For Juliet Huddleston, being a virgin was anything but funny. It was downright humiliating. She's practically invisible to everyone, including hotter-than-molten-lava Cody MacIntyre--her client, her oldest friend and eye candy for every woman in town. By her thirtieth birthday, Julie's had enough. She makes a resolution to ditch the quiet-mouse routine, and finally give her Inner Assertive Woman a voice.
But no one--including Julie--was prepared for exactly how assertive she could be. Not only is she now the new director of the town's midsummer festival, slipping into super-sexy attire and driving a red-hot car, but Julie's also decided to indulge in a little midsummer fling--with Cody. Now the entire town, including Julie herself, is wondering what happened to the old Julie....
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August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Midsummer Madness by Christine Rimmer
"Cody, um, I'll take over...if you want...."
Cody McIntyre didn't hear the hesitant proposition, partly because it was spoken so softly, and partly because he was glaring at the phone he'd just slammed back into its cradle. His mind was occupied with dark, murderous thoughts--thoughts that concerned the immediate and permanent elimination from the world of the "expert" from Hollywood who was supposed to have shown up in Emerald Gap the day before, and who had just called to say he wasn't going to be showing up at all.
This time he heard something. "Hmm?" he asked absently, glancing at the only other person in the room, his bookkeeper, Juliet Huddleston, whom he'd known all his life. Juliet sat at the spare desk in the corner, with his midmonth payroll spread out in front of her. "You say something, Julie?"
Maybe he really should sue the bastard, Cody was thinking, though lawsuits were generally not his style. Men like Cody considered a handshake a bond--and simply cut off dealings with people who didn't.
Juliet sat on an armless swivel chair. Now she spun in the chair, until she faced him straight on. "I said, I'll do it."
Cody hadn't the faintest idea what she was talking about, but he figured it must be important. She was looking directly at him, her hazel eyes unwavering. For shy Julie Huddleston, a dead-on look like the one she was giving him was such a rarity as to be kind of spooky.
"You all right, Julie?"
"I'm fine." She straightened her narrow shoulders and tugged on the jacket of the gray business suit she was wearing. "And I want to do it." She looked downright resolute.
"Er, do what?"
She cleared her throat. "I want to take over that director's job. I want to run the town pageant this year."
Cody stared at her, his surprise at what she'd just proposed so complete that he more or less forgot how to talk for a moment. Then his voice returned. "Midsummer Madness?" He muttered the name of the annual tenday festival in frank disbelief. "You want to run Midsummer Madness this year?"
Juliet picked up his amazement at her suggestion, and blinked. She suddenly looked more like herself. Her eyes got that soft, anxious look. But she didn't give in. She confirmed, "Yes," the affirmative weakened only by the little gasp she took between the y and the e.
Cody stole a moment to comb his hair back with his fingers. He liked Julie, always had. In fact, ever since they were kids, he'd always made it a point to keep one eye out for her. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint her; she was such a gentle soul.
But the Juliet Huddlestons of the world were not festival directors, not by a long shot. Once again, he silently cursed the delinquent professional he'd hired, this time for making it necessary for him to hurt poor Julie's feelings.
Cody regretfully shook his head. "That's sweet of you, Julie. But we've got to face facts. Running a pageant isn't really up your alley."
Cody watched the hopeful light fade from her eyes and felt like a rat for putting it out. Her shoulders fell, and she slowly turned back to the open check register and the stack of time cards on the desk.
Cody started around his own desk, to get closer to her and ease her hurt feelings a little. But he was stopped by the knock on the door.
"It's open," he called.
The door was flung back, and the room was filled with the sounds from the busy kitchen outside. Cody's office was behind McIntyre's, the bar and grill he owned and operated himself. He also owned and managed the hardware store down the street, and the family ranch a few miles out of town. Cody was a busy man. Too busy, he thought again, to run the damn summer pageant himself this year. But that was exactly what he was going to be doing.
Each of the merchants in town took a turn, and this year was his. He'd thought it a stroke of brilliance to convince them to bring in an expert. So much for brilliance. So much for damn experts....
"Here you are, you devil. The bartender said I could find you back here." The shapely brunette in the doorway to the kitchen wore painted-on jeans and a little-girl pout. "Remember me?"
Cody's mama had raised him right. He tried to be tactful, in spite of the fact that he couldn't recollect ever seeing this woman before in his life. "Pardon me, but I don't recall where we met before, ma'am." Over the woman's shoulder, he could see the day pot washer, Elroy, paused in midscrub and leering suggestively. "Why don't you just come on in and close that door?" Cody suggested.
The woman made a big production of shutting the door. She glanced once in Juliet's direction, and then shrugged, apparently deciding to pretend Julie wasn't there. Next, the woman leaned against the closed door and sighed, a move which displayed her generous breasts to distinct advantage. "I kept hoping you'd call."
"Excuse me, but who are you?"
"God, you are one gorgeous hunk of man."
"Ma'am. Won't you tell me your name?"