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Just Kidding…Not! (Picture Prompt)

Hello romance readers! Today’s Tuesday Tales post is from a new April Fool’s Day romance, Just Kidding…Not! This short story is another holiday romance set in the small historic town of Oak Grove Square. In this story we meet Irene, the owner of the local bookstore, Pageturners. A healthy lady, striving to live a balanced life in mind, body and soul, her April Fool’s joke brings an unlikely and unlooked for love to her doorstep.

This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. Picture prompt snippets are short, only 300 words, so it will be quick reading this week.

After reading this snipped, return to TUESDAY TALES here to read more tales from a group of talented authors.

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We had four pictures to choose from. This is the picture I chose to use as my prompt for the latest addition to Just Kidding…Not!

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“I’ve got all day. There’s nowhere I have to rush off to. What’s your brainstorm?”

“I was thinking about having a party here. For the kids. An April Fool’s Day party.”

“You lost your mind, girl? Inviting kids in to play pranks?”

Irene threw her shoulders back and puffed up her chest. “No, I have not, Samuel Bateman…you old stick in the mud.” She swatted at his shoulder as she passed by, as if reassuring him that she was teasing. “I think it would be fun. Here, let me show you some ideas I had.”

Irene dug in her tote bag and pulled out a legal pad filled with scribbles. She looked up in time to see Sam rolling his eyes in exasperation. “What in the world do you have against kids?”

“Not a thing. Long as they behave themselves. Seems you’re setting them up for mischief with this party plan of yours.”

Running her finger down the page, looking at notes she’d furtively written while sitting in a merchant’s meeting that had droned on for longer than she’d liked, she began reading off a few of her ideas. “I thought we’d do two parties. A morning one for the younger ones. There’s lots of great books I can read them…”

“Wacky Wednesday. By Dr. Seuss. That’d be a great one for April Fools.” Sam interrupted and looked pleased with himself for his contribution. He smiled as he started to catch Irene’s enthusiasm.

“Good idea! I like it.” Irene grabbed a pencil and added the title to her notes before continuing. “Then an early afternoon party for the older kids. With food for their party. Like pancakes…but they’d be itty-bitty pancakes.” She circled her thumb and forefinger to make a circle no bigger than a quarter.

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Just Kidding…Not!

Hello romance readers! Today’s Tuesday Tales post is from a new April Fool’s Day romance, Just Kidding…Not! This short story is another holiday romance set in the small historic town of Oak Grove Square. In this story we meet Irene, the owner of the local bookstore, Pageturners. A healthy lady, striving to live a balanced life in mind, body and soul, her April Fool’s joke brings an unlikely and unlooked for love to her doorstep.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘train.’

Return to TUESDAY TALES here to read more story snippets.

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Just Kidding…Not!

Irene hurried into Pageturner’s, the bookstore she owned on Oak Grove Square. Letting the door bang shut behind her, she rushed over to the tiny heater sitting on the floor behind the counter. Holding her arms out, she rubbed her hands together briskly. “Brrrr! This February weather can go. I’m ready for summer.”

Pageturners.pngSam, the elderly gentleman that helped her out part time, sat on a stool next to the source of warmth. “And then you’ll be jawin’ on about it’s too blasted hot, or too muggy, or too something.”

“You know me too well.”

“Afraid so. You’re just like my daughter was. Always complaining about the weather.”

“You miss her.”

“Every day. With every breath. Same as my wife. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them and wish they were still alive and sharing my life.”

A sly grin inched across Irene’s face. “And here I thought you had a thing for Bertie, down at the quilt store.”

Sam laughed and slapped his thigh. “Shore ‘nuff do. Doesn’t mean I love my Nellie any the less. I still love my wife with every fiber of my being. But I’m not dead too. I can love her and still hold a little flame for Bertie. Not that she’s given me any hope. I don’t think I’m ever going to make any progress with that stubborn gal.”

“Maybe you ought to give up on Bertie and find someone else.”

Sam shook his head in dispute. “Naw. I’ve set my cap for her. Giving her chase is enough for me. I don’t need to find anyone else. Besides, I doubt if I’m up for a new love at this late stage of my life. Too hard to train someone new.”

“Samuel Bateman! I can’t believe you just said that.”

“What? It’s the truth. Gotta train the little woman. ‘Pert near everyone knows that.” The lopsided grin and the twinkle in his eye hinted that he wasn’t serious about his words. “Speaking of loves, love, so when are you going to hitch up with a handsome young man?”

“Ha! Like that’s going to happen anytime soon.” Irene shrugged her jacket off and went and hung it on the coatrack just inside the bookstore’s front door. “There’s not a hint of romance headed my way. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m happy with my life the way it is, thank you very much. I have this bookstore that I adore. I’m blessed with good friends. I love my yoga classes and my gardening. My cats. And best of all…I have you, Sam.”

Sam gingerly stepped down from the stool and stretched his arms out, twisting from side to side. “These books aren’t going to keep you warm at night, girlie.”

“Nope. That’s what the cats are for.” Irene laughed. “Just kidding.”

Sam merely closed his eyes and shook his head in mock disbelief. He headed towards the coat rack to retrieve his jacket.

Irene stopped him as he lifted a hand to grab the black leather coat. “Hey, Sam. Real quick before you go. I wanted to run something past you. Something that came to mind while I was at the merchant’s association meeting.”

“I’ve got all day. There’s nowhere I have to rush off to. What’s your brainstorm?”

“I was thinking about having a party here. For the kids. An April Fool’s Day party.”

Love for the Barista #2

Hello romance readers! Today’s Tuesday Tales post is from a new Valentine’s Day romance, Love for the Barista. This short romance is almost finished, so there won’t be many snippets shared from this story. Join us as we take a peek into a Carmen’s new love. Carmen owns Java Time, a coffee shop situated on historic Oak Grove Square. Between running her business and being a single mother of two young children, she doesn’t have time for love in her life.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘coffee.’ (Hehehe, having a story set in a coffee shop made this weeks prompt a breeze.)

Return to TUESDAY TALES here to read more story snippets.

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“So how’d you go from that to Java Time?” Victoria looked behind her as if making sure that she wasn’t keeping another customer from being served.

“After ‘Lita was born, I started working part time at…” Carmen lowered her voice and looked around as if telling a big secret. “You know…that other place.”

Victoria joined in the conspiracy. “Oh, you mean the big ‘S’? The one that’s on just about every corner?”

coffee.jpg“Yep. That’s the one. I loved it. Turned out I had a knack for mixing the different concoctions and remembering what customers liked what. But, it turns out I didn’t have a knack for being bossed by someone else and having them set my schedule – which was different every single day of the week.”

“That’d be rough. That’s why I like my little antique shop. Ten to five. No nights. No Sundays. No holidays.”

“That’s what I like here. Although the early hours are a bear. But the kids are usually still in bed when I leave. And this way, when I close up at four, I go home and I have all evening to spend time with the babies.”

“That’s good. It’s important to spend a lot of time with them when they’re this young. How old are they now?”

A soft, loving expression filled Carmen’s face. “Mario is four. Or will be tomorrow. And ‘Lita’s two.”

“Those ages are rough. Especially when you’re working full time. Good thing you’re with your mom and she watches them during the day. I’ll bet that helps.”

Carmen started wiping the counter as the two business owners chatted. “It does. I don’t think I could make it if I had to get them up and dressed to drop them off somewhere so early.”

Victoria cocked her head and looked at her friend thoughtfully. “So…all you need now is a special someone in your life.”

“Special someone? As in a man? I. Don’t. Think. So.” Carmen coughed like she was choking. “Sorry. Been there. Done that. Don’t need to go there again.”

“But once the kids are in bed for the night, wouldn’t it be nice to have a fellow to curl up on the couch with? Watch movies? Drink a glass of wine? Snuggle a little?”

“Girl, you’re only talking like that because you’re still all out in love with Toby.”

Victoria flushed guiltily.

“See! There! Look at those red, rosy cheeks. You’ve got it bad, my friend. Which is good. I love watching you two together and seeing the joy he’s brought you.” Carmen wagged her finger in the air. “But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us single ladies need a new lover.”

“But Valentine’s Day is coming up. You won’t have anyone to spend the evening with.”

“Sure I will. The loves of my life. My kids.”

The bell over the door dinged as another customer walked in, followed by a gust of frosty air. Carmen looked up and didn’t recognize the man at first. Then he got closer to the counter and tipped the brim of his hat in a familiar gesture.

Carmen glared, a cutting look passing across the space between them.

If he calls me ma’am again…

He cleared his throat and looked down as he shuffled his worn boots on the floor. “That was the best coffee I’ve ever had. I reckon I could use another cup to ward off the cold.”

Victoria looked back and forth between the two of them and eased away. Giving a wave in the air, she turned to go open Serendipity, her beloved space on the other side of the square.

Love for the Barista

Hello romance readers! Today’s Tuesday Tales post is from a new Valentine’s Day romance, Love for the Barista. This short romance is almost finished, so there won’t be many snippets shared from this story. Join us as we take a peek into a Carmen’s new love. Carmen owns Java Time, a coffee shop situated on historic Oak Grove Square. Between running her business and being a single mother of two young children, she doesn’t have time for love in her life.

This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘point.’

Return to TUESDAY TALES here to read more story snippets.

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Love for the Barista

Wiping her brow with the back of her hand, Carmen fought back the fatigue and looked up to help the next customer.

“Howdy, little lady. You serve any regular joe in this fancified establishment of yours?”

Little lady? Really?

Carmen resisted the urge to smack the pearly whites that grinned in her direction. She pasted a smile on her face and pointed to the sign hanging over her head. “Right there, sir. Regular or decaf. A dollar fifty a cup.”

cowboy.jpgHe tipped the brim of his cowboy hat in her direction. “Sorry, ma’am. I reckon it would have helped if I’d read the sign better. I’ll take a cup of regular.”

Ma’am? Even though he has a good ten years on me? It just keeps getting better.

One thing about owning Java Time, the coffee shop she’d opened a year ago, was that it had taught Carmen a few lessons in customer service. The largest lesson, for her, had been how to keep her mouth shut and not give back the smart alec retorts that she’d been prone to throw back her whole life. As she filled the to-go cup with steaming – plain – coffee, the man across the counter kept a stream of prattle headed in her direction. She didn’t hear a large portion of it. She was in her smile-and-nod mode, the result of a sick two year old that kept her up most of the night.

Snapping the lid on the cup, she nodded in the direction of a counter against the side wall. “Cream and sugar’s over there.”

The cowboy – or farmer, hard to tell in this part of Texas – dug in his jeans pocket and retrieved a wad of crumbled dollar bills.

“You can pay Julie, at the register.” Carmen looked pointedly in the direction of the girl to her right standing behind an obvious cash register.

The man hesitated. He opened his mouth as if to say something, then clamped it shut. He tipped his hat again. “Thank ya’ ma’am. Y’all have a good day, now.” Heading to the register he stopped once and turned back.

Carmen was already busy with the next customer and he paid and left without another glance. She kept serving customer after customer and never gave the stranger another thought. Finally getting to the last person in line, she heaved a sigh of relief. “Victoria! My goodness. I thought this line would never stop.”

“Must be the cold weather sending us all in for something hot to warm us up.”

“I guess. It was nineteen degrees when I left this morning.”

“Brrrr!” Victoria shuddered at the mention of the temperature. “At least there’s no ice. I don’t like the cold, but I’d rather have that than streets you slip and slide on.”

“Your regular today?”

“Yes. Chai tea. But make it the biggest you’ve got.”

“So when are we going to convert you to coffee? You’ve been coming in her long enough. You should try one of my special drinks.”

“Never. I can’t abide the taste of it. Sorry.” Victoria grinned to take the sting out of her words and inhaled a deep breath. “I do love the aroma of it though. Odd, isn’t it?”

“Not as much as you think. Actually, a lot of people that don’t drink coffee enjoy the fragrance of it.”

Victoria took the cup of spiced tea from Carmen. “So how long have you been drinking coffee?”

Carmen chuckled. “When I was a teenager. I’d be out late at night, partying with my friends. I started drinking it to try and wake up and make it to school.”

“Did you always want your own shop?” Victoria was curious.

“Not really. I just wanted to get married and have babies. But…” she threw her hands up in the air. “You know how life is. The guys don’t always cooperate with the plans you dream up in your head. Daniel didn’t want to be a daddy. He only wanted to help make the babies.”

Come back next week for more!

Return to TUESDAY TALES here to read more story snippets.

Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #4

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

This week we’re writing to the word prompt ‘snow’.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

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A light sprinkling of snow lit briefly on her cheeks. Katie looked away from the window and up towards the sky. A sprinkling of fluffy white flakes drifted through the air. Though not sticking on the ground…yet…the change in the weather spurred Katie into motion. She hurried the last few blocks towards home, anxious to get inside and crank up the heater.

Once inside she hung her jacket on the coat tree and nudged the thermostat up a few degrees. Her cat, PJ, met her in the kitchen, rubbing up against her ankles as soon as she flicked on the lights.

“I know PJ. You’re hungry. Hold on for a few.”

The urgent meows continued while the head butts against her skins got more insistent.

“Hold on little girl. You’re not going to die if you don’t get fed right this instant.”

PJ’s cries increased in volume.

Katie picked up the insistent feline and headed towards the pantry to retrieve a can of PJ’s favorite, flaky tuna and egg. Looking at the food dish on the floor, she saw the kitten’s problem. “Oh. I see now. You were almost ready to die of hunger. Your dish is only half full of crunchies. You poor starved little thing.”

PJ meowed in agreement.

Once the cat was taken care of and had a full belly, Katie rummaged in the refrigerator to see what she had for her own dinner. Not much. She been spending too much time working on client’s designs and purchasing supplies to make their dream holiday visions come to life that she hadn’t spent enough time in the grocery store stocking up on her own necessities.

Oh well. It’s not like there’s anyone else to cook for.

She pulled out a loaf of bread and decided to throw together an easy sandwich.

cnj_hot-teaAn uneasy feeling, apparent since her phone call with her friend Sally, had been tugging at the corners of her heart. She didn’t know why she was feeling so dissatisfied at the moment. Thinking she must be overly tired, she decided to have an easy night. No planning. No creating centerpieces. Just her and PJ and a sappy movie. She made a cup of hot chamomile tea, dropped in a lemon slice, and carried it to the living room.

CNJ_kitten on lap.jpgAs she settled down on the sofa, PJ hopped up beside her and began kneading the top of her thigh. Making room for the cat who proceeded to curl up in her lap, Katie picked up the remote and surfed to find something interesting to watch.

Searching the channels, she found one of the popular holiday movies, which wasn’t too far along, and started watching it. About ten minutes in it dawned on her – of course, this would be one that had a drippy, romance worked into the Christmas plot.

She watched for a while until the sweet romantic scenes had her almost in tears. Jabbing at the ‘off’ button with a vengeance, she shut the television down and headed for bed, leaving the dregs of her cold tea sitting on the coffee table for the night.

Sleep came fitfully that night, and Katie was glad when the alarm finally buzzed. Getting up she peered out the window to check and see if a white world awaited her. Seeing that the snowfall had melted, leaving no trace of its presence, she decided to walk to work again. Maybe another brisk walk would help her release some frustrations.

An hour later, Katie stood at the doorway to her office, stomping her feet to remove the damp bits stuck to her boots. Her phone rang as she entered the dark premises.

“Hello. Even-Glow Designs. Katie speaking.”

“Katie Owen?”

“This is she.”

“This is Ryan, with Bryrwick Electric. I was making a follow-up call about your outage. Has your power been restored?”

Katie leaned over and flipped a switch. Nothing. “Nope. Still out.”

“All right. I’m at the transformer at the end of the block. I’ll be there in about five minutes.”

Katie plopped down on the loveseat usually reserved to show clients different possible design options. No sense in taking off her jacket in the frigid office. She certainly couldn’t go bump the heat higher with no power.

She hadn’t sit there for long when she heard footsteps approaching her door. The door sprung open and man stood in the doorway, his silhouette highlighted by the bright sunlight outside. Looking up at the six foot plus figure standing there, Katie almost thought it was a flashback from the movie from the evening before. Except for the grizzly stubble on his cheeks and chin and the hefty electricians belt around his far from tubby waist, the handsome vision standing before her was unlike any of the utility companies workers that she’d seen before.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

 

Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #3

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

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When she found out that the electric company wouldn’t send anyone out until the morning, Katie decided to close for the day. Sure, she could make phone calls from her cell phone, but since she couldn’t see the paperwork in front of her face, there wasn’t a whole of lot of productive work that would get done.

Besides, it’s after four and it’s almost dark. Better head on home. I hate these short December days.

After locking up, Katie strode down the street, heading towards her house. Living only two miles from her office, she tried to walk to work whenever possible. The morning, while chilly, was still pleasant enough for a brisk walk. Although, on the days where she had to tote in boxes of supplies by the bushel, she drove her trusty Jeep.

The sun dropped from the horizon before she got very far. As the evening darkened, sparkling Christmas lights began appearing on trees and rooftops.

Everyone was busy last weekend. They’ve decked out the whole neighborhood.

She tucked her collar tighter around her neck to ward off the evenings cold and slowed her pace to enjoy the scenery of the houses bedecked in their Christmas glory.

The house on the corner caught her attention and she stood gazing at the scene visible through the window. Inside, a gaily decorated home shone brightly in contrast to the darkness around her. Brightly wrapped packages surrounded the decorated tree in the corner. Lights twinkled from the tree and the mantle, while a display of flickering flames gleamed from a display of brilliant red candles.

While beautiful to view, it wasn’t much different than Katie’s own festive decorating jobs. What brought a wistful longing to her heart was seeing it from the outside and envisioning this scene in her own home. If only she had a loving partner to share such a setting with.

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Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells #2

For December, Chrys. N. Jay brings a new tale to Tuesday Tales – a Christmas romance, Jingle Bells – Here Love Dwells. Join us for the next four weeks as the story snippets are written to two picture prompts and two word prompts.

Week One and Week Three are picture prompt weeks. These snippets will be short, as they’re limited to 300 words.

This week we’re writing to the word prompt ‘bar’.

Return here for more Tuesday Tales reading.

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“…rats!”

“What? That all sounds great. I think they’d love it. What’s the problem?” Sally sounded confused.

“No, no. The décor is fine. The power just went out here. No lights. No computer. I can’t see a thing in this back room with no window.” Katie fumbled her way slowly to the door, trying to avoid banging a shin on any boxes or furniture.

Sally laughed. “Did you pay your bill?”

“Yes…I paid the bill.” Katie’s annoyance crept into her voice as she raised her voice in reply.

“Geesh. I was just kidding. Take a chill pill, gal.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re not so swamped that you’re running your hinney off for the next four weeks without a break. I do not have time to deal with a power outage today.”

“Methinks you need a little lovin’, my friend. That would take the edge of your stress.”

Katie finally finagled her way to the door and flung it open. At least the daylight streaming in the front window of the small quasi-showroom lit the interior enough so she could see where she was walking. “Ha! First of all, that would require…what’s that? Time. Which I thought we’d already determined I don’t have enough of. And secondly…I’d need a boyfriend for that. Of which I’m also lacking.

“You could always hit the bar one night.”

“Nope.” Katie shook her head for emphasis, as if Sally could see it from her cell phone. “Not gonna happen. I’m not into players and one night stands. Besides, it’s dangerous anymore.”

“True dat.” Another heavy sigh followed.

Katie mused about how Sally loved being dramatic whenever she had the chance. She was used to it after all these years. Katie doubted that Sally even knew how melodramatic she could be. “Hey, I’ve got to go. The power’s still out. I need to call and see if I can find out what’s going on.”

“Keep me posted. Maybe the electric company will send out a hunk o’ burning love to fix the problem.”

“Now you’re dreaming. Have you seen the guys working for them? Lots of beer bellies and chauvinistic attitudes from the ones I’ve seen.”

“Isn’t Christmas the season of miracles?”

“Good-bye, Pollyanna.” With a punch of a button, Katie ended the call and scrolled through her contacts looking for the number of the power company.

She wished she could be as optimistic and cheerful as her friend was. Even on a good day, far away from the two month holiday season that temporarily derailed her life, Katie knew she wasn’t ever as positive as her friend was. She wished she could be. At times she almost thought she’d brightened up her attitude. And about then she was smack dab in the middle of the frantic rush. Everyone wanted parties. Everyone wanted Katie for the job. Everyone wanted her to plan their events and decorate their homes. And everyone wanted everything perfect. Oh, and for very little money.

By New Year’s Day, Katie was always ready to ditch the company and go back to a nine-to-five job.

Fortunately, by the time the Rose Parade was over, she’d rethought that decision and knew she couldn’t do it. She loved what she did too much to stop. She thrived on coming up with unique, creative designs. Her signature décor was what had customers returning year after year. She also had enough of an administrative talent that she could plan all the details, keep the event on track, and stay under budget.

On top of all of those reasons, she also knew that there wasn’t any way she could go back to working for a boss, punching a timeclock, working eight hours a day following someone else’s commands.

With the phone ringing on the other end, Katie thought about how happy she was with her life and her career. However…a little thought nagged at the corner recesses of her brain…a special someone to share her life with would be nice too.

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