There was great news this week for my modern-day adult fairy tale.
CHASING ORDINARY was named the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist in Literary Erotica.
The news is so brand-new, I don’t even have the medallion for the front of the book yet. But I’m beyond thrilled that my handsome European prince and his sassy ginger sculptor are being honored.
Here’s CHASING ORDINARY, in a nutshell.
Nik peered grimly out the window at the passing grey tableau as the Mercedes made its way uptown toward the exclusive Empire Club. Dalton Rigby’s great-great grandfather had been a founding member, as the man had been careful to point out every time Nik had ever met him.
At least the food will be good, he consoled himself. Mentally, he went over his talking points as the city passed by in a gloomy blur.
A flash of color on the sidewalk caught his focus. Ahead, a woman in a bright red dress was attempting to hail a cab in the pouring rain. As his car pulled alongside her, he watched in slow motion as a spray of water completely doused her.
“Stop the car!” he shouted.
The driver eyed him in the rearview mirror.
“Stop the car,” he repeated.
“But sir,” Jorgen protested from his seat beside Nik.
Shrugging, the driver stopped, causing the car behind them to slam on its brakes and honk loudly.
Nik was already halfway out of the car. “Go around the block,” he called over his shoulder as he stepped out into the rain, slamming the door behind him.
The woman was still standing where she’d been when the Mercedes’ front wheel had torn through a deep puddle, spraying her with filthy runoff. Nik made his way to her, ignoring the rain that pelted him as he walked.
“I’m terribly sorry. Are you alright?”
She stood shaking from cold, red hair matted to her head, black streams of mascara running down her face like cracks in fine china. “I’m s-s-s-soaked!” she shrieked.
“Again, I’m so sorry.” Nik’s expression was contrite. He shrugged out of his suit jacket and wrapped it around her. She was tiny, and the jacket nearly swallowed her whole. He glanced around. “Is your apartment near here?”
She shook her head. “I’m locked out. And I’m unbelievably late. I can’t go like this. And I can’t get back into the fucking apartment! Fuck!”
“My car is coming back around the block. I’ll give you a ride to wherever you need to—“
At that moment, a boxy delivery truck hit the same puddle, spraying them both. They gasped in unison. Momentarily blinded by the wall of water, Nik sputtered and swiped at his face. “Bloody hell!”
He looked down at the woman whose eyes were impossibly wide with surprise. “Here comes my car now. Come with me. I’m staying at the Plaza. We’ll call ahead and have the stylist meet us. Once we’re both cleaned up, I’ll take you where you need to go.”
She looked up at him in alarm. “I’m not going to your hotel with you!”
“No, I don’t mean… I realize how inappropriate it sounds, but I promise, I only mean to help.” He held up his hands in surrender. “Clearly you can’t stay here. And you can’t go to wherever it is you were going, not like this.”
He aimed for a reassuring smile. “The services of the spa and salon will be at your disposal. And I know St. James will have something for you to wear.”
He watched as she considered her options. “I feel responsible. Please let me make things right.”
The black Mercedes pulled up to the sidewalk and the driver walked around to open the back door. “Please,” he pleaded softly.
The woman drew a shaky breath. “Okay. Thank you,” she said quietly.
Jorgen slid out of the back seat and moved to the passenger side of the front. Nik motioned for the woman to get in, and he climbed in beside her. The driver returned to his seat and pulled out into traffic.
“Jorgen, call St. James and tell him to meet us at the underground entrance. Ms.—“ He looked to the woman.
“Oh, Cavanaugh. Petey Cavanaugh.” At his befuddled expression she added, “It’s a long story.”
Nik frowned. “Ms. Cavanaugh is to have whatever services she needs. When she’s ready, we’ll take her where she needs to go.”
“Yes, sir,” Jorgen responded, taking his phone out of his pocket.
“Thank you,” Petey said sheepishly. “I’d better call my friend.”
She dialed a number. “Yeah, it’s me.” There was a short pause. “No, I’m not almost to the gallery. I’ll tell you all about it when I get there.”
Another pause. “I know, seriously, I do! Nobody would rather be there right now than I would, but I forgot the umbrella, and I forgot the key, and I’m a total wreck right now, completely soaked to the skin.”
She seemed to listen for a moment. “I know, but I can’t help it. I’m headed to the Plaza. I’ll get cleaned up, and then I’ll be right there.”
Nik watched as she eyed him quickly. “I don’t know. Some guy,” she whispered. There was another pause, and Nik could hear an agitated voice on the other end, although he couldn’t make out the words.
“Okay, Jules, I’m hanging up now. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.” She stabbed at her phone and put it back in the small silver bag she was carrying.
She looked back at him sheepishly. “My friend.”
“I truly am sorry. You said you’re late?”
She nodded. “It’s a gallery opening. I’m supposed to be there,” she glanced at her watch, “twenty-two minutes ago.”
“I’m late for dinner myself. At least gallery openings usually run for several hours. Surely it won’t matter if you’re a bit late,” he said reasonably.
“It’s my show. It looks kind of bad for the guest of honor not to be there.”
Nik was intrigued. “You’re an artist. What is your medium?”
“Sculpture. I do welded steel and glass pieces.”
He squinted, picturing the petite, feminine woman using a welding torch to bend steel to her will.
“We’re here, sir,” Jorgen announced, interrupting his thoughts. The car pulled through a security gate into an underground garage. As it eased up to a pair of double glass doors, Colin St. James stepped out to greet them.
“Holy crap on a cracker,” he exclaimed as first Nik, then Petey, climbed out of the back of the car. “What on God’s green earth happened to you?”
“It’s raining,” Nik replied succinctly. “This is Ms. Cavanaugh. She’s late to her own gallery opening, and obviously, she can’t go like that. Please see to it that she’s ready in about twenty minutes. Will that be possible?”
“Twenty minutes? Are you kidding me? They don’t call me ‘the miracle worker’ for nothing.” He scanned Petey up and down. “Although this might be my greatest challenge yet,” he said under his breath.
She glared up at him through wet lashes.
Nik turned to Petey. “I’m going upstairs to get cleaned up. I’ll check on you when I’m ready.”
She nodded shyly, shrugging off his suit jacket and handing it to him. “Um, thank you.”
He nodded to Colin and turned to head to the elevator.
Colin took Petey by the hand. “Okay, sweetie, let’s see what we can do.”
Petey stared into the dressing room mirror. “Oh, my God, I look like Alice Cooper on a three-day bender!”
“And we’re getting a picture of it, too,” Colin said, snapping a photo with his phone before she could protest. “Because this is going to be a hell of a ‘before and after.’”
Colin clapped his hands loudly. “Okay, people, we have an extreme makeover. STAT. Let’s see…” He circled Petey, brow knit in concentration. “First, we ditch this horrid dress. Honey, I don’t know what you were thinking.”
“Unh, this was my friend Jules’ idea,” Petey snapped back.
“Well, what did you do to make her hate you, because this thing is a nightmare. Arms up,” he directed.
“This from a guy in orange pants,” Petey snarked, as she raised her arms. Two female assistants gripped the hem of the dress and pulled it over her head.
“These are harvest rust, and they’re Prada.”
“Dude, they’re orange.” Uncomfortably, she clutched her arms in front of herself in a vain attempt to cover her panties and bra.
Colin barked with laughter. “I like you. You’re feisty.” He continued to peruse her closely. “And you have great tits.”
He reached to cup one of her breasts and she batted his hand away. “Hey! Watch it!”
He just rolled his eyes. “Honey, please! Tits are not my thing, except the way they fill out couture.”
To one of the assistants, he snapped, “Elaine, go to the stash of Agent Provocateur and find something in a, what? 34D?” Petey nodded mutely.
“And Zoe? I’m seeing her in that pink Solace London. The one with the mock turtleneck?” The two women hurried off, presumably to find what they’d been sent to get.
Colin turned back to Petey. “Get out of your wet undies and slip on a robe. We’ll get you cleaned up, and then we’ll polish you until you sparkle. Don’t worry about a thing.” He winked at her and sent her on her way.
For the next twenty minutes, an entire team worked to put Petey back together. Her hair was washed and her face was cleaned. While someone worked on her makeup, another person gave her a pedicure, while a third did her nails. Finally, her hair was blown out.
Colin returned to inspect their handiwork. Nodding approvingly, he smiled at Petey. “Okay red, in the dressing room, you’ll find new lingerie, a dress, and a pair of shoes. Get dressed and come on out.”
Petey stepped into the dressing room and closed the door. The mirror was covered with paper, and she’d only seen a maddeningly brief glimpse of herself in the makeup chair. A plush chair held a cardboard box lined with tissue paper. Inside were a pretty bra and panty set. A pink dress hung on a hook on the wall, and she saw a shoe box on the floor.
Lifting the bra from the box, she admired the sheer burgundy fabric, embroidered with peach and deep pink flowers. The tag still hanging from the garment announced its price–$215. Petey gaped. The matching panties turned out to be a thong, priced at $130.
Her most extravagant lingerie purchases had been a few bras from the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale. It had taken over an hour to find something she liked, and she’d had a sneaking suspicion they’d made a stack of ugly bras just so they could discount them.
Shaking off her reservations, she dressed quickly, careful to pull the dress over her head without looking at the tag. It seemed better not to know.
The shoebox held a pretty pair of mauve velvet ankle-strap stilettos. She sank onto the chair and fastened them on her feet. God, what I wouldn’t give for a mirror right now.
Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was exactly twenty-five minutes since he’d left her to go upstairs. He. She had no idea of his name. In all the chaos, she hadn’t thought to ask.
When she opened the dressing room door, a crowd was waiting, with Colin smack in the middle. There was a collective gasp as he snapped a photo. The group burst into applause, and Colin took a bow. “That, ladies and ladies, is why they call me the ‘miracle worker’.
He took Petey by the hand. “Come look,” he said. He led her to a tri-fold mirror at the top of a small dais. “Go ahead,” he nodded.
Petey carefully climbed the three steps to the top, and stopped short. Gazing back at her was the most beautiful self ever to greet her from a mirror. Her long red hair was blown out silky and smooth, her makeup, including false eyelashes, expertly applied. The pastel pink dress fit her like it was made for her, the mock turtle collar hugging her neck, leaving her shoulders and arms bare. The clingy knit hugged her curves, and the hem hit just below her knees. The color complimented her hair and skin flawlessly.
Colin stepped up behind her. “Naturally, the dress is meant to be shorter. But because you’re such a shorty, it hangs longer on you. If we had the time, I’d have it taken up.”
Petey turned to him, eyes shining. “Thank you so much. I can’t possibly afford these things. I’ll take them to the one-hour cleaner first thing tomorrow and return them.”
The man gave a friendly chuckle. “Don’t worry about it, sweetie.”
“Hello? Is she ready?” a male voice called.
Petey turned around. Her rescuer had returned. For the first time, she noticed his British accent. Their eyes met and she gasped lightly. He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen. His dark blond hair was neatly trimmed, a thin scruff of beard defining the contours of his chiseled square jaw. Deep blue eyes gazed back at her, wide with apparent surprise.
Certainly, she’d looked different when last he’d seen her. As had he, to be honest. He was now dry, his hair neatly back in place. While the suit he’d worn earlier had been blue, the current one was a deep charcoal.
They stared across the room for what felt like an eternity. Finally, she broke the ice. “Hi.”
“Hello,” he replied softly. “Are you ready?”
Petey looked to Colin, then back at him. “Yes, I think so.”
“Before I send you back out in to the monsoon, I’m putting a coat on you. No more getting drenched.” An assistant appeared with a trench coat in a black and white chevron pattern. Colin helped her into it.
She threw her arms around him. “Thank you! Thank you for everything.”
“My pleasure, red. You come back and see me anytime. I mean that.” He kissed both her cheeks. “Have fun.”
She headed to the doorway where he waited. He called across to Colin. “Thank you. You’re a lifesaver.”
Colin laughed and waved. As the pair left, he shook his head.
“Well, kids, I think we just witnessed history.”