Love can bloom in infinite ways.
These eleven short romances follow love through cute meets to taking friendship to the next level to rekindling a marriage. Feelings can be sparked by an errant computer file, a hunt for diamonds, or even a fortune teller's tale. All that is needed is to open one's heart to let it in.
Included in this volume are:
“Virtual Harmony” – A mysterious music file leads the new girl in town on a quest to find its owner.
“To the Rescue” – Two tenants are thrown together one night when she seeks help after her apartment is trashed.
“A Night at the Opera” – The gift of an opera tickets leads to a major conflict for one patron.
“An (Un)Neighborly Welcome” – A snowball fight introduces a new neighbor to a single mom.
“A Diamond in the Rough” – A family of raccoons brings a human family closer together.
“Temporary Temptation” – One girl’s temporary job assignment puts her in conflict with company policy.
“Batting Practice” – A shy girl shows another side of herself when she helps out at a company charity event.
“Roadside Assistance” – A flat tire throws a young woman into the path of her nemesis.
“Heart’s Desire” – Enter the fortune teller’s tent only if you want to know your heart’s desire.
“A Simple Misunderstanding” – A book of poisons leads to an interesting introduction.
“Guardian Angel” – A gift to a soldier overseas can mean more than it first appears.
Search, find, and deepen love along the way in these sweet romances.
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|Publisher:||Little Elm Press|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I slumped into an empty chair at the coffee bar round the corner from my apartment. I was ending this foolishness. Now. For two weeks I'd been on a wild goose chase and gotten nowhere. Time to give up.
It'd all started innocently enough. After plugging in my new MP3 player, and booting up my computer to download my playlist, my finger froze just above the mouse. An unfamiliar file folder appeared along with the others: "George's Songs."
Who was George, and how did he get on my computer?
Having moved into the neighborhood less than a month ago, I didn't know anyone in the area, and no one had access to my computer. Another new icon appeared at the bottom of my screen and blinked on and off. My new wireless system was working. I returned my gaze to the "George's Songs" icon. Somehow, my computer's system had picked up this George's file and downloaded it to my machine.
Curiosity won out over caution, and without thinking twice, I opened the file to check out his playlist. Almost the entire list of songs I'd planned to download onto my MP3 player were already in George's.
Whoever he was, George had good tastes.
And done all the hard work for me. All I had to do was download the file, and my MP3 player was ready to "rock and roll" - literally. I owed him. He'd saved me a whole evening's work.
But more importantly, some of the unfamiliar songs intrigued me the most. His eclectic tastes, spanning across a variety of artists and genres, deepened my appreciation of this unknown, fellow-music-lover.
Most amazing of all, in the days that followed, my computer continued to update George's file each time I turned on my machine. I became addicted to checking for new additions to "George's Songs" and fantasized about the man I knew only through his choice in music.
By the end of the second week, I knew I had to find him. I'd made a few friends at work but still hadn't met anyone like the person I knew George had to be - someone with musical tastes as extraordinary and unique as his.
With that decision, my detective work commenced. The wireless system's limited range meant George had to be in the immediate area. Also, new songs appeared late in the day. He had to be adding them after work.
With these parameters, I searched for men named George living in my area. When that process didn't result in any good leads, I resorted to reading mailbox labels despite quite a number of suspicious stares. After two weeks, I'd identified a few possibilities but couldn't bring myself to actually knock on a stranger's door. How would I introduce myself without appearing unstable?
In a final, desperate act, I'd gone to the coffee bar because the café's posters advertised an appearance by a local band later that night. George had recently added the group's album to his playlist, and he might just be there to hear them.
Now slouched in the corner, I watched those about me sip their coffee and chat amiably. Was one of them George?
I shook my head. I should be doing the same thing - talking to people instead of spending my time looking for someone I'd never find. So deep in thought, I didn't notice the waiter until he placed menu on my table. When I raised my gaze, I was struck by how tall he was. Not to mention his trendy haircut. But most impressive was his broad, genuine smile.
"I don't think I've seen you in here before," he said.
"I moved in about a month ago, but I've been busy getting settled," I said, responding with a smile of my own. "I saw the announcement about the band and thought I'd come by and check out it."
"Welcome to the neighborhood. You'll love the music, and you got here early enough for a good seat."
I was about to tell him about having a download of their album when someone called to him from another table. As he turned in their direction, I straightened in my chair. The earpiece for an MP3 player hung from his back pocket. My heart skipped a beat with the realization that my search was over. I'd found George.
And he was leaving, heading toward another table.
"Excuse me," I said in a voice a bit louder than needed.
Turning back around, he asked, "Ready to order so soon?"
I opened my mouth, then shut it, unsure how to phrase the question without sounding ridiculous. In the end, I only managed to stammer out, "No. Yes. I mean, it's that ... uh ... you're about to lose your earphones."
A desire to pound my head on the table overwhelmed me. Why couldn't I just ask him?
He touched his back. "Oh. Thanks. Do you know what you want?"
Taking a deep breath, I gathered my courage and forged ahead. "Not exactly. I-I don't want to be rude, but is your name George?"
"No. It's Anthony."
I slumped back in his chair and dropped my gaze, mumbling out an apology. "Sorry. I thought you were someone I knew." When I glanced up, he was still there as if waiting for me to say more. "I'll have a latte and chocolate cake, please."
He startled as if I'd broken into his thoughts, but quickly recovered, taking my menu with a nod and a smile. "Be right back."
Watching him stroll away, I scolded myself. How could I jump to conclusions like that? I definitely needed to get out and meet real people instead of chasing some cyber music-lover.
Anthony returned with my order, but remained by my table, his head tilted slightly in a studied pose.
"Do I pay now?" I asked.
He shook his head and dragged out a response. "No ... uh ... I know this sounds strange ... But ... Are you Melissa?"
I pulled my chin back. "How did you--?"
"When you asked about George. I didn't put it together for a moment. The manager, see, is named George, and when I set up a file on the office computer so we could play songs on the evenings when we don't have live music, I called it 'George's songs.' A few weeks ago, another file appeared: 'Melissa's songs.'"
My mouth fell open. "My file's on your computer?"
He nodded. "Don't you recognize the song playing right now?"
Pausing, I listened for a moment. "It's from my folder?"
His smile widened. "You have good tastes."
With a chuckle I said, "So do you. Maybe we should get together some time and compare playlists?"
"Definitely. I think we'll have a lot to share."CHAPTER 2
TO THE RESCUE
The insistent knocking wrenched Austin from his sleep. He glanced at his alarm clock. Midnight. Who in the world could be waking him up now? Was the high-rise on fire? He pulled on a pair of pants and rushed to the front door, sniffing for smoke.
Before looking through the door's peephole, he touched the surface lightly. No heat. Whatever the problem, it didn't involve a fire.
One peek at his new neighbor's expression through the fisheye, however, told him something was definitely amiss. She stood in the building's hallway, her wide-eye gaze constantly checking to the left and right. He opened the door. "Sally, what's the matter?"
Her voice trembled as she spoke. "Thank God you're home. Can I borrow your phone? My cell's battery is dead."
Letting her inside, he handed over his cell and watched her dial 9-1-1. "Please send the police to 519 Vista Lane, apartment 122. There's been a break-in. They've trashed the place ... No, I didn't see anyone ... I'll be next door in apartment 124."
After supplying a few more details to the dispatcher, she returned the phone to him. "Thanks. They'll be here soon."
"Can I get you some water?"
"Yes, that would be -" The color drained from her face, making a cute sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks more prominent. "Oh, no! I left my computer bag inside the apartment. What if they steal it? My boss'll be furious."
Austin pressed an ear against the wall adjoining her apartment. Silence. "I think they're gone. I'll try to get it."
She chewed her lip a moment. "I hate to -"
"I volunteered. Give me your keys." After a moment's hesitation, she placed them in his open palm. "Be right back."
At Sally's door, he paused to listen again. Still nothing. Slipping the key into the lock, he gently pushed the door open. Barely breathing, he stuck his head inside. Sally's rolling suitcase and computer bag stood just two steps in.
A quick survey of the room explained why she'd been frightened. Picture frames, candles, and other knick-knacks lay scattered about on the living room floor, as if someone had swept them off in search of something. A pair of shredded curtains swung from a rod half-on-half-off the wall. But the oddest discovery was the nut shells littering the floor. What kind of burglar took time to eat peanuts while on the job?
Just as he grabbed the suitcase handle, a scratching sound froze him in his tracks. Someone was moving about the bedroom. Taking two giant steps backward, he returned to the hallway with the bags and pulled the door shut. If the burglar hadn't been aware of his entry, the police might still be able to arrest him.
Sally leaned out his door. "What did you find?"
Austin put his finger to his lips and rushed back inside his apartment. Once he'd closed the door, he allowed himself one deep breath. "Your apartment is definitely a mess. And I'm pretty sure he's still there. No word from the police?"
She shook her head, but as if in response to his question, someone knocked.
Two officers stood in the hallway and nodded grimly as Austin quickly detailed his experience in Sally's apartment and passed the keys to them.
"Stay here," the taller one said, and the two spun about before Austin could even acknowledge the order.
"Thanks for helping out," Sally said when Austin turned back to her. "I don't know many people here yet."
He shrugged. "I'm glad I was home and could help."
Loud shouts and bangs sounded from their common wall. Sally cringed, and Austin took her arm. "You should sit."
She nodded wordlessly and allowed him to lead her to his couch. Scuffling noises filled the hallway, and she grasped his hand. He gave it a slight squeeze. "It'll be fine."
A moment later, one of the officers called through the door. "We found 'em."
Austin unlocked the door, and the policeman said, "My partner chased them outside."
Sally joined the two men, and Austin caught the scent of her soft perfume. How had he missed that before? "He doesn't need your help?" she asked.
A smile stretched across his face. "He thought he could handle two squirrels alone." Austin and Sally exchanged glances and joined the policeman's laughter. "We think they came in through a vent in the bedroom ceiling. I'm afraid they also found an bag of pecans in your kitchen. The shells were everywhere."
After the officer took their information and left, Sally reached for her suitcase. "I guess I'd better assess the damage."
"You want me to come along? In case they left any friends behind? I can also take a look at that vent."
She cocked her head and smiled. "Thanks. I'd rather not have any more surprises tonight."
"I could arrange for a more pleasant one for tomorrow. Like dinner?"
Her smile widened. "I'd like that. As long as it's nut-free. I'm swearing off them for a while."CHAPTER 3
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
A case of mistaken identity almost ended my chance at true romance before it even had an opportunity to bud.
It all started when Sandy offered me tickets to the opera. She'd hung her arm over the partition between our cubicles and waved a ticket enticingly. "Please, Olivia. It's totally sold out. Jack and I would exchange them for another night when we both could go, but there aren't any available. You'll be doing me a real favor. If you don't go, he says there's a girl at his office that wants to. I know he'll be safe with you."
I glanced up at my friend's expectant face. I'd never been to an opera, and the idea of dressing up like Cinderella did have a certain appeal. Not to mention I would get to meet her boyfriend. She'd raved about how Jack might be the one, and as her best friend, I felt duty bound to check him out for myself.
Taking the ticket, I said, "All right I'll go. This could be fun. Thanks."
"No, thank you. I can't believe they assigned me this rush project tonight. Jack's ticket is for the seat on the right." Checking her watch, she drew in a sharp breath. "You'd better hurry if you want to get there before it starts."
I managed to get to the performance hall on time, but just barely. To make it a truly elegant evening, I'd spent some time getting ready. After I changed into my little black dress and heels, I'd pressed out the slight frizz in my red hair and fastened it with two silver combs so that it hung down my back.
Stepping into the auditorium just as the orchestra began the first bars of the overture, I followed the usher to my aisle, and he spot-lighted my seat with a pen-light. A man's pants' leg appeared at the edge of the light's amber circle.
Although I'd never met Jack, Sandy bragged on him so much, I felt as if I already knew him. As I took my seat, he leaned toward me and whispered, "Glad you could make it."
I turned to say something, but the curtain rose and the chorus sang their first notes, drawing my attention to the performance. As the story unfolded, the production enthralled me. Its elaborate sets and music commanded all my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat until the curtain dropped for the intermission.
When the lights went up, Jack turned to me. "You're Olivia, right? Enjoying yourself?"
I nodded. "More than I could've imagined. Sandy didn't lie. It's awesome."
He chuckled and stood, giving a little stretch. "It is quite a performance."
After glancing up and down the aisle, he held out his hand. "Care to join me in a drink?"
I'd hurried to get to the theater and was thirsty, so I took his hand, and he helped me to my feet. I took note of his careful manners. A true gentleman.
Not to mention also quite attractive. In the theater's full lights, I could finally observe him. Sandy hadn't exaggerated his light brown hair or straight teeth, but from her description I'd imagined him taller.
Now, he gestured with his arm. "After you."
As we scooted down the aisle, I had the distinct impression he was staring at my rear. I persuaded myself I was mistaken. He was Sandy's guy and knew full well I was her best friend.
Once we joined the crowd heading to the lobby, he strolled next to me, and I had to a harder time convincing myself his interest wasn't just overly-friendly.
His next question appeared innocent enough. "First time at the opera?"
"Yes. It's breathtaking."
His response, however, was anything but virtuous. Raking his gaze from my hair to my shoes' pointed toes, he whispered, "Yes. Breathtaking. Definitely."
The crowd inched toward the lobby, and he continued to pepper me with a series of questions: how long I'd been friends with Sandy, worked in my current job, and lived in the city. The more he asked, the more nervous I became. If I hadn't known better, I'd have sworn the man was flirting with me.
At the entrance to the lobby, I couldn't take it any more. I had to get away from Jack.
"I ... uh ... I need to visit the ladies' room."
His frown suggested he might be a little disappointed, but he nodded agreeably. "I'll get us something to drink and meet you back here."
As I rushed toward the bathrooms, I tried to decide whether to stay for the rest of the performance, or just leave. The opera was incredible, and I did want to see the rest of it, but how was I going to discourage Jack if I had to sit next to him? The man was obviously a jerk and not as interested in Sandy as she believed.
Waiting for a stall, I came up with a plan. I'd delay my return until the last minute, and as soon as the opera was over, I'd leave, preventing Jack from any further opportunities to flirt with me. Having hung around the bathrooms until the attendant scowled at me, I ambled back to the lobby with the hope that Jack had given up and gone back to his seat.
When I neared the auditorium's entrance, my heart sank. He stood near the door, obviously waiting for me, two plastic champagne flutes in his hands.
Straightening my back, I marched toward him, prepared to tell him exactly what I thought about his treatment of my best friend.
Before I could speak, he said, "I was worried about you." He held out one of the flutes. "You'll have to sip fast."
My gaze traveled from his outstretched hand up the arm of his expensive suit to his tanned face. His blue-gray eyes held no hint of lechery, only an intense interest in me. To be honest, I might've been attracted to him too, if he hadn't been my best friend's boyfriend.
My hands clenched firmly at my sides, and I glared at him.
"Are you all right?" he asked, his hand still extended.
"I'm fine," I said in a firm voice, ignoring his surprised expression. "But you're despicable, Jack. Flirting behind Sandy's back."
His face reddened, and I stepped back, afraid of an angry outburst. Instead, he laughed.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Virtual Harmony"
Copyright © 2018 Liese Sherwood-Fabre.
Excerpted by permission of Little Elm Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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