I spent the weekend reading through my rough draft of the revised Training Tommy. Is it cute? Or a bit silly bordering on ridiculous? I can’t decide. Technically, it’s already been edited, except for what I added to make it longer than the original. There’s not much conflict which is why I submitted it to Hallmark Publishing. They didn’t want it. I’m tempted to put together a cover similar to Cleo’s Web and put it out there. What do you think? Below is the working draft of the blurb and Chapter Two.
Training Tommy Blurb
An irresponsible guy. A destructive dog. And an uptight schoolteacher. Who’s training whom?
After a chaotic childhood, Sabrina Talbott has finally achieved stability, security, and self-discipline. Her Mr. Perfect must have those same qualities.
When Mr. Not Perfect, Tommy Cameron, moves in next door she fights her attraction to him. His dog, Skid, is much too fun-loving and irreverent, much like his owner. Skid digs up her flowers, terrifies her cat, and wreaks havoc with her wardrobe. If only Tommy would train him!
Eventually Tommy takes the hint, but what Sabrina doesn’t realize is that while Tommy is training Skid, he’s also training her to lighten up and have some fun. At the same time, Sabrina is certain she’s the one who’s training Tommy to grow up and be more responsible.
Is it possible Sabrina can turn Tommy into Mr. Perfect? Or was he simply perfect for her all along?
Training Tommy Chapter Two
When the doorbell rang again five minutes later, Sabrina yanked it open with a scowl.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Elaine said, as she bustled inside.
“You’re always late,” Sabrina groused, absently rubbing at the bump on her head courtesy of her earlier encounter with Tommy, Skid, and the dining room table.
“I know, but it’s part of my charm, right?” Elaine smooched the air next to Sabrina’s left ear. “And you love me anyway.”
That was true. Elaine was everything, it seemed to Sabrina, that she herself was not. Spontaneous. Irreverent. And anything but punctual. But Sabrina adored her. Elaine also hated yoga, but agreed to a session in exchange for Sabrina’s company and their usual ritual of a glass of wine afterward.
“Look,” Elaine gushed as she barreled toward the kitchen. “I brought sushi. And that pinot grigio you like.”
Sabrina looked at the plastic container of perfect round rolls of rice with their colorful innards. “Where’d you get sushi?” she asked with suspicion.
“That new supermarket in Rochelle. That’s why I’m late.” Elaine turned from where she’d been stowing the wine in the refrigerator and picked up the sushi to set next to it. She noted Sabrina’s expression. “Why the long face?”
“I met my new neighbor.” Sabrina continued to rub absently at the slight raised bump beneath her hair.
“The guy moved in?” Elaine, in no rush to begin the yoga session, pulled out a chair. “Is he cute? Spill.”
Sabrina, knowing that if she made the mistake of beginning a chat session with Elaine now, there’d be no yoga later. “Un unh.” She set the package of sushi in the refrigerator and tugged on Elaine’s arm. “Yoga first. Then I’ll tell you about my new neighbor.”
Sabrina did her best to ignore Elaine’s grumbling during the half hour video. The moment the meditation segment ended, Elaine made a beeline for the kitchen. “I need wine and I need gossip.”
Sabrina fetched two wineglasses from the china cabinet.
“So is he cute?” Elaine asked.
Sabrina stalled by retrieving the bottle of wine from the refrigerator. She opened the drawer for a corkscrew.
She considered Elaine’s question. “He…could be considered attractive,” she admitted. By someone else. Certainly not by me.
Elaine frowned. “What does that mean?”
“It means, maybe if he got a haircut, wore something besides faded jeans and tee shirts…” trained his dog, found Skid’s leash, didn’t make my heart rate go crazy…
“You’re talking about clothes and hair,” Elaine pointed out. “What does he look like? Cute? What does he do for a living? Is he tall? Short? Fat? Skinny? Hair color? Eye color? Give me something!”
“Tall. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Not fat. Not skinny.”
Oh, yeah. “Probably.” Sabrina glanced away. “It was hard to tell.”
“He’s hot,” Elaine deduced knowingly. “And?”
“What’s his name?”
“What does he do?”
“I have no idea.”
“He bought the McDermotts house so he must have a job.”
“I’m sure he does.”
“How did you meet?”
Sabrina’s thoughts went back to her undignified introduction to Tommy. She wasn’t sure she wanted to share the embarrassing details even though Elaine was her best friend. “He has a dog,” she began.
Elaine leaned forward and her eyes lit up. Elaine loved dogs but her landlord didn’t allow them. “What kind?”
“A large, furry, poorly mannered one.”
Elaine took a good look at Sabrina who was still absently massaging the bump on her head. “You’re not going to hold that against him, are you?”
Sabrina’s brow furrowed. “Hold what against him? The fact that he’s a dog?”
“Not the dog. Your new neighbor. Tommy. You’re not going to hold the fact that he has a dog against him, are you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Uh huh,” Elaine said from behind her. “You like him.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Sabrina insisted. “I hardly know him. I just met him.”
“Tell the truth,” Elaine insisted. “He’s hot, right?”
Sabrina tugged the cork out of the bottle and turned. “So hot. But he’s totally not my type.”
Elaine’s lip curled. “Yes. Well. I’ve met what you consider your type. I’m pretty sure that’s why you’re still single.”
Sabrina poured the wine. Elaine’s views on her preferences in men were no secret so she wasn’t going to let it get to her.
“I don’t have to date him just because he’s attractive and happens to live next door, you know.”
Sabrina set a glass of wine in front of Elaine and pulled out a chair of her own.
Elaine’s eyes lit up. “He asked you out?”
Sabrina thought about the invitation to Tommy’s party. If she mentioned it to Elaine, she knew her friend would push her into going. In fact, Elaine would probably want to tag along. “No, of course he didn’t ask me out. We had a brief, rather unpleasant exchange, mostly about his dog’s behavior, and that was all.”
Elaine contemplated her glass of wine before she caught Sabrina’s eye once more. “Hmmhmm.”
Elaine got up and opened the refrigerator. She came back to the table with the sushi. “You’re having some of this, right? I know it’s from the supermarket, but it’s actually pretty good.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“You should try it.”
“It’s raw fish. Maybe Victoria would like some.”
“I’m not feeding my sushi to the cat.” She opened the container and held it under Sabrina’s nose. “You need to expand your horizons. Try one little bit. There’s no wasabi, ginger or soy sauce on it yet.”
Sabrina leaned away and wrinkled her nose. “No thank you. I have a salad for later.”
Elaine gave up. “Suit yourself. I don’t know how you can insist you don’t like something when you won’t let yourself try it. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
That night Sabrina lay in bed for over an hour while music from Tommy Cameron’s stereo system reverberated through the neighborhood. All of the old homes along Broadleaf Lane had been built in a style popular in the Midwest in the 1940’s. Two stories, of brick or painted clapboard, with deep front porches and smaller stoops in back, on small lots. Tommy’s house was so close to hers in fact, not even thirty feet separated them.
Closing her bedroom windows succeeded in blocking out the evening breeze of the late summer night, but did nothing to squelch the pounding rock tunes delivered by speakers worthy of a head banger rock band. The sounds coming from next door pounded in rhythm with the slight throb in her head from where she’d hit it on the table earlier.
For Pete’s sake! She had three tutoring sessions scheduled for tomorrow morning and an SAT preparation class in the afternoon. How was she ever going to get to sleep?
By marching over to Tommy Cameron’s house and requesting that he turn the music down, that’s how. She flipped the covers back and rolled out of bed. Yanking off her nightgown, she grabbed the shorts and tee shirt she’d worn earlier in the day. If all went well she’d be back in her nightgown, back in her quiet bedroom in a few short minutes. Just as soon as she explained proper neighborhood etiquette to Tommy Cameron.
She couldn’t be the only neighbor being kept awake by the noise, could she? What about the Arnolds on the other side? And the Wilsons across the street? Surely they were just as disturbed by the loud music.
She hesitated at the edge of her property. The night air was relatively warm for late August in rural Illinois. A slight breeze blew a strand of hair across her eyes and she brushed it away as she surveyed the scene before her.
Several of Tommy’s guests were crowded around his front porch and steps, holding plastic cups, chatting and laughing. They all appeared relaxed, enjoying each other’s company. She fought down the nervousness she always felt in crowds of unfamiliar people.
As a guest, she never fit in at parties. Inevitably, she left them feeling she’d worn the wrong outfit or said the wrong thing to the wrong person. Growing up with a mother and stepfather who were champion party people, she thought she should have grown used to the forced gaiety and loud voices. But she never had. She preferred her role as occasional assistant to the hostess so she could melt into the background and not feel obligated to mingle.
Steeling herself, she stepped forward. The group gathered on the porch barely paid any attention as she squeezed past them. And why would they? In a tee shirt and shorts, for once she blended right in with the rest of the crowd.
She knocked on the screen door, and a fellow standing just inside opened it for her. He did it automatically, never breaking eye contact with his female companion.
Really! Sabrina thought. Anyone could just walk into this party. It made her think of the party scenes in those teen movies. People just showed up and were allowed in whether they belonged there or not. Evidently, Tommy Cameron was no more discriminating in his choice of guests.
Where was he? She gazed at the sea of unfamiliar faces as she wound her way from room to room. Tommy Cameron might not be an attentive host, but his guests were having a good time.
Several board games were in progress. The dining room had been turned into a billiards hall. A dartboard hung at the end of the hallway, the perfect distance evidently, for a competitive match.
Everywhere there were clusters of people. Empty pizza boxes were scattered here and there along with potato chip bags and fried chicken buckets.
The atmosphere reminded her of the one and only frat party she’d attended at college. Competitive games of pool and darts. Loud music, throngs of guests gesturing and laughing.
The Arnolds and the Wilsons weren’t complaining about the loud music, for she spotted them in a cluster together near the back door.
Emily Wilson waggled her fingers at Sabrina. “Hi, Sabrina. I was wondering if I’d see you here. I know you usually avoid parties like the plague,” she teased in a half-yell.
She knew Emily was joking with her, but as usual, Sabrina couldn’t think of an appropriate response.
“Hey, Sabrina, great party, huh?” Lori Arnold chimed in. Her husband Drew leaned forward to greet her, and so did Emily’s husband, Ron.
Then they all fell silent. Sabrina felt as though a spotlight were shining on her. As the newcomer it was her turn to speak. “You wouldn’t happen to know where I could find, uh, Tommy, would you?” she asked them. She felt slightly uncomfortable referring to her new neighbor so informally. Tommy seemed, almost like, well, a pet name. One she would normally reserve for someone she knew extremely well. Or for a very young child.
“Ah ha!” Emily responded. “I knew he’d catch your eye. You are one lucky girl, Sabrina. You don’t even have to go looking for Mr. Perfect. He moved in right next door to you.”
Sabrina winced. Tommy Cameron? Mr. Perfect? Boy was Emily off base on that one.
“I need to ask him something. Have you seen him?” Sabrina absently rubbed at the small bump on the side of her head.
“Last I saw him, he was in the den back there,” Drew said in a near shout. He jerked his head to indicate the general vicinity.
Sabrina squeezed through the clusters of people and finally located Tommy at the back of the house. Computer equipment covered nearly every corner of the room, some of it obviously in the process of being set up. He and a couple of other men were gathered around a partially constructed shelving unit.
Sabrina approached and Tommy’s head came up as if he’d used radar detection. His eyes lit with interest. Or was that her imagination? Maybe she’d been reading too many romance novels. He gave her a boyish grin of delight, dropped the instruction sheet and stepped toward her.
“You came after all. I was hoping you would.” His gaze swept up and down her casual attire. “You look great.” He sniffed. “You smell good, too. Want a drink?”
All of this he said loud enough to make himself heard over the music. He took her hand and led her toward the kitchen. Sabrina followed his lead. Maybe the kitchen would be slightly quieter. She could explain her mission there.
She didn’t plan on staying. She didn’t need anything to drink.
He had a plastic cup in his hand. “How about something soft? Club soda? Ginger ale?” He snapped his fingers. “I bet you’re a root beer kind of girl.”
He half-filled the cup with ice and twisted the top off a bottle of root beer and poured.
Sabrina didn’t know what else to do but accept it when he handed it to her. “I wanted to talk to you,” she said loudly.
Tommy held a hand to his ear. “What?”
“I said I wanted to talk to you about the—”
He shook his head and walked away.
Drink in hand, Sabrina trotted after him.
“Frankie! Frankie!” Tommy yelled, giving one of his guests a friendly shove in the direction of the stereo. “Turn that music off, would you! I’ve had about all of Metallica I can stand. Put on something we can dance to.”
Frankie squelched the loud music. The guests quieted in anticipation, all eyes on Frankie as he scanned the selections and waited for his choice to load. In seconds slow dance music poured forth. Somebody dimmed the lights. Couples found each other.
Tommy set Sabrina’s drink aside and took her hand. “Dance with me. Now that you’re here.”
Her mouth went dry and a protest rose to her lips. Dancing with Tommy Cameron hadn’t been her intention at all. She’d wanted him to turn the music down. Period. Mission accomplished.
She gazed around at the other couples clinging together. Tommy tugged on her hand, catching her all over again with that smile and those eyes. “Come on. I don’t bite.”
He held her hand in his, and his other arm came around her. Sabrina followed his lead, her objections on hold for the moment. What were those objections anyway?
Tommy’s presence surrounded her, enveloped her. Her brain stopped functioning and her senses came alive. The warmth of his hand splayed across her back sent waves of heat through her. She caught his scent, an odd but not unpleasant mix of dog, from his roughhousing with Skid, she supposed; laundry detergent or maybe fabric softener from his clothes; underlying both was the unmistakable scent of man.
Sabrina’s fingers clenched where they curved around his shoulder. In answer he pulled her closer, his head bent over hers. Her hand felt lost in his bigger one. He caressed the nape of her neck and then further down her spine.
The breath caught in her throat. Tommy Cameron turned her on. How dare he! The nerve of the man! With his overgrown dog and his loud parties. His too long hair and his well-worn tee shirts and jeans.
The song ended and Sabrina pulled back. She meant to look at Tommy’s face but her attention focused itself on his broad chest instead. Finally she got her chin up and met his eyes. He’d released her hand and encircled her with both arms. His smile nearly dropped her where she stood.
Another slow song started. She couldn’t be attracted to Tommy Cameron. She wouldn’t allow it. She’d accomplished her mission, she reminded herself. The music was no longer so loud she wouldn’t be able to sleep. So what if thoughts of her new neighbor kept her awake instead? He’d never know.
Readers: Are you still awake? What do you think?