“A fun, sweet, and passionate romance. I loved these two, individually and together.” Valeen Robertson, Live Thru Books Blog
Rock deejay Mabel Bowen learned the hard way that it's better if she stays single.
No problem. As the most popular deejay in town, work keeps her busy.
But then she meets Jake, the all-business accountant overseeing the sale of her radio station, and all she can think about are the Superman muscles hiding under his Clark Kent suit.
At first she tries to keep their friendly lunches from turning flirty, but a scorching late-night hookup blurs all of their previously drawn lines. Can Jake convince the woman who spins words for a living that the numbers add up on this once-in-a-lifetime love?
“The interactions are hilarious, while the sparks are flying everywhere. I was all in cover to cover.” Jennifer Pierson, The Power of Three Readers reviews
Tempting Talk is a high-heat standalone romance about a woman of words and a man of numbers who fight falling in love the whole way. Like all Sara Whitney books, it's bursting with playful banter, upbeat vibes, and a very happy ending.
“A sweet, witty, and engaging story featuring likable, complex characters.” Laurie, Laurie Reads Romance
It was six a.m., and Mabel Bowen wanted to make some radio magic.
“You ready?” she asked.
Her cohost lifted his oversized coffee mug and tipped it straight back, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. With a smack of his lips, Dave Chilton plunked the now-empty mug on the countertop and raised a challenging brow. “I am now.” He shook out his hands and stretched his neck to either side. “Let’s see if you can keep up, Bowen.”
“You’re so on.” She met his grin with one of her own and settled her headset over her ears, repositioning herself to sit cross-legged in the chair that faced him over the radio-station control board.
“Here we go in three… two…” With a flourish, Dave flipped on their mics to start the day. “Good morning, friends and foes! You’re listening to Dave and Mae in the Morning on 105.5 WNCB, the Brick, where we just rock.”
Although Dave’s voice would be booming through the speakers positioned in the halls of the radio station, their snug soundproof studio kept the two of them cocooned from the outside world while they unleashed their mojo. Cohosting a morning radio show meant lousy hours, but playing daily verbal tennis with her best friend more than made up for the early alarm.
“You know what else rocks?” Mabel spoke into the shock-mounted mic positioned next to her lips but kept her eyes on Dave as they got the show underway. “We’re here to ease you out the door on this glorious Wednesday morning in July. Dave, what can the residents of our fair city expect weather-wise today?”
Her lips quirked at his flat tone, but she kept her voice drily sarcastic. “Wow, so specific. And tomorrow?”
“Uh-huh. Sure, sure. And then on Friday?”
“Hot again,” Dave said. “It’s summer in Beaucoeur, Illinois, people. Brace for hot!”
As he spoke, Mabel’s body gave an involuntary shiver; outside, it was pushing eighty-five with the sun barely up, but inside, the studio air-conditioning was waging its usual war to send her into hypothermic shock. She twisted in her chair, taking care not to dislodge her headphones, and snagged the emergency cardigan she kept stashed in a cubby on her side of the console. She started to pull the purple sweater on as she straightened but froze with one arm in and one arm out when she became aware of three pairs of eyes peering in through the big window that separated the recording studio from the greenroom beyond.
She recognized station owner Kirby Richardson, of course, but the two men flanking him were new. New and apparently there to redefine the word hot. She hastily shoved her arm through the remaining empty sleeve but couldn’t tear her gaze from the two best-looking humans to ever set foot in this building. The instant Dave cut their mics to play the first song of the morning, she addressed him out of the side of her mouth. “Hey, uh, Dave?”
He looked up from the press release in his hand and followed the discreet tilt of her head toward the window where the onlookers continued to gaze in at them. He swiveled his head back toward her and voiced what she was thinking. “Our new buyers?”
“It’s either that or we’re newly enrolled in a male-model delivery service.”
“No money in the budget for that,” Dave said as she snuck another peek. All three had turned their backs to the studio and were surveying the jumble of furniture crammed into the greenroom where the deejays hung out between shifts.
“Behold, our new corporate overlords,” Dave muttered.
Kirby had announced last week that he’d finally found a suitable buyer for the station, allowing him to retire to his beloved golf course and bringing an end to a stressful and uncertain time for the station staff. Of course, these new owners ushered in an entirely new source of stress and uncertainty, but she and Dave were prepared to go down joking.
“Looks like they’re here to kick the tires,” she said.
“Mess around under the hood.”
“Poke us with their dipsticks.”
Dave’s lips twitched at her lame innuendo, and as she twisted her face into a broadly comic wink to drive the punch line home, one of the new owners turned, and his assessing gaze landed on her. Blood rushed to her cheeks at his bold stare, but no way was she backing down. She lifted her chin and studied him right back through the thick glass.
Tall. Thick black hair. Strong square jaw. Suit that cost more than her car. Muscular body filling out that suit with—
Nope. Her brain was galloping away from her toward an entirely off-limits target. She swallowed the excess saliva suddenly pooling in her mouth and forced her eyes away from what was clearly Superman in his Clark Kent persona. She glared down at the show notes crumpled in her tight fist, willing herself to project breezy nonchalance instead of unsettled awareness.
“Wonder what they’re talking about.” Dave’s whisper interrupted her rampaging thoughts. She risked another glance up and was relieved—or was that disappointed?—to see that Superman had joined his blond friend to contemplate the grimy whiteboard listing the station’s remote broadcast schedule for the next month.
“Oh, probably our slovenly deejay habits.” Even though the booth was soundproof, she kept her voice low as the blond man gestured emphatically toward the carpet. “Archibald, my good man, these surroundings simply will not do!”
Dave snorted and then replied in a peevish whine. “How can we be expected to work with people who labor in such appalling conditions?”
She gave an answering sniff. “Just look at this couch, Percival. Is it… My word, is that velour?” She pressed a hand to her chest as the two suits walked past their admittedly atrocious sofa. “Why, my tailor would be beset with the vapors were I to sit upon it and introduce this fine suit material to such low fibers!”
She and Dave burst into laughter at the precise moment that Superman looked up and met her eyes again. Her pulse fluttered in her throat, and she swallowed hard. He looked effortlessly cool with one hand tucked into his pants pocket, nodding thoughtfully at whatever Kirby was saying.
Effortlessly cool and utterly off-limits. She had rules. And besides, the music break was over, and she and Dave were back on air in five seconds. Thankfully, she had years of experience in shoving away the real world as soon as the On Air light lit up. But while Dave shuffled papers for their upcoming events segment, her traitorous eyes flicked to the greenroom once more. Superman was watching her again, and the moment he noticed her noticing him, he spun around to rejoin the conversation his buddy was having with Kirby.
Ridiculous to feel self-conscious, yet there it was. No way was she going to let him catch her looking at him again. Besides, he was off-limits. The reminder was what she needed to force her eyes back to Dave, whose fuzzy brows arched above his glasses in a question.
“Absolutely. Let’s go.” She filled her lungs and exhaled hard to jettison the distractions plaguing her brain. The instant Dave turned on their mics and launched into one of the bits they’d prepped that morning, her awareness of the men beyond the recording faded and she was in it again, the entirety of her focus now on Dave, their show, their connection.
Two hours later, her insides were warm from all those good morning-radio vibes as she and Dave signed off for the day. Once they were clear, they exchanged deejay fives—air slaps that didn’t require lazy radio hosts to get out of their chairs and actually smack palms—and then they both jumped when a knock on the big studio window startled them. It was Blondie, grinning like a kid tapping away at fish in an aquarium. He gestured for them to step into the greenroom to join him and Superman. Kirby was nowhere to be seen.
“Shall we?” Dave asked.
She lifted her chin. “No other option. They’re between us and the exit.” But her heart pounded harder than it should have as she stepped through the door Dave held open. She pasted an artificially bright smile on her face and prepared to impress the new bosses with her professionalism and complete lack of distractedness.
Blondie spoke first.
“Dave and Mabel, hello! I’m Brandon Lowell from Lowell Consolidated Media, the new owner of this station. I’m here to check out the lay of the land.”
With his dipstick. She swore that sometimes if she thought a joke hard enough, Dave could actually hear it. His small chuff of laughter told her this was one of those times.
Brandon turned and gestured to Superman. “This is Jake Carey with Black, Phelps, and Suarez out of Chicago. He’s the accountant here to sort out the books.”
Jake inclined his head, but unlike their through-the-window staring bursts, he kept the eye contact brief before nodding to Dave and then focusing his attention on Brandon.
“Would you two have a seat?” Brandon pointed at the greenroom couch like a king commanding his subjects. “I’d love to talk a little bit about what you see for your future here at WNCB.”
“Oh no, not the velour,” Dave muttered, and Mabel bit her lip to contain her nervous giggle.
Although the battered couch was comfortable enough for a deejay who needed a quick nap between shifts, it was also covered in a number of suspicious stains and tended to sag toward the middle. When she and Dave settled in, they ended up shoulder to shoulder and sitting much lower than Brandon, who stood in the middle of the room to address the peasants, while Jake leaned against the greenroom desk. Its uneven legs wobbled under his weight, but he just shifted to accommodate the instability, the navy suit fabric stretching taut over his thighs. Wishing she could be so unflappable in the face of uncooperative furniture, Mabel surreptitiously tugged the hem of her skirt as close to her knees as she could get it and fought the urge to fluff the headphone divot out of her hair.
“Congratulations on having the second-most popular morning show in this market!” Brandon boomed once they were settled. “You two are a big reason that Lowell Consolidated purchased your station. That and the fact that WNCB was one of the few independently owned radio shops left in the US.”
Mabel studied him as he spoke, wondering why he didn’t leave her as flustered as his partner. He was handsome enough with blue eyes and sharp, clean features. But her eyes slid over to actual Clark Kent three feet away from him to confirm that yep, Brandon came across as a lesser specimen of manhood. A little less imposing, a little less handsome. A little… less. Meanwhile, Jake had assumed enough control over the rickety desk to cross one ankle over the other, looking artfully posed and a little bored.
It wasn’t like her to let broad shoulders and thick, shiny hair distract her. Ditto that long stretch of neck running from Jake’s jaw down to his crisp white shirt collar. That was definitely not worth a second glance. And—
Oh God, Brandon had been talking this whole time. She refocused in time to hear him conclude. “So that’s why I’m here for the time being, to observe your work and make some decisions about the future. At some point next week, I’d like to sit in the booth to watch you run your show.”
She and Dave nodded in agreement, not that they had any choice in the matter. Then all their heads turned when the greenroom door opened and Skip Stevens, the dayside deejay, entered to start his ten a.m. shift. With his deep voice, bald scalp, and droopy jowls, he’d always reminded her of a basset hound. Skip’s hangdog expression looked especially hound-like today as he took in the tableaux: she and Dave sitting like chastised children on the greenroom couch, Jake lounging on a desk that was trying its best to buck him off, and Brandon beaming toothily at all of them.
“Oh hi,” Skip said, mopping at the sweat on his shiny dome. “This is… Are you…? Yeah, I’ve got to get on the air.” He dove into the studio like it was the last available Uber in a ten-mile radius and had the headphones over his ears and the On Air sign illuminated with remarkable swiftness. Apparently unperturbed by the interruption, Brandon clapped his hands together, barked, “Excellent!” and pulled his phone from his pocket, exiting the room without a goodbye.
“Good meeting,” Dave muttered, freeing himself from the pillowy embrace of the couch after a short struggle. She’d started to lever herself up too when Jake flowed off the desk and extended his hand to her.
Mabel’s first instinct was to recoil; everything about him was big and beautiful and overwhelming. What if she touched him and they both burst into flame? But that was silly. When had that ever happened to anyone in real life? And besides, he was off-limits.
By then she’d hesitated long enough that a touch of confusion crept into Jake’s friendly expression, so she hurriedly shoved her hand into his and let him pry her up from the quicksand couch.
Had she been worried about bursting into flame? The jolt she experienced when his hand closed around hers was so much more intense than that. His bare palm, warm and a little rough, settled against hers like a lightning strike, all sparks and tingles. Her pulse jumped, her breathing hitched, and she’d bet her mother heard the gong of imminent grandchildren all the way up in Minnesota.
Mabel didn’t know how long she stood there holding his hand. Maybe a few seconds. Maybe a few decades. All she knew was that at Dave’s loud “ahem,” she dropped Jake’s hand and prepared to launch into a competitive round of “ignore the crackling chemistry.”
Then she snuck a glance at Jake’s face and saw… nothing. No emotion, no spark of interest. Just an unreadable stare and a murmured “Nice to meet you both” before he pivoted sharply and left the room.
She watched him go in baffled silence until Dave gave a low whistle.
“Well, good thing that wasn’t weird,” he said.
“Shut up.” She brushed her hand down her skirt where the skin still tingled and pushed the memory aside so she could focus on the rest of her day.