Authors: Merry Farmer
CATCH A FALLING STAR
Copyright ©2015 by Merry Farmer
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill (the miracle-worker)
Embellishment by © Olgasha | Dreamstime.com
Catch a Falling Star
By Merry Farmer
The last thing Jo Burkhart ever thought she’d do was have a one night stand…
But when a little harmless, coffee shop flirting with high-powered Broadway and television director Benjamin Paul leads to a steamy proposition, how could a romance novelist like Jo resist?
The last thing Ben Paul needed was to fall in love…
But when he lands in bed with a down-to-earth, genuine Jo—a woman who doesn’t want anything from him but an afternoon of passion—his heart gets carried away. He can’t let it end with one night.
The last thing either of them needed was for their worlds to collide…
But when Ben’s career implodes under the weight of salacious rumors, and Jo finds herself on the verge of losing her family’s house in Maine, they may be the only people who can save each other from disaster…
…unless being together creates an even bigger disaster for both.
For Mike, Christina, Sean, Jennifer Ann, Jared,
Cloe, Dana, Ed, and Fr. Peter, and everyone else
who made my experience while getting my Theatre master’s degree
one of the best experiences of my life.
They’re a lot nicer than the theater people Ben knows.
Table of Contents
Spending the day in Manhattan was not exactly Jo Burkhart’s idea of a good time. Spending the day in Manhattan in the rain in January was a unique form of torture.
“No, I understand, it’s fine,” she sighed into her phone as she ducked into the nearest coffee shop to avoid the icy downpour. “It’s an honest mistake.”
“Thanks for being willing to reschedule,” Diane, her agent, answered on the other end of the call. Like Jo had a choice. “You wouldn’t believe the problems I’ve been having with this assistant. Double-booking meetings is one thing, but the other day….”
Jo lost Diane’s complaint as she lowered her phone to collapse her umbrella. She would have shaken the umbrella out if the coffee shop hadn’t been so crowded. As fast as she could, she returned her phone to her ear.
“…string her up by her neck.” Diane growled. “But at least I’ve got time around lunch tomorrow. Is that doable?”
Tomorrow. That would mean a hotel in the city, pricy meals, missing a day of work. Jo’s stomach clenched as she answered, “Sure. Tomorrow is fine.” She slipped in line for coffee, fretting over how she would have to do to rearrange her world. At least her brother, Nick, wasn’t out on a photography assignment and could keep the lid on their family house in Maine. “I’ll come to your office around noon.”
“Eleven thirty would be better.”
Jo clenched her jaw, chest tight. “Okay, eleven thirty it is.” She forced a smile into her voice. Nice girls always smiled.
“Perfect. You’re a peach, Jo. And hey, as long as you’re in the city you should get out, maybe even meet some people,” Diane cooed.
Jo cringed. Why was everyone always pushing her to be a big, old social butterfly? “Yeah, maybe,” she said. “I’ve got my laptop with me. I might find an obliging coffee shop and continue wrestling with the next book.” In fact, she was already scanning the crowded shop for a quiet table.
“You’ve got to stop squirreling yourself away, Jo. You know what they say about all work and no play. Go out and have some fun.”
. “Fun is expensive,” she said aloud. She arched an eyebrow and stepped up to the counter, slipping her hand over her phone. “I’ll have a small caramel cappuccino and a plain croissant.”
“Still having trouble with the house?” Diane asked.
Jo sighed, plopping her messenger bag on the counter, wet umbrella under one arm. “The taxes are going to kill me this year.” She fished in her bag for her wallet. “The list of renovations I need to make is as long as my arm.” Not to mention the cost of maintaining the property itself. She was still waiting for the bill from the tree company after two huge oaks fell in the last ice storm.
“Sorry to hear about that.”
“I’m going to cut back on the garden this year. Maybe that will make the rest of it easier to handle. I can feel my great-grandfather rolling in his grave because I’m not keeping the roses where he put them. But seriously, Diane, I need this next book to be a bestseller. I
“Well, you write it and I’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jo hung up and slipped her cell phone into her pocket. The barista behind the cash register watched her with typical New York impatience. “How much?”
Jo’s heart flopped. She pulled a twenty out of her wallet. It wasn’t all that significant in the short-term, but how many cups of coffee and croissants could she get away with before the house slipped away? She could hear her mom’s lecture from beyond the grave.
Waste not, want not
With her order paid for and delivered, Jo slung her bag over her shoulder and searched for a seat. The coffee shop was packed. Everyone and their brother had come in to get out of the freezing rain. People stood along the bar at the back of the room and by the windows. They huddled like sharks, waiting for a table to free up. There was only one spot that hadn’t been touched—two leather chairs on either side of a low table by the window. It was a minor miracle no one else had nabbed it. Jo made a bee-line to one chair. A few of the shop’s patrons gave her funny looks when she sat down, but she ignored them.
There she was, stuck in Manhattan, given the brush-off by an agent who knew she couldn’t afford overnight jaunts, a mountain of expectations in the form of a hundred-year old family house sitting on her shoulders. She settled her snack on the table between the chairs and opened her bag to unpack her laptop. At least she could work. When all else failed, work never did. Now, if she could just figure out how to make her next book the financial juggernaut it needed to be, it wouldn’t matter how dismissive Diane was or how much everyone ragged on her for spending too much time in front of her computer and not enough “getting out there.”
She sipped her coffee, took a bite of her croissant, and slid her laptop onto her legs. Bit by bit, the gnawing tension rolled off her shoulders as her fingers flew over the keyboard. She relaxed and lost herself in the story. It was a new book, one she’d only started a few days before, but the characters were familiar—minor players in her last Regency romance who were now getting their own book. Nothing beat the bliss of building a world, forming characters to live in it, then making their lives miserable. At least until they had their happy ending. And really, when all was said and done, Jo would have gladly put up with society scandals and reversals of fortune if it meant she could be swept off her feet by a handsome duke. Especially one who was as dynamite in bed as her heroes tended to be.
A grin tweaked the corner of her lips as she typed away, banging out a particularly heated exchange of dialog between her hero and heroine. She would put up with a lot to have her own sizzling love scene. God only knew it’d been long enough since her last one. But what she lacked in real life, she certainly knew how to make up for in fantasy. Now, if she could figure out a way to get her duke to—
“Excuse me.” A deep male voice interrupted her creation. Jo blinked fast and glanced up. “Is this seat free?”
An unexpected flush of raw attraction hit Jo right in her gut. The man addressing her was shamelessly gorgeous. He was tall and well-built, with dark hair that showed a touch of grey, and blue-green bedroom eyes. He was dressed impeccably, in jeans that had to be designer, a black button-down shirt, and a sweeping wool trench coat, glistening with raindrops like diamonds. His eyes flashed with the kind of mischief that made her toes tingle. He set a leather messenger bag, not unlike her own, on the table as if he owned the whole coffee shop.
“Um…” She was staring. Great. With a smile, she said, “Sure, go right ahead.”
The gorgeous man chuckled as if he knew a fabulously funny joke that she didn’t get. His grin formed delicious crinkles around his eyes. He shrugged out of his coat, hung it on a hook in the wall behind the table, then slipped into the chair. He watched her, waiting, his enigmatic expression making his lips twitch.
Jo’s fingers itched over her keyboard, torn between work and play. She’d been on a roll. The words were writing themselves. It was painful to stop when the words were writing themselves. She ducked back to finished the sentence she’d started. Those words poured into another sentence. Before she knew it, she had polished off a whole paragraph.
The man continued to stare at her, mouth hitched in a lop-sided grin. “Do you mind if I ask what you’re writing?”
Under any other circumstance in the full extent of the universe, Jo would have snapped an unequivocal ‘yes.’ But how could she say no to a man with eyes that danced like his did?
“I’m writing a novel,” she replied.
“Oh. That’s nice.” His answer was a shade condescending. Her gut tightened in defense. “Are you an author?”
It was her turn to try a haughty smile. “Yes. Yes, I am.”
“What do you write?”
“I write romance.” If she had a dime for every time she’d had this conversation, she would never have to worry about paying for coffee again.
“Romance,” the handsome stranger’s brow rose. His eyes glittered. “Really?”
“Yes,” she replied with a saucy smile, arching one eyebrow and waiting for him to ask her about BDSM and hardware stores—which couldn’t have been further from what she wrote.
“I think so.” She tossed him a flirty look, like one of her heroines would. And why not? The man sitting across the table from her, lounging in his chair as if he owned it, could have walked straight out of one of her novels. All he needed was breeches and a cravat. And maybe a rapier and his own pirate ship.
Her musings—in all their heated glory—must have been painted vividly on her face. His smile widened to something downright wicked. He opened his mouth, and Jo braced for the BDSM comments.
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted as a young barista skittered up to the table. “Here’s your coffee, Mr. Paul.” She presented the man with a large, steaming mug and a biscotti. Her eyes shone as she stared at him, cheeks pink.
“Thank you, Kelly.” He reached into his back pocket and took out a billfold, handing her a twenty. “Keep the change.”
Jo shifted back in her chair, tilting her head to the side. So the handsome Mr. Paul was rich on top of everything else. Definitely a romance hero. Flashes of billionaires with secret babies came to her mind.
The man—Mr. Paul—caught her expression. His eyes went crinkly with mirth and flirtation. Jo wanted to laugh. Editors were constantly complaining about manuscripts loaded with ‘insta-lust’, but there it was, in the flesh. Hot was hot. There was nothing you could do about that.
The barista continued to stand beside the table, wringing her hands and biting her lip. “I’m sorry, Mr. Paul,” she burst at last. He turned to her. The barista’s eyes shot to Jo. “I didn’t mean to let someone sit at your table. I was busy when she came in otherwise I would have—”
“It’s fine, Kelly,” he reassured her.
Kelly breathed a sigh of relief and rushed off.
Jo’s insta-lust deflated to disappointment. She started gathering her things. “I didn’t realize this was
table. I can move.” Handsome, rich, and if he thought he was entitled to his own table in a crowded coffee shop—along with his own blonde to wait on him—a total prick.
he was too good to be true.
“It’s not really my table,” he laughed, waving for her to sit. “It’s just that I come down here a lot, and being a creature of habit, I sit in the same place so often that the staff likes to reserve it for me. It’s sweet of them.”
“Oh.” Jo hesitated. Was he a jerk or not? It would have been a crying shame to waste so much sex-appeal on an entitled douchebag. “Well, if you don’t mind me sitting here, then I hope you don’t mind if I get some work done.”
“Not at all.” He nodded. “I came here to work myself.” He opened his bag and took out a handful of bound pages, manuscripts of some sort.
Jo slipped back into her warm smile. “Don’t tell me you’re a writer too.”
“No, I’m not.” He matched her grin.
“Then please, please don’t tell me you’re an editor.”
He laughed. “Are they the enemy?”
“Some of them.” She smirked, remembering the hassle over her last book.
He took a sip of his coffee. “No, I’m a director.”
“Movies or television?” Not that it mattered. She had work to do.
“Theater, as it happens,” he answered. “Although I’ve been known to do an episode of television here and there. Ever heard of the show
“Oh. Yes. They film it at an old nursing home about twenty minutes from my house.” She reached for her coffee, suddenly feeling more like she was talking to a friend than a character from her books.
“You’re from Maine?” For a brief moment, he relaxed to something more genuine than the leonine smile he’d been using to mentally undress her. At least, she assumed that’s what he’d been doing with eyes like those.
“Born and raised,” she answered with a nod, then looped the subject back around to him. “I love the theater.”
“Do you?” He still wore that expectant grin, as if waiting for her to realize he was Stephen Spielberg or something. “What was the last show you saw?”
She winced as she took a sip of coffee. “To be honest, I haven’t had time to see a show in ages.”
“Right.” He nodded as though she’d been stretching the truth to butter him up.
Not to be outdone, she asked, “What was the last book you read?”
His lips twitched again. Those lips were sensual and kissable. They held infinite potential for very naughty things. Jo wondered if he would let her kiss him so that she could describe the way they felt in a future book.
“I’ve been too busy to read anything other than scripts,” he said, bursting her fantasy before it could spin out of control. The sparkle in his eyes told her she’d been too obvious with her imagination anyhow.
“Oh, of course.” She let her appreciation show as she sipped her coffee. And why not? It was too fun to flirt with the man. Well, Diane
told her to have fun while she was in town. Flirting with a random stranger in a coffee shop was as fun as she got. “I’ll let you get on with your reading then.”