Excerpt from the first story "Whatever It Takes":
“Romantic drivel!” The sneering masculine tones drew Francine Knight’s attention away from a book whose cover featured a scantily clad female being ardently embraced by a Mr. America-type dressed in buckskins. She glanced up in time to watch as the man released a book, letting it thud down into the bookstore’s discount titles basket.
Curious at whose work had been the focus of such cutting words, Francine peeked at the title and instantly saw red. The book that had taken five years of her life to perfect now sprawled, rejected atop a Himalaya Fishing Guide book. Discounted and discarded was more than she could bear.
Francine grabbed her book and pursued the man. After stomping along between bookshelves and peering here and there, she caught up with him as he neared the exit. Fueled by rejection, she poked him in the back with her book.
As he spun around, she launched her verbal attack. “Romantic drivel? I’ll have you know I wrote The Cowboy’s Last Ride and I resent the—the prejudice you and people like you have toward romance writers. Why what would the world be li...”
Her voice trailed off as she took a good, long look at the offender. Damn, no one should be that handsome.
Francine blinked, peering up at him. He stood taller than she had realized in the glimpse she’d caught when he pitched her book in the bin. Why she had to raise her head to meet his narrowing blue eyes. Oh, and his face reminded her of a luscious fellow who had once played in a TV run of “Hercules.” The body matched, too, she noted as her mouth dried.
The words she held ready in her mind evaporated in a hot rush. What had she been saying? She tugged on her frilly collar. Had the store turned up the heat to 100 degrees? Using the book in her hand, she fanned herself. Oh, man.
He glared at her and raised an eyebrow. “Lady, I don’t know what the heck is wrong with you—using your book as a lethal weapon!”
She noted that he paused as if he had made a point. Not that Francine paid much attention to his actual words. His voice drew her instead. Despite the angry tone he took, his voice was a rich baritone. And he actually arched an eyebrow—she had written heroes who did that, but had never seen it in action.
Francine sighed. Wouldn’t he make a wonderful hero for Love’s Labors, the book she planned to write?
“I don’t like books that lie. Stuff like this tells people there’s such a thing as true love and happy endings.” He waved a finger in her face. “You gotta face reality.”
The man’s voice receded as she envisioned him. The hero—his double—embraced Caroline, the heroine who resembled herself down to the long, blonde curls which continuously annoyed her, but were perfection for a heroine.
“And in the real world people die, cheat, divorce. Happily ever after is impossible. Lady, you should be ashamed of yourself for making daffy women hope for that.” He snatched the book from her hand and dropped it into another bargain bin next to the door.
The real meaning of what he had said penetrated the soft haze in her mind and chopped into the fantasy she was in the midst of creating. Francine closed her mouth which must have remained open on her last word. How dare he do that to her book—again! She narrowed her eyes, moved closer so that she stood within inches of him, and glared.