Monday, March 10, 2014

Bachelor Number Five - Chapter Two

Ok, better late than never, here's Chapter Two of my latest romance novel, Bachelor Number Five.  I'm still hoping for a release in about five weeks, fingers crossed!  I'll keep posting a chapter a week until the book comes out, however long that ends up taking.

Chapter Two

When Amanda opened the front door and flipped on the light she was met by their tabby cat, Whiskers, purring as he weaved himself in figure-eights around Amanda’s ankles.  “Hello Whiskers!” said Amanda, moving inside and closing the door behind her.  She put her purse on a small bureau and picked up the cat with one hand behind each of his front legs, holding his face up to her own and looking him in the eye.
“Meow,” said Whiskers.
“Meow to you,” Amanda replied.  She put the cat back down and went on into the kitchen where she opened a cabinet and took out a can of cat food.  Whiskers couldn’t contain his excitement as Amanda peeled open the lid and then reached down for his dish.  Using a spoon she found in the sink, she scooped half of the can into the dish and set it back on the floor where he set to it immediately.  “I know, you only love me because I feed you.  That’s ok.  I don’t mind,” Amanda said, though her hint of sarcasm was completely lost on the cat.
Moving into her bedroom, Amanda pulled her uniform off over her head and tossed it onto the bed.  She went into the bathroom and turned on the taps in the tub, holding her fingers under the spout to test the water temperature.  When it was ready she stripped off her underwear and dropped it into a hamper before switching the water flow to the showerhead and stepping in under the warm, soothing stream.  It was her favorite time of the day.  Time to relax and wash away all of her worries.  Amanda closed her eyes and put her face under the steaming jets.
When she was showered and dry, Amanda threw on a sweatshirt, jeans and her favorite pink slippers.  The clock on her bedside table read 9:20 p.m.  Plenty of time for a movie and a big bowl of ice cream.  In the kitchen she went straight for the freezer and pulled the door open.  Amidst bags of frozen vegetables and frozen dinners was one carton of mint chip ice cream.  It felt conspicuously light when she picked it up.  Amanda pulled off the lid and looked inside to confirm her suspicions; but for a few small scrapings, the carton was completely empty.  “Dammit Piper!  If you’re going to eat it, just eat it!” she said out loud to herself and the curious cat.
Amanda tossed the carton back into the freezer and slammed the door shut.  She had eight minutes to get to the Quincy Market before they closed for the night.  Back in her room she dug a clean pair of socks out of her dresser, flipped the slippers off her feet and sat on the bed while she put on the socks and a pair of canvas sneakers.  “See you in a few minutes,” Amanda said to Whiskers as she moved through the living room and on out the door.

But for one lonely cashier, the Quincy Market was completely deserted.  In the frozen foods aisle, Amanda stood gazing into the ice cream case.  She could choose peanut butter and chocolate, pralines and cream, strawberry cheesecake or one of twenty other flavors.  This was what her life had become; Friday night all alone with ice cream and her cat.  It didn’t escape her that this wave of depression might have something to do with that show.  She felt the same way every Friday as soon as The Bride was over.  It was a nagging sense that everyone else in the world her age was out there living a life more glamorous and exciting than hers.  Not that it took one television show for her to recognize this sad fact.  It was obvious enough anyway.  Amanda tried to push these thoughts aside.  She opened the case and reached for the peanut butter and chocolate.  Life was always better with chocolate.  And peanut butter.
That cashier was waiting patiently when Amanda got to the register.  “You find what you wanted?” the cashier asked.
“Yeah, thanks.”  Amanda put the carton on the counter.  Behind it was a row of tabloid newspapers and few glossy gossip magazines.  From dead center on the cover in front of her, the handsome smiling face of Bachelor Number Five stared back.  Bachelors of The Bride read the headline.  The Real Lives of 10 Hopeful Hunks.
The cashier scanned the ice cream carton.  “Anything else?” she asked.
“Yeah, this.”  Amanda pulled out a copy of the magazine and tossed it onto the counter.  When she’d paid, Amanda took her ice cream and her magazine out to her car.  She sat in the driver’s seat and placed the ice cream beside her.  She turned on the overhead light and flipped through the magazine until she found the article in question: half a page devoted to each of this season’s last ten bachelors.
Amanda skipped through the first few pages and landed on number nine.  She gave a cursory glance to the tribal tattoo ringing his right bicep.  Piper would like that.  Amanda flipped the pages back until she found who she was looking for.  The photo was taken on a beach with bright sun, pure sand and a tanned number five in red board shorts holding a surfboard under his left arm.  Amanda’s heart raced as she saw his bare chest for the first time, smooth and rippled.  She took a deep breath.  Below the photo was a short bio followed by a Q and A.  Real Name: Grant Hutchinson.  Occupation: Entrepreneur.  Age: 26.  Birthplace: Houston, Texas.
Question:  What do you consider to be your best feature?
Answer:  I am very loyal.  I’d like to think that my friends can always count on me, and hopefully my bride, too.
Question:  What is your worst?
Answer:  I hate to admit, but I don’t always show up on time for appointments.  It’s why I have my own business, so I can be late if I want to and I won’t be fired!
Question:  What is your business?
Answer:  Online marketing and promotion.
Question:  You’ve lived in LA for four years.  What do you like the most about the city?
Answer:  I love the electricity of the place, and the club scene, too.  Ecstasy, The Snake Pit and Midnight Domino are some of my favorites.
Question:  Are you willing to give up that lifestyle if you are the chosen one and get married?
Answer:  Hopefully my bride will want to come out with me.
Question:  Last one, why appear on The Bride?  You must meet plenty of eligible singles in the club scene already.
Answer:  I’m an old-fashioned guy at heart.  I’m looking for someone with more traditional values who is ready to settle down and start a family.  Hopefully the bride will choose me and we can start building a strong foundation for the future together.
Amanda closed the magazine and leaned back in her seat.  She felt as though all of her life energy was draining out of her body, as if she might just evaporate completely, leaving behind an empty green Ford Focus with a carton of ice cream melting on the passenger seat.  She might as well have ceased to exist.  It wouldn’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things.  How many people would even miss her?
Amanda fought against this instinct to have her own little pity party.  She knew that the key to happiness was to keep a positive attitude.  She’d read that before, in this same magazine.  It was what Piper understood intuitively.  What Amanda realized, though, was that ever since high school she’d been waiting for the love of her life to appear as if by magic and whisk her off to a life of joy and fulfillment.  Her subconscious was waiting for it, every day of her life.  She even thought she’d found it once, moving with Adam a few years after graduation.  That was going to be the beginning of the rest of her life.  She’d been so excited then, sharing an apartment with a boy for the very first time.  It felt like such a grown-up thing to do.  Even the small things were a joy; sharing meals together or going to the grocery store to stock up for their week ahead.  She’d begun taking online courses at a community college and making plans for the future.  There were warning signs, toward the end of the first year, but Amanda ignored them, putting it down to Adam’s moodiness or perhaps to stress.  It was so very slowly that her life went from one of happiness and optimism to sadness and misery.  What was wrong she couldn’t even say, exactly.  All she knew was that he’d become surly, occasionally at first but then more and more often.   Whatever the cause was, Amanda never gave up hope that she could fix it, all the way up to the day he dropped the hammer.  It seemed to come from nowhere as they were sitting at the dinner table one night.  He didn’t love her.  He wanted to break up.  She’d have to move out.  The shock of it was debilitating.  Her heart was crushed.  Amanda retreated into her job at the diner and the people in her life who really did love and care about her; Lucy and Piper and her mom and her dad.  They provided the comfort that she needed to mend her broken heart, but Amanda still craved the love of a good man.
As she sat in her car reliving these past few years in her mind, Amanda understood with certainty that as long as she stayed in Quincy, falling in love was never likely to happen.  It might work in a place like this for Piper, who didn’t mind spending the rest of her life on a farm in the middle of nowhere, but not for Amanda.  The time had finally come for her to leave this small town and venture out into the world.  She wanted to hang out on a beach somewhere with white sand and shimmering blue water.  She wanted to go to nightclubs with names like Ecstasy and Midnight Domino.  And she wanted to meet a bleached blond surfer boy from Houston, Texas. 
After tossing the magazine on top of the ice cream, Amanda started her car and pulled out onto Main Street.  She only had to drive a few blocks before she got to Rusty’s Road House.  She parked again and went inside, spotting Piper and Donny almost immediately by the pool table in back.  Amanda walked past the barstools filled with regulars, and the jukebox playing an old country tune.  Piper stood holding a cue in one hand, studying the table for her next shot.
“Piper!” Amanda called out.
“Hey!” Piper’s eyes lit up as she spotted Amanda approaching.  “I thought you didn’t feel like coming!”
“I had to tell someone.”
“Tell somewhat what?!”
“That I’m leaving.”
“But you only just got here!”
“No, I’m leaving, leaving.  I’m leaving Quincy.”
“What are you talking about?  Where are you going?”
“I’m going to…”  Amanda realized that she didn’t actually know.  Then again, she did.  “Los Angeles.  I’m moving to Los Angeles.”  She stood where she was for a moment, letting that realization settle in.  Then she turned and headed back toward the door.
“Wait, come back!” Piper shouted after her.  “Let’s talk about this!”
“I can’t,” Amanda answered.  “I need to start packing.”

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