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What’s On YOUR Nightstand?

Perhaps I should say “in your Kindle.” Today, people tend to gravitate toward one or the other. At the current moment, I have a strange preference for paperback books and my nightstand is full of Amish romances by Patricia Davids, Jennifer Beckstrand, and Laura Branford. I also have a few non-fiction books there…mostly about Laura Ingalls Wilder and Benjamin Franklin (don’t ask). My Bible is currently in the living room on the coffee table, otherwise that would be on the nightstand, too.

As a reader, I don’t stick with just one genre. I like a lot of different genres. I go through phases. I might like Regency romances for a few weeks and then I hit the classics. Some genres I like to read on my Kindle (Regency, chick lit) while others I prefer to hold the actual book (ALL non-fiction and inspirational). Amish fiction? I can read either way.

First time visiting me? Subscribe for email updates or find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.Which brings me to my friends Erin Brady and Gina McBride. At midnight tonight, their book The Dog Walker will release on Kindle. Obviously I have already read it and I enjoyed quite a few laughs along the way. Chick lit (otherwise known as RomCom for romantic comedy) are feel-good, light reads that just feel good. Usually there is a heroine who makes a journey of self-discovery while falling in love with some romantic and very handsome man. It is that relationship that helps change her.

So I asked the ladies if I could share an excerpt and, when they said yes, thought I’d share the first chapter. So, for YOUR reading pleasure (and hopefully your nightstand), I invite you to escape the craziness of the outside world and enter the zany one of Jane Farley.

Excerpt from The Dog Walker:

Help Wanted: Looking for house/dog sitter to care for penthouse apartment in lower Manhattan July and August. Must be responsible, a neat freak, and capable of preparing meals without setting house on fire. Discretion paramount. College graduate a plus. Must love dog (and dog must love back) like valued family member. Must be able to maneuver city streets without getting dog run over. Great pay and chance to live in heart of NYC for summer.

OMG. This is perfect! The ideal job, actually. It’s as if someone custom wrote the ad just for me. What are the odds?

I stifle a laugh because I don’t want to look like a raving lunatic. You see, I’m sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop scanning help-wanted ads on my laptop. So, I need to exercise restraint, even though I’m doing a happy dance inside (set to very upbeat music) because I know in my heart of hearts, in my very core, that this job and I were meant for each other. It’s almost as if fate has intervened at the perfect moment. I’ve heard of this sort of thing happening with online dating and finding one’s soul mate but I never thought it could happen with one’s career. Is there even such a thing as job mates? If not, there very well should be. Still, I can’t ignore the signs pointing to divine intervention. I need a job and the person who wrote this help-wanted ad clearly needs me. There’s no doubt in my mind that God had a hand in this.

The second time I read the ad, I’m certain I meet all the requirements. I can check off every box and then some. I’m responsible (check). I’m a neat freak (big check). Hmmm, preparing meals could be a tiny problem because I don’t cook. Even so, since I won’t be turning on the stove, “no cooking” means I can’t set anything on fire which satisfies another requirement (check). This is the one time I can say my lack of experience works in my favor. As for the other conditions, I’ve got them covered too. I happen to be a college graduate (English major, if you please) with a good head on my shoulders (despite what my mother says about me being flighty). I’m also proud to say I’ve been to Manhattan countless times and I’ve never been run over. Not even once. Okay, so I might have come close a few times but it really wasn’t my fault because those messenger bicyclists can be very fast and don’t exactly watch where they’re going.

If all this isn’t enough, to seal the deal I happen to like…no, I take that back, I happen to LOVE animals. Best of all, animals love me right back. My sister’s dog can’t get enough of me. Alright, so maybe he can’t get enough of dry humping my leg but love is love, am I right? The ad doesn’t specify what type of love is required. Besides, I need a job. I mean I really, really need this job.

It’s not just because I’m twenty-seven and still living at home (although that’s quite depressing in and of itself). In my defense, I had big dreams when I graduated from college. I certainly didn’t think I’d be jobless and homeless—that’s for sure. Back then there was no doubt in my mind I was going to set the publishing world on fire by writing a breakthrough best-selling novel.

I’m not saying I didn’t try. I did. A pile of rejection letters still clogs my desk drawer, a sore reminder of my failures. After a grueling year of rejection after rejection, I had no choice but to face the grim reality that I wasn’t going to light the literary world aflame (not even a tiny ember). So instead, I’ve been jumping around from job to job, hoping to find my next inspiration while trying to save enough money to get a place of my own (because living with my parents for the rest of my life might make them happy, but it doesn’t do it for me). So, if life were a class, I’d get an A for effort and a C minus for execution.

But this job, this job can be my salvation, my lifeline. I mean, who doesn’t want to live in the heart of New York City for the entire summer? It wouldn’t be just any apartment either. I’d be staying … nay, luxuriating, in a penthouse apartment. I’m beside myself thinking about it. I’ve never lived lavishly before. A bedroom in my parents’ house and a dorm room are about the only two places I’ve ever called home. But with this job, if I were to get it (fingers crossed), well … it could change everything for me. It could turn a new page in my life. I could use the time to figure out what I want to do next while saving money at the same time. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

What could be better than sunbathing on a wraparound terrace in my string bikini while sipping on a frozen margarita? Of course, the dog would be sitting on my lap because I’m a responsible dog sitter. Obviously, it wouldn’t be having a cocktail either because that’s not what a responsible pet sitter would allow. You can see how good I am at this already, right?

A thought suddenly pops into my head and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. What if it’s a celebrity dog I’m going to be taking care of? Plenty of rich and famous people hire someone to watch their pets while they’re away on vacation or on set filming a movie. Maybe I’ll be dog sitting for one of my very own celebrity crushes. If that’s true, and if I play my cards right, I might even find love, too. It’s not far-fetched to think that this “said” unknown celebrity/boss might take one look at me (sunbathing in my string bikini) and fall head over heels in love. A new job and an amazing boyfriend.

It’s a long shot I know, but it is possible. In fact, it happens all the time in romance novels and I should know because I’ve read plenty of them. He’s famous and gorgeous. I’m caring and available. The moment we meet our eyes lock and bam! It’s love at first sight. The tabloids will run with the story, quoting him when he tells the press how he fell madly in love with the cute and perky dog sitter. It will most definitely trend and social media will be flooded with pictures of us with hashtags like #dogsitterinlove and #celebritymeetssoulmatedogwalker. It’ll be just like Cinderella except I’m certain Cinderella started out sweeping soot from the fireplace and not picking up dog poop from the sidewalk. But a start’s a start.

So, with all this floating wonderfully (if not unrealistically) in my mind, I open my email and draft a cover letter and attach my resumé to the address provided. There’s not much detail as to what the daily responsibilities entail, no mention of what kind of dog needs sitting or anything else, for that matter. But it makes sense because these celebrity types like to remain anonymous and protect their privacy. I get that. Besides, I’m not about to sweat the small stuff. Not when it’s my dream job. When I hit send, I say a little prayer and start fantasizing about the summer of a lifetime. A summer filled with movie premieres, red carpets and paparazzi.

Too excited to sit still, I pick up my phone and call my best friend Linnie. I know she’s going to be speechless when I tell her. Linnie and I have been friends since kindergarten. We’ve done almost everything together ever since we sat next to each other during Show & Tell (I showed the class my new frilly panties and she laughed so hard the milk she was drinking sprayed out of her nose). That’s Linnie for you. I loved her at first sight. Since then, we’ve spent summers lifeguarding at the community pool, pulled all-nighters during exams and had sleepovers in the family camper in her backyard. We even double-dated to the Senior Prom. Naturally, we went to the same college where we roomed together and then both landed back at our parents right after graduation. Linnie has been by my side through thick and thin. In fact, I can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been there. As fate would have it, last week she got offered a position as a junior advertising assistant in NYC and now I’m going to be following her to the Big Apple. If this isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is.

“Linnie. You’re not going to believe it but I think I’m going to be working for Leonardo DiCaprio or Orlando Bloom this summer.”

“Shut up!”

“Well to be honest, I’m not sure who the celebrity is but I just submitted my resumé. I’m going to be a dog sitter to the stars. The best part is I get to live in their penthouse apartment in NYC for the whole summer.”

“Oh my God, Jane. That’s awesome. We can see each other every day.”

“I know. Think of it, Linnie. A penthouse. The views, the nightlife, living in the heart of the city that never sleeps.”

Linnie pauses. “Wait a minute Jane, you’ve never had a dog before. Do you even know how to take care of one?”

Just like that, it’s as if my best friend has thrown a glass of cold water on my face. What little faith she has in me. It’s true that I’ve never owned a dog but that doesn’t mean I can’t take care of one. I can do it. Besides, I can’t let Leo or Orlando down. They’re counting on me.

“My neighbor has a dog,” I fire back defensively. “Besides, how hard can it be? It’s a matter of feeding, watering and walking then repeat.”

“Watering? It’s not a plant Jane. It’s a dog. A living, breathing creature.”

“A plant is a living, breathing thing too. It’s almost the same thing,” I reason while trying not to think about the cactus I killed the first week in my college dorm. “Trust me, Linnie, it’s going to be the most memorable summer of our lives.”

“Don’t you think you’re jumping the gun Jane? You don’t even have the job yet,” she points out.

“Doubting Linnie” strikes again. Talk about raining on my parade, but that’s my best friend for you. She’s the level-headed one in our little duo whereas my head is always stuck in the clouds. That’s one of the reasons we make such a great team. She keeps me grounded and I help her fly. We go together like peanut butter and jelly.

“I have a good feeling about this.” I dismiss her pessimism and push aside the sorry memory of the shriveled-up cactus. “To think Linnie, you won’t have to commute into the city every day. You can crash at my place whenever you want.”

There’s silence on the other end of the line. “My place? Jane, umm, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. I mean, this person …”

“Leo,” I correct her.

“This person, whoever he or she may be, might not allow guests. It’s not supposed to be a vacation. You’re going to be entrusted with someone’s home and their dog.”

Despite her protests I don’t let myself be influenced by her reasonable argument. So, I ignore her warning and continue to daydream. “If you mean Orlando, nonsense. I’m sure he won’t mind at all. He’s cool like that.”

“You’re jumping to all sorts of conclusions.”

“Why can’t you just let me enjoy the moment and fantasize? Come on Linnie. Think about it for a minute. Wouldn’t it be fun?”

I hear her sigh on the other end. “Yes, it would.”

“So there. It’s settled. Not only are we going to be true New Yorkers this summer but we’re going to have the time of our lives.”

Click HERE to preorder The Dog Walker!

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