I am getting so excited about my upcoming book! Last week, my editor (Lora) contacted me with a super deal to help get my book formatted for print and eBook. I would have been an idiot to turn her down. So starting this weekend, my book will be getting formatted--and I can still work on my taxes! (Not sure if I'm excited about that last part, or not.)
Here is a teaser excerpt from the first chapter to whet your appetite:
The Friday Night Date Dress
by Talena Winters
Melinda dropped her keys and purse on the kitchen counter and closed the door of her tiny one-bedroom suite. She kicked off her work shoes and sighed in relief as her throbbing feet sunk gratefully into the hall carpet.
It had been a typical Thursday working at the diner. Truck drivers, cops, and local shop owners kept her running all day, every one of them lousy tippers. She wondered why Sandra never complained about her tips—but then, with her fluffy blond hair, doe eyes, and flirtatious smile, she was probably collecting tips just for showing up at a guy’s table.
Melinda paused to glance in the mirror by the door at her own features, then turned away. She knew what she would see—dark hair pulled back in a messy pony tail, tired grey eyes, a mouth set in a firm line. It had been years since she could smile at all, much less produce one like the dazzler Sandra flashed more often than cameras at a wedding.
Her perpetual melancholy drove her boss, Fred, crazy.
“Myers, you gotta smile,” he had snapped again that morning. “No one wants to be served by a waitress looking like she'd rather bite ’em than feed ’em.”
“Sorry, Fred,” she said. “I thought I was smiling.”
“Really? Show me.”
Melinda forced out the smile she wore for the customers.
“You gotta be kidding me! Looks more like you just ate your dirty laundry! Listen, keep chasing away the customers with your attitude, you’re through here, ya hear me?”
Melinda nodded, wide-eyed, scooped up an order of fish and chips from the pass-through, and fled to the dining room. Seriously? She would be fired because she couldn’t muster a smile? What about her hard work and accuracy with orders? And I have never ‘chased away a customer.’ I get the same people every week. Mostly. Humph.
Still smarting with the memory, she looked back into her hall mirror with its chipped lacquer frame and put on the same smile she had shown Fred earlier. He was right—there were more sincere smiles on a used car lot. She tried rearranging her muscles to produce something more authentic. No success.
Melinda let out a snort of frustration and made her way to the bathroom to change, brushing past the floor-to-ceiling cardboard boxes stuffed into the tiny living room that blocked out any view of downtown Calgary. Not much to see, anyway—just someone else’s windows across the street. She carefully hung her gaudy blue-and-white diner uniform with its too-cute frilly apron on a peg behind the door, then threw on the same jeans and black Henley top she had already worn two nights in a row. They still smelled fresh enough, and she wasn’t trying to impress anyone, anyway.
Melinda leaned on the kitchen counter and munched on a carrot stick. The microwave hummed behind her with a small Styrofoam cup of soup on its turnstile. She twisted her engagement ring while she waited, caught herself in the nervous habit, and forced her hands to stillness by planting them on the counter. Then she turned her focus to the task ahead.
A half-finished dress was hanging on a linen-covered mannequin, calling to her with the allure of a mythical siren. She resisted just long enough to slurp down the soup, toss the container in the garbage, and splash water on her hands and mouth. She drifted past a small round table buried in sewing paraphernalia, then stood in front of the dress: a vision in grey and black and pink. After a moment caressing the edgy skulls-and-roses silk crepe with her eyes, she set to work.
It would be the wee hours of the morning before she finally crawled into bed—exhausted, but triumphant—with the completed dress hanging from the top corner of her bedroom door. A smudged pencil sketch of the design was attached to the front, like a seal declaring its finished state. Before she drifted off to sleep, she gave the gown one final, satisfied glance.
Yep, Robert would love it.
“Melinda-Honey, would you take table eight? I want to go on break soon,” Sandra drawled as she floated by with a tray of drinks. Melinda nodded at the blond woman and fished in her apron for a pen and pad as she crossed the checkered floor.
The couple at table eight was more interested in chatting than reading menus. Hearing their playful, affectionate banter, she felt the familiar twinge of pain in her chest, but suppressed it and tried out the new version of her smile.
Even from her side of her face, she knew it was weak.
“Hi,” she said to the tops of their heads during a break in the conversation. “Can I start you with something to drink?"
The dark-haired, mocha-skinned woman who glanced up and met her eye actually made her catch her breath a little. Women that beautiful rarely came into Fred’s Diner. Okay, never. Melinda jotted down the woman’s order of iced tea. She didn't need to write it down, not really—but she did need an excuse not to stare at the woman. East Indian, she thought, from both the clipped, succinct accent and the way the woman reminded her of the actress on a Bollywood movie poster she saw every day on the way to work.
The man finally looked up and doubled the iced tea order. And she dropped her pen.
If the woman’s looks made her catch her breath, the man’s made her forget that she knew how to breathe at all. Bottomless black eyes, black hair, perfect teeth, a dimple—it was just not fair for that much beauty to be sitting at one table. The man could have been on the Bollywood poster right next to his companion.
Melinda nodded mutely at his order, scooped up her pen from the floor, and fled back behind the counter. Her face flushed right up to her hairline.
What would Robert think of her? Acting like a schoolgirl! She continued to berate herself as she filled two glasses with ice and sweetened tea from the fountain, and then popped in lemon wedges and straws. By the time she had the drinks on a tray, she had herself thoroughly in hand. She managed to barely tremble when she placed the iced teas on the table in front of one of the most attractive couples she had ever seen.
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Estimated release date: May 30. Yippeee! Thanks for reading!