One week until The Ransome Brothers!

Last night I finished my last round of editing on The Ransome Brothers! That means we’re getting so close–and I’m freaking out! I’m very excited for you guys to read this and nervous and sleep deprived and all those other things that come with releasing a new book. To celebrate how close we are, I wanted to show you the gorgeous cover Paper and Sage Designs made for the book. What do you think??

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Ever since his wife left him to raise their four boys on his own, Will Ransome has had one purpose—do whatever it takes to give them the life they deserve. Now that they’ve finally made it, now that Ransom is the most successful rock band in the country, Will should finally be able to relax, take time for himself, maybe even find love again. But nothing is turning out the way it should. His boys aren’t talking to him, refuse to even see him. All of the success in the world can’t fill the hole they’ve left in his life.

And Will has no one to blame but himself.

The Ransome Brothers will be available everywhere ebooks are sold on Tuesday, June 12th!

On the road for Ransom

There are several things about the new Ransom book that are unique compared to the rest of the series. It’s the first book where we’ll get to directly see what Will Ransome is experiencing and feeling (which I am super excited about! I wasn’t expecting to enjoy writing about Will as much as I did). The Ransome Brothersis also the first book where we’ll switch Point of View between more than two characters. Another way this book is a little different is that the boys aren’t on tour at all. Redeem is the only other book in the series where we don’t see the boys out on the road.

The fact that 4 of the 6 books show the band on tour probably tells you that I really enjoy writing about their life on the road! That’s mainly because a huge source of inspiration for this series was my own experiences traveling around with my friends to follow a band.  To tell you about this, I’m going to have to confess something: I am a huge Hanson fan. Yes, Hanson, those Mmmbop kids from the nineties. Feel free to laugh at me! The funny thing is that I absolutely hated them when I was a kid and they were popular. But then a good friend reintroduced me to them years later and I fell in love. If you haven’t checked them out lately, you totally should! They all grew up super cute! They own their own record label now and write really fun pop-rock songs and seeing their shows is SO MUCH fun. Seriously, go find some of their new music. Okay, Hanson advertisement over 😉

The band themselves didn’t have anything to do with my inspiration for these books—Ransom has a totally different sound, style, and reputation. But my own experiences as a fan did inspire a lot my writing, particularly about Daisy, Paige, and Karen. When I was in my early twenties some friends and I followed a tour around for a few weeks and it was seriously the most fun I’ve ever had. We slept in crappy hotels and camped out on the pavement in the freezing cold to get good spots inside. We lived on gross fast food and traveled by bus for over twenty hours. And I loved it! It was so great to spend that time with close friends and to get to hear music we were passionate about every night. That was the feeling I wanted to capture when I wrote about Ransom being out on tour—that sense of freedom and adventure, excitement and connection with a group of people.

Beyond those tour memories, travel in general has played a big role in my writing. Traveling is something that I truly love and I try to do it as much as possible. So it makes sense that I love writing about characters who are traveling, experiencing new places and new sights. If I’m writing about somewhere new, I try to visit that place first whenever I can afford it. It’s important for me to really get a feel for the places I write about. I was super lucky to be able to visit Paris before I wrote Rescue. That trip ended up changing the entire book.

I always knew that Lennon was going to go and find their mom while on tour in Europe. Originally this was all going to happen in London (which I’ve visited a few times before). But then I got to Paris and that idea totally changed. Paris seemed like a place that Lennon would have such a connection to. I knew he would love the art and the culture and the food and vibe of wandering along the river, looking at beautiful things. When I walked into the Musee d’Orsay, I immediately envisioned the entire scene where Paige takes the boys there as a special treat for Len and he connects with Haylee. I have no idea how their relationship would have been different if I hadn’t gotten the chance to see that place for myself. Something similar happened when I went to the Monet house in Giverny. It was suddenly so obvious to me that Lennon would take Haylee there and that’s where he would see his mother.

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Gardens at the Monet House in Giverny, where I plotted out Haylee and Lennon’s love story

Little surprises like this are my favorite part of writing. When I see something new or travel somewhere I’ve never been before or catch a glimpse of a stranger who seems interesting and suddenly feel inspired to write—there’s nothing in the world that makes me happier than that. I love it when I have a plan for a story and something new and unexpected comes barreling in to change it. To me there’s nothing more exciting!

The Ransome Brothers is set mainly in LA, which I was lucky enough to visit when I was researching the Lovestruck series. It’s also the place where I first had the idea for the Ransome boys (you can read about that here). In that sense, LA is really where this whole series began for me. And it felt completely appropriate and fitting that The Ransome Brotherswould take me back there.

 

**Book 6 in the Ransom series, The Ransome Brothers, will be available on June 12th**

All about Paige

I have a really hard time picking a favorite character—it’s like picking a favorite child! But there are a few characters that really stand out to me and feel particularly special. Paige is one of those characters.

When I was working on the plot of Ransom, I knew I wanted Daisy to become friends with two girls who would help her to regain her confidence and break down her protective shell. The original character notes for the girls ended up really different from the way Paige and Karen look in the book. I had originally envisioned Paige to be a hard-core rock and roll chick. I knew I wanted her to be kind but I thought she would have a much harder edge. I pictured her being sarcastic with a sharp sense of humor and a jaded outlook on life.

But once I started writing the book, Paige totally took over. I love when that happens! Sometimes it feels like the character just reveals themself to me as I write about them and that’s exactly what happened with Paige. Almost as soon as I started Ransom, it didn’t feel right to make Paige sarcastic and sharp and cynical. It wasn’t her. Paige is sweet and excited and enthusiastic about everything. A total contradiction to her rock and roll style, with her leather jacket, dyed hair streaks, and multiple piercings. She’s a little ditzy sometimes but completely loyal and kind and she constantly surprises everyone with how capable she is at just about everything she tries.

This is one of my favorite Paige quotes from Release, where she describes to Reed why she loves all the silly roadside attractions she drags the boys to on tour. I always felt like this was the moment where Reed really fell in love with her:

“Because it’s out of the ordinary,” I tell him. “I like things that are out of the ordinary—that’s the most fun part of life. Finding the things you weren’t expecting, the things you aren’t used to.” I wave my arms around to encompass the store. “Just think about the people who own this place—they must really love it. You don’t put all this effort into a Christmas store unless Christmas is, like, your favorite thing. I like that they’re sharing that with everyone. It’s like the Cadillac Ranch or the Jell-O museum. The people who started those places might be kind of weird, but they really love Cadillacs and Jell-O. It makes them happy. It gives them a purpose. And they want to share that.” I shrug, feeling slightly embarrassed by my enthusiasm. “I just think that’s cool.”

I didn’t plan this silly, earnest part of her character ahead of time . That’s just who Paige is. It almost felt like I didn’t have a say in it—Paige’s personality was already formed and she didn’t need me trying to fit her into my original plans.

I think that’s why I love her so much. She always surprises me, she always makes me laugh. Every scene with her is so much fun to write. Pretty much as soon as I started to write Paige back in book 1 I knew I needed to change things in the future books to give her a bigger role. When I started plotting book 6, Paige’s plotline was the first one I came up with. It was so important to me that this strong character gets a fitting story in the 6th book. I’m so excited for you to read The Ransome Brothers and see what I have in store for Paige Brennen!

A whole bunch of Ransom news

The Ransome Brothers are coming! The sixth book in my Ransom series will be available on June 12th and I am so freakin excited. It feels like I’ve been working on this one FOREVER and I really can’t wait to share it with you. And it’s coming so soon!

In other exciting Ransom news, I had pretty new covers made for the series! I really love the original covers but it’s always good to put a fresh face on things. I’m so pleased with how the new ones turned out. I particularly love how strongly they represent the music theme of the books. Next week I’ll be revealing the rest of the series but today I wanted to give you a sneak peak of the new cover for the first book. Check out the new Ransom…

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If you didn’t see the announcement a few weeks ago, all of the Ransom books (as well as the rest of my series) are now available in paperback! I know many of you have been waiting for these. You can find them over on Amazon.

One last bit of Ransom news: Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a short blog series about these books. I’ve been working on the Ransom series since the summer of 2013–so long! Book 6 is meant to be a wrap up of the series. That doesn’t mean I’ll never write another Ransom book (and you’ll be able to visit with the Ransomes in the Intrigue series), but this is the last one I have planned out. So I thought it would be a good time to share some stories about how this series came to be and what my experiences were like writing it. I hope you’ll join me in my walk down memory lane!

Okay, now I need to go and edit, edit, edit. Only three more weeks until release day!

Take care,

Rachel

A New Lilac Bay Book is Here!

I am so glad that I can finally share the new Lilac Bay book with all of you! I think this might have been the hardest book I’ve ever written. I was working through a lot of anxiety and writer’s block with this book. So it feels really good to not only be finished with it, but to be really happy with how it turned it out. I so hope you like it too! You can check it out on Amazon and everywhere else ebooks are sold. Let me know what you think!

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Two rival bar owners. One inconvenient attraction. All’s Fair in Love and Beer in this new small town romance from USA Today Bestselling author Rachel Schurig!

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Cora Hanson’s bar is a Lilac Bay institution.

And that’s just the way she always wanted it. Nothing makes Cora happier than knowing her friends and neighbors are having a good time at Cora’s Place, the pub she’s poured her heart and soul into. Sure, maybe it gets a little stressful, working as much as she does. And yes, it’s been an awful long time since Cora has made time to date. But what does that matter so long as her bar remains Lilac Bay’s most popular gathering place?

When Owen Nichols shows up with plans to open his own bar, Cora is sure she doesn’t have anything to worry about. There’s no way some outsider can compete with her years of success. There’s only one problem—Cora and Owen have history. And it’s hard to concentrate on beating Owen in business when she can’t seem to forget what it was like to be in his arms.

Cora knows she needs to get her head in the game if she wants to win in this battle of the beer joints. But Owen doesn’t seem to be backing down. And it’s starting to look like it’s not Cora’s customers he’s after—it just might be her heart.

Coming soon…

Hello, lovely readers! I hope you’re all having a wonderful 2018 so far. It seems like we’ve either had snow or rain all winter long but that’s okay with me–I like to be cozied up inside while I’m writing. And I’ve been writing a lot! I think quite a few of you will be happy to hear that I’m working on the 6th Ransom book–finally!

You guys, I missed these characters soooo much. I’ve been re-reading the whole series to prepare for the new book and it’s been so nice to visit with the boys and their ladies again. People always ask me which Ransome brother is my favorite and I’m constantly changing my mind. Right now I have a huge crush on Reed, which isn’t really surprising. Paige is one of my favorite characters from any of my series. Whoever makes Paige happy makes me happy! Anyhow, I’m really liking the way book 6 is turning out so far and I can’t wait to share it with you soon!

In the meantime, I’ve been working with an awesome cover artist (Shout out to Paper and Sage Designs!) to give the Three Girls series a facelift. I’ve had the same covers on those books for years now so I thought it would be nice to try something new and fresh. What do you think??

The same cover artist has been helping me come up with a more cohesive look for the Lilac Bay series–which is really helpful since the 3rd book is super close to a publication date! All’s Fair is currently in the editing phase and I should have some release news for you in the next two weeks. Check out the covers for this series below and stay tuned for info on the release!

Okay, that’s it for me. Can’t wait to have more news about Lilac Bay and Ransom for you soon. Hope you’re all doing great!

xoxo Rachel

I have a brand new book out today!

Always You is now available! This is the 2nd book in a new small town romance series called Lilac Bay. I’ve been having a really great time getting to know the characters on this little island and I’m already excited to plan out book 3.

Always You is being offered for only 99c for a limited time only! This book will normally sell for $3.99 so make sure you grab your copy before the prices go back up! Always You is my contribution to the Friends with Benefits series. All of the books in this series can also be purchased for only 99c for a short time. Stuff your e-reader with some cheap reads for summer!

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For as long as she can remember, Riley James has wanted to work in television. And more often than not, Riley gets what she wants. There’s a reason, after all, that she’s considered the most competitive person on Lilac Bay Island. Riley likes to win.
So when Lilac Bay is chosen to participate in a reality TV show, it’s only natural that Riley leads the charge to bring home a victory for their small town. And who better to help her than her best friend, Andrew?
As the competition kicks into gear, the stakes for Riley and Andrew get higher. The line between reality and the game isn’t so easy to find. This time the two old friends are playing for keeps. And love might be the ultimate prize.

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Don’t miss the rest of the books in the Friends with Benefits series! All of these books are available for only 99c for a very short time. Don’t miss out!

Where Your Heart Is, available now!

Where Your Heart Is has arrived! This is the first book in a brand new series that I’ve been working on for AGES! Seriously, it feels like I’ve been hanging out with these characters for a year without being able to talk about them with anyone! So I’m very excited to finally release the people of Lilac Bay out into the wild. I really hope you like the first book in the new series. Yay!

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Lovestruck Forever!

The next book in the Lovestruck series is now available for Kindle and Nook. This is the third (but not last!) installation of Lizzie and Thomas’s story. If you haven’t read the first book, Lovestruck in London, I’ve put it on sale at $.99 for a limited time. I hope you check them out!

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Introducing…Three Girls and a New Beginning

The new Three Girls book is so close to being ready! I have my edits back and I’m working with the amazing Scarlett Rugers once again on a beautiful cover. I’m so excited to publish this book, you guys! There are two things I’m particularly geeked about when it comes to A New Beginning. First, unlike the other books in the series, this one will shift perspective between all three of the girls. That means we’ll get to see things happen from Ginny’s perspective AND Jen’s AND Annie’s. The second thing that I love about this book is the flashbacks–there are so many moments in the history of their friendship that I had imagined but was never able to show. Like the first time Annie and Ginny met Jen. Or the girls celebrating Jen’s bachelorette party. Now you’ll get to see those memories as well as see what’s in store for the girls now that they’ve all found their “happy ever after.”

I’m planning to have it published to all the major outlets (Kindle, Nook, iTunes, kobo) on Tuesday, January 28th (this is an edit! Sorry for any confusion!). That’s two weeks away! I thought it would be nice to give you a little taste of what to expect while we’re waiting. Enjoy the first chapter!


Three Girls and a New Beginning

Chapter One

Ginny

“Are you ready to go yet?” 

I looked up to see my husband, Josh, standing in the doorway to our bedroom. I made a face at him. “I’m having shoe issues.”

I could tell that he was doing his best not to roll his eyes. “What is the nature of your shoe issue?”

“I can’t figure out which ones look better with my dress.”

“What dress are you planning on wearing?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

He did roll his eyes then. “Come on, Ginny. The sitter will be here in, like, five minutes. I would like to maximize our child-free time as much as possible. That means getting out of this house.”

“I know, I know.” Josh had a good point of course. We didn’t get child-free nights all that often. It was tough to get a sitter for two kids on our budget. When it did happen, I was with him in the wanting to enjoy every minute of it department.

Not that I didn’t love spending time with my kids. I loved being a mom more than anything else in the world. But with two under six, our life could certainly be exhausting at times. And the prospect of going to an actual movie premiere—a movie in which my best friend was the star—was far more exciting than sticking around at home and watching Cars for the hundredth time.

“I think you should wear the red,” Josh said, coming to stand behind me. He slipped his arms around my waist and I leaned back into him, the movement as natural as breathing. “I love you in red.”

“The red’s a little short,” I told him. “Might not be the most appropriate dress for an old fogey mother of two.”

He snorted. “No one in the world would ever imagine that you’ve had two children. You’ll be the most gorgeous woman in the room, Gin. No matter what you wear.”

I smiled. I had to admit that I was pretty lucky—Josh and I had been together for years, but I still knew he really meant it when he said stuff like that to me. I kissed his cheek. “The red it is then.”

“Wear the highest heels you have,” he said, his voice low in my ear. It sent shivers up and down my arms. “I love you in heels.”

“When am I ever not in heels?”

“Good point.” He swatted my bottom playfully. “Hurry up, okay?”

I finished getting dressed while he headed out to the living room to make sure Danny and Maggie hadn’t destroyed the place in the last five minutes. As I was slipping into the heels Josh had requested, my phone rang on the vanity.

“Hello?”

“Ginny, where are you?” Jen’s voice was frantic. It was my turn to roll my eyes.

“I told you we would be there at seven thirty, Jen,” I reminded my best friend. “It’s only seven.”

“Sorry,” she said, still sounding frazzled. “I guess I’m just freaking out a little bit.”

“You?” I asked in mock-shock. “No way.”

“Shut up. This is a big deal, you know. It’s not every day your best friend stars in a hit movie. And it’s definitely not every day I’m asked to coordinate the Detroit premiere of that movie.”

“We don’t know if it will be a hit,” I pointed out. “It isn’t even out yet.”

“It will be a hit,” she said, her voice so decided and firm I was sure even the harshest Hollywood critic would be loathe to contradict her. “Annie is in it—it has to be good.”

“True,” I agreed. Annie was our other best friend, and just happened to be the star of the movie in question—First Comes Love. After struggling as an actress for years, she was finally on the cusp of her big break, a fact that we were celebrating at the Detroit premiere of the movie. Jen, who owned her own party planning company, had mastermind the entire event. “I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic,” I assured her. “The movie and the party.”

“It better be. This event is important to me, Gin. I really want her to know how much we’re rooting for her.”

Josh stuck his head in the doorway. When he saw that I was on the phone, he sighed loudly and pointed at his watch. I nodded and waved him away.

“She’ll know, Jen. I’m sure the party will be wonderful. When have you ever been associated with a dud?”

“True. I guess I’m just stressed. Jenner Collins will be there.”

I laughed. “You’ve met Jenner a dozen times. He’s a normal person.” Jenner Collins was a major movie star from the Detroit area. When he wasn’t making blockbuster action movies, he ran a small theater company in Detroit. Annie had won a coveted role in one of his plays a few years ago. Jenner was obviously taken by her talent—he’d hired her to work full time at the theater and when his production company began work on a small budget romantic comedy, he cast Annie as his lead despite her lack of experience in film.

“I know that,” Jen said, sounding a little sheepish. “But he is a major movie star. He was People’s Sexiest Man, for God’s sake. And you know he’ll have a bunch of industry people with him. What if the party doesn’t live up to his standards? It’s stressful!”

“I know, Jen. But I also know you did a great job with the party. In fact, I’d love to get there and help you finish up, but someone called while I was getting ready and now they won’t quit whining.”

“Sorry, sorry,” she said. “Go get beautiful then get your ass up here.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I was joking, but only barely. The truth was, Jen could be totally scary when she was in bossy mode.

“Ginny,” Josh called from the doorway, impatient.

“Gotta go, Jen,” I said quickly. “See you in a few.”

No sooner had I hung up did the phone ring again. Josh groaned and flopped onto the bed. “And that will be the other one.”

Sure enough, the screen lit up with Annie’s name. I made a face at my husband and answered. “Hey, movie star.”

“Shut up,” she moaned. “I’m so nervous I think I’m going to pee my pants.”

“Why are you nervous?” I asked. “The hard work is over. Tonight is when everyone makes a big deal about you and talks about how awesome you are.”

She whimpered. “Stop. What if you all hate it?”

“We will not hate it,” I assured her. “That’s just silly.”

“But what if you do? You have to promise me that you’ll be honest, okay? I know Nate and Jen are going to insist it’s good no matter what, but you have to be straight with me. Promise, Ginny.”

“I promise I will tell you if it sucks,” I assured her. “You have my word.”

She released a long breath. “Okay. What are you wearing?”

“My red Zac Posen,” I told her, walking to the bed to smack Josh’s arm when he sighed dramatically. “The one we got at that trunk show last month.”

“Good call,” she said. “I’m rethinking my dress.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You looked fantastic in that dress and you know it.” Josh was now miming a dramatic death scene on the bed. I shook my head. “My five-year-old husband is being ridiculous, Ann. I better go finish getting ready.”

“Tell him I said it’s not too late for me to get him uninvited.”

“Ooh, that would be awesome. Then he could stay home with the kids and I could stay out until morning.”

He grabbed me around the waist and pulled me close. “Sorry, Annie,” he called into the phone. “Please let me come to your fancy party with my hot wife.”

“Go get ready,” she told me, laughing. I was happy that she sounded much better than she had when I had first answered. “I’ll see you there.”

“Okay, babe. Good luck. Try to have fun with it.”

“I’ll try.”

I hung up and tossed the phone on the bed, looking down at Josh. “You’re asking for trouble, mister. This is a big night for my girlfriends, you know. I need to be supportive.”

“I know. You’re a very nice friend. But the sitter is here now and we’re free.” His eyes sparkled up at me. “Free. Come on, Gin. Let’s get the hell out of here while we have the chance.”

I laughed. “Fine. Let me just grab my purse and kiss the kids.”

He groaned but released me. “Do you really have to say goodbye? Couldn’t we just sneak out the back?”

“Yeah, that’s going to happen.”

I found my children sitting in the kitchen, their faces covered in spaghetti sauce. Maggie’s face lit up at the sight of me, in the way only a sweet baby face could. “Mama!”

“Hi, pumpkin!” I kissed the top of her head, narrowly avoiding her reaching, red-stained hands. “You’re all messy.”

She giggled and slapped her hands into her noodles.

“What’s up, little man?” Danny looked at me with a raised eyebrow and I stifled a sigh. He had learned that move from Annie, I was sure. It was pretty cute, but I had to admit that I was worried by the sarcastic streak she was developing in my five-year-old.

“Daddy said you were leaving us all night with her,” he said, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder to point at Beth, my co-worker from the bookstore I managed.

“I am leaving you with Beth,” I told him, going over to give her a quick hug in greeting.

“Ginny, dear, you look lovely,” she told me, patting my shoulder. “You’ll have to take lots of pictures for me, okay? I don’t think I’ve ever been to anything so glamorous as a movie premiere.”

“I don’t think I have either,” I said, laughing.

“Mom,” Danny called loudly. “Maggie is getting her spaghetti all over me!” Maggie squealed loudly, a sure-fire sign that her big brother had smacked her hand.

I turned to break up the fight but felt Josh’s hand come around my waist. “Leave it,” he murmured. “Beth can handle them.”

“Absolutely,” she told me, smiling. “Go on, both of you. Have a lovely night.”

Maggie was crying now, big loud sobs that I would bet money were fake.

“She’s fine,” Josh urged, pulling on me. “Let’s go.”

“Okay.” I felt that familiar tug in my chest; I wanted nothing more than to get out of the house for a night, spend some time with my husband, see my friends. Enjoy wearing my fun red dress and maybe have a few cocktails. But there was another part of me, the part I couldn’t control, that only wanted to swoop my crying, messy baby up in my arms and kiss her face, spaghetti covered and all.

I settled for kissing her head, instead. “Have so much fun with Aunt Beth.” I smoothed her brown curls. “She’s going to let you watch The Little Mermaid later.”

“Ariel?” Maggie cried, clapping her hands. I winced as a minuscule drop of sauce flung onto the skirt of my dress. Was it too much to ask that I had one night free of baby messes?

“That’s a girl movie,” Danny said, raising his eyebrow again.

“Well, if you’re a good little boy, maybe you’ll get to play with the Wii when Maggie goes to bed.”

Danny was far too cool to clap his hands, but he couldn’t hide the little grin on his face. I kissed him too, closing my eyes as he brought his hands up to pat my shoulders, all sign of cool down the drain at my leaving. “Be a good boy.”

Josh kissed both children as well, then wrapped an arm around me and pulled me to the kitchen door.

“Are you going to be gross and kissy all night?” Danny called from the table, his eyebrow raised once more.

“Absolutely,” Josh said. “And we’re going to dance together.”

“Yuck,” Danny cried, laughing.

I laughed too and let Josh pull me out into the cool spring air.

“Ahh,” he said. “Free at last.”

“Free indeed.” I looked down at my dress, the spaghetti splotch not visible in the darkening evening. “Minus the spaghetti on my dress.”

He opened the car door for me. “No one will notice.”

“I’ll notice. I’ll spend the entire night feeling like a messy mummy, instead of like a pretty starlet.” I slid into my seat.

“Please.” He looked down at me, his hand on the door frame. “I’m not even kidding about you looking better than the movie stars.”

He shut my door and walked around the front of the car, giving me the chance to admire him in his suit. Josh was tall and lanky with messy brown curls and green eyes behind his black rimmed glasses. He’d been the cutest guy I’d ever known ever since we were juniors in high school, and he looked particularly good in his black, slim-fitting suit. By the time he had joined me in the car, I was grinning.

“Speaking of better looking than a movie star,” I said, leaning across the console to kiss him. “You’re pretty hot in that suit there, Mr. Stanley.”

“Why thank you, Mrs. Stanley.” He brought a hand to my face, kissing me again. “I took extra time getting pretty in the hopes that I might get lucky tonight.”

I laughed. “I’ve heard your wife is a pretty sure bet.”

He was still grinning as he started the car. “I’m hoping, then, that she won’t mind that I’ve booked us a hotel downtown and arranged for the sitter to stay overnight.”

I gaped at him. “You did what?”

He backed down the drive, his eyes meeting mine as he checked over his shoulder. “Is that okay? I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“Of course it’s okay,” I said. “I mean…can we afford it?”

Josh and I weren’t exactly well off. My job as a manager of a bookstore was fulfilling and made me completely happy, but it didn’t exactly pay me enough for the high life. Josh was a writer for a local magazine. He brought in some extra money doing freelance work, but all together we still end up on a pretty tight budget. Particularly since we’d had our second child and started saving to buy a house.

“I sold an article,” he said, holding up a hand before I could speak. “And I know we said that all the extra money we bring in was supposed to go to the house fund, but I really think we need this. We haven’t had a break or vacation in how long?”

“Probably Jen’s wedding.”

“Exactly. Which was a year and a half ago.”

“Good point.” A thought occurred to me. “I didn’t bring a bag.”

“I packed for you.”

I snorted. “Oh, God, what’d you bring?”

He shrugged. “Lot of extra lingerie and your bathing suit.”

“Excellent. I’m going to have to leave the hotel in this dress, aren’t I? People will think I’m a prostitute.”

He laughed. “I brought you jeans and a shirt too, don’t worry.”

“Where are we staying?” I was starting to feel excited now.

“I got us a room in one of Kiki’s Dad’s hotels.”

I squealed and clapped my hands. Jen’s business partner, Kiki, was the daughter of one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the entire state. He owned multiple properties in the city and surrounding areas, all of them exceedingly luxurious.

He laughed. “You look like Maggie when you do that.”

“Aren’t Mr. Barker’s hotels really expensive though?” I asked, not wanting to put a damper on our excitement but still feeling bad that we were spending so much just on the two of us.

“I may have asked Kiki what she recommended for our budget,” he said, winking at me. I made a half-groaning, half-laughing noise. Asking Kiki a question like that was a surefire way to get us into the nicest room on the smallest budget possible. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she got us a totally comped suite. The girl was literally the most generous, sweet person I had ever encountered in my life. Nothing made her happier than making other people happy. I never liked to take advantage of her in any way, but the idea of staying in a suite on our budget…

“Was that evil of me?” he asked, shooting me a rueful smile. “I love Kiki, you know that. I just…I really wanted to stay in a nice room.”

I snorted. “It may have been a little evil, but I’m not complaining. Besides, you know if you hadn’t asked her and we ended up in a different, cheaper hotel she would have been offended.”

“That is very true. It’s nice to have a friend like Kiki.”

“Just so long as you don’t get used to this,” I warned. “We’re not going to take advantage of her.”

“The only person I plan to take advantage of tonight is you,” he said, waggling his eyebrows at me.

“You’re so smooth, Josh.” I took his hand, feeling happier than I had in a while. I loved my kids and I loved my job, but there was no denying the fact that taking care of both could be tedious. The idea of an entire night of hanging out with friends and my husband was making me feel giddy.

“So was Annie pretty nervous?” he asked, rubbing his fingers over my knuckles.

“She was. Which is a little silly, considering they already did a bigger premiere in New York.”

“But that was mostly strangers,” he pointed out. “Tonight she’ll be showing the movie to people she actually knows.”

“All of whom are rooting for her. She’s going to be fine.”

“What about Jen?”

I rolled my eyes. Jen was another matter. “She will always freak out about the events that mean the most to her. She was just as stressed out about Annie’s housewarming. And our wedding. And Kiki’s baby shower.”

“And they all turned out perfectly.”

“Exactly. Granted, she has been having a bit of a hard time lately with Kiki out on maternity leave.”

“I thought she was planning to take less clients during Kiki’s leave.”

“Yeah, right. She said that, but you know she’s still working her ass off. That girl isn’t happy unless she’s busy.”

“Well, I hope they can both relax and enjoy the evening,” he said. He waggled his eyebrows at me. “I certainly intend to.”

I grinned, feeling a flutter of excitement in my belly. “I do, too.”

***

So that’s chapter one. I’m so excited for you guys to read the rest of it! Only two weeks to go now!

Have a great week!