by Amy Gregory
Happy New Year’s! As excited I am for the release of CHARMING JEFF, I’m also a bit sad. I’ve mentioned this over the years, but for anyone new to me, I’ll admit I’m a wee bit off my rocker. I get attached to these characters. Maybe that’s the reason I always end up extending one book into two, then it’s got a mind of its own and it becomes a series. MIKE’S WAY BACK was a spin off from my first series Racing to Love. I had numerous people message me and let me know they’d fallen for the strong detective who was the older brother in my very first book.
So, after four more books and the series ended, I made good on my promise to tell Mike’s story. Of course, Mike had to have a best friend and boom, Finding Perfect was now a series. Jeff Hughes and Mike Sterling had been friends since elementary school. And Jeff helped orchestrate Mike’s relationship with Taryn in book one of the series. He didn’t know by playing matchmaker, his skills would be used against him at a later date. But friends are chosen family and therein lies my problem. I fall in love with these people, they become—here is where I sound like I’m ready for a padded room—real to me.
I know them before I begin writing. It’s my process. I develop them, their past, their childhood, their occupations, what they like, what makes them happy, everything. From there, I know who they’ll end up with, but never the process, there’s no plotting out each chapter, each scene. It’s also what determines the length of a series for me, the secondary characters and the circle of friends who have lives intertwining with the first couple. It’s also when I know to let go. Sure, I can do a pop-up novella down the road for a holiday book, but it’s really hard once you’ve developed a town, the shops, the homes, the people who become the series you’ve spent hours, days, months on…to just walk away. Again, I sound like a complete basket-case, don’t I?
Jeff was always the strong, silent guy throughout the series. He owns the local bar and grill and was in every book. Every couple spent time in his bar, they all were friends with him and Kelly, Jeff’s right-hand gal. It was bitter-sweet writing Jeff’s story. As the person who saw all in his town, knew what all of his friends had been through, the funny man for Mike’s pranks, the protector of Ryan when Blaine came to town, and so much more, he was central to the series, so was his bar—Jenny’s.
Here’s another twist. Over the last year, I don’t know, something changed. I can’t write the steamy scenes anymore. Jeff’s story has plenty of spice and I promise you, as the reader, you know they’re sleeping together. (Insert laughing). But, this is my first, what I’d call “sweet” book, and honestly, after it was complete, I felt like it was exactly where I was meant to be. I am so excited for CHARMING JEFF. (Ugly happy dancing going on). After fourteen books ( grins, I do have another under a pen name), I’ve finally figured out exactly how I want to write. I love the smartass humor, the quirky characters, the slapping back and forth banter filled with jokes and teasing. I throw real life at these poor people instead of the constant drama of break-up/make-up angst. Most people love that, I can’t even read it, let alone write it. So with good ole’ Jeff, I’ve come full circle. He’s ending a series I love, and given me a new writing identity if you will.
I don’t know, maybe y’all don’t want to know all this back, insider information? I have always liked learning more about the authors I love and the actors and actresses I adore. And you can tell me to shut up anytime. LOL. But I do want to thank you all. It’s because of readers that I continue letting these fictional people tell me what to write. You’re the ones I want to please, you’re the people I care about, and hope you laugh while reading my books. If I can write and make people laugh and enjoy a happy ending, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
Here’s another quick sneak peek…because I love y’all! (I stole it from the unedited version I had handy) Happy New Year’s, may your 2017 be blessed with health, happiness, laughter and awesomeness.
CHARMING JEFF EXCERPT
The kisses from last night had sleep eluding her. Finally, when the sun started turning her bedroom from dark to deep blue, she gave up and dragged herself to the shower. Hearing Jeff’s voice from the kitchen sent a surge up her spine, and she was thankful she’d spent extra time on her hair and makeup today.
She made her way to the office and put her belongings away, but everything suddenly felt different. Turning in a small circle, the feelings of last night came rushing back. Kelly put her fingertips to her lips.
“I’m so relieved to know I’m not the only one so affected by last night,” Jeff said.
His words spoken from behind, quietly in her ear, scared the ever-loving hell out of her. Kelly screamed and turned.
“I am so sorry. Hell, if you were a cat, I’d be peeling you off the ceiling, sugar,” he teased.
His smile nearly did her in. Kelly whimpered and his smile faded. His light brown eyes darkened as he closed the distance between them.
“Jeff,” she whispered.
He closed the distance and wrapped his arms around her. “I promised myself I wouldn’t lay a hand on you here at the bar. I told myself I couldn’t kiss you again until you came over tonight after work.” He leaned in. “You know what?”
Kelly shook her head, unable to tear her gaze away. Her mouth was dry, words were gone, poof, her head completely blank.
“I shouldn’t have lied to myself like that. You’re all I thought about while lying in my bed doing my best to sleep, and the first thing on my mind this morning. You’ve been on my mind every minute since I watched your taillights fade after you left last night. I can’t help it.”
She could sense his hand before he tipped her chin upward. All her nerves dissipated as he closed the gap and kissed her again. It was foolish and completely selfish, but Kelly allowed herself to get lost in his hold. The chills she’d felt while looking at the paintings hanging in her house, he chased away, leaving her tingling and wanted more of him.
They’d both shown up in matching Jenny’s t-shirts, despite the multiple colors they both owned. His was tight over his chest and biceps, unlike hers which was huge. She’d gotten extra smalls in several colors and washed each of them in hot trying to shrink them, to no avail. Jeff never bothered to tuck his in, she had to or she looked as if she was wearing no shorts.
Visitors mistook him for a simple bar back all the time. As the owner in a Jenny’s shirt and a Yankee’s ball cap he appeared younger than he was. Kelly knew he’d used her in a way, pushing her to forefront and slipping to the back. But Kelly had the privilege many didn’t, saw what he hid beneath his baseball cap and shy smiles. He was a brilliant business man.
Around their close-knit group of friends, he was loyal, loving, and a total jokester. The rest of the time, Kelly got Jeff all to herself.
“Mine,” he practically growled between kisses.
“Reading my mind,” she fired back.
“Come back to me. You keep disappearing into your head.”
There wasn’t any possible way to answer a man who had decidedly taken over her mouth, his tongue danced around hers. His hands roamed all over her; one large palm pressed her butt against him. She inched her fingers to the hem of his shirt, the cotton washed so many times it was thin and soft.
“Be careful,” he breathed into her mouth.
His warning only spurred her on, and the instant she made contact with his skin, he hissed.
“I knew I should have behaved myself.” Jeff laid his cheek on top of her head.
He wasn’t stopping her, so she took her time, feeling each ripple of hard-earned muscle defining his stomach and chest. His breath was ragged. Kelly wished she was the kind of woman to beg him to just take her, right then and there. With her hands holding his pecs, she braced herself and eased back.
“You have to stop. You’re killing me, Jeff.”
“I understand, trust me.” He pressed her up against his hard on one more time.
“No, you don’t. I.” Kelly was all but panting for air. “This hurts.”
“I do get it; can’t you feel what you’ve done to me? That’s all you, baby. And I have to try to work like this.”
Kelly scrunched her face. “But you can hide behind the bar. I have to walk all over this restaurant for the next twelve hours. And…and…knowing you, stupid brat, you’ll do something mean, like wink at me or something and I’ll be all flame-red while trying to wait on customers. Your customers. Did you think of that? Huh, did ya?”
The corner of his mouth tipped up mischievously giving him away.
She yanked her hands out from under his shirt and tried to skate away. “Great. You hadn’t. Now I’ve just told you something to hold over me.”
He grabbed her upper arm and spun her back into his hard chest. “You don’t think I’d do that, something so cruel?”
“Not the old Jeff, but you, yes.”
Jeff couldn’t help the deep laugh which escaped. She was so serious in her accusation, and the more he laughed, the more she scrunched up her pert little lips at him. “Are you saying I’ve changed? As in, there’s a ‘new Jeff’?”
“Exactly what I’m saying.”
His brow rose as he did his damnedest to keep a straight face. “Okay. Explain the difference. Besides the obvious.” He kissed her for effect.
Kelly waved her hand through the air. “Well, the obvious—that. And, well, you’re talking to me, differently. About stuff that isn’t work. And you want me to come over tonight, and you texted me this morning. You never text me. Hell, I didn’t even know you knew how to text.”
“Oh now, I’ve texted you plenty of times, girl.” He ran his hand up and down her back.
She pushed and slid out of his hold. “Oh, no you don’t, Mr. New Jeff. Uh huh. You touching me is what started all of this to begin with.” She made an oval with her pointer finger in front of herself. “Now, good day, sir. I must go work.” She spun on her heel toward the office door.
“Mr.? Good day? When did you turn into Miss Mary Proper Pants, DeGraw?”
“Don’t say words like that. Just don’t speak. Got it?”
“What’d I say?” He was thoroughly confused now. Jeff could almost feel the live electricity radiating from her.
“Pants. You said pants.”
He leaned in, waiting for the rest of the negative remark to be repeated.
Kelly huffed and threw her hands up in defense. “Just don’t say pants. You never said it before and now new Jeff can’t either.” With her order given, she marched out and down the hall.
Jeff bit his knuckle, so hard the indentions in his skin were purple where his teeth had been. He could not afford to laugh at her—with her was one thing, but not at her. She was hot and horny, and he’d done that to her. On one hand, he was beaming with pride. He’d finally gotten Kelly DeGraw’s sweet kisses. On the other, he was still hard as a rock, and like Kelly, he had to work in a state of pain, but he was going to do it with a true set of blue balls. She was a spunky fireball. He’d always loved her personality. Seeing her in a different light was another facet to the woman he’d longed to know.
Jeff blew out a long breath and headed for the bar and the now-cold lunch he’d made them. Her head was down, her hair shielding her face from him, but she was eating from the plate he’d made her. He slid onto the stool beside her, nudging her with his shoulder.
“We need ground rules.”
He picked up a chicken tender. “So you say?”
“I say. And I say no talking to each other is the first one.”
“I thought you said the first rule was I couldn’t say pants?” he said, as coolly professional as he could. She growled. “You know, baby, it’s gonna be pretty hard to work together without talking.”