Anne-Marie Smith wanted normal: a loving husband, two beautiful kids, and a well-kept house. But when she catches her husband cheating, she decides that normal isn’t worth it. Now in a new city with a new job, she’s trying to find her new normal—but she knows it doesn’t include the sexy playboy astronaut next door.
Commander Kit Campbell has a taste for fast: fast cars, fast planes, and even faster women. But no ride he’s ever taken will be as fast as the one he’s taking into orbit. He’s willing to put up with the prying adoration of an entire country if it will get him into space.
But Anne-Marie and Kit’s inconvenient attraction threatens both normal and fast. As the space race heats up, his ambitions and their connection collide and combustion threatens their plans… and their hearts.
“The attitudes shown here are exactly period…Kit, Marie-Anne and the children are headed to happy Houston suburban life…thanks for this visit back to steely-eyed missile men and women.” – Dear Author
“Pour yourself a cocktail – maybe break out the 60’s Jell-O mold and give this little gem of a book a try!” – For What It’s Worth
“I really loved Kit and Anne-Marie, and how they try to negotiate their relationship, and then fail to stick to their boundaries and limits, stepping up and stepping in for each other against their better judgement.” – Immersed in Books
“Star Dust’s charm lies in its lovely writing and likable protagonists. …Star Dust is fun and touching.” – Miss Bates Reads Romance
“The chemistry between Anne-Marie and Kit was delightful, fun and sexy.” – Romance Novel News
“This was such a lovely, surprisingly understated (considering the setting) book, and I had a great time reading it.” – Romance Around the Corner
“…a very sexy and cute romance.” – Smexy Books
“I found this whole story delightful – it’s a unique ‘historical’ romance, one that is meticulously detailed …I’m looking forward to more stories in the series that will feature some of Kit’s colleagues in the space agency.” – Straight Shootin’ Book Reviews
Frequently Asked Questions
- How long is Star Dust? 59,000 words, or category length.
- What’s the heat level? Sensual but not erotic.
- Are there any content warnings? On-page sex , alcohol, and cigarette use; profanity; references to divorce, infidelity, and domestic violence; brief space-travel related peril.
- What inspired you and Gen to write the book? We’ve both always loved early space history and it seems like such a ripe area for romance. There are lots of books, movies, and even TV shows set during the space race, but there aren’t many romances. More specifically, the book’s Pinterest board is filled with music, clothes, movie trailers, and home decor that inspired us.
- What was the writing process like? While Gen and I have been working as critique partners for years, we had never written anything together. Writing with someone else means more planning, but also multiple minds working on plot problems. We started writing in August 2014 and we had a first draft in March 2015. That was longer than we’d hoped, but we were fitting it in between other projects.
- I’d like to review the book. Awesome! We hope you love it, but if you don’t, we support your right to review it honestly however and wherever you want. Reviews are for readers not writers. While bad reviews are unpleasant, Gen and I will live and we won’t harass you about it. Promise.
It took some shifting, but at last she found the box labeled linens. Enough tape to plug a leak in the Hoover Dam helpfully slathered it. She pulled on a corner, managing to get a tab free, but when she leaned back, the little piece ripped clean off.
Why had she sent the movers away? They hadn’t been too bad… Okay, yes, they had been, but she should have made them open more things first. She didn’t have a knife—silly, practical men and their tools—but she did have a nail file. Maybe it would do?
Anne-Marie levered the blade into the corner of the box and began sawing through the tape. One inch. Two. Jeez, she’d made an error not starting with a box with knives in it because this was going to take forever.
As she progressed, the box began to rock. She slapped her left hand onto the top to steady it.
“Hold still, almost done,” she ordered it between grunts. But before she could get too excited, the nail file shot forward. It sliced through the last few inches of tape and lodged itself into her hand.
For a long second, she blinked at the gash shining garnet on her finger. Then she pulled the blade out and wrapped her finger in her blouse to staunch the bleeding.
“Damn,” she whispered, permitting herself a rare obscenity. She blew the hair that had fallen into her eyes off her face. She truly was a wreck.
She stumbled back to the kitchen and nudged her pocketbook open with her elbow. She didn’t have so much as a tissue. What kind of a mother didn’t have an adhesive bandage or two?
She didn’t want to answer that. She also didn’t want to meet her neighbors bleeding and disheveled. She’d intended to make something for them, to wear a dress, anything that might negate her marital status. See: I’m not threatening! I brought a quiche.
Divorce might be a problem beyond quiche. But so was the cut on her finger.
She took her hand out of her shirt. Blood immediately welled and began to drip. She wrapped her finger up again and, muttering all the way, she pushed the front door open and went in search of help.
Lake Glade wasn’t a neighborhood yet—it was mostly open lots. Her and her neighbor’s houses sat at the end of a cul-de-sac called Harbor View. They did not in fact have a harbor view; there wasn’t a harbor at all, only a big pond. The developer was an awfully good salesman.
A bright white Thunderbird sat in the neighbor’s driveway. At least someone was there. She knocked as best she could with her elbow. After several long beats, she knocked again. Inside the house, something thumped and then someone cursed.
A male someone.
Before she could figure out what a man might be doing home on a Monday morning, the door opened and a chest confronted her. A muscular, hair-dusted chest. She swallowed and blinked at the flat, pink nipple inches from her nose.
Anne-Marie tried to process it, the pink nipple and the tawny skin and the golden hair, but before she could, she looked up into the face that went with the chest. The same face stared out from the cover of the Life Magazine currently sitting on the coffee table in her mother’s house across town.
“Commander Christopher Campbell?” Her voice came out high and breathless.
She’d learned a lot about herself in the past eighteen months: she couldn’t abide unfaithfulness; the comforts of her marriage didn’t make the rest of it worth it; she could take care of her children on her own; and in fact, she liked being alone.
Most of these facts had been good. But that she got flustered and star-struck when confronted with a shirtless, albeit famous, man? Not welcome.
She focused on his eyes, which were big and blue. Then she dug around for the last bit of her poise. Finding it, she did not allow herself to react as he smiled. Slowly. As if he knew all the things she’d just thought about. Which was, thank goodness, quite impossible.
He spoke. “Usually the women who show up on my doorstep call me Kit.”
Oh, that helped. She was less flustered already. Nothing snapped her back to reality faster than the arrogance of a highly sexed man.
From the way he’d said the line, she suspected there were a lot more of them. He may have—he did have—an impressive physique, but that was why she didn’t believe in that sort of thing. Doug may not have been so… earthy, but he was plenty good-looking. And that had gotten her nowhere.
If she ever did settle down again, it would be with an absolutely regular-looking man, and preferably not one who answered the door only partially dressed in order to flirt with strange women.
At least Commander Campbell—that was, Kit—could probably give her a bandage and a knife. So what if his trousers did cling to his… No, she was not going to think about his hips.
Utterly composed, she said, “I’m your new neighbor. Next door. Anne-Marie Smith.”
His smile broadened. “I saw the truck. Welcome.”
“I, well…” She looked down. The blood on her blouse resembled a gruesome poppy.
Kit inhaled sharply, evidently noticing her injury for the first time. “Come in.”
He slid a hand around her elbow, and with all the skin on display and the blood loss, she felt a bit of a jolt at the contact. This type of man infuriates you, she reminded herself.
“We’ll get that cleaned up,” he was saying, “but my house is, uh, a bit of a mess.”
She gasped as she stepped over the threshold. Saying his house was a mess was ridiculous—a horde of toddlers may as well have rioted there.
A chair had been overturned and pillows streamed across the floor. A lamp rested on its side, the shade gone. Food and debris littered the carpeting. Overarching the room was the strong scent of stale alcohol.
Kit gently but firmly led her around the scene of destruction. “The kitchen’s through here.”
She tried to ignore the crunching every step generated. It sounded as if someone had sprinkled crackers over the floor and then danced on them. Maybe it was some sort of astronaut game.
Luckily, the kitchen was cleaner. Evidently most of the party had been focused elsewhere. Kit propped her against the cabinets and released her. Her arm suddenly felt colder, and she shivered.
“Do you get squeamish at the sight of blood?” he asked as he produced a first aid kit from a drawer and popped it open.
“No.” Nearly a decade of motherhood had cured her of that—but she omitted the detail. For some completely silly reason, she was uncomfortable with the idea of him thinking of her as a mother, but of course he’d know soon enough.
“What’d you cut yourself on?” he asked.
He grimaced appreciatively and poured rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball.
“This is going to hurt.”
She was tempted to say something saucy, but more than she wanted to snap at him, she wanted him to wrap her wound so she could unpack. Sniping at him would have to wait.
With a deep breath, she pulled her hand from her shirt and set it in his. His palm was warm and surprisingly soft. He immediately pressed the cotton ball down on the cut, and her eyes watered. She bit the inside of her lip to avoid crying out.
“Shh,” he whispered, rubbing her wrist with slightly callused fingers. “It’ll be better in a second.”
She nodded and closed her eyes. He kept running his fingers over her. She could feel it in her toes—which must have been her body’s way of distracting her from the stinging.
His fingertips caught on the bones of her wrist, grazed over the side of her hand, and then back again. She inhaled, hoping sense might enter her lungs with the air. He was a man: a pretty, vain playboy of a man. This wasn’t the time to become attracted.
He lifted the cotton and then reapplied it, pressing harder. “You really cut yourself.”
“Yup.” She sure had.
The silence stretched out between them. He kept up the rubbing, and her heartbeat fell into rhythm with it.
“You been in the neighborhood long?” She needed to blot out the sensation.
His voice was low, and she felt something pool in her stomach. A frisson of…interest. No! She didn’t want to name it; that would make it real.
“Do you like Lake Glade?” It was much safer to talk about real estate.
“It’s quiet. I…” He trailed off and then said, “You should know I don’t typically hold rowdy parties. I don’t want you to think I’ll be waking you and your family up.”
The last bit sounded like a statement, but she suspected it was a question. Not a prurient one, but curious. He wanted to know about her. He was, after all, patching her up, and they were going to be living next to each other—it was natural he’d want to know.
She wasn’t sure how to answer, however. She’d lied about her family to the movers—but she was never going to see them again. She couldn’t lie to Kit. He’d find out. Also, he was an astronaut. It would be like lying to G.I. Joe.
“My kids,” she said. It wasn’t precisely what he’d been asking, but it was true, and it clarified that she wasn’t unattached. She wasn’t married, but she also wasn’t precisely alone.
He nodded. “I definitely don’t want to wake up your kids. Also, I’m not a fan of disasters. I try to avoid them, as a rule.”
“You don’t enjoy scrubbing dip out of carpeting?”
“Not on Mondays.”
“But the rest of the week?”
“Wednesday gets boring sometimes.”
In spite of herself, she smiled. An astronaut was flirting with her. He thought she was married and that this was only politeness, but still. Most women in America would give anything to be in her spot—messy hair, sliced finger, and all. So for a moment, she let herself play along.
She shook her head sadly. “I’m surprised Life omitted that bit.”
“Ah, well, you shouldn’t believe everything you read.” He popped his jaw in what sounded like genuine frustration, but it evaporated when he said gently, “I’ll be a good neighbor.”
He removed the cotton, and before the blood could start gushing again he had a bandage around her finger. He pulled it taut and adhered it better than she could have done. He wet another cotton ball and used it to clean her up. His movements were lighting quick. Practiced. Confident.
Pilots likely got banged up a lot. He’d probably done this many times, and all the touching and comforting was clinical and unconscious. She’d been the one imagining anything else.
“Thank you,” she said as she watched him work. “Nothing’s unpacked yet. I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“Probably bled to death.” He shot her a lazy grin.
She pulled her hand back and glared at him.
“Do you need a clean shirt?” he asked.
The word shirt called attention to his lack of one. She didn’t permit herself to look at him for more than an instant. She shook her head and trained her eyes past him at his refrigerator—a turquoise Frigidaire that gleamed in the corner and made her covetous. Hers was plenty nice, but that was a beauty.
Still not looking at him, she said, “I’ll pass on the shirt, but I’ll take a knife.”
He produced a folded blade from his pocket. He wasn’t even dressed and he had a knife on him?
“Do you want some scissors too? I’m sure I can find some.” “If it’s not too much trouble.”
He pulled open what appeared to be a junk drawer and fished around inside. He finally located a pair of sewing scissors identical to the ones that were in her mending case in a box somewhere inside her house. He held them out to her, but when she reached for them, she stumbled toward him. Her cheeks heated.
Maybe she wasn’t imagining the flirting—but that was all the more reason to get out of his house.
“Can I get you anything else?” he asked.
“No, you’ve been very welcoming,” she said through clenched teeth. “Or you will be once you give me those.”
“I’ll have to have your family over for dinner once I, you know, have the carpets cleaned.” He handed the pocketknife and scissors over with a broad, polished smile. He clearly felt as if they’d reached a détente.
All she said was, “Hmm.”
As she followed him out, there was another noise to accompany the crunching of crackers: a door opening. Into the midst of the carnage in Kit’s living room strode a woman wearing a frothy peignoir and nothing else.
The woman was young, blonde, and extremely pretty. Her hair was tangled and her makeup blurred—not particularly surprising, given what had evidently gone on here—but she bounced in all the right places.
If the Life article was to be believed, Kit was unmarried. And indeed he wasn’t wearing a ring. The woman, presumably not his wife, was unmoved by it. All of it. The mess. Anne-Marie’s presence. The blood all over her shirt. Kit’s evident absence from his bed.
The young woman just scratched her head and smiled at them. “Morning.”
Anne-Marie glanced at Kit, who had flushed scarlet. When he didn’t say anything, Anne-Marie offered, “Right. Good morning. I was just going. Thanks for the, uh, bandage. And the knife. And the scissors. I’ll bring them back when I’m done.”
She wrenched the door open before he could respond and strode back across the yard. She’d been hoping for a new start in Lake Glade, but she should have known that men were the same everywhere.
Without feeling even a hint of disappointment, she started opening boxes and putting together her home.
You can read the prologue and part of the first chapter here.
© Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.