Monday, February 19, 2018

I've got a new book coming out in a few weeks so thought I'd post some sample chapters for you to check out. It's Falling for Mr. No Way in Hell, book 3 in the Falling for Mr. Wrong series. Hope you enjoy! It's available for pre-order and releases March 13.

Chapter One

Lacy Caldwell secured her long, tawny hair into a loose side braid, pulled her goggles over her bright green eyes, then tugged on the iridescent teal mermaid tail that had, like it or not, become an appendage she’d gotten oddly attached to over the past year. Since last January, Lacy had been supplementing her income to pay for grad school by working as a mermaid at a cheesy roadside tiki bar in the small town of Verity Beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
At first she simply took the job because it was a job to be had. She’d never aspired to be a freak attraction to tourists looking for a good laugh while getting drunk over too many beers. But then she surprised herself by finding out she kinda loved both the job and the quirky group of people who she worked alongside at the Mermaid’s Purse, too.
This included 87-year old Edna Dingleheimer, who’d been pounding out customers’ favorite tunes on the electric keyboard four nights a week since the year John Kennedy was assassinated. Despite her one-of-a-kind appearance (bleached-blond beehive hairdo, Coke bottle-thick eyeglasses, knuckles knobbed with arthritis, dressed in a grass skirt over a pair of blue jeans), Edna’s presence always took second fiddle to the main attraction: two mermaids who each night dallied in a swimming pool on the other side of a large picture window that overlooked the dark, dank bar of the Mermaid’s Purse.
Sometimes Lacy could relate to how a stripper must feel, having leering eyes laser-focused on you for sometimes hours at a time. Even though she was, for all intents and purposes, far more dressed than a stripper. That said, the coconut shell bra wasn’t exactly a turtle neck, and she had large enough breasts that they couldn’t help but spill out a little bit from the tiny confines of those hard cups.
At first she’d felt self-conscious in her low-cut tail and coconut bikini top, but soon she realized it was sort of fun to get paid (and earn some pretty generous tips) to just flipper around a swimming pool for several hours a night. Since the pool was indoors, they weren’t exposed to the elements, which was a huge plus. The biggest downside was sheer boredom: you could only do so much in a mermaid tail—a few underwater flips here, a handful of turns there, a couple of tail slaps with whatever other mermaid was on duty that night, and maybe send some seductive bubble kisses to the people at the bar, and then you had to get creative. Thank goodness she had to surface for air every twenty seconds or so, just for the change of scenery.
Often Lacy stuck around after work to chat with her co-workers. She adored the owner, Vera Cosmopolous, a seventy-something Greek American woman who made it her life’s goal to fatten Lacy up, even though Lacy felt plenty fattened enough already, thanks.
“Here,” Vera said, sliding a plate with grilled pita and baba ganoush, an eggplant and tahini dip, toward Lacy, who had to admit she was starved after swimming around in the pool for four hours. “This will be good for you and will help you get over that stupid man.”
The stupid man she was referring to was her now ex-boyfriend, Billy Crapple. Yes, that was his name, deservedly so. Although Billy “What a Complete Pile of” Crapple was what she chose to call him nowadays. Lacy had devoted the past two years of her life to building a relationship with Billy, only to find out he’d been seeing not one, not two, but three different women at the same time. Three-timing Lacy. When she found that out—based on a phone call from one of the suspicious three-fers, accusing her of being the other woman, of all things—she kicked him to the curb, vowing to steer clear from men for the foreseeable future. From here on out, she was devoting herself to finishing up her degree and stockpiling money as a mermaid.
It was a good life. Or good enough, albeit a teensy bit lonely. Currently the biggest stressor in her world was that she had to attend the engagement party of her friend Carly, whose fiancé Jimmy was good friends with Billy. And the last thing Lacy wanted to do was show up dateless with him there.
“I tell you what you need, honey,” Vera said as she helped herself to the pita bread she’d proffered to Lacy. Her electric green nail polish practically glowed in the dim light of the bar as she pointed at her mermaid employee who’d become like a daughter to he. “You need to bring a man with you and show that crappy Billy Crapple you never looked back once he was in your rearview mirror.”
Lacy sighed. “Yeah sure. Great idea. But who might you suggest?” She looked around the empty bar. “I mean I could bring Stan with  me—” she nodded toward a man twice her age with a bushy moustache and a wife at home, “but that wouldn’t work on many levels.”
They both laughed at the idea. Stan just scowled at them.
“Can’t you think of any man who might go, even as a pity date?”
Lacy rolled her eyes. Just what she wanted to be: a pity date. Even though that’s precisely what she needed to find.
“I dunno,” she said. “I mean there’s this nice guy I’ve chatted with at the gym. He was next to me in yoga last week, and I’ve seen him at the other end of the room in boxing class every now and then.”
Vera shook her head. “Just as long as you didn’t see him in ballet class, I say go for it.”
“Like go for it as in, approach the guy whose name I don’t even know, and say, ‘uh, hey. I’m sort of a loser and can’t find a date and I really need one badly to taunt my cheater ex-boyfriend and, well, we did do yoga together so it’s almost as if we knew one another’?”
Vera waved her hand, dismissing the cynical suggestion. “It’s as good an approach as any. Unless you want to put an ad in the paper.”
“No one puts ads in the paper anymore.”
Vera shrugged. “Oh excuse me. Then you can put a notice in Craigslist and I’ll hope and pray you aren’t murdered in your sleep.” She clasped the cross dangling from her neck.
“Fine, I get your drift. I should just lose the shame and ask this guy. Even though I’m likely to see him every damned day at the gym, which will be perpetually humiliating if and when he turns me down.”
Vera frowned. “Humiliating is when you’re left at the altar with a bouquet of tea roses and no fiancé. I speak from experience.”
It always saddened Lacy that Vera never did marry after that episode. Instead she made the bar her life and family, and now here she should be retired and enjoying life, but with no one to share it with, she just keeps on working.
“You do know that guilt trip isn’t going to work on me, lady?” Lacy kissed Vera on the cheek.
Only it actually did work, every damned time she used that ploy. Each time Lacy thought about being alone and in her seventies, it just about prompted her to start looking for someone before she became old and lonely. Couple that with the need to prove to Billy that she’d long since moved on meant that she was indeed going to muster up the courage to ask her yoga buddy to be her date. Even if it killed her.

Chapter Two

Cameron Sanders ran his fingers through his thick, wavy, dark hair, then wiped the sweat from his brow with one of those lousy, rough gym towels that felt like sandpaper on your skin. He knew he’d been hanging at the gym too much when he started to give a care about the texture of sweat towels. This is what happens when you’re a down-on-your-luck artist making diddly squat painting caricatures of various tourists wandering around on the boardwalk.
It wasn’t as if he wanted to be a professional kitsch artist, but man, it was hard making a living selling his real paintings. It was such a mercurial business, art was. And now that the gallery he’d been featured in had shut down, he was back to practically selling shit out of the trunk of his car, which was so not how Leonardo da Vinci did it. Of course Leonardo didn’t even have a car.
Not that he was Leonardo. Or Michelangelo, for that matter. Or even whomever that person was who made the famous painting of the dogs playing poker. Perhaps he should have been doing commercial work like that and he’d not have so much free time to exercise at the gym for hours at a time.
“Hi,” he heard a voice say. “You mind if I join you?”
He looked to his right and saw no one on the machine next to him so he turned to the left and saw that pretty girl he kept seeing in yoga class—the one he dared set his mat next to last time in the hopes she’d notice him. She didn’t.
He nodded. “Go right ahead, be my guest.” He extended an arm in welcome, as if he controlled who did and did not get to use the StairMaster next to his.
He didn’t want to creep on her but he’d noticed her several times over the past month or so and it had occurred to him that if only he had a steady income and a career he could crow about, he’d have loved to ask her out on a date. But shy of a veritable overnight miracle, nothing in his life was going to change in the next, oh, forever, which meant he’d better tuck away such fantasies until he might some day be able to employ them.
He stuck his earbuds in and returned to watching last night’s episode of The Bachelor, which he only watched because, well, who wouldn’t want twenty gorgeous women fawning all over you while you drink to your heart’s content and go on awesome vacations? This was the closest he was gonna get to the fantasy.
A few minutes later he felt a tap on his shoulder. He looked over to see the woman with the deep emerald-green eyes, so soothing and damp they reminded him of a cool pine forest in the summertime. Last time her hair was in a high ponytail but this time it was braided down her back. Either way it made him think how amazing it would be to have a firm grip on that hair of hers as he watched her mouth wrapping slowly around his cock. Which was jumping the gun a bit, since he hadn’t even mustered up the courage to introduce himself, let alone invite her on a date. Nor would he, not with his depleting bank account and failing artistic career.
He glanced over at the woman who was sort of waving and using some sign language to communicate with him. He removed an ear bud.
She smiled. “Oh, god, I’m so sorry to bother you, but I just noticed you were watching The Bachelor and I totally missed it last night and wanted to watch it now but I forgot my earbuds and is there any chance you’d share one of yours with me? These things are so boring otherwise with nothing to watch.”
 He shrugged. Couldn’t hurt to give her one—as long as she could keep pace with him on the StairMaster. And she looked plenty fit enough to do that. In fact with those arms of hers it looked like she could kick his ass if need be and right hook him into the next century. And that ass of hers was so perfectly shaped, just right to cup his hands around. And those legs. Well, shit, it didn’t say much about him that all he could do was look at the woman and think how many different ways he might like to fuck her. Although wasn’t that how every guy was? Nothing wrong with dreaming.
He handed her his left earbud and they started climbing again and for the next twenty minutes just climbed their stairs to nowhere together while indulging in someone else’s fantasy world without actually being in it. It was all very meta.
Cameron was about ready to bail on the stair-climbing but every once in a while he got a great sidelong glimpse of her ass and that motivated him to keep on keeping on, at least for a few more minutes. Finally she tapped him on his shoulder and offered up the earbud. It made him feel a little sad that the moment was drawing to a close.
“Hey,” she said as her fingers pressed the earbud into the palm of his hand. “Thanks so much for sharing. I really appreciate it.”
He slowed down his machine till it came to a halt, then wiped his face again. “Sure thing,” he said, taking a swig of water. “I was honored to share them with you.”
She grinned. “Honored? Sheesh. I never knew it could be such a good thing for me to mooch gym supplies from someone. I’ll have to get into the habit of that more often.”
They stood facing each other behind their machines, dabbing off sweat and catching their breath.
“That thing about kills me,” she said, placing her hand on her hip as she pointed a thumb at the StairMaster.
“Right? I feel like everyone else in here isn’t getting nearly the workout we are.”
She extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Lacy. Lacy Caldwell.”
He slid his palm to hers. “Cameron Sanders. You can also call me Cam.”
“It’s great to finally meet you,” she said. “I know we’ve been in a few of the same classes together. I think you were next to me at Vinyasa yoga the other day, right? And maybe boxing too?”
He nodded. “And don’t forget Body Pump.”
They laughed.
“Clearly we have shared interests,” she said, glancing at her watch.
She shook her head. “No, not at all. I just have a class in an hour and wanted to be sure I had time to shower.”
Well, crap. Now he’s going to be obsessed with thoughts of her in the shower for the rest of the day.
“What a shame,” he said. “I was going to see if you’d like to go grab some coffee.”
She arched her brow. “Huh. Yeah, sorry, I don’t have time for that now.” She pinched her lips with her fingers as an idea emerged. “Though please forgive me if you think this is weird, but I have another idea that might be fun. Bear with me.” She held up her finger. “So, I’m only suggesting this because we’re practically family now that we’ve shared earbuds and all.” She grinned. He loved her smile, those white teeth all nice and straight and perfect.
“You’ve got my attention,” Cameron said, wrinkling his brow. “And I’m really hoping you aren’t asking me to join you to, say, visit your husband in jail.”
She shook her head and held up her hand with a barren ring finger. “Oh, trust me. No husband. No way, no how.” She dusted off her hands to get rid of that thought.
“I have to admit that’s a bit of a relief.” More than a bit, now that he’d put himself out there by asking her out for coffee.
“In that case, I hope you don’t think this is really weird of me.” She scuffed the toe of her sneakers along the carpeted gym floor as she stared downward.
“The longer you wait the bigger chance I’m going to conjure up some really bizarre scenario in my head and then that will be weirder still.”
She shook out her hands as if she was trying to wake up a sleeping limb. “Okay, here goes.” She sucked in a breath. “So, you see, I have to go to this party and this ex-boyfriend who is a total jerk is going to be there and I really just need to take someone—anyone—as long as he’s male and has a pulse, though it doesn’t hurt if he’s good-looking, so that I don’t look like a dateless loser, and I was wondering if maybe you’d be that person perhaps?”
Cameron lifted an eyebrow. He was completely amused by her half-cocked invitation.  He shook his head as if clearing his brain.
“So let me get this straight. You need a prop. To make your ex-boyfriend jealous. And I’m as a good a one as any. It’s unclear as to whether I fall into the good-looking prop category or if I’m just the man with a pulse.” He lifted his brows in question.
She squinted her eyes. “That didn’t come out so well, did it?”
He laughed and waved his hand. “Not to worry. I’ve got a tough hide, so I didn’t take it personally.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“It wasn’t rude at all. Just sort of funny. In a peculiar way.”
“Peculiar as in you’re going to humor me and be my date to Carly and Jimmy’s engagement party so that Billy Crapple can see that I’ve moved on?”
He cocked his head. “Have you moved on?”
She ski-sloped her brow. “From Billy Crapple? Hell yeah. Believe me, there was no love lost there. I was happy to be rid of him. I just don’t want him to think I can’t land a man and I need him back or something.”
He took a swig from his water bottle. “Well that’s the silliest thing I’ve heard of. Clearly,” his gaze slowly scanned her from head to toe, “You could land any man you set your sights on.”
She pointed at her red, sweaty face, strands of hair clinging to her forehead. “Yeah, especially right about now, all smelly and sweaty.”
“I can assure you no man would be turned off by a sweaty woman.” He grinned. “Quite the contrary, in fact.” He didn’t want to scare her off with being too suggestive so he diverted the conversation. “But in answer to your question, I’d love to be your pulse.”
She jumped up and clapped her hands. “Oh goody! And honestly, you’re way more than a pulse—you are one hundred percent good-looking prop material.”
Cameron had never been more thrilled to be used by a woman in his life.


Great news! Red Hot Romeo is free! A hot Italian, a gorgeous supermodel, and fabulous wines…what’s not to love?!
You can check out the first book in the Royal Romeo series for free here:

Check out my Falling for Mr. Wrong seriesFalling for Mr. Wrong,  Falling for Mr. Maybe, and Falling for Mr. No Way in Hell is now available for pre-order.

Lastly, don't forget, book one of the It's Reigning Men series, Something in the Heir, is free here!

I hope you'll have a chance to check out my Royal Romeos series, which is a spin-off of my wildly popular It's Reigning Men series--please do check them out!

Happy reading!




1 comment:

dstoutholcomb said...

love the excerpt