Title: SECOND TIME AROUND
Author: Beth Henderson
Genre: Romantic Comedy
They’d been the perfect couple. Everyone thought so. Her parents loved him; his not only adored her, they were relieved that he was finally ready to settle down.
If some thought him her everything, they had no idea how much he did for her, from buying out her stock of dried flower wreaths at the craft fair to stopping on a dime when she spotted a field of Queen Anne’s Lace and then filling his expensive sportscar with as many as it would hold, not caring that they left the interior a mess.
Then the “M” word got mentioned one night and he panicked. Vanished from her life. But he never got over her. Wants her back and everything that comes with it, tossed rice, wedding bells and a future as a father.
He blew his chances once, will he inadvertently do so again when it means even more to him this SECOND TIME AROUND?
Balled fists found their way to a perch on her hips. She rolled her shoulders back, straightening them for battle. Her brow looked thunderous, but with her man-pleasing curves displayed to advantage by the Wonder Woman stance and the curling wisps of her pixie-styled hair begging to have his fingers buried in them, Roni took his breath away.
As she always had.
As she always would.
The tone of her voice wasn't the one he heard in his dreams, though. "What do you want, Tim? And make it fast," Roni snapped.
It probably wasn't the right time to be totally forthcoming about that. She'd get even more belligerent. "I need a favor. Well, actually two favors," he said and tried adding a smile. A weak one.
"You?" Roni scoffed. "I know you can lie better than that."
True. In a pinch, he could. "I'm being honest," Tim insisted. Did he sound contrite enough, sincere enough? "I have thought about you a lot lately."
"I'm touched," Roni declared, sounding far from it.
He needed to work on the groveling thing. Apparently, he sucked at it. "That art ball whatchamacallit is coming up and I need a date. I'd like it to be you."
She stared blankly at him for what felt like an eternity before relaxing her defensive stance. "Oh, give me a break, Tim," she said and returned to her perch, a tall stool he now saw.
"The museum's art ball? That's your parents' turf. And I'm sure that Sarah Pellier, Penelope Cox, or Cynthia Arthur would fit in with that crowd much better," Roni said wearily, apparently dismissing his request as unworthy of consideration.
Sarah and Cynthia would jump off a bridge if doing so meant they had a chance to bring him to heel before a church altar. But they loved him for the size of the Starling family bank account. Roni had always loved him for himself.
Had being the operative word. In three years she had obviously realized he was far from perfect. He had, after all, gone out of his way to prove he was exactly that to her.
It was time to reverse that judgment, to do whatever it took to win her back.
Tim quickly explained his parents' anniversary trip, then added, "And the Upper-Crust Three aren't as entertaining company as you are, Roni."
She shook her head slowly, let out a long weary sigh. "If that was meant to be a compliment, it was a sorry one," she said and turned back to the papers scattered on the lower counter, shuffling them together. Hinting, Tim figured, that he should be on his way, out of her life once more.
"You said there were two favors," Roni prompted. "What's the second one?"
"I need you to go to the art ball with me," Tim said. When Roni looked daggers at him, he held his hand up, figuratively asking for time. "Mom would like you to meet some of the other board members that night. They have a project coming up that requires special flower arrangements. She'd like Petals & Stems to be the floral contractor."
The expected explosion fizzled out. But Roni wasn't giving in easily. She was weighing the pluses and minuses involved, like any good entrepreneur. Would the rancor she rightly felt over his error in judgment three years ago keep her from the opportunity for new business?
Because he wasn't sure how she would react and couldn't answer any questions she might have about the museum's needs, there was only one thing left to do: follow through on his vow to do whatever it took to get back in her good graces. Whatever. No exceptions. He might need more practice to perfect his groveling, but he was king when it came to customer service. And Roni was one "customer" he intended to keep happy for the rest of his life.
"I'll make a deal with you," he offered. "Go with me to this shindig, wow Mom's fellow board members, and you can name your price. Anything. Sky's the limit. I'll do whatever you want, whenever you want." When she continued to look skeptical, he cast caution to the winds. "Cost is no object."
Roni's head jerked up. "Cost is no object? That doesn't sound like you talking."
She was right. It didn't. "I've changed," Tim declared, vowing silently that he would, if necessary. "Mellowed. Mom's charitable genes at work, no doubt."
"Yeah, right," Roni drawled. "You must be really desperate for a date."
He was...as long as that date was with her.
"What did you do to get on the Upper-Crust Three's blacklists?" Roni demanded. "Turn down their marriage proposals too?"
Worse, Tim thought. He'd never fallen out of love with her. That made him persona non grata with every other woman on the planet.
Of course, Roni wouldn't believe him if he told her that, so he prevaricated. "You know me, always distracted with business. So, will you go?"
Roni shuffled the papers again. Now that he glanced at them, they looked uncommonly like building layouts. Building! Oh, yeah, he had her now – hook, line and sinker. At least as far as going to the charity ball. It was a start. "Remember, cost is no object," Tim declared. "I'll do whatever it takes."
Roni stacked her sheets together and put a glass paperweight on top of them. It had a perfectly shaped red rose bud preserved inside. He hoped that somewhere in her heart Roni had preserved the love she'd once felt for him. There would be no return to life for the carefully kept rose, but perhaps, if he did everything right this time, Roni's love for him would blossom again. All he knew now was that she had made a decision.
"Whatever, huh? Even if it's a fifty percent discount on anything I need from Starling-Pearsall?" she asked.
Whatever was going to kill quarterly profits. "Fifteen percent," Tim countered and held his breath.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
When Tim and Veronica’s story was written it was back when e-books were just surfacing. The traditional publishers hadn’t even made the push to get titles out in electronic versions yet, but small publishers that were strictly e-book publishers were. The year was 2005 and the story was called Mr. Far From Perfect back then. Unfortunately, the publisher closed their doors the year after it was released. The e-book marketplace was still too small to keep them afloat.
But I always loved this story. Someone who heard me read part of it aloud at a gathering wrote a review for the first Indie paper edition I did, saying “I can tell you, the men in the audience laughed out loud at Tim Starling's thoughts and actions.” If that’s not a reason to grab a copy of what I retitled Second Time Around, what is?
Enter to win a $39 Amazon (US) gift card:
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Runs August 24 – September 2, 2021.
Winner will be drawn on September 3, 2021.
Beth Henderson likes nothing better than to find the funny in romance. Oddly enough, her first ex-husband (who is still a good friend) is constantly telling her she’s “so funny” that she’s beginning to believe it. He’s only been saying it for 51 years so far.
Oddly enough, she was a “full-time part-time” employee (filling in for the regular secretary) at a masonry company when she wrote this story, hence the building trade featuring in this tale. Her younger brother was also a self-employed carpenter, thus his talents were gifted to the hero’s rival. Add in that her best friend used to make things to sell at craft fairs and the background and professions just poofed into being. She loves it when that happens. Loves spending time with her characters, too. Find her at www.4TaleTellers.com
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