Author: Ginger Voight
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When full-figured Caitlin O’Neil moves to Los Angeles to begin her career as a creative director at an up-and-coming art gallery, she feels confident that after years of self-imposed celibacy she can find a suitable gent for a long awaited romance.Los Angeles was a sea of millions of souls, after all. How hard could it be to land one who was intelligent, kind, romantic and appreciated a successful, fun-loving gal with generous curves?After a few disastrous non-starts, however, Caitlin decides romance is a safer concept when contained within her mailbox. Anonymous and poetic picture postcards arrive every week without fail, addressed to the former occupant, and weave a romantic mystery reality can’t quite match. Around the time they stop, a couple of men enter Cait’s life who turn her heart upside down. One is the suave and sophisticated Reuben, who whisks her away on unforgettable dates to sweep her completely off her feet. Her other steady is her best friend Robert, a romantic cynic who keeps her laughing and always comes to her rescue when she needs him the most. Will they be able to fill the gap left by the mysterious postcard writer? Or, as the postcards mysteriously start up again – this time to Caitlin herself, could it be possible that one of these two very different men the man she’d been dreaming of all along? It’s just a 20th Century fairy tale, made possible by the United States Postal Service.
Teaser from “Picture Postcards”
Robert stared at me, completely shell-shocked. “You’re going away with him? When?”I smiled. “As soon as we can arrange it. I’ve been thinking about it and I just finally asked myself, what am I waiting for? Here’s this guy who basically rose from the pages of a romance novel and he is willing to sweep me off my feet. The least I can do is let him.” I suppressed a giggle at the thought. Who would have ever thought the plain Jane like me, who kept her nose in a book while all her girlfriends were going to proms and sorority mixers, would end up with a wealthy European suitor willing to give her all her dreams at her demand? “It’s the fairy tale come true. How can I say no?”Robert sighed and reached for his drink. “Sometimes fairy tales are better left fairy tales,” he said softly without looking at me.This was unchartered territory for the two of us. As much as we shared we never had shone a light into his past, the one that made him so bitter and cynical in regards to matters of the heart. “Someone really hurt you, didn’t she?” I asked.He glanced up with a wounded look in his eyes that made my soul ache. I wanted to jump across the booth where we sat eating lunch and take him into my arms. I loved him far too much to let him feel that kind of pain alone. He glanced away quickly as if he had shown too much. “You open yourself up, hurt happens.”I reached for his hands with mine. “And sometimes it’s worth it,” I countered. “To hold and be held, to know that you are truly wanted, truly appreciated. It’s what we all want deep down.”He bravely managed a smile. “And you deserve it, Cait. That and more.”I squeezed his hands. “As do you.”He shook his head. He was not convinced. “I’ll just live vicariously through you.”That made me sad. I couldn’t bear the thought of his being all alone. So I let him know he would never be alone if I had anything to say about it. “This changes nothing between us, Robert. You are my dearest friend and nothing will change that. I love you, you know.”I might have been imagining it but he looked like that information pained him more than comforted him. He gave me a half-hearted smile and whispered, “I know.”I couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation even once I returned to work. Jeff was quick to notice when he entered my office holding an expensive camera. “Alan dropped of the camera, Cait,” he said and I merely nodded, half-hearing what he had said, even though he forged on into a full conversation.I kept thinking about that wounded look in Robert’s eyes. I recognized the odd wheel out expression of someone stuck on the outside looking in. That’s so not what I wanted for him.“CAIT. LYN.”My head snapped back as I glanced where Jeff stood in front of the desk. “What?”He closed the portfolio I was staring through and perched on the desk. “Spill.”“It’s nothing,” I tried to shrug off, but Jeff was not so easily dismissed. He arched his eyebrow. “I dunno,” I sighed. “Do you think… has Robert ever said anything to you about being unhappy with my relationship with Reuben?”“Ah,” he said. “He’s probably just worried about you. We all are.”“What do you mean by ‘we’? Is there some sort of intervention in the works or something?”He shook his head. “Of course not,” he said.I jumped out of my chair. “And need I remind you that you were the ones who told me to abandon the postcards for something real. Sow my wild oats, remember?”“Caitlin, I love you. We all love you. But honey, you’re so far out of Reuben’s league you’re not even playing the same game.”That hurt. “Thanks a lot.”He walked around to face me. “This isn’t some casual thing. The stakes are much higher now. You went from double-bolting your chastity belt to booking a European vacation with Reuben overnight. I just don’t want you to…you know… expect too much from someone like him. He’s not some safe anonymous stranger on a postcard.”“You don’t know him,” I argued. “This is different.”“Don’t you see? You’re still chasing rainbows,” he countered.I tipped my chin in defiance. “How else am I going to catch one?” I asked before I grabbed my purse and stalked from the office.The two encounters with two people who meant the most to me left me off center. I tried to call Reuben but he had been called away yet again, this time to New York City. I tried not dwell on the fact the closer we got the more absent he became. I was getting sadly used to being ditched at the last minute while my exciting boyfriend jetted all over the world.But such was his life. He had stakes in several major art galleries in several countries. I could no more ask him to drop everything to stay with me than he could expect me to drop everything and go with him.We’d make it work.I thought about my postcards with a smile. These were my ties to him, and they stretched far without breaking.Truthfully the fact that he had gone gave me more of a chance to spend time with Robert, just one-on-one. I couldn’t be truly happy knowing he wasn’t. And our time alone gave us a chance to forget about all the other stuff.When he called me that Saturday to join him for an afternoon at the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew nothing about horse racing, and didn’t figure he did either, but he was known to surprise me before.The closer we got to the entrance, the more his ulterior motive revealed itself. It was Free Hat Day, and my friend was notoriously and freakishly cheap.“The lengths you go to just to get something for free,” I said with a shake of my head.He smiled wide. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”“Oh no? What about that time you bought more than one hundred dollars of groceries to get that $19.99 cook ware set for free?”“Hey, don’t judge. I cooked your tofu in that.”I laughed. “And what about the time you went crazy about those free coupons for that new cereal? You drove all over town buying newspapers just to get as many coupons as you could. Then when the store wouldn’t let you redeem them all at one time, you drove all over town again just to purchase one box from every store.”“It was good cereal,” he defended. “Fluffy even liked it,” he said, referring to his parakeet, “which saved me a bundle on birdseed.”“And how about all those mail order clubs you belong to? How many CDs do you have yet to buy?”“How do you think I bought your birthday present?” he retorted. “God knows I wouldn’t be caught dead publicly buying that yahoo music you find so entertaining. And besides…I think you’re exaggerating just a little bit. We haven’t known each other long enough for there to have been all these times you’re talking about.”“Ha,” I scoffed. “We’re talking one month, pal. Face it. You’re cheap.”He straightened his posture a little. “I prefer ‘frugal.’”I gave him a stern look. “Explain Suzanne.”He laughed. “Now don’t you get started on my car. I happen to love her right to every rusted bolt.”“Oy.” I rolled my eyes. “You’ve given me absolutely no choice. I’m afraid I’m going to have to take you to TA.” He looked at me questioningly. “Tightwads Anonymous.”He feigned a hurt look. “I don’t have to take this. Now get up there and get me another free hat so I can go home.”I laughed. “I knew there had to be a catch why you brought me.”After getting his much-coveted caps and some racing programs, we walked up the incline and through the terminal to sit outside by the track. He treated us to soda and some nachos, so we were both heavily laden when we took our seats down by the stage. We were able to devour our snacks as we watched the horses’ parade on the track before the first race.“They’re so pretty,” I commented as I watched them regally prance by.He laughed as he looked over at me. “So are you. I especially love that new nacho cheese lipstick you’re wearing.”I used my tongue to wipe away the stray sauce, which made Robert look away to his program. Normally he’d tease me ruthlessly but something felt different now, though I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what. I tried to keep the mood light.“Do you know anything about horse racing?” I asked as I opened the program to the next race.“No,” he answered. “I was hoping you did.”“You certainly believe in taking chances, don’t you?”I was overjoyed to see that familiar smirk. “I believe that’s why they call it gambling, dear.”The crowd began to mill at the bottom of the hill toward the fence that looked out over the track, and the announcer with a distinguished British accent called the race with ease as it happened. I felt the hooves begin to thunder as the horses rounded the final curve and come into the home stretch. The crowd behind me started to roar as each one began to root loudly for the horses on which they bet. It was all very exhilarating, making it impossible not to join in the fun.Together we poured over the program, picking out horses by their names since that seemed as good a strategy as any. We discovered that picking all three horses that came in first, second and third was called a trifecta bet. It was during the post parade that I made my decision. A beautiful chestnut mare with a perfect white star on her face tried to walk right up to where I stood by the rail. Her beautiful chocolate brown eyes locked with mine and I knew instantly she wanted me to pick her.“She ‘told’ you she was going to win?” Robert asked, his trademark skepticism seeping into his playful tone.“Look at her name. Picture Perfect Destiny. She’s going to win, I’m telling you.”“Care to make it interesting?” he asked.“More interesting than the money we’ve already bet, you mean?”He laughed. “Money schmoney. I’m talking about a real wager.” His brown eyes glittered as he smiled down at me. “And no. I won’t sell my car.”I giggled. “Okay. Name your terms.”“If your horse doesn’t win, you reconsider going to Paris with Reuben.”The seriousness of his tone caught me by surprise. “What?”“You are the one who believes in fate. Let destiny decide if you take this next step.”“Jeff talked to you, didn’t he?” I asked immediately. This smacked of the aforementioned intervention.He shrugged. “If it were me, I would take my time before I jumped headlong into an affair with someone I barely knew, especially with someone who went so far out of their way to be too good to be true. When you get hurt, you learn to be more judicious. More practical. But you’re not me. You’re you. You believe in the fickle hand of fate working to the greater good. So I see no other alternative than to let the horse decide.”It was really starting to wear on me that the people who claimed to love me most were the ones who least trusted me to make my own decisions, specifically such a personal and important one. “So are you saying you don’t trust me to know when and whom to love?”“Do you trust yourself?” he wanted to know. “Or do you trust a postcard?”That cut me to the quick, mostly because it was truer than I wanted to admit. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll take your bet because I do believe in fate. And that’s why when my horse wins you’re going to have to go out on a date.”He laughed. “With who?”“I don’t know,” I said. “But we’ll figure that out later. If Picture Perfect Destiny wins it’ll be the universe’s way of saying you’ve nursed your wounds long enough. It’s time to move on. To be happy.” I stuck out my hand. “Deal?”He looked at my hand, then out at the horses. Finally he placed his hand in mine and held it for a second or so after he shook it. “Let’s let destiny decide.”“I always do,” I said with a smile of smug self-satisfaction.When it came time for the race Robert and I ran up to the fence, watching on the big screen as the horses sprang from the starting gate. My heart beat fast as I searched for my beautiful girl and realized she was right up in front. Together we screamed for our horses to come in, albeit in different places. Since we had “boxed” the trifecta bet it really didn’t matter which order, only that the three horses we picked were the ones to win, place and show.With only a minor duel at the 3/4 pole, Picture Perfect Destiny bounded away to win by a good three lengths. With one look at the tote board we realized that all three of our horses had come in, that we had won. Even better, the winnings totaled more than a thousand dollars which was large enough to momentarily distract us from our earlier private wager.With a victorious whoop I jumped up into Robert’s waiting arms, and he spun me around happily. As he set me back down his lips landed upon mine for an impulsive but celebratory kiss.At first I was so surprised I couldn’t move. Seconds dragged as I realized that the kiss had lingered longer than any other chaste and platonic kiss we had ever shared. All I could think about was the warmth of his mouth on mine and his taunt body pressed up against my own.In one fell swoop Robert ceased being my buddy and became a flesh-and-blood man. I stumbled away when he released me, looking for any signs that he had been equally affected. But he had a huge smile on his face as he looked down at me. “We did it, baby!”“We did,” I breathed, though I had to wonder what exactly we had done. In that moment the race seemed irrelevant. Instead all I could think about was how I could still feel the stubble of his beard on my face and the heat of his mouth on my own.
For more information about Ginger Voight, her books and the AWESOME GIVEAWAY this week – see my Author Page for Ginger – CLICK HERE