Kitty Valentine Dates a Fireman
Spin the wheel. Date the guy. Write the story. Fall in love?
Six years ago, Kitty Valentine took the book world by storm when her sweet debut romance hit number one on the Best Sellers List, which was followed by a string of successful releases.
Her latest novel, however, totally bombs, causing her editor to suggest she write much sexier books.
To Kitty, writing smut is the literary equivalent of stripping.
But with no advance coming in and her royalties dipping to an all-time low, Kitty has no choice.
Armed with a hot-guy spinning prize wheel, made by her best friend, listing all the different types of men she will date and then write about, Kitty will be spinning—not stripping—her way back onto the best-sellers list.
And in the process, she just might write her own happily ever after.
This humorous chick lit series (imagine an awkward Carrie Bradshaw navigating the NYC dating scene) is now complete and ready for binge-reading!
Release date: August 20, 2020
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
Print pages: 228
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Kitty Valentine Dates a Fireman
Fun fact about me, Kitty Valentine, best-selling romance author: I have a surprisingly high tolerance for pain.
Not emotional pain, mind you. Just the opposite. I’m what my best friend, Hayley, would refer to as a drama queen. The first time she called me that, I had to pick myself up off the floor where I’d just thrown myself to tell her how wrong she was.
Physical pain, on the other hand, I can handle. Probably a side effect of being rather clumsy and prone to accidents. If there’s a one-in-a-hundred shot of somebody falling into a mall fountain while texting, I’m the one dripping wet with a broken phone.
Yet there is no pain, either physical or emotional, that can compete with lunch at Grandmother’s. Oh, the cringing. The slow, silent inner death as she questions each and every one of my life choices while managing to embarrass me with tales of her own flawed choices.
The best part? I brought Hayley with me this time to give my grandmother somebody else’s life to dissect, and what is she doing? Is she taking the heat off me the way a decent best friend should? Is she steering the conversation toward positive aspects of my life? Good decisions I’ve made lately?
Is she using the prepared list of talking points that I slaved over for hours in advance of this lunch date?
“I think she should cut her hair. What do you think?” Hayley gestures to me with her knife, which she might as well slide into my back while she’s at it.
Grandmother, whose hair is always gleaming and perfect, studies me with her sharp blue eyes. “Hmm. I do prefer Kathryn with long hair, but I see what you mean.”
It takes all the self-control in my body to keep my hands away from the brown waves tumbling over my shoulders. What the heck is wrong with my hair?
“Not short, short, mind you.” Hayley tilts her head to the side. “But shoulder-length. She looks so cute with shorter hair.”
“I can’t disagree.”
“Do I get a say in this?” I whisper, looking back and forth between them. “Because I can leave the room if you’re gonna keep talking about me like I’m not here.”
“Don’t say gonna.” My grandmother sniffs the air like she smells something foul. “It’s low-class.”
“You should hear some of the things that come out of Hayley’s mouth if you think that’s low-class.”
Hayley gets a big smile from me after that.
“What Hayley says is her business.”
“Why isn’t what I say my business?”
“And she needs to refresh her wardrobe,” Hayley adds before popping an olive into her treacherous mouth. “I mean, how’s she going to impress her next boyfriend, wearing last season’s collections?”
“I’m going to kill you. I hope you know that.” I drag a thumb across my throat for effect, which doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. If anything, she smiles wider than before.
No wonder she was okay with coming to lunch today. She even seemed to look forward to it.
Because she hates me. I mean, that’s literally the only explanation I can come up with. I must have done something to her long ago, and she’s been planning my demise ever since. Gotta give her credit. She’s done a good job of pretending to be my friend all this time.
The very mention of the B-word is basically Grandmother’s trigger. “Speaking of which, have you found another boyfriend for your next writing project?”
No matter how many times I explain it, it doesn’t seem to stick. Either that or she’d rather not remember things correctly. Now that I think about it, yeah, that’s what she’s doing. Much like the way she refuses to call me Kitty, the woman tends to believe what she wants and then basically sticks her fingers in her ears and yells to drown out everything else.
“Whoever he is, he won’t be my boyfriend. He’ll be the man I’m seeing and learning about, so I can write the hero of my next book.”
She waves a hand. I’m surprised she can lift it, considering she’s wearing her eight-carat diamond today. I have to give her points for style—when a new guest comes by, she likes to break out the big guns. “You children of today, with your special relationship words and technicalities. Not so much has changed since my day.”
I know better than to make a snarky comment about that one, no matter how good it would feel in the moment to ask whether they had color TV back in her day. Besides, I know the answer.
Hayley brought charm to spare today. She leans in like she and Grandmother have a secret. “Don’t pretend you don’t get your share even now. Look at you. Flawless.”
Grandmother laughs softly. “Oh, you should talk.” I swear, I should’ve stayed home. “With your chic little suit. Don’t tell me. Chanel.”
“I know that’s your favorite,” Hayley purrs.
I also know she found it at a thrift store—great score, don’t get me wrong, but come on. It’s like they’re getting married or something.
All right, I’m feeling a little mopey.
“Anyway …” I have to wait for them to quit fawning over each other before continuing, “We haven’t come up with the latest trope yet, but I have to choose one soon. Maggie wants the next book by the holidays, so they can release it in the new year.”
“And her agent wants to negotiate a new contract in the new year too.”
That’s more like it. I knew I brought Hayley for a reason.
“That’s wonderful! So, this new writing style has translated into higher sales then?” Grandmother raises her martini to me with a genuine, warm smile.
“It looks that way. Maggie’s happy, which means the publisher’s happy. Which means I’m happy.”
Her eyes narrow ever so slightly. “Are you sure about that?”
Darn her. She’s so grandmotherly when she feels like it.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” My smile’s a little tight. I have to consciously loosen it. “No, really, I’m thrilled. I am. Life is good. And I could easily write ten books based on what I’ve seen and done so far.”
When Hayley chokes a little on her salad, I realize what I just said.
“I mean, you know, going places. Not. Like. Doing it. Not sex things.” Yeah, that cleared things up. I’m not blushing harder than ever or anything like that.
Grandmother, meanwhile, doesn’t care one way or another. “If anything, I’d rather see you getting something more than a royalty check out of this. A good lay has a way of smoothing out any rough spots.”
Which is when Hayley starts full-on choking, to the point where I’m pretty sure she’ll need the Heimlich maneuver.
“No, no, I’m fine,” she manages, red-faced and watery-eyed. “Just went down the wrong pipe.”
“Did I say something wrong?” Grandmother is all innocence, though I know better than to believe her. “I thought I was speaking the truth. You strike me as two modern, forward-thinking young women.”
Hayley jerks a thumb in my direction after sipping water to clear her throat. “We are. Well, I am. I’m not so sure about this one.”
“Hush. I’m modern and forward-thinking.”
“In theory, if not in practice.” Hayley grins.
“Uh, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.”
“And there isn’t.” Grandmother laughs indulgently. “In fact, I commend Kathryn’s good sense. It’s one thing to know something is possible. It’s another to know whether it’s a good idea for oneself. Self-awareness is a commendable quality.”
And Hayley gets a smug look from me.
Except my grandmother isn’t finished. “On the other hand …”
“I should’ve known,” I mutter.
“There’s something to be said for expanding one’s horizon. Stretching yourself. Seeing what you’re capable of. So many of our so-called limitations are self-imposed. We are all capable of far more than we give ourselves credit for.”
Hayley rests her chin in her palm, watching and listening and soaking up every word. I’m pretty sure she’s decided to be my grandmother when she grows up. Awkward since I made that decision for myself a long time ago. We’ll walk around in our seventies, looking like clones of each other in Chanel and diamonds.
We could do a lot worse. I’m almost, sort of looking forward to it.
“That’s why I’m stretching out of my comfort zone for these projects. I know I was wrong to throw such a hissy fit at first.”
Hayley snorts. “You? Throw a hissy fit? The hell you say.”
“Shut up. Anyway, I’m glad things are working out. I hated it at the time, but look, I’m still alive. It hasn’t killed me.” Yet. Hasn’t killed me yet.
Here’s the thing: I’m a girl who, until roughly eight months ago when my editor ordered me to start dating around or else lose my career, hadn’t dated anyone since college, except for a few one-offs, which went miserably. I’m just no good at casual dating. I always end up liking a guy too much, too soon, and feeling like the world’s biggest moron in the end.
Except for my last dating disaster, which was doomed to fail from the beginning. Granted, I knew there was no future for us when I went into it.
Okay, okay, I knew it but didn’t want it to be true. I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t want, just a little, to end up married and neck deep in babies alongside their adolescent crush? Who just happened to, at one time, be an international superstar? Talk about living the dream.
But that’s the thing about dreams. They very rarely pan out once it’s time to wake up. My hurt feelings after the Dustin situation didn’t stem from falling in love and having my heart broken, but from knowing he was pretty much telling me what I wanted to hear just to get me into bed—and his name into my book.
Neither of which happened. Too bad.
I don’t think I’m cut out for casual dating. I really don’t think so. Call me a serial monogamist or an optimist or a dork who can’t hang in modern times. Whatever. It’s how I’m built.
But work must be done, which to my agent means dating must be done. Which means I must keep stretching beyond my comfort zone. If I’m not careful, I’m going to owe the dentist a lot of money after gritting my teeth so much.
“Speaking of which …” Hayley reaches for her purse, where I know she has the spinner all ready and waiting.
There’s a reason she keeps it rather than letting me have it. She knows I’ll conveniently lose it.
“Oh, you’re going to choose now?” I’m surprised Grandmother doesn’t clap with excitement. “I get to witness this? How thrilling.”
“Why don’t you give it a spin for good luck?” I suggest. It can’t hurt.
“Me?” Her eyes are perfectly round, one hand to her chest.
You’d think I asked her to perform open-heart surgery.
“Sure, go ahead.” Hayley hands it to her with a look at me. “Now, you can’t blame her if she lands on Santa.”
Again with this. The girl won’t be satisfied until I’m bouncing in Santa’s lap. “I think this book would be released a little late for sexy Santa to be a worthwhile trope. Sorry about that.”
We watch and wait while the list of potential tropes scrolls past on the little screen. Single daddy, bad boy, firefighter, lawyer, police, construction worker, motorcycle club, athlete … it’s dizzying.
“Ooh!” Hayley squeals a little once my current trope is revealed. “A firefighter! Hot damn!”
“Firefighter, huh?” Okay. I can get behind the sexiness.
There’s something painfully masculine and rugged and generally hot about a firefighter. Which, duh, is why they’re such a popular character for romance writers to base their heroes on.
It’s Grandmother’s reaction that really and truly gives me pause. She looks downright thrilled—like the woman is about to lick her chops.
“What are you so excited about?” I laugh. “I’m the one who has to find him and date him and write a book about him.”
“I just so happen to know where you can find an entire roomful of likely firefighters to choose from.”
“Oh, good, because I wasn’t keen on the idea of setting a fire in my apartment and hoping somebody hot responded.”
She shakes her head. “Always with the quips.”
“What do you have in mind?” Hayley asks.
“You girls might not know it, but I’m heavily involved in several of the city’s charitable foundations. Including an endeavor to raise money for local animal shelters. I’ve always had a soft spot for animals, especially at this time of year when it gets so cold.”
“What’s that got to do with firefighters?”
“Patience,” she sighs with a roll of her eyes. “As I was about to say, several of the local ladder and engine companies have agreed to offer their eligible members in a bachelor auction this weekend.” She slaps the tabletop with her palms, triumphant.
“A bachelor auction?” Hayley and I say in unison as we exchange a look, eyebrows raised.
“With a banquet and such, yes.” Grandmother nods. “It’s perfect. You can join me as my guest and choose from any of the men who catch your eye.”
“Will there be a lot of people there?” I mean, this does sound perfect, but there’s one little hitch in the plan, which I don’t think she’s considered yet.
And why would she? She hasn’t had to think about money in a long, long time. Like, her entire life.
And while I know I’m lucky to live the way I do, I’m not swanning around my Park Avenue brownstone, wearing an eight-carat diamond ring. Among other pieces of jewelry.
“Oh, yes, we sold out within a few days of announcing the event. It’ll be held at The St. Regis, in the ballroom. You’ll be a vision.” She sits back, tipping her head from one side to the other. “We’ll have to go shopping.”
“Hang on.” I cast a pleading look to Hayley, but she doesn’t seem to understand what I’m nervous about. “How much money are we talking about? I mean, in the auction. Have you ever done anything like this before?”
“Many times.” Grandmother waves a hand and nearly blinds me with her ring.
“What do bachelors normally go for by the time the bidding’s done?”
She shrugs. “I think a few thousand each.”
“Thousand?” Another look to Hayley, who’s finally caught up with me.
“That’s a little much,” she murmurs with a sigh.
“Oh, did you think I would call upon you to pony up?” Grandmother’s laughter trills out as she rings the bell for Peter to come and clear away our plates. “Please. Obviously, I’ll write the check.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You aren’t asking. I’m telling you, Kathryn. You have no idea what a thrill this will be for me, watching you pick your next boyfriend.”
“Not my boyfriend.” I look to Peter for help when he comes in. “She’s going to buy me a date at an auction, Peter. What am I supposed to do?”
He smiles as he picks up the plates. “Thank her and be done with it. You know as well as I do how pointless it is to argue with her.”
The man is absolutely correct.
I’m halfway up the last flight of stairs when Matt’s voice greets me, “Whoa. I didn’t know today was a shopping-spree day.”
“You could help, you know.”
“Nah. It’s more fun to watch you struggle.”
“I swear to God.”
He’s laughing when he joins me and takes two bags full of shoes and all sorts of other things from my one hand, leaving me with the dress over my arm.
“Thank you. I thought my hand was gonna break.”
“Hey, you wanna go on a spree, you’ve gotta get everything home.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” I groan as we reach the landing and head down the hall. “It was my grandmother’s.”
“I was gonna say. Bags from Nordstrom. No offense, but that’s usually not your style.”
“Shopping in an actual, physical store isn’t my style either. I’m freaking wiped out.” Once we’re inside my apartment, I lay the dress in its bag over the back of the sofa before collapsing. “It’s so exhausting.”
“Oh, I bet. Trying on dresses and shoes, twirling around in a mirror.” He leaves the bags by the coffee table and looks down at me with his hands on his hips.
It’s a darn shame he’s so hot, all tall and muscular and tanned, even in early December, which strikes me as being unfair. He’d make a tasty piece of eye candy if he wasn’t such a pain in the butt.
“It wasn’t like that at all. My grandmother forced me into it, like I said. I had to try on everything she liked, and it didn’t matter if I’d wear it to my own funeral or not. She insisted. No. She ordered.”
“Sounds like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.” He plunks down in a chair with a smirk.
“I didn’t ask you to sit down.”
“I carried your bags into your apartment. I think that warrants a few minutes of conversation.”
“Yeah, but your idea of conversation usually devolves into making fun of me or making fun of how I’m feeling. Sorry if it doesn’t thrill me.” I close my eyes with a sigh. “My head hurts.”
“What was it all about?”
Oh, he’s going to love this. I wish I hadn’t run into him. Though he’ll find out eventually—the risks of two people who work from home, living across the hall from each other, I guess. We don’t have much else to do during the day besides work, so we tend to bug each other.
“She was treating me like a full-grown, living doll, so she can take me to some charity auction this weekend.”
“Wow. Your life is so difficult.”
“Seriously, who do you think will play you in the movie they make about your toils and tribulations?”
“I swear to God. When they bring me in for questioning and I’m soaked in your blood, nobody will believe the stuff I tell them. I need to be recording these conversations for future reference.”
“Right, but that implies forethought, which wouldn’t look good for your defense.” He nudges my leg with his foot. “Come on. You know I’m kidding.”
“It takes a lot out of me to go shopping. I’ve never liked it.”
“Why not? Especially when there’s somebody willing to foot the bill for you—I mean, I assume she did.”
“She did, which meant she got final say in what I’m wearing to this event, but that’s not what I’m talking about.” I sit up with a groan since, jeez, even my body aches.
It’s like I went through a session with a trainer, which, let’s not lie, my grandmother would be perfect at. So long as she could still look fabulous and sip cocktails while ordering her clients to work harder.
“What are you talking about?” He’s not kidding anymore.
One thing I can say about him: he knows when to stop teasing. It hasn’t always been this way, but in the months since we’ve gotten to know each other, he’s finally begun to understand my signals. I’m like a cat that can only be tormented for so long before the claws come out.
Which I guess makes Kitty the perfect nickname for me.
“When I was a kid, shopping was stressful. It was almost never fun. Because we didn’t have a lot of money, you know?”
He frowns, nodding. “Right. And if I know you, you were always concerned with how much everything cost and whether you were asking for too much.”
“How did you come up with that?”
“Like I said, I know you. You have a hard time asking for what you need if you think it’ll inconvenience somebody else.” He shrugs. “What can I say? I’m a deep thinker.”
“You’re also full of yourself.”
“But I’m not wrong.”
“No, you’re not wrong. Which is why I like shopping online, not just because it’s convenient, but also because I can plan a whole series of looks around a few key pieces, then see what the total in my cart looks like, and pare down if I feel I need to.”
“Hey, sales were low for a while there. My residuals weren’t as hefty as they used to be. It’s times like that when my frugality comes in handy,” I add.
“So, you can imagine having to try on these very expensive dresses, which I didn’t even like in the first place, which I feel like I don’t even need and will probably never have the chance to wear again. It feels wasteful to me. No matter how good life gets, I’m still stuck with those old feelings and patterns. I can’t help it.”
“Sure you can, if you want to. You have to train your brain to think differently.”
I groan and roll my eyes.
“I mean it!” he insists. “I’ve been reading books about this for a while now. You can borrow them if you want. All about neurology and stuff. You should check them out.”
“I don’t know that it’s that serious.”
“You can’t only read romance books all the time.”
“I don’t! I read all genres. It’s important for a writer to read widely.”
“So, read them. You’ll thank me.” He eyes the bags. “Anyway, what’s the event for?”
“It’s an auction to raise money for local animal shelters.”
His brows lift. I can tell he’s taking me a little more seriously now, which is miraculous since he almost never does.
“Good cause. I picked up Phoebe at the shelter a few blocks away.”
“Really? That beautiful girl was given up?”
Phoebe is a breathtaking golden retriever. There are times when I think I like her a lot more than I like her owner—and considering the fact that she once caused me to sprain my ankle, that’s saying something.
“She sure was.” A slow smile starts to spread across his generous mouth. “So, what kind of auction is it? Silent auction? Gift baskets and certificates to the spa?”
Here we go. “No.”
“Win a date with a romance author?”
“I’m not the one being auctioned off! Oops.” I clamp my hands over my mouth as he bursts out laughing.
“Duh. I’m on the email list for the shelter, and it’s one of the shelters involved in the event. I already heard all about it.”
“Of course.” I can never seem to get ahead of him. He always knows just a little more than I do.
“So, is your grandmother that desperate to get you settled down? She’ll dress you up and take you out and find a man for you?” He actually has to wipe tears from his eyes by the time he’s finished laughing hysterically.
“No, smarty. I have to write about firefighters this time, and firefighters are being auctioned off.”
This kicks off another round of laughter, which, by now, I expect from him. “Oh, that’s too good. You have to bid on the guy you think will make the best hero for your next book. What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall.”
When he doesn’t hush, he gets a pillow to the side of his head.
“Seriously! This isn’t funny to me. And she offered to foot the bill for my guy, so I guess there’s nothing I can do to get out of it.”
“Why would you wanna get out of it? It sounds like a perfect setup to me. You don’t have to lift a finger aside from getting yourself dressed up and whatnot. All your potential dates are right there in front of you. Like a buffet.”
“You’re enjoying this way too much.”
“Maybe I am.”
“Much more than I am.”
“Lighten up. You take everything too seriously. It’ll be fun if you let it. Imagine how many women will be there, clawing at each other for a date with a lucky bachelor.”
Hmm. He might have a point. I wonder how long it’ll take before fur starts to fly. If anything, it could be interesting fodder for another book—or even a scene in my current project, which has yet to be started.
“Oh. That could actually be entertaining to watch.”
“See?” He sits back with his hands folded behind his head and a smug grin. “Like I said, I wish I could be a fly on the wall.”
“I’ll see if I can get some video for you.”
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