Excerpt: Living Out Loud - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

Bestselling author Staci Hart brings you another installment of the Austen Series, inspired by the works of Jane Austen, with a heartfelt contemporary retelling of Sense and Sensibility.

When Annie Daschle arrives in New York City, the only thing she can control is her list.

Not her father’s death or the loss of her home. Not the hole in her heart or the defective valve that’s dictated so much of her life. But she can put pen to paper to make a list of all the ways she can live out loud, just like her dad would have wanted.

See the city from the top of the Empire State Building: Check.

Eat hot dogs on the steps of The Met: Check.

Get a job at Wasted Words: Check.

What wasn’t on her list: Greg Brandon. And just when she thinks she’s figured out where to put him, everything changes. In the span of a few staggering heartbeats, she finds herself her caught in the middle of something she can’t find her way out of, with no clear answers and no rules.

List or no list, she realizes she can’t control anything at all, not even her heart.

Not the decisions it makes, and not the moment it stops.

Series:

Austen

Book 3

Can be read as a standalone

Book Type:

Contemporary Romance

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Excerpt: Living Out Loud
By Staci Hart

Excerpt: Living Out Loud

Staci Hart is back with her fresh take on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility—a romantic, heartwarming story about a girl who moves to New York, determined to live her life boldly in the wake of her father’s death. She never anticipated, however, meeting a man who changes the rules and upends all her plans.

LIVING OUT LOUD is coming February 1st, but I’m thrilled to give you a sneak peek at what awaits below!

I never saw Annie Daschle coming.

I meant that in the most literal sense. Her small body slammed into my much larger one with enough force to send her reeling backward. The crates in my hand clattered to the ground, abandoned in favor of reaching for her.

I caught her by the wrist and pulled, righting her a little too suddenly. She tottered back into me—though softer this time. She landed in the circle of my arms, looking up at me with eyes the color of a green glass bottle, lit up from the inside with sunshine.

It was maybe only a heartbeat, a breath, but it felt like that second stretched out in a long thread between us.

She laughed, her cheeks high as she leaned away. The chilly air cut between us the second she stepped back, leaving me colder than the moment before.

“God, I’m sorry,” she said in a lilting Southern accent. “Are you all right?”

I smiled. “I could ask you the same thing.”

She brushed her wild blonde hair back from her face with a mittened hand the color of pink lemonade. Not a glove. Mittens, like a kid would wear. On anyone else, I would have considered it ridiculous. On her, it was adorable.

“I’m just fine, thanks to you. If you hadn’t caught me, I’d have gone tail over teacups.” She laughed again; the sound set a smile on my face. “Do you work here?”

We had collided just inside the doors to Wasted Words, the bookstore-slash-bar where I’d worked for the last year and a half.

“Almost every day. Anything I can help you with?”

Her smile widened. “Why, yes, there is. I’ve come to see if you’re hiring.”

The answer: no.

So like any good, honest employee, I said, “As a matter of fact, we are.”

She lit up like the Fourth of July and began pulling off her mittens, which complemented her bright yellow peacoat and made her look a little bit like an adorable popsicle. “Oh, that’s great. What are you looking for?”

“What kind of work are you interested in?” I asked, gesturing to a booth next to the bar.

Her face fell just a touch as she slid into the bench seat. “Well, I used to volunteer at the library back home, so I have plenty of experience with cataloging books and that sort of thing. And I’m pretty sure I could get the hang of a cash register, if you need a checkout girl. Really, I could learn just about anything,” she added hopefully.

I’d unknowingly boxed her in, my hand resting on the back of the booth and my body blocking any exit she might have, as if I could pen her in and make her stay. At the realization, I stepped back.

“Let me go grab you an application.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Oh, what’s the manager’s name?”

I smirked and offered my hand. “Greg Brandon. Nice to meet you.”

Her big eyes widened in surprise as she took my hand. “Annie Daschle. Nice to meet you, too.”

Her hand was warm in mine, her fingers long for such a small girl, just a wisp. I wondered absently how old she was before letting her go.

“Be right back. Can I get you anything to drink?”

She unwound her pink scarf. “Water would be fine, if it’s no trouble.”

“None at all. Coming right up.”

I turned and walked away, grinning like a fool as I made my way behind the bar, first pouring her a glass of water, then fishing around under the bar register for the folder of applications.

Technically, I was a manager, just not a hiring manager. I ran the bar, not the store itself. That was Cam’s job—on top of running me. But I had a feeling I’d be able to secure her a spot doing pretty much whatever she wanted. I found myself already rearranging the schedule and concocting a plan to convince Cam.

I stopped for a moment to consider what had gotten into me. I’d never taken an interest in new hires before, but for some unknown reason, I felt compelled to help her.

I wasn’t quite sure what it was that had struck me. She was just a girl, probably younger than I figured, maybe even as young as twenty. But there was something about her, something small and vulnerable, like finding a stray puppy or a floppy-eared, big-eyed bunny that needed a home. Something that made me feel the urge to protect her, to button up her coat and make sure she didn’t lose a mitten or her hat. At the same time, she seemed perfectly self-sufficient with a sunny, optimistic look to her that spoke of a girl who would walk home in the rain or dip her hands into a bag of grain to feel every seed.

Living in New York my whole life, the concept was as foreign as it was fascinating.

I brushed my thoughts aside and took her the application and water, setting it on a coaster. She caught a glimpse of it as I set the glass on top, immediately moving it to read the coaster aloud.

“No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call— / All mine was thine before thou hadst this more.” She beamed. “Shakespeare, Sonnet 40.” She recited the rest from memory, “Then if for my love thou my love receivest, / I cannot blame thee for thou love usest; / But yet be blamed if thou this self deceivest / By wilful taste of what thyself refusest. I love the sonnets.”

“I can see that.” I chuckled. “They barely read like English, but hearing it…I think I actually understood it that time.”

She blushed, just the slightest tinge of dusky rose in her cheeks. “It’s always better spoken. All mine was thine before thou hadst this more,” she said with depth and passion. “She loved him before he took her love, and she’s begging him not to hurt her for the sacrifice. It’s about the power one holds over another who gives their love. It’s beautiful. Are all the coasters the same?”

“Cam, one of my bosses, loves finding quotes for these things.” I grabbed a stack off the back of an adjacent booth and tossed them on the table.

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. —Jane Austen

Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine. —Lord Byron

And your very flesh shall be a great poem. —Walt Whitman

Annie looked them over with her big eyes and wide, smiling lips. “Would it be pathetic to beg for a job?”

“You wouldn’t be the first. Let’s start with you filling that out for me.” I nodded to the application.

She straightened up seriously, a little embarrassed. “Yes, of course.”

“Just come get me when you’re through, and we’ll chat.”

She nodded, but I caught a glimpse of her nerves; she was an open book, her pages fluttering from one emotion to the next with an easy whisper.

I walked over to the empty crates, still sprawled across the entry, and picked them up. I carried them out to the sidewalk where my beer delivery guy was waiting, nose in his clipboard. We exchanged a few words, but I wasn’t really paying attention; my mind was turned back to the girl sitting in the booth with pink mittens in her lap.

Her head was down, attention on her application. The tip of her tongue poked comically out of the corner of her lips. And I kept on walking until I was behind the bar, busying myself with anything I could think of, which wasn’t much. We hadn’t been open for long enough that morning to actually have anything to do.

I was in the middle of pretending to do inventory when she set her pen down. I was so aware of her, I sensed the motion rather than saw it.

I smiled and made my way back over, sliding into the bench across from her.

She beamed and pushed the paper in my direction. “Here you go. All done.”

I glanced down the sheet, taking in the details. Her name and address—

Surprise jolted through me that she lived on Fifth and 94th, the Upper East—the Upper Crust. That surprise turned to downright shock when I noted her birthday.

She was eighteen.

Fresh out of high school.

With no job experience.

I looked up at her then, her face full of hope, laced with fear and longing, touched by a shadow of desperation. And there were only two things to do.

I packed away any notion that I might ever be able to be with her and asked, “When can you start?”

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