I’m sharing another chapter of Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing today, with the disclaimer that I have not fully proofed it yet and it may need some rewrites as well.
The full book will release July 18 on Amazon.
To catch up on the other chapters:
Gladwynn wasn’t thrilled that Liam had assigned her to shadow Laurel Benton, the reporter she’d overheard talking about her with the copy editor the night before. Unfortunately, she was the only one free to show Gladwn the ropes, so to speak, when it came to covering municipal meetings.
Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, Gladwynn examined her dark brown curls and reapplied her signature bright red lipstick that she’d started wearing her senior year of college. She pulled the hem of the canary yellow sweater she’d had since college down to the top edge of her black slacks and took a deep breath before giving herself a pep talk.
“Come on, Grant. Suck it up. You can do this.”
Laurel was waiting for her in the hallway, arms crossed across her chest. She had tucked her hair under a blue, knitted cap, but one strand – dark brown with light-gray streaks – had fallen loose. She’d already zipped her black winter coat up to under her chin. Small lines crinkled the skin along the corners of her eyes as she offered a tense smile.
“Ready to go? We need to leave now if we want to get a good seat.”
Gladwynn reached for her coat, a hot pink tumbler filled with hot coffee, and a reporter’s notebook that she’d sat on a chair outside the bathroom door. She zipped her coat up to her chin and flipped up the gray-faux fur-lined hood. It was less stylish, but warmer than the one she’d been wearing the day before. She’d decided she needed to be ready for the conditions since she’d be outside more in this job than in her last job, even if the coat clearly clashed with her style.
She gestured toward the door. “Lead the way.”
As she walked, she wrapped the bright red scarf her grandmother had handed her earlier that day around her neck and pulled it up across her mouth and nose.
Snow crunched under her winter boots, reminding her how glad she was that she’d stopped by the local shoe store on her way to work to pick out a pair of cute, yet still practical, brown winter boots.
Laurel’s steps weren’t as long as Liam’s, thankfully, and it was much easier to keep up with her. Her blue Honda was parked in a church parking lot across the street from the newspaper office. The car was definitely a lot older than Liam’s BMW. Dents along the passenger side of the car hinted at some sort of collision at some point – possibly with a guide rail or tree limb.
The door groaned as it opened, and the ripped seat definitely wasn’t heated.
Laurel slammed the driver’s side door shut. “Sorry about the car. It’s pretty beat up but gets me where I need to go.” She smirked. “Working for a small-town newspaper isn’t exactly a lucrative gig if you haven’t realized that already.”
A smile tugged at Gladwynn’s mouth. “I’ve started to figure that out, yes.” Her breath turned the air in front of her white and she hoped the car at least had heat.
The engine rolled over with a reluctant growl. Shifting it into reverse resulted in a loud grinding noise. Laurel grimaced and squeezed her eyes shut. “Stupid car.” She shook her head briefly. “Anyhow, Birchwood is about 20 minutes away and in the middle of nowhere so you can help me watch for deer.”
Laurel slowly edged the car out of the parking lot and onto Main Street. The sun hadn’t yet set, and the drive gave Gladwynn a moment to take in the town, as little as there was to take in. Brookstone had probably been a bustling center of activity at some point, but these days many of the buildings were shuttered up or housing businesses that probably wouldn’t survive the year. There were more “used” signs than she’d ever seen in one place. Used clothes, used books, and used video games just to name a few.
The one standout gem of Main Street was the old Cornerstone Theatre, which her grandmother had told her had once been an opera house, built in 1875. She remembered many trips there as a child and teen when she’d spent summers with her grandparents.
Gladwynn watched two churches slide by. One church was a Catholic Church with a light brown stone exterior and a tall bell tower. This must be the bell that rang four times a day, including 6 a.m., waking her up this morning way before she’d wanted to.
“How you settling in?”
Laurel’s question pulled her gaze from the impressive brick façade of the Covenant Heart Church her grandfather had used to pastor and that her grandmother still attended. “Okay, I guess. I mean, do you mean at the office or at my grandmother’s, which is where I’m staying for now?”
Laurel shrugged and smiled briefly. “Both I guess.”
“I would say I’m settling in with Grandma better than I am at the office, honestly.” The business district of town began to fade into a series of lovely homes, many of them Victorian like her grandmothers. That was one thing about Brookstone. Part of it demonstrated that the area had fallen into disrepair and poverty, while the other half showcased the wealth that had once ruled the town and, in some cases, still did.
Gladwynn glanced at Laurel. “By the way, the word is coif not quaff.”
Laurel looked over at her with one eyebrow raised. “Excuse me?”
“The word you were looking for yesterday was coif. Coif is a hairdo. I was wearing a 40s coif in your opinion. Quaff means to drink heavily, which I don’t do.”
Red crept into Laurel’s cheeks. She frowned briefly. “Sorry about that.”
The town disappeared into a less sparsely populated area with only a few houses, a gas station and a mechanic shop passing by.
Gladwynn sighed. “Maybe it is a silly hairdo.”
“No. Really. It isn’t.” Laurel glanced at her. “We were just being petty. It happens in a small office. Especially among women. Not to run our sex down but we do tend to get caddy when we are in small groups. Maybe it’s because our hormones sync and we’re all having PMS at the same time.”
Glawyn laughed softly. “Yeah, that actually happened at my last job too.” And her house when she was growing up, but she didn’t think she needed to mention that at the moment.
The gears in the car groaned again as Laurel shifted. “If you don’t mind me asking, have you worked in papers before?”
Gladwynn kept her gaze on the road in front of them, groves of trees, interspersed with small farmhouses and farms. “Only at my college newspaper almost six years ago now. I do write. I don’t know if I would call myself a writer, though. I write short stories sometimes.” She slid her gloves off as the heat in the car started to kick in. “I was laid off at my last job. It was at the college library in a town near where I grew up. I loved the job, but enrollment has been down at the college for a couple of years now and they finally started making cuts. I was one of those cuts.”
Laurel winced. “Ouch. Sorry to hear that.”
“I’m actually surprised Liam hired me. Grateful but surprised.”
Laurel snorted a laugh. “Of course, he hired you. Liam is a sucker for cute brunettes. His last three girlfriends were brunettes. He also needed a warm body to fill the seat and get Lee off his back.”
“The publisher. You’ll meet him eventually. He and his wife spend most of the winter in Florida with his kids and grandkids.”
Gladwynn glanced at her reflection in the passenger side window. Cute? She’d always thought of herself as plain. She’d never really described herself as skinny even when others did. She simply saw herself as boney and awkward, often wishing she could be tall and lanky instead.
She’d definitely taken after most of the women on Grandma Lucinda’s side of the family in the height department. Her short stature had always been an irritant to her, though she was glad she at least had grown past the 5 foot 3 inches of Lucinda. Only by an inch, but it was an inch she’d prayed hard for over the years.
She took a sip from her tumbler, closing her eyes briefly at the sweet taste of coffee and cream her grandmother had mixed for. “So, what about you? Are you from here originally?”
Laurel gave a quick nod. “Yep. Born and raised.”
“Have you been at the paper long?”
Laurel rolled her eyes. “Too long. Twelve years next month.”
“Is this what you thought you’d always do? Like, did you go to school for journalism?”
“I did, but always imagined I’d be at a much bigger paper. I came back here after college to help my parents on the farm. They retired and sold it last year and moved down South to live with my grandmother, but here I am, still stuck in good ole’ Marson County.”
Gladwynn thought she heard a twinge of resentment in Laurel’s voice. “Is the job the only thing keeping you here?”
Laurel pressed her mouth into a thin line for a few seconds before answering. “It is now.”
She didn’t elaborate and Gladwynn didn’t ask her to.
“The job’s not that bad of a gig really,” Laurel said after a few seconds of silence. “The hours stink, and I feel like I’m always on, ready to cover something even when I’m supposed to have a day off, but I like the people, the writing, and most of the time I like my co-workers. Except that little upstart who thinks he’s God’s gift to journalism. I’d like to give him a swift kick in the butt.” She snorted a quick laugh. “Maybe when I decide to quit and get out of this county once and for all, that will be my last act.” She turned her car onto a road to her right and the conversation faded for the rest of the drive.
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