Straight To You: A Novella (Taking Chances Series Book 1)

BOOK: Straight To You: A Novella (Taking Chances Series Book 1)
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Straight To You

by Liwen Y. Ho.

Second Edition, Copyright © 2015

First Edition, Copyright © 2014

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Glacier Ice Company, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, Apple, Stanford, Scharffen Berger, Swarovski, Disney, Rapunzel and Flynn, Roger Rabbit and Jessica, Scrabble, Macarena, Pictionary, 27 Dresses, Training Day, Oscar, Victoria’s Secret, Name That Tune, God Bless the Broken Road, Bogie’s Place, History, A Celebration of Sex, DSM, Pinterest

 

Cover and Interior Design: Tugboat Design (
www.TugboatDesign.net
)

Publisher: 2 Square 2 Be Hip (
www.2square2behip.com
)

For my knight in shining armor who rode into my life in a blue Mitsubishi Eclipse, and won me over with his charming smile, those shorts (!), and above all, his passionate heart.

ONE

Why did he have to do it on a Monday?!

Ashlynn Peters squeezed the steering wheel with all of her strength until its fuzzy pink cover bunched up in her hands. Her eyes caught sight of a white truck looming in her field of vision and she slammed on the brakes, fast. The force of the sudden stop propelled her back against the seat. A few inches more and she would have come nose to nose with the cartoon man painted on the truck’s back door.

“Glacier Ice Company. I only have ice for you,” she read aloud. “Too bad you don’t deliver
ice
cream
.”

She closed her eyes and sighed. Hiding out in a dark room with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia sounded perfect right about now. She considered playing hooky for the day and calling in sick.

Heartsick, that is.

She sat up startled as a car horn blared behind her. The rhythm of it sounded oddly like “Taps”, two short blasts followed by a longer one. How fitting for the morning she was having. She quickly shifted her foot to the gas and crossed the intersection just as the light turned yellow.

She needed to get past what happened an hour ago. Now that the shock had subsided, she knew it was only a matter of time before the tears would follow. She really didn’t want to go there. Maybe blaring the radio would help. She jabbed her finger on one of the preset radio buttons. Then another and another until she had sampled every station.

Heartbreak.

Lonely hearts.

Why was every song about some jerk who broke some poor girl’s heart? A tear trickled down her warm cheek. The lyrics hit too close to home. Ashlynn took a final stab at the radio, bringing the musical pity party to an end.

The morning traffic cleared up as she maneuvered through downtown Palo Alto. Nearing her destination, she pulled up to a parking space in front of a row of brick buildings. She eased her way out of the car, juggling her chai latte in one hand and a plastic box of beads with the other. As she shoved the door shut with her elbow, the cup slipped out of her grasp and landed on the pavement with a soft
thud
.

“Ouch!” she yelped. She jumped as hot liquid splashed onto her white peep toe pumps. A dark pool of tea flowed across the pavement, leaving a spicy aroma in its wake.

“God,” she prayed as she looked up at the summer sky, “could this morning get any worse?” She picked up the half empty cup and tossed it into a nearby trash can. “Come on,” she muttered under her breath, “he’s
so
not worth crying over.” She took a deep breath to stifle the hot surge of tears building up inside.

The awning over the door she opened stated the word
Adorn
in curvy gold letters. She entered the small shop, fumbled her way to the back of the store, and tossed her belongings on the counter. She located a tissue box and plucked several tissues to soak up the brown stains on her satin shoes.

A petite redheaded woman entered from a back room, her three inch heels clicking across the wooden floor. She glanced up from the stack of papers in her hand. Relief crossed her face. “Ash, I was wondering where you were. You’re never late. I was just about to send out a search team to hunt you down. I was thinking maybe some football players from Stanford or if you prefer the hunky
and
smart type, those guys at the Apple store down the...” She stopped mid-speech and tilted her head, causing her large shell earrings to sway back and forth. “Girl, are you okay? You look like a kid who lost her favorite toy.”

“Hey Zoe, sorry, I should’ve called,” Ashlynn replied with red-rimmed eyes. “It’s been a crappy morning.”

“What’s going on?”

Her eyes widened in exasperation. “Where do I start? I hit four red lights in a row,” she rattled off, “and almost rammed into a truck. Then I spilled tea on my brand new shoes.” She pointed her stained pumps in Zoe’s direction. “But that’s only the icing on top of a very crusty, burnt cake.” Ashlynn pulled her smartphone out of her leather purse, turned it on, and handed it to Zoe. “Would you believe he did it over a text? He didn’t even have the guts to tell me in person!” Her voice quivered with emotion. “A phone call would have been decent, too. But, a text?”

“What? Who?” Zoe squinted at the screen. “Hey Ash, it’s been fun, but I’m just not feeling it. Believe me when I say it’s me, not you. All the best, Derrick.” A scowl covered her face. “Wow. What a spineless coward!” she exclaimed. “Make that a
mannerless
, spineless coward.” She reached over and hugged Ashlynn. “Sorry Ash, that really sucks. How long had you been seeing him anyways?”

Ashlynn took the phone back and stared at the little white text bubbles. The emoticon Derrick added after his name taunted her with its smile. “Two months … and four days.” She glanced up and blew away the blonde bangs drooping in front of her eyes. “We weren’t that serious yet, but I had such high hopes. He seemed like a good guy and he was so proud that I was his first real girlfriend. Things had been going really well, that is until...” A sigh punctuated her sentence.

“Until what?” Zoe asked, her ginger eyebrows arched.

“Our last date,” Ashlynn answered. Her shoulders tensed even now as she remembered Derrick’s rough, eager hands groping her. “We were kissing goodnight and he tried to make a move … in this general direction.” She gestured to her chest. “I told him I didn’t want to go there, but it was obvious from the scowl on his face that he wasn’t interested in listening to me. That’s when I told him I had heartburn and had to go.”

Zoe cracked a wicked smile. “Looks like he felt the burn, too.”

Ashlynn rolled her eyes. “Very funny. Leave it to you to find the humor in any situation.” She leaned against the counter with her head in her hands. “But seriously, what happened to all the gentlemen, the ones who stick around longer than the time it takes to get inside your pants?”

“You’re too cute trying to save yourself for Mr. Right. When I was your age - heck, when I was
half
your age, I was already messing around behind my parents’ backs.” Zoe rested one hand on her hip as she reminisced. “And yes, I met plenty of frogs who didn’t turn into princes when I kissed them. They were just as slimy, smelly, and cold-hearted as the ones I dissected in ninth grade biology.”

Ashlynn lifted her head. She fanned her hand in front of her nose to ward off an imaginary whiff of formaldehyde. “Yuck. Thanks for that mental image, Zo.”

“But look at you. I can’t believe you’ve still got uncharted territory on you.” She admired her friend’s conservative stance even though it was the complete opposite of hers. “That’s why the guys you go out with want to do some
exploring
.”

Ashlynn’s cheeks warmed. “I’m not some piece of land for them to stake. I want someone who’ll take the time to get to know me. A guy with integrity and patience. Someone who will treat me with respect and care instead of trying to dig around for hidden treasures.”

“Sorry to break it to you, Ash. When was the last time you saw a guy around here in shining armor and riding a white horse?” she scoffed. “Chivalry died a long time ago, likely with the dinosaurs.” She paused and narrowed her green eyes. “Where’d you meet this guy anyway? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong places.”

“Um, church?”

“Ouch,” Zoe replied with a frown.

Ashlynn winced as she thought of how the singles group did resemble a meat market at times. Sure, many people came with ulterior motives, but to be honest, she was on the lookout, too. “I was hoping to meet someone with the same values as me, but I’m starting to find out that just because you believe in the same God, it doesn’t mean you have the same convictions about everything else. But if I can’t find a good guy at church, where am I supposed to look?”

“Well, you know the club scene works for me.” Zoe regularly had men from the clubs she frequented calling her at the store, trying to ask her out. She figured giving them her work number instead of her personal one equaled less stalking and more advertising for her business. “That’s where I met Matt, at a club in the city.”

“Matt, the lawyer?” Ashlynn asked. “Or Matt, the wannabe actor, who tries out a different accent each time he calls?”

“Both!” Zoe smiled when a giggle escaped from Ashlynn’s lips.

A ringing bell interrupted their conversation. Zoe turned to the front door and bit her lip. She whispered, “Ooh, major eye candy at 12 o’clock. We’re talking Scharffen Berger fine. Rich, set-your-mouth-on-fire kind of chocolate.”

Ashlynn raised an eyebrow and responded in a hushed voice, “Who’s likely here to buy something for his girlfriend or wife.”

Zoe smirked at her sour remark. “You’re probably right. But be grateful he’s helping to keep us in business.” They expected
Adorn
to attract more female than male customers at any given time, but when men did venture into the store, Zoe knew a sale would be in the works. She pointed a bright blue nail towards the front of the store. “You know my motto: men in love or in trouble won’t hesitate to pull out their wallets to make a girl happy. Go on now, work your magic.”

“Yes, boss,” Ashlynn replied. “But just so you know, I’m going right back to my wallowing afterwards.”

- - -

Ashlynn stepped out from behind the counter and gave Zoe a halfhearted smile. She smoothed her yellow cotton dress and patted the corners of her eyes. Nevermind. It didn’t matter if she looked like a raccoon. She was in no place to open her heart to a guy and likely wouldn’t be for a long while after this morning’s letdown.

She approached the man who had his back to her. He stood towering over a display case of bracelets with his arms crossed and one hand cupped under his chin. He had to be close to six feet and a whole head taller than her. He sported a navy blue dress shirt and tan slacks, his chestnut brown hair combed to one side.

She paused by his side and cleared her throat. “Welcome to
Adorn
,” she announced with forced enthusiasm. “Are you shopping for anyone in particular today?”

“Yes, my mom.”

The man turned around and Ashlynn saw two pools of deep blue looking straight at her. She suddenly felt a bit unsteady on her feet.

He studied her features from the long lashes framing her hazel eyes to the dimple in her right cheek. He cocked his head to one side. “Ashlynn? I can’t believe it. Is it really you?”

BOOK: Straight To You: A Novella (Taking Chances Series Book 1)
11.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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