Everywhere I look I’m bombarded with reminders of the impending holidays: Pumpkins, Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas trees, glittery dresses. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pumpkin spice latte once on the first cool morning in October—not August and not every day for the next four months. That leftover turkey sandwich when the house is quiet, the dishes are all done, and I’ve got a moment of peace to reflect on what I am grateful for—heaven. I love the holidays, but I’m overwhelmed by all the effort that goes into hosting the relatives, buying the presents, decorating, cooking, and attending every obligatory event. If you’re anything like me, you’re already precariously balancing a life packed to the seams. But fear not, there is hope. After many years of trial and error, I have stumbled upon the key to not only surviving but thriving through the holidays: found family, self-care, and cocktails.
Family. We all have one. Even the best of them can be hard to take November through January. There’s something better—found family. I had not heard of the term until recently. Mine calls itself Framily, a combination of friends and family, but I discovered there is a real term and trend of found family. These are the non-biologically related people you chose as your support system. I would not have been able to manage life, much less the holiday seasons, without mine. My framily is a group of people I have known for almost a decade. We can discuss politics, not agree with each other, but listen and learn. We’re there for each other through health issues, life issues, and job issues. No matter what we face we know a text to framily will bring an immediate response of love, truth, help, and compassion without the baggage of biological family. When one of us acts bitchy, we’re called out with honesty and sympathy. If one of us suffers a slight, we fearsomely defend. Having a found family means never being alone to face the good or bad. Having a group that will make dinner when you are caught late at the office and entertaining that evening. So, when I’ve lost my sanity and am a raving lunatic, rushing to buy the perfect gift for Aunt Gertrude while simultaneously finishing a work project and planning a holiday meal, they step in and talk me off the ledge, usually over a cocktail. There is a suggestion for the hard-to-please relative, shortcuts to pull off the meal, and a book suggestion with a not-so-subtle hint to take some self-care time. I can laugh at myself, reset, and stop driving everyone crazy. So, find your tribe, those people that unconditionally love and support you, yet keep you grounded and real.
Self-care is another component for surviving the holidays, though you should make it a regular part of your life. If you don’t value and care for yourself, how can others? You can’t be your best for your friends and family if you aren’t at your best. What it looks like is different for everyone. Massage, tea with a friend, bubble bath, whatever makes you feel good. For me, it’s taking time to sit, read, and recharge. Books are an affordable mini vacation. I am transported to different locations, lost in the story, and who doesn’t need that amid holiday parties, school events, relatives’ visits, and end-of-year work projects? There is a book to suit every mood. I, of course, highly recommend Holiday Shorts that just came out this week. As a contributing author, it has something for everyone— holiday-themed stories. There’s love, romance, exploration, fantasy, and lots of toe-curling sex. Whatever book or other self-care regimens you chose, just do it. Make it a priority. You will thank me.
To complete the survival strategy is a cocktail. Much like my main character, Devon, in “The Sugar Rim”, when I am in a stressful situation, my go-to drink is a lemon drop martini. Devon also has a found family, a group of co-workers from the zoo: Peggy, Joe and Felicia. She is a recent addition to a new area with a job she loves, and she wants to share her life with someone. She has a made an artform out of bad romantic decisions, and she no longer trusts her judgment. Her found family helps her craft her dating profile, and they are there to help with the predate jitters and all the ups and downs that come with new love interests. That, and a little help from a sugar-rimmed drink, gets Devon the love she desires.
That brings me to my favorite recipe for a lemon drop martini.
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice—I prefer a meyer lemon
2 ounces of vodka—Kettle One from the freezer for me
¾ ounce Cointreau—don’t substitute with triple sec
¾ ounce simple syrup—yes, I use store bought no matter how easy they say it is to make it
Pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice. Turn on the soundtrack to the movie Cocktail and shake it like Tom Cruise. Take your martini glass, use a little of the left-over lemon juice to rim it with sugar. I love the sanding sugars for their colors and size.
Pour the contents from the shaker into the beautifully sugar rimmed glass
Sit in your favorite chair or spot
Put your feet up
Close your eyes,
Inhale the citrus scents wafting from your beverage
Take a sip
Enjoy the cool, tart, slightly sweet beverage
You are now ready to face whatever holiday challenge comes your way.
I would love to hear about how you cope with holiday stress, your found family, or your favorite drink recipe. Drop a comment for a chance to win a free copy of “Holiday Shorts.” Winner will be chosen within 48 hours.
Thank you, Delilah for the opportunity to share my survival guide with your lovely readers. Here’s to a fun, fantastic 2022 Holiday season.
I’ve finished selecting the stories that will appear in SILVER SOLDIERS: A BOYS BEHAVING BADLY ANTHOLOGY! Congratulations go out to the following authors!
“Fight like Cats and Wolves” by A.J. Harris
“Handfasted to the Highlander Warrior” by Aurora Russell
“SNAFU—Situation Normal, All F***ed Up” by Ava Cuvay
“Operation Purple Sparkle Diamond” by Brenda Margriet
“SEAL in Distress” by Denise De Marco
“Star Diplomacy” by Kimberly Dean
“Take Me to the Water” by Michal Scott
“This Time Forever” by N.J. Walters
“Weathering the Storm” by Natasha Moore
“Sarge in Charge” by Reina Torres
“Broken Trust” by Rhonda Lee Carver
“Clear to Engage” by Sukie Chapin
Of course, there will also be stories by Elle James and myself, too. I’m super-excited about this book! ~ Delilah
Have you ever given your significant other a second chance? This is Chloe Morgan’s dilemma. She’s fed up with Ward Reyes. He’s a part-time boyfriend and she wants more. She wants dates. She wants a guy to wake up to on a lazy Sunday morning. Ward isn’t that guy. So, when she dumps him, Ward sits up and takes notice. He isn’t willing to simply walk away from the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Not without a fight.
Last Chance to Call You Mine: Dirty Addiction
Obsessions come in all flavors…
Chloe Morgan is weak. At least she is when it comes to Ward Reyes. She can turn down donuts like a wrestler during training, but when her on-again-off-again boyfriend blows into town looking for a booty call she goes down like a sinking ship. Only a drastic action can get her to move on with her life and away from the silver-eyed devil. Was it wrong to send him a break-up text? Definitely, but her choices are limited considering she’s an addict. But what if Ward is the only man that can give her what she so badly desires?
“We’re through.” Ward read the text a dozen times and still can’t believe it. But the proof is there in black and white. His sweet Chloe is giving him the boot. At first, it’d been the blazing heat between them that captivated Ward. It was Chloe’s giving nature and sarcastic wit that kept him coming back for more. Unfortunately his life is a mess, thanks to his brother’s gambling habit. Ward has spent the better part of his life cleaning up Malcolm’s messes. He’s tried to keep the ugliness of it all from touching Chloe. Now, she’s threatening to walk away and Ward isn’t about to let her go without a fight.
Will Chloe give him one more chance? Read the excerpt from Dirty Addiction and find out! Universal Purchase link for My Perfect Pleasure Anthology: https://books2read.com/u/mZQqql
Ward closed the distance between them and wrapped an arm around her middle, tugging her up close. “I’m not walking away without a fight. I care about you. And I know you care about me.”
One brow lifted as she stared up at him. “I’ll get over it.”
“No, you and I belong together,” he explained. “I fucked up, I admit that, but I’m going to fix it. I promise you.”
She bit her lower lip and looked away. “It’s too late for that, Ward.”
“It’s never too late, baby,” he murmured, aching to kiss her senseless.
The doorbell rang and Chloe let out a heavy sigh. “That’ll be Lauren.”
He let her pull out of his arms, but Ward wasn’t through. “I’ll go, but I’m coming back tomorrow. You and I have unfinished business.”
She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “If you come back, then you’d better be ready to share everything with me,” she warned. “Everything, Ward. No more half-measures. It’s all or nothing.”
He watched her, knowing it was now or never. “I hope you’re ready for that.” And he hoped the truth wouldn’t send her running in the opposite direction…
I’ve participated in several charity anthologies before, but they’ve always been when I sought out the project. For this anthology, I was contacted by Xio Axelrod and offered the opportunity to join. I’d seen previous volumes in this series and when she messaged me, I thought huh??? She can’t possibly mean me. She must be mistaken. I’m a newer author in the gay romance genre. At the time, I’d published four novellas, a short story, and one novel. I kept thinking, there must be some mistake. That being said, I sent back my agreement right away and started writing a novella. I figured if I gave it to them, they’d have to include it, right? (Assuming the story was good enough, of course.)
I wrote my heart out and Page Against the Machine is the result. I’m happy with my novella, and I’m hoping readers will enjoy it as they gobble up the other stories in the anthology. The two organizations we’re giving the money to are near and dear to me. Of course, I know the Matthew Shepard story, and with all that is going on in Texas right now, I’m happy to lend my support to Equality Texas. In fact, as I look around, I realize how blessed I am to live in Canada. We’re not perfect, but we don’t actively have people trying to take away our rights. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I found stepping up even more important.
I hope you’ll buy the anthology. I hope you’ll enjoy all the stories. We, as authors, pour our hearts into these stories. We do it out of love. Inclusive love. Abiding love.
And, I wouldn’t be a good guest (thank you so much Delilah), if I didn’t offer a prize. For a $5 Amazon GC, drop a note. Have you read an inclusive story of some kind that moved you? (Doesn’t have to be a gay romance.) Good luck!
Love is All
The fifth edition of Love Is All features nine brand new stories from bestselling and award-winning authors, including BL Maxwell, Chantal Mer & Susan Scott Shelley, Connor Peterson, Gabbi Grey, Nic Starr, R.L. Merrill, Sean Michael, Sophia Soames, and Xio Axelrod. They celebrate the universal human right that is to love and be loved.
All proceeds from the anthology will go to two organizations that support and defend LGBTQIA+ rights: the Matthew Shepard Foundation and Equality Texas.
The anthology will only be available for a limited time.
Xio Axelrod Xio Axelrod is a USA Today bestselling author of different flavours of contemporary romance. She also writes what she likes to call strange, twisted tales. Xio grew up in the music industry and began recording at a young age. When she isn’t writing stories, she can be found in the studio, writing songs, or performing on international stages (under a different, no-so-secret name). She lives in Philadelphia with one full-time husband and several part-time cats.
Chantal Mer Chantal Mer is an author and optimist. Her stories explore relationships and what it means to be family. When she’s not writing about strong women, strong men, and strong love, she can be found walking her adorable dog, volunteering at her kids’ school (in the library, of course), teaching at the local university, and reading.
Chantal lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, kids, Toffee the Wonder Dog, and vicious cat, Gracie.
Susan Scott Shelley USA Today bestselling author Susan Scott Shelley writes stories with heat and heart, where love always wins. Her romances give readers lighthearted and emotionally satisfying escapes into happily ever after. In addition to crafting stories, she is also a professional voiceover artist and enjoys lending her voice to a wide range of projects.
She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and is an avid fan of her hometown sports teams. Her favorite things include running (honestly, it’s more like jogging), sports (especially hockey), hard rock (but will listen to anything from heavy metal to show tunes), and writing about people from all walks of life finding their special someone.
R.L. Merrill R.L. Merrill brings you stories of Hope, Love, and Rock ‘n’ Roll featuring quirky and relatable characters. Whether she’s writing contemporary, paranormal, or supernatural, she loves to give readers a shiver with compelling stories that will stay with you long after. You can find her connecting with readers on social media, educating America’s youth, raising two brilliant teenagers, writing horror-infused music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net, trying desperately to get that back piece finished in the tattoo chair, or headbanging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area! Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance.
Rochelle Merrill brings you Fun, Fresh Fiction with Feeling. If R.L. Merrill is your local hard rock/metal radio station, Rochelle is her Adult Contemporary alter ego. Spinning feel-good stories to make you laugh and swoon, Ro writes romance for grown-ups who use their words (mostly) and take care of business. She’s a mom and wife who’s on hiatus from a career in education while she explores the new terrain of mid-life adventures. You can catch her walking and gardening in her neighborhood by the Bay, spoiling her rescue pets, and dreaming of attending concerts and theaters again someday. Stay Tuned for more hits coming your way…
Sean Michael Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and persuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”
A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.
Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.
Sophia Soames Sophia Soames is a Scandinavian, UK based, Author of contemporary MM romance. She writes stories of everyday people with kids and families living real life fairytales.
Nic Starr Nic Starr lives in Australia where she tries to squeeze as much into her busy life as possible. Balancing the demands of a corporate career with raising a family and writing can be challenging but she wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Always a reader, the lure of m/m romance was strong and she devoured hundreds of wonderful m/m romance books before eventually realising she had some stories of her own that needed to be told!
When not writing or reading, she loves to spend time with her family–an understanding husband and two beautiful daughters–and is often found indulging in her love of cooking and planning her dream home in the country.
Connor Peterson Connor Peterson is a USA Today bestselling author of LGBTQ+ urban fantasy and dark, paranormal romance, local to the Philadelphia, PA area. The madman behind Deathspell and Temptation in Neon, Connor has also contributed to the story cycle Red Phone Box – published by Ghostwoods Books – and the anthology Nocturnal Embers – published by Crimson Melodies Publishing. He is also an active participant in the Philadelphia writing community, and volunteers as a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month.
BL Maxwell BL Maxwell grew up in a small town listening to her grandfather spin tales about his childhood. Later she became an avid reader and after a certain vampire series she became obsessed with fanfiction. She soon discovered Slash fanfiction and later discovered the MM genre and was hooked.
Many years later, she decided to take the plunge and write down some of the stories that seem to run through her head late at night when she’s trying to sleep.
Gabbi Grey USA Today Bestselling author Gabbi Grey lives in beautiful British Columbia where her fur baby chin-poo keeps her safe from the nasty neighborhood squirrels. Working for the government by day, she spends her early mornings writing contemporary, gay, sweet, and dark erotic BDSM romances. While she firmly believes in happy endings, she also believes in making her characters suffer before finding their true love. She also writes m/f romances as Gabbi Black and Gabbi Powell.
I’m Lexxie Couper. Some of you may know me or have heard of me (I’ve been around for a very long while) and some of you might be wondering who the hell I am. I’m an Aussie, a geek, a serious lover of chocolate, and a writer of romance. I write contemporary romance, paranormal romance, horror romance, sci-fi romance, romantic comedy… pretty much all kinds of romance, except historical (no way I have the research skills to write historical romance even though I love reading it). I’m also the proud owner of a rescue dog and a proud owner of a rescue cat (who pretty much rules the house).
I’m a part of a ten-author boxset called Rescued: A Collection of Contemporary Romances with Heart, Heat, and Dog Treats that’s available now for $0.99 pre-order and releases May 17th. All the books in the boxset feature rescue dogs in some way. My book in the Rescued boxset is called Who’s a Good Boy? and tells the tale of Chelsea Parker, a feisty dog trainer, and Timothy Holt, a single-dad environmentalist, and how one very special rescue dog (called Wilbur) changes everything for them. It’s a feel good, steamy rom-com that will make you smile. Promise.
This is my rescue dog, Ebony. She’s a border collie/kelpie/whippet cross. She was abused by her previous owners and now suffers from anxiety. But she is the sweetest doggo you’ll ever meet who just wants you to love her, no matter who you are. She sat at my feet or at my side as I was writing Who’s A Good Boy? and whenever the words stopped flowing I gave her a pat and she licked my hand and the words came again.
Here’s a little snippet from Who’s A Good Boy? I hope you enjoy it.
Who’s a Good Boy?
Timothy Holt is totally out of my league. He’s damn-near Australian royalty and I’m just a dog-trainer. There’s no chance he’d want anything to do with me, especially after I accidentally spilt juice all over him just before he’s about to go on national TV. And then the success of my business suddenly hinges on us being in a relationship. How the hell am I going to make that happen?
Romance isn’t on my agenda. Nor is dog ownership. And then Chelsea Parker slams into me. Literally. She’s a complication I don’t need, but for some reason I can’t stop thinking about her. Her smile, the way she makes me laugh, the way my body reacts to her…. I want everything about her. But what is she going to do when she discovers the truth I’m hiding from her? A truth involving a three-legged mutt called Wilbur?
Excerpt from Who’s a Good Boy?…
My hair has never been a perfect anything. God, did I even do it this morning? I try to remember. Nope, no clue.
Let’s hope the curls hide the possible absence of a brush. Maybe everyone will think I’ve just got a really expensive beach hairdo.
I clear my throat, struggling not to reach up and touch my hair. “I need to go as well,” I say, looking at the very cute, very familiar guy.
His gaze grabs mine again, and yep, he’s definitely holding it. “Sorry for getting in your road,” he says.
“Anytime.” I let my lips curl into a smile as I turn away. “Sorry for knocking you off your feet,” I finish over my shoulder.
I’m flirting. I’m actually flirting. Go me!
“Anytime,” he calls after me.
And he’s flirting with me. I think. Is he? He is, right? Oh God, why am I so bad at this?
Because you suck at dealing with humans, Chelsea. Suck, suck, suck.
His daughter waves at me, and I wave back. And grin. At him. At the delicious little butterflies-flutter his playful compliment stirs in my stomach.
Maybe I don’t suck at dealing with humans? Maybe I’m better at it than I thought. A year after being dumped by Roger—the only serious relationship I’d ever had—a year after many failed first dates and aborted Tinder interactions, I’d begun to believe I was.
But perhaps this serendipitous moment with the familiar stranger is proving Roger wrong.
Okay, maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse. One little flirtatious interaction and one brief second of eye-contact does not a femme fatale make. But still, when was the last time a living creature apart from an animal has made me grin?
Because I can’t help myself, I shoot a look back over my shoulder.
He’s watching me, poised to climb into the backseat of a black Audi SUV, the older gentleman who’d asked if he was okay holding the door open for him.
Holding the door for him? What the…?
Who the hell is this guy? A celebrity of some sort? Is that why he looks familiar?
He smiles at me.
Before I know it, I smile back.
And then, with a small wave, he disappears into the backseat of the Audi.
A thick sense of loss ripples through me and I let out a sigh. “Yep. Missed opportunity right there.”
The older gentleman closes the door, pins me with a contemplative scrutiny I feel all the way to my spine, and then strides around to the driver’s door.
Lyle and the cutie-pie munchkin are nowhere to be seen. In the car already, no doubt.
I chew my bottom lip. With the possessive way Lyle kept glaring at me, it’s probably better it’s all over but the singing.
Still, damn, he was cute. The guy I knocked over. Not Lyle.
*** So…what did you think?
I really enjoyed writing Who’s a Good Boy? Maybe in part because I loved writing about not only people falling in love with each other (and boy, do Tim and Chelsea fall hard), but also people falling in love with rescue dogs (Tim never planned to have a dog, and then Wilbur entered his life). I grew up believing every home should have a dog and every dog should have a home. Now, for no other reason than why not, here’s a photo of Chris Hemsworth and his dog. 🙂
***A Little Lexxie Contest***
To go into the running to win two eBooks from my backlist of the winners choice and a signed Lexxie Couper print book, leave a comment here on my guest blog post here on Delilah’s blog between now and May 20. 🙂 Tell me what you thought of the snippet, tell me about your pet, tell me about your breakfast, tell me something you know about Australia. 🙂 Tell me anything, or even just say g’day.
And don’t forget to pre-order Rescued for only $0.99!
Thank you, Delilah, for hosting me today. You’re very kind.
I’ll admit a secret – I didn’t think the current war would happen. I follow politics and world events, and I couldn’t conceive of this happening. From the beginning—from the first bombs falling—my worldview changed. I felt powerless and, as atrocities continue, my heart breaks a little more each day.
So, what could I do? I can’t influence politicians. I can’t solve the crisis. And asking for world peace, although laudable, isn’t realistic. I donated to a worthy cause. I reached out to my Ukrainian friends to offer unconditional support. But I continued to feel powerless.
Then a friend told me Dakota Willink was putting together an anthology to benefit Ukraine. I’d seen several before, but this one provided me an opportunity to sign up. I immediately threw my name into the ring. I’d written a novella previously for another charity anthology, so I knew I was capable of writing a 10k word story in a short period of time. And I have a world to set that story in, so that was easy.
Still, I wanted to do more. I have another pen name, under which I write very different books. I asked them if I could write a second story, and they agreed. In fact, I’m not the only author who’s done that. With my task at hand, I sat down at the keyboard.
To be clear, none of these stories are about the conflict. We recognize that it’s far too painful for many readers to tackle at this point. But love? Our readers are always up for reading about love. The stories span broad categories such as contemporary, paranormal, and dark, and delve a little deeper into gay or BDSM or other subgenres. There’s something in here for everyone.
My first story is The Lightkeeper’s Love Affair. From my description, it’s a 10k lighthearted gay romance with forced proximity, a loner, a future schoolteacher, and Buddy, the adorable beagle. So, a little something for everyone. The story takes place in a fictional world I’ve created in British Columbia, Canada, and has some familiar sights to those from here. If you’re not, I invite you to immerse yourself. This book is under my pen name Gabbi Grey.
My second story, Toronto Tryst, is also, clearly, based in Canada. I’m showing my roots. Again, from the description, this is a 5k word BDSM-light romance short story with a surprise that will delight. My dark erotic BDSM series, under the pen name Gabbi Black, is, frankly, very dark. It touches on black places but always with a happy ending. That series takes place in Vancouver. The final book in the trilogy is coming out early next year, so I didn’t want to disrupt the series. Yet I wanted to write the story for the anthology. My solution? Pull someone from the BDSM club on the west coast and transport them to Toronto for a nice evening of fun. Don’t be afraid of the BDSM—this is definitely a fluffy read. A nice sampler for those who are new to the subgenre, and a amusing story for those who are more familiar with it.
Obviously, I’d love if everyone purchases a copy of the anthology. It contains hundreds of thousands of words—all written by authors who just want to do their part. 100% of the proceeds go to United Help Ukraine.
Thank you again, Delilah, for giving me a place to share my great news. I would love to give a $10 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky commentator.
Let me know your favorite romance trope! Mine turn out to be instalove and forced proximity. And a dog (or cat). I know pets aren’t a trope, but I just always have to throw one in. Share your thoughts for a chance to win!
Seeds of Love: A Romance Charity Anthology to Benefit Ukraine Synopsis
You can help us make a difference.
SEEDS OF LOVE is a romance anthology to benefit Ukraine. This collection of short romance stories is not available anywhere else. 100% of the royalties will be donated to United Help Ukraine, a charitable organization dedicated to helping the Ukrainian people affected by Russia’s invasion. They are a grassroots, entirely volunteer-based organization that provides aid to wounded Ukrainian warriors, assistance to their families, and support to internally displaced people.
This anthology features 48 authors. The stories include various sub-genres of contemporary romance, paranormal romance, dark romance, and romantic comedy.
SEEDS OF LOVE is only available for a limited time! Stand with the people of Ukraine and get your copy today!
UPDATE: The winners are…Denise, Jennifer Beyer, and Stacey Kinzebach!
I love writing short stories. I used to submit short stories to publishers all the time because writing short, getting to The End quickly, gave me a rush. Writing short also gave me a chance to try new things out without a lot of risks. It’s how I discovered my love for writing bounty hunter stories! Eventually, I “graduated” to editing and publishing my own collections of short stories because I love the process of seeking stories from talented officers, making choices regarding which stories work together, editing every precious word, and then sending the book out into the world for readers to enjoy. I’m working on volume #7 of my Boys Behaving Badly Anthologies right now—Silver Soldiers—that I think you’ll like.
It releases later this year! The book will be a big thick volume of shorties and will be dirt cheap—just $0.99—like all the Bad Boy anthologies are. No excuses at all for anyone not to pick up a copy!
You can check out previous anthologies by clicking on the covers. And yes, they are all just $0.99—not because they’re not worth full price, but because the authors of these stories want as many people as possible to devour their stories! They’re a great deal and a great way to find new-to-you authors!
Comment for a chance to win the download of your choice of
one these anthologies! There will be three winners!
Excerpt From “In the Wild” inside First Response…
If not for her GPS device, Martika Mills wouldn’t have had a clue where she was. All she knew was that she was soaked to the skin, mud sucked at her boots, and two days into this hunt, she was no closer to finding Marlon Oats.
Earlier that morning, after sliding a twenty to a gas station attendant on the Montana border, she’d thought she was getting close. She’d gotten a description of the car Marlon had “borrowed” on his flight into the wilderness and had found it parked in a narrow roadside viewing point, just inside Yellowstone National Park.
After that, she’d followed the narrow stream into a deep gully off the road, knowing Marlon considered himself quite the fisherman, or so his mother had said. No doubt he intended to live off the land until the heat died down after he’d failed to make his date with the judge in Helena, where he was due to be tried for robbing a pawn shop in Springdale at gunpoint. His mother had been very helpful, liking the fact that Marti seemed like “a nice girl” who might “ask” her son to let her put him in handcuffs rather than shooting him. His mother didn’t want Marlon hurt, even though his skip might cost her the home she’d lived in since she’d married Marlon’s no-account, long-dead father.
Marti was just about to call it a day, figuring she had just enough daylight left to get back to her SUV parked behind Marlon’s at the roadside park, when she spotted a puff of dark smoke rising over the gully. Noting its direction, she climbed up a steep embankment, seeking footholds in mud and rock and grabbing vines along the sides of the rocky face until she stood at the top and realized the land on this side of the stream was flatter and filled with tall spring grass—and a herd of buffalo that didn’t seem to pay her any mind as she bent over and dragged in deep breaths. She glanced at her hands braced on her knees and grimaced, because they were covered in mud, which she shouldn’t give a shit about because her jeans were streaked with dirt as well.
Marlon had a lot to answer for, but thoughts of the rich bounty she’d score kept her from throwing in the towel. Her mother liked to say that stubborn was her middle name, which was a quality that worked well in her line of work. She always got her man because she never, ever gave up. She’d been bounty hunting for nearly three years now, the last one going solo because she didn’t like sharing her bounty with a partner or an agency, although she was considering working for one again. Agencies often served as bail bondsmen, too, and therefore had the downlow first on the richer bounties. Fetch Winter from Montana Bounty Hunters had been working on recruiting her to join a new satellite office he was trying to get off the ground in Dead Horse, Montana, to service southwest Montana and into Wyoming. He needed hunters with experience, and he’d heard good things about her.
She’d heard good things about the agency, too, if you discounted the cable TV show that followed his hunters out of Bear Lodge. Fetch gave his crews a higher percentage of the bounty than most agencies did, and he’d assured her that he wouldn’t be looking to do any spin-off series featuring his other offices, but he had admitted that the bonuses for the hunters who permitted the production crews to accompany them were very generous. The job was hers, if she wanted it. But first, she had to find Marlon Oats.
Trying her best not to draw the herd’s attention, she walked along the edge of the ravine, keeping within the narrow line of trees standing along the edge of the ravine as she made her way toward the place she believed a campfire had been lit.
As she drew closer, she stayed hidden and peered into a clearing. A small tent had been pitched, one that had seen better days. One of the screen windows was torn, and one of the poles that held up the tarp over the door was missing. But she couldn’t make out whether anyone was presently occupying the campsite.
Just then, she heard movement coming from the stream below and a soft off-key whistling. Hunkering down, she waited patiently until the person climbed over the edge of the embankment and stood.
“Marlon, you sweet idiot,” she said under her breath. Her heartbeats quickened, and she drew slow breaths. She needed calm, not adrenaline, to get closer to her target.
Marlon strolled toward his campsite holding a string of four fish, which he lowered into a pot beside the fire. As he began taking them out, one at time, gutting and filleting them, and then tossing the pieces into a pan he’d filled with oil, she moved closer, choosing her footsteps carefully, grateful for the chorus of gargling grunts from the buffalo nearby that masked the sounds her feet made in the suctioning mud.
She studied Marlon to see what challenges he might present. A rifle leaned against the tent, and he held a knife in his hand. Slowly, she dropped her backpack to the ground and drew her own 10mm Remington from the holster on her thigh, and then began to work her way toward the edge of the tree line, knowing she’d eventually have to expose her position to prevent him from making a move toward the rifle.
Soft chuffing grunts sounded from the herd, but she ignored the animals, keeping her gaze fixed on the more dangerous game in front of her.
Then she stepped on a twig, and it snapped.
Marlon’s gaze swung toward her position, and his eyes widened. His gaze shot to the rifle, but she shook her head.
“I’m a Fugitive Recovery Agent, so you know why I’m here,” she said, keeping her tone low and hard.
Eyes still wide, his body tensed as though he was preparing to bolt upwards and make a run for it.
“Don’t even think about running,” she bit out.
He blinked, and his gaze went to something behind her. “Bitch, you might want to think about making a run for it.” Then a smile stretched across his face as he slowly stood and waved his arms.
What the fuck…?
Then she heard it. A deep, gargling grunt. With her handgun still held in both hands in front of her, she darted a glance behind her. Read the rest of this entry »