Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels

Southern Secrets

By Susan Carlisle

I’m doing a little horn tooting today. I hope you’ll indulge my pride.

My first Indy published book will be out tomorrow. I was invited to join 19 other authors to put out a novella a day for the twenty days before the RT Convention in Atlanta in May. Ten of us wrote sweet books while the other ten wrote books with sizzle in them. Mine is a sizzler.

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The only thing required was that the book take place in Atlanta. Not hard for me since I live only about an hour away.

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I must admit that doing a novella was a challenge for me. Writing shorter isn’t my cup of tea but after a good editing and a little more direction I came away with a product I’m proud to call all mine.

Below is a little snippet from Southern Secrets. I hope you enjoy.

Carrie Rodgers headed on unsteady heels across the floor of her Atlanta apartment to answer the door. As an elementary school teacher, she spent most of her days in flat shoes. Even scarier than her evening footwear was the fact she was replacing her twin sister on a date without the man knowing. She wasn’t sure which she might regret more, letting Cathie talk her into the date or the heels.

With a flutter of her heart and her hands trembling, Carrie reached for the door knob. This date was a bad idea on several levels, yet she’d agreed to help Cathie out of a jam. She wouldn’t let her down. Never had and wouldn’t start now. That’s what sisters did. Or at least that was what her mother had told her over and over when Cathie had been so sick. Besides, it was too late to back out.

Taking a deep breath, Carrie let it out slowly. She didn’t know this guy. Hadn’t even laid eyes on him and was expected to act as if they were acquainted. The chime sounded again. Apparently, Rick Marshall was an impatient man. The big question was how perceptive was he? Would he realize she wasn’t Cathie?

For most of their lives, Carrie had been the level-headed, studious sister who stayed in the background while Cathie had been the fashion plate, flighty, look-at-me one.

Much of that started when Cathie developed childhood asthma. After she was hospitalized a couple of times, their parents’ worries focused on Cathie. From then on Carrie heard, “be careful with Cathie, don’t let her run too much, watch out for her.” Carrie became more self-sufficient and dependable, always the person who took care of her sister. As they grew older Cathie continued turning to Carrie to fix things.  

She didn’t mind. She loved Cathie. And Cathie loved the attention. She was so fond of it she made the most of the spotlight even into adulthood.

They might have been different in personalities but they were similar in looks. More than once Carrie had gotten Cathie out of a scrap by pretending she was her. Now Carrie had been pulled into doing it again.  

“Cath, I’m not doing it!” Carrie had told her hours earlier. “High school is long gone. We’ve out grown the changing places game.”

Her sister put on her puppy-dog pleading look, dropped a shoulder and said in a whinny tone, “Aw, come on Care Bear, just this once. Rock finally asked me to go away with him for a weekend. I’ve been hoping for this forever.”

“You do know the right thing to do is to tell Rock you can’t go or as least be up front with the other guy.” Carrie couldn’t believe her twin’s rudeness.

“I can’t break the date. Rick is my boss’s biggest client. It’s too late for that.”

At least she was showing some concern for the guy. Yet, this idea was so Cathie. She liked getting her way with no concern for how it might affect others’ lives. “Why did you even agree to go in the first place?”

Cathie shrugged. “What’s not fun about dressing up and going to a party?”

“Cathie, what if this guy really likes you?” Carrie couldn’t believe how callous Cathie was about someone’s feelings.    

“He’s an alright guy, but he’s not Rock. You don’t want to stand in the way of true love, do you?”

Carrie didn’t even try to stop the roll of her eyes. Like she understood love. After what had happened between her and Brian, Carrie wasn’t sure she’d ever really known anything about it. In any case, she and Cathie had different ideas about love. At least Cathie had a love life. Carrie didn’t. Her sister went out regularly but rarely with the same man twice. Carrie was more careful. She was holding out for Mr. Right. For a time, she had believed Brian was him. Too bad he hadn’t thought the same.

“Come on, Care. This gala at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion is to raise money for the children’s hospital. It’s right up your alley.”

It was. Cathie knew all the right buttons to push. Being employed in a private disabilities school, Carrie was easily persuaded where children were concerned. Still she balked. “I don’t have any money to donate. So what difference would it make if I went or not?”

“If this guy doesn’t have a date, he might not attend. He has big bucks so the hospital could miss out on his contribution, you wouldn’t want that, would you?” Cathie gave her the ‘look’. The one that always made Carrie agree to what Cathie wanted.

This argument was getting more twisted by the minute. Carrie stood.

“Come on, Carrie.” Cathie put her arms out in a pleading manner. “Help me out just this one time. I’ll never ask again.” She’d taken Carrie’s hands, looking earnestly into her eyes. “Please. For once in your life take a risk. Live a little, all while helping out your sister.” Her smile was like a used car salesman’s closing a deal.

Carrie couldn’t resist Cathie. Helping her out was too ingrained in her. Maybe Carrie had been too careful in life. After all, Brian had broken up with her because he said she wasn’t bold enough, too set in her ways. This was a chance to have an adventure, to prove to herself that Brian was wrong. She could let go. It would only be for a couple of hours. What could go wrong? She’d go, have a good time and never see the man again. Cathie would get what she wanted: her weekend with Rock and Carrie would have an adventure. “Okay, but I want your word that you’ll never ask me to do this again.”

Cathie hugged her tight. “Great. Now let’s get you dressed to kill.”

Each time Carrie had taken Cathie’s place she’d put away her simple classic style to take on the more flamboyant appearance of her sister. Tonight, was no exception. She wore eye makeup, which Carrie rarely did, including false eyelashes that had her working to lift her eyelids. Her hair, normally worn in a simple ponytail or down, was pulled back into an up do where it was teased in front, gathered, and pulled to the side so that a long curl fell over her shoulder.

Carrie might admire a dress her sister had chosen but would never dare wear it.  Cathie had insisted she did. It was made of aqua chiffon and dipped in a V almost as far down in the front as it did in the back. Carrie couldn’t remember feeling more exposed. At the waist, it was pleated so it flowed around her legs and skimmed the floor. 

So here she stood dressed for a fancy party with her nerves strung tight as a child’s rope during a tug-of-war. Surely she could be Cinderella for a perfect stranger, for a few hours, couldn’t she?              

Opening the door, Carrie had to control the urge to gasp. The sketchy facts Cathie had given her about her date flew out of her head. Before Carrie stood the most handsome man she had ever seen.

Her mouth went dry. So this was uh…Rick Marshall.

Why in the world would Cathie want to spend the weekend with that muscle bound, idiot Rock when she could enjoy an evening with this guy?

Rick’s short, black hair was cut into the latest fashion. He had high cheekbones and a closely shorn beard covering a strong jaw that gave him a devilish look. A twinkle of a dare shown in his brown eyes. A shiver ran down her spine. She might be in over her head.

Standing at least a foot taller than her five-foot-two and with broad shoulders, he filled the door frame. The tuxedo he wore fit as if tailored for him. All in all, he was an overwhelming package.

His gaze remained on her. Was he seeing more than she wanted him to? There was an air about him that made her believe she’d have to work harder than ever before to convince him she was Cathie. His full lips formed a smile that made her middle ebb and flow as if a storm was coming.



7 thoughts on “Southern Secrets”

  1. I love all the covers on these, they look so interesting, and I love a novella length read every so often. I don’t know if I’e ever had gone out with someone my sister wanted to date, we were way too different back then, I was really shy and studious and my sister’s nickname was “Merry Mistletoe”. I never quite achieved her social butterfly status, but am happy with how I finally “blossomed” after college. (Those nuns either repress you or make you go crazy)

    1. Laurie,
      Your story would make great romance conflict. I don’t have any sisters but the older I get the more I wish I had one. Thanks for stopping in.

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