When Confessions of a Fangirl released in December, I was recovering from Covid. So, that whole month was a blur. Allow me to give you a little sneak peek into the Rom Com that reads like a fangirl confessional. This book has a very special place in my heart. It taught me balance, which is a central theme and my new credo. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Jen, her devoted boyfriend, Shaun, and my made up fandom of Space Vendetta accommodating the deboinair, morally gray space pirate, Captain Korbin Ransom. Enjoy…
STAGE ONE: DISCOVERY
Everyone thinks they’ve got their shit figured out until they don’t. Somewhere between my first cup of coffee this morning and the afternoon staff meeting, my mind decided to take a leisurely stroll down Fantasyland Avenue. Unfortunately, I need to get it back in familiar territory so I can focus on the words coming out of my boss’s mouth.
But that will never happen. Thanks to the new guy sitting across from me in his well-tailored suit and rocking dark, wavy hair a tad too long to be fashionable. I bet it’s soft. His attention shifts away from the boss, and I catch his penetrating gaze. A half-smile forms on his lips. Shit.
I readjust the notebook in front of me and scribble a few incoherent phrases down to make it look like I’m doing something productive. My heart slows to a normal rhythm, and I curse myself for not paying closer attention to Mr. Roberts who’s rambling about quarterly reports.
Normally, I dread this monthly meeting when all the department heads gather. I’m flattered my supervisor is considering me to step in while she’s on maternity leave, but it’s been hell getting over this feeling I’m pretending to fit in instead of actually being part of the team. This opportunity will give me a shot at the promotion I’ve been hoping for—if I can focus.
When I glance up at Mr. Roberts, the new guy sits perfectly in my peripheral vision. And like that, my mind is cruising down Fantasyland Avenue again with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome riding shotgun. I glance at the pad again in defeat.
“That should do it for the moment.” Mr. Roberts gathers his files into a pile. “Before you go, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our staff.” He gestures to the new guy I’ve been eyeing for the last hour. “Mr. Shaun Townsend. He’s transferred in from our Denver office to give us a hand in Marketing.”
My gaze shifts to Mr. Townsend who glances around the room with a pleasant smile. His gaze lingers on me for half a second before drifting back to Mr. Roberts.
“Thank you. Glad to be a part of the team.”
Oh, man. His voice. I could sit and listen to him read me the phone book.
“That’ll be all. Enjoy your weekend.” Mr. Roberts dismisses us, and I’m out of my chair in an instant.
I edge toward the door with the rest of my coworkers. Part of me wants to introduce myself to Mr. Townsend, but I remind myself to be professional. Work isn’t an appropriate venue for flirtation and romance as Pamela down in HR reminds us in her memos constantly.
Once I reach my desk, I settle in to work on the orders I started before the meeting. Not even five minutes later, Lily appears around the corner making a beeline for my desk. I envy her ability to rock vintage styles without effort. She slides into the chair beside mine, tugging her polka dot wiggle skirt down her stockinged thighs.
“Hey, Jen, did you see the new hottie in marketing?” She fans herself with dramatic flair.
“Mr. Townsend,” I inform her. “And yes, he was at the department heads’ meeting.”
“Isn’t he gorgeous?” She plucks a candy from the crystal dish and unwraps it.
My mind replays the fantasies I indulged in during the meeting. “Yes. He is.”
“Think he’s single?” Lily’s eyes sparkle.
“I doubt it.” I sigh and pout for her entertainment. “He’s probably married.”
“I didn’t see a ring.” She pops the candy in her mouth with gusto. “Means he’s still fair game.” She pauses. “Unless you want a shot at him.”
“Geeze, Lily, give the man a chance to breathe. He just got here. I’m sure he’s already got half the single ladies on staff drooling over him, not to mention the married ones.” I chuckle.
“You’re right.” She stands and smooths her hands over her hips. “Hey, are we still on for movie night this weekend?”
“Yeah, my place. Six o’clock. The new Space Vendetta movie is on Prime, I think.”
Lily bounces on her toes and claps with excitement. “Yay! I’ve been dying to watch it, plus I need some girl time. My roommates are great, but they don’t seem to get me. Ya know?”
“Why are you living with three guys again?” I lean back in my chair.
“I went to school with them.” She shrugs. “They needed a roommate, and I needed a place to live.”
“Any of them single?” I wink.
Her eyes go wide. “Trust me. You don’t want to involve yourself with these three. I’ve seen the train wreck dates they bring home.” She mimes gagging and laughs.
“I’ll see you after work.” She waves and saunters down the hallway toward her own desk.
My first day at Valentina’s, I ended up with a mud stain on the hem of my brand-new cream skirt. I couldn’t start my new job at a trendy, upscale department store looking like a hobo off the street. Without a word, a gorgeous woman who looked like a pinup model from the fifties took my hand and pulled me into the nearest restroom. Within twenty minutes, she’d worked her magic on the stain. Lily saved my ass, and I’m forever in her debt.
Three years later, we’re best friends. She grew up in Manhattan but lives in Brooklyn now. My family is from Staten Island, but I live in a small apartment in Brooklyn not far from Lily’s place. We commute together because single city ladies stick together.
I shake off the slump I feel sneaking up on me and dive back into those reports I promised myself I’d finish before the weekend. I hate having a pile of work waiting for me on Monday mornings. I focus on the screen and drown the office noise into the background.
Two hours later, I hit send on the final report and glance at the clock. Nearly four. I power down my workstation and tidy up before gathering my things and heading for the elevator. I pop by Lily’s desk on the way, but she’s nowhere in sight.
I glance around and then check my watch again. Five after four. Where is she?
As I wander the floor, I pull out my phone and send her a text. I stumble back when I collide with a solid warm wall, dropping my phone and my bag.
A pair of hands grab my arms and steady me. “Are you okay?”
Once I find my footing, I glance up to meet the piercing gaze of Mr. Townsend. My face warms and I curse the natural blush God blessed me with.
“I’m fine. Thank you.”
“It’s dangerous to text and walk, you know.” His lopsided smile makes my stomach flip.
“So I’ve been told.” I pick up my phone as he bends to retrieve my purse. Once we both rise, I offer my hand. “I’m Jen. I work in acquisitions for women’s wear.”
“Nice to meet you.” His warm hand nearly engulfs my own and a spark of need envelops me.
“And you, Mr. Townsend.”
His grip tightens. “Call me Shaun.”
I swallow the lump in my throat. “Shaun.” With reluctance, I release his hand.
A strained pause pulls tight between us, until he smiles. “I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but are you free tonight?”
My heart pounds. Free? Me? Are you kidding? “Yeah, why?”
“Would you like to have dinner with me?” He chuckles and the sound reverberates through me. I’m smitten with the sound of it.
“Sure. I know this great place in Brooklyn if you’re craving pizza.”
“Sounds perfect.” He laughs. “You read my mind.”
Oh crap, I’m beyond smitten. I’m half in love with him. I shake my head when I remember Lily. “Give me a minute and we can head out.”
“Sure. I’ll grab my coat.” He disappears down the hall.
I slump against the wall and text Lily. I’m going out to dinner with a friend. Catch you tomorrow.
After I send it, I close my eyes and lean against the wall. Did I just fall in love with a stranger? What the hell am I doing? I must be insane.
Within thirty minutes, we’re in Brooklyn, standing in front of the pizza place I told him about. Mario’s neon sign glints from inside the front window. My apartment is in the building above the shop, but I don’t mention it to Shaun.
He opens the door and gestures for me to enter. Butterflies take flight in the pit of my stomach when he smiles. Oh man, I need to pace myself with this one.
I slip inside the door and wave at Johnny working behind the counter. The middle-aged pizza slinger with slicked black hair and a thick Brooklyn accent is like the older brother I never had since I eat here at least twice a week. I can feel his curious gaze sizing up the man entering the shop behind me.
I snag the booth in the corner facing the front window. It’s comfortable and familiar, and yet with Shaun sitting across from me, it feels new and exciting.
My coat is too hot. I tug it off my shoulders and set it aside as Johnny comes up and puts two menus on the table.
“Hey, Jen, how’s it goin’?” He tosses an easy smile at me before eyeing my dinner companion.
“It’s goin’.” I return his smile and smack my lips. “Can I get a Yuengling?”
“Yeah, sure.” Johnny turns to Shaun.
“Same for me.” Shaun leans back with a casual indifference that seems to say you’re driving this car.
“Want the usual, Jen?”
“You particular about toppings?” I ask Shaun before making my decision.
“Nope. I’m game for anything.”
I swear there’s a double meaning behind those words, but before I can chase the thought, Johnny mumbles under his breath.
“The usual is fine. Thanks, Johnny.”
“You got it, kid.” He shoots a glance at Shaun before retreating behind the counter once more.
“I don’t think he likes me much.” Shaun’s crooked grin makes my heart thump against my ribs.
“We’re practically family. I mean, I eat here more than I eat at home, so…” I shrug and my face heats at the confession of how much pizza I consume on a weekly basis.
“Ah.” He nods as Johnny returns with two frosted mugs brimming with lager. “Thanks.”
Johnny shoots me a sidelong glance as he sets the mug down with a look that screams if he tries anything stupid, let me know. It’s nice to know someone’s looking out for me. Once we’re alone again, I take a sip of beer and relax.
“Nice place.” Shaun’s gaze strays for a second taking in the small shop. When it meets mine, my whole body warms through like I took a shot of whiskey.
“So.” I shift in my seat under his perusal. “How was your first day? I’m sure our office is quite different from Denver.”
“It is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m excited for a new challenge.”
“Are you from Denver originally?” I dig deeper wanting to know more about him.
He shakes his head. “No. I was born in Davenport, Iowa.”
I blink at him drawing a blank. “Where’s that?”
His eyes sparkle when he laughs. “Not many people can point it out on the map. It’s right on the Mississippi River. Just find St. Louis and follow the river north, you’ll run smack into Davenport.”
My face warms. “It’s been years since I’ve been anywhere farther than Pennsylvania. Guess it shows, huh?”
He shrugs it off. “You grow up here?”
“Staten Island. I mean, it’s still one of the boroughs, but it’s a bit more spacious than Manhattan.” I take another sip of the cool lager.
“But you’re a Brooklyn girl now, huh?”
“Yeah. I mean, my apartment’s not much, but it’s in a decent neighborhood.” I gesture to the room. “And the food’s great.”
We sit in silence for a moment, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going through his mind. I mean, I don’t know this guy. But being with him is comfortable and his warm charm makes me trust him. Maybe that’s why they chose him for the marketing director position. His charisma will go a long way in bringing in potential clients.
“You okay over there?” He rubs his thumb across the frosted mug as he watches me.
“Yeah.” I shuffle off whatever doubts remain and remind myself we’re still coworkers.
“You look worried.” He’s intuitive. Damn, that’s kind of hot.
“I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.” I twist the mug in my hand searching for the words. “I don’t normally…”
“Jen.” He interrupts me with a gentle tone. “You’re showing the new guy the best pizza joint in town. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that.”
I groan and hide my face behind my hand. But what if I want it to be more? “Sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing?” He chuckles. “I asked you to join me for dinner.”
“I know.” Open mouth, insert foot. “But I’m still trying to figure out why?”
His eyes darken the slightest fraction, almost as though I’d imagined it. “Because I wanted to get to know you.”
Years of telling myself not to get involved with a coworker fade into a distant oblivion with those simple words. “Do you use that line often?” I tease, unable to stand the tension pulling tight between us.
“I’ve never used that line.” He laughs and the tension eases back into comfortable companionship. “In fact, I’ve always made it a point to avoid mixing my personal life with work. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s true.”
“So you never went out with your coworkers for pizza in Denver?”
“Never.” He scoffs. “What about you?”
“Oh, I hang out with my coworkers all the time outside of work.”
His brow arches, and I kick myself for not being clearer.
“I mean, I have a lot of friends at the office.” Yeah, keep putting your foot in your mouth. I groan. “Maybe I should shut up now. I sound like an idiot.”
“No, you don’t.” He leans forward resting his elbows on the table. “I want to be honest with you.”
Johnny arrives with a steamy, delicious supreme pie laden with veggies, sausage, and pepperoni. He slides it onto the table between us. “Enjoy.”
“Thanks.” I flash him a smile as he walks away. When I turn back to Shaun, his intense expression steals my breath.
“I’ve never broken my rule about dating a coworker.” His focus hones on me like a laser, and I freeze mid-reach for a slice of pizza.
“Dating?” The word feels foreign on my tongue.
“Is that a problem for you?” He reaches across the table and takes my hand. Those soft fingertips brush over my skin making me shiver with need.
“I mean if we were in the same department, maybe, but I don’t know. I’ve never dated anyone from work before. Holy shit. I wasn’t expecting this.” My heart thunders in my chest drowning out the sound of my own thoughts.
“Neither was I.” He squeezes my hand gently and then lets go. “If I’m going too fast, tell me. We can take it slow. I’ve always been told I’m too direct for my own good.”
My hand tingles where he touched me. I miss the warmth already. “Knowing what you want isn’t a bad thing.”
“The question is, what do you want?” His gaze bores into my soul.
“As long as it doesn’t affect work, I’m game for anything.” I throw his own words back at him in an effort to play it cool regardless of the simmering attraction steaming up the window beside us. Oh, no, that’s from the pizza. I reach for a slice giving my hands something to do other than reach for him.
Shaun grins and grabs a slice for himself. “Sounds like a plan.”
We eat in relative silence and hang out to chat over another mug of Yuengling. He’s sweet and conversational. The topics range from his childhood in Iowa to my adventures in Brooklyn and beyond. He asks about my parents and my interests. I reciprocate the inquisition, and we laugh at how different yet similar we are.
When Johnny finally kicks us out at eleven, I’m stunned at how quickly time passes in Shaun’s company. Finally, a man who doesn’t make me feel inept or defensive. It’s so refreshing. We exchange phone numbers before pulling on our coats.
We stop outside the shop so I can pull on my gloves.
“Can I walk you home?” Shaun asks, his eyes glinting under the streetlights.
“I thought you said we were gonna take this slow?” I sway against him with a nudge of my elbow.
“You’re right.” He grins. “I wanna make sure you make it home safely.”
“That’s quite chivalrous of you. It’s not far. I’ll be okay.” I squeeze his hand. “Thanks though.”
His gaze searches my face like he’s trying to decipher a code beneath the surface of my skin. My whole body ignites and I’m melting regardless of it being a chilly twenty-five degrees in the middle of February.
He steps closer and cups my jaw in his hand smoothing his thumb across my lower lip. My breath catches as he lowers his head and kisses me. The soft brush of his mouth on mine is a welcome invasion. I grasp his lapel and pull him closer. His warm, spicy scent envelops me, tugging at the back of my mind. Gucci Guilty, I think, subtly buried beneath the fresh scent of linen and what I can only assume are his natural pheromones.
Shaun pulls me against him and teases my lips open with the slightest press of his tongue. I’m lost in the kiss, in his arms, drowning in a sea of unexpected bliss, I barely hear the sound of someone coughing behind me.
“All right, you two. Get a room.”
I pull away from Shaun with a start, and he laughs. I turn to see Johnny standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips.
“This ain’t that kind of establishment. Go home, Jen.” He jabs a finger at Shaun. “Don’t mess with her.”
“Sorry, Johnny.” I turn back to face Shaun. “I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah. Sleep well.” He reluctantly drops my hand and retreats down the street.
I watch until he disappears around the corner. With a sigh, I head toward the entrance beside the pizza parlor. My mind spins over the impossibility of the day’s events. If someone would have told me I’d meet the man of my dreams at work today, I’d have called them crazy. Maybe I’m the one who’s crazy. Either way, I can’t complain. Crazy is feeling pretty damn good right now.
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Thanks for stopping by. XoXo
Kirsten S. Blacketer