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Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Mary Ellen Pleasant — The Little Woman Who Really Started the Civil War (Contest + Excerpt)
Thursday, March 16th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Colleen C!

When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he is quoted as saying, “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” While Uncle Tom’s Cabin stirred the hearts and minds of many against slavery, Mary Ellen Pleasant struck an actual blow against it.

Born free in 1814, Pleasant was brought to Nantucket to work as an indentured servant for the Husseys, an abolitionist Quaker family in whose store she developed a knack for business. While with the Husseys, Mary encountered the blacks of Newtown who grew into a prosperous middle-class thanks to the whaling industry. She married James Smith, an abolitionist who identified as Hispanic. They hobnobbed with the abolitionists of Boston and helped runaways get to Canada. Upon Smith’s death, Mary inherited a sizable fortune and continued her work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. In 1848, she married John Pleasants, a former slave and abolitionist who worked with her for twenty years against slavery.

She moved to San Francisco during the gold rush of 1849 and created wealth as a commodity trader, a money lender, and owner of businesses like laundries and lodgings and the Bank of California. She continued her abolitionist activities by using her money to help slaves escape from their masters who brought them there. Her ultimate contribution to the cause of ending slavery came in 1858 when she went to Canada and gave John Brown $45,000, $1.3 million in today’s dollars, for the raid on Harper’s Ferry. She laid claim to being the author of the note found on him when he was executed. She dictated an account of this in 1904’s How A Colored Woman Aided John Brown.

Her fight for civil rights in San Francisco continued when she brought two racial discrimination suits against streetcar companies in San Francisco, both ultimately settled in her favor. She established black schools and fought for the repeal of Jim Crow laws, earning her the nickname, “The Mother of Human Rights in California.” In his book Black Fortunes, Shomari Wills shares how she amassed a fortune of $30 million dollars, making her one of America’s first black millionaires.

It never ceases to amaze me how women like Mary Ellen Pleasant used the skills they had, in her case, the talents of a cook and domestic with a keen eye for business, to make life better not only for themselves but for others as well. Being a philanthropist was just a way of life.

In Black Fortunes, I learned her last days weren’t free from the drama racism wreaks upon the lives of pioneers like her, but thanks to this video done on her by a local San Francisco TV station during Black History month she at least has been given her due for posterity…

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, leave a comment on what you think about Mary Ellen’s life.

Better to Marry than to Burn

Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.


Why would a woman of obvious education and means be willing to brave the hardships of life out West as an ex-slave’s mail order bride? With grave ceremony, he withdrew, unfolded, and then read the letter.

Dear Mr. King,

My name is Queen Esther Payne. I read your ad and found your inquiry both refreshing and intriguing. I stand five feet six and weigh one hundred forty pounds. All of my six brothers will attest that I am no wallflower and do not fear hard work. Also as I come from one of the most respectable families on Lombard Street, my Philadelphian stock guarantees I have the ability and the requisite knowledge to help you establish a legacy in Douglass. I can commit to the two years you require, provided the marital relations are limited to the “as necessary” stated in your ad. I am willing to negotiate if more than two years are required.

I have only had relations with women, so you need not fear I will fall in love with you. Thus your “love neither required nor sought” dictum proves no obstacle. However, my woman-loving-woman proclivities may disqualify me in your eyes. If so, I await your refusal. If not, I anticipate your proposal.

Queen Esther Payne.

Caesar read and reread the line again.

I have only had relations with women, so you need not fear I will fall in love with you.

His Emma had only known women too until she united with him. Could fate be so kind as to smile upon him twice?

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Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: A Phoenix Rising from the Ashes — Hannah Elias (Contest)
Thursday, February 16th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!

Passing as white in a racist society was more commonplace than many would think and generally enabled the passer to thrive if not survive.  As in the case of Belle DaCosta Greene, passing enabled her to receive renown as the librarian of the J.P. Morgan Library. The truth of her race wasn’t uncovered until long after her death. Hannah Elias never claimed to be white, but never acknowledged her blackness either. When asked what she was she’d say either Sicilian or Cuban. The discovery of her true race didn’t lead to admiration and accomplishment but to trial and tribulation.

Hannah was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1865.  Her father was mixed-race (African-American and Native American). Her mother was light enough to pass for white. An enterprising “better-to-ask-forgiveness-than-seek-permission” type, Hannah “borrowed” a dress from her employer in 1884 to wear to her sister’s wedding. The act landed her in Moyamensing Prison and thrown out of her family’s home.

She made a living as a sex worker in Manhattan’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where she met rich glass factory owner John R. Platt, who was forty-five years older than she. She left the brothel and engaged in an affair with him, although some resources state they were married. Platt lavished her with gifts and money, enabling her to amass wealth through investments and real estate. She moved into a mansion on Central Park West. Their happy-for-now existence was shattered in 1903 when famous city planner Andrew H. Green was shot to death in a case of mistaken identity. The killer, Cornelius Williams, a former tenant in one of Hannah’s boardinghouses, mistook Green for Platt.

The case brought to light Hannah’s true racial identity. Her home became a stop on a sightseeing tour, and she found herself harassed and assaulted by White New Yorkers outraged that a black woman could be living in Central Park West, own various real estate properties, and be worth millions of dollars. In 1904, Platt’s family bullied him into filing a blackmail complaint against Hannah to strip her of her wealth. She took the stand in her own defense, prevailing against Platt at the original trial and in the appeal.

In 1915, she lived in the penthouse of one of her own buildings and by then had joined in business with African-American real estate developer John E. Nail to turn Harlem into a mecca for African-Americans arriving from the South in search of decent housing.

She went to live in Europe and died there of a heart attack at the age of 73.

As a New Yorker I’d always heard of or read accounts about the murder of Andrew H. Green but not until reading Shomari Willis’ Black Fortunes did I learn of Hannah Elias and her role in his death. Another great account of this phoenix who rose from the ashes is the Barbara Chase-Riboud novel, The Great Mrs. Elias.

Discovering hidden histories like that of Hannah Elias feeds my hunger to learn all I can about the lives of African-American women and fuels my desire to help put the spotlight on them.

For your chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, comment on Hannah’s life and/or share similar hidden histories of women you’ve learned about.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.


She sidled up to him, cupped his erection and fondled his balls.

“Ready for bed or ready to bed me?”

He moaned, placed his hand atop hers and increased the pressure. Already hard, he hadn’t imagined he could get any harder.

“Is that beautiful brass bed new?”

He gulped. “Ye—yes. Bought it—bought it for the honeymoon.”

“I’m ready to be bedded now,” she whispered. “Or is that something we must negotiate?”

All thoughts of dinner vanished.

“No,” he rasped, leaning forward, as hungry for her lips as he was to be inside her.

“Good.” She stepped back, out of reach. “But, let’s be clear…” She bent over, so her butt protruded toward him. She massaged each buttock so her crack parted invitingly. “Tonight it’s the Greek way or no way.”

He blinked, stunned by this demand to be taken anally. His master had had books filled with drawings, depicting naked Greeks wrestling. Those pen and ink depictions flashed before him now. Arms constrained by arms, legs entwined with legs, butts and groins enmeshed in snug contortions. He’d love to take Queen that way, experience first- hand the erotic intimacy etched in the men’s struggle-laden features.

He took one step toward her then stopped. No. One day, he would…but not tonight. Not their first time. Their first time would be the nose-to-nose, chest-to-breast, cock-to-vagina coupling he’d hungered five years for.


Buy link
Michal Scott Amazon Author Page:
Twitter: @mscottauthor1

Anna T.S./Michal Scott: Her Life, Her Love, Her Legacy — The Ripple Effect of the Life of Coretta Scott King (Contest)
Sunday, January 15th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…bn100!

Born in the segregated South of Heilberger, Alabama in 1927, Coretta Scott’s early life was shaped by her family’s long history in fighting against racial injustice. In 1945, she entered Antioch College in Ohio to study music, all the while actively engaging in civil rights activity through the college’s Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees and the local chapter of the NAACP.

She won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music and moved to Boston in 1952. There she met Martin Luther King Jr. They married in 1953 in a ceremony in which she had the vow to obey her husband removed. After completing her degree in voice and piano in 1954, she moved with her husband to Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1968, she did not allow the tragedy of his assassination to stop her pursuit of justice. She established The King Center to advance his legacy and ideas. To make sure that legacy was not whitewashed, she fought to make sure quotes reflecting his stance on the Vietnam War were included in the King Memorial dedicated in Washington DC in 2011.

In the 1980s, she drew comparisons between the fight against apartheid and the Civil Rights Movement. After meeting with Winnie Mandela and Allan Boesak, she came back to the US and urged then-President Regan to approve economic sanctions against South Africa.

In 1983, she urged amending the Civil Rights Act to include gays and lesbians as a protected class. She called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias in 1993. In 2003, she made history by inviting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to take part in observances of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and her husband’s “I Have A Dream Speech.” It was the first time that an LGBTQIA rights group had been invited to a major event of the African-American community.

Having been an advocate for peace as early as 1957 when she helped found The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, it came as no surprise she spoke out against the attack on Iraq in 1993. In 2004, the government of India awarded her the Gandhi Peace Prize.

In 2005, she allowed Antioch College to name a center after her. The Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom addresses issues of race, class, gender, diversity, and social justice. She received numerous awards and recognitions for her activism before she died in 2006.

Moneta Sleet Jr.’s Pulitzer prize winning image of Coretta’s stoic expression while she holds her youngest daughter on her lap during her husband’s funeral is indelibly branded in my memory. Yet, I hope you can see from what I just shared that she enhanced that dignified image by living the life of a courageous activist whose impact rippled across the nation and in the world.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share your thoughts on the life of Coretta Scott King or any courageous woman you admire.

Better To Marry Than To Burn by Michal Scott

Blurb: Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.


“Our children?” She swiveled in her seat. “You made no mention of wanting children, just marital relations as necessary. I understood that to mean intercourse.”

“I wrote I wanted to leave a legacy.”

“A legacy. Not a dynasty.”

“Legacy. Dynasty. Is there really so sharp a distinction?”

“To my mind there is. I understood you meant to affect future generations—endow schools, found churches, create civic associations. I didn’t realize that meant children. I agreed to having sex, not having children.”

 “Of course I want children.” His brows grew heavy as he frowned. “Doesn’t having sex lead to having children?”

“Not with the right precautions.”

His frown deepened. “Precautions?”

“There are many ways to prevent your seed from taking root, Mr. King.”

“I want children, Mrs. King.”

Her lips twisted and her brow furrowed, but she kept her silence.

“All right,” she said. “You can have children with any woman you like. I won’t stop you. I free you from any claim to fidelity.”

“Legacy—or dynasty if you will—means legitimacy. No bastard will carry my name, not when I have a wife to bear me children.”

“I see.”

Her tone signaled she didn’t.


Michal Scott: Continuing the Family Legacy: Sarah Jane Woodson Early (Contest)
Friday, December 16th, 2022

UPDATE: The winner is…Misty Dawn!

Nowadays, we take for granted when women operate in public spaces. Many had to be the firsts to make the accomplishments women enjoy now possible. Sarah Jane Woodson Early was one such first.

Sarah Jane was born free in Chillicothe, Ohio on November 15, 1825. Her parents were formerly enslaved but were freed before moving to Ohio. They founded the first black Methodist church west of the Alleghenies. They also founded Berlin Crossings, a flourishing black farming community which by 1840 had its own school, stores and churches and served as a station on the Underground Railroad.

Since many of the Woodson’s eleven children went on to become ministers and educators, it comes as no surprise that Sarah, their youngest, chose a career in education. She enrolled in Oberlin College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1856. This made her one of the first black women in the US to graduate from college.

She taught in black community schools until Wilberforce University hired her to teach English in 1858. While denied the title of professor, teaching at Wilberforce made her the first African-American woman to hold the position of college instructor. When the college closed in 1862 because the Civil War started, Sarah taught in black public schools. The African Methodist Episcopal church purchased and reincorporated the college in 1863. Sarah was rehired in 1866 to teach English and Latin. This time she was officially given the title professor. In 1868 she left Wilberforce to teach at an African-American school for girls under the auspices of the Freedman’s Bureau in North Carolina. That same year she married Jordan Winston Early, an African Methodist Episcopal minister who had been enslaved. She taught wherever he preached and served as the principal of several schools in four different cities.

Although she retired from teaching in 1888 and with her husband moved to Nashville, she did not retire from activism. In 1888, the Colored Division of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union elected her to a four-year term as national superintendent. In this role she gave over 100 speeches. She was also an active representative of the state’s Prohibition Party. At the 1893 World’s Congress of Representative Women, she was one of only five African-American women invited to speak. In 1894 she wrote The Life and Labors of Rev. J.W. Early, One of the Pioneers of African Methodism in the West and South, a biography of her husband.

She died in 1907 at the age of 82. I read one article which stated that by the time Sarah retired she’d taught 6,000 children. I hope the life I’m leading through my writing will one day have such a ripple effect.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon card, comment on Sarah’s story or share a hope of yours about having an impact in your world.

One Breath Away by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more. Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex. Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…

Excerpt from One Breath Away…  

The surprise of pleasure curved in her smile.

He gestured with his chin toward the pantskirt’s drawstring. “Is that bitty string the only thing keeping your pants up?”

She squirmed under his teasing gaze. “That’s all it has to do.”

“Looks kind of flimsy to me. Think it’ll hold if you help me with this last post?”

He pointed toward a column of wood. Somehow snapped in two, the top half of the post dangled from a fence rail while the bottom half peeked from the ground. The replacement he’d just finished chopping lay at his feet.

“What kind of hand do you need?”

“More leverage to pull that broken post out of the ground. I’m thinking if I tie one end of a rope to the post and the other end to your rear axle, I can shift it.”

“All right.” Mary slid to his side of the wagon then stood.

He raised his arms. “Allow me.”

She frowned and looked at him hard. “Allow you to what?”

He laughed. “To help you down.”

She fisted her hips. “Do I look like I need help? I’m no weakling.” She shooed him away and took a step. Her bootlace snagged on the edge of the seat. She shrieked and toppled into his arms.

He laughed. “Definitely not a weakling. Just clumsy.”

She clapped a hand to her throat and leaned back as far as his grip would allow. “Put me down.”

“Be careful when you tell a man to put you down. He might get the wrong idea.” He leaned forward so they were nose to nose. “Or the right one.”

She stilled. “I mean put me down so I can stand.”

His obedience pierced her with disappointment. She slid down his front and bumped against the proud welcome of his cock. She jumped back, embarrassed.

He looked down then spread his hands in apology. “Please forgive me, Miss Hamilton. You have an effect on me I just can’t hide.”


Diana Cosby: Nature’s Beauty in Pictures! (Contest)
Sunday, December 11th, 2022

UPDATE: The winner is…Diane Sallans!

©Diana Cosby 2022

Regardless the season, whether at the forest, marsh, or shore, nature offers an amazing array of beautiful wildlife to see.

For me, it’s always special when I see deer while I’m out walking.  There’s something magical about being in their presence.

Fall leaves lend a stunning backdrop for the Cooper Hawk.

With the cooler temperatures, I look for the arrival of the White-throated Sparrow.  This is one of my favorite winter birds to watch.

Blue Jays are beautiful birds, have huge personalities, and I’m thankful to see them throughout the year.

The Northern Yellow-Shafted Flicker Woodpeckers are gorgeous, and at times I see them in the grass searching for food.  I was fortunate to catch this one visiting Liam MacGruder.

Though the fall and winter days are short, I find they tend to deliver the most amazing sunrises and sunset.  Regardless of where you are, I hope you take a moment to enjoy nature’s beauty.  Take care, and I wish each of you a wonderful holiday season and New Year!


***ONE winner will be drawn from everyone who posts on my guest blog post about, ‘Nature’s Beauty in Pictures!’ on Delilah’s blog between 11 December 2022 – 18 December 2022 and will win a mug and tote.

About Diana Cosby

A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense. Books in her award-winning MacGruder Brothers series have been translated into five languages. Diana has spoken at the Library of Congress, Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC, and appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happy Ever After,”, Atlantic County Women Magazine, and Texoma Living Magazine.

After her career in the Navy, Diana dove into her passion—writing romance novels. With 34 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world. After the release of the bestselling MacGruder Brothers series and The Oath Trilogy, she released the bestselling The Forbidden Series.

Diana looks forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share this journey.

God bless,

Diana Cosby, International Best-Selling Author
The Oath Trilogy
MacGruder Brother Series
The Forbidden Series

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Rachel Brimble: Introducing Victoria & Violet…
Monday, November 28th, 2022

My latest book, Victoria & Violet, is the first novel in my brand-new Royal Maids series and I am super proud of it! Why? Because it is the first book in which I have included real people and real events alongside the fictional. To do this has been an ambition of mine ever since my first book was published in 2007 so having achieved it feels like a very big deal.

Best of all, readers and reviewers seem to be loving it, too!

Although Queen Victoria, Lord Melbourne, the Duchess of Kent, Lehzen and others feature in the book, the story really revolves around the lives and burgeoning romance of fictional housemaid Violet Parker and fictional assistant to Lord Melbourne, James Greene. These two characters were a joy to create, and their electricity was immediate which made a usually hard job all the easier!

Their paths have crossed a few times before the book opens, but the interest is firmly in James’s court (so to speak!), rather than Violet’s who has far more important and life-changing things on her mind than romance, such as escaping the clutches of her overbearing mother and forging a life of her own. Of course, it is not as though Violet would ever consider James a possible suitor considering his superior status…yet he really is most persistent!

All too soon, James and Violet are thrown together over and over again as their roles become ever more important to Victoria and Lord Melbourne. Amid a court that travels from the gardens of Windsor Castle to the corridors of Buckingham Palace to the wedding of the Queen herself, Victoria & Violet takes you on an adventure of drama, intrigue and romance that I hope has you quickly turning the pages!

Why not give it a try?

Happy reading,
Rachel x

Victoria & Violet

It should be a dream come true to serve the Queen of England…

When Violet Parker is told she will be Queen Victoria’s personal housemaid, she cannot believe her good fortune. She finally has the chance to escape her overbearing mother, a servant to the Duchess of Kent.

Violet hopes to explore who she is and what the world has to offer without her mother’s schemes overshadowing her every thought and action.

Then she meets James Greene, assistant to the queen’s chief political adviser, Lord Melbourne. From entirely different backgrounds and social class, Violet and James should have neither need nor desire to speak to one another, yet through their service, their paths cross and their lives merge—as do their feelings.

Only Victoria’s court is not always the place for romance, but rather secrets, scandals, and conspiracies…


About Rachel Brimble

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of 29 novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). Her latest novel, Victoria & Violet is the first book in her new Royal Maids series with the Wild Rose Press and releases 17th October 2022.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

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Afton Locke: Thelma’s Song — Out Today!
Saturday, November 19th, 2022

The fifth book for Oyster Harbor series was a blast to write. It was my first time writing slightly older characters. We’re talking adult children and emotional baggage on top of the usual relationship problems. I’m happy to say the steam level didn’t go down at all. In fact, Thelma and Tom might be the hottest couple ever in Oyster Harbor!

Thelma’s Song by Afton Locke

historical romance/women’s fiction
Release Date: 19 November 20—TODAY!

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Though her bluesy voice can bring grown men to tears, Thelma Waters moves to Oyster Harbor for a peaceful life—avoiding singing and men. Anything to forget her wild youth as a performer, so addicted to fame she’d do anything to get it. When Tom Lewes—Oyster Harbor’s remaining bigot—hires her as a lounge singer to save his failing restaurant, he stirs up more than her old talent.

His obsession with profits reminds her of every man who used her, especially the one who shattered her heart. Meanwhile, his grief over his daughter’s death intensifies when restaurant renovations uncover a shocking secret. Reminding her of the child she lost so long ago.

And as soon as Oyster Harbor restores what Thelma has craved for so long, her dreams of family are ripped away, turning her song of joy to the bluest of blues. Will Tom be the answer to her prayers, or her biggest heartache yet?


“Private Dancer” – Tina Turner

“Let’s Make a Baby” – Billy Paul

“Nightlife” – Ray Price


Excerpt from Thelma’s Song…

Copyright © Afton Locke, 2022

Silence hung between her and Tom, thick and greasy as a lump of lard left out in the summer heat. Frozen, she watched the flush rise up his neck and fill his face. No wonder he served a drink called Red Tide.

What would he do? Break all business ties with her? Or worse? At the moment, she didn’t care what he did. She simply needed to get away from him.

“Miss Waters, don’t ever strike me again,” he said quietly, “or there will be consequences.”

Ignoring the fine trembling working her legs, she took a step closer to him. “What does that mean? Tying me to a tree like poor Jimmy Clark?”

“I never touched a hair on his head,” he shot back.

“You were there. Cali told me everything.” Luckily, Jonathan had reformed.

“Do you want to be punished?” Tom asked. “Because it seems you’re itching for a fight.”

He was right about that. Her fingers ached to throw his sorry ass into the washing machine then iron his face. No need to add starch because he already had plenty.

Instead, she burst into tears. Couldn’t stop. When it came to Letty, she had no strength.

“Easy. Easy,” he muttered, patting her arm. “I didn’t mean to make you cry, for Christ’s sake.”

“Watch your language,” she said between sniffles. “You’re nothing but a heartless heathen. You know that?”

“You’re probably right.” He looped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a little squeeze. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?”

“Letty may mean nothing to you, but today….” Her voice broke. “Today is her eighteenth birthday. Or would have been, if she’s not drawing breath anymore.”

“I didn’t know.”

She turned her head to look at him. The arrogant smirk was gone. His eyes, contrite. The skin below them, puffy.

He stiffened and dropped his hands when she traced a soft fingertip under his lower eyelids. “Wh-what are you doing?”

“You’ve been crying too,” she whispered.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said, turning his face aside.

“I’ve done it enough to know what it looks like. Did my singing do that to you?”

“I suppose,” he said, shrugging. “The one song really— Well, it shook me up, kind of.”

Her legs stopped trembling. She even smiled. “That’s what the blues are supposed to do.”

“I’ve probably been working too hard lately,” he said, giving his shoulders a good shake.

Their gazes met and held. She struggled to look away but failed. Truth was, it felt good to get angry for a change. The sadness wore at her every day. Like sandpaper.

This man knew her sadness. Breathed its same stench. Endured the same tentacles squeezing his heart. Even if he wouldn’t admit it.

Now, her legs simply felt weak. Her entire body did. The performance, topped off by their fiery argument, had taken every bit of her strength. She rested her hands on his shoulders and laid her head against his chest.

His tall, solid frame felt so good. His heart thrumming against her ear, music. It had been so long since she’d been with a man.

A strong finger pressed her jaw and tilted her face up. It was the last thing she recalled before drowning in a tidal wave of hot, deep kissing. Beard stubble—black as his hair—brushed across her cheek. Ground against her neck, along with his open mouth.

Tasting. Sucking. Claiming. Until every nerve ending in her body shrieked with ecstasy.

She drew back, giving her pounding heart a rest before it exploded. “I-I thought we weren’t going to kiss anymore.”

“I guess we changed our minds,” he murmured against her ear.

About Afton Locke

Afton Locke is a USA Today Bestselling Author who writes outside the box. Her trips always inspire her, sometimes years after they’re over. She lives with her husband, usually surrounded by animals, both wild and domestic. When she’s not writing, Afton enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and watching retro TV.

Where readers can find Afton…
Web site: