Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s another preview from Into You, which is an extended excerpt of Vanessa and Mark’s date. 😀
The excerpt is unedited and from Vanessa’s POV.
I walked back to Mark’s truck, who had his head leaned back on the seat listening to music. I tapped on the window as he looked over. He gave me a huge grin before stepping out.
“Wow, you look beautiful, Vanessa.”
I became nervous again as he took a better look at me. He gave another smile while slowly taking my hand. “Extremely beautiful.”
“You didn’t have to dress up though; we were just going someplace causal.”
“I haven’t worn this dress yet, so don’t spoil it for me.”
He chuckled. “Okay, I won’t.”
He never let go of my hand as he walked me over to the passenger side and opened the door for me. He helped me in and closed the door. He hopped into the driver’s seat and glanced at me.
“I hope you don’t mind the music. I can change it if you want.”
“No, it’s cool.”
He nodded and started to back out of the driveway. During the drive, we talked about my first day at Suds, what we like to do for fun, and our favorite TV shows. I felt really comfortable around him which was making it even harder for me to uphold my promise.
As he continued to drive, I looked at my surroundings wondering where we were. He glanced over and smiled.
“Relax, we’re safe.”
“Where are we?”
“How long have you stayed in Houston?”
“All of my life.”
“And you have never been to the east end of town?”
“I never had a reason to.”
“Well, you do today. Besides, this is where my dad grew up. This is also where he met my mom.”
I noticed how his facial expression changed when he mentioned his mom. I had a feeling then that his mother was no longer living, so it must be hard for him to cope. I wanted to touch his hand to let him know it was okay, but I felt it was too soon for that.
He looked at me again and smiled. “We’re almost there.”
I nodded as I noticed a food truck in the distance. He slowly drove down a winding road and stopped in an empty parking lot.
I gave him a crazed look. “This is where you’re taking me?”
“I said it was causal.”
“A food truck? I don’t do food trucks.”
“You don’t or you never tried one?”
“I never tried one.”
“So, why you said you won’t eat anything from one if you never tried one?”
I rolled my eyes. “You probably think I’m acting like a diva right now.”
“Honestly, yes, but trust me, this place will definitely make you change your mind.”
I noticed the smile that was slowly forming and sighed. He better be right.
We got out and approached the food truck as one of the workers acknowledged Mark.
“Hola, Mark. Como esta?”
“Bien, y tu, Xavier?”
“Bien, bien. Quién es la mujer hermosa?”
“Ha, si, esta Vanessa. Vanessa, this is a good friend of mine, Xavier. He owns this food truck. He makes the best asopao de pollo in the entire city.”
“Oh please, my Puerto Rican stew doesn’t hold a candle to yours.”
“You cook?” I asked while staring at him.
He shrugged. “I can whip up a thing or two.”
“A thing or two? He’s lying to you. The man you’re standing next to can be a successful chef if he wants to. He can make anything for you.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” Mark implied. He seemed slightly embarrassed as his face was turning bright red.
“Okay, well I’ll take your offer up on the stew, but only on one condition.”
“If you make it for me someday.”
He looked at Xavier, then back at me and sighed. “Fine. My place in two weeks.”
“It’s a date.”
We stared at each other as Xavier began to make our stew. Once he was done, we grabbed that and our drinks and went to a picnic area near the truck. I looked around, seeing a bunch of kids playing in the park while several teenagers were playing basketball nearby.
I took a spoonful of the stew and instantly moaned. It was really good.
Mark looked at me and gave a wicked grin. “If Xavier’s stew made you moan, I can only imagine how you’ll react to mine.”
I noticed the desire in his eyes as he began eating. He gave me another smile which made me melt. I think the promise I had for myself is null and void.
We sat in silence to eat when Mark stared at me. “So, Vanessa, why is a beautiful woman as yourself not attached? I’m sure there has to be some man out there that you’re dating.”
“Nope, not a single one.”
“Hmm, maybe that’ll change soon.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Trust me, it will.”
“Aren’t you confident?”
“I’m sure that I could make you change your mind on a lot of things.”
I smiled. “I bet you can. I guess I should ask you the same question, or are you seeing someone? Maybe Maya, perhaps?”
Mark put down his drink and sighed. “We dated a few years back. I was in my junior year of college and she started at the boutique.”
“Did you two really date or just sleep together?”
“We dated, but yes, it was more sexual than a relationship.”
“I think someone wanted more from it.”
“She did, but that was something I wasn’t willing to do.”
“So why am I so different?”
Mark was surprised at my question as he reached for my hands. I glanced at him as his expression was serious.
“Because you’re someone I really could see having a relationship with.”
“You barely know me.”
“Which I hope will change someday.”
I smiled, completely smitten by him. I really need to control myself. I have only known him for two days, so I shouldn’t be feeling any type of feelings for him.
“If you’re nervous about us spending time together then don’t be. We’re adults, so it’s not a problem.”
“But we work together. Just because you’re the owner’s son doesn’t mean the rules doesn’t apply to you.”
“You’re right. The rules apply to me as well; but if I want to spend time with you, then I will. Not even my dad can stop that.”
His hands gently caressed mine as he stared into my eyes. He leaned forward to give me a kiss, which I was caught off guard with. I didn’t think he would kiss me again, but I’m glad he did. This one wasn’t as passionate as the one at Simone’s; it was sweet, as if he wanted to take things slow, which was fine by me.
He pulled away and touched my lips with his finger. “I do want to take things slow with you. I want us to see where things go between us.”
I nodded. “I do too.”
“Wow, I can’t even believe I’m saying that after two days of knowing you. You must really have an effect on me, Miss Hartwell.”
“I can say the same about you, Mr. Fernandez. Of course, we can’t be obvious about us seeing each other.”
“Of course not; but that’s something you don’t have to worry about too much. Practically everyone there is either dating or banging someone, so if you do see some crazy stuff happening, they won’t say anything if you won’t.”
“What if your dad comes by?”
“He does visit every now and then, but he’s been slowly stepping away from the business, so eventually, he won’t be a factor either.”
“Is he thinking about selling?”
“Sort of. He actually wants me to take over.”
I smiled. “Really? That’s great! But why does that sound like a bad thing?”
He sighed. “Because that’s not what I want. My dad only asked me because my brother and sister didn’t want the business. He only asked me to keep it in the family.”
“Why don’t you just tell him, then?”
“Because there’s a reason why. I’m planning on opening my own business with a friend of mine. It’s a Puerto Rican restaurant. He’ll be one of the chefs there, while I’ll be sort of the business manager. I figured I should put my business degree to use.”
“That explains the meeting at the bank. You were getting a loan?”
“Yes, which we were approved for.”
“Congratulations. That’s wonderful news! If you need help with the management aspect, I can definitely help you. That was my job until my company folded.”
Mark gave me a sympathetic glance and sighed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing, it’s just that this is wonderful news for me, but for my dad, it probably won’t be.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because he thinks I’ll probably fail at it. I’m sure he probably would think Suds would fail too, that’s why he didn’t ask me first, his first born.”
“Maybe you should prove him wrong and tell him about your business venture. I’m sure he’ll be proud of you.”
Mark gave a tiny smile and pushed his stew away from him. “Maybe. I disappointed him enough throughout the years. From rebelling against him to leaving Houston to do my own thing. I just got fed up with him and his ways. Maybe now it’s time for me to bury the hatchet and just be his son for once.”
“Aren’t you doing that by coming back to help out as a salesperson?”
“There’s a lot you don’t understand, Vanessa. I’m actually considering his offer, but only because of my mom.”
“I noticed your facial expression changed when you mentioned her earlier. What happened to her, Mark?”
“Simone never told you?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“She passed away ten years ago from a stroke; but she died long before she became sick.”
I gave a confused look as Mark sighed and got up from the bench. I got up as well, wondering what just happened.
“Is everything okay?”
“We probably should head back.”
“If there was anything I said that made you upset, then I apologize.”
Mark wrapped his arms around me to give me a hug. I closed my eyes, loving how his body felt against mine, but I could tell something was really bothering him.
“It’s nothing you said, Vanessa. The conversation is bringing back some memories that I don’t want to think about right now.”
I nodded. I could understand that he doesn’t want to talk about his mother’s passing. That would be difficult for anyone.