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Saturday, February 21, 2015

When A Hero Saves The Day...Even When It's Just To Provide A Much Needed Meal

Today, I'm sharing an excerpt from my contemporary romance, THE START OF SOMETHING GOOD, where the hero and heroine are having an impromptu dinner together because she just passed out on him due to her low blood sugar.

Most people know I write sexy, memorable Viking romance. But this series is completely different—quirky and funny with a smidgen of spunk. I hope you enjoy it!

THE START OF SOMETHING GOOD
Jamett & Joseph Series, Book 1

My eyes fluttered open, and Joseph’s beautiful face stared at me. He looked concerned, if my frazzled brain was registering correctly, and I wondered what had happened.

I could feel something soft beneath me, as if I were lying down. But with the shock of opening my eyes to the sexiest man in the world only inches from me, I had no idea where I was. I tore my eyes from his gaze and checked my surroundings. The familiarity of my living room comforted me to some extent, but knowing Joseph had probably carried me in his arms and laid me on my couch unsettled me. I had no recollection of it, and I could kick myself. It wasn’t every day that a woman found herself in the arms of a desirable man.

“Are you all right?” he asked, brushing back a strand of my hair.

I blinked away the fuzziness of my thoughts and shook my head. “What happened? Did I just pass out?”

“Yeah, you did,” he replied softly. “I caught you before you hit the floor, but I admit I wasn’t prepared for it.” He tilted his head to the side, observing me closely. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you have low blood sugar?”

I clenched my tingling hands into tight balls, my mind still a bit sluggish. I hated this feeling when it came on. “How did you know?”

“My friend Greg has the same problem. He usually warns me before he drops to the floor though.”

I closed my eyes, feeling exhausted. After a bout of my sugar crashing, I was practically useless. I tried to muster some energy, but none was available to me.

“Jamie,” I heard him call to me.

“Mm-hmm…”

“Open your eyes and look at me.”

I obeyed him, even though all I wanted to do was sleep.

“You need to eat something.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Tough,” he said, taking me by the arms and lifting me to a sitting position. He pulled me closer to him on the couch and steadied me. “I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of rummaging through your kitchen for food. Here.” He tore open the wrapper of a chocolate covered granola bar and shoved it in my hand. “While looking for this, I also found about five take-out menus from Thai joints. I assume that means you like Thai, so I ordered us some. It should be here soon. In the meantime, drink some orange juice. Again, I’m taking a stab here, but is that what I chased all those oranges for?”

“Yeah.” A sudden smile pierced my lips as I remembered Joseph’s hot pursuit down the hall. “Oranges help to maintain sugar levels once they’re back up.”

Joseph laughed. “Oh, now you decide to be all smart and doctor-like. Where was this woman who should’ve remembered this while drinking tons of coffee with nothing to eat all day?”

That woman was totally preoccupied, I thought inwardly, recalling the immense fun I had in his company. I made the decision not to give him an answer and save face. I drank the entire glass of the freshly-squeezed juice and glanced at him over the rim. I noticed he was still watching me closely.


“I’m fine,” I insisted. “You don’t have to keep doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Monitoring me like I’m some helpless child you need to keep an eye on.”

“Maybe I like keeping an eye on you.”

I rolled my eyes. His statement would have sounded so much better to my ears had I not made a spectacle of myself beforehand.

The buzzer erupted through the apartment, splitting my head in two.

“That was fast,” Joseph said, standing. He gave me a quick once-over. “Will you be all right while I’m gone?”

I crowded my brows in confusion.

“Thai’s here,” he said pointing toward the door. “I gotta go let the guy in the building and pay him. You all right?”

My memory came back to me. Right. Joseph ordered take-out. I nodded my head and took another bite of the granola bar.

He backed out of the living room and pointed at me, his boyish grin tickling my insides. “Don’t go anywhere.”

I feigned a smile on the outside, but inside I was darn near humiliated. Why did this man have to see me in my most vulnerable state, and why in the world was he sticking around?

During his absence, those questions continued to roll through my mind, especially after knowing his childhood sweetheart decided to give up on their friendship. I didn’t know that much about Joseph, but I assumed he wasn’t as strong as he was acting. If someone had done that to me, I would have been devastated. From the look on his face when I had opened the door and found him about to knock, he looked quite upset by the turn of events.

I then recalled what he’d said to me thereafter. I was going to tell you something, but I completely forgot what it was. You do that to me, you know? Make me lose my head.

I couldn’t help but feel special. I’d made this guy lose his train of thought. He didn’t appear to be a man who’d let anyone get into his head on such a profound level, no matter who they were. He had too much self-assurance to be that weak.

Yet, he admitted to being wounded. Seeing you…helps.

Again, I felt exceptionally special to have alleviated whatever strife he was going through, even if I had no clue what he really meant by the statement. Realizing the mammoth smile on my face, I quickly took another bite of the granola bar. The last thing I wanted to do was have him catch me in the act of enjoying his downfall.

Thank goodness I took control of my emotions when I did, for he walked in unannounced, a large white sack in one hand, keys in the other, and a small bag hanging from his teeth. He smiled the minute he saw me and kicked the door shut.

“Dinner is served,” he muttered, still clenching the bag between his lips.

He sat beside me, and I reached for it. “What’s this?”

“Extra fortune cookies,” he winked. “I figured there’s nothing wrong with stocking up on a little more luck.”

“More luck?”

“Yeah,” he said, tearing into the take-out bag. “I lost one friend and gained another all in the same day. How many times does that happen to a person?”

I knew the question was purely rhetorical, but I silently agreed with him. If anyone was lucky this weekend, it was me. When it came to good fortune, most times it would pass me right by. Someone must have slipped Mr. Sandman a missive. Either that or he tripped and spilled his magic dust all over me by accident.

“Don’t worry,” he interrupted my thoughts. “I’ll share with you.”

“You think I need some added luck in my life?”

“I know you do,” he concluded. “You’re contending with me in your life, all of a sudden, and I doubt it was something you planned. If that isn’t bad luck, I don’t know what is.”

I opened the Styrofoam container and regarded Joseph’s choice of words. “I wouldn’t call it ‘contending.’”

I watched as Joseph helped himself to a set of chopsticks and deftly lifted his first bite to his mouth. He proved to be skilled with the utensils and a sense of wonder overtook me. I, on the other hand, had never gotten the hang of them despite my many futile attempts.

“So, what would you call it?” he asked.

I speculated whether to try the chopsticks in front of him or just concede to using the fork provided for me by the sympathetic owners of the Thai restaurant. I chickened out. I ripped open the sheer plastic covering on the fork and dove in. “I call it opening a door for a friend in need.”

Joseph nodded, but he seemed lost in thought, toying with his rice and vegetables.

“You don’t believe me?” I asked.

His eyes landed on mine in a way that froze every muscle in my body.

“No, I believe you, Jamie. But I can’t help but think if you hadn’t known about Caroline walking out on me yesterday morning, you wouldn’t have opened that door at all. You wouldn’t have picked me up off the hallway floor and put me into my bed after my drunken binge. And I doubt you would have invited me in for coffee the next morning.”

“You think I did all that out of pity?”

“Honestly, I don’t know why you did it.”

I took a deep breath and prepared my response in my head. Truth be told, I couldn’t say I had a logical explanation for why I helped him in so many ways. Sure, assisting a beautiful man like Joseph had its perks, especially for a single woman looking to score a new man, but that was not me. I didn’t lend a hand to him because I aimed to cut forward in line of all the other women in his life. Just thinking that had me cringing.

“Well?” he encouraged.

I straightened my back and looked him square in the eye. “I did it because that is how I’m made. I don’t turn my back on those in need.” I stuck my fork deep into the pile of spicy goodness, on the verge of saying more. I bit my lip, hesitating to open the dam of my convoluted mind. I had so much in my head he didn’t need to hear, but I decided to at least unplug a small portion of it. “I don’t know if you’ve figured it out yet, but I’m not like Caroline.”

As soon as I said it, I regretted the words. I couldn’t look at him anymore and, frankly I wondered where in the world that daring side of me came from. I certainly hoped I hadn’t insulted him. Caroline was someone he cared for, and, by attacking her dignity, I might have overstepped my bounds. Then again, I wasn’t the insensitive wench who had attacked his heart with no concern for his feelings.

While two wrongs shouldn’t make a right, I wanted him to realize that not all women were heartless and self-absorbed.

“No, you’re nothing like Caroline,” he admitted. “In fact, you’re nothing like any of the women I’ve known.”

I was not aware of the exact number of females he had encountered, but with Joseph’s striking good looks and charming personality, I assumed they could at least fill a small stadium. “Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“Contrary to what you might think, I know enough about women being the only male amongst three sisters. Probably more than a man should know.”

“Somehow, I don’t think that was your only means of knowing the female mind.”

He looked at me askance, a half-cocked grin lighting up his face. “Should I take that as a compliment as well?”

“You should. You’re a very thoughtful, charismatic, handsome man. I can’t imagine you having any trouble meeting women or keeping their interest, with or without your sisters’ help.”

His hearty laughter filled the room, which made me want to laugh with him, though I didn’t find much humor in my flattering remark. I meant it. Joseph was every girl’s dream, including mine had I been searching for a perfect mate.

“You need to eat more, Jamie,” he said, gently elbowing my arm. “That sugar of yours is still too low, and you’re talking out of your head again.”

I giggled and picked up the small bag of fortune cookies. “Let’s see what Confucius has to say about it.” I dug into the bag and pulled out the first one. “You know how to read these, don’t you?”

“There’s a wrong way to read a fortune cookie?”

“Not a wrong way,” I corrected. “Just a better way. It adds more spunk to the average philosophical crap they write on these things.”

“Oh, yeah?” His face lit up as he swiveled his body in my direction. “How do we do that?”

I enjoyed how he assumed this would be a partnership in order to enhance the general, ambiguous predictions of a crunchy vanilla treat. I broke my cookie open and pulled out the slip of paper. “It’s really quite simple. You just add ‘in bed’ at the end of the fortune.”

“In bed,” he repeated skeptically.

“Here, just listen to mine.” I read it silently to see if it worked. Some fortunes didn’t make sense with the addition, but most times it added a whole new take on the prophecy. Mine worked perfectly.

He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still…in bed.

Joseph almost choked on his food. His reaction was priceless as he beat his chest, trying to clear his airway so he could continue laughing.

“See, I told you it made them better.”

“You weren’t lying,” he concurred. Excitedly, he reached for his fortune cookie and cracked it open. I watched him glance over it, reading it ahead of time with the additional word choice. His brow lifted and a devilish grin took shape. I sat transfixed in his gaze. “Oh, this is a good one. I think it might even be better than yours.”

“Let’s hear it.”

He cleared his throat as if he were about to give a presidential address.

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better…in bed.

Had I not been battling hypoglycemia, my reaction would have been a bit more spirited. He was definitely correct…his was better than mine, and I think he worried that I would’ve been embarrassed with his insinuative fortune. Maybe in time he’d realize I was not a prude, like I envisioned his Caroline to be.

“Guess you’ll never look at a fortune cookie the same again, will you?” I resumed eating while he continued to smirk at the tiny paper. 

“You got that right.” He tucked the fortune in the front pocket of his jeans and watched me as I chewed. “Is it good? Did I order the right meal?”

Remembering my manners, I didn’t want to talk with my mouth full. I simply nodded and hid my massive chews behind my hand. Before I could fork another hearty portion, he handed me the other set of chopsticks.

“Try eating with these. It tastes so much better.”

I took a few seconds to finish chewing and swallowed. “I’ve tried a thousand times and can’t figure them out.”

“That’s because you never had me show you. Here.” He took hold of my hand in his, and placed my fingers properly on the sticks while giving me tips on how one stick stays stationery in my grasp. I tried to listen to his expert advice, but all I focused on was the feel of his warm hands on mine. His touch felt exquisite against my skin, and I couldn’t keep myself from enjoying its effect on the rest of my body.

“You’re trembling,” he noticed. “You cold?”

“No,” I dismissed too quickly, wishing I would have conceded with his observation.

“What’s wrong?” he badgered sweetly, his eyes gazing into mine.

I had to look away. Normally, I could stare into Joseph’s eyes forever, but this time he had my insides in complete turmoil. “It’s my sugar, I think,” I fibbed.

He seemed to believe me and gave me back the fork. “I’ll let it slide this once because you need to eat. But the next time we have Thai, you’re using chopsticks. Got it?”

Next time? There’s going to be a next time?


My heart did a summersault triggered by the exuberant fluttering of butterflies in my stomach. I passed over his offer as though it were a normal, everyday proposal and included one of my own. “Fine. I’ll use chopsticks from now on, if you promise to let me ruin your coffee the next time you’re in my shop.”

He extended his right hand immediately without hesitation. “Deal.”

I accepted his hand, and we shook on it, his grip strong and compelling. Somehow, I felt as if we were shaking hands on a different pact all together. In securing two ‘next times,’ he seemed to welcome whatever the future might hold for us. 

Or was that just my overactive imagination kicking in?


Blurb:
Who knew Mr. Right lived right next door?

Jamie Sutherland, coffee shop owner and serial ruined-relationship survivor, moves into a beautiful loft apartment for a change of scenery. What she doesn’t plan on getting is an eye-full of her handsome next-door neighbor—in nothing but a towel—arguing with his significant other in the hallway.

Joseph Scarbrough's world crashes down on him one cruel morning when his childhood sweetheart rips his heart out of his chest and walks away. His humiliation isn't complete until he turns around to pick up the pieces and sees a beautiful brunette who just witnessed his Dear John moment.

Caught in an awkward situation, the two backpedal into their separate worlds. But fate seems determined to make their worlds collide on a regular basis. Is it destiny just being clumsy when it comes to the two unlikely neighbors or is it the start of something good?

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7 comments:

Cara Marsi said...

Renee, thanks for the great read. I loved it. Your covers are great. Good luck with the new series. I love books with food themes.

Melissa Keir said...

Renee...how fun! Waking up with a man looking you over is great. All the best.

Sandy said...

Your story is fantastic, Renee! So fun!

Renee Vincent said...

Cara: Thanks so much! It was nice to write something humorous and lighthearted for once.

Melissa: Glad you liked that part. I had a great time writing it.

Sandy: You are too kind! Thank you so much ♥

jean hart stewart said...

Love this! Great excerpt. Best of luck with the new series...

Renee Vincent said...

Thanks so much Jean!!!!

Marianne Stephens said...

Why don't I ever find fortune cookies like these?
Great excerpt!

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