About the book
Kayla David is a high-flying journalist in New York City, spending all her time drinking martinis and writing about fashion trends. She is perfectly happy with her life, and she certainly has no time for falling in love.
That is, until, her boss decides to send her on a secret mission back to her hometown of Arkansas: she is tasked with exposing the truth about the fracking industry and to use her reputation as a lifestyle columnist as a disguise. She is horrified at the thought of returning to this boring country town, but up for the challenge.
Yet, she didn’t plan on having to deal with Grayson Moir, the sexy but aloof mayor of Heber Spring. As Kayla settles into life there she soon realises that it might be a bit more difficult than she thought to keep her real mission a secret. And what’s more, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep her heart under control too…
Sitting on one of Aunt Jill’s kitchen chairs, I stretch and then read through my article one more time before sending it off to Roger. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think it’s pretty good. My ironic sense of humour has always been a distinct characteristic of my writing, and I’ve got no plans on changing my style just because I’m now in Arkansas. The women in New York will have a lot to laugh about when they read about my adventures, but at least they’re bound to sympathise with me about my colour choices. Whatever Greyson and the whole of Heber Springs say, electric blue is a beautiful colour!
After sending off the article, I can finally relax and enjoy my coffee and the breakfast Aunt Jill has prepared. At the end of the day, living here wouldn’t be that bad if only she would throw away the damn flowers she puts everywhere. And just as I’m thinking that, my aunt arrives from the back door holding in her hands another massive bunch of them. Exactly what I needed.
“Here you go! These are super fresh!” she chirps as she walks towards me. “Do you want to smell them?”
I open my eyes wide in terror. “Err, I’m fine, actually – I can smell them perfectly well from here!”
I’m not lying; I can smell them too damn well. It feels like my nose is about to explode, and I suddenly remember that I didn’t manage to get my hands on any antihistamines yesterday. I really need to find a pharmacy today – at this point, it’s a matter of life and death.
“Oh, I just adore gardening. It’s pretty much the last hobby I have left…” she sighs as she sits down beside me.
“And what were your other hobbies?” I ask, to make conversation, before taking a sip of coffee.
“My dear – sex, obviously!” she exclaims as though it were a perfectly normal thing to say.
The boiling hot coffee goes down in a gulp, burning my throat and then my oesophagus and making me cough hard. I give her an embarrassed look. “Auntie!” I scold her. She doesn’t seem embarrassed, though. Quite the opposite, in fact. She scrutinises me.
“Are you saying you’re not getting enough sex? Kayla, it’s very important at your age! Do you know how many free radicals a good session of sex can get rid of? You’re going to age prematurely if you don’t apply yourself enough…”
This last sentence sounds like a threat. Well the way things are going at the moment, it looks like I’ll be covered in wrinkles when I die. I ask myself exactly at which point my life – which might not have been perfect but wasn’t that bad either – decided to turn against me and send me here to Arkansas. Who decided I should live with a blue haired aunt in a house that looks like a nightmare version of something out of Midsummer Murders?! And if that wasn’t enough, I’m even being forced to talk about sex with her on an otherwise calm Sunday morning. Maybe it’s not too late… Maybe I can still beg Roger to bring me back to the Big Apple and ask someone else to investigate the whole shale gas thing… And talking about shale gas…
“Auntie, have you ever heard about any shale gas extraction works around here?” I ask, taking the opportunity to change the subject.
She gives me a sharp look and then stares at me dubiously. “We were talking about sex and now you start asking me about gas. Are you sure you’re feeling ok?”
No, I’m not, actually, but I don’t want to tell her the reason why. “Come on, I’m serious: what do you know about fracking? Have you heard of anyone around here selling the rights for their land to be used for a shale gas well?”
She raises her head and starts pondering. “I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I’m not particularly interested in boring things like shale gas. You should ask Greyson, he—”
“He knows everything,” I say, finishing her sentence for her. I’ve been here for one day and I’m already repeating the town’s mantra. They should make me an honorary citizen. “Can you explain to me why everybody around her thinks he’s a genius? Who is he? What did he do, win a TV quiz show or memorise a whole encyclopaedia or something?” I’m joking, but not entirely.
Aunt Jill starts laughing. “Oh, my dear girl, you are funny. Greyson is just our—”
She doesn’t have time to finish her sentence, though, because someone interrupts her by knocking at the back door. “Come in!” Aunt Jill shouts before I can tell her that we’re not actually sure who it is. I mean, it could be a serial killer or something! And before you ask, no, I’m not obsessed with serial killers – I just happen to know for a fact that bloodthirsty villains actually do show up at people’s front doors sometimes! Just for the record: the door is open. I decide not to start worrying about this frightening detail because there’s something more urgent I need to deal with.
Greyson is standing in front of me wearing the same jeans he had on yesterday, but this time without his hat. He’s even changed his t-shirt: this one is grey and it actually appear to be clean. But it looks like it has an adventurous life behind it, though.
“My dear Greyson,” trills my aunt in greeting. “And what brings you here?”
“Jill, you look as lovely as a flower, as always,” he says gallantly. How come he’s not saying anything about her blue hair? Is blue only unacceptable if I’m the one wearing it or something? He turns to me.
“Kayla…” he says.
And that’s all he says.
“Would you like to have breakfast with us?” Aunt Jill asks.
“Thanks, but I already had breakfast hours ago,” he replies. He’s obviously one of those weirdos who are always up at six in the morning. I can tell from the critical way that he’s eyeing up my pyjamas.
“I was working, I’ve just sent off an article to my editor,” I say in my defence, even though he didn’t ask and it’s none of his business anyway.
“Cool. And did you mention me in it?” he asks with a laugh as he sits down in front of me.
“I did. I said you’re the most likely candidate for the local serial killer, so if people start looking at you weirdly, you’ll know why,” I say and smile with satisfaction.
He and my aunt burst out laughing. “Your grandniece is a very funny woman,” he says.
“I know. We all are in our family,” she says to him with a wink. “It’s a shame that you didn’t arrive five minutes ago, we were talking about something very interesting.”
I’m not sure if she’s referring to the shale gas or the sex, and I’m not sure which one would be worse. Talking about sex at ten in the morning would probably be a little inappropriate, but if my aunt gives away that I’m making enquiries about fracking, it would be even worse. I have no idea who this man actually is and I can’t risk appearing suspicious to him. I need to get to know the town better first and determine who I can trust and who I can’t. After running through all this in my head, I decide I’ll have to sacrifice myself on the altar of humiliation.
“Sex,” I say abruptly.
He flinches and gives me a grim look as though I had named some strange Chinese torture or something.
“We were talking about the fact that sex kills off a lot of free radicals,” my aunt explains patiently. “It’s actually much better than an anti-wrinkle cream.”
“That’s a pretty… intense subject for the early morning,” he comments, with a perplexed expression. For once, I agree with him completely.
“And that’s why I’m still in perfect shape,” she concludes.
Greyson opens his light blue eyes wide. He’s not just looking surprised now, he’s actually looking scared. It would be a pretty funny scene if this wasn’t my family, I wasn’t in it, and I didn’t have the same DNA in my own veins.
About the author
Anna was born in Croatia but moved to Milan as a young child and has lived there since. She has worked in the Asset Management industry for JPMorgan and is now employed in Private Banking for an Italian bank, where she manages HNW positions. She started writing romantic comedies to fight financial markets stress after the Lehman crack, when she was expecting her son, now six. Writing was supposed to be only a hobby, but her husband self-published her first novel as a birthday present four years ago, and it was a great success in Italy.