UPDATE: The winners are…Evie, Amanda, and Linda Richter!
Back in the day when I wrote strictly erotic romances… There was the little book that could…
The Pleasure Bot was a story I loved writing. I smiled my way through it. The story has some of my favorite tropes—mistaken identity and hiding in plain sight. Add a playful and annoying personnel AI computer, a pirate with a sense of humor, and a woman who thinks she only wants to get off—and you have it.
The story played well with reviewers:
Nominated for Best Erotic Romance and 4 ½ Stars and TOP PICK! from Romantic Time BookClub Magazine, “…Hot sex, sidesplitting humor and an out-of-this-world story set this erotica apart from the rest!”
Also, 5 Flames from Sizzling Romances; 5 Stars from Just Erotic Romances; 5 Stars from eCataRomance
Give it a go! The Pleasure Bot is book 4 in the Planet Desire series but is completely standalone. It exists in that universe, but the characters never cross paths. And isn’t that cover just lickable?
The Pleasure Bot
4 ½ Stars and TOP PICK! from RT BookClub Magazine, “…Hot sex, sidesplitting humor and an out-of-this-world story set this erotica apart from the rest!”
Bringing new meaning to battery operated boyfriend…
Priscilla Potter rents the latest sex toy, a better-than-lifelike pleasure robot, for a little weekend R&R. However, her fantasy companion isn’t quite what she expected. He’s unshaven, uncouth, and doesn’t seem to understand she’s in charge of her own pleasure. But she soon decides the on-line shop got the order just right. As the weekend draws to a close, she has to find a way to keep her robot past its return date.
Bootlegging “entrepreneur” Declan O’Hanlon needs a place to lay low until he can figure out how to liberate his crew and ship from Customs impound. The “uninhabited” house he picks for his hideout actually belongs to a sex kitten who mistakes him for her latest toy. Intrigued by the idea of being a woman’s fantasy come true, Declan does what any red-blooded man would do–he pretends to be her acquisition. But he doesn’t count on Priss being quite so irresistible. As the time depart nears he wonders how he can ever leave her behind.
It was the summer of 1993, and I was fifteen years old when Sleepless in Seattle came out in theaters. I honestly don’t even remember trailers on TV for it, so I don’t remember ever anticipating seeing it, but my parents liked going to the movies as a family and this was the one they chose that weekend. I remember a lot of the movies we saw when I was in high school because back then, there was no internet, no Netflix, no streaming shows of any kind. If it wasn’t on cable or out at the Blockbuster, you didn’t see it. Some of the movies I sat through just because it was something to do, were not my favorites. The Bodyguard (first date I ever went on!). Death Becomes Her. The Nightmare Before Christmas (second date I ever went on and he didn’t even want to see it…). Hocus Pocus (this was magical in the theater!). The list goes on and on. But in the summer after my Freshman year of high school we saw one movie that stuck with me for ever and started me on a spiral of nineties romcom watching that has stuck with me to this day.
I had never heard of Nora Ephron before that day at the theater. But her words mesmerized me from the moment the first line was spoken. Every piece of the film fell together in a way that sunk so deeply into my soul I knew I would never be the same. I fell in love with the characters, the music, the story, the setting, and the romance. I laughed. I cried. I swooned. It filled my heart with joy and made me a believer in love from a young age even more so than Disney ever did for me as a child. I’m not even gonna lie, I wanted to marry me a Tom Hanks. Who freaking didn’t?
As a child I was never that kid dreaming about what I was going to do when I grow up. I honestly cannot remember a single moment in my childhood where I even really sat down and thought about what I wanted to do as a career. I became a mom incredibly young, at the age of nineteen, and stayed home with my children throughout their younger years. When I was sick of watching A Bugs Life or Veggie Tales for the five thousandth time, I would watch romantic comedies. I would buy a DVD every time we went grocery shopping. Father of the Bride 1 & 2. You’ve Got Mail. While You Were Sleeping. It Could Happen to You. I could list a hundred that I seriously know all the words to. But Sleepless and Seattle will forever hold a special place in my heart.
One day after watching the movie, my kids went down for a nap. I think I was about twenty-seven at this point. For some reason, I sat down at my computer and started writing. That ‘story’, if you could call it that, was such a mess. But it was full of the magic that Sleepless in Seattle brought me and even though it would never be published and was lost some years ago when that computer died, the feelings I had when I wrote that book were the same I had way back in 1993 when romcom came into my life. I knew right then and there I was a romantic comedy writer.
Twenty-seven years ago, I had no idea that all these years later Nora Ephron would somehow become my inner voice, pushing me to write my very own romcoms and allowing other people to publish them and read them. It is amazing to think that a woman I have never met, never spoken to, and will literally never know, inspired my entire career. And to her, I am forever thankful.
Love Me Like You Do
A runaway bride. A handsome stranger. Two pasts to put behind them.
Parker is ready to marry the man of her dreams. But he isn’t ready to marry her. When she’s dumped moments before walking down the aisle, she didn’t expect to run into the arms of a handsome stranger. The southern drawl, the dreamy eyes, she can’t fall for another man after being left at the altar – can she?
When Liam agreed to go on yet another blind date, he didn’t expect his escape would lead him to the emergency room with a runaway bride. She might have just been left at the altar, but he’s immediately drawn to her fiery spirit, kind heart and beautiful smile. Liam’s got a whole host of problems and a past that’s haunting him, now can’t be the time to fall in love, but Parker might just be the one to break down his barriers and let him live a little – if she’ll let him in.
Will these two strangers allow serendipity to force them together, or will their fears keep them apart?
From the bestselling author of The Lucky Dress comes a story about love, finding yourself and living your dreams.
Aimee Brown is a writer of sweary, swoony romantic comedies set in Portland, Oregon. She writes closed-door romance (NO sex scenes, light kissing) with humor and crude language. She spends much of her time writing, raising three kids (who are all nearly grown now), binge-watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to utter profanities like she’s competing for a medal.
Aimee grew up in Oregon but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty+ years, one of three children, and far too many pets. She is a lot older than she looks and yes, that is a tattoo across her chest.
Aimee is very active on social media. She’d love to have you stop by and say hi!
Ready for the next great Hot SEAL story? Well, Cat Johnson’s Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride is here! Get your copy today, and then settle in for the ride. All book links are below!
Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride
Friends? No. Enemies? Maybe. Lovers? Never!
Ten years ago the hot but cocky Navy SEAL went from ignoring her, to kissing her, to rejecting her.
Now the last thing she wants is his help, even if he is willing and uniquely qualified to give it.
And she really doesn’t want to want him . . .
She was the girl next door. Too young. Too tempting. Too off limits.
Ten years later, she’s all grown up and all woman.
He steered clear of her then. But now?
Now is a different story entirely . . .
Hot SEAL, Runaway Bride is a standalone boy-next-door, enemies-to-lovers, second-chance, laugh out loud romantic comedy featuring a sexy Navy SEAL, the stubborn neighbor girl, a really bad reality TV show, and a romance a decade in the making.
Hello there! I’m Mellanie Szereto—author of (currently) 28 romances, baker of bread and pies, gardener of vegetables, hiker of woods, and master of introverting.
Are you going stir-crazy from social distancing yet? So far, I’m not. As a full-time writer who lives in the country, social distancing is a way of life!
Have you taken advantage of the free and 99-cent books while you’re trapped at home? I have quite a few waiting for me as rewards for meeting my writing goals. Books are a wonderful way to escape when you need a break, but even more so when you’re in a forced timeout!
Goals… Having people in my space during writing time for two weeks and counting has required a major adjustment. Indefinite Christmas break—that’s what teach-and-learn-from-home classes have turned into at my house. Hubby (The Professor) and son (The College Student) are now spread across the living room, the family room, and the makeshift upstairs office with two desks, one of which I won’t be using while The Professor is up there. He talks to himself and anyone else in the room as he works. Science nerd. What can you do? This is not the ideal situation for someone who prefers quiet during writing time.
How am I adjusting? The writing hasn’t developed a new routine yet, but I’ve put a book on sale for 99 cents, released a super-steamy romantic suspense short story last week, and set up an automated welcome email to new newsletter subscribers with links to two free short stories—the new one and another that’s also available for sale. (Hint-hint. Find the links below!) I’ve also shared my process for writing series with an author who will be teaching a class on that topic, updated my website, gotten a cover for one of my summer releases (see below!!!), and listened to a podcast that helped me better define the characters of a five-book novella rom-com series I’m working on. It’s forward progress, and that’s what counts!
I have plenty of stories to finish writing over the next few months and enough ideas to last several years, so I just need to work the kinks out of the domestic chaos. You should see my to-write, to finish, to rewrite, to-edit list! It runs the gamut of romance sub-genres and heat levels, from contemporary to historical to paranormal to romantic suspense and warm to hot to super steamy. Because I’ve found myself at the midpoint of my fifties (How did that happen???), I’m drawn to writing older (over 40) characters more and more as well. Oh, and nerds. See mention of The Professor above. 🙂
How about some of my favorite lines from the new release/newsletter freebie, my 99-cent-sale book, my cover-reveal book, and a couple of my works-in-progress?
Mad About You
Jessamine Youngblood (heroine) to herself from Mad About You (new short story) ~ Can I get away with murder on my wedding day?
Jessamine Youngblood is getting married today. Or is she? She’s having second thoughts even before Maddox, her sexy ex-con ex-husband, crashes her wedding-breakup preparations. Trouble follows him when her soon-to-be ex-fiancée makes a surprise visit—one that threatens their reunion and promises far more danger and gunfire than she expects.
Alice Carlton (secondary character at Montgomery Crossing Retirement Village) to Flynn Hastings (hero who is a chef) from Love Served Hot (book 1 of the Love on the Menu series) ~ “There’re sheets to set on fire and a happily-ever-after to wrangle into submission.”
Lilith Montgomery has hired a hot Irish chef whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Keeping the heat in the kitchen is going to be tough. Falling head over stockpot for his new boss wasn’t part of his plan, but Flynn Hastings finds himself experimenting with a new recipe for love.
Carmen Valero (teenage daughter of heroine) to Kyle Morton (hero) from Hot Tamale Nights (book 3 of the Love on the Menu series) ~ “See? You’re my father.”
Entrepreneur Kyle Morton has a keen eye for investments, but pumping capital into an ex-lover’s business generates more conflict than he bargained for—and his longstanding grudge doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Aside from his constant pursuit of the next monetary venture, his motives shift from retribution for her betrayal to admission of his true feelings. The girl who claims to be his daughter further complicates a matter that should’ve been simple revenge.
Her children and Hot Tamale fill the once-empty hole in Isabel Valero’s heart. Or do they? The love of her life challenges that assumption and brings chaos when he invades her restaurant, especially with her ragtag family’s objections to his tendency to take over. Then his business enemies become her enemies and put them all at risk, despite his vow to protect them. Now their future together could burn to the ground again—permanently.
**Sneak peeks at my older woman/younger man novella rom-com series!**
Five women between the ages of 42 and 50 bond over fiction, food, and being single at the weekly meetings of The Homegrown Café Book Club. Coming this summer to an e-reader near you!
Big Jim Cochon (hero who is a pig farmer) to himself after re-meeting his best friend’s older sister and his lifetime crush, Tate Madison (heroine who owns The Homegrown Café), from Makin’ Bacon (book 1) ~ If you don’t want the woman of your dreams to think you’re a redneck, don’t wear manure-covered work boots, bib overalls, and ragged plaid flannel to introduce yourself. And leave the cruddy John Deere cap in the pickup.
Riley Fenniman (heroine who loves stilettos and the f-word) in a chance meeting with Deacon Jeffries (hero who is her accountant) on the sidewalk after another offer from her cousin’s lawyer to buy part of her farm from The Farmer Takes a Husband (book 2) ~Late October air kissed her bare face, arms, and calves as Riley exited the building, cooling her body temperature if not her irritation. “Fucking menopause.” “Who pissed you off this time?” Amusement colored the question, the only not-some-shade of-beige part of the man’s entire presence, right down to his hair and personality.
Thanks so much for welcoming me to your blog, Delilah. I always enjoy visiting! I’d like to share my inspiration for writing the Dr. Brogan Corkie Matchmaking Doctor series.
I’m so excited to introduce a new series — Dr. Brogan Corkie Matchmaking Doctor. I’ve been busy working on this series for the past year. I originally had the idea for this story two years ago. I’m a physician, and I work at an Urgent Care Clinic. I frequently see patients with infectious illnesses and advise them to stay home from school or work until they’re no longer contagious. Sometimes, it’s difficult for working parents to find care for their sick children — often they just can’t take a day off, and it’s nearly impossible to find a caregiver willing to look after a child who is ill. It also isn’t easy for someone living on their own to cope when they don’t feel well. I thought caring for the sick when they are temporarily ill would make a great job for a retired doctor, since a doctor wouldn’t be daunted by the illness.
That’s how Dr. Brogan Corkie’s character was born. Initially, I was going to have her look after the sick in their homes, and then bring two people together in that context. But when I started writing, I ended up giving Brogan a hobby — she enjoys cooking and catering for people and that became her second career. She uses her cooking know-how, her medical knowledge — and her matchmaking skills — to care for other people. I “upgraded” her M.D. from Medical Doctor to Matchmaking Doctor. Brogan is the romantic catalyst — she brings couples together and then through good advice and a warm heart she weaves her magic to make love happen. And throughout the series, Brogan’s own heart gets tangled up in romance, too! Medicine — it truly is a work of heart.
Don’t Drop the Baby
(Dr. Brogan Corkie Matchmaking Doctor Book 1)
Genre: Medical Romantic Comedy
Dr. Brogan Corkie is happily semi-retired from medicine and now has time for other hobbies. Her passion for food is only second to her skill at matchmaking!
Ross Skye, owner of BabyCare, a high-end line of baby merchandise, is injured in an accident, and Brogan uses her cooking, medical — and matchmaking — skills to help him out. Dr. Lauren Kane is taking care of her nephew for two weeks, and Brogan agrees to babysit while Lauren is at work.
Two years ago, Ross and Lauren dated. At that time, Lauren wanted kids, but Ross wasn’t keen. Now the tables have turned, and Ross is trying to convince Lauren that they’d make an awesome parenting team. Brogan suggests they test-drive parenthood by looking after a simulated baby for a week — a computerized version that eats, sleeps, wets, and cries. Ross and Lauren experience the “joy” of having a newborn firsthand, and the bar is set pretty low. Their first goal is: don’t drop the baby. The second goal is to find out if their love for each other will survive the test of…parenting.
Excerpt Don’t Drop the Baby
Lauren picked up her phone on the first ring.
“Hey Lauren, it’s Ross.”
Aloof and frosty. She must not have his name stored anymore or she wouldn’t have answered the phone. “How are you?”
Ross winced. So far, so terrible. He jumped right to the chase. “Brogan mentioned that you’re taking Joey to her house this afternoon. I wondered if you’d consider changing your plans and bring him here instead.”
“Why would I?”
“They delivered some of the new merch from BabyCare, and I’d love to see how Joey reacts to it. He’s the perfect demographic.”
Silence. “Ross, you have a whole team of researchers and developers. I’m sure any product sent to you has already had extensive testing. I can’t see how my nephew’s reaction to it is going to make one iota of difference.”
His jaw dropped. He was glad she wasn’t in the room with him to see it. “Joey’s your nephew?”
She sighed. “Ross, what is this really about?”
“I didn’t realize Joey was your nephew.” His brain couldn’t get past this simple fact.
“Not that it’s any of your business. Are we done here?”
This was going nowhere fast. He decided to come clean. “Actually, Lauren, I’m asking as a favour.” His voice was sombre. “Since the accident, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I wake up with flashbacks.” It was hard to admit. “The only restful sleep I’ve had was when I fell asleep holding Joey, so I wanted to try it again.”
“So you can patent it?”
He grinned reluctantly. “I wish I could.”
“Eventually you’re going to have to deal with the demons, you know. You can’t just hire out a baby.”
“Maybe I’m rethinking having my own.” As soon as the words came out, he regretted it. “I’m sorry. I’m making a mess of this. Blame it on the lack of sleep. I know this is a temporary solution, but I’m desperate. Please Lauren. Could we just try? I have a roomful of BabyCare merchandise that I’d be happy to give you in exchange. You could take your pick.”
“My sister does love your stuff.” The grudging reluctance in her voice gave him a glimmer of hope. “Is Brogan okay with this?”
“Yes. And I promise, if he doesn’t settle with me, then Brogan can take him home.”
She sighed. “All right. As long as he’s happy and gets his sleep, I’m okay with it.”
“Thanks Lauren, I appreciate it.”
“Be good to him, Ross. I’m trusting you.”
“Of course. I’ll treat him like he’s my own.”
“Wasn’t that part of the problem?”
“Good point. I’ll treat him like he’s a pair of 100-level tickets to a Stanley Cup final game.”
Award-winning author Linda O’Connor started writing romantic comedies when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at a local home décor store. Her books have enjoyed bestseller status. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic. She shares her medical knowledge in fast-paced, well-written, sexy romances — with an unexpected twist. Her favourite prescription to write? Laugh every day. Love every minute.
When you’ve been writing as long as I have, you can have a rather large backlist of books. I’ve got a huge backlist! And yet, my new converts (er, readers) have likely never heard of them.
A case in point is a trilogy I wrote and published, um, six years ago? I think. It’s when I first began toying with writing series based around military heroes. I’d done cowboys and vampires, but military heroes? I thought I’d be bored, after all, I lived that life. You know, I was a veteran… I worked with these cocky bastards. I’m over lusting after men in uniforms, right? (Never, actually. Ever.)
The series never sold well. And I knew what the issue was. I named the series after the travel agency my three heroines ran rather than putting the focus on the story. These were sexy thrillers. Couples were chased through the jungle by a drug cartel, dropped to the ocean floor in a shark cage with one tank of air, and stranded on a desert island.
So, when I was thinking maybe I needed to brush off this old series, because, hey, I loved it—action, sexiness, and humor abound—I decided to give the stories new covers, the series a new name, and to give the books another brush of editing to make them even more perfect.
So, here’s the new lineup. All pretty, sexy and flashy. Plus, I’ve placed the first book in the series, Dangerous Liaisons, on sale for just $0.99! So, if you’re looking for something to read this weekend, I have just the thing—and did I mention that the stories are very, very sexy? 🙂
Enter the Danger Zone!!
Dangerous Liaisons On Sale for $0.99!
A pampered travel agent, roughing it at an anti-terrorist training school, escapes through the jungle with an undercover DEA agent when a drug lord mistakes her for a rival’s daughter…
After surviving a week of anti-terrorist training at a school deep in a Central American jungle, learning evasive driving techniques she’s sure will help her negotiate Chicago’s rush hour traffic, Maya Cordoba is ready to kick off the mud from her designer boots and find a Starbucks—or the closest cantina serving cosmopolitans—after she hijacks her sexy driving instructor. Instead, she finds herself staring down the barrel of an AK-47 (which she recognizes from her weapons familiarization class, thank you very much!), and being ordered in incomprehensible Spanish into a SUV. She’s being kidnapped! When she figures out she’s been mistaken for the daughter of a rival drug lord, it’s too late. If they learn she’s not who they think she is—she’s dead.
Rescue comes from ex-marine and mercenary/now driving instructor, Angel Rickman, who just so happens to be among the kidnappers. He says he’s really undercover DEA and he’ll take her out, but she has to do everything he tells her to, no balking. Together, they make a mad dash through the jungle, borrowing a cocaine-laden boat, with the drug cartel’s army on their tails every step of the way.
A former Navy SEAL races to rescue the passengers aboard a luxury yacht after it’s captured by pirates, but first, he has to rescue the woman he’s trapped with inside a shark cage on the ocean floor…
Interested only in experiencing an adrenaline-packed adventure first-hand to give her credo when she books her clients’ adventure vacations, Lace McElhannon finds more excitement than she can handle when she meets and falls into bed with ex-SEAL Dex Haygood.
Fresh from protecting transport ships from Somali pirates, Dex figures his latest job will be a cakewalk, until he finds himself in deep water, swimming with sharks and trying to protect Lace when the yacht they’re sailing on is taken.
A travel agent visiting friends in the Bahamas is stranded on a desert island with a sexy ex-SEAL after their private pleasure cruise is interrupted by men who mistake her lover for a reclusive billionaire.
When Susan heads to the Bahamas, she thinks the sexiest part of the trip is that she can count it as a tax deduction. After all, her agency has new offices in Miami and the Bahamas, and she needs face-time with her partners, who also just happen to be her best friends.
However, her plans for a working vacation, emphasis on work, go quickly awry when she meets ex-SEAL now security specialist, Justin Walsh. His lead-footed, fast-talking ways creep beneath her cool reserve and make her yearn for the kind of relationships her besties have with their ex-military husbands.
When his billionaire employer comes under possible threat, the ever-crafty Justin organizes an op that will kill two birds with one stone. He’ll pose as his employer aboard his luxury yacht while he woos the woman who stole his heart from the first moment he met her.
However, even best laid plans have their hiccups. When Justin and Susan are stranded on a desert island, it’s up to Justin to keep them safe while he orchestrates the ultimate seduction.
I’m making the finishing touches on Quincy before I upload the book tomorrow for its release next Tuesday! There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? I can’t wait for you to read the rest of the story about Quincy and his beautician-in-the-bunker—the couple I introduced you to in the short story, “Quincy Down Under“! In the newest Montana Bounty Hunters installment, you’ll see all the characters you’ve loved along the way. We’re nearing the end of the stories in this series. I think I only have one more to write, and if you’ve been reading the stories, you know which wonderful man hasn’t yet found his true love. I’m hoping to have that story ready for you before the end of this year! In the meantime, catch up on the series and get ready enjoy Quincy and Tamara’s great adventure. A warning though, it’s very, very sexy. 🙂
If you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy of Quincy’s story, here’s the link: Quincy.
Enjoy reading an excerpt from another story in the series, Hook. I loved, loved, loved writing his story! He lost his arm in an explosion, and has been having a hard time adjusting to his new “normal”. But then he gets assigned to protect a woman with even bigger problems than his own…
Former Army Ranger, Dylan “Hook” Hoecker, has a new job along with a new prosthetic arm. Being a bounty hunter is the closest career field he could find as a civilian that gives him the adrenaline rush that is his addiction. So, when his first solo assignment is to keep an eye on a flight risk the boss bonded out of jail, he’s not thrilled. However, he soon discovers a fresh addiction–one mouthy, nerdy redhead, who resists his attempts to keep her out of trouble.
Felicity Gronkowski is grateful for the bone the head of Montana Bounty Hunter threw her. She didn’t have the money to pay for bail, but he has a soft spot for former military, and she bartered to install a new computer system in his satellite office in Bear Lodge. Being on the outside of jail was her first imperative because she has to figure out who framed her for a series of high-end robberies while she worked installing home security systems. However, her bounty-hunting babysitter isn’t giving her any slack. Every time she thinks she’s given him the slip, he’s one step ahead of her. Either she has to find the perfect method of distraction to escape him or she has to enlist his help to clear her name.
Comment below for a chance to win a copy of one of the MBH books shown below!
Are you all caught up with the bounty hunters?
Here’s what’s available so far (until next Tuesday)!
Dylan “Hook” Hoecker had no problem keeping pace with Dagger and Cochise as they raced along the dark alleyway, following the skip they’d tracked to a gun shop in Libby. Scooter James had made the crew the moment Dagger entered the premise. Perhaps it was Dagger’s burly physique that had tipped him off, or maybe he was just nervous having three intense-looking dudes enter the store, but he’d run for the back exit.
No, Hook’s legs had never been an issue. He ran like the wind, easily leaping over a barrel Scooter dumped on its side, hoping to trip them. Beside him, Dagger cursed, and Hook couldn’t help smiling as the big guy went down. This skip was his. When he reached the end of the alley, Scooter veered left and ran through a stand of motorcycles, tipping over one, which sent the rest slowly falling like dominoes. Bikers sitting at outdoor café tables nearby rose and filled the street, shouting and moving toward their Harleys, forcing Cochise and Hook to push past them.
Cochise went down when one biker stuck out a foot, perhaps angry that their chase had scratched his ride.
Hook waved his prosthetic arm, which, sometimes, had even those who weren’t so tight with the law pausing and giving him a break. He didn’t mind one bit using his disability to give him an advantage. He shouted out a “Thanks, man,” when one biker rolled his bike forward to clear his path.
Now, it was just him following the slap of Scooter’s Adidas on the pavement. Hook paced himself, forcing himself to keep his breathing even so he’d outlast his target. He didn’t use every bit of his strength to close the gap, because he knew he’d need anything extra to take the fucker down once he began to slow.
In his mind, Hook thanked his physical therapist, who’d concentrated on helping him make the adjustment to his new circumstance, learning to use his prosthetic, but who also continued to meet him on the track three or four mornings a week to make sure he worked out the rest of his body to help, not only keep him toned for the work he did, but to keep his dark moods at bay. Raydeen Pickering was a hero in his mind, because she went the extra mile for every man and woman she accepted into her treatment program.
Ahead of him, Scooter ducked into another alley.
“He’s turned again,” he said, knowing the others could hear him through the radio in his earpiece. “Left, into an alley.”
“I’m behind you,” Cochise said. “Don’t let him out of your sight.”
“I’m cutting through another alley. Will try to get to the street before he does,” Dagger said in his ear.
Hook went left and entered an alley lit by a single golden bulb at the back door of a restaurant. He ran past rank-smelling trash bins and plastic bags but didn’t see his mark ahead. “Don’t see him,” he said, and then slowed and turned.
Something dark swung at his head, and he held up his right arm to deflect the blow from a two-by-four from a pallet, no doubt. But the board hit plastic and metal and bounced off. Hook swung under it with his left, catching Scooter in the chin. Their target dropped like a sack of rocks across a row of trash bags lined up on the dirty, smelly pavement.
Hook stood over Scooter, shaking his left hand because it hurt like hell. Then he noted that his prosthetic dangled kind of funny. He tried to open and close the claw, but apparently, Scooter’s blow had damaged the cable. “Fuck,” he said, and gave Scooter a light kick in the side. “Bastard.”
The sounds of two individuals converging on him from different directions forced him to contain his anger and tuck his prosthetic against his body to hide the damage. The last thing he ever wanted to have happen was for one of these guys to think he was less capable of mixing it up. For the most part, he thought of his arm as an advantage in a fight. Metal hit harder than flesh and bone, and, generally, it could sustain a punch much better, too.
Thankfully, he kept a spare in his vehicle. He just had to get there. But first things first.
Scooter moaned from the ground as Cochise then Dagger came to a halt beside him and stared downward.
“Like we tried to tell you before you ran like a scared rabbit,” Hook said to Scooter, “we’re fugitive recovery agents, and we’re taking you to jail.”
Scooter pushed up on an elbow. “What the hell is that smell?”
Dagger sniffed. “Don’t know, but now I’m hungry. Could be chili.”
“I think it’s stew,” Cochise dead-panned. “Benny’s Eats makes a mean beef stew.”
“Shit, it’s all the way up my shirt,” Scooter said as he sat, rubbing his jaw.
“Well, looks like you’ll have something to snack on during the drive back,” Dagger drawled.
Scooter let out a huff. “Goddamn. My car, man. I left it at the gun shop.”
“You’ll just have to pick it up from impound,” Dagger said, “if the judge is stupid enough to let someone bond you out again.”
Hook reached down his left hand to help Scooter to his feet.
Scooter frowned. “Damn, you wearing armor on your arm? My teeth about rattled out of my head when I hit you.” Then he glanced at Hook’s metal claw. “Well, shit. That explains a lot.”
Hook reached for his handcuffs from the pocket on the back of his web belt. When he pulled them forward, he realized he wasn’t going to be able to cuff him, not one-handed.
Cochise held out his hand. “Let me do the honors.”
Hook pressed his lips together and handed him his handcuffs. If he’d been on his own, he’d have managed, somehow, but he might have had to put Scooter back on the ground first. He hadn’t quite mastered the single-handed snap using his left hand. Everything was harder to master with his left. Maybe he should ask Raydeen to add handcuffing to the everyday tasks he worked on improving.
Once Cochise had Scooter restrained, he stood back and let Hook grip Scooter’s upper arm to take him back to their vehicles.
The walk back was interminable. They passed the bikers who shot them birds but otherwise stayed pretty mellow. Back at the gun shop, Lacey, Dagger’s partner, gave a wave to the shop owner and sauntered their way. She’d canvassed the businesses in Libby days ago, leaving cards. No doubt the middle-aged owner had been only too eager to snitch, because then she’d grace his shop again. Dressed in skin-tight jeans and a pink button-down blouse that she’d knotted at her midriff, Lacey looked like a sweet confection. All that was missing was the powdered sugar.
“Hey there, Scooter,” she said. Then she shook her head and held her nose. “Good Lord, he is not riding in our vehicle.”
Hook grunted. “You can ride with me. I’ll even let you drive.”
Lacey might have looked like a cupcake, but she was one sharp cookie. Her gaze went to the arm he’d tucked close to his body, and she gave him a broad smile. “Dagger, you don’t mind if I ride with Hook, do you? I’ve never had the chance to talk with him alone.”
Dagger narrowed his eyes.
Lacey gave him a blinding smile. “See you back in Bear Lodge! Only you’ll be way later than us,” she said, then held her nose again and gave him a wink.
Cochise chuckled. “Come on, Scooter. You’ve got a new date with a judge. Bet if you sweettalk your jailers, they’ll let you have a shower before they put you in your cell.”
After Cochise, Dagger, and Scooter left, Lacey turned back to Hook, her big blue eyes rounding in concern. “Oh my God, you’re hurt!”