I’m thrilled to announce I have a third book on the horizon: In Search of Mr. Anonymous. It’s been a labor of love for me and my favorite among the books I’ve written so far. Like the others, you can expect it to be fun and flirty with a healthy dose of romance. OK, so this one probably has more than a healthy dose. Let’s just say it’s a lot steamier than the others. But it also goes deeper and tackles some bigger issues about love and loyalty. Here’s a summary of the plot:
Two Strangers. One Passionate Weekend. Endless Heartbreak.
Cynical event planner Lucy agrees to a one-night stand as a result of losing a bet. It’s so out of character she insists on keeping their names anonymous. Lucy falls hard only to never hear from him again. She struggles with moving on until she meets James, her perfect match. Lucy realizes she must stop chasing the ghosts of her past if she wants a future with James. But the problem with ghosts is you never know when they’ll come back to haunt you.
I’ll be running an eBook preorder special soon. Details to come in the next few days. But in the meantime enjoy a sneak peek. Check back often because I will post a new chapter in the days leading up to my launch, which is slated for 4/27.
First up: the prologue. Yes, I have one of those 😉 Enjoy!
I stare at the heavy wooden doors before me, willing them to open. Their windows are covered with wrought iron bars, reminiscent of the prison I’m in. Fine, these bars have more of an ornamental look and the windows are some kind of fancy stained glass. So the jail analogy might be a bit extreme. If I wasn’t so claustrophobic I might even find them pretty. But it’s hard to see their beauty while I’m crammed among a throng of my classmates. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying my best to ignore the pack that surrounds me. I could kill my mom for dropping me off early. “If you’re on time, you’re as good as late,” she always tells me. What does that even mean? It makes no sense. I feel jostling behind me and as the doors open I’m pushed forward into a large, brightly lit tent. I can breathe again.
“Lucy, let’s go!” Amanda cries as she tugs my arm toward a woman carrying a tray filled with fizzy, pink drinks. We each grab one, and I give it a good stir with my straw before taking a tentative sip. It’s fruity, and the bubbles tickle my throat as it goes down. I decide it’s too sweet, but I’m grateful to have something to hold―a prop of sorts.
I follow Amanda across the white, polished floor, being careful not to trip over my own feet. We head toward the center of the tent, near the makeshift stage, and I’m surrounded by a bustle of activity. A man teeters on stilts while juggling. To my left is a child-sized merry-go-round adorned with three small ponies, their fiery manes a match to the red satin tablecloths. I’m not sure if it’s to ride on or for show. To my right are carnival-style games. My mouth waters as someone walks by holding a red and white striped box overflowing with buttered popcorn. The logo on the carton matches the large sign behind the stage, which spells out “Happy Sweet 16 Taylor” in lights. It’s all a bit over-the-top if you ask me. But Taylor is an only child and from what I hear her dad’s loaded, at least according to the rumor mill. In my experience it always carries an ounce of truth.
The DJ is setting up his equipment and, to my dismay, he chooses the moment I’m standing next to a speaker to do a sound check. I jump as he belts out, “Testing. Testing 1-2-3.”
“Let’s go play some games,” I suggest. Amanda agrees. We survey the options and decide to start with “Taylor’s Gone Fishin’.” Yeah, right. Like I can really see her doing anything that involves worms. I grab a fishing pole and drop its magnetic hook into a small pool of water. Unfortunately I come up empty-handed because the bottom of my fish is blank. Only fish that have a star on the bottom earn you a prize. I guess Taylor doesn’t share the philosophy that everyone’s a winner. Next we head over to the can toss, where I successfully knock down all three with my first pitch. I do a little victory dance and Amanda stares and me and giggles. “Lucy, who knew you had it in you!” I laugh too as I watch Amanda imitate my victory dance. The man running the game appears impatient with our antics and hands me a large, stuffed teddy bear before shouting, “Next!” I wonder what I’m supposed to do with it during the party. Maybe it can be my dancing partner. A wave of anxiety hits at the thought of having no one to dance with during the slow songs. At least I’ll have my bear for company.
We move on and I’m engrossed in trying to toss a ring around the neck of a bottle when Amanda claps her hands in delight. “Look over there! Let’s get in line.” I follow her gaze and my heart sinks. It’s a fortune teller station. Reluctantly I stand with her in line. I try to distract her by suggesting we go to the photo booth before it gets crowded. She’s intent on staying put. When it’s our turn I say, “You go ahead. I don’t want to have my fortune read.”
“Why not?” she demands.
“You know I’m superstitious.”
She protests, citing off reasons why I should do it. I look around for a distraction and see a way out. “Isn’t that Jared over there?”
“Where?” she asks, following my gaze. “It’s him,” she squeals. “Do you think he noticed me? I think he looked over here. Yeah, he did. Should I go say hi? Or let him come to me?”
“Let him come to you. You need to play hard to get.” This is coming from someone who is anything but an expert when it comes to dating strategy, or dating for that matter.
“Yo, you’re up!” someone calls out behind us.
Jared makes eye contact with Amanda and walks over. “Lucy, take my turn,” Amanda says as she smooths out her perfect blond strands. The next thing I know Jared puts his arm around Amanda and whisks her away, leaving me standing in front of the fortune teller. I take in her lined face, the gray curls protruding from her colorful head scarf, and the large hoops dangling from her ears. She just looks the part. She’s not a real fortune teller. She even has a name tag that says, “Marci.” What kind of name is that for someone who’s supposed to know the future? And she spells it with an “I,” like it was an attempt to make her name trendier. Doesn’t instill much confidence. Still, I’d love to make a fast getaway, but I don’t want to cause a scene. I’m the kind of girl who likes to blend in.
Marci looks at me with narrowed, brown eyes. “I need something of value.”
She has an accent. Of course she has an accent. It’s probably fake. “I don’t have anything,” I say as I unzip my purse.
“No, no. Not money. Something meaningful to you,” she says as she eyes my necklace.
“Oh,” I say as my fingers fumble with the silver chain around my neck. How did she know? I wear two, actually. One is a butterfly pendant and the other a best friends charm. Fortunately the pendant is tucked beneath my dress, hiding it from view. So she must be talking about the charm necklace.
“Let me see it.”
I hesitate. I never take off the necklace―either of them. Seconds pass and I feel beads of perspiration breaking out on my upper lip. Embarrassed, I put my finger to my lips as though deep in thought, and attempt to nonchalantly swipe the sweat away. “Come on!” a boy groans behind me.
“She’ll be the last one,” Marci says as she passes out a stack of business cards to those remaining in line.
The boy behind me groans again.
With shaking fingers, I sweep aside my jet black hair and undo the silver chain around my neck. Silently I hand it to her. She studies the “St Ends” broken heart locket and places it in her palm. She covers it with her other hand and closes her eyes. I close my eyes as well and try to drown out the scene before me. Instead, I focus on the locket, and Melanie.
Melanie Baxter is my best friend. I met her at overnight camp when I was just ten years old. Looking back I have no clue why my mom sent me because I never asked or expressed any interest. I think it was her attempt at getting me out of my shell. To this day I don’t know why Melanie befriended me. We are complete opposites in every way. She’s outgoing, boisterous, and loves being in the spotlight. Some might call me a wall flower. I prefer to think of myself as an observer. Let’s just say I didn’t expect us to be friends.
We were assigned to the same cabin, but she already knew some of the other girls. I kept to myself at first, until there was an act of what I like to think of as divine intervention on the fourth night. As an evening activity, our counselor, Joanna, asked us to write something nice about each of our cabin mates. She had a cup labeled with each camper’s name, and after we wrote our message we had to drop it in each one. I wondered what people would write about me, the shy girl who didn’t give much away. It wasn’t intentional. I wanted them to see the real me, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I told myself it was just a silly activity, but their opinions mattered to me. I watched as most of the girls scribbled a quick message and then went on to gossip with one another. I took my time. I wanted to think of the perfect thing to say. We then went off to our evening program and I wondered what would become of the messages. I worried they would be forgotten, but before bed Joanna read each one aloud. Many of the notes were superficial and said things like, “so and so is really nice” or “she’s great at braiding” or “I love her clothes.” Except mine. For Victoria I wrote, “Her bursts of laughter are like catching glowing fireflies on a hot, summer night.” And on Paige’s I wrote, “Her smile is inviting, and when it’s directed at you it feels like you’re being wrapped up in a warm blanket.” And on Tina’s I said, “I wish I had an ounce of her bravery.” Then Joanna read the one I wrote for Melanie. “Melanie is like the sun. She shines her radiance on those around her. Always growing, you feel happy in her presence.”
“Glowing,” I corrected Joanna before I could stop myself. “It’s glowing, not growing.” Melanie’s eyes met mine as I said it. She smiled at me and I smiled back. I noticed her listening intently to the rest of the messages, her eyes darting my way each time one of mine was read. “Are you a poet?” she asked me when we went to brush our teeth.
“Me? No. I don’t write poetry, but I love reading it.”
“Oh. I liked what you had to say about everyone.”
I gave her an embarrassed smile as I squeezed out a dab of toothpaste. She kept talking while she was brushing and I had a hard time understanding what she was saying. Toothpaste dribbled down her chin and I attempted to stifle a laugh. Instead of being embarrassed, she made funny faces and put a dab of toothpaste on her nose. I followed suit and pretty soon our faces were covered with dots of toothpaste.
Joanna walked in and said, “What on earth?”
But neither of us could answer. We were both crying tears of laughter.
“You’ll be my bunk mate when we switch next week,” Melanie informed me. I didn’t mind that it wasn’t a question.
The next morning she took a few extra minutes getting dressed before breakfast.
“Mel, you coming?” Paige called.
“Go ahead. I’ll head over with Lucy.”
I tried not to look surprised. She fell in step next to me and I noticed how her strides were in sync with mine. From that day forward it was like that between us. As close as sisters, we had an inseparable bond. At the end of camp I worked up the courage to ask why she chose me. “Because you see people for who they are,” she said. She thought a moment and added, “And you see the good in everyone.”
I didn’t know that to be true, but I was glad she thought so. Back home I’d never had a friend like her, and I was thrilled for our newfound friendship.
The only hitch is that she lives in Illinois and I’m from Virginia. But we make it work and try to see each other at least once or twice a year outside of camp. She surprised me on my thirteenth birthday with the locket. “For the other part of me,” she wrote on the card. She wears the other half: Be Fri. So when you put them together the message reads “Best Friends.” My locket has a picture of her, and hers a picture of me. I’m an only child, but once I met Melanie I not only gained a best friend, but a sister as well.
Marci puts one hand on mine, bringing me back to the present. In her other is the locket. I watch as she strokes her thumb over the engraved letters, her eyes closed in concentration. “You are a perceptive girl,” she says. “Quiet but very loyal. You have many acquaintances but few true friends. You don’t like to let people in.” I relax a little. What she’s saying is true, but it’s nothing about my future. Her observations are only about my present. “You will change your mind about where to go for college.” Uh, oh. I spoke too soon. “You will have much success,” she continues. “A good career. But you must make decisions for yourself. You must stop basing them on what others want.” She opens her eyes for a moment and a look of concern crosses her face. My heart begins to pound in my chest.
“What?” I say.
“N-nothing. That’s it.”
“What else did you see?” I demand.
The DJ announces it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday” and I know our time is done. She hands me back my locket then packs her things away. “It’s not important.”
“Please, just tell me,” I plead. She shakes her head and quickly finishes packing. She walks away, wheeling a small suitcase behind her. My classmates head toward the dance floor. Instead I follow Marci, all the way to the parking lot. She studies me as she closes her trunk. My pale blue-green eyes fill with tears, which I hastily wipe away with my sleeve. She takes both my hands and lets out a sigh.
“You will lose something precious,” she says. I snatch my hands away as though I’ve been burned.
No, no, no. This is why I didn’t want to have my fortune read. Some things are better off not knowing. But then it occurs to me she might be talking about my birth mom. “I’m adopted. Is that what you mean?”
“I’m afraid I’m not talking about the past. But don’t worry,” she tries to reassure me. “It will come back to you in the most unexpected way.”
“What? What will come back to me?”
All of a sudden Amanda reappears at my side. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Greg said he saw you head out this way.” I try to interrupt but she keeps talking. “So Jared officially asked me out. Can you believe it? And he won me this stuffed bear. Hey, it looks just like yours! The merry-go-round was just a display, by the way. We tried to go on it and got yelled at. Can you believe it? Why have it then?”
“Uh, huh. Just give me a sec. I need to find out more about something.”
Panicked, I turn back to where Marci was standing, but she’s gone. Her car is gone too. I want to scream at the unfairness of it all.
Amanda sees my expression. “What did she say?” she prods.
“Nothing important,” I lie. I secure the locket around my neck and check three times to make sure the clasp is tightened.
Amanda peers at me and says, “Don’t worry about what Marci said. She’s just someone they hired for the party. She’s probably like a math teacher, or something.”
“Yeah, like algebra or geometry,” I agree. She links her arm through mine and we head back toward the party.
As I’m lying in bed that night I replay Marci’s premonition. I convince myself she can’t be a real fortune teller and likely teaches math or science, as Amanda suggested. Something logical. I need to forget about what she said. But try as I might, her words are etched into my brain. I already know what it feels like to lose something you never had. Yet I’m still terrified. Of what, I don’t know. But I have a strong feeling that someday I’ll find out. As the poet Jean de La Fontaine once said, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” It would appear that my destiny is to lose.