We’re just over a week away from PUBLICATION DAY! I’m nervous but excited! This book has been a looonnng time in the making, and as hard as it is to walk away from, I’m about to do just that. Okay, maybe not this very second…but soon!
Enjoy this small glimpse of Olivia Chandler and Bruce Bellamy navigating their way to friendship…and more.
Add In The Best Interest of the Child to your Goodreads TBR!
*Unedited and subject to revisions.
Having arrived fifteen minutes early, Olivia took a few minutes to visit the ladies’ room to check her hair and makeup, and wash her hands. She was glad no one else was around because every time she glanced at her reflection in the mirror, she couldn’t stop herself from grinning. “Get a hold of yourself, Olivia Louise! It’s just lunch with a man. You’ve done this more times than you can count.” Exhaling slowly, Olivia hung her head. Yes, lunch with a man who seems to like me. Lunch with a man that I actually like even though I just met him. Olivia groaned and leaned against the sink. She should never have agreed to this. Bruce seemed like a decent man. He didn’t need to be getting involved in the dark pit that was her life. But even if she walked out the restaurant right now, Bruce would not disappear. Courtney and Marissa were his family, and he was very much involved in Rena’s life. The silly grin returned to her face. Honestly, she didn’t want him to disappear. They may never do more than have lunch, but Olivia wanted it badly. She wanted to be normal and have a life without her past hanging over her like the Sword of Damocles. Steadying herself with a couple of deep breaths, Olivia decided to stop hiding in the ladies’ room and talking to herself like a crazy person. She grabbed her handbag and went in search of her lunch date.
Approaching the hostess stand, Olivia gave her Bruce’s name.
“Yes, Ma’am. He’s already here.” Laughing, Olivia shook her head slowly.
“That man. Of course he is.” The hostess smiled but looked confused, not understanding the joke. Olivia waved her hand. “It’s nothing. Lead the way.”
Olivia tried to spot Bruce as they approached the main dining room, but was caught off guard when the young hostess turned right and proceeded down a short hallway. No stranger to the Black Dragon, Olivia knew there were formal banquet rooms in the opposite direction, but she’d never been down this hallway. The hostess stopped in front of a small elevator. “I never realized the restaurant had an elevator. I thought it was a single story building.” Connie nodded.
“You’re right, it is.”
“Then where does this lead? You have a basement?” Covering her mouth to hide her giggles, Connie nodded.
“We do, but trust me, you do not want to go down there. This elevator goes up to the mezzanine.” The elevator doors opened as she finished speaking, and both women stepped inside.
“Well, I didn’t know you had one of those either!”
“Not many people do. The owners don’t advertise it much. It’s usually for special guests or customers who request a more…intimate setting.” Olivia’s eyes quickly widened. Connie gave her a knowing grin.
Intimate setting? She had no more time to process the moment. The doors opened. Connie took a step outside the elevator and motioned to the left.
“Your date is right over there.”
“Date? But this isn’t a da-…” Connie quickly stepped back into the elevator, leaving Olivia with a wink as the doors closed.
“What am I going to do with this man?” Olivia again thought chuckling to herself. She only had to take three steps before she spotted Bruce. Olivia froze as her eyes widened and mouth gaped open.
Rising from the table, Bruce walked towards her. Olivia still had not moved, too shocked at his appearance. Gone were the weather-beaten jeans and worn Henley shirt. The thick heavy work boots? Gone too. The Bruce Bellamy standing before her was elegantly attired in a charcoal grey, two-piece Brooks Brothers suit and grey Sardegna Loafers. And he’d had his hair cut. He leaned in and kissed her cheek.
“Good to see you again, Olivia.” He glanced at his watch. “And right on time. Why am I not surprised?” Olivia still stared at him, wide-eyed. Bruce frowned. “Olivia? Is something wrong?” Taking a deep breath, she finally found her voice.
“Who are you? And what’s all”, she motioned up and down his body, “…this?” His big boyish grin returned as he took her hand and led her to their table.
“I’m a successful businessman having lunch with a gorgeous, successful attorney in one of the city’s finer restaurants. I couldn’t very well show up in jeans and boots, could I?”
“And besides, I had to show you I could dress myself and behave appropriately in public.” Olivia threw her hands up, laughing.
“There you are, Bruce! How nice to see you again!” Filling their wine glasses, Bruce stopped mid-pour to keep from spilling it the laughter hit him so hard. Laughing along with him, Olivia visibly relaxed and placed her hand on his arm.
“And just so we’re clear, Mr. Bellamy, I like you in jeans and work boots too.” The smile he gave Olivia nearly took her breath away. Suddenly self-conscious, Olivia placed her hands in her lap. Bruce didn’t miss the gesture, but continued pouring the wine while changing the subject.
“Would you like to look at the menu, or do you already know what you want?
“No menu needed! I definitely know what I’m having!” He chuckled as he handed her a glass of wine, then signaled for the waiter.
“I had a feeling.” Olivia smirked.
“Think you have me figured out already, Bellamy?”
“Not even close, beautiful one. But I do look forward to the adventure.” She grinned at the compliment and the comment.
“Oooo! I’m an adventure!” Bruce couldn’t help but stare at her face. The way her eyes sparkled, the genuineness of her smile. She was the same woman he met in his cousin’s driveway, but there was no sign of the sadness he saw in her eyes that day. Bruce had long ago made peace with his own issues of abandonment, but Olivia was the first woman to actually make him want to risk his heart again. Bruce was getting lost in Olivia Chandler, and he had no problem with that.
Get ready to 1-click on September 17th!!