Just like I normally do before a release, I tease you with a few chapters. Since All for Love- Road to Romance is a novella I’m just going to post the prologue and Chapter 1.
Don’t worry, because All for Love will be live next week on January 16!!! And it’s just 99 cents!
Thirty-four years ago
The snow was coming down hard outside, the bar empty inside. It’d been hopping like a normal Friday night early on, but dwindled down about two hours ago. The last of the stragglers left about ten minutes ago.
The minute they were out the door, he’d locked up and started to put chairs on the tables he’d already wiped down, preparing to mop the floor and get it cleaned up for the owners to open tomorrow afternoon.
Four years of college, working ten hours a day and another several at this bar on the weekends, and he still had little to show for it other than a ton of debt, a sore body, and a cold bed to go home to.
He turned the radio on behind the bar so he didn’t feel so lonely. Loneliness was something he felt too much of in his life lately, it seemed.
He was almost done, hurrying more than normal, just wanting to get home and put his feet up on the coffee table in his little apartment. Nights like this, he was too lazy to even open up the sofa bed, falling asleep where he stopped for the night.
When he picked one of the last chairs up to turn it over, a purse fell on the floor. Just a tiny one, and he knew exactly who it belonged to. The petite brunette that was sitting at this corner table with two of her friends.
White wine. Two glasses of it. Her friends were drinking red. But it wasn’t the choice of her wine that stood out to him in a bar where everyone was drinking beer. No, it was the way she looked. Too nice and too classy to be frequenting this bar.
Her dark hair was long and parted in the center, raining over her shoulders, looking like silk. Straight as a board, swishing side to side when she moved her head. A curtain of sorts, and he wondered how it’d feel in his hands if he lifted it away and placed his lips to the pulse at her neck.
But he pushed those thoughts away because he was working in a bar, barely able to keep his head above water in his studio apartment in the wrong section of town, waiting for his break to come. Waiting for someone to believe in him enough to give him a chance.
He placed the purse behind the counter, pushing the lovely lady from his mind, and went back to his manual labor. He was wiping the table down when he heard a knock on the glass.
Looking toward the window, he didn’t see anything but white beyond, wind and swirling snowflakes. He put his head down to finish up fast and get home, thinking it was his imagination until it sounded again.
This time he walked to the door, pushed the old paisley curtain aside, and thought he was dreaming.
Only he wasn’t, because there she was. The beautiful brunette he was fantasizing about all night long, standing there shivering, her arms wrapped around her waist, smiling at him and nodding her head impatiently for him to let her in.
Good grief, Isabel thought, what more did she have to do to get the bartender to open the door? Strip naked and do a dance for him? She’d been standing there knocking for over a minute.
“Sorry to bother you,” she said, stepping in and shaking the snow from her hair. “I think I left my purse here. When I got back to my place, I couldn’t find it, so the cab driver brought me back.”
“Yeah, you did. It’s behind the bar. I’ll get it for you.” He left his rag on the table, then rubbed his hands on his jeans. He was taller than she’d thought he was, towering over her by at least a foot. She realized now that the bar wasn’t raised as high as she’d thought, that it was him.
“Thanks so much. I’ve never done that before. I’m not sure what I was thinking.”
“No problem. I didn’t go through it or anything. I just figured you’d come back for it.”
She waved her hand. “No worries. Not much in there really.”
“Your ID,” he said, cracking just a tiny grin.
He was even handsomer up close. Dark hair, not quite as dark as hers. His eyes, though, they were almost black. A little dangerous and definitely probing, with him not looking real friendly at the interruption. It should’ve unnerved her but instead excited her. She’d decided she needed a little excitement in her life lately.
“Well, if I hadn’t come back for it, then you’d know where to find me,” she said, teasing a little.
Not much reaction from him. “True. The owners take care of lost items. It would have made its way back to you at some point.”
She looked around the now empty bar. It was more dismal than it looked earlier when it was half full. Her roommate, Dawn, had wanted to go out for the night, but she would have rather stayed home. Now she was glad she didn’t.
“So you have to close all by yourself?” she asked.
He shrugged. Guess he wasn’t much of a talker. “Not a big deal. Quiet night, so not much to do.” He hadn’t made an attempt to pick up his cleaning rag and continue. Instead, he was just standing there watching her hold her clutch in front of her.
“Looks like you’re almost done.” Chairs were on all the tables but the one next to her, where it looked like he was working when she knocked.
“Just need to sweep and mop, then I can call it a night.”
“Do you need some help?” she asked. “It’s coming down pretty hard out there, so I’m sure you’d like to leave.”
He eyed her funny, looking over her long jacket and knee-high boots. “I’m good. You probably should go grab your cab before he leaves.”
“Oh,” she said, turning quickly. She’d completely forgotten about that. She’d told Dawn she’d just be a minute. “I guess I’ll let you get back to it.” But when she turned to leave and opened the door, she saw the cab was nowhere to be found. “I think they left me here.”
“I can call you another one,” he said.
“Or you can bring me home. I mean, if you live in the city. I’m just a few blocks from here,” she said before she lost her nerve.
He hesitated and then said, “I can do that. I’m in the city, too. I’ll probably be done before someone could make their way here anyway. Why don’t you have a seat at the bar while I finish up. Can I get you another wine or a water or something?”
He was pretty cute, looking flustered at the moment and not at all dangerous like she first thought with those dark looks of his. “I’m good. And I’ll help you. It’s the least I can do. I’m Isabel, by the way. Isabel Carmichael.” She walked up and held her hand out to him.
When his hand touched hers, she almost had to leap back from the spark. “William Harper. Nice to meet you.”
“My pleasure,” she said, and she meant it. He walked over and cleaned the last table off, then turned the chairs over. She removed her jacket and hung it on the back of a bar stool. When he walked out of the room and came back with a broom and dust pan, she took them out of his hands. “Let me do that. You can mop behind me. Teamwork.”
He nodded, almost bashful-like, but handed over the broom, and she got to work while she heard water running out back. They worked in silence for all of five minutes before it started to get on her nerves.
“So, William, how long have you worked here?”
He looked up sharply, as if he’d completely forgotten she was in the room with him. Talk about a blow to her self-confidence. “Just a few months.”
“Do you work every night?”
“Friday night. Saturday and Sunday afternoons until close.”
“You’ve got the weekdays to yourself then. That’s nice.” She started to sweep faster now. He appeared to be a complete dud. Guess she was wrong about him, if he couldn’t say more than a few words.
“What?” he asked. “No. I work during the week, too.” Then he went back to moving his mop around.
She rolled her eyes but slowed down her sweeping. Maybe they could get somewhere now. “What do you do during the week?” she asked. It was like pulling teeth. She did that all day with her students; she wasn’t sure she wanted to with a man.
“I work at Weber Investments.”
“Really?” she asked, leaning on the broom. That surprised her. “What do you do there?”
“Not much,” he said, then laughed. “Sorry. I’d like to do more, but right now it doesn’t seem to be working out the way I envisioned it.”
“Why’s that?” He didn’t look like the suit and tie type to her. He wore his faded Levis well and the cotton shirt pushed up at his elbows even better.
“It’s not easy drumming up clients. My boss doesn’t get the need to hustle. He’d rather sit around and wait for people to come to him. I guess he figures it’s his due now.” At her odd look, he finally added, “I’m an investment broker.”
She was right about him. Not a dud, but a go-getter. Maybe a little shy about it. “How long have you worked there?”
“Just a few months. Right out of college,” he said, slowing the motion of his mopping too. They were barely doing anything other than talking at this point. More looking at each other than anything, and things were picking up in her mind.
“Why are you working here then?”
“I’ve got to pay the bills somehow. The bulk of my income is commission and right now, it’s not very high.”
“But it’s got to be exciting, right? Going out and meeting new people, taking some risks and gambling a little.”
“It is. It’s just trying to talk others into taking that risk with me. My day will come, I’m sure. A little hard work never hurt anyone,” he said. “What about you? What do you do?”
Finally, he was asking her something. She didn’t miss his glance at her left hand for a ring. “I just started working myself. I’m a math teacher.”
“Where?” he asked.
“The college prep school for girls, right?” he asked.
“That’s the one,” she said. Most people were surprised when they heard she taught there. Then when they found out her father was the head of the school, they figured that was how she’d gotten the job.
Deep down she knew it was, but she was out to show she could do it on her own. She wanted to prove she didn’t need her father to get her a job. What she wanted to do was give back to the girls in the school that she’d attended. She wanted to show them that there was a whole wide world out there, and that they should work hard and try to achieve their goals. Not to rely on their fathers or future husbands…even though they all thought that was what she was doing.
That was why she came here drinking tonight. It was also why she moved out of her parents’ house months ago and found a roommate.
She was sick of her father controlling every move she made. Sick of him telling her what her place was in life and where she should work, let alone live. It was more of the same today at work and enough to decide a drink was what she needed.
She originally only agreed to take the job at Emma Willard in September so that she could start earning money to move out. But the longer she was there and the more she heard all the girls talking about their futures, the more she realized she could help. She could get them to see the big wide world and help them grab hold of it.
And that’s what she was going to do. Starting tonight. She was going to start taking risks and she was going to start living a little recklessly out from under her father’s watchful eye. She was going to practice what she preached.