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.
“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.