Title: Smoother Than Spumoni
Author: Marilyn Barr
Genre: Paranormal Romance
She lured him into the ocean unaware of the dangers lurking beneath the waves…
Susie Larkin is a dolphin shifter and heir to the humble Larkin’s Dairy Dip on Seagrass Island, FL. Pedaling ice cream from bicycle carts on the beach is just a stepping-stone for this future CEO of a frozen confection empire—or so she hopes.
Frank Paulino Jr. receives his first taste of freedom from Strawberry, KY in a summer internship at Bart’s Oyster bar. His pasta creations save the restaurant when red tide poisons the fresh fish of the bay, making him the most popular werewolf on Seagrass island.
Frank and Susie uncover a conspiracy that threatens not only the wildlife of the area but also their lives. Can these two shifters put their ambitions aside long enough to give their relationship a chance, or will Frank pay the ultimate price to protect Susie and the island she loves?
Concern floods my conscious as Jean blasts me with electromagnetic waves. She is yelling in my head. I can recover if she would give my circuits a rest. Sheesh! I can’t reorient myself while I am sending reassurance. I blast out of the water, filling my lungs with head-clearing oxygen. I’ve had enough of this sludge. I propel my body farther north toward the sandbar where we hid as teens.
We lovingly called this particular sandbar our “treeless treehouse” or TTH, is big enough for the two of us to rest at high tide but large enough for a party at low tide. The jagged coral makes our hiding place impossible to reach by boat, while purple flags indicate the state government has deemed it too treacherous to be reached by human swimmers. Four patches of tall marsh grasses prevent our parents from spying on us with binoculars. TTH is usually our favorite hangout with the rest of the Seagrass shifters of our generation. However, time has slipped away, and this is my first visit to it this summer.
“Oh, how I missed you, TTH,” I yell while flopping onto the sandbar mid-shift. My flippers extend into arms which I burrow into the sand. I lay face down like a starfish, enjoying the sounds of the ocean, the texture of the warm sand, and the reprieve from the stench of the Red Tide.
“I don’t know how you swim and run so fast when you never work out.” Jean flops on the sand beside me.
“I’m tall so I have long arms, legs, and consequently, a longer fluke.”
“Remember the last time we laid here like beached whales?”
“Oh yeah, it was the time Troy brought the half bottle of liquor from Bart’s. I don’t know how he managed to sneak it out of the restaurant. He was so proud of himself. We were only what, fifteen?”
“Yep, fifteen going on thirty,” she says with a chuckle. “We didn’t know to sip flavored vodka. We gulped it like fruit punch. Troy was so worried when you started puking.”
“It was my turn at Bart’s that day too. I should have learned my lesson then; free food is never worth it.”
“Or maybe you can’t hold your liquor!”
“I learned the dangers of alcohol eventually, besides what else did we learn our freshman year of college?”
“Yeah, I think I learned my limits on this sandbar,” Jean says wistfully. She sits up and hugs her knees to her chest. “Remember the cigar you took from your dad?”
“How could I forget? He came home from a baby shower and threw it away, so I thought it fair game.” I mimic her posture. “Little did I know a puff on one of those is punishment enough.”
“I love how every story we have on this sandbar ends with you puking,” she giggles.
“Shh,” she whispers while crawling into a stand of marsh grass. “Do you hear that?”
The whir of a motor is coming from the swamp on Seagrass. I nod and roll into the stand of bushes at my side. A pickup truck backs to the edge of the water and shuts off. Jean and I fold ourselves as small as possible to avoid detection. Two men begin to unload barrels from the truck bed, exchanging them with lighter barrels hidden in marsh brush at the water’s edge.
They move quickly, efficiently, and silently, only stopping to check over their shoulders every few minutes. When the exchange is complete, the truck starts again. Even though it is dark, without headlights they navigate unerringly through the native swamp.
“That was weird. “You thought it was weird right?”
“Yeah, I want to know what is in those barrels.”
“Let’s leave it alone. We have been gone for months and have no idea how this area has changed. Let’s go home and ask our parents or Wilson.”
“Why? When one look at the label will answer all our questions? Besides, the truck has already left.”
“They could return.”
“As shady as they were acting, they aren’t coming back. Come on—”
“No way, Susie Q. We are going home.” Her voice shakes as she lays down her ultimatum. She can’t abandon me here in case I succumb to Red Tide on the swim home. However, tears have already started rolling down her cheeks. My bestie is terrified.
“You are right. Let’s go ask,” I say calmly. Why upset her more when I can bring a braver companion tomorrow? Surely a demon-slaying werewolf won’t be scared of a few barrels?
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Grab an e-copy on sale for only 99 cents from 2/4 to 2/25 on AMZ only!
What’s your favorite part about being a romance author?
I am in love with falling in love—not the perfect, movie falling in love, but the gritty, messy, real-life falling in love. Every couple (or throuple’s) story is as unique as the people involved, and I want to put those experiences on the page. I love exploring different personalities and thinking about their different date ideas—especially in small towns where gossip rules. My invented towns usually have one restaurant where our daters would dine within the local rumor mill. They must be more creative.
Smoother Than Spumoni is about two curmudgeons whose idea of fun is talking about trading and commodities. They are excited about their future as entrepreneurs and love each other as partners. They would rather have a perfect conversation than a perfect romance. This is a far cry from the princess movies I watched as a kid where if they didn’t dance at a ball, it wasn’t true love. However, grumpy introverts fall in love every day. They reap the reward of a loyal spouse and mutual dislike of crowded dance clubs. Susie and Frank Jr. drive each other to succeed and be the best version of themselves.
Here’s my tip to add romance to your love life:
It can be difficult to get “into the mood” after parenting all day, so my husband and I invented the 2-minute kiss challenge. Can you kiss your partner for two minutes without touching them, laughing hysterically, or giving up due to sore lips? Once you set the timer, you realize how long two minutes is—by design.
The first twenty seconds is usually filled with giggling and awkwardness. Once real laughter is released, both parties relax, and the real kissing begins. As the temperature rises, your partner becomes a forbidden fruit, because this is kissing only—no touching allowed. By one minute, someone is checking the time. What started as a silly game is now a test of endurance and restraint. Who will lose control and break the rules first? Will they be punished or rewarded?
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
Drawing will be held on March 1.
Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, published microbiologist, special education/inclusion science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, certified spiritual/energy healer, and advocate for the autistic community. This puts her in the position to bring tales containing heroes who are regular people with different ability levels and body types, in a light where they are powerful, lovable, and appreciated.
When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula. She is a sucker (haha) for cheesy horror movies, Italian food, punk music, black cats, bad puns, and all things witchy.
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