Weekend Excerpt–A Dream Job…

LUKE & BELLA KINDLE

I always consider LUKE & BELLA a sentimental favorite.  It’s the first book I published, and it holds a special place in my heart.  The story grew out of considering this question: What would be the coolest job in the world?

My answer was, being paid to travel all over the world.  Since that’s not likely to happen, I created characters who are hired to jet around the world creating a new television travel program.

Luke is a world-weary photographer who’s given up on the world of television news, retiring to Florida to soothe his jaded wounds with copious amounts of alcohol and the occasional anonymous hook-up.

Bella is an enthusiastic, take-charge television journalist who’s ready to try her hand at something new.  Traveling to exotic cities, staying in world-class hotels, is it any wonder they give in to their mutual attraction?

But Luke hasn’t been completely straight with Bella.  Is he in too deep to tell her the truth now?

Here’s a little snippet from LUKE & BELLA.

“So is work done, then?  Let me give you the best table in the house and the serious drinking can commence,” said Nevin, grinning gleefully.  He led them to a high top table next to the back wall with a view of the entire pub.  Luke and Bella sat across from each other while Nevin disappeared.

“That was good,” Luke said.

She smiled at him.  “I think it went well, too.”

Nevin returned with a new bottle of Three Labels and three glasses.  He proceeded to pour them each a shot.  They all lifted their glasses and Nevin toasted, “To friends!”  They all tossed back the Scotch.

Bella coughed a little and the men laughed.

“That’ll put hair on your chest,” Nevin grinned.

Luke’s eyes immediately went to her cleavage which was fully on display in the deeply v-cut black sweater.  “Careful, Cowboy,” Luke whispered to himself.  Bella glanced at him, unsure she’d heard him clearly.

“Well, friends, I need to take care of my customers.  I’ll stop by later to see how you’re doing.”  They watched him move away greeting people like long lost family.

“He’s quite the force of nature, isn’t he?” Bella commented.

“Yeah, he’s good people,” Luke replied.  He poured himself a second shot and offered one to Bella, not expecting her to take it and surprised when she did.  He tossed his back and watched her do the same, without coughing this time.

“You didn’t tell me you’d worked here before.  I’m wondering why,” Bella said, looking at him intensely.

“It’s not a very good memory, actually.  Not one I like to discuss,” he replied, pouring for himself again. She still had him fixed with that fierce gaze and he realized she wasn’t going to let the matter drop.

Luke sighed.  “What do you want me to say, Bella?  I’ve seen a lot of shit in my time.  The explosion here?  It was bad.  Took them three days to put out the fire.  Debris was scattered for two miles in every direction.  They found charred body parts…” he trailed off.

“You still have nightmares.”  It was not a question.

He set his mouth in a grim line, finished with the topic.

“Well, we’re interviewing a survivor of that fire tomorrow at 10:30,” she countered, and poured herself another shot.

“That’s our appointment tomorrow?” he asked.

Bella nodded.  “Are you going to be alright with that?”

Whiskey glass tumbler standing on bar counter

“Sure, no worries,” he replied, draining his shot.  She tossed back hers as well, looking him straight in the eye.  He watched her but didn’t say anything.  She had to be feeling that Scotch by now.

He poured again for himself and she pointed to her glass.   Somebody has a competitive streak, he thought.  He poured for her as well, but questioned the wisdom of doing so.

A server approached their table balancing a small tray carrying a single glass of white wine.  “This is for the lady from the gentleman at the bar,” she said.  Luke looked toward the bar and saw a short young man standing at the bar staring at Bella.

“Tell the gentleman the lady says No, thank you,” Luke growled, surprising Bella.

“Oy, pal, Nevin says the lady isn’t with anybody,” called the man at the bar.

“Clearly, she’s with me,” Luke countered, and started to get up.  Nevin rushed in to diffuse the situation, offering a free drink to the man at the bar and shooting an amused glance at Luke.

Draining her fourth shot, Bella commented, loudly, “Clearly, McDude isn’t paying attention.  We’re drinking Scotch over here.”  She dissolved into giggles.

“Alright, Princess.  Let’s get you back to the hotel,” said Luke, protectively.  He helped her to her feet and they moved toward the bar.  “See you tomorrow, Nevin.  Around 2:00?” Luke said.

“2:00 it is,” Nevin replied.  Bella waved goodbye and turned unsteadily toward the door.  Nevin winked at Luke and turned back to his customers.

Luke & Bella new cover 1

Get your copy of LUKE & BELLA here: books2read.com/LukeAndBella

Weekend Excerpt–Mystery Package from Spain

For this weekend’s excerpt, I’m pulling from the old Teasers tab.  The Teasers are a collection of the first chapters of ‘to-be-written’ stories I haven’t gotten around to yet.  This one is tentatively called Callie’s Freedom, and I got the idea for this heartfelt contemporary erotic romance from a magical trip I once took to France and Spain.

See what you think.

roman-kraft-208004

 

 Standing in line at the post office has to be the fourth circle of hell

Callie shifted her weight to her left foot and leaned her hip against the railing around which the line of fellow postal customers snaked.  Look, only three more back-and-forths then it’s my turn, she thought sardonically. 

She frowned to herself.  Whose inner monologue is sardonic?

“Next,” called the clerk at the second station.  Everyone in line took a step forward clutching their parcels all wrapped in brown paper and packing-taped into infinity, or their very important looking overnight-air envelopes. 
Callie glanced down at the peach square of paper in her hands.  We REdeliver for you! the paper promised.  She shook her head.  She wasn’t waiting for redelivery.
Another clerk called out and the line shifted again.  A sextet of antique ceiling fans whirled ineffectively over their heads as a bead of sweat trickled down her spine.  She wondered if the air conditioning was out or if the USPS was simply economizing.  Either way, you could tell it was summer in south Florida.
She made it to the turn-around and felt a bit encouraged.  Not much longer now.  She gazed at the receipt once again, her forefinger lightly tracing the address of the sender.  Sevilla.  She inhaled sharply.  She knew one person in Seville.  She couldn’t imagine what he’d sent in a parcel.
Raised voices interrupted Callie’s thoughts.  She looked up to see a well-dressed middle-aged woman shouting at the clerk at the third station.   
    
“What do you mean, I have to get in a different line?  I’ve been standing here all day!”
“Ma’am, I don’t have the form that you need.  Would you like to get in the other line?” the clerk asked patiently.  The man was an older black gentleman with sloping shoulders and an air of resignation.  Callie idly wondered if he’d delivered mail on foot back in the day.
“Well if you won’t give me the form I guess I’ll have to!” the woman snapped as she vacated the station and toddled off to the the correct line. 
Callie shook her head.  Why do people have to be such assholes?  She ran into her fair share of them as a teacher but she recalled her college days when she’d worked as a server in a busy restaurant.  People have no idea…
 She found herself suddenly only two people behind the head of the line, and she felt her heart begin to pound.  Finn.  She looked back at the peach scrap of paper.  After all this time.
 In truth she was shocked that he’d sent anything at all.  She’d known him for all of what, fifteen days?  The flush began in the center of her being and flowed up her neck to her cheeks.  Those fifteen days had changed her irrevocably.  She could never go back to the pre-Finn Callie.
Vaguely she heard a clerk call for the next customer.  “Excuse me, ma’am?” said the guy behind her.  Callie looked up, startled.  “You’re next.”

She murmured an apology and walked to the vacant station.  The same clerk who’d had the misfortune to deal with the nasty customer surveyed her with gentle eyes.  Callie was determined to be kind, to make up for the woman who’d been so unpleasant.  She smiled broadly.  “Yes, I’m picking up a parcel.”  She presented him with the peach scrap and her driver’s license.

The man smiled kindly as he took the slip of paper and disappeared into the back.  He reemerged moments later carrying a package about the size and shape of a hardcover book.  Callie’s pulse pounded in her ears.
“Here you are, ma’am,” he said as he handed her the box.  It was lighter than she’d expected.  Her eyes zeroed in on the return address.  Finn Cooper, 54 Calle Montevideo, Sevilla, Espana. 
She smiled again and thanked the man, wished him a pleasant day, and walked out into the heat of the summer day.

I need to get back to this story one day.  For now, check out my other books at my Amazon Page, or your favorite online bookseller.

Weekend Excerpt–Luke & Bella

What’s the coolest job you can imagine?

Luke McGillicutty and Bella Grant were hired to jet all over the world and create a new television travel program.  With a virtually unlimited budget and free reign to find the stories in the cities they’re assigned to visit, it was the job of a lifetime.

Visiting places like Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and Mykonos, staying in luxurious 5-star hotels, is it any wonder the veteran photographer and career journalist fall in love?

In this scene, Bella has had to travel back home to Birmingham to attend the funeral of her estranged father.  Unable to accompany her, Luke has agreed to finish up where they were, and to meet her at the next destination.  As it turns out, she’ll have a story to tell him when she gets there.

As Tre and Cornelia moved through the crowd, they were greeted with heartfelt wishes of condolence.  Bella and T-Nathan stayed on the outskirts of the crowd and made their way to the backyard, where the main gathering was meant to be.  The sky was bright blue and crystal clear, the temperature perfect for being outdoors.  Bella took a glass of wine from a passing server and sipped slowly.

“Well, kiddo, we’ve almost made it,” she said, winking at T-Nathan.  “When do you go back to school?”

He smiled at her.  “Next week,” he answered.  He seemed like he wanted to say more, so she waited, using her best interviewer arched eyebrow to encourage him.  “Hey Aunt Sissy, can I talk to you about something?”

“Of course,” she said, smiling warmly.  “What’s your old aunt for anyway?  What’s up?”

“Well, you know how I’ve been studying pre-law?  I’ve been thinking about changing my major.”

“Oh?” she asked, then waited.

“Yeah, um,” he said, blushing, “I’m thinking about journalism.  I want to do what you do.”  He looked at her directly.  “So what do you think?”

She thought, Your mother’s going to have a cow, but she answered, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do, travel and interview and that kind of thing?”  He nodded eagerly.

“Well, since you asked what I think…You should make journalism your minor, then continue with your pre-law or change to history or political science or economics or something else that you can bring to the table.  Any dumb ass can read the news.  You’re smarter than that.  And get involved with campus news in some way.  That’s valuable experience.”  She smiled at him.  “You know what, sometime when all the planets align, you need to come out with Luke and me, give it a try.”

“I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t be any good at it,” he said, blushing again.

“Are you kidding me?  Look at this mug,” she said, patting his cheek affectionately.  “All the girls will lose their mother-loving minds!”

“Aw, Aunt Sissy,” he laughed.  He hugged her clumsily and went to find his friends.

Bella smile as she watched him go.  He’s such a good kid, she thought.  A server walked by and she snagged another glass of wine.  Last one, she warned herself.  She began to make her way around the gathering, accepting kind words from the guests.  She was aware of more than one disapproving look at her dress from the matrons in attendance, and more than one leer from the husbands of said matrons.   She began to feel the need to get away.

It seemed ironic to go inside to get fresh air, but that’s what she did.  Beyond the kitchen, which was a beehive of activity, the house was quiet and she made her way to Tre’s study with its dark paneled walls and oxblood red leather chesterfield sofas.  She stood at the window sipping her wine and watching the scene outside.

“Well, pretty lady, I wondered where you’d gone.”

Bella whirled around to see Mitchell, he of the wake last night.  “You startled me,” she said.

“Oops,” he smiled.  “Didn’t mean to do that.”  He had an odd look on his face and Bella didn’t like the feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“I just needed to get away from the crowd for a minute.  I think I’ll go back now,” she said evenly.

“What’s your hurry?” he asked, eyes on her breasts.  “I was hoping we could talk about old times.”  He put down his glass and crossed the room toward her, blocking her from moving away from the window.

“Have you been drinking a lot, Mitchell, because you’re making me uncomfortable,” she told him.

He laughed darkly.  “Oh, no, I want to make you very comfortable.”  He reached out to stroke her arm, putting his other arm around her waist.  “You’ve just been through a difficult time and I want to comfort you,” he whispered.  She could smell the bourbon on his breath.

“Okay, Mitchell, I’ve really got to go now,” she said, trying to move past him.

With his hand on the small of her back, he pulled her closer and he moved the other hand, reaching inside her dress and fondling her breast.

Without thinking, she slapped his face hard.  “Let. Me. The fuck. Go!” she hissed at him.

“Baby, the fuck is just what I have in mind, and you are turning me on!” he growled, leaning in to kiss her.

“Will not happen!” she answered, and she brought up her knee as hard as she could into his groin.  Mitchell went down like a sack of hammers.  Bella stepped over him and left the room hastily.

In the hallway she met Tre.  “Sissy, we were looking for you,” he said.  “Are you alright?”

“I just needed some air,” she answered sharply.

“Are you ready to go to the airport?” he asked.

“Hell, yes, I’m ready,” she said.  “By the way, your friend Mitchell just groped me.  I knocked his balls up into his sinus cavity.  I hope he hurts for a long time.”

Tre shook his head and sighed.  “Always an adventure, Sissy.  Let me go throw out the son of a bitch, then we’ll go, okay?”

Luke & Bella new cover 1

LUKE & BELLA, the first book in the Dream Dominant Collection,
is available at this universal link:
books2read.com/LukeAndBella

Watch the official book trailer:

Weekend Excerpt–LUKE & BELLA

LUKE & BELLA KINDLE

LUKE & BELLA is the story of two professional television journalists who are thrown together to produce a new travel program.

Bella, an experienced reporter and news anchor, is thrilled at the prospect of the job of a lifetime–traveling the world and creating great television.

Luke’s more jaded.  World-weary, he’s coaxed out of premature retirement by the promise of complete creative control over the project.  Well, shared control with the host of the show, a redhead with “nice gams,” according to his old friend and executive producer, Charlie.

Traveling to exciting cities, staying in luxurious hotels, it’s no wonder they fall in love.  But it all happened so fast.  Luke realizes he hasn’t been completely honest with Bella.  He’s Dominant.  And he thinks she’d be the perfect submissive.  If he tells her now, he could lose her forever.  Or, he could risk everything on the chance that they could have it all.

LUKE & BELLA, the first book in the Dream Dominant Collection, holds a special place in my heart–it was the first book I ever published.  When I had a cover done for my latest book, FOR SPARROW, Dream Dominant Book 3, I decided LUKE & BELLA needed a brand new cover, too.  Both were designed by the fabulous and talented Linzi Basset, a brilliant erotic romance writer.

So I’m celebrating the new cover with this excerpt 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 new cover 1

Not only does LUKE & BELLA have a beautiful new cover, I redid the interior as well, using one of the new themes on Draft2Digital, so it has a fresh new look inside, too.  Be sure and check it out.  New paperbacks will be available soon…

You can get your copy at books2read.com/LukeAndBella.

Weekend Excerpt–Finding Callie

Happy Weekend!  Is it me, or is the summer seeming to fly by?  How can it be August already?  I’m still hard at work on FOR SPARROW, which will be the third book in the Dream Dominant Collection.  Sexy and talented author (and fellow Wicked Pen) Linzi Basset is hard at work on the cover, and she may or may not have another couple of surprises up her sleeve.  Stay tuned here for more new about that.

callie

For this weekend’s excerpt, I’m sharing another snippet from the Teasers tab on my website.  Tentatively titled FINDING CALLIE, this story idea comes from experiences I had some years ago when I had the chance to travel to France and Spain for a couple of weeks.

Here’s the first chapter…

Standing in line at the post office has to be the fourth circle of hell

Callie shifted her weight to her left foot and leaned her hip against the railing around which the line of fellow postal customers snaked.  Look, only three more back-and-forths then it’s my turn, she thought sardonically. 

She frowned to herself.  Whose inner monologue is sardonic?

     “Next,” called the clerk at the second station.  Everyone in line took a step forward clutching their parcels all wrapped in brown paper and packing-taped into infinity, or their very important looking overnight-air envelopes. 
Callie glanced down at the peach square of paper in her hands.  We REdeliver for you! the paper promised.  She shook her head.  She wasn’t waiting for redelivery.
     Another clerk called out and the line shifted again.  A sextet of antique ceiling fans whirled ineffectively over their heads as a bead of sweat trickled down her spine.  She wondered if the air conditioning was out or if the USPS was simply economizing.  Either way, you could tell it was summer in south Florida.
     She made it to the turn-around and felt a bit encouraged.  Not much longer now.  She gazed at the receipt once again, her forefinger lightly tracing the address of the sender.  Sevilla.  She inhaled sharply.  She knew one person in Seville.  She couldn’t imagine what he’d sent in a parcel.
Raised voices interrupted Callie’s thoughts.  She looked up to see a well-dressed middle-aged woman shouting at the clerk at the third station.   
    
     “What do you mean, I have to get in a different line?  I’ve been standing here all day!”
     “Ma’am, I don’t have the form that you need.  Would you like to get in the other line?” the clerk asked patiently.  The man was an older black gentleman with sloping shoulders and an air of resignation.  Callie idly wondered if he’d delivered mail on foot back in the day.
     “Well if you won’t give me the form I guess I’ll have to!” the woman snapped as she vacated the station and toddled off to the the correct line. 
     Callie shook her head.  Why do people have to be such assholes?  She ran into her fair share of them as a teacher but she recalled her college days when she’d worked as a server in a busy restaurant.  People have no idea…
     She found herself suddenly only two people behind the head of the line, and she felt her heart begin to pound.  Finn.  She looked back at the peach scrap of paper.  After all this time.
     In truth she was shocked that he’d sent anything at all.  She’d known him for all of what, fifteen days?  The flush began in the center of her being and flowed up her neck to her cheeks.  Those fifteen days had changed her irrevocably.  She could never go back to the pre-Finn Callie.
     Vaguely she heard a clerk call for the next customer.  “Excuse me, ma’am?” said the guy behind her.  Callie looked up, startled.  “You’re next.”

     She murmured an apology and walked to the vacant station.  The same clerk who’d had the misfortune to deal with the nasty customer surveyed her with gentle eyes.  Callie was determined to be kind, to make up for the woman who’d been so unpleasant.  She smiled broadly.  “Yes, I’m picking up a parcel.”  She presented him with the peach scrap and her driver’s license.

     The man smiled kindly as he took the slip of paper and disappeared into the back.  He reemerged moments later carrying a package about the size and shape of a hardcover book.  Callie’s pulse pounded in her ears.
     “Here you are, ma’am,” he said as he handed her the box.  It was lighter than she’d expected.  Her eyes zeroed in on the return address.  Finn Cooper, 54 Calle Montevideo, Sevilla, Espana. 
     She smiled again and thanked the man, wished him a pleasant day, and walked out into the heat of the summer day.
I hope you liked this little teaser.  FINDING CALLIE joins a long list of stories I’ll eventually get to.   In the meantime, browse my Amazon Author Page for your next steamy read.

Weekend Excerpt–Just One Night

JON new coverIt’s the middle of July.  Which seems the perfect time to share an excerpt from my naughty little summer novella, JUST ONE NIGHT.

Teacher Katie Parker is on a Caribbean cruise with her best girlfriends from high school.  Fresh off a humiliating break-up, Katie is determined to forget about her disastrous love life by having an anonymous shipboard fling with a handsome stranger.

By chance, she meets Mac Coleman, traveling with his brothers to Mexico for a wedding.  He’s more than happy to go along with Katie’s plan.  But he soon realizes that what they’ve found is worth more than just one night.  Can he convince Katie to give them a chance?

Read a teaser…

Hours later, Michelle led the foursome as they made their way toward the main dining room.  “I’m starved,” commented Jayma.  “Who decided that we wouldn’t eat until the 9:00 seating?”

Michelle rolled her eyes.  “Don’t be so Nashville.  Civilized society doesn’t eat until late.”

“You live in Dallas, not Paris,” Katie quipped.

“Anyway, most of the families with little kids eat earlier,” Chelsea added.  “We should have a nice serene dining experience.”

“I just want some grub,” Jayma giggled.

Immediately before they reached their destination, they passed a small alcove where photos taken during the day were displayed for purchase.  “Hey, you guys go on ahead to our table.  I want to look at the pictures,” Katie said.

In the ten years since they’d graduated from high school and gone their separate ways into college and life, Katie had been the self-appointed documentarian of their annual outings, taking photos and gathering mementos, sending them off to be made into a photo scrapbook.

The one of us on the gangplank would be just right for the cover of this year’s album.  She scanned the hundreds of pictures already hanging on the racks, looking for the one of the four of them.

Finally, she saw it and reached for it, smiling.  As she did, her hand collided with a large masculine one reaching across in front of her.  Startled, she looked up.  “Oh, I’m so sorry!”

Soulful brown eyes gazed down at her.  “No, it’s my fault.  I was rudely reaching in front of you.  I was paying attention to the photos and not to what’s going on around me.”

Katie laughed lightly.  “That’s exactly what I was doing.  Again, I’m sorry.”  She felt her face redden as she reached again, snapped up the photo, and hurriedly turned away.  Quickly, she charged the picture to her cabin and left the alcove, glancing back over her shoulder as she did.  The man was still watching her.

I’m going to get laid, she says, Katie thought miserably.  Not like that I’m not.  What the hell just happened?  That was a perfect opportunity.  But she knew why she’d blown the chance meeting.  Casual sex was not who Katie Parker was, it wasn’t how she operated.  Flustered, she entered the dining room and found the others already seated at their table.

Jayma smiled as she sat down.  “Did you find it?”

“I did.  It came out great.”

“What’s wrong with you?  You seem all out of breath,” Michelle observed.

“I’m just starved,” Katie replied in mock seriousness.  “We’re eating in the middle of the night.”

Conversation around the table was about their respective years since the last time they’d been together.  Of course, they kept up on everyone’s latest via email, text messages, and social media so there was little news.  It wasn’t until halfway through dessert that Katie looked across to see the man she’d run into in the photo alcove.  He was seated about three tables away facing her direction.  And he was looking right at her.

She felt her eyes widen before she moved her gaze back to her plate.  A flush crept up her neck and across her cheeks as she tried to casually look across the room again, only to find him still watching her.  As their eyes met, he smiled.

Holy heaven.  If you looked up ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ in the dictionary, his picture would be there.  Topping the soulful brown eyes were expressive dark eyebrows.  Framing a gorgeous face was tousled dark brown hair.  There was a shadow of stubble over a strong, square jaw and lips that looked imminently kissable.  Katie reached for her wine and slugged back the remainder.

“More wine, madam?”

“You betcha!”

“So Katie, what’s new with you?  How’s your love life?”  Chelsea gazed at her expectantly.

Katie sipped her wine, stalling for time.  “Oh, well, you know…”

“No, we don’t know, that’s why we ask,” said Michelle.

Katie sighed.  “I dated a guy for a while and he turned out to be a shit.  I met him on a dating website and—“

“A dating site, really?”  Chelsea grinned.  “I don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to try one of those.”

“Or desperate enough,” Michelle muttered.  She looked up at Katie, wide-eyed.  “Not that you’re desperate, that’s not what I meant, I just meant…”

Refusing to bail her out, Katie sipped her wine and narrowed her eyes, waiting to see how Michelle would untangle the mess she’d created.

Jayma came to her rescue.  “Oh, you know, as a teacher, Katie doesn’t have the opportunity to meet guys at work.  Honestly, I think meeting someone online is way better than picking up some guy in a bar.”

“You know what I think?” Michelle flagged down the waiter for a refill of her wine.  “I think that teachers should stay single.  You know, like Miss Beadle from Little House on the Prairie.”  She grinned before sipping her wine.  “Completely dedicated to the kids.”

Katie was sure she felt actual steam coming out of her ears.  “Really?”  She nodded sharply.  “That’s what you think?”  She could hear her voice growing louder.  “You think that teachers should just forego a personal life and live like nuns, nobly pouring out their lives for kids who don’t care, and parents and administrators who blame them for everything?  And for low salaries and shit benefits to boot?  Or maybe they should just work for free.”

Again, Jayma was the peacemaker.  “No, I’m sure that’s not what Michelle meant.”

Katie stood abruptly.  “I need some air.”  She turned and left the table heading for the same doors they’d entered.

***

Meeting a woman had been the last thing on Mac’s mind.  He was moving across the state just to get away from the last one he’d dated.  But the redhead in the photo shop intrigued him.  She’d been as startled as he’d been.  Truthfully neither of them had been watching what they’d been doing, as occupied with looking at the photos as they’d both been.  But when she’d looked up at him with those grey-green eyes, he’d felt a spark.

So when he’d realized that she was sitting a few tables away he couldn’t resist watching her.  She was unbelievably pretty, almost like a fairy or something with her red hair and her fair skin.  He wondered briefly how she’d fare for a week in the intense Caribbean sun.  She was chatting animatedly with the women at her table.  And don’t think he hadn’t noticed.  She was traveling with a group of women, not a man.

“So what’s the deal with this restraining order?”

Mac pulled his eyes from the gorgeous redhead and focused on his brother.  “It’s a long story.”  He shook his head.

“Well, we have a couple of days before we hit Mexico.  Will that be enough time?”  Danny had always been the sarcastic one.

Mac sighed, shrugging.  “I went out a couple of times with a girl from my apartment complex.”

“What was her name?” Tommy wondered.

Mac frowned.  “Erin.  What difference does it make?”

“I just wondered, is all.”

“Anyway, she seemed like a pretty nice girl but after a few dates, I knew she wasn’t the one for me.  I just didn’t feel that…I don’t know, spark.”  Instantly the redhead popped up in his mind, and he couldn’t resist a glance in her direction before he continued.

He looked from one brother to the other.  “So I very gently suggested that although we’d had a good time going out, I felt that we were not completely compatible and it would be better if we didn’t go out again.”

“And she didn’t take it well,” Danny summed up.

Images of his tires slashed to ribbons and a deep, jagged groove keyed down the side of his black Jeep popped into his head.  “No.  No, she did not.”

“I can’t believe you had to take out a restraining order.”  Tommy’s eyes were wide.

“Dude, I’m moving to a new city.  I have a new job and everything.  Do you really think a piece of paper will keep away a psycho?”

Danny shook his head.  “I assume you fucked her.”

Mac rolled his eyes.  “Well, yeah, we slept together.  Who knew she was batshit?”

“Ya see, this is why you need to settle down with a nice girl, get married, and have a family.”  Danny had married his college sweetheart and was now raising three little girls.  He was forever trying to persuade his brothers to join him.

“Well, that’s what Tommy-boy is doing.”  Mac playfully punched his baby brother’s arm.  “I’m happy for you, bro, really I am.  Gretchen is a great girl.”

“Thanks man, I appreciate it.”  Tommy grinned ear to ear.  “I love her, I truly do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JON 99 cents

Originally a Kindle exclusive,
JUST ONE NIGHT
is available for only $.99 at your favorite online bookseller.

Just use this Universal link: books2read.com/JustOneNight

It’s Going to Be HOT in Tampa!

 

Looking for your next great read?  Love to have fun in the sun?  Join me this Sunday, July 16, in Tampa for the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention!

I understand that about 40 Indie authors will be there, chatting with readers and signing books.  I’ll have copies of RESISTING RISK, LUKE & BELLA, and LOST & BOUND.  I’ll also have some free swag.

Admission to the event is FREE, and you can buy tickets to the VIP after party where there will be food and an OPEN BAR.  Just imagine, sipping cocktails and chatting with your favorite Indie authors.  Sounds amazing, right?

Check out the official Facebook page of the Tampa Indie Author Book Convention.  And if you’re going to be anywhere close, please stop by and say hello!