Manuscript status: Finished
Mentor: Brighton Walsh
Mentee: Helen Hoang
Title: RELATIONSHIP ON RETAINER
Category/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance (#ownvoices)
Word Count: 89,000
In this gender-swapped Pretty Woman, a brainy economist desperate for love but struggling with intimacy issues stemming from her autism hires a male escort—a complex Hapa man escaping the shadow of his past. When he awakens her dormant sexuality and she reminds him he’s more than the body he was hired for, they must decide if what they have together is more than just a relationship on retainer.
“I know you hate surprises, Stella. In the interests of communicating our expectations and providing you a reasonable timeline, you should know we’re ready for grandchildren.”
Stella Lane’s gaze jumped from her breakfast up to her mother’s well-aged face. A subtle application of make-up drew attention to battle-ready coffee-colored eyes. That boded ill for Stella. When her mother got something into her mind, she was like a honey badger with a vendetta—pugnacious and tenacious, but without the snarling and fur.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Stella said.
Shock gave way to rapid-fire, panic-scrambled thoughts. Grandchildren meant babies. And diapers. Mountains of diapers. Exploding diapers. And babies cried, soul-grating banshee wails that even the best sound-cancelling headphones couldn’t buffer. How did they cry so long and hard when they were so little? Plus, babies meant husbands. Husbands meant boyfriends. Boyfriends meant dating. Dating meant sex. She shuddered.
“You’re thirty, Stella dear. We’re concerned that you’re still single. Have you tried Tinder?”
She grabbed her water and gulped down a mouthful, accidentally swallowing an ice cube. After clearing her throat, she said, “No. I haven’t tried it.”
The very thought of Tinder—and the corresponding dating it aimed to deliver—caused her to break out in a sweat. She hated everything about dating: the departure from her comfortable routine, the conversation that was by turns inane and baffling, and again, the sex…