Title: Not Your Mama’s Mambo
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When the overbearing parents of billionaire Mike Woodley move back to town and reclaim the family home, he's ready to escape to his new house. First, he needs an interior decorator. Local artist Darren Williams could be the answer to his prayers, until he insults her. But to pay off yet another of her sister's gambling debts, she puts her bruised ego aside and accepts the job.
As they work on Mike’s house, the sexual attraction between Mike and Darren ignites, though neither wants anything more than a fling. Darren is still getting past the death of her fiancé, and the marital discord in Mike’s family has discouraged him from settling down. Still, they can’t stay away from each other, until family matters intervene. Before their relationship can move on, Mike has to confront his family’s expectations and Darren must allow her own family to help her for once.
“Who was this client?” her mother asked, her eyes narrowed. “Someone I might know?”
“As in the Woodleys?” Her mother’s voice rose.
“Uh, yes. At first, I thought he was Jake Bonneville’s manager. That’s how he was introduced at the showing. I didn’t realize he was part of that family until later.”
Her mother poured her own cup of coffee. At this time of day, midafternoon, there were no other customers. “So he bought one of your finished pieces and then ordered another after that?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Maybe his purchases were just his way of seeing more of you.”
Darren shook her head vigorously. “No, Mom. Don’t start seeing orange blossoms and champagne glasses. He only bought them as a favor to Janice Collier, who not only owns the gallery but is Jake Bonneville’s mother.”
A tinkling sound came from the door, signaling the arrival of another customer. Darren’s mother grabbed her pad, prepared to take an order, then stopped, smiled. “Darren? Does this Woodley guy have dirty blond hair that looks like it hasn’t been combed in a couple days?”
“That’s one way of describing it. Why?”
Her mother didn’t reply but instead backed away and busied herself stacking clean coffee cups several feet away while the new customer took a seat at the counter.
“Hi,” Mike Woodley said as he settled next to her and unzipped his windbreaker. “Looks like I’m too late to join you.”
Darren attempted to cover her surprise as well as thank her lucky stars he hadn’t arrived any sooner. “Hi yourself. What brings you here?”
“Janice Collier told me if you weren’t at your studio, you were most likely here. This a favorite or something?”
“That’s my mother over there with the crockery, pretending not to listen. She’s head waitress.”
“Ah. Mystery solved. Hello, Mrs. Williams. Hope you’re not closed. I could use a cup of java.”
Her mother nodded and took care of his request immediately. After she placed the cup and spoon in front of him, Darren introduced him. “I hear you had some problems with the nice picture my daughter made for you. She’s a good artist, young man. A great artist.”
Darren groaned inwardly at her mother’s temerity. But then, when it came to defending her offspring, her mom could be a tigress.
Mike eyed her mother a moment and then turned to Darren. “That’s what I came to tell her, ma’am. And apologize for my behavior when she presented it to me.”
Her mother’s demeanor immediately changed from protective to solicitous. “In that case, why don’t I get you the last piece of apple pie, on the house, while you tell her?” She was gone before Mike could protest.
“You don’t have to eat the pie. My mom can be rather pushy at times.”
“You think I’d turn down a piece of pie? I haven’t indulged in a long time, but now that she mentioned it, it’s all I can think about. Well, that and the apology I owe you.”
Be cool, girl. Don’t let him know how much he infuriated you. She faced him. “Okay. Let’s hear it.”
He stared at her a bit, as if he wasn’t expecting such directness. “Uh, yeah. Well, here’s the thing. Sometimes I can be too blunt. I say what’s on my mind before thinking it through. Just before you showed up, I’d received bad news about a sale. Our sales have hit a few bumps in the road lately. I, uh, took out my frustration on you.”
She didn’t reply but instead waited for the rest.
Finally, he caught on. “So I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. Does that mean you’re ready to accept the painting?”
He sat back. “Uh, no. I still have problems with it. But I could have turned it down with more civility.”
Should she be pleased he’d tracked her down to apologize or continue being angry because he still didn’t want the painting? She’d take the personal touch as a positive sign. He could’ve called or even e-mailed. Besides, she liked seeing him again. “Uh, okay.”
“Great. I’m glad that’s settled. You’re really good at what you do. I just wasn’t expecting those colors. But take your time. I want to hang it in the home I’m building at Sullivan’s Creek, and it’s far from finished.”
“I didn’t know there was a new home in the works. I thought you were happy at your parents’ place.”
“Have been, although that may change once my parents are there. My mother showed up as you were leaving and informed me she and my dad are returning to town. As for the new house, that was actually the one Ned was building for his mother, your friend Janice, but once she started seeing Shae Harriman’s father, Tim, she preferred to stay closer to town, so I bought it from Ned.”
Wow, the guy had a lot more going on in his life than just losing sales. Maybe she should cut him a break.
“Would you, uh, like to see it? My new house. The exterior is pretty much finished except for the landscaping. The bones of the interior are done as well, but the rest awaits my decisions on colors and other stuff.”
Hadn’t expected such an invitation. She’d heard a lot about Sullivan’s Creek from Janice, when her house was first under construction, but Darren didn’t know Mike was the new owner. She’d been that busy with her work. Why not check it out? She doubted she’d get much painting done the rest of the day anyhow. “Okay.”
As she rose and accompanied him to the door, she could feel her mother’s eyes on her back. Without a doubt, she’d be receiving a call later that evening.
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Share a holiday family tradition:
For years, while the kids were still home and later when we had Christmas visitors, my go-to Christmas Eve meal was chili. I’m not one for spicy food, so my version was more a hamburger soup with stewed tomatoes and kidney beans. It was easy to fix ahead, since I was still employed outside the home then, and could be readily heated so the family, anxious to move ahead with other Christmas festivities, could get in a meal and then start to celebrate.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella romance, especially one set during the holidays? In this case, the part of the fabled heroine is played by a struggling artist who finds herself needing money fast to pay off her younger sister’s gambling debts. The handsome prince is a billionaire bachelor whose mother pressures him to settle down. The grand ball is replaced with a family Christmas dinner at his new home he uses to put her off her matchmaking. The problem is, it’s early November, and his home has yet to be furnished. Even his money can’t convince the high-priced interior decorators to reschedule their bookings and come to his rescue. Desperate, he turns to the artist, telling her decorating a house is just like filling a blank canvas. Though she isn’t as confident as he is, she needs the money and agrees.
Seemingly, both their needs are met. The irony is, as they work together to determine paint colors and furniture styles, arguing most of the way, they fall in love and his mother ends up getting her way. But not before the whole family, including hers, are marooned in the new home during a Christmas blizzard.
Where does the fairy godmother come in? I guess that would be me, the author, waving my magic wand across my keyboard.