Author K.L. Hall
Something New Sneak Peek: Chapter One
© K.L. Hall and www.authorklhall.com, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K.L. Hall and www.authorklhall.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Three months before “the big day.”
“It’s gorgeous, baby. I love it,” I cooed, staring at the way my three-carat pear-shaped diamond engagement ring with a double row of sparkling diamonds around the 14K white gold band sparkled under the jewelry store lights.
“I’m glad you love it. Now I’m sure you’ll have something to keep a smile on your face whenever I’m away,” Axel worked up a cocky grin before kissing my forehead.
I met my green-eyed lovebird, fell in love harder and faster than I’d ever done before, picked out the engagement ring of my dreams, and was planning the wedding I’d always wanted within a matter of months. It was the stuff of myths and whirlwind fairytales. If it did all turn out to be a dream, it was one I never wanted to wake up from.
“I can’t believe we’re like, really engaged,” I blurted out on the car ride back to my apartment.
“Was it not real to you before?”
“It was but looking down and seeing a ring on my finger makes it all the more real.”
“You still feel okay about it?”
I jerked my chin in agreement. “Of course I do; why would you ask me that?”
He shrugged his right shoulder. “Just checking.”
“I love you, Axel McAdams, and I’m in this with you.”
“For the long haul?” He asked.
“For the long haul,” I repeated, “but now the hard part begins.”
“And what’s that? Wedding planning.”
“Nope. Figuring out how we’re going to tell our families. Introducing a girlfriend or boyfriend is one thing, but we’re talking about merging lives here.”
“Okay, so let’s merge them. Let’s put all our friends and family in one room and tell them all at once.”
“Like a surprise?”
“Unless you want to go door to door and let everyone know,” he uttered with a soft chuckle.
“No, I like your idea of a surprise engagement party. Something small just for our close friends and family.”
“Sounds good, babe. You can plan it while I’m gone,” he announced.
I frowned. “Hold up. This is the second time within a few minutes that you mentioned leaving. Is there something you want to tell me?” I asked.
He’d gone from doing a few local gigs around the city just to stay in the habit of playing to flying out for a few days every other week or two to do gigs with the band. I’d been helping him sort through his grief one day at a time over the loss of his mother. I knew there was no timeline for grief first-hand, but he was losing himself in the music and disconnecting.
“I’m flying out to Chicago for one of my band member’s birthdays. Andre, the bass player. His wife is throwing a surprise party for his fortieth birthday, so we’re getting together to play,” he declared.
His unexpected news quickly deflated my smile. “How long will you be gone?”
“Just a few days. What do you have planned this weekend? Can you come? Say the word, and I’ll get you a ticket to fly out.”
“I wish I could, but I can’t. I will be confined to the city this week, and hopefully, it doesn’t spill into the next.”
“What are you working on now?”
“Ugh,” I grumbled. “Naomi, the head of the mag’s food and leisure beat, went on maternity leave a week and a half early. So, since you can’t reschedule birthing a life, her full-spread feature article on Chef Elijah Stone got dumped on me. As if I don’t already have enough on my plate,” I griped.
I’d had a few days to do my research on him, and from what I’d gathered about him online, I wasn’t too impressed. “He’ll be in the city for a week before the grand opening of his new restaurant in Seven Pines. It’s supposed to be a big red-carpet thing. So, as a part of the feature, I also have to attend that,” I continued.
“You don’t sound too excited.”
“From what I’ve read online, I’m not,” I grumbled.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll do great. Don’t let ‘em ruffle your feathers too much.”
“I won’t. You’re too busy doing that yourself.”
“I’m just a little frustrated that you haven’t been around for any of the wedding planning. I know we’re doing this quick and dirty, but I still want to feel like I’m not in this alone.”
He pulled up to the front of my apartment building and parked the car. “Whatever you choose will be beautiful, and I’ll love it,” he said before leaning over to kiss my forehead.
“That’s not the point, and you know it.” Before he opened his mouth to respond, my phone started ringing. I pushed out a loud sigh. “Can we finish this later? Jackson is calling me.”
“Yeah. I’ll call you when I land.
I groaned. “Have a safe trip, Axel. Wish I could come with you.”
“Me too, but I’ll see you when I get back. I love you.”
“Love you, too,” I replied with a frown before answering my editor’s call. “Hey, Jackson.”
“Hey, so your interview with Chef Elijah Stone is all squared away. I just got the confirmation from his publicist.
“Mmm, great,” I replied with no enthusiasm in my voice whatsoever.
“You’ll meet him at his hotel suite at the Onyx Hotel in Seven Pines at six o’clock tomorrow. I also confirmed that Naomi sent him her questions a month ago, so this should be a breeze.”
“What if I have some of my own? I mean, when you threw this in my lap, you told me that I could make it my own. I’m fine with her questions, but they’re basic. I want to see if he will give me more than he’s given every other reporter over the years since his rise to fame.”
“I don’t know. He’s pretty private and a bit of a hard ass from what I’ve gathered.”
“Yeah, I gathered that too,” I agreed with a nod.
“Well, good luck, and call me as soon as it’s over.”
“Yeah, okay. Will do.”
The next evening, I showed up at the Onyx Hotel, clad in a fitted lavender pants suit and punctual. Once enclosed in the elevator, I held up my phone to fix my head full of loose, wild curls and lick the crimson red lipstick stain off my teeth. My knuckles collided with the door to suite 621 as I waited for it to open. When it did, I tilted my head up and blinked twice. Standing in the doorway at six-foot-three was Elijah Stone, wearing a fitted V-neck gray t-shirt, black joggers, and retro Air Jordans.
His mocha brown eyes peered down at me. “Chef Elijah.”
I nodded, taking a minute to soak him in before announcing myself. Elijah had smooth, milk chocolate skin, full, brown lips with a hint of pink, and a set of shaggy dark eyebrows. A thin mustache rested underneath his wide nose, giving way to a full beard that spread from one ear to the other. There were small diamond studs in both his ears and a nose ring in his right nostril. His jet-black hair was cut into a low, tapered fade on the back and sides with kinky, curly sponge twists at the top.
“My apologies. I’m Isa Lavender with The Muse Monthly. I’m–”
“My publicist said I was meeting with someone named Naomi,” he cut me off.
“Yes, Naomi had to take her maternity leave a little earlier, so I’m here as her replacement. Can I come in?”
“Yeah,” he grumbled before stepping aside.
“Your suite is beautiful,” I complimented, looking around at the contemporary-styled suite with white marble floors, a California king bed, dining room, kitchenette with stainless steel appliances, and a fantastic view of the city skyline from the private terrace.
“Is now still a good time for the interview?” I asked, taking my seat on one of the three couches in the sitting area.
“It’s the only time I have, so it will have to do. How long will it take?”
“Um, for full-spread feature articles, I like to get to know the person I’m interviewing. I like to start with introducing myself to make you feel comfortable, and then we get into the actual interview, so I’ll say from start to finish about an hour to an hour and a half.”
“I don’t have time for all that. Can we cut the extra chit-chat and get started? I’ve got shit to do,” he explained before flopping down on the couch across from me.
“Um, sure. I just like to spark conversation with my interviewee to loosen them up before the tape starts recording. I find it helps take the edge off.”
He tore his eyes down to his phone. “Mmm.”
“But, uh…sure, let’s just go ahead and get started. If there’s something you’re uncomfortable with or want to have stricken from the record, please let me know, and I’ll make a note of it when I’m going through and transcribing our conversation today.”
“Yeah, aight,” he grumbled, still not bothering to give me enough respect to make eye contact with me.
“Are you okay? You seem off.”
“You know me?” He quizzed sarcastically.
I huffed. “No, I was just making a simple observation.”
My eyes rolled. “Alright, then. Do you have any questions before we begin?”
I pulled out my notebook, pen, and digital recorder and placed them on the coffee table. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
Twenty minutes into the interview, I could already tell I wasn’t getting anywhere with him. He was standoffish, crass, and overall nauseating to be around, which perfectly aligned with everything I’d read online.
“We’ve gotten through mostly all the questions on the paper, but I have a few more if you don’t mind,” I started.
“Stick to the agreed-upon questions sent to me over a month ago.”
I cleared my throat before taking a sip from my water bottle. “I’m aware of when the questions were sent, but as I said, I have a few of my own.”
“You can waste your breath asking whatever you want, but I’m not talkin’ about nothin’ else outside of what I originally agreed upon. Stick to the narrative.”
“And exactly what narrative is that?”
“You’re the one asking the questions. Ain’t it your job to tell me?” he questioned with a scoff.
Aggravated, I closed my notebook and cut the recording. “I think we’re done here.”
He cut his eyes at me. “What?”
“You heard me. I’m leaving.”
“Oh, please don’t act surprised. I’ve been nothing but nice to you since I stepped foot in here, and you’ve been the complete opposite! I’m a professional journalist trying to do someone else’s job; it’s like you’ve had it out for me since you laid eyes on me. Never in my career have I had someone be so graceless when talking about something good they’re doing for the community! Everything I read online about you was true! Your attitude is repulsive. This entire interview has been like pulling teeth, and I’m done! I’m so done! You have such an amazing backstory, yet no one wants to hear about it because you’re impossible to be around! Have a good night, Elijah,” I affirmed before storming out.
It was the time I’d stormed out of an interview, and I felt so damn liberated. A part of me hoped he was still sitting there with the same stupid look on his face he had when I told him about himself. Flustered or not, I still had a job to do and decided to call my editor, Jackson, to get ahead of whatever heat would come my way for walking out.
“Why are you calling me so soon? It hasn’t even been a full thirty minutes yet,” he answered.
“He’s repulsive, that’s why!”
“I walked out; that’s what happened! I’m telling you, Jackson, from the moment I got there, it was like he had it out for my ass. The entire interview, he was just so, we. Just closed off, gave me short, stupid responses to all Naomi’s questions, and then when I tried to ask a few of my own, he practically bit my damn head off! I’m only calling you to give you a heads up that I left the interview so abruptly. He seems like the type who would whine to his publicist about me wasting his time, so I’m just telling you so that you won’t be blindsided.”
“Dammit, okay. Okay. Let’s not panic here.”
“Are you saying that to yourself or me because I’m good.”
Jackson expelled a frustrated sigh. “Listen, I can tell you’re flustered. I’m so sorry he put you through all that. Maybe he’s just being a hard ass or whatever.”
“Whatever it was, I’m over it, Jackson. I was with you when it came to helping a co-worker, but that man is impossible.”
“Yeah, I hear you. Did you at least get anything useful?”
“I probably have enough material to write an article, just not the one I want to write,” I admitted.
“Damn, okay. We’ll figure it out. Don’t worry about it. Just go home, sort through what you’ve got and let me know.”
“I will, but there’s no way I’m covering that grand opening, Jackson. No fucking way. You’re going to have to find someone else.”
“Please don’t do this to me, Isa! You have to stick with this. I would ask someone else if I could, but we have no one else right now.”
I smacked my lips. “Jackson, no. Absolutely not!”
“We’re so short-staffed with maternity leave and vacations. I need you, Isa. I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t. Please, just take the night to clear your head, see what you’ve got in the morning, and like I said, we’ll put our heads together if you don’t have enough for the full spread, but we need content from that grand opening.”
“Ugh!” I groaned, “okay, fine. I’ll talk to you later.”
“You’re the absolute best! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”