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Excerpt - THE GUY I’M NOT DATING by Trish Perry

Captain's Log, Stardate 03.15.2010

The Guy I’m Not Dating
by
Trish Perry


“Yowza!” exclaims Kara Richardson when she sees the handsome proprietor of the new delicatessen in town, Gabe Paolino—who soon expresses mutual interest. This would be the start of a perfect love story, except for one thing—Kara has vowed to stop dating until she feels God’s leading.

But when humorous circumstances send Kara and Gabe on a road trip to Florida, hope springs anew. Even with Kara’s flirtatious coworker Tiffany—“a hyena in heels”—along for the ride, the uncouple begins a lively journey that could change their paths forever.

This memorable, charming story of love’s persistence captures the honor of waiting on God’s timing, and the adventure of finding the perfect guy to not date.

Excerpt of chapter one:

"Yowza!”
The word flew out of Kara’s mouth before she had time to think.
Yowza? What was she, a comic book character? Quick—she should say something clever. The gorgeous man was turning around…
Kara heard herself sputtering words. Her mind was suddenly like a shooting gallery with rubber walls and thoughts ricocheting out of control. What was the matter with her?
You’d think she’d never seen a good-looking man before.
She touched her hand to her hair. Praise God she had finally taken the time to get it done this morning. She’d been working too hard to visit the salon before today.
Did she have time for these thoughts?
Focus, Kara. Don’t say anything else without thinking!
Gorgeous Man looked at her and smiled. Wow.
How had she gotten here? Her mind performed a 30-second review, from salon to swoon…
*****
The cloudy skies had opened moments after she left the salon, and her deliberately tousled blond hair threatened to become a real, honest-to-goodness mess. Kara had dashed into the first shop she came to. This fellow’s shop.
As soon as she entered, she realized the place wasn’t really open for business. It was going to be a coffee shop or a café; that much was clear. But other than a few chairs, the counters, and two menu boards behind them, nothing was set up. Tinny music filtered out of a distant radio. The smell of latex paint wafted from the walls. Feeling like a trespasser, Kara frowned at the weather outside and prepared to venture back into it.
“Hi! Can I help you?”
Kara turned to face the voice—a nice voice—and saw just the top of a man’s head cresting above the counter. Short, dark curls and nothing more.
“Oh!” she said. “Um…”
“I’d get up,” he said, “but I’m setting a few electrical wires here. Be with you in a sec.”
“No, no, that’s okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude,” Kara said. She pointed toward the window, at the downpour outside, even though it was unlikely the guy would see her. “I’m just trying to keep dry ’til my ride gets here.”
“Take your time. Nice to have the company. Been setting up here for the past few days. Way too quiet.” He grunted as if he were squeezing himself into an awkward spot back there.
“Is this your place?” Kara asked. “Or are you just working here?”
He chuckled—a nice chuckle. “Both. I just moved up from Miami. My folks have a deli business down there. Twenty-five years now. I was ready for a change. Thought this was a nice place to set up a shop of my own. Was I right?”
She smiled. “Yeah. I think so, anyway. I love Northern Virginia. And this is a good spot. They really need a decent deli out here.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” he said.
She heard pleasure in his voice.
Kara turned away from him and watched out the window for her best friend, Ren. She said under her breath, “I should have asked her to meet me at the salon. Can’t really see—”
“Pardon?” he called out.
“Oh, nothing, sorry,” she said. “I was just talking to myself. I asked my friend to pick me up in front of the bookstore down the street. I didn’t quite make it there before the rain got crazy on me.”
“Ah.”
Kara felt it would be rude not to talk to him while she stood in his shop, so she kept it up. “My car’s near death. It’s been in the shop for three days already.”
“Hmm,” he said, sounding distracted by whatever he was doing back there. “Sorry to hear that. I had to replace my car just after moving up here.”
Kara squinted to see through the rain outside. Was that Ren approaching? No. “I hate depending on my friends for rides, you know?”
“I hear ya,” he said, his voice slightly strained, as though he was moving something heavy.
“But it’s great to have an excuse to spend more time with my best friend.” Kara spoke toward the window. “We didn’t get to spend all that much time together when she was married. But now… well…” Kara frowned. Would Ren appreciate her telling such personal stuff to a total stranger? But the stranger seemed to pick up on her intentions.
“Yeah, that can be tough,” he said, “having your friendships interrupted. I miss my Florida friends already. Say, can I get you something? Soda? A cup of coffee?”
Kara turned around to decline. And that was when it happened, the “Yowza!” He wasn’t hidden anymore, and Kara’s verbal outburst was her unguarded proclamation that this guy was one of God’s finer works of creation.
Stunning. He had climbed a small stepladder, his broad back turned to Kara. He was fastening a lamp to the ceiling behind the counter, and his face—a very nice face—was in profile. A sharp, masculine nose. Full lips. His hair was dark and wavy, his cheekbones prominent, his jawline strong. Though dressed simply, in a white BVD T-shirt and faded jeans, he looked like a GQ model. His arms, raised as they were, would be the envy of any of Kara’s male clients at the gym. He turned to look at her, his dark eyebrows raised in amused confusion.
What had he asked her? Coffee! Did she want coffee? And her answer? “Yowza!” Terrific.
“I…I mean, no!” she said. “Thanks a lot, but no coffee for me! No, sir! Trying to cut down on the caffeine…” She trailed off in a mumble.
He laughed. “Sounds like that might be a good idea. Didn’t mean to alarm you with the offer.”
Kara smiled weakly. He had no idea how striking he was. Now that was attractive.
He climbed down from the ladder, wiped his palms against his jeans, and approached her. Goodness, he had long legs. His confident stride and bright smile made her palms sweat. And his eyes! Sultry brown. And prettier than hers! He extended his hand to her. “I’m Gabe Paolino.”
She tried not to cringe or apologize about her sweaty palms before taking his hand. She was relieved when he didn’t seem to notice. As a matter of fact, she recognized a flicker of attraction in his eyes. Her neck felt suddenly hot. “Kara Richardson,” she said.
He nodded and released her hand. “Please, have a seat. I can dust off a chair—”
“No, really, my friend will be here any minute. I’ll just stay here at the window and watch you. Her! I’ll watch for her.”
He laughed, looking her in the eye. “Okay,” he said softly and went back to his work.
Kara turned away from him and rolled her eyes about her behavior. He was so handsome! And she was acting like an adolescent. She’d break out in giggles any minute now.
“You work around here?”
She looked at him. He had his back turned to her again as he connected another lamp to the ceiling. She couldn’t help staring at him while she talked. “Work? No, I was just at the body salon a few doors down.” She gasped. “Beauty! Beauty salon!” She smacked her forehead with the palm of her hand. Help me here!
She shook her head at her word fumble. “Sorry, I guess I was thinking about work, since you asked. I work at American Gym on the other side of town. You know, I…help…people…with their bodies.” Even she heard how weak the connection was.
But he just glanced over his shoulder at her and smiled. “That right? So it’s a good gym? I’ve got to find one now that I’m up here. Would you recommend American?”
Ah, a topic she could discuss comfortably, even in her sleep. “You bet. Excellent value for the monthly dues. And you can hire a personal trainer, if you want. That’s what I do there. I’m a personal trainer.”
Now that string of sentences sounded downright adult. Kara sighed with relief. She saw Ren’s silver BMW pull up in front of the bookstore. “Oh, there’s my friend. Gotta go.” She opened the shop door and looked back over her shoulder at him. “Nice meeting you, Gabe,” she said. “And welcome to Virginia.”
He stopped working and looked as though he might have been planning to walk her to the door. She’d moved too quickly, though, too nervously. Now it would be awkward to stop and wait at the open door.
“Thanks, Kara,” he called, giving her a small wave of the hand as she walked out. “Nice meeting you too. God bless.”
Kara stopped outside the door and stood under the shop’s awning.
Hmm. “God bless,” huh? She wondered if he was a Christian. Not that it mattered, really. She wasn’t in the market.
Ren pulled up closer, but the rain continued to hammer down. Kara wanted to keep her expensive haircut from getting drenched, so she’d wait until Ren was right in front of the shop.
Just before running out to the car, Kara treated herself to one more peek over her shoulder. What harm could it do? He’d be hard at work, oblivious to her schoolgirl ogling.
But he wasn’t. He was standing right there, at the window, watching her. He smiled and gave her another wave goodbye. He looked genuinely pleased that she had looked for him again.
Kara was duly mortified. She returned a feeble wave, turned, and ran to the car.
“Ooo,” Ren said, glancing at the shop window when Kara got in the car. “Who’s the cutie-pie?”
Kara dropped her head back against the headrest and sighed. “The most gorgeous man I’ve ever acted stupid in front of.”
“You? Stupid? In front of a man?” Ren drove forward, raising her eyebrows and smiling. “Well, Kara! This has to be a first. But I thought you weren’t interested in dating.”
Kara snorted. “Who said anything about dating? As goofy as I acted back there, I’d be lucky to get a deli delivery out of the guy, let alone a date.”
Ren didn’t say anything.
“Besides,” Kara said. “You’re right. I’m not doing the dating thing anymore. So it doesn’t matter, anyway.”
But she couldn’t help sighing when she glanced in the side mirror and saw the shop get smaller and smaller until it disappeared from her sight.

Taken from The Guy I’m Not Dating by Trish Perry
Copyright 2006 by Trish Perry.
Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR;
Used by permission.

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