I’m finishing final edits on novel #2 in the Willowdale Series, Man of the Month, and I was happy to still find myself laughing and crying over something I’d written, and reread dozens of times. Always a good sign.
I remember the moment I got the idea for this story. My gorgeous friend, let’s call her Georgianna, has inspired many of my stories: The Hot Girl’s Friend (she being the hot girl), Never Been Dumped, and a few others I have in the works. After one phone call when she was feeling particularly down in the single-girl dumps, I proposed a fantastic idea. I’d set her up with a different guy every month. She agreed, and I found a guy for her the very next day at a rock quarry of all places, where I was on a rock hunt with the local geological society. (I dig rocks, what can I say?) The introduction did not lead to a date, but I tried again, directing a cute local DJ her way. Again, nothing. The plan fizzled out. But it gave me a great story idea about a woman doing the same thing for her friend as a New Year’s resolution—Man of the Month.
Somewhere on my laptop exists the single page of the story I wrote before realizing there wasn’t a lot of conflict when a friend finds guys for another friend. And I thought about how horrible it would be if you were in love with the person trying to set you up with someone else. And how equally crappy it would be if you were the one finding dates for the woman of your dreams because the two of you couldn’t be together (for some believable reason I had yet to determine.)
And that’s how Man of the Month was born. This is Jeanne and Brad’s story, two people kept apart by a tragic moment in the past who realize they can’t ever be more than friends—even though they’re both madly in love with each other. It’ll be released by Bell Bridge Books at the end of this month. (Mr. March in the book is a doozy, by the way.) Here’s an excerpt from the book.
Man of the Month
By Lisa Scott
Jeanne’s champagne sloshed over her glass as she tried to find it with her lips. Lordy, was this her third… or fifth? She’d never been much of a drinker, but it was the only way she was going to get through this night. Either that or one of her pecan praline pies. Not just a nibble, either—the whole dang thing. In the end, the champagne would do less damage to her hips, so here she was drowning in the bubbly.
Aiming for her mouth again, the flute disappeared when someone plucked it from her sticky fingertips. “Hey!” she protested, grasping at the air.
Brad towered over her, frowning as he snatched the glass. “Jeanne, what’s gotten into you? Tonight of all nights?” A few people turned to stare.
She hiccupped. Covering her mouth, she shot Brad her nastiest glare, but ugh! The man was handsome even when he was mad, with those chiseled cheekbones and that pitch-black hair falling in his eyes. “Shoot, Brad!” She stamped her stiletto and wobbled, grabbing his arm for balance. Her hand locked onto rock-hard muscle and she nearly whimpered.
Instead, she lied. “I need that drink to ring in the New Year. I’m fine!” she shouted over the music and laughter at the party and plastered on a great big smile. Seemed like everyone in Willowdale, North Carolina, had turned out for the bash, even Chester Miller. He hadn’t left his house since 1998, and here he was chasing the old Mercer twins around the living room—and they were enjoying it! Was she the only one here faking the fun?
Brad’s stern look disappeared and out came a smile that could blind the sun. “You don’t need any more, not tonight. Now, get over here, girl. The ball’s dropping.” He linked his fingers with hers, pulling her through the crowd until they had a good view of Times Square on the giant flat-screen TV. Couples bunched up together in the crowd, preparing for the countdown. Brad snaked his arm around her waist, his thumb stroking her black satin dress. The warm feeling coursing through her body had nothing to do with all those glasses of pink bubbly.
They counted down together. “Three… two… one!” Horns blared, confetti flew, and it felt like a slow-motion movie scene. She turned to him, locking her eyes on his, bright blue and smoldering under a lock of hair. His eyebrow hitched while his mouth formed a perfect pucker. A shiver shimmied down her spine then back up again. With a swipe of her tongue across her lips, she sucked in a breath, closed her eyes—
And Brad planted a big kiss on her cheek. “Happy New Year, kiddo,” he whispered in her ear.
Her heart sank faster than the ball they’d just watched, just like it did every time she realized her perfect guy could never be more than a friend. Dang. She swallowed back the sob crawling up her throat. Didn’t go down as easy without the champagne.
She forced a smile. “Happy New Year, Bradley.” Then she grabbed her glass, slurped the last of her drink, and pushed away from him. Stumbling through the crowd, she made her way toward the back deck of her friend Kate’s enormous house. The damn place was probably bigger than the Smart Mart over in Whitesville.
After indulging a few of the regulars from the Jelly Jar diner with celebratory hugs and kisses, she finally slipped outside, relieved to drop the fake smile. Pulling her wrap tight around her bare shoulders, she leaned against the railing and let out the tears she’d been holding back. The champagne glass slipped from her grasp and crashed onto the patio below. That only made her cry harder—like she needed more proof she really didn’t have a grip on things and hadn’t for a long time.
Jeanne sniffed and her bottom lip wobbled like a bumper threatening to fall off an old truck. She wasn’t one to fall apart all pretty. When she crumbled, she was a downright mess.
Soft, downy flakes fell from the sky, tickling her nose. She brushed them away like gnats. That damn kiss on the cheek shouldn’t have been a surprise. She’d known for a few years now that Brad would always be just a friend, for several very good reasons. And now that they were business partners, becoming a couple would be as stupid as topping their famous rum pound cake with hot bacon drippings. Normally, she could deal with it. Just tuck away that painful longing like a brochure for a month-long cruise you could never afford to take but still liked to dream about.
Guess something about the promise of new starts and a new year and maybe all that champagne brought hope rising up inside her. Only to be popped like a silly soap bubble. Of course, the bad memories from that New Year’s Eve so long ago chased away the good feelings, too. She sucked in a shock of cold night air and shivered.
Folding her arms on the railing, she rested her chin on top. She shouldn’t have come to this party. She should have volunteered to babysit so her sister, Becca, could’ve gone out. Little Emma was just three months old and the most beautiful thing Jeanne had ever seen. That was weighing heavy on her heart, too, reminding her how badly she wanted to be a mama. To have the perfect family she’d never had, and how unlikely that was going to happen anytime soon.
The deck door slid open and the sounds of music and laughter spilled out. She stood up and pressed her fingers under her eyes to catch any dribbles of mascara. Was she the only person in the world sobbing in the New Year? Taking a deep breath, she turned to see who was coming outside. Please don’t be Kate or Tonya. Didn’t know if she had the strength to lie to her friends about what was wrong. They could sniff out a fib faster than Doc Louie’s bloodhounds.
“Why’d you rush out here?” Brad asked.
Dang, worse than Kate or Tonya, Jeanne thought as she turned away. “Guess I don’t feel like celebrating tonight.”
“Sure looked like you were having fun.” He rubbed his hands together. “It’s freezing out here.” He took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders. His fingers grazed her arms and she felt goose bumps answering his touch.
His big, warm body pressed up next to hers and he planted his elbows on the railing as he looked out over the yard and the pool tucked away for the winter. “This night’s hard for me too, Jeanne. Eighteen years is a long time, but still… It hurts, I know.”
She shook her head and shrugged off the idea. She didn’t break down like this every year. Why this one? “No. That’s not it. Your mother died that night too, and you’re not out here crying.”
Brad winced and closed his mouth. He was quiet for a spell. “You still upset we didn’t land the catering gig for the Willowdale New Year’s Bash? You know Kate threw this party just to hand us a catering gig, right? Not a bad consolation prize.”
She nodded. “I know. Kate’s a great friend and the New Year’s Bash was a long shot. We’re not ready for that yet.”
He leaned into her, his breath hot on her cheek. “Cheer up, kiddo. It’s a new year. I’ll make you a batch of those rum balls you love so much to start it off right.” He frowned. “Nothing with alcohol for you. How about chocolate silk pie? You love my chocolate silk pie.”
She loved his everything. “No, thanks.”
“Damn. You turned down pie. You are upset.” He nudged her with his elbow. “You pouting ’cause I took away your drink? You’re a lightweight and you know it. I’ve gotta look out for you.”
Shaking her head, she sucked in a deep breath. “I’m pouting because… I’m lonely.” She sniffed, her emotions ready to tumble out like a bunch of peaches in those flimsy paper bags the Save More uses. “I’m sick of being single. I want a family.”
He looked up at the sky and let out a long sigh. “How can you even think about romance when we just launched Elegant Eats I sure don’t have time for dating. What makes you think you would?”
She lifted a shoulder, a strand of hair tickling her skin. “I’d make time. The alarm on my biological clock is blaring.” Cue the dramatic eye roll. “Never mind. I forgot—you don’t have one of those timers.” The champagne had loosened her tongue more than she realized. Things always got ugly when their talk turned to babies.