Charmed by Charlie Excerpt
Everybody loves marketing whiz Charlie Solanger—except the woman he really wants.
Creative genius Charlie Solanger has it all: good looks, money, intelligence, charm. And when he swoops in to save Reynolds Paint Company with a brilliant marketing campaign, he has all the ladies in the office vying for his attention. Everyone except math whiz Valerie Wilson.
Val’s not happy Charlie stole her promotion. Worse, his brand of flirtatious charm is reminiscent of her cheating ex-fiancé. So, how come she can’t get him out of her head? The more she challenges him, the more interested—and interesting—he becomes. What secrets is Charlie hiding, and who or what is behind the sudden mysterious drain on their company’s funds? The only way to find out is to join forces. Then it will be a battle of wills...and a triumph of hearts.
AWARDS & HONORS
- Bronze medalist in the 2016 Cleveland Rocks Romance Writers Contest
- Recipient of Books & Benches Reviewer’s Choice Seal of Excellence
- Five star rating and voted Book of the Month by the Long and Short Reviews
"I get bored easily. I like a challenge."
He looked me in the eyes, and I noticed that his had that chess-playing spark in them again. He wasn't talking about just the consulting gig. His eyes said that I was a challenge, too. One he would not back away from.
My heart pounded, and my alter ego came out to play. This, my dear. This is what you have been missing with George. Blood rushed to my cheeks. I refused to hold Charlie's gaze and the promise it contained. Instead, I looked ahead and resumed my furious pace to the restroom. Long legs kept up with me.
"I think you'll find Julie is quite a challenge," I said.
"She's the least of my worries."
"My, my. You have worries already, and you've only been here a day. Welcome to the family."
"That was just a figure of speech, of course. I don't spend a lot of time worrying."
"Well, then I take back what I said. You don't belong here. We only hire worriers."
"And what do you worry about?"
"Keeping my job, paying my bills, George." Dammit, why did I have to go and bring him up.
Of course, Charlie seized on that single syllable. "You live alone so...George is your dog?"
"Yes, I mean no, he's my soon-to-be fiancé." How horrifying. He is a little doggish, isn't he? Comes when called, needs haircuts often. Stop it! Likes his stomach rubbed, a good eater. What's wrong with you?
"You have a fiancé?"
I nodded. "Yes, yes I do. Well, I mean we aren't technically engaged yet. We're saving for the ring."
"Ah. The ring."
"Yes, well, it's a beautiful ring. I mean it was his grandmother's. But we need to pay for it to be resized, and we’re updating the setting, which is taking a little longer than we would like."
"And what does your George do for a living?"
"He owns his own business," I said proudly. He was still trying to get it off the ground, but it was a business.
"What kind of business?"
"Well, George is Lebanese. He's been bottling and selling his Lebanese spices. You know, for cooking. They're quite good. George is a fantastic cook. We're having dinner tonight. He makes the best baba ghanoush I've ever tasted. Plus, his fattoush is to die for." I had reached the restroom. It was time to end the conversation and say goodbye.
"I don't mean to get too personal, but is George able to earn a living off the business?"
"Well, of course. I mean between that and his day job."
He propped himself against the wall outside the restroom, like it was the most comfortable pose in the world. "And that would be?"
"George works in his family's business."
"No. Listen, I gotta use the restroom. Talk later."
He reached one long arm out and snagged mine before I could push the bathroom door open. "No, sorry,” he said. “You can't leave me with a burning question like that in the back of my mind. Where might your Lebanese soon-to-be fiancé who is not a chef but cooks you meals and concocts spices, which as I think about it, he must do from his home at night since he has a day job…Where does he work Val?"
Hearing Charlie describe George was a bit overwhelming. "He's a...a...barber." Somehow, it didn't sound as impressive coming out as it did in my head.
"I see. How exactly did you meet George?"
Don't answer him. Don't. "Oh the usual way."
He watched me carefully, his blue eyes gleaming with intelligence and laughter. What he found funny was beyond me. George was not a funny topic.
"Let me guess. You needed a haircut and George gave you a trim."
"Of course not. What would I be doing in a barbershop?"
"True. So, you met him in a bar. George likes to party."
"A grocery story or laundromat."
"Ah-ha. It just came to me. George was picking up his dry cleaning. You came in to pick up yours and noticed that some of his shirts still had ring around the collar. You pointed it out and suggested a home remedy. George was intrigued and asked if you could show him how you make it. He invited you to his family barbershop. You showed up, cleaned his dirty shirts, he invited you to taste his spices and the rest is history."
Boy, this guy did have a good imagination. No wonder he was hired to provide a creative solution to our sales slump. I couldn't help but crack a smile. "Wrong."
"You met over coffee?"
"Am I warm?"
"So it was over food. Of course. George was at his favorite Lebanese joint, scoping the place out for future ownership, when in walks his dream girl. He looks at you with his big brown puppy dog eyes and tells you to try the hummus. Then he tells you that he supplied the spices in the hummus and the rest is history. You and George are getting married. You fell in love over Lebanese food. The way to Val's heart is through her stomach."
I couldn't stop the giggle from forming and escaping from my lips. He was funny, as well as cute and smart. Jackpot. I was in real trouble.
I reminded myself again why I didn't like charmers. Why I had sought out a man like George. A good, hardworking man who wouldn't flirt with other women or tell funny jokes or lie between his teeth or sleep with my roommate. "What is this, Twenty Questions? Enough already. I need to use the restroom."
"So, I'm right. You and George bonded over food."
I’d had enough. I pushed the door open and went inside, where I would be safe. But Charming Charlie wasn't done. As the door shut behind me, I heard him say, "Does George give out doggy bags?"
George Haddad's recipe for homemade hummus. When he's not working as a barber in his family's business, George likes to prepare family favorites, like this classic homemade hummus recipe. Pair this with your favorite fresh vegetables and pita bread and enjoy!
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas
1 large lemon, squeezed
1/4 cup tahini
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
2 - 3 tablespoons water
Dash ground paprika, for serving
Directions: Place the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor and process for 1-1/2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the food processor and process for 1 minute, scraping the sides and bottom of the processor. Drain the chickpeas, add half to the food processor and process for 1 minute, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the chickpeas and process 1-2 minutes or until thick and smooth. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water and process until you reach the perfect consistency. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of paprika. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.