Half past normal love fo.., p.1

Half Past Normal (Love for the Holidays: Valentine's Day Book 1), page 1

 

Half Past Normal (Love for the Holidays: Valentine's Day Book 1)
 


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Half Past Normal (Love for the Holidays: Valentine's Day Book 1)


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Half Past Normal

  Copyright

  Thank You!

  Dedication

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Books by Brynn Paulin

  Half Past Normal

  By Brynn Paulin

  Supernova Indie Publishing Services, LLC

  www.supernovaindie.com

  Powered by Your Imagination

  Half Past Normal

  by

  Brynn Paulin

  It wasn’t my idea.

  If I’d been completely sober, I might have stopped the crazies who burned the male effigy at the Anti-Valentine party I went to. I mean, that’s not really my thing. I don’t hate men. I’m just a normal, single girl trying to get through college without being noticed. Because everyone in my family is famous. And then the party and the stunt made national news. And there I was, front and center on the Film at 11.

  It's okay. I’ve got this. I’ll dodge the paparazzi, and soon they’ll tire of me. I’ll sink back into obscurity.

  Then he shows up—my twin brother’s manager. He’s going to fix my reputation—thank you, I didn’t know it needed to be fixed. It was just one dumb party!

  And apparently, he’s my date for Valentine’s Day, too. That ought to be fun. He doesn’t even like me. That’s okay. I don’t like him either.

  Copyright

  © 2020, Brynn Paulin

  Half Past Normal

  Cover Art by Supernova Indie Publishing Services, LLC

  Electronic Format ISBN: 978-1-62344-348-1

  Published by: Supernova Indie Publishing Services, LLC

  Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or occurrences, is purely coincidental.

  Thank You!

  Thank you for your purchase of Half Past Normal.

  I hope you enjoy the story and will consider leaving a review or telling a friend about the book.

  I love hearing from readers! To keep in touch and follow my news, please visit me on my website at www.brynnpaulin.com.

  Dedication

  For all the single ladies!

  Prologue

  ~ Blake ~

  “This is a really bad idea.” I sipped my Corona and watched the two girls across the yard. Between them, they lugged a stuffed, scarecrow-like thing and rope. The larger of the two appeared dressed like any of the football jocks from campus, and I wondered who they’d stolen the football uniform from.

  “Why?” my friend and roommate, Paige, asked, and I gaped at her askance. She’d obviously lost her mind.

  “Oh, I don’t know,” I replied, my sarcasm heavy as I waved a hand out at the straw guy being tied to a post in the middle of a pile of wood.

  My roomie shrugged. “What else would we do tonight? Sit home with no dates and watch 10 Things I Hate About You again. Spoiler alert: it has a happy ending—which you know since you’ve seen it fifty trillion times.”

  Direct hit. “I was thinking more along the lines of Dante’s Peak.”

  She groaned. “You and your old movies.”

  It wasn’t just old movies. I loved all movies—a hazard of having two parents and an older brother in the industry. All three were award-winning actors. I was kind of a thing in my family. They were all superstars—three actors, a top model, a pop star, a New York Times novelist and a hot-shot hockey player. It was a lot to live up to.

  One of my sisters is the model; the other is a pop megastar. My second brother is a romance writer, but you didn’t hear it from me. My twin brother and I are the babies of the family. He’s the hottest thing to hit the NHL in years. Me…? Well, I’m a lot like Will Smith’s other kid. You know…the one who isn’t Jaden or Willow. You don’t know him? I’m the female version of him—without the defunct rap career.

  And here I was, about to graduate college and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. That wasn’t completely true. I knew I didn’t want to be here at this anti-Valentine’s Day party.

  “Tell me again…Why is this party on the day before Valentine’s instead of on the fourteenth? Isn’t the point of an anti-Valentine thing to have a celebration in opposition to all the dates and candy and flowers and crap we’re all not getting?”

  Yeah, Paige and I…perpetually single as single could be. At twenty-two, I was beginning to have serious doubts I’d ever bid adieu to my virginity. I mean, for real, the only guy who spoke to me was Stuart, a friend who seemed to be in nearly all my classes at the university, and the way he eyes any male in our vicinity, I suspected he was gay. Not that I had an iota of attraction to him. It was just an observation.

  “Well…” Paige whispered, shrugging and drawing out the word. “I think a few of them actually do have dates for tomorrow.”

  “Then…” I squinted at her. “What? I don’t—oh my God! What are they doing?” I grabbed Paige and backed toward the house. Her feet dug in, and I swore to God as someone doused the woodpile with gasoline, I would leave her ass there. This wouldn’t end well. The girls carrying torches were sure to lose their eyebrows and some of their bleach-blonde hair.

  “Calm down, they’re just doing burning man. Stop freaking out.”

  “Pretty sure this isn’t how burning man is done.” Fuck, fuck, fuck. Paige didn’t know some things about me, like how I kept my head down to avoid attention. She had no idea who my family members were because I’d spent the last four years trying to be normal, just a Midwest girl getting her liberal arts degree. Not someone who saw her family member’s faces on supermarket magazine covers more than she saw them in real life. I’d done everything possible to fly under the media’s radar.

  Double fuck. Was that sirens? Apparently, the neighbors didn’t like what was going down here. Join the club.

  Undeterred the torchbearers tossed their flames onto the pyre and, laughing maniacally, scampered backward before they got caught in the instant inferno that consumed the effigy. A cheer went up.

  “I’m leaving,” I told Paige, releasing her arm. “If you don’t want to get arrested, I suggest you come with me.”

  She turned to me with wide eyes, apparently not as oblivious to the oncoming trouble as I’d thought. I pivoted toward the house. There were flashes in my peripheral vision but I didn’t pause, even when I thought I heard my name called out. With Paige on my heels, I dashed into the sorority home and hightailed it to where I’d seen a backdoor, hoping to God they didn’t have a fenced backyard and that the cops would be too busy with the crowd up front to bother with the two fleeing girls. I left my beer on the table before dashing to the slider and fumbling with the lock. The door stuck, obviously unused, but I managed to get it open far enough for us to slip through.

  The sirens blasted through the night. Geez, there were a ton of them!

  “Run as fast as you can, and if we get stopped, play dumb,” I commanded. I had enough experience with paparazzi that I knew this drill, even if it was the police and not media hounds.

 
; “You’re right,” she panted beside me as we sprinted through the neighbor’s yard that butted up to the sorority’s property. Inside the house, at least two dogs started yapping and a light popped on. I dodged into the deeper shadows and kept running, the cold February air burning my lungs. We burst onto the sidewalk and into my deepest nightmare.

  Cameras. Flashing at me. The pair of paps yelling at me. Obviously, they’d been following me, lingering in the gloom, just waiting for me to do something stupid.

  And this was indeed fucking stupid.

  “Whatever you do, don’t stop,” I growled at Paige, pulling my wide-eyed friend through the blockade and toward the car where we’d parked a street over, now thankfully there had been no spaces near the party. “Don’t look at them. Don’t stop.”

  Chapter One

  ~ Gavin ~

  I was going to kill someone.

  Staring at the pictures, of my girl at the party then running from the paparazzi, rage burned through me. My chest was tight as the accompanying video auto-played on the page my assistant had forwarded to me the second I’d arrived this morning. A hand pressed to my scowling mouth, my elbow propped on my desk, I watched my Blake fleeing, her red-hair flying behind her as she ran, her brown eyes wild. Not only was she on TMZ but she’d made ET, People and Bing’s front page, too.

  I pressed a button on my desk phone. “Amanda—”

  “The plane’s already fueled and waiting,” she interrupted. “Milo packed a bag for you and is en route to meet you there.”

  “Thank you,” I replied, thankful for staff who knew the equation here. Blake and I would be together. I’d only been waiting. Now, I was done.

  Shoving an AirPod into my ear, I dialed Amanda on my cell, then stuck it in my pocket too before shoving my laptop and some files into a bag. Thankfully, I could work from the road if necessary—and it might be for the next two months.

  “Yes, sir?”

  “Get Stuart Gilson on the line.”

  “Yes, sir, just a moment.”

  “Gavin,” Stuart mumbled a few moments later, sounding as if he’d rather eat glass than be on this call.

  “What the fuck, Stuart?” I growled.

  “I didn’t know about the party. She told me she was ordering pizza and studying at home last night. Sorority parties aren’t even her thing. They’ve never even been on her radar.”

  “You’re supposed to be taking care of her. What else have you missed?”

  “Nothin’, man. C’mon. You know I’ve deflected every dick that’s come within ten feet of her.”

  I growled, not liking that any had even been that close. For three and a half years, I’d bided my, letting her stretch her wings and experience college life before I swooped in and made her mine. Okay, more like before I made her aware she’s mine. It was Stu’s job as a bodyguard on my payroll to make sure she didn’t spread her wings too much.

  “Where were you?” I asked through my teeth, slinging my laptop case over my shoulder and giving a visual sweep of my office to see if there was anything else I needed.

  “At home with my wife. I had one of my guys on Blake. He’s the one who called the cops last night because he knew she’d hightail it out of there as soon as she sensed trouble. He also got himself between her and the paps car last night to stop them from following her.”

  “And?” That just wasn’t good enough.

  “He’s in the hospital. I’m not firing the guy while he’s invalid.”

  I ground my teeth, disagreeing but also knowing Stuart had a point. “He should have called you, gotten backup.”

  With a nod to Amanda as I passed, I stormed toward the elevator on my way to elevator and the plane that would take me from LA to Michigan.

  “He should have,” Stuart agreed. “He’s off the assignment.”

  Well, obviously.

  “You have someone else watching her?”

  “Yeah, it’s difficult without blowing our cover. The hounds are all over her. Thankfully, she’s safe from it while she’s on campus for her Friday classes.”

  I glanced at my watch. “Do what you can. I’ll be there by noon. Don’t let them touch her.”

  “I won’t. I’ll be with her myself.”

  That was good enough for now. I’d take over soon enough.

  * * * *

  My anger had only grown while traveling. The headlines about Blake had only gotten worse over the hours.

  Man Hating Blake Sterling in Effigy-burning Incident

  Blake Sterling Comes Out. Mom and Dad, No Comment

  Party Girl Blake’s Blaze of Glory

  Addison and Ross Sterling Calling for Family Intervention

  Bad Girl Blake’s Booze-a-palooza

  I closed my eyes and rubbed my fingers between my eyes, knowing this would only get worse before it got better. It made me sick, knowing my girl was suffering, that she had to go through a second of this. If anything, Blake was a good girl—one I planned to dirty up, but still as sterling as her name.

  If she’d seen this stuff, she had to be in hell. For as long as I’d known her, she’d flown under the radar and out of the spotlight. Not easy, considering her family. And it wouldn’t be easy once I claimed her, either. As a successful sport’s agent and former hockey star, myself, I landed in the papers, online and on air several times a year. I’d do everything I could to shield her, but being at my side, she’d end up in the spotlight from time to time, too.

  I tried to work on the way, but my foot tapped, constantly practically counting out the minutes until I saw Blake. I knew she was mine, but I worried how much convincing it would take to get her to see how things would go. Didn’t matter. I wasn’t giving up. Tonight she’d sleep in my arms, even if we probably wouldn’t have sex. My dick twitched in protest at that thought, but I had to be realistic. Blake knew me as her brother’s agent and probably nothing more.

  After what seemed an interminable trip but was actually quick, considering the distance, Amanda had a rental waiting for me. Telling myself not to speed, I cruised the black crossover from the parking at the Gerald R. Ford and headed for the highway.

  A half hour later, I reminded myself not to run over the paparazzi staked out near Blake’s building. This whole thing was fucking ridiculous! She wasn’t even a celebrity of any kind. She just had the poor misfortune to be related to a whole flock of them.

  My fingers tapped on the steering wheel as I glared at the mass of vultures. Me being here was about to make things better and worse. As if my Blake sense was on high alert, I sensed her before I saw her. Turning my head, I saw her rushing down the sidewalk, head down with Stuart at her side, shielding her like the bodyguard he was. The air seemed to vibrate with tension as my arousal peaked at the same time the excitement of the reporters sparked.

  Fucking hell.

  I leapt from the vehicle and sprinted to intercept. I could stop the mass but I could be at Blake’s side for this latest rampage. The questions were already being yelled out to her before I made it to the sidewalk. Bodies pressed around me, but I shouldered through them, using well-hones hockey skills and not giving a shit who got shoved on my path. I beelined for my prize.

  “Mr. McBride,” Stuart breathed. “She’s all yours.”

  “Good man.” I handed him my keys. “Get my shit from my car and bring it up to her place. There’s two bags in the back.” I slide my hands along Blake’s jaw and into her hair, tilting her face to mine. “You okay? I’ve got you know.”

  Her wide brown eyes stared up at me. “Gavin,” she breathed.

  I grinned. Not Mr. McBride. No, she called me Gavin, and settled her fate. “That’s right, baby. I’m here now.” And my lips sealed over hers, claiming her sweetness for the first time and forever.

  Chapter Two

  ~ Blake ~

  I moaned as I leaned into Gavin, every nerve ending bursting into fire as he gathered me close and kissed the fuck out of me. His lips pressed mine open and his tongue slipped in, imbuing me
with the flavor of coffee and mint and something I was sure was only him. The noise around us faded, and my eyes closed as I gripped Gavin’s jacket. Something in my belly fluttered out of control, while even lower my core clenched with awakening desire.

  Holy daydream come true…

  My knees buckled, pressing me even closer to him, but Gavin’s iron grip help me up and kept me from falling. I’d dreamed of him, yes, even had waking fantasies, but I hadn’t thought he even knew my name.

  “Um, guys, you want to take that inside?” I heard Stuart suggest beside me.

  Yanking back, I stared up at Gavin—my brother’s agent, Gavin McBride. Crap.

  Straightening slightly, he smiled down at me. God, he was at least a ten perfect inches taller than me, and all dark hair and intense gray eyes. And unless he’d lost the muscle he’d maintained during his hockey days, he had an impressive eight-pack hiding beneath his suit. And as solid as his body had felt against mine, I was sure he still worked out—hard.

  He leaned forward, his hot breath tickling my ear and sending a shiver through me. “Just act like you’re in love and thrilled to see me. Keep staring at me like that and they’ll believe it for sure.”

  Right… An act. The kiss had been nothing more than an act and now, I needed to roll with it. I’d really rather kick him in the shins. But that would be childish—and that was the problem. Gavin was a full ten years older than me, a mouth-watering thirty-two with just the slightest bit of gray starting to thread into his hair. And if I wasn’t so close, I wouldn’t even notice them. For some reason, it made me want him even more.

  Blake, you’re ridiculous.

  I couldn’t want him. I couldn’t let him know I wanted him.

  “Whatever,” I muttered back.

  His fingers laced through mine as he pulled me toward the door to my building, acting for all the world as if he were oblivious to the camera pointing at us. Suddenly, he pulled me into his side, his arm wrapping around my shoulders. Unable to stop myself, I buried my face in his side and let him guide me. I hated this. All the attention. All the people pressing into me and into my business. This was my worst nightmare. I’d spent my entire life trying to stay out of the gossip pages, and with one misstep…it was over.

 
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