Excerpt: Why I Held Your Hand - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

Laura Delaney loves her small mountain hometown of North Powell with its quaint charm, stately Victorian homes and surrounding hiking trails. Unfortunately, when it comes to attracting travel dollars, it can no longer compete with the flashy hot springs and ski slopes of nearby competitors.

That’s why she hires a hotshot marketing team to figure out how to inject the old magic back into North Powell’s sagging tourist trade. What she doesn’t expect is for the team to include David Harper. Smart, funny, handsome, and amazing in bed, he’s the perfect man. All she needs to do now is keep their relationship under wraps until the project is over.

But that’s easier said than done when she’s assigned to work with Spence Markham, the company’s offbeat “idea man” and David’s professional nemesis. When Spence suggests hosting a Dickens Festival to revitalize the town’s once-booming holiday season, Laura is thrilled. She’s even more thrilled when Spence falls in love with Powell House, the dilapidated Victorian that Laura hopes to renovate and turn into a town museum. But is Spence falling in love with her as well?

As the Festival nears, Laura’s feelings for both men intensify. Her relationship with David has only gotten better—and hotter—and yet she finds herself counting down the days until she can see Spence again.

Soon, what started as a simple assignment becomes a tale of two possible futures. But which one will Laura choose?

Book Type:

Holiday Romance

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Why I Held Your Hand
By Augusta Reilly

Excerpt: Why I Held Your Hand

If you are looking for a small-town, holiday romance, look no further than WHY I HELD YOUR HAND by Augusta Reilly! This delightful, sexy, feel-good rom-com is out now and you can read an excerpt below!

Laura awoke to find a twelve-year-old boy in a baseball cap staring at her through her open car window. He was wearing a frilly pink 34D bra over his Little League jersey. It was her first clue that this wasn’t going to be an ordinary Monday.

She had been awake now for about ten seconds, and what she’d figured out so far was this: she was lying in the back seat of her car in a parking lot somewhere, her bare legs dangling out the window and the skirt of her long yellow sundress bunched up around her hips. The top of her sundress was partially unbuttoned, and her hands were under the fabric, happily resting on her breasts. She wasn’t sure how she’d gotten herself into this situation, but she knew she’d managed to do it without the help of drugs or alcohol, which somehow made it worse.

The arrival of a second spectator at the scene was her next clue that something wasn’t right. A dark-haired young man wearing a grey suit and tortoise shell glasses was suddenly standing beside the boy. He was smiling. “Hello, Laura,” he said, looking incredibly happy to see her. “So sorry I’m late. There was an accident on the interstate.”

She had no idea who the man was, why he was apologizing to her, or how many of his old college buddies he would share this story with later. “I forgive you,” she said. “Could you please ask your son to give me my bra back?”

“Him?” the stranger said, thumbing to the boy at his side. “I’ve never seen him before. I thought he was a friend of yours.” He turned to his fellow spectator. “Jeffrey,” he said, “could you please give the nice lady her bra back?”

The boy, motionless until now, turned and bolted across the parking lot.

“Sorry,” the stranger said. “If you want, I can chase him down and wrestle the bra off of him, but I don’t know how I’ll explain myself to the police.”

“How did you know his name?” Laura asked, suspicious.

“It was on the back of his uniform.” “How did you know my name?”

“Parking pass,” he said, pointing at her windshield. “And why are you so happy to see me?”

He looked at her chest. “Besides that,” she said.

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t introduce myself, did I?” He extended a hand through the window. “David Harper. KPS Marketing. I’m your ten o’clock appointment.”

And suddenly she remembered. She was in the parking lot of the North Powell town hall. It was Monday morning, June third, and she had a meeting with KPS Marketing. She’d been preparing since eleven last night and had come out to her car about an hour ago to take a power nap before the meeting. KPS represented some of the most luxurious (and expensive) travel brands in the country, and she represented one of the most unglamorous (and broke) tourist towns in the state. As such, her top priority was to make a good first impression.

Well, she’d made an impression, alright. She supposed the proper next step was to accept David’s handshake. But both her hands were still otherwise occupied.

“Sorry,” she said, still on her back. “I’ve been here working since last night and I came out to my car to take a little nap before the meeting and took my bra off for comfort and . . . you know what?” she said, interrupting herself. “I can’t really think of any way to get myself out of this situation in an intelligent or dignified manner, so I’m just going to stop trying. Could you please spin around for a second while I freshen up?”

“Of course,” David said.

While his back was turned to her, she sat up and quickly buttoned her dress. Smoothing out her skirt and combing out her long red curls with her fingers, she grabbed her briefcase from the front seat and stepped out of the car.

When David turned around, Laura’s hand was extended and waiting for him. “Thank you so much for coming all the way in from the city,” she said. “It’s so nice to meet you.”

The plan was to pretend this silly little semi-topless moment had never happened. But evidently, he wasn’t going to let her off the hook that easily. He did not accept her handshake. Instead, he looked around to make sure no one was watching.

“Listen, Laura,” he said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll never have a better ‘first time I saw your mom’ story than this, so all I ask is that you think about marrying me. You can give me your answer after the meeting.”

She laughed. And felt an enormous wave of relief. Making light of this extremely awkward moment was much better than pretending it wasn’t there, and she was grateful to David for handling it with tact and humor.

“The twins and I will need to discuss your proposal in depth before we give you our answer,” she said as they finally shook. “I’m sure you understand.”

He responded with a laugh that seemed genuine, and he suddenly seemed more handsome than he had two minutes ago. It was the smile. He looked nice. She especially liked his glasses. He looked smart. He appeared to be about thirty, a good age for a man. Old enough to be responsible and committed, but young enough to be fun and exciting. And in this case, available. She’d noted his ringless finger when they’d shaken hands.

“Let me carry that for you,” he said, taking her briefcase.

Walking across the parking lot with him at her side, she judged that he was about six feet tall to her five-foot-one frame. Tall was good. As was gentlemanly.

Speaking of gentlemen. “Weren’t there supposed to be two more of you?”

“James and Spence,” David said. “We came in separate cars. They’re already inside.”

“Oh my gosh,” Laura said, trotting up the front steps of town hall. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea anyone was waiting for me.”

A minute later they entered the conference room, and Laura took her place at the head of the table. To her left sat a freckled redhead who could have been her long-lost twin from the old country, only better dressed. He wore a neatly pressed blue suit and was pulling something out of his four-hundred-dollar leather briefcase. When David sat down beside him, the two of them together looked like the cover boys of Consummate Professional magazine. Across from them was a young man with disheveled sandy-brown hair and no tie who looked like he’d wandered into the meeting by accident during a sleepwalking episode. Other than twirling a pencil, he showed few signs of life.

At the opposite end of the table sat Carolyn, North Powell’s mayor. She looked like a bitch, because she was one.

Laura put her twenty-dollar acrylic briefcase on the table and jumped right in. “So sorry to keep you all waiting,” she said, extending her hand to the redhead. “Laura Delaney. Director of Economic Development.”

The man stood up and accepted her handshake. “James Murphy,” he said with a friendly smile. “VP of Strategy. We talked on the phone. Always a pleasure to meet a fellow ginger.”

The sleepwalker stood up next, barely making eye contact as he extended his hand. “Spence,” he said, not offering up a last name. “Creative Services.”

She was already late, so she got straight to business once everyone was reseated. “I know you gentlemen are very busy, so I’ll jump right in.”

Her text tone pinged, and she looked down at her phone. It was from Carolyn.

Love your boobs. Thanks for sharing them with us.

She could feel her Irish face turning red. If Carolyn could tell she was braless, so could everyone else at the table. But she didn’t have time to be self-conscious. This was KPS, and their time was valuable.

“So,” she said, launching into her prepared speech, “as James and I discussed last week, for almost sixty years, North Powell was the most popular tourist town in the state. We were known for our quaintness, our Victorian architecture, and our charming main street.”

“Really?” said David. “The most popular in the whole state?”

“During the holidays, yes,” she said. “Our family- owned businesses earn thirty percent of their entire yearly revenues between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.”

Her text tone pinged again. It was Carolyn.

Are you wearing underpants or is that too professional for you?

She’d respond to that later.

“I own one of the shops on Main Street,” Laura continued, turning her phone face down on the table, “and I can personally tell you that the Christmas season is integral to my business’s success. Unfortunately, we’re smack-dab between Haven and Bainbridge, and as everyone in the state knows, in the last ten years they’ve gone from small ski villages to two of the most popular resort towns in the entire country. They’re slaughtering our local economy, so we’ve finally decided to hire a marketing firm, because, frankly, we’ve tried everything and it just keeps getting worse.”

“Just curious,” David said. “There are a million marketing firms that specialize in tourism. What made you decide to contact KPS?”

“Andrew Roth from Birch Hill. He gave me the name of someone at KPS who he said did a really great job.” She picked up her phone and started scrolling through her texts, looking for the referral. “Okay, here it is. Spencer Markham, Director of Creative Services.” It took her a minute to register the name, but then it clicked. She looked at the sleepwalker. “That’s you, right?”

Spence raised a single finger. It was his entire response.

James chimed in. “You’ll have to pardon Spence. If you’re thinking he’s spent this entire meeting with his head in the clouds, you’re right. He’s our resident dreamer and best idea guy, and what he lacks in social graces and fashion sense he makes up for in creative skills. Believe it or not, you’ll have a lot of fun working with him. I, on the other hand, am a little less exciting. I’ll be your chief demographics analyst…”

James blathered on some more about statistics and logistics and a bunch of other stuff Laura couldn’t care less about. She was in a hurry to get to more important topics. “And you, David,” she said when James finally closed his mouth, “what would your role be?”

“Well,” David said, “if you decide to go with KPS, I’ll be your project manager. So, I’d be working with you every step of the way—”

You’re hired.

“How much is this going to cost?” said Carolyn, bringing the pleasantries to an abrupt halt.

“I’ll be liaising with our finance team to prepare three quotes,” David said. “When we’re marketing a tourist town such as yours, the low end is usually about three million dollars. The high end, not more than ten.”

Dead silence followed. A few moments later, it was broken by Laura’s text tone.

She turned her phone faceup.

I take it back, bring on the boobs. They’re our only hope.

Laura decided to ignore Carolyn’s advice and leave her two most persuasive arguments inside her dress. They’d already shouldered more than their fair share of the workload today.

She returned her focus to David. “That’s a bit higher than we were hoping,” she said. “Our max budget—”

“We could sell the whole damn town for less than that,” Carolyn said.

Laura smiled at her guests, trying to keep the conversation friendly. “Our max budget is a hundred thousand.”

“I knew this was a waste of time,” Carolyn said as she stood up and walked towards the door. “Nice meeting you all.”

The door slammed behind her.

Laura sat down. “You’ll have to excuse Carolyn,” she said. “She won the election by playing rock paper scissors and hasn’t quite mastered the whole political charm thing yet.”

But no one was looking at her. They were looking at each other, trading glances back and forth and mouthing silent words. She couldn’t read their lips, but she assumed they were all saying something to the effect of How soon can we get the hell out of here? She saw David mouth “Yes?” to his coworkers, to which they both responded by making an OK sign, which she took to mean, “Yes, let’s make a run for it.”

“I do thank you all for coming out here today,” she said, eager to end the public humiliation. “I’m really sorry our budget—”

“We’d like to bring the information you’ve given us back to the office,” David said. “We can have three quotes to you by Thursday.”

She said nothing, momentarily stunned. “Seriously?” “KPS takes on a small number of what we call

‘goodwill’ clients every year. That doesn’t mean we’ll work for free, but it does mean that you could retain our services at a greatly reduced price. I can’t make any promises, but I can assure you that James, Spence, and I will make our best efforts to persuade management that North Powell is a worthy candidate for the goodwill program.”

“Okay,” she said, still digesting this potentially great news. “I mean, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.”

She sounded like Elvis. What an idiot.

“Our pleasure,” said David as the three representatives of KPS started gathering their things. James and Spence said their goodbyes and departed.

But David remained. “You mentioned you owned a shop here in town,” he said. “I passed a shop called ‘Creations by Laura’. Is that you?”

“Wow,” she said, impressed. “You’re observant.

Yes, that’s my shop.”

“I saw some kind of knitting kit in your display window—”

Her text tone dinged from inside her bag.

“Did you need to see who that is?” David asked. “It’s Carolyn telling me what a loser I am,” Laura

said. “Anyway, the knitting kit?”

“Right,” David said. “My mother’s birthday is this weekend, and knitting is her latest passion. Is it okay if I drop by the store and have a look at it?”

“Sure,” Laura said. “But the basket you’re talking about is a beginner’s kit. I’m happy to put together something more level-appropriate.”

“Well, she just started knitting last month and so far, she’s made me a square, a rectangle, a parallelogram and a rhombus. All pink. They were supposed to be ski hats, but I can’t get them to stay on my head. And also, I don’t ski. And also, it’s June. So yeah, a knitting kit that requires a minimal amount of effort and common sense is perfect.”

“I think I can help you out,” she said, laughing. “Are you the primary victim of her knitting?”

“I am. I have been her victim on many levels for thirty-two years.”

“Meet me at the store in fifteen minutes. I’ll get you that basket and we’ll pick out some new yarns for you.”

“Great,” said David. “See you in fifteen.” He departed.

She grabbed her phone and looked at Carolyn’s text.

It was a boob emoji, because evidently such a thing existed. She read the message that followed.

I just got to my car and my idiot nephew is sitting in the passenger seat wearing a pink push-up bra. Any idea where he could have gotten it?

She turned off her phone. Little Jeffrey could keep the bra. She had plenty where that one came from, but there was only one David Harper, and he couldn’t be replaced for forty dollars at Victoria’s Secret. If she played her cards right, she might never have to feel herself up in the backseat of her car again.

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