Valentine Romance- The Best Short Valentine Romances of 2014, page 1
THE BEST SHORT VALENTINE ROMANCES OF 2014
Cary Morgan Frates
A Books to Go Now Publication
Copyright © White-Conner-Morgan Frates-Kavanagh 2014
Books to Go Now
Also published on Smashwords
For information on the cover illustration and design, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
First eBook Edition –January 2014
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.
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The Wife Project
Personal chef Katy Walsh focused on chopping onions for this morning’s meal as her client, software developer Alex Remington, sat across the kitchen island from her.
“You’re beautiful and smart; clever and funny,” Alex said.
“Sounded a bit rehearsed.”
“Okay, how about this: You’re beautiful, smart, clever and funny—the total package,” Alex tried again.
“You’re talking about a woman not cable TV package, right?” Katy teased as she tossed onions into the frying pan.
“AAAHHH, why is this so hard?” He plopped his forehead onto the kitchen island.
Being someone’s personal chef had occasionally required Katy to play counselor but never romance consultant, at least not until today. Today A.J. Remington III—just Alex to Katy—was hoping for dating advice. Well not dating advice, but wife advice, as in how to get one without any strings attached. The thirty-something bachelor wanted Katy to help him craft the magic sentence that would make a woman accept his relationship-without-love proposal. She wondered if such a woman existed.
“Wait, what’s the problem with love, again?” she asked.
“I don’t have time for the required maintenance.”
She glanced at Alex, who flicked a wooden paddleball with one hand while checking e-mail on his tablet with the other. Guess that’s what made him a successful entrepreneur: complete and total dedication to his business.
Who would have thought little Alexander would have ended up the owner of one of the most promising software companies in the world? Not Katy, that’s for sure. Growing up, Alex had been her best friend Anna’s little brother, a nerdy kid that was picked on at school because he wore thick glasses, flood pants and was smarter than most of his teachers.
“I’ve got an important client meeting in two weeks and need to bring a wife-type with me…” he hesitated, the rubber paddleball falling limp on the counter, “or at least a serious girlfriend.”
“There’s always Craigslist,” Katy joked.
His eyes widened with hope.
“I’m kidding,” she said.
Katy went back to sautéing the onion. Egg Vegetable Bake was the highlight of this morning’s menu. Then there was the lunch she hoped Alex would remember to grab as he headed out to the office.
She’d been hired as his personal chef after Alex’s sister found out he’d collapsed at work due to low blood sugar—he’d forgotten to eat. The guy was a genius but didn’t know how to take care of himself.
“No, it’s a good idea,” he said. “I’ll post an ad in—”
“Stop. You can’t solve everything with technology,” she said.
“Sure you can.”
She glanced over her shoulder. Now he was searching his tablet while paddle balling, and checking text messages. And he wondered why he couldn’t get a woman to take him seriously? It wasn’t because he lacked for looks. He might have been skinny as a kid, but he’d filled out nicely. Some might even call him handsome if you looked past the dorky, horn-rimmed glasses he wore as a style statement, and wild hair he probably combed only on Thursdays.
“What’s the big deal about having a woman on your arm for this meeting anyway?” Katy asked.
“It makes me seem more accessible. I guess I come off as aloof and eccentric.”
“Who, you?” she teased.
“I can’t help it if my brain is always focused on business.” He shrugged. “I love my work.”
Hence, he couldn’t love a woman.
“To whom were you going to recite this ‘beautiful-smart-clever-funny’ speech to? Wait, sidebar.” She aimed the wooden spoon at him. “You’re not going to find smart and funny in the same package.”
She stirred eggs into the vegetable mixture and poured it into a greased pie plate. “Why don’t you try again, but put more passion into it.”
“I need a name to get into character.”
She slid the egg bake into the oven. “Okay, action.”
“Serena, you’re an awesome person: beautiful and smart; clever and funny.”
“Wow, thanks,” Katy played along.
“So I have a proposition for you.”
“Yes?” She turned around and was alone in the kitchen. “Where’d you go?”
“Down here,” he said from the other side of the island.
“What are you doing down there?”
“I’m kind of proposing so I should be on one knee, right?”
“Right, okay. Continue.” She smiled. He was trying to get it right.
Her smile faded at the memory of her ex-husband’s overly romantic proposal at the Space Needle. No reason to go there.
“Serena, ever since we met at Geeks Drink Trivia night, I knew we’d make a great team. So I’d like to propose something even more meaningful than marriage.” He stood and held out a key to his roomy condo. “I’d like to propose a partnership.”
“What kind of partnership?”
He reached for her hand and she gave it to him, curious as to what he was up to. With a jerk, he pulled her into a dance hold and she found herself floating across his dining room like they were competing on Dancing with the Stars.
“I’ll take you to Europe, China, the North Pole,” he said. “We’ll go sailing and scuba diving—”
“In the North Pole?”
“Paragliding in the Swiss Alps; horseback riding in the Bahamas.”
She wasn’t sure how he was doing it, but Alex was managing to lead a total klutz like Katy around his condo without breaking any furniture — yet.
“We’ll fly to Paris for Valentine’s Day; London for Flag Day and the Caribbean over Thanksgiving. We’ll go to a Seahawks games—”
“What if she’s not a sports fan?”
“We’ll climb Mt. Si,” he continued in his sing-song voice, “Mt. Rainier and Mt. Fuji.”
As he spun her around, a giggle bubbled up in her throat. She couldn’t stop herself. She realized she hadn’t giggled in a very long time. She hadn’t giggled since—
He dropped her into a passionate dip, holding her firmly, and stared down into her eyes. She’d never noticed how blue his eyes were, blue and sincere with more than a hint of mischief.
“All you have to do is agree to be my wife. Be loyal, supportive and positive. God, I need someone positive.” He straightened and released her.
She leaned against the dining room table for support.
What the heck just happened? She’d been drawn in, that’s what. Alex’s lightheartedness, his playfulness, exposed a part of Katy she thought deadened by betrayal and shame. Crushed to dust the day she caught Tony screwing Katy’s boss in Katy and Tony’s bed.
“Is that too much to ask?” Alex said, flicking his wooden paddleball with one hand and eyeing his cell phone with the other.
Katy had drifted into the nightmare of the past, her memories taunting her as if everything had happened just yesterday.
“Katy?” he asked, looking up from his phone.
“Is it too much to ask that my wife-to-be is positive and upbeat… you know, happy? I’ve got so much stress with work, I don’t need more from a depressed, I-hate-my-life drama queen.”
“No, I think the happy factor is definitely a job requirement,” she said, retreating to the kitchen.
Luckily the egg bake was the last of the meals she was making today. She suddenly didn’t want to be here. Alex had pleaded to the universe for a positive female and here stood Katy, sinking deeper into that dark place. It had been two years, plenty of time to get over her failed marriage, but she always got a little sad right before Valentine’s Day, which was only a week away.
“I whipped up some healthy chicken salad for lunch, but you should wait until you’re ready to eat it before you put it on the bread or it will get soggy, okay?” She eyed him. He was absorbed in his e-mail. A good thing. It meant they didn’t have to talk anymore, pretend to be suitor and potential wife. This whole thing was getting weird.
Figuring he hadn’t heard her, and knowing if he had to assemble something he’d probably blow it off, she went ahead and finished making a few sandwiches—chicken salad, turkey and cheese and cashew butter with banana and honey—and tossed the massaged kale, sunflower seeds, onions and chopped apples with the dressing. Alex had grown to like her intriguing combinations, trusting her ability to make healthy food taste good.
She packed up the extra ingredients. “The timer will go off in twenty minutes for the egg bake. You can freeze the leftovers. Okay, I’m off to my next client.”
“Another lost cause like me?” he asked.
“No, actually a little boy with autism.” She headed for the door and Alex walked with her. “His mom wants to try a special diet to help with his symptoms.”
Alex studied her, but didn’t say anything.
“Sorry, too depressing?” she said.
“No, I think it’s nice that you do stuff like that…ya’ know, help people.”
“Why thank you Mr. Remington.”
“You’re welcome Miss Walsh. Here,” he handed her his condo key.
She stared at it, confused.
“Don’t worry, I’m not proposing. I’m going to Hong Kong day after tomorrow and was hoping there’d be food in my fridge when I got back.”
“Oh, right. Absolutely. I can do that.”
“Feel free to use the key to get away from your roommate. I’ve got plenty of beds.”
He opened the door and she shot him a polite smile. “Good luck with the wife search.”
“Thanks, I’ll need it.”
She headed for the elevators.
“Bet you didn’t know I could dance, did you?” he called down the hallway.
She pressed the elevator button and turned. “Nope.”
“You’ll find I’m full of surprises.”
“Earth to A.J.”
Alex glanced up at his business partner, Matthew, who loomed in the doorway of Alex’s office. “Mars or Venus?”
“Where were you orbiting, dude?” Matthew wandered in and flopped down in a chair across from Alex’s desk.
“I was thinking.”
“If you were thinking you’d be throwing a ball around the room or shooting foam arrows at Lanie. You weren’t thinking, you were out of it.”
“Got a lot on my mind.”
Like an adorable personal chef that had gotten under his skin. It was that look in Katy’s eye, that incredibly sad look that still bothered him. Alex felt responsible for her melancholy yet didn’t know what he’d done.
Matthew snapped his fingers in Alex’s face.
“Female problems,” Alex blurted out.
“Uh, you know how that sounded, right?”
Alex tossed a mini basketball at his partner who deflected it in self-defense and somehow the ball swished through the basket hanging on Alex’s door.
“Did you see that?” Matthew jumped up. “That was awesome!” He did a victory lap of Alex’s office, arms stretched high, simulating crowd noise with his voice.
“How old are you again?”
Matthew continued his victory lap.
“Hey, guys?” Lanie their admin said from the doorway.
“I am victorious!” Matthew said as he jogged past her.
“Congratulations,” she said dryly. “Mr. Winslow’s admin called. They want to move up the meeting by a week so he can celebrate Valentine’s Day in Seattle with his wife.”
“Uh.” Alex leaned so far back in his chair he nearly toppled over.
Matthew stopped short and eyed Alex. “What’s the problem? We’ll close the deal that much sooner.”
“And Mr. Winslow is looking forward to meeting your wife,” Lanie said.
“My what?” Matthew said with horror in his voice.
“Not you. Him.” She pointed at Alex.
Alex jerked upright. “What are you talking about?” He eyed Matthew. “What is she talking about?”
“Thank you, Lanie,” Matthew said.
“I’d like to meet her too,” Lanie said with a raised eyebrow.
Matthew scooted her out of the office and closed the door.
“Matthew?” Alex ground out like a parent scolding a child.
“It was an accident.”
“An accident is when you spill coffee on your keyboard or text a crotch shot to your business partner instead of your girlfriend.”
“I apologized for that.”
“Did you lie to a potential client?”
“I didn’t lie. He assumed.”
“You can’t fire me.”
Alex whipped out his ping-pong ball machine gun.
“We’ll fix this, A.J. We’ll—”
Alex fired off a couple of rounds.
“Don’t worry,” Matthew said, ducking for cover. “We’ll find you a wife by Valentine’s Day.”
All Katy wanted to do was go back to her apartment and collapse. She’d worked three ten-hour days with only short breaks to pick up ingredients at Metropolitan Market. Many of her clients had her planning romantic meals for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday.
She swung open the door to her Queen Anne apartment building and f
Katy stopped short. She couldn’t deal with people right now; didn’t have the energy to smile and make small talk, which she’d have to do if she wanted to get to her bedroom and shut the door.
A short bus ride later she found herself at Alex’s place. He was in Hong Kong so he wouldn’t care if she hung out for a few hours until the party thinned out.
As she rode the elevator to the 20th floor, her phone rang. The smiling face of Alex’s sister, Katy’s best friend Anna, flashed on her screen.
“Hey girlfriend,” Katy said.
“How’s my little brother?”
“He left me this weird message asking what Trevor did to get me to marry him, and would I have married him if we didn’t love each other, and a bunch of other weird questions. Either it’s low blood sugar or he’s having a complete breakdown.”
Katy stepped off the elevator and went to Alex’s condo. “He’s fine. He’s trying to find a wife for an upcoming business dinner.”
She opened the door to his place, flipped on the lights and made a beeline for the living room’s amazing view.
“Like he can’t have a normal relationship with a woman? It has to be related to work?” Anna said.
“He’s married to his work so…”
“He sounded desperate. I wish I could be there. Hey, you could help him, you know, answer questions about relationships?”
“I’m not sure my advice would be helpful.”
“Why? What’s your advice?”
“Avoid them at all costs.”
“Katy, come on. Aren’t you dating?”
“Business is that good, huh?”
“I’m glad, really glad,” Anna said, sadness lacing her voice.
Everyone wanted Katy to find a nice man who’d cherish her and love her for who she was, not what he wanted her to be.