Weekend Excerpt–JENNY’S VOICE

Coming Soon!
JENNY’S VOICE
Redheads & Ranchers Book 1

Redheads & Ranchers is my new three-book series of stand-alone contemporary erotic romance novels, each featuring a sexy redhead and a hot rancher they can’t resist.

First up is JENNY’S VOICE. It’s the story of Jenny Stone, a young woman in a world of trouble, and Cole Caldwell, a horse trainer with a heart of gold who wants nothing more than to protect her.

Upon returning to his ranch after picking up a new client’s horse, gifted horse trainer Cole Caldwell is shocked to find a terrified young woman hiding in his horse trailer. She’s been beaten, and beneath his old barn jacket, she’s barely dressed. She’s not even wearing shoes.

Mute since the violent day she was taken, Jenny Stone saw her chance to escape the thugs who’ve been holding her for the past two years, and she took it. Hiding in the horse trailer seemed like her only option.

Now, how can she explain to Cole that dangerous criminals will be out there looking for her? How long can she hide at his horse ranch? And can she ever recover her voice?

Here’s a teaser from JENNY’S VOICE.


By three o’clock that afternoon, Caldwell Ranch had been restored to normal.  Jenny helped Cole untack the horses and put everything away in the barn. The canopies and coolers were returned to their proper places as well.

As they worked together, Cole was uncomfortably aware of the conversation he needed to have with Jenny.  He wondered if he could put it off. It had already been a huge day for her. She’d faced her fear of being seen and he was proud of her, so proud.  But this was one of those conversations best had sooner rather than later.

He cleared his throat.  “You know, I feel kind of sorry for Apollo and Dahlia.  Everybody else got a nice workout today. They must be feeling a little left out.”

Jenny chuckled, hooking a thumb at Jade.

“Well, Jade, too.  But I’ve been working her hard, so she probably appreciated the day off.”  He stepped toward Jenny.

“Maybe we could take Apollo and Dahlia for a trail ride.  There’s a ridge toward the back of the property, overlooks the whole ranch and it has a nice view of the sunset.  What do you say?”

An hour later, they neared the ridge he’d told her about.  Perched atop Dahlia, Jenny had easily made the transition from riding in the ring to trail riding.  It seemed the more she rode, the more comfortable she was. Again, he worried about the time when Dahlia would have to go back home with Meredith.

I’ll just buy Jenny another horse, he decided.

As the trail grew steeper, Cole moved ahead on Apollo, leading the way up the ridge.  He glanced back at Jenny.

“How are you doing?”

She smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, her small whiteboard hanging at her side from a cross-body shoulder strap he’d fashioned for her.

He nodded with satisfaction.  “You’re doing great, we’re almost there.”

At the top of the rise, the ground leveled off in a grassy area dominated by a huge old oak tree.  Cole slid out of his saddle, gave Apollo’s nose an affectionate rub, and left the horse to graze as he headed to help Jenny down.
With both horses munching contentedly on grass, Cole and Jenny retreated to the shade of the giant tree.  Cole patted the trunk.

“This was one of my favorite places growing up.  When I needed a minute to myself, I could come up here and just be.”  He eyed the upper branches with a wry grin.  “Used to be a pretty good climber, too. I could sit way up there and look out all over the valley.  I also got out of a lot of chores that way.” He winked, and Jenny smiled.

The late March afternoon wasn’t inordinately warm, but it was as dry as ever.  From the small backpack he’d worn, Cole retrieved a pair of bottled waters, handing one to Jenny.  She unscrewed the cap and sipped thirstily as she stood at the edge of the rise looking out over the ranch below.

Recapping her water, she tucked it under her arm and scribbled on her board.  I had no idea how big the ranch is.

Cole nodded.  “Yep. It’s quite a spread.  Back in the day, my folks ran a much larger operation with a bunch of ranch hands helping out.  Later, they pared it back a little, then when I took over, I made it just about horse training. It’s what makes me happiest, and I’m able to make a good living, so it works out.”

Jenny nodded, wandering around the perimeter of the clearing as she took in the 360-degree view.  Occasionally, her gaze flitted in Cole’s direction and he wondered if he imagined a cautious glint in her green eyes.

Scrubbing a hand over his mouth, he decided to plunge ahead.  “You know, Jenny, I wanted to talk to you about something.” He sighed heavily, and she froze in her circuit of the clearing, her eyes now locked on him.

“Last night after you went to bed, I remembered that I needed to order some medicine for Minnie’s hoof.  I went online and pulled up my history to find where I looked at the medicine the other day, and that’s when I noticed some tabs I didn’t recognize.”

Jenny’s jaw tightened noticeably, and she crossed her arms protectively as she stared at a spot beyond him.

“You know you’re welcome to use the computer or anything else at the house,” he said quickly.  “You can consider my home as your own. And I didn’t mean to pry into your business, I really didn’t.”

Sweeping his hat from his head, he took a step toward Jenny.  “I read the article about Jennifer Stone from Boulder.”

Jenny cut her gaze away, but not before he saw the pain that flashed in her green eyes.

“Jenny,” his voice soft as he took another step toward her, “someone killed your parents?”

She drew a ragged breath and nodded brusquely without making eye contact.

“Damn it,” he swore softly.  “Were you there when it happened?”

She clapped her right hand over her mouth as large tears rolled down her cheeks, and again, she nodded.

Cole took another step closer.  “And then they took you?”

Jenny’s eyes squeezed shut as she sobbed silently.  Cole dropped his hat and went to her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to himself.  She was stiff in his arms, but he pulled her close, murmuring softly against the top of her head.

Eventually, she relaxed, leaning into his embrace, sobbing into the front of his shirt.  He held her like that for a long time before she quieted. Easing his hold, he peered down at her.  “Jenny, I’m so sorry that happened to you. And I’m so sorry about the way I found out about it.”

He exhaled loudly, shaking his head.  “But once I knew about it, I had to tell you.  I don’t play those games, those ‘keeping things secret’ kinds of things.  I believe in being honest, always. The thing is,” he took her hand in his, “now that I know, you don’t carry this burden by yourself.  I carry it with you.”

Tentatively, she looked up at him.  Cole saw the fear and suspicion in her eyes, willed her to see the sincerity in his own.  “I care about you, Jenny. And I’ll be…”

He cut off, infuriated at the idea of someone harming Jenny.  Deliberately softening his voice, he continued. “I’ll be damned if I’ll let anyone hurt you, ever again.

JENNY’S VOICE, Pandora Spocks

JENNY’S VOICE, Redheads & Ranchers Book 1, is due out in February. Keep watching here for the official cover reveal and the release date.

Weekend Excerpt–LUKE & BELLA

Luke hasn’t been completely honest with Bella.
If he tells her now, he could lose her forever.
Can he risk everything on the chance they could have it all?

LUKE & BELLA is the first book in the Dream Dominant Collection, a series of stand-alone novels featuring hot Alphas, the feisty redheads they can’t resist, and light BDSM themes.

In LUKE & BELLA, two experienced television journalists are thrown together, hired to create a brand new television travel program. As they tour exotic destinations and relax in luxurious hotels, is it any wonder they fall in love?

But it all happened so fast. Luke should have been up front with Bella from the beginning and told her he’s Dominant. What will happen if he tells her now? He could lose everything he never knew he wanted.

Here’a a teaser from LUKE & BELLA.


Luke ordered a light dinner of tapas delivered to the suite along with a bottle of local wine.  Bella wore a fluffy white bathrobe.  He’d put on faded jeans and a grey t-shirt.  She smiled lazily at him across the table, a woman sated.  He poured them both some wine and they nibbled on the baked feta and tomatoes, olives, and fresh fruits and breads.

Bella sighed and said, “I was thinking…”

“Uh-oh,” Luke laughed.

She gave him a wry smile.  “Seriously!  I was thinking about that really nice evening you planned for us in Edinburgh.”

“Yeah, you liked that, did you?” he asked, grinning.

“Um, yeah!  Wine, music, flowers, an amazing dinner, mind-blowing sex…what’s not to like?” she said.  “But, I was thinking that I should plan an evening.  You know, it’s my turn.”

“No, I don’t think that’s necessary,” he replied slowly.

“Not necessary?” she laughed.  “I’m not saying I feel obligated, just that I’d like to return the favor, so to speak.”

Luke waited a moment, considering his response.  The timing’s a little sooner than you planned, Cowboy, he thought.  Play it safe or risk losing her? 

Decision made, he took the risk.  “The thing is, I’m not a fan of surprises.  I’m something of a…dominant…kind of guy.  I like making the plans,” he said evenly.

Bella looked at him, brow furrowed.  “You’re a ‘dominant kind of guy’?  As in, Dominant/submissive ‘dominant’?” she laughed lightly.

“Well, yes,” he said, looking at her directly.

Bella blinked.  “You’re kidding, right?” she asked incredulously.

Luke shook his head.  “No, not kidding.”

Her eyes went wide and her mouth hung open slightly.  “I don’t understand.  What does that mean that you do?”

He shrugged.  “Whatever makes me and my partner happy.  Blindfolds, restraints, spanking, safe words.  When we play a scene, she is mine, completely surrendered to me.  And I protect and care for her.”

When she didn’t reply, he continued, “It’s not a big deal.  I like to be in charge when it comes to romance, to sex.  I like to be the protector, to take care of my woman.  And,” he added softly, “if it doesn’t blow your mind too much, I think you are the perfect submissive.”

She shook her head slowly, eyes wide with disbelief.  “You are SO barking up the wrong tree.  I am anything but submissive.  I need to be in control.”

“I’ve noticed,” he said quietly.  “But you’re not good at it.  I said before that you try to control things by putting them into neat little categories, boxes.  When that doesn’t work, you shut down.  Imagine not having to control.  Not having to think or worry.  Just letting go and allowing someone else to be in control for a while.”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” Bella whispered.  “You have lost your mind!”

“I understand your reservations.  Between your father and your ex, you’ve never had a man in your life that you could completely trust,” he said gently.

Bella felt as though she’d been gut-punched.  His words rang in her ears and she knew they were true.

“I am that man, Bella.  Do you trust me?  You can completely let go.  It will be the most freeing experience of your life,” he stated with quiet confidence, looking at her steadily, hoping to reassure her.

She shook her head again.  “I’m falling in…” it came out as a sob, “and now I realize I don’t even know you!”

She abruptly left the table and went into the bedroom, emerging a few minutes later completely dressed in jeans and a white tank top.  On her face was the hard, closed expression he’d seen that night in Amsterdam.  “I’m going out for a while,” she told him firmly.

“Bella, I wish you wouldn’t go alone.  It could be dangerous,” he worried.
She waved him off and walked out the door, closing it behind her.

“Shit!” Luke exhaled deeply, and he ran his fingers through his hair, wondering if he’d made a mistake, if he’d lost her.

LUKE & BELLA, Dream Dominant Book 1

There are currently four Dream Dominant books, but there are more in the works. Wouldn’t you love to start at the beginning? One-click LUKE & BELLA today!

Weekend Excerpt–FOR SPARROW

I’m still beyond grateful that the BDSM Writers’ Con honored Dream Dominant Book 3, FOR SPARROW, with 2018’s Golden Flogger Award for Best BDSM Book in the BDSM Light category. It means so much to me that they not only liked the story, they also approved of the portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle.

In the preface to the book, I talk about the way I write BDSM romance. There are tons of books about billionaire Doms who reveal their brand of Dominance to young, naive submissives. And I love those stories, don’t get me wrong.

But I’m more interested in exploring the lives of real-world people all around us who quietly live the D/s lifestyle and go about their day-to-day business. The deep intimacy involved in a power-exchange relationship is the stuff of romance, and that’s what excites me as a writer. And it’s what you’ll get when you read any of my Dream Dominant books.

Here’s a little snippet from FOR SPARROW.

Judd Farris scanned the room uncomfortably.  He didn’t belong here, not really.  The truth was, he had been friends with Graham Crenshaw.  Good friends.  But Graham was his only connection to this gathering, and Graham was dead. 

Judd had attended the funeral at the church, and then the burial out at the cemetery.  There’d been no need to follow up with the gathering at the Crenshaw home.  But he’d been asked for a favor, and he hadn’t yet completed it.  There hadn’t been opportunity at either the funeral or the burial.  Maybe he could find a moment here.

He took a glass of wine from a buffet table in the dining room simply to have something to do with his hands, then made his way to a vacant spot by the wall in the living room.  His position on the edge of the crowd afforded him a perfect place from which to people-watch.

He’d spotted Jessi in her simple black dress from the moment he’d entered the house.  She was hard to miss with her bright auburn hair, her air of tragedy.  Of course, he’d seen her at the other two places as well, but not up close.  There were dark circles under her green eyes, and she looked thin and drawn, not unexpected under the circumstances.  But she was pretty, too, in an unassuming kind of way.

Take care of Jessi for me. 

Graham’s words echoed through his mind.  He’d met Graham a few years earlier, and they’d struck up an odd friendship.  Graham was a good twenty years Judd’s senior.  Maybe that was why they’d clicked.  Judd had looked to Graham as a mentor, and the two had met for coffee about once a month.  The last time they’d gotten together, nearly three weeks earlier, the older man had seemed preoccupied. 

If something should happen to me, please take care of Jessi for me.  She’ll be lost at first.  

At the time, Judd had noticed that Graham seemed to have lost a little weight, and he was perhaps a bit pale.  Judd had promised that in the unlikely event something should happen, of course he’d be honored to look after Jessi, see that she got her feet under her.  Before they parted that last time, Graham had given him two envelopes.  One was labeled with Judd’s name.  On the other one, he’d written For Sparrow

Open yours if something happens to me.  The other one, you should give to Jessi.  You’ll know when the time is right.

She’s young for a widow, he mused.  Graham had said she was, what, forty-five?  That made her five years older than Judd, he calculated for no reason in particular.  He watched as she hugged her son and daughter.  They seemed close.  Graham had spoken proudly of Adam and Cara, both out on their own and doing well.  He knew Jessi was glad to have them here.  They’d eventually have to go back to their own lives, though. 

He imagined he could feel Jessi’s envelope in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.  He’d opened his immediately when he’d heard the news of Graham’s death.  He’d read it over and over until he knew it by heart. 

Dear Judd,
If you’re reading this, I must be gone.  Dammit, I didn’t mean to leave this soon.  It shocks the hell out of me, really.  I want you to know that I appreciate your friendship.  You’re a good man, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.  Hopefully I’ve been able to pass along some things I learned the hard way. 

I respect you as a man and as a Dominant.  I know that you’ve worked hard to be the best of both that you can be.  That’s why I’m tapping you to be the one to look after my Sparrow for me.  Jessi is a smart, strong woman, but she’s a born submissive, and although I know she’ll be stubborn, she needs a Dominant to take her in hand, at least until she finds someone.  I can’t bear to think of her falling prey to some of those psycho ass-wipes out there posing as Dominants. 

The letter to her explains some of my thinking on this subject.  That and a few other things.  I’ll trust you to give it to her when the time is right. 
The other part of this letter is a to-do list of sorts, things that will need to be done around the house.  Things Jessi will never ask anyone to do, because like I said, she’s stubborn.  I’m also giving you the number to an account that I’ve set up to cover the expenses of these projects.  Please don’t use your own money to fix up the house.  I’d be awfully pissed off if you did. 

I appreciate you, Judd.  I hope that somehow some of the things we talked about will help you as you make your way in the world.  I hope that one day you find your own Sparrow, and that she makes you as happy as Jessi has made me.  You deserve every happiness.

So long, pal.  See you on the other side.
G.

The clatter of something dropped in the kitchen brought his thoughts back to the present.  He watched the new widow as people buzzed around her, pausing to murmur some heartfelt platitude before buzzing off again.  God, people said some stupid shit when they didn’t know what to say.

Judd saw a large woman in an ill-fitting black pantsuit lean over Jessi.  He’s in a better place?  What the fuck kind of thing is that to say?  Jessi was facing his direction, and he watched her eyes widen with disgust.  She simply excused herself and pushed past the ignoramus, retreating into the kitchen.

Thinking that this might be his chance, Judd set down his glass and followed her.  He made it into the kitchen in time to see her disappear through the back door.  He continued to follow her, but hesitated just outside.  Jessi crossed the pool deck and perched on the far side of the spa.  He watched her hunch over, and he realized that she was crying. 

Shit!  I’ll know when the time is right?  I sure as hell know when the time is wrong.

He waited a few minutes longer before beginning to slowly walk towards her.  His loafer scraped on an uneven paver, and she immediately sat up and looked his way. 

“I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to bother you,” he offered.

“I just needed some air.”  She wiped at her face, and seemed to be trying to hide the fact that she’d been crying.  As if someone would judge her for mourning.  “I buried my husband today.  That’s the first time I said that out loud.”  There was a haunted look in her eyes.

He felt his heart melting in his chest.  “I’ll leave you alone.  I just wanted to say,” he cleared his throat, “that Graham was a good man.  He was my friend and I’ll miss him.”

She smiled sadly.  “He’d be so please that you came.  Did you work with Graham?”

This is so not the right time to get into all that.  “No.  We were friends.  I’m Judd, by the way.”

She seemed to take in what he was saying, but he noticed that she didn’t introduce herself.  He decided to push forward.  “I thought maybe I would come back on Saturday, maybe help you with the lawn,” he said.

She gave a vague answer, and he felt that he’d done enough for one day.  “Alright, Jessi,” he said.  “Take care, now.”

–FOR SPARROW, Dream Dominant Book 3

One-click your copy of FOR SPARROW today!

Weekend Excerpt–New Year, HOT New Series!

I’m so excited about the New Year! 2019 is bringing my brand new series, Redheads & Ranchers, a three-book collection of stand-alone novels featuring gorgeous redheads and the ranchers they can’t resist. First up is JENNY’S VOICE, due out early this winter.

Upon returning to his ranch after picking up a new client’s horse, gifted horse trainer Cole Caldwell is shocked to find a terrified young woman hiding in his horse trailer. She’s been beaten, and beneath his old barn jacket, she’s barely dressed. She’s not even wearing shoes.

Mute since the violent day she was taken, Jenny Stone saw her chance to escape the thugs who’ve been holding her for the past two years, and she took it. Hiding in the horse trailer seemed like her only option. Now, how can she explain to Cole that dangerous criminals will be out there looking for her? How long can she hide at the ranch? And can she ever recover her voice?

Here’s a little sneak peek at JENNY’S VOICE.

After Cole left, Jenny aimlessly wandered around the house. She gazed again at the photos hanging in the hallway, making a mental note to ask Cole about them sometime.

In the kitchen, she found the chicken he’d mentioned, a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. She chewed her lip thoughtfully, then opened an upper cupboard. There she found flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a small container of dried parsley. She frowned. Dried would do if he didn’t have fresh parsley, she supposed.

In the fridge, she found butter, grated Parmesan, a lemon, and a partial bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. She surveyed everything on the counter, frowning.

Capers. If only he has capers. Dragging a chair from the table, she climbed up and peered into the upper cabinets once more. Shoving aside all the items in the front, she leaned up on her tiptoes, straining to see what else might be in there. All the way in the back, she spied a small round jar. She had to climb onto the counter to reach it.

Capers! Yes! Gleefully, she pumped her fist in the air.

Now that she had everything she needed, she filled the sink with water and submerged the package of frozen chicken. Cole had said he’d be gone a couple of hours. That should be plenty of time to prepare chicken piccata.

Before, Jenny hadn’t done a lot of cooking. She’d always been busy with school and her friends. Her mother hadn’t much of a cook herself, preferring to pick up take-out on her way home from work. That was before.

After, alone in her little room, sometimes she was given old magazines to pass the time. Never anything with news, mind you, but magazines about home décor and cooking, issues that someone else had thumbed through and gotten tired of, always months out of date. But to Jenny, they’d been a tiny window onto the outside world.

Hour after hour, she’d pore over the articles and recipes, even creating the dishes in the kitchen of her imagination, following step after step. Eyes closed, she’d mixed seasonings, sautéed the beef or chicken or whatever the directions called for, and at times, she’d have sworn she actually smelled the dish she was cooking.

A recipe for chicken piccata had particularly interested her, and she’d read it so many times, she had memorized it. And with all the ingredients, she was finally going to bring the dish to life here in Cole’s kitchen.

While she waited for the chicken to thaw, she gazed out the kitchen window. Across the yard was another pasture she hadn’t noticed before. She couldn’t see any horses there, but waving in the gentle March breeze were scores of wildflowers.

They’d look beautiful on the table with dinner. Anxiously, she wrung her hands. Could she risk going outside? Cole wasn’t home. There would be no one to protect her.

Her stomach flipped at the thought of Victor or his men watching her. That was stupid. He had no idea where she was. No way to trace her. How could he?

She shook her head. I will not let Victor run my life. Not anymore.

With determined steps, she walked to the front door, took a deep breath, and opened it. Glancing around, she saw no one. The horses were still out in the pasture, although Minnie had returned to the gate as though she wanted to go back to the barn.

The only sound she could hear was the wind whispering through the oak trees along the drive. She glanced to her left and saw the flowers she’d seen from the window. Blue sat at her side and looked up at her questioningly. She patted his head.

Twenty steps. Twenty running steps will get me to the flowers. Then twenty steps back. She breathed in deeply and glanced down at the dog.

Heart pounding, she took off sprinting across the side yard, ducking under the fence rail and into the field. Blue barked happily and chased along beside her, unsure of the game but pleased to be playing anyway. Jenny stopped at a large patch of bright yellow poppies and grabbed a handful. She was about to run back when she spied tall purple lupines further into the field. Glancing around to reassure herself that no one was around, she darted to the lupines and snatched a few before running back to the house.

She slammed the front door closed and leaned against it, panting. Ears up and tail wagging, Blue grinned up at her as if to ask if they could do it again. Jenny smiled and patted his head, then went to find a vase for the flowers.

–JENNY’S VOICE, Redheads & Ranchers Book 1

Keep watching right here for the official cover reveal of JENNY’S VOICE, and for information about its release date.

In the meantime, who doesn’t love a modern-day adult fairy tale?

See why CHASING ORDINARY is the
2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist in Literary Erotica.
Get your copy here:
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Weekend Excerpt–Merry Christmas!

This final weekend before Christmas, I’m sending you warm wishes for a wonderful holiday!

And I’m posting one last Christmas excerpt, but this one comes with a warning:
There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read Rannigan’s Redemption from the beginning, you might want to stop right here.

This snippet comes from the third book of the Rannigan trilogy, RANSOMING REDEMPTION.

Afternoon blended into evening as dusk fell, and Maggie noticed that not only had no one left, they all looked as though they were settling in for a long stay, some even helping themselves to plates of leftovers.

“How are you feeling, Michael?” she asked, squatting beside him.  “Should I start shooing people out of here?”

“Don’t be silly, Mags,” he said, flashing his best Michael Rannigan grin.  “Everybody’s enjoying themselves.  This is the nicest Christmas I’ve had in a long time.”

She looked up at him and smiled, squeezing his hand.  “I’m really glad.”

As she made her way back to the kitchen, her phone buzzed in her pocket. Finally.  Bobby had called early in the morning and they’d chatted briefly, but they hadn’t had another chance to talk all day.

“Hey there, cher,” he greeted her.  “How’s my best girl?”

Maggie laughed into the phone.  “I’m better now.  I’ve missed you all day, but I know you were busy.  We’ve been busy here, too, come to that.”  She walked down the hallway for more privacy.

“Would you believe that everyone is still at Michael’s?” she whispered.  “Nobody has left yet.”

“No?”

“I asked Michael if I should start moving them along, but he seems happy to have them.”

Bobby laughed.  “It sounds like you throw a hell of a party.  Nobody wants to leave.”

“How was your day?  Did Savannah like her present?”  Maggie had sent Bobby with a portable artist’s kit to give the little girl.

“She just loved it.”  Maggie could hear the smile in his voice.  “That child had more stuff by the end of the morning than you would believe.”

Maggie laughed happily.  “Well, good.  I’m so glad.”  She sighed.  “I just wish you were here.”

“Me too, cher, believe me.”

“Do I need to let you go?” she asked.

“Yeah, I should probably get off the phone.”

“Okay, then,” she breathed.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Maggie.  I’ll see you soon.”

Maggie disconnected and made her way back down the hallway towards the living room which was as full of people as ever.  It seemed less than fair somehow that everyone had someone with them today.  Casey had John, Ben had Nate, Rance had Jason, hell, even Michael had Veronica   Whatever happened to the Orphans and Misfits?  She knew she was being petty and tried to shrug it off.

Across the room, Michael looked tired and he was using his oxygen again.  She wondered briefly whether she should just start moving people along in spite of what he’d said.  A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

“Hey Mags, could you get that?” Michael asked.

Sighing to herself, she crossed to the door, wondering who’d locked themselves out.  She didn’t notice that as she swung open the door the room fell silent.

“Merry Christmas, cher.”

Momentarily speechless, she froze for second before launching herself into Bobby’s arms.  He had to take a step back to keep from falling.

“Well, I’m glad to see you, too,” he laughed.

Through tears, she sputtered, “But…I mean, what…How did you…”

“Calm down,” he laughed as he carried her into the room.  “Merry Christmas, everybody.”  Bobby gently set Maggie down, and she gripped his hand in hers, unwilling to lose contact with him.

Casey brought a plate of food from the kitchen.  “Hi, I’m Casey.  I figured you were probably hungry.”

Bobby bestowed on her his best lop-sided grin.  “Nice to meet you, Casey.  I’m Bobby.  And thanks, I am pretty hungry.”  He took a seat on the end of the sectional, nodding at Michael.  “Merry Christmas, man.”

Michael smiled, his eyes crinkling.  “Merry Christmas, Beau.  Glad you could join us.”

As Bobby ate, Maggie introduced him to those he hadn’t met.  While everyone went back to their own conversations, she peppered him with questions.  “What happened?  Did you really call me from the hall?  Why did you come back tonight?  I thought you were staying in Louisiana for a couple more days.”

“I wanted to surprise you,” he grinned.

“Well…you did.  I’m so glad.”

Taking her hand, he kissed it gently.  “Let’s go get a breath of fresh air.”  He stood and held her hand, helping her up, and they let themselves out onto the terrace.  The cool air was a nice change from the warmth of the crowded apartment.  They walked to the railing and stood side by side looking out over the city with its sparkling lights and flurrying snow.

“It’s such a beautiful night,” Bobby murmured, and Maggie nodded, tucking her arm around his and resting her head on his shoulder.  “Such a beautiful lady.”

She looked up at him, and he kissed her lightly.  “When I think back on that day that your shoe broke,” he looked down and she giggled, “that seems like the luckiest day of my life.  I think of all the things that had to happen for us to meet at that moment.”  He gazed down at her.  “It’s like it was meant to be.”

He took both Maggie’s hands in his and faced her.  “I love you with all my heart.  I don’t ever want to know a day without you in my life.”  His eyes glittered with emotion and he slowly lowered himself to one knee.  Maggie’s jaw dropped, and her eyes widened.

“So I’m asking…Maggie, will you marry me?”

Maggie felt all the breath leave her body.  In a mad rush, memories from the last few years swirled through her mind, her infatuation with Michael, her engagement to Mike, her resolve to remain alone, that day she and Bobby had met.

She looked down into Bobby’s eyes and saw a twinge of anxiety and realized she hadn’t answered.  Unable to formulate the words, she nodded vigorously as tears filled her eyes.  Two things happened simultaneously.  Relief instantly flooded Bobby’s face, and raucous cheers went up from the crowd who’d pressed up against the living room windows to watch.

“You had me worried for a minute there, cher,” he laughed.  He reached into his pocket and removed a small midnight blue velvet box.  Opening it, he removed something and slid it onto Maggie’s left ring finger.  “You’ve made me the happiest man in the world.”  He stood and gazed down into her eyes before lifting her chin and kissing her passionately.  Again, their audience cheered loudly.

“Bobby, it’s absolutely beautiful,” Maggie said.  “I love it!”

He laughed.  “You can’t even see it.  I hadn’t counted on it being so dark out here.  Come on, let’s go on inside.”

Hand in hand, they went back inside the apartment to the hearty congratulations of their friends.  In the light of a lamp beside Michael, Maggie and Bobby looked at the ring.  The band of delicate platinum filigree held a huge emerald-cut diamond surrounded by dozens of smaller diamonds.

“Oh, Bobby,” she gasped.  “It’s unbelievably beautiful.  So delicate and vintage-looking.”  She turned and threw her arms around his neck.  “I love it!”

“Oh, for God’s sake, can we finally open the champagne?” Ben called out.  As champagne was poured and glasses were passed around, Maggie looked down at Michael who had a Cheshire grin on his face.

“This is the gift Bobby showed you?” she said, tilting the ring his way.  Realization dawned on her.  “And it wasn’t leftover champagne?  And this is why nobody would leave?”

“Everybody except you knew this was an engagement party, Mags,” he said quietly.

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I said yes,” she said.

“Oh, like you would have said no,” Casey quipped, and everyone laughed.

The Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy is RESISTING RISK,
RUNNING ROGUE, and RANSOMING REDEMPTION.
It’s available as a three-book boxed set, or as individual novels.
Why not start at the beginning?
books2read.com/ResistingRisk

Weekend Excerpt–A Different Kind of Christmas

Rannigan’s Redemption is the story of high-profile Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan and his complicated relationship with Maggie Flynn, the talented redhead he hires to join his elite firm.

Michael is an inveterate player with a contact list of hot blondes at his beck and call.  Maggie is nothing like his usual type–she’s way too smart, for one thing.  So why can’t he get her out of his mind?

Here’s a Christmas snippet from RUNNING ROGUE, Book 2.

Following the dinner party at Rance and Jason’s, Maggie felt a bit more comfortable in the new office.  At least she knew a few people to speak with, some to go out to lunch with, and those few introduced to her more.  She dived in to the cases that came her way and before she realized it, she’d been with the DA’s office for six months.

Suddenly she was making plans for Christmas.  The usual cast of characters was invited along with a few new orphans and misfits from work.  Rance and Jason promised to stop by on their way to Jason’s mother’s house in Connecticut.

Maggie wondered about Michael.  Since that first year, he’s arranged his vacation so that he could at least put in an appearance at Maggie’s before jetting off to some exotic locale for the rest of the Christmas holiday.

Should I formally invite him?  Surely he knows…  His status as an orphan and misfit hasn’t changed. 

But as Christmas day wore on, as guests arrived and dinner was prepared and consumed, gifts were exchanged and hugs were shared, Maggie kept an eye on her phone, her ear tuned toward the door buzzer.

By the time the last of her guests hugged her good night and headed out into the twilight of early Christmas night, there was still no sign of Michael.  She glanced at the lone gift still waiting under her tree, the bottle of Parker’s Heritage “Golden Anniversary” bourbon she’d snagged for Michael at the liquor store where the manager always called her around the beginning of December to tell her about the rare bottle he’d put away for her annual purchase.

She considered the gifts he’d given her over the years.  He always found something unique and beautiful like the moonstone bracelet which she adored and had tried to give back.  There had been interesting art pieces, a hand-made necklace, and once, tickets to a Broadway show.

She shook her head, feeling foolish at having assumed he would come.  I should have invited him.  It’s not like me to be so passive-aggressive.  I’m an idiot.  She turned away from the Christmas tree, figuring she’d have the gift delivered to the office sometime after the New Year.

Her phone blipped indicating a message.  She swiped at the screen to see a Snapchat notification.  Pulling up the app, she saw that the message was from Michael and her heart pounded.

“Hi, Mags,” Michael smiled into the camera from the couch in his living room.  “Merry Christmas.  I was thinking about you and the other orphans and misfits.  I hope you had a nice holiday.”  Maggie smiled sheepishly.  He had been waiting for an invitation.  She considered not replying then thought better of it.

“Merry Christmas, Michael.  We missed you today.  When you didn’t come I figured you were already out of town.  I hope you had a good holiday.”  She pressed Send before she could change her mind.

He replied a few minutes later.  “I leave tomorrow,” he grinned, looking away from the camera.  “I wasn’t sure I was still invited.  I had a peaceful day, no hassle or stress.  It was nice.”

Wasn’t sure he was invited.  Maggie sighed.  She decided to play it off with humor.  “You are an orphan and a misfit, Michael.  You qualify on both counts,” she laughed.  She looked directly into the camera.  “You’re always invited,” she said softly.

Michael smiled into the camera, his eyes crinkling in that singular Michael Rannigan way.  “I’m glad to hear it.”  He paused a moment.  “A messenger will be arriving at your door any time now.  I’m sending your gift.”

Instinctively Maggie looked out the window.  “Michael, you didn’t need to get me a gift.  Seriously, it’s not necessary, I just…”  She broke off as the buzzer sounded.  “That must be he.”  She sent the message and buzzed the front door.

A knock at her door told her the messenger had made it upstairs.  She opened the door to find a tall young man holding a small parcel.  “Maggie Flynn?” he asked.

Maggie smiled.  “That’s me,” she said, taking the parcel.  She signed for it, then, “Listen, can you take a parcel to the man who sent this?”

The young man grinned.  “He said you’d probably ask me that.”

Michael always thinks he knows me, she thought irritably.  She went to the Christmas tree to retrieve Michael’s gift.  “It’s fragile,” she told him.  “What do I owe you for delivering this?”

He shook his head.  “Mr. Rannigan already paid me,” he said.

Maggie nodded.  “Of course he did,” she muttered.  “Thank you again, and Merry Christmas,” she wished him as he turned to leave.

She took the box to the living room and sat on the couch in front of the tree.  She gazed at the gift for a moment.  He’s probably waiting to hear if I like it, she thought, carefully removing the wrapping.

Inside the brown paper was a pale blue box tied with white ribbon, Tiffany & Co. stamped in silver on the lid.  She removed the lid and gasped.  There was a pair of dangling silver filigree earrings set with moonstone cabochons.  They had to be the matching earrings to the bracelet.

Maggie crossed to a mirror on the wall and held up an earring to her ear.  They were absolutely exquisite.  She put them on and held up her phone.   “Michael, I don’t know what to say.  These are amazingly beautiful.”  She tilted her head from side to side to show them off.  “They go perfectly with the bracelet.  You shouldn’t have, really.”

Michael smiled into the camera again.  “I’m glad you like them.  I knew you would when I saw them.”  A serious look crossed his face.  “You should have beautiful things.”

There it was, that classic Michael Rannigan mixed message that had kept her bound to him for so long.  Maybe it’s just that he has no idea what he really wants.  Which is why I can’t wait around for him anymore. 

Maggie shook the ambivalence out of her head.  “I love them, Michael, I really do.  Thank you!”  She grinned at him.  “As you predicted, your messenger is on his way back to you.  I thought I was going to have to send your gift to the office when you got back.  Instead, you can have it now.”

He replied to her fifteen minutes later.  “Holy shit, Mags, you did it again.”  He held up the bottle of bourbon.  “I don’t know how you always manage to find a different rare bottle every year.  This is really something else!”  He looked directly at the camera.  “Now I have to find someone to share it with who will appreciate such a fine bourbon.”

Maggie rolled her eyes.  I’m not biting, Michael.  “I’m so glad you like it.  How I find great bourbon is my little secret,” she winked.  “And I have no doubt in your ability to find someone to share it with you.  No worries.”  She smiled and sent the video.

Michael felt unsettled as he watched her last message.  That’s it.  She’s over me.  She’s not mad, she still likes me.  But she’s not in love with me anymore.  The thought unnerved him more than he would have thought.  He keyed up Snapchat once more.  “Well, thanks again, Mags.  I love it.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

She replied one last time.  “Merry Christmas, Michael.  Have a great trip.  Happy New Year!”

Rannigan’s Redemption is available as individual novels RESISTING RISK, RUNNING ROGUE, and RANSOMING REDEMPTION.  It’s also available in one boxed set.

Click HERE to indulge in Rannigan’s Redemption.

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