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Twists and turns, secrets and surprises, humor and of course passion!

Contemporary romance heats up Martha's Vineyard in PALOMA IN A PICKLE: A story of shattered dreams and thriving in the face of challenges.

 

Losing her artisan café hurt Paloma Schlemmer more than breaking up with any boyfriend ever did. While setting new goals and planning out her future, she accepts a temporary job at a friend’s catering business on Martha’s Vineyard.

Alas, her pal's sexy, cool-as-mint brother soon shakes up more than her focus on work, and when ignoring her feelings doesn’t work quite so well anymore, Paloma finds herself not just in a pickle, but knee-deep in an entire dill barrel.

Matt Bellini steels himself for another busy season at his family’s resort hotel—with neither the time nor the desire for serious dating. Until his sister’s new catering manager becomes a totally-unasked-for distraction.

The more Matt is determined to push aside his unsettling longings, the more Paloma sneaks under his skin like no other woman. And when one misunderstanding breaks their fragile bond, Matt is at a total loss about how to fix it.

PALOMA IN A PICKLE is a heartwarming story of resilience and taking chances that will leave readers rooting for Paloma and Matt. Will they find the courage to take the plunge and navigate the currents of love, or will their insecurities keep them apart?

Read: e-Book, Paperback  

Listen: Audible

Praise for Paloma in Pickle

"The chemistry between Matt and Paloma was off the charts. I loved the pace, the drama, and the romance that slowly but steadily bloomed between them. Once again, the descriptions were out of this world and so transportive that I felt like I was right next to Paloma."

Rabia Tanveer, Readers' Favorite

"With a healthy dose of drama, chemistry and romance, Ms. Anders has created a delicious story that stands on its own with characters who are bound to entice and entertain even the fussiest of readers."

D. M. Birt, Wild Sage Book Blog

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Readers' Favorite Award, Honorable Mention, Fiction - Realistic (2023)

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Matt

“Remind me why we’re doing this?” Paloma panted, her shaking hands propped on her knees.

“Because you want it.” Despite the old house being bone-deep cold after a long winter and even longer years of neglect and abandonment, Matt wiped beads of sweat of his forehead. “One thing’s for sure. We brought the sucker down.”

Paloma glanced sideways. “Don’t forget Jake and Damian offered their help.”
 

Matt downed the contents of his water bottle and chuckled. “And share the fun? Are you kidding me?”


“Then don’t complain,” Paloma said and straightened.


“I’m not the one who complains. You’re the one who griped about why we’re doing this.”


“I don’t gripe,” she huffed while she drew circles in the dusty white oval marble tabletop. “This table’s a real beauty, and will be perfect for baking pastry because it stays naturally cool and below room temperature.”


“If you say so.” Matt stared at the V-neck presentation in front of him. Talking about beauties
 

She snapped her fingers. “Hey, eyes on me.”
 

He smirked without averting his eyes, “They are.”
 

She pointed up with her thumb. “Aim higher.”
 

“You’re no fun.” He tore his eyes away and looked up.
 

“A moment ago you said this is fun. Make up your mind.” She gave him a head-to-toe look that lingered briefly below his belt buckle. “And, for the record, I can be a lot of fun. Under the right circumstances.”


“Care to share what those would be?” As if possessed by some horny spirit, Matt stepped closer, his attention riveted on the tip of her tongue sliding across her lips. If he kissed her now, he knew she’d taste like the coffee she sipped not long ago and of the cinnamon bun
she devoured with it. But what else?


“Wouldn’t you like to know?” She calmly crossed her arms in the little space he’d left between them, pushing up her full breasts. “By the way, this might be a good time to tell you about my strict no-canoodling-with-the-bosses policy.”


“I’m not your boss, Carla is.”
 

“Semantics. You’re a Bellini.” Her smile crinkled the laugh lines at the corners of her twinkling brown eyes.


“I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but since it’s the weekend, why don’t you consider the contract temporarily paused?” he said, without interrupting their staredown.


“Whoa, a comment like that could land you in very hot water these days." She put a hand "at on his chest. “Anyhow—"


“Maaa-teeee-oooo, come out, come out, wherever you are.” His sister’s singsong voice was accompanied by boots thumping on the hardwood floor.
 

Matt gritted his teeth and sucked in a deep breath—instantly regretting it, when he was filled with Paloma’s heady scent. He muttered, “Impeccable timing.”


Paloma smirked and pushed against his pecs when Carla stepped through the doorframe. “Oops! Am I interrupting something? Guess I should’ve knocked first, but the front door was wide open.” She shrugged and chortled, “Knock, knock.”
 

Matt closed his eyes and heaved a sigh.


He’d been attracted to Paloma since he first laid eyes on her nine months ago. They’d crossed paths many times since then, and his hunger for her increased with every encounter.


Without another word, he turned and brushed past Carla. After snatching his jacket o" the doorknob, he #ew down the porch stairs, unaware of Paloma’s gaze following him.



Chapter 2
 

Paloma
 

Why? Flippin’ WHY couldn’t she stop flirting with Matt?


Because you’d be half-baked if you didn’t admire such a hot specimen of a man.


Craning her neck, Paloma watched him climb into his truck, sending gravel flying when he sped off. The image of his biceps flexing when they maneuvered the table down the stairs was fresh in her mind. And she definitely didn’t look away when he wiped his forehead and his T-shirt rode up, allowing her a glimpse of an impressive six-pack.


Still, he might as well wear a sign around his neck saying “Look but don’t touch”— like a chiseled butter or ice sculpture. Because he was off-limits for three reasons.


First, she would never again mix work and pleasure. Second, he was her BFF’s brother-in-law, and one doesn’t have relations with…well…relations. And third, her life was in enough turmoil already.
 

Paloma scratched her head and sighed.
 

Why couldn’t Matt look like a toad or be a head shorter than her with the physique of a dill pickle barrel? Then it’d be a lot easier to behave like a rational, sensible woman…

 

“P, I’m begging you, for all our sakes, please do not ever let Matt realize you’re mooning over him. It’ll go straight to his man brain, and then he’ll be impossible to live with,” Carla said from her front-row spot, leaning against the doorjamb.


Paloma shook her head, sending her mop of long curls !ying in all directions before she bundled them into a loose ponytail. “I’m not mooning.”


“Call it whatever you want, but I know what I saw.” Carla crossed her eyes and touched the doorframe as if it was a human chest. “And I should warn you. My brother has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to women. He hardly stays with one long enough to learn what brand of toothpaste she uses.”


“I think you’re watching too many rom-coms. But rest assured, I’m not interested in dating, flirting, or shacking up with anyone. Especially not the boss.”
 

“How many times do I have to drill it into your thick, German skull that, as catering manager for CB Catering,” Carla pointed to herself, “you’re not his employee?”


“My mom would agree with you about the thick skull, even though technically it’s only half German,” Paloma laughed.


“Can’t wait to meet her,” Carla said, sounding a bit snarky. “As for the dating part, I know your ex let you down, but not every man is like him.”


“Yeah, deep down I know you’re right. Ironically, having to hand over the keys to our café in December hurt more than when Gregory and I broke up as a couple a few years ago. But Greg, and everything to do with him, is water under the old bridge.”


To change the direction of the conversation, Paloma glanced around, “I thought your grandmother was coming with you?”


“She’s on the porch with Mimi, watching Jake and Damian measure something at the other construction site,” Carla said and marched toward the kitchen. “I only hope Jake doesn’t think he can hog Damian all the time. The man is also supposed to work on the inn.”
 

Paloma followed her, soaking in the panoramic view over the still-muddy grounds, all the way to the pond at the bottom of the gentle slope. After a few unusually mild days, nature was about to explode, and she couldn’t wait to see the first green leaves budding on trees
and bushes. “Maybe cut Jake some slack, since he and Mimi only just got back from Italy.” In the distance, she watched the two men gesturing wildly, with Jake’s arms making a large arch.


“We’ll see, but I still plan to keep an eye on him… I know my brother. Once he sets his sights on something, he’s like a pit bull, and now he wants the house for him and Mimi built pronto. Typical lawyer, if you ask me. Or do you think it’s firstborn behavior?”


“Makes no difference, and you won’t have much time to monitor Jake once business picks up,” Paloma laughed.


“That’s where you come into the game, P. I said we’ll see, and you’ll be my eyes and ears, because—thank goodness—you live right next door to our lovebirds,” Carla laughed back. “If you see Damian going in and out of their house too often, let me know.”
 

“You want me to spy on my best friend?” Paloma chuckled.


“No, not on Mimi, only on Jake. Believe me, it’s for the greater good.” Carla went to stand next to Paloma at the windows, then added solemnly, “This will be so amazing. When we’re done with turning this old house into a gorgeous inn, journalists will drool for an invitation to visit Faulkner’s Inn and write glowing articles.”


“Your word to the critics’ ears,” Paloma raised her hand and Carla high-fived her. Paloma had no stake in this future inn, but she thoroughly enjoyed brainstorming the renovation with Carla. And while she didn’t envy her new friend this venture, a mild ache squeezed her heart. It was more rewarding to work toward a clear goal than trudge aimlessly into a hazy future.
 

“What happened to Matt?” asked Mimi from behind them as she entered the room with an older woman in tow.


“I didn’t take my grandson for the superstitious kind, but it looked to me as if he saw a ghost,” Cora Faulkner said while she leaned on her cane. Her white hair, slightly stooped posture, and the purse hanging on her elbow, made Paloma think of Queen Elizabeth, and she was tempted to curtsy to the family matriarch.


“Don’t tell me you believe this house harbors ghosts in the attic, Cora?” Mimi laughed.


“No. But this is a Victorian-style house, and Victorians believed ghosts could see the future. My old bones are telling me Matt is running from the Ghost of the Future.” Cora Faulkner plopped her purse on a rough wooden chair with a thud.


“A Christmas Carol?” Mimi asked.
 

“My son….” Cora swallowed hard and blinked a few times. “My Charles loved to read Dickens and would dream up stories about what this house has seen in its lifetime.”


Carla embraced her grandmother and said, “We’ll make sure to honor Uncle Charles, maybe name one of the rooms after him and stock it with his favorite books.” She chuckled, “Someone really should tell Matt, though, that he can’t escape destiny.”
 

Paloma had followed the exchange with interest, and frankly couldn’t imagine Matt running from anything or anyone. But thanks to her mother’s half-Jamaican ancestry, she grew up hearing about plenty of Caribbean traditions and folklore, among them stories about duppys—ancestral mean spirits. And whether she herself believed in them or not, the last thing she needed were malevolent anythings—dead or alive—in her life, so she erred on the side of caution and was mindful of unseen presences.
 

More heavy footsteps tromped through the foyer, announcing Jake and Damian before they entered the future kitchen.
 

“What’s this about destiny?” Jake asked.


“Matt’s been seen !eeing from this house as if he got bit in the butt,” said Carla. “Grandma thinks he saw ghosts.”
 

“Ah. Okay then,” Jake shrugged. He kissed Mimi and put his hand on her winter coat, smack over her !at belly. “Everything okay?”


“No changes since you asked this morning, babe,” Mimi smiled. “I’m feeling fine, just a bit tired.”

Jacopo, please save the tut-tutting for when you’re alone, or the next eight months are going to be a nightmare for us helpless bystanders,” Carla said.


“Mimi is only seven weeks along, so I can’t help being concerned,” Jake growled. He ran a hand down Mimi’s cheek, “Take it slow, bella, okay?”


“Oy yoi yoi.” Carla whipped around and tapped Damian’s shoulder. “Let’s concentrate on business, because I’ve got to go back to the hotel. So, I know we talked about having a double door in the middle of this wall, but how about moving it to the right and adding a large glass window in the middle instead?” She walked to the wall in question and demonstrated width and positioning with her arms. “Is that possible?”
 

Damian scratched his chin and shrugged. “Let me double check, but I don’t see why not. At some point you need to stick to your decision, though.” His eyes roamed the sunlit room, empty except for a few mismatched chairs, before they fastened on the marble-top table. “Where’d this come from?”
 

“From upstairs,” Paloma said. “Why?”
 

“I know where it was. And you know that my crew was going to move it out of here before they start gutting the house.” Damian penetrated her with bright blue eyes.


She liked him, but his surfer dude looks didn’t do a thing for her.
 

“Why didn’t you wait?” he persisted.
 

“Let’s call it an…impulse? And don’t worry, it’s not staying here. Matt was supposed to take it to my cottage.”


Damian lifted one side of the table, the biceps flexing under his thermal shirt, again having zero effect on Paloma. “You knew we’d be coming today and should’ve waited.”


Paloma shrugged. “We obviously managed, but now he’s taken off without it.” As she said it, she noticed Carla biting her lips, Mimi burying her face against Jake’s chest, and Cora dabbing her nose with a handkerchief.


Paloma threw up her arms. “What?”

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