Welcome to my stop on the Preview Rendezvous Blog Hop. I’m so happy you dropped by!
I’m excited to share this sneak peek of my upcoming novelette, Common Ground(hog), the second in my Worked Up series. First, let me give you a tiny bit of background. This series started a couple of years ago when I needed a story set on April Fools’ Day for an anthology I’d joined. The result was Who Does He Think He’s Fooling?, where best friends and co-workers Tom and Amy battle office chaos and some serious misunderstandings to try and save their friendship… and maybe more.
Several readers and author friends told me they wanted more of Tom and Amy and the whole ACME gang. I felt that way too. It was the end of the story, but it felt like there was more to tell. It took me a while to realize there was more… the beginning.
So now I am working on a series of stories that take us back to the start. Before Tom and Amy were BFFs. Before they had even met…
Common Ground(hog) – Worked Up Novelette #2
A bouquet of 156 roses, one for each day they had been together? Could you make a bouquet out of that many roses? Would it be too thick to bunch all the stems together?
What about dinner? But obviously not just dinner. Dinner in… Paris! Paris, Texas! That would be both romantic and funny and therefore endearing. Except obviously not actually Paris, Texas because he couldn’t afford a last-minute trip to Texas any more than one to France. But something like it, a nearby town with a far-off, exotic-sounding name. Hmm. What was there in New Jersey? There was a Berlin. Was Berlin romantic? It made him think of Marlene Dietrich but also walls and Hitler. Plus the only restaurant he knew there was a terrible diner he had eaten at once. They served him an omelette with both eggshells and part of a napkin in it. So maybe not dinner in Berlin.
What about a weekend getaway on the train? They could ride in one of the sleeper cars, all cozy in the top bunk. Sip champagne in the dining car over brunch as they watched the scenery speed by.
Wow. That sounded amazing.
“What’s with the giant phallus?”
Chuck was leaning over Tom’s drafting table, studying the sketch Tom hadn’t realized he was making.
“It’s a train,” Tom said tightly.
“Looks like a penis to me.” Chuck bit into an apple and settled into his own seat which was, unfortunately, right next to Tom’s since they, together, comprised the senior staff of the art department of ACME Office Amusements.
“I’m trying to figure out what to do for Susan for Valentine’s Day.”
“In that case, penis is definitely the way to go.”
“See, this is exactly why I came to you for advice. Oh, wait, no I didn’t.”
He held his phone below the table and texted Susan: How about a romantic weekend on the train? <3 😀
“Dude,” said Chuck. “Valentine’s is more than a month away. Chill. And maybe do some work.”
“It’s in less than two weeks.”
“Whatever. Tell that to the boss.”
Chuck, balding and pushing 40, was not the kind of guy who should be going around calling people dude or telling them to chill, but he had a point. Tom was supposed to be sketching the latest design concept, a planter in the shape of Donald Trump’s head (the leaves grew out of the top and stood in for his hair—if you let the plant die, it would actually be pretty realistic). But it was almost impossible to focus on work with Valentine’s basically around the corner and him with no plan.
His phone buzzed.
🙁 Meh. Vacuum-flush toilets and soggy grilled cheese sandwiches. No thanx.
So no train. Dammit. There had to be something. He had already offered at least a dozen ideas, but Susan had nixed every one of them.
Srsly, we don’t have to do anythg. It’s fine.
It was not fine. He was going to sweep her off her feet if it killed him. It was nice of her to try to let him off the hook, but he was going to do this. Because it was Valentine’s and that’s what you do when you have a semi-long-term girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. He just had to figure out what did it for her.
No, no, no. I’m going to figure this out. Don’t tell me! I can do this. I’m going to wow you. 😀
He set the phone down and sat back in satisfaction.
That is really not necessary.
Yes it is.
Heh. A single letter. Which could either be interpreted as waning interest in the conversation or… flirtation? Yeah, of course. Duh.
Maybe. Worth a shot. He texted back.
He added a winky face for good measure.
“Wow. I thought you ‘Latin’ guys were supposed to be slick with the ladies,” said Chuck leaning over his shoulder to read the phone. “But you are seriously pathetic.”
“I am not.” He quickly threw in another emoji. A cute chocolate cupcake he’d never noticed before.
“Smiling pile of poo. Interesting choice.”
What? Dammit. Stupid Chuck and his distractions.
He frantically tapped at the phone. Why couldn’t you delete a text after it sent? The need for such a feature seemed obvious.
“Don’t worry.” Chuck chewed another bite of apple, mouth open. “I’m sure the lady isn’t even paying attention if she’s sending you one-letter texts.”
“Of course she’s paying attention! She’s flirting. It’s our thing. Our new thing,” he amended.
A notification slid in from the top of the screen. Susan has just sent you a request! Help her cross the Gooey Gummy Bridge by sending her a Sugarfizz Powerup!
Okay. Well, those notifications were probably sent on a delay. Or autopilot. Or delayed autopilot.
Hey, can U send the Sugarfizz Powerup? On a roll!!
Or not. Well, if it would make her happy, who was he to—
“How’s the Trump head coming?!” squeaked the brown blob of fun fur that had suddenly appeared in his face. Tom sprang back in his chair. His heart pounded.
Chuck laughed, “Wow! Jumpy much? Thank God you can’t be drafted, hombre. If you’re that scared of a puppet, insurgents would eat you alive.”
“We’ve been over this, Chuck. I can be drafted. I’m from Puerto Rico.”
Chuck shrugged. “What did I say?”
The puppet cleared its throat.
Tom bent to the side and peered under his drafting table.
“I should have the planter rendering for you by this afternoon, Jess.”
His boss, squatting awkwardly below the table, somehow still pressed and coiffed despite the physical contortions, glared and jabbed a finger toward the fuzzball on her outstretch arm.
“Talk to Phil.”
“Phil,” she repeated firmly.
He heard Chuck snort behind him. Fine.
He straighten himself back up and addressed the groundhog puppet his boss had decided would make a “fun” addition to the office today, given that it was… well, Groundhog Day.
He knew Jess was eager to prove how innovative she was, having just been promoted to the position of manager last fall. But he questioned whether this latest “morale exercise” was going to raise morale or sink it to an all-time low.
“Phil…” he began. Chuck guffawed. Okay, well, perhaps some people’s morale would be raised, but if it was at the expense of others’ that seemed sort of counter-productive from a team management standpoint.
“Phil, I’ve done the initial sketches on the Trumplanter and I should have the rendering for Jessi—“
“Whoooo?” Phil trilled.
“For you, Phil, by this afternoon.”
“Well done, Mr. Morales. Jolly good!”
Jessica climbed awkwardly half into his lap as “Phil,” apparently now British, attempted to give Tom a congenial pat on the back.
Amy Abraham folded her long wool coat over her arm and smoothed her skirt as she waited for the elevator to arrive on the ground floor. It was going to be fine. It was all going to be fine. It had to be because otherwise she had just quit her job and moved 2,000 miles to frigid New Jersey, where the only person she knew was Joe, the security guard she had just met at the building’s reception desk, for nothing.
Was she hyperventilating? Because it kind of felt like she was hyperventilating. And Joe was looking at her a little funny.
Okay, this was silly. It was going to be fine. New job jitters were totally reasonable when you were making a big change like this. And, sure, her not being able to get the heat to work in her new apartment since arriving two days ago and the nearly skidding into an Applebee’s just now driving in felt like signs. But she didn’t believe in signs, and she had made this choice consciously and deliberately because it meant advancing her career in ways staying where she was never could have.
Not to mention her personal reasons for changing her life. Like not really having one back home, for instance. Not since she broke up with Mark, anyway (Not that the breakup was a bad thing. Jackass.) Oh, she had her parents and her best friend, Phoebe. But Phoebe had her life— the one she’d always wanted, too (picket fence, sweet, attentive husband, new baby)—and Amy’s parents had their well-established routine at the university. As much as they all loved having Amy around, well, it had been clear to everyone for a while that she needed to do her own thing. And whatever that thing was, exactly, it wasn’t waiting for her within an hour of her hometown in Utah. No, this had been a tough move, but it was a good move.
And that was why everything was going to be just fine.
There was a bright ding as the elevator arrived. The doors slid open, letting an older woman in a cheery turquoise parka off in the lobby.
“Good morning.” The woman smiled.
See! A good sign. (Not that she believed in signs.)
“Good morning,” said Amy.
She stepped into the car and pressed 10 for ACME Office Amusements and took a deep, slow breath.
Totally, totally fine.
“This is great, Morales, but could you describe the drawing to me?” Jessica said in her high-pitched groundhog voice.
Tom sighed. “You know, it would really be much easier if you would just get out from under the desk and look yourself, Jess.”
“Jess? Who’s Jess?” chirped Phil, swiveling around madly looking for whoever this mysterious person might be.
Tom leaned around the puppet to look at Chuck. “Any chance you want to help me with this?”
“I’d love to, buddy, but then my hands wouldn’t be free to film,” he said, wiggling the phone in his hand, which Tom had somehow failed to notice before. Possibly because of the fuzzball in his face and the boss crouching under his desk, elbow jabbed at an awkward—and extremely uncomfortable angle—into his thigh.
“Um, excuse me?” an unfamiliar, feminine voice said from across the room. Tom turned to see a horrified redhead standing just outside the elevator, staring at them. “I’m looking for Jessica Falco?”
Tom gave her an apologetic smile and pointed to Jess.
To be continued…
The book will be out soon! Meanwhile, I have two giveaways for you:
- If you haven’t read Novelette #1, you can grab it free here. At the same time, you’ll be signed up for my newsletter, where you’ll be first to know when the new book is released (you’ll also hear about fun events like this blog hop, giveaways, and more).
- Enter below to win one of three free advance copies of Common Ground(hog) when it’s finished. 🙂a Rafflecopter giveaway
NOW… hop on over and check out the awesome exclusive peeks (and giveaways!) offered by these lovely and talented chick lit and rom-com authors: