This is a double release week for me — and what makes it twice as fun is that both projects are modern, Austen-inspired stories!!
My contribution to RWA’s second anthology, SECOND CHANCES (Sept. 12th release – more on that further down the page), is out right now, as is the final book in my Mirabelle Harbor series, COMING HOME: A Mirabelle Harbor Duet (Sept. 10th), which features two related novellas, Rocket Man and Someone Like You. [Please see the donation note directly under the bookmark image below.]
The latter novella is a contemporary nod to JA’s Persuasion, and it’s a story I’ve been excited to share with readers ever since I began the series. (I’d posted about it here early in the summer.) The hero of Someone Like You, Chandler Michaelsen, has been in love with his oldest brother’s ex-fiancée since he was a teenager. Jaleina Longoria, owner of Mirabelle Harbor’s only bookstore, is not only eight years his senior, an Austen lover, and a friend of Nia Pappayiannis (the woman who’s marrying Chandler’s twin brother on December 16th and the heroine of Take a Chance on Me), but Chandler always thought Jaleina was out of his league. Until now. When he gets back into town for the big wedding, he’s determined to win her over.
This is the opening scene from Chandler’s point of view, as he’s first coming home to Mirabelle Harbor. I really hope you’ll enjoy it! 😀 (Please note: There is adult language and sexual situations in this book.)
I pulled into a parking space just before the Cherry Avenue and Main Street intersection, got off my Harley, flipped up my helmet visor, and looked around for the first time in nearly six years.
Home Sweet Effing Home.
I hadn’t planned to return to Mirabelle Harbor for a few more long years and definitely not in ass-freezing December, but the only way I could’ve gotten out of this trip was if I were dead. And while weddings were a kind of torture I wouldn’t inflict on my worst enemy, they did manage to rank marginally higher than funerals.
Unfortunately, it was no enemy who’d called me back home to be in his wedding party. It was my twin brother, Chance. So, basically, I was screwed.
I zipped my leather jacket up as high as it would go and rubbed my hands together for warmth. Even inside my gloves, my fingers were icicles. Having been born a Midwesterner, I knew these temps were considered mild for the area, but it was gonna take an hour in a hothouse for me to completely thaw.
Aside from the cold, the sad memories of being here again chilled me to the bone. Dad had died. Mom had died. The part of me that used to love living in this town had died with them.
Our sister, Shar, however, was adamant that I drive myself back to Mirabelle Harbor and start acting like the kind of best man my twin deserved.
“This means a lot to him,” she informed me with the scolding, big-sister tone in her voice that was always so damn irritating. She wasn’t that much older than us. But being a teacher probably went to her head. All that disciplinarian shit that went on in the educational world. Always made me wanna break into the chorus of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”
But I let her give me the lecture she’d called to deliver. And, when Chance called me himself to let me know the date and the final details, I listened as attentively as I could—considering my level of drunkenness at the time.
It’d been a Friday night, for fuck’s sake, and he was such a sober little boy scout. Healthy eater. Fitness guru. Moderate drinker. Helpful to old ladies who needed a hand carrying groceries. Unrelentingly responsible. And insanely excited about his wedding to Nia Pappayiannis, this Greek-American chick he fell in love with a couple of years ago.
It was amazing he and I were identical twins. I’m not sure two people who looked so much alike had ever been so different on the inside.
“You’ll be here for my wedding, right?” Chance had asked me.
“Yeah, I’ll be there.”
“For sure, Chandler?” he’d said, confirming.
For a guy who didn’t talk much, my brother could be damned persistent. “Yessss,” I’d said. “For sure.” Which was why I was now all the way up in Illinois freezing my balls off instead of in the heart of Georgia.
My bike and I were about ten yards away from Harbor Fitness, Chance’s workplace, and I briefly considered making that my first stop in town. Plus, truth be told, I’d missed my twin. But I didn’t want to disturb him on the job—he took all that fitness-training shit with his clients so seriously—and, besides, our sister-in-law, Olivia, was expecting me soon.
Didn’t stop me from inhaling a few more lungfuls of the icy air and checking to see what was new and what was familiar in good ol’ Mirabelle Harbor.
The downtown was bustling with holiday shoppers. The coffee shop just to my right, Not the Same Old Grind, was doing brisk business on account of their hot beverages.
The Gala across the street was the Greek restaurant and bakery owned by Nia’s family, and they looked to be gearing up for the lunch crowd.
I’d just driven by The Penalty Box, that sportswear store belonging Shar’s hockey-player boyfriend, and it looked overrun by customers buying bags of athletic wear.
Couldn’t help but wonder about the bookstore, Between the Pages, though. I knew from my last Internet search that it was still in business and still located just around the corner on Cherry, but I wasn’t able to see it from here. I’d have to actually drive down the street, and I couldn’t bring myself to do that. Not yet. I didn’t even know for certain if Jaleina still owned it and worked there, but I had a hard time imagining the place without her.
Finally, I kicked my bike back into action and drove to my childhood home—what we lovingly called Michaelsen Manor—on Lake Michigan. Now the house belonged to my eldest brother, Derek, his wife, Olivia, and their three boys, James, Riley, and Peter, but it was where I’d be camping out for the next week until this damn wedding was over.
Olivia welcomed me with a huge hug—it always amazed me how tight she could squeeze for a petite woman—and ushered me inside. Weird to be in here again, though. It was like I emotionally regressed a decade just by walking into the foyer. I was almost thirty, but I felt like a teenager again.
“Chandler, your hands are frozen!” my sister-in-law exclaimed, after her fingers brushed mine. “You need warmer gloves.”
“Nah,” I said, shoving my thin riding gloves into the pockets of my jacket. “I won’t be staying here long enough. I’ll be back in the land of sunshine and peanuts in no time. These’ll do.”
Olivia frowned. “Still. Derek probably has a pair you can borrow while you’re here. I’ll ask him when he gets home.”
My eldest brother was at work in downtown Chicago doing some kind of investment thing. I could never quite wrap my head around that stock-trading crap, but he liked it and was good at it. And the rugrats were in school. I glanced around the hallway, catching sight of a few framed family photos on the wall. Yeah, it’d be wild to see my nephews again. The older two would barely remember me. And Peter—last time I saw him he was a baby. Now he was in first grade.
“The kids have school this whole week?” I asked.
“Yes, thank God. I’ve got seventeen million things left to do before the wedding, so I took this week off and half of next. But their vacation starts on Friday afternoon.”
“When do they get back today?”
“The bus drops them down the block at three thirty. You’ll hear them before you see them.” She grinned. “They’re so excited to see you, Chandler.”
She pulled me into the kitchen, poured me a hot cup of coffee, and set about making me lunch while we caught up on shit. She mostly asked me questions about my life, and I answered. I lived a simple existence down South. Atlanta was a big city, so I got to satisfy my wanderlust, moving around three times to different parts of town. I’d worked for four different tech companies in the past couple of years and left when I got bored. I was feeling the edges of restlessness again and getting ready to move on, but I didn’t know where. Maybe North Carolina this time. Maybe Virginia.
“Any chance it might be Illinois?” she asked me.
“With this cold weather? Hell, no. There’s not even snow on the ground right now and it’s like the Arctic around here.”
This made her laugh as she put the finishing touches on the sandwich she was creating for me. It’d been a helluva long time since anybody’d fixed me a meal that wasn’t some hastily thrown together morning-after breakfast or a late-night frozen pizza with a beer chaser. I watched her, fascinated by this whole domestic routine. My big brother was a lucky guy. He’d struck gold, not once, but twice.
But thinking about that—about the other woman in Derek’s life before Olivia—was strictly verboten. My taboo crush on my brother’s ex-fiancée was no smarter these days than it’d been in high school, some fourteen years ago. But holy hell. Jaleina Longoria had been hot. That one time I spied her through the crack in Derek’s bedroom door, half naked, when our parents were out and he thought Chance and I were at the movies—that was forever seared in my memory. What I wouldn’t give to know what she looked like now…
If you’d like to read another excerpt from the book, I have one on my June 22nd blog post (HERE), and I have information and links to excerpts & story soundtracks for every book in the Mirabelle Harbor series on my website (HERE). Hope you’ll take a peek!
Both the paperback and the ebook editions of COMING HOME: A Mirabelle Harbor Duet are now available!! Check out the links below at Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo:
“I love coming home to Mirabelle Harbor! This duet is my favorite of the whole series, truly the best for last. I have enjoyed my time in this cute little seaside cove and I am a little sad it has come to an end. I adore everyone in town, including Rick and Abby from Rocket Man but Chandler and Jaleina’s story was just so different than all the others. I feel Marilyn outdid herself in Someone Like You. She was able to capture the passion of Jaleina’s culture and the determination of a man who knew what his heart always wanted. Sweet and sexy, a romance so passionate, it had me blushing!” ~Margie’s Must Reads
And a SECOND RELEASE — 48 Hours Later!!