Unexpected Chance, page 1
Copyright © 2013 Joanne Schwehm
All Rights Reserved
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.
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Cover Design: © Meredith Blair, Author’s Angels
Cover Photo: Pressmaster (Dmitriy Shironosov)
Editor: Theresa Wegand
Table of Contents
About the Author
When I was little and watched the Olympics on my family’s television in our humble, middle-class living room, I’d get lost in my thoughts and would dream that I’d be the next great figure skater like Tara Lipinski or a great gymnast like Shannon Miller. Then I would go outside and attempt to ice skate on the pond behind our house and fall flat on my ass with my ankles going in opposite directions. I couldn’t even do a cartwheel in our backyard and was far from graceful; I was lucky I could manage a somersault.
My parents always said, “You can be whatever you want to be, Aubrey. You just need to apply yourself.” Yeah, that’s the story of my life. Since I was a twenty-five-year-old college graduate with my Master’s Degree in Journalism and Creative Writing, I should have been able to handle whatever came my way. At least that’s what my mom said when my parents sold my modest childhood home and moved to their ritzy chateau in Paris. To say my mom had changed was an understatement. Apparently, my grandparents had invested wisely, and when they passed away, they left my mom everything. Now that my parents were well off, Mom decided she wanted to live the life of the rich and glamorous. I couldn’t fault her really. My parents worked their asses off and deserved a great life. I just didn’t expect them to move to Paris. Oh well, I’ll survive on my own.
At my age, I knew I should be applying the education I earned by joining the workforce. I should also be partying with my girlfriends, meeting guys, and just having fun. Was I doing that? No. Instead, I sat in the small apartment that my parents rented for me in the city and I read. Life was going on right outside my window, but my nose was stuck in a book. My life came down to romance and mystery novels—some good, some just cheesy, some that just got me hot and bothered. Who was I kidding? It was all just fiction. That stuff couldn’t possibly happen. That was how I thought of my life sometimes—full of fiction. I didn’t have an ounce of romance in my life and had no clue how to remedy that.
I looked around my small bedroom at the pictures: my parents and me at Jones Beach, my best friend Julie and me just goofing around, but none of me with a man. I realized I hadn’t had a true boyfriend . . . well . . . ever. At one point, I thought I did. His name was Garrett Reed. We were good friends, and I thought we had something special. He told me I was special, and I believed him, but once I slept with him that was the end of the relationship. Maybe that was all he really wanted, or maybe I just didn’t get his rocks off. I don’t know. Honestly, he didn’t do much for my rocks either. I snickered at the thought; although, it still made my heart ache a little. I really liked him, or I wouldn’t have slept with him. I wasn’t that kind of girl, and he knew that. Maybe that’s what hurt me the most. The feeling of being used is a horrible feeling, and that was how I felt. I had Garrett to thank for being guarded.
After graduation, I hoped to be an editor for the Times, but my secret aspiration was to write a romance novel. I had a problem though; I didn’t know a thing about romance. That wasn’t a slight problem; it was a huge problem.
My friend, Julie, knew about it, though. She was confident, beautiful, and she turned heads everywhere we went. I was known as the pretty girl’s friend, which was fine with me. I didn’t exude the confidence that she did. I had been in school, so inundated with classes and homework and wanting to be the best in my class that I never took the time to apply makeup or spend a lot of time on my hair. Sure, I had great clothes because Mom sent them or the money to buy them to me and I loved to shop, but that was about it. I was going to have to confide in Julie to get her to help me with this. I trusted her with my life. We had been best friends since the sixth grade, and I knew she could help me. I just had to find the courage to tell her without sounding like a complete head case.
I looked in my bathroom mirror at the person staring back at me: long dark hair, empty light blue eyes, and skin that desperately needed some makeup or a spray tan. Exhaling, I picked up the phone to call Julie. She answered on the second ring.
“Hey, chica, what’s shaking?”
“Hey, I need to talk to you about something. Are you busy or can you stop over?”
“I’m not busy. I can come over in a few. Is everything okay? Are you okay? You sound weird.”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I knew I didn’t sound convincing. “I just need your help with something.” I felt like Sandy in the movie Grease calling Frenchy for a makeover. I guess in a way I was.
“Say no more. I’m on my way.”
Julie really was the best. She showed up less than an hour later. We sat on the couch, had a soda, and I tried to muster up the courage that was needed to tell her why I needed her help. I ran my fingers on my microfiber couch, creating a figure eight pattern, around and around and back again.
Julie stared at the shapes I was nervously making. “So are you going to tell me what’s going on, or are you trying to hypnotize me?”
Julie was tall with perfectly highlighted blond hair and big, gorgeous green eyes with sweeping lashes. She was taller than I was, probably about five foot seven, and had a gorgeous figure. Her personality was even more beautiful. She had the entire package. It was no wonder men loved her.
I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. “Well, I’ve been thinking about writing a book—a romance novel to be exact.” I looked up at her through my thick eyelashes to gauge some sort of reaction. I didn’t know why, but I felt embarrassed and a little shy. This was my best friend. I should have been able to say anything and know there wasn’t going to be any snarky attitude.
She grinned ear to ear. “I think it’s an awesome idea! You majored in this stuff, right? From what you’ve told me, you’ve read hundreds of those books, so, yeah, right on!” Then Julie’s brows furrowed and she looked confused. “Why do you need me? I practically failed English, so writing a story is totally out of my realm of e
Okay, here comes the hard part. “I know my studies prepared me, and I aced my writing classes, and, yes, I’ve read a ton of books, but when it comes to actual heart-melting, making-me-want-someone-so-bad-I-can-feel-it-in-my-legs romance, I’m clueless.”
I looked down at my hands, which were now twisting in my lap. “I haven’t had a boyfriend in years, and the last one was crappy at best. I want to feel romance, the swept-off-my-feet-I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me type of romance.”
Realization dawned in Julie’s eyes, and they grew bigger. She bounced up and down on the couch cushion and clapped her hands as if they were on fire and she needed to extinguish them. “Oh my God, we are so going to do this! I’m so excited! We need to find you a muse and get you a sexy outfit! Then we need to make sure that you’re trimmed everywhere if you know what I mean!” She winked after that.
I wanted to smile at her enthusiasm, but instead I felt a little nauseated. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. “Okay, so the outfit seems easily attainable, and, uh, I don’t need a trim anywhere, except maybe the ends of my hair, but finding a muse will not be as easy.” I made sure to use finger quotes when I said “muse.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Aubrey. We can totally do this. As a matter of fact, I’m working at a Speed Dating event tomorrow night at a hot club called The White Orchid. Walker-Stone is in charge of its marketing and advertising. It’s a sold-out event, but I can get you a ticket. I’ll be there with my boss, Brian, to make sure everything goes as planned, so you’ll have a wing man, well, wing woman.”
Julie laughed; apparently, she found humor in my despair. I suddenly felt as if we were no longer Sandy and Frenchy, but now Maverick and Goose from the movie Top Gun.
“What the hell is speed dating and why doesn’t that sound romantic?” Top Gun flashed in my head again. “I feel the need, the need for speed.” I almost laughed out loud. What was next? Going to a bar and singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”?
Julie rolled her eyes. “It isn’t romantic. Well, I guess it could be if there were such a thing as love at first sight, but the goal is to meet a guy, right? Not necessarily fall in love. You just want someone to make your panties a little damp.”
Julie enjoyed this banter a little too much. She was so comfortable with guys and sex. She wasn’t a slut by any means; she just knew how to have safe fun and not get heartbroken.
“Look, I don’t need my panties damp. Knowing me, I’ll have an anxiety attack and probably pee a little; that’ll make them damp.”
We both laughed. Although, I inwardly cringed; it really wasn’t that farfetched. I was known for my anxiety attacks. They started in middle school when I was picked on for not having the right brand of clothing or something like that. I ended up at the nurse’s office, and that was where I met Julie. She didn’t feel well that day. Well, that’s what she told the nurse. She really didn’t want to go to Algebra. She confided in me that day, and we’d been inseparable ever since. Julie was one of the cool girls, so my being picked on was instantly over. Back then, I was so thankful for Julie, as I am now.
“How does it work anyway?” I felt my anxiety building already.
Julie adjusted herself as if she were going to give me a marketing presentation. Her posture was perfect; she flipped her hair over her shoulders and flashed her perfectly white teeth. “There will be tables lined up, and each of the ladies picks one and sits down. Every six minutes or whenever the bell rings, a new guy will sit at the table. Both the men and women will have rating cards where they can make notes on whomever they meet. At the end of the night, Brian and I will collect the cards to see if there are any matches and take it from there. Voila! You could have your muse!”
I was shaking my head in disbelief, and my head was spinning. I felt as if I just drank a pitcher of margaritas. “So I’m going to be rated by men I’ve only spoken to for six minutes? And you expect me to find a match? What the hell do I say in six minutes that gets me a high rating? ‘Hi, you’re hot. Want to have sex?’ Will that do it?”
“Oh, Aubrey, you’re so dramatic! Listen, you’ll never know if you don’t try. What do you have to lose? If all else fails, we’ll call it conversational practice. It’s a win-win!”
“Yeah, win-win or lose!” I covered my face with my hands. I couldn’t believe I was considering doing this.
Julie pulled my hands down and looked at me. “What do you have to lose? If you don’t meet Mr. Romance Hero, you don’t lose anything. But you could meet someone. You won’t know if you don’t give it a shot. Just have faith.”
Julie was right; I had to admit at least that much. If I really thought about it, the idea wasn’t that bad, and I really didn’t have many other options. I was just trying to think of what to say that would be so amazing in six minutes. Worse yet, what would a guy say? And what were these guys like? They were probably creepy losers, and this was the only way for them to talk to women. Or worse yet, they were players looking for their next piece of ass, like Garrett. Either way, I couldn’t believe I was going to do this. Did that make me a loser too? Oh hell, who cares? I need to do this. “Okay, I’m in. What do we need to do first?”
“First, we call the spa and make appointments for tomorrow, and then we shop and figure out what questions you’re going to ask in your six-minute time frame.” Julie was so excited; it was as if she were the one who would be speed dating; she definitely had faith.
“How come you never told me about this event or club?”
“I don’t know. Honestly, it never dawned on me. I never thought you would do this or even want to.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t have done it if I had any other choice. I really need this for my research, or I wouldn’t be going.”
“Yeah, about that . . . What happens if you do meet a great guy? You know that’s a possibility.”
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “I honestly don’t think anyone who would attend an event like this would be my type—no offense. And what do you mean by ‘what would I do?’”
“I mean if you meet some delectable, stunningly handsome, want-to-make-you-strip-naked creature of a man and you end up dating him, will you tell him about the book, about him being your muse, or will you keep it to yourself?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know. I never thought about it. Anyway, I highly doubt I’ll meet someone who’ll make me melt and be gaga over. Do you know what kind of guys signed up?”
“We ran limited background checks on the guys. They have to be gainfully employed, between the ages of twenty-five and forty, single, and not on any sex-offender registries.”
My eyes went wide. “I guess those last two would be quite important!”
We both laughed. We called the spa to make appointments for nails, hair, and makeup for the next afternoon, and then we were off to find some nice little boutiques off the beaten path.
I had money, but I didn’t want a cookie-cutter outfit. I didn’t want to look as if I tried too hard, but I definitely didn’t want to look like a mall rat. I purchased a black pencil skirt that came just above my knees and a tasteful blue, sleeveless top that had a scoop neck and just grazed the top of my cleavage. I didn’t have much in the breast department, but the padded black lace bra Julie picked out for me helped fill me out nicely. She also made me buy a matching black lace thong and confirmed that I was okay in the waxing department. She wanted me to wear a garter belt and silk stockings. I just laughed and told her that I was all set. We finished our day with some good food and wine.
That got me thinking. I’m probably going to need wine to get me through tomorrow night. I should stop and pick up a bottle—no, a case!
My taxi pulled up to The White Orchid, and there were a decent amount of people entering. The club-goers were dressed to the nines. I was thankful that I decided to take a cab so I could be dropped off in front of the door. I wore my five-inch Jimmy Choo black pumps, and I felt wobbly just
I paid the driver, exited the car, stood on the sidewalk, and stared at the entrance. The door seemed as if it were screaming at me to run and run fast. What had I gotten myself into?
Still outside the club where there was a gently calming breeze that washed over me and calmed my nerves, I looked at the list of questions I wanted to ask the guys. I figured by the tenth guy I would have it down pat, but I wanted to memorize them so I wouldn’t look too rehearsed. Julie and I went over the list, and we thought it was okay. I thought I would ask these questions: What do you like to do on dates? Do you like to travel? Do you like sports? Are you close to your family? Have you ever been married? Did you go to college? When was your last relationship and how long did it last? That last one was important to me. If by chance I met someone who I wanted to get to know better and he’d just gotten out of a long relationship, I didn’t want to be involved. That could lead to nothing but bad drama. I didn’t need some psycho ex-girlfriend, or worse an ex-wife, coming after me. I know that when I read a romance novel there is always that twist, but that was one I didn’t want to experience. I just wanted to experience the romance, love, tender kisses, moonlight strolls, and the sound of his voice before I fell asleep. Yeah, that’s what I wanted. I blocked everything out, closed my eyes, and could almost picture it all.
I jumped as my phone vibrated. It was a text from Julie.
Julie: 6:55 p.m.—I saw you get out of the cab over fifteen minutes ago! Get your ass in here! It is going to start soon.
I felt embarrassed that I was standing on the sidewalk alone staring into nothing. God, I am such a loser, and I am worried about meeting losers? I laughed to myself at the irony. I straightened my skirt, adjusted my top, took a deep breath, and made my way inside.
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