Madison: It’s that time again! Macy Beck is back with us and she’s going to give us the latest scoop on what’s happening in St. Blaise.
Macy: Hi! I’m baaaaack.
Madison: And who are we meeting this month?
Macy: This month you meet Miss October, Susie Chen, and one great big hunk of a Missouri farm boy. Warren Mueller is a very special man. He was widowed at twenty, the poor thing. His high school sweetheart died while giving birth to their little girl. At a time when most guys are learning to shotgun beers, he had his hands full learning to be a father. Now, he has his hands full of Susie.
Madison: Ha! Good man.
Macy: A very good man, from what I hear….
Here’s the setup:
Warren Mueller’s daughter, Lily, has an opinion on everything and everyone in his life. After five years as a single dad, he can spout the reasons why purple is ‘so much cooler’ than pink, wield a fairly competent glue gun, and fumble his way to a decent set of pig-tails. The only thing he hasn’t figured out is how a big, clumsy farm boy like him caught the attention of an exotic flower like Susie Chen.
A tiny Asian-American cursed with more brain that brawn, Susie has always been attracted to big, burly corn-fed men who drive pick-up trucks and spend their weekends fishing, hunting, and paddling canoes. Especially ones who have a soft spot for little girls with sparkly hair bows. She likes Warren Mueller, not that she could ever have him.
The town erects a protective barrier around its young widower and his baby girl that seems to be impenetrable…until the night of the St. Blaise Elementary Fall Festival. If a picture says a thousand words, a single snapshot of Warren speaks volumes to Susie. He wants her as much as she wants him, and if he isn’t a big enough man to admit it, she’ll just have to show him the way.
And here is a snapshot:
He turned to check on Lily once again. If his eyes weren’t deceiving him, it appeared his daughter had talked Dr. Debrizzio into getting a butterfly painted on his cheek too. Warren entertained a twinge of sympathy for the poor sucker. He also felt more than a little torn. Talking to Susie gave him an excuse to avoid talking to Mario, but it was a toss-up to see which one would turn out to be more awkward. He didn’t dislike Dr. Debrizzio. It was just hard to be easy around a guy who witnessed Warren’s greatest high and lowest low all within one life-shattering forty minute window.
Sophie Bernard hovered near Mario’s chair, chattering happily with Lily. The bone-deep certainty that he was next on the list fired his need for escape. The awkwardness of standing too close to a woman he noticed too often jangled his nerves. He needed to grab his tiny tyrant and beat a path for home before he did something irrevocably stupid.
Turning back to Susie he mumbled, “I’ve gotta get you into bed.”
Her eyes widened and the sparkle in their ebony depths flared with amusement. Warren’s soul died the first of a thousand slow, painful deaths at the realization that he’d said something stupid instead.
“Wow.” Susie beamed at him, obviously delighted by his complete and utter mortification.
“Most guys would buy a girl a corndog first.”
“Her.” He spat the word from his cotton-filled mouth like it was a boll weevil. “I’ve got to get her into bed. Lily.” He invoked his daughter’s name for the sake of clarity, but couldn’t refrain from reiterating his intentions for the record. “I have to get Lily home and into bed. It’s a school night.”
This time, her smile didn’t fade. If anything, it warmed with understanding. That was why he didn’t turn tail and run when she raised one clenched fist. He didn’t move at all. Not even to breathe. He watched in rapt fascination as her fingers uncurled, each one as delicate as a flower petal. In the center of her palm she held another bloom. This one a pale pink and sparkly with a metal clip attached.
When he failed to recognize the gift she was offering, Susie cocked her head and stared up at him quizzically. “I do believe this belongs to Miss Lily Mueller.”
The teasing lilt in her faint drawl turned a swarm of butterflies loose in his stomach. The raspy intimacy threaded through the simple statement of fact stirred something else entirely. The devil whispered in his ear, reminding him that a fifteen-inch height difference didn’t mean diddly-squat when a man had a woman stretched out on his bed. His better angels sang a chorus of ‘Run, Warren, run!’
He plucked the girly hair doo-dad from her palm like it was a squashed bug and resigned himself to a few more weeks of pigtails.
“I should…” He waved a hand in his daughter’s general direction, but found himself unable to pull himself from the tractor beam cast by her smile.
“Get someone into bed,” she finished, a sly smile curving her lips. “See you around, Warren.”
Madison: A snapshot? One of yours?
Macy: Yep! I took a fantastic picture of Warren at that festival. As a matter of fact, I think Susie framed it. I guess that makes them even, as I heard Warren tried to swipe the October pages from a fresh set of calendars coming off the press.
Madison: A little territorial?
Macy: In a very sweet kind of way. Speaking of territorial, wait until you hear what happened to Mr. November when he went for a walk in the woods.
Madison: A bear got him?
Macy: Not a bear, but someone snagged him. That’s our story for next month, though.
Madison: I can’t wait to hear it. In the meantime, Ogling Miss October by Maggie Wells is available now in all ebook formats at the Turquoise Morning Press bookstore or your favorite online retailer. For more information on the Hot Nights in St. Blaise series, readers can visit www.maggie-well.com.