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Update — Swimming Naked is with the editor

Deleted Scene…

“I was thinking about taking Logan and a couple of his friends to see the college lacrosse championship on Memorial Weekend, just the championship game,not the whole tournament,” Phil said to Lina when he arrived home with Logan.

“That’s nice.” She was at the counter, slicing vegetables.

“It’s in Philadelphia this year.” He leaned his hip against the counter as he watched her. “Do you want to come?”

“No.”

“Come on. It will be fun. We could spend the night and check out the city.”

Lina set down her knife and wiped her hands on a towel before closing the small distance between them and framing his face with her cool hands. She stood on her  tiptoes and softly kissed his lips. “No,” she whispered before brushing her lips over his again. “We’ve already seen the Liberty Bell.”

He clasped the sides of her hips, pulling her lower body into his. He knew she’d never really liked lacrosse. She thought it was too physical. When he’d spot her in the stands during his high school and college games, she’d more often than not have her hands covering her eyes. “Logan and I aren’t playing. You won’t have to worry about us getting hurt.”

“I never worried about you getting hurt. I was always worried you were going to hurt someone. I didn’t want to have the memory of it in my mind.” She linked her arms around his neck. “Take Logan and have fun. You don’t need me there.”

He let his gaze drift over her face. He knew every inch of it. Even the laugh lines around her eyes which had come in the past couple of years were etched in his memory. “I’m still making up for lost time.”

“Gross—stop looking at each other like that,” Katie said. “I shouldn’t have to be afraid to come in to my own kitchen.”

Lina kissed him again before stepping away from him.

“Your kitchen?” Phil asked Katie. His gaze remained on Lina, watching the feminine sway of her hips as she crossed to the refrigerator.

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Swimming Naked — the sequel to A White Picket Fence

The draft of Swimming Naked is now in the hands of my editor. I should have it back in about four weeks.

Opening scene of Swimming Naked…

“Dadda…Dadda…up…up”

“Just a second, buddy.” Phil was at the sink, screwing the top onto a baby bottle.

Lina watched Liam’s small hands yank at Phil’s pant leg, his demands to be picked up increasingly loud. She rubbed her hand across her forehead. “I think I’m going to go upstairs.”

“What?” Phil scooped up his son, handing him the bottle he’d just prepared as he turned to Lina.

“I have a headache. I’m going to go lie down for a minute.” Her eyes were on the almost one-year old sucking on a bottle as his head rested on her husband’s chest. She swallowed down the lump in her throat.

“Do you need me to get you anything?”

“No. I just…I can’t,” Lina whispered before rushing from the room.

“Katie?” Phil called out as walked toward the family room. “Katie?”

“What?” Katie paused the television screen.

“I need you to watch Liam.” He set him on the couch beside her.

“What?” Katie retreated to the corner of the couch, her eyes widening. “No way. I’m not watching him.”

“I’m not asking.”

“You said it wouldn’t affect us if you brought him here. I don’t want to be a baby sitter. I don’t even like kids.”

“Watch him,” he said firmly, pointing at Liam. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

 

Lina was sitting on the edge of the bed when she heard the bedroom door open. “I can’t do it,” she said. “I thought I could but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

The mattress shifted as Phil sat down beside her. “It hasn’t even been an hour.”

“I can’t look at him. I know it’s not his fault, but he’s the result of what you did—a living, breathing reminder.”

“Lina.” Phil stroked his hand up her back. “It’ll get easier. Once you get to know him, you—“

“I don’t want to know him.” She came to her feet and headed toward her wardrobe. “I’ll go to Adele’s or my mom’s for the night.”

Phil cursed softly, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees as he gripped his head. “You said you would try. Forty-five minutes isn’t trying.”

Lina finished packing a small bag with pajamas and clothes for the following day before leaving the wardrobe and crossing to the bathroom. “I tried,” she said when she felt Phil’s presence in the doorway. “You have no idea how hard.” She began to toss toiletries into the bag.

“One night. All I’m asking for is one night.”

“I can’t.” Lina shook her head. She’d thought she could. She’d even picked out a crib and decorated a nursery for Phil’s son, but the reality of him was so different than the imagined.

“I’ll leave,” he said, his voice sounding defeated. “I’ll take him to a hotel.”

“No. All his things are here. It’ll be easier if I just go to Adele’s.” Lina lifted the bag and turned from the sink.

“You shouldn’t be the one leaving.”

“This is the best solution, Phil. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

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Swimming Naked – The Sequel to A White Pick Fence

Coming soon…

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All Things A White Picket Fence, Swimming Naked and Everything Else

Let the conversation continue…

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Swimming Naked — Coming December 2018

Phil was half-way home before he was calm enough to call Kim. “When were you going to tell me?” he bit out as soon as she answered.

“That was fast.”

“We agreed that it was better for you to be out of Baltimore.”

“No, you convinced me it would be better if I was out of Baltimore. But it’s not better, not for Liam. He’s your son and you barely see him.”

“I see him once a week. I’m doing the best I can.”

“And your best will be better when I’m closer.”

“He has a nanny and routine he’s used to. Why would you uproot him?”

“I think being closer to his father is more important than his nanny.”

“Do you really think the city is the place to raise him?”

“You don’t live in the city. Maybe I’ll get a place near you.”

His grip tightened on the steering wheel. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

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Swimming Naked

I am now approximately 85 percent done with the sequel to A White Picket Fence — still shooting for a December release date!

 

From Chapter 46 of A White Picket Fence — Lina is 17 and Phil is 18

“Are you going to make me swim alone?” Lina splashed into the surf and dove under a small wave, swimming several yards before she felt Phil’s strong hands gripping her hips and pulling her back into his naked body.

“You’re crazy. You know that?” He wrapped his arms around her.

“For you.” She turned in his arms and snaked her own up around his neck. “Promise me you’ll always swim naked with me, even when we’re old and wrinkled.”

“I promise.”

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Swimming Naked — the sequel to A White Picket Fence

Update — the sequel to a White Picket Fence is approximately 60 percent complete and still on target for a December release date!

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A White Picket Fence — Sequel

At the moment I am working exclusively on a sequel to A White Picket Fence — I have received an overwhelming number of requests for a conclusion to Lina and Phil’s journey — there are so many questions remaining in readers’ minds that I felt compelled to put the other novels on hold until I finish this story. I am shooting for a December release date. Thanks for your patience!

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New Romance Novel by Laura Branchflower

New Romance Novels 2018! I’m currently working on three. Here is a sneak peek at the first…

Main characters:

Hero: Lucas Roe — NFL QB, 30 years old

Heroine: Carrie Chambers — HR Assistant Director at Washington, DC hotel, 24 years old

Chapter One

Carrie ran her hand down the length of her thigh, a coconut scent filling the air as she applied suntan lotion for the third time since arriving at the beach two hours earlier. She wasn’t going to chance burning in the strong Florida sun.

A shadow spread over her. A man had paused a few feet from her lounge chair, his large hands splayed on his hips as he stared out at the ocean. Carrie’s eyes rested momentarily on one of his hands, taking in his long fingers and wide palm before traveling up his well-toned arm to his muscled shoulder. He had obviously just arrived. It was her third day at the resort and he wasn’t someone you could overlook. He was at least six-foot-four with broad shoulders and an athletic body. The muscles in his upper back rippled as he adjusted his hands on his hips. His skin looked impossibly smooth. She took in a deep breath. It was the first time since it ended with Kevin that she took note of another man. Kevin. She wasn’t supposed to think about Kevin.

The high-pitched sound of female laughter accompanied two women in string bikinis walking up from the water, their attention focused on the man beside Carrie. She watched them blatantly stare at him, amazed at how obvious they were in their interest.

One of the women pulled back her shoulders, jutting her large breasts out as they came within feet of him. Carrie rolled her eyes. Behavior like the woman’s was why good-looking men had huge egos. She was basically offering herself to him.

He didn’t take the bait, continuing to stare forward as they passed within inches of him. When he didn’t turn to get a glimpse of the women from behind, Carrie’s curiosity about the stranger increased. There was no way Kevin would have resisted a look at their asses. She mentally chastised herself for again thinking of Kevin.

A cabana boy stopped beside the man, pointing off to their left as he told him where the rest of his party was located. “Thank you.” His deep voice fit him. “Would you mind putting this on my chair?” He held out his room key and sunglasses. “I want to take a swim.”

As soon as the cabana boy left, Carrie assumed the man would walk towards the water. Instead he began to prepare his body for his impending swim, tilting his head from one side to the other as he stretched out his neck and then shaking out his arms. She quietly lifted her cellphone from the table beside her chair, pulling up the camera before pointing it in his direction and resting it on her stomach. Words wouldn’t do him justice. She had to show Jodie what she was missing.

It was apparent from his profile with his etched jaw and straight nose that he was handsome, but she wasn’t prepared for how handsome until he turned his head. Her heart skipped when his eyes met hers, a bolt of awareness coursing through her.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to block your view,” he said.

“No, it’s fine.” Her voice sounded breathless.

His gaze fell to her cell phone. Before she could react he had closed the distance between them and snatched it from her hands.

“Wha—what are you doing? That’s my phone,” she stammered, coming to her feet. “You can’t just take that.”

“I’m taking back what’s mine,” he said shortly. He was looking down at her phone as he spoke his thumb tapping the display.

“How would you like me to take a video of you without your permission?”

“I wasn’t…” she trailed off, her face heating.

“You weren’t what?” He lifted his gaze. “Taking a video of me?” He raised his eyebrows.

Her mouth went dry as she met his cool gaze. Even in a bathing suit, he was the most intimidating person she’d ever encountered. She dropped her eyes, completely mortified. He had caught her recording him. “I’m sorry. I—“

“Save it.” He tossed her phone onto her lounge chair.

“I—“

“You were caught,” he interrupted, his lips turned down. “The only thing you’re sorry about is that you no longer have the video to show your friends or whatever the hell you planned to do with it.”

She opened her mouth, but couldn’t find words. His arrogance was shocking.

“Don’t you think I deserve a private life? Next time you want a video of someone, ask for permission.”

Carrie was still processing the most embarrassing moments of her life when Jodie dropped down beside her half an hour later. “What have I missed?”

“Nothing,” she lied, not prepared to verbalize her humiliation.

“Do you want to get in the water?”

“No!” Carrie burst out. “I mean. I don’t feel like it.” There was no way she was going to chance bumping into him.

“Okay.” Jodie pulled her hair up into a messy bun as she looked around. “Have you seen any football players? Someone on the elevator said a group of them checked in last night. They took part in some charity event yesterday.”

Carrie’s gaze shifted to the ocean, her heart rate accelerating as the man from earlier emerged from the surf. “Do you think he’s one?”

“Oh my God!” Jodie gripped Carrie’s arm. “That’s Lucas Roe!”

“No it’s not!” Carrie gasped, but even as the words left her lips she knew it was true. Lucas Roe was one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in the NFL. Not only was he also featured in half a dozen commercials, he also played for the Washington Kings, her hometown team. “I’m such an idiot.” She dropped her head back against the lounger.

“He’s coming right towards us,” Jodie whispered.

Carrie picked up her novel, opened it to a random page and held it in front of her face. She couldn’t bear to face him again.

“Mr. Roe?” The excited voice of a young boy had Carrie peaking over the top of her book. “My dad asked me to ask you for your autograph.” The boy glanced back at his father who was several yards away.

“We really admire you,” the man said. “You’re a pleasure to watch. Our favorite by far.”

“Thank you,” Lucas said in a tone much friendlier than the one he’d used on her earlier. He took the pen and paper the boy held out, asking him for his name, before signing his autograph.

“Thank you, Mr. Roe,” the boy gushed before running off with the paper clutched in his hand.

“You’re our favorite, too,” Jodie called out causing Carrie’s stomach to clench. “We’re huge fans. May I have your autograph too? You could sign my stomach or…wherever,” she teased in a husky voice that only came out for men.

Carrie laid the open book over her face. She prayed he would ignore Jodie like he’d ignored the two string bikinis earlier. When she felt a shadow descend over her body, she knew he was within feet of them.

“You have better manners than your friend,” he said.

“Better manners than my friend?” Jodie’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

He nodded towards Carrie. “She tried to take a video of me earlier.”

“What?” Jodie laughed aloud. Her gaze swung to Carrie. “You took a video of him?”

“I didn’t know who he was,” Carrie mumbled from beneath her book.

“Then why were you taking a video?” he asked.

Carrie felt a new wave of heat flood her cheeks. She needed a drink. “It was an accident,” she lied.

“Right,” he said dryly. “Because cellphones hold themselves up and start videotaping.”

“Why did you take a video of him?” Jodie asked. “She seriously didn’t recognize you,” she told Lucas. “I had to tell her who you were.”

Carrie closed her eyes beneath the book. She was going to kill Jodie. “Do you mind leaving, Mr. Roe? You’re blocking my sun.”

“Is your cellphone full of videos of random men?” he asked.

“No!” Carrie abruptly sat up, letting the book fall to her lap as she glared up at him, no longer concerned with what he thought of her. “You were standing right in front of me stretching and you have a nice body, so I was going to send it to her.” She nodded towards Jodie. “To show her what she was missing—that’s it. If I had known you were such a cocky asshole, I never would have done it.”

Instead of barking something back at her, like she expected, he observed her in silence for several seconds, the corners of his lips twisting in an obvious attempt to keep from smiling. “Someone has a temper.”

“Fuck you.” Carrie plopped back on her lounger and picked up her book. “I hate athletes.”

“Her ex is a professional hockey player,” Jodie supplied.

“Jodie!” Carrie hissed, frowning at her. “Stop talking about me like I’m not here.”

“What did he do?” Lucas asked as if she hadn’t spoken.

“Serial cheater,” Jodie answered.

“He wasn’t a serial…” Carrie trailed off. Why was she defending Kevin? And why was she discussing this at all. She closed the book, picked up her cellphone and came to her feet. “How about respecting my privacy,” she bit out not quite meeting Lucas’s eyes. He may have been an asshole, but that didn’t stop her from feeling attracted to him.

“Carrie don’t leave,” Jodie began, “I—“

“I’ll see you later,” Carrie interrupted before slipping past Lucas.

She made it less than five yards before a warm hand clasped her upper arm. “Don’t leave on my account.”

“I’m not.” She continued to stare forward, her entire arm tingling from his touch.

“I’m sorry for earlier. I thought you knew who I was.”

“It’s fine. You were right. I shouldn’t have taken the video. If you don’t mind…” She pulled her arm from his grasp.

He stepped in front of her, blocking her path. “Have lunch with me.”

She looked at him then, which was a mistake. As soon as their eyes met, she felt an undeniable connection.

“Come on.” He smiled, revealing his perfect white teeth. “I’m not an asshole. I promise.”

“You were a complete asshole to me half an hour ago. Remember?” She raised her eyebrows.

“That’s just the persona I take on when someone’s invading my privacy. It wasn’t real.”

Her heart did a funny flutter when he smiled again. “I don’t do athletes,” she said summoning up her last strands of resolve.

“I’m only asking to buy you lunch.” The desire flashing in his eyes promised much more than a meal. “I probably wouldn’t let you do me so soon after meeting anyway.”

The innuendo behind his words had her pulse jumping. She needed distance. There was no way she was going to be able to resist this man. “You remind me of someone I want to forget. Excuse me.”

“How could you say no to lunch with Lucas Roe?” Jodie asked when she entered their suite an hour later to find Carrie stretched on top of one of two beds. “He’s Lucas Roe, Carrie. He’s probably worth fifty million dollars.”

“And he’s a professional athlete who didn’t show me the slightest interest until I told him he was an asshole. I’m just a conquest to him. He isn’t used to women that don’t fall at his feet.”

“So what? It was just lunch. Don’t you want to be able to tell people you shared a meal with Lucas Roe? Lucas Roe, Carrie. Lucas Roe asked you out.”

“Why do you keep saying his name?” Carrie asked.

“Because,” Jodie began stretching out on the bed beside her, “I don’t think you realize how big this is.”

“Are you forgetting why we came here?” Carrie asked.

“No, of course not. But he’s—“

“Lucas Roe,” Carrie finished. “Another self-absorbed athlete.” Her heart ached at the thought of Kevin. “Considering I was supposed to be marrying one this weekend, do you really think it’s a good idea for me to go out with another one?”

“You can’t just group them together because they’re athletes,” Jodie said. “I just spent almost a half hour talking to him. He was remarkably normal.”

“Then why don’t you go out with him?” She tossed her forearm over her eyes.

“Because he didn’t ask me. He’s interested in you.”

“Please stop. He reminded me of Kevin.” She didn’t want to think about Kevin. The whole reason they’d taken a last minute vacation was to distract her from thinking about Kevin.

“He was nothing like Kevin. He’s taller and leaner. Kevin’s more stocky and—”

“Not physically,” Carrie interrupted. “There was something about his eyes. I felt like he could pull me in—just like Kevin did.”

“You’re overthinking this,” Jodie insisted. “It was just lunch.”

“I’d sleep with him,” Carrie said. “I know I would.” She’d been fantasizing about it for the past hour.

“That’s not a bad thing.” Jodie propped herself up on her elbow and stared down at her. “You’re twenty-four and you’ve only slept with one guy. For all you know Kevin was terrible in bed.”

“He wasn’t terrible.” If he’d been terrible, she wouldn’t be craving the physical intimacy they’d shared. “And stop saying things to make me think about him. You’re being a terrible friend right now.”

“No, I’m telling you things you need to hear. You gave him six years of your life. Don’t give him another minute.”

“It’s only been four months,” Carrie said. Four months since he’d broken her heart. She cursed softly when a tear slipped from the corner of her eye. “God, I can’t believe I can still produce tears for him.” She brushed her knuckles over her cheek. Until that moment, she’d gone two weeks without crying, the longest period since he’d left her.

When they returned to the beach in the late afternoon to enjoy cocktails while the sun went down, there was no sign of Lucas Roe. There was also no sign of him in the resort’s open-air restaurant where they had a late dinner, or at the only on-property night club where they danced until well after midnight. Carrie outwardly showed no reaction to his absence, never mentioning him to Jodie or commenting when Jodie mused about where he might be, but inside she felt the stab of disappointment. She was attracted to him and his attention had been a welcome stroke to her battered ego.

“Lucas left the resort last night,” Jodie told Carrie the following afternoon. She had just returned from the beachside bar, a Mai Tai in each hand. “Apparently the word got out that he was here and everyone started clamoring for pictures and autographs. He checked out before dinner.”

He was gone. Carrie’s internal debate over whether or not to let him take her out was now a moot point. She would probably regret not going for the rest of her life. “I guess that’s the price of fame.”

“He rented a villa on Key Biscayne. We’re going there tonight.”

“What?” Carrie pushed herself up on her elbows. “What do you mean we’re going there?”

Jodie took a sip of her Mai Tai before continuing. “Justin Stagers and Buddy Thomas are at the bar,” she said naming two all pro offensive linemen. “They just invited me to his villa. Told me to bring my friend.”

“I can’t just show up there,” Carrie said. “He’s going to think I’m interested in him.”

“You are interested in him. You’ve been checking out every person that’s come to the beach today, hoping they’re him.”

“I have not!” Carrie said indignantly.

Jodie laughed. “You’ve turned around so many times; your neck is probably going to be sore tomorrow.”

“You’re unbelievable.”

“What’s unbelievable is that you don’t see how ridiculously transparent you are. You may be able to lie to yourself, but you’re not lying to me.”

“You’re so annoying,” Carrie grumbled.

“I’m your best friend. I have to be annoying sometimes. But seriously, thinking about Lucas Roe is a good thing. Much better than thinking about—“

“Don’t say his name,” Carrie interrupted. Jodie was right. She’d been so distracted by thoughts of Lucas Roe, she’d barely thought of Kevin all day.

“Sorry.”

“He probably has a girlfriend?”

“You should know. Does he?”

“How would I know?” Carrie frowned. “I barely spoke to him. You’re the one who talked to him for half an hour.”

“But you were the one cyberstalking him this morning,” Jodie said smugly.

Carrie had spent a half hour on her computer that morning learning everything she could about Lucas Roe. She’d thought Jodie was asleep, but clearly she’d been wrong. “He dated Leanne Reiner for two years,” Carrie admitted referring to a country singer. “He’s also dated a couple of super models. Surprise. Surprise.”

“So he’s not with anyone now?”

“It didn’t say, but he could be.” Kevin dated Natasha for months before it made the news. Carrie swallowed down the bitterness in her throat at the thought of Kevin and his Russian model.

“Don’t,” Jodie began rubbing Carrie’s arm. “Don’t let your thoughts go there.”

Carrie took a long sip from her straw and then another, pushing the images from her mind. “I hate him.” As she uttered the words, she knew they weren’t true. She could never hate Kevin. She’d loved him for too long.

“You’re coming out with me tonight. It doesn’t have to be anything more than a distraction. You don’t need to think past tonight. Just like the psychologist told you—take it one day at a time.”

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