James is a has-been restaurateur from the UK, trying desperately to get himself out of the hole he’s dug for himself, while trying to figure out how to suddenly be a Dad for his brand-new tween-ager. He thinks he’s fixing things, or at least he’s making a mortgage payment, when he takes a job on a dating show as the Fixer Upper.
Margaret’s life is perfect. At least, that’s what she keeps telling herself. A recent divorcee, she can’t believe she’s turned into a cliché. When she makes a deal with her ever-helpful mother who will stop fixing her up with men, if Margaret will go on a dating show, she thinks she’s solved one of her problems.
What happens when the womanizing TV host meets the classy lady with OCD tendencies? Can they find what they need in each other?
James watched as she picked up her onion sword and dipped it into her mouth, extracting one and swirling it around her mouth before taking a drink. He sipped on his scotch, churning it around his mouth and letting it cleanse him as it went down his throat, bloomed in his chest, and spread through his stomach. He relished the burn.
The bartender came over to wash some glasses near them, and after catching James’s eye, lowered to whisper to him, “Are you her decoy?”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s in here almost every night, beating men off, explaining why she doesn’t need to actually have a boyfriend to not be interested. I was just wondering if you were pretending to be her boyfriend, so she wouldn’t get hit on. I’ve been tempted to offer myself.”
“No, I’m not pretending to be her boyfriend.” James couldn’t hold back the grin at the image of Margaret fighting off potential admirers.
“Are you really her boyfriend?” The poor man’s eyes were huge with disbelief, and James could completely understand. She did put off the cold fish vibe, but he ached to change that.
“I can hear you two idiots,” Margaret hissed at them. Turning on the poor boy, “You are no longer my favorite. Where’s Marcy? She’s almost as good at my martini as you are.”
“Sorry. She’s not in tonight, you’re stuck with me.” He grinned at her boyishly, and James watched her blush. Was she flirting with the bartender? He left to go help someone at the end of the bar, and James turned to her.
“You like him, huh? Is he the one you want to take to dinner?” Her lucky date for tonight would get dinner out on the show.
“No! He’s a child!”
“That’s right. That pesky age thing.”
Before he could elaborate, a sharp-dressed CEO type walked up to Margaret on her other side. The man exuded money, from his Armani to his Rolex. James watched with interest.
“Hey there sweet thing. Can I buy you another?”
James felt a prickle of jealousy and again questioned himself. He had no claims on her, in fact, he was here to help her get a date, in spite of what the producers said. Even so, he cheered inside his head when her mouth shaped the word no, before snapping shut. When she re-thought her response, his unease returned.
“Sure, why not?” Her voice was blithe, but James saw the underlying tension and resignation to the simple statement, like she knew exactly what was going to happen next, and dreaded it, participating only to please the show.
As soon as the bartender brought another drink for the two, the man bent down close to Margaret’s ear. James didn’t hear all of it, but he managed to see red darken his Maggie’s chest and knew exactly what that meant, he’d done it to her himself. Before he could react, she’d thrown her drink in the CEO’s face, who took it all with aplomb.
Removing his handkerchief from his breast pocket, the man wiped his face before smirking and leaving. No more words were spoken.
“What the hell did he say to you?”
Angry tears sounded in her voice, and sudden understanding dawned on him. Men were fucking pigs. “He told me to come back to his place so he could stick his dick in my hot, wet, cu—
“Never mind. Forget I asked.” Her eyes shined at him, as if tears were just under the surface, and James wondered if it was always like this for beautiful women with no self-esteem. Margaret knew she was pretty, but didn’t give herself enough credit for the rest. That’s why she kept her standards so high, so she didn’t get hurt. And the men who came on to her were total assholes. James knew she’d only allowed the wanker to buy her drink because he’d told her to lower her standards. If she kept up with her normal routine, that man wouldn’t have stood there more than thirty seconds.
James held out his arms, trying to be comforting, and to his surprise, Margaret sort of slumped towards him. He took a step forward and enfolded her in his arms. It was similar to last night’s embrace, except she wasn’t trying to beat him senseless. Instead, she was just… limp.
Stroking her back, feeling her warmth through the thin material of her dress, he inhaled the scent of her shampoo, lavender and vanilla. Scents that should remind him of his gram, only on Maggie, they made him want her naked.
He was such a fucking tool, no different from the others.
She relaxed in his embrace, her own arms coming around his waist and squeezing him, pressing herself against him. Something welled up inside, something a little foreign, something that surprised him. He realized he cared for her, and not just enough to sleep with her. James cared for Margaret enough to want to know what happened to them after the sex.
“We should just go. I’m hopeless.” She sniffed into his chest, and he could barely hear her. “I’ve thrown my drink at one guy, and I’m hugging on you. Nobody’s going to want to go out with me now.”
“I do.” His words shocked him, but no less for the meaning behind him. He did want to take her out. He wanted to make her feel desired, undo all his words of yesterday and the day before. He regretted them, immensely, and didn’t know what to do to take them back.
She looked up at him, her brow furrowed with confusion, but didn’t take a step back. Still holding her with one arm, he reached his other to smooth the wrinkles on her forehead, and shrugged, murmuring, “Masochistic tendencies.”
Her lips curled into a smile, and she laughed. He’d never heard the clear tinkling sound resonating from her before, and suddenly he lost all of his senses. Something changed in both of them. As abruptly as she started laughing, she stopped, and James watched as her gaze focused on his lips. Maggie’s tongue snaked out and stroked her bottom lip, leaving it sparkling wet, preparing it for him. James was lost. He wasn’t sure if she raised herself, or if he lowered his face, but in the next second, their lips were on each other’s.
Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She’s been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing two romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.