WIP Wednesday: The Key to 19B

Woah! When did it become November? Seriously, I think I’ve spent a little too much time in my writing cave with these new projects! But, that being said, I’ve got a lot of exciting things coming your way in 2018!

The Key to 19B is a novella that I wrote for an anthology releasing February 14th, 2018. An Unexpected Romance Anthology will feature short stories by Ani Bishop, Rosie Chapel, Erin Cristofoli, Melody Dawn, Lucy Gage, and yours truly. 🎉

Here’s the official blurb for the anthology:

Be swept away as couples find romance at the most unexpected moments. Authors from Down Under, to the Great White North, and places in between will surprise you, please you, and make you believe in love.

Continue reading for the blurb and an excerpt from The Key to 19B!

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The Key to 19B

“Sometimes, things happen unexpectedly, and you can either roll with it or run from it. So, what do you want to do?”

Twenty-eight year old AJ Helman feels stuck in a loveless marriage. The daughter they share and AJ’s fear of the unknown are the last threads holding them together. But an instant connection with someone new makes her realize there’s more to love than empty vows and broken promises. Above all, she owes it to herself and her daughter to find the happiness they deserve…and it’s closer than she could have ever imagined.

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AJ

I yawned loudly as I waited for a break in traffic, my jaw stretching. The township just east of Toronto was getting more and more congested every year that passed, especially with the construction of the 407. More and more people were moving down from the city and commuting to work every day, and the towns three exits were usually overwhelmed with traffic between three and six.

Unfortunately, I got off work around five, when traffic seemed the thickest.

Despite how congested it’s gotten, I still loved living in Clarington. I loved the large old trees that lined the streets, and the old post-war brick homes. Ours was a rental, split into two different units. We had the three bedroom main floor unit, and a woman named Tawnya had lived in the basement apartment up until a week ago.

Tawnya moved in six months after we had moved upstairs. She was a quiet woman in her forties who worked the administrative nightshift at the small hospital across the street from our house. She hadn’t used the yard very often, and we were rarely ever home at the same time. We were friendly, but had little in common. We existed amicably for three years.

But it was never a good feeling, playing the neighbour lottery. Hopefully, the new tenant moving would be as easy to co-exist with as Tawnya had been.

Finally, there was a break in traffic and I turned, driving slowly down our street, past the hospital and slowing when our driveway came into sight. There was an unfamiliar black Silverado and an empty trailer parked on one side of the driveway.

“Is that the new neighbour?” my daughter, Mila, asked from the back seat, her dark hair spilling over her shoulder as she leaned to peer out the window.

“Must be,” I replied, pulling into the vacant spot beside the newer model truck. It’s shiny black paint and clean lights made my little Honda Civic look even more tired and pathetic. I pulled forward as much as I could, leaving enough space for my husband, Brad.

I was relieved to see his truck gone from the driveway. It meant he’d gone into work, and that was a lot better than him not working. The tightness in my chest eased some, and I let out a soft sigh.

I slipped my key chain around my pinky and stepped out of the car, pausing to open Mila’s door for her. She hopped out, dragging her backpack behind her. She only had a few more weeks left of school before summer holidays, and that thought was a relief to us both. She spent her summers at Aunt Hanna’s house, and that break in paying for daycare allowed me to get caught up in bills and start budget shopping for Christmas.

I popped the trunk before giving Mila the keys and watched as she skipped down the stone pathway, slowing to grip the white railing with her little hand when she reached the stairs.

Mila’s favourite job was unlocking the front door, and I definitely took advantage of that helpful drive of hers. She fumbled with the key a little, and stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrated. It was the cutest thing; something she had done since she was a baby.

Finally, the bolt gave and Mila opened the door, disappearing inside. I finished looping all eight bags through my arms, determined not to make two trips. It was nearly six, and I wanted to get dinner started. Using my elbow to push the trunk down, I started walking toward the front door.

I struggled with the grocery bags, my muscles straining as the plastic handles cut painfully into my bare arms. I was just about to reach the stone pathway when the side door to the house opened with a clang, and two men stepped outside.

They were tall and handsome, with dark hair and similar smiles. The first one was a little bulkier than the second, with warm brown eyes. The second man had shockingly vibrant cobalt eyes that sparkled with mischief and provocation.

It was him my eyes were drawn to. There was something daring and alive about his smile, and when he laughed at something the other man said, it was full of vitality.

Both men paused when they saw me, and the second man’s lips spread into a slow smile and he lifted his sculpted jaw in acknowledgement. I felt one of the plastic handles begin to rip, but my hands were too full to do anything to stop it.

He moved forward, catching the bag in his muscular arms in the nick of time, and flashed me a bemused smile.

“Thanks,” I muttered, my cheeks heating with embarrassment. My pulse raced, and I swallowed as he straightened. His indigo eyes danced with mirth and warmth as they brushed across my face, taking in my features.

“No problem,” he said easily, adjusting the handless bag in his arms. “I’m Wade Katsaros. I just moved into the apartment downstairs, and this is my brother, Cory.”

“Hi, I’m AJ Helman,” I responded, my eyes darting to Cory briefly before returning to Wade.

“Well, AJ Helman, it’s nice to meet you. Can we help you with your groceries?” he smiled, tilting his head.

“That’s okay,” I said hurriedly, uneasy with the weightless feeling enveloping me. “You guys have probably been moving stuff all afternoon. I’ve got this. It was nice meeting you!” I added, giving them no time to reply before I rushed up the front steps. I closed the door with my foot, paused for a moment, and let out an exasperated sigh.

Looking at the ceiling, I shook my head incredulity. I’d been so flustered that I’d forgotten Wade still had one of my grocery bags. I sighed again, deeper this time, and set the rest of the bags down in the living room entry before opening the door.

Wade stood on my front porch, the bag in his arms and an entertained grin on his face. He held it out to me, and I fought a smile as I accepted it. I felt like an idiot, and he seemed to inherently know how flustered I was.

His smile brightened, doing little to ease the reckless pattering of my heart. I set the bag down beside the door and straightened, searching for something to say.

I felt like I was in high school again, all fluttery and jittery.

Mila paused by the doorway, holding her sleepy little hedgehog, Pickle, in her hands. “Are you our new neighbour?”

“Yes, I am. I’m Wade,” he answered. “What’s your name?”

“Mila,” she answered, somewhat shyly. She bowed her head and peered up at him with soft green eyes—so like her father’s. The rest of her was a carbon copy of me—dark hair, olive skin. She looked almost identical to how I’d looked at that age.

“That’s a cool hedgehog you got there. What’s his name?”

“Pickle,” she replied, glancing down at the critter in her hand. Pickle had been a compromise. Mila had wanted a puppy, but I worked too much to train it, and I couldn’t count on Brad’s help. “Do you have any kids?” she questioned, peering up at him as if impatient for his answer.

“Nope, no kids for me,” he laughed lightly, scratching at the back of his neck. As he said it, his eyes flitted to mine.

“That’s too bad,” Mila sighed deeply, sounding every bit as disappointed as she felt. She’d been looking forward to the possibility that the new tenant would have kids, even though I’d warned her it was unlikely.

“I do have a couple of nieces, though,” Wade remarked, his eyes going to me. “Ariana is six and Matilda is three.”

“Are they going to come and visit?” Mila’s eyes danced with excitement. My sociable little daughter loved making new friends. Most of the people who lived on our street were older with grown up children, so Mila didn’t get to play with neighbourhood kids the way her cousins did. “If they do, can I show them the park? Please, Mama?” she added, practically bouncing from heel to heel.

“Mila, how about we let Mr. Katsaros get moved in before we interrogate him about his nieces?” I interrupted, giving her a pointed look.

“Okay,” she sighed heavily, as if I was asking a lot of her. “It was nice meeting you,” she added politely before walking back down the hall to her bedroom, leaving Wade and I standing in awkward limbo.

“Cute kid,” he said, looking at me. “She looks like you.”

My heart stuttered at his words, and I smiled. “Thank you.”

“Yeah, sure. It was nice meeting you guys.”

“You too,” I replied, pursing my lips to keep my smile from stretching.

The way he looked at me sent a pulsing ache directly between my thighs. Another charged moment passed, and he cleared his throat. “See you around, AJ.”

I closed the door and pressed my head against the wood, giving myself a moment to recover from the vexing encounter. I felt inconstant, as if I was teetering on the edge of something momentous.

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