- N. N. Light
Climb the Salmon Ladder by @AFictionalHubb1 is a Love and Romance Festival pick #romance #giveaway
Title: CLIMB THE SALMON LADDER
Author: Allison Martine
Genre: Romance, RomCom, Women’s Fiction
Jamie Wallace was settled, not settling. Good job, great friends, and a glass of wine was all she needed for her little slice of heaven. Sure, everyone around her was pairing off like they’d just announced it was time to board Noah’s Ark, but Jamie never minded a little rain. But when a curveball out of left field blindsides her, knocking her long game out the window, she’ll have to scramble—and pack her bags. Bolstered by unlikely allies, she’s got to prove herself, and keep her eye on the prize. That same eye needs to stop wandering to check out the competition. She’s come to fight for the life she’s earned, not share after-hours Malbec in her hotel room. She’ll summon everything she has—from her no-nonsense attitude to her years of true leadership—to manifest her destiny. No matter what. Even if she’s no longer sure what that destiny should be.
And so they’d come back to the hotel, with Antonescu barely slowing down to let them out before pulling away again. Too much coffee for that one. Jamie had planned to go to the bar, see if there was any of that Syrah left from earlier. Maybe just get the bottle and go. Drink, alone, in bed.
But Hollister hurried ahead, and before Jamie even veered off from the main path through the lobby, Hollister hopped to the bar, with McGovern on his heels.
She didn’t follow. She wanted no more of either one of them, not tonight. She wanted her Syrah and she wanted to go to bed and she vowed to check to see if they’d left in twenty minutes. Thirty, tops.
Surely the two of them wouldn’t be chatting up a storm. She couldn’t imagine the two men having much in common, despite vying for the same job and working for the same nonprofit. No, they’d have a nightcap and call it a night. Then she could do the same.
Jamie took the elevator by herself and returned to her room. For now.
She flopped down on the bed, biding her time. She would wait. She wanted to strip out of everything—especially the damn hose—but knew she wouldn’t have it in her to fuss with her hose again and couldn’t go to the bar barefoot. She kicked off the heels anyway. She needed a distraction, from all of it.
She pulled out her phone, ignoring any new messages or emails, and loaded the gothic horror novel she’d started the weekend before, the second in a series by her now-favorite author. Ooh, don’t drink that tea, never drink the tea. She counted on it to absorb her own anxiety and replace it with an ethereal dread, which she much preferred to letting her mind wander into its own existential crises, with one blow after another. Ray’s engagement. Mere’s job. All of it. Things that weren’t hers, even if she’d wanted them to be.
Where did that leave her? Alone, counting down minutes in her hotel room to go get herself a glass of wine. Better than laudanum-laced tea in a hotel that wasn’t really a hotel.
She’d finished three chapters and had stopped checking the time. Had told herself she didn’t even need a glass of wine, and would brush her teeth after just one more chapter, then call it a night.
When the knock came, she knew. It made no sense, since she hadn’t expected it. It wasn’t part of her plan. But she knew.
She set down her phone, and went to the door without opening it, calling a soft, questioning “yes?” through the wood.
She knew the accent before she saw his face. She undid the latch, knowing exactly who’d she find, there in the shared hallway.
Cash McGovern, the bottle of Syrah in one hand, and two glasses in the other.
She opened the door wider to let him in, regretting it even as she invited him to join her.
His grin, mischievous, and his hands, full, Cash said nothing as he stepped past her, ambling over to the nightstand and setting down the glasses.
“The company downstairs left something to be desired,” he said.
God help her, she snorted.
For a split second, her hands started moving to cover her face, as if they could retroactively undo the snort, but she forced them back into position at her side, refusing to call more attention to her nose or the noise that’d come from it.
“The way I figure it,” he went on, as if she hadn’t just snuffled like a farm animal, “this is a two-man race.”
She didn’t call him out on his lack of gender-appropriate terms. He’d sized up Hollister and found him wanting. She knew she was the man he meant. The one who stood between him and the job.
He uncorked the bottle and she knew it was the one they’d shared earlier. Had that been intentional? Or had he just ordered what he knew she liked?
“Here’s to a little friendly competition,” he said, and poured them each a glass.
She was glad she hadn’t undressed. Glad she’d only kicked off her shoes and kept the skintight stockings. She needed to stay vertical, and clothed. Barefoot, she found she was still taller than he was. Just a bit. She hadn’t really noticed before and blamed his now-missing hat. Absent, not missing. She didn’t miss it one bit.
She shouldn’t accept the wine—should definitely not have invited him inside—but he’d already poured the bottle and it would just be the one glass. The bottle was nearly empty. She couldn’t get drunk, at least not off that wine.
It would be rude to decline, now.
He handed her the Syrah and she took it, her brain already memorizing the feel of his skin as their fingers skimmed, a chaste touch. She pulled the cup to her lips, waiting for him to mirror her actions. They didn’t toast.
It hit her tongue with a burst of acid, and she cursed not having the glass, earlier, to accompany the scallops. She wondered if he felt the same, berating herself for allowing her mind to slide there, for down it went, replaying the image of his mouth taking in the buttery, plump scallop in its entirety.
He needed to go.
“I appreciate the wine,” she said, taking another sip, “but I really do need to get my beauty sleep.”
He nodded but made no move to leave, savoring the wine there in her presence. “No rest for the wicked,” he responded, taking another sip.
She didn’t want to ask him again. Wasn’t sure she could. Imagined him setting down the glass and confiscating hers, and showing her what he had in mind when he implied there would be no rest.
Or what he meant by wicked.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
What’s your favorite part about being a romance author?
The FEELS! Those moments when my characters are falling for each other, where pulses race and the reader experiences it, too. That’s why I do it! That, and getting to give them happy endings, even if the stories that inspire them may not have turned out so well in real life. We all deserve those!
Here’s my tip to add romance to your love life:
I am all about touch: backrubs, holding hands, just running fingers through your partner’s hair…so intimate and something we can’t live without.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card.
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs February 1 – 28, 2023.
Drawing will be held on March 1, 2023.
Allison Martine (“A.M.”) Hubbard is a speculative fiction and contemporary romance author, penning romcoms as “Allison Martine”. A master of bad analogies, mixed metaphors, and poorly translated Latin, (which she vaguely recalls from her years as an attorney), Allison has a penchant for bourbon, wonderfully weird books, and throwing tropes out the window. She is the co-host of the popular literary podcast, Vox Vomitus, and host of To The Moon, Allison, which focuses on speculative fiction and romance, interviewing hundreds of best-selling, award-winning, and debut authors. A near-native Californian, Allison is a graduate of UC San Diego (John Muir College), and Pepperdine University School of Law. She lives in Orange County, California, with her husband and three children, and can often be found folding laundry while listening to an audiobook or trying to use her laptop in the pickup line at her children’s school.
Social Media Links:
Author website: https://afictionalhubbard.com/
Facebook: Allison Marine, Author https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063474850071
Book group page: The Bourbon Books: https://www.facebook.com/groups/678304989387710/