Weekend Excerpt–THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE

They say desperate times call
for desperate measures.
Charley Weatherly is about to realize
that it’s true.

Life isn’t working out exactly the way Charley Weatherly imagined it might when she walked away from her steady paycheck as a copywriter to start her own business. But as it turns out, not everyone in town is knocking down the door of her tiny independent bookshop. She has lost money every quarter since she opened.

Now, with her grandmother in need of more care than Charley can provide, some difficult decisions have to be made. The rest of her 401k plus the proceeds from selling the bookstore might keep Nana in Pacifico Manor for about a year. That would give Charley time to figure out her next move.

But when that money is irretrievably lost, Charley is faced with an impossible decision. Being a gestational surrogate for a couple who can’t have a baby on their own will bring in the kind of cash she needs. Can she really follow through?

Between trying to keep her small business afloat and caring for her grandmother, Charley’s personal life has been nonexistent. But when she moves to the city for a few months, she finds she enjoys the freedom of her part-time gig at Bravo Java. She especially enjoys chatting up the handsome local artist who spends his mornings there. Now that her life is taking an unexpected turn, has she finally met the right man at the wrong time?

Artist Ben Campbell has had his fair share of romantic disasters. For the time being, he’s content to follow his self-imposed schedule: gym, coffee, work, repeat.

But the new barista at his favorite coffee shop piques his interest. In fact, if he’s honest with himself, she looks a lot like the elusive redhead who haunts his dreams.

She seems to be attracted to him, too. So why does Charley insist on keeping him at arm’s length?

Prefer your romance with plenty of heat and tons of heart?
You’ll love The Girl in the Guesthouse!

In this scene, Charley’s new love interest Ben is away working on a project, but his thoughts are never far from her.

With a satisfied sigh, Ben stood in the window of his hotel suite and gazed down at the once-bare brick wall across the street. Raising a cold Corona from the mini-bar, he toasted his nearly completed work. One more day would do it, he reflected. And the day after that, he’d endure Darla Huntington’s splashy unveiling party, then he’d be heading down to Austin for the photoshoot.

Sipping his beer, he sighed again, ready to be finished with all of it and on his way to Bluebell and the sanctuary of his mother’s farm. His lips quirked a bit and he shook his head. That wasn’t really what he longed for, either.

Seventeen hundred miles away was where his heart was. Tucked away in a tiny guesthouse in Pacific Heights. He wondered what Charley might be doing at that moment.

Retrieving his phone from his back pocket, he glanced at the time. It was 11:30 in Dallas, but that made it only 9:30 on the West Coast. Enjoying the flutter in his stomach, he clicked Charley’s name and lifted the device to his ear.

“Hey there,” Charley answered softly. “How are you?”

“Hey there, yourself,” Ben smiled. “Sorry it’s so late. Did I wake you?”

“No, I’m all cozy in bed reading a trashy romance novel,” she laughed. “It’s not my usual taste, but I couldn’t resist the cover. It’s really awful in the best possible way.”

Ben laughed too. “I don’t think I even want to ask.”

“No. You definitely don’t. So how was your day?”

“It was great. I’ll spend tomorrow tying up all the loose ends and it will be finished. Did you see the pictures?” He had posted three different angles of the mural on Instagram just before he left for the evening.

“I did. I may be as big a stalker as Gina,” Charley teased.

“Ha! I don’t think that’s possible,” Ben laughed again. “Although there’s a lady here who might be a serious contender.”

“Really? Who?”

Instantly sorry he had opened that particular can of worms, Ben realized he had no choice other than to elaborate. “Oh, the lady who nominated me for this mural seems to have maybe had some ulterior motives.”

“Ulterior motives? How so?”

Ben shoved his free hand into his pocket and paced the length of the hotel room. “I don’t know,” he shrugged for the benefit of the empty room, “she keeps trying to get me by myself, go for drinks or something. Makes me seriously question how I ended up getting this honor in the first place.”

“Don’t be silly. You’re very talented. Ms. Sexual Harrassment might have nominated you, but the entire committee decided you were the one for the job.” Charley’s tone was decidedly protective.

Ben felt the flutter again and he smiled. “I guess you’re right.”

“Of course, I am. You’ll learn this about me; I’m always right.”

Laughing with Charley was the best thing Ben had done all day. Maybe in several days. His mind skipped to another thought. “Hey, I was thinking I might bring you a prize from Texas. I’ve been looking around a little. They have Dallas Cowboys stuff everywhere, but not everyone is a Cowboys fan.”

“You don’t need to bring me anything. Besides, I’ve never really followed basketball, so I’m sure I don’t need any Cowboys stuff.”

“Well, the Cowboys play football, so there’s that,” Ben chuckled.

“I know. I just like saying stuff like that to annoy dudes. It’s kind of a hobby.”

Laughing harder, Ben shook his head to himself. “Is that right? I’ll have to make a note. But seriously, what can I bring you?”

“Besides yourself? Nothing. There’s nothing in the world that I need.”

“Nothing at all?”

He heard her laugh on the other end of the phone. “Nothing. But if you insist on bringing something, make sure it’s extra cheesy.”

“Extra cheesy. Okay. I guess I have my work cut out for me.”

THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE by Pandora Spocks

THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE is available
at your favorite online bookseller.



Weekend Excerpt–HUNTER’S PRIDE

A handsome rancher with a tragic past,
determined to hang on to his inheritance.
A spunky young corporate lawyer
ready to make her mark in the world.
A sinister plot against them both.

Hunter McFall is a fifth-generation Idaho cattle rancher. He’s been approached to sell a small fraction of his land to a big-city real estate developer. Something he has no intention of doing. He’s agreed to hear out the firm’s lawyer, but that’s the end of it. To his surprise, it’s just the beginning.

Red-haired Manhattan business attorney Poppy Chastain is determined to make the most of her first opportunity to show her bosses what she can do. Slade & Howell have sent her to the boondocks of Idaho to convince the hard-headed rancher to part with a tiny plot of his property. She didn’t count on the sizzling attraction between them.

Together, they find a passion they weren’t even looking for. But their love is threatened by a covert scheme to separate Hunter from his land by any means necessary. When he finds out, he’s sure Poppy has played him for a fool. Can she convince him otherwise, that what they’ve found is real?

If you love hot cowboys, sassy redheads, and steamy, romantic happily-ever-afters, you’ll love Hunter’s Pride.

In this first chapter, Hunter gets a lesson in making assumptions when he meets big-city lawyer P.K. Chastain for the first time.

Hunter McFall squinted his hazel eyes at the dust trail on the horizon and shook his head in annoyance. He didn’t have time for this. He had 1,500 head of cattle that needed moving to new pasture.

Not that it made this day any different from any other day. Cattle need to be rotated to fresh grazing land. The herd had spent yesterday down on the flood plain beside the bend of Deer Creek. Today he wanted them moved into the foothills.

But he had Rolly Stevens to head up moving the beeves. Rolly had been with the McFalls since before Hunter ever sat on a horse. And the younger hands listened to the old man, respected him.

And if Hunter was honest with himself, he didn’t mind a day off the trail too badly. Except he wasn’t looking forward to this appointment.

The dust trail was closer now. Hunter sighed deeply and nudged the bay beneath him, gently pulling the reins to the right.

“Let’s go, Cheyenne,” he muttered. The horse tossed her head and turned to the right, heading back toward the house.

P.K. Chastain. Just the name irritated him. The notion of a grown man going by his initials struck him as pretentious as fuck. The fact that P.K. Chastain was a lawyer representing Slade & Howell didn’t engender him to Hunter anymore than his name did.

He’d received the letters and emails from this Chastain fellow, the ones making all kinds of shiny promises on behalf of Slade & Howell. But Hunter didn’t care. He wasn’t interested in selling any McFall land to some developer who wanted to build a mountain resort. Keep that shit over by Sun Valley if that’s what you had in mind.

Here in Deer Creek Valley and the Boxroot Mountains, McFalls had raised cattle for five generations, and by God, he intended to continue the family legacy until his last breath.

A vehicle came around the bend just as Hunter loosely wrapped Cheyenne’s reins around a rail in the shade of a large cottonwood. From beneath his wide-brimmed hat, he glowered at the silver Range Rover as it pulled to a stop along the side of the gravel drive. City people always fancied themselves rugged outdoorsmen when they came out to this neck of Idaho. Yet another reason he wasn’t interested in having a luxury resort anywhere near McFall.

He set his mouth in a firm line and walked toward the SUV. The driver’s door opened, and a shiny black high-heeled pump emerged, followed by a shapely calf. Surprised, Hunter stopped, watching as a petite redhead stepped out of the car. Her hair was done up in one of those fancy, efficient updos with a few loose wisps around her face, which was obscured by large designer sunglasses. Hunter’s eyes zeroed in on sensuously shaped ruby-red lips.

The woman leaned back into the SUV, affording Hunter a view of a nicely rounded ass, neatly packaged in a black pencil skirt. She emerged a moment later holding a tan leather satchel. Closing the car door, she marched toward him.

“Mr. McFall?” She stuck out a well-manicured hand, her nails painted the same red as her lips. “I’m P.K. Chastain. We’ve emailed back and forth?”

Slowly, Hunter reached out and took her tiny hand in his own, suddenly aware of how rough and calloused ranch work made them.

“You’re P.K. Chastain?”

The redhead tilted her head and removed the sunglasses, revealing deep chestnut eyes in a shade he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen before. “You were expecting a man, I suppose.” Her tone was defensive.

“I guess when I heard that a lawyer was coming out here, I just assumed.”

P.K. Chastain narrowed her eyes at him. “Maybe the news didn’t make it this far out in the boondocks,” she said, one hand holding the satchel, the other a fist on her hip. “But it’s the 21st century now. Women get to vote and everything.”

Hunter suppressed a grin, his mustache shifting with the effort. “Seems I heard tell about something like that,” he drawled. “Maybe it was the fact that you go by your initials. What does P.K. stand for, anyway?”

He watched her cheeks color slightly as the woman squared her shoulders. “That’s neither here nor there. Is there someplace we can sit and discuss the generous offer being made to you by Slade & Howell?”

He pursed his lips and watched her for a moment. Then he nodded. “We can meet in my office.” He gestured toward the huge log home that had been in his family for generations. When he’d been a boy, his grandfather had added an extension to the north end of the house, creating an office from which to run ranch business.

“If we’re going to have a business, my boy, we’d better treat it like one,” the elder Hunter McFall had told his young namesake.

That Hunter McFall had been the first of his family to attend college, and his son and grandson had followed in his footsteps. They’d taken what had been a rough and tumble ranch and turned it into a successful cattle business, acquiring extra acreage along the way as some of their neighbors failed to keep up with the times.

P.K. Chastain, leather satchel in hand, clipped purposefully across the gravel drive and up the steps to the covered porch that ran the length of the front of the house and around the southern side. Hunter followed along behind, amused by the turn of events.

At the door, she stopped, allowing him to open it and usher her inside. Just inside the door, he paused to hang his black felt hat on a rack beside the door. His mother had always been firm: “No hats in the house.” He supposed that extended to the office as well.

Hunter imagined he could see the office from his guest’s point of view as he inhaled the familiar scent of leather and wood. Behind the huge reclaimed wood desk, antique branding irons hung in a row from an old board on the wall above a barnwood credenza. Opposite the desk were a pair of leather wingback chairs. The chairs matched twin oxblood leather chesterfield couches that flanked an antique trunk-turned-coffee table in the center of the room.

On the opposite end from his desk sat a long wood conference table surrounded by leather club chairs. Western art from his grandfather’s collection accented the walls and the entire space was crowned by an enormous iron chandelier hung from the peaked roof.

The lawyer glanced around appreciatively. “It’s lovely,” she murmured.

Hunter nodded. “Thank you. The original cabin is over a hundred years old, but it’s been added to over the years. My grandfather added this office extension when he took over the business over forty years ago.”

“Lovely,” she repeated. She gestured with her satchel. “Where would you like me to set up?”

Set up?

He shrugged slightly. “Anywhere you’re most comfortable is fine.”

He watched as the woman’s gaze flitted all around the room before it settled on the conference table.

“That looks good,” she said, and moved in that direction, her high heels clipping against the wide plank floor.

She placed the satchel on the table and opened it, rooting around until she found what she was looking for. She handed Hunter a glossy-covered booklet, a gorgeous shot of the Boxroot Mountains gracing the front with Boxroot Mountain Resort declared in bold, rustic letters.

“Please, have a seat,” she gestured to the chair at the head of the table.

Hunter suppressed a smirk at the city woman telling him where to sit in his own office. Curious to see where this was all leading, he sank into the chair and watched as she dug into the bag once again.

“If you’d like to flip through the prospectus while I get my presentation ready,” she said. “I won’t be long.” She looked up at him. “You do have wi-fi?”

He nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” he drawled. “All the way out here in the boondocks, we have wi-fi and the interwebs. Why, hell, we even have the dot com.”

She paused her movements to purse her lips at him. Then she went back to her digging, tucking a few stray red hairs behind her left ear. From her bag, she extracted a small black cube about the size of a baseball. This she set up on a small tripod on the table, then she went back to rooting around in the satchel.

Hunter tried unsuccessfully to look away from the way her wispy white blouse gapped in the front every time she leaned over the bag. Ms. Chastain had stellar cleavage. That paired with the nicely rounded ass he’d appreciated outside made her an intriguing distraction from the ordinary.

He didn’t look over the prospectus. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t interested in selling. But he’d hear her out. It beat the hell out of rounding up reluctant Herefords.

HUNTER’S PRIDE by Pandora Spocks

HUNTER’S PRIDE is available
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/HuntersPride

Weekend Excerpt–THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE

They say desperate times call for desperate measures.
Charley Weatherly is about to realize that it’s true.

I’m so excited that my new novel, THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE, is finally out! It’s been a long time coming, with one interruption after another, but hopefully, it’s worth the wait.

The idea for this book came from a news report I saw about a celebrity becoming a first-time parent via gestational surrogate. I began to wonder…

Who is this woman having a child for a stranger who can’t do it on their own? What is her motivation, her life situation? What are her hopes and dreams?

So I began to explore these notions by writing. This book is the result. Read the official blurb:

Life isn’t working out exactly the way Charley Weatherly imagined it might when she walked away from her steady paycheck as a copywriter to start her own business. But as it turns out, not everyone in town is knocking down the door of her tiny independent bookshop. She has lost money every quarter since she opened.

Now, with her grandmother in need of more care than Charley can provide, some difficult decisions have to be made. The rest of her 401k plus the proceeds from selling the bookstore might keep Nana in Pacifico Manor for about a year. That would give Charley time to figure out her next move.

But when that money is irretrievably lost, Charley is faced with an impossible decision. Being a gestational surrogate for a couple who can’t have a baby on their own will bring in the kind of cash she needs. Can she really follow through?

Between trying to keep her small business afloat and caring for her grandmother, Charley’s personal life has been nonexistent. But when she moves to the city for a few months, she finds she enjoys the freedom of her part-time gig at Bravo Java. She especially enjoys chatting up the handsome local artist who spends his mornings there. Now that her life is taking an unexpected turn, has she finally met the right man at the wrong time?

Artist Ben Campbell has had his fair share of romantic disasters. For the time being, he’s content to follow his self-imposed schedule: gym, coffee, work, repeat.

But the new barista at his favorite coffee shop piques his interest. In fact, if he’s honest with himself, she looks a lot like the elusive redhead who haunts his dreams.

She seems to be attracted to him, too. So why does Charley insist on keeping him at arm’s length?

Prefer your romance with plenty of heat and tons of heart?
You’ll love The Girl in the Guesthouse!

Here’s a little teaser.

Looking around the room, Charley saw some of the paintings she had watched Ben working on in his loft. She took a few steps toward one, an abstract in bright colors. “This is amazing,” she whispered. “Look at this! All your work for people to see.”

“And buy, hopefully,” he laughed. “I’m always hoping to sell my pieces.”

He stepped toward her and took her hand. “There’s something I want to show you.”

Curious, Charley allowed him to lead her around a corner where another few paintings were hanging. Ben stood her in front of one and stepped back. “These are the ones I wanted to keep a surprise until today.”

Frowning slightly, Charley gazed at the vast canvas rectangle. The first thing she noticed was the riot of color. But unlike the abstracts she had seen in the main part of the room, this painting, and the ones beside it, were clearly representational, albeit more impressionistic than realistic.

In the first one, a hand reached out toward a form moving away from it. Looking closer, Charley saw that it was a woman. A woman with red hair. Frowning, she turned her head to look at Ben, who pursed his lips and waited for her reaction.

She moved to the next painting. In this one, the red-haired woman was closer, but her back was still turned. In the third piece, the woman was closer still, and now she looked over her shoulder at the viewer, a happy, impish expression on her face. Unconsciously, Charley reached up to touch her own face. “Is this me?” she asked quietly.

Ben stood beside her, draping his arm around her waist. “I had this dream so many times. You were always just out of my reach. Obviously, I didn’t know it was you. Until I did know it was you. And everything fell into place. This was a story I had to tell.”

Worry knit his brow as he looked down at her. “Do you hate it?”

“Of course, I don’t hate it. I love it! And I love you.” Even in her boots, she had to tiptoe to reach him to press a kiss to his lips. “It’s amazing, and I’m flattered beyond, well, anything.”

Ben exhaled loudly. “Thank God! I thought it was a great idea, and I kept it a surprise, but then, I started having second thoughts once it was up in here. What if you hated them? What if you were angry that I painted you?”

Charley chuckled. “You worry a lot. Who wouldn’t love this? I suppose that, in a way, it’s our story, right?”

“It is at that,” Ben agreed, drawing her to himself. “I am a lucky, lucky man.”

“Okay, the doors are opening!” someone shouted into the room. “Ready or not, here they come.”

“Hoo, boy. Here goes nothing,” Ben muttered.

“This is going to be great,” Charley reassured him.

**

And it was. The buzz about Ben’s work was highly positive, and several of the pieces sold in the first hour. Their friends Robin and Cam came, and Ben was glad Charley had someone to hang out with while he schmoozed potential buyers and chatted with old friends.

Drew and Alex popped in, purchasing a painting Drew said he planned to hang in his office.

Occasionally, Charley would flit by to bring him a drink or to squeeze his hand reassuringly. Ben’s heart ached at the pride he saw in her eyes. He was, indeed, a lucky man.

He was chatting with Charley when he heard a familiar voice.

“Great work, as usual. No surprise there. How are you, Ben?”

He turned to see Claire holding a glass of wine in salute and felt his eyes widen. “Claire?”

“I heard you had a show, and I wanted to see your new work.” Her words were for Ben, but her eyes were on Charley.

Belatedly, he realized he needed to introduce them. “Claire, meet Charley Weatherly. Charley, this is Claire.”

He didn’t miss the narrowing of Claire’s eyes. Or the way she was laser-focused on Charley’s baby bump. What surprised him was that Charley gave Claire the same look. He recognized Charley’s forced smile as she reached to shake the woman’s hand.

“Nice to meet you,” Charley murmured politely.

Claire nodded rather imperiously if he wasn’t reading too much into it. “Likewise.”

Charley lightly squeezed his arm. “I’m going to see if I can find Robin and Cam.” She looked at Claire. “Again, nice to meet you.” She scurried off without waiting for a reply. Which was just as well since there wasn’t one.

Instead, Claire crossed her arms and glared at him. “Wow, Ben, what have you been up to?”

Opting to ignore the real meaning of her question, he shrugged lightly. “Oh, you know, same old same old. I kind of busted a hump to get this show ready, but other than that, just the usual.”

“You know what I mean. You’re going to be a father?”

Ben glanced around to find Charley talking with Robin, whose eyes were shooting daggers Claire’s way. He had to suppress a smile.

“No,” he shook his head. “The babies aren’t mine.”

“Babies? As in plural?” Claire was aghast. “You’re dating a chick who is pregnant with someone else’s babies, plural?”

“They aren’t hers, either. Charley’s a surrogate. The twins are actually Alex and Drew’s, and they’re due in May.”

“Unbelievable,” Claire muttered, shaking her head. “You’ve reached a new low, do you know that?”

“I have no idea what you mean,” he answered, trying to tamp down his growing irritation.

“You’re dating a pregnant chick,” she hissed. “Do I really need to explain how pathetic that is? You’re a young, great-looking guy, and you can do way better. And you know it, too.”

“Hey!” Ben had had enough. “I love Charley. And she loves me. I know you, Claire. I know that genuine love is a foreign concept to you. For you, it’s all fun and games. But I’ve always been looking for the missing part of me.”

“Right,” Claire rolled her eyes. “And this Charley person is it.” Her tone was beyond sarcastic.

“Okay, Claire,” Ben said stiffly. “Thanks for coming by. I need to mingle with the other guests. See you later.” He tried to move off before she could say anything else.

“I was accepted into the residency. I’m going to Paris at the beginning of April.”

Ben paused. “Congrats!” he hurled over his shoulder. “I hope you enjoy it.”

“Have you heard from them yet?” Claire asked.

He shook his head. “Nope. Goodnight, Claire.”

THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE by Pandora Spocks

THE GIRL IN THE GUESTHOUSE
is now available at your favorite online bookseller!
books2read.com/TheGirlInTheGuesthouse