I am BEYOND thrilled to share that my debut story, Challenge Accepted, received this award from The Heart of Denver Romance Writers group. It couldn't have come at a more perfect time as I'm finishing up edits for the second book in this series.
Challenge Accepted was SO MUCH FUN to write. The characters are just so happy and full of life. One of my favorite scenes to write was their meet-cute, which happened to be in the lady aisle of Target. In case you haven't picked up a copy, here is a blurb of when Callie and Zade meet.
“Zaria, tampons?” I growled.
“Yes, Zade. Open your narrow mind for a second and realize that your sister, the best person you know, is a woman. Man up.”
“It’s hard to man up while in the lady aisle. Damn. Too many choices.” I ran my hand over my face. “I have no fucking idea what to grab.”
“Dear god. You are a sad human. Have you never gone on a tampon run for one of your little hussies?” Sickness clogged her voice but the humor shone through. She loved messing with me and I couldn’t say she wasn’t right.
“FaceTime me then and show me.” I held the phone out and tried to hit the right button, but she declined it. I called her back, letting out a string of curse words. “What the hell, Zaria?”
“This is too much. Figure it out.” She then hung up the phone. I laughed. My mom liked to tell me that Zaria helped balance my self-esteem, which had apparently been growing inch by inch since I’d been in college. I considered it confidence, while they considered it an ego. I worked out to remain in shape, worked my ass off for a baseball scholarship and had no qualms about what I wanted in the future. Sure, I might have had a reputation for being a womanizer, but eh, I had no regrets.
Last year had been the best year ever. A freshman pitcher with the best stats and a full ride… Life. Was. Fucking. Awesome.
Except, when my sick sister guilted me into helping her…by buying tampons. I had two things left on the list and her torture of me bordered on abusive. Girl products…fuck you, Zaria. I read the list again, plotting my revenge on her. Tampons, sports compact and maximum hold hair shit. Yep, time to man up and read some girlie boxes.
I walked to the area where I thought it made the most sense to store them. Colorful bottles stared at me from every direction. I bent, reading each box. Nothing matched the name on the list.
“God damn it,” I said to no one in particular. Someone snorted and I searched the aisle for whoever had made the sound. “Woah.”
“Well, that’s the first time I’ve gotten that reaction.” The woman’s smile somehow transformed her already beautiful face into one of a model. I loved women, all shapes and sizes, but her… Her beauty stood out above all the other faces I had seen. Her long hair sat on top of her head, a few curls escaping. I had a thing for hair and the guys gave me shit for it, but I had the urge to reach out and yank the ponytail loose. I wanted to see that dark hair spread over a pillow.
“I highly doubt that,” I replied to the gorgeous stranger. To top it off, she wore no makeup and she wasn’t looking at me with wild eyes. She had no idea who I was.
“Consider me flattered then.” She walked closer, her sweet smell penetrating my senses. “I couldn’t help but notice you were uh, struggling a little bit.”
“Oh really? I think it’s perfectly normal for a guy to be hanging out in the lady-product aisle without a care in the world. I pick up my Tinder dates here.” I motioned around with my arms and she quirked a lip in amusement.
“Interesting. How’s that been working out for ya?” She placed a hand on one of her hips and I glanced down to admire her toned legs. She had to be an athlete, no question about it, and the strength of her body intrigued me no end. Not many girls could look hot as hell in athletic shorts and no makeup, yet she caught all my attention.
“I’m about two for four.”
“Hitting five hundred ain’t too bad.” Oh god. Baseball talk.
“Baseball fan?” I raised an eyebrow, somehow already knowing her answer.
“It is the greatest sport in America.” Her red lips formed a smile that I couldn’t help but match with my own. “I take it you are as well? I noticed your Toledo Mud Hens hat. Detroit fan?”
“Marry me. Right now,” I demanded and she threw her head back and laughed. Part of me wasn’t kidding. She fucking knew the farm team for the Tigers? My teammates didn’t know that.
“Ah, my dad wouldn’t approve of a Tigers fan…meaning I graciously decline your kind offer.” She rotated around and pointed to a White Sox logo on the back of her tank top. “We would be doomed to fail.”
I nodded, checking out her toned ass. God, her body had me weak. “Sometimes there’s a little fun in doing what’s wrong.”
She pursed her lips and scrunched her nose. “I feel like that could be a line you’ve used before. Try harder than that.”
“You’ve got me. Most of my Tinder dates like that line.” I shrugged, partially kidding.
“Hmm. With a face like yours, I bet you can say just about anything.” She eyed me, which I had zero problem with. “Now, let’s talk about feminine hygiene products.”
“Uh. Must we?” I groaned but decided to do just about anything to continue talking to her.
“We must. Now, what are you looking for?” She stepped closer, into my bubble, and I tensed up. That never happened to me.
“Sport tampons? Does that make sense?” I sounded like a schmuck. I knew it. She knew it. I mentally cursed my sister—again.
“Sure does. It’s the blue box right here.” She reached up, standing on her tiptoes, and I admired her calf muscles. She handed me the box and I willingly took it.
“Thank you, kind stranger. I swear my sister does stuff to mess with me.” I set the box in the cart and she assessed me in disbelief.
“The ever-nagging sister, yes. I’ve heard of her before.” She smiled, dimples popping out on either side.
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
“I’m not sure. You do seem rather uncomfortable in the girl aisle and you strike me as someone who doesn’t do something he doesn’t want.”
“Good assessment. However, I have another thing I have to get for her and I really don’t want to do that. Care to help a guy out?” I tried the line, knowing it sounded ridiculous. She waited three seconds too long before deciding to grab the list from my hand. I took that as a sign of agreement and cheered. “You rock.”
“I’m doing my kind deed for the day. The pay-it-forward type of thing. I expect good karma after this.” She hurried out of the scary lady aisle. She walked fast, her strong legs carrying her with grace. She had to be a runner and I suddenly wished she ran in front of me every mile I had to run. She ducked down another aisle and I quickened my pace to catch up with her.
“Where are we going?” I frowned at the hair products all around us. Colors were tough for me. Pinks and purples were a little too similar.
“This is the hair aisle. Do you not buy your own shampoo?” She tilted her head and I shrugged.
“Sure I do. But CVS is easier to navigate.”
She laughed and picked up two bottles of some purple stuff. “Here you are.”
I read the bottles and placed them in the cart. “Thank you. Seriously.”
“You’re welcome. I hope your sister enjoys it.” She said the word sister with emphasis and wide eyes.
“You think I made up the sister line, didn’t you?” I cringed, imaging Zaria dying laughing about this.
She wet her bottom lip so quickly I almost didn’t see it. The motion made me want to beg on my knees to see it again. “I want to say yeah, but I don’t want to come across as a tool.”
“You’d be honest. But I assure you, my sister is very real and will laugh her ass off when I tell her a woman didn’t immediately trust me.”
“Hmm, now I’m curious. I’m inferring from that statement that you pick up women frequently.”
“As I said, I’m two for four in the Tinder department. As far as Target pickup lines, I’m currently zero for one.” I slid that in there, hoping to at least get a smile. It did. Bam.
“Cute.” She continued to eye me and I let her. She wasn’t blatant or intrusive. She weighed her options and I appreciated that in a woman. “Who said you struck out, though?”
My eyes widened at her insinuation. An unfamiliar sensation of joy spread through my chest. “When someone turns down a proposal, it’s hard on the ego.”
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