Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sweeter Than Chocolate: A Novella Part 3

Wednesday at the candy store was ordinary. There had been no dueling suitors calling or visiting. Liz walked into the kitchen that night around nine thirty and set the coffee maker. She felt a presence and turned.

Ian was leaning against the doorjamb. “I’m proud of you. You remembered to lock the door and you even locked the deadbolt. Very impressive,” he said with a smirk.

“Yet you’re in here again,” she could not help but smile.

“Your windows were unlocked,” he said sheepishly. Liz imagined him prowling around checking all her windows; she hoped her neighbors did not see him. He informed her, “They’re all locked now.”

“Thanks,” she said with a laugh. “Tomorrow night are you going to come in through the chimney?” They chuckled and she opened the refrigerator and scanned the barren shelves. She felt bad that she did not have anything to offer him. “I have water or wine,” she said remembering she had a bottle.

“Wine? Aren’t you saving that for a special occasion?” he asked.

“I was saving it for when I had a guest,” she said looking up at him.  He was her first guest in a while. He shrugged and volunteered to open it. She poured them each a glass and they sat and discussed families and childhoods. She enjoyed the friendship. She found out that he started college as a marketing major but changed it halfway through. Knowing that he was a college graduate made her feel better about his age although he never had scruff on his face and could be in his early twenties.

They discussed her career and how she got started. She sold candies to fellow college students to make a little money to help with books and other expenses. It became so lucrative that she changed majors from nursing to business. She enjoyed the challenge of running a business but there were not enough hours in the day.


Thursday was a busy day. The chocolate was tempered and the melted brown liquid was molded. Martha liked to add a touch of white chocolate onto the darks and milks. Little curly-Qs, Xs and other artistic touches graced the candies.

Liz hastily prepared for the forgotten lunch date with James when she remembered five minutes before he showed up.

James had on a black suit with a pale blue shirt and a cobalt blue tie. His eyes were striking but thought she saw coldness behind them. She tried to shake the negative idea away. He was pleasing to look at. He smiled at Liz admiring her curves. Liz flushed under his gaze and started anticipate the date.

James escorted her to a bistro around the corner from the store. He gave her his undivided attention all the way there and charmed her with compliments and held open the door. The sandwiches and salads looked inviting and tasty. It was nice to get out of the store and be served. She had a sweet tea and a Reuben and chewed as James spoke about the woman he gave the Sinfully Sweet chocolates to as an office gift. Of course, it was a corporate gift but Liz thought it was strange date conversation. He started another strange date topic. James brought up Ian Sarto asking her if she had the date with him yet.

“Do you really want to talk about him?” she asked. James smiled and shook his head. He went on to talk about some of the other menu items but Liz’s thoughts stuck on Ian for a moment then shifted to the man before her.

Liz noticed several people came and picked up carryout orders and mentioned this to James. He knew this was a popular place and she suspected he brought her there to show for others she was with him. She saw James’ eyes volley to several women as they came and went in the restaurant. James was quickly losing his charm and appeal.

She saw one man in a dark business suit picking up a large bag of food. He looked familiar but she could not place the clean cut tall man. She felt guilty noticing another man when she was supposed to be on a date but he was a nice distraction from flirty ill-mannered man she was with. As he paid, the man at the counter winked at her causing her to blush; suddenly she wished she was eating lunch with him instead.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thanks For Visiting

Hi. Thank you for taking the time to visit. Please sign the guestbook and let me know you visited. I have posted STC (Sweeter Than Chocolate) Part 1 and 2 for your reading enjoyment. I will be posting part 3 next week. To make following weekly STC updates easier add this to your favorites or follow me. =) Become a fan @ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rochelle-Bradley/91034456197?ref=ts

You may critique/comment on each part separately or just comment in the guestbook. I would love to hear your speculations about the characters and the plot.

I hope you enjoy the story.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweeter Than Chocolate: A Novella Part 2

Tuesday morning things were back on schedule and Liz nearly forgot about Emma’s mishap until Emma came in for her shift.  Jennifer got to her first and chewed her out.  Later Jennifer approached Liz in her office and apologized for her sister’s actions and claimed that Emma only invited James. Knowing Emma, Jennifer surmised that she was excited about the planned date and told others about it and subsequently seemed to invite Ian. Liz actually chuckled, this was entirely plausible.

Emma knocked on her door around eleven thirty and personally apologized for messing up her date and putting her in an awkward situation. She smiled and revealed that James Riley was there to reschedule his date with her. 

Liz pushed away from the desk and the pile of paperwork she needed to work on and put on her store face. James was talking to Jennifer but smiled brightly when he saw her. She met James with a hand shake which he was reluctant to let go. He wanted to take her to lunch right then. She looked at her watch and smiled gratefully up at him. “I can’t today but Thursday I can, if you’re available.” He was and they agreed on a time. He was pushy but charming and it was hard to resist him. She loved his eyes; they had a very soothing effect on her and made her want to stare into them. They were making some casual conversation and she was actually being social.

Jennifer tapped her shoulder and said there was a phone call and it sounded important. Liz excused herself from James and took the call in the back room. The voice that greeted her startled her. “Ian?” She was surprised by his timing.

“Is this a bad time to talk?” he asked. His voice was rich and intriguing. She thought he could have his own radio talk show.

“For the moment it’s okay. I just never know in a retail environment.”

“I hear you there,” he paused and she speculated. “Can I call you after the store closes tonight?”

“Sure or better yet let me get your number and I’ll call you when I’m done here.” As soon as she said it she knew it was a lie. She would not feel like calling him or she, more likely, would completely forget. She sighed.  She scribbled down his number. They exchanged a few other pleasantries and he made her laugh. “Ian, let me give you my home number, because I’ll probably forget to call you.”

“I can tell that I made a big impression on you the other night,” he teased.

She laughed quietly. “It’s not that. If it’s not part of my daily routine I just forget things.”

“I’ll have to work on that.” he said with a smile in his voice. Liz laughed again and then she gave him the number. “Are you sure this isn’t the number to the Godiva booth in the mall?”

This time she laughed so hard Jennifer came around the corner to see if everything was okay.  Jen wore a shocked expression but she retreated back to the sales floor.  “Yes, I’m sure. Thanks for making me laugh.” Liz poked her head around the doorway. She saw a few people milling about looking at the goodies. A smiling Jennifer was ringing up a flirting James. Liz looked out the glass doors and saw a man on his cell phone looking in. Ian told her to have a great day and try not to forget about him. She hung up the phone, leaned against the door jamb and watched her store. James exited and headed away.

“What are you smiling about?” asked Jennifer.

Liz felt her face. She was smiling. “I just had the funniest conversation with the guy from the other night.”

Jennifer looked her up and down. “I like him if he makes you smile.”

Liz looked out the door again and saw the man pull open the door to the clothing store across the street.  “Jen, have you ever been in that clothing store?”

“Yeah, it’s great. The owner is a young guy and he designs lots of the clothes. They have an awesome selection and cool styles. The sales staff is great. There are a couple of really cute guys that work there.”

“Any of them tall?”

Jennifer looked surprised, “Do you think your mystery guy works there? That would be perfect for you. You both have retail hours!” She seemed excited.

“I don’t want to date a kid,” she said with a frown. The maturity levels would really be skewed plus he might be interested in her for the prospect of money.

That night she walked into the door and flipped on the kitchen light and set the coffee maker to come on at 5 a.m. She went to the living room and relaxed in a black leather reclining chair and turned the satellite TV on to a classical music station. She felt a presence and looked over to see a man standing there. She thought about the options. She could call the police, run or trust him. She relaxed back into her chair.

“Liz, you should never take your guard down. I could be a serial killer,” he said concerned.

“Come here,” she said to him putting her chair upright. He stood next to her and she motioned him closer. He leaned over her and she swiped the cowboy hat off his head and then moved some hair away from his eyes. “There, that’s much better. Now I can see your eyes. They aren’t the eyes of a serial killer,” she said and wondered why he was wearing that hat. He did not have a hat ring on his head so he must have just put it on. “You were supposed to call me not visit. How did you get in my house anyway?”

“Your door was unlocked. You should be more careful. I’ll go now,” he said turning to leave.

“No, wait,” she said not exactly sure of herself. Her mind was not ready for sleep and he was there so they might as well have a talk. She was not threatened by him at all. “Sit down and stay a bit.”

He smiled. “I guess locking the front door isn’t in your daily routine.” He sat down next to her on the sofa and stretched his long legs out.  They talked for about an hour about their little town and neither mentioned work much.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sweeter Than Chocolate: A Novella Part 1

Saturday was a busy day for the small chocolate boutique Sinfully Sweet and owner Liz Fairholm was happy. It was a family weekend in town and there were live bands and artists in the streets. All the shops stayed open until nine or later to accommodate the customers and to capitalize on the extra business. She sold more Divine Peanut Butter Brownies in one night than the whole month. It was a good thing she had plenty of samples and extras made, individually wrapped for the night. The delicacy was a big hit with men and women alike; who could blame them for loving the tasty dessert? The round brownie with a peanut butter candy on the top, similar to the insides of buckeye or peanut butter cup candies, was rich and tantalizingly sweet. It looked as good as it tasted. It was only one of the many new favorites introduced to the small town in the year since Sinfully Sweet arrived.

A successful business owner at twenty nine years of age, Liz knew how to appeal to her customers. The store was as visually seductive as the smell. The display cases were spotless and clean. They were artistic and made people want to touch the items and if they touched them they would buy them. She had red tablecloths on the oak tables and red and white accents throughout the store. The store looked like Valentine’s Day every day. Choosing red because it was the color of passion, she wanted people to be passionate about her chocolates and other confectioneries. It was her job as a chocolatier to help them fall in love with the wonders of chocolate. Although, she was now more on the sales floor than in the kitchen, she still had her hand in all aspects of the business.

Martha Duncan was the top kitchen help; Liz relied on her to be there in the wee hours of the morning, coming in usually at 3 a.m. to “start the art” as Martha liked to say. She was in her fifties and loved to be done with her job by 10 a.m. Martha had a handful of kitchen crew under her command and it was a well-oiled group.

Sinfully Sweet’s sales floor team was a good one as well. The manager was Jennifer Wetzel; the young woman driven like Liz. Jennifer had long blond hair and wore stylish clothes. She was very professional and the male clients tended to lean in her direction. One of her other top employees was Jennifer’s younger sister, Emma. She was the opposite of Jennifer in coloring and tended to be less refined. She had plump cheeks and short dark wavy hair. She had a fun bubbly personality which grated on Liz’s nerves sometimes because Emma Wetzel was perpetually happy. She was great with the clients, especially children, and what’s good for the clients is good for business.

Tonight Liz was nervous as she cleaned up the back and emptied the trash from the office. Emma had taken it upon herself to plan a blind date for Liz with one of the customers. The sales clerk felt sorry for Liz and her nonexistent social life. Emma asked a man, who was a regular, if he would be interested in the date with Liz. She never asked Liz if it was something she would enjoy. Liz knew the man and thought he seemed sweet; he was an attractive man but still she was annoyed that Emma had conspired against her. She did not have any desire to date the man but she did not want to upset the customer either.

She was having a double date with Jennifer and one of her love interests.  They were all meeting at the store at closing. She looked at her watch; five minutes until she could lock the front doors. She overheard Jennifer speaking with a male customer and ringing up his purchase. She stared in the mirror on the wall. She looked clean, that was a good thing; no melted bits of chocolate anywhere on her black pants or red shirt.  She smoothed down shoulder length brown hair. Her feet ached. She did not feel like going out on the town.

Jennifer was closing out the register and counting money when Liz rounded the corner. There were two men standing near the door sizing each other up.  She smiled over at them casually and then she started checking the dates on the bottom of the Divine Peanut Butter Brownies and the Chocolate Chocolate-chip Muffins. If they lasted more than two days on the sales floor then she took the old items to a children’s recreation center and one local fire department that was within walking distance.

Jennifer kept glancing over at the guys and smiling. Excitement apparent in her eyes. She took the money and receipts into the back with Liz. Jen picked up her purse and said to Liz, “Have fun!” and she turned towards the back door.

“Wait, where are you going?” she asked confused. “Aren’t we having a double date?”

“I have a date but it’s with my new boyfriend. I’m not going out with you. Looks like you’re the one with double the dates tonight.” She repeated with a smile, “Have fun.”

Liz grumbled something nasty under her breath aimed at Jennifer’s little sister.  She went back to the store’s sales floor. “I think there’s been a mix up here.” She looked at James, the man she knew. “You are here to see?” He pointed at her with a smile. “And you?” she asked the man wearing a dark brown cowboy hat. He pointed at her also.  She drug her hand down her face and mumbled, “When she said ’double date’ I had no idea she meant this.”

Liz kept calm and weighed her options. She could dismiss them immediately or they both could join her on a brief walk. She could not send one away and not the other without causing embarrassment or discrediting the store so she decided to try something brave. She walked behind the counter, picked something up then she returned to the men.

James had piercing blue eyes. He was handsome, charming and had a self-confidence that made him appealing. He was probably ten years her senior. His hair was brown, receding and extremely short. His warm smile added to his charm. 

The other man looked familiar to her but she could not place him which probably meant he had been in the store. He was taller than James and wiry. His hat made a shadow fall over his eyes. His hair was light brown and needed to be cut. It hung low over his ears. His face seemed young and she could not tell if he even shaved. He wore jeans and a long sleeve gray Henley shirt. There was a mysteriousness about him that made her curious about his origins.

She took a breath. “I’m sorry this happened. Ms. Wetzel must have been confused. I don’t know when or how she approached you but I’m really sorry about this.” She handed each of the men her business card. “For the record, I have never been on a date with either of you. If you call me I promise I will schedule a date with you, individually.”

The tall mysterious man extended his hand to James and said, “Ian Sarto.”

With a smirk, James took his hand. “James Riley.”

Liz picked up the basket of goodies and told the guys her plan. They were both welcome to join her but she had no intention to force them to stay with her or each other. She decided this was the best option for the night. They exited and she locked the door behind them. She hesitated looking through the glass, trying to remember if the backdoor was locked, then turned and headed down the street. Each man flanked one side of her. After she dropped off the items at the recreation center Ian said he would leave them to enjoy their evening. He seemed anxious to leave and doubled back the way they came.

Liz visited the firehouse and then asked James if he would excuse her for the evening. She was extremely tired and needed to get off her feet and rest. He tried to talk her into drinks but eventually headed, alone and mumbling, in the direction of the live music.

Welcome to my Blog

I started writing in fall of 2008 when both my children were both in school. I never knew how fast I could get a story out of my head. It took me 6 weeks to write Blood & Tears Tattoos. At that point it was 76k words. Since that time I have completed to other novels and one novella. I am currently working on a fourth novel called Haunted Memories. I ask you to join me on my adventures as a Novice Writer as I stalk the publishing world.