Every Saturday I welcome a guest author to my blog to share an excerpt of a first meeting between two characters. Today, Jana Richards is visiting with her contemporary romance, There Goes the Groom.
Setup of the scene: Eight years ago, Tony and Olivia were about to marry. They were passionately in love but Tony sensed something was wrong. As they stood at the altar, about to say their vows, Tony said goodbye, believing Olivia really didn’t want to marry him. Now Tony is back in town and they’re forced to work together. This is the first time they’ve seen each other since they left the church on the day of their wedding.
Olivia stared at the man standing in the doorway of her office, for a moment too stunned to speak. What did you say to a man you’d almost married, a man you hadn’t seen in eight years?
What the hell are you doing here?
Olivia kept her errant thoughts to herself. Summoning her most professional persona, she straightened her back and found her voice.
Tony smiled as he set a beat up duffle bag on the floor. “Hello Liv. It’s good to see you.”
“What brings you Ottawa?
You haven’t lived here in what, eight years?”
“Eight years, six months and five days to be exact,” he said. “Didn’t you get the email?”
Olivia’s mind whirled in confusion.
“I’m going to fill in for Dr. Peterson.”
Now she really was confused. “I don’t understand. Dr. Peterson is a world renowned archeologist. How could you possibly fill in for him?” Dr. Derek Peterson was an eminent archeologist who had amassed a collection of artifacts from the Haida aboriginal peoples of the Pacific North West. He, along with the curators of the National Museum of Canada where Olivia worked, were planning to mount an exciting new exhibit for the museum.
“We’re colleagues, Liv. Derek was in a serious car accident two days ago. He’s going to be okay but he’s got a badly broken leg and some internal injuries. He won’t be in any shape to travel or to help put together the exhibit here at the museum any time soon.”
“Oh. I’m sorry Dr. Peterson’s been injured.”
Olivia sat in her chair once more, her legs feeling too wobbly to hold her up. Tony was a colleague of Dr. Peterson’s? When she’d known him eight years ago, he’d taken some night classes at the university, but he’d worked for his uncle as a tile setter, a tradesperson like the rest of his family. When had that changed? Then she remembered his sister Dani telling her a few years ago that he was in university full time. He’d become an archeologist? Talk about a career change.
“So you’re saying that you’re going to help mount the Haida exhibit?”
Tony nodded, his eyes never leaving her face. “I wasn’t scheduled to teach any classes this summer so the university sent me in Derek’s place.”
He took a letter from his backpack and handed it to Olivia. “Derek had put everything together before his accident and I’m familiar with his work so there won’t be a problem.”
There won’t be a problem?
Olivia could think of one or two, starting with the sheer awkwardness of working with a man she almost married.
In her wildest dreams she hadn’t anticipated Tony Dipietro becoming part of the scenario.
“Look Liv, I’m sorry about all this. If there had been any other choice—”
“No, you’re right. Making the exhibit a success is the important thing here.”
She read the letter he handed her outlining the situation. “We’ll just have to deal with it. Just one thing though. I’d appreciate if you called me Olivia. No one’s called me Liv since—no one calls me that anymore.”
He nodded, the expression in his dark brown eyes unreadable. “Yes, of course.”
He picked up his duffle bag from the floor. “I understand accommodations have been booked for me, or at least for Derek. If you tell me the hotel, I’ll call a cab and get settled in.”
Olivia’s stomach dropped to her knees. Because Dr. Peterson had planned to bring his family, he’d wanted more homey accommodations than a hotel could provide. She had arranged to rent a furnished apartment in her condominium complex.
She groaned inwardly at the implication. Not only would she be working closely with Tony every day at the museum, he was going to be her next door neighbor for the following three months. Was there no escaping the man?
“It’s not a hotel.”
She explained the situation to him.
“Well,” Tony said, looking thoughtfully at his shoes for a moment. He lifted his gaze and stared directly into her eyes. For a moment Olivia was transported back to a time to when every look from Tony held meaning for her, when every smile he gave her was immeasurably sweet. But that was then and this was now.
“We’re both adults. I’m sure we’re mature enough to do our jobs without worrying about ancient history.”
She raised one eyebrow, challenging him. “Or at least I am.”
He grinned at her with the devastating smile that used to make her turn into a quivering mass of desire. Thank goodness his smile no longer had that affect on her.
She was after all, a happily engaged woman. She gritted her teeth. She was happy, happy, happy.
“You’re right,” he said. “It’s ancient history and we’re both adults. Whatever it takes, we’ll get the job done.”
Tony moved towards the door. “If you give me the address of the condo, I’ll call a cab.”
Olivia regarded him for a moment. A memory of kissing Tony for the first time as he walked her home on a snowy Ottawa night suddenly popped into her head. She remembered how sweet that first kiss had been, how it had left her wanting more. She quickly pushed away the thought. It irked her to know that he could still elicit such an emotional response from her. She was over him, had been for a long time, and she’d be damned if she’d let her emotions get in the way of her work.
Or in the way of her upcoming wedding.
She opened a drawer of her desk and grabbed her purse. “It’s getting late. I’ll give you a lift to the condo.”
“You don’t have to do that. I can take a cab.”
Olivia raised her eyebrow once more. “Are you afraid to drive with me?”
It pleased her to see that Tony looked as uncomfortable as she felt. “No, of course not. It’s just that—”
“It’s just that what?”
She enjoyed watching him squirm.
“I’m sorry. I saw your name on the correspondence with Derek, and I knew coming here might be…awkward for you. The last thing I want to do is cause you any unpleasantness.”
Tony reached out to touch her, but pulled back his hand at the last minute. Olivia stood staring into his dark eyes. For one crazy moment she wished he’d take her in his arms and make the last eight years go away.
Her good sense quickly returned. Getting dumped at the altar had been brutal and humiliating, but not getting married at twenty had been the right decision. Neither of them had been ready.
“Do you want a ride to the condo or not?”
He nodded, not quite looking into her eyes. “Sure. Thanks.”
She tossed him a set of keys for the condo. “You might as well have these.”
They retrieved Tony’s motley assortment of well-worn suitcases from the lobby and loaded them into Olivia’s car. As she drove into rush hour traffic, Olivia couldn’t stop the shiver of unease that traveled up her spine. Could she really work with Tony like any other colleague when she’d once loved him to distraction?
For the sake of her sanity and her future marriage, she sincerely hoped so.
END OF EXCERPT
I don’t know if I’d be so nice to a guy who left me at the altar. It will be interesting to see how Tony earns Olivia’s trust again. If you want to watch this rediscovered love story unfold, buy There Goes the Groom at http://www.uncialpress.com/There-Goes-the-Groom.html.
To keep in touch with author Jana Richards, here are some places she can be found.
Thanks for visiting today, Jana!