Weekend Excerpt–Lost And Found

Portrait of a great looking masculine man relaxing on a front poI hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend!  It’s Memorial Day and thoughts of summer abound. I have fond memories of family vacations when I was a kid.  One of my favorite places to go was the wilderness of northern Ontario, where my family owned a tiny primitive cabin on a secluded lake.

For this week’s excerpt, I’m posting the first chapter of my brand new WIP, Lost and Found.  It’s about pampered former child star Shasta Pyke, who, after getting into legal trouble, is sent to spend a month cooling her heels in the woods.  There, she meets rugged ‘mountain man’ Blake Walker.  The story is set in that same wilderness I loved as a child.  I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1

Sunlight glinted through the first class window of the 777, momentarily blinding Shasta Pyke as the oversized tin can banked left towards the west on its final approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport.  She frowned, lowering her Prada tortoise shell cat eye sunglasses, then pulled down the shade out of spite.  She had no desire to see Toronto.  It wasn’t her final destination anyway.

She huffed and glanced to her right.  Eddie grinned at her like a used car salesman at a discount lot.  “How ya doin’, kiddo?”

She hated when he called her that.  Eddie had been a fixture in her life for as long as she could remember, a sort of surrogate father, if your father was a shark in a designer suit who lived for martini lunches and killer deals.  It was he who had arranged this little adventure, which, in all honesty, beat the hell out of the alternative.  That didn’t prevent her from hating him at the moment.

“How do you think I’m doing?” she snapped.

“Now, doll, you know this is a great plan.   Think of it as a long-overdue vacation.  A month in the woods.  It will do you a world of good.  Besides,” he added unnecessarily, “it’s better than jail.”

Shasta sank down in her seat, crossing her arms and closing her eyes behind the green-tinted lenses.  She knew he was right and that just fanned the flames of her irritation.  If it hadn’t been for Eddie and her legal team, she’d have been doing thirty days in an orange jumpsuit.

Eddie had instead proposed thirty days in a ‘private rehab’, and the prosecutor had agreed.  Of course, this ‘private rehab’ was, in actuality, a wilderness lodge in northern Ontario, but it would accomplish the goal of having Shasta out of the public eye long enough, hopefully, for the entire incident to all blow over.  Surely by the end of a month, the gossip outlets would have gone on to the next big trainwreck.

Forty-five minutes later they were tucked into the back of a black Lincoln and headed north out of the city.  Shasta closed her eyes and dozed restlessly, visions of the past few weeks ruining any chance of real sleep.

She’d been dating fellow actor Jeremy Slade, a fact that had been well-documented by the paparazzi.  But having grown up in the spotlight, Shasta was accustomed to media attention.  The couple couldn’t go out to dinner without being swarmed by an army of cameras.  Somehow the fact that Jeremy wasn’t actually divorced from his wife only fueled the insatiable interest of the public.

Of course, he’d assured Shasta that making their separation permanent was only a matter of time, and the twenty-three year old actress had believed him.  She’d never had a serious adult relationship, just a series of boyfriends since her early teen years.  At thirty, Jeremy had represented to her a break from her childhood.

It made it all the more heartbreaking when, at the moment Shasta most needed him, Jeremy chose to return to his wife.  She was left wondering if it had all been a ploy by the older actor to gain publicity.  His career hadn’t exactly been on fire.  By dating Shasta publicly, he’d gained a great deal of press, and that had translated into new offers for films and television.

Still heartbroken, Shasta and her good friend Millie had been having dinner at Milo’s, a trendy upscale restaurant in Hollywood, when Jeremy walked in with his wife Lisa.  He’d nodded to Shasta from his table across the room and she couldn’t stop staring at the handsome dark-haired actor and his stunning blonde wife.  She downed glass after glass of sauvignon blanc as she watched the couple laugh and nuzzle each other like they didn’t have a care in the world.  Like nothing had happened.  But plenty had happened.

When she couldn’t stand it any longer, Shasta approached the couple and an argument ensued.   According to police reports, the three engaged in a loud, heated verbal altercation and at some point Shasta poured wine on Jeremy and his wife before jerking their tablecloth from the table, spilling their dinner all over the floor.

Witnesses recorded the entire incident on their phones, including the moment when Shasta was led away in handcuffs.  It hit social media nearly instantaneously and she spent a few hours in the county lock-up before Eddie was able to secure her release.  She had retreated to her home where, outside, paparazzi camped out en masse.  She’d only ventured out for court.  Until now.  Now she was on her way to her own, albeit much more pleasant, jail.

***

Preparations at Lake Matilda Lodge outside the small town of Eliot Lake had shifted into high gear three days previously.  Jackie Walker had had to cancel the existing reservations for the next month, finding alternative arrangements for her displaced guests, who were told that the lodge was closing for some much-needed work.  The truth was that the entire property was being booked to accommodate a VIP guest who would be paying three times what her regular guests would have paid, even had the entire place been booked.  Which it hadn’t.

This, she gleefully informed her brother Blake, would allow her to take her two young children on their dream vacation to Disneyworld.  Of course, they’d also be seeing Jackie and Blake’s parents, who’d run the lodge until they had retired to Florida five years earlier.

It would be up to Blake to see to their sole guest.  How much trouble could one guest be?  He could even see to some renovations and upgrades she’d been wanting to do.

“Blake,” Jackie called from the reception desk as she heard the front door to the lodge open and close, “have you signed the nondisclosure agreement yet?”

She looked up to see her brother, a scowl marring what would have been a ruggedly handsome face with its expressive dark eyebrows and neatly trimmed beard.  He’d hastily pulled back his shoulder length dark brown hair into a messy bun.  “Why the hell do I have to sign some paper?” he grouched.

Jackie raised a brown eyebrow and nodded toward her eight-year old son who had just entered the reception area.  “Uncle Blake said ‘hell’!” Grant shouted.

“Thanks, Uncle Blake!”  Jackie rolled her eyes.

“I mean, why the heck do I have to sign a paper?” Blake edited.

“Because it’s a requirement for this guest.  She’s famous, you know.  We can’t let anybody know she’s here.”

“I won’t tell anybody,” Grant promised.  “Who is she, anyway?”

“Exactly!”  Blake ruffled the boy’s light brown hair.  “Who is she, anyway?”

“She’s the person making it possible for us to go to Disneyworld, that’s who she is.”  She looked to Blake.  “Is the Island Cabin ready?”

He nodded.  “Fresh linens, pantry stocked, new propane tank in place.  Just like you asked, ma’am.”  He smirked lovingly at his older sister.  She and her husband had taken over the lodge when the folks had retired.  And the shithead had left her and the kids about a year after that.

Blake hadn’t thought twice about leaving his job as a wilderness counselor to come home and help Jackie with the place.  There was no way a single mom could run the twelve-cabin main lodge, plus the Island Cabin and three other remote properties by herself.  And he was helping her slowly expand the place, too, adding an additional three remote cabins accessible only by float plane.  Having Blake there as a pilot boosted the lodge’s appeal to hunters and fishermen and they were on track to have a record year.  Which was one reason he hadn’t fought her too hard about this VIP guest.

And he didn’t begrudge Jackie in the least for taking a vacation.  He hadn’t been sure she’d known the meaning of the word.  It would do her and the kids a world of good to get away and enjoy themselves for a while.

“Well, they should be here anytime.”  Jackie glanced up at down at her brother.  “Is that what you’re wearing?”

Black looked down at his scuffed brown boots, torn jeans, red Henley, and open red and black checked flannel shirt.  “What’s wrong with this?  Am I expected to dress for the princess?”

“A princess is coming?”  Six-year old Emma had come in from outside.

“No, stupid,” Grant replied, rolling his eyes.  “She’s just a lady.”

“But we’ll see princesses at Disneyworld, right Uncle Blake?”

Blake swept his niece up into his arms, causing her to erupt into giggles.  “You are going to see all the princesses you can stand.”

“Great!  I hate princesses,” Grant groused.

“Both of you, run upstairs and get packed.  We leave first thing tomorrow.”  Jackie’s voice was firm.  The two children took off, the pounding of their feet echoing on the bare wood floor.

“Thanks, baby brother.  For agreeing to stay and take care of everything.”

Blake looked into his sister’s eyes and saw her gratitude.  “I’m happy to do it, sis.  You work hard.  It’s time you did something fun.”

This is still very much a work in progress.  In the meantime, Luke & Bella: Two Streets Over and the Rannigan’s Redemption series are all available on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords.  Plus, Just One Night, a naughty summer novella is coming out soon.

If you’d like, you can ‘Like’ me on Facebook for daily updates.

 

Scandalous Summer Reads–An Offer You Can’t Refuse

June is almost here.  And 30 of the hottest erotica and romance authors are getting together to help you STUFF YOUR eREADER with FREE and $.99 books to spice up your summer.  Plus, you can enter to win a $150 Amazon gift card.
You see?  I told you it was an offer you can’t refuse.  Below is everything you need to know to get in on the great deals.
Black And White Photo Of Sexy Beautiful Couple

Scandalous Summer Reads
are going to help you STUFF YOUR eREADER!

That’s right, we’re hosting a bumper FREE books and $0.99 BARGAIN
STUFF YOUR eREADER campaign on the 15th June!

To celebrate we’re offering you the chance to WIN a $150 Amazon Gift Card.
All you need to do is answer one simple question, below.

By sharing this competition with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Linked In –
you’ll stand a much better chance at winning 🙂

Enter the giveaway here.

No purchase necessary to win. Void where prohibited.
Contest ends June 25, 2016. Winner will be notified on June 26, 2016.
*** By entering this competition contestants agree to subscribe to the
Scandalous Summer Reads newsletter 
and further giveaways from CPM Books ***

Among these incredible deals, you’ll find Resisting Risk, Book 1 of Rannigan’s Redemption, for just .99!  While you wait for June 15 to get here, go ahead and enter to win the $150 Amazon Gift Card.

Make this a Scandalous Summer!

Weekend Excerpt–Resisting Risk

Whiskey glass tumbler standing on bar counterResisting Risk is the first installment of three in the Rannigan’s Redemption series.  In Book 1, as Michael Rannigan and Maggie Flynn attempt to navigate the mutual attraction that they resist, they find their footing as friends.  Here’s an excerpt.

Maggie went out with Joe several times over the next few months, sometimes to a movie or to dinner, but it always seemed to Maggie that it was just an excuse for them to get together to have sex.  She knew she didn’t love him, wasn’t really attracted to him beyond the physical if she was perfectly honest, but she rationalized it to herself.  If it’s good enough for Michael… 

It was mid-April when she realized that it had been a while since Joe had called.  I haven’t heard from him in about a month, she mused.  She didn’t waste time or energy worrying about it.  He’s probably busy with school.

One Saturday morning, she and Michael met at the office to get some work done, prepping for a case that would be in court on Monday.  When they finished, he offered to take her to lunch.

As they made their way down the street that mild spring day, they came face to face with Joe, who couldn’t have looked more surprised.

“Hello!” Maggie greeted him.  “How are you?  You remember Michael?”

The color drained from the teacher’s face and his eyes widened.  “Uh, yes, of course.  How are you?”  He turned to a petite brunette woman at his side.  “Honey, this is Michael Rannigan, that lawyer I told you about.  Please meet my wife, Amy.”

Michael glanced at Maggie, who had yet to respond. He offered his hand.  “Good to see you again, nice to meet you, Amy.  And you know Maggie, of course.”

“Uh, yeah, she came to the school with you,” Joe said.  He desperately eyed Maggie, begging her to play along.

She wasn’t having it.  Eyes narrowed, she shook her head and said, “No, I’d swear I’ve seen you someplace besides the school.”

Joe stood with his mouth hanging open.  Michael jumped in.  “You know, Maggie, I think we might have seen him at Doc Watson’s.”  He gave a satisfied smile.  “I’m sure that’s it.  You were at Doc Watson’s.”

“I might have been, I’m not sure.  If you’ll excuse us, we’re running late,” Joe mumbled hurriedly.  “It was good seeing you again, Michael, Mary.”

Maggie and Michael stood watching as the couple hurried down the street, and they heard Amy saying to Joe, “We aren’t late, what are you talking about?”

Michael turned to Maggie.  “Wow.  How about a drink instead of lunch?”

They crossed the street and entered a dark pub, snagging two stools at the far end of the bar.  Michael ordered bourbon for both of them.  Maggie was silent, contemplating the contents of her glass and for a while, Michael left her to her thoughts, toying with his glass, making a pattern of condensation rings on the bar.

Eventually he tried, “You know, Mags, I never thought that guy…”

She held up a finger in warning. “Michael, don’t.”  She shook her head in disgust.  “He fucking called me Mary.

“Well, technically…” he began, but she silenced him with a look before she tossed back her bourbon.  Michael discreetly ordered a double for the next round.  She drained that one and he ordered her a third as he sipped his original glass and added to his pattern of rings.

When she finally spoke it surprised him.  “You know, it’s not like I was in love with him.  Which makes my reaction to this so…so stupid.”

He smiled at her sympathetically.  “We had a good time and all.  But mainly it was just sex.”

She glanced up at him, wondering if he’d be shocked.  He didn’t seem to be.  “Believe me, if I had known he was married, I would never have gone out with him.  I don’t do that.”

Michael looked down at the pattern he’d made on the bar.  “You know there’s no judgement here.  Go out with a married guy, go out with a single guy, what do I care?”  He grinned ruefully.  “Hell, I’ve been known to go out with a married woman now and again.”

“Oh, great!  Now I’m you!” Maggie laughed humorlessly.

“Ouch!” Michael laughed as her fourth bourbon was delivered.

She looked up at him, green eyes glinting with pain.  “I just hate feeling stupid,” she said quietly.

“I get it, Mags, believe me.”  He looked down, fidgeting restlessly with his glass again.  “I was dumped by a woman not too long ago.  She said that she couldn’t see me anymore, she was getting married.”

He looked up at Maggie.  “It shocked the shit out of me.  Out of the blue, she was inviting me to her fucking wedding.”  He shook his head.  “I really miss her, too.  I kept thinking, How did I not see that coming?  Feeling stupid sucks.  You know you’re not stupid, right?”

“I seriously question my judgement when it comes to men,” she replied, slurring slightly.  She regarded him for a moment and raised her glass in a salute before draining it again.

He looked back down at his glass, not missing the meaning of her mocking toast.  “How about we get you home?” he asked gently.  Michael settled their tab and walked Maggie outside into the late afternoon.

Maggie pointed waveringly down the street.  “Tha’s where I can catch the subway.”

Michael smiled.  “No subway for you today.”  He hailed a cab and gave explicit directions to the driver, along with a crisp hundred dollar bill.  When he opened the door, Maggie reluctantly sank into the back seat.

“I can manage, really,” she said.

“I know you can.  This is my thanks to you for coming in on a Saturday.”  He closed the door and patted her shoulder through the open window.  “Are you going to be okay?”

“I’m always okay,” she said sourly.

Resisting Risk, and the rest of the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy, can be found here.

It’s Going To Be A Scandalous Summer!

Scandalous Summer Reads
are going to help you STUFF YOUR eREADER!

That’s right, we’re hosting a bumper FREE books and $0.99 BARGAIN
STUFF YOUR eREADER campaign on the 15th June!

To celebrate we’re offering you the chance to WIN a $150 Amazon Gift Card.
All you need to do is answer one simple question, below.

By sharing this competition with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Linked In –
you’ll stand a much better chance at winning 🙂

Enter the giveaway here.

No purchase necessary to win. Void where prohibited.
Contest ends June 25, 2016. Winner will be notified on June 26, 2016.
*** By entering this competition contestants agree to subscribe to the
Scandalous Summer Reads newsletter 
and further giveaways from CPM Books ***

Why You Should Be Reading Indie Authors

writer-605764_1920What exactly is an Indie author?  In my experience, it’s a foolhardy, impossibly optimistic, romantic soul who eschews tradition, nay, thumbs his or her nose at the establishment, and dares to release a book without blessing or benefit of a big box publishing house.  And Indie publishing is on the rise, as are e-book sales, which, by some estimations, will replace traditional book sales in the very near future.

Remember back in the day when we bought records?  No, records, those black vinyl discs with grooves in them.  Big LPs, the size of dinner platters, and 45s, with those big holes in the middle and you bought those little plastic gizmos you had to snap into place?  How did those records get made?  Artists made the rounds, begging to be heard, begging radio stations to play their songs, begging record companies to take a chance on them.

Then came iTunes.  And Youtube.  And many other websites, and suddenly, anyone with recording equipment could cut their own tracks and release them digitally.  And we were blessed with a whole new world of music that would never have made it past the industry executives.

For over a century, executives at big box publishing houses have decided what books the reading public has access to, and to which ones they do not.  In her article on The Huffington Post, Eva Lesko Natiello refers to the publishing houses as “The Gatekeepers,” as she describes the path she took to eventually become a successful Indie author.  Traditional publishers allow books to trickle out, with the decision of who makes the cut most often based on projected sales rather than on quality of work.

It’s now easier than ever before for Indie authors to publish their work and get it into the hands of readers.  Websites like Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords allow authors to upload their manuscripts which are then formatted and converted to the various files supported by the e-readers that are out there.  Authors can also easily have their books published to paperback, with the publishing companies taking their cut from sales rather than out of pocket, up front.

The benefits to the Indie authors are obvious.

  • Publish immediately, without waiting for the okay from on high.  Matter of fact, I accidentally published my first book.
  • Complete control over your work.  When you edit your own work, no one makes you cut out a scene that you really love.  You pick the cover, you pick the release date, you pick the sales venues, you set the price.

What do readers get out of the deal?

  • Access.  Access to great books that large publishing houses would have, for whatever reason, turned down.  Read the stats about famous books that were turned down dozens of times.  Who has time for that?
  • Lower prices.  The average self-published e-book costs between $.99 and $3.99, and many are offered for free.
  • Interaction with authors.  By necessity, Indie authors are all over social media.  They don’t have big box marketing departments behind them.  Readers can follow and interact with their favorite writers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other outlets.
  • Great deals.  Often, authors offer sale prices, contests, and giveaways.
  • Buying an Indie book is the literary equivalent of ‘buying local’.  An author is a small business owner.  When you support an Indie author, you support the local economy.

Indie publishing is good for everyone.  If you haven’t read an Indie book yet, give it a try.  Pick your favorite genre and do a little browsing.  Check reviews and recommendations.   And don’t forget to leave a review.  It’s a little thing that means a lot.

Weekend Excerpt–Running Rogue

bigstock-Beautiful-Couple-Kissing-Passi-101305661.jpgErotic romance novel Running Rogue is the second book of the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy.  It begins where the first book, Resisting Risk, leaves off.  Maggie makes a sudden decision to leave the law firm for a job with the prosecutor’s office, leaving Michael in a tailspin.  Jarred by the changes, they’re both making rash, sometimes destructive, decisions as they lead separate lives.

Then comes news that shakes Michael to his core.  Having surrounded himself with people as shallow as he is, he finds that he has nowhere to turn.

Here’s an excerpt from Running Rogue.  *Warning:  This excerpt contains spoilers.

Michael?” Maggie asked into the intercom.

“Hey, Mags.”  His voice sounded tinny over the ancient device.  “I know it’s late.  I’m sorry.  But when I saw your light on, I mean…  Can I come up?”

Maggie hesitated, her finger hovering over the button.  “What do you want, Michael?”

“Mags, I just…I just want to talk.”

She shook her head, checking the time again.  What the hell?  And he’s probably drunk.  Standing out there in the rain like he’s got absolutely no sense. 

            She pressed the door buzzer.  “Don’t wake my neighbors,” she admonished him.

Maggie pulled the wooly cream colored robe tighter around herself, tying the belt securely and she stalked to the door, opening it to wait for Michael.  She watched him coming up the stairs, his soaked hair matted to his head.  His wet shoes squeaked softly with each footfall.  She started to say something snippy but noticed the haunted look in his eyes, so she simply stepped back and let him into the apartment.  She closed the door behind him and walked to the kitchen counter where she leaned back, crossing her arms, head cocked at him expectantly.

Michael stood just inside the doorway, rainwater pooling all around his feet.  He looked ill at ease and uncertain.

“Well?” she finally said.

He ran his fingers through his wet hair and sighed deeply.

“Oh for God’s sake, Michael!”  She left him standing there and returned with a large blue towel.  “You’re soaked.”

She took his jacket from him and hung it over the back of a kitchen chair.  As he used the towel to dry his face and hair, she couldn’t help herself.  “Are you drunk?”

He frowned and shook his head.  “I’m not drunk.  I had some bourbon.  I might be drunk.  A little.”

Maggie rolled her eyes.  “Sit down.  I’m making you some coffee so we can send you home.  Have you eaten lately?”

“I don’t know.”  Michael sank onto a chair at the kitchen table.  He glanced around as Maggie busied herself putting a kettle of water on the stove and taking a French press from a cupboard.

“I hope I’m not causing a problem with your fiancé.  Husband?  Whatever.”

Maggie paused to look at him, her lips forming a grim line.  “Yeah, well, that didn’t work out so…no worries.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

She worked in silence breaking eggs into a bowl and putting strips of bacon into a skillet as Michael sat at the table and occasionally used the towel to swipe at his face.   On the stove, the bacon began to sizzle as the kettle whistled.  Maggie poured the boiling water into the press and let it stand for a moment as she chopped a small onion and part of a green pepper.

“Did you know Stan Hodges died?” Michael finally asked.

Maggie arched an eyebrow.  “I was at the funeral.  Where were you?”

“I don’t know,” he answered vaguely.  He watched her grate cheddar into the eggs.  Then she pressed the plunger on the coffee and poured some into a cornflower blue mug with a white script ‘M’ on the side.

M for Maggie. Or Michael.  He shook his head to dismiss the inane thought.  Looking around the small apartment, he asked, “Why are you still here?”

Maggie glanced over her shoulder.  “What, I should move uptown into one of your glass and steel monstrosities?”

“I was just thinking that you could afford a bigger place, that’s all.”

“This may be a tiny apartment but this building has soul.  Once upon a time, a family called this place home.  Maybe I can’t afford to own a whole townhouse but at least I can rent a small part of it.”

Michael watched her for a moment.  “You could have bought your own townhouse if you’d stayed with the firm.”

Maggie turned around and leaned against the counter, crossing her arms.  “If I’d stayed, I’d have been out of a job along with everyone else.  You really tanked everyone, you know that, right?”

He looked down at his hands.  “I wouldn’t have pursued the television thing if you’d still been there.”

She snorted, returning to her cutting board.  “Bullshit.  Being on the news every night is exactly your thing.  You can’t put that off on me.”

She set the coffee in front of him.  “What are you doing here, Michael?”

He stalled, sipping the steaming hazelnut blend.  “This isn’t where I meant to be.  I went out and ended up down here in the Village.  I was at the Blue Note until they kicked everybody out.  I got a little lost and then realized I was across the street from your apartment.”

Maggie turned back to her omelet, stirring in the vegetables.  The bacon had quieted down and she turned over the strips, causing them to erupt into loud sizzling once again.  “Why are you here?” she asked again.

“I’m sick,” he said quietly.

“I don’t doubt it.  It’s forty degrees outside and you’re soaked.  It’s a wonder you don’t have pneumonia.”

“It’s cancer.”

Maggie froze mid-stir.  “What?”  Slowly, she turned around.

“Cancer.”

“Shit.”  She crossed to the table and sank onto the chair across from him, gaping at him wide-eyed.

“There was this spot.  And then they found out it was melanoma.”  Michael’s face twisted.  “Mags, you wouldn’t believe the chunk they cut out of my shoulder.”

“Well, they got it then,” she said.  “Good.  That’s good, right?”

“Bacon’s burning,” Michael said quietly.

“Fuck!”  She jumped up and took the pan off the burner.

“I like it that way,” he offered as she set the strips of bacon on a paper towel to drain and poured the omelet into the pan.

“So after they took the hunk out of my arm they did a biopsy.  It was melanoma, just like the doctor said.  Then they had me get a PET scan.  Said they needed to see if it had spread.”

Maggie worked mechanically at the egg mixture in the pan, listening intently as he spoke.  “And?” she asked as she slid the omelet onto a blue ceramic plate.  She placed it in front of him and sat down again.

“And they called this afternoon to say they have the results.  The doctor wouldn’t discuss it over the phone.  He wants me to come in tomorrow.”  He looked down at the plate.  “He said I should have someone with me.”

“Oh my God.  Michael.”

He nodded.  “I started making phone calls.  That’s how I found out about Stan.  Which was after I called Murph and then Jimbo.  They pretty much told me to go fuck myself.”

Maggie watched him grimly.  I imagine they did. 

“I called some of the women I go out with.  I guess everybody has a lot going on.”  He sighed.  “I thought about calling you.  But, I don’t know.  I’ve been an asshole.  Plus I figured you were busy with getting married and stuff.”  He met her eyes.  “I didn’t mean to come here, honest to God.”

She watched him pick at the omelet.  “My agent’s pissed at me because I bailed on some appearances.  Asking her to come with me is out of the question.  She’s probably not in town anyway.”

Michael shook his head.  “I don’t know why they’re insisting that someone comes with me to that appointment tomorrow.  I should just go and find out what the scan shows, figure out where to go from there.  It’s just…”  His voice broke.  “Mags, I’m scared shitless.”  He put down the fork and held his head in his hands.

Maggie could never have imagined a scenario in which S. Michael Rannigan would break down sobbing at her kitchen table.  She felt as though her heart would break.

“Michael,” she said softly, standing beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder.  His body shook as he let loose the emotions that had been building since the day the nightmare had started.  “It’s okay,” she murmured.  “It’s okay, everything’s going to be alright.”  She waited for him to quiet down.  “What time is your appointment?”

Michael sat up, sniffing and using the towel to wipe his face.  “Shit.”  He coughed and took a sip of coffee.  “I have to be there at 1:30.”

Maggie looked over to where her files still sat scattered in the living room.  She knew they probably represented ten hours of work for the following day and sighed heavily.  “Where is the doctor’s office?”

“It’s on E. 80th between 2nd and 3rd.”

She nodded.  “Okay.  I’ll tell Rance that I have to leave at lunch.  I’ll meet you there.”

“I can’t ask you to do that,” Michael said quickly, but he looked at her with such gratitude she felt the sting of tears in her eyes and a huge lump formed in her throat.

She coughed lightly.  “You didn’t ask, although you seem to have asked everyone else in your Contacts, and I’m going to try not to take that personally,” she said.  “I’m offering.  Take it or leave it.”

Michael smiled thinly.  “I’ve missed your smartass.  I’d be so glad to have you with me.”

Maggie nodded.  “Done.  But if for some reason I’m running late, you go on in.  I’ll be there.  I promise.”  She took his plate and warmed it in the microwave before placing it in front of him again.  “Now finish this up.  I’m calling you a cab and sending you on your way.”

Running Rogue Cover

Running Rogue, along with the rest of Rannigan’s Redemption, is available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords.