This morning, I was tagged by the lovely Suzette de Borja (who writes some of my favorite royal romance books, just saying) to post a few lines from my WIP. I figured this was a nice opportunity to update the blog with this unedited(!) excerpt from a book that I’m currently working on called Chasing Mindy. It was a book borne out of a very timely prompt by Mina V Esguerra (this one, o) and a lovely trip to Paris.
Oh, and this part of the story happens on this exact street corner!
“Ugh, damn it,” Mindy cursed, shaking her head sixteen hours later. “Damn. It.”
She was standing on the corner Rue Du Depart and Boulevard Montparnasse, and she was having the hardest time trying to wrap her head around the fact that she was here. In Paris.
It looked real enough—the buildings around the rotunda she was facing had the distinct yellow walls and blue rooftops she’d only remembered in dreams. Every nook and cranny of the street disappeared into a secret, unknown place, inviting her to walk in and see what was there. Behind her was a corner cafe, one of the many in Paris, where the wicker chairs and tiny round tables faced out and the waiters wore big black smocks and fanny packs full of change. The sounds of the street were muted, and the cool air was wrapped up in mystery and romance.
Damn Paris. Three times here now, and she still couldn’t get over how otherworldly it was.
Mindy took a deep breath and released a calm, collected sigh. It felt so freeing, finally being able to do this. She felt weightless and unencumbered, with no work looming over her head, no family waiting for her. For a rare and beautiful moment, she was just Jasmine Capras.
“J’taime,” she said, throwing kisses at the Metro sign, the Galleries Lafayette across the street, the ‘American style’ restaurant behind her. She was just so over-the-moon, break-into-song happy. ”J’taime! J’taime!”
“What are you doing?” An amused voice interrupted her happy reverie behind her. Her good mood evaporated like air from a deflating balloon. “According to the travel details my mom sent, you should have been at your hotel an hour ago. I thought something happened to you.”
Mindy turned so slowly that the earth could have turned completely on its axis if she wanted it to. She glared at Javier wishing that a portal could just appear at his feet and teleport him far, far away. Paris may be magical, but unfortunately, it wasn’t what kind of magical.
“Is that my jacket?” He asked.
She looked down at the oversized varsity jacket that she’d grown accustomed to, felt around the pocket for her used boarding passes, pulled it close and breathed in the coffee scent that managed to linger despite the plane smell. She slowly raised her eyes at Javier, as if daring him to take it from her.
Javier looked confused for a second, like his robot brain was still trying to process what he was watching, then shook his head.
“You didn’t have to come,” she said. “I could have lied enough for both of us.”
“I know you would,” he shrugged. ”But I had to do something in between classes and work. Contrary to what everyone says, you do get sick of museums sometimes. And side streets. And cafés.”
“Excuze moi?” A waiter behind them asked, making Javier apologize quickly and move out of his way. Mindy noticed that most, if not all the café’s customers were staring at them, their seats angled slightly toward them in a bid to see better. This scene with Javier was the kind of thing Mindy wanted to see while sitting cafe-side, instead of being a part of the scene itself.
“You work?” She asked. “I would love to see you in a fanny pack of money. I bet you write down everyone’s orders so slowly.”
“I work in a bookshop.”
That took Mindy aback, because she could picture it. Him in a warm knitted sweater over a collared shirt, poring over a thick volume on analytics while customers around him explored a dark, moggy old bookshop. She could imagine him pushing a pair of thin-rimmed glasses up his nose, ignoring customers who asked stupid questions like ‘have you got the latest John Grisham?’ and him having to explain that no, this was a travel bookshop and they only sold travel books and—nope. Javier was not Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.
“Oh,” she said instead. “Why do you need to work? You live in Ayala Alabang. You moved there from Hillside Estates.”
For the first time since meeting in Paris, Javier actually looked uncomfortable, sticking his hands into his pockets and studying his shoes. Mindy wondered if she’d offended him, and bit back an apology. She could almost hear her sister Daisy’s voice in her head, reprimanding her for bad behavior. Since when was Daisy the voice of her conscience?
”My father is rich,” Javier corrected her. “It’s a family thing, I don’t want to get into it.”
He didn’t have to get into it, really, because Mindy already knew everything. The true core of her family’s relationship was a circle of trust between the siblings, where anything that anyone knew was shared and analyzed over and over again. The Tiangco family and their problems were no exception. Daisy, as the Minister of Information finally told the story when they stopped over for dinner on the way home from the Tiangco’s house in Alabang, with her parents adding or taking out details from what sounded like the plotline of a local teleserye.
To cut the long story short, Francis Tiangco had built a land development empire by playing fast and loose with other local businessmen. Much to her mother’s disappointment, Tito Francis developed all the classic hallmarks of a sleazebag business tycoon—shady government dealings, binge drinking to seal deals and no less than seven women on the side, all with their own house and drivers. Javier’s mother filed for legal separation and demanded alimony when it became clear that Tito Francis’ interests were veering away from his family. Divorce law was almost nonexistent in the Philippines, and this was the best she could get. Tito Francis made things difficult by letting everything pass exclusively through Javier, which meant Javier controlled how much his mother got, what she got and when she got it. It was enough to screw up any guy, that was for sure.
Mindy could understand why he felt the need to study in Paris. She also felt a little bit bad for everything she’d said and thought about him so far. But only a little bit.
“Your room isn’t ready yet,” he informed her. “Leave your bags at the reception desk and we can eat.”
Mindy blinked at him.
“You like burgers, right,” he says, and yes, she does. “I know just the place.”