Thursday, March 31, 2022

Prince Of Granola by L.A. Sartor



Watching Anthony Bourdain on TV as he explored an exotic white cacao plantation set me on my journey to pen Prince Of Granola. I learned an amazing amount of information about the cultivation and harvest of this vital bean. After all, without it, we don’t have chocolate. And while the white cacao bean doesn’t make white chocolate, despite its name, it is deeply flavored, pure and very costly. Perfect for a rivalry.

I had a great mentor show me how to make chocolate, from grinding the beans to adding the right amount of sugar and how to temper it. It’s a complex art, and I loved watching the masters create gourmet, small batch chocolate.

 While this book is currently the only book in the series, I’ve been getting feedback from my readers on which two characters they want to see next. Please let me know once you’ve read it.






The fabled Costa Rican Plantation of White Treasure, source of the rarest form of Cacao bean, is up for sale. Though two fierce competitors have been invited to bid on it, only one can win.

For Drew Hopkins, purchasing the plantation is the perfect solution to escape a life she never wanted.

For Robert Prince, it’s the perfect route to revenge.

Drew, the founder’s daughter and now CEO of HH Chocolates, heads a company whose sales are waning. Robert, CEO of Prince Organics, a man driven by excellence, despises everything labeled Hopkins.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Will their forced proximity at the lush and exotic plantation rekindle old flames, or will it fan the fires of antagonism?


About the Author:
I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author …specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk …grammar.

That English teacher stopped my writing for years. But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life. Email me at I’d love to hear from you. My website is My books are there as well as a signup for my mailing list. You can also find me on social media at the following places: twitter | facebook | facebook author | blog | bookbub | goodreads | pinterest | instagram |youtube




Friday, March 25, 2022

Read an Excerpt from the New Release Renegade: Mayhem on the Mountain by Taylor Lee

$0.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


The vicious double murder in the city’s most infamous brothel, followed by the disappearance of a young Native woman later found raped and beaten to death tear the already simmering county apart.

Cal Begay, the formidable county sheriff, knows that the likely perpetrators are the wealthy kingmakers and political zealots determined to turn his county into a raging inferno. And, not coincidentally, take down their real target…the cocky Native American sheriff...him.

Cal would have reveled in the battle knowing how unlikely it was the reprobates could succeed. Unfortunately he knew if they couldn’t take him down they’d go after Scarlett, the woman he admitted he was falling in love with.

Belying her image of the blonde bombshell media darling, Scarlett confessed she was a neophyte in the amorous arena. Unlike the accomplished sheriff whose reputation as a rake of the first order was unparalleled, she felt woefully inadequate, not sure how she could ever measure up to the storied lover.

In a county ravished by violent racial and political unrest, the two superstars struggle to defeat the powerful perpetrators…while trying to decide if they can meet a more challenging task. To give into a passion more intense, more demanding than either have faced in their go-it-alone, star-studded lives.

If brazen media stars, tough-as-nails lawmen, and scorching passion light your fire, dive into Taylor Lee’s sizzling new thrill ride. Discover how challenging murder and anarchy can be when sex and passion are in the mix. Grab Renegade: Book 2; Mayhem on the Mountain today and prepare to be wowed!


Amid a chorus of riotous applause, the audience rose to their feet as Cal strode to the stage.  His slim dress trousers and tailored jacket over a white silk shirt open at the collar, underscored his tall muscular frame.  A braided leather thong captured his thick dark hair at the nape of his neck but couldn’t contain the unruly locks that hung over his forehead. The sheriff’s badge clipped to his belt confirmed his status. Sauntering over to the media team, he shook each of their hands and given Herschel Myer’s flushed frown, murmured what was sure to be an impertinent salute. Reaching for Boone Marshall, he pulled him into a two armed hug that the elderly man reciprocated. Sharing a private message, Boone nodded and gripped his arm for a long moment. He shook hands with Mateo Hale and Dane Stallard then lifted an arrogant hand to the diminutive governor who’d stepped back at the advance of the compelling arriver. Standing next to Scarlet, he smiled at her but didn’t reach for her.  Instead, he stepped up to the microphone, his opening salvo declaring the parameters of the upcoming skirmish. 

Acknowledging the applause with a nod, he put up his hand and grinned. “Governor Steelton, honored guests, and my colleagues and friends on the stage, thank you for your gracious acknowledgement.”  He shot Scarlett a sly smile and knowing wink. “I’ll deal with you in a moment.  But, first, to those of you who admire me, and hell, even like me, thank you. I’m delighted you are here. As for the rest of you who did your damndest not to boo when Scarlett acknowledged my role in the uprising that came close to crippling our county and state, thank you for coming.  To celebrate our media superstar, if for nothing else. I appreciate this opportunity to thank all of you... and to warn you. Ladies and gentlemen, if not for this young woman’s daring exposé , my county and, yes, our state, came close to being overtaken by an armed insurrection. An attempted coup led by a group of evil men and women intent on demolishing our democracy. At base, a small claque of evil charlatans believed their vast financial resources and, in several egregious instances, their high elected offices, were powerful enough to pull off an insurrection.”  He paused for a long moment. “As I said at the time, ‘not in my county’.  Given that the threat from these domestic terrorists is far from over, let me expand that declaration. ‘Not in my county, my state, or my country.” 

Letting the tense silence reign, Cal slowly allowed his iron hard gaze to morph into a provocative smile. Holding out his hand he nodded to Scarlett.  “Enough of madness and mayhem, let’s talk about you.” When she tentatively moved toward him, he reached for her hand and tugged her next to him. “I appreciate that you acknowledged our formidable law enforcement team, but let’s be clear who is the real hero ... make that heroine, of this enterprise.  It happens to be a young woman who has wrapped every man she’s met around her little finger. From her beloved grandfather to her media team, and even members of my formidable squad of fierce lawmen.  In the process, and against repeated warnings from yours truly, she barreled forward and pulled off a media triumph worthy of the national awards she won. Which is not to say that she and I didn’t have -- a number of challenging discussions....”  He acknowledged the laughter and cheers with a cocky grin. “I’m glad that we were able to agree it was her way or the highway... as long as it was my highway she was riding on.” Again, he waited for the laughter then turned her toward him. Lifting her chin, he held  her gaze. “That said, Scarlett, I’m in awe of you. Your courage, your fierceness and hell, yes, your beauty. You are a formidable woman.  I’m pleased to say that no one knows and appreciates that more than I do.” When he leaned down and kissed her cheek, the resounding applause was deafening.


Shepherd Hargreaves angled over to where Governor Steelton was talking with acting attorney general Milton Moore and Bruce Evans, a member of the governor’s inner circle known for his shrewd advice and deep pockets.  “Mind if I join you gentlemen?” At the governor’s nod, Shep shrugged.  “May I presume you are discussing one of two things?  That gorgeous woman whose delectable ass I’ve seen only in my most erotic dreams or that obnoxious man who in my view needs to be taken down a peg or three.”

Evans laughed.  “Hey, Shep, why beat around the bush.  Come right to the point.  Besides how the hell could any guy in this room not be talking about Boone Marshall’s granddaughter?   She’s gorgeous and the only thing that competes with her delectable ass is her righteous rack.”

“Speaking of not beating around the bush....”  Moore snorted. “Not that I would consider dismissing that beautiful young woman but frankly I think a more necessary topic of conversation is that too fuckin’ sure of himself county sheriff.”

 “Interesting, Milt.  You just underscored the issue we’re facing.  For Christ’s sake, Calian Begay is a fucking county sheriff who’s been in office all of six months. And is the grandson of a goddammed Indian chief to boot.” Shepherd Hargreaves snorted. “Yet we are all treating him like the second coming of Christ.”

Moore’s deep frown scored his brow. “And therein lies the challenge. Face it. Given his connections to the FBI and his special ops creds, Calian Begay, make that, Sheriff Calian Begay, is the most formidable rising political star in the state.”

Governor Steelton spoke for the first time. “It would be hard to ignore Cal under the best of circumstances.  He’s that impressive. Smart as hell and the media can’t get enough of him. Given the issues we’re facing, this moment seems to be tailor-made for an ambitious political new-comer.  Particularly one backed up the ass by none other than Boone Marshall.”

After a long moment, Bruce Evans broke the challenged silence.  Turning to the governor he said carefully, “I know that you like Begay, Governor.  And in truth, he’s hard not to like. He is damn good looking and irreverent.  Cocky doesn’t begin to describe him. However, at least in my mind, his newfound fame seems to have gone to his head.  Hell, now he’s not only decreeing what will or will not happen in his county, he’s claiming to control the whole fucking state and country.”  He guffawed.  “Bit of an overreach wouldn’t you say for a guy who less than a year ago was a political nonentity?”

The governor shrugged and glanced at his watch.  “I trust you will forgive me.  Inopportune as it is at this moment, I’m due for a media shoot with Scarlett and her team.  And yes, Sheriff Begay will be participating.” He turned to Moore. “I like your idea of scheduling a meeting to discuss the issues we’re facing regarding the insurrection.  The fact that Cal, Chief Hale, and Agent Stallard are here is propitious.  At the press availability I will ask them to stay overnight so that we can meet in the morning.” 

Waiting until the governor was out of earshot, Shepherd Hargreaves was curt. “Look, we all know the governor is nowhere near where we are on Begay and all that he represents. That raises the question. Make that questions. Where the fuck did he come from?  And how did he get to where he is today?” He hesitated then added with a grunt, “And more important, where does the self-righteous, cocky Injun think he’s going to go next?”

Secretary of State Whitney Chabot, the third ranking government official in the state, sidled up to the engaged group. Tossing her long dark mane, Whitney grinned at the coterie of political hotshots who stepped back making room for her in their clique. She tossed her head and said with a throaty laugh, “From the concerned expressions on all of your faces, I can imagine what you fellows are stressing over.” She held up her hand.  “Uh-uh, don’t tell me.  Let me guess. It’s a given whatever has shoved pokers up your gold-plated asses has to do with the superlative county sheriff.” At their snorts and aggrieved nods, she pricked at them. “Clearly you’ve all conceded that Sheriff Begay is on a trajectory to the political summit and to make it worse, has captured the un-capturable blonde bombshell on his way to the top.”  She shrugged. “You’re probably correct.  At least as for him climbing the political summit. Where you are wrong is when it comes to his libido.  Hear me, gentlemen, and hear me well. The last thing Calian Begay will do is settle for one woman.”  She added with a dismissive sniff, “No matter how hot she thinks she is.” She met their disbelieving frowns with a salacious smile. “Before you dismiss my assertion, no doubt assuming any guy who could capture that snazzy slut would never look at another woman.  Sorry gents.  Not so. And if you don’t believe me, know that I have ‘been there, done that’ creds. I’m confident I’m the only one among us who’s slept with the guy.... Which is far too nice a way to describe my memorable minutes of ecstasy with the brown-skinned Casanova. Make that several ecstatic forays.  Point being, any woman --- and there are lots of us, lucky enough to spend intimate time with him knows that Native America hunk ain’t gonna take his hot ass off the market.  With his equipment and expertise?  Not a chance, no matter how enticing the blonde hussy is.”

Shepherd broke the abashed silence of the clearly chagrined men and aimed for irony. “Well, at least you have taken the issue of Scarlett off the table.  Good to know. Because I intend to take advantage of the sheriff’s roving eye and apparently rapacious dick to get to know the lovely blonde starlet.”

 “Fuck his goddammed dick.” Milt Moore glared at Whitney. “Presumably you are exaggerating his ‘prowess’, but let’s get real.” Showering a hostile glare on his colleagues, he was dismissive. “While some of you are cocky enough to think you can compete with Begay in that arena, that’s not where I plan to take him down. His fuckin’ dick aside, stopping Begay’s stratospheric rise in the political arena is where I plan to spend my energy, sexual and otherwise.”

Bruce Evans shrugged.  “Don’t misunderstand, Milt.  I’m not saying we do one or the other. My goal is to take the fucker down, period.  Destroy him.  But you need to understand. Prowess aside, if he really is screwing Scarlett’s delectable ass, it’s about more than his dick.  It means that Boone Marshall approves. And having Marshall in your corner makes the already formidable county sheriff damn nearly invincible.”

“Bruce is right. Trust me, it’s not only those of us who would give our left nut to capture Scarlett Comstock’s sweet ass who despise the prick.  But the fact that Boone Marshall is bankrolling him makes Begay the threat that he is.” Shep glanced across the room and nodded to the side patio.  “Now that our straitlaced governor has gone to tend his more moderate flocks, how about those of you who are as concerned as I am about Sheriff Begay’s formidable pun intended, are willing to do something other than whine about it?”


Friday, March 11, 2022

Read an Excerpt from Diamond: Book 4 (Ladies of the Night Series) by Taylor Lee



Praise for Diamond …
“USA Today best-selling author Taylor Lee does it again! Diamond is the 4th book in Lee’s provocative new series, Ladies of the Night.
“Riley Davis, Code Name: Diamond, founded Ladies of the Night after she was fired by the third off the grid security firm for not being a “team player”. Riley filled her company with women like herself—former military hotshots who were tired of being dismissed by their male counterparts because of their beauty and independence. “
“The Ladies are covert agents in a highly secret, off the grid security organization. Highly trained fighters, they’re as gorgeous as they are dangerous. The only thing these formidable women are NOT is “ladies.”
•Partnering with the elegantly sexy Col. Ross on a covert operation, Diamond finds herself plunged into the cesspool of Washington Politics at the highest levels.

•When their client turns out to be the #1 suspect in the murder of the man running against him for the U.S. Senate, the two agents are caught in an untenable situation.

•A situation almost as conflicted as the one that has been brewing between Diamond and her attractive investor.

•In a deadly mix of murder, lust and politics, Diamond finds herself faced with losing her company or her heart—or both.

Love Kaylea Cross's heart pounding romantic military thrillers? Sylvia Day’s and Maya Banks red hot sexy heroes, feisty heroines and high adrenaline action? Fern Michael’s compelling characters? Grab Diamond and prepare to be addicted.


“I have a proposition for you, Diamond. How would you like to be my lover? For a limited time, obviously.  Say for three--at the most four--weeks?”

Riley Davis stared at the much-too-handsome man, whose slate gray eyes were sparkling with amusement.  Doing her best to keep her jackhammering heart from fracturing her chest wall, Riley forced herself to take a deep breath. Pretending to consider the impertinent ‘proposition’ from the man who’d already turned her life upside down, she said carefully, “I don’t understand. Can you be more specific, Col. Ross?”

Ian Ross grinned at her.  “What don’t you understand, Col. Davis? The three-week timeframe?  Or what being my lover entails?”

Determined to concentrate on their strictly business relationship rather than on Ian’s clearly teasing suggestion, Riley allowed herself to remember the first discussion she had with the imposing man now sitting across from her, his lip quirked up at the corner. Even to this day, a year after creating their partnership, Riley still marveled that she’d been gutsy enough to approach the formidable man.  She knew that sheer desperation had given her courage to do the unthinkable.  That was to ask Ian Ross, the most prominent financier in their city, with connections along both coasts as well as internationally, to invest in her company. Or, more accurately, to invest in her.

When she was fired from the third consecutive undercover operation for what the company owner had the balls to call insubordination, Riley had had it. Knowing that she had nothing to lose, she threw a world class temper tantrum.  Facing down the amazed owner, she’d berated him. Told him that if it was insubordinate to challenge some puffed up flyboy who wouldn’t know how to run an op unless someone tattooed step by step directions on his dick, she’d take insubordination any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. At least the surprised commander had the decency to laugh at her descriptive insult as he showed her out the door.

That night, fighting against her fears, Riley acknowledged that she had burned one bridge too many. The facts were clear: in a word, she was screwed.  There wasn’t a security company in the country that would hire her. She had rebelliousness, and yes, insubordination, written all over her. The worst part was she had brought it on herself. It didn’t matter how many medals and ribbons decorated her Lt. Colonel’s uniform, or how many U. S. Army Generals sang her praises, even while they cautioned that she was a bit, well, ‘ornery’ and not given to taking orders well. 

In the world of elite covert organizations that had their pick of eager ex-military agents, Riley had too much baggage for anyone to put up with her need to rewrite every operation to her exacting specifications, especially since she wasn’t in charge of those operations, indeed was supposed to play a ‘supportive’ role. Those agencies that did take a chance on her--after all she was a shrewd and impressively beautiful woman--made it clear afterwards that they regretted it. After firing her and swearing that they would never hire her again, they rubbed salt in the wound. They made sure every prestigious company they knew understood that Riley Davis was trouble with a capital T.

Attempting to drown out her certainty that she was about to become a bag lady if she couldn’t figure out how to make her skills pay off, she turned to her ever-ready companion, a bottle of scotch. It turned out to be an auspicious choice. After working her way through three quarters of a bottle of Ardbeg, Riley had a daring thought.  If no one would hire her, even though they knew how qualified she was, why not simply hire herself? At least she appreciated her superior talents, and unlike her male counterparts she rather liked her admitted irascibility. In other words, why not start her own damn company?!

The next morning when a blinding headache was all that remained of the alcoholic haze, forming her own company seemed precisely as ludicrous as it actually was.  Deep in the alcoholic glow the night before she had conceived the blueprint of her incipient enterprise. She’d even come up with a name for it.  LOTN, Inc. or Ladies of the Night would be a woman-owned firm and hire only women.  Riley loved the audacious play on words that Ladies of the Night implied. Virtually every op she’d been part of required her to play a slut and she was damn good at it, as were most of her female operative colleagues. So why not exploit the image that was already front and center among the companies that needed beautiful undercover agents? Hell, men, at least the ones she knew, thought that all women were whores anyway, so why not appeal to their prejudice and turn it to her professional advantage? 

Riley convinced herself that if anyone could create a company that provided superlatively trained women operatives, she could.  She knew the kind of women that high level missions required.  She should.  She was one of them.  At base, the women needed to be accomplished fighters, the equal of the evil men they were after. They needed to know weapons from the ground up, and have the marksmanship awards to prove it.  They would be smart, confident and worldly.  And of course, it went without saying: they would also be beautiful and sexy as hell. 

Interestingly she didn’t include on her list of required attributes the ability to follow orders.  In any efficient organization that was a given, but Riley refused to make ‘obedience’ an explicitly stated criterion.  She knew that the women had to be strong enough to hold their own with the dominant males they were sure to encounter.  They would need to be assertive, and yes, opinionated.  They would know that they were key to a successful operation, and claim that position. In other words, Riley wanted to create a firm that would have been thrilled to hire her.

She was confident she could sell the concept to the covert companies who were crying out for trained women. But she intended to be choosey.  She’d make it clear from the inception that LOTN was highly selective.  Her Ladies would only work with the best and for the best.  The outrageous fees she intended to charge would make it clear, that if the hiring firms thought they were elite, they didn’t compare to the LOTN Ladies.

In the cold, dreary morning light, when even an icepack over her eyes and a double dose of Ibuprofen didn’t stop the throbbing pain that had her begging hangover gods for mercy, Riley came to grips with reality. She reluctantly admitted that while her idea was brilliant, and one that she was sure would work, it was nonetheless doomed to failure. She had inspiration and confidence up the wazoo.  What she didn’t have were the critical ingredients that would make her audacious dream a reality.

The first necessity was money, lots of it.  The second was entry into the elite group of stratospheric companies that ruled the covert world.  Unfortunately she’d been fired from virtually all of them.

Refusing to give up on what she was confident was a brilliant concept, she acknowledged that she needed a backer. Riley combed the financial press and the internet looking for investors, particularly ones who were connected to the powerful individuals inhabiting her world. She approached the few security firm leaders who would still talk to her asking them how they’d funded their emerging organizations. The name that came up again and again was Ian Ross.

Ross was reported to dine frequently in the private dining room at the White House and lunched with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He was a familiar face in the halls of Congress and often golfed with the heads of the alphabet soup organizations that hired the anonymous covert firms to do the work that the government agencies could not. If anyone was a mover and shaker in political, military and corporate circles, it was Ian Ross.  And, like Riley, the handsome playboy called Arizona his home, which made contacting him a real possibility. 

Once she was confident that Ross was her man, Riley appealed to one of her least negative former generals to engineer a meeting with the superstar. Within days, to her surprise, she received a text message from Ian Ross himself, inviting her to dinner at Bigelow’s, a high end restaurant in a swanky part of town. As she prepared for the meeting, Riley nearly lost her nerve.  For God’s sake, how many newspaper and internet stories did she have to read to know that the unbelievably handsome man was a player of repute?  On the internet alone, a search for ‘Ian Ross and the women in his life’ pulled up a bevy of beauties from every corner of society.  Movie stars, fashion models, and society princesses filled the roster.  Clicking through countless photographs of Ross at one social event after another, the only consistent characteristic of his ‘companion of the moment’ was that all the women were stunningly beautiful and that each one was staring adoringly at the tall dark-haired man beside her.  

On the night of the interview, after trying on the umpteenth outfit, Riley stared in despair at the heap of rejected clothing spewed across her bedroom floor.  She finally conceded that she didn’t have a professional business suit in her wardrobe.  Now if a slutty, ‘come hither’ ensemble was required, she had a closetful.  But a tailored suit?  Or a somewhat modest dress?  Nada!  She chided herself. God, why hadn’t she thought of this before? She could have bought something—or better yet cancelled the damn meeting. Sucking in a deep breath, Riley reminded herself that she was a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S Army and that she had faced down terrorists of every stripe--and survived. She added to herself with a snort of satisfaction that most of the bad guys hadn’t.  

Glancing in the wall of mirrors decorating the entrance to the restaurant, Riley groaned.  Damn, did her fire engine red dress really end six inches above her knee?  Could it get any tighter, cling any more obviously to her hips and ass?  Refusing to stare at her voluptuous breasts that seemed intent on escaping the low cut neckline of her dress, Riley admitted that her decision to look like the woman she usually played in her undercover operations had been a serious mistake.  Accepting that, other than turning tail and running, there was nothing to do but face the man who held her professional fate in his hands.

Assuming that she was early and would have the opportunity to sit down and remember how to breathe before he arrived, Riley was horrified when a tuxedoed Maître’ D. approached her and indicated that Mr. Ross was waiting for her. Donning her most imperious expression she walked across what seemed like a fifty foot runway to the table where Ian Ross rose to his feet and greeted her with a pleasant smile. Trying not to stare at the sinfully handsome man, Riley did her best to smile in return.

“Ah, you must be Riley Davis.”  He added with an amused glance at her dress, “At least I hope that you are.”

Pulling out her chair, Ian seated her and then moved to sit in the chair across from her.  Riley noted nervously that all the adjacent tables were empty.  Apparently Mr. Ross could even control who dined next to him. It was hard not to gawk at the impressive man.  If anything he was even more handsome than the myriad photographs she’d studied.  He was tall and had the sinewy build of a panther: sleek, slim, muscular.  Riley saw military written all over him, but unlike the ex-military men she knew, Ross oozed wealth. 

It wasn’t just his artfully styled short dark hair sprinkled with gray at the temples.  Or his tailored jacket and creased trousers that had to have been custom made, they fit his body so perfectly. His white silk shirt was open at the collar and revealed a light dusting of crisp black hair that made her stomach clench. Riley thought with a despairing sigh that everything about him screamed sophistication beyond her own, and with a surprising hint of sexuality. Damn, he could’ve been the cover model for a GQ spread featuring wealthy, designer conscious men. Which made her over-the-top dress and matching stiletto high heels even more garish in comparison. 

Interrupting her dismayed assessment, Ross focused an interested gaze on her. In a charming, cultured voice with a hint of an accent that she couldn’t place, he said, “I hope you don’t mind that I invited you to dinner, Riley.  According to Gen. Matthias, you have an important proposal for me and I wanted to be certain that we had an appropriate amount of time to discuss it.” He added with a boyish grin, “Besides I can’t think of a better way to get to know one another than over a bottle of wine. In the glow of candles, no less.”

If she hadn’t been intimidated before, at his openly suggestive remark, Riley didn’t know how she could possibly tell him that she was here to ask for his money, and plenty of it.  Fortunately Ian took the decision away from her.  Narrowing his gaze, he said, “Well, as they say, enough foreplay.  Tell me, Riley, what can I do for you?”

Rather than being intimidated by his assertive question, Riley was galvanized although even she was surprised at her answer.  

“I need money.”

If Ross was surprised by her candid response, he merely nodded.

“I see.  How much money?”

Never thinking they would get to this point in their preliminary meeting, Riley realized she didn’t know.  Actually it was worse. She had no idea. The best she could do was to swallow hard and hope that her cheeks weren’t as red hot as they felt.  It didn’t help that her voice shook. ` “I…I’m not sure.”

Ian raised an eyebrow and narrowed his gaze. “Well, my dear, I can hardly give you money if you don’t know how much you need.”

 Apparently taking pity on her, he added, “I have an idea.  How about you tell me what you want it for and I’ll see if I can suggest an amount.”

Beyond surprised, Riley began to explain.  At first stumbling over the words, Ian’s focused attention gave her courage.  Five minutes later after she’d poured out her dream to the daunting man she’d just met, she stopped short, realizing he hadn’t said a word during her garbled, breathless recital.  After what seemed like an interminable silence but was likely seconds at the most, Ian nodded.

“That’s an intriguing concept, Riley.  What very few people know is that I also own a security company.” He added with a dismissive arch of his brow, “However, we work so far off the grid, not even our competitors know we’re in the arena. I will tell you that finding the level of female operatives you describe is in fact one of my biggest challenges.”

Thinking that he had misunderstood her, Riley blurted, “B-but I don’t want to work for you.”

“What do you want, Riley?”

“I want you to…to invest in me.”

“Money or time?”

“Both.”  She quickly added, “But you can’t own me.  I must own my own company.”

Horrified that she was setting qualifications for his support, Riley was relieved when Ross nodded in agreement. 

“I won’t own you, but I will take 25% of your gross profits and supervise your hiring practices. In addition, at least in the beginning, I will need to approve each of your contracts.  Both the scope of the project and the proposed fee.”

Seeing the firm set of Ross’ jaw, it had taken Riley a spilt second to know that what the accomplished financier was offering was a take it or leave it deal. 

She took it.


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