Grace Anderson sat at the bar in Luna, staring into her glass of chardonnay. Forty-five minutes. That was how long she had been sitting there. And she had texted her date to let him know she was running about fifteen minutes late. Her editor wanted to go over a few things on her latest manuscript. Todd, her date, never responded. That tended to be typical. And it was getting to the point that standing her up was becoming typical as well. She sighed.
She glanced up and smiled wanly when she saw Sam standing beside her.
“Hey Sam. What brings you here?”
“Crazy guest thought he was a rock star and trashed his room,” Sam shrugged. “What are you doing here?”
“Being stood up, apparently.”
Sam winced in sympathy. “Any man who would stand up a beautiful woman like you isn’t worthy of the title, Gracie.”
“Well, then what should I call the guy who’s stood me up three times now?”
Grace caught Sam’s wince at that news and wanted to wince herself. How pathetic was her situation? But in usual Sam style, he did his best to make her feel better.
“Stupid comes to mind,” he answered her. “Idiot, brainless, chucklehead.”
She laughed. “Chucklehead?”
Grace liked that one. She wondered idly if she could use it in her book. Maybe to describe her hero. That character was shaping into something less than inspired. Calling her protagonist names was better than cursing him out. With how slowly this latest story was developing, she felt close to doing just that, despite remembering the awful taste the soap her mom and aunts kept to wash their mouths out as children.
Sam’s next words drew her out of her morose thoughts. “Or we could go with asinine, fatuous, or injudicious, if you want to be a bit more highbrow.”
“Hmm,” Grace pretended to think. “How about vacuous or cretinous?”
“I like cretinous,” Sam told her with a grin.
“It’s about time I put my writing skills to good use,” Grace told him.
“Mad writing skills, Gracie,” Sam corrected. “I just finished your last book. Wickedly good story.”
“Thanks, Sam. Well, I suppose I should stop moping around here and head home.”
“I’ll walk you,” Sam offered as she stood.
As they turned to leave Luna, someone nearly plowed into them. Sam apologized while Grace stood there, staring stupidly as electricity shot through her just being near the man. His sandy brown hair was slightly mussed and just a touch long, but it suited his angular, almost austere face. A couple inches shy of six feet, he was not overly tall and looked to be in good shape. Then he met their gazes with his own, intense sapphire blue eyes. Grace gasped.
The man blinked, as if he had been deep in thought. He looked down at Grace and blinked again.
“Oh my gosh! It’s so great to meet you! I’ve read all your books.”
“That’s nice,” the man smiled vaguely. “And you are?”
Rhodes frowned, brow furrowed. “That name sounds familiar.”
“Our Gracie is an author too,” Sam told him.
Grace blushed. She was not a fan of being the center of attention, but she had to admit, it was a great feeling when one of her friends liked her writing so much, they boasted about her. Of course, with the way her luck was going that night, she should have expected everything—that zing of attraction and her mild euphoria at Sam’s praise of her abilities—to come crashing down like a high rise being demoed.
The man’s attitude turned dismissive. “Oh, that’s right. You just write fiction. Sorry, it’s a waste of my time, so I’m afraid I’ve never read anything you wrote. Excuse me please.”
He brushed by, leaving them scraping their jaws off the floor. Sam growled angrily at his dismissal. Grace stopped him from going after the researcher. Jeremiah had been abrupt, and borderline rude, but he had been honest. She could not fault him for that. Tugging on Sam’s arm, she towed him from the restaurant, through the hotel lobby.
“It’s fine, Sam. Really.”
“You don’t deserve that kind of crap, Gracie. You’re a hell of a writer.”
She smiled and steered him out of the inn. “Thanks. And really, his attitude doesn’t bother me all that much.”
“Why the hell not?”
“Because he admitted that he never read anything I wrote. If he had and still basically called me a talentless hack, I’d probably be crying into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s by now. As it is,” Grace shrugged, grinning ruefully, “never meet your idols, right?”
Sam slung an arm around her shoulders, doing what he could to comfort her. “So now we need some good synonyms for a rude person.”
“Hmm. How about boorish?”
“Good one. Um, surly? Or how about churlish?”
“I like that one. What about uncouth?”
“Nice. Gruff? Loutish!”
As they neared her apartment, Grace was laughing. “Thanks, Sam. Not only did you help me get over being stood up by a harebrained lout, but you assisted in routing the memory of a scurrilous barbarian. You truly are a gentleman and a scholar.”
Sam laughed. “All in a night’s work, ma’am.”
Giving him a quick hug, she headed up the alley stairs and unlocked her apartment door. Once she was inside, she leaned against it and sighed. Sam had helped her get over the worst, but she was not yet ready to be alone. Typing a quick group text, Grace crossed to the bedroom, peeling off her dress.
By the time she changed into a pair of shorts and her favorite vintage “M*A*S*H” t-shirt, over half a dozen women had responded. The cavalry was on its way.
Only minutes later, Grace opened her door to her friends, waving them in. Celia went straight to Grace’s galley kitchen and pulled the makings of her famous mixed drinks out of a tote bag. Dark ‘n’ Stormy’s were Celia’s designated drink when commiseration was necessary. The way Grace was feeling right at that moment, Dark ‘n’ Stormy sounded perfect.
Celia handed her a glass, then passed out several other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to the others. Sinking onto her comfortable Papasan chair, Grace took a long drink. She lowered her glass as silence fell, only to find herself the cynosure of seven pairs of eyes. The attention made her blush.
“So, tell us what happened, Gracie,” Sage said, sipping her soda.
“Todd stood me up again.”
“Isn’t this like the second time?” Deanna asked.
“Third,” Grace’s distant cousin, Jade, corrected, a thunderous look on her face. “And that’s three times too many. Gracie, how many chances are you going to give this guy?”
“No more. I forgave the first time because he told me his boss made him stay late to finish a project. And the second, he said a friend of his showed up at his place unexpectedly.”
“He didn’t tell you either time until the next day,” Sage pointed out. “So, you sat in the restaurant, waiting each and every time. Did he call this time?”
Grace sighed. “No. And he never responded to my texts either. I’m done with this. Three no-call, no-shows in one month is much too high a ratio. I’m just glad I haven’t slept with him yet.”
“True enough,” Celia nodded. “If he can’t put in the effort to show up for a date, how much work would he put in to satisfy you?”
All the women toasted to that. Sonya took a sip of her ginger ale.
“So, you sat at Luna for who knows how long, then came home alone? I’m glad you called us.”
“Actually, Sam walked me home,” Grace said, turning to include Meredith. “There was a call from the inn. Something about an unruly guest. Sam saw me on his way out and stopped. I thought he was going to go ballistic on Mr. Rhodes, but instead, he had me laughing by the time we got here.”
“Wait, what?” Jade straightened. “You saw Jeremiah Rhodes tonight?”
Grace quickly went through that somewhat embarrassing meeting. When she finished, all her friends were indignant over his rude dismissal. She found herself laughing at the way they defended her. Celia stood and made more drinks for everyone.
Not a huge drinker, Grace was already feeling the first but decided it was a fine night to get drunk. After all, it wasn’t as if she was out anywhere. Once everyone left, she could just climb into bed and pass out. That sounded like a fine plan to her.
Half-way through her second Dark ‘n’ Stormy, Grace remembered that Meredith had been looking for information on any Revolutionary War battles that might have taken place on or near the Anderson Farm. Made sense after the whole island watched a ghost battle break out right in the middle of her family’s farmers’ market. She quickly ran down the details her aunt had given her.
The women laughed and joked for a while longer. By the time the majority left, Grace felt immeasurably better. Being upset or sad always made her feel physically awful. Headache, nausea. She much preferred being happy. Surrounded by friends, how could she be anything but?
Celia was the last to leave. She waited until her fiancé, Rowan, picked her up after he got out of work. He was an officer along with Sam, and someone Grace had known her whole life. So, when he showed up shortly after midnight, she accepted the hug he gave her gratefully. Then he turned to Celia.
“Been drinking, Dragă?”
“Only enough to come up with a reason for why certain guys are such assholes, Arătos.”
He grinned and kissed her nose. “And what reason is that?”
“Their panties are too tight,” Celia told him, completely serious. “They clearly believe others find the look sexy. But they didn’t take into consideration that their discomfort would make them so miserable to be around that they wouldn’t have a chance to show anyone their goods.”
Rowan grinned and shook his head. “Not sure I like you discussing other men’s underwear, Dragă.”
She smiled up at him impishly. “I might discuss other men’s unmentionables, but yours are the only ones I want to see.”
He pulled her close. Grace saw his dark eyes heat. Celia bit her lip.
“We can check out the gazebo in the park,” Rowan suggested.
She shook her head. “Too far. The alley’s quiet.”
Rowan glanced over Celia’s head. “Night, Gracie.”
He and Celia were out the door before Grace could respond. Laughing, she shut and locked it behind them.
Shaking her head, Grace put all the glasses in her dishwasher and headed into the bathroom to wash up for bed. Rowan and Celia had provided her with inspiration for a few different love scenes in her books. She left the bathroom and put a glass of water and two painkillers onto the bedside table before crawling under the sheet. Given the abysmal state of her love life, that inspiration was definitely needed.