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After a bad experience, Sam isn't looking for a new relationship. But when Matt Sentori walks into the cafe where she works, how can she resist him?



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Time for Regrets

Light, Sweet, Contemporary Romance
Length: Short Novel

Amazon Kindle ($4.99 or FREE in Kindle Unlimited)

Paperback ($9.99)

When Samantha “Sam” Dennis’s life implodes, she flees her hometown for a fresh start in New York City. Her cousin Julie helps her get settled and introduces her to her friends in the No Brides Club—other women who’ve sworn off love to concentrate on their careers. She gladly joins the club as she spends her days waitressing at a cafe and nights attending an online business school.

But then Matt Sentori walks into the cafe.

Matt has his own tragic history, and Sam is reluctantly drawn to him, even if he is a lawyer just like her ex. He makes it clear he's interested in her, but when his law firm gets involved in the sale of the apartment building she lives in, which will displace all the tenants, Sam is more convinced than ever to commit herself to the No Brides Club.

Matt wants to win back her trust by showing he’s not the same uncaring creep as her ex, despite their shared profession. Finding ways to help the most desperate and needy tenants who share her building seems a good way to do it, but dealing with her neighbors and their problems will test Matt’s and Sam’s ability to trust each other as well as their growing love.

When Sam finally puts her life back together, will there be room for Matt in her heart?

Chapter One

“Hey, Sam, your favorite customer just came in.”

Samantha Dennis turned from the array of meals on the ready counter to look up at her co-worker. “I have a favorite customer?”

Angel rolled her eyes and gave her an arch look. “Puh-lease. Mr. Tall, dark, and infatuated? The guy who’s come in for late lunch every few days for the past two weeks, sat at the same table, and asked if you’re here?” Angel pulled on her straw-straight blonde hair that now sported an inch of dark roots and smiled crookedly. “I’ll bet he tips pretty well.”

Sam didn’t say anything for a moment. He did tip well. He was good-looking, too, as more than one of her coworkers had noted. And he did try to sit at the same table, one he knew was usually hers when she was on duty. Unlike Angel, far from being thrilled, she was a little spooked by it, having just gotten burned badly in a relationship.

“Okay.” She had a more immediate problem. “But see the guys at table eleven? They’re trouble. Handsy and attitudinal.”

“Hmmm. Could be.” Angel looked in that direction. “Need back up?”

“Not yet. But they’re my next delivery. We’ll see.”

Sam picked up two burger platters, noting the tags for doneness to match them with the orders. There should be two more for that table, but those probably needed another couple of minutes to be well-done. She took the two medium rare plates and wound her way through the tightly packed tables to where the four young men sat.

Something about the group made her hackles rise. All four wore jeans and tee-shirts stained with sweat and dirt, but the Beckley Café drew a diverse crowd, from construction workers at several nearby sites to doctors and nurses from the medical center a block over, lawyers with a couple of large firms in the area, and other office workers. She approached warily, watching the way they eyed her and each other. Their snarky grins had her internal trouble alarm flashing yellow.

Nonetheless, she smiled at them as she set the plates in front of the two who’d asked for their burgers medium rare. “The others will be out shortly,” she said. One of the two who hadn’t gotten his meal yet reached out and snagged her wrist. “Maybe we should hold you hostage until the food comes.”

She tugged her wrist loose from his grasp. “I don’t recommend it. That would delay your food arriving.” She tried to smile and treat it as a joke, but she also backed away from the table before any of them could try to grab again. Like most less expensive lower Manhattan restaurants, the space wasn’t large, and everything crammed in close together. When she took a second step back, her hip knocked against the corner of another table.

She lurched off balance, tilting into the customer sitting there. In an effort to avoid crashing down on him, she twisted to the side, but a strong hand gripped her arm and guided her to a soft landing across a man’s knees.

“Whoosh. Sorry,” she said, collecting her breath.

“Nothing to apologize for.” The voice was deep, smooth, and familiar. The masculine burr compelled her attention. She twisted to see her savior and found herself staring into the warm cinnamon-brown eyes of the man her co-worker had called her favorite customer.

Every nerve-ending in her body went on high alert, zinging a message of interest. Time stood still for a moment. Breath clotted in her throat. Her heart pounded heavily in her chest.

His dark, nearly black hair was combed back from his face to tame its tendency to wave. Dark, level brows, sharp cheekbones, well-shaped lips surrounded by slashing curves, and a strong jaw added up to striking looks.

She could lose herself in those eyes, bathing in the warm concern showing there. Part of her wanted to lean into him.

Then he asked, “Are you all right?”

The words broke into her distraction. She needed to collect herself. Her voice wasn’t quite steady, and she had to force out the single word, “Fine.” She hoped he’d attribute her shaky state to the near-accident instead of her reaction to him.

His left hand still circled her wrist where he’d caught her and kept her from falling, so she stole a quick look before he released her. No ring. Not that the lack guaranteed anything, a fact she’d learned all too well and at considerable cost. The raw place inside panged a warning to be careful.

She slid off his knees, back to her feet, and pulled out her mini-tablet, tightening her hold when she nearly dropped it. Fortunately, her voice didn’t give away the chaos raging inside when she said, “Thanks for the rescue. Can I take your order?”

“No problem. Are you sure you’re all right?” The way he studied her face made her wonder if she’d gotten pale.

“I’m fine. Really.” She waited.

He got the message and glanced at the menu before looking back at her. “I’ll have the turkey on whole wheat with extra mustard and no mayo. Just water.”

“Got it. I’ll bring your water in a moment.”

She served another table and brought his water. He glanced up from whatever he was reading on his phone and smiled as she set the glass down. He thanked her but didn’t say anything more.

The two well-done burgers were ready, so she took those over to the table with the four men. She needed her wits about her to deal with them, so she shoved aside fog of attraction. None of the men did or said anything as she delivered the burgers. When she asked if there was anything else she could get them, one held up an empty soda glass and said, “Refill.”

She nodded. “I’ll be right back.”

“Make it quick. I’m thirsty.”

“Just a moment.”

She went to get another glass of soda and was stopped by a customer at another table who wanted their check. “Coming right up,” she promised.

She printed out the ticket and put it in a folder, then pulled a glass of soda and went to deliver both. She approached the group of four from the side away from the one who’d grabbed her wrist earlier, set the soda down, and turned away. “Hey,” one of them called. “You didn’t ask if I wanted a refill.”

Sam caught the motion out of the corner of her eye, letting her move out of the way just before his swat would have landed on her backside.

She froze and turned toward the table again. Beyond the group, on the other side, the man whose lap she’d fallen into earlier had started to rise. When she shook her head at him, his eyes narrowed, but he sat down. She drew a deep breath to calm herself, then moved closer to the table with the four men again and leaned in. She kept her voice low enough that only they could hear, but she pitched it to leave no doubt in their minds she meant every sound she uttered. “This restaurant has a sexual harassment policy. The next time one of you even tries to lay a hand on me, you will be immediately ejected from the premises and banned from here forever. Try to hit on me again and I will call the police and file charges. There are cameras all over the place in here, so you will not get away with it.” She glanced around the table, meeting each set of eyes. “I hope we’re clear and there won’t be any repeats.”

A couple of the men grunted in response. One looked abashed. Another’s eyes and mouth tightened in anger. Under his breath he muttered, just loud enough to be sure she’d hear, “Dratted PC police. Can’t even make a joke anymore.” The other two just watched her with stony expressions. She drew a breath. “Now. Does anyone else want a refill? Last chance.”

No one else spoke up so she went to get the drink. While she was at it, she ran their tickets as well. When she went back to the table, she set down the glass of soda in front of the one who’d requested it and plunked their bills next to each plate. No one said anything or reached out to touch her this time.

Angel met her at the serving counter. “Looks like you were right about those guys at table eleven. Sounds like they gave you a hard time, but you gave it right back to them. Don’t know what you said, but it sure shut them up.”

Sam sighed. “Tried to put the fear of Sam into them. Forget tips. Five will get you ten they stiff us on the bills.”

“We’ll sic Jason on them.”

Sam snickered. The kitchen assistant was an enormous guy but the most easy-going soul she’d ever met. “I don’t even know how that works if they do skip out. Can we call the cops?”

Angel rolled her eyes. “Theoretically, yes. ‘Theft of Services.’ But fact is it’s not worth the hassle. Still, I got a few snaps of them with my phone. If they do dine and dash, we’ll post pictures back here, and the next time they come in, no one will serve them.”

“Do I have to pay for the food myself if they don’t?” She mentally calculated how much of her paycheck that could eat up.

“No way. There’s a law.” Angel grimaced. “I have worked places that tried to make the servers pay for dashers, but they’re not supposed to. And Frank’s a good guy as owners go.” A smirk drove away the frown. “On the other hand, it landed you in your favorite customer’s lap. That’s got to be a bonus. He’s hot.”

“He is,” she admitted. “But I’ve been burned by that fire before.” And the wounds still ached.

The meal for her “favorite customer” landed on the ready counter. She grabbed the dishes and headed to his table, refusing to let her hands shake. The group of four were finishing up. One of them glanced up and flashed a guilty look her way. She ignored them.

Mr. Table Seven also looked up and smiled as she approached with his food. She gave herself only a second to meet his gaze, but she felt the pull again anyway. Her stomach lurched with a stew of excitement and fear.

After he moved his phone out of the way to make room for the dishes, he thanked her and added, “You’re sure you’re all right? Those guys are jerks.”

“I appreciate the concern. I think I made my position clear, and they seem to have gotten the message.”

He nodded. “I couldn’t hear what you said to them, but obviously it worked. I’m impressed.”

“I simply explained that there were consequences for grabbing and swatting at someone without their permission, and I wouldn’t hesitate to invoke those if they tried anything again.”

“Well done. You’re obviously very persuasive.”

“I try.”

“Have you thought about a legal career if this waitressing thing doesn’t work out?”

She froze, unable to think of a witty response—or any response at all—to that suggestion.

He cut in before she could reply. “Oh, heck, I think I put my foot in something. Please, just ignore me. Or feel free to tell me to shut up and leave you alone. I’m sorry I said anything.” His expression was tight, and regret shone in his eyes.

“No. It’s okay.” She heard how wooden the words sounded and tried to get beyond the shock. “Yes, you touched a sore spot, but I should be over it by now.” She shook herself and sighed. “Can I get you anything else?”

His small, rueful grin was enchanting. “A cup of battery acid? A glass of drain cleaner?”

She couldn’t help smiling. “I don’t think our coffee’s quite that bad.”

He laughed out loud, and it made him even more attractive. How was she supposed to resist him? Just not fair. “I’ll risk a cup of it anyway. And I ask your pardon for what I said.”

“Not your fault. You couldn’t know there was a history. Let’s just forget about it. Can I get you anything other than the coffee?”

He glanced down at the dishes in front of him. “The food looks great. I think I have everything I need right now.”

“Okay.” She took care of a few other customers and watched, out of the corner of her eye, as the four troublemakers rose and made their way to the door. They had each left cash on the table with their bills. Amazing. She sighed in combined relief and surprise.

Both proved premature. When she went to collect the bills and money from the table, she discovered that three of the men had left a ten-dollar bill for an invoice of thirteen ninety-five. The fourth had left a five and a ten, the five-dollar bill carefully hidden under the ten. She cursed softly as she checked each one and took them to the register.

Angel stopped by to marvel as Sam tried to figure out how to enter the payment. “They actually paid?”

“Underpaid.” She showed Angel the bills and the money. “How do I put this in?”

“Those—” She broke off as she showed Sam how to enter the payments. “Bums. Trying to reform my language. Noticed the kid starting to pick up a few bad words, so I got to stop if I want them to. Here you go. Three underpayments and one full payment with tip.”

“A whole dollar.”

“And five cents,” Angel reminded her.

“Yeah. And five cents.”

“Nickels can add up.”

“After twenty years or so.”

“You’re not looking at this as a long-term career?” Angel asked.

“If I were, I wouldn’t be spending so much time and money studying for the business degree and getting those software certifications.”

“Gotcha. Wish I was as smart as you. On the other hand, working nine to five in an office doesn’t appeal at all.”

“Different strokes,” Sam said. A couple more of her orders showed up on the ready counter, so she took them out and distributed them. Table-seven-man appeared to be finished and caught her eye.

“Can I get you anything else?” she asked him.

“Just the check.” He nodded toward the now-vacant table formerly occupied by the four troublemakers. “Did they stiff you on tips?”

“Three of them did. And not just tips. Part of the bills.”

He shook his head and his mouth twisted. “Lowlifes. Do you have to make up the shortfall yourself?”

“No, thank goodness.”

“I’m sorry all that happened. I feel like I should apologize for the entire male gender. We can be a bit loutish.”

“I don’t judge all men by the actions of a few.” Then, as she thought about the past, she added, “At least I try not to.”

“Thank goodness.”

A woman hailed her from another table, and she nodded acknowledgement. To the man she said, “I’ve got to go, but thanks for the support. I’ll be back with your check in a moment.” He didn’t need to know how much she wanted to stay and keep talking with him.

The woman asked for ketchup for her fries, so Sam got it and then got the check for the man at table seven. When she handed it to him, he glanced at it, gave it right back and handed her a credit card. Surprise froze her for a moment. He’d always paid in cash before. Had he decided he could trust her in some new way? As she ran the card, she took note of the name on it: Matthew R. Sentori.

She took the card and receipts back to the table. “Thank you, Mr. Sentori.”

He laughed, a warm, amused sound that set her pulse racing again. “Matt. Everyone calls me Matt. And you’re Sam, right? Short for Samantha?”

“Right. My dad was convinced I’d be a boy, so he’d already christened me Sam in his head. They had to make a hasty change from Samuel to Samantha when I was born female.”

The way the smile lit his brown eyes was doing dangerous things to her breathing. A new couple had just come in and sat down at one of her tables nearby, so she looked that way before saying, “Have a good day.”

“You, too. I’ll see you again.” The words sounded more like a promise than a simple social nicety. Dear heaven, she hoped so. And how dumb was that?

As she took the newcomers’ order, she watched him stand and walk to the door. A well-tailored, conservative dark suit molded to his tall, lean form. A blue and red tie added the only note of color against his white shirt. Sam briefly wondered what he did. Stockbroker, businessman, lawyer? Please, not a lawyer. Then she asked herself why it should matter, and she tried to give her full attention to the couple’s food and drink request.

She snagged the receipt from table seven as she went to get drinks for the newcomers and answered another request for a water refill. She didn’t have a chance to look at it until she was ready to enter it into the computer. Her gasp drew the attention of a couple of other employees in the area.

“Everything okay?” Connie, one of the cooks, asked from behind the ready counter. Lisa, the third server on duty, also looked a question at her.

Her face got hot at the attention. “Sorry. Yes, it’s all okay. Just a little surprise.”

“I hope it’s a good one,” Lisa said as she took off with a cup of coffee.

“It is. Sort of.”

“What is sort of?” Angel walked up beside her.

Sam held up the ticket so she could see it. “Table seven.”

“Whooooaaa. I told you he was interested.”

“I think he was just being nice and trying to make up for the way those guys at eleven stiffed me.”

“Keep telling yourself that.”

“Anything else kind of worries me.”

“Girl! That one? He can give me a twenty dollar tip any time he wants.” Angel shook her head, letting the dyed blonde strands swing. “Even if he does have other things in mind.”

“Not going there,” Sam answered as she punched in the totals.




Related Links

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Reviews

"I highly recommend reading this book."
-Amazon Reviewer

"This is another great book in The No Brides Club series. This one was full of romance and wonderful people that lived in an apartment building in New York City. The stories about the characters, the events, and the building being sold all added so much to Sam and Matt's romance. I also enjoyed how Sam and Matt met and how she literally fell into his lap.+
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Lori R., Goodreads