Some of you might remember a few months ago I wrote a blog on my holiday series, Naughty Holiday Lists, a series of books about five friends who all make lists of what they want in a man and they receive it, each in their own holiday romance. In that blog I might have foolishly said I’d be taking a break from writing about holidays. Not that I’d never write about one again, but it would probably be a while. This was my first series and I learned a lot from it, but it was ready to move on to some different stories and different ideas.Well, a while wasn’t as long as I anticipated. Only a few short months after declaring on this very blog I’d be taking a break from holiday stories I was inspired to write another one. Totally Bound Publishing, one of my fantastic publishers, put out a submission call for Valentine’s Day stories and a light bulb went off in my head. A holiday inspired light bulb. And with that Valentine Next Door was born.
There are some major differences between this story and my Naughty Holiday List series. First of all, this is a stand-alone story. Though several other characters are mentioned throughout the course of the story, I have no plans to write any of their stories.
Second, this story is inspired by the holiday, but doesn’t take place on the holiday. Besides the character’s name, Miranda Valentine, there is no mention of the holiday. This is the perfect story to be read at any time of the year, even if there aren’t any paper hearts and flying babies taped up on your walls.
And lastly, this story doesn’t involve any stationary. No lists in this story. No help from the universe. Just a good old fashion falling in love with the boy next door. And a heroine who has some trouble figuring out what she wants.
I’m not a big fan of saying I’ll never do something. Almost every time I say I’ll never do something, I end up doing it. But apparently saying I won’t do it for a while isn’t good enough either (I’m working on another holiday book, but I'll talk more about that later). So all I will say is I love writing my characters and the stories they bring me, whether it takes place all on one day or over a whole year. Whether they take place on a certain day of the year or a random Tuesday. I’m open to all of it. Just keep talking to me.
Now here’s a little excerpt from my newest release, Valentine Next Door. I hope you enjoy it.
She hastily climbed the porch steps, balancing the cake in one hand while pushing the doorbell with her left index finger. If she was lucky, the Callahans would be in the middle of dinner and she could just drop off the cake and head back home. She was already looking forward to settling down in front of the television to watch the latest romantic comedy Netflix had sent her, something about finding love in the wilds of Africa. That and the carton of ice cream that wouldn’t be taking up space in her freezer for much longer.
The door slid open and one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever seen stood in the doorway. His dark hair was cut short. His chocolate-colored eyes focused on her and she swallowed. He looked at her with such intensity her skin tingled. His red T-shirt clung to a chiseled chest, and a pair of dark sweats bunched up around the cast molded to his right leg.
“Jeremy?” This couldn’t be little Jeremy Callahan standing before her. The man holding the door open was very different from the boy who had left home.
But he has to be. How many men could the Callahans have wandering around their house with a broken leg?
He smiled at her with the same boyish grin he’d given her that first morning she and Leo had moved into the neighborhood. She still remembered him standing in his driveway playing basketball with one of his buddies a few weeks before his first days of high school.
Jeremy had always been tall, but as a kid he’d been skinny and lanky. He’d definitely grown into his height. His chest was now broad and solid. His biceps flexed as he dropped the doorknob, crossing his arms along his chest. Even his waist was thick with muscle, the kind that would be defined beneath that red T-shirt.
“Hi, Mrs Valentine.”
She cleared her throat, gripping the cake container a little tighter in her sweaty hands. “Please, Jeremy. You’re not in school anymore. You don’t have to call me Mrs Valentine. Miranda is fine.”
“Okay. Hi, Miranda.”
She liked the sound of her name on his lips. It took her a second to realize she’d never heard him say it before. He’d always been a very polite boy, always respectful. But she was starting to like the man a lot better.
“Well, I...uh, made this for you and your folks. Just a little I-hope-you-feel-better cake.” She handed the dessert to Jeremy, forcing herself to stop rambling.
He grabbed the Tupperware container with quick hands that looked much bigger than they used to.
“Thank you.” He glanced down at the Bundt cake. “Is this mocha fudge?”
“Good. I always loved that cake.” He leaned forward a little, as though to tell her a secret, his mouth moving toward hers.
His woodsy, masculine smell wafted to her across the space between them. His heat and strong presence calling her like a moth to a flame.
“I’ve always had quite a sweet tooth.” He grinned at her. Her mind flashed to what else he could do with those teeth. Those lips. That mouth.
“I hope you enjoy it.” She shook her head, attempting to refocus her thoughts to the task at hand instead of the inappropriate direction they’d been wandering. “If you need anything else—”
“I could use a break from this place,” he interjected with a nod toward the living room behind him. “My mom means well, but it’d be great to have some time away from my third grade baseball trophy and talking about all my old friends that have moved away.”
Miranda paused, unsure what to do. It seemed rude to tell him no, but it had been a long time since she’d had a man in her house, alone. And Jeremy was definitely a man now. Though she doubted the rest of the neighborhood would see it that way. “I don’t...”
“Please?” He looked down at her, his warm eyes begging for escape.
She swallowed beneath his stare. Her throat tightened and her mouth dried up like the desert during a drought. No woman could say no to those puppy dog eyes, least of all her.
“You’d be doing me the biggest favor. I’d owe you.”
Her heart sped up a bit at his suggestion. Visions formed before her eyes of how she could use that favor. Visions that were far from neighborly and not at all how she should think about little Jeremy next door.
“Okay,” was all she could think of to say.