Penny Paige is an aspiring novelist and current ne’er-do-well entertainment writer-slash-waitress. She knows she doesn’t have this whole thing called life together. But she’s got plans. Big plans. And they hinge on winning the coveted Malcolm Dagner Writer Fellowship for up-and-coming thriller authors. If she could just get enough time and money to write her sure-to-be New York Times Bestselling Novel, she can quit her crappy job and transform from a diamond in the rough to a sophisticated author.
There’s just one problem: Malcolm Dagner ended the fellowship, and he kinda hates humanity. He rudely lets her know that there’s no way in hell he would give her a spot, even if he had a fellowship.
Just who in the hell does Malcom Dagner think he is?
Malcolm lives in solitude among the mountainous woods in Colorado, with only the occasional company of his housekeeper. A few years ago, he was a multi-award winning and best-selling author who penned the iconic Reese Masterson books. But after a series of heartbreaking events, he’s grumpy, distrustful, and absolutely will not tolerate strangers coming to learn about how to write in his home.
Oh, and he has writer’s block.
The world has been waiting for three years for the latest book, but what they don’t know is that Malcolm plans to kill off his iconic character.
Penny discovers his plans to kill his character, and she’s not having it. Mother Nature seems to be on her side, too. Stuck in a snowstorm together, Penny falls for the loveable grump, though his heart seems as cold as the winter storm. Can her optimism melt his resolve at living unhappily ever after, or will another event outside of their control destroy their shot at love?
We were having a stare-off.
Malcolm sat across the impossibly long brown table in his living room. There were close to a dozen seats, which I found curious, seeing as he didn’t strike me as Mr. Hospitality. Thank God he’d put on a shirt. Although he wore a gray fitted T-shirt that stretched across his chest, I still remembered the muscles beneath it. A sprinkle of sandy-brown hair trailed from his chest down to his trim waist. His pecs had involuntarily flexed when he spotted us in the foyer. Despite being in mortal danger, my lady-in-waiting (I called her this because my girl hadn’t seen action in over a year) did not give one damn. She was all like clinch, clinch, drip, drip and yes, please.
Though the covered chest helped, his male beauty could not be hidden. He’d pulled back his shoulder-length locs into a black scarf. When he flexed his jaw, I noticed his thick brown-gold beard had a little bald patch just below his ear.
His grimace marred his perfectly sculpted lips, and those beautiful brown eyes sparkled with something dark and dangerous.
Actually, no. Upon further reflection, he seemed more irritated than dangerous. Oh well. Back to his chest and then, later, reality.
He crossed his arms. “Ms. Paige.” He snapped his fingers in front of my face.
“My eyes are up here.” He waved toward his face.
Damn. “Sorry. I was staring at—”
“Yes and no.” I pointed. “You’ve got a stain on your shirt, Skippy.”
He looked down, spotted the dark stain, and snapped his head back up. A little blush crept up his neck.
Oh my God, he was a blusher. Freaking cute.
He cleared his throat. “Ms. Paige—”
“Call me Penny.”
He sighed. “We’ve got a problem.”
I gasped. “We do?”
“Don’t be cute, Penny.”
“Can’t help it, Skippy.”
“You just ooze happiness. Like you skip through a field of daisies on the regular.”
His mouth dropped open. He smiled a bit, but the incredulous, I-can’t-believe-this-shit kind. “You’re gonna irritate the hell out of me, aren’t you?”
“No. Think of me as your muse, since I, too, am a writer and your number one fan.”
He smacked his palm against his forehead. “God, don’t say that.”
“What’s your position on babies?”
I tilted my head, and I was sure I had a what-the-hell look on my face. “That’s a weird question.”
“We’re well past weird. But I’d like for you to answer my question.” He lifted a golden brow.
“They cry, poop, and sleep whenever they want. So… I guess I like them. And besides that, they’re necessary for the survival of humankind.”
“So, you like them?”
“Sure. I’d be open to having someone knock me up. Provided I get the ring first.” I wiggled my finger.
He leaned forward, eyes wide, with a crease between his eyebrows as if my answer held the key to his happiness. “I don’t own a sledgehammer, just so you know,” he said completely out of the blue.
“Yeah. Just a gun. Why are you…” Then I remembered babies… sledgehammers. Blood drained from my face. “Are you comparing me to Kathy Bates from the movie Misery?”
“One: You said you were my number one fan. Two: You showed up at my house.”
When he said it like that, the evidence did point to me being a creeper.
“F-first off,” I sputtered. “Your friends were the ones who set us up. Martha told me I should apologize in person—in a public location, mind you. She later confirmed that you expected me at your class today and looked forward to my apology. And then, when the class was canceled, she said you’d be happy to have me over here instead.”
He snorted. “I just bet she did.”
“She did! I can show you the emails.” When I pulled my phone from my pocket, he waved me away.
“I believe you. She and Tina have been trying and failing to find someone for me.”
“I swear, I’m not a creeper, just a concerned citizen. Besides, if something happened to the great Malcolm Dagner because of something I said or did, I’d be the most hated person in the world.”
“Right.” He said it like he didn’t see a speck of truth in those words.
“I’ll be here for one night, no big deal.” I shrugged, shooting for casual. Meanwhile, the thought of being stuck out here, alone with him, made my heart pump like I was running a marathon.
“Have you ever been in a snowstorm, Ms. Paige?”
“Obviously. I hail from Denver.”
He snorted. “Yes, exactly. You have snowplows, plans, and infrastructure should a storm roll through. But if you haven’t noticed, I live in the boonies.”
“Oh, I’ve noticed.”
He leaned forward, arms still crossed. “If we get the ten or more inches of snow they’re predicting, you’ll be here for more than a day.”
Yeah, I’d been avoiding thinking about that possibility. I’d thought I could beat the snow when I got on the plane earlier today, but the storm came early. “I only packed three days’ worth of clothes. Do you have a washer and dryer?”
“No. I beat my garments over rocks.” He eyed my small, bright green suitcase I’d placed in the corner. “What do you have in there?”
“Clothes, laptop, toothbrush, ninja stars.”
His eyebrows shot to his hairline. “Ninja stars?”
Either this man had no sense of humor, or he really thought I might kill him. “Kidding.” I snorted. “TSA confiscated them.”
“We’re about to experience the storm of the decade and you flew hundreds of miles away from home to offer a flimsy apology—which I still haven’t received, by the way. You’ve skipped well past naivety and you’re sitting soundly on idiotic.” He was pissed, seriously pissed.
But I was getting there too. “I’m sorry, Malcolm. Truly, I am. But whatever midlife crisis you’ve got going on here has nothing to do with me. I’m not laying my neck on the chopping block.”
“Huh? I’m not going through a crisis. Why would you say that?” He uncrossed his arms, but he didn’t lean forward like he usually did while he interrogated me.
“The ratty shirt. The stacks of paper with red-scribbled conspiracy theory notes.” I pointed to the piles of paper on the table, in the corners of the room, and near the door. “And no offense, but it looks like you haven’t shaved or showered in about a week.”
“I’ve showered,” he said through clenched teeth. “And the stacks of paper are part of a writer’s editing process.”
“Good to know,” I said with a heavy dose of sarcasm in my tone.
Pull it back, Penny. I wasn’t usually this aggressive, but damn, this man infuriated me. I gave him my Schnitzels & Brats smile. “I know my being here is a huge inconvenience, but I solemnly swear to never break your legs, tie you to the bed, or shoot you, so long as you keep Reese Masterson alive.”
He slammed his palms against the table and rose. “I’m going to write. There’s a room down the hall to the right. The door is open, and the sheets on the bed are clean.” He pinched his nose. “That’s why Tina washed the sheets, the sneak,” he said almost to himself. “A few rules… don’t make yourself at home. You are to use the one room, and the bathroom, that’s it. Do not go upstairs. Do not touch my things, and for the love of all that is good in the world, do not step into my office. It’s my private sanctuary.”