Here’s to Campfires and S’mores by Brooke Moss

Brooke Moss has a new romance novel out. The cover looks gorgeous and the blurb is intriguing. I have a short excerpt below. Do read it, it’s full of emotions and promises a great book.
book cover

Sparks flew the moment fifteen-year-old Molly Kaff and Jamie Burnham locked eyes across the dusty Camp Chimalis parking lot. From that moment, they were undeniably and irrevocably in love.

Until they weren’t.

Months after the demise of their fifteen-and-a-half-year marriage, a mutual friend from those treasured summers at camp dies, rattling their tight circle of friends to the core. Her dying request? Bring everyone back to camp one last time.

Returning proves more emotional than Molly expected. Sweltering heat in un-air-conditioned cabins is just the tip of the iceberg. Memories, both delightful and dispiriting, press down on Molly as she grapples with the momentous grief from the loss of her friend…and her husband.

Trying to honor her wishes with the ex hanging around is one thing, but being stuck in the woods with no cell service and years’ worth of hurt and resentment is another. As Molly tries to navigate her way through the heartache, she starts to wonder if she was wrong about the reasons behind her failed marriage. And if maybe her friend orchestrated their Chimalis homecoming from beyond…

Can a few evenings sitting by the campfire eating s’mores be the salve her battered heart needs to finally move on?

Excerpt
I fumbled for the handle to the janitorial closet door, my palm slipping on the cold metal. When I finally managed to push it open, I stumbled in and slammed it shut behind me. The motion sensor light popped on, and I made a beeline for the utility sink in the corner. I retched up every bite of the chicken salad I ate for lunch, as well as the four cups of coffee I downed since my shift started. When my stomach was empty, I hung limply over the side of the metal basin. With one last feeble gag, I choked on a sob, burying my face in the crook of my arm to muffle the sounds.
“Oh, Bree, no. Not yet. Not yet…” I moaned into the fabric of my scrubs. I’d chosen the purple pair with little grey hearts. Purple was Bree’s favorite color, or had been, when we were teens and coordinated our outfits. Had fate stepped in and helped me pick those stupid purple scrubs? Could she see me wearing them now? Was she watching me barf all over a mop head in the filthy sink?
With a jolt, I stood upright and scanned the tiny four by six-foot space with wide, blurry eyes. “Bree?” I whispered at nothing. “You were supposed to wait for me.” Another whimper escaped, and I clamped my hand over my mouth. She joked last time I saw her, even with oxygen tubes in her nose, and sallow, greyish skin, that she wouldn’t dare croak without me being present. We sealed the promise with a pinky swear, which was the ultimate in contractual agreements between friends who’d known each other since before puberty.
When she was diagnosed with cancer at four months pregnant with the twins she and her husband Zane had so lovingly prayed for, she also promised to kick cancer’s ass and make it cry for its mama. Unfortunately, cancer had kicked Bree’s butt, and by the time she had the twins, her body was so ravaged and unhealthy, it was a miracle Max and Maddie were born pink, plump, and healthy. But Bree hadn’t cared. She’d been in her oncologist’s office three weeks later, demanding she help her combat the disease full force. She announced she wasn’t going out without a fight, that she wasn’t leaving her children.
While her new role as mommy had rescued her heart from despair, it hadn’t rescued her body from illness. The cancer metastasized, spreading to her colon and eventually her lungs. She did chemo and radiation, traveled to Seattle to stay with April’s family while trying experimental drugs, and even went to a healing shaman that Rachael swore cured her IBS. But the desperate measures weren’t enough.
By the time the twins had their first birthday, she was in a wheelchair, unable to bear her own weight. Because of her intravenous nutrition, Bree’s teeth started to decay. She was a ghost of the vibrant, confident, barefooted girl who forced me to get over my crippling homesickness at Camp Chimalis. She wasted away right in front of our eyes.
I sank to the floor of the janitorial closet, ignoring when something dampened my butt. Placing my head in my hands, I wept for the missed opportunity to hug Bree one last time, for the friend I would never see again, for the sweet parents who outlived their adult child, for the adoring husband she left behind, and for those two magnificent children she fought so desperately to live for…
I had to call April. And Rachael. And I had to call Sue back. Oh, lord, that was a call I wasn’t looking forward to. I wondered if Jamie knew. He knew Bree almost as well as I did. Would Sue have thought to call him, too? Surely Zane would’ve asked someone…
I don’t know how long I sat on the floor, my shoulders shaking, hiccups the only sound besides the overhead speakers in the hallway, paging doctors every five or six minutes. But when the door opened a crack, and cool air filtered in, I shivered.

Brooke was kind enough to answer a few questions about her writing life and about this book.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Usually about 4 to 6 months, but this most recent book was 3 years in the making. We lost a daughter, then moved abroad for my husband’s work, and I simply lost my writing mojo after that. It took until last spring to come back, and then I wrote Here’s to Campfires and S’mores in about 5 months.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I write while my children are in school, so about 6 to 7 hours of writing time per day, though I balance that with real life at the same time. So between laundry, house cleaning, working on promo, etc, for my books, and doing errands out of the home, I would say I get 3 or 4 hours of solid writing (when my muse cooperates) a day.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Charlotte’s Web. Oh, so sweet! But most recently I wept while I read John Corey Whaley’s Where Things Come Back. I was on a long flight from America to South Korea and I read the whole book in one sitting, and it just got me right in all the feels. So good.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both! When I am cranking out the words and really feeling my characters, it pumps me up, and I feel hyper and excited to keep writing. Other times, though, it can be draining, depending on how personal the material is. When I was writing Here’s to Campfires and S’mores I found the material draining, because there is a lot of talk about infertility, and I had to draw from some of the experiences some friends have had, and that was emotionally draining. But when I wrote the flashback scenes from 1994, I found myself feeling really excited, because I could tap into my own teenage experiences.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Television. I tend to turn on the Real Housewives when I’m writing, and when that happens, all bets are off. I won’t get anything done, except having Tweeted about how rude Vicki is, or how drunk Brandi acted. It’s very time sucking.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Pour your heart onto the page, and edit it later. If you edit as you go, you’ll have a dry, state book. If you put your everything into it from the beginning, you’ll have plenty to work with. It’s always easier to scale back than to add to later.

What does literary success look like to you?

Making a regular wage and having readers who put me on their “auto-buy” list. It would be lovely to see my books made into a movie someday, as well, though I always feel like that’s a pipe dream. We’ll see…..

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I usually start writing, and stop to do research as I go. I find that if I don’t do the two things in a parallel manner, I’ll take a year or longer to plan, then lose interest in writing the actual book before I’ve even started chapter one. So I try to do both at the same time.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Probably the scene where Molly finds out Bree (her BFF from childhood) has died. It was very emotional and trying to write. I’ll admit…I teared up!

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Can’t Buy Me Love

CBML Final

Less than a month till Can’t Buy Me Love is out! Pre-order it here.

Seven romantic tales of love where royalty, celebrities, and passion meet. A case of mistaken identity, protecting the one you love, or proving you aren’t all about the money…these tales will entice and thrill.

Read stories by Abigal Drake, Lisa Hahn, Grea Warner, Tammy Mannersly, Melissa Kay Clarke, Stephanie Keyes and me.

Here’s an excerpt from my story Romancing the Princess.

Love rules all. Or does it?

A commoner, Sebastian, and Princess Alixandra are in love and set to get married until a clause in the prenup rubs Seb the wrong way and he stuns Alix by vanishing from the palace just a day before the wedding. He is not sure fitting in with royalty is worth sacrificing his principles but he could lose the love of his life otherwise. The choice seems impossible.

 

Excerpt

Usually, he left before the morning shed light on the consequences of his actions. This time, his insides squeezed at the thought he’d never get to wake up next to Alix again. It wasn’t fair.

“It’s been …” Alix glanced at him and then dropped her gaze. “Well, I need to go through the customs. Boarding will start in half an hour.” Her voice was croaky. It pained him that he couldn’t tell whether from fatigue or emotion.

She leaned into him, soft and supple, and it took his breath away. His arms came around her reflexively. Her bed hair was a stark reminder of what they’d been doing minutes before calling a taxi to take them to the airport.

“This was real, right? I didn’t just dream it?” Seb said.

He couldn’t quite catch what she murmured into his chest.

“I’ll miss you,” he blurted.

She looked up, opening her mouth, but then she pressed her lips together and dropped her gaze to his chest. He forced her face up with his finger under her chin. He kissed her forehead, her cheek and eyelids, her chin and lips, and felt the bitter taste of goodbye intruding on their intimacy.

His mouth on hers seemed to have unlocked something in her because she finally whispered, “I’ll miss you, too.”

When she stepped away, he reached to push a strand of her hair from her face, but her eyes—miserable and dark—flitted to his for a second and then she was gone, walking away from him, and then running, her purse swaying from her shoulder behind her.

Sports & Love #snowboarding #romance

OnTheSlopes.v1-FinalToday, I feel like sharing an excerpt from my sports novella, On the Slopes.

She plugged the earbuds in and pressed play on her iPhone. She pushed off, and, the next second, she hurtled through the whiteness, high on the joy and thrill of snowboarding powder. The arousing music in her ears heightened the experience. She vibrated with ecstasy, ripping up the soft white pillows of fresh snow. The powder sprayed her goggles, and she ended up swallowing some as she grinned like a lunatic, tearing past sagging tree branches and sharp rocks.

All too soon she skidded to a stop at the bottom of the slope. Panting, she dusted off her snow-covered jacket, but as Sam stopped next to her, he sprayed her with more snow.

In between wheezing and chuckling, he teased, “Snowman.”

“As if you’re any better. And it’s snow woman.”

He laughed and the sound echoed through the trees.

“Man, that ripped!” He high-fived her and as his snowboard slipped on the snow he almost tackled her to the ground in the process. He caught her just before she fell.

She let out a breathless laugh of delight. Her cheeks glowed and cold sweat coated her back. She hadn’t experienced such perfect conditions for snowboarding in powder snow in ages. She filled her lungs with the crisp air and enjoyed the unspoiled nature with Sam standing next to her, silent and motionless.

After such a treat, she was looking forward to a hot shower and then bed.

When she turned to Sam, she caught him staring at her. His gaze dropped to her mouth and then returned to her eyes. The tingles in her belly made her voice unsteady as she asked, “Ready to go in?”

It’s not difficult to explain why I chose to write about snowboarders in On the Slopes (the MC in My Summer Roommate is a snowboarder too, btw). Snowboarding is more than just a sport. It’s exciting, inventive, dangerous. It takes a special sort of person to blaze down the steep slopes and jump the high kickers.The kind of person that makes a terrific character for a story.

Obviously, I needed to do a lot of research because I’ve never been a professional snowboarder or any sort of a snowboarder for that matter, but I love research. Especially when it entails watching hours upon hours of fun and dangerous snowboarding tricks.

Here‘s the proof that snowboarders know how to have fun!

 

****

On the Slopes

Excerpt

“So, you dumped your mother to come see me?” she joked.

“Yeah, well, this was more important than sightseeing.”

That sobered her up. She hadn’t meant what she said, but she must have been closer to the truth than she thought. “Christ, Sam. It could’ve waited. She flew in from the US to see you.”

He waved his hand. “She’ll be fine on her own. She always has been. She wants to meet you, though.” He added, “It might be because I went on and on about you for the past three days.”

Charlise wanted to weep with all the warm feelings his words had awakened in her. Instead, she said, “I’d be honored to meet her. From what you told me, she sounds like an amazing woman.”

Sam cleared his throat after he sipped his espresso. “Charlie, about that night—”

“Which one?”

He had the decency to blush at her words. “At the club.”

He took another sip. At this rate, his tiny cup would be empty within seconds. His nerves were showing more than she’d anticipated.

“I have no words to tell you how sorry I am. You hurt me, and I went and did something stupid just to hurt you back. I would take it all back in a second if I could.”

“So, you ended up at her place, did you?”

His silence answered her question. The jolt of pain in her chest shocked her. But then again, it shouldn’t have. She’d been thinking of Sam and love in the same context when she woke up alone in her dark bedroom. How had he felt when he awoke next to the beautiful stranger? Or hadn’t he stayed the night? God, she didn’t want to know.

 

Man, that ripped! #snowboarding

Just a few more days until On the Slopes will be available in online bookstores. You can pre-order it here & here. To give you a taste, here’s another short excerpt.

OnTheSlopes.v1-Final

Snowboarding means everything to Charlise, but she hasn’t met Sam Miller yet.

Charlise is a snowboarder with a promising career ahead of her. Despite the fact that her father hates her risking her life on the slopes that had taken the life of Charlise’s mother she is determined not to give up her career the way her mother did when she fell pregnant. Charlise wants to win medals, lots of them.

The last distraction Charlise needs is the American freestyle champion, Sam Miller, who utterly enthrals her with his wit and friendliness. Refusing to risk her career for a relationship, Charlise returns home for Christmas, determined to sort things out with her father. But the holidays culminate in an epic fight, and with a repeat of the painful breakup with Sam. However, new discoveries from her family’s past might change Charlise’s mind about Sam …

*****

She plugged the earbuds in and pressed play on her iPhone. She pushed off, and, the next second, she hurtled through the whiteness, high on the joy and thrill of snowboarding powder. The arousing music in her ears heightened the experience. She vibrated with ecstasy, ripping up the soft white pillows of fresh snow. The powder sprayed her goggles, and she ended up swallowing some as she grinned like a lunatic, tearing past sagging tree branches and sharp rocks.

All too soon she skidded to a stop at the bottom of the slope. Panting, she dusted off her snow-covered jacket, but as Sam stopped next to her, he sprayed her with more snow.

In between wheezing and chuckling, he teased, “Snowman.”

“As if you’re any better. And it’s snow woman.”

He laughed and the sound echoed through the trees.

“Man, that ripped!” He high-fived her and as his snowboard slipped on the snow he almost tackled her to the ground in the process. He caught her just before she fell.

She let out a breathless laugh of delight. Her cheeks glowed and cold sweat coated her back. She hadn’t experienced such perfect conditions for snowboarding in powder snow in ages. She filled her lungs with the crisp air and enjoyed the unspoiled nature with Sam standing next to her, silent and motionless.

After such a treat, she was looking forward to a hot shower and then bed.

When she turned to Sam, she caught him staring at her. His gaze dropped to her mouth and then returned to her eyes. The tingles in her belly made her voice unsteady as she asked, “Ready to go in?”

 

Add on Goodreads

 

On the Slopes

It’s finally here! I mean the new cover for On the Slopes, my new adult snowboarding novella coming from InkSpell Publishing in May 2016.

You can now pre-order it on Amazon and Kobo.

Add on Goodreads.

 

Snowboarding means everything to Charlise, but she hasn’t met Sam Miller yet.

Charlise is a snowboarder with a promising career ahead of her. Despite the fact that her father hates her risking her life on the slopes that had taken the life of Charlise’s mother she is determined not to give up her career the way her mother did when she fell pregnant. Charlise wants to win medals, lots of them.

The last distraction Charlise needs is the American freestyle champion, Sam Miller, who utterly enthrals her with his wit and friendliness. Refusing to risk her career for a relationship, Charlise returns home for Christmas, determined to sort things out with her father. But the holidays culminate in an epic fight, and with a repeat of the painful breakup with Sam. However, new discoveries from her family’s past might change Charlise’s mind about Sam …

 

On the Slopes coming in May 2016.

OnTheSlopes.v1-Final

Thank you, Najla Qamber, for creating this beauty!

 

Excerpt

“Can you drive stick?” Once the rain let up in the afternoon, Sam needed to go into town. It was his turn to buy groceries.

“Sure.” Charlise grabbed at the chance to get out of the house because so much testosterone was doing her head in. “Why?”

Sam let out a breath. “You’re driving, then. I don’t get these European cars. Why can’t they be automatic?”

She chuckled, thrilled to be better at this than one of the boys.

Sam and Todd were from the US, while Thor was German. Most of the film crew was American, hired by their American sponsor. She was the only French on the team.

“Aren’t men supposed to be tech savvy?” she teased him as she started the car and turned up the heater. The temperatures had dropped to around zero, and snow had been forecast for the evening.

“Not being able to drive stick is not a gender thing, it’s cultural,” he said indignantly.

She snickered. “Freud would have a field day with you mentioning stick and gender in the same sentence.”

“Har fucking har,” Sam said, but, despite his grumpy tone, a smile curved his lips.

“It’s a good thing, anyway,” she said smugly. “You not being able to drive around at least means you can’t kick me out because you need me.”

“I’m sure there are others on the team who can drive stick,” he said, challenging her.

She glanced at him with a grin. “I’m sure.” After a pause, she added, “But none of the boys are as cute as me.”

He chuckled, but it annoyed her that he didn’t agree. He always liked to flirt with all the girls at snowboarding competitions, but he never flirted with her. She didn’t feel comfortable being singled out this way. She liked it when boys flirted with her. It made her feel powerful, and it was a big letdown Sam wouldn’t grant her the power.

Publication day

mysummerroommate My Summer Roommate is here!

While I throw confetti and pour myself some bubbly, you can go check the book out at various places. 🙂

The book is available in different formats on Evernight Teen’s website for only $2.99 for a limited period of time.

Amazon.com     Amazon.co.uk    Amazon.com.au

Goodreads

Chloe needs a place to crash for the summer before college. When Chris offers, she moves in with him. It’s just for two months, no biggie. But soon she realizes she may have made a mistake. He’s too perfect—a former snowboarder, laid-back and kind to boot. And he’s smitten with her. But she’s got trust issues and a relationship feels daunting. When he keeps trying to win her over, the temptation becomes overwhelming.

Just as she gives in and decides it’s not worth fighting their emotions anymore, Chris reveals he’s made a stupid mistake which might ruin Chloe’s trust in him and tear them apart.

You can read an excerpt here or view the trailer for the book here.

And you can enter a giveaway for $50 GC for Amazon, $25 GC for Evernight Teen and 5 eBook copies of Letting Go

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Tomorrow’s the big day!

My Summer Roommate will be available online in less than 24 hours. Yay! I’m super excited because this one was a real joy to write. I love Chloe and Chris and I hope you’ll love them, too.

To give you a taste for their story, here’s an excerpt from the novel. Chris is smitten with Chloe almost from the beginning, but she’s convinced they’d never work together. In this scene, Chris suggests they go on a date for the first time, and Chloe fights him with all her might.

The excerpt is told from Chloe’s point of view.

****

I bring him a frozen gel pack. I want to hand it to him, but he’s leaning back, his eyes closed, so I put it slowly on his knee.

“Thanks.” He sighs, and then opens his eyes. He’s half asleep, probably still tipsy, but grinning.

“Thanks,” he repeats. It’s only when he continues that I realize he’s not talking about the compress. “We should do this again soon.”

“People are going on vacations. There won’t be many parties for the next month or two.”

“Just us, then,” he says, and his eyes sparkle.

Risking that I might sound an idiot, I ask, “Are you asking me out? On a date?”

“You sound surprised.”

“Just hesitant,” I say. “I’m not looking for a relationship, Chris. I don’t want you to think that I am.”

Quite unexpectedly, he laughs. “How serious and grown up she sounds.”

I swat his arm. “Jerk. I am serious, because I don’t want you to expect something that’s not going to happen.”

“Why’s that?”

“Why’s what?”

“Why is it not going to happen?”

“’Cause,” I say, as if it should be obvious. Because really, it should be, right? In exactly six weeks, I’ll be moving to Atlanta. I don’t know where Chris is heading to college because I haven’t managed to ask him yet. Isn’t that enough of a reason in itself? You can’t have a relationship with someone when you don’t even know where they’ll be in two months time.

“’Cause? That’s your argument? For a future psychologist, that’s a lame-ass explanation.”

He’s enjoying this. Way too much.

“’Cause I only date terrible people. Bad, bad boys. You’re too nice for me,” I say, joking.

He makes a face, not buying it for one second.

“You want a reason? Here’s a good one—I don’t want anything to happen between us.”

“Why not?”

“I have my very personal reasons which I am not inclined to share with you at this moment.”

“At a later moment perhaps, then?” He keeps looking at me with this half-smile on his face that drives me nuts because I have the impression that he’s playing with me, that he can foresee my every word and that he can prepare his response in advance. I don’t like being two steps behind. Usually, I’m the one to have everything under control. He’s unbalanced me with this.

“At no moment at all. I just don’t want it, and that should suffice, Christopher Quinn.”

“How can you be sure you won’t change your mind?”

For god’s sake, can’t he take a hint?

Maybe you’re not convincing enough? Because … you don’t want to be?

“Because I’m actively working on not changing my mind,” I say in order to drown out my evil inner voices.

“What if I’m actively working on swaying it?”

“Ugh! Stop it,” I say, but I can’t help but laugh. God, I think I like arguing with him. That’s very worrisome. Very, very worrisome.

It gets worrisomer when he leans towards me and asks very quietly and calmly, “Why?”

With his green eyes staring at me, his deep voice cutting right through to the core, and him being so close, I feel goose bumps form on my forearms but I ignore them, annoyed. He will not win. He cannot win.

But the worst thing is that his question is now resounding in my head, and I forgot what the correct answer was. Why was it, again?

“Do you really want me to spell out all the reasons?”

“One’s enough, if it’s a good one.” He grins.

“And you’re the one who decides if it’s good enough, right?”

“Of course. Because the way I see it, it would have to be pretty damn good. I like you. You like me, don’t try denying it.”

I lift my hands in a ‘wouldn’t dream of it’ fashion, because really, there is no point in denying it after I’ve flirted with him, danced with him, and laughed with him until I had tears in my eyes. I do like him.

“We have a good time together. I’ve made you lunch four times this week. We’re both single.”

“True. And the lunch almost swayed me. Almost.”

“Ahh,” he moans, letting his head fall back onto the pillows. “You’re hopeless, and I’m hopelessly falling for you.”

For a moment, I feel my heart stop. But then I realize he’s joking. Which is good. Just great.

“You’ve known me for what, two weeks?” I say to support my claims. “You barely know me.”

“I don’t have to know you for twenty years to know you, Chloe.”

I make a frustrated sound and get up from the couch.

****

Sooooo. Any thoughts? 🙂

 

Harper’s POV

It’s Friday (finally, I might add), and my brain is tired. At least I have 8.000 words of my WIP to show for it (should be 10.000 after today). I saw the Veronica Mars movie (Mmmm Logan, Yowza! Dick, but also mmmm Piz). I read two books, one of which I plan to discuss here very soon. I finished re-watching the first Sherlock series. All in all, I was so busy I didn’t even manage to cook much – which for me is a telltale sign of being overworked.

This morning, I sat down to write a blog post. What happened was – nothing! My brain said what’s enough is enough and it shut off. So I  said, okay, how about this? You have a moment to recuperate, while I post an already written text. How about that?

Since several readers said that they would have loved to see Harper’s point of view in Letting Go, I’m posting an excerpt here. This was part of an earlier draft where I wrote several scenes from his perspective. It’s essentially a scene that ended up in the final version, only retold from Isabelle’s POV. It’s from the beginning of the story where Harper comes pick her up at the airport. Bear in mind it’s unedited, though. Happy reading.

 

Image

Letting Go – Harper’s POV

It wasn’t his fault that he was late. Because of the heavy rain the roads were horrific, with two accidents obstructing traffic on the way to the airport.

He found her standing under the huge white clock. She looked lost.

When he hugged her and kissed her cheek, she asked, “What was that for?”

“Just so your return from France to the crass America won’t be too difficult.”

She tried hiding her smile, but he caught it, pleased with himself. The week before she left for Paris she’s been reserved around him. He guessed them dancing at the spring break school dance unsettled her. He’d ruffled her polished feathers a bit too much for her comfort. So she tried her hardest to let him know she was in a relationship with his brother. As if he hadn’t noticed.

“Where’s your luggage?” he asked when he didn’t see any suitcases nearby.

“I don’t have any. It got stolen.”

“Seriously?”

She nodded.

“Are you okay?” he asked. Jamie didn’t tell him anything about Isabelle being robbed.

“I’m fine,” she said, more than a little stubborn. “I didn’t even see how it happened. I had my suitcase by my feet and there was a little crowd at the train time table so I didn’t notice anything until I reached down to get my purse to go buy the ticket. But then I didn’t have enough money … I tried calling Dad, but I couldn’t reach him.”

“As long as you’re not hurt. You can always buy new clothes. Actually, you could use some more feminine pieces,” he grinned, checking out her blue tailored jacket and jeans. She didn’t look half bad, but she had so much potential to look scorching hot.

She made a face.

“You ready to go?” he asked to hide his amusement.

Isabelle nodded and he led the way to his car.

“So you went home over the holidays?”

“Yeah, I went home on business.”

It amused him how she was trying to act all cool. She wasn’t the kind of girl that talked a lot, so her attempt at small talk suggested she was nervous and uncomfortable. She’d always been a bit shy around him. He guessed that was in part who she was, but that he also scared her a little because he was different from Jamie. She probably didn’t know what to do with him. He found that strangely endearing because watching a confused Isabelle was a treat.

He opened the car door for her.

“Anywhere else to go before we leave? The police?” he asked as she got in.

He had to admire her. For a girl that had had all her luggage stolen, she was acting pretty composed. Most of the women he knew would have panicked and started pulling their hair out. Isabelle was upset, but she took it calmly.

“I talked to them already. We can leave right away if you don’t mind. I’d like to get home as soon as possible,” she said, and rubbed her temples.

It was six in the afternoon and it was a five hour drive. The weather was foul. He knew he’d ruin her plans when he said, “I was thinking of stopping in Perry later tonight and spending the night there. Driving at night in the rain sucks, and we’ll only be home a few hours later if the rain eases up by tomorrow and we’ll be able to drive faster in the morning. That okay with you?”

He could tell that it threw her. She hadn’t expected that. For a short moment he felt sorry and even considered changing his mind. But he was driving and he didn’t really feel like going through the night in this weather. Besides, he was looking forward to the opportunity to spend time with her alone, without Jamie around. He would make her squirm and sweat. He suppressed the grin that tugged at his lips.

“I don’t have enough money,” Isabelle said, pulling two banknotes from her pocket. “I’ve only got four dollars left.”

Like at the airport earlier, she seemed lost and frail. Not something he was used to with her. But when he remembered how obsessed she was with making sure everything went according to plan, it occurred to him that she must be more distressed than she let on. “Don’t worry, I’ve got a credit card,” he said.

She opened her mouth to say something, but then obviously changed her mind.

“You can pay me back once we get home.”

“But …”

“I mean it. Don’t sweat it.”

“’Kay,” Isabelle agreed, but she still looked troubled. Harper hoped she’d relax soon or this would be one awfully uncomfortable road trip.