Angsty Read · Blog Tour · Read in One Sitting · Release Blitz · Uncategorized

Release Blitz + My Book Review PS I DARE YOU by Winter Renshaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Ms. Keane,

Before this ridiculous little arrangement commences, I’d like to make myself indubitably clear: I know who you are, I know that my father hired you, I know why my father hired you, and lastly, your services aren’t needed.

In fact, I want no part of my father’s billion-dollar empire, and him “gifting” me with one of the “best concierges in the county” won’t change that. He’s wasting his money. You’re wasting your time.

However, seeing as how you foolishly signed an ironclad contract with an Act of God clause and my father has strong-armed me into taking this position, it appears as though we’re stuck together—at least until your contract is up next month.

That said, our time together at WellesTech should be relatively painless but please don’t fool yourself into thinking I don’t notice when that pretty little stare lingers a little too long or the way your breath catches when our hands graze. You’re fascinated by me and it kills you because you can hardly stand to be in the same room as me.

Think I’m a problem worth solving? An impossible riddle worth figuring out? By all means, go ahead and try. Solve for X. Crack the code. It might even be fun (but only for me, not you).

V/r,

Calder Welles, II

P.S. I dare you.

 

What.
The fuck.
Was that?
She’s the woman my father hired? The girl who spilled her coffee down her shirt after bumping into me in the hall?
That’s fucking golden. I can’t even be mad right now.
It makes perfect sense.
He brought on an assistant who happens to have all of the qualities he thinks I lack. She’s civil, tactful, punctual, classy as fuck.
I bet he thinks she’s going to be a good influence on me, like she can fucking domesticate me and turn me into a Corporate American civil servant.
Poor thing. She doesn’t realize she stepped inside the lion’s ring with nothing but a flimsy whip and a barstool. I’m not that easily tamed.
Regardless, I don’t know her name, but already I’m impressed. She’s not afraid to stand up for herself. I like that. If she’d given me a chance to explain, I’d have told her that’s what I meant when I said she was exactly my type.
I’m not a moron. I know she didn’t think I was flirting with her. I know she didn’t come back over because she wanted me. Quite the opposite. I saw the contention in that caramel-brown gaze of hers.
I also sensed a very raw, very real mutual attraction brewing—and that’s why I called it like it was and referred to her as a snack.
It was for the best.
I didn’t come here tonight to get laid. I’ve got bigger, more important things on my mind.
I watch the pretty little brunette with the black sweater grab her bag from her booth and storm out of the bar, her blonde friend in tow, and I toss back the rest of my Hennessy in one swallow.
Slapping some cash on the table, I take off and head back home, this time opting to walk.
Fresh air.
Deep thoughts.
A strong drink coursing through my veins.
If I’m lucky, these things plus a good night’s sleep will work together, helping me come to terms with what I’ve got to do in the morning.
Making my way through a crosswalk, I pass one of those sickeningly sweet couples walking hand-in-hand with that new-in-love look in their shiny eyes.
That kind of thing has never appealed to me, and if I’m being honest, a long-term relationship baked in exclusivity seems like a prison sentence. Who the hell wants someone they have to report to? Someone who has to know where they are at all times? Someone who expects them to be there when they call? Someone who has access to every aspect of their life?
It’s Bridgeforth Academy all over again, only the relationship version.
Pass.

 

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j

Author Links

 

 

 

 

My Book Review

 

Wow what a quick, angsty, romantic read that I devoured in one sitting! I really enjoyed the main characters and their push and pull. And man that hotel bathroom scene is umm…

If you have been reading this fun series but the fabulously talented Winter Renshaw then you will thoroughly enjoy this read! It is packed with Renshaw’s plot twists that keep you surprise and engaged in her romance novels.

LA Hollywood Romance · Roommates Romance · Uncategorized

Release Blitz P.S. I MISS YOU by Winter Renshaw

Melrose,

The first time I met you, you were a stranger. The second time, you were my roommate. The third time, you made it clear you were about to become the biggest thorn my side had ever known.

You sing way too loud in the shower and use all the hot water.

You’re bossy as hell.

You make my life all kinds of complicated.

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop thinking about you.

And truthfully … I can’t stop wanting you.

I was going to tell you this. I was going to sit you down, swallow my pride, hang up my noncommittal ways and show you a side of me you nor anyone else has ever seen before … but then you dropped a game-changing bombshell; a confession so nuclear it stopped me in my tracks.

How I didn’t see this coming, I’ll never know.

Sutter

P.S. I miss you.

I’m standing outside Melrose’s door, two sweaty beer bottles under one arm as I knock.
“Go away, Sutter,” she calls, voice stuffy.
I knock again.
“Go. Away,” she says.
A third knock should do it. A fourth if I must. I’m not going anywhere tonight.
Seconds later, the door swings open with a hard pull and Melrose’s frown neutralizes when she sees the drinks in my hand.
“What’s this?” she asks.
“You look like you had a rough night.” I hand hers over, but she doesn’t accept it right away.
Her tired stare rests on my outstretched hand. “Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Weirding you out too, huh?”
I manage to get the smallest smile out of her. I think. It’s gone before I can be sure.
Finally taking my generous gift, Melrose raises her brows and takes a swig. “Guess not.”
“You want to talk about it?” I ask, hooking my hand behind my neck. I’m terrible at these kinds of things and I don’t like to talk for the sake of talking, but I’ve come this far.
“Is your girlfriend gone?” She ignores my question.
“Acquaintance. And yeah. I sent her home.”
“You did?” Her forehead crinkles, like she doesn’t believe it.
I nod. And I don’t believe it myself. I’ve never put sex on the back burner so I could comfort some crying chick.
“I need to let Murphy out.” Melrose scoops the wrinkly beast into her arms and treks downstairs, cutting through the living room and kitchen to get to the backyard.
I follow, stepping out to the patio and sliding the door closed behind me. Murphy trots off, disappearing somewhere in the dark yard, and Melrose takes a seat on one of the steps. The moonlight makes her shine almost, painting a glow onto her bronzed skin and silky hair.
“So … you’re okay then?” I ask, picking at the label on my bottle. It occurs to me that I still haven’t thanked her for folding my shirts the other day, but this doesn’t feel like the right time.
“You don’t have to do this,” she says.
“Do what?”
“Feel sorry for me,” she says, turning and glancing up. “I don’t need your pity.”
“I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t even know what happened,” I say. “But judging by the way you were dressed when you came home … I’m thinking it had to do with some douche.”
“You were right, Sutter.” She picks at the label on her bottle. “I went out with Robert McCauley tonight.”
My chest tightens. I already know where this is going.

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j
Author Links

 

Contemporary Romance · Cover Reveal · Uncategorized

Cover Reveal P.S. I MISS YOU by Winter Renshaw

 

 

 

Melrose,

The first time I met you, you were a stranger. The second time, you were my roommate. The third time, you made it clear you were about to become the biggest thorn my side had ever known.

You sing way too loud in the shower and use all the hot water.

You’re bossy as hell.

You make my life all kinds of complicated.

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop thinking about you.

And truthfully … I can’t stop wanting you.

I was going to tell you this. I was going to sit you down, swallow my pride, hang up my noncommittal ways and show you a side of me you nor anyone else has ever seen before … but then you dropped a game-changing bombshell; a confession so nuclear it stopped me in my tracks.

How I didn’t see this coming, I’ll never know.

Sutter

P.S. I miss you.

 

 

 

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j

Author Links

 

 

 

Angsty Read · Book Review · NYC Romance · Release Blitz · Uncategorized

My Book Review + Release Blitz WAR & LOVE by Winter Renshaw

 

 

 

 

 

My lies? Impeccable.

My heart? Cold as ice.

My only job? To convince her what we had was as real as the diamond I intended to place on her finger.

The battle was someone else’s. I was merely a soldier, recruited by a wealthy stranger who made it unapologetically clear that my future—and everything I’ve ever worked—for depended on the successful completion of this mission.

I was prepared for war.

But I wasn’t prepared for Love Aldridge …

 

Jude

“You know she’s way too good for you, right?” Lo says, rocking Ellie on her hip as she stands in my kitchen.
“Yep.”
“Like … way.” She laughs through her nose, studying my outfit. “It’s weird seeing you like this.”
“Like what?”
Lo rolls her eyes. “You know. No ripped jeans or vintage Ramones t-shirts. Hair actually combed for once.”
I know I look like a schmuck with my pressed slacks and cashmere sweater and shiny Italian loafers and hair parted on the side and slicked with brill cream, but this is all part of Hunter’s master plan.
“If you want to hook Love, you have to use the right bait,” he’d said, comparing his ex-wife to a fucking fish.
“God, this place is amazing,” Lo says, carrying Ellie from the kitchen to the living room, where she hones in on the kind of view we only ever dreamed of.
“Sure beats our fourth floor walk-up.”
She smirks. “Yeah. Just a little.”
“I Venmo’d you the rent money this morning,” I said. “Next six months are covered. There’s some extra for food and Piper’s meds.”
Lo turns to me, her smart-ass expression fading. She’s tough as rocks, but I swear I see a hint of tears brimming in her eyes. She doesn’t have to say a word. I know what this means to her. After her deadbeat ex was hauled off to prison a couple years back for running drugs (unbeknownst to all of us), she found herself a twenty-three-year-old single mother with a toddler and a newborn, no job, and no way to feed them.
At the time, I’d been out of the Army for a few years, had just finished my plumbing apprenticeship, and landed a decent job at Premier Plumb and Supply in Brooklyn. As soon as Lo finally admitted to me that she was struggling and about to become evicted, I found a hole-in-the-wall two-bedroom above a pizza shop and moved them in, vowing to help her get on her feet.
Now, during the day, Lo stays home with the girls. At night she waits tables at some exclusive restaurant on 67th Street, heading into the city shortly after the girls go down for the night. Tips are decent and the hours are shit, but she doesn’t complain because this has always been temporary.
The plan was for her to start nursing school at Touro, and she was going to start this summer. But I lost my job a few months back due to cutbacks, and one of us had to make sure the rent was still being paid.
“You sure you want to do this?” Lo asks, biting her lower lip as Ellie runs her chubby fingers through her hair.
Piper is seated in the cognac chair across from the TV, messing with a remote that I’m pretty sure belongs to the fireplace.
“What choice do I have?” I’d spent the last three months applying for jobs, but all the ones I could find had shitty pay, zero benefits, or shady reputations. I booked every music gig I could find, playing at any bar that would so much as take me for an hour or two at night, but it didn’t make up for the lost wages, and most of it went toward Piper’s meds anyway.
“We could always move,” she says.
“It costs money to move, Lo. And we don’t have that right now.” My tone is short and I don’t mean to come at her that way, but I don’t need to be reminded that what I’m doing is nothing less than heartless. “As soon as this is over, we can look into moving somewhere cheap and safe. With good people and even better schools. All this stress, this bullshit? It’s about to end.”
Taking a seat at a kitchen bar stool, I slump my elbow on the counter and exhale.
“She seems really nice,” Lo says. “Sweet.”
“I know.”
“And she just went through a divorce,” she adds. “She’s probably already heartbroken. And you’re just going to come in and—”
Fuck. “I know.”
Lo doesn’t manage our finances. She doesn’t see that we’re one rough month away from being out on the street, one unexpected bill away from Piper not having her EpiPen or inhaler when she needs it.
A million dollars and a record deal.
That’s what this deal is worth to Hunter LeGrand, that’s what he laid on the table. And before I had a chance to so much as think it over, he was elaborating on the fact that he’s “well connected” and he can “make shit happen” and he has no qualms about “blacklisting people like you” should they deserve it. He also felt the need to remind me that singer-songwriters like me were on every street corner in Manhattan, that I could always make a living busking in the subways or singing covers on YouTube if this deal didn’t pan out because he’d personally see to it that my name would never be in lights.
“The girls are probably hungry,” I say to Lo, checking my watch. “Let’s grab something.”
My sister moves Ellie to her other hip, her eyes snapping to the floor. “It’s okay. We should get going so we can catch the five.”
“I thought I was taking you guys out for lunch … made us reservations at Serendipity III.”
“I’m sorry, Jude. After seeing her … it just doesn’t feel right spending your blood money on frozen hot chocolate.”
My sister can be so fucking dramatic sometimes.
“It’s not blood money, Lo,” I say, half-chuckling. “No one’s getting offed.”
“You know what I mean.” She speaks quickly and her gaze moves to mine. “Come on, Pipes. Let’s go.”
Piper places the fireplace remote on the table where she found it and slides off the leather chair, dashing across the living room toward her mother, her dark pigtails bouncing.
A second later, the three of them head to the door, only before they leave, Lo turns to me. “The place is great and all, Jude, but don’t get too comfortable in case this whole thing blows up in your face. Because it will. And when it does, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
They leave before I have a chance to respond, and I’m left with my kid sister’s words echoing in my head, resonating off the deepest fragments of my conscience and all the parts of me that wish I never walked into Blue Stream Records that random Tuesday in May, flash drive demo in hand, and crossed paths with the CEO himself in the elevator lobby.
I should’ve known when Hunter said, “I don’t normally take unsolicited demos, but you seem like exactly the kind of act I’m looking for right now,” that he wasn’t talking about music.
Not at all.

 

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j

Author Links

 

 

 


My Book Review

I am a MAJOR Fan of Winter Renshaw and am always so excited that she publishes a new book! Her books are always juicy romance novels that hook you in and have a plot twist leaving you in suspense!

The author has a very brief and vague blurb so I don’t want to give away too much, just that its a great read and there are many underlying things going on in this book…

Another great read and I will continually one-click this author’s books!

 

Excerpt Reveal · Military Romance

P.S. I HATE YOU by Winter Renshaw Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Isaiah,

Eight months ago, you were just a soldier about to be deployed and I was just a waitress, sneaking you free pancakes and hoping you wouldn’t notice that my gaze was lingering a little too long.

But you did notice.

We spent a “week of Saturdays” together before you left, and we said goodbye on day eight, exchanging addresses at the last minute.

I saved every letter you ever sent, your words quickly becoming my religion.

But you went radio silent on me months ago, and then you had the audacity to walk into my diner yesterday and act like you’d never seen me in your life.

To think … I almost loved you and your beautifully complicated soul.

Almost.

Whatever your reason is—I hope it’s a good one.

Maritza the Waitress

PS – I hate you, and this time … I mean it.

 

 

 

Maritza

“Welcome to Brentwood Pancake and Coffee. I’m Maritza and I’ll be your server,” I greet my millionth customer of the morning with the same old spiel. This one, a raven-haired, honey-eyed Adonis, waited over seventy minutes for a table by a window, though I suppose in LA time that’s the blink of an eye.
He doesn’t so much as acknowledge me.
“Just you today?” I ask, eyeing the empty chair across from him. The breakfast rush is about to end, and lucky for him, I only have one other table right now.
He doesn’t answer, but maybe he doesn’t hear me?
“Coffee?” I ask another obvious question. I mean, the diner is called Brentwood Pancake and Coffee for crying out loud. Everyone comes here for the coffee and plate-sized pancakes, and it’s considered a Class-D felony to order anything else.
Placing his mug right side up on his saucer, he pushes it toward me and I begin to pour. Waving his hand, he stops me when the cup is three-quarters of the way full. A second later, he adds two creams and one half of a sugar packet, but the way he moves is methodical, rigid. With intention.
“Ma’am, this really can’t be that interesting,” he says under his breath, his spoon clinking against the sides of the porcelain mug after he stirs.
“Excuse me?”
“You’re standing here watching me,” he says. Giving the spoon two final taps against the rim of the mug, he then rests it on the saucer before settling his intense amber gaze in my direction. “Isn’t there another table that needs you?”
His eyes are warm like honey but his stare is cold, piercing. Unrelenting.
“You’re right. There is.” I clear my throat and snap out of it. If I was lingering, it wasn’t my intention, but this I’m-sexy-and-I-know-it asshole didn’t need to call me out on it. Sue me for being a little distracted. “I’ll be back to check on you in a minute, okay?”
With that, I leave him alone with his menu and his coffee and his foul mood and his brooding gaze … and his broad shoulders … and his full lips … and I get back to work, stopping at table four to see if Mr. and Mrs. Carnavale need refills on their house blend decafs.
By the time I top them off, I draw in a cleansing breath and head back to Mr. Tall, Dark, and Douche-y, forcing a smile on my face.
“We ready to order?” I ask, pulling my pen from behind my ear and my notepad from my Kelly-green apron.
He folds his menu, offering it to me despite the fact that my hands are full, but I manage to slip it under my arm without dropping anything.
“Two pancakes,” he says. “Eggs. Scrambled. Rye toast. Butter. Not margarine.”
“I’m so sorry.” I point to a sign above the cash register that clearly reads ONE PANCAKE PER PATRON – NO EXCEPTIONS.
He squints, his expression calcifying when he reads it.
“So that’s one pancake, scrambled eggs, and buttered rye toast then,” I recite his order.
“What kind of bullshit rule is that?” He checks his watch, like he has somewhere to be.
Or like he doesn’t have the time for a rule that I entirely agree is pure bullshit.
“These pancakes are huge. I promise one will be more than enough.” I try to deescalate the situation before it gets out of hand because it’s never pretty when management has to get involved. The owners of the diner are strict as hell on this policy and their day shift manager is even more so. She’ll happily inform any and all disgruntled customers there’s a reason the “pancake” in Brentwood Pancake and Coffee is singular and not plural.
I’ve seen many a diner walk out of here and never return over this stupid policy and our Yelp review average is in the dumps, but somehow it never seems to be bad for business. The line is perpetually out the door and down the block every weekend morning without fail, and sometimes even on weekdays. These pancakes are admittedly as delicious and more than own up to their reputation, but that stupid rule is nothing more than clever marketing designed to inflate demand.
“And what if I’m still hungry?” he asks. “Can I order a second?”
Wincing, I shake my head.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” He sits up a little, jaw clenching. “It’s a goddamned pancake for fuck’s sake.”
“Not just any pancake,” I say with a practiced smile. “It’s a Brentwood pancake.”
“Are you trying to be cute with me, ma’am?” he asks, directing his attention at me, though he isn’t flirting. His nostrils flare a little and I can’t help but let my mind wander the tiniest bit about how sexy he looks when he’s angry—despite the fact that I would never so much as entertain the idea of getting down and dirty with an asshole like this.
He’s hot AF but I don’t do jerks. Plain and simple.
I’d have to be drunk. Like, really drunk. And I’d have to be desperate. And even then … I don’t know. He’s got some kind of chip on his shoulder, and no amount of sexiness would be able to distract me from that.
“Let me put your order in, okay?” I ask with a smile so forced my cheeks hurt. They say good moods are contagious, but I’m starting to think this guy might be immune.
“As long as it’s the full order, ma’am,” he says, lips pressing flat as he exhales. I don’t know why he keeps calling me “ma’am” when I’m clearly younger than he is. Hell, I couldn’t legally drink until three years ago.
I am not a “ma’am.”
“The cook won’t make two,” I say with an apologetic tone before biting my bottom lip. If I play it coy and helpless maybe he’ll back down a little? It works. Sometimes.
“Then it’s for my guest,” he points to the empty seat across from him. His opposite hand is balled into a fist, and I can’t help but notice his watch is programmed in military time, “who happens to be showing up later.”
“We don’t serve guests until they’re physically here,” I say. Yet another one of the restaurant’s strict policies. Too many patrons have tried to use that loophole over the years, so they had to close it. But they didn’t just close it—they battened the hatches with hurricane-proof glass by way of a giant security monitor in the kitchen. They even make the cooks check the screen before preparing orders, just to make sure no one’s breaking the rules.
The man drags his hand through his dark hair, which I’m realizing now is a “regulation cut.”
Military.
I bet he’s military.
Has to be. The hair. The watch. The constant swearing juxtaposed with the overuse of the word “ma’am.” He reminds me of my cousin Eli who spent ten years in the U.S. army, and if he’s anything else like Eli, he’s not going to let up about this.
Exhaling, I place my palm gently on his shoulder despite the fact that we’re not supposed to put hands on the guests for any reason, but this guy is tense and his muscled shoulders are just begging for a gentle touch.
“Just … bear with me, okay?” I ask. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The man serves our country. He fights for our freedom. Despite the fact that he’s unquestionably a giant asshole, he at least deserves a second pancake.
I’m going to have to get creative.
Heading back to the kitchen, I put his order in and check on the Carnavales one more time. On my way to the galley to refill my coffee pot, I pass a table full of screaming children, one of which has just shoved his giant pancake on the floor, much to his gasping mother’s dismay.
Bending, I retrieve the sticky circle from the floor and place it back on his plate.
“Would you like the kitchen to fix another?” I ask. They’re lucky. This is the only time they’ll make an exception, and I’ll have to present the dirty pancake as proof.
The child screams and I can barely hear what the mother is trying to say. Glancing around the table, I spot five little minions under the age of eight, all of them dressed in Burberry, Gucci, and Dior. The inflated-lipped mother sports a shimmering, oversized rock on her left ring finger and the father has his nose buried in his phone.
But I’m not one to judge.
LA is lacking child-friendly restaurants of the quality variety, and it’s not like Mr. Chow or The Ivy would welcome their noisy litter with open arms. I don’t even think they have high chairs there.
“I don’t want a pancake!” The oldest of the tanned, flaxen-haired gremlins screams in his mother’s face, turning her flawless complexion a shade of crimson that almost matches her pristine Birkin bag.
“Just … just take it away,” she says, flustered, her palm sprawling her glassy, Botoxed forehead.
Nodding, I take the ‘cake back to the kitchen, only I stop when I reach the galley, grabbing a stack of cloth napkins and hiding the plate beneath it. As soon as my military patron finishes his first pancake, I’ll run this back to the kitchen and claim he accidentally dropped it on the floor.
“Order up!” one of the line guys calls from the window, and I head over to see my military man’s breakfast is hot and ready—though I may have accidentally moved it to the front of the ticket line when no one was looking because I don’t have the energy to deal with him freaking out if his breakfast is taking too long.
Grabbing his plate, I rush it out to him, delivering it with a smile and a sweet, “Can I get you anything else right now?”
His gaze drops to his food and then lifts to me.
“I know,” I say, palm up. “Just … trust me. I’ll take care of you.”
I wink, partially disgusted with myself. He has no idea how difficult it is for me to be accommodating to him when he’s treating me like this. I’d love nothing more than to pour a steaming hot pitcher of coffee into his lap, but out of respect and appreciation—and only respect and appreciation—for his service, I won’t resort to such a thing.
Plus, I work for tips. I kind of have to be accommodating. And lord knows I need this job. I may be living in my grandmother’s gorgeous guesthouse, but believe me, she charges rent.
Free rides aren’t a thing in the Claiborne family.
He peers down his straight nose, stabbing the tines of his polished fork into a chunk of fluffy scrambled egg.
He doesn’t say thank you—not surprising—and I tell him I’ll be back to check on him in a little while before making my way to the galley where another server, Rachael, is also seeking respite.
“That table with the screaming kids,” I ask, “that yours?”
She blows her blonde bangs off her forehead and rolls her eyes. “Yup.”
“Better you than me,” I tease. Rachael’s got three of her own at home. She’s good with kids and she always seems to know the right thing to say to distract them or thwart a total meltdown.
“I’ll trade you,” she says. “The family for the dimples at table four.”
“He has dimples?” I peek my head out, staring toward my military man.
“Oh, God, yes,” she says. “Deep ones. Killer smile, too. Thought maybe he was some model or actor or something, but he said he was an army corporal.”
“We can’t be talking about the same guy. He hasn’t so much as half-smiled at me and he’s already told you what he does for a living?”
“Huh.” Rachael lifts a thin red brow, like she’s wondering if we’re talking about two different people. “He asked me how I was doing earlier and smiled. Thought he was real friendly.”
“That one. Right there. Dark hair? Golden eyes? Muscles bulging out of his gray t-shirt?” I do a quick point before retracting my finger.
She takes another look. “Yeah. That’s him. You don’t forget a face like that. Or biceps like that …”
“Weird.” I fold my arms, staring his way and wondering if maybe he has a thing against girls like me. Though I’m pretty ordinary compared to most girls out here. Average height. Average weight. Brown hair. Brown eyes.
Maybe I remind him of an ex?
I’m mid-thought when out of nowhere he turns around, our eyes catching like he knew I was watching. Reaching for a hand towel in front of me, I glance down and try to act busy by wiping up a melted ice cube on the galley counter.
“Busted.” Rachael elbows me before heading out to check on the Designer family. I swat her on the arm as she passes, and then I give myself a second to regain my composure. As soon as the warmth has left my cheeks, I head out to check on him, relieved to find his pancake demolished, not a single, spongey scrap left behind. In fact, his entire meal is finished … coffee and all.
Reaching for his plate, he stops me, his hand covering mine, and then our eyes lock.
“Why were you staring at me over there?” he asks. The way he looks at me is equal parts invasive and intriguing, like he’s studying me, forming a hard and fast opinion, but also like he’s checking me out which makes zero sense because his annoyance with me practically oozes out of his perfect, tawny physique.
“I’m sorry?” I play dumb.
“I saw you. Answer the question.”
Oh, god. He’s not going to let this go. Something tells me I should’ve taken Rachael up on her offer to trade tables. This one’s been nothing but trouble since the moment I poured his coffee.
My mouth falls and I’m not sure what to say. Half of me knows I should probably utter some kind of nonsense most likely to appease him so he doesn’t complain to my manager, but the other half of me is tired of being nice to a man who has the decency to ask another waitress how her day is going and can’t even bring himself to treat his own server like a human being.
“You were talking about me with that other waitress,” he says. His hand still covers mine, preventing me from exiting this conversation.
Exhaling, I say, “She wanted to trade tables.”
His dark brow arches and he studies my face.
“And then she said you had dimples,” I expand. “She said you smiled at her earlier … I was just thinking about why you’d be so polite to her and not me.”
He releases me and I stand up straight, tugging my apron into place before smoothing my hands down the front.
“She handed me a newspaper while I waited. She didn’t have to do that,” he says, lips pressing flat. “Give me something to smile about and I’ll smile at you.”
The audacity of this man.
The heat in my ears and the clench in my jaw tells me I should walk away now if I want to preserve my esteemed position as morning server here at Brentwood Pancake and Coffee, but it’s guys like him …
I try to say something, but all the thoughts in my head are temporarily nonsensical and flavored with a hint of rage. A second later, I manage a simple yet gritted, “Would you like me to grab your check, sir?”
“No,” he says without pause. “I’m not finished with my breakfast yet.”
We both glance at his empty plates.
“More eggs?” I ask.
“No.”
I can’t believe I’m about to do this for him, but at this point, the sooner I get him out of here, the better. I mean, at this point I’m doing it for myself, let’s be real.
“One moment.” I take his empty dishes to the kitchen before sneaking into the galley and grabbing that kid’s dirty pancake. My pulse whooshes in my ears and my body is lit, but I forge ahead, returning to the pick-up window and telling one of the cooks that my customer at table twelve dropped his ‘cake on the floor.
He glances at the plate, then to the security monitor, then back to me before taking it out of my hands and exchanging it for a fresh one. It’s a verifiable assembly line back there, just a bunch of guys in hairnets and aprons standing around a twenty-foot griddle, spatulas in each hand.
“Thanks, Brad,” I say. Making my way back to my guy, I stop to check on the Carnavales, only their table is already being bussed and Rachael tells me she took care of their check because they were in a hurry.
Shit.
“Here you are.” I place the plate in front of my guy.
He glances up at me, honeyed eyes squinting for a moment. I wink, praying he doesn’t ask questions.
“Let me know if you need anything else, okay?” I ask, wishing I could add, “just don’t ask for another pancake because I’ll be damned if I risk my job for an ingrate like you ever again.”
“Coffee, ma’am. I’d like another cup of coffee.” He reaches for his glass syrup carafe, pouring sticky sweet, imported-from-Vermont goodness all over his steaming pancake, and I try not to watch as he forms an “x” and then a circle.
Striding away, I grab a fresh carafe of coffee and return to top him off, stopping at three-quarters of the way full. A second later, he glances up at me, his full lips pulling up at the sides, revealing the most perfect pair of dimples I’ve ever seen … as if the past twenty minutes have all been some kind of joke and he was only busting my chops by being the world’s biggest douche lord.
But just like that, it disappears.
His pearly, dimpled smirk is gone before I get the chance to fully appreciate how kind of a soul he appears to be when he’s not all tense and surly.
“Glad I finally gave you a reason to smile.” I’m teasing. Sort of. And I gently rub his shoulder, which is still tight as hell. “Anything else I can get you?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take my check.”
Thank. God.
I can’t get it fast enough. Within a minute, I’ve punched my staff ID into the system, printed his ticket, shoved it into a check presenter, and rushed it to his table. His debit card rests on the edge when I arrive, as if I’d taken too long and he grew tired of holding it in his hand.
He’s just as anxious to leave as I am to get him out of here. Guess that marks the one and only thing that puts us on the same page.
“I’ll be right back with this,” I tell him. His card—plain navy plastic with the VISA logo in the lower corner and NAVY ARMY CREDIT UNION along the top—bears the name “Isaiah Torres.”
When I return, I hand him a neon purple gel pen from my pocket and gather his empty dishes.
“Thank you for the …” he points at the sticky plate in my hand as he signs his check. “For that.”
“Of course,” I say, avoiding eye contact because the sooner I can pretend he’s already gone, the better. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Asshole.
Glancing up, I spot our hostess, Maddie, flagging me down and mouthing that I have three new tables. Great. Thanks to this charmer, I’ve disappointed the Carnavales, risked my job, and kept several tables waiting all within the span of a half hour.
Isaiah signs his check, closes the leather binder, and slides out of his booth. When he stands, he towers over me, peering down his nose and holding my gaze captive for what feels like a single, endless second.
For a moment, I’m so blinded by his chiseled jaw and full lips, that my heart misses a couple of beats and I almost forget our little exchange.
“Ma’am, if you’ll kindly excuse me,” he says as I realize I’m blocking his path.
I step aside, and as he passes, his arm brushes against mine and the scent of fresh soap and spicy aftershave fills my lungs. Shoving the check presenter in my apron, I tend to my new tables before rushing back to start filling drinks.
Glancing toward the exit, I catch him stopping in the doorway before slowly turning to steal one last look at me for reasons I’ll never know, and it isn’t until an hour later that I finally get a chance to check his ticket. Maybe I’d been dreading it, maybe I’d purposely placed it in the back of my mind, knowing full well he was going to leave me some lousy, slap-in-the-face tip after everything I’d done for him. Or worse: nothing at all.
But I stand corrected.
“Maritza, what is it?” Rachael asks, stopping short in front of me, hands full of strategically stacked dirty dishes.
I shake my head. “That guy … he left me a hundred-dollar tip.”
Her nose wrinkles. “What? Let me see. Maybe it’s a typo?”
I show her the tab and the very clearly one and two zeroes on the tip line. The total confirms that the tip was no typo.
“I don’t understand. He was such an ass,” I say under my breath. “This is like, what, five hundred percent?”
“Maybe he grew a conscience at the last minute?” Her lips jut forward.
I roll my eyes. “Whatever it was, I just hope he never comes here again. And if he does, you get him. There isn’t enough tip money in the world that would make me want to serve that arrogant prick again. I don’t care how hot he is.”
“Gladly.” Her mouth pulls wide. “I have this thing for generous pricks with dashing good looks.”
“I know,” I say. “I met your last two exes.”
Rachael sticks her tongue out before prancing off, and I steal one last look at Isaiah’s tip. It’s not like he’s the first person ever to bestow me with such plentiful gratuity—this is a city where cash basically grows on trees—it’s just that it doesn’t make sense and I’ll probably never get a chance to ask him why.
Exhaling, I get back to work.
I’ve worked way too damn hard to un-complicate my life lately, and I’m not about to waste another thought on some complicated man I’m never going to see ever again.

 

 

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

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