Planning Penelope Cover Reveal!

I'm so excited to finally share the cover with the world! 

I've also decided to share the first chapter as a special teaser! Make sure to comment and let me know what you think. Planning Penelope will be available on Amazon, Nook, and iBooks July 11th, 2017. 

Chapter 1

She has an oral fixation, so I have an oral fixation—hers.

Usually, it’s a pen cap, a pencil, or the plastic lid of her coffee cup, but tonight, she has nothing but her fingers lingering over her soft light-pink pout. I’ve been watching those lips and anything that comes near them for years now. It’s more than my obsession. This woman has become my masterpiece, and I’m the unknown author.

I won’t let anything chip away at my creation.

Especially this guy.

He’s standing behind her, carnal determination obvious on his face and with a fierce urge to bite into the skin on her back. I can see it in his eyes, the way they’re focused on her flesh. He leans forward, and my protective glands swell in my throat. Although I’m several feet away and one level down, I lean in, as he did, but with anticipation to lurch.

She’s resting on the railing, staring out at the band onstage, unaware of what is about to hit her. Her left elbow is touching the metal bar, but her fingers are on her delicate, smooth pout, touching so lightly across, back and forth.

The loud nightclub drowns out one of her key senses. So, mine heighten in response.

I move to set down my beer. I’m ready. Ready to fight for her and keep her from the predator lurking at her back—the one fucking with my masterpiece. He moves closer to her skin and bends his head to kiss the top of her shoulder. She doesn’t flinch.

I exhale a deep breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

She turns around, wraps her arms around him, and kisses him on his mouth. Her delicate, smooth lips are on his unworthy mouth. My jaw muscles tighten, and my teeth clench. This makes me angry, but I won’t act on it. Not yet.

“Alex, what’s wrong?” Kevin asks, nudging me with his elbow, still keeping his beer close to his face.

“Nothing,” I tell him and turn to pick up my beer from the high-top where I set it.

My eyes go back to her. They have been seeing each other for a few weeks, but I know it won’t last much longer. Not after tomorrow. Not after what I found out. This one isn’t the worst, but he’s still not good enough.

Her typical type—blond, tall, fair-to-medium skin—Hitler’s dream and my worst nightmare. I knew he would be a threat when they crossed paths last month. I keep them away as best I can, but there are too many unpredictable forces in life.

“Fuck, that chick is hot,” Kevin says, nudging me again and pointing his elbow at a group of women dancing.

Keeping her in my peripheral, I scan the small group of dancers. I know exactly which girl he’s talking about. “Tits are fake,” I unapologetically inform him.

“Ass isn’t,” he quips. “Plus, who cares if the tits are fake? I don’t care as long as they’re there, and I get to put my face in them.” I can see the wheels turning in his head. “I bet she has an awesome pussy, too.”

I mentally roll my eyes at his distaste. “Don’t forget about Michelle. She’s not bad.”

In fact, his girlfriend is really very nice—typical brown-haired, brown-eyed girl. Nothing like her but very likeable nonetheless. Kevin could do a lot worse—like the one he’s drooling over.

He smiles at my compliment. “Thanks, man. I know how critical you are about women.” His head moves back and forth to the familiar beat of the new song playing. “When was the last time you got laid?” he shouts over the music, forcing the conversation on me.

Last night.

“Is Michelle coming out tonight?” I ask, needing to change the subject.

“No.” He tilts back his beer, taking the last sip the bottle has to offer. “She left to go home for Thanksgiving already. She wanted me to go with her”—he shakes his head wildly—“but no fucking way. I’m not ready for that shit. It’s only been six months.”

“You’re right; she can do better.” I pat him on the shoulder and reach my other hand across, offering to take his empty from him.

She and her tool-for-now boyfriend have shifted positions, and the crowd has changed now that more bodies have filtered in. I need to move as well.

Kevin follows me to the side bar. It’s the one closest to her, where I can keep an eye on her while she’s surrounded by predators.

“It’s not that. I do want to be more serious but not yet. We’re in our early twenties. We should be sowing our wild oats,” he says, winking at his mediocre pick for the night.

She smiles back, and they know they can have each other, both at the tipping point. All that needs to happen is one move. But I need more time.

I grab Kevin by the arm to direct the few steps we need to make it to the bar. “Then, let Michelle be with someone else until you’re done.”

“No fucking way,” he quickly says, picking up the pace and moving to the end of the bar.

I purposely take my position to face Kevin, where she can be seen over his left shoulder. I lean just in a way so that Kevin will think I’m making eye contact with him.

Two beats into a new song, and the crowd erupts, filling the room with sound in the absence of light. The dark club is barely recognizable, except for the small stage and the bar. I’ve always thought nightclubs were irresponsible for stripping young women of so many senses and topping them off with alcohol.

The atmosphere works to my advantage, making it easy for me to blend in. She never seems to notice me here. Just another face in the crowd. I’m careful, so she has never noticed me anywhere else either.

She loves this song. It’s not her favorite, but I know she loves this song.

I watch her mouth move, and her lips form the words, I love this song.

I know the maximum distance I can be to still read her lips. From here, I can tell how fast she’s breathing, based on the rise and fall of her chest. When I’m even closer, I can tell how fast her heart is beating, based on the shade of her blue veins and the color of her skin, combined with how fast and hard she’s breathing.

“Coors,” Kevin calls to the bartender. “What do you want?” he asks before the bartender turns away.

They both wait for my answer.

I take a quick look up to her. She’s moving to the beat perfectly but too shy to be overly free with her body. He watches from behind her, looking down on her body, biting his lip, as if he were trying to hold something back.

If he only knew what I was holding back, he would run in the other direction.

“Nothing. I’m good,” I say, pretending to look at Kevin.

“Nothing? You’ve only had one beer. Come on.” He puts his hands up. “You’re the one who invited me out. Get drunk with me tonight.”

My eyes are still watching her, as I’m unconvinced she’s completely out of danger yet. He certainly isn’t easing my concern. “Not tonight.”

“Well, fuck that. I’m getting drunk anyway.”

“Go right ahead,” I welcome.

Kevin drinks three beers during the time she has one vodka tonic. Now, the douche-bag guy she came in with is taking her by the hand and leading her toward the doors.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I tell Kevin.

He’s still eyeing the desperation in a miniskirt with fake breasts.

Pathetic.

“You’d better come back this time. You can’t leave me here, waiting, like you did last week.”

I walk away, not acknowledging his comment. Last week couldn’t be helped. She was drunk. I had to make sure she got home safely and was left alone. It was a long night, but at least I knew she was okay.

“Wait, Alex!” he yells.

I turn my head in his direction.

“Are you always running off to get laid?”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Again, I ignore him.

“Wish I could get laid tonight,” I hear him mumble behind me as I leave.

That asshole made me lose focus, and I’ve lost sight of her. I swallow hard and gather my thoughts for the best plan of action. Without causing a scene or alarming anyone, I move as fast and as determined as I can toward the main exit.

I forcefully push my way through a cluster of people, nearly knocking over a petite blonde. I grab her shoulders, steadying her, as my feet keep moving. “I’m sorry,” I say before she has a chance to complain about the run-in.

She looks up just as I’m releasing her, and any aggravation she might have had is gone.

“Wait,” she asks when I don’t stop to give her more apologies.

I have something important on my mind, and I don’t have time for desperate women who will take whatever attention they can get. I have none to give. I let the blonde’s voice fade into the background.

I step out in the fresh air, but there is nothing fresh about any air I don’t share with her. Without moving my head, my eyes scan the area, looking for her. She’s not out here. I dig my hand into my pocket, as if I were grabbing my car keys.

My white four-door sedan is parked in the side lot, but I walk toward the front lot, knowing where he parked earlier this evening. I get to the fourth from the left spot in the third row and stop. There it is—his stupid fucking Mustang.

I turn to head back inside. She’d better still be in there because, if he took her down some dark alley in the middle of the night, the only way he will be leaving that dark alley is in a body bag.

When I open the door to go back into the bar, I’m hit with a backdraft that ignites my senses with vanilla and violets. I step to the side, holding the door open for her to walk through. Her navy eyes glance up at me before she crosses the threshold. I force myself to look away from her and move my head back and forth just a bit, as if I were looking for someone already inside the bar. I move enough so that she can’t focus on my face but not enough to draw attention to myself.

“Thank you.”

I nod once without looking directly at her, accepting her sincerity as she passes.

Keeping her in my peripheral, I watch her silky strawberry-blonde hair move above her shoulders. Bunching it in her hands, she gives her lightly glistening neck the cool, fresh air it deserves. I breathe in, wanting to taste the salt of that sweet vanilla-and-violet-scented sweat.

He moves behind her, and I let the tinted pane close with me on the other side.

I lean against the wall just inside the entrance and look at my watch, as if I were waiting for someone. They stand on the curb, not moving toward his car, probably relying on the university-funded designated-driver program.

Three minutes later, a student DD’s Prius pulls up, and they say their good-byes. She gets in. Only her. He walks off to his Mustang.

At least he had the decency to wait until she was in the car. Like I said, he’s not the worst one.

Once both cars leave, I do the same. I know she’s going back to her apartment. She studied all day, and she’s ready, but she knows she still needs a good night’s sleep before her test tomorrow morning. She’ll get a ninety-two percent on her third midterm exam this week—Psychology 404. She does all the work herself. I just make sure she finds the right materials at the right time.

My BMW warms instantly after I start the engine. I will make sure she gets home okay, wait until the lights are out, and come back to the bar to apologize to Kevin. He’ll probably be too drunk to notice how long I’ve been gone. Or better yet, he’ll be distracted and off fucking some desperate piece of ass somewhere in that dirty club.