What I’m Working on: THE BOOK OF LOVE

New book for the new year!

I worked on Cats in Heat and Cat Scratch Fever back to back and really needed a genre break, so I’ve jumped into a contemp erom with both suspense and some humor aspects. It’s exactly what my brain needed and I’m having a tremendous amount of fun with it.

Read on for the blurb and a random excerpt (which is a first draft–apologies for any typos). Everything from the blurb to the excerpt to even the title is subject to change, of course.

Romance editor Janaeh Forrester is a problem solver. A Jill of all trades, she’s worked in all aspects of publishing and no challenge is too big for her to overcome. It’s this reputation that leads her new employer to send her after the elusive Delilah Daniels, their top selling romance writer, who won’t deliver her latest manuscript and made the last editor quit.
But “Delilah” is nothing that Janaeh expects. It’s the pen name of Carter Daniels, a thirty-something man as sexy as he is arrogant and frustrating.
Six months have passed since Carter’s divorce was finalized and writing happily-ever-afters seems like a lie he can no longer tell. When Janaeh shows up at his door with a schedule in hand and threats to take back his advance if he doesn’t meet his deadlines, he assumes it’s a joke. But his attractive new editor is there to see that he finishes the book, driving him mad with both irritation and desire.
Her presence stirs up something far more sinister, however: Janaeh is directly in the path of Carter’s more fanatical followers, and someone will stop at nothing to get her out of the way.

Carter was roused from a fitful sleep by the
shrill alarm blaring in his ear.
He groaned, pulled the spare pillow over his
head, and tried to drown the noise out and go back to sleep.
Then he remembered he didn’t have an
alarm.
Before he could move the pillow, it was
jerked off his head. Carter growled and rolled over, blinking against the
bright yellow sunlight stabbing his eyes.
Sunlight. Through his windows. Why the hell
weren’t the curtains drawn?
He squinted, his sleepy brain slow to catch
up to his eyes as they scanned the bedroom. A figure stood over him, holding
the pillow that had been his refuge when that “alarm” went off. His gaze
traveled up, over shapely legs and curvy hips clad in a turquoise skirt that
hugged without clinging, over white silk camisole with a lacy scooped neck that
teased a hint of cleavage.
And his eyes sort of just…paused. Right
there. Because he couldn’t remember the last time he saw cleavage hanging over
him in his bedroom, and in the hazy moments after being abruptly woken, it was
difficult to force his gaze up.
The editor, Janaeh Forrester, tossed the
pillow down on him; it wasn’t heavy but he let out an “oof” nonetheless as it
connected with his chest.
“You’re still in bed,” she said sharply.
Carter blinked. Oh God, the alarm was her
voice
. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, yawned, and let his arm flop over
the pillow at his chest. “Not now, thank you very much. Why, what time
is it? Wait, why are my curtains open? How the hell did you get in my
goddamn house—get out!”
Instead of honoring that last request, she
turned and seated herself in the mission rocking chair near the window a few
feet from the bed. Her hair was once again pinned up and she sat there prim and
proper, dressed like she was in an office and not his goddamn house. She
even wore a pair of black high heels. Pretty in that effortless way some women
were; he didn’t think Janaeh spent hours in front of the mirror in the morning
or worried about her shade of lipstick like Leona used to. She was put together
and professional, but natural.
And he had to stop thinking about how pretty
she was, especially with the way she was all but glowering at him.
“The answer to your first query is that I’m
still waiting to see your work in progress,” she said in a steady, though
irritated voice. “The second, it’s nine-thirty—”
“Jesus Christ, in the morning?” he
broke in.
Her sharp dark brown eyes gave him a look
like he was an idiot. “Obviously.”
Screw it, he was going back to sleep. Carter
rolled over and let his face sink into the pillow, groaning. “Go away,” he
mumbled against the feather-stuffed fabric.
“Third,” she continued, undaunted, and if he
was being entirely honest, her voice didn’t sound like a shrill alarm—it
sounded warm, rushing over him like he sank into a relaxing bathtub of hot
water. “The curtains are open because it is nine-thirty in the morning
and time to get up. Fourth, your housekeeper let me in.”
Jean Marc. Carter thought long and hard about
firing the man but then he wasn’t sure who else he’d find in town to put up
with him. Not that he was a terrible employer, but he was snarly pre-coffee in
the morning—well, afternoon—and he preferred a housekeeper he wasn’t fazed when
he was a grouchy prick.
“Get out of my room,” he mumbled into the
pillow, unsure if she could actually make out the words or not.
“Get me your manuscript,” she returned
sweetly.
Goddamn it.
He rolled over again and glared up at the
ceiling, the sheets cutting over his lower torso and tangled around his legs.
“Go put a cup of coffee on.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Daniels, but did you miss the
part where I am not the hired help, but your editor? If I wanted
to be bossed around by unruly writers, I’d go back to slush reading.”
He sucked in a breath and resisted barking at
her. “Please can you put on the pot of coffee. I move faster at the
crack of dawn when I’m caffeinated.”
“It’s not the crack of dawn, it’s
nine-thirty.”
“I was up until four.”
“Writing?”
“Sure.”
“If I leave, you’re going to roll over and go
back to sleep.” Her chin lifted, arms crossed at her breasts, and she gazed
steadily at him. “I’m not going anywhere until I’m sure I don’t have to throw
another pillow at you.”
Fine. She wanted him up so badly? He’d get right on that.
Carter sat up, his muscles twinging from
awkwardly tossing and turning all night, and swung his legs around the edge of
the bed so his feet hit the cool hardwood floor. He brushed the sheets aside
and stood facing Janaeh.
Her mouth dropped open, eyes went huge, and
for a moment she stared before her hand clamped over her face. “Oh my God, where
are your clothes
?”
“This is how I sleep.” He braced his hands on
his hips, taking a tremendous amount of delight in her squirming. “If you have
a problem with seeing me naked in the morning, stay the hell out of my
bedroom.”
Her fingers moved slightly, as if to check
his position in the room, and then she squealed and bowed her head with her
hand still cover her eyes. “Please, for the love of God, put some pants on.”
“Go put a pot of coffee on and I will.”
She kept her head down, grasped the arms of
the chair, and stood shakily; unfortunately, the rocking chair did as it was
made for and rocked. It threw her off balance and she stumbled.
Without thinking, he darted forward and
caught her elbow as her arms flew outward, keeping her from tumbling to the
floor. Her heels clacked on the hardwood as she stumbled but regained her
balance.
“Thanks,” Janaeh began as she straightened,
eyes meeting his as she stood just six inches away.
Her skin flushed with heat, searing against
his hand that still gripped her elbow. A blush crept up her cheeks as her gaze
swept over him and while he probably should’ve been uncomfortable himself,
something about her embarrassment amused him. Warmth rushed through him and it
wasn’t from discomfort, his heart thudding hard. He was actually smiling,
for Christ’s sake, which was something he rarely did anymore.
And he was having trouble frowning again.
Her throat moved as she swallowed and the
blush hadn’t abated. She seemed to be intentionally holding his gaze rather
than look anywhere else again.
Oh, this was fun.
“Please let me go and put your penis away,”
she said calmly. “I’ll put the coffee on.”
He peeled his fingers back from her elbow and
offered a gentlemanly bow, one she barely saw as she bolted from the room and
slammed the bedroom door behind her.
His skin was still hot as he stared after
her, his cock stirring.
Carter blinked. This really wasn’t
like him. He shook his head to clear it, rubbed his eyes, and started toward
the en suite. Just some temporary blip, he was sure, since he was
sleep-deprived and roused early. A pretty girl staring at him while he was
naked—anyone would have that kind of reaction.
His face fell into a scowl and he grabbed a
pair of jeans and a T-shirt from the dresser drawer on the way to the bathroom.
That would at least teach her to not show up in his bedroom unannounced
in the morning. He hoped.
Or he thought he hoped.

What I’m Working On: CATS IN HEAT

This is the first in a series of upcoming paranormal romance novellas and I’m having lots of fun with it.

I was really looking forward to a late summer/early fall release, but I’ll see–I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Details coming as soon as I have them! For now, I’ll leave you with the blurb and a brief teaser (book in progress, please excuse any typos).

 

Adelaide Deveraux lives a quiet life in the country, never quite fitting in with other people and preferring her spare time spent caring for the various stray cats in the area. But late one Friday night, a feline of a much larger persuasion shows up at her door, shifting into a very injured—and very naked—human man in need of help.

 
Erik Wells has been on the run his whole life: from the people who killed his parents when he was a boy, from a group determined to exterminate his own kind, and now from the underground gladiator ring who abduct shifters and have them fight to the death for entertainment. And he needs to keep running, but something about Addie draws him to her home and her care.
 
The tiger in him senses it: there’s more to Addie than apparent at first glance—more to her knack for working with roots and herbs; more to her prophetic dreams; more to the secrets buried in her family history. But if she is who he thinks she is, the danger’s just beginning, as the powerful man responsible for keeping Erik captive for so long will stop at nothing to obtain her for his own.

Her flashlight caught a shimmer in the tall grass around the shed.
Addie froze and swung the beam back around again. Grass and weeds
twisted with the violent beat of wind as her flashlight shone around the side
of the shed.
Again the light caught it, two small, glowing balls of amber in the tall
grass. Addie frowned and squinted against the wind, wondering what the hell—
It stepped forward suddenly and the grass parted. The face came into
view first, amber eyes watching her, and then the shoulders pushed forward.
Large, heavy paws pounded on the ground.
Her heart caught up somewhere near her throat at the sight of the
massive tiger walking toward her.
Addie blinked but it remained—not a whisper of a shifting vision or a
trick played by her eyes. A real, live, enormous predatory cat was only eight
feet away.
And getting closer.
Trembles ran down her arms and she tightened her grip on the flashlight
until her knuckles were almost white. Her throat closed and she couldn’t draw
in a breath or even think; she could only stare.
The large cat took another step forward.
Her rational brain pushed at her to flee even as she knew wild animals
could sense fear and that this wild animal was close enough that she
couldn’t get away. Still, she took an experimental step backward.
The tiger padded forward.
Another step back. The rain beat against her face but she couldn’t look
away and her entire body shook as fear raced through her veins. The flashlight
beam bounced on the tiger, flickering back and forth with her trembling.
She could scream but no one would hear her. A few more steps and she was
halfway to the house but the tiger had broken free of the grass and was passing
the shed. He was huge, his shoulders coming up to her waist. Her eyes flickered
down to his paws. Claws dug into the soft, wet dirt as he stalked forward.
Irony of ironies, the neighborhood cat lady is going to die being eaten
by a tiger
. She couldn’t quite laugh at the absurdity of the
situation, not as the beast continued toward her.
Then he stopped abruptly. His head dipped forward and shoulders slumped.
Addie continued backing up but the tiger didn’t attack, didn’t surge in her
direction to make the kill. His attempted step forward was shaky and weak. He
wavered, tottering from side to side, before stumbling and landing in a heap.
Addie paused warily.
She should run, she knew—her brain screamed at her to flee, to lock the
door and call the entire county emergencies forces down to catch the thing. Instead,
some buried instinct rose and cautioned her.
Wait. Just…wait.
She did, trusting that inner voice even as her heart hammered.
The tiger’s pelt rippled as her flashlight swung over it. Orange and
black stripes shuddered and shrank, fur rolling back like water and
disappearing into pale skin. Muscles and bones twisted and contorted, snapping painfully,
until an entirely new shape lay on her lawn.
Addie stared down at a bruised, bloody, and completely naked human man.

Coming Soon: SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

(Note, there’s still time to vote for Maddox at All Romance eBook’s Ultimate Shifter Challenge. Head here.)

The next Stirling Falls book is almost here! The book drops August 13.

This one took a while. It’s a long book and had a lot of threads to pull together, but I’m really rather happy with it. A couple of notes and then I’ll add an excerpt…

  1. It’ll be released in eBook and trade paperback, as Wild Horses was. If you only read in print or prefer it for your shelf, there you go.
  2. The eBook price point will be $1 higher than WH. This is because it’s a longer book. I know a lot of people were unhappy with the length of WH: Cold Cold Winter but that was never intended to be a novel (which is why I tried to include the word “novella” everywhere) and that’s why it was $2 cheaper than WH. Sympathy for the Devil is about 50% longer than Wild Horses, so it’ll be selling for $5.99. (To put this in perspective: Amazon guestimates WH is 198 pgs, based on about 242 words a page; with that as a reference, Sympathy would be 301 pages).
  3. This is more of an erotic suspense novel with less humor than Wild Horses. It also has stronger BDSM elements. Reader discretion is advised.

Ready for the first chapter? Here you go!

 

Chapter One
Natasha Whitaker ducked through the front
door of Main Street’s Bar & Grill into the din of country music, laughter
and voices chatting, and cues striking balls in the corner pool table. Closed
for usual business though open in that all of Stirling Falls’ residents were
invited in, the bar was hopping with energy and full to the brim with people. Multi-colored
streamers fluttered when people moved and a wall of thick, humid air struck her.
Mr. Holloway apparently didn’t have the air conditioner running—the thing
seemed to die at least three times every summer.

She clutched her purse to her and squeezed
between a pair of heavy-set truckers in a lineup for the bar, ducked under an
arm swinging a stein of beer, and burst through a break in the crowd only to
bump into a very, very pregnant woman.

Her best friend, Danyiah Jackson, turned,
brown eyes wide and startled for a moment before warming. “Yay, you’re finally
here!”

Tash hugged her friend in greeting, though
awkwardly with the large baby bump in between them. “Don’t take this the wrong
way, sweetie, but every time I see you, I think you’ve somehow possibly
squeezed more fetuses in there.”

They parted and Dani grinned, rubbing her
hand across her abdomen. “So far it’s just the one but I suspect it’s not
planning on leaving—there’s probably a crib and dresser in there already.” She
wore a white baby-doll style dress with spaghetti straps, the hem falling to
her knees, loose and comfortable. Her long black hair was pinned up, but sweat
beaded her brow—the heat must be getting to her too.

“Do you want a drink or something?”

“Adam’s supposed to be getting me water.”

Tash cocked one thin black brow in skepticism. Dani’s boyfriend, Adam,
doted on her excessively—if he’d been intending to get her something, he’d
already be back. “What happened to him?”

Dani pointed across the bar to where Adam was in a corner arguing with
his boss, Gus, about something or another—the sound of their voices didn’t
carry across the room.

“Something to do with some Tennessee Walking Horses being boarded at the
farm and the owners are idiots—blah blah, the hell if I know what he’s going on
about.”

“Sit for a minute and I’ll get you something.”

“Uh…” Dani cast her eyes around the room.

Right, there was pretty much standing room only. Well, the hell with
that. Most of these people didn’t need to be sitting. She spotted a couple of
teens at a table a few feet away—nothing wrong with their legs and none of them
was pregnant considering they were all boys.

Tash grasped Dani’s arm and guided her for the table.

“Really, it’s okay—”

Tash gave her a warning look. “I’m armed and I’m tired. I’ll brook no
argument on this.”

Dani visibly backed off and smiled. “You’re the one with the gun.”

They stopped in front of the table where one boy had his legs stretched
out, feet on the spare chair. He gazed up lazily and gave her a cocky grin.
“What?”

“Move.”

“Ah, come on, we were here—”

“You’re here in a bar drinking and you haven’t even graduated high
school yet, Tommy.”

“No I’m not!”

“Pro tip, hot shot: Coke does not hide the smell of rum. Nothing
can.”

“But—”

“Do I need to get your father?”

Tommy glowered at her and dropped his feet from the chair with a heavy
thud, loud even over the din of noise in the room. His boots had left a dusting
of dirt on the chair; Tash looked pointedly at the evidence of his footwear on
the seat, then back at him.

He cursed under his breath but nothing she could call him on. Instead
she waited while he swept off the seat with his hand and then stood abruptly,
nodding at his companions and jerking his thumb over his shoulder. The group of
them got up and left.

Dani took the vacated seat, shaking her head and chuckling. “One day,
when my kid’s in trouble, it’s not going to call you, the cool aunt. Oh no,
it’ll come straight home to me because you are so not gonna provide bail
money.”

“Oh honey, your kid’s already a lost cause—it’ll be arrested before you
leave the hospital. Now I,” Tash set down her purse next to Dani, “will go get
that drink and try to pretend like I’ve been here for an hour.” She slipped
away from the table, squeezing between patrons again. At least she wasn’t
underdressed by the look of it; everyone around here dressed casual no matter
the occasion, so her dark low-rise jeans and black tank top fit in fine. She
swiped curly black hair from her brow and wedged herself in a spot at the bar.

The bartender was at the other end, rushing to take orders. It seemed
insane they only had one guy working tonight. She frowned as she waited,
drumming her fingers on the countertop. Patience was not something she’d been
born with and she wouldn’t start now. With a sigh she left the bar and headed
around the side, ducking beneath the counter and heading straight for the
mini-fridge.

“Hey!” the guy at the end called but she gave him her warning look. She
didn’t immediately recognize him but he must’ve known her as he backed off.
“Sorry,” he continued while she retrieved a bottle of water for Dani and bottle
of smoked Scotch ale for herself. “Amy is AWOL and I can’t get in a
replacement.”

“On the guest of honor’s tab,” she said, indicating the bottles, then
ducked back out from under the bar.

Adam Cooper spotted her and headed over, eyes darting to the water and
mouth opening to likely come up with some explanation.

She handed him the bottle of water for Dani. “Go, take this to your
woman before she expires.”

“Where the hell have you been?”

Tash rolled her eyes. “Working. You don’t want to know.” Her back still
hurt from the tree she’d been lodged in for hours waiting for her client’s
husband to show up with his mistress. The good news was she had photos and soon
the other half of her paycheck. The bad news was she nearly missed her boss’s
retirement party.

“They haven’t done the cake yet—they were waiting for you.”

She winced. “I know, I’m sorry. Give Dani her water and I’ll come sit
with you guys in a sec.”

They parted, Adam for the center of the restaurant where Dani waited and
Natasha for the door at the back that said KITCHEN – STAFF ONLY. She wasn’t
staff but, much like the bar, it didn’t stop her from strolling in like she
owned the place. She hadn’t opened her bottle of ale yet but just holding the
condensation-drenched bottle cooled her off considerably.

Shoulder-first, she pushed through the staff door and into the brightly
lit kitchen. One fan spun overhead while another sat on the end of the counter
and turned back and forth, drying the sweat on her skin and blowing her hair.

A familiar person leaned against the counter, holding open a paperback
book with a worn spine—an old Harlequin, of all things, and it caused a bit of
cognitive dissonance, seeing a large, gruff man in old jeans and a
crookedly-buttoned denim shirt reading a romance novel.

“Hey kid,” he said without looking up.

“You hiding?” She strolled over to his side. Gregory Malone, local
private investigator extraordinaire, and her boss and mentor for the past few
years. Though he wasn’t doing anything with his retirement other than fishing and
spending time with his wife, Natasha would still miss him.

Malone waved her off, eyes still on his book. “They didn’t notice.”

She leaned against the counter next to him and unscrewed the cap from
her drink. “They’re gonna notice when I bring out the cake and there’s no one
to cut it.”

He sighed, dog-eared the page he was on, and closed the book. Tash
offered him her ale, which he accepted. “Maybe I can put it off—”

“Nuh-uh, no way. Again, there is cake, sir. Cake. You
can’t put it off once there’s cake involved.”

He took a pull from the smoked ale, then gazed down at the bottle
appreciatively. “Yeah, and Susan’ll be on my case about it. But,” he glanced at
Tash sideways, “you know I’m still here. If you need anything—”

“I’ll be fine,” she promised. And she would, too. She’d been preparing
for this, after all. Long hours, extra cases. Sure, the sign would still read
MALONE AND ASSOCIATES, PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS on the door. For now. People
trusted the Malone name, after all.

Eventually it would be Whitaker. In the meantime, she was basically the
new Malone.

“You head out,” she patted his shoulder, “and I’ll find the cake.” The
heels of her sandals clicked on the tile as she crossed the bright kitchen.

“Tash.”

She paused and glanced over her shoulder.

Malone stood tall and when he wasn’t slouching, he looked imposing—a big,
bearded mountain who was like a wall of fleshy denim. But he had a soft heart
and a soft smile, the latter of which he offered her now. “You know there’s no
race. Take a break once in a while. Have fun. It’s even more important when I’m
gone.”

“I promise I will. There’ll be Dani’s baby to concern myself with and who
knows, I might even date. Maybe. At some point.” Before he could laugh, she
added, “It could happen.”

Malone shook his head, mumbled something she couldn’t make out, and
ambled out of the kitchen.

Tash sighed and continued for the fridge. Honestly, she didn’t see the
big deal. Plenty of men worked long hours and no one said a word. But she was
twenty-seven and suddenly a woman who took her job seriously was cause for
concern? Antiquated attitudes prevailed in town, and while it wasn’t a
surprise, it still burned her a little.

She found the huge white cake inside the fridge. It just barely fit, the
sides narrowly close to brushing icing on the refrigerator walls. For a moment
she stared down at it—a blue lake across the front of it and fishing pole.
HAPPY RETIREMENT, GREGORY!

Her eyes were wet and heavy, an unexpected swell of emotion rushing over
her. He’d been a good boss, a good mentor. And even though it merely meant he
wouldn’t be working in the office anymore, still, things were changing.

With a sigh, Tash carefully slid the cake from a fridge, knocked the
door shut with her heel, and headed out of the kitchen.

 

****

 

The party was still in full swing but the heat was definitely getting to
Natasha. Adam had taken Danyiah home already, a few of the families had left,
and the noise inside had grown louder, full of raucous laughter and loud music.
She slipped outside, unnoticed, for air.

There wasn’t much to be had outside, the atmosphere heavy and stagnant. She
leaned against the side of the Bar & Grill and wished she could’ve brought
a beer.

A glance at her watch put it at after eleven. Tomorrow was Saturday and
while technically not a work day, she’d be in the office anyway. There were the
last of Malone’s files to sort, the upcoming week’s cases to go over, and a
host of other things.

Main Street was silent, with the whole town mostly closed up even on a Friday
night. There was another bar open a few blocks away, but aside from the thrum
of heavy metal and periodic shouting voices that carried, Stirling Falls might
as well have been a ghost town.

Dirt scraping under shoe treads drew her attention to the left. An alley
bisected Main Street, right by the Bar & Grill. Shadows hid whoever was
there until light at the end of a cigarette flared, briefly showing the figure
of a man before fading. Smoke drifted out.

“Private party?” he asked, and the cigarette flared again. His voice was
deep and rich, edged in gravel—the kind of voice that could give a girl goose
bumps if he said just the right thing.

“Yes and no. It’d be awkward if you didn’t know the guest of honor. There’s
Eight’s over on Prince, though. Follow the noise. Pay extra and they’ll let you
smoke in there, too.”

He blew out more smoke, pale gray floating onto the street. “I should
quit.”

“Probably.” Naturally nosy, she tried to peer at him as closely as
possible without actually staring. But the shadows were too thick to
make out much other than his height and build—tall and broad. Her lips parted
to say more but a revved engine and squeal of tires drew her focus to her
right.

A dark two-door car halted in the street outside of the Bar & Grill,
double parking on an angle. The driver’s door swung open while the car was
still rocking, engine still running and headlights cutting across the road. A
man flew out of the vehicle, face violently red and she didn’t think it was
from the heat.

As Tash recognized him, she started backing for the Bar & Grill’s
door.

“You!” He thrust his finger forward as he ran toward her. He wasn’t a
terribly big guy but anger had a way of making an average-sized man seem huge. “I’m
gonna kill you!”

She reached for her purse and belatedly realized she’d left it inside at
Gus’s table, which was where her Beretta 92F waited in a holster. “Calm down,
Gordie—”

“You were on private property—”

“With your wife’s permission—”

“Invading my privacy—”

“While you were violating your marriage vows—”

He hadn’t slowed, still heading straight for her. Her back struck the side
of the restaurant, the window behind her rattling—the door was three feet away and
now Gordie Martin was too close to avoid, getting right in her face, his
still-pointing finger nearly striking her throat.

“Neighbor’s kid took a picture of you up in the tree outside my window!”

Damn technology. It wasn’t like the good ol’ days in movies anymore—now
people in her line of work were as likely to be recorded as whoever she was
hired to spy on. Gordie’s wife probably could’ve hired the neighborhood kids
with cell phones to film her husband and his mistress, and saved a lot of
money.

“At least any photos of me were G-rated,” Tash offered with a shrug.

His face went redder, which she scarcely thought was possible. Gordie
launched himself at her and she pulled her fist back to punch him.

Instead another body collided with his, grasping Gordie’s wrist and
jerking his arm back. The stranger twisted her attacker around and thrust him
forward, slamming him on the hood of the car.

While she didn’t have her gun, she did have her cell phone in her
back pocket, which she withdrew and began dialing. “Charges of threats and
attempted assault will look great for you during your divorce
proceedings, I’m sure,” Tash said with a dramatic sigh. “Can’t wait ’til this
info goes public.”

Gordie muttered under his breath. When the stranger stepped back, the
other man moved, shoving off the car, casting a glare at Tash, and then
returning to his car.

She kept the phone at her ear until he’d sped off and the car was out of
sight. Well, that was going to go over well with her client—the woman would not
be happy that she’d been made. She’d have to get the photos to her first thing
in the morning—and get paid—before Gordie could explain or apologize
convincingly.

“Exciting times in Stirling Falls.” She ended the call mid-dialing and
returned her phone to her back pocket, then shifted her attention to the man
who had intervened.

His back was mostly to her as he stared in the direction Gordie’s car
had gone. He wore a dark jacket despite the heat, chocolate-colored hair cut
short—it looked like a fresh trim. Caucasian. Little else she could make out. Tash
took a step to the right, casually, angling herself to at least see his profile.
His nose was well-cut and proud, jaw square and a flicker of movement suggested
he ground his teeth. She couldn’t make out the color of his eyes with the
shadow streetlights cast, but they were narrowed, still, on where Gordie had
disappeared.

“Thanks,” she offered as she continued to study him.

He turned, shifting his attention away from the direction Gordie had
taken. The hardness of his expression faded as his eyes settled on hers.

A rolling heat burned under her skin, her heart fluttering with just a
smoldering look. Her mouth was dry. She licked her lips, tried to find her
voice. “Buy you a beer?”

His lips parted to speak when the door to the Bar & Grill opened.
Noise spilled out, as did people. He snapped his mouth closed and turned his
head away.

Natasha glanced over her shoulder to see a couple exiting the
restaurant, arm in arm, chuckling. She swung back, but the other man had left.
A glance both left and right down the street, and she found no sign of him.

Out-of-towners are weird.

Well, she’d just have to buy herself a beer.
With a sigh, Tash headed back inside for one more drink before heading home.

Bad Moon Rising – Excerpt

Next Tuesdays sees the release of my new IR shifter novella, Bad Moon Rising, from Phaze!

To celebrate the new release, my first paranormal romance Somebody to Love: A Ghost Story will be going on sale for half price at all retailers–just $1.49! The sale will go for a couple of weeks and if you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I hope you get a chance.

Read on for an excerpt from Bad Moon Rising!

 

Chapter One

The party at Bad Moon
Rising was in full swing. Classic rock blasted over the speakers but was barely
audible over the din of voices and laughter from the bar’s patrons.

Abriella Simone worked
the bar, keeping busy by mixing drinks. Her hooded red cloak hung off her shoulders,
the sash at her neck pulling slightly as she bustled about.

Her coworker, Pam,
stopped at the end of the bar and set her tray on the counter. “A pitcher of
Red and three Porn Stars!”

Like I don’t have enough here. “I’m coming!” Brie said instead of
complaining. She ducked a wadded napkin flying through the air and mixed a
Whiskey Sour for the next guy in line. Stephen was already ringing someone up
at the cash register, at least, so he took care of collecting the money while
she started on the order Pam brought.

The waitress was
tapping her long, manicured black nails on the counter while Abriella filled a
pitcher with beer and then set about mixing up the cocktails. A straw in each
of the glasses and they were good to go; she set everything on the tray and
nodded.

Pam made a face as she
hefted the heavy tray up, rolled her blue eyes, and then plastered on a fake
smile to deliver the drinks.

With a brief break of
no customers for a moment, Brie grabbed a cloth and gave the bar a good
wipe-down, then snatched a dish of peanuts to refill in the staff area. A
glance at the clock revealed it was only eleven-thirty—still a couple of hours
left. At least she was keeping busy.

In the rear of the bar
was the kitchen, and stepping through the door afforded her ears a break as it
dulled the music and voices. Her heels clicked on the tile as she made her way
for the pantry cupboard.

She nearly collided
with a tall, broad figure as he stepped from the backroom, arms stacked high
with bags of tortilla chips. His steps skidded to a halt and half the bags went
flying.

“I’m sorry!” Brie
scrambled to collect some of the fallen bags.

“No problem,” came the
low, easy voice of her boss, Lee Wheeler.

As far as bosses went,
he was great, but she’d had her share of quick to anger tyrants, and she
swiftly gathered the still-sealed packages from the floor as to not abuse his
goodwill.

Lee stacked the bags on
the counter and took the remaining ones from her arms. “Really, no harm.”

“Still. I’m not usually
so klutzy.”

He waved her off. “Busy
night. Everyone’s a bit frazzled.”

That was true. She
hadn’t had time to sit down since she started. Her feet ached in a pair of sexy
Mary Jane heels after being behind the bar for four hours, but the tips slipped
her way for her Little Red Riding Hood getup were totally worth the discomfort.

With no one to run into
this time, she finished her trek for the peanuts from the pantry and snatched
the tin from the top shelf.

“Can you grab the
salsa?” Lee asked.

“Sure thing.” She
stacked two large jars on top of the peanut tins and went to him at the
counter.

Lee had half a dozen
chip bowls set up where he emptied the contents of the bags. Dishes for dips
hung off the sides; he handed her a spoon and nodded to one. “A few scoops of
salsa. Freebies for the crowd.”

And that was why
everyone loved Bad Moon Rising—Lee was generous. She set to scooping out salsa
per his instructions.

“Say, when was your
last break?” he asked.

“Um…during my shift
yesterday.”

His dark eyes moved her
way and he cocked a brow. “You need a break.”

“I’m fine—”

“Break.” He pushed two
chip bowls that were ready her way. “Booth one and booth two—I’ll be bringing
the rest and I can work the bar for a bit. You take thirty to rest. Or dance, have
fun. I promise the boss won’t mind.”

“I dunno, I heard he’s
a bit of a tyrant,” she teased.

His grin was sexy and
easy as he gazed down at her. “Nah, he’s a pussycat. I’m sure he won’t notice
either if Stephen gets you a drink. On the house.”

She scooped up the two
bowls of chips and salsa. “Yes, sir.” Two steps toward the door and she turned
back to him. “Oh, the—”

“I’ll worry about the
peanuts, darlin’. Go take a break.”

Well, she certainly
wasn’t going to argue.

Abriella slipped out of
the kitchen, back into the fray.

Patrons were dressed in
all manner of costumes—lots of cats and mice among the women, which involved leotards,
headbands with ears, and stilettos. Some witches, some ghosts. Among the men
were a dozen pirates, some ninjas, and a few full body monster costumes. Masks
abounded and there were several people she didn’t recognize at all.

She dropped the chips
and salsa off at booth one and two, and then swung around for the bar,
squeezing past patrons so she could order a drink.

Stephen had worked the
longest of any of them at Bad Moon Rising, next to Lee himself, and grinned as
she stepped up to see him. “’Bout time you took a break. What’ll it be?”

“Sex on the Beach,” she
returned and laughed as he raised a brow suggestively.

“Coming right up.”

She turned to face the
crowd while she waited for the drink, her gaze drifting over everyone. Space
was cleared in the center for dancing and people took advantage of it, about
twenty or so of them in a tangled mess of bodies and arms and legs.

Stephen nudged her
shoulder with her drink, which she accepted with thanks. Her lips wrapped
around the straw and she took a long drink, sweet alcohol flooding her taste
buds and rolling down her throat. Prickles ran down her spine, her body coming
alive with awareness as she sensed someone watching her. She scanned the crowd
for someone she recognized.

Her gaze snagged that
of a man across the room.

He stood a head over
most the people there. A black T-shirt and a black jacket were stretched over
broad shoulders and a muscled torso. Dark hair was loose and nearly to his
shoulders, looking silky to the touch. A wolf mask hid his face, however,
blocking all features but his eyes from view.

He was most definitely
looking at her, though.

She’d seen him earlier,
across the room standing outside the crowd. He’d been holding a beer then
though she didn’t remember him coming up to order it, and it was gone now. She
didn’t think he was there with anyone. Though tempted to wave in case she knew
him, instead she averted her eyes.

A shiver ran through
her despite the heat from the room and the alcohol flushing her face with warm
blood. She took another long sip of her drink and debated. She was social,
sure, but not that forward of a girl—she didn’t run up to
strangers in masks and make small talk. No, she was used to being friendly as
part of her job—patrons bought more drinks if they had a nice girl with a
sympathetic ear—but outside of work she kept to herself, went on nice normal
dates.

Still, something buzzed
under her skin, sliding down her spine and spreading warmth through her veins.
The point of Bad Moon Rising’s monthly full moon costume party was to be
someone else, wasn’t it?

And she was dressed the
part. She wore a black corset, red and black short skirt, and then the red
satin cloak that came to mid-thigh. Ruby red lipstick, her black hair long and
loose, and dramatic eye shadow completed the look. She managed to out-vamp Pam
that evening, which was no small feat considering she was dressed like a
vampire stripper.

And Little Red Riding Hood can’t very well
ignore the big bad wolf, now can she?

Abriella drained the
rest of her drink. She had another twenty minutes before she had to head back
to the bar. The least she could do was have some fun, maybe dance a little.
Perhaps Mr. Wolf would stroll over and say hi.

She left the safety of
the bar and strolled for the dance floor, a happy buzz settling in her veins. Dancers
were in loose groups, swaying to Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”, and she
shifted toward a few people she recognized. Her neighbor, twenty-something Laverne,
was dressed as a pixie, her wings shimmering and a smattering of glitter shone
across her skin. Laverne waved and Abriella made her way over. At least she’d
have some company while making eyes at Mr. Wolf.

She wove through the
crowd, squeezing between couples. The slow, sensual beat of the music thrummed
in her bones and she swayed her hips, tipped her head back, enjoying being lost
for a moment and away from slinging drinks and playing nice with the drunks.

Heat warmed her back,
the undeniable feeling of someone behind her. A smile curved her lips before
she opened her eyes, sensing his hand on her hip before she felt it.

Mr. Wolf was at her
back, moving with her in a sensual dance. She shuddered, feeling his possessive
grip, and turned her head to look up at him. Even with her heels, he stood more
than a head over her. Brown eyes looked backed from behind the mask, smoky with
desire. Her heart tripped up just staring at him and she was very aware of her
exposed cleavage displayed by the corset. A blush worked across her dark skin,
rolling from her cheeks down her neck straight to the top of her breasts.

“Why, Mr. Wolf, what
big eyes you have,” she said in a breathy voice.

“The better to see you
with, Red,” he returned, his grip on her hip tightening.

She inched back,
pressed right up against him. Laverne was in her peripheral vision, and though
she expected a stare, her neighbor didn’t pay any attention. In fact, Little
Red Riding Hood and her Big Bad Wolf could’ve been in the middle of the forest
all alone for all anyone else in the bar noticed, and she rather liked it.

Out of character for
her, maybe, but Brie had spent much of her life being normal and safe, and this
was merely a dance, after all. She snuggled right into him, her hips still swaying.
His other hand touched her shoulder, pulling back the cloak to expose her bare
skin and trail his fingers along there. She shivered, tingles of pleasure
running through her skin. Her head tilted to the side, neck exposed and
vulnerable, and if he hadn’t worn the mask she wondered if his lips would
descend and press a kiss to her fevered flesh.

But he didn’t remove
the mask, instead keeping up his werewolf alter ego. Brie turned to face him,
still locked close to him, her hands sliding up his torso to rest on his chest.
He drew in a breath, his heart thudding beneath her fingertips, and she loved
the idea that beneath the dominant exterior this Mr. Wolf was as thrilled at
her touch as she was with his.

She studied the mask
and tried to picture the man behind it. Small town, she knew nearly
everyone—surely he was someone who came in here often or at least lived in the
area. But if she knew him, she couldn’t place him.

Too soon the song
ended. She was prepared to continue but he slowed to a stop even as the next
tune began.

“Have grandmothers to
abduct and eat?” she asked.

His hand folded over
hers, sending electric shivers through her body. “Maybe I’ll see you again if you
go walking the woods, Red.” He lifted his mask just slightly, enough for her to
catch a strong, square jaw and full lips, but that was all. He pressed a warm
kiss to her knuckles, then let her hand drop again. With a little nod, he
backed up and slipped into the crowd.

Though she tried to
peer past the others, she couldn’t see where he went. Her shoulders sank and
she let out a sigh. Well, she had fun for a little while. Maybe she’d grab
another drink before her break ended.

SOMEBODY TO LOVE: Excerpt

Hey folks!

A huge huge HUGE thank you to those of you who picked up Somebody to Love this week and left a couple of reviews–it means so, so much to me. You rock!

Here’s an excerpt from the novella.

————-

 

Spirits’ Will

 

Marie paced away from the billiard room and James.
“I don’t want to hear any ghost stories.”

She heard his steps following and his smooth, deep
voice rumble, “Why’s that?”

She stopped abruptly and turned, lantern swinging in
her hand. “Because people always die in them.”

“Well…yes. That’s the point.”

“And that’s depressing. So no, no ghost stories, no
ghost hunting, no ghost talking, no ghost anything!” She snapped her
lips shut, regretting her outburst. He didn’t look any differently at her, of
course—expression didn’t change at all except to slip from teasing to more
thoughtful.

And the sudden silence hanging between them didn’t
bother her, either. Tension rose but it wasn’t unpleasant—instead the air,
strangely, seemed to sizzle. Her heart fluttered as she was locked in
his blue eyes, held immobile by a sudden yearning for him. James was tall and
broad, with brown hair cut short, looking silky to the touch, and a hint of
stubble along his strong jaw. He stood casually but it did nothing to diminish
his stature, his strength.

They’d parted on bad terms, but no one would guess
just looking at him—he seemed like no time had passed. No one would guess the
hurt that hollowed her out and left her broken.

Marie looked away from the heat in his eyes and the
moment between them ended. Instead she moved for the front door. Some fresh air
would do her good—it might cool her suddenly flushed skin. She let the camera
hang from her shoulder again and reached for the door.

It didn’t budge.

She frowned and checked the lock. It was fine. Again
she twisted at the knob but to no avail—it was stuck, completely shut.

“Well.” James sighed behind her. “Guess you’re stuck
with me.”

Her temper flared. “Did you do this?” She turned back
to him and pointed at the door. “Seriously?”

His eyes widened but she didn’t believe him for a
second. “Such an accusation.” But her unyielding anger seemed to dawn on him at
last and he sobered. “It’s not me.” James walked past her, reached for the
door, and tried the knob only to have the same result she did.

Forget this—I’m finding another door. Marie shook her head and trekked away from him, down
the opposite hall. The floor creaked angrily, announcing her every movement,
and she didn’t care. She stalked past the stairs, the lantern swinging in her
hand, and down the corridor. She passed two closed doors and two archways
leading to dark rooms she didn’t spare a glance to. At the back of the house
she found another door and she stomped right up to it and grasped the handle.

This one didn’t open either.

Damn it! She
pounded with her free hand against the wood and it just kicked more dust up
that filled her lungs and tickled her nose. She coughed and stepped back,
glaring at the door as if that might open it. Her head throbbed and pain
stretched over the back of her neck. The fear creeping up in her was
overshadowed by exhaustion and she slumped against the wall by the door with a
sigh.

Steps crossed the floor and while she continued
staring at the barred exit, she spoke to James. “You’re telling me that’s not
you? Keeping it shut? After all your ghost talk?” When silence followed, she
turned her tired eyes to him.

He cast a glance back at her. “No, it’s not me.”

“Then who’s doing it?”

His lips parted.

“Don’t say ghosts!”

“Okay. Spirits?”

I have to get out of here. Once again she pushed past him, still needing to clear her head. This
time she turned into the kitchen and set the lantern down, and stopped to look
outside. The windows showed a dark, overgrown lawn patterned with dry fallen
leaves, and pricks of stars in the sky. She leaned on the counter, peering up
at the starlight.

Damn him. He had to be keeping those doors shut somehow.

Marie slipped the camera off her shoulder, set it on
the counter, and her gaze trailed over the sink. Her throat was parched and her
skin was flushed still, whether from her quick temper or something else, she
didn’t know. Though she doubted she’d have success, she reached over and
fiddled with the dusty taps anyway.

Nothing. Nothing at all. Whether it was attached to a
well with a broken pump or the town line and it hadn’t been turned on with the
house being vacant, she didn’t know. And it didn’t matter. No water, damn it.

James’ footfalls sounded on the floor. She sighed and
turned around, pressed her back against the counter, and watched his approach.
His hands were knotted behind his back and he came nearer, nearer, until her
head tilted back so she could continue to meet his gaze. Scarce inches
separated them and for some reason her mind went wild wanting—

Stop. It. And get a hold of yourself. But that was easier said than done. She locked her
hands onto the counter’s edge and waited.

“Thirsty?” he asked.

“Taps don’t work and I didn’t bring anything. Wasn’t planning
on staying, but that was before someone locked me in.”

“I didn’t—”

But she didn’t want to hear it. She started to turn
away from him when his arm darted out, barring her path along with the bottle
he had in hand.

James said nothing but held still, offering the
bottle. At last she relented and took it, turned it back and forth in her
hands. The label was too faded to read.

“You didn’t pack wine,” she said.

“Maybe I did. Or maybe…” He seemed to be leaning
closer to her still and her heart leapt, the warmth of him enveloping her, his
voice dropping low against her ear. “I…stole it from the billiard room.”

Marie grinned. He was exceptionally good at melting
away her irritation though she was loath to admit it. “I don’t really want to
know what food you might’ve found in there too.”

“Nothing in there but I have sandwiches. They
were in my bag.”

Back in the billiard room. She clutched the wine
bottle to her chest. “How about eating in a different room?”

“Drawing room?”

She made a face. “Library?”

His expression sobered and he averted his gaze. “Oh.
Yeah, I think I passed it on my way.” He took her lantern and started from the
kitchen.

Marie watched his retreat for a moment, hugging the
old, sealed bottle of wine. Her head continued to ache but maybe some food
would make her feel better. Still, locked in here…

The twisting in her stomach told her this night wasn’t
going to end well.

————

The empty house at the end of Landsdowne Lane is
supposedly haunted.
Among the alleged ghosts is a couple who died
young and, legend has it, they possess the living and draw true love to the
house for a night of passion before dawn comes.
 Marie and James are about to find out if it’s
true.

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Other stores coming soon!