Title: Our Options Have Changed
Author: Julia Kent & Elisa Reed
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 5, 2016
Having it all is a fantasy, right?
Chloe Browne knows all about fantasy. Fantasy is her job.
And she’s very, very good at what she does.
As director of design for the O Spa chain, a sophisticated women’s club that is trending its way into being the Next Big Thing, Chloe’s ready to take on the world.
One baby at a time.
Her home study’s done, and she’s about to adopt, a thirty-something single mother by choice. Who needs to put her life on hold for the right guy when the right baby is waiting for her?
Besides, talk about fantasy.
The right guy?
And then in walks Nick Grafton, with those commanding sapphire eyes and wavy blonde hair and a sophisticated mouth that only smiles for her.
But the last thing Nick wants is to start fresh with a new baby as his college-age kids fly the coop. A single father for more than fifteen years after his wife walked out on her family, Nick finally tastes freedom.
But he likes the taste of Chloe more.
* * *
Our Options Have Changed is a full-length standalone contemporary romance, the first in the On Hold series by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent and journalist-turned-fiction-writer Elisa Reed. It is a loose spinoff from Julia Kent’s Shopping for a Billionaire series, with cameo appearances from favorite characters.
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O is a twenty-first century club for sophisticated women. A fourth space for women of a discerning taste.
Home is the first space. Work is the second space. Third spaces are locations like coffee shops and malls.
O is the fourth space. The space where you can arrive. Rest. Relax. Indulge. Be someone you can’t be in the other three spaces.
Based on our membership rates, we’re onto something. Our investors are, shall we say, pleased.
O does have a public presence, thanks to our retail environments. In Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and soon in New Orleans, sophisticated consumers can spend hours—and hundreds of dollars—browsing our selection of “elegant accessories for intimate pleasure.”
That’s right—sex toys. That’s what the masses call them. Except at O, we cater to a clientele that doesn’t want to be one of the hoi polloi. They want to be unique. In the know. Enlightened and cosmopolitan on the surface.
But a wildcat down…below.
Which makes a Grade C unacceptable. No one wants to be average.
Especially down below.
“Chloe, I’m Nick Grafton. I handle branding for Anterdec properties. It’s critically important for a new brand like O to carry the same recognizable image throughout all locations. Can you tell us a bit more about how your design will do this while at the same time bringing in the unique atmosphere of New Orleans?”
Even seated, I can tell he’s a tall man. All the time I spend with seven-foot-tall Henry has skewed my perspective a bit, but Nick must be over six feet. His hair is thick and a little on the long side for a corporate guy, light brown with a hint of silver. I admit it: I have a total weakness for long hair. Not man buns, but a little over the collar… something to grab and maybe pull at intimate times…
Ice blue eyes.
But what really gets my attention is his dark navy blue suit. Crisp shirt. Cotton madras plaid tie. When you spend every work day surrounded by mostly naked men, a fully-dressed guy gets your attention.
Sexy. Makes you wonder what’s underneath.
Not that I’m objectifying him. Ahem.
Did he say his last name is Grafton? My turn to look closely at him. My first boyfriend—we’re talking age fifteen here—was Charlie Grafton. Not an unusual last name, though, right?
His question is easy, really. I answer, he thanks me, no one else has a question.
I signal Carrie to lower the room lights. Showtime.
“O is never ordinary,” I begin. “We’ve created another O for you, and I think it’s our most exciting space yet.” The faces around the table are mildly surprised, not expecting anything else from me.
I click a button to lower the screen and another to start the slideshow.
“This is our first gO Spa.” I flash to a picture of a full-size RV. “This vehicle could be the beginning of a fleet. In every city where O has a presence, the gO Spa can go beyond the physical location. The gO Spa can be booked for private parties and weddings. It can travel to concert venues and theaters for services to big-name performers.”
The next slide is an interior view of the gO Spa. Three small showers. A bank of four hair washing and styling stations. Small closets filled with curated professional clothing.
“But it has another important purpose. The gO Spa is how O will give back to the communities that have welcomed us and made our success possible. A way to demonstrate our commitment to the idea that peace and pleasure are vital to everyone.”
Nick Grafton is giving me his full attention. I like it. I could get used to it.
When my alarm goes off at six a.m., I know it’s time to get up. My meeting with Nick Grafton is today. I’ve been awake since four, when I woke to find Mink covering my face, fur tickling my nose.
Mink. My living, purring fur coat. My cat.
I tried so hard to hold on to sleep, blissful unconsciousness. General anesthesia.
My brain, however, wanted to watch a slideshow:
The mystery shop report. Who highlighted all those pages?
Me, at the market, shopping for treats for Joe.
Me, in the ladies’ room, primping a treat for Joe.
Joe, getting treated. By someone else.
I have read that it’s essentially impossible to think of nothing, but I tried. I visualized grey. The O shade.
Quite right. Impossible. I started running through the alphabet backwards.
Z Y X… W… not as easy as you would think, right?
N… Nick Grafton in my office doorway, somehow familiar. Starched white shirt. The scent of Bay Rhum when he caught me. If masculine has a scent, it’s Bay Rhum.
…M L K…
J… Joe, red-faced and drunk, Nick’s arm around his neck. Pathetic. I wish I could un-see this.
B… Baby. Baby coming soon. Life will change, forever. Am I ready? I think so. But is anyone ever ready? Maybe I’m too ready—what if Li changes her mind? Should I buy diapers, baby clothes, a crib? Would I be tempting fate? So far I just have an infant car seat. If this doesn’t happen, I can just put it in the closet. Way far back in the closet where I can’t see it.
Li is so young. Old enough to get pregnant but far too young to be a mother. In so many ways, she’s really still a baby herself. She’s been forced into a situation with no possible happy ending—at least not for her. Her tragedy will make my dream come true. Can I help make some of her dreams come true in return? She wants to be an esthetician, told me the day I met her on the gO Spa. Can I find a scholarship for her? Create one?
A… Anterdec. Meeting today with Nick Grafton. Okay. This is better. This I can handle. What to wear?
I am representing O. I visualize grey again. Dove grey suit of raw silk, seamed to fit my body perfectly, never too tight or too loose. High heels, but not too spiky. And most importantly, a necklace of glass Os, linked together with silver.
And for today’s secret power, rose silk cheeky panties that lace up the back. Matching bustier. Grey thigh highs in fine mesh.
On the outside, chic and understated. Underneath, intimate pleasure.
I am O.
AUTHOR BIOS AND LINKS:
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire). She lives in New England with her husband and three sons in a household where the toilet seat is never, ever, down.
Elisa Reed is a journalist-turned-fiction-writer whose snappy, irreverent prose combines with an irrepressible zest for the simpler, and often intimate, pleasures of life to produce fun(ny) contemporary romance with a focus on second chances. New England born and bred, Elisa Reed now lives, writes, and plays in New Orleans and along the sugar sands of the Gulf Coast.