Weekend Excerpt–Christmas With the Orphans and Misfits

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling in the holiday spirit!  The decorations are up, the music is playing, I’ve squirreled away gifts for those I love.  So I’m in the mood for a Christmas scene.

This one is from RESISTING RISK, the first book in the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy.  Fledgling attorney Maggie Flynn is alone in the world.  Her mother abandoned her and her father when she was a toddler.  And her father during her college years.

So every year, Maggie hosts her annual Orphans and Misfits Christmas for her friends who, like her, have nowhere to go.  One particular Christmas, she has a surprise guest.

“Maggie, is the turkey ready?” Casey asked.

Maggie checked the clock and shook her head.  “No way, it has at least another hour, then it has to rest.  We can put in the beans and the stuffing when it comes out.  Nate, how do we reheat the red beans and rice?”

As Nate answered Maggie’s question, Ben wandered over to the window.  The buzzer rang again.  Ben glanced at Maggie in the kitchen.  “Somebody’s buzzing downstairs, Flynn.”

Casey was helping Maggie turn the turkey around in the oven.  “Well can you please buzz them in?  I’m a little busy here.”

Ben pressed the buzzer but made no move to open the apartment door.  About a minute later there was a knock.  The others were engrossed in the football game.  Ben stayed put.  “Somebody’s at the door, Flynn.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, I’ll just drop everything and get it myself,” said Maggie, tossing down pot holders in exasperation.

Maggie flung open the door to find Michael standing in the hallway.  He grinned sheepishly.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

She blinked, confused.  “Michael, I…I mean, Merry Christmas.  But what…Shouldn’t you be in St. Bart’s?”

“I got snowed in.  My flight was canceled.  I have a charter later on, but I thought I’d stop by here.  Do you have room for another orphan?”

A slow smile spread across her face.  “Of course, there’s always room.  Come on in.”

Maggie turned to find that everyone in the apartment was watching the two of them.  “Everyone, this is Michael.  Michael, everyone.”

“Hello, Merry Christmas,” he greeted the group.  To Maggie, “I brought wine.  I wasn’t sure…”

“Wine is perfect, thanks,” she told him.  Waving toward the kitchen she said, “Help yourself to something to drink.  We’ve been enjoying the munchies out of your gift basket.  Dinner will probably be another hour or so.”  She smiled at him.  “I’m so glad you’re here.  Shocked, but glad.”

After he dropped his coat and his suitcase in Maggie’s bedroom with the other coats, Michael got a beer for himself and settled in the living room, striking up a conversation with the guys watching football.  Casey sidled up to Maggie in the kitchen.  “You didn’t tell me Mr. Wonderful was coming.”

“I didn’t know Michael was coming.  He’s supposed to be in the Caribbean.  With someone, you understand, nobody goes to the Caribbean alone.”

“Maybe.  But he’s here now.”

Michael relaxed on the couch and looked around appreciatively at all the activity.  Maggie and Casey were in the kitchen along with a couple he didn’t know.  There was an older woman chatting with Nate from the firm.  Several others were watching football.  Everyone seemed happy and at home.

“This is nice,” he commented to Ben.  “It feels like a scene from Rent.”

Ben smirked.  “Viva la vie Boheme!” he raised his beer.

Michael chuckled and raised his beer as well.  “La vie Boheme.”

Dinner was served on three tables pushed together in the middle of the living room.  Plates were filled buffet-style in the kitchen.  Ben insisted that Maggie toast before they ate.

She raised her glass of wine.  “I feel like the luckiest girl.  I’m here celebrating the holiday with my most favorite people in the entire world.  There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.  Merry Christmas!”

After everyone ate as much as they could, the guys agreed to do all the clean-up.  Maggie supervised returning the tables to their proper places then sank onto the sofa, resting her feet on the coffee table.

“What about the dessert, Flynn?” Ben asked when the leftovers were packed up.

“Let’s be informal.  Grab some if you want some.  I want to do presents,” Maggie said.  Michael brought her a fresh glass of wine.  She looked up at him, grinning in appreciation, and patted the space beside her.

“I’ll sit on the floor, I don’t mind,” he said, sliding to a spot beside her feet.

“Now the way this works is, everyone takes a number.  We go in order starting at 1.  Number 1 picks first.  Number 2 can pick a new present or steal from Number 1.  Everybody got it?” Ben asked.  Maggie watched in amusement as some played shyly while others were cut-throat.

“What’s this?” Michael asked quietly.  She looked down to see him holding an ornament from the tree.  It was a small red glass ball held by a green paper cone.  Her name was spelled out in glitter.

“I think I was about six when I made that,” she smiled.  “The Christmas ornaments were some of the few things I took from my dad’s house.”

He grinned.  “I like it.”

When the gifts were over, Maggie had a new hand-crocheted toilet-roll cover.  Michael had a $10 gift card to Starbucks.  “Guess somebody didn’t get the memo,” he quipped so that only Maggie heard, and she giggled softly.

He winked and leaned close.  “Mags, I should be making my way to the airport.”

“Okay,” Maggie sighed.  “I’ll walk you out.”  She got her coat and hat while he said his goodbyes.  “I’ll be right back,” she said to Casey as they headed out of the apartment.  They walked down the stairs without chatting.

Once out on the sidewalk, Michael turned and faced her.  “I had a great time, Mags.  Thanks for inviting me.”  He glanced up.  “We have an audience, by the way.”  He waved at the crowd gathered in Maggie’s front window.

She looked up at them, scowling.  “Come on,” she said, turning right and heading down the sidewalk.  She stopped just around the corner.

Michael smiled.  “Thanks.  I just wanted to say goodbye privately.  I brought you a gift, but I didn’t want to give it to you in front of everybody.”  He pulled a small flat box from his pocket.  It was light blue, tied with a white ribbon.

Maggie’s eyes widened.  “Sean Michael Rannigan, you did not!”

“How did you know the S stands for Sean?

She shrugged.  “Everyone knows it’s Sean.  I can’t believe you went to Tiffany…”  She stopped and looked up at him, smiling sadly.  “This wasn’t for me.  This is supposed to be for someone else.”

“No, Mags, this is for you,” he said earnestly.  “I mean, to be honest, I went there yesterday looking for something for Jana.”

“What, Toys R Us and GapKids were closed?” Maggie quipped.

“Ah-hah-hah, you’re very funny.  I found a little trinket to give to Jana, but then I turned and saw this.  All I could think was that you should have it.  It’s for you, Mags.”

Curious, Maggie slowly pulled the white ribbon and lifted the lid.  In the box resting on light blue velvet was a delicate silver bracelet.  It had a vintage look to it with large rectangular milky white cabochons alternating with trios of small round diamonds surrounded by platinum filigree.  She looked back up at Michael, eyes wide.

“Those are moonstones,” he said proudly.  “This was in the vintage case.  It was made in 1915.”  He gazed at the bracelet.  “It’s graceful and classy, just like you.”

“I don’t know what to say, Michael.  I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.  Will you help me put it on?”

He lifted the bracelet from the box and as Maggie held out her left hand, he fastened it around her wrist.  She held it out and watched it catch the natural light.  As she did, she noticed a tiny platinum tag hanging from the clasp.  Peering closer she saw that it was engraved.  To Maggie, From Michael. 

“See?  I told you it was for you.”  She looked back up at him, eyes shining, and as she did, a gust of wind caught some stray hair, blowing it across her face.  Michael gently moved the errant strands, tucking them behind her ear.  Without planning it at all, he planted a tender kiss on her lips.

He moved back slightly as Maggie looked up at him, eyes shining with desire.  He leaned into her again, the kiss this time all heat and passion.  She brought her left hand up to cradle his right cheek, her desire matching his.  When he stopped kissing her, he pulled her close, tucking her under his chin and they stood like that for a moment.

Finally, he gently set her back from him.  She looked up, the sad glint once again in her eyes.  After all, he was leaving her to go to someone else.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

“Merry Christmas, Michael.”

The newly re-edited RESISTING RISK is available
at your favorite online bookseller,
in both eBook and paperback formats.
books2read.com/ResistingRisk

Weekend Excerpt–It’s the Holiday Season!

Happy December!
I’m in the mood for holiday stories, so this teaser is from WARRIOR MINE, Dream Dominant Book 4.

When Blake and Amy returned to Lake Miranda the week before Christmas, snow blanketed the compound.  After the lake froze solid, and Scott’s students either hiked to the island or were shuttled by snowmobile.

His last session before the holidays ended just before Blake and Amy came home, but the lodge had guests scheduled throughout Christmas and New Year’s.  Trina and the restaurant staff came up with a festive holiday menu, and Walker’s on the Lake was completely booked for both holidays.

When Jackie called her parents to ask about their holiday plans, she was surprised to find out that the elder Walkers had reservations for a Christmas cruise to the Caribbean.  “Your father just couldn’t stand the thought of all that snow,” Ann laughed.  “You all have a wonderful holiday!”

Blake and Amy agreed to spend Christmas at Jackie and Scott’s house, the better to enjoy the kids’ excitement on Christmas morning.  The day after they returned, Scott and Blake took Grant and Emma snowmobiling in the forest to find a proper Christmas tree to set up in the window of Scott and Jackie’s family room.

On Christmas Eve, after the kids had gone to bed, the adults gathered around the enormous festively-decorated white spruce.  Light Christmas jazz played in the background, and outside the floor to ceiling windows, snow swirled lazily in the half moonlight.

Jackie handed Amy a mug of warm mulled cider and settled beside her on a leather sofa with a mug of her own.  On the floor, Scott and Blake sat amid the scattered pieces of a pink Barbie house ‘Santa’ had found on sale months earlier and had put away until now.

Winking at Amy, Jackie suppressed a smile.  “Did you guys read the instructions?”

“We don’t need the damn instructions,” Blake huffed, pushing a stray lock of dark hair out of his eyes.  “We’re two intelligent, grown men.  We can figure out how to put together a dollhouse.”

The women clinked their mugs and giggled gleefully.

Amy looked from Blake and Scott to the twinkling Christmas tree, and to Jackie.  “I love this.”  Her voice was soft, and though she smiled, a tear was in her eye.  “This is the Christmas I always wanted.”

Jackie’s heart melted, and she reached for Amy’s hand.  “I’m so happy you’re here.”

Blake pushed up from the floor and pressed a tender kiss to Amy’s temple.  “This is our life, kitten.  This is our family, your family.  You belong here.”

Jackie smiled across the room at Scott, who winked at her, and she felt a familiar tummy flutter.  She loved the man more than she’d thought humanly possible.  And when summer came, she’d marry him.

After Blake and Amy retired to the guest room, Scott and Jackie went to bed, quietly making love, then holding each other until late into the night.

They awoke to a bright sunny day, the sky crystal cerulean, the sun reflecting brilliantly off the sparkling snow.  Emma and Grant squealed excitedly as they saw the mountain of gifts under the tree.  Scott sat at the end of the sofa and Jackie snuggled up beside him, each of them sipping steaming mugs of coffee.  Blake and Amy sat opposite them on the sofa’s twin, smiling as they watched the children tearing into their gifts.

Once they were finished, the kids had fun delivering gifts to the adults.  Finally, all the gifts were opened.  Blake and Amy gave each other a conspiratorial look.  “We have a few more gifts,” Amy said.

“More?” Jackie echoed, thinking of the extravagant handbag for her, and the top of the line boots for Scott.  “You’ve done so much already, seriously.”

Blake reached behind the sofa and picked up four identical shirt boxes wrapped in metallic red paper.  He glanced at the tags and handed one to each of the children and to Jackie and Scott.

Amy leaned forward excitedly.  “You have to open them all together.  Ready?  One, two, three!”

With a bemused glance at Scott, Jackie carefully opened her box.  Grant and Emma ripped theirs open.  “It’s a shirt,” Emma said, holding up a pink t-shirt.

Grant peered into the box.  “Thanks, Aunt Amy,” he said, making an effort to sound enthused about a shirt.  “It sure is…pink.”

Scott tilted his head as he looked at his, then elbowed Jackie lightly.  She looked at his, then gaped at hers.  In sparkling letters across pink cotton, she read, World’s Greatest Aunt.

Jackie gasped.  “I knew it!  I knew you were pregnant!  I’m so excited for you!” she squealed, rushing over to give Amy and Blake a big hug.

“We didn’t want to tell anyone until we knew everything was going to be okay,” Amy explained.

“Cool,” Grant said, pulling his new shirt over his head, “we’re going to be cousins!”

“Aunt Amy, are you having a boy baby or a girl baby?” Emma asked.

Blake grinned.  “It’s a little girl.  That’s why we gave you pink shirts.”

“Congratulations, man!”  Scott grinned as Blake stood and the two embraced.  “That’s great news.”

“I can’t believe it.”  He shook his head.  “I’m going to be a dad.”

Jackie sank onto the sofa beside Amy.  “A little girl,” she shook her head smiling.  “That’s fantastic.”

Amy nodded, eyes shining.  “Do you want to see the ultrasound pictures?”

“I’ll get them,” Blake said, heading in the direction of the guest room.

Grant and Emma returned to their new toys.  Scott perched on the arm of the sofa next to Jackie.  “I’m so happy for you two,” he told Amy.  She laughed happily.

From the direction of the guest room, they heard a tiny yip.  Jackie frowned.  “What was that?”

Eyes wide, Amy gave an exaggerated shrug.  “I have no idea.”

“Uh oh,” Blake called from the guest room.  “I think I found another present.”

Jackie looked up to see a shaggy black puppy with a huge red bow come running into the room.  He ran straight to the kids, yipping excitedly.

“A puppy,” Emma squealed.

Grant squinted at the tag on the big red bow and gasped.  “Mom!  It’s for us, from Santa!”

Blake leaned against the doorway looking pleased with himself.

“From Santa, huh?”

“I think Grandma and Grandpa might have mentioned it to the big guy,” Blake grinned.

Oh, for f—” Jackie glanced up at Scott.  “Did you know about this?”

He raised his hands in surrender.  “I promise, I knew nothing about a puppy.”

“They love Bear so much, they need one of their own,” Amy said, smiling.

“So, what are you going to name him?” Blake asked.

Brow furrowed, Grant watched the Newfie puppy for a moment.  “Max.  He looks like a Max to me.”

Ruffling the puppy’s ears, Emma nodded enthusiastically.  “Yeah.  Max.”

Jackie shook her head.  “He’s cute, I’ll give you that.  But I still want to see those ultrasound pictures of my niece.”

One-click WARRIOR MINE at Amazon.

 

NEW from Award-Winning Erotic Romance Author Felicity Brandon!

Title: Taken
Series: The Dark Necessities Trilogy #1
Author: Felicity Brandon
Genre: Dark Romance/Kidnap Thriller
Release Date: November 28, 2018
Cover Design: Eris Adderly

One obsessed fan. One captive author. 

Lost on the streets of a foreign city, Molly Clary is attacked after a book signing until an unknown hero steps in to protect her. But Molly’s relief soon turns to terror when her savior’s true intentions are revealed. Connor Reilly doesn’t just want to save her, he wants to take her for himself.

Now Molly’s fighting, not just for her life, but for the essence of who she truly is. If she’s going to survive in Connor’s dark new world, she’ll have to learn to play his base games. But if Molly plays, what will it cost her? Can a monster ever really learn to love, or will his need to dominate destroy them both?
 
If you enjoyed the debauched desire of the Twist Me series, then you’ll devour Felicity Brandon’s edgy new trilogy.
 
Buy Taken to begin this hauntingly addictive set.
 
Taken is an edgy, fast-paced, dark romance and is the first book in The Dark Necessities trilogy. Molly and Connor’s story continues in Tamed, and concludes in Entwined.

“Are you going to run, Molly?” His voice was calm, and almost amused as it questioned her.
She shifted her gaze to follow the sound of his voice, her face no doubt portraying her anxiety on the subject. “No,” she lied, her tone breathless.
“No?” he repeated back to her as he stepped forward out of the black shadows of the furthest corner. His right brow arched in the tantalizing way it did when he knew he was onto a winner.
“No,” she confirmed, shaking her head for good measure.
He moved toward her laughing. “You could run, you know,” he went on, his gaze intense as his tall body loomed over her.
Molly blinked up at her captor. Free of her binds at last, she felt bolstered and no longer wanted to call him Master. She could never allow a monster like Connor to master her. “What?”
“You could run,” he affirmed. “If you wanted to? Your stories have always had an element of the cat and mouse about them, haven’t they, pet? I know you’d enjoy that, and if you didn’t already know, I love the thrill of the chase.”
Adrenaline spiked in her body as he spoke. Was he giving her permission to flee from him? Is that why he’d removed the chains? Was this just the latest game he wanted to play?
“Yes,” he answered her, although she was certain she hadn’t spoken the words out loud. “You can run, Molly, but you know if you run, I’m going to chase you, and you know I’m going to catch you.”
Her heart was pounding in her chest as she sat up straight beside him, pinning her wide-eyed gaze onto his. “Why are you saying this?” she mumbled. And how do you know all of this?
His smile widened, and he pulled up a box from nearby, seating himself beside her. “After all this time, pet,” he purred. “Don’t you think I know you by now? I knew you before we’d even met. I know what you’re thinking, Molly. You are quite literally an open book to me.”
She flushed, her head falling forward as though the admission was shameful. She was ashamed, because he was right. He did seem to know her. He knew what she was going to be thinking, what she wanted, and just how to control her. It was freaking infuriating.
“Look at me.” His voice was sterner, having taken on some of the quality which made the knot of anxious energy in her belly tighten. She complied, not wanting to rile the beast in him. Their eyes met, his mesmerizing green orbs utterly compelling. His hand came slowly to her face. Molly flinched out of instinct, but relaxed when he began to caress the side of her face with calm, gentle strokes. “This is your story, pet,” he mused. “Our story. If you want to run, then I am not going to stop you.”
“But you will chase me?” she whispered, her fear furling as simmering arousal at his touch began to flood her system. She knew she shouldn’t crave him, but she found herself leaning into the warmth of his hand. It was like a reflex. Despite the fact this was the same hand that had captured, and tormented her, it was also the hand that had rescued and comforted her – and pleasured her.
Connor’s chuckle resonated deeply inside of Molly’s body. “Of course,” he answered, his fingers tightening in her long dark hair. “I will chase you because you’re mine, pet. You belong to me now, we both know that, don’t we?” He hesitated as though he expected her to speak, but she merely blinked at him. Too terrified to respond. Too afraid of what her answer might be. “Molly?”
The sound of her name made her lips part. It was intimate, fanning the flames of her burgeoning need. “Yes, Master?” she said, her voice barely audible as she confessed the truth.
For a moment they just stared at one another, the admission lingering in the dank air around them.

 

“But that’s not the only reason I’d chase you,” he went on eventually. “I’d chase you because it’s what you want, Molly, isn’t it?”
The Dark Necessities trilogy continues in the twisted pages of Tamed, released in December, 2018, and concludes in the heart-stopping finale, Entwined (due January 2019)
Felicity Brandon is a top 100 Amazon bestselling author. She loves the darker side of romance, and writes sexy, suspenseful stories, with strong themes of bondage and submission. You’ll find her either at her laptop, at the gym, or rocking out to her favourite music. 

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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–The Best 99¢ Vacation You Ever Loved!

Are you missing summer yet?
Wouldn’t you love to take a nice, relaxing cruise?
Hot Caribbean days,
Even hotter nights?

JUST ONE NIGHT is my naughty little summer novella, and it’s only 99¢ every day.

Teacher Katie Parker is on a girls’ week vacation with her best friends from high school.  She’s determined to forget about her latest romantic disaster with an anonymous shipboard fling with a handsome stranger.  Not that she’s told her friends that.

Mac Coleman, on his way to Mexico for his younger brother’s wedding, is more than happy to go along with Katie’s plan.  But now, can he convince her that what they’ve found together is worth more than just one night?

Here’s a sneak peek at JUST ONE NIGHT.

As dessert was served, Mac’s attention was drawn back to the table across the room.  The redhead suddenly looked right at him and he felt his automatic smile, which widened as she snapped her eyes away.  He continued to watch as she raised her gaze casually as if to see if he was still looking.  This time he smiled deliberately.

At that moment, her head turned and she spoke to someone at her table.  Her face changed and she seemed to be speaking passionately, an angry flash in her eyes.  He watched as she removed the linen napkin from her lap and dropped it on the table, pushed back from the table, and stalked out of the dining room.

Impulsively, he knew he needed to follow.  “Gents, I can’t eat another bite,” Mac said as he pushed away from the table.  “I’m going to walk off a little of this dinner.  I’ll meet you two later.”

By the time Mac made it to the door of the dining room, the redhead had disappeared.  He glanced to his left and then to his right, trying to guess her more likely route.  The woman at the photo checkout cleared her throat discreetly and he looked in her direction.  She nodded meaningfully to her right and smiled.

He grinned at her wholeheartedly.  “Thanks!” he proffered as he hurried off in the direction the clerk had indicated.  Mac made his way through the door that opened onto the deck and he saw her leaning against the railing, looking out over the dark water.  Her skirt ruffled lightly in the breeze and the full moon overhead gave her hair a fire-like glow.

Ignoring the slight case of nerves he felt, he approached the railing, stopping by her left elbow.  “Hey, you,” he said casually.

She startled slightly, whipping her head to her left, eyes wide.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.  I just saw you standing here and I thought I’d say hello.”  He held his hands in front of himself in surrender, pasting on what he hoped was a charming smile.

The redhead continued to stare at him wordlessly.  “I don’t mean to bother you.  I can go if you’d like.”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t want you to go.  I was just surprised, that’s all.”

Mac smiled gratefully.  “Well, it’s a beautiful night.  And dinner was fantastic.  I don’t know about you, but I had the lobster and it was amazing.”

She smiled back.  “I had the mahi and it was delicious.”

They stood awkwardly for a moment.  “Listen, would you like to get a drink or something?” Mac offered.

She looked out at the water, then back at him, nodding.  “I’d like that a lot.”

His grin was genuine.  “Good.  Great.  Let’s go find a drink.”

***

The pair parked themselves at a tiny table at the edge of the piano bar, the first place they’d come to in their search for a cocktail.  Katie watched him as he approached the bar and ordered for them.  She couldn’t get over how handsome he was, how he’d come outside looking for her.  This was exactly what she needed to take her mind off of her man problems back home.

She smiled up at him as he returned to their table carrying a margarita for her and a Scotch for himself.  “Cheers,” he said, raising his glass to hers.

“Cheers,” she murmured in return, and she sipped gratefully, counting on the liquid courage her glass offered.

“You know, we’ve gone about this all backwards.”  He rested his drink on the table and offered his right hand.  “My name is—“

“No!  No names,” Katie quickly interrupted.

Mac blinked in surprise.  “No names.  Why no names?”

“Just…because,” she stammered.  “No names, no personal information, we’ll just…keep it casual.”

“Keep it casual.”  Mac frowned.  “Okay.”  He gave her a curious look.  “Do you want me to leave?”

She shook her head, red curls swinging.  “No, I’d like you to stay.”

He gave a relieved smile.  “Good, because I’d like to stay.  So…no personal information.  Do you want to talk about work?”

“Oh, hell no!”

“Um, how about that weather?  That’s some pretty great weather out there tonight.”

Katie laughed lightly.  “I don’t mean to be a pain.”

Mac smiled back.  “You’re not a pain, exactly.  I just have to figure out the rules.  And you’re here with three other women?”

“You could see that in the dining room.  Where you were staring,” Katie observed.

“You know that because you were staring back,” he countered.

“And you’re here with two other men.”

Mac nodded.  “My brothers.  Oops!  Was that personal?”

“Now you’re making fun.”

He smiled ruefully.  “Maybe just a little bit.  This is kind of a bachelor party.  My kid brother is getting married.”

“A bachelor party?”  Katie laughed lightly.  “Shouldn’t you be getting back to the debauchery?”

Mac laughed.  “Not much debauchery with those two.  My older brother’s been married for years and Tommy’s head over heels for his fiancée.”  He glanced up at Katie.  “Oops!  More personal information.”

Katie sighed and sipped her drink.  “My friends and I get together for a week every summer.  We’ve known each other since high school.”

“There now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

Katie nodded firmly.  “We’re even, that’s all.”  She rested her forearm on the table and toyed with her glass.  Mac did the same, and as he did, his arm brushed against hers.  She made no effort to move away from him.  He intentionally rested his arm against hers, noting the electric charge he felt, wondering if she felt it, too.

Glancing up, he saw that she was watching him intently.  “So…you don’t want any personal information.  You don’t want to talk about work.  You don’t want me to leave.”

Katie shook her head.

“Okay, well we’ve got that settled.  What do you want?”  He watched her expectantly.

She stared at her glass as she swirled the remainder of her margarita.  Her buzz from the dinner wine combined with the icy cocktail made her feel bold.  She looked back up at Mac.

“Do you really want to know what I want?  I want just one night.  Just one night of anonymous, no-holds-barred, red-hot, no-strings-attached sex.  That’s what I want.”  She fixed him with a challenging stare.

“Whoa,” he breathed, eyes wide.

Katie looked down at her glass again.  “Too blunt?”

Mac leaned back in his chair, lips forming an O.  “That was blunt, all right, but I can respect that.  I’ve gotta ask, though.”  He sought out her eyes.  “Is there some guy at home waiting for you to come back?”

Katie shook her head.  “I’m not cheating on anybody.  You?”

He shook his head, too, and laughed humorlessly.  “What was it you said earlier?  Oh, hell no.”

She lightly stroked his arm as it rested on the table, delighting in the goose bumps that appeared there.  Her gaze traveled from there to his lap, which seemed to be taking an interest in the proceedings if the growing mound there was any indication.  She shifted her focus, sliding her gaze up his torso to those lips she’d noticed earlier.

God, I just want to suck on that lower lip.

She met his eyes again, saw the fire there, and knew it matched her own.  “So what do you say?”

“I say, have another margarita.  I just need to run to the little shop and pick up some…  Well, I didn’t actually expect that I’d need…”  He smiled apologetically.

Her voice was soft.  “I’ll wait right here.”

He took her hand and gently brushed his lips across her knuckles, gave her a wink, and left the bar.

JUST ONE NIGHT is 99¢ every day.
books2read.com/JustOneNight

Weekend Excerpt–Sneak Peek at Redheads & Ranchers

My current WIP is actually a three-book series called Redheads & Ranchers.  The stand-alone novels will be connected in that they’re about hot ranchers and the redheads they can’t resist.

The first book is called RESCUED BY THE RANCHER.

Earlier this week, I posted this brand new teaser in my Facebook group, Pandora’s Passionista Paradise.   Want to see new stuff before anybody else?  Click the name to join us!

Here’s the new teaser…

Cole felt a familiar sense of relief settle over him as he locked the gate behind the horse trailer and climbed back into the cab of the truck. Arriving home at the ranch where he’d grown up, locking out the world at large, always gave him a feeling of peace.

It was home. He couldn’t put it more simply than that. It was where he’d spent his entire life, with the exception of the time he spent in the Marines. Following a year in Afghanistan, he’d worked out the remainder of his enlistment in Bridgeport, where he’d trained horses and soldiers for combat missions. He’d been thrilled to be back in the saddle, and the fact that home was a short couple of hours away had been the cherry on top.

When his enlistment had ended, he’d returned to the ranch and built his reputation as an in-demand horse trainer. Happy that Cole was back in the fold, his parents had sold some stocks and retired to Santa Fe, leaving him in charge of the ranch. His older sister Beth had been more than happy with that turn of events. As much as she’d loved growing up in the country, she was far happier living in San Francisco and pursuing a career in law enforcement.

Cole pulled up in front of the white barn, put the truck in park, and turned off the ignition. He climbed down and closed the door, heading to the back of the trailer.

“Here we are, Dahlia. We’ll get you all brushed, then we’ll put you in your new stall. Your supper’s already there.” As the sun slid lower in the sky, Cole sighed, glad he’d thought ahead to prepare the stall early that morning before heading west to Carmel Valley. He was tired, and ready to be home.

He unlocked the tailgate and lowered it, starting to step inside when he froze. Someone was crouched down in the front of the trailer. Instantly, his senses snapped to high alert.

With two determined strides, he covered the distance between himself and the stranger, who was completely covered in his own black hoodie. “What the hell are you doing in my trailer?” he growled, reaching to grasp the front of the jacket and lift the person off the floor, pressing whoever it was hard against the wall of the trailer.

He heard a soft gasp as he used his free hand to whip off the hood, revealing a young woman, her red hair matted down from the hood, her face swollen and bruised. One eye was completely swollen shut, while the other, the most piercing shade of green, stared back at him in stark terror.

“Holy shit,” he muttered, gently setting her down on what he realized were bare feet. “Are you okay? How did you get in here?”

The woman just stared at him in silence, her battered mouth gaping in a silent scream.

Frustrated, Cole lifted his hat and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. “I didn’t mean to scare you, I was just startled, is all.” Glancing down, he saw that his jacket extended to the middle of her thighs, and her legs were as bare as her feet. Fleetingly, he wondered if she was dressed at all.

He reached toward her and she flinched, gasping again. “Easy now,” he murmured, “I’m not going to hurt you.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and felt her quaking, whether from the chill of the late March afternoon, or from fear, he couldn’t say.

“Are you okay?” He leaned down, searching her good eye for some sign of communication. She just stood shaking.

Cole blew out an exasperated breath. “Okay, I have to get this horse settled. After that, we can try to sort things out. As long as you’re okay. Are you hurt anywhere besides your face?”

Her swelled lips were closed now, and she trembled violently, but she made no effort to respond to him.

“Fuck it,” he breathed. “We’re going to put you in the truck,” he told her. “We’ll turn on the heat and get you warmed up while I take care of Dahlia, here.”

Carefully, with an arm around her waist and his other hand on her shoulder, he guided her out of the trailer and to the passenger door of the truck’s cab. He opened the door and lifted her onto the seat. She was so light, like a little bird or something, he mused.

Hurrying around to the driver’s side, he started the truck and turned the heat on full blast. Then he looked back to her.

“Are you thirsty? Can I get you some water?” He reached into the small cooler he’d put behind his seat and pulled out a bottled water. When he held it out to her, she snatched at it, using shaky hands to try to open it. She couldn’t manage it so he took it, unscrewing the cap and handing it back to her. Shakily, with both hands she lifted the bottle to her lips and drank greedily, spilling some down the front of herself. She’d drained the bottle in no time, and Cole handed her a second one after he’d loosened the cap for her. She fixed him with her bright green eye and nodded in thanks.

He nodded, too. “Okay, you stay here and get warm. I’ll take care of the horses, then we can go to the house and figure things out.”

He closed the door and headed back to get Dahlia out of the trailer, but his mind was racing. Who is she? What happened to her? How did she get into the trailer?

He led Dahlia to an empty stall between two other horses. She offered light resistance until she was inside, where she stood still long enough for him to remove the rope halter. He spoke soothingly to the horse as he offered her a bucket of feed.

From inside the barn, Cole could see the young woman in the truck. She’d pulled the hood back up, and she stared straight ahead, sipping the water. From his vantage point, he saw the right, unbattered side of her face. Apparently, she’d been beaten by someone who was right-handed.
Beaten. The idea of someone laying hands on this woman made his blood boil. He took a deep breath and tried to consider the situation logically.

Clearly, she’s been assaulted. By? Cole shrugged. Her husband? A boyfriend?
He chewed on that idea for a moment. A domestic abuse situation makes sense. So when did she get into the trailer?

Hanging buckets of feed in the other stalls, he considered the question. I stopped twice after leaving Meredith and Carmel Valley. Once for lunch. The other time, for gas about half an hour before we got back to the ranch.

He shook his head. When I stopped for gas, I paid at the pump. I never left the truck. It had to have been at the truck stop.

He rubbed a hand across his mouth and looked back toward the truck. The woman was resting her head against the passenger window.

He distributed fresh hay into each stall, running the scenario in his mind. She was beaten, and she ran away. He thought of her bare feet. So fast, she didn’t even bother with shoes. She was in a hurry to get away, so she climbed into the horse trailer, hoping to be taken away from the person hurting her.

Putting away the wheelbarrow, he glanced back at the woman in the truck. So now what?

I’m hoping RESCUED BY THE RANCHER will be out before the end of the year, with books 2 and 3 to follow.

In the meantime, have you read the Dream Dominant Collection?  It’s a series of four stand-alone novels featuring a light BDSM theme–hot Alpha males and the sassy subs they can’t resist.

Start with LUKE & BELLA, Dream Dominant Book 1,
available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/LukeAndBella1

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