Underneath It All by Kate Canterbary EXCLUSIVE

Underneath it All FOR WEB

Title: Underneath It All

Author: Kate Canterbary

Release Date: October 21, 2014

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Today we are very excited to bring you the Cover and First Chapter reveal for Underneath It All by Kate Canterbary. This contemporary romance will be releasing on 10/21/2014 and we can’t wait!

Be sure to stop over at Cocktails and Books tomorrow, October 17th when they reveal Chapter Two!

 

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About Underneath It All

If I had known I’d have a hot architect balls deep inside of me before the end of the weekend, I’d have made time for a pedicure.
 

Lauren

It’s all the little things—the action plans, the long-kept promises—that started falling apart when my life slipped into controlled chaos.

After I met Matthew Walsh.

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to run screaming or rip his pants off, and most days I wanted a little of both. If I was being honest with myself, it was rip his pants off, ride him like a workhorse, and then run screaming.

 

Matthew

A rebellious streak ran through Lauren Halsted. It was fierce and unrelentingly beautiful, and woven through too many good girl layers to count, and she wasn’t letting anyone tell her what to do.

Unless, of course, she was naked.

She wasn’t looking for me and I sure as shit wasn’t looking for her, but we found each other anyway and now we were locked in a battle of wills, waiting for the other to blink.

Sometimes the universe conspires to bring people together. Other times, it throws people down a flight of stairs and leaves them in a bruised and bloodied heap.

 

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Chapter 1

Lauren

If I had known I’d have a hot architect balls deep inside of me before the end of the weekend, I’d have made time for a pedicure. Also, a little chat about not losing my shit at all the wrong moments.

Hindsight was a bitch, and karma…well, I didn’t know her story yet.

But instead of prioritizing that pedi, I was sobbing in a stairwell. I knew it was ridiculous and I knew it was childish, but the number of things going wrong today was obscene, and it wasn’t even noon. It probably owed something to stress or sleepless nights or hormones or the freaking lunar cycle, or whatever.

And this happened most days. Not the crying—that wasn’t a regular occurrence for me—but the dead ends, the brick walls, the square pegs and round holes, the things that wouldn’t go as planned.

Everyone else was marinating in a special blend of late twenty-something wisdom while I tried on every size and style of hot mess. I wanted to hold it all together, but most days I was barely holding myself together.

It all started innocently enough—all the best situations did. I used to teach third grade, and while I loved everything about it, I wanted to lead my own school. Conquer the world beyond my classroom. Do something incredible and bold and innovative.

For longer than I could remember, I’d toyed with applying for an absurdly competitive two-year paid fellowship program to launch a new school, and one day I finally did it. No one was more shocked than I was when the acceptance letter popped into my inbox. At the time, it didn’t seem like a terrible idea. Honestly, what could be so difficult about opening a school?

Part of me knew that receiving an offer to join this fellowship was a tremendous accomplishment, but most days I felt like a fraud. Someone would soon notice I wasn’t nearly as smart or talented or driven as I led them to believe. They’d realize I was sitting at my kitchen table at one a.m., trying to make sense of state guidelines for school lunch programs or wrestling with five-year operating budgets, and rip those generous start-up grants right out from underneath me.

Not so long ago, I was good at everything. Not just good—awesome. Parents lobbied to get their kids on my roster. My students outperformed their peers across the city and state. I was engaging and creative in the classroom, and managed every committee, event, and initiative at my school. Five golden apples lined my desk, one for each year I received the district’s Teacher of the Year award. A girl could get used to that level of wonderful, and it made the present state of affairs even more dismal.

I expected the fellowship to be demanding, but I never expected this. Working straight through weekends and holidays. Chained to my email. A slave to my action plan. Clinging to my sanity’s last threads upon finding a state office unexpectedly closed on the day of a filing deadline.

But as my father liked to say, there were three choices in life: giving in, giving up, or giving it all you’ve got.

I wasn’t giving in and I sure as hell wasn’t giving up.

This school was part dream, part reality, and all mine. So what if I couldn’t find time to collect my clothes from the dry cleaner or sleep more than a few hours each night? I could sleep when I was dead, and when that day rolled around I didn’t want to think about all the opportunities I passed up over a few miserable moments in a stairwell.

The right amount of stubborn defiance had me swiping raspberry red gloss over my lips and wiggling my shoulders back. The hours, the hurdles, the hoops—they weren’t stopping me, not when I had four inches of clearance rack Jimmy Choo goodness to get me through it.

A genuine smile fixed on my face, I sweet-talked my way through a few clerks to get what I needed. Within fifteen minutes, my documents were filed before the critical deadline and the entire fiasco was behind me, and I marched out of the state offices beaming. The satisfaction of crossing that off my list bordered on orgasmic, which was a commentary on either my work ethic or my shortage of orgasms. Couldn’t be sure.

The sweet talk was a double-edged sword in my world. Some blamed it on the California in me, others said it was the elementary teacher, and an odd few thought I was trying to be a psychic medium, but I think I’d always seen just beyond the masks people wore, to where they were real and vulnerable. I stared too closely, watched too long, but it never took much to see what was right there. People revealed themselves in glimpses and flashes, and I believed they usually wanted to be seen.

I was good at it—knowing what to say in awkward moments, hearing body language and subtle cues, figuring out what people needed—and it was my undoing. My tendencies to put people at ease and draw them out occasionally made me the world’s greatest dumping ground. Add to that my inclination to adopt every project and solve every problem I encountered, and I neglected myself in the process. As my friends Steph and Amanda liked to remind me, those problems and projects occasionally took over, took all of me.

That was why I swore off men. I couldn’t worry about fixing all the boys in Boston anymore. There were schools to open and shoe sales to find, and I didn’t have the time to deal with man-children who owned a singular set of sheets and still called their hometown pediatrician for every sore throat.

I had an incredible group of friends, and a number of vibrators powerful enough to chip a tooth if not handled with care. There was no room in my life for men right now, and no need to make room.

With the meltdown behind me and two hours until my next appointment, I required a treat. Like cupcakes and tequila. While it seemed like the appropriate reward for navigating another mindlessly bureaucratic channel, I usually reserved the cake-and-liquor doubleheader for blue moons and holidays. My happiness was pegged to neither my measurements nor the number of pounds I wanted to drop, but I played the trade-off game, keeping my treats and cheats in some semblance of balance.

Croissant for breakfast, no drinks that evening. Cheesy enchiladas for lunch, no nibbling chocolate at midnight.

Of course, it didn’t always work that way.

My father was a Navy man, and after years of deployment, he transitioned out of the field and into training new SEALs. Each batch of sailors endured months of conditioning, “the good kind of torture,” my father would say, and his dinner table stories never skimped on the gory details.

That is, the details the government allowed him to share.

I wasn’t joining the SEALs anytime soon—my girl parts saw to that—but my father didn’t see gender as a reason to exclude me from the mock training operations he planned for my brothers. He taught me how to use my height and low center of gravity to my advantage, but more importantly, he taught me to rely on myself.

Over and over, he told me there was nothing anyone else could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself. He and my mother raised me on that ethos, and I believed it every time I dropped his SEALs on their asses. They weren’t comfortable perpetrating crimes against the commanding officer’s daughter, but they armed me with the knowledge and skills necessary to fight off attackers, escape kidnappers, fashion weapons from random items, and treat any number of injuries with salt water and a belt.

I knew from countless survival drills that soldiers often went into battle with little more than their wits, and if they did have a weapon, it needed to serve many purposes. My father saw to it that I had a small bunker of equipment at my disposal, but my armor was softer than anything Commodore Halsted would have recommended.

The streets of Boston were no battlefield and opening a school was not a covert op, but my weapons of choice were devastating heels and lacy undies. It wasn’t about the designer brands or lusting after this season’s hottest styles, and it wasn’t about being anyone’s eye candy. No, it was about the strength I felt when that sumptuous lace skimmed up my thighs and how only I’d know about those big girl panties swishing against my skirt. It was stepping into a platform heel and seeing the world from an entirely new vantage point, one where nobody ever mistook me for a college kid or intern.

I knew it was all in my head, but those skivvies and shoes fulfilled a requirement I couldn’t define.

Though the fellowship program paid me well, it wasn’t Agent Provocateur or Jimmy Choo well, and my habit required a certain amount of sale stalking. Forty-five minutes of salivating over unimaginably expensive lingerie later, I laid my hands upon some of the most beautiful mesh and dot lace panties.

I was one of the lucky few for whom nude-colored underthings nearly matched my bare skin, and when I picked up the panties, I knew I’d look naked wearing them, and I loved that idea. I couldn’t contain the jolt of excitement rippling through me at the thought, a giggle slipping from my lips. When I spied the matching bra in my size—finding 36DDs in La Perla was like seeing the ghost of Paul Revere riding through downtown on a unicorn—I knew it was the universe’s plan to outfit me with fanciness.

Perhaps I wasn’t on karma’s shit list today.

With my finery tissue-wrapped and stowed in my tote bag, I headed for my next appointment, and with any luck, an overdose of good news for my school.

Of all the issues I expected to encounter in my school-opening odyssey, finding a functional building or bare bit of land never cracked my short list. The fellowship fashioned rigorous environmental and sustainability requirements, and the architects approved to handle that kind of work were few and far between—exactly seven in the state of Massachusetts with the mandated credentials. Two only touched multi-million dollar construction designs, two others weren’t accepting new business, and the last three belonged to a single firm—Walsh Associates—specializing in historic homes.

It seemed charming, really: a business focused exclusively on keeping Boston’s old buildings looking new…ish. It was probably a New England thing; it seemed unlikely that a historic preservation architect would find enough work in my hometown, San Diego, to stay in business.

They were located a few blocks from my apartment, and without knowing it, I had been walking past the Walsh Associates office every time I visited my favorite coffee shop.

It took several calls and a box of the best from Mike’s Pastry to get on Matthew A. Walsh’s calendar. His assistant had eyed the cream-filled sfogliatella, made me promise to “stop calling all damn day,” and scribbled a date and time on the back of his business card.

Retrieving the card from my suit coat pocket, I studied the string of letters trailing after his name, denoting his credentials. He was an architect and engineer, he was an expert in sustainable preservation, his middle name started with A, and with any luck, he was the solution to all my problems.

If he wasn’t, I’d research ways to operate a school from a quiet corner of my neighborhood Starbucks.

 

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About Kate Canterbary

kate

Kate doesn’t have it all figured out, but this is what she knows for sure: spicy-ass salsa and tequila solve most problems, living on the ocean–Pacific or Atlantic–is the closest place to perfection, and writing smart, smutty stories is a better than any amount of chocolate. She started out reporting for an indie arts and entertainment newspaper back when people still read newspapers, and she has been writing and surreptitiously interviewing people—be careful sitting down next to her on an airplane—ever since. Kate lives on the water in Rhode Island with Mr. Canterbary and the Little Baby Canterbary, and when she isn’t writing sexy architects, she’s scheduling her days around the region’s best food trucks.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

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