4.10.2014

Spotlight: Summers' Love by Stu Summers






Title: Summers' Love
Author: Stu Summers
Expected Pub Date: April 1st, 2014
Publisher: Candlelight Romance
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Synopsis (from Author): Following the collapse of her interior design business, Kate Winston moves to Georgetown with hopes of making it as a sales rep for Tasmania, a company selling personal protection devices for women. With rapes, robberies, and domestic violence on the rise, the nation's capital is a ripe market. But Kate's taser party implodes when her guests demand she sweeten the deal by providing autographed copies of In Heat , the latest best-selling novel by Stu Summers. With creditors breathing down her neck, Kate drives to PageMe Bookstore, where adoring fans clamor for an autograph with the New York Times sexy and single romance writer. 

Stu expects the flirty smiles and women fawning praise, but when his editor phones to inform Stu that his latest manuscript failed to impress the publishing board, his carefully crafted career begins to unravel. Stu has one week to deliver a complete rewrite that meets his reader's demanding standards. And he would if only he could write. But he can't. Not a lick.

For years Stu has paid a church secretary to ghostwrite his novels.Only now Hattie May Hall feels God calling her to write paranormal prairie Amish thrillers with an evangelical, Cinderella twist. With Stu's career on the line and Kate's big taser sale in jeopardy, an unlikely pair of hearts collide, providing a shocking climax at the world's biggest stun gun ball.

 



Chapter One
Kate Winston unlocked the front door of her condo and
stepped into the tiny foyer. Sitting in traffic for nearly an
hour in the parking lot that passed for Washington’s Beltway had
left her drained, cranky, and seriously contemplating a dramatic
lifestyle change—one that involved relocating to an island with
tiny umbrellas in her drinks, a bungalow by a beach, and a
personal pedicurist with really soft hands. Because, honestly,
what’s the point of the perfect tan if your nails look as though
they were trimmed with a hedge clipper?
With the door remaining partially open behind her, Kate
tossed her keys into a porcelain bowl on the credenza and began
sorting through her mail. When the tips of her fingernails grazed
the notice from her landlord, prickles ran from the crown of her
head to her shoulders. No need to look inside and read the fine
print. The writing was on the wall. As in on Wall Street. As in
bad financial advice. As in don’t date your investment advisor
when he has his hands on your portfolio and … other personal
assets.
The notice was her third in six weeks. Not good. Not good
at all.
She stood with her back to the hallway and wondered if
she should open the envelope. Maybe they were giving her
an extension. On the other hand, if she filed the notice in the
wastebasket under the credenza she could honestly say that
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she never read her landlord's latest correspondence. Before
she could make up her mind she saw movement out of the
corner of her eye.
Kate spun.
But not fast enough.
The man rushed her, shoving Kate face-first into the wall
and sending a precious piece of crockery crashing onto the
Persian rug. A pair of sinewy arms reached around and pinned
Kate’s hands to her sides. “Relax,” he growled, “this’ll be fun.”
But there was nothing fun about his sweaty face on her neck or
the cigarettes on his breath. Kate’s heart slammed against the
walls of her chest; her eyes darted about, searching the foyer
for a way out. In a rage of panic she felt along the top of the
credenza until her hand located her handbag.
She plunged her fist inside and rooted around until her
fingers curled around the stun gun’s handle. She pressed the
gun’s stub nose against the man’s thigh, and squeezed the trigger.
Bolts of electricity flashed; sparks crackled. For several
seconds the assailant shook uncontrollably, his heels bouncing
on hardwood flooring as the voltage shot through his body.
An acrid odor, like burning wires, filled the foyer. The pressure
she’d felt around her chest lessoned. Kate released the trigger
and broke free.
The assailant collapsed into a heap at her feet.
Kate backed away and studied the man. Black tee shirt,
faded jeans, dirty sneakers. Stubble on his chin. His stringy
brown hair fell across his face, shielding his eyes.
She calmly raised the stun gun to her lips as if blowing
away imaginary smoke. With a wry smile, she acknowledged
the group of women gathered in her living room to witness her
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in-home presentation. “And that, ladies, is how you keep from
becoming a statistic.”
Kate acknowledged the crowd’s polite applause.
“Should we call 911?” one of the women asked.
Kate nudged the man in the thigh with the tip of her shoe.
“He’ll be fine. I had the voltage set on its lowest setting. Barely
shocked him.” Kate dropped to one knee and leaned over to
whisper into the man’s ear. “How you doing, Rog? You okay?”
Her brother groaned.
Kate stuffed a twenty-dollar bill into his pants pocket. “On
your feet. It’s time to get started on refreshments.”
Roger pulled himself into a sitting position. “I can’t feel my
toes.”
“Aw, poor thing. Now stop being a baby and help me with
the refreshments.”
Roger massaged the inside of his leg. “Seriously, how come
you can’t just sell Mary Kay like other women?”
“Because this is more fun.” Kate fingered the top of her
brother’s head. “Is this a bald spot?”
“Probably from where the voltage exited.”
“Ha, ha. Good one, Rog. On your feet. Repeat: I need you to
get the snacks ready.”
“I mean it, Sis. You need to get a different part-time job. And
preferably one that does not involve shocking me with a stun
gun. What if one of those ladies zaps a guy just because he stops
her to ask for directions? Ever thought about that?”
“If men weren’t always leering and groping, we wouldn’t
have to arm ourselves.”
“We’re not all like that.”
“Can’t prove it by the guys I’ve dated.” She glanced toward
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the kitchen. “When you get in the kitchen make sure you put ice
in the cups and napkins on trays. Last week you forgot.”
Kate stepped over her brother and started toward the living
room. She hated using Roger as target practice, but she was
paying him. And as a struggling actor, he needed all the income
he could get.
When she reached the living room, Kate adjusted the blinds,
lessening the glare from the setting sun.
A petite young woman with a saffron bruise on her cheek
asked, “Is your brother going to be okay?”
“Oh yeah, he’ll be fine. I had the voltage turned all the way
down. Roger is a Tom Cruise wannabe suffering from a terminal
case of melodrama. That’s why he behaved the way he did when
I zapped him. It’s all theatrics.” She glanced in the direction of
the foyer. “Well, most of it, anyway.”
“Has he ever been in anything I would recognize?”
“Doubtful.” Enough about Rog already. “Help yourself to
the Cajun dip. It’s to die for.”
Another of Kate’s guests slathered a cracker and asked,
“Who did your drapes?”
“A mail order company called It’s Curtains For You. The
owner is one of my clients. Or was. Now she’s doing time for
simple assault.” Kate grinned; the rest of the women did not.
Noting the shocked looks on the women’s faces, she quickly
added, “I’m kidding, girls. You have to keep a sense of humor
when you’re armed and dangerous. Otherwise, you might not
have the courage to pull the trigger.” Ripping open a packet of
marketing materials, Kate dealt each woman a Tasmania Taser
brochure. She had no need to review the glossy pamphlet—she
could quote the statistics from memory.
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A third of all female murder victims are killed by their spouse
or partner. One-quarter of women would be sexually assaulted
before they turned fifty. Another third would be molested by a
boyfriend, husband, or relative.
We don’t need tougher background checks on gun buyers,
Kate wanted to say. We need better background checks on our
dates.
“Check out the testimonials on the inside of the brochure,”
she said instead. “Some of them are quite chilling. I’ll be right
back with the snacks.”
Kate intercepted Roger in the hallway. He was on hands and
knees, crawling to the guest bedroom.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“To curl up and die.”
Kate grabbed her brother by the collar and hoisted him onto
his feet. “Stop being such a drama queen and get those drinks.”
“Promise me you’re done, Sis. That after tonight this stun
gun business is over.”
“First, I have to win that Caribbean vacation. Then you can
quit.”
“Technically speaking,” Roger countered, “Nassau isn’t in
the Caribbean.”
“Technically speaking, I don’t care. Punch, cups, napkins
and hurry.”
Kate returned to the living room with a tray of refreshments.
“Try the gorgonzola crostini,” she suggested. “Goes great
with the bruschetta.” While the women filled their plates, Kate
asked, “So, ladies … what’s your worst nightmare?”
Kate feigned concern as the women answered.
“Trip to the emergency room without insurance.”
“Repeal of Roe v. Wade.”
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“Jimmie Johnson winning another championship.”
All eyes turned toward a large woman with rooster-red hair
and freckles. Picking at a pumpernickel seed stuck between her
teeth the woman added, “Hey, so I’m an Earnhardt fan. Big deal.”
“Me too,” another guest chimed in. “But I’m beginning to
think Junior will never win a championship.”
“He’s too nice,” “Red” offered. “The boy needs to push people
out of the way like his daddy did.”
“I get the impression all he wants to do is ride around and
finish in the top five,” said a pharmaceutical rep Kate had met
only the day before.
Kate loudly cleared her throat. “Can we get back to my
question?”
A dollop of dip dropped onto Red’s electric blue spandex
pants. She scooped it up with her napkin. “Worst fear? I’d have
to say it’s waking up at night and finding some stranger in my
bed. Saw on the news where that happened to a woman in
Gaithersburg. She heard a noise, rolled over, and found this fat
naked guy snuggled up next to her, snoring. After hearing about
that, I thought about buying a handgun, but I get custody of my
boys every other week. My oldest is a hothead, like his dad. I’m
afraid he might accidentally shoot his brother.”
“You’re right to be cautious,” said Kate, producing a forced
look of concern. “Buying a handgun is a huge step. In addition
to the costs, background check, paperwork, license fees, and the
fact that you’re basically buying into the whole male violence
culture, there’s the real possibility that you will actually have to
shoot someone. That’s why I love my stun gun.” She cuddled
it in her upturned palm. “In a way it’s better than a handgun
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because it doesn’t actually kill the perp—only makes him wish
he were dead.”
“I saw on the news that some states are trying to ban them,”
the pharmaceutical rep, whose name Kate hadn’t even bothered
to get, piped in.
“That’s o nly b ecause o verzealous l aw-enforcement t ypes
have given stun guns a bad name,” Kate countered. “But I
will say, Tasmania Taser has a terrific lobbying group on
the Hill working to keep personal protection devices legal
and available. Here, feel how light the Exterminator is.”
Kate handed the weapon to the rep. “And it has a range of
twenty feet.”
The young woman clutched the pistol-grip handle and
pointed the gun at Kate’s entertainment center.
“Careful,” Kate warned, “the black button you have your
finger on is … ”
Shiny metal talons exploded from the gun. The barbs barely
missed Kate’s television but snagged her beautiful custom
window treatments.
With cheeks reddening, the drug rep placed the gun on the
coffee table. “Sorry.”
Kate, eyeing her now-drooping drapes, remained upbeat,
though she felt the corners of her smile sag a little. “That
particular model comes in four colors: pacific blue, cayenne red,
twilight pewter, and opal. And for an additional $35, you can
order a matching suede carrying case.”
“Why would I want that?” Red asked.
Kate eyed Red’s over-stuffed pants and too-tight white tank
top. “So it doesn’t clash with your ensemble.” Although in Red’s
case it wouldn’t matter.
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12
“So how does it work, exactly?” the rep asked.
Kate walked to the window and removed the talons from
the curtains. “These darts embed themselves into the assailant’s
skin. The wires send a surge of voltage through his body,
shocking his central nervous system, and thus disabling his
motor functions. With the attacker paralyzed, you have plenty
of time to call 911, although if you want you could reload and
fire again.” She grinned. “Just depends on what kind of mood
you’re in.”
“How much?” asked Red.
“The Exterminator sells for $645.”
Red dunked a shrimp in horseradish sauce and smacked her
lips. “I can buy a lot of pepper spray for that amount of money.”
Kate sensed the momentum shifting. There was a herd
mentality to these parties, and Red had established herself as
the alpha female.
“True,” Kate conceded. “But with chemical sprays you have
to hit ’em in the face. In windy conditions the spray can blow
into your eyes, giving the assailant exactly what he wants—a
helpless female.”
Red sucked sauce from her knuckles. “Still … that’s a lot of
money.”
“But a lot less than a trip to the emergency room. Not to
mention way cheaper than the cost of a rape kit which, if you do
not have insurance, you’ll have to pay for yourself.” Inserting a
fresh CO2 cartridge into the Exterminator, Kate said cheerfully,
“Now, who else wants to give it a shot?”
The drug rep glanced over at Roger who stood leaning
against the doorway. “We’re not going to shoot your brother,
again, are we?”
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Kate shook her head. “No, no. Roger’s had enough
excitement for one evening. But I do have a mannequin set up
in the hallway.”
“I don’t know if I want to waste my time shooting cardboard
cutouts,” said Red. “Anyhow … I was hoping to swing by Page
Me Books before eight and get my favorite author’s latest.”
“You mean Stu Summers?” the drug rep blurted out. “I love
his novels. He so gets women.”
Red dunked another shrimp in the horseradish. “I especially
liked how, in Puppy Love, Rachel’s ex-husband died when his
sailboat mast hit the power line. That was awesome.”
Kate repacked the wires and darts and placed the
Exterminator on the coffee table. She was losing them. “Come
on, gals, who’s first?”
“Hey, I have an idea,” said the drug rep. “Let’s all go down
to the bookstore and get an autographed copy. It’ll be like we’re
having our own book club.”
“Count me in,” said Kate’s hairstylist, Alycia.
“Me, too,” seconded a woman from Kate’s building, a flight
attendant named Sue.
“I don’t understand what the big deal is,” Kate said with a
sigh that was not one hundred percent professional. “He’s just
a guy writing trashy romance novels. What could he possibly
know about love?”
“Oh, honey,” Sue said. “It’s obvious you’ve never read any of
his books.”
“You’re right about that. I only read serious literature. Jane
Eyre, Jane Austen, Janet Evanovich.”
“Not me.” Red filled her plate with crackers and cheese dip.
“The steamier the better.”
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14
“Besides, his books are serious literature,” the drug rep
added, then looked around at everyone. “At least I think they
are.”
Kate, sensing her large sale slipping away, tried to regain
control of the conversation. Any minute now, they’d veer into a
discussion of dating disaster stories and the party would dissolve
into a therapy session. “You really think this guy’s books are that
good?”
Heads nodded.
“And that an autographed copy of his book is more important
than you learning how to protect yourself from a sexual assault?”
Heads vigorously nodded.
“Okay, then how about if I do this. If each of you agrees
to buy either the Exterminator or the smaller Silent Assassin
tonight or one of the other quality Tasmania personal protection
devices, I’ll toss in an autographed copy of what’s-his-name’s
latest novel.”
“I don’t know,” said Red. “$345 is a lot of money.”
“$345 is the retail price for the Silent Assassin. The
Exterminator is $645,” Kate corrected her guest. “And don’t
forget it comes with a free DVD explaining the top ten selfdefense
tactics every woman should know.”
“It could be a collector’s item someday,” the drug rep
remarked.
“A stun gun?” said Red.
“No, silly. Stu Summers’ book. I heard he’s lost that loving
feeling.”
“We should be so lucky,” Kate grumbled. “Show of hands,”
she said with a raise of her voice. “Is everyone on board with the
Silent Assassin and this guy’s book? Do we have a deal?” Kate
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counted hands as something akin to euphoria swept over her.
“Okay sit tight, I’ll be right back.”
Stepping into the hallway she pulled her brother aside. “I am
putting you in charge. Don’t let anyone leave, not a soul.”
“Where are you going?”
“To the bookstore. I’m going to win this contest, Rog, and
this author fellow is going to help me.”
Minutes later, Kate burst through the doors of Page Me Books.
After cruising past
the cash registers, she joined a long line of
women snaking around racks of books. At the far end of the
room behind the book-signing table stood a gargantuan poster
showing a deeply-tanned man with a smile that reminded Kate
of the one Tom Cruise managed toflash
in every movie he’d
ever made. In the poster the man wore a white, button-down
collared shirt with sleeves rolled up to the elbows, jeans, and
bare feet crossed at the ankles. Behind him stood a yellow
beach cottage with pink railings and purple shutters, which was
something akin to her dream escape.
A store employee lingered near a long table stacked with
hardback books. When Kate reached it, she counted out fourteen
and watched as the employee waved a barcode scanner over the
back cover of each one. He presented Kate with two bags. These
she placed on the floor beside her. With a loud sigh that caught
the attention of the employee, Kate leaned out of line to gauge
the length of her wait. As she did, the author behind the table
looked up. Their eyes caught and he smiled at her.
Her heart leapt.
The man had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.