Last year wasn’t my most prolific writing year—that’s for sure. However, I did have several releases. Some were re-edited, re-released titles (the Dark Realm stories), but most were new series books, including two Brotherhood Protectors books! Today, I just wanted to provide the list and release dates of the titles in case you missed one. If you’re interested in one of the stories, click on the covers to check them out!
01/07/22 – AFTER DARK, Dark Realm series, short story
01/25/22 – ELI, Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT series
02/15/22 – HUNK OF BURNING LOVE, Cowboys on the Edge, short story
03/22/22 – NO TENDER MERCY, Texas Vampires series
04/26/22 – DARK SEDUCTION, Dark Realm series
06/21/22 – VICTORIA’S SIX, Brotherhood Protectors: Colorado series
07/26/22 – GABRIEL, Montana Bounty Hunters: Dead Horse, MT series
08/12/22 – WHAT A WOLF WANTS, Dark Realm series, short story,
10/11/22 – GUARDING HANNAH, Brotherhood Protectors: Team Wolf series
2022 Short Stories
For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, tell whether you’ve read any of these stories or which titles might interest you now! Easy, right?
Do you love Hallmark movies? Do you sometimes wish the movies would be spicier? A little hotter? If so, All Cowboy and a Holiday Bride is a book for you. It’s sweet, emotional with a happily ever after but with a large dose of sexy.
Excerpt from All Cowboy & a Holiday Bride…
“Don’t fall in love,” Sadie Locke sashayed out of the bathroom, bringing with her the fresh scent of soap and woman. “Now that we’ve taken our first shower together and all.”
“That’s what you’re worried about? I asked to take a shower with you and now I’m high risk for falling in love?” Channing Dawson chuckled and hauled himself up out of bed, then grabbed his rumpled jeans off the floor. “Ain’t happening. I could never love a water hog.”
She captured him with her pale grey gaze. “I’m not worried about things going off the grid. I’m just listing the rules. We don’t want this to get complicated. Sorry about hogging the water, but that bathroom is as big as a broom closet and I’m claustrophobic. Not to mention, the spider we saw was big enough to wear shoes.”
“This is an old hunting cabin. We’re lucky it has a toilet, let alone a shower. I have an idea though.” He used his thumbnail to scratch his temple thoughtfully.
“You do? Call an exterminator, I hope.”
“We could always start meeting at your house. I bet your bathroom, and bed for that matter, is plenty big enough.” He didn’t expect a response to his question, and she didn’t disappoint. Every time he’d mentioned the subject before, she’d ignored him.
“I’m grateful this place has indoor plumbing. I can also tolerate the pet spiders. The mornings are getting nippy though. We might have to give that wood stove a whirl.” She gave her dog, Waffles, a scratch on the head. He was cuddled up on an old rug in front of the stove.
“Just so we’re clear, you don’t have to recite the ‘rules’ every time we get together like I have a kindergarten education. Sex-only is pretty self-explanatory. We meet up three times a week, have a fun time, and then we go about our own business.”
“Do I sense some sarcasm in your tone?” She flicked an eyebrow as she recapped the whiskey bottle they were passing between them last night. “Are you feeling disrespected?”
“Nope. I’m capable of keeping my heart, and dick, in two different lanes.”
“Good news because I really like what we have here.”
A Marriage of Convenience will turn into a Holiday Romance…with a surprise baby.
Sadie Locke has always been great at giving her friends relationship advice, but when it comes to her own love life not so much. That’s why she’s not looking for forever. She and Channing have been secretly carrying on a fling for months, but everything’s about to change. And boy does Santa have his work cut out for him…
Channing Dawson has life just the way he likes it. His business is thriving. And he and Sadie have a no-strings “friendlationship”. What more could a man want? After his brother passed away, he didn’t dare risk loving and losing again. Yet, his heart is speaking a different holiday tune.
Sadie pulls a fast one and makes him her husband. A marriage of convenience or not, the rules are all blurred. He isn’t sure about having a holiday bride, until he realizes he’s had feelings for her all along. Sometimes the risk is worth it all. He could get used to sharing Christmas with her, but does she feel the same? Her secrets, and she has plenty, might ruin any chance they have for a future.
Then he receives the unexpected gift of a lifetime…
About Rhonda Lee Carver
Rhonda Lee Carver is a bestselling author of contemporary western and romantic suspense, but she loves to write other genres too. She’s known for writing stories that keep readers laughing, crying, gripping the edge of their seats, and screaming all in one book…like riding a virtual roller coaster. Whether she’s creating sexy cowboys or tough guys, or sassy, independent heroines, readers are sure to find strong, powerful, memorable characters that are relatable.
By day, she taps into her creative, fictional world but at some point, she transitions back into reality where she’s a volleyball-stands cheerleader, homework virtuoso (at least she thinks so), amateur nurse to skinned knees, mediocre chef with some awesome microwave skills, pet-guru (all the strays show up at her house), and a Jackie of all trades for her kids who are the loves of her life. Yoga and chocolate keep her sane. Hallmark movies require cuddling up with tissues because she can be emotional. She adds a sprinkle of her own real-life adventures in each story she spins because a little truth never hurt anyone. She wouldn’t give up one thing in her crazy, chaotic, ever-amusing life, except, she might do magic tricks for the bungalow on the beach she’s had her eye on (GOALS).
Writing, for Rhonda, is like falling in love and finding a new best friend over and over again. Her characters will find a place inside your heart, too.
I appreciate the opportunity to talk about romance and jumped on Delilah Devin’s invitation to guest post.
As an author, I love to toy with dark ideas in the realm of romance. It’s rooted in the characters I create. Their wounds. Their goals. Their desires. The black hole in their soul that will either be a wasteland or the road to salvation. In writing fiction, it’s fun to translate those into symbols scattered throughout the story. Touchstones. Images we give readers. There’s no better visual than Darth Vader. And the words of Yoda: Anger, fear, aggression. The dark are they.
In romance, our main characters obviously are in love or soon will be. In erotic romance, sex is a powerful vehicle and lust is the driver. How far do we take-send-deliver the character with the most at stake?
That’s a gray area.
Tapping into our emotions ~ How dark can dark go?
It depends. When it involves fictional love and not just sex, we have to start with someone in need. I write alpha male characters and they’re hungry. They have a zest and zeal for life, starting in childhood, then it explodes in adulthood, usually in a skillset and a career. Someone we’d peg as passion-infused… or obsessed?
But to feel what a character feels, we need a common language to go deep. And sometimes, we aren’t sure why some terms are a turn-on… or a turnoff.
Passion and obsession by definition:
passion (n.) In Middle English “…an ailment, disease, affliction…” also “an emotion, desire, inclination, feeling; desire to sin considered as an affliction…” (mid-13c.). The specific meaning “…intense or vehement emotion or desire…”
obsession (n.) 1510s, “…action of besieging…” (Later (c. 1600), “…hostile action of an evil spirit…” …(like possession but without the spirit actually inhabiting the body). Psychological sense “idea or image that intrudes on the mind of a person against his will” is from 1901.
[From] obsess: Of evil spirits, “to haunt,” from 1530s.
We use ‘passion’ to describe extreme emotions, while ‘obsession’ was once equated to being haunted, or nearly possessed.
Between passion and obsession lies the demarcation of what is acceptable. Who doesn’t want to feel passionate about something? What about obsessed?
If by obsessed, do we mean they’ve gone over the edge? But have they?
Crossing the line~
While writing romance, a fictional mirror of reality, I’ve played with taking a character to the very edge of obsession. In Her Forever Cowboy, Stephen McLemore, an explosives engineer, walked away from crossing the line with Jillian. Eight years prior, he was in college and she was in high school. In the backyard of her parents’ home, which was about to be sold, they shared a stolen kiss. Jillian’s parents recently died. In a moment of offering Jillian consolation and comfort, Stephen crossed the line. At that moment he realized he wanted more, much more. A taste of Jillian left this man with an open wound. An ache. A consuming hunger.
Instead of consummating a budding romance, the hero walked away. But did he? This is a story about a man who refused to cross the ultimate line into darkness, but remained rooted in the heroine’s life in ways that clearly bordered on obsessive. And it isn’t until the very end of the story that the reader and Jillian become aware of how much. For some, the story could be taken as too much. What the hero did was unacceptable. For others, it’s the sign of unrequited love. A chance to be the wind beneath another person’s wings by giving them opportunities they might not have had. And that question plagues the hero. Did he alter the heroine’s life for the better and will she forgive him?
Why do we love to hate our obsessions?
So, in writing this type of hyped existence, I skate a fine line in Her Forever Cowboy. In order to give Stephen McLemore the opportunity to heal, he has to admit he has a problem. He does, up to a point. It’s up to the reader to decide from the get-go. Is Stephen wrong in doing the things he does, given the circumstances? Wrong because all obsessive behavior is too much? Or can a human being actually circumvent free will?
We connect with romance heroes and heroines because they’re flawed. They come to terms with their complex nature and are willing to change for the sake of love. In Her Forever Cowboy, I pushed boundaries to the max. Subplots involve family dynamics, drug and alcohol addiction, money and the things people do to maintain face, how far over the edge will friends and family go to preserve the status quo, loyalty, compassion and forgiveness.
In writing dark romance, it’s always a dance of weaving love, lust, shining moments, darkness in the soul, sickness, obsessions, addictions, redemption, pain, and selflessness. Both as reader and writer, it’s like boarding the ultimate emotional roller coaster. To love dark romance, we adore the steep rise and sharp drop.
Whether it’s life and fictional romance, it’s why we do what we do again, and again, and again.
Hope to see you on the dark side. It’s so much fun to be bad!
Do you agree? What’s something you’re passionate or obsessed about, or straddle the line? What would it be like to not have this deep feeling?
Thank you so much for allowing me to stir the pot on dark romance and give you a taste to the backstory of Stephen McLemore. Take care and happy romance trails.
About the Writer
Susan Arden is a best-selling author of romance novels. She lives just south of Nashville and when she isn’t writing, she owns and runs a cut flower farm. Susan is releasing four new novels in 2023. Stay tuned! www.susanardenauthor.com
Depending on how long you’ve been reading me, you might not be aware of my naughty cowboy ménage series, Lone Star Lovers. All my sexiest fantasies are rolled up in those stories. Two cowboys, three cowboys, four… All that attention concentrated on one lucky girl… Heck, it’s not really fair, and there must be something in the water in Two Mule, Texas because there’s a whole lotta sharin’ goin’ on. 🙂
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…
Read an Excerpt from Breaking Leather…
Chrissi Page raised her cell phone in the air, staring at the screen. No bars. Not even a hint of one skinny, green nub. “Oh, come on,” she moaned as her radiator hissed behind her. “Damn, damn, damn.”
She’d been tempted to ignore the CHECK ENGINE light when it first appeared, wanting to take the chance she could limp back into Two Mule. However, the steam seeping from under the hood had pretty much killed that hope.
Today was not the day for her car to break down. Not so far from town. Not so close to their ranch. Any minute now one of the Kinzie brothers might happen by.
They’d stop because they’d never leave a woman stranded.
They might not let her go because of their shared past.
And she didn’t know if she had the strength anymore to fight fate or her own inexplicable needs.
Macy Pettigrew, her best friend and boss, had sent her to the Dunstan house to make sure the owners had followed her suggestions to increase the house’s curb appeal. Never mind that there wasn’t a curb. Not really even a road—more of a caliche-covered goat trail that meandered up a steep hillside, rutted from runoff during recent summer storms.
Something must have happened to her car on the run up that hill. She’d heard the rocks pinging against her undercarriage but had been too busy thinking about Ms. Dunstan’s handsome neighbors. She’d been afraid she’d pass them or that they might stop in to see old Lettie Dunstan, the widow selling off her roughhewn, century-old home.
Chrissi had forced a smile on her face, looked at the potted plants the old woman had placed in pretty window boxes and admired the paint she’d used to spruce up the weathered door and window frames. The junk the old woman’s husband had accumulated, and that she hadn’t had the heart to part with after his passing, was gone from the front lawn. And lo and behold, grass was beginning to grow to fill in the brown patches where engines and tires had lain.
Macy would be pleased. They had a potential buyer. One who’d relayed an offer via email, which had checked out with the mortgage lender. Details Macy had been eager to handle herself, leaving the showings to Chrissi.
Chrissi heard a powerful engine rev. She slowly lowered her arm and glanced nervously over her shoulder. A metallic sage pickup truck pulled off the road behind her, and her stomach dropped to her toes. She’d known the moment her CHECK ENGINE light had shone that this was going to happen.
And good Lord, it had to be Ezra Kinzie. His dark gaze narrowed on her through the windshield, the intensity of it feeling like the hissing heat of a brand against her skin.
He opened his door and stepped down, slamming it with a decisive shove. Everything Ezra did was deliberate. He never wavered once a decision was made.
Long ago, he’d decided he wasn’t going to fight his brothers for her. If she wasn’t going to decide among them, then she’d have to take them all.
And, Lord help her, she had.
She’d never gotten over that night, had never been able to push it to the farthest corner of her mind when she lay down to sleep. Just the memory of it made her hot, cold, _wet_…
And horribly ashamed. Anyone could have seen them beneath the bleachers at the homecoming game. Gossip hadn’t followed, but that didn’t make her any less self-conscious when she strode down the sidewalk on Main Street.
Someone might know. Someone might tell. The thought of that sordid night being revealed left her feeling nauseated. Her life had been circumspect ever since, her love life nonexistent.
They’d left her scarred. Unable to move on.
Not because they’d harmed her physically, but because she hadn’t been able to shake off the terrible attraction that tempted her every single day since that fateful night.
Boots crunched on the gravel at the side of the road. The brim of Ezra’s straw cowboy hat left his ice-blue eyes in shadow.
She straightened away from her car and squared her shoulders.
“Havin’ trouble, Chrissi?”
“It just showed up,” she said under her breath, determined not to let him see how flustered she felt.
One side of his mouth quirked up. He glanced up at the sky, squinting against the bright Texas sun before leveling that devastating stare on her again.
Her belly clenched, and she fought hard not to give him any clues about how he still affected her. Just the rumble of his deep voice always made her think of crisp, cool sheets and hot, slick skin.
Her glance flicked over his body-hugging dark tee, noted his well-developed chest, the bulge of his biceps, his taut abdomen. She started to sweat. “Will you call a tow truck for me when you get home?”
A frown dug a deep crease between his dark brows. “Get in my truck, Chrissi. I’m not leavin’ you on the side of the road.”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere with you, Ezra Kinzie,” she said tightly.
A muscle rippled alongside his jaw. “I’m just offerin’ you a place to wait out of the sun. And a cool drink. Nothin’ more.”
His features were stern, his jaw rigid, but the heat blazing from his eyes mesmerized her, made her want to sway toward him. The intensity of that unblinking stare made her wish he’d take the decision right out of her hands. She’d never willingly take that first step. Her days of following his commands were over.
Chrissi swallowed hard and broke from his glance, looking down the road and praying someone else would appear over the crest of the hill. She needed rescuing from the deep emotions roiling inside her—from the temptation his large, hard frame embodied. However, only the shimmer of heat waves rose off the black tar.
A trickle of moisture dripped between her breasts, gliding along one curve—and just like that, her imagination replaced the slide of that hot little bead with the tip of his tongue. She turned away from him and dragged in a couple of deep breaths, trying to stiffen her resolve, but the only things hardening were the tips of her breasts. She crossed her arms over her chest and lifted her chin, then turned to aim a glare at the one man who had the power to make her knees quiver.
So many memories swamped her as she stared into his handsome, rugged face. So many regrets sat like soured milk in her gut. He’d been “the one” until she’d succumbed to a dark sensual greed.
Too bad she couldn’t turn back the clock about seven years. She’d make damn sure she’d never let him take her hand and pull her into the shadows.
Ezra barely suppressed the urge to step closer and crowd her tall, lithe body against her car. He’d love nothing better than to snug his dick between her legs while he licked that trickle of sweat tracking down her chest, and then follow the curve of her sweet, round breast.
But he and his brothers had planned this abduction down to the last detail. No time now to let a hard-on get in the way. “I’m not leavin’ you on the side of the road. It’s a hundred damn degrees out here, sweetheart. Get in the truck.”
“Don’t call me sweetheart,” she said, sounding a little breathless.
It did his ego good to know she wasn’t unaffected. This was the closest they’d stood in seven years. Since he’d kissed her before letting her head to the girls’ restroom to clean up after he and his brothers had her.
A sordid little chapter he was determined to remedy. If he could get her ass inside his truck.
However, Chrissi, stubborn as ever, jutted her chin high and crossed her arms over her chest. Did she know she was plumping up her breasts, drawing his gaze to the creamy tops? Her clothing stuck to the sweat coating her skin. Her light blouse skimmed close to her narrow waist. Her dark blue trousers pulled tightly as she braced apart her legs. Did she know how well they cupped her mound?
Just that hint of a cleft was enough to add a spike of steel to his already raging erection.
“Maybe you’d let me use your cell phone?” she ground out.
Ezra let a hint of a smile curve the corners of his mouth. One thing he’d learned over the years was the value of patience. He’d waited a long time to be where he was, standing in front of the one woman who had the power to make his knees buckle. The one woman he’d gladly share if that was the only way he could have her.
“Chrissi, don’t you think we’ve waited long enough?” he asked quietly.
Her breath caught, lifting her chest. “I’ve waited long enough for you to act the gentleman and do what I asked. I’ll walk back to town.” She dropped her arms, reached through her car window for her purse, then straightened.
She’d have to stride around him, and he guessed she was girding herself to do just that. Her gaze didn’t rise above his shoulder. She sucked in a deep breath and gave him a wide berth as she brushed past.
Ezra let her go, easing a hip against her red Mustang and watching her walk away—on three-inch heels that stuck to the hot tar, making a sticky sound with each step she took. She made it only about ten feet past the end of his truck before she slowed.
Her shoulders fell, her head turned to the side, but not quite far enough for her to meet his gaze. “You’re not gonna let me go, are you?” she asked softly.
Her profile, so pure and pretty, stirred a suffocating desire inside him. He steeled himself to pretend a strength he was far from feeling. So many hopes rode on the next few minutes.
“I’m just givin’ you a few moments to make up your mind, sweetheart. I have every confidence you’ll do the smart thing.”
“Just a ride to your place to make a call?”
“And a cool drink. Whatever else happens will be up to you. I’ve always let you make your own choices. Even when you were dead wrong. Even when it was killin’ me.”
And even though she still hadn’t moved, he straightened away from her car and walked to the passenger door of his truck. He opened the door and waited.
Chrissi turned her head toward the road, and Ezra held his breath, praying another vehicle wouldn’t come along, praying he’d have the strength to do what had to be done, no matter how much she might beg him to end it later.
When she faced him, he couldn’t read her expression. Her mouth was firmed into a thin line. Her chin tilted. Her brown eyes raked him up and down, and she stepped out, her body moving fluidly, hips swaying. Not a conscious invitation, but he knew if he touched her between her legs right this minute, she’d be wet.
He fought a smile of satisfaction as she walked toward him and stepped up into his cab.
When a Texas deputy’s motorcycle club trashes a bar with him leading the brawl, the sheriff decides his punishment will be serving as the bouncer/enforcer for the pretty owner while she runs a booth serving bikers during a weekend-long motorcycle club convention.
For a chance to win your choice of one of these Cowboys on the Edge stories, answer me this!
Texas, Wyoming, Montana? Or do you love cowboy stories set somewhere else?
(Click on a cover if you’d like to learn more!)
Don’t know what you’re missing in this cowboy series? Read an excerpt…
Snippet from Lawless…
Ty Nolan ignored the nudge against his shin. Last thing he wanted to do was open his eyes. From the already harsh glare burning behind his eyelids, he knew opening them would be damn painful.
“Ty, come on. Wake up,” came a harsh whisper. “Sheriff’s here.”
Sheriff? What the hell? And what was Tank doing in his bedroom? Another moment passed before he realized his mattress was damn flat. Where the hell was he?
“Ty,” came another voice, this one louder and with an irritated edge. “Hate to interrupt your beauty sleep, but I’d like a word.”
Fuck, it really was the sheriff. Which answered the question of why his bed was so damn uncomfortable. He peeked in the direction of Sheriff Josh Penske’s voice—bars stood between them. Oh hell, I’m going to hear about it now.
With his head pounding, he accepted Tank’s hand up.
His buddy grinned. “Never knew you were such a lightweight, bro.”
Ty grimaced at Tank’s wisecrack—and his crushing grip. Tank was built like a…well, a tank. Ty had played football for the defensive team in high school, so he wasn’t exactly puny. It took a few seconds to stuff his shirt back into his jeans, wincing as his bruised knuckles brushed denim. Before he turned toward Josh, he raked a hand through his hair. Josh stood beside the open cell door, shaking his head.
Good Lord, was he about to lose his job? Be suspended?
Josh turned and led the way down the corridor to the station’s bullpen door. Ty was glad he was still too hung over to blush as he completed the walk of shame past his fellow deputies, whose mouths were crimped, no doubt to hold back their laughter. Josh led him inside his office then waved him toward the vacant chair in front of his desk.
Ty slumped into the chair. He was going to be fired, he just knew it.
Josh sat back in his chair and turned his chair to the side, his gaze going to the window. “You know, I thought it was a simple assignment.”
“To be fair, I had the night off—”
Josh held up a hand to cut him off. “No matter whether you’re in uniform or not, your duty is to keep the peace, not start the dang fight.”
At this point, Ty knew better than to try to correct Josh’s impression of what had happened the evening before. He’d only piss him off worse than he already had.
“I don’t know what to do with you…”
Ty wished he’d framed that statement as a question, because he would’ve offered suggestions—short of firing him, of course. He liked his job.
And he needed it. He needed to succeed if he ever wanted to put in his application to join the Texas Rangers. He sat straighter in his chair. He’d take his lumps and move on. Figure out what was next in his life. Life after the Army wasn’t turning out to be the cakewalk he’d expected.
“Can you imagine my surprise when the mayor called to inform me that she’d seen you hauled off in handcuffs, along with a dozen other ‘miscreants’—her word?”
The mayor hadn’t been so keen on this weekend’s festivities. He’d had a bird’s-eye view of just how unhappy she was when she’d marched into the station the morning before and asked Josh to lock the fairground gates.
Apparently, she’d changed her mind about allowing bikers to gather there. “Yes, I know I approved the club’s permit, but have you seen how many bikes are parked all up and down Main Street? Caldera will not be another Waco!” she’d said, tapping her foot.
Ty had grimaced at the mention of the infamous shootout between members of two rival motorcycle clubs, that had spilled out into a restaurant parking lot where cops had violently ended that shit. Ty’s Veterans Posse Club wasn’t like that. Not involved with drugs or criminal activities. Opposed to violence, they did however get pissy about disrespect from any other club. Composed entirely of former vets, the club gave its members a safe place to be, with people who had shared similar experiences that most folks couldn’t empathize with or even conceive of.
What had happened last night at Ruby’s Roadhouse had been…his fault. One too many beers and a sneering, snide comment from another club’s snarky member, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and he’d waded right into a fight.
“Look, I got the down-low from Ruby at the bar,” Josh said. “She said that guy from the club was being a dick to one of the waitresses, and that when you approached him, he insulted your club…”
Ty opened his mouth, but Josh gave a curt shake of his head, again cutting him off.
“Ruby Tackett’s bar got trashed. I asked her what she wanted to have happen.”
Here goes… Ruby was a hardass. She’d turned off the jukebox to read the riot act to all the bikers who’d filled her bar last night—before shit had gone down. “No fights,” she’d said, her arms crossed over her ample bosom. “No hassling my girls. When I say you’re cut off, you’re cut off. No fights! Got it?”
He and his buddies had all grinned and nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” they’d answered.
And still, all hell had broken loose.
“She expects your club to clean up the mess.”
Ty nodded. “Of course.”
“She’s closing the bar for the duration of the convention. But she already has a booth set up at the fairgrounds where she’ll be serving beer in the campground area—to keep the visitors off the road and out of her place. She wants you behind the bar with her.”
I sent this out in my newsletter this morning, so if you’re getting this a second time—sorry!
It’s April Fools’ Day! It’s also Friday, and maybe you’re getting ready to download a story and meet your new weekend Book-Boyfriend. Well, I have a suggestion for you. Troy Barlow is a firefighter, who will fall like a ton of bricks when he meets the right woman. He’s sexy, funny, brave. Everything you could want in a BBF.
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Flashpoint A Cowboys on the Edge Story
His touch makes her burn…
Troy Barlow wasn’t looking for love when he competed in the Texas Tough Firefighting Competition, but one feisty little blonde caught his attention and wouldn’t let go. The more she tried to deflect him, the more determined he became to make an impression, until he did something she couldn’t possibly ignore.
The last thing Diana Boyle expected to feel was attraction for another firefighter. After her husband’s death, she’d been adamant — never another firefighter. But Troy was impossible to escape. When he wore down her resolve, she thought a one-night-stand might purge him from her system once and for all, but his powerful appeal and uninhibited lust and zest for life were addictive. When a harrowing fire threatens their newfound happiness, Diana has to face her worst fears.
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Every time he’d finished an event, he’d searched, encouraged when he found her looking his way, even if she did immediately give him her back or pretend she wasn’t staring.
He guessed he wasn’t hard to miss. Even in a crowd. Besides his large frame, he was extremely athletic. A ringer, some of the firehouses had complained good-naturedly to his chief. Which was true, he’d competed nationally in other firefighter challenges and placed. But this weekend wasn’t about trophies or blue ribbons, the competition was about raising money for the Fallen Firefighters Fund. Chief Thacker had told his crew not to embarrass him, placing would be nice, but having fun and making sure the people attending enjoyed themselves was the highest priority.
Troy had already done his part, winning the ladder competition—his score seconds faster than Cade’s score climbing a ladder up a tower of scaffolding. He’d helped his team secure second in the hose relay, where firefighters representing their houses ran with fire hoses, extending them as fast as they could to the next firefighter on the track, who then had to run with his own section of hose toward the finish line. Yeah, he’d more than done his part. And while he was pretty sure he could blow through the competition during this final event, he didn’t think his boss would mind if he broke the rules and disqualified himself—all in the name of giving the crowd something they’d love.
At last, his turn arrived to stand behind the starting line, this time beside Kole. There being only two Rescue Randy dolls meant only two firefighters could compete at one time. The goal was to lift the weighted doll and drag it to “safety” a hundred feet to the finish line. Troy eyed the doll lying on the ground in front of him and smirked.
“Don’t think I’m making this easy for you,” Kole said.
Troy fought to keep his voice even. “Oh, I know you can give me some competition. Just don’t break your stride over anything I might do.”
Kole shook his head and laughed. “Already making excuses for why I’m gonna smoke your ass?”
“Just saying,” Troy said, grinning. He shot a look at the blonde woman’s table. Her gaze widened when it locked with his. Did instinct tell her she ought to run? He hoped so.
A shot rang out, and Kole leapt forward to pick up his doll, tucking his hands under its armpits and shuffling backwards down the track.
Troy turned and darted into the crowd, heading straight for the woman’s refreshment table.
“And we have a firefighter who’s a little directionally challenged,” drawled the commentator over the loudspeaker.
Troy didn’t break stride, leaping over duffels and hoses, his gaze on his prize.
His prey’s eyes widened farther, and she pushed up from her chair, her head turning left and right as though making sure she really was his quarry. Her delayed reaction gave him time to catch her. He planted a hand on her shoulder, turned her gently, then bent and pushed his shoulder against her soft belly.
With a yelp, she folded over his shoulder and grabbed for his waistband to steady herself, because he was already straightening and turning. From the corner of his eye, he noted the firefighters from San Angelo beginning to stand, hands fisted as they moved to cut him off, but he was closer to the track, and definitely more determined. He reached up to pat her bottom. “Hold on tight. I’ll try not to bounce you too much, sweetheart.” With laughter ringing out among the onlookers, he jogged behind Kole who shook his head and continued dragging the dummy down the track.
“Seriously, bro?” Kole shouted out.
“Put me down, idiot!” came the sweet, chopped voice of his victim.
“Can’t now, hon. I’m committed. You really should have told me your name. We’d have shook hands, I’d have asked you for your number and a date—”
“I would have said no!”
He laughed, not the least disappointed. She acted as he’d expected. “And that would have been okay. Not that I would have given up.” He slowed his pace, not wanting the race to end too quickly.
Kole laughed too hilariously to threaten anyone’s time. At the moment, he was bent over the doll he’d dropped as he held his sides.
Troy was nearly running in place, doing his best to drag out his rescue. “Yeah, I’d have called, and when you blocked my number, I would have shown up at your job and sweet-talked all your friends into telling me where to find you.”
She wiggled on his shoulder, pinched his sides. “You’re just a stalker! A freaking perv.”
Only he noted that she didn’t sound very outraged. Instead, she sounded like she was choking. Was she laughing? He grinned.
“And you’re a liar. There’s no way you could find out where I live or work.”
“Sweetheart, I have friends with badges. I’d have followed you to your car, got your plate number—”
“That’s illegal. Officers wouldn’t just run a plate like that.”
“I’d have said you stole something. That I saw a pretty girl carrying it away. And hey, I did my civic duty and wrote down her license plate…”
“Oh yeah? And what did I steal?”
Pretending to stumble, he patted her ass again. “You don’t know what you took?”
This time laughter shook her frame. “You’re a jerk.”
“That’s okay. You’re a thief.” He crossed the line behind Kole and turned toward the crowd, holding out his arms and raising his hands, still balancing her slim body on one shoulder.
The crowd roared, but her friends moved in on him, their faces tight and red. He figured he needed her help to keep this friendly and slowly bent, lowering her to the ground.
She shook back her hair and met his gaze. “What did I take?” she asked, her face reddened, her expression a mixture of embarrassment and something kind of…poignant.
Troy hated to end the moment. She deserved a truthful answer. Instead, he reached for her shoulders and turned her toward her friends, then wrapped an arm around her middle and pulled her against his side. “Don’t suppose you could tell them we planned this, huh?”
She gave a breathless laugh and cocked an eyebrow. “Think it would help? They look pretty pissed.”
“Maybe they’d believe it, if…” Knowing he gambled but couldn’t resist, he turned her again, bent with her, and then brushed her mouth with his.
The crowd roared their approval.
He glanced toward her friends who’d slowed their stomps, deep frowns lessening as her hands rose to grip his shoulders. And for a moment, he forgot this was just a way to blow off steam, to teach her a little lesson in good dating manners. Forgotten was the crowd. His boss. Her friends. His attention narrowed to the soft lips moving beneath his, the small hands kneading his shoulders.
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Snippet from Cain’s Law…
Cain Whitfield wasn’t the sort of man who put much stock in premonitions or any “sixth sense.” But the moment he’d first spotted the shy brunette through the window of the Prickly Pear Motel, he’d known trouble had arrived in Caldera.
His gaze had snagged on her ill-fitting clothing and her wildly curling hair. Not unusual, his noticing a stranger arriving in his little town, but the minute his dick twitched, he should’ve heeded the warning.
Yeah, he sure could pick ’em. Just like his ex, only Susan hadn’t burned down a cabin. She’d left his place cleaner than she’d managed to keep it the entire six months they’d been together. Hell, the woman hadn’t even left him a can of beans in the pantry when she’d walked out on their marriage. On a Monday. After he’d left for work. Via a note taped to the kitchen counter because she couldn’t put that into a U-Haul trailer.
Staring at the fire that lit the Texas night sky, he shook his head. The strobing lights of police and fire vehicles were no competition for the furious blaze. No simple kitchen fire or leaf pile run amok.