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SERIES: Single Title (no series)
GENRE: Second Chance/Divorced/Widows, Small Town
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: 75,000 to 99,999 (large book)
HERO’S AGE: 40-49
HEROINE’S AGE: Over 50
HEAT LEVEL: Very Sexy (Let Me Show Exactly What I Want)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: Some (The occasional “F” bomb, lots of smack talk, some explicit sex)
On the cusp of a new decade, Anna Granger thinks she knows who she is: widow, attentive mother, accommodating businesswoman. But with the Big 5-O comes the realization she’s rendered herself all but invisible. Longtime clients aren’t renewing, her adult children are moving on, and—hardest to admit—men no longer look at her, only through her.
Anna’s best friend takes the reins and organizes an uplifting girls-only weekend in Vancouver, where lingerie shopping and a beginner’s intimacy workshop reconnect Anna with her body. And when emails from former flame, Daniel, move from hinting at rekindling their romance to the offer of an all-expenses-paid trip to Cabo San Lucas, Anna takes another step out of her comfort zone.
Small-town island life goes from humdrum to hopping with the addition of Liam, the visiting New Yorker who rents the cottage next door. As romance reorganizes Anna’s personal life and her client list grows, dreams she abandoned when she embraced motherhood clamor for attention. Though the future holds no guarantees, can Anna claim her newfound confidence and find her way back to herself?
READ AN EXCERPT
Turning fifty wasn’t so bad. It was the turning invisible that sucked.
One day, you felt reasonably attractive. You were having a conversation with a guy, and next thing you knew, he was scanning the room and walking away mid-sentence. Then it was just you, a wall of bad art and a half-filled glass of wine in the corner of yet another gallery opening or book signing.
On the way to invisible, saleswomen handed you one-size-fits-all caftans when what you really wanted was the adorable eyelet mini-dress on the mannequin in the window. Your adult children begged you not to wear a two-piece bathing suit. Better yet, they suggested, why go to the beach at all?
On the way to invisible, you began to understand why many women of a certain age dyed their hair fire-engine red and stopped giving any kind of a fuck, whatsoever.
Anna floated out of her reverie, a gentle hand patting her upper back. The linseed-oil finish of Gary Jr. and his wife, Suki’s, porch glistened in the late afternoon sun while the cluster of family and friends ringing the circular metal and glass table held their collective breath.
“Mom,” Anna’s daughter, Gigi, repeated. “Your candles are dripping.”
Anna pursed her lips, ignored her children’s worried glances, and managed to blow out all five flames. Everyone applauded. Suki plucked the smoldering tapers out of the buttercream frosting, placed them on a painted tray, and handed Anna a silver cake knife and a stack of dessert plates.
The rest of the birthday celebration passed in a blur. Gary Jr. drove Anna home afterward. She mounted the steps of her narrow side deck, the vase of flowers from the party propped against her hip. The key she kept meaning to recut stuck in the lock. Again. She moved a set of salt-and-pepper shakers aside and put the generous bouquet of farm-grown poppies in the center of the kitchen table. Before her husband died, everything in her modest home had its place. And each of those things continued to have its place.
Five years ago, she and Gary had begun to find a new rhythm to their married life. They had made plans to travel away from their home in coastal British Columbia and to expand Anna’s sewing business.
Then Gary had suffered a massive heart attack.
Anna put her client orders on hold, helped her two newly adult children grieve their father’s passing, and mourned in private for future grandchildren who would never sample Gary’s walnut penuche fudge or spend a summer night stargazing with him from the top of Mount Maxwell.
She started at a knock at her door and exhaled when Gary Jr. stepped inside to hand her a gaudy gift bag stuffed with cards and gifts. He placed a bakery box—which box promised the leftover dessert she’d eyeballed when Suki removed the cake stand from the table—near the flowers and opened his arms for a quick hug.
“Love you, Mom.”
Anna drew the shade on the door when he left and opened the cardboard container. Her thoughtful daughter-in-law had added a thick schmear of frosting to the paper plate. She swiped the added, unused candles one by one through the mocha confection, sucking the sweetness off the blunt ends before lining them beside the plate. She rinsed off the candles in the basin of the chipped porcelain sink and set the slender sentinels of her five decades on the windowsill to dry.
She wasn’t tired, and she wasn’t about to give in to the tug of melancholy pulling her toward the couch, a sad movie, and a glass of wine… and another. She brought the bag of birthday goodies to a side chair, tugged on the pull chain of the old milk-glass lamp, and sat.
The rosy red envelope from her best friend, Elaine, beckoned to be opened. Inside the enclosed card, she’d written, “Anna Banana, Time for a couple of old birds to learn some new tricks! Happy Birthday, Love, E.”
A gift certificate, decorated with stylized pen-and-ink drawings of nude bodies, dropped into her lap. Anna flipped the rectangular paper and read a jumble of words informing her she would be attending a workshop on Intimate Breathing the following weekend. When she unwrapped the accompanying pink-striped package, a wave of prickly heat flushed over her neck and cheeks. She ignored the chirp of an incoming phone call and fanned her face with the birthday card.
Elaine, that paragon of wild womanhood, had given her an assortment of palm-sized vibrators in sorbet-colored silicone, along with a sampler of personal lubricants. Her friend must have charged the sex toys or put in fresh batteries because the one covered with translucent bumps wiggled in her hand. The button to make it stop wasn’t obvious. Anna giggled despite her embarrassment, dropped it into her lap, and found herself swallowing a surprised squeak as the kitchen door unlatched.
“Gary!” She grabbed the vibrator, stuffed it between her thighs, and prayed she had enough padding to muffle the insistent buzz.
“Hey, Mom, I was halfway down your road when I remembered there was another bag of presents in the back seat. Where do you want these?” He lifted the remaining haul and stepped closer to the couch.
“Right there.” She pointed to the table behind him, hoping he’d leave the bag and hightail it back to his car and his lovely wife.
Instead, he dropped it on the floor next to her calf. “What’s that noise?”
He reached into the partially unwrapped box and lifted a raspberry-colored, bullet-shaped item from the tissue paper. Grasping the keyring attached to one end, his eyes went wide as he mouthed the words printed along the side of the object. “Pleasure Plum?”
Anna prepared to die on the spot. “It’s from Elaine,” she said, holding out her palm. “She thinks she’s being funny.”
“I need to wipe this from my memory.” He relinquished the toy, planted his face in both palms, and scrubbed at his cheeks. “I’m heading to the cottage,” he mumbled. “Call if you need anything. And tell Elaine I’m scarred for life.”
“Thank you for bringing my other gifts.”
He waved without bothering to turn around and closed the door with a decisive pull.
Anna leaned into the armchair, closed her eyes, and let out the breath she’d been holding. Lesson number one for mothers with sons—or maybe it was lesson number four—was mothers didn’t have sex, let alone possess an arsenal of sex toys.
The happy little vibrator hummed for attention. The toy came with instructions, and the off switch was obvious once she got over her reluctance to handle the damn thing. She slid her forefinger into the ring-like holder and pressed the small button at the device’s base.
Her entire hand buzzed as her eyes filled with tears.
Elaine knew where to aim her arrows. The gifts were meant as a loving joke, a tease at her protracted celibacy, but when Anna acknowledged her five-year drought, the floodgates opened. She rested the side of her head on her hand and let the tears seep down her cheeks.
What the hell was Elaine trying to make her do? And what was this “Intimate Breathing” nonsense? She reached for a tissue. Her finger slipped out of the vibrator, leaving the tangerine-colored pleasure inducer tangled in her wavy hair.
Really, Elaine? Wouldn’t one regular-sized, generic… object have been enough?
Her phone sounded again on her way to the bathroom. She answered the call, her left thumb stiff and unused to the task of swiping and tapping.
“Did you open my gift?” Elaine’s excitement on the other end was palpable. Thank God she hadn’t insisted Anna open her gifts in front of everyone.
“You have no idea what you’ve done,” Anna said. “Let me put you on speaker.”
She couldn’t keep the annoyance out of her voice while she balanced the phone on the narrow lip of the pedestal sink. Disentangling the mini-penis required a mirror and a modicum of patience she was currently low on. Lifting her bare heels and leaning forward, she ignored the menopausal rolls pushing at the seams of her party dress.
“You have no idea what you’re missing,” Elaine gushed, “and it’s my job to help you reclaim your sexuality.”
Anna snorted. “How did you find out about this breathing workshop thing?”
“Do you remember the guy I’ve been dating, the tree-trimmer?”
“The one who’s barely out of the cradle?” Detangling was slow. She hoped to salvage the hair on the right side of her head, her arms were getting tired, and Elaine had no business bringing her happiness into this moment.
“Richie’s in his mid-thirties,” Elaine stated, matter-of-fact. “Anyway, turns out he’s into Tantric sex. Turns out everyone in their twenties and thirties on this island is into Tantric sex. Or maybe it’s Taoist sex. Shoot, I’ll have to ask him again.”
“I had no idea.” She faked surprise while freeing a few more strands of hair. Visions of half the island’s population cavorting naked with one another spooled through her head. She closed the mental curtains on the unsettling scene.
“Me either, until Richie took me to this place in Vancouver where they have all these classes. I tell you, learning how to breathe my way into better orgasms changed my life.”
Anna’s eyes went wide. The mini-toy hung by a last few strands of hair, her bra strap showed, and the horizontal stripes of her olive-and-black dress did nothing to enhance her sexual appeal. She looked like a deck chair cushion come to life and scared out of its wits.
“So you want to pay your newfound knowledge forward,” she said, “and you think I’m the perfect candidate?”
“Yes, I am, and yes, I do. Clear your calendar. I’ve booked us a hotel, my treat. You are going to love this.”
Anna retained her right to be skeptical as she dislodged the last bits of hair from the vibrator’s rubbery clutches. Her scalp was red from the tugging, and tears of frustration made it hard to see.
“Anna? Are you there?”
“I’m here.” She put the phone to her ear and wiped the sink clean with her free hand.
“You won’t know anyone,” Elaine reassured her. “I asked them to check the registration list. They have a beautiful room for the classes, everyone keeps their clothes on, and we’re the only participants coming over from the island.”
“You’re positive?” Anna would die on the spot if any of her offspring’s friends, or their parents, knew she needed help breathing intimately. Oh, Elaine. She muttered, “We’ll also be the only participants who had back row seats at the first sexual revolution.”
“I heard that,” Elaine chided, “and I will personally guarantee anonymity. If you see anyone who looks familiar, we walk out. So does this mean you’re coming?”
“I’m coming. No pun intended.”
“Good. We on for coffee in the morning? It’s my day off. We could even take a yoga class or something.”
“Can’t,” Anna said, blowing out a short breath and swiping at her outer eyes once more with the backs of her wrists. “I’ve got errands and a client meeting at the marina.”
Meet Coralie Moss
Coralie Moss is an author specializing in seasoned romance currently based on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada.
A New Englander at heart, she’s lived in Puerto Rico and Central Mexico and likes to include snippets of her travels in her stories.