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Authors: Kari Lee Harmon

Project Produce

BOOK: Project Produce
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Project

Produce

 

 

 

 

Kari Lee Harmon

 

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, 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.

 

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for you use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This book is available in print and at Amazon.com and many other online booksellers.

For more information, please direct your correspondence to:

The Story Vault

c/o Marketing Department

8326 Moyer Carriage

P.O. Box 11826

Cicero, NY 13039-8691

PROJECT PRODUCE

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 by Kari Lee Harmon

http://www.karileetownsend.com

 

 

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

 

Other Books By Kari Lee Townsend

 

 

Cozy Mysteries
(Berkley Prime Crime)

Tempest In The Tea Leaves
(A Fortune Teller Mystery series)

Corpse In The Crystal Ball
(A Fortune Teller Mystery series)

 

 

Romances
(writing as Kari Lee Harmon)

Destiny Wears Spurs

Project Produce

 

 

Humorous Women’s Fiction
(writing as Kari Lee Harmon)

Sleeping In The Middle
(The Comfort Club series)

 

 

Middle Grade

Talk To The Hand
(Digital Diva series - Book 1)

Rise of the Phenoteens
(Digital Diva series - Book 2)

Let Freedom Ring
(Digital Diva series - Book 3)

 

DEDICATION

 

 

This book is dedicated to one of my closest friends and CP’s, Danielle LaBue. She’s been there for me from the start. Thank you, D, for your amazing brainstorming. You have a way of building a plot like none other, and your characters rock! I’m so glad you came into my life when you did, and I don’t plan to ever let you leave.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

First and foremost I want to thank my husband and rock, Brian. And my children who have such great ideas. You’re my inspiration.

 

 

Second, I want to thank Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, my one and only amazing agent. We’re still going strong, sister. And a special thanks to Kelly Ferrara. What can I say... your covers are awesome. Such a talented lady.

 

 

Next, I want to thank my special peeps, Barbara Witek, Lizbeth Lipperman, Dani LaBue and all the rest of the BC Babes. You guys rock.

 

 

Last but never least I want to thank my extended family. Thanks to my parents, Chet and Marion Harmon, and my in-laws, Norm and Joan Townsend, for always being there for me. Thanks to the Russos, the Harmons, and the rest of the Townsends as well.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

“Who in the world cares how big a man’s Mr. Winkie is, anyway?” I charged through the front door of Simpson’s Sanctuary, the dive of a motel in Queens where I worked, setting off the rusty bells above my head. Halting, I thought,
Oh, Lord, please tell me I didn’t say that out loud
. I glanced around and blew out a sigh of relief. The lobby was deserted, except for the front desk attendant, Gloria Martinez. I bit my bottom lip. Maybe she hadn’t heard.

Gloria ceased twirling her long chestnut curls, her bangle bracelets falling silent, and gaped at me with a phone pressed to her ear. “A whaaaaa?”

Oh, yeah, she heard
. “A winkie, Gloria. A big ole w-i-n-k-i-e.” I stood there like a blathering, six-foot idiot. No way would I be able to complete this psychology project if I couldn’t even talk about it, but growing up in a small town as an only child of older, Irish Catholic parents left little room for discussion about “that.”

“I heard you, honey, I just can’t believe you call it a ‘winkie.’” She stared at me as though I’d lost a few brain cells between the campus and the motel.

I’d lost something, all right. My nerve. I tucked my shoulder-length hair behind my ears and started to pace. “Actually, it’s a Mr. Winkie, but never mind that. The point is what does size have to do with personality? If you ask me, most men are not very nice.” Since high school, it had taken me twelve years, one heck of a scandal, and several pitchers of Bahama Mamas to figure out that most men couldn’t commit, couldn’t be faithful, couldn’t be trusted in general.

I stopped pacing and looked at her. “I only signed up for this class because people where I come from don’t see shrinks. I thought I’d find my answers about my disastrous love life in a book or a lecture, not through a ridiculous final project.”

Gloria opened her mouth, but no words came out, so she just shrugged. She hadn’t known me all that long, but she was all I had.
Poor woman
.

“God, I’m a big, old, fat chicken-shit,” I said, making another loop around the lobby, thoroughly freaking out now.

“Calm down, Callie, you’re not old or fat, and you don’t look like a shitting chicken to me.” She waved her hand. “Hang on a sec and we’ll talk about this personality stuff, if they ever take me off hold. Though, why you want your pe--”

“Gloria.” I shot her a pleading look.

“Oh, for God’s sake.” She sighed. “Why you want your
winkie
to have a personality is beyond me.”

“I don’t want... oh, forget it.” As I circled the room again, clumps of January snow fell off my Snow Flurry boots and melted into the fading red carpet. I halted halfway around my third lap and faced Gloria. “Maybe I should check myself into a loony bin. Being crazy would be a blessing right now.”

“Holy cow, honey, you’ve got issues,” Gloria said.

So I’d been told by every commitment-phobic man I’d ever dated. Except for Bob, the one guy I’d thought had been different. He’d been different, all right. A six month, ruined my life, wish-to-God-I’d-never-met kind of different. In fact, he was the reason I’d had to leave my hometown in northern New York.

Note to self: Never trust a zucchini again
.

What could I say? I had run the produce department in my parents’ general store back in Cutesville. Over time, it had become less embarrassing for me to refer to men’s anatomy as vegetables. Crazy, I know, but it had worked for me. Still did, I guess, even though you’d think I would’ve moved beyond that now that I was thirty.

“Issues? You don’t know the half of it,” I muttered. “I mean, at least if I were crazy, I wouldn’t look so silly doing what this teacher is making me do, right?”

“Right... I guess,” Gloria answered, squinting at me.

“I can’t fail again, Gloria, I just can’t. You have to help me!” My voice went up an octave and cracked. I had no idea what I wanted to do in my new life. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to move forward until I resolved the issues of my past. And I was through running. It was time I found my backbone and faced my fears.

Gloria held up a finger and gave me a sympathetic, albeit curious, look then talked into the phone.

I took a calming breath, feeling better. I could do this. I stomped my boots as I hung up my Eskimo parka. My well-intentioned but too-controlling parents had bought me the coat as a Christmas present last year. I never had been able to stand up to them, tell them what I really wanted, so I’d accepted it. Just like I did everything else, even though I couldn’t stand it. After I’d emptied my savings to get here, I couldn’t afford to buy a new one, even if I did look goofy walking around dressed like a musher for an Alaskan sled dog team.

Giving the lobby a closer scrutiny, I grimaced, taking in the seventies shower curtain knockoff wallpaper. I hadn’t expected much after fleeing Cutesville, but this was, um, well... the place looked like we took on clients by the hour. Bet there were a few bizarre winkie personalities behind these walls. I snorted, but I couldn’t help it. Nobody deserved to work in a place like this. My smile faded.

Hello, Nobody
.

Gloria pulled her gum out, twirled it around her finger, and talked at the same time, making me smile for the first time today.
God love her
. But then I made the mistake of breathing. Stale cigar smoke. Wet dog. Musty curtains. Please, somebody, anybody, gag me with anything that would put me out of my misery. I blew my nose and my eyes watered, making me blink back tears. Gloria hung up the phone, so I walked over to join her as I wiped my eyes.

“Aw, don’t cry, sweetie. We’ll figure this out, I promise.” She patted my hand.

“Oh, I’m not crying. I’m dying. I have to find a way to pull this off.”

She crossed her arms over her silicone double D-cups and leaned back as though she were settling in for a juicy story. “Pull what off, exactly?”

“My final project. I have to research how the size of a man’s Mr. Winkie affects his personality.”

Gloria blinked. “You’re kidding. What kind of class are you taking, anyway?”

I hesitated, because I knew what Gloria would say, but there was no avoiding it. “Sex Therapy,” I said, feeling a surge of heat flood my ears.

“You can’t even say the word, yet you signed up for some sex class?” She laughed long and hard.
Wincing, I spoke through her chuckles. “Yeah, yeah, I know.” Going to see a shrink would have been so much easier.
“Lucky you.”
“Yay, lucky me. Any ideas on how I do this?”

“Oh, I get it. Your winkie doesn’t have a personality. You wanna know about its owner’s personality. You had me worried for a while.”

I had
her
worried?

“Well,” she leaned forward, “you could start by sleeping around. Ya know, have a little fun in the name of science... with no strings attached, of course, just a few colorful, ribbed, glow-in-the-dark condoms.”

The heat crept from my ears to the rest of my face. “Or not.”

“Just a thought. But if you don’t wanna add a little spice to your life--which you look like you could use, if you ask me--you could just check out his shoes.”

“His shoes?”
“Yeah, his shoes. You know what they say.”
“Apparently, I don’t.”
She huffed out a breath. “That the size of a man’s feet is a good indication about the size of his--”
I held up a hand. “I get it. Except that’s just a myth, and I don’t want to sleep with anyone.”

“Your choice, but turning the table on the opposite sex sounds like a good time to me,
chica
.”

She had a point. Using a man for a change instead of being the one used had its merits. But in my case, it never worked out that way. “Trust me, sex and I do not get along. Been there, done that, wound up a porn star.”

“Oh, honey, that’s a topic for another day. I can only deal with one problem at a time.” She took out a nail file, groomed her acrylic fingernails, and then brightened. “Can’t you just look it up, or something? There has to be a ton of information on the Internet.”

“I could. And I have. Not a pretty picture. Have you seen the kind of websites a search on ‘you-know-what’ size brings up?” I shuddered. “Besides, my professor insists we interview live subjects for our projects. For me, that means men of different sizes with different issues. Then I have to write a paper on it and present it to the class.”

“So if you don’t sleep with them, how are you gonna know who to interview? You got x-ray vision, or something?”

“I wish. See why I have a problem? Can you imagine the reaction I’ll get if I start asking every man I meet, ‘Gee, what size produce is your Mr. Winkie: a pickle, a cucumber, or a zucchini? And by the way, is Mr. Winkie giving you any problems these days?’” I was a regular furnace right about now, probably hot enough to heat the entire motel.

“A pickle’s produce?” Gloria scrunched up her face.

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