Sneak Peek: Call It Kismet by Brittni Miner
We’re so excited to announce that we’ll be publishing Call It Kismet by Brittni Miner early 2021! It is a very fun sweet vacation romance that will have you pining for the one that got away.
To get you ready, we’ve decided to publish a sneak peek here on the blog! Enjoy!
Keep in mind, this is a pre-publication sneak peek, and the actual printed content of the published book may change. This sample is not to be redistributed without written permission from the publisher.
Why is it food always tastes better on vacation?
The idea itched at the back of Millie Westover’s mind as she licked at her second scoop of mint chocolate chip. She had purchased it from a tattooed and dubiously clean vendor at a cart in town, somewhere she never would have purchased from if she were back in Tampa. Still, each creamy taste went down so smooth. The experience was downright luxurious.
She had known better than to eat it. She was on her way to meet her fiance, Randy, for lunch that very moment. When she’d passed by the cart though, the colors had looked so bright and appealing. One scoop couldn’t hurt, right? And two scoops were excusable if she kept lunch light. She savored the last bite of the cone before dropping the paper wrapping in a trash can.
Millie always had been a different woman on vacation.
She pulled out her map of Key West, even though she was fairly sure she didn’t need it. It had been a long time since she had visited last. She hadn’t really thought she’d ever come back, had it not been for the cruise she’d booked for their anniversary. What a mistake!
In her defense, life had grown boring. She’d been with Randy for a long time now, and malaise was setting in. Millie had an itch inside of her and with each work trip (of many) that he took out of state alone or out of the country, she felt herself floating off somewhere far away, loosening the tether that bound her to domesticity. Randy had always made it clear that she was a prize, but she had booked the cruise to rekindle something in her relationship that she had lost with time. Or maybe it was just because she was getting tired of spending all his work trips stuck at home, watching bad daytime TV. Either way, she needed a change.
It was an unfortunate byproduct of said gesture that Randy had scheduled a work meeting in his hometown: Key West. Millie had successfully avoided the island for years. Too many teenage memories of vacations gone by. She could still feel an anxious, embarrassing pit in her stomach if she thought of them for too long. Alas, the work conference had come up and Randy had insisted they go if they were going to be nearby for their cruise port, anyway. It’ll be an early honeymoon, he said! Bah humbug. She’d lost him to a work trip, even on vacation.
Millie folded the map and closed her eyes, trying to conjure up the flavor of the mint chocolate chip again to replace this sour one she tasted now. She took off for downtown.
She found Randy sitting at the outside table they’d agreed upon that morning before they’d gone their separate ways, him to his meeting and her off to sight-seeing. He was flagging her down with one hand as he used his other to hold his phone to his ear.
“You’re going to have to get this under control, David,” he was telling his business partner. He was scowling. Randy perpetually had a line between his eyes these days. He was handsome, for sure, tall and blonde, looking like a walking ad for aftershave or something. But lately he always had an air of impatience about him. Millie waved over a waiter. She had learned to ignore it.
“I’m going to need you to do better than that,” he went on. He wiped his face with his hand, trying to regain composure. “I won’t talk about this anymore!”
He clicked off the phone, tense and wired. Millie reached a hand out and stroked his fingers the way she knew he liked. He didn’t relent, but she shrugged it off. There was comfort in predicting Randy’s moods.
“I walked the beach this morning,” she said. “It wasn’t nearly as crowded as it has been in the past.”
“That’s great,” said Randy, his tone flat. He waved over their waitress for a refill.
“I was thinking of making a purchase from the antique store that’s near the waterfront,” she said, taking a sip from the water glass in front of her.
“Mhmm,” Randy nodded without listening. “Take my card, Mill-Pill. Buy something pretty.”
She smiled. He was agitated, but his pet nicknames were always a lifeline back to her. The waitress finally arrived, a pitcher in hand. She poured the refill and Randy guzzled it down on the spot. He pulled out his phone again, dialing.
“Listen, love,” he said, putting his phone to his ear once more. “I have to run a bit earlier than expected. I’m sorry to cut our lunch short.. Order the bruschetta. It was divine.”
“But Randy, I thought—” she started, but he was already waving and leaving, ordering new directions to some intern over the phone as he exited the patio.
She sighed, sitting back in her chair. Randy was an easy pattern. Frustrating to go through the motions sometimes, but usually there was a simple ease to being with him. Predictable.
She was surrounded by families eating a meal together. They were all strictly tourists, just like her. Millie could tell from the expensive resort wear each diner wore like a badge of honor. There were no screaming kids coloring on table cloths or young parents with newborns here. This was the prime vacation destination for the soon-to-be retirees. Doctors and lawyers who had teenaged sons and daughters that had come later in life, after expensive fertility treatments or marriages to second wives. The families here were the kind that ate expensive pastas while huddled over their cell phones and let their kids share the table wine because they had the “cool parents.” Suddenly, she felt that same aching ill at ease wave and she knew she had to leave. She flagged down the waitress for her fiance’s bill and then headed back to their resort.
Thankfully, they were staying somewhere that Millie had never been before, far from the awkward memories of her youth. Their spot was a brand new hotel: The Seaside Inn. It was built right next to the main docks, with a pool that jutted out right over the water so you could see through the clear, glass bottom. Everything about the place had been outrageously expensive, Millie was sure of that. It was all hard, modern iron lines that looked unnatural on the soft Key West landscape. She was sure she had seen it featured in some magazine somewhere before they had decided to stay there.
“Welcome back,” a brunette dressed all in clean, crisp white greeted her at the door of the resort with a cucumber water ready in hand.
“Thank you,” Millie said, taking it and sipping as she made a direct beeline out to the pool deck. She had worn her swimsuit under her sundress all day, and now she was itching to get stretched out in the sun.
She found a spot easily. It wasn’t shaded, but she didn’t care. She pulled off her dress and then dug around in her bag for her sunglasses and the floppy hat she kept on hand. She laid out on the lounge chair, letting her curves settle in. Her whole body seemed to melt into the cushion. She sighed out loud, only to realize a moment later that her neighbor, a middle-aged man, had been watching her. She smiled at him awkwardly and pushed her shades up to cover her eyes.
Millie was aware of the effect she had on men. She had never considered herself to be a great beauty until sometime in her early twenties, when the world started treating her differently. She felt eyes on her at most times. It was a feeling that one never quite got used to if you were a late bloomer rather than born an Audrey Hepburn. She shoved down the strange sense of being watched and pulled out the coverup she had stashed away in her bag. Better to put a few layers of cotton between her and her neighbor. After she settled in, she plucked out a book and cracked it open to where she’d left off.
It was escapist trash, something that could have been called a “bodice ripper”, and today it just wasn’t doing the trick. Millie turned a few pages before she stopped, resigning herself to distraction and dogearing the page. She still couldn’t shake that feeling from earlier. She was on vacation! Shouldn’t she have checked her anxieties at the door?
She got up and turned her chair to face the ocean, to take in that magnificent view for which Randy had surely paid close to a grand. She could see the docks from here, just like she had been told she would. There were fishermen below, tour groups, young men taking their daddy’s boats out for a midday romp. She watched them all with a sense of detachment, as though she wasn’t in Key West at all.
Millie felt a cool breeze on her skin that lulled her away from The Seaside Inn. Her eyes were getting heavier and she let herself succumb to the feeling. She had almost faded away completely when something caught her eye. Suddenly, she shot forward, her hands pressed up against the glass of the guardrail that separated her from a disastrous fall to the dock below. Her heart was up in her throat as she watched a man’s dark head bobbing; he was hard at work loading a boat up with a gaggle of senior tourists. Millie stood up, her paperback falling to the ground.
After all of these years… she thought for sure he’d have been exiled. In fact, it was only Randy’s assurance of getting to avoid him that that had coaxed her back to Key West. She thought she had erased what he had looked like from her mind completely, but then here he was. Waving down these tourists and smiling like he hadn’t aged a single day.
What the hell was Jonas still doing working in Key West?
“I was up sick all night. I must have caught that cough that your maid mentioned last week.” Millie coughed weakly into her palm, trying her best to look like the wounded martyr.
Randy left his ironing with a loud sigh and came over to put the back of his hand to her forehead, and then her cheek. “You don’t feel warm,” he said, returning to his task.
She followed after him, crossing her arms to look weak. “Just because I don’t have a fever yet doesn’t mean I’m not sick,” she pointed out. He shot her a look, and she coughed again for good measure.
He set his iron down again and crossed his own arms in response. He raised an eyebrow, but his mouth never broke into the forgiving smile for which Millie had been hoping. “We should cancel our cruise then, Mill-Pill,” he said. “No one wants you infecting the Cayman Islands.”
Her mouth gaped open. “No, Randy! Don’t be rash!”
He pointed a finger at her, grinning. “You faker!” he said, turning back once more to his wrinkled button-down shirt. She rolled her eyes in an admission of guilt, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “I realize you didn’t want to come to Key West, but can’t you have a good time here? Just sit by the pool all day. You never have to leave the resort.”
She made a juvenile huffing sound, a last-ditch effort to make him see her side. He sat down next to her, putting an arm around her shoulders. Still, she couldn’t help but notice him ignoring a call as he took his spot. Even in a moment of sympathy, there were other pressing matters to attend to. “I’m sorry,” he offered, one eye on the phone as he shot a text off to David in Tampa.
She collapsed back onto the bed. “Fine,” she conceded. “I’ll do my best.”
“That’s my Mill-Pill,” he said, getting up to unplug the iron and slip on his shirt. She followed him up, doing up the final buttons for him. There was something stained on his collar, and she licked her finger to work it out. He smiled at her. “That’s a fighting spirit.”
“I hate when you think I’m a better person than I am,” she said, with her own half-smile. He left for his meetings, leaving her once more to fend for herself.
She laid down on the bed again, covering her face with her hands. She rolled onto her side, facing the window that Randy had opened while he was showering. From here, she could see the docks again. She watched men getting their boats ready for the day and wondered if one of those dark heads belonged to someone she’d very much like to forget.
Millie had been up all night thinking about Jonas. She didn’t want to. In fact, she’d popped one of Randy’s Ambien, hoping to knock the feeling right out of her. The result had been some vivid dreams that woke her up at three a.m. anyway, sweaty and craving Captain Crunch of all things. She’d spent the rest of the dark hours pacing in their hotel room, trying to think of some reasonable excuse to get out of Key West.
She was just sure that she’d run into Jonas. It didn’t make any logical sense. She didn’t have to go down to the docks, and he certainly wouldn’t see her from her safe zone all the way up on the pool deck of The Seaside Inn. But she couldn’t help thinking that if he were there, working the docks far from Paradise Pier where she’d left him last… he could be anywhere. This city was his. She remembered that and felt a wave of actual sickness at the thought of spending her day exploring the town as she had yesterday. She had thought Mr. Tafua would have kicked him out, kept him far away after what he did. But here he was, in spite of it all. Millie couldn’t help herself. Jonas was a sore spot that she just kept coming back to.
Millie took a shower, trying to wash it all away. She used the good shampoo and conditioner, the stuff that she reserved strictly for nights after an exhausting work event with Randy or a tough day meeting her own clients at her office. The fumes smelled of lavender and vanilla and she breathed deeply, letting them take her over completely. She shaved her legs next, trying to kill more time. Still, there was only so much time one could spend in the shower before becoming a human prune, and eventually she had to leave, wrapping herself in a towel and plopping once more in that same spot on the edge of her bed.
“Ugh!” She yelled out loud, letting the sound of her own voice break up the maddening silence of the room. She couldn’t eliminate the source of the itch.
She stood up then. A decision had been made. She didn’t like it. It made her sick to her stomach to think about doing it, but she knew it had to be done. She blew her hair dry and put on her makeup, then donned the same floppy hot and sunglasses from the pool deck yesterday. She was ready to make a clandestine trip to the docks.
It was a very different experience to be down on the docks rather than simply watching from the pool deck. Millie didn’t feel as much as a tourist. There was an energy pulsing from person to person. She felt as though she were tapping into some rhythm that came alive with calls of “Fresh fish!” or “Loading here!,” with the hurried steps of the visitors, the soft splash of the waves as boats pulled into their stations. It helped to make her feel invisible, and she loosened her jacket from where she’d been holding it tight across her chest like a shield. It would be easier to get in and out quickly here, which came as a relief.
She scanned the crowd nonchalantly, acting as though she were just here to look at the ocean. If she could only catch one glimpse of him, could see what he was doing and why he was here, maybe she could go away with some kind of peace. She yawned. It had been a long night. She needed vacation mode back.
The more that she walked around, the more confident Millie felt in her decision. No one noticed her. After the past few years of feeling awkward in her own skin, it felt good to know that no one was looking at her. She relaxed, feeling some tension run out of her shoulders. She’d been overblowing this, she just knew it. It had been almost a decade since she’d seen Jonas last. She had a comfortable life and was sure that he did, too. He probably didn’t remember her at all.
“Can I interest you in some snapper?” A gnarled man missing a few teeth gestured Millie over to his cart.
She smiled, pulling out her wallet to find the credit card. Their hotel room was more of a suite, anyway. Maybe it would be fun to surprise Randy with some local flavor. It could remind him of his childhood on the island. “Yes, sir,” she said, handing him the plastic in exchange for a heavy fish.
After the transaction, she tucked it neatly into her bag and circled all the way to the end of the dock. No sign of Jonas. She laughed out loud to herself. Look at that! All that worry and he wasn’t even here. It was comical, really. Typical Millie. She’d been sweating it out over nothing. Randy always said she had a habit of overblowing things, of romanticizing. She’d probably just spotted some dark head on the docks yesterday and willed it to be part of this teenage fantasy that she’d concocted over the years. Memory was a fickle thing. She preferred to trust in the here and now, in stability and predictability. It had been silly to let this take over her mind.
She turned back to head to the start of the dock once more. She would head back to the hotel to drop off the fish and then she could get back to Key West proper, worry free. There were some really beautiful spots in town, places she had actually missed over the years. She’d been putting off exploring them, but now they called to her.
She was almost at the end of the dock when she a busy fisherman knocked her over. She stumbled into an elderly man who was helping his frail wife onto an old boat marked “The Annie.” She dropped her bag, and the fish flopped out, coming out of its wrapping and onto the dirty dock.
“Oh, no!” she tried to steady the old man, who was rocking dangerously under the impact.
He clutched at her shirt. “I’m so sorry, ma’am,” he said.
“It’s nothing!” She said, smiling at him. She helped him to steady and then lent her hand to help both him and his wife onto the boat. “Enjoy your ride!” she called. “Key West is beautiful this time of year!”
She turned back to pick up her fish, but it was gone.
To her side stood Jonas, looking puzzled and holding the snapper for her….
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