Authors: Ally Hayes
Tags: #Contemporary, Humorous/Romantic Comedy
I pulled my sporty hybrid into a spot
right in front of the aptly named Fresh Start Café. The irony did not escape me. A loud overhead door chime announced my entrance. Though still not quite perky, I gave a weak smile to the few people who instinctively turned. I ordered a large cup to go and walked past the glass case of pastries toward the counter along the far wall offering the requisite sugars, creamers, stirrers, and lids. I only needed a lid, but that proved to be more challenging than I could’ve imagined. I struggled to secure it while avoiding a spill, but I couldn’t produce a seal.
“They are a bit tricky, but the upside is once they’re on, they’re on for good.”
Upon hearing a sexy, yet friendly, male voice, I looked up and blushed upon discovering the face matched the voice. He had medium length, messy, brown hair and soft blue eyes framed by amazing eyelashes. I caught myself staring and quickly looked away and resumed my mission with a renewed effort.
“Yes, snug I guess. You’re right.” Thankfully the lid made a satisfying pop at that moment indicating my victory in the lid battle. I quickly straightened, my hands shaking in time with my racing heart. I wasn’t expecting to meet a cute guy first thing in the morning. The combination of surprise and attraction woke me better than any cup of French Roast could.
Praise for Ally Hayes
“Ms Hayes has created a beautiful written story [in
] that I literally could not put down. I needed answers to the questions that had me biting my nails right up to the last sentence.”
~Long and Short Reviews
A Candy Hearts Romance
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2016 by Ally Hayes
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Sweetheart Rose Edition, 2016
Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-0608-7
A Candy Hearts Romance
Published in the United States of America
my Valentine since 1992
My footfall echoed in the damp concrete stairwell leading to the private garage below my new apartment. Thankfully, I didn’t have to de-ice my car like when I lived in Rhode Island, but I still rushed to turn up the heater, combating the early morning January air before setting off on my maiden commute. The day before, I’d driven around my new town of Hartford, Connecticut to get an idea of the travel time and to search for coffee shops, grocery stores, and a dry cleaner. I was thrilled to find a small, non-franchise coffee and sandwich shop along the route to the office. I left what I hoped would be enough time to stop in for a cup on Monday. The first day was too important to risk my caffeine addiction on the unknown coffee situation at work.
I pulled my sporty hybrid into a spot right in front of the aptly named Fresh Start Café. The irony did not escape me. A loud overhead door chime announced my entrance. Though still not quite perky, I gave a weak smile to the few people who instinctively turned. I ordered a large cup to go and walked past the glass case of pastries toward the counter along the far wall offering the requisite sugars, creamers, stirrers, and lids. I only needed a lid, but that proved to be more challenging than I could’ve imagined. I struggled to secure it while avoiding a spill, but I couldn’t produce a seal.
“They are a bit tricky, but the upside is once they’re on, they’re on for good.”
Upon hearing a sexy—yet friendly—male voice, I looked up and blushed upon discovering the face matched the voice. He had medium length, messy, brown hair and soft blue eyes framed by amazing eyelashes. I caught myself staring and quickly looked away and resumed my mission with a renewed effort.
“Yes, snug I guess. You’re right.” Thankfully the lid made a satisfying pop at that moment indicating my victory in the lid battle. I quickly straightened, my hands shaking in time with my racing heart. I wasn’t expecting to run into a cute guy first thing in the morning. The combination of surprise and attraction woke me better than any cup of French Roast could.
The cute guy finished preparing his coffee and tossed his wooden stir stick into the open trash can. “Have a good one.” He walked away, humming an upbeat tune.
I envied him. I wanted to be a happy, humming morning person too. Maybe if I saw his welcoming face at the start of each day I could be. I hoped this was part of his usual morning routine; buying coffee at the Fresh Start would certainly be mine. A cute guy like that could do wonders for my mood. I imagined seeing him again and kept grinning during the remainder of the commute.
Five minutes later, I arrived at my new office building. My heart rate increased once again at the anticipation of a new job. The building itself was a bland, beige, brick and identical to the others in the office park, but the construction was recent and inviting. I stood outside the exterior door before entering the building for a moment to compose myself and take in the enormity of what I was about do—start over.
This would be my third actual, real-adult job. Technically, this new position was considered an internal move—a transfer to a new office and, of course, a new city, but within the same company. New, but not so new. Change, but nothing monumental. How very me.
My anxiety was erased when I exited the elevator and entered Pearse and Associates. The lobby was identical to its Providence branch. Even the generic air freshener smelled the same. The familiarity calmed me before another new voice took me by surprise.
“You must be Andi!” A pretty, bubbly blonde appeared.
I was only three steps into the office.
She held a coffee mug emblazoned with a sorority insignia in one hand and a clipboard in the other. “Yes, that’s me.” Relieved at hearing my nickname, I loosened my smile. I dreaded correcting people when they used the longer, formal version. Only my family called me Andressa.
“We’ve all been looking forward to your arrival. Welcome to the Hartford office,” she said.
Her wide smile made me truly feel welcomed. After thanking her, I scanned the area for the source of the “all” but saw only standard gray cubicles. No one besides this blazer-wearing, mascara-laden girl cared about my arrival. She appeared friendly enough and around my age, which made me feel optimistic about my new co-workers.
“I see Bree got to you first.” A familiar male voice drew closer as Bob Fitzgerald approached.
He was the Senior Accounts Manager who arranged for my transfer, and we’d met a handful of times over the last few years. I deduced he was the reason my new colleague knew not to use my full name.
“Yes, and I was just about to ask her where to meet you,” I said to Bob then turned to face Bree. “Thanks for greeting me.”
“Holler if you need anything.” She floated away behind the half walls.
Bob escorted me to my office. I hadn’t expected an actual, private room and suppressed my delighted smile. The space was small and my view was of the parking lot, but it was a step above the land of cubicles I left behind in Providence. Seeing my name on the door made me feel important, and confident transferring was a wise decision.
“Take your time familiarizing yourself. I’m sure Human Resources will have several emails and plenty of documents to read and sign. All the formalities should keep you busy this morning. Nothing should be too foreign though, I think you’ll have a smooth transition.”
“Thanks, Bob.” I began to close the door behind him, but kept it half open to appear inviting.
I liked how the word transition sounded—positive and hopeful. The way I wanted to feel. I repeated the word in my head throughout the morning, planning to use it when explaining my decision to move. Saying I was ready for a transition sounded more appealing than telling my old co-workers I felt stuck.
The morning flew by while I acquainted myself with their internal system. By the time I reviewed, read, downloaded, printed, and signed all the paperwork I heard my stomach grumble. Jotting down my new passwords was my last task before a lunch break, though I didn’t know my options.
While researching restaurants on my phone, I saw Bree stop at my office.
She hovered in my doorway saying, “Knock, knock, ready for lunch?”
“You bet.” I nodded and stood. I was thankful for the interruption and offer of inclusion.
She wore a long puffer coat zipped to her chin and a gigantic designer hand bag draped from her arm.
Her outfit indicated we’d be leaving the building. “Where to?”
“Only a few choices are within walking distance so we don’t waste a bunch of time.” She gave me a head-to-toe inspection and announced, “You look like you watch what you eat and work out, like me, so I thought we’d walk to
Salads, Salads, Salads.
She gave a dramatic eye roll. “It beats
Burgers and More!
Laughing along, I pulled my cross-body bag over my wool pea coat and fished in my pockets for gloves. I followed Bree outside through a courtyard to another identical office building that housed the salad restaurant on the ground floor. Our building was the only one without an eatery which instead featured a rather small newsstand. While this situation seemed inconvenient now in the middle of winter, I bet the walk would be a welcome break during warmer months.
We navigated our way through the massive salad bar, attempting small talk over the sneeze-glass and settling into a corner table. We exchanged light banter of the getting-to-know-you nature, but I had a feeling she wanted to ask more personal questions.
Halfway through our pleasant enough lunch and conversation, she asked, “So, what
brought you here?”
And there it was—the inquisition I dreaded. Here was where I reported I had nothing interesting to tell, but I expected my answer wouldn’t satisfy her and she would continue to probe. I could easily imagine the conversation, so I took a different approach and offered her the statistics I assumed she craved.
“Twenty-nine. I get along with my parents and only brother. I really loved my old job in Providence, but no promotions were available so I decided a transition was necessary for advancing my career and yes, to break out of a dating rut.” Her immaculate eyebrows shot up, so I continued. “I’m not running from or toward a guy or leaving behind a string of broken hearts. The only thing I left behind was a bunch of guys who never turned out to be more than good friends.”
I wanted to stop there, but she rolled her fork full of lettuce, urging me to keep going.
“I was ‘one of the guys,’ and ‘just Andi,’ to all of them. We dated casually and remained friendly, but when they moved on to serious relationships with other women, I got the message loud and clear. Now, it’s my turn. For me, I felt that meant moving onwards and upwards.” I stuffed a large crouton in my mouth to convey I was finished.
“Wow, you made that easy. I guess it’s my turn to spill.” She was in a relationship, hoped to get married and stop working in the next five years, but was presently satisfied working as an entry-level accountant. She boasted about being considered the unofficial social director of her friends and co-workers.