Friday, September 28, 2018

ONLY YOU Cover Reveal + First Chapter



It's cover reveal day for my new book! ONLY YOU is a sweet and sexy contemporary romance with an emphasis on self-discovery and friendship. It also features a hot Scottish love interest, which was a lot of fun to write! This book is a standalone, but the main character Ivy was first introduced in my 2017 Christmas novella, MISTLETOE KISS.



Ivy's new boss is sexy, Scottish…and comes with an expiration date. When Ivy reluctantly takes a new part-time job, it’s a means to an end. Doing this favor for her pain-in-the-neck roommate means Ivy can have her apartment to herself again much sooner. The last thing she expects is Hugh—the hot Scot who just happens to be her new boss—asking her out on a date. And then another. And another. Something about Hugh makes Ivy want to let her guard down and open up, which would be perfect if he wasn't returning to Scotland in a matter of weeks. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe Ivy can learn to live in the moment and have a little fun, even if it means setting herself up for heartache later. ONLY YOU is a standalone contemporary romance about taking chances, unexpected friendships, and holding on to the things—and people—that matter most.


*****

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One perk of your best friend also being your boss: she sees when you’re stressed to the max and tells you to cut out of work a few hours early.

I hardly know what to do with myself as I push through the doors of the high-rise building where Quest Marketing Solutions is housed. Should I go shopping? Get my nails done? Head to the bookstore, aka heaven on earth? As tempting as browsing books is, the only truly appealing thing is a nice warm bath in an empty apartment. And if I want to do that, my window of opportunity is small.

Alone time has become a novelty in the last few months since I reluctantly took in a roommate. Celia is one of those
cousins whos not an actual relative; her parents are good friends with the aunt and uncle who raised me after my parents died, and our families spent a lot of time together. Between the six-year age difference and Celia’s general snarkiness, we never connected. That didn’t stop me from agreeing to perform my family duty when my aunt informed me Celia was moving back to town after dropping out of college, and then not-so-subtly suggested I offer to rent her the spare room in my apartment. Fan Chen is not someone you say no to, even when she’s living halfway across the world in China and I’m here in Canada.

I try to live my life with no regrets, but saying ‘yes’ to Aunt Fan that day and extending an invitation to Celia has caused nothing but regrets. Big ones. Endless ones. In the last four months, Celia has had three different jobs, all of which she’s been fired from for various reasons, including being surly with customers and failing to perform the tasks required of her. When we’re at home, she’s constantly bitching about something, plus she eats my food even though she has her own. Some days I feel like I’m one snide remark away from wringing her neck.

Alone time is definitely the way to go right now. For my sanity and for everyone else’s personal safety.

When I reach my car, I toss my purse in the passenger seat and blast the heater. It’s only early November, but there’s a nip in the air that makes me think Mother Nature forgot it’s still technically autumn.

Something shiny catches my eye, and I bend to pick up a gum wrapper from the floor. Celia seems to think my car is a garbage receptacle. Our schedules don’t often mesh, thank god, so she grudgingly takes the bus most of the time. Whenever I do give her a ride anywhere, she inevitably leaves a mess for me to clean up—coffee cups, gum and granola bar wrappers, and the memorable time she left a chocolate bar on the backseat in August and it melted into a sticky brown puddle all over the seat. I discovered it after setting my reusable cloth grocery bags on top of it. The chocolate never did come out, and I refuse to carry around a bag that looks like it has a poop stain on it.

On the ten minute drive home, I make a plan. Celia should be home around seven, so I need to maximize every blessed moment of my alone time. First, I’m going to have a bath. I’ve been showering since the first week Celia moved in and informed me, lip curled in disgust, that having a bath was like stewing in your own filth. I've been hoarding the luxury strawberry-champagne bath bomb my best friend Bridget gave me ages ago, waiting for a Celia-free moment to finally use it. Next, I’ll pour myself a glass of wine—because I’ve never been above day drinking—and then I'll soak in the tub until I’m all pruny and fruity smelling. After that, I’ll squeeze in a bit of TV if I have time.

I pull into the parking lot of my apartment building and hurry up to the third floor, smiling to myself the whole way. My smile fades as I reach my door and hear the TV inside. I unlock the door and shove it open. There, on the couch, is Celia, wrapped in a fluffy blue housecoat—my housecoat, if I’m not mistaken—with the TV playing some crime show, and her bare feet elevated on the coffee table.

My dreams of a nice relaxing afternoon pop like the soap bubbles I won’t be seeing any time soon. Holding back a groan, I close the door with more force than intended, causing Celia to jump and whip around.

“Jeeze, you scared me!” She clutches her chest dramatically.

“Why are you home so early?” I ask, dumping my purse unceremoniously on the floor. The excitement of getting out of work early and envisioning a few hours alone has drained from my body, leaving me feeling wilted.

A flash of guilt passes over Celia's features before she turns back to the TV. “Oh, you know, they let me leave early today. Why are you home so early?”

Ignoring her question, I say, “They fired you, didn’t they?”

Her shoulders slump. Without looking at me, she reaches for the remote to mute the TV. “They started playing Christmas music today, Ivy.”

I wait for her to elaborate and when she doesn’t, I say, “Okay…and?”

Celia huffs out an annoyed breath. “It’s practically the beginning of November! They were playing the same songs over and over. This woman in my line mentioned how she’d heard whatever song was on twice already since being in the store. So I said it was way too early for them be playing Christmas songs. As she was nodding along, all agreeable, I might have mentioned something about how Christmas isn’t a real holiday anyway because Christians stole Yule from the Pagans and turned it into a Christian holiday, and most modern-day Christmas traditions are actually Pagan ones in disguise.” She says all this quickly until her last few words are running together and she’s out of breath.

Celia.” I groan, letting my head fall back against the front door. “You didn’t.”

“The woman seemed to think it was funny!” Her voice pitches higher with each word. “She was nodding and laughing, and then I guess the bitch went and reported me to the manager afterward.”

I let the ‘bitch’ comment slide; I’m a big believer in choosing your battles, and I have more important things to consider right now. “Didn’t we talk about how you can’t say things like that to people? I warned you and the store warned you when they saw your previous employment record. They were willing to give you a chance and you blew it two weeks in! Nobody’s going to want to hire you now, you know that right?”

Despite still sitting with her back to me, I imagine she’s doing one of her patented eye rolls right now. “Well, whatever. Maybe I’ll just be a lady of leisure.”

“And live off what? How are you going to pay rent and bills without a job? And buy food?” I stop myself just short of saying ‘And save up enough money to get a place of your own?’ This arrangement of ours is supposed to be temporary. Celia’s parents thought I’d be a good influence on the wayward twenty-three-year-old and could help her get her life together. They refused to let her move back home, and she couldn’t afford to live on her own, which is why she’s currently residing in my spare room and casting a pall over my entire life.

“I’ve got a bit of money saved for bills and stuff. And besides, you can afford this place without my share of the rent. You’ve been living here on your own for years.”

My blood pressure spikes. I can feel the blood surging through my veins. My vision blurs, and for a moment I wonder if it’s possible for a person’s head to actually explode. “No,” I say through clenched teeth. “Absolutely not. I’m not going to be some kind of sugar mama while you laze around all day. Not happening. You moved to town to work and save money so you could either go back to school or find a job you can stick with so you can get your own place, and that’s what you’re going to do.”

A bead of sweat rolls down my temple, and only now do I realize I’m still wearing my coat, scarf, and boots. I shuck them all and snatch my purse from the floor. “I’m going to take a bath,” I announce, striding as fast as my short legs will carry me toward the bathroom.

“Ivy,” Celia calls.

“I don’t want to hear it, Celia! I don’t know how dirty you think I must be, but a bath is not ‘stewing in your own filth’ if you bathe regularly like I do.” I slam the bathroom door and sit on the toilet lid, dropping my head into my hands. “Deep breaths,” I murmur to myself, massaging my temples and sucking in air like my life depends on it.

Shoving my hands into my hair, I start pulling the pins from my updo. Celia and I look enough alike it’s easy to believe we could be related. We have the same shade of almost-black hair, although mine has a bit of wave to it while hers is stick-straight. We also have similar brown eyes and were blessed with a clear complexion. But where Celia is easily identified as Chinese-Canadian, my mother’s Caucasian genes dominated my dad’s Asian roots. I’ve been referred to as ‘exotic’ and asked what country I come from more times than I can count.

I open the cabinet under the sink and pull out the toiletry bag where I keep my more expensive things, like my special occasion makeup, scented oils, and a few other things. Things like my bath bomb, which is now missing from where it was nestled between my glittery eye shadow and my manicure set. As I’m reaching for the medicine cabinet to see if it somehow ended up in there, my gaze catches the reflection of the bathtub in the mirror over the sink. The curtain is askew, and the tub has a pink ring around it. Pink, like the very expensive, have-been-saving-it-forever bath bomb that’s no longer where it should be.

Celia!”



(c) Marie Landry 2018
 

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~Marie

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