If You Want It
Contemporary Romance by Kathryn Lively
Novel Length (~62k words), HEA ending
Sports hero, BBW heroine, Small Town setting
$3.99 eBook format
About the Book: The days when people called Winnie Segal “Sea Cow” are long over. She’s still a big gal, and everybody around her’s gone all PC and “Yay, body acceptance,” but once in a while something dredges up a bad memory. This time, the trigger is Cory Levane, former high school star quarterback and current NFL legend… and former high school crush. After a triumphant career he’s come home to show off, so Winnie thinks. She’d rather design and sell her artwork than give a damn, yet the garden in which she grows her damns thrives.
After one month of early retirement, Cory is climbing the walls. He thought coming home would provide cheer and inspire him to plan his future, but people treat him like a celebrity instead of an actual person. He’s happy about one thing, though: Winnie Segal hasn’t changed—she’s still gorgeous and funny as ever, and talented. If he weren’t so damn tongue-tied around her he’d let her know.
The opportunity to work together on a project has Cory anxious to get closer, and leaves Winnie suspicious of his motives. Winnie doesn’t let comments about her weight get to her as much these days, and while Cory never made fun of her in school, he never attempted to start a friendship, either.
Winnie keeps a tight hold on her heart, and Cory knows it will take more than his football skills to get her to pass it to him.
“I hate that ringtone,” Winnie cursed. For the dozenth time in the space of an hour, her phone emitted a squeaky clown’s horn to alert her to yet more interference from Marcy in her personal life. She’d change the noise, but the other options programmed into her phone sounded equally or more annoying.
Besides, Zeppo preferred this particular tone over the others. To him, the brassy tootle of an incoming text probably resembled the call of an approaching ice cream truck. Even now, his floppy ears perked up and his attention diverted to the window.
“Zeppo, come here, boy.” She snapped her fingers and the beagle loped closer with a whine of disappointment. “I know, sweetie, but vet’s orders. No more people food.”
Zeppo settled on the area rug near her, and she checked her phone. Has he called yet? The question appeared in a blue speech bubble with a second one percolating underneath it. Marcy wanted to chat, never mind they parted company after the market. Winnie’s thumb hovered over the keypad before she changed her mind and set it beside her. What answer would satisfy her cousin? If she said yes it opened the door for Marcy to press for details—what did he say, are you going to meet, what will you wear? Telling the truth would likely lead to less gracious demands—why don’t you call him?
Because I just want to read my damn book and enjoy what was left of my Saturday. Winnie let the rest of her imagined conversation with Marcy play out into her head until she deemed herself fit to give the romance novel she bought yesterday her full attention. Two pages in, after she read the same paragraph twice, the paperback joined the phone in a growing “out of sight, out of mind” pile.
The same couldn’t be said for Cory. Winnie stretched with a loud, keening yawn on the sofa, curled to her side, and closed her eyes. Say she called Cory, then what? She’d bring up the children’s book and suggest a tweak to the plot line, and he’d return with oh, I wasn’t serious about that. I thought Marcy was kidding around. She’d feel like a jackass for wasting his time, he’d get her name wrong saying goodbye and hang up. The end.
Another honk, like a strangled goose calling for help, filled the silence. Marcy’s persistence baffled her. So what if she crushed on the guy back in high school? It didn’t mean Marcy had to scheme to get them together now. Cory’s presence in St. Florence was likely temporary, and Winnie had no designs to follow him anywhere. What was the point in that? She appreciated Marcy’s concern for her single state, but she’d done fine on her own all these years.
Since hanging her own shingle as a designer, she made enough to buy her home. Granted, real estate in St. Florence was much cheaper than in nearby Waynesboro and Charlottesville, and the house might double as a garage in a rich man’s backyard, but it belonged to Winnie Segal. She had a deed with her name on it and the freedom to hammer a nail in any of the walls enclosing her ample behind.
The face painting brought in income for guilty pleasures, like the occasional pair of strappy heels and concert tickets. Also books. Digital, discounted hardcovers, and recent arrivals at Between the Pages in “downtown” St. Florence—be the covers shiny and slick or tattered and curled from an avid reader’s love. But if Winnie harbored any guilt in that department it was overbuying mass market romances by the grocery sack before finishing what she’d purchased the prior week.
While she hardly burned up the social scene in Shenandoah, she refused to accept the spinster label. She dated once in a while, and just because the few men she’d seen over the years didn’t pan out into deeper relationships, she didn’t see her life as incomplete.
Lonely at times, sure, but she was holding off on ordering the cat lady starter kit until the new year. Of course, she said that last year.
Honk! went the phone. Up went Zeppo’s head, his eyes wide with hope.
Winnie sighed. Even Krusty the Clown gave the horn a rest. She snatched up her phone, mentally working out a tart response to her cousin when she noticed a different name attached to this text bubble.
Cory wanted to know, How are you, Winnie?
Good question. She waffled between the safe and brief fine and revealing how her heart rate shot from zero to sixty and her fingers shook to type one letter. She settled on the former response so as not to frighten him and processed this new development. This, she reasoned, served as the contemporary equivalent to receiving a note in class.
Thank goodness she was alone. If Marcy saw this text, the ensuing squeals would pierce her eardrums.
I was thinking about the book and I have a few ideas I’d like to run by you. Winnie waited a moment, and Cory continued texting about the Lost Girls Brewery near Crozet. Winnie knew practically every winery within a twenty-mile radius of her house, but in recent years Albemarle and Nelson counties boasted a fair number of craft brew houses, some of which served food along with their small-batch saisons and stouts. Since she had little taste for beer, she had yet to visit any.
The thing setting Lost Girls apart from other Virginia breweries, as the name implied, was the fact it was owned and operated entirely by women. Winnie heard an all-female motorcycle gang used the place as a front for a variety of dubious activities, everything ranging from adult video production to marijuana cultivation. Considering Marcy as her main source of information, Winnie took it all in with skepticism.
Eh, what the hell? How often did a nice girl from St. Florence get invited to a biker chick brewery? I can GPS directions. Twenty minutes okay? After receiving the yes, she swung her legs to the floor and slapped her thighs to alert Zeppo.
“Hey, buddy. Let’s go for a ride.”
Zeppo’s tail swished back and forth, and he jittered on all fours. She didn’t use her “off to the vet” voice, so he was up for anything.
Winnie grabbed her purse and the leash hanging from the coat hook near the door. She’d let Cory buy her first and only round and hear him out. Marcy could hear about this from somebody else.