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Heart's Cove Hotties Book 3: Dirty Little Midlife Mistake

Heart's Cove Hotties Book 3: Dirty Little Midlife Mistake

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Holy heat! Dirty Little Midlife Mistake is packed full of the best kind of bad decisions.

Candice Viceroy—widow, mother, business owner—isn’t supposed to kiss anyone.

Especially not Hollywood heartthrob and hunky silver fox, Blake Harding.
Not in front of half a dozen cameras and a whole movie set’s worth of lights.
And not when, for the first time in nearly a decade, she gets certain special tingles in a certain special place.

So, Candice does what any normal, rational person would do:
She runs away. Literally.

One thing she doesn’t expect?
For Blake Harding—actor, Adonis, ladykiller—to lay chase.

That’s when Candice finds out she has a very, very big problem on her hands…
...because when Blake catches her, he isn’t planning on letting her go.

One little kiss turns out to be one big mistake. If you like laugh-out-loud humor, burn-the-page heat, and banter up the wazoo, then you need to read Dirty Little Midlife Mistake. Start with Book 1 for maximum enjoyability!

MAIN TROPES

  • 40+ year old characters
  • Small town
  • Celebrity hero
  • Widowed single mom
  • Meddlesome townsfolk
  • Comedy
  • Steamy/Spicy

Chapter 1 Look Inside

IF SOMEONE WERE to tell me that today I’d kiss Hollywood heartthrob and certified silver fox Blake Harding, I’d laugh. And laugh.

And laugh.

Yes, my café is the official caterer on set for his latest movie. He’s filming a movie in my hometown, and he’s presumably eating the food I bring to set. If the stars were to align just so, I might catch a glimpse of his world-famous lips.

But I haven’t actually seen him.

So to kiss him?

Ha.

Nope.

Not in a million years.

First of all, he doesn’t know I exist. I’m a forty-six-year-old widow, yoga teacher, part-owner in the local café, and mother of an angsty teen with an unhealthy love of black eyeliner. He’s… Well, he’s Blake Harding! He dates starlets and supermodels. The average age of his lovers is somewhere between my daughter’s sixteen (nearly seventeen! When did that happen?) years and my forty-six, and, if I’m honest, it’s closer to Allie’s age.

According to every gossip magazine in existence, Blake Harding’s love life has a revolving door of gorgeous, thin women begging to be photographed by his side. I, on the other hand, don’t have a love life. I have a revolving door of dramatic teenage crises and mile-long to-do lists. In his world, I’m a lowly grunt on set who scurries in with trays of food then scurries out.

People like him don’t kiss people like me.

I don’t kiss anyone.

If you were to tell me that in fifteen short minutes, Blake freaking Harding’s lips will be on mine while he crushes me to his gorgeous chest, I’m sorry, but you need to stay calm and put on this lovely straitjacket. Maybe take a mouthful of assorted pills while you’re at it.

Moving on.

Being in charge of catering on a movie set is a lot less glamorous than I thought it would be. For the fifteenth day in a row, I pop the trunk on my black Ford Focus hatchback, throwing my ponytail over my shoulder before grabbing three stacked trays of food. Assorted sandwiches, salads, pastries, coffee beans, tea bags—it’s all here. It only took hundreds of hours of preparation and a few extra grey hairs on my head to get this contract fulfilled, but so far, so good.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been delivering food to set twice a day, every day, and been mostly ignored while I do it. That’s fine by me—it’s the most profitable contract the Four Cups Café has ever won in its eighteen months of existence. We have just over two weeks of catering left, and once it’s done I’ll finally be able to rest. Well, until the Heart’s Cove Fringe Festival starts a few weeks later. But I’ll have at least a day to myself. Hopefully.

My friend and business partner, Fiona, grabs another stack of trays from the trunk and lets out a breath. “They sure do eat a lot.”

“The more they eat, the more they pay.” I grin at her, wiggling my eyebrows. “And the more they pay, the more vacations we can take.”

Fiona laughs, and the two of us set off in the direction of the set’s entrance. The security guard glances at the badges hanging around our necks, then nods for us to enter through the gap in the fence. We walk over plastic cable covers on the ground, along a sidewalk toward the huge white catering tent.

Craning her neck to see what’s going on behind the cameras, Fiona stumbles over her feet then catches herself with a yelp. I snort, giggle, then clamp my lips shut when we get death stares from the crew.

“Quiet,” a woman with frizzy black hair hisses. “They’re rolling.”

“Sorry,” I mouth, then glance at Fiona and cringe. Her eyes twinkle.

“Action!” someone yells in the distance.

By the time we walk through the flaps to enter the catering tent, the center of my back is damp with sweat. I wipe my forehead and let out a sigh. “Has April always been this warm, or is my internal thermometer all out of whack?”

Fiona snorts, dabbing the back of her neck with a paper napkin. “Don’t even get me started.”

“We had to turn the air conditioning on last night for the first time. I’ve never turned it on this early.” I unpack the trays of food while my thoughts drift to my husband. He would have patently refused to turn on the air conditioning in April. I smile at the memory. The little things sometimes slip from my mind for months at a time, then come roaring back. He hated sleeping with the A.C. on, even when I was sweating buckets beside him. Said it made his throat dry, and for someone with lung problems, anything that impeded his breathing was a problem.

Turning on the A.C. last night was really nice, even if it did make me feel oddly guilty.

Someone runs past the tent at full tilt, and Fiona pokes her head through the opening before glancing at me over her shoulder. “It’s all so serious,” Fiona whispers. “Whenever I see behind-the-scenes stuff from movies, everyone is always laughing and joking around. That’s false advertising as far as I can tell. No one remotely looks like they’re having fun.”

“Maybe romcoms are particularly solemn to shoot.”

“I thought I’d at least get to see the back of Blake Harding’s head by now,” Fiona mock-grumbles, her lips tugging at the corners. “What’s the point of being on set if you can’t rub elbows with Hollywood’s Sexiest Silver Fox?”

“Careful.” I arrange croissants on a plate and set it down. “Grant wouldn’t like to hear that you have your eye on another man.”

“If Grant could be here to meet Veronica Taylor, he’d drop everything and sprint over.” She checks the coffee carafe, sniffs it, grimaces, then starts making a fresh pot. “We watched Take Me to Paris last night and he said, and I quote, ‘Veronica Taylor could take me to Paris any day.’”

I laugh.

Fiona’s eyes soften as she shakes her head, a smile teasing over her lips. She’s thinking of Grant. Her gaze lands on the glittering, emerald-cut engagement ring on her finger, and I know she’s swooning internally. I’m happy for her, even if my heart does squeeze into a painfully tight ball.

I touch the ring on my right hand for a moment, then force myself to drop my hands and keep working. It’s coming up on three years since Paul died, and although it didn’t come as a surprise, it still hurt like hell. I moved the ring over to my right hand before the one and only date I’ve been on since Paul passed, which felt significant but appropriate. I haven’t moved it back.

“Ready?” Fiona arches her brows and jerks her head toward the tent’s entrance. “I hear people talking, so it’s probably safe to exit.”

“Lead the way.” I smile at my friend and let the remnants of grief ebb away.

We exit onto the concrete footpath and I take a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air. We live in Heart’s Cove, a town on the northern Californian coast nestled amongst redwoods. In early April, the weather is starting to warm, trees are just starting to bud, and the promise of summer warmth is heavy in the air.

I love Heart’s Cove. Paul and I moved here when we were in our twenties, when he got a job with a local architecture firm. We never left. We had our daughter Allie, bought a house, and grew deep roots of our own. When Paul died, there was no question that Heart’s Cove would remain my home. I could never leave this place, even if Allie decides to spread her wings in the not-so-distant future.

Fiona’s eyes gleam. “What do you think about sneaking over there and seeing what a film set looks like?”

“We shouldn’t.”

“Oh, come on, Candice. Live a little.”

“When did responsible and strait-laced Fiona turn into a rule breaker? Have you traded places with Simone?”

She just grins and jerks her head. “If we circle back around the food tent, we can watch what they’re filming from the side.”

“Now I know where Clancy gets her rebellious streak.”

Fiona just laughs, grabs my hand, and leads me around the tent. Clancy is Grant’s daughter and Fiona’s unofficial stepdaughter, at least until the wedding. Seeing the three of them together, though, you’d never guess they aren’t related. They’re as much a family as Allie and me.

We weave through a few trees, squeeze between two bushes, and end up beside big lighting equipment and cameras. There’s a commotion happening to our left. My eyes flick to the distinctly purplish face of the movie’s director, Mark Yelina. He’s about to explode, and the poor, dark-haired production assistant looks like she’s trying not to break down and cry.

“Go and get her!” Mark shouts, pointing to the distant trailers housing the talent. “We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

“She won’t come out of her trailer, Mark. I don’t know what to do.”

“Tell her that if she values the four million dollars she so expertly negotiated for this role, she’ll get her ass out here before I fire her.”

“Uh-oh,” Fiona says. “You think he’s talking about Veronica Taylor?”

“I don’t know what other female actor would be paid four million bucks,” I mumble from the corner of my mouth.

The production assistant’s lip wobbles. “I swear, Mark, I tried. Ms. Taylor said her horoscope predicted she’d have a bad day, and she can’t leave her trailer in case a catastrophe happens. She won’t listen to anything I say.”

“She said—” Mark chokes on his own words, splutters, then spins around and looks at one of the producers. “Her horoscope?”

The producer, a woman in a silk blouse and pencil skirt, shrugs.

“Jill, you said she was easy to work with.” Mark’s face turns a deeper shade of purple, his ears bright red. Uh-oh. Not good.

“I said she was perfect for the role,” the producer, Jill, responds. “Her agent said she was easy to work with.”

“I’m going to kill her. No, I’m going to kill her agent, then I’m going to kill her.” Mark clenches his hands into fists.

“I don’t think his skin is supposed to be that color,” Fiona says through her grin.

I struggle to keep the smile off my face. “Stay and watch the fireworks, or make a hasty escape before someone notices us?”

“Hasty escape, definitely,” Fiona says. She takes a step back just as my eyes snag on another person standing on the opposite side of the clearing.

Holy hotness.

Blake Harding is walking toward set like he was sent down from heaven just to make women ruin their panties. He’s not a man. Men don’t look like that. My jaw drops open as he walks into view, arms hanging by his sides, his pose relaxed yet alert. He walks like he’s never had a care in the world, like he’s in complete control of his surroundings. He moves with careful, focused grace, and I understand why women flock to him. One look at him, and it’s impossible not to think of that body moving in more intimate ways.

Taller than I expected, Blake has thick, dark hair with a sprinkling of salt in his pepper. Deep laugh lines bracket his mouth, with just the right amount of stubble lining his square jaw. He’s masculinity personified. Eyes the color of coffee grounds sweep over the assembled crowd, a smile teasing over his full lips. He thinks this is funny.

“Candice,” Fiona hisses. “Come on.”

I stand there, staring at the sexiest man I’ve ever seen, immovable as a concrete wall.
Blake rubs his hand over his jaw, a brow arching as he faces Mark Yelina. He’s wearing low-hanging jeans and a tight, white T-shirt with a blue button-down shirt layered on top of it, every button undone. He looks like he’d be at home on a couch somewhere, sipping a beer and watching a game—and the couch would thank Blake for the honor of supporting his perfectly formed ass.

“We can’t afford another delay. We’ve only got two weeks before we wrap up.” Mark whirls, pointing to Blake. “We’re filming this scene with or without her. You need a stand-in?”

Blake shrugs. “Sure. Easier than professing my undying love to empty air.”

Mark scans the crowd, his thick brows pulled low over his eyes. Fiona grabs my arm and yanks me back just as Mark’s gaze lands on me.

Oh, no.

No, no, no.

Uh-uh. Nope.

This isn’t happening.

“You!” He thrusts his index finger at me.

No.

Every single person turns to look, including Blake Harding. His eyes crash against me, and I stumble back. Whoa.

He focuses on me, and I feel like the only woman in the world. His gaze snags on mine, then drops to my lips before climbing back up to meet my deer-in-headlights stare. His eyes hold pure power, pure male heat, and all of that blazing intense focus is pointed at me.

I might pass out. My feet move backward, as if the weight of Blake’s gaze is too much for my body to handle.

Fiona catches me with a hand on my arm and reverses my direction. Instead of pulling me back toward safety, she pushes me forward. Toward the cameras, and lights, and people…and Blake.

“She’s got the height, hair color, close enough build. Get her the right clothes and let’s do this.” Mark whirls on me. “You capable of standing on a mark and not moving?”

Somehow, my mouth moves and my vocal cords make noise. “Yeah.”

“Good. Caitlyn, get her dressed and ready. Let’s go people, we haven’t got all day!”

A tornado of activity erupts. A honey-blond woman dressed in black hurries toward me, a nervous smile on her face. “I’m Caitlyn. Wardrobe. Let’s get you dressed.”

“Okay.” Goodie. My voice worked again.

From there, I’m thrust into a tent and stripped. They give me a flirty summer dress to slip over my head while someone attacks my hair. I keep my hair long and usually in a ponytail. It’s pulled down while someone heats a curling iron, going to town on my head.

“Don’t worry, your face won’t be in the movie. We just need the clothes and hair to match for certain shots where the back of your head might show.” Caitlyn smiles at me, wrapping a chocolate-brown braided belt around my waist.

In less than five minutes, I’m ready. Caitlyn leads me back out of the tent and toward the mass of people and equipment, and my already-overworked heart starts going into overdrive.

It’s so, so different being on this side of the cameras. Half a dozen lenses are pointed at me, with more lights than I ever imagined necessary on full blast. There’s a gazebo to my right, decorated in lush flowers that definitely had to have been imported specifically for the movie. Nothing else is in bloom this time of year.

Blake Harding sits on the gazebo steps, his elbow resting on the top step while his long legs stretch out in front. There’s something in his eyes, in the way he watches me approach, a tiger ready to pounce. His eyebrow twitches as he takes in the sight of me in this dress, then his head tilts ever so slightly. Micro-movements that speak more than words. He makes a deep, yawning void open up in my stomach as heat gushes through my veins. If one look from him can do this to me, what effect would a touch have? A kiss?

Why the hell am I thinking about kissing Blake Harding?

“All right, places, people!” Mark bellows behind me. I’m thrust onto a mark on the ground, yanked around, and told to stay still and say nothing.

Easy enough.

That is, until Blake stands, his eyes heated. When those deep, dark eyes sweep over my body from head to toe, it becomes very, very hard to stand still. I fight the urge to fidget. My body is melting to a puddle of goo. His tongue slides out to lick his lips as he watches me, his body relaxed and easy as he crosses the distance between us.

God, I love the way he moves.

“Ready?” Blake growls low, his hand sliding over my waist. The touch sparks heat between my legs, the warmth of his broad hand making my head spin.

I nod, because what else am I going to do? Blake Harding is touching me. A literal Hollywood movie star’s hand is holding my waist. His big, broad chest is shoved up against my face, his depthless coffee-ground eyes laughing as he takes me in.

“Pretend you love me.” He winks.

“That’s beyond my acting abilities, I’m afraid.”

A delighted chuckle falls from his lips, and oh, I want to make him laugh again. I want to feel that chuckle in my bones. His hand gives me a little squeeze, which makes the space between my legs spasm. “That’s hurtful.” He pouts, eyes laughing. “What’s your name, gorgeous?”

Well, isn’t he a charmer? I pretend I’m immune but in reality, my whole body flushes. “Candice.”

“Candice,” he says, and I nearly swoon at the sound of my name on his lips. “I’m Blake.”

“I know.”

His grin widens, affording me a glimpse of his perfect, white teeth. That smile could cause traffic accidents.

“What exactly are we filming right now?” I ask while someone fluffs my hair, another person nudging my feet apart a few inches.

Blake’s eyes glimmer. He opens that sinful mouth to answer, but another voice cuts in before he can speak.

“Camera ready?”

“Ready!” another voice calls out.

“Roll sound.”

“Sound is speeding.”

A woman in worn running shoes hustles up to us with those clickety-clackety stick things they use in the movies—go figure—calls out the scene and take number, then snaps it next to my face. I jump.

“Action!”

And then my whole world turns on its side.

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