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Marriage by the Book

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Marriage By the Book

Contemporary Single Titles

After sixty-three disappointing dates, Megan Padget has given up on finding love again. Her children think she should give it one more try—so they give her a book with dating instructions for her birthday.

HER BOOK: “Sex—Don’t Jump the Gun.” When Megan Padget’s kids give her a dating instruction book for her birthday, she isn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, but decides she owes it to them to check it out.

HIS BOOK: “Sex—When to Make Your Move.” Tom Steele can’t believe it when his brother and sister-in-law suggest he could use some dating advice—and give him a book on the subject. Some self-help book isn’t going to help him find the woman of his dreams. But after he reads the first chapter, something amazing happens, and Tom decides to keep reading!


Megan looked down at the bright red silk confection she was wearing. Her birthday book had suggested she buy only primary colors. Red sent a pretty basic message, all right. Hot, it said. Ready for sex, it said. I’m woman enough for your man, it said. Megan rolled her eyes. She wasn’t sure she was ready to handle the kind of sexual action this dress promised to get her.

She buttoned up the form-fitting bodice and looked at herself in the mirror. She recalled her birthday book’s advice:

Always buy clothing that looks easy to remove. Watch for items that have buttons or laces or zippers down the front. Leave a button or two undone. That way a man can easily imagine himself undressing you. Of course, a T-shirt without a bra has its own allure. Everyone knows how quickly a T-shirt can hit the floor.

She wasn’t about to wear a T-shirt to the faculty reception, but then she wasn’t so sure about this red dress, either. Tentatively she unbuttoned the first button, and then the second. The dress fell open provocatively. She swung her hips and the full skirt flowed around her. Lord in heaven! She actually looked sexy.

Her book had also suggested buying touchable fabrics such as silk, wool, and cotton. She fingered the silky material, pressed it down across her body, and felt its smoothness against her skin. She had to admit it felt sensual. The book had said:

You want a man to imagine his fingertips roaming the territory. What is he going to feel? Your clothing should suggest the softness of skin, the textures of sex.

The textures of sex? Sex wasn’t always the texture of silk to Megan’s way of thinking. The act of love grew out of the feelings two people had for one another—and as a woman who’d been married for ten years, she knew that often sex between two people reflected feelings that weren’t the least bit silky.

Sometimes it was rough, but fun, like terry cloth, a rollercoaster of ups and downs like Harris Tweed, or rich and full like brocade. There were other times it was adventuresome, like dungaree. There was a definite difference between sex that was soft and delicate like velveteen, and sex that was soft and wild like doeskin. Megan remembered a few snug fits—like banlon, and embraces as tight as corseting. Then there were the warm and tender moments like flannel. She’d had her share of stiff buckram sex, too. But her favorite sex was cotton. It was natural and honest and durable. And it lasted forever with care.

“Mom? Did you fall asleep in there?”

“I’ll be out in a second.” But it was several minutes before Megan finally made it out of the dressing room. “Here I am. Well, what do you think?”

“I think you look fantastic.”

Megan whirled to find the source of the deep masculine voice. And found herself eye-to-eye with Tom Steele, who was leaning casually against a wall of the department store. A sleeveless gray T-shirt revealed his muscular arms and the strength of his equally muscular chest. His lean, jeans-clad legs were crossed at his bare ankles, his feet encased in well-worn docksiders.

“What are you doing here?” she blurted.


“In ladies clothing?” Megan was upset because she’d dressed to attract this man and didn’t know how to handle herself now that he’d shown up in the flesh. It had been over a year since she’d last flirted with anyone.

The grin that spread across his face was one of pure male appreciation as he straightened and walked toward her. “I came to pick up my sister-in-law, Irene. She’s here somewhere trying on a few things.”

Megan hadn’t realized how totally focused she’d been on Tom until she realized Sarah had disappeared. She looked around and saw her daughter on the far side of the store talking with one of her girlfriends from school.

“We haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Tom Steele.”

Megan held her breath in anticipation as Tom extended his hand. His callused fingers firmly grasped her fingers and an electric shock raced up her arm. It was all she could do not to jerk her hand free.

“I’m Megan Padget. It’s nice to meet you, Dr. Steele.”


“Tom.” Megan’s lips curved in a smile of genuine pleasure.

Then they stood there and stared at each another.

His gaze rested on her face for a moment before it drifted down to her throat.

She groped self-consciously for the buttons she’d unfastened. As she fingered one of the few buttons still fastened, the dress fell even further open, revealing the rounded flesh of her breasts, thanks to her brand-new pushup bra. She immediately grabbed a handful of the silk in a wad at her throat. Surely he didn’t think she’d done that on purpose!

Tom’s eyes took on a hooded look as his glance slid back to her face. His gaze was intense, his eyes dark. She wondered if he was imagining himself undressing her, as the book had said he would. How did he see her?

She felt her nipples pucker beneath the silk, painfully aware that with the sheer bra she was wearing, her arousal must be showing through the dress. Her lips opened to sip a shallow breath of air, as she imagined a sensual fantasy that could have only one ending.

Megan caught a glimpse of Sarah across the store, sorting through a table of designer blue jeans, and stiffened. How could she have so completely forgotten her daughter’s presence? This was no time to stand here daydreaming. She needed to get this meeting over with before Sarah returned and started asking embarrassing questions.

“It’s . . .” she croaked. Megan cleared her throat and tried again. “It’s an honor to have someone with your credentials teaching at St. Mark’s this year. You mentioned you’re meeting your sister-in-law. Does that mean you have family living here in Miami?”

“My brother, Randy, and his wife.”

“She’s the one you’re meeting?”

“Yes. Is your husband shopping somewhere in the mall?” Tom could have kicked himself for asking such an obvious question. Where was his savoir faire? Not to mention his subtlety? It had been a long time since he’d been so attracted to a woman, and naturally, his brain couldn’t seem to get an intelligent message to his mouth.

“My ex-husband died two years ago. I’m not married.” Megan groaned inwardly. Dumb, dumb, dumb! Of course she wasn’t married if Gary was her ex-husband. Did she have to announce her availability so clumsily?

“Are you shopping for something special?” he asked.

“I’m looking for something to wear to the faculty reception. What do you think?” She held the full red skirt away from her hips. That necessitated releasing the bodice, which fell open with a vengeance.

His lips quirked. “I think you’ll make quite a splash.”


Rave Reviews

“Ms. Johnston writes of intense emotions and tender passions that seem so real, readers will feel each one of them.” 


Print Length: 210 pages
Publisher: Joan Mertens Johnston, Inc.,  August 2, 2016
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0991250737
ISBN-13: 978-0991250738


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