Book title: Your Every Word
Author: Carrie Wexford
Genre: Romance/suspense thriller
Everyone pursues a dream in the City of Angels. For LaDonna, it is finding the man of her heart’s desire. She is delighted to meet Zane, a charming screenwriter. But will his dangerous secrets doom their whirlwind love story?
At 7:20 on a hectic Friday night in mid-June, a young woman exited Barragia’s Pizzeria on Santa Monica Boulevard with a flat cardboard box.
LaDonna Monrovia favored classic, casual clothes; this evening she wore a white, full-sleeved peasant blouse with a chic tan leather vest. Recently she read on a fashion blog that vests were once again in style, and she thought the vintage garment upgraded her faded blue jeans. Her only jewelry was a gold locket she had inherited from her maternal grandmother.
LaDonna’s soft eyes were fatigued after a tedious week of crunching numbers and shuffling papers. She was looking forward to curling up on the couch and watching the Monterey Mystery Files marathon on Channel 1288.
She scolded herself. Look at me. Thirty-two and no social life.
She halted in the river of pedestrians on the narrow sidewalk, flicked her brunette, shoulder blade length hair behind her, and raised the box’s lid.
She was glad that she double-checked her order before heading home. Papaya wedges and Canadian bacon slices decorated one-half of the pizza; diced mushrooms and extra mozzarella cheese filled the other side.
No! They forgot the bell peppers! She turned back quickly to the restaurant.
Too quickly. She collided with a six-foot-tall obstacle.
The box flipped out of her hands.
She caught her breath.
A tall man with an athletic build stood between her and the entrance to Barragia’s Pizzeria. His right hand suspended several garments on wire hangers over his shoulder. It was fortunate that the clear plastic bags sheathed his dry cleaning, for tomato sauce and melted cheese coated the buttoned-down shirt and designer necktie he was wearing.
“I am so sorry,” LaDonna stammered.
His free hand pried the goo off his chest. “Is that papaya? Who puts tropical fruit on a pizza?”
“My roommate does.” She remembered the paper napkins in her purse. She pulled one out and offered it to him.
He gave up wiping the stains, for his shirt was ruined. “Tell your roommate that he’s not having pizza tonight.”
“He’s not a he. He’s a she. I mean, she’s a she. Her name is Sonnet.” LaDonna realized that she was babbling, but she could not help it.
The stranger was distressingly handsome. He stood several inches taller than her five feet seven. His dark hair shimmered in the glow of the streetlights. His eyes were enticing labyrinths a girl could get lost in. His angular jawline bore a suggestion of five o’clock shadow.
She waved at his shirt helplessly. “I’ll pay to have it cleaned, of course.”
“That’s all right. I just picked up my laundry, so I have plenty of shirts.” He seemed genuinely amused by the incident. His dynamic eyes traveled to her left hand, which nervously twisted her antique gold necklace.
He’s looking for a ring! LaDonna cheered silently. He’s single. And he wonders if I am, too.
“Besides, it was entirely my fault,” he said.
“No, really. It was mine.” She tilted one foot behind her like an ingénue posing on stage.
He was absolutely captivating. His broad shoulders gave him an air of destiny. It thrilled her that he lingered before her, searching for an opportunity to get to know her better.
“Your face is so familiar.” His faint frown was charming. “Where have we met? Ah, it will come back to me. I feel terrible about this. Let me buy you another pizza. Or…wait.” He glanced down the street. “I was about to go to dinner. I hate eating alone. Would you like to join me?”
She hesitated. This is not happening. No one literally runs into a gorgeous man and lands a date, in two minutes flat.
He saw that she was flustered. “I hope I’m not being too forward. It’s hard to meet people in my line of work.”
“What do you do for a living?”
He poured a disarming smile upon her. “I’m a screenwriter.”
“How exciting! You must meet many celebrities at parties.”
“I don’t go out much. I’m more of a stay-at-home type. Watch TV. Put my feet up. My name’s Zane, by the way.”
“That’s a pretty name. Unusual, too.” When he took her hand, his body heat radiated through his lean fingers. “So, what do you say? Dinner? I know an excellent steak-and-seafood place on Barrington.”
“Yes, sure,” she heard herself say. This is unreal.
Zane strolled toward a silver Alfa Romeo 4C Spider parked at the curb. “Give me a second to change my shirt.”
She gaped at the two-seater convertible. “Is this your car?”
He laid the dry cleaning bags in the compact trunk. “What do you think of it?”
She imagined a road trip in this magnificent machine. “A car like this inspires you to take risks.”
His fingers paused on his shirt’s buttons. He repeated her words with deliberate care.
His enchanting grin grew wider. It was as if she had passed an important test.
Zane unfastened his stained shirt and slid it off his muscular arms. His self-confidence astonished her; he revealed his naked torso on a city street as easily as on a public beach. She marveled at his chiseled shoulders and well-developed pecs.
LaDonna forced herself to look up. Does he know how attractive he is? And does he think I’m pretty? He said my name is pretty.
She fixated on the shadow on his upper lip. She wondered if his unshaven face would feel rough on hers.
An L.A. native, Carrie Wexford is an author of contemporary and historical fiction. Carrie’s latest novel is the story of a young actress in 1920s Los Angeles.