#Excerpt “The Spa at Lavender Lane” by Phyllis Melhado

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Women’s Fiction
Date Published: May 7, 2020
Publisher: Black Rose Writing 
Take a peek behind the curtain of wealth and glamour in Phyllis Melhado’s sassy and sultry beach read. The guests who arrive for a
10-day stay at the nation’s premier spa at Lavender Lane seem to have
everything a girl could want: high-flying careers, social and financial
prowess, access to the top fashions and beauty products, and even a dash of
fame. Yet each woman is in need of rejuvenation from insecurities, flatlined
business motivation, or failed relationships – problems that will require more
than the spa’s renowned anti-aging quince cream to fix. As the women learn to
trust one another, they each figure out how to take a second chance at life,
and reclaim what’s most important.

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EXCERPT

Chapter Two

“We’re here, Miss,” the driver said, jarring Toni Etheridge from a state roughly approaching relaxation. She pushed her sunglasses up into her tousled auburn hair and snapped open her bloodshot hazel eyes, almost sorry the ride was over. The trip from LAX had provided the first pleasant moments in an otherwise horrendous travel day filled with an insane traffic jam on the way to JFK which nearly caused her to miss her flight, a terrible seat at the rear of the plane where the cabin staff were constantly rattling cans and refilling their carts and a raucous group of drag queens on their way to a competition in LA, who didn’t shut up for a minute during the entire five-hour flight.  But the capper was the sudden drop in altitude that put her stomach firmly in her mouth and sent her stumbling to the bathroom to make sure that her body had not betrayed her like it had done a few years before. Happily, what she found was just the result of a leaky bladder and not the catastrophe she had dreaded.

“May I help you?” asked the good-looking young man as he opened the car door and offered his hand. He smiled broadly, gleaming white teeth set off by eager blue eyes and deeply tanned skin. Even though they were miles from the sea, Toni thought he had perfect California surfer looks, complete with thick, wavy blonde hair and a tall, well-built body.

“Did you have a good trip?” he inquired.

“Good trip!” Toni grunted, pushing her glasses back down to shield her eyes from the southern California desert sun. “Do you really want to know?

She leaned back and looked at him for a long moment, then laughed. “Of course you don’t want to know! I’ll spare you.”

There was an audible sigh of relief.

“Ms.,” the limo driver interjected, appearing with two mismatched and beaten-up travel bags.

“Oh, thanks. You can dump my stuff over there,” Toni said, pointing to a collection of Gucci, Vuitton and Prada bags waiting to be delivered to the rooms of other newly arrived guests.

“Now, Michael?” she asked, focusing on the name badge pinned to the surfer boy’s neat white Lacoste shirt. “Where to?” She grabbed his arm and gave him one of her most engaging smiles.

Michael smiled politely and tried to usher Toni in through the front door. “They’ll take good care of you at the desk, Ms…”

“Etheridge,” Toni said, taking off her sunglasses, but making no move to walk in.

“We’ve got to get you checked in quickly, Ms. Etheridge. Madame Demidova runs a tight ship.”

“I’ve heard that, Michael,” Toni said, toying with his nametag. I’m sure she depends on you to, uh, keep things moving.” She flashed him a coy smile. “And I certainly don’t want to get you in any kind of trouble.”

There was an awkward pause.

“I would sure appreciate that, Ma’am.”

“Ma’am!” Toni shrieked. “Dear God. I’m not that old!”

“Of course not!” Michael said quickly as he encouraged her through the door to reception.

“Ah, Ms. Etheridge,” the front desk clerk said. “Welcome!” But before Toni had a chance to reply, the cell phone buried in her huge tote bag began to ring. Damn, she thought, remembering the rules she had read in Lavender Lane’s confirmation letter: No men, other than staff, allowed on the premises. No loud talking in the public areas. And absolutely no cell phones. She began fumbling in her bag. “Shit!” she said, quite audibly. “Where is the damn thing?”

“Ah,” she heard a voice say softly. “You must be Antoinette Etheridge. We’ve been expecting you.”

Toni looked at the small, impeccably dressed woman who had silently advanced toward her. Clearly Chanel, and definitely the real thing — and oh-oh. It could only be one person.

“Oh, dear. I am so sorry,” she said sheepishly. Her phone, which had migrated to the bottom of her bag, somewhere between a prickly hairbrush and a plastic bag full of broken pretzel bits, continued to ring. “Guess I forgot to turn the darned thing off.” Gee-sus. Do you believe this? Toni felt her face flower into a full flush. She rummaged around her bag and after two more excruciating rings, finally located the phone and turned it off.

The woman in Chanel stood silently, a patient smile on her face.

“My apologies,” Toni said.

“Nothing to be concerned about,” the woman said in a soothing tone. “You’re here, now, and it’s time to leave behind those dreadful little machines and all that New York stress.”  She offered her hand. “I’m Nadia Demidova, dear. Welcome to Lavender Lane.”

***

When Mavis Perkins was shown her accommodations, her gray-green eyes ignited with slow, icy fire. Her favorite suite, with some of the most magnificent sunsets in the western part of the United States, had been given to someone else, and this was simply not to be tolerated.

“What do you mean I can’t have my regular suite?” she asked, reveling in her haughtiest demeanor, making her cheekbones seem angled even higher on her fabled porcelain skin, while her chiseled nostrils arched in their most sanctimonious flare, as she pronounced the word “mean” with near biblical profundity.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Perkins,” Nadia answered, reaching for Mavis’s hand. Her apology was not an empty one. She always did her best to accommodate her clients’ wishes, especially those who were regulars. But as Nadia moved forward, Mavis pulled away. She simply would not be touched.

Nadia wondered how she was going to handle the situation without breaking a confidence, and for a moment she nearly succumbed to temptation. It would be so much easier just to tell Mavis who was in “her” suite, but she couldn’t. Word simply could not get out. Eleanor was a highly visible spokesperson for her company, and if the media or the internet ever got hold of information about her plastic surgery, the perception of Lavender Lane as a retreat steeped in absolute discretion would be totally destroyed.

“I am terribly sorry that your favorite accommodations are not available this visit. I know how much you like that particular suite.”

“Like it,” Mavis intoned. “I practically own it. Let me remind you that I have been coming here two, sometimes three times a year for more than a decade.” She glared at Nadia. “You add that up, it comes to a hell of a lot of cash.” She kept her eyes fixed firmly on Nadia, not allowing her a second’s grace.

“Yes,” Nadia said looking directly back at Mavis, “and you know how much we love having you here.”

“Well, I’m beyond disappointed, Madame Demidova. It never occurred to me that I might not have my usual suite. You know how particular I am.”

Nadia remained poised. “Yes…of course, Mrs. Perkins. But let me assure you that you will be more than satisfied with this suite. As you can see, it’s exactly the same, only at the other end of the house.”

Mavis appraised the sitting room with its familiar cream-colored sofa, graceful deep-green potted palms and delicately carved Cherrywood armoire, then turned her gaze slowly back to Nadia.

“Well, if it’s the same damned thing, why couldn’t you just put whoever the hell is in my suite at the other end?”

Nadia studied the difficult woman who she knew was accustomed to always getting her own way. Telling Mavis the real reason without going in to any details might get her to settle in.

“May I speak to you in confidence?” she whispered, summoning up a bit of the actress she had developed during her brief career as a ballerina.

Nadia’s tone spoke volumes, and Mavis was intrigued. Usually interested only in herself, she became curious about who might be ensconced in the coveted suite. Warming to the notion of hearing something of special interest, she leaned forward. “Of course,” she said, pursing her lips in a half-smile.

Nadia leaned forward as well, her petite frame no match for that of the regally tall Mavis Perkins. She put her hand on Mavis’s arm, and looked up.

This time, Mavis did not move away. “The guest has just had some extensive work done,” she said, “and things don’t seem to be going as well as one might expect. I’m afraid she’s forced to stay a few days longer than any of us had anticipated.”

“I see,” Mavis responded, curiosity in full throttle. “Anyone I know?”

“I doubt that you have ever met this woman,” Nadia said, choosing her words carefully because, in all likelihood, Mavis knew who Eleanor was. “The poor dear…” she continued. It was imperative that Nadia diffuse Mavis’ curiosity. “It would be so kind to just let her recuperate in peace.”

Mavis arched one meticulously tweezed eyebrow, then relaxed into a measure of acceptance. This was a problem with which she could identify. She lived in dread of the scalpel, having seen more than a few botched jobs among her friends in Chicago’s best circles.

Nadia had taken a calculated risk, but it seemed to have worked.

“Very well then. Have someone fetch my bags. And please send a masseuse up ASAP. I’m simply exhausted from the trip–not to mention all this unpleasantness about the rooms.”

Nadia had only just checked the massage schedule and was quite sure that the “therapists” were all booked, but she could not possibly say no to Mavis Perkins at this point.

“Certainly, Mrs. Perkins.  Get yourself settled in, and someone will be up to take care of you in a little while. And Mrs. Perkins, will you be joining the others for dinner this evening, or will you be dining in your suite?

“Oh, I think I’ll come down to dinner. First night, you know.” During her frequent stays at Lavender Lane, Mavis often had meals sent to her rooms, but Nadia was sure that she was not about to miss the initial dinner, with its overview of the guests in residence.

“Then we’ll see you at seven, and thank you for being so understanding about the suite. A masseuse will be up in just a little while, and, of course, the service will be complimentary to show our gratitude for your kindness.” She smiled graciously, then quickly summoned one of the attractive young attendants to bring Mavis Perkins’s considerable luggage up to the Mariposa Suite as soon as possible.

“Whoever you have to switch around,” Nadia cautioned Phoebe a few minutes later, “please make sure that Mrs. Perkins gets one of the better therapists.”

Phoebe peered over the top of the tortoise shell glasses which were perennially perched just below the bridge of her nose, a conspiratorial smile spreading over her angular but handsome face. “Without question. We can be sure that if Mrs. Perkins’ massage is anything less than celestial, we’ll hear about it.”

They both had been subject to more Mavis Perkins incidents over the years than either of them cared to remember.

“Not to worry. I’ll take care of it straight away.”

“Good. And please do your best to get back here as soon as possible. From the looks of this group, re-arranging a couple of massages will be the least of our problems.”

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About the Author

The former Vice President of Public Relations for Estee
Lauder, Phyllis Melhado has had her work published in Town & Country,
Cosmopolitan, and The Scarlet Leaf Review. She has also ghosted a best-selling
beauty book as well as a nationally syndicated beauty column. She earned her
Master’s degree in Communications from NYU and lives in New York City. The Spa at Lavender Lane is her first novel. To learn more about Phyllis and her work,
visit https://www.phyllismelhado.com.
 
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#CharacterInterview “Love, Lies, and Redemption” by Kelli A. Wilkins

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Please give a warm welcome to Sam Hixton, the hero from Love, Lies and LLRRedemption by Kelli A. Wilkins. Today we sit down and see what makes him tick.

Q: Greetings, Sam. Before we get started, could you tell our readers about the book?

Sure, I’m glad to. Love, Lies and Redemption is a full-length novel set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877 and blends a steamy Western romance with mystery and danger. It has a little bit of everything: humor, sadness, and more than a few spicy love scenes. (Grins.)

Q: Tell us about yourself. What got you in the crosshairs for your author?

I’m not sure what I did to make Kelli annoyed at me, but the book begins with me shot and half-dead, stumbling across the prairie. I’m at the lowest point in my life then, and I was ready to fall down and not bother to get up. I’m not usually like that; I’m known for being resilient and determined. Once I set my sights on a goal, I go after it. Of course, that’s how I got into that predicament in the first place—but that’s a long story.

I made my way to Cassie Wilcox’s store and she saved my life. Against her better judgment, Cassie allowed me to stay with her until I recovered. When I was back on my feet I felt that I had a debt to pay, and that it was my duty to watch over Cassie. Naturally, this led to lots of conflict between us. And it didn’t help that the townsfolk (and Luke, the sheriff) didn’t trust me because I was a stranger, and I defended Cassie when she needed it.

Cassie brought me back into the land of the living (in more ways than one), although it wasn’t easy for either of us. We both had issues with trusting other people, and ourselves.

Q: What drew you to Cassie? Tell us about her.

Cassie is an amazing woman for our time. When I met her, she was running a general store that had seen better days. The store meant everything to her and she was determined to keep it open, no matter what. Cassie lived in Holloway all her life, and her father used to run the store. After a tragic incident, Cassie inherited the store, but the puritanical townspeople didn’t approve of her independent ways and wanted to drive her out.

I admired Cassie’s strength and perseverance, and discovered that under her seemingly gruff exterior, she was a sensitive woman who longed to be loved. Of course, she refused to admit that, and we had our fair share of spats from the moment we met. (Laughs.) That probably made me love her even more.

Q: What is it about Cassie that makes you crazy in a good way?
Sometimes she’s just so dang headstrong! She’ll get an idea to do something, and off she goes. Of course I’m able to settle her, but that’s because she loves and trusts me. In the book, I have to be the calm voice of reason and tell her to slow down and make a logical plan to do something. Cassie was on her own and had to rely on herself for everything. Now she has me to help her, whether she wants the help or not.

Q: Was there an instant attraction between you?

Oh yes! I was attracted to Cassie from the moment I first woke up—even though she wasn’t very nice to me. Cassie fell for me, too, but she had a hard time admitting it. Part of her didn’t want to get attached because her heart’s been broken before, and she didn’t want to feel vulnerable again.

Q: Do you sometimes want to strangle your writer? What sort of upsetting or embarrassing things did Kelli do to you and Cassie in the book?

I was put through the worst trials and tribulations imaginable before the book started. (I can’t divulge them here, but they were whoppers!) Of course, the troubles from my past resurfaced just as I was settling in and making a new life with Cassie.

Our relationship was nearly destroyed a few times (thanks, Kelli!) due to trust issues (or rather, “lack of trust” issues), and we almost went our separate ways toward the end. It was a very emotional time for me, and I’ll admit, I wasn’t always seen in a good light. But, as in all great romances, Cassie and I do live happily-ever-after.

Q: Describe yourself in four words.

Loyal. Dependable. Funny. Mysterious.

Q: What do you do for a living?

Right now I’m working in a hardware store, and loving it. Why? (Laughs) Nobody’s shooting at me! A long time ago, I used to be a sheriff, and that got me into a lot of trouble. That experience came in handy in the book, but I’m glad to put that violent lifestyle behind me.

Q: What do you fear the most?

I fear what most people fear—losing the people they love. Before I met Cassie I suffered a great personal loss and it took me a very long time to get over it. I nearly lost Cassie a few times in the book, and I was reminded all over again how short and precious life is.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Love, Lies and Redemption is a great book, if I do say so myself. It’s gotten several excellent reviews and is a perfect way to lose yourself in another place and time. If you like Westerns, you’ll love this story. And if you’ve never read one, now’s your chance.

Kelli has written several other historical romances, but her other two most recent releases are: The Viking’s Witch and Dangerous Indenture. From what I heard, they’re pretty good, too. Lots of action, adventure, mystery, drama, and hot love scenes! I’ve learned that Kelli doesn’t write boring books. She says that although she writes a lot of historical romances, they all take place in different time periods and different places. So, she’s not “just” writing Westerns or “only” writing about a certain century.

Her romances span all genres (contemporary, historical/fantasy, gay, paranormal) and range from mild to super-spicy. I encourage everyone to check out all of her books here: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins or https://www.books2read.com/ap/nkvddR/Kelli-A-Wilkins and read more about them on her site: www.KelliWilkins.com.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with readers. This was fun. I might ask Cassie to visit in an upcoming chat.

Thank you, Sam, for joining us today. Here’s a look at Love, Lies and Redemption:

Love, Lies and Redemption

 Shot and left for dead, Sam Hixton stumbles into a general store on the Nebraska prairie and collapses into the arms of Cassie Wilcox.

Cassie’s world is turned upside down when the handsome stranger drops into her life. Sam is another complication she doesn’t need: her business is dying and her trouble with the townspeople is escalating. Yet she’s determined to keep the store open — no matter what the cost.

As Sam recovers from his injuries, he hides the truth about his identity and convinces Cassie to let him work in the store. He’s attracted to her and admires her independent nature, but quickly realizes Cassie’s in way over her head. They fight their growing attraction, and Cassie questions whether she can trust her fragile heart to a mysterious stranger. Will he accept her once he knows about her troubled past?

Cassie resists Sam’s advances and represses her feelings until one fateful night when they give in to their fiery passion. Together, they work out a plan to save the store, but find their efforts are thwarted — and their lives endangered — by the locals.

Sam’s secret returns to haunt him and pulls him away just when Cassie needs him the most. Will he regain her trust when she learns the truth?

Cassie has everything invested in the store — can she save it and find true love with Sam before it’s too late?

LLR

Order Love, Lies and Redemption here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0849LN73Z

All other platforms: https://books2read.com/u/mdzL6W

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 Want more romance? Visit Kelli’s site: www.KelliWilkins.com and follow her FB pages:

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins

Facebook Historical Romances: https://www.facebook.com/Historical-Romances-by-Kelli-A-Wilkins-1703805359922371/

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 ABOUT THE AUTHORKelli A Wilkins

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 20 romance novels, 6 non-fiction books, and 2 online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.

In January 2020, Kelli published Love, Lies & Redemption, a western romance set in 1877 Nebraska. This novel blends a sensual love story with mystery and danger.

She released Romance Every Weekend: 104 Fun Ways to Express Your Love, a non-fiction guide to romance in November 2019. The book features 104 fun and easy ways you can express your love to that special someone in your life. Perfect for men or women, it focuses on tender, everyday gestures that let your partner know how much you love him or her.

Kelli published Extraterrestrial Encounters, a collection of 18 sci-fi stories, in August 2019. If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her disturbing novella, Nightmare in the North.

vikings witchEarlier in 2019 she released The Viking’s Witch, a paranormal/historical romance, and

Dangerous Indenture, a historical mystery romanceDangerous Indenture set in Colonial Pennsylvania.

 Kelli has authored two online writing courses: Fiction Basics: Finding Ideas and Fiction Writing for Beginners. These courses are perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write. Visit: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/ for more details.

Not just an author, Kelli is also an amateur photographer. Visit her pages on Shutterstock https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kelli+wilkins and iStock https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/kelliwilkins to view her photos.

Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.

Visit her website/blog www.KelliWilkins.com to learn more about all of her writings.

 

#BookSale “Under Colorado Skies: Colorado Crazy Book 1-3” by Milan Watson

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When two sisters return to the town they fled years ago, things are about to change in White Horse Creek. Under Colorado Skies includes the first 3 books in the Colorado Crazy Series. Although each book can be read alone, read them in sequence for a better reader experience.

Sunsets in Colorado

Lewis fled from her country roots, but now she’s back. If it’s up to the handsome cowboy, she won’t ever leave again. Enjoy a whirlwind romance as Lewis deals with the demons of her past.

Whispers in Colorado

Jasmine is a New York designer, but being back in White Horse Creek brings back all the memories she wants to forget. Will this ice queen drop her armor of frost long enough to let in the handsome vet?

Midnights in Colorado

Lisa is bold and vivacious. Sam is a straight-laced traditional cowboy. What happens when they fall in love? Can this hairdresser steal her cowboy’s heart and keep it?

The Colorado Crazy series are ranch romances guaranteed to tease your senses and make you dream of cowboys again.

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