Release date: August 24, 2015
Holly Hartland has spent the last year in Los Angeles finalizing her divorce from an abusive husband and getting her career as an art gallery curator back on track while trying to raise her young daughter. She shares a nanny with LAPD detective Gary Sumner, whose wife ran off to France with another man, abandoning him and his daughter.
With full-time careers to juggle, Gary and Holly end up relying on each other to help keep watch over their girls, who’ve become fast friends. The platonic co-parenting roles they’ve adopted are perfect for two people who’ve sworn off romance, but the burgeoning sexual chemistry they share proves hard to ignore.
When a Christmas wish puts the children in danger, Holly and Gary are forced to set aside their trust issues and work as a real team to keep their families safe. But can they overcome their baggage enough to open up their hearts to love?
by Ellen Butler
Ellen Butler lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and policy, and her history includes a long list of writing and editing for dry but illuminating professional newsletters and windy papers on public policy. The leap to novel writing was simply a creative outlet for Ellen’s overactive and romantic imagination to run wild.
An excerpt from Art of Affection:
My Kia rolled to a stop in front of the valet stand at the Spanish-style estate.
“Okay, I just pulled into the drive. I’ll see you in a minute.” I removed the Bluetooth headset from my ear and tossed the keys to a red-jacketed attendant as I stepped from the car, slinging both handbag and camera over my shoulder.
I’d forgotten the address for Poppy’s engagement party and called my sister, Sophie, to direct me the last ten minutes of the, thankfully, uneventful drive. The front windows glowed with lights, creating an inviting feel to the stone and red-tiled mansion, and I snapped a picture to capture the mood. My heels clacked along the stone floors as a doorman pulled the heavy oak door aside for me. A large, sweeping staircase met my sight, and sounds of the party drifted down from the back of the house. I came to an abrupt halt as a tall, black man in a white tuxedo greeted me at the foot of the stairs.
“Your invitation, ma’am.”
“Sure, it’s right here in my …” Oh dear. I’d forgotten to transfer the white vellum invitation into my evening bag. I could picture it, in my mind, sitting on the foyer table. “Nuts. I guess I left it at home.” I shrugged and gave him a winning smile.
“You can’t enter without an invitation,” he said politely but firmly.
“Oh come on, don’t you have a list or something? I’ve got ID.”
He smiled tolerantly but shook his head.
“Look, the host, Poppy, is my sister’s best friend. She asked me to take photos for her.” I held up my camera. Back in college, I’d lamented my inability to bring the pictures in my head to life on canvas in the way I longed to do, which was what led me to becoming a connoisseur of art rather than a true artist and the reason I worked as a curator at Le Pinceau. However, after my daughter was born, I found creative solace in my photography.
In a blink, the camera was snatched out of my hand, and my anger flashed white hot. “Hey, pal. Be careful with that. What do you think you’re doing?”
“There is no photography allowed, and you many not enter without an invitation.” He held it above his head as I tried to grab it back.
Refusing to be a part of an undignified keep-away game, I stepped back.
“Fine.” I held out my hand. “I’ll leave, but not without my camera.”
The gatekeeper took his sweet time examining the camera, and then eyed my tapping foot before returning the camera to my outstretched palm. I paced back to the giant front door and called Sophie.
“Where are you? I thought you said you were pulling up. Poppy is asking about you.” Party sounds filtered through her phone.
“I forgot the stupid invitation, and the dragon at the gate won’t let me through,” I said through clenched teeth.
“I said,” raising my voice to full volume, “the gatekeeper won’t let me through!” I glared at said gatekeeper, but my glare didn’t seem to move him.
“Cripes, I’ll send someone to come get you.”
“Thanks.” I hung up, crossed my arms, and put on a patient face. A minute later, Ian, my sister’s gorgeous fiancé, strode down the steps in a beautifully cut black suit and tie. If I had any interest in men, I would have been insanely jealous of Sophie’s good luck in hooking a hunk like Ian. He played Ryder McKay on the popular cop show, LA Heat.
“However, I was simply happy someone came to rescue me.
“You’re looking lovely, m’dear. Sophie sent me to slay the dragon.” His Irish accent rolled across me as he flashed a grin. Sophie was right; he did have a perfect Hollywood smile.
“This numbskull won’t let me through.” I pointed a finger at the offending dragon.
“Leave off, Alphonso, she’s with me.” He held out an arm. “My lady, dragon slayed. Come and join us.”