Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hospitalization and Upcoming Events

You've probably noticed the lack of posts over the past few days. On October 29, I became extremely ill and it got worse until I was hospitalized on November 21. I was released from the hospital yesterday and am looking at being unable to work for a few more days. The good news is on Black Friday I'll have a post devoted to great book deals - including freebies and a GIVEAWAY!

Other than that, I will be out of work until Tuesday. As someone who is self-employed the cost of being out of work is difficult. The fact that my insurance doesn't kick in until January 1, means I'm also going to have several thousand dollars worth of medical bills. While I'm trying to get assistance with these bills, it's not a guarantee. Those that would like to help out can do so in several ways.

You can donate through the Go Fund Me page or donate through PayPal at the link below or by sending payment directly to The Go Fund Me page has more details about everything that occurred and updates on my condition. If you want to share the fundraiser, it would also be a great help.

I appreciate any and all support. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

eBook Deals for November 20th

Girl Talk: Letters Between Friends by Vicki Hinze

In the early 1960s, four girls, as part of a 7th grade, nationwide school program, become pen pals. They have little in common but become lifelong friends who confront together the challenges girls confront in the world they confront them. Through their letters, we share their lives--their hopes and dreams, triumphs and defeats, joys and sorrows--and for all their differences, we discover that they are stronger and wiser for having and being friends.

Suckers Go To Hell by Jessica McBrayer
$0.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers

Award winning and Amazon Top 100 Series.

What do you wear to a Holiday dinner party in Hell with your in-laws? When the Vampire Hannah falls in love with Diel, a hot Demon, things warm up in more ways than one. Her Life-mate’s parents, insist on meeting Hannah, so it’s off to Hell they’re bound. First Lily, Hannah’s BFF and a fashionista, takes the Goth girl in hand. Who knew she had legs? Everyone is stunned and ambiguous about the new look, a designer babe Ganja Girl. Of course you can’t go to Hell for the Holidays without your Hell Hound and you probably need to bring a devastatingly handsome Djinn friend, to get your back, just in case the in-laws aren’t as friendly as they claim to be. Hannah’s new duds aren’t the only surprises in store in this humorous paranormal Christmas tale.

Epic Apocalypse Box Set

Welcome to the Apocalypse

Today’s top selling horror authors bring to you this box set of six full length apocalyptic tales and a teaser from award winning author Joe McKinney. Walkers, stalkers, vampires and zombies fill this book. A different take on the apocalypse from each author. Turn the lights off, enjoy the ride and discover what may be lurking under your bed. 

Read Chapter 1 & 2 of Kissed by You by Sophia Knightly


Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

When love comes calling, never say never...

What's a guy to do when a damsel in distress lands at his door on Christmas Eve? Dr. Alex Cortes doesn't want company on the holiday that reminds him of his parents' tragic deaths five years ago. Seeking time alone, the last thing he needs is a sassy, enticing distraction like blonde beauty Georgiana Kincaid who knocks him off kilter.

Georgie had planned for a picture-perfect Christmas Eve with a gorgeous holiday dress and a lavish celebration dinner with her boyfriend. But when he unexpectedly dumps her, she has nowhere to go. After driving for hours, her car stalls out in front of handsome exotic Dr. Alex Cortes's beachfront home in the midst of a rainstorm.

Will bad boy billionaire Alex let optimistic Georgie weave her magic? Or will he run when he finds out her true Christmas wish? It might take a Christmas miracle for love to win...
With over 5,000 ratings and great reviews across her alpha male romance titles on Amazon, Goodreads and other retailers, Sophia Knightly is sure to keep you turning the pages.

TROPICAL HEAT SERIES - Each book can be read as a STANDALONE.
Wooed by You: Linc and Isabel
Wild for You: Clay and Marisol
Sold on You: Marcos and Gabriela
Kissed by You: Alex and Georgiana
Chapter One
Dr. Alex Cortes hated Christmas Eve. Bleakness coiled around his heart like insidious smoke as he took a swig of Scotch and stared at the leaping flames in the living room fireplace. Thank God he could retreat to his small beach house on Barefoot Beach during this time. It kept him balanced and far away from the high expectations everyone placed on Christmas—the parties, the decorating and shopping for presents.
In spite of his friends’ efforts to include him in their family celebrations, he just didn’t feel like joining in. Five years ago today his parents had unexpectedly died, and every Christmas Eve since, he relived the tragedy. The staggering disbelief followed by profound sorrow of knowing he would never see them again. He wondered if he’d ever be able to fill the desolate emptiness their passing had left in his life…and the unfinished business with his mother.
He lived in the moment and didn’t take anything for granted because everything could change in the blink of an eye. He knew that only too well.
Life was frail and unpredictable, like the stillborn baby he had held in his hands this morning. After caring for Adriana Chapman for years as she suffered one miscarriage after another, he had hoped he’d be delivering her healthy baby on Christmas Eve. She had taken excellent care of herself during her high-risk pregnancy, eating healthy, doing yoga, meditating and resting as much as possible. Then one misstep and she’d fallen down the stairs from her deck to the backyard. A freak accident that ultimately killed her baby.
In all his years as an obstetrician, he’d learned to disconnect emotionally from his patients, but today he hadn’t been able to. Adriana’s anguished sobs at losing her baby girl had knocked the wind from his lungs and left him feeling sick and hollow inside. Because of her age and the serious complications during delivery, most likely it would be her last pregnancy.
Alex’s hand tightened around the glass. He hated when accidents happened that were completely out of his control. Rare accidents like the private plane crash that took his parents’ lives because of an engine failure.
He knocked back the rest of his drink and drew in a harsh breath. How long was it going to take for numbness to set in? He got up and stood before the large bay window overlooking the choppy, gray Gulf of Mexico. He longed for a stunning, multi-colored sunset, like so many he’d seen on the water since buying this getaway in Southwest Florida. But there’d been no sunset tonight to lighten his gloomy mood. Only grim, murky darkness to match how he felt inside.
The rain was coming down harder now and the palm tree fronds were flapping in the wind. The temperature had dipped to the forties, a rarity in southwest Florida. A sudden crack of lightning made the lights flicker and a boom of thunder practically rattled the windows.
He crossed to the front of his house where he’d seen the flash of lightning. A white car drew his attention as it puttered along in front of his house and came to a stop. He wasn’t expecting anyone and was in no mood for company.
Go away. All he wanted was to drink his Scotch—alone.
The car remained in front of his house, and seconds later, a woman got out with a jacket slung over her head. It was getting dark out and with the stormy weather he couldn’t see her face, but it was definitely a female sprinting on high heels toward his house.
With a muttered oath, he set his Scotch down on the coffee table and headed for the door, annoyed as hell that the first day of his vacation had been interrupted. So much for privacy.
He jerked open the door just as lightning struck. The young woman let out a high-pitched scream and lurched forward.
What the he—” Alex’s words were muffled as she landed against his chest, and he caught her in his arms. He kicked the door shut just before losing his balance, and they toppled to the ground, landing with a thud on the hardwood floor.
In disbelief, he got his bearings as he stared into bewitching, long-lashed sapphire eyes in a stunned face partially hidden by the jacket. His hands closed around her small waist and held her firmly so she wouldn’t slide off and he could get a better look at her.
With a shaky hand, she pushed the jacket from her head, revealing a tumble of long, blond waves around the face of an angel. Sweet Jesus, what a beauty.
Oh gosh, I’m so sorry.” She wiggled against him and his body reacted instantly. “Are you hurt? Am I too heavy?”
A little girl like you? Hardly,” he said with a wry shake of his head.
She frowned. “I’m hardly a little girl.”
He had to laugh. She looked so indignant. “I know. I meant that figuratively. You don’t weigh much.”
Oh.” That seemed to mollify her. “Do you think we were struck by lightning? It sure feels like I’ve been zapped. I’m a little dizzy.”
He felt zapped too, but for different reasons. He was painfully aware of soft feminine curves pressed against him and a floral scent so enticing he wanted to bury his face in her soft neck. Delicious.
She wriggled in his hold. “I should get up.”
Not yet. Stop wiggling,” he grunted. “Don’t get up until you’ve taken a few deep breaths.” Ha, he should talk. He could barely catch his breath at the pleasure of having such a sweet surprise sprawled on top of him.
Wide-eyed, she nodded and laid her head on his shoulder, breathing deeply as she nestled against him like a kitten. His body stirred and he fought the temptation to stroke or pat her slender back. If anyone needed a hug, it was this girl who hadn’t hesitated to snuggle up to him the moment he told her to stay put.
After a few seconds, she drew in a shaky sigh and attempted to get up again. This time he released her and she scrambled up from the floor with his help.
Standing before him on stilettos, she only reached his chin, and he had to bend his head to peer at her.
What’s wrong? Do you still feel dizzy? Are you sick?” Alex assessed her with the eyes of a seasoned physician. She didn’t look sick, just rattled; but upon closer inspection, he noticed her eyes were bloodshot with mascara smudged underneath. Her softly rounded cheeks were deep pink and her breath was coming out in short gasps.
Had she been crying? Or drinking? She didn’t seem drunk, but she didn’t look steady on her feet either. Maybe she was still spooked by the lightning.
Not sick and no longer dizzy. Though it felt like someone was throwing golf balls at me when I ran here.” She waved at the window. “Is that hail?” She clutched her head. “Probably. With the kind of day I’ve had, I wouldn’t be surprised if a tornado blew my car into the Gulf.”
His mouth twitched. “That bad?”
Yeah, that bad.” She shivered and hugged herself. “Old Bertha decided to die on me.”
She looked so sad, he wondered if she was a relative. “Who’s Bertha?”
My car. I tried calling for service, but no one wants to come out on Christmas Eve, especially for an old Packard.” She sucked in quivery breaths, drawing attention to her round, pebbled breasts beneath a slinky hot pink cocktail dress.
His gaze shot up from temptation and he caught her raised eyebrow look as she folded her arms over her chest.
Who are you?” he asked, bemused. His voice sounded unintentionally gruff as he tried to shake the haze of lust. The sizzle between them was so intense it felt as if lightning really had zapped them.
She held out a slim hand. “Georgiana Kincaid.”
His hand closed over her outstretched one, enjoying the softness of her skin. “Georgiana, I’m—”
I know. You’re Dr. Alex Cortes, the obstetrician.” She shook his hand and then lifted her large tote bag from the floor.
You know who I am?” Was this some kind of a set up? “Did Marcos or Gabriela send you here?” He wouldn’t be surprised if they had. Ever since his partner and closest friend, Dr. Marcos Calderon, had married the feisty social worker, Gabriela Morales, they were both determined to end Alex’s bachelorhood.
Georgiana’s tawny eyebrows furrowed. “Who are Marcos and Gabriela?”
He waved a hand. “Never mind. Then it was Marisol.” Yes, it had to be that mischief-maker. Marcos’s little sister, Marisol, had involved him in an elaborate ruse to make Marcos jealous last year and that had ultimately led Marcos to marrying Gabriela. Marisol was in town and he wouldn’t put it past her to concoct a scheme to set him up with a date for the Christmas party tomorrow at Marcos’s place.
She stared at him, puzzled. “Marisol? I don’t know her either.”
He stared back, trying to figure out her motives. “Then why are you here?”
She flung her long hair over her shoulder and shrugged. “Isn’t it obvious? My car stalled out in front of your house and I saw a light inside.” She took a deep breath and blew it out in exasperation when he remained skeptical. “Look, I’ve had a horrible day, and I’m not here for any other reason than to use your phone.” She made a face. “I hate to bother you on Christmas Eve, but my phone battery just died too. Do you mind if I make a few calls?”
Did he mind? “Not at all. Come on in.”
He lifted the wet jacket from the floor. “I’ll hang your jacket up to dry.”
She stiffened and recoiled, waving it away. “It’s not mine. Please get rid of it.”
Taken aback by her strange reaction, Alex said, “You want me to get rid of it?”
I do.” Her chin lifted and jutted belligerently as she pointed to the fireplace. “Throw it in there. Burn it. I don’t ever want to see that jacket again,” she said, her tone vehement.
Why do you hate it so much?” He held up the leather bomber jacket and inspected the buttery soft brown leather. “Not too shabby.”
Her upper lip curled, and he couldn’t help thinking she had the most kissable pout he’d ever encountered.
Yeah, I thought so too…until today,” she said glumly.
She stood before him, all sleek curves in the form fitting cocktail dress with her hands on her hips. His gaze roved those slim, dangerous curves down to her silver stilettos. Who wore a skimpy dress and high heels in stormy weather? Either she was on her way to a holiday party, or Blondie was as ditzy as they came.
His eyes bored into hers, wondering how she’d known who he was. “Have we met before today?” he asked, though he sincerely doubted it. He would have remembered dazzling eyes as blue as the Mediterranean Sea.
She pursed her lips, distracting him from his question. Wasn’t it enough that her eyes were hypnotic? His gaze riveted to her lush, rosy lips—the kind of lips he would love to suck into his mouth, first the top curved one, then the full lower one.
She cleared her throat sharply, drawing his attention. “We haven’t actually met. I was there when you delivered my friend, Laura Galley’s baby last summer.” Her face softened when she mentioned the baby.
An image of Laura’s earnest face came to mind. Damn, he would have never figured Laura for a matchmaker, but why not? Most attached women he knew made it their business to set him up with one of their friends, family or co-workers. There was no escaping a married woman on a mission to marry off single men to her friends.
So Laura sent you here,” he surmised. “How did she know where I live? Nobody knows about my beach hideaway. Especially not my patients.”
You don’t have to worry about your privacy. Nobody sent me. It was purely coincidence I ended up here.” Her eyes narrowed at his skeptical look. “Well, it was,” she insisted with a lift of her chin. “I was driving around aimlessly and then my car stalled out.” She shifted from one foot to the other and smoothed the sides of her dress, distracting him again with her delectable silhouette of nipped in waist and goddess hips.
Why were you driving around aimlessly on Christmas Eve?” he said, striving to free himself from the sexual stupor she wove.
It’s a long story.” She sighed and shook her head. “I’ll fill you in on it, but first may I use your restroom?” Limpid blue eyes peered into his with urgency. The questions would have to wait—and he had plenty of them.
Suddenly, his quiet, self-reflective mood turned to curiosity. Who was this wayward angel who’d landed on his doorstep, all tousled hair, sparkling eyes and tempting curves? Beneath her fiery show of bravado over the guy’s jacket, he had detected desperation.
Where is it? The bathroom,” she prompted, when he didn’t answer.
Alex rubbed his chin, wishing she didn’t intrigue him so much. He was pretty sure her visit wouldn’t be short, and for some reason he didn’t mind. “Use the bathroom in my bedroom. It’s bigger than the guest bathroom and has clean towels. First door on the left, down the hall.”
A dimple appeared in her right cheek, disarming him on the spot. She had high round cheekbones and a firm little chin that appeared obstinate when thrust forward. Yet her overall expression was fresh and natural. She had the most captivating, guileless smile he’d ever seen.
She lowered her lids and peeked at him impishly. “Thanks. That’s very kind of you.” Wide, blue eyes sparkled like crystals from beneath her lush lashes.
You’ll find the towels—” Alex’s voice came out hoarse and he cleared his throat before continuing. “In the cabinet beneath the sink.”
He hadn’t finished speaking when she turned on those impossibly high heels, giving him a heart-stopping view as she scampered away on golden, toned legs with high inset calves.
Alex swallowed hard at the hot desire surging through him like a rampant river. He didn’t know quite what to make of little Georgiana Kincaid, but she was eye candy for sure, and more than a little entertaining.
With a wry smile, he shook his head and watched her sweet little ass sway to a rhythmic beat as she made her way into his bedroom.

Chapter Two
Georgiana shut the bathroom door and sucked in deep breaths. Calm down, calm down. Her heart was racing out of control. My God, Dr. Alex Cortes was drop-dead gorgeous. When he wasn’t frowning, that is. The grim look on his face when he had answered the door had sent a chill up her spine, but when he saw she needed help, he warmed up to her.
She must have interrupted a casual evening from the looks of his clothes. The faded jeans and light blue sweater did his athletic build more justice than the scrubs she’d seen him in at the hospital…and he’d looked pretty hot then. Was he expecting another visitor, besides herself?
When she’d landed on top of him, all she could think of was his chest and shoulders felt like marble beneath her. A shiver ran through her remembering the feel of his large hands on either side of her waist, holding her firmly against him. He’d told her to stop wiggling, but she couldn’t help it. The mere contact with all that hardness had sent her into a tailspin and when he finally let her up, she’d had a hard time finding her balance. She had wobbled before him on jelly legs, not able to think straight, let alone breathe. When she’d told him she felt dizzy, she hadn’t been lying.
Was this some crazy twist of fate? She had somehow landed in front of his house and had no idea why fate would bring her here. Last summer, Dr. Cortes had taken her breath away the first time she’d laid eyes on him after he’d delivered Amy, Laura’s baby. She would never forget his glowing smile or those beaming dark eyes as he’d announced that both mom and baby were doing well. She had put the attraction quickly out of her mind because she’d been dating Bill. But now that she’d been up close and personal with Dr. Cortes, the attraction blindsided her.
Talk about lousy timing to meet him. She was reeling from the big fight and breakup earlier with her boyfriend Bill, after a year long, bumpy relationship that had caused her more pain than happiness.
She should have listened to Piper. Her best friend hadn’t liked Bill from the get-go because she’d pegged him as selfish and aloof. Bill might have been a bit aloof, but he had also been exciting, a world traveler who was cultured and interesting. There was a reason Georgiana was thirty-three and wasn’t married. Her artist’s soul couldn’t tolerate being smothered and controlled. Bill had given her the freedom she needed and that had lured her into thinking he was the one.
Over the past month, Bill had hinted many times at a surprise during the holidays, not telling her when it would happen to build the suspense. He seemed to sense she was pulling away, and the truth was she had been trying to convince herself to stay only because he had good qualities that made up for his inattentiveness. She had hoped that he would propose today and had mistakenly thought it would ignite their fading romance.
A flash of anger made her grit her teeth. He had proposed all right, but he had also whipped out a pre-nuptial agreement so unfair and so one-sided that she’d ripped it into shreds and flung it back at him.
Her eyes welled up at the memory, but not because she still loved Bill and wanted him back. She realized she had never really loved him when she walked out of his house with her head held high and so much bottled-up anger she wanted to spit nails at him.
When she’d gotten in her car, a flood of tears had burst forth and she cried like an abandoned orphan. It wasn’t that he’d presented her with the pre-nup, which went with his mega-wealthy persona; it was what the pre-nup specified that galled her.
The elderly people who made up her clients in her concierge service often said that time was a priceless commodity. And before her Grandma Emmy died, she made Georgiana promise she wouldn’t waste time on the wrong man.
Unfortunately, she had wasted precious time trying to make things work with Bill, time she would never regain. He had duped her big time. A fresh batch of hot tears stung her eyes and she forced them back. No more tears. She’d cried enough ugly tears.
Every special thing she’d planned for them today had been ruined. The champagne dinner, the beautiful dress that she’d bought in an exclusive consignment shop, the designer leather jacket she’d spent months saving for to surprise him with on Christmas morning. All of it for nothing. It was too depressing—and jarring—to realize that after the break-up and angry tears, she actually felt more relieved than pained.
A knock on the door followed by Alex’s deep voice startled her, and she quickly blinked back the moisture pooled in her eyes.
Georgiana, would you like to borrow a sweater? I usually don’t run the heater, but if you’re cold...” His voice trailed off.
No, thanks. I have a change of clothes in my bag. I’ll be out in a minute,” she called out. “Oh, and don’t run the heater on my account. I’ll be fine.”
For the first time, she noticed her surroundings. The bathroom was large, almost as big as her bedroom in her small apartment, but it was meticulous and organized. No clutter on the marble countertops and no clutter in the cabinets either. Alex had mentioned it was his beach house, but the man was neat to a fault.
She towel-dried her hair with one of his plush, dove gray towels and ran her fingers through the loose curls. She knew better than to take a brush or comb through her hair or it would end up looking like a fuzz ball.
She made quick work of cleaning her face with a make-up wipe from her tote bag until all the smeared mascara was off. After applying a bit of moisturizer to her face, she glided cherry flavored lip balm on her lips and puckered them. This is for you, Dr. Cortes. She suddenly grinned, surprised she could be so silly when Bill had just kicked her to the curb.
Straightening her shoulders, she remembered what her mother always told her. It’s the hiccups in life that make you stronger, Georgie. Yep, this was a major hiccup all right, but she much preferred the hiccups that came from champagne.
She made a face in the mirror. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get out there. Dreamy Dr. Cortes is at your disposal. She shook her head at her foolishness. If only that were true. He had been polite and chivalrous, but a man as handsome and accomplished as he, surely had a woman in his life—and big plans for the evening.
With a sigh of resignation, she stepped out of her stilettos, which she’d worn for Bill, and changed into a violet cashmere sweater and her favorite jeans. Luckily, she’d grabbed her overnight tote before running out of the car, but all her other shoes were in the suitcase in the trunk. She would just have to go barefoot. No way was she putting the uncomfortable stilettos back on.
As she approached the living room, her bare feet padded across the gleaming hardwood floor to where Alex sat on the sofa with his elbows resting on his widespread knees. His broad shoulders were hunched forward as he gazed at the fire in the stone fireplace. When she got closer, she noticed a few threads of silver glinting in his thick, black hair.
Georgiana tapped his shoulder and smiled hesitantly when he turned to peer at her with glimmering, coal black eyes. A tingle spread through her, and she was suddenly embarrassed about her earlier behavior. Okay, she was more than embarrassed; she was totally mortified over the way she’d screamed and flung herself at him when the lightning struck, and then her outburst over the leather jacket. Gosh, he had to be thinking she was a real nutcase.
Any chance I can use your phone, Dr. Cortes?” she inquired politely. “I need to make a few calls while I recharge my phone.” Her hands fiddled with the charger cable dangling from her cell phone.
You can’t do anything unless you call me Alex,” he teased.
She noted the sparkle in his eyes. “Okay, Alex.”
That’s better.” His rich, deep voice laced with the slightest trace of a Latin accent made her shiver involuntarily.
She smiled to cover up her silly reaction. “I’m really sorry to barge in on your holiday. I’m sure you have plans for tonight, so I’ll leave as soon as I make those calls.” She didn’t want to be a nuisance and he was surely being a gentleman, something fewer and fewer men were these days.
No worries. I’m not going anywhere tonight,” he said, surprising her. “I have a landline or you can use my cell.”
No plans? Why not? Looking around his cozy living room, she noticed no Christmas decorations—not even a Christmas card. From what she could see, she’d interrupted a quiet evening between him and a bottle of Scotch.
She pointed to the leather jacket folded neatly beside him. “Didn’t burn it, huh?”
Alex’s exotic eyes crinkled at the corners, drawing her attention to long, thick eyelashes. “I figured I’d give you the satisfaction.”
She tossed her head. “I changed my mind. I’ll give it to charity instead. I’m sure someone can use it in this chilly weather.”
Good idea, but it’s supposed to warm up to eighty degrees tomorrow.”
Eighty degrees?” She raised her widespread hands. “Small wonder I chose to live here when my grandma relocated from up north. As much as I love them, my parents couldn’t convince me to go back to New York. My grandmother was a beach lover, like me. She used to always say that Naples was paradise.”
Yeah, it’s hard to beat this kind of weather in the winter.” He reached for the bottle of Scotch and poured two fingers in his cut crystal glass. “Want a drink?”
Sure.” She never drank the hard stuff, but today was one day she needed it.
If you don’t want Scotch, I’ve got wine, beer or orange juice. No soft drinks.”
Scotch is fine.”
Alex poured her drink and handed her the glass. “Salud,” he said, raising his glass.
Cheers,” she returned automatically, though a cheery toast was a bit of a stretch. The whisky burned her throat all the way down to her esophagus. “I hate to drink on an empty stomach. Have you eaten?”
No. Are you hungry? I can order some food in.”
That brightened her mood. It didn’t sound like he was bothered by her impromptu arrival. “Surprisingly, I am hungry.” When she’d left Bill’s house the last thing on her mind had been food, but why let the wonderful spread she’d packed for them go to waste? “Do you like stone crabs?”
Love them.”
Good, me too. If you’ll help me bring in the cooler from my car, we can enjoy the feast I put together for someone who won’t be named.”
He smiled. “Give me your key. I’ll get it.”
She rummaged in her tote and located her keys. “I’ll go with you.”
He nixed her offer with a shake of his head. “There’s no sense in both of us getting wet.”
“Everything’s in the trunk. The cooler and a green tote bag that has the rest of the goodies…like dessert. I’ll hold an umbrella over you as you carry it in.”
No. Stay here. I’ll go out alone.”
Stubborn and a bit bossy, but who was she to argue? “Suit yourself, Doc, if you don’t mind getting wet.” Her sassy tone drew a chuckle from him. She reached for the folded leather jacket and handed it to him along with her keys. “Here. Will you at least put the jacket on?”
Sure.” Jiggling the keys in his hand, Alec shrugged into the jacket and headed for the door. When he returned toting everything, Georgiana was waiting at the entrance with a large towel.
Alex left his shoes on the welcome mat and set the cooler down before coming inside. He rubbed his hair briskly and then handed her the jacket. “Good thing you didn’t burn it.”
It looks great on you. Do you want it?”
He gave her a baleful look that squelched the very idea. “What do you think?” he asked with a sardonic lift of his thick, dark brows.
She gave a half-shrug. “I guess not. Can’t say that I blame you. Most likely it would bring bad luck.”
I don’t know about the bad luck, but I’m not interested in keeping another guy’s jacket,” he said bluntly.
She looked down. “Oh,” she said in a small voice.
I didn’t mean it harshly,” he said, softening his tone. “But a little while ago you wanted me to burn it.”
True,” she conceded. Lifting her gaze, she tried to gauge where he was coming from, but his expression was unreadable.
I’m going to change into dry clothes and then set everything up on the coffee table.”
We’re eating in the living room?”
That’s the plan,” he said, white teeth gleaming against tanned skin. “Is that okay with you?”
It was more than okay, but she didn’t want to appear overeager. Georgiana gazed at the fireplace instead of his attentive eyes. “Sure. I love eating in unconventional places.”
Georgiana couldn’t believe the irony. She had envisioned a candlelight dinner at Bill’s house followed by him proposing to her. But instead, she’d left his house like a scalded cat, never wanting to see him again. And once she’d let the anguish pour out of her heart, she had experienced a startling jolt of freedom…and a stirring of hope.
Maybe someday she would get what she wanted most in life. But it wouldn’t be with Bill.
I saw the suitcase in your trunk. Were you planning on traveling tonight?” Alex asked in a casual tone.
No, I’m flying out tomorrow.”
Where to?”
New York. I’m going to spend Christmas with my parents and my two older brothers.”
What time is your flight?”
First thing in the morning,” she said, surprised when his face fell. “I need to check in for my flight as soon as I get someone out here to tow my car back to my apartment.”
Okay.” He carried the cooler and the green tote bag into the kitchen and headed toward his bedroom. “When I finish changing, you can make your calls in my bedroom.”
Thanks. That’s very considerate of you.”
He winked and her heart skipped a beat. “It’s the least I can do when you’ve brought me stone crabs. Before you came, I wasn’t in a very good mood. Now I’m looking forward to the evening.”
Really?” At his nod, Georgiana stifled the urge to pinch herself. Alex was not only kind and considerate, but he was looking forward to spending the evening with her, Georgiana Kincaid, who had stormed out of Bill’s house an hour ago with no special plans on Christmas Eve.
Was Grandma Emmy looking out for her from above? she wondered, blowing her a secret kiss.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Gladiator's Bride by Nhys Glover

$3.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Crippled by shyness, shunned for being not-right-in-the-head, gifted artist and Roman noblewoman, Marcia Mica, has only two people in the world who truly love her – her teacher, Daedalus, and her childhood friend, Asterion, both slaves in her father’s household.

But when forbidden love blooms between the unlikely friends, only disaster can come of it. That disaster leaves Marcia horribly scarred and Asterion sold into the arena.

Only the power of Sabrina, a grieving healer, and the dreams of a Celtic Seer on the other side of the Roman Empire have any chance of healing past wounds and reuniting lost loves. Yet can scars that are more than just physical ever really be healed and can those whose lives are owned by others ever truly be free to follow their hearts?

Dare to Seduce by Carly Phillips Excerpt


Barnes & Noble

Alpha billionaire businessman, Max Savage has had a thing for Lucy Dare for as long as he can remember but he values his long standing friendship with her brothers too much to cross the line. When Lucy shows up at an engagement party on the arms of another man, Max doesn’t like the changes he sees in her and vows to make her his own.

It’s now or never. Max can think of one way to convince Lucy she’s with the wrong guy. He’ll dare to seduce her … no matter what the consequences.


“Why didn’t you fly out with Decklan and Amanda? Or wait for Gabe and Isabelle?” He hesitated before adding, “Or ask me what flight I was taking?”
“I need to know I can survive these things alone.”
He appreciated the fact that she confided in him and as always, he admired her strength. But her words confounded him. “Hmm.”
“What’s that for?”
“You didn’t say you need to do these things on your own, but that you need to survive them. It just strikes me,” he said carefully, knowing that picking into her mind could cause her to withdraw. “That it’s a drastic way of looking at things. Just like I think moving and staying in California is a drastic way of protecting yourself from being hurt.”
She narrowed her gaze. “When did you become a psychologist?”
He shrugged. “Trust me, in the last four years, I’ve had a lot of time to analyze my actions and to think. So yeah, I like to think I know what I’m talking about.”
He paused for a moment, then continued. “Just ask yourself one thing. If something suddenly happened to one of your brothers, like it did to your parents, would living so far away really protect you from pain? Or would you regret not soaking up all the time with them you could have beforehand?”
She opened her mouth to answer, probably to lace into him, and then turbulence hit. The plane bounced repeatedly. He grabbed the hand rest and held on. If they hadn’t been seat belted, they’d have been seriously jostled around inside the plan.
“Hang on folks,” Joely called over her shoulder. “I just need to bring us to a higher altitude for a less bumpy ride,”
Max clamped his hand over Lucy’s. A glance told him she’d gone pale. “Did I ever tell you I’m afraid of roller coasters?” he asked.
“Liar.” The corners of her mouth turned up slightly and he considered it a victory.
Then plane jolted so hard he felt it in the pit his stomach.
“Just a tropical storm that came in fast. I’ll get us out,” Joely said from the front of the plane, her voice a calm promise.
But the wild look in Lucy’s eyes didn’t abate.
“Stay with me, princess,” Max murmured.
She blinked and nodded, but her breathing came in shorter and shorter pants, so Max did the only thing he could to distract her. He leaned over and kissed her.
The edge of the seat dug into his stomach and he didn’t give a damn. The only thing that mattered was Lucy and her taste was like a drug. One kiss the other day hadn’t been enough. He’d been craving her ever since.
Now he had her.
He teased her, gliding his tongue across the seam of her lips, then thrusting inside the moment she parted for him.  She tasted like coffee and mint and as his tongue swept through the dark recesses of her mouth, his body burned with want. His goal was to keep her focus on him and not the bumpy ride but she shot his concentration straight to hell and all he could think about was more.
He cupped her face in his hand and tilted her head, keeping her in place as he swirled his tongue around and around, drinking her in. She whimpered under his assault, her body softening as she leaned closer, accepting what he offered, kissing him back.
“We’re out of the storm, lovebirds,” Joely called out cheerfully.
Max cursed the pilot under his breath and treated himself to another longer, more thorough taste of Lucy before forcing himself to pull back.
Lucy stared at him dazed. “You kissed me again.”
“Kept you from panicking,” he said, then, not wanting her to yell at him or set boundaries he’d have every intention of crossing, he changed the subject. “So did you read over the information on Savage in Soho? Damn I love that name, don’t you?”
“Nice ego.” Her navy eyes flickered in amusement and her tongue swiped over her damp lips. Lips damp from his kiss. 
@CP Publishing November 2015

Ravenous by R.G. Alexander



Is it wrong to be this Ravenous?

When Jennifer Finn was good, she was very very good, and when she was bad…she got arrested for assault and indecent exposure. Now Jen’s back in school and determined to find her balance. But one man seems just as determined to destroy her equilibrium, and he knows all the right buttons to push.

What began as a favor for an old friend became something more the instant Trick Dunham laid eyes on Jen. Now he can’t resist inserting himself into her life, despite warnings from her family. Little Finn might be struggling to find her path but Trick knows exactly where she belongs. What she needs. He just has to get her and their third to agree.

Professor Declan Kelley has a weakness for his old lover, Trick. The bad boy ex-con has become a wickedly sensual man who comes whenever he pleases, but never stays. When he shows up again it’s to offer Declan one of his darkest desires to date—Jennifer Finn and Trick together on a three-way platter. But that would threaten the safe, uncomplicated life he’s built for himself, and Declan’s not doing that for anything.

Unless it’s forever…

Warning: This book is a Jenga tower of sin. Explicit, graphic, shocking, teetering-on-the-edge-of-unbalanced, unapologetic sin. M/m, m/f, f watching m/m together and liking it so much that m grabs f and makes her a part of the dirtiest m/m/f ménage in history. That’s right, I said it. Role play—the hot-for-teacher kind, the sexy-thief-in-the-night kind AND…well sometimes you just have to ignore the warnings and dive right in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Alook's Dance in France by Kimberley Kleczka

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Alook’s Dance in France is about a magical and colorful journey around the world, which ends in Paris, France where Alook learns how to do the Koolamundo street dance with his new international friends. Alook also has an enchanted magic bead that he carries with him wherever he goes. His home, personal belongings and travel journal are kept safe inside of the magic bead until he needs them. Alook is eager to learn more about the world we live in and his enthusiasm for nature and other cultures comes through with his rhyming stories and songs.

This children’s book has vibrant eye-catching colorful illustrations, which help children visualize the story. Color is a dynamic stimulation and plays a very important role in learning, as research has shown that 50-60 percent of our brain is used for seeing.

Alook is a fun loving, friendly, and a little quirky bird that enjoys lots of adventure and traveling around the world. He is on a mission to entertain and delight all of our wonderful children. Along his journey’s, he likes to collect memorabilia to remind him of the wonderful memories and special friendships that he makes along the way.

Alook’s Dance in France comes with a very lively sing-along song that can be downloaded for free. The song features a Caribbean flavor, with steel drums and the sounds of a tropical rain forest filled with an assortment of bird sounds. Alook’s song has a beat that makes everyone want to get up and dance as they join Alook’s adventure.

Alook’s Dance in France is entertaining and is perfect for preschoolers at bedtime as well as a self-read book for older children. It is also a great rhyming book for toddlers and a perfect early reader book.

Rhyming teaches children who are learning to read about the patterns and structures in both spoken and written words. Rhyming and songs expose children to the rhythm of language, which helps them read with some animation in their voice instead of just a monotone voice. Rhyming also helps children learn about word families such as fun and sun, or wide and stride and so on. For instance, if your child is learning to spell, if they can spell door, they can spell floor and if they can spell song they can spell long.

Have you ever seen kids sitting and happily listening to someone reading in a monotone voice? I haven’t. If you want to hold a child’s attention, read with inflection and animation, and they will sit glued to your voice. Rhyming and rhythm are very important skills that help a young reader learn to use inflection and animation when reading aloud. Rhyming also prepares kids to make predictions while learning words and gives them crucial interpreting skills.

Another free download that comes with Alook’s Dance in France, is an audio MP3 file of the author Kimberley Kleczka introducing the story and read by Anthony Greco. Your children can read along with Alook or just listen and enjoy.

Discover more at

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

False Security (Indigo Valley Book 1) by Morgan Blaze Excerpt

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Love wasn't in the contract.

There are two things Wynn Holcolm can't stand: liars, and her father. Sexy bodyguard Foster Kane is a liar who works for her father.

But he may also be the only man who can keep her alive -- because her father's most dangerous enemy has just been released from prison, and plans to take his revenge through her.

To keep Wynn safe, Foster must earn her trust and fight his growing attraction to her -- because the last time he got involved with a client, the job ended in tragedy.

This time it's far more personal...and the real enemy is closer than he ever imagined.


Steven Foster was five minutes late.
I sat in a booth at the Cactus Café, surrounded by wacky Western décor and a colorful flock of tourists. On the table were two menus, two napkin-wrapped bundles of silverware, and two sweating water glasses. It was only five after eight, but I’d gotten here ten minutes early, just in case. All that did was make for an awkward fifteen minutes of sitting alone at a table for two.
Apparently, I could strike punctuality off the list of my date’s characteristics.
The bell over the restaurant door jangled, and I looked over just as I had every other time. A single man walked in, but he definitely wasn’t Mr. Foster. Unless he’d aged twenty years, shaved his head, and lost an eye since the photo I’d seen was taken. With an eye patch, a hoop earring and an unpleasant leer, all this guy needed was a parrot on his shoulder to pass for an honest-to-God pirate.
I suddenly realized that Eye Patch was looking straight at me with a glittering, narrowed gaze.
Something in that look turned my stomach. Before I could figure out why, Eye Patch was stalking past my booth, headed for the bar near the center of the restaurant. Maybe he’d just had a long flight or a bad night at the slot machines.
Whatever his problem was, I couldn’t help feeling relieved to see him go.
A moment later the bell sounded again. I looked. Another single man, also not Mr. Foster. There sure were a lot of guys here tonight who weren’t my date. This one was ripped, solid muscle, wearing a tailored suit with no tie and the top few buttons loose. A strange combination, but he pulled it off well. Dark tousled hair, a great tan, light hazel eyes that searched the place uncertainly—and landed on me.
Then he headed for my booth.
Oh, God. As he got closer, I noticed several things at once. He was gorgeous—absolutely, completely, cover-of-a-dirty-magazine gorgeous. He was carrying a single red rose, like a man might bring to a date. And if I squinted, I could almost see a younger, dorkier, kind of adorable version of him under all those muscles.
One that looked a lot like Steven Foster’s photo.
He stopped at my table and said, “Hello. Are you Wynn Holcolm?”
For an instant I couldn’t speak at all. Finally, I stammered, “No. I mean, why? Um…yes.” Wow. I was really making a great first impression here.
“Well, I guess that settles it.” His crooked smile did things to my insides that no mere expression should. “I’m Foster,” he said. “Steven Foster. I believe we have a date?”
“You’re Steven Foster,” I said, wondering vaguely why he’d introduced himself like James Bond.
He raised an eyebrow. “Yes. Can I sit down?”
“Um.” This man was into chess and collecting yo-yos? Now that I was getting over the shock of his appearance, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that something was wrong here. Why would he post a photo that made him less attractive? On the whole, his dating profile almost seemed constructed to make sure no one actually dated him.
But he was here, so I might as well give it a chance. Even if he did make me feel underdressed, overwhelmed, and completely out of my league.
“Okay,” I said. “Sit down.”
“Thanks.” He slid into the booth across from me.
And proceeded not to say a word.
The way he stared at me, like I was some rare species he’d never encountered before, unnerved me. Had he never been on a date before? I cleared my throat and tried to think of a conversation starter to break the silence, but what came out was, “I’m Wynn.”
His smile erased the awkwardness. “You said that already. Sort of.”
“Did I?” Oh, God, I sounded like an idiot. Why did he have to look like that?
“Yes. Oh, I almost forgot.” He held the rose across the table. “This is for you.”
“Thank you.” I took it slowly, not knowing what to do with it. No one had ever given me a flower at a restaurant before—this was already the strangest date I’d been on.
Then he said, “Wow.”
He was staring at me again. “What?” I said. “Is there something on my face?”
“No, it’s just…” His brow furrowed. “Your pictures don’t do you justice. You’re…uh, really beautiful.”
Blood rushed to my face, and I hoped my blush wasn’t lighting up the room. “You sound surprised about that,” I said.
“Not so much surprised,” he said. “But I shouldn’t say the word I am.”
Lust was the word that rose to my mind, especially with the seductive note I imagined in his voice—but I absolutely wasn’t listening to it. At least he’d given me an opening to talk about what I really wanted to. “I could say the same about you,” I said. “Your picture, I mean. It’s…”
“Dorky?” He smirked. “Yeah, I know. It’s just that if I use a current picture, people get the wrong idea about me. I’m not looking for a hookup.”
“Oh.” Damn it, that made sense. I had to get it together, stop assuming this guy was lying about everything, and act like a normal person. Maybe a quick break from the walking, talking assault on my senses that was Steven Foster would help me calm down. “Um, Steven?” I said. “I have to use the ladies’ room. If the waitress shows up while I’m gone, maybe you could order me a drink?”
For a second he almost looked panicked, as if he thought I wouldn’t come back. Then he said, “Sure. What are you having?”
“Raspberry limeade.” I would’ve gotten something stronger, but I still had an early morning tomorrow.
If he was surprised I hadn’t ordered alcohol, he didn’t mention it. “I’ll do that.”
“Thank you,” I said as I climbed out of the booth. “I’ll be right back.”
“I hope so.”
God, could he sound any more like liquid sex? I offered a stupid little wave, cringing at how dumb I must have looked, and hurried off toward the bathrooms past the bar. Hopefully I could manage to cool off before I went back, and maybe have an actual conversation with him.
Even if my body had other ideas.

Read Chapter One of Cub Creek: A Virginia Country Roads Novel by Grace Greene


Barnes & Noble

In the heart of Virginia, where the forests hide secrets and the creeks run strong and deep ~

Libbie Havens doesn’t need anyone. She’s fine on her own. When she chances upon the secluded house on Cub Creek she purchases it. She’ll show her cousin Liz, and other doubters, that she can rise above her past and live happily and successfully on her own terms.

Libbie has emotional problems born of a troubled childhood. Raised by a grandmother she could never please, Libbie is more comfortable not being comfortable with people. She knows she’s different from most. She has special gifts, or curses, but are they real? Or are they products of her history and dysfunction?

At Cub Creek Libbie makes friends and attracts the romantic interest of two local men, Dan Wheeler and Jim Mitchell. Relationships with her cousin and other family members improve dramatically and Libbie experiences true happiness—until tragedy occurs.

Having lost the good things gained at Cub Creek, Libbie must find a way to overcome her troubles, to finally rise above them and seize control of her life and future, or risk losing everything, including herself.

Chapter One – Cub Creek Excerpt
One wrong turn and Libbie was lost.
The narrow country road dipped and curved through mile after mile of roadside forest, but if she kept driving south through Louisa County, she’d reach Interstate 64 eventually. She was traveling to Charlottesville to visit her cousin Liz and, given her mood today, eventually was soon enough.
The trees were closely-packed, but their branches were bare. Only the hollies and evergreens had color. As she rounded a sharp bend the vista opened and a horse farm came into view.
Clean white fences stretched across the pastures. A huge barn, faded red and picture-perfect, graced the crest of the hill. Before her foot hit the brake, she was already grabbing her camera.
The shoulder was narrow and the ditch was deep. Libbie angled the car across the oncoming lane to the far side. The tires hit the wide, grassy verge with a short, heart-jolting skid. When her car stopped, the bumper was kissing the black metal of a For Sale sign—now a tilted For Sale sign.
A close call, but no harm was done. Libbie held her breath, then slowly released it.
The lawn sloped upward to a two-storied white house.
She lowered the car window a few inches.
The air was cool, but very mild for February. She closed her eyes and breathed in the sharp, clean smell of pine tags and damp earth.
Tall trees framed the wide yard and continued around behind the house. The house was old, but its lines were straight and true. Add that gorgeous view of the pastures across the road and this was a win-win for whoever lived here, if anyone did.
No porch furniture. No personal objects in the yard.
Was it vacant? A car was parked at the top of the driveway with a sign on the driver’s side door.
Libbie opened her door. She saw below that the tires had gouged the soft earth and mangled the turf. When she looked up a thin man with white hair was standing on the porch.
He descended the steps and strode down the hill.
The ruined grass was an indictment—undeniable proof of her carelessness. She exited the car and stood, waiting.
His eyes settled on the car. It was dinged and dented and nothing special, then on her person, again nothing special. She brushed at her blouse wishing the wrinkles away. When she reached up to tuck her long, unruly hair behind her ears she realized she was still holding the camera.
Ma’am, you okay?” The man squinted and the crow’s feet around his eyes deepened.
She gestured at the damage. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize the ground was so wet. I think the sign’s okay.”
Had to stop fast, did you?”
The horse farm caught my attention.” She shrugged. “I wanted to get a shot.”
Fancy equipment. You a photographer?”
After a brief hesitation, Libbie nodded, then said, “Sorry about your grass.”
Not my grass. The property went on the market today. I’m the Realtor.”
His expression and tone were friendly. Obviously, he wasn’t angry. She relaxed.
It’s a nice-looking house. It has…presence.”
Presence and fifteen acres of woods. It’s a wonder the owner didn’t sell the timber before listing the house and land.”
Did he move away?”
No, he lives out west. He inherited the house and property when his mother passed.” He shook his head. “Mrs. Carson would never have sold the timber, but her son’s a different equation.”
I see.” But she didn’t. He spoke about these people as if she should know them, as if she should care about them. Libbie clutched her camera, feeling stiff again and glad to have somewhere to put her hands.
The man continued, “Properties like this usually get a contract before the sign goes up. This one’ll go fast, probably to someone who’ll turn it into a subdivision.”
A subdivision. The thick woods, the stately house and the blessed privacy—it could be devastated in an instant. Once gone, you could never get it back. She knew that personally. Anxiety slapped her across the face.
How much?”
What’s the asking price?”
He pulled a paper flyer from a tube attached to the sign and handed it to her.
An argument was raging full force in her head. She tried to shut it down by ignoring it.
Can I see inside?”
He cast a quick glance at the house. “Can’t stay long. I promised my wife and grandkids I wouldn’t be late.” He extended his hand and they shook. “Name’s Sam Graham.”
I’m Libbie Havens.”
Aren’t you chilly, Ms. Havens?” Mr. Graham was wearing a light jacket.
My sweater’s in the car.” She put the camera on the back floorboard, grabbed her sweater and put it around her shoulders as they walked up the slope.
The trees on either side stretched around the property like a barrier to the world.
She wanted it.
No, you don’t want it. You live in the city and always have. Why would you want an old house out here in the woods?
It’s old,” she said, as she followed him up to the porch.
He nodded. “It is, but well-maintained. Been in the same family since it was built.” He paused to unlock the box on the doorknob. “Can’t say that about much, can you?” He opened the door. “Old-fashioned, but solid.”
He swept his arm in a gallant gesture. “After you.”
Just beyond the threshold Libbie paused and placed her hand flat against the bare wall.
She held her breath and waited. A sense of wellness and a gentle flush of peach and gold, softly warm, flashed from her hand to her head. The sensation and colors might only exist in her imagination, as some insisted, but they reassured her nonetheless. She walked further into the foyer.
He asked, “Are you okay?”
Had he noticed what she’d done? She smiled to cover her awkwardness. “I’m fine.”
Yes ma’am. In fact, you look happy.”
Oddly enough, she felt happy.
The city, with its constant noise and crowds, confused her, but it had never occurred to her that the solution was to live in the middle of nowhere.
Crazy idea or not, she found herself actually examining the interior of the house.
The foyer or hallway ran directly back, past the stairs on the right. On either side of the entry way were large, square rooms with many windows. Lots of light and no unexpected shadows hiding in the corners. The wood floors had scarring and uneven wear. The walls were grim, begging for fresh paint and wallpaper stripping. Fireplaces anchored each end.
Mr. Graham continued speaking as she went into the kitchen. It was old, with white porcelain appliances and faded linoleum, but it was usable.
She looked in the fridge and rubbed at a spot on the stovetop where the enamel had worn through.
They walked into the dining room and then through French doors to a screened porch furnished with green wicker furniture.
He checked his watch and frowned. “Are you seriously interested in buying this property?”
I think I am.”
Do you have a Realtor?”
Libbie shrugged. “I didn’t know I was in the market.”
If you’re serious about this, put down a deposit. A check will do. That’ll hold it while you look into financing.”
Financing won’t be a problem.”
He eyed the scuffed and stained sneakers, her non-designer jeans, the wrinkled shirt and the hair that curled and fought to do its own thing. She saw the spark in his eyes when he decided where to pigeon-hole her—eccentric. She didn’t mind. That was kinder than most.
When it came to people in general and some in particular, Libbie didn’t like them any better than they liked her. But eccentric? That she could do, and with style.
 “Ms. Havens, I don’t usually suggest this. Put down that deposit. When I get another offer, you can either walk away or pull the trigger.”
A day or two to think it through? Already, the internal pressure was easing off.
Take some time to discuss it with your people. Do you have family? Husband and kids?”
No.” That wasn’t quite true. “A cousin. I’m close to my cousin and her family.”
Mr. Graham lowered his voice. “Not to dissuade you, but I’m pretty sure you’re a city gal and it’s mighty…well, lonesome, out here on your own, especially at night.”
He waved his hands as if dismissing the words he’d just uttered. “Not my place to say, of course, but I have a wife and daughters. I’d ask them to think about it twice, too.”
I appreciate your concern. I’m a solitary person. I’m fine alone.”
Mind if I ask what brought you here?”
I was going to Charlottesville. I took a wrong turn.”
Humph. Well, I’d call that coincidence. Or providence.”
Maybe fate.” She stopped. “What’s this area called?”
You’re on Cub Creek Loop at the old Carson place.”
He pointed toward the house and then down the road. An old concrete bridge was half-hidden by the curve.
It runs through the property and under the bridges at both ends of the Loop. Cub Creek. Watch out. It doesn’t look all that impressive, but the water’s deep and it runs fast.”
He jingled his keys. “I’ve got the paperwork in the car. If you’ve got a check, then we have a deal. At least, a temporary one.”
He left. Libbie stayed. She wanted to see the place alone.
She stared at the deserted road because she knew that when she turned back toward the house, she’d see nothing special, just an old house with a patchy lawn. The flaws would be obvious.
This was a big decision—a huge, potentially life-altering decision—but no worries. She’d walk away from this like she did from every commitment. She did, however, want to know what she was walking away from.
It looked even better. The house sat atop that slope like a crown. The white clapboards, brushed by the late afternoon light, wore a sheen of burnished gold.
What would Liz say?
Libbie snapped a few photos of the house and the view across the street, then she slung the camera strap over her shoulder and walked around to the back yard.
The kitchen door was locked, but the hook on the screened porch door wasn’t secured. She settled for a sit-down on the porch swing. The swing’s back was curved. She rested her head against it. The narrow, tight-fitting boards overhead were painted light green. The porch floor was gray and the wicker furniture was dark green.
Unseen birds chirped. A squirrel ran across the yard, then paused by an oak tree to nibble on a tiny something.
Peaceful. Idyllic.
She tried to empty her mind, to leave it open to sounds, smells, emotions—whatever might tell her if anything negative lingered here.
She waited, growing more relaxed. Her breathing slowed.
It snapped directly behind her. A branch? A stick? She jumped. The swing swayed wildly. She struggled for balance.
Had she dozed off? Apparently. The noise may have come from behind her, but the voice came from the other side of the porch. A man, some sort of cop judging by his uniform, was standing a few yards away. Further back stood another man, not in uniform, but the details were softened by the screen between them.
Deputy.” He touched his brimmed hat. “I saw the car. Everything okay?”
Yes, fine. You startled me. I’m taking a look at the place. It’s for sale.” He already knew that, of course. She sounded foolish.
Yes, ma’am. We try to keep an eye on vacant houses.”
Her arms prickled. Libbie rubbed her hands along her sleeves.
Had she truly heard that noise? That snapping sound? She resisted turning and instead focused on dealing with the men in front of her.
We’ll be moving on. Will you be staying long?”
No, I’m leaving soon.”
He touched his hat. “Have a good day.”
The other man nodded. They walked away, turning the corner of the house. As soon as they were out of sight, she spun around to stare at the woods nearest the porch.
There was nothing to see and nothing to explain the noise. The trees and undergrowth were winter-lean. Nature itself must have caused the sound and it had gotten caught up in a snippet of dream while she napped.
She checked the time on her phone. Too late now to make Liz’s house by suppertime. Liz would be annoyed, but she’d get over it.
Libbie’s brain was full of things to consider, but her anxiety had abated along with the contrary voices in her head.
Her cousin usually meant well, but they were very different people and sometimes her opinions weren’t what Libbie viewed as supportive or encouraging.
Libbie wanted to think this decision through on her own.
The spell of the house on Cub Creek lessened with distance, allowing common sense to regain the upper hand. By the time she neared home she regretted her impulsiveness, but Mr. Graham was a true gentleman. He would return her deposit.
The whole episode did make her think seriously about moving on. Whether to Cub Creek or elsewhere, the need to move away from here had become clear.
Her neighbor’s over-large pickup truck was parked smack on the line between their assigned spots leaving her little space between it and the SUV on the other side, forcing her to squeeze her car in and then squeeze her body out. Typical thoughtlessness and arrogance. By morning, her car would have fresh dents on both sides.
She’d left the exterior light burning by the door, and there were other lights, including street lights, and her house key was in hand and ready. She slipped inside, locked the door and dropped her bags on the chair with relief. She poured a soda, grabbed a few oatmeal raisin cookies and plopped down on her flowered, overstuffed sofa to call Liz.
Her cousin answered on the first ring. “I thought you were coming to see us. The kids were disappointed.”
Liz’s voice was steady and low. Gentle. That’s how Libbie knew she was angry. Libbie closed her eyes and slumped back against the sofa. She kicked off her shoes and pulled the rose-colored sofa throw down over her legs.
I took a wrong turn and got lost. Besides, I told you I might come by. Might.”
That’s true, but...”
Maybe you’ll visit me soon instead. It’s been ages.”
Liz sighed. “You never invite us.”
You’re always busy with the kids or your friends.”
Not too busy for you.”
Seemed better to let that line of conversation die before she said something rude. She changed the direction. “I may have some big news soon.”
Liz’s one word response was sharp. “What?”
Nothing I can share yet.”
A loud bang from next door—likely the Duncan’s front door slamming—rattled the picture frames on their common wall.
Liz asked, “What was that?”
Guess who.”
Not those people next door again?”
None other.” Libbie sat up straighter and began disarranging the blanket. “He works the night shift and leaves about now. He’s probably unhappy about how I parked.”
Sure enough, someone started banging on her door.
I hear that. That’s awful.”
I’d better go.”
Don’t overreact, Libbie. You always do and then regret it after.”
Talk to you later, Liz.” She hung up and opened the door. “Bruce?”
You did it again. You blocked me in. I told you I’m going to get you towed.”
You can’t have me towed. My car is within the lines, unlike your truck.”
I can’t get in my truck. You’re making me late for work.”
Your truck is too big. Not my problem—but you make it my problem by parking on the line.”
You still have space on the other side.”
Needed for me to exit my car. Seriously, Bruce, get a smaller vehicle, one you can manage, or climb in through that stupid little window in the back.” She eyed his belly deliberately. “Either way, quit bothering me.”
Libbie tried to close the door.
He stopped the door with his thick hand. “Move the car so I can get into my truck.”
Have your buddy on the other side move his. Now, get your hand off the door.”
Bruce’s face turned purple and seemed to be swelling. She remembered the phone still in her hand. She stepped back and put the phone to her ear.
Liz? You still there?” No answer, of course. “I’m having a problem with the man next door and he’s getting–”
Bruce grabbed the door knob and pulled it closed.
Libbie didn’t expect to hear more from him this evening. She put the phone down a little saddened by the victory. Bruce left, yes, but why hadn’t she simply moved her car so he could get into his truck the way he wanted to? A moment of her time would fix a problem she hadn’t caused but had to deal with because of rude and inconsiderate people. At least, it would fix it for the moment. But she wouldn’t do that because bullies were bullies. If they got away with it once, there’d be no end.
She turned in a big circle taking in the living room and dining area of her townhouse. After five years she hadn’t finished hanging pictures, including the photo collections. She’d purchased no knick-knacks nor put up any curtains. Why? Because she didn’t need more crap. She already had a bucketful from neighbors who weren’t neighborly in a townhouse that was uninspired.
In a city crammed with people and traffic, she was alone. Couldn’t even manage to get along with people on the job, time and again. So, no job. But where was the incentive? She didn’t need the money and the jobs were a bore.
Upshot? If she was going to be alone, then why not do it her way and on her own terms?
She remembered the golden glow of the house on Cub Creek.
They’d say she’d lost it again. Her mind, that is.
The internal struggle followed her to bed. She spent a restless night at the mercy of thoughts, both eager and anxious, chasing around in her head, shrill and beyond control. She rose early, in truth giving up on sleep and glad to see the morning. She was in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in hand when the cell phone rang.
She knew it was him before she answered. That’s how fate worked.
Mr. Graham said, “Sorry to bother you so soon. A developer called with a substantial offer first thing this morning and wasn’t happy an offer was already standing.” He chuckled. “Upped his offer, in fact. Have you thought about it? Decided what to do?”
 “I’ve thought about little else.”
He cleared his throat. “No need to feel badly about rescinding the offer.”
Percussion noises reverberated through the shared kitchen wall. Clanging and banging pots and pans was Mrs. Duncan’s morning ritual. Presumably she was cooking, but who could tell?
They’ll say you’re crazy, a voice in her head whispered.
If living as she chose showed she was crazy, then they were right and they were invited not to share it with her—her crazy life.
No, sir. I’ll move forward with the purchase.”

Chapter Two
A sudden cold snap—but the air was fresh and bracing and proved the furnace worked well. The house had passed inspection. She held the keys. Front door, French doors and back door. Each had a knob lock and a deadbolt.
Liz was coming. Libbie saw the house through her cousin’s eyes. Scarred floor. Dingy paint. Faded and stained wallpaper. What did she, Libbie, see? Numerous windows, nature all around and a picturesque horse farm across the road.
The moving van would empty her townhouse in the morning and deliver the furniture and boxes here the next day. She didn’t think she had a lot of stuff, but boxing it up had taught her otherwise. Most of it was junk and she would’ve tossed it, but then she’d have to buy more junk to replace it. The exception was the old desk and armoire. They weighed a ton and were antiques with more than sentimental value. They would grace the study.
Liz’s midnight blue Benz pulled up the driveway. She let it idle for a minute before cutting off the engine and getting out. Through the window, Libbie saw her staring at the house. She knew Liz was asking herself if this could possibly, in a million unlikely years, be the place.
With the palm of her hand against the window glass, Liz eased the car door closed, but her eyes kept moving, taking in the house, the woods. Libbie shrugged her shoulders to ease the taut pinch growing in the back of her neck.
By the time Liz reached the porch, Libbie was waiting there to greet her, glad of the fresh cool air against her cheeks.
Liz said, “You’re kidding, right?”
You cut your hair.”
Liz tilted her head. The blunt ends of her straight cut brushed her jawline. “You bought a house.”
It’s huge.”
Libbie shrugged. “Looks bigger from the outside.”
What were you thinking, Libbie? Honestly?”
Where are the kids? I thought they were coming, too.”
Fine. Have it your way. Audrey has a sleepover and Adam has soccer practice.”
I’m sorry you’re disappointed, but we were too, when you never arrived.”
That was more than a month ago.”
Liz climbed the steps. “Yes. It was the last time we saw... Rather, it was the most recent time we didn’t see you. One more no-show.”
Not fair. You know I love to visit you, Josh and the kids.” Libbie opened the door and stood aside. “I like your new cut. Maybe I should get this mop of mine trimmed.” She gathered her long curly hair into a twist and held it behind her head.
Liz fixed her brown eyes on Libbie’s. “Up to you.”
Until now, they’d kept the banter light despite the emotion behind the words, but at this rate, it wouldn’t last.
Let me show you around. Consider this, I’m almost two hours closer to you. We can visit more often.”
Liz turned away and spoke, but it was more like a low grunt, except Liz would never grunt. She said, “I’d like to ask you something. You won’t get angry? Promise?”
Cautious, she answered, “Okay.”
Have you seen Dr. Raymond recently?”
Barry Raymond? Why?” She shook her head.
Anyone else? You know…someone you can talk to?”
Libbie crossed her arms and stared through her cousin, not wanting to see her, wishing she’d kept her words to herself.
The past is the past. Let it go, Liz.”
I worry about you. If you blame me for anything, blame me for that.”
I’m fine. I wish you’d trust me. Let’s drop it, okay?”
They looked at each other in shared relief. Libbie knew her cousin didn’t enjoy the tension either. She shook it off and waved at the next room.
My living room. Over there on the other side of the front door will be my study. Behind it is the dining room.” She moved forward. “The kitchen is that way.”
Liz was underwhelmed. “Ancient appliances, but that hardly matters. It’s not like you’ll be cooking.”
I’ll cook. I’ll learn. How hard can it be?”
Her eyebrows arched and she laughed. “I want to see that.”
 “Better to see than eat, I imagine.” Libbie smiled. “At least for a while, but you underestimate me.”
On the contrary, you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to. That’s part of your problem. You’re too smart.”
Part of her problem? Libbie knew what she considered to be the other part of her problem...
But you don’t have any common sense,” Liz added.
And that wasn’t it.
Liz had been staring out the kitchen window. Now she moved into the dining room to stand in front of the multiple windows along the side wall.
These windows are nice. Unexpected.” She did a three-sixty in the middle of the room. “This is a nasty shade of gray or brown or whatever it is.”
Needs cosmetic work, but the house is sound. It has lots of potential.” She waved her hand toward the ugly walls. “In fact, I have some fun ideas as to–”
What about your job? You can’t commute from here.”
Liz’s question hung in the air between them. Libbie tried to answer in a casual kind of way. “Oh, no worries there. I’ll be telecommuting. Working remotely.”
Doubt was in Liz’s voice and its shadow was in her eyes, but she moved on, heading to the front door.
Libbie followed. “Are you leaving already?”
Liz paused in the doorway. “I have to pick Josh up at the airport.”
What do you think?” She waved her arms around.
Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe if I’d ever heard you, even once, express the least interest in country living...”
She quashed her own misgivings. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
Well, no matter what, one thing you can count on is me. I’ll be rooting for you.” With a smile that was more business-like than chummy, Liz tossed her head and turned away. Again, as if by appointment, her hair settled back into place, framing her cheek and jaw.
Liz. Perfect Liz. She stepped lightly down to the sidewalk. Perky Liz.
Libbie loved her cousin and maybe envied her a little too, but perky? No, thanks.
Liz waved through the car window and backed onto the lawn, then turned and drove down to the road crunching gravel under her tires as she went.
Libbie lingered, determined to erase the doubts Liz had expressed, her own doubts, and any negativity from the premises. She wasn’t stupid. She knew she might end up regretting this decision.
Take a chance, Libbie.
And she was.
As Libbie left the daylight was fading and the sunset hinted of lavender and red as it bloomed above the horse farm and splashed some of its color across the front of her house.
Her house. She tried to imagine how it would look with her furnishings filling it.
She was ready for a change and this was a big one.
A neighbor was standing on the sidewalk watching as Libbie pulled into her parking space. Not Bruce this time but his wife who was not exactly his better half. Had he stationed her there to monitor the parking? No. Their pooch was nearby pooping in Libbie’s grass.
Libbie waved and smiled broadly. Tomorrow morning the For Sale sign would go up on this little patch of lawn.
They’d be glad to see her gone, but that worked both ways. Maybe they could have a neighborhood celebration in the parking lot and she’d be the absentee guest of honor.

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