Title: EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Author: Shirley Goldberg
Genre: Romantic Women’s Fiction
When a tyrant in stilettos replaces her beloved boss, and her ex snags her coveted job, teacher Dana Narvana discovers there are worse things than getting dumped on Facebook. Even at her age. Time for the BFF advice squad, starting with Dana's staunchest ally, Alex. Hunky colleague, quipster, and cooking pal extraordinaire. But when the after hours smooching goes nowhere, she wonders why this grown man won't make up his mind.
Actor turned teacher Alex Bethany craves a family of his own and his new lifestyle gives him the confidence to try online dating. Meanwhile he’s sending Dana mixed messages in the kissing department. After a surprising event rocks his world, Alex panics, certain he’s blown his chances with his special person. From appetizers to the main course will these two cooking buddies make it to dessert?
Funny and bittersweet, Dana and Alex’s story will have you rooting for them all the way to dessert.
“We’ll share two appetizers? Is that good?” Alex asked Dana. “I’m familiar with the menu here.”
“Fine,” she said almost absently, her gaze darting over Alex’s shoulder to a noisy group at a large, crowded table. She seemed restless, the newness of the experience overstimulating her central nervous system. “Brains. I want some brains,” she announced. “They’re on the menu. Never had ’em. Are they good?” Her voice had a frenetic quality he hadn’t heard before, and she shifted from side to side in her seat. The waiter assured them he’d give them time to decide and left.
She dipped her hand into the breadbasket and came out with a dark roll, tore it in half and sank her knife into the butter, smearing a thick wad onto the bread. “This will spoil my appetite.” She laid the bread on her plate. Apparently, the brains were no longer on her mind, so Alex called the waiter over and ordered, pointing to the items without saying their names out loud, wanting to surprise her.
She’ll love my choices, thought Alex, asking her follow up questions about her applications, the interview she’d lined up.
“Never feel guilty,” he said. “You have an offer. If it’s the right offer, take it. No looking back.”
“No looking back?”
“Except at me,” he said. She smiled at his lame effort. Why was he an awkward flirt when it came to Dana?
When the appetizers appeared several minutes later, Dana eyed them. “What is this? In the shell?”
“Coquilles St-Jacques,” said Alex. “You’ll like it.”
“Coquilles St-Jacques,” she mimicked, instantly French. Her eagerness to try new tastes showed a child-like and endearing quality, her fork already working the shell. “Melts. In my mouth…” She closed her eyes. “Awesome. I love it.”
“I thought you would.” Now she would try the duck. Alex waited, his pulse fluttering as Dana’s fork dipped, pierced the duck and travelled to her mouth. He watched as she chewed, then grimaced and held the napkin under her mouth, shielding his gaze with her right hand and spitting out the morsel of duck into the napkin.
“Yuck, duck.” She laughed, a short burst. “Oh, dear. Bad poem.”
He had the urge to check over his shoulder, to his right, then left, but what good would it do to know they were being observed? Everyone was enjoying fine dining, after all, not sticking their noses into other diners’ business. “Well, I guess the duck didn’t agree with you.” He made his voice level, not wanting to sound disapproving.
“Duck isn’t my thing. You enjoy it.” She took a long gulp of her wine and looked at him.
“Am I only now seeing the real Dana?”
She made an exaggerated inspection of the dining room, checking behind her, over Alex’s head, the four corners, and out the window. “And while we’re at it, the same goes for our principal. I’m tired of that clickety-click clicking of those heels. Checking over my shoulder. Worrying. How many ways are there to find fault?”
Alex thought she had never been this unguarded.
“I plan. I coll-ab-o-rate. I am the essence of collegial. There is nothing more I can do. I am washing...” Her palms came together, mimicking the action of washing. “...my hands of Strutt.”
He raised his glass, wondering what other clever Dana-isms she’d launch his way. “I like your spirit.” He leaned across the table and whispered, “Screw Strutt and the duck.”
She laughed. Her fork plunged into his Coquilles St-Jacques, transferred it to her plate. Gone in one bite.
A text message tone from his phone. “One second.” He plucked it from his coat pocket and skimmed the text. Honey. Telling him again how so, so sorry she was for canceling last minute. Asking what he was doing. He let the cell slip back into his jacket.
“This wine is good. Particularly good.” Dana smacked her lips, or so it seemed to Alex, unaccountably pleased at her obvious enjoyment of his wine choice.
He speared a piece of the duck. Raised an arm for the waiter. “Would you like something else, since duck and you don’t agree?”
“All righty then.” His insides squeezed. I am having a ball. “Another Coquilles St-Jacques?”
“Thanks, but no.” She reached for the dark crusty roll on her bread plate, took a bite.
“Oh, geez, this is good. This butter is almost sweet.” She closed her eyes and chewed. Watching her mouth move, Alex felt himself swell under the table.
“So, this is what it’s like being on a date with you.” Dana hesitated—caught herself.
“This isn’t a date, is it?” Her voice flattened and she took a sip of wine. “Oh, I’m not belittling your gesture, bringing me to this fine establishment. But it isn’t a date because you’re seeing that woman, aren’t you? The one you asked me for advice about.”
Alex fidgeted. Idiot. Asking Dana how to recognize the signs a woman was interested—what had he been thinking? What could be more awkward? This. This was definitely up there on the list of more awkward moments.
“You’ve always been straight with me,” she said, holding the wine glass in midair.
That little flash of skin whenever she raises her arm. He picked up his wine glass. At this rate, he’d have to order a second bottle, simply to block his mind from going where it shouldn’t.
“Alex, do it again. Be straight.”
He leaned in, took the glass from her hand, and put it on the table. “Come closer,” he said. “I want to whisper sweet somethings in your ear.”
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Eat Your Heart Out is a must-read for the characters, Dana and Alex, who discover happiness was in their own backyard all this time.
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Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look at living single and dating in mid life. Shirley is the author of two rom coms. Eat Your Heart Out and Middle Ageish, both in the series Starting Over. Shirley’s friends nag her to tell them which stories are true in her novels. Her characters believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor and Shirley agrees.
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Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/shirleygoldberg