Exclusive Excerpt: Missed Connections by Tamara Mataya
Missed Connection: I saw you standing there, and I was struck by your eyes. Gorgeous, but not as gorgeous as your smile.
Thanks to her job at a crazy New Age spa, what should have been a sizzling NYC summer is being hijacked by demanding hippie bosses. To unwind, Sarah spends her nights cruising Missed Connections, dreaming of finding an uber-romantic entry all about her. Of course, the moment she finds that Missed Connection, real life comes crashing down around her in a night of unbridled passion with someone completely different: totally off-limits Jack.
Best. Hookup. Ever.
Gorgeous and wealthy, hot as sin, Jack can give Sarah everything she needs-except an emotional connection. That she gets from her Missed Connection, the romantic stranger who never fails to make her swoon. But there's only so much of Sarah to go around. Torn between the bad boy she can't keep and the sensitive stranger who bares his soul online, her heart and body are soon in two very different relationships...or are they?
It’s a makeover. No bunnies were drained of their blood for the red highlights in my hair. It isn’t in an outrageous Mohawk with swear words shaved into the sides of my head. I didn’t take a day off work to get it done and lie about it. It’s not like I’ve come in dressed unprofessionally and then sat here gazing lovingly at my appearance in a tiny mirror. Not liking someone’s decision is one thing, but talking shit about it in front of them is another.
If I didn’t have a few hours left before I could leave, I’d cry. But I won’t.
And yet, a small tear gathers at the corner of my eye.
The law firm wasn’t a great place, but at least there was one paralegal who wasn’t a total ass and we used to have lunch together. Even Brenda, who fired me, was friendly. It’s so lonely in this place without anyone to chat to or do lunch with. Ginny’s nice but obviously uninterested in engaging, and Blake’s never here when I am.
Screw this place. I need an early lunch.
I buy a turkey panino with extra, extra bacon—the better to eat my feelings with—from the bodega next door and take it to eat on a bench in the shade in the dinky park nearby. At least it’s not a dog park—in this heat, the smell wouldn’t be conducive to lunch. I flop down and stretch my legs out, wishing I’d brought something to drink. Fresh air that doesn’t reek of sage oil and judgmental hippies helps a little, but distance doesn’t give me much relief. I need to download some of this embarrassment to someone who will make me feel better about the situation and myself.
A lady walks by with a Yorkie who sniffs at me—probably smelling my sandwich—before its owner pulls it away.
Two guys about my age play Ultimate Frisbee, throwing harder and puffing out their chests when they notice me, but I don’t even care about their abs.
Pete answers on the fourth ring. “Hey.”
“Oh my fucking God, Pete, this has been the worst day ever. They were talking about me right in front of my face. They didn’t care that I could hear. They just went on and on about how bad it is for your energy to only care about appearances. I was feeling so good about your makeover, and now I feel really crappy and alone and I need a hug and a reminder that I’m fabulous.” I stuff a bite of my panino in my mouth to soothe myself with bacon.
“You what? This was your boss and coworkers making you feel bad about yourself? Give me names.”
This isn’t Pete. I swallow my bite of sandwich and close my eyes. “Jack?”
“Yeah. And for the record? You are drop-dead gorgeous.”
Mortification overtakes my purring ego. “Where’s Pete? I called his phone and not yours, right?”
“He sprang a sushi date on me and then abandoned me to flirt with the host. His phone rang, I saw it was you and answered…and fuck those hippies.”
Could this day get any more embarrassing? Gratitude seeps through the murky mortification. “Thank you for getting my dad’s pills to him, Jack. I owe you one.”
“No, you don’t. But I want to hear more about these assholes who were mean to you.”
Screw it, he already knows too much for me to salvage any dignity from this story. “I can’t believe it actually happened. They weren’t even pretending to talk about someone else. They didn’t say my name, but it was obvious and makes me feel like I’m shallow and want meaningless things from life because I got a haircut.”
“No way. Are you supposed to never change the way you look? Never want to try something different? Pete would starve if women believed that. You’re helping keep businesses afloat!”
“You strut back in there and show them how a confident modern woman doesn’t let people keep her down. I mean, shit, are you supposed to walk around with a bag over your head? Pete showed me a picture of your new haircut. You look fucking hot.”
The slight growl in his voice makes me feel a lot better.
“They’re clearly jealous,” he continues. “Go back in there and tell them to fuck their own faces. Flip ’em off.”
Laughter bubbles through me. What would it be like to come home to him every night? He’d make me laugh and then make love to me, making it all better. I could call him anytime through the day when something happened. But no. Being with Jack would be like having a panther ranging around at home. “That might get in the way of my chakra chi, or whatever.”
“Your chakra chi is fine. Don’t let those hippies get you down. It’s Sarah.” Jack’s voice is muffled before sounding normal again. “Pete’s back. Want a word?”
I glance at my phone. I’ve already been gone twenty-three minutes. I only get half an hour for lunch. “No, I should be getting back.”
“All right. I’ll talk to you later?”
“Yes. Thanks, Jack.”
I let myself roll around in the softness of his voice for a minute before walking back to Inner Space. He really is a nice guy—despite the shitty things I said to him. Also, he’s right. The glass doors reflect my new and improved appearance. Finger-combing the ends of my hair, I remember how great my makeover made me feel when I first saw it, and I let that thought buoy me across reception to my desk after pausing to chug a cup of water.
Screw my judgmental coworkers.
I open the lower drawer to put my purse in and find the label maker, reminding me of Blake’s present. With the business of the morning and then the shit-talking about me in reception earlier, I completely forgot about it. Moving the label maker aside, my fingers brush against the small chocolate truffle bar.
I could kiss Blake right now for this perfectly timed pick-me-up.
I slowly unwrap it, a brand I’m not familiar with, and take a bite while reading the package. It’s glorious. Silky smooth, semi-dark with raspberry cream, and delicious. It’s organic, so even if the hippies saw me eating it I wouldn’t get a lecture, but it doesn’t taste like cardboard. And there’s no carob in it—the chocolate of hippies.
I sit with a small piece of Blake’s chocolate melting on my tongue, letting it sweeten up my bitter day.
Tamara Mataya is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a librarian, and a musician with synaesthesia. Armed with a name tag and a thin veneer of credibility, she takes great delight in recommending books and shushing people. She puts the 'she' in TWSS and the B in LGBTQIA+.