When Renee McClendon was a teenager, she made a list of all the qualities her perfect man would have, but no matter how many handsome guys have ticked the boxes, she has yet to find the man for her. She wants a regular guy who's not afraid to get his hands dirty, and she's given herself a deadline. If she doesn't find Mr. Right by New Year's, she's done searching.
Patrick Dunlap is used to woman looking at him as a lowly chauffeur…until they realize he owns the whole company. All he wants is a woman who'll want him for who is, and not only see dollar signs. He hits it off with Renee right away, so while they get to know each other, he withholds some small details instead of risking what they're starting to build.
But when the truth comes out, how forgiving will Renee be?
Each book in the McClendon Holiday series is STANDALONE:
* A McClendon Thanksgiving
* The Christmas Promise
* A Husband by New Year's
* Be My Valentine
About the Author
Sean began writing romance at the encouragement of her dear friend Christian Fiction Author Jacquelin Thomas. After the release of her first two novels TOTAL BLISS and WITH THIS RING in 2005&2006, Sean continued to work diligently at her craft and her next novel.
FROM THIS MOMENT, the second installment in the Hearts and Flowers Series, was released in January 2011. At an early age, Sean found that she loved words and tried to read everything she could get her hands on. She joined her first book club “Sweet Pickles” at the age of 7. Writing would come later, when she wrote short stories for her own enjoyment, then she wrote the Easter play for the youth at her church at the age of 12.
Sean, a graphic/web designer loves building websites and graphics almost as much as she loves writing her stories. She loves working in her church and lives in Northwest Indiana with her family.
Read an Excerpt
"Here we go again with that dumb list!" Julia Mitchell exclaimed. "I don't know why Renee still keeps that book in the first place."
Renee McClendon didn't care what her friend thought about her journal, but she did regret bringing it with her. They were supposed to be celebrating Gina Armstrong's wedding, not having a bash Renee's list party.
Renee started making lists when she was a young girl. At age fifteen, she wrote the qualities of her perfect man. She had a crush on Johnny Jones, a popular senior and the quarterback of her high school football team. Using the things she liked about Johnny as inspiration, she created a perfect man list in the journal her mother had given her. As the years passed, Renee's crush on Johnny faded, and her list changed as well.
She usually kept the book on her bedside table at home, but she'd planned to write later tonight after everyone else was asleep, so that she could document her thoughts about the weekend festivities.
Renee held up her old, pink, leather-bound book with the cute heart-shaped locket. "What? This?" The pages were discolored where the gold foil used to be from wear. "I don't think you have a problem with my journal, Julia, you have a problem with the list."
"I remember when your mother gave you a journal for your birthday when we were seniors in college," Cara Mathews added.
"Yeah, I remember too; that's the point," Julia said, shifting in her chair. "What is the purpose of keeping something that old? We're almost thirty years old, and you're walking around with a book your momma gave you."
Renee understood very well that Julia was ignoring her question about the list. For a woman who always had a comeback, Julia never responded when Renee asked why she had a problem with her list.
Renee waved the journal in the air. "This isn't the only book my mother has given me. I've been writing down my thoughts since I was twelve. As a matter of fact, all my siblings keep one as well."
"They're just a waste of time if you ask me," Julia added.
Nobody asked you. Renee rolled her eyes as she listened to Julia's negative words yet again about something that didn't belong to her or have anything to do with her.
Journal writing was something everyone in her family started doing when their mother Myra gave each of them their own little book to write down their dreams and thoughts each day when they got home from school. Every year on her birthday, Renee would go back through the journal and re-read some of the entries, marveling at how her feelings and situations had changed.
While she was in college, her mother came to visit and brought her the pink, leather-bound book she was holding.
Cara reached over and took the book from Renee, flipping the pages. "Do you still use these traits for finding your perfect man, Renee?" Cara asked.
Renee snatched the book from her. She'd only shared her perfect man list with her friends in hopes that it would prompt them to think about what kind of man they'd want to fall in love with. It wasn't done to be ridiculed or to show anyone up.
"They've changed over time. But yes, for the most part I do," Renee responded.
"I think the list is worthless and silly. Are you still in third grade, Renee?"
Renee rolled her eyes because by this time Julia had gotten on her last nerve. Usually she could ignore the curly-haired woman who'd always had something smart to say since they'd met ten years ago, but tonight Renee just wanted Julia to shut up.
Out of the three women in the room, she would classify Julia as being more of a frenemy than friend. She usually had to listen carefully to anything that Julia had to say in order to make sure that she wasn't trying to be malicious. Actually, Julia's sharp tongue reminded Renee of her older sister Patrice, but Patrice would always apologize if she felt she'd hurt a person's feelings. Julia left Renee wondering.
Since they were teens, Julia always had some negative comment, or pointed out a flaw when it came to anything concerning Renee. But Julia constantly wanted everyone to rally around her and support her endeavors, but she never really wholeheartedly repaid the kindness. The only reason Renee put up with Julia was because of her half-sister, Gina Armstrong. Gina was one of the sweetest people she'd ever met and nothing like her older sister.
"I thought the list was cute," Gina said, holding up her champagne glass.
Renee held up her glass as well. "Thank you, Gina. It worked for you, didn't it, girl? You're getting married tomorrow."
Renee and her friends Cara and Julia were throwing Gina a private bridal shower in a suite at the Ritz Carlton for just the four of them. The college roommates had thrown an extravagant co-ed shower the month before for Gina and her sexy, supper-club-owner fiancé Preston. Renee promised Gina that the fantastic four, which is what they'd called themselves back in the day, would have their own special time.
Tomorrow the nuptials would be held in the grand ballroom of the hotel. The reception afterward promised to be one for the record books, as Preston was known to throw a great party.
Gina lowered her glass. "I didn't make a list."
Cara and Julia laughed out loud.
Renee didn't see the humor. "Okay, since you guys want to laugh, have you even thought about making a list?" She wanted to know. "All right, let's talk about what you'd put on your list. And I'm not talking about him being tall, sexy, and having a big —" Renee said before Cara cut her off by clearing her throat.
"I'll have you know that those are very important features," Julia said, laughing.
When none of the other women laughed at her remark, Julia turned up her lips, looked up at the ceiling, then back at Renee. "It's not like I don't go out on dates; I just haven't found the right guy," she said.
"See, that's why you should make a list, then you wouldn't have to worry about going out with the wrong guy," Renee said.
"I still don't see the point," Julia said.
"I've never done a list," Cara replied.
"I know what I want and I'm not compromising on it," Renee said with finality.
Julia shook her head. "You would do better checking your daily horoscope."
Renee gave Julia a sidelong glance and shook her head.
"Why does this book bother you so much, Julia?" Gina asked.
Renee was glad that Julia's sister asked that question, because she wanted to know as well.
Julia was a beautiful, brown-skinned woman with curly auburn hair, a heart-shaped face, and slim figure. She was a very ambitious marketing account supervisor at Vine Public Relations, a marketing firm where Renee worked using her master's degree in public relations.
Recently, Julia had been diligent in obtaining her accreditation in public relations. She hadn't ever been much on dating and always ended her relationships on impulse. Renee never understood why, but it was becoming clear that her friend's argumentative ways might be the reason.
Julia sat up straight on the sofa. "Because there is no such thing as a perfect man."
Gina scooted to the end of her seat. "Well, why don't we just call the list Renee's Fantasy Man?"
Renee didn't care what they called it, since it didn't concern them in the first place. Her preferences had changed as she grew older. When she was fifteen, she wanted her husband to be like Will Smith from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Now, as a twenty-something-year-old, she preferred the much more mature version of the popular actor. The older she got, the more looks didn't mean as much — she wanted a man of substance who was doing something with his life.
Somehow, she needed to prove to Julia that she could find a man that possessed all the attributes she had written on the pages of her notebook.
Renee looked at her friend. "What about you, Cara? Can you think of one trait your perfect man should possess?"
Renee caught the flash of pain on her friend's face. Julia had gotten her so fired up, that she'd forgotten the pain Cara endured in her last relationship. She didn't intend to hurt Cara with this banter. Now, all she wanted was to see Cara's deep-brown eyes devoid of sadness, and the dimple in her right cheek when she smiled. Cara was thoughtful, smart, and out of the three women, Renee felt closest to her.
Outside of her sisters, Renee trusted Cara with anything she told her and it had been that way since the first day they met at freshman orientation in college. Many people thought they were siblings because they had similar body types and skin color. Cara was slightly taller and wore her hair in a short hairstyle versus Renee's wavy shoulder-length cut.
Renee reached over and squeezed Cara's knee. "I'm sorry, Cee. I didn't mean to go there."
Julia leaned forward. "Sorry for what? Are you saying your little list wouldn't help Cara?"
Cara waved her hand. "Now you know I'm not trying to do that again. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and burned it up."
"I'm not thinking of getting married either. I do have an idea though," Julia said in a sarcastic tone.
Renee leaned forward with her elbows on her thighs, eager to hear what magnificent idea Julia had now. "I'm waiting for your big idea," she said, knowing that it was probably going to be something outrageous.
"I bet you can't find a man that fits your list. I'm so certain of it, I'll even give you a year to do it. But whoever this guy is, he has to meet all the essential characteristics you've put down in this book."
"And if I don't?" Renee asked.
"You have to burn that book of yours," Julia said before she gave everyone a smile, showing all of her pearly white teeth.
Renee had no intention of destroying her book, so that was out of the question. She was sure that it wasn't the book that Julia had the problem with, but the list. She would, however, go along with Julia's crazy bet just to challenge her cocky attitude. But Renee had to confess to herself that she hadn't been having much luck in the romance department. Most of the guys she'd dated over the past few months looked really good on paper, but once she went out with them, she was no longer interested.
She stared at the smirk on Julia's face and thought about the fact that she would never hear the end of it if Julia were to win the bet. Always wanting to one-up her, Renee had to find a way to wipe the smug smile off Julia's face, once and for all.
Renee extended her hand to Julia. "Okay, Ms. Smarty, let's see who gets the last laugh."
Julia accepted her hand as the other two friends watched. "Be careful, girlfriend, you might be the one crying over the loss of your precious book." She leaned over to her sister. "I can't wait to see this."
Renee looked between Cara and Gina, then finally at Julia. "I can't wait either, Julia," Renee said, before getting up from her seat.
Renee needed to steer the conversation back to Gina, who looked so cute with her rhinestone tiara and veil perched on top of her auburn hair. She had even purchased a custom royal-blue sash with Bride-to-Be written in silver glitter for the occasion. They were supposed to be having fun, and if Renee didn't get away from Julia, she would say something she'd regret. One day she would find out what her so-called friend's real problem was with her.
Standing at the table, Renee had to gather her thoughts, because they'd gotten way off the real reason for them being there together. It was for Gina and not arguing about her list.
Renee wanted Gina to be treated like a princess on her last night of being a single woman. She'd even hired a male stripper to come dressed as a police officer. It would probably scare the crap out of Gina at first, but Renee was sure they all would get a kick out of a tall, chocolate man gyrating his hips in front of them. She had everything planned to the last detail, and now Julia was about to spoil the whole thing with her antics.
Gina Armstrong was just as beautiful as her sister Julia, with the same auburn, curly hair. She was of average height with a much thicker build than her half-sister. They'd just finished the wedding rehearsal and dinner. The four of them had planned to stay up late talking and watching their favorite movies like Sex and the City and Bridesmaids, which Renee thought was hilarious and very fitting for the occasion.
"Ladies, let's really get this party started," Renee said as she admired the handywork of the concierge who assisted her with the beautifully set table. It had been filled with potato, chicken, pasta, and tuna salads, hot and spicy wings, double-loaded potato skins, mozzarella sticks, double fudge brownies with walnuts, tiramisu, a variety of cake pops, and banana pudding served in little plastic champagne flutes. The table looked lovely.
Renee picked up the silver serving spoon and added some pasta salad to her plate along with a spoonful of the rest of the dishes, and placed a Hawaiian dinner roll on the side. She re-took her seat next to Cara with the plate in her lap. After everyone had prepared their plates, she picked up her champagne glass and waited for them to do the same.
Raising it in the air, she said, "Congratulations, Gina. I hope that you have a wonderful life."
"I think this is going to be an interesting year," Cara added, lifting her glass a bit higher.
After sipping from her own glass, Julia raised hers. "I'd like to propose a toast to the perfect man."
Renee didn't allow Julia's words to bother her, so she raised her glass with the rest of them. "Here, here," she said.
"Remember, you can't add anything to the list and you can't take anything from it."
"I don't think I'll have any problems at all," Renee said confidently, but on the inside, she didn't know if she'd allowed her temper to get the best of her. Had she gone a bit too far with the bet?
Julia raised her forefinger. "Wait, I want to make this a little more interesting. I want you to find your perfect man by New Year's."
Cara gave Julia a sidelong glance. "Why New Year's?"
Julia hunched her shoulders. "Hell, it sounded good and I'm trying to help my girl out."
Gina pushed at Julia's knee. "This broad has had too much to drink, so I wouldn't pay any attention to her."
"No, I think it's a good idea," Renee said. "I'll find my husband by my family's New Year's Eve gala. A new year, a new start."
"But that's not realistic, you guys," Gina said.
"No, what's not realistic is that stupid list," Julia said.
Renee watched as Cara and Gina rolled their eyes at Julia.
"New Year's next year is plenty of time if Renee thinks she's going to win. I don't think she will, because there is no such thing as a perfect man," Julia said.
Renee bit back an expletive. She just wanted the woman to shut up, so they could move on to the fun. "To finding a husband by New Year's." She raised her glass and they toasted.
One Year Later
Renee McClendon stood in front of the bathroom mirror wondering why she'd agreed to go out with William Jamison again. She'd met the eligible bachelor on the online dating site, Real People Mingle, a couple of weeks ago.
At first, Renee didn't want to create a profile on the site, but Cara reminded her that if she wanted to win the bet, she needed to do something, since traditional ways of meeting men weren't working. It took Renee almost two months to create her profile and another two weeks to actually go online to see if she had any results. William was her first date using the site.
Even though the guys she'd dated in the past had been bitterly disappointing, Renee was quite happy with her life. But she'd complicated her life by making the bet with Julia. In retrospect, she should have just declined the challenge. Now, because she felt she had to prove something, she found herself doing things she wouldn't normally do, like finding dates online.
Two of her sisters had already found love, so Renee wanted to experience it too. But she had her standards.
Since her dating life wasn't working out as she'd planned it, she concentrated on her career. Renee had written a five-year plan that included goals for becoming an executive at Vine, but her number one goal was to open her own marketing firm. Renee knew that she was good at helping others brand their business. In order to open RenMac and Associates, she would need good industry connections. She'd gain those resources while working at Vine. Making sure she kept up with the latest technology and social media offerings in advertising, she was sure she'd be successful.
And using the online dating site could be the very vehicle to finding her perfect man, so after scrolling through pages of eligible men's profiles, William's stood out. She studied his photo and found him to be very handsome with his dark chocolate skin and clean-cut look. Since he was a successful tax attorney in Chicago, had never been married, and had no children, his stats looked very appealing.
In his bio, William mentioned that he was looking for a smart, ambitious woman to share his life with and to start a family.
Excerpted from "A Husband by New Year's"
Copyright © 2017 Sean D. Young.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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