My Authors Incognito writers group is hosting a blogfest for Valentine's Day. The theme is "Love at First Sight . . . Or Not So Much." The goal is to post a scene when two characters who will fall in love meet . . . even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. I decided to share the first chapter of my current work-in-progress, Rebound. Enjoy! ***If you have a scene you want to share for the blogfest, be sure to hop over and check out the rules!
by Danyelle Ferguson
Rebound \ˈrē-ˌbau̇nd\ verb: When the puck becomes available for possession after an attempt to put it into the goal has been unsuccessful.
“You're married?” Rachel shrieked.
“Shh, keep your voice down,” Nico said as he looked to see if any of the nearby diners had overheard. It was the middle of dinner peak at 152 Sun Street Restaurant and the tables were filled.
“Are you serious? You're married?” Rachel pushed her auburn hair back over her shoulder.
“It's not what you think, darling.” Nico reached across the table, but Rachel moved her hands to her lap.
“Really? We've been dating for three months. Three months, Nico! Now you're telling me you're married? What am I supposed to think?” Rachel searched his face for signs of something she must have missed, but all she saw were dark Italian good looks. She leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes, beginning to feel light headed and nauseated. Dimly, she heard Nico talking, but she couldn't focus on the words. How could he be married? Sure he was gone for extended trips, often flying back to Italy where the company he worked for was based. But married? Never in a thousand million years would she have guessed he was already spoken for in a very permanent way. Had all the time they'd spent together—exploring Phoenix, making dinner together, talking on the phone every day—really been one big tangled web of lies? She could feel cracks spreading through her breaking heart.
Then she heard something that made her sit up straight.
“Stop.” Rachel interrupted his dialog. “Say that again,” Looking into his dark eyes, her gut began to twist and knot.
“I said that if it wasn't for the kids, I would have left Denita long before you and I met.”
“Your kids.” Rachel swallowed back tears. “You have a wife and children, but you're here. In this restaurant. With me.” She took a deep breath and leaned forward. “You make me sick,” she said in a low voice. She stood to leave, but Nico quickly blocked her. He grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him.
“You need to listen to me, Rachel. Now sit down.” Nico's eyes glittered with anger. She attempted to step away but he pulled her closer to him. “Sit down, Rachel. I'm not finished yet.”
Rachel reached down to the table, lifted her glass of lemonade, and threw the contents into his face. Nico gasped and released her arm, scrambling to find a napkin. She took the opportunity to grab her purse and get away—quickly weaving between the tables towards the front of the restaurant. Well, Rachel, she thought to herself, this is what you get for meeting people online. Didn't Dad tell you there were a bunch of loonies out there? But did you listen? Of course not. As she neared the foyer, Nico caught her again and swung her around to face him. Lemonade continued to drip from the side of his face onto the shoulder of his expensive suit jacket.
“Where do you think you're going? You came with me and you'll leave with me.” People waiting to be seated stopped talking and stared at the scene unfolding before them.
“Let go of me, Nico. You're causing a scene.” Rachel said quietly. Instead, his hand tightened on her arm, making her wince in pain.
“Excuse me, but I believe the young lady asked you to let her go.” The deep voice came from over Rachel's shoulder. Nico glanced up and his eyes widened, then quickly narrowed again. He slowly released her arm. Rachel automatically stepped away from him and bumped into a solid chest. She moved to the side and looked up . . . and up.
Beside her was one of the tallest men she had ever met. Her head barely came to the middle of his chest. He turned slightly, blocking Nico from her.
“Are you okay, miss?” he asked in an unexpectedly soft voice. Rachel couldn't tear her gaze from his deep brown eyes. All she could do was nod. He studied her for a moment. “Would you like me to call you a cab, unless you'd like to leave with him?” He motioned toward Nico. Rachel shook her head. When the man turned around, she saw Nico's face harden with anger and a shiver ran down her spine.
“Rachel,” Nico said tightly, “this is enough. I'm taking you home, now.”
“I believe she's changed her mind,” the man replied. “She'd rather make her own way home. You can say goodnight now.”
Nico looked at him as if he were trying to decide whether to push the issue. He must have decided it wasn't worth it because he turned away from him and pulled his coat on.
“I'll call you tomorrow, Rachel,” he said.
“Please don't. I don't want to see or hear from you again. Just leave me alone.”
“I'll call you tomorrow,” he said firmly. Then the waiting patrons watched as Nico stormed out of the restaurant. Rachel turned to face the man who stood beside her. She wanted to thank him but found she couldn't get her voice to work around the clog of tears stuck in her throat.
“Would you like to sit down?” he asked her. Her grip tightened on her purse, she nodded her agreement. He motioned to the maitre'd. “Maxwell, please call a cab and let me know when it arrives.”
The maitre'd gave a slight nod in acknowledgment and turned towards the phone at his desk. The man who rescued her gently took her arm and led her down a short hallway into what appeared to be an office. Cautiously, Rachel stepped inside. He motioned to the black leather couch sitting in front of a large mahogany desk.
“Why don't you sit here while I get you a glass of water?”
She glanced back and saw he left the door partially open. Feeling slightly more at ease, she sat down. “Thank you.”
Rachel looked around the room. It was very masculine. Simple black framed pictures of hockey players and teams lined the walls behind the desk. Curious now about the man who rescued her, she turned to watch him fill a glass with ice water. He reminded her of someone, but who?
“Who are you?” she asked, then blushed at how abrupt that sounded. “I mean, I don't know you or your name. I was just wondering . . .”
She trailed off as he walked over to the couch and handed her the glass. She had noticed he was tall, but not how big he really was. He was bald and had shoulders like a football player, which the combination of being in the office and him standing so near made her feel claustrophobic. Rachel took a sip, and relaxed when he took a few steps back and leaned against the edge of the desk.
“I'm Graydon Gretsky. And I take it you're Rachel,” he said, extending his hand towards her.
“Yes, Rachel Marconi.” Warmth tingled through her hand as Graydon shook it. She quickly pulled her hand away, placing it on her lap. “I really appreciate your help, Mr. Gretsky."
"Please, call me Graydon. Mr. Gretsky is my father." They both fell silent. Rachel looked around the room again, feeling awkward and miserable.
"Um, do you work here?" she asked, taking another sip of her water. She really didn’t want to drink it at all, the tightness in her throat making it difficult to swallow.
"Actually, it's my parents' place. I'm managing it while they're away,” he replied.
“Oh.” Rachel turned her attention to Graydon again. Something kept nagging at the corner of her mind. “So, who's the hockey fan—you or your dad?” His whole body tensed and became unnaturally still before relaxing again. The moment passed so quickly, Rachel wasn't sure if she had really seen it or if it had just been her imagination.
"Um, both of us actually. My grandfather and dad both played. Any time we all get together, it's the only thing that can be on T.V. without someone complaining.” He hesitated, then asked, “Do you like hockey?"
Rachel shook her head. "Not really. But my dad and brothers follow just about any sport—football, baseball, golf, soccer, bowling . . . I think I've interrupted them during a few hockey games to come to the table for our Sunday family dinners. Personally, I think hockey's too violent.” She looked again at all the hockey pictures, sure she had just offended a die hard hockey fan. “Well, it's not just hockey. I feel the same way about football,” she said trying to make amends. Graydon remained silent, looking at her in a way that made her feel like he was weighing her comments. She fidgeted in her seat. Suddenly, it clicked in her mind who he reminded her of. “Has anyone ever said you look like that guy from the movie The Pacifier?”
Graydon's eyes widened. “You mean the kid movie?”
“Yeah. You know, the one about the military guy who ends up babysitting the kids, changing diapers, and all that stuff? What was his name? I'm terrible at remembering celebrity names.” Rachel rubbed her forehead, trying hard to come up with the name that seemed to be just on the edge of remembering. Anything to keep her mind distracted from what had just happened with Nico.
Graydon cleared his throat, “You mean Vin Diesel?”
Rachel's head snapped up. “Yes!”
“You think I look like Vin Diesel?”
“Yes! You're both bald and built like over-grown football players—um, I mean . . .” Rachel faltered and blushed, fully realizing what she just said. She looked at Graydon to gauge his reaction. His lips were thin and his eyes were crinkled at the corners while mirth danced in the brown depths. "I'm sorry. I tend to put my foot in my mouth, or let it out as the case may be, but-” Rachel didn't even finish the sentence before Graydon unleashed a deep belly laugh. Great. See what happens when you don't think before speaking? She wished the floor would open up and suck her into a dark pit; anything to escape the complete awfulness of this one humiliating night.
A knock sounded on the door. Rachel turned to see Maxwell, the maitre'd, standing just inside the room. “Your cab has arrived, miss.”
Salvation, Rachel thought, gathering her things and wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible. She stood up and bumped into Graydon.
“Sorry,” she mumbled, hurrying out of the room.
“Wait,” Graydon said, following her down the hall. Rachel almost made it to the front entrance without having to speak to him again. “Here, let me get the door for you.” He reached around her, opening the door. Sure, she thought, anything to get me out of here faster. She brushed past him to the cab waiting at the curb, pausing in her flight when she thought she saw Nico’s car parked at the corner. Has he been waiting for me all this time? She squinted, trying to see if it really was him, but it was too dark to tell if someone was in the car or not.
Once again, Graydon materialized, this time to open the cab door for her. Rachel just wanted to slide in and escape. She turned towards him, looking up into his eyes which were no longer laughing, but calm and warm.
“Thank you for helping me earlier,” she said. She started to move, but he stopped her by taking her hand and helped her into the cab. He briefly squeezed her hand, then stepped back.
“I hope you come back soon, Rachel Marconi.” He closed the door and waved the cab driver on.
Rachel turned in her seat. Graydon was standing at the curb, hands in his pockets, watching her ride away. She faced forward again, leaned her head back against the seat, and sighed. The night flashed through her mind like a bad movie rerun.
Well, one thing's certain. I'm an idiot. She wiped the tears from her eyes, pulled her cell out of her purse, and hit speed dial. But at least I'm an idiot who has Ben & Jerry's waiting at home and a best friend to share it with.