Weekend WIP Excerpt–For Sparrow

It feels like it’s been forever since I posted an excerpt!  Today, I’m giving you a sneak peek at FOR SPARROW, my current work in progress, and Book 3 of The Dream Dominant Collection.  Since it’s a Dream Dominant book, you know there are some things you can count on: a stand-alone story featuring a smart redheaded leading lady, a drop dead sexy Dominant man, light BDSM themes, and romance with plenty of heart.

In FOR SPARROW, Jessi Crenshaw, at forty-five, is a shell-shocked young widow.  Although her husband of twenty-five years had survived a health scare in the past, she couldn’t have imagined that he’d be gone so suddenly.  Having lived the last several years as Graham’s submissive, she’s lost not only her husband, partner, lover, and friend, she’s lost her Master.

But it turns out that Graham had had an inkling that his health was in decline, and he made provisions for Jessi, in the form of hunky fire rescue paramedic Judd Farris, whom the older man had mentored in the BDSM lifestyle.  Graham made Judd promise that in the event of his death, Judd would look out for Jessi, at least until she got back on her feet.

Could it be that Graham’s intentions went beyond a temporary solution?

Here’s a brand new excerpt from For Sparrow.

Jessi held herself together while the kids were home.  No sense having them worry about her.  They needed to get back to their lives.  She certainly didn’t want them feeling as though they needed to babysit her.

Adam left for Orlando on Friday morning.  By the time Jessi dropped off Cara at Palm Beach International on Friday afternoon, she was exhausted.  She hadn’t been able to keep food down since she’d gotten the news about Graham.  She also hadn’t been able to sleep.  Now, with the house to herself, she finally let herself fall apart.

In the hamper in the master bath she found an undershirt of Graham’s.  It smelled of his cologne and dirty clothes.  She undressed, shrugged into the ‘wife-beater’ tank top, and crawled into bed.  There, she cried for hours, screamed for a while until her voice was gone, and ranted at the universe for letting her down.  When the tears dried up, she curled into a ball and found herself in a sort of twilight not unlike subspace, but rather than feeling safe she simply felt empty.

Eventually, disoriented and having no idea of the time, Jessi headed downstairs to the kitchen.  The clock on the microwave blinked 2:34.

Must be a.m.  It’s dark outside, she thought vaguely.

Checking the fridge, she saw that it was still half full of casseroles she couldn’t bear to uncover, let alone try to eat, so she closed the door and headed to the liquor cabinet in the dining room, choosing the first bottle her hand touched.  It happened to be a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels.  Uncapping the whiskey, she took a long pull and coughed as the warm liquid hit her raw throat.

Unable to bear the emptiness of her bedroom, she took the whiskey with her and let herself out the back door, choosing a lounge chair by the pool where she proceeded to drain the rest of bottle before passing out.

Slowly, Jessi became aware of the noise of some sort of lawn equipment.

                Damn neighbors.  She tentatively cracked open one eye and wondered at the gecko staring back at her.

               Holy shit, I slept outside.  She carefully peeled her cheek from the seat cushion and pushed herself to a sitting position on the lounge chair, immediately regretting the sudden movement.

“Oh, my God,” she groaned, reaching to hold her head.  Still, the relentless sound of trimmers echoed in her ears.  From her position at the edge of the pool deck she could see past the end of the house, and to her surprise, a stranger was in her yard.

Portrait of a calm handsome young man leaning to the wall outdoo

Ignoring the pounding in her head, she stood and walked toward the source of the sound.  A tall muscular man with dark brown hair was trimming her hedges.  He was dressed in a white t-shirt, khaki cargo shorts, and worn brown leather work boots.

“Excuse me!” Jessi shouted, the effort sending pain shooting through her head.  The man didn’t respond.

Moving closer she tried again, holding her head with both hands to prevent it from blowing apart.  “I said, excuse me!”

Startled, he jumped and turned off the offending machine, his brown eyes made larger by surprise.  “I’m sorry, did I wake you?” he asked.

“What are you doing here?” Jessi asked.

“I’m trimming these hedges.”

Jessi frowned.  “Yeah, I can see that.  I mean, why are you on my property, trimming my hedges?”

The man frowned as well.  “Um, I mentioned to you that I’d be here today to help out with your lawn.”

“Who are you?  When did we decide that you’d come here to do my hedges?”

He smiled in a friendly way.  “I’m Judd.  Farris.  We spoke at the funeral?  I said that I’d be over today to help out.”

Jessi blinked at him, trying desperately to recall ever having had a conversation with this…Judd person.

“Out by your pool?  I know, there were a lot of people here.  It probably all runs together.”

You have no idea, she thought.  “Oh, you were friends with Graham?”

He grinned broadly.  “Exactly.  Graham and I used to go for coffee every once in a while.”

Jessi aimed for a kind smile.  “Well, look Judd, I appreciate your thoughtfulness.  But you really don’t need to come over here and trim the hedges.  It’s very nice of you, but I’ll be okay.”

Judd shook his head.  “I promised Graham I’d check in on you, take care of things like this.”

“That’s great of you, but there’s no need.  I release you from your promise,” Jessi said, her patience wearing thin.

“It was a promise I made to Graham.  You have nothing to do with it,” he said reasonably and he prepared to continue with his work.

“I have everything to do with it.  Graham isn’t here.  You’re dealing with me, now.”

Judd let the trimmer hang down at his side and looked at her intently.  “You look like shit, if you don’t mind me saying so.  When is the last time you combed your hair?  You have little leaves in it.”

Jessi’s eyes went wide and she started to reply, but he cut her off.  “You do realize you’re standing in your yard wearing only a stained men’s undershirt, right?  I was trying to ignore it, but damn.  A guy can only keep his eyes averted for so long.”

Jessi glanced down to see Graham’s undershirt, which barely covered her panties and clung to her breasts like Saranwrap in the humidity of the morning.  “Shit!” she swore.

“No worries, Jessi.  I’ll be out of your hair as soon as I’m done with these hedges,” Judd said as he started the trimmers again and returned to his work.

Jessi hurried back to the pool deck and into the house.

I’m still hard at work on FOR SPARROW.  Stay tuned for news on a cover reveal and a release date.  In the meantime, check out the first two Dream Dominant books, LUKE & BELLA and LOST & BOUND.

Sneak Peek at My New WIP!

for-sparrow-mock-upLOST & BOUND, Dream Dominant Book 2 has been out for a little over a month and I’m happily at work on Book 3, FOR SPARROW.   This cover is just a mock-up.  I’ll be having a sexy cover designed by the divine Eeva Lancaster of The Book Khaleesi when the book is finished.

When Jessi Crenshaw’s husband Graham died suddenly, she lost more than her spouse.  She lost the Dominant to her submissive.  But it turns out Graham had an idea that he was not well, and he tapped a temporary replacement for himself, at least until Jessi gets back on her feet.  Enter tall, dark, and Dominant firefighter and paramedic, Judd Farris.  It’s an unconventional relationship, but Judd has a promise to keep.

Here’s an excerpt of this very WIP…

Jessi’s hands shook.  With her index finger she traced the writing on the front of the envelope.  She glanced out the back door to see Judd kick off his shoes and sit on the edge of the pool, sinking his feet in the water.  Buddy flopped down beside him and rolled over, wanting his tummy scratched, and Judd obliged.

She turned her attention back to the envelope.  Her irrational self told her that if she didn’t open it, somehow everything could go back to normal.  But curiosity won the moment, and she slid her thumb under the flap and carefully opened the letter.

My dearest Sparrow,

I’m so sorry I’m not there with you.  I can feel my heart beginning to wear out.  Please don’t be angry with me for not telling you, I know how you worry about things.  We’ve had a good life together.  I’ve told you before and I’m telling you again, you are the best thing that ever happened to me.  The fact that you are the mother of my children amazes the hell out of me.  What did I ever do to deserve such a terrific family?

Jessi reached up to wipe a silent tear from her cheek.  Self-consciously, she flicked her eyes out to the pool deck to find that Judd was watching her intently, and he flashed a sympathetic smile.  Sniffing, she read on.

It would be pointless, I suppose, to tell you not to mourn.  Just don’t do it too long.  And don’t you dare wear black.  God, I hate all that maudlin bullshit.  Now Sparrow, you and I know that you are a natural submissive.  I don’t want you to feel lost without a Dominant in your life.  I want you to find one, a true Gentleman who will cherish you in the way you deserve.  One who will nurture the sexy, sensual woman you truly are.  Don’t you go back to some kind of vanilla half-existence.  That would really piss me off.

Tears still streaming, she laughed because she could almost hear Graham’s voice.

If you have this letter, you’ve met Judd.  I’ve known him for several years now, and he’s a solid Dominant.  I’ve asked him to check in on you and to take care of some things around the house.  I’ve also asked him to help you out until you find a Dominant of your own.  Judd is willing to give you knee time, Sparrow, to help you settle your mind and find peace.  I don’t mean sex and kink.  He would be a sort of ‘emotional Dominant,’ just until you get back on your feet.

On the other hand, if you found yourself attracted to Judd, it would make me happy knowing that you’d be in good hands.  He’s a good man, Jessi, a gentle man and a Gentleman.  He would be a perfect sexual Dominant for you.  I worry thinking about the dangers out there, Sparrow.  You and Judd could make your own way.

Mortified, Jessi glanced out the back door.  Thankfully, Judd was staring out across the pool.  “I can’t believe you’re telling me these things,” she murmured to herself.

Anyway, I trust you, Sparrow.  You’re smart and strong, and I’m so proud of you.  Never forget that you are absolutely the love of my life.  I’m forever grateful to you for taking my hard, stuffy heart and helping me to be a better man than I ever dreamed about being.  Be sure the kids know how much I love them.  I love you, my Sparrow, with all my heart.  Live happy.  Find love and cherish it.

Your loving husband and Master, G.

Jessi was completely undone.  Sobbing, she folded her arms on the counter and rested her head on them.  She cried until she felt she had no tears left.  Moments passed and she raised her head.  It hurt and her eyes felt puffy.  With a glance at Judd and Buddy still sitting by the pool, she went into the powder room and splashed water on her face.

Taking a deep breath, she forced her feet out the back door and across the pool deck.  Judd smiled up at her kindly.  “How are you holding up?”

Jessi shrugged as she stepped out of her sandals and sat beside him, slipping her feet into the cool water.  They sat without speaking, each gently sliding feet through the water, watching the ripples cross the pool and return to them.  Judd moved his foot under her leg and raised her foot to the surface.  The fuchsia nail polish was chipped and peeling.

“How long since you had a pedicure, Jessi?” he asked gently.

She moved her foot away and looked at him sharply.  “What exactly did your letter say, Judd?”

He exhaled forcefully.  “Like I said, he was worried about you.  He said that you’re submissive and that you might need somebody in your life until you find your way.”  He glanced at her knowingly.  “When was the last time your mind was quiet, little one?”

A tear slid down Jessi’s cheek and she swiped at it roughly.  “So you’re my appointed Dominant, is that it?” she asked testily.

“It’s not like that.”  Judd looked at her steadily.  “Graham and I were friends.  We talked about Dominance and submission for hours over the years.  He trusted me.  Trusted me with the one thing that meant the most to him in the world.”

He paused, gazing at her thoughtfully.  “He didn’t want you to run into the wrong kind of man while you’re looking to ease your mind, to fill that emptiness that I see in your eyes.”  Jessi stubbornly looked away and swiped at her cheek again.

“You know, it’s entirely up to you.  I’m going to complete the list of things around your house.  I promised him I would.  But whether or not you accept me as a surrogate Dominant?  Only you can decide that.”

He ran a frustrated hand through his hair.  “You miss knee time, I know you do,” he said softly.  “A chance to just let go of all the concerns that weigh you down.”  Jessi turned back to look at him, her expression softer.  “I’m not talking about kinky sex, tying you up and all that.  I’m offering you a chance to clear your mind of everything, let me carry your burdens for a while.”

“Why?  Why would you do that?”  Her voice was strained.

Judd shrugged.  “I’m Dominant.  It’s what I crave, to be needed, to take care of a submissive.”  He laughed lightly.  “I’m a Dominant without a submissive, and you’re a submissive without a Dominant.  For the time being, it works out well.”

He gazed at her steadily, kindness in his brown eyes.  “Just say the word.  Do you want knee time, little one?”

Another tear rolled down her cheek.  And she nodded.  “Yes,” she whispered.  “I want knee time.”

He smiled patiently.  “Yes, what, little one?”

“Yes, Master.”

Judd shook his head.  “I’m not your Master, little one.  Yes, Sir will do.”

Unconsciously, Jessi bowed her head submissively.  “Yes, Sir, may I please have knee time?”

“Yes, you may,” he responded gently.  “There is a big leather chair in your den.  Be kneeling beside the chair in two minutes.  Your eyes will be closed and you will clear your mind.  Do you understand, little one?”

“Yes, Sir.”  Jessi stood and started to walk away, but then turned and looked at him anxiously.  “My clothes, Sir?”

“Your clothes are fine the way they are,” he answered.  “Hurry.  I’ll come to you shortly.”

“Yes, Sir,” she said, and she hurried into the house.

There is no timetable for the release of FOR SPARROW.

But visit my Amazon page for all of my published books.

Weekend Excerpt–Lost & Bound

L&F--excerpt graphicYou can’t see me right now, but I’m doing the happy dance!  That’s because I just finished writing the first draft of my current project, Lost & Bound.

After getting into trouble, Hollywood starlet Shasta Pyke is sent to cool her heels in the wilderness of northern Ontario.  There, she meets hunky mountain man Blake Walker.  While the world sees a bratty, over-privileged former child star, Blake sees a frightened little girl in need of a firm hand and unconditional love.  Is Shasta the perfect submissive to quench his Dominant craving?

In honor of this momentous occasion, here’s an excerpt.

Pushing her sunglasses to the top of her head, Shasta unscrewed the white lid and began ladling water into the container.  She figured it must have been about half full when she’d first arrived at the cabin.  She decided to fill it completely, the better to make fewer trips.

She still had about three inches to go before the water level was at the top of the container when she heard a motor.  Dropping the ladle into the cooler, she scrambled back up to the top of the hill.  Blake was just easing up to the dock in the same skiff he’d used to drop her off a few days ago.

She couldn’t stop the smile on her face as she hurried down to the dock.  “Hi!  How are you?”

Blake looked up as he tied off the boat and stepped out onto the dock.  “Hi, yourself.  I’m well.  How about you?”

Shasta watched him closely, taking in his scuffed boots, his faded jeans, the navy plaid flannel shirt hanging open over a white wife-beater tank top.  And his thick dark hair kissed with caramel, pulled up into a knot on the back of his head, his neatly trimmed dark beard framing his square jaw.

God, I forgot how hot he is.  “I’m good.  Great, even,” she answered quickly.  “I was just,” she hooked a thumb over her shoulder, “refilling my water at the spring.”

He nodded.  “Good.  That’s good.”  He gestured into the boat.  “I noticed that you had a fire in the fireplace last night.  I thought maybe you could use more wood.”

Shasta crossed her arms in front of her.  “That’s really nice, thanks.”   She glanced around uncomfortably.  “Listen, I’m sorry about the radio.  I didn’t realize…”

“Forget about it,” he murmured.

“I should also, um, apologize for throwing a rock at you.”  Her eyes were on the ground.

He stood straight and crossed his arms.  “Yes, you should.”

She huffed in exasperation.  “Well, that’s what I’m trying to do.  I just…”  She gazed out across the lake and took a deep calming breath.  “I was having a very bad day.  I’m sorry I was rude and I apologize for throwing a rock at you.  My bad day was not your fault.”

He smiled amiably.  “Apology accepted.”

Blake reached into the boat for a large grey canvas bag filled with split logs.  “I’ll just go put it with the rest behind the cabin.”

She trailed along behind him and helped him stack the logs with the rest of the wood.

“You didn’t have any trouble starting the fire?” he asked.

“Well, I did at first.  But then I found the box of fire starter sticks.  I put one of those in and it went right up.”

Blake glanced at her.  “You used a whole stick?  You can break those up into about six pieces.  You don’t need a whole one.”

Shasta blushed.  “Oh.”

When the bag was empty, Blake carried it back to the front of the cabin.  “You said you were getting water?”

“Yeah, I was almost finished when I heard you coming.”

This time, she led the way and when they reached the cooler, she picked up the dipper.  Blake looked down at the container and frowned.  “This is nearly full.”

Shasta grinned up at him.  “I know.  I figured, the more I put in, the fewer trips I’ll have to make.”

He gave her a look like one would give a slow child.  “But how will you carry it back to the cabin?”

Shasta could feel hot tears threatening and there was a knot in her throat.  “Once again, I get it wrong.”  Her voice was a whisper.  She pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you,” he said.  He dumped out about half of the water and replaced the lid, hefted the cooler, and carried it back to the cabin.

Shasta waited outside for him, her arms crossed, the toe of her right shoe digging aimlessly into the dirt.  “So, thanks for the wood and everything.”  Her eyes were on the ground.

Blake gently closed the screen door.  “You’re welcome.  I wanted to check in on you before I leave.  I’m flying out to get one of the remote cabins ready for a fishing party.”

Shasta’s eyes bulged as she pushed her sunglasses back up.  “Wait! What? You’re leaving?”

“I have to go to Big Birch Lake to lay in supplies and get the cabin ready for guests.”  He saw her panicked expression.  “I’ll be back late this afternoon.”

“Please take me with you,” she blurted.

Slightly taken aback, Blake shoved his hands into his pockets.  “I don’t know…”

“Please!  I promise, I won’t be in the way.  Maybe I can even help.”

His eyes narrowed.  “The cabin is even more remote than this one, only accessible by float plane.  There’s not a road for miles, only wilderness.  There’s no place for you to go.”

Shasta shook her head.  “No, I’m not trying to leave, I just…  I’m so tired of being alone.”  There was raw hope in her eyes.  “Please let me go with you.”

The “No” was on his lips as he drew in a deep breath and debated with himself.  The vision of her the previous night, alone and sobbing in the cabin, filled his mind and he still felt like a shit for making her cry.  He’d come damn close to it just now, without even meaning to.  “Okay, you can come.”

She jumped up and squealed, gripping his hand tightly.  “Thank you, thank you so much!  I’ll help, I promise.”

Blake waited as she retrieved her pink hoodie and locked the cabin door.  He noticed that she’d also taken the time to plait her long red hair into a thick braid down her back.  When she was ready, he led the way down to the skiff, holding it still for her to get in.  This time, Shasta faced him as he steered them across the lake toward the lodge’s dock.

“Can I get one of these things to use while I’m here?”

Blake frowned.  “One of what things?”

“A boat.  Is there one I can rent?”

His eyes sparkled with amusement.  “Where do you want to go?”

She shrugged lightly.  “I don’t know.  It would be nice to not feel stuck.”  Glancing around, she pointed to a rocky outcropping on the shore to the north of the island.  “I was looking over there.  It looked like it might be a cool place to explore.”

“That’s Winchester Point,” he said.  “There’s an old trapper cabin up there.  It’s mostly ruins now, but it is kind of cool.  And there are blueberries.”

Shasta grinned.  “See!  I could go pick blueberries.”

“There are also bears.”

Her grin dropped as her eyes widened.  “Bears.  Seriously?”

Blake had to laugh.  “They like the blueberries.  But you’d probably be okay.  I’m sure I can scrounge up an extra skiff for you.”

They pulled up to the dock and Blake reached for Shasta’s hand, helping her out of the boat.  She stood uncertainly as he finished tying up the skiff and climbed out.  Bear came bounding down the dock to meet them.

“Hello, puppy!”  Shasta leaned down to pet the huge black dog.

“He’s usually a little shy with strangers,” Blake commented, just as Bear flopped down and rolled onto his back, offering his belly for a rub.

“He doesn’t seem shy to me, do you, puppy?”  She knelt down to scratch the dog’s underside.  Bear, for his part, panted and happily swished his tail on the wooden dock.  “What’s his name?”

“Bear,” Blake replied.  “And he loves proving me wrong.  I won’t forget this, pal.  Payback’s a bitch.”

“He’s just a sweetie, that’s what he is,” cooed Shasta.

“Alright.  I’m going to start bringing down the supplies and provisions for the fishing cabin.”

Shasta gave Bear one last rub and straightened up to follow Blake up the hill to the main house.  Off of the reception area where she’d been the day she’d arrived, a door opened onto a large storage room.  Near the door were several boxes filled with nonperishable food and other supplies.  Blake appeared from around a corner pulling an oversized wagon constructed of yellow wire mesh.  The rubber tires were large and knobby, giving the contraption an all-terrain appearance.

Together, Blake and Shasta loaded the cartons and bags onto the wagon.  Shasta ended up carrying two of the lighter ones in her arms as Blake pulled the wagon down the slope to the dock.  They took everything to the end of the dock, where the float plane was tied up.  Shasta set down the boxes she’d been carrying and looked to Blake.

“I’ll get in the plane.  If you can pass me the boxes one at a time, I’ll fit them into the tail section and we’ll be on our way.”  He opened the back door of the plane and climbed up, leaning down to take the first of the boxes from Shasta.

“What do you want next?” she called to him.

He appeared back in the doorway.  “How about that big one over there?”  He watched as Shasta leaned down to pick up the box he’d indicated, appreciating the way the yoga pants hugged the curves of her ass.  Keep focused, man.  There’s nothing but trouble there.

But his cock wasn’t interested in reason.  God bless yoga pants.  They’re like a push-up bra for your ass.

“Here you go,” she smiled up at him.

“Thanks.”  He disappeared again into the back of the plane.

“Aren’t you glad I’m here?” she asked.  “I mean, you’d be doing all this by yourself.  It would take you at least twice as long.”

“I would take me longer to load the plane, that’s true.”  He watched her pick up another carton.  “I’m glad you brought other shoes.  Those high heels you were wearing the other day would be useless.”

She handed him the box and rested her hands on her hips, smiling.  “Don’t hate on the pink Manolos.  They’re my power shoes.”

“Power shoes?” he laughed.

Shasta nodded.  “Pink Manolos, Donna Karan skirt, the Chanel blouse, fierce makeup…”  She pulled down her sunglasses.  “Prada shades.  It’s all part of the armor.  They make me invincible.”  She laughed lightly, but Blake had the impression she wasn’t joking.

“You look different than you did the day you came here.”  It was an honest observation.

She crossed her arms.  “Yeah, well, I didn’t bother with makeup today.  I figured I’d be safe from the cameras.”

“Cameras?”

“They always want to catch you without makeup, looking like crap.  Then they plaster it all over the internet.”  She shook her head in disgust.

He assessed her for a long second.  “You look better without all that makeup.  You don’t need it.”  He took the next box from her and disappeared again.

I’m aiming to launch Lost & Bound in the New Year.  Stay tuned right here for all the latest news and updates.

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Work In Progress Wednesday

The third and final chapter of Rannigan’s Redemption, Ransoming Redemption, drops on April 18.  But the truth is that it’s been a while since I finished writing Rannigan last September.  Being somewhat neurotic, as the end of a book begins to draw closer, I begin to feel a sense of panic.  What would I do if I didn’t write?  So I usually start something new before I finish up my current project.  I actually began Rannigan before Luke & Bella was finished.

Before Rannigan was finished, I started a new project tentatively called For Sparrow.  You can click here to read the first chapter on the Teasers tab of my website.

And while I’m still working on Sparrow, I got a little sidetracked.  My pal erotica author Patient Lee suggested a project for this coming summer and I got all inspired.  The result is going to be a very naughty novella which will be published, one way or another, before the fall.

Les couples vivant dans une chambre au murs violets feraient plus l'amour que les autres, avec une moyenne de 3,49 fois par semaine !:

Here is an excerpt for this WIP Wednesday.

Just One Night

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

At that moment, her head turned and she spoke to someone at her table.  Her face darkened and she seemed to be speaking passionately, an angry flash in her eyes.  He watched as she moved the linen napkin from her lap and dropped it on the table, pushed back from the table, and left 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 she’d indicated.  Mac made his way through the door that opened onto the deck and he could see her leaning against the railing looking out over the dark water.  Her hair and her skirt ruffled in the breeze and the full moon overhead made her hair seem to 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 surprise 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 startled, 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 a drink or something?” Mac offered.

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

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

 ***

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

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

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

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

“No!  No names,” Katie quickly interrupted.

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

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

“Keep it casual.”  Mac frowned.  “Okay.”  He gave her a curious look.  “Are you sure you don’t want me to leave?”

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

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

“Oh, hell no!”

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

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

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

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

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

“And you’re here with two other men.”

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

“Now you’re making fun.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie shook her head.

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

She stared at her glass as she swirled the remainder of her margarita.  Then she looked back up at Mac.  “Do you really want to know what I want?  I want just one night.  Just one night of anonymous, no-holds-barred, red-hot, no-strings-attached sex.  That’s what I want.”  She fixed him with a challenging stare.

“Whoa,” he breathed, eyes wide.

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

Mac ran a restless hand through his dark hair.  “That was blunt, all right, but I can respect that.  I’ve gotta ask, though.”  He sought out her eyes.  “Is there some guy at home waiting for you to come back?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll wait right here.”

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

Well, it’s a work in progress.  In the meantime, you can pre-order the finale of Rannigan’s Redemption, Ransoming Redemption at these fine online booksellers.

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