WILD HORSES Excerpt!

Want to meet Danyiah and Adam from my upcoming novel, Wild Horses? Read on!

Chapter One
“I’m just saying, if I blogged about this, I bet my
hits—”

“Then stop saying it,” Therese said sharply as
she cut a look to the rearview mirror.

Danyiah’s dark brown eyes met her friend’s and she
made a face.

“Mature,” Therese muttered.

“The reason Dani Girl is popular in the first
place is because I talk about these things openly with my readers. Bad dates,
bad job interviews, bad—”

“Stalkers?”

Danyiah pressed her lips together, crossed her arms
under her breasts, and glanced out the side window to sulk. Rolling bright
green hills, acres of fields, and thick wooded areas passed by. The sky
overhead was a rich blue and cloudless, and sun beat through the car windows,
warming her arm despite the blasting air conditioning. Still, the beautiful
June day did nothing to brighten her sour mood.

“You heard Dr. Van Ike,” Randy said from the passenger
seat as he glanced back at her. His auburn hair stuck up in all directions, and
Dani had to suppress the urge—again—to offer him a comb. He shifted, leaning
his tall, broad frame back in the seat which was already pushed far back to
give him leg room. “Discussing the threats publicly could trigger him.”

Right, so she was supposed to shut down her whole
life? For how long? There was a big “ON HIATUS” notice at the top of her blog
now. As of this morning, it had nine hundred and thirteen comments, and she
hadn’t had time to read them all before her best friend Therese and boyfriend
Randy were there to pick her up for the long drive into the country. And now
her apartment was closed up, she was on a leave of absence from her part time
job at a coffee shop—a job she actually liked—and with no idea of how
long it would be for. Sure, the good doctor thought staying low while they
collected her email and snail mail, intercepted her calls, and monitored her
website was a good idea. They might be able to narrow down exactly who they
were dealing with. And maybe he was right. But at the same time, she loathed
the fact that some creep with too much time on his hands could run her out of
her own life like that.

“She’s still sulking,” Randy said with a sigh. His
glasses shifted and he pushed them higher on the bridge of his nose, then
offered a half-hearted smile.

“Of course she is,” Therese responded.

The problem with Therese was that she’d known her five
years, Randy for three, and neither put up with her attitude.

She already missed her home in the city and they’d
only left two and a half hours ago. The nearest town out here for miles was an
itty bitty, country bumpkin place called Stirling Falls—a real
blink-or-you’ll-miss-it kind of deal. She was going to lose her mind.

Danyiah flicked at the bright pink paint on her nails
but it didn’t chip. How long that would last, she didn’t know—since everyone at
Thompson Hills Quarter Horses had no idea why she was coming to stay
there, the story passed around was that she’d be working. Dani had no problem
with a hard day’s work; her blog picked up initially as she chronicled her days
as a clown at a child’s birthday party, then a clerk at a sex toy shop, then
the assistant for an eccentric modern artist, then during her very brief stint
making donuts. No, her problem was that she had to be a farmhand and couldn’t
document it, couldn’t talk about it—couldn’t reveal where she was, or why she’d
gone, or be herself. After years of cultivating a persona and defining
who Danyiah “Dani Girl” Jackson was, she had to stop.

Therese’s GPS announced that they were to take a
right. Dani gazed between the seats and glimpsed the long, dusty road leading
through tall gates. Log fencing sectioned off the front field and horses grazed
over grass, some lifting their heads to face the approaching car and others
preoccupied with food. Multiple buildings stood in the distance, barns tall and
new-looking, and at the far end of the road sat the sprawling one story ranch
house.

Car tires spit dust up as they rolled down the gravel
road. Dani glanced around, nervousness rising in her stomach. Out in the middle
of nowhere—they probably didn’t have WiFi. She might not even be able to check
Twitter.

“I will give you a hundred million dollars if you turn
around and take me home now,” she said.

No one responded.

“Please?”

Therese shook her head, long blonde hair swishing over
her shoulders. “You don’t have a hundred million dollars.”

Killjoy. “Maybe I could get that in advertising dollars if I
was allowed to blog about this.”

The car turned, swinging around and coming to a halt
in front of the ranch house. It was moments before the dust settled outside her
door. Dani grasped the strap of her pale blue coach purse, sighed, and hauled
open the door.

Heat blasted her immediately from the hot sun
overhead, and a cough sputtered past her lips—apparently the dust wasn’t that
settled after all. She gave a groan of displeasure and stepped out of the car.
Gravel crunched under her heels as she stood straight and shifted, smoothing
her jeans subconsciously. She slid the strap of her bag over her arm and pulled
the sunglasses off the top of her head down to cover her eyes, then kicked the
door shut with her heel.

Therese and Randy rose as well, talking amongst
themselves, and car doors slammed behind her as she took in a view of the farm
again. The air was tinged with the scent of animals and wind blew, tossing her
dark hair around her shoulders.

“Dani!” a voice called behind her.

She turned and waved over the roof of the car at Gus Campbell
standing in the open doorway to the ranch house. He was an old friend of her
late father’s, in his sixties with no family, and owned acres of ranch land.
Gus had been kind to her for as long as she could remember and there seemed no
better place to hide out for a while. He was taller than he looked, leaning
heavily on a cane held in his left hand. The heat didn’t agree with him,
dappling his broad forehead with moisture, and she figured he was doubly warm
in the red plaid shirt tucked over his girth and pair of worn dark jeans.

Gus grinned broadly and then moved to talk to Randy,
who carted her bags out from the trunk.

A Doberman came barreling out of the house past Gus,
stump of a tail struggling to wag, and long pink tongue rolling form its mouth.
It paused for a moment by Dani, let her give it a scratch behind the ears, then
raced in the direction of the fields in the distance.

Well, she did like animals, and there were
plenty to get along with. Danyiah took several steps from the car while Gus, Therese,
and Randy spoke, glancing around.

Middle of nowhere.

Indefinite amount of time.

This will be unbearable with
or without a dog to keep me company.

She had her laptop—she could journal still. And would.
And maybe when everything was sorted out and they were able to catch and put a
stop to whatever loser had been threatening her, she could post everything
she’d documented. In fact, she’d be set for blog posts for maybe a month or so
when she got back.

Unless this turns out to be
the most boring place ever
. Which was
possible, but then Dani Girl was known for finding something funny with
everything. Its writer stalked, threatened, sent into hiding, working as a
farmhand? Oh yeah. It would be funny.

A pair of horses whinnied from the fence several feet
away. She took a few steps toward them, grinning. One was a bay, the other
palomino, both hanging their heads over the top of the fence.

“You angling for food?” she said softly.

Voices shouted in the distance and a steady thrum beat
the ground.

Danyiah turned, frowned. The noise grew louder.

Around the side of the bright red barn ahead, dust
flew and a huge brown horse came barreling toward her at full speed, blond mane
flying and dark eyes wide.

Dani froze from head to toe, staring wide-eyed at the
beast.

Behind it, a pair of men shouted, waving their arms.
One deep voice carried over the beat of hooves, hollering for her to stop it.

Stop it? It was the size of a Mack truck!

Panic filled her, heart jumping up into her throat. As
the horse neared, she squealed and covered her eyes, shoulders turning inward
in a cringe as she braced to be run down.

Breeze brushed past her left side, whipping her hair
for a moment as the horse passed. She peeled her fingers back one by one,
glanced down to see she was fine. A little dusty, but all in one piece. She
breathed out a sigh of relief just as the pair of figures beat around the side
of the barn after the horse.

“He’s headed—” one started.

“For the grain—I got it.” A short, skinny guy ran past
her, tipping his head in her direction with a grin. “Ma’am.” And off he went,
in pursuit of the enormous horse who had his head stuck in a barrel against the
side of the house.

Dani shook her head. It would make such a good
vlog topic—she could get really animated in her telling of it and do sound
effects and stuff.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

She snapped to attention again, turning back to face
the other white man.

A black Stetson sat on his head, casting dark shadows
over his face—but she glimpsed enough of his expression to see it was a scowl.
Brows pulled low over dark eyes, and his chiseled jaw was scruffy with
something well past five o’clock shadow. As for the rest of him, he stood over
a head above her, and a white T-shirt streaked with dirt stretched over his
powerful shoulders and chest.

If he hadn’t just snarled at her, she might’ve needed
to pick her jaw off the ground; instead, she prickled with irritation and
crossed her arms under her breasts. “Excuse me?”

“You hear us shouting to stop a horse and you cover
your eyes
? Just standing there? I repeat, what the hell is wrong with you?”

Dani ground her teeth. “Your freakishly large horse
could’ve killed me! Was I supposed to grab on? Stop it with my mutant psychic
powers or something? Create a force field?”

He stared at her. “What the hell are you talking
about?”

“I’m talking about you expecting some random person
to—”

“Listen, princess—”

“No harm, no harm.” Gus ambled over, gravel crunching
under his feet and cane. “Look there, Dewey’s got him. Everything’s fine.”

Only when Gus reached them and placed a gentle hand on
her shoulder did she realize just how tightly she was wound. Dani sucked in a
breath, trying to calm her nerves, but glowered still at the stranger who
glared right back at her.

“This is my…well, sort of goddaughter, I suppose you
could say,” Gus said, gesturing at her. “She’ll be staying here for a bit.” He
turned to her next. “Danyiah Jackson, meet my head horse wrangler, Adam
Cooper.”

Cooper did not extend his hand.

Neither did she.

“Erm…well.” Gus cleared his throat.

Steps approached and a moment later, the giant horse
appeared in her peripheral vision along with the guy—Dewey, Gus had called him—leading
him with firm hand on the halter. Cooper said nothing more, just reached for
the horse and swung onto him bareback.

Once he’d settled, he glanced down at Gus. “I’ll
discuss this with you later.”

Gus brushed his hand over his sweaty brow and nodded.

Cooper urged the horse on, not looking back once.
Dewey jogged at his side, turning just once to nod again at Dani before
catching up.

Dear God, I want to go home.

“Come, Dani.” Gus smiled at her and gestured for the
house. “Let’s get you settled inside. Adam will warm up the more you talk to
him, you’ll see.”

Danyiah sighed as she followed. “I think I’ll just
avoid him.”

“Oh, that’ll be a bit hard considering he’s your new
boss.”

“Broken Heart” Excerpt

Release is less than a month away (May 15!), edits are turned in, and I thought it would be a good time to post an excerpt so readers can meet Derica and J.L. for the first time. 🙂

Instead of the first chapter, here’s a a glimpse of them from a bit later when they first start to get close…

(Mood music!)
—————

Shivers danced down Derica’s back as warm fingers trailed up her arm,
and then a firm hand clasped her shoulder to turn her around.

She’d danced in a group with him before. Never one-on-one, never to a
slow, sensual number like this. But her hands moved up his arms to snake
around his neck as he drew her close—very close. Her pulse thrummed
wildly as he enveloped her in the heat of his strong arms, pressing her right
up against his muscular chest. She averted her gaze, tilted her head down and
to the side as they moved.

It took but moments to find their rhythm and then they moved in tune to
one another, bodies molding together as if they’d been dancing as a couple for
years. And of course, she was prone to wondering if such compatibility would
extend to all coupled physical activities as well…

His breath stirred the fine hairs by her temple and the air was charged
for a moment as she felt him about to speak. “They were getting to you too?”

Again, that deep voice dipped right under her skin and drove her wild. “Was
it obvious I was bolting?”

“Probably not to them. And that kind of stuff goes right over Shay.”

But not him. So he willingly joined her away from the resident Adorable
Couple. “Normally they don’t bug me, but…” She shrugged but still didn’t look
up at him.

“But?” he prompted, lower this time and right above her ear.

Derica blinked, trying to regain her focus despite the feel of his hot
breath caressing her skin. “But I guess I’m in a mood. I’d have stayed home and
caught all the Thursday sitcoms if not for Shay calling.”

“Desperate to see me depressed?” He tensed, just slightly but enough
that she felt it.

She tilted her head to glance up at him, a small smile taking her lips.
“To see you cheered up.”

He held her closer and she felt the rather considerable evidence of him
being “cheered up” pressing against her lower belly. Her heart kicked hard
again. His eyes were heavy-lidded, staring down at her, but she didn’t linger
on them for long; instead her gaze trailed down to his full lips for a moment
before dropping again, and her face flamed.

“You’re pretty when you blush,” he said in a low voice and she could
nearly hear the smile in his tone.

“I’m not blushing,” she said lightly. “It’s…warm. Poor air circulation
with all these people.”

“Uh huh.”

Of course he didn’t believe her. I will not flirt with Joshua Lee
Merrill…I will not flirt with Joshua Lee Merrill…

“We could head back to the table if it’ll cool you off.”

It sounded like a challenge—which she found impossible to resist. “If
the heat’s a little too much, I’ll be sure to let you know.”

His arms tightened around her, big hands smoothing the material of her
dress over her hips. “You do that, Washington.”

————-

Book Blurb for HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART?:

Joshua Lee Merrill has been a playboy for years, never content to settle and convinced there’s no such thing as “the right one”—just “the right now.” For a while, his friends thought he had the perfect woman—until she summarily dumped him and gave his ego a severe thrashing. His group of friends are there to help with his broken heart…but it’s his old pal Derica who suddenly has him hot with desire.
Derica Washington nursed a crush on her friend J.L. for years while he went through a string of girlfriends and never gave her a second look. But now he’s broken-hearted, alone, and his sights are set on her at last. She’s determined not to give in to him, though turning the love ’em and leave ’em attitude on him is tempting. And it can’t hurt to indulge this once…can it?

NEAR TO YOU Excerpt!

Turned in edits today for my debut novella, Near to You–and I can’t wait for you to meet Niara and Brady on March 20. Want to know how it all gets started?  See below!

Chapter One
If the weeds weren’t taken care of by today, Niara Morgan was certain
the lot of them would rise up in the night, arm themselves, and attack her
home.
They wouldn’t need to do much, either. The house was the fixer-upper
even fixer-uppers avoided. New insulation around the windows needed—new windows
needed. There was a persistent leak in the upstairs bathroom. She didn’t want
to think about the potential flooding in her basement with the house situated
this close to the lake. If the weeds laid siege, they’d win by sunset, and too
few people lived in the general area to hear her scream.
But the place was hers—all hers, paid for with the divorce settlement.
And at least the weeds would be tackled today.
If her gardener ever showed up, that is.
The woman she spoke to at Red Rose Home Help Services said someone would
arrive between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30. Her watch said 8:22. She’d sat on the
sagging step of her front porch, sipped her coffee, and waited. The drink had
long since gone cold, and watery spring sunlight crept over her house, drying
dew on the grass.
She had been watching dew dry. Seriously. How boring was that?
It would just be her luck, too. Her appointment yesterday with a
contractor to look at the inside of the house had postponed and she still
didn’t know when he was showing up. Here only a week and already nothing was
going smoothly.
Her cordless phone sat beside her, next to the empty pink coffee mug,
and chirped a new call. She was expecting someone from the gardening place to
cancel or make up excuses for being behind; instead, a familiar name and number
flashed.
Niara sighed. “Hello?”
“I guess he’s not yet tilling your garden if you’re answering the phone.”
She rubbed at her temples. “Hey, Deena.”
“C’mon, that one was funny.”
“Once again, I’m not going to sleep with the gardener.”
A pause, and then genuine confusion. “Why not?”
“Because, dear, this isn’t a porn flick.”
“You’re right,” her best friend conceded. “He might be fugly.”
“And also, I’m not going to have sex with a stranger.”
“It’s a small town,” Deena said. “And you grew up there. You really
think that many new occupants entered the rather stagnant gene pool in the past
eight years? I bet you totally know the guy.”
It was far too early in the morning to be having this conversation. “The
only gardener I knew growing up was Mr. Tansey. He was in his fifties.”
“Maybe he had a son?”
“Gay and childless.”
“It’s rather hard to live vicariously through you when you don’t
actually live.”
When “living” had come to mean seducing gardeners like a lonely old
married woman, Niara couldn’t say. She rubbed tiredly at her eyes. “Let’s not
talk about me. How’s things?”
“I saw Ron the other day and almost ran him down with my car.”
Niara smiled wryly, even as her heart thumped a little harder. “He’s not
worth the jail time.”
“True. Plus I think he’s going bald. Definitely has a beer belly. And
the way he was moving, I suspect hemorrhoids.”
None of it was true—Niara had last seen her ex-husband two months ago,
randomly bumping into him at the grocery store, which was what set her on a
mission to just leave town and start anew. And he’d looked good, even then—good
in a way that twisted her gut and pierced her heart. Unlike the movies where so
often an ugly person was the bad guy, his smooth exterior and expensive suit
hid a lying, cheating, emotionally abusive asshole. Just that brief glimpse,
the awkward moment when she’d caught his gaze, sent her out of the store and
unable to eat for days, wanting nothing more than to hide out from the world as
every insecurity he’d carved in her flared to life again.
“You okay, Nia?” Deena said softly.
She shivered, shut her eyes, and drummed her fingers on her temple. “Yeah.
Just picturing him with syphilis.”
“I do that sometimes too.” Deena sighed dreamily and Niara chuckled. “So.
Gardener—when’s he coming?”
Possibly never. She avoided
checking the time again—it would just depress her—and kept her eyes closed,
away from the rising sun and the bright green grass and this whole new life
that threatened to overwhelm her. “I don’t know. I’ll start pulling weeds
myself soon if he doesn’t show.”
****
Brady Trewin had cut his van’s engine ten minutes ago, but hadn’t left
the vehicle.
Instead he remained behind the wheel and stared at the small,
dilapidated house on the water, through the wild trees and bushes that
surrounded the property.
Niara Morgan. Jesus Christ.
His heart accelerated the more he stared, the more he thought, a swell
of memories rising up to drag him back.
She’d left town right after high school, eight years ago this June. He
knew because he remembered the last time he saw her, right after graduation. He
swore this was it—he’d ask her out. Finally. He’d prepared a speech or two so
he didn’t sound like a dork and spill everything he’d thought during his four
year crush on her. But that entire day, she’d never left the confine of her
friends. A week later, feeling an adrenalin high after a long bike ride through
the country, he’d shown up at her house, knocked on the door, ready to say
everything then.
Gone. Gone, her uncle said—gone from their small, redneck town for the
city, and not planning to come back. And now here she was.
The day before he was leaving.
He’d hardly believed it when Cynthia said one Niara Morgan had called
looking to hire help for her new house. A joke, he figured—something one of his
asshole friends set up, thinking to be funny. His goddamn bags were packed,
apartment closed up. He wasn’t even supposed to be working this weekend—he was
set to take off in the van, drive across the country, and see where he ended
up. Years, he’d been drifting along, saving, no clue in the world what
to do with his life, but just knowing he had to leave. Maybe find work out
west, maybe just travel for a while. He’d miss his sister but she had her own
family, and their dad…he just hadn’t been the same for the past two years.
There wasn’t anything keeping him here.
It would be just like his friends to play a prank this last day and
pretend his crush from high school was still around. Oh yeah, Nia Morgan,
he’d thought when Cynthia offered the appointment, cocking a brow and grinning
like she knew. He’d shown up just so he could prove them wrong.
But he stared at her now, still adjusting to the fact that she was real.
Nia sat on the steps of her sagging porch of peeling white paint, a
cordless phone to her ear. Her head was bowed, free hand massaging her temple
as if she had a headache. Hair was longer than in school, falling in relaxed
black waves, and the sun peering around the house gave her dark skin a healthy
glow. And though he couldn’t see it now, her face flashed to his mind
immediately—her lush lips, deep brown eyes framed in long thick lashes.
Beautiful. Of course she’d be, all these years later. In school he’d
been a lovesick jock, spurning the advances of girls while he pined over the
dark beauty running the school paper. And she probably hadn’t changed at all,
smart and gorgeous. Staring at her, he felt like an embarrassed teen again, who
didn’t know how to talk without babbling and waited until she left class before
rising to avoid anyone seeing the tent in his jeans.
He should get out of the damn van. Needed to. The clock on the
dashboard read 8:26. Whether she remembered him or not, he didn’t want her
first impression of him now to be of someone who was late.
But he’d been so goddamn sure it was a prank. Positive. So he
left his place wearing jeans that, while clean, had been scuffed up so many
times during work, they remained faded and torn in places. He wore a dark
hoodie over a black, sleeveless ribbed shirt, and his freshly washed hair was
mussed up under a baseball cap.
Shit. It wasn’t like he could show up in a suit, but…
But get your ass out of the van. Nothing’s changed. Apartment lease is
up and you’re leaving town.
Brady polished off his coffee and returned it to the cup holder. He
discarded his hat, tossing it onto the passenger seat, and met his own blue
eyes in the rearview mirror. Shit, he hadn’t even shaved. Oh well. He ran his
hand back through his dark hair and slowly cracked the door open.
Here we go.

I’m hard at work on Wild Horses and when the blurb is finalized, I’ll share information about it here.