|Publisher:||Lyrical Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.56(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Inés Saint
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Inés Saint
All rights reserved.
Holly picked up the jar of yellow-brown slime and sniffed. Bananas, honey, and olive oil. It wasn't pretty, but at least the ingredients weren't funky. She took a deep breath, scooped up some goo with two fingers, and massaged it into her hair. Stanley stood at her feet, his scruffy head moving up and down, following her movements with intense interest. She scooped, massaged, and repeated until her hair resembled Medusa's. "I'm wondering what it tastes like, too," she said to Stanley. "But I won't go there."
The pink clay was next. This she was supposed to spread over her face and neck. Grandma Ruby swore these masks were responsible for keeping her seventy-something, supple-skinned, glossy-haired self glowing and not looking a day over fifty. (In truth, her grandmother didn't look a day over sixty-five, but that was good enough for Holly.) It made it easier to believe her grandmother would be around for years to come.
She sighed and dug into the clay, remembering she'd promised to take the night off from both parenting and thinking. No stressing, no overanalyzing, and no planning ahead for just one evening. She'd try the masks, listen to music that didn't take itself too seriously, and break into the house next door.
When she was done, her reflection confirmed her feelings. She looked like a freak. She snapped a selfie and texted it to her grandmother and a few friends she knew would get a kick out of it.
The masks supposedly took thirty minutes to work their magic. Just enough time to explore. She grabbed a flashlight and shrugged into an old robe before heading out.
It was early evening and the sky was already midnight blue. Early fall in Ohio's Miami Valley meant short, sunny days and long, cool nights. Activity on her street lulled after sunset, no matter what the season. The distant cheers of the crowd at the high school football game, an occasional bark, and squirrels scurrying about were the only sounds that accompanied her on her trek next door.
Holly squatted in front of the basement window she knew was missing a latch and took a quick look around. The houses on her side of the street backed up to a small but thick patch of woods, and the light from the antique fog lamps didn't quite reach the back.
She slipped her pinkie under the window's left corner and it glided up. Her heart skipped. She held her breath and slid in. Her sneaker-clad feet hit the floor without a sound. She flipped the switch on her flashlight and picked her way across the cluttered, cobwebbed room before heading up the creaky steps.
The living room and dining room were to her left, and the fog lamps out front streamed in just enough light for her to see the outline of the box-beam ceilings, window seats, and floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. Neglected, but full of promise. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep, long breath. The fairy-tale house she and her daughter had fallen in love with was as good as theirs.
She blew the lungful of air she'd been holding out in one swoosh. It felt as if she'd been holding it in for ages. Five years of careful planning and saving had paid off. It was proof that she could think ahead, make good decisions, and be a worthy role model for her daughter. It was proof she'd changed.
The air around her suddenly felt heavy, and she put the brakes on her wandering thoughts before the past could creep in and weigh her down. She took a step and a floorboard behind her creaked. Holly paused. A prickly sensation traveled down her spine, telling her it wasn't the past invading her space, it was a presence.
Her body tensed and her mind raced. Old houses make all sorts of noises. It's nothing. Turn around and see. But common sense kicked in and told her to take off on a run. The instant she moved, someone grabbed her arm. "Don't move," a deep voice commanded. Holly's blood went cold and her lungs froze up. Her heart skidded to a painful stop.
An image of her daughter flitted into her mind. She forced herself to suck in some air and calm her heart down enough to get a grip. She registered the breath on her neck, the fingers tightening around her arm ... and the weight of the flashlight she was holding in her free hand.
She tightened her grip on the flashlight and swung it back with all her might. It connected with something hard. The man grunted and his hold on her arm loosened. She whirled around and chucked the flashlight at him without thinking. The hard whack that followed made her wince. The man cussed, loudly.
Holly spun into action, her eyes darting about, her brain firing off thoughts in rapid succession. Front door shut ... double cylinder lock ... basement window. Run! She flew down the stairs and raced across the basement, dodging broken furniture and leaping over old boxes and lumpy plastic bags that were strewn about the shadowy room. The sleeve of her robe caught on an old fan, and she dragged it along while flailing her arm to release it. Her pulse was pounding so hard in her ears it muted everything else and she couldn't hear whether the intruder was behind her.
When she reached the window, she hauled and shimmied herself up while yelling for help. A hand grabbed her ankle and she was yanked back into the basement. He caught her around the waist the moment before she hit the floor. "Enough," he yelled. "You're not getting away."
Panic set in and she became feral. Twisting about in his arms, she began kicking, striking, and clawing at him. The man managed to grab her legs, shove them down, and straddle her. He seized her wrists and secured them in one hand. Tears of rage and frustration welled in her eyes.
He flipped the switch on her flashlight, aimed it at her face, and yelled again. Holly flinched, expecting a blow. "What the hell ..." he said. She opened one eye and looked up. He was staring down at her with an expression of revolt.
"Get off me," she ground out, barely able to breathe under his weight.
He leaned down and studied her closely before shifting his weight enough to allow her to breathe easier, but not enough to allow her to attempt anything. "Stop crying, I'm not going to hurt you."
"You're straddling me! Get off!"
"You're leaving me no choice. And pretending to be the victim won't help. Two stained-glass windows are missing from the upstairs bedrooms and I just caught you trespassing. You're not getting away with it, so just sit still while I put an end to all this."
He knew about the missing windows? Before she could make sense of that, he lowered the flashlight and shoved a hand into his pocket. His grip on her wrists relaxed and she jerked them away, smacking his free hand just as he withdrew an object. Whatever it was slipped out of his hand and skidded away. He stretched to retrieve it and Holly scrambled to her feet, ready to sprint, but he shot up and grabbed her arm before she could get away.
She screamed again and tried to knee him in the groin, but he maneuvered her arm over her head, twirled her, and pulled her flush against him. He covered her mouth with his free hand. "Either you cooperate while I find my phone and call the police or I drag you out of here and march you straight to the station in your ugly-ass getup." His words were authoritative, offensive, and confusing enough to make her stand still. The intruder wanted to call the police?
"Holly!" someone yelled, and she tried again to wriggle free.
"Are you Holly?" he asked. She hesitated before nodding yes. She could hear voices outside, but she couldn't make out what they were saying. Someone banged on the door. She tried to bite his hand, but couldn't grab flesh.
"Are those your partners?" he asked.
The sound of a window breaking upstairs distracted him. She bit him, hard. He hissed and jerked his hand away, but didn't let go of her. "I'm in the basement! Help!" she screamed.
Footsteps thundered above. "I'm coming down and I'm armed." Holly recognized her cousin Leo's, voice.
"I'm calling the police!" Leo's wife, Emily, shouted.
An instant later, the stairs were bathed in light. Leo reached the foot of the stairs and Emily was up top, shining a light down on them with one hand while holding her phone to her ear with the other.
"Leo?" the intruder asked, letting her go.
"Dan, is that you? What're you doing back in town?" Leo and the trespasser greeted each other with an enthusiastic back-slapping man-hug, as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
The man hesitated before saying, "We'll be playing at the Christmas Eve Festival and we need to rehearse."
"You know him?" Emily asked Leo.
"Yeah, I know him. Don't call the police," he called up to her. He looked from the intruder to Holly and back again. "It's, uh, good to have you back, but what's going on here?"
"You just hugged the lunatic who assaulted me in my own house, that's what's going on," Holly exclaimed.
"Lady, this is my house and you're doing the assaulting. Only one of us is bleeding, and only one of us looks like a lunatic."
Emily reached the bottom step and pointed the light toward the ceiling, illuminating them all in a dim glow. The moment Leo and Emily got a good look at her, they froze and stared. Emily's eyebrows went up so high they almost reached her hairline. Leo bit his lip.
Holly cringed. She'd forgotten all about her mask and unfortunate attire.
She risked a glance at the intruder and sucked in a quick breath. There was an ugly gash and a smear of blood over his left eyebrow. He smirked at her. She narrowed her eyes. "Focus on the issue at hand, people. Leo, you seem to know this guy. Ask him what he's doing in my house."
"Again, it's my house, lady."
"Stop calling me lady, you jerk, this is my house. The bank accepted my offer on it last week."
"I closed on it this afternoon, and I have the paperwork to prove it."
Holly put her hands on her hips. "Then you're in the wrong house, buddy. This is Ninety-five Rubicon."
"Exactly." He crossed his arms.
"Okay, I've got a sense of what's going on here. Let's calm down and talk it out." Leo moved to stand between them.
"I made a cash offer on the house last week, it was accepted, and I closed on the house a few hours ago."
"You can't be serious. This house has been vacant for years. Nobody's ever wanted it, and my offer was accepted!"
The man named Dan ran a hand through his hair. When he spoke, he sounded like an exasperated parent talking to his dense kid. "Go home and check your paperwork. The contract they sent over gave the bank the right to terminate if a higher offer came in. I had them change it before I signed. Did you?"
Holly went cold. Her paperwork had said the same exact thing. It had never occurred to her that anyone else would want a house that had been repossessed ten years ago and had been vacant and on the market ever since.
"Then they should've called her to terminate her contract or to let her know someone had offered more." Emily glared at Dan.
The facts were sinking in, but Holly wasn't ready to accept them. "Emily's right, they should've called me. We can go to the bank tomorrow morning and they can fix this. Maybe I'll outbid you."
"There's nothing to fix. The house is mine." Dan gestured toward the stairs, but Holly stayed put.
"But I've been saving to buy it and renovate it for the last five years. My daughter and I come here to dream about what it's going to look like when we're done. We have plans—" Leo gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. She knew she sounded unreasonable, but she cared little.
"You can buy it when I flip it, okay? Just get a grip already."
"Ffffflip?" Holly's voice was dangerously high-pitched. Dan winced. "You're going to flip it? Why now? Why this house? Who are you?" she demanded.
"Yes, who are you?" Emily repeated, shooting Leo a pointed look.
"Right." Leo sighed. "Emily, Holly, this is Dan Amador, Sam and Johnny's older brother. Dan, this is my cousin, Holly."
"You're Sam and Johnny's brother?" Holly asked, incredulous. "You've got to be kidding me."
"What? You have a problem with them, too?" Dan snapped at her.
"No, I have a problem with you." Holly stopped short of poking him in the chest. "Sam just bought thirty-four houses, he needs all the help he can get, and here you come waltzing back into town for the first time in I don't know how long and instead of helping him out with his load, you by another fixer-upper?"
Dan's eyes widened and he took hold of her finger. "Sam bought what?"
Holly yanked her finger out of his grip. The realization that she'd just dumped big news about Sam to his apparently clueless older brother put a damper on her self-righteousness.
Leo now dug his fingers into Holly's shoulder and began steering her up the stairs. "Holly, let's get you home. It's good to see you, man," he called down to Dan. "Let's grab a beer soon."
Emily snaked an arm around Holly's waist and guided her up, too. "Grab a beer? With him? After everything that just happened?" she hissed.
Holly stepped outside, breathed in, and held the cool air in her lungs for a moment. Leo and Emily looked on helplessly. "Don't worry about me. I just need some time to process this. It's only a house, right? I'll get over it. I was just dreaming I'd finally be out of your basement." She tried to smile, but her tight skin wouldn't allow it. Stupid mask.
She felt her head to see how dry the hair mask had become and dislodged a leaf. It floated down and landed at her feet. On top of everything else, she probably looked like a cross between a scarecrow and the village idiot. She held her breath again, this time counting to ten.
She'd been on a high for a while now, pleased with the woman she'd become, and she hated feeling like an awkward girl again. Providing a house for her daughter was the last step to prove to everyone she could, and would, be in control and that her past mistakes were just that, a thing of the past.
Emily hugged her. "It wasn't just a house. It was the home you envisioned for you and your daughter. We understand."
"Hey, come over for a while." Leo hooked an arm around her neck.
Holly held her hands up. "No. Stop. This is date night for you two, and I'm already feeling better. I just need to scrub this stuff off my hair and face." And some other stuff off my heart and mind. "Tomorrow I'll be glowing so bright, you'll need sunglasses," she said, hoping that Grandma Ruby was right and the mask would help her look radiant, because she knew she'd be feeling dark.
Dan smoothed his hands over the cedar siding to get an idea of its condition. The open gable front porch and stone-based pillars were also in need of repair. But he had a promise to fulfill.
The problem was, he'd thought he'd have Sam's help in fulfilling it. He'd planned on throwing some business Sam's way to help him keep his mind off his divorce, and then coming up for a few days every other week to rehearse for the festival and check in on Sam and the house's progress. It would've allowed him to spend quality time with his brothers, make good on the Craftsman, and avoid Marianne, the one jarring note in an otherwise smooth relationship with his brothers. He and Marianne equaled conflict, and life had been more peaceful for all ever since he'd removed himself from the equation.
The scent of pine hung in the air and he took it in, thinking. It could still work. He had no reason to believe what Holly had said was true. Without meaning to, he listened in on the conversation taking place on the driveway next door. He had vague memories of Holly as a baby.
Holly apparently now lived in a cousin's basement, walked around covered in mud, broke into houses she swore she owned, and thought she glowed. Nothing she said could be taken seriously. Nothing.
He limped across the patchy lawn, sent Holly a silent curse for the sharp pain in his knee, climbed into his Accord, and stared ahead. Sam wouldn't buy thirty-four fixer-uppers, would he? It was wild and Sam didn't do wild.
Excerpted from Flipped! by Inés Saint. Copyright © 2015 Inés Saint. 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book hit so many of my guilty pleasures. I'm obsessed--obsessed--with HGTV, and I've never read a romance with house-flipping as the backdrop. I didn't even know that could be a thing! I was so stoked! I could not put this book down from the moment I picked it up. I loved Holly, a quirky heroine with witch-like eyes and a grandmother who believed in everything supernatural--love most of all. Dan was the perfect alpha hero with a big ole soft heart and a painful past. There were some masterful strokes of the pen in this book--tiny layerings from Saint that led to big conflict at different points. I cannot wait for the next brother's book!
Ines Saint’s delightful novel Flipped!, the first in a three-part series featuring the handsome Amador brothers, is not your typical category romance. Saint’s writing, in this and in her previous two novels, encompasses so much more than two people bucking the odds and falling in love. In the tradition of Luanne Rice, Saint presents an entire cast of well-developed, multi-dimensional characters, and creates a vivid setting for them to live in. Holly Bell, the heroine, is a strong willed single mother determined to make her dreams a reality. Tough-but-tender Dan Amador isn’t afraid of anything—except letting a woman past the walls he’s built around his heart. Spinning Hills, Ohio, is a charming old town in the process of gentrification (helped along by Holly and the Amador brothers). The strong conflicts and engrossing plot in Flipped! are enhanced by Saint’s use of sensual elements and fairy tale allusions. Holly, a perfumer and successful businesswoman, creates signatures scents for her friends in the same way the author creates her characters’ unique personalities. I wish I could visit Spinning Hills. I’d enjoy a slice of crabapple pie at the bakery, listen to the Amador brothers play at the local tavern, and peek in the windows of Holly’s refurbished Craftsman house. Fortunately there are two more single Amador brothers, and two more books to enjoy in the Spinning Hill series!
As an interior designer/flipper i could relate to this book. I found it to be quite funny which is something i love finding in books.
I was caught in the first chapter because of its humor. But the story kept me reading I couldn't put it down
Great fast read
This was a cute read with food for thought and poignant moments too. I can't wait for the brothers' stories, epecially Johnny.