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       Mocha Latte (Silk Stocking Inn #3), p.1

           Tess Oliver
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Mocha Latte (Silk Stocking Inn #3)

  Mocha Latte

  Silk Stocking Inn

  Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  Mocha Latte

  Copyright© 2016 by Tess Oliver & Anna Hart

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  All Rights are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Table of Contents
























  More from Silk Stocking Inn

  About the Authors

  Chapter 1

  Some mornings rolled smoothly, starting with my first cup of coffee on the way to my car to the fifth or sixth cup at my lunch break, when I’d already dealt with all the major complaints and problems of the day. Other mornings took a decidedly more bumpy path. Then there were the, thankfully, rare mornings with catastrophic, or, at the very least, life changing potholes thrown into the mix. But this morning’s wasn’t a detour I’d seen coming, and I could only blame myself for not paying better attention.

  I skimmed through the day’s script to the two highlighted lines. Skippy the Dinosaur or Ted, a middle aged man whose grumpy demeanor outside of the big, green felt costume would have scared even the bravest kid, had complained that two of his lines didn’t sound like something Skippy would say. He’d insisted, as producer, I needed to look into it.

  A knock pulled me from the script. Jimmy, the head puppeteer, poked his head inside. “Becca, we’ve got a problem.”

  “Come in, Jim. I can’t hear you over the clatter in the hallway. Why is there clatter in the hallway?”

  He stepped inside. “Everyone is running around looking for Spike.”

  “Spike? The puppet, or Vic, the voice of Spike?”

  “Spike, the puppet.” Jimmy, who could descend easily into a panic attack, fidgeted with the keys on his belt.

  I stood up from the desk. “Take a deep breath, Jimmy. I don’t have time for one of your breathing into a paper bag sessions today. Then, tell me just how a dinosaur puppet managed to walk off set.”

  Jimmy’s thin shoulders rose and fell with a deep breath, but it didn’t seem to help. He continued to finger the keys, a large collection that were the center of his day because each one belonged to a trunk that housed one of the famous dinosaur puppets, the artfully crafted characters of the Skippy the Dinosaur morning show.

  “That’s just it,” Jimmy huffed, “I thought I’d carried him out to the set. He has a part in the first scene, so I made sure to take him out right away.” He took a few short, frantic breaths. I raised my brow at him in a silent warning not to hyperventilate.

  “Then I’m sure he’s somewhere on the set. I’ve got to go over the script, Jimmy. I’m sure you’ll find Spike. Or just pull out the replacement puppet for today until the original trots back onto the set.” I sat down and took hold of the script again, satisfied that I’d solved the problem.

  Jimmy stood over me, still fidgeting with the keys and now adding a shuffle to his feet. “The replacement is out for repairs. One of his horns ripped off when I was taking him out of the trunk.”

  I lifted my eyes to him. “Then, I guess you need to find Spike.”

  He swallowed hard. “We’ve been looking for at least an hour. Filming is at a standstill until he shows up.”

  “Well, shit, Jimmy,” I started to go off on a rant but stopped when it seemed that was all it was going to take to push him over the edge into a full scale anxiety meltdown.

  I skimmed the script for Spike’s part. “There are only a few lines, and they sound like something that Percy could say. I don’t see Percy in this scene at all. Tell Kelly to switch the lines to Percy.”

  Jimmy remained frozen to the spot.

  “What?” I asked, trying to keep the impatience out of my voice.

  He fingered the keys. “It’s just that—well, Percy is sort of mild mannered and Spike, well, he’s kind of badass. I don’t think the two are interchangeable.”

  I blinked at him.

  Jimmy took a few steps back. “I’ll go get Percy.”

  “Good idea. And find Spike. He couldn’t have gotten too far, his feet are made of felt for fucksake.”

  Isabel, my assistant, pushed past Jimmy as he scurried out. “One of the advertisers, Gardener’s Insurance, is on line one. He’s not too happy about the fact that his ad got cut off two seconds early.”

  I was still perusing the script as I spoke. “Did you explain to him that it’s the network’s fault and not the show’s?”

  “Tried to, but he rudely told me that he didn’t need to be lectured by an assistant.”

  My face shot up. Isabel had changed her hair color, yet again, and the constant quest for just the right color was slowly turning her hair into a ball of frizz. “What an ass. I’ll talk to him.”

  She turned to leave but stopped. “Oh, and the florist is on line two. Something about the bridesmaids’ bouquets. My dress still needs to be altered,” she added. “Makes me look like I have no boobs. Which, of course, I don’t, but your wedding guests don’t need to know that.”

  It was moments like these when I wished Nate and I had just run off to Vegas to get married. “Anything else?”

  “Nope. Oh, except Nate wants you to call him the second you have a chance.”

  “Great.” I waved her out as I took a deep breath and picked up the phone to deal with the angry sponsor.

  Chapter 2

  Morning fires doused, dinosaur puppet found and production finally running smoothly, I took the lid off my coffee cup and downed the rest of it. I glanced at my phone. During the rush of the morning, I’d forgotten to call Nate. He was more than likely in a meeting, so I decided to put the call off until lunch.

  Nate and I had been dating for six years. We’d both been so busy with our careers, we hadn’t given marriage much thought until the relationship seemed to be growing stale. We’d decided a wedding and a home together were what we needed to bring it back to life. Wedding plans had put some excitement back into our lives, but I wasn’t completely convinced that same spark would last once the vows were said and the massive wedding bills rolled in.

  Still, Nate had always brought that piece of stability into my life that I badly needed. My parents had died in a car accident when I was ten. I was an only child. I was quickly popped around from relative to relative as if I was just an unwanted possession that my parents had owned. Thankfully, my wonderful grandfather took me in for good. At that time, he was a widower in his mid-seventies. He knew far more about cattle ranching than raising a teenage girl, but, together, we made it work. He took c
are of me, and I took care of him.

  Grandpa died during my sophomore year at college, and his loss had left me feeling as if the only person who mattered in my life was gone. Then Nate moved into the apartment next door. He was handsome, charming and the catch of the campus. I fell instantly in love.

  I moved the mouse on my computer. Oddly enough, a website popped up. It was spam, obviously. Something about a Silk Stocking Inn and that I would soon be in need of a weekend away. I clicked out of it, but it stayed in place, tempting me with pictures of an old, weather-worn Victorian house and scenic grounds that bordered a countryside with white fences and pastures that seemed to stretch on forever. There were even a few horses standing nearby the Silk Stocking Inn. The sight of them sent a couple twinges of bittersweet nostalgia through me. After college, I’d moved to the city to chase down a good job. I’d found one working for a children’s television network. Through hard work and determination I’d managed to land a position as head producer on the studio’s top show. But there had been many times during my climb to the top and my whirlwind life in the city, that I’d felt homesick for the country, the smell of grass and horses and delicious down home country food.

  I clicked the website again, deciding I’d wasted enough time daydreaming. The website flashed the words ‘see you soon, Rebecca’ and then disappeared. I could see the stunned look on my face in the monitor.

  “Cookies and spam. It’s amazing what these sites can do to personalize their messages,” I muttered to myself. My phone buzzed. It was Nate. It was rare for him to call during the work day. Apparently what he needed to tell me couldn’t wait.

  “Hey, Nate, it’s been crazy here this morning, and I just didn’t have time to call you. What’s up?” His silent pause was overrun by many voices and far too much noise for his office building. “Where are you?”

  More silence.

  I glanced at my phone to see if the connection was lost. “Nate, are you there?”

  “Yes, Becca, I’m here. I just wanted to let you know that—” His voice trailed off and the void was filled by a flight announcement over a loudspeaker.

  “Are you at the airport?” The long, chaotic morning had left me at the end of my tether. I didn’t give him time to answer and jumped right into a rant. “That darn company you work for has no right to just send you off without a moment’s notice. We’ve got an appointment with the bakery tomorrow to pick cake flavors.” I picked up the empty coffee cup as if Nate could see me through the phone. “I’m leaning toward something with a mocha flavor. You know me and my coffee habit. Seems appropriate.”

  “Rebecca, please. I need to talk to you.” He rarely used my full name. His tone was beyond grim, as if something terrible had happened.

  “Oh Nate, is it Grandma Nellie in New York?”

  “Grandma is fine. I’m not in New York. I’m in Australia.”

  “What? Australia. You know I’ve always wanted to go there. What kind of business are you doing down there?”

  “I’m not on business.”

  For once, I decided not to respond. This conversation was heading somewhere very south, and it had nothing to do with the land down under.

  “Becca, I quit my job yesterday, and—” He stopped for a slightly unhinged chuckle. “I just got on a flight to Australia. I met someone.”

  I sat back hard on my chair as if someone had thrown a fist into my stomach. “You met someone?”

  “It was weird. We ran into each other at the lunch counter at George’s diner. She was here on spring break from college, and we just hit it off.”

  “Spring break from college?” It seemed constructing my own responses within my stunned brain was impossible. I found that all I could do was repeat what he was telling me. None of it sounded real. Just like when my uncle had picked me up from school and sat me down to tell me my parents were gone forever. The entire time I’d listened to his words but assured myself it wasn’t real.

  “I just needed to find myself. I wasn’t happy anymore. I’ll always love—”

  “Don’t.” I snapped out of my trance. “Don’t fucking tell my you’ll always love me because I don’t want to hear it. You needed to find yourself, so you ran straight into the arms of a college coed?” I swallowed hard determined not to cry. Every question from—what the hell did I do to scare him off to how much humiliating gossip will I have to avoid once word gets around that the wedding is off—swam through my head.

  A long pause made the whole thing feel as if it wasn’t really happening.

  “I hope you find happiness, Rebecca. Truly.”

  “Huh?” I asked, hardly able to focus on the conversation. Anger followed quickly. “Hope you find what you’re looking for, Nate, only don’t look too hard because frankly, you’re not all that impressive.”

  “You’re upset, Becca, and you’re saying things you don’t really mean. I understand. It’s just that Mindy and I—”

  “Mindy and you? Fuck. I just wasted six years on you. Six of my best years too. My tight ass and perky boobs years, you asshole. But I guess you needed a new pair of perky boobs. Mindy’s boobs.”

  “Rebecca,” he started, but I was in no mood to hear his simpering tone.

  “Fuck off, Nate. Oh, and don’t forget to swim with the jellyfish down there. I hear they have some really deadly ones.” I hung up and stared at my phone as if it was on fire.

  I didn’t know what to feel. It should have been devastation, and I considered that it might be coming along soon. Strangely enough, the man I’d spent the last six years of my life with had left me for another woman, and all I could think about were the calls and cancelations I was going to have to make to erase our wedding plans. Of course, I really only had to cancel the dress and the flowers. Everything else was on Nate’s credit card, where it could stay until it was too late for a refund.

  Chapter 3

  The late Friday afternoon wind down was over, and most of the cast and crew had left for the weekend. I meandered around the dark set for no real reason except I wasn’t in a hurry to head home. It would be my fourth weekend as a newly minted single. I’d promptly packed up all of Nate’s stuff and donated it to the local homeless shelter. We’d always both kept our own places, more to hold on to some slice of independence than anything else. There had been plenty of times during our six years together when I’d needed space from him and he’d needed to be away from me. That was something that was blisteringly apparent now that he’d flown half way around the world to put some true distance between us.

  The strange thing was that I should have felt devastated and brokenhearted, but aside from a few twinges of loneliness, a nice bout of self-doubt and an occasional urge to call and talk to him, I’d felt little else. One thing was certain, I felt a big sense of relief that we’d never gone through with the wedding. It would have been far worse to have him walk away once we’d tied the knot. This way the strings were easily broken with no legal commitment or lawyers.

  Footsteps traveled along the corridor from the costume studio to the stage. Isabel, who had now taken to wearing hats over her over-processed hair, peeked around the corner in her tweed newsboy cap. The look of worry that she’d perfected since Nate left me crossed her face again.

  “Becca, are you sure you don’t want to come to happy hour with the rest of us? It’ll be fun. I’m worried about you. You need to get back on the horse.”

  I laughed. “You sound like my grandfather, only he literally meant get back on the horse.” I fingered the fake ferns running along the edge of the set. They were our prehistoric backdrop, and like my social life, they were looking a bit tired and dusty. “Thanks for the invite and for worrying about me, Isabel, but I think I’ll just go home, zap myself a frozen dinner and watch some old westerns on the classic movie channel. I know you don’t believe me, but I’m really not depressed about N
ate. I just don’t see myself out in the world, drinking, dancing and meeting new people yet.”

  “All right, Becca. If you’re sure. I’ll see you Monday.”

  “Have fun tonight.” I checked that the lights were off and headed back to my office to shut down my computer. Isabel waved as she shut down her computer and pulled out her purse.

  My computer monitor glowed on my desk as I stepped into my dark office. I walked around to the keyboard to power off. A website blinked back at me. It was the same unexplained site I’d seen before, on the day when had Nate called to tell me he’d flown off to find himself in the arms of another woman. A banner that read ‘Silk Stocking Inn where every heart’s desire is filled . . . and then some’ splashed across the top of the page.

  Right below it, a box with text appeared. “It’s time for that weekend away, Rebecca. Happiness awaits you.”

  I glanced through the doorway to the center room. “Isabel? Are you still out there? Did you pull up this website?” I chuckled on my way out of the office. “Where on earth did you scrape up that cheesy dating site?” I stopped. Isabel’s desk was deserted, and my voice echoed back to me in the empty room. I was alone. I laughed again, figuring Isabel was having a good laugh about it all the way home.

  I walked back to the office. It had been a long week. I looked forward to curling up on the couch draped in my favorite sweats, clutching the remote and devouring a bag of powdered sugar donuts.

  I ignored the flashing prompt that said ‘you deserve this, Rebecca’. I shut down the computer and walked to the closet for my purse and sweater. The glow of the computer hadn’t dimmed by the time I pulled the sweater on and fished out my car keys.

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