Too bad secret identities only last forever in comic books.
Releasing June 21, 2017
Mara Baranski is living the fangirl’s dream, running a comic book shop that supports her and her ailing mother. She is even given the chance to buy the building—for a dollar. That is, until her dear friend and landlord dies before the sale goes through. Now Mara has forty-five days to clear out her shop or convince the resentful son of the old owner to change his mind—if she can only corner him long enough to ask.
Despite being abandoned by his father years ago, Wesley inherited all of his dad’s assets and ambition—but not his gullibility. When the tantalizing woman at his nightclub turns out to be the woman who scammed his lonely father, he seizes the chance for a little revenge. But after using a fake name to get close to his target, Wes is soon coming up with excuses to keep his identity secret a little longer.
She had to hunt Wesley Robson down tonight, didn’t want to waste more time on her search. As it was, the night would be too short for decent sleep. Saturday was game day at her comic book shop. Participants showed early and played intensely for hours. Board games, card games, electronic games. She would jump in and play them all, or run around the store helping customers.
It was her favorite day of the week, but still a long one.
What did Wesley look like, anyway? She would’ve seen him if she’d been able to go to the funeral. By the time she’d found out about Sam’s sudden death, though, he’d been gone and buried. There had to be a picture of his boy online. Just as she pulled out her phone to do a search, someone settled onto the barstool next to her.
The deep voice resonated through her bones. She almost groaned. He had the rumble of a rugged man, a primal mating call in her opinion. Admittedly, her last few dates had put the “boys” in fanboys, not men who knew their way around a woman.
She peeked at him from the corner of her eye. Her fingers tightened around the stem of her glass.
Holy hotness, Batman! He reminded her of one of her favorite superheroes. Jet-black hair, sky-blue eyes nearly glowing under the club lights, wide shoulders. If he wore a cape and had a large S on his shirt, she’d sit on his face. She’d still consider it, given his charcoal slacks and white-striped shirt, which likely had been cinched by a tie all day. The first two buttons were undone and his sleeves were rolled up. What was that style called? Industrial hot-as-hell businessman.
“What’s your poison?”
She shot him a surprised glance. He gestured to her already half-empty glass.
What had the bartender said it was? “I think it’s named after some rapper.”
He chuckled with genuine humor. “Are you here with the bachelorette party?”
When hell froze over. “No.”
The bartender leaned over the counter to hand him his drink. “The lady said she was looking for the owner.”
Stay out of it, dude. Wait, he knew the total package next to her? Maybe the new arrival also knew the owner. “Do you know Mr. Robson?”
His eyes crinkled with his smile. Even the man’s teeth were perfect. “Why would you want to find him? I’ve heard he’s an ass.”
She rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it.”
Hotness savored a long sip of his…whatever a Macallan was. “You’ve gotta tell me what he did to you.”
The pink bangs that framed her face dropped into her eyes. She feathered them away. His gaze traced from her hand to her dual ponytails, the plain brown hair streaked with pink. Instead of blond highlights, or lowlights, or whatever stylish women did, she’d chosen pink—because it was fun and girly. One of the few splurges she allowed herself.
Her hair often drew attention, not always the flattering kind. But she enjoyed his. “He’s shutting down my store. Tearing down the whole damn building. ‘Upgrading.’” She gave the last word air quotes.
His right eye twitched and he stared at her for a heartbeat. Humor drained from his expression and his gaze narrowed slightly.
Her heart rate increased at being the object of such scrutiny. She wanted more, but she also felt like she’d done something wrong.
Finally, a grin curled his full lips. “That bastard.”
Marie Johnston writes paranormal and contemporary romance and has collected several awards in both genres. Before she was a writer, she was a microbiologist. Depending on the situation, she can be oddly unconcerned about germs or weirdly phobic. She’s also a licensed medical technician and has worked as a public health microbiologist and as a lab tech in hospital and clinic labs. Marie’s been a volunteer EMT, a college instructor, a security guard, a phlebotomist, a hotel clerk, and a coffee pourer in a bingo hall. All fodder for a writer!! She has four kids, an old cat, and a puppy that’s bigger than half her kids.
Tasty Q&A with Marie Johnston
If you had to title your own life what would it be and why?
Tales of an Insecure Mom
What is their favorite place to visit?
Favorite town: Fargo. It’s nothing like the show! We don’t want to admit it, but I’ve heard people talk exactly like the movie. Usually when I go there, all I want to hit up are restaurants.
Favorite place: Greasy diners. It brings me great joy to find a place that serves a perfect burger. I’m not talking about a fancy patty seasoned to the gills, with a whole wheat bun, served on a bed of lettuce. I want a plain burger with the grease that soaks into a buttered and toasted white bun and soaks into my mouth when I take the first bite. And nothing but ketchup decorates my burger.
Favorite writing place.
There’s a Classic Rock coffee shop in town. The place is dark like a bar, but not as loud. Best of all, they have booths. I used to go there and write during preschool until my stomach said no more caffeine. I’m back together with caffeine, and when preschool resumes, my butt will be planted in one of those booths, and I will be happily typing away.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The little twist about halfway through. I was writing my critique partner about the plot and brought up a “what if…” She said OMG—DO IT!! The twist is subtler that I imagined it, but it’s a major factor in their character arcs.
What gave you the most trouble with this story?
I entered this manuscript into several contests and many judges felt the hero wasn’t likeable. My editor got her hands on it and said I had to peel him back like an onion. I panicked. I had such a solid picture of him—did I not translate it well? Of course, in my head, he’s clearly a guy torn up by his father’s rejection and riddled with righteous anger over the girl he thought was trying to con his dad. And in the beginning, he was a jacka$$ with devious intentions, so I didn’t want to soften him too much. So, I used a light touch in my edits and my beta readers approved, but I still worry my vision of Wes Robson didn’t translate and readers won’t root for like I do. I’ve started the second book in the series and Wes makes an appearance and I’m just really proud of the character he became.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I wanted to do my Midwest take on the billionaire bad boy romance. But I don’t travel much anymore, much less to any big cities. I haven’t lived in a city larger than 100K. And what do I know about being rich? So, I ruminated over different story lines and when the comic book shop came to mind—jackpot. I mean, it’s like I’ve prepared for this story my whole life. I’m a fangirl by proxy. My brother’s a Marvel guy and while growing up, I watched Star Trek with him. My husband is a DC guy and out-Treks my brother. Our date nights include superhero movies and I know to never, ever crinkle a comic book.
What do you like best about being a writer? What is the most challenging part?
As a career, I love the flexibility of being a writer. I’m the hub my family circles around and when I worked full-time and part-time, our chaos was almost unmanageable. As far as the craft, I just love writing, especially when I get into a groove and words are flowing and I don’t have to pop into thesaurus.com constantly. It’s a gigantic challenge finding time to write because it feels like everyone else’s activities come before my work. But in the end, that’s why I do this, to be around for my family.