Release date: 10 February 2014
Courtney Larson is a lobbyist for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Eric Morrison is a U.S. Senator from a North Carolina tobacco family. They’re entrenched on opposing sides of a new tobacco tax, with the vote slated for Valentine’s Day. As if that weren’t enough to have them running in opposite directions, Courtney is a virgin who delights in sexual innuendos, and Eric has a framed riding crop in his office that Courtney thinks he uses for sexual pleasure. Their mutual misreading of each other’s intents and desires makes for mixed signals politically and sexually. Can they find common ground on the Senate floor, and more importantly, in the bedroom?
by Susan Blexrud
Sensuality Level: Sensual
Susan Blexrud lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, with her husband, John, who proposed to her on New Year’s Eve 1986 on the Orient Express, halfway between Paris and Vienna. See why she writes romance?
An excerpt from Valentine Vote:
Courtney Larson flipped up the collar on her boiled wool coat, bracing herself for one of the coldest days in a brutal winter. She pushed open the door of the townhouse she shared in Foggy Bottom and squinted into the clear January sky. For a Florida girl, the weather in D.C. had been a rude awakening when she moved to the big city for law school at Georgetown University, but she loved every minute of it. Even the occasional exploding manhole cover in her neighborhood added excitement to the beat of a city that thrived on political tensions and monumental decisions. And being in the thick of it was part of the appeal.
A chilling breeze lifted Courtney’s shoulder-length hair out of her coat collar. Strawberry-blonde strands swirled around her face, sticking like fly paper to her raspberry lip gloss. Spitting wisps out of her mouth, she squared her shoulders to the wind, gritted her teeth, and ran the three blocks to her firm.
“Morning,” Courtney said to the receptionist, Elise, who jumped out of her chair, almost strangling herself with her headset.
“Mr. Champion wants you in the conference room.” Elise pointed down the opposite hall from Courtney’s office.
She smiled at Elise and then hurried to her office to deposit her coat and grab her iPad. Courtney assumed Mr. Champion wanted to talk about the tobacco vote and pressed a hand to her fluttering stomach. Everything she’d worked for over the last few years hung on this campaign.
Since her first year in law school, she’d positioned herself for a career in the political arena. As editor of the law review, she’d interned in Congress and then landed her dream job at Montgomery, Haskins & Knoll, one of the most prestigious lobbying firms in the nation’s capital. The icing on her professional cake was her first client, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. It was a major responsibility for a twenty-seven-year-old attorney, fresh out of law school, but her volunteer work had always been in support of non-profits, and she was thrilled that her firm had entrusted her with this challenge. She had until February 14, Valentine’s Day, to convince legislators to pass a bill for higher taxes on cigarettes, or as Courtney referred to them, cancer sticks.
This was more than dogged determination on her part; this was a personal vendetta. Her mother, Sylvia, a lifelong smoker, had died of lung cancer. While she’d tried to quit numerous times over the years, the addiction to nicotine always won out. Through six months of chemotherapy, Courtney watched her mom briefly rally and then succumb after a horrible few days of gasping for breath. She’d taken a sabbatical from school and was glad to have been there at the end, but the imprint of Sylvia’s death rattle would haunt her forever. Courtney blamed the tobacco companies, with their advertising targeted to young women. What had been promised to make her mother “mysterious and enchanting” ended up killing her.
Though it had been more than two years, the pain of her passing still brought a lump to Courtney’s throat … every day. If her efforts could keep one teenager from smoking, her mom would smile down from heaven, and Courtney would know that another family wouldn’t experience the horror and pain her own family had endured.