Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cover Reveal: Vegas to Varanasi by Shelly Hickman




Vegas to Varanasi - Cover Reveal
By Shelly Hickman
Romantic Comedy
Date Published - 12/1/2013

Anna has never been the beautiful one; she’s always been the nice one. So when the gorgeous man sitting across the table at a wedding reception remembers her from high school—and quite fondly at that—she’s taken off guard. Formerly overweight and unpopular, Kiran has never forgotten Anna, the one person who was kind to him when no one else could be bothered, and Anna’s a bit flustered as she slowly comes to grips with his intense attraction for her. In what feels like a romantic dream come true, all-grown-up, hunky Kiran invites Anna on a trip to Varanasi. But her troubled, whack-a-do ex-boyfriend starts interfering, creating drama at every turn, which begs the question, “Can nice girls really finish first?”




Excerpt

As I take a sip from my glass, the most stunning couple sits down at our table. I can’t decide who is more attractive. The woman reminds me of a movie star from old Hollywood, with wavy auburn hair that cascades down her shoulders and milky white skin I’m sure has never seen a pimple in its life.
The man? My God, he takes my breath away! I have to avert my eyes because when I look at him, I just want to grin like an idiot, he’s so beautiful. 
I once had this same reaction when I was in college and had to take a summer geology class for a random science credit. I was not looking forward to the class because the study of dirt and groundwater doesn’t exactly excite me. However, when the instructor, a grad student, walked in, I got a big, stupid grin on my face because he was so cute. 
That guy in no way compared to the specimen sitting across from me now. He looks Indian. Dark skin, luscious black hair with just a touch of grey, and the most amazing, sea green eyes. They might be the same color as mine, actually, but with my coloring, they’re nothing special. On him . . . holy hell!
I must be forgetting to avert my eyes because Luke’s voice jars me. “Anna!” he whispers. “You do realize that you’re psychotically staring at that guy, don’t you? Because I’m pretty sure he notices.”
The heat rises to my face, and I raise my glass to polish off my champagne. The man smiles politely at my show of bad manners.
No one else is seated at the table with us, so Luke offers introductions. “Hello, I’m Luke and this is Anna.” 
“I’m Kiran, and this is Miranda,” the man replies. Miranda offers a curt nod, but is clearly bored with us already.
“It’s nice to meet you both,” Luke says.  “So how do you know the newlyweds?”
The waiter returns to fill their glasses. “I’m not a fan of champagne,” Miranda says as she pulls a compact out of her Coach wristlet. “Could I have an amaretto sour?”
“Certainly.”
“Thank you,” Kiran says to the server, before he addresses Luke’s question. “I’m friends with the family of the groom, for about fifteen years now.”
He must have grown up in the States, because I detect no accent when he speaks. “So you’ve known Jacob since he was a boy then. I hope you can vouch for his character,” I tease. “Luke and I have known the bride’s mother, Julia, since high school.”
“Her daughter made a good choice,” he confirms solemnly, as if I were being serious.
The waiter returns with Miranda’s drink and she takes a sip. “I don’t know what this is, but it’s not a vodka sour.” She sets the glass down in a huff.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I thought you said amaretto sour.” The waiter glances at each of us nervously.
“Well, clearly you thought wrong. Would you please get it right next time?” She then wrinkles her nose at me and smiles.
A roaring fills my ears, and I squeeze Luke’s knee to keep from saying something. He puts his hand over mine and pats it.
Kiran leans over and whispers something in Miranda’s ear, and her smug expression turns to indignation. She says nothing in response, but shifts in her seat to create some distance between them.
“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” the waiter says as he collects her glass. “I’ll get that vodka sour.”
As he passes me I touch his arm to stop him. I put my hand against my mouth like I’m trying to be discreet, but make sure my voice is loud enough for her to hear. “She did ask for an amaretto sour.” 
I think Kiran stifles a chuckle.
“Whatever,” Miranda says.
Did she just say whatever?
Luke mutters under his breath, “Could she be any more horrible?”
“I don’t think so,” I answer at normal volume, looking straight at her with my fake smile. Then I make a show of taking the lip balm out of my Kohl’s Nine and Co. clutch, simply because I have the burning desire to repulse her with my mediocrity.
We continue to make idle chat, and the minute it comes up that Luke and I are not an item, Miranda makes it her mission for the evening to sink her claws into him, making me wonder about her relationship with Kiran. It isn’t long before the rest of the guests assigned to our table show, making it more difficult for Miranda to flirt. However, it doesn’t deter her from speaking over the couple between her and Luke. 
Luke plays along, and I know exactly what he’s doing. He’s leading her to believe there will be some sort of fruit for her efforts, and even asks her to dance. He’s good. Very good.
Kiran’s posture is relaxed and he doesn’t seem the least bit perturbed by Miranda’s behavior. In fact, he seems amused. We exchange polite smiles, and he points to Luke’s empty seat, asking if it’s okay to sit there. I nod in agreement.
“Before I forget,” I say as he takes the seat beside me, “Would it be really out of line for me to ask what you said to Miranda after the amaretto sour incident?” Oh, wow. I realize I’m on my fourth glass of champagne, giving me the gumption to ask questions that are none of my damn business.
“No, it would not be out of line at all.” Geezus. Those eyes. “All I said was there was no reason to be unkind.”
“Thank you!” I hold up my knuckles for a fist bump. “You, sir, rock!”
He seems a little uncertain of what I’m doing at first, then smiles and returns a fist. Sheesh. Even his teeth are perfect.
“Well, as long as I’m being, let’s face it, really, really nosy, why don’t you seem to be upset that she’s all over my ex-husband?” Yeah, I’m definitely feeling the champagne.
“Ah.” He looks back in her direction; she is now inappropriately close to Luke on the dance floor. “This is a blind date. A friend of my mother has been bugging her about setting me up with her daughter. I’ve never even met her before tonight, but it didn’t take long to discover we weren’t going to hit it off.”
“I’m sorry.”
“You don’t remember me, do you?” 
That was a quick change of subject and my faculties are a bit dulled. I pinch my eyebrows together. “I’m sorry?”
“From high school. You don’t remember me.”
I’m pretty sure I have a look of panic on my face because apparently all night I’ve been speaking to someone I knew in high school, and I don’t even have the decency to remember him.
“I’m sorry,” I say for the umpteenth time, “but Kiran isn’t exactly a common name. I think I would remember . . . Wait. Now that I think about it, there was a Kiran in my English Lit class junior year, but he was this quiet, kind of pudgy . . . .”
Kiran smiles and raises his eyebrows before nodding ever so slightly. 
Inadvertently, I gasp and put my hand over my mouth. “No way!”
“You remember. You do remember me!” The pleasure in his voice surprises me.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to call you pudgy!” I. Am. Mortified.
“It’s okay, Anna. Actually, I was fat.” He takes another sip of champagne.
I can’t help but giggle at his directness. “No, no you weren’t. I admit I don’t remember a whole lot about you. You were soooo quiet! We did speak a few times though, didn’t we?”
“A few times. But do you know what I remember about you?” Briefly, he taps the top of my hand with his finger.
“Oh, God no.” I suck in some air between my teeth and scrunch up my face, praying it won’t be something embarrassing. “What do you remember?”
“There was this guy in our class, Mark. Big, muscle-bound jock.”
I roll my eyes. “Yes, and my pet name for him was asshole.” Kiran laughs and rubs his chin. I look over his shoulder to see Luke and Miranda slow dancing, and she’s girlishly fiddling with his tie. Boy, is she in for a surprise. I return my gaze to Kiran. “Sorry. Continue.”
“Mark was always making mean comments to me about my glasses, my weight.” I do sort of remember that. He sat behind Kiran, and I sat next to Mark. “Well, one day he was at it again, and you told him to give it a rest. And he said, ‘What about it? He’s a whale!’ Then you said, ‘And you’re a dick.’”
I nearly spit out my drink. I have no recollection of this incident. “I said that?”
“Yes. Yes, you did. And I had a huge crush on you from that day forward.” 
Oh, no he did-unt! This Adonis had a crush on me? Inconceivable! Yes, I know. He wasn’t an Adonis back then, but still . . . .



About the Author
Shelly Hickman

Living in Las Vegas since she was two, Shelly Hickman has witnessed many changes in the city over the years. She graduated from UNLV with a Bachelor of Art in 1990, and in her early twenties worked as an illustrator for a contractor for the Nevada Test Site. In the mid-90s, she returned to school to earn her Masters degree in Elementary Education. She now teaches computer applications and multimedia at a middle school in Las Vegas. She loves to write about people, examining their flaws, their humor, spirituality, and personal growth. Shelly lives with her husband, two children, and their dog, Frankie.



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