DREAM OF YOU | LAUREL HEIGHTS

 

dreamofyouLove sucks.

Lola Carmichael’s known it since her boyfriend broke up with her the night she expected him to propose. Only with a deadline looming for her next romance novel, she better find inspiration fast.

Enter arrogant sports radio DJ Sam “Touchdown” Taylor. Who’d have thought a playboy ex-jock would be just what she needs to get her creative juices flowing?

When Lola discovers Sam is using her to win back his dream job, she knows she should give up on Happily Ever After, but part of her hopes heroes do exist… and dreams do come true. { scroll down for sneak peek!! }

 

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SNEAK PEEK
Dream of You—Chapter One

As she stared at the ceiling of her agent’s office, Lola cursed her mother for naming her Lola Carmichael.

What had she been thinking? Maybe all those birth hormones had made the woman shortsighted. She obviously hadn’t realized that a name like Lola Carmichael would severely limit a girl’s career choices. An accountant named Lola? No way. It didn’t help that she looked like Fantasy Time Barbie. She’d been relegated to being either a stripper or romance novelist straight out of the womb.

Guess which she became.

Lola slouched in the seat until her butt perched on the edge and her head rested on top of the chair back. Sighing, she counted the cracks in the ceiling as she waited.

She got up to twenty-three before she lost count. “With all the money you make off me, shouldn’t you be able to afford to fix the ceiling, Paul?”

Her agent didn’t bother acknowledging her, his full attention on her manuscript.

She studied him as he read. Paul Jennings was the most unlikely looking agent she’d ever seen. If she had to cast him in a book, he’d be an ex-Navy sergeant—a hulk who dressed in fine suits, French cuffed shirts, and silk ties.

His office looked like him, too. The lines were simple and the colors muted, but all together it looked sharp and expensive.

One manicured hand flipped a page. Lola wondered what he thought of her story.

She didn’t have to wonder long. Paul set it down and stared at her with dark, piercing eyes.

Since he didn’t seem inclined to speak, she ventured a comment. “It has promise, don’t you think?”

“It’s shit.”

“Don’t hold back. Tell me like it is.”

Paul leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his barrel chest. “Lola, you have six weeks until the deadline, and you just handed me three of the worst chapters you’ve ever written. Your first novel was better than this.”

“They aren’t that bad.”

“Lola, it’s shit,” he repeated distinctly.

“It needs some editing but—”

He picked up a page and read out loud. “‘All men were bastards. At least hers would be good looking, even if his chin was weak.‘”

She shrugged. “The hero has to have some flaws.”

“This hero is more than flawed.” He picked up the pages and tossed them into the garbage. “This hero is an asshole.”

“I made him realistic,” she said as she reached into the garbage and retrieved the chapters, slipping them into her bag for later.

Paul heaved a sigh and ran a hand over his face. “Isn’t it time you got over Kevin?”

Her spine stiffened automatically. “This has nothing to do with Kevin.”

“It has everything to do with him. You’re bashing your hero because one man hurt you.”

“He did not hurt me.”

Paul cocked a brow.

Humiliated, yes. Hurt, hell no. A woman had to care to be hurt, and there was no way Lola cared about Kevin. Looking back, she wasn’t sure she ever did. “I’m not hurt.”

Paul didn’t look like he believed her but he didn’t argue. Instead, he got all business-like. “Fact of the matter is you have a deadline in six weeks and you’ve delivered nothing your editor will accept. Unless you want to destroy your career after all the hard work to get to this point, I’d suggest you get cracking and churn out one of the romance novels you’re famous for.”

That was the problem. She wrote her stories based on real-life happily-ever-afters. Her first book had been a veiled account of her parents’ courtship, and every story since had been inspired by true stories of love.

This next book was supposed to be her story.

Until Kevin dumped her.

Not exactly the greatest romance to write about.

But what was she supposed to do? Scrap the whole story and start over? She didn’t have another romance to replace her story. And, frankly, it was crazy to start over with the deadline six weeks away. If she could just make it to the ending, then she could go back and fix it all.

In theory.

Knowing Paul was waiting for some reply, she nodded. “I’ve got it all under control.”

He didn’t look like he believed her. “Get the old Lola Carmichael back. That’s what people pay for. That’s what put your current release at number eight on New York Times bestseller list.”

Right.

“Speaking of your current bestseller.” Paul grabbed one of the neatly filed folders on the corner of his desk and opened it. “Your publicist has booked you to speak on Ladies’ Night this Friday at 8pm. You’re helping launch the new radio show. They were excited to have you.”

“Super,” she said unenthusiastically as she took the information from him. “What am I supposed to talk about?”

He gave her that flat, no-nonsense look. “About your books, Lola. About romance, love, and whatever else the callers ask you about.”

She made a face. “I’m not qualified.”

“You’re a bestselling romance author. You’re more qualified than most people.”

A qualified person wouldn’t have thought a man was going to propose to her when really he was gearing up to dump her.

“You’re also scheduled for a booksigning at that bookstore café you requested, Grounds for Thought, as well as some stock signings around the Bay Area.” Paul handed her another sheet of paper.

“Fine.” Grounds for Thought was her friend Eve’s café. She hated booksignings, but if she had to do one she might as well support a friend.

Paul pointed a finger at her. “Don’t let the promotional things get in the way of writing. They’re expecting another bestseller, Lola.”

“Aye, aye, captain.” She stood up and saluted him. She’d do it, too. She just wasn’t sure how.

Paul shook his head. “Wiseass. Get out of my office.” He was bent over his desk and working again before she closed the door.

Mary, his assistant, glanced up. “You look fairly unscathed.”

“He never leaves visible marks,” Lola said as she walked out. Patting her bag to make sure the chapters were there, she hailed a cab and headed from downtown to Laurel Heights, where she lived.

She hadn’t been thrilled when she first moved to Laurel Heights. It wasn’t her type of neighborhood. She’d have preferred someplace younger and hipper, like Nopa or the Mission, but Laurel Heights was the most convenient. She’d lucked out in meeting some great people, like Eve and Gwen, the woman who owned the gourd shop downstairs from Lola’s apartment. Then there was Olivia and a host of other people who’d made her feel welcome.

The cab driver let her off precisely in front of the address she’d given him. A good tip and a smile, and she hopped out of the car and strode into The Sunrise Care Home.

The scent of Lysol and old people assaulted her as she walked through the doors. She should have been used to the smell by now—she’d been coming here three times a week for the past year—but it still jarred her. It was the smell of sadness, hopelessness, and death, and it always brought tears to her eyes.

Her mother lived here, in it.

By the time she reached her mother’s floor, she’d blinked the tears away and had her perma-smile back firmly on her face. She stopped at the nurses’ station, needing a moment before going in.

Letty, the day nurse, looked up guiltily from the book she was reading. “This is your fault,” she said, holding up the book.

“I hear that author does great sex scenes.”

“My husband thinks so.” The nurse leaned in and whispered. “Last night, I read the one on page one hundred twenty-six out loud to him. He was veryinspired. Thank you, Lola.”

She patted Letty’s arm. “I’ll bring you another book when you finish that one.”

“Are you kidding? I’ve already ordered everything you’ve written.” The nurse sobered. “Sally isn’t feeling well today.”

“More so than usual?” Lola asked carefully, any levity she was feeling faded.

“It’s more than the dementia. She has some congestion. The doctor was worried she was headed toward pneumonia, so he has her on an inhaler.” Letty’s face was full of compassion. “I just wanted you to have a heads up.”

“Thank you.” Steeling her shoulders, she strode to her mother’s room, took a deep breath, and pushed the door open with a wide smile on her face. “Hi, Mom!”

Sally Carmichael looked up from where she was knitting in the window seat. She looked pale and tired, not rosy like always. Her forehead furrowed in confusion. “Are you the new housekeeper?”

Lola’s heart sank, and the hurt cut deep. She knew it wasn’t her mom’s fault—dementia was a cruel disease—but the little girl in her was still hurt every time her mom didn’t recognize her.

She reaffixed the bright smile on her face and said, “I’m me—Lola. I came to read to you.”

Pulling up a chair, she sat down and took out the pages from her purse.

Her mom saw the bound pages and looked curious again. “Oh. Is it a love story?”

“We specialize in love stories here.”

“They’re my favorite,” her mom said, setting aside the knitting.

“I know,” Lola said softly. Clearing her throat, she began to read. “‘Louise met him at a party she didn’t want to go to. The first thing she thought when she saw Calvin was that he had more hair than a chinchilla.‘”

Lola read on, cringing on the inside as she related the story of how she and Kevin had met, telling herself it was just a story. Louise and Calvin didn’t exist.

Lola and Kevin didn’t either.

She finished reading the last bit and set the pages aside.

“I love Louise,” her mom declared. “She’s a wonderful girl.”

Lola’s heart melted. “Thanks.”

“But that Calvin.” Sally shook her head. “I don’t know about him. He sounds like…”

A self-absorbed prick? “Like what?”

“Not right for Louise.”

Lola frowned at the pages. “He seemed right.”

“Maybe.” Sally sounded doubtful, but then she brightened. “But it’s early in the story, so maybe he’ll grow and deserve her in the end. Maybe his chin will get stronger.”

Unlikely. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”

“Good. Louise is a lovely girl. She deserves the love of a great man.”

Lola swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’ll have more for you at the end of the week.”

“What day is this? I think I have to take my husband to the doctor.” A panicked look came over her mom’s face, and then it glazed over into the blankness Lola hated most.

She got up and kissed her mom on her cheek, briefly so she wouldn’t get upset by the familiarity. Sally still smelled like her mother, even if she didn’t remember who she was. “See you later, Mom,” she said as chipper as she could.

But her mom just sat there, unseeing. Lost.

Lola watched for a moment before quietly letting herself out. She brushed the tears from the corners of her eyes and walked out. Screw sales and bestseller lists—she had to write a kickass romance for her mom.

 

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