As promised in my post on Wednesday (where there was a Q&A and Hilarious Guest Post by the author) I have a special treat for Book Club Friday this week: an excerpt from NOBODY'S DAMSEL, by E.M. Tippetts!
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Chloe has finished her masters degree and taken a job as a forensic scientist back in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, only the press will not leave her alone. They follow her to crime scenes and report on her every move, eager to show that her marriage to Hollywood A-lister, Jason Vanderholt, is on the brink of collapse. Millions of fans who dream of their own celebrity romance with him want this more than anything. This scrutiny comes at a particularly bad time as Chloe's first case is a crime against a child roughly the same age that Chloe was when she survived a homicide attempt.
Now that she sees the case from an adult's perspective, she realizes it's much harder than she ever dreamed. It's even worse for Jason, who is two steps removed from the crime. He must watch and try to support his wife as she battles with past demons and tries to keep up with a nameless suspect who evades identification and capture. Never has Jason been more frustrated with his job, its frivolities, and its lack of connection to the real world. When he storms off the set of his latest movie, the press goes wild with conjecture. Perhaps he never was anything more than a pretty face after all.
Together, Chloe and Jason must find their way past all the popping flashbulbs and through the dark maze of the criminal investigation to discover whether they can balance their professional goals with the demands of a celebrity marriage. The odds are entirely against them.
* * *
Three cars followed me down the exit ramp, but I didn’t want to believe they were all tailing me. The farther into the Sandia Foothills I drove, though, the more obvious it became. Three paparazzi? I did not want to know what kind of headline had given me this kind of fame, but I was sure I’d find out. I felt a certain lightness as I turned down the private road to Jen’s house and saw my unwanted entourage pull over.
When I reached the house, Jason’s Prius was out front. I got out and ran inside with a mix of excitement and worry.
I found him in the living room, talking to Jen, who looked at him with her usual sisterly condescension. To her, he would always be her ridiculous, irresponsible little brother, even though he was only three minutes younger. He’d once thought that it was because he was the last of the siblings to get married, but our wedding hadn’t changed a thing.
My suspicion was that because Jason had moved away from the rest of the family when he was fifteen, he’d always be fifteen to Jen. He and their mother had gone to Hollywood, where he’d soon gotten work and become a star. Hence Jen had seen the rest of his adolescence in brief visits, on television, and projected large on the movie screen and it was as if all of it had become fiction in her mind. Even their little brother, Steve, was more of an adult in her eyes than Jason.
Right now my husband wasn’t going to give her any hassle over it. She was seven months pregnant with twins, which was why I didn’t see a whole lot of her even though I lived in her house. The doctor had ordered her to keep her activity to a minimum. At the sight of me, her face lit up. “Chloe!” She had the same deep blue eyes as Jason and the same color hair, though hers had curls. Once people found out Jen was Jason’s twin, they wondered how they hadn’t noticed it before. The family resemblance was strong.
I took a deep breath. There was definitely a lingering scent of garlic in the air. “That better not be your cooking I smell.”
“Don’t you get after me, too.” She was a professional chef who liked to cook to relieve stress, boredom, anger… pretty much any emotion. At times it was endearing, but right now it was bad for her health and that of her babies. “That’s Kyle’s cooking you smell. He made a bunch of meals this afternoon and put them in the freezer.”
I’d learned during this visit that he was a master chef in his own right. Kyra had explained to me that this was how they met; he’d been foreman of a building site next to her old restaurant and had plied her with homemade New Mexican food and offers to teach her some family recipes. Only, when he found out he was flirting with Jason Vanderholt’s sister, that had been a shock. Jen didn’t see him for a week, until she started go to past his building site with deliveries of fresh baked bread and cookies. According to her, it’d taken until the end of the construction project to talk him around.
Jason got to his feet and came over to hug me. “Hey,” he said softly, right into my ear. “My last interview for today got pushed into tomorrow.”
Jen grinned at the sight of us with our arms around each other. I’d been Jason’s friend for months before anything romantic happened, and I gather all during that time the family had been in agreement that Jason should try to become more than a friend, if he knew what was good for him. I’m still not entirely sure why they all voted for a girl who grew up in a trailer park in the South Valley and had bullet scars on her person.
“Okay,” I said, “so there isn’t a news story out that we’re on the brink of divorce again?”
I expected the usual chuckles, but Jen and Jason exchanged a look. “There’s always some kind of story like that.” He sounded defensive. “I just wanted to come see you.”
“Ignore the tabloids,” said Jen. “Pure fiction.” She’d once banned Jason from visiting when his bad press got to be too much. Like their parents, she had a rigid idea about how people should live and was especially protective of Kyra, who hadn’t had a lot of structure in her early childhood. If she thought the tabloids were printing pure fiction, then she was likely right. She’d been dealing with this for much longer than I had.
“What is the story?” I asked. “Just out of curiosity?”
“There are a few, and they’re all stupid,” said Jason. “Forget about it.” This time, he turned away from his sister. I saw his expression blank for a split second, like a shadow passing, and then he looked at me as if he had nothing to hide.
My phone rang before I could think of what to say next.
* * *
Like what you read? Then go get a copy! And for an extra treat, stop by Emily's Tour Promo Page and leave a comment for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card PLUS, if you purchase NOBODY'S DAMSEL by May 20th and send a copy of your receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, you'll get five bonus entries!! Yay for gift cards!