Melissa and Gabriel: Alternative Meet Cute

This is an alternative "meet cute" between single-mom protagonist Melissa Hartley and gargoyle CEO Gabriel Alston. In Mom of the Chosen One, the duo meet at Melissa's workplace and clash over employee benefits. Because their meeting is so important to the story, I wrote another way they could have met. Enjoy this never-before-seen first draft!

(told from Melissa Hartley's point of view)

Java Haus is a tiny manufactured home turned coffee shop, the outside painted light purple with brown trim. Decked out in faux hardwood throughout, the walls had been knocked down to provide more space for seating. I found the place jam packed this early on a weekday. A mixture of blue- and white-collar workers, hailing from nearby government offices and industrial companies, needed their morning coffee.

I placed my mocha order with the barista, complimenting her bright pink hair, then found a relatively quiet corner to wait. I pulled out my phone and went over my notes for my big meeting later this afternoon.

I had to convince our new CEO not to reduce employee benefits. So many of my coworkers depended on decent health insurance coverage. I went over my speech points over and over again. I had to get it right.

The barista finally called my name. I strolled across the bar to grab my coffee, attention glued to my phone. I grabbed one of two paper cups on the counter, the one with my name scrawled across it. Without really paying attention to where I was going, I flipped around to head out the door.

And collided with a solid, hulking mass.

My cup tilted out of control toward an expensive black suit. I watched in horror as mocha splashed across the fabric.

I winced as my eyes traveled upward to meet the person I’d just doused with coffee.

My gaze kept going up and up and up.

A giant with broad shoulders like a football player glanced down at me with steel blue-gray eyes. Dark brown hair with slightly graying temples framed his angular face. He frowned at his stained attire.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, shoving the stupid phone into my pocket and grabbing napkins off a side table. “Let me help you.”

My clumsy fingers slapped the tissue too hard on his chest. The guy had no give. His torso felt as if it could have been carved in stone.

“No need for that,” he said, his voice deep. He removed his jacket, revealing a taut collared shirt that clearly showed he knew the inside of a weight room. It wouldn’t surprise me if he could lift the entire coffee bar and haul it over his shoulder.

Or he could lift me and take me anywhere.

A burst of heat lit my cheeks and spread across my body. Was I really having a hot flash right now?

I tried to get ahold of myself. I should offer to repair his suit, maybe have it washed. I opened my mouth to propose that plan of action.

Instead, I said, “Give me your phone number.” Loudly and with a hint of desperation. The pink-haired barista heard me and winked at us between making drink orders, amused.

The giant noticed it too. “I’m not interested.”

I wanted to fade into the floor. “Not for that,” I said, which only further emphasized that I was thinking about a hook-up. I just wasn’t going to get out of this unscathed. “I can pay to dry clean your suit.”

The giant assessed me. His full attention felt like being stalked by a quiet predator of the night: calculating, smart, and ultimately sizing you up for a meal.

I bit the inside of my cheek to control myself.  Curse my flailing middle-aged libido.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, turning to dismiss me. “I can afford it.”

Clearly, he could. His suit probably cost more than a month of my salary. But his casual dismissal of me—the poor, single, struggling mom—put me on the defensive.

“I can afford it too!” I announced. I whipped out a business card from my purse. “If you change your mind.”

He took it. Instead of trashing it, which I thought he might, he actually read it. One of his eyebrows lifted in surprise. “You work for Cascade Vista?”

“Yep. I practically run the place.” I purposely implied I might be important. Sure, I was just an office manager, but he didn't need to know that.

“Thank you, Ms. Hartley,” he said, carefully tucking my card away in his wallet. “I’ll let you know if I wish for you to pay the bill.”

“Great.” An awkward silence fell over us. There was no other reason to talk. I backed toward the door. “Hear from you later.

Then I fled back to my car.

It wasn’t until I’d banged my forehead against the steering wheel in shame that I realized I hadn’t even caught the guy’s name. Smooth, Melissa. First you get yourself an expensive dry cleaning bill. Then you pseudo-flirt with a guy you spilled a drink all over.

“And I didn’t even get to drink my mocha,” I grumbled as I started the car.

I really hoped this marked the end of my day’s bad luck.

Read the actual way Melissa and Gabriel meet in Mom of the Chosen One!