Some of the publisher's previous titles include The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance, The Mammoth Book of Best New SF, The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance, The Mammoth Book of Hot Romance and more. I am very happy to be on board.
I was invited to participate in this anthology based on my 2000 title for Dell, When a Man Loves a Woman, which was named by RomanceNovels.me as one of the Top 1000 Romance Novels of All Time.
Eventually, I'll offer a sneak peek of To Look For You, on this blog. But, for now, here's an excerpt from the book that got everything started:
James Elliot was the best friend Deborah Brody ever had.
After tomorrow, she fervently hoped she’d never see him again.
Lying in bed that night, she told herself that was because in five hours it would be Matching Day. The day when Deb and Elliot, bloated with the self-importance of graduating from the University of California at San Francisco Medical School all of twelve hours earlier, learned which hospitals had accepted them for residencies. They’d each applied all over the country - "Just to be safe,” they said - but both had their hearts set on getting their first choices: Deb in San Francisco and a specialty in neurosurgery, and Elliot in Los Angeles, for trauma care. If both got the selection they wanted, odds were high they'd never see each other again.
It was almost four AM, and Deb had been tossing and turning since midnight. She assumed she was worried about not getting the placement she’d requested. After all, what else could be filling her with this nameless sense of deficiency, this feeling that she’d forgotten something? The only time she usually felt like this was when Deb left for vacation, and passed the first hour of her trip wondering if she’d turned off the water, and shut off the gas. But, right now, as far as she knew, Deb was not on vacation. When it came to the results of Matching Day, everything that could be done had to already have been done. Her staying up and worrying was not going to magically rearrange the letters inside the envelope. Deb knew that. She understood it intellectually, and had thought she’d already let it go. Yet, here Deb was, lying awake and feeling like there was some question still terribly unsettled in her life.
It was getting ridiculous. With all her tossing and turning, she was getting a better aerobic workout in bed than she usually managed at the gym. And she refused to exercise involuntarily. Gingerly, Deb slid out from beneath her blanket, reluctant to fully lift it off her body, for fear of waking up Max. She padded, barefoot, out of the bedroom and into their apartment kitchen. She picked up the phone on the wall beside the counter their landlord had oversold them as a 'dining area,' and, wincing at each click of her nails against the buttons, dialed Elliot’s home number.
He answered on the first ring, as if he had been sleeping with his hand on the receiver. He sounded groggy, yet functional; A doctor for less than a day, and he already had the tone down.
"Elliot?" Deb couldn’t fight her impulse to whisper. As if whispering could make up for waking the man up at four AM. "I--I . . ." Good Deb, now that you’ve got him up, maybe you should think of something to say. "Elliot, I need to talk. Do you, maybe, you know, have a few minutes?"
From the other end of the phone, she could hear Elliot stretch and smile lazily. Somehow, no matter what inanity slipped out past her lips, he seemed to have a knack for decoding the meaning underneath. Elliot took a moment, then drawled, "You bring the cards."
Deb’s whole body exhaled. "I'll be right over."
Luckily, medical school had taught her to dress in a matter of minutes, in the dark, and in absolute quiet. Still, as Deb riffled around in her desk for a scrap of notepaper and a pencil, Max heard her and, stifling a yawn, rolled over on his stomach, propping his still sluggish head up with one hand. Eyes at half-mast, he took in Deb’s jeans, her UCSF sweatshirt, her sneakers, and the Toyota keys pressed in her left hand. Rubbing the bridge of his nose with a knuckle, he asked, not unpleasantly, "Going somewhere, hon?"
She straightened, giving up the hunt for writing material, and confessed, "Elliot’s."
"Uhm, no. Of course not."
"A four AM social call, then?"
Deborah responded automatically, reassuring him, "Everything’s fine. Don't worry." The last thing Deb wanted was to put Max out. And she knew that, if he found out just how frazzled Deb really was feeling right then, he would be very put out.
Not in a bad way, of course. She meant he would be terribly concerned, and he would ask her, over and over, what he could do to help. Problem was, there was nothing Max could do to help. But she was reluctant to let him know that, and leave him feeling helpless. So, in addition to her reassurance, Deb showed him a dazzling 'no problem' smile. The one she always showed him, no matter what.
This time around, though, it didn't work. Max sat up in bed, blanket puddling his waist. "Try me," he offered softly. "Just once, try telling me what the matter is, Deb. You never know, if you explain it to me, slowly, I just might understand."
She really did wish she could unburden herself to him, She knew how much Max wanted to be the one to help her. She knew how much he wanted to be the one who slayed her dragons. And, most of the time, he was. Except when it came to work. Not because Max didn't understand her work. Granted, he wasn't a doctor, but he was intelligent and could promptly understand anything technical. What he didn't understand were the emotions that whipped around and tore at you when you least expected it. But it wasn't his fault. It was Deb’s. She didn't have the adequate words to explain it all properly. That’s why, when the difficulty was work-related, she needed help from somebody who knew precisely how she felt, without her having to struggle to articulate it. She needed Elliot.
Lamely, Deb attempted to answer Max’s plea, more for his sake than for hers. She stammered out, "I - it - it’s Matching Day."
"I know," Max said. "I also know that my brilliant, talented, A + pupil of a wife couldn’t possibly be worrying about not getting her first choice of residency. Because, that would be absurd."
He looked so eager to please, it was all Deb could do to keep from reaching out and ruffling his hair. He thought he was telling her what she needed to hear. Unfortunately, such unabashed confidence in her was the last thing Deb needed to hear.
But it was also the last thing she would allow Max to know.
"You're probably right," she said brightly.
"If I'm so right, how come you still look so jittery?"
"Too much coffee?"
Max guessed, "This is about more than Matching Day, isn't it?"
She didn't want to lie to him. But, then again, she also did not care to tell him the truth. So she settled for hedging. "It’s... you know, school stuff."
"Nothing I could help you with?"
"I understand," he kidded. "I know when I get all worked up over stocks and bonds, only another commodities trader will do."
"Don't be upset, Max. It’s nothing. I just need to run a couple things past Elliot. Doctor things. I'll be back soon."
The story continues in When a Man Loves a Woman, available on Amazon and B&N.