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Excerpt from ANY WAY YOU PLAN IT by Monique McDonell

05/06/2016 09:28

 

My author friend Monique McDonell has a new book out--read the excerpt below and get the book here!  And enter the Rafflecopter contest below.

 

 

 

Mike warned Marissa back in high school that if they kissed, she’d never get over it. He was joking, but he was also right.

Ten years later and Marissa is well and truly stuck in Mike’s friend-zone and he’s made it very clear that’s where she’s staying.  Her love-life isn’t the only part of her life that’s in a rut so when her elderly parents pack up and move South, Marissa admits it’s time to move on with her life.

With the encouragement of her friends Lucy and Cherie, the matchmaker, she updates her wardrobe and her attitude. Lucy’s engagement party is the perfect place to start fresh and find her old self again, the self that likes to dance until dawn. Mike wants Marissa to be happy and he’s convinced he’s not up to the job, but he doesn’t like watching her flirt with other men or worse, dating again. His twin brother, Todd, who is Marissa’s best friend warns him to back off, he’s had his chance.

Is this a case of not knowing what you’ve got till it’s gone? And if so what is Mike prepared to do to get Marissa back with the whole town there to offer him advice.

Will Marissa and Mike get their happily ever after or is it a case of too little too late?

 

 

Any Way You Plan It is Book 4 in The Upper Crust Series

Book 1 – Any Way You Slice It

Book 2 – Any Way You Dream It

Book 3 – Any Way You Fight It.

 

Excerpt from Any Way You Plan It

 

An hour later, she was sitting at the bar at The Pit and was on her third beer. She was tired and emotional and probably—no definitely—should have curled up in bed with a book that promised her a happily ever after.

“Hey there.” Todd Kowalski slid onto the barstool next to her. Todd was Mike’s identical twin brother and one of her oldest friends. The twins looked the same to the untrained eye, but Marissa’s eye was very well trained indeed.

“Hey, Todd. How’s it hanging?”

Marissa knew Todd had a faint scar in his right eyebrow where Mike had hit him with a Frisbee as kids. She knew that when Mike smiled the left side his mouth rose first and the reverse was true for Todd. She knew that her heart beat a bit faster near Mike and inexplicably never had near Todd.

“How’s it hanging?” He raised his eyebrows at her.

“I’m working on some new material,” she replied.

“Keep working.” He raised the beer that had been placed in front of him to her. “Cheers.”

“Good day?”

“Just work.”

The town thought Todd was a graphic designer, which he was. What they didn’t know was that he had also invented the online gaming app, Jungle Jam, and was currently worth an absolute bucket-load of money. She knew and Mike knew, and well, that was about it.

“Anything new?”

He nodded. “Yep, nearly done. I’m kind of excited.”

“Good for you,” she said, but her voice sounded flat even to her.

“You don’t seem happy tonight. Anything I can do to cheer you up?”

“I’m just in a funk. My folks are moving, I’ve wasted my twenties, and I’m a lonely librarian . . .”

“Ah, so nothing major.” He gave her a gentle shove with his elbow.

“Exactly.” She took a swig of her beer.

“What number is that, honey?” He pointed to her drink.

“Three.”

“I’ll drive you home.”

“Thanks, Todd. You really should find a nice girl to lavish your kindness on.”

“Yeah, thanks, but no thanks. I’m very happy being single and hanging out with you.”

“Who’s happy being single?” She’d know that voice anywhere. Not that she didn’t hear it practically every day. She looked over her shoulder and took him in. Dark hair, NYU sweatshirt, and jeans. Nothing that should make a girl’s heart flip, and yet hers did an elegant somersault.

“Your brother, of course.”

Mike slid onto the barstool on her other side. It was pretty standard. She was the rose between two thorns. “I see.”

They sat there in amicable silence. Or so it seemed. To the whole town, they were just three friends who hung out. It wasn’t like that, not really. Marissa had been in love with Mike for as long as she could remember, and Todd knew that as well. Meanwhile Mike, the object of her infatuation, acted, or was, oblivious. It was the routine they’d fallen into when they all drifted back to town. Not that Marissa usually drank at The Pit; that alone was out of the ordinary. She was only here because Lucy and Chase were in town. For years, she’d spent her weekends being bossed around by her mother or Patty, an old high school frenemy who bossed half the town around. Lately, she’d withdrawn even more and either went and played video games with Todd or was home with her folks.

Lucy and Chase came in with a whoosh of cool air, and they all moved over to a table.

“How is it at your mom’s?” she asked Lucy.

“It’s nice. That makes it weird in itself. I’m not used to nice.” She eyed Marissa. “Do you usually drink beer?”

“I’m trying new things.” She shrugged.

“How’s that working for you?”

“I’m on my third.” Lucy looked shocked. Even when they’d been at college together, she’d never been a beer drinker or much of a drinker at all. “Todd’s dropping me home. Don’t worry. I’m notoriously sensible.”

“I know. I’m a little worried about you,” her friend said, giving her arm a squeeze.

“I guess I just have some stuff to work out. Like who I am, what I want, and where I’m heading.”

“Just the simple stuff then?”

“That’s what Todd said.” She sighed.

 “It is going to be okay, Marissa.” Her friend patted her hand.

“Yeah, if you say so.”

 

 

About the author – Monique McDonell

I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women's fiction including chick lit and romance.

I have written all my life especially as a child when I loved to write short stories and poetry. At University I studied Creative Writing as part of my Communication degree. Afterwards I was busy working in public relations I didn't write for pleasure for quite a few years although I wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters. (And I still do in my day-job!)

When I began to write again I noticed a trend - writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.

I am the author of five stand alone novels including Mr. Right and Other Mongrels and Hearts Afire and the Upper Crust Series. Many of my novels focus on an Australian characters meeting and visiting US characters.

I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for ten years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia. In 2015 had a piece on writing chicklit featured in the successful Australian non-fiction book Copyfight.

I live on Sydney's Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter where I run a boutique PR consultancy.
 

To learn more about  my books, my writing, my caffeine obsession and my upcoming books please visit  www.moniquemcdonell.com.au.

 

Links:

Amazon author page

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Interview with Author Laina Turner

05/01/2016 14:29

 

Welcome back, Laina Turner, on her 

Necklaces & Nooses blog tour!

 

Get the book here.

 

When Presley’s boss is found hanging she thinks its suicide until the police discover its homicide. Who would want to kill a the owner of a high end women's boutique? Presley's not sure but she’s determined to find out.

 

Interview with Laina

 

What is the best dish you can cook?

My lasagna is world famous. Ok, maybe not world famous but my friends and family love it.

 

Can you fake any accents?

Not and be believable. I need to stick to my normal voice.

 

You wouldn't be caught dead, where?

In a minivan. My fiancé drives one and they are super versatile but I won best car of my high school senior class and I have to be in a hot car. You know, like a Buick.

 

Do you have any hidden talents?

None at all. Unless you count…nope. None.

 

What do you have in your pockets?

Right this minute chapstick and lint.

 

Most hated chore on the household chore list?

Grocery shopping. I despise grocery shopping. I love to eat but I wish the food would magically appear.

 

Which bad habit drives you crazy?

My son refuses to put the toilet seat down. Drives me nuts and I think of creative punishments all the time.

 

Name one thing you consider yourself to be very good at.

Household logistics. When I first had kids I was paranoid I’d forget one in the back. Now I juggle 2 kids, school, multiple sports, and their social calendars. Being a mom is the hardest job there is.

 

Name one thing you totally suck at.

Cleaning. I wasn’t meant to clean.

 

What was least favorite job that you had?

Kentucky Fried Chicken at 16. I did enjoy making biscuits but I hated smelling like chicken.

 

What is on your bedside table?

Nail file, reading glasses, pad of paper and pen, and usually a glass of wine.

 

If you could play any instrument, which would you play?

I play the guitar but not very well. I’d love to play well.

 

If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be?

Speedy Gonzales. He cracked me up as a kid.

 

Alcohol or coffee?

Yes. Oh, was I supposed to choose. I wish I could.

 

Are you a morning or night person?

I would prefer to sleep until noon and stay up until 3am but with kids I’m up at 5am and in bed by 10pm.

 

Name a singer you can't stand the sound of.

Justin Beiber.

 

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

I would totally be a trapeze artist. How cool would that be.

 

Name one thing you remember about your high school prom.

My dress which at the time I LOVED but now I am like “what was I thinking.” Got to love the 80’s.

 

What was the last thing you watched on TV?

Flip or Flop on HGTV.

 

What was the last photo you took on your phone?

Of a glass of champagne I was drinking at my bridal shower.

 

What's your favorite holiday?

Christmas by far. The decorations, the food, the pumpkin pie, and Chevy Chase in The Christmas Vacation.

 

When was the last time you fired a gun?

I was probably 10-11. My dad took me target shooting. Though it’s something I’d love to do again.

 

Author Bio
 

As a child Laina thought she would either be a truck driver (thanks to Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit) or work at Taco Bell (her favorite restaurant as a child).

As she grew older she realized her talents lay in academics and business and for the last several years has been a business consultant and college professor where she uses the analytical side of her brain and not the side that makes up stories.

Through all her career choices she has continued to have a passion for writing. This stemmed from childhood whereas an only child she developed a vivid imagination spending most of her time making things up and thinking the Incredible Hulk lived in her closet.

Proud of her vast experiences in life from barrel racing to being on the dance team for a semi pro basketball team to being a mom of 2 amazing kids, she tells her family and friends that no one is safe from their escapades slipping in to her books.

Taking the plunge to write books (cozy mysteries and chick lit) that she actually let people read in 2010, she has worked her way up to being a real author, having 5 fans (maybe 6 now). Her blog, Writing is a Lifestyle, was launched to share the daily fun in the life of a Real Housewife of the Midwest along with the musing of other fabulous ladies.

 

Links

https://www.facebook.com/LainaTurner

https://twitter.com/laina_turner

http://www.lainaturner.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13131692-necklaces-nooses

 

 

 

MUG SHOT Release Today

04/19/2016 08:55

 

My second Java Jive Series mystery,

 

MUG SHOT,

 

is now available!

 

Get it here!

 

Full of humor and suspense, the bestselling Java Jive series heats up as the irrepressible heroine of Death Before Decaf faces off against Nashville’s upper crust to solve a shocking murder.
 
Former musician Juliet Langley has barely had a day off since taking over management of the coffeehouse owned by her best friend, Pete Bennett. But there’s always more to be done—such as prepping for the annual Holiday 5K Race organized by Pete’s snobby socialite girlfriend, Cecilia Hollingsworth. This year, Java Jive has a booth right at the finish line, and since Juliet and Cecilia don’t always see eye to eye, everything has to be perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing . . . like Juliet stumbling over Cecilia’s dead body on the morning of the race.
 
When Pete is arrested for Cecilia’s murder, Juliet sets out to clear his name. She’ll do whatever it takes—even if it means standing up to the police, her ex-boyfriend, and the grande dames of Nashville. But there isn’t enough espresso in the world for the greatest challenge in her path: infiltrating Nashville’s high society to uncover the hidden hotbed of scandal without running afoul of the law herself. With her last dime staked on Pete’s bail bond and her staff growing jittery, the last thing Juliet needs is for her trademark temper to land her behind bars. As time drips away, Juliet needs to crack this case before the killer comes back for another shot.

 

LOVE this meme made by Collector of Book Boyfriends & Girlfriends!

 

 

EXCLUSIVE Excerpt of HEX ON THE BEACH by Gina LaManna

04/15/2016 10:01

 

Bestselling author Gina LaManna is bringing her fans a new series, The Magic & Mixology Mystery Series!  The debut novel, HEX ON THE BEACH, comes out April 29th.

 

Get it HERE.

 

I'm thrilled to be able to share an exclusive excerpt 

from this fantastic new series--thanks, Gina!

 

Here's your sneak peek!

 
 

Lily Locke has never believed in witches and wizards, ghosts and magic, shifters and vampires—especially cute blond vamps with blood-intolerance issues. A rising star at a hotshot marketing agency in Minneapolis, Minnesota, all Lily knows is she’s a PowerPoint guru, an Excel ninja, and a coffee-maker extraordinaire. Not to mention she’s next in line for a huge promotion.

All that changes when Lily’s assistant delivers a strange quiz to her, one titled A Magical Assessment for Normal Folks. With it comes the promise of a land Lily’s never known existed. A land where Lily not only discovers her biological family for the first time, but a place where she can make a difference, change people’s lives, and step into the role she’s destined to fulfill.

But first, Lily must admit she’s a witch. Then, she has to acknowledge that the tall, dark, and mysterious man who offers his help is strictly focused on business...at least, for now. When a body turns up dead and the next target is Lily, she must trust her powers and accept the help of her newfound friends. Otherwise, she'll never survive the trials of the magical island tucked far, far away in the frigid waters of Lake Superior. 

Welcome to The Isle.

 

Chapter 1

 

“It’s been confirmed there has been another sighting of The Isle. Nestled against the shores of the frigid Lake Superior, right off the coast of Grand Marais, we have one man who claims he’s seen the mystical island just this past weekend. Still, we’ve no record of any human stepping foot on the—”

“What does she mean by ‘no human’?” I asked, interrupting the radio program. “As opposed to what, aliens?”

My assistant scowled. “Shhh. I’m listening.”

“The Isle is rumored to have all sorts of creatures wandering its lands, traipsing The Forests beside the volcano…”

I tuned out, giving said assistant, Ainsley, a few more minutes to listen before I broke up the party.

When I couldn’t ignore it any longer, I stood and forced myself to take charge. “Okay, can we please shut it off? I can’t listen to this drivel right now. You know I don’t like to be the big, bad boss, Ains, but… this presentation is a big deal. The big deal.”

“But this show is all true,” Ainsley said. “There is an island. You know it.”

“I don’t know it. And this reporter lady is a kook!”

“I want to hear the rest of the program.” Ainsley reached for the radio, gulping the last of her virgin piña colada, a drink she said “added to the ambiance” of her weekly listening session. “Let me keep it on until the ending. Pretty please? I’ll work twenty minutes late and come in twenty minutes early tomorrow.”

“But you know the end of the show. You listen to it every week.”

“I like it.”

“You’re really telling me you believe there’s an island with magical powers nobody has ever seen? You know all these people she interviews are lying, right?”

“Ana is not lying.”

Anastasia, the host of the show, reminded me of Luna Lovegood and her belief in all things Nargles. Long blond hair, hippie skirts, big round eyes, and a belief in the unusual.

“I’m not saying Ana is a liar. I’m just saying she’s—”

“Different? What’s wrong with different?” Ainsley sat back, displaying arms streaked with tattoos and a rainbow head of hair. “Huh?”

“Nothing.” I lifted my hand from the radio. “Fine. Twenty more minutes, but I’m going for a walk. I have to get in the right mindset for tomorrow. Then shut it off, please. You’re making my job difficult.”

“I try.” Ainsley smiled, giving me a wink as she held her pink piña colada straw between her teeth and turned up the volume.

As Ana’s voice filled the room with her theories on witches and wizards, trolls and fairies, and sorts of creatures that didn’t—and could never—exist, I took off down the hallway, taking long, deep breaths.

At Lions Marketing, Inc., my official title was Senior Director of Marketing, though I was only twenty-six years old. I’d been promoted four times in as many years and wore many hats: Excel ninja, spreadsheet guru, coffee-maker extraordinaire. But after four years of grueling labor with long hours and little pay, tomorrow was my time to do or die.

After a lengthy stroll around the office, I ended up back at my desk. Shutting down my computer, I twisted my necklace into knots before I hurried out to my car, distracted by thoughts of the looming presentation.

If I aced this presentation, Lions Marketing was looking at an additional five million dollars of revenue by the end of this year, with the potential for more to come. Not only would that put us in the black for the first time, but it would line me up for my next big promotion.

If it went terribly wrong…

I didn’t want to think about that.

As I drove home, I told myself I’d practiced so many times, nothing could go wrong.

But somehow, I wasn’t convinced.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

I clicked my pencil once.

Twice.

Three times.

Standing with a sigh, I stretched my neck in a slow roll, cracked my knuckles for good measure, then strolled around the conference room and tried not to look nervous.

Where is everyone?

Stopping in front of the floor-to-ceiling window, I pretended to stare at the skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis. But instead of seeing the buildings, I double-checked my hair, which I’d done up in a tight bun for today’s special occasion. My makeup, though minimal, remained intact, and there were no coffee stains on my white shirt. Overall, a success.

Except for one thing.

An audience.

I shuffled, for the zillionth time, through my sheaf of papers and flicked through one slide after the next. I’d thought of nothing except this presentation for the last three weeks, and frankly, I wondered if I might be going a bit crazy. These slides appeared in my dreams. They haunted my shower thoughts. The grocery clerk had heard at least six percent of my presentation while I checked out last night.

My mind drifted as I scanned the surrounding tall buildings, the mini concrete jungle of the downtown Twin Cities. I loved the hustle and bustle through the skyways, the whoosh of city bus exhaust pipes, the meetings of strangers day in and day out.

Then all of a sudden, a flash in the distance caught my eye. At first glance, it looked as if a bolt of lightning had struck ground just outside the city limits. Leaning closer to the window, my nose nearly touching the glass, I squinted, trying to see if, in fact, a storm was a-brewing.

“Uh, boss?” Ainsley knocked on the door and poked her head in the room as I jumped backward, self-consciously brushing off my fanciest pencil skirt. I wore one white blouse and had brought another to the office today, just in case. She raised her eyebrows, her messy bun bobbing along with her head. A tattoo peeked out on her shoulder. “Everything okay? You know, if you’re considering jumping from the building instead of giving your presentation, there’s an easier way. The roof doesn’t have windows.”

I scrunched my nose. “That’s enough. Not now, Ainsley. The clients will be here any minute.”

“Loosen up.” Ainsley took a few steps into the room, adjusting her stylish leather jacket. “You’re way too uptight. I’ve never seen anyone prepare more for anything. You’ve got this presentation down. Remember last week when I caught you sleeping at your desk?”

I nodded. I’d worked into the wee hours of the morning making sure the graphics of my PowerPoint were spot on. Around three or four, I must have nodded off, because the next thing I knew, Ainsley was making fun of an odd glob of drool on my desk while handing me a cup of coffee.

“Yeah, well, you were reciting it in your sleep.” She handed me a slip of paper. “So relax, okay, boss? You got this.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Ains, I appreciate it.”

“Whatever.” She turned and left without a glance back.

Ainsley, a whirlwind of tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair, had stumbled into the position of my secretary years before. I’d originally hired her as a favor to my own boss, but when she proved to be whip smart and insanely creative, I not only kept her on, I promoted her and did everything in my power to keep her around.

We were polar opposites. My hair was jet black and fastened in a tight chignon, and I wore black and gray and white almost exclusively. I had not a tattoo in sight, and I’d never even considered highlighting my hair. But I liked her because she wasn’t afraid to tell me when I was being crazy.

Like now.

Except—I wasn’t crazy.

Where were they?

Remembering the slip of paper in my hand, I glanced down, expecting it to be a memo that the group was running late. Rush-hour traffic had held up more than one client meeting, so I wouldn’t be surprised, except… it wasn’t a note from Ainsley.

It was a quiz. Some sort of strange, bizarro magic test.

“What in the world?” I read the note once, twice, three times. I walked across the room and opened the door then shouted down the hall, “Ainsley? What is this?”

Ainsley, however, was long gone—probably out for a smoke break.

One more glance around the lobby told me the client hadn’t yet arrived. I reread my presentation one more time, but even in my head I was beginning to sound like a cardboard cutout. I turned my attention to Ainsley’s note and found myself shaking my head.

This must be her idea of a joke, something to get me to loosen up so I’d be more go with the flow for the meeting. It was sweet, in Ainsley’s unique style.

I clicked my pencil once more and doodled in the corner while I read the quiz.

 

Magic Assessment for Normal Folks

Have you ever found yourself wondering if you are a witch? If so, now is your chance to find out in ten easy questions!

 

Have you experienced one (or more) strange happenings that are impossible to explain with science?

*No, I’m a completely boring fuddy-duddy, and nothing interesting happens

*Yes, but I pretend it didn’t happen

 

What color are your knickers?

*Hot Pink

*Glittery

*Get out of town, they’re called underwear.

*Why wear underwear, anyway?

 

Did you wash your socks this week?

*Yes

*No

*I’m a barefoot beauty

 

Do you believe in magic?

*Duh, I’m a witch

*Magic is nonsense

 

The questions continued, all just as silly as the first few. Ainsley had succeeded in getting a smile out of me, I thought as I skimmed the rest of the article. But she’d forgotten a key, or a point system, or some way to tally my answers.

I circled random responses, as outrageous as I could get, planning to tuck it under Ainsley’s keyboard to show her that I had a sense of humor, and I wasn’t a total fuddy-duddy.

But when I got to the bottom, one of the lines caught me off guard.

 

** ** Surprise** **

If you can read this quiz, you are a witch. To everyone else, this piece of paper looks like a picture of David Hasselhoff in a polka-dot bikini.

So congratulations! You have magic in your blood. We’ll be in touch soon!

 

** ** Sincerely, Members of The Isle ** **

 

My pencil hovered over the page.

“Clever girl,” I muttered. Even Ainsley’s jokes were witty, not the average “tape-the-bottom-of-your-mouse” prank. I’d have to get her back good for this one…

My blood froze as someone cleared their throat behind me and an unfamiliar voice said, “Ms. Locke?”

I turned to see a dapper gentleman looking uber-professional in an expensive suit, tie, and polished shoes extend his hand. His eyes glanced toward the witchy quiz on the table before sliding back to mine.

“Hello, Mr. Davenport, it’s good to finally meet you in person. I’m Lily, Lily Locke.” I gestured toward the table where the paper sat in clear view, my cheeks warm with a furious blush. “My assistant thought she’d play a cute joke on me.”

“Cute?” A woman appeared next to Mr. Davenport. She too wore an expensive, form-fitting business suit and high heels that stated elegant. “I consider that rude. David Hasselhoff, didn’t he go to rehab? And why on earth is he wearing that bathing suit? He must be drunk again.”

My mind went blank. “Excuse me? David…”

“Your photo.” The woman sniffed. “I’d have my secretary fired if she considered something like that humorous.”

The hairs on the back of my neck prickled at her stuffy tone. Whether or not Ainsley should have tried to lighten the mood, the woman didn’t need such an attitude. Ains hadn’t meant any harm.

“She was just trying to make me smile,” I said. “It’s a joke quiz.”

“Quiz?” The woman furrowed her brow. “That’s not a quiz. It’s a raunchy photo. I’m all for a joke, but this…”

Mr. Davenport glanced at the photo, but he looked away just as fast. The tinge of red in his ears told me he was embarrassed by whatever he’d seen. He ran a hand through his gray hair. “Well, should we begin?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” I said, relieved.

I flipped the quiz over, still wondering how on earth Ainsley had pulled off that trick. I’d really need to have a word with her. A pretend quiz was one thing, but a rude photo that offended our potential clients was another entirely.

I focused on the presentation, pushing the odd events out of my mind. Grabbing water and coffee for everyone, I waited as another six or seven people filtered into the conference room. Eventually, my boss arrived as well and gave me a curt nod, his face stern as usual.

I nodded back, my nerves ramping up. Taking a couple deep breaths, I paused before holding up the clicker for the presentation.

“Welcome, and thank you for coming this morning.” I remembered to smile at the last minute, forcing myself to remain loose as Ainsley had cautioned. My fingers trembled slightly as I depressed the button to begin the first slide.

“Here at Lions Marketing, we provide the best, the most thorough, the most effective strategies in the industry. As our name suggests, we are the king of the marketing jungle, and…” My voice faltered as I glanced from one face to the next.

Not a single person was paying attention to me.

My first slide didn’t contain anything interesting on it, nothing at all except for our company name and logo—a roaring lion. Yet everyone was staring with rapt attention at the screen. As if it were David Hasselhoff in a polka-dot bikini.

My boss’s mouth hung open in an unflattering manner, which most certainly meant bad news. He looked surprised. And shocked. My boss was never surprised. I’d once told him a tornado had touched down five minutes away, and he hadn’t flinched.

Sensing something had gone terribly, terribly wrong, I made a slow turn until I faced the screen. Then my face fell slack. I dropped the clicker. And I squinted.

“What is that?” I asked in a hushed tone.

On the screen, what should have been our logo had completely disappeared. Er, sort of disappeared. The lion from our logo looked as if it’d come to life in a 2-D image, prancing around the screen, opening its mouth in silent roars, swishing its tail.

“Is this another joke?” The stuffy woman crossed her arms, but I didn’t sense as much hostility. More curiosity than anything else.

Join the club. I had no idea what was happening on the slide, and curiosity didn’t begin to explain it.

“No, uh, we here at Lions Marketing are all about new, out-of-the-box, forward-thinking marketing.” My boss stood, giving me a quick glare before putting on his “business hat” and facing the clients.

How he remained so calm, so collected, I had no idea. I was quivering in my knock-off boots.

“Do tell,” the woman said. “I don’t understand.”

“It captured your attention, did it not?” My boss gestured to the screen where, at the moment, the lion had apparently decided to take a leak on the company name.

I winced. Poor time for a bathroom break.

“We will catch your consumer’s eye like nobody before. I can guarantee that our tactics are on the cutting edge of the industry. Studies in China right now are proving that this sort of viral marketing is what’s new and hot.” My boss gave me another quick glare.

Lucky thing he was there, because I’d never have come up with that fake China study. That was probably the same reason he was my boss, and I was one of many minions below him.

“Interesting,” Mr. Davenport said, taking over for his female counterpart. “And how do you see this helping us?”

“Well, I will let Lily move on with her presentation. I know she has a wonderful explanation ready for you with plenty of numbers and graphs. Right?” My boss turned to me. “Lily?”

“Right.” I jumped to attention. “Next.”

I clicked the clicker but immediately regretted the move. Instead of advancing the slide, the click seemed to only anger the cartoonish lion. Lions Marketing’s logo turned toward us with an all-too-realistic expression and roared at the crowd.

Except this time, the animal wasn’t silent.

I felt the breeze, smelled the breath from the lion as the roar nearly deafened the room.

“I’m sorry about that,” I said, clicking the clicker once more.

This time, the click enlarged the lion’s figure. He grew to half the size of the screen, his roars growing louder and louder.

“Lily, what is this?” My boss’s tone was furious. In his defense, he had a pretty good reason to be upset.

“I don’t know! This isn’t my PowerPoint. I’ve gone through this a million times, you’ve seen me,” I said with a horrified glance at my boss. “I don’t know what’s happening or how to get rid of it.”

“Shut it off.” My boss’s tone was clipped, and I was sure that neither he nor I missed the raised eyebrows of Ms. Stuffy Bottoms in the corner.

“I’m trying!” But every time I clicked the power button, the lion grew larger, roared louder, and altogether became more animated.

“I’m leaving.” Ms. Stuffy Bottoms stood, nodding at Mr. Davenport. “I do not enjoy the idea of threatening my target audience with our marketing.”

“It’s not what you think, it’s…” I raised and lowered my shoulders, unable to explain it.

“A joke?” The woman raised her eyebrows. “I’m not sure if that’s better or worse, but either way, I won’t tolerate it. I’m sorry, but I have a lot of money at stake, and with this sort of showing, I can’t possibly put my money in your hands.”

Mr. Davenport followed the woman without question. On the way out, his eyes met my boss’s gaze, and he murmured, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, Fred. Maybe next time.”

The rest of the crew filtered out, none of them making eye contact with me, most of them nodding sadly at my boss. When it was just him and me left, I limply raised one hand.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened.” I looked at the floor. “Er… are you going to say something?”

My boss’s silence bordered on murderous.

I cleared my throat. “You know, I never knew your name was Fred, Mr. Roberts.”

I had no idea where that observation had come from, or why it’d just popped out of my mouth. My legs trembled, my fingers shook, tears pricked my eyes—all signs my nerves were shot. Apparently that toyed with my ability to say appropriate things.

“Get your things.” Mr. Roberts’s voice rumbled throughout the room with a menacing tone I hadn’t known he possessed. “You’re fired.”

I hung my head. Ainsley would’ve fought back, argued that it wasn’t her fault. Part of me wanted to lash out at Fred, tell him this wasn’t my PowerPoint, that someone had screwed with me, played an unfair joke that had gone sour. Maybe it was Leslie from down the hall—she’d been angling for my job for a while. Or Sarah from one floor up—she’d been hankering for a promotion for months.

But I couldn’t find it in myself to blame anyone else. I’d put my blood, sweat, and tears into this presentation, and it couldn’t have gone worse. I could barely process what had happened, let alone form cohesive thoughts or argue my point. No, for now, I needed to lick my wounds and figure out what to do next.

 

Hooked?  Preorder your copy now! 

 

 

Gina LaManna is the bestselling author of the Lacey Luzzi Mafia Mysteries, The Little Things romantic suspense series, and the Misty Newman Mystery Series. Stop on by and say hello on Facebook! We've got lots of giveaways and an author takeover - coming soon! 

Links: 

 https://www.facebook.com/authorginalamanna

http://www.ginalamanna.com/

Fun facts about Gina: I love cappuccino foam and whipped cream. I would live off sprinkles if possible. I have one imaginary dog. Laughing is my favorite :)

 

 

 

Guest Post and Excerpt by Laina Turner

04/11/2016 19:39

 

Welcome author Laina Turner to my blog today for a guest post and an excerpt from STILETTOS AND SCOUNDRELS

 

First, I want to give a big thanks to Caroline for letting me visit her blog and share my thoughts on how I keep my characters fresh.

My Presley Thurman series has 10, soon to be 11, books in the series and it can be hard to make sure not to write about the same things over and over. Especially, when you’re as forgetful as I am.

While people enjoy book series because they like the familiarity they bring, readers also want their familiar characters to experience new things.

As anyone reading this post knows life as we all live it is rarely the exact same from week to week. My books are the same way in the aspect that there are parts that are routine. Presley is always going to overindulge in coffee and good food, but I make sure there are enough differences to keep people wanting to read.

Presley’s life is a secondary storyline to the mystery element so it moves at a slower pace. Which I feel is typical of our normal lives. Most mystery books span a short time frame and it would seem odd if Presley’s personal life was at warp speed over and over. That’s the main difference of a series versus a stand alone. You can speed up the timeline in a stand-alone book because you want closure at the end. In a series, you can continue a particular thread for a few books.

From a technical perspective, I make sure I track the plots and character development aspects of each book so I don’t have 5 murders all the same 5 books in a row. From a creative standpoint, I am always writing down things I run across that happen to me, my friends, things my imagination brings me to use in stories. Since I rarely (ok never) come across murders, kidnappings, or the criminal element that is all my imagination but many of the circumstances leading up to and around these invented incidents are real.

Life IS stranger than fiction.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Blurb

Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?

 

Excerpt from STILETTOS AND SCOUNDRELS

I took a sip of my latte, which was surprisingly good, and let my mind wander. I looked around the Coffee Café at the other customers, wondering if I would see a familiar face.

I noticed—of all people—Helen Daniels, the wife of Senator Tom Daniels, talking to a much younger man I didn’t recognize. Helen was even more attractive in person than she was in her pictures. I hadn’t seen her in person for years. Older than me by about ten years, I hadn’t known her personally and since Tom was elected senator, they spent most of their time in Washington, according to my mom.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Helen Daniels arguing with a man in her booth. Now that was interesting. Maybe I could pick up some juicy gossip to share with Katy. The man looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place him. I wished there was someone here I could ask, and then it hit me, I thought the guy was Tobey Stone. He was the younger brother of a guy named Chris, who was in my grade back in high school. I wondered what he could have to argue about with someone like Helen Daniels.

As I contemplated my next step, a familiar face came into the coffee shop. Another high school buddy, Dirt Robinson, whose real name was Derrick. After eating dirt on a dare in fifth grade, he was given the nickname and it stuck, making him the coolest kid in junior high. I wondered if he still went by Dirt. I couldn’t fathom calling him anything else, but as an adult, I was sure it had lost some of its coolness. As he walked up to the counter, he saw me sitting at the table, broke into a wide smile, and strolled over.

“Look what the cat dragged in. To what do we owe this honor that you would grace us with your presence?” Dirt said to me with a mock bow.

I squealed and gave him a hug. Always great friends back in the day, we had lost touch. Last I had heard he was in the army. “It’s so good to see you, Dirt. Just visiting the family. What are you up to these days?”

“Look at me, sister! I’m the law,” he said with arrogance, though I knew he was joking. I took a closer look at him and noticed he was wearing a sheriff’s uniform. Finally, proof that something around this town had changed, or maybe proof the town was going crazy.

“Are you freaking kidding me? You, a cop? They must have been desperate.”

In our past lives, Dirt had run with the rowdy crowd, spending more time partying, causing trouble, and breaking the law than worrying about other people doing the right thing. I was shocked that he was a cop now. Nothing could have surprised me more. I would have guessed that he’d end up in jail, not running the jail. I was mostly kidding. He wasn’t that bad, but this was a stretch for the Dirt I had known.

“Not just a cop, Presley, but an elected official. That means they wanted me,” he said in a manner that I first took to be joking, but after looking at his face I saw he was dead serious. “Since I know how a juvenile delinquent’s mind works, I can figure them out. It makes me effective at my job.” He laughed. Having been one himself, I could see how this might now work to his advantage. “Besides, not much serious crime happens here, so I have a lot of time to fish. And you have to admit the uniform looks good on me.” He preened for me.

I laughed. “Still the same conceited jerk, I see. You don’t look half bad, Dirt, but Erik Estrada is still the sexiest cop,” I teased.

“C’mon, Pres, you’re breaking my heart. How can you not find me drop–dead gorgeous?” he said with exaggerated bravado.

I agreed that he looked good in his uniform. His lanky frame had filled out, giving him a sinewy hardness. Just less than six feet tall, he had beautiful curly black hair, which had been long in high school and was now cut short, military style. And the most beautiful blue eyes. “So, are you on duty now?” I asked. “Or can you stay for a while?”

“I thought we could catch up.”

“Of course. I have about thirty minutes.”

“Wow, a whole thirty minutes,” I joked.

“Why? Planning on speeding on your way out of town?”

“Senator Daniels is in town for some big speech which has us all hopping.”

“Yeah, I saw Helen talking to Tobey Stone. They were arguing about something.”

“He was probably trying to convince her not to go public with the knowledge of Tom’s latest affair.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Tobey is the Senator’s assistant and the Senator, he’s a womanizer,” Dirt said, and I could see his jaw clench.

“And you seem mad about that? Why do you care?”

“I just don’t like him. Thinks we all should jump to do his bidding.”

Before I could ask any more questions, his radio went off.

“That’s my cue. I need to head out,” he said. “Good to see you.”

“Back at ya. Glad to know who to call if I get in trouble,” I said, with a teasing tap on his shoulder.

 

 

 

Author Bio
 

As a child Laina thought she would either be a truck driver (thanks to Jerry Reed in Smokey and the Bandit) or work at Taco Bell (her favorite restaurant as a child).

As she grew older she realized her talents lay in academics and business and for the last several years has been a business consultant and college professor where she uses the analytical side of her brain and not the side that makes up stories.

Through all her career choices she has continued to have a passion for writing. This stemmed from childhood whereas an only child she developed a vivid imagination spending most of her time making things up and thinking the Incredible Hulk lived in her closet.

Proud of her vast experiences in life from barrel racing to being on the dance team for a semi pro basketball team to being a mom of 2 amazing kids, she tells her family and friends that no one is safe from their escapades slipping in to her books.

Taking the plunge to write books (cozy mysteries and chick lit) that she actually let people read in 2010, she has worked her way up to being a real author, having 5 fans (maybe 6 now). Her blog, Writing is a Lifestyle, was launched to share the daily fun in the life of a Real Housewife of the Midwest along with the musing of other fabulous ladies.

Links

https://www.facebook.com/LainaTurner

https://twitter.com/laina_turner

http://www.lainaturner.com/

http://amzn.to/1RMBs9B

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9835619-stilettos-scoundrels

 

Follow Laina's CLP Blog Tour:  http://www.clpblogtours.com/2016/04/book-blitz-stilettos-scoundrels-by.html

 

 

MURDER AT THE BAKE OFF by Zanna Mackenzie is now available

04/09/2016 08:58

 

Congrats to Zanna Mackenzie on the release of her latest book in the Celebrity Mysteries (Lizzie and Jack) series, MURDER AT THE BAKE OFF!  I've read this one already and loved it.

 

Get your copy here.

 

 

Murder At The Bake Off  (Celebrity Mystery Book 3)

Lizzie Carter would love nothing more than to enter and win the Grand Bake-Off competition at this year’s Delamere Baking Festival, setting her on the way towards fulfilling her secret and special quest, but there’s just one problem—she’s a mediocre baker at best. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, this year’s celebrity judge, Cherry Bakewell, is found dead with a poisoned cupcake in her hand before the festival even kicks off. Even worse, Lizzie’s fiancé Jack, a private investigator and appointed security consultant for the festival, was the one who found Cherry dead, and the police are treating him as a suspect.

As if her life wasn’t crazy enough before, juggling two jobs and organising her wedding, now Lizzie, determined to clear Jack’s name, has to add tracking down a murderer to her To-Do list, as well.

Will the police haul Jack in for further questioning, leaving Lizzie to tackle the case all on her own? Can she hunt down the real murderer before they strike again? Should Lizzie just ditch her ridiculous baking dreams right now before her dreadful cakes become the laughing stock of the festival?

 

About Zanna:

I live in the UK (Derbyshire/ Leicestershire border) with my husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that's home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is my 'day job' but, at every opportunity, I can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel I'm working on. I love it when the characters in my novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot.

I enjoy walking the dogs, gardening and reading.

If you'd like to get a FREE book from me simple head to my website at: www.zannamackenzie.co.uk

 

 

 

DEATH BEFORE DECAF is a USA TODAY BESTSELLER

03/31/2016 09:12

 

In probably the biggest news of my writing career, 

DEATH BEFORE DECAF became a 

USA TODAY BESTSELLER this week!

 
 

It hit the list at #106, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it!

 
 

Thanks to everyone who helped bring Death Before Decaf such success.

 
 
 
 

The Golden Boy Returns by Deborah Nam-Krane is out today!

03/29/2016 12:40

Congrats to Deborah Nam-Krane on the release 

of her latest novel, The Golden Boy Returns!

 

I've read it, and it's another great story 

as we've come to expect from Deb.

 
Don't forget to enter her giveaway here --->  a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

 

Every game has its rules...and everyone who plays has to admit they want to win.

 

Blurb

David Hwang was idealistic, smart, and hard-working—and he wanted to help. Powerful Lucy Bartolome recognized his talent right away, but first he needed to smooth out his rough edges. He’d need every lesson she’d taught him if he was going to run for mayor of Boston—again.

Kasi Panchal was smart and hard-working, but she’d seen too much for too long to be idealistic. Something about David Hwang made her believe in a lot of things she’d given up on—including herself.

Zainab Hendrickson and Emily Graham knew David and Kasi could make things happen if they joined forces. Of course they’re right, but can those two get out of their way long enough to see it too?

 

Buy links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Boy-Returns-Pioneers-Book-ebook/dp/B01CFCHSMS/

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/619919

 

Bio

Deborah Nam-Krane is a writer in Boston proper who has been writing novels since the age of thirteen. When she’s not reading, writing, editing or reviewing, you can find her running around Boston with her homeschooled sons or acting like a mad scientist in her kitchen.

The best way to keep in touch is to follow her blog Written By Deb and subscribe to her newsletter (only publishing announcements, never spam).

 


 

 

The Menu for Lizzie and Blake's MY FUNNY VALENTINE Engagement Party!

02/12/2016 07:06

 

In the latest Lizzie Hart Mystery, MY FUNNY VALENTINE, Lizzie and Blake have a killer engagement party!  (Pun intended.)

 

I asked my friend, cookbook and children's author Lanea Stagg, to come up with a menu for the party with recipes from her wildly popular RECIPE RECORDS cookbook series.  

 

Every recipe name is a clever play on a rock 'n' roll song, and many have a songlist to cook along with.  And since all of the titles of the Lizzie books are songs, I thought it would be the perfect match!

 

You can get Lanea's books here.  Don't miss her Valentine's special--all of her RECIPE RECORDS cookbooks are on sale for only $10 each!

 

 

The menu for the party:

 

And Then He Quiched Me—All Lizzie wanted in It’s Just a Little Crush was for Blake to notice her.  In her wildest dreams, she never thought she’d end up engaged to him!

 

The Crystals charmed the music world in 1963 when they released “Then He Kissed Me.” A flaky pastry crusted seafood quiche will have your man falling all over himself. He may reward you with a kiss….

 

 

Girls Just Want to Have Rum—Lizzie and her BFF Julia make a great sleuthing team in That Old Black Magic, and their girls' nights out are always a lot of fun.

 

1980’s Rocker Cindy Lauper admitted that girls only want to have fun and this recipe invites rum to the party! A tall cocktail shaker, skewers of lime, lemon and orange ……you’ll be singing “I want to be the one to walk in the sun!”

 

 

Doctor, Doctor Gimme the News Gotta Bad Case of Lovin’ This Stew—In Bad Medicine, Lizzie goes toe-to-toe with the new doctor in town, and it’s bad news.

 

The late Robert Palmer enjoyed a Grammy nomination for “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor) and you’ll be nominated for Chef of the Year with this delicious seafood stew! Creamy and chock full of flavor, the stew may be served over rice or noodles.

 

 

Bullet in the Bread—One of Lizzie’s nemeses ends up this way.

 

The politically charged band, Rage Against the Machine, screams a message of government control in their song “Bullet in the Head.” Hopefully this appetizer won’t bring about any violent episodes!

 

 

Helter Skelter Skillet—In honor of all the serial killers Lizzie and Blake have put behind bars.

 

 

More from Lanea about Helter Skelter Skillet...

“Helter Skelter Skillet” is a breakfast dish inspired by The Beatles’ song found on their album “The Beatles,” more commonly referred to as “The White Album.” Paul McCartney wrote the song in order to prove that he could write an edgy, metal song. In pop history, the song has been linked to the infamous Manson murders, after the psychopath claimed The Beatles had written hidden messages throughout the song and others contained on the album. The words “Helter Skelter” were even written in murder victims’ blood at a crime scene.

Since this recipe is in response to a song with a “sordid past” and since this is a murder mystery blog….I thought I would chat with a Manson murder expert about the connection of “Helter Skelter” to one of the most renowned murder cases in history.

Beatles author, Ivor Davis, recently appeared on Lifetime television’s documentary "Beyond the Headlines--Manson's Lost Girls," which discussed the Charles Manson murders.  Davis, author of “The Beatles and Me – On Tour,” holds an inside connection on this subject as he covered the murders in Los Angeles during the Manson reign of terror; and he covered the 1964 Beatles concert tour of America. His coverage of the murders resulted in a book titled “Five to Die: The Book That Helped Convict Manson,” which was used by the State’s prosecutor as a blueprint for convicting Manson.

I asked Ivor to weigh in on Manson’s interpretations:

“When I met Paul and John after the Manson murder trial (and told them I had written a book about the Manson gang, and attended the trial) I asked them about the fact that Charles Manson claimed their songs contained hidden messages to him ---urging people to start a revolution with blacks against whites.

 Both said "It's a load of old shite" and John said "thousands of Beatle fans listened to our music and interpreted the lyrics to suit their own interests." 

Soon after Manson was arrested I went along to the Spahn movie ranch outside L.A. and did interviews with Paul Watkins and Brooks Poston--two guys who lived with Manson and the girls at the ranch.

They told me--- and it's in my first book written in the late Sixties--that  Manson did tell his drug addled girls that The Beatles lyrics were written for him!  Manson, was a frustrated musician, and desperately wanted fame and had asked Doris Day's son Terry Melcher to produce his songs in an album. I met Melcher when he picked me up at Carmel Airport to drive me to meet his mother --who I was interviewing. He told me he met Manson at the Spahn Ranch, was intrigued by Manson's music and made noises to indicate that he liked the music---but did nothing. Apparently Manson was furious at Melcher dumping him and the weird coincidence was that the Sharon Tate murder house was once the home of Melcher!  (He had moved out at the time of the murders.)  That's another story.”

On a foodie note, Davis added “The Manson gang ate very well.  The girls befriended managers of local supermarkets, in exchange for information about precisely what time food from the store was put into the dumpsters. And they were there to collect it and take it back to the ranch!”

Thanks to Ivor Davis, Author of The Beatles and Me on Tour.  www.IvorDavisBeatles.com

 

About Lanea Stagg:

Author Lanea Stagg continues the Recipe Records series with her latest publications: Recipe Records the 60's Edition and Recipe Records - a Culinary Tribute to The Beatles. Maggie McHugh (1967 - 2011) and Lanea published Recipe Records in 2010.

Lanea & her late bestie twisted their passions for food & music into a quirky, yet practical cookbook that appeals to all music lovers. Lanea lives in Southern Indiana with her family, where she writes for many projects, serves as a Revolving Expert for the Girl Scout Council, gives cooking lessons and more. Contact her for programs & cooking demonstrations.

Lanea Stagg

Author of Recipe Records Cookbook Series

Little Dog in the Sun and

Little Dog About Town – An Evansville Tail

 

www.reciperecordscookbook.com

blog:   www.rockblocks3.blogspot.com

radio:  www.blogtalkradio.com/reciperecords

reciperecordsml@aol.com

 

 

 

Valentine's Day romantic comedy from Zanna Mackenzie!

02/01/2016 12:16

 

One of my favorite authors, Zanna Mackenzie,

has a great Valentine's Day gift for her readers,

a new compilation, including a novella and four short stories!

 

Get it for only 99 cents HERE!

 

 

 

Harriet’s life is chaotic.

She’s lucky if she catches a rare glimpse of her husband as they pass in the kitchen, they’re both working so hard. When Ollie had taken over the running of the family business the Country Oaks, a seen-better-days hotel in the picturesque Lake District, it had turned their lives upside down. 

 

Now, fighting to keep the place from financial ruin takes all the time and energy they can muster.

 

And don’t even get her started on her anxiety-inducing teenage daughter who wants to go to the college Valentine’s Day dance with the local bad boy.

 

When Harriet accidentally pokes a handsome stranger in the eye with her umbrella and has to rush him off to get medical help, she finds herself spending more and more time with him. He’s funny, charming and attentive, everything her husband Ollie used to be… and Harriet feels her life starting to spiral out of control.

 

As the Country Oaks prepares for a hectic Valentine’s weekend, packed with loved-up guests, Harriet and Ollie are forced to face the realities of their life, their marriage and their future together.

 

Can they rekindle the romance or has the spark fizzled out and died, never to be lit again?

 

 

SPECIAL BONUS CONTENT

You’ll also receive:

·        * Four short stories with romance at their heart.

·      *   Exclusive sneak peek extracts from four romantic comedy novels by Zanna Mackenzie.

·      *   PLUS – a FREE romantic mystery book

 

All of this for just 99p/99c!

 

 

Sneak Peek.....

 

Chapter One

Alexa polished off the last bit of her muffin. “So, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day then?”

“I’ll be working, while Ollie attempts to charm about forty women,” Harriet replied, her own chocolate chip muffin untouched on her plate. She’d lost her appetite lately.

“Forty eh?” Alexa giggled. “That’s ambitious even for Ollie.”

“I don’t mind. It’s part of his job.”

“Say that as if you mean it,” Alexa challenged. She looked closely at Harriet as she sipped her coffee. “Things are okay with you and Ollie, aren’t they?”

Harriet sighed, pushing a lock of hair out of her eyes. An appointment with the hairdresser to tidy up her unruly auburn tresses was long overdue, but she never had the time - or the money - for such luxuries. “Sometimes,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “Mostly, I feel as though I’m there purely to be a stand-in for the staff when they phone in sick; to sort the hotel accounts out, oh, and to cook dinner for everyone. I wonder if my husband actually remembers I’m his wife, not just another employee.”

“You guys have been working like crazy since you took on the hotel from his parents,” Alexa reasoned. “It must be tough.”

“I’m used to us both working long hours, it goes with the territory in the hospitality industry, but lately Ollie starts at about five in the morning and finally collapses into bed at around midnight. I’m worried about him. I’m also…” she paused, wondering if she dare admit to what had been on her mind more and more often since Christmas. The full extent of her concerns about her marriage.

“Also what?” prompted Alexa.

Harriet stared out across the lake, today it was shrouded in mist and drizzly rain. She loved the Lake District and had been thrilled to move here from the grit and grime of Manchester when Ollie had taken on his parents’ hotel just over a year ago. Even if it had meant they’d had to sell their gorgeous home and move into the less than salubrious three bedroom flat on the top floor of the hotel.

Alexa reached her hand across the table and placed it on top of Harriet’s. “You know you can tell me anything, but if you aren’t ready to talk, then I understand.”

“I am worried about our marriage, truth be told,” Harriet replied quietly, picking at the edge of a table napkin. “We’ve always done okay in our relationship despite the unsocial hours we’ve both worked. Even when I took time off to raise the girls, we still somehow managed to find time for each other. We talked, we laughed… we kissed. Nowadays, we don’t do any of those things, and I miss them. I miss Ollie. I miss the man I married. I know the responsibility of running the hotel weighs heavily on his shoulders, it does on mine too. It’s a lot of pressure, taking on the business your parents built from nothing.”

Alexa let out a long breath, puffing her fringe out of her eyes. “Have you said anything about all of this to Ollie?”

Harriet shook her head. “No. He’s got so much on at the moment. He looks tired and harassed enough as it is, and I don’t want to add to his already sky-high stress levels.”

“Even so, if you’re worried you should try to…”

“Look, forget I said anything.” Harriet waved a hand in an attempt to end their conversation. “Ignore me. It’s my imagination getting carried away with itself, that’s all. We’ll be fine. It’s one of those phases. Every marriage goes through them.”

“It’ll just be from all the demands of the hotel, he’ll be exhausted. You know how he is. You two will be fine. I’m certain of it.”

“Of course, you’re right.” Harriet nodded and forced a smile. “I’m being silly. I’ll try to persuade him to take an hour for dinner one night soon. I’ll cook something special for us. Imogen is often out with friends straight from college most nights, so it will just be the two of us, the perfect chance to sit down and properly catch up with each other.

“Brilliant idea. You make sure you do that,” Alexa said sternly. “So, going back to your earlier comment about the forty women Ollie will have to charm on Valentine’s Day, I’m presuming you have forty couples booked into the hotel restaurant and he’ll be dishing out the red roses to all the ladies, along with that winning smile of his?”

“Got it in one. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Wednesday this year most people have booked to celebrate on the preceding weekend. Which does mean there’s the slimmest chance Ollie and I might even manage a rushed romantic meal ourselves up in the flat on the big day itself. I’ve got my fingers crossed!”

“Do not take no for an answer. Even if you end up eating at midnight,” Alexa said before getting to her feet. “Sorry, sweetie but I have to get going, lots of errands to sort before I head back to the office.”

Glamourous Alexa ran her own recruitment agency providing temporary staff to local hoteliers. The two women had met at a parish council meeting not long after Harriet and Ollie had moved to the tourist hotspot of Allithwaite and they’d instantly become firm friends.

“No worries. I need to get moving and call in at the visitor information centre on my way back to the hotel to drop off some more leaflets,” replied Harriet, hugging her friend goodbye. “They rang us to say they’d run out and wanted a new supply.”

 

The visitor information centre was packed to the rafters with people seeking advice on what to do on a rainy February day in the Lake District. Parents with fractious children were perusing the display racks of leaflets in search of places with the potential to keep their offspring amused. Harriet quickly dropped off the hotel’s leaflets with Susie, the young girl who was on duty, and headed for the door, finger poised on the button of her umbrella, ready to click it open as soon as she stepped out into the now-torrential rain. A woman with a double pushchair tried to negotiate the doors at the same time and the buggy rammed into the back of Harriet’s heels. Pain ripped through her leg and foot and she stumbled forward, off balance, her hand slipping on the button and the umbrella springing open in the cramped vestibule.

“Ouch!”

At first Harriet thought it was her own cry but swiftly realised it was a male voice yelping in pain close by. She turned to spot a man clutching at his right eye, doubled over in discomfort. Quickly, she closed the errant umbrella and dropped it to the floor, realising its impromptu opening must have poked this poor guy in the eye.

“Oh no!” she gasped, racing to his side, hand to her mouth. “Are you all right?”

The man muttered something under his breath she didn’t hear and suspected it wouldn’t be a good idea to ask him to repeat.  She took him by the arm and led him back into the centre towards a bank of chairs out of the way of the miserable, rain-soaked tourists.

“Sit down and let me take a look at your eye,” she commanded.

He did as instructed and she reached for his hand, gently pulling it away from his face.

“My umbrella really did get you, didn’t it?” She winched.  “Your eye is all bloodshot and watering quite badly. Let me get you to the doctors. It could be iritis.”

The man managed a weak laugh. “Iritis? You just made that up. There’s no such thing.”

“I promise you, I didn’t make it up. Are you a local? I’m sorry, I don’t recognise your face. Are you here on holiday? I think the doctor’s surgery keep a few slots open for visitors who aren’t registered and just here on vacation and get ill or injured.”

“I’ve recently become a local again,” he replied, covering his eye with his hand and grimacing again. “I grew up around here and moved back a few weeks ago.”

“Okay. Are you registered with the health clinic in town yet?”

He nodded.

“Right, we’re off to the doctors with you then, are you all right to walk?”

“Honestly, I’m fine, there’s no need for the doctors,” he protested and leaned back in the chair, resting his head against the wall. “You could make up for injuring me by taking me out to dinner one night this week though.”

Harriet found herself smiling at his cheek and his bravado. “I’d say that’s flattering, but as you can only see with one eye at the moment, maybe it isn’t quite so flattering after all. Plus, I happen to be a married woman.” For a second she wondered why she hadn’t said she was a happily married woman. Slip of the tongue that was all.

He looked her up and down through his one good eye and replied, “I can see you perfectly well, but I confess I hadn’t spotted the fact you’re wearing a wedding ring. Sorry if I offended you.”

She smiled. It actually felt rather nice to be noticed by somebody, flattering, even if it was a total stranger. “Forget about it. It’s fine. Right, I’m taking you to the doctors, and no arguing.”

He got to his feet and swayed alarmingly.

“Steady on!” Harriet reached for his arm and peered nervously at him. “Do you feel dizzy?”

“A little,” he admitted. “My eye is throbbing like crazy. Maybe you’re right and I’d best get it seen to.”

Linking her arm through his so she could ensure he didn’t topple over, she said, “Let’s go. Now.”

 

 

 

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