Guess who’s back with another character interview! THIS GIRL. Today I have Grace Donnelley in my internet space from Mia Kay’s contemporary romance, SOUVENIRS. Check out this run-in I had with her and the dazzling “Ben Brady.” *swoon*
Well, hello there! You’re E.G. Donnelley, aren’t you?
*She stares up, her eyes widening as the color drains from her face.*
You don’t remember me. We met at the World Fantasy Awards a few years ago … in Vegas?
Oh yes, I’m sorry. *she looks around, past me and at the buffet line* I just never expected to run into another author in Rome. Please sit. How have you been?
Great, thanks. Are you here for a signing?
No, I’m on vacation with my mother. And…could you not mention the author thing? With the movie press–
Right! The movie! How is that going?
I turned in the script before we left the States, and I’m trying to catch up with deadlines. I’m behind on the next book in the series. *she looks past me again* But, seriously, could we talk about something else?
*Looks at what, or rather who, she’s staring at.* Ohhh, him. *waggles eyes brows* He looks quite familiar!
*snorts a laugh* You’ve seen guys like him before? Because I haven’t. Trust me, where I’m from, guys like him don’t grow on trees.
No, they don’t! He is fiiiiine!
It’s more than that. You know, he spent the whole day helping my mother deal with something very painful, and he remembers how I like my coffee. He’s funny, and smart, and he doesn’t mind when I can’t sleep.
He sounds, well, perfect. Weren’t you on vacation with your mother?
I was–I am. But Ben’s on his vacation with his mom, too. And they … well, Ben and I couldn’t leave each other alone, and our mothers set us up. They volunteered to share a room so Ben and I could stay together.
Now those are some clever ladies! Is it working?
Yeah, but … see, I haven’t told him who I am. He thinks I’m Grace Ward, a vacationing teacher. I keep trying to find a way to tell him I’m famous, but…Linda, the man kisses better than any man I’ve ever met. It’s like he short circuits my brain.
I know what that’s like! *dreamy sigh* Damn!
Two weeks ago, all I wanted was to go on vacation with my mom and not be recognized. Now, I’ve got two days to figure out how to tell him goodbye.
Do you have to?
He has his own commitments, not to mention he’s incredibly reserved and shy. How am I supposed to ask him to follow me home, and deal with the traveling circus my life has become. And how do you fall in love in two weeks? How am I supposed to … Crap, here he comes. Please. Just Grace, okay?
*A stunning hunk of a man with dark hair and blue-gray eyes strides over to the table and delivers a to-go cup of coffee for both of us*
Ben, this is Linda Rose. She’s on vacation as well. Linda, this is Ben Brady.
*He smiles, but it’s a shadow of the smile he’s just given Grace, his gaze wary.* It’s a pleasure to meet you.
*lifts brow* Pleasure to meet you, Ben.
*Grace picks up her coffee and her bag.* It was nice to talk to you, Linda, but if you’ll excuse me, I need to do a little souvenir shopping. *places her hand over Ben’s.* I won’t be long.
Oh, please, take your time!
*Ben kisses her on the cheek and watches her go. His profile, British accent and his deep, dark voice clues me in to where I’ve seen him before.*
You’re Bennett Oliver, aren’t you? *he starts to shake his head* You are. I recognize you from that series that aired a few years ago on the BBC. I thought you were filming a movie in Turkey?
*his expression falls* “It wrapped before vacation started. Please don’t tell Grace. She has no idea. You see …”
*grins and glances at the audience* This is going to be interesting!
More about SOUVENIRS:
A reclusive writer … Grace Donnelley’s successful sci-fi novel is about to become a movie. She wants a vacation with her mother before filming starts, but fears her name will cause a geek riot. So she creates Grace Ward, sometimes schoolteacher and doting daughter of Sunny.
A hounded actor … Bennett Oliver escapes London for a vacation with his mother. He wants to hide from the paparazzi and his brooding reputation. He takes the role of Ben Brady, successful businessman and overprotective son of Camille.
But they never counted on each other … An immediate attraction, aided by their matchmaking mothers, gives Ben and Grace a vacation they never expected — and one they don’t want to lose. Upon returning to their everyday lives, they work to maintain a relationship while trying to find a way to say “by the way, I’m famous.”
When the secrets and lies catch up with them, Ben and Grace struggle to open their lives and re-open their hearts to see if love can be their most treasured souvenir.
Their fellow passengers pushed past Grace in a rush to board. One businessman practically knocked her into her mother’s lap in his hurry to get to a window seat.
Hoisting the bulky bag overhead, Grace gasped as her elbows buckled. It listed backward, skewing her balance and threatening to topple onto the passenger across the aisle.
“May I help?” A deep, warm voice rumbled over her shoulder. Before she could answer, the weight of the bag disappeared and she fell against a solid chest. She gazed from large hands, up strong arms, to broad shoulders. Tilting further back, she saw a wide smile. When his hand covered hers, she jerked upright and surrendered the bag.
“Thank you,” she squeaked.
“My pleasure,” he said as he boosted the second bag overhead.
Grace sidestepped to her seat and her volunteer valet walked to the back of the plane, for all intent disappearing since Grace refused to turn and stare. Closing her eyes, she willed her blush to subside and waited for the announcements signaling takeoff for the last leg of their flight to Vienna.
The jolt of landing jerked Grace alert. As they taxied to the gate, her mother unfastened her seat belt and perched on the edge of her chair. Her purse jiggled in time to her tapping feet.
“Relax, Mom. Vienna won’t disappear.”
The aisle filled, resembling a blocked conveyor belt as passengers pushed and pressed, children fussed, and bags shifted and fell. Finally everyone moved. The last person in the line was her gentleman valet—tall, well-dressed, dark hair, narrow waist, and long legs. His back was as nice as his front.
Grace’s feet were leaden and her arms felt like rubber, but she managed to reach the carryon bags, walk off the plane, and trudge to baggage claim.
The buzzer rang as the carousel jerked into motion, and Grace recited her ritual, silent “find my luggage” prayer. When both large bags arrived side by side, her relief gave her the extra adrenaline necessary to lift them clear. With that hurdle cleared, she hurried to catch up as her mother reached the revolving door.
After twelve hours of artificial darkness and recycled air in planes and airports, the sunshine and light breeze was a welcome reward. However, in minutes exhaust fumes were overwhelming, perspiration trickled down her back, and weariness set in. Grace groaned in relief as a shuttle van came into view.
“Mother, why don’t you sit while I get a taxi?”
She recognized the voice from the plane. As the heat doubled under her skin, she turned toward the only other recognizable face in Vienna.
“We meet again.” She smiled as she shrugged the heavy bag onto her aching shoulder. She’d probably walk like Quasimodo for the rest of the trip.
“We do. Hello.” His response was wary. He’s probably worried I’ll end up in his lap—again.
“Which hotel, ladies?” The driver asked as he reached for their luggage.
“Hotel Ananas, please.”
“Are you traveling together?” the driver asked.
“No.” The answer was issued in harmonic tandem, the man’s British bass and her Southern alto.
“So, two taxis?”
There wasn’t another vehicle waiting, and the heat was just the other side of warm.
“Why don’t we share?” Grace offered.
“How kind. Thank you.” His mother accepted the invitation.
Her stylish clothes were unwrinkled, and her sleek salt and pepper bob stopped at her jaw. She had a lovely smile, and the crinkles around her eyes suggested she used it a lot. “I’m Camille Brady and this is my son, Ben.”
At his name, he offered his hand with a silent nod. His clothing was as fresh as his mother’s. Grace felt more and more like an unmade bed, and she was sure her ponytail was crooked.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Her mother stepped into the conversation gap. “I’m Charlotte Ward, but please call me Sunny. This is my daughter, Grace.”
She held her breath, worried her mother would slip. It was silly. The chance anyone would recognize her, even using her proper last name, was almost nonexistent. But after the incident last week, she wasn’t taking any chances.
“Ms. Ward?” Ben’s voice rumbled into her thoughts. He was standing by the open taxi, with his hand outstretched and a silent question in his lopsided grin and arched eyebrow. She put her fingers in his.
“Grace, please . . . Ben.”
He sat across from her, and she tucked her feet under the seat to leave room for his long legs. The door slid closed with a muted thunk.
“You wouldn’t happen to be going on a two-week train tour, would you?” her mother asked.
“Austria, Italy, and France?” Camille countered. “What a wonderful coincidence.”
“Isn’t it? It will be nice to know a few people when we get started.”
As the women overran each other in giddy conversation, Grace almost felt guilty for not looking out the window to enjoy the sights zipping by. Almost. They’d have two days in Vienna. It wouldn’t hurt to close her eyes for a minute. Behind sunglasses, no one would notice.
“You’ve come over from the States, then?” Ben asked in a measured, quiet tone.
Lifting lids that were now almost as heavy as her luggage, Grace saw him waiting on an answer. At least he was facing her while his sunglasses shielded his eyes, so she assumed he’d directed the question at her. “Yes. We left Chicago yesterday.”
Ben’s grin stretched his face. “But you’re not from there. I’ve traveled in the U.S. so I recognize the accent.”
Grace relaxed and returned the smile. She’d worked for years to rid herself of her telltale drawl, but it returned when she was with her mother. Sunny embraced her Southernness as if it were a near relation.
“You’ve found us out.” She forced her spine straight. “Where have you been in the States?”
His grin faded. “Mostly New York and Los Angeles.”
“Were you there for pleasure or for business?”
The simple question was on the tip of her tongue. What do you do? It always led to the parenthetical what about you? And it went downhill from there. People couldn’t help their curiosity, but she could help hers. “And you were in Chicago?”
“Umm . . . yes. I spent an extra night there during an unscheduled layover.”
“I hope you made it to the Field Museum.”
“I did, and to the lake shore. It’s odd to stand on a beach and have the skyline that close.”
“For me it’s standing on the beach and being cold,” she agreed. “After years of flying through Chicago, I finally planned a long layover so I could sightsee.”
“The museum is your favorite?”
“The T-Rex is incredible. Can you imagine being on a hunting trip and running into that?” Her imagination hijacked her tongue. “What would you do?”
His lips twitched. “Am I hungry?”
“You live on roots and berries and the monster is between you and a prehistoric bunny,” she used her hands to gauge the size of the creature, “this big. Fight or flight?”
“Fight.” He smiled. “Definitely.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mia Kay spent years writing legal documents and keeping people out of trouble. Now she spends her days looking for ways to get her characters into trouble. She lives in Arkansas with her husband, who doesn’t mind discussing (and sometimes causing) mayhem over breakfast.
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