Is your summer flying away like mine? I can’t believe tomorrow’s the first day of July! I’m renewing my vows right now to swim every day, enjoy the kids every day, and figure out how to write and have a life… Too many promises? Probably. Which do you think will fall by the wayside? Yeah. Probably the last one.
But that’s good for you, right? Seeing as this is Friday and you have the weekend stretching out in front of you, I’m here to remind you of the stories you may have missed this month. If you start now, you can read every one of them this weekend! You don’t have to waste time at Amazon, flipping through screens to find something you love. Love cowboys? Adore Blue Collar bad boys? Lust for Navy SEALs? Well, you’re in luck…
And don’t forget to drool over the covers of the stories coming in July…
If you missed this month’s releases…
Sometimes it takes a cowboy, or maybe four, to unleash a woman’s wild child…
Being the pretty daughter of the town whore was reason enough to ensure Shauna Davies lived a circumspect life, stepping out of line only occasionally with her favorite cowboy, boyfriend Bo Crenshaw. But her untamed spirit is forcing her to make a new start in another place where no one knows her past–but not before she fulfills one last wicked fantasy…
Cowboy Bo Crenshaw has loved Shauna since they shared their first sexual adventures as teenagers, but he hasn’t found the way to show her he accepts the wild child she keeps hidden inside–at least, not until she confesses a long-held fantasy. Now Bo is determined to give her a send-off that will make her think twice about blowing out of town.
Hoping he’s found the key to unlocking her heart, he turns to the Kinzie brothers, his three closest friends, to provide her a single night of unrestrained passion.
Romance sparks between a bounty hunter and a SEAL on the hunt for an escaped terrorist…
A former military police dog handler, Jamie Burke, along with her former bomb dog Tessa, are still trying to adjust to civilian life. With a jaded, testy personality, Jamie has few friends. Now, a bounty hunter, she’s tasked to help federal and local law enforcement search for an escaped terrorist in the Crazy Mountains of Montana.
Former SEAL, Sky Reynolds can’t believe Jamie Burke is part of the task force. The last time he saw her was in Afghanistan. Back then, he thought he’d never stand a chance with the pretty, ballsy blonde, sure she had someone waiting for her back home. But here she is, still single, still prickly as hell. Assigned to stick close to her and her dog Tessa during the hunt, he’ll use the situation to get close. This time, he’s not letting her slip away.
When Jamie’s captured by the terrorist, it’s up to Sky, his fellow SEALs, and her motley crew of bounty hunters to save her…
It’s time to set aside those sexy billionaires and enjoy stories about the everyday, even sexier bad boys you meet in real life. They may have dirty hands and wear tool belts and jeans instead of Rolex watches, but they’re earthy alpha males unafraid to get down and dirty when face to face with a woman in need–whatever her need may be!
Just a few of the titillating stories inside…
In “Elevation” by Megan Mitcham, an always-in-control policewoman trapped in an elevator shaft gets a sexy rescue from the handsome repairman. A lonely woman drives a thousand miles to meet an oil field roughneck ready for a long night of laying pipe in Mia Hopkins’ “We Drill Deep While Others Sleep”. Jennifer Kacey shows the lengths to which an enterprising gal will go to get the owner of an oil change shop to check her fluids in “The Boss”. And those are just a few of the sexy stories inside this collection about the everyday hero next door.
These are men who’ve built their powerful muscles from hard work rather than inside any gym, and they sure know how to use their hard-earned skills to pleasure a woman…
Three cowboys…one for remembrance…one for healing…and one to steal her heart forever…
Chrissi Page has tried to find one man who heats her bed the way the Kinzie brothers did one shameful night years ago. She’s failed miserably, leaving her with no choice but to bank that inner fire–and keep a lid on her inner bad girl.
Way back when, she’d been weak, unable to choose between three cowboys who appealed to her in very different ways. After they’d each tried to win her for their own, they’d confronted her, demanding she choose. Confusion and anger had boiled over into a passion so wild, that to this day, she’s still trying to live it down.
Since that night, Ezra, Cade, and Joshua have individually sewn their wild oats with pretty much the entire available female population of Two Mule, Texas. Yet nothing and no other woman has ever erased the attraction they still feel for Chrissi. When she’s stranded on the road near their ranch, it’s their last chance to turn their mutual obsession into an unusual proposition…
Today is my birthday. Yup, today I am 81 years young. And you now what keeps me young? Writing my books and “talking” to you, my readers. Now, I’m not giving away 81 books today (pause to giggle) but I will give away three titles which I’ll post at the end.
I’m really celebrating today, because June 27 was release day for Where Danger Hides. I love all my books but this one is extra special. I wrote it while still living in Texas (as I did with so many of my books). The hero is part Comanche. I lived near Fredericksburg, the center so long ago of Comanche settlement in that area. My husband and I drove to Fredericksburg to do some research at the museum there and (gasp!) you’ll never believe it but a man walked in to give something to the museum who look EXACTLY like my hero, Noah Cantrell. My husband had to promise I wasn’t crazy when I asked if we could take him for coffee. The soul of Noah was born out of that conversation.
I had lived in Tampa before moving to Texas, so I tried to give a flavor of the city by having my heroine live there. But when she goes to Texas, she is seduced by the nature and raw beauty of the state, just as I was.
Where Danger Hides is a revised and revitalized edition of the earlier release, and I am so much happier with this one. Not only that, my publisher, Totally Bound, liked it so much they asked me to develop a series from it, so this is Book One in Corporate Heat. Books 2-4 are currently in development.
Here is a taste of the book below. I hope you’ll all help me celebrate my birthday by taking home a copy. And if you leave a comment, you might win a choice of an ebook from my backlist.
Where Danger Hides
Corporate Heat Book One
Taylor Scott thought she had it all—a good life and a great job. No relationship? No problem. But her world is turned upside down when the father she never knew she had first refuses to acknowledge her, then makes her the sole heir to the major conglomerate he owned. It’s the last thing she wants, but circumstances leave her no choice. She steps into a world of corporate greed and treachery where no one is what they seem.
And the only person to guide her through the treacherous waters? The man with whom she had the hottest one-night stand ever, Noah Cantrell. Noah isn’t what he seemed at first, either, but now he’s the only one Taylor can trust.
As danger stalks her at every turn, she must rely on him for everything. The man who makes her scream with pleasure is the only one who can tell her where the danger hides.
Leaning back in her chair she closed her eyes and as always these days, unbidden, the image of The Man danced across her brain. She rubbed her eyes, trying to erase the images that were always there no matter how she wished them away. That night had been at once the most erotic and embarrassing night of her life. At least she’d broken out of her shell with a stranger, someone she didn’t have to see again. You want to see him again, though. Quit kidding yourself. You want all those things he did to you, made you do. Maybe even more. That’s why you can’t stop thinking about them. About him.
A commotion in the reception area broke her train of thought and drew her attention. She heard the voice of Sheila, the receptionist, raised in protest over something and the angrier male voice overriding her.
“You can’t go in there,” Sheila was saying as the door to Taylor’s office flew open.
“I’m in. Miss Scott can throw me out if she wants to.”
There he was, standing in front of her.
Him, The Man.
She blinked hard, thinking for a moment she’d conjured up his image. But when she opened her eyes again he was still there. Alive. In her office. In full alpha mode. The man she’d never expected to see again. The man who’d taken her far beyond the boundaries set by her inhibitions and beckoned to her in her dreams each night.
He was even more impressive than she remembered, his presence filling her office and surrounding her. His custom suit and silk dress shirt—were they his uniform?—were window dressing for the barely leashed panther beneath the fabric of civilized clothing. Expensive hand tooled leather boots on his feet. His hair tied back with a leather thong as before. His face still an unreadable mask. The sense of controlled power still there. A man larger than life. The panther was caged today but just barely. This might be her office but he was definitely the person in charge.
Even as embarrassment and anger warred within her, her nipples hardened, her breasts tingled and her panties dampened with moisture. She felt every bit of blood drain from her face and drop to her feet. Waves of hot and cold rolled through her and she was sure all the air had been sucked from her lungs. Gripping the arms of her desk chair for support she licked her lips, trying to moisten them.
Quick, lithe movements brought him to the front of her desk where he stood facing her, his face set, dark eyes probing hers. Eyes that for a brief second held a knowing look.
“Miss Scott?” Sheila’s worried voice cut through her fog. “Shall I call one of the partners?”
Taylor managed to find a functioning part of her brain. “No, thanks, Sheila. It’s all right.”
“Would you like me to send someone in to carry your boxes for you? Walk you down to the garage?” Sheila wasn’t quite ready to let go.
Taylor forced a smile. “No, I can manage. Thanks for your concern. And for all your good wishes today.”
Sheila gave her a last worried look before she closed the door.
His eyes burned into Taylor’s, mesmerizing her as they’d done that night in San Antonio.
What is he doing here?
As if he’d heard her, he reached into his inside jacket pocket, extracted a card from a small leather case and dropped it on top of the folder. She picked it up with fingers that trembled and stared at it.
Noah Cantrell, Vice President of Security, Arroyo Corporation
This giveaway is now ended! Thanks to everyone who dropped by to help me celebrate by birthday!
* * * * *
My Facebook is blowing up already this morning with good wishes. Thank you, all! How does one celebrate her own birthday in a public way? I’d look foolish singing “Happy Birthday” to me, so instead, I’ll keep this easy…
I’ll give away the gifts. For everyone who posts a birthday wish below, I’ll give away a free shorty. All you have to do is post your wish (and thank you very much in advance!), post your short story preference (link below to the page), and leave your email address in the comments. Happy Birthday from me to you!
I’m staring at what remains of 2017 and wondering where the hell the time flew! Did the year crawl for you or blur as it flashed by? Seeing as we’re almost to the midpoint, I thought I’d go ahead and post my list of stories I’ve published thus far in 2017, as a reminder—there’s a lot for you to peruse. Granted many of these are “reissued” stories for which I received rights from Ellora’s Cave or Samhain. So, if you’ve been following me a while, you’ve already read them. But there are new stories interspersed…
My personal favorites from among these?
This is the complete list of all my releases, January through June 2017…
In honour of my upcoming release, Iron Will, I’d like to do a giveaway. In order to entre, just comment with your favourite Wild West movie below.I’ll choose a winner at random. Winner can either get a copy of Iron Will when it releases mid July, or can choose a book from my backlist. I’ll announce the winner on here on Sunday night.
The Wild West…
Note… Iron Will is an MMF novel, where the men interact.
Sheriffs, Marshalls, Gunslingers. Men who were tough as nails, in a land just as rough. The heroes of the old west aren’t strangers. Hollywood has given us more hot men than we can count. Sam Elliot. Clint Eastwood. Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Leonard DiCaprio, Kurt Russell… the list is endless. But today, I want to talk about the ladies.
Being a woman in 1890—wow, now that would have been an adventure. And far more difficult than it is today. Modern technology aside—while women still don’t have true equality in many aspects, can you imagine what it was like for those brave women who traveled first by wagon train, then later by stream train, to make a new life? The battles and resentment they faced if they dared to dream of a life outside the social norm?
Maybe that’s why most of my leading ladies from my old west books are on the fringes. Doctors, Marshals, Gunslingers… they not only brave the wilds of the landscape, but the views and beliefs of the people around them. Female doctors often traveled thousand of miles just to get work—places so desperate for any kind of medical training that they’d hire a woman because no man would take the job. And once there, often every new case was another test they needed to pass, or be asked to leave.
But they persevered. Forged new territory for those of us who followed, regardless of our occupation. We all have some pretty big shoes to fill…maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to that era, and why I keep coming back to the courageous men and women of the 1890s.
In my upcoming release, Iron Will, my leading lady has one advantage. Those tough-as-nails heroes I mentioned? Dr. Hollis Chambers is lucky enough to have two larger-than-life men that realize she’s their mate. Did I mention they’re bear shifters? And that they’re in the midst of trying to finish a railroad? But if they think she’s going to be easy to tame…they’re about to meet their toughest match.
Here’s a bit more about it and a quick excerpt.
I’m not a patient man. It’s not a secret. I don’t hide this quality, and I don’t care if people don’t like it. I’m trying to build a railroad, not win a contest. I don’t do contests, because when I see something I want, I hunt it down. Whether it’s the bear lurking beneath my skin or just my dominant personality isn’t clear. Not that it matters. Because I get what I want, and there’s nothing I want more right now than Lucas Quinn and Hollis Chambers. Hot. Naked. Laid out before me like a sacrifice. Lucas knows my thoughts, my desires. We’re mates, even if he hasn’t allowed me to consume him. Own him in a way only his mate can. He was waiting. But the wait’s over.
Hollis doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into. We might have handled our initial meeting poorly, but that doesn’t mean we’ll let her go. She belongs to us. Our missing piece of the puzzle we can’t let slip away. She might try to distance herself, but like our bears, we’re relentless. We stalk, we circle, we pounce. We’re going to make her so damn desperate to have us claim her, the only words she’ll be able to shout are, “Yes,” and, “more.” I don’t know if she’s a virgin—don’t really care, because she won’t be once we get out hands on her. And we will. It’s just a matter of time.
The West isn’t the only thing that’s wild in town. And we’re going to use that to our advantage. Let the chase begin.
Cullen James turned, ignoring the way his voice seemed to bounce off the walls of the sheriff’s office as he grabbed his hat, clenching it in one hand as he scrubbed the other down his face. He hadn’t been gone more than forty-eight hours, and somehow they’d managed to suffer another setback, making his job that much harder.
He crushed the growl rumbling through his chest. This day was quickly taking a turn for the worse, and the sun hadn’t even set, yet. That’s when the liquor started talking, making otherwise calm men act like bullies with something to prove. And he couldn’t afford to let a stupid fight over cards or a working girl at the saloon lead to more injuries.
He set his jaw, staring at the man off to his left, wishing his feelings for the guy didn’t lessen some of the anger coursing through his veins, but it was pointless. Just looking at Lucas eased the tight feeling in his chest. Took the edge off the uncertainty gnawing at his gut. “I sent three men on horseback as guards. How did those idiots manage to get themselves shot?”
Lucas leaned against the wall just inside the doorway, arms crossed over his massive chest, one foot braced against the wood paneling. He gave Cullen an arch of one brow as he shrugged. “Dangerous times, Cullen. You know that. For every armed man we send out to stand watch, three more gunmen are waitin’ in the trees, ready to attack whenever the situation looks promisin’. We should consider ourselves lucky. Could have lost the whole damn crew.”
Cullen tilted back his head, fighting the urge to slam his fist into the wall, or drown his anger in a bottle of whiskey. Ten weeks. That was how long they had to finish the damn spur before the heavy mountain snow set in, and if the men weren’t having shootouts in the saloon, the bloody gangs were raiding the town or ambushing crews on their way back from the rail.
He raked a hand through his hair, cursing under his breath when it flopped back into his eyes. “Any others get injured?”
“Not this time. I just happened to show up before those bandits had gotten off more than a couple of rounds each. Managed to convince the gunmen it was in their best interest to leave, though they did manage to help themselves to some of our supplies. But it was just dumb luck I was headed back from the outpost, otherwise we’d be faced with a room full of patients with no one to treat them.”
“What you mean is you’re damn lucky you didn’t get yourself killed.”
Lucas grinned. “You almost sound as if you’d miss me.”
“Fuck off. You know what you mean to me.”
Lucas’ gaze dropped to Cullen’s crotch. “You keep promisin’—”
“And you keep turnin’ me down…mate.”
The other man’s shoulders drooped, his smile fading into a thin line. “You know why.”
“You still think we’re missin’ a piece of the puzzle.”
“Not a piece…a third.” He huffed at Cullen’s glare. “Don’t give me that look. I know you sense it, too. If you didn’t, you would have pressed the subject far more than you have.” He released a rough breath. “I’m not saying I’m not your mate. Trust me, my damn grizzly is feeling more than a bit possessive where you’re concerned. It doesn’t like waitin’ anymore than your Kodiak does. But… We both know we have another mate out there. And somehow claimin’ each other first… It doesn’t sit well with either part of me.”
Cullen sighed. Fuck, he hated when Lucas was right. And the man was definitely right. Cullen had known the moment they’d met he was bound to Lucas. His scent, his skin, his sheer presence affected Cullen in a way he’d never experienced before. But he also couldn’t deny that he’d sensed something was off. Lucas hadn’t been lying. The fact they’d been around each other for several months and hadn’t yet given in to the fury involved with mating—that was proof enough. Though damn if the other man didn’t make Cullen want to put that theory to the test. Slam Lucas against the wall and taste that cocky mouth of his. Feel the man’s tongue tangle with his, the hard planes of his body firm against him.
Lucas grinned, the smug tilt only fueling Cullen’s possessive feelings. “I know that look, too. And Hell yeah, I want all of that and more…just as soon as we find that missin’ piece, as you put it.”
Cullen fisted his hands, breathing deeply in the hopes of stemming the fire beneath his skin. Keep his other half from seizing control. A hint of claws scratched at his palms before he managed to pull the animal back—temper it with token promises. Ones he wasn’t sure would ever come true. A hand landed on his shoulder, and he turned to gaze at Lucas.
His mate smiled. “I won’t be able to fight the urge much longer, either. But until my damn bear decides it’s done waitin’…”
Cullen nodded, giving the man a good-natured shove to help calm his beast. “So…do I have a couple of bodies out on the spur I need to tend to? Or did they manage to make it back before succumbing to their injuries?”
“I managed to drag their asses back on the wagons. Wounds weren’t all that bad, but without any form of treatment…they bled out.” Lucas shook his head as he paced to the other side of the room before turning again. “We need a doctor, Cullen. A real one. Not some drunk barber who thinks bleedin’ the men with leeches is the answer to every damn problem that stumbles through his doors. The jackass hasn’t saved a single life since that holier-than-thou physician the company hired packed up his clinic and rode out of here three months ago. And we don’t have the resources to keep replacin’ these men.”
Lucas walked over to him. “Word’s getting ‘round. Everyone knows Buford’s gang is shootin’ up every damn town within a hundred miles of Durango, and rail camps and lines are easy picking—gives them a steady supply of explosives and ammunition. It’s getting harder and harder to find good people to fill these spots. This isn’t a large-scale undertaking like some of our previous jobs. Being privately commissioned as we are means limited funds, which in turn means smaller crews, less support. We can’t afford to lose any more men…not like this. Work’s dangerous enough without worrying a trip to the clinic will kill ya.”
“I’ll send more guards. Ride out myself if I have to.”
“And when one of those bastards clips you with a bullet?”
“Cold day in Hell, my friend. We both know that.”
“Not if half your attention is focused on worrying about how far we got on the line instead of which scraggly bastard is hidin’ behind the next hill.”
“Even if that happened, I’ll heal. We’re not like the others, Lucas, you know that. And I’m far from an easy target.”
“Being a shifter doesn’t make you invincible.” Lucas clasped Cullen’s shoulder. “I suppose we could get a few more of our kind out here, seeing as they wouldn’t really need medical support, but—”
“But that would end in bloodshed of another kind. If we were fully bonded, we could tolerate having other shifters cross over into our territory, but in our current situation…”
Lucas nodded. “I’ll see to the crews. Find more men if we need to, but it won’t mean much without a doctor.”
“You think I haven’t fucking tried?” He stomped across the room, kicking at a chair. It clattered to the floor, the loud sound soothing some of raw feelings burning in his gut. “I’ve requested a replacement every day for the past three months. No one wants the job, simple as that. Hell, they don’t even get off the damn supply train, just stare at the makeshift town through the window and go right on back to Boston or New York or wherever the Hell else they came from. Face it, the kind of man that’d be willin’ to come this far and work in these conditions quit after the war. And these new doctors simply don’t want to make that kind of sacrifice. Not when they can find work in the big cities or established towns. The kind with money and shops and federal marshals.”
“The war’s been over for thirty years.”
“Land’s still tainted with blood. You don’t clean that kind of horror away in a hundred years. The farther we go, the worse it gets.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair, pushing the damp mass out of his eyes. “I’ll send another telegram. Maybe if they believe the line’s in jeopardy, they’ll find someone who won’t quit before they’ve stepped onto that platform.”
“The line’s always been in jeopardy.”
Cullen scowled when the door squeaked open, the glare of the setting sun streaming through the open space. He raised his hand, shielding his eyes from the light as a dark figure walked through the doorway, a long shadow stretching across the floor.
“Bloody Hell.” Cullen shoved his hat back on, adjusting it low over his forehead. “Shut the damn door before we all go blind and the room fills with dust.”
The floor creaked followed by the slamming of the door. Cullen blinked as the room dimmed, staring at the person standing just inside the doorway. Blue eyes held his gaze, tousled strands of brown hair fluttering around her face. She took a step forward, placing a couple of bags beside the door before removing a black Stetson and shaking out a mass of long hair across her shoulders. It disappeared down her back, the lazy curls bouncing as she settled her weight on one foot, the other tapping restless against the wooden floor. Her oilskin jacket covered her body, the open section in the front displaying a white shirt and tan trousers. He didn’t miss the belt slung low over her waist, or the twin handles resting against her hips.
Cullen gave her body a long slow sweep, then focused on her face. “Can we help you?”
She glanced between the men then stepped over to him, the hollow echo of her footsteps ringing through the room. “They told me I could find a Mr. Cullen James in here.”
Cullen smirked. “Guess that depends on whether you’re here to help me or issue a duel.”
Her lips quirked, a hint of a smile lifting one corner. “I try to avoid killin’ people unless it’s absolutely necessary.” She rocked on her heels, seemingly uncertain before tilting her head. “Mr. Gilmore sent me. The name’s Hollis Chambers.”
Cullen glanced at Lucas, but the man merely shrugged. Shit. Cullen really didn’t have time for journalists or whatever this woman had to offer. He motioned to his partner. “This is Lucas Quinn, the resident sheriff. Now, with all due respect, Miss Chambers, it’s been one Hell of a day. Raidin’ parties are attackin’ my crews, and I’ve got a barber who thinks he can cure men by bleedin’ them dry. I really don’t have time for riddles.”
Her expression never faltered. “Sounds like you have more than a few issues at Devil’s Gate so I’ll get straight to the point. Mr. Gilmore hired me to fill that position you’ve had vacant for some time.”
She reached into an inner pocket, removing a telegram. “I believe this will clear things up for you.”
Cullen took the paper, unfolding it before holding it up. He read through the short sentences, his gaze rising to hers once he’d finished. He gave Lucas a sideways glance before crossing his arms over his chest, her telegram still clenched in one fist. “Are you serious?”
Those perfect lips quirked again as humor crinkled her eyes. “Do I look as if I’m jokin’?”
He snorted, handing the paper to Lucas, smiling when the man had a similar reaction. Cullen nodded at her. “So, you’re telling me my boss hired you to be the resident doctor? You?”
Her eyes narrowed slightly, the line of her jaw firming. “Tell me, Mr. James, which part do you find incredulous? That Mr. Gilmore actually found someone to come out to this Hell hole, or that it’s me?”
“I see. Then let me put your fears to rest. Yes, I really am a doctor. I graduated from Philadelphia four years ago, and I’ve been workin’ in small towns and camps just like this one ever since. No, I didn’t travel all this way on a ruse or a whim or to admire the scenery and yes…I know how to use the guns strapped to my hips.” She arched a brow. “Did I leave anything out?”
He resisted the chuckle that bubbled in his chest. “I admire your tenacity Miss Chambers—”
“It’s Dr. Chambers, or Hollis.”
He glanced at Lucas, slowly releasing a harsh breath. “Dr. Chambers—”
“But?” She scoffed at him. “There was definitely a but coming, so…”
“While I’m not saying you aren’t qualified, I’m not sure how well-received you’ll be.”
She smirked. “So you’re saying that the men in this camp would rather die at the hands of a barber pretendin’ to be a doctor than be saved by a woman who really is one.”
It wasn’t a question, and he didn’t miss the piercing tone.
He sighed, leaning back against a desk. “That’s one way of putting it.”
“Then the men here have all spent far too much time in the hot sun.” She pointed at the telegram. “None of which matters. I was hired, plain and simple.” She leaned in closer, her breath rustling the edge of his shirt. “And just to make things clear, even I didn’t want to come out this far. It’s no secret how many men you lose on a daily basis, or the risks involved in merely taking the train to get here. There isn’t anyone else willin’ to apply for the job. As it is, Mr. Gilmore had to guarantee my wage for the next three months regardless of whether I stay or not. Thinkin’ it’s in your best interest to show me to the clinic—put me to work.” She straightened, plastering on a sweet smile. “Unless you’d rather have the barber continue on as he has. I know where you can get a whole jug full of leeches for next to nothing.”
Lucas took a step forward, offering her the scrunched paper. “With all due respect, Doc… We can’t force the townsfolk to accept you, regardless of your credentials. Afraid the men that work the rails aren’t quite as forward thinkin’ as other, more refined folks. They tend to think a woman has a certain place.”
She hitched out one hip. “Let me guess. On their backs with their legs spread wide?”
He coughed, glancing at Cullen as if seeking help.
Cullen pushed to his feet. “Right or wrong, it’s the way things are in a rail camp, being they’re so transient. The women that travel with us up the spur are either wives or painted ladies. Maybe a teacher or a seamstress if we get lucky. Other than that…”
Hollis laughed, the tension easing from her body. “I see. Well then, I suppose I’ll just head on over to the saloon. Bide my time until I can catch another train out of here. As I said…I’ve been paid either way.”
She placed the telegram on the desk behind him, giving him one more long sweeping gaze. Then she tipped her hat and spun, making it to the door before looking back at them. “Shame, though. The railroad can’t afford to send you anyone else. Guess that means you’ll need those leeches, after all. Good day, gentlemen.”
Since June is the traditional month for weddings and because I have two daughters’ weddings within six, yes six! months of each other, I’ve got weddings, if not marriage on the brain.
Besides one of the perks of being a romance author is spending quality time challenging my characters on their ride to happily ever after and a wedding is usually a high point on that journey. Weddings feature heavily in my 3 book City of Dreams series, in fact all 3 standalone stories flow from the wedding that takes place in the first book.
To me, a wedding day is the top of the rollercoaster. After the tick, tick, tick to the top of the coaster, after the anticipation of a life together during the engagement, the getting to know you and the planning, comes that moment.
Now that couple, the bride and the groom are at the pinnacle of the coaster and right then they see the world of possibility before them. The whole exciting, messy, wondrous, scary, exhilarating ride of married life is right there to behold.
And then boom you’re married and the ride has begun. As long married woman I can say the rollercoaster ride is fast. The bumps are unexpected and the lulls can be sweet.
So here it is. On your wedding day, get in the front seat of life with your love, don’t stop holding hands, keep your eyes open and enjoy the ride.
Do you believe in happily ever after? I do.
Do I believe in love at first sight? Not so much. Lust at first sight? Yep.
That instant of connection or spark of something special that leads to love? Absolutely.
How about you? Are you a hopeless romantic? What’s your favorite movie about love?
Are you a Love Actually person? When Harry met Sally? What about Beauty and the Beast? The Terminator? (Don’t laugh, that’s mine.) Or does the whole topic make you queasy?
Let me know in the comments and I will gift a random commenter (US only) with a paperback of my debut spicy contemporary The Marriage Ultimatum published by the Wild Rose Press.
The Marriage Ultimatum
Dead-end job? Dreary apartment? Disastrous love life? Check, check, and check. Toddler who makes it all worthwhile? Absolutely. Juggling work, college, and the care of young Alex was never Sabrina’s plan.
But Sabrina’s dreams are bigger than any curve ball life can throw at her. Her top priority is keeping her small family together, no matter what the cost.
Vladimir Grigory doesn’t believe in dreams. He earned his position at the top of New York’s corporate ladder with his own sweat. His empire is his baby, and he’ll destroy anyone who threatens it. Even the sexy employee who challenges him on every level. When the New York tabloids and the world call him the baby daddy of Sabrina’s son, Vlad believes Sabrina is part of a plot to expose the secrets of his past. He threatens to destroy her future. But since Sabrina has secrets of her own, she has no choice but to agree to Vlad’s marriage ultimatum.
Quick Note: I have a Thunderclap campaign I could use some help with. Don’t know what that is? It’s simple. It’s a chance to blast news about a something you want the world to know about. For me, I want folks to know about my recent release, Big Sky SEAL! It’s easy. Follow the link. In once click, you can set up a social media blast. Just one click. Maybe two—if you don’t mind sending out news on two platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. You don’t even have to think. Just click. And thanks! Follow this link!
* * * * *
I’m bleary-eyed today. Up before dawn—5 AM, to be precise. My dd is heading to Dallas to pick up the oldest from her father after yearly visitation, and I’m babysitting. Can’t wait to see that kid. She’s twelve, loud, and nutty as a fruitcake, but I love her. She’s also the artist of the family. She draws adorable manga-style comics. She’s the quickest to cry, to scream, to lash out…to hug. I feel sorry for the boy who falls for her. She’s so pretty, so I know there will be boys.
I tell her she doesn’t have to grow up. Doesn’t have to even think about leaving home. She can stay forever. She rolls her eyes. Used to be she’d say, “I’ll never leave you, Nina.”
My dd’s house has been a little subdued since she left. One less child. The noise will be back with a vengeance, I have no doubt. But my daughter runs an “Irish” house, so everything’s loud. Which brings me to today’s question…
For a chance to win your choice of one of these
Lone Star Lovers stories, answer me this!
Is your family loud and boisterous? Quick to fight and laugh? Or is your house laid back? Too quiet? I’d love to know!
Coming July 14th!
Sometimes a cowboy needs a little help—or three brothers—to snare a wife…
Sam Logan’s boys have a bad rep in Two Mule, Texas. Most of it earned. When it becomes clear his foster sons won’t settle down without a nudge from him, he issues his challenge. Find a wife…
The oldest, Johnny, already had his eye on Mean Ellie Harker. Sam’s challenge just gave him the gumption to ask her out. However, before he makes his move, the twins kidnap Ellie from under his nose. Now, he has to compete with three brothers for the woman he wants.
Ellie thought her prospects were drying up until Johnny Logan finally untangled his tongue and asked her out. When his brothers kidnap her and take her to the ranch, she’s furious…then intrigued by the thought of four men bent on showing her what being their’s would be like.
“It’s time you boys found yerselves a wife.” Sam Logan made his pronouncement then waited, watching the four younger men seated at the table from the corner of his eye. He didn’t have to wait long for his words to sink in. They exploded in the room with the force of a silent grenade.
Johnny’s jaw closed with a snap, and he laid his spoon down on the scarred oak table. His black winged brows drew together, nearly meeting over his dark eyes as he raised his head.
Sam suppressed a smile. That look could make the toughest hombre gulp, but Sam wasn’t the least bit concerned. Johnny tended to look mean when things changed. His oldest boy hated any kind of change.
If any other man had said what he had, Johnny would have cussed under his breath and aimed a piercing, silencing glare. However, he respected Sam, trusted him as much as he could anyone. That trust and respect were the only things that kept his butt on the bench beside his brother Killian.
For his part, Killian’s eyes narrowed. The corners of his lips twitched. Likely he was amused by Johnny’s reaction and didn’t want to let him off the hook too quickly, but was already lining up all the reasons why Sam’s idea was ludicrous. He was quick that way.
Sam calmly ladled the hearty stew he’d made into his mouth and let his gaze roam to the twins. Jason was coughing into his napkin while Mace gave him “helpful” taps between his shoulder blades.
Mace caught his stare and grinned. “A wife, did you say?”
Sam grunted, ignoring the one word that had caught his son’s attention. “This is the third time this week we’ve had stew,” he murmured. Not to change the subject, but to point out a glaring fact.
“I like stew just fine,” Johnny muttered.
“This house misses a woman’s touch.” There, he’d said it. Sat the big gorilla in the room right at the dinner table. Impossible to ignore.
“Gracie can’t be replaced,” Killian said softly.
The permanent ache next to his heart echoed that truth. Sam nodded. “She’s gone. Three years. I miss her every day. Know you do too. But life goes on. You’re men now. You have an obligation. Ranchin’s a family business. Y’all need families.”
Johnny cleared his throat. “No disrespect intended, Sam, but you didn’t get sons the old-fashioned way.”
“Not because Gracie and I didn’t try. And in the end, we had no regrets. We both loved you all like you was our own.”
“So, you’d rather saddle us with—”
Sam aimed a quelling stare. “Think I felt like Gracie was a noose around my neck?”
“No sir, but…” Johnny’s hands fisted on the tabletop. “Hell, how’re we to find someone like her?”
Sam understood what he meant. Gracie’s passing had left a hole in all their hearts. The boys had loved her. Took to her the very first day he’d brought each of them home. Gracie had been born to be a mother, and she’d showered them all with the things they’d needed most—acceptance and unconditional love.
“Boys, Gracie wasn’t born a rancher’s wife. Truth is, she didn’t know a bull from a cow and damn near poisoned me with the first meals she cooked. But she learned. Find a woman willin’ to learn, one you kin love and who’ll love you back.”
“You said, ‘a wife’.” Mace wasn’t gonna let that slip of the tongue go.
Sam shook his head and gave the twins a faint glimmer of a smile. Those two could always see the humor in any predicament. “Thought I’d give you two options. I know one can’t piss without the other goin’ too. And there are damn few single women to go around these parts. ’Nough said?” When all of them nodded, he cleared his throat. “I’ll be out of town for the next four days. Auction in Abilene. The house is yours.”
Johnny glanced around the dinner table at his brothers, whose attention had been snared from the first moment Sam had made his firmly spoken pronouncement. They were accustomed to eating quietly, filling their hollow bellies at the end of a long, hard day’s work. Sam’s words echoed in the silence that followed and hung in the air like a sour-smelling cloud. At least to Johnny’s imagination. The thought of taking a wife, keeping a woman around on a permanent basis, made him itch.
The suggestion that they find “a wife” had come out of the blue. But the look on Sam’s face said he’d thought long and hard about it and would brook no arguments. His sly mention that the twins might share one should have been shocking but wasn’t given their recent escapades, as well as the unconventional relationships springing up like chokeweeds all around Two Mule, Texas.
The glint of humor in Killian’s eyes forewarned he was about to say something sly. Johnny grunted and shook his head. Now was not the time to make a joke.
Killian snorted. His lips twisted, but he gave a shrug to indicate he’d behave.
Johnny didn’t like the turn of the conversation, but it was Sam Logan giving the advice. When Sam spoke, which was seldom, they all listened.
After all, they owed Sam everything.
Jason leaned away from Mace and grabbed at the hand that been pounding his back. “Can we draw straws to see who gets saddled with one?”
Sam’s eyes narrowed. “Strange things been happenin’ around this town. Fact is, I don’t care whether you all find one woman to take you on or four. But it’s time for you boys to settle down.”
Johnny knew what this was about. From the flinty glint in Killian’s eyes, he did too. Apparently so did the twins, who shifted uncomfortably in their chairs, cheeks flushing a dull red.
“I’m not sayin’ it was a sin, what you two boys did,” Sam said. “The girl was willin’ and yer young. But word gets around. Decent folks’ll keep their women away from ya. Best to make your move fast before everyone hears the gossip and doors close in your face. This is a hard life. A man needs his comforts. Do I need to say more?”
All four younger men shook their heads.
“No sir,” Johnny muttered. Sam’s pronouncements weren’t suggestions. He folded his napkin and laid it beside his plate. He’d been hungry before his foster father had spoken, but now his food sat like a cold lump in his belly.
A woman. He had to find a woman. He’d offer no arguments. Just like any other chore, he’d get to it with quiet efficiency.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said, glaring at the twins as he pushed away from the table. “I have business in town.”
Sam eyed him, then solemnly nodded. “You do indeed. Good luck, son.”
It didn’t take long for the other three to find him. The bathroom door opened as he slicked back his wet hair. Mace sidled inside while Killian leaned against the doorframe and Jason stood behind him with his hands in his pockets.
Mace grimaced as he sat on the edge of the bathtub. “Think he was serious?”
“When is he not?” Johnny said, keeping his tone even.
“You gonna do it? Just like that? Find yourself a wife?”
Johnny squared his shoulders. “It’s what needs to be done.”
“Because Sam said so?”
Johnny turned and shot out a hand to grip the collar of Mace’s shirt.
Mace met his glare with one of his own. “Didn’t mean it that way, bro. But hell, a wife? Shouldn’t we take our time? Do this thing right? It’s a big damn step.”
Johnny hardened his glare. “You two may have been the ones to draw attention to the problem, but we’ve all done plenty to answer for. If we’ve embarrassed Sam, it’s time we manned up.”
Mace’s lips firmed then he released a deep sigh.
Johnny let him go but stood with his hands fisted on his hips.
“Guess you’re right,” Mace muttered. “So, what’s the plan?”
Why was it they always looked to him for a plan? In this instance, he was the least qualified one to decide. But as always, Johnny gritted his teeth and kept it simple. “We find a woman, someone we all don’t object to, ’cause she’s gonna be underfoot. Then one of us has to marry her.”
“Think it’ll be that easy?”
“’Course not. But since when have we shied away from a challenge?”
“We’ll go in two separate trucks,” Killian said, straightening away from the door. “Cover twice as much ground.”
Johnny turned to the mirror and gave his appearance once last look. Wasn’t much he could do, but at least his hair was combed and his breath was fresh. He glanced over his shoulder as the twins headed down the hallway, laughing and shoving each other toward the stairs. “Don’t know why I’m suddenly scared to death,” he muttered.
Killian laughed. “Yeah, those two with a mission. Boggles the mind.”
The trip into town was made in silence. The way he liked most things. From the corner of his eye he could see Killian glancing his way, like he wanted to say something, but Johnny didn’t give him any encouragement. He was mad as hell it had come to this.
Up to now, they’d had it good. Sure, the work was backbreaking but the ranch was all he had, all any of them had. Sam was planning to leave it to them, but only if they managed to keep out of trouble, learn to ranch, and be good citizens. Learning to ranch had been the easy part. They’d all taken to it like ducks to water, thriving on the physical challenge, learning to rope and ride. Learning how to break a horse to saddle, how to birth a calf.
That had been the simple part. The being good citizens part had been tougher. None of them had had the greatest examples of manhood in their lives to model themselves after. Not until Sam. And Sam had his issues. He was damn near a hermit. Grumpy as hell around other people. Even more so after Gracie had passed away.
Johnny had grown more like Sam than the others, but hadn’t realized it was a problem until it came to dealing with the opposite sex. While the twins and Killian never had any trouble finding willing partners, Johnny had bedded few. His straight stare seemed to scare women away.
And if they weren’t put off with the way he looked at them, he didn’t have a silver tongue. In fact, he couldn’t seem to put two coherent words together, much less figure out a way to put a woman at ease in his company.
Still, he wasn’t all that worried about Sam’s pronouncement. The others would have a better chance of finding a woman willing to take them on. He’d do his duty, give it a try, set an example for the others, but he knew his chances of finding a suitable woman who could overlook his flaws was slim to none. No, he didn’t have an ounce of charm, had two left feet and a face as rugged as a mountain. Given those facts and his history, what woman would look his way and want to make a family with him?
Not that the thought of having children didn’t cause his chest to fill with a lonely ache.
“I could help you, you know,” Killian said, his tone casual.
Too casual. Johnny grunted. “With what?”
“Gettin’ you a wife.”
His hands tightened on the steering wheel. “Worry about findin’ your own.”
“It’s not how it works, bro. We’re brothers.”
“We’re not blood.”
“Blood’s not what counts.”
Which was a sorry damn truth they all knew too well. Blood had failed them all.
Johnny cussed under his breath. “How would you help? You gonna chat her up for me? You gonna tell her what a catch I am?”
“Well, you are. You stand to inherit a fourth of the Double Tree. And I’ve seen the way women look at you.”
“You’re not a bad lookin’ guy.
Johnny aimed a blistering glare his way. “You gonna ask me out?”
Killian grinned. “Just statin’ the facts. You’re not hard on the eyes. And you’re tall. Girls like that. And they like your hair. They like you fine until you give ’em that thousand-yard stare like you’re sightin’ down a rifle barrel.”
Johnny gave him his meanest glare. “This isn’t gonna work.”
Killian gave a waggle of his eyebrows. “I’ll help. What’re brothers for?”
“You’re just hoping I’ll snag a wife and that’ll be the end of it. You’ll be off the hook.”
“You think this is funny.”
“Watchin’ you tryin’ to sweet talk a woman—yeah, it’ll be the most fun I’ve had in while. So where do you wanna start?”
Johnny didn’t answer but he passed up the most obvious place. The saloon’s parking lot was already full. Instead, he turned onto Main Street and slowed as he searched for a parking place.
Killian straightened in his seat. “You’re not thinkin’ of Ellie, are you?”
The way Killian said it intimated he thought Johnny had lost his mind. Maybe he had. But she was the first woman he’d thought of when Sam had mentioned the stew. “She can cook.”
Killian gave an exaggerated shudder. “But she’s mean.”
“Should be perfect for me then, don’t you think?”
Killian gave a bark of laughter then crammed his cowboy hat on his head.
Johnny raked his hair with his fingers and wished he’d thought to bring a rubber band to tie it back. However, Killian had said girls liked his long, straight hair. He didn’t know why he’d kept it. It was the one most glaring trait that set him apart from his brothers. The last vestige of the heritage he’d thrown off when he’d run away from life on the reservation.
He trailed behind Killian, who stepped out with a bounce in his step, likely grinning his ass off that Ellie Harker was the first woman who’d come to his mind. What he didn’t know was that Johnny had been working up the courage to ask her out, sitting in the diner week after week, but never quite finding the right way to do it.
Killian pushed through the door of the café. Johnny caught it before it slammed in his face, but didn’t say a word. Already, he could feel his body tensing at the thought of talking to the woman.
She’d taken over the running of Katie’s Diner when Katie’s belly got too big and her husband, Cutter Standifer, had insisted she hire a cook until after the birth of their first child.
Inside, the smell of freshly baked apple pie assailed him, and his belly rumbled loudly. There could be worse things than being hitched to a mean woman, especially when she could cook almost as well as Gracie.
The place was busy. Wade Luckadoo’s girl, a college kid home for the summer with blue streaks in her white-blond hair, glided out of the kitchen with a tray balanced on one hand. “Someone’ll be right with you. Take a seat if you can find one.”
Killian headed to the counter and slid onto a stool then patted the empty one beside him. Johnny felt his face harden to stone, his usual mask in public, as he sat. From this vantage they had a view straight into the kitchen where Ellie was working.
One glance and his body stilled, breath leaving in a quiet sigh. She was a pretty woman, although her looks weren’t flashy like most men might prefer. Pale blonde hair, pretty milk-colored skin, and he didn’t need to see what stretched below. Her well-padded curves were burned into his memory.
Right now, her cheeks were rosy, a fine sheen of sweat glistening on her brow. Johnny stared, wondering, not for the first time, whether she’d taste like everything she cooked.
Ellie pushed back a lock of her pale hair that fell over her hazel eyes with the back of her hand and then glanced up. Her startled gaze met his for a second then quickly darted to his brother before falling away.
He kept right on staring, wondering how long it would be before she’d come out to check on the customers first-hand.
Killian leaned toward him to whisper. “See? She was lookin’.”
“She looked at you too. Would have looked at Ole Win’s ugly face if he’d taken a seat right in front of her.”
“But she wouldn’t have blushed.”
“She’s cookin’ over a stove. Of course her cheeks are pink.”
Killian grunted. “You are the stubbornest man I’ve ever known. She’s interested.”
Johnny didn’t like the little thrill of hope that warmed him. No use getting excited when Killian was only trying to warm him up to the challenge. “She looked at you too,” he repeated under his breath.
Killian arched a brow. “We could follow in the twins’ footsteps…”
“I’m not sharin’ a wife with you.”
“Only one of us can marry her, but seein’ as you’re a little stunted in the courtin’ arena, you might need someone watchin’ out for your interests. I can close this deal for you, bro.”
Johnny thought about all the times he’d rehearsed the perfect opening line but sat tongue-tied when Ellie’s attention landed right on him. He might need some help all right. “Say I was to agree to let you help. No one else would have to know?”
Killian’s lips curved in a sly arc. “No one other than Ellie.”
Johnny ground his teeth. “I might need a little help. The woman ties my tongue into a knot.”
“You just do what you always do. Play the silent Injun. Be mysterious. Leave the rest to me.”
Johnny didn’t like it one bit, but he didn’t see another way around it. And the last thing he’d admit to Killian was that Sam’s pronouncement had given him the nudge he’d needed. He’d had his eye on Mean Ellie Harker for weeks but hadn’t gotten up the gumption to do anything about it.
He nodded, then instantly regretted agreeing when Killian’s mouth stretched into a wider grin.
“Not a word to the twins,” he said, gritting his teeth.
“It’ll be our little secret.”
The kitchen door swung open and Ellie breezed out, a towel over her shoulder and a pitcher of water in her hand. She grabbed two tumblers from under the counter and set one in front of each man. “What can I do for you boys?”
Johnny bristled. No one called him a boy except Sam these days. And the way she said it with that wicked glint in her eyes told him she knew he didn’t like it.
Killian leaned over the counter and tilted back his head. “Sweetheart, how come no one’s married you out from under this place?”
Johnny stepped on Killian’s boot and ground his heel into his brother’s toe.
Killian grimaced but didn’t turn away from Ellie’s narrowing glance.
“Guess I’ve just been lucky,” she said, her tone brisk. “What’ll it be? We’ve got meatloaf and mac tonight.”
“Just pie. Johnny here’s been goin’ on and on about how good your pie is.”
“Has he now?” Her razor glance flicked to Johnny, and he felt its scrape against his cheek. She leaned closer, her face inches from his. “What do you say, cowboy? Want me to top it with cream?”
He gulped at her throaty purr. Not a sound he’d ever heard her make. His dick stirred and his cheeks heated. “Vanilla,” he ground out.
She tsked. “A shame. Not what I had in mind at all.”
His mind went blank for a second. “Um, you meant whipped?”
She gave a wicked chuckle, and his skin burned like fire.
“Now, that’s more like it,” she said, her voice deepening into husky purr again.
Beside him, Killian choked on laughter.
Ellie straightened and raised both brows. “Pie comin’ up. À la mode.” She turned on her heel, but not before he saw a hint of a smile on her face.
“Not bad, bro. Not bad at all.”
“Not bad?” Johnny growled. “She thinks I’m an idiot.”
“She was flirtin’ with you.”
“She knows I can’t get a word out that makes a lick o’ sense around her.”
Killian turned his gaze from the sashay of her pretty bottom. “She knows you’re interested.”
“How long we gotta sit here?”
“’Til this place closes down. Don’t eat that pie too quick.”
“It’ll be soggy.”
“Then get another slice.”
Johnny ducked his head and turned to watch Ellie as she refilled glasses, pausing to share a word or a quick quip. She had a way with her customers. A sassy flare. With her other customers anyway. Most times, she just ignored him. Or teased him, like tonight, until he couldn’t think he was so damn hard.
Her head tilted back in laughter at something a couple said to her, then turned to catch him watching her.
For once, he didn’t let his glance skitter away. He held her gaze, let her note where he looked, and then burned a slow trail down her body.
This time, he saw her throat work around a gulp.
Killian nudged him with an elbow. “Not bad, bro. Not bad at all.”