Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Last Preview Chapter in "The Dating Do-Over" Serialization

Links to:  
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13Chapter 14, Chapter 15


For the past 8 weeks, I've been posting a chapter from The Dating Do-Over twice a week, and now I'm at the last chapter of this preview, Chapter 16! You can still buy the e-book on sale for just $2.99 today and tomorrow, but as of Thursday evening at 7 PM Eastern time, the price goes back to $3.99. Check at the end of the chapter for purchase details.

I hope you've enjoyed this portion of Viv's story as she tries to figure out her romantic life. Thank you for joining me, and I hope you'll check back to this website from time to time to see what I'm up to next. All the best!

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Chapter 16


Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. An hour later, Viv was sitting cross-legged on her futon with a peanut butter sandwich on a plate and her cell phone glued to her ear.
“I know, Daddy. It’s a very good business. Uh huh. Yes, I understand that Mother is very upset. What? How can you take her side? Well, it sounds like you think I should give up teaching and move to New York. You know I would never do that.”
As Viv paused to listen, Sabrina looked into the room. Viv motioned for her friend to enter.
“Everything you say is true, Daddy, but I’ve made up my mind. Let’s not fight about this anymore. I’m going back to the building supply store after work tomorrow to look at tiles for the showers. Don’t worry, I’ll drop by the house to get the measurements from Tom first. Is there anything thing else I should look at while I’m at the store? Lighting fixtures? Okay, I’ll take some pictures for you. All right, I’ll stay for dinner afterward. Love you, Daddy. Good night.”
Viv put down her cell as Sabrina sat down on the mattress and pointed at the sandwich.
“I thought you were having dinner with your mom?”
Viv nodded. “I did, but I didn’t eat much. I was hungry by the time I got home.” She took a bite of her sandwich.
“Dinner didn’t go well?”
Viv swallowed and grinned. “Depends on who you ask. I had a great time.” She explained about her mother’s offer to pass the business on to her. Sabrina whistled.
“I heard what you said to your dad about never giving up teaching, and I agree. You’re a born teacher. But what an opportunity! I’d give all my teeth to inherit Rouge. Do you think you could talk your mom into adopting me?”
Viv shook her head as she took a second bite. “You have an adorable mother who doesn’t have a block of ice for a heart. Mother’s not worth it, even for all her pretty shoes.”
Sabrina sighed. “They’re awfully lucrative pretty shoes. A girl can dream. Oh well, back to real life. Would you listen to the presentation I have to give tomorrow?”


At three fifteen the next day, Viv was finishing an art class with her students when there was a knock on the classroom door. Barbara, the school receptionist, stuck her head in.
“Guess what, boys and girls? Miss Nowak’s mom is here for a visit. Say hello to Madame Roux.”
Viv looked up in surprise. Barbara disappeared, and her mother sauntered into the room. She whipped large, white sunglasses from her face and said, “Bonjour, boys and girls.”
“Bonjour Madame Roux,” a handful of the students responded.
Véronique smiled. “What charming children! Don’t mind me. I’ve been longing to see where my daughter teaches. I’ll just have a look around while you finish up for the day.” She walked to the back of the room while Viv stared after her and the children giggled. Viv returned her attention to her students with difficulty.
“All right, everyone, the bell is going to ring in ten minutes. Leave your art work on top of your desk so that the glue can dry, and don’t forget to sign your name to it. Jasmine, will you take around the recycling bin, please? Put all your leftover scraps in the recycling bin for Friday’s art project. Jeremy, go back to your seat, please. Jasmine doesn’t need your help.”
Ten minutes later, the children were lined up in single file at the door. “See you tomorrow. Have a good night,” Viv called after the bell sounded. The children rushed from the room, leaving Viv alone with her mother. She stormed to the Wall of Fame where her mother was studying the portraits.
“What are you doing here? How dare you ignore my wishes. I told you last night that I never wanted to see you again!”
Véronique ignored her outburst to remark, “These photos are delightful.” She pointed at a boy with his face painted to resemble a lion. “Who is he supposed to be?”
“Simba from The Lion King.”
“Isn’t he a dear with those big, brown eyes. You’ve captured him roaring.”
“Yes. Never mind that. What do you want?”
“And this girl with the toy stethoscope who is listening to her puppy?”
“She wants to be a vet.”
“Adorable. Look how serious she is.”
“Mother, you can’t just show up while I’m teaching.”
“You took all of these yourself?”
“Yes. For Super Star Friday, when the children dress up as their heroes.”
“What a marvellous idea. And these photographs are remarkable. You’ve got a real talent for lighting and composition.”
Viv sighed. “What are you doing here, Mother?”
Véronique looked at Viv for the first time. “I had a long phone conversation with your father last night after you left the restaurant. It seems that I don’t know my daughter very well. He told me what a fine teacher you are, and how you’ve always loved children. I thought I would come and see for myself. These portraits ‒ I didn’t expect to find them here. You’re a gifted photographer, Viv.”
Viv noticed that her mother did not address her as “Viviane,” but was unmoved. “I’m an amateur, but photographing my students combines the two things I love.”
Véronique nodded. “I can see that. I have a friend in the city who’s a portrait photographer. May I take some of your pictures to her? I’d like to hear what she thinks of them.”
Viv was flattered by her mother’s praise, but decided to appear non-committal. She crossed her arms over her chest and did not meet Véronique’s eyes. “Who did you say she was?”
“Frances Harvey.”
Viv’s eyes widened. “Frances Harvey! She’s wonderful. She’s photographed Mother Teresa and the Queen of England. The portrait she took of Nelson Mandela the year before he died was extraordinary.”
“Yes, she’s very good. I’ve known her since we went to private school together. She took black and whites of us back then with a cheap little instant camera.” She leaned closer to Viv. “She asked us to pose in our underwear. Very risqué. Even then, I knew she was special.” She studied Viv. “I think you have something. May I ask her to have a look at your children?”
Viv hesitated, rotating her ring. She didn’t want to owe her mother for a favour, but Véronique had said that she was talented. She wouldn’t be willing to show her photographs to Frances Harvey if she were lying, would she? Not even Véronique would waste the time of an important artist.
“All right. Let me get something to put them in.” Viv hurried to her desk to get a legal-sized envelope.
“Wonderful,” Véronique said with a sly smile.


After her mother’s departure, Viv was sitting at her desk. She couldn’t get over the fact that Frances Harvey would be seeing some of her photographs. She must be dreaming. If Ms. Harvey liked them, Daddy and her friends would be so proud of her.
Daddy! She had forgotten all about him. She was supposed to get the measurements for the showers, check out the tiles and the lighting fixtures at the building supply store, and drop by his house in time for dinner tonight. She checked her watch; it was four thirty. She’d better get a move on, or Tom might be gone for the day.
Viv was relieved to see Tom’s truck still parked out front of the house. She knocked before entering.
“Tom?” she called.
There was no answer, but she heard a clatter upstairs.
“Tom,” she called again as she trotted up the stairs to the second floor.
“I’m in here.” She rushed down the hallway to the master bedroom and into the ensuite. Tom had ripped up the old linoleum and was tossing it into a box.
“Hey, Viv.” He paused, his face breaking into a smile that brought out the crinkly lines beside his eyes. “Good to see you. Have you come to work?”
“Sorry, not tonight. I know I promised I’d be by to help, but I’m working for Daddy tonight. He asked me to get the measurements for the showers from you, and then I’m going to look for tile at the building supply. But I can come back to help tomorrow after school.”
The smile faded. “You don’t really need to, you know.”
“But I want to. And I will. Tomorrow night. How about you show me how to tile, and I’ll do one of the showers?”
He nodded. “Sure. That would be a big help.” He pulled a tape measure from his back pocket. “You got a paper and pen?”
“Just a minute,” she said, rummaging through her purse. She found a pen and the notepad she had purchased for jotting down information about the reno. “Shoot!”
Tom stepped into the walk-in shower, the tape measure rattling in his hands. “Forty inches.”
“Forty inches,” she repeated.
“By six feet.”
“Six feet.”
“By eight feet, but Gabe knows the ceiling height.”
“Got it,” Viv said, noting the height anyway.
“Now, you have to tile the floor and the walls in here. Maybe with all the same tile, but maybe with different kinds. Your dad might want a decorative inset on the wall, too, so give him a selection of tiles to choose from.”
Viv nodded, her pen poised over the paper. “What kind of tile should I look for?”
Tom shrugged. “There’s a lot to choose from. Ceramic, stone, porcelain, mosaic. There’s pebble, too, but Gabe doesn’t usually go for that.”
“Okay,” Viv said, scribbling. “Anything else?”
“Well, you’re going to have to order some thinset mortar and grout. Your dad will tell you how much to get.” He stepped out of the shower and looked over Viv’s shoulder as she wrote. She was very aware of his nearness.
“Grout,” she said, writing down the last item. She looked up into his eyes and smiled. “Done.”
“Come on. Let’s go do the other bathroom.” Viv followed him out of the master and down the hallway to the four-piece.
“Now, here the tub and shower are combined. You’ll only be tiling the wall above the tub.”
“I know that,” Viv said, rolling her eyes.
“I know you do, darling. Just mentioning it.” He pulled out the tape. “The depth is seventeen inches. Take that from your eight feet and you get . . .”
“Seventy-nine inches,” Viv said automatically. “That’s six feet, seven inches.”
“You’re quick.”
“At simple math. I hang around first-graders all day.”
“Your dad was telling me that you might be giving it up.”
Viv paused to stare at Tom. “When did he tell you that?”
“Let’s see. I was talking to him on Sunday, after I got home. He wanted a progress report on the reno.”
“He’s wrong, you know. I’m not giving up teaching.”
Tom had been taking measurements while she spoke. “I didn’t think so, from the way you’ve talked. That’s five feet.”
“Five feet.”
“By thirty inches.”
Viv nodded as Tom climbed out of the tub.
“We don’t have to worry about the four-piece in the basement. We’re using a shower surround for that.”
“Good. So we’re all done here?”
“That’s it.” Tom clumped down the hallway in his work boots. Viv caught up to him in the ensuite, where he was wrestling with the box of broken linoleum.
“Say, Tom. I’m curious. What exactly did Daddy say to you about me quitting teaching?”
“As long as you’re here, pick up the other end, will you?”
“Sure.” She slung her purse over her shoulder and bent to pick up the end. The box was heavy and awkward with the loose linoleum. Tom backed out of the room first.
“He said your mom was about to offer you her shoe business in New York, which would make you a very rich young lady.”
“That’s true, but I don’t care about the money.” They trudged down the hallway with the box. “I’ve got everything I need, and the school board offers a good pension.”
Tom started backward down the stairs, the contents of the box shifting toward him. “Careful, now.” After a moment, he added, “He also said that it would give you a chance to get away from Toronto and start over again. Something about a busted romance?”
Viv grimaced. She wished her daddy hadn’t been so forthcoming with Tom; it was embarrassing. Tom was taciturn and tough. She assumed that he suffered through his broken romances without a whimper.
“It’s true I wouldn’t mind a fresh start somewhere. Toronto’s a great city, but who wouldn’t want a chance to live in New York?” The majority of the weight was on Tom, but Viv struggled to hold up her end. “Just between you and me, I’ve always loved fashion. It would be exciting to rub shoulders with some of the world’s great designers.”
Tom grunted as they navigated the bend in the staircase and continued down the steps to the front door. Now that the subject had been broached, Viv couldn’t seem to stop talking.
“The thing about teaching the early grades is that it’s so predictable. The curriculum never varies much, or the methodology. Plus, there’s so much politics in the school system. The idea of being the head of a prestigious company like Rouge is very tempting. Scary, too, but imagine being able to make all of the decisions yourself.”
They navigated the box through the door and out onto the porch.
“And I think I’d be okay at shoe design. I’ve got an artistic bent. That’s why I took up photography. Even my mother thinks my work is pretty good.” She kept silent about Frances Harvey seeing some of her portraits; that was still too incredible to share. And what if Ms. Harvey didn’t like her work? Best to keep quiet about it for now.
Out loud, she said, “No, the design aspect of the job doesn’t frighten me.”
They trundled over to the dumpster on the front lawn. Tom shifted the load up onto his shoulders and fired the box into the bin. He wiped his hands on his pants.
“But you’re not going to give up teaching and leave Toronto, are you?”
Viv shook her head. “No. I’d miss the kids too much. And my friends, and Daddy. And Toronto. Sure, I have sad memories leftover from Kyle and the break-up, but I’m moving on.”
“To the head-hunter. I remember.” Tom grinned, and there were glints of devilment in his eyes.
“Maybe,” Viv said with a grin of her own. “Drew seems like a nice man.”
Tom rested a hand on her shoulder. It felt comfortable there. “If not, there’re plenty more fish in the sea, darling. You’re young, pretty, and feisty, and you’ve got a heart of gold. You won’t have any trouble finding a good man to look after you.”
“Thanks, Tom,” Viv said, patting his hand. “Although a lot of women would take issue with being told they needed looking after.”
Tom removed his hand. “I’m kind of old-fashioned that way.”
Viv studied him in his worn, dirty clothes. Up close, she could see some white mixed in with the dark stubble on his cheeks and chin. He was a little battered by the years, perhaps, but confident and capable. Plus, there was humour and kindness in his eyes. She didn’t mind old-fashioned. Too bad he was old enough to be her father.
“You got any sons, Tom?”
“I do. One’s twenty-nine with a wife and two kids and another one on the way. The other is twenty-seven and single. Works as a fire fighter in B.C.”  He winked. “He’ll be back someday for the farm. Might take a few years, though.”
“Nah, if he’s as good-looking as you, another woman will have snatched him up by then.”
Tom pretended to tip a non-existent hat to her, and Viv bowed.
“Besides, I’m lousy at choosing men. That’s why my friends are helping me. Drew is contestant number two, by the way.”
“I’d be careful about that. Ain’t no way anybody else can know what makes your heart beat faster, Viv.”
Viv shrugged. “I’ve been wrong before, you know.”
“Growing pains. You were too young. You’ll know better now.
“Thanks, I sure hope so. But I’ve got to run. I’ll see you tomorrow after school to tile the shower, all right? I promise.”
“See you then. Tell Gabe that the kitchen appliances are going to be delivered by the end of the week. That ought to help him keep his pants on.”
“Will do. I’ll pick some pretty tiles for the showers.”
“Okay, darling. See you.”
Viv checked her watch as she left, and realized that she had only six minutes before the streetcar was due. As she trotted for the stop, she felt pretty good about her love life. Tom was right; she was more mature now. With Julie and Sabrina weeding out the bad choices, she was bound to find the right man this time.

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Sunday, 10 May 2015

"The Dating Do-Over" Serialization - Ch. 15

Links to:  
Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13, Chapter 14


Chapter 15

When Viv got back to Sabrina’s condo that night, she noticed that the lights were on in her friend’s room and the door was ajar. Viv tapped on it with her fingernails.
“Sabrina, are you alone?” she called.
“Come in.”
Viv walked inside and found Sabrina sitting up in bed with her computer balanced on her knees. “Just trying to finish some work for tomorrow,” her friend said.
“How was your weekend with Rick?”
“Not great. We broke up.” Sabrina kept her eyes on the screen, but they were suspiciously pink.
“You’re kidding! I’m so sorry.” Viv perched on the edge of the bed as Sabrina shrugged. “What happened?”
“Rick said I was too engrossed in work to invest enough time in our relationship. That was what this weekend was about, finding more time to spend together. I guess it was too little, too late.”
“That’s sad.” Viv patted Sabrina’s leg beneath the covers. “Rick seemed like a good guy.”
“He is, but any man who gets involved with me has to appreciate how important my career is. I’m never going to be a mommy or a housewife. Rick’s in banking, too. He knows that you have to make an extra effort to get noticed. He must think that only men want to succeed.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“No. I’ll be fine.” Sabrina glanced up. “What’s been happening with you?”
“Big news. I found a house to rent, and I’m moving in on Saturday.”
“What!”
Viv told Sabrina all about Fred Shiner and his urgent need to find a tenant. “The house is gorgeous, if a little fussy with all his antique furniture. But it’s big and cheap and close to work, and the neighbourhood is great. You’ve been really generous, letting me stay here all this time and helping me to get over Kyle, but it’s time I moved on. I just wish I wasn’t leaving right when you and Rick have broken up.”
“Don’t worry about me. I don’t have anywhere near the emotional investment that you had with Kyle. But how did your date with Drew go on Saturday night?”
“It started well. I told him about my mother and how I’m having dinner with her tomorrow night, and Drew seemed so understanding. We were getting pretty cozy on the couch after dinner when he got a business call. Someone rescheduled a meeting from Monday to Sunday without telling Drew first.  He had to run to the airport to pick up the client. Otherwise, we might have ‒ you know.”
Sabrina put down the computer and belly-flopped onto the mattress beside Viv. “So, you have chemistry with Drew that you didn’t have with Josh?”
“For sure! But I have to admit that I felt a little sluttish leaving his apartment. An elderly lady in the hallway looked at me as if I had been making a booty call.”
“What’s wrong with that? We’ve all done it. By the way, I made those phone calls to check up on Drew. His dating history looks fine. He’s away on business a lot, but he still managed to hook up with three women in the past four years. The last one he dated for six months before they broke up. Things seemed pretty amiable on both sides.” 
“That’s good to hear.”
Sabrina grinned. “So, are you going to sleep with him?”
Viv hesitated. She normally didn’t get intimate with men she didn’t love, but Drew had a charisma that was hard to resist.
“I think so, but didn’t you say I was moving too fast?”
“Yes, but now that I’ve checked him out thoroughly, we know that you’re not wasting your time with him. If you want a husband and a family, Drew seems like a safe bet.”
“He is big on family. He’s flying out to Chicago this weekend to see his parents for Father’s Day.”
“If you find him attractive, I say go for it.”
Viv grinned. “Well, thank you for your blessing.”
“You’re welcome. Are you going to see each other this week?”
“I’m not sure, but he did tell me to call him tomorrow after I see Mother. He wants to know how our meeting goes.”
“Good. Are your ready for that, by the way?”
“As ready as I’m ever going to be.”
Sabrina frowned. “Don’t be too quick to write Véronique off. Remember, a woman doesn’t have the same opportunities to get ahead in this world that a man has. Sometimes you have to make compromises.”
“But you mom runs a bar, and she still managed to keep you around when you were a kid.”
“Sure. I knew how to pull a beer by the time I was eight. But remember, my mom didn’t have a choice. There was no one else to look after me after my dad died.”
Viv shook her head. “No, I’m not falling for that. My mom could have taken me to New York if she had wanted to.”
“Your dad would never have let you go.”
“Of course not, but she didn’t even try. She could have worked out a visitation schedule with him. I could have stayed with her in the summer and with Daddy during the school year.”
Sabrina shrugged. “I don’t know. There are always two sides to a story. Make sure you hear her out before you cut her out.”
Viv sighed. “That’s what everyone keeps telling me. Look, I promise to listen. I just don’t believe she has anything to say that will validate ignoring me for all those years.” Viv kept her eyes lowered as she traced the floral pattern in Sabrina’s duvet with her finger. “I just don’t.”
“Poor Viv,” Sabrina said, rubbing her friend’s shoulder.


When Viv swept through the double doors of the Castle Crest Hotel the following night, she was ready for battle. She looked cool and regal in her cream and gold dress with a silk shawl draped over her shoulders and her hair in a braided updo. She paused to look around the lobby. It was two stories high with Corinthian columns, a glittering crystal chandelier over the armchairs, potted ferns, and a tinkling marble fountain. Véronique was not waiting for her in one of the chairs, however, so where was she? Viv strode to the reception desk to find out.
The concierge glanced up at her. “Good evening, madam.”
“Good evening. I’m looking for Véronique Roux.”
“Would you care to have a seat? I’ll ring her room.”
But the elevator bell dinged, and Viv turned to look. A woman emerged. Slim ‒ not as tall as her white-columned dress would have her seem, but taller than Viv ‒ with black hair capping a fine-boned face and grey, doe eyes. She wore her trademark red shoes:  four-inch stilettos with snakeskin on the heel, toe, and ankle strap. Her eyes found Viv and lit up with pleasure.
“Viviane!”
“Mother.” Viv waited for Véronique to come to her. Which Véronique did like a model strutting down a runway.
“You look beautiful,” her mother said. She took Viv’s hands and kissed both cheeks. Viv caught the scent of white jasmine as she felt her mother’s cool skin against hers.
“You look well, Mother.” In fact, Véronique looked extraordinarily well, without a misplaced hair or a wrinkle on her youthful face. Viv had seen photographs of her mother over the years in magazines. A wrinkle would never mar the face of the creator of Rouge Shoes. On the other hand, there was a hint of her mother’s sixty-plus years at her jawline and throat.
“I’ve made a reservation for us in the Wedgwood Room. I thought it would be nice to stay in tonight.”
“That’s fine.”
“Good. It’s this way.” Véronique slipped a manicured hand through her daughter’s arm. Feeling that it would be churlish to pull away, Viv allowed it to remain. Her mother guided her across the lobby to a pair of opaque glass doors so perfectly balanced that they opened at the mere touch of her hand.
“Good evening,” the maître d’ said with a bow.
“Reservation for Roux,” her mother murmured.
The maître d’ checked his list and nodded.
“Follow me.” He led them to a table for two with comfortably-upholstered armchairs. Viv slipped into her seat and glanced around the room. It was painted Wedgwood blue with delicate china plates mounted decoratively on the walls. Sunlight slanted through the mullioned windows, creating a diamond pattern on the blue-and-green tiled floor. The maître d’ fussed with napkins and menus before retreating to his station.
“Such a feminine room,” Véronique said. She turned to her daughter. “It’s wonderful to see you again. Thank you for agreeing to come.”
Viv nodded and picked up her menu, glancing through it distractedly. She had imagined this encounter so many times without considering that there would be a meal to eat first.
Their waitress appeared and introduced herself. “May I get you something to drink?”
“I’ll have a Vodka Gimlet. Viviane?”
“I’ll have the same.” Viv didn’t care what she drank. The waitress nodded and disappeared.
“Tell me, dear, how is your father?”
Viv glanced up and saw real concern on her mother’s face.
“He’s fine. The angioplasty was preventative. He needs to rest for a couple of weeks and watch his diet.”
“That’s what Gabe said in his e-mail, but you know how your father is at making light of situations. It’s good to hear you confirm it.”
“You e-mailed Daddy after the angioplasty?”
“Of course. As soon as you told me it had happened. I’ve been concerned about his health since he started renovating houses. He’s not a young man anymore.”
“I know. That’s what I tell him.”
The waitress returned with their cocktails and asked if they were ready to order.
“I’ll have the pear and walnut salad, and the mushroom ravioli,” Véronique said.
Viv glanced down at the menu and chose the first items she saw. “I’ll have the gazpacho, and an eight ounce sirloin, please. Medium rare.”
“Excellent choices.” The waitress left.
Viv fiddled with the bread basket, choosing a multi-grain roll before offering the rest to her mother.
“No thank you. I never eat bread.”
Viv refrained from rolling her eyes as she dropped the basket on the table. She sawed her roll in half and slathered it with butter. “I never have to worry about carbs.”
Her mother smiled. “You’re blessed with my mother’s constitution. It kept her slender all her life, despite those heavy sauces she liked to cook.”
“I never met my grandparents.” Viv tore off a mouthful of bread and popped it into her mouth.
“No. They returned to France after Papa retired. They’re both gone now.”
Viv nodded, chewing. Another missed opportunity.
“Your father told me you had a major disappointment recently. I’m sorry that Kyle turned out to be a thoroughly unreliable young man.”
Viv opened her mouth to protest, but her mother’s assessment of Kyle was spot on. Funny, he had seemed so trustworthy and responsible when they were together. Up until the end, that is.
The waitress served them their appetizers, and Viv swallowed a spoonful of the cold soup without tasting it. Her mother tried her salad.
“So, how are you, Viviane?”
As if you care, Viv thought, the spoon halted mid-way to her mouth. It slipped from her fingers and fell into her bowl. Viv grimaced when a few drops of soup splashed onto the serving plate. She wanted to appear cool and deadly that evening, not gauche.
Taking a deep breath, she replied, “I’m fine. I’m dating again ‒ a businessman.”
“What kind of business is he in?”
“Executive recruitment.”
Her mother paused, one sculpted eyebrow raised, but returned to her salad without comment. Viv felt as if Drew had been slighted.
“He’s in information technology and energy,” Viv added. “Two very important sectors, you know.”
“Of course.”
Viv was not satisfied that her mother was sufficiently impressed, however, and began to feel perturbed. “How is your business doing?” she asked.
“Very well. After concentrating on the North American market for more than a decade, we’re making significant inroads into Europe. We even have a shop on Avenue Montaigne in Paris.”
Viv was impressed in spite of herself. She knew that some of the greatest fashion designers had shops on that street. She forced herself to say, “Congratulations. You must be very proud.”
Véronique smiled and reclined back against her chair. “Thank you. It took years of hard work, but the business has never been more successful.”
The waitress returned with their entrées. A steak, still sizzling, with an assortment of tiny roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables, was set before her. Viv severed a piece of meat with her knife and fork and ate it. Her mother cut a square of ravioli in half and speared it with her fork.
“Which brings me to one of the reasons I asked to see you tonight.” Véronique popped the pasta into her mouth and chewed before continuing. “I plan to retire in five years, and I would like you to take over Rouge Shoes.”
Viv’s mouth dropped open as she stared at Véronique.
“I want you to move to New York this summer to begin learning the business. In two years’ time, you should be sufficiently trained to handle the day-to-day operations. I will remain in an advisory position for another three years to assist you with the design decisions. Then I would be prepared to hand the business to you. I’m looking forward to retirement, although I haven’t decided where I’m going to live yet. Perhaps half of the year in New York ‒ I have so many friends there ‒ and half in Italy.” She paused, waiting for her daughter’s response.
Viv found her voice at last. “But, Mother, I’m a school teacher, not a business woman or a shoe designer.”
Véronique waved a dismissive hand. “Teaching a group of six-year-olds is hardly a profession, dear. It’s glorified baby-sitting. And after this break-up of yours, I’m sure you see the importance of having a real career to provide financial security. As for not being a business woman, neither was I, when I began. I learned as I went, and I can teach you. Having the design talent is more difficult, of course. I hope that you’ve inherited my artistic flair, but even if you haven’t, I can teach you to recognize it in others. There’s a talented young woman working with me right now who could do the designing, if you’re incapable.  We’ll just have to see how you do.”
Viv was insulted by her mother’s assessment of her profession, and got more and more riled as the speech continued. With great restraint, she placed her utensils on her plate and leaned toward Véronique.
“Mother, you can’t be serious. I already have a career, one that I love. Someday I hope to be blessed with a family, and then I’ll stay home to raise my children. That’s what I plan to do with my life. I don’t want to peddle shoes.”
“Peddle shoes!” Véronique hissed. Two pink patches appeared on her cheeks. “Rouge is so much more than that. It’s about a lifestyle of elegance and grace. I sacrificed everything for the success I have, Viviane, and now I’m handing it to you on a golden platter. Don’t be so foolish as to dismiss it so easily.”
“Yes, I know you sacrificed everything for your business, Mother.” The fire blazing within Viv had turned icy cold, and her face appeared taut and white. “You sacrificed Daddy and me for your success. I would never do the same to my children, and I would never accept the business that caused me so much unhappiness. I don’t want it, and I don’t want you. Never contact me again.”
She rose from the table to lean over her mother. “And I don’t like to be called ‘Viviane.’ It’s pretentious. My name is Viv. Goodnight.”
Véronique sat very straight and still, only her eyes betraying her anger. Viv strode triumphantly from the restaurant, thrilled that she would never have to see her mother again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Viv may not want to celebrate Mother's Day with a mother like Véronique. Has she really heard the last of her, or will Véronique give up that easily? 

This Wednesday,  I will be posting the final chapter in  The Dating Do-Over preview. Buy the e-book now at $2.99 for one third off the regular price. But hurry - the sale will be over on Thursday, May 14!

To buy the book, click on the "Contact Cathy" app at the top right of this post and leave your name, e-mail address, and a message saying you'd like to purchase The Dating Do-Over. I will e-mail back information on how to purchase the book with a coupon from Smashwords, where you can easily download it in the format of your choice.

If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new Cathy Spencer novel is released, just leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Happy Mother's Day!


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

"The Dating Do-Over" Serialization - Ch. 14

First, get caught up.
Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")  
Links to:  Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12, Chapter 13



Chapter 14


“Hey, Viv, I’ve got some good news,” Julie said in the lunch room on Monday. She had just heated up some chili in the microwave and sat down at the table beside Viv to eat it. Viv was taking a bite from her egg salad sandwich.
“What is it?” She looked up, licking mayonnaise from her lips.
“Do you remember me telling you about Fred Shiner, the University of Toronto ancient history professor I met last year?”
“The one with the cat with the funny name?”
“Constantine. Anyway, Fred’s going to Greece for a year on sabbatical. He’s leaving next week. The man who was supposed to be renting his house just backed out with some health problem or other, so Fred’s desperate for somebody to rent his house right away. It’s furnished very nicely, plus it’s only six blocks from school. You can walk it in ten minutes.”
Viv put down her sandwich. “What’s he asking for the rent?”
“Only a thousand a month, plus utilities.”
Viv’s eyes opened wide. That was amazingly low for a house rental.
“What’s the catch?”
“There’s no catch. Fred’s pretty finicky about who he rents to because he’s got a lot of antiques. You’d have to water his plants and take care of his cat. I hear that Constantine’s a little difficult to get along with, but he’s only a cat. I was over there once, and I didn’t even see him.”
“I can get along with a tarantula for a furnished house six blocks from school and only a thousand. Is it detached?”
“Yes.”
“Two-storey?”
“Two and a half.”
“When can I see it?”
“Tonight. I told Fred we’d come over after dinner. He’s very excited to meet you. I talked you up a bit.”
Viv smiled broadly. “Thanks, Julie. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity.”
“That’s all right. I owe you.” She looked across the table at a third grade teacher who was reading a novel and picking at her salad. The woman was notorious for spreading gossip. Julie leaned forward to whisper in Viv’s ear, “Because of Josh.”
“You don’t owe me for Josh. I enjoyed meeting him,” Viv said in a low voice. “It’s too bad he reminded me so much of my first boyfriend. The resemblance was uncanny. I just couldn’t warm up to Josh after what Justin did to me.” She faked a shiver of distaste.
“Well, if the chemistry isn’t right, there isn’t much you can do about it. As my Italian grandmother used to say, ‘You don’t visit a garden that has no flowers.’ Whatever that means. But Josh must have liked you a lot if he pretended to be coming onto me just to make you jealous.” She elbowed Viv. “It wasn’t very mature of him, but you must have felt good when you found out. That Josh liked you so much, I mean.”
“I did,” Viv said with a rueful smile. “Now, tell me more about the house.”


It was seven when Viv got off the subway at Broadview and walked the three blocks to Wolfrey Avenue. The house was not far from the corner. There were two towering apartment buildings across the street, but they had a lot of green space around them and didn’t make the residential neighbourhood feel crowded. The houses on Fred’s side of the street all seemed well looked after, too.
Fred’s house was a red brick with beige trim, plus a handsome bay window on the second floor. Viv studied the house from the sidewalk. The yard was enclosed by a low stone retaining wall, and had a flowerbed of tall grasses and perennials off to one side. A flagstone sidewalk led past a weeping pea to the wide front porch.
Viv rang the doorbell and waited.  The door was opened by a tall, slim man with stooped shoulders, a headful of grey hair, and a Van Dyck beard.
“You must be Viv,” he said. He had a bright, clear voice perfectly suited to reaching the back of a lecture hall.
“I am. And you must be Dr. Shiner.”
“Call me ‘Fred.’ Come in,” he said with a bow. His dark eyes swept her from head to toe as she stepped inside. The vestibule was painted a rich burgundy, while the hallway was papered in a blue-and-green peacock pattern. A white wooden staircase with a green runner rose from the front hallway to the second floor.
“Julie and Olivia are in the parlour.” He indicated the first room to the right with a sweep of his hand. Julie was seated on a red, Queen Anne-styled couch with a curved back, round arms, and slim feet. Olivia was dressing one of her dolls on an oriental rug of faded reds, blues, and greens.
“Hi, Viv,” Julie said. Olivia glanced up and smiled before returning to her doll.
“Please, sit anywhere you like,” Fred said.
Viv gazed around the cluttered room. In addition to the couch, there were two high-backed chairs in floral upholstery. Just beyond the chairs was a beautiful fireplace with a frame of white vines and flowers. A mirror mounted in a matching frame hung over the mantle. To the left of the fireplace was a stained-glass window of yellow flowers with green stems and a border of blue and yellow squares. Beneath the window sat a mahogany writing desk and a wooden chair with a petit point cushion. An overflowing bookcase filled an alcove in the back, while several round side tables bearing ferns, statuary, and knick-knacks were interspersed with the furniture.
 “Such a lovely room,” Viv said. What a lot of dusting, she thought. She joined Julie on the couch.
“I’m glad you like it,” Fred said. “I inherited the house from an aunt twenty-five years ago, and I’ve been adding to the decor ever since.” He seated himself in a wing chair and crossed his legs. “Julie tells me that you’re looking for accommodations?”
“That’s right. I’ve been staying with a friend for almost four months since the break-up of a long-term relationship. I didn’t want to remain alone in the old apartment. My friend has been very kind, but her condo really isn’t large enough for the two of us.”
“I quite understand. Better to start over again somewhere fresh. What about furnishings?”
“None of them were worth keeping. All I have are my clothes and a few personal items, mostly books and photographs.”
“That would suit me very well. As you can see, there isn’t room for additional furnishings. Tell me, how do you get along with cats?”
“Just fine. My boyfriend and I didn’t have pets ‒ our apartment was too cramped ‒ but I’ve babysat other people’s cats.”
“Viv looked after my orange tabby when I was in the hospital having Olivia,” Julie piped.
“Marmalade, wasn’t it?” Fred asked.
“That’s right. We lost her a year ago.”
“I’m so sorry. How terrible for you.” He looked down at Olivia, who was redressing her doll in a doctor’s scrubs and lab coat with a tiny stethoscope. “Although you do have the consolation of the child.”
“That’s right,” Julie said, hiding a smile.
Fred returned his attention to Viv. “Well, why don’t I take you on a tour of the house? I’m sure we’ll encounter my Siamese, Constantine, on one of the beds. He likes to take an after-dinner nap before his evening playtime.”
“That would be great,” Viv said. She jumped to her feet, eager to see the rest of the house. Fred showed her a casually-furnished office across the hall, a separate dining room with a large walnut table and a side board filled with china and crystal (“I do love to entertain”), and a kitchen. The kitchen was a disappointment. It was galley style with a stove and fridge that had seen better days, and cupboards painted a dingy blue. It did have a dishwasher, however, and a view of a fenced backyard with a flower garden and stone patio.
The house’s only bathroom was on the second floor, a four-piece with pink tile. There were three bedrooms, each with a queen-sized bed and handmade quilt. The master had the bay window Viv had spotted from the street, plus a flat screen TV, and a collection of DVDs in the bookcase beneath it. In the middle of the bed sat Constantine, cleaning his front paws. He had a dark face with almond-shaped blue eyes, a cream-coloured body, and chocolate-coloured legs and tail. He stopped cleaning himself to meow petulantly.
“Hello Constantine,” Fred said, sitting down on the bed and stroking the cat’s back. The sleek animal climbed onto his lap and purred as Fred scratched behind his ears. Viv followed Fred into the room; Julie and Olivia had stayed below.
“This is Viv. Can you say hello?”
“What a handsome animal,” Viv said. “He looks young. How old is he?”
“Just eighteen months. I’ve had him since he was a kitten.”
Viv offered her hand to the cat, who hissed and disappeared under the bed.
“Constantine is very attached to me, but he takes a little time to warm up to other people. I’m sure you and he will get along magnificently once he knows you. He’s such a loving, companionable animal.” From beneath the bed the cat protested, producing a meow that sounded like a baby’s cry.
“Yes, Constantine, I know you’re there. I’ll find your laser pointer in a little while. He loves chasing that,” Fred said. “Let me finish showing you the house.”
The third floor attic was devoted to storage (“I’ve never bothered with the attic . . . the house is too big for one person as it is”), and the basement was low-ceilinged, dark, and creepy, but contained a washer and dryer. Viv considered that a luxury after years of schlepping her stuff to a laundromat.
Leaving the house, Fred led the way to a detached garage at the rear of the garden. He unlocked the padlock on the garage door and levered it up to reveal a yellow, 1973 VW Beetle.
“Her name is ‘Daisy.’ She was my aunt’s car. I take her to the shop for check-ups, but I don’t drive her very often. You’re welcome to use her, if you like. I forgot to ask ‒ you do drive, don’t you?”
“I have a licence. I don’t drive much, living here in Toronto, but I appreciate the offer.” Fred nodded, shut the car back up in the garage, and returned to the house with Viv.
“What do you think? Could you see yourself living here?” he asked. They were back in the living room, where Fred was serving tea from a silver service and lemon poppy seed cake he had baked himself on china plates.
“I certainly could,” Viv said. “It’s a beautiful house, and so convenient to work.”
“I wouldn’t rent my house to just anyone, but Julie recommended you. She said that I could trust you to keep all my treasures safe and to take excellent care of Constantine. You understand that he must never be allowed outside. I couldn’t bear to think of him being hit by a car, or attacked by a dog.”
“Of course not. Cats should be kept indoors, where they’re safe.”
“Exactly. I have a manual here with Constantine’s routine and his vet’s phone number, as well as instructions on lighting the furnace, what to do if the water heater leaks, a maintenance plan for the indoor and outdoor plants, and my contact information in Greece. We’ve already discussed the rent and utilities. There’s a lease here, if you want to take the place. You could move in on Saturday.” He lifted a coil-ringed manual to expose the four-page lease.
“I would be delighted to look after your home and Constantine during your sabbatical,” Viv said. Rent cheques were produced, but Fred insisted they review the lease paragraph by paragraph before allowing Viv to sign. When she had, he handed her two keys on a pewter fob.
“Welcome to your new home,” he said with a smile.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Check back for Chapter 15 on Sunday, May 10.

The Dating Do-Over is available as an e-book for one-third off the price at $2.99.  But hurry - the sales price will be over when the preview chapters end on May 13. 

To buy the book, click on the "Contact Cathy" app at the top right of this post and leave your name, e-mail address, and a message saying you'd like to purchase The Dating Do-Over. I will e-mail back information on how to purchase the book with a coupon from Smashwords, where you can easily download it in the format of your choice.

If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new Cathy Spencer novel is released, just leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

"The Dating Do-Over" Serialization - Ch. 13

First, get caught up.
Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")  
Links to:  Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11, Chapter 12



Chapter 13

With Sabrina and Rick out of town for the weekend, Viv decided to get over her shame from the night before by doing her laundry and cleaning the condo. The place was sparkling by noon, and she left to take the streetcar to the house her father was renovating. It had poured rain all morning, but there was a break in the weather when she reached her stop, and she jogged the block to the house. It was spitting rain when she let herself in with the spare set of keys. She was pleased to see that Tom had covered the living room floor with a drop cloth. Rolling up the sleeves of the old shirt she was wearing, Viv got to work. She was bouncing her head in time to the music on her iPhone when a hand fell on her shoulder.
 “Aagh!” She jumped back, flailing her roller at her attacker. Tom held up his hands.
“Easy,” he shouted above the music in her ears. He gestured at the wall she was painting a lovely shade of Valley Mist.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded. Her heart was pounding in her chest. He mouthed something she couldn’t hear.
“Wait a minute.” Viv dropped the roller onto her paint tray and removed the ear buds.
“I said, horseback riding was a washout with all this rain, so I came to see how you were making out. What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m painting. What’s wrong? I taped the trim before I started, just like Daddy told me.”
“But you have to prime the walls first. You can’t just paint on top of drywall. And what are you doing with green paint?”
Viv turned to study the wall. The green was a little darker than it had looked on the colour card, but the lady at the paint counter had told her to expect that. It did look kind of blotchy, though.
She looked back at Tom. “How do you prime a wall? Daddy didn’t tell me to do that.”
“With primer. I left it here with the paint the store delivered. Didn’t you see it?”
She squatted down to study the labels on the tubs. She had just assumed that it was all paint. Spotting the primer, she sighed and straightened.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had to prime first. Have I ruined the wall? Should I put the primer on top of the paint?”
“No, too late for that.” Tom sighed and stepped up to the wall to study her work. “Just put another coat on top and hope it looks all right.” He turned to look at her with those piercing, pale blue eyes. “You ever painted before?”
Viv frowned. What was he implying, that she wasn’t doing it right?
“Actually, no.”
He nodded. “Let me show you.” He picked up one of the two poles from the floor beside the tubs and handed it to her. “Screw that onto your roller. How were you going to reach the upper part of the wall?”
“I was going to use a ladder.”
“Put some paint on your roller,” he said, nodding at her paint tray.
She dipped her roller into the puddle of paint and spun it back and forth on the tray to distribute it.
“Show me how you paint.”
Feeling foolish, Viv approached the wall. The extra length of pole felt awkward as she painted up and down, and painted over the strip again just to make sure.
Tom unfolded his arms from his chest and reached for the pole. “Not enough paint, Viv. Watch.” He rolled the brush back and forth in the green liquid, rolled it on the tray once, and lifted it. Stepping forward, he painted a “v” on a part of the wall that she hadn’t covered.
“You don’t have to paint in straight lines. Branch out a bit, like this.” He swiftly covered a large patch, stopping his roller a couple of inches from the top of the wall. “I’ll finish that with a brush. Don’t want to get paint on the ceiling. You keep working on this wall while I prime the others.”
Viv dipped her roller as Tom had shown her and tried to duplicate his work. They painted in silence, Viv finishing the rest of the wall in half the time it had taken her before. Even so, Tom had already finished priming the second wall and was onto the third by the time she looked up.
He must have sensed her eyes on his back. “How’d you get Gabe to go for green?”
She shrugged. “He wasn’t keen on anything but white at first, so I showed him some of the brochures with rooms decorated in themes. You know, ‘Traditional,’ ‘Modern,’ ‘Country.’ Valley Mist came from the ‘Casual’ style. I liked a different shade that was even brighter, so we compromised on this.”
Tom nodded and continued priming the wall. “I haven’t been able to talk him into anything but white before.” He turned to look at her. “I like it.”
Viv smiled and painted the second wall. When Tom had finished priming and repainted the wall she hadn’t primed, he painted the area where the walls met and took out a ladder to do the brush work next to the ceiling. By the time Viv finished with her roller, he was painting the last strip.
He climbed down the ladder to stand beside her. “What’d you get for the dining room?”
“White.” She grinned. “And white for the hallway and the bathroom. Although I did talk Daddy into using green again in the mudroom.”
“Let’s get at ’er.”
By six thirty, Viv was paint-spattered, sweaty, and stiff, but the first floor walls were painted. Tom showed her how to clean her roller in the sink, and they tidied up together before calling it a night. She noticed that he looked a lot cleaner than she did and didn’t seem half as tired. He must be in great shape, to do the hard labour that he did.
Tom waited for her at the front door. When they stepped out onto the porch, Viv saw that it had stopped raining and the sun was peeking through the yellow-grey clouds. She stretched and rotated her shoulders to ease their stiffness as Tom locked up.
“Come on, I’ll drive you home,” he said. His truck was parked out front on the street.
“Thanks. I’d hate to be seen on the streetcar like this.”
She followed him to the truck and waited for him to toss old receipts, a sawed-off piece of wood, the saw, and some crumpled food containers into the back seat.
“The truck gets a little messy during a project. Hop in.” He headed around the truck and climbed behind the steering wheel. “Where do you live?”
She gave him directions, and they pulled away with the windows rolled all the way down to let the wind blow through. Viv took her damp hair from its holder and shook it out to let the breeze dry it.
“You hungry?” Tom asked. “There’s a burger place in the next block with a drive-through. You don’t even have to get out of the truck.”
“I’m starving, and I don’t want to cook when I get home. Thanks.”
Ten minutes later, they were parked behind the restaurant with cheeseburgers, fries, and icy-cold colas. Viv tore open two pouches of ketchup for dipping her fries. Tom opened a couple of mustard pouches, poured his fries into his hamburger container, and dribbled mustard over them.
“That’s unusual.” She pointed at his food. “I’ve never seen anyone put mustard on fries before.”
“You ever try it?” She liked his slow drawl.
“No.”
He held out the container, and she sampled a fry. It was tangy with the mustard.
“Not bad,” she admitted. Tom nodded and shoved three fries into his mouth at once.
“But I still prefer ketchup.” She dipped a single potato daintily into her mound of sauce.
Tom finished eating much sooner than Viv. He leaned his head back on the head rest and closed his eyes. Viv studied his profile. It was a strong face with a straight nose and a square jaw. There was a little grey mixed among the black next to his sideburns, but none in the rest of his long hair.
“This was your day off, wasn’t it?” she asked.
“Yup.” His eyes were still closed.
“That’s pretty devoted of you.”
“I saw to some things around the farm first. I wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Checking up on me, you mean?”
One side of his mouth tilted up, and he looked at her without lifting his head. “You don’t seem like the kind of woman who’s had a lot of experience with house renos.”
She met his eyes for a second before taking a bite of her burger. “You’re right.” After chewing and swallowing, she added, “I’m curious. What kind of woman do I seem to you?”
His answer was immediate. “The kind who likes to help out her daddy so he won’t worry as much.”
She nodded, pleased. “And I did a good job with the painting, once you showed me how?”
“Not bad. You stuck with it longer than I thought you would.”
She tossed her napkin into the food container and squeezed it shut. “I’m not a quitter, Tom.”
He grunted.
“Plus, I’d like Daddy to see that he can renovate houses without doing as much of the work himself. So, any way that I can help out during this job, I’d like to. I can come over after school most days, and on the weekends. Just not Tuesday night. I’m having dinner with my mother then.”
Tom sat up and turned the key in the ignition before glancing at her. “You can help with some things, Viv, but on others, you’d only slow me down. The most important thing with a reno is to stay on schedule. If you can keep your dad on track with the decisions, I’ll take care of the rest, even if it means hiring extra help. Still, if you want to come over now and then, I guess there’s stuff I can find for you to do.”
Viv frowned. “You make me sound like one of my six-year-olds. Come on, I’m a quick learner, and, like I said, I’m no quitter. Give me a chance, Tom.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “If you think you’re up to it, Viv, I can teach you a few things.” He held out his right hand, and she smiled and shook it.
“Done.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Check back for Chapter 14 on Wednesday, May 6.

The Dating Do-Over is available as an e-book for one-third off the price at $2.99.  But hurry - the sales price will be over when the preview chapters end on May 13. 

To buy the book, click on the "Contact Cathy" app at the top right of this post and leave your name, e-mail address, and a message saying you'd like to purchase The Dating Do-Over. I will e-mail back information on how to purchase the book with a coupon from Smashwords, where you can easily download it in the format of your choice.

If you would like to receive an e-mail when a new Cathy Spencer novel is released, just leave your name and e-mail address with the "Contact Cathy" app to the right of this post.