FOR SPARROW–2018 Golden Flogger Award WINNER for Best BDSM Book (BDSM Light)

I’m thrilled that the third Dream Dominant book, FOR SPARROW, was selected for this honor!  The Golden Flogger is awarded every year by the BDSM Writers Con, which is why it means so much.  They not only like the story, they approve of the way the book portrays the BDSM lifestyle.

FOR SPARROW is near and dear to my heart–it’s set here in Palm Beach County, my home for the past 25 years.  Throughout the story, I take the characters to some of my favorite places.

As a teaser, here’s the first chapter…

I buried my husband today.

The thought tumbled through Jessi’s mind over and over, like clothes in a dryer.  Voices around her sounded oddly muted, as though she were underwater.  Occasionally, someone touched her, a simple grasping of her hand, a gentle pat on her shoulder, and the sensation felt like burning embers showering down over her.

Following the graveside service, mourners had gathered at her home.  Hers and Graham’s.

Only Graham isn’t here.  We left him at the cemetery.  I buried my husband today.

Food had appeared in her kitchen.  Casseroles, desserts, salads.  There was even a brisket.  An army of women had set up a command post and were making sure guests had plenty to eat and drink.  Jessi wondered briefly if there was enough ice for the drinks.  Maybe she should ask Graham run to out and get some more.

I buried my husband today.

Since that day, her phone hadn’t stopped ringing.  Friends and neighbors hadn’t stopped calling and dropping by.  “How are you?”  “What can we do?”  “What do you need?”

Her business partner, Sarah Reid, had been her rock, taking over the events they had scheduled for the week, returning calls Jessi didn’t have the strength to deal with.

“You take all the time you need, hon,” Sarah had told her.  “We’ve got it under control.”

Since that day.

“Sparrow, I need to get the oil changed in my car.  Why don’t you drive to the mechanic’s and I’ll meet you there?  I’ll drop you at your office, and then we can do the reverse this afternoon.”

Jessi had waited at the mechanic’s shop.  After an hour had passed, she’d tried his phone.  A stranger had answered.

“This is Officer Brooks.  The owner of this phone has been in an accident.  Are you the wife of Graham Crenshaw?”

A police car had picked her up and driven her to the hospital.  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Crenshaw.  It appears your husband suffered a fatal heart attack behind the wheel of his car.  When the car hit the utility pole, he was most likely already deceased.”  The doctor had had an air of resigned sympathy.  Jessi had wondered how many people he pronounced dead on an average day.

Sarah had met her at the hospital and had driven her home.  Jessi wasn’t sure how her own car had gotten back to the house.  She’d somehow made the calls to Cara and Adam.  “Something has happened.  Your dad died.”

Cara, age twenty-three, had made her excuses at her job with the Weather Channel, and had taken the first available flight from Atlanta to West Palm Beach.  Adam, age twenty-one, had driven from Orlando where he worked as a video game animator.

Jessi and the kids had gone to the funeral home the following day to see to burial arrangements.  The funeral director had neatly folded his hands on top of his huge mahogany desk and smiled kindly.

“Mrs. Crenshaw, your husband has everything prearranged.  You don’t need to worry about a thing, it’s all taken care of.  He has requested that he be buried in a navy suit, with a white shirt and a blue and red paisley tie.  Do you know the things he means?”

Jessi had nodded dumbly.  What he’d described was her favorite suit of Graham’s.  He always looked so handsome, and he’d worn it when they’d celebrated their anniversary a few months back.

He had it all planned out.  But when?  Did he do it after the heart attack a few years ago?  Why didn’t he mention it?

“We’re just so sorry for your loss.”  The statement shook Jessi from her thoughts, returning her to the morbid gathering in her living room.  It was a neighbor couple from down the street.

“Thank you,” she murmured, not meeting their eyes.  She sipped her wine to have something to do, and wandered into the kitchen.

“Hey, hon, how are you holding up?” Sarah asked.

Jessi shrugged and gave a weak smile.  “I’m okay.”

“Can we get you something to eat?”

Jessi shook her head and headed back to the living room.

I buried my husband today.

“Jessica.  I was just chatting with your lovely daughter and son,” said Rev. Lyman.  “Graham was a good man, taken before his time.”  He looked at Jessi with slight reproof.  “I hope we’ll be seeing you and your family on Sunday.”

“Maybe, Reverend,” Jessi replied softly.  “If you’ll excuse me and my children.”

“Of course.  Family has to pull together at a time like this.”

They watched him work his way across the room.  “I’m not lovely?” quipped Adam.

Jessi smiled at her son.  “You’re lovely to me.  And you’re welcome for getting the good reverend to move along.”

“Do you love the way Rev. Lyman tried to get in a plug for going to church?” commented Cara.

“My personal relationship with God is exactly that.  Personal,” replied Jessi.  “How are you two doing?”

“It’s hard,” said Adam, his voice breaking.

“I know.  You don’t have to stay for all of this.  I have no idea when people will decide to leave.”

“I’m here until Friday,” Cara said.  “I don’t want to leave you alone to deal.”

Jessi kissed her cheek and then Adam’s.  “Thank you both.  I love you so much.  Your dad loved you, too.”  She felt tears forming again.  She felt as though she’d cried out her very soul, and yet tears were always near.

Cara’s here until Friday.  What day is it again?

Cara and Adam moved out to find their friends.  Jessi turned to look for a place to sit.  She was so weary.  She was stopped by a woman she vaguely recognized.

“Jessica, I’m Harriet.  From church?”

“Oh, yes, Harriet.  It was good of you to come.”

“Sweetie, I just want to remind you that Graham is in a better place.”  She beamed at Jessi, as though her words bestowed onto the new widow some sort of miracle.

Jessi felt a twitch begin at the outer corner of her left eye.  If I don’t get out of here right now, I’m going to scream.

“If you’ll excuse me, please,” she murmured, pushing past the woman.  She hurried through the kitchen, ignoring Sarah as she called to her, and slipped out the back door.

The lanai and pool deck were blissfully quiet in the early evening twilight.  The sun had set and the lights had come on automatically.  She crossed to the far side of the pool, and sat on the raised edge of the spa with her back to the house.  Finally alone, she leaned forward with her elbows on her thighs and let the tears flow.

She’d only been there a few minutes when she heard a sound, the soft scuff of a leather shoe against the brick pavers.  She sat up abruptly and whirled around.

“I’m so sorry.  I don’t mean to bother you.”  The man was tall and muscular, his dark hair in short waves framing a handsome face, his dark suit cut slim.  Large brown eyes were soft and sympathetic.

Jessi sniffed and stood, swiping at the tears on her cheeks.  “I just needed some air.  I buried my husband today.”  She looked up at him, shocked.  “That’s the first time I said that out loud.”

He smiled kindly.  “I’ll leave you alone.  I just wanted to say that Graham was a good man.  He was my friend and I’ll miss him.”

“Thank you.  Did you work with him?”

“No.  We were friends.  I’m Judd, by the way.”

Jessi nodded.  “Thank you for coming, Judd.  I’m sure he would have appreciated it.”  She began walking back towards the house.  Judd fell into step beside her.

“I thought maybe I would come back on Saturday, maybe help you with the lawn,” he said.

Jessi was only half-listening, wondering if Harriet had gotten the hell out of her house yet.  “Mm-hmm,” she murmured.

“Alright, Jessi,” he said.  “Take care, now.”

She nodded and went to find her children.

FOR SPARROW is available in both digital and paperback
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ForSparrow

Weekend Excerpt–Great News for CHASING ORDINARY!

There was great news this week for my modern-day adult fairy tale.
CHASING ORDINARY was named the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist in Literary Erotica.

The news is so brand-new, I don’t even have the medallion for the front of the book yet.  But I’m beyond thrilled that my handsome European prince and his sassy ginger sculptor are being honored.

Here’s CHASING ORDINARY, in a nutshell.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh has no idea that the handsome businessman she’s falling for
is actually Europe’s most eligible prince.
She’s Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary, and everything he ever wanted.
If he doesn’t blow it.

 

How about a little teaser?
And don’t miss the official book trailer at the bottom.  😉

Nik peered grimly out the window at the passing grey tableau as the Mercedes made its way uptown toward the exclusive Empire Club.  Dalton Rigby’s great-great grandfather had been a founding member, as the man had been careful to point out every time Nik had ever met him.

At least the food will be good, he consoled himself.  Mentally, he went over his talking points as the city passed by in a gloomy blur.

A flash of color on the sidewalk caught his focus.  Ahead, a woman in a bright red dress was attempting to hail a cab in the pouring rain.  As his car pulled alongside her, he watched in slow motion as a spray of water completely doused her.

“Stop the car!” he shouted.

The driver eyed him in the rearview mirror.

“Stop the car,” he repeated.

“But sir,” Jorgen protested from his seat beside Nik.

Shrugging, the driver stopped, causing the car behind them to slam on its brakes and honk loudly.

Nik was already halfway out of the car.  “Go around the block,” he called over his shoulder as he stepped out into the rain, slamming the door behind him.

The woman was still standing where she’d been when the Mercedes’ front wheel had torn through a deep puddle, spraying her with filthy runoff.  Nik made his way to her, ignoring the rain that pelted him as he walked.

“I’m terribly sorry.  Are you alright?”

She stood shaking from cold, red hair matted to her head, black streams of mascara running down her face like cracks in fine china.  “I’m s-s-s-soaked!” she shrieked.

“Again, I’m so sorry.”  Nik’s expression was contrite.  He shrugged out of his suit jacket and wrapped it around her.  She was tiny, and the jacket nearly swallowed her whole.  He glanced around.  “Is your apartment near here?”

She shook her head.  “I’m locked out.  And I’m unbelievably late.  I can’t go like this.  And I can’t get back into the fucking apartment!  Fuck!”

“My car is coming back around the block.  I’ll give you a ride to wherever you need to—“

At that moment, a boxy delivery truck hit the same puddle, spraying them both.  They gasped in unison.  Momentarily blinded by the wall of water, Nik sputtered and swiped at his face.  “Bloody hell!”

He looked down at the woman whose eyes were impossibly wide with surprise.  “Here comes my car now.  Come with me.  I’m staying at the Plaza.  We’ll call ahead and have the stylist meet us.  Once we’re both cleaned up, I’ll take you where you need to go.”

She looked up at him in alarm.  “I’m not going to your hotel with you!”

“No, I don’t mean…  I realize how inappropriate it sounds, but I promise, I only mean to help.”  He held up his hands in surrender.  “Clearly you can’t stay here.  And you can’t go to wherever it is you were going, not like this.”

He aimed for a reassuring smile.  “The services of the spa and salon will be at your disposal.  And I know St. James will have something for you to wear.”

He watched as she considered her options.  “I feel responsible.  Please let me make things right.”

The black Mercedes pulled up to the sidewalk and the driver walked around to open the back door.  “Please,” he pleaded softly.

The woman drew a shaky breath.  “Okay.  Thank you,” she said quietly.

Jorgen slid out of the back seat and moved to the passenger side of the front.  Nik motioned for the woman to get in, and he climbed in beside her.  The driver returned to his seat and pulled out into traffic.

“Jorgen, call St. James and tell him to meet us at the underground entrance.  Ms.—“ He looked to the woman.

“Oh, Cavanaugh.  Petey Cavanaugh.”  At his befuddled expression she added, “It’s a long story.”

Nik frowned.  “Ms. Cavanaugh is to have whatever services she needs.  When she’s ready, we’ll take her where she needs to go.”

“Yes, sir,” Jorgen responded, taking his phone out of his pocket.

“Thank you,” Petey said sheepishly.  “I’d better call my friend.”

She dialed a number.  “Yeah, it’s me.”  There was a short pause.  “No, I’m not almost to the gallery.  I’ll tell you all about it when I get there.”

Another pause.  “I know, seriously, I do!  Nobody would rather be there right now than I would, but I forgot the umbrella, and I forgot the key, and I’m a total wreck right now, completely soaked to the skin.”

She seemed to listen for a moment.  “I know, but I can’t help it.  I’m headed to the Plaza.  I’ll get cleaned up, and then I’ll be right there.”

Nik watched as she eyed him quickly.  “I don’t know.  Some guy,” she whispered.  There was another pause, and Nik could hear an agitated voice on the other end, although he couldn’t make out the words.

“Okay, Jules, I’m hanging up now.  I’ll let you know when I’m on my way.”  She stabbed at her phone and put it back in the small silver bag she was carrying.

She looked back at him sheepishly.  “My friend.”

“I truly am sorry.  You said you’re late?”

She nodded.  “It’s a gallery opening.  I’m supposed to be there,” she glanced at her watch, “twenty-two minutes ago.”

“I’m late for dinner myself.  At least gallery openings usually run for several hours.  Surely it won’t matter if you’re a bit late,” he said reasonably.

“It’s my show.  It looks kind of bad for the guest of honor not to be there.”

Nik was intrigued.  “You’re an artist.  What is your medium?”

“Sculpture.  I do welded steel and glass pieces.”

He squinted, picturing the petite, feminine woman using a welding torch to bend steel to her will.

“We’re here, sir,” Jorgen announced, interrupting his thoughts.  The car pulled through a security gate into an underground garage.  As it eased up to a pair of double glass doors, Colin St. James stepped out to greet them.

“Holy crap on a cracker,” he exclaimed as first Nik, then Petey, climbed out of the back of the car.  “What on God’s green earth happened to you?”

“It’s raining,” Nik replied succinctly.  “This is Ms. Cavanaugh.  She’s late to her own gallery opening, and obviously, she can’t go like that.  Please see to it that she’s ready in about twenty minutes.  Will that be possible?”

“Twenty minutes?  Are you kidding me?  They don’t call me ‘the miracle worker’ for nothing.”  He scanned Petey up and down.  “Although this might be my greatest challenge yet,” he said under his breath.

She glared up at him through wet lashes.

Nik turned to Petey.  “I’m going upstairs to get cleaned up.  I’ll check on you when I’m ready.”

She nodded shyly, shrugging off his suit jacket and handing it to him.  “Um, thank you.”

He nodded to Colin and turned to head to the elevator.

Colin took Petey by the hand.  “Okay, sweetie, let’s see what we can do.”

***

Petey stared into the dressing room mirror.  “Oh, my God, I look like Alice Cooper on a three-day bender!”

“And we’re getting a picture of it, too,” Colin said, snapping a photo with his phone before she could protest.  “Because this is going to be a hell of a ‘before and after.’”

Colin clapped his hands loudly.  “Okay, people, we have an extreme makeover.  STAT.  Let’s see…”  He circled Petey, brow knit in concentration.  “First, we ditch this horrid dress.  Honey, I don’t know what you were thinking.”

“Unh, this was my friend Jules’ idea,” Petey snapped back.

“Well, what did you do to make her hate you, because this thing is a nightmare.  Arms up,” he directed.

“This from a guy in orange pants,” Petey snarked, as she raised her arms.  Two female assistants gripped the hem of the dress and pulled it over her head.

“These are harvest rust, and they’re Prada.”

“Dude, they’re orange.”  Uncomfortably, she clutched her arms in front of herself in a vain attempt to cover her panties and bra.

Colin barked with laughter.  “I like you.  You’re feisty.”  He continued to peruse her closely.  “And you have great tits.”

He reached to cup one of her breasts and she batted his hand away.  “Hey!  Watch it!”

He just rolled his eyes.  “Honey, please!  Tits are not my thing, except the way they fill out couture.”

To one of the assistants, he snapped, “Elaine, go to the stash of Agent Provocateur and find something in a, what?  34D?”  Petey nodded mutely.

“And Zoe?  I’m seeing her in that pink Solace London.  The one with the mock turtleneck?”  The two women hurried off, presumably to find what they’d been sent to get.

Colin turned back to Petey.  “Get out of your wet undies and slip on a robe.  We’ll get you cleaned up, and then we’ll polish you until you sparkle.  Don’t worry about a thing.”  He winked at her and sent her on her way.

For the next twenty minutes, an entire team worked to put Petey back together.  Her hair was washed and her face was cleaned.  While someone worked on her makeup, another person gave her a pedicure, while a third did her nails.  Finally, her hair was blown out.

Colin returned to inspect their handiwork.  Nodding approvingly, he smiled at Petey.  “Okay red, in the dressing room, you’ll find new lingerie, a dress, and a pair of shoes.  Get dressed and come on out.”

Petey stepped into the dressing room and closed the door.  The mirror was covered with paper, and she’d only seen a maddeningly brief glimpse of herself in the makeup chair.  A plush chair held a cardboard box lined with tissue paper.  Inside were a pretty bra and panty set.  A pink dress hung on a hook on the wall, and she saw a shoe box on the floor.

Lifting the bra from the box, she admired the sheer burgundy fabric, embroidered with peach and deep pink flowers.  The tag still hanging from the garment announced its price–$215.  Petey gaped.  The matching panties turned out to be a thong, priced at $130.

Her most extravagant lingerie purchases had been a few bras from the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale.  It had taken over an hour to find something she liked, and she’d had a sneaking suspicion they’d made a stack of ugly bras just so they could discount them.

Shaking off her reservations, she dressed quickly, careful to pull the dress over her head without looking at the tag.  It seemed better not to know.

The shoebox held a pretty pair of mauve velvet ankle-strap stilettos.  She sank onto the chair and fastened them on her feet.  God, what I wouldn’t give for a mirror right now.

Glancing at her watch, she saw that it was exactly twenty-five minutes since he’d left her to go upstairs.  He.  She had no idea of his name.  In all the chaos, she hadn’t thought to ask.

When she opened the dressing room door, a crowd was waiting, with Colin smack in the middle.  There was a collective gasp as he snapped a photo.  The group burst into applause, and Colin took a bow.  “That, ladies and ladies, is why they call me the ‘miracle worker’.

He took Petey by the hand.  “Come look,” he said.  He led her to a tri-fold mirror at the top of a small dais.  “Go ahead,” he nodded.

Petey carefully climbed the three steps to the top, and stopped short.  Gazing back at her was the most beautiful self ever to greet her from a mirror.  Her long red hair was blown out silky and smooth, her makeup, including false eyelashes, expertly applied.  The pastel pink dress fit her like it was made for her, the mock turtle collar hugging her neck, leaving her shoulders and arms bare.  The clingy knit hugged her curves, and the hem hit just below her knees.  The color complimented her hair and skin flawlessly.

Colin stepped up behind her.  “Naturally, the dress is meant to be shorter.  But because you’re such a shorty, it hangs longer on you.  If we had the time, I’d have it taken up.”

Petey turned to him, eyes shining.  “Thank you so much.  I can’t possibly afford these things.  I’ll take them to the one-hour cleaner first thing tomorrow and return them.”

The man gave a friendly chuckle.  “Don’t worry about it, sweetie.”

“Hello?  Is she ready?” a male voice called.

Petey turned around.  Her rescuer had returned.  For the first time, she noticed his British accent.  Their eyes met and she gasped lightly.  He was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.  His dark blond hair was neatly trimmed, a thin scruff of beard defining the contours of his chiseled square jaw.  Deep blue eyes gazed back at her, wide with apparent surprise.

Certainly, she’d looked different when last he’d seen her.  As had he, to be honest.  He was now dry, his hair neatly back in place.  While the suit he’d worn earlier had been blue, the current one was a deep charcoal.

They stared across the room for what felt like an eternity.  Finally, she broke the ice.  “Hi.”

“Hello,” he replied softly.  “Are you ready?”

Petey looked to Colin, then back at him.  “Yes, I think so.”

“Before I send you back out in to the monsoon, I’m putting a coat on you.  No more getting drenched.”  An assistant appeared with a trench coat in a black and white chevron pattern.  Colin helped her into it.

She threw her arms around him.  “Thank you!  Thank you for everything.”

“My pleasure, red.  You come back and see me anytime.  I mean that.”  He kissed both her cheeks.  “Have fun.”

She headed to the doorway where he waited.  He called across to Colin.  “Thank you.  You’re a lifesaver.”

Colin laughed and waved.  As the pair left, he shook his head.

“Well, kids, I think we just witnessed history.”

CHASING ORDINARY is available in both digital and paperback
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–FOR SPARROW Has Big News!

This week brought great news for Dream Dominant Book 3, FOR SPARROW.
It’ s been named a 2018 Golden Flogger Award FINALIST for Best BDSM Book in the BDSM Light category!

I’m so excited!  This book is special to me in several ways.  The story grew out of a ‘wonder’ I had about two dear subbie friends of mine.  And it’s set in my home, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’ve infused it with some of my favorite places.

In a nutshell, Dominant firefighter paramedic Judd  Farris made a promise to his dying friend and he’s going to keep it.
He’ll be there for recent widow Jessi Crenshaw, at least until she finds a new Dom of her own.
But a platonic D/s relationship is a damn odd arrangement.
Could it be that maybe his friend had something more permanent in mind?

Here’s a little snippet from FOR SPARROW.

Jessi sat gazing out across the moonlit water to the red lighthouse on the opposite side of the inlet.  In the cool evening breeze, she was almost cold in her casual pink and orange sundress.  She thought about the ride from her house, unable to recall the last time she’d ridden alone with a man other than Graham.  The uncomfortable feeling had returned, and she’d chided herself mentally.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, grow up!  We’re going out because obviously, there’s nothing in the house to eat.

She’d been surprised when Judd played country music on the truck’s radio, although she couldn’t figure why that had been surprising.  She knew nothing about the man and his taste, in music, or anything else for that matter.

When they’d pulled up in front of the Square Grouper, she’d also been surprised.  It was not the kind of place Graham had liked, he’d been more a fan of quiet and sedate restaurants.  Places that were actually indoors, unlike this bar with sand for a floor and palm trees for a roof.

She found she rather liked it.  Looking back, she realized that she and Graham had rarely ever gone out to a bar.  Occasionally for girls’ night out, she and Sarah and a few of their friends met for cocktails at the bar of the local Cheesecake Factory, but that was usually just a preamble to going to the movies.

The bar had been noisy and crowded when they’d entered, and she’d stiffened apprehensively, unsure of where to go.  Judd seemed to have noticed, and he’d placed a hand gently on the small of her back, guiding her through the crowd to the table by the water where she now sat.

Judd seemed to be well-known among the crowd there, several times his name was called out raucously.  “Yo, Judd!”  He’d laughed and returned the greetings.

“Here you go, Jessi.  I’ll go get us some beers and order a couple of burgers.”  And he’d left her to ignore the crowd in favor of the tranquility of the full moon on the water, the rotating beam at the top of the lighthouse, the occasional boat that passed by.

“I’m back,” he said, handing her a bottle of Blue Moon and sitting beside her with his own.  “The burgers will be out in a while.”  He took a pull on his beer and sighed.  “This is one of my favorite places to sit and relax.”  Glancing at her, he frowned a bit.  “Are you alright?  I mean, is this place okay?”

Jessi nodded.  “It’s nice.  I’ve never been here before.”  She looked back towards the bar as the laughter peaked again.  “They seem to know you.”

He grinned.  “Yeah, I’m here quite a bit.  I hate to cook for myself.”

She watched him thoughtfully for a moment.  “You aren’t married, then?”

Sipping his beer again, he shook his head.  “Nope.  I was for a while a few years back but it didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry.  That’s sad, I think.”

“Sometimes people just grow in different directions,” he said with a shrug.

Jessi felt awkward, like she should be more sympathetic but she didn’t know what to say.  Thankfully, their food arrived, large cheeseburgers with what looked to be homemade French fries.  For the next few minutes they concentrated on eating.

Judd groaned appreciatively.  “This place has the best burgers in town.”

“It’s really good,” Jessi agreed, although she barely picked at her plate.

He looked thoughtful as he dipped a fry in ketchup.  “Tell me about your business,” Judd prompted.

She looked up, surprised.  “Oh, well, it’s event planning.  You know, weddings, parties, fund raisers, that kind of thing.  About four years ago, my friend Sarah and I got tired of teaching and decided to take the plunge.”

Judd grinned.  “You were a teacher?”

“Ninth grade English.  I did it for a long time, but I was ready for a change.”

“How is your business doing?”

Jessi smiled a little.  “Pretty well, actually.  We average about three events a week.  Matter of fact we have a big party tomorrow night.  I’ll probably spend most of the day taking care of last minute details.”

He nodded.  “You said that Friday worked out better this week.  I’ll be working tomorrow, too.”

“Have you always been a paramedic?” she asked.

“After I graduated from Florida State, I started out as a firefighter,” he said.  He laughed at her automatic grimace.  “Don’t tell me, you’re a Florida graduate.”

Jessi laughed lightly.  “Go, Gators!”

He chuckled with her.  “Anyway, after a few years I went to EMT school, and then later I completed my paramedic training.”

“Does being a paramedic keep you safer than being a firefighter?”  Her brow furrowed with worry.

Judd smiled.  “I suppose.  I don’t run into many burning buildings anymore.  We wait for the guys to bring victims out of the fires.  And we respond to heart attacks, injuries, car accidents, that kind of thing.”

He watched Jessi’s eyes widen.  “No,” he shook his head.  “I didn’t get the call for Graham’s accident.  I was off that day.”

“How did you know…“

“Jessi, your eyes show everything you’re thinking,” he said gently.  “It’s the damnedest thing I ever saw.”

Jessi immediately looked down at her plate, concerned about what else her eyes might give away.  Judd went back to eating and she picked at her burger some more.  Looking back up, she spoke again.  “How did you know Graham?”

Judd looked back up at Jessi, swallowed his bite of burger, and cleared his throat.  “I followed his blog for quite a while.”  Jessi blinked, trying to make the leap from following a blog to being friends.

He sighed, wiping his mouth and setting down his napkin.  “I told you my marriage ended because we wanted different things in life.  As things started going south, I realized that one problem was that both of us wanted to be in control.  And it didn’t work.  There was no yin to the yang, you know?”

Jessi nodded, frowning.

“I started looking online for anything that could help, some kind of advice to help me save my marriage.  The more I looked, the more I realized that in my core self, I’m Dominant.”

Judd paused to let that sink in.  Jessi was listening raptly.  “I found a few websites about being Dominant, you know the kind of thing, ‘do this’, ‘don’t do that’.  When I started going out again after the divorce, I tried some things, some really stupid things.  I made a few dates through FetLife and they were disastrous.”  He shook his head, half smiling.  “Graham’s writing was a revelation.  I thought, here’s a guy who knows what it is to be Dominant, to lead a submissive in the right way.”

She still didn’t say anything so he pushed on.  “I became something of a stalker,” he laughed, “reading every article, digging through his archives…  I commented on his posts and asked questions, and he was always nice, he always took the time to answer me.”  Judd took a break, nibbling on a handful of fries.  Jessi sipped her beer and waited.

“When I realized he was local, I worked up the nerve to ask him to meet me for coffee, and he agreed.  We met at Howley’s, and we talked for hours.”

“Howley’s,” Jessi repeated.

Judd grinned wryly.  “Cooked in sight…”

“Must be right,” she finished, smiling sadly.

He nodded.  “We met about once a month after that.  He was my mentor, but he was also my friend.”

“He never told me this.  I never knew that he was meeting someone, mentoring someone.”  Jessi gazed out over the water.

“That last time,” Judd began, “he was preoccupied.  He kept talking about what would happen to you when he was gone.”

“Why?” Jessi quietly pleaded.  “Why did he think something was going to happen?  Why didn’t he tell me if he thought something was wrong?”

Judd shook his head.  “I don’t know.  I think maybe he was feeling like something was off, and he didn’t want to worry you.”  He looked at Jessi and sighed.  “Graham asked me to promise I’d look out for you, make sure you were alright.  Those things I work on at your house?”  Jessi nodded.  “Before we left Howley’s that day, he handed me an envelope with my name on it, said in the event something happened to him, I should open it.”

“It was a list of chores around my house?” Jessi asked.  Judd nodded solemnly.

Jessi frowned.  “Was the dog on that list?”

Judd laughed.  “Yes.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that happen.”

He looked down for a moment.  “The list was the second page.  The first page was a letter outlining how he wanted me to make sure that you were okay.  He worried about you, Jessi.”

She looked away and swiped at a lone tear with the heel of her hand.  “I just don’t understand,” she said quietly.

“There’s more, Jessi.” She looked back at him expectantly.  “Graham gave me two envelopes that day.  The one for me…and one for you.”

Jessi’s eyes widened.  “You mean you’ve had—“

Judd put up a hand to stop her.  “He told me to give it to you when the time was right.  Jessi, I had it in the pocket of my jacket on the day of the funeral.  But you were surrounded by assholes saying really stupid things, and you looked like you’d been hit by a bus, and it didn’t seem like the right time to give it to you.  I’ve had it in my truck every time I’ve come by.”

He placed his hand over hers.  “I think it’s the right time tonight.  I’ll give it to you when we get back to your house.”

The drive back to Jessi’s was accented by tense silence.  Judd watched out of the corner of his eye as Jessi wrung her hands together anxiously, her face tight.  When they pulled into the driveway, she unbuckled her seatbelt.

“Hang on a second,” he told her.  “I’ll get your door.”

*****

Standing at the kitchen island, he handed her an envelope.  Her heart ached at the sight of Graham’s familiar left-handed scrawl across the face of the envelope.

For Sparrow.

Jessi’s eyes filled with tears.

Judd spoke softly.  “I’ll be out back when you’re finished, and we can talk about it if you like.”  He squeezed her shoulder gently.  “Come on, Buddy.  Let’s go outside.”  Happily, the puppy followed Judd out the back door.

Award-winning FOR SPARROW
is available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ForSparrow

 

Weekend Excerpt–LOST & BOUND

I’m thrilled to announce that LOST & BOUND, Book 2 of the Dream Dominant Collection, has been named a 2018 Finalist (Erotic category) in the Colorado Romance Writers’ Beverley Contest.   Winners will be announced July 15, so fingers crossed!

Making this even more exciting is the fact that I’m getting ever closer to finishing WARRIOR MINE, Dream Dominant Book 4, and a spin-off from LOST & BOUND.

Here’s a teaser from LOST & BOUND.

Blake carried the bucket to a board wedged waist-high between two birch trees.  “How about I build a campfire and clean the fish?  You can go get the skillet and some plates?”  He nodded toward the cabin.

When she returned from the cabin carrying a large cast-iron skillet stacked with a pair of white-dotted blue enamelware plates and a variety of utensils, a fire was roaring in the stone ring and Blake was filleting the first fish.  Shasta placed everything on a stump near where he was working and sank onto a log close to the fire.

Neither of them spoke.  Somewhere further down the lake, a loon called and they heard it echo across the water.  Blake’s attention was on the fish but out of the corner of his eye, he watched her assessing him.

“Have you always been a mountain man?”  Her expression was earnest.

Blake’s head dropped back as he laughed out loud.  “A mountain man?  Is that what I am?”

Shasta smiled sheepishly.  “Aren’t you?”

“Well, I grew up at the lodge.  My grandparents built the place.  My grandmother was Miranda.  The lake is named for her.  But I haven’t always lived here.  I went away to college.  After graduation, I worked for a while as a wilderness counselor.  I was in the woods a lot, but I was based in Toronto.”

“A wilderness counselor,” she repeated thoughtfully.

“Yeah, you know, we worked with troubled city kids, took them out and taught them survival skills and self-reliance, that kind of thing.”

“You worked with bad kids?” she wondered.

He shook his head.  “They weren’t bad, really.  Just…lost.  They needed help to find their way.”

“Why did you stop?”

Blake shrugged.  “My folks ran the lodge for years until my dad’s stroke.  They retired to Florida.  My sister and her husband started running the place full-time.  When that asshole bugged out, I came to help her.”

Shasta watched him appraisingly.  “That was really nice of you.”

“She’s my sister.  I’d do anything for someone I love.”  He placed a grate over the fire and set the skillet on top.  “Besides, I’m happy to be home.  I drive past my old school every time I go into town.  There are a lot of great memories.  I don’t really miss the city.”  He sat opposite Shasta on another log.

She laughed lightly.  “It must be odd to come back to live where you grew up.  I imagine you were the big football hero around here.”

He shook his head.  “Football is for sissies.  We played hockey.”

“Oh, excuse me, hockey,” she laughed.

“That’s right.  Hockey.  A man’s sport.”  He reached into his mouth, and to her surprise, removed his right front tooth and the one beside it.  “Where I come from, if you have all your teeth, you weren’t really trying.”  He laughed at her shocked expression as he refit the teeth into his mouth.

Shasta grinned smugly.  “I’ve got you beat, mountain man.”  She stood and leaned toward him, parting her lips and baring her perfectly straight, whiter-than-white teeth.  She ran her forefinger across them.  “All of these are fake.  I had them all capped.  Can’t have uneven or discolored teeth in Hollywood.  Nope.”

She sighed as she sat back down.  “Nothing about me is real,” she murmured.  He eyed her curiously.  She gave him a sidelong glance, then ran a finger down her nose.  “Nose job.”  She waved a handful of hair.  “Extensions.”  She grabbed her tits.  “Boob job.”  She looked down at the dirt.  “Even my name is fake.”

Blake had been watching her with interest.  “Your name isn’t Shasta?”

She snorted.  “Who would name their kid Shasta?  Eddie gave me that name when I was five.  He told my parents that nobody would hire Amy Malone.  I needed a name with pizzazz.”  She waggled jazz hands.  “I think he has a list of names in a drawer someplace and you just get the next one on the list.”

“So your name is Amy.”

Shasta nodded.  “But nobody’s called me that since my grandpa died.  He thought all the acting stuff was stupid.  He kept telling my parents to let me just be a kid.”  She laughed.  “He refused to call me Shasta.  My grandpa was a pretty stubborn guy.”

His expression was soft.  “Why would you get a nose job?  Or breast implants?”

She shrugged and pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes.  “Eddie said the boobs would help me transition between being a child actor and an adult.”

Blake could feel his protective nature surging.  “Eddie’s that guy who brought you here?  He made you get a boob job?”

“He didn’t make me.  But I knew he’d be disappointed if I didn’t.”  She used her toe to push a patch of pine needles back and forth.

The fish was done, and Blake was glad for the distraction.  He plated the fillets, handing one to her and taking the other for himself.

“Oh, my god, this is amazing,” she moaned through her first bite.

He grinned.  “Nothing like fresh bass, right out of the lake.  Unless it’s fresh trout, right out of the lake.  That’s pretty good, too.”

They enjoyed their lunch without conversation, appreciating the quiet of the wilderness.  The silence was broken only by the crackling of the fire or the occasional call of a loon.  Once again, Shasta felt a sense of peace settle over her.

Blake took her plate when she was finished.  “Now, we’ll see about washing up these few things and then we’ll blow this pop stand.”

LOST & BOUND is available at your favorite online bookseller,
in both digital and paperback formats.
books2read.com/LostandBound

Watch the official LOST & BOUND book trailer!

Weekend Excerpt–For Sparrow

FOR SPARROW received more great news this week.  Named the 2017 New Apple Medalist for Literary Erotica, it’s now also a Golden Flogger Nominee for Best BDSM Book of the Year.

The third Dream Dominant novel, it’s the story of new widow Jessi Crenshaw and her unconventional relationship with hot Dominant firefighter paramedic, Judd Farris.

When Jessi’s husband Graham dies unexpectedly, she’s shocked to find out that he made provision for her, asking his friend Judd to step in as a surrogate Dom until Jessi is back on her feet.

A platonic Dom/sub relationship is a damn odd arrangement, and they find their mutual attraction growing.  Could it be that Graham had something more permanent in mind?

And could it all end at the hands of a madman?

Here’s a little snippet:

It was 9:30 on Saturday morning when Judd pulled up in front of Jessi’s house in his beat-up F-150.  His main focus today was to fix the driveway gate that opened onto the street.  It had apparently been rusted open for the last few years.

That was his main focus.  Then there was the other thing.  He rolled his eyes and tried to mentally prepare himself for Jessi’s reaction.  He breathed out sharply.  “Here goes nothing,” he muttered.

It was about half an hour later that Jessi glanced out her front window and noticed Judd on a ladder at the end of her driveway.

“What the…?”  She marched out the front door and down the driveway.

“Excuse me,” she said, feeling like she was stuck in a time warp to the previous week.  At least she hadn’t awakened on the pool deck.  And a quick glance down confirmed that she was indeed dressed.

“Good morning, Jessi,” Judd answered, swinging down off the ladder.  He couldn’t help noticing that she looked much more put together today, dressed in a green sleeveless top and jeans that fit oh, so right, her auburn hair shining in the sun.  “It’s a beautiful day.  You look nice, all dressed and everything.”  He grinned at her.

“Yes, well, be that as it may,” she said blushing.  “Is this supposed to be an ‘every Saturday’ kind of thing?”

“No, not every Saturday.”  He shook his head.  “I’m working next Saturday so I’ll be here on Friday next week.”

Jessi crossed her arms in front of her.  “Look.  Judd.  I don’t mean to seem ungrateful.  But I’m just not comfortable with you being over here, working on my property like this.”

He squinted at her thoughtfully.  “Not comfortable.  Why not?”

His question surprised her.  “Well…just…because,” she spluttered.

His grin was accompanied by a twinkle of amusement in his brown eyes.  “No worries, Jessi.  I’ll be finished with your gate soon.”  As he turned to climb the ladder again, there was a small yipping sound from around the hedge.

Curious, Jessi moved closer.  In a small grey plastic corral made of some kind of toddler barrier, a brown and white puppy with long floppy ears looked up at Jessi, tail wagging furiously.

“Well, hello there, cutie,” she said.  Glancing up at Judd she said, “You brought your dog?”

Judd climbed back down again.  “It’s kind of complicated,” he said.  He reached in and lifted the puppy out of the corral, cradling him in his arms.  “Look at this face,” he cooed to the puppy.

He turned to Jessi.  “A friend of mine called me from the animal shelter, said they had a litter of beagle puppies that needed homes.  When I got down there, this little guy was the only one left.  If I didn’t take him, they were going to have to put him down.”

Jessi looked at him, aghast.  “I know,” he agreed to her silent protest.  “I had to take him.  The only thing is,” he looked at her with soft brown eyes, “I work twenty-four hour shifts at the station, sometimes back to back.  I can’t take care of a puppy.”

“At the station?”

“Fire station.  I’m a paramedic.”

“Oh.  I didn’t know that.”

“Anyway, I was sort of hoping…”  He looked at her meaningfully.

Jessi raised a hand in front of her.  “Oh, no, no way.  I can’t have a puppy.”

Friendly smile in place, he handed off the puppy to her quickly and went back up the ladder.  “Why not?”

She hugged the dog to her chest and swayed as if he were an infant.  “Well, just…I can’t, that’s all.”

“Why not?  You work regular hours, right?  You have enough room for him.”  Judd glanced down at her.  “If you can’t, I’ll have to take him back to the shelter and they’ll put him down.”

Jessi looked back down at the puppy and he licked her chin.  “Well, nobody’s going to put you down.  He can stay.”  She looked back up at Judd.  “For now.  But remember, he’s yours.  What’s his name, anyway?”

Judd grinned.  “Buddy.  His name is Buddy.”

“Well come on, Buddy.  Let’s see if we can find you something to eat,” Jessi cooed as she made her way back into the house.

“I’ve got some puppy kibble in my truck.  I’ll bring it to your door when I finish with the gate.”  Out of the corner of his eye, he watched her walk away making baby talk to the puppy.

He laughed to himself.  That was not as hard as I thought it would be.

For Sparrow promo 1

One-click your copy of FOR SPARROW.
books2read.com/ForSparrow

Exciting News!

This is the time I usually post a Weekend Excerpt, but I’ve posted several snippets this week, all in the name of promoting Rannigan’s Redemption.

So instead of another excerpt, I want to tell you some exciting news.  LOST & BOUND, the second novel in my Dream Dominant Collection, has been nominated for a 2017 Reader’s Choice Award for Romance.  I’m just thrilled!

In LOST & BOUND, spoiled Hollywood badgirl Shasta Pyke gets into trouble with the law and is sent to cool her heels for a few weeks in the wilderness of northern Ontario.  That’s where she meets Dominant mountain man Blake Walker, who is none too impressed with the sole guest at his family’s remote lodge.  But there’s something about her petulance that calls to his Daddy Dom soul.  Could she be the baby girl he’s been looking for?

Now I’m asking for your help.  I need votes.  If you would take just a moment, I’d be forever grateful.  Here’s the LINK for voting.  Once you get there, you’ll see a gray bar that says ‘1/16’.  (I’ve included a screenshot for reference.)  Click the arrow on the right side of the bar to get to 7/16, Romance.  The books are listed in alphabetical order by title.

I’d really appreciate your support.  Voting closes Dec. 10.  If you haven’t read LOST & BOUND yet, it’s available at your favorite online bookseller at this universal link.
books2read.com/LostandBound

The Post in Which Pandora Squeals Like a Girl

Please permit me a little happy dance.  I just received notification today that my books Rannigan’s Redemption and Just One Night have been nominated for the 2016 Summer Indie Book Award.

I’m beyond thrilled and couldn’t wait to share the exciting news!  The voting begins September 1.  I’ll be sure to post links then.  Thanks for putting up with my squeals!  I’ll try to keep it down…   🙂