December 15, 2014

#BlogTour: Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal @lorrainezr #Giveaway @StMartinsPress #excerpt

Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (Thomas Dunne Books)
Pages: 336
Release Date: December 2, 2014
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-250-04035-0
Category: Fiction
Purchase: Amazon | B&N | TBD

Summary from Goodreads:

In the sequel to New Money, Savannah Morgan delves into the mystery of her late media-mogul father’s death and uncovers more than she ever expected.

In New Money, Savannah Morgan was thrust into high-society New York when she learned she was the sole heir to her father’s billion-dollar fortune. In Independently Wealthy, she is living her dream life on the Upper West Side, excelling at her job as an editorial assistant, and enjoying her handsome new boyfriend, Alex.

Everything in Savannah’s life should be perfect—but she can’t ignore the questions and scandal surrounding her father’s fatal accident. Her hopes of solving this mystery are shared by Caroline Stone—her newfound sister who is slowly becoming a friend. Savannah decides to investigate, although not everyone wants her to discover the truth. Her domineering older brother, Ned, has his own problems, including a lingering regret over his recent divorce, the constant pressure of running the Stone media empire, and managing a playboy bachelorhood. As Savannah's quest for justice becomes complicated and dangerous, she is led to Washington, D.C., an alluring stranger, and more surprises, trouble, and changes than she ever could have imagined.


“It’s true,” I said as I gazed at the gilded statue of Prometheus, the massive tree dotted with colored lights, and the swarm of people in winter coats who were skating across the ice. “Manhattan really is the best place to be for Christmas.”

“It sure is,” Alex said, “especially when I’m with the most beautiful woman in the city.”

He was sitting across from me at a table beside a window in the Rock Center Café, which was filled with a Saturday-night dinner crowd and the sound of Christina Aguilera singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

I grinned while I admired Alex’s thick, dark hair and the broad shoulders beneath his black sweater. The white lights framing the rink sparkled in his blue eyes.

He flashed me a smile and turned his attention to a waitress who’d just arrived at our table. He gave his order while I glanced around the casual but upscale restaurant that had chairs covered in beige leather and walls decorated with Andy Warhol’s art. I was studying one of the paintings when the waitress asked if Alex wanted an appetizer before his entrée.

“No, thanks,” he said, handing her his menu.

I frowned. He’d gotten better at accepting gifts from me, but he still tried to be a cheap date whenever I insisted that dinner was my treat.

“A big boy like you,” I said, “needs a healthy meal. Get an appetizer.”

It took a moment for him to let out a chagrined laugh. “Yes, ma’am,” he said finally. Then we put in our orders, the waitress left, and Alex reached across the table to pinch my cheek. “You’re trying to fatten me up, Savannah.”

I shook my head, thinking of all the times he’d walked into my bedroom after a shower, wearing nothing but a towel and glittering beads of water on his skin. “I wouldn’t do that. I’m much too fond of the way you look right now.”

He smiled shyly. “So your mother and Tina are flying in soon?”

I nodded and took the lemon wedge off my glass. “In ten days … they’ll be here Christmas morning. My office is closing early the night before and won’t reopen until January second, so I’ll have plenty of time to spend with them. And Mom can’t wait to meet you.”

Alex’s smile widened as the waitress returned with a shrimp cocktail for him and a crab cake for me. I started eating, but he didn’t.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing, actually,” he said. “Ever since we got back together, I’ve felt happier than I have in years.”

I reached out to squeeze his arm. “That’s so sweet.”

He put his hand over mine. “Like I’ve said before … if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be a published author.”

I smiled, thinking about his short story inside the pages of a literary journal. The story had come out earlier this month, and I’d had it framed for him. I’d done the same for my first story in Femme. “You give too much credit to me and not enough to yourself,” I said, sitting back in my chair. “It’s great work, and it deserved to be published. Was your dad impressed?”

Alex shrugged. “I couldn’t tell. He seemed more interested in my brother’s new stockbroker job on Wall Street. I don’t know … I just wish my mother was alive to see me finally doing something with my writing.”

“She still sees,” I said.

He gave me a faint smile. “Of course my father had to remind me that one publication doesn’t make a career.” He glanced out the window at a row of novice skaters limping past. “But maybe his cynicism will crack when I tell him about my new job.”

I raised an eyebrow, surprised. “What new job?”

He looked at me. “I didn’t want to say anything until it was definite … and it’s really no big deal … but I got hired at an advertising agency. I’ll just be a proofreader, and I only landed the position because I know a senior copyeditor there … I met him at the gym. But he saw my story in the journal and knew I wanted a better job than bartending, so he used the publication and my degree to get me in. I’ll be proofing TV copy … and I start right after New Year’s.”

I clasped my hands together. “That’s fantastic, Alex. I don’t know much about advertising agencies, but which one is it?”

“Fletcher, Cole, Goddard and Bristol,” he said so quickly that the names ran together. “Fletcher Cole for short. It’s on Madison Avenue … and it’s a prestigious agency. I’ll have a more stable schedule and I might make some acting contacts … who knows.”

“Fletcher Cole,” I repeated, imagining how delectable he’d look heading off to work in a suit each morning and sipping a Gibson Martini at his desk every afternoon—even though workplace drinking had been outlawed decades ago and the agency’s dress code was probably business casual. Still, my Mad Men fantasy was so sexy, I just had to indulge it.

I slipped my cell out of the Gucci purse I’d bought last July. “I’m so happy for you … and Mom will be, too. I have to call and tell her.”

He reached across the table and gingerly extracted the phone from my fingers. “I don’t want to brag. Your mother will think I’m an arrogant jerk before we’ve even met.”

I smiled and dropped the phone back into my purse. “You’re not even close to being a jerk. But I understand … so I’ll tell just her when she’s here. And I’m veryproud of you.” I stood up, walked toward him, and leaned down to plant a kiss on his mouth while Mariah Carey sang “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

The song was stuck in my head when we walked into my darkened apartment later that night. I’d finally given in and hired a cleaning lady—but only because I’d been working so much that I didn’t have time to vacuum and dust—and she’d banished the stench of Tina’s Marlboros. Now the place smelled fresh and clean like the Norway spruce in a corner of the living room, beside my windows that overlooked Central Park.

I flipped a switch. The tree brightened with blinking white lights that made the silver tinsel on the branches shimmer. There were lots of boxes underneath—presents for Mom and Tina and Alex—wrapped in dark-blue foil and tied with silver bows.

“Oh,” I said with a gasp as I stood there in my coat. “Isn’t it pretty?”

Alex nodded and pulled me toward him. “Just like you.”

The cold leather on his jacket rubbed against me when he pressed his lips to mine. We stayed there for a while, just kissing in the middle of the room as the Christmas lights twinkled. His mouth was so warm and he kissed so well, but I remembered something that made me take a step back.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked in a sultry voice.

I glanced at the gifts under the tree. “There’s something I’ve been saving for Christmas. It’s for both of us … but I don’t think I should make us wait. We’ve been good lately, right?”

He smirked. “I’m not so sure about that.”

I smiled, thinking of all the nights we’d spent in my bedroom since we made up on Halloween. Then I dashed to the tree, picked up a box, and pointed to the couch.

“Wait right there. I’ll be back in a minute.”

I hurried to my bedroom, where I closed the door and opened the gift—a baby-doll nightie made of red velvet with white trim. It even had a matching Santa hat.

I stripped off my clothes and wriggled into the nightie before I brushed my hair, which fell in long layers around my face. I’d maintained the makeover that Kitty had given me months ago, and just last week I’d gone to Louis Licari’s salon for a routine Sunflower-Blond touch-up.

I put down the brush. Then I stepped into a pair of open-toes with transparent prism heels, tugged the Santa hat over my head, and went into the hallway.

“Close your eyes,” I shouted.

“Damn,” Alex said. “You’re intriguing me.”

That was the point. I walked down the hall, rounded the corner into the living room, and found him on the sofa with his eyes shut. He’d hung his jacket on the back of a chair, and he was dressed in jeans and that black sweater that clung so perfectly to his body.

I grabbed the remote control, turned on the TV, and flipped to an all-music channel. “Please Come Home for Christmas” was playing.

Alex chuckled, his eyes still closed. “Bon Jovi?” he said.

I walked his way and played dumb. “I thought all you New York natives were his fans. He’s from here, isn’t he?”

Alex shook his head. “He’s from Jersey.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked. “New York, New Jersey … it’s all the same.”

“I should knock you into next week,” he said as I stopped in front of the couch.

I giggled. “I knew that’d get a rise out of you. And you can open your eyes now.”

Alex looked at me. A smile spread across his lips. “Damn,” he said again, sliding his gaze from my heels to my legs to my cleavage.

I straddled him on the couch. His hands moved to my hips, and then he shifted me down to the cushions and onto my back.

He leaned over me. “You know something?” he said, nodding toward the TV. “I remember the video for that song from when I was a little kid. Cindy Crawford was in it … wearing a hat like yours. My dad used to gawk at her whenever the video came on MTV … and one time he wagged his finger at me and said See? That’s what you want when you grow up. So every Christmas I’d wish for that … and it worked.”

I ran my fingers through his hair. “I’m not exactly a supermodel.”

“No,” he said, “you’re better.”

I took his face in my hands so I could kiss every gorgeous part of it—including that little mole on his jaw and the scar beneath his right eyebrow. He moved his mouth to mine, and we were still kissing when he wrapped his arms around me and stood up. I kept my eyes closed and my legs bent around his waist as he carried me to my room, where he put me down on the bed. He pulled off his sweater and tossed it away, and I ran my hands over his shoulders and his chest and the scar on his stomach that didn’t seem to hurt him as much as it used to. It would never go away … but it was fading.

“Savannah,” he said softly. The room was dark, but I could still see the yellowish-gold ring that rimmed each of his pupils. “Do you know I love you?”

Neither of us had admitted to that until now. I hadn’t heard those words from a man’s mouth in ages, and they sounded even better than I remembered.

“I know,” I said. “And I love you, too.” *   *   * I opened my eyes into what had become my typical Sunday morning—Egyptian cotton sheets, pots and pans clanging, the kitchen radio playing. WINS News time at the tone is 9:31. Now for traffic and transit … there’s another buildup in Queens on the Van Wyck …

I yawned, stretched, and sat up against my pillows. The room was filled with sunlight and there was frost on my windows, and it was like waking up into an earthly version of heaven. I was so warm and comfortable and happy right there in bed, but I knew I’d feel even better in the kitchen, where Alex was. So I sprang off the mattress, threw on a robe made of pink cashmere, and brushed my teeth in the bathroom before walking toward the scent of breakfast. Right now in Central Park, I heard, the temperature is eighteen degrees.

Alex was standing by the stove, dressed in jeans and a gray turtleneck that he’d left in my closet. We weren’t living together and he still had his one-bedroom on Staten Island, but we spent so much time at my place that he kept clothes and other overnight essentials here. He turned around and gave me a smile that made butterflies spin inside my stomach. Even though Alex and I had been together for a few months, that kind of feeling hadn’t worn off.

“Hungry?” he asked.

I rose up on my tiptoes and draped my arms over his shoulders as I gave him a kiss that was deliciously inappropriate for such an early hour. “Not just for breakfast,” I said, ogling him before I glanced at pancakes and bacon cooking on the stove. “The food looks good, though … and as much as I love being waited on, I feel guilty that you’re always the one to cook.”

“That’s because I’m always awake first. I was up at six … and I went to the gym.”

He was only pretending to brag. And I could usually tell when he’d come straight from the gym, because he smelled like he’d just showered—all squeaky-clean and Ivory soap. But that fresh scent was masked by the Acqua Di Gio his sister had given him for his twenty-seventh birthday last month. That cologne was popular on Staten Island, and it smelled nice, but it wasn’t my favorite because it reminded me of the Jersey Shore types in Alex’s neighborhood who drenched themselves in it.

“Well,” I said, lustfully running my eyes all over him, “it pays to be an early bird.”

He smiled and pulled me closer. I shut my eyes against his wool shirt and his firm chest, where I heard his heart beating, and listened to a news report starting on the radio. There’s been more trouble for Carys Bowman Caldwell, the former New York senator who resigned last month and gave up her seat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources under an ethics cloud, a male voice said. Caldwell—the wife of Jonathan Caldwell, who also recently resigned as COO of Amicus Worldwide—has been served with divorce papers. Carys Caldwell allegedly had an extramarital affair with Edward Stone, the founder of Stone News Corporation. Stone was killed earlier this year in a car accident that was determined to have been caused by a drunk driver—Halstead Simms, a Brooklyn resident who subsequently died from alcohol poisoning. Stone, the former senator, and Jonathan Caldwell are being investigated for possibly concealing information about a potential link between global conglomerate Amicus Worldwide and an outbreak of cancer at Lake Kolenya in Putnam County, near one of the company’s plants.

Alex held me tightly. “You okay?”

“I guess,” I said, feeling his chin against the top of my head. “I just hate that this is still going on—all the talk about Edward, I mean. The allegations against him haven’t been proved, and he isn’t here to defend himself … and I don’t think what happened to him was an accident. I also don’t believe that poor man in Brooklyn was involved.”

“The police think he was,” Alex reminded me.

“The police could be wrong,” I said. “This wouldn’t be the first time.”

“True,” he agreed. “But Ned had a PI look into everything, didn’t he?”

“He did … and the investigator even talked to that man who was protesting for months outside Stone News—”

“The one you told me about? The guy with the birthmark and the missing fingertip?”

I nodded, stepping away from Alex to lean against a marble countertop. “His name is Peter Hansen. The cops cleared him and so did the PI, but … I don’t know,” I said, shifting my eyes to the hardwood floor, just thinking.

Alex waved his hand in front of my face. “You’re far away again.”

I couldn’t get Edward off my mind. I had to figure out what really happened to him, and I wasn’t going to give up just because a PI had.

I nodded. “I’m sorry, Alex. I know I’ve been obsessed with this whole thing lately.” “I understand. But obsessing about anything isn’t healthy … so I’ll have to come up with a distraction.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out two tickets, and held them up for me to see.

“Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” I read.

“I’m sure you know it’s a New York tradition. My parents took me every year when I was a kid … but I haven’t gone since.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.

Alex smiled. “Because,” he said, “traditions only matter when you have the right person to share them with.”

Copyright © 2014 by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

I was born and raised in New York City, where I went to high school in Queens at St. Francis Prep: www.sfponline. I graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa: with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Education. I also earned a Master's degree in English, with a concentration in American and British Literature, from Northern Kentucky University:, which is located just across the bridge from Cincinnati.  

In addition to being a novelist, I have  written TV, film, and book reviews for PopMatters:

When I'm not writing, I like to read, work out, and spend time with my husband. I also enjoy keeping up my lifelong hobby of being a devoted TV & film buff.  

Find Lorraine: Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

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