Welcome to Mystery Monday…
Just what is Mystery Monday? It’s whatever might be in my bag of tricks for the day. Could be a book recommendation or a review. Might be an excerpt from a story or even a piece of prose. One never knows what I might target.
Let’s roll the dice and see what shakes out…
This is an unedited excerpt from Delivering Sin, releasing next month. The cover reveal is coming September 25th.
Chapter Two: Sinatra
I force a smile and stare up into the face of the only man I have ever loved. A man I swore I’d stay away from. “Jake Carter. It’s been a while.”
He takes the items I’m holding and helps me to my feet. “Last time I saw you was before your father’s funeral. My condolences by the way.”
Our fathers, both professors and archeologists, taught at UCLA. They even had a few expeditions together.
Electricity passes from his hand to mine. This is dangerous. I thought these feelings had died, dried up like a fucking raisin. I slip out of his grasp.
“Thanks.” I jerk my head to the textbook. “Are you still a student?”
“Oh, this?” He holds up a folder. “Research. I’m working on my dissertation.”
“That makes you a student,” I point out.
He shifts from side to side. “I guess it does.”
I always thought running into each other would make me nervous not the other way around. Thankfully, my order comes out before I have time to ponder what it means. My mouth, however, has a mind of its own. I ask, “On your way out?”
Jake adjusts his gear and picks up my plate for me. “Not now.”
Another table in the corner opens up and we head for it. Jake places his backpack on the bench beside him and stuffs his papers inside. The man has never been a tidy person. I hope the messy bag isn’t an indicator of the state of his apartment.
Why do you care?
I twist off the bottle cap and take a sip of my water. “Still unorganized I see.”
He answers with a soft laugh. “I’m improving.” His eyes slide over me. “What about you? Still chasing dreams of gold?”
A tremor of a smile touches my lips. My high standards came between us. He thought I was pretentious. I simply had no desire to live an inferior life. His undeniable attractiveness couldn’t sway me to alter my goals so, we broke up after a year of amazing sex.
No. That’s not right. I called it off. I thought the relationship was hopeless. Jake was willing to endure my quirks.
“There’s nothing wrong with having dreams,” I mutter before taking a bite of my sandwich. The medley of flavors and textures—the melted mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers with the tart bite of the olives, and the creamy avocado—delight my tongue.
Life would be so much easier if you could order men and situations from a menu. Choose the looks from one category, the career from another, and his personality from yet another one. Then you go to a board to choose living standards and love life. Easy peasy.
“I never said there was,” Jake responds. He looks at the table for a moment before letting his gaze drift up to my face. He winks and gives me a cocky grin. “That wasn’t the real problem between us.”
I dab at my mouth with a napkin. “No? We fought enough about my goals. As I recall, your problem was a lack of finances.”
“Ouch,” he says, placing his hand over his chest. “You know how to hurt a guy.”
“I never meant to hurt you, Jake.” On the contrary. This man was my first love. I wanted things to work between us.
I bet he’d give you a second chance.
“We’re just moving in different circles.” I push my plate away having had my fill of the sandwich and the conversation. Celesta once told me I was a fool to let Jake go. I’m sure he’ll make a fine husband for some woman content to live on the wages of a college professor.
Jake cocks his head. “So, has your circle brought you happiness?”
The words stick in my throat. I haven’t been pleased, in a relationship, for a long time. Not since Jake. Isn’t happiness overrated? “We all have to make sacrifices.”
Ignoring my comment, Jake reaches across the table and places his hand over mine. “I’ve missed you.”
“I know.” It’s all I dare say. The longer I sit here, the more I want to beg his forgiveness. After all this time, you’d think I’d be over him.
Before my father died, I thought about a life with Jake. I wanted to get back together. Then, I saw the fatigue on my mother’s face as she worked two jobs to pay the bills. I stopped being selfish and gave up my pipe dream of acting. When someone suggested I should become a model, I quit working at Westwood—a job I had since high school. The pay would be better and I could help Mom.
It didn’t take long for me to realize more money equaled a better life for the two of us. With better pay, I moved Mom and me out of our dumpy apartment and she quit one of her jobs. My dreams turned to getting a better life. One with perks and real opportunities. That life—shopping on Rodeo Drive with a platinum card, driving an Alpha Romero, wearing Prada, eating gourmet cuisine—is only possible if I stick to my plans which don’t include Jake. One day I’ll have my happily ever after. Until then… well, I just have to be patient.
Keep telling yourself that one.