Wrapped Up In A Weeping Willow
Part of the Rom-Com
When famous sex talk radio host Poppy Bailey returns home to Hudson Hollow, Kentucky, she planned on taking a little rest and getting out of town after her big melt down and on-air fiasco. But it seems that things have changed on the home front: her grandfather has dementia, their family farm house is on the market, and her high school sweetheart Brett Barrett, still looking as hot as ever, is the last thing she needs to complicate her life, especially since the ink on her divorce papers is still wet.
No matter how much Poppy and Brett try to stay away from each other, they can’t deny the chemistry between them and continue to find themselves wrapped up in each other’s arms. After all, it’s just a quick fling. At least that’s what they tell themselves in order to keep their hearts guarded and other secrets buried. When the secrets are revealed, is their new bond strong enough to keep Poppy in Hudson Hollow? Or will she once again flee town leaving Brett’s heart in the wake of her dust once again?
Wrapped Up In A Weeping Willow
Part of the Rom-Com
Wrapped Up In A Weeping Willow
“Welcome back to Real Talk, your SiriusXM talk radio show, where we can discuss all things bedroom taboo and more. I’m Harper Ellington, your host, and extremely happy to be here.” Harper leaned in to the microphone, wrapped a piece of her hair behind her ear, and sucked in a deep breath.
“Do you ever feel like something is off? Just not right?” Harper asked in her best sultry voice. After all, there were millions of SiriusXM listeners, starting today, who would tune in to hear Real Talk; her sex talk show and sex and sultry seemed to go together like beans and corn bread.
“You hear about these gurus who talk about something in your gut just isn’t right? Well, today something just doesn’t feel right.” She uncurled her hand and stuck it out in front of her, letting the midmorning sunshine that streamed through the window hit the pink diamond perched on her finger, sending twinkling light specs around the studio. “What about you, Benji?” Harper tilted her head and smiled at her assistant/producer, who hated to be called out on the radio, but she claimed he was her Robin to her Howard Stern.
Benji Carmichael had been with her through thick and thin. His milk chocolate skin was beautiful. He kept his hair shaved to bald and he had the perfect-shaped scalp for it. His brown eyes had a little sparkle to match his white-as-a-cloud teeth. He claimed he never bleached them, but Harper had found a few teeth whitening strips in his hotel room when they had gone to New York City to finalize the SiriusXM deal.
Benji leaped over his producer chair and put his mouth up to her microphone. He glared at her and hummed, “Mm-hmmm,” into the microphone.
Harper winked at him, knowing she’d broken her promise to him. When she had landed the SiriusXM gig, Benji had made her promise she wouldn’t put him on the air, even pinky swear it. Only she’d crossed her fingers behind her back while shaking pinkies with him.
“I’m not talking sex. My sex life couldn’t be better. It’s something I can’t quite put my finger on. Let’s talk about it.” She adjusted the earphone set, leaned in closer to the microphone, and looked out the large window in front of her. She had never lied to her radio audience before and she just had.
Sex. The thought of it made her shiver. Rob Ellington, her husband of five years, had gotten cold as a cast-iron commode under the sheets in the past couple of months. And the little—well, large—pink diamond sitting on her ring finger was his way of making up for it.
“You know the number: 555-555-LOVE. That’s 555-555-5683. It’s time for some Real Talk.” She smacked the red button, turning her mic off.
“Are you all right?” Benji, popped a chocolate-covered strawberry in his mouth. He uncorked the champagne and filled both flutes, handing her one. “Cheers!” he proclaimed, clinking her glass.
The treats were compliments of Sidney Delaney, Harper’s agent extraordinaire, who she had to thank for getting Real Talk nationally syndicated six years ago and now for the online streaming gig. Now, with online streaming so popular, it was definitely hard to get a national spot. Thankfully, everyone from the local granny to the gay neighbor, sex was still a topic of controversy and gossip, putting Real Talk at the top of the charts.
Benji had been by Harper’s side for ten years. She had been paying one- fourth the rent of a five-hundred-square-foot box New Yorkers called an apartment. Of course her one-fourth was a thousand dollars, forcing her to take any DJ gig she could. Because she was a nobody, a big fat zero in the radio industry, she was only hired to do graveyard shifts at stations or fill in jobs when the regular DJ took a break. Regardless, Harper was the only DJ who showed up for her shift on time at a gay bar. It wasn’t the best job, but it helped pay the rent. After the nightclub, she’d fill in midnight shifts at a local radio station. Late night became her friend. It was where she discovered people let their freak flags wave and hold nothing back, especially regarding their sex lives. That was when it hit her like a charging bull: She was going to make it in the sex talk industry.
Benji had just left the priesthood and Harper embraced it by befriending him. They feasted on ramen noodles and binge-watched Sex in the City, and having him turn her tap water into holy water was a hoot. Harper couldn’t help but look at the whole Catholic religion in a different light. Not that she was Catholic. Hell no. She was southern born and bred, which meant Baptist ran through her veins thicker than blood. She and Benji were a match made in heaven.
Harper was truly grateful for Benji and his friendship. When everyone else, including her buttoned-up parents, thought she was crazy for trying to make it big in radio with a sex talk show, Benji didn’t. He loved the idea and supported her every step of the way. Which was why she’d brought him along for the ride, telling him to hold on tight because she was taking them straight to the top. She was right.
Those past six years Benji and Harper had gotten used to steak and lobster dinners, going to premieres of new shows, and making guest appearances on daytime TV talk shows. Granted, Benji’s boy toy, Boby Peterson, was dragged along. Harper didn’t trust a Boby with one b, but he made Benji happy and that made her happy.
“I’m fine.” Harper shrugged off Benji’s question and concerned look.
She picked up the glass of champagne and studied it for a second before she took a sip.
“I have known you a long time and I know you are lying.” An expression of satisfaction showed in Benji’s eyes. He knew her better than anyone. “Your hillbilly accent is creepy back up over the airwaves.”
“Southern,” Harper corrected him.
“Hillbilly, Southern, semantics.” His bobbled from side to side. “Either way, that means you are way off your game and something is really bugging you.”
“It is my first day of online streaming.” Harper gave him the duh look.
He didn’t buy it.
“Right.” Slowly, he lifted his chin up and down, looking down his nose. “I’ve seen you nervous and you keep your shit together. The accent comes when something is really wrong. Dish.”
Nothing is wrong; the words rolled around in her head, even though something told her something bad was about to happen. She sucked in a deep breath and took another sip and looked out of the window at the spectacular view of the lake between the Ellington plantation and the studio Rob had built for her as a wedding gift.
The home sat on one hundred and fifty acres of the beautiful horse farm that had been in Rob’s family for four generations. She had yet to produce a child, so it could become a fifth-generation plantation, and that created all sorts of tensions between Harper and her mother-in-law.
Before the past few months of hiatus sex, she’d had a pretty good life in her five-year marriage to Rob Ellington, who was known as the mob boss of horse racing.
Rob had come from old money, something Harper knew nothing about. Every dime she had made was from scrapping from the bottom. Where she came from— Hudson Hollow, Kentucky—there were only three stoplights, and if it was tobacco season, well, most kids didn’t come to school because they were helping their family cut tobacco, drop sticks, or hang.
“Woo-wee, girl.” Benji’s voice raised an octave, bringing Harper out of her romp into her past. “It’s like Christmas when you ask your audience to call in.”
The lights on the phone control panel normally filled her with excitement. Not today. She glanced up at the house. The midday sun was shining right over the estate. She’d never forget the first time Rob had brought her here. She’d had a year of a successful radio talk show under her belt and they’d met at the Barnstable’s Derby party.
Rob’s blue blazer, khaki pants, and blue-striped seersucker shirt, neatly cut black hair, crystal blue eyes, chiseled jawline, and flawless skin nearly made her faint when he brushed up against her at the bar. Both of them ordered a Maker’s Mark and water. Another match made in heaven.
Their courtship wasn’t long at all before he asked her to marry him and the sex was explosive. She had to try out all the products sent to the show, including the sex swing, on many occasions. She highly recommended the sex swing.
“Where is that swing?” Harper looked over at Benji, wondering if she could find it and spark some breath back into her sex life like a flame to a firecracker.
“What swing?” Benji asked popping another strawberry into his mouth.
“Nothing.” She shook her head and smacked her lips together. No one needed to know about Rob and their bedroom problems. It would be disastrous for her reputation if it got out that the number-one sex talk show radio host couldn’t revive her own man’s limp biscuit.
“Two more commercials,” Benji warned, giving her the one minute until live-air time. “I’ll let caller one on. Her name is Beth.”
The day before her big wedding, Harper’d gotten news that Real Talk had been picked up in two major markets, New York City and Los Angeles. Rob wasn’t about to let her move to another city while he lived on the farm. Against his mama’s wishes, Rob had contractors come in and redo the house exactly the way Harper wanted it.
“It’s been fine for the three generations before you,” Rob’s mother had protested when they had ripped out the old tile off the kitchen floor, holding a piece to her heart. Rob had ignored her.
“We are about to go live.” Benji smacked his hands together, nearly making Harper come out of her own skin and bringing her out of her thoughts. He added in a lower, huskier tone that caught her attention, “Get it together.”
“Welcome back to Real Talk. I’m Harper, your host, and we are talking about when something feels off.” Harper didn’t have to worry about pushing buttons or making sure she sounded okay; that was Benji’s job. “Hi, Beth. You are on the air.”
“Hi!” Caller Beth was all too chipper to be on the air. Her voice quivered from her nerves. “I’m so excited to be on the air. I’ve been trying to call you for over a year! Congratulations on your new streaming deal today! You deserve it.”
“I’m happy you made it through, Beth.” Harper slid the left earpiece out of my ear. Beth’s voice was very high-pitched, and the last thing Harper really wanted was a headache or to bust an eardrum. “Do you get that nagging feeling that something is off?”
“I did and it was about my boyfriend who was (beep) my sister! My sister! Whore.” Beth didn’t take a breath. Luckily, Benji was quick on the censorship button. The FCC had given Harper so many warnings about fines. Now that Real Talk was streaming, she really didn’t have to worry too much about all those rules and regulations. “I felt like something was not right. That gnawing feeling that Oprah and Dr. Phil talk about. You know, the one that keeps nagging you until it punches you in the gut. Well, they punched me in the gut literally when I got up in the middle of the night and walked through my house without turning on the lights. I went to the kitchen to get a drink of water and something hit me right in the stomach. I flipped on the light and my sister’s fat ass was planted on the kitchen table, her legs straight out, while my husband’s bony ass was gyrating right between her chubby thighs.”
“Wow, Beth. I’m sorry that happened to you. No one likes to be cheated on, especially with a family member.” Harper did my best not to look over at Benji, who was gyrating his hips up against a control panel.
She loved Benji. He was theatrical with all callers, acting out all their sordid tales, making her laugh. It was one of the things she looked forward to when taking listeners’ calls. She loved having guests like Dr. Ruth, Dr. Oz, the Berman twins, and many others, star struck even, but the audience were her true guests. Turning the mic over to them was a lot of fun.
“Hi, Tim.” Harper moved on to the next caller. “Have you ever had a feeling where something wasn’t right?”
“Yep, I sure have.” Tim’s voice was low and not as excited as the previous caller’s. She put her left headphone back on.
“Do you want to tell me about it?” she encouraged.
“I woke up in the middle of the night with a bad, awful feeling.” Tim’s voice cracked. “I laid there for a little bit. It kept nagging me, so I got up and looked around the house. Everything was in its place. Then I heard something outside. I grabbed my shotgun and ran outside to my barn. There was a coyote in the barn that almost got my horse until I shot him dead.”
“I think we all have some type of intuition built into us.” She looked up at the clock on the wall. It was Rob’s birthday and she’d gotten him new cufflinks with his initials and a surprise reading from her psychic, Melanie Day. Before she left for work, she had texted Rob, asking him to come home for lunch for a birthday surprise. Surprise was their code for a little afternoon romp between their Neiman Marcus sheets. That hadn’t happened in a while and she was happy to get a text back confirming he’d be there.
Melanie had probably already shown up at the house and was giving him his reading right now. Maybe Harper could stop Melanie before she left the farm and ask her for a quick reading for herself. She’d pay double today. Hopefully she wasn’t having these weird feelings concerning the new streaming gig. It was a dream come true. Melanie always told Harper that she had a great sense of intuition and should tap into it.
“Sometimes I’ve thought of someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and out of the blue they call me or I see them at the store.” An image of the Coach popped into Harper’s head.
The Coach, George T. Cooper, was her papaw on her mama’s side of the family, the only one she corresponded with on a regular basis through letters. Those had stopped about six months ago, making her wonder if her mama had told him about her job. Sex was something that was kept behind closed doors, not aired out like dirty laundry on a clothesline. At least in Mary Louise Bailey’s mind.
“Have you forgotten how you were raised?” Martha had cried over the phone when Harper had told her about her first day on the job. And she’d even left out all the bad parts, too. “All that dirty talk coming out of my baby’s mouth. What on earth are the women at the Wednesday night spaghetti church social going to think? Gawd knows they won’t say anything out loud to me. But we will be all the gossip.” Her mama’s words were engrained in her mind.
“We will be right back after this commercial break,” Benji’s voice broke in through Harper’s earphones.
“Shit!” She ripped the headset off her head and threw them down in front of her. “I’m so sorry,” she apologized for not signing off. It wasn’t Benji’s job, and she was grateful for him saving her ass, as so many times before.
Her fingers got caught in her fake long blonde hair, which desperately needed to be colored. Her coal black roots were showing two inches deep and looked more like she lived in a mud flat rather than the Ellington plantation.
She sucked in a deep breath and admitted, “I’m so off today. Maybe I need to get my hair done.”
“Yes, you are off, and so are your roots.” Benji cocked his brows. “Nasty.”
Benji wasn’t letting her off the hook. If Rob were here, he’d tell her what a great job she was doing and encourage her to keep going. “Sweet baby Jesus!” Benji nearly jumped over the equipment to get to Harper. “Is that a new ring?”
“Yes.” She blushed and held out the pink diamond stunner. “Rob left it for me on my pillow this morning. A good luck and congratulations gift for today.”
“Boby didn’t do a damn thing for me. Only rolled over and asked for the credit card. When I handed it to him, he rolled back over and scratched his ass.” Benji curled his lips.
Dishing out presents was Rob’s thing. When he came home late for dinner or she couldn’t get in touch with him when he was away on business, he always presented her with lavish gifts.
When she’d woken up this morning, the box was sitting next to her, and her first instinct, because they hadn’t slept together in a while was that he was feeding a guilty conscience. Then, when she read the note, it was so the Rob Ellington she had fallen in love with, and there was no meaning behind the ring but love.
The note read: Every day is a birthday because I have you. Today my birthday gift is seeing your dreams come true. Congrats, baby. I’m so proud of you.
“It’s his birthday,” Harper said, hoping the words would convince her nagging gut. “I got him a secret reading from Melanie. She should be at the house right now. I asked him to come home for lunch. He probably thinks we are going to have one of our sex lunch dates.” She bit my lip in a playful way and wrinkled my nose. There was no way he would’ve come home from work if she had told him he was having his palm read or for sex. Months ago, he would’ve jumped for a romp in the hay.
“That’s why you are off.” Benji flung her hand to the ground. “You go be with him. I’ve got this.”
“I have an hour left in the show.” Benji’s suggestion did sound good, but she’d never left her audience. Never. Especially not today, the first day of streaming everywhere.
“We can pop in the lube tape with Dr. Moriarty.” Benji always had times like these in the back of his head. “I kept the interview going after his allotted time on the air when he was here and we got that good hour on lubricants. Everyone loves a good lube session.” Benji’s body did a human wave. “Slip and slide. Slip and slide.” He snapped his fingers.
“You are brilliant!” Harper clapped her hands together. “Thank you!” She rushed over and flung her arms around Benji’s neck and kissed his cheeks several times. “Thank you! Thank you!”
There was no time to waste. Instead of jumping on the golf cart Rob had bought her to go back and forth between the house and the studio, she flipped off her flats and ran as fast as she could. Not that she didn’t want to see Rob; she wanted to make sure she could see Melanie before she left. Something wasn’t right and Melanie would give her the clarification she needed. Her intuition told her that Melanie would know.
end of excerpt
Wrapped Up In A Weeping Willow
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