. “I’m really not interested. Now, if you’ll allow me to close my door…”

“Wait, please. Is it that you’re not interested in men, or not interested in me?”

“I’m not interested in either.”

“Well, I’m not like other men.” This earned him another eye roll.

“Of course you’re not, until I go out with you.” She grabbed her door handle and tried to pull it shut.

He moved out of the way. He wanted to take her out, but if he didn’t let her go, she’d think he was just another jerk.

He watched as she backed out of the parking space and drove down the lane.

“Man, do you know who you were just tryin’ to hit on?”

Aiden turned in the direction the voice had come from. “Kahlil! You know her?”

“Not personally, but I know who she is.”

“Well, who is she?” Aiden rubbed the back of his neck.

“That’s Samantha Rivers. She’s the editor in chief of Hot Topics Magazine.”

“Are you serious? The Hot Topics Magazine—the magazine that dishes the good and the bad on who’s who in the whole country, ‘anybody who’s somebody’?”

Kahlil nodded. “That’s the one.”

“Maybe I am outta her league, but I ain’t giving up.”

Kahlil raised an eyebrow. “You know she could have any man she wants, right?”

Aiden grinned. “Yeah, but I just gotta make her want me.”

* * * * *

The next week, Aiden went to the same grocery store at the same time, and there she was – Samantha Rivers – in the produce aisle.

This time, when she approached the checkout, Aiden moved with precision so that she saw his approach. Then he swung his arm in an arc and gave a slight bow. “After you, m’lady.”

She looked at him and laughed out loud. Then she raised her hands. “Okay … one coffee … around the corner. Half an hour, then I’m gone.”

Aiden grinned. “I’ll take it.”

They put their grocery bags in their respective cars, then walked around the corner to The Mug and Cup. She ordered a mocha latte with double chocolate. Aiden ordered a butterscotch hazelnut coffee and picked up the tab for both.

They sat at a table for two near one of the large windows.

“So, why are you so interested in me? Looking for sex or money?”

Aiden nearly spit out his sip of coffee, but swallowed quickly and began to cough.

Samantha sat smiling while he recovered.

“Well, you come right to the point, don’t you?” He sat up and leaned his forearms on the table. “What if I said I’m looking to build a relationship?”

She searched his eyes for a minute, then said, “Money it is.”

“Wait … what? Is that what you saw in my eyes? Really?”

“I couldn’t tell, but I know men.”

“Well, you don’t know me. Do you know that last week when I tried to hit on you, I didn’t even know who you were?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

Aiden shook his head and frowned.

Samantha raised an eyebrow.

“Some guy really did a number on you, huh?” Aiden paused, but she didn’t respond or meet his gaze. “Don’t let him ruin a chance at real love for you.”

It was her turn to swallow and cough, but not to the degree Aiden had. “That’s what you want to offer me? Real love?” She chuckled. “What if I said I don’t believe in real love.”

“I’ll take that as a challenge, and I’ll meet you here at this same coffee shop same time next week.”

She met and held his gaze a few moments. “You’re on.”

Flash Fiction Friday: The Secret Admirer

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Photo by Allie on Unsplash

“Junk mail, bill, junk mail, bill, bill. Wait, what’s this? A letter? Who writes letters nowadays?”

Reina grabbed her letter opener off the counter and opened the envelope. She pulled out a single sheet of high quality stationery that resembled ancient parchment paper. She unfolded it and read:

My dearest Reina,
Your beauty captivates me. Your smile bedazzles me. The thought of talking to you leaves me tongue-tied, so I decided to write instead. I get queasy in my stomach every time I see you. I want to speak to you, but I’m afraid of making a fool of myself. I long to find out what things we have in common. I hope to gather enough courage to speak to you soon.
Your Secret Admirer

Reina picked up the envelope, examined the front of it—no return address—local postmark. Who could have sent this—a coworker, regular customer? Was it some kind of joke? What if it was a stalker? Whoever it was knew her home address.

The next day Reina analyzed every interaction with the waiters and her regular male customers. Every smile and big tip had her wondering, ‘could he be the one’. When Craig, who came in twice a week, winked at her, she nearly spilled a cup of coffee.

She checked her mail right after work, sorted through it, searching for another letter, but found none.

Two days later, another letter arrived.

My dearest Reina,
Your smile lights up a room. Your laughter is like the Pied Piper’s music to my heart. You hold me spellbound.
In my next letter I will name a time and place for us to meet. Please give me a chance.
Your Secret Admirer

When the next letter arrived, Reina hesitated to open it. Was she ready to meet this guy?

My dearest Reina,
Though I remain nervous, I am determined to meet you face to face.I hope you will come to Pascal’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Tell the maitre d’ to show you to the table of the rose. I will be waiting for you.
Your Secret Admirer

Friday, Reina searched her closet and decided on a simple blue dress that complimented her figure. She wore matching blue sandals, grabbed her formal handbag and keys, and went to her car.

As she drove, her stomach filled with butterflies. At Pascal’s, a valet parked her car, and she walked into the restaurant, the butterflies performing ballet inside her.

The maitre d’ greeted her and asked about her reservation.”

“I’m meeting someone. Could you please show me to the table of the rose?”

“Ah yes, right this way.”

He led her to a table next to a large window with a fantastic view of the city lights. A gentleman rose from his seat at the table.

Reina gasped. He was incredibly handsome with brown hair and eyes the color of caramel. He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t quite place him.

He held a deep red rose out to her. “For you m’lady.” He smiled and Reina’s heart melted at the sight of the dimples that indented his cheeks.

She took the rose, and he came and held her chair for her to be seated.

When they were seated, she couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “Have we met before?”

“No. I moved into the apartment building across the street from yours three months ago. I’ve seen you coming and going. I had lunch at Mickey’s a couple times but was never lucky enough to be seated in your section. I asked my waitress your name.”

“You mailed letters to me from across the street?” She quirked an eyebrow.

He grinned. “I’m afraid I prefer old fashioned romance.”

“You still haven’t told me your name.”

“Oh, do forgive my thoughtlessness. I am Griffin Wallace.”

“Well Griffin Wallace, you certainly do know how to grab a lady’s attention.”

“I hope I will be as good at holding your attention.”

The intensity in his eyes set the butterflies dancing once again. “Your first note mentioned getting to know what we have in common, and it looks like the first thing would be an appreciation for good food. Though I have only been here once before, I do love the food here. Not to mention the fact that you obviously enjoy Mickey’s. I hope you won’t be too uncomfortable ordering for me?”

“You do know how to set a man’s nerves on edge. Having only just met, I have no idea what foods you like and dislike. At least tell me, do you have any food allergies?”

“Good question. No, I don’t, and I’m not a picky eater.” She smiled and noticed his shoulders relax.

When the waiter came to take their order, Griffin ordered duck with pears for him and beef fillet filled with kale, almonds, feta, and parmesan for her, both with a side of baked butternut squash with pomegranate seeds.

The food arrived a short while later and they began to eat. After a few bites, Griffin watched Reina.

“Do I have food on my face or something?”

He smiled. “No. I was just wondering if I had chosen well for you?”

“Very well.” She raised a forkful of beef fillet and slipped it into her mouth.

After dinner, they exited the restaurant together, and the valets brought their cars. Griffin escorted Reina to hers.

“Do you like the theater?”

“Movies or live productions?”

Griffin grinned. “Either.”

“Yes to both.”

“Would you like to accompany me to see “Hamilton” at the Dunkirk Theater next Saturday afternoon with dinner after?”

“I’d love to.” She slid into the driver’s seat of her car.

“One more thing, Reina. Do you think next Saturday we could go together in the same car?” His eyes sparkled.

“I wouldn’t want to impose on you and make you travel so far out of your way to pick me up.” She let out a little giggle.

Griffin grinned and watched her leave before climbing into his own car.