Mia Kelly is a twenty-five-year-old walking Gap ad who thinks she has life figured out when her father’s sudden death uproots her from slow-paced Ann Arbor to New York City’s bustling East Village. There she discovers her father’s spirit for life and the legacy he left behind with the help of an old café, a few eccentric friends, and one charming musician.
Will Ryan is good-looking, poetic, spontaneous, and on the brink of fame when he meets Mia, his new landlord, muse, and personal heartbreaker.
A story of self-discovery and friendship, Sweet Thing shines light on the power of loving and letting go.
Sweet Thing will be on sale for $2.99 from July 24th to August 2nd
About the Author
Renee’s first friends were the imaginary kind and even though her characters haven’t gone away, thankfully the delusions have. She admits she’s a wildly hopeless romantic and she blames 80’s movies staring Molly Ringwald for that. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on the next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.
EXCERPT 4: from Fledglings
“I made it to my gate on time; there was no sign of Lauren. I breathed a sigh of relief and then I directed a brief request to the universe asking that it seat a tired antisocial traveler in the seat next to me. I boarded and found my seat quickly. I threw my bag in the overhead bin, sat down, and began my preflight ritual: super fuzzy socks on, ear buds in, Damien Rice on the iPod, travel pillow around the neck. I was ready. The window seat remained empty as the last few passengers came on board. I had a ridiculous grin on my face, prematurely thanking the universe for leaving the seat empty until I glanced up and saw this guy headed toward me. I have to admit, he was gorgeous, but as soon as I saw the guitar case, my stomach turned sour.
Oh no, please world, do not let this egoist, wannabe, probably smelly musician sit next to me.
As he approached he blurted out a breathy shout. “Hey!” Pausing, he looked right into my eyes—my soul—and said, “Do you want the window seat? It’s all yours if you do.”
“Huh? Uh, no thanks.” What the hell is this guy doing?
“I’m a terrible flier,” he said, hesitating. “Please, I need to be in the aisle, I’m sorry, do you mind? I’m Will, by the way…”
Moving to the window seat, I mumbled, “Yeah, fine, you can sit there. I’m Mia.” I stuck my hand up in a motionless wave, intentionally avoiding a handshake.
Don’t get me wrong, I love music; I live for it. I’m classically trained on the piano and I can hold my own on almost any instrument. Naturally, growing up in Ann Arbor, every kid played the freakin’ cello, but I had a knack for music in general, much of which I owed to my father. During the summers in New York, he exposed me to world music, rock and roll, blues, jazz, you name it, then I would go home and work on Rachmaninoff’s Opus 23 all winter long. Playing the piano the way I was taught, combined with the loose methods my father encouraged during those summers, always created this blend of discipline and revolution in my style. I tried to embrace the blend, but sometimes it felt like a conflict.
I believe my mother was drawn to my father’s love of music, his free spirit and beatnik ways, although she would never admit that. She refers to what she had with him as one wild week for a very naïve nineteen-year-old. It was the summer of 1982 and she had been in Cape Cod on a family vacation when she and a couple of friends decided to take a day trip to New York. One day turned into five, and my mother returned to Cape Cod knocked up. My father owned it from the beginning, but my grandparents wouldn’t allow their teenage daughter to move to New York, unmarried and pregnant. As I got older I wondered why my father hadn’t followed my mother to Ann Arbor. I knew he wanted to take responsibility for me and I knew he cared for mother, but I don’t think he was ever a one-woman kind of man. His lifestyle was so far removed from anything that resembled domesticity.
After I was born we lived with my grandparents while my mother attended the University of Michigan, eventually acquiring a law degree. That’s where she met David, and they’ve been inseparable ever since, even practicing law at the same firm. I think my stepdad provided my mother with the sense of stability that my father couldn’t… or wouldn’t. I admired David for that. He treated me like his own and even though sometimes I disagreed with him, especially as a teenager, I always felt loved by him.
In the beginning my father would come visit me for long weekends here and there until I was old enough to travel to New York for the summers. He and David had an enormous amount of respect for each other, even though they couldn’t have been more different. What they had in common was an unconditional love for my mother and me. After my father became aware of the fact that I called David “Dad,” he simply said, “He is your dad, luv, just like me, but to keep it straight why don’t you call me Pops?” And so I did.
My mother’s group of androgynous, pseudointellectual friends would have referred to me as the ultimate indiscretion if it weren’t for the fact that I was gifted musically, Valedictorian at my high school, and now an Ivy League graduate. Choosing a business major over the arts at Brown was a surprise to everyone, but I yearned for a more organic experience when it came to music. I didn’t want to spend one more minute trudging through a Bach piece while being hypnotized by the metronome. I wanted a degree I could use and I wanted music to be my hobby. I’m still wondering how I’m going to use that degree…
I had shut the window screen, my eyes and brain off to the world, when I was jolted by the weight of my own bag being tossed onto the seat next to me. My eyes darted open and up to Will, who was forcefully rearranging everything in the overhead bin.
“Sorry, baby, I’ve got to make room for her,” he said, grabbing his guitar and hoisting it up.
I rolled my eyes at the thought of him personifying his guitar. He grabbed my bag, shoved it in the bin, and collapsed into his seat. I shot him a slightly annoyed look. “Why didn’t you request an aisle seat?” I asked.
“Well, you see, sweetheart, I like to be right behind the emergency exit. I’ll hop over this seat, jump out the door, and be down that super slide in a split second,” he said with an arrogant smile.
“Then why not request the exit aisle?”
“I am not the person for that job, trust me.”
“Damn, chivalry is dead. It doesn’t matter anyway; our lives are in the hands of these hopefully sober pilots and this nine-hundred-thousand-pound hunk of metal, so…”
“Can we stop talking about this? I don’t think you understand.” He pulled a rosary out of his pocket and proceeded to put it around his neck.
“Something tells me you have no idea what that’s for,” I said, giggling. “Are you Catholic?” He was desperately trying to peel a tiny price tag label off one of the beads. “Oh my god, you bought that in the airport gift store, huh?”
Putting his finger to his mouth, he said, “Shhh! Woman, please!” He looked around as if he would be found out. “Of course I’m Catholic.”
A light chuckle escaped my mouth. “Well, God would know, so wearing that around your neck instead of chanting your Hail Marys is probably pissing the big guy off, and that’s not good for any of us.”
He let out a nervous laugh and then whispered, “Hey, little firecracker, you like taunting me, don’t you?” Waiting for my response, he looked directly into my eyes and smiled cutely.
I suddenly felt bashful and shook my head nervously. “Sorry.”
Still smiling, he squinted slightly and then winked before looking away and pulling a stack of pamphlets out of the seat-back pocket.
While he reviewed the safety information flier, we began taxiing toward the runway. I noticed a few things in that moment. One, Will was universally attractive; even though he dressed a little edgier and had slightly imperfect teeth, he could have easily been a print model. He stood a tad over six feet, was thin with muscular arms, maybe from years of playing guitar. He had brown, disheveled hair and dark eyes, a chiseled jaw, high cheekbones, and great lips. As he read he mouthed the words, the way a child reads silently.
Two, he didn’t smell bad at all—as a matter fact, he smelled heavenly. A mixture of body wash, sandalwood, and just a hint of cigarette smoke, which would normally repulse me, but for some reason it suited him. He wore black pinstriped slacks that hung on his thin hips, a silver-studded belt with a wallet chain, and a red T-shirt that said “Booyah!” above a silk-screened picture of Hilary and Bill Clinton playing Ping-Pong. I didn’t get it.
Three, he was genuinely scared to fly and it was apparent that he would be white- knuckling it the entire way. I made the decision to try to calm his nerves by being friendly and chatting him up.
The pilot came on and announced we were cleared for takeoff. “Jesus Christ! Did he sound drunk to you?” Will blurted.
“Not at all. Relax, buddy, everything will be fine and you should probably tone down the Jesus Christs, at least while you’re still wearing that thing.” I pointed to the rosary around his neck. He looked down at the beads like they were about to perform a circus act.
Nervously he said, “Hey, hey can you open that screen? I need to see us get off the ground.” I obliged as he peered over me and out the window.
“You’re funny, Will. You want to sit in the aisle seat, yet here you are, leaning over me to look out the window.”
Ignoring my comment, he took a deep breath in through his nose, tilted his head to the side, and with a half smile whispered, “You smell good, like rain.” I was totally caught off guard by his proximity; a delicious chill ran through me.
“What kind of guitar do you have?” I asked abruptly, attempting to change the subject.
“Um… an electric guitar?” The answer was like a question. “No, I know that. What kind?”
“Oh, it’s a Fender.” He squinted his eyes and smiled. He seemed somewhat charmed and probably grateful that we were talking about guitars while the plane was barreling full speed down the runway. He gripped the armrest, still not totally at ease.
“Is it a Telecaster, Stratocaster…?”
“As a matter of fact it’s a blond Tele. I also have a Gibson acoustic and a vintage Harmony at home.”
“I love the old Harmony guitars. On my fifth birthday my father gave me his H78. It was the first guitar he bought with his own money. He ordered it from a Sears catalog in 1970.”
His eyes shot open with surprise. “That’s awesome. Your father must be a cool guy.”
“He just passed away a month ago.”
“Shit… I’m so sorry,” he said with genuine sympathy.
“It’s okay, but I’d rather not talk about it right now. Let’s talk about guitars,” I said, realizing it would be for both our benefits.
When we hit cruising altitude, he relaxed a little and began describing the magical pickups on the Harmony and the modifications he’d made to the Telecaster. He clearly knew what he was talking about and I found his enthusiasm sweet.
We continued into an easy conversation about our favorite musicians. We agreed on everything from Led Zeppelin to Bette Midler. We talked about Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, Debussy, the Naizi Brothers, and Edith Piaf. It was the most intense and diverse musical conversation I’d ever had. We talked nonstop for the entire length of the flight.
I told him about my musical background and also how I was going to live in my father’s apartment with my yellow lab, Jackson, and run his café, maybe teach piano lessons on the side. He told me how he was working as a bartender in a swanky boutique hotel lounge in SoHo. He said at the moment he was living in a literal storage closet in Chinatown until he could afford an apartment. He was playing guitar in a band that he wasn’t too excited about. Between practice and his job and the few gigs they played a month, he was never home.
I thought about my spare bedroom for a second and then pushed the idea out of mind when I reminded myself that Will was a complete stranger. Even though I found his neuroses more endearing than scary, I figured inviting a struggling musician to live with me was not the best idea.
As the plane started to descend, Will gripped the armrest. “Mia, we’re going down. I need to know everything about you right now! How old are you, what’s your last name, what street do you live on? If we make it out of this, I think we should jam together, you know, musically or whatever.”
He was being adorable. My body tingled with warmth from his gaze. I shifted nervously before answering, “My last name is Kelly, I’ll be at my father’s café most days—Kell’s on Avenue A. Come and have a coffee with me sometime and we’ll talk music. Oh, and I’m twenty-five.”
When we were safely on the ground, he smiled sweetly and said in a low voice, “We both have double first names. I’m Will Ryan, twenty-nine. I live at 22 Mott Street in the storage closet. I work at the Montosh. I’m O negative, you know, the universal one and I play in a band called The Ivans. Oh, and I love coffee. It was nice to meet you, Mia.”
“It was nice to meet you too.”
“We made it,” he said, pointing out the window as we taxied to the gate. “You know they say people who have stared death in the face are bonded for life?”
I laughed. “Your antics are cute, Will.”
“I was going for irresistible,” he said with a brazen smirk. He handed me my bag and let me go in front of him. His warm breath on my neck caused me to shiver and stumble in the aisle. He chuckled. “You’re cute.” When another passenger jetted out of his seat, bumping me, Will blurted out, “Hey! Watch it, buddy!” I turned around to his sexy smile. His lips flattened, he narrowed his eyes and then whispered, “See, baby, chivalry isn’t dead.”
When I stepped out into the crisp March, New York air, I sensed him walking behind me, but I didn’t turn around. I walked straight up to the first available cab, hopped in, shut the door, and shouted, “Manhattan!” As we pulled away from the curb, I glanced over at Will. He was blowing a lungful of smoke into the air with curiosity in his eyes like he was listening to God. His gaze met mine and with a larger-than-life wave, he mouthed the words, “Goodbye, Mia.” I thought I caught “Sweet Thing” just as he left my view.”