Hi, everyone! I’m Ashlyn Kane, and it is my absolute pleasure to introduce my co-authors Claudia Mayrant and CJ Burke.
When we first threw around the idea of cowriting a book, we had a very specific type of book in mind—something cheesy, fun, full of banter and sexual tension but not without substance. Almost but not quite the kind of mass-market romance you’d find lingering near the cash desk at a variety store, next to the candy. And then we wrote it, and we loved it so much, but—how on earth was it going to translate on a book cover?
Fortunately our cover artist, Alex Corza, seemed to understand exactly what we wanted. I hope you love it as much as we do.
Are you ready !!
When long hours and crushing stress push Bellamy Alexander to his breaking point, he walks away from his consulting job and drives until he runs out of gas. Fortune deposits him in front of Antonio’s, a place with decent pizza and an opening for a delivery boy. Even better, he finds an apartment right across the street from his new job. And best of all, Chris McGregor, the property manager who runs the custom furniture shop below Bell’s new digs, is super hot—and super into Bell.
It seems too good to be true—and maybe it is. Things aren’t exactly going smoothly. Bell avoids telling his mother the truth about his new job because he doesn’t want to hear how he should go back to the corporate world. On the other hand, he doesn’t think he wants to deliver pizza forever either. He’d like to think about settling down, but Chris runs hot and cold. Between Bell’s uncertainty and the hang-ups Chris refuses to talk about, they have their work cut out for them. Fortune may have caused their paths to dovetail, but it will take more than wood glue to hold them together.
Ashlyn Kane is a Canadian former expat and current hockey fan. She is a writer, editor, handyperson, dog mom, and friend—sometimes all at once.
On any given day she can usually be found walking her ninety-pound baby chocolate lapdog, Indy, or holed up in her office avoiding housework. She has a deep and abiding love of romance novel tropes, a habit of dropping too many f-bombs, and—fortunately—a very forgiving family.
Find her on Twitter @ashlynkane or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashlyn.kane.94.
Claudia Mayrant has been exploring the world around her since she was old enough to get around under her own power. Her early travels took her on her bicycle “all the way to but not on the main road.” Happily, since then, she’s enjoyed visiting as many places as she can, from bustling marketplaces and enchanting castles to funky dives. She can’t possibly decide which she likes best, but details of her favorite people, places, and things usually get put in the fiction blender so they can make an appearance in her stories.
Claudia maintains that each new adventure requires the appropriate footwear, which explains her closet. Her passion for taking photographs of the things she sees, does, and eats far exceeds her skill with the camera, but no matter the setting, she has fun trying to get a good shot.
For all her love of travel, she’s most relaxed back in the South on a Gulf Coast beach with good friends, refreshing beverages, and plenty of sunscreen.
Her smartphone isn’t literally connected to her hand, but anyone would be forgiven for thinking so.
CJ Burke’s first book was the self-published A Fancy Witch, illustrated in crayon with particular attention to the witch’s footwear. While CJ is now long past first grade, she’s still hunting that perfect pair of equestrian boots. CJ’s life has always been centered on words. She’s written a couple of those familiar yellow books about computers, and more user guides for obscure software than necessary, but she’s never given up the habit of plotting romances in her head during boring lectures or staff meetings. Along the way, she’s been a lifeguard, an English professor, and a dozen other things in between. In a perfect world, CJ would work between an independent coffee shop and an amazing yarn & fabric store, then go home to alphabetize her spices while dancing around the kitchen to whatever’s on the 80s channel. CJ can be found on Ravelry, Instagram, and Twitter as cjburkebooks.
Ashlyn, Claudia & CJ brought with them a $10 Amazon GC for one Lucky winner!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Bell’s first delivery was a small pizza with mushrooms, peppers, and Italian sausage. Jenny handed him the keys to the Volkswagen Rabbit parked out back, smirked, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Good luck.”
The Rabbit didn’t have GPS, so Bell put the warming bag on the front seat and plugged the address into his phone.
Then he frowned, sighed, and got out of the car.
25A Main Street West, read Jenny’s precise looping handwriting. Bell looked at the front of Antonio’s: 24 Main Street West.
When traffic cleared, he crossed the street.
25 was a two-story building with dusty front windows. A big sign above the door proclaimed it to be the home of Good Wood—or actually Good Wood Furniture, but furniture was written in small letters underneath the main legend.
Bell raised his hand to knock and then stopped himself. Did you knock on a business’s door to deliver a pizza? He didn’t see a sign saying Open, but there wasn’t one saying Closed either, so he tried the door. Chimes tinkled when he opened it—real ones, not an automated buzzer. He looked over his shoulder to see a cluster of small, copper-colored bells hanging from a piece of twine over the doorway. It was an oddly homey touch, and as Bell entered the room, he saw it was far from the only one.
Good Wood didn’t look anything like the sleek high-end furniture stores near his former office. There wasn’t a hint of chrome or shiny lacquer, but not surprisingly, there was a lot of wood. The space was full almost to the point of being cluttered with all kinds of furniture—dining sets with long or round tables and matching chairs, head and footboards for beds, dressers and armoires. Some of the pieces were definitely antiques or at least made to look that way, heavy and ornately carved, but others were smooth and modern-looking, with simple lines and sinuous curves. Bell had never thought much about furniture other than whether it kept his stuff or his ass off the floor, but the pieces were really something.
A flash of movement caught the corner of his eye, so Bell turned around to see. His own reflection stared back at him from a mirror set in a large, ornate frame. He looked ridiculous standing in his slightly grubby clothes, surrounded by custom furniture, holding a pizza box.
Which was what he was doing there. Not gawking, but delivering pizza. Only no one had come out when the bells rang, so there was no one to give the pizza to.
Bell set the box down on the least-cluttered part of the counter—dark wood polished to a gleaming shine—and looked at the curtained doorway behind. He cleared his throat and rapped on the counter a few times, but before he could say anything, he heard a voice from behind the curtain.
“Sorry! Hands are a bit full, but you can leave it on the counter, Fred. Money’s under the ashtray.”
Bell looked down, and sure enough, a foot or so down the counter was a ceramic ashtray full of odds and ends. Thankfully they didn’t include cigarette butts. The corners of a few folded bills stuck out from underneath. Either the guy was really trusting or small-town living was even more different from the city than he thought.
“But what if I’m not Fred?” Bell reached for the bills, but before he could tug them free, he heard a thunk from behind the curtain and then a few coughs. “You okay?”
“Fine,” his customer said as he came through the curtain. He was a shade shorter than Bell’s six-one and seemed to be mostly yellow, until Bell realized that was sawdust and woodchips. Black plastic glasses framed kind blue eyes, and a set of safety glasses pushed up on his head made his hair stick up everywhere. He wiped his hands with a mostly clean towel as he moved toward the counter. “Sanding makes dust. Where’s Fred?”
“I don’t know,” Bell said, trying not to stare at the guy’s forearms. “Jenny took away my beer and gave me the keys to the Rabbit, along with your pizza, delivery of which did not actually involve driving. But all she said was that there was someone who gets priority for weekends. I assume that’s Fred.”
“Yep. Fred’s the young guy. He’s in his sixties.”
“I think I can beat that,” Bell said and held out his hand, wondering if he could ask why someone across the street from a pizza place would bother with delivery. “I’m Bell, by the way. Nice place.”
“Chris McGregor—and that’s kind of you, but it’s a mess and I know it.” He shook Bell’s hand. He had nice hands, big and warm and calloused. “You up at the college or something? You’re new around here if you don’t know Fred.”
“Nope, just running away from home. I stopped for dinner and got a job instead.” Bell frowned, suddenly sidetracked. “Hey, is Fred why the Rabbit smells like Icy Hot?”
Chris laughed as he leaned against the counter, arms crossed. Bell didn’t know whether to look at his laugh lines or the biceps straining the fabric of his purple T-shirt. “Menthol is Fred’s signature scent. He’s the easiest man to find in town. Nice guy, but I know way more about his back pain than is strictly necessary for a pizza-based relationship.”
“I didn’t realize pizza delivery had such strict rules.”
“Definitely,” Chris said. “For example, no comments on the customer’s preferred topping combinations, just like tipping with pennies is rude.”
“Quarters, though? Helps a guy out with laundry issues, which in turn helps out with not smelling so much like Icy Hot and oregano.”
“See, you understand. You’ll go a long way in this business, kid.” Chris grinned at him, wide and easy. “As you’ve probably figured out, pizza delivery in this town can be a lifelong career.”
“Sounds like it,” Bell said after a moment. Wow, he needed to get a grip. Since when was he incapable of carrying on a conversation with a hot guy without lag time?
“You okay?” Chris’s brow furrowed.
“Yeah.” Bell blinked and shook himself out of his distraction. “It’s—you’ve got sawdust in your beard.”
“Oh.” Chris reached under the counter and produced another small towel, presumably cleaner than the first, and scrubbed at the short, neatly trimmed reddish hairs. “Occupational hazard, and the source of a lot of sneezing. Better?”
It wasn’t exactly unattractive before. “I just wanted to make sure you get the full Antonio’s Pizza experience, unmarred by any environmental pollutants.”
“Good sell,” Chris said. He tapped the pizza box absently. “Glad to see Antonio’s is shifting back to its artisan roots. Does your dark, hidden past contain marketing experience?”
“Maybe,” Bell said, “but that usually works against me, so I keep my mouth shut about the degree.”
They smiled at each other, but Bell couldn’t figure out what to say next. He’d already embarrassed himself with the sawdust comment, though he thought it was forgivable—the light catching on Chris’s beard, mixed with the dark flecks of wood, had interrupted whatever Bell was thinking.
The sharp ring of Chris’s phone saved the silence from becoming too awkward.
“Hello?” Chris laughed as a stream of words poured through the receiver. “Yes, he’s here. No, he didn’t get lost. We were talking about Fred.” He held the phone out to Bell. “Your boss wants to talk to you.”
Bell took the phone. It was warm from Chris’s hand. “Hi, Jenny.”
“Come on back, kid. Got a delivery to one of the sorority houses. Good chance for tips, so hurry the hell up.”