Trying New Hats by Sofia Ellis
Boston born and bred Poppy Parker gets thrown for a loop when the promotion she has been promised for two years is given to someone else. Meanwhile, her fiancé accepts a job offer in Hong Kong without consulting her and postpones their wedding. So when she finds a postcard from Paris with a message written by an aunt she didn’t know existed, she can’t think of a reason to not book a seat on the next flight to France.
Poppy has worn the dutiful daughter and supportive sister hat for as long as she can remember, the loyal employee hat for her entire professional career, and the patient fiancée hat since she started dating the man she is supposed to marry, a man who is already married to his job. It’s time for her to try some new hats on for size. In the process, she uncovers long-buried family secrets and a chance at true love if she is brave enough to take it.
Read an Excerpt:
In the past, I avoided shopping for clothes until I couldn’t put it off any longer. My sisters were huge believers in retail therapy. I had yet to experience the therapeutic effects of shopping. I felt as though that was about to change. Paris was already having an effect on me.
I grabbed Selma’s spare keys from the hook she had mentioned in her note and made sure that the door was locked before hurrying down the stairs. I kept my eyes on my feet so I wouldn’t miss one of the narrow treads. That was why I didn’t realize there was an obstruction at the foot of the stairs on the second-floor landing. I had no idea there was something in my way until I barreled right into it at full speed.
The collision made me lose my balance. I was about to keel over the banister when the obstruction sprouted arms and pulled me back to safety. This arm-sprouting obstruction turned out to be a man. A very tall man with quick reflexes and a strong grip. His dark hair had threads of silver running through it and his eyes were a hypnotic shade of gray. Wolf eyes, I thought. The expression in those eyes suggested that he wasn’t in a good mood. This man, who had saved me from almost certain death or at least grievous bodily harm, was scowling at me much like Callum the artist had the previous day. It was a little disconcerting. Men in Paris appeared to take an instant disliking to me.
“Sorry,” I said, looking up at my savior. I wasn’t used to looking up at people. I was taller than many women and just as tall as most of the men I met. “I didn’t see you.”
“You’re late,” he declared with unconcealed irritation.
“Don’t let it happen again,” he replied. Clearly, he mistook my question for an apology. “You were supposed to be here three hours ago.”
“Three hours ago,” I parroted in confusion.
“I made it very clear to the agency that I need someone punctual.” He bored his wolf eyes into mine. “I fired the last assistant they sent me because she couldn’t tell the time. And the one before her couldn’t speak English. You speak English, right?”
“Yes, I do,” I said. “I’m American.”
“So am I.”
His scowl deepened, which struck me as odd since it was imperative that his assistant could speak English. Of course, I wasn’t his assistant, but he didn’t know that. He was making an ass out of himself by making assumptions.
Despite his irate expression, he was a good-looking man. If I was honest, he was the walking definition of rugged handsomeness with his strong features and chiseled, stubble-covered jaw. Judging a person by their looks wasn’t my style. I wasn’t often impressed by a man just because he had the kind of face that you couldn’t help ogling. But this man was undeniably attractive. It was an unavoidable fact that was staring me right in the face. I could only have escaped this fact if I was blind.
Just as I was about to tell him that I wasn’t the person he was waiting for, he spun around and stormed into his apartment. I was going to have to follow him. I was tempted to continue down the stairs but he had saved me from tumbling over the banister and plunging to my death. Even though he had the personality of an ogre, I thought that I owed it to him to let him know I wasn’t the assistant from the agency.
With a niggling sense of apprehension, I crossed the threshold and entered his apartment. It appeared to have the exact same layout as Selma’s apartment upstairs but his place was as tidy as hers was cluttered. His decorating style would have appealed to my mother. The hallway didn’t have a single piece of furniture, not even a coat rack, and the living room beyond boasted nothing but a black leather couch and a glass-topped coffee table.
The man was nowhere in sight. At a loss, I came to a halt in the middle of the living room. I knew that the door on the right would take me to the kitchen and that the one on the left opened into the corridor leading to the bedrooms and bathroom. Which door was the irritated ogre hiding behind?
My question was answered two seconds later.
“Are you coming?” he called from somewhere down the corridor.
The irritation in his voice was loud and clear as church bells on a Sunday morning.
Starting to get a little irritated myself, I followed the direction his voice had come from. I found him in the room that was my bedroom in Selma’s apartment. Down here, the room was utilized as a home office. Bookshelves lined the walls and a large glass-topped desk with chrome legs, which matched the coffee table in the living room, stood by the window. The chair behind the desk was, like his couch, clad in black leather. It was such an eyesore that I knew it had to be one of those ergonomic designs. Half a dozen tall stacks of paper covered by handwritten notations of some sort sat on the desk, crowding a laptop computer that looked like it was a relic from the early nineties.
“Um,” I said, searching for the right words to explain the case of mistaken identity.
“I need you to type my handwritten pages into the computer and print them out when you’re done,” he growled without as much as a glance at me. He was now busy glaring at the laptop. “And I need you to be punctual. I expect you to be here at ten o’clock in the morning from Monday to Friday. You will leave at two o’clock in the afternoon. Make sure you leave at two o’clock exactly. I don’t want you around here after two. Is that clear?”
“Um,” I repeated.
It wasn’t like me to let the cat catch my tongue. His utter boorishness had thrown me. He was an utter boor. There was no other way to describe him. Except handsome. He was a handsome utter boor.
“You can type, right?” He looked up and directed his critical gaze at me. “Punctual. English-speaking. Computer literate. These are the only skills I’m looking for in an assistant. I have been very specific with the agency. Very specific. But they sent me two useless girls in a row. And the three before them quit for no good reasons.”
“I can type,” I said.
“Good,” he replied before I managed to get another word out of my mouth. “You can type. You can speak English. If you can learn to tell the time and remember that I’m on the second floor, not the third or fourth, then we won’t have any problems.”
I should have stopped him right there and then. I should have spoken up. I should have said, “Goodbye and good luck finding an assistant who will tolerate you for more than a day.” But I didn’t. Something stopped me. Perhaps it was the scent of a challenge. I had never been able to resist a challenge.
Five assistants had failed to complete the task of turning the veritable mountain of handwritten pages into neat printouts. I could be the one out of six assistants to conquer the Mount Everest of transcribing. Except I wasn’t an assistant. Still, the challenge called to me.
The thrill of a challenge aside, there was something else stopping me from stomping out of the apartment and leaving the handsome utter boor to his own devices – fate. To be more specific, my suspicion that fate might not be a complete load of bull kept me rooted to the spot. Recent events had forced me to at least consider reevaluating my position on fate.
If I hadn’t needed a little time by myself at Mom’s birthday party, I wouldn’t have found the postcard from Selma. With France already on my mind, the advertisement inviting me to book a trip to Paris caught my attention. The next day, when I was done admiring the Eiffel tower, I set off in the direction I was facing. That brought me to Emily, my American ally. Not only was she familiar with the address I was looking for, she knew my aunt too.
Accident or fate?
Either way, without Emily by my side, I might have chickened out. I might have let sleeping dogs lie. But I had followed Emily up the stairs and met Selma. Now a hasty descent down the same stairs had brought me to this moment. Here I was, facing an attractive man with an unattractive temperament, and almost salivating at the thought of tackling the challenge on the desk before me.
Accident or fate?
My rational side spoke up and informed me in no uncertain terms that I was being ridiculous. Impersonating an assistant was a preposterous idea. It was nothing short of absurd and, for all I knew, illegal in France. But I was going to do it anyway. I was going to do it because I had vowed to indulge my newfound impulsiveness and embrace spontaneity.
“I can tell the time,” I said, making sure that I sounded informative rather than offended. “And I will remember that you’re on the second floor, not the third or the fourth. You can expect me to show up at ten o’clock sharp every morning from Monday to Friday. And I won’t leave a minute before or after two o’clock in the afternoons.”
Surprise replaced the irritation in the wolf-like eyes. I held his gaze without blinking. He was the first to look away.
“Okay,” he replied with a little less boorishness than before. “Good.”
“I will print out what I’ve transcribed for the day before leaving.” I gave him a cool professional smile. “Do you have any other instructions for me?”
“No.” He paused and ran a hand through his hair before continuing, “Well, maybe you could answer the phone and take messages when I’m not around.”
“Certainly.” I clasped my hands together in front of me. “Anything else?”
“The first question the other assistants asked me was when I would pay them, and then they asked how much I would pay them,” he told me, sounding almost perplexed. “Don’t you want to know or did the agency already tell you?”
“The agency didn’t mention the salary to me.”
That was only true because I had never spoken to any agency about a salary. They had in all likelihood mentioned it to the woman who was supposed to be having the conversation that I was having with the man in front of me. But she wasn’t there. I was there and now I was curious about how much I was going to get paid for pretending to be an assistant.
“Six-hundred euros per week,” he said. “I’ll pay you in cash on Fridays.”
I did some quick calculations in my head. Six-hundred per week meant that I would be making thirty euros per hour. That sounded like a decent hourly wage for some typing. Actually, it was more than decent. It was almost suspiciously generous.
“That will be fine,” I replied, muting the warning bells that began to ring in my head.
“Good.” The scowl was gone. I saw the corner of his mouth turn up a fraction of an inch, forming an almost but not quite half-smile. “What do I call you?”
“Parker.” I took a step forward and held out my right hand. “Poppy Parker.”
“Parker,” he repeated, taking my hand in his. “I’m James.”
When it became clear that, for whatever reason, he wasn’t going to provide me with his surname, I nodded and reclaimed my hand from his grasp.
“I’m three hours late,” I said and sat down behind the desk. “I should get to work.”
“No, come back tomorrow.” He dug a set of keys out of his pocket. “I’m not here much during the day. Most of the time you’re going to have to let yourself in and out.”
“That’s fine.” I took the keys from him and stood back up. “I’ll let myself out now. And I’ll be back tomorrow at ten sharp.”
I exited the home office and made my way back to the living room, forcing myself to take calm and measured steps. At the front door, I paused and let out a breath that I didn’t realize I had been holding. I looked down at the keys in my hand, the second pair of keys I had acquired that day, and wondered if I had just made an epic mistake. What was I going to do if the real assistant showed up?
“Relax,” I muttered. “Fate put me here.”
Accident or fate?
Accident or fate. It didn’t matter which it was. For now, I had a job. Accident or fate had led me to it. So what if taking the job was an epic mistake? Really, so what? It was about time. Maybe making a couple of mistakes was just what I needed.
About the Author:
Sofia Ellis loves sunny summer days, books and movies that end with the promise of happily ever after, and, above all, spending time with her family. She also enjoys drinking coffee while writing. Without the invigorating powers of caffeine, she wouldn’t get much done.
“Trying New Hats” was the first novel Sofia wrote. Soon after she finished it, she started working on “A Size Too Small” and “Someone Else’s Shoes”. They’re all complete stand-alone stories but they share a theme: finding out what you want and working up the courage to try and make it happen. Oh, and there’s romance too of course.
Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FJY4BY4
Publication Date: July 11, 2018