One of my favorite tropes in romance is the character who doesn’t “get” sex or enjoy it but finds themselves attracted to someone on a deeply chemical/animal level and doesn’t know what to do with themselves. There’s probably a concise term for that but I only went to two years of actual college then got a degree from the Army in something that’s only useful if you work for the government. Next week, I’ll write about Choices. But back to one of my favorite tropes: Welcome to Sex, nerd! I’m kidding and it’s not just nerds, even though hot nerds is another one of my favorite tropes. There are lots of perfectly reasonable reasons why a character might not care for sex, including asexuality and abuse, but the nerd awakening is fun for all readers. Which is what we’ve got with Meredith Crane. He was perfectly happy with his asexuality and being a dapper nerd until he met Decker. Our sweet, shy librarian doesn’t know what to do with himself. Literally. “What is my body doing and WHY?” is how I signal to you, the reader, that it’s about to go down like a house on fire. Especially when you add a strapping sheriff with a heart as big as his hands and a very healthy beard. There are mysteries to solve and a holiday festival to prepare for but our heroes can’t keep their hands off each other. Thank goodness. Here’s an excerpt from Merry & Wright:
“You’re right on time, dear! I’ve just sat down for some tea and cookies and could use the company,” Mary called from the sitting room as Meredith hung his trench coat. The fire was roaring and Meredith groaned ecstatically as he rubbed his hands together and headed straight for it. He grew up in New Hampshire but this winter was turning particularly cold and damp and his body was not tolerating it as well. “How was your first week as librarian?” She asked as she pointed her needle at the armchair opposite hers, in front of the fire. She was knitting something in a charming oatmeal and red striped pattern but she set it aside and poured a cup of tea for Meredith.
“Everything’s been lovely,” he replied then gave Mary a grateful nod as he took the cup and saucer from her.
“I added some chocolate chip cookies because they’re your favorite,” she informed him and slid the plate of cookies closer to him. He stirred in four cubes of sugar then thanked her as he took a cookie and sat back. “Marvin’s in the kitchen, listening to one of his podcasts while he does the silver,” she added and Meredith hummed as he took a drink of his tea. He often found one of them in the sitting room when he returned from the library in the evenings and they’d insist that Meredith join them. Tea, if it was Mary, or a cup of soup, if he happened upon Marvin. Meredith wasn’t sure if it was their normal habit or if they adopted it to make sure he had something warm to return to, but he enjoyed his evening chats with them. They were a gentle, nurturing couple and Meredith was becoming very fond of the charming and impeccably tidy inn. He felt guilty, paying only $350 a month, especially when they went so far out of their way to make sure he was comfortable and warm.
“Everything has been lovely, particularly this inn and my hosts,” he said and Mary gasped in delight.
“I’m so pleased to hear that, Meredith! We never know if Eliza’s little antics will scare people off but it’s so nice when we have guests. It’s usually just us and Edith and she turns in early and often misses breakfast,” she said and Meredith smiled at the mild judgment in her tone. Mary and Marvin were delightful busybodies and from what Meredith gathered, Edith was the center of her own universe. Meredith had yet to meet her because of their very different schedules but he’d met Edith’s husband, Fred. They were a peculiar couple, Meredith quickly learned. They divorced some years ago, after a very tumultuous marriage, then fell in love again after Edith moved out of their home and into the inn. Apparently, their love flourished during courtship and distance kept the heart fonder, so she remained at the inn and Fred called on her every day.
“I’m learning to include multiple options for my outfits each morning,” he said then checked to see if his cookie had reached optimum softness. The chips weren’t as melted as he liked so he dunked it back into his tea. Planning backup ties and socks was a minor inconvenience, compared to the many benefits of staying at the inn, he decided. “Eliza is a nuisance but I’ll find a way to make peace with her,” he vowed then gave Mary a firm nod.
“I’m sure you will,” Mary chuckled as she leaned forward and gave his hand a pat. Her eyes became calculating as she sat back and returned to her knitting. “I hope that means you’re thinking of staying.” She did her best to be coy but Meredith humphed.
“It’s only been a week but I am considering it,” he admitted carefully. He didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up but the old library was quiet and cozy and Meredith found the town’s history fascinating, the more he learned. His little research project with Decker had much more meat on its bones than Meredith predicted. He thought it might make a good display for the library or possibly make it into one of the city papers but Meredith was mostly doing it to distract Decker and the other townspeople Emmet Haynes had hurt. “It would be nice if I could find something new about the Wilkeses and the Mortons,” he said to Mary and she made a thoughtful sound as she gazed across the room.
“You never know, in an old place like this. People are always finding things hidden under floorboards and behind bookshelves. They found a secret door in what’s now the Visitor’s Center! It went all the way down to a cave in the cove. It’s left over from when they smuggled things in to avoid taxes and hid food and weapons from the British,” she explained excitedly.
“Did they really?” Meredith asked as he reached for another cookie and Mary nodded slowly.
“It was just a few years ago and they found some old ledgers and manifests. Emmet has them all on display at the Visitor’s Center and you can take a tour of the tunnel,” she said and her face fell when she remembered that Emmet was gone. Meredith sat forward so he could put down his tea and the cookie then took one of Mary’s hands. He had no idea what he could say to make it better or how he found the nerve to do it but his thumbs rubbed the back of her hand soothingly and he hushed softly.
“You make up for his evil by being generous and kind every day,” he started and his lips curved as he came up with the perfect salve for Mary’s wounds. “We have a lot of work to do but I think these mysteries and the holiday festival will help Covington close that sad chapter and give us all something we can celebrate,” he explained then cleared his throat conspiratorially. “I’ve never been all that into Christmas but Decker says he’s on a mission to make this year’s festival perfect for Covington. I think we should help him,” he said and Mary’s eyes glazed over as she began to plan. She nodded then grabbed his hand and squeezed.
“That’s exactly what we’ll do! I’ll talk to the ladies at church about wreaths and baked goods,” she decided and Meredith sat back and raised his cup in approval.
“I have no idea how I’ll help so you let me know if you think of anything,” he replied but she was rattling on names of people Meredith didn’t know and assigning pies, cakes and loaves to each of them.
Meredith loved pies, cakes and loaves but his mind wandered and his responses devolved into hums as Mary moved on to wreaths. Unfortunately, wreaths couldn’t hold his attention when it could be occupied with Decker. Meredith understood sex and physical attraction about as much as he understood wreaths and until Decker, he cared about sex as much as he cared about wreaths. Meredith had never felt real sexual attraction before. For him, arousal was something closer to esteem and intellectual stimulation. His past partners were professors and scholars who fascinated Meredith with their knowledge and experience. For him, it was never physical and Meredith merely catered to their sexual preferences. He had none of his own beyond preferring men. And they were all much older men and because of their age, sex was occasional and brief. Most of his partners suffered from erectile disfunction, so sex usually involved some intimate touching but rarely required penetration of any sort.
That suited Meredith because his brain didn’t function the way most men’s did. He was never fixated with sex. The breaching of his personal space, the intimate touching, bodily fluids and odors made him uncomfortable. He was self-aware enough to know that many of his peculiarities were the result of having a distant father who demanded order and academic excellence while eschewing praise and affection. So it was baffling, to find himself drawn to someone as commanding and physical as Decker. He was large and powerful but instead of being loud and intimidating, he was gentle, affectionate and charming. Meredith enjoyed the challenge of solving the inn’s mysteries but it was Decker’s visits to the library and their chats during breakfast and lunch that were the true highlight of his week. Which suddenly became a bit of a problem for Meredith. His brow furrowed as he dipped his cookie in his tea. He’d never had a crush on anyone before. Especially with someone as inappropriate as the (most likely straight) town sheriff. Meredith didn’t know what he was supposed to do with himself or what the remedy was for such an unfortunate complication. Covington was growing on Meredith and he liked the routine he’d fallen into with Mary and Marvin and he didn’t want to ruin his friendship with Decker.
“Actually, it might be a good time for me to learn about wreaths,” Meredith said then did his best to find some way to care about wreaths more than Decker.
I LOVE Meredith. I think you will too. And Decker is stupid hot. Merry & Wright will be available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited on 11/26.
PRE-ORDER it NOW!: https://amzn.to/2CBZou4