These activities are strictly classified...Schoolteacher Holly Smith is on a mission. The objective? To find her long-lost mother. The setting? Venice, city of supersensuous delights. When an encounter with a suave, unbelievably tempting English tour guide attempts to derail her focus, Holly lets herself be distracted. After all, the man has very talented fingers. And lips. And, oh God, his tongue... Undercover spy Gage Carswell is in Venice tracking a notorious agent. And he's keeping her under his personal, up-close surveillance. Each mouthwatering inch of her. But the more he gets to know Holly, the more he knows she isn't his target. Except in bed, that is...
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May 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Nobody Does It Better by Jennifer LaBrecque
"It looks as if we'll be flying with clear skies tonight out of Atlanta and across the pond. We expect to have you in London by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, their time."
Holly Smith relaxed her grip on the armrest. She was flying.Yes, indeed. Maybe she shouldn't have ordered that third glass of wine at the airport bar, but she had a pleasant buzz going and she wouldn't be nearly as relaxed otherwise. So far, flying wasn't as bad as she'd imagined it might be.
Despite what her ex-boyfriend Greg had said, she was not a neurotic mess. So she had some quirks. Who didn't? Who cared if she checked her silverware for cleanliness in a restaurant before she used it, and had brought along her own blow-up travel pillow and blanket so she wouldn't have to use the airline's? And, she was careful with her money. But cheap? She thought not.
A neurotic mess? Hardly. A mess was just ugly. A person couldn't be a mess, spilt milk was a mess. Screw him. She nearly laughed aloud. Nope, she wouldn't be doing that anymore. And hadn't he been surprised to hear it?
She'd known they were in a go-nowhere relationship. Ending that had been the first step in her new plan to make all aspects of her life proactive rather than reactive.
It was rather funny how such a life-changing event had started out so innocuously. Three months ago, she'd been waiting in the hair salon to be called back for a wash and trim. She'd been thumbing through a magazine when she'd stumbled across an article. Usually, she never read those pseudo-self-help pieces, but she'd found herself sucked into this one. The article focused on being the change you wanted in your life rather than waiting for someone to change it for you. It had been an aha, scales-falling-from-her-eyes moment.
She took charge in so many other aspects of her life. She'd deliberately pursued a high school teaching career that focused on working with gifted students. She'd set a goal and achieved it. Buying her condo? Same thing.
The "aha" had come in the relationship department. It was as if she'd discovered thousands of dollars of therapy between the covers of one glossy magazine.
She'd realized she was the queen of reactive relationships because...drumroll...she didn't trust herself. She'd known she and Greg were going nowhere but she would've waited on him to end it. Her breaking up with him had been huge. It'd been like getting to base camp on a Mount Everest climb--an important first step.
She reached overhead to direct the stream of cool air from the vent more directly in her face. That felt good. She just wouldn't think about all the germs that were probably in all that recycled air. So far, so good on flying. Of course, they weren't there yet. She exhaled, trying to release the anxiety that suddenly welled up within her. When she got really upset she threw up. And throwing up right now...not good.
"A little nervous about flying?" the woman in the window seat next to her asked, a note of sympathy in the question.
"Just a little," Holly said. She dug into her backpack and pulled out the inflatable pillow and a small travel blanket. "I've never flown before."
"You picked a long flight for a first timer."
Holly grinned. "Only because the boat takes too long to get from Atlanta to Venice." There was a kernel of truth in her humor. Three quick breaths and the neck pillow was done. She fumbled with the plug for a second, but then got it.
"If you don't mind me asking, I have to know what or who is so important in Venice that you're willing to take such a long first trip?" The woman chuckled. "Sorry. Don't answer that if it's too personal. I'm a writer and I always want to know stuff. My husband says I'm nosy. I consider it research."
"A writer? No kidding?" Wow. "What do you write?"
"I'm Martina Larson. Call me Marty. I write romance novels."
Holly read her fair share of romance novels. Who in the world didn't love a happy ending? The woman's name was vaguely familiar. "I think I've read a couple of your books before. They're very...sensual." If they were the ones she thought they were, they were quite spicy. Just the kind of sex she wished she was having. But not trusting herself in a relationship also translated to not trusting herself to indulge in some of her more explicit fantasies.
Marty laughed. "My books go way beyond sensual. I'm on my way to a writers' retreat with a couple of friends. We'll be staying in a sixteenth-century castle a few hours north of London." She paused. "You never said
why you're going to Venice."
"I've heard it's beautiful." And that was true.
"It is. And it shouldn't be too crowded at this time of year, at least not as crowded as in the summer. Short of going to the Venetian in Vegas, there's no mistaking Venice for anywhere else. My husband and I spent a couple of days there several years ago."
Had Marty abandoned her family, left behind a husband and two children, and stayed in Venice? Had she gone on a business trip and then virtually dropped off the face of the earth? No birthday cards, no Christmas cards, no appearance at high school or college graduation, no contact for twenty-seven years. Holly's wild guess was probably not.
"I want to see it for myself," she said.
"Are you meeting a friend there?"
"No. I'm going solo. But I have arranged for a tour guide, since I have an abysmal sense of direction." This was her mission, her quest, her confrontation. She wanted a firsthand reckoning with the woman who'd birthed her and then abandoned her.
She thought she'd put it behind her, the Mother's Day Tea in kindergarten when the teaching assistant had sat with her because she'd been alone. Being thirteen and having to get up the nerve to approach her father and tell him she needed sanitary napkins. Unlike her friends, she didn't have a mother to prepare her. She'd told herself she couldn't miss what she'd never known. And since Julia, as Holly mentally referred to her, had skipped town when Holly was three, she had no recollection of a time when she'd had a mother.