Thursday, September 4, 2014

**Cover Reveal** Presently Perfect by Alison G. Bailey

We are excited to bring you the cover reveal for the third and final book in the Perfect series, PRESENTLY PERFECT.
Perfection is an illusion fueled by the perception of others.
Tweet was my heart, my soul, and my purpose. She was my everything.
Neither of us were perfect. We both made mistakes. Looking back, that was okay, because every choice brought us to where we needed to be at the time we needed to be there. The one constant, our love and friendship.
There are two sides to every story, and I wouldn't trade our sides for anything in the world.

Scheduled Release Date: November 6, 2014
Cover Designer: Robin Harper, Wicked By Design
Photographer: Lorie Rebecca, Lorie Rebecca Photography

Alison Bailey
Alison was born, raised, and currently lives in Charleston, SC. She attended Winthrop University and graduated with a major in Theater. While at school she began writing one-act plays, which she later produced. Her debut novel, Present Perfect, landed on Amazon's Best Seller List and appeared on many "Best Reads of 2013" Book Blogs. The novel is a current nominee for the 2014 Indie Romance Convention Awards. The second book from The Perfect series, Past Imperfect, was published in February of 2014.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Highly Anticipated Release Date: Let It Go, Book 3 of The Do Over Series

I get asked a lot when Let It Go, book 3 will be released.... Here's the answer:

When I made the decision to break Rick and Madison's story up into 2 parts, I had every intention of releasing the second half in a matter of months.  

I was confident that since I knew exactly where the story was going and how it would end, that it was just a matter of blocking out the distractions and pumping out the words.  

But then somethings happened.  Life got complicated and so did writing their story (my OCD and perfectionism got way out of control).  

I know exactly where their story is going. Today, I outlined the next 4 chapters, but I have to write those words. So tonight, my son is going to bed early. Alison Bailey and I will be sprinting... and I'm going to beat her ass and get more done.  

Rest assured that my beta team, the 305 Girls (more like Bitches) are also on my ass as is Morgan Parker.  They want me to get my shit together and just finish this freaking story. (I don't want to say good-bye to Rick and Madison)

I MAY consider releasing the first chapter of Let It Go to my newsletter subscribers. If you think that's a cool idea, let me know.  If there are other things that I could do in the meantime while I am putting Rick through the wringer (sigh...that's where he's going)...but Madison is too... let me know.  

If you haven't read The Do Over and It's Not Over and have no idea what I'm talking about...both are available on Kindle Unlimited for free.  

Happy reading!  <3


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throw Back Thursday with a Teaser Twist

Hey!  **Waves hands frantically**

Remember me?  Yes, I know it's been a while.  Yes, I know I had many promises, but something got in the way.  Life.  

But I'm back and with a vengeance.  Maybe that's a little dramatic. =)

Here's a little oldie but goody. Gotta love Rick (and Marco Dapper -- fanning myself).  If you haven't met him, you should.  You're going to love to hate him and maybe hate to love him. 

Meet Rick Marin and all his shenanigans in The Do Over.

Happy Reading,


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: Unveiled Innocence by Ella Frank

I've recently finished reading, Unveiled Innocence by Ella Frank. 

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath, dying to know what I thought. Since I'm in a good mood, I won't torture you. I really really liked it. 

For me to say that is huge. I tend not to like most things lately, but I was sucked into this story and couldn't put it down last night until I finished.

There was one part where I cried -- not black shit tears, but still nonetheless, I was touched. From the prologue to the very end, I was trying to figure it out and see where the story was going, find out what happened. We know from the beginning that something has taken place, but the story is told in such a cryptic manner that there are almost no clues. And if you try to put the clues together, you only find out that you were probably wrong or maybe not.

Addison Lancaster is an 18 year old, sexually charged, student who has a seemingly perfect life. At least on the outside, Addison puts on the front of having it together. But as the story unfolds, you learn the truth behind the facade.

When she's late to her history class, time stands still, meeting her new teacher, Mr. McKendrick. She wants him, and Addison gets what Addison wants. At least that's what it seems like at first.

Grayson McKendrick came back to Colorado to be close to his sick father. Taking a job at a local high school, Mr. McKendrick had no idea how his life would be turned upside down when a flirty, Addison Lancaster strolled in late to his class, making an impression that he wouldn't soon forget.

What happens when lines are blurred? When they're crossed?

Super HAWT sex scenes. I was on the edge, worried, wondering what on earth happened. I imagined the worst -- was I right? Was I wrong?

My only complaint with this book is that I didn't connect with Addison. I was, however, rooting for Grayson the entire time.

If you love a sexy book with a taboo Unveiled Innocence and let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Do Over: Prologue and Chapter 1

Life doesn't look like it's supposed to for Dani Ruiz, a hopeless romantic. After a painful and sudden break-up with Rick Marin, Dani hides away from reality, retreating to a world of fiction where she prefers book boyfriends over the hassles of a relationship.

Almost two years later, Dani's friends are tired of watching her in a holding pattern, so they stage an intervention, forcing her back into the real world of dating.

Unexpectedly, Dani meets Liam Lucas, a down-to-earth firefighter. He might be the person to show her she's still worth something. Dani's hesitant to trust her heart with another man, but their instant and electric chemistry is something she can't deny.

As Dani starts to believe that she's found her real-life book boyfriend, Rick decides that he'll go to any lengths to get her back. Seeing Rick as a changed man makes Dani question everything. 

Can Dani trust her patched-up heart with Liam? 
Or has Rick transformed into the man she's always wanted? 

Written from various points of views, The Do Over is a story of second chances and new beginnings.

Read the Prologue and Chapter 1

Buy Now:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Simple Act of Kindness: One Day

This morning as I was walking into the building at work, there was a lady a few steps behind me just make her ascent up the steps to the landing. I slid my badge and opened the door, holding it for her. 

She looked up but told me to go ahead. Something in her eyes told me she didn't want me to be bothered. Who knows what burdens she was carrying inside? But on the outside, she was slow and had a mild limp. 

But I waited. 

I'm not a super hero or this selfless person who's always aware of those around me. In fact, I'll bump into people in the hallways because I'm off in my little bubble. 

But this morning, I was aware. And in that awareness, I offered kindness to someone else. 

Sometimes, they're called random acts of kindness.  Other times, people refer to them as manners and polite decorum.  Some will even call it being human.

When we're in touch with those around us, 
a simple act can make a huge impact. 

Have you ever done something that was "nothing" for you but seemed like the world for someone else?


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Madison Stuart School of Kicking Ana's Ass Into Shape: The Decision to Start

After a long sip of my green smoothie, I let out a deep sigh and traced the logo on the Jamba Juice paper cup. My eyes fluttered up, hoping she'd notice, but Madison sat uninterested, flipping through her phone. I sighed a little louder and took another sip.

"You're pathetic," she accused, keeping her eyes on the screen. "If you want my attention, speak. I've never understood women's subtle hints." Her steely eyes met my troubled ones as she reached for her cup containing some putrid combination of juices that I had yet to muster the courage to taste. "It wreaks of insecurity." With her straw at her lips, she ordered, "speak, already."

I hated her bluntness. "You're not a very nice person," I countered. I didn't like her condescending tone. Just because she was in shape, healthy, and whatnot, didn't give her the right to talk down to me. Excuse me! I was a lot older than her, and well as we age our metabolism, hormones, and everything goes to hell in a hand basket. I'd like to see her body when she's pushing her early forties. A little smirk spread on my face, imagining her fat and frustrated. 

Reaching for the napkin on the table, she dabbed the corner of her mouth. I hated, yet another thing about her, her manners. She always used them except when she spoke to me. That's when she was rude, callous, and insensitive. At that moment, I was fragile, and what I needed was compassion.

Sympathy often leads to apathy.

She propped her elbows on the table and laced her fingers together, creating the perfect cradle for her face. "If you wanted nice, you'd be sitting across from Dani." Her lips spread in a devious grin. "You want the hard truth, not a wound licking partner."

I suspected a little bitterness there. Madison's eyes were a dark sapphire blue and a little arch to her eyebrow told me that she meant to stick it to sweet and lovable Dani.

"Ah, I see you're bitter." I smiled, touche, bitch. 

Unimpressed with me, she sat back and pulled out her phone again. "I'm not the one wallowing in self-pity." She snickered. "Or the one that's in denial. Call it what you want. You're here with me because you need the hard honest truth. If you wanted the sisterhood bullshit Daniela preaches, you would've called her." Her eyes shifted above her phone and pierced mine. "I can't do it for you. You need to do it for yourself."

She was right on all counts. I'd wanted to follow her rules to getting my ass back in shape, but...

1. I'm a single mom of a six year old who needs me to be present to parent.
2. I have a full-time job with a lot of responsibilities.
3. I'm a writer, my agent is waiting for three (3) synopsis, I have a third novel to write.
4. My kitchen sink backed up and well, that was a nightmare (more on that one on another post)
5. The time change has really messed with my sleep cycle--I'm so tired in the morning.
6. I'm not twenty five, anymore.

I had an excuse for everything.

She leaned in. "Are you ready to stop making excuses? Between your self-pity and excuses, I'm exhausted. You know what you have to do. When you're ready, I'll help you. Until then, you're just occupying a seat across from me and breathing heavy like a chronic smoker." She shrugged. "I have better things to do, but since I like you, I'll help." She then rolled her eyes. "The last time I agreed to help a pathetic soul..." she trailed off smiling.

"It worked out perfectly for you," I added with my own sheepish smile. I glanced away and let the truths settle as the tears pooled in my eyes. I had a hard time explaining how I felt. My life in many ways was chaos. I need to pull things together, but I was overwhelmed. I didn't have 10 lbs to lose. I had a lot more than that... a way lot more than that. I was tired of feeling bad about myself and for myself. I was tired of laughing it off. I was tired of pretending it didn't bother me. I hated that I avoided mirrors and walked with my head down.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. "I need to do this."

"We'll start light. After all, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I want 20 minutes on the treadmill every day. I don't care when but you move on that damn dust collector every day. You can't go to bed without getting on it."

"Okay, fine," I agreed. That was doable. She didn't specify that I had to reach a target heart rate, break a sweat or anything. I just needed to move.

"Oh, and no more Diet Pepsi." She raised that perfectly groomed eyebrow. She went for the jugular and we hadn't even started. "Water. It's good for you."

"I hated her, but loved me." I took a moment of silence and said farewell. "Good bye my most beloved Diet Pepsi."

She pushed back from the table, placed her phone in her bag and flung it over her shoulder as she stood up. "My job for today is done." She winked, a bad habit she had picked up from Rick. "Same time tomorrow."

Today I purpose not to make any more excuses. Today, I claim my life back, one step at a time. How about you?

One woman's journey to weight loss and reclaiming her health
All Rights Reserved
Post is Unedited

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Unrequited: Chapter 1

Catch a glimpse of Alex Santana from It's Not Over as he casts his sights on Madison Stuart. If you didn't like him before, you might hate him now.


Handsome, Hotties, and Hunks: Pedro Soltz

Love this video. 

 I've recently thought that he might be the perfect muse for Rick? 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From my bed to the treadmill: One woman's journey to weight loss and fitness

My alarm blared, and I cursed the day I agreed to follow the Madison Stuart School of Kicking Ana's Ass in shape. Ugh, I hate her guts.

"Five more minutes," I mumbled, hoping somehow or other that would be enough to snap me out of my state of complete and utter exhaustion. I pulled the covers up and snuggled with my pillow, sighing in comfort as I dozed off into peaceful slumber.

Suddenly, the comforter flew off my body and the cold air from the vent and ceiling fan caused a terrible shiver to course through my body.  "What the hell?" I cursed in a raspy voice barely able to open my eyes sealed with sleep.

The bed dipped. "Get your lazy ass out of bed," Madison ordered in a menacing voice.

How could I argue with that?  Easily! I was tired.

I'm a single mom who works a full time job, takes care of a my son--by myself, takes care of my dog, my house, and oh yeah, I'm also a writer who has to finish a third book. Excuse me if I'm tired. Sorry to inform you Madison, I am not lazy. I'm tired. I went to bed at 2 am last night because that was when my creative juices were flowing.

As if she could read my mind, she leaned in and in a steady voice said, "I'm giving you thirty seconds before I leave." She pulled back and tucked her hair behind her ears. "I have things to do and places to be."

"More like someone to do," I said, the smart ass in me waking up. "And for the record, I hate you."

"Yes I do." She smiled as her eyes brightened. Lucky bitch. "And yes, you do. For the record, I don't care.  Is this the best you can do? Manipulate me with your approval?" She stepped toward the door. "Won't work. I really don't care if you like me, hate me, or even love me," she stated in an unaffected tone.

A slight chill radiated off of her. I wondered if she was related to Elsa from Frozen. Then again, maybe she was Elsa. That would make a lot of sense.  Let It Go.

As much as I wanted her to slither back under the rock she came out of, I needed her.  This was me the other day. Well, not literally me but pretty close if someone would've been video taping me.

Since I refuse to buy the next size up, I have to do this. Madison is going to whip my ass in shape.  Follow my journey as I go from fat to fit.... That is if Madison doesn't kill me first.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dreamer, writer and hopeless romantic: One Picture

My book signing cherry was popped yesterday.  It was a sweet and gentle lovemaking.  I met some fantastic readers, bloggers, and other authors.

I was supposed to take a lot of pictures.  But I didn't. 

I mean, I was in a lot of pictures.  That was both overwhelming and humbling.  
I met local readers, and I was able to talk to them about the Miami flavor in The Do Over Series.  We laughed at some things that might get lost on others like freezing when it's 68 degrees or Rick setting the heater to 85 degrees to defrost. 

On a side note, when I arrived at the Bahia Mar, I froze my butt off. In fact, as I was waiting for the bell hop, I was shivering. I think it might have been 70 degrees but it felt like -10.  (Just go with me on that one)

But alas, I did take one picture.  And yes, there's a little story behind this one. 

The sky was a beautiful crisp blue and the palms swayed with the wind, dancing a sensual Rumba.  But my heart was doing more of a Merengue or Salsa with it's fast beat. This was it. My first signing as an author.  

Before I could make it into the building, E.K. Blair pulled up in her SUV. Relief. I know her. Never discount the power of the pack.  There's an inherent feeling of safety in numbers.  And when I saw Daisy and Ciara, the adrenalin surging through my body at rocket speed slowed down, and I was able to function and not make a total fool of myself in an awkward, geeky, nerdy kind of way.  At least I hope I didn't. The jury is still out on that.

Ah, then Sandi showed up with my badge. I felt like a superhero.  No, I didn't have any magical powers that allowed shape shifting--as in making me a size 4 and making my muffin top vanish. No it was a badge of courage and accomplishment. 

DeNiro said it best. Yeah, he gets me.

Fast forward to the story behind the ONE PICTURE I did take.

So, after lunch, I stretched  and felt like a cow for eating too much. My only consolation was that I didn't have any cheesecake. That alone should have erased the calories I did consume. 

Pulling out my phone, I saw that Alison Bailey posted on Facebook that there was this hottie here at the signing and that I HAD to go find him. 

Huh?  What was she talking about?  There was no hot guy here. That little bit of information would have spread like a wild fire through the Everglades during the dry season.

 Alison, if you don't know already, is a little pushy and demanding. When did she think she became the boss of me?  I rolled my eyes. 

I spotted Daisy, making her way back to SL Jenning's table with Ciara along her side. Sidling up to them, I said, "Alison is smoking crack. She told me there was some hottie here." 

Daisy giggled and had the look of someone getting her hand caught in the cookie jar. "Yes, there is." She pulled out her phone and showed me his picture. 

Ciara added something about his tattoos. While I'm not an ink girl, I don't know, I was intrigued.  

"What is wrong with you?" I asked shocked. "I thought we were friends."  Shaking my head, I concluded, "You're both officially fired." 

To make matters worse, they pointed him out, getting into the elevator. My chance went poof, up in elevator fumes. Oh well. I let Alison and the girls know that I missed my opportunity to see the hottie up close and personal. 

The signing continued. I met some more readers and chatted with some bloggers. But there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I'm not a quitter. This guy couldn't be gone, gone. He had to be here. So, I snuck to the other room and saw him with a crowd of people around him. Were they all for him?

I turned around and walked out, feeling like a silly school girl who was checking out the hot guy. As I planned my cool exit, I ran into an author friend, who will remain nameless. "Did you see, all those crazy women hanging on that guy? Ugh, he's okay, I guess but not my type."  I thought..."Yeah, what she said. Whatever. I'm so over the hottie, with the abs and great body." (Did I convince you? Nah. I don't even believe that)

I went back to my table but the wheels in my head kept spinning. I couldn't give up. Since I'm a woman of do-overs and believe in redemption, I gave Daisy a second chance to make it up to me. She'd break the ice. And that she did. We walked through the crowd and right up to Assad.

He was charming and offered light banter...just the right amount to make me feel like not so much like a silly school girl but like a woman. Of course, the smooth lines I could have exchanged came after when I was sitting at my table, in the other room, feeling like a little girl with a crush.

The thoughts going through my head at that moment: "Can I touch him?"

He mentioned being on the cover of my next book. I looked at him and then at Daisy. "I think he might make a good Rick."  

Without skipping a beat, he added, "Oh Enrique."

Hmm, this might work. "Yes, his name actually is Enrique."

I am a dreamer, writer and hopeless romantic. AND a firm believer in happily ever afters.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Moments when you fall in love even more...with fictional characters

My friends and family joke about, what they call, my obsession with fictional characters. I simply roll my eyes at their lack of appreciation for my admiration of these idealized personas.

The one highest on my radar is Christian Grey in the upcoming film, Fifty Shades of Grey.  I read the books almost two years ago and was immediately sucked into the story as were millions, maybe billions at this point.  Now with the movie less than a  year away, I've turned my appreciative eye on Jamie Dornan who will be bringing Christian to life on the silver screen.

This YouTube of Jamie just has me falling in love just a little bit more.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dreamer, Writer, and Hopeless Romantic: I'm my own version of Carrie Bradshaw or not

Every night before I go to bed, the theme of Sex in the City plays in my head--for real.

My life doesn't resemble Carrie Bradshaw’s at all. Okay so I'm single, and Carrie was single. 

 But we look nothing alike. 

 Well, maybe a teeny, tiny, bit, if I was maybe fifty pounds lighter and had blue eyes. 

But...I don’t live in New York City in an awesome apartment. I live in Miami in a house. It's a nice house, so I'm not complaining. Just stating the obvious.

 I also don’t have her killer shoes, although I do have a nice collection of shoes in my closet.

I don’t have three awesome friends who offer me advice, support, and encouragement when I need it, ask for it, or when they just want to dish it out. 

No, I’m not the uni bomber or antisocial. I just don’t have THOSE friends. 

 Nor do I have Carrie’s men. 

Nope, no Mr. Big with me. (They make such a cute couple, don't they?)

 Nor have I had an Aiden. And boy was Aiden just amazing, perfect, and so swoony. 

I loved Aiden. He might not have been perfect for Carrie, but he certainly was perfect for me.

I think it's time Ana got her groove back.


And then there was Berger… 

Maybe I bonded with Carrie over horrible ways of getting “dumped”. 

Berger used a post-it note. A post-it. Me…I had a text message. Text Message. At least have the decency... 

Well, that’s a post for another time. 

Now that we've established that I’m nothing like Carrie Bradshaw. Well maybe just maybe in a very skinny future or past, I might have possibly looked a teeny tiny bit like her from a very far distance...or not.

No one can argue that we both share crappy break up stories. Other than that, we’re nothing alike. 

So back to what I was saying. I can get so easily distracted. Darn these tangents.

Every night before I go to bed, I hear the theme of Sex in The City play in my head (Doesn't everyone?)


The images of the day run through my mind, and I check-off all the major events.  
  • Got Alberto to school late...check
  • Forgot to brush my hair...check
  • Plot chapter while driving...check
  • Went to the office...check
  • Caught up with all my friends on FaceBook...check
  • Vowed to jump on the treadmill...check
  • Actually in progress
  • Made sure to feed Samson and let him out...check
  • Spend some time writing and reading....check
  • Blessed to be a mom...check

Then, I vow to make tomorrow better, and swear to myself that we won't be late again.

I may not be Carrie Bradshaw, but I'm me. 

I’m a dreamer, a writer, and a hopeless romantic that believes in her happily ever after. Hmm, maybe Carrie and I have more in common than I thought.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day: Rick and Madison Style

An Glimpse of Valentine's Day: Rick and Madison Style

**Please note that this has not been edited**

I scanned Martini Bar once more. We were at capacity with reservations throughout the night. Bruce had been right. I’d been selling my kitchen staff short. Meanwhile, he was leaning against the counter with what appeared to be his own conquest for the evening. 

The sounds of the patrons laughing and enjoying their meals caused a swell of emotions to overtake me. I’d never been one to gush at the idea of Valentine’s Day, but I had to admit watching couples in love, lust, or temporarily insane warmed my heart. I stood in the midst of a perfect balance of love, commercialism, and success. A smile spread across my face, and I nodded in complete satisfaction. 

I pulled out my phone as I walked back toward my office. Pushing open the door with my hip, I began scanning through my messages. My stomach dropped and a hallow feeling replaced the elation I’d felt just moments ago. I hadn’t received a text from Rick in hours—very un-Rick-like.  

Sitting down at my desk, I shook off the disappointment. I refused to allow myself to buy into the idea of this god-forsaken day. I’d never cared about it before. I wasn’t about to allow a number on a calendar to dictate my mood.  

Anyhow, I was reading too much into his perceived absence. I’d been with him this morning. I’d see him tonight. We’d been sleeping together every night for the past several weeks. We’d both been very busy lately. I had to work tonight. I continued to check off the mental list of reasons why it made perfect sense. 
I sighed. I was becoming one of those insecure women who measured her relationship based on every single solitary move the man madeStop being ridiculous. We’re both in love. We don’t need a day on the calendar to remind us of that. 

Shaking my head, I reached into my drawer and pulled out a box from my desk. Just as quickly as my sour mood came, it went away as I ran my fingers along the edges of the frame—our first official selfie as a couple. I chuckled softly reminiscing about New York with Rick. Still, I couldn’t explain the dull feeling in my gut. I wasn’t a hearts and flowers kind of girl, but he knew better. I’d told him I wanted to be wooed. I wanted him to go the extra mile. I was worth it.  

Well, Mr. Marin, I think you’re getting a little too complacent if you think blowing me off on Valentine’s Day is going to fly! It’s our goddamn first Valentines. What an asshole. 

A light tap at the door startled me out of my estrogen-laced coma. A surge of anticipation filled me, and I bit down on my lip to hold back the excitement. Rick. “Come in,” I called out, quickly putting the box away.  

“Hey,” Bruce said, popping his head in the door. I batted my eyes quickly to hold back the rush of tears that were forming. I had to stop this pathetic behavior immediately. I wasn’t like this, and I certainly didn’t want to become one of those women“You have out done yourself.” He stepped inside and shut the door behind him. “The place is buzzing, the customers are happy, and the chi-ching of the register is music to our ears.” He sat down—without an invitation, I might add—proud of our accomplishment. Once again, I was reminded of exactly who I was—Madison Stuart, and I was a badass, proving to the industry that I was a force to be reckoned with. 

I sat back in my chair. “Put on your seatbelt.” I raised an eyebrow and smiled. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”  

He placed his hands on his legs and leaned forward. Glancing around the room, he asked, “So where’s your worse-half? I was sure he’d be annoying the ever living shit out of me tonight.” 

At that very moment, I wasn’t sure who I hated more, Rick or Bruce. But I wasn’t about to let either one of them see me affected by their insensitivity.  

Tucking my hair behind my ear, I smiled curtly and began shuffling papers on my desk. “Tonight’s very busy. I need to focus on work.” I looked up at him. “We’re going to Naples tomorrow for the day.” That was the truth. I didn’t add, though, that Rick had wanted it to be for the weekend, but I had too much going on with Donovan’s to be that disconnected. I suddenly felt a pang of regret. Why did I have to be so damn difficult? 

Bruce cleared his throat. I wondered if I gave something away with my expression. “Don’t get me wrong. I think the guy’s an asshole. I don’t have a problem with him missing in action.”  

I tilted my head and gave him one of my looks, letting him know he was off base. A fierce sense of protectiveness came over me. “The two of you need to put your differences aside.” I reached for the box in my drawer and placed it on my desk. “What do you think?” I showed him the picture as I admired it. “I love him.” I looked up at Bruce, whose eyes had softened.  

“I’m not used to seeing you act like a girl.” He smirked. “Nice picture. I’m sure Douchebag will love it.” 
“Thanks,” I said sarcastically. I placed the framed picture back in the box. “This is the ruse.” Excitedly, I pulled out his real gift and held it out to Bruce. “Here’s his real present.” 

Bruce’s eyes widened as he took the World War II Purple Heart in his hand. He appraised it and smiled. “He’s been injured in battle?” 

“Being with me isn’t easy.” I winked and took it back. “He loves this stuff. I bought it at auction last week.” I tucked it away in its case. I’d taken so much care to get him something absolutely perfect. After all, it was our first Valentine’s Day.  

I couldn’t help feeling a bit let down that he hadn’t done anything special for me. Sure we were going away tomorrow, but what about today? He could’ve sent me flowers. He always did that. He could’ve at least obsessively called me during the day. No, on the one day he was expected to be over the top, he wasn’t.  

“He’s a lucky guy, but if anything changes, I can break his legs for you. And I’ll do it with a smile on my face.” Bruce stood up and tilted his head to the door. “You coming back out on the floor?” 
I pushed back from my desk. “Of course. We have a restaurant to run.”  

Bruce held the door for me as I stepped into the narrow corridor leading to the main area. The sounds and aroma coming from the kitchen refocused me and gave me the jolt I needed. With my head held high, I stepped into my element. I was, in fact, the queen. My shoulders slumped slightly, though. I dearly missed my king. 

And then as if in a movie, I saw him, standing by the door. He held a single red rose. I weaved through the patrons, not taking my eyes off of him. The noise died down, and we were the only two people in the world. I’d graduated to heights of the overly romantic woman who longed for the fantasy of her knight in shining armor. And reluctantly, I admitted to myself, I liked it. 

“What are you doing here?” I greeted him as he wrapped one arm around me and pulled me into him. Normally, I would keep the public displays of affection at a minimum at work, but today was the exception. 

He handed me the rose. “I’m an asshole who was working too hard today when I should’ve been spoiling you instead.” He lowered his mouth to mine and softly kissed me. The gentle feel of his lips over mine sent a tingle down my spine. I closed my eyes and relished his warm embrace. “Let me make it up to you tomorrow.” He pulled back and tucked my hair behind my ears. Leaning in, he placed a kiss on my forehead. “I love you, babe. I’m such a fuck-up. This week flew by. Before I knew it, here we are on Valentine’s Day, and well…”

This wasn’t the time or place to be having this discussion. “Hey,” I said coyly. “How about, I leave early tonight and let you start making it up to me tonight?” 

“You can’t get enough of me.” His lips curled into a dimpled smile.  

I smacked his chest and held back my own smile. “You’re an idiot.” 

“In other words, I’m right.” He placed another kiss on my lips. “Listen.” He laid his hands on my shoulders. 
“You should leave early. That way, you’ll be rested for tomorrow.”  

My body went rigid. “I’ll see you later, then?” I asked, trying not to jump to conclusions. I want to ram this rose up his ass right now. 

He kissed my cheek. “Babe, I’m beat. I’ll pick you up early.” He stepped back. “I promise, I’ll make this up to you.” He smiled and blew me a kiss as he walked out the door.  

I wanted to kill him. No, death would be too kind. He needed to suffer. 

I stood paralyzed, staring at the door. Bruce placed his arm around my shoulder. “The offer to break his legs still stands.” 

I buried my emotions deep inside and gave him an icy glare. “That’s too merciful.”  

Bruce laughed. “Sign off on these invoices and then head home. I’m sure loveless boy will turn that frown upside down tomorrow.”  

I grabbed the papers and headed to my office to collect my things. I plopped down at my desk and pulled out my pen. Everything was standard and in order, so I signed off on the bills. My Pandora bracelet slid down my wrist, and I sighed. I loved him, and I knew that aside from him being the world’s greatest asshole, he loved me too. 

I grabbed Rick’s gifts and placed them in my tote, wishing I’d gotten him something I could return. I stared at my rose. One? Seriously? One? God, I hated that I was acting like a silly woman. Valentine’s Day sucks!  

I wasn’t a victim, and I refused to feel sorry for myself. I’m Madison Stuart. I wanted to spend this evening with Rick, and nothing was going to stop me.  

I waved to Bruce as I walked out the door. I glanced back once more to see my well-oiled machine. I smiled, feeling empowered. If I’d lived my life waiting for permission, I wouldn’t have accomplished half of what I’d done. Rick Marin needed to be schooled in the art of treating a woman. 

Once I reached my car, I pulled out my phone and called himIt didn’t ring more than twice before he picked up. “I want to see you tonight, I said, without waiting for an introduction. 

"Manner, mi amor. Hello. How are you?" He chuckled. “But far be it for me to deny you my presence.” He paused for a moment. I was expecting another cheesy line from him. “You can’t stay away from me, can you?” And without fail, he delivered it. “Just get your stuff for tomorrow and come over.” 

I stared at my phone. Was he distracted?   

“Marin,” I said as a wave of emotion washed over me. “It shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I…” The words were difficult to form. Relationship, stupid days on calendars, and expectations were new to me. I didn’t want them and craved them all the same. 

He didn’t let me finish. “I love you, Madison. You have no fucking idea how much.”  

His words were filled with emotion and sincerity. I felt it in the marrow of my bones. That was all that should matter, and in a lot of way, in the ones that counted, it did. How could I allow a day on a calendar to render me a wallowing, brainless sap?  

I fought back the impending tears as I drove home, realizing that the man on the phone truly did love me. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was real and it was ours. He showed me every single day. 

“I love you, Marin.” I blew out a deep breath, letting go of some bitterness, no thanks to this botched up commercialized day. “I’ll see you in a bit.” 

I pressed the red END button as I pulled into my building. After I parked in my space, I grabbed my purse and tote and entered through the side door.  

“Ms. Stuart,” Walter greeted me. “How are you this evening?” He got up and came over to me, taking the tote from my hand.  

“I’m fine, thank you.” I was suddenly exhausted. With the insanity of the evening, I had forgotten to have dinner. “How are you?” 

“I can’t complain.” He pressed the call button for the elevator and handed me my bag when the door opened. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Walter smiled. “Mr. Marin is a very lucky man.”  

“Yes, he is,” I responded as the elevator closed.  

I stretched my neck from side to side before fumbling for the key to my apartment when I reached my floor. It really had been a long week. If I didn’t want to be with Rick so badly, I’d crawl into bed and most likely fall asleep immediately.  

I jiggled the lock and opened the door. The sound of soft music welcomed me, and my breath caught in my throat. A warm flush touch my cheeks and a smile spread on my face when my eyes landed on the bouquet of red roses on my side table in the foyer. I pulled out the card that was written in his chicken scratchNever underestimate my love for you. Be my Valentine. Forever yours, R 

I laid down my purse and toteA tremor of excitement hit me. My heart raced. Everything started to make sense. I felt like a world class bitch. 

“Marin?” I called out softly as I entered into my apartment, still holding the card, and trying to remember to breathe. 

When I turned the corner, the room opened up. Lit candles adorned the tables and pink and red rose petals were sprinkled throughout. I set my hands on the back of the dining chair, taking it all in. The table was set for two. A bottle of chilled champagne. A bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. A wrapped box.  “Someone has a lot of explaining to do.” I said. “Breaking and entering?” I couldn’t contain the smile. God, I hate his guts. 

"A crime of passion." He walked out of the bedroom, impeccably dressed, wearing a devious smile. “Happy Valentine’s Day.” He wrapped his arms around me and dragged me into his body. He ran his lips over mine. “Are you surprised?”  

I smiled against his mouth. "I wanted you to die a slow death for blowing me off today." I tightened my hold on him and swayed in his arms. "But this is a start in the right direction." 

"A slow death, huh?" His tongue caressed my lower lip, and my mouth opened in response. "I think you're getting soft. I would have expected something more epic." The kiss was soft, intimate, and soul touching. His hands cradled my head as his fingers twined around my hair. Our tongues danced urgently, changing the intensity of our connection.  

"I couldn't stop thinking about you all day," I confessed breathlessly.  

He pulled back and held my face in his hands. He gazed at me with the intensity of a man determined. I was taken aback by it. My heart drummed rapidly.  

"You're all I ever think about." He sucked in his lower lip while his eyes searched my face. "Be my Valentine." He leaned his forehead against mine. "Everyday." 

~A.L. Zaun