Alice Cramer is tired of being pitied for her family’s transgressions, so she resolves to break out of the gutter and into the spotlight. As long as her local congressman can forget about their checkered past and help her secure a federal grant to open Harmony Falls Little Theatre, she’ll be the brightest star in town. But when Alice stands up in church and stops the congressman’s wedding, she dives headfirst into fresh scandal.
Why is Harmony Fall’s golden boy, Justin Mitchell, speeding down the interstate sans a new wife but with the local drama queen he’s been trying his whole life to avoid? Alice Cramer may have saved him the hassle of an arranged marriage to a woman he didn’t love, but she’s put a business transaction big enough to save an entire town in jeopardy–not to mention his reputation.
Soon Alice and Justin are dredging up and indulging in an attraction that threatens all their dreams and aspirations. But what if life together is the dream that matters most?
Alice jumped a wave, and Justin was assaulted by a flash of creamy skin and black lace. She was swimming in her underwear. Catching sight of a pile of clothes out of water’s reach, Justin shook his head. Apparently, she had ditched her dress. Why was he not surprised?
“What are you doing?” he called above the surf.
She flashed him a smile he hadn’t seen in years. “I’ve never been to the ocean.”
His untucked shirt tails whipped in the wind, and with the strength of his hands he fought the chaos. “I guess that explains it.”
She stayed smiling, considering him with the same hypnotic eyes he knew as a child. Back then, he wondered what she saw when she looked at him. Now, he was afraid to know the answer.
“I’m going to get the bags and the dog out of the car, and then I’ll bring you a towel. Be careful. No further. You hear? In fact, stay closer to the beach. The undertow is strong, and I’d like to avoid another rescue.”
A few steps up the beach and her wail hit his back. “I don’t need to be rescued.”
But she did. Somebody had to keep her from making rash decisions, like stopping weddings and swimming in the ocean half-dressed. He slowed his pace and closed his eyes. That someone couldn’t—shouldn’t—be him. On an inhale, he opened his eyes and returned to the surf. “Fine. No more rescues.”
“Good, because I’m not a baby. I can take care of myself. Stop telling me what to do. Stop treating me like you’re my father or my brother. You’re not. You’re just a guy. I’m just a girl. And you make life too complicated.” She raised her arms to her side and fell backwards into the sea.
Justin’s heartbeat quickened as he searched the choppy water, waiting for her to surface. Her father died an alcoholic and her brother looked destined to follow. Not being lumped in their category was a good thing, but where did that leave him?
Relief flooded him when her head broke the surface. She pushed soggy curls from her face, and raising her arms over head, spun until a wave knocked her off her feet. She was definitely not a baby. But if he was just a guy and she was just a girl, then bringing her with him was an even bigger risk. He had obligations, expectations and an image to uphold. In trying to avoid a scene at the church, he’d put himself in one hell of a compromising situation.
Who is your perfect hero? And why? This is an easy one—and probably a cliché, but…my husband is my perfect hero. My late teens and all of my twenties were spent watching him play baseball, which was quite the aphrodisiac. Now, he’s a physician, so he’s got that whole successful, intellectual, service-oriented thing covered. Better yet, he’s an amazing friend to me and father to our children. In my opinion, there’s nothing sexier than a man who is truly happy with his family. Plus, he has a great smile!
Who are your dream dinner party guests? This is one of my favorite interview questions. I love hypotheticals, and it’s fun to imagine this conglomeration of people: My college philosophy professor, Macklemore (rapper), Judith McNaught (romance author), my husband, and Derek Jeter (baseball player). The common thread here is respect. These five people impress me for various reasons, and I find them endlessly interesting.
What’s the last movie you watched and loved?
Loved? Midnight in Paris. (I’ve watched a lot of movies since, but I haven’t loved any of them.) Woody Allen is usually a must-see for me, but Midnight blew me away. I wanted to step inside that movie and live there. A little social commentary, a little time travel—pure perfection.
Most _____________ in high school. (popular, nerdy, sporty…) Why?
LOL. Love this! That would be most misguided in high school, because I thought I knew so much, and it turned out I knew so little. I suppose that’s a universal experience, but it really embarrasses me now. I don’t like the person I was back then. She and I would not be friends now. Sad, huh? Then again, it’s a good thing, because the mere fact I’m saying this means I’ve grown in a positive direction, and isn’t that all any of us can ask?
Top three things on your bucket list.
Make my own wine
Kayak downtown Chicago
See a great white shark in the wild (but not while I’m kayaking)
What’s your favorite body part of the opposite sex?
A man’s forearms. I blame my husband for this. I remember when he came home from his first year playing college baseball and I saw the benefits of all those workouts. Lol. Baseball players have killer forearms, and they set the standard for the rest.
When was your last kiss?
This morning before Hubby left. Unless he’s out of town, I start and end every day with kisses from him.
What’s an absolute no-no in a relationship?
Cheating. Emotional or physical. There’s no excuse for it. When you agree to a monogamous relationship and promise to honor that agreement, then you must do everything in your power to remain faithful—or end the relationship before you cross the line. I couldn’t forgive something like that—ever.
How did you meet your significant other?
We met in high school. Sophomore year we had English together, and I didn’t like him very much. He made fun of me, thought A Tale of Two Cities was stupid and only paid attention because he thought the teacher was pretty. *rolls eyes* Funny how things change when you get to know someone.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I do. Absolutely. I think our souls know when they meet energy of the same origin. That’s how I define love at first sight.
Boxers or Briefs?
Facial hair or clean shaven?
Alpha or Beta?
Planner or Panster? A bit of both (It’s a deadline-meeting necessity.)
White wine or red? Red
Coffee or tea? Tea
Vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate
Sweet or salty? Sweet
Sleep in or get up early? Up early
Laptop or desktop? Laptop
Beach or mountains? Beach
Winter or summer? Summer
Cat or dog? Both (I have one of each.)
Twilight or Fifty Shades? Twilight
Spotlight or In the Shadows? I’m very comfortable with both, depending on the situation.
City or Country? City
Clubbing or candlelight dinner? Candlelight dinner
Backpacking or luxury hotel? Luxury hotel
Morning or night person? Morning
Christmas or Halloween? Christmas
Optimist or pessimist? Optimist
Elley Arden is a born and bred Pennsylvanian who has lived as far west as Utah and as far north as Wisconsin. She drinks wine like it’s water (a slight exaggeration), prefers a night at the ballpark to a night on the town, and believes almond English toffee is the key to happiness.
Elley has been reading romance novels since she was a sixteen-year-old babysitter, sneaking Judith McNaught and Danielle Steele novels off the bookshelves of the women who employed her. She started her first manuscript when she was twenty-five, writing during babies’ naps. A total of three children and ten years later, the manuscript was complete. Little did she know, her journey to publication was only beginning…
Elley writes provocative contemporary romances for Crimson Romance.