My third published romance/suspense novel, set on the South Carolina coast, is getting stellar feedback these days. Here’s the summary:
What if you met the love of your life days after you, maybe, got pregnant by someone else?
Lonely but renowned artist Ariadne Franklin ushers in a new year with the vow of a ‘new me.’ Venturing beyond the usual confines of her beachside cottage, she lands herself in a piano bar. The creepy night that follows changes her life forever.
Days later, in walks architect Lev Porter to repair her cottage ceiling. Breezy seafarer Lev, with a successful construction company known as LPI, Inc. and a bustling lifestyle full of intriguing friends, falls in love with Ariadne at first sight.
The artist and the architect must navigate through their strong feelings and the repercussions of her tragic night amid threats of major LPI lawsuits on the South Carolina coast.
*Special thanks to my artist sister for illustrating the compelling cover! –CC
They won! Dansby wholeheartedly accepted the stipulation: He had to pop the question for Andee to be his girlfriend…or his wife. He had the night of their lives planned.
The producers of LOVESCENE2020 arranged transportation to the hot air balloon site. Dansby couldn’t keep his eyes off his date. Andee wore a white slip dress. She looked elegant and tan and ready.
Their lovely jade green balloon glowed in the sunlight. Soon, it launched them into a new world, a wondrous perspective on Earth below. “This is exhilarating!” Andee wrapped her arms around Dansby and kissed his lips.
“It’s kind of scary.” Dansby hardly glanced downward.
“Dan, are you afraid of heights?” She laughed her Andee laugh, full of joy and dares.
He chuckled. “Maybe a little, An. Hold on tight and I’ll be fine.” She hugged him and they catapulted into the fullness of the adventure seekers that they were. They got a bird’s eye view of trees and mountains and water below and a special appreciation that they experienced it all together.
Later, the first of many surprises came to life. Dansby requested the balloon land anywhere on the shoreline of Lake Somewhere in the setting sun. They walked on the sand and simply soaked it up. They found themselves on the dock, reclined and making private jokes and kissing.
Next, he led her to the boat house, another request that the producers honored. Twinkling lights, a quiet dinner for two, and a romantic bed set the stage. They spent the night together with Dansby’s promise of a “very big breakfast surprise.” They had, after all, shared twenty breakfasts with each other so far.
He was a bundle of nerves at daybreak. It turned off exceptionally chilly, making him glad he’d planned the fancy, heartfelt lattes. He left hers bedside with a nudge and scattered petals to a grass path nearby, which they had walked before, talking and laughing in days past.
Soon, Andee tiptoed on the path. He stood, trembling, with a vintage ring held in his hand behind his back. He gulped when he saw her strange face. “What’s this, Dansby?” It was not a face she’d made before.
“There was a stipulation to winning. I’m supposed to, uhm, pop the question, uhm, ‘Will you be my girlfriend…or wife?’” She laughed an odd, nervous laugh in reply. They stood face-to-face. “Andee, with seven days left here, I’ve been wondering anyway, you know, what’ll happen to us.” She looked away. “I did some research. We live approximately a thousand miles apart, Portland to Orange County, California.”
“That’s a long…distance.” Did she have tears in her eyes? “Why can’t this just be fun?”
No turning back, Dansby had given her a most romantic evening and morning. “Will you be my girlfriend?” He produced the brassy, beautiful ring for his brassy, beautiful girl. “I want to leave here knowing we will try.”
She touched the ring; she took it; she turned it to early morning rays. “Wow. So beautiful.” She gave it back. “This is a lot.” She patted his heart and stepped away. “I came here without expectations. You’re…an amazing man. I like you. I…might could fall in love with you.”
“I think I am falling in love with you.” He looked smitten.
What a handsome and happy guy. Andee had enjoyed every minute with him. “Your business is in Portland. You are…uh…stuck there, right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it stuck. I love my life and I make good money, An.”
“But you’re not moving to California. I love my life, Dan.” She fumbled with the braid at the nape of her neck. “Thank you for the best night I’ve ever had. You’re funny, you’re great in bed, you’re…very good with food and drink.” A tear slipped down her cheek. “Oh, Dansby, this is hard. To accept the ring is to enter a long-distance relationship or…to insinuate that I would eventually move to Portland.”
He didn’t mean to make her cry. This was supposed to be the best morning they ever had, too. “Hey.” He held her. “It’s okay.”
“I’m not saying no. I’m saying…” She looked up at him. “I care about you. I need more time.”
Dansby slipped the ring into his pocket and showed Andee his empty palms. “No rush. We have seven days before the contest ends. I only have eyes for you and…nothing but time.”
Paige wore a black one-piece swimsuit. Understated sexy elegance, just like her. Wilder waited in bubbling water. “This is one hell of a consolation prize. You’re gorgeous always.”
She dipped a toe in. “Thank you, Mr. Wisconsin. The voters have loved us all along.” She slid into the hot water.
He didn’t wait around and roped her in. “Smart people, they are.” He kissed her. They sure did like to kiss.
“Wilder, this is nice. Steamy. Literally and physically. Gosh, I hate to kill the mood, but I must confess. Caroline upset me when she got voted off and left.”
He made a concerned face as they floated apart. “Okay…”
“She told me that if I planned to move forward with you, I should probably know that she showed up in your bedroom the same night we had our second boat date. She said she showed up because you had been wanting her to.”
“Paige, I can explain.” He took her by the wrist. “Look at me.”
She didn’t. “I’ve heard it all before. I told you, I’ve been cheated on twice.” She faced the edge of the hot tub, back to him. “Trust is so hard.”
He didn’t close in on her, sat opposite, and soaked, simmering inside. “There was a spark between Caroline and me, at first, I admit. A few times, we made eyes at each other going into our bedrooms, but…once I had a chance with you, I made it clear when she showed up.” He sighed because still Paige didn’t face him. “I turned her down. Nothing happened.”
Paige dried off. Wilder got out. The bar had been set with champagne and glasses. “What would it take?” He embraced her. She let him. “Paige, I want a chance with you.” He poured champagne into glasses, grasping at any strategy to persuade. “Sweetheart, give trust a try. You’ll never be happy if you don’t.” He handed her a glass. “Trust me. I’m your guy.”
She toasted his glass and nodded. “Thank you for your patience. I am trying.” After a bout of quietness, Wilder told her that he thought it’d be best if he called it a night. He promised her that he was up for anything, when or if, she felt ready.
Paige spent a restless hour in her bed alone. She remembered handsome Wilder from day one onward. His grounded nature, his romantic gestures, their sneaky date offsite, and dozens of snitched kisses since.
She found lacy nightwear in her drawer. After midnight, in a direct replication of Caroline’s boldness, she slipped into his bedroom. She found him awake and not all that surprised. “Hello, Miss Paige. What’s on your mind?”
She sat on his bed with her back turned. “I believe you, Wilder. I thought I might replace the memory of…Caroline here with…one of our own.”
He crawled behind her and put his arms around her. “Thank you.” His nose nudged her hair. “You smell so good.”
“Would you mind if I stay the night, you know, to sleep with you? Like, hold me.” She had a shy smile. “I do love how much we kiss.”
They found their way under the covers. He did hold her. “Paige, you’re a serious kind of girl. I’m falling hard for you. What I mean is, what would you think of life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, when this is all said and done?”
She giggled. “I’m falling hard for you, Wilder, but I’m a music teacher in Kansas. Any chance your cows would tolerate voice lessons?”
He chuckled. “You’d be teacher of the century if you could make their mooing sound like a song.”
“I definitely want to explore a relationship with you. I told you that I wasn’t planning to you know here. Seven more nights like this and…”
“I read you loud and clear, Miss Paige. Just say when.”
They kissed till she, hesitantly, said goodnight and fell asleep in broad, steady arms.
Who cared about third place? Leo and Jacinta had been voter favorites for weeks. Who cared about votes, anymore, anyway? Not Leo. If he had his way, he’d be leaving Lake Somewhere with the love of his life.
Tonight, he would wine her, dine her, and, well…whatever came next. The other couples stashed away on dates, Leo opted for dinner and dancing on the shore. He held hands with his Jace and led her there. She went ooh and ah.
“Teach me to slow dance properly,” he requested after a relaxed meal on the sand.
“Properly? You, Leo?” She bumped noses with him. “I know you. You’d rather dirty dance.”
“You know me well! Show me the slow and easy and dirty way, Jace.”
Leo had music piping from a wireless speaker. He played Ed Sheeran again, same song they danced to the first time they danced. They ended up falling asleep on the same sheet they picnicked on after a lot of slow and easy moves.
Next morning, Jace awoke to a sparkling diamond engagement ring, a painted rock- Marry Me- and Leo on bended knee. She cried while he spoke. “The winner of the hot air balloon ride was supposed to pop the question, ‘Will you be my girlfriend…or wife?’. Jacinta, I don’t need a stipulation from the producers to give my heart to you. You have it. So, I’m asking…” He winked and took her ring finger. “May I move in with you in Miami? I’m a rambler, a hiker, a tour guide. My home is anywhere I choose to make it.” He wiped a tear on her cheek. “What do you think? You want to start planning our future as soon as we leave here? I love you.”
“You know I love you, too.” She snatched her ring, and after bouncing up and down, gripped him tightly. “Yes, yes, yes! I can’t wait to be Mrs. Leo. Ha, ha! One day…” Leo twirled his Jace around. “One day suits me fine.”
MEANWHILE, PLOT TWIST!
Before Caroline left Lake Somewhere, she ratted out Andee and Dansby for picking the lock to the loft hideaway and Wilder and Paige for stealing the boat and wandering out of sight on their second date.
The producers of LOVESCENE2020 determined that perhaps Leo and Jace fell into third place because the other couples broke the rules and created sultry dates of their own. Very unfair strategies to gain votes, even if it was in the name of love. The punishment? Andee, Dansby, Paige and Wilder – LOCKED AWAY in their own rooms each night- 8 PM – 8 AM- until voting for the FINAL episode ends Sunday 4/26 at midnight.
THE GRAND PRIZE AT STAKE? Six nights in Costa Rica upon leaving Lake Somewhere and $50,000.00 for the winning couple!
Here’s what happened next:
Andee counted on maximizing her days and nights with Dansby to make her decision about the ring and being his girlfriend. They walked in from his morning proposal to have the bombshell bad news dropped on them. She grabbed his hand. “Our only hope is to win that trip, Dan. I’m not ready to let you go. That I do know.” He kissed her in front of the others. “I’ll be in the kitchen making your breakfast at 8AM sharp every morning left here, An. You can count on that.”
Paige and Wilder came downstairs with dopey grins to really bad news. With a frown, she whispered, “We need Costa Rica. I’m ready for more with you.” Wilder nodded. “We’ll win. If we don’t, I won’t lose you.”
Leo and Jace felt sorry for the rulebreakers for about ten seconds after they arrived in the house. Then, they showed off her ring. Leo turned directly to the voters with his plea. “Vote for us. We’re in love and we could celebrate our engagement in Costa Rica. Who knows, we might go crazy and come back married!”
WHO ARE THE GRAND PRIZE WINNERS? Comment below. Take care, world. –CC
Here’s how it works (estimated time for players/readers 10-20 minutes/week):
*These ten fictional characters have never met and will be in seclusion together for the foreseeable future. Each week, an author’s scenario will be presented and voted on BY YOU and eventually characters will be eliminated.
*There are keys to six hidden rooms/scenarios/future scenes where characters can be coupled off, through voting, to get to know each other better. Rooms/scenes: 1. Library/Reading nook 2. Game Room 3. Loft Hideaway 4. Outdoor hot tub 5. Boat house/deck 6. Boat
*Each character has separate bedroom quarters and all of them are invited to co-mingle in plain view in the great room, kitchen, dining area, or on the open porches/shores of the lake house. These writing scenes of all characters will also be included each week, so you know what they’re up to.
*Voting will close each Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. Winning characters will be announced on Monday morning. After voting closes and winners are announced, I will write the scene IMPROMPTU and present it to you on WordPress blog by Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. A new round of voting will begin each Thursday.
*PLEASE VOTE ON THE MAIN FACEBOOK PAGE @Clare Cinnamon, Author EACH WEEK OR HERE ON WordPress IN THE COMMENTS.* GOT IT? Let’s get started!
*** Learn more about each character under their pictures. ***
(Yes, there are more females than males 😊).
Leo – 6’0” 183 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? It may be unrealistic, but I’d like to find a life partner. I’ve dated around. I believe in love at first sight. I think I’ll know rather quickly within a given scenario. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m outdoorsy. I’m a hiker and kayak guide. I can fish, swim, hunt, or run with the best of them. I’m a survivor. 3. What’s your ideal type of girl? Adventurous and spontaneous. Lover of life and creation. Deep, intellectual, and meditative. I’ve gone for brunettes in the past, but I’m open. 4. Number of serious relationships? Too personal. It’s all serious for me. Serious and interesting. I have no regrets. Number of tattoos? 1. 5. I should’ve … gone to college, maybe? I tried it. Again, I have no regrets. Every decision leads you to the next level.
Mamie – 5’7” 132 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A hearty, lasting relationship. Someone who brings me out of my shell. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? Good energy. I’m spiritual. I’ll see into their hearts. I’ll probably be the advisor and the shoulder to cry on. 3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Very smart. Bookish but with a lighter side. Someone who loves the ocean, to go on adventures and discover a good view. To sit and have a conversation without words. 4. Number of serious relationships? Zero. I’ve always acted older than my age. When I was young, they would crash and burn, poor boys. Lately, I put my whole self into work in the city and the weekends are my time to reboot. Number of tattoos? Zero. 5. I should’ve … dated more. I don’t know what it means to be in love, and I tend to overthink.
Wilder 6’3” 215 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? My soulmate. I want to get knocked off my feet and vice versa. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m down to earth. I work outside. I’m grounded. I despise drama. I’m used to a big family and practical values. 3. What’s your ideal type of girl? I live in a small town. I’ve been set up with every Homecoming queen/brownie baker/community sweetheart. They’re all great, but nothing’s worked. I’d like for someone to surprise the hell out of me. 4. Number of serious relationships? One. College girlfriend. She didn’t want to leave the city to marry me. Wait, does high school count? I kissed a lot of girls…I thought I was in love a time or two. 5. I should’ve … moved somewhere besides my hometown before I settled on the family farm. Oh well.
Paige 5’8” 125 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A long-term boyfriend or husband. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m a teacher. I’ll make sure they follow the rules of the game, set people straight, break up fights, and keeps us on a decent schedule. 3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Loyal, charismatic, not afraid of romance, handsome, not necessarily in that order. 4. Number of serious relationships? Two. High school boyfriend, college boyfriend. 5. I should’ve … never dated either of them. I’ve been cheated on twice. I’m too trustworthy. I believe the best in people.
ERIK 6’1” 200 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? To relax, unwind, and maybe fall in love. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? Medical attention? Ha, ha. Any injuries, I’m your man. 3. What’s your ideal type of girl? Calm, cool, and confident. 4. Number of serious relationships? Uhm…not too many. 😉 5. I should’ve … taken more time off from education and work. I’m almost 30 and never really chilled out.
Caroline 5’10” 141 lbs. 1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A romantic relationship to possibly lead to lifetime commitment. 2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? A ridiculous amount of useless trivia and book quotes stored in my brain! 3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Casual, easygoing, down to earth. Someone to confide in and laugh with. Good looks, always a plus. 4. Number of serious relationships? 4 or 5, I guess. I tend to date based on marriage potential. 5. I should’ve … traveled more, but I will!