In this irresistible new novel by Mary Ann Marlowe, one woman's up-close and sexy encounter with a tabloid sensation reveals the dizzying--and delicious--dilemma of dating in the spotlight . . .
Celebrities hold zero interest for photographer Jo Wilder. That's a problem, since snapping pics of the stars is how the pretty paparazza pays the rent. So when Jo attempts to catch a money shot atop the broad shoulders of a helpful bystander, the only thing she notices about the stranger she straddles is that he's seriously hot. Only later does Jo learn that he's also Micah Sinclair--one of rock's notorious bad boys...
Soon Jo is on the verge of getting fired for missing a Micah Sinclair exclusive. Until she's suddenly being pursued by the heartthrob himself. But how can she be sure the musician's mind-blowing kisses are the real deal? Her colleagues claim he's a media whore, gambling on some free PR. But something has Jo hoping Micah's feeling the same powerful pull that she does. A pull so strong, she can't resist becoming his latest love, even if it means she might become the media's latest victim . . .
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About the Author
When not writing, Mary Ann Marlowe works by day as a computer programmer/DBA and loves to travel. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She grew up on the outskirts of Indianapolis and has lived in twelve states and three countries. She now lives in central Virginia where she is hard at work on her next novel. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.maryannmarlowe.com, on Facebook, www.facebook.com/marlowemaryann/, and at twitter.com/maryannmarlowe.
Read an Excerpt
Stalker. When you put it that way, what I did for a living sounded despicable.
Paparazza had a nicer ring to it. Slightly.
My editor, Andy, said I was too fresh to work the street. The way he told it, I still had the stink of human about me. Josephine, you have to figure out if you want to work in this profession or have a soul.
That Andy was a joy to work with. But I'd seen him in action, walking backward down the sidewalk, shooting pictures and asking questions, right up in the faces of people who behaved as though he was completely invisible. He still hadn't let me live down the one time I apologized to a mark before taking her picture. In my defense, it was my first week on the job, and she'd just come out of the hospital with fresh bruises.
That was months ago, and I'd hardened up.
I'd been called "loser" and told to "get a real job." One time, an innocent bystander intentionally blocked my shot of an incognito Jeff Daniels slipping through the airport unnoticed. In addition to ruining my chance to call it a day, said Good Samaritan accused me of being a vile parasite before sitting back down to ogle Jennifer Aniston in another entertainment magazine's photo spread.
Most people assumed it was an exciting line of work. But while I clocked more celebrity sightings in a week than most people would their whole lives, most days, I simply leaned against a brick wall for hours, shoulder cramping, hoping the stars would align. Literally.
On other days, like today, a tweet would take me on a journey to Brooklyn where I'd narrowly missed getting a shot of Emily Mortimer rehearsing her lines in Prospect Park. Cursing the waste of the morning, I had no choice but to head back to the subway with nothing to turn in to my editor. But as I rounded a corner, I spotted Maggie Gyllenhaal coming out of the Park Slope Food Coop with her two daughters. I raised my eyes to the heavens in gratitude and then steeled myself for the kill.
I wore two cameras strapped across my chest bandito-style. When Maggie stopped to adjust her bags, I grabbed my work camera off my right hip and caught her in my crosshairs. I disengaged my conscience and prepared to pester this person whose only crime was to have achieved a level of celebrity that made people willing to pay money to read about her and invade her privacy. It was my job to cater to that need.
Centering her in the frame, I got off one shot just as some oblivious jerk crossed right in front of me, completely obscuring my line of sight.
I threw my hand in the air. "Seriously?" Aggravated, I angled myself around the interloper for a better view of Maggie, but as I peered through the eyepiece, my viewfinder filled with a plasma-colored blob that autofocus slowly resolved to reveal Mr. Oblivious now staring directly into my lens. I let my camera drop against my sternum with a growl of frustration, but my new friend didn't register my impatience.
Rather, he moved in closer with a disarmingly friendly smile. "Who are you shooting?"
"It's Maggie Gyllenhaal." Still irritated, I spoke too loud, and a nearby woman gasped and repeated the news. My heart sank as the whispers grew, and I watched my last chance at a celebrity sighting disappear into a vortex of autograph-seeking passersby. A long exhale left my body along with my hopes of returning with anything Andy might want.
I glared at my nemesis, but even as I formulated a murderous plot, I became aware of how deliciously pretty he was. With his blond hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders, and tanned skin, he should have been holding a surfboard on a poster for a California travel agency. He really was too perfect to be roaming the streets without a chaperone.
But none of that mattered. He'd thrown a wrench into my morning, and I arched my eyebrow a fraction higher in reproof.
And yet, he continued to stare at me with a look of curiosity, as if somehow I were more interesting than the famous person half a block away. A famous person I still couldn't see for the crowd surrounding her. He pointed at my camera. "Are you paparazzi?"
His fascination made sudden sense — he'd probably never seen the paparazzi up close and impersonal. I sucked on my teeth and considered the situation. "Look. I'm sure you don't care, but you've cost me a candid shot of that actress, and that's my bread and butter. The least you could do is give me a boost so I can maybe bring something back to my editor."
His eyes narrowed for a beat, and he glanced down the block, then back at me, as he pieced together my dilemma. I wasn't short, but I'd need to stand on a bench to see over that crowd. A slight smile played on his lips. "You want to climb on my shoulders?" He waggled his eyebrows salaciously.
The idea seemed preposterous, but desperate times and all. I'd gone to greater lengths for less in the past. And somehow I felt like this guy might be a good sport. He'd maintained a devil-may-care grin throughout this entire exchange. And I really needed that shot. I closed my eyes and swallowed my pride. "Would you mind?"
He dropped to one knee with the speed of an eager suitor, and I winced as his bare knee hit the concrete. He merely bowed his head and said, "At your service."
I couldn't help but giggle at the absurdity. But then he lifted his eyes, and my laughter caught in my throat. Until that moment, he'd just been an annoying interference, but his smoldering gaze brought me thundering to reality. I took a half step away and drank in the beauty of my kneeling knight. Golden hair glinted in the late morning sun. Bright blue eyes shined with mirth and intelligence. Well-muscled biceps peeked out of a T-shirt that stretched across his broad chest. Thigh muscles flexed, and his smooth, taut skin cried out to be touched.
He held a hand out toward me. "Come on, then. I don't bite. Well, not in full daylight."
I circled around him, hearing everything my mom would say in this situation. But this total stranger didn't appear to be suffering from typhoid, and I hadn't seen a gutted panel van in the vicinity, so I felt reasonably confident this wasn't the way I was going to die. I laid my hand on his left shoulder and immediately yanked it away from the shock of how toned and solid he felt.
He twisted back and looked up at me. "You don't need to be scared. I carry equipment all the time. I've only dropped a few." His lips, lips I noticed for the first time, grew into a full-fledged smile, white teeth flashing like an ad for Crest, and I wondered if I could muster the nerve to climb on this beautiful man.
One of Andy's many lectures came to mind: Get the shot at any cost. And just like that, fear of losing my job overcame my self-respect. Honestly, I'd been chipping away at that virtue ever since I traded art school for tabloid photography.
With a last farewell to my dignity, I swung my right leg over that mouthwatering shoulder. As soon as I felt his hand on my shin, I hopped up and sat square across the back of his neck. My human crane held my legs tight and stood.
My free hand instinctively latched onto his hair, and he yelped. "Sorry," I hollered down. A hint of coconut wafted up, and I fought off an overpowering visceral reaction — the desire to touch him, smell him, even taste him. I wanted to lean forward and plant my face into the top of his head.
But I'd spent months focusing on preserving my job and wasn't about to crumble just because I straddled a Fifty-Most-Beautiful-People level of beautiful person. With those sexy lips. And his hands on my legs.
The crowd below had begun to thin, and I was tempted to abort plan A, but I couldn't take the chance that Maggie would walk away once she'd signed the last autograph.
I lifted my camera and zoomed in. There in the center stood my target. And she was facing the wrong way.
I yelled down, "I can't even tell it's her from here. Do you mind walking closer?"
He began to move down the sidewalk, and my self-control faltered thanks to his neck, now rubbing against my inner thighs — and more. His shoulders tensed and relaxed beneath my legs, heat intensifying in the most intimate way. My fingers gripped his neck, and goose bumps appeared. He lifted his arm and caught my hand in his. It was a miracle I didn't fall from a spontaneous swoon.
Despite our conspicuous approach, we'd nearly reached our destination before Maggie turned her head up and locked eyes with me. I quickly lifted my camera, but the appearance of a desperate pap precariously perched on a lumbering accomplice must have spooked her, because in the time it took me to point and aim, she'd lifted her bags, grabbed her youngest daughter by the hand, and fled down the block in the opposite direction.
I palmed my forehead. Unless I'd inadvertently captured something during that mortifying display, I had nothing at all.
My accidental hero lowered me back to the street, and I found myself out of breath even though he'd been the one exerting himself. He ran a hand through his hair, and I followed it with greedy eyes, already regretting my descent to ordinary earth after my perch atop a golden god.
He eyed me with equal interest. "Perhaps we should be formally introduced? I'm Micah." He stretched out his hand. "And you are?"
"J-Jo." I took a deep breath and let it out.
"Jo Jo?" In ordinary circumstances, his constant teasing might have put me off, but Micah had an air of easygoing charm about him. And he had just agreed to be used as a parade float for no other reason than generosity.
"Jo," I repeated, a bit more confidently. "Josie."
"Well, Jo-Josie." His hand gripped mine, and his half smile hovered somewhere between charming and devilish. "Where are you from?"
I took another shuddering breath and tried to get my heart to stop galloping in my chest. I prayed my lack of composure had nothing to do with a sudden drop in my blood sugar, please, God, and rather everything to do with the proximity of the most attractive man I'd possibly ever laid eyes on. And I'd seen a lot of attractive people in my line of work. "Georgia," I said, then clarified, "Atlanta."
He gently pushed my shoulder. "Get back, Jo Jo."
I snickered at the dated song reference as though that joke hadn't fallen from the lips of every class clown I'd ever known. I put on my twangiest Southern. "You shooin' me on home?"
His blue eyes crinkled at the corner, and his playful smile stretched all the way to flirtatious scamp. Dimples emerged in his tanned, smooth cheeks, beneath a hint of blond stubble. His skin looked as soft as a baby's. "Absolutely not." He reached over and pulled one of my ash brown curls out straight, and I shivered. "It's just, you don't look ..." He bit his lip and seemed to think twice about finishing that sentence. "You barely have an accent. I wouldn't have guessed you were Southern."
" 'Fraid so. Dekalb County, born and raised." I took a step closer. "And you?"
"Actually, you've wandered into my kingdom." He twirled his hands out as though to present his domain. "Might I ask, what is your quest here?"
I gave him points for nerd humor and chuckled. "I seek the holy grail. Have you seen it here about?"
"Alas, no." He winked. "I was just on my way to find it when I was accosted by a fair maiden in distress." His bratty-little-brother smirk felt like a challenge.
"Is that so?" I flashed him a smile. "And do you make it a habit of photobombing innocent maidens?"
He exhaled with surprised laughter. "You might say that."
I narrowed my eyes at him and, before he could react, lifted my camera and clicked the shutter. "Aha! I've captured a consolation prize." I shook my camera at him, defiant. "Now we'll see what you go for on the open market."
He made a gesture as though to swipe my camera away, dramatically failing and clutching at his chest. "Touché. But I can tell you it's not much."
Thoughts of payment hit my stomach like a runaway freight train and sucked all the fun out of this enchanting encounter. The probability of running into yet another celebrity in this part of Brooklyn was slim. I needed to head back to the office immediately and do more research to scout my next lead. Maybe I could still bring something to Andy before the end of the day. I couldn't afford to let him down again. I knew he'd begun counting down the days until he could fire me — I could feel it. And I needed this job.
I frowned. "I have to be getting back."
Micah chewed on his pretty lower lip for a beat, then said, "Hey, you wouldn't happen to have a business card? You know, in case I'm ever in the market for my own personal paparazza."
That made me laugh again, and my momentary gloom lifted. I reached into my camera bag and produced a plain white card with just my name and contact info. "And you?"
Micah patted his pocket and came up with a wallet. He slid a card out and held it toward me. I started to scan it when he laid a finger on my shoulder, and my eyes closed for a beat as I leaned my head against his hand. What had come over me?
"It was good to meet you, Jo-Josie from Georgia, Atlanta. I hope I see you again." He looked into my eyes once more, more serious than before. "And don't let this business change you."
He gave my arm a quick squeeze, then turned and headed away from me, and I stood planted in that spot enjoying the view as he walked away. I sighed, hoping maybe he'd asked for my card so he could call me. I dropped my eyes back to his and read, "Micah Sinclair. Theater of the Absurd."
My jaw dropped.
I'd been talking to Micah Sinclair for a good thirty minutes. Micah freaking Sinclair. My head fell back, and I stared at the clouds passing. He'd been in my clutches, and I hadn't asked him a single hard-hitting question. And the picture I'd shot — I didn't want to think about it.
My boss would eat me alive. If I didn't kill myself first. I could have delivered a click-bait-worthy photo if I'd had the first clue I'd been hanging out with a sought-after commodity.
In my defense, I didn't have an encyclopedic mind like Andy. And I didn't have the experience to recall every single minor celebrity who graced the tabloids. In fact, I had to wrack my brains to think of the last thing I'd even heard about Micah. Something about a girlfriend, I thought. It didn't matter. None of my excuses would hold water in the court of Andy.
I considered chasing after Micah. I could take a picture of his backside. It was a worthy subject in my estimation. But I was already going to catch hell for the one crazy-ass shot I'd taken — especially without a printable quote. I could have deleted the picture and pretended this never happened. But Andy would make my life even more insufferable if I returned altogether empty-handed.
An ember of hope began to bloom as I remembered I had Micah's contact info. What if I called and sweet-talked him into a quote? I lifted his card again and read the words "Please contact my agent at —" And all hope died.
Fixated on Micah's last statement, I trudged back toward the subway. "Don't let this business change you." All along, he'd known I was missing a golden opportunity, and he must have been laughing at me the whole time. I squared my shoulders and decided to chalk it up to a learning experience. Yet another one.
Ordinarily, such a humiliation would have left me near tears. But as I walked, I began to laugh. At the very least, I'd have a hilarious adventure story to tell Zion. And in spite of everything, it had been the most fun I'd had since I couldn't remember when. Micah had turned out to be the bright spot in an otherwise cursed day.
As I neared the entrance to the subway, a young girl wearing face paint and holding a bright red balloon caught my eye. I reached left and switched to my personal camera, pressing the shutter to capture a burst of images. Bright sunlight created a halo in her wild curly locks. Her parents hunched over a map, blind to the masterpiece of their child. The girl glanced up and saw me. I knelt on the sidewalk and winked at her. She tilted her head and looked directly into the camera. A guileless smile broke out. She was missing her front tooth.
Click click click. Beautiful.
Excerpted from "A Crazy Kind Of Love"
Copyright © 2017 Mary Ann Marlowe.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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