Happy Friday! It's time for another author spotlight, so please join me in welcoming this week's romance author.
Ms. Montgomery is going to share a couple of excerpts from her Romance in Rehoboth Series, but first, a little but about the author:
K.L. Montgomery grew up in Greencastle, Indiana, and studied psychology and library science at Indiana University. After a career as a librarian, she now writes novels and wrangles three sons and four cats at her home in rural Delaware, which she shares with her husband and the aforementioned creatures. She has an undying love of Broadway musicals, the beach, the color teal, IU basketball, paisleys, and dark chocolate.
Here's an excerpt from the newest book in the Romance in Rehoboth Series, Badge Bunny.
“Accident coming in,” Anita tells me just as I’m about to swallow another gulp of coffee.
I suck a deep breath into my lungs and spring into action. Turning the corner, a pair of glittering hazel eyes are the first thing I see. It’s Trooper Asshat. Just the way I wanted to start my morning.
“Sixty-two-year-old female complaining of neck pain after a car accident,” the paramedic rambles off as they wheel the patient into one of the free rooms. Poor lady’s face is pale and gaunt, and her chest is heaving with labored breathing.
“Well, look who it is, my favorite DOCTOR,” comes his smooth-as-silk voice before I turn to follow the patient into the exam room.
“Just dropping her off?” I ask, hoping to get a nod.
“Thought I might hang out, see if I can annoy you for a bit,” he says, the corner of his lips cranked up into a devious grin.
I roll my eyes, not bothering to offer any other reaction as I slip past the curtain. Outside, he’s still rambling on. “Aren’t you going to ask me how my bite wound is? Do you want to see it?”
The nerve of that guy!
“Hello, Ms…Goodpaster, is it?” I question, looking down at the woman in the bed. She’s only sixty-two, but she has a frailty about her, her wrists tiny enough that I could probably encircle them with my fingers twice over.
“It’s MRS. Goodpaster,” she corrects me, “though my husband has passed on.” She gives a dramatic sigh and waits for me to offer my condolences.
“I’m sorry to hear that, ma’am—”
“Well, he’s not dead,” she explains, emphasizing the last word. “He merely ran off with some forty-year-old skank. But he’s dead to me, the fat bastard. He had a small willie, anyway.” She rolls her eyes and sighs again.
Wow, we gotta live one here! I shoot Anita a look, and she’s trying so hard not to laugh, her face is scrunched up painfully. I wonder if Trooper Asshat caught that pronouncement from beyond the curtain.
“I understand your neck was injured in the crash?” I question, hoping to find a topic less drama-worthy.
Her hands instantly fly to her neck, bracing it as if her head might just snap off at any given moment. “Oh, my heavens, yes. That stupid young man was flying down Route 1 and didn’t even notice I was pulling out.”
Ah, she pulled out in front of him. Got it.
“He had to have been going eighty miles an hour! Smacked right into my brand new Cadillac—best thing I got in the divorce, you know.” She says the last part in a low voice like it’s some sort of secret. “I tried to get Corporal Everson to arrest that imbecile, but as usual, no one cares about criminals in this godforsaken blue state!”
Now Anita is visibly shaking, she is trying so hard to keep her laughter at bay.
I bite my tongue to keep from snarkily correcting her: we’re in a red county in a blue state. Instead, I summon every last shred of professionalism and advise, “I’m ordering an x-ray for your neck. Are you having any other pain?”
She vehemently shakes her head, then winces because it hurt her neck. I wait until I’m fully turned before rolling my eyes and escaping past the curtain. Trooper Asshat is leaning against the wall. “See what I have to deal with?” he asks. “If you think she was bad in there, you should have heard her at the accident scene.”
“Yeah, she’s really something, isn’t she?” I had planned to say something else, but as soon as I locked on to his gaze, my other speech escaped me. I stand there for a fraction of a second, transfixed by those eyes. And it isn’t just his eyes. It is the total package: the bronze skin still tan even after a long, cruel winter, the cut jaw with just the promise of stubble later in the day, and the full lips that look like they might taste as delicious as a sinful dessert. Then there is the way the sleeves of his uniform hug the muscles in his arms and emphasize the broadness of his shoulders.
Damn it! I’ve already learned my lesson that cops are arrogant, sexist assholes. Why do I have to be drawn to their look? Their physique? That damn uniform? I didn’t know any doctors or lawyers or teachers who look like that. WHY?
“See something you like, Dr. Miller?” his voice eases out, smooth as butter. He’s caught me staring at him. Busted. Damn it again!
“I’ve gotta go—”
“Wait a second,” he says, not touching me in the slightest, but pulling me back with his hazel gaze.
“What?” Do I sound exasperated? I definitely sound exasperated. With myself. For letting myself respond to his stupid good looks and sexy smile. I know better!
“I was just wondering if you might want to go out sometime?” He wears the perfect balance of hope and confidence spread across his handsome face. He hooks his thumbs in his gun belt and waits for my response.
My nose wrinkles up as my brain fights to get to my tongue before the rest of my body has its say. “Are you really, truly asking me out? Right here? In the middle of the ER?”
“Why? Is that frowned upon?” He flashes me a charming, innocent look as he shifts his weight to his toes and then back to his heels, rocking back and forth a few times in an “aw, shucks” kind of way.
My eyes sure are getting a workout today with all this rolling. “Pretty sure it’s not completely professional.”
I can tell he wants to touch me. His hands clench up, then unclench, then clench again. He’s itching to grab a fistful of fabric and pull me toward him like he’s reeling in a flailing fish.
Only I’m not flailing. I’m cool, calm and collected. At least on the outside. He can’t see the butterflies in my stomach doing anything but staying calm, cool, and collected.
He leans in close enough that I feel his breath on my chest. “You didn’t answer my question, Dr. Miller.”
“I can’t believe you think there’s a chance in hell that I’d go out with you,” I fire back, but not before I inhale a noseful of his musky scent. My knees are nearly shaking from the way it travels from my lungs through my bloodstream and into certain parts of my anatomy.
“Chicks dig cops, what can I say?” He winks at me.
That’s what the problem is. It’s that cockiness. That arrogance that comes with the uniform. Most of these guys have such a thick air of entitlement about them, you’d think they invented dating or something.
“You know what, Corporal Everson?” I bite my lip to keep my tone as neutral as possible.
“What’s that?” He straightens up, preparing himself for victory, at least judging from the grin creeping across his face.
“I used to date cops,” I tell him. “All the time, as a matter of fact. But I don’t anymore. Do you want to know why?”
His face doesn’t betray the slightest hint of disappointment. Or maybe he doesn’t realize what I’m delivering is a rejection. “Why?”
“Because they’re shallow, vain, cocky, close-minded jerks,” I tell him. “And from what I’ve seen so far, you’re just like the rest.”
“Pffft,” he scoffs, his hopeful smile fading into a tight smirk. “You think doctors are much better? You’re conceited, stuffy, boring, tedious sticks-in-the-mud.”
“Wow,” I say, drawing out the vowel. “Why would you want to go out with someone like that, then?”
“Because I have I have a feeling you’re different, Dr. Miller. You know I make a living reading people, right?”
I slowly nod, trying to figure out where he’s going with this.
“Right, and something tells me there’s a lot more to you than that white coat and those glasses.” He looks me up and down for a moment before getting a serious look in his eyes. “I don’t know if you’re aware…but looks can be deceiving.”
And before I have a chance to protest, he’s turning on his heels and making his way down the long corridor and out of the ER.
And here is the first chapter of Plot Twist
Eight Weeks Till Opening Night
I thought I’d learned not to succumb to peer pressure, but here I am, 32 years old and letting my friends drag me to this stupid audition.
“You never do anything fun, Lindy!” my best friend Megan pointed out when I protested her idea to join the cast of a local theatrical production. Our other friend Heather nodded in agreement.
Oh, great, they’re ganging up on me!
“I do too!” I folded my arms over my chest defensively as I prepared to enumerate the myriad fun activities I enjoy. “I like to read. And I knit.” Megan pursed her lips and cocked a brow at me. “I also bake!”
“Do any of those activities involve actual people?” she demanded. “Like actual human beings? Who aren’t related to you?” She cut me off right before I could mention that my mom likes to help me in the kitchen.
“Fine,” I relented. “Just fine.”
“Lindy, you have a gorgeous voice. Way better than mine! This is going to be a lot of fun,” she insisted. “You’ll see.”
I wanted to ask her how something as nerve-racking as performing in front of real, live human beings could possibly be fun, but I had already given up. At least being in the chorus means I can fade into the background, if I can only manage to avoid tripping or committing some other equally mortifying faux pas. So now I’m sitting next to her and Heather in the brightly colored plastic chairs at Delmarva Art Connection waiting for the directors to call my name.
There are four of them sitting behind an 8-foot table, looking no less intimidating to me than a jury appears to a defendant awaiting a verdict. Of the four, only one is a woman. She is sort of on the plump side, though still smaller than me, and has shoulder-length copper hair with golden highlights and bright turquoise eyes. On one side of her is Jack Reilly, who teaches with me at the Delmarva Academy. I don’t know him very well, but I am familiar with his ability to strike fear in the hearts of band students who don’t meet his stringent expectations. On the other side of the woman is a handsome man with longish sandy blond hair and a semi-goofy smile. At least he doesn’t look like he might rip my head off. And finally, next to the blond guy is a thin, dark-haired man with glasses shoved down the end of his nose wearing an expression that vaguely indicates he thinks we all suck.
Heather excuses herself to go to the restroom. “Hope they don’t call me next,” she says as she flits off, her blonde locks bouncing behind her. I don’t know why they don’t just go in the order we signed up. I hate it when directors try to psych you out by playing these stupid head games. This is not my first rodeo—I mean production.
Megan has already auditioned, so she’s sitting next to me, totally relaxed, with her legs crossed at the ankle. She’s been my best friend since junior high, so I already know what’s going through her head. She’s scoping out the male auditioners to gauge her chances of a backstage romance. I can already tell she has her eye on one with a long, dark ponytail. Ever since she got divorced last year, she’s been boy crazy. It’s worse than when we were in junior high! It’s hard for me to relate because I’ve certainly never had any desire to relive those days. On the contrary, I could probably use some therapy to get those days out of my system.
Just as the woman at the directors’ table calls out “Melinda Larson,” I see Megan’s eyes drift to a new arrival. He’s tall, well-built and has closely-cropped dark hair with just the perfect amount of stubble shadowing his jawline. Yep, she’s in love now. I knew this summer plan to be in a play together wasn’t about bestie bonding. It was just another ploy to meet a guy. I roll my eyes as I start to make my way toward the stage.
I’m wondering how on earth we can be 32 years old and still not feel or act any older than we did at 13 when the scowling judge at the end of the table glances up from my audition sheet. “What are you going to sing for us, Ms. Larson?” he asks in a surprisingly non-gruff voice.
By this time, the nerves have gripped ahold of me again, and I feel their restless energy buzzing through me from head to toe. Get yourself together, Lindy, I think, clenching my jaw. Oh, and remember to smile! I can almost hear my mom admonishing me.
“Good afternoon!” I finally manage. “I’m Lindy Larson, and I’ll be singing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl.”
The judges—all four of them, mind you—just stare at me with their mouths slightly ajar, as though they aren’t quite sure how I could voluntarily put myself in the same league as Barbra Streisand. They are pretty convinced I’m full of it, I can tell.
But here’s what they don’t know:
Under this mousy exterior exists a voice—a bold, clear, bell of a voice—a voice I can control. I can make it soft and sweet, bright and sassy, jazzy and smooth. I can add a twang, a whine, a gravelly sound. My voice is my one true special gift, one of the only things I can do that I’m actually confident about. Even so…I still don’t enjoy singing in front of people. I have to really get myself in the zone to work up the nerve, but that’s more because I don’t like people looking at me than because I don’t want to sing in front of anyone. You know what I’d be great at? Cartoon voice-overs. I could voice the next Disney princess, and no one would have to know I’m an awkward, chubby plain-Jane teacher.
I felt nervous when I was sitting waiting for my turn. I was trembling as I waited for the signal to begin. But when I finally unleash my voice, I feel one hundred percent free.
Did you get an email yet?
A text is waiting for me from Megan as soon as I turn on my phone. I leave it off all day when I’m teaching so I don’t get distracted. I end up reprimanding dozens of students per day for having their phones out, so I figure I should at least set a good example. I’m not sure it does one bit of good, though. We are doing a unit on Shakespeare at the moment, and I asked my students to write a pretend text conversation between Romeo and Juliet. I told them that was as close as they were going to get to teacher-approved texting in class.
I just got off work, geez! I text back. I roll my eyes at her as I tap the icon for my email. I gave the directors my personal email address, of course, so I have to scroll through a zillion spam emails to find one with the subject: “Congratulations! There’s a part for you!”
My heart thunders inside my rib cage as I open it up. It looks like a generic newsletter-type email welcoming me to the production. It’s addressed to “Dear Chorus Member.” Yep, that’s right. I only auditioned for the chorus. I may have a great voice, but there is no way I want a lead part. Besides, I’m much too fat and awkward to have a starring role. I wonder if Megan got one, though? She is much more comfortable in the limelight than I am. Heather too, for that matter.
ME: Yep, in the chorus. Looks like there’s a meeting tomorrow night to go over the production schedule?
MEGAN: Cool. I’m in the chorus too. Haven’t heard from Heather yet. Let’s grab dinner before the meeting! Nicobolis?
Nicobolis are the specialty of one of the pizza places on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, near where we live. Delmarva Art Connection is only a few blocks away. Back to Nicobolis: if anyone asks you if you want one, the answer is always YES. Always.
I head home to my parents’ cozy blue-shuttered cape cod in Milton, my mouth already watering for the Nicoboli and cheese fries I am already planning to consume the following evening. “Mom?” I call out as I enter the house. “Mom?”
She’s usually up from her nap by 4 PM. If she’s not, it means she has a hard time falling asleep at 9, which is when she and my dad typically crawl into bed. I swear, getting her to go to sleep on time and stay in bed is such a challenge, I feel like she is difficult on purpose to make up for all the nights my brother and I kept her awake when we were little.
My parents are old. Like super old. It’s funny, some of my friends have told me that when they were younger, they thought 40 or 50 was old until they saw their parents hit those ages, and then suddenly, they didn’t feel 40 or 50 was so old anymore. My parents, though, are in their 70s, and I am pretty sure that really is old by anybody’s definition.
“You’re only as old as you feel!” my dad is fond of saying, then adds: “In that case, I’m not a day under 103!” with a hearty laugh. His back is hunched over, his voice is all gravelly, and he’s incessantly complaining about needing to take his pills. My mom isn’t much better, though she likes to use her age as the ultimate guilt trip. “You aren’t seriously thinking about leaving us here, are you, Lindy? You would leave your mother, an old woman, and break her heart?”
I think my parents gave up on the idea of me getting married and having a family of my own years ago. Probably about the time I graduated from college. You see, they’d always told me in high school, where I rarely had a date to homecoming, prom, the Valentine’s Dance or whatever other coupley activities they invent to make us single girls feel lonely and awkward, “Just wait till college! You’ll be beating the boys off with a stick when you get to college.”
So, I went to college; never had to get out a stick. Yes, I went out on a few dates. I even did the college hook-up thing once or twice, but I suppose I wasn’t girlfriend material. I had a kinda long-term thing going on with my study partner for chemistry. And he was pretty cute. But I don’t think getting together to balance equations and go over your lab results constitutes a real relationship, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
It was like after college was over, my window of opportunity had slammed shut. Yes, there were some dates and a few more hook-ups in my early twenties. But then I became a high school English teacher, which evidently means signing a contract for eternal spinsterhood. Every once in a while we’d get a new teacher at our school, like when Jack Reilly, one of the aforementioned directors, joined the staff. My mom would get a hopeful look on her face and ask, “Is the new teacher at your school a man?” And if I said yes, her eyes would grow a little bit wider. “Is he single?”
The last teacher to join our staff was a woman named Sonnet Jayne, so all that got from my mom was a confused shrug and a, “Sonnet? What kind of name is that?”
“Mom?” I call again. “Are you still asleep?”
Then I hear the snoring. I have to remind myself it actually is snoring and not the sound of my parents’ neighbors chopping down a tree with an industrial-grade chainsaw. Nope, just my dad, the incomparable Frank Larson, napping on the couch. Now he’s really going to complain that he can’t walk because his back is going to be a mess.
“Dad?” I turn the corner into the living room, and there he is on the sofa with the cat curled up on his chest. She’s wearing a smug look on her face like she conquered the highest mountain in the land.
“Come here, Tink,” I whisper to her, and she lazily yawns and stretches. Then she kneads her paws into my dad’s stomach, which is usually guaranteed to wake him up. But he doesn’t stir. And my mom is still MIA too. These two love to keep me on my toes.
I move closer to him, leaning down to see if his chest is moving up and down, but it’s hard to tell with the damn cat pressing down on him. “Dad?” He was just snoring a few seconds ago. This is what he gets for not wearing his CPAP machine.
I hear a garbled string of expletives fly out of his mouth as he pushes himself up on the sofa, sending Tink springing off the cushion until she lands (on her feet, of course) on the floor. She shakes it off and walks away with her tail held high.
“Oh, good morning, Lindy!” my dad says as soon as he gathers his bearings.
“It’s four in the afternoon, Dad.” I shake my head. He can’t keep track of time when he’s awake, let alone when he’s asleep. He’ll often have a whole list of things he wants to accomplish during the day, but gets sidetracked on project 1.5A, sucking him into the black hole of tinkering till dinnertime.
“Where’s your mom?” he croaks, still trying to yawn away his grogginess.
“I was about to ask you the same,” I answer. I step past him and into the hallway that leads to the garage. My mom’s walker is missing. “Oh, she’s gone!”
My dad is still on the sofa, scratching his head at my mother’s disappearing act.
“Didn’t she tell you she was going out?” I study his eyes that were once shaped just like mine, but now they’re creased with wrinkles and topped with bushy gray eyebrows.
He scratches his head again. Or maybe he never stopped. “Hmmm. Now that you mention it, I do remember her mumbling a thing or two about needing some bay leaves? But I didn’t realize she had to leave the house to get them. Maybe Norma from across the street picked her up?”
I can’t help but chuckle. These two are freaking adorable sometimes. They’ve been married for almost forty years now. I was a “happy surprise,” as my mom always puts it. A sweet euphemism. My brother would then joke that I was sent to ruin his life because God didn’t want him to be a perfectly happy only child.
I usually don’t mind taking care of my parents. They are old and set in their ways, but they do appreciate me, and they love each other to death. As a matter of fact, that is probably my greatest fear. If one dies, the other is sure to go shortly thereafter. I can’t imagine a Frank Larson in this world without his Betty, or vice versa.
And maybe that is one of the reasons I haven’t ever tried too hard to find the proverbial Mr. Right. I mean, other than my crippling insecurity and shyness, of course. I know love is supposed to be forever, but we’re all humans. There is no such thing as forever.
Thanks so much for the fantastic excerpts, K.L.! I can't wait to read these!