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Blind DatesFour Stories of Hearts United with a Little Help from Grandma
By Kristin Billerbeck Colleen Coble Denise Hunter Bev Huston
BARBOUR PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2003 Denise Hunter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI'd better have a message," Chelsea muttered to herself as she slammed the apartment door shut. She stormed over to the answering machine, flinging the doggie bag from the restaurant on the countertop. The red light was blinking.
"Okay, maybe the man has an excuse." She jabbed the button.
"Hi, Chelsea-it's Callie. Just calling to see how the big date went. I'll call again tomorrow since you'll probably be out late. I want all the details."
The machine whirred as it rewound the tape. Her cousin's message was the only one.
"I knew it. He is a chump." What had Gram been thinking? For that matter, what had she been thinking?
Chelsea dropped her handbag on the counter. She paced back and forth in the room, the narrow skirt of her only nice dress demanding a small stride. She knew she shouldn't have agreed to another blind date. Why did she ever let Gram talk her into it?
If anyone should know better it was Chelsea. Her three experiences with blind dates had been flops. First there was Ervin. The name pretty much said it all. Then there was Jonathan, the big brute with more hands than a Swiss clock factory. And the last blind date, four months ago, was a real disappointment. Lewis was the perfect gentleman. He brought flowers, opened her door, and amused her with his wonderful sense of humor over dinner. It was the ideal date. Or so she'd thought. He'd promised to call her the next day, and she was still waiting.
No, after that, she promised herself she wouldn't agree to another blind date as long as she breathed. Then Gram got hold of her. "Kyle's perfect for you, Chelsea. Such a nice young man. He owns the company that replaced the windows on the old farmhouse. Hard-working and a true gentleman. Trust your old Gram."
Chelsea wavered. Christmas loomed ahead, and she dreaded the thought of another one spent alone. It would be nice to share it with someone special.
Despite her reservations, Chelsea finally told her grandmother she could give Kyle her phone number. Gram then fished a business card from her phone book drawer and handed it to Chelsea.
"It's Kyle's business card-did I mention he owns his own business? Anyway, it has his phone number."
"I'm not going to need this." She tried to return the card, but Gram put her hands up.
"Just keep it, Dear. You never know."
Between her mom's encouragement and Gram's insistence, she hadn't had a chance. Right now she wasn't sure whom she'd like to get her hands on the most, Gram or Kyle.
Chelsea rolled out of bed and pulled on her favorite gray shorts. A glance at the digital clock told her she'd slept later than usual. But that shouldn't surprise her given the way she'd tossed and turned in bed until nearly 1:30 A.M. Agitation was not conducive to a restful state. If she didn't have to teach those morning classes, she'd gladly stay in bed for another two hours.
She pulled her long brown hair into a sloppy ponytail, grabbed her keys, and shut her apartment door, sighing as the door trim slid to a cockeyed angle. "This place is falling apart."
As usual, she started with a brisk walk then worked her way up to a good jog. Two blocks into her run, she saw that the English Tudor home on the corner already sported its Christmas lights.
Chelsea quickened her pace. She knew she'd better jog an extra two miles to work off those raspberry truffle brownies she'd binged on the night before. Not to mention the veal meat loaf she'd eaten. Her face grew warm with anger as she recalled the evening.
What a picture she must have made at Les Saisons, dressed in her fancy black dress, her hair coifed in an elegant French twist. It wouldn't have been so bad if she hadn't told the host a guest would be joining her. Oh, but she had, and all evening she had to sit and look at that untouched place setting, complete with eight pieces of sparkling flatware and a fan-shaped napkin.
For the first fifteen minutes or so, she thought the man was running late. She ordered a diet soda and placed the stiff napkin in her lap. After thirty minutes, then forty, she desired nothing more than to slip out the door of the restaurant. But she had to pay for her soda, and she was too humiliated to leave without ordering. The waiter knew. Everyone in the restaurant seemed to know.
She'd been stood up.
After an hour of waiting she'd decided to order. That's when she saw the prices. Veal meat loaf was the least expensive entree at $17.95. Add the soda and tip to that, and she'd be brown-bagging her lunches for the next month.
She quickened her pace, clenching her fists. "I felt so-so rejected. And I hate feeling rejected." He'd called her and asked her out. He'd picked the fancy restaurant. He'd even chosen the time. And then he left her waiting in a restaurant full of lovey-dovey couples, with a waiter who had nothing better to do than hover around her table saying, "Would you like to order, Miss, or continue to wait?"
As if she didn't have anything better to do than wait around for a date who didn't show. Two hours she sat there. And that didn't include the hour it took to get ready. And the humiliation. That was the worst of it.
The longer she jogged, the more upset she became. By the time she returned to her apartment, her heart was thudding with emotion. Gram had misjudged the man. In fact, she'd like to give him an earful. She tossed her keys on the table and headed for the shower.
And that's when she remembered.
Chelsea strode into her bedroom and rummaged through her hamper for the jeans she'd worn to Grams the week before. Finally she stood, her fists clutching the denim material. She stabbed a hand into the pants pocket and was rewarded with the business card. "Aha. Thought you were going to get away with it, did you?" She reached for the bedroom extension and held the card up to read the number. "'Morgan's Home Improvement.' Figures." Everyone knew home-improvement operations were tip-offs. "The guy's probably a con artist." Her eyes darted to the bottom of the card. "His E-mail address."
She dropped the receiver in the cradle and walked to the kitchen, where her computer occupied one end of the table. After turning it on, she grabbed a glass of water and planned what she would say. By the time the computer finished booting up, she was steaming.
Chelsea typed in his address. "Subject ... hmm." She left it blank. Now for the rest.
"Dear Mr. No-Show,
"Did it give you great pleasure to stand me up last night? Was that the highlight of your week? Is this something you do every so often just for kicks? If so, let me tell you, in case you didn't know, that you are an inconsiderate, arrogant, insensitive clod."
Chelsea clicked Send and sat back, wondering why she didn't feel as satisfied as she thought she would. Her gaze collided with the blinking red fight of her answering machine across the room. "Okay-let's hear it, dear cousin." She went over and pushed the play button.
"Hi, Chelsea, this is Kyle Morgan." Chelsea stood stock-still at the haggard-sounding voice. "Listen-I apologize for last night. There was an emergency in the family. My grandfather had a heart attack."
Chelsea's gaze darted to the computer screen. She stared at it helplessly. The message had already been sent. "No, no, no."
"... about seven A.M., and I'm just getting in from the hospital. I would like to set this up again at a later date. You seem like a nice person. I'll, uh, give you a call once things settle down here. Again, I'm really sorry." Click.
Chelsea dropped her face in her hands and groaned. "What have I done?"
The phone trilled. What if it's him? Maybe I shouldn't answer it. It rang again. No, he just got in; he'll be sleeping. Chelsea lifted the extension and murmured a tentative hello.
"Good morning," a chipper voice said.
"Hi, Dear. I'm sorry your evening was spoiled. Isn't that awful about Kyle's grandfather?"
"Yes, I just got a message from him."
"His grandfather lived here in Heavenly Village, you know. Apparently he and Kyle were very close."
Lived? Were? "Were?"
"You didn't know his grandfather passed on?"
Chelsea covered her mouth to smother a groan.
"That's what Helen Brubaker said, and apparently the woman is in the know."
Please, God, tell me this isn't happening. The only decent guy left on planet Earth, and I've-
"You'll have to set up another date with Kyle. I was so impressed with him when he did my windows. The two of you deserve each other."
I deserve something all right-
"Chelsea, are you there?"
"Uh-huh." No way was she going to tell Gram what she'd done. She hoped she wouldn't be seeing Kyle anymore-
"You sure are being awfully quiet."
"I'm thinking about poor Kyle." She had to get off. "Hey, I need to run. My classes start in an hour."
"All right-see you in church tomorrow."
After muttering good-bye, Chelsea dropped her face in her hands. "How low could I be? I sent an awful E-mail to a man who just lost his grandfather."
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry-
"I know. I know."
Maybe she could e-mail him back real quick and explain the misunderstanding. If he received the two messages consecutively, he wouldn't have time to be mad. Maybe he'd even get a chuckle out of it. Chelsea clicked on "sent mail" and reread her message.
Her hopes dwindled. Who was she kidding? She'd been brutal. Even if he did forgive her, there was no way he'd ever want to go out with her now. He probably thought she was a shrew. She knew she'd sounded that way.
Classes went well that afternoon. One of her students, Leslie, was a gifted gymnast. She had enough difficulty in her routines for Elite competition but needed to work on her form. Leslie's parents shelled out good money for one-on-one coaching three days a week. Chelsea's own parents had put out good money for her classes. She had fond memories of competing in high school.
As much as she enjoyed teaching, time had dragged all afternoon. She was eager to go home and check her E-mail. She hoped and prayed she would have no messages.
It was the first thing she did when she arrived back at her apartment. Her computer seemed to take forever to boot up, ancient relic that it was. Finally she was on-fine and checking for messages. She had none. "Phew."
On the other hand, he was not likely to be fiddling around on his computer the day of his grandfather's death. Her spirits sank. He may not get her message for days.
Sunday came and went, with no message from Kyle. At church Chelsea had avoided the subject with her cousins altogether.
On Monday Chelsea attended her accounting course in the morning then worked on her computer at home. During the school year she didn't teach until the afternoon, since her students were in school. When she'd moved out on her own three years ago, she'd taken over the payroll and accounting for the academy in order to supplement her income. Fortunately her boss had provided her a computer so she could work from her apartment. At first she was intimidated by the whole financial end of the business, but once she learned how to do it she found she had a knack for it.
Her flexible schedule also allowed her to take courses from the Heaven School of Business. Her dream of buying the gymnastics academy was becoming more possible all the time.
After finishing her work Chelsea checked her E-mail. She twiddled her thumbs while the computer scanned for new messages. There it was. She held her breath and double-clicked on his name. The computer retrieved the post-too slowly, she thought.
"Obviously you had not received my phone message."
Chelsea winced. The words themselves didn't sound particularly angry and didn't even end with an exclamation point to drive home his message. They weren't sarcastic or spiteful. She reread the message. No, it wasn't the tone that made her cringe; it was the brevity. There was no "Dear Chelsea" or even a signature. And certainly not a request for that make-up date.
He was angry. Not that she could blame him, but some part of her would have felt better if he'd let her have it-called her a few names or told her off. Anything but this brief, E-mail version of stony silence. The fact that he'd responded in such a calm, unspiteful manner proved the man was a decent guy. A very angry, decent guy.
"I really blew it this time, didn't I, God? When am I going to learn to think before I act?" she wondered aloud. "Now what should I do?" She could e-mail him back and apologize-she knew she owed him that.
Or she could ignore the whole thing. He probably wouldn't be seeing Gram anymore. And it wasn't as if there could ever be anything between them now.
A knock on the door interrupted her inner debate. Chelsea opened it and found her landlord, Mr. O'Donnell, standing there. He was the only man she knew who stood eye-to-eye with her own five-foot, three-inch frame.
"Mr. O'Donnell, come in."
"No, no, Lassie. No time for a visit today. I'm for having some good news." He waved an envelope in the air. "The settlement check has come in the mail. I'm telling all my tenants this place is going to be fixed up soon. No more peeling paint and drafty windows. Next week the improvements begin, and these buildings will be as pretty as a new penny."
"That's wonderful news, Mr. O'Donnell."
"Indeed, 'tis. Now it may be a wee bit troublesome for several weeks, with the noise and that, but what a fine place to live it will be. And I'll tell you another thing: I'll not be for raising the rent. That is the very least I can do after you have all been so patient with me about the repairs. Now I must go tell my news to the others. Have a wonderful day, Lassie."
Chelsea shut the door, wearing a smile. She hadn't seen Mr. O'Donnell so happy since before his wife passed away. Now that the lawsuit was settled, maybe he could begin to recover from her death.
Chapter TwoKyle shuffled through the papers on his desk, searching for a particular work order. Business was slowing down, but he could always find something to do. He liked working after hours when the phone was quiet and the showroom was dark.
A tap on the storefront glass startled him. His mom peeped through the glass with her hands cupped around her eyes. Kyle rolled his chair out from under the desk and went to let her in.
"Hi, what are you doing here?"
She smiled. "Now that's a fine greeting for your dear mom. Besides, that's what I should be asking you.
Excerpted from Blind Dates by Kristin Billerbeck Colleen Coble Denise Hunter Bev Huston Copyright © 2003 by Denise Hunter
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a good romantic Novella. I liked many aspects of these 4 stories. 1)I liked the beginning Prologue, which set the tone and theme of all four stories; of a Grandma who sets out to find a mate for each of her 4 granddaughters. 2) I liked how each author had different yet good message on the plan of God and how even with our best laid plans, we need to leave the final outcome up to the One who knows best. 3) Yes the outcomes in each of these stories is one you will instantly know, but it sure is fun watching how it all comes out and since I love a good romance, these stories fit my idea of a good story. 4) In most novellas there might be one or two stories that aren¿t as good, but in this Novella, I enjoyed each story equally and would have a hard time picking which one I liked best. I just thought this was a Novella well worth your reading, especially if you are a romantic at heart. In story one you will see the need to not be too hasty in reacting to a blind date that doesn¿t show up. Chelsea sends the blind date a rather hurtful e-mail telling her blind date what she thinks of him, finds out that the nice guy fixing up her apartment building was the blind date. It gets interesting from there on out. In story two Grandma tries to get her successful interior designer, Callie, hooked up with a architect. In story three Melissa finds herself trying to drive off her latest blind date when she realizes that he wasn¿t really a blind date, but just the new youth pastor coming to call. Story four is about Matttie who is set up by Grandma to renew a relationship with Jeff, ¿the one who got away¿ years ago.
I bought this book in passing. The description on the back looked interesting. I was expecting HORROR stories of blind dating but turned into 4 good success stories of blind dating! I was constantly engrossed!