Romance Romance Saga
#1 in Romance
||5 publishers interested
MIA WINTERS is a down-on-her-luck young woman, trying to chase her dreams in Chicago. Her life is thrown to the wind when a man from her past arrives unexpectedly.
ROMAN THORNE. Best friend. College sweetheart. Passionate lover. Once upon a time, he was everything to her. This is however is not a pleasant reunion – they were unexpectedly torn apart two years ago and have not spoken since.
Not to mention he’s now engaged. So why is he back? Why does he still look at her like he used to? Why are the sparks between them are hotter than ever, the emotions deeper, the love intensified?
Filled with shocking revelations, intrigue and a heart-stopping twist, Heart of Thorne is a sizzling romance that captures the beauty of love and the pain of losing it.
What would your morals be worth in the face of love?
HOW I WOULD DESCRIBE THIS - MY ELEVATOR PITCH
The best way I would describe this book is it's a cross between The Notebook and Dynasty - you've got the tragic love story, mixed with the family and social intrigue. Brother against brother, death threat after death threat, love triangles, rectangles even. It's all sorts of entertaining page-turning drama, romance and heat.
Filled with secrets and lies, struggles with family, social status, and power, heart-stopping twists and turns, and shocking revelations, Heart of Thorne is the newest sizzling, page-turning romance and drama that’s a must-have for your collection.
What makes my book unique? It's timeless, yet fresh at the same time.
I am currently working on follow-up novels which I would be happy to discuss.
WHO IS MAGGIE WAY?
The bestselling author of the Entangle Me Series has been reading romance novels since the age of thirteen, and spent years dreaming up her own storylines that perfectly blend the archetypal tragic love story with contemporary settings.
WHY DID I WRITE THIS STORY?
I’ve been reading romance since I was thirteen years old, so this is my ultimate romance book, and I specifically wanted to blend the archetypal tragic love story, into a contemporary setting.
A homage to my favorite novels like The Notebook, Bridges of Madison County, Bared to You, and Fifty Shades of Grey, Heart of Thorne is the suspenseful, plot-driven, exhilarating, and sexually charged adventure that sweeps you along with the heroine.
Romance drama lovers, you won't be disappointed!
WHAT MY READERS ARE SAYING
This is not your standard cookie cutter romance. Ms Way has “a way”(yeah, yeah....I know) with her stories!
It’s hot! She does a great job at conveying the sexual tension when they are in the room with each other. I'm rooting hard for this couple!
Honestly hooked...I am still wondering what happens between your characters!
When is the next book coming out?!
While I have established myself as a self-published author, and has greatly enjoyed the learning curve when taking a more involved approach with her novels from conception to distribution, I feel like it’s time for another adventure.
With this campaign, I hopes to build a larger audience for her newest novel, and translate this traction in a traditional publishing deal for Heart of Thorne.
By supporting the Heart of Thorne campaign, you can secure your very own digital or paperback copy of the novel, along with extras like signed and personalized copies, Maggie’s back catalogue, one-on-one writing Q&As, and recognition in the acknowledgements. Some of these perks are limited, so make sure to act fast!
If 1000 or more individuals grab a copy of the book I will share the first chapter of BOOK TWO.
Not only that, if this campaign gets fully supported, every backer will get a free copy of the book (ebook)!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
Even if you can’t support the campaign, you can still ensure Heart of Thorne gets funded and purchase your own copies at a later date. Share the campaign with friends and family, on your social media, and with your book clubs and writing groups.
The story begins in the middle of a heated conflict between two people, a woman and a man. When the man grabs the woman’s hand, the prologue ends there.
· Introduction to the main character, 22-year-old Mia Winters, life. She her dream job baking cakes for her own little café in Chicago.
· She lives with her roommate and best friend, Mei, who constantly tries to set her up with men. Mia is more interested in work right now, and is still haunted by her heartbreak with the love of her life, Roman Thorne, two years earlier.
· She notes that she ended things with Roman, but doesn’t say why or how.
· Introduction to her café where she begins a day of work.
· Introduction to James, one of her baristas. It’s clear that James has feelings for her, but she only sees him as a friend.
· At the end of the chapter, Roman shows up at her café unannounced.
· Roman’s family business – based in London – is expanding to North American and he will be heading up the offices in Chicago.
· He wants to meet with her. She bluntly rejects his invitation.
· Undeterred, Roman leaves her his business card and asks her to call him.
· Mia later recalls (tells the reader) the reason why she was so harsh to Roman. He’s engaged now. She’s determined to stay away from him.
· Mia visits her parents, to celebrate her father’s birthday. They worry about how stressed and overworked Mia is, and offer financial support, but Mia refuses.
· Later, when Mia is back in Chicago, Roman shows up at the café again. The exchange proves ineffectual, culminating when Mia reveals she knows about his engagement.
· When they exchange goodbyes, Roman advises her to enjoy a day to herself.
· Triggered by Roman’s advice, Mia decides to venture for a day out in the city. She heads to a small art gallery, where she bumps into Roman.
· After they leave the art gallery, he asks her to have lunch with him.
· Mia has lunch with Roman. They discuss what their lives are like now, particularly on the work front. Roman is ruthlessly ambitious and has intentions of expanding the family business, making it clear it is his top priority. He also reveals the business had some financial difficulty recently, but won’t detail how things were mended.
· Mia confides in her business troubles to Roman, and he offers her some business advice in the way of venturing into catering.
· Talk turns to his Roman’s family and personal life. He reveals his father is still single, even though his wife Cerise died years ago.
· She asks about his engagement but he is instantly dismissive. He explain he and Tamara, his fiancée, will not live together.
· Roman also bears a great deal of animosity towards Reynold as well, and declares he’s angry about his father’s mistakes.
· Just as she gets to chance to find out more, he receives a phone call and has to leave the lunch suddenly; he has to travel abroad.
· Unable to quash her curiosity, Mia researches the Thorne family business and comes across information detailing a new business deal between Reynold, and Tamara’s father, Charles – Charles has invested a 30% stage in the company, which will make him a major stakeholder. The article also reveals rumours of the Thorne family business going into voluntary administration, indicating Charles is financially aiding the Thornes.
· She then sees an article about Tamara, in an amorous act with a woman.
· Later on she has a sexual dream, and it ends up becoming about Roman. Disgusted at herself, she asks Mei to set her up on a double date.
· Mia goes on the double date. She has a good time, and gets along with her date but knows deep down it’s just a ruse to try and forget about Roman.
· When he drops her off at home, he kisses her, but she stops it before it escalates and runs out on him.
· On her day off work, she receives a catering order and personally delivers it herself.
· When she drops off the order, she’s greeted by Roman.
· Roman relays the prior advice he gave Mia about venturing into catering, and suggests doing the catering order on a weekly basis.
· Roman almost reveals his feelings for her when they are interrupted by a man. Mia’s world is turned upside down when she sees him – Reynold.
A flashback chapter, from two years ago.
· Mia is in college, in the midst of a relationship with Roman. He is currently in London, and will be back in Chicago soon.
· She is leaving class when a mysterious man approaches her. He takes her to meet Reynold for the first time.
· He needs Mia to stop seeing his son, explaining that Roman was only supposed to be in Chicago for the term, and go back to London to start working for the family business. However, meeting Mia has changed things and he is no longer interested in fulfilling those plans.
· When Mia refuses to bow to him, Reynold threatens to use his powerful connections to get her suspended from college. He then divulges his knowledge of her parents’ names and address, forcing Mia’s hand.
· With a heavy heart, Mia follows his instructions – she writes a breakup letter that will end their blossoming love. She makes a promise to Reynold she will never contact Roman again.
Back to present day.
· Mia runs out of the office and rushes back home, when Roman catches up to her.
· He follows her, and as she tries to slip his grasp, a car runs into Roman. He ends up completely unscathed. Shaken by Roman’s injury, she invites him to her apartment to rest.
· The intimacy grows imminently between them, culminating in Roman and Mia almost kissing.
· They agree to continue the weekly catering order – Mia will go to his office every Friday.
· The following Friday, and Mia is due to deliver the catering order. When she arrives at the Thorne offices, she meets Roman’s brother Gabriel for the first time. She notes that he looks vastly different to Roman, with polar opposite features.
· Roman warns her to stay away from Gabriel, only revealing he is not to be trusted.
· She overhears a hostile encounter between the two brothers and overhears a few bombshells – in particular, Gabriel calling Roman a bastard.
· Later, James asks her to go out to drinks with him and his friends. Just as she is about to respond, she gets a call from Roman, who wants to see her. She declines and says she is busy. Subsequently, she accepts James’s invitation to go out to drinks.
· Mia goes out to drinks. One of James’s friends decides to take photos and uploads them. As the evening progresses, Mia becomes extremely intoxicated.
· In the midst of her revelling, she gets a call from Roman. He caught wind of the photos from the evening, and asks why she blew him off. He also expresses concern at how drunk she sounds. Frustrated at her conflicting feelings, she dismisses him.
· James decides to escalate things by trying to kiss her. She spurns his advances and rushes out of the bar.
· She accidentally runs into two strange men, who try to take her home with them. Just as they become aggressive, Roman rescues her from them.
· Roman takes her to his car. As they drive away, Mia passes out.
· Mia wakes up the next day in Roman’s apartment, and has breakfast with him.
· Talk turns to Mia’s brush with danger, and Roman badgers Mia about James. Expressing blatant jealousy for her relationship with him, Mia dismisses his concerns and tries to make a polite exit.
· Then and there, Roman reveals the reason for his sudden appearance in her life – he needs to know the truth behind her ending things with him.
· The chapter with the highest emotional intensity, which forms the basis for the prologue.
· Roman reveals he found out about his father’s blackmailing of Mia, and demands the truth from her – if in fact, she was forced to stay away from him. Mia does her best to deny him, but her emotions burst to the seams when she pours her heartbreak and anguish out to him.
· Unable to deny her feelings for him, she succumbs to temptation and sleeps with Roman.
· Mia and Roman’s rosy reunion is shortly lived with Roman inadvertently reveals he has no intention of leaving Tamara.
· This is the sucker-punch of the story – Roman proposes a secret, clandestine relationship Mia.
· Roman explains he is competing with his half-brother, Gabriel, for control of the company he’s already sacrificed so much for. This marriage will ensure his future and finances. Add to the fact that Tamara is secretly gay. Tamara has a staunchly conservative father who has threatened to cut off her inheritance if she ever chose to be gay publicly. So for the both of them, the marriage will ensure their finances and future.
· Mia is unable to give an answer at this point in time.
· Mia goes home and tearfully confides in Mei, without revealing the actual details or Roman’s name. Mei advises she follow her heart.
· A couple days pass, and Mia has still not made a decision on Roman’s proposal.
· Mia has an awkward and tense day with James. They have an argument about that night, before Mia declares nothing can ever happen between them. He suspects something is going on between her and Roman, but she denies it.
· Later, when Mia heads home she sees Roman standing outside her door.
· Roman seduces Mia, and they sleep together again.
· Their rendezvous is brief, as he explains he needs to travel for work overseas.
· He asks if she has made a decision on the proposal, and she explains she has not.
· It's time for Mia to deliver the catering order, and Mia is still unable to decide.
· Delia expressed kindness towards her, and tells her she and Roman belongs together.
· She is taken to a function, filled with high-level executives and sees Roman there. He asks her to decide, and then and there, she says yes.
· He introduces her to his driver Gus, but he appears to be a bodyguard as well.
· Mia is at Roman's place, and they are enjoying their renewed relationship.
· Roman intends to take care of Mia financially, despite their situation.
· However, he is suddenly called for work and has to leave.
· Alone in Roman’s apartment, an unexpected guest shows up - Tamara.
· Tamara understands that she and Roman aren’t in love and treats it like a business arrangement. She makes it clear that Mia has no right to get in between Roman and her, and warns Mia that if she causes trouble, there will be serious consequences.
· Mia protests and declares she will think of a way to end the whole arrangement.
· Tamara then deals the final blow to Mia – that one day, she will be the mother of Roman’s children.
· Shaken by her encounter with Tamara and the whole of Roman’s world, Mia decides to run out on him, ending the book and their relationship the way it began.
My primary audience would be women who actively read romance novels, in particular they are between the ages of 35-50 years old.
With the enduring popularity and demand for billionaire/wealthy men romances, readers are looking
for more books that focuses on the classic love story with dramatic elements.
Fans of Nicholas Sparks, Lisa Kleypas and Sylvia Day will enjoy my book.
Maggie Way is the USA Today Bestselling Author who hails from Sydney, Australia. She loves drinking ridiculous amounts of wine, making her own beauty products from scratch, and travelling around the world while munching on cheese and chocolate.
She lives with her real-life happily ever after, while fantasizing about all her hot fictional book boyfriends on the side. She is also mommy to a little Maltese who may or may not be named after a famous vampire lover (hint, her name is Sookie).
In case you were wondering, no, she will never ever not in a million years write a vampire hero. She prefers her men to be true-to-life even when they just live inside her brain and on the pages of her books.
She writes stories with heat, humor, and lots of heart and is more than happy to say what the rest of us are thinking, and sometimes what we’re not.
I am a 4.4 star independent author of seven novellas. Having published my first title in May 2016, I have built an actively growing platform which includes:
- 18,000 strong and growing mailing list
- In excess of 11,000 books sold
- USA Today Bestseller (as part of Wedding Dreams co-authored box set)
As you can see from these stats, I am an energetic marketer and fast writer. In addition to my platform, below are some of the (but not entirely limited to) efforts I can commit to when it comes to promotion of the book:
- I will promote first and foremost to my 18k mailing list subscribers, and make sure to target them for initial purchases
- Online presence – I have dedicated virtual assistant who will help with my social media efforts, which includes >8400 Facebook Page Likes. Aside from Facebook, I am active on Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
- Partnering with romance authors for cross-promotions, which will commence at pre-launch, all the way to launch day
- Offering giveaways and contests, to be promoted via social media and my mailing list
- Using contacts within the industry to solicit interviews and reviews from bloggers
- Craft and distribute press releases to relevant newspapers and organizations
· The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (Warner Books, 1996)
COMPARISON: In The Notebook, the couple is torn apart by family and the socio-economic realities of the time. The two are reunited when the heroine unexpectedly shows up in the hero’s life, except she is now engaged. Both The Notebook and Captives have a strong romantic element and remind readers that freedom of choice is precious but sometimes comes with sacrifice.
· Twisted Perfection by Abbi Glines (Simon and Schuster, 2003)
COMPARISON: In Twisted Perfection, the hero is being pressured from his family to marry a woman he dislikes for the ‘good of the family business’. Both Twisted Perfection and Heart of Thorne deal with the pressures of conformity and meeting family expectations, and what happens when the hero decides to toss that to the wind for the woman he loves.
· Bared To You by Sylvia Day (Berkley Books, 2012)
COMPARISON: In Day’s book, the hero is drawn to a mysterious wealthy man and they undergo an initially tumultuous sexual relationship which gradually becomes more functional and loving. Both Bared To You and Heart of Thorne have strong sexual and dramatic elements , feature a wealthy male hero, and tells the story of a couple who run into hurdle after hurdle, only to make it out at the end stronger than ever.
· Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller (Warner Books, 1992)
COMPARISON: This book traces an emotional and highly charged affair between a married housewife and a photographer, travelling from out of town. Both Bridges of Madison County and Heart of Thorne describe an explosive affair, and explore the consequences and aftermath of loving someone you should not.
· The Best Is Yet To Come by Bella Andre (Oak Press, 2017)
COMPARISON: Andre’s book deals with young lovers who were unexpectedly torn apart by tragic circumstances years ago, and are reunited again. Both books captures the beauty of love and the pain of losing it.
He’s looking at me, a merciless sensation. Staring into the kitchen sink, I’m rendered speechless at his revelation. The color is pooling away from my face, oh-so rapidly.
How can he?
How could he?
No, impossible. He can’t know. He wasn’t ever supposed to.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I murmur, all I can say at this point.
Errant heat sears through my belly as he stands up to march aggressively toward me, his eyes never leaving mine. Reaching down for the dishcloth, I desperately try and ignore it all – my shaky hands, my shaky knees, my shaky heart.
“Look at me.”
He approaches me, his bare feet inches from mine. Lips pursed, my mind scrambles for ways to try and get past him…and nothing. Nothing’s coming to me, because I know I’m not going to be able to get away without saying something.
Instead I inhale sharply, careful not to look directly at him. That always gets me into trouble.
He reaches out to grab my hand but I pull away, desperate to put some distance between us.
My feet push me back a step and he steps forth, matching my movements. He’s got that resolute determination like a hunter has for their prey.
Oh god, how can I deny him when that searing stare is ripping shreds through me? When that palpable heat is generating between us, sending electrons to every fiber of my being?
The air is so brittle it could snap, and if it doesn’t, I possibly will. There is no sound, yet everything is moving, swirling rapidly.
So we stand in front of each other, feet deep in silence.
Each passing moment only leads to the next, my heartbeat amplifying in tandem. Neither of us knows what’s going to happen next, yet it’s so painfully clear at the same time.
And then, a loud gasp flies out me when he grabs my hand.
“I’ll be damned if I let you go again.”
My dad used to say to me that you need to start the day with a smile. Not today.
“Fuck,” I mutter to myself with full despair staring into my pantry. Not only is the coffee gone, the sugar is too. Not to mention the fact that I need to make two trays of my macadamia nut brownies before I open my café in an hour. Most definitely not smiling today.
I’ll think of something, I always do.
Quickly tying up my stubbornly wavy hair in a messy ponytail, I take out the flour, macadamia nuts, and cocoa, not before some chocolate powder spills onto my apron. This is pretty sneaky baking from my own kitchen. In lieu of my own commercial kitchen to use, I rent the small one down at the nearby sandwich shop, Hot Off the Press, for a small fee. However desperate times call for desperate measures. And I mean desperate.
Knowing my recipe like the back of my hand, I measure the flour into the sifter and watch the beautiful powder glide down like snowflakes.
As I put the kettle on boil, my roommate, Meixiang or Mei as she likes to be called, strolls into the kitchen in an orange tank top and shorts. How does she look so freaking pretty first thing in the morning? With her glossy chestnut hair cascading down past her shoulders like spun silk, her sultry almond eyes and light brown skin, she is flawless.
“Mia, don’t you get tired of doing that every morning?” she teases me in her usual cheery tone. She’s well aware I make a tray of desserts first thing in the morning.
Pouring the boiled water over some honey to create my sugar substitute, I mix it in with the rest of the ingredients to watch the bowl of creamy white swirl into the most luscious ganache. I then decant the batter into two trays and chuck them into the hot oven, satisfied with my rushed efficiency.
“I’ve hardly seen you lately,” she starts off as she reaches in the fridge to grab an apple. She isn’t exaggerating – either we’re like ships passing in the night or she’s off being a jetsetter due to her job in pharmaceutical sales.
“What’cha been up to, girl?” she asks as she starts munching on her apple. At the same time, I make myself a bowl of cereal and start eating.
“Mmm…between my coffee machine breaking down and Rhonda being off with a sick kid, it’s just been a bit more…hectic,” I mumble between rushed chewing. “I really could do with not having another bill to pay.”
Rhonda and James are my only baristas, so I’ve only had one server working with me this entire week.
“Sounds rough,” she sympathizes.
“Shit happens, you know,” I shrug my shoulders.
Mei eyes me with severe concern. “Hun, if you ever need me to lower the rent…”
I huff at this repeated topic of conversation, giving her a forced and reassuring grin. Mei’s uncle owns the apartment so she already charges me peanuts to live here. She is way too good of a roommate. She is also my dearest friend.
“No, I’m totally fine. Relax.”
“Speak for yourself. You’re the one that needs to relax,” she argues back as she observes my loud yawning.
“I’m fine,” I mumble as I continue eating.
Incredulity flashes across her face, as she surveys mine. “You seem stressed.”
A bitter taste forms in my mouth, and I swallow immediately. It’s just another day, any other ordinary day.
“Bad sleep, that’s all,” my voice is quiet, withdrawn.
“When was the last time you did something for yourself?”
“I went shopping the other day,” I offer in jest.
“Going to the supermarket does not count.” She claps her hands together in a ‘pretty-please’ manner. “C’mon, let’s try that new place on Diversey Avenue Friday night. Their coffee cocktails are to die for.”
“Nuh-uh, you’re not dragging me to the Viagra Triangle again like last time,” I promptly remind her of the time she took me to a bar filled with older, affluent men, desperate to pounce on young women.
“Fine, fine. If you won’t go with me to drinks, how about Tom?” She raises her eyebrows enthusiastically. “He asked for your number, again.”
Not interested. I spoke to her sleazy colleague for a total of thirty seconds when I came to drop off something last week. “No, I’m good.”
“No? He’s fun and, so you could use a bit of that D. When was the last time you got laid?”
I almost choke on my cereal. My love life…the truth of the matter is it’s non-existent. I make Mr. Bessonov, the rotund bald plumber living in 1B, look like a regular Casanova.
“Why go out for drinks when I can have a quiet glass of wine with you?” I retort, trying to deflect her last question.
“And what about the other thing? About getting laid?”
Damn her nosiness! I chew slowly, deliberately trying to procrastinate having to answer.
“It hasn’t been that long.”
A lie, a pretty blatant one at that. It’s been far too long. Two years and counting…
The skepticism is clear on her face. “You’ve been single ever since day dot. I’ve lost count of the guys you have turned down.”
A loud scoff flies out of me. “Puh-lease, I’m hardly beating them away with a stick.”
“You are ignoring the massive sea of fish out there,” she concludes assertively, and extends her arms widely to make her point. “Plenty of sexy fish swimming around, waiting to be caught.”
“Yeah well, I’ve always sucked at fishing,” I dismiss, polishing off my breakfast.
“You do, actually!” She shoots me another cheeky grin, clearly not done with the gossiping. “What kind of guy do you want?”
It’s not that I’m eschewing men completely, I’m just not interested. It also doesn’t help that I tend to dress in clothes that scream hipster central rather than sexy/nightclub ready.
“I don’t know. If he can come home after a long day and curl up on the couch, share a few cold ones with me, I’m sold.”
Mei strokes her chin, feigning concentration.
“A guy that likes watching TV and drinking beer. Gee Mia, where are you gonna find a guy like that?”
We both laugh, and I shake my head at her.
“I remember that accountant you saw a movie with.”
“Don’t say it,” I raise a finger at her, knowing she will.
“The one with sweaty hands and a permanent hard-on.”
We laugh again.
“What about Brad, the cop? You said he was cute,” I add, already predicting her next response.
“You know what else he was? Gay. He had more product in his hair than you, and he was practically bald. Bald, Mia!”
Clamping a hand over my mouth, I suppress a loud chuckle. “I’ll admit my dating history has been less than notable.”
“That’s it?” She’s deeply unimpressed.
I smirk at her. “What do you mean?”
“No love of your life type, no one that got away?”
Instantly my face drops, and I look downward, uncomfortable at answering her question. That’s why I hate today. It’s been two years since I met him.
And I hate that I still think about him. Like clockwork.
“Nope, nothing like that,” the lie slips through quickly, my voice tight.
What’s the point of reminiscing? What’s the point of reminiscing how he has never worn jeans, how he read Plutarch and Molière, how he would—
“Don’t worry, I’m sure he’s out there somewhere,” Mei says, snapping me out of my dark nostalgic thoughts.
I clench my jaw tersely at her words. Oh yeah, I found him alright. We were in love, we made plans to be together forever.
And then, came that day…
Shaking my head, I jolt myself into reality. I’m sure he has long forgotten me since then. He’s off living his glitzy and glamorous life, something that was intended the first moment he entered the world at his grandfather’s private chateau in Vienne, France.
“Honestly, I’m perfectly satisfied,” I insist, excusing myself for the choice of words. My purple bunny vibrator, nicknamed B.O.B. (AKA Battery Operated Boyfriend) for kicks, works just fine for my needs. Who needs a man when I can get a guaranteed delivery without any of the drama?
Mei glances at me skeptically.
“I don’t know. It’s just…”
She sighs, still looking at me. “It’s like work is a distraction for you.”
At that exact moment, my oven bell dings.
“That’s me!” I rush over, relieved that I’ve been precluded from answering. Who needs romance when you have these hot pockets of love anytime you want? I’m banning men, but I could never ban sugar.
“I’m making dinner tonight,” Mei continues as I take the brownies out of the tray to cool down on the rack. While that’s happening, I take out a small jar of homemade honeycomb, packing it in a shopping tote bag to take to the café.
“You’re the best.” It’s been almost a week since I’ve had a decent home cooked meal. A change from a diet of dill pickles, chicken sandwiches, grape jelly, and apples has never been more welcome.
I cut a big slice for Mei and put the rest of the cut semi-cooled brownies into a plastic tub, before placing it in the tote bag.
“See ya later!” Gathering my wallet, keys and tote bag, I wave at her.
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do. Good luck!” she yells as the door closes. My advisor/wing woman/nutritionist; I wouldn’t want to live with anyone else. She has been an absolute rock for me the last two years, and really lifted me for all those times when I was slipping.
This is my life. I get up at the crack of dawn, throw on some jeans and a tee, scoff down my breakfast of quick oats, brush my teeth and wash my face. And then I’m rushing down two blocks to Hot Off The Press to bake, before rushing to open my café. It’s definitely no sweet fairy tale, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.
Stepping out from my door, I soak up the relative quiet of my tree-lined street before reaching the hustle and bustle that is Wicker Park on an early Wednesday morning.
I’ve lived here long enough, but there is still so much to appreciate – the smell of freshly ground coffee, the birds chirping quietly, the frantic steps of income-to-burn individuals rushing to work, juxtaposed with the easy-going strolls of artists and students. There’s a subtle charm about this gentrified hotspot, from the graffiti murals and chic boutiques to the trendy restaurants.
Luckily for me, I’m just a quick stroll – or jog in this case – to work. My aim is to have the café open by 7:00 am and close up shop around 4pm, and as I stare down at my watch, I’m bang on schedule.
As the clock strikes 6:57AM, I turn the corner and there it is. My pride and joy stands in front of me — all ten by eleven feet of space covered by an aluminum gate. Huddled among the massive city buildings of Chicago, my café is very much a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type getup, composed primarily of one large glass display case. Rose and Thorn, printed in white italics, sits atop of the shop in a small but prominent banner.
I’ve had it for about ten months, and it still elicits feelings of joy and happiness every time I see it. Like most typical offices, it’s only open five days a week. As part of the lease agreement, the owners who live in the apartment upstairs stipulated that the shop has to be closed on weekends. Which is why it’s so cheap compared to other spaces in the area.
Upon reaching the shop, I bend down to unlock it, pulling the aluminum sliding door up to reveal it in its entirety.
It’s quite humid for a fall day and my t-shirt is already starting to feel moist from the mugginess. Antiperspirant deodorant, what a crock.
First priority is making sure the glass display is fully stocked, and I slide the glass doors to arrange the cakes and pastries. These are plates of my fried doughnuts, coconut swirls and pumpkin scones, the earthy fragrance delightfully comforting. As I start stacking my freshly baked brownies, James arrives in his second-hand two-door car that is much too small for his tall frame.
He waves at me as he hops out of the vehicle, which appears to have a fresh dent just below the door. Walking with a spring in his step toward the café, he is wearing a white t-shirt and jeans which show off his broad shoulders and lanky physique. His close cropped black hair isn’t long enough to be rebellious but might be considered hipster. James always has that gleam in his eye, like he knows he’s got it going on.
James walks in and squeezes near me to get to the coffee machine, his height towering over me.
“Morning, Mia. You are looking beautiful as always,” he smiles, giving my body an admiring glance with his big brown eyes.
There’s checking out the boss, and then there’s James. It’s 7:30 in the morning. I have bags under my eyes and a thin layer of sweat resting on my back. I look anything but beautiful.
“Mister, you are forty-two seconds late!” I tease, brushing off his flirtation. “No really, I appreciate you covering Rhonda’s shifts on such short notice. In fact…” I reach for my shopping tote bag and take out the jar of honeycomb, handing it to him. “Here.”
He looks thrilled, like a kid in a proverbial candy store.
“I love this stuff.” James places the jar on the counter, the warm grin still on his face. “What did I do to deserve this?”
“For helping out this last week, and not complaining, despite the fact that you had every right to. I know you’ve been under the pump already, so thank you…”
I’m temporarily silenced when James places his hands on my shoulders, completely unapologetic about breaking the personal barrier.
“You know I’m here for you, if you ever wanna talk…” His eyes suddenly go dark. “Or anything.”
Did he just say what I think he said?
“Ahem…thanks.” I wriggle away from his hold and veer toward the glass display. “Let’s get to work! You’ll make coffees the whole day and I’ll serve and handle the register.”
James has made it pretty clear he doesn’t just want a professional relationship with me. However, he needs to understand that I am his boss first and foremost.
Customers start lining up and they happen to be females. Always one to lap up their attention, this is James’s specialty and I’m going to let him take the reins while I serve desserts.
Lunch time comes around and it has quietened down considerably. We’re chilling together inside the café, enjoying fried chicken and avocado hoagies from Hot Off the Press.
“How is everything with you?” I ask, munching on the hoagie, relishing the taste of garlic mayo combined with crunchy chicken.
Besides working at the café, James is also a budding entrepreneur. His start-up is social media management for businesses, but it’s yet to take off the ground.
“Tiring,” he laughs softly as he eats a piece of the honeycomb. “Do you have anything stronger than a triple shot coffee?”
“I know how you feel.” I really mean that. James and I have really bonded over our struggles with our respective businesses. He knows the reality of living paycheck to paycheck, he knows that you need to live and breathe it, and not get much in return a lot of days. He gets it.
“All we need is to land one major client, and the others will follow. That is where the cheddar is.”
“Just hang in there,” I give him a firm nod. “You know you can work here as long as you like, if you need the extra money. I’ve got your back.”
He shoots me an appreciative glance. “First thing I’ll do when I rake in the money is buy you a nice dinner, show you a night out on the town. I’ll drive you in my brand-new sports beamer!”
The protracted way he looked at me was like he was gauging for an impressed reaction. I’m not. “Ok, I’m going to clean up the back. Can you handle the front on your own?”
“Sure. Don’t take too long. I need you to keep me company,” he winks at me.
Ignoring his increasingly playful comments, I push the flap door open and rush in. Those comments were so off-putting, I needed to get away from him. Why is it always about having nice flashy things? Why is everything always about money? The last time someone told me the importance of acquisitiveness possessions is one I hate to recall.
Because it all goes back to that fateful day, where everything fell apart.
This place needs a good scrub, I remind myself. I take a look at the space in front of me, which is literally space – a small beige walled cubicle with just enough space to fit a refrigerator and sink. Grabbing the dishcloth from the sink, I start with the counters. As I watch my hands rub the hard surface in circular motions, beautiful bittersweet memories blitz their way into my conscience.
Like an old movie reel I could play it at will, we’re in my dorm kitchen. He’s twirling me in an impromptu dance while my rhubarb cake is baking in the oven. The smell of vanilla, the sunlight resting behind him, the lines on his face as he’s smiling at me—
“Hey,” The sound of James poking his head through the door snaps me out of my reveries. “Someone wants to talk to you.”
“Said he won’t leave until he does. Bit of a prick, to be honest.”
I groan inwardly. A ‘prick’ is not something I want to deal with right now – it can only mean something that is not good. “And a free coffee won’t make him happy?”
“Sorry, dude. And you know how charming I am.”
The customer is always right, the customer is always right…Oh who am I kidding. It’s the worst motto I have heard. Clutching my cloth, I turn around and push through the door.
When I look up, the cloth drops out of my hand with sudden impact. All due to the sight in front of me. Heart plummeting, butterflies in my stomach, completely foreign reactions.
He smirks like the beautiful bastard he is, as he examines me over the glass counter.
My periphery darkens, at the reality of who it is.
“You sure are a sight for sore eyes.” The words roll off his tongue in a husky timbre. His speech and accent immediately set him apart from everyone else. After all this time, it is abnormally comforting.
“It’s been so long…” is all I can muster, looking back at him. The man I vowed to never see again for the rest of my life.
“Wait, you two know each other?” James frowns and judging by his tone, he sounds suspicious.
He stares at me raptly, taking me in like he’s taking air. I had forgotten how intense his eyes were. Like wildfire, they burn relentlessly.
“You can say that. We go a long way back, don’t we?”
Roman Thorne. Half French. Half English. All Adonis. The man who transformed me from a girl into a woman. The love of my life. The one that got away. The reason for my self-inflicted loneliness. To say he ruined men for me is an understatement.
And he is here, standing right in front of me.
After two years. The man that I think of like clockwork.
Except now, time has stopped.
Chair, I need one, as I seriously doubt my ability to stand upright at this moment. My chest feels tight and I am finding it hard to breathe — it feels like my heart is strangling me. My brain is struggling to compute all these thoughts and questions swimming in from all different directions.
What the hell is he doing? Here? In Chicago?
Why is he here, at my café?
How does he know about it?
Why, oh why, does he have to be so damnably sexy?
In tailored dark trousers and a black knit showing off that glorious ripe physique, he is as close to male perfection as it can get. From his slightly crooked nose, his even more crooked smirk, to his thick and luscious dark hair, I have to first let my brain deal with the fact that someone so handsome exists. And that he was mine, once upon a time.
I’m all too aware that I’m sweaty with messy hair, makeup-free. And he looks the way he does.
A shaky inhalation leaves me as I try and gather my thoughts. This must be a screwed-up coincidence, surely. And then a microscopic part of my subconscious gives me another one: he’s here to see you. That doesn’t make sense though. After the way we ended things, I knew it in my heart he would never want to see me again.
“What are you doing here?” I force the desperate words out, my voice docile.
“The company is expanding exponentially. We’re looking to magnify our presence in North America.”
I’m not surprised – Thorne Holdings is the biggest private liquor label in the UK, if not the world, so it was only a matter of time before they took the plunge.
“And I’ve taken the post to head up the offices here,” he adds quickly, those powerful eyes instilled with focus.
This is a surprise to me. For the last two years he’s been based in London, where he’s from. Where he moved back to after we broke up. So why does he want to be back here?
And then there’s the other pertinent, but unspoken, question – why is he here to see me?
“All part of the plan for world domination?”
The corners of those gloriously fleshy lips move up and I swallow hard at the sight of that deliberately crooked smile. That used to drive me nuts.
“Something like that.”
“What else could you possibly want?” My voice is breathy.
His eyes widen faintly.
“Oh, you have no idea.” His voice mirrors mine, husky.
Thump thump thump goes my heart at the way he looked at me just now. How he looks so intense and brooding without even trying?
“It’s good to see you, Mia.”
I clench my jaw, unnerved at the sound of him saying my name. The way it glides off his tongue, it’s like poetry.
Bobbing his head down slightly, his gaze descends upon the selection of cakes and desserts on my glass display and studies them all. Involuntarily, I find my gaze descending upon his face to study him. Holy shit. He looks different than I remember – he looks better. Even though time has changed him, he is even more handsome than when I last laid my eyes on him. His hair is noticeably darker – any hints of him being blond are gone, and his once easy-breezy. The prominent bags under his eyes exacerbate the effects of stress and time etched in his countenance, but it gives him more character and maturity.
Those eyes however, are still the same. They have the same fire and energy that burned right into my soul and captured it without me even knowing it. And those lips, those fleshy, carnal lips that he knew how to use. And he used them so well, on my lips, my skin, my naked body…crap I need to stop these thoughts, now.
“You look great. I mean, this looks great…” he quickly recovers, nervousness tracing his face. That can’t be – Roman is the most confident and self-assured person I have ever met.
From the corner of my eye, James is visibly eavesdropping as he serves a customer, keeping one eye directed at our conversation.
Crossing my arms, I cock up my head up to look at Roman.
“Well? You wanted to speak to the manager. I’m all ears.” My tone is brusque.
“I wanted to start by sampling some of your produce—”
“If you want a coffee, James does a really good one. The best actually.”
I have to put my game face on, not that I ever had one. Roman’s face drops and eyes James, who in turn eyes him back. Clenching his jaw, he leans forward in an attempt to block James from hearing our conversation. I inhale sharply at that scent, one of a kind. The intermingling of charcoal flame with the outlandish aroma of cinnamon and pepper, like spicy black tea. After all this time, it’s still so sharp and crisp, and hauntingly familiar.
“When do you finish for the day? I will wait until then.”
Whoa. I’m barely able to grasp the fact that my ex is standing in front of me, but now he actually wants alone time with me? Hell no!
“No. This is not a good time,” I declare loudly to annoy him. Roman hates rejection, and I’m doing it on purpose to rouse him.
Roman narrows his eyes, his jaw tightening at my rebuff. He’s intimidating when he scowls like that, far more so than I remember. He shoots a dry look at James before walking up right to the counter and leaning in.
“I understand you do not want to be disturbed at this present time. At the first spare moment you get, can you please contact me?”
He pulls out a business card and puts it on the counter in front of me.
“Make it imperative to contact me as soon as possible. Give me a bell,” he commands high-handedly, his voice deceptively soft.
Why is he making it sound like some sort of emergency? “What for?”
“I need to see you.”
“I just do.”
“I don’t think it’s such a good idea.”
“That’s an opinion.”
“Yeah, mine. And I’m the one you want to see so I think it’s rather valid, don’t you think?” I push back, riled up already.
Barely a few minutes, and we’re bickering like we used to. James glances over at us, making it clear he’s been eavesdropping the whole time. I cross my arms and turn away, and Roman does the same.
“I’ve requested to meet you, and in return I expect you to fulfill that request,” he retaliates without a flinch, sounding like he’s just handed me an urgent deadline.
A quiet scoff flies out of me, shocked at his boldness. What the hell is his problem? Does he think he can come stomping into my life and demand things from me like this? He was always bossy, but not unbearable.
“This has thrown you off, and I sympathize. You’re just nervous to see me,” he concludes firmly, his tone way too smug for my liking.
I blink rapidly, dumbfounded. Is this the same Roman that I used to know? I may have wanted him to leave because…it’s him, but now I just want him to take a hike.
Clearing my throat, I glance down at the black matte card.
“Umm yeah, I’ve got your card and I know what I’m going to do with it.”
Burn it. Rip it to shreds.
“So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to work,” I snap, so done with this.
He fails to recognize the hostility in my tone, and relief forms on his face. “Good. I look forward to it, Mia. Until then,” he replies with his oh-so-secret smile and heads out of the café and down the street. And just like that, he’s gone. It takes me a moment to realize that a blizzard has just ripped through my body and soul. Hell has frozen over.
As soon as he’s out of sight, I let out the deep breath that has been curling into a tight ball. My knees are wobbling, and I grip the counter to keep upright. That was all too engulfing, like an explosion of senses in my long dormant body.
What. Just. Happened.
Seriously, did that just happen?
Did Roman Thorne – love of my life, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks, the one that got away – decide to come out of the woodwork to see me? Ask me to see him again?
Blinking quickly, I pick up the card, unsurprised at what I see. His title is clearly printed in white text.
Thorne Incorporated Holdings
He’s got a few more titles he can add on top of that. Former Alumni of Eton College. An MBA from Cambridge Judge Business School. An LLM from Chicago Law School. And he’s only twenty-nine.
The black card is elegant, sophisticated and understated – just like him. Dropping the card on the counter, I rush back to the kitchen, avoiding James’s scrutiny. I need a moment to myself. Pushing the flap door open, I step into solitude to take a long drawn out exhalation, closing my eyes in relief. Slowly, I can feel my heart rate dropping back to normal.
Clean, I need to clean something. Grabbing a wiping cloth, I start with the counters. I scrub furiously as confused thoughts form in my mind.
What could he possibly want after all this time?
There are no belongings I have of his with me.
I don’t have any top-secret information about him, nothing scandalous at least.
I bet he wants to brag about how awesome his life is now.
And then one distinct thought jumps into my mind. He’s changed.
After my fanatical cleaning efforts, the back is all scrubbed clean and sweat has formed on my forehead. Abruptly, the door opens and James’s head pops through.
“Hey, I’m going to close up shop. Do you need any help back here?”
Shaking my head weakly, I keep my eyes on the counter. “No, just go home. I’ll update your paycheck for the extra work.”
“Oh, okay.” James lingers there while I keep cleaning. “So…what was that all about before?”
“That guy, he thinks he’s something else, doesn’t he? Is he an old friend of yours?”
There’s only one way to answer his questions. “Something like that.”
“He…” he trails, unwilling to finish. “Just the way he was looking at you, I don’t know. Never mind.”
I blush. He noticed something?
“I tried to deal with him myself cos he wanted to complain—”
“Don’t sweat it. Thanks again for today,” I cut him off, desperate to get off the subject. “Seriously, go home.”
“Alrighty. See-ya,” he smiles back, wearily.
He closes the door and I hear him slide over the counter, finally granting me the solitude I’ve been seeking. My solace is short-lived as those piercing words jump into my mind.
No, I can’t. I made a promise to never contact him again. And I intend to keep it.
As I turn the knob and open the door to my apartment, the first thing I smell is pan fried chicken and rice steaming. The television is on, some reality show about rich women fighting with each other. This is lovely. I’m ready for this meal, and I look forward to the extra-large glass of red wine afterward and catching up with my dear friend.
Mei is in the kitchen, chopping vegetables. “How was work? Chaotic?”
You have no idea.
“…was fine. You?”
She carries on cooking, yelling over the loud frying. “Meetings, meetings, meetings. Followed by phone calls, more meetings, five-minute lunch break. All I want for tonight is to let my brain turn to mush.”
“This smells amazing,” I walk toward her and lean in to feast my eyes on the wok. It’s full of sliced chicken and red bell peppers. My stomach releases a vicious growl, cluing me in to how much I need this normalcy after my run-in today.
To help her along, I scoop hot rice into two red bowls. As she turns the stove off, I place the bowls of rice on the square black coffee table in front of the soft beige couch. Mei brings the stir-fry in a large metal bowl, garnished with coriander and sesame seeds, and joins me as we watch television. It’s delicious, she’s made a satay sauce that is to die for.
“Did James profess his love for you today?” she starts off as we eat.
Did I mention my roommate is always needy for juicy gossip.
“The answer isn’t going to change from last week.”
“Girl, we both know why that is. Am I right?”
My eyes fall into the back of my head. Even though she hasn’t even met him, Mei has urged me to hook up with him. I think she’s asked about 789 times.
“I don’t know why you don’t want to go out with him,” she mumbles through her eating.
Make that 790.
“I’d be more than happy to rehash the same reasons—”
“It’s not like you’re interested in anyone else.”
My heart blips at her comment. “Actually, would you believe—?”
“Oh my gosh. Girl, what are you doing? You psycho bitch!” Mei is exasperated when a loud shrieking comes from the television. Two women are having a massive cat-fight. They are in their mid-forties and have great bodies, sleek blonde hair and designer clothes. Busty Blonde #1 is slapping the crap out of this Busty Blonde #2.
Mei groans as she continues to direct her attention at the television. “Kylie totally deserves it, whacko biotch! She’s just spoiled and rich, who married richer. Her husband doesn’t give a hoot about her, and she is always flirting with her pool boy. I bet they’re both having affairs…what a shit way to live huh?”
Mei’s comment jolts me to the reality, reminding of the reason. The reason why I can’t, and refuse to contact Roman.
Tamara. Just thinking the name makes me see red. I have purposely made an effort to not look for a photo of her, because it would make the reality of him getting married so much more — real. I bet she’s blonde – he used to only date them. I bet they look perfect together, that they are blissfully happy together. And more specifically, I bet she’s the opposite of me. Correction, I know she is. An heiress and socialite, her father is a business magnate who has interests in almost everything, one of the wealthiest men in all of Europe.
My father is a semi-retired teacher who wears glasses to look distinguished, and has worn the same lumpy green cardigan as long as I can remember.
I did the right thing, it ended because it was supposed to. We’re just too different.
Before I know it, it’s getting late and I say goodnight to Mei and head to my bedroom to prepare for bed.
Closing the door, I unzip my jeans when the business card slips out of a pocket and falls to the ground. Roman. Errant heat sears my belly.
No, just no. He has no right coming back into my life. It’s fab the way it is and I don’t need him complicating it.
I don’t need to think about the time he randomly took me in his arms and danced with me in my dorm kitchen, after I did the dishes. Some brazen R&B song was on, but I felt like the prettiest belle at the ball.
I don’t need to reminisce about that one Sunday evening where we were both dreading our mid-term exams. We stayed up until 3AM talking about nothing, and my iPod played the same song on repeat.
I don’t need to be reminded of that time he took me to this vintage bookstore on West Montrose Avenue, and bought me a vintage edition of The Velveteen Rabbit, which still sits on my bookshelf.
And I really don’t need to remember the first time he kissed me, how it sent me floating. All the touches, the laughs, the sounds…
Gah! Stop it.
I hate how these beautiful and painful memories are bombarding me in equal measure. Letting out a sad sigh, I drop the card on the bedside table and slump into bed.
Closing my eyes, all I see are those wildfire eyes. Those wildfire eyes that would make my toes curl when he would lie over me when we were in bed together…oh god.
I’m going to see those eyes every time I close mine.
Fuck, I’m screwed already.