Authors: AJ Nuest
She’s Got Dibs
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
She’s Got Dibs
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by AJ Nuest
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Champagne Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-881-3
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-882-0
Published in the United States of America
Praise for AJ Nuest...
SHE'S GOT DIBS
1st Place Contemporary Category
Heartland Romance Authors
Show Me the Spark! Contest, 2010
“If you like snappy, clever dialogue, sizzling romance, and soul searching emotion, then you have to put first
on this sexy tale!”
~Mary M. Ricksen, bestselling author
“Soaring emotion, spicy romance, and charming fun.
SHE'S GOT DIBS
delivers it all.”
~Mackenzie Crowne, multi-published author
“Ms. Nuest knows how to create characters that burrow deep into your heart. You will laugh, fume with frustration, and cry tears of sadness over Dibs and Tessa. At story’s end, you will cheer and sigh. This romance is more than a commonplace roller-coaster ride. To quote Dibs, it’ll ‘come at you like a freight train’—an emotional freight train. Believe me, you will love every word, every turn of the phrase, every well-crafted emotion of the ride.”
~Vonnie Davis, award-winning romance author
“This passionate and compelling story [
] really drew me in with its emotional intensity, in-depth characterisation, moving romance, vivid imagery, and excellent dialogue.”
~Carol Cork, Rakes and Rascals Reviews (5 Stars)
For Karen Sue, Dawn Myree, and Kelsey Eden,
long may they reign.
And for Scott,
who will always have dibs on my heart.
I thank God for giving me this story, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for surrounding me with the people who made it happen, and the Holy Spirit, for providing the words.
No author sees a book through to publication without an army of fierce allies at their back.
To my editor, Eilidh MacKenzie. E, do you remember all those years ago when I first submitted this manuscript? I sure do…and how you rode in on your white steed with a blazing sword held high, and championed Tessa and Dibs when no one else would. How does one person thank another for such loyalty and the deep commitment it took to bring this story to life? You, above all, believed in me from day one, and during our time together exuded grace under pressure, a dry wit that kept me laughing, a keen eye to detail, and without fail applied the perfect shove whenever I needed to get my ass in gear. I couldn’t have done this without you. I hope you know that. So, in return, I offer my sincerest admiration and humblest thanks. Wow. Holy crap, E. We finally did it.
To Arial Burnz, dear friend and cover artist extraordinaire. You are a safe harbor in a world gone mad. Without your support, generosity, humor, integrity, and daily phone calls, I would be neither the writer nor person I am today. And I wouldn’t have this totally righteous cover. Dibs, Tessa, and I offer our thanks. I luv ya ta bits!
I gotta thank my dear friend Pam Robinson. Pammy, you read this story in its infancy and never stopped asking after its progress. For this and for breezing my pages across the globe, I offer you my utmost thanks. Love you, babe!
To the Roses in the Garden. Vonnie, Rachel, Mac, Calisa, WLynn, and all the special blooms I’ve been lucky enough to meet, I offer my deepest gratitude for your friendship, eternal wit, and the endless stream of laughter you provide. An angel was smiling down on me the day I joined this talented group of ladies.
Most importantly, I need to thank the folks who inhabit the halls of my lunacy, through thick and thin, whether the laundry is done or we’re having leftovers (again) for dinner. Lily Belle, you are my heart and light. Jack, you are my strength and joy. And, Scott, you are the love of my life. Without you three, I would simply cease to exist.
Lastly, to my readers, thank you so much for picking up this story. I hope it finds you happy and healthy, and ushers in your very own happily ever after.
…increase the champagne cases to twenty-two…double-check those twelve vegetarian plates…
“Excuse me, miss, is this seat taken?”
…and that mother-in-law/weirdo-estranged-brother combo…have to run some interference there. Tiff would be good—
“Excuse me. I said, is this seat taken?”
A tall gentleman stood before Tessa in the aisle, the cut of his Italian suit a flawless fit across his broad shoulders, short dark-blond hair, arctic blue eyes, coat and briefcase in hand.
Huh. He’s cute. “
Sorry.” She swung her purse and briefcase off the chair beside hers. “Sure, go ahead.”
A polite nod and she refocused on her planner.
Okay, where was I...we should give the bartenders a heads-up about the brother…maybe a drink tally sheet at each station to keep tabs—
“Where you flying to?”
She glanced to the side. “Chicago.” Propping her elbow on the arm of the chair, she turned her shoulder to him, and sank back into her notes.
Next...let’s see, make sure the deejay found that song…
The end mechanism danced a clickety-jig when she twiddled her pen
…Something by Celine Dion…God, I’m so sick of Celine Dion. Wait, it’s…Because of you…Because you are—
“I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”
Tessa lifted her chin. She slowly pivoted with a fixed stare. Sir Interrupts-A-Lot lifted his eyebrows.
“I’m trying to…” She pointed to her planner with the pen.
“Oh, sure.” He ran his thumb and index finger across his lips, as if zipping his mouth closed, and then smiled, showcasing a set of perfect white teeth, the corners of his eyes crinkling.
The defined line of his high cheekbones offset the square cut of his jaw, and she brushed her wispy bangs aside to better enjoy the view.
Okay, not just cute. Hot…very hot.
She shook her head.
Never mind. Celine Dion—
“I heard there’s a really bad ice storm in Chicago.”
The pen clattered to her notepad as she slumped. She faced him a second time, and he replayed that dazzling smile.
I wonder what category...
“I know. I heard.”
The clock above the terminal counter showed her flight was running over forty minutes behind schedule, and she widened her eyes in alarm. Approximately two hundred travel-worn people were crammed into every available chair, leaning against the walls and sitting on the floor near the crowded airport gate.
She bit her lip. “Not good.” Her briefcase tipped against her leg when she ransacked the side pocket for her cell phone.
“TNT Entertainment,” Tiffany answered on the second ring.
“Hey, it’s me.”
“Are you stuck?”
“They haven’t said anything official yet, but I’m getting a little nervous.” Tessa stole a glimpse of her neighbor, his cell phone also to his ear. “What’s the weather doing?”
“The last report said we’re expecting lots of ice. It’s actually coming down now. Hold on a sec, let me pull up the radar and see what’s happening.”
“Shit,” she whispered at the familiar click of being put on hold. The Muzak version of Air Supply’s “I’m All Out of Love” hummed through the line and she tapped out the beat against the arm of her chair.
“I don’t care,” her seatmate said amiably. “Just make sure it has a bed and a bathroom.”
She pursed her lips.
Tiffany broke into the music. “Um, sweetie, I think you might be there for a while. I’m looking at it now, and it’s a massive storm. The latest update said all flights into O’Hare are being re-routed. What’s that about March coming in like a lion?”
“Hey, can you check quick and see if there are any hotel rooms available around here? I really don’t want to be stuck at the airport, sleeping in a chair.”
“Sure, hold on again.”
Tessa sighed, noting her new friend was also on hold. “Chicago, too?”
He rolled his eyes. “Listen.” He shifted the phone away from his mouth. “If you find anything remotely decent, see if you can get two rooms. I’ll do the same. Let’s double our resources.”
“Sure, okay.” She closed her planner and slipped it into her briefcase.
sang through the overhead intercom. “Due to inclement weather,” a ticket agent spoke into her telephone, “all flights to and from the Chicagoland area have been cancelled until further notice.”
A groan emanated from the crowd around the gate.
“If you would like to arrange for another flight, please form a line behind the boarding counter and we will try to accommodate you.” Another loud
and the intercom went silent.
People rose from their seats and pushed up from their positions along the walls to meander toward the boarding counter. Tessa and the gentleman both stood, but remained in their spots against the chairs.
“Hey, babe.” Tiffany interrupted “The Girl from Ipanema.” “I haven’t been able to find anything yet. I think everyone who was flying out tonight already booked a room. Should I check Manhattan?”
“Hold on.” Tessa turned to the man, eyebrows raised in question.
“Yeah, get two.” He winked.
“I think I found a room…”
“There’s a guy here, and I think he may have found me a room.”
“Okay, give me the numbers.” He patted down his suit pockets. “Hold on.”
“Hold on,” Tessa said to Tiffany. She reclaimed the pen and notepad from her briefcase and handed them to the gentleman. “Did you get two?”
He nodded. “One-bedroom suites.”
“Okay, I’ve got a room.” Tessa spoke into her phone, thanking him with a smile.
?” Tiffany asked.
“I don’t know.” Tessa pivoted and strolled a few feet away. “Some guy, some guy…this guy sitting here next to me.”
“What does he look like?”
She snuck a peek over her shoulder. “Expensive dark-blue business suit, Armani, I think. Tall, dark-blond hair, gray-blue eyes. Greek Adonis type, why?”
“He is, actually…very.”
“What if he’s a whack job?”
Tessa caught his eye as he deposited his phone in his breast pocket. “He doesn’t look like a whack job.”
“They never do.”
He made a face, pursing his lips and wiggling his fingers in the air, and she huffed at his boyish antics. “Fine, I’ll call you from the hotel.” She returned to her seat and gathered her purse, coat, and briefcase. “I need to find a cab, before all of those are gone, too.”
“Okay, call me. I’m going to worry now.”
,” Tessa said emphatically. “Oh, and Tiff? What’s the name of that song by—”