Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

She’s his first-ever taste of ordinary.
And everything he ever wanted.
If he doesn’t blow it.

When international businessman Nik met sculptor Petey, it was a first for him. She’s smart, gorgeous…and she has no idea he’s Europe’s most eligible prince.

He knows he needs to tell her the truth. But for now, he’s enjoying spending time with a woman who sees him, not some title or inheritance.

Too bad the paparazzi beat him to the punch.

Here’s a snippet from CHASING ORDINARY.

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.”

Jules watched as Petey stalked to her bag, dug around, and produced a small notebook and a pencil. She couldn’t quite make out what she was sketching on the paper, but the pencil flew.

The relief in his voice was palpable. “Jules, I’d so appreciate your help. I know she may not forgive me, but I have to at least have the chance to explain.”

“I’m not making any promises, but I’ll try to talk to her. I’ll call you back soon,” Jules promised, before disconnecting.

While Jules was finishing her conversation with Nik, Petey put down her paper and pencil, and busied herself searching the internet for more on the enigmatic Nik/Prince Stefan. Clicking a link, she waited for a news item to pop up. When it did seconds later, she gasped, clapping a hand over her mouth.

Filling the screen was one of the series of images snapped between the back door of the pub and Nik’s car. She wondered how many frames could be snapped in the span of half a second. She stared, absorbing the photo. In the still frame, Nik was in profile, facing her as he held onto her hand. Her own face was turned full into the camera, her expression, stunned.

But it was the headline over the photograph that stopped her heart.

Prince Stefan’s New Bimbo!

“Oh, my God!” She turned to Jules. “My family is going to see this.”

Jules took a look and whistled softly. “Wow. That’s…harsh.”

Petey buried her face in her hands. “What am I going to do, Julesy?”

“I don’t know, sweetie,” Jules murmured, wrapping her arms around her friend. “I mean, maybe you should give him a chance.”

Petey whipped up her head. “Are you kidding? He lied to me. He made a fool out of me.” She chewed her lip pensively. “He’s probably laughing at me right now, him and all his…entourage.”

“He didn’t sound like he was laughing, Pete. He sounded miserable,” Jules pointed out. “Let’s look at something.” Turning the laptop towards herself, Jules tapped a few keys.

“Now, let’s see what we find…” She’d pulled up the Wikipedia page for Prince Stefan of Beruvia. “It says here that his full name is Nikolai Stefan Torbjorn von Bahr.” She laughed lightly. “That’s a mouthful. But see, his first name is Nikolai. Nik is his real name.”

Reluctantly, Petey peered over Jules’ shoulder.

“It says that he’s the second son of the King and Queen of Beruvia. He has an older brother…” She paused, reading silently. “Here it is, Eirik Magnus Otto von Bahr, known as Prince Magnus…” She skimmed further. “Oh, who died seven years ago in a boating accident.”

“He told me about that,” Petey murmured.

“Petey, I’ve got to be honest with you. Everything he told you seems to be true. He just neglected to tell you about the whole prince thing. You need to at least give the man the chance to explain.”

“He made a fool out of me, Jules.” Petey shook her head adamantly. “Besides,” she said reasonably, “You know me. I spend my days up to here in sheep shit. What the hell would I do with a prince?”

“You were okay with him when you thought he was a rich businessman,” Jules pointed out.

“Well, I wasn’t comfortable with it. With his fancy dinners and his helicopters. Which is why, for today, I planned all sorts of normal things.”

“What did you guys do today? Before all hell broke loose?”

Petey sighed deeply. “We went to the park and had a little picnic. We watched a Little League game. We got dinner from a food truck. Then we were having pints at Paddy’s when we had to leave.”

“And you had a good time.”

“We had a great time.”

“And you planned to spend the night with him.” Jules folded her arms across her chest.

“Well, yeah, before,” Petey admitted.

“So, when Nik was just a businessman, you were okay with him, but now that he’s a prince, you don’t want anything to do with him.”

“Of course not. The whole…prince thing. It’s too ridiculous for words.”

“Then you, my friend, are a snob.”

Petey gasped. “I am not a snob. You take that back!”

“I won’t take it back,” Jules shrugged. “If you won’t go out with a guy, based on what he does for a living, that makes you a snob.”

“That’s just…absurd,” Petey sputtered. “There is no way I am a snob.”

“Then prove it. Give Nik a chance to tell you his side of this thing.”

Petey nodded angrily. “You don’t think I will, do you? You think I’m a snob. That’s the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard. I’m a snob.” She rolled her eyes dramatically. “Please!”

“So just give him a call then,” Jules dared her, pushing Petey’s phone across the kitchen counter.

“Just give him a call,” Petey muttered. “Okay, I’ll do it, if only to prove to you that I am not,” she jabbed her finger at Jules, “a snob.”

Snatching the device from the counter, she swiped it open and stabbed in Nik’s number.

It rang exactly once before he picked up. “Hello, Jules?” he answered anxiously.

“No, it’s me,” Petey replied flatly.

“Oh, thank God, Petey, I need to tell you—”

“Shut up!” she snapped. “I agreed to call you just to prove to my good friend,” she glared at Jules, “that I am not a snob.”

“I’m glad to hear your voice under any circumstance. Please, I need to talk to you in person. I have to make things right.” His voice was desperate. Earnest. “Can you come over? I’ll send a car right away.”

“I’m not going anywhere tonight,” she said defiantly. “It’s late, and I’m about to get shitfaced until I pass out. When I’m conscious tomorrow, I’ll give you a call.”

CHASING ORDINARY by Pandora Spocks

CHASING ORDINARY
is available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–Happy Thanksgiving

Petey is Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary.
And everything he ever wanted.
If he doesn’t blow it.

In CHASING ORDINARY, my modern-day adult fairy tale, sculptor Petey Cavanaugh leaves her family’s Montana sheep ranch to go to New York City. Her old art school roommate has arranged a gallery show of some of her best pieces. The goal is to make enough money to take the ranch to the next level.

Nik is in New York on the final leg of a seemingly endless string of business meetings. On a rainy Manhattan night, his and Petey’s worlds collide. The mutual attraction is instant. Only there’s a slight hitch–Petey doesn’t seem to be aware that Nik is Europe’s most eligible prince.

He adores the fact that she sees him as simply a man, not a title or an inheritance. He knows he needs to tell her the truth. But for now, he’s enjoying his first taste of ordinary.

What will happen when she finds out he hasn’t been truthful?

Here’s a snippet from CHASING ORDINARY. I hope you enjoy Nik’s first Thanksgiving.

After they’d showered and dressed for the day, Petey and Nik collected the casserole dishes from the refrigerator and placed them in the bed of a yellow wire-mesh wagon Petey retrieved from the garage.  Together, they carried the wagon down the front steps and then headed off in the direction of Jane and Eli’s house. 

The late November air was crisp and cold, their breath creating fog as they trudged along.  As they approached the house, Cherry opened the front door and the aroma of roasting turkey wafted toward them.  “Happy Thanksgiving!” she called.

“Happy Thanksgiving to you,” Nik returned as Petey waved.  “We come bearing foodstuffs.

Cherry’s brow furrowed.  “Hunh?”

Petey laughed.  “We have potatoes and dressing.”

 “Oh.  Come on in.  It’s cold outside.”

Leaving the wagon on the front porch, Petey and Nik carried the dishes through the large living room to the kitchen, which was abuzz with activity.  Mary Pat, decked out in a fall-themed apron, was leaning down to peer into the oven.  At the kitchen counter, Jane was briskly working a fork through a large pot filled with something white.  She looked up as they approached.

“Welcome!  Happy Thanksgiving!” she smiled.  “I’m just working the lumps out of the mashed turnips.”

Petey, sliding the potatoes into the fridge behind Jane, turned and made a face at Nik, who stifled a chuckle. 

“Thank you for making me feel so welcome.  I’m thrilled to be celebrating my first Thanksgiving,” Nik replied with an infectious grin.

“You never had Thanksgiving before?” Cherry asked, aghast.

“No, dummy, they don’t have Thanksgiving in Beruvia.  It’s about the Pilgrims, remember?” Thomas chided.

“And the first time-out of the day goes to Thomas, who has been reminded repeatedly not to call his sister names.  Ten minutes, pal.  Starting when you get to your room.  Now scoot,” called Eli, entering the kitchen from the back door.  He nodded in greeting to Nik and Petey. 

“Aw, dad!”

“We could make it twenty.”

“Geez, I’m going.”

Eli watched his son stomp upstairs.  “Cherry, it’s time for the woolly to eat again.”

“Alright, Daddy.”  The child turned to Nik.  “Wanna come help me feed my lamb?”

Nik beamed at her.  “I’d be honored to help.  But you have to teach me how.”

Cherry was shrugging into her puffy hot-pink down coat.  “Okay, but it’s pretty easy.”  She pulled a knitted pink beanie with bunny ears down over her head.  “Let’s go.  We’re keeping him in the g’rage.”

With a wink to Petey, Nik followed the little girl into the garage.

“He doesn’t have to do that,” Jane whispered to Petey with a smile.

“I think he’s happy to tag along,” Petey replied.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Petey,” Jorgen greeted her as he entered through the same door Eli had come through moments earlier.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Jorgen.  How are you today?”

The older man smiled.  “I’m most well, thank you.”  He turned to Mary Pat.  “Is this what you meant?”  He handed her three tins of spices.

Mary Pat smiled.  “Yes, those are exactly the ones.”  She shook her head.  “I can’t believe I forgot them.  Thank you so much for getting them for me.”

“It was sincerely my pleasure,” Jorgen said, bowing politely.

Jane rolled her eyes at Petey, who responded with a silent, “What the fuck?”

Eli had settled on the large sectional in front of the television.  The Cowboys were just about to take the field.  With his mission for Mary Pat accomplished, Jorgen joined Eli.

Petey was setting the long table in the dining room when Nik and Cherry came back into the house.  The little girl was talking a mile a minute, with Nik nodding and replying when it was appropriate. 

While Cherry continued into the kitchen, Nik stopped to give Petey a quick kiss.  “Is there anything I can do?”

Petey shook her head.  “I think it’s pretty much under control.  Did you get the lamb all sorted out?”

“We did.  I even got a chance to hold the bottle before Cherry decided I was doing it wrong.”  Nik’s eyes sparkled with amusement.  “I believe it’s the bluntest criticism I’ve ever received.”

“Yeah, she’d kind of straightforward,” Petey laughed.  “The guys are watching football if you want to go relax.”

Nik nodded.  “I think I will.  I’m a bit knackered from too much sex,” he whispered.

Petey gave him a playful push and sent him on his way.  Thomas, having paid his ten-minute penalty, made his way downstairs and joined his father and the others in front of the television. 

Finally, everything was ready, with platters and bowls arranged down the center of the table.  Everyone took their places, with Eli at one end and Nik at the other.  Sitting to Nik’s right, Petey gave his thigh a quick squeeze beneath the table.  Eli gave a thoughtful grace, and the food was passed. 

Petey cleared her throat meaningfully as she handed Nik the bowl of mashed turnips.  When he glanced her way, she arched an eyebrow.  Stifling a chuckle, he passed the bowl to Jorgen, who heaped the concoction on his plate.  Petey grinned at Nik, happy to share an inside joke.

The conversation was cheery, at times raucous and funny, punctuated by plenty of laughter.  From time to time, Petey glanced to Nik, who seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly.  The thought of him being happy and at ease squeezed her heart with emotion. 

At that moment, she realized that what she wanted more than anything was for Nik to be happy.  That’s what love is, isn’t it? 

When dinner was over, Jane stood up.  “Okay, gentlemen, since the ladies cooked, you’re on clean-up detail.”  She leaned over and kissed Eli on the cheek.  “I’ll check on the barn,” she told him softly.

As Petey stood, Nik and Jorgen began gathering up the dishes and utensils.  She sidled up to Nik.  “You don’t really have to do this, you know,” she said softly.  “It’s kind of Jane’s rule, but…”

“I don’t mind at all.”  His tone was earnest.  “I’m happy to help.  It makes me feel delightfully ordinary.”

Petey pursed her lips thoughtfully.  “Well, just so you know.”

“Go, relax,” he winked at her.  “I believe that odd game you Yanks call football is still on television.”

“I heard that,” Eli said.  “And it’s just plain football.”  His tone was serious, but there was a twinkle in his eye.

“And why don’t they use their feet to play it, hmm?” Nik jibed, as both men laughed.

CHASING ORDINARY by Pandora Spocks

CHASING ORDINARY
is available at your favorite online bookseller:
https://books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

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

When Montana sculptor Petey Cavanaugh returned to New York City for an exhibit of her work, she didn’t plan on meeting the man of her dreams. Too bad she doesn’t realize that the handsome businessman is actually Europe’s most eligible prince.

Petey is everything Nik ever wanted. He’ll have to tell her the truth eventually. But for now, he’s enjoying his first-ever taste of ordinary. What will happen when she learns his true identity?

Here’s a snippet from CHASING ORDINARY.

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 into 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.”

CHASING ORDINARY by Pandora Spocks

CHASING ORDINARY is available
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary, New Apple Award Medalist

CHASING ORDINARY, my modern-day adult fairy tale, was named the 2018 New Apple Awards Summer eBook Medalist in Literary Erotica.  I’m so thrilled about this honor for a book I’ve always wanted to write.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh spends her days working on her in-laws’ sheep ranch in Montana.  Following the untimely death of her young husband, she stayed there, embraced by his family who doesn’t really understand the glass and steel pieces she creates, but they accept her as one of their own.

When her best friend from art school offers her a gallery show in New York, she jumps at the chance to bring in extra money to expand the ranch’s business.

There, she meets Nik one rainy Manhattan night, and she’s charmed by the handsome businessman.  But she has no idea that he’s actually Europe’s most eligible prince.

A fact that makes her all the more intriguing to Nik.  She’s a woman who accepts him at face value, sees him as a man rather than an institution or a means to an end.  He knows he needs to tell her.  But he relishes his first-ever taste of ordinary.

What will happen when she finds out he hasn’t been honest with her?

Here’s a little teaser from award-winning CHASING ORDINARY.

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 a 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.

The waitress stopped by, scooping up their empty plates.  “Can I get you something else?”

Petey glanced at her watch.  It was 1:40. “Holy cow!  I can’t believe it’s so late.”

Nik looked at his own watch and smiled.  “It is late.  I was enjoying our conversation and lost track of the time.”  He reached for the check the waitress laid on the table, but Petey quickly snatched it.

“Nope, this was my idea.  It’s on me.”  She pulled a few bills out of her small silver clutch and placed them on the table.

Again, Nik felt the pull of an incredulous smile.  This was completely unfamiliar territory, and he relished it.

They stepped out onto the sidewalk.  “Thank you for the apple pie.  You’re right, it was delicious.”

“Wasn’t it?  It’s good to know that some things don’t change,” Petey grinned up at him.

The black Mercedes cruised to a stop in front of them.  The driver came around to get the door.

“Can we give you a ride?” Nik offered.

Petey nodded.  “That would be nice, thanks.”

Once in the car, Petey gave the address to the driver, and they headed out into the night.  When they pulled to a stop in front of Jules’ apartment building, Nik opened the door before the driver could get out.

“I’ll walk you to the door,” he said, reaching for Petey’s hand and helping her out of the car.

Together, they climbed the seven steps to the porch.  Petey pressed the button beside Jules’ name, and the door buzzed almost immediately.  Petey pulled it open, placing her hip against the door to hold it open.

“Well, again, Nik, this has been a weird, but nice, evening.”  She smiled up at him.

As she did, he felt a flutter in his stomach.  “It has been the nicest evening I’ve had in some time,” he agreed.  “I’d like to see you again.  Will you have dinner with me tomorrow?”

Her face flushed, but she nodded.  “I’d like that a lot.”

He couldn’t stop his smile.  “Great.  It’s settled, then.  Perhaps you could give me your number…”

“Oh, of course,” Petey replied, and she rattled off the digits.

Nik keyed them into his phone and pressed the call icon.  The phone in Petey’s silver clutch rang immediately.  He grinned down at her.  “Now you have my number, too.  You can call or text anytime.”

“Alright.  Sounds good,” she said softly.

She continued to gaze up and him, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away.  Slowly, he leaned down, his focus on her soft red lips.

Her eyes widened and she drew in a sharp breath.  “Thank you for everything,” she mumbled hurriedly.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  And with that, she quickly headed into the building, the door closing solidly behind her.

Stunned, Nik stood watching the door through which she’d disappeared.  Then he ran a restless hand through his hair and headed back to the car.

CHASING ORDINARY
is available in both eBook and paperback
at your favorite online bookseller.
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