The Meet Cute...
I know you all have been loosing sleep over when I'd post the last installment of HOW A HEART BEATS. Maybe even shouting at your screens "You wrote a flippin' romance... Where's the dude?!"
So far we've met Liv and her 'Ride or Die' Lottie. We've seen Liv save a life, make a new friend and suffer the realities of working the night shift. All good and interesting set up for what is the best part of any romance - aside from the first kiss - The Meet Cute.
For those of you who don't speak 'girl' or 'romance writer' that is the moment the Hero and Heroine first encounter each other. No matter the trope or story arc, in a romance there has to be a meet cute - I'm going to go ahead and say it's as essential as the Happily Ever After.
It should give you butterflies, turn you on, or make you the crazy-kind-of-mad where words don't work and all you can do is growl. If none of those things are achieved... The writer is doing it wrong.
I strive for butterflies, but I tell ya ladies... You might need to go a head a grab a fan ;-)
It wasn’t fair. Didn’t doing the right thing count for something? She didn’t want a reward for helping a stranger after falling down a flight of escalator stairs. She didn’t want payment for using her favorite white lab jacket as a pressure dressing. Sleep. That’s all she wanted, but no amount of Benadryl and red wine would bring down the high of saving a life.
Liv ambled along the platform and glanced at her watch. Escalator guy sucked up an hour of sleep. The autumn morning sun blazed its way to brunch. She frowned, full of stupid self-pity. Every joint ached and cried in stiffness. But her brain buzzed, wired with adrenaline and the juicy images of a pulsing arterial scalp laceration. Rather than turn down her block, she went straight and crossed the intersection, risking death by cab and drunk bike messenger to her local branch of the public library.
She waved at the sweet old ladies who worked the checkout line, her eyes instantly connecting with her favorite librarian and next door neighbor, Rose Loveitz. Rose had a sneaky habit of letting Liv check out stale reference books she’d use in lieu of her old cocktail of Ambien and alcohol.
Mrs. Loveitz looked her over with a sympathetic glance. If twelve hours in the pit hadn’t left head to toe in dead skin flakes and filth, Liv’d run over and give the first friend she made in Chicago a hug. Instead she winkled her nose, miming disgust and pressed through to the back. Hidden behind the outdated World Book, atlases and the bathroom were the remnants of the library’s card catalogue.
Liv opened a drawer at random and ran her fingers along the aged and brittle stack of four by six cards. “Alright Flynne-comma-Augustus, whaddaya got for me?” Exhausted, she needed to squint to read the faded typeset.
“The Migration Habits of the Philomachus Pugnax… Yup, I think you’ll do.” She yanked the card from its drawer, and slammed it shut. A loud crack echoed through the stacks. It was a life lesson Liv learned in high school. Nothing put her to sleep faster than reading something she give zero fucks about, and today that was going to be birds.
She grumbled her favorite list of curse words as an evil sunbeam seared through the old metal blinds. The building was ancient. Hot as balls in the winter, freeze your nips off in the summer with graffiti commemorating the Bulls’ first three ‘peat from 1993 tagged the work tables. Rows of little box Macintosh computers had green screens that still played Oregon Trail. The moment she walked through the doors a year and a half ago, she fell in love. Although, she secretly wished she found a fancy dry cleaners, or laundromat. In her world away from Savannah affluence, it meant she did her own laundry, and a root canal was a more appealing option.
Liv navigated the maze of shelves with ease, but the book acted like a beacon pulsing with light as she traveled down the aisle. Relief cloaked her weary body as her fingers connected with the spine. Elusive sleep lurked. A satisfied smile pulled on her lips.
“Ah, Augustus… where have you been all my life?” She inhaled the stale pages, and the weight of her chronic sleep deprivation pressed on her shoulders. The devil in the form of a two-minute power nap called, and Liv surrendered.
Patient’s lives depended on Dr. Cole’s snap decisions. Where and when to cut. What he needed to make a heart beat. But the decision to by-pass the big city funk growing on a gas station urinal versus a clean, private place to pee at the neighborhood library was not one of them. E.coli sepsis was easier to treat than a ruptured bladder.
“She’s got to be senile….” Andy muttered, pacing through the library stacks. With each step, he cursed the ancient librarian, the poorly planned layout, and his third cup of coffee. On his fifth pass through the encyclopedias, he caught the eye of an attendant shelving books. There went the hidden piss option. Blame the trauma doc ego, but it’d be snowy day in an Aggie August before he asked where to find the toilet two times in one visit.
The whole morning was meant to be a distraction. A sunrise run along the Lakefront. Downing six-dollar, free range, blood of virgin lattes, and a trip to the library to read every trauma journal printed for the calendar year. Anything to not be fixated on the call. The offer. The means to move on from his life broken life in Texas and start saving lives in the Windy City.
His cell vibrated in his pocket. Andy ripped the phone from his jeans, ignoring the judgmental leers and shushes he’d get after breaking the library vow of silence, but a sound caught his ear. A snore. Muffled. Feminine. Except it grew into a cough. The heavy snore of an insomniac. He flashed back to medical school, feeling a pang of pity for whoever managed to fall asleep in the library.
The phone persisted. He looked down. The sound interrupted what would have been a horrible mistake. It wasn’t the call. Talking to the train wreck on the other end would ruin the day. Week. Hell, why stop there. The rest of his damned existence. He didn’t have the patience to be the gentleman his mother raised and no amount of time above the Mason/Dixon would retrain the years of southern etiquette. He hit ‘end’ and shelved the crazy on the other end for another day.
Andy took the chance at a ruptured bladder and searched the next aisle over. Sure enough he found the source. Her. Peaceful, serene and completely upright; a nurse by the looks of it. Not a sexist assumption. Doctors made snap judgments all the time and they were usually right. Shift workers insomnia, wrinkled scrubs, and white shoes. Didn’t require a fancy degree to suss out.
He checked his watch. No one intended to be asleep in the library at nine AM – it was a place you end up. Blame the trauma doc hero complex, but he felt compelled to rescue the woman from an inevitable ground level fall. The fact he had a preference for peaches and cream redheads had absolutely nothing to do with it. At least that’s what he’d tell himself after she opened her eyes.
A hand grabbed at Liv’s elbow, pulling her from a delicious sleep. “Eh… Hello… Hello? Miss?” She fell over, startled, and swung in the direction of a deep, twangy voice. “Whoa, easy there Tyson.”
She blinked herself awake.“Geeze, sorry!”
Mortified, she forced her eyes on the floor and rubbed out the numbness at her shoulder and left hip. Liv took a risky peek at her life-sized alarm clock. Huge mistake. Being a supreme specimen of good-looking, he checked off no less than four of her favorite male attributes in the one-second glance. Tall, blue eyes, wavy black hair, and the perfect five o’clock shadow. Only she would take a swing at the real life McDreamy. He caught her glance and smiled. Lazy and adorable.
Unbalanced and unprepared, Liv ignited. The concrete floor turned to mush, and she all but fell over. For a second time.
In a gallant flash he placed a steadying hand on her back as she flung her hands out for help. His grip reached the width of her waist and his fingers connected at the skin of her hips. Her heart sputtered in her chest. Electric and lightning quick, the spark sprung them apart. Sexy on a stick jumped back.
“You good?” he asked. “Yeah… you just…” “Surprised you. I noticed. Do you make it a habit of falling asleep in the library at nine in the morning … while standing in the avian reference section?” he asked.
Liv smoothed her hair, wishing her blush would fade. “No. I’m pretty flexible, sometimes it’s auto repair, or baking… But that doesn’t beat falling asleep in line at the Jewel, or on the elevator at Water Tower.”
“Who hasn’t fallen asleep on that elevator?” Liv laughed and allowed another look at his face. Their eyes connected. Shit. Bad idea. Something inside fluttered, and it wasn’t just sexy time tingles. He was reading her like an open book. The unfortunate irony was not appreciated. She shuffled her feet and dropped her gaze.
“You’re uhh... so you’re a nurse, I take it. Musta been a rough night."
Liv shook her head in quick denial. She might be proud of the letters behind her name, even if they only meant, ‘refreshments and narcotics,’ but it was almost a given that when strangers learned she was a nurse it was usually followed by a request to check out a mole, rash, or if it was supposed to hurt to pee.
“No. Not a nurse... Dog groomer.” She grimaced. Dog groomer? Phlebotomist would have worked just fine.McDreamy smirked.
“I never knew that would be so draining.”
She was caught, but she didn’t care, their moment was over. “Thanks for the wake-up call.” McDreamy’s delicious charm aside, Liv hoped he’d take the hint. A gentleman would follow her lead.
“You sure you’re safe to get where you’re going? I don’t want to worry about you falling asleep at an intersection or anything.” A familiar, soft drawl slurred his words. There was no way she imagined the subtle southern twang as he pulled away.
Her heart raced as he turned to leave, and her gaze traveled to his ass. His perfect, sculpted ass, cradled by designer denim. That checked seven, and eight. Flushed, turned on, and now insufferably awake, she doubted even Augustus Flynne’s bird magic would do the trick.
Liv pulled out her phone and meandered through the maze of book shelves, her nose glued to the screen. She calculated how many hours of sleep she’d get before her shift started again. A whopping four. Liv had to fight her Momma’s voice with the reminder.
‘Good genes only go so far,’ - polite, southern code for, ‘you look like hell Olivia.’ She hated to agree with her mother. In fact, it was a life’s passion to never agree with her, but this time she’d be right.
Liv swallowed her frustration, and conceded that today was just going to suck. She spotted a white card on the floor and recognized the colorful insignia. She picked up the lost library card and deciphered the name scribbled in clinical chicken scratch.
“Cole? Anderson? Cole Anderson?” she called. No response. “Two damned last names…” Liv muttered under her breath. “Anderson Cole?” she tried again and out popped Sexy on a stick, this time his lazy grin pressed into an irritated grimace, but a smile was instant after he connected her face to the voice.
“Cole Anderson? Anderson Cole?” she asked. He nodded. A slow, swoony smirk curled from his little boy smile as he looked her up and down from the short distance. The attention was sweet and so fucking flattering, she really wished he’d cut it out and give her a reason to rein in the crazy – like insult his Momma or kick a kitten.
She cleared her throat and tried to ignore an achy, twinge in her belly. “Your card. I guess you dropped it back there.”
“Thanks. I got it this morning, no tellin’ how mad those librarians would get if I had to get two in one day…”
“So which is it?” Liv asked, veering toward the check out. His eyes darted back the way he came, then swallowed what looked like a serious case of ‘I’m going to piss myself,’ a look she knew all too well.
“Anderson. Andy,” he clarified in a friendly tone. The millisecond of internal conflict was wiped from his features and he motioned for her to enter the line before him. He left a gentlemanly distance. But hormones be damned, she couldn’t help herself. Liv leaned into his space and inhaled his air. A smile tugged on her lips. “I’m going to have to ask you to tell me your name, aren’t I?” he pressed.
Olivia laughed, girlish and unintentionally flirty. She clenched her fingers into a fist hoping to dial down her attraction. “Liv. Liv Aberdeen.”
“Well, Liv Aberdeen, Can I take you for coffee? Or a drink? I don’t know what time of day it’s supposed to be for you,” he said with the perfect blend of flirty teasing.
No stranger to offers, she sucked in her bottom lip, this time truly disappointed. She wasn’t ready. But golly, it’s cruel to turn down a fella so fun to look at, and without a doubt, more fun naked.
“I shouldn’t. As you know I’m pretty tired, and I’ve got to work again tonight…”
“At the dog groomer?” Andy held Liv’s gaze as if to dare her to hold onto the lie.
“Ah. Yeah, the dog groomer.” He pursed his lips and cocked an assessing eyebrow. His blue eyes deliberately traveled the length of her body, inventorying her scrubs and incriminating, undeniable white clogs scuffed and smudged with twelve hours’ worth of piss, vomit and escalator guy’s blood.
“Isn’t that blood on your shoe?” he asked.
“I didn’t say I was a good dog groomer.”
Sexy on a stick laughed, shrugging his shoulders as if to admit defeat. “Well, alright then… Maybe I’ll see you around, Liv.”
A shiver shimmied down her spine and singed her panties as she heard his twang make love to her name.