Sneak Peek Excerpt
the Forthcoming 5th
In the Hot In Magnolia
By Minette Lauren
ADVISORY – THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT CONTAINS PROFANITY**
Cecilia Lockwood grunted as she shimmied backward with the
tall parrot cage in her clenched fists. “Of all the good and bad luck in my
life, I’m not sure if my inheritance is the best or the worst.”
up!” The blue and gold macaw screeched.
it, you fancy blue chicken, I’m making parrot soup tonight, with a side of
green Quaker parrot, who had been out of his cage and resisting capture all
morning, stared at her from where he’d perched on top of her computer monitor.
blew at a stray lock of hair that escaped her long ponytail. Years ago, she’d
worn it at a fashionable length. That was before she’d lost her prestige with
the Magnolia Blossoms Ladies League.
An IRS audit revealed some of her extra
purchases with the non-profit money she’d earned, but she didn’t understand all
the fuss. She was the one who raised the money for charity, so why couldn’t she
enjoy a day at the spa or buy a new pair of shoes? At the time, she hadn’t
thought she was cheating anyone out of anything, but according to the IRS and
the whole flock of biddies in Magnolia, she’d done just that. After moving back
to Dallas with her mother and father, Todd and Brenda Lockwood, she thought
things would turn around. Celia felt she had better potential in a city like
Dallas and was over her big-fish-in-a-little-pond syndrome. She could admit now
that being the president of The Magnolia Blossoms wasn’t her destiny.
her father put her in the accounting office of his oil company, she’d felt
right at home. Taking up where she’d left off, Celia tallied columns of debits
and credits, including a small account for herself to buy whatever she wanted.
She worked hard for her father, so in her eyes, she was just rewarding herself
with an extra bonus for all her effort. Unbeknownst to Celia, her father’s
partner hired a spy. A very handsome co-worker named Steve, whom she’d taken
out to lunch several times with her petty cash account, and had almost taken to
bed once after a few too many martinis. Thank God, she hadn’t. It infuriated
her that the ratfink ratted her out. She’d trusted him enough to share her
secret, and he had sold her down the river for a promotion. When she was fired,
Steve took her job and her dignity. She’d cried to her mother without much
Lockwood sipped her mimosa and petted Mimi, the family’s black teacup poodle.
“Darling, why are you blubbering? You know your father. He loves you, and he
wants you to learn important lessons in life, but I say go get your money the
old-fashioned way. Find yourself a rich husband, like I did. Then you can visit
with your friends and shop until your heart is content.”
Celia pushed the cage into a corner, Chica, the blue and gold macaw, pinched
her finger through the bars, letting out another ear-piercing screech.
let out a howl of her own. “Ouch!”
gave the sassy parrot a low growl. Macaws weren’t usually the big talkers of
the parrot world, but this one wouldn’t shut up with the few words it knew.
Since inheriting her grandfather’s exotic bird sanctuary, and it being the only
source of income that she had, Cecilia had tried to catch up on understanding
parrots and the necessary habitat they needed to survive. The sanctuary ran off
regular donations, but it was barely enough to pay the utilities and have
enough left over to buy birdseed. She needed more, and if she had to put up
with a teenage macaw that hated her, so be it. When she started parrot
adoptions, Chica would be the first to go, but before that, she needed to teach
the saucy parrot some manners. Besides, repeating her name, hello, shut
up and pretty girl were the only other words Chica knew.
floated in the air as Celia swept the floor. As she pushed the broom around the
cages, she noticed Baby, the Quaker parrot, disappear into his cage. Just as
Celia snuck close enough to shut the flap to the enclosure, a knock sounded on
me, Miss.” A man’s voice called out, startling her and Baby, who flew back out
of his cage.
H Christ!” Celia grabbed her chest and spun on her heel. Glancing at the man
and then back at the cage, she scowled and then burst into tears. “Stupid
asshole,” she sobbed.
heard the door shut and the man’s boots on the hard tile as he approached.
“Hey, sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I closed the door so the bird won’t
escape. I’ll help you catch him.” There was a pause as he put his hand on her
felt her body shudder as she tried to gain control of her tears. Celia didn’t
even know why she was crying. She was tougher than this. A smarty-pants little
bird would not, could not, best her.
steady voice continued. “I promise. I’m not an asshole. I’ll make it up to you.
Do you have a towel and a ladder?”
made Celia’s tears turn to laughter. She was cursing the parrot who’d teased
her all morning, not the man. As she finally looked up at her visitor, she was
mesmerized by his clear blue eyes that were as light as Tiffany-blue glass. His
features were symmetrical, and his sandy-blond hair was golden in the light
pouring in from the window. He was the stuff of Greek God movie actors in those
delicious romantic comedies. His smooth southern drawl sent tingles from the
pit of her stomach to her toes. Even touching her shoulder, he was tender and
stood his distance, careful not to invade her space. His smile was warm and
showcased perfect white teeth.
still floated in the air around his head, giving him an ethereal look.
Entranced, she reached out and touched the side of his face. “Are you real?”
reached in his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, offering it to her. Who
carried a clean hanky in their pocket these days? As she dabbed at her eyes, it
occurred to her that there was no guarantee that it was indeed clean, and she
must look like a clown in her manic state. She quickly pressed the kerchief
back into his palm. Celia stared at him and he seemed to look back at her with
the same dazed look. Did he like what he saw as much as she liked looking at
him? It was then that she remembered her messy hair that the cockatiel had
perched in half of the morning, and the tired old gym clothes she’d been
wearing to clean cages. She probably had bird poop in her hair or worse, and he
was possibly contemplating how to tell her. Celia brushed at her shirt, as if
it would suddenly turn into a beautiful ball gown, and he would sweep her up in
his arms and carry her away from the cage she was living in. She snorted at the
hand shot out again, offering her the hanky.
Oh god. My life has got to get better than