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First pages

Chapter One

“Bailey, you’re on in ten minutes.” The young associate director for Domestic Goddess attempted to generate a sympathetic smile without much success. “I know filming your last show of the season is emotional, but you’ll have to pull yourself together.”

Bailey stared at the young redheaded woman with the thin, black cat eyeglasses and angular haircut. Streaks of purple shimmered at the sharp edges of her hair.

Young. Ambitious. Really annoying.

Bailey sighed and turned to the reporter for Chatterbox magazine standing next to Micki. “I’m sure I can handle the emotion, even though we all care so much about the show.” Bailey nodded at Micki. “And each other of course. I think of my staff as my friends.”

Micki looked startled at that revelation.

What Bailey was actually feeling was relief. After several months of long days, scheduling conflicts, negotiations and planning, her show was wrapping up and she’d be on hiatus for two months. Months she’d put to good use arranging the final details of the most spectacular wedding her television audience had ever seen. She planned to make sure every element would be perfect, from the flowers to the hand-crafted table settings to the buffet, because that’s what people had grown to expect of her: perfection. And more importantly, that’s what she expected of herself.

She’d spent the past few months creating plans for a simple but elegant affair anyone could duplicate. Well, anyone who was willing to put their entire life on hold to oversee every tiny detail and create everything from the invitations to the table decorations to the menu herself.

All that planning, coordination, and attention to detail were key to creating her “Wedding of the Century”. The wedding plans and her ceremony would be the first six segments of her new fall shows. Domestic Goddess had a new network deal and she’d be married in front of millions of people during the November sweeps.

Glancing down at the studio mock-up kitchen counter holding her bowls, ingredients, and implements, she frowned.

“Micki, where’s the Hammerstone whisk I asked for?” She glanced at the clock, anxiety building as she noticed it was only minutes until air time. Filming the show live had been her producer Meg’s idea. It allowed for spontaneity and a sense of excitement, Meg had insisted. Bailey thought it was controlled chaos, but Meg had discovered her, helped build her career, and was her best friend. She’d trusted Meg and the ratings had soared. Of course, now with the huge deal with the Home & Hearth Network, everything would be filmed in advance and carefully edited.

Things would be managed, controlled, and with no spontaneity. And no possibility of anything going wrong, which would be a huge relief for Bailey.

Hammerstone Tools, her key sponsor, had insisted the show needed to become slicker and that she had to dump some of the hometown Seattle references. Bailey hadn’t balked at the suggestions; going national was too important to her strategy for success.

She’d carefully planned her life when she was only fifteen years old and watched her first television episode of a home cooking program. Before long, she’d rush home from school and the empty house didn’t seem as lonely when there was a familiar voice encouraging her to try new things and promising her everything was going to be fine after she kneaded the perfect loaf of bread or simmered a cheap cut of meat into a tasty pot roast.

Cooking, decorating, crafts, and baking gave her chaotic young life a sense of control, and she had decided to become a star in the lifestyle television market when she grew up.

“Whisk?” Micki said finally, after searching the countertop and then the cabinet offstage that held the props for the show. “It must be here with the other Hammerstone stuff.”

Bailey managed to control her impatience as the clock ticked off the minutes to air. Her contract required her to use only Hammerstone kitchen tools, serious tools for the serious cook, on her show. Micki continued fumbling through the collection of implements but from the look on her face, Bailey knew she had no idea what she was searching for. She wished Meg wouldn’t hire such young women to work with her. Of course, the young were willing to work cheap, and Meg always said that was their saving grace.

“What are you making today, Bailey?” Cynthia Gaines, the reporter for Chatterbox magazine gazed down over her shoulder.

“Cream puffs,” Bailey replied. “The perfect accompaniment for a Mother’s Day Tea.”

That was her theme today, crafting a perfect day for your mother. Not that she had ever personally experienced such a miraculous event. Most of the time Bailey spent with her mother involved defending herself about life decisions. Her decision to drop out of college and go to the Culinary Arts Institute. Her decision to quit a lucrative position as a chef to pursue a career in television, and lately her decision to have an elaborate wedding in Seattle instead of getting married at the Mount Granger Methodist church on Horseshoe Island.

A perfect Mother’s Day would involve the two of them taking a break from sniping at each other. Her mother had spent Bailey’s childhood pursuing the perfect man who could provide the perfect life. During much of that time, that pursuit had been fueled by alcohol and prescription drugs. Bailey understood her own desire for perfection and control had emerged from this disordered life.

Micki rushed back from her search of the backstage area with a frantic look on her face. “I can’t find it, can you use something else?”

Bailey tried to remain calm as she trotted to the storage cabinet to peer into the dark interior. There were brand new pots, pans, and a large assortment of kitchen implements scattered throughout the cabinet. But no number eight whisk. She had chosen the recipe today in order to focus on this tool, and planned to demonstrate how it could be used to fold hot custard into the egg mixture. Her deal with Hammerstone required her to use their cooking tools on every show.

“I really need the number eight, Micki.” She gave the younger woman a tight smile. “I don’t have time to arrange for a new recipe, because it’s now less than ten minutes to air time.”

Micki started to pull implements from the shelf. “I know it’s here someplace.”

Bailey didn’t have time for this nonsense. “I have a complete set of tools in my dressing room.” She turned back to Cynthia. “I’ll be using them on break to create some fabulous new recipes for the fall shows.”

She gave Cynthia a forced smile. “That’s why it’s so important that I be involved with every detail for my shows.” Bailey was holding her temper in check as she marched across the stage toward her dressing room. “Careful planning always saves the day.”

Cynthia paused to speak into her cell phone as Bailey sprinted down the hall to her dressing room. She had a hand-woven basket filled with all the Hammerstone tools on the left side of the room, right next to her closet. It would only take a few seconds to pull out the whisk.

Bailey paused to allow Cynthia to catch up. Gazing at the publicity poster hung on her door, Bailey had to admit the takeoff on the painting of Venus rising from the sea was the art director’s coup de grace. Even Bailey liked the way she was portrayed, with her long dark hair falling in graceful waves around her shoulders; her arm raised, holding a whisk. In fact, it was the very whisk she was so frantically searching for to use on the show today.

Thank God Botticelli was noted for loving to paint full-figured women, because Bailey certainly fit the Renaissance ideal more than the current skinny models gracing magazine covers.

Her mother lectured her constantly about dieting and losing weight, as if that was an easy thing for a woman who took solace in cooking and baking. It was a blessing her fiancé, Dudley, loved to eat. Maybe he was a bit on the pudgy side, but Bailey would often tease him that love handles made it easier to hang on to him.

Cynthia finally caught up and Bailey decided she’d give the woman another sound bite to put in the article she was writing. With any luck, this publicity would launch her for an all-out blitz with other major women’s magazines.

“If you take the time to prepare, you’ll never be surprised,” Bailey intoned as she twisted the door handle with a flourish.

A strange woman stood in the middle of Bailey’s dressing room. A very large woman, encased like a sausage in a tight silver lame evening gown and with the largest feet Bailey had ever seen crammed into a pair of stiletto heels. The woman was trying to fasten the small buckle that wrapped around her massive ankle.

Bailey was indignant. “This is a private dressing room and you have no right to. . .”

The rest of the words froze in Bailey’s throat as the woman looked up and Bailey caught sight of the stranger’s face. The room seemed to spin out of control for a moment, and Bailey felt herself taking a step backwards, stumbling into Cynthia.

“Bailey, five minutes!” Micki was yelling from the sound stage. The words seemed to echo down a long tunnel as Bailey stared at the figure across the room.

“It can’t. . .” she fumbled for words—“be.”

Bailey couldn’t make sense of the woman standing before her. She was attractive, in that big-boned, bewigged, country-singer-style of attractive. She was wearing too much makeup, and silver was not her color, that was for sure.

“I. . .” Bailey took another step backward and heard Cynthia yelp in pain as her toes were crushed.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to tell you about for a long time, Bailey, but I couldn’t find the words. I thought this might be the best way.” The big woman stood up, and seemed to grow even taller in the few seconds Bailey frantically searched for her center of balance.

She imagined this might be the huge woman from an old B-movie. The one who was attacked by aliens, grew into a giant, and then marched through a desert town in her underwear, searching for her philandering husband.

“What is this?” she asked, her voice shaking. Then she grinned and felt a flood of relief. “It’s a joke, right?” Dudley had never been much of a prankster, but perhaps Meg had set this up.

“What’s going on?” Cynthia tried to push her way into the room but Bailey blocked the doorway with her body to keep the reporter contained. Her mind finally clicked into gear. The show, the article in the magazine, her network deal. She was recovering from the shock and the synapses were snapping again.

“Nothing, just a joke—you know—kind of a funny ‘last wrap let’s play a joke on Bailey’ prank.” She was searching for the words. “A surprise. Isn’t that what we were just talking about? Life is full of surprises!” She turned and tried to push Cynthia out into the hallway.

“Your whisk.” Cynthia pointed toward the dressing room. “Didn’t you come back here for some kind of special whisk?” The woman was giving her one of those ‘do you really know what the hell you’re doing’ looks.

Damn it. That was exactly what she’d come back here for, but the sight of the giant woman—who was really a man— who was really her fiancé Dudley in her dressing room had wiped her memory clean of her original task.

“Of course, just a second,” she mumbled.

“Bailey, we’re almost ready to run the intro and you’re not in place.” Micki’s voice was a pitch higher than normal.

“Coming.” Bailey hoped she didn’t sound hysterical. How in hell was she going to go back into that room, with that, that, she didn’t really know the word. No wait, she did know. Was it ‘Drag Queen’? ‘Transvestite’? ‘Transgender’?

No, she really didn't know the correct terminology. What the hell was Dudley doing in that outfit?

Grabbing the doorknob again, she decided to simply barge in, ignore the other occupant, and do her show. Her show. What was the topic today? Damn it, how was she going to get through the next hour when her brain was so scrambled?

She didn’t even glance at Dudley as she made a dive for the basket. The number eight whisk was on top. Finally a piece of good luck.

“I want you to understand, this is confusing for me, too.”

Bailey felt her temper coming to a boil. She was nearly hysterical with nerves, she was shocked, and now she was really, really getting angry.

Bailey took a step toward Dudley, who stood elegantly in the center of the room, the long platinum blonde hair of a really good wig tossed provocatively over one shoulder.

“What the hell are you talking about, Dudley? If you think I have the time or patience for this, you are just wrong.” She took a step closer. “You know I have a show to do! I should be in front of the cameras right now!”

Her fiancé, who was now dressed as a Dolly Parton look-alike, shook his head. “I had to tell you, and today seemed like the best time.”

“Today? Minutes before I start my show, Dudley?”

Dudley just batted his false eyelashes to gaze at her sheepishly. She had to admit those eyelashes were amazing.

“I needed to share this with you when I had the courage. I didn’t know you’d be coming back here before you did the show and I thought we’d discuss it when you finished.”

Bailey stared at him, her mouth open in shock, and wiped the perspiration from her brow. She hoped she wasn’t smearing her makeup.

“We talked about this, remember?”

Bailey gazed at her fiancé in silence for a few seconds. “No, I can’t seem to recall the ‘Honey, I enjoy dressing in women’s clothes’ conversation. Could you remind me?”

“Ba..a..il..ee!” The sound was like a fish wife caterwauling. “You’re on!” Micki was now screaming from the stage.

“This is the real me, a part I’ve been hiding for years,” Dudley stammered.

Bailey’s head was throbbing. She still couldn’t remember the theme of her show today, and now she’d forgotten what she was supposed to be cooking using the stupid, friggin’ whisk in her hand.

Despite all that, the show must go on. “I can’t discuss this right now, we’ll talk. Later. After the show.”

Dudley put one hand on a hip, attempting to face off in an assertive posture, but he leaned too far to the right and his stiletto-heeled foot slipped. He tumbled forward, arms flailing in an attempt to regain his balance.

Bailey lifted the hand with the whisk in front of her to serve as protection from Dudley’s rather sizeable girth. The whisk caught the edge of his wig and it flew across the room to smack Cynthia Gaines, star reporter for the gossip rag, Chatterbox, in the face as she stood in the doorway.

Bailey saw the flash of a camera as she accidently whacked Dudley on the top of his bald head with the number eight Hammerstone wire whisk.

Her show was on and she didn’t have time to apologize to Dudley. Bailey shoved Cynthia Gaines out of the way.

“I’ve got a show to do,” Bailey said over her shoulder as she sprinted down the hallway. Taking her place on the kitchen set, she fixed her expression into a warm, welcoming smile and turned toward the center camera.

Catching the words on the cue cards, she nodded as Micki pronounced, “Rolling”.

“One of the nicest things you can do for the people you love is to make them feel special. Today—I’m going to help you create a perfect day for that perfect woman in your life. Your mother.”

She picked up the stainless steel mixing bowl and started to dump the pre-measured ingredients into it. Let’s just hope, ladies, that one day your boyfriend doesn’t decide he prefers to dress like your mother, because the shock of that could kill you.

Creampuffs—they’re easier to make than you think.”

Chapter Two

“You should have seen this coming, Bailey.” Meg gave her a long, penetrating look. “The signs were all there.”

“Signs? There were signs that Dudley wanted to be a woman and I missed them?” Bailey was stunned. “I suppose you recognized those tendencies all along.”

Meg swiped at her jagged-cut ebony bangs. “What about all those “fuck me” stilettos he bought for you? Don’t you think that was a little weird? I mean, he must have bought you a hundred pairs of shoes.”

Bailey felt warmth flood her cheeks. “Well . . . I just thought he had some kind of weird shoe fetish.”

“The man absolutely devoured Your Style magazine every month. For crying out loud, he had a subscription.” Meg stressed the last word as if it was a sure sign of trans-gender tendencies.

“He told me it was research for his new website venture, fullfashion.com, an online shopping site for plus-size women.” Bailey couldn’t believe she was still making excuses for Dudley. She’d spent so much of her time the past two years doing it that she couldn’t seem to shake the habit.

Meg grinned. “That would make shopping for himself so much easier, huh?”

Bailey pretended to smack her friend by batting at the air over her head. “Okay, so maybe I should have seen this coming. There was the incident with the bustier in his Porsche.”

Meg raised an eyebrow and gave her a look. In fact, it was that look. “Come on, out with it. I can’t believe you never told me about this before.”

Bailey leaned forward. “If you ever repeat this, I swear on my mother’s grave I’ll take some serious revenge upon you.” Her stage whisper was laced with an obvious threat.

Meg shot her a troubled glance. “Bailey, your mother is still alive and kicking.”

Bailey shrugged. “It’s so embarrassing to admit this now; I’d be totally humiliated if the story ever got out.”

She took a deep breath before continuing. “A few weeks ago I asked Dudley if I could borrow his Porsche. I was going to the Seattle Art Museum opening, and I wanted to arrive in style.” She gave her best friend a sheepish grin. “Mostly because Andre’s restaurant, Inferno, was catering the reception. I wanted to show him not only have I moved on, but I’ve also moved up.” She paused, “You know . . . give the signal I was over him.”

Meg pursed her mouth into a skeptical smile. “Doesn’t the fact you felt you had something to prove to him indicate you actually have not moved on emotionally?”

“Shut up.” Bailey made a face and stuck out her tongue. She hated it when Meg analyzed things. Especially when she was right on target. “Anyway, when I picked up the car I had my bag with my work-out clothes, cookbooks, you know, all my stuff in it. I opened the trunk and found a bag from a lingerie store containing a bright red satin bustier. A very large bustier, I might add. So, I called Dudley on my cell and told him what I’d found.”

“What did he say?” Meg was now leaning forward, eager to catch every word.

“He said he was sorry I’d found it because he’d wanted to surprise me on our honeymoon.”

“I don’t doubt that, but do you think it was supposed to be for you, or for him?” Meg asked.

Bailey tilted her head and shot Meg a glare. “It was his, of course, but I was so furious he bought such a huge size for me that I fumed about it for days. He said he’d never bought women’s underwear, and didn’t understand the sizes.” She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. If only I had known then what I know now. He probably has a personal shopper at Victoria’s Secret."

“But I wanted to believe that answer, because I was in love, planning our wedding and feathering my nest. A woman in love is not exactly a logical being, you know.”

Meg gave her a dubious look. “In love? I don’t think so. You hit thirty and panicked. Dudley was your biological clock crisis intervention. Admit it, Bailey. You gave up on finding your soul mate and just settled.”

Bailey started to object, but found the words couldn’t work their way out of her mouth. She hated to admit how right her best friend was about her now broken engagement. Dudley was the first eligible man who’d seemed seriously interested in marriage. When she hit the big 3-0, she'd become frantic about finding someone to marry. She’d even started to worry that investing years into building a career and focusing on herself had put her out of the marriage race. Had she panicked?

“I think that might be simplifying things a bit, don’t you?” Bailey realized there wasn’t much conviction in her voice.

Meg waved a hand at the passing waiter as she tried to catch his eye.

“Just tell me how you really feel about breaking off the engagement with Dudley.” Meg turned to give her a hard look. “The honest truth. Are you heartbroken?”

Bailey wanted to shout, Yes—I’m more than heartbroken, I’m devastated. I don’t want to go on with my life. That should be what the end of a relationship felt like, especially a relationship that was leading to vows to love and honor each other forever. Why then did she feel relief instead of desolation? Bailey was suddenly grateful for this coffee date with Meg; she needed to confess the truth to someone.

“I’m really not heartbroken. In fact, once I got over the anger part because I felt betrayed, I realized how relieved I am.” Bailey paused to gaze up at the gorgeous young waiter who appeared to have overcome his boredom long enough to take their order. Nice, she thought. Too young, but God look at that body.

“I’ll have a tall double shot skinny mocha with no whip,” Bailey said.

The waiter nodded and his diamond earrings glinted in the soft morning light. He gave her a quick wink, and Bailey felt her heart beat a little faster. Was he flirting with her? She was old enough to be his. . . sister. Or aunt. Maybe she was imagining it, but damn it felt good to have someone younger look at her with a sexual glint in his eye.

“Give me a short vanilla double-shot latte with soy milk please.” Meg watched the young man saunter away from them and she gave an appreciative whistle under her breath. “Did you see that ass, Bailey? I bet we could bounce nickels off the damned thing.”

Bailey was admiring the disappearing gluteus maximus as much as her friend. They exchanged amused looks.

“We’re just animals, reacting to a gorgeous young thing, with aggressive female lust,” Bailey said.

“Hey, we’re in the sexual prime of our lives. It would take a guy that young and energetic to keep up with us,” Meg responded with obvious enthusiasm.

Bailey gave a snort of derision. “Yeah, maybe that was the problem with Dudley. He was living in the wrong decade of his life to keep up with me.”

Meg rolled her eyes. “The truth comes out then: old dud really lived up to his name in the sack, huh?”

Bailey paused, aware that she was wandering into some dangerous territory. She had never even hinted about the lack of sexual excitement between her and Dudley. She had joked along with all her girlfriends when the topic had turned to their sex lives.

She had even pretended to be multi-orgasmic once, although with Dudley there was always a question of reaching a climax at all. How would she even know about multiple possibilities except as an urban myth?

“Sex was a rare event, and let’s just say it wasn’t exactly memorable when it did happen. He told me he’s been dealing with this confusion for so long, he knows he’s been unfair to me. And he admits he can’t get involved emotionally until he figures out who he really is.”

“So, you’ve talked to him? Or her? What the hell do we call Dudley now?”

“He said he’s going to transition slowly to becoming a woman, starting with telling his family and friends.” Well, Chatterbox magazine had taken care of that part for him. “Anyway, he plans to take gradual steps with this change and we’re still going to be friends.” Bailey tapped her nails on the Formica table top.

“He loved you enough to ask you to marry him.” Meg was watching the cute waiter approach the table with their coffee. “I’m glad you’ll help him sort this out, but relieved you decided to end the engagement.”

Bailey blushed but didn’t say anything. She was too embarrassed to confess the truth, that Dudley was the one who had ended their engagement.

They were both distracted as the waiter set the large cups down in front of them. He smiled and Bailey noticed dimples deep enough to fall into. She was a sucker for dimples on a guy. Especially on a drop-dead gorgeous guy.

“Can I do anything else for you, ladies?” the hot and luscious hunk asked sweetly.

Yeah, follow me home so we can have wild, crazy sex all afternoon. Bailey blushed again as the wicked thought whipped through her brain. What was wrong with her today?

“We’re set, thanks,” she mumbled, aware just gazing into the deep blue eyes of this Adonis was making her nipples turn to stone. Had it been that long since she’d had a good lay?

“That’s what you need,” Meg said, flipping her thumb as they once again enjoyed the backside view of the departing waiter.

“Totally,” Bailey agreed as she leaned forward to sip her steaming mocha. She inhaled the comforting aroma of good coffee and chocolate. It was one of her favorite combinations. She lifted her head to wink at her friend. “But I’m afraid I might get arrested… he’s pretty darn young.”

Meg waved a hand at her. “Forget about that, he’s at least the age of consent. A quick, hot fling with some gorgeous younger guy is the cure for what ails you.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “Take my word for it. When I broke up with Brad—it’s what I did.”

Bailey felt her eyes grow wider in astonishment. “Tell all, and don’t you dare leave out a single nasty, lurid detail.”

Meg didn’t need much encouragement.

“Well, Brad and I weren’t engaged, but we were living together. It was so, committed,” Meg sighed. “I think I wrote more into that arrangement than was ever going to be possible, but I loved the guy. I was incredibly, hopelessly, stupidly in love. I saw things that weren’t there because that’s how I wanted things to turn out.” She gave Bailey a knowing look. “You can get pretty good at lying to yourself, huh?”

Bailey nodded in agreement.

“So, even though Brad couldn’t seem to keep a job, and he was gone all hours of the night—due to his acting gigs—or so he told me, and even though I found phone numbers on slips of paper in his pants when I washed them, and photos of other women on his phone, I convinced myself that Brad and I could be the perfect married couple someday.”

“Brad sounds like a real rat bastard,” Bailey offered.

“Oh yeah. He came home one day and packed his bags. He told me it was over between us. He’d met some old broad with a lot of money, and she’d decided to become Brad’s sugar-mama. She was going to pay for acting lessons, an apartment, and support his lazy ass so he could concentrate on his career.”

Meg paused to take a breath and sip her latte. “I was so angry I threw his suitcase out the window. It’s a miracle I didn’t kill someone with it, because we lived on the third floor. He told me I was immature and I called him an asshole.”

“So you got over this guy by having a hot affair with a younger guy?” Bailey was trying to figure out the point of Meg’s story, and how it related to her.

Meg shook her head. “Not right away. I swore off men, deciding it was better to be celibate than deal with all their shit. I concentrated on making my films and took a class in video production. That’s where I met Greg.” Her voice took on a nearly reverent tone when she said the name.

“Greg was sexy and funny and he had the most incredible body I’ve ever seen.” Meg made a subtle head tilt and her gaze slid to the waiter hunk.

“So, body-licious Greg restored your faith in men?”

Meg threw her head back and laughed. “Not exactly, but he restored my faith in myself. I resisted him at first, refused to have coffee with him, even tried to ignore him. Finally he asked me why I wasn’t attracted to him. I decided to be honest and told him I’d been deeply hurt.” She smiled over her cup. “And do you know what he said?”

Bailey shook her head, anxious to hear more details about the incredible Greg and his ability to heal women with low love-esteem.

“He said, ‘Can’t we just have fun?’” Meg shrugged her shoulders. “I didn’t have a good answer for that, so we went out on a few dates until one night we ended up at my apartment, ripping our clothes off because we wanted to fuck each other so badly.”

Bailey shook her head in wonder. “And?”

Meg rolled her eyes dramatically. “The earth moved, the moon eclipsed the sun—it was the best sex. . . ever!”

Bailey’s heart beat faster. Could she describe any of her own sexual encounters with that much enthusiasm? No, she had to admit, never, ever had she felt that way. Wouldn’t it be worth just about anything to know what that felt like?

“He had incredible moves and stamina.” Meg blushed. “I learned to appreciate stamina. And even though I knew it was going to be fast and furious, and we’d agreed there’d be no long-term commitment—it was unforgettable.”

“So, how long is fast and furious?” Bailey felt compelled to ask.

“Three incredible weeks. I mean, we packed a lot into a short time. Mornings, afternoons, it was like living in a sensual haze. All I could think about was getting naked with the guy.”

When Bailey lifted her cup to her lips she noticed her hands were shaking. “So then it was just over and you felt. . .?”

Meg seemed to ponder the question for a moment. “The semester was finished and Greg was going to L.A. to work on a project. I wanted to build a career here in Seattle. And to be honest, we were in unbridled lust, not love. But,” she leaned forward to stress her point, her nose nearly touching Bailey’s.

“I have never felt so desirable in my entire life. That summer it felt like I could walk into a room and nearly set it on fire with sexual energy. Men asked me out, I had job offers, and I felt powerful and alive. Greg made me feel so sexy and strong, I imagined I could do almost anything. He gave me back my self-esteem.”

Bailey sat back, closed her eyes, and tried to imagine feeling that potent, that powerful and self-aware. It sounded wonderful. “So, you think I should find some gorgeous young thing and bonk his brains out?”

“Bonk your brains out, too, darlin’. Think about it: you’re smart, talented, and beautiful.”

Bailey made a disparaging sound. “I’m not twenty-something anymore. Let’s face it, I’m never going to wear a size four again and I can’t compete with dewy-skinned, bouncy-breasted young things.”

Meg shook her head vigorously. “You can’t compete on their playing field, but you have some serious advantages over them. You have a successful career, and that gives you confidence, or at least it should. You’re used to taking charge and there are a lot of men who find that attractive. You aren’t looking for a meal ticket or a long-term commitment. What guy doesn’t find that combination irresistible as hell?”

Bailey leaned her elbows on the table. She could see the wisdom of Meg’s advice, but was she the kind of woman who could have a quick, hot affair just for the fun of it?

“I don’t think it’ll work for me. I have no experience trying to pick up cute younger guys to establish a relationship.”

“It’s not a relationship, and you never even think of it in those terms. It’s sex. Pure, simple pleasure. Look at it like a science experiment.” Meg paused. “Even better, as one of your recipes. You research and organize it, develop a plan to create it, then you whip it together and wait to see what happens. When it’s over, it’s over. Eat it up or toss it out.”

Bailey giggled. “A recipe for love. Interesting idea, Meg.”

Meg shook her head emphatically. “To quote a lady who knows what she’s talking about, ‘what’s love got to do with it?’ We’re talking about salvaging your self-esteem, restoring your confidence in the bedroom, and having some fun. Nobody gets hurt—you just relax and enjoy the ride.”

Bailey shrugged. “Well, I’ll think about it. Right now I’m worried about our fall shows and our sponsor. I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to go to Horseshoe Island and I’m terrified the article in Chatterbox is going to kill my career.”

“Don’t worry. You know what they say in this business: The only bad press is an obituary. Let me handle Cynthia Gaines.” Meg raised a sharply defined eyebrow. “Do you think that’s her real name?”

Bailey grinned wickedly. “Do you think those are her real tits?”

They giggled like gossiping schoolgirls.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Deb Schneider is the author of historical romances and writes paranormal and steampunk romance as Sibelle Stone. She won her first book contract as part of the Romantic Times New Historical Voice contest. Her awards include the EPIC award for best Western Romance and The Molly for most unsinkable heroine. She was named the Librarian of the Year in 2009 by Romance Writers of America. When not working at the library or writing, Deb enjoys cos-play, designing jewelry, and watching too much HGTV.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
There’s a theme of discovering your true self, the person you are behind the persona and the image. I believe we present different “facades” depending on the circumstances; our work life, our personal life and our life with friends, but who knows the real you?
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
You can visit my Webpage, Facebook page, and I have a Twitter account, but I mostly post things about books, reading and libraries there. My favorite pages are at Pinterest. I use “playing Pinterest” as a reward for hitting my writing goals. I have a "Domestic Goddess" page on Pinterest.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
The series is called, “Bachelor Bay” and will feature couples living and working in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The next book will feature a children’s librarian and fire fighter, who are like flame and gasoline. When they’re together, things get hot!

Next in:
Literature & Fiction
Liberty Street: A Novel of...
Can women find love during the Civil War?
The Lunar Conspiracy
Unraveling the mysteries of the past
Love Redux
A marriage on the rocks, a friend discovered.