Duet in September, Book I of the Calendar Girls Series, is up for a RONE Award (from InD’Tale Magazine) and on Monday, I’ll begin asking for your votes to help me get my sweet little romance into the next round. So it’s only fair I share a few excerpts to whet your appetite and give you a taste of what you’re voting for. First, the blurb:
Nia and Paige Wainwright, who have grown up in the Long Island seaside town of Snug Harbor, try an experiment to shake up their humdrum lives. Every day for thirty days, they intend to do one thing differently from their normal routine—with unique results.
Nia, still bitter years after her mother left the family for a wealthy tourist, finds herself falling for vineyard owner, Aidan Coffield, the son of a wealthy Manhattan real estate tycoon.
Meanwhile, Paige keeps knocking heads with her high school nemesis and now town police chief, Sam Dillon.
Each day of this special September will provide Paige and Nia with new adventures, new self-awareness, and of course, enough love to last two lifetimes.
And now, Nia speaks, from the locale of Snug Harbor Auto Body, where she’s gone to have her car repaired after a hit-and-run accident.
With my car keys dangling from his fist, he pointed at the dented steel door behind me marked Office. “Dial nine for an outside line. And come get me if you feel yourself wavering.” He opened my car door and slid into the driver’s seat, effectively halting all further conversation between us.
I stepped inside his office, and the smell of paint thinners nearly knocked me to my knees. The room, with one lone window that opened onto the repair dock, received no natural light or ventilation. Here was a true man cave, the ultimate altar to all things automotive. Gray walls, gray steel desk, two gray metal folding chairs—separated by a pair of stacked milk crates piled high with magazines devoted to cars, trucks, and engines—clearly defined this masculine space. Adding to the bleakness, smears of grease and layers of gray dust coated every surface. Thick black cables tangled around engine pieces, reminding me of Hollywood’s image of a post-apocalyptic world. Here I was, Mad Maxine in the Temple of the Last Chrysler. Cheap plastic frames displayed stained certificates of courses completed in transmission and air conditioning repair, as well as the exorbitant hourly rate for labor in the garage. My personal favorite eye catcher was a white metal sign on the far wall that proclaimed in a bold, red, comic-style font: “I couldn’t fix your brakes so I made your horn louder.”
Averting my gaze from the cluster of big-busted, bikini-clad pinups on the corkboard, I skirted around the desk to the ripped leather chair poised in front of an ancient computer monitor. I found a sheet of blank paper on a shelf above the battered printer and used it like a potholder—a barrier between my hand and the filthy phone receiver. I held the chunky, black earpiece an inch or two away from my skin and punched in the numbers with my fingernail. At least I carried anti-bacterial hand gel in my purse. Did I have enough to bathe in if I spent too long in this room? Probably not, but after this I’d go home and take a long, hot shower to wash away the day’s bad karma.
On the other end of the receiver, the phone rang twice, then, “Hello?” That sultry voice weakened my knees with its sweet syrup undertones.
“Mr. Coffield?” I sounded weird to my own ears. Like I’d sucked on helium. Breathy, high-pitched, and rushed. No doubt, the chemicals in the air took their toll on my throat. I wondered how Brice managed to work in this office for an extended period of time without becoming light-headed. I gulped and plowed on. “This is Nia Wainwright.”
“Miss Wainwright? Wow. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.” His self-assurance, so apparent in his smug tone, raised my hackles. “Does this mean you’ve reconsidered going to dinner with me?”
Really? Had the man never heard the word no before today? I tightened my jaw, nearly grinding my teeth to dust. Before I spoke again, I took several deep breaths, relaxed my muscles from the neck down to my toes, and counted to ten. Who knew my yoga classes would come in handy in my daily life? “No,” I said, cool and elegant as a Siamese cat. “I’m afraid your car was involved in an accident with mine this morning.”
Yes. Perfect poise. Let him try to get the best of me now. I drew out the silence, allowing him time to digest what I’d just revealed.
“Oh.” That simple syllable told me I’d kicked the puppy love out of him. Mission accomplished. “There went all the goodwill between us, huh?”
“It’s not about goodwill, Mr. Coffield.” Not that we had any goodwill between us anyway. “It’s a matter of someone using your car to drive recklessly, and then leaving the scene of an accident without concern for injuries or damage to other parties.”
“He didn’t hurt you, did he? If that scrawny brat left so much as a scratch on you, I’ll make him sorry he ever took his first breath.”
The passion in his voice took me aback. His reaction was so far flung from what I’d expected.
“No,” I replied with hesitation. “The jolt wasn’t pleasant, mind you, but I’m more concerned about the damage to my car.”
“As long as you’re unharmed, Miss Wainwright. I couldn’t bear to think that I was even indirectly responsible for anything grievous happening to you.”
I stared at the door that led outside, waiting for someone to jump inside and yell, “Gotcha!” and a bunch of guys to laugh at the surprised look on my face.
Aidan Coffield was putting me on. He had to be.
“Chief Dillon gave me your contact info. He said you wanted to speak to me.” Doubts raced rampant through my brain, and my courage abandoned me. “If this is a bad time, I can call back later.”
In contrast to my tentativeness, he became more self-assured. “No. That won’t be necessary. Give me a minute, though, to get my thoughts in order.”
“Sure. I guess.” I winced at my own cowardice. Good God, if I kept up the shy maiden routine, I was doomed. I’d not only give in about reporting the accident, I’d probably wind up paying for the damage out of my own pocket.
From the corkboard, a nearly naked nymph bending under the open hood of a 1960’s-era black Ford Mustang smirked at me. Oh, honey, her smile seemed to say. You’re gonna hafta do a whole lot better than that if you want to keep control of this conversation.
Yeah, sure. Easy for her with her toned, tanned legs in sky high heels, her short shorts, and her Playboy centerfold looks. Unfortunately, some of us had to rely on our wits instead of beauty. And mine had suddenly fled the country, leaving no forwarding address.
Duet in September, Book I of the Calendar Girls Series, is available at Amazon for only 99 cents for a limited time!
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