Sex, Secrets, & Happily Ever Afters by Deb Julienne
Angel Talbot is anything but pure—in fact some might even consider her a bit wicked. How else would you describe the manager of an ‘adults only’ store that specializes in helping ladies find that special O. But Angel could use a hand herself. Or two. That is until she stumbles into sexy businessman Travis Wellington.
When the Wellington Family had a problem, they sent Travis to fix it. Being the CEO of his family’s multi-million dollar enterprise means Travis is used to getting his hands dirty. But the pressure of looking out for the company, along with his family’s well-being was beginning to take its toll . . . until he found his Angel…
Angel stood at the counter thumbing through a catalog of toys, trying to decide what to add to her current inventory. Her mind wasn’t on the store. Travis and the memories of how they’d left things in Tahoe filled her thoughts. The promised first date. Her fear of it, of him, of history repeating itself. The bell over the door tinkled.
Carrying a box, Carina Shepherd glided into the store wearing a navy blue business suit with matching suede pumps and a hint of the J’adore she favored.
“What a surprise. My favorite author and sexpert extraordinaire. I didn’t expect you for another few months.” Angel rounded the counter and gave her friend a hug. Carina had been a major key in helping her make the store what it was today.
“Sexpert, schmexpert. It’s been so long since I had a date, I named my vag prodder Roger.” Carina set the box on the counter. “I have four more boxes in the car. Thought I’d come by and personally deliver your book order.” Carina’s voice had a slightly husky tone that bordered on seductive.
“I love your sense of humor. It’s so colorful on top of your British accent.”
“Glad to give you a chuckle or two.”
Angel helped Carina move the boxes into the store. “Any chance I can get you to sign them? It always helps sales to have books autographed by the author.”
“Brilliant. Be glad to.” Her ginger mane and rosy cheeks flattered her smiling face.
While Angel unpacked, Carina pulled a gold Montblanc pen from her purse and began to autograph books.
“Speaking of sales, how’s the store doing?” Carina twirled her pen.
Angel thumbed through the book in her hand then added it to the stack. “I’m working on a list of possible expansion ideas, but nothing definitive yet.”
“Really? Last time we talked, you mentioned you might not be able to expand until next year. What’s happened?” Carina brushed her pen along her bottom lip.
“I sold a custom-made wedding dress for enough to fund it.” She still couldn’t believe Trent had offered such an exorbitant price for Sabrina’s dress. With that money in the bank, she was ready to see how far she’d be able to stretch it. She hadn’t been this solvent in ages and could finally breathe a sigh of peace.
“Nice. Does this mean you’re ready to reopen the bridal salon?” Carina leaned on the counter and smiled.
“I wish, but no, not yet. I hadn’t counted on the sale. It came out of nowhere, but the offer was too good to turn down.” She gave a quick overview of Sabrina and Trent’s wedding.
“And…?” Carina’s eyes narrowed.
“And what?” Angel didn’t want to get into it.
Carina pulled her glasses down on her nose and glared over them. “Who is he?”
“Who’s who?” Angel removed books from the box and stacked them up.
“What a load of cobblers, Angel!” Carina thumped a book. “Quit acting dim. You’re avoiding the bigger issue. Just admit it. You met a bloke. Why are you downplaying it?”
Angel put a book on the stack and stepped away from the counter. “This is why I don’t have many close friends. It’s too hard to hide my feelings.”
Carina set the pen down. “Why would you want to? If you’ve met someone, it’s definitely worth sharing.”
“Except we’re talking about me, and I don’t do them anymore.”
“Them? Are you listening to yourself? You make dating sound comparable to an infection or root canal.”
“A root canal without any Novocain.” Angel opened the second box.
“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the company of a man.” Carina’s words sounded so innocent.
Angel knew better. “Unless you’re me. I no longer trust my judgment where men are concerned.” Angel instantly regretted having opened up.
Carina gave her an evil eye roll that was as effective as getting her hand slapped. “Talking about Grant, are we?”
“What do you think?”
“That was years ago. Why are you still obsessing over that bloody wanker?” Carina rubbed Angel’s arm. “You’re not a naïve young chit any longer. You’re a very creative, beautiful, independent, business-savvy young woman. Why do you persist in punishing yourself over him? It’s long past time for you to forgive yourself and forget him.” She picked up her pen, signed another book, and moved it to the growing stack.
“Easy for you to say. I’m the one who lost everything for the sake of so-called love.”
“Love?” Carina chuckled. “Rubbish. That was puppy love at best. How do you expect to find happiness in the future if you can’t, won’t, or don’t let go of the past?”
“That’s easy. I’m not looking.” She plastered on a phony smile.
“And you’re happy about that?” Carina’s face turned red. She plopped onto the stool behind the counter.
Angel shrugged. “At least I’m not hurting.”
“You’re also not living. What kind of life is that?” Carina leaned back in the seat. It squeaked as her leg bobbed and bounced.
“The only one I can handle.” Angel sounded pathetic, even to her.
She slid another book to Angel. “What did you think of my book? Did you read it?” Her slate blue–grey eyes twinkled.
“It’s great. I wish I’d had it last month. I have a friend who could have used it.”
“Really? Who?” Carina slipped off her shoes and crossed her legs.
“Relax. Not for me. For a friend.”
“What about you? Don’t you want to be a sex kitten?” Carina smirked and wiggled her eyebrows.
Angel caressed the black satin book cover, sleek and sexy. Her fingers lingered on the fuchsia title, How to Be a Sex Kitten. “Please. I’m so over that part of my life.”
“You’re not even thirty. Shame on you! Look around you.” Carina shook her head, her earrings tinkled as they swung.
“What?” Angel clutched the book to her chest. Better to act stupid than admit the truth.
“Quit feeling sorry for yourself. It’s quite unattractive.” Carina grimaced.
“Excuse me?” Angel began unpacking the second box.
Carina stopped signing and leaned back in her chair. She crossed her arms and glared at Angel. “You heard me. I want you to stop for a moment and think about what you just said.” Carina pointed her pen. “You’re a healthy red-blooded female and yet you’re talking about sex like you’re a corpse instead of a woman in her prime of her life. I know menopausal seniors who show more interest in sex than you do.”
“I can’t do that again. I don’t want to.” Angel loaded the signed books back in the first box, perturbed that her friend felt the need to interfere.
“What you experienced was beastly. You’ll get no argument from me. But it wasn’t the end of the world.” Carina spoke with a firm but gentle tone. She always chose her words carefully, much the way a big sister would. Honest, yet on point.
“No—just the end of my family. I’ve spent so much time being angry at my folks. I’m tired of being mad. The reality is I miss them.” Talking about her family always made her feel like she was stuck in the corner on a time-out.
“You could always call them.” Carina lived her life with the belief that nothing negative was worth holding onto, including parents.
“They still won’t speak to me.” Angel bit her lip.
Carina’s wide-eyed stare spoke louder than her words. “You know that for a fact?”
“Yes. Marianne called them at Christmas. She asked if they’d talk to me. They said no.”
“I’m sure your sister meant well, but what did we decide on that?” Carina came around the counter and gripped Angel by the upper arms. “There is no way to change another person’s perception. You can only change yours.”
“I know, but—” Carina pressed her palm to Angel’s cheek.
“But nothing, love. You should be proud of yourself. You made the best of a rotten situation. You’re not to blame for their contemptible behavior. How Grant and your parents reacted to that whole situation was wrong, but you did the right thing.” Carina brushed a strand of hair out of Angel’s face then moved back behind the counter.
“Did I?” She pulled the last book from the third box and dropped the box on the floor then opened the fourth.
“Yes, you did. Just because Grant destroyed your innocence doesn’t mean you should let what he did ruin the best part of your life.” Carina took her seat, adjusted her bangle bracelets, and resumed signing.
“True, but it was my virginity, all for the sake of a bet.” Angel slumped against the counter and covered her face to hide her shame. She was so tired of the past, the hurt, the humiliation.
You can purchase Deb’s book by following this link.
About the Author:
While some say truth is stranger than fiction, Deb Julienne’s experience runs more along the lines of a slap-stick comedy. When life tosses you lemons the only thing to do is to turn it into Limoncello.
Her life, like her comedies, has been one big fat romantic comedy…or errors. It’s not a matter of “if” it can go wrong, but how bad when it does happen, and make no mistake…it will. Survival with a sense of humor is the goal.
Joking aside, Deb’s dream of being published came true with the release of her first book, Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aids which was released March 2014. Since then she’s added to more to her collection of tales. Sex, Secrets, & Happily Ever Afters, and A Splash of Romance in the Crashing into Love Anthology.
As a long time member of both Romance Writers of America (RWA) and her local RWA Chapter, the Sacramento Valley Roses, she fills the hours she’s not writing romantic comedy and romantic suspense with her day job at a Silicon Valley Corporation, playing in the kitchen concocting her award-winning jams, jellies, preserves, and sauces (with alcohol of course).
Born and raised in San Jose, California, she now resides in the Tahoe National Forest Basin, her own little bit of heaven on Earth, with her husband of 34 years, their three sons and one daughter, and two very precocious grand kids, with a third on the way.