Excerpt from HART OF MINE

Fate could be a bastard and fuck with me all day long, but I would never be caught off-guard again. I would leave nothing to chance.

Liabilities were mine.

Assets were hers.

It was simple.

There were no ifs, ands, or buts.

“Doesn’t matter what you want, Mickey. It’s yours regardless.”

“Seriously?” She was staring at me as if I’d sprouted horns and was in desperate need of an exorcism. “Can you even hear yourself?”

I didn’t bother answering. Of course, I could hear myself. I was making perfect sense.

She gave a loud sigh, “I hate it when you act like this.”

“Like what?” The pussy-whipped husband who spoils his wife rotten? The pathetic bastard who empties his bank account at her feet?

“Like this. Like a dumb idiot. Like a controlling jerk. Like…like…” Another sigh. Louder. Far more exasperated. “You. You’re acting like you.”

My fists clenched.

Great. Now I’m jealous of my hypothetical competition. Keeps on getting better and better.

“And who would you rather I act like?”

“Hmm, I don’t know,” she countered sweetly. “How about a reasonable human being?”

Oh, fuck, no.

“How the hell am I not reasonable? I do anything you ask me to. I do everything you ask me to. Even when it’s a blow to my ego, I swallow my damn pride and do whatever you want. For Christ’s sake, we just got married at a drive-thru because that’s what you wanted,” the reminder was bitter on my tongue. “You think that’s what I wanted? You think I spent months learning to stand on my own goddamn feet again because a fucking drive-thru wedding was my end goal?

“But you say jump, I say how high, right? So, by all means, let me know what else you need me to do, Mickey. Tell me how else to prove I trust you because I’ve literally given you every single thing in my possession and it still isn’t good enough. Because I’ve placed my entire life in your hands and…shit!”

It happened so fast.

The crazy girl tackled me.

I didn’t even see it coming. Which was fortunate since I probably would’ve broken something had I braced for impact. She tipped my chair over backward, knocking me right out of the damn seat. And landed hard on top of me, knocking the wind right out of my lungs.

As the room swirled, her panicked voice clawed through the fog, “Oh, my God, Cale. Are you okay?”

Crazy fucking girl.

I nodded, attempting to catch my breath while the fancy-ass ceiling tiles came into focus. Guess I must’ve cracked my skull on the floor too.

“I can’t believe that actually happened.”

A sixteen-pound titanium wheelchair with no brakes vs. a stunningly gorgeous human torpedo with no fear.

Physics 101.

What the fuck did she expect would happen?

“I was only trying to distract you.”

More like trying to kill me. Closing my arms around her, I managed a hoarse chuckle. It was more of a cough. I took a ragged breath and murmured, “You don’t have to try.”

She relaxed into my chest and whispered, “Sorry.”

“No harm done.” Minus the splitting headache.

“Are you sure you’re not hurt?”

“Yeah, except…”

Her head snapped up. “What?”

I curbed a smile, knowing full well this was going to cost me dearly. There was no doubt she’d make me pay for it later.

She scrambled to alleviate her weight, hovering inches above. “What?

Worth any punishment, “I can’t feel my legs.”

God, that laugh.

Who cares about the consequences?

I’d sell my soul to hear that laugh.

Character Interview with CALE WINDERMERE

Thank you so much for joining us today! What is your story about and what role do you play?

Cale: Can’t people just read the book?

Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?

Cale: Am I being punked?
Mickey: Be nice.
C: I will when they start asking legitimate questions.
M: That is a legit question for romance readers.
C: You’ve got to be kidding me.
M: Nope.
C: Well, I don’t know…
M: Your eyes.
C: (grumbles)
M: Your smile.
C: (grumbles)
M: Your third nipple.
C: I don’t have a third nipple.
M: Shh, just sell it.

How has being a paraplegic affected you in the romance department? Not just with you and Mickey, but with women in general?

C: I’d be lying if I said people don’t notice the chair first. Even Mickey did, remember?
M: Yep, but I got over it when I realized you were filthy, stinkin’ rich.
C: Well, that was an axe to the fucking nuts.
M: Aw, come on. You thought it was funny.
C: You’re so lucky I love you, woman.

Do you have any birthmarks or tattoos?

C: No.
M: You suck at interviews.
C: I answered the question.
M: Yep, and you sucked at it.
C: Why don’t you just take over then?
M: Hmm, that’s a good idea.
C: (rolls eyes)

Would you ever hang out with your author? If so, what would you do together?

C: Maybe, as long as this one (nudges Mickey) isn’t around.
M: Why?
C: You know why.
M: Can’t handle us both at once, hm?
C: No, and I have zero intention of trying.
M: (smiles innocently)
C: What did you do, woman?
M: (bats eyelashes)
C: Tell me.
M: I promised Annie we’d all hang out after this interview.
C: Did you consider asking me first?
M: Nope.
C: (sighs) Where are we going?
M: Rock climbing.
C: (mutters obscenities)

If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

C: Telepathy, hands down.
M: I thought it was flight.
C: It was.
M: You said flying would be the ultimate freedom.
C: It would.
M: So?
C: (shrugs)
M: (elbows)
C: (shrugs again) So I don’t want to be free anymore, okay?
M: Wow.
C: (shifts uncomfortably)
M: Brownie points.

What is your biggest pet peeve when dealing with others?

C: Incompetence.
M: Cale!
C: What? You know I can’t stand incompetent morons.
M: I do, but you can’t come out and say that.
C: It’s the truth though. Would you rather I lie?
M: No, just be a bit more tactful.
C: (grumbles)
M: Please?
C: (grumbles)
M: For me?
C: Fine. My biggest pet peeve is when adults lack common sense and behave like children. Better?

What would I love the most about you?

C: Next question.
M: Oh, don’t play coy.
C: I’m not answering that one.
M: Okay, then I will.
C: Mickey–
M: First of all, he’s the single most delicious piece of man candy ever. Anyone possessing half an eyeball can see that, right? But he’s also smart and witty and kind and sweet and–
C: Next question, damn it.

What would I hate the most about you?

C: Most people say–
M: You’re a stubborn butthead.
C: Well, that and–
M: You swear too much.
C: What is this? The Mickey show?
M: Would you care if it were?
C: Not one fucking bit.
M: You’re terrible.
C: (winks)

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

C: Yeah.
M: Did I mention you suck at this whole interview thing?
C: Yeah.
M: (shakes head)

What is your idea of a perfect day?

C: Wake up, cath into an empty water bottle, roll over and go back to sleep with my girl.
M: That’s equal parts disgusting and romantic.
C: (shrugs)
M: Where would you put the bottle of pee?
C: (shrugs)
M: Leave it on the nightstand?
C: (shrugs)
M: And how would you wash your hands?
C: (shrugs)
M: I change my mind. It’s at least three-quarters disgusting.
C: Still one-quarter romantic, hm?
M: (shrugs)

What is your greatest fear?

C: Sorry, but that’s in the NDA.

Someone is secretly in love with you. Who is it and how do you feel?

C: That’s easy. Jason Bateman and I feel pretty damn thrilled about it.
M: (raises brow)
C: What? He’s hilarious.
M: Weirdo.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

C: A circus acrobat.
M: You were actually serious about that?
C: Yeah.
M: Totally picturing you in spandex and tights now.
C: Do I get a cape?
M: Yes, man-child, you get a cape.

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

C: Whatever my girl wants.
M: I love you.
C: I know.
M: Even when you’re cocky jerk.
C: I know.

What is the one food you can’t live without?

C: Primo–
M: The best artisan pizza in the city, blah, blah, blah. His favorite is prosciutto and arugula. He orders it all the time. All. The. Time. There’s a good chance we have leftovers in the fridge right now.
C: We do.
M: See?

If they did a film adaptation of the book, who would be cast to play you?

C: Some help here, Mickey?
M: Tom Selleck.
C: Seriously?
M: Or Sean Connery.
C: Seriously?
M: Yep.
C: They’re both over seventy!
M: And still so freakin’ sexy.
C: Yeah, I think we’re done with this interview…