Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrible at remembering dates? Well, I am. Awful in fact. And apparently I’m just as bad at getting
the correct date. I recently announced my new book PERFECT MATCH would be out on July 21st–which is today. Well, that is not the case. It is, in fact, going to be out July 31st. But to make up for my mistake, and make the wait easier, I’m going to post the first three chapters. Here. Now.
I hope you enjoy and definitely, definitely, definitely mark your calendars for July 31st to get the whole book.
“So Bobby strutted right in and just asked me if I wanted to go out Saturday night, as if our last, and only, date hadn’t been an abysmal failure. Remember? He took me to that disgusting bar that smelled like backed up sewer and my feet kept sticking to the floor?”
Franci opened her mouth to answer, but didn’t get time to respond before Josslyn continued.
“And he acted like he was such a big spender all because he sprang for two glass of cheap white wine and a game of air hockey. Remember that?”
Franci didn’t remember, but she even attempt to reply this time, realizing her sister wasn’t actually looking for confirmation.
“So I said–damn, would you look at that?”
Franci frowned. Okay, now she really wasn’t following Joss’s story. She waited, certain her sister would go on and the odd response would eventually make sense. But Joss didn’t, and Franci realized her sister’s last comment wasn’t part of her story.
Franci glanced at her sister, seeing that Josslyn’s previously amused expression was now clouded with irritation. She scowled ahead of them, and Franci looked around, trying to see what had triggered the sudden shift in Joss’s mood. But Main Street looked exactly as it always did.
The usual group of retired, old men in chinos and flannel shirts, sat on the benches outside the General Store, having their daily coffee and lament.
As if on cue, Franci overheard Wendell Thurston muttering to Stewart Flanders, “Hell in a hand basket, I tell you. The whole country, hell in a hand basket.”
They were even discussing their favorite topic, the impending fall of society. Nothing new to see, or hear, there. The old men stopped their grousing long enough to nod at Franci and Josslyn as they passed.
Across the street, Freddie’s Diner bustled with the late lunch crowd, and perhaps they were a little busier than usual. But it was Thursday, which meant the fried clam special. Everyone loved Freddie’s clams.
Then Franci noticed Dale Jordan walking down the granite steps of the town hall. He sported a suit rather than his usual grease-stained coveralls. That was a little out of the norm, but she couldn’t imagine why that would cause the annoyed shift in Josslyn’s demeanor. Although Dale and Josslyn did have a past, but then again Josslyn had a past with plenty of men in Fiddlehead Bay. The fact Josslyn was tall and shapely with green eyes and deep auburn hair had a lot to do with that.
Finally Franci decided it was just easier to ask, “What am I supposed to be looking at?”
“Up ahead? That bizarre woman?”
Franci squinted up the street, finally noticing the woman in question.
Ah, the new woman in town. Of course.
The locals had been abuzz about this woman since she’d moved into town a couple weeks ago, having bought the shop that had once been Gaudet’s Shoes. New people in town always garnered attention, but this one definitely had tongues wagging.
First they’d pondered what kind of shop she was opening. Franci had heard several theories. A health food store. An art gallery. Bertie Duprey even told her that it was going to be one of those electronic cigarette stores that were getting so popular nowadays. Since Bertie was a pack and a half a day smoker, Franci would have thought that might appeal to Bertie.
But Bertie’s hoarsely muttered, “An electronic cigarette, have you ever heard of anything so silly?” dispelled that thought.
The locals weren’t big on change. Even ones that might be a tad healthier.
But it was the woman, herself, rather than the store that had caused the most buzz. Strangers were always great fodder for gossip about, and this woman was stranger than most newcomers to Fiddlehead.
Today the woman wore what appeared to be a black Victorian dress complete with long skirt, mutton-chop sleeves, a lace high neck collar and even a bustle.
Between the cumbersome dress and her petite size, the woman she struggled with a tall ladder, trying to find even footing for it on the old, cracked sidewalk. After giving the ladder a little shake, she seemed satisfied. She hiked up her full skirt to reveal she even wore Victorian boots, the kind with buttons up the sides, then she started up the narrow rungs of the ladder. Personally Fraci thought her outfit looked more dangerous than the uneven sidewalk.
“What the hell is she wearing?” Josslyn muttered. “Does she think she’s headed to tea at Jane Austen’s place?”
Franci shot her sister a quick, confused look. Why on earth did this woman’s eccentric taste in clothing annoy Joss so much?
“Actually I think her dress is Victorian,” Franci pointed out. “Jane Austen was Regency.”
“Whatever, she looks ridiculous.”
Franci fought the urge to point out that at least a Regency dress might have made it a tad easier to negotiate on the ladder. The observation certainly wasn’t going to help Josslyn’s opinion of the woman.
Why did Josslyn have such a dislike of this lady? Franci didn’t think her sister had even spoken to Fiddlehead Bay’s newest resident. Heaven knows Franci would have gotten a detailed account of the conversation if Joss had. Besides, it wasn’t as if Joss didn’t make some wild clothing choices herself. Case in point, the very short, black skirt Jill wore now that showed more than an ample amount of her long legs matched with a ruffled, sparkly blouse in leopard print and a pair of red, stiletto heels. Joss never went for demure.
Compared to these two, Franci felt decidedly dull in her t-shirt, hoodie and faded jeans. Not that she was sure she wanted to dress like either woman.
As they approached the new resident, Franci could see she was replacing a light bulb over the store’s front door. Behind her, Franci spotted an open can of paint and used brush. The once dark green door was now bright red, and there was a sign on the glass.
“Phaedra’s Fantastic F…” Franci couldn’t read the rest of the sign, because the scrolled letters were blocked out by the woman’s large bustle.
Fashions maybe? Or Furs? Fiddles? Okay, the last one seemed a little unlikely. And it seemed unlikely she was selling vapor cigarettes either. Phaedra’s Fantastic Fags, isn’t that what cigarettes were called in England? Yeah, also unlikely, but boy, the townsfolks would have a lot to say about that name.
Franci’s attention moved to the store itself. Through the large storefront window, she could see stacks of boxes waiting to be unpacked and the mysteries inside displayed.
“Hello ladies,” the woman, presumably Phaedra, said from her precarious perch, a pleasant smile on her elfin-like face, a Victorian hat elaborately decorated with feathers and ribbons sat jauntily on her upswept dark hair.
“Hi,” Franci said, finding herself far more intrigued by the woman’s expression than her elaborate outfit. Her smile was warm and serene, yet her dark eyes sparkled as if she knew some private joke that she didn’t plan to share.
“You are opening a new store?”
Franci started at the sound of her sister’s voice as if she had almost been lost in a trance as she looked at the newcomer.
It’s the coldness in her sister’s voice that startled her, Franci told herself, even though she still felt a little out of sorts.
“I am,” the lady said. “It will be open tomorrow.”
Franci glanced back toward the piles of boxes in the window, finding it hard to believe she could be ready that soon. She must have a lot of help. Franci looked back at the woman’s unwieldy outfit. If she did have help, she should have had one of them scaling this ladder.
“I don’t recall even hearing that this place was on the market,” Josslyn said.
Was Joss accusing this woman of being a squatter or something? But it was true, Franci hadn’t heard anything about the old shoe store being up for sale either, which was a bit odd. Ginger Howe, the only realtor in town, had never mentioned it, and Franci saw her several times a week when she came to the daycare to pick up her grandson. Still while Josslyn was often less than subtle, in her communication as well as her clothes, she usually wasn’t quite so—well, rude.
The lady’s smile held in place and her deep brown eyes seemed to twinkle more, even though she had to have heard Joss’s coolness.
“I actually purchased it several months ago, directly from the owners. But I had some things to finish up at my previous residence before I could move here.”
Josslyn nodded, although her compressed lips and raised eyebrow stated clearly she didn’t believe the woman.
“Where did you move from?”
“A small town in Canada. I don’t believe you would have heard of it.”
“So you are Canadian?” Joss said as if she didn’t believe that either.
“No,” the woman simply said, and it was clear she didn’t intend to volunteer any more.
“Well,” Franci piped in, feeling the need to clear some of the odd tension between the two women, “I’m excited to see what your shop has to offer.”
The woman turned her attention fully on Franci and her smile broadened. Franci was struck by how lovely she was, and again oddly entranced by her dark eyes.
“I think I will definitely be able to find you something you love.”
Franci nodded. She knew should have found that mesmerized feeling unnerving, but she didn’t.
“We need to get going,” Josslyn said, actually tugging at Franci’s arm. “I want to find a new dress, and I only have a half hour of lunch break left.”
Franci gave the woman an apologetic smile, although nothing about the woman’s serene expression revealed she even noticed Joss’s abrupt dismissal. “Nice to meet you.”
“And you,” the woman said, her smile still big and genuine. “Come back tomorrow and check out my shop. I think you’ll discover all sorts of interesting things.”
Franci nodded. She had no doubt. The woman herself was certainly interesting.
Franci doubled her steps to catch up with her sister, who had already continued on down Main Street toward the waterfront.
“What the heck was that about?” Franci asked once she’d caught up to Josslyn and they were out of earshot of the new shopkeeper.
Joss cast her a quick glance, a peevish frown still making her glossed lips tight and thin.
“I just don’t like her. She’s…strange.”
“I’ve never known you to be particularly bothered by strange. Remember when you dated that sword swallower who used to travel with that sketchy carnival? Or that guy you met in Boston who made Marilyn Manson look like the boy next door?”
Joss really had dated more than her fair share of strange men.
“They were mistakes of my youth,” Josslyn said with no hint of embarrassment or regret.
Not that Franci expected any. Josslyn never apologized for her poor romantic choices. Even after her third marriage to a minor league baseball player that had only lasted two weeks, she didn’t even hint that she could have made better choices.
On the plus side, that divorce was the one that resulted in Joss moving back to Fiddlehead Bay to gather herself and her finances. She’d taken a job at the bank and rented a cottage on Green Pond. Neither of which could have been satisfying for a wild child like Joss. Of course the lack of diversity and selection here hadn’t slowed down her dating at all.
“She just dresses that way to get attention,” Josslyn added.
Franci held her tongue, but surely Joss had to know she was always trying to get noticed as well. The clothes, the hair, the makeup. But it wouldn’t be smart to point that fact out. Josslyn was who she was, and Franci loved her sister, even if she was a little over-the-top and frequently made poor choices. At least Joss lived her life. Franci sometimes felt a bit like she sat on the sidelines, watching everyone else do interesting and exciting things.
Which wasn’t so bad, Franci told herself. At least she didn’t have to get herself out of messes like Josslyn always seemed to have to do. That was one perk of being the responsible sister.
As they reached the waterfront and made a left onto Water Street, they were greeted by the clatter of hammers and buzz of power tools. Ah, the only other excitement in Fiddlehead Bay. The restoration of the waterfront.
“They have really made some headway,” Josslyn commented as they walked pass the worksite where a large construction crew was building a small boardwalk that would eventually be lined with several new shops and a restaurant. Fiddlehead Bay’s attempt to help their struggling economy and hopefully make the predominantly working class fishing town into a scenic stop for tourists on their way to bigger draws like Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.
One of the crew members spotted them and began waving frantically, hammer still in hand. It was Bobby Hardison.
“Josslyn! See you Saturday night.”
Joss paused, waving back more casually than Bobby’s exuberant flailing, although her coy smile said she was pleased by his enthusiasm.
One thing was for sure, all her irritation with the new store owner vanished as quickly as it appeared.
“Wait,” Franci gaped at her sister. “You agreed to go out with him again? After all that stuff you were just telling me about your horrible date with him. I didn’t see that one coming.”
But Franci didn’t actually hear Joss’s explanation for why she was giving Bobby another chance. Her full attention was drawn back to the construction site, or more accurately, the construction worker who now walked toward the still foolishly grinning Bobby. Her heart thumped almost painfully in her chest.
It was him.
Tall. Broad shouldered. His dark brown hair ruffled in the sea air. A couple days worth of scruff darkening his chiseled jaw. Franci knew this man’s looks as well as she did her own. She didn’t know his name, but she did know he was a relation of Calder O’Brien, the local pub owner. And there was some mention that he was divorced. Or maybe separated. But that was all Franci had heard about the man.
Funny, the town was abuzz with gossip about the new shop owner, but not much was being said about this newcomer. She supposed the lack of gossip was because he was a relative of a local, so by default, he belonged here. Fiddlehead Bay was quirky that way. Still, Franci was surprised that more of the single women weren’t all atwitter about this man. How could they not be?
She had noticed him a couple weeks ago on her frequent walks to the small park down on the bay. She told herself she went to the park because it was a nice, peaceful place to eat her lunch, but lately, if she was being honest, it was just to catch a glimpse of him.
So pathetic, Franci. So, so pathetic.
The man stopped to talk to Bobby when he saw his co-worker’s attention was elsewhere. The beautiful man followed Bobby’s gaze toward them. The man’s eyes focused directly on Josslyn. Then his gaze shifted to Franci, regarding her for an assessing moment. He returned his attention to Josslyn.
But Franci noticed his stare didn’t linger on Josslyn long either. Not men’s usual reaction had her sister, that’s for sure. Usually most men couldn’t seem to look away from Josslyn, appreciating her mile long legs and svelte curves with open admiration.
This man looked–disinterested.
For a brief moment, relief filled Franci only to be immediately replaced by shame. It was petty to be jealous of her sister and the attention she got from men. Of course, Franci wasn’t normally jealous of Josslyn and her men. She’d only felt that way about this man.
A man you don’t even know. Get a grip.
Joss waved one more time to Bobby, then she continued down the sidewalk toward Cher’s, the only women’s boutique in town. Franci glanced toward the beautiful stranger one more time, then followed her sister.
“I wonder who that guy was who came up to talk to Bobby,” Josslyn said as they reached the boutique’s door, her hand on the handle.
Franci’s spirits, already a tad injured by the gorgeous man’s complete dismissal, sank even lower. Great, Joss had him on her radar. Yeah, Franci couldn’t deny she did not want her sister aware of that man. Petty or not.
What difference did it really make, Franci reasoned. It wasn’t as if a gorgeous man like that was going to have any interest in her anyway. He certainly didn’t give her a second glance just now.
But Joss dating him? The idea made her irrationally irritated.
“I don’t know,” Franci said. She couldn’t stop Josslyn from discovering who the stranger was, but she wasn’t going to help her out by revealing any of the gossip she’d heard.
“He must be new in town. I certainly would have remembered him.”
“Don’t you think you should focus on your date with Bobby?”
“I’m just going out with Bobby to be nice and see if he can do better than that awful first date,” Josslyn said airily, then her glossy lips curled into a little smile Franci knew all too well. “That doesn’t mean I can’t be on the lookout for something better.”
“Maybe—“ Franci said, then caught herself. She’d been about to tell her sister maybe that was part of why her relationships never worked out. Because she was always on the lookout for something better.
Yeah, not a good idea to say that.
Josslyn raised an eyebrow, giving her an amused look. “Maybe? Definitely. A woman has got to keep her options open.”
Franci gritted her teeth and followed her sister into the store. Franci was pretty sure she could be happy with just one option. That gorgeous new guy.
Olivia’s little legs, still chubby from baby fat, dangled in midair before she dropped off the stool onto to her sneakered feet. She ran across the scuffed, wood floor straight toward Dylan O’Brien. He scooped up his daughter as soon as she reached him, pulling her tight against his chest, ignoring the fact that his work shirt was covered with dirt and dust and sweat.
She finished her hug, then pulled back to look at him with serious, golden brown eyes. “You’re late.”
Dylan shot his cousin Calder a wry look. Calder continued to wipe the wine glass in his hand, then hung it in the rack over his head, a slight smile curving his lips.
“Only ten minutes.” Dylan said to her.
“That’s a looong time.”
“How did you even know I was late?” Dylan asked. “Did Uncle Calder teach you how to tell time today?”
Dylan saw Calder shake his head out of the corner of his eye.
“I asked him,” Olivia said as if that should be obvious.
“Every fifteen minutes from after lunch on.”
“If he didn’t tell me, I threatened to paint his nails,” Olivia said.
“Sparkly pink,” Calder added, feigning a shudder.
“Cotton Candy Pink with sparkles,” Olivia corrected.
Calder raised his dishtowel in defeat. “All I know is I was scared.”
“Baby, you’ve got to stop threatening your uncle with glittery nail polishes.”
“Not that I couldn’t rock Pretty Pink with sparkles,” Calder pointed out.
Olivia giggled. “Cotton Candy Pink, Uncle Calder!”
“Liv, why don’t you go have a seat at the table over there and play Bubble Blast and I’ll see if I can get Willis to make you some of his famous fresh cut fries.
“I can do that,” Willis called from the kitchen, where Dylan hadn’t even realized the older man was listening. “Let me just get the fryer revved up.”
Pleased at the prospect of deliciously greasy fries and being allowed to play with Daddy’s usually off limits cell phone, Olivia settled at a table, while Dylan took a seat at the bar.
“So I think I have some welcome news for you,” Dylan said. “Sunny Days Preschool and Day Care contacted me today, and they have an opening for Liv. I was late because I had to swing by and fill out some paperwork. She can start tomorrow.”
Calder looked up from placing clean pint glasses under the counter. “That’s great. Not that I’ve minded having her around. Aside from the occasional nail polish threat, I barely notice she’s here. She’s amazingly good at entertaining herself.”
Dylan nodded. It was true. Olivia was a pretty quiet kid, but she hadn’t always been so reserved. He missed the little girl who’d giggled nonstop and got into mischief. He knew when the change happened, but he didn’t know how to help Liv get back to the carefree little girl she’d been.
Of course her mother being there one day and gone the next had to confuse and frighten Olivia. But try as he might, Dylan couldn’t get his daughter to talk about any of that. The loss of her mother. Their move here. Nothing.
“But,” Calder said, “I do think she’d be happier at school. I don’t think hanging out with Willis and me—“
“Speak of yourself,” Willis called from the pass through window of the kitchen.
Calder continued as if he hadn’t heard the old man, “And making crafts out of swizzle sticks and cocktail napkins and singing along to the jukebox is probably quite as stimulating as being around kids her own age, having story time and singing kids’ songs and running around on a playground.”
Dylan nodded his agreement.
“I have taught her a mean Texas two-step,” Willis called through the window.
“And she does know all the lyrics to “I’ve Got Friends In Low Places” and “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere.”
“Which sort of makes it all the more clear that she really does need preschool,” Dylan said.
“Exactly,” Calder agreed with a nod.
“Those is both fine songs,” Willis stated as he walked out of the kitchen with a basket of steaming hot fries. He brought them over to Liv. “Fresh fries with extra ketchup.”
“Thank you, Mr. Willis,” Olivia said, looking up from her cellphone game.
“Make sure you blow on ‘em real good,” Willis told her. “They’re awful hot.”
She nodded solemnly.
“I do think the normalcy and routine of preschool would help her settle in better,” Dylan said.
And hopefully bring back some of the old Olivia.
There was no question that going from living in a huge house with a pink princess bedroom and huge backyard with a swing set to staying in a cramped apartment and spending her days playing in the back of a bar had to be adding to her confusion. Dylan didn’t want that for his daughter. He wanted to make things as normal as possible. As happy as possible.
“I think, now that I’ve saved a little money, I should also look for my own place,” Dylan said.
“No rush,” Calder assured him, then he strolled down the bar to greet Paul Jordan, one of his regulars who came in everyday after work for his two beers before heading home to his wife and six kids. Calder grabbed a pint glass and filled it with Paul’s usual.
See, Dylan thought, everyone needed their routine.
The bell on the front door chimed again, and Shelley Thibodaux sauntered in on high heels and in a low cut dress, both of which that seemed to defy gravity. Her smoky gaze immediately located Calder and her coral lips curled into a flirty grin.
“Well, there’s my favorite bartender in Fiddlehead Bay. And the sexiest.”
Calder placed the cold beer in front of Paul, then moved to lean across the bar to kiss Shelley, just a peck, but she caught the straps of his apron, and kept him anchored over the counter, kissing him like her life depended on it. Calder didn’t fight the ardent embrace.
“It’s been a hell of a day, but it’s getting decidedly better,” she murmured after they parted. “A cosmopolitan will help too.”
Calder smiled, completely unfazed by Shelley’s aggressive behavior. “Extra lime?”
“You know me so well, baby.”
Dylan fought the urge to roll his eyes. At one point in his life, he probably would have found Shelley’s over the top looks and aggressive flirting pretty sexy, but now it just reminded him of so many mistakes he’d made, so many warning signs he’d ignored. Or missed completely.
“Daddy,” Liv tugged on Dylan’s sleeve, and he leaned down to hear her whisper, “that isn’t Uncle Calder’s girlfriend.”
Dylan shot an amused glance to his cousin, who had returned to their end of the bar and overheard Olivia’s comment.
“How do you know?” Dylan whispered back.
“She isn’t the girl he kissed earlier,” she said with the lovely earnestness of a child. “May I have paper and crayons?”
“She got me there,” Calder said, handing Dylan several paper placemats and an old coffee can filled with crayons. Dylan handed both to Olivia.
“And if this is the education my daughter’s getting, I really think we should find our own place asap,” Dylan said wryly. “Plus we don’t want to cramp your style.”
“I don’t let anyone cramp my style too much,” Calder said with a glimmer in his eyes.
“So I’ve noticed,” Dylan said, then returned back to Olivia, who still listened to them talking. “Can you draw me a picture of my very favorite animal?”
“A unicorn?” Olivia said.
Olivia scampered back to her table nearby, then Calder chuckled as he shook a stainless steel martini shaker filled with liquor and ice.
“Unicorns, huh? Next I’ll be finding out you believe in fairies and leprechauns.” He poured the liquid into a martini glass.
Dylan grunted. “I could use a leprechaun’s pot of gold right about now.”
“Couldn’t we all,” Calder said, leaving to deliver the pink cocktail to seductive Shelley.
Dylan watched Calder flirt. Maybe Calder had the right idea. His cousin loved women. He dated women. He had relationships with women, but he always kept it casual. He never let himself get tied down. Dylan looked down at the gold wedding band on his finger. His constant reminder that while he once believed true love existed, he’d just been a stupid fool. True love was about as real as the unicorns Olivia loved so much.
PERFECT MATCH available July 31st…
The Matchmaker knows you can’t find the perfect fit if you don’t try on the right size…
Nothing extraordinary ever happens in Fiddlehead Bay, Maine until an enigmatic woman moves into the small seaside town and opens her shop of eclectic odds and ends. There are rumors among the locals the shopkeeper is a modern day fortune teller and matchmaker, and Franci Grassette is fascinated by the concept. Her nonexistent love life could use some matchmaking. Heck, it could use a miracle.
Dylan O’Brien came to Fiddlehead Bay to make a fresh start with his daughter and to forget the deceits of his wife and his dark past. Not to get involved with a woman. But he soon finds himself always running into Franci, first as his daughter’s daycare teacher, then as his landlord. And it’s getting harder and harder to ignore his attraction to the sweet, thoughtful and sexy woman.
Franci isn’t sure if the shopkeeper is making the meetings with Dylan happen, or if it’s just coincidence. But when the “matchmaker” helps her find a perfect dress for the town’s party of the year, Dylan suddenly makes his interest in Franci very clear, and it’s definitely not just as his daughter’s teacher. But you can’t outrun the past and it catches up to Dylan with a bang, testing their new love, and threatening their PERFECT MATCH…
Tristan McIntryre is finally moving up the ladder of demon success. The Prince of Darkness himself has put Tristan in charge of total demonic takeover–by way of HOT! magazine, where Tristan has to bite the proverbial forked tongue working alongside she-devil diva Finola White. His biggest distraction is the last kind a demon of lust like him needs: a mortal woman. Worse, he likes her.
Georgia Sullivan clearly wasn’t thinking when she signed on to work at HOT! It pays the rent, but now she’s surrounded by demons and size 2 models. Plus, she has a huge crush on her insanely handsome boss, Tristan. Not a man to write home about. Yet, she senses that deep down he’s a good guy. It’s complicated.
As Tristan and Georgia play with fire, project total demonic takeover begins to run into a few snags. The temperature is definitely rising–or worse, Tristan could be falling in love. . .
And don’t miss my latest book with the fabulous Erin McCarthy! Another great Halloween read! After all nothing says Halloween like vampires and Cher impersonators. Yes it’s true, you get both in this book. How can you resist that???