Chapter One excerpt – 2016 Love Christmas Collection –Blue Christmas by the Sea- by Traci Hall
Chapter One DRAFT
Tamsyn Lee balanced a tray of steaming turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and green bean specials on her arm, waiting for the diners to clear space on the table for their Thanksgiving meals. The Village would be open for one more hour before closing early—six pm—to give their employees some holiday time off.
“This looks delicious,” the dark-haired father said. His wife, and mom to the two cuties under ten with the same shade of teal blue eyes, helped the children with their napkins while Grandma shifted the salt and pepper shakers to make more room for the plates Tamsyn set down.
Mom agreed, her hum distracted by the youngest boy fidgeting on his seat as he reached for a fluffy biscuit. Tamsyn eyed the table—full water glasses, extra napkins, silverware. “Anything else for you?”
“No,” Grandma said with a pleased smile. “This is perfect.”
Perfect. The happiness in the older woman’s voice made Tamsyn long for her own family. So not happening this year.
Tamsyn nodded and left, returning the now empty tray to its station by the pick-up counter. The owners had allowed split shifts for the day, though Tamsyn had taken a double. The tips were good, and her family was in New York. Sort of.
She dared a look at the front door and bit back a groan—the line for turkey dinners spilled out into the festive streets of their beachside downtown. Why weren’t these people eating ham and green bean casserole at home? In comfy pants, stretched out on the couch to watch Holiday Inn while finishing pumpkin pie…
Thanksgiving meant Christmas was only a month away, and that was Tamsyn’s very favorite holiday—she liked it even better than her birthday.
Her plan had been to suck it up for a lonely Thanksgiving and fly to her family home in New York for Christmas, but her parents had decided a divorce was more important than the holidays. After forty years of hanging stockings together?
“Tamsyn—table three is ready for their drink order as soon as you drop off the lobster club at table two.”
“Got it, Michael.” She headed toward the waiting plates. “Thanks.”
She and Michael had a thing when she’d first moved here a year ago—a thing that had quickly fizzled after they realized they made better friends than lovers. Besides, he was her manager at the seafood bar and grill she waitressed at, so they needed a clear line. He thought he could tell her to grab him a beer outside of work and that just pissed her off.
She’d spent the last six months sporadically dating but her heart, still mending over the real guy she’d loved and lost and the reason for her move from Manhattan, the one before Michael, just wasn’t in it.
“You sure you don’t want to join me and Nina for turkey later?” Michael asked as they passed each other in the aisle. “She really likes you. There will be other people there that you know. Monica, for sure.”
The restaurant world was a small community made even smaller in a town of less than five thousand people. Everybody knew each other, and most had dated at some point. “Nina is sweet…but I am okay. I have plans, so stop worrying about me.” She smiled to show that she appreciated his offer, but she wasn’t coming. Thanksgiving meant family to her, and right now hers was broken into pieces. She was the baby at twenty-six. Her two older brothers had married in New York, and then moved to opposite ends of the United States—Kody in Seattle, and Joe in Vermont.
She dropped off the lobster club sandwiches to the two friends celebrating the holiday—the women were locals, and came in a lot during the year. “Can I get you ladies anything else? Another glass of wine?”
“No, thanks,” the blonde said while the brunette smiled her agreement.
“I’ll check on you in a few minutes.” Waitressing could be hard, but with her bachelor’s degree in literature, she made more money in tips than an hourly wage working at the local library.
“Welcome to the Village. Can I take your drink order?” Two couples in their mid-fifties shared an inside table with a view of the ocean. November in South Florida meant cooler weather—seventies—without the humidity that most folks had a hard time acclimatizing to.
Tamsyn loved it. And now that she was mad at her parents, well, she might never go back to New York.
Her last table of the night was a single guy in his late twenties, maybe early thirties, with longish brown hair curling over his ears. Not stylish, but as if he couldn’t be bothered to get a trim.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
He looked up, his green eyes brilliantly set between dark brown lashes. Electric. Tamsyn took a step back, then decided she must be more tired than she’d realized.
His cheeks were slightly flushed, and she guessed it wasn’t his first drink of the day. “Are you visiting here?”
His full mouth thinned with annoyance. “No. Can I just give you my food order now, too? I’m not big on chit-chat.”
Jerk, Tamsyn thought. What a waste of gorgeous green eyes. “Sure. What will you have?”
“The special. If it’s any good? I hate dry turkey.”
If she was a mean person, she’d stick his plate of amazingly moist turkey under the broiler. Keeping her expression neutral, she nodded once. “I’ll be right back with your order.”
Evan Hawke watched the waitress walk away with a twitch of her ponytail and realized he’d been rude. Probably not a good idea to be a douche to the people who handled your food, he heard his ex-girlfriend say as if she was sitting right next to him.
Teresa had been right about a lot of things, including the fact they didn’t fit together for the long haul. She’d put up with his moods better than most and there were times he genuinely missed her way of teasing him out of a funk. Not often, and not enough to pick up the phone to ask her back into his life.
Pathetic. Or was it apathetic? Evan opened his smartphone to add the question in his notes section. Either way, he’d apologize to the waitress.
She was cute in a perky way. Long dark brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, big brown eyes. Probably wouldn’t know the difference between pathetic or apathetic. God, the last date he’d been on, the girl gave vapid a new name. He was part of the Internet generation, but he believed in proper punctuation, damn it. His editor told him there was a revolution against double quotes within a paragraph, when single quotes would do—easier, some claimed, to use without hitting the shift key.
Lazy, one-fingered typing was no reason to change punctuation as directed in the Chicago Manual of Style.
Not that he was thinking of dating her, he amended quickly as she walked toward him, her smile seemingly genuine. White short-sleeved blouse, black pants, black Converse tennis shoes. Maybe she wasn’t the kind to hold a grudge.
“Harp, and the turkey special,” she said. “I had them keep your plate under the heat lamp.”
Evan bristled until he realized she was joking. The all-nighter he’d pulled had zapped his sense of humor, and her dead-pan delivery was right on. “Listen, sorry about that.”
“No worries.” She put his draft beer on a coaster. “Would you like more water?”
He shook his head.
“I set aside a piece of pecan pie, unless you’d prefer pumpkin?”
“I don’t eat sweets.”
“It comes with the special,” she said, her smile fixed. “I can box it up—maybe you’ll want it later.”
“No, thanks. I don’t have a sweet tooth. I don’t see that changing any time soon.” How would taking the damn pie home for later make sense?
Her eyes flashed. “Fine. No pie.”
Chill out, Evan chided himself. He’d barely unpacked before realizing he needed sustenance—he’d eaten breakfast two days ago and an airplane packet of pretzels since. “It’s been a long day, and I don’t mean to take it out on you. I’m a lousy flyer,” don’t justify, just apologize, “and I probably should have stayed at the condo instead of coming out to eat.”
In a fit of desperation, he’d gotten the first flight out of New York and rented a condo overlooking the beach for two months. He’d written his bestseller here at the Village, four years ago, at a table in the back.
“There’s always delivery.” The waitress shrugged and pulled the bill from her black apron pocket. “Can I get you anything else?”
What a loaded question—no way would she believe that he’d returned to the Village in search of lost mojo. His publisher was losing faith and Evan was very aware that loyalty was completely dependent on sales numbers. It was unfortunate, Teresa had once said, that Evan’s first book was a lauded success. It made the following book’s luke-warm performance hard to swallow, and this third book, past deadline, had no hope of reviving his career since the story wouldn’t come.
Hence, his last-ditch effort before raising the white flag. JuJu, magic, whatever—Evan would do everything just as he’d done back then. Write the book at the Village. Eat the daily special. Drink Harp. Every single day until the book was complete.
Ditch the attitude, Evan. “No. Thank you.”
“We’re closing in fifteen minutes.” She stepped away from the table and gestured toward the front. “Take your time—you can pay at the door on your way out.”
Evan, so hungry his stomach clenched at the savory aroma of gravy, picked up his fork and swirled the tines through the white mound of potatoes. Buttery goodness exploded across his tongue. Green beans, cranberry sauce. Turkey so moist he cut it with the edge of his fork.
By the time he was through with the potatoes he could think clearly again. His writing career was in the tank, but he, Evan Hawke, Mystery Writer, would chase that bitch of a muse down and do whatever it took to get his magic back.