And In Other Writing News…

Happy Monday!  I hope everybody’s summer is off to a great start.  Mine got off with more of a gasp and a wheeze, resulting in a delay in finishing All’s Fair In Love And Weddings, but hopefully things will start going smoothly soon.

Fingers crossed…

In the meantime, here’s the current opening excerpt of the book in which our heroine Prue first encounters our hero…

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Excerpt:

Prudence Collier’s first thought as she stood in the drizzling rain and stared down at the smoke rising from her borrowed car’s engine was that this certainly didn’t bode well, did it? As far as signs and portents went, if one believed in those sorts of things—and Prue usually felt it couldn’t hurt—this was hardly the most auspicious one with which to begin her trip. Disconcerting might be a better way to describe it. Maybe downright ominous. And of all the weeks when she could have used something more promising than ominous, this was the one.

“This baby? Purrs like a kitten. Sure, she’ll get you where you need to go,” her friend Jacob had assured her when Prue had raised an eyebrow at the sight of the car. It looked, after all, like little more than spare parts he’d scavenged from a wrecking yard and welded together—which, knowing Jacob, he might very well have done. He’d patted the hunk of metal then, and Prue could have sworn she heard something clunk to the ground immediately after that. She ought to have handed him back his keys then, but beggars couldn’t be choosers, and this was the kind of thing one was left with when time was short and one’s bank account balance was small.

Taking a deep breath at a time like this was supposed to be helpful, so Prue tried that. Then she tried another, and another. Nope, nothing. There was no crystal-clear epiphany about what course of action to take. Her car—or rather, Jacob’s car—was still smoking just as much as ever from mysterious places only now she felt lightheaded from overdoing her oxygen intake. So much for that idea.

She glanced at her watch and resisted the urge to kick the old jeep’s tires. Now what? Another ten minutes, and she’d miss the ferry. Sure there would be another one later, but showing up an hour behind schedule was exactly the kind of thing she didn’t want to do when she saw Natalie again. Same old Prue, she could hear her sister’s voice say in her head, cool and disapproving. Nothing’s changed.

Only Prue had changed. At least, she hoped she had, and she was not going to waste this chance to prove it. Nat’s invitation had been an unexpected but very welcome olive branch, and Prue had every intention of seizing it with both hands. She just had to get to the right island first.

Well, there wasn’t a lot of other traffic on the St. Thomas roads today, but maybe she could hitch a ride with someone else the rest of the way to the ferry. Failing that, she could always try running for it, but even though she had packed lightly, her one bag was not exactly small. She, however, was, and she was not likely to set any sprinting records while dragging her luggage behind her.

She frowned at the jeep. What the hell, she thought then with a shrug, and she kicked one tire anyway.

At least the rain was sputtering out. Downpours rarely lasted long here on the islands. Prue could say that with some degree of confidence because her family had made annual pilgrimages to the Virgin Islands since she was old enough to remember, and although she’d stopped coming along for the ride right around the time she’d dropped out of college during her freshman year, at her current age of twenty-six that was still a hefty number of family vacations she had under her belt.

But she had not been invited along on those in several years, which was largely her own fault. And that, she thought, was why she was not going to let a broken-down junk heap cost her this one. No offense to Jacob’s car.

So Prue left Jacob a voicemail message to let him know where the smoking remains of his vehicle sat safely off to the side of the road and then hauled her purse and her bag out of the jeep with the intention of setting off on foot. As she did so, the email from her sister that she’d printed out only two days earlier fluttered to the floor, dislodged by her movements. As wedding invitations went, it was hardly the most formal, and it made her suspect she’d been a last-minute invite, but she was so happy to get it at all that she didn’t care. Her older sister was getting married, and she actually wanted Prue there to help her celebrate it. The water might not be under the proverbial bridge yet, but maybe it was getting close.

Thrusting the email back into her bag, Prue swung it over her shoulder and locked up the car despite the fact that potential car thieves would probably just find the prospect of stealing the vehicle offensive. She then got just two steps away from it before the rain began to drizzle again. Frowning, she reached into her bag to feel around for a hat before remembering that she hadn’t packed one.

Swell. Well, that was the kind of thing that happened when someone packed in a hurry. And then just as she was wondering if she was ever going to catch a break today, another jeep—this one a rental, she noticed—slowed as it passed her and then pulled over to the side of the road.

“Need some help?” the driver called through an open window, and when Prue put her hand up to shield her eyes from the raindrops and caught sight of the speaker, she thought that as far as breaks went, this particular break was one a girl could really take a liking to…

Another Release Day On The Horizon–And An Excerpt

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Well, the third novella in my Heavenly Bites series should be up and running on Amazon and Barnes & Noble by the end of January, which is appropriate considering it’s a Valentine’s Day story, right?  While I’m getting things ready to go, I thought I’d share the first couple of scenes with you, so here’s the book blurb to give you some context:

Playing Cupid:

Much as she loves her meddling matchmaker of a grandmother, free-spirited Aimee Beasley is tired of dodging the dull and downright tiresome dates the older woman keeps trying to arrange for her.  So when she notices her beloved Gran preening in the presence of a distinguished elderly gentleman who’s been visiting their apartment building, Aimee is delighted at the prospect of turning the tables on her.

But her plans to match her grandmother up with the gentleman in time for Valentine’s Day hit a snag when Aimee realizes he’s the uncle of their downstairs neighbor, a stodgy thirty-something history professor named Doyle with whom she butts heads on a regular basis.  She’ll need to find a way to make nice and enlist his help, or her plan to see her long-widowed Gran happily matched again will never work.

For Gran’s sake, she’s determined to find a way.  In the process, she starts to realize that her cranky downstairs neighbor has a softer side she never suspected existed. 

And when it comes to romantic heroes, history professors may not have gotten a fair shake…

And here we go:

Playing Cupid: Opening Excerpt

            Aimee Beasley held the door open to their apartment building’s lobby for her beloved and bespectacled Gram as the older woman listed the many wonderful qualities possessed by her pharmacist, starting with his full head of hair and ending with his detailed knowledge of the common side effects of every medication known to humankind.  It was a surprisingly long list, so either Gram had spent a great deal of time compiling it, or she had simply made half of it up.  Either way, her dedication to her cause was admirable.

“So?” said Gram, expectant and finally pausing to draw breath as she peered at her granddaughter through tortoiseshell glasses that seemed to dwarf her face.

Aimee shook her head.

“But he’s such a nice young man—“ her grandmother protested.

“Nope.”

“I’m sure the two of you would have a lovely time getting to know each other.”

“Nope.”  This was becoming an all too familiar conversation between them, and it was usually sparked by whatever “suitable” prospect had happened to catch Aimee’s matchmaking grandmother’s eye most recently.  Today, of course, it had been her pharmacist, a man who Aimee was quite sure had as little interest in dating her as she did in going out with him.

Gram held a quivering hand to her heart and sighed dramatically.

“Nice try, Gram,” Aimee said patiently, unperturbed and shifting the bag of groceries she carried to one hand so she could dig in her pocket for her keys with the other.  “You know that won’t work on me.”

The older woman scowled, but the quiver in her hand abruptly disappeared.

“I don’t know why you insist upon turning down every young man I find for you.  I’d appreciate it if you’d keep an open mind about this sort of thing, Aimee.”

“And I’d appreciate it if you’d stop trying to pimp me out.”  Aimee finally

found her keys and pulled them out to shove the right one into their mailbox.

Pulling out the handful of envelopes and flyers inside, she closed it again and led the way to the elevator.

“But, dear, my pharmacist is really very charming.”

“Then you go out with him.”

Gram frowned at Aimee again and took the mail from her so Aimee could better balance the groceries.  “He’s barely thirty.”

Aimee let out a wolf whistle.  “My Gram, the cougar!”

“The what?”

The elevator opened, and both women stepped inside.  “It’s an older woman who likes to play with young boy-toys, Gram.  But if you do decide to bring your pharmacist home with you one day, do me a favor and put a sock on the door or something so I know not to go barging in, okay?”

“Young lady—“ Gram began, sputtering at her granddaughter as the elevator carried them up to the fourth floor.

Aimee gave her a cheeky grin.

The older woman’s eyes narrowed, and she recovered her composure.  “Don’t think I’ll give up that easily.  I’ve got plenty of time on my hands and little else to do besides think about these kinds of things, you know.”

“Bring it, lady,” Aimee returned, and then planted an affectionate kiss on top of the other woman’s headful of white curls as the elevator doors opened.  “So, turkey or tuna today?” she asked as they reached their apartment door and she juggled keys and groceries again.

“Tuna.”

“Melt or mayo?”

“Melt, I think,” Gram decided, following Aimee into the apartment.  “With the cheddar, if you don’t mind.”

“Cheddar it is.  Give me five minutes to put this stuff away, and I’ll fix it.”

“Oh, dear…”

“Okay, three minutes.”  Aimee pulled open the refrigerator door and began stuffing groceries inside.  “Are you really that hungry?”

“What?  Oh no, it’s not that.”  Gram waved an envelope.  “It appears we’ve gotten another piece of Mr. Berkley’s mail mixed in with ours again.  Fifth time this month, I think.”

Aimee twitched at the sound of his name.  Actually, it was the sixth time this month.  Not all that shocking considering D. Berkley lived in apartment three-twelve and D. Beasley lived in four-twelve, but it was unfortunate all the same, because each time it meant Aimee had to go downstairs, knock on Doyle Berkley’s door, and then—she grimaced—speak to the man.  Judging by the expression on his face every time he opened the door and saw her standing there, he enjoyed these little mail exchanges about as much as she did.

But this particular piece of mail didn’t look all that thick.  Maybe she could shove it under the door and make a break for it.  Sort of like pulling the pin from a grenade and then running.

“Dear, would you mind…?”  Gram held the letter out to her.

“Sure, Gram,” Aimee agreed, forcing a smile as she took it and turned to go.

“Wait—here, take some scones,” her grandma said, hastily reaching into the

grocery bag for the pastries they’d picked up at the bakery minutes earlier and arranging some on a small plate.  “It’s the polite thing to do when calling on a neighbor.”

So much for shoving the mail under the door.  “I’m not ‘calling’ on him—“

“Manners, Aimee.  You can’t go empty-handed.”

“I’m not empty-handed.  I’ve got his mail.”

But her grandma thrust the plate of scones at her anyway.  “Good neighbors are hard to come by, and Mr. Berkley is a good neighbor.”

Aimee snorted.

“He is!  He’s been very helpful to me in the past.  I don’t know why you dislike him so.”

“Because he walks around like he’s got a stick up his—“
“Aimee Elizabeth Beasley!”

“I was going to say backside,” Aimee returned piously.

“No, you were not.”

No, she wasn’t, but all Aimee said in response was, “Be back in a minute,” and then she slipped back out the door.

* * *

            The third floor was virtually identical to the fourth, and both showed their

age.  The pinstripe wallpaper must have been an update from whatever had covered the walls originally, but it was well-faded now itself, and the plain brown carpet in the hallways was worn so thin that it hardly looked like carpet anymore.  No, the Belmont was not exactly the most cutting edge when it came to apartment complexes, although it might have been fifty years ago when it was first built.  It was, however, the place where Ms. Delia Beasley had lived quite happily for the past three decades, and she had made it quite clear that she had no intention of moving.

Naturally, her son—Aimee’s father—was less than thrilled about his elderly and widowed mother living on her own, and the difference of opinion had caused no small amount of tension between the two.  Tensions had continued to rise until one day Aimee had taken matters into her own hands and simply suggested she move in with her grandmother, split the expenses down the middle, and voilà—everybody’s problems had been solved.

Well, except for the mail delivery, she thought as she approached apartment three-twelve.

Aimee raised her hand that held the envelope in order to rap on the door, and then the plate of scones wobbled in her other hand.  Reacting on impulse, she shoved the piece of mail between her teeth so she could rescue falling scones and grab the plate with both hands—which was, of course, precisely the moment when Doyle opened his front door.

Doyle Berkley always seemed to have an aura of grimness about him, and today was no exception.  True, he lightened up somewhat when speaking with Gram if they happened to pass each other in the lobby, but even then Aimee didn’t think she could exactly call him cheerful.  Only less grim.  Dark hair and shadows under his eyes did nothing to combat the somberness of his overall aspect, and he gave the impression of a man who did not care much for the company of others.

Likely as not it came from spending all his time with history books instead of

living, breathing people.  Memorizing dates and details about wars throughout the centuries—and then forcing university students to regurgitate them—couldn’t be healthy for anyone.  Which was probably why Aimee had flunked history in high school; it was on principle.

They stared at each other for a moment, Doyle’s grey eyes cool as they narrowed and took in the young woman standing on his doorstep with the envelope between her teeth.

“We got some more of your mail,” Aimee said matter-of-factly around the

edges of the item in question, the words slightly garbled because of the obstruction.

“So I see,” Doyle returned, reaching for the envelope and eyeing the faint teeth marks on it with obvious displeasure.  “And you decided to eat it?”

“In my defense,” said Aimee. “It is lunchtime.”

She got no response, not even a twitch of an eyelid.

Had this guy ever been fun?  He couldn’t be past his mid-thirties, and yet more often than not it seemed like he was channeling his inner curmudgeon.  “Oh, come on.  Lighten up.  It wouldn’t kill you, would it?”

He said nothing, but she could have sworn his eyes narrowed even further, if that was possible.

“Brr.  Did you feel that?”  She made an exaggerated shiver.  “I think the temperature in this hallway just dropped by about thirty degrees.  Happens every time I come by here.  How do you do that?”

“Thank you for my mail.  Are we done here?”

“Almost.”  Aimee thrust the plate of scones at him.  “These are from Gram.  She insisted.”

For a moment she thought his cool exterior thawed.  “Please thank her for me.”

“I will.”

“Good.”

“Okay, now we’re done here.”

Without another word, Doyle closed his door, leaving Aimee alone in the

hallway.

“Ah, there we go,” Aimee said aloud as she turned to go.  “Warmer in here

already.”

So… there you have it!  🙂  What do you think?

Valentine’s Day Sampling

Happy Monday!  Today I’m working on my Valentine’s Day novella, Playing Cupid, and I thought I’d share the opening excerpt with you even if it is a few months early.  🙂

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Aimee Beasley held the door open to their apartment building’s lobby for her beloved and bespectacled Gram and shook her head cheerfully as the older woman listed the many wonderful qualities possessed by her pharmacist, starting with his full head of hair and ending with his detailed knowledge of the common side effects of every medication known to humankind.

“But he’s such a nice young man—“ her grandmother protested.

“Nope.”

“I’m sure the two of you would have a lovely time getting to know each other.”

“Nope.”

Gram held a quivering hand to her heart and sighed dramatically.

“Knock it off, Gram,” Aimee said, unperturbed and shifting the bag of groceries she carried to one hand so she could dig in her pocket for her keys with the other.  “You know that won’t work on me.”

The older woman scowled, but the quiver in her hand abruptly disappeared.  “I don’t know why you insist upon turning down every young man I find for you.  I’d appreciate it if you’d keep an open mind about this sort of thing, Aimee.”

“And I’d appreciate it if you’d stop trying to pimp me out.”  Aimee finally

found her keys and pulled them out to shove the right one into their mailbox.

Pulling out the handful of envelopes and flyers inside, she closed it again and led the way to the elevator.

“But, dear, my pharmacist is really very charming.”

“Then you go out with him.”

Gram frowned at Aimee again and took the mail from her so Aimee could better balance the groceries.  “He’s barely thirty.”

Aimee let out a wolf whistle.  “My grandma, the cougar!”

“The what?”

The elevator opened, and both women stepped inside.  “It’s an older woman who likes to play with young boy-toys, Gram.  But if you do decide to bring your pharmacist home with you one day, do me a favor and put a sock on the door or something so I know not to go barging in, okay?”

“Young lady—“ Gram began, sputtering at her granddaughter as the elevator carried them up to the fourth floor.

Aimee grinned at her.

The older woman recovered her composure.  “Don’t think I’ll give up that easily.  I’ve got plenty of time on my hands and little else to do besides think about these kinds of things, you know.”

“Bring it, lady,” Aimee returned, and then planted a kiss on top of the other woman’s headful of white curls as the elevator doors opened.  “So, turkey or tuna today?” she asked as they reached their apartment door and she juggled keys and groceries again.

“Tuna.”

“Melt or mayo?”

“Melt, I think,” Gram decided, following Aimee into the apartment.  “With the cheddar, if you don’t mind.”

“Cheddar it is.  Give me five minutes to put this stuff away, and I’ll fix it.”

“Oh, dear…”

“Okay, three minutes.”  Aimee pulled open the refrigerator door and began stuffing groceries inside.  “Are you really that hungry?”

“What?  Oh no, it’s not that.”  Gram waved an envelope.  “It appears we’ve gotten another piece of Mr. Berkley’s mail mixed in with ours again.  Fifth time this month, I think.”

Aimee twitched at the sound of his name.  Actually, it was the sixth time this month.  Not all that shocking considering D. Berkley lived in apartment three-twelve and D. Beasley lived in four-twelve, but it was unfortunate all the same, because each time it meant Aimee had to go downstairs, knock on Doyle Berkley’s door, and then—she grimaced—actually speak to him.  Judging by the expression on his face every time he opened the door and saw her standing there, he enjoyed these little mail exchanges about as much as she did.

But this particular piece of mail didn’t look all that thick.  Maybe she could shove it under the door and make a break for it.  Sort of like pulling the pin from a grenade and then running.

“Dear, would you mind…?”  Gram held the letter out to her.

“Sure, Gram,” Aimee agreed, taking it and turning to go.

“Wait—here, take some scones,” her grandma said, hastily reaching into the

grocery bag for the pastries they’d picked up at the bakery minutes earlier and arranging some on a small plate.  “It’s the polite thing to do when calling on a neighbor.”

“I’m not calling on him—“

“Manners, Aimee.  You can’t go empty-handed.”

“I’m not empty-handed.  I’ve got his mail.”

But her grandma thrust the plate of scones at her anyway.  “Good neighbors are hard to come by, and Mr. Berkley is a good neighbor.”

Aimee snorted.

“He is!  He’s been very helpful to me in the past.  I don’t know why you dislike him so.”

“Because he walks around like he’s got a stick up his—“
“Aimee Elizabeth Beasley!”

“I was going to say backside,” Aimee returned piously.

“No, you were not.”

No, she wasn’t, but all Aimee said in response was, “Be back in a minute,” and then she slipped back out the door…

* * *

It’s still a work-in-progress, but…what do you think?

New Year’s In August: Excerpt Alert

I’m hard at work on the second of three novellas in a holiday series, and this one is a New Year’s story that picks up where the Christmas one left off but with Trish’s friend, Nadia.  I’d love to get your feedback on the opening scene below:

* * *

“Dear, could I possibly get you to do something for me?”

On the surface, the question seemed harmless enough, especially when the petite white-haired lady asking it looked like she could have stepped right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  When one actually knew the matchmaking schemer that lay beneath that innocent exterior, though, one learned to pay close attention before committing to anything.

And Nadia Normandy had long ago learned to pay very close attention.  Straightening from behind the Heavenly Bites display case in which she was rearranging a tray of cream puffs, she put both hands squarely on the counter and leaned forward to look the older woman straight in the eye.  Well, forward and down; Mrs. Beasley was only four foot eleven.  “Who is he, Mrs. B?”

Her customer blinked at her through enormous tortoiseshell glasses, her eyes wide with innocence.  Considering how much the huge lenses magnified her eyes, they looked very wide indeed.  “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

“Last time you asked me to do something for you with that little quaver in your voice, I wound up agreeing to a blind date with a carpet salesman who had an absolutely out-of-this-world sweating problem.  What was wrong with that poor man anyway?  Was

it something glandular?”

“My dry cleaner’s son is very nice,” Mrs. Beasley huffed with what struck Nadia

as incredibly insincere indignation.

“He used my cashmere scarf to wipe his forehead at dinner.  Twice.”

“Yes, but he did offer to get it cleaned for you at his mother’s shop for a fantastic discount.”

“Sorry, Mrs. B.”  Nadia bent down to resume working on the cream puffs.  “I can find my own dates just fine, thank you.”  She’d gotten nibbles from three different prospects this week alone due to all the holiday parties she’d attended.  A hunky physical trainer, a Latin musician with a smile to die for, and the third one—what was he again?  A dogwalker?  Dog trainer maybe?  Or maybe he just liked dogs.  All she really remembered about him was his great tan because she was impressed that he managed to maintain it so well despite it being the middle of winter.  Well, maybe she was more curious than impressed.

The fact that his tan was the only memorable thing about him was a bad sign, though.  She’d give him the benefit of the doubt and one date, but somehow she suspected there wouldn’t be a second one.

“Pretty thing like you?  Of course you don’t need help finding somebody.”  And yet it was impossible to miss the glance Mrs. Beasley gave to the ringless finger on Nadia’s left hand, especially since her eyes were magnified to twice their normal size by her tremendous lenses.

Nadia raised one eyebrow to let her know that she understood exactly what that look meant but chose not to comment.

“And anyway,” the older woman continued, “that wasn’t the kind of favor I was

going to ask of you.”

“No?”

“No.”

Closing up the display case, Nadia returned her attention to Mrs. Beasley.  “So there’s no man involved in this favor whatsoever?”

“Well…”

Now Nadia raised both eyebrows.  “Uh huh, that’s what I thought.”

“It is not what you think.  You see, the young man who handles all of my financial matters for me is a sweet boy, but he’s also rather…awkward.”

“Awkward?”

“Socially speaking, yes.  You see, Benji—“

“Benji?  This guy is named after a dog?  And he’s an accountant—oh, Mrs. B…”  Shaking her head, Nadia reached for a cloth and began wiping down the counter.

“Benji is short for Benjamin actually, but Benji really suits him better.  You’ll see what I mean when you meet him.”

“Mrs. B, I am not going out with your accountant.”

“I’m not asking you to see him socially, dear, I’m asking you to…to educate him.”

Nadia blinked and stopped wiping the counter.  “Educate him?  In what, scones and shortbread?”

“In social niceties, particularly in regards to women.  How to talk to them, where to meet them, that sort of thing.”  Mrs. Beasley patted Nadia on the hand.  “You’re so

good with people, dear.  You’d be a natural at this!”

“At teaching a man how to pick up women?  Mrs. B, what exactly do you think I

do when I go out?”

“Who better to teach a man what women want than a woman?”

It was hard to argue with that.  Still, the prospect of becoming a dating coach to a complete stranger was about as appealing as a second date with the uber-moist carpet salesman.  “What about asking your granddaughter?  She’s not exactly shy with other people.  Why not have her do it?”

Mrs. Beasley fidgeted and cleared her throat.  “Aimee is… unconventional.  I’m not sure she’d be the best person to give Benji advice on dating.”

Unconventional.  That was a good word for Aimee.  The girl was probably a few years younger than Nadia, somewhere in her mid-twenties, and she had come to live with her grandmother a few months ago.  In that short time, she’d gone from blonde to redhead to jet-black hair with red streaks.  Nadia tried to picture Aimee even in the same room as an accountant and failed.  “Fair enough.”

“Then you’ll do it?”

Nadia couldn’t hold back a wince.  “Mrs. B—“

“Please, dear?  It’s for a good cause, I promise.”

“Is this because Trish is dating Ian now, and you want a matchmaking project?” Nadia asked, referring to her best friend and business partner.  “Who’s next on your list, your pharmacist?”

“No,” Mrs. Beasley replied without a moment’s hesitation.  “My hairdresser.”

Nadia started to laugh and then stopped as she realized the other woman was

serious.  “Wait—you actually do have a list?”

“Never mind that, dear.  Now, Benji works nine to five most days, so it would

probably be best if you met him after work.”

“Hang on, I never said I’d—“

“Please, dear?  At my age, I have so few pleasures left, and who knows how much time I even have at all, really.”  The quaver was back in Mrs. Beasley’s voice, and she let one wrinkled hand hover tremulously over her heart as if it might give out on her within the next three seconds.

It was blatant manipulation, Nadia thought.  It was also very effective.  “Mrs. B,” she groaned, pleading.

“You could consider it a Christmas present to me.”

“I gave you your favorite homemade lemon tarts as your Christmas present!”

The old woman let both hands tremble over her heart now.

“Shame on you,” Nadia muttered, folding her arms across her chest and frowning but also slumping against the back counter in defeat.

Mrs. Beasley beamed at her.  “I think the best thing would be for you two to meet at that charming little coffee shop on Third and Oakdale,” she told Nadia, the quaver in her voice vanishing as quickly as it had appeared.  “It’s midway between both of your workplaces.”  Reaching into her purse with a hand that was as steady as a rock, she pulled out a little slip of paper and handed it to Nadia.  “Here’s the address along with Benji’s phone number.  I’ll tell him to expect you.”

“What?  Mrs. B, it’s Christmas Eve!”

“You’re right,” Mrs. Beasley agreed after a moment’s consideration.  “Silly me.  I

suppose the day after Christmas is more reasonable.”

“The day after Christmas—“ Nadia sputtered, incredulous.

The older woman’s lip quivered.  “I just thought it would be so nice to help Benji start the new year off right, and—and—“  Her hand found its way to her heart again.

“All right, fine, Mrs. B.  I’ll do it.  But you know, woman, you really ought to be regulated by the federal government.  I’ll bet you can squeeze out tears on command, can’t you?”

Mrs. Beasley only patted Nadia’s hand again.  “How does five o’clock sound?”

“Like emotional blackmail, but other than that, fine.”

“Lovely.  Then I’ll just take a dozen of those gingerbread men, and I’ll be on my way.”

Scooping up the requested treats and putting them in a bag, Nadia rang them up and handed them over.  “I don’t even have the first idea of what to say to this guy, you know.”

“You’ll think of something wonderful, dear, I just know it.”

“Mrs. B?”

The woman paused with her hand on the door.  “Yes?”

“Am I on that list of yours?”

“Merry Christmas, dear,” was all Mrs. Beasley called out in response as she stepped out into the wintry weather.

Nadia stared after her.  “Girl,” she said aloud to herself in the empty bakery, “I have the distinct feeling that you are in deep trouble.”

* * *

So…what do you think?

Excerpt From The Bargain

I was in the middle of proofreading my second manuscript, The Bargain, today and I thought, “Oh, hey–I could actually post an excerpt of this on my site now.”

So I did.  Or at least I think I did.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I link things properly with WordPress, so if you click on “The Bargain Excerpt” and instead of taking you to part of my book it takes you to pictures of shirtless male models, I have no idea how that happened.

Honest.

🙂

Work In Progress

Crimson Romance is looking for short stories for some collections of holiday romances, and I’m tempted to throw my hat into the ring even though shorter stories aren’t my area of expertise.  Well, I’m not sure that longer stories are either, but at least I’ve published a couple of those.  🙂

So I’m working on one to submit for the Christmas collection, and it’s about a woman who encounters someone who used to pick on her in junior high and now years later doesn’t seem to recognize her.  At first she plans on chewing him out, but through a few twists and turns, she realizes he’s not at all the same person he used to be and that he also had a much sadder past than she ever knew.  She also realizes that she’s starting to really like the man he is now.

So what do you think?  Former bullies aren’t traditionally romantic heroes, but I always like a little redemption in a story, and that’s what I’m aiming for here.  Plus Christmas is a great time to celebrate forgiveness, too.

Here’s the opening scene:

It was probably inviting the worst kind of karma to be contemplating murder during the holiday season of all times, but that didn’t phase Trish Ackerly in the slightest as she stared through her bakery’s storefront window in shock.

It was him.  Ian Rafferty, bane of her junior high school existence.  She’d know that face anywhere, despite the changes in it.  Sure, he was a couple of feet taller now and certainly broader shouldered, but as he glanced away from the winter scene she had painted on the window only yesterday and at a passing car that whizzed by much too fast on the busy city street, the profile he presented to her confirmed it.  Yes, it was him.  That same nose, the odd little scar above his eye, the familiar way he quirked his lips…

Her eyes narrowed.  Ian Rafferty.  That miserable, mean-spirited little—

Then he turned his face back to the window, and Trish gasped and dropped to the floor before he could spot her staring at him.

“What on earth are you doing?” came Nadia’s voice from behind the counter.

Trish huddled behind a tall metal trash can and glanced up through her dark bangs at her startled friend and business partner only to remember belatedly that they had company in the shop, namely wizened little Mrs. Beasley, whose startled eyes blinked at her from behind enormous tortoise-shell spectacles.

Well, there was little help for it now.  “That guy,” Trish hissed, jerking one

thumb in the direction of the window.  “I know him!”

Both Nadia and Mrs. Beasley peered intently through the glass.  “Mmm,” said Nadia appreciatively a moment later.  “Lucky you, girlfriend.”

“No, not lucky me!  That guy made my life a living hell in junior high.  He’s a jerk, he’s a bully—“

“He’s coming in here, dear,” Mrs. Beasley interrupted her, with obvious interest in her voice.

With a squeak of alarm, Trish shuffled hastily behind the counter on her hands and knees and hunched into as small and inconspicuous a ball as she could.

Nadia blinked.  “Trish, are you out of your—“
“Sh!”

“Oh, you did not just shush me—“

“SHH!” Trish insisted again, knowing full well that she’d pay for it later, and then she pulled her head down into her shoulders as much as her anatomy would allow.

The bell on the door jangled cheerfully then, and a gust of cold air heralded Ian Rafferty’s arrival.

“Hi, there,” Nadia greeted him brightly, surreptitiously giving Trish’s foot a little dig with one of her own.  “Welcome to Heavenly Bites.  What can I get for you?”

“Cup of coffee would be great for starters,” came a voice that was deep but soft, and far less reptilian than Trish expected.  She cocked her head slightly to better catch his words and heard the unmistakable sound of him blowing on his hands and rubbing them together to warm them.  “Cream, no sugar.”

“Sure thing, honey.”

“Your window art,” his voice continued, and Trish straightened ever so slightly at the mention of her work.  “It’s fantastic.  Can I ask who painted it?”

“Absolutely,” Nadia returned, turning her attention to getting the coffee he requested.  “My business partner, Trish.”

“Is she around, by any chance?”

Nadia glanced down at where Trish sat scrunched up and did what Trish thought was a very poor job of suppressing a smirk.  “She’s, um, indisposed at the moment.  Why do you ask?”

“I’ve got a couple of windows that could use a little holiday cheer.  Think she might be interested in the job?”

Nadia gave Trish another brief sideways glance.

Trish shook her head frantically.

“Tell you what.  Leave me your number, and we’ll find out.”  Nadia stepped out of reach before Trish could smack her leg.

“Great, thanks.  Here’s my card.”

“I’ll see that she gets it, Mr.—“  Nadia glanced at the card.  “—Rafferty.  Here’s your coffee, and you, sir, have a very nice day.”

The bell on the door jingled again, and Trish cautiously poked her head up long enough to verify that Ian was indeed gone.  She then ignored the fascinated look Mrs. Beasley was giving her and fixed an icy stare on Nadia.  “I’m going to kill you.  How could you do that?”

Nadia tossed her dark braids over her shoulder.  “Hmph.  Shush me in my own shop…”

“I don’t want to talk to that guy!  I don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

“He seemed nice enough to me,” her friend returned, shrugging unapologetically.  “And easy on the eyes, too.”

“And single,” put in Mrs. Beasley eagerly, one wrinkled hand fluttering over her heart.  “No wedding ring.”

“Of course there’s no ring!  No woman wants to marry the devil!”  Trish sank back down onto the floor and leaned back heavily against the shelves behind her.

“He used to be the devil,” Nadia corrected her, examining the business card he had handed to her.  “Now he’s ‘Ian Rafferty, Landscape Architect’.  And he’s a paying customer, Trish.  Face it, you could use the money.”

“Forget it.  I’m not so hard up that I’d go crawling to Ian Rafferty for a job.”  Trish scowled and folded her arms across her chest.  “I have my dignity, you know.”

“Yeah?  Why don’t you get up off the floor and tell me all about your dignity.”

“Oh, shut up,” Trish muttered, getting to her feet and snatching the card from Nadia’s hand.  Wadding it up, she tossed it in the direction of the trashcan and stalked into the bakery’s kitchen.

*     *    *

So what do you think?