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Helen of Troy, Illinois by Annie Sereno

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Title: Helen of Troy, Illinois
Author: Annie Sereno
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Release Date: May 2, 2o17
Helen of Troy, Illinois, is back home in the heartland to wage a war—with nothing to lose but her heart.
With a bank account on life support and a resume of dead-end jobs (one involving a Chuck E. Cheese costume), Helen Hubler left Manhattan for Troy, Illinois, to sell her family property. The only interested buyer is the smoking hot veterinarian next door—the same man who destroyed the career of her recently deceased college boyfriend whose last request she refused. Guilt bolsters her resolve to resist Dr. Gordon Ruckman’s offer...and to wage a little war in the bargain. Her messy life might be payback for the original Helen of Troy’s crime, but this is one battle she’ll win. Even if his plan to build a wildlife rescue center is the best idea ever. Even if she’s caught between a rock and a—considering the white-hot chemistry between them—very hard place. And even if her heart, like the original Troy, has a way inside for a determined hero.
“What do you want on your hero?” the server asked.
“One of everything,” she and the man with the sexy voice replied at the same time.
Helen’s mouth watered as she watched the server heap the Delphi Deluxe with olives and onions. Indulgence was her problem, right up there with expensive taste and what her bank called rampant depletion of funds. An impossible combination, like wanting a man with Louis’s maturity and stability and Perry’s sensitivity and social conscience. One of everything.
Resolution number two. Decide once and for all if she was going to become Mrs. Mendes.
Or not.
“I see we both like a hearty lunch.”
We. She and the man with the voice, the hot guy with the swoony scent. The Tiffany box slipped from Helen’s fingers as she looked up into a pair of penetrating hazel eyes set above high cheekbones and a classically perfect nose. Gold and auburn strands streaked his chestnut hair as thick and heavy as a horse’s tail.
He pointed to her handbag. “Looking for something?”
“Just some loose change. And my wits. Also loose,” she said, pulling her wallet from the handbag.
Two deep dimples curved in the craggy folds of his handsome face when he smiled. A luscious lip smile.
Crap. How could she think long, hard, and deep about Louis when she was struck witless in a cloud of pheromones?
Long, hard, and deep.
Double crap.
“Hot sauce,” he told the server.
I’m being seduced by a man ordering a sandwich.
Helen licked away the imagined burn of hot sauce on her lips. She had to get her mind around another idea fast. Two of her greatest pleasures, sex and subs, were combining for the first time in a most intriguing way.
“That’ll be five dollars and forty-four cents,” the server told her.
After paying him, Helen put the wallet back in her handbag, squashing a container of Strawberry Fields Tic-Tacs, a Kiss Me Coral tube of lipstick, an unfinished New York Times crossword puzzle—and the letter from her father announcing he was getting remarried.
Helen glanced up again at the guy who was soon to sink his teeth into a Hercules with one of everything on it. This time she noticed a jagged white scar on the right side of his face, curving from his temple to below his cheekbone like a comma. The touch of sadness in his eyes was certainly familiar. If she had learned anything by now, it was that life was a pain in the rear for everybody. Even sexy hunks who oozed confidence from every pore.
Breaking the news of her dad’s remarriage was the latest pain in her rear. She had no idea what to expect when her mom read the letter. Her worst fear was that, even though Lena had been divorced for ten years, she’d get sappy and sentimental and decide not to sell their property after all. But Helen needed cold, hard cash here and now. And if Lena needed a cold, hard reminder that Zach Hubler was a screw-up, she had no problem whatsoever giving it to her.
She reached across the counter to take the sandwich from the server.
“Hope you enjoy it,” Hercules said when she brushed against his arm.
“You too.”
She read the sign on the cookie tray above the cash register. C’mon. One won’t hurt you.
The hell it wouldn’t.
“Good-bye,” she murmured.
As she snapped her handbag shut, a tampon in the top pocket popped out and landed on the floor. It rolled a few inches and stopped neatly, mortifyingly, between the hunk’s muddy boots.
He stepped away as if he hadn’t seen a thing. She snatched it off the floor, upending a row of potato chip bags.
Double damn.
Smiling, he bent down to help her put them back on the counter—along with the canister of straws she’d upended. Forget about her swath of destruction. If they clunked heads, she was getting the frick out of there.
“See ya,” he called out when she finally made it to the door.
I sure as hell hope not.
Helen waved a hand over her shoulder. Eye contact was out of the question. As was any other kind of contact.
She made it back to the car without dropping anything else—small comfort since her dignity had already rolled away like the errant tampon. As had her cool in the humidity of this last day of May.
From the rearview window, Helen watched Hercules saunter to his truck, fold those long legs inside it, and drive away. She turned the key in the ignition and Elvis’s voice blasted from the speakers. All shook up, he sang.
Elvis who, if rumor was correct, had died eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich, buck-naked on his bathroom floor.
Death by sandwich—or embarrassment. Take your pick.
To Annie, every story is a love story, even Moby Dick. Why else would Captain Ahab chase that pesky whale all over creation? And the relationship between Huck and Tom in Huckleberry Finn has bromance written all over it. So naturally she writes romance novels. Her heroines and heroes never behave exactly as she wants them to, being spirited, independent folk. And they talk back. When they should be listening. To her. But if they make their fetching way into readers’ hearts, well, then, she’s perfectly fine with that.
When she’s not wrestling her daydreams into prose—in which she uses words like fetching with wild abandon—Annie wields a palette, spade, and mandolin (the kitchen utensil, not the instrument) with less-than-wild abandon. The pen is mightier than the sword, but she’s scared to death of an empty canvas, rampant zucchini, and her food processor.
In possession of (too) many academic degrees, a well-worn passport, and stacks of Change of Address forms tracking her moves from one end of the United States to the other, Annie now resides in the Midwest with her husband, a gazillion photos of her two sons who’ve recently flown the nest, darn them, and an alarming number of books, swimming goggles, and shoes. Annie loves to hear from her readers. You can find her here:


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