One Week in Love

Valentine's Rewind

Thanks for stopping by and celebrating the unofficial holiday of romance novelists — Valentine's Day. This year, more than 20 authors have joined together for the Valentine's Rewind blog hop. Today I'm revisiting Chris and Annie, my couple from "The Wedding Week" in One Week in Hawaii. I hope you enjoy!


"A Day All Their Own"

February 13

Annie Kalani stood in her kitchen, coated in flour, and wondered what the hell she’d been thinking. In front of her lay the scraps of her second failed attempt at handmade pasta. The first was half on the floor and half in the brushed stainless steel trashcan that sat to the side of her island.

She pushed a hand through her hair, no doubt leaving streaks of white through her haphazardly pulled back ponytail that was starting to escape its elastic. It had looked so easy when Chris had made her pasta last Valentine’s Day. He’d kneaded the dough with smooth, confident strokes and fed it through the hand-crank machine almost lovingly. Food seemed to come to life in his hands.

The same couldn’t be said for her.

Annie was a competent cook—she’d give herself that much. On nights when Chris worked late at his restaurant and she was too tired to drive down to join him for a meal at one of the tiny back tables, she could whip up something for one with the usual efficiency she employed in the rest of her life.

But apparently she needed more than competence to make what was supposed to be a stunning Valentine’s meal.

Annie braced her hands against the island’s glossed stone countertop. “Okay, you win,” she muttered, admitting defeat. She had a backup plan — steaks grilled on the little barbecue that sat on her balcony — she just hadn’t wanted to use it. But Annie could tell when she’d been beaten.

Her hands were full of broken pasta strands when she hear keys jangling outside her door. Her eyes darted to the clock. How was it ten already?

She dumped the pasta in the trash and brushed her hands off on her apron as best she could as Chris pushed the door open. He hadn’t even crossed the threshold when he stopped, his eyes fixed on her.

She spread her arms wide, more than a little sheepish. “Dinner may be a disaster.”

Without breaking his gaze, he set his keys down in a bowl on the side table and let the messenger bag she knew would be packed with his clothes for the next day fall to the floor. He closed the gap between them in a few steps, and her whole body flushed with warmth. After a year and a half he could still make her blush like a sixteen-year-old girl with a crush.

His hands slid around her waist, and she tilted her chin up to catch his lips. He kissed her like he hadn’t seen her in months, his tongue slipping between her lips. She tasted sweet basil and the sharp tang of vine-ripened tomatoes, the ghosts of the dishes he’d been preparing at the restaurant.

Annie sighed against his chest, the tension in her shoulder relaxing just a little. This was where she wanted to be. Always. This was where she belonged.

“Hi,” he whispered against her lips as he smoothed a lock of her hair back behind her ear.

She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against his. “Hi. How was work?”

“Busy. We’re getting ready for the big day tomorrow.”

They’d long ago reconciled themselves to the fact that theirs was never going to be a conventional Valentine’s Day. Chris was a chef and she was an events planner. Love was good for business, and they’d both be working at least a sixteen-hour day on Valentine’s. He would man the kitchen at the restaurant, and she would be caught up in coordinating a seemingly effortless romantic wedding at one of the island’s resorts a Los Angeles-based couple. If Chris and Annie were lucky, the might stumble into bed at the same time the following night.

That’s why February 13th was their day—a fake Valentine’s that meant so much more because they had it all to themselves.

“So what’s this disaster?” he asked, pulling back to peer over her shoulder.

“Remember that beautiful saffron-infused pasta you made me last year?”

He nodded.

“Apparently I’m not very good at making pasta. It keeps flaking and breaking apart,” she said.

He reached up and brushed a thumb over her tawny beige cheek. “I’ve always liked my women covered in flour.”

She swiped at her cheeks and her forehead. “Damn, I thought it was just in my hair.”

He laughed. “Babe, it’s everywhere.”

She stuck her tongue out at him.

“Are you hungry yet?” he asked.

“I’m not starving yet, but I could get steaks going if you are.”

“And give up on this? Not a chance. We’ll need to let the dough rest, but if you don’t mind a midnight dinner—”

She laced her fingers through his. “I’m not tired.”

“Come on.” He tugged her by the hand toward the island. “Let’s do this together."

Chris reached for the oversized mason jar of flour Annie kept on the counter and began mounding flour in front of them. “How about beating a few eggs?”

She nodded and pulled three eggs out of the refrigerator, cracked them into a bowl, and whipped a fork through them until they were a uniform golden yellow. Then she handed him the bowl and watched as he poured the eggs into a well he’d made in the flour. Keeping one hand clean, he mixed and gradually pulled more and more flour into the eggs until the dough formed.

“Could you take over kneading for a minute?” he asked, throwing a glance over his shoulder. “I’m just going to change my shirt. I smell like a kitchen.”

She raised an eyebrow. “If you think you can trust me not to destroy the pasta.”

He brushed his lips against her cheek as he switched spots with her. “Always.”

She focused on kneading, enjoying the slightly giddy sensation of happiness that had wrapped itself around her. The dough was already silky to the touch, the apartment smelled like cooking and food and home, and Chris was here with her. It was enough.

Annie was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t realize he was behind her until his arms circled her waist. Instinctively, she let her head fall back to his shoulder as he dropped a kiss to her collarbone.

“You’re good at that,” he said with a nod to the pasta dough in her hands.

“Now you’re just flattering me because it’s almost Valentine’s Day.”

A laugh rumbled through his chest.

“Besides, do you know how much pressure it is cooking for a chef?"

“Even in your own kitchen?” he asked.

“It’s easier here than at your place,” she admitted. “At least I don’t feel like I’m invading your space.”

His left hand stroked down over the soft cotton of her top and along the side of her stomach, just glancing over the hem. “What if your space was my space?”

Her hands paused. “What do you mean?”

He held up his right hand and uncurled his fingers. Two brass keys hung from a simple silver key ring. Her stomach jumped to her throat in anticipation.

“So I’ve been thinking—”

“You’re asking me to move in with you?” she asked in a rush, spinning in his arms and planting two doughy hands on the front of his shirt. He didn’t seem to care.

“I know we haven’t talked about it much, but I have a patron at the restaurant who’s a real estate agent. He’s been keeping an eye out on the market for me and took me around to see this place before prep today.” He let out a breath and shook his head. “Annie, it’s amazing but if you don’t like it we can have him keep looking. That is, if you want to live together.”

She looked from him to the keys and back again. Her new business, his restaurant, their growing relationship — things had been going so well for the last eighteen months that she hadn’t wanted to disturb their flow. But now Chris was standing before her with keys in his hand. Moving in with him would be a huge leap of faith but, in some ways, hadn’t they already done that? She’d given up the security of her wedding coordinator job at the Kuhio Resort & Spa and he’d walked away the opportunity to man a five-star restaurant at the same hotel. In some ways, they’d committed to one another before they’d even said “I love you.”

“Where is this dream apartment?” she asked.

“Kolohala Street.”

Her brows shot up. Kolohala Street ran through the heart of Waialae Kahala — an affluent neighborhood of older Hawaiian homes and newly built beachfront mansions. It was the sort of place where people put down roots. Where people started families and carved out lives together.

“Really? A rental in Waialae Kahala?” she asked.

Chris cleared his throat. “It might be a rent-to-buy property.”

“Is that right?”

He shot her a sheepish grin. “And I should probably warn you, it’s actually a dream house and not a dream apartment.”

“And when do we have to let your friend know?” she asked, inwardly smiling at how much he was trying to reign in his enthusiasm and failing.

“We have the keys until Monday. I figured since both of us will be off, we could drive over in the morning.”

It was all so simple. So straightforward. She could imagine them driving up, looking at the house, and just knowing. There would be paperwork and budgeting and all of the complications that came along with moving, but in some ways none of that mattered. She was already sure of one thing: Chris.

“Well then,” she said with a smile, “it looks like we’ve got a hot date to see a house.”

“Really?” he asked, practically vibrating with excitement.

She looped an arm around his neck and brought him down to her. “I’d be happy to move in with you, Chris Benson.”

He grinned a little wider. “This dough has to rest for at least an hour. Want to go makeout?”

She brushed her lips to his. “I think we can get a whole lot more creative with an entire hour ahead of us. Besides, it’s Valentine’s Day.”


Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed revisiting Chris and Annie, failed pasta making and all! If you want more stories like this, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. The next stop on the hop is the wonderful Rebekah Weatherspoon. Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥

The Love in Food

2An earlier version of this post appeared on the One Week in Love website. I grew up knowing that food is love. My mother taught me how to cook. I remember standing in the kitchen on weeknight, following her around as she showed me how to roast a chicken, or bustling around at a dinner party, making a stew stretch to feed an unexpected guest. My father taught me how to bake. He would let me kneed bread dough and roll out pie crusts with my childish hands, making me feel very grown up because this food was actually going to feed people.

Later, in college where dorm cafeteria meals are meant to get you through the day rather than satisfy the inner foodie in you, I would cook for my friends. Big pots of spaghetti Bolognese and chicken noodle soup would come steaming off of my dorm’s tiny electric stove. We would pile up mismatched plates and bowls to eat together in the lounge with our eclectic family chosen out of the people we loved best at school.

When I moved to New York for graduate school and then work, I learned to cook in a miniscule New York studio apartment in Morningside Heights with a kitchen that didn’t have an inch of counter space. I’d host little dinner and cocktail parties, feeling very grown up that all of my plates and dishes matched. That I had glassware was seen as a sign of maturity.

Now I cook for my boyfriend, a man doesn’t turn on the stove except to insist on making me a hot breakfast before I head to work. I started cooking for him within a few weeks of us meeting, teaching him little things here and there in the kitchen because he wanted to learn. But more than anything, I wanted to feed him. All my life, I’ve understood that we feed the people we care about because food is about more than sustenance.

Right in the middle of my novella “The Wedding Week”, Chris cooks for Annie. He’s a chef, so I knew it would be important for him to show his love of the heroine through food. It’s his language. I wound up writing a scene I think of as being deceptively intimate. Right in the middle of the book, Chris rolls out of Annie’s bed and makes he tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. But the scene isn’t just about amazing, post-coital food preparation. It’s an early sign of what the reader already suspects: Chris is already falling for Annie.

I’ve gotten a couple of requests from early readers to share Chris’ romantic but simple tomato soup recipe, so here it is. I only hope you will make it for someone you love whether husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, child, parent, or friend.


Tuscan Roasted Tomato Soup

Adapted from 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant, and Irresistible Recipes, by Claire Robinson 


1 pound vine ripened tomatoes, seeded and quartered*

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 ½ cups water

1/3 cup basil leaves, chopped finely

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat over to 400.

Toss chopped, fresh tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Add whole garlic cloves. Roast in oven for 15 minutes until tomatoes start to shrivel and their sweetness concentrates.

While tomatoes are cooking, add San Marzano tomatoes and water to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add basil and stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce head to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Once tomatoes are done, remove from oven and reserve garlic cloves. Add to the pot with all cooking juices. Smash garlic with the flat of a knife, and chop finely into a paste. Add to soup. Simmer for another three minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately alongside grilled cheese sandwiches.

This soup freezes well.

*I often make this recipe in the winter when tomatoes are out of season and the greenhouse grown ones are prohibitively expensive. During those months, ripe grape tomatoes sliced in half make a great alternative.

You can order One Week in Hawaii from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo

First Draught & The "I Love You"

Just a few quick things to tell you about today. Read

I'm over on the Contemporary Romance Writers' blog talking about why your characters don't always have to say, "I love you," at the end of your romance.


I will be speaking at the NECRWA "Let Your Imagination Take Flight" conference from April 24-25. Audra North and I are presenting a practical guide to self-publishing an anthology or box set with great tips about idea creation, organization, and royalties distribution. I'll have more details on that appearance in the coming weeks, but if you plan to be there please say hello and introduce yourself.


The women of First Draught are back at it again talking about problematic heroines. Why can it be so tough to get a heroine just right? Are we harder on our heroines than our heroes in romance? Plus we dish on the heroine tropes we just can't stand.

Also keep an eye out for updates about One Week in Hawaii, the next anthology in the One Week in Love series featuring novellas by Audra North, Alexis Anne, Alexandra Haughton, and myself. We're getting ready to release our very sexy cover and get this book up on preorder.

If you would like to be the first to see that cover and help us spread the word about One Week in Hawaii, check out this quick form.

And don't forget to sign up for newsletter for the very latest preorder and release date information as well as exclusive excerpts!

Listening for Love

A version of this post ran on September 8th on One Week in Love. Hi all, Julia here. I've talked before about the importance of music and writing, but today I'm going to touch on the songs that I listened to while writing, editing, and generally wringing my hands over "Seduction in the Snow" in the upcoming One Week in Wyoming anthology.

When I start writing a book, I create a playlist with the working title and begin throwing songs on it. Since I write historical as well as contemporary it can be tough finding lyrics that match the scenarios I think I might write (although let me tell you, if I had better French of any Italian there's a whole world of crazy opera arias that would fit historical romances pretty well).  That's why I go for a mood that feels like the book I'm writing.

Now, if I'd written this post back in March when I worked on the first draft of "Seduction in the Snow", I would have said that I put that playlist on and started working away. That's what it was like until mid-July when I read an article that said most people are less productive when listening to music with lyrics (even in languages that they don't understand). That flipped a switch in my writer brain, and now I suddenly can't write to anything that's not instrumental. Instead I put my playlists on about a half hour before I think I might sit down to write to get me back in the right frame of mind for the story.

Okay, playlist time. For "Seduction in the Snow" I wanted a few angsty songs, some confused, "Wait, are we a couple or not?" lyrics, and a whole lot of sexy girl-power blues rock. If I'm being totally honest, I would admit that I just listened to Pistol Annies' "I Feel a Sin Comin' On" on repeat. The problem is that just one song makes for both very poor playlists and blog posts. Here's a more expansive look at what was on my Spotify list.

[spotify id="spotify:user:juliabottles:playlist:1BDXB0MTLjqH7QhLIwYz2l" width="300" height="380" /]

If you would like to read "Seduction in the Snow" for yourself, you can buy One Week in Wyoming for $0.99 wherever ebooks are sold.

Exclusive Excerpt from "Seduction in the Snow" (Part 2)

My upcoming anthology One Week in Wyoming releases tomorrow! To celebrate, I'm giving my blog readers an exclusive look at my novella "Seduction in the Snow." On Friday you met Lydia, my heroine. Today, take some time with Evan. Enjoy!


"Seduction in the Snow"

- Part 2 -

Evan hated spreadsheets on a good day. Now, trapped in a flying tin can next to a woman with kissable lips who oozed sex, they officially topped his "Things That Suck" list.

He pushed his glasses up and squinted hard at his computer. He would conquer this inventory list. He would deal with his bursting inbox. He would not think about the way that this Lydia woman’s boots climbed up strong, lean legs, or how they would look wrapped around his waist. He wouldn't imagine plunging into her warmth and losing himself…


He didn’t even know her last name—she hadn’t bothered to tell him—but when the two of them touched, his pulse kicked up and his cock swelled. Just from touching her hand. Suddenly he was back in a high school nightmare, awkward and uncertain of what to do around a pretty girl.

What the hell is wrong with me?

He wasn’t seventeen anymore. He was a decent-looking guy with a great job. He could talk to a woman without his mouth going dry. He’d even picked up women before.

Okay. One or two, but who was counting?

I’ve got this if I want it. I just have a lot of work to do.

Of course, the first email he’d gotten when he pulled up his inbox was a note from his partner, Kyle, asking him why the hell he was checking email on vacation. He couldn’t help but grin. Before he left, they’d bickered about whether he’d log some hours in Wyoming. Even though Kyle made him promise to disconnect, Evan couldn’t help feeling guilty for dumping the entire operation on him. Broken Ridge Winery was growing fast, and both of them were stretched to their max trying to keep up with everything.

The problem was that emails and spreadsheets just didn’t hold his interest with Lydia sitting next to him. She was more striking than pretty, with a long, oval face, wide eyes, a strong nose, and a generous mouth. Her mahogany hair fell in loose waves around her face and down her back. He wanted to bury his nose in it and breathe her in.

He nearly groaned at the wave of longing that crashed into him. He itched to see if her olive skin was as soft as it looked. Those bright, clear eyes made his heart pound every time he caught her glancing over. But it was her legs that were the main problem. She sat with them crossed, her iPad leaning on her knee. Every once in a while she’d shift and re-cross them, sending all of his hardwiring sparking in his head.

She was giving him enough green lights to floor it, but he couldn’t. Between work and his ski vacation with the guys, he had zero time for anything else. Getting involved with a woman on a trip was not part of the plan. Besides, soon she would walk down the plane’s gangway and out of his life. It was better that way.

But Evan’s decision didn’t make it any easier to keep his imagination PG, and by the time they touched down he was desperate to put some distance between him and this beautiful stranger. The fasten seatbelt sign dinged off, and the cabin filled with the sound of dozens of buckles unsnapping. He packed his laptop away and hauled himself up to reach for the overhead bin. Then, even though he knew it would cost him a sliver of his sanity, he asked Lydia, “Can I help you get your bag down?”

She eased into a tight spot next to him in the aisle. Her breasts brushed his arm, and the floral scent of her perfume drifted up to him. He breathed deep and hoped that he could restrain the urge to grab her by the waist, bend her backwards, and find out exactly what that wide mouth tasted like.

“Thank you,” she said in the husky voice of a black-and-white movie star—more Bacall than Monroe.

He maneuvered her bag out of the overhead and set it down between them. Then she turned those soulful brown eyes on him and stole every word from his tongue. All he could do was grunt as the people in the rows ahead of them began to shuffle off the plane. He scrambled for something to say—anything that wouldn’t make him sound like a sixteen-year-old with a crush.


When Lydia pulled her purse higher on her shoulder, she stuck out her other hand for him to shake. “Maybe I’ll see you around, Evan Sullivan.”

Something about the way her eyes sparkled told him she was testing him—teasing, even. He gripped her hand and fought the urge to prove he could play this game, too. It was just the weight of his laptop in the bag hanging off his shoulder that anchored him to reality. He had just five days in Wyoming.

Really? That’s what’s stopping you?

But before he could do anything else, Lydia turned up the aisle.


Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read, One Week in Wyoming is available for exclusive preorder on iBooks for $0.99 and will release wherever ebooks are available tomorrow. You can check out more from all of the authors in the anthology at our series website.

Exclusive Excerpt from "Seduction in the Snow" (Part 1)

My upcoming anthology One Week in Wyoming releases in less than a week! To celebrate, I'm giving my blog readers an exclusive look at my novella "Seduction in the Snow." Today you'll get to meet our heroine Lydia. On Monday, it's all Evan.

If you like what you read, One Week in Wyoming is available for exclusive preorder on iBooks for $0.99 and will release wherever ebooks are available on September 9th. You can check out more from all of the authors in the anthology at our series website.



"Seduction in the Snow"

- Part 1 -

“I think this is me.” A voice to the right of Lydia interrupted her reading time, and she clicked her iPad off with a sigh.

She’d planted her purse on the aisle seat next to her in hopes that it would stay empty on the flight to Wyoming. No such luck. Now she’d have to wage a silent, passive-aggressive war with a stranger for the shared armrest. Mentally grumbling, she glanced up.


Tall, sandy-haired, and handsome filled the aisle. The man glanced down at the printed-out boarding pass in his hand. “This is row ten, right?”

The low rumble of his voice turned her insides liquid. She’d fight over an armrest with him any day.

“Sorry about that. Let me get this out of the way for you.” She juggled her purse to clear his seat.

One corner of the man’s mouth quirked up—for real this time. “I’m always hoping for an empty aisle, too.”

She smiled back. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“I’m not disappointed.”

He heaved his suitcase up and shoved it into the overhead compartment. As he moved to snap the bin closed, his eyes raked over her so fast she might not have caught it. Except she did.


He didn’t look so bad himself. He wore a thin knit sweater with the sleeves pushed carelessly to his elbows to expose a pair of strong, lean forearms. A pair of thick black glasses perched on a nose that looked like it might have been broken once, and a three-day beard covered his chin with just enough scruff to give him a rugged sort of look without edging into hipster territory. This stranger was catnip, and he’d be sitting just inches from her for the three-hour flight from San Francisco to Jackson Hole.

He let his beaten-up brown leather messenger bag slide off of his shoulder and onto the empty seat. A lock of hair fell over his forehead as his head dipped when he pulled a laptop free. It took everything Lydia had not to reach out and twine a finger around that curl.

When the man finally maneuvered into his seat, he set his laptop on his knees but didn’t open it. Instead, his head fell back with a sigh. He looked like he could use some serious loosening up. She’d be happy to help with that.

The plane’s PA system crackled, and a flight attendant welcomed them in cheerful tones, pulling Lydia’s thoughts back to her vacation. Soon she would be at Dabai Lodge with Joan and the rest of her writing group. Joan’s husband, Bruce, had invited his college friends for some skiing at the same time, but she couldn’t care less about throwing herself down a mountain with a pair of two-by-fours strapped to her feet. All she wanted was some spa time, a few good meals with friends, and a week of relaxation. That was just the sort of well-earned wind-down she needed after a few punishing months on deadline.

It would be an added bonus if the lodge had a good-looking, unattached man staying there too. Someone like the guy sitting next to her—all long legs and big, rough hands who’d let her wrap herself around him and really enjoy her vacation.

I should be so lucky.

Once they hit the runway, the plane sped up, the nose pitched skyward, and suddenly they were airborne. She sank back into her seat, silently thanked whatever genius convinced the FAA to let readers keep their devices on through takeoff, and turned her attention to her tablet.

“Do you mind if I turn the light on?”

She looked up and found a pair of icy blue eyes fixed on her. Even through his exhaustion she caught a hint of soft, sweet warmth in her seatmate’s expression.

“I didn’t know if it would cause glare on your iPad,” the man explained.

She shook her head. “It should be fine. Thank you for asking. I’m Lydia, by the way.”

She stuck out her hand. The man glanced down at it and hesitated. I won’t bite, she wanted to purr, but the poor guy already looked like he was torn between crushing her lips with his and bolting. Then something like determination crept into his expression. He took her hand.

The moment they touched, heat swept straight down to her toes and back again. She imagined his broad hands stroking over her bare skin, palms exploring, fingers teasing. Her whole body hummed for him, and the intensity with which he stared at her nearly knocked her backwards.

“I’m Evan Sullivan,” he said, his tone low and thick.

She wanted that voice wrapping around her as he whispered every little thing he’d do to make her come. It spoke of dark rooms and slow, sensual sex fueled by need. She throbbed wet and ready for him.

“Evan. It’s so nice to meet you.”

Her body screamed at her to unbuckle her seatbelt and climb into his lap, but the two no-nonsense flight attendants nearby didn’t look like they’d tolerate the idea. Still, maybe she and Evan could arrange to meet in Jackson—a little vacation fling. It was all she ever wanted from a guy, something fun with no strings attached. Flings were easier than relationships. Less messy.

Before she could decide whether to act on the idea, Evan dropped her hand. “Sorry to be rude. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t disappointed, but she nodded. “Of course. I don’t want to keep you from your work.”

Picking up her tablet again, she leaned on the armrest next to the window. Evan kept his attention so carefully locked on his computer that she wondered for a moment whether she’d imagined that the attraction went both ways. The quick pulse of a little, bitable vein at the base of his neck made her think no. Then he let out a shaky breath, and she knew he’d felt the connection too.

With a little smile, she dove back into her book.


Thanks for reading! Look out for another exclusive excerpt on Monday!

One Week in Love

OneWeekInWyoming-1600x2400August is coming to a close, and that means that the release day for One Week in Wyoming is getting closer too! On September 9th, you can get your hands on the sexy contemporary anthology featuring four stories by Alexis Anne, Audra North, Alexandra Haughton, and myself. Until then, we have a new website for our One Week in Love series of books. Stop by, watch our welcome video, peruse some blog posts, and say hello!