Excerpt: Until It Fades - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Excerpt: Until It Fades

Ahhh I loved this book so much! It was touching, swoony, fast-paced and just so much fun to read! I started and finished in a single day! I’m so excited to share an exclusive excerpt—the entire second chapter—so you can get a feel on the book. Plus, I’ve got THREE print copies to give away, so make sure to scroll down below for the scoop!

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Chapter 2

May 2017

Tonight is a night of firsts.

And lasts.

As in, I will never agree to a blind date ever again.

“So I says to the guy . . .” Gord’s fleshy hands wave over his dinner plate—he’s a hand-talker—“I says, ‘Walkin’ out that door without buy- ing this car would be a travesty I can’t allow you to suffer.’” He pauses and leans in, to build suspense, I guess, before slapping the table. “He drove off the lot with a mighty-fine Dodge that same afternoon.”

Gord Mayberry, future owner of Mayberry’s New and Used Ve- hicle Dealership when his father croaks—information he shared three minutes into our date—is a self-proclaimed master car salesman. The doughy thirty-five-year-old has regaled me with countless dealership stories while sucking the meat off his rib bone dinner, and I have smiled politely and nibbled on my french fries, struggling to keep my gaze from the prominent mole perched above his left brow, the two dark hairs sprouting from it begging to be plucked.

I wish I didn’t have to drive so I could drown my disappointment in a bottle of cheap house chardonnay.

Why Lou thought her nephew and I would mesh, I can’t figure out. I’m trying my best not to be vain, to get beyond the utter lack of physical attraction, and focus on the positives—the man owns a house, he has a great job, he’s educated. He has all his teeth.

He’d provide well for Brenna and me. A helluva lot better than I can do on my own.

And seeing as I’m a twenty-four-year-old truck stop diner waitress with a tattered suitcase’s worth of baggage in tow, who hasn’t so much as kissed a man in over three years, maybe I don’t have a right to be judgmental.

The server comes around to set a dessert menu on the table and clear our plates, earning my soft sigh of relief that I’ll be going home soon. “Can I get you something else?”

Gord yanks the napkin out from where he tucked it in his collar and rubs his sticky BBQ sauce–covered fingers against it. “I’ll  have some of that divine blueberry pie of yours. How about you, Cathy?”

“No, thank you. I’m full.” I stifle my groan. He’s one of those people who assume Catherine and Cathy are automatically interchangeable. Maybe I’ll tack on a “Gordy” to see how he likes it.

“Watching that gorgeous figure of yours, aren’t you.” He grins and reaches across the table. I panic and quickly occupy my hands with my dishes.

“Thanks, doll. But I’ve got it,” the middle-aged woman chides with a wink, collecting the cutlery from me, freeing my hands for Gord’s waiting grasp.

I tuck them under my thighs instead.

He finally relents, leaning back into his side of the booth, checking his sparse blond hair in the window’s reflection. He’s not fooling any- one with that comb-over. “So . . . Catherine Wright.” His emerald-green eyes—really, the only appealing attribute this man has—study me with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. We’ve sat at this table for almost an hour and he has yet to ask me a single thing about myself.

And I know exactly what he’s thinking right now.

The Catherine Wright.

Gord may be a decade older than me and from the much larger Belmont, but I’d be stupid to think he doesn’t remember the stories from way back when. That he hasn’t heard all about me. Or at least the troublesome teenage version of me. The one who couldn’t possibly have changed enough after all these years for people to just forgive and forget.

Hell, for all I know, that’s why he agreed to this blind date. Maybe he’s banking on the hope that I haven’t changed at all and that he has a chance of getting laid tonight. I’m betting it’s been a while for him, too. “Yup. That’s me.” I meet his gaze with a hard one of my own. One that says, “I dare you.” Actually, I do want him to dredge up things better left in the past. It’ll give me a good excuse to walk out and end this train wreck of a date.

I see the decision in his eyes a moment before he averts his gaze to the bottle of ketchup on the table, his fingers wrapping around it absently. “My aunt Lou says you’ve  been working at Diamonds for seven years now.”

I guess we’re not taking a trip down memory lane just yet.

“Six and a half years.” Since the day after I found out I was going to have Brenna, through my entire pregnancy.

I was carrying a plate of grits in one hand and an open-face turkey sandwich in the other the day that my water broke. As far as truck stop owners who have to deal with amniotic fluid all over their tile floor during the dinner rush go, Lou was pretty sympathetic.

He lets out a low whistle. “I don’t envy you, on your feet all day, servin’ tables for tips. I mean, Aunt Lou’s doin’ all right, but that’s be- cause she owns the diner. But I see those older ladies who’ve been wor- kin’ at it awhile and”—he ducks his head and glances over his shoulder for, I assume, our waitress—“they don’t weather well in that kind of job, all haggard by the time they hit forty.”

Working at Diamonds when I’m forty is not something I want to be thinking about right now, so I push that fear away and offer a tight smile. “It’s a job for now.” It’s more steady than seasonal work at the resort, more stable than the Hungry Caterpillar café or the Sweet Stop or the dozen other little tourist stops in Balsam, and it pays a lot more than a place like Dollar Dayz. I shudder at the thought of standing behind the counter at the local dollar store all day, ringing up discounted nylons and aluminum foil for the local elderly, for $7.25 an hour.

Sure, between the housing subsidy, the food stamps, and other government help I qualify for each month, I’d still get by, but just barely.

Gord drags the last of his Dr Pepper through his straw, making a slurping sound. “Not exactly a dream job, though.”

“Some of us don’t have the luxury of chasing after our dream job.” Our parents don’t hand us businesses and futures. Truth is, there aren’t a lot of career options in Balsam, Pennsylvania, to begin with. Sure, we’re the county seat, but we’re a tourist town of three thousand—a lot more during the summer and winter seasons—with one grocery store, one gas station, two schools, two churches, a few inns, a main street of tiny shops, cafés, and restaurants that operate on limited hours throughout the week. Oh, and a pool hall to give the locals something to do. Plus, I didn’t exactly win over Balsam-area employers enough early on in life with my “false accusations” to warrant much consideration from anyone who’s hiring. I still count myself lucky that Lou ever gave me a chance when she did.

He frowns, obviously picking up on the edge in my voice. “I just meant that you need something better for the future. You have that little girl to take care of.”

Despite his condescending tone, his words—just the mention of Brenna—make me smile. The one bright spot in my life, in the form of a rambunctious five-, soon-to-be six-year-old. “We’re doing fine.”

“I hear her daddy ain’t around.”

I force my smile to stay put. “Nope.”

He leans in, as if he’s got a secret. “So, he’s a drug dealer?”

This is the problem with where I live. Small towns, small lives. Big mouths.

I clear the irritation from my throat, hoping he’ll take the hint that I don’t talk about Brenna’s father.

Sliding a toothpick between his front teeth, he works away at a piece of dinner. “You know, some people still think you and that teacher had somethin’ goin’ on after all, and it’s his kid.”

Gord has not taken the hint.

I glare at him until he averts his gaze to the ketchup label. “Course, they also say it wouldn’t  make much sense what with timing and all, now would it?”

“Not unless I had the reproductive system of an elephant.”

He scratches his chin in thought. “He moved out of state, didn’t he?”

“No idea.” Just after Christmas of that horrible year. To Memphis, Tennessee, with Linda—his ex-girlfriend, who he had reconciled with about two months  after charges were dropped. The woman who is now his wife. They’ve since had two children together. A few of the more spiteful Philips family members still love to talk out loud about Scott every now and then, when I’m passing by them carrying plates to customers, or in line at the bank or grocery store. I think it’s their polite way of saying, “Look how happy he is despite you trying to ruin his life.”

I do my best to ignore them, because I’m not pining over a man who hurt me so deeply, who cared more about saving his own skin than protecting mine. It took a few years for me to understand how badly Scott used and manipulated me, to accept that I was a vulnerable and infatuated teenage girl that he took full advantage of.

Now I just count my blessings that he’s  far enough away from me that I don’t have to see him. I heard he’s come around a few times at Christmas, but  otherwise his visits seem rare. Shockingly—and thankfully—I’ve never once run into him.

“So your daughter’s daddy . . . he don’t even want to see his little girl?”

“Nope.” If he’s somehow heard that she exists, he’s made no efforts to reach out, which is exactly how I want it to be.

“I’ll tell ya, you need to be gettin’ money out of him, is what you need to be doin’,” Gord says, poking at the air with a stubby index finger in a scolding manner.

“I don’t want his money and I don’t want him in our lives.” And I don’t need this guy—or anyone, for that matter—telling me I should want otherwise. We can do this on our own, Brenna and I.

Gord pauses to stare at me, and I feel him weighing my words. “Well . . . I guess you’re your own woman.”

“I’ve learned to be.”

“I do like that.” Gord winks at the waitress as she delivers his slice of pie. Scooping up a forkful, he shoves a large chunk in his mouth before continuing, bits of crust tumbling out. “You gettin’ on with your family now? Aunt Lou said you had a rocky go of things with them. Didn’t they boot you out or something?”

I don’t bother to hide the flat stare at him, though in truth I’m more annoyed at Lou. Sure, she’s the reason I’m standing on my own two feet right now, but that doesn’t give her the right to discuss my personal past at length with her nephew before sending him off on a date with me.

Gord’s hands go up to pat the air in a sign of surrender. “Okay . . . okay. No need to get your panties in a bunch. I didn’t mean no harm.” Gord waves his fork in the air between us, a smile filling his face. “You know . . . there just might be a job for someone like you at Mayberry’s. I’m thinking of hiring my own personal assistant. Play your cards right and you could find yourself with a bright future ahead of you. You know, benefits and stuff. You wouldn’t  need no welfare.” He pauses, watching me, waiting for my reaction.

I think this is the part where I’m supposed to start gushing and thanking him profusely for saving me from my lackluster future.

I force a smile and remind myself that this is Lou’s beloved nephew that she speaks so highly of, and I have to bite my tongue.

He eats his pie and rambles on about his town of Belmont, twenty- five minutes south of Balsam. How it’s got a Target, a movie theater, shopping mall, and four grocery stores instead of just the one Weiss; and it’s closer to Route 33 South, which gets him to Philadelphia in an hour and twenty minutes; how there’s more opportunity and I should seriously consider leaving my stagnant little tourist town and move closer to him.

I smile and pretend to listen, happy not to be answering any more questions about my personal life. When  the waitress drops off the check and he quickly collects it, I breathe a sigh of relief that he’s going to pick up the tab. This night has already cost me a dinner shift and a babysitter.

“Halfsies is twenty each,” he announces, leaning his bulky body to the left to pull his wallet from his pocket.


Except he had pie and a bottle of Bud to go along with his Dr Pep- per and full rack of ribs, so it’s not really even. Not even close. I could argue, but instead I count out the bills because I want to be done with this guy as quickly and politely as possible, and get home to Brenna.

He grins as he collects the money and sets it next to him on the table. I know what he’s doing—making it look like he’s paying for the full check. “That was one heck of a meal.”

I should tell him about the purple chunk of blueberry skin sitting on his front tooth.

I really should.

Instead, I climb out of the booth and slide my arms into my black faux-leather jacket. It’s early May and the days are growing longer and warmer, but there’s still a chill to the air.

Though I try for a quick wave and getaway at the restaurant door, Gord insists that I need an escort to my car at the back of the parking lot. So I spend the entire way hugging my purse, clutching my keys, and praying to God that he doesn’t try to kiss me. There is no way in hell my lips are going anywhere near this guy.

“This is me,” I announce, stopping in f ront of my black Grand Prix.

He shakes his head with mock dismay, his eyes roaming the body, settling on the rust that eats away at the rear wheel well. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“It still works.” Thanks to the help of my friend Keith, who knows enough about cars to fix whatever ails it and takes payment in the form of beer IOUs. I owe the guy about twenty cases by now.

Gord slides a business card out of his pocket and hands it to me. “You need to come by my store. I’ll get you into a good, safe car for a steal. As little as five.”

“Five hundred ?” That’s more than what I paid for this car, a 2000 model with a hundred and thirty thousand miles on it.

He chuckles, but it carries a superior twinge. “Well, I guess we could see what arrangements can be made for the woman Gord May- berry is dating.”

Oh, God. He just referred to himself in the third person.

His hot, sweaty hand closes over mine, and I immediately tense. “I had a great time tonight, Catherine.” “Really?” Were we on the same date?

“Oh, believe me, I had my reservations. Plenty of people warned me about you when I told them we were going out. You know, espe- cially because of that whole Philips thing.”

That whole Philips “thing.

Gord’s gaze lingers over the simple black dress that peeks out from beneath my open jacket. I chose it because it flatters my slim, toned frame and, back when I was getting ready for my blind date and had real hope for Lou’s “tall, successful blond” nephew, I wanted to look good.

“I’d like to do this again,” he says, taking a step closer.

I plaster on my friendliest smile as I take a big step back. “How about I call you?” I am never calling him. Ever.

If he realizes that’s  a standard blow-off line, I can’t  tell. “I’ll  be waiting. Anxiously.” His green eyes drift down to my mouth and he hesitates for a second before swooping in, so fast that I barely have time to turn my head. His wet lips land on my cheek.

With an awkward giggle, I pry my hand from his grip and duck into my car, slamming my palm against the door lock before he gets the foolish idea to try again.

Ugh. Thank God this night is over.

About Until it Fades

Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania (population three thousand outside of tourist season).

And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed date, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has rescued: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling.

Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works. For a time.

But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. There’s an immediate connection, and it’s more electric than the bond of two people who endured a traumatic event. It’s something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something she is afraid to trust.

Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?


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