Weekend Excerpt–RESISTING RISK, Rannigan’s Redemption Book 1

Sometimes you meet someone who changes your life forever.
In ways you could never imagine.

 

Hot-shot Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan has his life arranged just the way he likes it, thank you very much.

A founding partner of the law firm of Murphy, Rannigan, and Metheny, his high-profile criminal defense practice runs like a well-oiled machine.  He has competent associates who do all the leg work, leaving Michael to do what he does best–charm juries and leave a sound bite on the evening news.

His personal life is no less organized.  He has a contact list of surgically-enhanced bottle blondes at his beck and call, whether he needs a date for a charity function…or he just wants to get laid.

Hiring red-haired Maggie Flynn to join his elite firm changes his life in ways he could never see coming.  She’s far from his usual type.  She’s way too smart, for one thing.  But there’s something about Mary Margaret Flynn that he can’t quite shake.

Maggie is attracted to Michael from the beginning.  Beneath his cavalier exterior, she’s seen the man he could be.  She knows her crush is all but hopeless.  For the time being she’s content just to work with him.

What would happen if they ever crossed that line?

Read an excerpt from RESISTING RISK:

They sat chatting about the fireworks and the music, leaving out their time on the dance floor.  Maggie wasn’t sure how she felt about it.  Being in Michael’s arms had been glorious.  Wearing his coat, surrounded by his seductive scent, the memory of his voice in her ear…  She furtively glanced at him, desire causing her pulse to pound.   She knew that she wanted him.  She also knew that she was a little tipsy and that she might not be making the best decisions.

“What is your cologne?” she blurted out.  Case in point of reckless decisions, she thought.

He grinned in amusement.  “It’s Bleu de Chanel.”

“It’s heavenly,” she said before she could stop herself.  “It’s just that, well, your jacket smells like you, which is good, really.  I mean it’s very nice.”

“You’re drunk, Mags,” he observed quietly.

She made a valiant attempt to look at him squarely.  “Maybe just a tiny little bit.”

Michael checked his phone.  “The car’s out front.  Are we ready?”  Between the two of them, they managed to get Ben to his feet and across the expanse of lawn to the driveway where a medium sized stretch limousine waited, driver holding open the back door for them.

Wide-eyed, Maggie looked around Ben to Michael.  For his part, Michael looked a little embarrassed.  “Jana likes to ride in a limo,” he shrugged.

Ben had fallen asleep again and together they maneuvered him into the car, laying him gently onto the black leather couch that ran down the driver’s side of the passenger compartment before they settled back into the plush leather seat at the rear of the car.

“Traffic is heavier than usual, Mr. Rannigan,” the driver told him.  “The drive may take a couple of hours.”

“Thank you, Mason.  And thanks for taking care of Ms. Hansen.”

“Of course, Mr. Rannigan.  Happy to help,” the man replied before closing the door.

Michael turned to Maggie as the car began moving away from the house.  “Hope you don’t mind a bit of a drive.  I hadn’t counted on traffic.”

“Please!” Maggie said.  “This beats the hell out of public transportation.  And traffic or no, we’ll still get back before we would have on the train.  Thank you for the ride.”

He smiled.  “My pleasure,” he said.  And meant it, he was mildly surprised to realize.  Impeccable manners had been instilled in him by the aunt with whom he’d lived after his mother had died.  At the time, he’d resented it, but they had served him well.  On the other hand, he often found himself mouthing words he didn’t mean.  Not this time, he thought to himself.

“Can I offer you a drink?” he asked, motioning to the bar that was opposite the couch on which Ben lay snoring.  Loudly.  “There’s bourbon and pink champagne.”  Maggie frowned quizzically.  “Pink champagne is Jana’s favorite,” he elaborated somewhat apologetically.

“I’ll take bourbon if it’s all the same to you,” Maggie responded, trying not to smirk and hoping that she was successful.  Michael turned over two glasses and began to carefully pour bourbon from a crystal decanter.

“Boy, renting a stretch limo, stocking it with pink champagne,” she muttered to herself.  “She must be some kind of lay.”  Michael glanced at her, shock registering on his face.  “Shit, was that out loud?” she asked.

“It was,” he answered, handing her a glass of bourbon as he settled back into the seat.  “And truthfully, she’s not all that.”

It was Maggie’s turn to look shocked.  Michael gave her a wry smile and clinked his glass to hers.  “To nights that turn out differently from the way you expected.”

They sipped their bourbon wordlessly, occupied with their own thoughts for a few miles.

“I know it’s none of my business,” Maggie began.

“Those words are always followed by a ‘but’,” Michael interjected, shaking his head.

“BUT,” Maggie continued, “I don’t know how you do that.”

“Do what?”

“How do you sleep with someone that you don’t even like?  I could tell from the moment we sat at the table that you didn’t like that girl.”

“Okay, I don’t want to have in-depth conversations with Jana, but did you see her?  Like I said before, it was just the wrong event for her.  She’s great at Nets games, music awards, things like that.”

“I just couldn’t sleep with someone that I wasn’t attracted to intellectually, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Is that what’s wrong with Dan?” he probed, happy to be talking about someone besides Jana.

“He’s a nice guy.  He’s smart and articulate, and not bad looking,” Maggie conceded.  “I just don’t feel that…spark, that’s all.  If I went out with him it wouldn’t be genuine.”

“You’re picky,” Michael concluded, shaking his head.

“I deserve to be,” she said quietly.  “You do too.”

They passed another few miles in silence.

“You know,” Maggie said, “I hear Disney’s coming out with a new princess movie soon.  And you could take her out for ice cream after.”  She gave Michael a mischievous look.

Michael gave a reluctant grin and his eyes sparkled in the lights of passing cars.  “You, Mary Margaret Flynn, are a smart ass.  It’s kind of endearing.”

She grinned at him.  “You’re welcome!” she teased.

He poured them both more bourbon.  “In a pain-in-the-ass sort of way.”  They both laughed.

***

“Mags,” she heard out of the shifting fog.  “We’re back in town.  I need you to tell us where to go.”

She opened her eyes and realized that she’d been sleeping with her head on Michael’s shoulder.   “Oh, God, I’m so sorry.”  She sat up abruptly.  “I didn’t realize…  I wish you’d awakened me.”

“No worries.  But we need to know exactly where to take Ben and where your place is.”

Maggie could see the driver watching her in the rear view mirror.  “My place.  Right.”  She gave the address and the driver thanked her, the partition whooshing back into place.  “Ben can sleep it off on my couch.  It won’t be the first time.”

The car came to a stop in front of Maggie’s apartment.  “Nice building, Mags.  Is the whole thing yours?”

She fairly snorted.  “In my dreams!  One day when I’m rich and famous, I’ll have my own brownstone.  For now I’m happy with a tiny part of the second floor.”  She smiled gratefully.  “Thanks again for the ride.  You are a life saver.”  She moved to open the door but the driver was there first.

“Let me help you get him inside,” Michael offered.  They both glanced at Ben, who hadn’t so much as shifted during the entire ride.

She looked back at Michael.  “Probably a good idea.  I won’t be able to get him up the stairs by myself.”  They succeeded in rousing Ben enough for him to put his arms around their shoulders and they moved him to the sidewalk.

Michael spoke quietly to the driver, who nodded before returning to the driver’s seat and slowly driving away.  Maggie looked at him questioningly.  “I told him to find a place to park.  I’ll call him after we get your date settled.”

They managed the stairs and Michael leaned Ben between himself and the wall as Maggie unlocked the door and let them into her apartment.  “Let’s just lay him on the couch,” she said, cocking her head in the direction of a large grey velvet sofa with navy blue accent pillows.

They worked together to get the unconscious and snoring Ben safely onto the couch, Michael studiously ignoring the way his jacket gapped open, inviting views of Maggie’s breasts as she leaned over to place a pillow under Ben’s head.

“Thank you so much, Michael,” she said as she removed his jacket and held it uncertainly.  “Can I offer you a beer or coffee or something?  Or do you need to go?”

“Coffee sounds good,” he answered.

Maggie smiled brightly as she gently placed his jacket over the back of a kitchen chair and set about making coffee.  Michael wandered around the living room area to the bay window and looked out over the street.  He turned back around to take in the view of the room.  It was small, of course, but nice in a quirky sort of way.  She’d left on a dim lamp near the window that gave enough light to the space without being intrusive.  “This is a nice place,” he commented.

She smiled at him from the kitchen counter.  “Thanks.  And again, I really appreciate your giving us a ride.”

“Mags, you’ve thanked me about a thousand times,” he said gently.

She blushed slightly.  “Well, I didn’t want to forget,” she said sheepishly.

He watched her as she worked in the kitchen, measuring out coffee into a French press, putting a kettle of water on the stove, little mundane domestic tasks.  His mind skipped to flashes of her from throughout the night.  Slowly it dawned on him what it was about Maggie that made him uncomfortable.

She’s real.  She has no hidden agenda.  She isn’t playing some game, she doesn’t want anything from me.  He sighed deeply. She’s the kind of girl who could make you forget your own rules.

Michael slowly crossed the room and stood by the kitchen counter.  “Can I help with something?”

“No, it’s all done.  We’re just waiting for the water to boil.”  She leaned back resting her hand on the counter.

He gently placed his hand on hers.  “You…are very dangerous,” he whispered, lifting her hand to his lips and kissing it softly, his deep brown eyes peering into hers.  Her brow furrowed, perplexed.

Gently, he tilted up her chin with his fingers and leaned down, meeting her lips with his own, lightly at first, and then more urgently.  He ran his other hand down the smooth fabric of the back of her dress coming to rest on her firm ass as he probed her mouth with his tongue, seeking hers.

Maggie responded, matching the heat of his kiss, reaching up, tangling her fingers in the hair behind his ear, giving herself over to his embrace.  Michael’s hand left her ass and smoothed its way back up to her side, her ribs, stopping just under her breast.  Reluctantly he pulled himself away.

Maggie breathlessly gazed up at him.  He smiled gently.  “We’re both a little drunk,” he said.  “Which is why I’d better go.”  Tenderly, he kissed her once again and walked out the door.

Michael and Maggie’s story, Rannigan’s Redemption,
is a three-novel erotic romance law drama.
Start with RESISTING RISK: books2read.com/ResistingRisk
Follow up with RUNNING ROGUE and
RANSOMING REDEMPTION.

 

Happy Anniversary, Book+Main Bites!

Here’s a toast to the one-year anniversary of Book+Main Bites, the best place to find your next romance read.

On the free Book+Main app (for your phone or computer), readers can check out snippets (bites) from tons of romance writers.  And you can save the ones you like.  Some of the bites are from upcoming books, some are from books that are already published.

Like what you read?  There’s a purchase link at the bottom of the post.  It’s the very definition of ‘try before you buy’.  And it’s a great way to find your new favorite author.  Or an old one–you might even find me on Book+Main.  😉

Intrigued?  It’s FREE for readers.  What are you waiting for?
Click HERE to go to Book+Main.

 

Weekend Excerpt–I’ve Been Busy

Have you ever had one thing in mind and suddenly it morphs into something completely other?

I’ve been hard at work on my new book, which I’d been tentatively calling Voices, knowing that ultimately that title would change.  Well, that has turned into what is now Book 1 of a three-book series, Redheads & Ranchers.

With that first book, which I’m now calling Rescued by the Rancher, well underway at over 42k words so far, I’ve jumped headlong into the second book, Romancing the Rancher.

In Romancing the Rancher, corporate lawyer P.K. (Poppy) Chastain heads to Idaho to try to convince 5th generation rancher Hunter McFall to sell a small parcel of his land to the developers intent on building a mountain resort nearby.

This is from the (unedited) first chapter of Romancing the Rancher.

Hunter McFall squinted his hazel eyes at the dust trail on the horizon and shook his head in annoyance.  He didn’t have time for this.  He had 1,500 head of cattle that needed moving to new pasture.

Not that it made this day any different from any other day.  Cattle need to be rotated to fresh grazing land.  The herd had spent yesterday down on the flood plain beside the bend of Deer Creek.  Today he wanted them moved into the foothills.

But he had Rolly Stevens to head up moving the beeves.  Rolly had been with the McFalls since before Hunter ever sat on a horse.  And the younger hands listened to the old man, respected him.

And if Hunter was honest with himself, he didn’t mind a day off the trail too badly.  Except he wasn’t looking forward to this appointment.

The dust trail was closer now.  Hunter sighed deeply and nudged the bay beneath him, gently pulling the reins to the right.

“Let’s go, Cheyenne,” he muttered.  The horse tossed her head and turned to the right, heading back toward the house.

P.K. Chastain.  Just the name irritated him.  The notion of a grown man going by his initials struck him as pretentious as fuck.  The fact that P.K. Chastain was a lawyer representing Slade & Howell didn’t engender him to Hunter anymore than his name did.

He’d received the letters and emails from this Chastain fellow, the ones making all kinds of shiny promises on behalf of Slade & Howell.  But Hunter didn’t care.  He wasn’t interested in selling any McFall land to some developer who wanted to build a mountain resort.  Keep that shit over by Sun Valley if that’s what you had in mind.

Here in Deer Creek Valley and the Boxroot Mountains, McFalls had raised cattle for five generations, and by God, he intended to continue the family legacy until his last breath.

A vehicle came around the bend just as Hunter loosely wrapped Cheyenne’s reins around a rail in the shade of a large cottonwood.  From beneath his wide-brimmed hat, he glowered at the silver Range Rover as it pulled to a stop along the side of the gravel drive.  City people always fancied themselves rugged outdoorsmen when they came out to this neck of Idaho.  Yet another reason he wasn’t interested in having a luxury resort anywhere near McFall.

He set his mouth in a firm line and walked toward the SUV.  The driver’s door opened, and a shiny black high-heeled pump emerged, followed by a shapely calf.  Surprised, Hunter stopped, watching as a petite redhead stepped out of the car.  Her hair was done up in one of those fancy, efficient updos with a few loose wisps around her face, which was obscured by large designer sunglasses.  Hunter’s eyes zeroed in on sensuously shaped ruby-red lips.

The woman leaned back into the SUV, affording Hunter a view of a nicely rounded ass, neatly packaged in a black pencil skirt.  She emerged a moment later holding a tan leather satchel.  Closing the car door, she marched toward him.

“Mr. McFall?”  She stuck out a well-manicured hand, her nails painted the same red as her lips.  “I’m P.K. Chastain.  We’ve emailed back and forth?”

Slowly, Hunter reached out and took her tiny hand in his own, suddenly aware of how rough and calloused ranch work made them.

You’re P.K. Chastain?”

The redhead tilted her head and removed the sunglasses, revealing deep chestnut eyes in a shade he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen before.  “You were expecting a man, I suppose.”  Her tone was defensive.

“I guess when I heard that a lawyer was coming out here, I just assumed.”

P.K. Chastain narrowed her eyes at him.  “Maybe the news didn’t make it this far out in the boondocks,” she said, one hand holding the satchel, the other a fist on her hip.  “But it’s the 21st century now.  Women get to vote and everything.”

Hunter suppressed a grin, his mustache shifting with the effort.  “Seems I heard tell about something like that,” he drawled for effect.  “Maybe it was the fact that you go by your initials.  What does P.K. stand for, anyway?”

He watched her cheeks color slightly as the woman squared her shoulders.  “That’s neither here nor there.  Is there someplace we can sit and discuss the generous offer being made to you by Slade & Howell?”

He pursed his lips and watched her for moment.  Then he nodded.  “We can meet in my office.”  He gestured toward the huge log home that had been in his family for generations.  When he’d been a boy, his grandfather had added an extension to the north end of the house, creating an office from which to run ranch business.

“If we’re going to have a business, my boy, we’d better treat it like one,” the elder Hunter McFall had told his young namesake.

That Hunter McFall had been the first of his family to attend college, and his son and grandson had followed in his footsteps.  They’d taken what had been a rough and tumble ranch and turned it into a successful cattle business, acquiring extra acreage along the way as some of their neighbors failed to keep up with the times.

P.K. Chastain, leather satchel in hand, clipped purposefully across the gravel drive and up the steps to the covered porch that ran the length of the front of the house and around its southern side.  Hunter followed along behind, amused by the turn of events.

At the door, she stopped, allowing him to open it and usher her inside.  Just inside the door, he paused to hang his black felt hat on a rack beside the door.  His mother had always been firm: “No hats in the house.”  He supposed that extended to the office as well.

Hunter imagined he could see the office from his guest’s point of view as he inhaled the familiar scent of leather and wood.  Behind the huge reclaimed wood desk, antique branding irons hung in a row from an old board on the wall above a barnwood credenza.  Opposite the desk were a pair of leather wingback chairs.  The chairs matched twin oxblood leather chesterfield couches that flanked an antique trunk turned coffee table in the center of the room.

On the opposite end from his desk sat a long wood conference table surrounded by leather club chairs.  Western art from his grandfather’s collection accented the walls and the entire space was crowned by an enormous iron chandelier hung from the peaked roof.

The lawyer glanced around appreciatively.  “It’s lovely,” she murmured.

Hunter nodded.  “Thank you.  The original cabin is over a hundred years old, but it’s been added to over the years.  My grandfather added this office extension when he took over the business over forty years ago.”

“Lovely,” she repeated.  She gestured with her satchel.  “Where would you like me to set up?”

Set up?

He shrugged slightly.  “Anywhere you’re most comfortable is fine.”

He watched as the woman’s gaze flitted all around the room before it settled on the conference table.

“That looks good,” she said, and moved in that direction, her high heels clipping against the wide plank floor.

She placed the satchel on the table and opened it, rooting around until she found what she was looking for.  She handed Hunter a glossy-covered booklet, a gorgeous shot of the Boxroot Mountains gracing the front with Boxroot Mountain Resort declared in bold, rustic letters.

“Please, have a seat,” she gestured to the chair at the head of the table.

Hunter suppressed a smirk at the city woman telling him where to sit in his own office.  Curious to see where this was all leading, he sank into the chair and watched as she dug into the bag once again.

“If you’d like to flip through the prospectus while I get my presentation ready,” she said.  “I won’t be long.”  She looked up at him.  “You do have wi-fi?”

He nodded.  “Yes, ma’am,” he drawled.  “All the way out here in the boondocks, we have wi-fi and the interwebs.  Why, hell, we even have the dot com.”

She paused her movements to purse her lips at him.  Then she went back to her digging, tucking a few stray red hairs behind her left ear.  From her bag, she extracted a small black cube about the size of a baseball.  This she set up on a small tripod on the table, then she went back to rooting around in the satchel.

Hunter tried unsuccessfully to look away from the way her wispy white blouse gapped in the front every time she leaned over the bag.  Ms. Chastain had stellar cleavage.  That paired with the nicely rounded ass he’d appreciated outside made her an intriguing distraction from the ordinary.

He didn’t look over the prospectus.  He didn’t need to.  He wasn’t interested in selling.  But he’d hear her out.  It beat the hell out of rounding up reluctant Herefords.

I’m hoping to release Rescued by the Rancher, Redheads & Ranchers Book 1, before Christmas.  Romancing the Rancher should be ready in early 2019.  And the third book will be well on its way by then.

In the meantime, 2018 Golden Flogger Award Winner FOR SPARROW is currently on sale for 99¢ through October 8, exclusively at Amazon.  Use this LINK to one-click your copy now.

 

Weekend Excerpt–Where It All Began

LUKE & BELLA, Dream Dominant Book 1, is the first book I ever published.  It’s where it all began.

The idea for the story started with this question:  What  would be your dream job?

For Luke McGillicutty and Bella Grant, it’s jetting all over the world to create a brand new television travel show.  Thrown together as co-producers, visiting exotic cities, staying in luxurious hotels, is it any wonder they fall in love?

But it all happened so fast, Luke hasn’t had the time to be completely honest with Bella.  If he tells her now, he could lose her forever.  Can he risk everything on the chance they could have it all?

Here’s a steamy little teaser from LUKE & BELLA.

Landing smoothly on Mykonos, they were treated to a radiantly sunny afternoon capped by a sparkling blue cloudless sky.  They moved effortlessly through the customs checkpoint and collected Bella’s bags at the luggage carousel.

“Ever think of simplifying, m’lady,” Luke joked, gesturing with his duffle bags.

“In your dreams, Cowboy!” she retorted.

“Oh, baby girl, my dreams are made of different stuff,” he growled suggestively.

She laughed lightly, rolling her eyes in mock exasperation.

He hailed a cab and Bella told the driver the name of their hotel.  They enjoyed a scenic late afternoon view of the island as they made their way to the Cavo Tagoo.  The pair checked in and were escorted to the Honeymoon Suite by an older bellman who pulled their bags on a brass cart.

“Congratulations!” he said to them as he opened their door with a flourish.

Bella breezed past him impatiently and Luke thanked the man, amused at his misunderstanding and at Bella’s reaction.  “Well, m’lady, once again, you have booked us into heaven.”

She was already opening the doors to the pool deck.  The view of the infinity pool hanging over the crystal waters of the Aegean was utterly breathtaking.  And Bella in her blue dress seemed to be part of the scene.  Turning to him, she said breathlessly, “Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?”

“No, I never have,” he replied, not meaning the pool or the sea.

“I’m going swimming,” she announced, and she disappeared into the bedroom, emerging ten minutes later in a sheer purple sarong.  Before Luke could say anything, she walked to the edge of the pool and, facing him, untied the sarong to reveal black bikini bottoms…and nothing else.

She dropped the sheer fabric onto a chaise lounge and executed a shallow dive, emerging at the infinity edge.  She held on to the edge with one hand and smoothed back her wet curls with the other.  She looked at him, eyes dark and intense.  “Well, Cowboy, are you joining me, or what?”

“I’ll be right back.”  He retreated into the room and returned with his personal Rebel DSLR.  Bella’s face registered alarm.  “These will be just for us.  I promise.  Do you trust me?” he asked quietly, holding the camera down.

She swallowed and nodded slowly.  “I do trust you, Cowboy.”

He took some amazing shots of Bella. She was a natural beauty and the pool only accentuated the fact.  She gave him casual poses, seemingly unable to be other than herself.

He could feel his erection growing as he focused on her half naked body.  Her nipples were sharp pebbles, just begging for his attention.  Little droplets of pool water glistened on her beautiful skin.  Her hair was slicked back framing her beautiful face.

When his arousal became consuming, he pulled off his shirt, his pants, and his boxer briefs and slowly entered the pool.  He swam to her and pinned her against the infinity edge.  Kissing her deeply, he first touched those nipples that had called to him from across the pool, taking them between his finger and thumb, causing them to stretch into hard erect nubs.  She tilted her head back and moaned softly.  Then his hand moved down to her bikini bottoms.

“You’re a little overdressed, m’lady.”  Hooking his thumbs into her bikini bottoms, he easily slid them off.  He lifted her legs, wrapping them around him, before urgently pushing his erection deep into her core.

She gasped and tightly gripped his shoulders.  “Oh, Cowboy,” she breathed against his neck.  “It’s our first time making love outside.”

“Something tells me it won’t be our last,” he said, and she kissed him passionately.  He kissed her back, matching her intensity.  Thrusting into her hard, then harder, he pulled out and forcefully spun her around so she was facing the wide expanse and he took her from behind.  Watching himself enter her, he groaned with pleasure.  He ran his hand through her hair then gripped it, pulling her head back to him and growled into her ear, “Baby girl, I’m so gonna come inside you.”

LUKE & BELLA
is available in both eBook and paperback formats
at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/LukeAndBella1

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–Now That Warrior Mine is Out…

WARRIOR MINE, Dream Dominant Book 4, launched to terrific 5-STAR reviews.

For my next project, I’m stepping away from the Dream Dominants to a ‘spicy vanilla’ suspenseful erotic romance I’m tentatively calling Voices.  I’m pretty sure by the time it’s ready to be published, I will settle on a better name.

Jenny Stone is on the run from the thugs who killed her parents and have held her prisoner.  For the last two years, she’s been unable to speak due to the trauma she experienced the day her life changed forever.  When she sees her chance to escape, she takes it, secretly hitching a ride in the horse trailer of a handsome rancher.

Cole Caldwell has no clue about the battered girl he finds hiding in his trailer.  She can’t tell him who she is or where she came from.
But he knows he’ll never let anyone lay a hand on her ever again.  Not as long as there’s breath in his lungs.

Here’s a little (unedited) peek at this WIP…

Warm breath on her face startled her, and her eyes popped open to see a shiny black nose and two soulful brown eyes resting mere inches away.

Jenny smiled.  Hi, puppy.  She reached to pet his head, and the dog whimpered softly.  Jenny frowned.  Do you need to go outside? 

Carefully, she sat up and looked around.  It had been dark when she’d gone to bed.  Now, golden sunlight streamed through the two windows of the corner bedroom.  To her, it was a beautiful space, all pastel colors and feminine details.

Her prison of the last two years popped into her mind, the tiny cubicle with its stark white walls, the air mattress she’d been allotted, the black blanket that had kept her warm.

No more.  She shook her head and her gaze fell back to Blue.  Oh.  Puppy needs to go out.

She wondered where Cole was.  The house was utterly still.  She slid out of bed, still wearing the clothes he’d loaned her the night before.  Quickly, she made the bed, replacing the throw pillows and making certain the arrangement was pristine.

She crossed to the bathroom, pausing to check her image in the mirror.  The swelling around her eye had definitely abated.  Now it was merely a noxious shade of purple.  She used a comb she found in a drawer to sort out her ginger waves, wishing she had a hair tie.  Instead, she tucked her hair behind her ears as best she could.

In the hallway, she glanced around, but since the house seemed empty, she headed downstairs.  A rectangle of white paper on the kitchen counter caught her eye.  It was a note.

Good morning, sleepyhead.
I’m out at the barn.  You can join me if you like.
Cole

Jenny smiled, noting that her lip was less sore than it had been.  She looked down at her sock feet.  No trips to the barn today.  She placed a hand on her stomach to still the nerves there.

Besides, Victor is looking for me.

To anyone else, the idea that Victor might find her at some remote ranch all the way in–she realized she had no idea where she was–might seem ridiculous.  But she knew Victor, knew what he was capable of.  She’s seen it firsthand.

Blue whined again, and the thoughts of Victor dissipated.  Come on, puppy.  She opened the kitchen door and the dog ran outside, heading in the direction of the barn.

Afraid to go outside onto the porch, Jenny crossed to the living room windows.  From there, she could see Cole exercising a horse in a round pen not far from the barn.  A few other horses grazed in a fenced pasture beyond that.

Blue trotted up to Cole, and the man leaned down to scratch behind his ears.  Then he stood and looked toward the house, raising a hand in a wave when he saw Jenny at the window.  Jenny smiled and waved back, feeling an uncertain flutter in her stomach.

Cole stopped the horse and walked up to him, rubbing his nose and neck with generous affection.  He opened the pen’s gate and walked the horse into the pasture, where he removed the rope harness and turned him loose to join the others.

Shortly, he and Blue walked in the front door.  “Hey there, Jenny,” he grinned.  “How did you sleep?”

Blushing slightly, she smiled, nodding.  Really well.

“Good,” he said, hanging his straw hat on a rack near the front door.  He turned and tilted his head, gazing at her thoughtfully.  “Your eye looks better today.  Yesterday, you only had one.”  He chuckled softly.  “It’s gonna be quite a shiner for a while, though.”

Jenny self-consciously brought her hand to her left eye, touching the area cautiously.

Cole made his way into the kitchen, and Jenny followed.  “Are you hungry?”

She hadn’t considered it before, but now that he mentioned it, she was.  Yes.  She nodded sheepishly.

He took two plates from a cupboard and set them on the kitchen island.  “How does a sandwich sound?  I have turkey and Swiss cheese.”  He looked to her, and she nodded again.

Jenny felt her stomach rumble.  Turkey and cheese sounded amazing.  She watched as he put slices of white bread on the plates.  From the fridge, he retrieved the turkey, the cheese, a jar of mayonnaise, and a bottle of yellow mustard.

Setting everything on the counter, he held up the condiments.  “Mayo, or mustard?  Or both?”

She pointed to the mustard.

“Not a fan of mayo?”

She shook her head, wrinkling her nose.

“Oh, it’s good stuff,” he contended, slathering his bread with the thick white goo.

She couldn’t stop the snicker, and he looked up at her, grinning.  Her heart skipped a beat as she met his deep brown eyes.  Cole was exceptionally handsome, with his dark hair, so brown it was almost black, and those dreamy eyes.

Just…don’t, she cautioned herself.

When the sandwiches were ready, he cut them on the diagonal and placed heaping portions of corn chips in the space between halves.

As they ate, Cole chattered about his morning and his work with the horses.  Jenny listened, nodding when it was appropriate.

At one point, he looked up at her.  “I have to go into town today to pick up some feed that just came in.  Thought I might wander over to Wal-Mart and maybe pick up some things for you.  Unless you’d like to come with me.”

Jenny felt panic rising.  She had no money, no way of paying for anything, and she certainly didn’t expect Cole to buy things for her.  The reality of her situation sank in.  What choice do I have?

She shook her head furiously.

Cole smiled kindly.  “I kind of figured you’d say that.  Besides, you can’t exactly go gallivanting all over town dressed like that.”  He nodded to her outfit of his hand-me-downs.

She looked down and smiled in spite of herself.

He drew a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to her.  “I started a list of things I figured you might need.  But I need sizes.  I’d never venture to guess a woman’s size—I grew up with a sister who could kick my ass.”

Jenny found herself suppressing a smile.  She scanned the list.  Jeans, tops, underwear, jacket, socks, shoes, toiletries.

He pushed a pencil toward her.  “I know how you feel about writing stuff on paper.  But I have to have sizes, or else I’ll buy all the wrong things.”

She chewed her lip thoughtfully as she tried to decide what to do.  Finally, she picked up the pencil and began marking sizes.

As she did, Cole continued.  “If there are any brands you prefer, mark those, too.  And if I know your favorite color, it will make picking out stuff easier.”

Finished marking sizes, she wrote the word ‘purple’ beneath the list of clothing, then handed it back to him.

He looked over the list and grinned.  “Purple, huh?  Good to know.”

The release date for Voices is TBD.

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Weekend Excerpt–CHASING ORDINARY

Chasing Ordinary 7

She’s everything he ever wanted.

When Nik meets Petey on a rainy Manhattan night, she’s his first-ever taste of ordinary.  As crown prince of his country, he’s accustomed to women chasing him for his title or his money.

This extraordinary red-haired sculptor seems to have no idea who he is.  She takes him at face value, as simply a man and not an institution.  A quality he finds immensely attractive.

Obviously, he needs to be honest with her.  But he’s afraid to break the magic they share.  What will happen when she finds out the truth?

Nik glanced around.  “I take it you’ve been here before.”

“I have,” Petey grinned.  “Jules and I practically lived here during art school.  I place the blame for my ‘freshman fifteen’ squarely on the shoulders of Morelli’s.”

Nik smiled, too.  Coffee and pie were delivered, and Petey watched carefully as Nik took his first bite.

“Oh, my God,” he moaned around the cinnamon-apple confection.  “This is amazing.”

Pleased, Petey dug into her own dessert.  “I know, right?”

Nik washed that bite down with a sip of coffee and regarded her curiously.  “Now can you tell me a long story?”

She frowned.  “A long story?”

“Your name.  You said it was a long story.”  His blue eyes sparkled and he suppressed a smile as he waited expectantly.

“Oh, that.”  Petey rolled her eyes.  “It was my grandfather, really.  When I was born, my parents named me after my great-grandmother.  But my grandfather hated the name.  He ranted at them, ‘Call her anything.  Call her Pete.  Just don’t call her Cecilia.’”  She gestured in imitation of her mother’s father.

She smiled at him ruefully.  “Pete just kind of stuck.  I’ve been Petey all my life.”

Nik brushed his fingers over his lips, obscuring his smile.  “Cecilia’s not so bad.  But you do seem like a Petey to me.”

He took another large bite of pie and Petey nibbled at hers.  Then she cleared her throat.  “So, you’re from England?”

Shaking his head, he finished chewing and swallowed.  “No, I’m from Beruvia.”

“Oh,” she replied, eyes wide.  “Just, well…your accent.  I thought you sounded British.”

“I went to boarding school in England.  That’s where I picked up the accent.”

“Boarding school?”  She frowned deeply.  “That’s horrible!”

Nik laughed out loud.  “Why is that horrible?  It was a very good education.”

Petey blushed furiously.  “I don’t mean…I mean…well, I just felt so sad for a little boy being sent away from his family.  It seems so lonely and cold.  How old were you?”

In his eyes, there was a spark of something Petey couldn’t identify as he watched her for a moment.  Then he smiled warmly.  “Around eleven, I think.  And I wasn’t all alone.  My brother was there.  Our parents came to visit us when they could, and of course, we went home for holidays.  It’s a family tradition, actually.  My father attended there, and his father before him.  It wasn’t horrible, I promise.”

He took another bite of pie, and Petey smiled sheepishly.  “Well, if you say so.  God, I sound so judgmental!  I didn’t mean it that way, really.”

“I didn’t take it that way,” he shook his head.  “You have a kind heart.”

Petey blushed again and busied herself with another bite of pie.  He watched for a moment, glancing down at his phone when it buzzed.  Jorgen had sent a text message.

I’m taking a cab back to the hotel.  Security detail is in place, and the car is across the street.  Let Lars know when you’re ready to leave.

Nik keyed in a short reply and looked back to Petey.  “I noticed drawings on the walls beside the sculptures,” he encouraged.

She nodded, chewing quickly.  “That was Jules’ idea.  She thought people would be interested in my sketches.  I don’t know.”  She nodded at his phone.  “Do you need to go?”

He smiled reassuringly.  “No, not at all.  You sketch your designs first?”

“Yes, I get an idea and I have to put it down before I forget it.  Sometimes they come quickly, and other times they take a while.  And then I think about the materials I have on hand, and the things I might need to gather from other places.”  She quirked her head.  “Sometimes I use ‘found’ materials.  It just depends on the soul of the piece.”

“’Found’ materials?” he wondered.

“Did you see the dinner forks I incorporated in the one I called Bear?  I was at a flea market in Bozeman, and I came across this bunch of mismatched cutlery.  I just loved the forks and figured I could use them sometime.”

Nik leaned forward on his forearms, smiling.  “That’s fascinating.  Where do you get your ideas?”

Petey launched into an explanation of her creative process, eyes alight with enthusiasm.  As she did, Nik felt the tension of the day melting away.

Part of his fatigue was due, no doubt, to the fact that he felt immense pressure to perform his responsibilities in a dignified manner.  After all, he represented not only himself, but his country, and indeed, the crown itself.

Somehow, sitting across from this gorgeous red-haired sculptor, he felt free to let down his guard, to simply enjoy her company.  As she described working on her latest project, he felt his cheeks begin to ache from smiling.

She spoke without inhibition, without pretext.  Perhaps the fact that he’d passed her little test had given her a sense of trust in his sincerity.  The thought would have been encouraging but for one small detail.

She doesn’t know who I am.  That reality was stunning to him.  Not that he thought he was particularly someone of note.  His heritage had often seemed more a curse than a blessing, in more ways than he could count.  But he couldn’t recall ever having met someone who didn’t already know his name, his title, his obligation.

He’d need to come clean, obviously.

Why would I have to do that?  We’re having conversation over coffee.  It’s nothing more than that.

He smiled at her as she continued to describe her work.  He knew exactly why.  This was the first woman who’s sparked his interest in as long as he could remember.  He couldn’t let it end with one conversation over coffee.  He wanted more.

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CHASING ORDINARY is the contemporary adult fairy tale
I’ve always wanted to write.
It releases February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
But you can reserve your copy now for the special
Pre-Order price of 99¢!

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