Welcome Isabella Louise Anderson
and CLP Blog Tours!
Today I'm reviewing THE RIGHT DESIGN
as part of Isabella's Blog Tour, and there's a giveaway, too!
Do business and pleasure mix?
In the author's debut novel comes a story about picking up the pieces, letting go of the past, and finding love along the way--even if morals are tested!
Interior designer Carrie Newman could not have envisioned a more perfect life for herself. She had a great job doing what she loved, wonderful friends, and a close relationship with her sister and brother-in-law. Add in an amazing man who she’d hoped would soon become her husband, and her life was perfect. Until one devastating decision ruins her relationship and changes the course of her life.
Determined to make a new start, Carrie leaves Texas and heads to Palm Beach to pick up the pieces of her shattered and broken life. The last thing she expects is to find herself attracted to her first client at her new job--Brad Larson, who has proven himself time and time again to be caddish.
But there’s something beneath the surface of Brad’s arrogant exterior that keeps her craving more of him--something almost sweet that Carrie can’t seem to resist.
Is Carrie ready to take another chance on romance? And will this new design of her life prove to be the right one?
Isabella Louise Anderson grew up with a book in her hand, and to this day nothing has changed. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and has been featured on several blogs. While Isabella doesn't blog a lot, she focuses her time on featuring other writers, along with writing and editing.
She lives in Dallas with her husband and cat. She enjoys spicy Mexican food and drinking margaritas, and can be found spending time with family and friends, cheering on the Texas Rangers, and reading.
Isabella’s short story, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, was featured in Simon & Fig’s Christmas anthology, Merry & Bright, in November 2013. The Right Design is her first novel, and she is currently working on her next release.
Chick Lit Goddess: http://chicklitgoddess.com
Twitter (ILA): https://twitter.com/ILA121209
Twitter (CLG): https://twitter.com/ChickLitGoddess
Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-right-design-isabella-louise-anderson/1118887877?ean=9780991416707
Follow the rest of Isabella's Blog Tour here:
Welcome to Jennifer Ammoscato,
DEAR INTERNET: IT'S ME, AVERY
Jen and I met on Twitter, of all places, and I immediately loved her snarky sense of humor. If you're looking for more laughs, visit her blog here. She's always got a new post that will make you LOL.
Take it away, Jen!
If I don’t invite you over for dinner—don’t be offended.
It’s not you—it’s me.
You see, I’ve sort of slacked off on the housecleaning.
Why? you may ask (while silently cheering for the woman with whom you now have a much closer bond.)
Well I’ll tell you.
It’s because I’ve learned something very, very important over the years.
It’s just going to get dirty again.
I was once one of you.
Every Saturday morning, I’d clean for several hours—savouring the fake orange scent of my Lysol floor wipes. That feeling of wiping away the layer of dust on the armoire. The vacuum’s efficient whooshing of the previous week’s dirt.
Somewhere, in the past year or so, I’ve come to an important realization.
I don’t freaking care.
It’s like, no matter how much I clean, I know someone else is going to bleach their floors—including the baseboards—just for the fun of it.
Someone else will wash their walls at the beginning of each season to remove the grime—actually moving the appliances to do so!
Someone else will clean out all of their kitchen cupboards, put in a fresh layer of shelf paper, and arrange their cutlery neatly in their proper holders.
I’ll never win this contest. So, why try?
Instead, I’m going to ignore the dust that is hanging from the ceiling fan blades (and take another antihistamine for my allergies).
I’m going to ignore that sticky spot on the floor by the garbage.
I’m going to leave the streaks on the windows from where the puppy keeps guard over our street.
I’m not going to be able to see my face in the countertop’s shiny surface.
Because I’m taking a stand against giving a rat’s ass about anyone else’s opinion but mine.
As I like to say, the Queen isn’t coming over. And, I don’t really care what the UPS delivery guy thinks when I open the door and the cushions on the couch are not plumped in exactly the way I always made sure they were.
Of course, every once in a while, my OCD self takes stock of the smudgy glass tabletops, the curtains that would benefit from a wash, and the crumbs in the pots and pans drawer.
In a particularly weak moment a few weeks ago, I was tempted into falling into my old habits.
I dusted, shined, vacuumed, and mopped.
And then the puppy ran in from outside and bounced all over the clean tile, my gleaming hardwood and the leather couch with his wet paws.
After my initial outcry, I decided it’d be far easier to simply have a latté or—better yet—a glass of wine and read a book.
You see? When you lower your standards, everyone’s a winner!
About DEAR INTERNET: IT'S ME, AVERY
Oh, don’t judge me, people. We all do it.
Don’t try to tell me that you’ve never checked that weird mole on your thigh on WebMD. Or how to fold meringue on Epicurious. And, there’s no way that I’m the only one who clears her search history after looking up how to give a great bl— (Um, that last one’s not important.)
When newspaper reporter Avery Fowler discovers her husband is having an affair, the online help site HowTo.com is where she turns to navigate this challenging stage of her life.
If the Internet is Avery’s information god, then HowTo.com is her Holy Grail. Its live chat option is like having a virtual life coach (a snippy British chippy named Clementine) for the low, low price of fourteen ninety-five a month.
Add into the mix a new boss, Victoria van Horne, whose managerial style calls to mind the Wicked Bitch Witch of the West—or the Anti-Christ—and the poor girl needs all the help she can get! The stakes rise and hilarity ensues as our heroine struggles to take control of her personal life and topple her boss after she learns Victoria’s guilty secret.
With Clementine (virtually) in tow, our heroine tackles such tricky situations as dating after divorce, sex once nothing points north anymore, and how to cover attempted murder scenes (despite a paralyzing fear of blood) as the new and improved Avery Fowler 2.0.
Author Jennifer Ammoscato – solving the world’s problems one cosmo at a time.
Jennifer Ammoscato is a paid, productive member of society. Frankly, it’s not enough. Therefore, May 2015 will see the launch of her debut novel, “Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery” (The “Avery Fowler 2.0” series, Book I).
During the day, she is an intrepid writer/editor for the public relations department of a Canadian university. By night, she fights crime and the urge to organize closets and stuff herself with salted chocolate caramels.
Jennifer began writing as a child, producing such classics as “The Occurrence” (she understood the appeal of werewolves long before Stephenie Meyer). She had to search for the courage to write a novel, though. “That’s so F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. I didn’t know if I had the alcohol capacity for it.” However, after being
goaded encouraged by a friend, she took the leap.
Dreams do not inspire Jennifer’s books. In fact, they tend to terrify her. In particular, the ever- popular naked-at-school or I-have-a-final-exam-and-didn’t-study dreams. She usually just makes stuff up.
She is married to her husband, Ezio. As opposed to someone else’s husband (insert name here). She is the proud mom of two very tall sons, Dante and Christian.
I am super excited to welcome
to my blog today!
Gina is the bestselling author of the popular
Lacey Luzzy Mysteries series!
Buy Sprinkled here
I love the idea of the mob running rampant through the (relatively) safe, corn-fed Twin Cities. What made you choose the setting?
For starters, that’s where I was born and raised, so I know and love the area more than anyplace in the world! My sisters & I ran around the alleyways of St. Paul for most of our childhood, so although I’ve since lived abroad in Italy and now in Los Angeles, the Twin Cities is the place I’ll always call home.
Also – a little known fact – the Twin Cities was actually a place many ‘gangsters’ hung out during Prohibition, so it’s not quite as far-fetched as most people might think! (My mom took my family on a “Gangster” tour of the city once.)
The characters in your series are so likeable. Are any characters in your book based on people you know (yourself included)?
Hah, yes of course! My real life certainly bleeds into the characters I write. Although I’m not “Lacey” under any circumstances, I can relate to many of her characteristics, as I think most women can. She’s imperfect and makes mistake, and she has imperfect friends, who also make mistakes. Then she’s gotta set things right.
I wouldn’t say anyone from my story is based strictly upon a real life person, but I will say that my mom embodies a few characteristics of Carlos – in the best way possible. ;) However, I think a lot of Lacey's resourcefulness comes from things I've learned from her - my mom made sure that my sisters and I had an amazing childhood, and I think that's a part of the reason I have the imagination today that I do!
Along the same lines, do you ever use things that have happened in your life as part of your stories?
I will leave you with this: Lacey’s Kia and her Lumina are both real cars.
I also tend to catch a few one-liner gems from my boyfriend or from family members during holiday functions.
Your series has been described as “Tony Soprano, meet Stephanie Plum”. I totally agree! What authors have influenced you and who are your favorites?
I grew up reading a ton of Janet Evanovich, and I love her writing – she’s probably been the biggest influence on my work. However, I also love Harry Potter & J.K. Rowling, and though I don’t write about boy wizards, her ability to transport readers to a new world is incredible.
All of your book covers are very eye-catching. Do you have someone who does your cover artwork or are they your own design?
I got very lucky, and I have a great cover designer! We’ve worked together for the entire series. I have NO artistic eye (my mom will vouch for that), so I stick to words on the paper.
Congratulations on the huge success of your series! What is the most effective strategy you’ve used to make your books visible in the market?
First of all, thank you! That means a lot to me. :) This is a tricky one because there are always so many factors at play, and it’s difficult to know exactly what contributes to visibility. I think having a good cover, a good description and a good story is a place to start. Beyond that, I just try to go by the golden rule – be nice to people, interact with fans, and be involved in the community!
And super congrats on your new Misty Newman Mysteries series coming out through Gemma Halliday Publishing! How has working with a publisher been different than going it alone?
Thank you, I am thrilled as well about this series! I am very lucky to be working with a publisher as wonderful as Gemma. She offers a lot of flexibility and takes a lot of author input during the editing and cover design phases, which is great. The process takes a bit longer to get a book out because more people are involved – but at the same time, it’s been fantastic getting to meet and work with the other GHP authors, who are all very talented.
Of all the characters in Lacey’s universe, which one is your favorite? (Mine is Clay!)
Clay, that’s awesome! He is one of the only characters who is a complete figment of my imagination. I don’t know anyone like him in real life, but he just seems so adorable in my head, and I think he’s grown a lot throughout the series.
For me though, I have to say, I like certain parts of every character. (This question is tough – it’s like trying to pick your favorite kid, haha!)
A few of my favorites:
1. Lacey & Meg’s relationship – finding and keeping true girlfriends is so difficult. Though Meg is often over-the-top, inappropriate, etc., there’s a loyalty between the two which I think is very special.
2. I love Nora’s carefree attitude. I want to be her when I get older.
3. Anthony’s vulnerable side – anyone can have a tough exterior, but when we find another person we’re comfortable opening up to, that is a fun, new, and exciting moment in any relationship.
Tony Soprano, meet Stephanie Plum.
LACEY LUZZI RESUME
CURRENT: MOBSTER (in training)
2 YEARS: LAUNDROMAT WENCH
TOO MANY YEARS: MANAGER AT STRIP CLUB
MISERABLY FAILED STRIPPER
8TH GRADE – SPELLING BEE CHAMPION
Lacey Luzzi’s rollercoaster of a life has been filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. She just never expected the lows to be so… sparkly.
After falling on her face during an attempt to follow in her recently-deceased mother’s stripper-boots, Lacey realizes she’s not cut out for life on stage. She sets out on a year-long investigation to find her true family, never expecting she’ll find it with a capital “F.”
With a rumbling stomach, a need for money (check engine lights don’t fix themselves!), and a conscience that operates at 78% on a good day, Lacey is sucked into a whirlwind of Family secrets, hard-as-cement cookies, and mysterious, sexy men who unfortunately shoot guns, sometimes aimed at her face. The long-lost-granddaughter of Carlos Luzzi, the Godfather of the Italian Mafia, Lacey accepts her first assignment for the mob: finding fifteen million dollars of ‘the good stuff.’
Even after she enlists the help of her mouthy best-friend and her cousin, a technical genius and social disaster, she finds that going toe-to-toe with the rival Russian mob is more dangerous than expected.
No one chooses their Family, but Lacey Luzzi will be lucky if she can survive hers.
Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Gina LaManna has also called Italy and Los Angeles home. At the moment she lives nine blocks from the beach and sometimes runs marathons. After studying numbers and equations in college, she realized multiple choice tests were "just not for her" and began writing books instead. She loves cappucino foam and whipped cream and would subsist solely on sprinkles if possible. She has one imaginary dog.
Gina also writes the Mini Pie the Spy! books under pen name Libby LaManna, a children's series featuring an over-enthusiastic little detective, similar in style to Junie B. Jones.
Keep in touch:
Today I'm spotlighting a great book by the lovely
This is the first book of Sheryl's I've read, and I loved it!
I'm excited to read more of her work!
THE REST OF MY LIFE
BY SHERYL BROWNE
Genre: Contemporary Romance : Release Date: 1st July 2015
Publisher: Choc Lit @ChocLituk
“You can’t run away from commitment forever … “
Adam Hamilton-Shaw has more reason than most to avoid commitment. Living on a houseboat in the Severn Valley, his dream is to sail into the sunset – preferably with a woman waiting in every port. But lately, his life looks more like a road to destruction than an idyllic boat ride…
Would-be screenplay writer Sienna Meadows realises that everything about Adam spells trouble – but she can’t ignore the feeling that there is more to him than just his bad reputation. Nor can she ignore the intense physical attraction that exists between them.
And it just so happens that Adam sees Sienna as the kind of woman he could commit to. But can he change his damaging behaviour – or is the road to destruction a one-way street?
THE REST OF MY LIFE by Sheryl Browne is captivating, romantic, steamy, and sweet—everything that makes for a perfect romance novel.
Adam Hamilton-Shaw is a hopeless womanizer, but if you look a little deeper, the man is an iceberg. He’s got a cargo hold full of baggage he needs to get rid of before he can move on and even consider having a real relationship. However, he’d rather booze and help women cheat on their husbands instead of work through his problems.
Enter Sienna Meadows, an up-and-coming screenwriter so sweet and innocent she can’t even properly write a love scene. Figuring the sexy Adam can give her some pointers in that department, she sets her sights on him…for research, of course.
Neither one of them intended on falling in love, and both of them have a lot of internal AND external conflicts to overcome in order to be together. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked Adam. He made so many stupid mistakes, it was hard to feel sorry for him when they came back to bite him in the butt. Slowly, though, the author began turning him around, and he became my favorite character by the end. His character was extremely deep and well-rounded. Sienna was easy to love throughout because of her delightfully naïve nature and blind faith in Adam. The supporting cast was great—Nathaniel was a true friend and Sienna’s dad, David, was a loving (if a little overprotective) father.
The author’s writing really draws you in and makes you want to keep reading. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves romance!
ABOUT SHERYL BROWNE
Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, poignant fiction. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for Innovation in Romantic Fiction, Sheryl has seven books published with Safkhet Publishing.
Sheryl’s new contemporary romance novel was recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer. THE REST OF MY Life comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.
Handmade red rose in a bottle (scene from book) with scrolled tied message: The Rest of My Life. Plus, one other handmade item: ceramic flower pendant.
THANK YOU to everyone who hosted me on their blogs last week for my BAD MEDICINE tour! I've been "around the world", stopping in the US, UK, South Africa, and Australia.
In case you missed any of the stops, here is a complete list:
Zanna Mackenzie author blog--Book spotlight
Brook Cottage Books--Book promo
Change the Word--Guest post on writing a series
Written by Deb--Interviewed by author Deborah Nam-Krane
Writer in Paradise--Interviewed by author Jami Deise
PJ Fiala author blog--Book of the Week
Alissa Baxter author blog--Guest post on Plotting vs. Pantsing
Awesomely Epic Book Blog--Book spotlight
Chick Lit Goddess--Book spotlight
Clue Review--I received the NICEST review of Bad Medicine from Julie,
plus she invited me to do a guest post on researching!
Georgina Troy author blog--Book spotlight
Monique McDonell author blog--Blake Morgan character interview
Sheryl Browne author blog--Book spotlight
Don't forget to enter the giveaway for some great Lizzie Hart swag!
My world blog tour is ending today with my favorite post of the week, a character interview with Blake Morgan, Lizzie's love interest.
Head over to Monique McDonell's blog to read the interview.
And thank you to Sheryl Browne for posting a book spotlight!
Thank you to everyone who hosted me this week!
Don't forget to enter the contest for some great
The first collection from Marching Ink features three full-length novels in Twenty-Something. From the good girl that is tired of playing by the rules in the new adult novel from Laura Chapman, to the friendship between two women that isn’t what is seems in the women’s fiction novel from Samantha March, and then the loveable Roxy that will give us plenty of laughs and touching moments in the chick lit novel from Cat Lavoie. While all characters are indeed Twenty-Something, we believe this collection can be enjoyed by readers in a variety of ages.
Hard Hats and Doormats by Laura Chapman
After losing out on a coveted promotion at work, Lexi Burke is done playing the nice girl. Her first order of business: Giving in to her longtime workplace crush. But Lexi soon learns that balancing a workplace romance and her job might be harder than she anticipated.
A Questionable Friendship by Samantha March
While Brynne and Portland seem to have an ideal friendship, cracks are starting to show as their lives take a turn for the complicated. Not willing to go to one other with their secrets, one woman begins to feel shut out and the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself. Their journey will explore several questions of friendship, and show that happily ever after might not be in the cards for everyone.
Breaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie
When Roxy Rule shares a passionate kiss with her lifelong best friend, she must come to terms with her feelings for him while dealing with two sisters in full crisis mode, a boss who makes her want to stab herself with a letter opener and a fiancé who can’t wait to walk down the aisle. Can she keep it together–or will she break under the pressure?
FOLLOW THE TOUR!
July 27 - Book Groupies - Excerpt
Jul 27 - Mallory Heart Reviews – Review & Excerpt
July 28 - Sinfully Good Reads – Excerpt
July 28 – CDYess Writes – Excerpt
July 29 - Living Life With Joy - Excerpt
July 29 - Hey Said Renee - Review & Excerpt
July 30 - Caroline Fardig - Excerpt
July 30 - Karma For Life Chick – Excerpt
July 31 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Excerpt
August 3 - Ski-Wee’s Book Corner – Review
Laura Chapman Bio
Laura Chapman is the author of "The Marrying Type," "Hard Hats and Doormats" and the Autumn and Tuck shorts, which appear in "Merry & Bright" and "A Kind of Mad Courage." A native Nebraskan, she loves football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Until she fulfills her dream of landing a British husband or becoming a Disney princess, you can find her in a bar penning her next novel.
Samantha March Bio
Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all-around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up-to-date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and beauty related. In 2011, she launched her independent publishing company, Marching Ink, and has four published novels—Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket, A Questionable Friendship, and Up To I Do. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.
Cat Lavoie Bio
Cat Lavoie lives in Montreal, Canada with her tempestuous cat, Abbie. Her debut novel, BREAKING THE RULES, was published in August 2012 by Marching Ink. ZOEY & THE MOMENT OF ZEN was published in October 2013.
If Cat isn't reading or writing, she's most likely watching too much TV or daydreaming about her next trip to London.
To find out more about Cat and her books, please visit www.CatLavoie.com and follow @Catenabi on Twitter.
Hard Hats and Doormats – Laura Chapman
Alexis Burke @theLexiBurke
Can a person refer to employees as Jackass 1 & 2 in an official report? Asking for a friend. #HRProblems #ThisIsMyLife
The universe keeps telling jokes and I’m the punch line. #IHaveProof
Okay, seriously. When did this become my life? Can I get a mulligan? #ObscureGolfAnalogyForLife
In kindergarten Sunday school, Lexi Burke imagined Hell as a fire-ridden, hate-filled pit below Earth’s surface. On a mighty throne of blackened steel and skulls, Satan preyed on the souls of the damned for eternity.
Twenty years later, she discovered a new version of Hell. It was a windowless conference room on an oil platform off the coast of God-only-knew-where Texas in the middle of May. The devil took form in two men, both middle-aged and madder than a hornets nest. Despite the sweat building on her neck, she shivered.
When did babysitting old guys become my job?
How mad do hornets get, and what does their nest have to do with it?
Where did I come up with that analogy?
Solving those mysteries had to wait. Casting a glance at the figures gathered around the badly chipped table, she considered the situation at hand. The two men, their union reps, and a team of local managers were going yet another round in their verbal sparring without a semblance of resolution. The representatives wanted the men to go back to work. The managers wanted to give them pink slips.
As the HR manager assigned – albeit at last-minute – to the investigation, she wanted to keep everyone from killing each other. Not an easy task, considering the two men under investigation already gave murder their best shot.
According to the initial report, the incident happened over the weekend. The men engaged in a particularly heated discussion about college football. The man to her right apparently took offense to the one on her left using derogatory names to describe his beloved team.
She grimaced at the list of profanities. Three or four of them merited HR intervention on their own. Then again, others struck her as downright creative. Note to self: Use “dag nab ass backwards pile of swamp waste” in a sentence later today.
The fight escalated when Mr. Right expressed his displeasure by raking his broken glass across Lefty’s face. A few days later, the wounds swelled red and blotchy. Her stomach churned when she examined their faces closely.
His opponent fared no better. Lefty managed a couple of solid jabs with a shard from a shattered plate. His cheek and eyebrow were held together with the help of twenty-two stitches.
How did these men still have jobs? Surely trying to kill your co-worker violated the Employee Code of Conduct. But because they had no previous violence on their records, the company’s agreement with the union guaranteed them the right to an investigation – this investigation.
“I told ‘em to back off and leave my Tigers alone,” Idiot Number One shouted. “But he started waving around his God-damned glass. I had to grab hold of something to protect myself. A man’s got a right to defend himself and his pride.”
“What the hell are you talking about, son?” Moron Number Two chimed in. “You were the one bent outta shape in the first place. He’s pissed because my Hogs’ll beat the hell out of this pussy lover’s team next year.”
Hogs? Tigers? Did these men seriously put their jobs and lives on the line over the Arkansas and LSU football teams? Did Lexi have to take team allegiances into consideration when she hired new employees to avoid catastrophe? Were SEC fans this torn up about football year-round?
Will we have full-on riots come September?
She struggled to recall the last two football seasons, but nothing came to mind. In her early days at Gulf America, she’d spent most of her life adjusting to the heavy travel schedule of a field HR representative. Current events, sports, and anything unrelated to HR dealings never entered her mind. She instead concentrated on getting through each day, never mind remembering what happened in the rest of the world.
What kind of fights should she expect when the Big 12 schools in Texas started beating up on each other in the fall?
God help us all.
Pulling her shoulder-length brown hair off her neck, she longed for a breeze. Not the kind from men yelling at each other, but a real, honest-to-God breeze.
She sighed and stared back at her notes. Even if the investigation proved the men deserved firing, she wouldn’t make the decision. Her worthless boss would be using whatever recommendations she gave him.
Dale seldom left his office during the work day. Unless he heard an ice cream truck. Then he raced out the door with a dollar in hand. Why bother leaving for something important–– like his job–– when he had minions like her to do his dirty work in the field? He reserved his energy to sweep in at the end when he took credit and – by all appearances – saved the day.
This time, he didn’t even have the courtesy to make his decision before dawn. In her eagerness to please – the department had a promotion up for grabs – she overlooked the faux pas that sent her straight to hell. Sure the Assistant Regional Director job would be more work, but it came with a healthy salary increase and less travel. And at twenty-four, she’d be the youngest director at headquarters.
The shouts escalated.
Is a promotion worth this?
A Questionable Friendship – Samantha March
I shut the door behind me and took a deep breath. Turning the faucet on, I gave my face gentle pats with the cold water, so I didn’t ruin my makeup but was still able to calm down. It was ridiculous that I was getting so upset. Brynne didn’t do anything wrong, she was just being Brynne. But her comment about scaling back and the fight I’d had with Trent on the way over made my stomach upset. I just needed a minute for myself, to breathe and be able to stop smiling through the pain.
I glanced at myself in the mirror, hoping no one else could see the bags under my eyes from the lack of sleep the night before. I had visited my hair stylist just yesterday so my blonde tresses were smooth and shiny, but that was about the only glowing quality I had at the time. I itched to be able to say something to my friend, but I sensed Brynne was going through something herself at the moment, and didn’t want to burden her with my (probably silly) problems. Knowing Brynne, she would drop everything and focus on me and only me until we worked through it. She might even have me take some time off from the store, and I really didn’t want that. EJs was my escape.
Realizing I had been in the bathroom long enough, I patted my face and hands dry on the lavender towel that was hanging next to the sink, to match the lavender hand soap and lavender diffuser Brynne had set up. That made me smile, to think about my friend who loved nothing more than her house being in order.
“There she is! Portland, I put some cheesecake salad on a plate for you. I hope you like it.” Brynne handed me a small plate that was filled with the delicious smelling dessert, and I smiled at her gratefully.
“And I helped make it!” Emmy Jo squealed, before digging back into her own piece.
I sat in my regular seat next to Brynne, across from my husband. “You did an excellent job, missy. And, mmm, it’s so delicious!” I said that last bit around a bite, and wasn’t lying. Brynne was a natural in the kitchen.
“It’s about time for you to start thinking about bed, don’t you think?” Brynne directed her question at Emmy Jo.
“No! I get to stay up with the grown-ups tonight.” Emmy Jo pouted and folded her arms. One little finger poked out and grabbed a strawberry, quickly stuffing it in her mouth before folding her arms again like nothing had happened. I took a sip of wine to hide my smile.
“Grown-ups also have to go to school in the morning, and you don’t want to fall asleep next to Guy, do you?” Brynne continued, looking in mock horror at her daughter.
EJ’s eyes grew wide as she considered this. “He might put glue in my hair, or color marker on my face, momma. I don’t want to fall asleep next to him!”
“Well, then, let’s get you to bed on time so you don’t have to worry about that.”
Emmy Jo took one more large bite of her dessert and raced out of the room. Brynne sat for a moment watching her retreating form, then laughed. “I didn’t think that would work that well. She’s been complaining about this Guy for a few weeks since the seating arrangements changed at daycare, but I really think she might have a crush on him. I’ll be back.”
“Glue in hair and markers on the face? I thought that only happened at parties where you were the first to pass out,” I said.
Aaron stood from the table. “I’m going to go say good-night. Let’s hope those wild parties stay away from Emmy Jo for a long, long time.” He winked at me before leaving. I shook my head. Aaron was one of the most over-protective fathers I had ever met, but it was cute. He was a great dad and a great husband, and I knew how lucky both Brynne and Emmy Jo were.
“Well, it’s just you and me, babe. How about a quickie on the porch?” Trent leered at me, and I glared back.
“You know as well as I do that it takes Emmy Jo about five minutes to get settled. They’ll be back in no time.”
“I said quickie. I can wrap it up in two minutes tops.”
“Wow, that is so romantic and really turns me on, Trent. Please, keep talking.”
“I was just trying to liven things up around here. Sue me for finding my wife attractive.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a baby. We had sex two days ago before you left, so don’t act like you’re all deprived either.”
“What is wrong with you tonight? You’ve been acting weird all day.”
The hair on my arms rose. Trent had been able to see through me too? Brynne was an obvious one, she was my best friend, but Trent didn’t usually notice – or care – if my moods were off. Shit.
“I’m just not feeling the best today. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold or anything. The weather shifts are starting to get to me I think.”
Trent peered into my face for a moment, making me want to shake under his stare. “You do look a little pale. Did you sleep well last night?”
I shook my head. “Not really. That’s probably a part of it too.”
“Do you want to leave soon so you can try to tuck in early? I can probably round up a sleeping pill or two for you to take.”
And he’s flipped to the caring, compassionate husband. I just never knew who I was going to get from one moment to the next anymore. “No, that’s okay. I need to talk with Brynne about the store some more. I’m sure I’ll be okay.”
Breaking the Rules – Cat Lavoie
I’ve never been good at keeping secrets from Oliver Frost. It might be because I’m a terrible liar but, most likely, it’s because he’s known me all my life and can read my face like an open book. Every eyebrow twitch, every blink, every fake smile. And, right now, I feel like I’m strapped to a lie detector. At any second the needles might go haywire like they do in the movies when the devious main character is lying through her teeth.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
“I really don’t like the sound of that,” Ollie says, sitting on the edge of my bed, shaking his head. “Are you sure you don’t want me to go to the drugstore and get you some cough syrup or something? Or I could make you soup. Or tea with honey.”
Under normal circumstances, I’d appreciate all this attention. But I’ve been trying to get Ollie out of the apartment for the last twenty minutes so the last thing I need is him hovering over me. Maybe relying on my lackluster acting skills wasn’t the best idea. Faking an illness was all I could come up with to convince Ollie that I need to stay home without making him suspicious. My original plan was to accidentally ‘twist’ my ankle while walking up the stairs but, in the end, I decided to keep it simple and go for the common cold. There’s less limping involved.
I don’t think Ollie has any idea that I’ve been planning a surprise farewell party for him—which is a miracle since I’ve been sneaking around every night this week and coming home from the grocery store with enough food to feed a small army. The party is tonight and I have a million things to do. And I can’t do them with him here.
I touch my supposedly feverish forehead and erupt into another coughing fit. “You should go,” I say in a raspy voice, grabbing a handful of tissues. “I wouldn’t want you to catch my germs and get sick before leaving for London.”
“Right,” Ollie says, turning away from me. “I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow.”
I can’t believe it either. I want to say something but I’m afraid we’ll start talking and get really sentimental and I can’t deal with that right now. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy so I don’t have to deal with it at all. But I know that sooner or later I’m going to have to face the fact that my best friend and roommate is flying halfway across the world to help supervise the construction of a new earth-friendly building in London. I choose later.
“You should really go or you’ll be late. I’ll call you if there’s anything I need, okay?”
He nods and plants a quick kiss on my forehead. I close my eyes and hope he can’t hear my heart beating out of my chest. I’m so close to pulling this off.
“Promise me you’ll rest and take it easy today?” Ollie says, picking up his messenger bag off the floor. “And if Greta calls, please don’t answer. Better yet, hang up on her.” He slings the bag over his shoulder and looks back at me. I wave and watch as he walks out of my room. A few seconds later I hear the front door close with a bang and start breathing again.