Unscripted, a novel excerpt by Lynn Montagano
Romance – Novel Excerpt
Lynn Montagano, author
Word Count: 2929
Brilliant sunshine filled the room as Lia tossed and turned in her bed. She was having the most delicious dream about a handsome stranger, feeding her cupcakes. Red velvet ones. The warm sunshine trailed from the window, tickling the sheets and comforter on the bed before pooling on the floor.
“Wake up sleepy-head.” A cheerful voice sounded close-by.
Lia crinkled her face and rolled to her left side.
“Amelia Grace Meyers! Let’s GO!” The voice was urgent this time. Lia felt the blankets rip from her body. She sat up with a start.
“You are not allowed to sleep away the few precious days we have before the wedding. I mean, really. How freaking jet-lagged are you? You’ve been napping since we got here Thursday. It’s Saturday. Get up!”
Stephanie Tempe’s musical voice floated through the hotel room.
“Come on. We’re supposed to meet Darren and his friend at the pub before going to the soccer match. I don’t want to be late!”
Lia rubbed her eyes and allowed herself a moment to focus on her surroundings, and get a grasp on where she was exactly. Her best friend was standing by the foot of the bed, hands on her hips, smiling down at the sleepy traveler.
“This jet-lag is worse today than it was when we landed. Jeez!” Lia grumbled to herself as she stood up and lurched towards the bathroom.
God, what day was it? Saturday? Lia stared at herself in the mirror. Big, brown eyes stared back sleepily. Her cheeks were marked with lines from the pillow. She squished them around to get the markings out.
The girls had arrived in Glasgow nearly two days ago. Lia’s younger sister, Dayna, was getting married at the end of the week. Their first few hours were met with excited hugs and stories from Lia’s parents and sister. They’re all staying at one of Glasgow’s boutique hotels, in the West End, before leaving for the wedding.
“Today is going to be fun!’ Stephanie’s voice sang out from the bedroom. “I haven’t seen Darren in ages. It was super sweet of him to think of us and get these tickets.”
Tickets, tickets, tickets….. Oh yeah. The soccer game.
Stephanie arranged for them to meet up with an old family friend of hers, Darren MacCourty. Her parents have known the MacCourty family for years, befriending them while they were summering in Orlando when Stephanie and Darren were young children.
Stephanie gushed on and on about her friend. Lia was vaguely aware of her chatter. She turned on the shower to drown her out. She needed to wake up and get herself in gear. As the maid of honor, she had a zillion things to do for her sister’s wedding, and spending the day at a pub and soccer game was not going to help. But Stephanie had been so excited about seeing her old friend that Lia didn’t want to be a complete party pooper.
Lia showered quickly and threw on a pair of her favorite faded jeans, with a light sweater and sneakers. She parted her thick, long chestnut hair down the middle, put each section in an elastic band and twisted out a couple of braids before settling on a baseball hat to finish the look.
“You look like you’re about twelve years old,” Stephanie gigged at her sporty friend. She was also wearing jeans, but had opted for a fitted black cotton shirt, with a faux fur leopard print jacket and boots. Her shoulder-length wavy hair, naturally dark brown, was highlighted with a vibrant red these days. Stephanie always looked like she walked off the pages of Vogue. Even now.
“Hey, it’s comfortable. Besides, if the weather goes sour and it starts to rain, I’ll be covered,” Lia smirked.
Scottish weather was known to change from minute to minute. What was sunny now, could be rainy later.
“Alright Sporty Barbie, ready to go?” Stephanie asked, sliding on her vintage oversized frame sunglasses.
“Let’s do this,” Lia answered cheerfully.
Groups of young men and women, clad in various team apparel, lined the street leading up to the pub. The air was thick with cigarette smoke and excited chatter. The sun was still shining, and many people were taking advantage of the rare, nice weather. It was a breezy day, with temperatures flirting near fifty. Not quite the heatwave of Central Florida that Lia had grown accustomed to, but a pleasant day for an outdoor sporting event.
Stephanie scanned the crowd for Darren as the girls walked up the street. Her boots gave some added height to her frame, so she was able to see over people’s heads much easier. Lia shuffled along next to her and people watched.
“This is insanity! Look at all these people. Figures Darren would pick the most popular pub to meet.” Stephanie craned her neck to get a better view through the throngs of people.
Lia glanced up and down the street briefly, before letting her eyes settle on a trio of young men to her right. They were debating the merits of one player over another on a particular team. Lia hadn’t the foggiest idea what they were talking about, but enjoyed listening to their accents.
An elbow suddenly greeted her in the side.
“Ow! What the hell?” she looked at Stephanie with annoyance.
“Sorry, sorry. I see Darren. Let’s go.”
The girls navigated their way through several groups of people standing on the sidewalk. Once they reached a clearing, Lia spotted two men leaning against the building. The blonde with spiky hair was Darren. He was talking animatedly to the guy next to him. Something fluttered in Lia’s stomach when she looked at the newcomer.
Darren’s blue eyes brightened when he finally saw the girls approaching.
“Steph! Lia! You made it!” Darren engulfed Stephanie in a giant bear hug and swung her around a couple of times. After he put her down, he walked over to Lia and gave her a quick peck on each cheek.
“You ladies look lovely, as always. Welcome to beautiful Glasgow, where the sun always shines and the pints are always full,” Darren’s Glaswegian accent danced around the words, much to Lia and Stephanie’s delight.
“At least one of those statements is true,” the other young man quipped nearby.
Darren looked back at his friend and then addressed the girls.
“My apologizes for being so rude. Ladies, this is Alastair Holden. Don’t let his ginger hair frighten you.”
The minute Lia’s eyes locked with his she knew she was in trouble. Then he shook her hand and the world around her ceased to exist. The shock wave that went through her traveled all the way down to her toes.
He must have felt it as well, for his eyes dilated slightly.
“Hi, I’m Amelia Meyers. But please call me Lia.” She also cursed herself for wearing braids and a baseball cap.
Alastair’s ginger hair, as Darren called it, was actually a dark red, mixed with chocolate brown. It was short, thick and tousled. Wide, bright hazel eyes fringed with long lashes gazed down at her curiously.
“Pleased to meet you Amelia.” His voice was rich and smooth. A soft accent caressed his words.
His boyish good looks betrayed his actual age. Stephanie had mentioned he was the same age as Darren, but he didn’t look thirty-one. He kept his gaze cool as he smiled down at Lia. She caught herself staring at him a bit too long and blushed.
Alastair’s eyes flashed at the sight of her blush. He shifted on his feet to regain composure.
“So, you ladies are ready to see a proper Scottish football match, then?”
“As ready as we can be. Neither of us have any idea what will be going on, so you guys will have to explain things as they happen,” Stephanie looked from Darren from Alastair.
“I have some idea of what’s going on. I played soccer when I was little,” Lia felt stupid the minute the words tumbled out of her mouth. Although what she said was true, she spent most of her time on the field playing with her hair and pulling up her socks.
“Well, then, you can sit next to me and we can discuss the finer aspects of the game,” Alastair shot Lia a lopsided grin. Her stomach lit up like the fourth of July.
“Sorry if this sounds weird, but you don’t sound very Scottish,” Lia said to him. “Where are you from originally?”
A subtle look of surprise filled his hazel eyes.
“Ah, good on you for noticing. I’m originally from a place called Ascot, in England. It’s to the west of London.”
“Ascot? Like the races?” Visions of big hats and suits with tails popped into her head.
Alastair laughed at the simplicity of her curiosity. “Yes, like the races.”
“We should get walking toward the stadium,” Darren told the group. “It’s about a twenty-five minute walk from here, and the match starts in forty-five minutes.”
Stephanie linked arms with Darren, as they started up the street. “We’ll lead the way. You guys try to keep up.”
“No problem there,” Alastair replied. He looked at Lia and offered her his arm. “Shall we?”
Lia’s blush darkened, much to his liking. She linked her arm in his and followed their friends toward the stadium.
Tens of thousands of people erupted into a massive throaty cheer as the soccer ball scooted past the keeper and hit the net with a low swoosh. Darren and Stephanie leapt to their feet and joined the celebration. The home team had just taken the lead away from the visiting rivals, with minutes remaining in the match.
Lia clapped enthusiastically and marveled at the level of excitement in the stadium. She’d been to her share of professional sporting events, but had never seen anything quite like this.
Singing, cheering and chanting, all in unison. A sea of green and white scarves waved from side to side in a show of solidarity for the home team, Celtic F.C. And nobody seemed to notice that the brilliant sunshine had given way to gray skies and drizzling rain.
“Now THAT was a goal! C’mon the Hoops!” Darren yelled and pumped his fist in the air.
The crowd noise didn’t let up as the last seconds of the match ticked away. When the final whistle blew, the crowd roared.
“First good win in a while for the boys. A celebratory pint is in order. Ladies?” Darren motioned for the group to make their way out of the stadium.
Cool, drizzling rain lightly fell on the foursome as they walked toward the main road. Lia silently laughed at Stephanie as she cowered away from the droplets.
“Ugh, this is not fun,” she whimpered.
“No worries, we’ll hire a taxi once we get to the corner. Wouldn’t want the lovely lasses to melt away with all this rain,” Alastair teased. Lia gazed up at his perfect, hundred-watt smile and felt her stomach do a backflip.
They managed to get a cab quickly and rode back to Glasgow’s West End, near the girls’ hotel. It was late afternoon. Many of the same people who had been out enjoying the sunshine were now scurrying into restaurants and pubs, to escape the drizzle.
Darren suggested they go to a restaurant across the street from the hotel for some sandwiches and drinks. Lia dove into her burger the minute it hit the table. She hadn’t really eaten much, given the jet-lag and her sleeping most of the time. This was the first time she was able to savor a meal.
“They don’t feed you in the states?” Alastair asked in mock disbelief. “I would assume you could get a good hamburger there on any street corner.”
Lia swallowed her food. “I know. Pity isn’t it?” She grinned up at him and took another bite.
“Lia has spent most of the past day and a half sleeping. Some people can’t handle the jet-lag it seems,” Stephanie teased.
“Ah, you should have a few more pints. You’ll feel brand new. Never mind the sleep,” Darren waved his hand in the air to ward off the notion.
“Ha, ha. You guys are cute,” Lia retorted good naturally. Stephanie and Darren leaned back against the booth and started chatting.
Alastair turned toward Lia, leaning on his elbow. The booth was a bit tight and his arm brushed against her. “So how long will you be here in Glasgow? Darren mentioned you ladies were in town for a wedding?”
“Yes, my sister Dayna is getting married next Friday down in Gretna Green. She lives in London with her fiance, Andrew, but she wanted all of us to spend some time in Glasgow before the wedding. So, here we are.”
“What does she think of living in London?”
His stare was friendly. He had a naturally flirty way about him. She inhaled sharply and took a second to compose herself before answering, hopefully sounding natural.
“She likes it. She pretty much moved out here right after college. She spent a semester interning at Delicious Magazine, which is where she works now as a features writer.”
“A food writer. Must be hungry all the time,” Alastair grinned at his own weak joke. “So, how long will you be in Glasgow, then?”
He watched, enraptured, as a deep blush rose through her cheeks. He liked that blush and wanted to see more. Lia bowed her head slightly and fidgeted with her napkin. She couldn’t be sure if it was the jet-lag or the beer, but his hazel-eyed gaze was having an affect on her.
“We leave on Monday. The wedding is on Friday afternoon. Steph & I come back to Glasgow on Saturday though. She’s going with Darren to some charity event for his work. Then I have to fly back to Orlando next Sunday, sadly, and go back to work.”
“And what is it you do?” He stared intensely.
Lia laughed apologetically. She always felt a little awkward when describing her job. She never knew how people were going to react.
“Oh, I write news stories for a local TV station there. Nothing too exciting. Just your average tales of car crashes, shootings, robberies and the occasional baby being born in rush hour traffic. Maybe throw in some celebrity gossip now and again. But that’s all.”
Alastair’s eyes widened, curiosity flickering in them. ”So. You’re the one who writes the stories about dogs surfing in the summer then?”
“Yep. That’s me. You see a dog carrying a surfboard, make sure you give me the tip so I can have the inside story.”
They laughed. His was deep and throaty and sexy.
As Alastair reached for his beer, Lia rested her chin on her hand and gazed at him a bit longer. His fair skin was porcelain smooth. Brownish-red stubble covered his jaw and chin. Full, sculpted lips twitched into a small smile directed at her. Lia’s elbow nearly slipped off the table.
Alastair took a sip of his beer. “Is this your first time abroad then?”
Another smile formed on his lips. Lia wondered if he was enjoying her blatant display of awkwardness.
“Oh no. I’ve been to London a few times, especially when my sister first moved there. I helped her out with apartment stuff, decorating, unpacking. You know, the grunt work. But this is my first time in Scotland.”
“How long has your sister lived in London?”
“Um, five years. I’ve been out to see her at least once a year since then.”
A cold chill brushed Alastair’s back. Five years ago he would have also been living in London. He closed his eyes briefly as regret and longing filled his lungs.
Lia was quietly nudging the food on her plate. She looked up at Alastair and took another bite of her burger.
“What do you think so far? Of Scotland, I mean,” he asked, rubbing the stubble on his jaw.
The hamburger lodged in Lia’s throat. She put up a finger and pointed to her mouth to signal that she’d have to finish chewing before answering.
Alastair smiled a little secret smile and had another sip of beer. If he thought she wasn’t hiding her awkwardness very well, he didn’t seem to mind.
“I haven’t really seen much of it. Just the hotel and then today’s soccer game. But, so far so good.” She grinned shyly. “We’re supposed to go to Edinburgh tomorrow, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve read a lot about the city. It sounds so lovely.”
“Edinburgh is great. There’s a great mix of the old and new there. I have a feeling you’ll enjoy yourself.”
Darren leaned in and politely interrupted.
“Hey you two, I hate to butt in, however it’s getting a bit late and I’ve gotta be heading out. Stephanie mentioned you girls are going to Edinburgh tomorrow. I’ve already invited myself, but figured I’d extend an invite to Mr. Holden as well. What do you think mate? You up for a trip east? Or do you have a rugby game in the works?”
Alastair kept his steady gaze on Lia and broke out into an easy smile. “I seem to be free tomorrow. If these ladies don’t mind that we’re intruding on their day.”
“We don’t mind at all,” Stephanie smirked, glanced at Lia and lifted an eyebrow. “So long as you guys don’t mind an afternoon primarily filled with shopping.”
“We’ll survive,” Darren assured her. “Come on now, we’ll walk you to the hotel.”