2016 has been an incredible year for me. I got my first publishing contract and my debut novel is being published worldwide on December 14.
But before all that, in January of this year, I almost died. I’d had surgery in December 2015 and slowly, I became sick. My stomach hurt, I was tired, and something just felt off. When I began spiking fevers well over 101 degrees, I called my surgeon. He had me come in, but I wasn’t running a fever that day, and he sort of blew me off. Two days later, I went to the hospital because I was sick, and my fever reached 105 degrees.
I was there for a week, and I came home with a line in my upper arm so I could administer antibiotics for another two weeks with home health. That was one of the worst times in my life. I knew I’d narrowly escaped septic shock (which my mother-in-law had died from in 2015) and feeling even okay was so far away, I wondered if I’d ever feel that way again. It took months before I had the energy even to sit and write.
I don’t mean to focus on the negative aspects, but it was a very dark time for me. And then I started feeling better. I was able to look at almost dying with some distance and think, “Thank you, God, that I’m still here for my girls and husband and parents.” And then, I got my publishing contract. I saw the email at three in the morning and woke the whole house up laughing. Who would’ve imagined I’d be laughing with joy just three months after I almost died?
My oldest daughter found out she was pregnant in August. I’m going to become a grandmother in March for the first time. And I almost missed that. Life and death are separated by something as fragile as a heartbeat, and we never know when the time will come for it to still.
This year, more than any other, I’m so thankful to wake up each and every day. I fill my days with family and writing, the things that bring me joy. I focus a lot less on what isn’t what I wish and more on what I can make better.
Almost dying has made me a cup-half-full person, except it isn’t half full. If you look close enough, it’s actually overflowing with blessings and gifts.
Justine Montgomery, daughter of a divorced beauty queen and TV magnate, is a tabloid disaster after her infamous sex tape. She’s so desperate to help save her family’s home she turns to her deal-making dad. Can she prove to him she’s cut out for a career in television or will she lose it all?
Sawyer has his own past and a successful career is his only goal. Seeing Justine fail would mean the promotion of a lifetime, but things get complicated when he develops feelings for her. Suddenly, the lines between work, life, sex, and love are blurry.
They will have to overcome the bitterness of a rejected ex, the controlling actions of her father, and the half-truths they’re telling one another to forge a lasting partnership both on the job and off the clock.
ExcerptWhen she came out and flipped the bathroom light off behind her, Sawyer wanted to tell her to try again. Her choice was anything but unattractive. She’d slipped into a gown that settled halfway between her knees and…well, places he had no business concerning himself with. The gown flounced around her, touching her nowhere except under the arms and across her chest with a black ribbon gathering the material.
She lifted one foot and slid it behind the other. “Poppies.”
He dragged his gaze to her face. “What?”
“The flowers on the gown are poppies. They make you drowsy.” She slid her gaze to the side. “I found that amusing when I bought it.”
He held up his hands. “It’s fine. Get in the bed.”
“I don’t do pajamas. I have a thing against sleeping in pants. I like the way the sheets feel, cool and slippery, on my legs.” She looked past him to a corner of the room. “I talk a lot when I’m uncomfortable.”
“It’s fine.” He shifted toward the bed and then paused as her words sank in. “Wait, you have panties on, though, right?”
He tilted his head to glance at her with a frown, trying not to look at her bare legs. “Are they hot?”
“Right, no. Doesn’t matter. Lay down.” She stopped beside him at the foot of the bed and they stared at the down-turned blankets. “I want to make sure you get some sleep. You get under the covers, and I’ll lie on top so I don’t invade your not-pants-wearing space.”
“You’re volunteering to give me emotional comfort.”
“Shut up, Justine.”
She hopped into bed, twisting to pull the covers to the top of her shoulders, and lay on her side. He climbed on top of the blanket, scooted close. “Do people send you designer nightgowns, too?”
“Trying to sleep here.”
Her body moved in the rhythm of breath, slowed down, as her muscles softened and relaxed. He wanted to kiss her shoulder, to press his lips against it, to find out if it was as soft as it looked. And what was that scent? Her hair fanned across her pillow and it smelled like… watermelon? Strawberries? Apples?
She interrupted his fruity thoughts, her voice soft and blurry. “Thank you.”
“I’m an ass.”
“You’re okay right now, though.”
“I’m using you, right now, because I like how you smell. I’m an ass.”
She didn’t speak again, and he realized she was out. He should get up. Go to his own room. Get away from the bare legs, under the covers, and the shoulder, and the hair. Try to put whatever had awoken during that hug back to rest. In a minute, he’d get his jacket and go.
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Lori Sizemore grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and never quite managed to escape them. Lori lives at home with her husband of twenty-plus years and two of her three daughters. She also lives with two dogs, a cat, and five hermit crabs. Yes, five of them. This menagerie and her family keep her busy.
She worked in mental health as a social worker for ten years before making the choice to write full-time.
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