Authors: Kate Perry
Tags: #Romance, #Women, #sexy, #love story, #Romantic, #fun, #sweet, #Contemporary Romance, #beach read
"Perry's storytelling skills just keep
getting better and better!" –
Romantic Times Book Reviews
"Can't wait for the next in this
series...simply great reading. Another winner by this amazing
–Romance Reviews Magazine
"Hot! Recommended!" –
"Exciting and simply terrific."
"Kate Perry is on my auto buy list."
–Night Owl Romance
"A winning and entertaining combination of
humor and pathos."
Looking for You
Close to You
Return to You
Perfect for You
Playing for Keeps
Marked by Passion
Chosen by Desire
Tempted by Fate
© 2012 by Phoenix Rising Enterprises,
Cover Graphic © Corbis Photography –
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or
are used fictiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A super HUGE thank you hug to Lord Martha.
She runs my world with an iron fist, and I love it.
Big, sloppy kisses to Julie and Parisa. And
also to Josie, who knows when I need my coffee spiked.
And, as always, for my Magic Man. Smooches,
As she stared at the ceiling of her agent's
office, Lola cursed her mother for naming her Lola Carmichael.
What had she been thinking? Maybe all those
birth hormones had made the woman shortsighted. She obviously
hadn't realized that a name like Lola Carmichael would severely
limit a girl's career choices. An accountant named Lola? No way. It
didn't help that she looked like Fantasy Time Barbie. She'd been
relegated to being either a stripper or romance novelist straight
out of the womb.
Guess which she became.
Lola slouched in the seat until her butt
perched on the edge and her head rested on top of the chair back.
Sighing, she counted the cracks in the ceiling as she waited.
She got up to twenty-three before she lost
count. "With all the money you make off me, shouldn't you be able
to afford to fix the ceiling, Paul?"
Her agent didn't bother acknowledging her,
his full attention on her manuscript.
She studied him as he read. Paul Jennings
was the most unlikely looking agent she'd ever seen. If she had to
cast him in a book, he'd be an ex-Navy sergeant—a hulk who dressed
in fine suits, French cuffed shirts, and silk ties.
His office looked like him, too. The lines
were simple and the colors muted, but all together it looked sharp
One manicured hand flipped a page. Lola
wondered what he thought of her story.
She didn't have to wonder long. Paul set it
down and stared at her with dark, piercing eyes.
Since he didn't seem inclined to speak, she
ventured a comment. "It has promise, don't you think?"
"Don't hold back. Tell me like it is."
Paul leaned back in his chair and crossed
his arms over his barrel chest. "Lola, you have six weeks until the
deadline, and you just handed me three of the worst chapters you've
ever written. Your first novel was better than this."
"Lola, it's shit," he repeated
"It needs some editing but—"
He picked up a page and read out loud.
All men were bastards. At least hers would be good looking,
even if his chin was weak.
She shrugged. "The hero has to have some
"This hero is more than flawed." He picked
up the pages and tossed them into the garbage. "This hero is an
"I made him realistic," she said as she
reached into the garbage and retrieved the chapters, slipping them
into her bag for later.
Paul heaved a sigh and ran a hand over his
face. "Isn't it time you got over Kevin?"
Her spine stiffened automatically. "This has
nothing to do with Kevin."
"It has everything to do with him. You're
bashing your hero because one man hurt you."
"He did not hurt me."
Paul cocked a brow.
Humiliated, yes. Hurt, hell no. A woman had
to care to be hurt, and there was no way Lola cared about Kevin.
Looking back, she wasn't sure she ever did. "I'm not hurt."
Paul didn't look like he believed her but he
didn't argue. Instead, he got all business-like. "Fact of the
matter is you have a deadline in six weeks and you've delivered
nothing your editor will accept. Unless you want to destroy your
career after all the hard work to get to this point, I'd suggest
you get cracking and churn out one of the romance novels you're
That was the problem. She wrote her stories
based on real-life happily-ever-afters. Her first book had been a
veiled account of her parents' courtship, and every story since had
been inspired by true stories of love.
This next book was supposed to be
Until Kevin dumped her.
Not exactly the greatest romance to write
But what was she supposed to do? Scrap the
whole story and start over? She didn't have another romance to
replace her story. And, frankly, it was crazy to start over with
the deadline six weeks away. If she could just make it to the
ending, then she could go back and fix it all.
Knowing Paul was waiting for some reply, she
nodded. "I've got it all under control."
He didn't look like he believed her. "Get
the old Lola Carmichael back. That's what people pay for. That's
what put your current release at number eight on
"Speaking of your current bestseller." Paul
grabbed one of the neatly filed folders on the corner of his desk
and opened it. "Your publicist has booked you to speak on
this Friday at 8pm. You're helping launch the
new radio show. They were excited to have you."
"Super," she said unenthusiastically as she
took the information from him. "What am I supposed to talk
He gave her that flat, no-nonsense look.
"About your books, Lola. About romance, love, and whatever else the
callers ask you about."
She made a face. "I'm not qualified."
"You're a bestselling romance author. You're
more qualified than most people."
A qualified person wouldn't have thought a
man was going to propose to her when really he was gearing up to
"You're also scheduled for a booksigning at
that bookstore café you requested, Grounds for Thought, as well as
some stock signings around the Bay Area." Paul handed her another
sheet of paper.
"Fine." Grounds for Thought was her friend
Eve's café. She hated booksignings, but if she had to do one she
might as well support a friend.
Paul pointed a finger at her. "Don't let the
promotional things get in the way of writing. They're expecting
another bestseller, Lola."
"Aye, aye, captain." She stood up and saluted
him. She'd do it, too. She just wasn't sure how.
Paul shook his head. "Wiseass. Get out of my
office." He was bent over his desk and working again before she
closed the door.
Mary, his assistant, glanced up. "You look
"He never leaves visible marks," Lola said
as she walked out. Patting her bag to make sure the chapters were
there, she hailed a cab and headed from downtown to Laurel Heights,
where she lived.
She hadn't been thrilled when she first moved
to Laurel Heights. It wasn't her type of neighborhood. She'd have
preferred someplace younger and hipper, like Nopa or the Mission,
but Laurel Heights was the most convenient. She'd lucked out in
meeting some great people, like Eve and Gwen, the woman who owned
the gourd shop downstairs from Lola's apartment. Then there was
Olivia and a host of other people who'd made her feel welcome.
The cab driver let her off precisely in front
of the address she'd given him. A good tip and a smile, and she
hopped out of the car and strode into The Sunrise Care Home.
The scent of Lysol and old people assaulted
her as she walked through the doors. She should have been used to
the smell by now—she'd been coming here three times a week for the
past year—but it still jarred her. It was the smell of sadness,
hopelessness, and death, and it always brought tears to her
Her mother lived here, in it.
By the time she reached her mother's floor,
she'd blinked the tears away and had her perma-smile back firmly on
her face. She stopped at the nurses' station, needing a moment
before going in.
Letty, the day nurse, looked up guiltily from
the book she was reading. "This is your fault," she said, holding
up the book.
"I hear that author does great sex
"My husband thinks so." The nurse leaned in
and whispered. "Last night, I read the one on page one hundred
twenty-six out loud to him. He was
inspired. Thank you,
She patted Letty's arm. "I'll bring you
another book when you finish that one."
"Are you kidding? I've already ordered
everything you've written." The nurse sobered. "Sally isn't feeling
"More so than usual?" Lola asked carefully,
any levity she was feeling faded.
"It's more than the dementia. She has some
congestion. The doctor was worried she was headed toward pneumonia,
so he has her on an inhaler." Letty's face was full of compassion.
"I just wanted you to have a heads up."
"Thank you." Steeling her shoulders, she
strode to her mother's room, took a deep breath, and pushed the
door open with a wide smile on her face. "Hi, Mom!"
Sally Carmichael looked up from where she was
knitting in the window seat. She looked pale and tired, not rosy
like always. Her forehead furrowed in confusion. "Are you the new
Lola's heart sank, and the hurt cut deep. She
knew it wasn't her mom's fault—dementia was a cruel disease—but the
little girl in her was still hurt every time her mom didn't
She reaffixed the bright smile on her face
and said, "I'm me—Lola. I came to read to you."
Pulling up a chair, she sat down and took out
the pages from her purse.
Her mom saw the bound pages and looked
curious again. "Oh. Is it a love story?"
"We specialize in love stories here."
"They're my favorite," her mom said, setting
aside the knitting.
"I know," Lola said softly. Clearing her
throat, she began to read. "'
Louise met him at a party she
didn't want to go to. The first thing she thought when she saw
Calvin was that he had more hair than a chinchilla.
Lola read on, cringing on the inside as she
related the story of how she and Kevin had met, telling herself it
was just a story. Louise and Calvin didn't exist.
Lola and Kevin didn't either.
She finished reading the last bit and set the
"I love Louise," her mom declared. "She's a
Lola's heart melted. "Thanks."
"But that Calvin." Sally shook her head. "I
don't know about him. He sounds like..."
A self-absorbed prick? "Like what?"
"Not right for Louise."
Lola frowned at the pages. "He seemed
"Maybe." Sally sounded doubtful, but then she
brightened. "But it's early in the story, so maybe he'll grow and
deserve her in the end. Maybe his chin will get stronger."
Unlikely. "I'll see what I can do about
"Good. Louise is a lovely girl. She deserves
the love of a great man."
Lola swallowed the lump in her throat. "I'll
have more for you at the end of the week."
"What day is this? I think I have to take my
husband to the doctor." A panicked look came over her mom's face,
and then it glazed over into the blankness Lola hated most.