When Emily gets an unexpected afternoon off from work due to a power outage, she decides to surprise her husband, Jesse, by preparing his favorite dish. Unfortunately, Emily will be the one in for a surprise once she arrives home. Please enjoy this sample read from the contemporary romance novel, The Betrayal.
Emily stepped out into the blazing midday sun, smiling to herself as she walked across the parking lot. She would stop at the grocery store on the way home so she could prepare a surprise dinner for Jesse. Hopping into her car, she fired up the engine, and turned the air conditioning on high. After a few hot moments, the air began to feel deliciously cool. Another smile broke out across her face as she drove off. It would be the perfect opportunity for her to tell Jesse the time had come for him to keep his end of their bargain.
She soon turned into the grocery store entrance and hunted for a parking space. Tonight, she would prepare her famous chicken divan. It was Jesse’s favorite dish. She picked out her ingredients and tossed a bouquet of fresh flowers into her cart before heading to the checkout lane and out the door.
Emily frowned as she turned into her driveway. Annette’s white Civic was parked in front of the house. Jesse’s assistant usually didn’t come on Wednesdays, so something unexpected must have come up. Emily sighed as she pressed the button to open the garage door. Shutting down the engine, she quickly grabbed the grocery bags and hurried out of the hot garage. The air conditioning felt heavenly as she stepped inside the house and went straight to the kitchen.
“Hi guys. I’m home.”
There was no response. The house seemed unusually quiet. Emily set the grocery bags on the counter and went down the hallway. Jesse was using one of the downstairs bedrooms as his office. She tapped on the door and smiled as she pushed it open.
“Hey guys. The air conditioning went out and I’m–“
Her smiled faded. The room was empty. The lights were out, and Jesse’s computer was shutdown. Emily was getting a funny feeling, but quickly brushed it off. Perhaps Jesse and Annette were out by the pool. She went to the living room and opened the sliding glass door.
Again, there was no answer. The backyard was eerily quiet, and no one was by the pool. Emily closed the door and headed toward the staircase. The upper floor contained the master suite and a rarely used guest bedroom. Jesse would be leaving for Houston on Friday to facilitate a seminar. Perhaps he and Annette had gone upstairs to decide what he should pack. Emily took a deep breath and started up the stairs. Upon reaching the landing, she heard muffled voices behind the bedroom door. Jesse must have had the TV on. She hurried up the remaining flight and stepped inside.
Spring break is coming up fast, but Tonya may have to change her plans at the last minute, and Evan isn’t pleased. Please enjoy this sample read from Aquamarine.
Evan greeted her with his usual kiss when he arrived. “Ready to go?” he asked.
“In a minute.” Tonya’s tone turned serious. “First, I need to talk to you about something.”
A concerned look came over his face. “What’s wrong? Is there another family emergency?”
“No, they’re all fine.” Tonya grabbed her phone, and after touching a few buttons she handed it to Evan. “I’ve got my modeling photos. So, what do you think?”
He sat down on the sofa and started scrolling. “Well, they’re certainly interesting.” An unexpected scowl came over his face and he showed her the image on the screen. “So, what’s this?”
“It was Julianna’s suggestion, and as you can see, even though I’m topless, nothing is showing. It’s just my back and shoulders, and that, my dear, is as provocative as it gets.”
“Okay,” he said, cautiously, “but like I said before, you need to be careful. I don’t want anyone taking advantage of you.”
“Now you sound like my mother.”
“And your mother has a point.”
“I know she does, but as I’ve told you all before, it’s a legitimate agency, and this photo is as racy as it gets. At least for me.”
He seemed unconvinced as he handed back her phone. “Well, okay, I guess. Let’s get going.”
“In a minute.” She took a deep breath looked him in the eye, hoping for the best. “As you know, everything changed after my grandmother died. Fortunately, I have some money in my savings account, so I should be able to cover my rent and groceries until the end of the semester, provided I don’t splurge. I also called Mr. Loomis. He’d love to have me back at the music store this summer, and hopefully I can stay on through the rest of the year, but until then I have to watch every penny.”
“Look, if you’re worried about spring break, it’s not a problem. I’ve already taken care of our Airbnb, and we can eat in. I’m sure there are grocery stores close to where we’re staying.”
“Which’ll help, but there’s more to it.” Tonya took another deep breath. “Melissa has a possible job lined up for me during spring break.”
“Evan, please, just hear me out. Yes, I’m coming to South Padre Island, butit might not be until Tuesday night, because I may have a modeling job Tuesday morning. It’s a poster shoot for an auto parts company. I’m meeting with them the day after tomorrow, and they’ll let me know if they want to use me or not.”
“How soon will you know?”
“I’m not sure. Melissa says they usually get back with her fairly quickly, but not always. All I can tell you is they’ve already interviewed several other models, but so far they haven’t found the right one.”
“Okay, and while I don’t want to sound like I’m jinxing you, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll still leave Friday morning, as planned.”
“Hopefully, but there’s no guarantee.”
“If they decide they want to hire you, would you be willing to turn them down?”
Tonya shook her head. “I can’t. I honestly need the money. I’ve also just signed on with the agency, and it’s my first interview. I don’t want to jeopardize them calling me for future jobs. If I get the job, I’ll head straight to South Padre Island the minute I’m done. I promise.”
“Unless Melissa calls you with another job.”
“That’s not fair!” Tonya’s face flushed with anger. “I’m trying my best, Evan. I really am. I really was looking forward to us having the entire week together, and we still may, because we don’t know if I’ll get the job or not. I’m just saying I may have to come a few days later than planned. Either way, I should be in a much better position next year, so if I miss part of spring break this year, we can make up for it next year.”
“You already told me you’re taking next year off.”
“To establish residency, but it doesn’t mean I can’t join you for spring break.”
“All right, fine. You may not be there until Tuesday night, and I really am sorry you’re in the mess you’re in. You know I’d help you cover your expenses if I could.”
“I know you would.”
“C’mon, let’s go grab a burger and try to enjoy the rest of the evening.”
Tonya grabbed her sweater. However, Evan seemed quieter than usual, and they didn’t linger afterwards as they normally did. Driving up to her apartment, Tonya gave him a sultry grin.
“I think we should kiss and make up.”
“Some other time. Right now, I’m not in the mood.”
“Yeah. I’m just tired, and I need to finish a project.”
“Well, okay, if you’re sure.” The disappointment resonated in her voice.
“Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll text you later. Maybe this weekend we can go see a movie or something.” He gave her a less than enthusiastic kiss before she hopped out of the car.
Lauren has unwittingly been caught up in a major scandal that rocked Hollywood. Thinking her career is over, she plans to start a new life in Colorado, but Chuck wants to tell her goodbye before she leaves. Please enjoy this sample read from The Scandal.
A Reading Sample from The Scandal by Marina Martindale
Chuck looked at his phone and sighed. The call had dropped. Obviously, Lauren hadn’t found her charger quick enough. As he waited for her to call back, he wondered if he should offer to buy her dinner. Several anxious minutes passed, and he looked down at his phone.
“C’mon. Ring, why don’t you?”
He was about ready to give up when he received a text message from her tablet. She couldn’t find her charger but would call him the following night.
“Sorry Lauren, but you’re not getting away that easily. I’m going to see you in person so we can talk.” He quickly typed his response. She replied a minute later with the name of the hotel and her room number. Barney raised his head as Chuck stood from his chair.
“I’m going out for a little while,” he said, “but it won’t be late because I have to be up early tomorrow morning.” He gave the dog a quick pat on the head and hurried out. Twenty minutes later he arrived at the hotel. Knocking on Lauren’s door, Chuck greeted her with a smile as she answered.
“Your soda, Madame.” He looked her up and down as he stepped inside. “Well that’s certainly not what I expected.”
“I’m not Hayley,” she said with a grin. “I go for comfy, not sexy. Those teddies may have looked hot on camera, but they pinched in places I didn’t want pinched.”
Chuck felt his cheeks flush. “I had no idea you were being goosed by your costume. You never, ever let on. Not even for a moment.”
Lauren grinned. “It’s called acting, but trust me, I was gritting my teeth the entire time, and we won’t even discuss the drafts I was feeling. Now I’m forever grateful to never have to wear another teddy again.”
He felt a sudden twinge of disappointment as she pointed out the ice bucket.
“I made a run to the ice machine, but I’m afraid the only glassware I have are these lovely plastic hotel room cups.”
“They’ll do just fine.” Chuck quickly unwrapped them and dropped in some ice. Pouring the soda, he waited for the foam to bubble down before handing a cup to her.
“So, here’s to both of us coming to our senses and getting the hell out of this freaking town.” Both took a sip and sat down at the small table in the corner.
“So, Lauren, what made you change your mind?”
She gazed out the window at the city lights and her mood turned serious. “I think you already know the answer. My dream of stardom turned into my worst nightmare when I inadvertently took out one of the biggest power players in Hollywood.”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
She looked him in the eye. “So everyone tells me, but nonetheless, I’ve been blackballed as a result. My phone hasn’t rung in weeks, not that I even care at this point. My heart’s no longer in it. I still feel the same as I did the day I shot my last salsa commercial.”
“I’m sorry, Lauren. I had no idea it had gotten this bad.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Stuff happens, but hey, I’m still young. Maybe not by Hollywood standards, but certainly by the rest of the world’s standards. I have a degree in interior design, and before Hayley came along, I was working for a design firm in Pasadena. Other actors have left Hollywood to pursue other careers, and so can I.”
“Some have even said their lives were happier and more meaningful after they left.”
“Which is what I’m hoping for as well. So, what about you, Chuck?”
“It’s like I said that day on the beach. I grew up in the business, and everyone assumed I’d follow in my father’s footsteps, but it’s not the life I would have chosen for myself.”
“So what would you have done, had it been up to you?”
“You know, I’m honestly not sure,” he said. “I’ve been tinkering around with a couple of screenplays, and I’ve always envied the cinematographers because I love looking through a lens and figuring out what would be the most artistic shot. On the other hand, I might possibly be interested in directing independent films, the more offbeat, the better. The only thing I’m certain of is that I don’t want to do anymore rushed, talking head crap, but hey, I came here to talk about you, not me.”
“All I can tell you is I had an incredibly good run. I got to experience things most people never will, but now it’s over, so it’s time to move on.”
“Lauren, if it means anything to you, this whole incident has made everyone rethink the way they conduct business. Eric Conway is making some big changes and he’s rebuilding Cloudland from top to bottom.” Chuck noticed Lauren flinch as he spoke. The wounds still hadn’t healed. “So, I think you should focus more on where you want to go from here.”
“Actually, I’m still not sure. I’ve never been to Colorado, so I’m going to explore the place while I’m there, but I have no idea if I’ll stay or move on.”
Chuck’s heart sank. He would have to find a way to convince her to stay. “In that case, take your time and at least stay long enough to get to know it first. Then you can decide whether you want to move on or not.”
“All right. I can do that for a while. All I have is time right now.”
I’ve noticed a trend with my two most recent contemporary romance novels. My lead characters chose to get involved with the wrong man for the wrong reasons. This got me to thinking. Why do we do this in real life?
I think loneliness is a big factor. I’ve known people, both men and women, who are terrified at the prospect of being alone. They’ll do anything to avoid it, including getting into, or staying in, a bad relationship. Their rationale is, “Well, at least I’m not alone.”
Unfortunately, there is another kind of loneliness. It’s the loneliness which comes being with the wrong person. Having experienced both kinds of loneliness myself, I’ll take the former over the latter any day. If I want to meet new people I can take a class, go on a trip somewhere, or do other things I enjoy doing. In fact, doing the things we enjoy doing is a great way to meet people with common interests. However, being stuck with the wrong person is stifling. It can suck the joy right out of your life.
Loneliness was the catalyst in The Scandal when Lauren has a one-night stand with Cal. Lauren is so wrapped up in her career that she doesn’t have time for a man. Cal uses it to his advantage to manipulate and seduce her, and Lauren allows it to happen. Later on her bad decision will come back to haunt her. I believe this often happens in real life as well.
Being on the Rebound
The most vulnerable time in our lives is when we are grieving a loss. Whether it’s the loss of a job, the death of a close friend or family member, a divorce or the break up of a romantic relationship, our defenses are down. As a result, we are more likely to trust the wrong people, and perhaps rush blindly into a relationship with the wrong person. I wrote about this in Aquamarine.
Tonya meets George a few months after she caught her fiancé in the act with another woman. George soon convinces her to have a “rebound” relationship with him. However, unbeknownst to Tonya, George has his own agenda, and she soon discovers she’s a kept woman.
Of course, there is more to both storylines than what I’ve mentioned here. My point is that I write romance because I like to delve into the human condition and try to understand why, good or bad, we make the choices we make. I sometimes wish I had a magic crystal ball that would tell me if the choices I’m making are good or bad, but so far I’ve not found one. I guess all we can do is make the best decisions we can, based on our knowledge at the time.
As the old year comes to an end Tonya and Mike are on opposite sides of the country. Mike is performing in New York while Tonya has a gig at a hotel in Beverly Hills. During a break, however, she’ll discover that she has an unexpected ally.
A New Year’s Scene from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine
The hotel ballroom was packed with New Year’s Eve revelers. Among them were Stanley Klein and Mandy West. No doubt George had insisted they attend, and during a break Mandy approached Tonya in the ladies’ room.
“Nice show.” Mandy kept her eyes glued to the mirror while she touched up her makeup. “And your dress is stunning. Red is certainly your color, and you and Shawn have a nice chemistry together.”
Tonya remained on guard as she grabbed her lipstick. “Shawn and I are old friends. We’ve been working together for some time.”
“So, I hear.” Mandy lowered her voice. “Although you and Mike are a great couple.”
Tonya also spoke in a hushed tone. “Not anymore. You know who put a stop to it.”
“For now, but it won’t be for long if I have anything to say about it. I told our mutual friend you’d never fit in with our inner circle, and I’m going to keep reminding him until he realizes it for himself and sets you free. So, hang in there. I’m on your side.” She dropped her compact back into her purse and spoke in her normal voice.
“Happy New Year.”
Mandy quickly walked away, but it took Tonya a moment to gather her thoughts and refocus on her gig.
“Well, you certainly look happier,” said Shawn when she returned.
“Turns out I have a friend I didn’t know I had.”
“You’ll have to fill me in later. It’s going on midnight, so let’s make this next set count.” They watched the clock as they played. It was less than a minute before midnight when they finished their final song for the year. Shawn took the mic and began leading the countdown. Balloons and confetti were released at the stroke of midnight and he gave Tonya a hug.
“Happy New Year. It’s all going to work out. I have it on the highest authority.” They began playing, “Auld Lang Syne,” and the audience sang along. Afterwards, they resumed their set as a few people began leaving. An hour later they said goodnight, and as the last of the partygoers left the room, the hotel staff began clearing the remaining tables. Shawn and Tonya were packing up their gear when one of the servers brought them a take-out bag.
“Happy New Year,” he said.
“Happy New Year to you as well,” said Tonya, “and thank you for thinking of us.”
“My pleasure. By the way, I’m a part-time musician myself, and you guys are fantastic.”
Shawn and Tonya had adjoining suites on one of the upper floors. After changing into his sweats, Shawn tapped on Tonya’s door and came in with their food.
“They gave us sandwiches and salads,” he said. “One is roast beef; the other is turkey.”
“You can have the roast beef.” Tonya sat down at the table and kicked off her shoes. “What a night. Great gig, but not easy when you’re wearing high heels.”
“I don’t envy you, although I’m glad to be out of the monkey suit” Shawn took out his phone as he sat down. “Jacque says Happy New Year. She had a busy night and she made a boatload of tips.”
“Wasn’t tonight her last night?”
“It was. She’s taking a few days off. Then she starts an office job with regular hours.”
“I’ll bet she’s looking forward to it.”
“She is, and we have a message from another mutual friend. It’s a short video he shot in his hotel room. Take a look.”
“Hey you guys,” said a tired looking Mike. “It’s been a long day, but I got the live performance done. So, before I crash I want to wish you both a Happy New Year, and with any luck, Ms. Rose, we’ll be together next New Year’s Eve.”
“I sure hope so,” said Tonya once the video ended.
Tonya’s holiday turned bittersweet after George thwarted her plans to spend it Mike. However, her other friends have a special Christmas surprise in store for her that is guaranteed make her smile.
A Christmas scene from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine
Tonya spent the next few days jamming with Shawn and helping Jacque with her last-minute shopping. Christmas Eve was spent baking pies, and on Christmas morning the three drove to Arlington to have breakfast with Shawn’s family. Returning to the apartment, Tonya and Jacque prepared a lemon chicken dinner, but both Shawn and Jacque were acting strange over the meal.
“C’mon you guys,” said Tonya. “I can tell you’re hiding something, so you all can stop acting innocent. What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” said Shawn.
“Uh-huh,” said an unconvinced Tonya as someone knocked at the door. Shawn hopped up and answered.
“I see you finally made it.”
“Yeah,” said a familiar voice with a southern accent. “Although we had a slight delay getting out of Birmingham.”
Mike had barely stepped inside when Tonya rushed up to him. As they wrapped their arms around each other she suddenly burst into tears.
“Hmm…this isn’t quite the reaction I was hoping for.”
“I’m fine,” said Tonya as she squeezed him again. “I just wasn’t expecting this.”
“Don’t worry, Mike. It’s happened before,” said Shawn. “The last time was right after she threw a bra into Becca’s soup.”
“The little bitch had it coming,” said Tonya. “I’ll fill you in later.”
Shawn smiled at the memory. “It was an unforgettable moment. We also saved you a chicken leg and there’s plenty of other fixings, so go grab yourself a plate while Jacque and I pack our bags.”
“What’s going on?” asked Tonya.
“Jacque and I booked your room at the Westin Galleria after you cancelled it. She and I are going to enjoy a little quality time together before I leave. You and Mike will be safe from the public here.”
“I’ll only be here for thirty-six hours,” said Mike. “Then I have to leave for New York. I’m appearing on a New Year’s Eve special at Times Square.”
“I know you are,” said Tonya, “and Shawn and I have a gig in Beverly Hills.”
Shawn and Jacque excused themselves to pack their bags. Ten minutes later they were out the door.
“Are you okay?” asked Mike after they left
“I’m doing as well as can be expected. How ‘bout you?”
“The same.” He stopped and gave her a smug grin. “So what’s this about a bra throwing incident?”
The other day I was going through some old photos and came across a reference photo I shot a few years back. It was when I was doing the preliminary research for my contemporary romance novel, The Deception.
Warning! Spoiler Alert!
The Deception is set in Phoenix, Arizona. The town in which I was born and raised, in case anyone is wondering. As we reach the big climax scene most of the characters have assembled for a hearing at the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse in downtown Phoenix. The hearing itself is short and to the point. It resolves one of major conflicts in the storyline, but there are other loose ends to tie up.
As characters leave the courtroom, Alex stays behind to discuss a different case with another attorney. The rest of the cast leaves the building, and upon stepping out to the plaza, Maggie, one of the antagonists, waits in the wings. A small handgun is concealed underneath her overcoat and she’s about to unleash her final revenge.
Using Real Locations Accurately
Whenever possible, I prefer to use fictitious locations as it gives me more creative latitude. However, there are times when it’s necessary to set a scene in a real place. The O’Conner Courthouse is a unique piece of Phoenix architecture. Therefore, I wanted to describe the scene in the plaza as accurately as possible. I was living in Tucson at the time, so I decided I would drive up to Phoenix and shoot some reference photos. I also invited my beta reader at the time to come along with me. We’ll call her, Ginny.
I planned on arriving after the building had closed for the day and the staff had gone home. I didn’t want to disturb anyone having business at the courthouse. It would also be a whole lot easier for me to find a parking spot. I had told Ginny about the scene I wanted to write, and I encouraged her to help me place the characters in the plaza. I planned on blocking out the scene like a director blocks a play.
So we get to the courthouse. I grab my camera, and as I’m walking around the plaza someone who was apparently working late steps out of the courthouse. Keep in mind this building is a landmark. It’s popular with photographers, and I’m not at all concerned about this woman telling me I have to leave. However, as I’m taking my next photo, I overhear Ginny talking to her. She’s telling her all about the scene I’m writing, and how it involves a character with a gun.
At this point my heart stops beating. The last thing I need is for this woman to get the wrong idea and call the police. It’s times like these when you’re grateful to have brought along your business cards. I quickly handed one to her and she walked away. Once she was gone, I finished up as quickly as I could and we left without incident. Interestingly enough, I haven’t previewed a real location since. That’s what YouTube is for.
I published The Deception about a year I visited the courthouse plaza, and it’s been one of my more popular contemporary romance novels. So far as I know, it’s still my editor’s personal favorite.
Of all of my contemporary romance novels, The Reunion will always be my personal favorite. It’s a story of hope and second chances. As the story begins, Gillian, and her assistant, Rosemary, are on the way to a Denver art gallery. It’s Gillian’s opening night, but Rosemary can’t shake the feeling that something is about to go terribly wrong, in spite of Gillian’s reassurances.
Rosemary McGee had the next traffic light perfectly timed until a car from the other lane suddenly cut in front of her minivan. She slammed on the brakes, narrowly avoiding a collision as the light turned yellow. Keeping her foot on the brake pedal, she came to a stop as the signal turned red. Her knees were shaking as she looked at the woman sitting in the passenger seat.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“I sure hope that wasn’t a bad sign. It’s your opening night and I want everything to be perfect for you.”
“It’s not a bad sign, Rosemary,” she said, trying to reassure her. “These things happen, especially in rush-hour traffic. Don’t worry. We’re okay. We’ll get there in plenty of time, so try to relax. You’ve been on edge ever since we left the hotel. You’re about to give yourself an ulcer, and me a screaming headache to go along with it.”
“Sorry, Gillian. It’s not like I know my way around Denver, and these idiots on the road certainly don’t help.”
“Which is why we have a GPS device. Like I just said, everything is fine.”
They waited for the light to change. Once it turned green, the minivan lurched forward.
“You know,” said Gillian, “just before that happened, I was thinking about my father, and how convinced he was that I’d have no future whatsoever if I became an artist.”
“And when I first met you, I knew you were much too talented to be wasting your time laying out ads for weekly supermarket specials. You’ve come a long way, Gillian. I’m sure your father would have been proud of you.”
“I hope so.”
Gillian Matthews making a name for herself in the art world, and now she had a new gallery to add to her collection. All the risks she had taken to get herself where she wanted were finally paying off.
“Right turn ahead,” said the electronic voice.
“Thank you, Bill,” said both women in unison. Bill was the name they had given the GPS.
“It’s too bad you never got to meet my father, Rosemary. I’m sure you and he would have found one another, interesting.”
“I met your mother.”
“Only once or twice, and it was after she’d gotten so sick she really wasn’t herself anymore. Trust me, there was no way my parents were ever going to allow any daughter of theirs to become an artist. It was way too beneath them. I’ll always remember when Cynthia first went off to college. She was studying to be an elementary school teacher. As far as they were concerned, that was an appropriate career, and I was to follow in her footsteps.”
Rosemary sighed as she turned the minivan to the right at the next stoplight. “I don’t know why, Gillian, but for some strange reason I’ve had a bad feeling about tonight’s show. It started about the time we drove over Raton Pass and crossed the Colorado border.”
“I don’t know why you’d feel that way. It’s not like this is my first time having an opening. You brought all our paperwork, didn’t you?”
“It’s in my briefcase.”
“And we already know my paintings arrived safely. When did you last speak to the people at the gallery?”
“About an hour ago,” said Rosemary. “They said everything was just about ready to go.”
“Have you spoken to your family today?”
“Lou called this morning. He and the kids are managing just fine.”
“Then I’d say we have all our bases covered. You’ve probably just have a case of opening-night jitters, that’s all.”
“I hope you’re right,” said Rosemary, “but for some reason I just can’t shake this feeling.”
Bill announced that they had reached their destination, and the minivan turned into the gallery parking lot. Anthony Sorenson Fine Art resided in a large, single-story office building which had been converted into an art gallery. A catering truck was parked nearby. Its crew was busy unloading boxes and carrying them into the rear entrance.
“See, Oh Worried One, we have arrived. In one piece, and in plenty of time,” said Gillian with a grin.
Rosemary shut down the engine and the two women emerged. They stopped for a moment to smooth the wrinkles from their dresses before Rosemary grabbed her briefcase. Walking toward the front door, a passing car honked at them.
“You’ve still got it, girlfriend,” said Rosemary as she opened the door for Gillian. “I told you that yellow outfit would make you look hot.” Entering the art gallery, they came upon a reception area in the foyer. Beyond it, the building was divided into two sections. The main gallery was on the right, with the smaller changing exhibit gallery on the left, where final preparations were being made for Gillian’s opening. At the back was a hallway leading to the administrative offices.
Rosemary stepped up to the receptionist’s desk and introduced herself. A minute later Tony Sorenson, the gallery owner, entered from the hallway and greeted them, but he appeared to be a bit out of character. He looked uncomfortable in the stiff, three-piece suit he was wearing, and his thinning, curly gray hair appeared as though it had been hastily pulled back into a ponytail. Gillian guessed his typical work attire was probably a well-worn pair of blue jeans with a tie-dyed shirt. As they made their introductions, a harried-looking young man, whom Tony introduced as his assistant, Paul, quickly joined them.
“What we need to do now,” said Tony, “is take a little tour and make sure everything is absolutely correct.”
“Of course,” said Gillian. “Rosemary, do you have copies of our inventory sheets?”
“Right here,” she said as she retrieved them from her briefcase.
They stepped into the gallery and proceeded to go over every detail, inch by inch. Gillian’s favorite subject matter was architectural and outdoor scenes as well as the occasional still life. She worked mostly in acrylic and watercolor, and she was known for using big, bold, brightly colored shapes. Mounted next to each painting was a small descriptive paper plaque, but they discovered one plaque with a minor error. Paul ran back to his office, quickly printed out a corrected copy, and remounted it next to the painting. Once everything passed inspection, they went to Tony’s office to go over the last-minute details.
“Okay,” he said as he seated himself behind his desk. “We sent out the media releases two weeks ago. There was a mention of you, Gillian, along with a photo, in last Sunday’s paper, and, as I already told Rosemary over the phone, a reporter and photographer from The Denver Centennial, one of our weekly papers, will be coming here tonight. They’ll want to interview you and take a few photos, and they said they’d be here sometime between seven and seven-fifteen. Our friend, Paul, will position himself near the front door so he can watch for them, and he’ll let you and Rosemary know the minute they arrive. We don’t want to keep them waiting.”
“Understood,” said Rosemary. “I’ll keep an eye on the clock myself, so I’ll know when to watch for Paul.”
“Good,” said Tony, “then it sounds like we’ve covered our bases on that one. We’ve sent announcements to all of our regulars and we’ve had a good response. We’ve also updated our website and social media pages, so between that, and last Sunday’s paper, we hope to have good turn out from the general public as well. I have a feeling this will be a very good evening for all of us.”
Tony and Rosemary went over the rest of the last-minute details before the meeting broke up. Stepping back into the gallery, they walked past the caterers, who were almost finished setting up.
“See Rosemary, everything is fine,” said Gillian. “I expect tonight will go flawlessly. Tony and his staff are pros. You have nothing to worry about.”
“I know, Gillian, but I still have a feeling that something’s about to go terribly wrong.”
I had a lot of fun writing my two latest contemporary romance novels, The Scandal and Aquamarine. Both stories took place in Hollywood, so creating characters who work in the entertainment industry was a real treat. Interestingly enough, I had only planned to write one Hollywood novel, but sometimes life imitates art.
I was in the early planning stages for The Scandal when the real-life Harvey Weinstein scandal made the headlines. The news stories were too similar to what I had in mind for the storyline, so I had to come up with a whole new game plan. Later on, I used the original Scandal story idea for Aquamarine. Now I’m going back to writing stories about more every day people.
My next story involves a romantic triangle. It’s a classic soap opera trope which always creates nice conflicts. The underlying theme would be best described as, “though shalt not bear false witness.” We’ve all had a lying, two-faced, backstabbing so-called friend at least once in our lives, and this person will be the instigator for much of the conflict.
Jenna, the lead character, is an interior designer whose most recent romance had ended amicably. Or so she thought. However, when her former boyfriend finds out there’s a new man in her life, he’ll do whatever he can to sabotage her new relationship. No, he doesn’t want her back. He’s doing it just because he can. The title for this new contemporary romance novel is Rivalry. Look for it in late 2024.
It’s Tonya’s first Thanksgiving in Los Angeles. George will be spending the day watching football, while Tonya’s mother and stepfather have come to visit her. Tonya meets her parents at their motel, and they drive up to Santa Barbara to spend the day with Mike. As the turkey is cooking, the conversation takes an interesting turn.
An except from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine
It had been years since Heather or Alberto had seen the ocean, so they stopped to take pictures as they made their way up the Pacific Coast Highway. Tonya’s spirits rose once they reached Santa Barbara and parked in front of a small, unassuming home in a quiet, residential neighborhood. Mike came out as they exited their vehicle, greeting Tonya with a big hug.
“Okay, that’s enough,” said Heather with a nervous grin.
“Sorry, Mom.” Tonya quickly made the introductions, but her mother looked a little star struck. The scent of roasting turkey filled the air as Mike invited them inside and told them to make themselves at home in the living room.
“Can I help you with anything?” asked Heather as she presented him with the pies.
“Mike’s an amazing cook.” Tonya’s face beamed with pride as she spoke. “He learned how while he was working at his dad’s grill.”
“Yeah, but they also knew to not serve anything I prepared to the public.” He excused himself for a moment, but before stepping away he asked if they liked dogs.
“We love dogs,” said Heather.
“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Tonya grabbed the wine and followed Mike into the kitchen where he greeted her once again, but this time with a kiss.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Rose.” He was about to kiss her a second time when Bruno barked loudly from the patio. Both burst out laughing.
“Well, okay, I guess.” Mike opened the door and both dogs bounded inside, greeting Tonya with wagging tails while Mike grabbed a few sodas from the refrigerator. Heather still looked a little star struck when they returned to the living room, and she immediately focused her gaze on Tonya.
“So, now that we’re all here, I want to talk to you about something. I’ve been having dreams about your sister again, and she’s been saying some interesting things.”
“Like what?” asked Tonya.
“She says you need to let it go about Jesse and move on.”
“I’m just telling you what she said, and I feel the same, so maybe the dream came from my own subconscious. The point is, you’re an up-and-coming musician, and Jesse hosts a nationally syndicated talk radio show. I’m not saying you have to be a guest on his show, and frankly, I’d prefer you weren’t. I’m simply saying you could possibly run into him somewhere, and if it were to happen, you need to be gracious. Just give him a nod or a quick hello and go your merry way.”
“She’s right,” said Mike.
Heather turned to Mike. “I’ve had other dreams in which Annette tells me you have some sort of a plan to get Tonya away from George.”
A serious look came over his face. “As we all know, Tonya isn’t in a financial position to live on her own. However, I’ve offered her a room here, and she’s saving up her money so she can buy a dependable car. So once she has the means to travel to LA for her modeling gigs, we plan on making some changes.”
“What about your advance?” asked Heather.
“I won’t have the money until sometime next year.”
“I wanted to take her on tour with me,” said Mike, “I certainly could have used her on the viola, and it would have given her some nice exposure as well. However, George wants to remaster the album she did with Shawn, so they’ll be in the recording studio when I start the first leg of my tour.”
“Hold on. Time out.” Alberto looked at Tonya. “Have you signed any kind of agreement with him?”
“They’re still working on my contract, which my manager will sign for me as my representative.”
“Good to know, but I wasn’t talking about your record contract. I’m asking about the agreement for you to rent a room in George’s home. Did you sign any kind of lease?”
“No. It’s a verbal agreement only.”
Heather spoke up. “All I can tell you is whenever I have these kinds of dreams about your sister, she’s never wrong. She says Mickey will help you break free of George. I have no idea what it means, and it may be nothing more than a concerned mother’s worry.”
Tonya took a deep breath and swallowed hard. “So did Annette say anything else?”
“No. She just said you need let go of Jesse, and Mickey will help you with George.”