Category Archives: Good Books

Sunday Morning Musings: What Makes You Feel Good?

2015-02-06 22.14.14 (4)Sometimes bad thoughts and memories roll around in my head and get stuck there. I tell myself, “Stop thinking about that!” But it’s hard.

I’m going to start a “Feel Good” file so I can counteract the bad stuff. This will be like my “Success File” which is work-related where I keep every review, mug award card, note or anything else I receive that is positive reinforcement.

Good things do happen. We just tend to easily forget them for some reason.

I scanned back through years of my blog posts the other day and I found this entry from November 2011:

I also got probably the best rejection letter I’ve ever received from an editor which I’m sharing in part, although I won’t mention the name of the editor or the publishing house: 

I finished Scattered Moments and very much enjoyed the story. It’s compelling, very well written, as all your stories are, but…There is absolutely nothing wrong with the writing or the characters or the storyline,  Barb, especially since I was engrossed enough to finish it in one sitting…it seems…not the right publisher for this story. 

I sincerely hope you can find a home for Scattered Moments. This story just reinforces for me what an amazing writing talent you have.

scatteredmoments_thumbBasically, this particular house doesn’t publish this kind of book, but I found a home for the story.  Barbara Meyers, LLC. 

This is good because Scattered Moments is a book I constantly question myself about. It wasn’t professionally edited which I (now) consider a mistake. I ask myself if I should have waited to publish it myself. Should I have proofread it one more time?

But at booksignings, it’s the book that gets picked up and purchased most often. Readers have positive things to say about it. Maybe a nice fat “Feel Good” file will make me stop second-guessing myself.

#writing #success




Picky Reader reads C.J. Box

Rarely do I rave about other authors’ books. But occasionally, I feel I must.

I ran across C.J. Box’s books in the local library. I’d never heard of him. I haven’t yet figured out what makes me pick up a particular book by an unknown (to me) author. Maybe it helps if I see more than one title because that makes me think they must know what they’re doing if they got more than one book published.

Even though I write romance novels mostly, I don’t, as a general rule, read romance novels. I like suspense which are often categorized as mystery. I’m not sure where that line is, but Box’s books are in the mystery section.

Here are my standards for whether I’ll read an author more than once:
Books must be well-written.
Engaging characters.
Don’t bore me with extraneous details unimportant to the story.
Plot had better make sense.
If I’ve figured out your schtick (i.e. you do the same thing in every book) after two or three books I’ll give up on you.

Box has a couple of series, but what he’s best known for, apparently, is the series featuring a Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett. hardcover_out-of-range_0In Out of Range, which I just finished, we see Joe tempted by a seductress, but he doesn’t give in, even though it would be so easy. He has a conscience! That’s what I like about Joe Pickett. He sometimes bends the rules, but he always stays true to himself and he doesn’t take the easy way out.

Maybe it’s just refreshing to find a character who flirts with danger and difficult situations every day, who’s a family man and knows the value of what he’s got. He knows what’s important.

Joe tends to blunder into trouble in much the same way Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum does. But Joe is more prepared, much more capable, and he isn’t afraid to use a gun if he has to. But that’s usually reserved as a last resort.
Not too many series set in Wyoming, I would guess, where the recurring protagonist is a game warden.
Box uses the territory (mountains, weather, forests, sparse population) as a character, almost. This is unforgiving land and survival is a challenge.

I don’t care if books are written in a series and I don’t read them in order. If I missed something, I’ll find out about it when I read that book in the series. I think you can read any of these novels as stand-alones and not know what you’d missed.

I also enjoyed Box’s shorter series featuring a sort of anti-hero cop named Cody Hoyt who really bent the rules. And Box has written other books which are not part of either series. I started with Three Weeks To Say Goodbye and more recently read Blue Heaven.

If I find an author I love, I’ll read every thing they write. In this case, since I apparently came late to C.J. Box’s writing party, I’m kind of hoping he writes faster than I read so I don’t catch up and have to wait for his next book.

#C.J Box #mystery novels #reading #Joe Pickett

Picky Reader Interview – Confess by Colleen Hoover


Since my blog is called Reading, Writing and Romancing I thought I’d find out what readers are reading and why. This is my second Picky Reader Interview:

Briefly describe yourself:

My name is Danielle and I’m a cake decorator in my mid-(oh god, or is it late!?) twenties, married with 3 fur babies, descended from a long line of book lovers (2nd generation at least).

Have you read a book recently that you loved? Title and author name please if you have it.

Confess by Colleen Hoover

Why did you love this book? 

I love all of this author’s books. I guess they are considered New Adult. They are well written with convincing voice (written in 1st person, this one with alternating narrators) The storylines are dramatic and soap-operaesque, and Ms. Hoover is an expert at dropping just enough hints that you think you know what’s going on but you never do until she ties it all together so completely perfectly at the end.

Where did you get this book?

I have read this author before. I think I found her through friends’ reviews on Goodreads.

Do you have a favorite genre? What genres do you regularly read?

My favorite genre at the moment is romance, but I also like New Adult and Historical Fiction. I used to read Young Adult but I haven’t for a long time, and I’ll ready some general fiction or literary fiction from time to time.

Do you have a favorite author? Who? Why?

I’m not sure I have a favorite author, but authors who I will buy every time they release a new book would include Colleen Hoover, Monica McCarty, Alessandra Torre, Donna Thorland…I guess it’s a long list but these are authors I will even pre-order books from because I know I’ll want to read them and I don’t want to forget to get their new books.

What will make you put down a book you’ve started and refuse to read any more of it? 

Too stupid to live heroines, slow and pointless plots, “dominant” heroes who border on abusive and cruel.

Do you read primarily print versions or digital versions?

Digital; I rarely buy print books any more.

If digital, what is your primary device?

Kindle or Kindle app on my iPhone.

As a general rule do you feel books are reasonably priced?

Yes, especially on Kindle.

Would price stop you from buying a book you really wanted?

If it was a book I really wanted from an author I knew I liked, I don’t think price would stop me. The other day I saw a romance that looked cute on Goodreads, but was $12.99 on Kindle and I deemed that too much. 

Thanks, Danielle. Maybe you’d enjoy Nobody’s Fool, my latest romantic comedy from Samhain Publishing.NobodysFool72sm


Nobody’s Fool – Sneak Peek


Excerpt from NOBODY’S FOOL:

Two hours later, she and Court were facing each other across a Formica tabletop in a cozy booth at Mel’s Diner.

“So Adam Stadler’s gay,” she said, as she looked over Mel’s menu. Nothing on it had changed in ten years, except the prices.

“It would appear so.”

She glanced up in time to see a sexy smile tug at the corners of Court’s mouth. She abandoned all pretense of disinterest in her former schoolmates.

“He was holding hands with his—his—”


“I know it’s not a big deal in San Francisco, but it’s a pretty bold move for anyone inside the Oak Ridge city limits.”

“True. Small Midwestern towns tend to come with their own rigid value systems, and a certain amount of intolerance.”

“Did you know?”

“Before tonight?” Court nodded.


“I knew in high school.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Adam and I were friends. He was struggling with it. He needed someone to talk to.”

“You never said a word.”

Court frowned at her. Jolie sensed she’d just insulted him. Or Adam. Maybe both.

“I can’t believe Rob Walters showed up. He was practically bragging about being in prison for drug trafficking.”

“Surely that didn’t shock you. You know what he was like.”

“He was a hood, that’s what I remember. Dumped Doreen Phillips after she got pregnant. He was always trouble.”

“Doreen survived, though,” Court said as he closed his menu. “She moved to Chicago and met someone. I hear they own several hair salons.”

Jolie closed her menu and looked at Court. “How do you know so much about everyone?”

Court shrugged. “I keep in touch. Oak Ridge isn’t that big a place. Most everyone’s parents still live here. It’s not that hard to find out what’s going on if you’re interested.”

Jolie’s gaze slid away. She hadn’t been interested, hadn’t cared. All she’d ever wanted to do was get away from Oak Ridge, away from the knowing eyes and too-big ears.

Now she saw not only the things she’d never had, but what she’d left behind. The sense of connection with her past, a history with the one person who knew her well. Court.

She hadn’t had the confidence to stand up for what she wanted then. She’d been too busy hiding her insecurity and manufactured fears beneath a false front. She’d buried herself so thoroughly for so long she’d had to dig deep these past couple of years to track down the real Jolie Kramer.

She was reminded of the old television game show To Tell The Truth. As a child she’d loved trying to guess which contestant was telling the truth and which were fabricating an identity.

She gazed at Court as the waitress approached to take their order. The locket dangled on its chain warming her heart.

Will the real Jolie Kramer please stand up?—she asked herself now.

She will, Jolie replied. If I can find her.


The romantic comedy Nobody’s Fool is available from Samhain Publishing

More sneak peeks coming soon.


Barbs_Book_Front As usual, it has taken me forever to make a book available to my legions of fans. Thank you for your patience.
Writing and publishing are not only still in the experimental stages as far as my career goes, they are a mystery to me. This time I am trying the Amazon KDP Select program which gives Amazon exclusive rights to offer the digital version of the book for 90 days. I can’t offer it in print, just yet, and it won’t be available anywhere else. It’s priced at $2.49, but that’s subject to change on Amazon’s whim. When you’ve got nothing to lose, it’s easy to take a risk.
MISCONCEIVE started out as a short story I wrote for a creative writing class a very, very long time ago. It evolved over time into the novel I’m making available which basically asks the question, “What would you do if your husband was in a coma and you got pregnant by another man?”
Along the way many “misconceptions” are revealed to the heroine Annie Langdon. Those closest to her are not who she thinks they are. Maybe she’s not the woman she thinks she is either.
The couple of readers who read the draft loved it. Writers and editors? Not so much. Not that I’m deterred. I am reminded of an author saying, “Editors look for what’s wrong in a book. Readers look for what’s right.” I love that quote. I have a lot of faith in readers.
MISCONCEIVE may not be perfect. It tells a story of a woman’s journey, her relationship with her mother, her children and the men who love her. As a young mother myself at one time I was fascinated by the dilemma I’d created in MISCONCEIVE. As someone who had a less than ideal relationship with her own mother, I took Annie’s situation with her mother to the extreme.
When you’re in the creative process of writing you don’t always know where you’re going. You follow a thread and hope it leads somewhere. There’s a grain of an idea and maybe part of what you’re doing is working out your own pain and anger and letting it spill onto the page.
MISCONCEIVE’s cover was designed by the very talented Brandon Buchanan (Snippets Press).
MISCONCEIVE is a PG-13 read. No violence, profanity or graphic love scenes.
Visit me at
ajtillock2013 012Follow my infrequent posts on Twitter @barbmeyers and @ajtillock
You can find my Braddock Brotherhood series at Samhain Publishing.
Happy reading!

I Don’t Know Him But I Think I Love Him

51Lt2jJTdsL__SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_I never Tweet.  Mostly because I don’t understand Twitter.  I haven’t read my Dummies for Twitter book even though I’ve had it for a year.  Besides, who has the time?  Between writing fiction, song lyrics, the occasional poem, keeping up with e-mail, working a day job, life in general, and figuring out a new laptop, seriously I don’t have time to Tweet even if I knew what to Tweet about.

My new Toshiba laptop ate my Music and Lyrics DVD.  That’s what I Tweeted this morning because it’s true, weird, perhaps slightly interesting to my few followers.  I even attempted the hashtag thing.  This on my cell phone, but when I hit the right button to see who had Tweeted about me (no one ever does as far as I know, but I never check and Twitter just makes me feel more anonymous than I usually do) lo and behold, someone has posted a Tweet about me!  Not about me, exactly, but about my short story “Katy’s Place” which appears in the anthology I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE YOU AGAIN.  It’s a positive review.  Dare I say a glowing review?

My day, probably my week has been made.  I can float around in la-la land at least that long thinking “he likes me, he really likes me (my story anyway).”

If you’re not a writer you won’t get why this is such a big deal.  Even as a published author I languish in obscurity.  Mostly this doesn’t bother me.  My novels get good reviews but what counts in the publishing world is what I don’t have a lot of:  sales.

There are many days when you wonder is anyone reading my work?  Does anyone know it exists?  Am I just spinning my wheels?  I need reviews, validation, something, to keep me going.  Simple acknowledgment, maybe.

I’m supposed to use social media to market my work and I would…but me and technology, we don’t get along (see above description of disappearing DVD).

God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?  I rarely post on Twitter.  I’ve never lost a DVD inside a laptop, either.  But if I hadn’t I doubt I would have seen Nathan’s review.  God must have known that was exactly what I needed.  Let’s all order Nathan’s book.

Short Stories 365:225

          Blog Post by ‘Nathan Burgoine – Aug.13.2013 – 4:07 pm:

“….”Katy’s Place,” by Barbara Meyers

This  story was a well-balanced story that was dark – and hopeful – in parts.  The set-up is this: Cassie, a woman who as a teen lost control of her  car and had an accident that claimed the life of her best friend has  just come face-to-face with the friend’s mother, many years later. Is  there forgiveness? Cassie isn’t sure, but when her dead friend’s mother  asks for time to sit and talk to her, Cassie accepts. What follows is an  eloquent – and at times, almost painful – recounting of Cassie’s life  as she tells the mother everything she has done to try and pay back a  debt she knows full well she can never repay.

The story then  gives the mother a chance to speak, and the ending – well. If you don’t  have a shiver up and down your spine, I think you may have missed a word  or two. I Never Thought I’d See You Again continues to deliver.”

Picky Reader Honked Off

I grew up in a household without a lot of money or luxury and learned early on to feed my reading addiction through the public library. I have a Kindle and occasionally I purchase books in digital format (usually when I have a gift certificate) but I still often seek out reading material at the public library.

Usually my library visit goes like this: I stroll the fiction aisles looking for something that snags my interest. A title, an author name, the design or color of the spine. It’s hard to say why I pull my choices from the rows and rows of books available. I’ve never figured out what attracts any one reader to any one book. I don’t think the experts have either.

Usually I leave the library with three to five books. I have to pad my loaned items with one or two extras in case any of what I’ve chosen proves unreadable.

On my most recent trip I chose three books. I started the first one, a novel about a woman’s disappearance. I read to page fifty-six and set it aside. It’s a possibility. I may go back and finish it, but it’s 372 pages and it’s moving sooooo slowwwwly I can hardly stand it.

I pick up book number two written by a male author. (You may recall from earlier Picky Reader blogs that I vowed to make myself read more books by male authors.) This one’s about a down-and-out member of the Hollywood paparazzi. I read until page seventeen and wonder if this is the kind of character I want to read about. A loan shark has had him beaten up. He’s outclassed by his competition. He can’t go back to his house for a variety of reasons. Depressing. I set the book aside. I may go back and finish it.

On to book number three which looks promising. It has the kind of contemporary romance-y/womens’ fiction-y cover I’m attracted to and I think it has possibilities. Until the first line in the second chapter stops me cold. “Tom pulled his eyes from Sarah’s, and it wasn’t easy.”* Huh? What? Are their eyeballs stuck together? Sticky eyeballs. It’s all I can think about. Any author worth her salt should know after the first three books she’s had published (this appears to be her fourth) that “gaze” is the word we use to keep “eyes” from doing things we don’t want them to do. If she didn’t know this, her editor should have.

But…this is a potentially appealing story, so I’ll keep reading. Until I’m stopped again on page thirty-seven: “…a chasm between her and God.” Rats. Is this a Christian romance?

Usually I check the publisher before I take a book home. Nothing about the publisher’s name sends up red flags, but when I look at the back cover I see it in teeny tiny print: FICTION/Christian/Romance. Grrrr.

I don’t have anything against Christian romance novels. I just don’t like to read them. They so often strike me as “preaching to the choir” and not quite true to life. I often have to stretch my believability so far to buy into the characters behaving the way they do in a contemporary setting that I can’t do it. I also wonder why this isn’t more boldly advertised as a Christian romance. Why that barely readable print on the back cover? Is the publisher afraid readers will avoid the book if they know?

So here I am stuck with three potentially losing books. It isn’t the writing, necessarily, and it isn’t always the editing. It’s that indefinable something that draws one reader to rave about a book and another to rate it with half a star.

I decided to stick with the Christian romance because… I don’t know why. Because. Because sometimes when you know a book isn’t that great, you read it anyway just to see how the author gets herself out of it. Another gem: “Tom steadied her, his hands burning the skin on her arms.” Ouch! I’m more than halfway through the book and this isn’t the first time this has happened. Between the sticky eyeballs and his hands burning her, this poor woman is scarred for life.

Did I mention this book is based on a lie of deception on the part of the heroine…a withholding of the truth on the part of the hero, another lie of deception on the heroine’s part as the plot thickens and she brings her cousin into the scheme. The cousin, at least, partially comes clean pretty quickly.

“It had been a task keeping his eyes off her.” This makes me think, (since I already know he has sticky eyes) that they are detachable and he can stick them on her anywhere he wants. Velcro, maybe.

“…and she felt his eyes on hers.” How uncomfortable that must have been.

In the end I finished all three books. The book by the male author? By far the one I enjoyed the most and, dare I say, the best written of the three. This appeared to be a first novel by a television writer with a lot of impressive credits. The slow-moving book’s pace (also a first novel by an award-winning writer) never picked up. I skipped a lot of it, especially the in-depth character studies, couched as character reminiscences to make me understand why they are the way they are.

All I can say to my Picky Reader self is better luck next time.

*Names of characters have been changed.

You can find out more about the books I’ve read and visit my author page on Goodreads.

Barbara Meyers, Author – August 2013 Newsletter

ajtillock2013 012
Check out my guest blog (Am I Having Fun Yet?) on author Tina Donahue’s web site here:
51Lt2jJTdsL__SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_My story, “Katy’s Place” appears in the Novelists, Inc. anthology entitled I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE YOU AGAIN, now on sale in print and digital formats. Buy links are here:

Tomorrow I will post a sequel to that story which I was inspired to write on July 21, 2013, because after a tragedy we all need closure. I call this story “In Katy’s Place.” It made me cry. I’m giving this to you readers of my blog as a little bonus and thank you for reading and following me.

I’m currently reading the fourth story in the anthology which is by Deb Stover. The first three, which I thoroughly enjoyed, were by Allison Brennan, Dianne Despain and Kelly McClymer. “I never thought I’d see you again” was given as a prompt for each of the stories. They are all wildly different but equally enjoyable.

With my song-writing partners, Carlene Thissen and Martha Christian, we are closing in on a final version of “Roses in the Sand.” Great title, isn’t it? We’ve received positive feedback from a couple of experts in the field, so watch for further news updates.

photoEveryone wants to know where story ideas come from. This song was inspired by Carlene’s walk on the beach where long-stemmed roses had washed up along the shore. It took a little while to realize where those roses had come from and why they were there.

It isn’t easy and it’s shockingly time-consuming to write songs. You have three minutes or so to tell a story any listener can understand and connect with. As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—‘tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

Other author/book recommendations? I’ve recently read two books by Don Winslow, one of which was Savages which was made into a movie. I liked them both for different reasons. I think I’ve also finished reading all of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series of historical mysteries. I read them out of order which will drive some of you OCD readers crazy, I know.

I’ve discovered a couple of things about reading for pleasure. Sometimes if the writing is good enough it can rise above the story itself. Sometimes I get confused as to where the plot is going, but I’ll keep reading because a book is so well written it doesn’t bother me that maybe the author got a bit lost or the editing wasn’t all that it could have been.

I’m still wading through a couple of projects including AJ Tillock’s 2nd book, COOL BEANS. I still believe I can “fix” my old manuscripts. I know I’m slow, but I’ll get there. Eventually.

What’s that quote by Winston Churchill? Never, never, never quit.

If you wonder why my Tweets are so infrequent and FB and web site updates don’t happen in a timely manner, it’s because I’m busy writing!

My brother and his wife recommended I watch a documentary on YouTube entitled Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. It might change your ideas about the food you are putting into your body. I highly recommend it. It made me rethink what I’ve been eating. More on this in a future post.

Visit me at where you will find buy links to my books.

You can follow me on Twitter @barbmeyers and @ajtillock
My Facebook author page is!/BarbaraMeyersAuthorPage

Barbara Meyers, Author – July 2013 Newsletter

ajtillock2013 012Did I miss June? There must have been nothing newsworthy to report. My Guilt Trip took up the first week in June. You can read my four-part series about that by simply looking at my previous blog posts.

Upon my return home, I work work work the day job. No one there seems to understand I am old and I am tired. Luckily, working lots of hours this time of year is not the hardship it was six months ago when it was not only tourist season but holiday season. This time of year my shifts are almost manageable. My store manager and I have something in common: we’ve both been with the company for ten years. At this point I’ve adopted the Survivor motto: Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

My fellow authors are extremely generous in offering guest blogs on their sites, something I don’t reciprocate because I’m techie- and time-challenged. I know I’d just screw it up.

You can read a little about my dreaded guilt trip here courtesy of Cynthia D’Alba:

The Annual Guilt Trip-A Guest Post by Barb Meyers

Read about my junior high crush experience here courtesy of Mary Hughes:

FirstTimeAgain,The72lg[1]FINALI’ve reviewed the print galley for THE FIRST TIME AGAIN which is set to release in May 2014. Here are some review excerpts:

“The chemistry between Baylee and Trey was adorable. Baylee…has a sweetness to her that makes you want to give her a shoulder to lean on. Enjoyable story, thought it was heartfelt and look forward to reading more in the Braddock series.”
Single Title Reviews
“…The First Time Again is emotionally charged, sexy, and fun. If you’re looking for a great read, I recommend this story. This is a great contemporary romance full of heart, a bit of heat, and the strong ties to family.”
Long and Short Reviews

The First Time Again by Barbara Meyers

“…this story… is filled with nostalgia and full of
emotions. Barbara Meyers is a talented author composing a
unique plot with equally unique characters. THE FIRST TIME
will leave you with a good warm feeling to see justice and
vindication following for the lovers.”

51Lt2jJTdsL__SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_I Never Thought I’d See You Again the 2013 Novelists, Inc., anthology goes on sale on July 30, 2013 in trade paperback and digital. My story is “Katy’s Place.”
The paperback is priced at $16.95 and the digital edition is $9.99. The paperback is already up at Amazon and B&N for preorder, and the digital should be up soon.

Lou Aronica is the driving force behind the anthology. Find out about his various enterprises at
Find out more about Novelists Inc. at

Several important people in my life have June birthdays including my husband. Birthdays are a big deal in my family—we make the effort to go to dinner and spend time with each other and generally there’s a delicious cake created by my daughter, pastry chef extraordinaire. I’ll drop anything to spend time with my family. They are the most important people to me and the most fun people I know. Cake is an added bonus.

A word here about the carrot cake my daughter made for my manager’s tenth anniversary. It was addictive!!!!

Watch for my blog on the Nine Naughty Novelists site courtesy of Meg Benjamin on July 9th.

Visit me for buy links
and more information at my web site
Follow my infrequent posts on Twitter at @barbmeyers and @ajtillock
Contact me at

Thanks for reading.

Meet Cute?

In lieu of a May newsletter, below is an excerpt (Trey and Baylee’s first meeting) from THE FIRST TIME AGAIN, the third book in The Braddock Brotherhood series from Samhain Publishing.  The ebook release date is May 7, 2013.  For you series readers who feel you MUST read a series in order (it’s not necessary in this instance), these are all stand-alone books.  The connection is through the heroes.  Twin brothers Rick and Ray have their own stories in Books One and Two (A MONTH FROM MIAMI and A FOREVER KIND OF GUY).  THE FIRST TIME AGAIN features Trey who makes a brief appearance in Ray’s story.  Don’t ask me why, but the heroines (in order) are Kaylee, Hayley and Baylee.  Enjoy!

Buy links are on my web site:



Baylee’s grandparents’ best friends, Mike and Josephine Pritchard, had lived on Sycamore Road. During her youth she had occasionally visited the Pritchards with them.

She wouldn’t apologize for being late. Best to let T. C. know who was in charge. It had taken her a while, but she was learning. She wasn’t going to be a doormat for anyone. Not anymore. And certainly not for some overbearing guy who sounded like he was used to ruling the world and getting his own way.

The address on Sycamore Road turned out to be the Pritchards’ house. It didn’t look much different than Baylee remembered. Josephine, whom everyone called “J”, had passed within the last year. Baylee wasn’t surprised to see not much about the property had changed. There was a black Porsche Cayenne parked near the back porch. Turbo, she noted as she drove past and parked a few feet away. Money.

Yippee! Her heart did a little pitter-pat. She could name her own price.

She’d always liked the Pritchards’ place. It was nestled in the midst of some gently rolling hills with the Blue Ridge range as a backdrop. The house was set far enough back from the road to offer privacy, but not anonymity. The old barn was empty now, as was the feed lot and the chicken coop. A few other outbuildings were ready to tumble down, taking the rusting fences surrounding them along.

Trees dotted the yard and the pastures beyond. Birds chirped and flitted in the branches, and a couple of squirrels gallivanted underneath the big oak closest to the house.

Near the porch were flowerbeds badly in need of weeding. A twining rose climbed up a trellis. The old swing still hung at the end of the porch. Baylee could remember sitting there contentedly, swinging and daydreaming to the rhythmic squeak of the chain against the hooks while the adults gathered around the wicker table to drink glasses of sweet tea and chat amicably.

A pang of longing for those simpler times hit her. She hadn’t known then how many mistakes awaited her, how many difficult lessons she had to learn. But learn from them she would. Her new motto was a slightly amended version of “Been there; done that”. To which she had added “not doing it again”.

She got out, mentally debating about using the front door or the back when she noticed the Cayenne’s Florida vanity license plate. TC9. She stared at it while several possibilities she’d chosen to ignore clicked into place.

T. C. Trey Christopher? Nine. His number with the Jacksonville Jacks?

Could it possibly be? Of course it could. The Pritchards were Trey Christopher’s maternal grandparents. In fact, he’d been at their house on a few of those occasions when she’d visited as a child. He always seemed to have a pack of other boys with him, and she’d learned early on to avoid them because they’d do nothing but tease and torment her if she invaded their territory. Which seemed to be everywhere except the back porch where the adults lurked.

She had more memories of him than those from childhood, one in particular which had plagued her all through high school and beyond.

She hesitated a moment longer before she climbed the three stairs to the porch and realized she wasn’t alone. A man seated at one of the four chairs surrounding the table used another chair as a footstool. He had one leg outstretched on it, the other bent at the knee. An ice pack was balanced on the outstretched knee.

His arms crossed his chest, his thumbs tucked underneath his armpits. His head was down. There was a mug on the table. Was he asleep?

He had burnished blond, gold-tipped hair, and from what she could see from his seated position, he was tall and in good shape.

She cleared her throat and took a step toward him. When he didn’t move, she stepped closer and poked his upper arm. Beneath the long-sleeved jersey he wore, her finger met solid muscle. “Excuse—”

His head snapped up and a pair of stunning blue eyes lasered right through her. She sucked in a breath and stumbled back.

Trey Christopher!

She scrambled to get hold of herself. She was an adult woman of almost twenty-nine, not a naïve teenager of fifteen.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.” He grinned, which turned his already handsome features into to-die-for good looks. She did nothing but stare even though she knew he was making a joke, since she had been the one to startle him.

“You okay?” he asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I did. The ghost that’s haunted me for fourteen years.

“Want to do this another time?”

No. Been there. Done that. Not doing it again.

She got hold of herself. Finally. “No, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

He studied her for a few seconds. “I’m Trey, by the way. And you are?”

“Baylee. Baylee Westring.”

He chewed on the inside of his lip as if contemplating something while he continued to peruse her from head to toe. She’d come dressed to work in a faded pink T-shirt, ancient jeans and sneakers. Over which she’d worn a hoodie she’d bought on sale at Walmart for five dollars last spring. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail to keep it out of her way. Makeup was nonexistent. She was the cleaning lady. She didn’t have to impress anyone, and she liked to be as comfortable as possible while she worked.

As if remembering his manners, Trey straightened in his chair and pulled his feet off the other one. The right one he helped along with both hands supporting his thigh after setting the ice pack on the table. “Please. Have a seat.” He indicated she was welcome to take any one of the four chairs. She opted for the one opposite him instead of the one next to him where his foot had been.

She sat, and he looked at her for a long moment before he spoke. “Have we met? You look awfully familiar for some reason.”

Baylee pushed her glasses up on her nose. He was fishing, so she decided to join him. “Maybe from high school.”

“Nope. That’s not it. Seems like somewhere more recent.”

Your grandmother’s funeral last year, maybe? Not that she had any intention of enlightening him about their past history if he couldn’t remember it. She’d seen him at the funeral, at a distance. They hadn’t spoken or touched. But she’d been haunted by that memory for months afterward. What, she’d wondered at the time, was it going to take to get him out of her head for good?

Certainly not this. Why was she still here? Why had she sat down as if she was seriously going to consider coming to work for him?

Apparently he was waiting for an answer, and she finally grasped the thread of the conversation. “I don’t know.”

He shrugged as if it wasn’t important.

“Can you start today?”

“I’m not sure.”

He cocked his head to one side. “Not sure because…?”

“Not sure if I want to work here. For you.”

“Ah, I see. My reputation precedes me. Tell me, other than Ryan Reagle, is there anyone in this county who doesn’t hate my guts?”

“I didn’t mean—”

“No, no. I get it. I’m the town hero, the golden boy who made it to the big time and threw it all away. I failed the town, I failed my team. I failed everybody, including myself, and now I can’t catch a goddamn break. I get it, okay? I’ll clean my own damn house. Sorry I wasted your time.”

Trey scooted back to brace his hands on the chair arms and shoved himself up to stand. He limped across the porch and opened the screen door and let it slam shut behind him.

Baylee tried to sort out how she felt. She knew there were quite a few locals who didn’t think too highly of him at the moment and would be happy to make sure he knew it. Yes, he’d been a high school hero, a local football legend who’d made it to the pros. He’d had some good seasons with the Jacksonville Jacks. He had at least one Super Bowl ring, possibly two to show for it. She knew he’d been injured and he’d sort of gone downhill afterward, but she hadn’t followed his fall from fame all that closely. She’d had too many of her own problems to worry about at the time. Trey Christopher had been on a far back burner until she’d seen him again last year. But he was so far outside her normal sphere of acquaintances, at the time she doubted she’d ever see him again.

She might hold a grudge against him. She might have some less than stellar memories of their one high school encounter. But he needed someone to clean his house, and she needed the work. Was she going to be stupid and stubborn and walk away from a job because of some ancient history he didn’t even remember?

No. She wasn’t. She’d charge him top dollar, and she’d do her best to keep a reasonable distance from him. But there was no good reason to walk away from this gig.

Irritated, she adjusted the glasses on her nose again. The frames were slightly bent and the prescription was four years old. If she took this job she might be able to afford another supply of contact lenses.

Decision made, she got up and tapped on the screen door’s wood frame. “Hello? Trey?”

Silence greeted her. Carefully she eased the door open and closed it softly behind her. The kitchen hadn’t changed much since the last time she’d set foot in it, except for appliance upgrades. She spotted dirty dishes in the sink and crumbs on the counter.

She crossed the kitchen and listened. From the bathroom near the back bedroom, she could hear a shower running. Fine. She’d start in here, and when Trey came out of the bathroom, they’d settle things between them. Like her hourly rate.

Trey turned the shower off and stood with his palms flat against the tile under the showerhead, staring at the water swirling down the drain. He’d have to take his licks, especially since he and the rest of the world had decided he deserved them. He struggled for a Zen moment, to put everything in balance, keep it in perspective. Honestly, he hadn’t thought he’d have to beg someone to clean his house. Not in this rural area and in the current economic climate.

Baylee Westring had turned him down, but he could find someone else. What was so great about her anyway? She certainly wasn’t blessed with the gift of sparkling conversational skills. Frankly, she came across as a bit of a space cadet the way she’d stumbled through their brief meeting.

His initial impression had been she looked like she had a bit too much on the ball to be cleaning houses. Even dressed as she was, she looked, if not exactly sophisticated, then smart and capable in some indefinable way.

He’d already been thinking maybe she could do more than clean house. Maybe she could be like his personal assistant or something. Keep track of stuff for him the way Hayley used to. He hadn’t realized how much he’d counted on Hayley, how much she did to keep things running smoothly for him, until he’d lost her.

While he used to spend hours wallowing in self-pity, he now allotted only five minutes per day. Usually in the morning after his shower. He refused to waste any more time beating himself up for things he couldn’t change.

“Onward and upward,” he muttered to himself as he stepped out of the shower with the towel wrapped around his waist. “Or at least forward.”

He opened the bathroom door, allowing the cloud of steam to escape into the hall. Usually, he’d turn right to step into the bedroom next to the bathroom. But he heard water running and dishes clinking from the direction of the kitchen and turned the other way.

Baylee was at the sink, rinsing dishes and loading them into the dishwasher, her back to him. She was doing an odd little dance step while staying in one place, and she was humming along to an unseen music source. Near the door were a bucket and a canvas bag with rags and cleaning supplies. A broom and a mop leaned against the wall next to them.

Trey didn’t know why the entire scene amused him. Or why she was still there after she’d made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with him. Not even if she was getting paid for it. He crossed his arms and waited for her to notice him.

After a couple more minutes she closed the dishwasher. She turned and jumped when she saw him. She put one hand to her chest and yanked the ear buds out of her ears. She didn’t comment on him startling her, which intrigued him. Instead, she stared at him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, not bothering to hide his amusement.

“I—um—cleaning.” She gestured with one hand at the now empty sink.

“I don’t recall hiring you.” Trey had no idea why he had such a strong desire to toy with her, to keep her off balance. He only knew he enjoyed it.

“Oh, well, then, um—never mind, I guess. No charge for doing the dishes.”

“How much do you charge anyway?”

“It depends on what I’m expected to do.”

Behind the wire-framed glasses, she had light brown eyes almost the color of amber, he noted. “Cleaning house for starters. What’s the going rate?”

“Twenty-five dollars an hour.”

Trey snorted. He couldn’t help it. Maybe in a big city. But he knew good and well that no one, not in Hendersonville and certainly not in Edna Falls, would pay twenty-five an hour for housecleaning. He imagined most of the people around here cleaned their own houses or lived in their own filth. Maybe in an area closer to Cashiers or Highlands, or Asheville even, maybe she could find some sap to pay her twenty-five an hour. Maybe.

“Twenty-five an hour seems a little steep.”

“You can afford it.”

“I can. The question is, are you worth it?”

“I’m worth more, actually. But I’m running a one-day special.”

Chutzpah, Trey thought. She was blatantly trying to take advantage of him, and he should be bothered by it, but for some reason he wasn’t. He figured twenty-five dollars an hour was probably a small price to pay to have her clean his house and entertain him in the process. God knew he could use some diversion from his own dismal thoughts.

“For twenty-five an hour this place better be spotless when you get done with it.”

“It will be.”

“And I’ll need you to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

He could see in her eyes his statement amused her, though she schooled her features to remain neutral. “No problem.”

“Carry on, then.”

As soon as he disappeared down the hallway and she heard a door close, Baylee took a deep breath, trying to still her wildly beating heart and soothe her frazzled nerve endings.

Trey Christopher was a hunk, plain and simple. He looked good enough to eat, standing there with his hair wet while the towel around his waist threatened to slip down another notch. He hadn’t shaved, and he had that sexy two- or three-day beard stubble many male celebrities sported these days. Even though he was no longer a professional athlete, he obviously worked out. A lot. He had those well-defined muscles in his upper body guys get with weight training, and those abs of his had to be due to crunches. A whole lot of crunches.

He’d been a charming hunk in high school, too, but his behavior when he’d had too much to drink had been a definite turn-off for her. She knew better than to be fooled twice by any attention Trey Christopher sent her way, didn’t she?

Of course she did.

Copyright 2012 by Barbara Meyers


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