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Big Pickle

Big Pickle

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Never fall for a coworker. Because he might secretly be your boss.

The original book of the Pickleverse, and an instant Amazon Top 100 bestseller.

Nova thinks Jace is the worst employee at the deli she manages. But he's secretly the owner. Their unexpected romance is about to get a little bit picklish.

"This was a fun, hilarious, upbeat book! It definitely got me out of my book slump!" The Smut-Brarians

Also: The ebook version is exclusive to Amazon in Kindle Unlimited. Find it there. Audio by Tantor media available on all retailers.

Secret boss. Witty, no-nonsense heroine. Couple in their 20s. Several high-steam love scenes.

  • Ebooks and audiobooks are delivered instantly via email for you to send to your preferred ereader, phone, or device.
  • Unsigned paperbacks are made to order at the printer and shipped direct to you.
  • Signed paperbacks and book boxes are hand packed by us in Texas and ship in 2-3 business days.

Book Summary

I've got a picklish problem.
I own a family deli. All my brothers do.

But even though I'm the oldest and most experienced Pickle, my restaurant is the one that's failing.

I hightail it to Texas to see what the hell is going on at Austin Pickle, only to find a sassy little spitfire named Nova Strong in charge.

She’s amazing. She's funny. She runs our deli like she owns it.

But despite the way we nearly melt the permafrost in the industrial freezer, I have to control myself. Nova thinks I'm a new employee. She has no idea I’m only there to spy.

Or that I'm her boss.

As I get to the bottom of why my franchise is failing, I desperately need to know one thing: Is Nova Strong everything wrong with my deli, or everything right for me?
___
Big Pickle is a full-length, 300-page standalone romantic comedy full of pickle jokes and more giggle-worthy anatomy references than a jar of baby dills.

Read Chapter One

Chapter 1: Jace

It’s pretty great when a new Pickle comes into the world.

Today my cousin Greta is giving birth.

Like, literally, right now.

She’s walking the halls and refuses to lie in bed.

Her husband Jude is off talking to the doctor, hoping they can convince Greta to lie down and accept an epidural.

Her pain is great. She’s already cussed out all the nurses.

But Greta hates needles. This is a fear we share.

Since I’m on her side, Greta asks me to walk with her to escape the hostility. She stops every few minutes to let out a rather alarming groan.

I’ve texted both my brothers and my dad to walk with me because I have this terrible, awful feeling my cousin is going to squeeze out a kid on the linoleum floor.

And it’ll be my fault.

They’ll say since I hated needles and spouted off about how horrible they were when we were kids, that I’m the one who poisoned Greta on them.

And that’s why she’s currently walking the halls of Mercy Hospital, deep into labor pains, and refusing to even put in an IV.

It’s on me.

Totally.

I’m the eldest of all the cousins. I’m the big Pickle.

I was a tyrant in our youth. I made everybody listen to me. Follow my lead. Do what I say.

Especially when needles were involved. I provided detailed descriptions of the pediatrician’s office, so the cousins knew where to flee when the vaccine shot came out.

And here we are. Still on the run.

Greta’s wheat-blond hair sticks to her forehead in sweaty clumps. She wears two blue hospital gowns, one open to the back and one to the front, to avoid having to worry about drafts.

I hold her arm as we walk along the hall, the occasional visitor looking at us with alarm as they pass.

“Maybe needles aren’t that bad—” I venture.

She cuts me off. “Shut up, Jace. I’m trying to have a baby here.”

“Wouldn’t it be better in bed? With sheets? And a doctor?”

“Walking helps labor go faster.”

“We’ve been walking half an hour—”

“Shut up, Jace!”

I shut up.

We make it a few more steps when suddenly, Greta’s face goes red, she bends over, and squats smack in the middle of the hall.

The groan that comes out of her mouth would scare off a pride of mountain lions.

I look around frantically for a doctor, a nurse, a janitor. Anybody.

Why is nobody outside their rooms?

We’re at least ten miles from the nursing station.

“You okay, Greta?”

She huffs in several big breaths. “I think he’s coming!”

“What!”

She lets out another long screech and I do the only thing I can think of, harkening back to my football days.

I lunge to the floor between her legs and hold out my hands to make the catch.



***



My brother Max got a picture.

Of course he did.

While Greta holds baby Caden, who was born quite properly in her bed a solid hour after my baby dive, Max uploads the shot of me on the floor, my hands outstretched beneath my cousin, to his Instagram.

I’m going to kill him.

But not in front of the baby.

He and my youngest brother Anthony snicker over it endlessly.

Bastards.

We’re about to get in a shoving match like we’re twelve instead of pushing thirty, when the great matriarch of the family, Grammy Alma comes in.

“Boys, behave,” she orders.

We stand still like we always do.

“Let me see that child.” Grammy moves to the bed, her orthopedic shoes squeaking on the floor. She’s spry for eighty, and still runs the original deli of the Pickle clan, deep in the heart of Queens. My other cousin Sunny helps her.

Delis definitely run in the Pickle blood. My dad owns the massive Manhattan Pickle, which takes up an entire city block. As each of the three Pickle sons ventured off for college, he built a franchise for us in our chosen towns.

Anthony is the baby of the brothers. He’s dressed casually in jeans and a T-shirt that reads “Another one bites the crust.” He’s twenty-six and runs the deli in Boulder, where he went to culinary school.

Max, our middle brother, is two years younger than me. He is undoubtedly the alpha. He’s a workout junkie, and he’s tricked-out like a bodybuilder. His deli is in L.A.

Dad built my deli, Austin Pickle, while I was at the University of Texas.

I rarely visit it. Sure, it’s an all-right town. I show up for the big music festivals and drop in whenever a blizzard hits up here. But my little deli does fine without me. Probably better.

Grammy turns from where she’s been cooing over the baby. “Where’s Sherman?” she asks, her forehead crinkling in a way that makes us boys stand even straighter.

Max speaks up. “He went to get some balloons.”

Grammy nods. She settles in a rocking chair near the bed. “Good to see all you boys in the same place.”

“We wouldn’t miss it,” Anthony says.

A voice booms from the doorway. “It’s about time we all got together.”

It’s Dad, unmistakable in pressed khakis and a freshly ironed button-down. He holds a bouquet of blue balloons so enormous that he must have depleted the stock in the gift store.

“Oh, Uncle Sherman!” Greta exclaims. “That’s a lot of balloons!”

He peers around them, his hair a perfect gray wave. “Just want to make sure the newest Pickle knows he’s welcome!”

“He’s actually a Jones,” Jude says from the corner.

“Every Pickle’s a Pickle!” Dad insists, and his tone reminds everyone that nobody is to argue with him. He sets the base of the balloon cluster on a side table and approaches us, hand extended. I give him a hefty shake, like he expects.

“Jace,” he says. “I hear you tried to make the winning catch.”

I sigh. I’m never going to live that down.

He turns to Max. “Now that’s a physique. You trying to make your old man look weak?”

Max nods. “You make it too easy, Dad.”

Dad mock punches him in the shoulder. “You look good.”

When Dad extends a hand to Anthony, he instead pulls Dad into a hug. “Great to see you.”

Dad claps him on the back. “You remind me of your mother so much.”

Everybody goes quiet. Mom died ten years ago, a loss that never seems to get easier.

“Thank you,” Anthony says.

“Saving the old bat for last, are you?” Grammy calls from her corner.

“Always the best for last, Mother,” Dad says and approaches her rocking chair.

I glance over at Max. I still want to kill him.

He gives me a sneer. “How’s the playboy mansion?”

“Shut up.”

“I saw you went out with that actress. She was terrible in that frat boy movie.”

“Shut up.”

He laughs. “I’m surprised you graced us with your presence.”

“I was already in town.”

“Hey,” Greta calls from the bed. “Pay attention to the real hero here.”

Dad approaches the baby and cups his tiny head. “A new Pickle son in the family.”

“You going to give him a franchise?” Grammy asks.

“I think the deli business is on your side of the family,” Greta says. She gazes down on her son. “Caden can be whoever he wants.”

I feel a twinge of jealousy. As the eldest Pickle, I’ve been expected to toe the line in the deli business. Sometimes it feels all I’ve done since leaving home is try to escape it.

Dad clasps his hands behind his back and faces the three of us skulking in the corner. “It seems my own sons don’t want to settle down. Why, Greta’s the youngest Pickle and here she is, married and providing my brother Martin a grandchild.”

“Where are Martin and Fran?” Grammy asks.

“On their way,” Greta answers. “Caden wasn’t due for two more weeks, so they had to scramble to find a flight from Geneva.” She turns back to her baby. “You arrived on your own schedule, didn’t you?”

The baby yawns.

“It’s about time you boys got your lives together,” Dad says.

Max’s eyebrows draw together in concern. I know what he’s thinking.

Lecture incoming.

We think we’re saved when a family friend arrives at the door. It’s Dell Brant, a New York billionaire who helped Dad find properties to buy as he expanded for us sons. He’s like an uncle to us, and his acquisition of an unexpected baby was the talk at our family table a year ago.

But apparently, he’s part of whatever Dad’s working up to say. “Thank you for coming, Dell,” Dad says. “I think the boys will have questions for someone as experienced as you when they hear what I have to say.”

All three of us glance at each other anxiously. What’s going on?

Dad clears his throat. “When Greta announced she was having a baby, I started thinking about the future. The Pickle franchise is a pretty big deal.”

Chuckles fill the room, since Dad has inadvertently repeated the chain’s punny slogan, “A really big dill.”

He shuts us all up with one steely gaze.

“The delis have sustained my generation, as well as you boys.” His eyes meet ours. He gestures to the baby. “And it should help any member of the family who chooses to be a part of it.”

“Damn straight,” Grammy adds.

Dad nods at her. “But it’s time for me to begin the process of stepping down.”

Anthony gasps. “Dad! Why?”

“I’m not getting any younger, and I want to make sure the franchise is successful for generations to come.”

Grammy speaks up. “Sherman, you’re not going to die anytime soon. You’re fit as a fiddle.”

“That may be, but it’s time these boys took over the business. It’s getting beyond me anyway, with social media and all. But there’s one thing I do know. The company needs a strong leader. One leader.” He looks at each of us boys, and we all tense.

Dell nods in agreement. “It’s easy for a chain to have conflicting goals if it doesn’t remain unified as it transfers from one leader to another.”

What are they getting at?

Dad continues. “The three of you have handled the business in different ways, but I wanted to give you all one more opportunity to show me who loves it the most.”

“So only one of us can love it the most?” Anthony asks. He’s the soft-hearted brother, so of course he’s worried about how we’ll all take it.

Dad nods, and visions of not having an income flash in my head. Will all the franchises go to the winning brother? What the hell would I do instead?

But my shoulders relax as Dad says, “Each of you will continue to run the deli you currently possess. However, control of the franchise, including the Manhattan Pickle here in New York, will go to one son.”

Max elbows me.

Yeah, I’m the oldest Pickle. I get it. I’m supposed to step up.

I glance at Dell. His eyes are also on me.

Great. This is definitely going to cut into my time at the beach.

But then Dad drops the final bombshell. “The son with the highest profits between this day, March 1st, and the end of the year, will be named the winner.”

Anthony, Max, and I glance at each other uneasily. Dad has never pitted us against each other, not when we were small, not when we all picked different sports in adolescence, and certainly not when we began running our own businesses.

Why is he doing it now?

Dad clears his throat. “When you check your email, you’ll find our accountant has prepared a financial statement for each deli. Now that you know where you stand compared to the others, you can work on where you want to be by December.”

My phone buzzes. I hear a tone from Max’s pocket. Then Anthony’s.

Dad sure planned this out.

“Anyone who wants to confer with Dell, take this opportunity,” Dad says, “He’s bought and sold more businesses than I have shirts.”

“Think more in the bottles of shampoo range,” Dell says, and Dad shakes his head.

Anthony immediately heads toward him, clearly ready to get any advice he can.

My head is still spinning.

Dad gestures to us. “Boys, one of you go pick up some deli trays. I’ll call them ahead. Then we’ll enjoy this glorious day as a new Pickle has been born healthy and happy.”

“I’ll do it,” I say. I want to look at my email alone. I haven’t seen the books on my franchise in months. Maybe over a year.

Okay, maybe never.

It hasn’t been an issue. The franchise does fine. It doesn’t need me.

But is it enough for me to take over the entire chain? Will it prove I’m the leader of my brothers? Dad almost surely expects me to win. When lectures are handed out, I am usually the target.

I hurry down the hall to the elevator. While I wait, I pull up the email from the accountant.

And read with a terrible, sinking feeling in my stomach.

Even though I own the oldest spin-off franchise and have the most experience, I’m not even close to the other delis in gross, net, or growth.

In every single metric, I’m in the same place.

Dead last.

As I review the figures more closely, I realize it’s worse than that.

I’m barely keeping the doors open.

I head down the lobby, realizing my father has thrown down the gauntlet. And I know one thing is true.

Something is terribly wrong with Austin Pickle.

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