Mulligan

shutterstock_266718080My contemporary romance novel, “My Mulligan” is an award-winning manuscript with a rock star, a heartbroken writer with a creative twist on therapy, and second chances.

Addison Woods has made Finn Mulligan, her former best-friend-turned-rock-star boyfriend, into recurring unsavory characters in her best-selling novels and screenplays. Years ago he left her without explanation and never looked back. She’s channeled her emotions by dropping him down elevator shafts, staking him, having him castrated by a chihuahua, and other creative ways, by proxy–of course.shutterstock_524198770It’s cheaper than therapy, and she’s made a career out of it.

When a chance encounter thrusts them back into each other’s lives, they are undeniably still drawn together, but their past, and their secrets, surround them like landmines they have trouble crossing.

When a confrontation lands backstage at a live talk show, Addison must choose to either walk away, salvaging her reputation, protecting the secret that could break Finn’s bond with his daughter, and allow his estranged wife to win, or expose the subterfuge, potentially destroy the heart of the man she loves, and any possible future with him.

The following is the opening chapter for “My Mulligan”.


Addison’s minivan pulled up in front of the Hotel Morgan and even with the fresh, spring air coming through the rolled down window, she feared her lunch would make a surprising reappearance. She wasn’t even on her old college campus yet and the memories, both bitter and sweet, were churning at lightning speed.

“Addison, are you there?” Tracy’s disembodied voice came through the hands-free speaker.

“I’m here,” Addison muttered.

“So, what do you think?”

“I’m thinking this was a bad idea,” She had her foot on the brake, waiting for the cars to clear the loading area, and fought the urge to shift into reverse.

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Tracy said, “What about the premiere?”

No reply.

“Addison, you need to get out more. Come to opening night at least.”

Addison could add pressure in her chest to the ailments suddenly afflicting her—indigestion from the vengeful fast-food burger or a heart attack, she couldn’t tell.

“This was such a mistake.” She said more to herself than to Tracy.

The flashy Mercedes convertible in front of her was enough to catch her attentionbeing so out of out-of-place in a country populated with jeeps and pickups. The dark-haired driver waving his hands and speaking animatedly into his dashboard made her wonder if she appeared the same way when she was arguing with Tracy in her van. She needed to be more aware of her surroundings.  

“Addison…are you even listing to me?”

“Yes, yes, of course…get a life…get out more…got it. Listen Tracy, I know you mean well. But, you thrusted me into my first book signing in the one town in the entire United States I swore I would never return to—and I’m doing this alone,” Addison added, reminding Tracy she was supposed to be with her this weekend. “So, I’d say I’m already handling a lot without any Xanax.”

Softly Tracy said, “I already said I was sorry.”

“I know. How many twenty-somethings manage to throw out their hip while dancing? Seriously? Do I even want to know what you were really doing?”

“No.”

“Then cut me a break.”

“Fine. Doctor said it will be a few days before I will feel up to moving around. As soon as I am mobile, I’ll catch the next train from New York and meet you back in Maryland, okay? We can discuss what is next then.”

Fine. That gave Addison a few days reprieve at least from Tracy and her well-meaning interfering.

Addison wanted to put the past behind her. Tracy’s method was to confront her history. Addison wasn’t so sure of it. But she did know she was better than letting this toxicity rule her.  If nothing else this weekend, she intended to exorcise the blasted past. Let. It. Go.

Frozen’s Elsa in her blue dress began singing in her head.

Oh. come. on.

She cringed as her alter ego bitch-slapped her subconscious. As an author and screenwriter, she’d never write a character who acted as pitifully as she was now.

Tracy drew her attention back. “Okay, tell you what—focus on the book signing this weekend and surviving Connor’s anniversary. We can discuss the rest later, okay?”

“Okay.”

The Mercedes pulled forward and she followed.

She put her van in park and released the brake.

“Screw it,” she whispered.

“That’s my girl!” Tracy said.

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Hon, you have to stop hiding—You need to get off that little hill you call a mountain, up there all alone with your monster dogs, your writing and your angst. Connor would cringe if he saw how you’ve isolated yourself. Get past this. Move on.”

Addison hugged the steering wheel as she watched the valet approach the Mercedes.

The valet’s young face eager with anticipation of getting behind the wheel of the car.

“I’m still mad at you for talking me into this.”

“I can live with that.”

Let it go.

Was that Elsa or her subconscious cheering her on?

He wasn’t worth any of the heartache you suffered, but it’s your own damn fault letting it go on this long.

Addison scowled at herself in the rearview mirror.

The man in the Mercedes hoisted himself out of the car, cradling his phone while reaching into the back for his bag. His movement familiar. Addison’s brain wasn’t functioning. Without breaking stride, handing off the key fob, he walked in her direction and she caught his profile as he walked around the back his car.

Her brain came online, but her heart seized.

She knew that face. It haunted her for years.

Full-scale panic gripped her—as if she’d dived head first into freezing lake only to realize she couldn’t swim. 

Finn.

She may have let out a cry, a whimper or a colorful variation of the cuss words that were banging around in her head.

She wasn’t sure.

Thankfully, her car was in park, and she was able to slouched down in her seat without the car lurching forward and rear-ending his.  

His black hair was wind-blown, gleaming in the sun, and seemed perfectly suited to the expensive black convertible. He wore Ray-Ban sunglasses and a white t-shirt and had scruff on his face as if he’d just left a Rolling Stone. Finn always looked that way, even when he was just her friend—just a normal guy who played guitar.

This couldn’t be happening. This sort of thing only happened in movies.

It was like the one where the audience yelled at the dumb heroine, Run, you idiot! All the while, the guy with the chainsaw looms behind her.

Yeah, running into that guy would’ve been preferable.

 “Tracy . . .” Addison said, her voice trembling. “Who else was invited this weekend?”

Silence.

Her best friend of eight years, and her agent for the last five was as quiet as a mouse—a  dead mouse.

Not good.

“Tracy . . . please, please tell me the stress of being back in town has caused me to hallucinate and the man parked in front of me isn’t Finn Mulligan,” Addison growled, failing to stifle her panic.

“Oh my God! Seriously?” Tracy’s high-pitched voice screeched before leveling out and asking, “How’s he look?”

“Tracy!” Addison slapped the steering wheel, wishing it was her friend.

“Okay. . . okay . . . honestly, I had no idea. I just heard it was a possibility this morning.” Tracy’s voice softened as she continued, “I think he’s performing at a concert tomorrow night. It was a last-minute decision.”

Damn. Being delusional would’ve been preferable.

“Uh-huh. Well, that piece of information might have been helpful!” Addison growled at her dashboard.

She peeked above the dashboard to see him walking into the hotel. She put her hands over her face and took a deep breath.

“Damn it, Trace. I’d never have come, if I’d known.”

Elsa’s song ramped up in her head.

Screw you, Elsa.

“Finn would’ve found out you were scheduled to be there, and your absence would’ve been questioned. Do you want him to know the impact he still has on you after all this time? Are you going to give him that type of power over your life? Over your career?” Tracy paused for a moment. The silence was heavy.

Tracy had a point and appealed to Addison’s inner tough girl. There were two things Addison didn’t want Finn to know—how badly he’d hurt her when he left without an explanation, and the loss and pain she suffered as a result of it all.

 The tough girl part of her would be no match for the emotional monster created by Finn, a monster created out of heartache and vulnerability. She needed to keep the monster in check.

“What am I going to do?” Addison’s breathing came in gasps and the adrenaline kicked in with sweat on the back of her neck. It was all she could do to stop from laying her head down on the steering wheel and closing her eyes.

A horn behind her sounded. Her legs worked enough so she could pull up to the front of the entrance and the valet approached. 

“Breathe, honey,” Tracy said. “Listen. He’s probably going to the golf tournament tomorrow and then the concert tomorrow night. Just stay away from both. Besides, there’s no way he’s going near your appearance tomorrow. There are more exciting events to distract him.”

Addison began gathering her things as the valet waited for her to open her car door.

“Jeez, thanks. Now I’m freaked out not only about Finn, but also that no one will show at my less than exciting event. Thanks for calming me down.”

She switched the call to her handset and turned off the car.

“You know what I mean,” Tracy added. “More exciting events for a rock star like him. How many men do you think are going to be at an appearance for a best-selling romance novelist? No matter how successful you are, and how many best-sellers you’ve sold, if there are any men there tomorrow it will probably be because their wives and girlfriends dragged them. They’d rather be golfing,” Tracy explained.

Addison closed her purse.

“Besides, I told you, your event is sold out. People are coming into town just to meet you, the elusive Jaime Nichols. Frannie even had requests from national media to cover the event. More exposure for her charity.”

“Not helping the panic, Trace,” she said as she finally got out. Ignoring the valet, she opened the back-sliding door and got out her suitcase.  She slung her large hobo purse over her shoulder, switched her phone to her other side and grabbed the suitcase.

“Just remember why you are there. You get to spend time with Frannie and raise money for a very worthy organization. Try to avoid Finn as much as possible. If you do run into him, act casual—like you are old roommates, because you are. You were once cool friends before the part where you had earth-altering, amazing sex and messed everything up.”

Silence again, this time on Addison’s part. She stood still in the middle of the unloading area while starring at the door to the hotel.  

“Are you there?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, I’m just replaying the last part in my mind to fortify my resolve and gather my wits.” Tracy was right, it was too late. Frannie had promoted her appearance as one of the keystones to the weekend fundraiser for the local Children’s Hospital.

She couldn’t run home. 

Although she could be there by dinner, if she left now.

No. She was going to stick this out.

The valet approached and handed her the claim ticket. She straightened her back, adjusted her purse and walked into the hotel with her head held high.

Though there would’ve been more cheer and optimism had she been on her way to the gallows.

The unveiling of the elusive New York Times best-selling author and screenwriter, Jaime Nichols.  She couldn’t ditch. Frannie told her they’d scheduled a local band who was mildly successful with their new single. Of course, if Finn was available, it changed everything. The other band was probably opening for him, now. A famous, successful songwriter in their little college town was big news.

Frannie and Finn had grown up together, and she was the lynchpin who’d brought Addison into their group her junior year.  Frannie convinced her to live in the available room in their off-campus house and Addison had agreed to it before even knowing who was already living there.

“Besides,” Tracy continued drawing the word out cautiously, “maybe this would be a good time to clear things up with him.”

“No, he left. He doesn’t deserve to know anything,” Addison said, not wanting to get into the same argument they’d had numerous times. She didn’t need to rehash what had happened to move on with her life.

“Should I send in reinforcements?” Tracy suggested.

“It wouldn’t hurt. Someone is going to have to save me from myself this weekend.” She took a cleansing breath and said, “You better be on call for me 24/7 to calm me down.”

“You’ll be fine. It was seven years ago. The initial confrontation is bound to be awkward but remember, you made a shitload of money writing about the ass instead of spending it on therapy. You won.”

“True. I just don’t want him to know it. I’m still pissed at you, Trace. Wish me luck.”

“Girl, you don’t need it. You are Addison Woods, aka Jaime Nichols. You kick ass! Call me later.”

When the phone disconnected she found herself smack in the middle of the lobby. As if he was already on her radar, she saw Finn at the check-in desk and instinctually ran for the bathroom.

Once in there she stood in front of the mirror, frustrated with herself and her immediate response to flee. She lifted her sunglasses and took in her image. Her auburn hair was in a messy ponytail, barely any makeup on her face and she was dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops for God’s sake! To top of the wonderful ensemble was the dog hair that covered her. Perfect.

Dammit. She was a full-grown, successful adult not an insecure college student. Why was she hiding? She had nothing to be afraid of—Finn was the jerk who’d treated her like a doormat. She was going to grow a backbone and strut herself out there. If he saw her, he saw her. She tightened her ponytail and pulled out her lip gloss from her bag. If he was going to see her, she at least needed to put on some shiny armor. She adjusted the sunglasses perched on her head and straightened her back.

Even with psyching herself up, she was relieved not to see him when she stepped into the hotel lobby. Maybe he’d already checked in? Her shoulders relaxed, and she gave a sigh of relief.

She approached the reception desk, digging through her purse for her wallet. “I’m checking in. Last name Woods,” she told the front desk clerk, “first name Addison.” She cringed when she realized how loudly she’d said it. It was as if the hotel quieted just as she spoke her name.

Of course, it had.

“Well, crap.” Her identification wasn’t in its designated spot. She dug into her purse like a claw from an arcade game and pulled out a multitude of junk including a hairbrush, receipts from fast food, a beat-up emergency tampon and finally, her ID.

She extracted the ID from the wad in her hand and gave it to the clerk who raised an eyebrow in subtle judgement.

The tampon unceremoniously fell to the floor. She placed her fistful of stuff on the check-in counter and bent to the retrieve it.

Her sunglasses fell off her head as she dropped to her knees to reach for the errant tampon. Suddenly, a pair of black boots and worn jeans appeared in her path.

“Addy?”

Well, damn.