When an embittered artist crosses paths with a young widow, the heat is on…
When personal chef and single mom Katie Walsh jumps back into the dating game, Leo Treversini’s gaze in the doorway of a local bar lights up her whole body. Bumping into him a week later, Kate thinks fate is calling—until Leo’s bitter words hit her like a punch to the gut.
Recently returned to the up-and-coming Corvallis neighborhood, metal artist and loner Leo feels the beautiful power of Katie’s eyes like the flame from his torch, but discovering his muse is married and the young mother of three daughters cuts him to the quick.
Except…Katie is widowed, which means she’s free to love again—if she can trust a man with her heart and her most precious gifts, her daughters. As Leo is free to love her, if he can overcome a past betrayal and believe in Katie’s love. Add in the meddling community, Katie’s family and teenage internet crime and it’s going to be far from easy…or even likely.
Katie’s love might be just the balm Leo’s wounded heart needs, but will he have the courage to face his crushing past to accept it?
Can the artist with the wounded heart love his muse?
General Release Date: 17th November 2020
“Penny, I’m here!” Katie shouted into the seemingly empty penthouse apartment twenty-five floors in the sky. She lugged in her bags overflowing with groceries. “Penny?” There were several boxes, some open, strewn across the entry hallway, and packaging popcorn left a trail toward Penny’s office.
It wasn’t uncommon for Katie’s clients to be gone when she arrived. As a personal chef, she mostly cooked alone. But Penny Jager, successful sex therapist-turned-author, worked from her home, with its stunning view into Corvallis. Today, however, clouds hovered around the building, blanketing the town below, thickheaded and still, like a pouty six-year-old determined to wear her pajamas to school. The lack of scenery outside the floor-to-ceiling windows unbalanced Katie. Surreal to be up so high and not see anything but puffs of white.
“Be out in a minute!” Penny yelled from her office. “Sorry for the mess!”
I wonder if those clouds are as stubborn as my six-year old? It sure was a relief not to have to be at a job exactly on time. As a widow and a mom of three girls, Katie was never on time. She had barely dropped her youngest, Cece, off at the elementary school this morning before the bell rang. One more tardy and she’d be getting the dreaded note home about how attendance matters. Gah! And it’s only October.
Katie unloaded food and supplies and jotted down her task list. First, she checked the coffee—nearly empty. She ground beans and brewed a fresh pot for Penny who mainlined caffeine during the day. Next, Katie boiled water for the baked pasta she’d pair with meatballs and homemade pomodoro sauce.
She measured breadcrumbs and chopped fresh parsley. The repetition, the way Katie coordinated everything, brought her a level of comfort and energized her. Or it used to. She glanced up to the still-shrouded view. Out of balance, and not just from the clouds. More than out of balance. Needy, wanting.
She used her hands to mix the ingredients together then rolled them into meatballs and placed them on a plate to chill in the refrigerator. “It’s not your fault, guys,” she said to the food. Cooking wasn’t the problem. She still loved making food. It was just that, lately, her job, her life felt—
“Oh, thank God you’re here. I’m starving! We’re socked in like a cock in a too tight condom, I imagine. And look at you talking to balls.” Penny sailed in, barefoot and wearing what looked like a long fuchsia caftan over lounge-type pants.
Katie wouldn’t tell Cece that some people did get to wear their pajamas all day. Penny was nothing if not dramatic and blunt, both of which served her well in her profession. Luckily for Katie, she was also kind, full of compassion and had offered friendship as well as a paycheck in exchange for Katie’s meals. She was Katie’s favorite client.
Penny grabbed the enormous twelve-cup pot. “Coffee, love?” She grabbed a mug for Katie. “And please tell me you’re making those chocolate chip muffins this morning.”
“Better,” Katie said. “I made them at home.” She unwrapped a huge muffin and plated it for Penny. “Might still be warm.”
“Heaven.” Penny sighed after swallowing a bite. “Tempt me with the rest of the week’s menu.”
“Steak salad with farfalle, spicy chicken for tacos and I’m not telling you any more.” Penny was also her favorite client because she let Katie surprise her each week. Several of Katie’s clients ordered the exact same meals. Every time.
“Mmm-hmm, what’s got you sighing and lamenting over balls? Or is it the lack of balls in your life?” Penny’s laugh was full and deep, like a jazzy lounge singer in a smoky bar.
Katie’s face heated. “Hah! I was thinking how much I enjoy cooking for you because I get to interact with you.”
“And have me drool over your creations.”
“That doesn’t hurt either.” Once the cans of tomatoes were open, she chopped onions. “I never see the rest of my clients. After John died, when I started personal cheffing, the solitude wasn’t a problem. I looked forward to it, for the calm compared to the rest of my life and because I was barely keeping my head above water. I didn’t have time to get bored. Things were crazy busy, as they are now.”
“I bet, with three young divas at home.”
Katie laughed. Her daughters were divas. One teenage angsty diva, one serene know-it-all middle-kid diva and one loud drama-queen-six-year-old-going-on-twenty-six diva. “But now, I notice empty spaces. Does that make sense? I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. But I want connection, more adults in my life. I want to share my love of food and cooking with people, not just cook by myself all the time.”
“You’re lonely. How could you not be? You’re raising three girls on your own, you work your butt off as a mom and business owner and you have so much to give the world. Bet you’re feeling lonely in the bedroom, too.”
“Oh no you don’t.” Katie raised her hand. “I’m not one of your patients.”
“You’re my friend. And you don’t have to be one of my patients for me to see you’re in a sexual desert.”
“What, parched? Searching for my oasis?” Katie smirked.
“Exactly. Needy, unfulfilled. Wanting and enjoying a healthy sex life is normal, Katie. How long has it been?”
She didn’t hide her sigh. Way too long. She did miss sex lately. Jeez, was it written on her face or did Penny have a sex sense? “Since John died.”
“Five years? That’s no desert—that’s Mars!”
“Calm down.” Should I laugh or cry? “When should I have found the time, running my three divas to their activities, keeping them from killing each other, saving the house from my brother’s ridiculous decision to toss a puppy into the mix, working full-time, scheduling one more stupid car maintenance appointment?”
“Single parents date, Katie. You just have to make the effort. Figure out what you want. There are such things as babysitters. Mmm. Do you want to find someone again? Enjoy sex again?”
Yes, and yes, please. Too choked up all of a sudden to voice the words, she nodded. She wanted both. Hot oil from the sautéing onions zapped her hand when Katie stirred the garlic in. “Ouch!” she yelped and ran her hand under cold water.
“That’s a sign to take a break. Come with me. Wouldn’t you know these boxes arrived today of all days.”
Katie turned off the burner and followed Penny down the hall.
“We might need some whiskey in our coffee to have this discussion,” Penny mumbled to herself. “My agent seems to have a fortuitous sense of humor.”
Katie stepped into Penny’s bright office. Boxes similar to those in the entryway sat open with packaging strewn over the floor. Brightly colored items shaped like rods o…oh!
“A company called Love Handle wants me to review their new products.”
“Sex toys?” Katie asked.
“Honey, people don’t come to me for tax help. They want to enjoy life, find pleasure in the bedroom again. Or on the dining room table or in the sauna. With or without a partner.” Penny calmed her laughter before taking a sip of coffee.
Katie picked up a silver dildo bigger than any real cock she’d ever seen. “’Lonely Lady’s Friend.’ It’s apropos, but the name certainly doesn’t make me feel better.”
“That’s just it. It might make you feel a whole lot better. Look, there’s something for everyone’s tastes. Pun intended. Musical themes like The Slow Jam, mmm-hmm. Or A Day’s Hard Night. How about a fantasy line to tickle your fancy? A bit expected calling this one Unicorn, but look at the rainbow ribbed feel.”
Penny was having way too much fun with this.
“And good Lord, even techies need their toys—The Code Hacker. Oh! Here’s the box for you—food themes. Delicious.”
“God, don’t tell me they’re all different sausage names?” Katie couldn’t help her grin.
“Oh, no, much cleverer than that.” Penny wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes. “Oh, I do love my job.” She handed her a shiny gold vibrator. “Butter Finger.”
Katie’s neck was warm and she knew it bloomed bright red.
“Tell you what,” Penny said. “As much as I do enjoy a healthy sex life, there’s no way I can test all of these products myself. I think you should pick a few sexy toys and give them a go. Then report back.”
“No way. I can’t just try out a”—Katie held up what looked like a sparkly pink set of silicone beads connected on a chain—“on command.”
Even Penny blushed. She took that one out of Katie’s hands. “We should start you on some more familiar play. I’ll keep the butt toys for later.”
Butt toys? Katie buried her face in her hands, which only made Penny laugh harder. “I’m going to need an instruction manual for these tools.”
“Ooo, good one—you need to handle a man’s tool all right.”
Penny’s teasing and innuendos could make anyone laugh, Katie included.
“You’re suggesting I need to spearhead my own research,” Katie said. Maybe she could get the hang of this.
“Exactly, find someone to shuck your oyster.”
“Oh! Stop!” Katie said, choking on her own laughter. “Too far.”
“Okay…” Penny got more serious. “I think you do need more than toys. You need emotions and desire. Your assignment is to go out at least once before I see you next week. Schedule a blind date. Head out to a fun bar for girls’ night. Sign up for online dating. Talk to a hot guy. Flirt your cute butt off. Anything for adults. Leave all your responsibilities at home and start taking care of your health. Practice, practice, practice.”