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HELLO DARLING sneak peek!

There is always a point in the writing process where there’s a tug-of-war going on between my excitement to share my new project with readers and the desire to stay tucked away with my characters in the writer’s cave.  Today the excitement to share is winning.

Below is the cover, blurb and FIRST TWO CHAPTERS of my next book, HELLO DARLING.  It’s a pretty long sneak peek!  The pre-order is set to go live in Kindle Unlimited on November 15th, but there’s a chance I’ll release it a bit earlier.

compressed cover reveal Hello Darling

BLURB:

Millions of women all over the world would drop their knickers for British movie star Evan Hunter. Now he’s falling for the one American woman who won’t…Yet.

Everyone on Main Street has been talking about Evan Hunter, the British movie star who’ll be filming on location in our small Pacific Northwest town for a couple of months, and all I have to say about that is: “Who?”

When he shows up two weeks early to escape the London paparazzi after breaking up with some starlet, all I want to know is: “So?”

When he walks into the gym that I manage for my dad and brothers, to start training for the action scenes in his movie, I’ll admit I do say to myself: “Hmmm…”

But he’s not my type. I’ll take a fireman or a lumberjack over a pretty actor any day—I don’t care how blue his eyes are, how chiseled his features or how crackling our chemistry has been from the first “hello.”

Okay, so it turns out Mr. Charming and Sophisticated isn’t quite the polite English gentleman when we’re alone together in private. He may, in fact, be a filthy-mouthed sex god. He may, impossibly, have his sights set on me.

Obviously, there’s only one way for me to prove to him that I’m immune to this British actor nonsense. I’m going to prove it to him so hard.

But I have rules for flings with out-of-towners and I will continue to enforce them, even with ridiculously beautiful international film stars. Even though he gets along so well with my family. Even though we somehow seem to understand each other in ways that no one else ever could. Even if he makes me wonder what it’s like out there in the world outside of this coastal paradise I’ve always called home.

I’m staying right where I am, no matter where he claims to want to take me with him when he leaves.

Every time he says “Hello Darling,” all I hear is: “goodbye heart.”

HELLO DARLING is a standalone funny-sexy-sweet small town romantic comedy with a British actor hero and a sassy American heroine. No cliffhanger, no cheating, yes HEA!

 

***IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE SNEAK PEEK OF HELLO DARLING, READ ON!***

Chapter One – Stella

 

I’m trying to remember the last time I didn’t have a hangover the day after Halloween. When I was fifteen? Unless you count candy hangovers, then I guess it was when I was four. When was the last time I had a Halloween hangover that wasn’t mixed with a hint of bewilderment, shame and regret?…I know the answer to that, and I don’t want to think about it. No need to feel hungover, bewildered, shameful, regretful and sad. It’s so unlike me to behave the way I do on Halloween.

I’m just never myself on October 31st. I suppose that’s the point of the holiday nowadays. I suppose that’s the thing about living in a small town your entire life—Halloween is the only time people are open to seeing you in a different way. Or maybe it’s the only time I feel comfortable being somebody other than who my family and community expects me to be. I guess that’s why so many people leave this beautiful place. But I won’t.

It’s the first day of November, and despite my own personal history, I still love this season here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s all flannel and boots and pumpkin spice and the smell of burning cedar and pine logs escaping the chimneys. Some people feel weighed-down by the overcast skies but I prefer to think of the clouds as hugging the earth.  And the beaches? Quiet and soul-crushingly beautiful. I can walk a mile along the shore and not cross paths with another human.

It’s just me and the seagulls, the Lord Huron playlist that’s infusing my brain through my earbuds, and the cool breeze caressing the beard burn on my chin courtesy of Jason “The Kwas” Kwasnicki and three too many pints of Guinness at last night’s festivities. The one downside to this season is that there are fewer tourists to have dalliances with, so back to the local dating pool we go, and it’s sink or swim until Memorial Day. Good thing I don’t care about dating. It’s not usually an issue, since most of the local guys don’t want to mess with me. Having a dad and three brothers who can kick most dude’s asses without even trying will do that to your social life. I’m fine with it.

 

I had to get away from Main Street on my lunch break. The talk of the town usually shifts seamlessly from Halloween costumes to Thanksgiving plans and recipes, but this year I’ve been hearing less about pumpkin pie and more about crumpets (what the fuck are crumpets?). There’s going to be a major motion picture shooting on location here in a couple of weeks, and the star is from England. All the business owners of Port Gladstone have been Googling him to find out what he’s into, to try to lure him to their premises so they can take pictures. Mrs. Flauvich ordered a month’s worth of Yorkshire Gold tea, crumpets and marmalade for her deli. The window display of Clemmons Sporting Goods is now dressed to feature cricket and rugby. The Chef’s Special of the month at the Golden Panda just changed from Egg Boo Young to Posh Spiced Rice with Diced Bangers, and the Wangs also printed up new To Go menus. They are now called “Takeaway Dish Menus.” Fortunately, our finest tavern has always been well stocked with Guinness and Newcastle Brown Ale (unless we Starkeys have cleaned them out).

Who is this Evan Hunter guy, and why am I supposed to care? All I know is, he’s not Loki and he’s never been on “Game of Thrones.” Supposedly he’ll be in an upcoming JK Rowling series, so—three points for Gryffindor. But I’m not going to be waving the Union Jack until we know if it will be of Harry Potter or “Casual Vacancy” caliber. I haven’t Googled him, even though I keep hearing: “Oh he was so handsome in that one about the soldier who has amnesia.” Barf. “I keep reading that he’s going to be the next James Bond.” Oh really? If Sean Connery is still alive, then he should still be James Bond. End of discussion. “Forget about the movies—have you seen those shirtless pictures of him in Barbados?” Um. Have you seen those shirtless pictures of Jason Momoa in absolutely anywhere? Why do you ever need to look at anything else?

The guy isn’t even in town yet, and I’m already sick of him—although perhaps there will be someone else on the visiting film crew that I can have a fling with. A gaffer or a key grip (whatever they are). I may love this town with its Victorian era houses and buildings, but fancy Englishmen have always made my eyes roll. So here I am, sitting on a log while eating a sandwich and staring out at the ocean, instead of shoveling a Cobb salad into my face at the deli while staring at a book like I usually do.

Also, I’m trying to avoid The Kwas.

I can still feel his tongue tickling my tonsils, and he sent me a text this morning that said: Yeah!

That’s it. That’s all it said. I don’t even know how to respond to that, so I won’t.

Twenty-six feels way too old to be drunk-kissing guys that I went to high school with at parties. Even on Halloween. Not wearing my sexy sailor costume again next year might help with that. Or not going to a Halloween party at all would probably be even more helpful. Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t I just be sad and stay home with my cat or hang out with my family like on every other holiday?

I pull my phone out from my pocket when I feel it vibrate. What a delight! It’s another text from Jason Kwasnicki.

It just says: Hey hey!

He is nothing if not succinct. I will have to pass on responding to this one as well.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of a man in black who’s jogging along the path, heading back towards Main Street, his back to me. His tall frame is distinctly unfamiliar. He’s wearing a baseball cap and running pants. He is fast. Good stride. Great form. Fairly lean but broad-shouldered. Fantastic male butt specimen. Not my type. Just as well.

I’ve consumed my sandwich down to the last bit of crusts, which I’ve saved for the birds. You’re not supposed to feed seagulls bread, but the gulls have been hovering, and this bread has sprouted grains and seeds so at least I’m not giving them processed food. I have such fond memories of doing this with my mom when I was a little girl, so I always do it when there’s no one else around. I toss bits of crust into the air for the fastest and the bravest of the flock, making sure to chuck a big piece directly at the nervous wonky-looking bird that’s been waiting in the wings. Hang in there, little guy.

I take my time strolling back to work on the sand, because it’s wonderful out and I’ll be inside for the next six hours and I love this Lord Huron song that just started. I close my eyes for a moment, savoring the melody. When I open them again, I see the man in black, jogging in my direction. He’s on the path, which is about thirty feet from where I’m walking, his pace slower than when I first saw him. I run my fingers through my wind-blown hair and get my smile ready.

He’s wearing dark Ray-Ban wayfarers despite the mostly cloudy skies. Even from this distance I can tell he has the kind of jawline we don’t see much of in these parts, because—beer and beards. He is staring intensely at the ground ahead of himself. Again, it’s the kind of intensity one doesn’t see very often around here, where people come to enjoy the laid-back artsy/seaport lifestyle. It’s a kind of intensity that I can only describe as: HOT. I can’t see his eyes behind the shades, but judging by the way his shoulders and jaw are set, if he were looking at me the way he’s looking at the pavement, I’d have to call it “panty-liquefying intensity.” But he’s not looking at me like he’s looking at the pavement. He doesn’t look at me at all as he jogs past. Another thing I don’t see much of around here is a human being who doesn’t even glance my way—at the very least, we politely nod at each other, to acknowledge one another’s existence.

He must be from New York. Whatever. I’ve got other stuff to look at too, like the time. I should have been back at the gym five minutes ago. My younger brother hates being on phone-duty because talking to faceless strangers who have questions is more painful to him than doing fifty weighted deadlifts and squats.

 

Starkey Fitness is not the largest gym in Port Gladstone, and it’s not the one that’s open 24 hours a day, but it is the one with the best membership renewal rate, the most consistent membership growth, and it’s the only family-owned business in town where every member of the family can run a six-minute mile and hold a plank pose for a minimum of two minutes at a time. I’ve been managing the business full-time for five years. I started helping my dad out with administration and expansion right out of high school. It wasn’t the plan, but it became what I wanted. Living in this town, working with my guys and keeping them in line is a good life.

As soon as I step through the front door, Billy jumps up from the stool behind the front desk. I can tell by the way his wavy brown hair is standing up and out in front that he was pulling at it while he was on the phone with someone. His dark eyebrows are knitted as he stares at me, and I expect a reprimand or a “where’s my sandwich?” but instead, he says: “Is it true you made out with The Kwas last night?”

I wince. “We didn’t make out. He kissed me and I paused before pulling away. Who told you?”

“Who didn’t tell me? As soon as you left for lunch people kept coming in here to dish.”

“Great.”

“You want me to give him a message from the Starkey Brothers?”

“I think I can handle it.” I pull a wrapped sandwich out from my jacket pocket and hand it to him.

“Thanks.”

“Take your time eating it.”

“Don’t tell me how to eat a sandwich.”

I muss up his already mussed-up hair. “I can’t believe you never showed up last night.”

“I got to see two women make out at Andy’s. Five feet away from me. In person. I was in the right place at the right time, believe me.”

“I’m so happy for you. Go talk to Mr. Hannam, he’s looking at you like he wants to ask a question.”

“Lookin’ good, Mr. Hannam! What’s up?” Billy struts over to the cable crossover machine, where our newest sixty-seven year-old member is looking a little confused about how to work the thing. Billy is the only person I know who can get a person stoked about using what looks like an old school torture device. What Mr. Hannam doesn’t know is, he’s saving me from the real old school torture device: being grilled by my brother about kissing boys.

I immediately get back to work, responding to emails, wiping down surfaces, working on our annual holiday season “Get Fit-Stay Fit” challenge. We have a letter board set up on the front desk, with a phrase that changes daily, but I was barely conscious this morning when I assembled the letters to form: “Have a nice day. Get me a coffee.” Not one person got me a coffee. I switch it to: “Dear body: maybe don’t eat ALL the candy at once. Love, your pants”.” Cute and clever, but some of our regulars will note that last Thanksgiving it said the same thing but “pumpkin pie” instead of “candy.” Who am I kidding? Only about five people actually care what’s on the letter board. I’m one of them and I’m related to the other four. I take a picture of it and post it on the gym’s Instagram page anyway.

I text my dad to ask if he came down with a cold. I could hear it in his voice yesterday, and I don’t want him going for his usual morning hikes this time of year unless he’s in top form. He immediately texts back: NO. STRONG LIKE BULL.

I know this means he’s getting sick, and I know that I will be bringing him soup later, but I don’t push it because we are both stubborn like bulls and it’s no fun getting into a text argument with him because he just ignores my texts.

The business line rings. “Good afternoon, Starkey Fitness.”

“Yes, hello,” says a pert young female with an English accent. “I’m calling to ask if it’s possible to pay cash in advance for your three month membership?”

“Oh. Sure, I don’t see why not. Payment in full, in cash, would be fine.”

“Wonderful, thank you so much, and one more quick question.”

“Yes?”

“Do you photocopy your new members’ identification cards when they sign up? For your records?”

“No. That isn’t usually necessary.”

“Fantastic, thank you!”

She hangs up. It’s not the weirdest question I’ve ever gotten about memberships. Someone once called to ask if he could pay for his annual membership with a year’s worth of fresh caught salmon. My dad said ‘yes.’ We served it at our annual member appreciation dinner. When Mrs. Flauvich said the only way she’d join the gym was if she could eat on the treadmill, we said ‘no’ but that she could pay for her membership with hugs. Her blood pressure has been lowered thanks to the exercise, and ours has been lowered thanks to her bountiful warm hugs. Win-win. That’s how we do business, and we still manage to make a tidy profit.

 

I don’t even check the Caller ID when I answer the next call.

“Hey hey,” says the voice on the line.

“Jason?”

“So you made it to work?”

“Why are you calling me on the gym phone?”

“I’m a member.”

“Are you calling regarding your membership?”

“No, I’m calling regarding getting a drink with you later.”

“I won’t be drinking again for quite a while.”

“Food, then.”

My back is to the front door but I hear the bells jingle as someone enters or exits.

“I won’t be getting food with you. I don’t go out with our clients. Company policy.”

“I thought we had fun last night.”

“Well, I had fun, and you had fun, we both had fun under the same roof, and for a brief period of time our faces were connected, but you are under no obligation to get either food or drink with me, nor am I under any obligation to do so with you.”

“Why do you sound like a lawyer all of a sudden?”

“I’ve found it saves time. I’m sure there are plenty of girls who would love to have a drink with you, Kwas, I’m just not one of them. Have a good day, thanks for calling!” I hang up the phone, sigh, and turn to face the entrance.

I am startled to find a tall man standing in front of me on the other side of the desk, grinning, as he hangs his Ray-Bans from the V-neck of his grey T-shirt. His black hoodie jacket looks more expensive than my entire wardrobe. His blue eyes are so sparkly, even in the diffused natural light of our reception area, I think I might need to put on sunglasses to look at him. He’s smirking as he watches me, waiting for me to collect myself, so I know he heard the end of that conversation, and I know that he’s not only prettier but more polite than everyone who has ever walked through that door before him. Too bad I’m not into polite pretty men. But hey there, pecs that are barely hiding beneath that hoodie and T-shirt—you have clearly spent a lot of time inside of gyms.  What brings you here to ours?

I have to clear my throat in order to speak. My mouth is suddenly dry for some reason. I straighten myself up and lick my lips. “Hi.”

His eyes briefly drop from mine to my lips, and back to my eyes again. That tiny subtle movement of his shiny eyeballs somehow sends a shiver through me and I feel surprisingly sexy and caffeinated all of a sudden. He hasn’t even spoken a word to me yet, but I already feel like he’s told me I’m beautiful and presented me with an elegant box of tastefully provocative lingerie. It seems like an eternity passes before he finally opens his mouth, and when he does, all he says is “hello,” and I swear it’s as if no one has ever meant it quite so much as he does right now.

 

Chapter Two – Stella

 

“That’s an excellent jack o’ lantern.” The tall blonde man nods towards the small jack o’ lantern that sits in front of the letter board on my desk. I carved our business logo into it—made a stencil first, but still. It is excellent and not enough people have appreciated that.

“Thank you.” Nice jawline—it’s so sharp you could carve a pumpkin with it.

“Did you carve it?”

“Yes. I did.” Is that an English accent I’m detecting?

“Once, when I was young, I spent Halloween in Cornwall with my grandparents. It’s traditional to use turnips for jack o’ lanterns there, instead of pumpkins. When they’re lit they smell just unbearably awful. From then on I stuck to Easter visits.” He shakes his head, like he’s not sure why he just told me that. “True story,” he says, smiling sheepishly.

Yup. English accent. Despite what he’s saying, when he speaks it’s like his voice is bringing me a cup of tea and drawing me a bath while composing a sonnet.  Or is it calmly disrobing me while feeding me a butterscotch sundae and letting it melt onto my naked body?  Something about that accent makes me stand a little straighter, raise my chin a little higher. And yet, something about it makes me want to chomp on chewing gum, blast Metallica from the speakers and make fun of him.

“Sorry—are you talking to me about turnips right now?”

“Well, I was, but I think I’m done. I’m Evan, how do you do.” He holds out his large, manicured hand.

“Hi. Stella Starkey.”

“Of Starkey’s Fitness.” Polite, firm handshake, and yet he holds on just a second too long, holds my gaze three seconds longer than my stomach butterflies can stay still.

I didn’t even realize those butterflies were still alive in there. “One of them. I mean—I’m one of the Starkeys. I’m the manager. Welcome.” My stomach butterflies and my brain don’t seem to share the same taste in men anymore.

“Thank you. Well, I’ve just arrived in town today, I’ll be here for a while for work. I think my associate called earlier to make sure you’ll take cash in advance for the three-month membership?”

“Yes. She did. We do.”

My brain is whirring. This is the jogger from the beach. Evan is the jogger from the beach. Evan is Evan Hunter. Evan Hunter is the British movie star. Up close, it appears Evan Hunter the British movie star has a bit of a supernatural glow to him. Not like a Twilight vampire, but that healthy glow that beautiful rich people have in pictures and on film and you assume it’s a filter.

I try to concentrate on what this strange vaguely glowing person is saying by focusing on his mouth, because it’s moving.

What follows is a flood of thoughts and feelings that are so new to me I immediately feel the need to catalog them so I can impose some semblance of control. The first thing I think is: That there is the most beautiful man I have ever seen. The second thing I think is: I don’t like beautiful men. The third thing I think is: Don’t I though?  Fourth thing: Nope. Definitely not. Fifth thing: Wait, I have seen this guy in a movie. He was in the Romeo & Juliet video that Mrs. Greer showed us in English Lit. I was sulking the whole time because I had just had a fight with my boyfriend and thought the play was ridiculous. Sixth: That is a damn pretty mouth. He must exfoliate and moisturize those lips regularly.  Thing number seven: Shit, I’ve seen him in something else too. He was in the action thriller that was a modern adaptation of Hamlet. I walked out halfway through. He was good in it, but it was a weird combination of pretentious film school baloney and big budget movie crap. I hated it. And I wasn’t even in a bad mood that time.

I start shaking my head. “I’m sorry, I’m just going to be honest and stop you right there and tell you that I haven’t been listening to a word you’ve said.”

He stops mid-sentence, sucks in his breath and smiles. I’m sure it’s quite common for people’s heads to explode when they first start interacting with him. He smiles with his pretty mouth and his beautiful eyes. He has a kind smile and it still makes me want to mock him.

“I was babbling for the most part anyway. Is there some sort of form I should fill out, and is it alright if I use an alias? For confidentiality and all that.” He shrugs modestly and searches my eyes to see if I actually realize who he is. There’s no arrogance there. At all.

“Um. Yes. That should be fine. Rest assured, we will keep your membership here confidential, to the degree that we can. I mean. People will see you coming in and out of here. Some of them will recognize you and some of them won’t. Some will care and some won’t. We have no control over that.”

He laughs. “Understood.”

“Promise you won’t sue us if people find out you’re working out here, or God forbid if you sustain an injury on the premises.”

He grins. “I promise.”

I load up the three-month membership form on the iPad and hand it over to him, glad that I don’t have to use a pen to write anything, because for some stupid reason my hand appears to be trembling.

“Make yourself comfortable.” I wave towards the seating area to the side of the entrance. “Or—are you sure you don’t want a tour of the gym first? You can have a complimentary first day—”

“Not necessary. I’ve checked things out and everything here seems ideal.” He says this while looking directly into my eyes, instead of surveying the gym facilities.

My mouth goes dry again, so I nod and pretend to do some important typing on my laptop while he saunters over to the sofa and pats his jacket pockets, doesn’t find what he’s looking for, then uses his fingers to expand the form on the screen. He probably needs reading glasses and forgot them. I like the idea of him in glasses, but I refuse to Google “Evan Hunter glasses” because I’ve Googled “Jason Momoa glasses” and I am all good, thanks.

When he returns to my desk, he places the iPad in front of me and waits for me to look over the filled-out form. I keep hearing his phone vibrate but he hasn’t checked it the entire time he’s been here, which is yet another unusual thing for a human. He pulls out a wallet while he watches me read. “I put the number for the hotel where I’m staying and the name that I’m registered under. I’ll be moving to a house soon, but—”

“Richard Diver…Wait…Dick Diver? Interesting choice of alias. You a fan of early Twentieth Century American Literature?”

“Yes. Are you?”

“Why do you look so surprised?”

“I…I didn’t mean to…”

“What, you think I’m all brawn and no brain?”

“I certainly didn’t—”

“You think I just watch reality shows while I run on the treadmill?”

“Not at all.”

“Yeah, well I do. I read Tender is the Night back in high school. I re-read parts of it every now and then. For years I fantasized about going to a glamorous resort in the French Riviera because of that book. I read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work after devouring The Great Gatsby for English. So why do you identify with that character? Are you married to a wealthy woman with mental health issues?”

“Not married, no.”

“Dating a wealthy woman with mental health issues?”

“Not currently.”

“Beginning a descent into alcoholism?”

“Well, I have felt the need of a stiff drink ever since you and I began talking, to be honest.”

“Ohhhh, I know. It’s the pretty young starlet thing.”

“Sorry, the what?”

“I bet you can relate to Dick Diver because of the pretty young starlet who adores him.”

He clears his throat and looks down at the large bills he’s pulling out of his wallet.

I do realize there’s a fine line between sassy and assy and that I have just charged across it.

“And did you ever make it to a glamorous resort in the French Riviera?” he asks, without making eye contact.

“What?…Oh. No. I did not. I resorted to a life of glamour in the Pacific Northwest instead. As you can see.”

“I can see.” The eye contact is back, the smirk is gone, but in its place is a serious contemplation of me that makes me even more uncomfortable. Finally, he takes a deep breath and says: “Well, I should do some strength training. I’m trying to get a good workout in before I crash. Jet lag, you know.”

“Right. The worst.” I don’t want to tell him how little I’ve experienced jet lag in my life, but I have a feeling he can tell. “My brother can give you a quick tour of the facilities.” I try to get Billy’s attention by waving. He’s facing the back mirror but he’s looking at his phone. “Let me just—wait here. I’ll get him. Oh, and we have Wi-Fi. If you want to check your emails. The guest password is ‘glutes123.’”

“Is it really?”

“It is this week. Be right back.”

“I’m in no rush.”

“Cool.”

As I step out from behind the front desk, I try to walk like someone who isn’t at all self-conscious about the fact that a movie star is checking out her backside, and I really think I’m nailing it until Billy looks over at me and says: “What is wrong with you?”

“What?”

“You’re walking like you have hemorrhoids.”

I lower my voice. “Shhh! Shut up. You need to give a new VIP client a quick tour. Be cool. That actor who’s going to be starring in the movie they’re shooting here just signed up for a three month membership.”

“No way!” He looks over my shoulder towards the reception area then slaps my arm with the back of his hand. “Holy shit I totally recognize him. What’s his name again—Sherlock Austen?”

“Sir Monty Churchill the Third.”

“Is it really?”

“No! It’s Evan Hunter but his alias is Richard Diver. We need to be discreet—don’t yell out his name and don’t tell everyone he’s here.”

“Sis.” He wipes his hands on the front of his T-shirt. “I got this. Watch and learn.”

He nudges me out of the way and marches over to Evan Hunter with his hand outstretched and I’m already embarrassed. The few other members who are working out on the machines don’t even seem to have noticed him. “I’m Billy Starkey, hi, it is such an honor to meet you. I’m a huge fan of your work.”

“Hi, thank you so much.”

Firm handshake. Billy pats him on the back. Evan seems amused.

“It’s so cool that you’re here—the whole town’s been talking about the movie and you—this is the most exciting thing to happen since the Bigfoot sighting.”

“The big foot?”

“Just a little local humor. Bigfoot actually sticks to the mountains. Hey, my boy Chet’s an actor too! Maybe you can give him some tips sometime.”

I just want to put a bag over my brother’s head, but the polite Englishman is nodding and smiling and going along with this.

“Oh, your son’s an actor?”

“Yeah, no, Chet’s my dog. He’s been in a local commercial for a hardware store and a regional commercial for a pet supply store that shot over in Seattle. He’s like the Tom Hanks of Labradoodles around here. He’s so fucking cute and loveable—here’s a picture.” Billy whips out his phone and opens up his photo library. He literally has hundreds of pics of Chet, as well as an Instagram account, of course. “Sorry, you probably don’t like swears.”

He feigns a bit of a drawl. “Fuck yeah I do. Let’s see that cute little fucker.”

“Hah! This guy’s cool. You’re cool, I like you.” I cover my face with my hands while my brother holds his phone up to this poor guy. Some pet parents are so annoying. I never show strangers pictures of my cat Muffin Top. Unless they ask.

“Oh, he’s beautiful.”

“Here, this is a better one.”

“So adorable. I can see why he’s a star.”

“Right?”

I peek through my fingers and catch Evan Hunter smiling and winking at me while Billy swipes through his library to find the picture of Chet with a little cowboy hat on.

“Billy, I think Mr. Diver probably needs to get to his workout.”

“Actually—is there a men’s room I can visit first?”

“Yes! The loo—right? In the men’s change room back there, or if you want to use the employee restroom…”

I furrow my brow at Billy. I don’t want this fellow sharing a bathroom with me. I don’t know why, but I feel very strongly about this.

“Change room will be fine, thanks.” Evan Hunter heads off towards the change rooms and I definitely don’t stare at his butt as he goes, because that would be lame and also he’s not my type.

“That’s a nice guy right there. I like him, he’s a real guy. Celebrities,” Billy says, thoughtfully. “They really are just like us.”

I shrug and lower my voice. “Are they, though? I bet when he farts it smells like roses, and tiny angels blow trumpets out of his arse.” Oh my God, I’m ten. I’m a ten year-old tomboy again and I just want to beat that guy in dodgeball. I want to hurl rubber balls and words at him to eliminate him but also kiss him on the mouth maybe a little first.

My brother looks up from his phone and observes me in a way that he’s only done a few times in my life. I immediately feel uncomfortable and defensive. “What?”

He smirks. “Nothin’. He’s good-looking, huh?”

“If you like that sort of thing.”

“Good thing you don’t.”

“Good thing I don’t. The whole package, with the blue eyes and pretty lips and the accent and being nice. It’s too much. He’s like those enormous chocolate chunk cookies they sell at the Costco bakery that are the size of your head. With the pecans? Remember I got a box of them once for all of us? We were so excited because they look amazing but they were so thick and chewy we could only stomach like half of one and anyway it made me feel sick and I never bought them again. Too much.”

“That is not a good analogy.”

“Yes it is. Your judgment is impaired by your man crush.”

“Maybe so. I can’t believe that girl dumped him.”

“What girl?”

“Some young actress, starlet, whatever you wanna call her. I forget her name—Mrs. Flauvich was talking about it. Dumped him for one of those boyband guys. According to the internet, he’s heartbroken. That’s probably why he’s here early, I bet. To get away from the paparazzi. What, you didn’t hear about that? Everyone’s talking about it.”

My eyes sting. “I am such an asshole.”

“You just realizing this?”

“Shut up. Here.” I grab a bottle of water from the mini fridge under the reception desk. “Give him this.”

Billy holds the bottle up with one hand, and with the other he gestures towards me like a game show hostess. “Ladies and gentlemen. She’s not an asshole anymore.”

Evan Hunter must think I’m such a jerk! The whole starlet thing. I can’t even believe I was so sassy with a new client. He was friendly and kind to me from the get-go and I was a non-stop cheeky turd beast.

Honestly, this is not like me. I blame the Halloween hangover. Next time he speaks to me, I’ll be super nice to him. Probably. I hope.

 

***END OF SNEAK PEEK.  Text is subject to minor changes upon publication.  Available HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday and Book + Main Bites Romance

It’s #TeaserTuesday and my new book GREEN goes live on Thursday and I’m going nuts so I’m just going to post all of my teasers here today.  Teasers teasers teasers!

And then I start writing the next book and also working with great designers on future book covers!  I’M SO EXCITED!!!  Can you tell?

 

book-main-bites

Also–I just started posting on Book + Main Bites Romance.  Do you know about this cool new website that’s content-driven by authors?  Romance authors post excerpts or “bites” from their books.  Readers join for free and can discover new authors and follow their favorites.  They even have a great app.  Since it is getting harder for authors to have their posts seen by followers on Facebook, I have a feeling more and more authors will be using Book + Main.

Please follow me there at  https://bookandmainbites.com/kayleyloring

Also also!  How cute is my new logo?!  Designed by Stacy Garcia of Uplifting Designs.  I love it!

kayley loring logo black type white background

GREEN book and mine post

the real story begins

GREEN_ BEYOND READY FOR IT

going from friends to loverson September 6th

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Copy of Johnny B. Nerdballs

 

 

Sneak Peek of GREEN

GREEN high contrast color glossy text cover

I am so excited to introduce you to my next pair of steamy romantic comedy victims!  Theo and Gemma are so cute together I keep trying to hug my computer.  GREEN is a bit more of a slow-burn than my other books, as it is a friends-to-lovers story, and Theo and Gemma are a tiny bit younger than most of my protagonists.

I’ll let the blurb and rather long excerpt speak for themselves.  GREEN is available for pre-order HERE.  It will be live in Kindle Unlimited on September 6th!

Blurb:

Three years ago, I did what so many people say you should do if you want a happy life. I married my best friend.

You know what people don’t say?  They don’t tell you that you probably shouldn’t secretly marry your best friend so he can get a green card if there’s even a chance you might fall in love with him. Because that clueless hot nerd will be too busy becoming a millionaire to even notice how uncomfortable you get when he walks around the house shirtless, complaining that he can’t get the same kinds of snacks that he grew up eating in Canada.

We needed to stay married for at least three years so he could become a naturalized American citizen. I have spent the last year trying to fall out of love with him, so I can make a graceful exit from this arrangement and move on to greener pastures.

I did not expect my best friend to ask me to stay married to him.

He didn’t expect me to say ‘no’ to him.

Three years ago, it was all too easy to convince the immigration officer that we were a real couple.

Now my beloved fake husband is going to have to work his ass off trying to convince me that he isn’t just pursuing me all of a sudden because he’s crazy jealous of my new coworker.

I’m going to try not to panic while he displays the sexy alpha side that he’s been hiding from me all this time.

When he tempts me with “a real honeymoon,” I am going to try very hard to relax and have fun, despite having much less experience with relaxing and having fun (in bed) than him.

And I have no doubt that we will both blow it, because three years ago we were just too young and naïve to realize that secretly marrying each other would complicate everything.

GREEN is a friends-to-lovers marriage of convenience sweet and sexy slow-burn romantic comedy.

 

Sneak Peek:

Chapter One – Theo

When Gemma Kelly and I first met, I was naked and she was stoned. She was accidentally stoned, and I was purposefully naked but accidentally locked out of someone else’s apartment across the hall from hers. It was definitely the first, and hopefully the last time in my life that my nakedness has inspired instant feelings of non-lusty friendship in a human female.

 

The girl that I had just…been intimate with…had flipped out when I told her I had to go home to study, called me a selfish liar, and then got dressed and stormed out of her own apartment. I chased after her because I didn’t want her to go around thinking I was lying about wanting to go home to study and I definitely wasn’t selfish. I allowed myself one weekend a month to have a little fun and I had just given her three loud orgasms, so I thought I had earned me some late-night study time. The door locked behind me—my clothes, wallet and phone were inside—and she’d disappeared down the stairwell, me yelling after her while laughing because what the fuck. Next thing I know, I’m cupping my hands over my private parts, silently cursing myself for not just letting her think I was going to go out and hook up with someone else, when the door across the hall opened a crack and I got a glimpse of the most beautiful sleepy green eyes staring out at me.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hi,” she said, opening the door a bit more so that I could see more of her pretty round face. She had fair skin, no make-up, and she was all glowy. Her eyes got so wide-open all of a sudden, I thought maybe she recognized me.

“Do I know you?”

She tilted her head to one side, like a puppy. “I don’t think so.”

I have no idea how long we stared at each other like that. It felt like forever. I kept thinking I should say something, but I was also so strangely comfortable that it didn’t seem like I needed to. After the high-octane sexed-up craziness of my night with Nikki, it felt like everything was suddenly in slow-motion, like Christmas at my grandmother’s house. Although, to be clear, I had not stood around naked at my grandma’s house since I was a toddler.

Finally, I said: “I’m Theo.”

“I’m Gemma.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“Howdy.” She stuck her hand out and waved.

“I got locked out of Nikki’s apartment.”

“Yeah, that happens.”

“Does it?”

“I mean, in general, in the world. I don’t know if it’s happened here before.”

“Right.”

Another silence. She just stared at my face, and I think she may have been humming to herself. It was almost like she was a nurse and I was a naked patient waiting to see the doctor. Except that’s not what it was at all.

Eventually, I coughed and said: “I’m naked.”

“I thought so,” she said, giggling. “My vision’s a little wonky right now. I thought maybe you were wearing a flesh-colored body suit.”

“Well. I’m not.”

“Okay. I think I’m stoned.”

“Okay. You don’t know for sure?” I shivered. It was chilly in that hallway.

“One of my roommates baked brownies and told me to have some, then left for the night. I had some. She hasn’t responded to my texts. I’ve never been stoned before. It’s not what I thought it would be. I can’t tell if it’s better or worse. Or maybe there is no good or bad. It’s just a state of being that I’ve never experienced before. Or wait…Maybe I’m always like this but I’ve never been aware of it until now. Whoa.”

“Yeah, you’re definitely stoned.”   That would explain why I felt so weird as soon as I saw her. Contact high. “How many brownies did you have?  When did you eat them?”

“Umm…I didn’t look at the clock, but it felt like a long time ago.  Also, not really.  Okay, if I tell you how many I had, you have to promise not to judge me.”

“I’m standing naked in a hallway in the middle of the night in front of a stranger. I’m not going to judge you.”

“You have to promise.” She held her index finger up at me. She had chipped navy blue nail polish on her fingernails, the exact same shade as my jeans that were on the floor in the room that I could no longer access.

I sighed. Making promises to a strange girl in the middle of the night while naked had never been this weirdly non-sexual. “I promise.”

“Wait—do you go to USC?”

“Yeah. School of Engineering. Department of Computer Science. Do you?”

“Yes. I’m getting a BFA in scenic design. Engineering, huh? That sounds like a baloney education.”

“Sure, it’s just a BS in Computer Science and Business Administration with a minor in Technology Commercialization—not as practical as a Bachelor of Fine Arts, but we’re all just trying to make the world a better place.”

She tsked. “Rude.”

“Yeah, that was uncalled for, sorry.”

She scanned me up and down again—like some celebrity judge on a TV talent show—seemingly forgetting that we were talking about brownies. I’d like to think that there are a multitude of scenarios wherein I would have played this very differently if she had shown the slightest bit of interest, but I just wasn’t getting that vibe.

“You don’t look like a nerd.”

“Thanks?”

After another five seconds or five hours, she sighed, then said: “I had three brownies. Nope. I lied. I just lied to you. I ate four brownies. Just one after the other. They’re delicious.”

“Okay, well they must not have been laced with too much THC, or else you’d really be freaking out right now.”  I started to explain how pot brownies are a very different delivery system for marijuana than when it’s inhaled, and I think she may have fallen asleep standing up for a second.

Suddenly, her eyes opened again and she said:  “You want one?”

“Uh. Yeah. Yes, I do.” It was a Saturday night and I was twenty, single, and naked. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even want a brownie. I just wanted to be with her some more. I thought she was delicious.

“You can come in. My roommates aren’t home. You can put on my boyfriend’s clothes. He isn’t here either.”

And there it was.

She had a boyfriend.

Of course she did.

I made some mental adjustments and decided to see where this would lead anyway.

“You’re the same size,” she continued.

I cleared my throat and tried not to give her the same cocky grin that had gotten me into Nikki’s apartment and pants earlier. You sure about that?

She glanced down at my hands, which were still covering my private parts, but in no way hiding everything. It must have been true that her vision was wonky, otherwise surely her eyes would have bulged out of her head at that point. “I mean. In general. As far as I can tell…Wait there, I’ll go get the clothes for you.”

She went inside and closed the door.

I continued to stand there, hands on my junk, wondering if this was really the best use of my time when I had midterms to study for.

The door swung open wide, revealing this little pixie in all her glassy-eyed, curly-brown-haired glory. She was laughing so hard she was snorting and hiccupping, waving her hands at me, as if to say: “You’re naked!” She finally managed to pause long enough to speak. “You should come in. Then I’ll get the clothes.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said, remaining still.

She stood in the doorway, trying to focus on my mouth. “What’s that accent?”

“I don’t have an accent. You do.”

“Canadian! I could tell from the way you said ‘sounds.’ You said ‘sorry’ funny too. Say ‘about.’”

“I’m aboot to freeze my nuts off in this here hallway, eh?”

She laughed so hard she bowed forward, snorting again. Nodding, she finally pressed her back up against the open door to make room for me to pass. I tried really hard not to notice that her Snoopy T-shirt was suddenly stretched tight across her very round perky breasts, and she didn’t try hard at all to ignore my bare ass as I hustled through the doorway. She blatantly stared at it, in fact.

“Hmmm…”   Still staring.

I slowly turned around to face her, wondering if her eyesight really was messed-up.

“Do you do squats?”

“Nope.”

“Do you work out a lot?”

“I run. I’m a runner.”

“I bet you look good in pants.” She wasn’t being flirtatious in the least. She said it as though she were saying something very profound.

“I’d love to show you how good I look in pants. Soon.”

After three seconds, she burst into a fit of laughter again, and eventually I was wearing pants, but she had completely forgotten to check out how my butt looked in them because she was too busy eating potato chips and talking about ordering pizza.

I completely forgot about going home to study.

She completely forgot to order pizza.

I had no idea where the girl across the hall had disappeared to and somehow didn’t care that my phone was locked in her apartment.

The boyfriend’s clothes did fit me. She said his name was Andrew, that he lived “back home” in Cleveland, that they’d known each other their whole lives, their parents were all friends, their dads worked together, and they’d been seeing each other “every couple of months” since she came out to L.A. She said it was perfect. I didn’t ask why, I was just glad that he’d left his pants here and that he wasn’t around.

 

I stayed with her until morning, helped her out when she got nauseous, talked her down when her mild pot-brownie-induced freakout hit, watched about eight episodes of Bob’s Burgers with her and woke up on the sofa with her asleep on top of me, her head on my chest. She was thoroughly unconscious.

I lay awake, perfectly still, for maybe fifteen minutes. Her arms were wrapped around me, her body pressed against mine. Her hair smelled like fresh citrus fruits and pretty flowers and sexy musk and I wanted so badly to run my fingers through it. I wanted to touch her and kiss her and take off her clothes and taste her and make her feel things that her absent boyfriend had surely never made her feel. But I didn’t. I kept my hands clasped behind my head.

I don’t know what it was, exactly, that made her trust me enough to let me into her apartment late at night—besides the fact that she was stoned, I was clearly not hiding any weapons on my person and we both knew Nikki. I don’t know what made me want to be her friend. I’d never really had a female friend before, not since I was a little kid. I also don’t know what it was that caused her to wriggle around slowly, and moan softly in her sleep—if she was dreaming or if she thought she was with her boyfriend. But I closed my eyes and clenched my fists and recited mathematical formulas in my head.

That did the trick.

When she awoke, she bolted up and declared that she just remembered that she had a spare key for the apartment across the hall because she watered Nikki’s plants when she was out of town. She didn’t seem to realize that she had been lying on top of me. She didn’t seem to remember it, either.

Ever.

I tried to forget about it every single day for about a month.

I still thought about it from time to time for months after that.

For years, neither Gemma nor I had seen each other naked since the night we met.

Unless you count the times my stupid brain imagined what she looked like completely naked, without my permission. If you count those times, we’re talking, conservatively…at least once every single day. In my defense—my twenty year-old brain imagined every attractive woman naked, usually without my permission, and some of the not-so-attractive women too.

But that was never going to stop me from being the best friend she’d ever had.

 

***

 

A week after meeting, Gemma and I had seen each other every day after classes, I’d nicknamed her Grandma Kelly, she’d repeatedly told me that the only reason she was hanging out with a guy who’s prettier than she is was that I’m also a bigger dork than her (neither of which is true), and I asked her if she wanted to move in with me.

When I’d first moved to LA from Toronto, I used a chunk of my trust fund money for the down payment on a three-bedroom house in Echo Park. It was an investment. Risky, I suppose, but it had worked out very well. Property in the hipster neighborhood continued to climb in value, my renters covered my mortgage payments and then some, and I got a line of credit to finance development of my app. I also put money into a financial portfolio, which I tweaked now and then, and not to brag or anything—but I’m kind of awesome at making money.

The house is close to USC, but not in a sketchy neighborhood, and Gemma was tired of living with three other students in a two-bedroom apartment in Koreatown. I didn’t want to keep running into Nikki who lived across the hall from her. Also, I just wanted Gemma around all the time. Even though I was charging her half of what she had been paying at the apartment, she said she would only move in because I already had two other tenants.

Chloe and Ethan were married USC grad students. Chloe was getting her Masters in Product Development Engineering, then began working for an industrial design firm in Santa Monica. Ethan was getting his Masters in Sustainable Design at the School of Architecture, then got a job at a firm in Pasadena. They were my dream tenants. I’d started renting out the downstairs unit of the duplex to them a week after I’d moved in, but barely spoke to them aside from polite chit-chat. Once Gem moved in, we all started having dinner together out back almost every night. We’d been a happy family ever since.

 

I can’t say for sure why Andrew had no complaints when, after knowing me for two years, Gemma told him that she was going to marry me so that I could get a green card and she could live rent-free for three years. I suppose I’d been more focused on getting my startup funded to wonder if he just didn’t think of me as a threat to their relationship, or if he didn’t care enough about what Gemma was up to when she wasn’t with him. I asked her if I should have a talk with him, but she said it wouldn’t be necessary. I tried to stay out of her relationship with him as much as possible. The less I knew about it the better. Maybe that was how Andrew felt about her friendship with me.

Andrew’s a good guy. Canada’s a phenomenal country. This wasn’t about me not loving Canada, or Gemma not loving Andrew. I love Canada. But America is where you go for the big tech investors. Canada’s a great place for A.I., robotics and machine-learning, even e-commerce startups—that’s where the big venture capital bucks go up there. But I’m not in that space. I’m a fitness nerd. I develop fitness technology. I needed to be here to access the investors in Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach (the burgeoning Los Angeles tech community), and the footwear and sports apparel brands that are headquartered in Portland. I’m ambitious. I’m not going to apologize for that. But if I’m being honest, the real thing that I dreaded leaving behind wasn’t the potential for career and financial success—it was Gemma. She had quickly become the most important person in my life, and I didn’t want that to change.

It was March, and it was the day before I ran that year’s LA Marathon. Gemma had cooked an insanely delicious pasta dinner for my carb-load. It was beautiful out, my parents had come down to cheer me on, and we all ate at the table on the patio with Ethan and Chloe. My parents brought up job possibilities for when I return to Toronto. Being here on a student visa, I’d have to go back once I graduated, unless I landed some amazing job that I was more qualified for than any American applicant. A work visa would have been my only option—not that I didn’t think it was a possibility—I mean, I am awesome and I already had a bunch of unofficial offers from some big tech companies. But I was already obsessively developing my app for runners as a side hustle and didn’t want to be a cog in the wheel.

So that dinner was bittersweet for me, and Gemma picked up on it. After my parents had returned to their hotel and Chloe and Ethan had gone to bed, Gemma and I were loading up the dishwasher and she said: “Theo. I could marry you.”

Just like that. Could not have been any less sexy or romantic, but it rocked my world nonetheless.

“I could marry you before we graduate. You could get a green card. We’d have to stay married for just over three years. We’ve already been living together, so it won’t look fishy. We just have to take lots of pictures at the ceremony and convince an immigration officer that we did it for love. Nothing else would change.” She looked down at the pan she was scrubbing. “I don’t want you to leave.” She wasn’t even pouting, just stating a fact.

“You’d do that? What about Andrew?”

“What about him? It’s not like he and I will be getting married in the next three years. He’ll be so busy with law school. I’ll still go home every month or two to see him, he won’t care.”

“But you’ll tell him?”

“Yeah of course. We should also tell our parents and Chloe and Ethan. Well, I guess Andrew’s parents should know, otherwise they’d be mad that my parents kept it a secret from them. But everyone else can just think we’re best friends who live together. Which we are. Right?”

“Right. Will your parents be okay with it? I mean, Andrew’s like family to them, isn’t he?”

She shrugged. “They like you. They love that you asked me to live with you in your fancy house for such low rent.”

“I won’t let you pay rent or any of the household bills while we’re married. That way you’ll be able to start paying down your student loan.”

“Really? Wait ‘til I tell my parents that. They’ll shit themselves.”

So sexy and romantic, this girl. “Aww that’s so sweet.”

She laughed at herself. “My parents trust you, because I trust you. Besides…” she paused, and I waited for her to finish the sentence. I secretly hoped that what she was going to say was: “we all know I probably won’t end up marrying Andrew anyway.”

But she didn’t. She said: “Everyone knows I’ll never cheat on Andrew. I mean, we’d never cheat on each other. No one will care. They’re in Cleveland. Nobody really cares what goes on outside The Cleve.”

“If you say so,” I said. “How long have you been thinking about this?”

“Couple of days…I lied. I just lied. It’s been a couple of weeks. I did a little research.”

“You’d really do that for me?”

“I’d do anything to keep you here.”

I could have kissed her right then. Not in an I Want To Fuck You way, but in a You Are The Best Friend I’ve Ever Had kind of way. She was so matter-of-fact about it. It really did sound simple. “Also we’ll have to have joint bank accounts and stuff like that to make it look more real.”

“Wow. It’s almost as if you’ve thought about this before too”

“I haven’t. Honest. But I did know a guy in Toronto who paid a girl to marry him so he could get a green card. Actually, she had a boyfriend too, but she needed the money…” I threw her a side-glance.

“I don’t want you to pay me.”

“I would if you asked me to.”

“I’m not going to.”

“I’ll get you a nice ring, though.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Course I do. To make it look more real.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well, if you insist. Then you should probably get me two nice rings. Engagement and wedding rings. If you really want it to look like the real deal.”

“I do,” I said.

I really did.

I had a feeling neither of us would ever really know how much.

I had no idea if this friendly love of ours would ever become a love story.

I just knew that the story of my life, from that moment on, would always somehow be about us.

 

GREEN is available HERE

 

Kayley Loring

GREEN facebook teaser

 

Rebound With Me is live!

 

AVAILABLE NOW copy

 

After a totally uneventful week (ahem!), my new book is live, and I hope people love Vince and Nina as much as I do.

The germ of the idea for REBOUND WITH ME came from my college friends.  Paul and Jen started dating soon after we all graduated, and soon after that, Paul’s ex-girlfriend sought out Jen’s ex-boyfriend and they began dating too.  Drama!  Paul and Jen ended up getting married and having kids, their exes didn’t last long as a couple.  But I thought–what if I write a story from the POV of the spurned exes?  I figured it would be a fun challenge to make it feel like they were the ones who were made for each other and deserved a happily-ever-after even though they got to know each other in this weird way.

I hope it worked.

I certainly had fun writing it, and it made me long to get back to Brooklyn.

I didn’t realize when I set the release date that this is Teacher Appreciation Week (or month, depending who you ask).  Nina is a first grade teacher, and even though the story takes place in the summer, being a teacher of six-year-olds is a very big part of her personality.  She has a bit of a struggle balancing that part of her identity with the part of her that’s overwhelmingly attracted to Vince.

I think that a lot of women, myself included, at some point in our lives, have to learn to comfortably integrate our sexuality with the various roles we play.  To know that it’s okay to be a mom who is also sexy, or a CEO who is also sexy, or a farmer who is also sexy, or a writer who is also sexy, or an elementary school teacher who is also sexy.  Etc.  That’s part of my heroine’s journey in this book, and we would all be lucky to have someone as hot and sweet as Vince Devlin as our teachers in this particular subject.

Happy reading!  Available HERE.

_Just give me the summer...._

REBOUND WITH ME – Sneak Peek and teasers!

Hello, Readers!  I am so in love with my new book boyfriend Vince, and the cover for REBOUND WITH ME, and excited to share some things with you now that it’s available for pre-order HERE on Amazon.  This novel is scheduled to go live in Kindle Unlimited on May 9th!

As many of us are still waiting for some actual Spring weather, I have been keeping myself warm by writing about a hot summer fling and staring at THIS BOOK COVER:

Rebound With Me by Kayley Loring

See what I’m sayin’?

 

The plot and main characters are rather different from my previous books, but it’s all so damned sweet and fun that I actually bounce up and down and giggle while I’m at my desk writing.  It’s ridiculous.  Coincidentally, I have also been rebounding on my mini trampoline a lot lately, however, this book is about the other kind of rebounding–the kind that involves at least two people.

 

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 

When you’re in your neighborhood liquor store trying to figure out what kind of alcohol to consume after finding out your fiancé has dumped you for a 22 year-old nanny, and the hottest guy you’ve ever seen comes up to you and offers to get you a drink at the bar down the street, you’d go—right?

It’s not the kind of thing I would have done before now. I’ve been a Good Girl my whole life. Always played it safe, always followed the rules. I even got engaged to the principal of the school I teach at. Well, look where that got me.

It got me back here in my apartment, with the sexiest most charming guy I’ve ever met. When I find out that he’s the nanny’s ex-boyfriend and his plan was to sleep with me to get back at my ex—you’d think I’d kick him out, right?

Wrong.

This guy Vince Devlin is exactly the kind of trouble I’ve been protecting myself from. Do I want to help him get back at my ex in this way?

Oh.

Hell.

Yes.

I want him to get back at my ex hard. With wild abandon. All night long.

I expect the hottest (and only) one-night stand of my life.

I don’t expect him to come back for more and show me the best summer I’ve ever had. I don’t expect us to fall in love. I don’t plan to invite him to come with me on my weekend getaway, I don’t expect him to say ‘yes,’ and neither of us expects to run into our exes there.

We don’t expect any of it. The only thing we know for sure is that rebounding with each other is a bad idea. The best bad idea that either of us has ever had.

 

REBOUND WITH ME is a sexy and sweet romantic comedy about a hot summer fling that just might turn out to be the real thing.

And here is the sneak peek…

REBOUND WITH ME / Chapter One – Nina

 

 

At least he had the decency to wait until the end of the school year to break up with me so I didn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him every day. Now I have the entire summer to get used to this new situation. 

 

This is what I’m telling myself, as I enter my neighborhood wine and liquor store, in my four-inch stacked-heel mules and dark sunglasses, with my head held high. My plan is to grab a bottle of something with over twelve percent alcohol in it and get back to my apartment without making eye contact with anyone.

After spending the past two days holed-up in my apartment, listening to break-up songs and eating expired pasta and cookies, it took me an hour to get ready to walk here. I did not want to risk running into my ex and his new girlfriend while looking like a hobo and scouting for booze. Hence, the armor of skinny jeans, heels, shiny straightened hair and cherry-tinted lip gloss that is so slick it looks like I’ve been making out with a pan of bacon grease (I wish). I may be an inexperienced shell-shocked first grade teacher on the inside, but on the outside I would be highly ranked in Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 Most In-Denial Dumped Women Who Need To Get Drunk Fast.

 

My parents raised me to be an optimist. They taught me to look on the bright side of life, to see and speak of the good in people, and to never swear out loud. And so, it is with this attitude that I am grateful to my cluckhead former fiancé, who is the principal of the elementary school I teach at, for being so courteous. He waited until the Saturday after the last day of the school year to come clean about falling in love with a twenty-two year old nanny named Sadie, whom he has been secretly boinking for two months.

Or, to put it another way—after being together for three years, the motherflorker cheated on me for two whole months and now I get to spend my summer break hating him, regretting the last three years of my life, dreading the next school year, and considering finding a job at another school, thus leaving the Brooklyn neighborhood, co-workers, kids, and community that I love just to avoid seeing the crasshole’s stupid face again.

At least now I have the luxury of getting drunk on a weekday. See—I just can’t help but put a positive spin on things. It’s a curse.

 

I’ve never drowned my sorrows before, but it seems like the thing to do. My best friend Marnie came over yesterday to bring me a shoulder to cry on, several little packages of baby wipes, a handful of protein bars and a big baggie full of goldfish crackers and carrot sticks. She’s a mom. She’s the only person I’ve told so far about this whole scenario.

What’s weird is—I haven’t actually cried yet. I was angry. Now I feel numb. I figure I should go through the motions of all the break-up behaviors exhibited in movies and TV shows, so I can move things along. Not one of the Taylor Swift, Adele, Rihanna or Pink heartbreak songs have gotten to me, so my plan is to get drunk, listen to country music and force myself to cry, even if I pop a blood vessel doing it. If “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum doesn’t move me to tears then I will call Marnie’s husband’s therapist in the morning. Or try a different kind of alcohol.

 

I wish I’d Googled “best alcoholic drink for recent break-ups” before coming here. I usually drink wine but I want to try something different. Something unfamiliar. Something more…virile than I’m used to. Not too sweet, not too bitter. Something that will make me feel something.

I remove my sunglasses and let my eyes adjust to the lighting in the store. It’s twilight outside, perfectly believable that I’ve been out all day and just forgot to remove my sunglasses until now. The man at the cash register nods at me. I’ve never been to this store without Russell before. I’ve barely been anywhere in New York without Russell, now that I think about it. How sad is that? I wave at the man and try to look like someone who isn’t coming in here to grab a bottle of alcohol to take home and get drunk on by herself.

I hear the jostling of the bells above the door as I plant myself in front of an aisle full of bottles that look like they mean business. Tonight I’m not interested in those bottles of wine with the punny names and cute labels. Tonight I want a bottle with a skull and crossbones on it—well, a cute skull and crossbones at least. Tonight I want…I turn my head to look at the guy who’s talking to the man at the cash register. They are joking with each other with ease—that Carroll Gardens neighborhood familiarity that I just don’t have yet because I’ve always had Russell by my side.

Speaking of sides—the view of this guy’s back side is enough to drive a girl to drink. He must be a butt model. Is that a thing? The way his butt looks in those jeans just makes me want to do a little happy dance. This is the first time I’ve let myself pay attention to a cute guy butt in three years. Russell’s butt was perfectly decent, but nothing to write home about. I would write a blog about this guy’s butt. I could write a dissertation on this guy’s butt.

He’s wearing a grey V-neck T-shirt and black jeans, expensive shoes. I don’t know why, but it looks like he could just get totally naked in three seconds, like the clothes are only there to keep him from getting arrested. I also don’t know why I can’t stop picturing this guy naked and on top of me. I have to tear my eyes away from him. My cheeks are on fire. What is happening? I’m a first grade teacher from Bloomington, Indiana—I do not have sexy thoughts about complete strangers in New York liquor stores. I didn’t even allow myself to fantasize about Tom Hiddleston while I was in a relationship with Russell and I really really wanted to. I’ve never seen this man before in my life, and already I’m imagining what it would feel like to have him inside of me. The kind of guy I’ve never spoken to before, the kind of guy who’d never pay any attention to me.

I look away and back to the liquor bottles in front of me at the exact moment that I see him turn towards me out of the corner of my eye. I can feel my heart racing. I feel like I’m thirteen and just spotted a cute boy while buying bubblegum at the 7-11. This is so dumb. I’m going to count to ten in French and when I’m done I will be as calm, cool and collected as a French lady.

Un, deux, trois…

Oh merde, he’s standing four feet from me. He smells amazing—like a spicy misty forest that I want to run through in a white silk nightgown.

“You look like you could use a little help.”

Oh God, that sexy voice. I can feel that voice in my panties. I glance over at him. He’s smirking. Oh God, that smirk. I look behind myself, but there’s no one directly behind me. He’s looking at me. He’s smirking at me. His whiskey-brown eyes are making me feel warm and tingly down through my center, and they should come with a warning label but I bet every single woman he looks at the way he’s looking at me right now would ignore it anyway.

“Me?”

He laughs. “You.”

Do not say anything about him helping you by getting naked or putting his penis inside of you. “Oh. Yes. Do you work here?” I’m so proud of myself for saying six words without stuttering.

“No, but I do know my way around liquor. Professionally. I used to be a bartender. You looking for anything in particular?”

“Yes. A bottle of something with a lot of alcohol in it.” I barely recognize my own voice. It’s husky. Maybe I’m coming down with a summer cold.

“Well, you’ve come to the right store.” He was probably born with a husky voice.

“I usually drink wine, but I wanted to try something with a little more of an…edge?” I smirk.

I smirk?

I don’t smirk.

I am definitely smirking.

He grins and crosses his arms in front of his chest. This seems to please him. He leans towards me and looks kind of like a doctor diagnosing a patient and says: “Okay. You want something you can mix with something else, or straight up?”

“I should probably mix something with something else first. Nothing too girly or fruity though.”

“Got it.” He passes behind me and stands to my left, scanning the shelves. The nearness of him is almost electrifying. Some people have that kind of energy—especially in New York City. I’ve been around it, never touched it on purpose. People like that are the third rail, and I’ve always stood as far away as possible from the yellow lines at the subway station. But something in this guy’s eyes tells me he has no interest in hurting me. “Mind if I ask what kind of mood you’re in?”

“Does it matter?”

“Oh yeah. It matters.”

Oh Schmidt—he has tattoos. He has a sleeve of tattoos on his right arm.

“Um. I think I’ll just get gin and tonic. Thanks, though.” The alarm in my brain is definitely telling my feet to move away from him, but they are not listening.

“Oooh. G & T?” He wrinkles his brow and steps a little closer to me. “At eight o’clock in Brooklyn, alone on a Monday night? I don’t think so. Gin and tonics are for sipping on your yacht at the Hamptons while you’re watching the sunset like an asshole.”

“Oh well I guess that’s what I’ll be drinking tomorrow then.” I cross my arms in front of my chest and face him, wrinkling my brow, mirroring him.  “I’ve never watched a sunset like an asshole before. What exactly does that entail?”

He shrugs. “Loafers, no socks, if you’re a guy. Staring at your phone the whole time and twirling your hair if you’re a girl. You don’t seem like a gin and tonic type to me. Not right now, anyway. You look like you need something with a little more personality and muscle.”

My eyebrow arches up. I step away from him. “Uh huh. You know what—I think I’ll just grab a bottle of merlot and call it a night.” I start to wander towards the wine section.

He follows me, not too close. “Oh God, not merlot.”

“Why, is that what assholes drink in Miami at midnight?” Now I’ve said “asshole” out loud twice in one night. Who am I?

He releases a quick, surprisingly high-pitched song of a laugh—so unexpected from a guy like him. “Not even close. What’s your name? I’m Vince.” He holds his hand out.

“Hi Vince. I’m…Susan.” I shake his hand. It’s strong and a little bit rough and he could do a lot of things to me with that hand. Wait—what?

He lets me pull my hand away, shoves his hands casually into his front pockets as his eyes travel slowly down to my shoes and back up to my glossy pursed lips. “Hi Susan. What’s your real name?”

Oh what the heck. “It’s Nina.”

“Nina.” He nods, accepting that answer. “Hey. How about this—there’s a bar two blocks down called Bitters, you know it?”

“Yeah, I walk by there all the time.”

“I used to work there, why don’t you let me make you a drink. I think I know what you need…”

“Well, thank you for the offer, but I’m not in the mood to get raped or murdered tonight, so…”

Judging from the look on this guy’s freakishly sexy face, no one has ever foregone the opportunity to get roofied by him before. Hey, I get it. He’s very attractive. I would love to stare at his face and other parts of him all night. But I also don’t want to get raped or murdered.

A smile slowly spreads across his face. “Right. Good call, Nina. You don’t know me. Let’s be clear about this—you can watch my hands the whole time.” He holds his hands up. His strong, slightly rough, very capable hands. “I’ll make sure you can see exactly what’s going to be going in you before you decide if you want it or not. Sound good?”

 

Gulp.

 

“Hey, Marty,” he calls out to the man behind the counter, hands still raised in front of his chest, eyes still fixed on me. “Tell Nina here I’m a good guy.”

“He’s a pretty good guy.”

“Thanks a lot, Marty.”

I laugh.

He turns his head towards Marty, body still angled towards me. “If anything happens to Nina tonight, you can tell the cops where to find me, right?”

“Leave me outta this, you.”

“You got it.” He smiles at me. He’s got one beautiful smile, this guy, and it fades so fast I have a feeling not many people get to see it. “What do you say, Nina? Two blocks. Neighborhood bar. One drink?”

I wrinkle my nose. “So…People do this? Meet in a store for the first time and then go get a drink?”

He laughs, that brief, surprised laugh of a boy being tickled, before going back to being seriously hot. “Some people. Sometimes.”

I mean…I guess that sounds better than drinking vodka from a bottle alone in my apartment while belting out Patsy Cline songs.

 

To read more, you can pre-order REBOUND WITH ME and the e-book will be available to read late at night before it goes live on May 9th.

 

When his lips touch mine

REBOUND

REBOUND WITH ME post

 

 

Yay!

This has been a fun release week so far!  I hope you are enjoying reading COCKY NERD as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And I really really loved writing this one.

COCKY NERD has made it into the Romantic Comedy Top 100 Bestseller list!  That’s never happened for one of my books before, and I’ve never had a triple digit overall ranking before, so I’m super excited and grateful.  One small step for the average romance author, one giant leap for Kayley Loring.

Get him while he's hot

My thanks to Kathleen of Author Reach for reaching out and providing me with the above COCKY NERD image.

I have started on the next book now, even though I’m still thinking about John and Olivia all the time.  Such is life for a writer.  This next one is quite different, story and character-wise.  A recovering bad boy, a good girl who’s ready for a little trouble, and a steamy summer fling that just might be the real thing.  Stay tuned.

But first:  Here is a picture of Ryan Gosling wearing glasses and holding a book.  Because.

ryan gosling with glasses

Ryan Gosling photo copyright GSNY/Splash News