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Authors: Eryn Scott

In Her Way

BOOK: In Her Way
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In Her Way

 

Eryn Scott

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Eryn Scott

All rights reserved.

 

This edition published by arrangement with

Kristopherson Press

 

www.erynwrites.com

 

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

 

 

Cover photo by Todor Tsvetkov/istock

Cover design by Paper and Sage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Anya and Kristi: a girl’s greatest weapon against writer’s block, insecurities, terrible ideas, and the mild insanity that is writing. This book would be way weirder without the two of you (and that’s saying something). Thank you, thank you.

 

1

Minty Blues

 

I roll the lovely sapphire paint over the last bit of puke yellow and step back. Emma does, too. We did it. We finished painting the first wall of our business. I close my eyes and try to remember everything about this moment. The way --

"I think we need to hire a secretary." Em interrupts my musings.

"What?" I let my roller fall and squish to the ground as my eyes fly open. I curse, pick up the damn thing, then (despite the wacky thing she just said) begrudgingly thank Em in my head for insisting we lay down plastic before painting.

"What? I -- we what?" I stammer.

"I've been thinking about it, Jules, and I really don't think I can do the billing, insurance, AND scheduling, too. I know that a lot of practices our size do it, but I just get stressed out the more I think about it." She's shaking her head, her shoulders are slumped forward, and there’s an edge to her voice I haven’t heard in years.

I breathe, slow and steady. "We're opening in two weeks,” I say. “That's not enough time for us to post an ad, interview, do background checks and fingerprinting, not to mention --"

"But you're going to have Neve and Sarah to help you."

"Yeah. And you should remember how long it took us to find and hire them. Months, almost."

She makes a particularly elephant-like dramatic throat noise, says, "I knew you wouldn't get it." Then she throws her paintbrush down and storms out. The door slams shut behind her.

I throw my roller into the pan and jump as it clatters against the metal. I want to be mad at her for leaving me here with our dream of opening our own dental practice on time teetering on what-happens-next worries, but I only get weepier the madder I try to be.

I sit on a box and let my head collapse into my hands. Looking up, I try to keep myself from breaking into tears. After a moment or two, I wipe my painty hands on a rag, take out my phone, and (I'm not super proud of this, so don't go spreading it around) call my parents. I know, I know. You're twenty-eight freaking years old, Julep. I know. And, yes, I know that they're not going to be able to do a bit of anything to help. But I also know that sometimes you just need to hear your mama's voice when things are feeling too big.

"Well, hello little darlin'."

Or your daddy's.

"Hey." That's about all I can choke out and even that comes served on a wobbly platter, all shaky and shuddery.

"What's up, Minty Bug?"

Oh, Daddy. His sweet-tea-Mississippi voice smooths over the rough edges brought on by my "non-versation" with Emma and I take in a deep breath. I love my Daddy, let me tell you. My mama, too. A bonafide I-heart-my-parents nerd, I'll admit it. Though, I like the nickname, Minty, about as much as I can't stand my given name, Julep. (Really? A freaking mixed drink? Come on, people!) Still, you gotta love them. Mandy and Earl Maddox are laid-back, kind, good-ole folks. Southern through and through, despite moving up here to Washington years before I was even a whisper of an idea. They, along with my brothers, were our first investors. And even though they never gave me a deadline for paying their money back, it's one of my soul goals to make enough to do that as soon as I can.

"Ugh. Em and I just had a huge fight. She walked out on our painting day and I --" Whup, here comes that wobble again.

"Sorry, darlin'. What about?"

I fill him in.

"Well, why don't you get one of them hygienists to come in and help you paint?" he croons.

"Neve and Sarah are still at their old jobs 'til next week, Daddy." I scrunch my forehead together.

"Oh, oh, oh. Right you are. Right. You. Are." I can picture him rubbing his leathery, I-grew-up-on-a-farm hands over his stubbly chin and through his greying mustache as he thinks.

I sigh. His thinkin' ramblings put a smile on my face, make me wish I was curled up on their worn blue couch with him, my feet tucked under his legs like I've done since I was a little girl.

I hear Mama ask, "Who you talkin' to, Earl? That Julep?" in the background.

"Yeah, Dee, it's our girl. Mints, I'm putting' you on loud-speaker so your mama can chime in here."

I try to say, no, that's fine, I'm okay now, but all I can hear are beeps from him pressing his big worn fingertips onto the phone screen, so I wait.

"Jules, it's Mama," I hear, finally, after a bit of shuffling.

"I know, Mama." I roll my eyes (we'll add electronics to the list of things-my-parents-could-be-better-at) and I wait while Daddy fills her in.

"Well, you know what I always say about trouble."

I nod.
Take a break, step back. Trouble always looks better with a fresh perspective.

"Take a breather, hun. Go down to that little coffee shop you're always raving about."

I feign a smile, even though my momma is in another town and can't see. "Alright, Mama. Will do."

I can hear Daddy take back the phone (even though they're on 'loud-speaker' and shouldn't need to pass it, I know they still are). "Good, darlin'. And if we see any secretaries wantin' work, we'll send 'em on your way, alright?"

I chuckle. "Okay. Thanks for letting me vent. Love you guys." I hang up, place the phone in my lap, and look around.

Despite this set back, the place really is coming together. It was a total surprise, taking over this practice. I had actually been wanting to pull back from work, focus more on my life-that-doesn't-have-to-do-with-dentistry (after eight years in school and two more working my butt off at Gemma's practice, I needed to start focusing on friends, having fun, and relationships), but then we heard about a dentist a few towns over (the only one in said town) who was retiring, selling his practice to one of those big corporations.

It had actually been my boss, Gemma, who had encouraged me, since she knew it was my eventual goal to open my own place. "It's a super small town," she had said. "And they're really into small businesses. They've fended off Wal-Mart for years. Apparently, there are a whole lot of people mad about Dr. Leroy selling out. But his customers are going to have to stick with the same place or drive forty miles to another. If I were you, I'd go start a small, locally owned practice and capitalize on those patients who feel like they're out of options."

So I did, and I couldn't think of anyone better to help me run it than Em.

She'd gone for it, too and we jumped in, moved to the smallest town either of us had ever set foot in, and started renting a building with awful yellow walls, a place that needed a lot of work to make it dental ready. But we picked ourselves up (we had watched a lot of House Hunters in college and knew that paint color was the easiest thing to change in a room) and picked out the perfect teal paint for the walls with the exception of our sapphire accent wall. We're updating the office with the goal to have it ready to open when Dr. Leroy's place turns over to the new management in a couple weeks.

And so now, even though in the back of my mind I still really want to get to a place where I'm not so focused on work, this is my priority. Making this practice successful, making my family proud, is number one on my list and my dream of having a life has slipped into second. Which is fine and also pretty exciting.

Em will calm down, too. She always does. Plus, now that I've gotten a little space from our fight, I do see her point. I'm going to have two hygienists to help me in the back. This is Emma's business as much as mine. In the ten years I've known her, she's never asked for anything unless she really needs it.

That doesn't erase the fact that we still don't have much time, but that's not something I'm gonna figure out this second and definitely not without Em by my side. So, taking my mama's advice, I grab my wallet out of my purse, lock up, and walk down the street to the coffee shop on the corner.

Another thing that sold us on this building was the location. It's just outside of downtown enough to not be trafficky, but close enough to be convenient. We've always lived in more spread out towns and kinda loved the idea of being able to get everywhere we needed to during the day by foot. Plus, good coffee is a must for us.

As I walk, the cool summer air replaces the paint fumes I've been breathing and I wonder if my reaction to her request wasn't ninety percent light-headed anger. I pass a couple walking their dogs and smile extra big as I wave at them. They wave and smile back (and this may just be me, but they seem to stare a little, too). I keep walking, brushing it off, thinking that maybe my hair actually looked kinda cute shoved into a messy bun and matched with my old jeans and my Girl's State t-shirt from high school. Sometimes I think looking hang-out-y and messy can be just as cute as dressing up to go out. Who knows, maybe these dog walking people agree.

The Olympic Coffee Company is about the size of my small office, and just as cozy. A warm, roasty, oh-so-wonderful coffee smell wafts toward me as I open the door. The sounds of dishes clinking and steamers screaming rush at me. The walls are a rich golden yellow and the mismatched tables all hold cards and Trivial Pursuit sets. A bell on the door tings as I let it close behind me and I step up to the beat up countertop.

I order my usual latte. The barista looks me up and down just like the dog walking couple and I feel my spirits start to rise. After the tangled mess my hair was yesterday, I was almost convinced to chop it all off, but the attention I'm getting today makes me think again. Or could it be my make up? I did go with a more natural look today. Maybe that's something I should do more often.

I pay, smile at the girl, and plop my tired self down in a chair at the nearest two-top while I wait. Absentmindedly, I run my fingertips over the arch of one of my eyebrows and push my lips forward while I get lost in my thoughts, making lists of websites where we can post our ad and thinking of days we can work around deliveries and installments to interview.

Because we have to do this. We have to make this work. Both Em and I have given up so much to get this far. Heck, we've sunk money and hours into this, not to mention losing at least one relationship each over the whole thing (not that those guys were really worth it if they couldn't support our dreams, but, you get it, sacrifice). Plus, payments are due and we really need to start getting some revenue going or we're going to be looking at a lot more trouble than just a few exes.

I release a long sigh and look up to check on my coffee. The girl is still working on it, so I stay put and look around. That's when I notice him. A guy sitting a few tables away. I blink. My brain feels like I Love Lucy in the chocolate factory episode but instead of candies, I have words flying by me, stacking up. Hot, tall, handsome, suit, hot, fit, shoulders, smile, looking at me, hot. Looking. At. Me.

He is. Staring at me. Kind of like the dog walkers and the barista. Maybe it's my t-shirt. I glance down at the faded blue circa-high-school-thing and inwardly scrunch my nose. Okay, so it's not the shirt. As I struggle to think of what the hell I did differently today, I flash him a quick smile anyway. Usually I don't have too hard a time getting dates (thanks to the thick locks and ridiculously long eyelashes I inherited from Mama and the fairly long legs I got from Daddy), but lately, being so focused on the practice, I was sort of worrying that I had lost my mojo. And even though I'm definitely not in a place to be looking, it feels good to know I could get back into it if I wanted to.

Hot suit guy smiles back. He reminds me of that guy that plays Captain America in the movies. What was his name? Anyway, he's like that guy, but you know, like a regular everyday version (there aren't tons of fans following him around or anything). Plus, it must be mentioned that in the months since I've moved to this town, I've not seen more than ten people that are in the same age range as Em and me. So a guy that seems to fit that late-twenties category is a surprise, and a good one.

My toes curl inside my Converse at how his blue eyes are focused on me and the way his mouth pulls into a side-smile. His shortbread-yellow blond hair is swept over in that "good ole' American boy" way and he has one of those nice chiseled jaws.

No dating, I remind myself. You are opening a business.

"Your latte is ready, miss." The barista holds the paper cup toward me from behind the counter.

I jump up to take it from her. Again, she lingers on my face. Does everyone in this place find me super attractive or what? I turn around and hot suit guy is standing right there. He's tall, but not too tall. Like my nose comes up just about to his chin, the perfect height, I've always thought.

"Oh, hi." I fumble my cup a little, surprised at how close he is.

He smells fantastic. Guy scents always seem so hard to describe, though. Girls' perfume? You can tell. Oh, yeah. That's strawberry or vanilla or rose or even lavender. Guys? Good luck. I try to place hot suit guy's smell, but all I come up with is sunset forest spice.

"Hey, um, I thought you might want to know that you have paint on your face." His voice is melty and deep.

I want to sink into it, but instead I tip my head to the side as I realize he didn't actually say, "I saw you from across the room and would like your number" like I thought he would.

"What?" Paint?

He gently touches my face, swiping over a spot on my forehead, along one cheek, and then (to my utter horror) sweeps above my top lip. Under the weight of his fingertips, the dried paint crackles and pulls at the tiny hairs on my face. Of course, now I can freaking feel it. My head wobbles and I feel much too hot. I've been walking around with a righteous paint mustache? That's why everyone's been staring. Not because I'm overwhelming them with my effortless good looks.

BOOK: In Her Way
2.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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