Madison Alexander fled Huntington, South Carolina the day after graduating from high school and has refused to look back since. Being in the very center of a scandal in her small-town made the decision to pack up and leave easy.
After putting herself through college and starting her photography business, life in New York City was looking up…
Until she receives a call that her dad is hospitalized and she is catapulted straight back into all the reasons she ran away from her small, southern town in the first place.
Enter Travis Ford, the ultimate southern gentleman and Madi’s first crush. He’s agreed to help Madi’s dad fix up the old farmhouse she grew up in. Sure, five years have passed since she’s laid eyes on Travis, but how can five years be that good to a man? More importantly, did Travis have that chiseled of a jawline and those perfect, drool-worthy muscles back in high school?
No sooner than Madi and Travis reconnect, he’s the one leaving this time, and for the turbulent world known as the military. The two say their goodbyes and promise that his tour won’t stand in the way of their potential to be together.
But, life isn’t always fair and seldom goes according to plan.
According to plan is a small-town romance that promises:
-Friends to Lovers Romance
According to Plan is the SECOND book in a SIX book STAND ALONE romance series!
Release Date: 9.17.2020
Targeted Age Group:: 18-45
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book was actually inspired by my readers! There are little glimpses of a few of my ARC team members throughout this book.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I always sit down prior to writing and flesh out my characters. I know very little when I get the initial idea for my story, even during the first draft, I don't know a ton…yet. I learn about them as I write them.
“Madi, will you marry me?”
His question evokes an automatic response from my gag reflex—I am choking on my goddamn buffalo wing.
There’re no dramedies here, I am full-on choking.
I bring both hands to my neck, what I assume is the signal for holy shit, I’m choking, please help me before I die, but Tate has no clue. He’s handsome as hell, but sometimes I’m convinced he’s missing half his brain.
I reach for water, thinking I can wash down the half of a chicken wing that is lodged in my throat, but the water only exasperates everything that much more.
I look at Tate again and stand, pointing at my throat, unable to make a noise no matter how hard I try. Suddenly, his eyes are bulging out from their sockets, more than likely because my face is damn near certainly changing colors.
Tate doesn’t move, and instead stays frozen in his chair, bringing both of his hands to his mouth like he’s shocked that I’m dying in front of him.
Give me the fucking Heimlich and I won’t be! I want to scream.
Two strong arms grip around the center of my body, and an intense pressure in my upper abdomen rocks me forward—and out pops the chicken wing. It rolls across the table and lands right in front of Tate as a horrified expression spreads across his face. I quickly gasp in as much air as I possibly can and bend at the waist, losing myself in a coughing fit.
When I finally catch my breath and I’m no longer heaving like I just ran a marathon, I turn to face the person who saved me—expecting it to be some large, burly man—but no one’s here.
“She’s right there,” Tate says, pointing toward a woman who turns at the last minute before leaving the restaurant, tipping her head to me and giving me a slight wave.
There are still nice people in the world. It’s refreshing.
Now, back to business.
I clear my throat and dab at my face with my napkin as I sit back down.
“Are you okay, babe?” Tate asks, and the only thing I can think about right now is having one less chicken wing. I’m hungry, the PMS is real, and those two seldom mix well.
Will you marry me?
The words fell from his lips nonchalantly, easy as pie, like they don’t have the power to change the entire trajectory of both of our lives.
“That didn’t exactly go how I had planned it,” he says, staring at me over his plate of macaroni and mashed potatoes.
How you planned it?
“Tate.” I rub my throat, trying to calm the daggers that shoot pain throughout it. My voice comes out hoarse, “Did you really just propose to me over chicken wings?”
Honestly, I wouldn’t marry Tate if my life depended on it. I actually planned on ending things with him tonight, over said chicken wings, because this just isn’t going anywhere. In the three months I’ve dated him, I just haven’t really felt that spark that’s necessary to continue on with a relationship. The fact that he just proposed to me after only three months of dating and when we are very clearly on very different pages, if not a completely different book all together, only solidifies things.
Anytime I try to date someone for longer than a few dinners or a late-night rendezvous in my small New York City apartment, it ends up coming to an end like this. They want more, I just can’t get there. I’m not sure if I’m just not compatible with anyone here or if it has anything to do with the bar that was set years prior. Maybe my standards are just too high.
But I know that the man I want exists.
I just can’t have him.
CHAPTER ONE: MADI
The fresh, late spring air, bites at my skin as I wind the corner of the busy sidewalk, nearing the location for the photo shoot. In all my excitement of securing this job with Luxe—one of the hottest, up and coming New York City based clothing companies—I forgot my 70mm lens. I wanted this one to create the perfect close-up shot and capture the intricate detail of the clothing.
Guess I’ll have to perfect these ones on my own instead of relying on the equipment.
New York City is the second love of my life, the first being my little photography business. I love the busy streets, the hole-in-the-wall cafes and diners. I can get lost for hours with a good book, sipping on a hot coffee and people watching out storefront windows.
I don’t miss my old life in South Carolina at all. Nope. Not one bit.
I’m able to convince myself of just that, as I have so many times before, until I walk past a young girl walking hand in hand with her father and my heart picks up pace in my chest. A quiet sadness envelops me and I have to force my sadness away, to the back of my mind. I miss my own dad and the walks we’d take when I was a little girl.
Nostalgia gnaws at my bones as I continue making my way to the shoot. I pass by a delicious-smelling food stand and I’m reminded of Red’s Diner and the southern cooking that I love so much.
Okay, so maybe I miss pieces of my old life. But I’ve settled into this big city over the past six years and I’m finally feeling like I belong.
I send a quick text to one of my friends, asking if she wants to meet for drinks tonight. Between Tate’s proposal, my choking incident, and my nerves about this shoot, Lord knows I am going to need some liquid therapy tonight. Forgetting my equipment paired with a brand-new client…today’s not off to a great start.
I reach the intersection of Ballard and Vale and immediately spot the gray and white brick wall that I’ll be meeting the model at for the shoot. I’m going to have to get creative to keep passersby out of the shot, but this wall fits perfectly with the company’s aesthetic. I set my bag down and pull out my coveted camera, the one I worked doubles for at the restaurant when I first got to the city.
The sun is glaring down already, and I can tell my reflector is going to get its use today. I double check that my 50mm lens is on. At least I didn’t forget this one. It’s my favorite. I attach the reflector to the tripod and get ready to get some amazing shots for Luxe.
“Are you Madison?” A sweet-sounding voice calls to me and I turn to see a teenage girl walking toward me, striding shoulder to shoulder with another woman, who looks to be in her mid-forties.
“Hey!” I reach out to shake their hands once they stop in front of me. “I’m Madison, yes. I assume you’re Lauren?” I ask the teenager, who politely nods her head and gives me a soft smile.
“Yes, this is Lauren and I’m Veronica. She has another shoot in three hours, so we’ll have to start as soon as possible.” The older woman says, not breaking eye contact with me. Her tone has a brashness to it that I certainly wasn’t expecting, but I do my best to conceal the fact that she’s thrown me off a bit.
I let Lauren know that Luxe has already spoken to the café next door and we have approval to use their restroom for outfit changes. She eyes up the petite clothing, trendy and new age. Crop tops and short skirts, things I’d never wear, but it’s definitely what’s in right now.
Twenty minutes later, the model has arrived and I’m in my element, looking down the view finder at my subject, getting some bomb shots, feeling better than when I first got here.
“Honestly, Lauren.” The woman she brought with her rolls her eyes. “Do you think you can suck your gut in a little bit?”
Her words hit me hard, a sucker punch to my chest, and I’m not even the one she was talking to.
“Oh.” Lauren smiles meekly at me, hunching her shoulders over and attempting to suck in something that isn’t there in the first place. “Sorry. Of course.”
Pushing my index finger down, I capture her awkwardness as I look down my lens at her, practically watching as her confidence melts into the sticky New York City air. I rest my camera against my chest, the strap hugging it close to my body.
“You keep doing… Whatever it is you’re doing there.” She tosses her long, platinum-colored hair over her shoulder, waving her hand haphazardly. “I’ll be back. I’m going to make a phone call.” The lady walks away, sauntering down the street in her black heels and pencil skirt. I resist the urge to tell her to just stay wherever it is she’s going. She’s only making my job harder and totally ruining this young woman’s confidence simultaneously.
I start to pick my camera back up, but think better of it. “Are you okay?” I ask the model, gathering my long, dark hair and pulling it up, securing it with a hair tie. “I’m so sorry she’s being so rude to you,” I tell her, hoping to bring back a little life into her eyes. If we have any hope of getting a few good shots for the clothing boutique to pick from, I need to help this girl down off the ledge.
Lauren gives me another small smile. “She’s just like that. It’s all right. I’m used to it.”
“Is she your manager or something?” I can’t understand why she doesn’t just fire her. Luxe has sizes zero through twenty-four. I know she cannot possibly be tied to them, not with the way she’s body shaming her.
An uneasy smile stretches across her face, like something I’ve said is funny, but quickly disappears when she notices the woman strolling back in our direction. “No, actually.” She gulps, and her throat bobs a little. “That’s my mother.”
Guess our mothers have something in common, then. They’re both scumbags.
“Don’t listen to her. She’s being way overly critical. You are absolutely stunning, and you were doing so great before she started making those comments.” I lower my voice as the woman approaches. “Don’t let what she’s saying get to you.” I feel like I’m failing miserably at my attempt to give her a quick pep talk as she nods at me, still looking unsure of herself. “I’m not one to condone physical violence, but just imagine you’re like…throwing a drink in her face or slashing her tires or something.”
That gets a giggle out of her, and I wink before turning away from her to get an angled shot, farther away.
Veronica walks toward us, snapping her fingers. “All right. Enough chitchat. Daylight is burning.” Daylight is burning. It’s a phrase Tate said often. Daylight is burning, baby. I gotta make that money. I can’t believe I stayed with him as long as I did.
I roll my eyes, hoping she doesn’t see my expression, but it’s hard to contain my visceral disdain for her ignorance. Just as I pick my camera back up and Lauren shifts to a new, slightly more assured pose, my cell phone rings against my thigh. I huff, quickly dropping the camera back against my skin and fumble with my cell phone and silence it while it’s still in my pocket.
Not even two seconds later, my phone rings again.
“I’m so sorry.” I shrug, pulling the phone from my pocket and glancing down at the unknown number with the area code from the city where I grew up. Weird. “I’ll just be a minute.”
My heart flutters quickly in my chest at the realization that something might be wrong. I step away from the women and answer the unknown caller. “Hello?”
The caller clears her throat. “Can I please speak to Madison Alexander?” Her tone is cool and calm.
“This is she. Can I help you with something?” I say, trying to match her demeanor. Business is picking up, so there’s no way it’s a collection agency.
Another pause. “Oh, hello there. This is Jade O’Connell. I work for the Huntington Police Department, I’m not sure if you remember me.” Of course I remember her. She’s six years older than I. “I’m sorry to tell you this, Madison, but your father has been in an accident.”
My entire world falls out from beneath me. All at once my vision is clouded, and I can only think about all the ways my father could have possibly hurt himself. A series of horrible images flashes through my mind.
“Ms. Alexander, are you there?”
I want to tell her I’m here, but no words come as I crouch down on the sidewalk.
“If you can hear me, just sit down for a minute. Your dad is okay. I’m sitting with him here at the hospital, and the medical staff will be calling you to update you as soon as they get him stabilized.”
“Stabilized?” I choke out, standing and spinning back to where Lauren and her mother stand, holding up my index finger. “Tell me what happened, please.” This long, drawn-out waiting is too much.
“Yes, he passed out while driving down route seventy-four. He almost hit a vehicle in the westbound lane head-on, but they swerved just in time. He ended up flipping the car a couple of times and came to a stop in Samson’s soybean field. You’re aware of the spot I’m talking about, right?”
Of course I am. Being gone for the past six years doesn’t fog my memory of my hometown of Huntington, South Carolina. I can’t think straight. Why would he pass out? Did he forget to eat or something? My dad never forgets to eat, nothing makes sense. “Can I talk to him?”
She clears her throat again, obviously a nervous habit. “I’m sorry, but unfortunately he isn’t able to talk just yet. I have given over all of his information to the hospital here; your cell phone number is with the staff, and they’ll call to up—”
“Tell them I’ll be on the next flight home.” There’s no way in hell I can just sit idly around waiting for a phone call while my dad is in the hospital alone. I have to move, I have to go.
As much as every single bone in my body aches even thinking about Huntington, South Carolina, knowing all of the things I ran away from all those years ago, there’s no way around this.
I have to go back home.
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