Thanks for hosting me today, Jessica, and congratulations on your new release. I sat down the other day for a chat with Monica Sims, a marine biologist and sea turtle expert at Gulf Shore Aquarium. Monica is one of the characters featured in my Gulf Shore contemporary romance series and she stars in Book 2, Shore Feels Right.
Hi, Monica. How are things at the aquarium?
Busy, as always. We just took in several more turtles in our rehabilitation center. They’re green sea turtles afflicted with the fibropapilloma virus, which causes cauliflower-looking tumors to grow on their flippers, face and other soft tissues. They’ll be scheduled for laser surgery to remove the tumors. And we admitted a couple more turtles—a loggerhead and a Kemp’s ridley—that required endoscopic surgery to remove the fish hooks they swallowed. It’s a tough time to be a sea turtle, that’s for sure.
I know you have a special affinity for sea turtles. Have you always loved them?
Yes. They’re all my babies and it hurts to see them sick or injured. I grew up in San Diego, so my family spent a lot of time in the water and I grew to love and respect all sea creatures. But turtles have always been my favorite. It’s been said that I relate better to turtles than I do to people, and I can’t argue with that. But I’m getting better.
You’re very upfront about the fact that you used to be a real...well, not always nice person.
You can say it. I was a flat-out bitch at times. I’m not proud of the way I used to act, and it was a rude awakening to have my own sister, who I love dearly, call me on my bad behavior. I’ve had to eat a lot of crow and it doesn’t go down easy, let me tell you. But it’s been worth it because I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.
Would you attribute your glowing aura to a certain hunky co-owner of Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals?
Absolutely. Cosby Williams is the best man I know. He doesn’t let me take myself too seriously, and believe me, I really needed to lighten up. And I love his two nephews. I think the youngest has a bit of a crush on me. They’re both adorable. So is Cosby. I could brag on him all day.
Any chance you’ll be Aunt Monica to those boys?
Shhh. Don’t jinx me! But I’d be thrilled if that happened. All in due time, I guess.
How are those three pilot whales that you and your coworkers from Gulf Shore Aquarium helped rescue?
They’re holding their own and are still under 24-hour care in GSA’s marine animal hospital.
What’s going to happen to them? Will they be able to go back to the wild?
We’re not sure yet. Our marine mammal veterinarian, Kelsey Kramer, and Sitara Patel, the head of our rehab unit, and many others are working hard to nurse these beautiful animals back to health.
If I can get personal for a moment, Cosby was asked in an interview to name his favorite place to seduce you and he said wherever he can get you alone. He also mentioned the shower as a great place for hot and sudsy fun. Do you have a favorite spot for romance?
Oh boy, that gets me excited just thinking about it! I definitely enjoy the shower. We’ve been, shall we say, together in every room of our apartment, so I’m not picky as long as I’m with Cosby. Dang it, look at the time. I really hate to cut this short, but I’d better get going before I’m late for work. Drop by Gulf Shore Aquarium anytime and say hi. I’m always eager to introduce folks to the wonderful people and animals there. And if you like hunky guys, well, you’ve come to the right place.
And now, here’s what Shore Feels Right is about:
Once a pariah among her coworkers, marine biologist Monica Sims has spent months reinventing herself as she seeks redemption. A history of failed relationships leaves her leery of romantic involvement until she meets Cosby Williams, the new co-owner of Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals.
As things heat up between them, Gulf Shore Aquarium responds to the stranding of a group of pilot whales. When a billionaire bachelor lends his private plane to the rescue effort, Monica catches his eye—and an obsession is born.
How will she cope with the unwanted attention? And will her past sins come back to doom her newfound happiness with Cosby?
Monica Sims didn’t suffer well in silence. All this wedding talk grated on her nerves, and she desperately wanted to distance herself from the radiant bride-to-be and the friends who acted like this was a match made in Buckingham Palace.
But the last thing Monica needed was anyone thinking she sat here sucking on sour grapes. Not when she’d done everything possible the past several months to convince these women, and her other Gulf Shore Aquarium coworkers, that she no longer resembled the selfish shrew they knew and loathed. She’d eaten a bakery full of humble pie, shoved aside her own satisfaction, smiled until her face ached, and bit her tongue until it nearly bled.
The response to her attitude overhaul had been better than she’d dared hope. She’d become one of the girls and even had made peace with her ex-boyfriend’s fiancée, who at this moment squirmed under the rapt attention of everyone at their table at Bikini Barb’s Bar & Grill. Everyone except Monica, that is.
She freely admitted now, without the slightest pang whatsoever, that Evan Sanders and Danielle “Dani” Davidson belonged together. She wished them the best, without reservation. But Monica simply couldn’t feign enthusiasm for the seemingly endless discussions about invitation styles, cake decorations, and buffet menus.
The impending “I do’s” left the other women at tonight’s “snipe and gripe” gathering positively giddy. They giggled and chattered like a gaggle of schoolgirls as they threw out suggestions on how Dani should break it to her mother that she wanted to be married right here in Gulf Shore, Florida, not back home in Missouri.
“Why is everything so flipping complicated?” Dani complained, posing a rhetorical question. That didn’t stop her friends from answering.
“Our parents live for the day they can torture us as payback for all the times we misbehaved as kids and made their lives a veritable living hell,” Tiffany Sandeski offered.
“If I ever get married, I’m eloping to Las Vegas,” Shontay Jefferson vowed. “I have enough trouble with my meddling mother as it is.”
“Not me,” Gina Martino asserted. “I intend to have the whole fairy tale from start to finish. That means a killer gown that makes me look like Kate Middleton, a huge wedding party, stretch limo, four-tiered cake, blowout reception with an open bar, gourmet dinner, live band, and a honeymoon in Europe.”
“You’ll need more than a fancy dress to make you look like Kate Middleton,” Tiffany teased. “Like a starvation diet for starters.”
Gina stuck out her tongue. “And I don’t care what the whole thing costs. I told Jeremy to rob a bank or two if he has to.”
“You did not,” Shontay scoffed.
“I most certainly did,” Gina insisted. “Trust me, it won’t be necessary. His parents are loaded and he’s their trust-fund baby.”
“Uh, what about your mom and dad?” Shontay asked. “It’s tradition for the bride’s side to pay most of the wedding expenses and for the reception, too.”
Gina barked out a laugh. “My parents don’t have a pot to puke in.”
Tiffany wrinkled her nose and halted the hand bringing the spicy chicken wing to her mouth. She dropped the poultry on her plate and pushed it away. “Thanks for the bodily function reference, Gina.”
“You’re welcome. No extra charge.”
“You know, a lot of couples now, especially if they’re older or have been together for a while, pay for their own wedding,” Shontay noted.
“Yeah, like that’s going to happen,” Gina replied. “Jeremy’s parents won’t let their perfect,
precious boy spend a dime. They’ve already promised to help us buy a house right on the beach. Think of the parties we can have there, girls. I can’t wait to ditch this dive as a gathering spot.”
Shontay shook her head and turned to Dani. “What about you and Evan?”
“Our parents offered to help, but we’re paying for most of it. That’s why we’re keeping it simple.”
As others in the group added their nickel’s worth, Monica tuned them out. While she’d gotten over Evan, participating in this conversation still struck her as strange given that Dani’s groom-to-be was the one Monica let get away. Months before Dani moved to Gulf Shore, Evan had dumped Monica after discovering she’d cheated on him with the aquarium’s married marketing director, a new father of twins.
The fallout from that colossal indiscretion had been bad enough. But then Monica attempted to whip up trouble for Evan and Dani after they started dating. Fed up with the way she treated people, Monica’s rebound boyfriend broke up with her. Coworkers shunned her. She considered leaving Gulf Shore. Her older sister’s tough love helped turn her life around.
None of that mattered now, but some people thrived on stirring things up. Like Tiffany, who stared at her with a smirk of a smile. Monica knew that look.
“So what do you think?” Tiffany asked her. The other women turned their expectant attention to Monica.
“Uh, well, I’m not sure.” She inwardly cringed at how clueless she sounded.
“I bet you don’t even know what we’re talking about.”
“Of course I do,” Monica blustered. “Weddings.”
“So how should Dani solve her dilemma?” Tiffany pressed.
“Quit putting Monica on the spot,” Dani interjected. “It’s my problem. I’ll figure out what to tell my mother. Now, where’s the rest of our food? We were so busy today with those marine science students I had time to grab only yogurt and a granola bar for lunch. How long does it take to throw together salads and sandwiches?”
Eager for a legitimate excuse to leave the table, Monica offered to check on their orders. She headed to the well-worn wooden bar to speak to Pete, who mixed drinks and filled pitchers like a madman, and stopped a few feet from the barstool where a guy who looked familiar sat alone, nursing a mug of beer. They nodded at each other as Monica tried to remember his name.
“Cosby Williams,” he supplied.
“What?” Had he read her mind? She’d seen him in Barb’s before talking to Evan and two of the aquarium’s dolphin trainers, but they hadn’t been introduced.
“That’s my name. In case you were wondering.”
“What gave you that impression?”
He shrugged. “The way you looked at me implied it.”
“Yeah? And what way was that?”
“Like I’m not a total stranger but you don’t know me, either.”
“You’re pretty perceptive, aren’t you?” Sarcasm tinged her voice. She’d ruthlessly repressed that particular personality trait but still let it loose occasionally.
“I try to be.” If he noticed her flippant tone, he ignored it. “Right now, for instance, you’re deciding whether I’m worth talking to and if you should tell me your name.”
“Actually, I’m debating whether you’re charmingly candid or irritatingly blunt.”
Cosby laughed and Monica’s long-dormant libido stirred to life.
“How about a little of both?” he suggested. “But don’t worry. I didn’t come here to pick up women. My brother and I are celebrating tonight.”
“Oh? What’s the occasion?”
“Our business, Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals, has its grand reopening in two days.”
Suddenly the light of recognition switched on. “Now I know why you look familiar. I saw your picture in the paper the other day. The story said you two have given the place quite a makeover.”
“We’ve worked our asses off. This is the first chance we’ve had to take a breather.”
Monica stepped back and assessed his very fine jeans-covered rear end.
“What? Did I sit in something?” Cosby twisted to look at the seat of his pants.
“No. Just checking to see if you told the truth about working your ass off.”
He grinned and Monica felt it like a punch to the gut. Whoa! She resisted, just barely, the urge to lean forward and taste his tantalizing lips. She shook her head to clear it, and Cosby furrowed his brow as though trying to figure out what she was thinking.
“Now that you’ve seen the goods, what’s the verdict?” he asked.
“Why, Mr. Williams, are you fishing for a compliment?”
“On whether you’d think less of me if I was.”
“You’re very straightforward, aren’t you?” she observed. “I like that.”
“I have plenty of other commendable qualities, too.”
“I send my mom a thank-you card on my birthday. I don’t leave the toilet seat up. I never give women kitchen appliances as gifts. I bowled nine strikes in a row once. I love kids, and they adore me. And I feed stray cats that hang out at Nauti-Toys.”
“Wow, all that and movie-star handsome, too.”
Cosby blushed and the unexpected show of humility charmed her.
“What can I say, I’m a good guy. Except, of course, when I want to be bad.” He winked and Monica laughed despite her best intentions. “How about I buy you a drink?”
“You’re the one celebrating,” she pointed out. “I should buy you a drink.”
“You’re making me work for it, aren’t you?”
“And by ‘it’ you mean what, exactly?”
Many women already would’ve scribbled their phone number on a napkin. But Monica couldn’t afford to make another mistake with a man. Then she stared into eyes the color of a Caribbean sea and thought, oh, what the hell.
And now a word about the Gulf Shore series
My new contemporary romance series is set in the fictional west-central Florida beach town of Gulf Shore, where you’ll feel sugary white sand between your toes, the warm sun on your shoulders, and a sea breeze ruffling your hair.
You’ll meet swoon-worthy alpha males who aren’t embarrassed to cuddle a rescued baby dolphin in their muscular arms, and accomplished women looking for an equal partner who
thinks that smart is sexy.
You’ll get up close and personal with sea life, join the “snipe and gripe” club for girls’ nights out, and fall in love with a talking parrot who acts like a little boy in a bird suit.
You’ll go behind-the-scenes at the local aquarium and out to the beach to rescue marine animals in distress. And once you visit Gulf Shore, you just may find yourself wishing you could stay.
And about The Shore Thing, Gulf Shore Book 1
Danielle “Dani” Davidson vows to just say no to workplace romances after her first post-college job is soured by a messy breakup with a manipulative coworker at a fish hatchery. That’s just one reason she doesn’t trust any man with her heart, let alone one who swims with sharks for a living. So why can’t she get cameraman Evan Sanders out of her mind?
Evan is twice shy, too, after an alluring but self-absorbed colleague at Gulf Shore Aquarium takes a bite out of his heart. Thought he’s dead set against dating anyone else he works with, he’s intrigued by Dani’s shyness and tempted by her intelligence and low-key sexiness.
Sharks, a stingray and an orphaned baby dolphin help bring them together, but will Dani’s inhibitions and Evan’s career aspirations ultimately tear them apart?
As a girl, Annette dreamed of being an astronaut, but she stank at science and math and became motion sick riding the bus home from school. So she went with her second choice—newspaper journalist—and stuck with it for more than three decades. After years of ignoring well-meaning people who said, “You should write a book,” she finally did. And then she wrote a few more. When she's not working, Annette usually has her nose in someone else’s novel or her gaze glued to sports on TV. She has three totally spoiled pets, enjoys being the designated sightseer on her husband’s Harley, and volunteers at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of diva dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale films.
Connect with Annette
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