Hello, lovelies! This week I’m featuring one last snippet from To My Muse where Tom and Lily hit the big Hollywood party thrown by Sir Nathan. God, I had such a good time writing this book. In the coming weeks, I’ll be back to posting snippets from Shifter Woods: Snarl and Uncertainty Principle.
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
We heard the hum of party noise before we reached the main foyer. It was seriously different from my family’s parties—for one thing, there was a decided lack of Bollywood hits and I-pop blasting through the air, and waiters were walking around with trays of full champagne flutes. Not a single harried teenaged girl fetching some lassi for a thirsty auntie in sight. Dadi would be so disappointed in Sir Nathan.
Tom snagged a pair of flutes for us, passing one to me. “Drink up,” he advised. “It’ll make the evening a bit more enjoyable.”
I sipped my champagne. Naturally it was delicious. “Yeah, no, I’m still nervous,” I whispered after swallowing.
“Give it a chance to circulate.” He looped his arm around my waist and guided me towards the people standing in discreet groupings of two and three. “Smile and nod, darling.”
Great. Now I had the penguins from Madagascar caroling in my head. Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave. Biting back an insane urge to call Tom “Private,” I did as he suggested.
The damnedest thing was, it worked. Complete strangers nodded back at me, with the occasional assessing glance thrown in for good measure. Only this time the assessment added up to “one of us.” I felt Matthiu’s work on my face like a mask. They had no clue.
Tom led me through a thickening crowd into the main entertainment area that I’d seen last night. All the lights were on this time, set to low, and the room was full of people chatting to each other with the occasional laugh sparkling in the air. Underneath the chatter was a soft medley of cocktail bar classics coming from the grand piano in the corner.
To my surprise, Sir Nathan was playing it. “Thought so,” Tom murmured, guiding me over. “You couldn’t resist performing, could you?” he said to our host.
Sir Nathan gave us a genial smile as his fingers moved over the keyboard. “The pianist is taking a break, so I thought I’d fill in for him. You look lovely tonight, my dear,” he added to me.
I had to stop myself from curtseying. “Thank you, Sir Nathan. You look pretty spiffy yourself.”
He chuckled at that. “It’s all Ana’s doing. I’d look like a right scruff if it wasn’t for her. And you cleaned up well, lad.”
“Also Ana’s doing,” Tom said, glancing around. “Any hotspots I should know about?”
Sir Nathan peered at the crowed without losing a beat. “Rob Valentine from the network is here—you know him, I believe—and some of the European producers are drifting around as well. I haven’t seen the lovely Claudine yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear the trumpets once she arrives.”
I knew I liked him. “Where’s Ana?” I asked.
“Giving the caterers their final instructions, then she planned on holding court in the Tuscan Room. You should be able to find it,” he said to Tom.
“I may need a GPS, but I’ll find it,” Tom said acerbically. “We’ll let you get back to tinkling the ivories.”
Sir Nathan swung into a jazzy version of “Piano Man” as we wandered off. “Okay, so what’s the plan?” I asked as quietly as I could.
“We circulate, chat with the people I know, and casually strike up conversations with various producers and studio execs,” Tom explained. “I’ll mention that we have a package we’re putting together with Nathan and feed them the elevator pitch. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get me some meetings, and then we build from that.”
I knew what an elevator pitch was—a brief but catchy overview of a plot meant to be delivered in thirty seconds or less: ‘She’s a rich girl engaged to an abusive capitalist, he’s a poor artist looking forward to a future in America. Against all odds they fall in love, but an iceberg crashes into their plans as well as their ship.’ That’s a crappy version of an elevator pitch for Titanic, but you get the idea. “So what’s the pitch for Right Hand?”
He spread his hands. “After World War II, a progressive pope shocks the Vatican by taking a nun as his chief advisor,” he announced.
I considered it. “Eh.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, it’s factually true but there’s no oomph to it. How about, ‘As Europe rebuilds from the ruins of World War II, a rebellious Pius XII shocks the Vatican by taking on an advisor they can’t control—a nun.”
He considered my phrasing. “But couldn’t they control her? I mean, if they talked to the head of her order.”
“Yeah, but if Pius was giving the orders he kind of outranks the head of her order. Okay, how about, ‘From the ruins of World War II, a controversial pope and a stubborn nun’s relationship will shock the Vatican—and change the world forever.’”
“I like it. Naughty enough to get people’s attention without tipping over into outright salaciousness. We can go into details about the relationship once they’re interested.” He kissed my temple. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
I felt warm all over, which was a good thing because the house AC was cranked to handle the crowd. “So am I.”
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Whee, it’s Wednesday! Never fear, for today I’m here with J.R. Gray and his smouldering new royal romance King Consort, now available from online sellers. Take it away, J.R.!
Avoiding sleeping with women was my specialty, an art form even. As the future King of England I couldn’t be caught sleeping with men. My whole life played out in front of the paparazzi, and they didn’t miss a thing.
I had a carefully crafted womanizing persona to maintain. My life came with rules, all of which I broke when I couldn’t resist a one night stand with the enemy: A beautiful paparazzo with a heart of gold. He may be the only person who doesn’t want me for my title, and he can never be anything more than my secret.
But secrets have a way of coming out and not only will they scare him away, but they’ll lose me the crown.
He sat back keeping the camera in his lap. “How much liberty are you giving me?”
I mirrored him and looked him over, taking my time with my answer. “Why are you asking.”
Lust crossed through his gaze. “Take off the shirt.”
I obliged him, slowly working my fingers down the buttons. I slid it off and set it aside. He looked me over, hungry. My cock stirred at the look. I’d never felt so desired by another person. He slid forward on the seat and brought the camera back to his face. I stayed as I was until he told me to move.
“Sit on the edge of the table,” he said breathless.
I was glad this was getting to him as much as it was me. It was entirely foreign to give someone such a thing over me. To allow someone to take these photos. It was daring and exhilarating. I’d have to be careful or I’d get addicted to the acting out like some bored teenager.
I sat on the edge to the table closest to the fire and he moved back to take a few shots. I looked up when he hadn’t said anything in a few moments to find him just watching me. The fire illuminated his scar, and I wanted to kiss the length of it, from his brow to his lips. I licked my lip and my chest rose as I inhaled fully, trying to calm myself. He snapped another photo.
“What do you see?” I asked unable to stand wondering a moment longer. I wanted to know how he saw me.
“I see hunger,” he said as he came closer. “The way you look at me.” The camera hung at his side as he stalked closer.
I wanted to reach out for him. To shove him into the chair he’d occupied and climb on top of him, but I refrained because more than wanting him, I wanted to see what he did.
“Take your pants off.”
I raised a brow but didn’t say more.
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About the Author
When not staying up all night writing, J.R. Gray can be found at the gym where it’s half assumed he is a permanent resident to fulfill his self-inflicted masochism. A dominant and a pilot, Gray finds it hard to be in the passenger seat of any car. He frequently interrupts real life, including normal sleep patterns and conversations, to jot down notes or plot bunnies. Commas are the bane of his existence even though it’s been fully acknowledged they are necessary, they continue to baffle and bewilder. If Gray wasn’t writing…well, that’s not possible. The buildup of untold stories would haunt Gray into an early grave, insanity or both. The idea of haunting has always appealed to him. J.R. Gray is genderqueer and prefers he/him pronouns.
Today’s Sunday Shoutout goes to Lynn Turner, whose spectacular new ballet romance story Pas de Deux is now available from Amazon and other online retailers of romantic fiction. Take it away, Lynn!
They were never meant to be perfect…their pieces wouldn’t fit together that way.
It’s said the artist is born of a damaged soul…
Wilhelmina Allende is a prima ballerina. When tragedy turns her beloved Paris into a gilded cage, she jumps at the chance to work with one of the most prolific choreographers she’s ever seen. But Zack’s style is way out of her comfort zone. So is his teaching method. And his humor. And his everything. He’s a charming little connard. It’s hard not to like him. Merde. What has she gotten herself into?
Zachary Coen’s first musical is opening on Broadway. Much like his life, it’s anything but conventional, so hiring Mina is simply out of the question. She’s too…classical. Too perfect. She’s all wrong for the role. Then he meets her in person and sees her cracks. Her broken pieces. How unique and beautiful each one is. And he can’t help but notice how her edges seem to fit his…perfectly.
Just when teaming up seems to be working, the monsters they’ve kept hidden threaten to rip it all apart.
The warehouse in Brooklyn housed three massive dance floors crammed with hundreds of sweating bodies. The bouncers took one look at them and let them skip the line. Walking through the doors, Mina was hit with thick, sultry heat. It was dark. Very dark, but for flashes of strobe lights alighting on wall-to-wall bodies. They moved like they were in a trance, the bass thumping so hard, it shook the building and seemed to beat from within their ribs. Clutching at Zack’s arm, another nocturnal animal bumped into her, his eyes practically rolling to the back of his head in pure ecstasy.
She tugged Zack’s arm until his ear bent to her lips. “Are these people on drugs?”
His body shook with laughter. “Better than drugs, petite. This atmosphere is like a high. You forget about how you look or what you’re doing. The music goes right through you and you just move.”
She wasn’t sure how they were able to move—the floor was sticky. Watching a trio of dancers doing something that looked illegal, she tried not to think about the biological hazards stuck to the bottom of her Italian leather shoes.
She squinted against the purple and blue light. “This place should come with an epilepsy warning!”
A flash of purple lit his face, highlighting his freshly shaven jawline, the sensual curve of his lips, and she completely lost her train of thought. Her eyes trailed his body slowly, progressing a little more each time a strobe lit him up again. He looked sexy and dangerous in this light, like a demigod in all black.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” sexy demigod’s lips asked.
Her mouth suddenly went dry. “Not the word I’d use. I think I need a drink.”
“Uh-uh, no alcohol. This is homework. No cheating.”
“But I’m French!”
“Nothing I can do about that.” He shrugged his shoulder against her retaliatory slap and led them through the sea of bodies.
Stopping somewhere in the middle, where writhing bodies pressed against them on all sides, he brought his hands to her hips and pulled her to him. Instinctively, her arms went around his shoulders, holding onto him, she convinced herself, for fear of slipping into the human sea. Besides, it was the only way she could hear.
“No mirrors, petite.” He gave her an encouraging squeeze. “No one’s looking at you but me.”
Then he looked at her.
Bon Dieu, did he look at her.
He studied her body like a map of the cosmos was hidden beneath her skin.
There was nothing lustful in his eyes, only wonder—a desire to be completely attuned with her and the way she moved. It was sensual by nature, in the way it made her feel stripped down to her being—her very existence—and only he could see. It made her feel sexy and fearless…and safe.
Staring into the shadows of his face, she lifted her arms above her head to do as they would. The bassline came at her from every direction, throbbing through her veins, exiting from the points of her fingers and toes. The darkness made her bold, and a new energy rose inside her. The atmosphere became heady, making her more drunk on it with every breath, until she moved her entire body like a boneless addict chasing the next beat.
For a full phrase, he continued to watch her, and there was something in his expression, in the intensity of his eyes, that made her lightheaded: she was the Mina he’d been waiting for, the one he’d seen in Paris beneath the façade of the makeup, the fancy dress and the grand chandeliers of the Palais Garnier…the one who had cried on his shoulder and come apart in his arms. Comfortable in her own skin.
Winding her body, she slinked her arms like reeds in a slow breeze, meeting his eyes with every flash of light. He rubbed his cheek along hers, following her movement with his hands, feeling every muscle beneath thin fabric and sensitized skin. He stroked her stomach with his palm, and she sucked it in hard.
“Sorry, petite…” He kissed her cheek, then seemed to indulge himself a moment, running his hands along her hips until they settled on her waist. “That’s not what this is, what we came here for.”
She melted at the sincerity in his voice, in the warmth of his touch. “What did we come here for?”
His grin spread against her cheek. “Trust falls.”
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About the Author
Lynn Turner is dedicated to writing inclusive stories that explore what it means to be imperfectly human. She is convinced she would have made a great Gilmore Girl, that writing about herself in third-person is weird, and that Colin Firth is the best Mr. Darcy (don’t fight her on this). When she isn’t writing and adulting, she’s tackling her monstrous TBR list, TV-binging, traveling, or watching old Samantha Brown travelogue videos and wishing she had her job. She and her husband share their home in California with their two extraordinary children and their sometimes cat, Bowie.
Hello, lovelies! This week To My Muse was released, and I want to feature a rather nice scene between Tom and Lily.
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
If I’d had to spend the time before the party alone with Tom, we were not staying out of that amazing bed, and once that happened I’m not sure I’d have the strength of character to get dressed and go to the party. I wouldn’t put it past our hostess to realize that and take steps.
I followed Ana’s assistant to the other side of the house, where she showed me down a hallway to a luxurious bedroom suite done in shades of teal and cream that was easily large enough to host one of my grandparents’ parties. Nathan was nowhere in sight, but what sounded like a Bach cantata drifted out of a side room. “She’s waiting for you,” Sue said, waving at the doorway.
I poked my head in, and immediately fell in love with one of the most gorgeous old school dressing rooms I’d ever seen. The dominant tone was a warm, feminine peach that went beautifully with the immaculate white woodwork along all the walls. More white woodwork surrounded glass-fronted shelves over wide drawers and an amazing number of closet compartments. An elegant black ironwork chandelier with frosted glass lampshades rimmed in terra cotta hung from an oval cutout in the ceiling, and a huge custom vanity table had been built into another wall with more shelves on either side of a ginormous mirror in an antique square silver frame.
Ana sat at the table wearing a silk robe with her hair skimmed back behind a head wrap, calmly dabbing some cream onto her face. I wasn’t used to seeing her without makeup on; I knew she was somewhere in her late sixties, but she had that Helen Mirren gift of good skin that had held up extremely well over the years. There were wrinkles here and there, yes, but they looked tasteful and appropriate, as if a completely smooth face would have been unbearably gauche.
She smiled at me in the mirror. “Hello, Lily. Did you have a pleasant time today?”
“Yes, and thank you so much for sending us to Huffington’s,” I said. “Wait until you see the dress Tom bought.”
“Deep sapphire blue.”
Her eyes lit up. “Oh, that will look marvelous on you. And that works out well for me, too. Sue, bring the Bulgari Festa set, please.”
The PA disappeared through yet another doorway, returning with a black velvet case. She opened it and I gasped. Inside was a spectacular pendant necklace made up of what I had to assume was white gold, with sprays of diamonds and sapphires around a perfect cushion-cut sapphire that was big enough to choke a horse. The chain was constructed of white gold teardrop loops crusted with more diamonds and sapphires, each loop interspersed with a solitaire diamond.
“Oh, Ana, that is completely gorgeous,” I said, every sparkly-loving atom of my being lusting after that magnificent necklace. “Are you wearing this tonight?”
“No, my dear. You are.”
She smiled. “If you’re wearing the sapphire blue Christian Siriano that Taffy mentioned to me, then this will go perfectly with it.” She turned to Sue. “I believe the Le Magnifiche Creazioni earrings will go well with this.”
Sue beamed at me. “They’re in the bottom of the case, madam.”
“Excellent. I do appreciate your foresight, my dear.”
Aaaaand motor functions came back on line. “I can’t wear this!” I squeaked. “This is Bulgari!” I knew Bulgari jewelry, had mooned over it in Vogue and other fashion magazines, but never thought I’d be allowed within touching distance. To wear it? Holy Kali and all her hands, this one necklace had to be worth more than everything I’d ever owned put together. “What if I spill something on it? What if I drop it?”
“Well, if you spill something on it, you can always wash it off,” Ana said practically. “It’s the nice thing about metal and gemstones—they’re very hard to stain. And the latch will make sure it stays in place.”
The practical side of me recoiled from the very idea of touching that gorgeous pendant, much less hanging it around my neck. The princess side of me wanted to squeal and go show it off to Tom. “Ana, I can’t—”
“Yes, you can. In fact, I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t wear it tonight.” She gave me a faux-stern look. “And you don’t want to disappoint your hostess, do you?”
I swallowed hard. It would be rude to turn down such a generous gesture, that was true. And it wasn’t as if I’d be wearing it outside where something bad could happen. They’d have security at this party, right?
“No, I don’t,” I said in a small voice. “Thank you.”
“There, that’s settled.” She tapped her lips. “I thought you might want to get ready here, since there’s plenty of room. Sue will show you to the shower and you can freshen up, then we’ll have Celeste get to work on your hair while Matthiu does my makeup, then we’ll trade. It’ll leave Thomas with your bathroom to himself. That way, you won’t need to dance around him to get at the mirror.”
The thought of Tom getting ready in the bathroom, fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around that muscular waist, made my eyes cross a little and a whole lot of regret gush through me. Before I could say anything, a gorgeous black woman in a sleek black pinstriped smock and a man with a purple-tinted beard came in. Ana gave them air kisses and introduced me while Sue bustled around pulling more items out of the closets.
Celeste clicked her tongue as she studied my hair. “Oh, you’re going to be a handful, gorgeous,” she said in a cheerful East End accent. “What products do you use?”
I rattled them off with an apology for presenting her with my nightmare cloud of hair. She waved it off. “Don’t fret, pet. I’m an expert with curls. We’ll tame them into something spectacular, wait and see.”
Meanwhile, Matthiu stroked his beard as he stared at my skin. “Absolute silk,” he declared. “What are you wearing tonight?”
“Um, a dress?”
“I meant color, angel.”
“Cobalt blue,” Ana advised. “With a fairly deep V neckline, so make sure the makeup carries over onto her chest.”
That earned her an eye roll for the ages before he turned back to me. “Right, you. Off to the shower, and I want your face clean and bare. Don’t moisturize—I’ll take care of that.”
“Uh, okay.” This was starting to remind me of family weddings where various aunties would pull me into a bedroom and get me dolled up in proper Hindi maiden finery since that was out of Mom’s wheelhouse. At least tonight I didn’t have to worry about someone hovering with a giant needle and wondering if they had time to pierce my nose.
After a long shower and a relaxing orgasm assisted by a fantasy of a naked and very enthusiastic Lily, I touched up my shave and cleaned my teeth. Once that was done, there was nothing else to do but wander into the empty bedroom, a towel wrapped around my waist in case my spunky screenwriter came back early. Although I doubted that was going to happen. Ana had clearly taken her in hand and was going to work some supermodel magic tonight.
Which, if I was being honest with myself, bothered me a little. I’m sure the results would be spectacular, but I rather liked Lily in her capris and Vans, hair loose and curling around her face. If Ana did the job that I knew she could do, Lily would wind up suitably coiffed and dressed for the cover of Vogue. Worse, she could well wind up the belle of the ball tonight. Assuming that Nathan invited his usual mix of industry movers and shakers, vencap types, and a few out and out billionaires, it meant that there would be any number of rich, handsome men at the party tonight who would take one look at her and offer to sweep her off to a Vail ski lodge or Lake Como palazzo without a second thought.
Whereas I couldn’t even pay her for a script treatment. The more I thought about it, the more I regretted haggling on her points with Theresa. I must have come off as a skinflint bastard.
Well, that settled it. Even if it had to come out of my share, I was bumping up her percentage to a full two points. I’d let her know as soon as she got back. Hopefully that would be enough to stop her head from being turned by some A-lister with a private jet.
Grateful that I’d remembered to pack dress socks, I got dressed from the skin out in my new duds. Once the fancy silk tie was in place, I settled back down with La Popessa, running through the now-familiar text and mentally casting various roles. I had just hit on Liam as a good fit for one of the monsignors when the door opened and I looked up. “Finally. I thought I’d have to send the fire brigade—”
The joke died on my lips as I stared at the vision that floated into the room. Oh, Ana, you wicked, talented woman, you. I wasn’t going to have to fight off studio execs and venture capitalists. I was going to have to fight off every straight man in the place, and probably a few lesbians for good measure.
I already knew that the ridiculously expensive but gorgeous frock skimmed Lily’s curves like a McLaren performance vehicle on an Alpine road. But Ana hadn’t stopped there. A professional had taken brushes and makeup to Lily’s face and made her skin glow and her eyes sparkle. Her dark curls were now twisted and tamed in an elegant updo that let delicate little ringlets frame her face, and whatever scent she was wearing should have been marketed as “Devastating” and only sold to licensed dealers.
If that wasn’t enough to throw me for a loop, the sapphire that hung over her deliciously plump décolletage could have choked a Christmas goose. “My God,” I murmured. “You’re beautiful.”
She bit her lips gently as her blush deepened. “I feel like Cinderella.”
“Good. You should.” I stood, tugging my jacket straight and trying to will my libido down. Thank God for tight boxer-briefs is all I can say. “I take it the jewelry is Ana’s?”
Lily touched it gingerly. “She insisted I wear it. I’m freaking out just thinking about it.”
“Don’t. She was right.” I went to her, pulling her into my arms. “It makes you even more stunning.”
Close up, her eyes were captivating pools of rich brown with the tiniest flecks of gold around the iris. How had I gone for so long without looking into them? “Are you ready?” I asked.
Her arms went around my neck, holding on for dear life. “Do I have a choice?”
“I’m afraid not.”
She took a deep breath. “Then I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
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I’m assuming that we all heard the bad news about Lucifer today (WHY, Fox. WHY?). That being said, it did occur to me that this meant certain actors I had mentally cast as characters in To My Muse were now available for work. And since my editor and at least two beta readers have told me that 1) they laughed their asses off while reading it, and 2) this really needs to be turned into a script, I clearly need to win the Powerball and produce the damn movie myself.
Keep all sharp objects away from my reality bubble, please. I’m allowed to dream.
And in case you don’t know the plot to the book, here you go: Ever do something really, really dumb?
When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.
With the help of a strategic lie and a charismatic knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?
So, anyway, let’s take a quick trip into Nic’s mind and see who she would cast for the movie version of To My Muse:
Lily Nayar (played by Liza Koshy). Funny, snarky, wannabe screenwriter working as a tech writer by day and romance writer by night.
She never meant to send a copy of her romance novel Feast of Lovers to its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison. When tequila shots and an enabling BFF bring this about, however, a horrified Lily is determined to get her book back — even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room while he’s on location.
Needless to say, hijinks ensue.
Tom Morrison (played by Tom Ellis). Third lead on the dystopian steampunk series GearShifter, he’s flattered when he learns that he’s inspired a romance novel by “Lilian DeVries.” The last thing he expects to find, however, is Lily facing off against his sexually rapacious costar Claudine Ellery in his hotel room.
When he pretends that Lily is his girlfriend in order to discourage Claudine, it triggers a series of events that wind up with him hiring Lily to write a spec script for his dream project, a biopic of Pope Pius XII. As you do.
Sir Nathan Chapman (played by Sir Ben Kingsley). Oscar-winning actor, knight, and Tom’s costar on GearShifter, he’s also Tom’s first choice to play Pope Pius XII in At the Right Hand.
The genial actor gets an earful from Claudine first, however, and assumes that Tom and Lily are dating when Tom introduces her as AtRH‘s screenwriter. When he tells Tom to bring Lily to the Chapmans’ anniversary party in Palm Springs, Tom convinces Lily to come along in order to keep Nathan happy.
Lady Ana Chapman (played by Dame Helen Mirren). Former Ukrainian supermodel, businesswoman, and leading light of LA philanthropy, she and Nathan are old friends of Tom. She’s delighted to meet Lily and takes the younger woman under her wing for the party, lending her a stunning Bulgari necklace and earring set to complete her transformation to successful young Hollywood elite. Why, yes, she plays the fairy godmother in this Cinderella re-telling, why do you ask?
Theresa Eastridge (played by Quinta Brunson). Lily’s BFF and Senior video producer at ThruPut, the social media company that turned into a global juggernaut when nobody was looking.
No-nonsense but empathetic as all hell, Theresa gets sucked into Lily’s insane plan because it was her idea to send Tom the copy of Feast of Lovers in the first place. She also writes the contract that gives Lily 1.5 points, gross, on Right Hand, because that’s just how she rolls.
Claudine Ellery (played by Charlize Theron). Fourth lead of GearShifter. Blonde, beautiful, bitchy, and more than a bit sensitive about the fact that she’s on the wrong side of 40.
Claudine is slated to star in a movie scripted by Lily’s ex-boyfriend (one eensy thing — Lily wrote 2/3 of the script). Oh, and she really wants to add Tom’s notch to her bedpost. Needless to say, she does not appreciate Lily cockblocking her (or threatening to cunt punt her into Arizona).
Marion “Bubbles” Warner (played by Rachel Dratch). Lily’s manager at Golden State Bank, she’s a micromanaging nightmare. God forbid you put the wrong header on an email. She clearly needs to get drunk, laid, and a life outside of the bank, not necessarily in that order.
Why, yes, I may have had managers like this in my tech writing career. Never piss off a writer, for they will use you in their books years later, and they will be ruthless.
Liam Hennessy (played by Louis Herthum). A respected character actor and Tom’s costar on GearShifter, he gets drawn into the At the Right Hand michigas when Tom decides to cast him as a monsignor in Right Hand.
Also, Lou is kinda responsible for To My Muse in the first place so I wanted to give him a cameo. The similarity in initials should be a big honking clue about that.
Sanjay Nayar (played by Jay Chandrasekhar). Lily’s engineer dad, he’s responsible for most of her good habits as well as her storytelling skills. Plus he bails her out of a tight spot with his parents, so he’s getting the extra large Best Dad Ever mug filled with chocolate-covered espresso beans this year for Father’s Day.
The fact that I would pay to watch Jay read the phone book has nothing to do with this mental casting choice, truly.
Dr. Helen Nayar (played by Ashley Judd). Lily’s thoracic surgeon mom and referee for the Family Dinner battles between her kids. Patient is her middle name, and not just because she’s a doctor.
Helen loves her husband and kids, appreciates her in-laws, and enjoys her life. She just wishes Lily would do something a bit more constructive with her life. Which, considering her engineer husband and CTO son, is understandable.
Derek Nayar (played by Suraj Sharma). Lily’s younger brother and CTO at Limner FX. A hard-charging executive who thrives on pressure and deadlines, he really, really, REALLY wants Lily to come work for him. Lily would rather orally service Steve Bannon. Also, she still remembers making Derek dress up as a Power Puff Girl for Halloween one year, which would just cause problems at work.
Diya “Dadi” Nayar (played by Suhasini Mulay). Lily’s paternal grandmother, she wants her family to be happy, successful, and enthusiastic about their Indian heritage. Great-grandkids wouldn’t hurt, either. But she won’t hesitate to take a slipper to a grandchild if it becomes necessary (looking at Derek).
Arjun “Dada” Nayar (played by Anupam Kher). Lily’s paternal grandfather, he’s the successful CEO of an import business. He’s not overly thrilled with Tom, however, when Lily and Tom run into her parents and grandparents while shopping in Palm Springs.
Hello, folks! This week I’m teasing you with another snippet from To My Muse. I’ve backed things up a bit to Tom’s first scene, where we get to see his viewpoint upon finding a gorgeous romance writer in his hotel room about to throw down with his costar. There’s no real sexytimes in this teaser, but you do see the beginning of Tom’s attraction to Lily.
Oh, and to explain the pics, that’s hilarious actress/Youtuber Liza Koshy and Lucifer‘s Tom Ellis, who are playing Lily and Tom in my head. You’re welcome!
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
“Sorry.” I tried to stay still while the GearShifter makeup goddess dabbed some dark powder along my cheekbone, referring to pictures that the continuity girl had taken earlier that day to match up the distribution pattern. We’d already shot a full day and I’d been looking forward to a relaxing evening of memorization over room service followed up with a glass of wine and five fitful hours of sleep as I wondered how the hell I was going to pull At the Right Hand together.
Instead, God (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, take your pick) had smiled down upon me and sent me Lily Nayar, screenwriter of my dreams. And then I had to leave her at the hotel and come back to this thrice-buggered set just as we were ready to discuss what I needed for the script, hence my jittering. She wouldn’t change her mind, would she? I mean, she’s getting gross points, for God’s sake.
I’m not sure what had shocked me more when I’d walked into my hotel room earlier that afternoon—seeing Claudine standing there in nothing but a towel and a scowl, or seeing this tiny, gorgeous woman glaring up at Claud as if she was going to shred her like a honey badger. It took me a beat before I recognized the shorter woman as the romance writer who had tweeted at me last week to tell me that I’d inspired her latest novel. I have an actor’s ego, just about able to fit through your average supernova, so of course I was chuffed that my performance on GearShifter had prompted someone to write a swoony kissing book. I’d asked her to send a copy to my agent’s office, figuring that I’d stick it in a bookcase and look at it fondly when I wanted to be reminded of the days when I was lusted after by American women.
What I hadn’t expected was it to be messengered to my house along with the contracts for the luxury car commercials I was going to be doing voiceovers for (a British accent makes everything sound more luxe to the Americans, bless their colonial hearts). Normally non-business items sit in my agent’s mail room until the pile reaches a certain size limit and then they get shipped to me en masse, but Eric’s minions had apparently decided to be industrious for once. I’d been leaving for the airport when the messenger showed up so I stuck the large envelope in my carryon, figuring I’d read the contracts on the flight to Las Vegas. When I reached in to get them, however, I pulled out Lily’s book instead.
Right off the bat the cover surprised me. It had a Dutch Master feel to the colors and composition, and not a himbo in sight. Instead, a rather intent couple posed back to back in front of a menacing medieval structure. I flipped to the first page, figuring I’d scan it to see what I’d wrought in the mind of a fantasy romance writer.
When we landed in Vegas forty minutes later, I was deep in the middle of Chapter Three. To my surprise Ms. Nayar had woven together a terrific combination of politics, sex, and comic revenge. It was as if someone had taken Game of Thrones, gotten rid of the gore and rapey bits, bumped up the sexytimes and made them consensual, and added a laugh track. I even rather liked “my” character, a rather cold but fundamentally decent baron named Montmorency who had to work with a noblewoman to stop her sister from being married off to an oaf. I was disappointed when I had to put the book away and deplane.
I picked it up again that night after memorizing my lines for the next day and kept reading far later than I should have. I did take a break at one point and went to Lily’s author website to see what else she had on offer. Apparently Feast of Lovers was fifth in a series so I had more reading material to look forward to. Curious, I clicked on her About page. “Lilian DeVries” turned out to be a gorgeous woman with sparkling brown eyes and a mass of lovely dark curls that, if they were anything like my sisters’, probably drove her spare every morning. She looked like she’d been giggling mid-pic, and I wondered what her laugh sounded like.
So you can imagine my surprise when I walked into my hotel room and saw her facing off with a terrycloth-clad Claudine. Actually, Claud’s presence tipped it out of the “surprise” box and into the “what the actual FUCK” box. You see, my costar had made it very clear early last season that I was expected to grace her bed at some point. I, in return, had made it very clear that I wasn’t interested. Or at least I thought I had. Claud was absolutely gorgeous, yes. She was also catty, manipulative, and more than a bit egotistic, and I didn’t feel like putting up with her “all shall love me and despair” attitude just for a shag.
Apparently she’d taken that as a challenge, hence her appearance in my room wearing nothing but a towel. I suspect things would have gotten TMZ-level difficult if Lily hadn’t picked up on my silent pleading and pretended to be my girlfriend. When she delivered her quintessentially American ultimatum, I was torn between sympathetically cringing and wanting to cheer.
Chasing off Claud was enough to make me worship the fierce Ms. Nayar in and of itself. But mirable dictu, she turned out to be a screenwriter as well as a novelist, and she was familiar with Piux XII and Mother Pascalina, and she was willing to write a spec script for me. I can only assume that the room key botch-up was divinely inspired because there was no other explanation for how she wound up in my hotel room at just the right time. Now that I had the script lined up, I could work on wheedling Nathan to commit to the film, at which point the rest of the production would hopefully fall into place.
While the business part of my brain plotted and planned, the part concerned with everything below the belt was reminding me that 1) Lily was even lovelier in person, 2) smelled amazing, and 3) she thought I was at least moderately attractive, if her book was anything to judge by, so 4) I could very possibly be in there. The business part overheard that and icily told the fun part that I needed her for her writing talent, not for her curvy little body and expressive face. I caved to the business side; my unruly penis would just have to stay safely in my trousers until we started production, bugger it all.
But now instead of discussing the plot of my movie with my talented (and gorgeous) screenwriter, I was back at the GearShifter set in my increasingly ripe costume while fake dirt was being applied to my face. So much for the glamour of acting.
“Did you ever find out why we got called back?” the man in the chair next to me asked. Liam Hennessy was an American character actor known for his work in police procedurals and paranormal shows. On our show he played a morally ambiguous fixer with a penchant for sadism, which was hilarious because in real life he was a perfect gentleman with a penchant for landscape photography. If he was grumbling a bit about being called back to set, I felt justified about being pissed off.
I shrugged and Jolene made an annoyed noise at my movement. “Sorry,” I apologized to her, before adding to Liam, “Something about the camera placement being off for the CGI.”
Liam glanced at the neon green sleeve that covered his right arm and hand and sighed. In post it would be replaced by the grungy biomechanical limb that his character used to terrorize my costars. “Why do I have a feeling that’s gonna involve me?”
I grimaced in sympathy. I didn’t understand all of the fancy special effects tech, but I did know that anyone who wore green neoprene or movement capture suits wound up doing more work than the rest of us. “Maybe it won’t take that long,” I offered. “Are you working the weekend?”
“Nope. As soon as they clear me tomorrow I’m heading back to LA.” He smiled. “Got a camping date with my kid. If they need anything else, they can wait until next week.”
“Good on you, mate.” One of my more treasured daydreams was to find someone who could put up with my mad career, settle down, and have a couple of squalling brats that we’d love to distraction. I couldn’t see that happening in LA, though, and I hadn’t met anyone in London that I’d fancied enough. “Have a s’more for me.”
Jolene declared Liam done and shooed him out of the makeup trailer. “You staying clear of the Queen of Whore Island?” she asked once we were alone.
“Oh, Christ, Jo. You won’t believe what she did.” Makeup people were a combination of artist, technician, miracle worker, and psychologist and always had their fingers on the pulse of a set, so I poured out what had happened in my hotel room. “You should have seen her face when Lily threatened to cunt punt her into Arizona.”
Jolene giggled in conspiratorial delight. “That one sounds like a keeper, babe. You better treat her right.”
Part of me wanted to do just that, ideally in my bed over a long weekend, or even longer if I could manage it. Down, lad. Movie first, seduction later.
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Hello, lovelies! This week I’m going back to To My Muse, where Lily keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop with Tom, but it never does.
Yet, anyway. Hur, hur, hur.
That morning slowly turned into an afternoon, and both of them ranked as the most amazing in my life. We strolled through the best shopping Palm Springs had to offer and I couldn’t even be bothered to drool over any of the dresses, shoes, or jewelry. I was having too much fun being with Tom.
There’s one huge difference between fantasy and reality, and it’s not just because one takes place in your head and the other takes place in front of you. When you have a crush on someone and fantasize about being with them, your imagination is supplying everything that’s going on so it’s going to be perfect (at least, unless you’re into self-flagellation. I have a friend who always imagines her crushes cheating on her so that she doesn’t get too sucked into the dream. I ask you). So your fantasy partner is always funny, charming, great in bed, and interested in all the same things you are. And then you wind up hooking up in reality, and you realize he’s an anime fan and you barely know who Sailor Moon is, or he looks at you blankly when you rhapsodize about the MCU, or he turns out to be a Republican and you voted for Hillary.
The point I’m making is, fantasy is always better than reality because it’s exactly what you want it to be. So I kept waiting for the point where I discovered that Tom chewed with his mouth open, or smoked, or thought that Kim Kardashian was the height of sexiness.
And it never came. He wound up being better than my fantasies, the gorgeous English bastard. We kept trading embarrassing childhood stories, favorite movie quotes, and opinions on everything from politics to whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch had green or grey eyes (“Look, I met him, and I tell you they’re green. When he’s not playing Sherlock or Doctor Strange he’s a ginger, right? All those soulless bastards have green eyes”). At one point he made me laugh so hard I had to hang onto a lamp post in order to stop myself from peeing. I returned the favor a block down, causing a couple of perfectly tanned and coiffed matrons to sniff in disapproval as he howled in glee. A few younger women pulled out their phones and took pictures. I was tempted to do my best Xena pose in front of him, but he just giggled and pulled me away, wiping tears from his own beautiful brown eyes.
“Don’t worry,” he chortled. “If the worst they can post to Twitter is a picture of me laughing my arse off, I’m well away.”
I winced. “I didn’t think about that, sorry. Most people don’t bother to take pictures of me unless I’m playing grabass with home goods at Target.”
“Oh, God, we need to do that,” he said, instantly enthusiastic. “Do you go into the Christmas department in December and spell out rude words with the initialed stockings?”
I stared at him. “I have never been so turned on as I am right now. Will you marry me?”
He threw his head back and laughed. “Christ yes. Can I add your last name to mine? I always wanted a hyphenated name like the aristos.”
“Morrison-Nayar. I like it,” I decided. “Or do you want to go with Morrison-DeVries?”
“I suppose all three would be a bit much?”
“Lazy-ass Westerners,” I chided. “Morrison-Nayar-DeVries is nothing next to Balasubramaniam.”
“Morrison-Nayar-DeVries it is, then.” He threw an arm around my shoulders and hugged me as we went into yet another elegant men’s clothing store. “Come along, Mrs. Morrison-Nayar-DeVries-to be. I believe I was promised kisses in return for trying on more blasted suits.”
“As it is written, so shall it be done.”
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TGIF! Let’s kick off the weekend with Paige Warren’s hot new romance Valentina’s Miracle, now available from Changeling Press and other purveyors of fine online fiction. Take it away, Paige!
Valentina Cupid has always despised her name and the stupid holiday that goes with it. Starting over in the small town of Blossom Creek, she’s hoping for a miracle. Down to her last few dollars, she has no choice but to sleep in the car with her two kids, hoping to blend in with the other cars parked at Gleason Auto. But one sexy mechanic definitely notices.
Jesse Jameson is no one’s idea of a knight in shining armor. With a checkered past and a trail of broken hearts, he’s not anyone’s ideal. Still, when he sees the single mom sleeping in her car, he knows he can’t just walk away. But Jesse underestimates the temptation that is Valentina Cupid, and one kiss ignites a passion that won’t be denied. He’s going to prove to Valentina he’s not like her loser exes, and he’s going to give her a Valentine’s Day to remember.
Valentina Cupid tried to ease the tension in her neck. Her children, Max and Katy, were asleep in the backseat. It had only been a few days since Gage had walked out of their lives, or more like run. Valentina had come home to find his things packed and gone, and an eviction notice tacked to the door. She’d quietly packed their belongings, put the kids in the car, and just drove until her vision blurred. After traveling for three days, she was down to their last hundred dollars and knew they couldn’t run any further. Blossom Creek, Texas would have to do until she could find a job and earn some more money.
Her hand smoothed over her still flat stomach. At least she wasn’t showing yet. A new start in a new town was just what her little family needed, but she knew once people learned her kids all had different fathers, they’d sneer at her just like the last town had done. She had a thing for bad boys who knocked her up and took off, and never seemed to learn her lesson. If she ever dated again, she’d have to pick a nice, nerdy guy who sat at a desk every day. Tattoos and muscles were overrated.
“Momma, I’m hungry,” Max said from the backseat.
The box of peanut butter crackers lay empty on the passenger seat. She’d bought it yesterday in hopes of spreading their cash a little further, but her kids really needed a hot meal. A diner on the right caught her attention and she pulled into a space out front. Scrubbing her hands up and down her face a few times, she unbuckled her seat belt and got the kids out of their car seats. They’d been traveling for three days, only stopping at truck stops and rest areas long enough for Valentina to close her eyes for an hour here and there.
She gripped their hands as they entered the diner and waited to be seated. It seemed almost as if every eye in the place turned their way. Valentina’s cheeks flushed and she tried to avoid their gazes. An older woman wearing an apron came over, flashing them a smile.
“You want a table or a booth?” the waitress asked.
Max tugged on her hand. “Can we have a booth, Momma?”
The waitress nodded. “I know just the spot.”
She grabbed a menu and three rolls of silverware before leading the way to a booth in the window. Max and Katy both needed booster seats, but once they were settled, Valentina slid into the other side. She was so damn tired the words on the menu ran together and turned in black fuzzy blotches, but she fought to focus and remain upright. Her kids needed her.
She read off the menu choices they could afford and let Max pick his meal. Katy hardly ever ate anything but mashed potatoes and mac ’n cheese. As much as Valentina wanted to order the biggest burger with the largest order of fries on the menu, she settled for a cup of soup and some crackers. After she placed their order, the waitress returned with some paper and crayons for the kids.
“Thought they might want something to do while you wait for your food,” the woman said. “I’m Barb. Just holler if you need anything.”
“Thank you,” Valentina said with a tired smile.
When their food was delivered, Barb set down a large salad with chunks of grilled chicken and a side of ranch. Valentina opened her mouth to protest that she hadn’t ordered it when the woman held up a hand.
“You need more than soup,” Barb said. “Won’t do your kids any good if you pass out from hunger.”
Valentina’s cheeks flushed.
“You sticking around town or passing through?” Barb asked.
“I thought we’d stay for a while.”
“Diner’s closing in an hour. Why don’t you wait until the customers are gone, and if you’d like, you can help me close up. I’ll pay you cash.”
Valentine’s face burned with embarrassment as she nodded in agreement. Was it noticeable that they were on their last leg? She hated accepting charity, but if Barb would let her work for the salad and a few extra dollars to get them by a little longer, she couldn’t say no. They ate their food and the kids colored a little more while they waited for the diner to empty. When the last customer had walked out, Barb locked the door and flipped the sign to Closed.
“You ever worked in a diner before?” Barb asked.
Barb snorted. “None of that ma’am nonsense. Just call me Barb. I’m going to let you refill the napkins and condiments at each table. Then you can sweep and mop the floor. I’ll be in the kitchen helping Hank prep for tomorrow. Come on. I’ll show you where everything is.”
It took almost two hours for Valentina to get everything done, and her kids had fallen asleep at the table when she was finished. Barb insisted on paying her twenty dollars in addition to the salad she’d already provided, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Valentina pocketed the money and carried her kids to the car one at a time, fastening them back into their car seats. She had no idea where they’d go for the night, but fatigue pulled at her.
Valentine drove until she found a darkened parking lot by a large building marked Gleason Auto. It seemed to be closed for the night, and she hoped to blend in with the other cars in the lot waiting for repairs. She turned off her headlights and shut off the engine. She’d have to wake in an hour and run it again to warm the car back up, but she didn’t have enough gas to leave it running all night.
She reclined her seat a little and closed her eyes, after making sure the doors were all locked and the windows all the way up. Her body felt like lead weights were pulling her down and her eyes burned from exhaustion. She knew pushing herself so hard wasn’t good for the baby, but she had little choice right now. Barb hadn’t mentioned a permanent position tonight, which meant Valentina would have to spend some of her money on a local paper and see if any jobs were posted. It was that or walk up and down the main strip checking with every store along the way. Not that she had any idea what she’d do with her kids while she worked. She couldn’t afford daycare without a job, but she couldn’t work without someone to watch the kids.
Valentina let sleep pull her down, sleeping harder than she had in days. A slight chill in the air woke her a while later. Looking into the backseat, her heart lurched when she saw how flushed Katy looked. Her daughter had kicked off her blanket at some point and shivered in her car seat. Max still dozed, but looked fine. Valentina got out of the car and opened the back door. Katy was burning with fever, but Max felt cool to the touch. Her heart ached as she realized that her heavy sleeping had likely gotten her child sick, since hadn’t been awake to turn the heat back on, all because she couldn’t afford a motel room.
Booted steps came toward her and she spun to face the person, her hand at her throat as her heart raced. A man, who didn’t look much older than her twenty-two years, had a scowl on his face as he approached. Despite the cold February air, his short sleeve shirt displayed the tattoos on his arms. The man drew nearer and brushed his long hair out of his face.
“This is private property,” he said, his deep voice sending shivers down her spine.
Not another bad boy, Valentina. Get a grip.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize we were trespassing.”
“We?” he asked as he came to a stop in front of her. The man peered around her shoulder and his eyes widened a little when he saw her kids in the backseat. “Holy shit. Did you sleep in your car last night?”
Valentina’s cheeks burned. “Yes.”
“Bring the kids inside and warm them up,” he said, turning to head toward Gleason Auto. “I have some hot chocolate they can drink.”
She bit her lip. “Is there a free clinic in town?”
He paused and turned to face her again. “A free clinic?”
“My daughter. I think she’s sick.”
The man came closer again, peering into the backseat. “Blossom Creek doesn’t have a free clinic. Do you not have insurance?”
“No, we don’t.”
“Old Doc Johnson owes me a favor. Bring your kids inside and I’ll have him stop by on his way to his office this morning. The three of you can get warm while you wait.”
“I don’t even know you. Why are you helping us?” Valentina asked.
“Let’s just say I have a soft spot for kids. Why isn’t your husband here helping you?”
“I’m not married,” she said softly.
“And their dad?”
“Max’s dad left two years ago. Katy’s dad took off right after I told him I was pregnant.”
“Two different dads?” he asked, his eyebrows lifted.
Valentina placed a hand on her stomach. “Three.”
He studied her a moment and seemed to come to some sort of decision. “You need help getting the kids inside?”
“You’re still going to help us?”
“Figure someone should. Sounds like you’re the type to attract assholes.”
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About the Author
Award-winning author Paige Warren spends her days weaving tales about alpha males and the women who love them. There’s nothing hotter than a man in tight Wranglers, dog tags (especially if he’s ONLY wearing dog tags!), or bad boys covered in ink. When Paige isn’t creating romantic tales, she enjoys reading and watching movies – romances, of course. If you see her out in the wild, you’ll most likely find her at Starbucks, sipping a white mocha with a distant look in her eyes as she figures out the right wording for the next scene in her latest book.
Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with another snippet from To My Muse. Lily and Tom are busy looking for party clothes when the right dress changes everything for both of them.
The interior of Huffington’s was just as luxe as the exterior, but instead of a tall, thin, snooty saleslady we were approached by a curvy woman only a little taller than me with huge doe eyes and a bright smile. “Mr. Morrison? Mrs. Chapman called ahead and told us to expect you,” she confided in a warm alto. “I’m Taffy Carlyle Huffington.”
“Um, Huffington?” I said faintly. “As in…” I waved an index finger around the store.
She beamed at me. “Yes, I’m the owner. I hope you don’t mind, but Ana sent over your estimated measurements and I took the liberty of picking out some dresses for you to try on.” She headed towards the back of the store, waving for us to follow. “We have a number of things to go through, so we’d best get started. Mr. Morrison, take a seat and I’ll have someone bring you a drink.”
Have you ever met someone who radiated calm and absolute confidence, and simultaneously made you feel like you had been admitted to some utterly cool inner circle? That was Taffy. I suspected she could organize a tea party for the Queen on the fly and wind up with a damehood at the end of it. While Tom took a seat in an area that screamed “upscale man cave,” she showed me to a large changing room with an actual chair, a table, one of those old-fashioned standing screens that had probably been in some Western bordello, and a large three-way mirror. Along the wall opposite the mirror was a small clothing rack that held dresses in an array of luscious colors that were perfect for my skin tone. Clearly Ana had clued Taffy in on my complexion as well as my measurements.
“Let’s start with the Christian Serrano,” she said, plucking a magenta number off the rack and handing it to me. “And we’ll take it from there.”
What followed was the absolute best hour of dress-up I’ve ever experienced. I got to try on dress after dress, preening in front of the three-way mirror while Taffy studied my silhouette and offered tasteful suggestions. We finally settled on a gorgeous sapphire blue number with a strappy halter neckline that showed off my boobs and made me look like a pin-up model. “That one, yes,” Taffy said with a firm nod. “Why don’t you go show Mr. Morrison?”
Grinning, I skipped out of the changing room and over to where Tom was perusing a copy of Variety. “What do you think?” I said, twirling.
A huge grin bloomed on his face as he studied me. “Oh, yes,” he purred. “That one, definitely.”
I remembered that I hadn’t checked the price tag. “I didn’t ask how much it was. If it’s too much, we can go with another dress–”
“No.” He was out of his chair with that, pacing around me and taking in every inch of the stubbed sapphire silk. At least, I assumed that’s what he was doing. “No, you’re wearing this one. I don’t care how much it costs. It was made for you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Very.” He mimicked Taffy’s definite nod, taking my hands and holding them away from my body. “You look absolutely spectacular, Lily. You have to have this dress.”
His hands were warm and felt marvelous around my own. For one moment I wished with all my heart that this was real, that we really were dating and I was showing off a gorgeous dress for him. And later we could go somewhere private where he would help me take it off, and then…
Something must have shown on my face because his grin changed, growing softer. “Would it be absolutely horrible of me to say that I really want to kiss you right now?”
My lips parted on their own recognizance, damn them. And then I remembered. We’d agreed on a handful of public kisses. “Oh, right,” I mumbled, trying to hide my disappointment. “Okay.”
He hesitated. “If you don’t want me to, I won’t.”
Dammit, I could feel tears rising. I blinked hard. “No, that’s not it. I just wish…” I had to be honest with him about this, if nothing else. “I wish you really wanted to kiss me. That it wasn’t an act.” I tried to smile and felt my lips tremble. “Sorry. I’m being stupid, I know. Guess I’m not a very good actress.”
Those beautiful chocolate eyes darkened as he moved closer, enough for me to feel the warmth from his body. “This isn’t an act, Lily. I really do want to kiss you. May I?”
After a moment of not breathing from pure shock, I sucked in a gulp of air. Thanks be to every god and goddess out there, it kicked my brain into gear. “Yes.”
“Good.” He leaned down and our mouths met. Remember how I’d said that our kiss yesterday was good, definitely in my top five? This one blew all of them out of the water. It’s next to impossible to describe without going into the purplest of prose, so just imagine finding your soul mate, the people who’s destined to be your other half, and then imagine them kissing you for the first time. Chemistry, desire, delicacy, awareness of the other, a willingness to please, and a simple, perfect happiness–it was all there. I forgot about Nathan, the script, my fibs, everything. All I wanted to do was melt into Tom’s arms and stay there forever.
At some point I noticed that someone was clearing their throat repeatedly. When I finally, reluctantly pulled away from Tom’s delicious mouth, I saw Taffy shaking her head in amusement. “Much as I hate to interrupt your moment, this might not be the best place for it,” she murmured. “Also, you haven’t paid for the dress yet, Mr. Morrison, so let me get her out of it before you start tearing at the seams.”
Oops. His hands were on my waist, fingertips gently digging into the fabric. And somehow my arms had gotten around his neck, as well. I may have been clinging to him, I’m not sure. And I’m pretty sure that hadn’t been his wallet pressing into my stomach. Hoo boy.
Color spread over his cheekbones as he stepped back, casually tugging his shirt lower. “Er, yes, of course,” he said through an unrepentant grin. Then he winked at me.
I knew exactly how he felt.
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Hello, lovelies! Here’s another snippet from my very first contemporary romcom, To My Muse. Lily and Tom are still in bed after their host mistakenly gives them one room, and some truth is about to surface. Heh, heh, heh…
Tom sighed. “I’m hoping this doesn’t happen, but I feel I should warn you in case it does. Nathan might collar you at some point and give you a speech about not breaking my heart. If he does, just smile and agree with him.”
Ooookay. “Should I know the background for this?”
“Oh, hell. I suppose so.” He shifted onto his back, lacing his hands over his chest. “I told you we met during a run of Titus Andronicus, yes? At the time I was dating a woman named Cate. We’d been together for a year and were very serious about each other, or at least I thought so. She was everything I wanted in a partner—bright, funny, talented, incredibly empathetic. She worked with disabled children in North London and painted beautiful watercolors as a hobby. I was madly in love with her, and she said she loved me just as much.”
The romance writer part of my brain poked its nosy head over the parapet. “But something went wrong.”
There was a long pause. “You could say that,” he finally said. “I was planning on asking her to marry me after the run finished. The second-to-last weekend, there was a flood at the theater and we had to cancel the performance. I got back to our flat in time to catch her in bed with on of her colleagues.” He huffed out a soft, humorless laugh. “After he left she burst into tears and explained that he’d been going through a rough patch at work and she had only meant to comfort him, and somehow they’d fallen into bed together. And because I knew how kind and gentle she was, I believed her and wanted to beat the shit out of him.
“Until the next day, when he texted me. I still don’t know how he got my mobile number. He told me that they’d been having an affair for the last two months, and that he wanted to marry her. When I confronted Cate, she insisted he was lying, that he was obsessed with her and was clearly trying to break us up. And then he texted again and said they’d gone to Paris together not a month before, and sent pictures of them kissing in front of the bloody Eiffel Tower. She’d told me she was going to a teaching conference in Brighton that weekend.”
I winced. “Jeez. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. As I soon found out, her colleague wasn’t the only man she’d been fucking that year, only the most recent.” He cleared his throat. “I’m not proud of this, but I got into her Facebook page. She used to use my laptop to check it sometimes, and she’d added the password to my browser. Sometimes I think she did that on purpose so that I’d find out.” I heard an audible swallow. “She’d been with at least five other men that year. There were pictures, love notes, everything. When I confronted her, she burst into tears and claimed that it was my fault, that I left her alone too much when I was in a play or doing telly work.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit,” I snapped. “If she wasn’t happy, she should have said something. Or pulled on her big girl panties and left. But fucking around behind your back is not cool.”
“I did point that out. She said that she couldn’t bear to leave me because it would be like abandoning a kitten on the high street.”
Ouch. Bitch certainly knew how to hit a guy where it hurt.
“After that, I was packed up and out of there within the hour,” Tom continued. “Luckily I ran into Nathan as I stormed down the street to the theater. He and Ana insisted that I stay with them until I could find another flat. They let me stay with them for months until I’d worked my way through everything.” Another soft breath. “We’ve been friends ever since. It’s why I want to give him this role. He’s done so much for me, and I want to do something for him, now that I have the chance.”
The pain in his voice pulled at me, and I wanted to hug him so badly. “Well, if it helps at all, I think you’re a good person,” I said instead. “Hollywood is so full of people all out for themselves. It’s nice to see someone who wants to do something nice for someone else for a change.”
“Yeah, it isn’t the easiest of cities. Or industries, for that matter. That’s one thing I don’t like about acting — the falseness of it all. Lying through perfect smiles, and complimenting people you hate, and shoveling so much horseshit just to get some work. If nothing else, Cate did me one favor by breaking up with me the way she did. She crystallized my hatred for dishonesty.”
I went very still at that. I was lying next to him thanks to a big fat lie. “Oh. Um, well, I can’t blame you,” I said in a small voice.
He snorted. “I must sound like the biggest hypocrite in the world right now, considering how you’ve wound up here. I’m sorry about that, Lily. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to leave in the morning.”
Great, more guilt. “I’m here because I want to be,” I said as firmly as I could. “You have an amazing property and I want to write the screenplay. And Cate was an idiot. You deserve better than that.”
A quiet sound, not quite a laugh. “That’s what Nathan and Ana said. I don’t suppose you’re single?”
That stopped me breathing for a moment.
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