Dating in the Dark Sneak Peek


Chapter 1

Nine-fifteen.


It’s been approximately thirty seconds since the last time Tinley glanced at the clock in the bottom corner of her monitor. Her shift started an hour and fifteen minutes ago, and yet her phone remains silent. The delicious sweet nectar of coffee she was drinking is long gone, and her caffeine high is quickly fading due to boredom. Her purse is hiding a delicious strawberries and cream cupcake that she was using as something to look forward to later in the day, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and the fluffy melt-in-your-mouth buttercream is calling her name.


“Domestic,” whispers the voice in her headset, alerting her to a call coming in from one of their United States customers.


“Thank you for calling Wanderlust International, my name is Tinley, can I cure your lust for adventure with a Caribbean cruise today?” She tries not to choke on her words as they tumble out of her overly fake, plastered-on smile because, as her boss likes to drill into her head every single day she’s at this damn job, the customer can hear a smile in your voice. As it turns out, Tinley would rather vomit than spend one more minute caring what these customers think.


“Am I on a recorded line right now?” Tinley pulls the headset away from her ear and turns the volume way down. There are some conversations where she has to struggle to hear a single word, but ones like this, for example, are projected just fine. It’s annoying, but just part of the job. “I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I don’t think I ever gave y’all permission to record me.”


Every freaking time. She doesn’t know what it is, but it’s like they completely ignore everything until they’re talking to a real person. This lady must be one of those zero pressers who keeps hitting it no matter what the recording says. News flash lady, it doesn’t always work that way.


Tinley quickly mutes her phone, chugs down some water, fake screams, unmutes her phone, and plasters on her fake smile again. Using a saccharine yet professional voice, she says, “Ma’am, you are on a recorded line. We record all of our phone calls for quality assurance and training.”


Before the woman even starts talking again, Tinley can sense the anger already starting to build. “But you didn’t tell me that. Aren’t you required by law to tell me you’re recording me? I have yet to hear those words come out of your mouth.”


“I apologize for any confusion ma’am. Before you were connected to me, the line did let you know you were being recorded, and like I said, we record all calls for quality assurance and training.”


The audible breathing on the other end of the call becomes heavier and heavier. It’s T-minus five minutes until explosion time. Hell, if Tinley’s lucky, this call will be ending in less time, and she can go for a “smoke break,” even though she doesn’t smoke. Around here, it seems to be the only acceptable excuse for abandoning your station for five minutes; God forbid she has to pee or—heaven help us—change a tampon. Nope, the dudes running this place don’t want to hear about the woes of being a woman, and it has become common practice for everything to be described as a smoke break.


Whatever.


“I don’t like the tone you’re taking with me. I am the customer, and if I didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have a job right now. You think about that one, missy. Isn’t the first thing they teach you people that I am always right?”


Another holier-than-thou customer who seems to think she knows all—just what Tinley was hoping for to end her perfect suckfest of a week. With a quick glance at the clock, she inwardly groans. She’s killed exactly three more minutes of her day; only seven more hours until she’s free from this place for an entire forty-eight hours, but who’s counting?


“I’m really sorry if I upset you. I would be glad to help you out today in any way I can.” Her back stiffens when someone starts hooting and hollering in the corner, no doubt the current largest sale for the day. It probably went to that douchebag, Marek Outlaw. While he’s not technically her boss, he’s still a supervisor on the floor. He’s never ever on the phones, but if he pops on for five minutes? He always lands the biggest deals. What kind of a last name is Outlaw anyway? It has to be fake.


“It’s a little too late for apologies. I think you need to transfer me to a manager and find a new job. You’re obviously no good at this one.”


“One moment please, I’ll transfer you right over. Before I do, is there anything else I can help you with?”


“No, you can’t. I would like to talk to someone with intelligence, although I’m not holding my breath on that since someone obviously had to train you.”


Six hours and forty-two minutes. Only six hours and forty-two minutes to go.


“I hope you enjoy the rest of your day ma’am. Transferring now.” She hits transfer and blows out everything she was holding back. “And fuck you very much, you cow.”


Damn, that didn’t even help a little bit in helping her feel better. She remembers back in the good old days when a fervent one-finger salute to her computer and headset was all it took to cheer her up. Now? Not even the nightly after-work cocktails are helping. Something needs to change, that’s for damn sure.


She puts her phone on unavailable so another call can’t come through then turns to her neighbor. It just so happens to be her best friend and roommate, Dakota—who, by the way, got the better end of the stick with this job because she only answers emails and the occasional chat. Meanwhile, Tinley deals with all the jerks over the phone.


“Shoot me now. Please just take me into the back room, whack me over the head, and be done with it. I’m ready to meet my maker and own up to the shit I’ve done in this life for the kind of karma being thrown my way. I would much rather be dead than deal with another phone call like that.”


Dakota continues typing her bullshit response to some crazy she’s got in a chat and says, “Okay drama queen. I’m going to keep saying it until it makes it through that thick skull of yours: You. Need. To. Get. Laid. Plain and simple.”


“Don’t worry, Tinley, I can fix that for you.”


She doesn’t even look up to see who’s speaking; she knows it’s Marek. She rolls her eyes and instead, the trusty one-finger salute goes up in the air. His arrogance really bugs the shit out of her, and the problem is he knows how badly he gets under her skin. She ignores him completely and continues talking to Dakota. “Do you ever think about anything else besides sex? It’s not the cure-all for every single problem out there, you know.”


“Says the woman who never gets any.” Dakota points to herself and looks up from her computer screen to look Tinley in the eyes. “Am I ever half as stressed as you? I know you say you don’t give a shit about this job, but you always seem awfully worked up over something you supposedly care so little about.”


“If you had to deal with—”


Dakota raises her hand as she turns her monitor toward Tinley, and the crude language spewed all over her computer screen is absolutely disgusting. Her eyes zero in on one line from the chat. “Is it really necessary for you to know that happened on the cruise? C’mon, doesn’t this person have any self-respect?”


She pops her gum and sends a final response before ending the chat and locking her computer. “Tinley, the keyboard warriors aren’t afraid to say anything and everything as long as the words are being typed and not actually spoken. You’d be surprised at the crap people say to me every day, but unlike you, I don’t let it affect me. This is a job, nothing more.”


“And that is why you’ll never be up for a promotion. You’re not a team player, Dakota.”


Tinley is annoyed that Marek is still standing there. If he weren’t so smug and arrogant, she would actually be attracted to him. His low husky voice is enough to make any woman’s panties wet, including hers. She rolls her eyes and wills her phone to start ringing so she can avoid whatever confrontation is about to happen. Then she remembers she put it on unavailable and resigns herself to another annoying co-worker encounter.


“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Her best friend laughs and walks away, leaving Tinley all alone with the gorgeous dickbag. Why are the attractive ones always the biggest jerks?


Closing her eyes, she takes a deep breath and slowly turns around to find him standing directly behind her. “Is there something I can help you with Marek?” She inwardly cringes as her voice cracks. Way to go Tinley, real smooth.


“I just got off the phone with one of your customers, and she wasn’t too happy with the interaction she had with you. Fortunately, I was able to save the sale, no thanks to you.”


Ugh. The last thing she is in the mood for is a lecture from Marek “The Asshole” Outlaw, and why the hell did Dakota just leave her all alone with this jerk? She’s going to have to have a chat with her about the rules of best friend loyalty because this right here definitely breaks them. “Sorry, it’s time for my smoke break. Can we talk about this later?”


Marek gives her a double take then shakes his head. He’s a got a smug grin on his face, and she can’t decide if she would rather slap it off or sit on it. The former would probably be a lot more satisfying. Marek is probably one of those guys who seems like he would be good in bed but is actually all about himself and makes for a really lousy experience. “You don’t even smoke, and it’s not your break time.”


“Are you sure about that? Are you one hundred percent sure that I don’t smoke? Because Jonah over there just came in from a smoke break and I know he takes more than the allotted two fifteen-minute breaks a day. So, unless you’re going to tell every person in here who smokes that they’re only allowed to do that on their given breaks, I don’t think you can play favorites and tell me I can’t spend five minutes away from my desk getting a cup of coffee, shoving a tampon in, or doing any other thing I feel the need to do to clear my head of the assholes on the phone.”


Mic drop.


Tinley’s hands are shaking as she walks away from Marek and heads toward the front doors. She can’t believe she said any of those things to him. She’s never stood up to him like that before, and she kind of liked it. As the doors slide open and she’s hit with a major heat wave, all she can do is smile. Not able to walk out the doors without one last look, she turns around slightly and slams right into Jonah on his way out for his umpteenth smoke break of the day. To make matters worse, she was trying to be cute and spin on one foot, and all that did was cause her to lose her balance. Her legs fly out from underneath her, and her butt slams down on the track of the sliding doors.


Someone starts a slow clap, and laughter can be heard throughout the office. Unmistakably, Marek’s timber thunders over everyone else’s. Tinley has never been particularly graceful, but this one moment would have been the perfect time for her to pull it off. Instead, her grace is lying down in the gutter, along with her dignity. Her body screams out in pain as she slowly pushes herself up—not a single person came running to offer their help. A bunch of selfish jerks, all of them. Her foot slides as she steadies herself on her feet and she almost face-plants into the cement, but fortunately she catches herself before that can happen. The doors finally shut behind her as she walks away on her hunt for her so-called best friend.


There’s no way this day could get any worse, right?

Chapter 2


Worst day ever.


The day started out slow, hit an all-time high with her confrontation with Marek, and then quickly crashed and burned with her wipe out, and it didn’t get much better for Tinley after that. No matter what happened, it seemed like she couldn’t do anything right, and the customers—ugh. Today was full of customers from hell. That’s the only explanation for why every single one of them got worse as each additional call came in. Not a single person she talked to purchased a vacation package, and in fact, they all seemed to think they’d won free vacation packages and were redeeming them. She hopes whoever the scammers were that made up that little stunt get herpes and syphilis—really gross and painful and makes their dicks fall off.


Of course, it’s Friday, so every second of the day felt like it took hours to go by. Combine the long day with shitty customers, and it’s left Tinley pretty much wiped out, which is why she is currently on her second glass of wine as she’s preparing tonight’s dinner. Tinley, Dakota, and Tinley’s sister, Tara, have a standing dinner date the second Friday of every month, and Tinley is always in charge of the food. She’s not complaining about it because the other two don’t know their way around a microwave, let alone the entire kitchen. Having either one of them cook is just a recipe for disaster. That and a visit to the takeout menu drawer in their kitchen.


She is grateful that she’s had the past hour to herself in the apartment. After spending all day on a headset talking to people, her ears are always buzzing, and need some peace and quiet. The one good thing about Tinley and Dakota working in different departments is that they have different work schedules. Tinley goes in an hour earlier, so she’s off first. Unfortunately, she knows her silence is about to disappear as she takes another quick glance at the clock. Dakota and Tara will be here any minute now.


As if on cue, the familiar sound of her best friend’s key turning in the deadbolt sounds with a click. Laughter echoes throughout the dwelling as Tinley puts the last dish she used to prepare the meal into the dishwasher. The casserole she made has been cooling on the counter for a good fifteen minutes now, and the coffee aroma from the mocha cupcakes that are currently baking in the oven has started permeating the air. If any of the cupcakes make it past the weekend, she’s hoping the extra caffeine kick will help her get through what is sure to be a hellish Monday. Judging by her current mood, she won’t be holding her breath on that one.


As soon as they walk into the room, Dakota zeroes in on the open bottle of wine. Whenever Tinley ventures out and buys a new wine, Dakota always has to inspect it like she’s a fancy connoisseur. In reality, everyone knows she has no idea what she’s doing, but as always, she picks up the bottle of Pinot Grigio and takes a small whiff. She swirls the contents of the bottle and takes a small taste straight from the container. With an annoyingly long glance at the label, she shrugs and pours herself a glass. “You have to tell Tara about the conversation you had with Marek this morning.” Then she walks out of the room toward her bedroom, no doubt to grab her laptop like she does every night after work.


Tinley knows she should be happy Dakota isn’t once again ragging on her about how much she needs to get laid, but the excitement over her little showdown with Marek this morning won’t last long. As much as it felt good at the time, she has felt like nothing but crap for the rest of the day since, which is why after finishing preparing dinner tonight, Tinley decided it would be a good idea to bake another batch of cupcakes, even though they still haven’t finished off the last ones she made. No doubt her sister will have her arms full of cupcakes when she leaves tonight. Her whole argument that she’s “eating for two,” can only go so far. In reality, Tinley knows she gets mad cravings for sweets when she’s pregnant.


Tara tilts her head to the side then looks from Dakota to Tinley and back again. She rubs her belly and crashes back into their very plush recliner. “Marek—is he the panty-melting fuckboy that always seems to annoy you?”


No words—Tinley has absolutely no words for what just came out of her sister’s mouth. Who even talks like that? Tinley giggles and feels nothing but embarrassment for her. Still, she tops off her own glass of wine and grabs a sparkling water out of the fridge for Tara before joining her in the living room. “Please never say any of those words ever again. I’m going to assume that what you’re trying to say is he is fucking gorgeous, if so, then yes he is one in the same. The arrogant asshole that we work with. It’s really unreasonable for how good looking he is.”


And it’s true. Tinley knows Marek is way completely outside of her league, but it doesn’t stop her from lusting after him no matter how much she hates herself for doing it. He’s the kind of attractive where he knows he is and doesn’t hide that knowledge one bit. The supervisors all get to choose who is on their team, and of course, Marek has built his own fraternity in his corner of the call center. Or at least that’s what Dakota and her like to refer to them as. All of the guys on his team are all just as arrogant as Marek is and they all treat him like he’s a god or something. It’s actually kind of sickening.


Dakota plops down on the couch next to her and immediately starts tapping away on her laptop, completely oblivious to the conversation going on around her…or maybe she just doesn’t care. It’s weird because she spends all day typing on a computer and then comes home and spends all night doing the same thing. This has been going on for months now, Tinley has bugged her on multiple occasions to spill about what she’s doing, but she’s been pretty tight-lipped so far.


Tara shrugs and takes a heavy drink from her bottle of water and adds, “What can I say? I’m hip. I know what the cool kids are saying these days. I’m in the know.”


“Don’t make me laugh.”


Tara ignores Tinley’s comment and turns her focus to her sister’s roommate. “Dakota, please tell your roommate I’m superfly.”


That grabs her attention, and she finally looks up from her computer, but just barely. She takes another swig from her wine glass before placing it back on the coffee table and saying, “Tinley, your sister has no idea what she’s talking about. Don’t ever listen to her.”


She sits forward on the edge of her seat, and her mouth drops open. “Hey, you’re supposed to be on my side here.”


“Dude, I’m on nobody’s side.” Dakota doesn’t even look up from her screen as she continues working away on whatever she’s writing. “But if you keep talking like that, you’re just going to make a fool of yourself.”


“Neither of you know what you’re talking about. Livi thinks I’m awesome.”


Tinley can’t hold in her laughter any longer after that statement. “That’s because she’s seven and your daughter. Of course, she thinks you’re awesome—you’re the only person she knows.”


“I don’t even know why I keep coming to these things. I don’t have to put up with this abuse. I can get my sugar fix elsewhere, you know.”


“Oh my gosh, Tara, you sound exactly like Mom right now. And you know nobody makes their cupcakes as good as I can. I happen to recall you telling me I should open my own bakery.”


“No, I don’t. You take that back right now.” She sneers at Tinley and then quickly changes the subject and her focus. “Dakota, what are you working on over there?”


Before her roommate can answer, Tinley pipes up. “Don’t even try to get her to tell you. It’s some sort of top-secret project she’s been working on. She refuses to tell me, and this has been going on for months now. At this point, it’s more annoying than anything else.”


She quickly closes her laptop and puts it on the coffee table in front of her. “Anyone else starving? Let’s eat.” Then she’s up from the couch and heading off to the kitchen for the casserole, which is most likely cold by now.


Tara glances behind her to see if Dakota is watching and then leans forward, reaching for the laptop. Tinley shakes her head and says, “Don’t even bother. She has it password protected.” Reaching a hand down to help her up, she says, “C’mon preggo, let’s go get some food in that belly.”


Speaking of the cupcakes, the timer starts going off as they both walk toward the kitchen. The entire room is filled with the delicious chocolatey coffee scent, and Tinley can’t help but breathe them in as she pulls them out of the oven to cool.


Dakota has a second bottle of wine open and is drinking from her recently refilled glass as she studies the casserole dish on the counter. “Someone gave zero fucks when they cut the vegetables for tonight’s dinner.”


Tinley takes a sip of her glass of wine before glancing down into the food and shrugging. If this were a competition based solely on presentation, she would be asked to never return. She lets out a small giggle. Okay, so she might be buzzing just a little bit. “I always say Anne Burrell would have a field day with my knife cuts if we ever shared the same kitchen.”


“Am I supposed to know what that means?”


Face meet palm. There’s no way her roommate doesn’t know who she’s talking about. Tinley spends her free time watching TV, and when Netflix isn’t on, the Food Network is. “Hello, Anne Burrell, as in the celebrity chef from the Food Network. She co-hosts the show Worst Cooks in America, and she always cracks down on people for their knife cuts. I might make good food, but I can’t consistently cut anything to save my life.”


A moan comes from behind them, and both girls turn around to find Tara already working her way through the dinner. She’s got a giant spoon in her hand and is leaning over the counter, scooping out bites. “I don’t care what it looks like as long as it tastes good, and this definitely tastes fanfuckingtastic.”


All three of them crack up laughing as they take turns devouring the semi-warm casserole, and Tara’s right: it is pretty damn good. Then again, anything involving potatoes, cheese, and bacon usually is. After they finish polishing off dinner, Tinley starts putting the dishes in the sink to clean everything up. If there’s one thing she hates more than anything, it’s a dirty kitchen. She just can’t focus while there’s a mess nearby.


Dakota takes the dirty forks out of her hands and shoos her away. Tinley sits on one of the bar stools and takes a small sip of her wine while looking from her sister to her roommate over the top of her glass. These two are definitely up to something, that’s for sure. Dakota never volunteers to clean up the kitchen and Tara is avoiding eye contact altogether. “Okay, what’s going on here? What are you two hiding from me?”


Tara sighs and leans against the counter. She polishes off her bottle of water and rubs her belly. She glances over at Dakota and then back at her sister. “Promise you won’t be mad?”


I hope you enjoyed it this sneak peek of Dating in the Dark (Dating Trilogy #1)! Preorder it now before it releases March 19th!

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