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Read the First Chapter of LOVE AT THE FLUFF AND FOLD

Love at the Fluff and Fold by Kitty BucholtzIt’s finally time! My new book is out on pre-order! YAY! 😀

Love at the Fluff and Fold is ready to purchase, and you can read the first chapter right here. I’m so excited about this story, definitely my best book yet! I hope you enjoy reading this sneak peek!

Chapter One

Wilfred Larson buttoned his shirt and glanced up at his doctor. “So? What’s the verdict, Dill?”

Dr. Bob Dillon, Dill to his friends, wrote a few notes on Willie’s chart and said, “Clean bill of health. As always. Should have plenty of fishing in your future.”

“Wanna take the boat out tonight?” If there was one activity Willie loved most, it was fishing. Trout, bass, walleye, smelt – he loved them all. He and Dill had been fishing together since they were just out of diapers. He had the photo evidence to prove it.

“Let me ask the boss and I’ll text you.”

Willie nodded. He and Dill were quite proud of their texting skills these days. Not many of their retired friends had gotten on board with that particular method of communication, but Willie found that his nieces all stayed in touch more frequently if he texted them rather than called or emailed. No one wrote letters anymore since his wife, Velma, died.

Dill laid the chart down and leaned back against the counter in the small examination room at Loon Lake Hospital. “How’s Cassie these days? I haven’t seen her much.”

Willie slid off the exam table and tucked his shirt into his trousers. “She’s busy with her final papers and exams. Graduation’s coming up in a month or so and she wants to have perfect scores. You know how she is.”

Dill ran a hand through his snowy white hair. “Oh, yeah. Beth’s the same.”

Willie’s youngest niece, Cassie, had been driving back and forth to Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, about forty miles away, often carpooling with Dill’s granddaughter, Beth.

“How’s Cassie doing with, uh, you know.” Dill waved his hand vaguely through the air.

Willie shook his head. “Single and determined to stay that way, I guess. I wouldn’t say that Fletcher fella broke her heart as much as he humiliated her. Makin’ like you’re gonna ask a woman to marry you, and then high-tailing it outta town soon as the grass gets greener…that’s no kind of man for my Cassie.”

“If this were the Wild West, we could chase after him with shotguns.”

“If we’re chasing after folks with shotguns, seems like we shoulda started with Danny. But that ship’s sailed and I haven’t been able to turn it around for anything.”

Danny Kessler was like a son to Willie, just like Cassie was like a daughter. The two kids had grown up together in Loon Lake, had been all but joined at the hip since kindergarten. He’d thought for sure they’d wind up together. But just about the time the two of them had started noticing that their best friend was a little more interesting, a new girl had sailed into town and ruined everything. Danny had fallen hard for Bright Shiny, the not-so-secret nickname his friend Jax had given Lily.

“He still downstate doing construction?”

Willie nodded. “He’s been working his way up in that big construction company near Lansing. Getting promoted, doing more than they ask, getting noticed.” He didn’t try to keep the pride out of his voice. He’d been the one to give Danny his first hammer.

“Maybe you should drop a hint that Cassie’s available.”

Willie snorted. “Oh, he knows. He pretends he doesn’t care, but he’s been asking about her more since I mentioned it a few months ago. But if I can’t get the boy to come up and visit for anything but holidays, I don’t see how I can get them together again. Too bad I’m not dying,” he said as an afterthought. “That would put a fire under his behind for a visit.”

Dill chuckled. “Yeah, well, we’re all dying, aren’t we?”

“Sooner or later,” Willie agreed. Sooner or later…hmm. “You know,” he said slowly, his brow furrowing in thought, “it wouldn’t be a lie. You just said it yourself.”

Dill took a step toward the door and held up his hands as if warding off Willie’s words. He was used to Willie’s crazy ideas after sixty-odd years of friendship, but he didn’t like to hear them at first. “Hold on, where you going with this?”

Willie feigned an innocent expression. “I’m just repeating what my doctor told me. I’m dying. The kids should know so they can help me make my final plans. I’ll need both of them to help get my affairs in order. Right?”

Willie waited and was soon rewarded. Dill grinned and dropped his hands to his hips. His friend couldn’t resist the cockamamie plans they cooked up together.

“It just might work,” Dill said.

“We can make our plans tonight on the lake. Bring a notebook.”

Dill waggled his phone in the air. “We can use the notes app on our phones, remember?”

“Right, right,” Willie agreed. The two men were determined to be the most tech-savvy senior citizens in Loon Lake. Willie walked to the door and slapped Dill on the shoulder. “This’ll be fun. I’ve always liked Christmas weddings.”

* * *

Cassie walked as fast as she could to the administration building at Northwestern Michigan College. She needed to pick up her cap and gown before the office closed. Two more weeks and she’d be free of school. Finally.

She enjoyed taking classes, but she’d been working on her associate’s degree in hospitality management, and then her bachelor’s degree in business administration for seven long years. Thank goodness NMC had the University Center. She could get her bachelor’s degree from Ferris State University without having to move away from home. She’d thanked God for that innumerable times over the years.

While most of her classmates were locals, hardly anyone lived as far away from Traverse City as she did. And none of them planned on living in a town the size of little Loon Lake after graduation. She didn’t care what other people thought, though. She loved her hometown and planned to stay there. It had character.

And characters. Life was never dull, even on days she wanted it to be.

She turned in her paperwork a few minutes before five o’clock, breathed a sigh of relief, and headed for her car. During the forty-five minute drive back to Loon Lake, she thought of all the things she could do this summer since she wasn’t taking classes. She could relax. Go to the beach more. Go fishing with Uncle Willie more. Hang out with Tabitha and her kids more. Maybe she’d even get a dog.

On impulse, she pulled into Sonny’s Restaurant a mile from home to see what kind of pie they had today. The fruit pies were made with canned or frozen fruit this early in the year, but they had a banana cream, Uncle Willie’s favorite, and a chocolate silk, her Achilles heel.

Pulling into her parking space at the Loon Lake Fluff and Fold, she gathered her backpack, her purse, and the bag with the two pieces of pie, and headed upstairs to the apartment she’d shared with Uncle Willie since her mom died when she was fifteen.

Now that she was graduating, she’d need to decide the rest of her future. Like maybe getting her own place to live. Her uncle had been adamant about not taking out student loans, which was why it had taken forever to get her degrees. Earning the money to pay cash made college a part-time pursuit. But now she would start this next phase of her life debt-free. The pie was too small a thank-you for everything Uncle Willie had done for her, but he knew how much she loved and appreciated him. She really was blessed.

Which was something she needed to remind herself of now and then. Her mom was dead, she hadn’t seen her dad in years, her almost-fiancé had dumped her, her once-best-friend wouldn’t talk to her, and she was twenty-five years old still living at home. But that was the empty quarter of a very full glass.

Very full.

Upstairs, she dropped her bags in her room, found a place for the pie in the fridge, set out some ground beef to thaw, and wandered across the street to see if her uncle was in The Laughing Loon.

Uncle Willie was quite the businessman, and he’d taught her at least as much as she’d learned in college. He owned three businesses on this corner of Loon Lake – the Loon Lake Fluff and Fold, The Laughing Loon convenience store and gas station, and the Idle-Awhile Cabins. He’d sold the Cup and Cone Ice Cream Parlor before her mom died to help pay for Cassie’s and her sisters’ college tuition.

Since then, he’d worked with the Alexanders, local goat farmers, to sell small containers of goat’s milk ice cream and goat’s milk cheese at The Laughing Loon. It was a big hit with tourists and locals alike, and Uncle Willie got to continue feeding his ice cream habit.

A bell tinkled overhead as she walked into the store. She waved to a few customers she knew and stepped behind the counter to bag groceries while Uncle Willie rang up the items.

“Hello, darlin’,” he said with a smile in her direction. He pulled things out of the hand basket in front of him. “Oh, Nancy, I see you’re trying the new coconut passion fruit ice cream from Crooked Creek. This is a good one. Just came in yesterday.”

“You’ve tried it? I just love passion fruit.” Nancy Franklin was the history teacher at Loon Lake High, one of Cassie’s former teachers. She traveled every summer and brought back pictures and videos to show the kids what the rest of the world looked like. Cassie had loved that class. None of her college teachers had made learning as fun as wacky Mrs. Franklin.

“He thinks it’s his job to try all the ice cream before he sells it,” Cassie said, grinning at her uncle.

“It’s good business to make sure you’re selling quality products,” Uncle Willie insisted. “Kids these days.” He shook his head at Mrs. Franklin, who laughed with him.

Cassie helped him with two more customers, then gave him a hug hello in the lull.

“How was school today?”

“Good. Organizational Management is still kicking my butt. I’ll be glad when I never have to think about that again. Everything else is good.”

“I can’t tell you how proud I am. Graduating with honors. Your mother would be thrilled, but not surprised.”

Cassie leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Thanks, Uncle Willie. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Well, that’s true,” he said, making Cassie giggle. “Kevin will be here in a few minutes, then we can go have supper together. Pick out a movie. You don’t mind staying in with an old man, do you?”

Cassie rolled her eyes. “Old Mrs. G is old. You’re just…”

Her uncle raised his eyebrows.

“Old-fashioned?” Cassie asked.

Uncle Willie grunted. But his eyes twinkled in fun.

Looking through the DVD rentals, Cassie picked an oldie-but-goodie that they both loved, RED, a spy comedy with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren. She checked it out behind the counter, told her uncle she’d meet him at home, and left to make dinner.

Before heading upstairs, she walked through the laundromat to make sure nothing needed attention. She’d been working for her uncle since she was ten, along with her once-best-friend, Danny Kessler, and she’d learned that providing good service in a clean and friendly atmosphere was key to bringing customers back time and again. She tended to check things anytime she passed to make sure their customers were getting what they deserved.

As it turned out, one of the washers was half full of dirty water. A handwritten note from CW Emerson, the town dog catcher and an EMT, explained “I swear I didn’t do anything to break it.”

Cassie laughed. This was the third time in six months that CW had a problem with a machine. She pulled out her phone and called Edge, Jax Edgerly’s older brother — no one called him Leroy. The leather-clad biker was a mechanical wizard who could fix anything with a motor. He promised to stop by the next day.

Sitting on the couch later, watching the movie with her uncle and eating her yummy pie, she thought about her very full glass of life. She still had plenty of friends from high school, and she’d become better friends with some, like Edge, now that they were adults. She and Tabitha had grown even closer as Danny drifted away. Even CW wasn’t the turd he was as a high school football quarterback. Of course, that new teacher, Lena Hart, had brought out CW’s best qualities lately.

Six months ago, Cassie thought she’d found a man who brought out her best qualities, a man she might fall in love with, maybe marry. But he hadn’t understood that when she said Loon Lake was her home, for now and always, she’d meant she wasn’t leaving. He’d taken a job in Grand Rapids in January and she hadn’t heard from him since.

Not exactly true love.

But that didn’t mean she couldn’t be happy. Like right this minute. She glanced at her uncle out of the corner of her eye. He’d been a major influence as long as she could remember. When her parents were fighting, he and Aunt Velma brought her and her sisters down to The Cup and Cone, made them laugh, and fed them ice cream.

When Danny’s dad drank too much and lost his temper, Uncle Willie and Aunt Velma kissed his bruises and fed him ice cream.

When both of their dads left their families within a year of each other, Uncle Willie and Aunt Velma smothered them in love and gave them stability. And ice cream.

From the time they were ten, Cassie and Danny had swept the Fluff and Fold’s floors, emptied the lint traps, run across to The Laughing Loon to buy quarters for customers, and counted out the money they earned together, imagining all the things they’d do when they got older.

Uncle Willie taught them both how to run a business, how to treat customers, how to level a two-by-four, and how to catch and clean and cook many a fish.

Cassie smiled at the TV. She may not have a husband and kids and a big life in the big city like her two older sisters, but she was genuinely happy.

When the movie ended, Uncle Willie turned to her and laid his hand on her arm. “I need to tell you something.”

Cassie felt a tiny frisson of alarm. His voice and expression were more serious than she’d seen in a long time. “Sure,” she said, trying to infuse the word with a calm that was quickly waning.

“I went to see Dill today for my annual checkup.”

Cassie felt a tremor in her stomach. Please, nothing bad. She’d lost too many people she loved.

“And?” she prompted when he didn’t say anything.

“Well…” He dropped his gaze as if he couldn’t tell her whatever it was if he were looking in her eyes. “I’m…I might be dying, honey. So there are some things we need to do.”

Cassie felt herself gasp, her hands suddenly covering her mouth. No, not this. Not yet.

Her uncle finally raised his gaze to hers, looking determined. “I need you and Danny to help me get my affairs in order. Can you do that? Will you work together and do what needs to be done? For me?”

“Of course!” Cassie threw her arms around his neck, trying to hide her tears from him. “Whatever you need. Anything at all. I promise.”

Uncle Willie held her tight for a moment, then pushed her away. “I called Danny earlier today. He’ll be here in the morning. Then I’ll explain what I know to both of you. Okay?”

Cassie nodded. She had a hundred questions, and she wanted to press Willie with questions now, not wait. But he rose from the couch and moved toward his room.

“I’m tired. I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning, darlin’, okay?”

Cassie nodded again, not trusting her voice to work properly. He didn’t look well, couldn’t meet her eyes. Just how bad was it?

Lord, please don’t take him yet. I’m not ready.

* * *

Danny Kessler tried not to think as he shoved clothes in a suitcase. What did he need? How long would he be gone? He threw in T-shirts and jeans, a couple rougher pieces in case Uncle Willie needed some work done on one of the buildings, a couple nice shirts and khaki pants just in case of…

He shut down that line of thinking. He wasn’t going to die this week. They wouldn’t be planning a funeral. They just wouldn’t. But if he went to church with Cassie and Uncle Willie, he didn’t want to wear torn jeans and a T-shirt. He wasn’t in high school anymore.

He packed his computer bag with his laptop, a Wi-Fi device, his backup hard drive, and shoved his Kindle and a couple paperbacks into the space that was left.

What else?

He wanted to call Cassie. He desperately wanted to call Cassie. But Uncle Willie had said not to because he hadn’t told her yet.

His poor girl. She’d be all alone in the world. Well, she had her sisters, but she’d be all alone in Loon Lake. Who would look out for her?

Once again, a pain sliced through his gut. He used to be her hero, her knight, her best friend. He used to be the one who looked out for her, brought her wildflowers, shared her favorite pizza on the hood of his car while they watched the stars move across the sky.

And then he’d ruined everything.

Which was why coming home was so painful. The people he loved most were in Loon Lake. The ones he hadn’t hurt whispered behind his back. They must. That’s what small town folk do. And then there were the people who were just disgusted and disappointed in him, like his mother and his ex-wife’s family. Going home was simply not an option for him.

But if Uncle Willie needed him, he’d face the dragons for as long as necessary. When the crisis was over, of course, he’d flee back to Lansing where he’d tried to make a life for himself.

He looked around his one-bedroom apartment, trying to think of what else he might need. He threw in a load of laundry, putting everything he wanted to take in one load, hearing Cassie’s voice, as he always did, about separating whites and darks. Then he washed all his dishes, dumped a quart of milk down the sink, and pulled out his Igloo cooler to take the other perishables with him in the morning.

Working with his hands eased his mind. For a whole forty minutes, he didn’t have to think about what he would hear when Uncle Willie told him and Cassie what was wrong with his health — he wouldn’t say over the phone. When Danny was done, nothing else he could think of to do, he sat on the couch and let his mind wander.

Cancer? It was probably cancer. That’s what everyone died of nowadays. Would it be slow or fast? Would he suffer? Danny squeezed his eyes shut and tried to think of something else.

Maybe it was his heart. That would be better, right? Less pain? But death would come suddenly. Maybe he shouldn’t wait until tomorrow morning to drive up. If he left now, he could be there by midnight.

Danny pulled out his phone and texted Jax Edgerly, his best friend. Can I sleep on your couch tomorrow night? Don’t know for how long. A week or two?

A minute later, Jax replied. Sure. What’s up?

I’ll explain tomorrow. Thanks, brother.

He leaned his head back against the couch. God, please don’t let him die. Not yet. I’m not ready.

His phone rang, startling him. He felt his heart stumble in his chest when he saw the name on the screen. Sunshine. It was Cassie.

He should’ve changed the name in his phone’s address book. She hadn’t called him in two years, but the effect of seeing her nickname hadn’t dimmed. His chest squeezed just the same. Uncle Willie must’ve told her his news.

He held his phone tight, immobile with regrets. He’d messed up, then messed up again. Trying to minimize future damage, he’d said something stupid to hurt her so she wouldn’t contact him again. Unfortunately, it had worked. Three strikes.

But he couldn’t leave her hanging, alone, not when she must be hurting. He slid his thumb over the screen to answer.

“Hey,” he said, hearing the catch in his voice and hoping she hadn’t.

“Oh, Danny.” She cried into the phone without speaking for a minute. He squeezed the bridge of his nose and felt tears slipping out. Whether they were for her or for Willie, he wasn’t sure.

Finally, she spoke. “What are we going to do?”

He shook his head. He used to pride himself on having all the answers to her questions. But he’d been lost and without answers himself lately. Today in particular. “I’ll be there in the morning. We’ll figure it out.”

She didn’t say anything and he imagined she was trying to stop crying. “I wish you were here now,” she whispered.

Danny leaned forward over his knees, squeezing his eyes shut, trying to keep everything inside. He didn’t say anything. He wanted her, needed her, felt desperate to find comfort in her arms. But he was bad news, a disappointment, a screwup. She deserved far more.

“Will you be here for breakfast? I’ll make pancakes. I’ll go to the store and get some strawberries and Redi-Whip.”

His favorite. He felt a tug on his lips that would’ve been a smile if things weren’t so grim. “Maybe,” he finally said.

The silence grew, but it was the peaceful silence they used to share. There was a measure of comfort in the quiet.

Finally, she said, “Be safe, don’t drive too fast. I’ll have breakfast ready at eight, or whenever you get here. Be careful, Danny.”

“I will,” he managed.

Then she was gone.

How would he sleep now? He’d pushed her out of his head as best he could, tried to at least lock that door in his heart. He’d never be rid of her, but now he’d have to share her space, breath the air she breathed, feel the sunshine of her presence.

It just might kill him…if Uncle Willie didn’t die first.

Pre-order your copy of Love at the Fluff and Fold today!

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Bewitching Desires – A Fun Halloween Read

My RWA friend Rebekah Ganiere and eleven other writers have put together a collection of stories perfect for Halloween. The book was just released last week so it’s available to purchase now. Yay! Read on for more information.

Bewitching Desires infographicBewitching Desires: A Savannah Coven Anthology

by Rebekah R. Ganiere, Tami Lund, Niki Daninger, Jennifer Ray, Danielle Donaldson, Sheri Williams, Michele Mohr, Maria Arell, A. E. Snow, Andra Shine, Sonja Fröjdendal, and Kay Blake

Bewitching DesiresTwelve Paranormal Stories of Love, Hate, and Desire. Bewitching Desires, The Savannah Coven Anthology, is packed full of Witches, Warlocks, Werewolves, Ghosts, and even a Reaper. All based around the great holiday of Samhain – or, as mere humans call it, Halloween. The witches of the Savannah coven are all preparing themselves for their favorite holiday, but on the night when humans and spirits collide, nothing ever goes as planned.

Journey with an angel across the country, with a reaper chasing a soul hiding in someone else’s body, to a haunted hotel, with a reluctant supreme witch who’d rather give her powers to someone else, not to mention eight other wild and intriguing encounters.

Twelve interwoven tales from bestselling and up and coming authors will have you wishing Samhain came more than once a year…

iBooks Buy Link   Amazon Buy Link   Barnes & Noble Buy Link

Here’s the description of Rebekah’s story plus a short excerpt. Remember, there are eleven more stories in the book! Take a look…

Kissed by the Reaper  by Rebekah R. Ganiere
Some loves are worth a battle with both heaven and hell to keep.

Rose committed an unpardonable sin right before she died. As penance, she has been reaping souls for Lucifer for over twenty years. On Halloween night she finds herself in Podunk nowhere ushering souls back to hell when she runs into the mysteriously handsome Gabriel who’s not at all what he seems. After chasing him into a cornfield and battling an angel to get Gabriel’s soul, she leaves with more questions than answers.

Gabriel is an angel hiding out as a jumper. A soul that jumps from body to body to stay hidden on Earth. But when he finds himself mortally wounded there is only one person he can turn to for protection. The feisty and beautiful reaper who tried to kill him the year before.

With Gabriel recuperating in her bed, Rose is summoned by her boss to hell where he makes her a proposal. Find the jumper Gabriel and deliver his soul, and she will be set free. Fail and become Lucifer’s bride forever. It should be an easy choice. Problem is, Gabriel is the first person Rose has been able to touch without scaring to death in the last twenty years. And just his presence has begun to bring back hidden memories from her human life. In the end Rose will have to make the ultimate decision. Choosing Gabriel or choosing herself.

Short Excerpt:

“Did you know there’s a black guy slumped on the floor in the last aisle?” said one.

“What?” Alarm bells went off in her head. “Crap.” The guy from the back door. She’d completely forgotten about him.

Rose rushed to the side of the counter, threw the separator up and raced down the last aisle. The bell tinkled for the front door, but she kept moving.

She found him splayed on the floor, face down. “Dammit.” She knelt by his side and rolled him over. “Hey. Hey, wake up.” She patted his cheek.

His eyes fluttered open and went from hazel to golden and then back again. “Rose.”

Her heart pounded. A Jumper. “Elijah?”

He nodded. No wonder he knew her name.

She threw his arm over her shoulder and helped him into a seated position.

“How did you find me?” She glanced around while trying to get Elijah to his feet. A Jumper, especially a hurt one wasn’t the norm for her. As a Reaper it was her job to play bounty hunter and send Jumpers to hell. They didn’t usually come asking for help. Someone was on his tail.

“I’ve known all year.” Blood dribbled down his chin.

She laced her fingers between his, got him up, and leaned him on the shelf. She needed to move him out of sight and get everyone out of the store. No! She needed to get his butt out of her store. She still bore the scar from her last visit to Lucifer’s pad a year prior when she’d let him slip through her fingers.

“Did you take the angelbreath?” she asked.

He nodded. “The whole container.”

“You gotta leave. Now. At sundown I’ll have to reap you.”

He gaze connected with hers. “I’ve missed you.”

Her gut tightened and the feeling that she knew him from somewhere rushed through her again. All year she’d tried to forget him, but it was hard to forget an angel Jumper. Especially one who looked at her the way he did.

“Ah, damn. Come on.” She half dragged, half carried him toward the front of the store. It was slow and he stumbled several times but they finally made it to the curtain separating the store from the back rooms. She glanced toward the front counter. The goths were gone. So was the merchandise. Stupid girls. They’d pay for stealing from her.

She used her hip to nudge the curtain aside and helped him through the box maze over to a large red chaise lounge. She threw him down on it. He grunted and tried to pull himself into a sitting position.

“What the hell happened to you?” She looked around and located a box of tissues. Pulling out several, she dabbed his mouth, wiping away the blood.

“Reapers.”

She stopped dabbing. “Reapers plural?”

“Three.”

“Reapers don’t work together.”

He gave her a winning smile. “I’m a special case.”

“The Good Girl” Part One by Tracy Reed (Free Today)

Are you a dreamer? I am. I love to dream and visualize my life. In The Good Girl, Gabriella Townsend had one dream, work for Morgan Grant Holdings. In her mind, it’s the best company in the world and they offer the most opportunity for advancement. Unfortunately, like in real-life, dreams don’t always happen in our time frame, but in God’s. I like that, because it means when I put my dreams in His hands, they turn in into so much more.

In The Good Girl (free on Amazon through Friday, September 25!), Gabriella was content waiting for her dream job and when it happened, she got more than she expected.

The Good Girl CoverEXCERPT

gabriella

We pulled up next to a huge jet and parked.  My nerves were on edge.  I should have known we’d be traveling on the company jet.  Tony got out and opened my door.  “Mr. Marchant will be here shortly.”

“Thank you.”  He helped me out of the car and my mind filled with a thousand possible ways this could be bad.  I walked up the stairs and when I crossed the threshold of the plane, my mouth dropped open.  I looked around the beautiful space and figured if I were being sold into white slavery, at least I was going in style with a great dress. 

“Good afternoon Miss Townsend.  I’m Gil.”  Oh great another strange man.  Am I the only female working for this man?   

“Hello.” I shook the gentleman’s hand.

“Can I get you something while we wait for Mr. Marchant?”

Alcohol wasn’t an option, I needed to stay alert.  “A mineral water please.  Thank you.”

“Have a seat and I’ll be right back.”

I sat down and watched as Tony loaded the bags, then disappeared. I closed my eyes and said a little prayer, followed by a couple of deep breaths. Then I sent a text to my mother, “So far so good.” 

Gil returned.  “Here you are Miss.”  He looked out the window.  “Mr. Marchant has arrived.”

My heart leapt into my throat.  I took a long sip from my glass, popped a breath mint, and stood up.  I brushed the imaginary lint off my sleeve, rubbed my tongue across my teeth checking for lipstick, and folded my hands in front of me.  I looked out the window hoping to get a glimpse of the elusive Phillippe Marchant as he got out of the black Bentley, but Tony “The Wall,” was blocking my view.

I held my breath and aimed my eyes at the entrance, but all I saw was his back, followed by the voice from the phone. 

“Tony, make sure Marcos knows to go to my place and check on things.  Have him forward anything that looks important to the D.C. office, and I’ll see you on board.”

Now I was confused.  I thought Tony was the driver.  Who the crap is Marcos?  I’m surrounded by strange men.  I looked down briefly.  When I raised my head, my eyes landed on a very tall, young, hot man walking towards me.  My body reacted in a way I had never experienced.  I was trembling from head to toe, and a strange sensation settled in the lower half of my body. 

I’ve never seen an executive or man that looked like this.  Most of the executives at Morgan Grant were older and definitely not this fine.  This man’s skin looked like rich black coffee.  I wanted to touch his face to see if it felt as smooth as it looked.  He was wearing a light grey suit and a simple white shirt, with the first few buttons undone to reveal more of that beautiful dark skin.  He continued toward me and his spicy scent filled up the plane.  This couldn’t be…

“Phillippe, we finally meet.”  He extended his hand and I saw his guns.  My God, every muscle in his body was at attention and now he was giving me permission to touch him. 

“Hello.”  I shook his hand and a spark erupted.  No really, an electric shock. 

“Must be the carpet,” he joked.

“Sir,” Gil appeared. 

“Gil, thank you for taking care of Miss Townsend.  Once we get on our way, please serve lunch.  I haven’t eaten since this morning.  When Tony gets back, tell the pilot wheels up.  Thank you.”

“Yes sir.”  Gil disappeared to the rear of the plane.

“Gabriella,” he looked at me and the most salacious thought crossed my mind.  For a moment, I forgot I was a good girl excited about this amazing job God had blessed me with.  “Have a seat.  We have a lot to discuss before we land.”

I smiled, sat down, grabbed the necessary files, and buckled my seat belt.  I reached for my iPad and when I straightened up, Phillippe was sitting across from me.  He had taken his jacket off, revealing more of his incredible build.  He removed his cufflinks and began rolling up his shirt sleeves.  I was fascinated by the crisp white cotton bending at his will, releasing more of his demanding, intoxicating scent.  I tried to focus on my iPad, telling myself, Don’t look at him.  If you do, you might suffer the same fate as Lot’s wife and turn into a pillar of salt.  I lifted up my iPad and pretended to read.  All of a sudden the plane seemed dark.  I looked up and Tony was walking towards us. 

“I told the pilot we’re ready,” he said to Phillippe.

“Let Gil know, and ask him to bring me a glass of ice water.  Thank you.”  He looked at me and I was grateful to be sitting because every muscle in my body was numb.  “Turn your iPad off until after take off.”  He capped off his comment with a smile.  Dimples.  Are you kidding me?   

His looks are strong and commanding until he smiles and then he becomes a real life sex fantasy.  His eyes look like black diamonds, and those have got to be the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. 

What is wrong with me?  He’s not even my type.  Like I have a type.  My last relationship was with Todd Elliot, my lab partner.  Even then, I think it was a pity thing on both our parts.  He was short, fair skinned, sweaty palms and every time he kissed me, it felt like I was being kissed by a fish. 

I looked at Phillippe’s lips and wondered how those, gorgeous full lips would feel pressed against mine.  I bet they’re soft.  He probably doesn’t kiss like a fish, but like a man who knows how to take charge.  His kisses are probably filled with a lot of passion.  I bit my lower lip, lost in my fantasy of kissing him.

phillippe

I tried not to stare at her, but I’m shocked at how beautiful she is.  Nowhere in Tony’s report did he mention how beautiful Gabriella is.  My last assistant was a pretty woman in her mid sixties.  Mrs. Reynolds was more like a mother.  However, this woman sitting across from me is a lustful distraction.  I’m not sure if this is going to work.

I tried to play off that spark thing, but it was real.  Nothing like that has ever happened to me, not even with Chantal.      

I’m trying not to stare at her, but those are the sexiest lips I’ve ever seen.  Full and juicy.  I could watch her talk all day.  I wonder how she kisses.  Did I just say that?  What is wrong with me?  She’s not even my type.   But her petite frame and those curves are doing something to me.  I wonder how her hair looks straight.  The curls framing her face make her look sweet and innocent, but those lips…maybe I should send her home and just communicate via the phone and a few video chats.  Who am I kidding? That wouldn’t help, because even talking to her on the phone, her face would be in my head and I’d be envisioning those lips. 

When I sat down across from her, I was glad she couldn’t see how my body was reacting to being so close to her.  How am I going to spend the next month or so on the road with her?

“Turn your iPad off until after take off.”   When she looked up at me with those big brown eyes, I was done.  I polished off that glass of ice water in one swallow and it didn’t seem like the air was working. 

I was exhausted and planned to sleep, but when I saw her, that plan instantly went up in flames.  I didn’t want to miss one moment being in her presence. 

What is that parfum she’s wearing?  It’s taken over the plane.  When I wiped my mouth with my napkin, her scent was there.  It’s like spicy vanilla and tobacco, unusual for a woman, but very seductive.  I’ve never been around a woman as mesmerizing as she is. 

“Were you able to reach your mother?” I asked.  Maybe hearing her talk about her mother will kill the lustful thoughts I’m having.    

“Yes.  I promised I’d call when we land.” 

No such luck.  The sweet sound of her voice traveled into my ear and danced around my head before journeying to my core, awakening something I assumed had become immune to sweet talk.  The funny thing is, she didn’t say anything seductive or enticing.  It’s just something about her.  I can’t quite put my hand on it, although I wouldn’t mind touching every inch of her.

After we reached cruising level, Gil served lunch.  I was starving.  I drank so much coffee in Seattle, I think if you cut me, I’ll bleed Sumatra roast coffee.

So far the only thing that matches up to the report Tony gave me, is that she’s very smart.  Considering the amount of time she had to gather the information I requested, she did very well.  I’m convinced she’ll be able to handle any task I assign her.

She caught me off guard with her question.  She’s a lot more perceptive than I anticipated, which is what she’ll need working with clients and the other executives.  However, I’ve got to be careful not to slip up and make her suspicious of me.  I need to keep the truth about her job and my position a secret as long as I can.  I want her to be fully trained and comfortable working with me and Tony, before telling her why I really hired her.  The longer she believes she was hired to be the Assistant to the new President, the better.  She needs to believe there’s someone I report to.

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Tracy Reed

About Tracy Reed:

I am a single Christian woman who loves God, Fashion and Cute Guys. Not all women who write Christian fiction will admit to that.

The subjects I write about are considered taboo in Christian fiction. If you want to read about Christians dealing with unrequited love, apprehension to give love another chance, arranged marriages, physical attraction, divorce, annulment, controlling their urges, infidelity, abortion, dating younger men, being a single mother, slipping up and sleeping with your estranged ex, standing up for yourself, being honest about not liking your in-laws, still being attracted to your ex, battling postpartum depression, having challenges in your walk with Christ or if you aren’t too proud to admit you sometimes get angry and yell at God, then you’re in the right place.

The people that read my books have a thing for designer clothes and accessories and aren’t ashamed to admit it. To them a cute Christian guy on their arm is the finish to the perfect outfit.  Sort of like lipstick, you don’t have to have it, but it sure makes you feel prettier when you do.

Check out Tracy’s other books at her website: www.readtracyreed.com