Sunday, October 30, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - The Way Home by Nhys Glover



Those who see the ghostly figure of the WWII fighter pilot in the English farmhouse garden at Grange End are destined to die within a week of that sighting. But when Cassie Grant not only sees the Polish flying ace in the garden, but talks to him in her bedroom, it's clear that something more than a prediction of death is at work here.

Hawk has been waiting for something at Grange End for nearly 70 years, and from the first moment he sees the fragile beauty at the upper window he realises what it is - Cassie!

But is he there to accompany her to the other side when her time is up or is his increasingly corporeal presence meant for something else? When the enemy of the past becomes the enemy of the present, Hawk is determined to save Cassie from her untimely death, even if he has to cross the boundaries between Life and Afterlife to do it.


What a strange dream this was. Usually his dreams were more real than reality, every sense intensified. This… muffled sensation… was disconcerting.
He let the tip of his tongue taste her damp cheek. She tasted… bland. How could such a beauty be tasteless? There was the slightest scent of almonds, but no corresponding taste.
As he contemplated this odd phenomenon, her eyes flew open and she stared directly up at him. She gasped and jerked back, hitting her head on the iron headboard. She cried out in pain and reached for her scalp.
In the same instant, he jerked back away from her, standing up straight and stepping away from the bed. This was not supposed to happen. In his dream, she wouldn’t wake. If she did, she’d smile warmly up at him and move to kiss him.
Instead, she rubbed at her naked head and stared up at him, her kissable lips open in a stunned gape.
‘I am sorry. I did not expect to wake you. I will go.’ He began backing up towards the door.
‘Hawk? That is who you are, isn’t it? Your accent sounds Eastern European.’ Her voice was croaky with sleep and shock, her accent upper-class English. He’d heard it often enough amongst the upper echelons of the British military.
‘Andrezej Drzewiecki, but I am called Hawk. I do beg your pardon for intruding. I am not sure how I came to be here. I was outside and then I was inside; just like that.’ He clicked his fingers to indicate the speed.
‘How can I be talking to you? How can you look so real? Am I dreaming you?’ She scooted up so that she was sitting with her back braced against the metal headboard.
He noticed she didn’t wear a nightdress, but instead slept in a short singlet that revealed the flatness of her chest and her bare midriff. What she wore below her waist he didn’t know, as that was covered by the pastel sheet.
As if seeing where his eyes had wandered, she wrapped her arms over her chest self-consciously.
‘I thought I was dreaming, too, but this is the oddest dream I have ever had. I tried to open the door when I realised where I was, but my hand could not grip the doorknob.’
‘Well, that’s only to be expected, isn’t it?’
‘In a dream? No, not usually.’
‘No, not in a dream. You’d expect you wouldn’t be able to touch things when you’re a ghost, surely.’
He stared at her blankly for several long seconds. He couldn’t understand what she meant. Ghost? He did understand the meaning of that word correctly, didn’t he?
‘You think I am an apparition?’
‘Well, that’s what Marnie thinks you are. She says you’ve been haunting the place since near the end of the war.’
‘Haunting? Do not believe the fanciful stories of a child. Do I look like a ghost to you?’
‘Marnie isn’t a child. She’s an old lady, and no, you don’t look like a ghost. I can’t see through you. Marnie said everyone who’s seen you in the past could see through you. You seem quite solid to me. Can I touch you?’
Hawk tried to process all that she’d told him. Did his little Marnie have an old relative with the same name? Families did that. But what was this nonsense about being able to see through him? She was right. He was quite solid. Of course he was. Now she was making him doubt himself.
However, she wanted to touch him, and that was the best idea he’d ever heard. He craved this strange fairy-woman’s touch like a drug. He took a step towards her.
‘You can touch me. I have already taken the liberty of touching your cheek while you slept.’
Her hand came up to her left cheek and she tested the sensation of her palm against her face. ‘I felt something… when I was waking. I felt something.’
He took another step closer so that his legs touched the mattress, but he didn’t feel the bed. Looking down, he saw that his legs weren’t flush with the mattress – they were overlapping it by several inches. Shocked, he jumped back.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Friessens: A New Beginning The Collection by Lorhainne Eckhart



In THE DEADLINE, Andy Friessen has packed up everything and moved his family two states away, to Montana, to protect his wife, Laura, his newborn babies, and his stepson, Gabriel, from the threats of his mother. What Andy doesn’t know is that they’ll soon face a new threat, one he never saw coming.

Gabriel is sick, and a trip to the doctor confirms Laura and Andy’s worst nightmare: Without a lifesaving transplant, their son won’t survive.

What Andy doesn’t count on, as he tracks down the young man who fathered Gabriel, as well as Laura’s estranged parents, is that a whole host of problems are about to be unleashed.

The Price to Love

She could give him everything except the one thing he wanted—a child.

Candy knows that her husband wants a baby, but she can’t give him one. When Neil pays for a surrogate and moves her into their home, he tells her not to worry, but she suddenly feels as if she’s on the outside looking in.

Then, one day, she meets a little girl who steals her heart, a little girl with a damaged, scarred soul filled with the kind of despair and hopelessness that should never be in the innocent eyes of a child. But neither Neil nor his family understand her need to help.

As their marriage hangs on brink of disaster Candy is forced to make a choice between her husband and helping this child.

A Different Kind of Love brings back the couple that started it all: Brad and Emily. You fell in love with them in The Forgotten Child. Now, years later, they face an entirely new set of challenges with their preteen autistic boy when his mother, Crystal, returns. She wants a relationship with the boy she abandoned—something Brad and Emily never expected. She says she’s changed, but can the Friessens believe her?

A Vow of Love, A Friessen Family Christmas

Sometimes families need a helping hand…

Holidays are about family, love, and giving, but this Christmas, the Friessens are in for a rough holiday season.

Thirteen days before Christmas, a letter arrives that Candy Friessen was never meant to see. When she opens it, she discovers a lie that rocks her world, and she begins to question everything she and Neil have created together, including his love for her and their family.

Seven days before Christmas, her heart breaking, Candy considers leaving her husband for good, and she begins making plans—until a call one night alerts all the Friessens that Becky, their mother, is in the hospital, fighting for her life. Without a second thought, the entire Friessen clan is on a plane to her bedside. Faced with uncertainty, Brad, Neil, Jed, and their wives are together for Christmas, but there’s no happy celebration, no gifts piled under the tree.

For Candy and Neil, once trust is destroyed, can their family bond be strong enough to save their marriage?

Did you miss the other books in this big family romance series? Start with the worldwide bestseller THE FORGOTTEN CHILD now translated in German & French.

Reading order:

The Forgotten Child
A Baby And a Wedding (Short Story)
Fallen Hero
The Search (Short Story)
The Awakening
Overdue (Short Story)
The Unexpected Storm
The Wedding

The Deadline
The Price to Love
A Different Kind of Love
A Vow of Love

The Reunion
The Bloodline
The Promise
The Business Plan
The Decision
First Love (Katy)

31 Days of Halloween - Witches Don't Back Down by Meredith Allen Conner


Barnes & Noble

Kate Storm is running out of time. Her long lost aunt Morgause - the one with the grudge - is getting closer and closer to finding Kate. And Kate is going to have to come up with some serious skills in order to fight her. She’s working on it, but she has other things that need her attention too: Her hit-man channeling Chihuahua is trying to get in touch with his inner beast. Her un-dead best friend, Morgan, is obsessed with Karaoke. A new client is using Black Magic and her high school rival has signed up to use Kate’s matchmaking services. It’s enough to drive a witch crazy. Kate, however, is determined to triumph and have a chance at her own happily-ever-after with her demon boyfriend, Ash. Because if she can’t find a way to defeat her aunt and break the curse she’s under she’ll not only lose that chance, she may lose her life as well.


I wasn't sure what kind of inner beast Al had. He was such a loving Chihuahua. I also wasn't sure I was up to appropriately dealing with this right now.

It was four AM after all.
My brain kept coming up with images of a really tiny wolf's head emerging from Al's chest like in the movie "Alien" and then an image of Sigourney Weaver dressed in a tank and panties would appear and all I could really think was Damn, she looked good.
It circled around and around in my head. Especially the image of Sigourney Weaver. Height and a great body. I tried to superimpose my face on the image, but then the tiny wolf's head would pop out of Al's chest and . . . Like I said, it all simply circled.
And I couldn't use a spell on Al. That would be black magic.
I'm a good witch.
"Al, I . . ." What I had was nothing. Zip. Nada. Squat.
And Sigourney in a tank and panties. My brain was sort of stuck on that image now.

Friday, October 28, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Count Catula by Kathi Daley

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Cait and the gang set out to find a killer when novelist Amanda Lowman is found dead just an hour after speaking to the Mystery Lovers Book Club about her true crime novel: The Vampire Murders. As Cait delves into Amanda's death she finds a spider web of lies and half truths that could very well be tied to a series of murders that took place fifteen years prior. The deeper Cait digs the more tangled the web and the closer she becomes to being the vampire killers next victim.


“What are you currently working on?” I asked as a means of moving the meeting along.
“It’s a fascinating case.” Amanda sat forward on her chair. “In fact, I think this one is going to be my best novel yet. I’m sure many of you will remember a case that involved two murders that were committed fifteen years ago on this very island.”
“Are you talking about the teenage girls who were murdered on Halloween night?” a man asked.
Amanda nodded. “The murders were not only strange in execution but there were very few suspects and, as of today, the killer has never been found.”
I was just a kid at the time of the murders, but I did remember hearing about them from my older brothers and sister, who’d been teenagers at the time. One had been at a party with several dozen classmates and the other had been loitering around town with a group of friends. When they hadn’t returned home by the following morning their parents had reported them missing. After an exhaustive search, their bodies were found in the woods miles from where either of them had been seen last. The really interesting—or perhaps I should say gross—thing about the case was that the blood had been completely drained from both bodies, although very little blood was found at the scene. It had been determined that the girls had been killed elsewhere and then dumped.
Amanda continued to speak, maintaining eye contact with her audience and pausing at just the perfect moments. No doubt about it; she had the group spellbound.
She paused for just a heartbeat, then continued. “Due, I imagine, to the two little puncture wounds in the necks of the victims, the fact that their blood had been drained, and that the teens had died not only on Halloween night but on a rare full-moon Halloween night, authorities labeled the case the Vampire Murders.”
“And they never found the vampire?” a woman whispered.
“No. As I said earlier, the killer was never identified. It was determined, based on the fact that the girls were killed in the same manner and by the same method, that they’d been murdered by the same person. And as I also mentioned, it was apparent that, due to the lack of blood where the bodies were found, the girls had been killed elsewhere and then dumped. Law enforcement personnel tried to determine a link between the two teenagers but one was never determined, other than their age and the high school they attended.”
Amanda paused and looked around the room. I wasn’t sure if she was going for dramatic effect or she simply needed to determine where to take the story next. Eventually she continued. “Bronwyn Hampton was a popular junior at Harthaven High School who was enrolled in advance placement classes and was involved in sports and after-school clubs and activities. She had been at a Halloween party at a classmate’s home on the night she died. She’d come with friends but, according to witnesses, she’d received a call that prompted her to leave early. It’s believed a boy she dated casually had been the one who called and arranged to pick her up from the party.”
Amanda took a sip of the water I’d provided her before going on. “Ruby Collingsworth was also a junior at Harthaven High. She had a reputation for being a bit of a troublemaker, although I think her rep as a troubled teen was overstated. On the night she died she’d been loitering around town with friends, getting into mischief the way kids do on Halloween. None of the friends interviewed claimed to know when she had left the group or where she had gone after leaving.”
“It really doesn’t sound like the girls had anything in common,” one of the women said.
“I agree, it doesn’t. And the law enforcement personnel who investigated the crime at the time determined the killings were random, that no link existed. I, on the other hand, disagree. One of the things I hope to do during my stay on the island is to try to prove that.”
“That sounds so interesting,” I commented. “And I’m sure we’ll all want to read your book when it’s published.”
There were general murmurs of agreement in the room.
“Did the sheriff come up with any suspects at all?” someone in the crowd asked.
“Sounds to me like some creature of the night assaulted them, took them back to his lair, had them for dinner, and then dumped the bodies,” one of the younger book club members asserted.
“That would be a good theory if this were a John Carpenter movie,” Amanda agreed, “but there were never any vampires on the suspect list, so the investigators determined that the murders had been carried out by a mere mortal. The prime suspect at the time was a man who went by the name of Dracon Moon. He was an old man who lived in a secluded old house on the north shore. The house is no longer there—in fact. it burned to the ground the day after the murders—but at the time there were quite a few islanders who believed Mr. Moon was the guilty party.”
“Why did they think he was guilty?” a plump woman who had moved to the island just two years earlier asked.
“Because he was a grouchy old recluse who lived in a spooky house and seemed to fit the profile of someone who might actually be a vampire. He disappeared after his home burned down, and as far as I know, he was never seen on the island again. It was determined the fire was set intentionally, and while there were quite a lot of islanders who spoke out against him, his guilt was never proven.”
“Maybe he perished in the fire,” someone speculated.
“There were those who believed Mr. Moon died in the fire,” Amanda confirmed. “The problem with that theory was that investigators didn’t find human remains in the rubble. There were a lot of people who believed Mr. Moon killed the kids and then set the fire to hide evidence of his bloodsucking hobby. They felt he somehow managed to flee the island in a private boat under the cover of night.”
The room was quiet as the thunder rolled on to shore and wind-driven rain began to hit the windows overlooking the harbor. It was the perfect backdrop for a spooky story.
“I don’t know what actually happened that night,” Amanda continued, “but I do know it makes for an interesting story and I hope to come up with enough information to fuel the plot of my book. I’ll be on the island for the next two weeks, interviewing people who were around back then. I’ve left some of my business cards on the front counter near the books I brought to sign. If you have anything at all to share about the incident, please feel free to email me.”
A loud clap of thunder shook the building at the same time the lights flickered.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Honeymoon Prize by Melissa McClone - FREE


Barnes & Noble

He needed a wife.
She needed a home.
A completely platonic arrangement.

When sexy, single bodyguard Nick Cahill and his childhood friend, sweet and jobless Adelaide Sinclair, agree on a marriage solely for convenience, they have no idea what's in store. Winning an unexpected dream honeymoon turns into a nightmare when they find a reality TV crew waiting for them on the island paradise. With cameras rolling, filming their every move, the lines blur between fantasy and reality. Acting like passionate newlyweds wreaks havoc on their platonic agreement. Will Nick and Addie succumb to their feelings off camera, turning their make-believe marriage into a real fairytale?

The Ever After series
Book 1: The Honeymoon Prize
Book 2: The Cinderella Princess
Book 3: Christmas at the Castle

A Ghostly Affair (Death by Chocolate Book 3) by Pat Amsden Excerpt

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Maxine is catering a Halloween party in historic Craigdarroch Castle But when a ghost scares a guest to death Maxine doesn't know what to think. Is it one of the Dunsmuirs, haunting the castle, or perhaps something more sinister?

Add in a dognapping and maybe more, self-defense lessons that are heating thing up between Maxine and Detective Patrick Shannon, a friend left grief stricken by the death of her boyfriend and Maxine's got her hands full.

But the boyfriend may have been involved in bribing local officials for approvals to go ahead with his development. Does a First Nations Indian intent on protecting his people's heritage have something to do with his death? And how do a ghost drone and local teenager fit in?

By the time Maxine's got it figured out she won't be the only one wondering just how far is too far when it comes to fighting for what you believe in.


From the floors above music drifted down. 19th century waltzes and other dances of the era had been replaced with a more modern selection. At present the Monster Mash had taken over.

“I somehow can’t see the people invited to this party getting down and doing a graveyard smash.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “I know but it was unanimous when I asked for volunteers to run the music. George. It’s what he does in his spare time. Along with his teenage son.”

George Dent. The managing partner of the biggest law firm in town. No doubt more than one of the clients he’d acted for in his twenty some odd years as a lawyer would identify with ‘I Put A Spell On You’, as the song echoed throughout the castle.

“Is his son helping?” She pictured him in her mind. Tall and lanky, with legs and arms which seemed too long for his body, at fourteen he had the awkwardness of someone not quite comfortable in his own skin. He made up for it with a shy smile that lit up the room and blue eyes which sparkled with intelligence.

“I suspect it’s George’s way of keeping him out of trouble.” Wendy gave a small smile, “I’d better get out there and start mingling,” she said taking a truffle as she went.

Maxine sent the first round of appetizers out and gave instructions to Marcus and Ally. “A new tray every fifteen minutes, if not more. Start from opposite ends of the room.”

Taking a tray herself she headed up the stairs. The party was destined to be a huge success with over half the crowd there already and it was barely eight o’clock. Ghosts and goblins, princesses and popular cartoon characters such as Batman, Spiderman and Arrow, from the hit TV show, filled the room.

People oohed and ahhed over spectacular, over-the-top and just plain scary costumes.

Tanya came over now, clutching what looked like a martini in her hand. Maxine greeted her with a smile, noting her latest boyfriend, developer Zak Forrestor, had stopped to talk to someone. Dressed as a sexy vampire, Maxine hoped she didn’t over-indulge tonight.

Tanya held up her drink which was red and sparkled like blood in the light. “Pomegranate juice with tonic water! Let me know if you need any help. You are the BEST caterer! Look at the turnout already.”

“I think it’s more Wendy’s doing,” she said modestly. “Try one of these,” she said giving her a cucumber lox appetizer.

“I wonder if Joan will be here tonight?” Tanya asked. A part-time model and full-time friend Tanya was blonde, bubbly and fun. But the blonde hid a razor-sharp intelligence and more than once she’d saved the day for Maxine. Unfortunately she also had a habit of over-indulging so the Pomegranate and tonic water was good news.


“Joan Dunsmuir, the original mistress of this castle. This is just the type of event she’d like. She loved entertaining.”

“So sad though,” Maureen Ruckles said, local historian and author of over five books, one on Craigdarroch Castle. “Her husband built the castle for her and died before it was even completed.” She helped herself to a chicken satay skewer.

“Mm, so good,” Tanya said. “So, they never lived in the castle?”

“Oh, she lived here to her death along with her daughters. Numerous balls were held here. In fact,” Maureen said dramatically, “some claim they can feel her presence in the room and there’s a feeling of happiness when she’s there.”

“Not what I heard,” Jan Meyer said, a local investment advisor. “A friend of mine swears when she went through in high school there was a cold and angry presence whenever they were in Joan’s rooms.”

“So, I wouldn’t want fifty million school kids tromping through my bedroom or private areas either,” Tanya said airily and waved at Zak, busy talking. She headed off in his direction and Maxine headed back downstairs. Originally dumbwaiters had been used to bring food up from the lower levels to the dining room. But the Castle society volunteer she’d spoken to had made it clear they were no longer in use.

She passed Sara and Danielle coming up with more trays of appetizers. They were definitely getting bonuses tonight if everything went well. And she was sure things would. She was less sure a few minutes later.

She watched in horror as a ghostly shape appeared out of nowhere flying straight at Zak Forrestor as he started down the stairs. He turned to see what made everyone give a collective gasp only to have it virtually accost him throwing him off balance and causing him to fall over the staircase. Maxine watched in horror as he fell to the bottom, landing with a sickening thud. She rushed to him along with another lady dressed in a nurse costume. But she was afraid it was going to take more than an ambulance and paramedics to save Zak Forrestor. The way his neck was twisted wasn’t normal.

Creepies 2: Things That go Bump in the Closet - $0.99!



From the twisted minds of Writers, Poets and Deviants:
Prepare for terror… and a few laughs as well.
- An exterminator meets his match in a family’s attic…
- A cuddly toy with a disturbing origin is all the rage…
- A boy’s survival of a deadly accident turns out to be more curse than miracle…
- A man asks a vampire for a favor and gets more than he wished for…
- A strange device collects and stores the rage from people bent on revenge…
- An exquisite chess set in an old pawn shop is more than it seems to be…
- A WW2 bayonet carries an evil history…
- An ancient vampire struggles with life in modern society…
- Something is alive in the outhouse…

Enjoy these chilling tales and more in volume 2 of WPaD’s popular Creepies series.
But leave the lights on…

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Demons Don't Always Tell The Truth by Meredith Allen Conner


Barnes and Noble

Kate Storm is on the hunt for some answers. She knew her demon boyfriend Ash had been hiding something from her. But she never imagined his secret had anything to do with her. The information sends her reeling. Her fairy secretary starts acting odd. And she can’t get a read on a new client. The answers to her questions might be more than she can handle, especially if black magic is involved.


Ash ran a soothing hand up my back. “I’m sorry, Kate. I’ve got to go.”
“You’re leaving? Now?”
He ran his fingers down the side of my cheek. Pressed his thumb over my lips.
“I have to.”
“I don’t suppose you’re planning to tell me where you’re going or why?” I mumbled the question against his skin.
I knew the answer already. We’d played out this exact same scene countless times.
Ash stood and lifted me in the same motion. Comfortable in his strength and his power.
He set me down, kissed me hard. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Two seconds later he walked out of my apartment.
Usually, Ash argues with me more. He gets testy when I question him. I’d thought it was more male ego than anything. I didn’t like it that he hid something from me, but I hadn’t been overly concerned. I’d figured it would all come out as our relationship developed.
I’d have to reconsider that.
Ash had definitely been bothered about something.
And my name had been in that text.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Celia and the Wolf by Donna Maloy


Amazon link:
Barnes and Noble:

A teen shapeshifter, a werewolf, and the madman who plans to destroy them on All Hallows' Eve. Celia and the Wolf. A 5-star read for teens 11yo and up.

Winner, 2014 Award for Best Juvenile Fiction from Bookstore Without Borders.

"This is the kind of book that you can’t stop reading. When you reach the end, you close the book, sit back with a grin and say, ‘THAT was a great adventure.’"

     “My sister is not yet a werewolf. But she will be five days from now. The last night of this full moon is also All Hallow's Eve and the night of her twelfth birthday. The night she will change for the first time. And then they will have to kill her. They will have no choice.”
     “Have to? What do you mean?”
     He shook his head. “Celia, remember that a loup-garou is completely the wolf. Eh bien. When the moon rises that, Lilette will become the wolf. Then they will let her go.”
     “That’s good, isn’t it?”
     “Non, that is terrible. There will be no one there to guide her first change, or protect her. The man who holds her calls himself The Guardian. But he is a fiend! He will make certain Lilette is hungry when he lets her go. As hungry as only a wolf can get. With many small animals and people around to tempt her. The villagers will have weapons to ‘protect’ themselves.”
     Remy’s eyes held mine fast. I sucked in a hard breath, suddenly realizing what he was saying. I could almost picture it in my mind.
     “Tell me, Celia, what do you expect those people with weapons will do when they see a girl become a wild, scared, hungry wolf?”

Friday, October 21, 2016

Christmas at the Castle by Melissa McClone Excerpt


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Google Play

A royal wedding. A meddlesome mother. An unexpected union.

A European getaway during the Christmas holiday is exactly what veterinarian Katrina “Kat” Parsons needs. She can’t wait to be a bridesmaid in her childhood friend’s royal wedding, but she hopes to steer clear of the bride’s arrogant older brother.

Crown Prince Guillaume wants his younger sister’s wedding day to be perfect, but he’s suspicious of Kat. He and his mother on are on high alert, afraid Kat is not just there for the wedding, but also to find a prince of her own.

But when Kat’s kindness and generosity prove them wrong, the prince realizes there’s more to her than he ever imagined. Can he trust his heart or will he lose the one woman he can’t live without?


Up ahead, tall Christmas trees decorated with red ribbon and white lights flanked the entrance. As if on cue, the imposing arched wooden door swung open.

A man in his late twenties or early thirties walked out. His tailored gray suit showed off wide shoulders and an athletic build. His yellow-and-red tie bounced slightly against his white button-down shirt. Light brown hair curled at the ends and framed a handsome face with high cheekbones, a straight nose, and full lips.

Looking at him made her feel warm and tingly inside.

Who was she kidding?

She was downright toasty now.

His lips looked like they would be perfect for under-the-mistletoe kisses.

And more.

She had no idea who he was, but this hottie had just taken over the top spot on her Christmas list. She would have to write Santa.

The man’s long strides cut the distance between them quickly. He looked at Claude. “Have you seen Maximilian?”

“No, sir. As soon as I take Dr. Parsons inside, I’ll phone the groundskeeper. One of his men will track him down again.”

A stunning, green-eyed gaze collided with hers. Sharpened.

Kat sucked in a breath. She knew that color. Knew the man.

Or did.

Prince Guillaume von Strausser.

She’d been fifteen the last time she saw him at camp. Sophie’s brother hadn’t been drop-dead-gorgeous back then.

Okay, forget about writing Santa. Kat would need to find another hottie to go on her Christmas list. Sophie’s brother was off-limits. Kat never wanted anything to come between her and her camp BFF. Not that Gill had given her anything but grief at camp.

Still, unexpected nerves made Kat’s muscles twitch. She forced a smile. “Hi, Gill.”

Surprise flashed across his face. “Kat?”

“It’s good to see you.” She sounded breathless. The way she felt.

Whatever shock he might have felt, however, disappeared. His lips pressed together, and his gaze narrowed. “I didn’t think you were coming.”

That wasn’t the reply she’d expected. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“You’ve never been here before.”

He spoke with the same authoritative tone she remembered, but Kat thought she heard a touch of accusation, too. Weird since they hadn’t spoken in so long, but he’d always been protective about Sophie and thought Kat interfered too much in his sister’s life.

“Lack of time and money,” she admitted.

He raised a brow. “And now?”

“I need more of both, but I wouldn’t miss Sophie’s wedding for anything.”

He studied Kat. Not as a friend looked at someone they hadn’t seen in a long time—thirteen years to be exact—but as a stranger, trying to determine if the person was safe or dangerous.

Her heart sank. Even after all these years, he still didn’t like her.

He started to speak but then stopped himself.

She raised her chin instead. “What?”

His gaze darkened to a forest green. “Are you here for my sister’s wedding…or have you set your sights on finding a royal for yourself?”

She wanted to believe he was joking, but his tone matched the serious look in his eyes.

Same old Gill. Imperial and pompous.

No doubt, Claude heard the implication in Gill’s voice that she was nothing more than a royal groupie.

Great way to start off her trip.

Squaring her shoulders, she took a step back. “I’m here because I’m Sophie’s friend and one of her bridesmaids. No other reason.”

“Sophie mentioned finding you a husband.”

When they were teenagers, she’d wanted Kat to marry one of her brothers so they could be sisters. “Sophie’s always kidding around about setting me up on a date.”

Emphasis on kidding around.

Kat’s ordinary life growing up on a wheat farm was so removed from Sophie’s world that her being royal had never been much of a curiosity. Perhaps something to daydream about when Kat was caring for her aging grandparents while attending college at the same time, but not enough to warrant an Internet search. Kat had had too much to do back then. She still did.

Watching Sophie on the reality TV show The Search for Cinderella had been the closest peek into her friend’s life, but to be honest, that had seemed more fantasy-for-the-cameras than reality.

Suspicion filled Gill’s gaze, but he didn’t say anything.

Words weren’t necessary. Kat could tell what he was thinking.

“You don’t have to believe me,” she said. “But it’s true.”

He wouldn’t change his mind no matter what she said. Gill’s behavior had always been consistent—the definition of arrogance. No problem. The castle looked big enough for her to keep her distance.

Just like their old camp days.

“Claude called you doctor,” Gill said.

Kat wasn’t surprised he knew nothing about her. He’d never been her friend. Gill had tolerated her—for his sister’s sake—but that tolerance seemed to have disappeared.

Kat wouldn’t let him get to her. “I’m a veterinarian.”

“You always had a soft spot for those who were injured or not feeling well.”

“You were one of my first patients.”

Lines creased his forehead. “From humans to animals.”

“What can I say?” she joked. “Animals don’t talk back.”

She thought Gill might crack a smile. He didn’t.

Maybe not having a sense of humor was a prince thing. He was the only one she’d met.

31 Days of Halloween - Halloween in Paradise by Kathi Daley



In the midst of the annual Halloween frenzy, Tj finds herself pulled into a series of events at the high school where she works. Not only must she help one of the girls on her team deal with a case of cyberbullying, but she must help a student who has recently suffered a personal tragedy. And as if Tj wasn't busy enough, in walks Samantha Colton, a reporter for Second Look, a television series that takes a look back at unsolved murders. This time the case is the death of a popular student after the homecoming dance ten years before.

To make matters even worse—or maybe more convenient—the graduating class of the victim is in town for their ten-year reunion and all the suspects just happen to have converged on Serenity for the weekend. When Samantha turns up dead, Tj must track down someone who seems willing to kill again to keep their secret.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Decision (The Friessens Book 5) by Lorhainne Eckhart



Emily Friessen has everything a woman could want: a husband who’s the love of her life, a family that stands together, and children she wouldn’t trade for anything. To everyone around her, she’s confident and strong—but then, she has to be with a man like Brad, who is all about family and too handsome for his own good.

Emily isn’t as together as she appears, though, and when life throws her and Brad a curveball, it tests their relationship, leaving Emily scrambling and feeling very much alone as both are faced with a decision no parent should have to make.

31 Days of Halloween - Guardian of Werewolf Keep by Nhys Glover

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Philomena Davenport is shocked at her first sight of Breckenhill Keep, the monstrous ruin she had inherited from the father who had deserted her as a child. Even more shocking was the mysterious stipulation in the will that required her to remain at the Keep for three months, before she could claim her inheritance. How could she do that when the Guardian of the Keep, the handsomely daunting Byron Carstairs, wants her gone, and the spine chilling howls echoing up from the bowels of the ruin urge her to escape while she still can? But Phil is made of firmer stuff than that. She will take on the denizens of this dark domain, and make the place her own. No monster or man would keep her from it, and only love could drive her away. 

For Byron, Phil is a light in the darkness of his duty-bound life. He had never expected to meet someone as beautiful, courageous or compassionate as she. In only days, she manages to spin her magic around the hearts of all who dwell within the sanctuary. But no matter how much they needed her, it is no kindness to keep her there. She deserved far better than a burdened man and a castle filled with monsters. For her own good, he must drive her light from his dark life.

>>>Recommended for readers who enjoy steamy but wholly romantic love scenes


‘You will find everything you need in this room. There’s a chamber pot under the bed and there will be fresh water to wash with in the morning. Not before. Do not, under any circumstances, try to leave your room until I come for you in the morning. Keep your door locked at all times. There is a key on the inside. Use it.’
She stood in the doorway of her new room and stared up at him. He had the strongest desire to tear off her bonnet and loosen her hair so he could see what colour it actually was. At the moment, in the glow from the lamp, it looked like burnished copper. He wanted to feel the silky texture of it between his fingers. He wanted to brush the stray locks back from her pale face.
As they stared at one another, it seemed as if time had stopped. He watched in bemused delight as her cheeks darkened with a blush and her eyes sparkled. Her breasts, so tightly cocooned beneath the sober bodice, rose upward and seemed to struggle to escape their bondage. She swallowed and sucked in her lush lower lip, chewing on it nervously. Something had shifted between them and he could see that she was as affected by it as he was.
‘You…You are still trying to frighten me away. Can you not see that such a ploy will not work with me?’ she asked softly, brushing back the errant lock he had wanted to touch.
‘I am not trying to frighten you. I am trying to protect you. You have no idea what your pride has led you into.’ His voice was little more than a whisper, and she shifted forward slightly to catch his words.
‘Who are you?’ Her mouth formed a moue, as if caught on the last word. ‘Why would you want to protect me?’
Byron lifted his hand and let his fingers touch those pouting lips. Like a sea anemone, they withdrew from his invasion.
He grunted at his own lack of restraint. He had more pressing matters with which to concern himself than this pretty Miss. Yet he regretted her rejection of his touch. It stung.
‘I am Byron Carstairs. I was your father’s assistant.’
Her eyes lit with amusement. ‘You had a poetry lover for a parent, I assume?’
Byron groaned. His mother’s love of Lord Byron’s poetry had indeed been the reason for his name. He had been teased mercilessly throughout his school years for it, and he had never liked his namesake’s writing. It was highly unrealistic in its romanticism.
‘Good night, Miss Davenport. I will see you in the morning.’ He tried to maintain his fierce persona but she had dislodged it with her amusement, and though he knew it was no time for frivolity, he felt lightness in the moment.
She smiled a slow and knowing smile that created dimples in her flushed cheeks. ‘Goodnight to you, Mr Carstairs. I will look forward to it.’
His pulse raced and, for one daring moment, he thought of dragging her into his arms and kissing those smiling lips. She was like nothing he had ever known. In this dark place, with its horror and pain, she was a glimpse of light that shone brighter than the sun. He wanted to bath in it, soak up the warmth of it, and let it drive the darkness away…
If only for a few precious moments.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Neighbor: Book One by Ann Omasta - FREE



Get naughty with The Neighbor in this new erotic romance serial by Ann Omasta!

Sipping chilled white wine with her best friend and spying on her super sexy neighbor, Ethan, are the highlights of Sabrina's otherwise mundane existence. Vivid fantasies about Ethan are her sweet escape.

At what point does a platonic relationship cross the line? Is flirtation okay? What about an accidental brush of the hand? Is an intentional caress down an arm with the back of one's fingers going too far? If Sabrina has already dipped her toe into the waters of a steamy affair, shouldn't she jump all the way in to get it out of her system?

As she pushes the boundaries of propriety, Sabrina begins to wonder about a real-life night of passion in Ethan's arms. Would it quench the growing thirst within her or ignite the burning flames of desire that she has kept deeply buried for so long?

Find out now by indulging in The Neighbor.

*SSS (Sexy, Saucy, Spicy) Alert* This book is designed for readers aged 18+ who enjoy getting an inside peek at steamy romantic encounters.

Monday, October 17, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Pokergeist by Michael Phillip Cash

$0.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Sometimes life, as well as death, is about second chances. Luckless Telly Martin doesn't have a clue. An awful gambler trying to scrape by as a professional poker player, he becomes the protégé of world famous poker champion Clutch Henderson. The only catch…Clutch is a ghost. Telly and Clutch must navigate the seedy gambling underbelly of Las Vegas learning to trust each other in order to win the elusive International Series of Poker, repair their shattered personal relationships and find redemption in this life and the hereafter.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Stillwell by Michael Phillip Cash

$0.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side. His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Scorpio Sons 1: Colton by Nhys Glover

$0.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Staring into glowing cat-eyes, while her attackers lay like broken dolls in the snow around her, shouldn't have been a turn-on. But it was. She shouldn't consider the man who killed to save her from her rapists a hero. But she does. She shouldn't feel as if she belongs to that hero, mind body and soul, but there's no way she can deny it. And the hardest part for Alyssa Aimes to get her head around, besides his extraordinary eyes: the knowledge that she'll never see him again.

But four years later, Colton Blake does come back into her life, just as dramatically as he left it. And this time she's determined to keep him there, even if she has to risk her recording contract and her life to do it.
For Colt, much has changed in four years. No longer a homeless drifter with a dangerous secret, he has found his place among the Scorpio Sons, an elite band of genetically engineered cloned warriors charged with bringing to justice a secret cabal that has been exploiting the world for millennia. But one thing that hasn't changed during that time: his obsession with Alyssa, the stranger he met just once and can't seem to forget. But now his mission has brought Alyssa back into his life. And with her comes a secret she doesn't even realize she harbors; a secret that could bring not only Colt to his knees, but the whole band of the Scorpio Sons along with him.


Colt was the last of the few stragglers to leave the College library as it closed its impressive oak doors for the night. His eyes automatically adjusted to the darkness and took in what his unknown, studious companions, buried deep in upturned collars, eyes trained on the icy paths beneath their feet, could not: The old fashioned lamps shedding meagre light on the paths that led to other parts of the campus; the full moon illuminating more of the building, but still hiding much in its shadows. Hiding much from everyone but Colt. For him, nights like this were as bright as day. No insidious shadows could keep their secrets from him. He missed nothing.
For a moment, he paused to take in the winter scene before him. On a cold, clear night like this the moon seemed huge and glowing. The day-old snow on the grassed recreational areas looked pristine in its light. Pristine, except for the shadows of leafless trees that seemed to leave elongated stains across that purity.
And just as those shadows left no true mark on the ground, neither did he leave any real mark on the human systems that governed his surroundings. Colton Blake was not a register student on campus. There was no record of his existence, here, or anywhere else in the US.
Yet he could come and go without question because he looked as though he belonged. Decent, clean, casual clothes; shiny, sandy coloured hair that was probably a little too long and untidy for the preppy types that attended this high-profile college, but not enough to make him stand out or give an indication that he didn’t belong.
But he didn’t belong. Because he had no more existence than those shadows cast by the moon.
On nights like this he wanted to belong. Wanted to have a warm place to go home to, where he was welcomed and accepted. Instead, he prowled along the path that led to the Sporting Complex, where he slept in the basement in a sleeping bag on gym mats.
Suddenly his acute hearing picked up the sound of a struggle.
Not here. This is my sanctuary. This place is safe. Violence isn't supposed to intrude on me here.
But the female cry and the derisive male laughter was enough to have him turning in its direction. It didn’t matter if his sanctuary had been breached, he wasn't about to turn his back on someone in need, just to preserve what he’d created for himself.
He prowled through the shadows until his keen eyes caught sight of what his ears had identified. His nose picked up the coppery scent of blood. Not a lot. Yet.
Am I too late?
“Jarrod sends his love,” he heard one of the attackers say as he gave another cruel laugh.
“Jarrod? Jarrod Hastings? I don’t understand,” a soft, terrified voice replied. That voice belonged to a girl and it was so sweetly timbered that it sent goose-bumps up his arms.
“You’re not real bright are you? You couldn’t get the little messages he’s sent you before, so this time he's making it obvious. This time even a dumb bitch like you can get the point.” The young male voice became crueller and more ugly as his words went on.
Colt threw caution to the wind and let his beast out. It didn’t matter if he lost his place here and had to be on the run again. No bastard was going to hurt a girl just so she got a message.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Cowboy Next Door by Roxanne Snopek



When plucky single mother Leda Plett goes next door to retrieve her wandering pooch, she doesn’t expect to find a handsome stranger lounging about like he owns the place. She certainly doesn’t expect him to go all “white knight” about her deadbeat ex, or her knees to go all wobbly at his sexy smile.

Rodeo-star turned agent Eric Anders is used to managing people and clearly, the boots-and-sundress wearing mouthy mama needs someone to manage her. He wants to help; her spirited spark and quick wit have nothing to do with it.

But when Eric’s good intentions end up bringing only hurt and humiliation, he’s forced to face the fact that he doesn’t always know best. Leda is stronger and wiser than he knew, and his arrogance may have just cost him the one girl he now can’t live without.

This Old House series
Book 1: Finding Home
Book 2: A Sweet Montana Christmas
Book 3: The Cowboy Next Door
Book 4: Cinderella's Cowboy

31 Days of Halloween - Murder at the Witching Hour by Kathi Daley

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


It’s the week before Halloween and Kailani Pope has been asked attend her friend Morticia’s wedding. The weeklong event, which culminates with a costumed wedding ceremony on Halloween night, is being held on a private island which can only be accessed by boat. Things start off a little slow but become a lot more interesting when a tropical storm hits and one of the groomsmen turns up dead. Join Luke and Lani as this amateur sleuthing team attempt to determine if the killer is: the mummy in the kitchen who also serves as the chef, the seemingly blind butler, the sexy vampire who is also the maid and bartender, or one of the other kooky and spooky guests at this very unusual wedding event.


When we got back to the pool we found Luke and Cam chatting with an older woman with silver hair that hung straight to her waist. She was sitting next to a chubby man with a bald head who immediately reminded me of Uncle Fester from The Addams Family.
“Lani, Kekoa, this is Dharma and her friend, Oz.”
We both nodded and said we were happy to meet them.
“Are you here for the wedding?” I asked.
“I was asked to do a blessing and Dharma was asked to do a reading,” Oz informed us.
“A reading?” I asked.
“Dharma is a psychic,” Oz explained. “And a good one at that.”
“And you’re a holy man of some sort?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but because I’d just met them and was a guest myself I decided not to ask.
“Have you been on the island long?” I asked conversationally.
“Always,” Oz replied.
It appeared as if Dharma was sizing me up. She was staring at me in a way that sent chills down my spine and so far she hadn’t said a word.
“And will you officiate at the wedding?” I asked the bald man.
I wondered what was up with all the vague. Either the guy was going to officiate at the wedding or he wasn’t.
“You’re friends of the bride?” Oz asked.
“Kekoa and I are,” I verified. “We went to high school together, although we lost touch over the years.”
I jumped when Dharma took my right hand in hers and closed her eyes. I glanced at the others. Kekoa frowned as she glanced at our joined hands, Luke shrugged, and Cam grinned, as if enjoying my discomfort. I turned to Oz, who had a look of contemplation on his face but didn’t say anything.
“This is the one we’ve been waiting for,” Dharma said after maybe fifteen very uncomfortable seconds. She looked me in the eye in a way that made me want to crawl inside my skin and hide.
“Waiting for?” I screeched in a high little voice I was certain revealed my discomfort.
Oz gave Dharma a meaningful look but didn’t reply. She let my hand fall to my side and took a step back but maintained eye contact with me.
“Dharma had a premonition that a guest with a specific purpose would attend the festivities,” Oz explained.
“A purpose?”
“There’s no need for concern. If you’re the one your role will be revealed in time,” Oz assured me.
Okay, these people were creeping me out. I lowered my head to break eye contact with the woman, who was still staring at me. I looked at Kekoa, who had turned to Cam, whose smile had slipped just a bit. It appeared my friends were as freaked out as I was by this conversation. Oz gave Dharma another meaningful glance that I was unable to interpret, but it definitely contributed to my uneasy feeling.
“I guess maybe I’ll skip the swim and just grab a quick shower before getting dressed for dinner,” I announced after deciding it was time to bail on this conversation.
“I’ll come with you,” Kekoa seconded.
Dharma looked at me, her eyes boring into mine. “Do not trust what you see.”
I glanced at Luke. He took my hand and gave it a squeeze. If I’d had my reservations about this wacky wedding before I was full-on creeped out now.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The KEYS to my Diary ~ Fern by Ann Omasta



Would YOU like to take a peek inside my diary? I guess I'm jumping ahead...we haven't even been introduced. My name is Fern Burns. (Yes, I know it is a ridiculous moniker. If you met my flighty mother, you would understand.) By some wonderful stroke of good luck, I live in the beautiful, tropical Florida Keys. Oh, and I am not your typical Contemporary Romance heroine.

In this journal, I share the sometimes wacky, often wild, and always entertaining stories of my life for the year. From the love-hate relationship I develop with the book, The Secret, to having to deal with cursing parrots and a road filled with skittering crabs, the summations of my offbeat daily life should make for an interesting and fun read.

I treat my diary like my best friend as I openly write about my hopes and dreams, my thoughts and fears, and my triumphs and embarrassments. This is a particularly exciting year because I finally meet the man of my dreams! Or is he?

This fast-paced story is an intimate look inside my life as I go all-in and hand over the keys to my diary. Go ahead...Take a PEEK!

* A special note from the author: For those of you who love sneaking a peek inside Fern's diary, the fun continues in Marina's recently released diary!

31 Days of Halloween - Free Spirits by Linda Wisdom



Alex Cassidy's parents always said they'd move heaven and earth to ensure she married well. And this time, they did! After all, Alex was turning thirty and still had no husband--that was a combination they just could not live with.

The day she turned 3-0, Alex woke to find, at the foot of her bed, looking dapper and doting, the ghosts of her parents. Most ghosts were fleeting apparitions, but Alex's ghosts were here to least until they delivered her birthday present--Mr. Right!

Monday, October 10, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Witches Protection Program by Michael Phillip Cash

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


Wes Rockville, a disgraced law enforcement agent, is given one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he's reassigned to a 232 year old secret government organization. The Witches Protection Program.

His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar Cosmetics company’s diabolical plan of using witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt’s evil deeds.

Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in both witches and himself.

Filled with adventure, suspense and a rousing good time, Michael Phillip Cash creates a tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern day New York City.


“Follow me, kid.” She led him down a gray hallway with mulberry-colored carpet, more plush than anything he’d ever seen in a governmental office. The place had to be a city block wide, with corridors branching off to other conduits. Here and there, a doorway opened. Wes saw that many were filled with groups of people sitting at polished conference tables. Some rooms were dark, with shades drawn, the light of a presentation on screens peeking through the slats of the blinds. Staff walked through the hallways, nodding to each other. Some were in pairs. All had a badge hanging on a chain or attached to a pocket. He squinted, but he couldn’t make out the impression on the shield. Forget about attempting to read it. He shrugged; while it looked official, it was unfamiliar. For a person who grew up with an entire family in law enforcement, he found it odd that he’d never seen it before.

“What is this place?” he asked.

“This is where the magic happens,” she told him cryptically.

She opened the door, whispering, “Prepare to be amazed.” Then, with a giant pop of her gum, she disappeared.

“Where…” Wes turned, looking for the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere. “Where is…”

“Oh, she’s gone. Come in already,” a male voice ordered impatiently.

Wes spun to the speaker, his eyes settling on a small man seated at a glass desk. He was in a neat gray suit but wore a black turtleneck, which made him look like some odd, eccentric leftover from the beatnik generation. He was older than Wes’s father, Wes guessed somewhere north of sixty, with the thickening middle of a sedentary life, a tanned complexion, and silver hair. His chubby face sported a neatly trimmed goatee. Wes wondered where his beret might be. The man studied Wes with interested black eyes that glowed with merriment.

“What kind of department is this?”

“Mr. Wesley Paul Rockville. Son of Harris and Melinda, brother to Lauren and Andrew. Tough act to follow. Runt of the litter?”

Wes bristled, wondering where this pint-size dude got off calling him a runt. At six foot three, he was hardly considered small. “I fail to see what this has got to do with my reassignment,” he said icily.

The older man ignored him. “The young gun who had his free will sucked right out of him.”

“No one took my free will!” Wes shouted, his face hot.

“I think Miss Genevieve Fox did a pretty nice number on you.”

“What are you talking about?”

Alastair cocked his head, a smile playing on his lips.

“I don’t think this is funny, um…Alastair. I’m getting out of here.”  Wes had had enough. He was pissed and hungry.

“Sit down, Agent Rockville. It’s time you learned about your new assignment.”

Friday, October 7, 2016

Aloha, Baby! by Ann Omasta - FREEBIE!


Being pregnant and alone is not a situation Leilani Kehele thought she would ever be facing. Nevertheless, that is exactly how she finds herself in Aloha, Baby! Feeling like a disappointment to her family, Lani turns to her two handsome and loyal best friends, Kai and Honi, for advice. In an attempt to arrange the best possible outcome for this challenging scenario, the three hatch a plan to give Lani's baby a father. Will it work? Will Lani and her baby be able to find their happily ever after ending? Escape into the enchanting Hawaiian islands with Leilani, Kai, and Honi by reading this heartwarming tale of friendship, love, and triumph after heartbreak.

This novella is part of The Escape Series, which includes the Kindle Scout winning book, Getting Lei'd, and Cruising for Love. The books in this series are standalone novels that do not have cliffhanger endings. They share characters, but are designed so they can be read in any order.

31 Days of Halloween - Costume Catastrophe by Kathi Daley

$2.99 or FREE for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers


It's Halloween in Ashton Falls and that means Haunted Hamlet and the annual haunted house. Zoe is determined not to have her plans for this annual event ruined this year especially since it is also the weekend of the big game and a lot of old friends are in town. Things look as if they are on track for a spooktacular good time, until Zoe receives a message from an anonymous source predicting a death. At first Zoe and the gang think the note is a prank until one of the friends Zoe went to high school with actually turns up dead. Once Zoe realizes the note might not be a prank, she sets out on a race against time before someone else dies.


“We could still go with the chubby pumpkin costume,” I suggested to my best friend, Ellie Davis, as I tried to help her squeeze into a sexy vampire costume that was never going to fit.
“I’m not chubby,” Ellie insisted as she stood in front of the full-length mirror in the dressing room of the local costume shop, sucking in her stomach.
“I know, but you are three months pregnant. This costume isn’t going to fit no matter how much you suck in your stomach.”
“If I go as the chubby pumpkin people will know. It’s the classic costume for pregnant women.”
“No one will know.”
“They will.”
“Okay, how about a ghost? We’ll just grab a sheet, cut out some eye holes, and you’ll be good to go.”
Ellie started crying.
I knew it was the pregnancy hormones, but seriously? If I was going to cry at every little thing when I got pregnant I was going to go back on the Pill before it was too late. Of course Ellie wasn’t just pregnant; she had a secret—a very big, life-altering secret she’d already kept much too long.
“Don’t cry; we’ll figure this out.” I tried for an encouraging tone. “We’ll keep looking until we find the perfect thing.”
“It’s no use,” Ellie sobbed. “I look like a whale. I’ll just skip the party and stay home. It’s really the only logical choice.”
“You’re not staying home and you don’t look like a whale. In fact, other than the tiny baby bump you don’t look any different at all. Still, it’s not going to be too long before even the baggiest sweaters fail to hide your secret.” I took Ellie’s hand and led her over to the little bench that ran along one wall. I sat down, pulling her down beside me. “You know I love you and you know I’ll do anything for you, but it seems to me that your current dilemma might serve as a hint that it really is time.”
“I can’t.”
“You can and you should. Levi has a right to know.” I referred to the baby’s father, my other best friend, Levi Denton.
Ellie took a deep breath. Then she let it out slowly. “I know. I’ll tell him. I promise. I just need to find the right time.”
“Now seems like as good a time as any.”
“No. Not now. He has the big game against Bryton Lake this week. I don’t want to distract him. I’ll tell him after.” Levi was the head coach for the Ashton Falls High School varsity football team.
I gave Ellie’s hand a squeeze. “Okay. I guess it can wait another week. But we really do need to find you a costume for the party. You mentioned a whale. You know, a whale actually might be the perfect costume.”
Ellie started crying again.
Good going, Zoe.
“How about we take a break? We’ll go get something to eat and maybe we can try costume shopping again another day.”

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Melt My Heart, Cowboy by CJ Carmichael


Barnes & Noble

Book 1 of Love at the Chocolate Shop Series

Who is the handsome cowboy who comes into small town Marietta’s chocolate shop every week to buy a box of chocolates? More importantly…who is he buying the chocolates for? These are the questions sales clerk Rosie Linn asks herself as she waits for her sadly neglected childhood home to sell so she can pursue an exciting new career in L.A.

Rosie finds out the answers the day rugged ranch hand Brant Willingham introduces himself and asks for her help in managing the care of his younger sister. Brant’s mother has recently died, leaving him the sole guardian of eighteen-year-old Sara Maria–who has been a puzzle to Brant ever since she began exhibiting signs of autism at age two.

Rosie and Brant come up with a plan. She’ll help with his sister if he handles repairs and a new paint job for her old house. It seems the perfect solution, but a new dilemma is created when the couple start spending time together. Brant discovers he doesn’t want Rosie to sell and leave, and Rosie fears she will have to choose between love and her dreams.

Chapter One

“Can I tempt you with one of our cocoa peanut melts?” Rosie Linn wished she, herself, could tempt the good-looking cowboy on the other side of her sales counter.

But in the three months he’d been frequenting the Copper Mountain Chocolate shop—regular as Friday’s happy hour at Grey’s Saloon—he hadn’t come close to asking her out. So she doubted that was going to happen.

Instead she pointed out one of the delicate and dreamy confections her boss, Sage Carrigan, had handcrafted just that morning. “Rich dark chocolate, swirled with creamy peanut goodness… what’s not to love?”

The cowboy standing on the other side of the display case gave her a charming, slightly teasing smile, a smile that always made Rosie’s day and often her entire week.

“I’m sure they’re great, but I’ll take the usual—a box of the dark chocolate salted caramels.”

“Give these a taste, at least?” She proffered a tray with a sample of the cocoa peanut melts.

He just shook his head no. For months Rosie had been trying to entice him to try something other than a box of twelve Pink Himalayan Salted Chocolate Caramels.

But he would not be swayed.

“You don’t know what you’re missing.”

The cowboy leaned an arm on the counter, and cocked an eyebrow. “I’m sure you’re right, Rosie.”

His use of her first name would have flattered her if it wasn’t pinned to the front of her copper-colored apron.

“And if the chocolates were for me,” he continued, “I’d be going on your recommendation for sure.”

“But the chocolates aren’t for you.”

“Regretfully… no.”

She waited, hoping he would tell her who they were for, but he said nothing further.

Rosie really wanted to know the name of the lucky recipient.

She had her speculations.

The most obvious, of course, was that he had a sweetheart with a chocolate addiction. This was not her favorite theory, however.

She far preferred the idea that he was a dutiful grandson, making a visit to an old folks’ home.

But Sunday, not Friday, was the traditional time to visit the ill and the infirm.

Rosie knew this because, for the past five years, she’d nursed her diabetic father through a host of ailments until he’d finally succumbed to kidney failure. Most of the week she’d had to manage on her own, but on Sunday she could generally count on at least one or two neighbors or old friends to pop in with a casserole, or a vase of flowers.

With a pair of silver tongs, Rosie selected a dozen caramels bathed in rich, dark chocolate and speckled with pink Himalayan sea salt, sneaking glances at the cowboy as she carefully layered them into one of the shop’s signature copper-colored boxes. She could tell by the dust on his boots, the worn leather of his belt, and the calluses on his hands, he was a working cowboy, not just someone dressing the part.

But that was pretty much all she knew about him.

“Anything else?” she asked.

“Still trying to tempt me, Rosie?” His gaze swept over her, not the display of chocolates.

“Is it working?”

“Oh, I’m plenty tempted, Rosie. Just doing my best to resist.”

Her cheeks went hot as she wrapped the copper-colored box with some ribbon, wishing she could think of a clever retort. It was so frustrating that she excelled at writing clever dialogue for her brother’s screenplays, yet so often found herself tongue-tied in real life.

Maybe if she could say just the right thing, he would ask her out. Of course, it would help her cause if she wasn’t wearing her unbecoming work uniform.

The reddish-gold aprons looked fantastic on Sage, who had beautiful ginger hair and honey skin tones. But the hue did nothing for Rosie’s ordinary brown hair and eyes. Probably she was beyond hope.

She slipped the box into a logo-embossed bag before handing it to the cowboy.

Her thanked her, but seemed in no hurry to leave. “Sure is quiet here today.”

“It’s been slow since the rodeo wrapped up. But last week was crazy.” They’d sold all out of the chocolate molded cowboy hats that Sage created especially for the weekend long festivities.

“I’d hoped to watch the finals on Sunday. But the boss decided on Saturday we needed to start moving cattle.”

“Is it big, the ranch where you work?”


She waited, hoping he would mention the ranch by name, but he didn’t.

“Thanks, Rosie. Have yourself a nice weekend, now.”

“Same to you.”

The enticing possibility of something more in the future hung in the air for a few moments, as his gaze lingered. Then he gave her a parting nod and left.

Outside, he stopped under the front awning.

Wherever he was headed, he didn’t seem in a hurry to get there.

Rosie leaned against the counter, watching as he settled his hat over his dark, curly hair, and then squared his shoulders. For a moment she thought he might turn on his heels and come back inside. But five seconds later, he was on his way.

Which meant she wouldn’t see him again for another week.

She sighed, not sure why, in a town that specialized in hot masculine dating material, it was this particular cowboy who’d caught her eye.

Maybe it was the hint of sadness she sometimes glimpsed in his eyes that intrigued her. Or it might be because of the time she’d seen him make funny faces at a crying baby, whose mother was trying to pick out a gift for her mother-in-law. The fussing baby had grown silent as he stared at the cowboy’s silly expressions. Then he’d smiled, and finally he’d chortled adorably.

The cowboy had brushed off the mother’s thanks, winking at Rosie before leaving the shop with his usual box of chocolate salted caramels.

A cowboy who was good with babies. What woman wouldn’t love that?

Rosie sure had. But he hadn’t asked her out then, or in any of the weeks that followed and it was probably for the best because Rosie had plans and they didn’t include Marietta.

As soon as the old family house was sold she was going to move to L.A. and live with her screenwriter, older brother, Daniel, and his actress wife, Glenda. Over the past few years she’d been helping Daniel with some of his scripts. She’d started out proofreading, then had begun making the odd suggestion.

Lately she’d progressed to entire scenes and at their father’s funeral Daniel had invited her to work with him full-time, with the credit and pay to go with it.

He’d already had a few minor successes with some low budget, made-for-TV movies. Now he—well, both of them actually—were working on a TV series for a major network. Daniel was hoping this would catapult his career—their careers—to the next level. Rosie prayed he was right.

She loved this town and working at the chocolate shop. And she’d never regret spending these last years with her father.

But she was tired of getting all her excitement vicariously—from books, movies, and Daniel’s accounts of the parties and night life he and Glenda enjoyed. She wanted to be part of the action.

If only the darn house would sell. It had been on the market now for over six months without so much as a hint of an offer. The leaves that had been a fresh new green at her father’s funeral now sparkled butterscotch yellow in the autumn sun. October already.

Rosie sighed, then turned to look down Main Street. The local merchants had already replaced the rustic fence posts, bales of hay, and posters advertising the Copper Mountain Rodeo with spooky Halloween ghosts, witches, and zombies in preparation for the next major holiday. Just last night Sage had decorated the chocolate shop’s window with fat, orange pumpkins and some matching Halloween inspired products.

Time was passing all too quickly.

Rosie made a promise to herself. She would be gone before the first snowfall. She couldn’t take another long, cold Montana winter.

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