I put the last period in Madeline’s Park and let me tell you, this has been a long time coming. I began this version of the story in late March after finishing Tangled in Tinsel but in reality, I’ve been working on it for two years.
Right after finishing Pride & Pancakes, I wanted to do a story with Beth’s friend Madeline. The adorable cat rescuer needed her own happily ever after. Enter Everett, this sun kissed, sweet as sugar Southern boy who Madeline’s been in love with since she was a kid. Now he’s a firefighter fresh off a divorce and new to the city.
I thought I liked what I had, but my publisher disagreed. So I’ve had to go back to the damn near drawing board to rewrite almost all of Sweet Madeline into Madeline’s Park. The plot shifted and the villains changed, but I got to keep the heart of the story of two people struggling to realize they deserve love.
Right now my story is a complete mess. I just hammered this thing out, backed it up into the cloud, then passed out. But I’ll share with you a little excerpt where Maddy meets up with her girlhood crush:
As the sound of jackhammers and other power tools roaring up, Madeline stared down at the tiny face she rescued. It peered at the strange world it was fished into, uncertain of life outside of the culvert. What am I going to call you?
Her heart stopped dead. No, it couldn’t be. New York was rather known for being crammed full of people. Whoever that was had to mean someone else. Of course.
She burned her focus on the kitten, trying to juggle it safely in her arms when the same sweet tea voice called her name again. “Maddy?”
No one called her that. Not in years. Not since high school. No one, but…
Her jaw plummeted as she watched a ray of sunshine puncture through the dreary gray world. Hair of spun gold swept back and to the side, a square jawline and strong nose, thin but sculpted lips forever in a wide smile — he was the epitome of gorgeous boy-next-door. The one she pined for during all of high school. The boy she dreamed of taking her to prom, of giving her a ride in his truck, of asking her to be his girlfriend.
Everett Berry, a man so jaw-dropping it was a wonder bluebirds didn’t perch upon his shoulders, or rose petals fall from his steps. And he was talking to her. Asking about her. Staring at her in concern because she fell stupid.
“He…hey! Everett? What are you…?” Madeline whipped her head around, fearing this might be some prank reality show. Or worse, one where people got together to try and makeover a dumpy friend.
“It is you!” His smile somehow brightened to new heights, piercing the pressing clouds around them. “You haven’t changed a lick since high school,” he said, his eyes darting from her rounded face to her rounded body.
Madeline tasted the scorn he was too tactful to phrase. Look at you, just as fat as ever. Sure, he never said it. He was far too kind to point out the obvious. But he didn’t have to. She heard it every day, from every person around her, from the world pointing out that she was wrong for being cushioned.
“I’ve, um, gotten older,” she muttered, her cheeks burning as she glared down at her lazy sweatshirt coated in mud. She hadn’t even bothered with jeans, just threw on a pair of sweatpants and ran out to find the kitten. This was how he had to find her, not dolled up in a fancy dress…
Madeline, when do you ever put on makeup or wear cocktail dresses? Where would you find one that fits? No, it was while she looked like she took a swim in the mud on laundry day. Great.
“But you.” She pointed at Everett as if he didn’t know who he was. “You look…” Perfect. “The same, I mean, younger. Um, you look good.”
He laughed at her stumbling, a hand raking through his golden locks. How she wanted to run her fingers through them. They had to be as soft as silk and smell of sunshine on a summer day. Everett opened his mouth, no doubt about to say his goodbyes when the kitten hidden in her arms mewled.
Madeline raised it up, checking to make certain it was okay, and Everett leaned closer. “Still running out into the rain saving baby animals?”
Her cheeks burned even hotter while watching the glorious man scratch a nail over the kitten’s tiny head. All Madeline could do was nod along.
With Madeline’s Park’s first draft done, it’s time for me to move on to something else completely different. It’ll be a standalone. It’ll be silly. It’ll be steamy. It’ll hopefully be fun.
Any guesses what’s coming next?