“Any Way You Fight It” by Monique McDonell
Blurb: Matchmaking came easily for Cherie . . . unless she was matching herself. A successful realtor, Cherie could sell a piece of property with ease, she could match up her friends with their perfect mates, but she couldn’t seem to find love for herself. Heck, even her seventy-five-year-old Nona was dating again! Cherie had the perfect love once, or so she had thought. But that was a long time ago, and yet, Luke was the standard by which she measured all potential mates.
After matching her two best friends and watching them live their happily ever afters, Cherie decides it’s time to make a change and get back in the game. Now all she needs to do is balance what she wants (a Luke-alike) with the demands of her crazy Italian family (a good, Catholic Italian boy).
Just when she is ready to shake off her past and move forward, her past walks through the door of her favorite local pub with her best friends. Luke is back, looks better than ever, and still has eyes for Cherie. And Cherie can’t control the heat she still has for him. But as with most long-lost loves, he has a past as well, and that past just might prevent Cherie from finding her happiness despite what her Nona’s visions predict.
Can Cherie and Luke make peace with their pasts and look forward to a new life together? Or will this be the final good-bye?
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Lucy called me the next day. I was unlocking the door to my office. I was juggling keys, a folder, a latte, and an open house sign but I still managed to take the call.
“What’s up, buttercup?” I said.
“Not much . . .” I could visualize her on the other end in kitchen whites and a hairnet trying to come up with a witty reply. “You sound perky today. Piper said you were exhausted last night.”
“I was. Still am, actually.” That wasn’t a lie. I barely slept, tossing and turning all night with sexy and angry thoughts about Luke. “Your call perked me right up. Oh yeah, and I’m about to down my third coffee.”
“Oh, I hope you’re okay.”
“I’ll be fine. What’s happening there?”
“Well, you met the hottie corporate sent to help us with branding.”
“Don’t you have a fiancé already?” I tried not to let jealousy seep in. Keep it light, Cherie.
“A girl can look. Anyway, you don’t have a fiancé . . .”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want a fiancé, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want that guy.”
“He seems pretty cool.”
“Not my type.” I needed to shut this down. “Anyway, he’s probably married. How long is your new eye candy in town anyway?”
“He’s not, married I mean. A week or two, but he’ll be back and forth.” Great. “Maybe you two could . . .”
“Thanks for pimping out your new colleague, but if I wanted a guy, I could find my own.” I tried to sound haughty. “Anyway, Lucy, I have to run. I have about a million calls to return. ”
I dropped my bundle, minus the coffee of course, on the office sofa and turned at the sound of the bell above my front door tinkling. There in resplendent glory -today in chinos and a white shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows, offsetting a killer tan- was Luke.
“Not your type, huh?” he said, closing the space between us a little.
“First of all, don’t you know it is rude to eavesdrop and second, definitely not.”
“I used to be,” he said, one hand shoved in his pocket and the other gesticulating.
“Well, we all used to be different, didn’t we?”
“I bet we’re not all that different, you know.”
“That’s hardly a ringing endorsement for either of us.” I leaned back against the edge of my desk, using it to balance me, and took a long sip of my latte. Some days there just wasn’t enough coffee in the world.
“I don’t know, I thought we were decent kids back then . . .”
“Until at least one of us wasn’t.”
“And which one was that?” he asked as if he didn’t know. The bastard.
“What brings you here, Luke? I kind of have a lot to get done today.”
“I wanted to see you.”
“You’ve seen me.” I sounded like such a cold bitch. He would have no doubt that I had changed by the end of this conversation. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be that sweet young girl again, but he’d changed me and anyway, I was not her. I was an independent thirty-year-old woman.
“And I wanted to say obviously I had no idea you had any connection to Piper, and I’m sorry we were both blindsided that way last night.”
“It’s okay. Small world and all that.” I tried to take another sip of my coffee but, sadly, the well was dry.
“It was really nice to see you, Cherie. I’ve often wondered how you were, what you did . . .” his voice trailed away.
I wanted to say, Dude, you could have called or written or maybe not just vanished back then, but I didn’t.
“You’re obviously keeping well.”
“Can’t complain.” He shoved his second hand in his pocket. “So, do you want to still act like we don’t know each other? These are your friends; this is your life . . .”
That was nice at least. “I kind of assumed yes. Then again, I don’t like lying to them . . .”
“How about I say that I realized I recognized you from the neighborhood? Nothing more.”
“Okay, but they’re pretty nosy, so if they wise up or it feels weird for me, I’ll tell them, and I’ll let you know. Lucy and Piper can keep a secret.”
“I don’t suppose you want to have dinner or a donut for old-time’s sake?”
“You know what, I really don’t. It’s nice to see you’re happy and doing well, but . . .”
“Okay.” He turned to leave. “As you wish.”
He did not just quote the Princess Bride to me. Oh yes, he freaking did!
Any Way You Fight It – excerpt 2
“Right—I’m going to give you the abridged version.”
“I’ll take whatever you offer,” she said.
“Well, when I was eighteen I had a romance, I suppose you’d call it.”
“Yeah if this was eighteenth-century England.”
“Whatever,” I sighed. “And it was a secret. He knew, I knew, and one friend.”
“Nope, he wasn’t Italian, and I just didn’t want them stalking me and ruining everything.”
“Makes sense. I never had that kind of family. I could have dated an axe murderer and my mom would have been happy I had a man, but I can see your situation was different.”
“Yeah, so we had this lovely summer fling. And then he dumped me.”
“Yeah, and he just left and didn’t say good-bye.”
“Yeah, it was. And it hurt and probably more so because no one knew so I had to act all normal and I couldn’t discuss it with anyone.”
“So, you’ve never talked about it?” Her eyes popped wide.
“I never have.” I took a fortifying sip of beer. “The thing is I date, I flirt, but I haven’t really met anyone who made me feel like that guy did.”
“Wow. That’s a long time between boyfriends.”
“Yeah, I went out with a couple of nice guys in college, one for almost a year, but that spark or whatever wasn’t there. And because of my parents’ whole ‘you can’t end up with someone who isn’t Italian’ attitude and because I haven’t met any Italian guys who lit that flame . . .”
“You’ve stayed single . . .”
“Exactly.” I sighed.
“But now you’re ready to move forward, why is that? I mean I know that was big for you to tell me, but you didn’t tell me anything Piper couldn’t have handled.”
“There’s more . . .”
“Oh goody!” She clapped her hands.
“Calm down, Glinda the Good Witch. This is hard for me.”
“Sorry, but what’s changed? Is it because Piper and I have found someone?”
“I think partly, but a couple other triggers have hit as well.”
“I think we need fries for this part?” she asked, waving down the waiter. “Okay continue.”
“First, although it didn’t happen first, my mother has waived the Italian rule. Apparently having a single thirty-year-old daughter who isn’t producing offspring means she has to compromise, so I’m allowed to date non-Italians now.”
“That’s pretty huge for her.”
“Yeah and for me. The thing is part of me is really resentful about it. I’m happy but I’m also thinking—now, why now? Why not ten years ago, five? All these years . . .”
“That makes sense.” The fries landed and we each took one and blew it. We had years of experience and neither of us was stupid enough to burn our tongues now. I squirted ketchup in the corner of the basket. We liked to dunk or scrape our fries through not smother them. “On the other hand, better now than never.”
“So that’s good news for moving forward.” She snapped her fry and popped half in her mouth. “So, what was the other thing?”
“I saw him again.”
“Him? The guy from way back when?”
I nodded. “The guy.”
“Wow. Where? When? Who?”
“Here. Last week. Luke.”
“Holy shit, Cherie. Luke?” Lucy’s eyes were bugging out of their sockets.
“Yep, holy shit.”
“You dated Luke? He dumped you and then he walked in to this very bar years later?”
“And we made you guys hang?”
“And how was that?”
“It was freaking weird.” That was an understatement.
“He’s very hot; I can see why you had a fling with him. You have excellent taste.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“So, did you find out why he dumped you?”
“I didn’t ask. It doesn’t matter. It’s old news. Seeing him again just proved to me it is time to get on with my life. It’s time to take a chance again, and now that I can date beyond the Italian-American community, I can find myself a Luke-alike.”
“A Luke-alike. A guy like Luke.”
“Why can’t you just date the real Luke?”
It did seem like an obvious solution but the real Luke was in love with his dead fiancée. I didn’t need to go into that.
“The real Luke lives in New York and is emotionally unavailable. But I will admit he is hot, and apparently that kind of hot is my kind of hot.”
“So you want my help to find you a Luke-alike?” she asked, finally putting the pieces to the puzzle together.
“Chase must know tons of blond, buff babes who could maybe like me.”
“Babe, anyone who doesn’t like you is an idiot. Have you seen yourself? You are gorgeous. And now you’re gorgeous and open to possibilities.”
She clapped her hands again. “This is going to be so fun. Now I get to be the matchmaker.”
I wasn’t sure how Lucy’s matchmaking skills were to be honest, but she was all I had. It did feel better to have told someone.
* * * * *
**About Monique McDonell: I am an Australian author who writes contemporary women’s fiction including chick lit and romance. I live on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with my husband and daughter, and despite my dog phobia, with a dog called Skip.
I have written all my life especially as a child when I loved to write short stories and poetry. At University I studied Creative Writing as part of my Communication degree. Afterwards I was busy working in public relations I didn’t write for pleasure for quite a few years although I wrote many media releases, brochures and newsletters. (And I still do in my day-job!)
When I began to write again I noticed a trend – writing dark unhappy stories made me unhappy. So I made a decision to write a novel with a happy ending and I have been writing happy stories ever since.
I have been a member of the writing group The Writer’s Dozen for eight years. Our anthology Better Than Chocolate raised over $10,000 for the charity Room to Read and helped build a library in South East Asia. I am also a member of the Romance Writers of Australia. I was also had a piece in the Australian non-fiction book Copyfight in 2015.
I have written five stand-alone romantic comedies and three books in the Upper Crust Series; “Any Way You Slice It,” “Any Way You Dream It,” and “Any Way You Fight It.”
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