Dear romance readers!
I’m excited to announce my novella, For the Love of You is available! It’s the first in a new series, Precious Moments, that’s a spin-off from the Arrington Family Series. So, yes you’ll be able to catch up with the beloved Arringtons as well. As always, the blurb and chapter one are below along with the buy links. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for the novella to be available on Kobo and iBooks, but I didn’t want to hold out any longer. I know some of you have been waiting for Zaria Richardson and Garrett Braxton’s love story. I’ll update as soon as I have the other links. Happy reading and thank you for always being so supportive! You rock!!
Zaria Richardson is determined to make her event planning company, Precious Moments, the most sought after on St. Simons Island, Georgia. When Dr. Garrett Braxton approaches her with shocking information about their rendezvous last year to Las Vegas, the perfect life she’s created for herself comes crashing down. All of her mixed emotions over the suave, irresistible doctor rise to the surface, and now she’s faced with a life-changing decision.
Garrett has been in love with the ravishing, sassy beauty since he first laid eyes on her. However, with an unexpected circumstance, he now knows more than ever that Zaria has always been the one for him. Can he convince her that they’re truly meant to be?
“Do you really think that looks perfect?” Aggravated, Zaria slapped her hand on her forehead and ran her fingers through her hair as she glared at the man on the ladder who’d just draped a gardenia garland around one of the columns. Placing her hands on her hips, she swished her lips to the side. “It isn’t hanging like the others, and it’s throwing off my entire vision for this wedding that starts in a few hours.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Richardson.”
“Don’t be sorry, Chauncey. Just fix it. Precious Moments Events promises perfection, elegance, and class for every occasion. We don’t half-ass anything.”
Frustrated, she strutted across the wood planked floor while her inquisitive eyes perused the white-sheered tent one last time. Everything else was magnificently beautiful thanks to her fine eye for detail and creativity. Gardenia and rose garlands swooped the top of the tent, and two-feet tall centerpieces of white and fuchsia roses intertwined with ivy leaves cascaded from crystal vases.
“That’s perfect, Chauncey,” she called out.
Smiling, she sighed and exited the tent that faced the Atlantic Ocean of St. Simons Island, Georgia. It was indeed a perfect May day for a wedding. The sky was free of dark clouds, and even though there was a plan B in place for rain, there was none in the forecast.
“Zaria, there you are.”
She turned to spot her baby cousin, and head event planner, Reagan Richardson strolling toward her. “Hey. How’s the bride?” Zaria asked, nodding her head at the beach mansion where the bride’s family resided.
“A nervous wreck, but her bridesmaids are calming her down. They’re heading to the lighthouse in a few minutes to take pictures. Brooklyn is there now with the groom and the groomsmen, who will stay while the groom leaves with his father. I just hope they don’t cross paths. If they take the routes I suggested they won’t, but Brooklyn knows what to do.”
“Of course. Everything is on schedule.” She stopped when her cell phone vibrated on the clip attached to her jeans. Sliding it out, she groaned at the name and her heart skipped a few beats. What’s-his-face. She hadn’t spoken to him since she’d moved from Memphis a year ago to St. Simons to be a partner with Reagan’s event planning company.
“What’s wrong?” Reagan asked as the ladies trekked toward the tent.
“Oh, nothing.” Zaria waved it off and let the call go to voicemail. She shifted the Z on her necklace back and forth to calm her nerves.
“Everything looks exquisite by the way. Your imagination never ceases to amaze me.”
“Thanks, hon. I’m heading over to Jekyll Island to drop off the floral arrangements for the medical convention’s opening reception tonight, and then I’m going home to crash. I’ve been here since four o’ clock this morning. I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow for the going away brunch. The centerpieces the bride’s mother requested are safe in a spare bedroom. All I have to do is set them out before the guests arrive.”
“Splendid. Maybe you’ll meet a handsome doctor at the medical convention.”
Zaria chuckled sarcastically. “I’ll be sure to send him your way.”
Once settled in the driver’s seat of her Range Rover, Zaria frowned as her cell phone beeped indicating she had a voicemail. She was slightly curious as to why he was calling all of a sudden, but decided she could wait until she was at home with a glass of wine. Besides, he wasn’t anyone important … or at least that’s what she’d convinced herself of for the past year. They’d never dated—he was just a guy she hooked up with every blue moon for a few years in between a couple of boyfriends until she left Memphis. However, she’d thought of him during her late night quiet time because he was absolutely wonderful in bed and every other place that they’d had sex.
A strong force jolted through her at the thought of his hands and lips tantalizing her skin, especially his skilled tongue that always left her panting for more of it. He would ravish her as if he owned every single inch of her body, and in a way she’d almost believed it to be true. During the time she’d had a steady boyfriend for almost a year, she’d gone without seeing what’s-his-face because of their agreement not to sleep together if they were in exclusive relationships. Zaria wasn’t sure what he’d done to her, but whenever she would have sex with her boyfriend she was bored out of her mind. None of her hot spots came alive, and if she climaxed it was only because she would think about the last time she’d had sex with what’s-his-face.
Biting her bottom lip, Zaria breathed in as she came to a stoplight. She shook her head at her amorous thoughts and glanced at her cell phone, which sat on the passenger seat, when it beeped again. Groaning, she grabbed it, shut it off, and tossed it into her tote bag. She had a job to do; not think about a man that she hated to admit had at one point become a weakness for her. Briefly, she’d even thought he’d make a good boyfriend considering he was attentive, romantic, and highly intelligent, all the traits she wanted in a man. However, he’d started to date someone exclusively and she decided she must’ve been insane for thinking they’d ever be more than occasional sex buddies.
Moments later she arrived at the Jekyll Island Convention Center and spotted her contact person as she entered the building, along with a man wheeling a cart her way. Even though Zaria didn’t have anything to with the planning of the conference, she was commissioned to make four flower arrangements for the food tables at the opening reception.
There were plenty of men and women waiting in line to receive registration packets or standing around chatting. Reagan’s joke of finding a doctor crossed her mind, and while there were some handsome ones eyeing her, she wasn’t interested. Dating seemed to complicate her life, which was one of the reasons she steered away from it. She was only twenty-nine, and figured she would wait until her mid-thirties before settling down with one man, marrying, and having children—even though she couldn’t picture herself being married. The thought irked her because she enjoyed her straightforward life. She made her own rules and adhered to them.
Zaria diverted her attention away from the doctors and smiled at Patricia Holder, one of the event planners for the conference center, as she approached.
“Hello, Zaria. Stunning as always, my love,” Patricia complimented as the ladies hugged.
“Thank you. And you look fabulous, doll. The flowers are on ice in my SUV, and I received the final deposit in the account today so we’re all set.”
“Splendid. I …”
Patricia’s words became a jumbled blur when Zaria spotted a man gazing at her from the corner of her eye. Her heart sunk as she recognized the cool swagger of Dr. Garrett Braxton, or as he was listed in her cell phone what’s-his-face. For a moment she didn’t recognize him for she was used to his clean-shaven face and wavy hair. However, the short curly fro and the low-cut beard he sported was indeed sexy, and made his boyish look—which she always thought was cute—parlay him into a more mature appearance.
Now she knew why he’d called. He was in town for the medical convention which meant he wanted to see her, and from the rise of his devilish grin it also meant he wanted her. She tried to stay focused on Patricia’s ramblings of how her week had been hell preparing for five hundred doctors and nurses, but Zaria’s eyes diverted toward the ruggedly handsome man who was staring her down like she was a dessert he wanted to devour. And she wanted … no, needed him, too. It had been far too long, and since he was in town her thirsty drought could now be quenched. Her mouth watered at the thought, and she peeled her eyes away long enough to comprehend the conversation with her business associate.
Realizing Patricia had asked for the keys to her SUV, Zaria handed them to the man with the cart and told him where she’d parked. Patricia excused herself to check on a mishap and Zaria was finally able to exhale until Garrett strode her way wearing a delicious smile across his charismatic, sienna-shaded face. She hated that she was flustered for some reason. Men never unnerved her, but there was something about his demeanor that unraveled her all of a sudden.
“Hey, little lady. I see you heard my message and came rushing over to Jekyll,” he teased. “You missed me, didn’t you?”
Pursing her lips together, she frowned. “Wrong. I haven’t listened to your voicemail. I’m here on business. Purely coincidental, and I didn’t miss you. Haven’t even thought you.”
He drew her toward him. She suppressed a shudder as his six-foot-one frame engulfed her in his embrace and his familiar scent surrounded her. He wasn’t an overly built man, but his lean, in-shape physique always made her feel protected and warm.
“Maybe it was fate.”
Chuckling sarcastically, she gave him a haughty glare. “I don’t think so, old man.”
“Old man? You’ve never once complained about how this old man rocked your boat off and on for five years.”
“Whatever. So how long are you going to be in town?” she asked, running over her schedule in her head for the next few days.
“Until Tuesday morning. I was hoping we could hang out … unless you’re seeing someone, of course.” He raised a curious eyebrow.
“No. Since I’ve moved here, I haven’t had much time for a dating life. Precious Moments keeps me pretty busy. However, what makes you think I want to spend time with you just because you’re in town?”
His face scrunched in an amused expression. “Ouch, woman. I thought we could hang out and catch up. I haven’t seen or spoken to you since the day before you moved here. Plus, the real reason why I’m here is that I need to discuss something important. Didn’t want to tell you over the phone.”
Her thoughts trekked back to their last night together. When she’d arrived at his home, he’d surprised her with candles lit everywhere and a trail of pink rose petals that led to his bedroom. Unlike their crazy, wild sex sessions, that last one had been more passionate and intense than all the others. For a moment, an emotional side had taken over and she’d hidden her face in his chest to suppress her tears. However, he’d noticed and kissed them away while mumbling something about how he was going to miss her, which had slammed her back to reality. Unfortunately, since she’d been away from Memphis, that night had crept into her thoughts, making her think she actually liked him for more than just great sex and conversation.
“What could we possibly have to discuss?” she asked with a slight frown.
A mischievous grin inched up his face. “Our divorce.”
Zaria’s beautiful face cracked into a ball of confusion, and she eyed him as if he’d just told her pigs could actually fly and were doing so that very instant. Garrett had considered calling her, but he figured it was better to tell her in person. He hadn’t planned on attending the medical conference, but he figured it would be the perfect excuse to see her and to share the news that had nearly given him a heart attack.
Pulling him by the hand, she led him around the corner and found a meeting room that was unoccupied. He glanced at the digital board next to the door and noted the next session in that room was an hour and a half away.
Shutting the door, Zaria paced back and forth before stopping and settling seething eyes on him. Sighing, as he was sure he saw steam rise from her head, she invaded his personal space and her four-inch wedged sandals practically made her eye level.
“What do you mean divorce? We have to be married in order to get a divorce.”
Chuckling, he lifted her chin as her breathe sucked in. “We are married, Mrs. Braxton,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Have been for little over a year. Our one-year anniversary was two weeks ago.”
“Huh?” she asked in disbelief.
“We got hitched in Vegas. Surely you remember.” He paused, and a sly smirk crossed his face while he drew her against him sensually. Lowering his head, he rested his lips against hers, and they quivered at his touch. “Especially the honeymoon. I couldn’t get enough of you, and you definitely couldn’t get enough of me. Mmm … two whole days of ecstasy. We never left the room.”
She smacked her lips and pushed against his chest, but he didn’t budge.
“It was a joke, remember? We thought it would be a cool, silly thing to do since we were in Vegas. We aren’t actually married, you idiot.”
“Well the joke is on us. The wedding chapel called to wish us happy anniversary. I told the lady we weren’t really married, and she said, ‘Honey child, yes you are. You signed a marriage license.’ You do remember we obtained one at the courthouse beforehand. The chapel filed it for us. Apparently it was a part of our wedding package. She faxed a copy right over. I had my attorney look at it and it’s legit. We’re in the system as husband and wife.”
“This is crazy. Insane!” She backed away and this time he let her go. “A Michael Jackson impersonator gave me away. An Elvis Presley impersonator married us for crying out loud, and an Isley Brothers tribute band serenaded us with “For the Love of You.” It wasn’t even a real wedding.”
“Nope, Mrs. Braxton,” he started, reaching into his conference bag and handing her the folded license, “you’re definitely my wife. We signed the form for a license in the state of Nevada and it was processed. Happy Anniversary, babe,” he teased, hoping to ease the surprise and her anger.
Her almond-shaped eyes stretched into wide saucers as she skimmed over the paper. Shaking her head back and forth, she slammed the license on his chest. “This is unreal. I can’t be married to you!” She started pacing once more before plopping into one of the leather swivel chairs at a conference table. “This can’t be happening.” She ran her hands through her long, straight hair and let out a bewildered sigh.
He strode over and hoisted himself on the table in front of her. “I’m not so bad once you get to know me.”
“You’re full of it,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Why are you upset with me? Takes two to tango, sweetheart.”
“So what did your lawyer say? Can we get this thing annulled? Clearly it’s a mistake. Obviously we don’t want to be married.”
“Yeah, he mentioned an annulment,” Garrett replied, casually shrugging his shoulders. “It’s an easy process. Shouldn’t take more than thirty to sixty days for a judge to sign off on it. Or …” He raised a cocky eyebrow.
Cutting her eyes at him, Zaria pursed her lips together. “Or what?”
“Or we can stay married.”
Congratulations on the new release.
Thank you so much, Celeste!