Weekend Excerpt–Christmas With the Orphans and Misfits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe.  But he’s here now.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He grinned.  “I like it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How did you know the S stands for Sean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Merry Christmas, Michael.”

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

Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary, New Apple Award Medalist

CHASING ORDINARY, my modern-day adult fairy tale, was named the 2018 New Apple Awards Summer eBook Medalist in Literary Erotica.  I’m so thrilled about this honor for a book I’ve always wanted to write.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh spends her days working on her in-laws’ sheep ranch in Montana.  Following the untimely death of her young husband, she stayed there, embraced by his family who doesn’t really understand the glass and steel pieces she creates, but they accept her as one of their own.

When her best friend from art school offers her a gallery show in New York, she jumps at the chance to bring in extra money to expand the ranch’s business.

There, she meets Nik one rainy Manhattan night, and she’s charmed by the handsome businessman.  But she has no idea that he’s actually Europe’s most eligible prince.

A fact that makes her all the more intriguing to Nik.  She’s a woman who accepts him at face value, sees him as a man rather than an institution or a means to an end.  He knows he needs to tell her.  But he relishes his first-ever taste of ordinary.

What will happen when she finds out he hasn’t been honest with her?

Here’s a little teaser from award-winning CHASING ORDINARY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She frowned.  “A long story?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“’Found’ materials?” he wondered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She doesn’t know who I am.

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

He’d need to come clean, obviously.

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

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

The waitress stopped by, scooping up their empty plates.  “Can I get you something else?”

Petey glanced at her watch.  It was 1:40. “Holy cow!  I can’t believe it’s so late.”

Nik looked at his own watch and smiled.  “It is late.  I was enjoying our conversation and lost track of the time.”  He reached for the check the waitress laid on the table, but Petey quickly snatched it.

“Nope, this was my idea.  It’s on me.”  She pulled a few bills out of her small silver clutch and placed them on the table.

Again, Nik felt the pull of an incredulous smile.  This was completely unfamiliar territory, and he relished it.

They stepped out onto the sidewalk.  “Thank you for the apple pie.  You’re right, it was delicious.”

“Wasn’t it?  It’s good to know that some things don’t change,” Petey grinned up at him.

The black Mercedes cruised to a stop in front of them.  The driver came around to get the door.

“Can we give you a ride?” Nik offered.

Petey nodded.  “That would be nice, thanks.”

Once in the car, Petey gave the address to the driver, and they headed out into the night.  When they pulled to a stop in front of Jules’ apartment building, Nik opened the door before the driver could get out.

“I’ll walk you to the door,” he said, reaching for Petey’s hand and helping her out of the car.

Together, they climbed the seven steps to the porch.  Petey pressed the button beside Jules’ name, and the door buzzed almost immediately.  Petey pulled it open, placing her hip against the door to hold it open.

“Well, again, Nik, this has been a weird, but nice, evening.”  She smiled up at him.

As she did, he felt a flutter in his stomach.  “It has been the nicest evening I’ve had in some time,” he agreed.  “I’d like to see you again.  Will you have dinner with me tomorrow?”

Her face flushed, but she nodded.  “I’d like that a lot.”

He couldn’t stop his smile.  “Great.  It’s settled, then.  Perhaps you could give me your number…”

“Oh, of course,” Petey replied, and she rattled off the digits.

Nik keyed them into his phone and pressed the call icon.  The phone in Petey’s silver clutch rang immediately.  He grinned down at her.  “Now you have my number, too.  You can call or text anytime.”

“Alright.  Sounds good,” she said softly.

She continued to gaze up and him, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away.  Slowly, he leaned down, his focus on her soft red lips.

Her eyes widened and she drew in a sharp breath.  “Thank you for everything,” she mumbled hurriedly.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  And with that, she quickly headed into the building, the door closing solidly behind her.

Stunned, Nik stood watching the door through which she’d disappeared.  Then he ran a restless hand through his hair and headed back to the car.

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

Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary

Who doesn’t LOVE a modern-day adult fairy tale?

They met by accident one rainy Manhattan night.

Sculptor Petey Cavanaugh has no idea that the handsome businessman she’s falling for is actually Europe’s most eligible prince.

Petey is Nik’s first-ever taste of ordinary.  And everything he ever wanted.  If he doesn’t blow it.

Here’s a teaser 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,
the 2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist
for Literary Erotica,
is available at your favorite online bookseller.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

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.

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Weekend Excerpt–Chasing Ordinary

Europe’s most eligible prince.
A gifted sculptor who has no idea who he really is.
She’s everything he ever wanted…if he doesn’t blow it.

CO 5 Star reviews

CHASING ORDINARY, my new modern-day adult fairy tale,
launched February 13 to 5-STAR reviews.

When artist Petey Cavanaugh agreed to show her steel and glass sculptures in a Manhattan gallery, she never planned on falling in love with a prince.

Following their chance meeting on a rainy evening, Nik realizes Petey doesn’t know who he is, and he savors his first-ever taste of ordinary. He knows he needs to be honest with her, but before he comes clean, Petey discovers the truth for herself.

Feeling humiliated and betrayed, she refuses to have anything to do with him. Will she give him the chance to explain? Or has his lie of omission cost him everything?

If you love grown-up fairy tales, this is the book for you.

Check out this steamy new excerpt from CHASING ORDINARY.

She turned her face to meet his lips, devouring them hungrily, as he pulled her closer.  Sliding her hands inside his jacket, she helped him shrug it off without breaking the kiss.  Holding her tightly, Nik backed their way to the couch where he sat, bringing Petey to rest straddling his lap, and deepening their kiss.

He slipped his hands beneath her sweater, skimming up her torso to cup her breasts.  Finally releasing his lips, she dropped her head back and gasped as he kneaded her mounds, fondling her nipples, coaxing them into sharp points that strained against the fabric of her bra.  She raised her arms and he slipped the sweater over her head, dropping it to the floor.

Nik leaned back slightly to admire her perfect tits, tantalizingly on display in ivory lace.  When he looked back up, her soft brown eyes flickered with heat.

“I want you.”  Her voice was husky.

He plunged his lips to hers once again.  With his hands on her hips, he pulled her against his burgeoning erection, and she moaned into his mouth.  “Let’s take this to the bedroom,” he murmured.

Gently, he slid her from his lap, and took her hand, leading her to the library door.  “Wait!” she hissed.  “All those people are out there.”

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair.  He blew out a frustrated breath.  “Just one moment.”  He held up a finger.  Planting a quick kiss on her cheek, he slipped out of the library, closing the door behind him.

Petey stood awkwardly, endeavoring to catch her breath.  As an afterthought, she scooped up her sweater from the floor and slipped it back over her head.

Two minutes later, the door opened and Nik leaned into the room.  “All gone.  I sent them all away for the rest of the night.”  He frowned slightly.  “You got dressed.”

“I felt silly just standing here, so…”

“Come,” he held out a hand.  “Let’s get properly reacquainted.”

Not bothering to close the bedroom door, Nik drew Petey to himself once again, peeling off her sweater and her bra as well.  Hands resting lightly on her hips, he gazed down at her.  “You have the most exquisite breasts.”  He cupped them, hefting their weight, rolling her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers, encouraged by her breathy moans.

“You have too many clothes on,” Petey murmured, reaching to loosen his tie.  She dropped it to the floor and helped him remove his shirt, as well.

Pressing herself to his bare chest, she reached up to tilt his face towards her, claiming his lips with her own.  Nik lifted her, walking to the bed, where he lay her gently.  With an impish grin, he unfastened her jeans and removed them, panties and all, dropping them with the other clothes littering the floor.

His mouth watered at the sight of the neatly trimmed thatch of red hair at the juncture of her thighs.  But he knew he couldn’t hold off any longer.  He undid his pants and dropped them to the floor, releasing the raging erection that would not be denied.  A glance up at Petey showed her eyeing his cock hungrily.

Quickly, he reached for a foil packet in the bedside drawer.  Tearing it open, he rolled on the condom, crawled on top of her, and slammed himself home.  Petey gasped in his ear as she tightly gripped his upper arms.  “Oh, yes,” she hissed.

Feeling his moment rising, he increased his pace, and Petey responded with cries of pleasure.  “Come with me, love,” he encouraged.  On his next thrust, she arched beneath him, calling out loudly, as he exploded in release.

Use this link to get your copy of CHASING ORDINARY.
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary