Happy New Years everyone!
This year has started out amazing already. I can't wait to see what the rest of 2015 has in store for me. I found out a few days ago that Dreaming of Ivy won a Swoony Award! Here's the link. Check out all of the other books that won too, including my book Hunted that I wrote under my pen name, Katie Lee O'Guinn.
And now, to share a little of the love. Meredith is a firecracker. Some people love her, some people hate her, but that girl is never boring. I think you'll enjoy her story.
Meredith stared moodily at the door, willing her client to walk through it. She glanced down at her phone for the tenth time in two minutes and sighed. Jo Sanderson had found her website last week and scheduled a consultation for that morning. But she was now fifteen minutes late and it was looking like she was going to be stood up. Again.
Meredith closed her eyes and concentrated on not throwing a temper tantrum like the three year old little boy across the room who was that very minute kicking his feet into the air with all the passion of an 80’s rocker.
“I give up,” she whispered as she sat up straight and slipped her phone into her purse.
Meredith’s head whipped up as she automatically cringed.
“Kam,” she said with what she hoped was a confident smile, praying her desperation wasn’t showing. She watched as Kam pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. He looked good. Of course he always did. When didn’t Kam Matafeo look amazing? Being gloriously happy and in love gave him an extra sparkle though and she had to admit that Bailey was good for him.
“What are you doing sitting here all by yourself?” he asked, glancing around the bakery curiously.
Meredith had decided that since she couldn’t afford office space yet and she did most of her work online anyways, that meeting clients at Belinda’s Bakery was the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, it meant running into just about everyone she knew.
“I’m actually meeting a client,” she said with an upward tilt of her chin. “Well, I’m supposed to be meeting a client. She’s running late,” she said, swallowing sickly as she thought of her bank balance and all of her bills that were starting to pile up. If she didn’t get a few clients soon, she was going to have to give up on her dream of being a wedding planner and go back into the work force.
Kam nodded his head. “Pule told me all about your wedding planning business. How many clients do you have right now?”
Meredith ran a hand through her long, stick straight, blond hair as she began to sweat. “Not that many . . . um, it’s kind of close to zero right now. I’m hoping Jo Sanderson will change that to one though. Getting clients in this business is all about word of mouth. I planned Jane’s wedding, but I need more experience. People don’t want to trust the most important day of their life to me with just one wedding under my belt.”
Kam frowned and scratched his chin as he studied her. Meredith couldn’t help the small sigh that slipped out as she studied his handsome, strong face. Kam had been the man of her dreams and she’d let him slip out of her fingers as carelessly as if she’d picked up a handful of sand. And she regretted it every single day. She no longer cried at night when she thought about him, but her heart still ached sometimes.
Kam shook his head. “Mer, if the clients aren’t coming to you, then you go and get them. You’re not a woman to sit back and wait for life to happen. You make it happen.”
Meredith smiled and then for some reason felt like crying. A year ago, she would have thrown her arms around Kam’s neck and kissed him but now he was married to Bailey Downing and they were expecting their first child in a matter of months. Running into ex-boyfriends was never fun. It always brought up so many memories.
She smiled and patted his arm. “Thanks, Kam. You’re a good friend.”
Meredith’s head whipped up as she heard the bell ring over the door. Her heart sped up as a tall, gorgeous brunette, dressed in holey jeans, biker boots and a white t-shirt walked in with a motorcycle helmet under her arm.
Kam glanced around curiously and stood up. “Looks like your client has arrived. Take care, Mer,” he said softly, touching her shoulder before walking to the counter.
Meredith swallowed a few butterflies and stood up, wiping her hands quickly on her pale cream skirt she’d picked for the meeting.
“Jo?” she asked, smiling brightly at the woman who was frowning nervously as she glanced around the bakery.
The woman glanced at her and nodded her head briskly before walking over and holding her hand out.
“You must be Meredith,” she said and then pulled out Kam’s vacated chair and sat down, setting her helmet on the floor.
Meredith signaled for Jane who was smiling happily at her. She’d made arrangements with Jane that as soon as her client showed up, she would bring over a plate of pastries and hot chocolate. It was January and in Fircrest, Washington that meant everyone and everything was wet and chilly.
Jo’s smile relaxed into a happy grin as Jane set the hot chocolate and pastries down in front of them.
“I thought it was weird to meet at a bakery, but now I can see why. The smell of chocolate, combined with warmth and yummy things to eat is like instant Xanax. I’m feeling better about this wedding stuff already,” she said, picking up a pastry drizzled with chocolate and taking a large bite.
Meredith’s shoulders relaxed a fraction and she picked up a lemon square and took a small nibble. “This is one of my favorite places to meet people. It’s relaxed, it’s right in the middle of town and everyone walks out happy.”
Jo grinned and took a sip of her hot chocolate. “You’re smart. I like that. So here’s the deal. Like I told you in my last email, I love my guy but I have no idea how to plan a wedding. I don’t have much money or time and I’m desperate since we’re supposed to be getting married in two months.”
Meredith bit her lip and nodded as she opened her laptop. “I have many options we can look into. Let’s go over my package deals and see if one of these fits what you have in mind. If not, we can always customize and I can handle part of your wedding and your family or bridesmaids can help out with what we don’t cover.”
Jo cleared her throat and looked away as a shadow came into her eyes. “Yeah, well, there’s a problem with that. I’m kind of on my own,” she said quietly.
Meredith’s eyebrows rose slightly and she felt her heart ache for the young woman. “Not exactly. You have me now,” she said and shut her laptop. She spent the next half an hour talking about ways they could save money. Jo was willing to do a lot of the leg work herself and with Meredith’s creativity and contacts she was hopeful that they could pull off a small but elegant affair.
Jo’s fiancé, Nick worked for the Seattle Sea Hawks as an assistant defensive coach. Jo worked as a counselor for troubled teens and was passionate about her work since she’d been a troubled teen herself. She’d grown up living in a foster home since the age of eleven and still kept in touch with her foster mom but she truly was on her own. Nick had offered to help out with half of the costs for the reception but since Jo’s salary was pretty meager, there wasn’t much to work with.
Meredith had been on a tight budget for Jane’s wedding too and she’d had fun pulling everything together out of practically nothing. She could do it again. She had to.
She went over her ideas with Jo and she ended up walking out with a happy grin on her face that filled Meredith’s heart with hope.
“She walked in looking stressed and now she’s glowing. I’m going to go ahead and assume your meeting was a success.”
Meredith stood up and grabbed her laptop case as she turned to hug Jane. “That’s because it was. I’m going to make sure that woman has the best reception ever. She’s such a sweetheart, Jane. She’s all alone in the world, but she’s madly, passionately in love with her guy. Time to create some magic,” she said, grinning as ideas and images already began swimming through her mind.
Jane laughed and pushed Jo’s chair into the table and picked up the empty plate. “I still remember how mad Kit was that my half of the reception turned out better than hers. I think she’ll always hold it against you.”
Meredith grinned and flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Good. It’s not every day I get to show up a professional wedding planner with twenty years of experience.”
Jane walked with her to the door and held it open for her. “I’m so proud of you, Meredith. You found your dream and you’re jumping in with both feet. I just feel bad that Cleo has to wait until spring for her wedding.”
Meredith’s smile faded a little as she thought of her roommate and friend, Cleo who had just made it through a horrific experience where she’d almost lost her life. Her body was healing but it would take time. And Cleo didn’t want to marry Tai until she was 100% herself. They were planning on honeymooning in Costa Rica for a week.
“Well, I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t want to walk down the aisle on crutches either. No, she’s smart to wait. She wants her wedding day to be perfect. Poor Tai though. He wants the wedding to be next week.”
Jane giggled and shook her head. “Those Matafeo boys have a hard time with delayed gratification. Waiting is good for the soul though.”
Meredith pulled out her umbrella and grinned. “I’m with Tai. I hate waiting. See you later,” she said and walked out into the cold drizzle.
She walked the three blocks to her apartment and smiled happily even though her toes were cold and her laptop case was biting into her shoulder. She would have driven her car to the bakery, but she was low on gas. And money. Splurging on the pastries and hot chocolate for Jo was a business expense she’d be able to write off, but in the meantime, she was wondering how she was going to buy groceries next week.
Some of her excitement in getting a new client faded as she realized just how little money she was going to make and just how many bills were waiting to be paid. She remembered Kam’s advice about not waiting for clients to come to her and going out and getting the clients herself. But how?
She walked up the stairs to her apartment and unlocked the door. She slipped off her boots and leaned her umbrella up against the coat tree before slipping out of her rain coat.
“Cleo?” she called out as she walked to the kitchen and opened the fridge. She was starving now since she’d been too nervous to eat at Belinda’s. Jo hadn’t minded and had gleefully eaten every pastry she’d ordered. She didn’t mind since she’d gotten the job, but now she was hungry.
She immediately saw the large glass filled with green slimy stuff with a note that had her name on it. Meredith grimaced and picked up the cold glass and read the note.
I made this for you, Mer. You’ll love it. It has mangos and pea protein so you can have good energy today. Hope everything went well with your meeting. See you tonight after dinner. Tai is taking me to Seattle for the day to do a little shopping. Be good! – Cleo
Meredith smiled and felt her heart warm. Cleo was a pain in the butt when it came to shoving green smoothies down everyone’s throats, but the woman had a heart as big as the ocean. Meredith glanced at the glass and sighed, taking off the plastic wrap before taking a sip.
“Hmm, not bad,” she muttered as she wandered back to the family room where she sat down and pulled her legs up. She had a lot to do. She had to begin planning Jo’s wedding and figure out how to do a five thousand dollar wedding with just two thousand dollars. Yeah, no biggie. That and she had to figure out how to get a few more clients. She took another sip and then closed her eyes as she waited for inspiration to come.
Her head whipped up as she heard a light tapping on her door. She set her glass down and hurried over, checking to see who it was before opening the door.
“Asher,” she said with a grin as she opened the door wide. “What’s up?”
Asher stood in the hallway looking like he always did, too handsome for his own good. The man was eye candy. Pure and simple. With his wavy brown hair and glittering blue eyes, he could date any girl in Washington. And probably had, now that she thought of it.
Asher smiled and motioned toward her apartment. “I had some free time and figured we could hang out and you could tell me how your meeting went.”
Meredith smiled and opened the door wide before turning and walking back towards the couch. Asher shut the door and followed her, sitting near her with his arm over the back of the couch.
“It went well. I now have my first official client and she’s darling. She’s a tomboy with no clue about weddings but she’s so in love it makes me want to just hug her.”
Asher lifted an eyebrow and grinned. “And how is her budget? Can she afford you?” Meredith winced and took a sip of her smoothie before answering. Asher was all about business and figures and sometimes forgot about having a heart. “Well, we’re going to figure it all out. She’s going to do a lot of the legwork and I’ll help on the items that she can’t handle. I just want her to have the best day of her life.”
Asher groaned. “You’re such a romantic, Mer. You’re going to be out on the streets begging in a couple months and here you are giving your services away for free. You need an assistant to do this part of the initial meetings so that you don’t get taken in by every sad face who shows up with empty pockets.”
Meredith frowned and looked away from Asher. “Ash, she was a foster kid growing up. She doesn’t have any family. Any. She has no one and she’s doing this all on her own. How could I say no?”
Asher sighed and reached over and touched a strand of her hair, pulling it through his fingers. “Easy, you say, no.”
Meredith glared at Asher and then punched his arm when he began laughing at her.
“Sorry, stop hurting me,” Asher said, rubbing his arm. “But seriously, if you want to stay in business, you’re going to need clients who actually pay what you’re worth.”
Meredith took another sip of Cleo’s smoothie and set the glass down before leaning back. “I know. I ran into Kam at the bakery before Jo showed up and he said something interesting to me. He said, I need to stop waiting for clients to come to me and I need to go out and get them.”
Asher laughed and leaned his head in his hands. “That’s actually a good idea, but how are you going to do that? Walk up to people holding hands in the park and hand out your business card?”
Meredith bit her lip and looked at the ceiling as a crazy thought popped into her head. Her eyes went wide and wondered if it was even possible.
“Not exactly. I’m thinking more along the lines of match making.”
Asher stared at her silently for a moment. “You can’t be serious.”
Meredith glanced at him and winced. “Like you said, I could be out on the streets soon. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
Asher licked his lips and lowered his arms. “There’s desperate and then there’s crazy. Mer, this is crazy.”
Meredith glared at Asher and sat up, turning her body to face his. “Hear me out. I start up my own little dating website and I give the people who end up falling in love a discount package on wedding planning. What do you think?”
Asher massaged his forehead before answering. “First off, dating websites aren’t just something that you can snap your fingers and create in a day. But I have to admit it could be good advertising for your wedding business even if you don’t make it as a matchmaker. Any way you can get your name out there is a good thing.”
Meredith nodded. “I know who can help me with the matchmaking website. Brogan Moore. He’s a computer whiz. I could go in with him fifty, fifty and like you said, I’ll get all of that business funneled my way. Plus it will give me an income until my business takes off. What do you think?”
Asher pursed his lips as he looked at his hands before answering. “Dang, Meredith … it just might work,” he said, sounding surprised. “What does Brogan say about it? How fast can he get the site up and running?”
Meredith’s smile slipped. “Well, I haven’t actually talked to him about it yet. I kind of just came up with the idea a few seconds ago.”
Asher tilted his head back and laughed. “Ah, Meredith, you crack me up. Such a firecracker. Tell you what, I’ve got his number in my phone, I can give him a call for you and set up a meeting.”
Meredith began bouncing up and down on her couch as she clapped her hands. “Yes! Wait, but why would you do that?”
Asher pulled out his phone and scanned through his contacts. “Easy, because I want in on this.”
Meredith’s face lit up as she grinned at Asher before throwing a pillow at him. “Tell me I’m brilliant first.”
Asher glanced at her and winked. “Meredith, not only are you beautiful, but your mind is gorgeous.”
Meredith’s smile went up a few more degrees. When Asher wanted to be charming, the man could be charming. “Well, having you on board would be a huge bonus. You could run the business side of things, Brogan could run the website and I could deal with the people. We could all do what we do best.”
Asher nodded his head and then held up his hand as he began speaking. “Brogan, how’s it going? . . . Great, great. Listen, Meredith Jensen and I have a proposition we want to run past you and we’re wondering if you’re free for lunch today? . . . Perfect. One sound good? . . . Okay, we’ll see you then,” he said and hung up.
Meredith stared at Asher in shock. “I have an idea one minute and now we have a business meeting in two hours? Are you kidding me?”
Asher shook his head and slipped his phone back in his pocket. “Deadly serious. This will give me time to draw up a business proposal. I like what you’re wearing, but put your hair up. Bring your laptop so you can show him your wedding planning website. Sweetheart, if this works, you’ll never have to worry about being penniless again.”
Meredith tried not get too excited. “That’s assuming a lot, Ash. That’s assuming Brogan even wants to help me with the dating website.”
Asher laughed and stood up, reaching up to stretch. Meredith’s eyes went wide as she couldn’t help noticing his wide shoulders and trim waist. She cleared her throat and looked away, blushing.
“Life’s a gamble, baby. But nothing ever happens unless you try, right? Meet me at The Iron Skillet at one and don’t be late,” he said, shooting his finger at her like a gun before walking out.
Meredith walked over and automatically locked the door before turning around and leaning against it. Life. Was. Crazy.
She grinned and pumped her fist into the air. And wasn’t that a good thing?
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