When my oldest son was three, he and I had a challenging day, during which I explained to him that I am the boss. Getting ready for bed that night, he asked my husband, “How can Mommy be the boss? She’s a girl.”
I kid you, not.
This same child has accused me of being lost while I’m driving enumerable times, despite my assurances to the contrary. He has lamented, “I wish Dad was home so he could glue this back together,” and “Daddy really ought to change that light bulb.”
I gave birth to the second coming of Archie Bunker.
My father taught me to change a flat tire and the oil on a car. I can drive a stick shift and wire an electrical outlet and work a compound miter saw. But my son thinks I belong in some 1950s kitchen, hemming and hawing over whether to make turnips or parsnips with the roast and béchamel sauce. (Keep in mind, it’s not the cooking that offends me, but the hemming and hawing. I’m all over French sauces, but that’s another post.)
In my novel, Meant for Her, Julie Trueblood is a strong, independent woman. If anything, she needs to learn how to accept someone else’s strength in her own life—how to be loved and how to love in return. Abandoned by her military father when he was accused of decoding secrets for the enemy, she’s spent the better part of a decade trying to distance herself from those events and find her place in this world.
When Navy officer Hank Jared is assigned to investigate a fiery homicide, a coded message and a clue lead him to Julie. She is pulled back into the past, the knowledge of cryptography that her father gave her slowly coming back to her working memory.
Hank is drawn to this woman, but suspects she is hiding something. The cipher holds the key to unlock the truth, but it will take time—time they don’t have—to learn its secrets. When someone is after Julie, she begrudgingly turns to Hank for help. He finds the perfect place to hide her, right by his side, pretending to be his girlfriend at his sister’s wedding weekend.
Julie will need to decide who can be trusted as she works to decipher the message and right the wrongs of the past. She is drawn to this man, but he represents everything she has run from. Can she see past the illusions and open her heart to the man she was meant to love?
The following is an excerpt from Meant for Her. Hank and Julie are alone in a bedroom at his mother’s house, where they’re staying for his sister’s wedding.
“Whoa, hold on a minute. I was just putting on a show for your new brother-in-law,” said Julie, standing taller and squaring her shoulders.
“He’s not my brother-in-law until tomorrow,” Hank corrected her, staring at her full breasts, then back to her lips.
“I’m going to take a shower,” she said, sidestepping to get past his wide shoulders. Walking to the dresser, she began digging in her overnight bag for her pajamas, flustered when she couldn’t find what she wanted. Feeling like an idiot, she picked up the whole bag, went in the bathroom, and locked the door.
She sank down onto the toilet seat, clutching her bag, and breathed deeply as she closed her eyes. Sadness and fatigue surrounded her in a drenching wave. She was enjoying the sexual banter with Hank, then suddenly she saw herself as he must see her—a grieving, messed up woman with nowhere to go and just a handful of people who loved her.
Hank wasn’t interested in her awesome personality. He was a Navy officer who just happened to be sharing her bedroom tonight, and figured he may as well get lucky. Kill two birds with one stone. She knew his type well and had little respect for them. The familiar uniform just added insult to injury, pointing out what she should never have forgotten.
Hank Jared was not someone she could trust.
Julie stood and turned the hot water on full force as she began to undress. She resented the fact that she was stuck here, pretending to be someone she wasn’t just to stay one step ahead of a nameless, faceless enemy. As the water sluiced over her skin, she shivered in spite of the heat. Her mind was full of images—a burned out hotel room, the window seat at Gwen’s house, a rusty red generator and footprints in the snow.
She thought of the message from the safe deposit box as she let the water run down her bent head and shoulders. Her quick cryptanalysis in the car had begun to awaken memories of processes long since forgotten. She knew and understood every class of cipher ever popularized, from simple substitution and Masonics to the latest in computer generated random keys and transport layer security. Her mind played the options like notes on a score, trying different combinations and looking for patterns that would confirm or deny their collusion.
Grabbing a bar of sweet-smelling soap, she began to wash away the experience of the day while her mind raced through secret codes and memories. Something was bothering her about the message, interfering with her thoughts like a car parked in the middle of a freeway. There was a familiarity about the cipher that eluded her, ringing the faintest of bells in her jangled memory.
Frustrated with herself, she tried to stop focusing on it, hoping it would gather itself together in her subconscious and emerge as a coherent whole if she left it alone.
Julie turned off the water and opened the shower curtain, gazing through the steam at the bathroom door with annoyance. It was going to be a long night with Hank sleeping on the floor just feet from her bed. The thought of him in such close proximity made her pulse pick up, and she cursed her own attraction to the man.
She dried her hair with the towel before wrapping it around her torso. The pajamas she’d frantically been searching for earlier were now clearly visible at the top of her duffle bag.
An old favorite, they were knit of soft green cotton, with a boxy tee and wide pants that were about as alluring as a potato sack.
“Thank God for ugly pajamas,” she said to herself.
The bedroom was dark when she emerged, with just a small nightlight in the bathroom behind her to light the way. Maybe he was already asleep. She stood still, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the inky blackness.
“I’m on the floor, between the bathroom and the bed. Don’t step on me.”
She could just make out the bed posts and began walking toward them in the darkness. Three steps in, she kicked something solid.
“Seriously? Because I didn’t tell you exactly where I was?”
“I said I’m sorry.”
“Well then, I guess it didn’t hurt.”
“Oh please, you’re fine.”
“You just kicked me.”
“What are you, a baby? Because you’re carrying on like one.”
She heard him stand up in front of her. “You’re calling me names, now?”
“If the shoe fits…” she was startled when he pulled her against him.
“Shut up, Julie,” he said, kissing her roughly. She pushed against him half-heartedly, even as her mouth responded to his and kissed him back passionately. His hand slipped beneath her top to caress the bare skin of her back.
He hadn’t meant to kiss her.
She had been playing games with him, flirting and retreating, and Hank didn’t like games. While she was in the bathroom, he made the decision to keep their relationship professional. He had no intention of jeopardizing his career for Julie Trueblood.
That was, until she opened the bathroom door and he saw her body silhouetted in the light of the doorway, the thin fabric of her pajamas teasing him like the sexiest lingerie.
His body’s response had been instantaneous.
This woman made him feel like he was in high school, all hormones and raging lust. He might die if he couldn’t get close to her, couldn’t rub her smooth skin and feel her body pressed against him.
Her breasts pushed at his bare chest, separated from him only by the light material, and his hand reach up in an intimate caress, making her moan. Her head fell back and he grabbed the hem of her shirt, lifting it upward.
Julie jumped back, recoiling from his hands. “I don’t want to do this.”
Hank’s stare bored into her own in the dark room. “Liar,” he said thickly. “You want to as much as I do.”
Her chin lifted in denial and she opened her mouth to speak.
He didn’t want to hear it. He was tired, he was aggravated, and he was bordering on crazy. He sank down on his makeshift bed before she could pretend she wasn’t on fire, just like he was. “Goodnight, Julie.”
She stood shock still for a moment before finishing her walk to the high poster bed, and scurried under the covers. “Goodnight.”
The carpeted floor was rigid beneath Hank’s frustrated form, and he punched the pillow in an attempt to get comfortable. He imagined resting his head on Julie’s soft breasts instead, and knew that sleep would be hard to come by this evening.
“Just so you know, tomorrow’s a big deal to me and my family. I’d appreciate it if you try to be a convincing girlfriend.”
“What does that mean, exactly?”
“Pretend you like me, Julie. Don’t cross your arms over your chest or walk away when I speak to you. Smile at me once in a while. Dance with me at the reception and hold my hand if you can stand the thought.”
He was about to ask if she’d heard him, when she finally replied, “Okay.”
“I’ll pretend to like you.”
“Great. Thank you. I hope the experience isn’t too painful for you.”
Meant for Her is available at Amazon: http://amzn.com/B008YYLYLS
Amy's novella Meghan's Christmas Wish is also available at Amazon: http://amzn.com/B009QFC756
Learn more about Amy at her website: http://www.amygamet.com/