Weekend Excerpt–LOST & BOUND

I’m thrilled to announce that LOST & BOUND, Book 2 of the Dream Dominant Collection, has been named a 2018 Finalist (Erotic category) in the Colorado Romance Writers’ Beverley Contest.   Winners will be announced July 15, so fingers crossed!

Making this even more exciting is the fact that I’m getting ever closer to finishing WARRIOR MINE, Dream Dominant Book 4, and a spin-off from LOST & BOUND.

Here’s a teaser from LOST & BOUND.

Blake carried the bucket to a board wedged waist-high between two birch trees.  “How about I build a campfire and clean the fish?  You can go get the skillet and some plates?”  He nodded toward the cabin.

When she returned from the cabin carrying a large cast-iron skillet stacked with a pair of white-dotted blue enamelware plates and a variety of utensils, a fire was roaring in the stone ring and Blake was filleting the first fish.  Shasta placed everything on a stump near where he was working and sank onto a log close to the fire.

Neither of them spoke.  Somewhere further down the lake, a loon called and they heard it echo across the water.  Blake’s attention was on the fish but out of the corner of his eye, he watched her assessing him.

“Have you always been a mountain man?”  Her expression was earnest.

Blake’s head dropped back as he laughed out loud.  “A mountain man?  Is that what I am?”

Shasta smiled sheepishly.  “Aren’t you?”

“Well, I grew up at the lodge.  My grandparents built the place.  My grandmother was Miranda.  The lake is named for her.  But I haven’t always lived here.  I went away to college.  After graduation, I worked for a while as a wilderness counselor.  I was in the woods a lot, but I was based in Toronto.”

“A wilderness counselor,” she repeated thoughtfully.

“Yeah, you know, we worked with troubled city kids, took them out and taught them survival skills and self-reliance, that kind of thing.”

“You worked with bad kids?” she wondered.

He shook his head.  “They weren’t bad, really.  Just…lost.  They needed help to find their way.”

“Why did you stop?”

Blake shrugged.  “My folks ran the lodge for years until my dad’s stroke.  They retired to Florida.  My sister and her husband started running the place full-time.  When that asshole bugged out, I came to help her.”

Shasta watched him appraisingly.  “That was really nice of you.”

“She’s my sister.  I’d do anything for someone I love.”  He placed a grate over the fire and set the skillet on top.  “Besides, I’m happy to be home.  I drive past my old school every time I go into town.  There are a lot of great memories.  I don’t really miss the city.”  He sat opposite Shasta on another log.

She laughed lightly.  “It must be odd to come back to live where you grew up.  I imagine you were the big football hero around here.”

He shook his head.  “Football is for sissies.  We played hockey.”

“Oh, excuse me, hockey,” she laughed.

“That’s right.  Hockey.  A man’s sport.”  He reached into his mouth, and to her surprise, removed his right front tooth and the one beside it.  “Where I come from, if you have all your teeth, you weren’t really trying.”  He laughed at her shocked expression as he refit the teeth into his mouth.

Shasta grinned smugly.  “I’ve got you beat, mountain man.”  She stood and leaned toward him, parting her lips and baring her perfectly straight, whiter-than-white teeth.  She ran her forefinger across them.  “All of these are fake.  I had them all capped.  Can’t have uneven or discolored teeth in Hollywood.  Nope.”

She sighed as she sat back down.  “Nothing about me is real,” she murmured.  He eyed her curiously.  She gave him a sidelong glance, then ran a finger down her nose.  “Nose job.”  She waved a handful of hair.  “Extensions.”  She grabbed her tits.  “Boob job.”  She looked down at the dirt.  “Even my name is fake.”

Blake had been watching her with interest.  “Your name isn’t Shasta?”

She snorted.  “Who would name their kid Shasta?  Eddie gave me that name when I was five.  He told my parents that nobody would hire Amy Malone.  I needed a name with pizzazz.”  She waggled jazz hands.  “I think he has a list of names in a drawer someplace and you just get the next one on the list.”

“So your name is Amy.”

Shasta nodded.  “But nobody’s called me that since my grandpa died.  He thought all the acting stuff was stupid.  He kept telling my parents to let me just be a kid.”  She laughed.  “He refused to call me Shasta.  My grandpa was a pretty stubborn guy.”

His expression was soft.  “Why would you get a nose job?  Or breast implants?”

She shrugged and pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes.  “Eddie said the boobs would help me transition between being a child actor and an adult.”

Blake could feel his protective nature surging.  “Eddie’s that guy who brought you here?  He made you get a boob job?”

“He didn’t make me.  But I knew he’d be disappointed if I didn’t.”  She used her toe to push a patch of pine needles back and forth.

The fish was done, and Blake was glad for the distraction.  He plated the fillets, handing one to her and taking the other for himself.

“Oh, my god, this is amazing,” she moaned through her first bite.

He grinned.  “Nothing like fresh bass, right out of the lake.  Unless it’s fresh trout, right out of the lake.  That’s pretty good, too.”

They enjoyed their lunch without conversation, appreciating the quiet of the wilderness.  The silence was broken only by the crackling of the fire or the occasional call of a loon.  Once again, Shasta felt a sense of peace settle over her.

Blake took her plate when she was finished.  “Now, we’ll see about washing up these few things and then we’ll blow this pop stand.”

LOST & BOUND is available at your favorite online bookseller,
in both digital and paperback formats.
books2read.com/LostandBound

Watch the official LOST & BOUND book trailer!

Weekend Excerpt–Royal Wedding Edition

Because who doesn’t love a
modern-day adult fairy tale?

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Have you enjoyed the royal wedding as much as I have?  It’s so romantic, right?  Every girl’s fantasy!

And now that you’re in the mood, CHASING ORDINARY is my modern-day adult fairy tale.  Here’s what it’s all about.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh is too busy with her art and her work on the family sheep ranch in Montana to pay attention to celebrity gossip.  Which is why, when she meets the crown prince of Beruvia one rainy Manhattan night, she has no idea who he really is.  As far as she knows, he’s just Nik, wealthy Eurpoean businessman.

Nik is enchanted with her from the start.  She’s smart, funny, gorgeous, and she treats him like a regular person.  Petey’s his first ever taste of ordinary, everything he ever wanted.  If he doesn’t blow it.

How about a little teaser?

The moment Petey closed the apartment door behind herself, she burst into hot tears. Jules, who had been relaxing in the living room with her Kindle, immediately jumped up and came over to her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, reaching for her hand.

“I’m just so…fucking stupid,” Petey growled through her tears.

“But what happened?” Jules frowned deeply. “Did Nik hurt you? Because I will kick his ass!”

Petey was crying too hard to answer, so Jules put an arm around her and led her to the kitchen counter. While Petey settled onto a stool and continued to sob, Jules poured them both a shot of Cuervo Silver. “Here,” she said, handing a glass to Petey, “suck this down and tell me exactly what happened.”

Sniffling, Petey tossed back the tequila and coughed as it hit her throat. Jules downed hers quickly, and repoured for both of them. “So talk,” she urged her friend.

“H-he lied to me,” Petey stuttered, trying to calm her voice.

Jules gasped. “He’s married! That son of a bitch.”

Petey shook her head miserably. “No. That’s not it. He told me he was in international business.”

“And he’s not?” Jules asked.

“No! He’s the fucking prince of Beruvia!” Petey’s tears started anew.

Jules blinked. “He’s the prince of Beruvia? Nik?” She shook her head. “Pete, that doesn’t even make sense. The prince of Beruvia is Prince Stefan. He’s all over the tabloids all the time. Here, I’ll show you.”
Cueing up Google Images on her phone, she chose a headshot of a handsome blonde man with stormy blue eyes, and she held it up to Petey.

“Hon, this is Prince Stefan of Beruvia.”

Petey peered at the image and bawled anew. “I know! He lied to me!”

Realization began to dawn on Jules. “This? This is your Nik?” Her eyes widened. “You fucked the prince of Beruvia in my guest room?”

She watched as Petey crossed her arms on the counter and rested her head on them, her back shuddering with sobs. Jules rubbed her back soothingly. “Petey, seriously, how did you not know he was a prince? I mean, everybody knows who he is. He’s like, Europe’s most eligible divorcé.”

Petey raised up her head slightly to scowl at Jules. “Well, thanks, because I wasn’t feeling stupid enough already.”

Jules shook her head and gazed out over the living room. “Geez, Pete, he’s always in the tabloids and on the gossip shows.”

“I live on a sheep ranch. In my spare time, which is precious little, I work on my sculptures. I don’t have time or patience for stupid celebrity gossip.”

“So how did you find out?” Jules wondered.

Petey, calmer now, sat up and swiped at her face with her hands. “We were jumped by a bunch of photographers outside of Paddy’s. Nik’s-” She paused, scowling. “Whoever’s people, they pushed us into a car and drove us away.”

“Paparazzi?” Jules glanced at Petey. “You realize you’re probably online right now.”

“Stop it!” Petey gasped.

Pushing away from the kitchen counter, Jules padded into her bedroom and retrieved her laptop. She returned to the counter and fired up the device. “Let’s see,” she murmured.

Watching over her friend’s shoulder, Petey watched as Jules entered Prince Stefan into the search bar. Immediately images of the man who’d introduced himself as ‘Nik’ filled the screen. Jules refined the search to ‘most recent’ and there she was, Petey Cavanaugh, gaping wide-eyed as she and Nik were pushed into the back of a black Mercedes.

“Motherfucker,” Petey breathed.

From deep within her purse, her phone began to ring. Jules glanced at her. “Are you going to get that?”

Petey shook her head. “It’s probably him.”

The ringing continued. Jules pursed her lips. “I think you should get it.”

“I’m not answering,” Petey said, crossing her arms defiantly.

“Then I’m going to get it.” Grasping Petey’s bag from the floor where she’d dropped it, Jules rooted around until she found the device. She showed Nik’s image to Petey before swiping to unlock the phone. “Hello?”

“Oh, thank God, Petey, I’m so sorry. Please allow me to explain,” pleaded a deep voice with a British accent.

“No, this isn’t Petey, this is Jules. Petey’s very upset. She doesn’t feel up to talking right now.” Quietly, Jules pressed the button for ‘speaker’.

“I beg your pardon,” replied the voice. “I know she’s upset, and I know she feels that I deceived her, but I need to explain everything. Is there any way she’ll talk to me?”

Jules looked to Petey, who flashed double middle fingers and mouthed a silent, “Fuck you!”

She frowned into the phone, “Yeah, Nik, that’s not looking too good right now. Tell you what, give me a few minutes and I’ll see what I can do.”

CHASING ORDINARY is a 5-STAR reviewed contemporary fairy tale for grown-ups.

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Live the fairy tale!

Get CHASING ORDINARY
at your favorite online bookseller.

Weekend Excerpt–Luke & Bella

Luke & Bella new cover 1

LUKE & BELLA is Dream Dominant Book 1.  It’s the story that started it all, the very first book I ever published.

Television journalist Bella Grant is offered the job of a lifetime–touring exciting cities and finding adventure as she creates a brand new television travel show.  She’s been teamed up with veteran photographer Luke McGillicutty who’s been lured out of early retirement with the promise of having free reign to create the show he wants.  With Bella’s collaboration, of course.

Traveling to exotic locales, staying in 5-star hotels, is it any wonder they fall in love?  But it all happened so fast.  Luke hasn’t been completely honest with Bella.  If he tells her the truth now, he could lose her forever.  Can he risk everything on the chance that they could have it all?

Here’s a little teaser from LUKE & BELLA.

Luke ordered a light dinner of tapas delivered to the suite along with a bottle of local wine.  Bella wore a fluffy white bathrobe.  He’d put on faded jeans and a grey t-shirt.  She smiled lazily at him across the table, a woman sated.  He poured them both some wine and they nibbled on the baked feta and tomatoes, olives, and fresh fruits and breads.

Bella sighed and said, “I was thinking…”

“Uh-oh,” Luke laughed.

She gave him a wry smile.  “Seriously!  I was thinking about that really nice evening you planned for us in Edinburgh.”

“Yeah, you liked that, did you?” he asked, grinning.

“Um, yeah!  Wine, music, flowers, an amazing dinner, mind-blowing sex…what’s not to like?” she said.  “But, I was thinking that I should plan an evening.  You know, it’s my turn.”

“No, I don’t think that’s necessary,” he replied slowly.

“Not necessary?” she laughed.  “I’m not saying I feel obligated, just that I’d like to return the favor, so to speak.”

Luke waited a moment, considering his response.  The timing’s a little sooner than you planned, Cowboy, he thought.  Play it safe or risk losing her?  Decision made, he took the risk.  “The thing is, I’m not a fan of surprises.  I’m something of a…dominant…kind of guy.  I like making the plans,” he said evenly.

Bella looked at him, brow furrowed.  “You’re a ‘dominant kind of guy’?  As in, Dominant/submissive ‘dominant’?” she laughed lightly.

“Well, yes,” he said, looking at her directly.

Bella blinked.  “You’re kidding, right?” she asked incredulously.

Luke shook his head.  “No, not kidding.”

Her eyes went wide and her mouth hung open slightly.  “I don’t understand.  What does that mean that you do?”

He shrugged.  “Whatever makes me and my partner happy.  Blindfolds, restraints, spanking, safe words.  When we play a scene, she is mine, completely surrendered to me.  And I protect and care for her.”

When she didn’t reply, he continued, “It’s not a big deal.  I like to be in charge when it comes to romance, to sex.  I like to be the protector, to take care of my woman.  And,” he added softly, “if it doesn’t blow your mind too much, I think you are the perfect submissive.”

She shook her head slowly, eyes wide with disbelief.  “You are SO barking up the wrong tree.  I am anything but submissive.  I need to be in control.”

“I’ve noticed,” he said quietly.  “But you’re not good at it.  I said before that you try to control things by putting them into neat little categories, boxes.  When that doesn’t work, you shut down.  Imagine not having to control.  Not having to think or worry.  Just letting go and allowing someone else to be in control for a while.”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Bella whispered.  “You have lost your mind!”

“I understand your reservations.  Between your father and your ex, you’ve never had a man in your life that you could completely trust,” he said gently.

Bella felt as though she’d been gut-punched.  His words rang in her ears and she knew they were true.

“I am that man, Bella.  Do you trust me?  You can completely let go.  It will be the most freeing experience of your life,” he stated with quiet confidence, looking at her steadily, hoping to reassure her.

She shook her head again.  “I’m falling in…” it came out as a sob, “and now I realize I don’t even know you!”

She abruptly left the table and went into the bedroom, emerging a few minutes later completely dressed in jeans and a white tank top.  On her face was the hard, closed expression he’d seen that night in Amsterdam.  “I’m going out for a while,” she told him firmly.

“Bella, I wish you wouldn’t go alone.  It could be dangerous,” he worried.

She waved him off and walked out the door, closing it behind her.

“Shit!” Luke exhaled deeply, and he ran his fingers through his hair, wondering if he’d made a mistake, if he’d lost her.

Luke & Bella new cover 2

LUKE & BELLA  is available in digital and paperback
at your favorite online bookseller.

LUKE & BELLA

Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

Who doesn’t love a modern-day adult fairy tale?

Redhead woman embracing her man on snowy winter day

Europe’s most eligible prince.
A gifted sculptor who has no idea who he really is.
She’s everything he ever wanted…if he doesn’t blow it.

When artist Petey Cavanaugh agreed to show her steel and glass sculptures in a Manhattan gallery, she never planned on falling in love with a prince.

Following their chance meeting on a rainy evening, Nik realizes Petey doesn’t know who he is, and he savors his first-ever taste of ordinary. He knows he needs to be honest with her, but before he comes clean, Petey discovers the truth for herself.

Feeling humiliated and betrayed, she refuses to have anything to do with him. Will she give him the chance to explain? Or has his lie of omission cost him everything?

Here’s a new teaser from CHASING ORDINARY.

The man reached to shake her hand.  “Ms. Cavanaugh, enchanted.  We’re pleased to have you dining with us this evening.”

Dining?  Petey glanced around, seeing only a handful of small private planes and a red helicopter.

“If you’ll step this way, we’ll be ready to go.”  The man led them to the helicopter, which struck Petey as not unlike the one they’d flown in that night in Manhattan.

Petey climbed aboard, sliding over to allow Nik to climb in beside her.  She buckled her seatbelt and picked up a set of headphones.  “A helicopter?”  She arched an eyebrow.

“It’s a very exclusive restaurant,” Nik quipped, putting on his own headphones.

The engine roared to life and the rotors began spinning.  The aircraft lifted off the ground, and soon, Lars, Ada, and the car looked like toys far below.  Excited, Petey reached for Nik’s hand as they rose even higher.  The ground below was covered in a layer of snow, making the farms and forests look like a winter wonderland.

“That’s Ansgar,” Nik pointed out as they flew over the castle.  Petey could just make out her workshop and the barn with the brand-new stable behind it.  She leaned over to give Nik a kiss.  He smiled with pleasure.

After they flew over the estate, they banked left and headed toward the mountains.  The rolling farmland faded away as jagged granite mountains rose before them.  In the space between two peaks, Petey saw a vast open space covered in what looked to be deep snow.  Something clearly manmade marred the pristine snowfield, but Petey couldn’t tell what it was.

The helicopter circled around and landed at the edge of the snowfield.  Petey could now see that the rectangular anomaly was a dining table carved out of the snow.  Flanking it on either side were benches, also carved out of the snow.  While the table was elegantly set for a formal dinner, the benches were covered with red blankets, and each seat was defined by a thick white fur.

The pilot opened the helicopter door and let Nik out.  Nik, in turn, reached out for Petey’s hand, helping her climb down.

He smiled down at her.  “See why we needed ski clothes?”

She nodded, eyes shining.  “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Good.  Let’s have dinner, shall we?”

They chatted quietly over fresh seafood and champagne.  The only other people were the pilot and the two servers, who remained discreetly at a distance unless they were needed.  Warm enough with a blanket pulled over her lap, Petey gazed out across the valley to the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

When she looked back, Nik was smiling at her.  “Do you like it?”

She couldn’t stop the grin.  “I love it.  You know it isn’t necessary, though.  All this,” she rolled her eyes, “fancy stuff.”

He smiled at her tenderly.  “I know.  That’s why I wanted to do it.”

Together, they toasted the sunset as the receding light painted the sky in glorious shades of purple, rose, and orange.

If you love grown-up fairy tales, this is the book for you.
One-click Chasing Ordinary today!

Chasing Ordinary 7

Also…
CHASING ORDINARY has made it to the second round of voting in the All Author March Book Cover Competition.  I’d really appreciate your vote!  Thanks!!  ❤

All Author book cover

 

Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary

Europe’s most eligible prince.
A gifted sculptor who has no idea who he really is.
She’s everything he ever wanted…if he doesn’t blow it.

CO 5 Star reviews

CHASING ORDINARY, my new modern-day adult fairy tale,
launched February 13 to 5-STAR reviews.

When artist Petey Cavanaugh agreed to show her steel and glass sculptures in a Manhattan gallery, she never planned on falling in love with a prince.

Following their chance meeting on a rainy evening, Nik realizes Petey doesn’t know who he is, and he savors his first-ever taste of ordinary. He knows he needs to be honest with her, but before he comes clean, Petey discovers the truth for herself.

Feeling humiliated and betrayed, she refuses to have anything to do with him. Will she give him the chance to explain? Or has his lie of omission cost him everything?

If you love grown-up fairy tales, this is the book for you.

Check out this steamy new excerpt from CHASING ORDINARY.

She turned her face to meet his lips, devouring them hungrily, as he pulled her closer.  Sliding her hands inside his jacket, she helped him shrug it off without breaking the kiss.  Holding her tightly, Nik backed their way to the couch where he sat, bringing Petey to rest straddling his lap, and deepening their kiss.

He slipped his hands beneath her sweater, skimming up her torso to cup her breasts.  Finally releasing his lips, she dropped her head back and gasped as he kneaded her mounds, fondling her nipples, coaxing them into sharp points that strained against the fabric of her bra.  She raised her arms and he slipped the sweater over her head, dropping it to the floor.

Nik leaned back slightly to admire her perfect tits, tantalizingly on display in ivory lace.  When he looked back up, her soft brown eyes flickered with heat.

“I want you.”  Her voice was husky.

He plunged his lips to hers once again.  With his hands on her hips, he pulled her against his burgeoning erection, and she moaned into his mouth.  “Let’s take this to the bedroom,” he murmured.

Gently, he slid her from his lap, and took her hand, leading her to the library door.  “Wait!” she hissed.  “All those people are out there.”

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair.  He blew out a frustrated breath.  “Just one moment.”  He held up a finger.  Planting a quick kiss on her cheek, he slipped out of the library, closing the door behind him.

Petey stood awkwardly, endeavoring to catch her breath.  As an afterthought, she scooped up her sweater from the floor and slipped it back over her head.

Two minutes later, the door opened and Nik leaned into the room.  “All gone.  I sent them all away for the rest of the night.”  He frowned slightly.  “You got dressed.”

“I felt silly just standing here, so…”

“Come,” he held out a hand.  “Let’s get properly reacquainted.”

Not bothering to close the bedroom door, Nik drew Petey to himself once again, peeling off her sweater and her bra as well.  Hands resting lightly on her hips, he gazed down at her.  “You have the most exquisite breasts.”  He cupped them, hefting their weight, rolling her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers, encouraged by her breathy moans.

“You have too many clothes on,” Petey murmured, reaching to loosen his tie.  She dropped it to the floor and helped him remove his shirt, as well.

Pressing herself to his bare chest, she reached up to tilt his face towards her, claiming his lips with her own.  Nik lifted her, walking to the bed, where he lay her gently.  With an impish grin, he unfastened her jeans and removed them, panties and all, dropping them with the other clothes littering the floor.

His mouth watered at the sight of the neatly trimmed thatch of red hair at the juncture of her thighs.  But he knew he couldn’t hold off any longer.  He undid his pants and dropped them to the floor, releasing the raging erection that would not be denied.  A glance up at Petey showed her eyeing his cock hungrily.

Quickly, he reached for a foil packet in the bedside drawer.  Tearing it open, he rolled on the condom, crawled on top of her, and slammed himself home.  Petey gasped in his ear as she tightly gripped his upper arms.  “Oh, yes,” she hissed.

Feeling his moment rising, he increased his pace, and Petey responded with cries of pleasure.  “Come with me, love,” he encouraged.  On his next thrust, she arched beneath him, calling out loudly, as he exploded in release.

Use this link to get your copy of CHASING ORDINARY.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

 

Valentine’s Day Behind the Book–Chasing Ordinary

Happy Valentine’s Day!

    

CHASING ORDINARY, my ‘spicy vanilla’ modern-day fairy tale
is LIVE at your favorite online bookseller.

Today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I want to take you Behind the Book.

In the story, red-haired Petey Cavanaugh is a young widow, living on her in-laws’ Montana sheep ranch.  She helps with the ranch during the day, working at night on her steel and glass sculptures.

When Petey’s best friend Jules, her former art school roommate, arranges a gallery show of her work, Petey jumps at the chance to bring in a little extra money to expand the ranch’s business.

I wanted Jules to have a really cool Manhattan apartment, and in doing my research, I found this fantastic place on the upper east side.  See what you think.  (Photos via Realtor.com)

Nik, in New York on business, meets Petey quite by accident one rainy evening.  He’s instantly taken with her intelligence, talent, and easy manner.  As they chat over apple pie and coffee, he realizes she has no idea he’s Europe’s most eligible prince.  Spending time with Petey is his first-ever taste of ordinary, and he knows he wants more.  But he has to tell her the truth about himself soon, before she finds out for herself.

I figured a crown prince would stay in an ultra-luxurious hotel.  I finally settled on the Royal Plaza Suite at the Park Plaza.  Go ahead and take a little tour.  Notice the elegant dining table?  In the book, some naughty business happens there…

CHASING ORDINARY is now available
at your favorite online bookseller.
And just between you and me,
the 99¢ sale is held over for Valentine’s Day.
Get your copy here: books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

 

Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

Chasing Ordinary 7

She’s everything he ever wanted.

When Nik meets Petey on a rainy Manhattan night, she’s his first-ever taste of ordinary.  As crown prince of his country, he’s accustomed to women chasing him for his title or his money.

This extraordinary red-haired sculptor seems to have no idea who he is.  She takes him at face value, as simply a man and not an institution.  A quality he finds immensely attractive.

Obviously, he needs to be honest with her.  But he’s afraid to break the magic they share.  What will happen when she finds out the truth?

Nik glanced around.  “I take it you’ve been here before.”

“I have,” Petey grinned.  “Jules and I practically lived here during art school.  I place the blame for my ‘freshman fifteen’ squarely on the shoulders of Morelli’s.”

Nik smiled, too.  Coffee and pie were delivered, and Petey watched carefully as Nik took his first bite.

“Oh, my God,” he moaned around the cinnamon-apple confection.  “This is amazing.”

Pleased, Petey dug into her own dessert.  “I know, right?”

Nik washed that bite down with a sip of coffee and regarded her curiously.  “Now can you tell me a long story?”

She frowned.  “A long story?”

“Your name.  You said it was a long story.”  His blue eyes sparkled and he suppressed a smile as he waited expectantly.

“Oh, that.”  Petey rolled her eyes.  “It was my grandfather, really.  When I was born, my parents named me after my great-grandmother.  But my grandfather hated the name.  He ranted at them, ‘Call her anything.  Call her Pete.  Just don’t call her Cecilia.’”  She gestured in imitation of her mother’s father.

She smiled at him ruefully.  “Pete just kind of stuck.  I’ve been Petey all my life.”

Nik brushed his fingers over his lips, obscuring his smile.  “Cecilia’s not so bad.  But you do seem like a Petey to me.”

He took another large bite of pie and Petey nibbled at hers.  Then she cleared her throat.  “So, you’re from England?”

Shaking his head, he finished chewing and swallowed.  “No, I’m from Beruvia.”

“Oh,” she replied, eyes wide.  “Just, well…your accent.  I thought you sounded British.”

“I went to boarding school in England.  That’s where I picked up the accent.”

“Boarding school?”  She frowned deeply.  “That’s horrible!”

Nik laughed out loud.  “Why is that horrible?  It was a very good education.”

Petey blushed furiously.  “I don’t mean…I mean…well, I just felt so sad for a little boy being sent away from his family.  It seems so lonely and cold.  How old were you?”

In his eyes, there was a spark of something Petey couldn’t identify as he watched her for a moment.  Then he smiled warmly.  “Around eleven, I think.  And I wasn’t all alone.  My brother was there.  Our parents came to visit us when they could, and of course, we went home for holidays.  It’s a family tradition, actually.  My father attended there, and his father before him.  It wasn’t horrible, I promise.”

He took another bite of pie, and Petey smiled sheepishly.  “Well, if you say so.  God, I sound so judgmental!  I didn’t mean it that way, really.”

“I didn’t take it that way,” he shook his head.  “You have a kind heart.”

Petey blushed again and busied herself with another bite of pie.  He watched for a moment, glancing down at his phone when it buzzed.  Jorgen had sent a text message.

I’m taking a cab back to the hotel.  Security detail is in place, and the car is across the street.  Let Lars know when you’re ready to leave.

Nik keyed in a short reply and looked back to Petey.  “I noticed drawings on the walls beside the sculptures,” he encouraged.

She nodded, chewing quickly.  “That was Jules’ idea.  She thought people would be interested in my sketches.  I don’t know.”  She nodded at his phone.  “Do you need to go?”

He smiled reassuringly.  “No, not at all.  You sketch your designs first?”

“Yes, I get an idea and I have to put it down before I forget it.  Sometimes they come quickly, and other times they take a while.  And then I think about the materials I have on hand, and the things I might need to gather from other places.”  She quirked her head.  “Sometimes I use ‘found’ materials.  It just depends on the soul of the piece.”

“’Found’ materials?” he wondered.

“Did you see the dinner forks I incorporated in the one I called Bear?  I was at a flea market in Bozeman, and I came across this bunch of mismatched cutlery.  I just loved the forks and figured I could use them sometime.”

Nik leaned forward on his forearms, smiling.  “That’s fascinating.  Where do you get your ideas?”

Petey launched into an explanation of her creative process, eyes alight with enthusiasm.  As she did, Nik felt the tension of the day melting away.

Part of his fatigue was due, no doubt, to the fact that he felt immense pressure to perform his responsibilities in a dignified manner.  After all, he represented not only himself, but his country, and indeed, the crown itself.

Somehow, sitting across from this gorgeous red-haired sculptor, he felt free to let down his guard, to simply enjoy her company.  As she described working on her latest project, he felt his cheeks begin to ache from smiling.

She spoke without inhibition, without pretext.  Perhaps the fact that he’d passed her little test had given her a sense of trust in his sincerity.  The thought would have been encouraging but for one small detail.

She doesn’t know who I am.  That reality was stunning to him.  Not that he thought he was particularly someone of note.  His heritage had often seemed more a curse than a blessing, in more ways than he could count.  But he couldn’t recall ever having met someone who didn’t already know his name, his title, his obligation.

He’d need to come clean, obviously.

Why would I have to do that?  We’re having conversation over coffee.  It’s nothing more than that.

He smiled at her as she continued to describe her work.  He knew exactly why.  This was the first woman who’s sparked his interest in as long as he could remember.  He couldn’t let it end with one conversation over coffee.  He wanted more.

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CHASING ORDINARY is the contemporary adult fairy tale
I’ve always wanted to write.
It releases February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
But you can reserve your copy now for the special
Pre-Order price of 99¢!

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