Jessica Tescher

Sweet Reads with a Hint of Spice

COMING SOON!

Welcome to Savannah, Georgia where the temperatures are hot and the romances are sweet (with a hint of spice)!

Briana Davis, businesswoman and entrepreneur extraordinaire, is rolling out a new dating website, Blind Chance Romance, and there’s a twist: the app’s AI, aptly named Cupid, chooses your match for you.

Dive into this six-book series to see what shenanigans ensue when Savannah’s best and brightest dare to Take a Chance on Romance. Coming to Amazon on January 25, 2023!

Blind Fate – a Southern Sweet Romantic Comedy

Blind Chance Romance – Book 1

Release Date: January 25, 2023

He cheated. She moved on. Her blind date matchmaking app might be his chance to win her back. All he has to do is cheat the algorithm…a little.

Briana

Growing up poor won’t stop me from becoming the CEO of my own multimedia company. I’ll do anything to grow my business, including beta testing my blind date matchmaking app, Blind Chance Romance, on local television.

My old flame, Ryan Smith, isn’t supposed to be part of the equation. When the app matches us together, I’m mortified, but I have to hold it together.

I promise the Savannah viewing audience that I’ll go on a date with Ryan. One date. And then it’s over.

Ryan

After a successful stint on the West Coast, I’m back home to support local businesses. When I learned Briana Davis developed a matchmaking app, I might have secretly invested. Oh, and I might have played with the algorithm a little.

I can’t blame Briana for hating me. I did cheat on her. But I’m not that guy anymore. California changed me.

One thing hasn’t changed, though. I’ll still do anything to get what I want.

Blind Fate is a Savannah-inspired Sweet Romantic Comedy about second chances that’s guaranteed to give you all the feels along with a ton of laughs.

Chapter 1

 

Briana

This has to work, or I’ll lose everything.

I’ll lose the conference room I’m standing in. The office I waited tables seven days a week to be able to afford, my next-door apartment, my car, my dream of remodeling Gran’s house, my cat.

Not my cat. I’ll never give up Squish. I’m the only human she loves. Worst case scenario, she’ll ride along in my shopping cart while I pick through dumpsters for discarded food.

What am I saying? Bag Lady Briana ain’t gonna happen. Focus, girl. You got this.

I look over the IT guy’s head and squint through the conference room’s glass partition. My office space beyond is a carefully balanced mix of old and new, aging masonry and high tin ceilings combined with sleek office furniture and modern finishes. I chose this building for a reason. It’s just off Wright Square, Savannah’s most haunted square, which makes it the perfect location for Haunted Histories Tours, my Savannah ghost tour business which was my first foray into the world of business ownership.

I’m using the equity from Haunted Histories Tours to fund business number two, Blind Chance Romance, with the help of some venture capital.

Some. Ha.

Big dreams require big funds. Big funds cause big stress.

I look back at the IT guy, whose name, I think, is Drew. I’m not sure. I just want him to speak in complete sentences and look at me while I’m talking to him.

“What I hear you saying…Drew…” I’m using tricks I learned from my Interpersonal Relations class at Savannah Tech: when there’s a conflict, mirror the other person’s statements. “…is that you need to rewrite my entire app.”

“Seventy-five percent of it,” Drew says. He leans back with his feet outstretched like he’s in a lounge chair, which is a feat in my fifty-dollar conference chairs. I didn’t splurge. They’re molded plastic bucket seats on castors, but Drew manages to make himself more than comfortable. He looks up at the ceiling and spins a pen between his fingers.

I slap my hand on the glass tabletop trying to startle him into looking at me. Shanice casts me an apologetic look. We’re both sitting across from Drew and his colleague, Brett. Brett purses his lips. He hasn’t spoken since the meeting started.

Shanice is an associate at Excel, the Savannah-based venture capital firm that’s footing a large part of Blind Chance Romance’s start-up costs. She’s my go-to girl if I have any operating hiccups, contracting issues, or promotional needs. Excel hooked me up with an IT company to develop my app, but that relationship went sour when the CEO was arrested for an embezzlement charge. Shanice quickly found another local IT group to take over development. And that’s how I have Drew, socially inept senior programmer and lead application architect.

I’m starting to question Shanice’s judgment.

“And why do you need to rewrite seventy-five percent of the app?” I ask for the third time.

Drew peers at me through his floppy bangs. “The code architecture sucks.” He refocuses on the ceiling and continues twirling his pen.

Shanice warned me that Drew might be a little unconventional, but she said he has a reputation as Savannah’s best software engineer. Maybe I should have gone with an Atlanta-based company.

Brett clears his throat and finally joins the conversation. “What he means is, the code, as it’s currently written, won’t scale.”

“Scale what?” I say. “A cliff? The Washington Monument? The Empire State Building?”

“When your user base grows beyond, say a hundred thousand, your app is going to become unusable,” Brett says.

I take a deep breath. “The app is supposed to go into beta tomorrow. I have a morning segment with WSAV News.”

Drew sits up and rests his forearms on the desk. He looks at Brett and turns his palms upward.

“Oh,” Brett says after clearing his throat again. “You can still roll out the current code-base, but we’ll be rewriting it behind the scenes.”

“How long will that take?”

Brett looks at Drew who shows no indication of answering. “A few months.”

“Two months,” Drew says louder than necessary.

Some of my irritation recedes. Two months isn’t long. “Okay, then. In the meantime, will you be fixing bugs in the current software?”

“It depends,” Drew says.

“Well, I already found one.” I flip through my notebook to find where I jotted down the error message. “I was updating my profile and the following message popped up. And I quote, ‘This will never happen, but if it does, derp derp derpity derp.’”

Drew meets my eyes. I’ve caught his interest. “Do you know what steps you took to get the error message?”

“I have no idea. I was just clicking around.”

“Oh.”

“It only happened once. I couldn’t make it pop up again.”

Drew sets his pen on the glass with a clink. “That’s a problem.”

“Yes, it is. It’s very unprofessional.”

“I mean, if I don’t know the steps leading up to the message, I can’t debug it.”

I glance at Shanice. She shrugs.

“Okay,” I say slowly, drawing out the syllables. I rest my elbows on the table and clasp my hands below my chin. “I don’t know much about programming, but I assume there’s a search and find feature. Can’t you just search for ‘derpity derp’?”

Drew smirks. “I’ve looked at the code. You might be surprised how many times ‘derpity’ comes up.”

Now I turn to Shanice and clutch the edge of the table. “Did I pay good money to hire a bunch of Muppets?”

Shanice swallows and looks at me sheepishly. “Luckily we have a new software development team.” She gestures to Drew, which seems to satisfy him.

“Can you just do a search and get rid of any and all instances of the words ‘derp’ and ‘derpity’ or any other made up words before we go live?” I ask.

“If it’s in the comments, it will never display,” Drew says.

“I don’t care. Just get rid of it.”

“Sure, let me make a note.”

Drew rests his forearms on his notepad and folds his hands.

I shift my gaze from Drew to Brett and then back again. “You didn’t write anything down.”

“I have an eidetic memory, but it makes people feel better when I say I’ll write it down.”

“Is he telling the truth?”

Brett nods.

“Well, maybe Brett would like to write it down,” I say.

“No instances of ‘derp’ or ‘derpity’.” Brett taps his temple. “Got it.”

“By tomorrow morning.”

Brett nods again. “No problem.”

“That’s good because this is a big deal and I’m paying you a lot of money.”

Drew laughs. “I’m practically doing this pro bono.”

I purse my lips. Shanice responds by shuffling her papers and standing up. “I think we’re all on the same page. How about I show you two out?”

While Shanice accompanies them to the exit, I plop my elbows on the table and cradle my forehead in my palms. My heart pounds like I just took a brisk walk, and perspiration cools on my upper lip thanks to the stainless-steel ceiling fan whirling above.

This might have been a huge mistake.

I should have stuck with what I know: ghost tours.

I bought Haunted Histories Tours from an older couple who were charming but unskilled at marketing and bookkeeping. I took the company from a fledgling mom-and-pop to a legitimate business with a reputation for bringing Savannah’s vibrant history and legends to life.

I paid off my business loan in two years.

Two years.

You’re a savvy businesswoman, Briana. Take a breath. Breathe.

Shanice re-enters the conference room while I’m in the middle of an epic belly breath. She shuffles over to me and puts her arm across my shoulders. “It’s okay. You got this. We got this.”

I lower my hands, straighten my spine, and pray she doesn’t see my embarrassment. Shanice has become my friend, but she’s my business partner first. I need her to believe in me even when I’m questioning myself.

“This is normal,” Shanice says. “Contractors come and go. We pivot.”

“Yes.” I stand. “This is me pivoting.” I grab my leatherbound binder and tuck it under my arm. “However, that Drew…”

“Everyone I’ve talked to says he’s a genius. A little eccentric, but I know he’ll whip your app into shape. It’s going to be amazing.”

“I trust your judgment.” I give her a sidelong glance. “I think,” I add with a smile.

We laugh and I feel my tension melt away. What’s a little money? Okay, a lot of money. Money is just a tool that allows people to do good and serve others.

“I’ll meet you at the station at six thirty tomorrow morning,” Shanice says as I follow her out of the conference room.

Hello again, tension. I feel my shoulders rise. I’m supposed to hype my app in front of the Savannah metro area tomorrow morning. I haven’t even rehearsed what I’m going to say. I’ve been too busy doing damage control since we lost our IT contractor, all while running my ghost tour business. No problem. I might be a little crazy. If not, I’m headed that way.

“I’m ready,” I lie. “Bring it on.”

“You’re on fire,” Shanice says. “It’s time for everyone to watch you shine.” Her confident voice booms through the two-story space.

After Shanice is gone, I collapse onto the floor, paying no mind to my navy business suit that I found for cheap at Goodwill. I lean back on my hands and stretch my legs out in front of me.

My co-worker, Sarah, peers at me from behind her desk. “What are you doing?”

“I’m collapsing under the weight of my own expectations.”

“Your suit is going to get dirty.”

“I’ll throw it in the dryer with a wet sock. It’ll be fine. Also, I mopped the floors last night.”

Sarah leans over her desk, plants her elbows, and gesticulates with splayed hands. “I told you I would mop. You have too much to do. You can’t be playing janitor around here.”

She’s right. I do have too much to do. And Sarah would gladly mop the floors, but I’ve been piling so much work onto her, I’m afraid she’ll get tired of me and quit.

I hired her two years ago when she was a freshman at Georgia Fine Arts College and new to Savannah. She’s my receptionist, customer service representative, personal assistant, friend, confidante, saving grace. She works three days a week, dutifully completing the tasks that spill off my to-do list. Lately, they’ve been pouring off. I plan to offer her a fulltime gig after she graduates from GFAC, assuming my ever-expanding workload doesn’t chase her away first.

“Whose idea was it to start a second business?” I say.

Sarah points at me.

“Why didn’t you talk me out of it?”

“You haven’t realized yet?”

“Realized what?”

“You’re unstoppable. In five years, you’re going to own this town.”

I feign blushing and wave away her comment. “Stop.”

“I can’t stop. I work for you, the woman who runs on twelve cylinders twenty-four-seven.”

“That’s not true. I sleep.”

“Sometimes.”

“I sleep five hours a night, minimum.”

“You need eight.”

“Not according to the United States Army,” I say. “According to them, the human body only requires four hours of sleep.”

“They’re lying.”

I shrug and then sit up and brush the dust off my hands. So much for clean floors. Welcome to autumn in Savannah, where the pollen never stops. “Why would they lie?”

“So, people like you will over-exert yourself without complaining about how terrible you feel.”

“I don’t feel terrible. Just…tired.”

“Well, duh.”

I stand and dust off my rear.

“Do you need a fresh cup of coffee?” Sarah asks.

My growling stomach punctuates her sentence. I haven’t eaten all day. I’ve been too worried about my app speaking Muppet to my subscribers tomorrow.

“No thanks. Coffee sounds awful. I need real food.”

“I can grab you something from Juma’s.”

I do a sun salutation minus the plank and cobra. “That sounds amazing,” I say after two iterations of my modified yoga routine.

I enrolled in a yoga class a few months ago to lower my blood pressure. It didn’t work. Doc Harless put me on medicine anyway, but my twice-weekly yoga habit stuck, and now I look forward to each class as one of the few times each week that I truly unwind.

Sarah still looks at me weirdly when I break into poses.

“Better now?” she says with one eyebrow raised.

“Getting there.”

She stands and grabs her purse. “I’ll be back with your favorite, Gerry’s Garden Bowl.”

“Actually, I could use some fresh air.” Although I’m not sure how “fresh” the air is out there. It was a drenching eighty-eight degrees at noon, which amped the briny odor of the salt marshes to nose-crinkling levels. “I need to walk. How about I get us both something? We can eat at my place while I practice hyping Blind Chance Romance to all the Savannah-area singles.”

Sarah smiles. “It’s a date.”

 

Chapter 2

 

Ryan

I snatch my phone out of my back pocket, set it on the kitchen island, and dial. As the phone rings, I punch the speaker button and then settle onto my heels and cross my arms.

Outdated oak cabinets stretch to my right, anchored by a hefty pantry, all soon to be replaced along with the dull gray composite countertops. The family room opens to my left. The doorway is almost large enough to call this space open concept, but not quite, hence I’ve hired contractors to open the wall further. They’ll be here next month to do whatever damage I’m paying them to inflict on my “new” old house. I have so many remodeling projects planned that I’ve lost track of which room is being destroyed and when. No worries. It’s all carefully organized on my phone.

Drew finally answers his phone with a simple, “Yo.”

“Uh. Hey.” My palms are sweating. I don’t know why. This isn’t exactly a covert operation. It is covert, I guess, but not an operation in a military sense. Just in a little code tweak here and another code tweak there kind of sense.

“Where are we at?” I ask.

“I’m in Bright Consulting’s telework center on Barnard Street. I don’t know where you are.”

“That’s not what I mean. I mean, how is the thing coming?”

“Oh, right,” Drew says. “The thingie. It’s coming.”

“Don’t say ‘thingie’.”

“Why?”

“Just don’t.”

“Fine. The eagle has landed.”

“So…it’s done?”

“The turd is in the punch bowl.”

I anchor my hands on the island and lean into the phone. “I don’t know what that means.”

“The fox is in the henhouse.”

“Okay. The chickens are dead. Great. That has nothing to do with this phone call.”

“No, the rooster has dispatched the fox.”

“So, the fox is dead?”

Drew sighs loudly on the other end of the phone. “Grandma’s undies are in the washing machine,” he says, overenunciating every syllable.

“Stop speaking in code.”

“I’m a senior programmer slash architect. I always speak in code.”

“Well, stop!” I turn off the speaker and slap the phone to my ear while dragging my other hand over my closely shaved head.

“Geez. Somebody’s undies are in a wad,” Drew says.

“Listen, I just need to know if everything is set for tomorrow morning.”

“Kirk, Spock, and McCoy have beamed down to Sarpeidon.”

“Speak English.”

“I am speaking English. In the middle of a large open concept workspace with no cubical dividers.”

“Oh.” I rub my head again. This operation is covert enough that I don’t want random prying ears to hear what I’ve done. What Drew has done. “So, we’re all good? Everything is set to go?”

Drew utters another long sigh. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“Okay. Good. Then. Thank you.”

“I expect the bonus to be in my next paycheck.”

“It will. I’ve already worked it out with HR. It’s a bonus for all the hard work you’ve been doing on the Blind Chance Romance application.”

“Great,” Drew says, dully.

“What? Is that not good enough?”

“We’re done here.”

The static goes silent on my phone. “Drew?”

No answer. He hung up on me.

I press my palm to my forehead.

Why did I get Drew involved in this? I should have gone with a normal coder with a normal intellect who possesses a normal ability to hold adult conversations. Instead, I went with “the best of the best” to do my dirty work, which I have a hunch is going to come back and bite me in the form of ransomware.

I lean over, rest my elbows on the island countertop, and rub my face.

No. This is going to work. Drew won’t cause any more problems and Briana and I will have a great “blind” date. We’ll work through our past issues (a.k.a. the issues I caused), and eventually, I’ll come clean that I used my money and influence to hack into her software to bring us back together. She’ll think it’s romantic and we’ll laugh about it all the way to the bedroom.

I chuckle to myself.

See? I’m already laughing.

I straighten, walk over to the pantry, grab a coconut Kind Bar, and as I’m tearing into my snack, I see movement out of the corner of my eye. Goosebumps cascade down my arms and the skin on the back of my neck prickles.

It’s that cabinet door again. The one on the end that keeps opening by itself. I look over in time to watch the door swing slowly and then stop abruptly. Not weird at all.

Also not weird are the sounds I keep hearing at night: a low moaning and the gravelly meow of a feral cat. I don’t own a cat. I have a dog named Huck. He’s a big boy. A muscular, gray, floppy-eared mutt who sheds like a tree in autumn, and even he is unsettled by the noises. I’ve searched my property countless times, during the day and at night, and I’ve found no evidence of a cat.

I’ve also inspected the cabinet door countless times and found no reason why it should open by itself. I checked the cabinets with a level, and everything is square. The hinges are a little rusty, but still tight.

I walk over and reluctantly poke the bottom corner of the door with my index finger expecting the wood to shock me or turn me into stone. It doesn’t, so I put some weight behind my finger and send the door back where it came from, then I walk over, reopen the door, and wiggle it back and forth while eyeballing the hinges to see if they’re out of whack. They seem stable and tight, just like they were yesterday when I checked them.

Option 1: the cabinets are haunted.

Option 2: the kitchen is haunted.

Option 3: my house is haunted.

I’m going with Option 1. Luckily, the cabinets are leaving the premises soon, most likely under duress caused by sledgehammers and crowbars. I might just demolish the uppers myself to make sure it’s done right.

I take a bite of my Kind Bar and pivot toward the family room.

A gray-haired woman dressed in a black lace sundress is standing on the opposite side of the island. I scream like a schoolgirl.

“Ma! What are you doing standing there? You scared the bejeezus out of me. I thought you were a ghost!”

My mom folds her hands on the island and tilts her head. “Why would I be a ghost?”

“Because.” I gesture with my half-eaten snack bar. “The cabinet door and the late-night moaning, and why did you sneak up behind me? You should have told me you came in.”

“I didn’t want to scare you.”

“Nicely done.”

“Who is moaning at night? You aren’t bringing women home, are you? You said your playboy days are over.”

“Never mind.” I wave away her reference to my womanizing past. “It’s probably just the wind and a stray cat in heat.”

“I haven’t heard any cats.”

“I haven’t either. Well, maybe. It could be under the house.”

“That explains why I wouldn’t hear it.”

I moved back to Savannah two months ago, deciding to set down roots in the cozy, quiet town of Isle of Hope after years of hustle and bustle in L.A. I organized the L.A. branch of my venture capital firm, Stratos Capital, to run smoothly without me so I could follow my passion for supporting southern, Black-owned businesses by opening a branch here. I’ll still head to L.A. now and then and do weekly virtual check-ins, but I trust my partners to handle most of the daily business.

However, there’s a glitch in my dream of paradise along the Skidaway River: Mom.

She promised she would live in the guest house. In other words, she would stay there most of the time, and I would retain my privacy in the main house. We would be like neighbors, she said. Turns out, our definition of “neighbors” differs. Mine means keeping to yourself. Hers means popping in for random daily visits.

“You better crawl under there and fetch that cat or it might die and stink up the place,” Mom says.

“I don’t crawl under 150-year-old houses.” I don’t want to know what’s under there. It could be mold. It could be human remains. It could be civil war-era treasure. In that case, I guess I’d like to know.

“My daddy was a plumber. He crawled through human waste to provide for me and Aunt Clara.”

“That’s…unfortunate.” I’ve heard this story before. Believe me. “You do realize it’s your fault I was born rich.”

“It’s your dad’s fault. He’s the one who decided to be the big, fancy, corner-office Chicago lawyer.”

“You didn’t seem to complain during our yearly three-week vacations to Fiji.”

Mom grabs her low-hanging necklace and sighs. “That’s because I didn’t know he was sleeping with that tramp.”

“Which one?”

“It’s hard telling.”

I take after my dad in a lot of ways. I’m not trying to brag, but we’re both handsome—Mom says too handsome for our own good. Maybe that’s why I had to sow my oats. I had too many enticing offers. I suppose that’s how Dad fell into cheating. Not that handsomeness is an excuse. It’s not. Cheating is a character flaw, and I’ve come to terms with mine. Dad, not so much.

But for all the bad I learned from him growing up, I also picked up some of the good: my insatiable work ethic; my confidence that no man, woman, light-skinned or dark-skinned is going to keep me from achieving success; my uncanny ability to accumulate wealth through thoughtful and wise investments.

I could have come out worse. I’ve made a mess of some things, like my relationship with Briana, but I’m not a lost cause.

“When are you going to call Briana and tell her you’re funding her start-up?” Mom says.

I want to groan, but Mom will call me on it, and then we’ll have a ten-minute discussion on manners and respecting your elders. I’m thirty-five, by the way. Yep. Thing is my momma did bring me up right. I’m not one to disrespect my parents even when they frustrate me. Instead, I swallow my emotions and pretend not to regret getting slightly drunk the other night and spilling my guts to the woman who birthed me.

See, I thought I was going to be home alone. I know, drinking alone is “bad”, but I hardly ever do it, and sometimes, rarely, when a guy is pining extra hard for his old girlfriend, he wants to sulk with some libations in peace and quiet.

The quiet didn’t last. My mom popped in with a bucket of Jazzy’s Chicken and hijacked my night. I was a couple of cocktails in when she arrived. Okay, a lot of cocktails. I don’t remember much of our conversation. I just know the next day Mom was talking about how I’d said Briana was “the one.”

When I said, “The one that got away?” Mom said, “No. The one. That’s the way you put it. How many drinks did you have last night?”

I also told her I’m a silent investor in Blind Chance Romance, but, luckily, I didn’t tell her about my plan to hack Briana’s software. Even my drunk self must have known she wouldn’t approve. She’d say I’m being manipulative, lying, et cetera.

Which I am.

“No, I haven’t called Briana,” I say glumly. Is it too late to unhack her app?

“Isn’t she why we moved here?”

“Why would you think that?”

“Because that’s what you said.”

“I did?”

“I knew you had too much vodka that night.”

I moved here because I fell in love with the city years ago when I started my promotions company here.”

“The one you started with your dad’s money that eventually went bankrupt?”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“I’m just trying to keep my facts straight.”

“Yeah,” I say. “And you moved here to get away from Dad.”

“I didn’t want to live on his alimony anymore. Do you know he came to my house one night back in January and asked for a favor?”

“What kind of favor?”

Mom narrows her eyes at me. “A favor.”

My eyes pop open.

“Exactly. I don’t have a price, Ryan. And now your dad knows I don’t need his money. I just need yours.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Mom’s eyes track away and focus on something behind me.

“What?” I ask.

She twirls her index finger in the air. “Turn around.”

I turn and nearly smack my face on the open cabinet door.

“I think you do have a ghost,” she says.

“I’m sure it’s just…a breeze.” I grab the knob and firmly close the door.

“Maybe you could claim it as a dependent too.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

Oh, sweet bejeezus. What have I gotten myself into?

 

 


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WORKS IN PROGRESS

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Blind Fate

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Blind Chance (Outline)

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Blind Mistake