The phrase “return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear” was made famous by announcer Fred Foy, introducing the adventures of the old Lone Ranger and Tonto on radio and television. But for me, it’s a clarion call to lose myself in that wonderful time machine called history.
Twenty-seven years ago, I pastored a small church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Nazarene United Church of Christ sits on the corners of Patchen Avenue and MacDonough Street. Often as I walked to do pastoral visits on the other side of Atlantic Avenue, I passed several wooden houses and wondered what they were, who had lived there. I learned they were the remnants of Weeksville, a community founded by free-Blacks in the 1830s. In the three years I served Nazarene, I never once got to visit them.
On my last trip back to New York, I visited the Brooklyn Historical Society and discovered Judith Wellman’s wonderful book, Brooklyn’s Promised Land: The Free Black Community of Weeksville, New York. She transported me back to the thrilling days of yesteryear on streets inhabited by the residents of a thriving Black community of ministers, doctors, landowners and entrepreneurs, streets I’d walked and intersections I’d crossed. The community’s residents strove to develop pride in self and place. It served not just as enclave for themselves but a refuge for many from the Southern violence of slavery in the South or Northern violence like the Manhattan draft riots of 1863. In 1968, a workshop sponsored by Pratt Institute led to the rediscovery of this historical safe haven.
How odd that I, who grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York, chose to write historical romance about Blacks in the far West when Blacks west of East New York were much closer at hand. From my research done at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Schomburg, and through Wellman’s book I wrote the novella Light The Fire Again for the Fireworks: A Passionate Ink Romance Anthology. Fred Foy’s call to return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear in the West, draws me west to Weeksville and to the thrilling stories Weeksville inspires me to write. A reimagined Gilded Age Weeksville is now the setting of my women’s fiction series of novels that I’m adapting from Wagner’s Ring cycle operas.
I didn’t get to visit the Weeksville Heritage Center last October. There’s always next year, I thought. I’ll be glad when I can tour Weeksville in the flesh, not just on the Heritage Center’s website: https://www.weeksvillesociety.org/.
I hope you will tour the original Weeksville houses and listen to one man reminisce about his childhood home there on the videos listed below:
Thanks for letting me share. Now, how about you share in the comments what you’ve learned about the history of your people or your neighborhood or your family. Everyone who does will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.
Light the Fire Again
One night in 1896 between delicious rounds of oral sex, Adelaide Hanson and Hero Williams shared their hopes and dreams. She to be an artist like Edmonia Lewis. He to amass great wealth. Hero went off to start a fireworks business. Adelaide remained in Weeksville hampered by a ruined reputation until a doctor’s examination proved her still a virgin.
Two years later, Hero, now a self-made millionaire, returns to share his wealth with the community that sheltered his family from the violence of the Post-Reconstruction South. He has also returned hoping to ask Adelaide for her hand. She, however, is anticipating a marriage proposal from the son of one of the Black community’s most prominent families, despite his mother’s disapproval. Hero begs for a chance to change Adelaide’s mind. Although still in love with him, she is unwilling to risk her heart and societal opprobrium again. Then Hero makes an offer he hopes she won’t refuse: a chance to revive what they shared two years ago by viewing a private fireworks display designed especially to light the fire between them again.
Light the Fire Again is one of seven steamy fireworks-featuring romances in the Fireworks anthology, proceeds from which will go to ProLiteracy, an adult literacy organization. So enjoy some great sex while supporting a great cause.
Red and white checkered tablecloths fluttered gently in the warm July breeze. Summer sunlight glinted off glass pitchers brimming with iced tea, lemonade and water. The event attendees had filtered out of the hall and were lining up at the collation tables. Everyone grinned and smacked their lips as the delicious scents of collards, cornbread and fresh-baked biscuits, sweet potatoes, and chicken, both baked and fried, filled the air.
Adelaide’s stomach growled. She pressed a fist against her gut to quiet it. She hadn’t had breakfast and regretted offering to help serve.
“Hurry up Adelaide,” Emmaline Thompson barked. “Set those platters beside the others, go back for the last tray then be ready to serve.”
Adelaide bristled, tempted to deliver a tongue lashing of her own but kept silent and complied.
Reverend Johnson, Hero and several clergy and civic leaders headed for a white linen-covered table decked with red, white and blue ribbons set aside for the guest of honor.
Hero glanced her way, catching her eye. He smiled. Not a broad enjoy-your-day smile, but a narrow I-remember-you grin.
She remembered him too.
Her stomach growled again, this time from a different hunger.
She speared chicken on to plate after plate, forcing a smile with every “You’re welcome” she said to each guest served. The letter in her pocket gave her no reason to smile.
Reverend Johnson had given her the envelope in his office. She recognized Hero’s handwriting immediately. If Reverend Johnson hadn’t been present she’d have ripped it up. She’d shoved it in her pocket, planning to do just that when the minister asked her to please open it then and there.
The envelope contained two pieces of paper: one an article from the Brooklyn Eagle announcing the reason for Hero’s return to Weeksville. His family, known for their generosity to causes dedicated to uplifting the Negro race, had several monetary gifts for their former neighborhood. The reporter recounted the family’s harrowing escape from the South then chronicled their rise to wealth. Their most recent success was attributed to the series of fireworks Hero had designed over the last two years. The article ended by quoting Hero.
“Yes, God has blessed us with success, but I’ll be forever grateful to a muse who inspired me late one August night.”
Adelaide re-read the quote several times. Just seeing the words “August night” set her sex pulsing. She laid the article aside and read the second piece of paper. A hot fist of awakening curled low in her belly as she mouthed its simple words.
The Forgotten Brotherhood is my latest series. This is a truly diverse group of characters. It’s been challenging, maddening, and downright fun at times to watch their stories unfold. Now BURNING ASH, book three of the series, is finally here!
Who are the Forgotten Brotherhood? They’re a group of paranormal assassins, the misfits that other paranormal creatures fear. They aren’t the monsters lurking under the bed. They’re the ones that kill them. They live by a strict code: Kill only those that truly deserve it and let their gods sort them out. Kill them before they kill you. Never, ever betray a fellow assassin.
Forgotten Brotherhood, Book 3
No one is more surprised than Asher, one of the oldest vampires on Earth, that he’s attracted to vamp hunter Jo Radcliffe. She’s smart, a talented slayer, and she’s gorgeous. Something about her pulls at him, like no one ever has before. For a man, whose name strikes fear in everyone––this is something new and intriguing. And quite possibly deadly, if she discovers his secret.
Jo has two things in common with the handsome Asher––they are both slayers and someone is messing with them in a very-much-trying-to-kill-them way. She’s not so happy about joining forces with a dude she doesn’t know. But he’s sexy as hell and really good at his job as one of the Forgotten Brotherhood, whose business it is to execute misbehaving paranormals.
She knows she’s bait in a larger plot to harm Asher and the Brotherhood. And there is nothing he won’t do, no line he won’t cross, to keep her safe––which may be the weakness that destroys them both.
Excerpt from Burning Ash…
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded of the tall, lean man who was still mostly in the shadows. Whoever he was, he was dangerous, maybe even more so than the creature she’d just beheaded. He’d come out of nowhere and snatched the crossbow bolt out of the air like it hadn’t even been moving.
A shiver raced down her spine.
Dressed all in black, he blended with the dark. She hadn’t known he was there until he’d deliberately come forward. And she always had total situational awareness. It was a matter of survival.
Her profession had a very high mortality rate.
A nudge of his foot sent the vampire’s head rolling back toward the body. The undead would need to be burned if he didn’t start disintegrating soon, but she was keeping her distance from the man in black.
“Asher.” He gave her a half bow. “And you are?”
A quick shake of her head. “You don’t need to know.”
“That hardly seems fair considering I saved your life.”
“It didn’t need saving,” she asserted. “I’d already moved.”
“True,” Asher conceded. “You’re fast, but I didn’t know that. I should get points for the attempt.” He sauntered out of the dark and fully into the candlelight. The flames flickered over his face, exposing a strong jaw, straight nose, and high forehead. His blond hair was pulled back in a short tail at his nape. His skin was olive-toned or tanned, hard to say. Piercing brown eyes stared at her.
Good looking was much to tame. Handsome didn’t fit either. There was something dangerous and predatory lurking beneath the surface. Primal. Compelling. Yeah, that was it.
It was time for her to leave.
“While I appreciate the assist, I’ve got this.” She jerked her head toward the door, hoping he’d take the hint.
A ghost of a smile flickered on his full lips before it disappeared. “I’ve got nowhere I need to be.”
“Great,” she muttered.
His laugh slid down her spine, a whisper of heat. Her nipples puckered and rubbed against her bra. Uh. No. The last thing she needed was some kind of fatal attraction. Because he was one of two things—a fellow hunter or another vampire. Neither of which were good for her.
“Come now, I’ll help you clean up this mess. Then we can get a cup of coffee somewhere, maybe talk.”
“It’s almost one in the morning. Nothing around here is open.” God, she was tired. She just wanted to fry this vampire and leave. Usually they disintegrated fairly quickly. This one was taking his sweet time. He either wasn’t truly dead yet or he was very young. The older they were, the quicker they turned to ash.
N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spends her days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smoldering good looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to live it.
I read my first BDSM novel not long after getting my first e-reader. Annabel Joseph’s novel, Molly’s Lips, changed my life. I was pulled into the world of dominance and submission through the extreme Master/slave relationship between Molly and Mephisto. Needless to say, I bought the first book in the series and subsequently the final book in the trilogy. Then I went on to buy every book Annabel has ever written. I wasn’t just a fan, I was a superfan. I even got to meet Annabel in person—a meeting that changed my life.
Meanwhile, I started to do research into the BDSM lifestyle. I was fascinated, and somehow knew, this was more than just a passing interest. I wrote my In Their Eyes trilogy before I’d ever heard of Fifty Shades of Grey.Amber Eyes is the first book in the trilogy, and I don’t think I ever believed the book would be published.
In January 2015, I went to my first munch. A munch is a vanilla event for kinky people. You go to a restaurant wearing street clothes, but hang out with people who are curious about or into BDSM. Although I was nervous, I also was instantly comfortable, sensing I had met my people. I met a woman who became my protector. She watched out for me and guided me as I moved further and further into the lifestyle. Pretty soon, I was attending conferences and dungeons. Eventually, I got involved in scenes.
Shhh. My parents don’t know.
Eventually, I revisited the trilogy I’d written, and I realized there were scenes needing to be rewritten. Personal experience, as well as discussions I’d embarked upon, had opened my eyes. Now, I knew what it was like to, uh, partake in scenes. I’ll leave it to your imagination, but there are several scenes in my book that come from personal experience.
After all the changes in the book, and after extensive edits, I found a home for the book at The Wild Rose Press. I found an editor who understood my vision, and who saw the potential in the story. I owe her for helping me make it a better book. One I hope readers will enjoy.
So now you know my secret.
She needs a firm hand. He needs a challenge.
School principal Gage Clayton is still grieving the death of his wife and submissive, yet he can’t ignore his Dominant needs. As he enters Club Kink, he’s inexplicably drawn to a newly released sub with an intriguing proposition and the most captivating amber eyes. But she has disturbing baggage and her expectations prove quite a challenge, one that would necessitate a commitment he’s not ready for.
Rielle Reid needs a Dom while she waits for her former Master to return. When she invites a handsome stranger to her home dungeon for a night of play, she’s surprised at his gentle dominance—and her response to it. But in the light of day, his demand for equal footing confounds her. After living four years as a twenty-four/seven slave, she has no concept of how to be anything other than property.
Gage must find a way to master Rielle to free them both from the shackles of the past.
She released his hand, rose, and stretched. Leaning down, she placed a kiss to his cheek. “Come to bed soon. You’re looking as tired as I’m feeling.” Then she was gone.
In her wake, however, a wave of desire swept over him.
Come to bed soon, she said. As in, come to our bed soon? There had been no talk of sleeping arrangements, and the room she’d used the previous weekend had been cleaned, sheets laundered, everything put to rights. Sex was out of the question, but sleeping with someone? For the whole night? That held almost as much appeal.
Cleanup was simple, and within a few minutes, he headed to the bathroom. The steam from her earlier shower had dissipated, but her scent lingered. He’d yet to put his finger on the exact scent of body spray she used, but he liked trying to guess. He loved the mystery and allure that came with the not knowing.
When he stepped into his bedroom, one of the bedside lamps was on, casting the room in shadows. She was already in bed, covers pulled up. He stripped out of his clothes and slid in beside her, cradling her against him, spoon-style. She extended a hand to switch off the light, and he stopped her.
“I don’t mind sleeping with the light on.”
“With you next to me, I don’t need the light.”
He was moved almost to the point beyond words. “I’ll always protect you. You know that, right?”
Instead of responding, she cuddled closer to him, burrowing herself under the blankets. It wasn’t long before her breath evened out and even less time after that before his did.
Even though Gabbi Black is a firm believer in happy endings, she makes her characters work for it in every romance she writes, no matter what the genre. From contemporary to BDSM, they are penned late at night in her home on a beautiful British Columbia mountain surrounded by magnificent trees and every conceivable woodland creature—including bears. She also writes gay romances as Gabbi Grey.
One great thing about attending the public school system in NYC as I grew up was all the museum trips I took. The Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium were annual stops. Yet none of my school trips had taken me to Hamilton Grange even though it was designated a national historic landmark in 1960 and put on the national register of historic places in 1966. I didn’t discover the Grange until I did an internship year in seminary in 1982.
Coming from a seminarians’ meeting at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, I decided to visit my aunt who lived on 141st Street and Eighth Avenue. Instead of going down 145th, I walked along Convent to 141st. A sad-looking house caught my eye. It sat behind a locked black gate nestled between an apartment building and an imposing church. On my right was a statue of Alexander Hamilton. I later learned the house had been where he lived from 1802 until his death in 1804.
All I knew about Hamilton—he was on the ten-dollar bill, had founded the New York Post, and was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr. Decades later, thanks to Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, I’d learn the sad circumstances of the song, “It’s Quiet Uptown.” That day, however, only the house and not its owner’s history intrigued me. It looked so out of place with the Harlem I knew: cracked concrete sidewalks, bus exhaust, fish frying from a small hole-in-the-wall shop on St. Nicholas Avenue, my aunt’s Drew-Hamilton housing projects down the hill. Yet the Grange was part of the original Harlem Heights, the suburb to which the New York swells retreated from the hustle and bustle of lower Manhattan. Why had the school system never taken me there?
Fast forward to 2012. I now worked with St. James Presbyterian Church two blocks down the hill from the Grange. On my strolls along Convent, I stopped and peered through those gates. No longer troubled by the holes in my public school education, I enlisted my history-inspired romance-loving writer’s muse. I drafted an erotic ghostly encounter with Hamilton entitled Permission. Was I channeling the ghost of Maria Reynolds three years before Lin Manuel Miranda penned “Show Me How To Say No To This”?
When the Grange was relocated to St. Nicholas Park, I snapped a picture of the vacant site. In my writer’s eye, I continued to see the house fading in and out Brigadoon-like in that location and penned an equally erotic ghost story entitled “10,000 Midnights Ago”. In 2018 I got to visit the Grange, read the placards the National Parks Department created, snapped pictures, took notes, fed my muse and revived my ghost stories. Both will now have a home in my Haunted Harlem series of novellas.
Uptown was never quiet for me, but for Alexander Hamilton, it was. In the quiet of those rooms, I heard for the first time how quiet uptown could be.
All the women in Anora Madison’s family have lived as “Poor Butterflies:” women still longing for – but deserted by – the men they loved. Determined to be the first to escape a life of abandonment, she fled Harlem for Brooklyn, severing ties with both her mother and with the man who broke her heart, Winston Emerson, the father of her child.
Six years later, Anora returns to make peace, but a malignant spirit manifests itself during the homecoming, targeting her mother, her aunt, Winston and their little girl. Determined to stop the evil now trying to destroy all she loves, Anora must finally turn to Winston for help. But will their efforts be too little too late?
I unlocked my apartment door and gestured toward the bedroom. He carried Cammie inside, laid her down on the bed then stepped back and watched while I helped her into her pajamas. She blinked awake.
“I didn’t brush my teeth or say my prayers.”
I kissed her temple. “Missing one night won’t hurt.”
She pouted. “Promise?”
She looked at Winston from beneath half-lidded eyes and smiled at him.
“You pick me up tomorrow, okay Daddy?”
He shook his head. “No, baby. Mommy will bring you to Grammie Angela’s straight from school. I’ve got to go get our pumpkins.”
“Oh, okay. Pumpkins and party and Sammy,” she whispered and turned over, already asleep.
“Night, night, baby,” he said then kissed her.
I walked him to the door, resolved to say good night and for once not mean goodbye. I didn’t want him to go.
“Stay.” I laid my head against his chest. “We can sleep on the Castro.”
His shudder was rewarding.
“If you only knew how long I’ve wanted to hear you ask me. Jesus.” He laughed, a shy embarrassed sound that gladdened my heart. “I can’t believe I’m about to say this.” He took a deep breath. “We shouldn’t. Not tonight.”
“Because I’m not sure we’d be doing it out of love.” He looked at me with a question in his gaze. “I don’t want us to make love because we’re afraid.”
I frowned, my heart heavy, my spirit desperate to disagree, but unable to.
“Okay.” I sighed, but still clung to him. “Not tonight. But soon. And for the rest of our lives.”
“Soon. And for the rest of our lives.”
He cupped my face in both his hands then kissed me in our mutual agreement. Equal parts of nervousness and desire quivered in my belly. I liked the sensation, felt warmed as I imagined what soon would be like.
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved music. I remember having a radio in my room and being amazed at the new songs I heard. I noticed how each song told a story with not only words but rhythm and instruments as well. When I got a tape player, I listened to “Africa” by Toto over and over. It’s still one of my favorite songs. More than anything else ever has, the notes of a song can soothe me when I’m upset. A good, fast-paced song can energize me when I need to get things done. I can turn up the volume and sing when I’m alone, especially when I’m driving down the road. The energy of a crowd at a concert can be inspiring. The connection to everyone around me singing the same song is incredible and beautifully impermanent.
The soothing power of music is an important part of Tiger’s Last Chance. In the story, Sean Whitman had a rough childhood and endured a brutal interrogation that tore apart his life and career, but he survived. In spite of everything he endured, his empathy for others never faltered. But he’s not perfect either. He is a recovering alcoholic and music is his lifeline when things get too intense for him to bear.
The song “Ball and Chain” by Social Distortion is playing in his truck in the first chapter of the story because that song kept popping up in my head as I wrote his character. For Sean, music is the temporary armor that gave him strength and peace while he healed. I think music is a temporary armor for many people. The rhythm and sound give us joy and comfort in the darkest times.
Tiger’s Last Chance
While working a case, Sean Whitman is tortured for information, drugged, and bitten against his will by a shapeshifter. The fallout leaves him jobless, friendless, and dumped by his girlfriend. Needing a fresh start, he leaves town and opens a private investigation business. Learning to live life sober isn’t easy, but he makes it to the two-year mark.
When Detective Nikki Jackson with the Great Oaks, Virginia Police Department calls him, accusing him of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house, Sean can’t help but like the sound of her voice, despite her ridiculous accusations. He’s shocked when she calls him back with an apology then asks for his help as a consultant on a case. On the phone, her sweet, slightly Southern voice captivates him. In person, she’s unlike any other woman he’s encountered, and nearly impossible to resist. But could the sexy detective ever want a man like him?
After Nikki’s last dating disaster, the mountain lion shifter has sworn off men. Then she meets Sean, and with every second she spends around the tall, dark-eyed man, her resolve crumbles. But for some reason, despite the undeniable attraction between them, Sean seems determined to push her away.
An investigation into missing refugees leaves Nikki with more questions than answers. Her refusal to let the matter drop leads her to the discovery of a radical political group’s horrifying plot for dominance. Traitors are embedded within the very organizations meant to keep shifters safe. As the list of people she can trust dwindles, Nikki calls on Sean to help her unravel a web of deceit.
As Nikki and Sean fight for survival, his fear of losing her could become a reality. Will he get one last chance to show her he loves her?
For the briefest moment, Nikki felt the depth to which Sean might be capable of pushing her. His kiss was crushing and brutal. His tongue pushed past her lips and his grip in her hair tightened. If desire were a vine, it would have wrapped itself around her veins and encased her heart. The heat between them flooded her. There was a sweetness, too, in his kiss, and the sweetness made her burn hotter.
A polite cough from inside the waiting car put a quick end to things. Sean pulled away and met her gaze. No words, but she got the message. She wasn’t alone. Comfort and friendship; he’d probably meant the kiss to comfort her and had gotten carried away in the heat of the moment. He’d carried her away with him, and she wanted to take him so much further into the unknown.
With each second, each step towards the waiting car, she tried to find reasons and more reasons to ignore her growing attraction to Sean. The number one reason to forget about the kiss they’d shared—relationships were trouble. She had plenty of other amazing things in her life, including her career, her volunteer work, and her band, even though the band rarely played anywhere because the members had trouble aligning their schedules. She didn’t need a man. Besides, he was probably still messed up over Sydney. Also, he was a regular. Or mostly regular. Not to mention he lived over a thousand miles away in Texas. She should tell him the kiss was a mistake. One look at him and she couldn’t bring herself to say the words. The kiss they shared had been anything but a mistake.
I’ve been writing now for a number of years in multiple genres. I can honestly say I’ve never had more fun than I have writing about my Montana Bounty Hunters. So, when I was approaching the last story of the last hunter in the series, I thought hard about what I wanted to do next. The solution was pretty easy.
I’d write more. However, the MBH agency in Bear Lodge, MT was chock full of hunters. I needed my bounty hunter agency to expand, so I chose another location in Montana, fictional again, of course, so I could have more fun with a new set of hunters, and this time, use the town itself as a new “character” in my story. So, welcome to Dead Horse!
The book will be available solely through Amazon, at first. I want as many folks who want to get it through Kindle Unlimited for FREE as possible. I already have the print version uploaded, too. That link will come soon. In the meantime, meet the first hunter in the series…Cage.
A former SEAL and MMA fighter, and now, newly minted bounty hunter, has to hunt down his first skip…his ex-wife.
Former SEAL Cage Morgan thinks he doesn’t need anyone. As a rising MMA fighter, he makes enough to do what he wants and doesn’t have to answer to anyone.
Then an old friend sends an emissary, Reaper Stenberg from the Montana Bounty Hunters, to offer him a job. He agrees to meet him, but he has no intention of becoming a bounty hunter…until he hears who Reaper needs his special skill set to take down—his ex-wife.
Elaine Morgan is facing jail time due to her chosen line of work. She runs an illegal, underground fight club with her brother. Up until now, she’s always run clean, fair fights, but her brother owes money to the wrong people. As she prepares to the take the rap for his poor judgment, she misses her court date—that’s just one more stressor to add to the pile, and she doesn’t have time to worry about the consequences.
Until the night of the fight that will free her brother of his dangerous debt. Only her ex-husband shows up there, telling her he’s taking her in, and he has the friends with him to get the job done. The hunters’ poor timing sets off a chain of events that has the Montana Bounty Hunters staging a daring rescue.
All the while, Cage and Elaine revisit their past love, finding that the time apart put their problems in a better perspective. As their connection grows, they both fear an uncertain future.
As he approached the front door to the Dead Easy Saloon, Cage Morgan flexed his hands, wincing as he did so due to the deep bruising on his knuckles. Still, sore knuckles felt like a small price to pay considering the size of the purse he’d won the previous night at the MMA bout in Bozeman.
Thinking about the $36,000 deposit he’d made at the bank that morning, he wondered why the hell he’d agreed to this meeting in the first place. Cage’s needs were simple, and the purse would pay his bills for the next four to six months until he accepted the next match.
However, he owed Fetch Winter the courtesy of meeting with his representative to talk about the possibility of a job. He didn’t owe him a “yes,” but he had agreed to listen. Fetch had led the unit that had pulled his ass out of a firefight which had killed several of his SEAL teammates back in Afghanistan a lifetime ago.
From the outside, the meeting place was like any other roadhouse bar. Wood plank siding, a tin roof, and a red neon “Open” sign. He climbed the three steps to the porch then opened the door. Music played on a jukebox, customers lined a well-polished counter, and in the rear, the crack of striking balls and groans sounded from the pool tables.
As he passed the bar, the bartender’s gaze narrowed on him, and then a broad smile spread. He lifted his chin to Cage. “Great fight last night.”
Cage lifted his eyebrows and gave him a little salute but didn’t stop. He made his way to a small round table tucked into a corner of the main room and took a seat.
A waitress with dirty blonde hair so straight it had to have been ironed paused beside his table. “What can I get ya, hon?”
Her smile was flirtatious, and while she was kind of cute for a middle-aged woman in a skin-tight tank with the bar’s logo on the front and short blue-jean shorts, he wasn’t interested in encouraging her to linger. “Whatever beer’s on tap will do,” he said and pulled a twenty from his wallet.
She smiled and moved away, her skinny hips wagging.
She was back inside a minute with a foamy beer and handed back his twenty. “Kip, the bartender, says it’s on the house. He won a pile of money last night on your fight.”
He pushed back the twenty. “You keep it then, and thank Kip.”
Just then, a commotion sounded at the entrance of the bar. “Damn, are you Reaper, that dude on TV?” asked a man who was holding onto the arm of a large man wearing a ballcap who was trying to get through the doorway.
Cage watched as the man who looked like he belonged on a Viking longboat shook the man off his arm.
Cage couldn’t make out what he said to the smaller man, but the guy held up his hands and backed away, grinning. As soon as the big man’s attention left him, he scurried to the bar, leaning over the counter to talk to Kip, whose gaze shot to the big man.
He watched the man in the ballcap grimace then step deeper inside the bar, his eyes narrowing as he searched the counter and then the tables. Cage knew the second when his gaze came to rest on Cage, because the other man tipped his chin before striding his way.
As the man approached, Cage assessed him like he always did, sizing him up as a possible opponent in the ring. They were of a similar height and weight. His arms and chest looked powerful. However, Cage could tell by the way the man moved that he wouldn’t have his same speed. Not that he was planning to fight this guy, but old habits died hard.
The big man stopped in front of his table. “You Cage Morgan?”
The man sat and whipped off his cap. “Thought the hat would work.”
Cage’s mouth twitched. “That was supposed to be some kind of disguise?”
The other man made a sound a bear might make just before it took a bite. “Fetch sent me.”
“Said I was to try to schmooze you into taking a job.”
“I’ve been wondering why he isn’t here to do it himself.”
The other man raked a hand through his long blond hair. “I’m here to set up the satellite office. He’d have come, but he said we didn’t need the big guns. That you’d want this job once you heard what it was all about.”
Cage grunted and sat back in his chair. “You’re the guy in that reality TV show.”
Reaper gave him a dead-eyed look. “If I wasn’t makin’ bank, I’d take exception to your tone, dude.”
Cage snapped his fingers. “What’s it called?” He pretended the name escaped him.
“Bounty Hunters of the Northwest,” the other man said, sounding bored.
“Right!” Cage grinned. “I liked the episode when that wild man chased the bear.”
“His name’s Animal.”
Cage chuckled. “Fits.” He picked up his beer and drew on it, not knowing exactly why he was trying to rile the other man. Maybe it was because he viewed him as a competitor, and his instinct was to start the psych-out before a fight. Or maybe it was because he wanted to make sure the man didn’t waste a lot of time trying to convince him to take a damn job he didn’t want. “Can’t remember your name, though,” he lied.
“Reaper. Reaper Stenberg,” the big man said, his words a little garbled like he was grinding his teeth.
“Right,” Cage said. He took another swallow and waited for Reaper to give his pitch, but the waitress sauntered over again.
Her gaze went from Cage to Reaper, and Cage knew what was on her mind. Too bad for her, he knew Reaper was married, and he flat didn’t get into bed with another man, even if their dicks never touched.
“He’ll have the same as I’m having,” Cage said to hurry her away.
She was back inside a minute and set a beer in front of Reaper. He handed her a twenty.
“No, Kip said it’s free. He watches your show,” the woman said, sounding out of breath.
“Keep the tip,” Reaper said than turned his attention back to Cage.
The woman’s mouth tightened, but she moved along to another table.
“Saw you fight in Bozeman last night,” he said, his gaze direct.
Cage curled his fists and grimaced at the throbbing ache. “McMann gave me a run for my money.”
“You fight well. Heard you came to MMA through less than legal fights.”
Cage gave him a hard stare. “That was a long time ago.”
“Three years.” He took a sip of his beer. “Least, that’s what I hear. Bareknuckle stuff’s not for sissies.”
Cage almost smiled at the grudging compliment. “No, it’s not, but it’s hard on the body.”
“We could use someone like you. Fetch says you were a SEAL.”
Cage straightened in his chair. “I was.”
“Marine,” Reaper said, pointing at his chest with his glass.
“Won’t hold it against you.”
Reaper’s mouth twitched. “We’re building an office here. Broke ground last week. We hope to hire on eight to ten hunters to cover southwest Montana and into Wyoming and Idaho.”
“Sounds ambitious. From your TV show, it looks like you guys are sweeping up all the trash. Sure you’re leaving enough work for another agency?” Cage didn’t know why he asked. He still wasn’t interested, but he was curious about what Fetch was hoping to accomplish.
“America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Long as that doesn’t change, we’ll have plenty of bounties to go around. And it’s not just bounties on folks skipping their court dates or mandatory drug testing. We help find prison escapees, pitch in on law enforcement manhunts—anywhere our particular talents are needed. Our Bear Lodge office helped bring in a terrorist who was recruiting anti-government whackos intent on building an army here in Montana.”
“That all sounds fine and dandy for someone who wants to be a bounty hunter. I don’t.”
“Well, Fetch thinks you might change your mind when you hear who we’re hunting. He needs someone with your skills to get close enough to make the takedown.”
Cage narrowed his eyes. “My skills?”
“Your experience in those illegal fight clubs. You’ve got connections that can get you inside.”
Cage shook his head. He hadn’t been a part of that world in years. “Not interested.”
“Ask me who we’re hunting,” Reaper said, his expression neutral, his stare boring into Cage’s.
Cage was curious all right, but he didn’t want to ask. Didn’t want to know. He’d left that world and never looked back. Had the scars and the tattoo, thank you very much.
“Fetch explained how the money works, right? What a hunter gets as a percentage of the bond.”
“He did. And I still told him no.” Hunting people was something he’d done when he’d been in the Navy, and he’d been damn good at it. However, hunting Americans wasn’t something he had the stomach for.
“Ask me,” Reaper said, his voice lowering.
Cage wanted to tell him to go to hell. But he also wanted to know, because the hairs on the back of his neck were rising. Deep inside, he was still that man, the one who always found his target and always took him out. A cool dread washed over him, and he drew a deep breath. “Okay, I’ll bite. Who are you hunting?”
It was supposed to be a month in a cottage by the lake in Maine. For Peyton Gerard it was time to recover from not one but three disastrous breakups and try to find her muse again. A successful romance novelist needed to believe in romance to write about it believably, and Peyton had lost her faith in it.
For Dixon “Dix” Amendola it was supposed to be time to rehab his injured thigh from a SEALs mission that fell apart, to mourn the two team members who were killed and to deal with his guilt. Learning the mission had been compromised did nothing to ease the burden of blame he carried.
The problem: the cottage had been rented to both of them by accident.
Put two stubborn people in close quarters—a hot SEAL and an appealing author, add in moonlit nights by the lake, and suddenly they don’t mind sharing. But then reality intrudes, Dix returns to lead a repeat of the mission and all Peyton can do is pray it will be successful and that when he returns, he’ll come back to her.
Excerpt from Wet Heat…
He rounded a curve in the dirt road just as his GPS announced, “Your destination is on the left.” The outside of the place was exactly as he’d seen it in the photo online. The boat Eileen had told him about was already tied up at the little, short dock. The soft breeze drifting in through his open window carried the fresh scents and sounds of the area, instantly soothing him.
What was jarring was the car parked on the so-called grass next to the cottage. What the fuck? He hoped it wasn’t a nosy neighbor just waiting to give him an eager welcome. Socializing wasn’t on his to-do list. He pulled in next to the vehicle and grumpily opened the door and got out. He was just looking around to see where the owner of the car might be when the side door opened and a woman popped out.
Okay, maybe woman was too mild a term. She looked like a miniature lush goddess. If he’d been the least bit interested in female companionship, he’d think maybe his day was looking up. This one couldn’t be more than five foot five, with hair in a rich shade of red framing a heart-shaped face. Her hair bounced around her head in wild curls, in time, he noticed with her breasts that bounced beneath her T-shirt. The strap of a cross-body purse lay in the valley between those breasts, emphasizing their roundness. Shorts accentuated nicely rounded hips, and when she turned to pull the door shut tightly behind her, he got a view of an ass his hands itched to cup.
Whoa there, mister. This is a no-sex time out. Reconditioning, not relaxation. Maybe he should tell that to his cock that suddenly wanted to make its own appearance and deliver a greeting. It was sending him a very painful message which took all his famous discipline to control.
“Are you the housekeeper?” He didn’t even know if Eileen had told him there’d be one, but who else would be here, and with a key?
“Housekeeper?” She stared at him. “Not quite. Who are you?”
He took a moment to note that her face was free of makeup, and he doubted it needed any to enhance it. Emerald-green eyes peered out from beneath lashes thicker than any manufacturer could produce. Her cheeks held a faint rosy tinge and a smattering of freckles. And that mouth—
Yup. Good thing he was on a no-sex diet. He had one goal to accomplish here, and he couldn’t afford to be distracted.
“I’m the tenant. I rented this place for the next month.”
“No. Wrong answer.” She shook her head vehemently. “You must be in the wrong place. I rented this place for the next month.”
A little bubble of anger tried to work its way up through his system. He did not need this. He wanted to get settled in, go for a run, take a swim, and contemplate his future.
“I’m sorry. You must have gotten the address wrong.” He stepped forward, figuring if he crowded her space, she’d retreat. She was nearly a foot shorter than he was.
“Address wrong?” she repeated. Then she held up the ring with two keys on it, jingling it in front of him. “Then exactly how would I have these keys?”
“Don’t know and don’t care. You have to leave.” He glared at her. “Now.”
She stared at him for a long moment then shocked him by breaking into laughter.
“Does that work for you often?” she asked, grinning. “I mean, that whole alpha thing? Get out? Be gone?” She burst into laughter again.
Dix ground his teeth together. What the hell was going on here?
“We have to get this straightened out. Right now.”
“Fine by me.” The woman tugged a cell phone out of her pocket and scrolled through the numbers.
Dix held his own cell up. “I’ll call the rental agent myself,” he told her.
She frowned. “You don’t trust me?”
“There’s obviously some mix-up, and I want to hear the answer for myself. We’ll get the agent to settle it, and then you can just pack up and get out of here.”
“Fine. Then you can just get in your truck and head on out of here.”