Evolution & Completion

mistresscover4I didn’t expect to feel this way.

Letting a character go, ‘finishing’ their story and moving on to the next is usually every easy for me. By the time I kick them out of my head and write ‘THE END’ I’m a little bit glad to see them go. Like a parent sending their kid off to college (which I’ve not yet done, so there is a strong possibility I don’t know what I’m talking about) there is sadness, but also eagerness to see what the next phase will bring.

This week, I finished my journey with Keisha, my main character in ‘Mother’, and I didn’t expect to feel so terrible about saying goodbye. I think it’s fair to say she’s my least-liked character. The backstory is, she did something in my book ‘Commitment’ that by some standards would make her an irredeemable human being. I’ve gotten numerous emails from readers saying some variation of, ‘I really love your work, but I can’t read about Keisha; I just can’t. I don’t even think she deserves a happy ending and I’m scared you’ll give her one.’

In ‘Mistress’, we see that there might be some merit to those strong emotions because Keisha has apparently learned nothing from prior experience and has gone on to live a life that other people would say only confirmed that she was “a bad person.” But I happen to believe that are very few “bad people” in the world. They do exist, I just don’t believe there are very many.

Wife Cover1f2In my other line of work as a lawyer, I often say about the people whose interests I represent (most of whom have broken some law, some of them in very hard-to-defend circumstances), “would you like to be judged in your totality as a human being on the basis of the very worst thing you ever did?” That question often causes people to become very pensive, thinking back to the time they, let’s say, told a vicious lie about someone, stole something, or committed some other act about which they are now very ashamed. And after thinking about it, they say something like, ‘no, I wouldn’t. I’m a better person than that act would indicate.”

And see, that is why I wanted to write about Keisha. In ‘Mistress’, ‘Wife’ and ‘Mother’ I wanted to write about the evolution of a woman who must learn not to judge herself on the basis of the worst thing she ever did, and not to define herself on that basis. She has to learn self-acceptance and self-love. And of course, there’s a little romance thrown in there as well, but Keisha’s romance is also about learning to love yourself enough to believe you deserve love from someone else; someone worthy. So for me, the more important love story is that which Keisha begins to have with herself.

How does a ‘mistress’ learn she can be more?

How does a woman who was a ‘mistress’ embrace the role of ‘wife’?

How does a wife who has no recollection of being mothered decide to become one herself?

Mother cover mistress FINALThat was what the ‘Mistress trilogy’ was really about for me. And so it stood to reason that once I had written ‘Mother’ I should be glad to let her go because from the standpoint of a writer, she has ‘evolved’ and is now ‘complete’. But Keisha’s complexity made it hard for me to end her story. And in fact, I couldn’t even bring myself to write the words ‘THE END’ as I customarily do.

Like that parent sending their kid off to college, I know they may never live with me again, but find myself thinking, ‘would it be so bad to just drop in for a visit?’ But that’s as far as I can go with that analogy because it would be a very bad parent indeed who never did drop in for a visit to their college-age kid. And sadly, in this case, I would be a very bad writer indeed if I could not simply let Keisha be … complete.

Happy Reading.

N.

The Mistress Trilogy (based on the Commitment Series)

Mistress (Book One) On Kindle & Nook

Wife (Book Two) On Kindle & Nook

Mother (Book Three) On Kindle & Nook

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘MOTHER’

Jayson Final Promo2“Jay doesn’t want you to go, does he?”

“He’s not excited about it,” Keisha admitted.

“Well you’re newlyweds. He was a little on edge last time you went to Europe, I know that.”

Keisha knew that as well. She recalled the forced enthusiasm in his voice when they spoke by phone, the questions about what she’d seen and done, all of which sounded scripted.

“I think it’s the distance, y’know? It’s not like he could rush to your side if you needed him or something. He’s very protective that way. Always has been.”

Keisha looked at Chloe, watching as she strolled the aisle, pausing every once in a while to look at an item, deciding whether to buy. When she saw something she was interested in, she looked at Keisha with raised eyebrows, inquiring whether she wanted the item as well. Most of the time, Keisha assented.

“What was he like?” she asked. “Y’know, before.”

Before. That was how they referred to the time before Jay went to prison to serve ten years for a robbery his cousin had made him an unwitting after-the-fact accomplice to. Most of the time it was easy to forget that Jay had served time. He was nothing like the other ex-cons Keisha remembered from her old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Most of those men were hard, watchful and sometimes quietly dangerous. Even their smiles were untrustworthy.

When she’d first seen Jay, Keisha noticed the prison tattoos, the complicated array of images, and words traveling the length of his arms. That was enough for her to almost immediately dismiss him. She had no intention of going backwards by getting involved with a man who had chosen the path he had to have chosen. Then she noticed his eyes, with their piercing intensity, and quiet assessing gaze. He seemed to have seen right through her. And that made her uncomfortable. From the moment they met she’d been unsettled around him, and that hadn’t changed, even to the present day. Jay still had the ability to shake her up like no one else she had ever known.

“Jay’s always been like a big brother,” Chloe said. “Even though he’s younger than me. Always a caretaker. He’s going to make an amazing father.”

Keisha swallowed and shot a quick glance in her sister-in-law’s direction, but it seemed to have been just an offhand comment with no veiled significance.

“I think that’s why he was so easily taken in by our cousin. Always looking out for him even when he shouldn’t have. That’s the thing he lost when he was locked up, I think. His blind faith in people.” Chloe’s eyes cast downward for a moment. “But I guess in the grand scheme of things, that’s not such an awful thing to lose.”

His faith in other people wasn’t the issue really. It was his faith in her that was Keisha’s cause for worry. She just needed to make sure it wasn’t misplaced.

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COMING DECEMBER 15th: ‘MOTHER’

The final part of the trilogy, ‘Mistress’, ‘Wife’, ‘Mother’ …

Keisha final excerpt

Excerpt:

A couple months after Jay and Keisha were married, when the Friday lunches were still a new thing, Chloe suggested they go somewhere “nice” for lunch and that Keisha should dress up. She’d found someone to babysit Gabby for the afternoon and said she was eager to get out of ‘Mommy-mode” so Keisha was happy to indulge her. But then they’d both shown up in dramatically different outfits. Comically different, in fact.

Keisha had worn high heels and very skinny jeans with a similarly close-fitting blouse. Dramatically made up with penciled-in brows and a dark lip-stain, she thought she looked pretty damn fierce when she left the house. Chloe on the other hand wore khakis and loafers; with a pink button-down and a dark brown fitted blazer, the look was tasteful, minimalist. Barely wearing lipstick and a little blush, her hair was tied back in a chaste knot and she looked like she was ready to lunch at a country club.

As she surveyed herself in the ladies room mirror later that afternoon, Keisha reflected that she on the other hand looked like someone trying to look sophisticated rather than someone who truly was. A phrase as simple as “dress up” meant completely different things to her than it had to Chloe. Keisha thought, as she looked at her reflection, that she looked like … trash.

Back home, she found Jay, reclining on their sofa having left the store early to work out and kick back for a Friday night in. When he looked up to ask how the afternoon date had gone, all Keisha could do was lift his arm, wedge herself in next to him, bury her face in his still damp chest and cry, hot and silent tears. He’d asked her over and over what was wrong, but she couldn’t even form the right words to explain, only finding the energy to reassure him that his sister hadn’t been mean to her or anything. Eventually, he’d stopped asking; and she finally stopped crying, but only once Jay had spent long minutes kissing her forehead, stroking her back and saying, “shh, baby, shh, shh.”

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COMING FROM NIA FORRESTER

comeup cover absolute final (1)THE COME UP

Jamal Turner is near the top of his game. Widely-known as the trusted right-hand man to music mogul Chris Scaife, he’s poised to become chief operating officer of his friend and mentor’s international recording conglomerate. But while his career prospects have never been better, Jamal is still plagued by the remnants of his humble beginnings, threatening to pull him back down just as he’s on the come up.

Makayla Hughes knows who she is and where she comes from, and she flat out refuses to allow working in the high-powered recording industry to change her. Just a simple girl from the South Bronx, she doesn’t care who knows it. But when she’s thrown into close quarters, working on a project with the notorious Jamal Turner, she begins to wonder whether her determination to ‘keep it real’ is also keeping her world very, very small.

Jamal is drawn to Makayla, but he can’t let the man he used to be stand in the way of the man he’s becoming. There’s no doubt she fits into the life Jamal used to have, but what’s not as clear is whether she belongs in the life he wants.


Mother cover mistress FINALMOTHER

The final part of the ‘Mistress’ Trilogy.

Married to Jayson Holmes, and managing school, an emerging interest in a fashion career, extended family and new friends, Keisha’s life has changed well beyond anything she ever imagined. But Jayson has even more changes on his mind–he wants to be a father.

But how can Keisha, who never believed she would even be a wife, come to terms with an even more challenging role? Will she rise to the occasion and embrace the joy, fear and uncertainty of motherhood? Or will she allow old habits–and old friends–to threaten the fragile peace she’s finally found?

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OCTOBER’S WRITER TO WATCH: Jacinta Howard, author of ‘Happiness in Jersey’

Originally posted on Two Writers, Two Takes. One Book at a Time.:

JHowardWhen did you know you were a writer, and what’s the first thing you remember writing?

I was always able to express myself in writing way better than I could verbally. I was super, super, super shy as a kid. I still am a little shy (though I don’t think a grown woman can actually be shy—more so just quiet, or, because it’s being labeled now, I’m an “introvert”).

Anyway, I had a teacher in the first grade, Mrs. Peterson, who I pretty much credit with being the first person to foster my writing skills. Every Monday every student had to write a sentence about what they did that weekend and she would compile all of the sentences, type them out and pass out a copy for each of us. We were like six, so the sentences would say stuff like, “I went to the store with my mom and…

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘LIFTED’

Anzu promo

From LIFTED':

“Do you think I’m too dependent on my brother?”

“What’s ‘too dependent’ mean?” Anzu asked, looking over her shoulder.

She’d stopped by to hang out after a fight with her girlfriend and since it was Tessa’s night off, they decided to order Chinese and watch movies. While waiting for the delivery, Anzu was pouring them glasses of wine from the bottle she’d picked up on her way over.

“I don’t know. That’s the thing. I think my shrink is on some kind of a mission to prove I’m too attached to him, or something.” Tessa took the glass of red Anzu handed her.

“Well forget her. Who’s she to say what’s too attached? You lost your parents and he’s the only person you have.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Tessa said.

She didn’t point out that that wasn’t exactly true anymore. She had Shayla. And she had—and had always had—a large group of friends. She and Trey even had extended family, though they hadn’t made much effort to get to know them over the years. Only now, with Shayla’s parents and family were they both becoming a little more interested, and curious about their relatives beyond the two of them.

“But …” Anzu sat cross-legged on the floor near Tessa’s feet. “Well, anyway, forget it.”

“No. What? What were you about to say?”

“Okay, but I want you to take this with a grain of salt,” Anzu began carefully. “Because I’m an only child so there’s a good chance I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, okay?”

Tessa nodded. “Go ahead.”

“You do preface a whole lot with, ‘my brother would just die …’ or ‘Trey would kill me if…’ It’s almost like a reflex with you, no matter what, to think about what he would think, or what he would do,” Anzu said slowly. “I’ve stopped trying to figure out whether you do the things you do because you want him to react, or you do them in spite of how he would react. Sometimes I wonder if you know why you do them.”

Tessa said nothing for so long that Anzu put down her glass of wine and turned, getting on her knees and placing both hands on Tessa’s thighs.

“Look,” she said. “I told you I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, I just …”

“No, it was an honest answer,” Tessa said, putting her hands over Anzu’s. “You …”

Just then the apartment door opened and Ty was standing there. Wearing sweats and a white-t-shirt, he looked like he’d recently worked out and was in need of a shower, his complexion flushed, his hair tousled. He paused, taking in their position—Tessa sitting on the edge of the futon, Anzu on her knees in front of her. He said nothing.

“Hey!” Anzu stood. “Want in on this? We ordered some food and I’ve got some vino here that’s supposed to be pretty good.”

Still, Ty didn’t speak. Tessa’s eyes met his inquisitively and it took her a moment before she realized what things may have looked like when he walked in, what he probably thought.

“No,” Ty said finally, his eyes still fixed on Tessa. “I’m good. Just stopped by to shower and maybe see whether Tess was up for …” he shrugged. “Anything.”

“Oh. Well we don’t have any plans except to hang out,” Anzu said. She had poured him a glass of wine and was extending it toward him. “C’mon. Go get showered and join us.”

“Nah. I’ll probably just head home. Looks like you were in the middle of something, so …” He backed out of the apartment.

“We weren’t in the middle of …” Tessa began.

But Ty shut the door, and was gone.

“Wait,” Anzu said after a moment, turning to face Tessa with wide eyes. “Did he just let himself in? Does he have his own key?”

“Yeah,” Tessa said, staring at the now-shut door. “It just seemed to make sense. He’s always here, so I gave him one.”

“Holy shit,” Anzu emptied the glass of wine she intended for Ty. “Are you guys screwing yet or not? I thought you said you hadn’t done it!”

“We haven’t,” Tessa said.

She was way out of her depth. Ty obviously thought he’d walked in on her and Anzu about to get something going. Though he had to have been upset, he hadn’t shown any sign of it. Or maybe he just wasn’t upset. Maybe he was one of those creeps who thought sex between women didn’t even amount to sex and didn’t count. Or maybe he wasn’t upset because he was perfectly fine having her sleep with other people.

Other people? What the hell was she thinking? She’d never been with just one person exclusively. Never. And for her to be thinking that way now was just crazy! She wasn’t with Ty, and he wasn’t with her. Right? They were just exploring.

Wait, but then did that mean he might still be with other people? They’d never talked about Zara for instance. Not directly. Tessa had assumed he’d gotten rid of that skank, but she didn’t ask and he didn’t say.

“Hey.” Anzu was looking at her strangely. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Where’s that damn Chinese food? I’m starving.” Tessa got up from the futon and grabbed the menu and then her cell phone.

“Wait one second,” Anzu said, snatching it out of her hand. “Was he jealous because I’m here? Is that what ..?”

“Who cares what he was?” Tessa snapped, grabbing the menu back.

Anzu laughed. Clapping a hand over her mouth, she sank onto the futon. “Are you guys, like, serious and shit? Like in-a-relationship serious?”

“Shut the hell up. No one’s serious and no one’s in a relationship.”

Anzu ignored her. “Now that I think about it, he did have boyfriend-face when he came in. Yup, he definitely had boyfriend-face.”

“You’re getting on my nerves,” Tessa said.

“Okay, fine, but I would go after him if I were you.”

Tessa looked at her. “You would?”

Anzu shrugged. “Why let him think something that’s not true? You and I haven’t been together like that in eons. And come to think of it, you haven’t hooked up with anyone else either that I’m aware of. He likes you, you like him. Stop the insanity.”

Tessa spluttered.

“I mean it,” Anzu said. “These kinds of misunderstandings are only cute in Jennifer Aniston movies. In real life it’s just tedious and unnecessary.”

“Me running after him through the streets of San Francisco would be exactly like a Jennifer Aniston movie.”

Anzu thought for a moment. “Okay, good point. So let’s eat the Chinese food if it ever gets here, and drink the wine, and then you go after him.”

AVAILABLE NOW

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/pdzwnvc


Nook: http://tinyurl.com/pbd4ww5

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Meet Lisa: An Outtake from ‘LIFTED’

Lisa Promo

“Why do I get the distinct impression you’re not listening to me, Lisa?”

Maybe because she wasn’t listening to her.

“I am, Mom. I’m just exhausted. I had an entire day of hearings and another tomorrow. And then I fly back on the red eye.”

“Well, your career is important. I wouldn’t dispute that. But at the moment, your father and I are concerned about Tyson. You’re sure he hasn’t called you?”

“I’m sure,” Lisa said.

It wasn’t quite a lie. Ty hadn’t called her. At least not since he told her he was leaving school and wanted to crash at her place for a little while. She hadn’t heard from him in five days, and could only assume based on this frantic call from their mother that the dumb-ass had gone through with it—took off and left school in pursuit of some indistinct ‘new life.’ This was not their family’s first dog-and-pony show with her brother.

Ty had always been wild and hard to control, restless and unpredictable. And as he grew older—though never wiser—everyone was beginning to come to terms with the fact that maturity wasn’t the issue. Ty was just one of those people. Telling him the stove was hot had never sufficed for him as a kid, he had to touch it to find out for himself. Well, this time, he was definitely going to get burned, because their parents were at the end of their rope with him. Lisa could hear it now in her mother’s voice—the exhaustion, the resignation and defeat beneath the worry.

“If he does, will you call me? Right away?”

“I promise,” Lisa said, looking at her watch.

It was almost nine-thirty, and some of her colleagues had gone for dinner in Georgetown to a steakhouse one of them read about someplace. Lisa begged off as being too tired, but now she was beginning to feel a restless energy and thought she might hit the streets after all. Since she was in DC at least once a month, she had her own favorite haunts in the city, and was already running inventory in her mind, trying to decide which one to visit.

“You don’t think he’s just … left, do you?” her mother asked, a thin reed of apprehension in her voice.

“No, Mom. I wouldn’t worry about that. Of course he hasn’t. Where would he go? He’s probably just taking some time to think or something.”

“When Ty ‘thinks’ he rarely seems to reach the correct conclusions.”

Lisa bristled for a moment on her brother’s behalf. That was the kind of thing they said directly to his face, as well as behind his back. No wonder he kept trying to escape the gilded cage of their parents’ so-called love. No wonder he was always running away.

“Okay, Mom. I’ve got to get something to eat. It’s late and I have another early day tomorrow.”

“Alright, well, call me if …”

“Yes, yes,” Lisa said, rushing her off the phone.

This time she was staying at the Mayflower Renaissance, the historic and upscale hotel where then-NY governor Elliot Spitzer had his tryst with a high-priced call girl, ruining both his reputation and political future. Lisa liked the Mayflower though the rooms were in need of some modernization. But the Old World feel of the place was what attracted its guests, Georgetown dowagers, and socialites in town from Virginia horse country for a tea with friends. Or at least, that was who it used to attract. Elliot Spitzer’s reputation and career hadn’t been the only casualty of the call-girl scandal.

By the time she’d showered and changed out of her power suit, Lisa had decided to grab a quick bite at a Thai place she knew in DuPont Circle and then head to Cobalt. Though she definitely went to gay bars back in San Francisco, it was funny how much more ‘out’ she felt in DC. Maybe because no one knew her here, and she could be one of the anonymous crowd. Her coworkers were safely some distance away in stodgy Georgetown, so she could be whoever the hell she wanted to be tonight.

Being in the closet in San Francisco of all places made her feel like a coward. And she kind of was.  Coming out in San Francisco wasn’t like coming out in the conservative small Connecticut town where she and Ty grew up. In San Francisco, coming out was joining an already-established community. Even at her job, where she was most careful to conceal her sexuality, there were dozens of gay men and women living their truth.

But instead of just declaring herself one of them (not in word, because she would never do that, but in deed at least) Lisa pretended. She pretended and then went out on Fridays to places like Hood Range, where women like Tessa Denison strutted around like they owned the world and casually amassed lover after lover after lover.

As she waited for the doorman to hail her a cab at the curb, Lisa wondered whether she’d made a mistake letting Tessa stay at her place when Ty was expected. Would she say something, do something, that would give Lisa’s secret away? She hadn’t been thinking clearly when she asked Tessa to house-sit for her. She didn’t even need a house-sitter, for heaven’s sake. She had a wireless security system that would text her if there was anything awry at her apartment, and if that failed, a bunch of nosey neighbors would be her fail-safes.

But Tessa was like no one Lisa had ever met before and she was a little high on her when she made the suggestion, wanting to know that as soon as she got back from DC, she would see her. And because she was somewhat of a live wire, you never knew with Tessa whether she might just up and disappear or something.

For weeks before they hooked up, Lisa had watched Tessa at the bar, admiring her ease in her own skin. She picked up women the way other people picked lint off their shoulder—casually, thoughtlessly, and with the barest modicum of effort. It seemed like all Tessa ever had to do was smile at someone and they were hers for the asking.

If ever she was in a serious relationship, Tessa was definitely not the kind of person Lisa would do that with. She could only imagine the agony that awaited anyone who came along who was dumb enough think Tessa Denison could be held down. But for now, she was perfect—perhaps some of her bravery, her brash manner of living would rub off, and Lisa could stop carrying this oppressive, heavy lie of a life.

____________________

 

“So, San Francisco, huh? What’s that like?”

Lisa tore her eyes away from the slender, dark-haired woman a few seats down the bar and back to Kim, the woman next to her.

She’d approached just as Lisa sat down and asked whether she could buy her a drink and Lisa agreed, because she didn’t want to sit alone while eyeing someone longingly from afar. But Kim was not her physical type at all. She was blonde, for starters, and had what looked to be about twenty extra pounds on her. Lisa thought being overweight was a sign of indiscipline. She could stomach many things, but lack of discipline was her biggest pet peeve. In some things she could let it slide, but control over one’s own body was just basic. If a person couldn’t manage that, she had no time for them.

“It’s like living in any other large city, I guess,” Lisa said, her eyes shifting once again to the dark-haired woman. “Different enclaves, that kind of thing.”

Kim picked up on her inattention and looked over her shoulder, catching sight of the woman Lisa had been staring at. “She’s pretty,” she said. “More your type, I take it.”

A tone in Kim’s voice made Lisa look at her again. She wasn’t interested, but she didn’t want the woman to feel she was a complete nonentity, either. So she smiled at her.

“A weakness for dark-haired beauties,” she admitted. “What’s your weakness? Physically I mean.”

Kim gave a little smile. “Women who look like you, I guess.”

Lisa took a sip of her wine. “Oh.”

“That wasn’t a play for a pity-lay by the way. Just an honest answer.”

“I wouldn’t think … I didn’t think that,” Lisa blushed. “And besides, I doubt you need to make people sorry for you to want to sleep with you.”

“No,” Kim acknowledged. “But since my divorce, I guess I’m a little down on myself.”

“You were married?” Lisa sat forward.

She’d always been fascinated by those gay couples who just …went for it. It was one thing to be out—something she couldn’t even begin to consider doing just yet. And quite another to just live out loud like that, get married and everything like straight people. Again, Lisa thought about her cowardice.

“I like to tell people that my ex and I were among the first wave of gay marriages. And the first wave of gay divorces.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Since then I put on thirty pounds and started questioning every little thing about myself. So if I sounded a little down on myself before, that’s all it is. Residual divorce stuff.”

“What was your …”

“Wife,” Kim supplied.

“Your wife’s name?”

“Candace. We were Kimberly and Candace Merchant.”

“Big wedding?”

“Huge. A real show wedding.”

“Were your families ..?”

“Yeah. On both sides. It was a great party. Great day.”

“Then I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” Lisa said sincerely. “That must have been very painful.”

“It was.”

“Want to … tell me about it?”

Kim grinned at her. “This has to be the worst date etiquette. Bending your ear about my failed marriage.”

“Well, we’re not on a date.” Lisa shrugged. “So you should feel free to bend away. And besides, I asked. I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t interested.”

“Okay,” Kim nodded. “Since you insist, I’m going to hit you with it. The Kimberly Merchant Marital Tale of Woe.”

“Hit me,” Lisa said.

____________________

 

Lisa still couldn’t believe they ended up in bed. The entire time she kept telling herself that Kim was not her type, definitely not her type, not that attractive, dammit, not her type. But after their conversation in the bar, Lisa had found herself overlooking the extra pounds, the blondeness, the somewhat dumpy and unfashionable clothes. All of it fell away and instead she focused on the bright intelligence in Kim’s eyes, the pleasant crinkling at their corners and their overwhelming and vivid shade of green.

When Kim was naked, Lisa didn’t even have to look away from the slight paunch, the soft indistinctness of her arms, and the way her breasts splayed slightly to the sides with their own weight. Lisa had looked at her head on and still, to her oft-repeated surprise while they made love, wanted Kim just as much as if she was the most perfectly-sculpted bombshell of a female specimen.

Now though, it was almost four a.m. and she had to think about preparing for her hearing on Capitol Hill that morning, which meant that her enjoyment of Kim’s company notwithstanding, she needed to be alone and get her game-face on. The Senate hearing was the long-awaited crescendo to a hard-fought legislative campaign, and it had to go well. Though she knew she had little control over that, Lisa still liked to be prepared. She would be sitting next to her company’s CEO, feeding him information that it was up to him to deliver with all the sincerity and conviction of the Pope delivering Mass in the Vatican. And though she couldn’t deliver his lines for him, she believed her confidence might fuel his.

She hoped that the sound of the shower would awaken her guest, and she would discreetly exit the suite before Lisa was done. That way she could review her notes, gather her thoughts and spend some time on choosing among the five suits she brought along as options. But when she got out and heard signs of movement in the next room, Lisa sighed, realizing her hope was in vain. Kim was still there.

“Hey.”

She was dressed and sitting at the edge of the bed at least.

“Hey,” Lisa said. “I had a good time last night. But I hope you don’t mind if …”

Kim broke out into laughter that sounded like it had been barely-repressed up until that moment. “I made a bet with myself,” she explained. “About how long it would take before you asked me to leave. I lost. I thought five minutes at least. You took five seconds.”

Standing there in the hotel robe, Lisa blushed. This was the second time Kim had made her blush in their very brief acquaintance. Something she rarely did.

“You make me sound like such a bitch. I’m sorry, but I just have this …”

“Yes, you told me last night, remember? The hearing. That’s a big deal. Don’t worry, I’m getting out of your way in just a moment.”

Kim slid on her flats and stood, going to the mirror to rake her fingers through her hair. Lisa watched her.

“You could … I’m about to order room service coffee if you want to have a cup,” she offered.

“No. Thank you,” Kim said. “Last night was lovely. But I know we’re not in that place anymore. You’re here to work and I was …” She shrugged. “It was very nice spending time with you, Lisa.”

Kim turned to leave.

“Wait,” Lisa said.

Kim turned, her expression quizzical.

“I’d like it if you’d stay.”

“Would you really?” Kim didn’t sound insecure, just skeptical.

Now that she knew her a little better, Lisa was quite certain Kim wasn’t insecure as a rule and that it was just like she said, that her marriage had thrown her for a loop.

Lisa held up a hand. “Swear.”

“Maybe I can give you some of my tips for Senate hearings in the meantime,” Kim suggested.

“Tips for ..? Wait, are you a lobbyist too? How come you never said anything last night?”

“Not a lobbyist, no. I’m on staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee. And we never talked about my career last night. We talked aboutyour career, and my marriage.”

“You must think I’m a self-centered bitch.”

Kim shook her head slowly. “No. I don’t.”

Lisa smiled. “Well, let’s order that coffee and then, yes, I’d love to hear some of your tips for testifying at Senate hearings.”

Note to the Reader: The preceding excerpt is NOT a part of the novel, but a segment that wound up on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll check the book out.

‘LIFTED’ is AVAILABLE NOW ON:

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/pdzwnvc

Nook: http://tinyurl.com/pbd4ww5

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