Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, mystery, Spotlight on December 2, 2016

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Synopsis

Retired homicide detective Michaela McPherson and the aging Countess Dorothy Borghase team up again—this time to match wits with two serial killers stalking children, women and the elderly.
When Dottie Borghase’s friend Camilla Rothrock collapses at a lunch gathering of old friends, the countess’s only concern is to dial 911 for help. But Camilla’s subsequent death has authorities buzzing about international safety and retaliation, because her son is decorated U.S. Army General Stuart Rothrock.

As other restaurant patrons in Richmond meet similar fates, Michaela and Dottie join forces with the Richmond Police and the FBI to track down the pair of heinous murderers. But in order to catch the killers, they will put their own lives and the lives of others in in serious jeopardy.

What Price Must a City Pay to Keep its Citizen’s Safe?

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Excerpt

Dottie sat quietly in a large wing-backed chair in the calm serenity of Madame Toulescent’s solarium. The herbs Madame Toulescent had given her had done the trick. She could feel herself calming down. She could hear the rushing of the James River in the distance and she was mesmerized by the cattle grazing in the field in the distance. Perhaps all was right with the world. She supposed she’d know soon enough.

Madame motioned her to a simple wooden table on the side of the room. Dottie arose from her chair and took the seat facing the psychic. Madame Toulescent’s eyes glazed through the glass window out into the fields. Dottie wondered what she was seeing but sat quietly and watched.

“Countess Borghase, you know I’m a psychic. Generally, when we meet, I do psychic readings. But, I also function as a spiritual medium. Would you like for me to see if I could talk with your friend, Camilla?”

Dottie’s stomach knotted up and she felt nauseous. She stared at Madame Toulescent and said, her voice hesitant, “I… I don’t know. I’ve never done that before. Will it help?”

Madame Toulescent could sense her hesitation. “You seem frightened to talk with your friend or at least have your friend communicate with us. Let’s see what else we can do.”

“I didn’t know you talked with spirits,” Dottie said. “Can you tell me how that works?”

“Well, there are quite a few things I can do,” Madame Toulescent said gently. She could see Dottie was upset about channeling Camilla. “We’ve mostly done psychic readings when you’ve visited. The psychic readings are about getting advice, guidance or direction around things that are happening in your life. There’ve been a couple of times when you’ve been here in crises and you wanted some help or direction. It is my belief that a reading is getting confirmation on what our own intuition is already telling us. Most of the time, I’ve simply confirmed what your intuition had already suggested. I’ve validated what you already knew. Often as a psychic, I only teach and help people confirm their own wisdom.

Dottie nodded, “Yes, I agree with that. Most of the time you’ve validated what I’ve thought and believed and have helped me decide what to do next.”

Madame nodded. “Yes, this is true.”

“But, Countess,” she said taking Dottie’s cold hand into her warm one, “I also work as a medium and I can contact your friend Camilla and we can learn about the last few moments of her life.”

Dottie’s eyes filled with tears, “But I don’t know if I want to know about Camilla’s last few minutes. She looked so horrible and I think she was scared and in pain,” she ended with a choked sob.

Madame Toulescent nodded. “I understand what you are saying. I just want to tell you that it’s possible we can learn from Camilla. Perhaps she can help us solve the poisonings.”

About the Author

judith-lucciDr. Judith Lucci is a bestselling Amazon author and the author of the Alex Destephano Medical Thriller series set in New Orleans and the Michaela McPherson Mystery/Suspense series set in her hometown on Richmond, Virginia. Lucci also has a volume of short stories, Black Magic Bayou, a collection of moralistic tales based on Cajun superstition and lore and a novella, Beach Blanket Murders: The Ocean Can be Deadly. She has contributed to three anthologies and collections, and is the creator of Author 911: The Authors Guide to Writing and Medical Information. She is a registered nurse and college professor and holds graduate degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Virginia.

“Before I wrote fiction, I was an academic writer who published research, theoretical works, authored text books and just about anything a college professor needed to publish to survive.” The differences in academic and fiction writing are dramatic. Writing what I know encourages me to pull from my clinical experiences, some good, some not and use popular fiction as a means to teach and advocate for others.

Dr. Lucci’s books have three purposes, to engage the reader, to entertain them and to educate about healthcare and perhaps, the darker side of hospital life and life in general. Her books are described as contemporary novels that focus on and describe current social, moral and ethical issues in present day society. Judith is a true advocate for social justice and that theme is often prevalent in her work. She’s an avid reader and loves making stuff up and writing it down. She’s a member of the Virginia Writers Club, The Gulf Coast Writers Club, The Shenandoah Valley Writers group and Sisters in Crime.

When I’m not writing I am probably teaching, painting on silk as I am a multi-media artist or playing with my many dogs.  Please feel free to contact me.  I am always excited to meet new people!

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Posted in Cozy, excerpt, Giveaway, Guest Post, mystery, Spotlight on December 1, 2016

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Murder at the Moonshine Inn: A Hazel Rose Book Group Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd Series
Koehler Books (November 15, 2016)
Paperback: 288 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1633932814
E-Book ASIN: B01LXL1VXD

Synopsis

When high-powered executive Roxanne Howard dies in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s premiere redneck bar, the victim’s sister enlists Hazel Rose to ferret out the killer. At first Hazel balks—she’s a romance writer, not a detective. But Brad Jones, Rox’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family.

Hazel recruits her book group members to help with the investigation. It’s not long before they discover any number of people who feel that a world without Rox Howard is just fine with them: Brad’s son believes that Rox and Brad were behind his mother’s death; Rox’s former young lover holds Rox responsible for a tragedy in his family; and one of Rox’s employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her. The killer could be an angry regular from the Moonshine Inn—or just about anyone who ever crossed paths with the willful and manipulative Rox. When a second murder ups the ante Hazel must find out who is behind the killings. And fast. Or she may be victim #3.

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Guest Post

Research: Writing What You Don’t Know

Write what you know. What author hasn’t heard those four words countless times? But sometimes we’re writing what we don’t know. Historical fiction is a case in point. And what if your sleuth needs to investigate a murder at a redneck bar? What if she has never set foot in a redneck bar?

In Murder at the Moonshine Inn, Hazel Rose agrees to investigate the murder of Roxanne Howard, a high-powered executive who died in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, one of Richmond, Virginia’s most notorious redneck bars. Hazel immediately has two questions: who killed Roxanne? And why had the woman spent her leisure time sitting on a barstool at the watering hole, having loud fights on her phone with her husband?

To answer these questions, Hazel needs to go to the bar—undercover. How does she act? How does she dress? How does she speak? What does the bar look like?

That’s where I step in. I needed to visit a redneck bar that would become the model for the fictitious Moonshine Inn (not undercover, though.).

My friend Marie served as my consultant. She assured me that she was an expert on redneck culture. She advised me on dress, dialog, and any number of details. She sent me links to databases of redneck baby names. There is a wealth of online sources for redneckiana (not a real word, but perhaps it should be).

Vince, Hazel’s husband and undercover partner, admires his wife’s disguise:

“Wow!” His appreciative look said he liked the redneck me.

“It’s just for tonight. This is way too much work.”

“It’s the top I like. Hair’s for the birds. Literally.”

Vince referred to my Harley Davidson two-sizes-too-Vince referred to my Harley Davidson two-sizes-too-small tank top that revealed an impressive display of cleavage. I had a Victoria’s Secret contraption that I employed for the thankfully few occasions when I wanted to play up my assets. The jeans that I’d slashed in strategic places molded my bottom half, and Eileen’s boots fit well with the help of thick, albeit unsexy, socks. As for the hair, I may have gone overboard with teasing and spraying my chestnut waves into something like an exploded mushroom—or a birds nest. But, as long as I fit in, that was the main thing: frosted blue eye shadow and plenty of it streaked across my eyelids, and my nails sparkled with scarlet polish.

Back to me and my research. My own husband and I visited three bars and I combined the three in to one for my story. I tried to capture the essence and Marie helped. Between these visits, Marie, online sources, and my vivid imagination, I put together a passable chapter.

When Hazel arrives at the Moonshine Inn with Vince, she gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a redneck queen, she meets some very interesting people, and picks up information that may prove valuable in nailing Roxanne Howard’s killer.

 

Excerpt

IF ONLY I could learn to say no, I wouldn’t be perched on a barstool in a redneck bar, breathing secondhand smoke and pretending to flirt with men sporting baseball caps and Confederate bandanas, their eyes riveted on my Victoria’s Secret-enhanced cleavage. I wouldn’t be tricked out in a bizarre hairstyle, frosted blue eye shadow, painted-on jeans with strategically placed slashes, and a two-sizes-too-small Harley Davidson tank top.

I hit the rewind button on my life and stopped a few days earlier, at the point where Phyllis Ross threw a cup of coffee in Nina Brown’s face. How that led to this undercover assignment—finding out who killed a middle-aged drunken woman in the parking lot of the Moonshine Inn—is quite a tale.

***

When I walked into one of the many Panera restaurants that dotted the Richmond, Virginia landscape I didn’t spot any rednecks. Perhaps they were traveling incognito. The Panera denizens wore standard summer garb: shorts, capris, sandals, T-shirts, with a baseball cap here and there. They sat hunched over laptops or swiping the screens of their smartphones. Some retro types chose to absorb the day’s news on paper.

Trudy Zimmerman’s long white mane made her easy to spot in a booth that overlooked Panera’s patio and the parking lot beyond. When I took the seat next to her, she introduced the woman sitting across from us as Nina Brown.

Nina Brown. Where had I heard that name? Trudy pronounced Nina like the number nine followed by a short a—Nine-ah. Short and long vowels brought back memories of long-ago school days: were vowels still a part of the teaching curriculum?

Nina’s appearance spoke volumes about her health. A heavy layer of makeup didn’t hide the shadows under her dark eyes. Vertical lines bracketed her mouth like parentheses. I wondered if she suffered from depression, perhaps brought on by a serious health condition or recent trauma.

She extended her hand. “Nice to meet you, Hazel,” she assured me in a surprisingly strong and melodious voice, one I associated with telephone sales or disc jockeys.

Trudy had called me the night before, saying she had a friend who needed a favor that apparently only I could grant.

“What sort of favor?”

“I can’t say. She made me promise not to.”

“Huh? What is this, some kind of spy operation?”

“I think you’ll be intrigued by what she has to say. Please, Hazel. Do this for me.”

“For you, huh? Who is this woman? How about a hint?”

“I can’t. I’m sworn to secrecy. Just come and hear her story. You can always say no.”

I’d laughed. “Yeah, just say no.” One would think that at my age I would have learned to say no. But I suspected I’d be filing for Medicare without mastering that useful skill. Oh well, I had two years to work on it.

“Okay, I’ll listen to what she has to say. I’ll say ‘yes’ to that.” We decided on Panera at Stony Point at eight the next morning.

Introductions made, Trudy looked at me and said, “Why don’t you get something and then we’ll chat.” I noted her party hostess tone and gave her a look.

When I returned to the booth with coffee and croissant in hand, Trudy stood to let me slide into the booth. “I might have to leave early. We have a staff meeting at nine-thirty.”

“We” referred to the library where Trudy worked. Great, I thought. I hoped Nina got her tale told before Trudy deserted me.

Nina smiled and started with an icebreaker. “So Hazel, Trudy says you two are in the same book group.”

“Yes, for, what is it, ten years now?” Trudy nodded.

Nina sipped her coffee, bleached by a heavy dose of creamer. “And you’re a writer?”

“Yes, I write romance novels for baby boomers.”

“How many books have you published?”

“Six, so far.”

“A lot of people like your books.”

I smiled. “So, what kind of work do you do?”

“Oh, nothing much right now. I help out at my . . . my sister’s non-profit.” She inhaled heavily and grabbed my arm, startling me. “I have something to ask … a favor.”

“Why, Hazel Rose and Trudy Zimmerman. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Hi, Phyllis.” In one voice Trudy and I greeted Phyllis Ross,another member of our book group. Phyllis fixed her attention on Nina—not on us. Her do-I-know-you look was a little too probing, but Phyllis wasn’t known for her subtlety.

Trudy put down her egg sandwich and wiped her mouth before making introductions. “Phyllis Ross, Nina Brown. Nina—”

“So it is you! I can’t believe it.” Phyllis pointed a shaky finger at Nina.

Nina looked alarmed. “Who are you?” she asked.

“Who am I? I’m Phyllis Lassiter Ross. Charlie Lassiter’s sister.”

“Oh! I didn’t recognize you.”

Phyllis glared. “Well, it’s been twenty years.”

I could understand why Nina didn’t recognize her. I’d seen pictures of Phyllis from her younger days and the years hadn’t been kind to her. Likely her love of the sun had accelerated the aging process.

Her face darkening with anger, Phyllis leaned over the table, hovering over Nina. Her brown-going-gray hair fanned out around her head and I covered my mug with my hand lest a stray hair invade my coffee.

“Charlie loved you, may he rest in peace,” Phyllis railed. “But you dumped him like he was yesterday’s garbage. After taking his money for that pyramid scheme.”

“Charlie died?”

“Yes, two years ago.”

Charlie Lassiter had suffered a massive heart attack. At his funeral I’d met his current wife, former wife, his children and grandchildren. I felt sure he was long over Nina. So, why was Phyllis pinning his demise on her?

“Phyllis, I’m sorry he died, but I had nothing to do with it. I hadn’t seen him in years. As for the money, I paid him back.”

“Not according to him you didn’t. Two thousand dollars to invest in nutrition supplements.” Phyllis gave Nina the once-over. “Obviously a poor investment.”

Trudy and I looked at each other, not sure if we should intervene. But I felt like I had to do something. “Phyllis, please—” I started.

Phyllis ignored me. I hoped she wouldn’t follow in her brother’s footsteps and have a cardiac event. Could one of the device-addicted customers be a doctor? Eyes flashing, she continued to challenge Nina. “So tell me, how many children did you have?”

Nina opened her mouth as if to answer, then closed it.

“You told my brother you wanted children; you said your clock was ticking. Even though when you met him you claimed you didn’t want them.”

“I changed my mind.”

“So how many little rug rats did you have? Or was it all a ruse to get rid of Charlie?”

“I didn’t have children. I broke up with your dear brother because he was a jerk. God rest his soul, but he was a jerk!”

“He loved you and so hoped to get back together. God knows the whole family told him you weren’t worth it.”

“Yeah, I know. He stalked me for two years. And another thing—he was weird sexually.”

Weird sexually? I privately hoped she’d expand on that item. As a romance writer I was always on the lookout for new material.

Up to then the two women had kept their voices modulated, but now Nina amped up her proclamation about Charlie’s peccadillos, pulling people’s attention from their newspapers and electronic devices. It also put Phyllis over the edge. In less time than it took to blink, she picked up Nina’s mug and tossed the contents into her face, adding a few choice expletives.

Nina sat open-mouthed in shock, face and hair dripping with coffee.

I handed Nina my napkin and Trudy’s. “Are you burned?” Trudy made a dash for the napkin dispenser on a nearby condiment station.

“No, just wet.” Nina wiped her face. No doubt she could thank her over-creaming habit for cooling her coffee enough to save her from injury.

Then several things happened at once. A handsome young man whose name tag read “Todd Makin, Manager” appeared and asked if there was a problem. A member of the waitstaff trailed behind him with a wet cloth in hand.

“I’ll say there’s a problem,” said a woman who had been sitting in the booth behind us. She stood and pulled off her up-to-then pristine white jacket, now splotched with coffee. Droplets of the brew clung to the woman’s blonde curls.

By that time we were all standing and had the attention of the whole restaurant. Phyllis had vanished. Trudy handed Nina more napkins and escorted her to the restroom like she was a young child. As they walked away I noticed that Nina’s clothes hung on her, almost requiring suspenders to hold up her capris. A recent weight loss was my guess.

The irate woman spoke up. “That woman, the one with the wild hair—” she pointed out the window. Phyllis was now headed for the parking lot, her hair and loose-fitting top flowing around her. “She threw a cup of coffee at that woman in the red shirt.” She turned and pointed out Nina, now almost to the restroom.

“We’ll get you all seated at clean booths.” The manager smiled, his voice soothing. He’d make a great diplomat. Or playground referee. His assistant set to cleaning up both booths while Todd transferred our dishes.

That left me standing with the irate woman who wailed, “My beautiful jacket is just ruined!”

“Oh, the stain will come out,” I assured her. “I have the same jacket and once spilled coffee on it. Cold water works like magic. You’d better go to the restroom right away before the stain sets.”

I’m not usually called upon for impromptu performances, but I did a fair job spinning this tale. The woman looked uncertain for a moment, like she suspected a trick. Then she sighed and went to join Trudy and Nina in the restroom.

I sat in the new booth and waited for Trudy and Nina to reappear. When they did, Nina was still a bit damp.

She explained, “They only have automatic hand dryers in the restroom. They don’t dry the rest of the body too well.”

Having never found myself dripping with coffee in a restaurant, I hadn’t considered the limitations of hand dryers. Todd refreshed our beverages and offered any other services he could provide.

We assured him that we’d let him know. When he left, the three of us looked at each other and laughed. We had some “other services” in mind for the attractive Todd.

I said, “Nina, we’re sorry about Phyllis.”

Nina’s shrug suggested that she tangled with enraged women on a regular basis. “It’s okay. Charlie’s whole family hated me. They thought he was so wonderful. But he wasn’t.”

I knew Phyllis had been close to her brother and had taken it hard when Charlie died. Perhaps she had a blind side for her brother. Of course, she hadn’t known him in the same context as had Nina. Or so I hoped.

“You know,” I said, “You could file assault charges. That’s what Phyllis did, assault you.”

“No, no, no, no, no.” Nina waved both hands in front of her like they were windshield wipers. “Let’s just forget about it.”

I waited a beat for Nina to offer anything else about Charlie. When she didn’t, I said brightly, “Well, let’s start over. You said you needed a favor.”

My earlier reluctance to come to this meeting so early on a Monday morning had yielded to an eager curiosity. A woman who caused other women to throw coffee in her face had to be interesting. And a woman with a sexually weird man in the past—well, I was all ears.

Nina bit her lip and set to twisting her napkin. “Um, yes. A favor.” Nina looked around, like she feared someone might overhear her or sneak up behind her. Was she about to confess to a crime? If so, she didn’t need me, she needed a lawyer.

Leaning in close, she lowered her voice. “I want you to find out who killed my sister.”

About the Author

maggie-king-author-photo-72Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion at Shockoe Slip” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, paranormal, romance, Spotlight on November 30, 2016

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Title: Wolf Unleashed

Author: Paige Tyler

Series: SWAT, #5

ISBN: 9781492625988

Pubdate: December 6, 2016

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Synopsis

SHE BRINGS OUT THE WOLF IN HIM

Lacey Barton can’t deny her crazy attraction to Alex Trevino, but that doesn’t mean she has time for the gorgeous SWAT officer. She’s hell-bent on discovering who’s behind the brutal dogfights sending countless mauled animals to her veterinarian office. The trail leads Lacey to a ring of vicious drug dealers and suddenly she’s in way over her head—right smack in the middle of a SWAT stakeout.

With Lacey in danger, Alex’s wolf side is unleashed. But when she witnesses Alex shift, she’s even more terrified… Now it’s up to Alex to crack the case—and earn back Lacey’s trust and, ultimately, her heart.

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Q & A with Paige

In Wolf Unleashed, the fifth installment in Paige Tyler’s sexy and suspenseful SWAT series, Lacey, the heroine, is determined to uncover the perpetrator behind the brutal dogfights that are sending countless dogs into her vet practice. She fearlessly dives into the case even though it’s extremely dangerous!

We asked Paige Tyler about her favorite fearless female protagonists from pop culture.  So, who are her favorites?

Wonder Woman. Back when Wonder Woman debuted, all the super heroes were men. It was a “Man’s World” and we women were just living in it. But Diana Prince changed all that. She had the strength, heart, and courage to stand her ground with any supervillain—or superhero—out there. And when it came to Batman, Superman, and all the other testosterone-laden superhero egos, more often than not it fell to Wonder Woman to hold the Justice League together. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t say that another reason I love Wonder Woman is for those cool accessories! I’d love to have those bullet deflecting bracelets and golden lasso.

Excerpt

Excerpt from Wolf Unleashed

Dr. Barton was bent over rummaging through a bottom drawer of the built-ins on the far wall. Even though Alex did his best not to stare, it was impossible not to notice that she had an incredibly spectacular ass. He’d always been a leg man, but one look at her derrière and he suddenly decided he’d been missing out.

Then she stood up, turned around, and flipped her long, wavy blond hair over her shoulder, and he realized that the rest of her was equally stunning. While her baggy white lab coat hid a lot, he could still tell that she had an athletic build and some really nice curves. It was her face that made his heart beat faster, though. She had the most captivating pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen and full red lips just begging to be kissed. From this moment forward, whenever he pictured an angel, he would think of the beautiful Dr. Barton.

Alex smiled, and when she smiled back, he heard her heart thudding a little quicker. But then she looked down at Tuffie, and her entire expression changed. Hurrying over, she dropped down to one knee beside Tuffie, gently examining her ears and face.

She gave Alex an angry glare. “Please tell me you arrested the people who put this beautiful girl in a dogfighting ring. Even better—tell me you shot them.”

If Alex had thought her heart was beating fast before, it was nothing compared to the way it was thumping now. Clearly, Dr. Barton was very passionate about protecting dogs. In his book, that made her even more beautiful than she already was.

“I wish I could, but unfortunately, we never found the people who did it,” Alex said. “We rescued Tuffie when her owner was killed. He died trying to protect her from a psychopath armed with a rifle.”

Dr. Barton’s gaze went back to Tuffie, her expression turning from anger to sadness as she ran her fingers down the fresh scars along the dog’s chest and side. “Looks like she got shot anyway.”

“Yeah. It’s a miracle she lived long enough for my teammate and me to get her here in time for Doc Jones to save her. Thank God for sirens. I think we ran every red light in town.”

The veterinarian straightened, gracing him with another dazzling grin, and Alex felt his knees go a little loose. Damn, what a smile.

“I knew there was something I liked about you the second you walked in.”

Alex felt his face flush. “It wasn’t a big deal. I’m a cop. Saving people—and dogs—comes with the job description.” He cringed the moment the words left his mouth. Had he really just said something that lame?

Thankfully, the beautiful Dr. Barton didn’t seem to notice the cheesy line. Or if she had, she was too polite to laugh at him.

“And is bringing Tuffie to her appointments also in your job description?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.

Was her heart beating even faster than before? Unless it was his own heart pounding in his ears. That was a definite possibility. Because it seemed like he had a real thing for Dr. Barton.

He smiled. “It is if the rest of the SWAT team and I adopted her and gave her a new home.”

Alex knew it was a shameless grab to get further into the doctor’s good graces, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself.

“Not only did you save her life, but you adopted her too? I think Tuffie hit the lottery with you, Officer…?”

“Trevino,” he said, filling in the blank and offering his hand. “But please, call me Alex.”

She took his hand and gave it a shake. “Nice to meet you, Alex. I’m Lacey Barton.”

Her hand was small in comparison to his, her skin soft and warm, and Alex found himself holding on a bit longer than was customary. Lacey didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she appeared just as reluctant to let go as he did.

She pushed her hair behind her ear and cleared her throat. “I guess we ought to get on with Tuffie’s checkup. So you can get back to saving the world and everything.”

“Yeah, of course.”

Reaching down, Alex gently picked up Tuffie and set her on the stainless steel exam table.

“Nice muscle tone,” Lacey murmured.

Alex felt the compliment go right to his head. “Thanks.”

“Actually, I was talking about Tuffie,” Lacey said as she tenderly ran her hands over the dog’s shoulders.

“Oh.”

She looked up at him from beneath her lashes. “But yours is pretty good too.”

Alex chuckled. Damn, this woman was good. He had her by a foot in height and more than a hundred pounds in weight, yet she was playing him like a fiddle, and he didn’t mind one bit. He couldn’t remember ever having such an immediate and intense reaction to any woman he’d ever met. Suddenly, he wanted to know everything there was to know about her—and then some.

Lacey was more than accommodating, telling him about how she’d recently gotten a job here after working several years at a place on the west side of Dallas closer to Arlington.

“I loved it there, but this place is closer to my apartment,” she told him as she continued to examine Tuffie. “I’ve cut my commute time by about an hour and a half each way, so it’s like getting a whole extra day off to do stuff I want to do instead of sitting in traffic.”

“And what do you like to do with all this extra time?” he asked.

Lacey leaned over to read something in Tuffie’s medical records. Alex tensed, worried she’d found something wrong, but after a moment, she merely nodded to herself, then went back to checking Tuffie. “I do a lot of volunteer work at one of the nearby animal shelters,” she said. “I’m also on call to help out both Animal Services and the DPD Animal Cruelty Squad when they run into injured dogs.”

Whoa. A woman who spent her days taking care of dogs for a living, then did it during her spare time for free? That was definitely a woman Alex could appreciate.

“It’s pretty amazing that you give so much of your time to animal causes,” he said. “Getting called out at all hours of the day and night must be tough on your boyfriend, though.”

Lacey urged Tuffie over on her back, pressing carefully along one of the long scars that ran all the way from the base of her rib cage to the middle of her cute pink tummy.

“I don’t have a boyfriend right now,” she said, the corners of her mouth turning up. “My life is a little too busy for that at the moment.”

Bingo! Alex had already noticed she wasn’t wearing a ring. Now he knew she wasn’t seeing anyone. Could this get any better?

About the Author

Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. Paige writes books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines they fall in love with. She lives with her very own military hero (a.k.a. her husband) and their adorable dog on the beautiful Florida coast.

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Posted in excerpt, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on November 28, 2016

Title:                Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives

Author:           Janice Wood Wetzel

Pages:             255

ISBN:               978-0-9968-3010-2

 

In words as clear and sharp as cut crystal glass, the memoir Sorrows & Songs:  One Lifetime – Many Lives unflinchingly tells the story of a bright, beautiful, and promising young child who forged towards a fully realized life in spite of years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her parents and pervasive society-wide gender discrimination.

Through her account, Janice Wood Wetzel shares a range of experiences in the context of her life and times – a Depression-era childhood, World War II, a teen pregnancy and miscarriage, a 20-year marriage that produced three much loved children but ultimately ended in divorce in her late 30s, the numbing social conformity that informed the ‘50s and early ‘60s, a mental health crisis in the form of depression, a stint in a psychiatric hospital, the suicide of her father, and soon thereafter, the tragic death of her mother, and a bout with alcoholism. Finally, the mid-1960s brought hope in the form of second-wave feminism, which enlightened the world and consequently changed the author’s life.

One by one, through quiet acts of bravery, Janice Wood Wetzel broke through sexist obstacles and emerged as a civil rights pioneer, a recognized feminist and human rights researcher, strategist, and advocate, as well as a United Nations nongovernmental representative, and a highly regarded professor and Dean of Social Work.

A successful life, yes. But at a price. From a painful crucible of dreams deferred and loves lost emerged both a life of many victories and a rewarding memoir.

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Available in Paperback $14.95 at http://sorrowsandsongs.com/buy-now

Available as an eBook $6.99 on Amazon / BN.com / Kobo / iTunes

Excerpt

Happy Birthday Baby

I recovered from the measles in time for my eighth birthday. In preparation, Mother suggested a birthday party breakfast for the ten little girls in the neighborhood. She and I planned the menu together. Cocoa with marshmallows, fresh squeezed orange juice, French toast, little sausage links, and of course birthday cake with pink icing—special treats in a year still scarred by the Depression. When I came downstairs on the morning of the party, I couldn’t have been more pleased. The dining room chandelier was scalloped with crepe paper, and a Happy Birthday! swag festooned the mirror over the buffet. Our best lace tablecloth for special occasions already covered the table. At each place there was a pastel nut cup filled with pastel mints and a pink snapper that promised a party hat and streamers when it popped. Near the top of the plates were small favors wrapped in paper printed with adorable kittens tumbling in ribbons. It was all I could do to wait until the guests would arrive at eleven.

They never came.

The house was empty. Dad and Barrie had gone on a father-and-son hike so that the house could be just for little girls for a few hours. Mother and I sat on the upholstered horsehair oak couch in the living room. I felt sick to my stomach; my throat had a painful lump that made it hard to swallow. Otherwise, I was numb, staring into the stillness. Finally, with resolve, Mother got up and stood directly in front of me. “It’s not about you,” she assured me, “It’s about me.” She went on, “I don’t fit in this one-horse town. All of their mothers are common. They’re all jealous of me.”

I knew what she said wasn’t true, but I wasn’t sure if she believed it. I breathed, “It’s not your fault.” I was grateful to her for trying to make me feel better, but it really didn’t help. “I wish I could hurt for you so that you wouldn’t have to,” she said, her face contorted with pain. It made me want to cry. My chest and my throat ached unbearably. We went into the dining room and picked at the French toast that she made for us and then quietly cleaned up. We made small talk, pretending everything was all right.

Two hours later, Barbara, a little girl who lived across the street, rang the front doorbell. “I can’t stay. Here. This is for Janice.” She handed my mother a present for me. Mother urged her to come in while she called her mother. I sat immobilized, the pain of humiliation and rejection seeping into my pores. “Please let Barbara stay for some birthday cake,” she pleaded on the telephone. “My daughter’s so disappointed.” The answer was no. I had no idea then that my parents’ drinking at the umbrella table in the back yard and Mother passing out in the yard were probably the reasons for the neighborhood boycott. Somehow, even today it doesn’t make me feel better to realize it, nor am I fully convinced that I wasn’t personally rejected by the little girls on my street. It’s a scar that is still tender to the touch.

*Excerpt from Sorrows & Songs: One Lifetime – Many Lives by Janice Wood Wetzel©

About the Author

Janice Wood Wetzel is a professor emerita and former dean of social work who has served as a United Nations nongovernmental representative in New York since 1988. She is a well-published international educator and researcher who specializes in the human rights, mental health, and advancement of women from a global perspective. The mother of three and grandmother of four, Janice has lived all over the United States. For the past 27 years, her home has been on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Spotlight on November 25, 2016

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Synopsis

In the chaotic and crime-ridden settlement of Boxtown on Mars, Minty Storey witnesses a bar fight she has no idea will change the course of her life.

Halfway across the planet, Janet Pilgrim and the Volunteer Space Rescue Service struggle to do something about the pirate menace on the spaceways between Earth and Mars.

But the problems both face are much bigger than pirates and bar fights. When a leader of Earth’s Manifest Destiny movement makes an appearance on Mars, events begin to roll to a climax that will hold the fate of the planet in the balance.

**how funny that the character has the same last name as me and this blog!**

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Excerpt

Bulk Cargo Ship Lisco Gloria, Mars Orbit

Will Saldana wrinkled his nose.  “Why oh why did they have to ‘jack a ship full of coffee,” he asked.  Since he was alone in the zero-gee centerline passageway of the spaceship Lisco Gloria, there was no answer forthcoming.  “I should have stayed home,” he said, pulling himself aft with one hand while trying to keep the semi-auto pistol in the pocket of his coveralls with the other.  Fortunately the pistolwas attached by a string to a belt-loop, so no matter what he wasn’t going to lose it.

He contemplated “home” as he continued aft.  He’d been born on Mars, and spent most of his 10 Martian years or Mears living in a small station in the Libya Montes region of Mars.  It was the most boring place possible, so when a trade convoy had driven by he’d lit out with them.

“That was a mistake,” he said, addressing one of the many equipment panels he was supposed to be checking.  Why they needed to be checked every hour, including the middle of the night, was beyond him.  But he was getting paid.

“Money is good,” he said.  The handheld radio in his other pocket beeped, and he fished it out.  “Yeah,” he said, keying the mike.

“You’re late,” came a woman’s voice from the device.  The ‘again’ was unspoken.

“You got a hot date?” Will asked.  He wasn’t wearing anything under his coveralls, and thinking of his highly attractive boss was starting to create a reaction.

“Down, boy,” she said, as if she could see him. “Report every 30 minutes means report every 30 minutes, not whenever you feel like it.”

“Fine, fine, keep your shirt on.”  Actually, take it off please.  “I’m at the Number 2 HVAC panel and nothing to report.”

“Copy, check back in 30, please.”

“Yes, boss.”

Will continued on his rounds.  He’d ran out of money in New Hue City, which was especially problematic because most of the locals spoke Vietnamese and he didn’t.  Fortunately he hooked up with the pirates, who were looking for a crew to guard whatever ship they took.  Will, desperate, signed up.  He ate most of the advance, keeping just enough to get his nine-millimeter pistol out of hock.

“But why, oh why, did they have to ‘jack a coffee-boat,” he said aloud, hoping talking would keep him awake.  Martians, or at least those who actually liked coffee and had money to burn, would pay extra for Earth coffee, and coffee had to be shipped in pressurized cargo holds.  Thus, the Lisco Gloria, a ship that reeked of coffee.

He came to the end of his round, a zero-gee corridor that led to an external cargo airlock.  He pulled himself into the corridor, intending just to eyeball the airlock from the junction as opposed to go all the way down to the lock.

“Who are you?” Will asked, startled.  There was a man in a spacesuit about two meters down the corridor from junction.  His suit helmet was open, revealing a full salt-and-pepper beard.

“Easy, kid,” the man said, his gravelly voice quiet.  He looked and sounded like somebody’s grandfather.  The gun in the man’s hands did not fit with the grandfatherly image.  “Just stay cool and nobody will get hurt.”

“Look, man,” Will said, his mouth suddenly dry.  “I gotta check in, and if I don’t…”

“Your next check in isn’t due for half an hour,” the man said.

A blower kicked on, and Will’s body started to twist in the sudden breeze.  He felt his gun slide out of his pocket, and reflexively reached for it.

“No!” the other man said.

“I’m cool!” Will shouted, thrusting his other hand toward the man.  This caused Will to twist some more and the gun to fall completely out.

There were two pops, each as loud as a handclap, and Will felt a burning pain in his chest.  His eyes suddenly wouldn’t focus, and he was spun in a different direction.  He looked down the corridor and saw the old man’s gun flash, producing a muted clap.  Will screamed as something hot drove into his shoulder.

The gun spun away from his suddenly nerveless hand, dangling at the end of the string.  The room was getting dark, and Will couldn’t catch his breath. He tried to talk, but couldn’t get any words out.

“Nice shooting, Nick,” Will heard somebody say.

“Kid gave me no choice,” the old man said, his voice sounding distant.  “One pirate down, Junction Alpha secured.”

Will closed his eyes.  The last thing he heard was the old man saying “too late for a medic.”

About the Author

Chris Gerrib admits to being a bit obsessed with Mars, but in a healthy way – all three books of his Pirate Series are set on Mars.  Chris still has a day job as the IT director at a Chicago-area bank, and holds degrees in history and business from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University.  He also served in the US Navy during the First Gulf War, and can proudly report that not one Iraqi MiG bombed Jacksonville, Florida while he was in the service.  In his copious free time, Chris is a past President of and currently active in his local Rotary club.

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Posted in 3 paws, excerpt, Review, Romantic Suspense on November 21, 2016

pistol-fanny

Synopsis

Never fall in love with a bank robber.

Especially if she’s the one who robbed your bank, took you hostage, and dumped you unconscious at the local convenience store. And definitely not if you are the assistant district attorney of Tupelo, Mississippi.

This is the advice Hank Huckleberry Rivers would have given himself, back when he was a man who vowed to always walk on the right side of the law. The same law that had seemed sacrosanct ever since the day he and his friends watched as two men were murdered right below their tree house.

Falling in love with a dangerous criminal can have life-altering consequences, though. And when the past and the present meet head-on, Hank finds himself in more trouble than he ever bargained for. He must run to save his life, daring to find answers to the questions threatening his safety and his heart, as the killer below the tree house comes after Hank—and his pistol-wielding bank robber.

It’s a simple case of love in the first degree.

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Artist: Jaime Buckley

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Excerpt

Even so, these mystical women in heels who were robbing and donating continued to make headlines, and banks across the states had never been busier. Men were lining up, never taking such an interest in where their money was stashed, all in hopes of catching a glimpse of them.

Posters were made, memes popped up like mushrooms in a wet field online, and a comic strip was dedicated to these women.  Pistollette was bigger than life, her legs spread apart, a pistol in each hand, looking down on the world. That exaggerated smile on her face, those brown blinking eyes.

Her sisters were right beside her, blowing things up, winking and playing the boom box, tap dancing by a door, flipping on counters. Close to their hairlines, a zipper, and a clear thin line that separated their two sides. The good and the bad. The zipper was the key to their true identity. And below them all were men, amplified cartoon hearts floating from their chests, stars in their eyes, and lust in their smiles.

The slogan for these women—not only do they steal your money, they collect interest on your heart.

The entire world knew who they were. Headlines read: Maybe coming to a bank near you.

Propaganda hung in alleys, on fences, above urinals, and below in underground train stations. They were up in pool halls, in dive bars, and on the walls of the swankiest clubs in New York. They had become art. Modern day sophisticate meets old lawless ruggedness. A huge billboard hung in Hollywood, showing the girls appearing out of smoke: Stealing the hearts of the rich guys, giving to the poor ones. Pistollette and her Sirens will take you by storm! They were for the good guys of the world who cared enough to figure it out.

They were elusive and mysterious, and there was a reward for any man who would dare remove any of their masks. The world was sure underneath the masquerades were the most beautiful faces any man had ever seen. No one ever tried. They were too stupefied in their presence. They were truck drivers’ and bikers’ dreams, doctors’ and lawyers’ fantasies.

The hoopla went on and on.

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Review

This book took a long time for me to read and I’m a fast reader. It started off great with what the boys see when they are young, but then it took quite some time for that to come back and fit back into the story.

I thought the book was slow in many parts and sometimes I felt like some scenes were drawn out way too long. There were also times when I had no clue what was going on and who characters were and if they were people we already knew or not.

The story does explain everything and tie it all together.

I’d give this about 3 paws.

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About the Author

Born and raised in New Orleans, Annie has a habit of shortening her words and telling long stories. She speaks with a southern flair and cooks with it too. At the tender age of twenty- one, she hitched up her wagons (took her first plane ride) and moved out west to the big shake (California).

Her writing career began one sleepless night when she imagined a gorgeous woman and a man with maniacal hair floating above her like lightening bugs falling from the sky. Curious about them, their story, and why they were floating around in her head, she sat down and penned (typed) her first novel, Marigny Street. A dream come true for her, she hasn’t stopped writing since. She loves a damn good love story, always has, no matter what the genre. She is particularly moved by imperfect love that in its own unique way is perfect, the notion of love at first sight, soul mates, and things that are generally out of the norm.

When she’s not writing she enjoys dabbling in photography and finding new, inspirational music to add to her collection. Deciding on a whim to hitch up those same wagons, Annie currently resides in Texas (where everything is bigger) with her husband, daughter, and their two peculiar dogs, Boudreaux and Tabasco (who, call her crazy, bark with an accent).

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Posted in excerpt, Review, Romantic Suspense on November 20, 2016

 

secrets1Love, Lies & A Bleu Christmas
A Follow-Up Novella to Love, Lies & The D.A.

Release Date: November 15th, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
Pages/Words: 257/47,000
Format: EBook & Paperback

Synopsis

love-lies-a-bleu-christ-kWhen Bleu Resorts owner, Jada Kole decided it would be a good idea to keep a secret from her husband, it never once occurred to her that he might have an even more stunning secret than hers.

The last year of Jonathan Kole’s life has been marred by complications, pressure and is beyond stressful both at his law firm and at home. Jada being overseas for an extended period doesn’t make things any easier to deal with.

But secrets have a way of getting out. Add a sultry blonde and a child to the mix and Jada and Jonathan’s happily married life quickly turns into a very dark shade of bleu. As things fall apart, it turns from bad to worse when one of them ends up on the wrong side of the law and something ominous enters their lives.

With Jada and Jonathan battling problems inside their marriage and things disintegrating in every direction on the outside, will San Francisco’s biggest power couple be able to get their lives in order? Or will it bring about the demise of their world and their child’s?

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Excerpt – Opening Scene (SPOILER ALERT)

“Vous avez un cancer du sein.”

Translation: “You have breast cancer.” Four words no woman wants to hear.

It was on the night of the grand opening of my Paris hotel one week ago and after a long day, while taking a shower, I felt a small lump in my right breast.

After several tests and a biopsy, Dr. Benneteau, the oncologist called…

Days later, I still can’t get over the shock.

As I stare at the gray clouds that cover the Eiffel Tower, my phone rings, snapping me out of my thoughts. My husband Jonathan’s face illuminates my screen.

“Hey, baby. How are my two favorite men in the world?”

“Overwhelmed. I just had a break and I wanted to be sure I checked in with you. Any idea when you’re going to be home?”

Not anytime soon.

“Apart from seeing your handsome face and my sweet son for a couple days, I really can’t rationalize flying across the Atlantic for two days. I have to head over to Austria to make sure everything is on schedule with the property there.”

“I miss my wife, and Jordan misses his mom.”

My chest aches at the sound of his words. “If you really want, I’ll come home but it would be so much less pressure on me if I just stayed.”

He sighs at the end of the line and mumbles a disgruntled, “Okay.”

“It’s not like you’d have time for me either if I came, is it? You couldn’t even make the grand opening of Paris Bleu. All you’ve been telling me is how crazy it has been trying to get everything in place at the various branches of the firm.”

“That’s true. I just miss you that’s all. Things just seem so much easier to handle when you’re here.”

His words warm my heart. “I miss you too. I’ll be home as soon as I am able, I promise. In the meanwhile we always have FaceTime. But don’t you ever forget how much I love you.”

“I love you too, babe. I have to go. I’ll be in touch soon.”

I end the call.

I may not have gotten over the shock of my diagnosis, but from the moment I found the lump, I’ve spent all my time researching it, and I have another appointment with the doctors this afternoon.

Jonathan’s been overwhelmed of late since his sister Megan moved to Switzerland and his right-hand man, Cooper, lost his wife after a battle with—breast cancer. I don’t want to worry him. Besides, it’s just stage two breast cancer…or at least that is what I continue to tell myself.

I have already made up my mind about what I’m going to do—handle it on my own. Have a double mastectomy so this never ever resurfaces again and tell my husband when I get home. That way, the problem will be handled; they’ll see that I’m healthy and we can all just move on with our lives. I’ll be saving them the agony of going through this anyway…

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My Review

Disclaimer – This book does contain explicit sex scenes and f* bombs

There are two parts to this book that captured my attention. The first is the suspense (of course!) and trying to figure out who is framing Jonathan for murder. While you don’t have to have read the other books to enjoy this one, it might help explain the relationship of the “bad guys” and why they were doing what they were doing. The author does a good job of filling in the gaps and explaining the ties and I’m not sure if there is more detail in the other books.

The other is Jada’s emotions and mindset when she finds out she has breast cancer and dealing with the situation. I too am a breast cancer survivor so this hit home. However, how we handled the situations were polar opposites. Jada thought she could do it all on her own and didn’t want anyone to help her. She found out soon enough that perhaps that was not the right way to go about dealing with the cancer. I did like her speech at a dinner for cancer and what she learned about dealing with cancer and what to do or not do.

Overall I enjoyed the book and will admit I flipped past the sex scenes. There were only 1 or 2, but wasn’t in the mood to read those kinds of scenes. But that is my preference and no way says anything about the book.

 

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Love, Lies & A Bleu Christmas Buy Links

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Love, Lies & The D.A. – Book #1 In The Series

Love, Lies & The D.A. NEW COVERJada McLean is about to get married in nine days, when she walks in on her fiancé in a little more than a compromising position. Days later, she’s on a trip that she intends to be relaxing and a prelude to her fresh start, when she runs into the rude, obnoxious, but gorgeous Jonathan Kole.

Jonathan Kole is San Francisco’s newest District Attorney. When he finds himself deeply attracted to a stunning beauty, he has no idea that she’s about to get into BIG trouble with the law—and he’ll be the one presiding over her trial. To make matters worse, his father is the lawyer representing her in the high-profile case.

When a series of events force them together over New Year’s weekend, Jonathan’s feelings and ethics will come into question, while Jada comes to terms with the fact that she is falling for the man that will be responsible for attempting to put her behind bars… Little do they know, they’re both about to fall into a whirlwind so deep, it will send both their lives spiraling out of control.

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About Rebecca Rohman

Rebecca Rohman is a wife and designer currently living in the northeastern United States. She was a sales manager for a tourist magazine, and for many years prior, she was involved in marketing for a jewelry company and fine wine distributor.

About fifteen years ago, she started writing her first romance novel purely to entertain herself. In early 2012, she decided to complete and release it. Since then, she has released three additional novels and one novella. Love, Lies & A Bleu Christmas was released in mid-November 2016.

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Love, Lies & A Bleu Christmas | A Problematic Love | Love M.D. | Love, Lies & The D.A. | Unravel | Uncorked

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, paranormal on November 18, 2016

crush-saga
The Crush Saga Box Set by Chrissy Peebles

I was born to die… But to defy fate is to control your own destiny.

Moving to Big Bear Lake was supposed to be a fresh start, but when Taylor Sparks is thrown into a supernatural world, her reality comes crashing down around her when she finds out she’s a KEY player in a dangerous game created 1,000 years ago that will give the witches and werewolves the upper hand against the vampires. Blood will be spilled and secrets will be revealed in this action-packed thrill ride and paranormal romance.

Will Taylor dive into a paranormal world she knows nothing about to be with the one her heart can’t live without?

Or will her life spiral out of control when she learns her blood is needed, just the serum necessary to lift an ancient curse from a group of supernatural beings and give the witches back their magic?

Werewolves will serve as her guardians and protect her until the first full moon of the new year, the night of her sacrifice…

Will she accept her destiny?

Or will she refuse to let evil swallow her up?

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Excerpt

Grabbing my purse, I hurried out of the car and locked the doors. Just as I started to walk up the driveway, I felt the cold steel of a muzzle against my neck. My heart hammered against my ribs.

“One sound, and you’re dead,” a harsh, male voice said.

I froze in panic as somebody slipped a black blindfold over my eyes, then gagged me. A man duct-taped my mouth, while another tied my ankles, legs, and wrists with rope. He hoisted me over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, and horror ripped through me. Help! I’m being kidnapped! my brain yelled, but I dare not cry out for fear of what they would do to me. I did try to fight back, at least to some degree, but I was tied and gagged and could do little about being manhandled.

“Put her in the trunk!” a man yelled.

As I fought, I was thrown, neck-first, into the trunk of a car, and my mind began to race. This can’t be happening! I tried to call out for my parents. If only they could hear me. If only I could scream, maybe Max would bark, and Mom or Dad would come to the door. If only…

Tires screeched, and the vehicle took off down the street. The smell of gasoline made me gag. I tried to kick and scream, but it was tight quarters, and I was still all tied up. I cringed at their muffled voices, wondering what they wanted from me.

“I’m tellin’ ya,” one of the guys said, “we oughtta just kill her now.”

My skin crawled at his nonchalance.

“He’s right,” the other said. “Just do it, right here, right now. We’ve outsmarted her protectors, but for how long? We need to do it swiftly and quickly, before they return.”

“You know the rules,” a low voice hissed. “If we just kill her, they’ll have the legal right to choose another, and we’ll be right back at square one again. We’ve gotta do this by the book.”

“I agree,” a woman said. “We need to stop the Millennium ceremony from happening.”

“I don’t want to kill her,” another woman said. “She’s just…an innocent victim in all this. It isn’t right.”

“If we don’t kill her, they’ll win,” another said. “They’ll gain the upper hand when she gives them what they need.”

“Our enemy will stop at nothing to destroy us,” another said tensely. “Killing her will keep them from becoming more powerful than they already are.”

“It will bring them to their knees!” another shouted.

Great, I thought. A case of mistaken identity is the last thing I need. By their talk, I assumed that killing me was some way to get back at their rivals, though I had no idea who those rivals were. The mafia? Some kind of…street gang? I had absolutely no idea, but I desperately wanted to tell them who I really was, to let them know they obviously had me confused me with somebody else. Maybe if I explain that, they’ll let me go. After all, I hadn’t seen their faces, so I wasn’t a threat. Then it dawned on me: Jesse had just revealed his identity to me. Maybe his clan wants to kill me because I know too much. I wanted to scream at them and tell them, to assure them that I’d never reveal Jesse’s identity, that I’d take his deep, dark secret to the grave with me. Jesse meant everything to me, and I would never betray his trust like that; unfortunately, my captors didn’t give me a chance to explain that to them. I wasn’t completely sure if it was vampires that had me. But they had heard me messing with my ropes and that took Immortal hearing. No human could hear that over the sound of the engine, the radio, and voices talking.

We drove down the lonely stretch of road, and I didn’t hear one car pass by. I considered trying to pop the trunk open so I could jump for freedom. I figured the car was going about eighty, but I figured it’d be easier to heal from a broken neck than a bullet to the head. The rope bindings cut into my skin and began to sting and burn. I wiggled my numbing hands, trying to find some relief, when a man yelled back at me.

“Stop it!” he said. “Or else I’ll kill you right here.”

I shivered at his voice, then obeyed his commands. There was no way he could have seen me no way he could have heard me picking at the ropes. I contemplated how they were going to kill me. It had to be a contract hit, but I wondered why there were so many of them there just to take out a defenseless woman. I also wondered how they could be so heartless.

The vehicle stopped, and my stomach dropped when I heard the doors swing open. This is it, I thought. My time has come. When footsteps approached, I held my breath. The trunk popped open, and strong arms lifted me out and set me down on a hard surface, maybe concrete or asphalt. My legs were wobbly, but one of the men steadied me and untied my ankles. Jerk, I sarcastically seethed. The cold night air hit and my hair blew around. I tried to see through the blindfold, but all I could see was darkness.

A man shoved me forward. “Walk!”

I let out a trembling breath and stumbled to the edge of the hard surface, then felt my shoes sink in grass and damp earth. As I carefully walked forward, a towering fern brushed softly across my face. I took tiny steps because my imagination was in overdrive; I couldn’t help picturing all those pirate films I’d seen of people walking off the plank, and I knew there were a lot of cliffs around. The man behind me kept pushing and shoving, making me go faster than my hesitant feet wanted to carry me, forcing me to trip over what I assumed to be a very long log. Twigs snapped and crunched underfoot. An owl hooted, and crickets chirped. The smell of wet moss, damp dirt, and decaying leaves mingled with the scent of pines, wafting up my nostrils; any other time, the aroma would have been beautiful. My heart lurched. I was sure they were leading me to some isolated location for my execution, a place where no one would ever find me, and that thought sent droplets of nervous perspiration rolling down my face, perhaps mingled with tears.

I refused, however, to go quietly. I couldn’t do much to fight them off, but I wanted to make it harder on them. They’ll have to carry my corpse, because I’m not gonna walk out to the middle of nowhere and shovel my own grave. I’m not doing their dirty work for them! I took a huge step to the left, and then bolted.

Strong arms caught me within seconds, and I flailed and thrashed like a gazelle in a lion’s grasp.

“If we don’t keep movin’, we’re not gonna make it to the designated spot on time,” a man said.

“Maybe I oughtta just snap her like a twig, right here, right now,” said a deep-voiced man.

I screamed through my gag at the thought that the guy wanted to rush my demise.

“No!” another said. “She must be sacrificed at midnight.”

Sacrificed?

Trembling with fear, I thrashed even harder in the guy’s grasp. I suddenly realized that my abduction had nothing to do with a mafia hit, vampires, or a street gang initiation; rather, I was in the hands of some strange cult. I could barely breath, terrorized by fear.

“How much farther?” a man asked.

“We’re here,” another answered.

At that point, I was gasping for breath at the thought of being sacrificed in some weird ritual. I recalled what Fred had said about witches and realized it wasn’t so farfetched of a theory. My heart had never raced so hard. The man held me tight in his grasp, and I tried to fight, but he was so strong, and I was no match for him. My feet suddenly left the ground as he picked me up and carried me. I turned and twisted in his grasp, to no avail. He gently set me down on a cold slab of concrete and forced me to lie down, and I’d never been so terrified in my entire life.

Fingers gripped my ankles and wrists as the rope was tightened around me, securing me to a cold slab. It didn’t make sense to me that they left my blindfold on and my gag in, since they were clearly going to kill me anyway. For all I knew, maybe they thought it was more humane to kill me that way. Perhaps they want to spare me the misery of watching the dagger pierce my heart. I listened intently as they shuffled around, and then I struggled in my bindings.

Get the entire boxed set for just 99 cents this week! Ends 11/19/16

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Praise for the Series

This was a fantastic box set with magic, action, mystery, twists and turns, vampires, werewolves, witches, and gargoyles. Each book gets better and better and takes you deeper into the mystery!

Book 1 is about Taylor moving to Big Bear Lake and learning it’s a supernatural place and that her crush is something more. Book 2 gets deep! And this is when all hell breaks loose! Taylor is tossed into the supernatural world. She thought she was observing it from the outside, but little does she know that she’s a major player! And she didn’t even know it!

She comes from an ancient line of witches and is supposed to be sacrificed in The Millennium Ceremony. She’s stubborn and fights her supernatural enemy with everything she has. I loved how tough she becomes. There’s a paranormal battle raging and I loved every page. This is one of my favorite paranormal romances ever!

 

Author Chrissy Peebles

Chrissy Peebles has always loved reading and writing fantasy from the earliest age she can remember. She lives in a busy city with her husband, two children, and one cat (Shadow) and three dogs. (Sparkles, Rosie, and Jack) Chrissy also loves to snap photos as her favorite hobby.

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Ends 12/2/16

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
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Posted in christmas, excerpt, Giveaway, romance on November 17, 2016

mistletoe-cover

Synopsis

Two gorgeous stories about the most romantic time of the year…

The holidays don’t have to be fraught with tension, as lifelong friends Lily Cavanaugh and Cameron Greene discover in Mistletoe Between Friends when they cook up a scheme to fool their family and friends.

The Snowflake Inn shows rivals Grace Brodie and Riley Walsh that Christmas is a time when dreams come true—even if you’ve given up on those dreams long ago.

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Excerpts

Mistletoe Between Friends

Monday morning came way too soon for Lily. She’d given herself multiple pep talks and reminded herself how important it was to do the right thing for Cam.

It just sucked that the right thing for Cam was going to be torture for her.

Ever on time, Cameron arrived to pick Lily up at exactly 7:00 a.m. Knowing he was a stickler about time, she’d made sure that she was ready and waiting for him. But she could tell by the look on his face when she opened the door that he was surprised she was ready.

“What?” she asked.

Cam looked her up and down and then at the suitcase beside her. “You’re ready,” he said with just a hint of disbelief.

A shy smile crept across Lily’s face. “You told me you’d be here at seven, so I was ready for seven. Actually, I was ready at six forty-five. Impressive, right?”

His eyes narrowed slightly. “You’re never ready when I tell you what time I’m coming to pick you up. I build a cushion for Lily time.”

The smile shifted to playful annoyance as Lily cocked a hip and crossed her arms over her chest. “If it would make you feel better, I can change clothes and decide that I want a bowl of cereal before we leave.”

“No, no,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I’m sorry. I guess I should have just said thank you, right?”

“No,” she corrected. “You should have offered to put my suitcase in the car because all this chitchat will make us late.” Without another word, Cameron reached beyond Lily and grabbed her case while she locked up her condo. “I watched the Weather Channel last night while I was packing, and they said it’s going to snow while we’re up there. Won’t that be beautiful? We can see snow in Central Park!”

Cam shrugged; he’d never given much thought to snow in Manhattan and didn’t care about it now. They lived just outside of Raleigh, so it wasn’t as if they’d never seen snow before. But that was just one of the things about Lily he adored—that the little things in life made her happy.

Lily had a bigger heart than anyone he’d ever known. He knew that even though she made light of it, she was easily hurt by her family. It didn’t help that her parents always made her feel like she wasn’t living up to her full potential, or that she had an older sister everyone seemed to think walked on water. Cam knew the real Lily. If anyone took the time to get to know her and saw beyond her inability to find a career, they’d see a person who’d give them the world.

For as far back as Cameron could remember, he’d been in love with Lily Cavanaugh. While everyone else around them treated him like a freak because of his intelligence, Lily always considered him Cam, her friend. He’d never once thought about telling her how he felt because the last thing he wanted was to lose Lily as his friend. Most days, she was the only one who kept him sane.

And now he was going to have her to himself for nearly a week.

Once they were on the road, Cam glanced over at Lily and saw the serene smile on her face. “What are you thinking about right now?” he asked.

“Actually, I was wondering if we were going to play the part of boyfriend and girlfriend during your conference or if we were waiting to kick it into gear when we got back.”

He nodded and then pondered the situation. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try out the act around my colleagues before we return home.” His tone was rather cut and dried, like he was talking about a root canal.

“How about a little enthusiasm, champ?” she asked sarcastically. “This was your idea, remember? And if we’re going to pull this off and get four months of freedom from our parents, you can’t talk about our relationship like it’s a chore.”

Cam turned to look at her as if she were crazy. “Talk about our relationship? It’s seven fifteen in the morning, Lil. We haven’t been around anybody except each other. What do you want me to do?”

She sighed. “You’ll need to show a little more excitement if you’re going to be believable as my boyfriend.”

What had he gotten himself into? “Why, exactly, do I have to do that?”

“Cam, everyone who knows me knows that I’m a fairly happy-go-lucky person. You and I are complete opposites. I’m going to have to tone it down a little, but on the flip side, you’re going to have to kick it up a notch. You know, crack a smile or a joke once in a while. Laugh.” She looked at him quizzically. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”

Honestly, he didn’t. When he had devised the plan to have a make-believe romance with Lily to survive the holidays, Cam had simply thought that by saying they were involved, people would get off their backs. But as Lily explained the complexities of the situation, he realized he was greatly unprepared.

And that was simply unacceptable.

Taking a fortifying breath, he said, “Okay. It’s not like we have to play twenty questions to know each other better. We already know everything about each other. What do you suggest?”

“Well,” she said, “it would probably help if we held hands when out in public.”

Cameron considered her suggestions and—without reacting in any way, shape, or form—decided that this wasn’t going to be such a bad thing after all. He’d finally have the opportunity to touch Lily, to kiss Lily, and it was all her idea. He really was brilliant.

“Seems simple enough,” Cam said. “Done.” He reached for her hand and held it while he focused on the road and drove one-handed. He wouldn’t normally do that because safety dictated that he drive with his hands in the ten-and-two position. It took all of thirty seconds for him to start to squirm.

“This is physically painful for you, isn’t it?”

“What? No,” he denied although he was lying through his teeth. He wanted to concentrate on the feel of her hand in his, but couldn’t when they were on the road.

Lily pulled her hand away and almost burst out laughing at how quickly Cam’s hand went back to the steering wheel. “Okay, baby steps. We’ll only hold hands when we’re walking. How does that sound?” She smiled at the annoyance on Cam’s face.

“Safety isn’t something to take lightly, Lily.”

“Of course it isn’t,” she agreed. “I mean, driving twenty miles under the speed limit and one-handed? What was I thinking?”

“It’s a little early for all of this sarcasm,” he said dryly. “So other than hand-holding, what am I supposed to do?”

Was he kidding? At this rate, she could probably convince him to act out every one of her fantasies that she’d ever had about him. But that would be wrong.

Wouldn’t it?

Yes, yes, yes. Bad Lily! What were you thinking?

“Kissing,” she said before she could stop herself. “We’ll probably have to kiss in front of people from time to time. And none of that buddy-buddy, on-the-cheek stuff. Like…real kissing.”

Bad, bad Lily!

She saw him considering the idea from all sides as usual. He never agreed to anything without thinking it through. “I guess I can,” he said, seeming bored with the idea.

“That’s the spirit,” she said and was relieved to see them turning onto the exit ramp for the airport. If all went well, within a matter of hours she would be walking around Manhattan with Cam and presenting the image of a happy couple.

Project Girlfriend had begun!

The Snowflake Inn

She was feeling the burn and could clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel—or in this case, the clearing in the trees that meant the parking lot was close—when it happened. Her knee buckled. A cry of dismay escaped before she could help it, and next thing she knew, she was on the ground.

“Dammit,” she cried, pulling her knee to her chest as she rocked. “Why now?” Tears threatened to fall, and all she could think about was the walk to the car and how painful it was going to be. As much as her physical therapist had told her recovery would take time, Grace felt like her body had betrayed her.

“Are you all right?” a deep male voice said from behind her.

Uh-oh… Cute Angry Guy is here, and he’s talking to me! Looking up…and up…and up, her eyes finally met his. Holy cow.

“Miss?”

Oh, right. He asked you a question. “What? Oh, sorry… Um… Yes, I’m fine,” she stammered and tried again to stand. But her darn knee wasn’t quite onboard with the rest of her, and she went down again. She muttered a curse and felt a blush creep up her cheeks in embarrassment.

He quirked a brow as he looked at her. “You don’t look like you’re fine,” he said seriously and crouched beside her. “Did you hurt your knee?”

Grace nodded. “About six months ago in a skiing accident. I was in rehab and physical therapy for months. I just decided to try to go back to my jogging routine—at a slower pace, of course—and I thought I was doing okay. Until about five minutes ago.”

Cute Angry Guy nodded. “You probably just pushed yourself a little too hard.”

She shook her head. “In therapy, I can run twice as long without any issues.”

“That’s on a treadmill. This is an uneven jogging path. It’s completely different.”

Now she glared at him. “Thanks for pointing out the obvious,” she snapped. If she had better luck, she’d be able to jump to her feet and walk away with a sassy sway to her hips.

Clearly, she had no luck. On her third attempt at standing, Cute Angry Guy wrapped a strong arm around her back and helped her to her feet. “Thank you,” she said quietly and did her best to disengage from his embrace. But he didn’t let her go. Looking up, Grace found herself trapped by the bluest eyes she had ever seen. Her breath seemed to catch, and she couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe. The only thing saving her from complete and total embarrassment was the fact that he seemed just as mesmerized by her as she was by him.

“Can you walk?” he finally asked, his voice sounding rough to her ears. Nodding weakly, unwilling to break their eye contact, she tried once again to move away, but his arm seemed to tighten around her. “I’ll walk you to your car.”

He clearly wasn’t big on conversation. At the moment, that suited Grace just fine because she was having a hard time remembering how to form words. Cute Angry Guy was big and a feast for all of her senses, but she had to be careful to remember that he was a stranger. She knew nothing about him, and as much as she wanted to ask him at least a dozen questions, there was something to be said for companionable silence.

And walking really close together.

Deciding to just enjoy the moment, Grace pressed herself more firmly against his warm, solid frame and began to walk slowly with him toward her car. With the way they had been seeing each other all around town for the past couple of days, she figured he’d know which car was hers without her saying anything.

Sure enough, he did.

As they approached her little white sedan, they stopped and Grace pulled her keys out of her jacket pocket. It was then that she realized what a complete mess she must look like: black leggings, white jacket, and a green wool scarf to match her green socks…ugh. And then there was the hair.

She was so not going to think about the hair.

Normally after her jog, Grace would take a few minutes in the car to relax and apply some lip gloss and fix her hair before going anyplace else. That was why she hadn’t been worried about approaching him the other day in Starbucks. But now that he’d seen her in this—well, in all her ill-fated glory—she was certain her current appearance had killed any attraction (real or imagined).

Quickly and painfully.

Awesome.

“So, um…thanks for the help,” she said, feeling awkward. She fidgeted with her hair, doing her best to tame it, and cursed herself for refusing to wear a hat. At least a hat could have camouflaged the flyaway mess.

His lips twitched with an almost-smile as he watched her fidget around. “Are you going to be okay to drive?”

Grace ran her hand through her hair and cursed when it got stuck. With a wince, she pulled it out and forced herself to play with her keys and try to remain calm. “Yes,” she said, wishing that the parking lot would just open up beneath her and take her away. “I’ll be fine. I’ll go home and do the whole ice-and-heat thing, take some ibuprofen, and call it a day.”

“You should probably call your therapist and let him take a look at it.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have one here.”

“Then you should set up an appointment for when you get home.”

Grace gave him an odd look. “Get home? I am home. I live here.”

Now it was Cute Angry Guy’s turn to give her an odd look. “You live here?”

She nodded. “I just moved here about six weeks ago. I thought I was done with therapy, so I haven’t bothered to look up a therapist. But I guess I’ll have to now.” She shrugged and turned to unlock her car. Once the door was open, she turned and forced a smile on her face. “Anyway,” she said and did her best to relax, “thank you for the help.”

“My pleasure.” His voice was deep and a little rough, and Grace almost wanted to purr. Hearing the word pleasure come from that mouth—which was pretty spectacular too—had her heart rate going into overdrive.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” she said brightly and sat in the car, wincing slightly as she bent her leg.

“Don’t wait to find a therapist. Call the one you know and see if you can get a referral.”

“Thanks, I will.” She was just about to ask his name, but he turned and walked away. And the rear view was as enticing as the front one. Grace almost had to fan herself. Her first instinct was to call out to him, but really, it was probably better not to. If he had been following her these past couple of days, wouldn’t he have asked for her name or phone number? The fact he hadn’t just proved Grace was imagining things. Bad hair and wardrobe aside, the man couldn’t seem to get away from her fast enough.

With a depressed sigh, Grace pulled the car door shut and decided to cut her losses and go. The drive through the small downtown area didn’t take long, and when she saw Starbucks coming up, she decided she could deal with the pain for a little bit longer. A white-chocolate peppermint mocha would go a long way in helping her deal with it, of that she was certain.

It didn’t take long to park, and then she was surrounded by people she was coming to know. She smiled and made small talk while she waited her turn in line at the coffee shop. When one person was left in front of her, Grace felt an odd tingle go down her spine. Turning her head, she had to suppress a grin. There in the doorway stood Cute Angry Guy, and if her eyes weren’t deceiving her, he was doing his best to suppress his own smile.

She wished he’d stop trying to hide it. With a face like that, he had to have a smile that was positively breathtaking. Certain she’d never really know, Grace turned her attention back to the counter and placed her order as she made her way to the register to pay. She was mentally congratulating herself on the fact she hadn’t turned around again. Self-control—she’d known she had it in her somewhere.

“Thank you,” Grace said with a smile as she took the hot beverage from the young barista. Turning slowly in the crowd, she made her way carefully to the door, still doing her best to not look around and see if cute-angry-smirking-guy was still there. I guess I’ll never know, she sighed inwardly and headed back out to her car.

If her knee hadn’t been in so much pain, Grace was certain she’d have a little pep in her step. Being rescued by a sexy stranger was certainly a great way to start her day. A quick glance at her watch showed she needed to get moving or she’d be late for work. And with so much on the line, the last thing she wanted to do was mess that up.

Although she doubted anyone would blame her if they had seen the sexy reason for her delay.

Abut the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Samantha Chase released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Teaching creative writing to students from elementary through high school motivated Samantha to take that step as well. Since then, she has become a NYT and USA today bestselling author. She lives with her husband of 24 years and their two sons in North Carolina.

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Posted in christmas, excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on November 16, 2016

true-blue-coverTitle: True-Blue Cowboy Christmas

Series: Big Sky Cowboys, #3

Author: Nicole Helm

Pub Date: October 4, 2016

ISBN: 9781492641537

Synopsis

BIG SKY CHRISTMAS

Thack Lane has his hands full. For the past seven years, he’s been struggling to move on from his wife’s tragic death and raise a daughter all by his lonesome. He doesn’t have time for himself, much less a cheerful new neighbor with a smile that can light up the ranch.

Christmas spirit? Bah, humbug.

With Christmas right around the corner, Summer Shaw is searching for somewhere to belong. When her neighbor’s young daughter takes a shine to her, she is thrilled. But Thack is something else altogether. He’s got walls around his heart that no amount of holiday wishes can scale. Yet as joy comes creeping back to the lonely homestead, Summer and Thack may just find their happily ever after before the last of the Christmas miracles are through…

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Excerpt

Summer started walking, but Thack took the guitar case from her. “Here, let me help.”

It wasn’t necessary, but it was awfully nice. Especially when his free hand took hers, their fingers intertwining. It was like the culmination of so much desperate belief—that not all men were like the men Summer had met through her mother. That something sweet and easy and normal could exist, and that it could be something she might earn. She swallowed at the lump in her throat. How silly she was to be emotional over something so…little.

The frigid, dark air helped her get her bearings. She led him to where her car was parked, and he helped her load the guitar in the back. When she shut the door, she turned to look at him and managed her best flirtatious-if-nervous smile. “So. Walk?” Though she didn’t know how long they’d last in the freezing temperatures, she thought she might tempt frostbite if it meant spending time with him.

“Yeah. Just…one thing first.”

Before she could even ask what, his mouth was on hers and she sighed into the kiss, leaning into him. She loved the way his hands tangled in her hair, that even though they weren’t exactly at ease around each other one hundred percent of the time, this was easy.

No, easy wasn’t the right word. It just worked. Their bodies fit and somehow his mouth always knew exactly how to move against hers, like they had been built to match in all of the right places—two puzzle pieces that on the surface hadn’t looked like they would fit together.

But the surface was never the whole story, and while for the past two years she’d desperately tried to make the layers fit, she couldn’t erase those first twenty years of her life.

Somehow, kissing Thack in the middle of a dark Montana town, she found she no longer wanted to erase the experience of those years. It was a part of her, a part of how she’d gotten here, to this place where his kiss, his hands, he felt like magic.

She wanted more. He wanted more. They wanted each other. She didn’t want to freeze her butt off on a walk down Main Street. Not when, for the first time, their time together was truly just the two of them. No matter where this took them, that was something to grab with both hands and not waste.

“We could skip the walk,” she said, holding on to his coat, ignoring the press of the car door handle in her back.

His eyes narrowed as if he wasn’t quite certain she was suggesting what he thought she was suggesting. “Um. What exactly would we do instead?”

“You could take me home.” She sounded breathless and probably ridiculous, but she didn’t care. This was something she’d dreamed about. Over the years, she had put a great deal of thought into the details—when and how, and what type of person would be the one she would want to give those last pieces of herself to.

Thack wasn’t exactly what she’d pictured, but at the same time, he was more. Strong, steady, dedicated. Everything about him awed her. He had her pressed against a car door, and she was deliriously excited with it. How could she not want to jump in feet first?

“But we have two cars and… I’m taking this too literally, aren’t I?”

She couldn’t stifle the laugh, both happy and nervous. “You are. I mean, if you have to get back to Kate, I understand. But you could escort me home. If you have the time. If you want.”

“Dad said he’d call if he and Mrs. Bart needed me, so I could take you home. You know, I…I’m kind of curious about what the inside of that thing you live in looks like.”

“I’ll give you a tour.”

“Thank you for being ten times better at this whole flirting thing than I am.” He brushed a kiss against her mouth.

She smiled up at him. “Luckily, you make up for the bad flirting in the kissing department.”

He gave a short laugh. “Not a bad trade.”

She took a deep breath and mustered all of her courage and all of her determination. She set goals, and she reached them. Thack didn’t have to be any different. “So, follow me home?”

He gave a short nod and held the driver’s side door open for her as she slid in. She started the old clunker, only partially sad when it actually started. It would have been kind of nice if he’d been able to drive her home.

Oh well. “Parked around front?”

“Ah, yes. Meet me there?”

“Yup.”

He hesitated again, then smiled. “I’ll see you soon.” Carefully, he closed her door. In the rearview mirror, she watched him walk away, her heart pounding wildly. She’d invited him to her place. She’d offered a tour, which she hoped was obviously more euphemism than reality.

Well, it didn’t matter. Because tonight…tonight she was going to go after exactly what she wanted.

 

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Guest Post

Top Five Holiday Traditions

I admit it, I’m a Christmas junkie. I used to take boxes of Christmas decorations to my college dorm/apartment every year. I have three trees in my basement and a plethora of tubs of ornaments, books, sparkly things, decorative plates and the like. December is all Christmas music all the time. I love Christmas.

Which was why it was fun to mix the magic of Christmas and the magic of romance in True-Blue Cowboy Christmas. My favorite part of Christmas is family, which is why I brought the whole crazy Shaw clan together for this final book in my Big Sky Cowboys series.

To me, the holidays are all about love, so my favorite holiday traditions are either done with family or because they remind me of family.

  1. Watching It’s A Wonderful Life. When I was growing up, this was something we always did on Christmas Eve (much to the complaints of my younger sisters). But It’s A Wonderful Life is by far my favorite Christmas movie, and in my adulthood no one will watch it with me, so I usually watch it late Christmas Eve night when I’m wrapping up the kids’ presents, and that’s actually become one of my favorite traditions in it of itself. Though I love the holiday season because I get to see family and spend time with loved ones, it’s nice to have a few hours of quiet in the midst of all the visiting to enjoy a movie about finding hope and peace while I’m creating magic for my guys.
  1. Christmas Lights Looking. Every year, at least once, we go to one of the parks in our area completely decorated in Christmas lights. It’s always fun to see what people can do and the cute displays different parks come up with. My kids ooh and ahh over the blinking, giant lights, the radio plays soft Christmas music, and we all get to be together experiencing something beautiful.
  1. Go to Iowa. This probably isn’t on everyone’s favorite traditions list (but if it is, Iowa fist bump), but my extended family is mostly in Iowa, which means every year since my family moved away we make the trek up the Avenue of Saints to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. This was always my favorite part of Christmas as a kid, and now as an adult I love sending my kids down to the basement with my cousins’ kids to play, because that’s what my cousins and sisters and I all did as kids. Eating cookies my grandma gets from her church cookie swap, or letting them run out into the yard to play in the snow with my grandpa’s dogs—just like I did as a kid.
  1. Making Sugar Cookies. I can vividly remember standing on a chair in my grandma’s kitchen and decorating sugar cookies cut out into different Christmas shapes, and it just isn’t Christmas without spending a day making edible snowmen, snowflakes, santa hates and the like. These days, it’s usually my own kitchen with my mom and boys, or my mother-in-law’s kitchen with my sisters-in-law. Either way, there’s something special about making and decorating things together, and I hope my kids remember it as adults.
  1. Eating! I’m sorry, it’s true, I love eating through the holidays! There are a lot of one-time treats that come out at my house, or in the houses we visit. I love to make Kringla, but it’s a pain, so I only make it at Christmas time. My grandma always has gingerbread cake, which feels especially like Christmas to me, plus the afore-mentioned sugar cookies. My mom or I make Swedish Rye Bread. My tastebuds are always very happy the week of Christmas. And all these eating usually happens with some of my favorite people in the world, which makes it that much more fun.

There are a million other things I love to do around Christmas time as well, but I’ll spare you my never-ending list. True-Blue Cowboy Christmas features a few (Rudolph, tree trimming, etc), and if you’re looking for a heart-warming Christmas read, I hope you’ll check it out.

About the Author

NICOLE HELM writes down-to-earth contemporary romance specializing in neighbors who don’t live close enough to be a problem. When she’s not writing, she spends her time day dreaming about someday owning a barn. She lives with her husband and two young sons in O’Fallon, Missouri.

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