Thursday, 15 March 2012

Excerpt Day - Silent Warriors, Book 2 Tactical Deception © J.L. Saint

Excerpt

 

I am not a victim, Mari Dalton silently whispered then gasped for air as she tightened her grip on the .22-caliber pistol. But she couldn’t see, she couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t think past the fear. In her mind, Frank Dugar still had her hijab wrapped like a noose around her throat.

 

Nausea churned and a choking darkness closed in on her and her unborn child.

 

She had to escape.

 

Allah, forgive me. Hands trembling, she lowered the pistol and snatched off her headscarf before she fainted. She gasped again, drowning in the memory of Dugar’s attack, but refused to give in to it. Dugar is not here. He hasn’t been seen in weeks. The panic is all in my mind. Senior Airman Holly Gear is just a few feet away. Roger has men hunting Dugar. My baby is safe. She knew all of this in her head, but in her heart, she knew she was only safe for the moment.

 

Cool air reached her face and neck—especially her neck—and she sucked in oxygen. The panic enclosing her like a casket eased. Beneath the black folds of her abaya perspiration drenched her from head to toe and her heart hammered hard. She drew in more air and set her palm against her stomach. This wasn’t good for her baby; she had to do better.

 

Holly came up, clearly worried. “Are you all right? You’re ghost white.”

 

Mari steadied herself, inwardly groaning at her weakness. “I’m fine. Just a wave of nausea. The doctor said it is expected.”

 

“You’re sure it’s just morning sickness?”

 

“I’m sure.” She forced a smile. She had hoped self-defense lessons would ease her panic attacks and her growing sense of impending doom. Instead, both were worse, burying her deeper and deeper under layers of fear…and memories. It was especially bad at night, when she was all alone in the one place she shouldn’t be—Roger’s bed. Lt. Col. Roger Weston’s bed. Neil’s commanding officer. When Neil was alive.

 

She loved Neil.

 

She missed Neil.

 

And she resented her mind for allowing thoughts of Roger to intrude on her grief, just as much as she hated herself for the thoughts she’d had of Roger when Neil was alive. But she didn’t even dare think about that right now. She focused on the paper target up ahead. She could do this. With Neil gone, she could learn to take care of herself and her child.

 

“Let me try again,” she told Holly and lifted the pistol. She blinked at the target just thirty feet away, still feeling as if Dugar was at her throat. Her body had healed in the weeks since his attack. The stitches were out, the bruises were gone, the red scars on her hands and knees were fading, and she could move her broken fingers with minimum pain.

 

It was her mind that suffered and it wasn’t necessarily because Dugar had assigned himself as her executioner, either. It was because he made her realize she couldn’t escape her past. The fate decreed by her father years ago in Afghanistan would find her, no matter where she went. She’d been marked for death and death would follow. Her hope was to bear her child before death caught her, and to keep Roger from sacrificing his life trying to save her. Those were the only two things that mattered. Keep your eyes on the target. Let everything else go. Breathing deeply, she re-aimed the .22 and fired, absorbing the slight recoil and aiming again and again until the bullets were gone.

 

“Excellent.” Holly brought the target forward.

 

Mari winced with dismay. “How can you say that? One bullet hit the man in the arm. The rest are all in the white space.”

 

“It only takes one bullet to stop an attacker. You’ve made good progress. You kept your eyes open. You’re consistently hitting the paper and with each practice you tighten the spread of your shots.” She pointed to the clustered bullet holes just above the man’s left shoulder. “You did well, considering. I know how nausea destroys a girl’s aim.”

 

“You’ve had a child?” Mari had been so focused on learning self-defense over the past few weeks that she knew little about Holly’s personal life. Holly was from Georgia, an expert sniper from the National Guard, and she was at Fort Bragg to teach soldiers how to think like a female sniper.

 

“Heavens no. Marriage and kids aren’t even a gleam in my eye yet. I got the flu during a sharpshooting competition once and refused to quit. I was up against fifty men and wasn’t about to wimp out.”

 

“How did you do?”

 

Holly grinned. “Kicked butt. Came in third.”

 

“You’re amazing.” Mari envied Holly’s independence and confidence.

 

“No. Just stubborn. And you’re too pale for my piece of mind. Are you sure you’re all right? Roger would never forgive me if something happened to you on my watch, especially with me taking you off base.”

 

“It doesn’t help that I didn’t sleep well last night.”

 

“Thinking about Neil?”

 

Mari lowered her gaze, guilt eating at her. Her tears flowed less and less now. Yes, she thought about Neil. Almost every minute of the day she had to remind herself that her husband, her friend, the man who’d saved her from death in a windowless cell and had loved her despite her shame, was gone. But at night, when she was alone in Roger’s room, when she lay in Roger’s bed, it wasn’t Neil on her mind.

 

Surely Allah would never forgive her. Two years ago Roger had walked into her and Neil’s house and she’d met him for the first time. His blue gaze had pierced all the way to her soul in one look and no amount of prayer had wiped him from her mind. From that moment on she’d avoided Neil’s commander as much as possible. Only Allah knew how Roger affected her.

 

She truly had to be as unworthy inside as her father had believed. Otherwise, how could she love and miss Neil, yet be so deeply drawn to Roger? How could her pain-filled heart race when Roger walked into the room? How could her aching-for-Neil self want to lay her head back on Roger’s shoulder and feel his arms around her again?

 

Roger had carried her to the ambulance and had held her comfortingly close after Dugar’s attack when she’d feared she was losing her baby. He’d eased her pain, reassured her that it was going to be all right, and had left her no doubt he’d protect her with his dying breath. She wanted to feel that enveloping comfort again, but she couldn’t let that happen. With her fate, it would surely sign his death warrant.

 

© J.L. Saint

Tactical Deception

Silent Warriors, Book 2

Author: J.L. Saint

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Genre: Romantic Suspense, Men In Uniform

Buy Link

One tormented soldier. One woman. Eight snipers. Someone’s going down…

Silent Warriors, Book 2

The fallout from the team’s failed mission to Lebanon is still chewing Lt. Col. Roger Weston’s butt. God help them all if the media get wind of the real story. Worse, guilt is eating him alive over a decision that left a fallen warrior’s wife without a husband…and exposed to danger from her radical family.

No matter what, Mari Dalton’s safety and wellbeing—and that of her unborn child—come first.

Mari is certain God is punishing her. She loved the man who rescued her from a windowless cell in Afghanistan, and never betrayed their marriage. But she has never been able to forget her body’s reaction to Roger. The pounding heart, the burning senses, sinful thoughts run wild.

Now she is the target of terrorists bent on destroying the heart of America. As Roger lays his life on the line to protect her, they uncover a plot already in motion to assassinate the President. As the world teeters on the edge of chaos, any hope for a future rests in Roger’s already bloodstained hands…and the quietly faithful woman who holds his heart.

Read rest of entry

Monday, 5 March 2012

BOOK BLOGGERS AND PUBLISHERS ONLINE CONFERENCE

bbp2012sm

Looking for a conference online to talk about books , the industry and connect with a great bunch of guys and gals this weekend – well look no further

The third year of the Book Bloggers and Publisher’s Online  is  here..   well almost here, MARCH 7-11, 2012 is the official start date but of course registration and all that other good stuff is going on at the moment..

Like what you ask..

Well there is the private  Ning group that you can hang out in until the meeting start.

If you jump onto the conference site Book Bloggers and Publisher’s Online  you will have a chance to see all the panels being hosted and so be able to plan your schedule accordingly.

and then of course there is the free stuff – yes there’s free stuff - loads of free book - but you have to sign up to have your pick.. Go over to the site to have a look at the lot on offer.

and lastly – you remember I mention a great bunch of guys and gals  - well  all of these guys and gals brings something to conference – whether it’s their own professional expertise (lawyers, authors, editor, owner, graphic artist etc) or just enthusiasm for the book blogger-land that we all know and love…  whatever it is,  something is there for everyone.

Terry Kate from Romance in the Backseat  who is the organizer of the event is hosting a pre-panel chat this evening March 05th at 8.30pm EST for all those who wanted  to call in and get more info on the event or just listen in ..

Here’s the LINK (Linked to Talkshoe.com)

Looking forward to seeing you there…

Well

Read rest of entry

Friday, 2 March 2012

happy birthday dr. seuss!

 

Read rest of entry

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Excerpt Day - My True Love Gave to Me © Ava March

Excerpt

 

From Chapter Four...

A full moon hung high in the sky, gilding the back garden in silvery light. A breeze which carried a hint of dampness slid around him. To think he had once considered the winters cold in London. The night was downright mild compared to the frigid temperatures that gripped hold of New York. He scanned the terrace which stretched across a good portion of the back of the mansion and then scanned the surrounding grounds. No sign of Sasha, or anyone else for that matter.

 

Undeterred, he took the stairs and followed the dirt path that led into the garden. Neatly manicured hedges of about chest height bordered the path. He stretched out a hand, brushed one of the bushes and then stopped in his tracks.

 

The night air carried the sound of a muted voice. A male voice. Then the distinct sound of footsteps on wooden floorboards. He peered into the darkness, but he could not make out what was hidden behind the small cluster of trees ahead.

 

He heard the crunch of dirt beneath shoes before a figure appeared from around a bend in the path. Tall as himself and broad of shoulder. His heart did not even have the chance to leap on to the possibility before it became obvious the man was not Sasha.

 

"Pardon," the man said, gruff with impatience, as he brushed past Thomas.

 

Thomas's head snapped over his shoulder. His eyes narrowed. Why had that man been buttoning his coat?

 

He looked back up the path, beyond it to the cluster of trees which likely hid a gazebo or similar ornamental structure common in the gardens of the aristocracy. Suspicion formed in the pit of his stomach.

 

His strides now swift, he continued along the path and found a white gazebo in a clearing beyond the trees. Inside was none other than Sasha. Even with his hands braced on the far rail, slumped back to Thomas and golden head bowed, he knew it was him.

 

His footsteps echoed on the wooden steps as he went inside. "Who was that man?"

 

Sasha straightened. For a long moment, not a sound broke the silence. Then Sasha turned to face him. "Linus Radcliffe."

 

Radcliffe? The man was a known rake of the worst order, or at least he had been before Thomas had left London. Hot and swift, jealousy coursed through his veins at the mere thought of Radcliffe laying even one hand on Sasha, never mind whatever had necessitated buttoning his coat afterward. "You were meeting withhim?"

 

"In what fashion does it concern you?"

 

None. Thomas had no right at all to jealousy. Yet he could not deny it, and it hurt tremendously to know Sasha had left the ball to meet another man when he knew Thomas was there.

 

And in a gazebo out of doors, no less, where anyone could have walked by and seen him. Had the man no sense?

 

"Why are you here?" Sasha asked, breaching the distance between them.

 

He stopped less than a pace from Thomas. So close, the night air carried the scent of his skin, of Sasha, awaking old memories he would never forget. Had never been able to forget, no matter how he had once tried.

 

It had been so very hard, coming to terms with the feelings Sasha roused within him. He'd spent a good three years fighting them, but even working himself from dawn until past dusk for endless days managing one of his uncle's hotels had not done a bit of good to rid Sasha from his thoughts or from his heart. And the past few months… He resisted the urge to shake his head at himself. Why had he thought someone else could possibly take Sasha's place? Ridiculous, and a pathetically desperate notion.

 

But if nothing else, the time apart simply reinforced what he'd known from the first moment he'd pressed his lips to Sasha's—that there would be no one else for him.

 

"Why are you here?" Sasha demanded again.

 

"I wish to speak with you, Sasha."

 

Sasha glared at him. A shiver gripped Thomas's spine. He felt the chill in that stare, even in the darkness of the shadows. A firm reminder Thomas no longer deserved the use of the intimate name, but he couldn't bring himself to call him by his family name. The man could never be anyone but Sasha to him.

 

"About?"

 

He shrugged, distinctly uncomfortable in the face of Sasha's obvious hatred, and well deserved hatred at that. "It has been some time since we have spoken."

 

"And with good cause." Sasha flicked his fingers, an impatient little motion for Thomas to move aside. "I need to return to the ballroom."

 

He stood his ground. "I wish to speak to you."

 

The shadows from the wooden beams overhead could not mask the way Sasha's beautiful features hardened. "We have nothing to discuss."

 

"Yes, we do."

 

"No. You left me," Sasha shot back, the iron in his tone poorly masking the pain behind the words.

 

Thomas flinched. Sasha might as well have punched him in the gut, for the effect was the same. The wind knocked from his lungs, his senses left reeling.

 

© Ava March

My True Love Gave to Me

Part of the 'Men Under the Mistletoe' Holiday Anthology

Author:  Ava March

Publisher: Carina Press

Genre: Regency-set M/M erotic romance

Buy Link

Alexander Norton loathes the festive season. The revelry of the ton is a reminder of Christmas four years ago, when his first love, Thomas Bennett, broke his heart and fled to New York without a word. So when he encounters Thomas at a holiday ball, Alexander is determined not to let on how much he still hurts.

Thomas has returned for one reason only: Alexander. Having finally come to terms with his forbidden desires, he will do whatever he must to convince Alexander to give their love another chance. But instead of the happy, carefree man Thomas once knew, Alexander is now hard and cynical. Saddened to know he's to blame for the man's bitterness, Thomas resolves to reignite the passion he knows lies hidden behind the wall of disdain...

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day - Hunks: Too Hot to Touch © Marie Rochelle

Excerpt

 

Prologue

 

"I can't believe this is happening to me." Shauntie Kane watched as the water dripped down from the ceiling onto her brand new mahogany kitchen table.

 

For over a month now, she'd known about the roof leak, but she'd put getting it fixed at the bottom of her list because of demands from her job as an optometrist. She didn't think it would get this serious so rapidly. Unfortunately now, her procrastination had led to a huge puddle in the center of her table which was getting larger right before her eyes.

 

Good God! When would she have time to call a roofer to come and see about all of this? Her hectic work schedule was booked solid and this new situation only added to her tribulations. Why couldn't this have occurred when she was on vacation? No, it had to arise right now, when she was having her busiest time at work.

 

Damn, she already had enough bills to pay this month and her lucrative job as an eye doctor didn't make a bit of difference. She hatedspending extra money. From a very young age, she'd watched as her mother saved money and only spent it when necessary. Her mother's favorite saying was ‘save a penny for a rainy day.' She didn't believe in wasting money; however, her need to save money was the main reason her roof was in this condition.

 

Shauntie could only imagine the price the roofer would quote to fix the leaky roof. Without a doubt, it would probably cost an arm, leg and another one of her body parts thrown in for good measure.

 

She might actually have to take a part time job on the side to foot the bill, she thought jokingly.

 

Sighing, Shauntie took one last look at her increasing predicament before walking into the laundry room. Looking around the room, she searched for the small white bucket she'd placed there a few days ago. It wasn't the best, but it would give the water something to collect in besides on top of her table.

 

Finally, she spotted the bucket beside the dryer. Shauntie picked it up then grabbed a towel out of the dirty clothes' hamper before she left the room. Going back into the kitchen, she wiped up all of the excess water with the towel before placing the bucket directly under the steady drip.

 

There, that should take care of her problem for a while.

 

She went back into the laundry room and tossed the soaked towel into the washing machine. Tonight wasn't turning out as she expected at all. She should already be out of the house and enjoying her usual Friday night cocktail with her friends.

 

Sapphire and Emerald were probably already at the nightclub having drinks and talking about their day while waiting on her to show up. Why was she constantly the one running late when her best friends invited her out? Lately something out of the blue always seemed to come up at the last minute to keep her late at work or home.

 

In the last two months, Shauntie knew she hadn't arrived to the club on time for her girl's night, and what was worse, she was the one who arranged the get togethers.

 

Tonight, she'd finally hoped to change her bad habits by getting dressed earlier, but her idea hadn't work because here she was once again still at home trying to make it out of the front door.

 

Of course, Sapphire and Emerald weren't going to let her hear the last of this since she'd practically gloated about how she was going to beat the two of them there tonight.

 

Damn! Why did she have to brag about something she knew might not happen? Shauntie hated losing at anything and especially at something trivial like this.

 

She could have been at the club twenty minutes ago and won the bet if she hadn't needed to take care of this stupid leak. What person in their right mind wouldn't have gotten it looked at after the first sign of trouble?

 

However, like always she thought things would wait until she had the time to fix them on her schedule and that was never the case. This incident had taught her a well deserved lesson.

 

Hurrying out of the laundry room, Shauntie grabbed her stuff off the kitchen island and rushed into the living room. She did a very quick tour through her house making sure everything was locked and secured before going out the front door. She hoped her friends hadn't been waiting too long for her because Emerald would be the first one to speak up if they had. Shauntie pulled her dark blue BMW out of the driveway and headed down the street towards the nightclub where her friends were waiting. She couldn't wait until she took a sip of her first drink.

 

After the long hours she worked this week along with the two eye surgeries she'd performed yesterday, Shauntie needed something sinful to release all of the tension from her body and since there wasn't a hot, attractive guy in the picture to do it with sex, a good drink would have to suffice.

 

The thought of having a couple of drinks and a night out with her girls sounded like the perfect way to alleviate the strain that had taken control of her racing mind and tired body.

 

Shauntie couldn't wait until she got to her destination because she wanted to flirt with some good-looking guys and have a good time with her friends. This wouldn't be a problem with Sapphire or Emerald at her side since they constantly had some kind of wild and adventurous stories to help take her mind off her own pitiful dating life.

 

Her two best friends never seemed like they were ever lacking in the boyfriend department. She couldn't recall the last time either Sapphire or Emerald didn't have a date planned during the week or at least on the weekends.

 

Yes...it had been a while since a man had shared her bed or taken part of making her glad she was a woman. But did she really have to get excited this morning when an attractive guy struck up a conversation with her at the gas station while she was pumping gas.

 

How sad was she? Sheesh. What would her friends say if they knew she was lonely from lack of male companionship? One thing was for sure, Sapphire and Emerald would never find out because she wasn't about to tell them.

 

She didn't want to get dragged into one of their dating schemes again. They were always trying to find her a man and all she wanted to do was relax and have a little fun tonight.

 

©  Marie Rochelle

Hunks: Too Hot to Touch

Author: Marie Rochelle

Publisher: Phaze Books

Genre: Contemporary

Buy Link

Nash Wentworth knew it was wrong, but he couldn't help falling in love with Shauntie Kane. She was the perfect woman in his eyes: Intelligent, beautiful and independent. His life should have been perfect; however, there was one little problem. She had dated one of his friends and wasn't interested in going down the same road with him.

Shauntie Kane was as strong willed as a woman could be and didn't mind saying what was on her mind. This meant Nash had to do a lot more than use his good looks to impress her and work his way into her life.

Nash isn't turned off by Shauntie's bluntness; in fact, it is a turn on for him. Can Nash's determination make Shauntie see that he is able to handle anything she tosses his way?

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day - Home Ice © Kate Sherwood

Excerpt

 

Damn. Mike looked good. A little older, sure, but Jason had seen the guy on TV enough to expect that. And he wore his age well. Still fit, of course, and the light crinkle of lines around his eyes just made him look like he spent a lot of time smiling. No trace of gray in his light brown hair, no hint of jowls on his square jawline. The wire-rimmed glasses were new, and Jason wondered if they were really needed or if Mike was just trying to set himself apart from his playing days.

 

He remembered how he and Mike had always been compared to each other, and told how alike they looked, and wondered whether he’d held up to the years as well as his old friend. But there was no time for further speculation, because Mike was walking forward, his hand outstretched, and Jason needed to get himself in gear. “Jason. Or Coach, I guess.” A quick, easy smile. “It’s good to see you.” They shook hands and Mike raised his free hand to grasp Jason’s shoulder. It was a standard manly greeting, but Jason really didn’t want the additional contact. He made himself smile and stepped backward as soon as he could justify it.

 

“Good to see you too.” He turned to Walt Kowalchuk, the team’s General Manager, who had accompanied Mike into the room. “Walt.” A nod in acknowledgment, and Jason continued. “You’ve still got time to meet after practice?”

 

“I’ve got all the time you need, Coach. But that’s not what you’re going to ask me for, is it?” Walt was an old pro, having bounced around half the hockey world before settling in Pine River for the last few years of his career, and he was good at his job. But not good enough to always have money for Jason’s projects. He didn’t wait for an answer. “But let’s focus on the positive.” He clapped his hand on Mike’s shoulder and turned toward the anxiously hushed team. “Guys, let me introduce you to Mike Whitby. I think you may have heard of him.”

 

The tension eased a bit as the boys laughed, and then Walt continued. “He’s got some time to talk to you all today, and if we’re lucky… I notice he brought his skates with him. You guys want to practice with an NHLer?”

 

Just before the boys erupted into a puppy-like frenzy of enthusiasm, Kelly spoke up. He was an “over age” player, kept around not for his skill, but for his sheer toughness. “Did he bring his pads and a helmet too?” Kelly’s voice was cool, showing that he refused to be impressed by the visitor, and there was just enough of a challenge in it to make Jason have to hide a grin. Kelly was good for the team.

 

The Wolverines were the up-and-coming players, and they should be respectful to someone who’d already made it, but not subservient. If Mike was really going to practice with them, he should be ready to work and, yeah, ready to take a few hits. If he wasn’t, if he was just there to skate around a little, well, the team should see that for what it was.

 

But apparently Walt didn’t share Jason’s attitude, and he was frowning at Kelly before Mike spoke up. “I didn’t. I retired for a reason, you know.” He grinned, making it clear that this wasn’t a tragedy. “I’m about done taking hits from guys as tough as Kelly Dunlop.”

 

Damn, that was impressive. Mike knew the kid’s name, and Kelly was just a grinder, not a star. Jason remembered the shy, introverted kid he’d known and wondered when Mike had gotten so smooth. Wherever the skill had come from, it was certainly being used to good effect here. The team was grinning again and Kelly looked completely won over.

 

Jason needed to get the team in gear before they turned into a bunch of little girls swooning over a matinee idol. “Okay, guys, enough chat, let’s get on the ice. You can talk to Mr. Whitby after the practice.” But even with visitors in the locker room, they still had their ritual, and the boys were clearly waiting for it.

 

Jason grinned and nodded. Okay. “Where’s the game, boys?” he asked, his voice loud and ringing.

 

The answer was even louder. The boys moved as one, tapping their temples twice, then thudding a fist over their chests. “HEAD, HEAD, HEART!” they yelled in unison, and then they sprang into action. They grabbed their gear, headed out the door and Mike stood and watched them go.

 

When the last player trailed out of the locker room, Mike turned toward Jason. “‘Mr. Whitby’?” he said quietly, his eyebrow raised in amusement. “I like that. About time I got a little respect out of you.”

 

But Jason couldn’t do it, couldn’t fall back into the old rapport that easily. They’d been teammates and they’d been friends. And then, briefly, they’d been more, before it had all fallen apart. Sure, it had been a long time, but that didn’t mean Jason was over it. No, wait. He was over it, he just wasn’t… whatever. He wasn’t ready to pretend it hadn’t happened. That sounded better.

 

He sat down and pulled his own skates out of his gear bag. He just needed to focus on hockey. The game made sense and he understood it. The best thing about being on the ice had always been the way it let him leave the confusion on the other side of the glass.

 

He felt the bench move a little as someone sat next to him, and without looking up from the skate he was lacing, Jason knew it was Mike. Jesus, his voice, and now his smell. The guy must have changed colognes at some point in the last fifteen years. Jason couldn’t remember young Mike having ever worn any, actually, and now there was a faint spiciness that probably cost more than Jason made in a month. But underneath it, somehow, was Mike. Mike, who Jason was completely over, he reminded himself. Fifteen years. He was not that pathetic.

 

Mike was lacing up his own skates, but he was also clearly waiting for Jason to say something. “Welcome home,” he managed. It was stupid, of course. Mike had been back in town since the summer and it was well past Christmas now. He’d already been welcomed back by everyone who meant anything. Jason was just babbling.

 

But Mike didn’t seem to think so. He bounced a little on the old wooden bench, looked down at their skate-clad feet and grinned. “Yeah, thanks,” he said. “It’s good to be back.”

 

© Kate Sherwood

Home Ice

Author: Kate Sherwood

Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

Genre: GLBT, Erotica

Buy Link

When they were young men playing on the same hockey team, the heat between Jason and Mike had been almost enough to melt the ice they were skating on. But Mike went off to be a star in the NHL and Jason stayed behind to start his life as the dedicated, deeply closeted coach of the town’s junior hockey team.

Now Mike is back in town and Jason finds that their passion burns as hot as ever. But they’re both still in the closet, and when Jason is threatened with exposure, he freezes. The flames of desire can’t melt Jason’s fears but maybe, just maybe, the warmth of love will thaw the ice.

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day - Somewhere I Belong © Wendi Zwaduk

Excerpt

 

Chapter One

Going home never felt so good.

 

“Here’s the three-fifty I owe you.” Sullavan “Sully” Tanner handed his former band mate, Slater McGee, the seven crinkled fifty dollar bills. “Rent’s taken care of.”

 

“Gonna miss you, man.” The bald man took the cash and slid it into the front pocket of his leather vest without counting it. “You could’ve been big.”

 

“Fame wasn’t what I expected.”

 

Slater nodded and leaned back in his seat. “You lead with your heart, and I respect that.” He folded his tattoo-emblazoned arms. “What’cha want me to do with your mail?”

 

“Forward it here.” Sully pulled a folded piece of paper from his wallet. “I’m staying at the family farm with my sister until I find an apartment in Jarvis.”

 

“I’ll keep this in the safest place I know.” Slater tucked the address in with the cash and patted the pocket. “Don’t be a stranger.”

 

With a nod, Sully strolled out of the apartment and down the three flights of stairs to his car. He smiled as he gazed at the ’82 Mustang. His baby. Before getting into the banana yellow muscle car, he glanced back at the slate-colored building. Some great times had been had within the crumbling walls—jam sessions, writing sessions, laughs with friends. Then there were the black times—the drugs, the women, the booze.

 

Can a man sink lower than zero?

In his thirty-five years, he’d seen more than his share of hard living. The rock and roll scene he had built in his mind failed to meet his expectations. Or was it the other way around? More guys than he could count had burnt out trying to be somebody. When they hit rock bottom, they either got help or got out for good.

 

He tossed his bag into the backseat, and the tattoo on his inner right wrist caught his eye, reminding him of his childhood sweetheart. Marley. Despite the words in Kellie’s letter, he disregarded the ache in his chest. Marley couldn’t need him anymore.

 

He slid into the driver’s seat and the cotton T-shirt rubbed his pierced nipples when he shifted. Drawing a weary sigh, he adjusted the garment. The body art might have looked cool when he rocked on stage topless, but at thirty-five, he wasn’t so sure. At least he could take the little barbells out, unlike the tattoo on his forearm of the name of his last band. Dammit, tattoos lasted forever.

 

Putting the car into gear, he pulled into traffic and drove away from the life he’d thought he wanted.

 

Two hours passed as the radio stations across the state of New York kept him occupied on his drive down Route 80 towards Pennsylvania. He checked the clock. Nine-twenty. A yawn worked its way up his throat, and his vision blurred for a split second. Time to find a motel for the night.

 

The gold and pink light of the sunset cascaded through the window and over the cracked dashboard. Sully glanced at the tattoo on his wrist and spun the ring on his middle finger. Marley. He smiled as he thought about his best girl friend and sister-in-law. Memories flooded his system. Marley Lockwood always made him smile. He couldn’t wait to see her.

 

In the morning, he’d get down on his knees and beg for Marley’s forgiveness.

 

* * * *

 

“Ten in the morning and my last farm hand says he wants more money or he’ll quit.” Marley Lockwood raked both hands through her humidity-frizzed hair. “It can’t get worse. Strike that. It can…I just hope it doesn’t.”

 

A headache grew behind her eyes. All the things her father had worked for were slowly going up in smoke and all because she couldn’t keep help to save her life. She kicked at a larger chunk of gravel, sending the rock skittering towards the shed. Never in her thirty years had the thought of giving up crossed her mind. She hadn’t given up when the doctor diagnosed her mother with cancer. Hadn’t thrown in the towel when the same doctor diagnosed her cramps as a uterine tumor. She’d fought through the pain, the chemo, and the loss of her reproductive organs, but damn. One person could only shoulder so much, and one person certainly couldn’t run the farm. Even with Richard and Kellie next door, there was just too much work.

 

She took a deep breath, and a healthy dose of manure from the field filled her nostrils. The wildflowers lining the walkway danced in the breeze, and in the distance, the corn stalks swayed in a calming rhythm. At least she had her oldest brother and best friend, Kellie, next door. When Richard married Kellie Tanner, he took over the Tanner farm. Marley enjoyed having Sully’s baby sister so close. Being alone at the farmhouse wasn’t so bad when she could walk over to visit and gossip. Right now, Marley needed a healthy dose of gossip to get her mind off her troubles.

 

Footsteps crunched on the gravel behind her. Marley sighed. If the farm hand wanted more money for doing nothing, he could choke on a sock. “I can’t pay you another dime over four hundred a week, Thomas.”

 

“Marley?”

 

Jarred by the familiar voice, she turned. No freaking way. The object of her every sexy fantasy stood a mere three feet away. Sullavan Tanner. She stifled a shiver and pressed her thighs together. The guy knew how to get under her skin with just a look.

 

“How’ve you been, beautiful?” He held his arms open. “Give me love.”

 

“And fall for your old line?” Marley folded her arms and chuckled to hide the old feelings welling to the surface. “I’ve known you all my life. You only act slick when you want to bed a girl.” She backed up a foot, needing the room to breathe. “Keep me out of it.”

 

Sully inched towards Marley, closing the gap. His eyes softened, and he tilted his head. The very corner of his mouth crooked up. “You’re passing up a chance with me?”

 

With her index finger, Marley poked him in the chest. “Yes. I’m done with men for a while.” She snorted. Poking him wasn’t exactly payback for his walking out of her life, but in a small way, it felt liberating to keep things simple. “They’re all bad news, including you.”

 

Withdrawing a bit more, Sully put distance between them. The muscle in his jaw twitched. “Ok, you got me. Truce? At least to make things a little smoother for working?” His gaze darted back and forth. “Speaking of working…um, where is everyone? Kel said she’d be over after a bit, and Richard’s out in the front field checking corn. Is John helping out or is he now full time on the police force?”

 

“John’s full time, but he does what he can around here. Richard’s got his hands full. Your dad insisted he take over all the day-to-day stuff. ” Marley held her hands up. “So as far as everyone goes…you’re looking at her.”

 

“Her?” Sully paused. He stared at her for a long moment. “One person cannot run this farm. There’s just too much to do.”

 

“Funny, you’re the second person to come to that conclusion this morning.” She clucked her tongue and shoved her hands through her hair.

 

Sully sighed. “You’re really all alone.”

 

“No shit.” She wasn’t going to cry. Couldn’t let the stress get to her. Too many animals depended on her. Too much needed to be done. But one person couldn’t handle the load. She squared her shoulders. Might as well face the truth as well. Chin up and don’t let anyone see you crumble. “They jumped ship this morning.”

 

“Then let me help.” Sully wrapped his arms around her, giving her little chance to protest. “I know you don’t want a thing from me, and I guarantee you’ll never accept my help, so I’m insisting. I’ll beg if I have to.”

 

“Sully.” If she stayed in is embrace much longer, she’d cave and admit she needed him—but not for romance. She needed the extra hands on the farm.

 

“I don’t have anywhere else to be, and I don’t back down.”

 

“No kidding. Look, it won’t work a second time around.” She wriggled from him and closed her eyes. “You’ll hate it here.” If he’d just take the out…just walk away. She fortified the barricades around her heart and insulated her soul from letting him get too close. Close meant she’d get hurt again when he took off.

 

“Aren’t you a sparkling ray of sunshine?” He tugged her ponytail, not causing harm. Just playful, like a sibling. Always like a sibling.

 

“We can’t get along when something other than friendship is involved. When we added sex, things imploded. But I guess that doesn’t matter because you don’t have anywhere to stay.” She groaned and opened her eyes. “Kellie won’t take you. Not with three kids already under foot and another one on the way.”

 

“And here I thought you’d say you’d take me in because then you’d have 24-7 access to my slave labor and hot body.” He tipped his head and winked. “Please?”

 

Marley weighed her options. She needed the help. Desperately. Having Sully nearby meant a stable set of hands. It also meant she’d have to keep an eye on him. Sure, Kellie claimed he’d quit the drugs and the booze, but people relapsed all the time. If he hadn’t changed his ways, he’d be just as much of a liability as an asset. Worry flowed through her mind as she palmed her phone in her pocket. The most recent text message from her ex-husband, Taylor, outright demanded she sell him the farm and cut her losses. If it took her last breath, her last dollar, she wasn’t about to sell anything to Taylor. Having Sully around would provide safety. God knew she needed all the help she could get to keep her good-for-nothing ex away from the farm. Could she trust herself to keep her hands off Sully a second time?

 

When she’d needed him in the past—her mother’s death, the endless hours in the hospital—Sully had run. Why did she have to need him? Need led to heartbreak.

 

Hell.

 

“What do you say?” Sully shoved his hands into his pockets. His brows rose, as if to accentuate his question.

 

Marley took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Forget the uncertainty. Forget the anger. She needed the extra body too much. “You’d get the guest room and would do your own laundry.”

 

“Perfect,” he murmured, nodding.

 

“Not perfect.”

 

“Why?” The word came out in a purr. The smile broadened, and his eyes twinkled. “I’m at your mercy.”

 

Keeping her hands off him would be harder than saving the farm.

 

“This is a working relationship between two friends.” She sighed. “I’ll save your butt, if you save mine, but that’s as far as it goes.”

 

© Wendi Zwaduk

 

Somewhere I Belong

Author: Wendi Zwaduk

Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

Genre: Contemporary

Buy Link

Sullavan Tanner walked away from Jarvis, Ohio, afraid to give his heart to the woman he loved. He lived the rock and roll lifestyle, but never quite made it to the big time. Fifteen years later, he’s back and ready to claim what’s his—if she’ll accept his help.

Marley Lockwood’s done asking for help. The family farm is more than she can handle, but if she can survive a cancer scare, the loss of her parents, the abandonment by her first love, and a messy divorce, she can handle anything.

Until Sully shows up.

Although she’s not interested in rekindling the love affair, she’s not above accepting Sully’s hands on the farm. What’s the worst that could happen? They get the farm out of the red and into the black? That’s her plan. They actually fall in love? The past says it won’t work, so she’s not hedging her bets.

Too bad Sully’s not giving up this time.

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day - The Gallows Tree © RJ Scott

Excerpt

 

"I'm really starting to lose my shit here." Cody Garret gripped his cell phone tight.

 

"Calm down, Cody." His mom was using the patented talking-Cody-down-from-the-ledge technique they had perfected over the last few years. But she sounded wrong, and even though her voice was broken up by interference, he could sense her worry. He wished to hell he could reassure her and say he was okay.

 

"I. Can't. Calm. Down," he bit out through gritted teeth. The panic that usually stayed buried well inside him threatened to push to the surface with an insistent press of pain at his temples and a cold sweat that left him shaky.

 

"Can you count for me, darling?" Nothing was working. Not the counting or the imagining his happy place. Jeez. His happy place was so far away from being stuck here it wasn't even funny. The traffic on this road snaking around London in one big circle was his vision of hell.

 

"I've been in this tiny fricking Toyota for six hours, Mom, and in the last hour we've gone four miles. Four."

 

"Has there been an accident or something?"

 

"I can't see. I'm just in a line of freaking stopped cars."

 

"Can't you turn off from the road you're on? Maybe take a back road?" He knew his mom was trying to help, but he'd thought all this already.

 

"I'm in between turnoffs; I'm stuck where I am."

 

"Okay. Do you need me to get Anna?" Anna was the only other person outside of his mom that had a handle on these panic attacks, but the last thing he wanted was for his heavily pregnant sister to have to deal with his crap. His mom had managed to throw the equivalent of ice water at him with that simple question.

 

"No," he said quickly. "I'll be fine. Listen. I'm--breathing."

 

"Cody—"

 

"The lights are changing ahead," he lied convincingly. "I'll call you."

 

"Cody, promise me you'll pull over if this gets worse."

 

"I promise." He disconnected the call. Tears choked his throat, and he wondered what the guy in the Lotus next to him would think if he saw Cody beat his head against the steering wheel. Claustrophobia and anxiety clawed inside him like a wild animal wanting to escape a cage, and he was willing to do anything to clear his head. Even give himself a concussion.

 

Both front windows were fully down, and the car blower was on full blast, but it wasn't enough air. He considered climbing out of the car and standing on the M25 just to feel something except the metal box around him. The noise of a horn snapped through the fog in his head, and he realized the cars in front of him were actually moving. Slowly, but moving. Shaking with tension and desperate to just get the hell off this road, he pressed lightly enough on the accelerator to join this crawling snake of steel as it carved its way through flat green countryside closer to where he needed to be. Pain banded his head, and he focused on the tension in his shoulders and neck that was causing the headache. He had to concentrate on relaxing, but dizziness assailed him. It took all his concentration to keep the car on the damn road at five miles an hour.

 

Finally the sign for the exit was by the side of his car. Then he passed it, and it was a way back, and then before he had even gotten control of his breathing, he was off from the static parking lot that was the London orbital and onto a new motorway heading north from the city.

 

Thankfully whatever was stopping the traffic on the M25 didn't appear to exist on this new road. He pressed his foot to the floor, and incredibly air was inside the car, whipping his too-long bangs around his face. The air coming into the car was heavy with heat; he didn't remember reading anywhere that England was supposed to have a heat wave in October and not for the first time he wished he had done more research. Not caring where it took him, he decided he needed to be off this road and took the first exit off of the M1. Turning onto a quieter road, he took a left, then a right, and finally found a place to pull over.

 

Almost like his mother knew he'd managed to find a way through the metal hell, his cell rang, and he saw it was her. He answered on the third ring as he clambered out of the small car and inhaled great lungfuls of air.

 

"Cody?" She sounded as anxious as he felt.

 

"I'm okay," he said quickly. "Sorry. I'm okay," he repeated. The last was more for his own sake than his mom's. He needed to tell himself he was moving through to the other side of the attack and that he would stay well and sane.

 

"Cody, you made this decision too soon. I wish you had waited—"

 

"I couldn't wait, Mom," he interrupted quickly. He was so not ready for this conversation again. How the hell could anyone expect him to stay in Baltimore when there was a chance he could see Vince again?

 

"What if the notes weren't from him, Cody? You should have taken them to the police…"

 

Cody closed his eyes tight against the midday sun that burned through his thin jacket and made him sweat. He wished he could take it off, but his fair skin needed to stay covered; it burned too quickly. He listened to his mom as she listed all the things that he should maybe have done. He knew all the what-ifs. His mind played them over and over again. What if he hadn't met Vince Antonelli? What if he hadn't gone home with him? What if Vince hadn't done just enough for a younger more impressionable Cody to fall in love? Would any of it have happened? Or was Cody Garret predestined to always be some man's punching bag?

 

© RJ Scott

The Gallows Tree

Author: RJ Scott

Publisher: Cobblestone Press

Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Romance, Suspense/Mystery

Buy Link

Cody Garret is only just finding his way after an abusive relationship ended with his ex in prison. Coming to England to restore Mill Cottage is his way of running so he has time to heal. His goal is simple—hire a company to help make the mill cottage saleable then go back to the States.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Sebastian Toulson-Brown, the brother of his contractor and the man who may be able to show him he can stop running.

But first Cody and Sebastian must deal with the ghosts of lost loves and the destinies that are woven into the story of the mill and the sycamore trees that stand on its land, one of which might be the gallows tree.

Read rest of entry

Excerpt Day - Untamed Kiss © Joyce Palmer

Excerpt

 

 

Chapter One

 

Katie Benson closed her eyes as she pressed her head against the cushioned pedicure chair, the strong scents of acrylic and nail polish less offensive after being in this salon for three long hours. Having had highlights and a trim, as well as a manicure and now a pedicure, she was more than ready to finish up this pampering session. If she could just get the butterflies to stop fluttering around in her stomach, she’d be good to go.

 

“Tell me again why we’re having a spa day in the middle of the week.” Her best friend, Piper Drake, spoke from the adjoining recliner. Piper’s shiny auburn hair cascaded in long ribbons over her freckled shoulders.

 

“Blake is coming.” Katie anticipated Piper’s reaction, having told her everything about her past before moving to Edison Bay, the small sunny Florida town on the southwestern Gulf Coast.

 

Piper’s eyes grew round. “Blake, the award-winning kisser and bodyguard?” She fanned her face with her hand.

 

Mention of that one and only kiss with Blake made Katie’s heart flutter, and she pressed her hand over her chest, careful not to smear her French tips. “Well, he isn’t exactly a bodyguard anymore. Blake is director of security for my dad now. He spends his time managing everyone else’s business.” Including hers apparently.

 

“Your dad is a mega-land developer, so it’s understandable to have security issues.” Piper scrutinized her manicure, then bent her fingers to blow on the tips. “He’s been very successful, and there are a lot of people who would like to see him fail. That’s just part of business, I imagine.”

 

Katie’s brow twitched. She wondered how much her dad and Piper had talked when she’d taken her best friend home with her last Christmas. “We used to get threats all the time. Mostly from his competition or someone opposed to one of his development projects.”

 

Katie remembered a time when she and her brother hadn’t been allowed to leave the house, not even to go to school. A wild group of rabid protestors made a threat of some kind. She quivered at the memory, despite not knowing all the details. It had been a scary period just before Blake came into their lives.

 

Piper nodded. “People always resist change, even when it’s progress and beneficial to the economy.”

 

Katie knew her father had tried to keep bad things from her and her brother in an attempt to reduce their fears. He’d often commented he didn’t want timid kids. Probably one of the reasons she as an adult enjoyed her independence so much.

 

Security concerns had been part of Katie’s life for a long time. Not until college did she realize most families didn’t employ bodyguards.

 

Reminded of bodyguards, she shuddered, still mortified ten years later by her brazenness the night she’d tried to seduce Blake in the swimming pool.

 

“Do you know why Blake is coming?” A flush washed over Piper’s face, which Katie thought odd but didn’t question. With Piper’s fair skin, even a queasy stomach showed on her face. Katie had learned not to read too much into Piper’s expressions.

 

“I have no idea.” Katie swallowed over the lump in her throat. “Dad just called and said to have my guest bedroom ready for him.” How was she ever going to be able to sleep with Blake Malone in the next room?

 

“Oh my God! He’s going to be staying with you? In your house?” Piper ratcheted the tension with her animation.

 

Katie’s stomach lurched. “I haven’t seen him since my brother’s wedding five years ago. We’ve only talked on the phone a few times since then.” How could Dad do this to me? For almost ten years, her father had given her freedom to live her life as she saw fit and without interference.

 

“You can’t think of a reason why he’s coming now?” Piper gave her a curious gaze.

 

Katie squirmed, and her pedicurist grumbled, slapping her leg. Jeez, why’d she think this would be relaxing? As soon as the coral-colored polish dried, she and Piper could blow this joint.

 

“I’m afraid he might have found out about Nathan the loon.” Not a good thing for her independence. Her father would freak out and insist she come home, no matter how old or how long she had successfully taken care of herself. “I don’t know how, but it’s the only explanation, unless he’s coming for some other business reason. But then I don’t know why he wouldn’t be staying in a hotel if that were the case.”

 

When her comments met with silence from the adjoining chair, she glanced at Piper’s face. The peachy hue was a deeper shade.

 

Katie’s forehead tightened, and her eyes widened as the explanation dawned. “You called my dad?” Anger washed over her chest and up her neck. She gripped the armrest and draped her free foot over to the side of the chair, more than ready to put some distance between her and Piper.

 

“Katie.” Guilt laced Piper’s voice. “Nathan is dangerous. He’s stalking you. Anyone who keeps calling in the middle of the night, even when you’ve told him you’re not interested, is obsessed.” She frowned, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. “Not to mention all those crazy notes he’s left on your desk and car.” She drew a deep breath. “I’m worried.”

 

The pedicurist capped the polish, smiled as if not in the least interested in their conversation, rolled her short stool back, and got up. Katie pulled her other foot off the padded footrest and hobbled over to the drying station, purple foam-rubber toe separators in place.

 

Nathan McDonald was a pain in the ass, but he wasn’t a stalker, maybe just a little thickheaded and pitiful. Katie should never have led him on by being nice to him in the staff lounge that first day of school last year. His chasing had been going on for almost two years, and it was getting rather bothersome.

 

Katie shook her head, perturbed. “I can’t believe you’d call my dad without talking to me first.” Betrayal lanced her heart. “You’re my best friend. You’re supposed to be on my side. You know how domineering my dad is. I told you.” Her jaw tightened. “This is the last thing he needed to know.”

 

She should have never taken Piper home and introduced her to the family. They’d become good friends in college and even closer since, so she’d wanted them all to meet. For some reason Piper and her father had hit it off right away. Probably because he saw a way to spy on his daughter through Piper, and her best friend had fallen right into his trap.

 

“I am on your side,” Piper whispered as she joined Katie, easing her feet beneath the heat lamp. “That’s why I called. If something happened to you, I’d never forgive myself if I hadn’t tried to get help.”

 

Katie gave Piper the evil eye. “You’re in hot water, young lady.” She knew Piper meant well, so she’d have to forgive her meddling. But not before making her grovel a bit.

 

Piper snorted. “What else is new? Everyone seems to be mad at me today.” She frowned.

 

“Honestly,” Katie said. “I think everyone is overreacting.” Piper’s boyfriend, Carl, had made his opinion known two nights ago while they’d been out and Nathan had shown up, making everyone uncomfortable. Carl was as protective and bossy as the rest of the men in Katie’s world.

 

Nathan’s inability to comprehend rejection made him appear odd. Katie had told him outright she wasn’t romantically interested in him. He didn’t seem to trust she knew her own mind. But she didn’t think he was dangerous.

 

Forcing her mind away from the stressful situation with her unwanted admirer, Katie directed her attention at Piper. “What are you and Carl fighting about now?”

 

Piper let out an audible sigh, obviously glad for the change in subject. “Oh, as usual, it’s something stupid. I forgot to lock my car door last night.” She flipped her hands in the air. “He always makes a big deal out of everything. Nobody broke in. Nothing was stolen. You’d think Jack the Ripper was waiting in my backseat for all the fuss Carl made this morning.”

 

“Well, you are both redheads with fiery tempers.”

 

“Ah, thanks for reminding me, Blondie,” Piper shot back.

 

“Anyway, I think I’m dry.” Katie bent and removed the rubber from between her toes. “Let’s go get a cappuccino. You’re buying as punishment for snitching to my dad.”

 

Piper snorted. “Okay. But I need to be home in time to finish grading my third graders’ spelling tests before Carl gets off duty.” Carl was a deputy sheriff. “I’m kissing ass by making him a good dinner.” She gave a slight smirk. “And he told me to prepare to be disciplined for misbehaving and not following the rules.” Her eyebrows pumped.

 

Katie laughed, a wave of envy brushed over her chest. She would love to have a relationship like her friends shared. “I’m supposed to play cards tonight at the nursing home, but I guess I’ll have to cancel since Blake’s coming.” She mentally went over what needed to be done before he arrived. The guest room stayed ready, but she’d dusted, vacuumed, and added a few fresh Plug-ins before she grabbed the stack of graded essays for her high school English Lit class and headed to work this morning.

 

“If I didn’t have paperwork and make up sex, I’d take your place.” Piper giggled with a devilish spark in her beautiful copper-colored eyes. “You do realize that’s why Carl and I fight so much.”

 

“Ah, now I get it.” Katie chuckled. “If only we could all be so lucky.” She’d take any kind of sex with Blake, make up or otherwise.

 

“Maybe Blake will be more susceptible now that you’re a grown-up and no longer living at home.”

 

Katie rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to hold my breath. That man is made of steel. He doesn’t bend. Or at least he didn’t when we lived together.”

 

“That’s right. You were raised on a big estate with everyone living close to the main house.” Piper shook her head. “I still find that fascinating. You grew up so different than I did. Yet we’re so much alike. We’re even attracted to the same kind of strong, masculine men.”

 

Katie snorted. “Trust me. My life wasn’t always a bowl of cherries. Blake slept in the guesthouse off the pool. I couldn’t sneak out without him hearing me.” She giggled. “I tried a few times though. But he’d always catch me and send me back to my room like a naughty child. He was such a pain in my neck back then. But once my hormones kicked in, my opinion of him changed unfortunately.”

 

“It’s been ten years since the kiss incident when you were seventeen. Don’t be so sure he’ll be as hard to move—” Piper’s lips lifted in a grin “—emotionally I mean. He’d be thirty-eight to your twenty-seven now. Sometimes age softens people, and the difference isn’t as consequential.”

 

“Maybe,” Katie conceded. They’d labeled her seduction attempt the “kiss incident” after she’d first told Piper. Every time she had a disappointing romance—which happened often—Piper reminded her she’d been ruined by Blake’s kiss that night in the swimming pool. Well, duh.

 

Every man she’d ever dated had to live up to her fantasy lover, Blake Malone. Not only was it unfair to her boyfriends, it was an unrealistic expectation. Even Blake himself, in all likelihood, couldn’t live up to her fantasies of him.

 

“I’m not giving him a chance to reject me again.” She shivered. “But I can’t help wishing he were as attracted to me as I’ve always been to him. There isn’t a man on this earth that moistens my panties like Blake Malone. I bet he’s only gotten sexier with age. I wonder if he has gray hair.”

 

Piper laughed. “Thirty-eight isn’t old. I bet he’ll light your fire even more so now that you have more experience to compare him with and your body parts are fully matured.”

 

“Ha! If that’s true, I might go up in flames. Because he used to get me pretty damn hot, even with my teen-age body parts.”

 

Piper roared with laughter, flipping her hair over her shoulder as they exited the salon. “Such a drama queen.”

 

“Well, takes one to know one.” She smacked Piper on the arm, maneuvering through the throng of late-afternoon shoppers. “There’s no lack of theatrics in your life either.”

 

They laughed and continued toward the Starbucks kiosk.

 

* * * * *

 

Blake Malone pulled his pickup truck into Katie Benson’s driveway with mixed emotions. As he killed the engine, opened his door, and stepped out, he glanced around the surroundings. At dusk, darkness had slowly rolled in and crickets chirped. A blanket of warm humidity covered his skin.

 

He drew a deep breath of thick, murky air as the strain from driving three hundred miles was replaced by another kind of tension. He and Katie had finally reached the end of avoidance. The moment their past confronted the present.

 

It had been ten long years since he’d almost made the biggest blunder of his life. Well, the second most disastrous mistake. The first—getting himself shot by the gunman high on PCP he’d pulled over for speeding almost fifteen years ago—ended his barely begun law enforcement career.

 

He brushed his palms over his jeans and shook his head in self-reproach. This wasn’t the time to rehash old failures. He needed a clear head for the job he’d come to do.

 

Katie’s father, Thomas, had done a good job making up for the absence of a mother with both his kids. Hell, he’d done a pretty good job with Blake, if truth were known.

 

At twenty-four, Blake had been living a nightmare when the Bensons took him in. They’d hired him on the spot to act as personal bodyguard for the family.

 

After a rough childhood of always getting into trouble at school or with one foster family or another, Blake had finally settled down to the career of his dreams.

 

Thanks to a few good people, he was on the right track for the first time in his life. He finished the academy at the top of his class and was working hard to advance his police career.

 

One fateful night had ended it all.

 

He’d landed in the hospital clinging to life, shot three times. Forced into an early retirement, he’d met Thomas Benson through a mutual friend, and the rest was history.

 

Pushing his thoughts back to the present, he focused on Katie’s quaint, suburban neighborhood. There were houses on every side and few vacant lots. He was pleased to see the yards neatly trimmed without dense patches of wild growth. He inhaled the scent of fresh-cut grass.

 

The neighborhood looked to be filled with working-class families. It wasn’t home to the upper crust, which Katie could well afford. Swing sets in backyards and basketball hoops decorated a few of the driveways. Laughter of children playing and the sound of pots clanking as mothers prepared dinner came from every angle. This was the epitome of the average American family.

 

Her brother, Garrett, and his wife lived in a fancy house securely set in an elegantly designed gated community. Katie was clearly making a statement by choosing to live on her teaching salary instead of her trust fund.

 

Admiration for her grew. He’d known she was unique but seeing the difference firsthand made it more tangible. His heart swelled, and he tamped the riotous emotions elicited by the reality of Katie Benson.

 

Forcing his mind back to business, discomfort niggled as he tried to envision her residence from the eyes of a predator. Blake regretted waiting so long to come for a visit. Especially after he’d learned from his boss that she’d been on a mission to find Mr. Right.

 

He wondered if Katie knew her friend, Piper, had become so chummy with her father. From what had been relayed to him, Piper sounded like a regular motor mouth. Blake chuckled.

 

Staying away was intentional. He wanted the infatuation they’d both been toying with to die out. At the time, his back had been shoved against the wall, and he’d responded by convincing her he didn’t care, a complete falsehood. He swallowed the bitter taste.Not one of your finer moments, Malone.

 

Eleven years was too big an age gap, not to mention her father being his employer. It might have been unwise to break all ties, though. Maybe if they’d remained close friends, she would have confided in him, and he could have advised her not to get involved with this McDonald character.

 

Blake should have been running background checks on all Katie’s companions. Why Thomas Benson hadn’t insisted, he still didn’t understand. He’d made a remark about severing the umbilical cord or some such nonsense. Blake had definitely missed something between his boss and Katie before she’d gone off to school.

 

Thomas had always been protective of his family. Blake knew he still kept tabs on his daughter. He just insisted on being less obvious. That’s why Blake had a job. Nevertheless, Katie shouldn’t have to deal with unwelcomed pursuit by any man. No woman should.

 

Katie had always been too friendly for her own good. Her kindheartedness made her vulnerable. But that was about to change. If he had anything to say about it, she’d agree to come home to her father’s estate, and then Blake could keep a proper eye on her. He’d given himself a week to convince her. School would be out on break in a month or so. Maybe she could get a transfer. He hadn’t thought that far ahead, deciding to master one hurdle at a time.

 

The sound of an electronic garage door opening snagged his attention, and he turned to see her step out and walk toward his truck.

 

A shot of adrenaline pulsed through his veins, and his dick stiffened. Holy shit! He swallowed the saliva before he drooled. She was even more beautiful than she’d been at Garrett’s wedding five years earlier.

 

Her light brown hair was longer and shined with blonde streaks. It flowed over her sun-kissed shoulders in silky waves. She had on pink shorts and a white tank top. A pair of mint green flip-flops separated her feet from the ground. Her toenails were painted pinkish orange.

 

He battled to contain the urge to devour the luscious little package bouncing toward him.

 

“Are you going to stand out here all night?” she asked, giving him a sassy grin. Her sea blue eyes sparkled with mischief.

 

He took a step toward her. “I thought I might.” He smiled, leaned down, and gave her a hug, keeping his hips back so she wouldn’t notice his boner. He kissed her on the cheek then brushed his hand over her hair before letting her go.

 

She smelled freshly showered and feminine with a light, floral scent, and his cock hardened further, straining against his jeans.

 

“What were you doing out here?” She fiddled with her wristwatch, a sure sign of nervousness, while she backed away a few inches.

 

He glanced at her house, then the two on either side. “I was taking in your homestead.” He grinned. “You have a nice house. The neighborhood looks decent enough.”

 

“Really?” She tilted her head and raised her brow, reminding him of her playful personality. “I thought you’d prefer I live in a pompous, gated community like Garrett.”

 

He didn’t expect her to be easy on him. She never had before. “I would. But at least you don’t live out in the woods with no neighbors to watch out for you.”

 

She nodded. “I like it here. All my neighbors are nice. We watch out for each other.” Her hand tapped his elbow, and she led him into the garage. “You can park your truck in here if you want. There’s plenty of room.”

 

A large two-car garage attached to one end of the house held her small car. There was a neat line of shelving on one wall stacked with boxes and various items.

 

“Okay. I’ll move it in a bit.” He was eager to see inside her house. The scent of Italian sauce drifted through the air. “Did you make dinner? Something smells good.”

 

She smiled and opened the interior door, leading him into the kitchen. “Yes, I made spaghetti.”

 

“Mmm. I’m starved.” Maybe this wouldn’t be so tough after all. She seemed to be treating him with the comfort of old friends, inviting him into her home.

 

“I just have to make the pasta and heat up the garlic bread. Let me give you a quick tour, and then you can go move your truck and bring in your suitcase.” She led him through the house.

 

The interior was bigger than it looked from the outside. A set of sliding glass doors led out to the patio. “You always did like to cook.” He grinned.

 

Her home was welcoming, decorated in earth tones. The kitchen, elegantly modern with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, opened to a great room of comfortable looking furniture. An entertainment center with a flatscreen television and stereo equipment covered one wall. Mild pop music played softly, soothing the nerves after a hard day’s work. Scented candles flickered on the low oak coffee table.

 

Family photos decorated the shelves on either side of the television. He was surprised to see his picture among several of the shots. She apparently wasn’t too put out with him if she wanted to look at his mug every day.

 

She filled a large pot with water and placed it on the stove. “You can thank Maria for teaching me how to cook. Tonight’s dinner is her recipe.” He knew the Bensons housekeeper, Maria, was like a mother to Garrett and Katie. Their own mother ran off with a younger man before Blake came to work for them.

 

He placed his palm over his stomach. “Now I’m really anticipating the meal. No one cooks like our Maria.”

 

Katie scrunched her nose. “Wait until you taste my cooking.” Her lips turned up in a grin. “You might be surprised how much improvement can be made with ten years of practice.”

 

Just like that, the tension in the room sizzled. He didn’t want to think she referred to sexual practice, reminding him of her virginal state that blasted night. He chose to ignore her remark and continued to roam around the great room, admiring her house. “Your home is very nice, Katie.” He smiled. “I’m proud of you.”

 

She blushed. “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” She led him down a short hallway to the guest bedroom.

 

Pointing across the hall, she said, “The bathroom is over there, and this is your room.”

 

White plantation shutters covered two large windows bordered with floral curtains that matched the thick comforter on the oak framed queen-size bed. Two nightstands with a matching dresser and a lounge chair completed the furnishings. The scent of berries gave the room a clean, fresh ambiance, as if this were a luxury hotel.

 

Blake grinned. Some things were imbedded in one’s makeup. You could take the girl out of the indulgence, but you couldn’t take the luxury out of the girl.

 

“So.” She fidgeted with her watch as her weight shifted from one foot to the other. “Do you want to move your truck and get your stuff?”

 

“Sure.” Blake sensed a smattering of tension remained between them. Once, they had been the best of friends. He’d like nothing more than to see that relationship restored.

 

He went outside while she finished preparing dinner. Now that they’d made it through this first meeting, Blake was confident they’d get more comfortable as time went by. He wasn’t so certain his cock would agree. He braced himself for a long week of torture and plenty of cold showers.

 

© Joyce Palmer

 

Untamed Kiss

Author: Joyce Palmer

Publisher: Cobblestone Press

Genre: Contemporary/Suspense

Buy Link

Katie Benson left her life of privilege to become a high school teacher a few hundred miles from home. If only she could find a man who lights the flames of her desire as well as her former bodyguard, life would be complete.

Benson Security Director, Blake Malone has kept the little princess at arms length out of self-preservation after one night of almost crossing the line, ten years ago.

An unwanted admirer forces the two, with unfinished personal business, into close quarters where the spark of attraction continues to ignite, this time the boundaries of propriety are blurred.

Read rest of entry

Monday, 2 January 2012

Re: A PRIVATE MATTER by Kathleen O'Connor

A PRIVATE MATTER by Kathleen O'Connor - Click Image to Close

A PRIVATE MATTER

Kathleen O'Connor

http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Detective Mitch Gallagher is spending a lot of time at the Rayex Corporation. He is obsessed with finding the killer of David Forjane and believes the murder’s proximity to the victim’s workplace is the key clue. He and his overbearing partner, Sandy Sclafani, investigate all of David’s coworkers in the Public Relations Department at Rayex.

The two find the chemical company to be a sterile, competitive place where the victim was undercutting his bosses’ authority and pushing subordinates to perform beyond their limits. But the detectives don’t find sufficient motivation that would have prompted a Rayex employee to kill David Forjane on a lonely access road.

Complicating the investigation even further is new hire Tess McConnell. Gallagher finds his every overture to the Celtic beauty either clumsy, ill timed or filled with miscommunications. But together these two will solve a murder and forge a lasting bond that is no accident.

Read rest of entry