"Breakfast for Dinner"
A divorcée has a one-night stand with a mystery man in this story from Ashley M. Coleman, author of GOOD MORNING, LOVE.
Last year, I got a sneak peek at a galley of Good Morning, Love, a romance by debut author Ashley M. Coleman. It’s about an aspiring songwriter who catches the eye of a world-famous R&B star. I adored everything about it: the feisty characters, the big emotions, the glamorous setting. The book came out in June to praise from BuzzFeed, Refinery29, and more. It was a no-brainer to ask Ashley to write a short story for Heartbeat, and she delivered a tale with all of her signature charms.
In “Breakfast for Dinner,” a recent divorcée moves to Los Angeles to get a fresh start and open her own pottery shop. She’s laser-focused on her career, but she lets loose just once after meeting a devastatingly handsome mystery man at a bar. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say their encounter leads to unexpected places. At Heartbeat, we believe Fridays are for happily-ever-afters — enjoy.
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“Breakfast for Dinner”
Sam stood in the empty space of her soon-to-be retail location early Friday afternoon, carefully trying to visualize her dream setup. She was meeting with the contractor on Monday to get word on the build-out schedule and final permit approval for an outside patio. She had heard so many horror stories from other business owners about going over budget and over time and she couldn’t afford mistakes. All of her savings, including her portion of the house she sold in Atlanta, were tied up in making this happen. Failure was simply not an option.
A tap on the papered window made her jump. When she crept towards the door, her former colleague and friend Yeri was on the other side smiling with a bottle of Champagne and a small Carvel ice cream cake in her hands. Sam’s two favorite things.
Sam was stepping away from real estate and venturing into the world of entrepreneurship. It had always been a point of contention between her and her ex-husband Rodney. She wanted to do something that meant more to her, and he wanted to grow their investment portfolio.
Although not necessarily on the terms she would have hoped, she was finally making her dream come true. She was starting over in Los Angeles, opening a small retail shop for her pottery work after it garnered real attention on social media. Her bowls, planters, and mugs were flying off her website and she felt like this was finally the time to bring it all to life. Sam could see the finished store so clearly when she closed her eyes, but when she opened them, there was only an empty 600-square-foot space and Yeri staring back at her.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving me already,” Yeri said as she dipped a plastic spoon into the creamy cake.
“It was always going to be temporary, Yeri,” Sam said. “I need my days back now to complete everything for a September open.”
“That’s fair. But leaving me with Marian? That feels unfair.”
They both laughed. Dealing with Marian, the new manager at the brokerage, was something Sam wouldn’t miss.
“So, you have to come out tonight!” Yeri said.
“You know I love our happy hours. But I have so much to do. I can’t.”
“You can’t indulge me this last time?” Yeri tousled her brassy mane. “A few of the agents from the office want to wish you well on this next part of the journey. Six months ago, we all wanted to give you a hug, girl. You looked like you had been through the ringer. But look at you now, living your best life.”
“Am I?” Sam wasn’t so sure. Her father thought she was nuts for leaving Rodney and Atlanta. The last words they exchanged were harsh when she told him if he loved Rodney so much, he should marry him. Sam knew her father wanted the best for her, but he had an odd way of showing it. His affinity for perfection always created this unyielding pressure.
If she was being honest with herself, she needed a night out. Ever since she got to LA, she’d been running. Scouting locations, meeting with manufacturers, looking at balance sheets and budgets—it would be nice to let go for a moment. To indulge some of her physical urges this weekend. As focused as she’d been on her business, she couldn’t deny that in all the excitement of this new venture, she was also lonely. It would be nice to completely forget about the hell that had been finalizing her divorce from a man who didn’t want to show a chink in his armor. He needed everyone to know that she had ended things. That she gave up a life many other women envied.
Halfway through the Champagne bottle, Sam agreed. They sat on the floor of the space and finished off the bottle and the cake. After parting ways with Yeri, Sam headed back to her apartment to get ready to meet the work crew for drinks around six. They were going to Mama Shelter, a hotel rooftop spot in Hollywood that was always way too crowded, but had truffle fries and a hell of a jalapeño margarita.
Sam took some time to water her plants. Their soft droop showed her neglect. But as soon as the sprinkle of water mixed with a little bit of coffee grounds hit the soil, they perked back up again. After tidying up the floor plans and contracts strewn across the living room, Sam hopped in the shower. Riffling through her closet in a towel, she landed on a slinky off-the-shoulder top and a pair of cut-off shorts.
When Sam arrived at the hotel, the evening was in full swing. Bright smiles and cleavage. Bare ankles and thigh meat. Top forty hits billowed out of the speakers as beautiful men and women held onto glassware, nodding their heads and swaying their hips. The scent in the air was a mix of suntan lotion and truffle oil. If this was what being single in your thirties looked like, Sam didn’t mind. Yeri spotted her and waved her over to the area where her co-workers had grabbed a lounger resembling a huge bed.
They exchanged pleasantries and immediately ordered her a margarita. The conversation started out light. They complained about Marian, bragged about recent commissions, and passed around phones with photos of kids and puppies. As the hours passed and the drinks kept flowing, things got a little more open, more personal. Adam was thinking about proposing to his long-term girlfriend. Charlotte was drinking water all evening because she was expecting. Eric told them about a wild weekend in Miami for his brother’s bachelor party that made them all blush. For the first time in a long while, the laughter that escaped Sam’s lips felt real. The night felt surprisingly warm. Alive.
She wasn’t sure if it was the tequila or the newfound freedom this carefree night out provided from the daunting sadness that had plagued her since she left Atlanta, but she was feeling particularly bold when she noticed a gentleman with neck-length locks and deeply set eyes.
Yeri followed her gaze. She nodded with a look of approval. “So, you going to keep staring or are you going to say something?” Sam tried to hide her grin in her glass.
Through the crowded rooftop, Sam watched as the man emphasized his speech with his large hands. His lips were the punctuation to a flawless face. She would catch him every time his eyes shifted from his conversation and lingered on her exposed neckline. With a mischievous smile, she excused herself from her colleagues. They looked on in awe as she floated over in her favorite Givenchy heels, which gave her legs an extra oomph, toward the gentleman who potentially held her nightcap. She was a little nervous, but the handsome stranger turned to watch as she made her way to him. She couldn’t turn back now. He braced himself as she touched his arm softly. She leaned in and whispered in his ear—she’d love to stop playing long-distance and wanted a closer look.
He shook his head, looking dazed. “You’re trouble.”
“Only if you want me to be,” Sam looked the stranger square in the eyes and glanced at his lips. The liquid courage was working its magic. “One more drink?” She winked at him as he motioned for the bartender to fill their request. He sipped Champagne delicately as they chatted. One of his boys was planning to propose tomorrow, the reason for the celebration.
“Me, though? I’m single,” he offered with a lick of his lips.
“Is that right?” Sam smirked.
That was all Sam needed to know. It had been too long since she felt the warmth of another body next to hers. She needed to get back out there instead of feeling sorry for herself. The only way to get comfortable with the idea of starting over after ten years of marriage, she convinced herself, was to jump right into making a bad decision or two.
“You want to get out of here?” she asked, parroting every TV show ever. Sam immediately regretted the line.
“Absolutely,” he replied before she could keep overthinking her corniness.
Sam bid farewell to her colleagues, catching Yeri’s questioning expression. Yeri took another sip of her bourbon before winking in Sam’s direction.
Together, Sam and her company for the night waited for their rideshare car to arrive. With every glance he stole, Sam found herself grinning. He helped her into the car before they made their way up the treacherous winding hills to get to his place. When they arrived twenty minutes later, the smell of his Tom Ford cologne was enticing as she walked closely behind him. The kisses they shared at the door to his place tasted like crisp apple and melon.
Inside his home, the view of downtown LA was stunning, and then there was Catalina Island which drew her towards the floor to ceiling windows. Outside, there was a covered area with lush patio furniture. Sam knew she wanted to feel the wind on her back while engaging in passionate nibbles and sloppy kisses. With an excited look in his eyes, he followed her pushing back the massive sliding windows. Stepping outside, they both gripped and grabbed at body parts as they made their way over to the two-piece sectional. She pulled his shirt up over his head and traced his abs with her finger before gently pushing him onto the couch.
Sam was never this confident in the bedroom in her whole life, let alone outside with a stranger she picked up at a bar. But she liked that he let her take charge. He was gentle while she was set on devouring him. His caresses felt like a warm blanket as the cool breeze washed over them. Sam’s kisses were urgent as they tried to undress each other without losing contact. The glow of the string lights under the pergola illuminated his stunning bone structure as she held his face between her hands. Making love to him felt timeless.
She collapsed onto his chest, the coolness of their sweat joining together. Realizing the intimacy of the positioning, she went to pull herself up only for him to hold onto her tighter. Sam looked down at him and he smiled.
“Comfortable?” Sam asked.
“Very.” He playfully bit her shoulder.
Sam kissed him one last time before peeling herself from his chest. He got up to go inside. Returning with a quilt, he turned on the outdoor fireplace.
Wrapping the cover around them both, they stared into the distance taking in the lights of the City of Angels. The silence was comforting. The familiar smog clouded the air, even in the nighttime. Their warm bodies close, he nudged her with his shoulder.
“I didn’t even get your name,” he laughed.
“Trouble, remember?” Sam joked, pulling her legs up to her chest under the blanket.
“Well, I’m Jordan. And wow, I did not expect my night to end like this. I might want to marry you.”
Sam was only beginning to recognize herself again after being consumed by what it meant to be someone’s wife for so many years. She knew it was a fleeting comment, but the mere thought of giving up so much of herself again stiffened her back.
“Samantha,” she said while fiddling with her fingers where her wedding rings once held residence. “But everyone calls me Sam.”
“Well, Samantha,” he said as he turned to face her. “Are you hungry? How about breakfast?”
“Breakfast? It’s almost ten.”
“My favorite places back home make breakfast all day. I love breakfast for dinner,” he laughed to himself.
“Where’s home?” Sam asked with a smile.
“Honestly? I love late breakfast too,” Sam conceded. Jordan jumped up but she grabbed onto his arm. “But just some coffee would be nice right now.”
“Breakfast at the proper time then. In the morning.” He bit his lip, looking at Sam seductively before he disappeared back into the house. Sam took in the sights below. Massive homes with pools, some with life inside, others looked desolate. When he returned ten minutes later, he’d brought out two mugs and a flannel shirt for her to throw around her shoulders. They talked late into the night about anything and everything. Sam didn’t even remember falling asleep.
The next morning, the light filtered through the Californian overcast skies. Sam had come to expect gray fluffy clouds as the norm before the sun broke through later in the day. Her head was still slightly pounding from the margaritas the night before. As Sam lay in bed waiting for her brain to fully power on, she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Sam felt her heart seize as she took in the rise and fall of a man’s chest beside her. The half-naked man was sleeping peacefully right next to her. She wasn’t in her own bed. Her eyes darted around the room. The black-and-white framed photography. The furry white rug on the light hardwood floors. The throw blanket strewn across the contemporary leather armchair. The room was huge. Her new place could quite possibly fit inside the bedroom’s four walls.
Sam’s goal the night before was to forget everything she’d been through the last few months, and it seemed she had accomplished that goal. Now, she was trying to figure out how to get out of bed without waking this gorgeous man.
Sam slowly rolled to her right side and spotted her clothes dumped near the door. She couldn’t help but imagine how ridiculous she looked as she tiptoed across the floor. Sam suppressed a snort as she began to dress as quietly as possible, only for her shirt to get caught in the herringbone chain around her neck. While frantically trying to free the material from the links, she noticed bemused brown eyes staring at her.
“I thought I was making you breakfast,” said the half-naked man through a smile that made Sam wonder if she should be getting dressed at all. He was attractive in his sleep but seeing him conscious again was a remarkable sight. Symmetry, Sam had read, is what made someone aesthetically pleasing. His face seemed nearly perfect.
“You know, I forgot I have a meeting,” she lied. “But it was, um… this has been great.”
“On a Saturday?” he asked, blinking quickly a few times in succession.
Sam was in the habit of doing everything by the book before when it came to relationships. Ending up in a man’s bed whose name she couldn’t remember was not necessarily her neck of the woods.
“Come on, were you trying to sneak out on me?” he asked with a look of disappointment. “Damn. I mean I enjoyed last night, and it seemed like you also enjoyed it…”
Sam could still feel the grasp of his hands on her lower back. Flashes of their heavy breathing invaded her mind, but she knew that if she didn’t leave now, she’d probably jump right back in that bed. It was all too overwhelming. She needed to go because her real focus right now was her business.
“Oh no, I just, yeah, I have to go.” Finally gathering all her things, Sam rushed out of the bedroom.
If he walked out after her, it was going to make it that much harder to leave. Sam fiddled with her phone, pulling up her rideshare app. The fact that she didn’t even know her location made her wince. She found her shoes at the entryway and put them on in a hurry as she heard his bare footsteps making their way in her direction.
“Samantha?” he said with a quizzical smile.
She had no idea why she told him her full name. No one called her Samantha since her mother had passed on five years ago. Her full name felt reserved for a special kind of bond. One she wasn’t sure would ever exist with anyone outside of the woman who gave her life. One she never even felt with her ex-husband.
“It was nice meeting you…” Sam paused for a minute attempting to conjure up a name and failed miserably.
“Jordan.” His smile faded slowly.
Completely embarrassed, she waved sheepishly before turning to open the front door, of course, struggling with it.
Jordan reached around her, and she braced herself for his touch, but instead he quickly unlocked the deadbolt. Sam pushed it open as Jordan stood at the threshold with his arms crossed.
“You really want to leave like this?” he asked.
“It was nice meeting you, Jordan,” Sam said before she walked down the pavers laid artfully on top of turf in the driveway. Sam paused for a moment looking back at the house wondering if she should say more, if leaving was a mistake. But the look of disappointment in Jordan’s face before turning to close the door was all she needed to send her on her way. A few minutes later, a matte black BMW pulled up and she got inside.
Sam rolled the windows down in the backseat, relived her driver wasn’t chatty. The fresh air hit her face as they made their way down Laurel Canyon Boulevard toward her place in Valley Village. When Sam arrived home, flashes of Jordan’s smile, the scent of his cologne, and his scruffy voice occupied her mind. Leaving in a hurry wasn’t the right thing to do, but she thought it was easier that way. What good could come from sticking around after a one-night stand? She hadn’t been out of the dating game long enough to lose all her common sense. It was fun, and something told her he was easier to talk to than Rodney ever was. But that didn’t matter. It was time to set her wild night behind her and get to work. She didn’t need any distractions in the way of getting her business off the ground. Falling for someone like Jordan would absolutely derail her progress and she’d waited long enough to put herself first.
Sam took a half hour to freshen up and change into sweats. She looked through her phone and saw Yeri’s text from last night asking if she was still alive. She responded with one word: “Very.” She grabbed her notebook and nestled into the couch, only writing “This Week” as a header for her to-do list, before the recollections of her encounter with Jordan interrupted her thoughts.
The rest of the weekend was plagued by floor plans and finishes, but all the details were finally coming together for the design by the time Sam walked through the doors of her shop on Monday afternoon. In the middle of the floor was a makeshift conference area with a couple of folding chairs. She put a few snack bars and bottles of water in the middle of the table. As soon as she sat down and opened her laptop, there was a tap at the door. She hurried to open it, expecting the wicked smart contractor who showed her the store of her dreams a month back.
On the other side of the door was the gorgeous man she had woken up to over the weekend. His locks neatly pulled up on the crown of his head. His brown eyes were bright and radiated excitement. It seemed impossible for her to be staring back at this man who left her head spinning only two days ago.
“Samantha,” he said with a look of disbelief.
“Sorry. Sam, um,” he shifted the briefcase in his arms as they stayed at the door awkwardly. “Well, I think we’re supposed to chat. About this,” he said as he motioned around the door frame.
“I guess? Um, come on in. I would have remembered if you were the one who came to do the bid.” Sam was panicked. Out of all the men in LA, somehow, she slept with the one scheduled to be in her space the next few months.
“Justin, the other J in J & J Builders. He’s my business partner. But he’s more of the business guy, I’m the brute. The muscle,” he said with a laugh to himself. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
“That’s kind of the point of a one-night stand, isn’t it? It’s just one night,” Sam said as she walked back to the table in the middle of the room.
She saw the corners of Jordan’s smile drop. She knew she was being cold, but he seemed way too familiar. Way too close; she had to create some distance.
“I think,” he started after putting his bag down on the table. “That you’re afraid of something, I’m just not sure what.”
“The only thing I’m afraid of is not making the projected date for this opening.”
Jordan took the hint. Instead, he talked about adding ceiling beams and wall shelving. He pulled out blueprints and mock designs that he’d drawn up with Justin over the last month. Sam nodded along, trying her best not to look him in the eyes, desperately hoping to fight back flashes of the passionate night they shared on his patio.
“So, the patio…” Jordan mentioned as he pulled another floor plan to the top of the pile of papers on the table.
“What?” Sam’s eyes went wide as if he was somehow reading her thoughts.
“The outdoor space. That was the big question mark here, and I have some news.”
“Right,” Sam straightened out her top nervously. “So, was it approved?”
Jordan paused for a moment. He dropped his head down and Sam felt her heart sink into her feet. That was part of the appeal of having a store in LA. Being able to build out a small outdoor oasis for the shop that could highlight her planters. When Jordan looked up, he was smiling.
“It was approved,” he finally said.
“Why would you do that?” Sam tapped his hand and he instinctively put his other hand on top of hers. He held onto it for a moment before Sam slinked away retreating to her side of the table. “Okay, um, that’s good.”
“Yeah, I’m excited about that. I think it will have an amazing curb appeal that will make folks want to stop in,” he said without breaking eye contact. “The breakfast spot I was telling you about back home? It has such a cool outdoor area. Let me show you.”
Jordan got up from his seat and made his way around the table to Sam. Straightening up, she tried to play it cool as he thumbed through an Instagram profile to show her pictures of the space on his phone. His scent was intoxicating. The warmth of his body so close to hers, inviting. When she looked up at him, his smile threatened to melt her into a puddle in the chair.
“What do you think?”
“It’s gorgeous,” Sam looked up at him.
“You are gorgeous,” he added before heading back to his side of the table.
“Jordan,” Sam pleaded.
“Samantha,” he said and shook his head. After a moment of awkward silence, he started again. “Anyway, we can build out just about ten feet.”
Three hours passed quickly but the plan was set. Approvals were in motion, and Jordan gave Sam a date in two weeks for his team to come in and begin the project. He packed up his things. Just as they approached the door, Jordan turned to her with a determined look in his eyes.
“Look, I enjoyed Friday night. Not just the sex, but talking to you. Hearing about your co-workers taking you out and how magical LA felt to you. Hell, I had no idea you were a business owner or that the pottery work Justin showed me was your stuff. It was impressive.” He took a breath. “Let me take you out. And if after tonight, you’re not interested, fine. But I know you’re just trying to hurt me before I can hurt you.”
Sam didn’t recall divulging so much to him. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“And here I am trying to learn. Tell me this, and if the answer is yes, I’m outta here and my guys will finish the job and you won’t have to see me again.” He fondled one of the locks that escaped his hair tie. Sam could tell it was a nervous habit. “Did you really want to leave like that or were you somehow trying to beat me to it?”
Sam contemplated her next move. She was in no way prepared for someone to call her out so plainly. But she couldn’t let him be this honest and keep lying to herself.
“No,” she finally managed.
A radiant smile spread across Jordan’s face. “All right then. Now, about that breakfast I was supposed to make you.”
“We’ll have to figure out the best day.”
“What are you doing now?”
“It’s seven o’clock.”
“Breakfast for dinner, right?” Jordan reminded her. They laughed together comfortably.
Sam gathered her things and turned off the lights. She locked the door before Jordan walked her over to her car. It was set, Jordan would be making her breakfast at his place. This time her head was clear as they drove up through the wandering hills. They made their way into the home she had scurried out of two days ago. It should have been obvious that Jordan worked in construction or interior design. His meticulously curated home was striking. The wooden ceiling beams gave it a cottage-like feel. A baby grand piano was nestled into the corner. The Moroccan tile made the fireplace a focal point in the main living space.
In the kitchen, Jordan pulled out pans and satchels of potatoes. Eggs, butter, and all the necessities for a good homemade breakfast. He still found ways to use his hands when he spoke about growing up in Arizona, how his sister and her husband still lived there. When Sam asked for a cup of tea, he pulled a mug out of his cupboard she instantly recognized.
“That’s one of the samples I gave Justin!” Sam said in shock.
“I told you they were impressive,” he laughed. “Had to wrestle the pair away from him.”
Sharing Jordan’s space was so easy, it was terrifying. Maybe it was a looming disaster. Maybe it was kismet. She watched as he chopped potatoes and heated the oil. He checked if she liked onions, then added them in, too. Steam rose into the oven’s vent. Sam peered out over the cup she made with her own hands, drinking Jordan in. She wondered if she should tell him she was a mess. Still broken up into pieces that arrived as damaged goods from Atlanta. Jordan turned and leaned onto the countertop as multiple pans sizzled behind him. His grin was deliciously charming.
“It’s just breakfast,” he said as he turned to finish cooking. “Now, I can’t guarantee you won’t be the one pleading marriage this time around after you taste these home fries but…”
She stopped, resisting the urge to allow her brain to overwork. Instead, she smiled to herself contently as twenty minutes passed. Sam ran her hands over the Calacatta marble on the kitchen island before she got up to help him pour the perfect mimosa with only a splash of orange juice. They stuffed their faces as they talked about hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings. Jordan had skills in the kitchen and enjoyable conversation. They traded their favorite recent reads and thumbed through their latest listens on their phones. The evening gave way to night as they watched the sun’s descent below the hills.
As they sat in front of the firepit back out on the patio, it dawned on Sam they were so much more acquainted than just a few nights ago. For the first time since Sam uttered the “D” word to her husband, she felt as if everything would be okay.
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My two favorite recent reads: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (like a modern take on Bridget Jones) and Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson (two siblings discover their late mother’s secrets; a gorgeous story about inheritance, reinvention, and food). What’s the last great book you read? Comment below.