Today is the exact day my romance novel, Nora’s Guy Next Door, begins – two days before Thanksgiving.
The book opens with Nora (a Southern belle) in a crowded grocery store – you know how crazy they can get, right? I originally come from “Wegmans Country” in the Northeast – if you live anywhere near a Wegmans grocery store, you know how amazing they are (it’s like the Disney version of grocery shopping), and yes, I miss them. I don’t think the little town of Gallant Lake is big enough for a Wegmans, but I did envision their produce section while writing this scene.
I am partying up a storm today over at the Facebook group Coffee, Cupcakes and Contemporaries, with some fun giveaways to celebrate “Two Days Before Thanksgiving” – come join us!
Nora Lowery Bradford didn’t come close to losing her good Southern manners until the third time someone smacked their grocery cart into hers, nearly toppling a package of fancily frosted cupcakes. She spun on her heel, but the angry words died on her lips. The offender was an elderly lady, even shorter than Nora, pushing a cart loaded to the brim with Thanksgiving fixings.
Bless her heart.
Nora smiled and was about to wish her a happy holiday, but before she could speak, the woman rammed her cart into Nora’s again—on purpose!
“What’re you doin’, sightseeing or something? Move over! Other people got things to do.” With that, the woman pushed on by, scraping her cart along Nora’s to drive home her point.
Nora stood there for a moment with her mouth open, then rolled her eyes and pushed on. With Thanksgiving just two days away, the grocery store in Gallant Lake, New York, was mobbed with people. And the mob was cranky. Maybe she was biased, but people seemed just a bit more genteel back home in Atlanta. Unless, of course, you went grocery shopping on senior discount day—then all bets were off, Southern or not.
The miserable weather wasn’t helping anyone’s attitude. Three inches of snow were on the ground when she arrived in the Catskills yesterday, and she was not happy about it. Oh, sure, the stuff looked like sugar frosting on the rooftops and tree branches, but the air was cold and raw.
The forecast for the week was snow, rain, wind, more rain, then snow again. Her cousin Amanda assured her that was typical for November, which was little comfort. No wonder people were so grumpy here in the North! She’d tried to convince Amanda and her husband, Blake Randall, to fly south for Thanksgiving with their kids, but they owned a large lakeside resort here and couldn’t be gone during a busy tourist weekend. So the family was gathering at their historic castle-turned-home, Halcyon, located right next door to the resort.
Nora unfolded the store flyer she’d picked up at the door, trying to remember where the produce section was. The only good thing about being in Gallant Lake this week was that her favorite person in the whole world, her daughter Becky, would be arriving later today. Somewhere along the line, Nora had failed as a proper Atlanta mother, because her debutante daughter had inexplicably fallen in love with the Catskills the first time she came here after Amanda and Blake’s wedding. It was disappointing, but not surprising, when Becky hopped the first plane out of Georgia when Vassar offered her a scholarship.
The produce section was even more crowded than the aisles, and Nora slowly worked her way through the veggies, taking in the dramas unfolding around her.
A woman threw a round head of pale lettuce into her cart, glaring at the balding man by her side. “Of course your mother thinks iceberg lettuce is the best. Your mother wouldn’t know a romaine leaf if it bit her in the ass!”
Two men leaned intently over a tomato display nearby. “Derrick, trust me. Vine-ripened tomatoes are better for salad than that monstrosity you picked up.” He gave his partner a wink. “I know you love the word beefsteak honey, but bigger isn’t always better.”
A young woman pushed a cart past Nora with a toddler in the seat and a little boy and girl in tow, all three complaining loudly. The girl stomped her feet.
“I don’t wanna eat turkey! I wanna eat ice cream!”
“You gotta eat turkey on turkey day, dummy.” Her older brother gave her a shove. “And you can’t have ice cream. You gotta eat pie!”
The littlest one, sitting in the cart, started to scream. “No pie! No pie, Mommy! No pie!”
The mother’s face was pinched and tired. Nora reached out, resting her hand on the woman’s arm. “Don’t worry, darlin’, these days will pass. Enjoy these babies while they’re young. Before you know it, they’ll be off to college like mine.”
She got a tight smile in return. “Right now, it feels like that can’t happen soon enough, but thank you.”…
A deep voice started cursing behind her as she reached for a bag of lemons. She glanced over her shoulder and spotted a tall, lean man in jeans and a faded flannel shirt. His gray-blue eyes were frosty with anger, but she couldn’t tell where it was directed, since he seemed to be alone.
“Damned idiots. They’re nothing but stupid-ass idiots.” He roughly tossed a bag of apples into his cart, making it rattle, causing a few heads to turn. “Stupid, stupid, stupid…” Another bag of fruit landed in his cart with a bang, and he pushed it closer to hers.
She couldn’t see a Bluetooth device in his ear, so he seemed to be having this conversation with himself. Flat out raging at himself, from the sounds of it. His face was sharp and angled, but the dark stubble along his jaw softened those lines just enough to make him strikingly attractive in a rough-hewn way. Layers of dark brown hair brushed his shoulders, and he reminded her of an aging rock star getting ready to smash a guitar somewhere.
Nora gave herself a mental shake. She hadn’t looked twice at anyone since Paul’s death, much less ogled someone in a small-town grocery store. And this bad-tempered stranger was very much not her type. But still, she couldn’t take her eyes off Hot Produce Guy.