Melissa Foster Passionate Romance for Fiercely Loyal Hearts



**This book is published by Montlake Romance (an Amazon imprint) and won’t be available on other ebook retailers, but you can download a FREE Kindle ereader app to read it (link below) or order the paperback.
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“Who needs a sex life, anyway?” I say semi-jokingly to my besties as we cruise toward the small New England fishing town of Chatemup, Massachusetts, where for some godforsaken reason, I thought it was a good idea to buy a cottage. Not rent, like a normal thirty-eight-year-old who had never been to the area, but purchase after a twelve-minute video tour with a spunky real estate agent who probably isn’t much older than my twenty-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. It’s been almost three years since my divorce, and I’ve been so busy writing, time flew by. Finally taking charge of my life and giving myself a summer to start over in a place where nobody knows me seemed like a spectacular idea at the time, but as we near the bridge that separates my new summer home from the rest of civilization, I’m not so sure.

What did you say?” Rachel’s green eyes nearly bug out of her head. “You have been out of the game for far too long if you’re entering an I-no-longer-need-sex phase.” Her fiery red ponytail swings as she spins around in the passenger seat, gaping at Dani, thumbing out something on her phone. “Dani, are you hearing this?”

Yes. It’s worse than we thought. We need to get her some action, stat.”

“No, we do not.” I scowl at Dani in the rearview mirror. Her blond hair is piled on her head in a messy bun, and she’s crammed beside our suitcases in the back of my other post-divorce, new-start purchase: a red convertible VW Bug. Fitting all our crap in my little car with Rachel the fashionista and Dani the shoe hoarder was a feat in and of itself. Luckily, Rachel is ridiculously good at packing, because nothing was going to stop them from bringing every little thing or stop me from going on our annual girls’ trip. Lord knows I need it this year.

Dani’s eyes narrow. “Girl, don’t scowl at me. You’ve seriously lost your mind if you think you can go without sex. Sex is rejuvenating. It makes everything better.”

“Romance writer on deadline here, remember? I need to get words on the page, not D in my V. I told you my frigging muse ran for the hills last month during Kenzie’s mini crisis.”

Dani rolls her eyes. “Don’t get me started about Kenzie and her crisis.”

My daughter is having a hard time grasping the concept of being a responsible young adult. “Can we not go there right now? I’m stressed enough over my deadline.” My manuscript is due at the beginning of October, and I haven’t even started it yet.

“Well, it’s no wonder your muse ran away. She needs inspiration,” Rachel chimes in. “You need D in the V to get steamy words on the page. You’re a successful single woman. You should be out there having fun and experiencing life as your inspiration, not living vicariously through your characters.”

I eye her skeptically. “Hello, Pot, meet Kettle.”

“What are you talking about?” She looks between me and Dani, wrinkling her nose, which makes the spray of amber freckles across its bridge more prominent against her fair skin. “I go out. I just broke up with Jack three weeks ago.”

“She’s kind of right, Rach,” Dani says, pecking away at her phone again, probably setting up dog-walking and grooming gigs for three months from now. She’s always booked. “You went on, what? Three dates with him and then blew him off for a month before finally ending things?”

“I was busy.”

“Binge-watching Emily in Paris and Schitt’s Creek for the third time is not busy.” Honestly, I don’t blame Rachel. Nobody can compare to her late husband, Lucas. He was a loving husband and a friend to everyone. We were all devastated when we lost him six years ago. “No judgment here, babe. You know I’m all for flying solo. I’m finally happy with who I am and where I am in my life. I worked really hard to get here, and I don’t want to chance messing that up for some guy who’s just going to let me down.” They know this, of course. They supported me through the devastating months of mourning the end of my second marriage, gave me tough love when I needed it, and cheered me on as I rebuilt my sense of self with a stronger foundation than I ever had before. But even good friends need a gentle reminder sometimes.

“So have a little fun and let them down,” Dani suggests. “We’re not saying you need to sleep with a bunch of guys or get married again. What happened to the bold teenager we met in cheer camp who convinced us to sneak out in the middle of the night to go to a party and hooked up with—”

“Brad with the abs!” we chant in unison, then crack up.

“He was fun,” I admit. “But it’s not like I’m trying to live a sex-free life. It just hasn’t happened yet.”

“Really? How weird,” Dani says sarcastically. “You mean a steady stream of hot eligible bachelors didn’t come knocking on your office door in Buzzkill, Virginia, over the last two years? Seriously, Nic, if you refuse to use dating apps, then you have to leave your writer’s cave to meet men.”

The last thing I need is dating apps. I’m done with drama, and after two failed marriages, I’m pretty much done with relationships, too. “You guys, come on. I was drowning with Tim. I had no social life—no life, really—and he lied about everything. I need to figure out how to have a life outside my office and find a community I connect with a lot more than I need to get laid. Besides, I have my battery-operated boyfriends, and I’m quite happy with them.”

“We get it,” Rachel says. “We’re glad that you’re finally happy, and after all you’ve been through, we totally get that you want to protect your peace. But you have to admit, you tend to lock yourself in your office and never come out, and we don’t want you to lose out on having a really great life.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. I’m looking forward to starting fresh and refilling my creative well in a place where nobody has heard Tim’s lies.”

“That ass really did a number on you,” Dani says. “I still think you should bring me as your plus-one to Nolan’s wedding.”

I give her a wry look. Nolan is Tim’s son. I helped raise him from the time he was twelve, and although I’m not looking forward to seeing Tim and his girlfriend, I love Nolan, and I’m not going to show up at his wedding armed with Dani’s hatred for his father. She knows the demise of our marriage wasn’t one-sided, but these are my ride-or-die girls. We’ve had each other’s backs through cheerleading mishaps, first loves, painful divorces, and heart-wrenching losses, and I don’t want to chance lighting a Tim-bashing fire.

“She’s not taking you to the wedding,” Rachel says emphatically. “Let’s focus on how great this trip is going to be.”

“Damn right it is.” Dani pats my shoulder. “I know you have to write, Nic, but I’ve been manifesting all sorts of goodies for you. You’d better not camp out in your office.”

She has been manifesting every aspect of her life forever, and the woman has it down. She envisions the impossible, and it always seems to come true. I believe it’s the incredible quirky woman doing the manifesting that makes her dreams come true, and I don’t expect her magic to carry over to my personal life. Don’t get me wrong. I think I’m pretty amazing, too. I’m making my professional dreams come true. It’s just my personal life that’s lacking.

“You’ll be happy to know that I plan on getting up early to write and getting in three or four hours before you’re even out of bed. Then I’m all yours.”

“Perfect,” Rachel says. “We’ve got a busy week ahead, and with a little luck, you might find some horizontal inspiration along the way.”

Don’t hold your breath.

“I can see the title of your next book.” Dani moves her hand like she’s reading a sign as she says, “Nicole Ross Gets Her Groove Back.

“I’d settle for Nicole Ross Gets Words on the Page and Puts Her Toes in the Sand.”

As we start across the bridge, I gaze out at the surrounding water and clear blue sky, both of which seem endless and peaceful. I roll down my window, breathing in the warm New England air, and feel a gust of something invigorating that I can’t quite place, except enough to know that once upon a time, I felt it often.

Rachel and Dani are singing along with Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” and dancing in their seats, as carefree as we were as teenagers. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and even though I can’t carry a tune to save my life, I join them, belting out the lyrics and wiggling my shoulders to the beat, and realize I never let go like this unless I’m with them. That’s when it hits me. The unfamiliar sensation seeping beneath my skin and billowing inside me as we cross the bridge is the feeling of freedom. The realization makes me feel sucker punched by life.

No, not by life. Sucker punched by my own poor choices.

I try taking a page from Dani’s playbook, imagining the weight of my most trying years falling away like a snake shedding its skin. When we reach the end of the bridge, I envision leaving that skin behind, and I’m surprised to feel lighter as we follow the GPS to a two-lane road lined by tall pitch pines and sandy grass, so different from the overpopulated streets of Virginia.

Suddenly Chatemup feels like a really good idea again.


To continue reading, please buy HOT MESS SUMMER



**This book is published by Montlake Romance (an Amazon imprint) and won’t be available on other ebook retailers, but you can download a FREE Kindle ereader app to read it (link below) or order the paperback.
Free Kindle eReader app ➜