The countdown is on! In one week from today you'll be able to kick back with your caffeinated beverage of choice and enjoy 'Latte Girl'!
If you're looking for something to sip on in the mean time, I've included the entire first chapter of the novel in this post to give you a taste of what you're in for, but before we get started with that, I have some important giveaway announcements to make!
Currently, there is a 500 Likes Challenge being run on the Katia Rose Facebook page. A ten dollar Amazon gift card is up for grabs. To enter, just like the page and comment on the giveaway post. When we hit the 500 likes mark, a winner will be drawn!
I'm launching a second giveaway on the Facebook page today as well, this one for another ten dollar Amazon gift card. All you need to do is like/comment, and BAM! You shall be entered!
So head on over to the Facebook Page to check those babies out!
And without further ado, here's the first chapter preview:
The Daily Grind
I wake up staring into the soulless blue eyes of a Barbie doll, floating two inches from my face.
“Wake up, Hailey!” a high-pitched child’s voice croons, as the doll is thrust even closer to the bridge of my nose.
A weight plops onto my blanket and a Ken doll appears next to the Barbie.
“Wake up, Hailey!” says the same child’s voice, this time dipping into a false baritone.
Ah, the joys of family life. Who needs an alarm clock when you live in the same house as a seven year-old?
I prop myself up on my elbows to stare down my sister, Amanda, who’s crouched next to the bed.
“And why,” I ask, my voice groggy with sleep, “are Leticia and Alonso waking me up so early?”
You have to hand it to my sister; she has an original taste in names.
“Because we’re hungry,” she says, using her Barbie voice again, “hungry for BLOOD!”
The dolls then start flinging themselves at various parts of my body while making chewing noises in what I assume is an attempt to devour my flesh.
My sister also has an original taste in the general behaviour of her toys.
The noise of the carnage doesn’t go unnoticed; a mass of grey fur catapults itself onto my stomach, crushing Leticia and Alonso and dragging a slimy tongue all over my face and neck in a much more convincing attempt at ripping the flesh from my body.
“NEMO! GET. OFF.”
I wrap my hands around our manic Shih Tzu and hold him up, Simba-style, in the air. He squirms for a moment and then goes limp, wagging his feathery tail and panting happily. I keep him suspended for a few more seconds and then place him down on the bed. He jumps off and bolts out of the room. Amanda follows him, whispering to her dolls, and I glance at the clock on my bedside table.
I groan and fall back on my pillow, but considering that I often have to get up at 4:15, this actually counts as sleeping in.
I stare up at the ceiling and can’t help but indulge in my usual morning fantasy: I wake up to the sound and smell of bacon frying in the kitchen. I don’t even have a clock in sight. Smiling into my pillow, I stretch out on the king-size mattress and open my eyes to sunlight streaming in through gauzy white curtains. Footsteps approach the bedroom door, and before I know it, I’m circled in the arms of a man whose face resembles a mash-up of Liam Hemsworth and Andrew Garfield.
I may or may not have combined their photos in a creepy online face morphing thing. The results may or may not have been beautiful enough to haunt my dreams ever since.
This as yet unnamed man— who is conveniently shirtless already— pulls me onto his chest as his mouth crashes against mine, one hand clenched around the nape of my neck, the other digging into the small of my back. He presses my hips into his so I can feel the need coursing through both our bodies as we start to rock against each other.
Then Nemo goes into a spastic barking fest and I’m reminded that there is no bacon cooking, no king-size bed, and certainly no warm arms wrapped around me as I lie here in my tiny childhood bedroom, barista uniform already laid out on a chair, and an alarm clock blinking beside me, waiting to go off.
I grab a sweater out of my closet and pull it over my pyjamas before heading into the kitchen. Amanda is already sitting at the round dining table we have tucked into a corner of the living room. I lean through the cut-out in the kitchen wall to speak to her.
“What will it be, Amanda Panda?”
She’s still holding onto her Barbie and raises it up towards me whispering, “Blooooood.”
I swear if I didn’t know my sister had a heart of gold to go along with her macabre imagination, I’d suspect her of being possessed.
“Scrambled eggs it is.”
I get started making enough eggs for both of us. Popping some bread in the toaster just before they’re ready, I finish up and bring our breakfast over to the table.
“Ready for school?” I ask Amanda, before biting into a piece of toast.
“Yes. I did all my math last night. I did all tomorrow’s math last night too.”
Amanda has a calculator brain and an affinity for science she shares with our mother, but the similarities stop there. She looks just like her father. Her dirty blonde hair and Roman nose that doesn’t quite fit her face yet are all Doug, The-Asshole-Who-Married-And-Subsequently-Divorced-My-Mom.
My mother must have some pretty pushover DNA because I don’t look anything like her, either. A five foot nine strawberry blonde to her five foot two brunette, I guess my features must come from my dad, The-Asshole-Who-Also-Married-And-Subsequently-Divorced-My-Mom. Though aside from one blurry photo of what had to be him I found when clearing out a closet, I’ve never seen my father.
The sound of the door opening snaps me out of my divorced parents/absent father/‘What do you mean I have daddy issues?’ reverie. Amanda shoves a final bite of eggs into her mouth and runs to wrap herself around our mom’s waist as she walks into the living room.
I’d say I have it rough working forty-five hour weeks, but my mom does sixty as an orderly at a health centre, and her schedule is even crazier than mine. She usually gets in just as I’m leaving.
Nemo comes flying out of thin air, leaping up higher than any dog with legs the size and shape of pompoms should be capable of. Mom takes him in her arms and starts crooning things like ‘my sweet fluffy little floof boy’ while he licks the entire surface of her face.
I make gagging noises as I gather up the breakfast plates.
“Oh Hailey,” she sighs, disentangling herself from both the dog and her younger daughter, “when will you and Nemo learn to get along?”
“When Nemo learns the definition of consent. I don’t appreciate having my face licked when I don’t want to have my face licked.”
“You never want to have your face licked,” Mom counters as she takes a seat at the table, rubbing her eyes.
“Correct,” I inform her. “It’s disgusting.”
Mom just shakes her head and gives Nemo a pat.
After finishing the dishes, I jump in the shower and then throw on my uniform in all its black pants/white shirt/grandma loafer shoe glory before twisting my still damp hair into a bun. After wearing it the same way day in and day out, I’m surprised my hair doesn’t just retain the shape of a conservative, cafe-appropriate chignon.
Amanda is already waiting at the door in her boots and coat, holding her Einstein backpack. I think the cartoon of a white haired man in a lab coat is just meant to be a generic mad scientist, but she insists it’s a depiction of her hero.
Mom is still sitting at the table in her scrubs. I bend down to give her a one-armed hug before walking Amanda to the bus stop down the street.
“Okay Amanda Panda, you ready to have a good day?” I ask as we approach the stop, where a few other kids are already standing.
“Yes!” she shouts, and is about to bolt down the street, but I wrap my arms around her and hold her back. We struggle for a bit on the sidewalk, laughing as we teeter back and forth. I drop my arms and she takes off towards the bus stop, backpack bouncing behind her, and turns to wave a quick goodbye before chatting with the other kids.
I head off to my own bus stop. My faithful friend and fellow subject to the daily grind, the 106, pulls up and I get onboard, eyes already searching for what I know I won’t find: an empty seat.
Squaring my feet in the aisle and grabbing onto the rail overhead, I spend the twenty minute ride indulging in a continuation of my morning fantasy.
After a round beneath the sheets that has me bracing my hands against the wall as I beg for more, the Hemsworth/Garfield mash up rests himself on my chest. His heaving breaths are hot against my neck as I place my chin on top of his head, letting out one of those exhilarated post-sex sighs.
I spend as much time imagining those calm after the storm moments as I do the actual storm, but that’s always been one of my favourite parts of sex: the after. The goose bumps raised by cool air hitting skin slick with sweat. The stillness of limbs tangled and heavy with happiness. The feel of fingertips tracing trails across two bodies that were just one and aren’t quite ready to break apart yet.
We lie curled together until our runaway heartbeats slow down, and then fantasy man kisses me one last time before going off to do whatever it is he does for a living.
I mean, this is a fantasy. I don’t have to flesh out much besides his flesh.
After he leaves, I sit up and stretch, wrapping the sheet around me as I step bare-footed into the kitchen. A plate of bacon and eggs is waiting for me, tasting like heaven. Maybe fantasy man is a cook. I finish my breakfast and then I take the seven step commute to my home office and sit down to write.
That’s what I want to do. I’m saving up for a degree mom’s insisting it would be illogical for me not to pursue, but if I could put all the money I’ve made into starting up a blogging career without breaking her heart, I would.
Working at a cafe didn’t always fill me with dread. For the most part, cafes are my favourite places to be. I love the way the air is always so warm and thick it feels like sinking into a worn-in leather armchair. I love the clinking of mugs on saucers and the muffled, bee-buzzing voices of couples on dates and friends catching up on each other’s lives. In my fantasy world, I spend my days reviewing local coffee spots and travelling to other cities, giving readers cafe recommendations and tips about the area I’m visiting.
Maybe if the cafe that hired me was just six blocks down the road, on the edge of the arts district, things would have been different. Instead, I started working at Dark Brown Coffee Co, smack dab in the middle of the business sector.
The bus pulls up to my stop. The buildings that line the street are all slate grey with tinted black windows, and so tall that the road is always in shadow, like a perpetual storm cloud hangs over 19th Street. I walk the few steps to Dark Brown. The oh-so-original business owners clearly thought long and hard about a catchy and relevant name for their java-distributing venture.
Astute observation, guys. Coffee is indeed dark brown.
I’ve been slaving away at the place for almost two years. We’re morbidly understaffed and the shifts are long, sweaty affairs spent running around and pouring coffee for the same hundred or so customers who come in every day, at the exact same times, to order the exact same things.
There are no worn-in leather arm chair vibes here, just sour faced people trying to buy enough espresso shots to get them through to five o’clock. I’d look for something better, but the hours mean I get to be home for Amanda when she gets back from school, and since this part of town is all but deserted on weekends, I can be around to take care of her then too.
I step inside and an inevitable “Oh shit” leaves my mouth.
The shop is in chaos.
Customers fill almost every square inch of the room, crowding around the cash, where Trisha, a new hire who really shouldn’t be handling the register on her own yet, is being buried alive under a growing string of receipts as she punches manically at the screen.
One of my co-workers, Brittney, is trying to simultaneously stock both the napkin dispensers and cutlery bins. I walk over and ask what’s going on. She doesn’t even glance up at me at as she throws forks into the bin at turbo speed while ripping open a napkin package with her teeth.
“Giselle what?” I ask, and she snaps her head towards me to fix me with a glazed stare.
“Giselle. Did not come in. So busy. You have to cater.”
Her head snaps back to the cutlery.
“I’m catering? What do you mean?”
I’m already pulling off my jacket and digging my apron out of my bag. Britney stacks the napkin and cutlery boxes in her arms and zooms back towards the storage room.
“NO TIME!” she shouts over her shoulder.
I head into the kitchen where Lisa, the baker and shift supervisor, is glazing cinnamon rolls that should have been on the shelves an hour ago. Like Brittney, she doesn’t look up from what she’s doing when I ask her how I can help.
“Giselle called in sick this morning, and the Dark Brown ship is sinking, Hailey. I’m going to need you to cover the Knox meeting at nine.”
Dark Brown provides catering services for a few nearby businesses, most often at the Knox Security Company building next door. Giselle is the catering manager, although manager is a bit of an overstatement, seeing as she’s the only person on the catering team.
“I mean, I’ll help with whatever you need me for, but I’ve never catered. I have no idea what to do,” I tell Lisa, as she starts moving the buns onto a serving tray.
“Frankly, neither do I,” she answers. “You’ll just have to wing it. I’ll get everything packed up for you. I’m sure there’ll be someone there who can at least tell you what Giselle usually does.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” I hold the kitchen door open for Lisa as she carries the tray of buns out.
“Oh and Hailey,” she adds as she passes me, “could you get the cash under control before you go? I’m afraid the new girl will quit if we leave her stranded there any longer.”
I spend the next twenty minutes manning the register and by the time I’m ready to head to the meeting, things have started to slow down. The store is still a mess, but the line has thinned out and only a handful of people are standing around waiting for their orders.
“Are you okay to take over for me now?” I ask Trisha, as she sets a freshly poured latte down on a plate.
She eyes the cash register like it’s a torture device. I think back on how overwhelming my first few weeks here were and decide to give her some encouragement. “You did really well this morning. Even I would have been in over my head, and I’ve been here for two years. The rush is just about over anyways, and things will be dead for the next hour or so.”
She flashes me a weak smile and nods.
I head back into the kitchen to find Lisa tucking the last few items into the Catering Mobile, a wheeled flight attendant-style cart that I’m sure no one but me refers to as the ‘Catering Mobile.’
“Oh good,” Lisa says when she spots me. “Everything is ready. Just head out the back door and go in through the Knox rear exit. Fifth floor, suite 105.”
I wheel the heavy Catering Mobile through the back door and down the delivery ramp. Steering proves to be a bit tricky. While carts like this might be fine for the aisle of an airplane, moving in anything other than a straight line is a challenge; large rectangles on wheels do not handle corners very well.
I make it into the Knox building without any mishaps and find myself in a giant lobby, complete with glossy black marble walls, a gurgling water fountain housed in a pool the size of my living room, and a huge, gold-plated Knox Security sign looming over the reception desk.
I feel myself shrinking up at the sight of it all, trying to become as small and unnoticeable as possible.
I spot the elevators on the other side of the fountain and start to wheel my way over, shoulders hunched, eyes glued to the floor. The room is silent and empty except for a handful of people hurrying across the floor and the two receptionists glued to computer screens at their desk. Every step I take echoes. I angle the cart around the edge of the pool, but I cut the corner too tight and I end up having to lift the back end up to make it around.
As I’m lifting, one of the drawers slides open and several dozen spoons clatter onto the floor. I wince as the sound reverberates around the room.
I’m on my hands and knees, crawling around to pick up the scattered utensils, when I hear footsteps approaching the elevators. They stop directly in front of me and a man’s voice, edged with amusement, asks, “Is this yours?”
I look up. The second I do, I let out one of those wide-eyed, round-mouthed, eyebrows-arching-up-to-my-hairline kind of gasps that can’t be interpreted as meaning anything other than, ‘You’re so attractive I feel like I just got hit by a train.’
I know what fantasy man does for a living now. He’s not a cook. He’s a six foot tall business man with tousled, chestnut hair falling into his eyes, wearing an Italian suit as finely cut as his jaw line.
He’s standing right in front of me, holding out a spoon.
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