WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING
Callie Daniels is a singular sensation. She owns and operates her own bakery, contributes to a popular lifestyle blog, and is the dance team coach at a local high school. She lives by her own design and is much too busy to consider dating. Mr. Right will have to fit into her life when the time is right...
UNLESS YOU'RE PLAYING FOR KEEPS
Football coach Bennett Clark always plays by the rules. He knows that his new colleague Callie is off limits but she's so beautiful-and irritating!-that Bennett can't get her off his mind. She wants him to participate in a charity dance contest, and won't take no for an answer. Soon, what begins as a festive athletic endeavor turns into a heated flirtation on and off the dance floor. Could it be that the free-spirited Callie has finally found a way through Coach Clark's line of defense?
"Nicole Michaels' fun, sassy stories and sexy heroes are not to be missed!"Julie Brannagh USA Today Bestselling Author
About the Author
When she's not writing, cooking, or hanging out with her husband, Nicole Michaels is a portrait and wedding photographer. She enjoys writing love stories with happy endings and lives outside of Kansas City with her husband and three sons.
Read an Excerpt
Win Me Over
By Nicole Michaels
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Nicole Michaels
All rights reserved.
Some people had skeletons in their closet; Callie Daniels had tiaras. Literally. Big, tacky, blinged-out tiaras. The kind that graced over-teased heads of little pageant girls, took an entire package of bobby pins to hold secure, and were so tall it was amazing they didn't tip children ass over teakettle. Something she knew from experience because once upon a time she'd been one of those little girls, and if beauty pageant life had taught Callie anything, it was how to put a fake smile on your face. A skill that came in handy when your mother unexpectedly walked through the front door of your bakery on a Thursday afternoon.
"Mom, what a surprise," Callie called over the display counter, hoping desperately that the tone of her words revealed more sincerity than dread. The light-turquoise walls of her beloved shop, Callie's Confections, clashed with her mother's unnatural shade of blond hair. Even still, the blond was better than the fire-engine red it had been a few months ago.
"Well, it seems the only way I can find out what's going on in your life is to make a trip up here. That is, unless I want to hear it from Joan Jenkins while I get my nails done." There was no mistaking the hurt in her voice and instantly Callie's heart grew heavy with guilt. She vaguely remembered mentioning her new job to an old high school friend on Instagram. Word traveled fast. She should have known better.
"Oh, Mom, I'm so —"
"Do you want to know the worst part? I could tell that she loved telling me something I didn't know. You're my only daughter; I should know your gossip before anyone else in this world. Can you even imagine the embarrassment?"
Callie knew about embarrassment all too well, but she wouldn't list all the ways she could relate. It would break her mother's heart, and the truth was, Callie felt a little bad for not calling. But in her defense, her life was crazy at the moment. Today, for example, she'd spent the morning prepping cakes and cookies for the weekend orders. She'd been in the zone, the kind of baking Zen that almost made her want to spin around her ovens and sing like an animated movie princess. She was only missing the talking wildlife — and the Prince Charming. But that was no matter; she had no use or time for a man.
"I wasn't trying to keep secrets, Mom; I've just been busy," Callie said.
"Is that supposed to make me feel better? Of all the things ... dance coach? You knew I'd be thrilled about that. I should have been the first person you'd want to tell that you've returned to performing."
"I'm the coach, Mom. I won't be performing."
Barbara shrugged. "Still you should have told me. I could help you."
Which was exactly why Callie hadn't been excited to share. Her mother, Barbara, had the tendency to overstep her bounds in the "help" department. And that was putting it mildly. Callie could only imagine all the ideas her mother would have had when she told her she'd been hired to be the new Pantherettes Dance Team coach at Preston High.
"You're right: I should have called. I'm sorry, but I promise I've got everything under control," Callie said, grabbing a to-go coffee cup and handing it across the counter. She hoped to move the conversation away from the dance team quickly. "Have some coffee."
"Oh no, I can't do coffee after lunch. It dehydrates my skin."
"Suit yourself." Callie walked around the counter toward the coffee station set up in the small dining area of her bakery.
"Callie Jo," her mother chided in a playful yet dead serious way. "Do you not care about your own skin? Maintaining your looks after thirty is a full-time job, might as well start now."
Facing the wall, Callie rolled her eyes as she added a liberal amount of half-and-half and sugar to her cup. Barbara meant well — in fact, these small reprimands were always delivered with love and concern — but she was a teeny bit obsessed with physical appearances. Always had been, always would be. She was, in fact, an attractive woman under all that makeup — even with the skintight lime-green capris, sequined high-heeled sandals, and ruffled blouse. According to everyone who knew them both, Callie was a younger — and, she hoped, less flamboyant — version of her mother. Along with gratitude, that compliment always sent a tingle of horror down Callie's spine.
"I'm willing to take my chances, Mom, and I'm not thirty for two more years." Callie took a long sip. Damn, her shop served good coffee.
"You'll be sorry, sweetheart. You only have one face; I taught you better than that."
Before Callie had time to be highly annoyed with that comment, her employee and unapologetically gay best friend burst through the kitchen door into the front of the bakery.
"Barb, what a surprise." His eyes met Callie's, and unbeknownst to Barbara the two of them exchanged an entire silent conversation in a fraction of a second with that one look. It went something like this:
Holy shit, what's she doing here?
I know, right?
Does she know?
Yep, she knows.
Shit. You okay?
I will be.
What the hell is she wearing?
Oh my God, I know!
Eric grinned and pulled Callie's mother into a hug.
"At least someone's happy to see me," Barbara said over his shoulder.
"I'm always happy to see you, Mom." Although Callie was certain her words went unnoticed as she watched Eric gush over the woman. He always handled her like a pro, saying just the right things, but not too much, for which Callie was grateful.
"I swear every time I see you, you look a year younger, and those shoes are perfection."
Barbara laughed and feigned embarrassment. Callie knew her mother was eating his comments up and she couldn't help but smile because she knew that Eric genuinely loved Barbara. So did Callie, but her mother was a woman best taken in small doses ... and, Callie hoped, not unexpectedly. It was best to have all your wits about you when Barbara was around, because she sniffed out weakness and secrets like a bloodhound, desperate for a way into your life. She wanted to be needed and in on the action. That was all well and good, but Callie liked to do things her own way, which usually turned out to be the exact opposite of her mother's way. They were just ... different people.
"Now, Eric, why didn't you make Callie call me right away when she got the dance coach job?"
"Barb, please. You know how our girl is. Go, go, go, all the time. I'm sure it just slipped her mind."
Barbara turned to Callie, looking stricken. "Oh, honey, you're working way too hard here. You have to join me for a spa day. I insist."
"Thanks, Mom. But I'm good. Promise."
Her mother reached around to Callie's ponytail and grabbed the end of one of her riotous curls. "Are you sure, baby girl? These ends are fried. You haven't had a cut in weeks, have you? Amazing hair like yours cannot be neglected."
Callie hadn't had a cut in months, and she couldn't help the fact that she'd been born with unruly curls. "It's fine, Mom. I'll schedule a haircut soon."
"You can't be the dance coach with split ends, sweetie. You must put your best face forward. How will you find the man of your dreams? If you're lucky you won't have to work at any job after that."
"Mom, I can assure you that the state of my hair has no effect on my ability to do this job, because it's not about my looks. It's not about me at all. It's about the girls on the team. And I've told you a thousand times, I like what I do. Even if I met the guy of my dreams — which is unlikely — I would still be running this bakery."
Barbara gave a pouty lip. "Goodness, you don't have to get excited. You're so much like your father. What am I gonna do with you?" She turned to Eric. "When was the last time she had a date? Or a haircut?"
"Don't get me involved, Barbara. You know I love you, but I'm always Team Callie, and if she wants to rock inch-long split ends and a cold bed, that's her business."
Callie shot Eric a dirty look. Her love life was a constant source of contention between her and her mother. Callie was happy to be single and Barbara didn't seem to understand that. She loved being a wife; in fact, Callie was certain her mother's entire identity was wrapped up in being Mrs. Daniels. She saw herself as adornment to her successful husband. At least that was the way Callie viewed it, and that was not her style. At all.
Callie never wanted to adorn anything; she'd been that girl before when she was young and trying to find her way with boys, and it did not suit her. She wasn't an ornament or a trophy; she was a human being who just happened to have breasts and could take care of herself, thank you very damn much. Callie liked to have her share of fun once in a while, but that was enough.
She needed to steer the conversation into safer waters before she said something to her mother that she'd regret. They'd had those conversations enough for Callie to know that they didn't end well and she just felt horrible afterward.
"Mom, I'm so grateful you came to see me. And I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner about my new job. Like I said, it's just been a hectic time, but I'll be sure to let you know when the first performance is so you can come and watch."
"Well, are you sure you won't need help with costumes or hair? You know performance and presentation is my specialty."
"You taught me well, Mom; I can totally handle it. And the girls already have costumes and uniforms. We're all good." Only a tiny lie; the girls desperately needed new performance outfits. No way could Callie let that bit slip; Barbara would show up at the high school with her sewing machine in tow.
"Well, okay, but if you need help you come to me first. And the next time something big happens in your life I better not hear about it in the mani chair. You hear?"
Eventually, after filling Callie in on all the gossip from her hometown, eating a cinnamon roll as she proclaimed, "I really shouldn't," about fifteen times, and waiting while Callie called to schedule a haircut, Barbara finally left. Back behind the display counter, Callie let out a deep cleansing breath. Interactions with Barbara were overwhelming. Thankfully she lived an hour away, so they didn't happen too often.
"I do adore her, but she is nuts, you know that, right?" asked Eric.
They both laughed as he leaned against the register munching on a tiny blueberry scone. Callie wasn't sure what she'd do without her best friend, and not only because he looked so fantastic with his muscles filling out the pink Callie's Confections T-shirt. And also not because 30 percent of their business was women just wanting to flirt with him — which he did very well considering he was a gay man. It was for moments like this, when he could joke with her about her crazy family and make her laugh.
He popped the last bite of his scone into his mouth and gave her a wink. "I still love you, Callie Jo," Eric said in a twangy redneck accent. "Even if you come from bad stock."
Callie sighed as the bell jingled and Eric turned to help a customer. That was their ongoing joke; he loved to poke fun at Callie and her crazy stage-kid upbringing, her mother dragging her to every talent show, recital, and beauty pageant in the Midwest. It was a surprise that Callie had turned out normal. Not that she didn't have her own set of issues. She was a ruthless overachiever, a bit on the dramatic side — although she'd never admit it out loud — had to have the last word, resorted to humor and sarcasm when she was uncomfortable, and was a little bit of a daddy's girl.
Okay, she had her share of issues. But who didn't? Truth was, she owed a lot to her parents. They were a little backwards in their thinking sometimes and Callie had been embarrassed by them plenty growing up, but they loved her and they'd taught her many valuable lessons. First of which was hard work. Pageants weren't for the faint of heart, and her mother had done whatever it took to make sure Callie was successful, like the time Barbara had worked overnight shifts for three months at the truck stop café just so they could afford Callie a new pageant wardrobe. Barbara was a force to be reckoned with beneath the façade of Merle Norman and Chico's clearance rack. Callie just wished that her mother spent more time valuing herself as an intelligent and strong woman in her own right.
According to Callie's father, both of the Daniels women were strong, but Callie knew she owed a lot of her strength and determination to him. He was the funniest and hardest-working man she knew, running one of the most well-known plumbing companies in Little Grove, Missouri, where she'd grown up. She admired him immensely and wouldn't have had the courage to start her own business without his example and guidance when she needed it.
Peeking into the display case, Callie mentally tallied what still needed to be done before she left for the day and headed to the high school for dance team practice. Her shop, Callie's Confections, made twelve different specialty treats every day Monday through Saturday and then took a limited amount of special orders every weekend. Tomorrow was the first high school football game in Preston, so she'd had a bevy of orders for blue-and-white-frosted cookies and cupcakes in addition to her usual fare.
The bell above the front door rang again and then the small familiar voice of one of her favorite people rang out.
Eric ran around the counter to sweep the little girl into his arms. A man walked in a second later and Callie abjectly appreciated the rugged manscape that accompanied Claire Edmond. Mike Everett was the best thing that had happened to Anne, Claire's mother and Callie's other best friend. Mike and Anne had only been dating a few months, but Callie knew it was the real deal. The two were obsessed with each other. Almost disgustingly so, which had really put a crimp in girl time. But it was worth it. Callie wanted nothing more than for her friends to be happy, and this man made Anne and her daughter happier than Callie had ever seen them.
"Hey, you two." Callie headed around the counter and out front, giving them a smile. "Isn't this a school day?"
"I just went to the dentist." Claire dropped from Eric's arms and came over to give Callie a toothy smile.
"Nope," Claire said before yanking her mouth open with a finger hooked in each cheek.
"She was a trooper, didn't even flinch on X-rays," Mike said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. There was no mistaking the pride on his face. He truly seemed to love Claire, which made Callie smile.
"Well then, that calls for peanut butter cookies," Callie sang as she turned toward the kitchen. "Follow me to the VIP section."
"What's 'VIP' mean?" Claire asked.
"Very Interesting Pickles," Eric said, pulling a funny face.
"Nuh-uh." Claire giggled. "What's it really mean, Uncle Mike?"
"Very Icky Pigs, I think," Mike replied.
Callie chuckled at the use of Claire's pet name for Mike. His niece was Claire's best friend and Claire had yet to drop the "Uncle" moniker.
Mike and Claire came into the kitchen behind Callie, and she got to work lifting the peanut butter cookies off the cooling rack and onto a display tray. The beauty of a perfectly baked pastry made her heart swell with pride every time.
Barbara was the queen of trend dieting, so Callie's childhood had been filled with odd desserts made with avocados or applesauce. It was no surprise that when Callie had gone away to college she'd loaded up on flour, real butter, and heavy cream so she could make the real stuff. She'd never stopped.
"These smell yummy, Callie," Claire said.
"Why, thank you, my dear. Go grab one of those pink boxes, and you can take some home and share them with Mommy."
"Yay!" Claire exclaimed as she skipped over to the shelves stocked full of paper goods.
"Thanks, Callie. I figured the dentist was cause for a treat, especially since it's the first time Claire's been without Anne," Mike said.
"I agree: I think baked goods are almost always appropriate in any situation. How's Anne's speech coming along? I assume that's why you took Claire."
Mike nodded. "This whole blog convention seriously has her stressed. She's scared to death to speak in front of a crowd."
Excerpted from Win Me Over by Nicole Michaels. Copyright © 2015 Nicole Michaels. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Callie is wonderfully spunky and fun - sassy and a great match for Bennett. She helps him not take things too seriously and brings out a more playful side to the devoted coach. I really like how dedicated both are to their students and their friends. Their interactions are full of humor and heat – the time they spend together learning to dance is the perfect playful foreplay to taking their relationship further. I also love her friends and her parents - they are more bright spots in an already shining story. And so, I adored this book … until about 4/5 of the way in. And then, while I still liked it, I was a little disappointed as well. There’s a tragedy that shakes Callie and Bennett’s world and while I think Michaels handles the fallout from their perspective very well, there were more people involved and that was glossed over. I think if maybe this event had happened a little earlier in the book, there's great potential for additional character and relationship development. It isn’t enough of an issue for me to lower my ranking of the book, but it is enough to leave me a little dissatisfied. Outside of that, though, I did enjoy the ending. I think that the way that Callie and Bennett face their troubles fits well with the people we’d grown to love. It left me a little bruised for them, which shows how much I’d begun to care, but then I gave a little cheer when they figured it all out and started moving forward together. If you are like me and this is your first book by Michaels (of course), no worries because it can totally stand on its own. We do get more of Anne and Mike, who were the characters from the first book, but I totally wasn’t lost by not having the details from Start Me Up. Although I’m really looking forward to the next book, Draw Me Close, because what we were given a glimpse of here definitely has me curious about what is coming for Lindsey & Derek! (Complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review)
This is a story about High School, Football and the people who this pertains to. Everyone has wishes and scares to hold them back. Nicole has set up a real story line. She has sent this story straight to your heart. Callie owns a bakery and now has taken on coach for the High School cheerleaders. Bennett gets his first look at the new woman coach and is not what he was expected. She sees him and gets the same feeling. Spoiler. They are put into a dance contest. She is also a dance instructor and he has a bad hip. Spoiler. Bennett cares more for his players than is good and has a Major Spoiler! A dance win will give him a big check for his program. That also shows all the hormones of teenagers. I really liked this book of Callie and Bennett trying to want each other. It shows who is stronger. I would recommend this book for adult readers. Please give this story a chance. Enjoy reading about these characters! I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.
I absolutely fell in love with this Wonderful Sweet romance. This was a great story with lovable characters and great details as well as good flow throughout and an excellent build. I was hooked from the beginning to the end while I was whisked away to Preston Missouri. It was sweet, entertaining and Hot. They had easy fun and a playful demeanor with one another. Great balance between sexy and fun. Callie Daniels is the proud owner of Callie's Confections a bakery in Preston Missouri as well as the new part time Dance Coach for Preston High's Pantherettes. She is mouthy, gorgeous and smart as well as upbeat and entirely to busy with her life to consider dating. When she is manipulated by the Principal to be in a dance contest with the Football Coach in exchange for new uniforms for her team, she walks into his classroom expecting an older less fit Football Coach. She is shocked to see a gorgeous, Breathtaking, Built, Hunk. Bennett Clark is ex NFL Player who is the Head Football Coach and a Science Teacher at Preston High. After being injured in a accident, with a career ending leg injury, being a Coach is the only way that Bennettt can have Football in his life. But when the new Dance Coach walks into his classroom and challenges him to enter a dance contest with her after he has already refused to do it, she knocks the wind out of him with her hot body, good looks and spunk. Although he refuses her, Callie is all about winning and she is not going to take no for an answer. These two have some great chemistry as well as witty banter and some sexy moves on as well as off the dance floor. But what happens when Bennett's past gets the better of him and things happen that are out of their control. Can Bennett let Callie in before its to late for them? Will they get their HEA? You will have to read this to find out. Loved this Wonderful Sweet, Sexy, Heartbreaking Romance! Highly Recommend! LOVED IT. Received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
This small town romance between a bakery shop owner and football coach is filled with friends, laughter and romance but also includes pain, loss and heartache. Both Callie and Bennett work with high school students in Preston, Missouri. He is the head football coach and a science teacher with a past that has left him with a few scars – both physical and mental. Callie owns Callie’s Confections and has been roped into coaching the high school dance team. In addition, there is a dance competition that Callie and Bennett need to prepare for and both of them hope to win. The story is somewhat predictable but the feisty female and hunky somewhat troubled male have a story that provided me with a fun afternoon read and it was an enjoyable afternoon indeed. This is the first book I have read by this author and am hoping to read more of her work in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the copy of this book to read and review.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it was definitely a very memorable first read for me, and has put Ms. Michaels on my must read author list! Callie Daniels is a small town girl, equipped with a with a big heart, feisty spirit, and known to be quite comfortable with speaking her mind. She has recently moved to town, opened her own little bakery, and spends her days making delectable little treats for the residents of Preston, Missouri. She is not real fond of talking about her days as a beauty queen, and admits the one and only thing she really enjoyed about it was being able to dance. Dancing was her way of expressing herself, and served as an outlet of sorts, so when the opportunity to become the Preston High School Dance Coach presents itself, she jumps at the chance and figures it is as close to dancing as she will ever get again. When the principal asks her to help provide much needed dance lessons to the football coach for a charity event she eagerly agrees, fully expecting to be helping someone twice her age. But when she sets out to meet her new dance partner, she realizes her expectations were a little off, and instead finds that Mr.Bennett Clark is actually a young, and oh so gorgeous man... Bennett Clark is a tall, dark, and handsome brooding man, who had to let his dreams of being a NFL football star go, after being hurt in a life altering accident. His past has turned him into a loner of sorts, and he relives his glory days on the football field as the Preston High School football coach. When he is not teaching Science to students in the classroom, he is studying the ins and outs of his football team, which leaves very little time for a personal life. When the principal offers him the opportunity to dance in a charity event, he isn't too thrilled with the idea, and turns him down flat. Then after a gorgeous blonde walks in to his classroom to announce that she would be his new dance coach and partner he begins to reconsider his decision. He discovers that if he participates in the charity event and wins he could help further the education of some of his students, by providing much needed scholarships. And the idea of spending a few weeks practicing with his gorgeous new coach definitely sweetens the deal... This story grabbed my attention right from the start and held onto it until the last page was turned. I absolutely loved reading this story, it was heartwarming, funny, packed with spice, and had me smiling the whole way through! Definitely one to add to the top of your reading list!! ARC requested through NetGalley, and kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
If you are looking for a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of the real world, you might want to take a small breather and slip into this small town, feel good romance by Nicole Michaels. With a sweet, uncomplicated, mostly predictable storyline, Win Me Over is a romantic tale of a former NFL player turned high school coach, Bennett Clark, and Callie Daniels, bakery owner/former beauty contestant/dancer turned dance coach. After they team up to compete in a local dance competition, the instant attraction and hours spent together inevitably leads to romance. When a tragedy hits this close-knit community, the town bans together, but, unfortunately, Bennett pushes everyone away, including Callie. Realizing his mistake, the coach must now make amends and win back his girl. Now tell me, my romantic-at-heart book-loving friends, who doesn’t love that type of heart-melting scenario! The author’s writing flowed, and I absolutely loved Callie’s mom and posse of friends. Especially when they dressed up and threw a party while watching their favorite celebrity dance-off TV show. I definitely plan to rewind and read Start Me Up (book 1) and look forward to the next book, Draw Me Close. Title: Win Me Over, Series: Hearts and Crafts, Book 2, Author: Nicole Michaels, stand-alone, HEA, no cheating, some steamy scenes. Start Me Up (Anne & Mike), Book 1, 3/3/15, Pages: 320 Win Me Over (Callie & Bennett), Book 2, 9/1/15, Pages: 336 Draw Me Close, Book 3, Tentative release date: 3/1/16
4 - "This aint football, big boy. This is dance." Stars! Win Me Over is the second book in Nicole Michaels Hearts and Crafts series, and it follows on pretty much where Start Me Up left off, only this time we have Callie Daniels and Bennett Clark as the main characters. To say I was impressed with book one would be an understatement, but I am even happier now as this book was just as enjoyable as its predecessor. School Football Coach and School Dance Coach come together in aid of a local fund raising dance competition. Little do they know that their chemistry on the dance floor soon morphs into something even hotter outside of practice. ”Are you being dirty, Coach Clark?” This series has pretty much gone from good to even better with this addition, I liked Callie and Bennett together and the inclusion of all of the characters that we met in the first book as well as some new ones, kept up the momentum of the series as a whole. Both Bennett and Callie are keeping more than a few secrets from each other at the beginning of the book, but as their story progresses things start to be revealed. I loved Eric, his conversations with Callie, both verbal and through BFF mental perception, made for a few giggles, not to mention Anne and Lindsey having equal page space as Callie’s Blog partners on My Perfect Little Life, and the development of the series as a whole, everything was well written and perfectly paced. Draw Me Close; Lindsey and Derek’s story is due March 2016 (which seems like ages to wait for this desperate reader!) Given their interactions in Win Me Over I am expecting fireworks between them, and more than a few bumps in the road for their relationship. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, and it was my pleasure to provide the above honest review.
Loved it!! This is the second book in the Hearts and Crafts series and I was worried I wouldn't like it as much as I did the first. I was wrong!! I loved Callie and Bennett's story. Take a little football, a hunky coach, some dancing with the stars, and a beautiful dance coach and you've got yourself a great story! This one was fun, sexy, and emotional at times. Definitely one I would recommend to everyone.
Win Me Over is the perfect title for this novel. Romance at it's finest. Nicole Michaels fascinating story is both entertaining and touching. Love the characters. Enjoyed the story and found a new author in the process. Definitely a WIN, WIN. Received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.