This has been a busy week. Besides the usual (the job that pays the bills, the family, the geriatric, slightly senile dog), it’s been an incredibly busy writing week too.
I’ve promised the final book in The Resort series in May, and since I’ve signed up for a couple of marketing campaigns to coincide, I really don’t have a choice with that one. I realize May is two months away, however, while the book is written, I’m still working my way through final editing and I haven’t even begun to work up the concept for the cover yet. Well, that’s not true. We know it will be pink and blue, right? Yeah, I have a ways to go…
In addition to that, I have a paranormal series that I’ve been giving serious thought to self-publishing, so I’ve been editing the heck out of it, mostly because I’m avoiding the create-a-cover process. I have an idea in my head, I’m just not sure I can pull it off, which, in truth, is the main reason this series hasn’t been offered up to you as of yet.
As if that isn’t enough, I have been querying publishers and participating in pitch contests. Trust me, I have a lot of material to get out to you, my readers. I just need to determine the best way to do it.
All of this has had positive results, in the form of potential interest from a few publishers, which is super exciting — and means a lot more work to do. I’m okay with that, because this is what I want to do and love to do, but what it means (for this week anyway) is that I did not carve out the time to put together a blog post for you all.
I think that’s okay though, because right about the time I started stressing about this, I received an email from someone else’s blog for which I had signed up, and guess what the blog consisted of? An excerpt from a recently published book. Which, of course, I read. Why not? I also added it to my Goodreads “to read” list, which I’m guessing was the author’s intent. Win, win for everyone.
So today I am a copycat. And maybe a cop-out, but let’s not go there. Read on, for a little taste of the second book in The Resort series — Artist’s Obsession. Considering the final installment,Summertime at The Resort, is coming out in just a few short weeks, I am giving serious consideration to providing excerpts to all four of the currently available Resort books. Not because that would make my weekly blog decision super easy (although it would), but because I want you to have a taste of what you’re missing, if you haven’t read the books, and a taste of what’s to come, when Summertime is released.
“How do you feel?”
The bed shifted, and I cracked one eye to see my live-in boyfriend, Carter James, sitting on the side of the bed, looking at me.
“Like I drank too much crappy liquor last night.”
I smacked my lips and Carter handed me a bottle of water from the bedside table. “Thanks,” I said, touched, despite myself, at his thoughtfulness.
“Do you want to talk about last night?”
This was an interesting question, because Carter was known for using as few words as possible to get his point across, while I could chatter on and on with the best of them.
“Which part?” The only part of last night I recollected clearly was the argument Carter and I had, right before I stormed out of the house and headed to the local bar – alone.
“You didn’t check your messages.”
I glanced at the floor, where my skirt lay in a heap. I assumed my cell phone was still in the pocket.
“You were drunk,” Carter amended. “Bree’s opening reception was last night. For the art show. She wanted you to come up to The Resort.”
The art show. When I first met my best friend, beautiful blond bombshell Bree Jefferson, she was a professional socialite. Two months ago, she hung up her socialite hat and decided to join the working class, by convincing the general manager of The Resort to hire her as the marketing manager. The Resort was an exclusive resort that catered solely to the very wealthy. The locals didn’t get invited inside the tall, stone, grey walls of The Resort unless they worked there.
I worked there myself for about two weeks this past summer. But then a guest attending a luncheon cornered me in the hall and tried to feel me up, my knee connected with a certain part of his anatomy, and my boss thought I reacted a bit harshly, so he showed me the door.
Bree’s first task was to increase off-season business. Since my hometown of Lovejoy, where The Resort was located, was in northern Michigan, in an area with no ski hills, off-season was pretty much September through May. Sure, the fall colors were spectacular and we saw a fair number of snowmobilers and cross country skiers, but aside from two weeks in November during deer hunting season, the population around tiny, back woods Lovejoy hovered around five hundred people during the off-season. Bree’s first task – put together a successful art show during October, when it was as likely to snow as it was to be sixty degrees and sunny – would be her hardest.
Like everything else she did, Bree threw herself wholeheartedly and without reservation, into her job. She decided a fall art show was the perfect way to bring the wealthy and elite to our small up north town.
Feeling a horrible sense of foreboding, I leaned over the bed, snagged my skirt with a finger, pulled the cell phone out of the pocket and dropped the skirt back onto the floor. I typed in the password and 5 missed calls lit up the screen for a moment, before it was replaced with 2 new voice mails. I listened to the voice mails. The first was from Carter:
Hey Allison. Bree wants you to come up to The Resort for her opening reception tonight. It started at seven. Sorry, I’ve been so busy I forgot to tell you.
I noticed he didn’t sound angry. Apparently, our argument had been one-sided.
The second one was from Bree:
Allison, where are you? Carter said he’s been calling but you aren’t answering your phone. Come up to The Resort. It’s a blast with all these crazy artists. It’ll probably go on half the night, so come over as soon as you get this. Miss you!
I deleted them both and tried to push away my guilt. I’d been busy drinking away my perceived woos while Carter had been at The Resort, helping Bree with her first big event. They’d both wanted me there, Bree probably actually needed me there, and I’d simply ignored them.
Well, I hadn’t actually ignored them. Wait, yes I did. I ignored Carter’s calls, I remembered, at least the first couple. After that, I was just too drunk to realize my phone was ringing. Which made me feel guilty all over again.
“It looks like you’re having a helluva conversation in your head, Allison. Care to share?”
Carter and I were opposites in many ways, and this was just one example. He could easily hide every emotion, any time, and in fact, I think he had to work to actually show emotion. The only way I could remotely read him was by watching his eyes, and even then it was still fifty-fifty. His eyes were a steely grey color, but when he was angry or turned on, they tended to fade to black. Problem was, I usually wasn’t sure whether I was pissing him off or turning him on, until I was either flat on my back or he was storming from the room and slamming the door in frustration.
On the other end of the spectrum, I was an open book. I would make a lousy poker player because every emotion was spelled out on my face as it drifted through my head.
To buy myself time because I wasn’t really sure what to say, I stood up and went into the bathroom. I used the toilet, brushed my teeth, washed my face and wrapped myself in Carter’s black terrycloth robe, which I found hanging on the back of the door.
When I stepped out of the bathroom, Carter lounged against the headboard with his hands clasped behind his head. Despite the argument we had last night – the one that incited me to go out to the bar alone and subsequently get so drunk that someone had to drive me home – just looking at Carter, sitting on the bed, half naked, gave me all sorts of ideas that did not involve actually talking through our problems. He really did have a gorgeous chest, and that errant lock of dark hair that drooped over his left eyebrow…
I shook off the tempting thoughts, knowing that we needed to talk about what happened last night. Carter and I were not very good about talking through our issues, so I figured it would take us half a dozen tries before we got it right. Might as well start now. I walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, next to his legs, with my back to him, so that the sight of his chest wouldn’t further tempt me.
“The detective dropped you off last night.”
So that’s how I got home.
The detective to whom he referred was Dan McIntyre, a detective for the Messenger Lake Police Department, the slightly-larger-than-Lovejoy town located on the north end of the lake.
I met Dan back in August, when some guy tried to run my car off the road, and then ended up dead in a ditch the next day. No, I did not kill him, but I was a person of interest for about five seconds. It was long enough for Dan to develop a more personal interest in me.
Dan happened to be quite an attractive man, and despite my budding relationship with Carter, I was mildly attracted to him too. I haven’t actually done anything about that attraction, but unfortunately, it was mutual, and Dan was not afraid to push his boundaries with me. Whenever we ran into each other, he had a habit of stealing a kiss before we parted ways. I still haven’t determined how I felt about that, so I haven’t yet done anything about his actions – such as tell him to stop.
“He suggested that you might not be entirely happy in our relationship,” Carter added when I didn’t say anything.
I cringed inside, because I could only recall snatches of the conversations I had with Dan last night. I did, unfortunately, recall that I’d used him as a sounding board, complaining about Carter and the way he insisted upon protecting me all the damn time, even when I didn’t need protecting. I also recalled that Dan’s response involved my breaking up with Carter and dating him instead.
I’ve noticed that Dan wasn’t particularly afraid to express his feelings.
“That’s not really it,” I said on a sigh.
“Then what is it?” Carter asked. He wasn’t angry yet, I didn’t think, but I could tell that it wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge, and then any thoughts of making up would go out the window, since my reaction to Carter’s anger tended to involve throwing up my hands and storming away from the situation.
“I’m feeling a little stir crazy lately,” I finally blurted.
“I guess I kind of feel… Useless. I think my job for you is completely made up just so you have an excuse to pay me a salary, because otherwise I would feel the need to go out and find a different job. And if I have a different job, I wouldn’t be under your thumb and you’d hate it.”
It wasn’t exactly what I’d been angry about the night before, but I was still pretty proud of the fact that I’d managed to get all of that out without mangling it. I glanced at Carter. His eyes were dark, and I didn’t think it was because he was turned on.
“Allison, you aren’t useless. And I’ve needed an office manager for a while. I just didn’t like the idea of someone in my home all day while I was at work. You were perfect for the job because you live here, and you needed a job. And surprisingly, you happen to be pretty good at being my office manager.”
I ignored the barb about being surprised that I was good at the job – I did have a brain, after all – and blew out a shaky breath because he’d done a decent job of reassuring me that at least one portion of my concerns were for naught, and yet I still felt… Frustrated.
“The office manager job doesn’t take all my time. I’m usually done by one or so.”
Carter’s lips quirked. “Maybe we need to adjust your salary.”
Well, hell, that wasn’t what I wanted to accomplish. I liked my salary. It was the best salary I’ve ever made. I could actually go out and rent my own place on the salary he paid me.
“Or maybe you need to stop trying to keep me under your thumb.”
“I don’t try to keep you under my thumb,” Carter denied. “I just need to know you’re safe.”
“We live in Lovejoy, Carter. Nothing dangerous happens here.”
He gave me a look that told me he hadn’t quite forgotten what happened two months ago, when Bree’s mother went on an attempted murder rampage, and I kept accidentally getting into the way.But I didn’t die, I wanted to shout at him.
Instead, I said, “Maybe you need to let me do more stuff for you. Stuff that involves getting out of the house. Stuff that involves more action.”
“You want more action?” I didn’t like the inflection or the tone of his voice.
“Yes,” I said stubbornly.
“Is that why you went to the bar last night? Were you looking for action?”
I could tell we were moving into stormy seas here. “No. I went to the bar last night because I wanted to go to The Resort and you wouldn’t let me, because you said I would just get in the way.” I waved at the cell phone that was now lying on the bedside table. “And then you call and tell me to come anyway. I got sick of you telling me what to do all the time.”
“I do not tell you what to do.”
I snorted in response and Carter rolled his eyes. This conversation was deteriorating fast.
“Are you PMS-ing?”
“No. Why is it any time I’m in a bad mood, you think I’m PMS-ing?”
“Because you usually are.”
“If I were PMS-ing every time you accused me of it, I’d be on the rag three weeks a month instead of one.”
“Fine,” Carter snapped. His hands were no longer clasped behind his head. His arms were crossed over his chest now.
“I do tell you what to do, but that’s because someone has to. Otherwise you end up dancing on bars in your underwear or coming home drunk with a man who wants to get in your pants almost as much as I do. Hell, he probably wants you worse because I’ve already had you.”
What I didn’t like about Carter’s proclamation that Dan wanted me more than he did was the implication that Carter was already tiring of me, which was something I’ve feared from the first moment we met. When we met, we went from toe-curling sex up against the wall in the hallway in his house to living together all in the course of a week. His feelings for me were so intense, I was certain they’d start to cool at some point. I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.
Emotion overwhelmed me, and I could feel my eyes welling with tears, so I jumped up and rushed into the shower. “Allison,” Carter called after me, but I slammed the bathroom door.
Unfortunately, the master bathroom did not have a lock on the door, and shortly after I stepped into the shower, I heard the door open and Carter walked in. I braced myself for a new fight, even though I was now licking my wounds and in no frame of mind to spar with him.
Instead, I heard the sound of water splashing in the sink and the sounds of him brushing his teeth, and then the door opened and closed again and he was gone. I blew out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding, and stayed in the shower until I used up all the hot water. When I finally emerged from the bathroom, Carter was gone. The coffee pot was full and there was a note on the kitchen counter:
Went for a run. Going up to The Resort later, if you want to go with me. C.
His version of extending an olive branch of sorts, but I wasn’t ready to accept it. It appeared by the note that he’d only figured out half of my problem. Of course, the fear that he would tire of me hadn’t reared its ugly head until the end of the argument, so if I were in a better frame of mind, I would know that I couldn’t expect him to figure that one out.
I poured a cup of coffee, doctored it with creamer, and took it with me back into the bedroom. I picked up my cell phone off the bedside table and called Bree.
“Hey,” I said when she answered. “What are you doing?”
“Going crazy. This art show is so much work, I’m going to need two weeks sitting on the beach in Mexico to make up for it.”
I laughed. “I’m sorry about last night. I didn’t even realize you were having a reception and I didn’t get my messages until this morning.”
I pictured Bree waving her hand as if she were swatting a fly, as she said, “Don’t worry about it. It was a last minute thing I threw together. I originally did not expect so many artists to actually stay here at The Resort. But lodging is limited in Lovejoy and we have so many suites here. I filled about seventy-five percent of them with patrons, and the rest I opened up to artists, so I figured a reception last night would be a nice chance for everyone to mingle.”
She paused and added, “Carter seemed off yesterday. Were you guys fighting?”
I sighed. “We’ve been snipping at each other for days. I’m starting to get a little worried,” I admitted, because she was my best friend and I knew she would understand.
“Don’t be worried. Just talk to him. That man is so in love with you, he’d figure out a way to walk on water if you asked him to.”
Shows what she knew. “I think he’s losing interest already.”
Bree snorted, which always sounded funny coming from her, since she resembled a Barbie doll in appearance, and Barbie would never do something so unladylike. “Oh please, Allison. You must be PMS-ing or something. The man falls more in love with you by the day.”
“I’m not PMS-ing,” I said with a little more force than necessary.
Why did it feel like everyone was accusing me of PMS-ing?
Want to read more? Artist’s Obsession can be downloaded through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and Goodreads. Don’t forget to leave a review when you’ve finished!