New Release: California Bored and Tourism

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When Faith Travers sets out on a vacation to sunny California, she didn’t expect to meet the man who is destined to change her life.

Faith Travers embarks on a dream vacation to California at the worst time in her life. A layoff at work precipitates her travels but her money cannot be refunded!  Faith is all out of ‘faith’ when she meets Nick Constantine, the all too cheery tour guide who seems to be dead set on prying the travel guide out of her hands while taking one of his custom-made tours for her group of friends. Faith and Nick find out they have a lot in common and see the vulnerability within each other they both hide from the world while exploring scenic California.  Nick shows Faith there is more to life than her worries at home…

Excerpt

Nick looked at her for a moment in disbelief then slowly turned to work his way back to the front of the bus. Why the hell would someone go on vacation and stay in a bad mood the whole time? He looked in the mirror and saw that she’d closed her eyes in defiance. With her eyes closed, he noticed how young she looked even though he was sure she was in her early thirties. Contrary to her friends wearing skirts, sandals, and pretty hair accessories, she looked like she was ready to scale a mountain. He’d never thrown anyone off his bus but today might set the precedent.

Nick dropped the ladies off at the Hollywood and Highland Center, allotting two hours to eat lunch and shop. He never tired of telling someone all the things he knew about Hollywood and the great state of California. The tours gave him a sense of fulfillment and something to do when he didn’t feel like being cooped up in the office. He found a good spot, parked, and then noticed Faith sitting on a bench with her eyes closed.

“Finished your sight seeing early?” he asked as he took a seat next to her.

She jumped. “You scared the crap out of me!”

“You should know better than to sit with your eyes closed on a bench in L.A.”

He took the California guidebook out of her hands and looked it over. “He,” he pointed to one of the names on the cover, “is a good friend of mine.”

“I won’t hold that against him.”

“So where are your friends?”

“Shopping, I think.”

“And you don’t like shopping?”

Faith turned and held a hand up. “Before we get into that old chauvinistic debate, why don’t we save ourselves the trouble? If you want to make small talk and engage in low-level flattery, don’t bother. I suggest you try one of my friends who find you oh so adorable with your dimples and your come hither eyes.”

Come hither eyes? That was a new one.

“Are you sure you’re immune to the dimples? Women always love my dimples,” Nick said with amusement.

Faith opened her mouth, her mind seeming to reel with a stinging retort, when the rest of the group showed up. Everyone, full from eating and shopping, were chatting and gazing up at the Hollywood sign. Faith continued to sit on the bench while the others followed Nick.

“Hey, Happy. Are you coming? We’re on a strict schedule,” he said then smiled.

Faith joined the group, dragging her feet the whole way.

After dropping the ladies off, Faith still in resistance mode, he headed back to the office.

Nick smiled to himself as he cleaned out the bus. Faith decided to remain mute for the rest of the day. To his surprise, he missed her butting in and trying to take over his tour.

As he made his way to the back of the tour bus he saw her MP3 player on the seat. She probably listens to devil worshipping music. He turned it on and scrolled through her playlist, pleasantly surprised. She had a good reason for ignoring him. Her taste in music was the same as his. He’d call the hotel and leave a message that he’d found it, but tonight it gave him something to do.

If intimacy could be achieved by listening to someone’s MP3 player, then Nick felt as if he’d known Faith all his life. He listened to her music into the wee hours of the night, looking forward to seeing her the next day so they could continue their sparring match. It was strange to want to know someone who, by first glance, he had nothing in common with, but that’s what he liked about the world, things weren’t always as they seemed and Faith was no exception.

He awoke the next morning, still listening to Faith’s MP3 player.

Nick readied himself then headed out the door for another day of touring with the ladies.

The group was waiting for him, all smiles, dressed in pretty sundresses and floppy hats. Faith was standing at the front desk talking to a clerk.

“Good morning, ladies.” He greeted everyone with a big smile.

“Good morning, Nick.” Kendra beamed at him. “We’re ready to go.”

“Just waiting for Happy.” He smirked, watching Faith at the front desk.

“She’s not coming today,” Kendra said sternly.

“No?”

“No, you can talk without interruptions today.”

Strangely, today, he wanted an interruption. “The tour bus is open. Go on in. I’ll be right there.” He strode over to Faith, who was finishing her conversation.

“Your friend said you’re not joining us today?” he said with a raised eyebrow. “Was it something I said?”

“As if anything you say would turn my world upside down. Don’t flatter yourself, Dimples,” she said curtly.

“Then why won’t you be joining us?”

“I’ve decided to see Los Angeles another way.” He glanced at the map in her hand.

“Don’t worry, your groupies didn’t want me along today anyway. Now they can all drool and gaze at you like you’re some sort of misogynistic messiah.”

“What’s wrong? Scared I might know a little more than you?”

“I just got a map of Los Angeles from a man at the front desk named KiKi. It’s safe to say my courage level is up this morning. Do you have something of mine?” she questioned.

He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out her MP3 player. “You have very…interesting taste in music. I’m a big Eric Clapton fan too.”

“You thought I’d have crappy taste in music?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But I think that’s what you expected.”

“Is not. I don’t know what to expect with you.”

“And you don’t have to,” she said snidely. “Your tour group is waiting.”

“I’m not going anywhere without you.” He stood in front of her with his arms folded.

***

 *Buy links for all other retailers will be available 7/22!*

You can purchase California Bored and Tourism at the following retailers:

Sweet Cravings Publishing

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

All Romance eBooks

Barnes & Noble

BookStrand

Smashwords

Kobo

iTunes

 Check out another sweet, short story Memories of You!  Released March 2013.  In case you missed it MVP, the sequel to For the Love of the Game released June 2013.

Giveaway

Happy Reading!

Rhonda

Free Read Weekly – Plight of the Caribou (Part 4 of 4)

Plight of the Caribou©

(Part 4 – January 28, 2013)

The time Chase spent crouching in a bush waiting for a leopard to appear was nothing compared to the work he did at the walkathon headquarters.  Every man muscle he had been put to use as he toted boxes, assembled and tables.  Beatrice, the coordinator was all too happy to have a man in the group.  Maxine spent most of her time shaking her head at him.  Every now and again they would get to talk.  He could tell she was a lot more relaxed than she was at the dealership.  Chase calmly went home and informed Moira that he was spending the evening with Maxine and to his surprise she nodded politely and told him to have a good time.  It was as if some demure person had taken over his sister’s body.

When he returned home he found a note saying she’d gone to the movies so Maxine suggested they go to her place and she’d fix them a late dinner.  So, it was after midnight and he was standing in her kitchen eating a western omelet.  She looked exhausted but happy.  During one of his short breaks he managed to ask her what the walkathon was for and she replied that it was for lupus.  Her brother Daniel had died from lupus years ago and this was her way of remembering her brother.  He could tell she didn’t really want to say that but he was glad she did.  The soothing rapport they had transitioned seamlessly from keystrokes to real-time without much effort or awkwardness.

“So what’s the subject of your next documentary?” she said as she nibbled on her omelet.

“I was thinking the plight of the caribou,” he smiled.

“Be serious.”

“I’m totally serious.  After talking to you I did some research and turns out they do actually have a plight.”

“You know,” she smiled, “you are too much.”

“So are you.”  Chase moved in and kissed her softly on the lips.  When she didn’t object he continued with a more thorough attitude.  Maxine put her arms around his waist and hung on for dear life.  Chase felt like he’d been missing her kisses all his life.  After what seemed like an eternity, Chase broke the kiss.

“Moira is gonna kill me,” he breathed into her hair.

“Past your curfew?” Max laughed.

“No.  I came to California to see you.”

Maxine erupted in laughter.  “You’re right.  She is gonna kill you.  If I were you I would keep a secret just between the two of us.  I think she’s gonna kill me too.”

Chase wrapped his arms around her.  “And why is that?”

“I think I’m in love with her brother.”

Six months later…

“These graceful creatures are looking to you to preserve their environment.  Man has appreciated their beauty but unfortunately man has also given them limited options to roam naturally.  As we continue to find a way to share this wonderful planet earth, we should be mindful that all life exists for a reason and should be given the room to be free.  I’m Maxine Hawthorne and thank you for letting me share the plight of the caribou.”

“And cut!  Perfect Max,” Chase yelled.

The small crew gathered and applauded her for a job well done.  Max let out a big sigh and bowed as the applause came her way, grateful that they’d given her a chance.  She turned to Chase, who waved to her and gave her a big smile.

Chase never imagined his visit to California would result in finding the spokesperson for his documentaries.  She was a natural.  She had a curious mind and a sparkling personality.

Moira had even come around.  After accusing Max of stealing Chase, then Chase of stealing Max when she announced she was leaving with him to do the documentary, Moira had done more dramatic scenes with Shakespearian precision than a theater major in college.

“So how did I do boss?”

“Hmmm.”  He said thoughtfully.  “As your boss, I’d have to say hiring you was the best thing I ever did.  But as you boyfriend,” he put his arm around her shoulders, “I would say you did a damn good job.”

“I’ll take both those compliments,” she smiled.  “So what’s our next project?”

“Goodness woman!  I just yelled cut three minutes ago.”

“There are other animals out there that need their story told too.”

“And we will get to them.  But I’d like to spend two weeks with you.  Anywhere you want to go.”

Maxine smiled.  There was no place special she want to go to, she just wanted to be with Chase.  Who would have thought a chat with Moira’s brother would lead to her true calling in life, being an advocate for animals and sharing her life with a man who loved adventure and loved her even more.  There was serenity in finding herself, finally after drifting from jobs and places and people.  She was home and she loved it.

Missed Parts 1, 2 & 3?  Check it out here: https://rhondalaurel.com/short-stories/plight-of-the-caribou/

Free Read Weekly – Plight of the Caribou (Part 3 of 4)

Plight of the Caribou©

(Part 3 – January 21, 2013)

“Hey Max, there’s a customer out here to see you.”

“Okay, be right there Tracey,” Max sighed.  She wasn’t expecting anyone today but that didn’t matter.  Every once in a while a customer would drop by without calling with a question about their financing.  As Max forced herself towards the showroom, she thought of her evasive maneuvers the past week.   It wasn’t easy avoiding Moira’s party train.  Avoiding Moira and Chase also meant avoiding Shar and Adrianna.  She wasn’t in the mood for Shar.  She loved her friend but every time she peaked through her blinds Shar was with Chase.  She wished for the gift of invisibility and her wish was granted.  And it sucked.

“Hey Tracey.  Where is the customer?”

“Right over there,” Tracey pointed to the lounge.  “How on earth did I miss him the last time he was here?”

“You didn’t Tracey.  Calm down,” she laughed.  Max knew Tracey prided herself on spotting all the hot guys that came into the showroom.

Chase heard a faint sound of someone…sweet and kind and he knew it was Max.  It took some time to derail Moira’s daily action plan for him but this morning he decided to put his foot down.  Moira wasn’t aware of it but she was successfully aiding Max’s efforts not to see him.  And he wanted to see her.  He was able to wheedle as much as he could out of Shar during their outings, hoping she could shed some light on their elusive friend.  After his third day of questioning, Shar wasn’t offended that he was asking so many questions about Max.

“You like her, don’t you?”  Shar smiled wickedly one day when they were dining at a restaurant on the Santa Monica pier.

Chase laughed and replied, “Why do I suddenly feel like I am back in high school?”

Shar sipped her iced tea.  “No, actually it’s kind of sweet.  I wish was that young and innocent again.  You liked someone in high school but pretended you didn’t and avoided them, all the while you are pining away for them.  I haven’t liked someone enough to work myself into a terror of emotions in a long time.”

“I don’t know why she is avoiding me.”

“Why don’t you just ask her?  I’m sure the bossy gene runs in your family.”  Shar quipped.

“I know my sister has you thinking our whole family is as assertive as she is but her personality is an anomaly.”

“If it makes you feel any better, Max likes you too.”

“You think so?”

“She wouldn’t have disappointed Moira unless she absolutely had to.  She’s always there for us and never says no.  If she wiggled out of dinner with you that first night I have the feeling she was trying to avoid having a feeling.  And that’s what Max does.  Avoid feelings at all costs.”

“Bad break up?”  He said without hesitation.

“No.”  Shar said gently.  “More like bad life experiences.  She doesn’t let many people in.”

“So, any advice?”

“Find out what you did to hurt her feelings and fix it.”

“But I don’t recall…”

Shar shook her head.  “You did something.  You may have thought it was inconsequential but you did something.”

Now he was in a Mercedes dealership getting ready to make an ass out of himself.

“Hi Maxine.” He breathed slowly.

“Hello Chase.”

“So this is where you work?”  He said nervously.

“Yeah,”  she smiled.  “Are you looking for a new car?”

“No, I’m looking for the woman whose been avoiding me.”

“I have not.  I’ve been—”

“Before you lie and say busy, I should remind you that Moira keeps close tabs on all of her friends.”

“Damn nosey Moira.”

“Yeah, my sister’s been nosey all her life and for once this will benefit me,”  He smiled.  “What happened?”

Maxine had a choice before her.  She could play it cool and give some glib remark about being a busy woman or she could be honest with him.  Chase looked like he sincerely wanted an answer and God knows what he had to do to escape Moira’s clutches for the afternoon.

She took a deep breath and released it.  “A woman answered your IM and said you were busy.  I think it confused me and I got a little jealous.  Which is silly right?  We hardly know each other?  And just because I was beginning to feel a certain way doesn’t mean you necessarily felt the same way too.  Then I felt silly for feeling that way.  I’ve run through a gambit of emotions since talking to you that first night and I frankly don’t know why.”

“The same reason I’ve been tied up in knots since you stopped speaking to me, I suppose.”

“This is insane.  I’m a grown up,” she breathed.

“I’d like to believe I am a grown up too.  But I know I am just a kid at heart,”  he grinned.  “I would like to take you to dinner tonight.  Just the two of us.  I promise I will tie Moira to a chair and sneak out of the house if I have to.”

Maxine went into her mental rolodex.  “Tonight’s not good,” she breathed.

“Max.”  Chase sighed.

“I volunteered for a walkathon.  I am assembling the supplies for the runner’s stations.  I am afraid it may take all night.”

“Oh,” he said with relief in his voice.  “Maybe I can come and help?”

“Sure,” Maxine smiled.  “The more the merrier.  I will pick you up after work.”

“Cool,” he beamed.

Missed Parts 1 & 2?  Check it out here: https://rhondalaurel.com/short-stories/plight-of-the-caribou/

Free Read Weekly – Plight of Caribou (Part 2 of 4)

Plight of the Caribou©

(Part 2 – January 14, 2013)

     Well, she’d learned his version of their family history, which was pretty close to Moira’s recollection. Moira was the baby and the center of attention and he was big brother and acquiesced to her. But he did tell her how he’d loved movies and making films when he was a kid and that his dad bought him his first camera when he was eleven. Going to movies started as a way for him and his Dad to get out of the house and spend time together away from the Moira Show. But it blossomed into something real for him.

Now the hero scripted big brother had a face and an identity of his own. He had depths much more far-reaching than the adjectives ‘womanizing, globetrotting, and filmmaker’. He was a nice guy with a wicked sense of humor who convinced her to have cyber sex with him. She’d forgotten all about that! Or more like she’d tried to push it to the back of her mind. Like so many of things they’d shared and now she actually had to face the man she’d confided so many things to. There was comfort in the anonymity in the relationship. She didn’t have to keep eye contact with him, which she rarely did with anyone and she didn’t have to wonder if he was judging her some how. Every time she entered Moira’s apartment she gazed at the picture of Chase and his last girlfriend. It was funny how a decorative frame suddenly captivated her attention as she looked for clues as to why the two of them broke up. They looked perfect together in that frame. And he would never elaborate more than ‘it didn’t work out’ and she didn’t push. Why would she want to push? It was none of her business. Just like it was none of her business the night some girl named Francie, replied to her IM saying Chase was busy at the moment. She picked a fight with him later that night and hadn’t really spoken since then. Then Moira popped up two weeks ago saying her brother was coming to town. Maxine sighed again.

***

     Chase sighed as he relaxed in his first class seat. The woman sitting next to him, Rachael the chatty wanna model/actress, was chirping like a bird. Which was funny because before he turned on his laptop and his production company logo Noah’s Ark Productions popped up on the screen, she’d had very little to say to him. She was ranting on about some bit part she had on a sitcom and that she was headed to LA to audition for a bit part in a movie. From the tone of her voice, a combination of a lilty twang and the transparent way she became interested in him, she wouldn’t probably be tearfully clutching an Oscar anytime soon but she had the look, big boobs, long strawberry blond hair and the finest smile money could buy. And normally he would enjoy stringing along some entertainment honey that aimed their radar at him. And it usually took him about a week to inform him that his directional interests were mainly natural. After a meeting his business partner and best friend two days ago, they decided to start the search for a new face for their new documentary, presumably a female face.

But now, as he drowned out Rachael’s babbling, there was only one woman on his mind, his sister’s friend Maxine. He was more than delighted to visit Moira, it had been two years with them missing each other by days at their parent’s house. So he was jazzed about seeing his now grown up baby sis who didn’t call quite so much anymore for money, he was also intrigued about her neighbor and friend who he’d been chatting with for three months. He was also anxious to find out why she picked that argument with him the last time they spoke.

***

     It was if someone had wound a key in Moira’s back and sent her to the airport. From the moment she saw him and started screaming to the chattering ride in the car to the walk to the apartment from the car, Moira was on a mission to fill him in on every second of her life.

“I know this charming little bistro. Shar and Adrianna will be over in a few minutes. Then we’ll all go.”

“Is Max coming?” he said casually.

“No, she had something to do,” Moira grumbled.

Max peaked through the blinds as watched as Moira, Chase, Shar and Adrianna left for dinner. Although she felt a quick twinge of disappointment because she wasn’t joining them, she knew it was for the best. Chase in real life was pretty much the same as the Chase in the picture Moira kept on her table in the living room. He had on a royal blue dress shirt and a pair of jeans. Black sunglasses planted on top of his curly head, which reminded her of Moira’s when she first moved in.

As she listened to the faint chatter of her friends leaving the court-yard, she could hear that laugh Shar used when she was interested in a man. And what’s not to be interested in? He may not have actually been Hercules but Chase had the makings of a god. Chase was right up Shar’s alley. Shar was a part-time model and aspiring actress. She had striking features. One would say she was born to be in front of a camera. They were strangers who seemed to fit even though they knew nothing about each other. She suspected by the end of the night a love connection will have been made. For a moment that pissed her off.

Missed Part 1?  Check it out here: https://rhondalaurel.com/short-stories/plight-of-the-caribou/