Sharp Bite of Pleasure (Pleasure Bite #1)

Revised and re-edited with new scenes added (originally published in 2013)

(Lesbian Paranormal Romance)

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Sometimes the sharpest bite brings the sweetest pleasure…

Alexa Dangelis has returned home after eight long years to attend her father’s funeral and take the throne as vampire queen of the East Coast. The public believes their king committed suicide, but Alexa knows better–he was murdered, and she’s determined to prove her half-brother did it.

Werewolf Penny Seiler was once Alexa’s secret lover, until Alexa betrayed her to marry the vampire king of the West Coast. When they meet again, sparks fly.

While Alexa focuses her attention on regaining Penny’s trust and love, her half-brother plots to wrest the throne from Alexa’s control. To stop him from destroying the capital city and her future with Penny, Alexa must broker a peace treaty with the werewolves and convince the vampire community werewolves are more than mere animals.

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Excerpt:

The floral air brushed over Penny’s face. She needed some sort of solace after her near breakdown in the bathroom. At least no one had witnessed her embarrassing reaction…well, maybe one person had. She didn’t know what excuse she would give Lissa for running from the room like the devil was on her back.

Lissa…Alexa… Her mind was still a jumbled mess and she needed to clear it before she returned inside and pretended everything was fine. Unfortunately, her date and most likely her brothers would know something was off. They were too tuned in to her moods. She hated being an open book for them. It disturbed her, just as it had when Alexa walked down those stairs…

She studied the half moon, edgy with the urge to shift and run. For now, she would have to wait. Transforming into a snarling and furry beast at a state function like this would be considered gauche.

Giggling at the idea of trotting into the ballroom in her wolf form and scampering around the well-dressed government officials, she walked deeper into the grassy labyrinth.

A few minutes later, she reached the center. A small fountain stood in the corner, a gazebo in the middle with a bench, vacant for her to sit and relax. The sky was clear, unlike the past few months when passing storms had popped up unpredictably.

She listened to the soft breeze flowing through the leaves. Music from the palace trickled over to her. She began to meditate, trying to find the balance taught to her by her therapist years ago.

She was close to reaching equilibrium when she heard a slight crackling on the dirt path behind her. She stiffened, facing the one who would try to claim her soul again.

“Hello, Alexa. Why am I not surprised you’d find me?” Her voice sounded strong and unyielding, at least to her ears.

“The moment I entered the ballroom, I knew you were there. Your unique scent is easy to recognize.” Alexa emerged from the shadows. “How many years has it been since we last saw one another?” She continued walking toward her and entered the gazebo.

She expected Alexa to overpower her. Surprisingly, she kept her distance. She soaked in the vision of this immortal woman who had come close to destroying her with her treachery.

“Eight years to be exact. You look well,” she responded politely. No matter what hardship a vampire went through, they appeared unmarked by whatever affliction might fall upon them.

“So much time has passed.” Alexa took another step. “You look…distressed. Does my appearance here unsettle you?”

Her laugh was empty. “Stop playing games. You know full well it would ‘unsettle’ me.” She shrugged, feigning boredom. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction. You make quite an impression wherever you go.”

“From the aroma of your sweat and your hesitance, I can tell I made quite the impression on you. You’re not immune to me as you want me to believe.”

She backed away and cursed in her head.

Humor crossed Alexa’s face and she moved forward. “So, it’s going to be a cat and mouse game between us?”

She waited for Alexa to charge after her, to grab her and hold her in a passionate embrace like she used to. Her body tensed in anticipation.

“Are you’re remembering all the times we chased each other in the woods and then made love for hours?” Alexa asked, suddenly standing too close.

She did her best not to react when Alexa brushed a finger over her cheek. “Your touch doesn’t affect me anymore.” She stepped back and crossed her arms to hide their trembling. “Actually, I’m thinking how much of a pushy bitch you were.”

Alexa laughed and tapped her mouth with a red manicured nail. “I missed you more than you can know.”

She laughed hollowly. “Oh please. I’m no longer some dumb, immature kid who ended up fucking a spoiled daddy’s girl.”

Alexa was quiet beside her, although Penny could feel the hum of anger coming from her.

“Alexa, I—”

“No. Don’t apologize.” Alexa moved away.

She felt like she had lost something. Why? It didn’t make any sense. She was used to that yawning emptiness ever since Alexa had left. She’d almost died after Alexa had been with her one final time to say goodbye because of her impending marriage. Memories of that night she’d admitted her love made her eyes burn. Shame spread through her over the way she had reacted to Alexa’s rejection in the days following.

“You’re right, I was spoiled. With a snap of my fingers, I had whatever I wanted, or my father would acquire it for me.” Sadness filtered into the woman’s voice.

Sympathy clogged her throat. She jabbed her nails into her palms to stop from reaching for her. Her arms ached with the need to hold Alexa and touch her, but it was more like a phantom pain. She cleared her throat, trying her best to remain civil and not run away or do something stupid like kiss her.

“I’m sorry about King Christophe. His death…suicide was a horrible loss.”

“He didn’t kill himself!”

She had never heard such an emotional outburst from Alexa before, even when they were intimate with one another. Alexa stepped toward her again. She retreated against the wooden railing of the gazebo. “The newspapers announced his death after they were sent an official statement. There’s been nonstop talk, rumors…discussions on television and on the blogs.”

“Stupid modern technology,” Alexa muttered, sliding in closer.

Riddled with tension, she dug her nails into the railing, observing her ex-lover carefully. “Don’t tell me you’re surprised by media gossip about your family. It’s been like that for years.” She counted herself lucky the gossip rags had never got wind of their relationship.

The only noticeable reaction from Alexa was the small strain lines around her mouth. They vanished as soon as they materialized, and she was back to being cold and aloof.

She snorted. How did I ever fall for this woman in the first place and allow her complete access to my body?

Alexa’s sudden smile made her stomach contract.

“Now you’re thinking about the times we made love,” Alexa said in an assured voice.

She bolted to the center of the gazebo as Alexa slowly stalked her. She’s still upset about her father. Must be the reason she changed the conversation at the drop of a hat. “Your intuition is not what it used to be. I must have been crazy to have a fling with you in the first place.” Her statement came out harsher than she’d intended.

Alexa’s cheek twitched, and she eyed Penny in stony silence, licking her lips.

Her inner thighs quivered. Shit. Alexa would pick up on it.

“For all your cutting, juvenile remarks, and acting like you’re not attracted to me, your scent tells me the opposite.”

She widened her stance. “Childish?” She purposely ignored the mention of her arousal. Damn the vamp and her keen sense of smell!

“Yes, you’re acting like a bad-tempered child.” Alexa crossed her arms to mimic her.

She longed to stamp her foot in annoyance but didn’t. “You’re such a wise-ass. Some things never change.”

“I agree with you there. We’ve come full circle. Do you remember the first time I caught you? I do. From the moment I saw you at the street fair in Three Points, I wanted you, and nothing was going to stop me from taking you.”

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Never Letting Go (Mercury Folds #3)

(Contemporary Romance)

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What happens when the five members of Mercury Folds, the most popular boy band from twenty years ago finally find the true meaning of a happily ever after with their soul mate….

Bette has what most would say is a nice, stable life. The forty-five-year-old has a great job as a high school guidance counselor, and owns a comfortable house in a lovely neighborhood. Plus, her younger sister Jenna is engaged to mega movie star, Keegan Knowles, the former member of Mercury Folds, one of the most popular boy bands from twenty years ago. But she’s feeling depressed and more isolated every day. She still mourns the death of her husband three years ago, and some days she doesn’t want to get out of bed. Perhaps what she needs is a relaxing vacation with Jenna and Keegan in California for the Christmas holiday?

She expected to be dazzled by the bright lights of Hollywood, and meet some celebrities, but one celebrity who makes her blush like a woman half her age, is Clancy “Cross” Bianchi, Keegan’s best friend, former member of Mercury Folds, and one of the top personal trainers to the stars. The long haired, tattooed, always loves to crack a joke hottie wants to make her vacation memorable. She’s not looking for romance or a quick fling even though he’s a woman’s fantasy come to life. But why would he be attracted to an older woman with graying hair, who has a bad case of anxiety, and will soon return to her mundane life?

As she gets to know the real Clancy, the one hidden from the paparazzi who adores him for his public antics, her shattered heart begins to heal. And if Clancy has his say, he’ll work his seductive magic on her to convince her to never let him go.

Excerpt:

“I apologize for the scene at the airport.” Clancy drove out of the parking spot a bit too fast, but at least I was buckled in and held the handle in his SUV.

“Jenna mentioned you enjoy the attention.” I gripped the handle harder as he maneuvered in and out of the airport traffic and to the freeway entrance.

He chuckled and scratched his chin, giving me a view of his hard bicep and the edge of a black swirling tattoo design peeking out from under his sleeve.

“I guess you can call me a media who—a media lover.” He sent me an apologetic look.

“If you want to say media whore, go ahead. Whatever Jenna said about me being Miss Prim and Proper, don’t believe her.”

“She’s said very nice things about you. And how can you be Miss Prim and Proper when you’re wearing a T-shirt and jean capris? At least your sunglasses scream class.” He honked at a Corvette in the lane next to us cutting him off.

“You expected me to be looking more professional and not in a stained T-shirt and flat airplane hair I should have run a brush through before I met you?” Strange how he didn’t mention the stain instead of the aviator sunglasses Jenna bought for my birthday last year.

“I do know you’re a high school guidance counselor at my alma mater. When I was a student at Keansbury High, Mrs. Weir, the guidance counselor, wore long skirts and mismatched knitted scarves.” He snickered, amused by his statement.

“She had a very unique fashion sense. I took over as guidance counselor when she retired.” I settled back in the seat and watched as he slowed down. It was the first time I saw the overly tall palm trees, other than on TV or on the Internet. “She even gifted me one of her scarves because she said the students expected me to wear one.”

“I thought she was near retirement when I was a student there.” He stopped at a light and drew his hair into a band he tugged off his wrist. “By the time I left school she was pushing seventy?”

“She was much younger than you thought. She retired at sixty-five.” I stared out my window to hide my wincing. “But if she had gray hair when you were in school, she hid it well, unlike me.”

“Hey, Bets…can I call you Bets? Is it short for Elizabeth?”

I glanced back at him, wishing he’d left his hair down, although his current style showed his strong chin. “I wish it was short for Elizabeth, but my parents wanted me to be unique, so I’m just Bette. My friends call me Bets, so go ahead. And you said I should call you Cross?”

“If you’d like.” His mouth fell to a straight line, and I couldn’t tell if it was because he didn’t want me to call him Cross or he was tired from his constant smiling.

“Well, Bets, I found a few grays in my hair for the first time last month, and I’m not even forty yet.” He fingered the side of his head, causing a long pin-straight strand to dislodge from his band. “I will be in May.”

I swallowed a giggle. This larger-than-life in both personality and physicality man didn’t have a problem showing me a more delicate side. He had a calming presence that drew me in, even if our initial introduction had been embarrassing. I felt more relaxed than I had in days. I didn’t even mind talking about my age or my gray hair.

“I’m ahead of you. I turn forty-six in February, and I’ve had gray hair for almost half my life.” I drew my hair behind my ears even though I rarely did at home.

“You did not start turning gray when you were in your twenties.” He glanced at me in shock.

“Right after I married.” I went to tug on my wedding bands then jabbed my nail in my knuckle at the same time I realized I left them home. It was one of the reasons I had slept badly. I had planned, at the advice of my therapist, to finally take off my wedding bands for this trip. It hurt putting them in my jewelry box, but it was another step I had to take to move on.

He took an exit and then stopped at a red light. Sympathy crossed his face. “Jenna told me about your husband. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.” I rubbed my finger. “My husband Louis will be gone three years this March, but I feel he would have been happy I came here for the holidays. I’ve never been to California before, let alone been driven around by a mega-popular pop star.”

His smile returned, but he didn’t continue driving until a car honked behind us. “It’s been years since I’ve been a mega pop star. The last time I sang professionally was the last concert of our tour. Then Austin quit, entered rehab for a while, and did the solo thing. I was pretty much done also and took some much-needed time off. But I rose like a phoenix from the ashes and became a certified personal-fitness trainer and business owner. Now, here I am, ten years later with over five fitness centers, and one of the most beloved personal trainers to the stars.”

I covered my mouth as a few spurts of laughter erupted from me. “You have a great ego…no, more like confidence, Cross-Clancy.”

“Stick to Clancy. It’s easier on your tongue and melts in your mouth.” He winked.

Well, then. If I was better at flirting, I would have said something that would make him laugh or blush. Not that I thought he was the type to blush at a woman’s sexual comment.

“What’s the plan until Jenna and Keegan return? You’ll play my tour guy and drive around, showing me little-known hot spots? Or you’ll drop me off at Keegan’s house?” I took out my cell to text Jenna that Clancy had picked me up. “You have a key to his house?”

“We have a few options. I can drive you around because what woman wouldn’t want to be with me in this sweet car as I point out the must-see areas of Los Angeles?” He tapped the electronic dashboard to his right, and a number popped up as his cell rang. “Or you can have an amazing breakfast from an up-and-coming chef who will soon take the culinary world by storm, in a beautiful house right near the beach.”

“Are you saying you’re not only the number-one personal trainer to the stars but a chef also?” My stomach rumbled from sudden hunger.

“Me?” He snorted. “I can’t cook for sh-crap. Hey, Bee!”

“Hi, Dad! When will you be home with Jenna’s sister? I woke up early to cook for you both.” A teenaged girl’s voice spoke through the speaker.

“She’s in the car with me. We’ll be there in fifteen. Did your mother leave, or is she still there?”

Mother? I didn’t see a ring on his finger, but who knew if celebrities wore such things, since marriage and commitment weren’t important to them.

“She left a few minutes ago. Hi, Jenna’s sister Bette!”

I found myself smiling at her friendly greeting. “Hello, there. It’s Bee?”

“Melissa, actually. Dad calls me Bee because he said when I was a little kid, I’d buzz around like a bee. Mommy calls me Lissy.” There was some static and then a bang. “Gotta go and take the quiche out of the oven.”

She hung up, and Clancy beamed at me. “Wait until you eat her quiche Lorraine.” He kissed his fingers. “It’s a work of art.”

“Sounds great. How old is your daughter?”

“Thirteen. She’s my only child with Eppie, as you probably know.” He practically glowed with pride.

“Eppie is an interesting name. Melissa gets her cooking skills from your wife?”

He tugged on his bottom lip and sent me a questioning stare. “You really don’t know anything about me or my ex-wife?”

I shrugged. “Are you offended because I don’t?”

“No, not at all. It’s something new for me.” He turned down the street, making me gasp in wonder at the massive beachfront home taking up most of the street. “I do like to surprise you.” He lowered his voice to an appealing whisper that made me think he didn’t just mean his property.

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BRASS BALLS AND HYSTERIA AND MILE HIGH PLEASURE

(STEAMPUNK ROMANCE NOVELLA SET IN AN ALTERNATIVE LONDON, ENGLAND)

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Jessamine Starling is in in for the surprise of her life when she sneaks into the factory of her family’s biggest competitor and doesn’t find a top secret dirigible project, but a steam powered sex chair that helps cures female hysteria.

(LESBIAN STEAMPUNK NOVELLA SENT IN AN ALTERNATIVE LONDON ENGLAND)

ONLY ON RADISH- CLICK HERE TO START READING

Set in a world of flying steam airships and robots, the underappreciated Lottie Bells toils away as a seamstress. The only bright side is a visit from her childhood friend, Diana Russell, a lieutenant in the British Royal Air Navy. But when Lottie sees Diana again, she’s confused by her attraction to the beautiful lieutenant, who makes Lottie an enticing offer that may change their relationship forever.

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Take Me With You (Mercury Folds #2)

(Contemporary Romance)

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What happens when the five members of Mercury Folds, the most popular boy band from twenty years ago finally find the true meaning of a happily ever after with their soul mate….

Video yoga instructor, and owner of the popular Meow Mew Cat Café, Jenna Oakes is trying to make a name for herself as an on-line sensation. She gets more than she bargains for in the sensational department, when during a rain storm, a tall, dark and handsome man rushes into her café with a stray cat he found in his fancy Corvette. Before she can figure out who he is, he leaves behind the feline, and a very generous donation as a thank you. Her mysterious visitor doesn’t stay that for long because during an alumni career day at her old high school, she’s shocked to meet him again. This time she recognizes him as Keegan Knowles the mega star actor who was once a teen heartthrob member of the former, world-famous boy band Mercury Folds.

Keegan has made quite the impression on Jenna, which leads to what she believes is a quick fling. But when he asks her to come back with him to California for an amazing opportunity that could skyrocket her online career, she has to decide if she’s willing to accept the dream he’s offering. He tempts her in ways she has never imagined, even though their hot and heavy love affair could suddenly end once he returns to the celebrity world of Hollywood he’s so comfortable with, and one she may never fit into.

Excerpt:

As co-owner of the Meow Mew Cat Café, I opened two Sundays a month and had since the café had launched. Using part of my inheritance from my parents who died in a plane crash when I was thirteen, I started the café with my best friend Dinah, who was a huge animal lover. I was a big cat aficionado even though I never had any pets—cats or otherwise—until I was on my own. But my real calling was yoga. Meow Mew was more of a hobby but a fulfilling one.

I wished I could say I was fulfilled now, but, from the moment I left my apartment, things had not gone my way. Because of the rain, my usual curly hair was a frizzy mess. I put it into a puffy bun, making my honey-brown eyes look too round, which they were, but at least when I kept my hair down, people’s attention strayed from my too-round and too-spaced-apart eyes that accentuated my “pert” nose. The pert description was from my older sister Bette who was being kind.

Skittles always joined me the days I worked at the café, and she was very whiny this morning, meowing nonstop on the ten-minute car ride. She was not a fan of the rain, either. Instead of baking and setting up the expresso machine, I cleaned out the litter boxes first. For some reason, the ten cats in the hygienic glass sanctuary had used the litter boxes more than usual during the night. Cleaning out litter boxes full of cat poop added to my frustration. And what was worse, I couldn’t even wake up properly because I didn’t drink coffee or espresso. The irony that I hated the taste of coffee but worked around it twenty-five hours a week wasn’t lost on me.

I finished scooping out the dirty litter from the boxes when there was a loud banging on the front door, causing me to drop the too-heavy garbage bag, which tore on the bottom. Clumps of shitty cat litter covered the entrance to the backroom where the cats had become very vocal for their breakfast.

I should have taken some deep breaths, but I cursed loudly. Skittles, lying on the counter where she shouldn’t be but I allowed, yawned in response.

There was more banging on the front door, from what looked to be a man in a hoodie covering his head, hunched under the awning, holding something to his chest. His head was down, so I couldn’t get a good look at his face, either.

If this guy thought I was going to open the door for him, he was in for a big surprise.

“We don’t open for another forty-five minutes!” I shouted, surrounded by shitty spilled cat litter.

“It’s an emergency.” His voice was muffled through the rain. He then unzipped his hoodie halfway down, and a tabby cat’s head popped out.

Ohmygoodness! I rushed to the door and unlocked it. I knew self-defense, so if he was a serial killer who used cats to get to his victims, I would take him out. A sweep to the leg would do it.

He entered, not as soaked as I’d expected but damp enough that I found myself shivering even in my baby-blue fleece sweatsuit. With his head still down and covered by the hoodie, he handed me the black and orange striped cat.

I lifted the meowing cat to my face, and it licked my nose, making me smile.

My hope he wasn’t a serial killer visitor pulled his hoodie off his head, showing an arresting, tanned face that made me snuggle the cat. This man who had invaded my morning was very easy on the eyes. He had a rugged handsomeness with more than a few lines on his face, but it added to his appeal. Also, his brown eyes that reminded me of dark chocolate were hypnotic.

“Do we know each other? You look familiar, but I don’t think you’re from around here.”

He ran his palms over his pointed chin that had a good dusting of scruff. “I guess I have a face people can trust.”

“I never said you have a face I trusted.” I winced as the cat’s claws jabbed my arm. I did a quick inspection to see what gender the poor kitty was then set her on the table next to me.

“Ouch.” He smirked but not in an egotistical way, but more…awkward cute. This guy had to be near forty or thereabouts. For some reason, even under the strange circumstances, I thought him cute.

“What’s the deal with this cat, and why did you bang on my door during the wicked rain storm? Even though this is a cat café, we don’t accept cats off the street.” I waved at the sanctuary.

He scanned the area as if he didn’t have a clue what type of business he had invaded. “I saw the light on and the cats through the glass, and I thought it was best to bring my unwanted guest here. No vet is open, and I have a breakfast meeting in a half hour.”

“This isn’t your cat?” The calico sniffed the top of the desk and hopped to the floor.

“I found the cat in the backseat of my rental Corvette. I guess the furball wanted a warmer place to sleep in the parking garage and jumped in the ’Vette because I left the top down. It’s a good thing you’re right around the corner from the Hotel Belmont, where I’m staying.” He glanced over his shoulder as the wind rattled the glass and the rain intensified.

“You’re driving a Corvette as a rental? Did you get a discount?” This guy must have a sweet job to rent a luxury car.

He shrugged. “I prefer to drive in style, even if it’s to visit Keansbury.”

He said it so matter-of-fact and lacking snobbery that I stopped from making some droll comment.

“Looks like she’ll fit in here.” He pointed at the cat batting the glass of the sanctuary.

“I can’t take her. She has to go to the vet first.” I cursed when I saw the spilled litter.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m not having a good morning, and it’s not because of your sudden visit. Want to sweep up some day-old kitty litter spilled on the floor?” I ran my hands through my hair, forgetting I had pulled it back. My hair fell around my shoulders.

“Wow,” my visitor, who I had yet to ask his name, said in what sounded like awe.

“Huh?” I turned around, blinking as a sudden wave of exhaustion hit me. Maybe I should hold my nose and down a shot of expresso…

“Ah, never mind.” He took out his cell and nodded. “I have to go.”

“Wait, sir.” I grabbed his sleeve. “We’re not done here.”

“My brother Austin is waiting for me… Shit.” He removed my hand but squeezed it for some reason.

“You brother is waiting for you in your car?” Skittles must have become curious because she meowed in tandem with the new cat.

“You have no clue who I am?” He chuckled. “Austin is going to get a kick out of this.”

“Austin?” I was more confused than ever. “Is this some kind of joke, Mister? Am I being filmed—”

A cat screeched, followed by a growl behind me. Skittles jumped off the counter and chased the calico into the back room where more cats cried out.

“Crap!” I booked it back there to stop the possible kitty carnage that might occur between Skittles and the new cat.

I defused the situation quickly by grabbing Skittles, who settled in my arms, while the new feline hopped on my desk to sleep. Aww, she really was a cutie for a stray. Suddenly remembering the mysterious, hot, not-a-serial-killer guy, I hurried to the front, but he was gone. All that remained of him was a stack of bills on a table that, when I finished counting, equaled to one-thousand dollars.

I sat, mystified at what had happened. This might be the start to possibly the strangest week of my life.

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Reckless Devil (Mercury Folds #1)

(Contemporary Romance)

Buy for .99 cents or FREE on Kindle Unlimited

What happens when the five members of Mercury Folds, the most popular boy band from twenty years ago finally find the true meaning of a happily ever after with their soul mate….

Holly is living her dream as a romance novelist, who also works at her aunt’s bookstore in her hometown of Keansbury, New York. As single, career-minded woman who’s a few years away from forty, she hasn’t been looking for love. But when her high school sweetheart, Austin Knowles, the lead singer of the once popular boy band Mercury Folds ends up signing his new autobiography at her bookstore, he turns her life upside down.

Austin hasn’t just returned to his hometown as stop on his book tour, but to reconnect with Holly after leaving her behind for fame and fortune. He’ll try to convince her to give him another chance after so many years apart. And why wouldn’t she since he was the inspiration for the hero in her first book that made a name for herself? He may have once been a reckless devil but after so many years of living the rock star lifestyle, he wants to settle down with the one woman who always held his heart.

Excerpt:

His touch was more comforting than sexual. I rarely talked about my situation with Nolan, not even with my mother or with Aunt Madeline. When I was younger, they would ask about the men I dated, including Nolan who they assumed I was serious with. But I always blew them off because the likelihood of me marrying was low. I blamed it on my head being in the clouds when it came to romance and love, which fueled my writing. I refused to settle.

“I guess it’s sad I’m two years away from forty and never thought of marriage or….” My face warmed in embarrassment.

“Hey, I’m here to listen, not judge.” He set his hand on my nape and massaged it.

“I’ve never been in a serious relationship or had a boyfriend. I’ve dated, but nothing stuck. Nolan is…or was a lover.” I tried to smile, but my lips were numb.

He drew me under his arm, and I settled in his side. He played with the tips of my hair falling out of my braid. “You probably know I was engaged once because it was all over the Internet and in every entertainment magazine and tabloid imaginable.”

“I was honest when I said I didn’t always keep tabs on your career or your private life,” I mumbled, ashamed for not keeping track of his life just because I was once offended and hurt for him leaving me behind. It was better to pretend he didn’t exist, but every so often I would read or hear a piece of news about him and the hurt came roaring back.

“It’s probably best you didn’t. The last few years I was in Mercury Folds were ugly because of my partying. After rehab, I still needed a crutch to keep me from falling back to destructive forces.”

“Like sex?” I meant to come across as teasing, but he must have taken me seriously. He faced me, his expression showing a bleakness that cut straight to my heart.

“I wanted intimacy but not the type I had with groupies or one-night stands like during my Mercury Folds years. I made the mistake of getting involved with another singer, who was in a former girl band. Her name is Lola Ionesco.”

“Now that’s a singer I know. Isn’t her father the owner of Ion Records?”

“Yup. My record label.” He took my hand. “We had history before we became a couple. She was also in rehab for the same type of issues I had. We bonded over our experience and were together for four years. When we got engaged, we both were trying to make it as solo artists. She was acting also, and became more high profile than me. But things grew rocky when my solo album got nominated for the Grammys, and hers didn’t. Some of her movies didn’t do well at the box office, and she was spending too much money. She became addicted to shopping and wouldn’t stop. It all came to a head when I told her I wanted a pre-nup.” He snorted and then released a hollow laugh. “We fought over it, among other things. We had some blow-ups. She then ended up cheating on me with another big-name singer.”

“That singer got her pregnant, and they’re married now.” I may not be up on all my pop culture celebrity gossip, but I did know about the situation because of all the parties involved. There were too many rumors flying around about Austin that I didn’t know what to believe.

“Yup. She’s been married five years, and she’s pregnant again, with twins this time.” The hollowness in his voice made me want to hug him tight. He rested his cheek on top of my head and sighed.

“Do you mention her in your book?”

“Yeah. I had to because she was such a big part of it, but….” He exhaled. “I didn’t want to bash her in the book. I tried for a…I don’t know, respectful approach. My anger at what she did to me is gone, but the sadness over what I shared with her and lost still remains.”

“It’s not the same by a long shot, but I also have some sadness.” I shifted back to view the face I longed to kiss. But it would wait. First, I had to get something important off my chest.

“What’s your sadness?” He cupped my cheek.

“I’m disappointed in myself because I held a grudge against you for leaving. It was so childish and pathetic because for too many years I thought you abandoned me.”

He swept his thumb over the edge of my cheek, lulling me into relaxation even though my insides swirled with anxiety. The tenderness he gave me made me want to sob.

“I don’t think you’re pathetic. I’ve been upset at other people for ridiculous reasons. Although, I don’t think I can forgive you for not liking my music.”

I pinched him under his ear, making him flinch. He then grabbed my hand, and the next thing I knew, I lay prone on the couch with him over me.

Welp, this escalated quickly.

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