SNOWED IN by Jessica Calla
Copyright © 2019 by Jessica Calla
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Emma stared at the screen on her phone as the shrill tone rang through her otherwise quiet office. A. Mooney-NJ flashed across the display, blinking, waiting for her to pick up the call. She’d given him her cell phone number, so she wasn’t sure why he was calling her internal office line. Whatever the reason for doing so, she knew it probably wasn’t good. She’d likely stepped over a line with the tickets. Once again, she hated herself for her social awkwardness.
She lifted her hand and touched the answer button without pressing it, then quickly returned her hand to her lap, as if the button had been on fire. What would she say to him? Was he mad about the tickets? Did he not trust her with his girls?
She couldn’t blame him. Maybe it was a little forward to suggest he leave the twins in her care, but she wasn’t sure what his babysitting situation was, and certainly didn’t want to place a financial burden on his family in order for him to enjoy her gift.
The phone stopped ringing, finally. She stood and paced behind her desk, looking out at Fifth Avenue twenty stories below. From up there, in her cherry-wood-paneled corner office, she could study the people on the street, watch their patterns of movement, imagine their feelings as they wandered her city during this special holiday season. But she wasn’t good at asking them, face-to-face, how it made them feel. Imagining was much easier.
She was a generous person, so she thought, but she’d never had to confront people one-on-one. She always had her father to fight her battles, or her agent when she was modeling. Now, as CEO, she was trying to learn how to manage the delicate balance of brains and brawn. The brawn part of that was the problem. The ideas flowed as she sat behind her desk, but as soon as she tried to verbalize them, she either floundered or crossed over the line and overdid it.
With Andrew, maybe the idea of the tickets for him and his father was nice in theory, but perhaps her execution had been a bit too aggressive.
When the voicemail came through to her email, she cringed as she clicked to open the recording.
“Hi Emma…Ms. Ballard…I was hoping to talk to you. Um…I hate voicemail. Maybe I’ll just email? I don’t know. I guess call me back at the office?”
She thought he’d hung up, but the recording continued.
“Oh, and, um, thank you. That was really nice of you.”
The last part put her at ease a bit. At least he thought it was a nice gesture, even if he’d ultimately end up refusing the offer.
Cindy, Rhonda and Emma’s shared administrative assistant, buzzed her speaker. “Ms. Ballard?”
“Yes,” Emma answered, hating that Cindy was so formal.
“Mr. Mooney from the New Jersey branch is on your outside line.”
Emma’s heart sped up. “Thanks, Cin. I’ll take it.” She looked at the blinking dot next to the official business line. With a deep breath, she straightened her shoulders and picked up the receiver. “Andrew?”
He cleared his throat. “Hi Ms.—”
“Emma,” she interrupted. “You have to call me Emma, please. Nobody around here does, and I miss my name.”
He chuckled. “Emma. It’s a beautiful name.”
She spun in her chair and smiled. “What can I do for you? I just got your voicemail.”
“Oh, right. I left it and then figured maybe you don’t answer calls on your internal line that aren’t screened, so I thought I’d try the official line. I don’t know.”
She could picture him fidgeting. “I gave you my cell phone number in the card I sent.”
“You did. I felt…I don’t know…I didn’t want to bother you.”
“I wouldn’t have given it to you if I thought you’d be a bother.” Emma watched the clouds move through the sky, wondering if she was being too much. “But this is fine, too, if you’re more comfortable. What’s up?”
“I wanted to say thank you for the tickets. It’s a very generous gift that goes above and beyond the hospitality provided, but I’m happy and excited to accept.”
“You are?” She mentally fist-bumped herself. Good job, Emma.
“I am. But there’s one thing.”
Emma’s stomach twisted into a knot. “I hope it’s not the girls. I mean, I only offered to watch them because—”
“No, no. Not that. I mean, I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me.”
Emma dropped the phone at his words. The handset tumbled to the floor, bouncing around on the wire as she tried to recover it. Did he just ask her on a date? A date that she’d set up? She fumbled the handset and sputtered a laugh as she returned it to her ear. “Sorry. You want me to go with you?”
“Obviously, it wouldn’t be, like, a date or anything because company policy forbids such things, and I’d never suggest that you’d be interested…” He huffed into the phone. “This is weird. Honestly, my father isn’t into the theater, like, at all, and there’s nobody I know who’d appreciate it like you would. I don’t want my first, and most likely only, Heatherby experience to be with one of my friends who would heckle the cast and sneak in a flask.”
She laughed. “Your friends sound interesting.”
“So, what do you say?”
Before she thought too hard about the consequences, she blurted out, “I’d love to go with you.”
“For realsies?” he asked, his voice high-pitched, like he didn’t believe her.
“For realsies,” she answered.
“Great,” he practically screamed. “I’ll call you before Friday, on the cell next time or maybe I’ll text you, I’ll figure it out, and we’ll finalize details.”
She smirked at his nerdy tone. Charming, smart, down to earth. Not bad on the eyes either. “Sounds good. Call or text anytime. When I’m busy I mute the phone, so you don’t have to worry about bothering me. Okay?”
“Okay. Talk soon, Boss Lady.”
Smiling, she hung up the phone and fanned herself with a file from her desk. Why did it feel like it was suddenly a hundred degrees in her office? Did she just make a date with her employee?
No. Wasn’t a date. He’d said so. He’d only invited her because he had nobody else to go with. Still, it would be the first time she’d been out with a man, platonic or otherwise, in a very long time.
And that made her more nervous than presenting before hundreds of shareholders or posing in a bathing suit for millions to see.
Emma stretched on her king-sized bed as her phone beeped on the nightstand. Of all the places in the townhouse, her bed was her favorite. The place was huge, but she mostly confined herself to her bedroom and her sewing room.
Her best friend’s face lit up the screen, right under the clock that read ten p.m.
Emma Ballard and Teagan Winslow were night and day. Emma had grown up in luxury on the Upper East Side, while Teagan’s mother had raised her on the streets of Las Vegas, hustling for cash. But from the time they both landed in the same modeling agency at the age of fifteen, they’d been inseparable.
Except now, Teagan was married to a doctor named Jack and lived in Los Angeles, while Emma was a world away in New York City.
“Hi, Tea,” Emma yawned.
“Don’t tell me you’re asleep. It’s, what, nine there? Shouldn’t you be out partying?”
“It’s ten. I’m tired and need my beauty rest. What’s up?”
Two of Teagan’s three babies, the twins, screamed in the background. Not the oldest though, Emma’s godson, Matthew. He just begged for the phone. “I wanna talk to Mem-ma, Mommy…. lemme talk to Mem-ma!”
Teagan shushed Matthew. “Me first, Matty. Go check on the babies.” After briefly placing Emma on hold she returned to the phone, and the background noise toned down. “Remind me why I wanted kids?”
“’Cause they’re cute? And because you married to a pediatrician?” Although she finally broke down and got the “mom bob” haircut, Teagan was still the most beautiful woman in the world. Literally. At least she had held the title when they were modeling. But to Emma, even after three kids and five years of marriage, Teagan was more beautiful because she was happy, and finally living the dream she deserved.
When the sounds in the background silenced, Emma heard Teagan take a deep breath.
“So,” Emma asked, “how’d you get them to quiet down?”
“I gave them knives to play with.”
Stifling a giggle, Emma sat up in the bed. “Good parenting. Tell me about Tyler and Petey.”
“The boys are beautiful angels from heaven, they’re growing so fast, they do cute tricks, blah blah, all is fine. Enough about me. What’s this text about you dating again?”
Emma sighed. “It’s not a date. It’s a thank you.”
“For what exactly?”
She told Teagan about the snowstorm. The ride. The girls. The warm, holiday-decorated townhome. The perfectly-cooked bacon. “It was nice being there. It reminded me of my childhood, before BI went public and Dad made all the money. It felt busy and active. I don’t know, I figured the tickets would be a nice thing to do. I never thought he’d want me to go with him.”
Emma fiddled with the edge of her bedsheet. “Because they all hate me at BI. They resent that Dad left me in charge.”
“Apparently this Andrew guy doesn’t hate you. Tell me about him.”
“Oh. Well, I already told you he’s in the New Jersey branch, a tech guy—”
“Tall?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah. Very actually.”
“More please. Details.”
Emma huffed. “What is this, seventh grade?”
“Yes. Please, let me live a single life vicariously through you.”
“Fine, you old married woman.” Emma thought about the morning after the snowstorm, when Andrew was showered and shaved, and fidgeting in the hallway as he tried to talk to her. “Blond. Thin, but not bony. Like not skinny, but…long, I guess. Fidgety. He has these green eyes that remind me of the water from the Maldives. Remember, the Athletes Illustrated issue?”
“How could I forget? I’d kill to have that figure back.”
“I mean the water. Do you remember the water, Tea?” Closing her eyes, Emma could almost feel the breeze against her face when she thought about the Maldives.
“His eyes are that sea green color?”
“So why don’t you ask him out, officially?”
Emma gasped. “Because we don’t know each other. Because he’s my employee, and he’s a widower with a family, Teagan. Not every guy is ask-outable.”
“But he has twins! I like him already.” She clicked her tongue. “Let me ask you this, Memma…”
Oh boy. When she used Matty’s nickname for her, she knew she was in for it. Emma quirked an eyebrow, waiting.
“When’s the last time you had a boyfriend?”
“Don’t ‘ew’ me. Because according to my calculations, it was sometime in the last decade. You’re barely thirty—”
“That’s what I said. Barely thirty, and you need to get your groove on.”
Emma rolled her eyes. “I really don’t. Last time that didn’t work out so well for me. I’m busy. I’m happy. I have a very fulfilling life.”
“All you do is work at BI and volunteer at the old people home.”
“That’s not all. I sew. Don’t forget that.”
“Oh right. Sewing. Because that’s super cool.”
Emma could picture Teagan doing an eye roll so she refrained from mentioning that sometimes, Emma combined the two and actually sewed at the senior center. The Westwood Senior Center was the one place outside of her penthouse where Emma felt truly accepted and loved. She didn’t have to pretend to be something she wasn’t. The residents, as well as the cancer support group headquartered there, loved her scarves. She loved that they knew nothing about her past or her position at BI, and simply enjoyed her company.
“All I’m saying is that you don’t have to be superwoman, staying busy all the time with work and all-things-old-lady, just because you’re afraid of men and what that dumb Dario did to you when we were young and stupid.”
“I understand what you’re saying. I do. I just don’t feel like putting the effort in. It’s not worth it.” Emma hated thinking about her past with Dario Santini.
“Babe,” Teagan said, pulling Emma from her memories. “Trust me. When you find the right one, it’s all worth it.”
“Maybe. Either way, it’s not with Andrew the IT guy.”
“How do you know?”
“There’s the office policy.”
“Policy, schmolicy. When are you going to resign that job? You hate it.”
“’Hate’ is a strong word.” Teagan had made her points and Emma had had enough of her criticism. “I love you, but you are seriously judge-y today and I’m tired. Where’s my godson? Maybe he’ll be nicer to me.”
“I love you, Em. Be happy.” Then she called for Matthew.
Emma talked to Matty for a while, trying to focus on his sweet little voice, his story about trains, and the soft sheets underneath her, but instead dredged up horrible memories of Dario.
Dario had stolen her heart, her virginity, and then her money, before dumping her in the middle of Seoul during a photo shoot. Thankfully, Teagan pulled her up and kept her going, getting her home in one piece. For the next six months, Emma resided in a “rest and relaxation” complex, paid for by her father, who had no clue what to do for her. After that, she quit modeling and went to college. Dario had disappeared before her father could find him. If her father had tracked him down, though, Emma wasn’t sure if he’d kill him, or turn him over to the authorities. Emma still had nightmares that Dario would come find her at BI.
If there was one thing Emma did not want in her life at the moment, it was more drama, with and without men. She’d had enough of it during her modeling years. The thought of being with Andrew as anything more than a theater buddy set off alarms. Between the work policy and his widower, single-father lifestyle, the man was nothing but drama.
Proud of this revelation, it was suddenly clear to Emma that Andrew Mooney could be nothing but a friend. No matter how much she’d enjoyed his company the evening of the snowstorm, or how much she was looking forward to Friday at the theater.
Chapter 3 Notes:
- All Emma this chapter. I think that when you are doing a dual POV, whether in first or third person, it’s important to break the pattern of MC1/MC2/New Chapter. Just to keep the reader interested. Also, I wanted the phone call with Andrew to be from Emma’s POV.
- Teagan! Teagan is quite a personality and she’ll be popping back into the story. I was a little afraid that maybe she’s more interesting than Emma, but I did want Emma to have a friend who was opposite her. I like their dynamic and their closeness, especially since Emma doesn’t have any family members. Teagan is like a sister to her. I hope you feel that from the chapter.
- Also, after I wrote SNOWED IN, I started Teagan’s book as a prequel called IN BLOOM. I had the idea to write four books with a seasons theme. So Emma’s would be winter, Teagan’s spring, etc etc. I’ve since abandoned T’s book, but doing this on the blog with SI is kind of inspiring me to get back to it. Teagan’s book takes place after Emma quits modeling and is in college in NYC, and Teagan is still modeling and back and forth from Vegas and LA. It’s cute. See I’m inspired again… thank you for that WOAW!
- Dario is my attempt at an antagonist, but a tame one given the publisher I was shooting for. You’ll see him pop up again too in later chapters. He’s going to cause problems for Emma professionally, and she’ll have to get over what he did to her in order to move forward with Andrew. He’s not a nice guy–he’s the anti-Andrew.
- My hope is that by the end of Chapter 3, you feel like you know the characters and a bit of their backstory, and will be anxious to turn the page and see them go on their theater date.
Thanks for reading!