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

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.

If you haven’t already, consider subscribing to my bi-monthly newsletter Pandora’s Box Unleashed for the latest news, plus some HOT book recommendations.

Weekend Excerpt–WARRIOR MINE

Presenting the official book trailer for my new novel,
WARRIOR MINE!

Like all the books in the Dream Dominant Collection, it’s a stand-alone novel.  But it’s a spin-off from Dream Dominant Book 2, LOST & BOUND.  Characters and timelines intersect, but I made sure you can read this new book, even if you haven’t read the other one.

For WARRIOR MINE, I returned to the Canadian setting of LOST & BOUND.  It’s a place near and dear to my heart, a place where I spent many a happy summer vacation during my childhood.

From the mid-1940s, my family owned an island in the northern Ontario wilderness.  We had a tiny log cabin on a little island on a remote lake not far from the town of Elliot Lake.  When I took my kids, they were the 5th generation of my family to spend time there.

In LOST & BOUND, Hollywood bad girl Shasta Pyke stays in the cabin for a while.

Later, in WARRIOR MINE, Scott Nielsen remodels it into a bunkhouse for his outdoors school.

These are actual photos from the Spocks family album.

Because it’s so remote, we flew by bush plane over crystal-clear lakes to reach our island.

In LOST & BOUND, I had Blake Walker use a bush plane to ferry guests to remote cabins owned by Lake Miranda Lodge.

In WARRIOR MINE, Blake’s good friend Scott Nielsen also flies a De Havilland Beaver, and offers to help with flight duties.

Again, these are Spocks family photos.

Ironically as I was writing LOST & BOUND, my parents sold the property.

Here’s a little teaser from WARRIOR MINE.

“What would you do with the lodge, if you could do anything you wanted?”  Amy looked at Jackie curiously.

Jackie gazed dreamily across the water.  “Well, I’d upgrade the whole place.”  She looked at Amy.  “Not modernize it, I wouldn’t want to lose the rustic charm, but…”  She sighed, thinking of the capital it would take to make the place everything she envisioned.  Amy watched her, waiting for her to speak.

“I would put in new beds, update the kitchenettes but use vintage-looking appliances, restore the rooms in the main house to use as guest rooms like they used to be, build a little house for the kids and me to live in…”  She smiled sheepishly.  “Not that I’ve put a lot of thought into it,” Jackie laughed.

Amy smiled.  “I think you have some great ideas.  This is such a special place.  I’d love to see you do really well.”

While she was speaking, Jackie became aware of the buzz of an airplane in the distance.  Normally, she’d assume it was Blake.  Her eyes darted beyond Grant and Emma, to where Blake’s De Havilland Beaver floated, moored to the end of the dock.  But Blake’s plane is here.

Now that they were quiet, the buzz seemed louder.  Both women looked in the direction of the noise.  The plane, a small pontoon plane quite like Blake’s, was coming closer and seemed to be descending toward the far south end of the lake.

“What the…” Jackie murmured.

Using their hands to shield their eyes from the glare of the afternoon sun, they rose from their chairs.  White spray fantailed behind the twin pontoons as the plane landed at the far end of Lake Miranda.  Even Grant and Emma lost interest in their fishing as the plane motored its way toward them.

“Maybe you’d better get in the house,” Jackie said to Amy.

“I’m not leaving you to deal with whatever this is.”

They made their way down the deck steps and across to the dock.  “Go inside, kids,” Jackie said.

“But Mom,” Grant protested.

“Don’t ‘but Mom’ me, do as I say.”

“Aw, man!”

“Aw, man,” Emma echoed.

“In the house.  Now.” Jackie marched purposefully down the dock, and Amy followed along behind her.  Torn, Jackie still debated sending Amy into the house with the children.  Unconsciously, she stepped between Amy and the intruder.

The plane was mere yards away from the dock by this time.  Squinting against the glare, Jackie could see the pilot, his face obscured by green aviator sunglasses and huge headphones.  He appeared to have a light blond beard and mustache.

As he got closer, he cut the engine, and the lake was quiet again.  The door popped open and the pilot swung himself down and grabbed a paddle from the inner side of one of the pontoons, using it to maneuver the aircraft toward the dock.

Headphones removed, Jackie saw that the man had long, thick honey-blond hair that hung in a braid down his back.  He gave a little salute as he got closer.  To Jackie’s relief, he didn’t seem to have a camera.  But her hackles were up anyway.

“No.”  Jackie shook her head firmly.  “You can’t be here.  Just go on back to wherever you came from, this is a private dock.”

“But,” the stranger began.

“Nope, no buts.  You’ll have to go now.”  Jackie planted her feet shoulder-width apart and crossed her arms.

“I talked to Blake a couple of weeks ago, told him I’d be stopping by.”  The stranger smiled reassuringly.  Up close, he was tall, well over six feet, and his forest green polo shirt clung to muscular shoulders and upper arms.  Short sleeves showed tats up both arms.  Khaki shorts revealed strong legs flecked with light hair, and on his feet, he wore battered brown leather boots.

He’d gotten the plane to within a few feet of the dock.  To tie up, a couple of the skiffs would need to be moved.

“Wait,” Amy surprised Jackie, “are you Scott?”

The man’s face lit up in a smile, and he nodded.  “I’m Scott Nielsen, I used to work with Blake.  You must be Amy?”

Hands back on her hips, Jackie moved in front of Amy again.  “Um, yes,” Amy frowned.  “Blake told you about me?”

Scott laughed.  “We’re pretty tight, Blake and me.  He’s like the little brother I never knew I wanted.”

He laughed again.  “And I guess that makes you Jackie.”  Holding the line to the plane, he stepped onto the dock, moved the sunglasses to the top of his head, and offered his hand.  “Scott Nielsen.  Sorry I just barged in on you like this.  I sort of thought Blake would be here.”

Slowly, Jackie reached for Scott’s hand.  “He’s in town, but he’ll be back soon.  I didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just that we’ve had a little bit of trouble recently…”  Her voice trailed off as she stared into his bright blue eyes.

Scott frowned.  “Trouble?”

Jackie shook her head sharply as though to clear the cobwebs.  “Oh, never mind.  Let’s get you tied off.  Can I offer you some iced tea?”

WARRIOR MINE, Dream Dominant Book 4, comes out August 14.
Reserve your copy for the pre-order special of 99¢.
books2read.com/WarriorMine

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Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary

I’m away from home today, posting from the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention.  It’s been a great event so far, and we have another fantastic day to go.

While there has been a lot of interest in the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy and the Dream Dominant Collection, people have been going crazy over modern-day adult fairy tale, CHASING ORDINARY.

Artist and rancher Petey Cavanaugh has no idea that the handsome businessman she met one rainy Manhattan night is actually Europe’s most eligible prince.
Nik is fascinated by the pretty red-haired sculptor, the only woman he’s ever met who sees him as simply a man rather than an institution.  He realizes he needs to tell her the truth, but for now, he’s relishing his first-ever taste of ordinary.
But sooner or later, she’s going to find out.  Will he lose everything he’s ever wanted?

Here’s a snippet from CHASING ORDINARY.

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 into 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 at your favorite online bookseller.
And it’s at Table #26 at the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention.

Weekend Excerpt–Warrior Mine

WARRIOR MINE, my current WIP, is the fourth book in the Dream Dominant Collection.  It’s also a spin-off from DD Book 2, LOST & BOUND, although it’s still entirely stand-alone.

WARRIOR MINE actually came into being because I had readers who’d loved LOST & BOUND and wanted to know more about Jackie and Scott.  Initially, I thought it might make a good novella.  Now, however, over 100k words in and still not finished, the story has taken on a life of its own.

The story also breaks the mold of the Dream Dominant Collection.  Jackie Walker is the first leading lady who does NOT have red hair.  That’s because when I originally created Jackie as Blake Walker’s sister, I gave her the same dark hair he has.

And Jackie is a different kind of submissive than I’ve written before.  While Shasta/Amy from LOST & BOUND is a baby girl, Jackie is another type altogether.  After turning her over and over in my mind, I realized she’s a warrior princess.  So this has been a very exciting story to write.

I’m still hard at work on this book, and I’m hoping for a late summer release.  Keep watching for the cover reveal!

Here’s a little snippet from WARRIOR MINE.

“It’s a gorgeous day,” Scott commented.

“It really is.  I haven’t been out in the woods like this in a long time.”

Scott watched her appraisingly.  “Are you much of a camper?”

“I can hold my own.”  She lifted her chin, and he saw a glint of challenge in her eye.

“I imagine you can,” he smiled to himself.

He watched her dig the toe of her boot into the soft black earth and push it into a small heap.  “So let’s talk, Jackie.”

She exhaled loudly, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her grip her hands so tightly together, her knuckles were white.

“This makes you nervous,” he observed.

“Well, yeah!  You’re over here wanting me to agree to be some kind of…I don’t know what…slave, I guess.  That’s so not me.”

“You’re right, it’s not.  I see in you a submissive soul, but a slave is not remotely what I have in mind.  Jackie,” he straddled the log to face her, “you’re a strong, smart, sexy lady.  I admire the hell out of you.”

“So why do you want me to give all that up?”

“I don’t want you to give anything up.  I love all those things about you.”  He laughed softly.  “I love that you challenge me.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Jackie’s expression was dubious.  “I don’t understand what you want from me.  Am I supposed to run and jump into your arms like Amy does Blake?”  She rolled her eyes.

Scott had to laugh.  “You’re not a slave, and you’re definitely not a baby girl like Amy, either.”  He gave her a side-long glance.  “Amy’s a sweet girl, but she’d drive me nuts.  A Daddy Dom I am not.”

“Good, because there’s no way I’m calling you Daddy.”

“Our dynamic would be more King and Princess.  You’d call me Sire.”

He was pleased when he saw her reluctant smile.  “All I want is for you to let go and allow me to lead you, to help you be free to be your true self.  You can depend on me, Jackie.”

Restlessly, Jackie got up and paced back and forth.  “It’s not like it’s just me, Scott.  I’m a mother.  I have two kids to care for, and they have to be my priority.  I can’t decide I’m going to just go off and do whatever I want.  Plus, there’s the business…”

She stopped pacing and faced him.  “I’m a whole ‘package deal’.  You don’t need all that.  You should be out meeting women who aren’t so tied down.”

Scott couldn’t stop the smirk as the image of a nude Jackie tied to the posts of a bed flashed through his mind.  She must have realized it, because she blushed bright red.  “I’ve met my share of women, Jackie.  Women who don’t mind being tied down.”

He chuckled.  “I’ve done the club scene, and I’m tired of casual sex.  When Blake told me he’d found someone, I have to admit, I felt envious.  I took a hard look at my life and I realized it was time to make a change.  I had no idea I’d meet someone so quickly.”

He considered going to her, but changed his mind, allowing her space.  “I’m attracted to you, Jackie, in a way I haven’t been to anyone else.  You have no idea how hard it was for me to resist you that night you came to my room.  Hell, to resist you last night.  You’re beautiful, Jackie, in case no one’s told you in a while.  That one perfect exposed breast?  I’ve had dreams about that.”

Jackie blushed, wrapping her arms around herself.

“Together we have an explosive chemistry.  I know you feel it, too.  I’m dying to take you to the next level.”

Arms still crossed, she shrugged.  “Yeah, we have physical chemistry.  Maybe it’s because it’s been a long time for me, I don’t know.  And I appreciate the things you’ve done, like taking care of things when Emma was sick, and Jesus, you saved Grant’s life.”

She started pacing again.  “And you washed my hair.  I couldn’t believe you did that.    So when you say, Now be my submissive,” she deepened her voice to imitate Scott, “it’s like I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me, Jackie.  I washed your hair because it was what you needed.  That’s what a Dom does.”  He gazed out through the woods and exhaled sharply.  “I think you’ve read too many so-called BDSM books about sadist Dominants.  That’s not what we’re talking about.  We’re talking about safe, sane, and consensual.  Always.”  He looked back to her.  “You can depend on me, Jackie.  I’ve got you.”

She walked to the edge of the clearing, her back to him.  Her voice was small.  “What if I depend on you, and you leave?  I don’t think I could survive that.  Better to be on my own and know what I’m getting.”

“Jackie, I’m not him.  I’m not that guy.”  Scott approached her, tentatively reaching out to touch her shoulder.  “I’m this guy, right here, asking you to let me share your burden, to lighten your load, and set you free.”

She reached up to put her hand on his.  Her voice was small.  “I don’t know if I can do that.”

Leaning down, he kissed her hand.  “Fair enough.”  Ignoring the ache in his heart, he cleared his throat.  “Are you about ready to go?”

Jackie nodded.  Scott returned to the log to retrieve his backpack and together, they headed along where the trail continued beyond the clearing.

Almost immediately, the path led downward, although not as steeply as the way up had done.  Before long, the forest ended at a rocky bluff about thirty feet above the lake.

“Is this where the trail ends?” Jackie asked.

Scott nodded.  “I saw it on the map.  It seemed like a good possibility for some of my more advanced clients, so I wanted to check it out.  I figured we’d rappel down to the lake.”

Jackie’s eyes widened.  “What?”

“Have you done any rappelling?”  Scott already knew the answer, having asked Blake about it earlier.

“No, I haven’t done any rappelling.”  Jackie eased forward and peered over the edge.  “Would you seriously send your students here?”

“Only those with the right kind of experience.”  He set down the backpack and removed a coil of black nylon rope.  Watching Jackie out of the corner of his eye, he uncoiled the rope and loosely wrapped the center of it around the base of a sturdy young spruce not far from the edge of the bluff.  He released the ends over the drop-off.  Peering over the edge, he realized the rope was several feet too short.

“Okay, Princess, it’s not optimal, but we’re going to make this work.  Watch how I do it.”

Scott stepped between the two sides of the rope and wrapped them behind his waist, bringing them forward and stepping through them to create a temporary harness.  He had Jackie practice it, too, until she was able to do it herself.

“I’ll go down first, then it will be your turn.”

scott climbing

Scott rigged himself again and back stepped to the edge.  “Now when you go, just lean back and start walking.”  He leaned back and began letting himself down the bluff.  About twenty feet down, he came to the end of the rope.

He looked up to Jackie who lay on her stomach peering down over the edge.  “The rope’s a little short.  For the last few feet you’re going to have to fall.”  Before Jackie could respond, he released the rope and dropped the final eight feet, landing on his feet.

“Okay, Jackie, it’s your turn.”

“This is crazy.”

“Like I said, it’s not optimal, but it’s not so bad.  Go ahead and get the rope situated.  I’ve got you.”

Jackie worked the rope liked she’d practiced and backed to the cliff’s edge.  “This is crazy,” she repeated.

“You’ve got this, Jackie,” Scott encouraged.

Slowly, Jackie leaned back like she’d seen Scott do, and she took a faltering step backwards.  Her foot slipped, and she banged against the granite.

“It’s okay, just get your footing and keep coming.”

From below, he heard her huff, but she set her feet and leaned back again, taking a step at a time until she was about eight feet above his head.

“Now Jackie, this is where you’ll let go and drop the rest of the way.”

She froze on the cliff face.  “I can’t do it.  I’m going to fall.”

“I’ve got you, don’t worry.”

He watched as she debated with herself.  She finally shook her head.  “I can’t.  I’m terrified.”

“You know, Jackie, sometimes you just have to let go and fall.  But I promise I’ll catch you.”  Watching her carefully, he stood on the shoreline below, arms outstretched.

He heard her huff again.  “You’ll catch me?”

“I promise.  I’m not going anywhere.”

“Okay.  Here goes.”  With that, Jackie released her grip on the ropes and plunged into Scott’s waiting arms.  Automatically, he hugged her tightly as they sank onto a boulder on the shoreline.  He felt her heart pounding.

“Admit it,” he murmured, nuzzling her neck, “it was kind of a rush.”

“Oh, my God, I thought I was going to die.  That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Would you do it again?”

Jackie peered up at him and smiled reluctantly.  “Maybe.”

The cover reveal for WARRIOR MINE will be happening soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read LOST & BOUND, now would be a great time to catch up.

Lost & Bound new cover 2