Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Exclusive Excerpt: The (Half) Truth

With: Leddy Harper

Giveaway Alert!

Tatum Alexander is so close to realizing her dream of becoming a sous chef she can taste it, but working at her ex-fiancĂ©’s restaurant with his new girlfriend was never in her career plan. To save face and prove she’s moved on, Tatum cooks up a lie that she’s in a relationship with her best friend’s superhot cousin. There’s just one problem: Jason only recently moved to town, and he has no idea they’re already “dating.”
Jason’s a recovering ladies’ man who shouldn’t be on the menu, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to Tatum’s quirky charm. Giving her lie a kernel of truth, they decide some no-strings-attached fun between the sheets can’t hurt. But as Tatum’s forced to keep making up stories to cover her original fib, she has a hard time separating what’s real and what’s fake—including her feelings for Jason.
With too many tales spun, Tatum can only watch in horror as her collection of yarns begins to unravel, leaving everyone she cares about feeling betrayed. After so many lies, will it be too late to set the record straight? And more importantly, will she be able to convince Jason there’s truth in their love?
The sun danced off the lake behind the house while Uncle Fred entertained me with tales from his recent trip. That man spent more time with a rod and reel than anyone I knew. Then again, I’d just spent the last seven years in Vegas. Not that people didn’t fish out there, but it wasn’t as popular as in the South.

When I heard the patio slider open, I glanced over his shoulder to see which one of my cousins had arrived first. I said a silent prayer that it was Marlena, considering we had always been close and had done our best to keep in touch over the years. Not to mention she was married, which would’ve given me someone other than my uncle to hang out with.

Unfortunately, my prayers were ignored and Kelsey stepped outside. I hadn’t seen her since her twenty-first birthday, four years ago. Even though she hadn’t changed much since then, I couldn’t help but picture the ugly duckling she’d been as a kid. She’d certainly grown into a beautiful swan, though. I made my way up the steps from the dock, and then practically tripped over my own feet when I saw someone follow her out.

It was not her sister.

Unless Marlena had gotten younger and shortened about six inches.
Her brown hair hung a few inches past her shoulders in waves that made her look like she’d just stepped off a sailboat. She squinted against the sun, so I couldn’t see the color of her eyes, but I didn’t miss the way they flashed wider when she spotted my mom. Then she smiled with straight white teeth lined by bright-red lips. That color had a tendency to give off a Marilyn Monroe vibe, yet on her, I got more of a girl-next-door feel.

With a single glance, she’d managed to knock me off my axis.

“Look who it is.” Kelsey strolled toward me. “The prodigal son.”

Slinging my arm over her shoulder to return her half hug, I said, “Nice to see you, too, Kelsey.”

“I thought you were moving back at the end of summer.”

I shrugged, not really wanting to get into the specifics with her. We were as close as two cousins of the opposite sex and six years apart could be, but that didn’t mean I’d kept her in the loop on things. “I decided to come early. I didn’t see the point in leaving Mom alone for another two months.”

She giggled, as if anything I said was meant as a joke. “Knowing your mom, having you here early is cramping her style.”

Without giving me a chance to question what she’d meant by that, she walked away. I thought that indicated our interaction was over, until she grabbed her friend by the arm and brought her over to me.

“Jason, this is my best friend, Tatum.”

I ignored my cousin’s very clear warning and regarded the goddess in front of me. She was even more beautiful up close. And when she lifted her gaze, I found myself trapped in the most intoxicating pair of brown eyes I’d ever seen.

Rich wasn’t enough to describe them. Melted dark chocolate was perhaps the closest comparison I could make, and even that didn’t do the color justice. They were intense, like two black holes, ready to suck me in and never spit me back out.

Captivating … that’s what they were.

I realized I hadn’t done anything but stare at her, so I cleared my throat and said, “Nice to meet you, Tatum.”

She held out her hand, which I took. Yet rather than a normal handshake, she lightly held it while staring up at me. We seemed to be stuck in a time warp, both lost in each other’s gazes without a word, as though no one else was around. That was, until Kelsey decided to remind us of her presence.

“Jason just moved here from Vegas. Don’t get too close to him, though … he used to work in a landfill, so he probably smells like garbage.” Kelsey pinched her nose and curled her upper lip in feigned disgust.

“You don’t have a clue what I do, do you?”

Either Tatum didn’t find my cousin funny, or she flat out didn’t care, because instead of laughing, smiling, or even commenting on Kelsey’s insult, she asked, “Have you found a place yet?”

“Yeah, but I have to wait a few weeks. It should be ready by the first.”

Finally, she seemed to realize that we still held hands, but rather than shake my hand or squeeze it—or anything to suggest she’d meant the gesture as a greeting—she just let go. And then she wiped her palm on her jean-covered thigh. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Maybe she’d taken Kelsey’s landfill comment to heart.

She offered a forced smile and said, “Well, it was nice meeting you. Have fun.” And then walked away.

There was no telling what my cousin had said about me prior to them showing up, but rather than question it, I eyed Kelsey inquisitively. “Is she leaving?”

“Nope.” She stared at the sliding glass door and watched Tatum slip inside. “That’s just Tatum Alexander. A bit of a nerd, that one is.”

A barking laugh ripped through my chest. “No wonder you two are friends.”

Best friends. And speaking of…” She narrowed her gaze and stabbed me in the center of my chest with a finger. “Stay away from her. And that’s not meant as a challenge, either. I mean it, Jason. Now that our age difference doesn’t pose legal issues for you, if you’d like to screw my friends, there’s nothing stopping you. But please, if you do anything with any of my friends, she’s where I draw the line.”

I held up my hands in surrender. “Calm down, tiger. I’m not going after anyone.”

“Better not.” She jutted her chin out, as if threatening to attack, and then headed inside with her mysterious friend.

It was good to see things hadn’t changed too much around here.

Author Biography

Leddy Harper had to use her imagination often as a child: she grew up the only girl in a family full of boys. At fourteen, she decided to use that imagination to write her first book, and she never stopped. She often calls writing her therapy, using it to deal with issues through the eyes of her characters.

Harper is now a mother of three girls, making her husband the only man in a house full of females. She published her first book to encourage her children to go after whatever they want, to inspire them to love what they do and do it well, and to teach them what it means to overcome their fears. You can learn more about Harper at www.leddyharper.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Leddy.Harper.

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