Please check out this fantastic gem, released tomorrow, 6/25/08 from The Wild Rose Press!




Heart Surgeon Stone Lassiter has successfully transplanted beating hearts. It's his own that is causing him the most agony. With a death bed promise to his fiancée, he's driven to open a transplant center in her hometown, and arrives at Deerborne County General Hospital . Single minded in his focus, he inadvertently alienates the nursing staff he needs to make his dream a success. He sets his stethoscope on intensive care nurse, Faith Daniels, to improve his image. Nurse of the Year, Faith Daniels has passed every nursing exam, but when faced with the task of the MCAT, she has severe test anxiety. Burned by her ex-husband, who used her while she put him through law school, she has become focused on passing that darn exam, and achieving her own dream to become a doctor in her own right. Will the white lie Stone tells Faith jeopardize the love they find?


While glancing at her watch, Faith repeatedly pushed the button to call the elevator. Almost eight-thirty. With a groan, she cursed herself again for leaving her study guide in the nurses' lounge. After exiting the parking garage, she'd remembered she didn't have the book with her and had hurried back inside to retrieve it.
Staying after her shift to finish her charting had cost her precious study time. Her patient who'd had the appendectomy had to go back to surgery, but not before she'd had to give him several units of blood to stabilize him. Thank goodness he was going to be okay. She tapped her toe impatiently. What was taking the elevator so darn long? The evening hours were rapidly dwindling. Her thoughts trailed back to the MCAT. She'd made it a habit to review a portion of the test each night before going to bed, and she hadn't even had dinner yet. All she wanted was someone to rub her aching feet and feed her
Was that so much to ask?
She sighed, and her stomach rumbled loudly while she waited for the elevator that would take her back to the parking garage.Chinese sounded good. Should she call ahead and order take out to pick up on the way home? There was a book full of to-go menus in the nurses' lounge where she could easily find what she needed. She glanced up at the lights outside the closed elevator doors. Still stuck on floor nine.
Decision made, she turned and ran straight into a solid wall of muscle. Knocked back from the impact, her purse went in one direction and her MCAT book flew in another. Strong arms enveloped her in a secure grip, keeping her from falling on the floor.
Pressed to the man's chest, the familiar lemony scent hit her first. Dread roiled in the pit of her stomach. Faith knew who held her. She forced herself to tilt her head back and peer into eyes reminiscent of a block of hardened deep chocolate.
Doctor Stone Lassiter.
Her earlier thought returned. What would it be like to melt that chocolate? Too bad she didn't even own a fondu pot. Warmth crept up her neck and into her cheeks. "Sorry. I'm in a rush."
His eyes narrowed, but he made no move to release her. "Are you late for a date?"
Faith had difficulty concentrating on his words. Heat burned through her scrubs and settled low in her belly. "Wh-what?"
"You know? A date? Where two people go to share a meal or a movie?"
The deep timber of his voice slid up her spine, and she shivered. "A date?"
"You're not usually this dense, Faith."
The sardonic expression on his face snapped her out of the fugue-like state and sparked her temper. "Gee, thanks for the confidence booster. You can let go of me now, Dr. Lassiter. I'm in no danger of falling any longer."

Surprise lit his eyes and he released her. Bending, he picked up her book and purse from the floor. He glimpsed the cover of the study guide and appeared puzzled. "The MCAT? You're studying to get into med school?"
Faith snatched the book out of his hands. "That's none of your business." Her gaze touched on her handbag. "I'll take my purse. Like I said, I'm in a hurry."
He retained her purse and stared at her with penetrating eyes. "Have you eaten?"
"No. I was going to pick something up on my way home. Why?" she asked warily.
"Because I have a proposition for you. We'll talk about it over dinner."
Let's see. Dinner with the self-important Greek Adonis or study? Cozying up with her study guide for the night seemed to hold even larger appeal all of a sudden.
Faith laughed. "Oh, that's rich. I may have appeared dense to you a few minutes ago Dr. Lassiter, but I'm not stupid. There is nothing you could possibly have to say outside of work that would interest me in the least."
He grabbed the book from her unsuspecting hands.
"Hey! What are you doing?"
"This is what we have to discuss, Faith." He smiled without humor and jiggled the book in front of her, just out of her grasp.
Hands on her hips, Faith stared at him. Dr. Lassiter was acting completely out of character for the second time that day. "I think I like your snide, arrogant persona better. I wasn't aware you belonged on the fourth floor with the other psych patients when you were off duty."
He scowled, smoothed his red tie, and buttoned his navy suit jacket. "I'm not snide or arrogant."
Faith chuckled. "It's rather interesting, don't you think, you didn't deny you belonged on the psych ward." Sobering, she held out her hand. "Really, I'd love to stay and exchange insults with you all day, but I have to get home. My stuff, please."
He started to hand it over to her, then pulled it just beyond her reach. "I heard the nurses talking in the med room a while ago. They said you froze up while taking the exam. Is that true, Faith? Do you have test anxiety?"
Her amusement died. She felt the color drain from her face. Damn gossips. She stiffened her spine and straightened to her full height of five-foot-eight inches.
"So what if I do," she admitted, hating the defensive tone that had crept into her voice. "Lots of people have trouble taking tests."
"Then it appears we have something important to discuss, after all." He gave her an engaging smile. "I'm even willing to overlook the fact you called me arrogant and snide and pay for dinner. I can help you with your problem if you help me with a little problem of my own."
Faith opened her mouth to make another sarcastic comment. What kind of problems did this guy have? He seemed to have everything. She had several suggestions for his "little problem".
He held up a finger, halting her before she spoke. "Ah, I'd watch it, Faith. I'm only going to make this offer once. How badly do you want to score high marks on the entrance exam? Or better yet, how bad do you want to get into med school?"
Now, that was a loaded question. Damn him. He played dirty. It was just like him to use her dream to get what he wanted. Faith expected no less from the conceited jerk. She'd give everything she had and more, and he knew it. Her dreams had been put on hold long enough. The only thing standing between her and med school was the damn test.
Maybe he could help her. After all, he was a doctor and had taken the exam. What could it hurt to hear what he had to say? Dubious about his intentions, but curious all the same, Faith nodded. She was starving. "All right, Dr. Lassiter. Do you like Chinese?"

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Interview with Manic Readers

Interview with Jenny Gilliam For Manic ReadersMay 8, 2008

Hi Jenny,
I’m so glad for the opportunity to interview a romance author – not just another romance author – but, you have a distinctive style, insist on the HAP – as you call it, and your ideas are certainly unique as your titles suggest. So while I am as curious as a cat in a room full of cat nip—I’m sure our readers are too.

First up tell us a little about Jenny Gilliam. Who is she, where does she hail from, how’d she get her start in writing the romance the way she does it? I know a lot of this is on your bio but, it’s so fascinating I know our readers would like to hear about it right here.

Well, I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, but we moved to a small (and when I say small, I mean, blink and it’s gone) in the coastal mountain range. We live on ten acres overlooking the mountains. It’s beautiful.

As for my start, I’ve always been a sucker for romance. Any movie I watch(ed)—even as a child—I watched for the romantic element. When I started writing at age 10, my stories forever contained the Happy Ever After (HAP) element.

Two years ago, I joined Romance Writers of America and a local chapter, where I became instantly inspired. I was like a sponge; soaking up as much information on the craft as I could. Since then, I’ve been writing toward the goal of publication. And recently succeeded.

If I was to visit you on your off hour – when you are not writing — what would you be doing? Favorite hobby, interests?

When I’m not writing, I’m cleaning house—not my favorite hobby or interest, but I’m a stay-at-home-mom with a 2 ½ y/o and a 5 ½ y/o, so it’s cleaning and getting snacks, making meals, etc. When I have a little time to myself, I love to read, knit and sew. I’m big into crafts.

Your first published title makes me want to ask about this crazy juxtaposition of words The Wedding War? Tell us about the book – also, how did you come up with that title? I love it.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

What happens when a fairytale-believing wedding planner and a jaded hot-rod builder who thinks love is nothing more than a chemical reaction end up on opposite sides of the aisle at the wedding of her best friend and his brother? A wedding war erupts.

Jake Ryan will do just about anything to keep his brother from making the same mistake he made. He’s convinced there won’t be a wedding because he’s out to stop it. Mia Briscoe’s determined this will be the most spectacular wedding she’s ever planned. And when she discovers the groom’s brother is out to break up the happy couple? The battle begins.

Jake and Mia have both suffered deep emotional wounds that prevent them from making lasting connections. And both are baffled by the intense feelings they bring out in each other. Can Mia teach Jake that love is something to cherish and not loathe? And if she can, will he be strong enough to bury his past so they can have a chance at a future together?

Mia and Jake have such a hard time getting together—and along—that I thought The Wedding War would be perfect. They’re two people on opposite sides of the aisle, fighting for what each of them believes in.

How long did it take you to write The Wedding War? What was finding a publisher process like?

It took me about two months to write The Wedding War. Actually, I wrote 3 full length novels last year. I get into what my husband refers to as the ‘twillight writing zone” when I work. Things like food and water go to the wayside when I’m on a project.

Finding a publisher was an eye-opening, albeit painful, experience. I’m a sensitive gal (dubbed “The Drama Queen” by friends and loved ones), so the rejections, or passes, as my good friend Eli says, hurt. But, I pushed past them and kept moving forward.

The former president of my local chapter, fellow TWRP author Paty Jager, turned my attention to The Wild Rose Press and the world of e-publishing. I was on the fence for a while, but decided to go ahead and take the plunge. It was the best career decision I’ve made.

The Wedding War has received some really great reviews – Did you know exactly what you were doing when you wrote it – or was it more of a seat of the pants lets see what happens kind of thing? Did you have any kind of an outline?
Did you have a publisher in mind when you wrote it?

I’d originally written it for Harlequin’s Blaze line (rejected). It was the first time I’d ever used an outline for a novel. Usually, I outline (note taking is more like it—I have notebooks filled with novel plot points) as I go, but I used a concept I’d gleaned from a reference book: index cards. I wrote down the key plot points in the novel on the index cards, spread them out in chronological order, then filled in the blanks. It made the writing process a lot easier. Of course, the characters changed their minds about some of the things, so it wasn’t an exact science.

You’ve just contracted your second book with Wild Rose publishing – Congratulations. The second book tells people for sure you are not just a one book wonder. Tell us about The Truth About Roxy — I love the premise for this one. I just know it will be a lot of fun to read.

Here’s the blurb:

Roxy Palmer is a walking, breathing cliché. And darned tired of it.
Working as the assistant librarian in her small, Southern home town, Roxy also anonymously pens the local love column, Ask Paula Rockwell—Thorton, Georgia's answer to Dear Abby.

But when the door leading to Roxy's lifetime dream is slammed in her face by one of the good ol' boys, Roxy brings out the big guns--and turns the genteel town upside down with her racier, feminist, home-wrecking new format.

Paula Rockwell is making Sheriff Noah Kennedy's life crazy. He's got angry husbands lined around the block, demanding the cancellation of the column, fights breaking out and women catching their boyfriends' trucks on fire. If he ever gets his hands on that woman…

But he's got his hands full of Roxy at the moment, and if he ever discovers the truth about Roxy, all hell will break loose.

I’ve also sold a third novel to Amira Press called Letting Luce. Here’s another blurb:

When Lucy Hollister tried to drop-kick her personal computer out her second-story window, she had no idea it would eventually lead to the seduction of her very hot, very yummy best friend, Rory Carlisle. After all, she’s the queen of passivity, and he’s the reining king of the non-committed relationship. When a sexy online flirtation leads the couple into some steamy situations, Rory realizes that his cute best friend is letting loose—in the best possible way. Can this couple get past old hurts and guarded hearts to embrace the passionate love that awaits?

What comes first for you Character or Plot? Do you do a detailed character sketch for your main characters before you start?

It really depends. Sometimes, the characters start conversing in my head before any kind of plot develops; other times it’s the reverse. I always sketch out my characters before I start a novel.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

I’m an extremely nosy person by nature, and I also think way too much. This leads to the ‘what if’ factor. Often times, I get a kernel of an idea from the lyrics of a song, or watching a person walking down the road when I’m driving. Just going into the world creates a plethora of creative opportunities for me.

Many writers, especially new writers it seems have problems with writer’s block. Do you ever experience this, if you do how do you deal with it? If you never have, what do you attribute that to?

I don’t believe in writer’s block, I believe in the fear of failure. I’m struggling with this myself right now; I’ve started my fifth novel—the first one since I’ve been published. It was slow going at first—I had to force myself to sit down and write everyday. It was excruciating; I would write and say, “This is going to suck!” Then I’d take a look at it and say, “Okay, this isn’t bad.” Which is ultimately what kept me writing. I call it the sophomore slump. I think any kind of writer’s block can ultimately be attributed to fear or something in the subconscious. Whether or not the writer wants to admit it.

You seem to have a very full schedule when I looked at your events list – chats, interviews, conferences and you write a newsletter quarterly. What kind of marketing advice would you give a new writer that wants to brand themselves, get their name out there?

When I learned that I would be in charge of most of my own promotion, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t sell firewood to Eskimos. But, I started by getting my name out there on loops; giving kudos to other writers. It’s like karma; treat others how you wish to be treated and the world will be kind. Does that make sense? After that, I just heard by word of mouth (or email) about different groups, such as Manic Readers, and put myself out there with a request. I made up some simple business cards that I hand out (and coerced my parents into handing out). I’m not sure about pens or bookmarks yet, since I’ve heard they’re not that great a marketing tool. We’ll see.

How do you family and friends respond to you now that you are a published romance author?

They are all very proud, but basically, I’m still the same old Jen to them. My husband keeps asking when he can quit his job, so I support him. I just laugh. At him.

Are there any other genres that you would like to write in that you haven’t explored yet? Why or why not?

I’ve always been interested in true crime, but I don’t know if I have the chutzpa to interview serial killers. The last novel I wrote is a romantic suspense. I adore forensic shows and have a lot of respect for detectives and those in the field. I could see myself moving into the romantic suspense genre. But, I don’t think I could ever completely cross over into mystery. There’s not always the HAP. Have to have the HAP.

Do you have anything in the works now?

As I mentioned above, I’m currently at work on my fifth novel, the stand-alone sequel to The Truth About Roxy.

Where do you see yourself in five or ten years from now?

I want is to be able to write for a living. That’s all I want. A bestseller or two would be nice, too. (*cheeky grin*)

Thank you so much Jenny for spending part of your busy day answering our questions here. Would you please tell our readers where they might find out more about you, your books and where they can buy them?

Thanks so much for having me! It’s been a pleasure.

You can purchase The Wedding War (available now in digital and print form) from The Wild Rose Press (, which is also where The Truth About Roxy will be available soon. My third novel, Letting Luce, will be coming soon from Amira Press (

I have a website, on which I’m starting a new quarterly newsletter. I’m encouraging readers and fellow writers to add their names to the list by shipping me an email. I also have a myspace page and a blog

I look forward to seeing more work by you. I hope you’ll let us help you announce new books as they get accepted. Many Sales to You and Write Like the Wind

Interviewed by: Billie A. Williams at Manic Readers

LETTING LUCE has a release date!!!!

So, I heard from the editor-in-chief at my new publisher, Amira Press, today. She gave me my release date for my second novel, Letting Luce. THIS FRIDAY!!!!! Whoo-hoo!!!! Doesn't leave me much time to hop back on the promotional band wagon, especially since I'm watching my neighbor's three kids on top of my own two, but what the hey.

So excited.....

AND....I just got my first quarter sales report for The Wedding War...I SOLD 58 books in 10 days!!!! Totally blew me away.


May Interview with Joyfully Reviewed!

It sounds like you have always been a writer. When did you start focusing on getting published?

I started pursuing publication a little over two years ago when I joined RWA and my local RWA chapter. I’d written for years and always wanted to be a published author, but I never actually finished anything until recently.

Tell us what makes Jenny tick.

Oh, boy. How long do you have? Love. Love is what makes me tick. Well, that and coffee. J Love for my husband, my children, my family, coffee. It’s what keeps me going and helps me write. The love part. Well, the coffee, too.

How do your stories develop? Is it with a character, a scene, a location, or in an entirely different way?

It really depends on the story. Often times, characters start rambling in my mind, or I get a snippet of a scene or plot and I go from there. I have a little notebook I keep in my purse where I write down ideas when the muse of inspiration hits.

Tell us some of your favorites…foods, movies, music, authors, books, colors, and any others you want to share?

I love potatoes in any way, shape or form (except potato salad). Mostly, I love French fries. I’m a huge fan of gangster movies: The Godfather Trilogy, Casino, Goodfellas, The Departed. Martin Scorscese is my own personal god. I love alternative rock and country. A bit of an eclectic mix, I know. Country music always has a story to tell, which is why I adore it.
My favorite authors are Rachel Gibson, Jonathan Kellerman, Dean Koontz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Sherillyn Kenyon. I love so many books, it would be difficult for me to choose one, although See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson is one of my all-time favs.

Do you enjoy hearing from your readers and what is the best way to contact you?

I love hearing from my readers. I can be reached at I’m starting a quarterly newsletter, so those readers who want to receive it can shoot me an email, as well.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? What was the best piece of advice that you received when you were starting out?

Keep writing no matter what. Even if you only write a sentence one day and two pages the next, keep writing! It’s the only way you’ll ever finish. Also, joining a local writer’s group, such as your local RWA chapter and gleaning whatever information relevant to the craft is a great help. It’s also a good way to network and meet other writers/authors.

How do you promote your work?

To be honest, I’ve been promoting so much, I feel like my own pimp. LOL. I started by joining loops or listservs geared toward romance writing such as Chatting With Joyfully Reviewed. I’m getting to know other writers online. I’ve also requested author interviews and spotlights. I’ve done 4 so far. So, basically, I just put myself out there. I’ve also created business cards that I hand out at any available opportunity and roped my relatives into giving them out, too.

How would you spend a perfect day?

Honestly? Writing. And then shopping.

Are your friends and family your greatest supporters? Do they read your work?

Absolutely. My family is uber supportive of my writing career. One of my mother-in-laws reads everything I write before I submit. She’s my ‘first reader.’ I thought I would have to guilt them into buying my work, but they all jumped on board and did the honors themselves. I’m lucky to have such a supportive crew.

Do you believe in happily ever after and have you found yours?

I am a full believer in the HAP (happily-ever-after). What’s the point without it? Love is a powerful, all-consuming emotion. It moves mountains. I’m incredibly blessed to have found my own hero. We’ll be celebrating our tenth anniversary next year. He’s my rock. I’d be lost in this world without him.
When writing do you plan the story out before beginning or does it develop as you write?

Both. I write a short outline, but usually the characters change their minds and declare mutiny on said outline. I end up going where the characters go since they lead the story.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Teehee. Venti 3 shot Carmel Macchiato from Starbucks. Yum!


Roxy Palmer is a walking, breathing cliché. And darned tired of it.
Working as the assistant librarian in her small, Southern home town, Roxy also anonymously pens the local love column, Ask Paula Rockwell—Thorton, Georgia's answer to Dear Abby.
But when the door leading to Roxy's lifetime dream is slammed in her face by one of the good ol' boys, Roxy brings out the big guns--and turns the genteel town upside down with her racier, feminist, home-wrecking new format.
Paula Rockwell is making Sheriff Noah Kennedy's life crazy. He's got angry husbands lined around the block, demanding the cancellation of the column, fights breaking out and women catching their boyfriends' trucks on fire. If he ever gets his hands on that woman…
But he's got his hands full of Roxy at the moment, and if he ever discovers the truth about Roxy, all hell will break loose.

Noah checked in the kitchen, found it empty, and then opened the door that led to the basement. His light shout received no response. He figured she was up in the library, and he headed up there, sliding his hand up the smooth balustrade as he went. He hadn’t spent much time on the second floor, but he knew she only used a couple of the rooms.
Taking a guess, he turned left at the top of the stairs and stopped at the first door he came to. He turned the knob and pushed it open.
Sweet Jesus on a foot stool.
The room certainly wasn’t the library, and Noah would’ve have been hard-pressed to admit that the naked woman toweling herself off inside was a librarian.
Roxy stood next to the bathtub, long, inky curls dripping water that rolled down soft, pink skin. Legs—good God, the woman had miles of legs—gave way to lush, feminine curves.
Curves she had no business having.
She faced slightly away, so he only got a partial view of plump, full breasts, a tease of a rosy nipple. Round tush.
Sweet Jesus on a foot stool.
It took Roxy a moment to feel the draft hit her naked backside. Pausing as she toweled her hair, she looked over. And froze.
Noah Kennedy, her pal, the man she’d secretly lusted after for years, stood there, gaping at her.
She couldn’t move. Oh, God, she couldn’t move an inch. Noah watched her and his expression, a cross between shock and ire, might’ve have been amusing if the whole situation wasn’t so humiliating. Heat crept from her naked breasts and traveled upwards until her face flamed. He stood there watching her as she watched him. Roxy finally regained control of her motor skills and whipped the towel around her naked body.
He looked dazed. "What? Oh, sorry. God. Sorry." He pulled the door closed. Loud.
Roxy’s heart thudded painfully in her chest. She clutched the towel to her breasts as she let out a shaky breath. She heard of the sound of Noah’s footsteps beating a hasty retreat down the hall.
Almost fearfully, she glanced in the beveled mirror above the sink. Her hair looked almost black, the curls dripping water, framing a face that had flushed from the steam and the encounter with Noah. Water trickled down her shoulders, disappearing beneath the towel to the slope of her breasts.
Oh, God, how much had he seen?
How long had he been standing there before she noticed him? Five seconds? Ten? Long enough to shock him, obviously. He’d run from the room as though the hounds of hell were on his heels. She moaned in embarrassment, wanting nothing more than to bury her head in her towel and lock herself inside the bathroom for the rest of her life.
She couldn’t do that, of course. Roxy imagined he waited downstairs, and if she knew him, he’d be rehearsing a speech that mixed apathy with humor—"Hey, I’ve seen you naked before. Remember when we were kids?"—ensuring there’d be no tension between them.
Roxy would have to hide her humiliation and pretend it was no big deal, too. The problem being, she sucked at hiding her feelings. Well, you’ve done a damn good job so far, Rox. You can do this, too. Either that, or Noah was very aware of her infatuation and had no interest in pursuing it further. Humiliation rose anew, and her cheeks grew even hotter. She could take rejection, but not his pity.
"Crap," she said to her reflection.
She opened the door an inch, waited a few moments, and then poked her head out. No one in the hall. Some part of her hoped he’d be waiting to sweep her off her feet and carry her to bed like she’d always imagined, even as the rational part of her brain screamed it would never happen. Noah liked women like Connie Willows—tiny, petite, feminine women who looked like they’d be blown over by a stiff wind. Not a five-foot-ten-inch Amazon with wide hips and a big butt.
Oh, Lord. Had he seen her butt?
She slipped out of the bathroom and into her bedroom where she quickly donned her most figure-concealing outfit—purple sweats. She shoved her size-ten feet into her white and pink bunny slippers and faced the inevitable.
Apparently, this was one confrontation that would have to wait. When she went downstairs, Noah had disappeared. She checked the entire house and then out front, but his Explorer was gone. This was even worse that she thought. Discomfiture caused her stomach to churn, and she placed a trembling hand against her middle.
Roxy closed the door and leaned against it with a heavy sigh.
For crying out loud. She’d scared him away.


When Lucy Hollister tried to drop-kick her personal computer out her second-story window, she had no idea it would eventually lead to the seduction of her very hot, very yummy best friend, Rory Carlisle.
After all, she’s the queen of passivity, and he’s the reining king of the non-committed relationship. When a sexy online flirtation leads the couple into some steamy situations, Rory realizes that his cute best friend is letting loose—in the best possible way.
Can this couple get past old hurts and guarded hearts to embrace the passionate love that awaits?

If inanimate objects could talk, Lucy Hollister would lay odds this one was giving her the finger right now.
The ruined computer tower sat on her bathroom floor, mocking her, the tail end of her graphic design project stuck somewhere in its depths.
A project due on her boss’s desk tomorrow.
The damn thing seemed to be gloating. "Just give me one reason," she taunted, "why you shouldn’t be a recycled can opener. I’ll do it."
The phone rang. Lucy picked it up, still eyeing the moronic machine. "Consider yourself saved."
"Yeah?" Fury and frustration burned through her, leaving her manners checked at the door. Or, more accurately, on the bathroom floor. At this point, she didn’t give a monkey’s butt if Emily Post herself waited on the line.
Her pulse jumped and little bombs of pleasure detonated in her at the sound of Rory Carlisle’s voice. "Hey."
Loud music played in the background, interlaced with several voices. He must be at Barney’s, thinking of their favorite bar.
"What’s up? You sounded weird on your message." His deep baritone, flavored with a thick Texas accent, flowed like warm honey over her bones. Warm honey she wanted Rory to lick off her body.
Get your mind out of the gutter, Hollister. Before her temporary leap from sanity, Lucy had placed a Mayday call to her best friend, and incidentally, the IT manager at her design firm, leaving a message that provided only the basics: "my computer’s broken"—which it was, technically, albeit in actual pieces—and "help"—which she needed.
"My computer’s broken," Lucy said again.
"Yeah, I got that part. What happened?"
"Um, it just…broke."
"They don’t just break, Lucy," he said, in his Master of the Universe voice, the one that hinted at his superiority in matters of technology.
"This one did."
He sighed. "Explain it to me."
In the background, she heard a husky female voice speak Rory’s name in a low tone filled with promise. He murmured something soft to the woman and they laughed, and a hot spurt of pure jealousy lanced through Lucy. Must be on another date.
Silenced stretched over the phone, and Lucy figured whatever distracted Rory were just boobs and a sexy voice. Nothing unusual there, she thought grimly. The man went through women like a box of Kleenex. A few moments later, Rory said, "Luce? Are you there?"
Her gaze cut over to the bathroom where the evidence of her carnage lay bruised and broken on the floor. This would be the hard part. Rory was of those weird techno-geeks who abhorred violence against machines. Go figure.
Then again, she’d committed capital murder.
"Well, see, it started smoking, which I took as a sign of impending doom."
Rory groaned.
"Then it popped."
"What did you do, Lucy?" Rory asked, worry for the fate of technology evident in his voice.
She hesitated a moment. He would take the news hard. Better to give it to him fast, ripping it off like a band-aid. She bit her lip, fearing his reaction. "I sort of tried to drop kick it out my bathroom window."
Lucy winced when Rory didn’t respond. Beyond him, guitar riffs and a crooning voice echoed into a microphone.
"Never thought to call me first?" he asked at length.
"Well, I thought that would be evident since you’re returning my call."
"I’m pretty sure I’m going to regret asking this, but why the bathroom window?"
"The community dumpster is right under it."
"Jesus H. Christ, woman. Where is the damn thing now? In pieces all over the concrete?" His frustration reached her from twenty miles away, and she winced again. "Your damned lucky no one decided to take out their trash when you decided to lose your fricking mind."
"Really, if you want to place blame, my landlord would be a fine start," Lucy said with rancor, referring to Arnold F. Granger, Landowner, or that rat bastard slumlord as he was better known by the tenants who occupied his five townhouses. "If he’d decided like a normal person to give each house its own trashcan, I wouldn’t have been forced to lob it into the dumpster."
"Taking it down there like a normal person slipped your mind, I take it."
"Had you been listening," she continued, railroading over him, "you would’ve realized I laid emphasis on the word tried. The use of deductive reasoning would conclude my plan failed."
"I repeat: Where is the damn thing now?"
Once again, Lucy’s eyes moved to the bathroom. "It’s on the bathroom floor."
"Still in one piece?"
"Ah, that’s debatable. I may have heard a rattle when I kicked it."
"You know what, forget about explanations. Nothing you can tell me will refute this truth: you are absolutely, one-hundred-percent nuts."
"This is not news, Rory."
"Don’t touch the computer. Back the hell away from it, go downstairs, have some tea. I’m on my way. Don’t touch it," he warned again before ending the connection.
She’d pissed him off, but that was a natural ability she possessed, and it wasn’t just Rory who enjoyed the benefits. Although, his reactions were the most entertaining and fulfilling, at least in Lucy’s masochistic mind, because he always riled her. Lucy must be insane if she scrambled after the breadcrumbs of his ire.
Her two-year-old Boston Terrier, aptly named, The Beast, stood at her feet, his cropped ears perked and little smashed snout cocked at an angle while he studied his mistress.
"Don’t even start with me, dog."
Feeling a throb, Lucy looked down at the thigh she’d scratched during her ‘episode’ and winced. She really needed to get that cleaned up.
One floor down, her doorbell rang, followed by a series of rapid knocks. The Beast’s black head perked up before he tore out of the bathroom, his shrill barks traveling through her townhouse as he focused his ire on the visitor.
Lucy fished out a few tissues from a box on her desk. She held them to her scratched thigh and hurried down the stairs, trying not bleed on the carpet and incur any more home improvement charges. Between the cost of repairing her hacked bathroom floor and the blasted computer, she’d be broke.
In her mind, she heard her mother’s voice. You brought this on yourself, Lucille. Her impulsiveness, or what her mom referred to as her "tendency toward melodrama," had landed in her in one form of trouble or another her whole life. Lucy liked to think it made life more interesting. But to her family, it just drove their theory home: Lucy needed divine intervention.
Lucy knew before she opened the door her elderly and extremely nosy neighbor, Mr. Waverly, would be standing on her front porch step, cane in hand. She already saw him peering in the entry window. After all that racket, he probably thought she’d been attacked.
"Back, Beast!" she ordered.
The Beast ignored her.
She bent down and picked up her little dog, which forced her to remove the hand that staunched the bleeding. Taking a calming breath, Lucy opened the door and forced a smile. "Hi, Mr. Waverly."
He looked at her through rheumy blue eyes. "What the hell’s going on up there?"
Although no housing association existed in this neighborhood, Johnny Waverly had elected himself chairman. He took it upon himself to eyeball every tenant’s postage-stamp front lawn and the condition of their vehicles, and kept himself apprised of all of the goings-on on the street. Lucy knew he meant well, but there were times when she wanted to take that cane and beat him over the head with it.
Gently, of course.
"I moved some furniture and fell down," she lied.
The Beast barked after she spoke, as if revealing her dishonesty. She shushed him. Damn dog never took her side.
Something told her Mr. Waverly hadn’t joined the rest of the technological world. Besides, in the wake of recent events, Lucy had begun to think she might very well be insane, which would be even harder to explain, and only confirm what he already suspected.
He watched the blood trickle down her leg. "Looks like you cut yourself."
"Just a scratch. Thanks for your concern!"
She started to shut the door, but he stuck his cane in.
"It’s bleeding," he pointed out.
Thank you, Captain Obvious, she thought, but guilt settled in immediately. He’s just trying to be helpful, Lucy reminded herself. He’s a lonely, old man. He can’t help it if that makes him mildly paranoid.
"I’ve got some band-aids in the first aid kit upstairs," she told him, which was true. Maybe.
Lucy would tell him anything he wanted to hear, just to get him out of her house. She didn’t want Rory pulling in her driveway to find Mr. Waverly on her stoop. Everyone in Lucy’s life thought she showed no common sense. And yeah, trying to throw a computer out of her second-window showed a complete lack of said sense, but she was under duress. And, yeah, she’d called in the Calvary in the form of a six-foot-one sexy god, but this was Rory. He was the only person who treated her like an adult.
"You damage anything else?" Mr. Waverly asked, his concern replaced by dogged suspicion.
Lucy still wasn’t convinced her penny-pinching slumlord hadn’t planted Mr. Waverly onsite just to weed out information. Of course, she might be paranoid.
Must be the blood loss.
"Everything’s just fine, Mr. Waverly."
He made no attempt to remove the cane jammed in her door. Blue eyes she imagined were once clear and sharp, took in her face, searching, she was sure, for signs of deception.
Lucy rolled her eyes as her friend and neighbor, Emily Jenkins, came strolling around the front walk, eyes big and blue, her long blonde hair swinging, looking all of nineteen. Especially in the blue and white checkered jumper; an outfit she hadn’t been wearing when they’d gone for their standing monthly spa appointment earlier.
"Nice outfit," Lucy said.
"My sister is playing the lead in The Wizard of Oz in her town’s community theatre. I promised I’d make her costume."
"And that explains why you’re parading around in it how?"
"We’re the same size." Emily raised her eyebrows at Mr. Waverly’s back. "What’s with all the raucous?"
Mr. Waverly turned and smiled at Emily, the only person on earth, Lucy was positive, the old man liked. "Your friend’s having some trouble." He puffed up like a bird. "I just came by to see if she was alright."
My ass.
"I’m fine. Just a little tumble is all. No need to invite the whole damn neighborhood," she muttered.
This was turning from bad to worse. Any minute, Adam and Kate Johnson, who lived in same townhouse as Emily, would come traipsing over with their three kids and Golden Retriever to join the show.
From the street beyond the concrete walkway that curved around the side of her house, she heard the telltale sound of Rory’s 1965 vintage Corvette. The engine roared with three-hundred-and-twenty-seven cubic inches of pure, unadulterated power. The door slammed, and seconds later Rory rounded the corner, adding to the party. Lucy reminded herself to yank her tongue back into her mouth.
He jammed his keys into the pocket of snug, well-worn blue jeans that molded to him like a soft glove, and Lucy wished she had been reincarnated as a pair of Levis. He raked a hand through short, spiky black hair, a scowl pulled low over his deep-set, cobalt eyes.
Eyes that narrowed with every step that took him closer to her door.
He nodded at Emily. "Hey, Em. Where’s your little dog, Toto?" His thick accent tickled over Lucy’s skin. Just the sight of him made little tingles flush over her body. You are so pathetic.
Emily used her middle finger to scratch her nose.
"This little spitfire givin’ you trouble, sir?" Rory asked.
Mr. Waverly twisted as fast as his old bones allowed, and turned those shifty eyes on Rory. "Seems like she’s having a bit of trouble herself, moving couches and tables around with just those tiny arms for support."
"Hey," Lucy protested. "I may be small, but I’m wiry."
Both men shot each other a glance that ended with a snort of laughter.
"Face it Luce," Rory said with a grin, "even if you went head to head with a class full of preschoolers, the odds are dicey."
"If you guys are done with your merciless, and may I add, completely unprovoked attack, I’ll be leaving now." Lucy tried to shut the door again, groaning in frustration when she realized the wily old bastard still hadn’t removed his cane.
Rory moved around Mr. Waverly and, in typical Rory fashion, bullied his way inside her house.
He looked down at her. "What happened to your leg?"
"Don’t ask."
"Show me the scene of the crime."
Lucy rolled her eyes, but led him up the stairs and around the back to her home office and the half-bath inside. Rory stopped behind her. She smelled his aftershave and something exotic and distinctly feminine, which made her think of the sexy voice and boobs. Her heart melted a little bit at the idea he’d left his date to help her out.
Loud clumping followed along with the click-click-click of The Beast’s toenails tapping along the hardwood floor. When Lucy looked up, Rory, Emily and the uninvited, always nosy Mr. Waverly had their eyes trained on the mess that lay below.
"What in name of Ike Turner is that?" Mr. Waverly asked.
The "scene of the crime" lay just as she’d left it, though she’d hoped the evidence of her temporary leap from sanity had been a bad dream.
Not so much. In fact, it looked even worse. Maybe I don’t have any common sense. Maybe what everybody thinks is true. Lucy ordered her inner critic to shut the hell up, trying to focus on the present.
"That, my fine man," Rory said, "is an example of what takes place when bad things happen to good computers."
"Them one of those iPod thingies I been hearin’ so much about on the idiot box?"
"Close," Rory replied, though how he maintained a straight face, Lucy had no idea.
Emily rolled her eyes.
He crouched down on long, lean legs that pulled against the worn cotton of his jeans and examined the ruined remains. "It looks like you took a sledgehammer to it." He ran his fingers over the twisted, tortured metal.
Touch me like that.
"Oh, Lucy, what did you do now?" Emily asked.
Lucy bit her lip and tried to stem the tide of self-doubt that threatened to overwhelm her. She knew her friend meant well, but it only reinforced Lucy’s view of herself. She was torn between the urge to burst into tears or start punching something.
Emily leaned closer and whispered, "You know, they say violence against inanimate objects is a sign of deeper issues."
The tears that had threatened drifted away like clouds in a storm. "Zip it, Dorothy, or I’ll sic my flying monkeys on your corn-fed ass."
Rory turned and looked up at her. "Where’s your laptop?"
Lucy looked away and stared intently at a spot high on the windowsill.
"Lucy," he said, warning in his tone.
"I wasn’t using it! It’s so hard to work on that thing with the little…pad-mouse-thingamajig. I can’t create any decent design without it looking like a toddler on crack made it."
"What did you do with it?"
She waited a beat, and then admitted, "I sold it on eBay. I got a really good deal on it, and I used the money to buy that Coach bag I’ve had my eye on plus the matching wallet. Oh, and the scarf and hat, too," she added.
Rory shook his head. "Well, as long as you got the scarf and hat." He pierced her with his deep blue eyes. "You do know your mouse problem is easily remedied, right?"
She sent him a look that said she thought he was nuts. "Would we be having this conversation if I did?"
"How is it that someone who hates computers chose a career where she works on one daily?"
Lucy chewed on her thumb. "Still trying to figure that one out myself, Sporto." She nodded her head at the mangled machine. "So, can you work your magic?"
Rory let out a short bark of laughter. "Not even I’m that good." With gentle ease, he lifted one end of the silver tower, wincing when a chunk of metal dropped to the floor with a clatter. "I’ll see what I can do."
From behind them, Mr. Waverly asked, "Is that a rip in the linoleum?"
Lucy groaned.