My new release, Falling for Aiden, is a fall romance full of pumpkins, autumn leaves, and plenty of drama and angst! Want a sneak peek? Here’s Chapter One!
“The Abbot wedding is all set,” Bianca says. I can barely hear her above all the street noise. “But the Canton Investment banquet is way behind. We’ll need to meet as soon as you get back.”
“On Sunday?” I slow down as I drive around a tight curve, surrounded on both sides by trees that are just starting to show hints of fall color.
“You were planning to leave in the morning, right?” Bianca asks.
Actually I wasn’t. This is the first weekend I’ve had off since starting my job in New York. I knew I’d work weekends as an event planner but I didn’t think it’d be every weekend, in addition to ten hour days during the week. I’ve been doing this for a year now so I should be used to it, and for the most part I am, but I need a break.
That’s what this weekend was supposed to be. A break from the grind. An escape from the city. A girls’ weekend with my best friend, Macie, from back home. She’s flying here all the way from the other Manhattan, the one in Kansas.
We’ve been planning this trip for months. I booked us a room at The Maple Farm Inn, a country inn in Vermont. I fell in love with the place last summer when Darren, the guy I was dating, took me there for his friend’s wedding. It ended up never happening. The bride panicked and called it off. Darren and I broke up a week later. He’s now a distant memory but I never forgot that beautiful inn nestled among the trees in a quaint little Vermont town.
“Sophie, did you hear me?” Bianca says in a curt tone. She’s a type A perfectionist, and all business, all the time. It’s tough working for her but I’ve learned a ton so I can’t really complain. I just wish she could be more of a friend sometimes and less of a boss. We’re almost the same age and the few times I’ve gone out with her we’ve had fun, but then back at the office she turns into a drill sergeant.
“Sorry, I was paying attention to the roads,” I tell her. “This guy is on my bumper.”
“Probably a New Yorker. We have no patience for those country roads. Why’d you insist on going up there? There are plenty of spas in New York for a girls’ weekend.”
“I needed to get out of the city. Get some fresh air. Besides, Macie wouldn’t like New York. She’s a small town girl.”
“So are you, and you like the city.”
I used to, but now? Not so much. Manhattan, New York is nothing like Manhattan, Kansas. The noise, the pollution, the crowds. I love the energy the city has, and the great restaurants and museums, but living there is exhausting and not at all like the dream I imagined it’d be growing up. I used to tell everyone that someday I’d live in the other Manhattan, the big one, but now that I’m there, I’m finding it’s not living up to the dream.
“I’m sending you the spreadsheet to look over,” Bianca says. “Check to see that I got everything. If even the tiniest thing goes wrong during this banquet, we’ll never get Mr. Canton’s business again.”
“I’ll look at it as soon as I get back.”
She laughs. “You’re kidding, right? Sophie, you need to look at it as soon as you get to your room. This can’t wait.”
I quietly sigh. “Bianca, you promised me I could have this weekend. I haven’t had a day off all year.”
“It’ll take twenty minutes, max. Just look it over and get back to me.” She pauses. “You want that promotion, right?”
There she goes again, dangling the promotion in my face. She’s been doing it for weeks now, every time I ask for time off. Last week she did it when I tried to leave for lunch. I ended up staying and working because I desperately need that promotion. I’m living paycheck to paycheck. When I moved to New York, I didn’t realize how much it’d cost for an apartment that’s basically the size of a closet.
As Bianca rattles on with more details about the banquet, I roll down my window to get some fresh air. Before she called I was starting to relax, but now I’m feeling stressed again. I take some deep breaths and pick up my bottle of water.
The town with the inn is just up ahead. I smile as I see the white steepled church. Just behind it is the quaint little downtown, lined with local shops and restaurants. Macie is going to love this place. There’s just something about it that feels like home.
“Roger, I’m telling you, these places don’t like the hard sell.” I grab my coffee and swig down the last of it. It tastes terrible but I needed the caffeine. I couldn’t find a coffee shop so I had to settle for coffee from the one and only gas station I passed since crossing the Vermont state line.
“Tell him that story about your grandfather and that hotel he had,” Roger says, a smile in his voice. “The old guy will eat that shit up.”
“It wasn’t a hotel,” I say, annoyed he can’t remember. I’ve told him the story at least three times, including last week when I requested this assignment during our meeting. “It was an inn, just like this one.”
“Even better. I have a good feeling about this. We’ll get the place for cheap, renovate it, and make a fortune.”
“We don’t even know if he’s willing to sell,” I point out, slowing down as I approach the town.
“He’ll know when you’re done with him.”
“I’m not sure this is going to happen by Sunday.” I roll down my window to get some fresh air. It’s something I don’t get in the city. I breathe it in as I take in the view in front of me. There are trees everywhere, sugar maples that are starting to show hints of red, orange, and yellow. A white steepled church is just up ahead and beyond that is what looks like a tiny downtown with old brick buildings. It’s a beautiful town. It looks like a painting, or like one of the puzzles my grandparents did with me when I was a kid.
“Make sure to talk me through the details before you write up the deal,” Roger says. “When did you say it was built?”
“Not sure. Hold on, I’ll check.” I reach over to the passenger seat to my messenger bag. I pull out the research I did, setting the stack of papers on the dash. I stop at a red light and rifle through the papers, searching for the inn’s historical records. Someone honks and I look up and see the light turned green. I take off and the papers on the dash go flying out the window.
“Shit!” I look in the rear view mirror and see the papers flying around behind my car.
“What is it?” Roger says. “What happened?”
I sigh. “My research just flew out the car. I’ll look up the date when I get to my room. It won’t be long. I’m almost there.”
“Just email it to me.”
“Yeah, I will. Talk to you soon.”
“I can’t see!” I yell, getting my wipers going to clear away the paper that just flew onto my windshield. The wipers only make it worse. The papers stick to them, making them slow to a stop and leaving my windshield covered right where I need to see. “I can’t see the road!”
“What’s going on?” Bianca asks.
I slam on the brakes, making the car behind me honk. The guy goes around me, rolling down his window and yelling at me as he passes.
“I have to go,” I tell Bianca. “Some idiot let all this paper fly out of his car and it’s stuck to my windshield.”
“Paper? What are you talking about?”
“I’ll tell you later. I have to go.”
I’m in the middle of the street so I pull off to the side so people can pass. I get out of my car and start yanking the paper from my wipers.
“I can’t believe this,” I mutter to myself. “Of all the crazy things that could happen.”
“Excuse me, ma’am?”
I look up and see a police officer walking toward me.
“Oh, sorry,” I tell him. “I just need to clear my windshield and then I’ll go. I couldn’t see to drive.”
“That’s not why I’m here,” he says, “although I do need you to move your vehicle.”
Does he not see that I’m trying? I’m yanking off the ripped pieces of paper as fast as I can.
“Ma’am, I need you to move your car,” the officer says.
Why does he keep calling me ma’am? I’m 29. I’m not old enough to be a ma’am. I scrunch the paper into a ball and look around for a garbage.
“I hope you’re not thinking about tossing that,” the officer says, pointing to the wadded up paper in my hand.
“No, of course not,” I say, offended he’d think I’d litter. I open the back door of the rental car and toss the paper on the floor.
“Pull up over there,” the officer says, pointing to a silver Audi that’s parked farther up on the side of the road. It’s the car the papers flew out of. The cop must’ve seen what happened and now the driver’s in trouble and I’m the witness.
“Officer, can we just forget this?” I ask. “What he did was dangerous but I’m sure it was just an accident. And as you can see, my car is fine so there’s really no need to fill out paperwork.”
His brows draw together. “Ma’am, I don’t think you’re getting the point here. This isn’t about your car.”
“Then what’s it about?”
“Pull your vehicle up, please,” he says, walking off.
What is going on here? If this isn’t about the paper hitting my car, then what’s it about? I get in the car and pull up behind the shiny silver Audi with New York plates.
As I turn my car off, the officer goes up to the Audi. A guy gets out. He’s probably in his early thirties, tall, with dark hair, wearing a black suit that looks very expensive. I bet he’s some rich Wall Street guy driving up here for a weekend getaway that his girlfriend set up. Or maybe he’s here for a wedding, maybe his own. I don’t know why else he’d be in this tiny town.
“What’s this about?” I ask, going up to the officer. I ignore the guy from the Audi but feel him staring at me.
The officer is holding what looks like a pad of tickets. “We take littering very seriously in this state. Hopefully next time you’ll think twice before tossing your trash out the window. I’ll need licenses from both of you, please.”
“Trash?” I stare at him, completely confused as I take my wallet from my purse. “What trash? I didn’t throw anything out the window.”
He points back to the road. My plastic water bottle is on the side of it, resting next to the trunk of a large maple tree.
“Officer, as I told you before,” Audi guy says, “I didn’t intentionally toss the paper from my car. It blew out the window.”
“And you didn’t go back and pick it up.” The officer takes the guy’s license. “That counts as littering.” He looks at me. “License?”
I hand it to him. “Officer, I didn’t throw that bottle out. I don’t even know how it got there. The paper from HIS car,” I say, pointing at Audi guy, “flew at my windshield, blocking my view of the road.”
“It was an accident,” the guy says, giving me a slight smile.
Why is he smiling? Does he think this is funny?
“Is this all a joke to you?” I say, glaring at the guy.
“Not at all,” he says, cool and collected, not the least bit worried there’s a police officer standing between us, writing who knows what on that little pad of his. “I’m Aiden, by the way.” He extends his hand to me.
Ignoring his gesture, I fold my arms over my chest. “Your so-called accident is getting me arrested.”
“Not arrested,” the officer says. “Just a citation.” He hands the guy and me our tickets, along with our licenses.
“What does this mean?” I look over the ticket. “I have to pay a fine?”
“The judge will decide that. You’ll need to appear in court.”
“Are you serious?” I turn to the cop. “You don’t understand. I live in New York. I don’t have a car, and I work like 90 hours a week. I can’t get back here. There’s no way.”
“Sorry, ma’am, but you’ll just have to figure it out.”
“I can give you a ride,” Audi guy says. “I also live in New York. I assume you mean Manhattan?”
I glance at the guy, furious at him and this whole situation. This was supposed to be a relaxing weekend and now this happens.
“Here.” The guy holds out his business card. “Give me a call when you get the court date.”
“I’m not riding with you,” I say, not taking his card. “I’ll rent a car like I did today.”
“Suit yourself.” He holds up the card. “You sure you don’t want it? In case you change your mind?”
“Trust me. I won’t,” I say, noticing his annoyingly beautiful blue eyes and the perfectly groomed stubble covering his extremely handsome face. He also has a really sexy smile. I hate that he’s smiling right now. It’s only a slight smile but still, why isn’t he getting upset about this?
Forcing my eyes away from him, I turn back to the officer. “Can I just pay the fine and be done?”
As I say it, I realize I don’t have money for a fine. I could charge it, but I’m not sure that’s allowed.
“Sorry, ma’am but that’s not how it works. You’ll need to show up in court and let the judge decide.”
“Decide what? Isn’t there a standard fine for littering? What if I go back right now and pick up the bottle?”
“You’ll need to appear in court,” he says, which I guess means picking up the bottle won’t help me. “Any other questions?”
“I think we’re good,” Audi guy says, his eyes on me, that slight smile still on his face. I’m angry he answered for both of us and feel like I should ask another question just to prove to the guy I wasn’t finished, but I can’t think of anything to say.
“Have a nice day.” The officer turns and walks back down the road, picking up the remaining pieces of paper and heading toward the water bottle that I know I didn’t toss out the window. It must’ve fallen from my hand when I grabbed the steering wheel in an attempt to stay on the road after the paper flew on my windshield.
“Sorry about that,” Audi guy says. “I was on a call with my boss and the papers were on the dash and next thing I knew they were—”
“I have to go,” I say, walking back to my car.
“Anything I can do?” he yells from behind me.
“You’ve done enough!” I yell back.
I get in the car and immediately roll up the window so nothing else flies out. This is so ridiculous. Why couldn’t I just go pick up the bottle? If I’d known it was there, I would have. I never litter. I always toss out my trash. I even toss out trash that’s not mine. I’m the last person anyone would ever call a litterbug, and now here I am, getting ticketed for littering.
It’s all because of that stupid guy. I know he said it was an accident but that doesn’t mean I can’t be angry about it. Or angry at him.
So much for a relaxing weekend. Maybe I’ll feel better when I get to the inn.
Want to read more? Get Falling for Aiden at Amazon!