Hi Michele and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Catch Me!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Catch Me is the second book in my Tycoon’s Temptation series.
Master pastry chef, Tabitha Seils, has suffered through, ovarian cancer, getting dumped days before her wedding, and a subsequent miscarriage. Men and a relationship aren’t top on her list. Her focus is centered on the new construction of her bakery. That, and her desperate yearning to adopt a baby. When the adoption agency lets her know a newborn has become available, she sees this as her chance to have what she has longed for. With her money tied up in the expansion of her bakery, she needs to find the funds to cover the adoption fees.
Dominic needs his trust fund to get in on a very lucrative real estate deal. He also has an obligation to put those funds back into his family’s yacht business to prevent it from going under. But to gain access to the money, he must be married by age thirty-one. In six months. As he sees to the construction of Tabitha’s bakery, they butt heads at every turn. The fact that she doesn’t like him makes her a perfect fit to help him settle his trust clause. They strike a deal—marry, divvy the funds, get an annulment and solve both their problems. Their pseudo-nuptial starts to feel real, something neither expected. When a situation occurs that could cause their plan to crumble before the ink dries on the trust agreement, both have to make a choice of what is most important.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
There were so many, but here are a few of my favorites:
His stare lifted and held hers in an almost harsh, silent command.
“You’re about to marry her best friend, so I expect you’re buttering up to the
Ice Queen of Hearts.”
“He’s still renting space in your head for free.”
“Clearly you’ve never lived with a woman. More to the point, you’ve never had to wait patiently on one to dress for an event.”
Tabitha pictured herself performing a Moe Howard move—Stooge-slap those wide, jolly grins off their faces.
What inspired this book?
One of the things I did that helped to create the characters was go to Las Vegas, which is where a large part of the book takes place. While there, I had a chance to chat with two pastry chefs. By the end of our conversation, I had an entire series playing out in my head.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
Tabitha is a strong woman with lots of wounds. She tries to hide her vulnerability beneath a cold shell. Dominic is self-absorbed. Together, they’re like oil and water. In my opinion, that’s the best combination. I can peel away until I reach their loving soul.
What was your favorite scene to write?
Tabitha hears a noise in her hotel suite and goes to investigate. I laughed the entire time while writing this scene:
She squinted at the glare of the city lights beaming in through the windows, then glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand—1:52 a.m. In need of a glass of water, she rolled out of bed and padded to the kitchen. The sight of muscular calves and large bare feet—the only parts of the intruder that were visible from within the open door of the fridge—drew her up short. Without thinking, she charged, spun with a roundhouse kick, a move she’d learned in her muay Thai self-defense class, and landed a heel center mass into the door. The move knocked the individual clear off his feet, dropping him where he stood.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
Hmm. I feel all scenes have a certain complexity. Shaping the characters, tying in emotion, and keeping the story pace can sometimes be challenging.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
This book definitely conveys the style I enjoy writing. I love to develop a strong alpha heroine with many layers. I believe I achieve that with Tabitha in this story. Add to it a just as strong alpha hero like Dominic, it’s explosive…but in a good way.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I want readers to fall into the story, as if they are living alongside the characters. I want them to be able to vividly see the settings, imagine the taste of the desserts, and I hope readers will be able to feel Tabitha’s and Dominic’s emotions, good and bad. That, to me, says I’ve done my job in creating a well-built world.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently working on book three in the Tycoon’s Temptation series, which releases in early 2021 and jotting notes for a holiday book.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: An ebook copy of Catch Me & 3 Tule ebooks of your choice
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Excerpt from Catch Me:
“Afternoon, Erica. Is Miss Chase in?” Dominic interrupted the receptionist in the middle of a generous bite of her Jersey Mike’s footlong. “I’ll just head on back.” Her jaws rapidly worked through the mouthful as he started off toward the executive suite.
His patience in short supply, he paid no regard to the heads bobbing up from those stationed within the bullpen of Chase Investments’s twenty or so low-wall office cubicles on his march forward.
Beyond the glass-wall partition, he passed the empty executive assistant’s desk, crossed glossy maple-wood finishes, and entered Kennedi Chase’s office. There, she and his brother, Trenton, sat hemmed together upon the mahogany leather couch, chopsticks working, the smell of spicy beef permeating the moderate-sized corner office. Practically inseparable from the moment they got engaged several months ago, it came as no surprise to find the happy couple together. The timing couldn’t be better.
The entire ride over, Dominic had told himself to keep his cool, not to blow his stack, but his frustration must have managed to resurface upon his face. The lovestruck pair’s jovial chatter hit a brick wall of silence as they stared back at him, like deer facing fast-approaching high beams.
“Dom, what’s wrong?” Trenton stuck the wooden utensils into his takeout and set the carton on the center oak table. He came to the edge of his seat with legs spread and palms braced on his knees. His steel-blue eyes alert, he appeared prepared to take on whatever the battle put before him. “Bro, have a seat.”
Related by marriage since the age of five and Trenton age six, Dominic had remained close with his brother even after their parents—his mother and Trenton’s father—decided to end their ten-year nuptials.
“Yes, Dom, have some lunch. The bulgogi’s really good.”
Meeting amber-brown, kind eyes set in features the shade of warm toffee, Dominic took a breath to try to draw on a measure of calm. “Kennedi, you need to talk to your friend, Tabitha. I just left a very pissed off supervisor at the casino construction site. Valerie said Tabitha’s been over there again making—”
He paused. Across the room, the bone of his contention stepped out of the adjoining bathroom. An instant heat of anger slid up his spine, wrapped around his neck, and squeezed like a boa. His glare narrowed on the woman who drove his frustration.
“You.” He pointed a stiff index finger squarely between her cool, hazel eyes. “I know what you did. You don’t have any authority to be giving orders to the construction crew. I’ve told you not to visit the site without my approval.”
“And I’ve told you, Mr. Balaska, last I checked, you’re not my father.” The infuriating woman delivered him a slow roll of her eyes—a mannerism he’d ordinarily find fucking sexy had it been any other woman. It was a clear dismissal as she strode to the leather armchair.
She drew that inky, waist-length braid back over her shoulder with a she-devil flair and pinched a snow pea between slender, tawny-tan fingers, munching away before grabbing the carton of soy-glazed brussels sprouts. “I go where I damn well please.” She didn’t give so much as a glance his way.
Dominic’s temper crackled at her blatant disregard. “Not anymore, you don’t. I’ve placed security at the site. If you show up again without prior approval from me, you’ll be escorted off the grounds.”
Her head snapped up from the smorgasbord of Korean takeout, eyes wide, her pink, pouty lips thinned. “You can’t do that!”
“Can and did. Now tell me again what I can’t do.”
“How about I show you?” A swift flush of color flooding her already naturally blushed cheeks, she jumped to her feet and started to charge at him. Kennedi flung herself up from the couch and blocked her pursuit, holding her back by the shoulders. Shrugging off her friend’s grasp, Tabitha sidestepped Kennedi and faced him in full challenge. “Who do you think you are? I have a right to keep track of the construction progress of Chase Confections. It’s my store.”
Dominic dared her objection with his own. “Progress? Is that what you call changing the blueprints? It’s Kennedi’s store, too, but you don’t see her pressing Valerie with unauthorized and plain old thoughtless changes.”
“Thoughtless!” Her aggressive, wide step forward matched his, meeting him essentially toe to toe. Though his six-foot-two frame topped her by about a quarter of a foot given those khaki-colored canvas TOMS on her feet, she held steady, head angled back, her glare precision-sharp with his. “Damn right I changed it,” she sneered as that tiny diamond stud glinted like ice fire at the side of her nose. “You’re just pissed because I upset your little girlfriend, Valerie.”
“Girlfriend?” Eyes closed, grappling for a modicum of patience, he shook his head. “Woman, what are you talking about? Valerie is the construction site supervisor for both Shaw Hotel and Casino, and Chase Confections. You’re not to direct what she does. Get that through your—”
“Let’s all calm down.” Trenton came to his feet and wedged himself between them. His head swung toward Tabitha, then settled on Dominic. “What sort of changes are we talking about?”
Dominic let go another quiet breath to level out and slacken his clenched jaw to avoid cracking a molar. “She marked up the design specs, took out an entire wall, and drew a big, red X on a metal beam to have it removed. We’re ten months into construction. Any and all changes must be reviewed and approved by me.” His temper roiling just below a simmer, he aimed his glower over his brother’s shoulder at the insufferable woman. “It’s a support beam; it can’t be removed. Valerie tried to tell her that, but she wouldn’t listen.”
“That ugly pole will get in the way of the refrigerated glass display counter that will sit in its very spot.” Stepping around Trenton, she confronted Dominic once more. “I didn’t remove the beam. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.” She looked at Kennedi and Trenton. “I shifted it a measly three feet to the right, is all.”
“You. Don’t. Get. To. Make. Changes. Without. My. Say.” Dominic glared down on her slender build, and damn if he didn’t get a swift kick of strawberry-scented shampoo when she whipped that ridiculously long braid back over her shoulder in that way she did, her stark defiance holding firm. Her crinkled brow contorted excruciatingly attractive features that looked ready to slice through a major artery. “The beam stays where it is.”
“You don’t get to tell me—” she started.
“You heard me, Miss Seils.” He pivoted and headed to the door but stopped short when it opened. “Afternoon, Evie.” She pushed red-wire frames up the subtle brush of freckles sprinkled across the bridge of her nose, her gaze probing. An easy grin surfaced past his irritation, but not before he saw his anger register in her quizzical stare.
“Dom…uh, hey. You okay?”
Very few times he’d come upon Evie, the third partner in Chase Confections, without her expression carrying a warm smile. Unlike her friend Tabitha. “Good seeing you, Evie. Enjoy your day.”
Evie nodded. “Dom, you try to do the same.”
He gave a glimpse over his shoulder at Tabitha and met the chill in those hazel eyes that still bored into him like sharp daggers.
“Yeah, I’ll try.”
“Argh!” Tabitha shrilled and dropped down into the twin armchair opposite Evie. Snatching her sprouts, munching through her fury, she slouched back and gave a look up at Kennedi, with Trenton at her side. “Kenni, who is he to tell us what we can and can’t do with our bakery?”
“I see you and Dom went at it again.” Evie tore the protective paper off a set of chopsticks and dug into the now-tepid veggie fried rice she’d called ahead for more than a half hour ago. “That explains why he looked ready to explode.” Sounding not at all interested, she pointed toward the opposite end of the table. “Someone please pass me a napkin.”
Trenton assisted Evie before scooping his suit coat from the couch’s armrest and slipping into it. “Tabitha, I believe you’ve hit a new record with Dom. Rarely have I witnessed my brother at this level of pissed.” His head angled to the side, brow lifted. “Quite honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this enraged…toward a woman, that is. I’ll go to the site tomorrow and speak with Valerie to see what can be done about the beam.”
Tabitha came to her feet. “Trent, you have a whole team of engineers on site. Why does your brother get to play dictator?”
“He’s my COO. I value his input, and I trust he’ll see that things get done the way I want them.”
“Pain in the ass is what he is.” Frustrated, Tabitha jabbed her hands into the back pockets of her denims and paced a narrow path. “Valerie has an issue with me because she has a thing for Dominic. That’s what this is really about.” She turned to Trenton and Kennedi. “You should see the way the two of them laugh it up, and that woman croons over him. ‘Oh, Dominic, you’re so funny. That’s a nice suit; it fits your frame so perfectly.’ Blah, blah blah,” she mocked and rolled her eyes. “And he eats that crap up. It’s disgusting. So unprofessional. I think Valerie sees me as competition.” She dusted her hands and brought them up, palms out. “You can tell her not to worry; he’s all hers. Not interested. Self-absorbed pretty boys with an ego chip on their shoulder aren’t my type.”
With a small smile, Trenton nodded. “You dislike my brother. Duly noted, but I don’t think you give him enough credit.”
“And I don’t think Dom gives Tab enough credit,” Kennedi defended her. “She has a right to monitor the construction progress and make decisions that best suit our confectionary.”
Tabitha sent a slight appreciative grin her friend’s way. “The changes were necessary.”
“I’ll go talk to him.” Trenton turned to Kennedi. “Don’t forget to discuss that other matter,” he said quietly, and Kennedi nodded.
Tabitha’s ears perked up, and Kennedi’s gaze brushed Trenton’s when his slid her way for the barest of moments. If the two thought they were being cleverly incognito, they’d failed. She’d also caught Kennedi’s “subtle” glance at Evie that had been about as conspicuous as her fiancé’s a moment ago.
“Thanks for lunch, love.” Trenton’s arms circled Kennedi’s waist and drew her intimately close.
As the couple shared a lingering lip-lock and soft whispers of affection, both Tabitha and Evie directed their concentration to eating their lunch.
Far too much PDA for one o’clock in the afternoon. That said, it was nice to see her friend so happily in love.
“Tabitha, Evie, enjoy your day.” Trenton strode out.
When the door closed, her eyes sparkling like rare gemstones and all smiles, Kennedi took a seat on the couch. “Damn, I love that man.”
“No, really?” Tabitha delivered her a sardonic grin. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“I’d never have guessed.” Evie snickered.
“Now spill it.” With her take-out carton in hand, Tabitha relaxed back in the chair. “I heard what Trenton said. What is it you’re supposed to tell me?” Her friend’s lovestruck, starry-eyed gaze instantly sobered. Kennedi bit her bottom lip; a telltale sign it wouldn’t be anything Tabitha would find pleasant to hear.
“Tab, maybe you should stay away from the construction site for a while.”
And there it is. Tabitha cut Kennedi a hard side-eye. “Not a minute ago you agreed that I should be able to monitor our confectionary’s construction progress.”
“You’re taking Dominic’s side. Figures,” she bristled. “You’re engaged to Trenton; it’s no shock you’ll side with his brother.”
“That’s not the case and you know it. Stop getting it twisted,” Kennedi admonished on a sigh. “Shaw Hotel and Casino is nearly finished. I just don’t think changes at this late stage are a good idea. Construction on our confectionary that butts up against the hotel-casino will be completed ahead of schedule. If we start trying to make changes, it’ll stretch out our grand opening date. Not to mention, Trenton and I have ads running nonstop all over the place, announcing Chase Confections’s grand opening. It’s best we don’t make any major changes.”
“Kenni’s right, Tab. Our lease on the temporary space will terminate right around the time we open in the new location. We don’t want to have to sign on to another term,” Evie added, and both partners supported their appeals with a shared nod. “That said, I’m sure we can figure out a way to work the beam into our décor. I’ll get to work on a mural design with our logo to dress it up. But that’s not what Kennedi and Trenton were whispering about.”
Tabitha looked between her friends, then set her attention on Evie. “That’s to say you know what they were whispering about.”
Evie turned her head to Kennedi. “Go on, tell her.”
Silence. The two stared back at one another, as though trying to will the other to speak.
Kennedi’s pencil-stiff posture caused Tabitha to tense tightly herself. “One of you had better start talking before—”
“Okay, okay.” Kennedi came to the edge of her seat, her spine as erect as a two-by-four. “Shaw-Vegas’s fifth anniversary kicks off next week. The celebration will go on the entire month. There will be celebrity guest appearances, concerts…all sorts of events. Trent thought it would be a good idea to introduce Chase Confections on the West Coast by offering our custom pastries at Shaw’s signature restaurant, Pearl Fine Dining.”
Evie pinned her frizzy, unruly, dark toffee ringlets behind her ears. “With our bakery reopening soon, we have the East Coast covered. Pearl would be a great promo opportunity to market us out west.”
Still bouncing her head back and forth between them, Tabitha laughed. “Why would you think I’d have a problem with that? You two can be so dramatic. West Coast publicity sounds good to me.”
“Trent liked the cake design you created for the D.C. casino groundbreaking ceremony last year—so much so, he was hoping you’d do something similar for his Vegas anniversary celebration. Nothing as elaborate as the six-foot Triton,” Kennedi clarified. “Trent wants to add a specialty dessert to Pearl’s menu, signature crafted like only we can.”
Tabitha nodded. “No biggie. We’ll bake and ship frozen overnight like we always do.”
Kennedi looked at Evie, then back at Tabitha. “We can overnight ship our custom pastries. Baked fresh is what we’re known for. But given that it’s Shaw’s anniversary, we felt you should go to Vegas to put a face to Chase Confections, put us on the West Coast map, so to speak.”
“I suggested you should go.” Evie removed her glasses and buffed the lenses on the end of her T-shirt as she met Tabitha’s stare. “Think about it,” she said while setting the frames back in place. “When celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse, Joël Robuchon, or Wolfgang Puck make an appearance at their restaurants, people crowd in just to get a glimpse at them.”
“Evie, I’m not a renowned culinary personality.”
“Doesn’t matter. Pearl is already booked solid for the entire month, and that’s after only three days of running the Chase Confections promo.”
Tabitha blinked. “What promo?” Evie’s baby-leaf-green eyes met Kennedi’s amber-brown ones, both ladies looking as though they’d been caught with hands in the cookie jar. Tabitha narrowed her own eyes as hard as black ice. “What the hell is going on? What promo?” She directed her glare at Kennedi since she handled their marketing.
“Remember those photos we took of the three of us to promote the bakery relocating to its new home next to Shaw Hotel and Casino? Well, Trent—er, Dominic has it on display at Shaw-Vegas.”
“I know you weren’t thrilled about how your pics turned out, but it’s just a small poster ad, I’m told,” Evie hurriedly explained. Squinting, she pinched her fingers close together. “Tiny ad.”
Not having to be concerned with the marketing aspect of the business was fine by Tabitha. She trusted Kennedi would see things were done appropriately. Still… “A little heads-up would’ve been nice.”
“Sorry. With running my father’s real estate investment firm here on top of managing Chase Confections, I’ve been crazy busy. As Evie said, the ad has been up only three days. It’s getting a lot of buzz. It’s actually pretty popular. Even our website has picked up double the traffic.”
“All the more reason you should go to Vegas,” Evie added.
As Tabitha sipped her bottled water, she caught their shared side-eye glances woven within a silent exchange, reading the undercurrent of their agenda. “How about you just say what this is really about. You’re trying to keep me from the Wharf construction site, get me as far away from D.C. as possible. I see you two have it all worked out. Kennedi, I guess you were just pretending to have my back earlier. So much for partnership. Sistahood. You two plotting behind my—”
“Tab, it’s not like that at all.” Evie quickly sat forward. “Kennedi was hesitant to bring up Vegas because when we tell you Dominic will be there as well, we felt you’d say—”
“I’d say oh hell no!” Tabitha scowled and shook her head in stark protest. “Damn right. Count me out if he’s involved.”
Evie threw her hands up. “See, we knew you’d react this way.”
“Tabitha, Dom is Shaw Enterprise’s COO. Of course he’ll oversee all things relating to Shaw’s—both D.C. and Vegas.” Kennedi let go a soft sigh. “Come on, you can tolerate the guy for one week.”
“Right?” Evie tagged on. “You’ll be working in the restaurant and likely too busy to even notice him. I’m sure he’ll be just as preoccupied with his duties. Tab, it’s for our business. You want us to grow, don’t you?”
Of course Tabitha wanted the business to thrive. Featuring their desserts at Pearl would aid that path. And it was Vegas. Spending a week, albeit for work, wouldn’t be half bad. But a week with Dominic Balaska’s bossy ass? Ugh. It set her enthusiasm very low. That said, this was about business, and these ladies would do just about anything for her. “Fine, I’ll go. But if that man thinks he’s going to control what I do out there—”
“I’m sure he won’t,” Evie hurried to say. “Now, what are you wearing on your date tomorrow night?”
“Date?” Kennedi’s eyes widened. “You have a date tomorrow and didn’t tell me?” She directed her surprise at Evie, her brow pinched as she pushed back against the couch. “Evidently, you’re in the know. I guess I’ve been placed outside the sista circle?”
“You’re being ridiculous.” Finishing off her sprouts, Tabitha mumbled around her last bite, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a guy Troy knows. My brother’s been pressuring me to start dating again. I mentioned it to Evie two nights ago while we were working late at the boutique. You’ve been busy here at Chase Investments, not to mention sleeping mostly at Trent’s place lately. Kenni, this is the first time I’ve seen you all week.”
“Actually, Trent wants me to move in with him. As you said, I’m there most nights anyway.”
Tabitha had expected Kennedi and Trenton would cohabitate at some point. She’d done it herself with her chickenshit of an ex-fiancé, Jeffrey.
There was no question Trenton Shaw, the hotel and casino mogul, loved her best friend. It was also safe to say Kennedi wouldn’t end up on the receiving end of a breakup three days before her wedding and subsequently suffer through a miscarriage. Memories.
She’d moved in with Kennedi a little more than a year ago, soon after that hellish nightmare. It’d been a godsend to have her friend there during that dark time for support.
“We may as well discuss it now. When will you be moving out?” Tabitha asked.
“I wanted to talk to you about buying my house.” Kennedi gave her a tentative look. “What do you think?”
“You already know I don’t have the funds to buy a dollhouse right now let alone your home. Until the store reopens in its new location and starts to draw in a strong revenue stream, that won’t happen.”
“I didn’t mean you’d have to purchase it this minute. We can write something up that spells out the plan toward ownership, one that fits within your timetable. Speaking of dollhouse, how’s the Headley project coming along? Were you able to set the gum paste in the curve shape for the shingles without them cracking?”
“Evie and I finished the roof this morning, and she was able to get all of the furniture pieces done.”
“Yes, we should be able to complete the project by tomorrow. Then we’ll start on the baby cradle for the Masons’ gender reveal party.” Evie beamed. “I can’t wait.”
“I’ll come by the boutique to help you two after I check in on my father at Brighton Gardens. The new medication he’s taking has helped with the seizures.”
“That’s great to hear.” Tabitha reached over and took hold of her friend’s hand, giving a light squeeze. Evie clasped the other. With Kennedi’s father suffering with a brain tumor that triggered dementia, Kennedi had been running his company, Chase Investments, for the past year as well as putting in her time at the bakery boutique. She’d been juggling quite a lot of plates.
“Evie and I have things covered. Kenni, you go see your father and spend time with your fiancé. I’ll—” Cut off by her cell phone ring, Tabitha dug it out from where it had wedged in the chair’s side cushion and checked the display. She sucked in a low breath but tried to mask it around a light cough. Heart beating like a drum against her breastbone, she kept her expression blank and bald-faced lied to her friends.
“It’s Troy. He probably wants to tell me not to cancel this blind date he’s concocted.” The ringing stopped and the phone prompted a voicemail message. “I’d better get back to the boutique.” She pushed up out of the chair.
“Wait. This blind date, what do you know about the guy? What’s his name? His profession?” Kennedi asked.
“Well, Mom,” Tabitha teased, “his name’s Randall Cuff. He has a small business… I think it’s remodeling or something.”
“I told her to check him out,” Evie remarked. “Troy’s your brother. I’m sure he made certain Randall isn’t some weirdo. But still, Tab, you should look the guy up. These days you can’t be too careful.”
Tabitha shrugged. It wasn’t like there would be a second date. Men. She didn’t need the headache. “Randall did some roof work at Troy’s house.”
“Okay, and?” Kennedi nodded, her stare direct.
“Kenni, that’s exactly what I said, so I stalked his social media.” Evie got up from the chair and plucked her phone from her purse on the side table, then plopped down on the couch. With their heads angled close, she and Kennedi scrolled through a host of photos. “Here he is.”
“He has that Theo James sort of vibe.” Kennedi zoomed the pictures in and out.
“Yes, I can see that,” Evie agreed.
“Theo who?” Tabitha sat beside Evie to get a glimpse of the guy. Dark brown hair, rich brown eyes, nice tan—he looked decent enough, though she wasn’t into the around-the-clock, five-o’clock shadow kind of beard.
“Theo James. You know, from that movie, Divergent.” Evie did an internet search for Tabitha’s benefit, showed her a photo of the actor, then switched back to Randall’s Facebook spread. “Ooh, that’s a really nice boat. You think it’s his?”
Tabitha took the phone and swiped through a couple of pics of Randall and his boat out on the open water. “He’s all right, I guess.”
“But he’s no Dominic Balaska.” Evie grinned.
“That’s a good thing.” She handed back the phone then came to her feet.
“Come on, Tab, don’t front. You can admit Dom’s hot. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen eyes as blue as his. I wonder if they’re colored contacts?”
Tabitha grabbed her purse from the armchair and draped the black leather strap over her head to rest on her shoulder. “And I’ve never known a bigger pain in the ass.”
“But it’s a really nice ass.”
“Evie!” Tabitha gaped.
“What? Quite honestly, I haven’t had sex in nearly two years. I’m able to spot a shapely ass on a mannequin.”
Looking at one another, they all burst into a roil of laughter. Tabitha could relate; she was riding somewhat close to that same wave of abstinence herself.
“Evie, sounds like it’s you who has the hots for Balaska.”
“Not at all. It’s merely an observation. Clearly Dominic is into you. Besides, I’m still dealing with Patrick’s bullshit. I definitely wouldn’t want to drag some poor soul into my little house of Patrick horrors.”
“Girl, stop.” Kennedi snorted a laugh. “You’re going through a divorce; you’re not dead.”
“Tell her.” Tabitha nodded.
“I suppose you’re right.” Evie turned back to Tabitha. “As I was saying, the way you and Dom butt heads demonstrates you two have a connection. I was right about Kennedi and Trenton, wasn’t I? Those two were always arguing, complete adversaries. Now they’re engaged.”
“I wouldn’t say complete adversaries,” Kennedi murmured with a sheepish grin.
Tabitha rolled her eyes. What an absurdity. “Your study is flawed. If you recall, Kennedi and Trenton had sex in the kitchen of our bakery when they were practically at each other’s throats. Rest assured that’ll never happen with Dominic and me.”
“Kennedi and Trenton were a sexually charged pair for sure. And never say never, girlfriend. They proved my point.”
Tabitha sighed deeply. Evie had a psychology degree, number two of three. The woman was a walking textbook. Her parents had nearly disowned her when she’d decided to drop her Ivy League track for culinary school. But her friend was way off the mark on this one. This was psychoanalysis bull crap.
Offering a small smile, she started toward the door. “Kennedi, give your father a hug for me.”
“Wait.” Evie followed her. “I took a Lyft to get here. I’ll ride back with you.”
“No!” Tabitha spun and threw a hand up like a guard at a crosswalk, stopping Evie dead in her tracks. Catching their peculiar stares—not ready to say where she was really headed—she let another lie fly. “I need to hop over to see Troy to get the four-one-one on this Randall Cuff guy. Like you said, I should find out more about him. I’ll see you back at the boutique later.” She turned away, then pivoted back and handed Evie her car keys while pulling open the door, one foot straddling the threshold. “I’ll catch a Lyft. Troy’s likely at work. Trying to find parking on the street by the firehouse can be such a pain.”
“Yep. The car’s in the garage next door, second level near the stairs. Hugs, ladies.”
On the way down in the elevator, she quickly ordered her ride, then listened to the voicemail message:
Good afternoon, Miss Seils. It’s Marylin Winslow at Parker Adoption Agency. I’d like to talk to you about a client who may be of interest to you. I know it’s short notice, but if you’re able to stop by the office today, I can provide more details. Hope to hear from you.
A barrel of nerves stalled the air in Tabitha’s chest.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It was supposed to be a straightforward business agreement…
Businessman and COO Dominic Balaska almost has it all, except $20 million to get in on a lucrative real estate deal. His trust fund document requires him to be married by his 31st birthday. In six months. With no romantic prospects in sight, he looks toward Tabitha Seils. She’s made it clear she doesn’t like him, which is exactly the no-strings deal he’s looking for.
Custom pastry chef Tabitha Seils wants nothing more in life than a baby. So when a new mother considers Tabitha to adopt her infant, Tabitha nearly bursts with happiness. She makes the first of three payments but needs to find a way to pay the rest. Marrying Dominic is a win-win: they can access his trust, divvy up the money, and get an annulment.
Neither expected their marriage of convenience would bring about real feelings. Nor the twist in store for their arrangement that could cost them everything.
Meet the Author:
Award winning author, Michele Arris, has always had a fondness for romance and happy endings.
“I love to write stories where my characters are guaranteed their happily ever after.”
When Michele isn’t seated in front of her computer, shaping bad-ass alpha heroes who meet their match in strong, hardworking heroines, she enjoys reading, watching period classics, actually looks forward to working out, and loves spending time with family and friends–simply enjoying life.
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