Heart to heart combat.
McQueen knows what he likes, what he doesn’t, and refuses to pretend social
niceties. Particularly with a red-hot mess of a woman who’s taken it upon
herself to smooth his rough edges.
willing to teach her the wisdom of doing things his way. Besides, it’ll
distract him from the horror of facing a blank page.
think of a long list of adjectives to describe her newest project. An artist by
trade, a personality renovator by calling, she’s sure she can transform the
blockheaded author into a reasonably personable human being.
other until something happens that’s quite outside of Sheri’s plans. Something
that’ll take more than one taste of passion to satisfy…
author, a moody artist, a sexy assistant and a hoarder house. Did we mention
rabid squirrels? Yeah, one of those too.
the following excerpt for While You Were
possession. It also weighed a ton. Two feet tall and four feet across, her
brother hauled the thing out of his trunk while she slung her backpack on her
back. Radcliffe McQueen neither offered to help nor waited, instead sitting in
the front seat of his rusty antique truck tapping the steering wheel as if he
might drive away from her at any given moment.
her side venture years before. Like a calling, helping people gave meaning to
her life and inspired her artwork.
could look at an old battered house and see the potential, the hidden beauty.
She found broken people, found their hidden potential, and helped them find
peace and happiness. She couldn’t resist her fascination with the hermit author
living in the same small town as her older brother, so she’d mixed business and
pleasure and hopped a plane to visit Lance and check the author out in person.
ever assigned herself. Most of the people she met and “renovated” wanted to
change, wanted to find happiness.
anyone. Then again, she’d barely scratched the surface with him. Her brother
hefted the trunk into the back of the truck and she pulled him into a bear hug.
her ear. “Are you sure you’ll be okay? What if he tries something?”
giving off that vibe at all. If anything, I think if I touched him, he’d be the
one freaking out rather than vice versa. It’s fine. Besides, I have a cell
phone. You’re not far. I’ll call you if he does even one strange thing.”
McQueen called the words from his barely cracked window before rolling it back
up with a protesting squeak.
strange thing that scares me.”
looked like a little boy, worried the playground bully might bother his sister,
so she punched his shoulder to relieve his concern. “Seriously, I’ll be fine.”
Turning from him, she jogged around the truck and got in.
headed out of the parking lot.
McQueen to chug his slow and lumbering truck to his home on the outskirts of
the small town. Another decade passed while he avoided potholes and meandered
up his driveway. The entire drive, he neither spoke nor looked in her
direction, keeping both hands firmly on the wheel at exactly ten and two. She
cleared her throat. “So, you’re a very safe driver.” Complimenting those who
needed renovating often built up long disregarded confidence, helping them to
rejoin society as a functioning person.
ability to find a silver lining. Actually, he could have gone deaf for all the
response he gave her.
passenger seat, he parked and shut off the truck. Getting out, he plodded in his
hunched way to the house, not once glancing back.
the steamer trunk. Sighing, she unbuckled her seatbelt and tossed her satchel
on her back. It took her nearly a half hour to lug the trunk out of the back of
the truck and into the house. Once she made it inside the door, she froze.
penetrate the filth covering his windows—wait, were those curtains? And filth. It
was a combo wall of light-resistant dirt and fabric. Not that she could see
much of the windows beyond stacks of flotsam that stood higher than her and
only allowed a small path to a single light bulb dangling from the ceiling and
trying bravely to penetrate the gloom with its lone illumination.
his hat and overcoat, as well as the scarf and fingerless gloves he’d worn in
the store. He now stood in a button down shirt and worn jeans—still hunched
into himself, as if he’d prefer to hide from her rather than to speak. Hands
stuffed deep in his pockets, he shifted, chewed his lips and finally spoke. “You
may sleep in the bedroom off the top of the stairs. I don’t go up there and you
may not go in my office. I don’t care if the entire house catches ablaze, stay
the hell out of my office. It’s rule number two, understand?”
it would be to lug it up stairs. “Is there someplace I could set up to work as
well? I mentioned I’m an artist and—”
babble. Yes, off the kitchen is a space. Gets good light. Should work. Don’t be
door closing and a lock turning punctuating his desire to be done with the
Trying to bite back her horror, she searched for the Pollyanna side of the
there was something.
with the trunk, since the antique thing must have weighed nearly as much as his
unwanted houseguest, but resisted. It would set the wrong sort of precedent. He
wasn’t here to play housemaid to an eccentric artist obviously set on foisting
herself off on a stranger.
ridiculous luggage in tow. Sliding into his leather chair, he spun for a moment
or two, listening for the next step.
and connected to the Internet. Pulling up his favorite search engine, he clicked
in her name and allowed results to populate.
cleared…only two flights to go.
the biggest hacks could create a free website and—
from his lungs. Opening another gallery, he began to scroll through the images,
the colors she chose to use. From twirling women bedecked in bubbles to
heartbreakingly sad panoramas, her gift was something even he couldn’t deny. He
leaned back, steepling his fingertips.
a stranger and ask to visit his home? The prices listed below the pictures—many
overridden with large red letters proclaiming them SOLD—bespoke an artist who
was far from starving. And yet she’d foisted herself off on him.
didn’t really have time for an enigma, and he certainly didn’t have time for
the guilt that riddled him with each of those damnable thumps. Pushing away
from his desk, he unlocked the door and strode up the steps two at a time, to take
the antique trunk from her.
step, blocking his passage. “Oh, don’t be bothered, Mr. McQueen. I have this.
One step at a time, right?” Her flushed face had burst out in sweat, leaving a
pale lock to stick on her forehead. More guilt swamped him.
He got by fine without any troublesome emotions, and if he’d chosen to indulge
in any emotion, he certainly wouldn’t choose guilt to break the pattern. “You’re
already bothering me.” He announced it and gestured at her.
sorry about that.”
thing past your—” At a loss for words, he waved his hand with a bit more
settled on the word and looked away from her, waiting for her to move.
wrapped him in intimacy and invited him to join her in mirth. “For a writer,
you’re not so great with the words. Anyone ever tell you that?”
lifted the trunk and sped up the remaining stairs. Once he made it to the door
of the room he’d offered her, he dropped the trunk—which felt as if she’d
packed it with bricks—and turned to flee.
direct contact with her tempting little body.
diminutive size begged him to protect her, to touch her. Rather than back away,
she considered him by looking directly at him, head tilted back and eyes wide.
A single motion of her pink tongue moistened her lips and he found his gaze
locked on the curve of them. “You’re not old at all, are you?”
presence awakened and he backed into the room to escape her. “No.”
He moved to do so, ignoring the zinging awareness she created simply by being
in his space. When he’d nearly passed her, she spoke. “I’m sorry. I didn’t
intend to break your rule and touch you.”
sincere. To admit he liked bumping into her, that he’d like to do more than
bump into her. That he’d wanted, for the barest of heartbeats, to sample her
have done just that—painting a seduction in words to encourage further and
straightened his back and cast words back over his shoulder. “Don’t let it
her art and consider the folly of inviting her into his home.
they said, “Write what you know.” Small town girl writing small town romance,
her characters are as full of flaws, misunderstandings, and flat out mistakes
as Virginia herself. When she’s is not writing or plotting to take over the
world, she likes to hang out with the greatest kids in history, play in the
mud, drive far too fast, and scream at inanimate objects. Virginia likes
knights in rusted and dinged up armor, heroes that snarl instead of croon, and
heroines who can’t remember to say the right thing even with an author writing
their dialogue. Her books are full of snark, sex, and random acts of
ineptitude—not always in that order.