Monday, February 6, 2017

EXCERPT: SAY YES, TESS!



I'm over at Facebook today talking about romance and cozy mysteries. I want to give readers a chance to see a sample of the romance that is included in my Short & Tall Tales in Goose Pimple Junction, so here's an excerpt from the book. This chapter continues the love story of Jack and Tess, the main characters in Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction. Stop by the Readers Love Cozies Facebook page today for some fun giveaways and for posts from more authors through February 14.





BOOK EXCERPT FROM SHORT & TALL TALES IN GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION


Say Yes, Tess!


You took as long as a month of Sundays. ~Southern hyperbole

Jack and Tess were having a picnic at their favorite spot on a hill overlooking Goose Creek. Tess loved the old trees and the wild flowers that dotted the area. She had just finished eating a chicken wrap, and she was taking a sip of sweet tea when Jack said, “Let’s get married.“

Too much tea went down her throat in one gulp, and she coughed for several seconds, her hand on her Adam’s apple. Finally, she choked out, “Excuse me?”

“I think we should get married.” He said it as if he were reporting the weather.

“Um . . . no.” She began cleaning up the wrappers and napkins.

“Come again?”

“No, thank you.” She smiled disingenuously.

“Well, well why not?” His back became ramrod straight.

“Jack, you know I love you – ”

“So let’s get married.”

She held out her index finger. “Number one, I don’t think a marriage proposal should be made so lightly. I’m not asking you to wear shining armor and gallop up on a horse, but I’m not about to take a marriage proposal seriously when the question could just as easily have been ‘Would you like pie?’”

He shook his head. “We don’t have any pie.”

She rolled her eyes. “It was just an example.”

“What’s number two?”

“We’ve only been seeing each other for a short time. It’s too fast.”
The subject was changed that day, but Jack persisted. A few days later, he took her fishing. It was summertime, and the trees were lush and full; the sun shone on the water like diamonds. Jack fished and Tess watched, enjoying the scenery, the nice day, and being with Jack. He pulled his line from the water and reeled it in. Walking together to another spot, he said over his shoulder to her, “Marry me."

“No,” was her quick response.

He just shook his head.

She spread out her hands. “Jack, you have a fishing pole in your hand, for heaven’s sake.”

“So?”
Soon after that, they were playing Scrabble, and he spelled out “MARRY ME” on the game board.

She scowled at him. “You cheater. There’s no way you just happened to get those tiles.”

He simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well?”

She had to wait several turns, but she finally got the right tiles to make the word “NO.”
Tess was walking to work one day when she saw single letters written in chalk on each square of the sidewalk ahead spelling out, “MARRY ME, PLEASE?” The please was written in extra heavy chalk.
One square of sidewalk had a whole message written on it: “I LOVE YOU A TON,” except the last two words ran together and looked like “ATON.”

She laughed out loud and pulled out her cell phone, first taking a picture of the sidewalk message, and then texting Jack: “NO.”

His immediate reply: “Ah, come on, Boo. Why not? We’re perfect for each other.”

“You’re very cute, but it’s too soon.”

The next day, she got a letter in the mail reminiscent of the threatening letter she’d gotten just a month before. Jack had imitated that letter by also writing the message in cutout magazine letters:
That night, she climbed in bed and turned out the lights. As she lay there, glow in the dark letters appeared on her ceiling over her bed with the now familiar message: MARRY ME.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she said to the dark room.

Her text notification chimed. She picked up her phone and saw “Well?” on the screen.

She typed, “How did you know I just saw your message?”

“I’ve been sitting outside your house for 30 minutes waiting for the light to go out.”

Then another message rolled in: “What say you?”

“Too soon.”

There was no response.

She lay there in the dark thinking about Jack. She loved him more than was probably sane and couldn’t imagine life without him. He was everything she’d ever wanted in a man. So why wasn’t she saying yes? Tess loved his sense of humor, and she laughed more with him than she ever had with anyone else, but she had a nagging feeling that she was ahead of him in the falling in love department. And they’d only been together for a few months. She fell asleep thinking, It’s too soon, and he’s not taking this seriously. Marriage isn’t a game.
As if Jack read her mind, he upped his game. He came to her house
one night and not so nonchalantly asked, “So what is your ring size?”

She mockingly swooned. “You’re so romantic.”

He put his hands in the air. “I can’t get you a ring if I don’t know what size to get.”

“And you can’t surprise me if you ask obvious questions like that.”

“Okay. How about this for a surprise?” He pulled a ring box from his jacket pocket and opened the lid. A two-carat sparking diamond ring sat in the cushion.

She gasped and her hand flew to her mouth. “Jack,” was all she could say.

He got down on one knee and said, “Tess Tremaine, will you please marry me?”

She got down on her knees so she could look him in the eye. “I’ll give it some serious consideration.” Then she kissed him.
A week later, she still had not made up her mind. As she walked to work, an unusual number of people were walking toward her on the sidewalk, and they all had on the same T-shirt in an unusual shade of coral. As she approached the bookstore, a dozen people mingled out front, all wearing the same coral T-shirt.

Then she heard someone say, “She’s coming.” They suddenly turned their backs to her and formed a line, shoulder to shoulder, so that their shirts spelled out “MARRY ME, TESS!” The same people who had passed her on the sidewalk a minute ago all stood on the opposite street corner. They too had their backs to her, and each of their shirts said: “SAY YES, TESS!”

As everyone began clapping, she hurried inside and ran smack into Jack, who was waiting just inside the door. He too was wearing a coral T-shirt that said: “SAY YES, TESS.”

“You’ve got the whole town involved in your proposal now?”

“Well, I wasn’t doing so hot on my own,” he joked, as Louetta and Pickle, also wearing coral T-shirts and big smiles, came from the back room.

Louetta walked toward them with her finger pointed at Tess. “Tess Tremaine, you won’t find a better man than this one here,” her finger moved from Tess’s direction to Jack’s and back again, “and you know it. I swan, if you don’t hurry up and say yes, I’m gonna steal him out from under you.”

“And I might just let her too.” Jack put his arm around Louetta and squeezed her into his side.

“Well, then there’s only one thing I can say.” Tess began walking toward the back room.

Jack spoke up. “So that’s a yes?”

She stopped walking and turned around to face him. Walking back to stand before him, she cupped his cheek and said, “I hope you two will be very happy.” Then she turned on her heel and walked away.
For three days, everywhere she went, someone had on a “SAY YES, TESS” T-shirt. And it seemed that everywhere she looked, she saw the same message written:
  • with magnets on the refrigerator
  • with a glass pen on the diner’s front window
  • inside her menu at the Silly Goose
  • on her paper cup from the Muffin Man
  • spelled out with green peppers on a pizza
  • on the table spelled out in Cheerios

One day, every person she ran into handed her a flyer that said: “SAY YES, TESS!” By the end of the day, she had a ream or more of flyers. She tried to form Team Tess and have them spread the message, “GET BACK, JACK,” but everyone was on Jack’s side.
Finally, on a hot day in late August, she was gathering her things to go home when Louetta handed her a hard copy of The Princess Bride. When she looked quizzically at Lou, her friend bobbed her head at the book and said, “Open it.” Inside, she found a note:

Twu wuv…you are my twu wuv…if you were a book, I’d read you all night. Now go to Slick & Junebug’s Diner.

“What in the Sam Hill – ”

Louetta folded her arms. “You best be getting on to the diner, missy.”

Tess walked out into the soup that used to be air and felt like she waded down the sidewalk to Slick & Junebug’s Diner. Walking into the restaurant, she thought about the first time, and all of the subsequent times, she and Jack had come here to eat. She sat down at the counter next to Earl.

Clive was on Earl’s other side, and he leaned over his friend to tell Tess, “You’re slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, you know that? What’s the matter with you? When you gonna say yes to that man?”

Tess raised her eyebrows. “Seriously? He sent me over here to get a lecture from you gentlemen?”
Junebug stepped up to the counter, holding a paper napkin. “No, he did not. He sent you here for this.”

The napkin said:
I love you more than a fat kid loves cake. Now kindly go to the Muffin Man.

Junebug handed her a cupcake with the word “YES” spelled out on top in frosting. “Give him this, sugar. Put the man out of his misery.”

She walked to the Muffin Man thinking about the first time she and Jack ever talked to one another in that very coffee shop. At the counter, the barista handed her a paper cup with lemonade tea inside. Written on the outside was:
You’re the cream in my coffee, the sugar in my tea. I sure wish you would marry me. Next stop: the Silly Goose.
She just shook her head and headed for the Silly Goose, thinking about all the romantic dinners they’d had at that restaurant. Inside, the hostess handed her a candle with a slip of paper curled around it. She unrolled it and read:
You are the light to my candle. Now please go to Fern & Moody’s.
Fern & Moody’s General Store was the specialty store where they always got their picnic lunches. At Fern & Moody’s, she was given an apple with a note tied to a string, which was attached to the stem. The note said: 
You are the apple to my pie. See? There is pie! Next stop: the Second National Bank.
Tess walked to the bank, thinking about the robbery that occurred there in 1932 and how that one event brought her and Jack together. The main teller was Dee Dee, a dour, grumpy woman who always wore a sour expression.

“Ya ain’t gonna get rich with that’n, that’s for sure.” She handed Tess a bank envelope. Inside was a penny and a note:
You’re the copper to my penny. If I had a penny for every person I've met who makes me feel the way you do, I'd have exactly one cent. Marry me, woman! If you’re still unsure, please go to the Pure Oil Gas Station.
The gas station. That frightening day when she and Martha Maye were trapped came rushing to her thoughts. Then she remembered flying out the door and into Jack’s arms. Jeb Crowley, the owner of the filling station, was washing a windshield in the full-service lane while the car’s tank filled with gas. He looked up as Tess approached and shook his head.

“I don’t have the foggiest idea what that man is up to, but he said to give you this.“ He reached into his pocket and pulled out an object wrapped in paper. She unwrapped it and found a spark plug and a note that said:
You are the spark to my plug. Okay, I’m reaching on this one. Help me out and say yes.

Tess looked up at Jeb, and he said, “He said to tell you if you still won’t say yes – and woman, why you wouldn’t say yes is beyond me – but he said to tell you to go to Doc’s Hardware.”

She walked in a fog to the hardware store. How can anyone be sure in just a couple of months?

Inside the store, Doc gave her a box, and inside it was a small metal spring with a tag attached that said:
You’re the spring to my step. Now spring on over to the gazebo.
Walking toward the gazebo in the town green, she saw that the area was practically deserted. Her eyes went to the gazebo, and there stood Jack with a huge smile on his face and Ezzie at his feet. Behind them, she noticed the gazebo was filled with deep blue hydrangeas – her favorite.

Jack was wearing tan dress slacks, a light pink button-down Oxford shirt, and loafers. He looked good enough to eat. Ezzie saw Tess and let out a bark, her tail wagging and thumping on the floor of the gazebo. Jack and Tess’s eyes locked as she walked toward him. He took her hand and led her into the gazebo. She had never seen such beautiful hydrangeas, and they covered almost every surface. He’d made sure there was room enough for two on the bench. They sat down, Jack still holding onto her hand.

“Jack, I – ”

“Me first,” he interrupted.

She nodded.

“I know it’s only been a couple of months. But I know I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. When I’m with you, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. When we’re apart, all I can think about is seeing you again. I want you all the time, Tess. I want us to be together. I want us to spend the rest of our lives making each other happy. And I know we will be. Tess, I want you to be my wife. Please say you’ll marry me. Please say yes.” Ezzie’s cold nose bumped her leg.

Without hesitation, Tess said, “Yes.”

In one fluid motion, he stood, pulling her into his arms. Still holding on tight, he yelled over her shoulder, “She said yes!”

People came out of every nook and cranny, applauding.

Jack and Tess stood laughing and holding and kissing each other. When he broke the kiss, he looked at her, nose-to-nose, and said, “You did just say yes, right?”

Holding on tight to his hand, she went to the gazebo’s entrance and shouted, “I said yes!”


GOOSE PIMPLE JUNCTION MYSTERY SERIES

Short & Tall Tales in Goose Pimple Junction is just $0.99 for Kindle on Amazon. You can read the beginning of Jack and Tess's love story in Murder & Mayhem in Goose Pimple Junction; read about Johnny and Martha Maye's romance in Heroes & Hooligans in Goose Pimple Junction; and read about Hank and Wynona in Rogues & Rascals in Goose Pimple Junction,




2 comments: