RELUCTANTLY IN LOVE
White picket fences and fairy tale endings aren’t in Roxanna Moss’s vocabulary. If she’s learned anything at all from her parents’ failed relationships, it’s to keep a lid on her emotions and the walls secure around her heart. As a PI in training by day and a writer by night, she doesn’t have time for a relationship, anyway.
What she didn’t plan on was Dr. Walker…
Chase Walker’s piercing blue eyes and sexy smile make it difficult to keep her heart in check. Even solving the biggest case of her career can’t distract her from the irresistible man heating up her sheets. Chase has her questioning everything she thought she knew about relationships, and denial can’t change the fact that she’s falling madly, deeply, and reluctantly in love.
I’ve previously reviewed the first two books in the series and was eagerly awaiting Reluctantly in Love. I’ve been waiting for Roxanna’s story, just so I could figure out what her story really was. Well, Ms. Roy didn’t disappoint in laying it all out there in this book! What I wasn’t expecting was a hottie like Dr. Chase Walker. Oh boy, I didn’t even cared that he had pecs to die for because he was sweet, like toothache sweet, but not unrealistically so. He was gracious, gallant, and oh man can he bring a girl to her knees with one kiss. Roxanna isn’t too impressed, but then she’s not like most girls. She’s done with love, never even given love a shot, and has no intention of being in love, reluctantly or otherwise. When her parents came to visit her whole world blows up like a glitter bomb gone wrong and after a bottle of vodka and heels to die for she blew it, royally. Mixed in with this love story is Beverly’s missing cat, Pretzels, and an alien wearing a thong. Seriously, if you’re looking for love AND laughter then you need to read the What’s Love???? series.
The elevator dinged with each passing floor on the way up to LM Security, the private investigation and security firm where I worked. My uncle started the business twenty years ago, and my cousin Leo was now in charge. Well, mostly in charge. My uncle was in a semi-state of retirement. My aunt kept him busy with house projects and traveling across the States in their RV, but every now and then he managed to sneak away to check in on the firm. He would never have quit if it weren’t for high blood pressure and a short no-bullshit fuse, a dangerous combination in this line of business.
I didn’t pay much attention to the floor numbers lighting up the elevator panel, or to the soft rock music playing from the speakers. My cell phone was pressed to my ear while my agent reminded me of the contingencies in the publishing contract I’d been offered.
“You need to get me a couple of chapters so we can make sure you’re on the right track with this next book,” Kelsey told me.
While she talked, I was busy trying to pump inspiration into my writer-blocked brain.
You got this, Roxanna Moss. You will own this second book. That’s all there is to it. None of this writer’s block crap. You’re a ROCK STAR!
There. I felt better already.
So what will the plot for this second book be?
And there it was again—a whole lot of white noise.
Coming up with story ideas had never been a problem before. The first book had practically written itself. I’d put my fingers to the keyboard and—whoomp—there it was. Not this second book though. I’d blown half of the first month psyching myself out and writing horrible pages. Lately, I caught myself staring at the looming deadline on my calendar, circled five times with a fat red marker, instead of writing. I’d never been the kind of person who choked under pressure before, but I was now. I got it—I was a newbie and they were protecting their investment. But if I couldn’t get them a first draft of the second book within four months—poof—no more contract.
“Maybe you need to get laid,” Kelsey said.
I paused with my latte cup to my lips. “What did you say?”
“Sex,” Kelsey said in a serious tone. “You told me you haven’t had sex in months.”
Kelsey and I hit it off after my in-person pitch session at my first writer’s conference. I hadn’t planned on doing a pitch, so I wasn’t prepared. A group of us unpublished and wide-eyed writers had taken a couple of shots of tequila in the hotel bar and goaded each other into it. With liquid courage on my side, I’d walked into the room like I owned the place—and bombed. Instead of kicking me out, Kelsey took the notecards I’d drafted at the bar. She did a lot of brow-knitting, glancing up at me every few seconds as she flipped notecards. I met her for dinner on the last day of the conference, where we consumed too many vodka martinis and ended the night with a couple rounds of karaoke. And now that she was my agent, we talked about sex.
I took a drink of coffee. “You sound like Gen.”
Gen was my best friend. Well, one of my best friends. Gen, her twin sister Lexie, and I were like the Three Musketeers. That’s what our parents called us growing up.
“Maybe because Gen is right,” Kelsey said.
I grimaced. “I’m pretty sure Gen is not right. She’s been trying to hook me up with her boyfriend’s best friend.”
“Uh, no, that sounds complicated. I’m talking about hot, uncomplicated sex.”
“I don’t think sex is my problem.”
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open to LM Security’s lobby. Lindsey, the receptionist, sat behind an imposing mahogany desk. I lifted my hand wrapped around the latte in greeting and stepped from the elevator into the lobby. The office smelled of sugar cookies—I liked this new scent. She’d been experimenting with scented wax the last couple of weeks. The smell of sugar cookies was much better than the strange spice scent she’d chosen last week.
“Sex is always the issue,” Kelsey said. “Whether you haven’t had it yet, or you’re having too much of it, or you’re having it with the wrong person, or you’re not having it at all. It screws with your chakras. You need a man in your life. A hot piece of ass inspires creativity. Get laid.”
“I refuse to believe my relationship status has anything to do with my writer’s block.” My high heels clicked against the granite tile until I stepped onto the throw rug leading to the reception desk.
“Not a man, but his penis,” Kelsey said.
Laughing, I shook my head. “Yeah, okay. A penis fixes everything.”
“Amen,” Lindsey said.
“Don’t encourage her,” I told Lindsey. Setting my purse on the reception desk, I told Kelsey, “I’ll think about it, but I really don’t think getting laid is the cure to writer’s block.”
Or is it? It’d been a long time since I’d had sexy-time; so long that counting down the numbers in months made me cringe.
“Don’t think, do,” Kelsey said. “Three chapters in two weeks. That’s your deadline. Don’t blow it.”
She hung up before I could respond.
I dropped my cell phone into my purse with a heavy sigh, my temples throbbing with frustration. Everything I’d plotted out in the last week was crap. Crap, crap, crap. Every idea had been tossed out.
“Was that Kelsey?” Lindsey asked.
I nodded. “Yes. I think she’s getting worried.”
“Sounds like she’s got a cure.” Lindsey grinned and gave me an exaggerated wink.
“Ha, funny.” It would have been if I weren’t so worried. I sucked in a deep breath. Get your shit together already.
“Maybe this will help.” She pointed to a fat manila file on her desk. “Those X-files you asked me to dig out.”
“Thank God.” I set my latte down and reached for the file.
LM Security was known as THE private security firm in Nebraska. The investigative side of the business had been solid from the beginning.
“There’s some weird stuff in those.”
I flipped the file open with a smile. “Yup. It’s my favorite part about working in this joint.”
LM Security had its share of . . . strange walk-ins. Most of the notes from those encounters ended up in what the firm’s first secretary labeled the X-files. She was a fan of the show. Last night while I was hunkered down in the front seat of my SUV across the street from a client’s house, I dictated ideas into my cell phone’s voice recorder. Stake-outs of the infidelity sort are boring. I sometimes waited weeks for the money shot that would screw the cheater out of a large wad of cash. Just so happened, last night I got the money shot and the idea to comb through the X-files for inspiration on a new story plot. I wasn’t sure why the idea didn’t come to me sooner, I was just glad it did now.
The X-files were plum full of conspiracy theories, disgruntled spirits, and all sorts of great material to fuel a writer’s imagination. Just a few weeks ago a man claimed to have spotted Bigfoot up by Valentine and wanted to hire some of Leo’s men to help hunt him down. He promised payment in the form of everlasting fame and the fortune they’d receive for the movie rights. Leo didn’t take the case, but I personally thought the hunt for Bigfoot promised more excitement than catching a cheating husband with a hooker.
Story of a lifetime kind of thing.
I stayed up front in the lobby, perched on the edge of Lindsey’s desk while I flipped through the mess of notes in the X-files. They weren’t the easiest to read. Some of the notes were handwritten, some typed and printed out, others on the back of coffee-stained napkins or scribbled onto sticky-notes.
I divided my attention between the notes and Lindsey. She was in the middle of describing the worst date of her life with an old college crush who took her to a taco vending truck in a sketchy neighborhood serving a suspicious secret sauce.
I didn’t have a squeamish stomach—paranormal movies had gotten pretty graphic over the years—but talk of bowel movements gave me the heebie-jeebies in the worst way.
She seemed like she needed to vent so I didn’t interrupt. I gave the appropriate grunts of acknowledgement and tried not to let my imagination take over. It was hard, though. She painted a detailed picture.
Lindsey described how she’d shoved her way through a crowded bowling alley, desperate to reach the women’s restroom before the food poisoning hit in embarrassingly-epic proportions. Her college crush had been caught downwind of her awkward retreat. He took her home and she hadn’t heard from him since. It was now a week later. Lindsey was a talker, so I wasn’t sure how she’d bottled up all the angst for an entire week. I could tell she was more hurt and embarrassed than anything—which ticked me off. We’d grown close in the four months she’d been at LM Security. Lindsey had a big heart and all she really wanted was true love and a belly full of baby.
She’d just wrapped up her story when the elevator doors dinged open and out stepped two women; I guessed them both to be in their seventies. The short and plump woman on the left gazed around the lobby, devouring every detail. I’d seen the look before—she was intrigued by the idea of being inside a PI firm. I was familiar with the wide-eyed stare of awe on her face—growing up I wore one just like it every time I got to tag along to the office.
After my dad left, my Uncle Leone sort of stepped in as a father figure. Both were robust, full-blooded Italian men. Uncle Leone had opted for a career in private investigation and security, and my dad chose to become a chef. While working as a personal chef in California, he met my mother, a mouthy Filipino lady who had an eye for the tall and handsome man who could afford to shower her with gifts. My dad was big time in the food industry these days—he had his own cooking show and restaurants all over the States. I was proud of him, but the PI firm was the only place I’d ever seen myself working, even as a kid. Everything about this place fascinated me—the people, the mystery, the feeling of accomplishment when we helped someone.
The hot pink visor the woman wore matched her bright jumpsuit, and her snow white hair curled over the top of her visor, as if she’d teased it up that way. Her cheeks were flushed, as if she’d just climbed a flight of stairs, but it was more likely due to a healthy dose of rouge. The purse hanging over her shoulder looked more like an overnight bag with its size, and I had to hold back an amused smirk. I couldn’t help but wonder what she kept in it.
The woman beside her was tall and thin, the elegant powder blue pantsuit a startling contrast to the other woman’s fuchsia outfit. The light caught the huge rock on her ring finger—it was the largest I’d ever seen. Every lock of dove-grey hair was as meticulous as the pants suit she wore. The scent of hairspray followed her in. While she crossed the lobby, I studied the tension in her gait and her pinched lips. She wasn’t happy to be here.
“Good morning, ladies.” Lindsey smiled—all traces of her disastrous date gone. “How can I help you?”
The woman in the pink jumpsuit dropped her purse to the floor by her feet. “I’m Linda Tomlinson.” She nodded to her friend. “This here is my friend Beverly Potter.”
“Hello,” Lindsey and I said in unison.
Linda propped a hand on her rounded hip and turned her full attention on me, giving me a thorough once-over. “My sister said you were a plucky one.”
“Your sister?” I bit back a smile, because Linda’s lips were pressed into a serious line. I wouldn’t call her heavy; a better description would be pleasantly plump. As if she’d spent many years eating apple pie and homemade mashed potatoes. She looked like somebody’s spunky grandma.
Linda nodded. “My sister hired you to catch my niece’s deadbeat husband with his pants down.”
“Aahhh.” Now I knew who she spoke of. Linda looked a lot like her sister, minus the jumpsuit. That case had been one of the easier ones to close. I’d snapped the damning photo the first day I was hired while the cheating husband got down and dirty with his secretary in the front seat of her minivan. “What brings you to LM Security?”
Linda cleared her throat. “We think an alien abducted Beverly’s cat.”