Meet Steve Blumenthal. He did a stupid thing; got caught; and was sent to prison for two years. During his time, he defended the underdog and studied for a degree in Culinary Arts. The problem is, he was a promising NBA star. And his hometown won't forget how he's let them down.
Enter Steve's high school/college sweetheart, Angela Clayborn. She's the one who caught him trying to steal her stereo, and ended up sending him to prison. When Steve is released early, she's unsure of her feelings when she comes face to face with him after that traumatic night.
I think I've already recounted the story about how this came about: A news blurb about prison reform caught my attention and all of a sudden 'Steve' was in my head, saying he was trying to prove he'd learned his lesson, but the town wouldn't believe him.
What came out of my fingers was a story about how circumstances over the course of six days can change the lives of four people. Two other characters, Brad Morrison, who is Angie's current boyfriend, is sent to Colorado on business. As he's wrapping up his trip, he is given the opportunity to explore the town of Estes Park and the adjoining Rocky Mountain National Park. He is soon caught up in the drama of a defiant young woman struggling to keep her brother's woodworking business going, as well as managing her own riding stable.
I've had issues with the story since I wrote it three years ago. I had critique partners tell me 'Steve' was too angry, and they couldn't get past the first chapter. I've tried to tone him down, only to have him snarl in my head 'Don't change me, damn it!'
Finally, a fresh pair of eyes showed me how to contain his anger...and it was accepted for publication. This is my favorite Kenzie story so far; I hope it does well. And I'm excited and thrilled to announce it will be available Nov 23rd or 29th from XOXO Publishing.
#1 Steve and Angie
“Oh Ange,” he sighed. “I’ve missed your smile. You’re still the most beautiful girl…woman, I know.”
Her smile faded. “This, coming from a man who’s been locked away. Right.
“Why don’t you believe me?” He scooted closer to her and tentatively reached for her hand. “Don’t sell yourself short. Josh told me about the store, and how your jewelry is selling…Honey, I told you years ago you’d go far with it.”
The close contact and the pressure of his hand made her chest constrict. She took another shaky sip of her water and jumped when Steve reached for the glass and set it on the table. He stood up, drawing her upwards. He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles.
“I’m just going to say this,” he said, his voice rough. “I love you. You’re the one thing that kept me going, that kept me from going to ‘Prison Tech 101’. After I got clean, I decided I was going to do whatever it took to serve my time, and get a respectable job, all so I could win you back.” He cleared his throat. “God, Ange…I swear to you…that one dose of speed fucked up my future, but I’m not going to let it fuck up the rest of my life. I’m staying with Josh; I’ve got my driver’s license; tomorrow I’m buying a car. And my parole officer’s trying to help me get a good job, so I can afford my own place.” His voice dropped to a whisper and one hand stole into Angie’s bright tresses. His head angled toward hers and softly touched his lips to hers. When his tongue nudged her lips open and touched hers, she recoiled and dropped her head on his chest.
“Don’t,” she whispered. “I can’t…”
Excerpt 2: Brad and Emma
"Just the person I was looking for,” Gavin called. “This is Frank’s niece, Emma. Em, this is the financial wizard I was telling you about.”
Brad smiled warily at her as he slid onto the stool next to her at the counter. “I wouldn’t call myself a wizard, but I can certainly help with anything needed.”
“You!” Emma’s bloodshot eyes narrowed. “Are you snooping around my family’s business? We’re not about to knuckle under to pressure; I’ll fight with everything I have to hang onto the place.”
“Emma! Relax,” Gavin restrained the girl as she swiveled, preparing to launch herself out of her seat. “What’s gotten into you?”
Brad sat back, hands raised.
“He came into the shop, asking questions,” Emma said, her teeth clenched. “And now he waltzes in here and you expect me to just turn everything over to him? Let me go, Gavin.”
“You’ve jumped to conclusions again, girl.” Gavin easily swung her around and hugged her to his broad chest. “All I said was to let a pair of fresh eyes look at the books and see if he can spot where Ethan’s getting the money.”
“You mean losing it,” came a muffled sob. Emma’s stiff body gradually relaxed against his comforting arms.
Gavin chuckled. “We’re reasonably sure where he’s losing it, honey. If he continues to go to the reservation, then he’s got a gambling problem, and shouldn’t be allowed to run the store.”
“Then who the hell’s going to run it?” Emma demanded, drawing away and fiddling with the straw in her chocolate malt. “I certainly can’t. This is my busy season too.”
Brad cleared his throat as the waitress took his order. Gavin and Emma both had malts; he opted for a root beer float. “If I had access to your computer for a few hours tomorrow, I can certainly try to see any patterns.”
Emma laughed. “Computer? Well, that would make it easy, wouldn’t it? Only problem is, from what I can tell, Ethan’s not entered a damn thing into it in weeks. He keeps it all on an old-fashioned ledger, with the receipts stashed in various boxes. Good luck, Mr. Finance Wizard; you’re going to need more than a few hours.” She took a long drink of her malt as Brad’s float arrived. “When I did the books at tax time, it took me three days to enter all his numbers. I just don’t have time to go down there every day, and lately E’s been such a bear, I haven’t been down there in over three weeks.” She took a sip, turning back to Gavin. “What we need is a full-time bookkeeper. I’ll check my finances and see if we can swing it.” She cast a glance at Brad. “And if the Boy Wonder can work his magic, then we’ll really be able to see the whole picture.”
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