What's the next big thing?


I'm sure you know by now that whatever is going on in my life usually ends up in my books. When I was writing Worth a Chance in the spring, my kids were playing baseball and softball, and I was fielding questions like: Why do girls play softball instead of baseball? Why is the softball bigger than the baseball, Why do girls wear face cages and boys don't? I was woefully unprepared to answer most of these questions. But we researched, got books about women who'd played baseball, and watched The Sandlot movies and A League of Their Own.


My son's recreational league allows girls to play baseball, and when I was thinking of ways to bring Ben and Brooke together despite their contentious past, I thought it would be neat if his daughter played baseball with Brooke's nephew.

I love everything about baseball season: the snack shack, the playing of the National Anthem, twelve fields of kids playing at all ages, and even the dirt that gets kicked up from the parking lot. My youngest especially loves the snack shack.

It brought back my love for the game back to me. I used to attend Pittsburgh Pirates games as a kid, collect baseball cards (I think I have every Barry Bonds card ever printed), and I hung around before and after the game to get the players' autographs.

I wanted to bring that those same warm and fuzzy feelings into my book. I wanted Brooke to see Ben as something more than the competition, and the easiest way to do that was for him to be this amazing single dad, who moved to be closer to his parents, and open a business to create a future for his daughter. He struggles with the changes, as does his daughter, Cammie, but it will give you all the feels when you read this one.

 

First Excerpt from Worth a Chance

I lifted my glove to my mom, who’d already settled on the couch to watch the baseball game. “Going outside to play catch.”


Mom smiled softly. “Dinner’s warming in the oven when you’re ready.”

“Lasagna?” I guessed.


“I had to make your favorite for your first official night home.”


I kissed her cheek, knowing she was pleased we’d be moving there. Especially since my sister, Elizabeth, had gone to college and gotten a job in her college town. She rarely visited home. “I appreciate it.”


“Are you going to get rid of that sports car when you move here?” Dad asked.


I paused by the glass sliding door, knowing Cammie would be getting impatient for me to join her. “I think I’ll keep it and get an SUV.”


Dad shook his head. “That car’s a money pit.”


“It is,” I acknowledged before stepping outside where Callie was throwing her ball against the pitch back.


That sports car represented my first big promotion. It was evidence I’d made it. Of course, the best day was holding Cameron in my arms in the hospital. When I held her tiny weight in my arms, I knew everything had changed. She was it for me. I’d do anything to keep her safe and protected.


I just thought she’d have both of her parents. I couldn’t have anticipated Cammie losing her mother at seven.


Shaking the melancholy thoughts from my head, I asked Cammie, “You ready to play?”


Cammie scowled and put her hands on her hips. “I’ve been waiting forever.”


Thirty seconds was too long of a delay for this kid. Amused, I said, “I told you I had to change.”


She gestured toward home plate, which was in front of the patio. “Stand by home plate. I want to pitch to you.”


Cammie loved baseball, but there was nowhere to play in or near our apartment. The first thing I did when I decided to move back to Annapolis was order a pitch back net and bases to my parents.


I wanted her to feel at home. Like she was only gaining something by moving there, not losing anything. She’d be starting at a new school, and I hoped she’d adjust and make new friends quickly.


Cammie stood at the make-shift pitcher’s mound, her hand curled around a baseball behind her back, her glove against her chest. She must be mimicking the professional baseball players she watched on TV. Abruptly, she straightened and rolled her eyes. “You’re supposed to give me the hand single.”


I stood and stretched. “What hand single?”


“You know, one means fastball, two means curveball, three is a sinker, four’s a change-up, and five is a knuckleball.” Her tone was exasperated.


“How did you learn all of this?” I sunk into my catcher’s stance, singling one finger for a fastball.


Without answering, she moved into position, took an exaggerated deep breath, then lowered her shoulders, wound up, and threw the baseball.


I straightened to catch it. “A little high.”


We resumed our positions, and I signaled two for curveball. “Why aren’t we practicing with a softball?”


I’d researched the proper size for her age. The yellow and purple balls were in a bag somewhere in the garage. Maybe she couldn’t find them.


She shot me a disgusted look. “Why do I have to play softball?”


Her expression made me think I’d stepped into quicksand with my seemingly innocent question. I wasn’t sure where I went wrong. “Girls play softball, and boys play baseball.”

Her face pinched. “But why?”


“I don’t know, sweetie.” I didn’t know the history behind it, but she wouldn’t be satisfied until she had answers.


“And why is it called a softball when it’s harder than a baseball?”


“It is?” That was something else I didn’t know.


She sighed. “Yes, Daddy. It is.”


“Are you going to throw?” My knees were starting to ache from the crouched position, but I’d never tell her that.


“Fine.” She got back into position, and I could only hope she’d forgotten her line of questioning.


I used two fingers to remind her it was a curveball, and she wound up to throw a sidearm. The ball went wide and bounced off the siding of the house with a thud.

“Hey! Watch it out there,” Dad roared.


Cammie’s eyes widened. “Whoops.”


Jogging to recover the ball, I said, “I think we’ll need to find our own place sooner rather than later.”


Cammie nodded seriously. “When is my first practice?”


The one thing I’d promised Cammie was I’d register her for a team as soon as we moved. Thankfully, we’d arrived just in time for the spring season. Tossing the ball to her, I said, “Softball starts next week.”


Cammie’s whole face screwed up, and I knew I was in for a fight. “I want to play baseball. Not softball.”


“I don’t think girls can play baseball,” I said carefully. I wasn’t sure if there was a rule, but there must be something.


She placed her hand and glove on her hips. “Grandma helped me look it up. Girls can play baseball until eighth grade.”


“Why would you want to play it if you can only do it through eighth grade?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I’d made an error.


For now. I can only play through eighth grade now.”


“Are you planning on changing that rule?” I asked, pride coursing through me.

Cammie shrugged.


She was so like me. Competitive and driven. I hoped it would always be a plus for her like it was for me. I wondered if Brooke was like that as a child.


“You promised to register me for baseball.”


I must have missed that or assumed she meant softball. “I’ll look into it.”


That seemed to appease her because she got back into her pitching stance. Crouching down again, I signaled a knuckleball. Cammie’s tongue darted out as she concentrated on her grip and the throw. That time, it was a strike.


“Strike one,” I called as I stood and approached her.


“Do you think they’ll let me pitch?” My heart ached for her because it was possible the boys wouldn’t want to play with a girl. They might even make fun of her, and I couldn’t protect her from everything.


“I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.” My stomach rolled at the thought of her not being welcomed.


She nodded seriously. “I want to be the best baseball player.”


I ruffled her hair. “You’ll be the best at whatever you do.”


I believed in her. I was driven, and she showed all the signs that she was similar to me. She loved competition, even if she wasn’t always the best at handling defeat. We were two peas in the same pod.


I’d make sure my coffee shop, Bean Rush was successful, so we could have the life she deserved. One where her father was present and involved, and her grandparents could help out. I had to be enough for her, even if it was a daunting prospect.


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The Beast by Vivian Wood

“What a ****ing beast.” – Every woman who’s ever met me

Being a surly, driven CEO has earned me billions and lost me more assistants than I can count.

When my personal life goes off the rails, I suddenly become infamous for my temper.

Now, I am left to care for my rebellious young daughter alone.

That’s when beautiful, delicate Ella comes into our lives.

A damaged former ballerina, she makes an instant connection with my wayward child.

Ella has been put in a desperate position by her own family.

So she hesitantly agrees when I ask her to be my daughter’s au pair.

Being so close to Ella each day is such exquisite torture.

I can lust after her all I want, but never, ever go any further.

Ella’s tempting curves beg for my hands to explore them.

With the spotlight of my job shining on both of us, I will behave myself. …until I can’t anymore.


Pop and Pour By Bella Michaels


Newly fired from my Manhattan job and fresh off a bad breakup, is it any wonder I got a little tipsy during a wine-tasting road trip and ended up doing snow angels on the winery lawn… in June?

Cosimo Grado, the gorgeous, grumpy, Clark Kent look-alike owner, was not amused. He’s even less amused when his brother hires me on the spot for a summer position at the winery. Pretty sure I saw steam on those sexy glasses he wears. But some time away from the city is just what I need to get my life back on track, so I take the job.

It’s true. I don’t know anything about wine…yet. I’m not the flighty, spoiled city girl he thinks I am. All I need is a chance to prove myself. But the all-work-no-play Cosimo’s mind is made up.

Too bad for him avoiding me is impossible since we’re both living and working on the premises for the next several weeks. And as the summer heats up, so does the tension between us. He’s trying to focus on his new role as the protector of his family legacy. I’m trying to mend my broken heart before returning to my real life in the city. Neither one of us needs the distraction.

But one late night in the tasting room and the tension finally bubbles over. Now, I’m falling for my boss and my dented heart is telling me to run.




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