Weekend Excerpt–RUNNING ROGUE, Rannigan’s Redemption Book 2

It’s not going where you think it is…

Rannigan’s Redemption is a contemporary erotic romance law drama. It’s the story of high-profile Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan and his complicated relationship with Maggie Flynn, the new law school grad he hires to join his elite firm.

This excerpt comes from Book 2, RUNNING ROGUE. In the second book, things have changed. Michael and Maggie have gone their separate ways, and they’re each making questionable choices, both professionally and personally.

Here’s a teaser. **Warning–Spoilers abound.**

Michael?” Maggie asked into the intercom.
            “Hey, Mags.”  His voice sounded tinny over the ancient device.  “I know it’s late.  I’m sorry.  But when I saw your light on, I mean…  Can I come up?”
            Maggie hesitated, her finger hovering over the button.  “What do you want, Michael?”
            “Mags, I just…I just want to talk.”
            She shook her head, checking the time again.  What the hell?  And he’s probably drunk.  Standing out there in the rain like he’s got absolutely no sense. 
            She pressed the door buzzer.  “Don’t wake my neighbors,” she admonished him.
            Maggie pulled the wooly cream colored robe tighter around herself, tying the belt securely and she stalked to the door, opening it to wait for Michael.  She watched him coming up the stairs, his soaked hair matted to his head.  His wet shoes squeaked softly with each footfall.  She started to say something snippy but noticed the haunted look in his eyes, so she simply stepped back and let him into the apartment.  She closed the door behind him and walked to the kitchen counter where she leaned back, crossing her arms, head cocked at him expectantly.
            Michael stood just inside the doorway, rainwater pooling all around his feet.  He looked ill at ease and uncertain.
            “Well?” she finally said.
            He ran his fingers through his wet hair and sighed deeply.
            “Oh for God’s sake, Michael!”  She left him standing there and returned with a large blue towel.  “You’re soaked.” 
            She took his jacket from him and hung it over the back of a kitchen chair.  As he used the towel to dry his face and hair, she couldn’t help herself.  “Are you drunk?”
            He frowned and shook his head.  “I’m not drunk.  I had some bourbon.  I might be drunk.  A little.”
            Maggie rolled her eyes.  “Sit down.  I’m making you some coffee so we can send you home.  Have you eaten lately?”
            “I don’t know.”  Michael sank onto a chair at the kitchen table.  He glanced around as Maggie busied herself putting a kettle of water on the stove and taking a French press from a cupboard. 
            “I hope I’m not causing a problem with your fiancé.  Husband?  Whatever.”
            Maggie paused to look at him, her lips forming a grim line.  “Yeah, well, that didn’t work out so…no worries.”
            “I’m sorry.”
            “Don’t be.”
            She worked in silence breaking eggs into a bowl and putting strips of bacon into a skillet as Michael sat at the table and occasionally used the towel to swipe at his face.   On the stove, the bacon began to sizzle as the kettle whistled.  Maggie poured the boiling water into the press and let it stand for a moment as she chopped a small onion and part of a green pepper.
            “Did you know Stan Hodges died?” Michael finally asked.
            Maggie arched an eyebrow.  “I was at the funeral.  Where were you?”
            “I don’t know,” he answered vaguely.  He watched her grate cheddar into the eggs.  Then she pressed the plunger on the coffee and poured some into a cornflower blue mug with a white script ‘M’ on the side. 
            M for Maggie. Or Michael.  He shook his head to dismiss the inane thought.  Looking around the small apartment, he asked, “Why are you still here?”
            Maggie glanced over her shoulder.  “What, I should move uptown into one of your glass and steel monstrosities?”
            “I was just thinking that you could afford a bigger place, that’s all.”
            “This may be a tiny apartment but this building has soul.  Once upon a time, a family called this place home.  Maybe I can’t afford to own a whole townhouse but at least I can rent a small part of it.”
            Michael watched her for a moment.  “You could have bought your own townhouse if you’d stayed with the firm.”
            Maggie turned around and leaned against the counter, crossing her arms.  “If I’d stayed, I’d have been out of a job along with everyone else.  You really tanked everyone, you know that, right?”
            He looked down at his hands.  “I wouldn’t have pursued the television thing if you’d still been there.”
            She snorted, returning to her cutting board.  “Bullshit.  Being on the news every night is exactly your thing.  You can’t put that off on me.”       
            She set the coffee in front of him.  “What are you doing here, Michael?”
            He stalled, sipping the steaming hazelnut blend.  “This isn’t where I meant to be.  I went out and ended up down here in the Village.  I was at the Blue Note until they kicked everybody out.  I got a little lost and then realized I was across the street from your apartment.”
            Maggie turned back to her omelet, stirring in the vegetables.  The bacon had quieted down and she turned over the strips, causing them to erupt into loud sizzling once again.  “Why are you here?” she asked again.
            “I’m sick,” he said quietly.
            “I don’t doubt it.  It’s forty degrees outside and you’re soaked.  It’s a wonder you don’t have pneumonia.”
            “It’s cancer.”
            Maggie froze mid-stir.  “What?”  Slowly, she turned around.
            “Cancer.”
            “Shit.”  She crossed to the table and sank onto the chair across from him, gaping at him wide-eyed.
            “There was this spot.  And then they found out it was melanoma.”  Michael’s face twisted.  “Mags, you wouldn’t believe the chunk they cut out of my shoulder.”
            “Well, they got it then,” she said.  “Good.  That’s good, right?”
            “Bacon’s burning,” Michael said quietly.
            “Fuck!”  She jumped up and took the pan off the burner.
            “I like it that way,” he offered as she set the strips of bacon on a paper towel to drain and poured the omelet into the pan.
            “So after they took the hunk out of my arm they did a biopsy.  It was melanoma, just like the doctor said.  Then they had me get a PET scan.  Said they needed to see if it had spread.” 
            Maggie worked mechanically at the egg mixture in the pan, listening intently as he spoke.  “And?” she asked as she slid the omelet onto a blue ceramic plate.  She placed it in front of him and sat down again.
            “And they called this afternoon to say they have the results.  The doctor wouldn’t discuss it over the phone.  He wants me to come in tomorrow.”  He looked down at the plate.  “He said I should have someone with me.”
            “Oh my God.  Michael.”
            He nodded.  “I started making phone calls.  That’s how I found out about Stan.  Which was after I called Murph and then Jimbo.  They pretty much told me to go fuck myself.”
            Maggie watched him grimly.  I imagine they did. 
            “I called some of the women I go out with.  I guess everybody has a lot going on.”  He sighed.  “I thought about calling you.  But, I don’t know.  I’ve been an asshole.  Plus I figured you were busy with getting married and stuff.”  He met her eyes.  “I didn’t mean to come here, honest to God.”
            She watched him pick at the omelet.  “My agent’s pissed at me because I bailed on some appearances.  Asking her to come with me is out of the question.  She’s probably not in town anyway.” 
            Michael shook his head.  “I don’t know why they’re insisting that someone comes with me to that appointment tomorrow.  I should just go and find out what the scan shows, figure out where to go from there.  It’s just…”  His voice broke.  “Mags, I’m scared shitless.”  He put down the fork and held his head in his hands.
            Maggie could never have imagined a scenario in which S. Michael Rannigan would break down sobbing at her kitchen table.  She felt as though her heart would break. 
            “Michael,” she said softly, standing beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder.  His body shook as he let loose the emotions that had been building since the day the nightmare had started.  “It’s okay,” she murmured.  “It’s okay, everything’s going to be alright.”  She waited for him to quiet down.  “What time is your appointment?”
            Michael sat up, sniffing and using the towel to wipe his face.  “Shit.”  He coughed and took a sip of coffee.  “I have to be there at 1:30.”
            Maggie looked over to where her files still sat scattered in the living room.  She knew they probably represented ten hours of work for the following day and sighed heavily.  “Where is the doctor’s office?”
            “It’s on E. 80th between 2nd and 3rd.”
            She nodded.  “Okay.  I’ll tell Rance that I have to leave at lunch.  I’ll meet you there.”
            “I can’t ask you to do that,” Michael said quickly, but he looked at her with such gratitude she felt the sting of tears in her eyes and a huge lump formed in her throat.
            She coughed lightly.  “You didn’t ask, although you seem to have asked everyone else in your Contacts, and I’m going to try not to take that personally,” she said.  “I’m offering.  Take it or leave it.”
            Michael smiled thinly.  “I’ve missed your smartass.  I’d be so glad to have you with me.”
            Maggie nodded.  “Done.  But if for some reason I’m running late, you go on in.  I’ll be there.  I promise.”  She took his plate and warmed it in the microwave before placing it in front of him again.  “Now finish this up.  I’m calling you a cab and sending you on your way.”

RUNNING ROGUE by Pandora Spocks

RUNNING ROGUE is available at Amazon.
You can also purchase the entire
Rannigan’s Redemption Boxed set.

Exclusively for Apple readers…

Rannigan’s Redemption is available at Apple Books under the titles
TEMPTATION, DESPERATION, and REDEMPTION.
Book 1 is even FREE!
Get yours today!

Weekend Excerpt–Just One Night

Hot Caribbean days…Even hotter nights!

Are you ready for summer? Long, hot, lazy days. Vacations to a tropical paradise.
What if you could go on holiday without ever leaving home?

JUST ONE NIGHT is my naughty little summer novella. It’s the ultimate beach read, but you can read it anywhere.

Teacher Katie Parker is on her annual Girls’ Only summer holiday with her best friends from high school. This year, they’re cruising the Caribbean in style. But Katie is on a mission. Determined to forget about her latest romantic disaster, she’s looking for a hot guy for a night of passion with a nameless stranger.

Mac Coleman, cruising to Mexico for his brother’s wedding, is only too happy to go along with her plan. But now, can Mac convince Katie that what they’ve found together is worth more than just one night?

Here’s a teaser from JUST ONE NIGHT.


By the time Mac made it to the door of the dining room, the redhead had disappeared.  He glanced to his left and then to his right, trying to guess her more likely route.  The woman at the photo checkout cleared her throat discreetly and he looked in her direction.  She nodded meaningfully to her right and smiled. 
               He grinned at her wholeheartedly.  “Thanks!” he proffered as he hurried off in the direction the clerk had indicated.  Mac made his way through the door that opened onto the deck and he saw her leaning against the railing, looking out over the dark water.  Her skirt ruffled lightly in the breeze and the full moon overhead gave her hair a fire-like glow. 
               Ignoring the slight case of nerves he felt, he approached the railing, stopping by her left elbow.  “Hey, you,” he said casually.
               She startled slightly, whipping her head to her left, eyes wide.
               “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  I just saw you standing here and I thought I’d say hello.”  He held his hands in front of himself in surrender, pasting on what he hoped was a charming smile. 
               The redhead continued to stare at him wordlessly.  “I don’t mean to bother you.  I can go if you’d like.”
               She shook her head.  “No, I don’t want you to go.  I was just surprised, that’s all.”
               Mac smiled gratefully.  “Well, it’s a beautiful night.  And dinner was fantastic.  I don’t know about you, but I had the lobster and it was amazing.”
               She smiled back.  “I had the mahi and it was delicious.”
               They stood awkwardly for a moment.  “Listen, would you like to get a drink or something?” Mac offered.
               She looked out at the water, then back at him, nodding.  “I’d like that a lot.”
               His grin was genuine.  “Good.  Great.  Let’s go find a drink.”
                                                                                                 
***
 
     The pair parked themselves at a tiny table at the edge of the piano bar, the first place they’d come to in their search for a cocktail.  Katie watched him as he approached the bar and ordered for them.  She couldn’t get over how handsome he was, how he’d come outside looking for her.  This was exactly what she needed to take her mind off of her man problems back home. 
   She smiled up at him as he returned to their table carrying a margarita for her and a Scotch for himself.  “Cheers,” he said, raising his glass to hers.
     “Cheers,” she murmured in return, and she sipped gratefully, counting on the liquid courage her glass offered.
     “You know, we’ve gone about this all backwards.”  He rested his drink on the table and offered his right hand.  “My name is—“
     “No!  No names,” Katie quickly interrupted.
     Mac blinked in surprise.  “No names.  Why no names?”
     “Just…because,” she stammered.  “No names, no personal information, we’ll just…keep it casual.”
     “Keep it casual.”  Mac frowned.  “Okay.”  He gave her a curious look.  “Do you want me to leave?”
     She shook her head, red curls swinging.  “No, I’d like you to stay.”
     He gave a relieved smile.  “Good, because I’d like to stay.  So…no personal information.  Do you want to talk about work?”
     “Oh, hell no!”
     “Um, how about that weather?  That’s some pretty great weather out there tonight.”
     Katie laughed lightly.  “I don’t mean to be a pain.”
     Mac smiled back.  “You’re not a pain, exactly.  I just have to figure out the rules.  And you’re here with three other women?”
     “You could see that in the dining room.  Where you were staring,” Katie observed.
     “You know that because you were staring back,” he countered.
     “And you’re here with two other men.”
     Mac nodded.  “My brothers.  Oops!  Was that personal?”
     “Now you’re making fun.”
     He smiled ruefully.  “Maybe just a little bit.  This is kind of a bachelor party.  My kid brother is getting married.”
     “A bachelor party?”  Katie laughed lightly.  “Shouldn’t you be getting back to the debauchery?”
     Mac laughed.  “Not much debauchery with those two.  My older brother’s been married for years and Tommy’s head over heels for his fiancée.”  He glanced up at Katie.  “Oops!  More personal information.”
     Katie sighed and sipped her drink.  “My friends and I get together for a week every summer.  We’ve known each other since high school.”
     “There now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
     Katie nodded firmly.  “We’re even, that’s all.”  She rested her forearm on the table and toyed with her glass.  Mac did the same, and as he did, his arm brushed against hers.  She made no effort to move away from him.  He intentionally rested his arm against hers, noting the electric charge he felt, wondering if she felt it, too.
     Glancing up, he saw that she was watching him intently.  “So…you don’t want any personal information.  You don’t want to talk about work.  You don’t want me to leave.”
     Katie shook her head.
     “Okay, well we’ve got that settled.  What do you want?”  He watched her expectantly.
     She stared at her glass as she swirled the remainder of her margarita.  Her buzz from the dinner wine combined with the icy cocktail made her feel bold.  She looked back up at Mac. 
                    “Do you really want to know what I want?  I want just one night.  Just one night of anonymous, no-holds-barred, red-hot, no-strings-attached sex.  That’s what I want.”  She fixed him with a challenging stare.
     “Whoa,” he breathed, eyes wide.
     Katie looked down at her glass again.  “Too blunt?”
     Mac leaned back in his chair, lips forming an O.  “That was blunt, all right, but I can respect that.  I’ve gotta ask, though.”  He sought out her eyes.  “Is there some guy at home waiting for you to come back?”
     Katie shook her head.  “I’m not cheating on anybody.  You?”
     He shook his head, too, and laughed humorlessly.  “What was it you said earlier?  Oh, hell no.”
     She lightly stroked his arm as it rested on the table, delighting in the goose bumps that appeared there.  Her gaze traveled from there to his lap, which seemed to be taking an interest in the proceedings if the growing mound there was any indication.  She shifted her focus, sliding her gaze up his torso to those lips she’d noticed earlier.  God, I just want to suck on that lower lip.
     She met his eyes again, saw the fire there, and knew it matched her own.  “So what do you say?”
     “I say, have another margarita.  I just need to run to the little shop and pick up some…  Well, I didn’t actually expect that I’d need…”  He smiled apologetically.
     Her voice was soft.  “I’ll wait right here.”
     He took her hand and gently brushed his lips across her knuckles, gave her a wink, and left the bar. 

JUST ONE NIGHT by Pandora Spocks

JUST ONE NIGHT
is just 99¢ at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/JustOneNight

Weekend Excerpt–Redheads & Ranchers Book 2

HUNTER’S PRIDE

HUNTER’S PRIDE is the second stand-alone novel in the Redheads & Ranchers Series. It’s the follow-up to 5-STAR reviewed JENNY’S VOICE.

Like my Dream Dominant Collection, the Redheads & Ranchers books are completely unrelated to each other–they’re stand-alone.

Sometimes readers leave negative reviews because they assumed the books in the series continue the same storyline. I try to be clear that the thread that connects these books is that they are each about a hot rancher and the sexy redhead who comes along and changes everything.

Unlike the Dream Dominants, the Redheads & Ranchers fall into my ‘spicy vanilla’ category–all of the heat without the BDSM power exchange.

Here’s a brand-new teaser from HUNTER’S PRIDE.
Warning: It’s 18+.


Just as she dropped another log on the growing fire, the front door banged open, startling her.  Hunter, dripping wet, stood in the doorway stomping to remove mud from his boots. Poppy clutched her blanket around herself and hurried over, offering him the other blanket.  He handed her his hat, which she hung beside her own as he pulled off his boots and left them outside the door.

“Hurry and come in,” she told him.  “I have a blanket for you, and the fire’s getting warmer.”

Another bolt of lightning illuminated the whole place as its simultaneous deafening thunder shook the whole cabin, causing them both to cringe.  Hunter stepped inside, and Poppy pushed the door closed while he peeled off his soaked undershirt and hung it on a vacant peg. Poppy opened up his blanket and stood on her tiptoes to place it around his shoulders.

He looked over his shoulder gratefully.  “Thanks.”

She grabbed his elbow as he drew the blanket around himself.  “Come on, come by the fire.” She dragged him to the front of the fireplace where the air was much warmer than it was by the door.

“How are the horses,” she asked him.

He nodded shakily, eyes locked on the fire in the fireplace.  “Al-alright,” he chattered. “I d-dried them best I c-could, threw blankets over them.”

Clutching the blanket around himself with his right hand, he held his left as close to the fire as he could without actually touching the flames.

Poppy watched as he shivered uncontrollably.  Impulsively, she wrapped her blanket around him, then ducked under his arm, pressing herself against his bare skin, wrapping her arms around his waist.  His skin felt cold to the touch, and she rubbed her hands up and down his back in an effort to warm him.

Grasping both blankets, Hunter closed his arms around her, tucking her beneath his chin and holding her tightly.  They stood in silence while the storm raged outside, all but drowning out the crackle of the fire in the fireplace.

With her face pressed against his bare chest, Poppy inhaled the familiar masculine spice she’d noticed while wearing Hunter’s shirt.  As she pressed her lips to his skin, she felt his sharp intake of breath. She did it again, pressing her body more tightly against his, feeling the burgeoning erection trapped by his soaked jeans.

When she kissed him a third time, a low growl rumbled up from his chest and she peered up at him.  His eyes were all heat and desire, and she knew hers were the same. She slid her hands up his chest and around to the back of his neck while at the same time pushing up on her tiptoes to capture his lips in hers.  She’d been buzzed the previous night, but she was completely sober now. And she wanted him.

As she deepened the kiss, he released his grip on the blankets and slid his hands down her back, cupping her ass and lifting her up.  She wrapped her legs around his waist without breaking the kiss. Tongues tangled, and Hunter slid his hands up her back, stopping at the band of her bra which he expertly unhooked.  Lips still on his, she shrugged off the straps, not caring where the garment fell.

Slowly, he walked them the four steps to the bed, where he leaned down to lay her on top of the covers, for the first time breaking their kiss to straighten up and gaze down at her.  Poppy met his heated stare, raising her arms above her head and resting them there.

“Hot damn,” he breathed, leaning down to take one pert pink nipple between his lips.  Poppy closed her eyes as a soft moan escaped her lips, delighting in the fact that he paid her other breast the same attention.  Then he kissed his way down her belly, a sensual mixture of soft kisses and scratchy beard, until he came to the waistband of her jeans.

He looked back up at her and lifted an eyebrow in an unspoken question.  She nodded, and a lazy smile curled her lips as he deftly undid her rain-soaked jeans and in one motion, removed them and her panties as well.

Dropping them in the general direction of the fireplace, he returned his attention to her, devouring her with a hungry gaze.  Poppy pushed herself up on one elbow and watched as he unbuckled that silver oval belt buckle and slowly shucked his jeans. As he pushed them down his thighs, his massive cock bobbed into view.  She chewed her lower lip in anticipation.

Jeans discarded, Hunter crawled up the bed between her legs.  For a moment, he held himself over her, and she watched the fire rage in his eyes.  Then he lowered his head to press his lips to hers, hungrily consuming her.

She responded with fervor of her own, her core aching to have him inside.  His cock pressed into her thigh and she shifted slightly, urging him home.

“Poppy.”  Breathless, he released her lips.  “I don’t have a…”

She met his hooded eyes.  “I don’t care. Do you care?”

A slow smile graced his lips as he shook his head.  “No. I don’t care.”

“Then please,” she whispered.

It was all the encouragement he needed.  He captured her lips once again as parked his tip at her entrance.  Slowly, he pushed forward and Poppy gasped lightly as he continued until he’d buried himself to the root.  “Oh, yes,” she murmured into his ear.

He drew back, then pushed forward again.  This time Poppy drew up her knees, willing him to go as far as he could.  Hunter wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her neck and nipping at her as he thrust faster.

It had been long, so long, since she’d had a man fill her so completely, so perfectly.

“Oh, shi—” Poppy hissed as her moment built.  “Harder.”

“Harder, the lady says,” he grunted.  “I’m happy to comply.” With that he pushed up, supporting himself over her as he pounded into her wet core.

“Oh, shit, I’m there,” she cried as her orgasm thundered over her, a thousand sparks dancing behind her eyelids.

Hunter gave a final thrust and held himself still, grunting his release.

After a moment, he released a shaky breath and leaned down to kiss her tenderly.  Then he carefully disengaged himself and lay beside her, drawing the blankets over them and pulling her to himself.

“That was a bit of something,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple.

“Mm-hmm,” she sighed, curling into his warm embrace.

Breathing in unison, they lay in their warm cocoon of blankets listening to the rain on the roof and the rolling thunder that continued to rumble through the mountains.

HUNTER’S PRIDE by Pandora Spocks

I’m planning a June launch for HUNTER’S PRIDE, with the third Redheads & Ranchers book due out in October.

For now, if you missed JENNY’S VOICE,
this would be a great time to catch up.
It’s available at your favorite online bookseller,
including (and this is new) Google Play!
books2read.com/JennysVoice

Weekend Excerpt–Christmas With the Orphans and Misfits

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling in the holiday spirit!  The decorations are up, the music is playing, I’ve squirreled away gifts for those I love.  So I’m in the mood for a Christmas scene.

This one is from RESISTING RISK, the first book in the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy.  Fledgling attorney Maggie Flynn is alone in the world.  Her mother abandoned her and her father when she was a toddler.  And her father during her college years.

So every year, Maggie hosts her annual Orphans and Misfits Christmas for her friends who, like her, have nowhere to go.  One particular Christmas, she has a surprise guest.

“Maggie, is the turkey ready?” Casey asked.

Maggie checked the clock and shook her head.  “No way, it has at least another hour, then it has to rest.  We can put in the beans and the stuffing when it comes out.  Nate, how do we reheat the red beans and rice?”

As Nate answered Maggie’s question, Ben wandered over to the window.  The buzzer rang again.  Ben glanced at Maggie in the kitchen.  “Somebody’s buzzing downstairs, Flynn.”

Casey was helping Maggie turn the turkey around in the oven.  “Well can you please buzz them in?  I’m a little busy here.”

Ben pressed the buzzer but made no move to open the apartment door.  About a minute later there was a knock.  The others were engrossed in the football game.  Ben stayed put.  “Somebody’s at the door, Flynn.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, I’ll just drop everything and get it myself,” said Maggie, tossing down pot holders in exasperation.

Maggie flung open the door to find Michael standing in the hallway.  He grinned sheepishly.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

She blinked, confused.  “Michael, I…I mean, Merry Christmas.  But what…Shouldn’t you be in St. Bart’s?”

“I got snowed in.  My flight was canceled.  I have a charter later on, but I thought I’d stop by here.  Do you have room for another orphan?”

A slow smile spread across her face.  “Of course, there’s always room.  Come on in.”

Maggie turned to find that everyone in the apartment was watching the two of them.  “Everyone, this is Michael.  Michael, everyone.”

“Hello, Merry Christmas,” he greeted the group.  To Maggie, “I brought wine.  I wasn’t sure…”

“Wine is perfect, thanks,” she told him.  Waving toward the kitchen she said, “Help yourself to something to drink.  We’ve been enjoying the munchies out of your gift basket.  Dinner will probably be another hour or so.”  She smiled at him.  “I’m so glad you’re here.  Shocked, but glad.”

After he dropped his coat and his suitcase in Maggie’s bedroom with the other coats, Michael got a beer for himself and settled in the living room, striking up a conversation with the guys watching football.  Casey sidled up to Maggie in the kitchen.  “You didn’t tell me Mr. Wonderful was coming.”

“I didn’t know Michael was coming.  He’s supposed to be in the Caribbean.  With someone, you understand, nobody goes to the Caribbean alone.”

“Maybe.  But he’s here now.”

Michael relaxed on the couch and looked around appreciatively at all the activity.  Maggie and Casey were in the kitchen along with a couple he didn’t know.  There was an older woman chatting with Nate from the firm.  Several others were watching football.  Everyone seemed happy and at home.

“This is nice,” he commented to Ben.  “It feels like a scene from Rent.”

Ben smirked.  “Viva la vie Boheme!” he raised his beer.

Michael chuckled and raised his beer as well.  “La vie Boheme.”

Dinner was served on three tables pushed together in the middle of the living room.  Plates were filled buffet-style in the kitchen.  Ben insisted that Maggie toast before they ate.

She raised her glass of wine.  “I feel like the luckiest girl.  I’m here celebrating the holiday with my most favorite people in the entire world.  There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.  Merry Christmas!”

After everyone ate as much as they could, the guys agreed to do all the clean-up.  Maggie supervised returning the tables to their proper places then sank onto the sofa, resting her feet on the coffee table.

“What about the dessert, Flynn?” Ben asked when the leftovers were packed up.

“Let’s be informal.  Grab some if you want some.  I want to do presents,” Maggie said.  Michael brought her a fresh glass of wine.  She looked up at him, grinning in appreciation, and patted the space beside her.

“I’ll sit on the floor, I don’t mind,” he said, sliding to a spot beside her feet.

“Now the way this works is, everyone takes a number.  We go in order starting at 1.  Number 1 picks first.  Number 2 can pick a new present or steal from Number 1.  Everybody got it?” Ben asked.  Maggie watched in amusement as some played shyly while others were cut-throat.

“What’s this?” Michael asked quietly.  She looked down to see him holding an ornament from the tree.  It was a small red glass ball held by a green paper cone.  Her name was spelled out in glitter.

“I think I was about six when I made that,” she smiled.  “The Christmas ornaments were some of the few things I took from my dad’s house.”

He grinned.  “I like it.”

When the gifts were over, Maggie had a new hand-crocheted toilet-roll cover.  Michael had a $10 gift card to Starbucks.  “Guess somebody didn’t get the memo,” he quipped so that only Maggie heard, and she giggled softly.

He winked and leaned close.  “Mags, I should be making my way to the airport.”

“Okay,” Maggie sighed.  “I’ll walk you out.”  She got her coat and hat while he said his goodbyes.  “I’ll be right back,” she said to Casey as they headed out of the apartment.  They walked down the stairs without chatting.

Once out on the sidewalk, Michael turned and faced her.  “I had a great time, Mags.  Thanks for inviting me.”  He glanced up.  “We have an audience, by the way.”  He waved at the crowd gathered in Maggie’s front window.

She looked up at them, scowling.  “Come on,” she said, turning right and heading down the sidewalk.  She stopped just around the corner.

Michael smiled.  “Thanks.  I just wanted to say goodbye privately.  I brought you a gift, but I didn’t want to give it to you in front of everybody.”  He pulled a small flat box from his pocket.  It was light blue, tied with a white ribbon.

Maggie’s eyes widened.  “Sean Michael Rannigan, you did not!”

“How did you know the S stands for Sean?

She shrugged.  “Everyone knows it’s Sean.  I can’t believe you went to Tiffany…”  She stopped and looked up at him, smiling sadly.  “This wasn’t for me.  This is supposed to be for someone else.”

“No, Mags, this is for you,” he said earnestly.  “I mean, to be honest, I went there yesterday looking for something for Jana.”

“What, Toys R Us and GapKids were closed?” Maggie quipped.

“Ah-hah-hah, you’re very funny.  I found a little trinket to give to Jana, but then I turned and saw this.  All I could think was that you should have it.  It’s for you, Mags.”

Curious, Maggie slowly pulled the white ribbon and lifted the lid.  In the box resting on light blue velvet was a delicate silver bracelet.  It had a vintage look to it with large rectangular milky white cabochons alternating with trios of small round diamonds surrounded by platinum filigree.  She looked back up at Michael, eyes wide.

“Those are moonstones,” he said proudly.  “This was in the vintage case.  It was made in 1915.”  He gazed at the bracelet.  “It’s graceful and classy, just like you.”

“I don’t know what to say, Michael.  I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.  Will you help me put it on?”

He lifted the bracelet from the box and as Maggie held out her left hand, he fastened it around her wrist.  She held it out and watched it catch the natural light.  As she did, she noticed a tiny platinum tag hanging from the clasp.  Peering closer she saw that it was engraved.  To Maggie, From Michael. 

“See?  I told you it was for you.”  She looked back up at him, eyes shining, and as she did, a gust of wind caught some stray hair, blowing it across her face.  Michael gently moved the errant strands, tucking them behind her ear.  Without planning it at all, he planted a tender kiss on her lips.

He moved back slightly as Maggie looked up at him, eyes shining with desire.  He leaned into her again, the kiss this time all heat and passion.  She brought her left hand up to cradle his right cheek, her desire matching his.  When he stopped kissing her, he pulled her close, tucking her under his chin and they stood like that for a moment.

Finally, he gently set her back from him.  She looked up, the sad glint once again in her eyes.  After all, he was leaving her to go to someone else.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

“Merry Christmas, Michael.”

The newly re-edited RESISTING RISK is available
at your favorite online bookseller,
in both eBook and paperback formats.
books2read.com/ResistingRisk

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.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary

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

They met by accident one rainy Manhattan night.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh has no idea that the handsome businessman she’s falling for is actually Europe’s most eligible prince.

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

Here’s a teaser 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,
the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist
for Literary Erotica,
is available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–Great News for CHASING ORDINARY!

There was great news this week for my modern-day adult fairy tale.
CHASING ORDINARY was named the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist in Literary Erotica.

The news is so brand-new, I don’t even have the medallion for the front of the book yet.  But I’m beyond thrilled that my handsome European prince and his sassy ginger sculptor are being honored.

Here’s CHASING ORDINARY, in a nutshell.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh has no idea that the handsome businessman she’s falling for
is actually Europe’s most eligible prince.
She’s Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary, and everything he ever wanted.
If he doesn’t blow it.

 

How about a little teaser?
And don’t miss the official book trailer at the bottom.  😉

Nik peered grimly out the window at the passing grey tableau as the Mercedes made its way uptown toward the exclusive Empire Club.  Dalton Rigby’s great-great grandfather had been a founding member, as the man had been careful to point out every time Nik had ever met him.

At least the food will be good, he consoled himself.  Mentally, he went over his talking points as the city passed by in a gloomy blur.

A flash of color on the sidewalk caught his focus.  Ahead, a woman in a bright red dress was attempting to hail a cab in the pouring rain.  As his car pulled alongside her, he watched in slow motion as a spray of water completely doused her.

“Stop the car!” he shouted.

The driver eyed him in the rearview mirror.

“Stop the car,” he repeated.

“But sir,” Jorgen protested from his seat beside Nik.

Shrugging, the driver stopped, causing the car behind them to slam on its brakes and honk loudly.

Nik was already halfway out of the car.  “Go around the block,” he called over his shoulder as he stepped out into the rain, slamming the door behind him.

The woman was still standing where she’d been when the Mercedes’ front wheel had torn through a deep puddle, spraying her with filthy runoff.  Nik made his way to her, ignoring the rain that pelted him as he walked.

“I’m terribly sorry.  Are you alright?”

She stood shaking from cold, red hair matted to her head, black streams of mascara running down her face like cracks in fine china.  “I’m s-s-s-soaked!” she shrieked.

“Again, I’m so sorry.”  Nik’s expression was contrite.  He shrugged out of his suit jacket and wrapped it around her.  She was tiny, and the jacket nearly swallowed her whole.  He glanced around.  “Is your apartment near here?”

She shook her head.  “I’m locked out.  And I’m unbelievably late.  I can’t go like this.  And I can’t get back into the fucking apartment!  Fuck!”

“My car is coming back around the block.  I’ll give you a ride to wherever you need to—“

At that moment, a boxy delivery truck hit the same puddle, spraying them both.  They gasped in unison.  Momentarily blinded by the wall of water, Nik sputtered and swiped at his face.  “Bloody hell!”

He looked down at the woman whose eyes were impossibly wide with surprise.  “Here comes my car now.  Come with me.  I’m staying at the Plaza.  We’ll call ahead and have the stylist meet us.  Once we’re both cleaned up, I’ll take you where you need to go.”

She looked up at him in alarm.  “I’m not going to your hotel with you!”

“No, I don’t mean…  I realize how inappropriate it sounds, but I promise, I only mean to help.”  He held up his hands in surrender.  “Clearly you can’t stay here.  And you can’t go to wherever it is you were going, not like this.”

He aimed for a reassuring smile.  “The services of the spa and salon will be at your disposal.  And I know St. James will have something for you to wear.”

He watched as she considered her options.  “I feel responsible.  Please let me make things right.”

The black Mercedes pulled up to the sidewalk and the driver walked around to open the back door.  “Please,” he pleaded softly.

The woman drew a shaky breath.  “Okay.  Thank you,” she said quietly.

Jorgen slid out of the back seat and moved to the passenger side of the front.  Nik motioned for the woman to get in, and he climbed in beside her.  The driver returned to his seat and pulled out into traffic.

“Jorgen, call St. James and tell him to meet us at the underground entrance.  Ms.—“ He looked to the woman.

“Oh, Cavanaugh.  Petey Cavanaugh.”  At his befuddled expression she added, “It’s a long story.”

Nik frowned.  “Ms. Cavanaugh is to have whatever services she needs.  When she’s ready, we’ll take her where she needs to go.”

“Yes, sir,” Jorgen responded, taking his phone out of his pocket.

“Thank you,” Petey said sheepishly.  “I’d better call my friend.”

She dialed a number.  “Yeah, it’s me.”  There was a short pause.  “No, I’m not almost to the gallery.  I’ll tell you all about it when I get there.”

Another pause.  “I know, seriously, I do!  Nobody would rather be there right now than I would, but I forgot the umbrella, and I forgot the key, and I’m a total wreck right now, completely soaked to the skin.”

She seemed to listen for a moment.  “I know, but I can’t help it.  I’m headed to the Plaza.  I’ll get cleaned up, and then I’ll be right there.”

Nik watched as she eyed him quickly.  “I don’t know.  Some guy,” she whispered.  There was another pause, and Nik could hear an agitated voice on the other end, although he couldn’t make out the words.

“Okay, Jules, I’m hanging up now.  I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.”  She stabbed at her phone and put it back in the small silver bag she was carrying.

She looked back at him sheepishly.  “My friend.”

“I truly am sorry.  You said you’re late?”

She nodded.  “It’s a gallery opening.  I’m supposed to be there,” she glanced at her watch, “twenty-two minutes ago.”

“I’m late for dinner myself.  At least gallery openings usually run for several hours.  Surely it won’t matter if you’re a bit late,” he said reasonably.

“It’s my show.  It looks kind of bad for the guest of honor not to be there.”

Nik was intrigued.  “You’re an artist.  What is your medium?”

“Sculpture.  I do welded steel and glass pieces.”

He squinted, picturing the petite, feminine woman using a welding torch to bend steel to her will.

“We’re here, sir,” Jorgen announced, interrupting his thoughts.  The car pulled through a security gate into an underground garage.  As it eased up to a pair of double glass doors, Colin St. James stepped out to greet them.

“Holy crap on a cracker,” he exclaimed as first Nik, then Petey, climbed out of the back of the car.  “What on God’s green earth happened to you?”

“It’s raining,” Nik replied succinctly.  “This is Ms. Cavanaugh.  She’s late to her own gallery opening, and obviously, she can’t go like that.  Please see to it that she’s ready in about twenty minutes.  Will that be possible?”

“Twenty minutes?  Are you kidding me?  They don’t call me ‘the miracle worker’ for nothing.”  He scanned Petey up and down.  “Although this might be my greatest challenge yet,” he said under his breath.

She glared up at him through wet lashes.

Nik turned to Petey.  “I’m going upstairs to get cleaned up.  I’ll check on you when I’m ready.”

She nodded shyly, shrugging off his suit jacket and handing it to him.  “Um, thank you.”

He nodded to Colin and turned to head to the elevator.

Colin took Petey by the hand.  “Okay, sweetie, let’s see what we can do.”

***

Petey stared into the dressing room mirror.  “Oh, my God, I look like Alice Cooper on a three-day bender!”

“And we’re getting a picture of it, too,” Colin said, snapping a photo with his phone before she could protest.  “Because this is going to be a hell of a ‘before and after.’”

Colin clapped his hands loudly.  “Okay, people, we have an extreme makeover.  STAT.  Let’s see…”  He circled Petey, brow knit in concentration.  “First, we ditch this horrid dress.  Honey, I don’t know what you were thinking.”

“Unh, this was my friend Jules’ idea,” Petey snapped back.

“Well, what did you do to make her hate you, because this thing is a nightmare.  Arms up,” he directed.

“This from a guy in orange pants,” Petey snarked, as she raised her arms.  Two female assistants gripped the hem of the dress and pulled it over her head.

“These are harvest rust, and they’re Prada.”

“Dude, they’re orange.”  Uncomfortably, she clutched her arms in front of herself in a vain attempt to cover her panties and bra.

Colin barked with laughter.  “I like you.  You’re feisty.”  He continued to peruse her closely.  “And you have great tits.”

He reached to cup one of her breasts and she batted his hand away.  “Hey!  Watch it!”

He just rolled his eyes.  “Honey, please!  Tits are not my thing, except the way they fill out couture.”

To one of the assistants, he snapped, “Elaine, go to the stash of Agent Provocateur and find something in a, what?  34D?”  Petey nodded mutely.

“And Zoe?  I’m seeing her in that pink Solace London.  The one with the mock turtleneck?”  The two women hurried off, presumably to find what they’d been sent to get.

Colin turned back to Petey.  “Get out of your wet undies and slip on a robe.  We’ll get you cleaned up, and then we’ll polish you until you sparkle.  Don’t worry about a thing.”  He winked at her and sent her on her way.

For the next twenty minutes, an entire team worked to put Petey back together.  Her hair was washed and her face was cleaned.  While someone worked on her makeup, another person gave her a pedicure, while a third did her nails.  Finally, her hair was blown out.

Colin returned to inspect their handiwork.  Nodding approvingly, he smiled at Petey.  “Okay red, in the dressing room, you’ll find new lingerie, a dress, and a pair of shoes.  Get dressed and come on out.”

Petey stepped into the dressing room and closed the door.  The mirror was covered with paper, and she’d only seen a maddeningly brief glimpse of herself in the makeup chair.  A plush chair held a cardboard box lined with tissue paper.  Inside were a pretty bra and panty set.  A pink dress hung on a hook on the wall, and she saw a shoe box on the floor.

Lifting the bra from the box, she admired the sheer burgundy fabric, embroidered with peach and deep pink flowers.  The tag still hanging from the garment announced its price–$215.  Petey gaped.  The matching panties turned out to be a thong, priced at $130.

Her most extravagant lingerie purchases had been a few bras from the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale.  It had taken over an hour to find something she liked, and she’d had a sneaking suspicion they’d made a stack of ugly bras just so they could discount them.

Shaking off her reservations, she dressed quickly, careful to pull the dress over her head without looking at the tag.  It seemed better not to know.

The shoebox held a pretty pair of mauve velvet ankle-strap stilettos.  She sank onto the chair and fastened them on her feet.  God, what I wouldn’t give for a mirror right now.

Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was exactly twenty-five minutes since he’d left her to go upstairs.  He.  She had no idea of his name.  In all the chaos, she hadn’t thought to ask.

When she opened the dressing room door, a crowd was waiting, with Colin smack in the middle.  There was a collective gasp as he snapped a photo.  The group burst into applause, and Colin took a bow.  “That, ladies and ladies, is why they call me the ‘miracle worker’.

He took Petey by the hand.  “Come look,” he said.  He led her to a tri-fold mirror at the top of a small dais.  “Go ahead,” he nodded.

Petey carefully climbed the three steps to the top, and stopped short.  Gazing back at her was the most beautiful self ever to greet her from a mirror.  Her long red hair was blown out silky and smooth, her makeup, including false eyelashes, expertly applied.  The pastel pink dress fit her like it was made for her, the mock turtle collar hugging her neck, leaving her shoulders and arms bare.  The clingy knit hugged her curves, and the hem hit just below her knees.  The color complimented her hair and skin flawlessly.

Colin stepped up behind her.  “Naturally, the dress is meant to be shorter.  But because you’re such a shorty, it hangs longer on you.  If we had the time, I’d have it taken up.”

Petey turned to him, eyes shining.  “Thank you so much.  I can’t possibly afford these things.  I’ll take them to the one-hour cleaner first thing tomorrow and return them.”

The man gave a friendly chuckle.  “Don’t worry about it, sweetie.”

“Hello?  Is she ready?” a male voice called.

Petey turned around.  Her rescuer had returned.  For the first time, she noticed his British accent.  Their eyes met and she gasped lightly.  He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.  His dark blond hair was neatly trimmed, a thin scruff of beard defining the contours of his chiseled square jaw.  Deep blue eyes gazed back at her, wide with apparent surprise.

Certainly, she’d looked different when last he’d seen her.  As had he, to be honest.  He was now dry, his hair neatly back in place.  While the suit he’d worn earlier had been blue, the current one was a deep charcoal.

They stared across the room for what felt like an eternity.  Finally, she broke the ice.  “Hi.”

“Hello,” he replied softly.  “Are you ready?”

Petey looked to Colin, then back at him.  “Yes, I think so.”

“Before I send you back out in to the monsoon, I’m putting a coat on you.  No more getting drenched.”  An assistant appeared with a trench coat in a black and white chevron pattern.  Colin helped her into it.

She threw her arms around him.  “Thank you!  Thank you for everything.”

“My pleasure, red.  You come back and see me anytime.  I mean that.”  He kissed both her cheeks.  “Have fun.”

She headed to the doorway where he waited.  He called across to Colin.  “Thank you.  You’re a lifesaver.”

Colin laughed and waved.  As the pair left, he shook his head.

“Well, kids, I think we just witnessed history.”

CHASING ORDINARY is available in both digital and paperback
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