2

CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE

by

On Monday, Entangled Red-Hot Bliss released the second of my Donovan Brothers books, Chasing the Runaway Bride.  Don’t you just love that cover? LOL Below is the blurb and an excerpt. Enjoy.

But the best news is the book is $.99 for another week or so.

 

ChasingTheRunawayBride_cover6

 

Former Marine and current rancher Cade Donovan left his hometown looking for a fresh start. But then Cade inherits the grocery store that his grandfather won from the O’Riley family in a poker game more than thirty years ago. The same store that caused a bitter feud between the two families. And worse still, Cade has to return home to confront his past—and share his inheritance with the enemy…the all-grown-up and sinfully tempting Piper O’Riley.

After ditching two fiancés at the altar, Piper has a reputation for being the town’s runaway bride. The irony is, Piper is woefully inexperienced when it comes to real, true physical attraction. And working with Cade is torture. The kind that can keep a girl up all night imagining naughty, delicious things. Things that Cade is more than happy to show her…

It’s all fun and sexy games…until the truth of why Cade left town comes out.

 

Chapter One

Piper O’Riley watched a silver-gray Chevy Silverado pull into the parking lot of Health Aid Pharmacy, the drugstore she managed in the small town of Harmony Hills, Pennsylvania. A tall man climbed out. His shirt displayed broad shoulders and tight abs. His jeans all but caressed his perfect butt. His close-cut black hair and the way he carried himself—his shoulders back, his movements smooth and efficient—reminded her of someone in the military. He reached into his truck, pulled out a black cowboy hat, and plopped it on his head.

Wow. Just wow. He had all the makings of the man of her dreams.

She stopped that thought. Stomped it out with the fervor of a woman determined not to make the same mistake three times. The absolute last thing in the world she wanted was to notice another man. Three short months ago, she’d left her second groom at the altar. She’d gotten halfway down the aisle to marry Ronnie Nelson, but just like with Tom Lashinsky—the first guy she’d ditched—she’d known, just known, there was “more” to love than what she felt for her groom.

And she’d bolted.

Again.

The cowboy walked up to the glass door, his head down, as if he were deep in thought, and pulled it open.

Of course, when he looked up, he saw her standing there in the middle of the aisle like an idiot. His dark brown eyes crinkled at the corners as his full lips lifted into a warm smile.

“Mornin’, darlin’.”

Oh, Lord help her. Where did a man get a voice like that, with a western drawl that trickled down her spine and sent goose bumps to her toes? The kind of chill bumps she’d never felt in any of her relationships. The kind of chill bumps that explained why she couldn’t marry either of her previous grooms. The kind of chill bumps that made her wish that once—just once—she could be with a man who made her shiver.

“Can you point me in the direction of the cards?”

“Cards?”

“Wedding cards.”

His voice was as smooth as velvet. His smile probably dropped women’s panties from thirty feet. He wouldn’t be the kind to settle down. He didn’t have to.

Piper’s inner good girl shook her head. Was that what she really wanted? A sexy man who couldn’t settle down? Sounded like a heartbreak waiting to happen—

Which explained why she always chose safe, ready-to-settle-down men. She didn’t want to get hurt.

She pointed to aisle three.

He smiled, put his fingers on the brim of his Stetson, and walked past her.

She smelled his aftershave, felt the heat of him as his arm almost brushed hers. Her heart tripped over itself. Her stomach fell. All her nerve endings glittered like a prom queen’s tiara.

And her inner bad girl all but swooned. Usually she stayed quiet, but today she was wide awake and curious. Getting a broken heart might be worth a few nights with this guy.

Within seconds, he was back, shiny white wedding card in hand. Maybe if she had a red-hot fling, something to satisfy this crazy feeling that she was missing out, she could stop leaving fiancés at the altar and actually get married.

“Who’s the wedding card for?”

“My brother.”

She smiled. “If he looks anything like you, the bride’s a very lucky girl.”

There. She’d said it. She’d put it out on the table that she found him attractive. The next move was his.

He returned her smile and took a step closer. “Well, darlin’, he’s a little fairer than I am, but I think we’re in the same category.”

She drew in a quiet breath as glorious need combined with fear of the unknown and created a tingly feeling she’d never had before. A feeling that egged her on, made her say the first flirty thing that popped into her head.

“Then she is lucky.”

He laughed. The sound walked up her spine and sent that feeling through her again.

“What about you?”

“Me?”

“Pretty girl like you working in a drugstore. That doesn’t seem right.”

She laughed. The urge to flirt was so natural now, she couldn’t stifle it. “What do you think I should be? A stripper?”

His gaze rippled from her hair to her toes. “I’d pay to see you wind around a pole.”

That just plain stopped her breathing. Her inner good girl gasped. Women who wanted to keep their reputations did not wind around stripper poles.

But her inner bad girl sighed. She’d really like to be able to flirt without the constant nagging.

Piper found the compromise position: “I’m really not the kind to pole dance, but I might take money at the door.”

He laughed again.

Happiness surged through her. See, inner good girl? Flirting can be fun.

“You’re funny. I like that.”

She walked to the counter and slid behind the cash register. “I like a guy with a sense of humor, too.” She peeked up and caught his gaze. “And I hope it was just a joke that you thought I should work in a strip club.”

He leaned against the counter. “Man’s gotta have his fantasies. But there’s a lot to be said for living in the real world. You dating anyone?”

Her heart stumbled. Good God. He was going to ask her out. “No. Not now.”

“Which tells me there was somebody.”

She swallowed. How could he not know who she was? He had to be from out of town. “I kind of broke up with him about three months ago.”

He grinned. “Three months. That’s good timing.”

“It is?”

“Sure. By now the residual hurt feelings are down to a bare minimum, and you’re probably looking to move on.”

Gazing into his sexy dark eyes, she was so ready to move on.

“I’m not in town for long, though.”

She was right. He wasn’t from here, and he was telling her he wasn’t into a relationship, just a fling.

Could she do this? Have a fling? Could she try an affair, see what she was missing, and wave good-bye when he moved on?

Not quite sure what to say, she picked up his wedding card. A quick scan caused $6.99 to pop up in the digital readout of her cash register.

His eyes widened. “Seven freaking dollars for a card?”

She laughed. His façade of perfection cracked. Although, in some ways, his shock was cute. Clearly the man didn’t shop. “There are cheaper ones.”

He sighed, then winked. “I’m not cheap.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a five. “I just remembered the card when I was coming back from the diner. I spent most of my cash on breakfast for my brothers. I’ll have to go home and get more.”

“How about a bank card?”

“Don’t have that with me, either. When I travel I only use it for gas. Easier to keep track of my spending that way.”

His gorgeous dark eyes met hers, and the zap of electricity that surged through her almost stopped her heart. There was no denying she felt a zing for this guy. But the things he’d said suddenly began to group together in her head.

Wedding. Finn Donovan was getting married today.

Brothers. Finn had two brothers.

When I travel…Cade, Finn’s older brother, lived out of town. In Montana. On a ranch.

Which explained the Stetson.

He might be older, his hair shorter, his face more mature, but now that Piper had put everything together, she recognized him. This cowboy was Cade Donovan.

She had to fight not to squeeze her eyes shut. She wanted to have a fling with Cade Donovan? The guy who’d left her best friend at the altar?

Wow. She couldn’t exactly remember the definition of irony, but Harmony Hills’s runaway bride being attracted to its most notorious no-show groom? That was too much gossip for one town to handle, especially since the woman he’d left, Lonnie Simmons, was her best friend. So, no. She wouldn’t be participating in that particular literary device.

But, more important than the runaway bride/no-show groom gossip was the notorious Hyatt/O’Riley feud. His grandfather had won her father’s grocery store in a poker game, and most people in town believed Richard Hyatt had cheated. Cade Donovan was the grandson of the guy who had stolen her father’s business. Taken away his livelihood. Half the people in town didn’t shop at O’Riley’s Market because they didn’t want to support a cheat. She and her mom would cross the street rather than walk by anyone in the Hyatt/Donovan family.

She and Cade Donovan weren’t just a bad bet. They were enemies.

Her spine stiffened. Her smile became cool. “There’s no need to go back for cash. We have less expensive wedding cards.” Though it was a struggle, she kept her demeanor professional. “And they’re every bit as nice.”

“Thanks.”

He smiled again, and she had to take a quiet breath to stop the surge of white-hot need that burst through her. As much as she wanted to feel this heat that she’d never felt before, she could not be attracted to him. She refused.

“No problem. Let me show you.”

Cade Donovan’s gaze followed the unexpectedly gorgeous cashier as she came from behind the register. When she reached him, she pointed at the section with the greeting cards again and together they strode back down the aisle.

Slightly behind her, he let his gaze fall from her slim shoulders, down her sleek back, to her absolutely luscious backside. He swore his mouth watered.

Wearing a tank top that caressed her breasts and outlined her slim waist, and low-rise jeans that hugged her ass, she was the epitome of female perfection. Add long, straight black hair and bright green eyes to the mix, and his hormones were all but doing a samba.

She retrieved a pale yellow wedding card and presented it to him. “See? Two ninety-nine.”

“Thanks.”

His voice came out rough. Standing so close, he could feel the heat of her, smell the light floral scent of her perfume or shampoo. His body responded the way any male body would. His breath might have stalled, but the rest of him came to vivid attention. He could virtually see himself sliding the strap of her tank top down and licking her shoulder.

Their gazes met again.

Her eyes searched his. A combination of heat and something he couldn’t quite identify filled them. But from the way she’d been flirting before, he figured this wasn’t a one-sided attraction. She was feeling everything he was.

His engines revved, priming for some fun. But she quickly looked away. “Um…I should go check you out.”

Thanks to cheating, lying Lonnie Simmons, he might have sworn off relationships forever, but he hadn’t sworn off sex. And after his brother’s garden wedding, he had an entire night with nothing to do but sleep. When a man found a woman like this, sleep took a definite backseat.

He smiled. “Darlin’, I’d love for you to check me out.”

Her face flushed scarlet. “At the cash register.”

He laughed. “Right.”

They headed back to the counter. But when she took the card from his hand, their fingers brushed, and his heart beat double-time as electricity sprinted up his arm.

Refusing to meet his gaze, she snatched her hand away to put the card in a bag.

Ah, come on. Does she seriously think we should ignore this?

He caught her hand again. “When do you get off work?”

“Six.”

“Feel like a beer?”

She shrank back and stared at him as if he’d spoken French or German.

“You don’t drink?”

“I…I…”

He frowned, not quite sure what confused her. As beautiful as she was, she had to get hit on at least ten times a day. Plus, hadn’t they been leading up to this? Talking about stripper poles and her last boyfriend. What the hell had happened?

The bell rang as the drugstore door opened again.

“I’ll be right with you,” she called to the customer, a teenage girl.

The girl nodded as the door opened again. An old man walked in. He pointed at the back of the store, as if asking the cashier to meet him in the pharmacy department.

She quickly gave Cade his change and scrambled away.

Cade stood by the register for a few seconds, more than a little confused. He couldn’t follow her and demand she have a drink with him without looking foolish. So he headed out. He didn’t ever have to demand a woman pay attention to him. And he wouldn’t this time, either.

Still, there was something about this woman…something…

He didn’t know what, but he intended to find out.

Three hours later, he stood in the heat of the July sun, wearing a gray tux just like his brothers Devon and Finn, the groom. Sweat trickled down his back.

Sitting in the front row of folding chairs covered in white linen, his mom wept with happiness. The gaggle of church ladies referred to as the “Dinner Belles” sat in the row behind her. Barbara Beth Rush, his partner for the wedding, stood behind Ashley Lashinsky, Ellie McDermott’s matron-of-honor.

It seemed everybody but the drugstore girl had gathered for this wedding.

When the ceremony was over and they assembled for pictures, his mom was still crying. With happiness. He shook his head over the silliness of women. Especially when his mom burst into tears over how beautiful Ellie looked in her lace “mermaid” gown.

He didn’t know what the hell a mermaid gown was, but he had to admit his new red-haired sister-in-law did look cute in her dress.

And Finn looked ecstatic. Cade had never seen anyone so happy. He and Ellie gushed over each other.

Four thousand eight hundred and ninety-one pictures and two overly long toasts later, he ate his late lunch with gusto; danced the introduction-of-the-bridal-party dance with Barbara Beth Rush, one of the funniest, nicest women from Harmony Hills; and finally, finally, he was set free. His wedding obligations were over.

Yanking at his goofy pink ascot tie, he stepped into the flower-covered gazebo and headed straight for the makeshift bar. Music drifted over from the DJ standing on the wide front porch of the yellow Victorian house that had been in Ellie’s family forever. Wedding guests danced under a big white tent or milled about the grassy yard, the men dressed in suits and ties and women in flowery dresses and sun hats. Cade pulled off his tie and tucked it in his jacket pocket so it wouldn’t get lost.

Brent Tulowitski strolled over. “What’ll it be, Cade?”

“Whiskey.”

Brent walked away, and Cade passed his hand along the short growth of black hair on his head, the cut a leftover from his time in the Marines. It didn’t feel right to be outside without his Stetson. But he couldn’t dwell on that. He had a mission. The woman in the drugstore might have brushed him off, but Brent knew everybody. If anyone could give him a name and a phone number, it would be Brent. And once he had those, he intended to turn that brush-off into a fervent yes. To everything he could think of.

The bartender returned with two fingers of Kentucky bourbon in a plastic cup, then swiped a cloth down the length of the bar. “So, Finn’s married.”

Bringing his whiskey to his lips, Cade snorted. “Looks that way.”

“He’s lucky. Ellie’s a great girl.”

Keeping up the small talk so he didn’t look overly eager to get the drugstore clerk’s info, Cade said, “She is.” Because Ellie was a wonderful woman—a good match for his brother, who had resettled in their hometown.

Brent poured two tall draft beers for an older couple, then strolled back to Cade. “So, you okay being home?”

He shrugged and glanced around, not surprised by the question. This was why Brent knew everything and everybody in town. He chatted up his customers.

“I guess.”

“No rumblings from your dad?”

“We’re just glad he didn’t crash the wedding.”

“He’s got some balls.”

Cade sniffed a laugh, knowing exactly what Brent referred to. The year before, Finn had had their father arrested for assault. The whole town had been shocked that their dad had punched Finn, but they’d reeled over the news that the bank president had regularly beaten his sons and wife. Still, he walked around town like the king of the world, telling everyone his children and estranged wife were liars.

“Yeah, he does.”

Wanting desperately to change the subject and get the information he was here for, he asked Brent for another shot. When Brent brought it over, he said, “So, I had to go to the drugstore for a card this morning, and I saw a new clerk.”

Brent frowned. “New clerk?”

“Yeah, a woman with black hair, pretty green eyes.”

Even before he was done, Brent burst out laughing. “You messing with me?”

Cade’s eyebrows rose. “Messing with you?”

“Teasing…come on, Cade. Are you trying to tell me you were checking out Piper O’Riley?”

Cade almost choked on his whiskey. “Piper O’Riley?”

“She manages the Health Aid.”

An “Oh” slipped out, even though Cade wished it hadn’t. He pointed to his shot glass again. Brent easily filled it, then walked away to get a drink for a woman in a blue-flowered dress.

Focused on his shot, he counted his blessings that his questions about Piper O’Riley hadn’t gone any further. Good God. That was Piper O’Riley? He remembered her as a flat-chested, shy nerd. The twelve years he’d been away had been very, very kind to her, but that didn’t mean he wanted to date her. Even discounting the fact that she was Lonnie’s best friend—and therefore someone who probably knew the son Lonnie claimed to be Cade’s was actually another man’s—the O’Rileys had held a grudge against his grandfather for thirty years. Richard Hyatt had won O’Riley’s market from Sean O’Riley fair and square in a poker game. Yet Karen O’Riley, Piper’s mom, had accused him of cheating.

Her friends stopped shopping at the store and sales had plummeted with only half the town supporting the little market. But his grandfather said he made enough money to pay himself a good salary, and the other half of the town still needed bread and milk and birthday cakes. So he was staying open.

Cade’s eyes misted. His grandfather had been a generous, loving man. Sadly, he’d died the month before. Cade wouldn’t defame his memory by even talking to an O’Riley.

He asked for another shot just as Jeff Franklin, the town’s attorney, stepped into the gazebo and up to the bar.

“Hey, Cade.”

“Jeff.” Cade eyed the balding, slightly chubby lawyer over his shot glass. He’d known Jeff since he was a football player for Harmony Hills High. They’d never been friends, but because he was executor of his grandfather’s estate, for the time it took to settle everything out, he and Jeff would be spending a lot of time together.

“I’ve been thinking about our meeting on Monday and the will reading.”

Cade inclined his head.

“I’d like for you to come in an hour early, before the rest of your family, so we can discuss your duties as executor and a few other things.”

“Sure. No problem.”

“Great. I’ll see you Monday, then.”

Cade saluted him with his glass. “Monday.”

Jeff eagerly raced away.

Cade suppressed a sigh. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy returning to the town where he’d left a woman at the altar and deserted a child everybody believed was his. He’d expected the cold shoulders and fingers pointed in his direction at the diner. But Jeff was a professional. His grandfather’s lawyer. He shouldn’t feel the need to race away.

Yep, being stuck in Harmony Hills while they worked out the logistics of the will was going to be a real blast.

Now he just had to hope Piper O’Riley didn’t tell anybody he’d been flirting with her.

The very thought had him pointing at his shot glass again.

<3 <3 <3 

The book is $.99 for a limited time.

http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Runaway-Entangled-Donovan-Brothers-ebook/dp/B00OXFURIS?tag=entangpublis-20&link_code=ur2&creative=9325&camp=211189

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasing-the-runaway-bride-susan-meier/1120643890

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/chasing-runaway-bride-entangled/id934088332?ign-mpt=uo%3D8

 

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/books/chasing-the-runaway-bride-entangled-bliss/ukBYuy0wRUOMIX16IQMp2g?MixID=ukBYuy0wRUOMIX16IQMp2g&PageNumber=1

http://www.amazon.ca/Chasing-Runaway-Entangled-Donovan-Brothers-ebook/dp/B00OXFURIS?tag=entangpublis-20&link_code=ur2&creative=9325&camp=211189

 

Happy Reading!

susan meier

 

 

4

An adage a day

by

MichelleD I’m a big fan of quotations, axioms and adages. These sayings don’t just get to the heart of a matter. They can put heart into one too.

I love short pithy pieces. I love longer pieces full of wisdom. I love the combination of cleverness, candour and honesty. I love the inspiration, and I love the clever use of language that gets the message across.

I love how you can find one for every mood, and I thought I’d share a few that are close to my heart for one reason or another:

 

  1. Ever since happiness heard your name,

            It has been running through the streets,

            Trying to find you.

I have this pinned above my computer. I love this piece more than I can say. It’s from the poem “Several Times in the Last Week” by Persian poet Hafiz. Every now and again I duck out to the Internet to read the entire poem. It’s a real mood booster. :-)

 

  1. All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

From Julian of Norwich. I find it remarkably comforting. It reminds me that so many of the things that I worry about today won’t matter in five year’s time (not even five day’s time in some instances). I read this and immediately feel soothed.

 

  1. It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This is from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship in a Republic” speech. I didn’t initially chance upon this as a form of encouragement for myself, though I’ve long since used it as such (and sworn never to be a cold and timid soul). My husband sent it to me when I was feeling critical of a family member who was set on a course I was convinced would end in tears. What this piece really brings home to me is that while I don’t want to be a cold and timid soul, nor do I want to be a cold and unyielding critic. I have no right to judge others. It reminds me to be kind and generous. And that’s always a good thing. :-)

 

  1. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

This is from Robert Heinlein. Initially it makes me laugh, but I think Mr Heinlein is onto something, you know? People can become offended so easily and mistake other’s motives. I think, though, if we took a poll, we’d find that most people are unthinking and careless rather than spiteful and malevolent. In any case, it never helps to give them the benefit of the doubt. ;-)

 

  1. Every word in this sentence is a gross misspelling of the word tomato.

Many thanks to Doug Hofstadter for this one! It’s just for fun. It makes me smile. It reminds me that play for play’s sake is one of life’s great joys.

 

And this is from my coffee mug. :-)

She packed up all her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes, and headed out to change a few things.

She packed up her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes and headed out to change a few things.

 

So, what about you? Do you have a favourite quotation or a motto by which you live your life?

 

www.michelle-douglas.com

16

Giveaway alert! Would you be hooked by this book?

by

On a recent weekend I was poking around on On Demand and decided to watch The Voice. The show’s been on for several seasons, but I’ve never caught an episode. (That’s me, a little slow on the uptake.) I’ve always admired the premise, though. Singers compete for a spot on one of the four judges’ teams in blind auditions. The judges can’t see them. They can only hear them sing.

16670324_SABooks are like that. Readers don’t get to meet writers. They don’t know our ages or backgrounds. They can’t tell if we are personable or funny or quirky or whatever in real life. They don’t know if we suffered a personal tragedy while witing that book or if it has personal meaning to us. They judge us based on our stories and on our voices as writers.

Of course, they aren’t judging us completely blind. They get to see a cover and read a back blurb, neither of which authors have much control over, unless we self-publish. Otherwise, all we can control are the words inside.

Before I was published I attended a workshop where the presenter said, “The first page sells your book, and the last page sells your next one.”

I wish I could remember the presenter’s name. It was a long time ago. But that advice has stayed with me.

In truth, readers often give a book more than a page or two before they decide whether they want to keep reading. But it is a lot like a Voice audition. We have a limited amount of time in which to make a favorable impression. A limited amount of time in which to make readers care about our characters and story and pull them into our world.

With that in mind, here is the opening scene from In the Shelter of His Arms. This was one of those rare books that poured out of me with very little effort, and I was thrilled when RT Book Reviews named it Best Harlequin Romance of 2005. I loved this book. I loved the characters.

I thought the cover was okay. The title wasn’t my choice, but I was too new to the game to fight it. I would now. It makes my heroine seem to needy. She might be desperate, but she is capable of saving herself. Ultimately, I didn’t feel either the cover or title did my story or my characters justice.  Ditto for the back cover blurb. So, I’m holding a Voice audition and you are the judges.

After reading this brief excerpt, let me know if you would keep reading. Why or why not? I’m giving away an ecopy to one lucky reader. Leave a comment to be included in the drawing, which will be Friday.

 

shelterIn the Shelter of His Arms

Chapter One

With one last wheezing gasp, Old Bess died. Her demise, untimely as it was, came as no surprise to her traveling companion. The old gal was well past her prime, in deteriorating condition and had been belching black exhaust for the past dozen miles. Roz Bennett eased the ancient rusted four-door on to the side of the highway and eulogized it with a string of curses.

Climbing out to survey her surroundings, she cursed anew. Cedar trees and other evergreens towered shoulder to shoulder on each side of the two-lane road. She saw no house, no businesses, not even a sign. She was in the middle of nowhere, on a road that seemed to be traveled by no one, and she didn’t have a dime to her name.

A bitter wind smacked her face and she tucked her numb hands into the pockets of her thin jean jacket.

My luck never changes, she thought.

The sun was melting into a golden puddle in the western sky, pulling the already freezing temperature down along with it. She glanced at her wrist before remembering that she’d hocked her watch and her only pair of earrings two towns back to buy gasoline. At least half an earring’s worth of fuel remained in the car’s tank, for all the good it would do her now.

Grabbing her duffle bag out of the car’s back seat, she debated her options.

A few miles earlier, she’d passed a roadside bar. If they had a pool table, she could hustle herself a meal and maybe make enough cash for a cheap motel room someplace. But forward was the only direction Roz believed in traveling. Decision made, she began walking.

Less than a mile later, she was wondering just how long it took to freeze to death when she heard the Jeep. Actually, she thought it might have been the loud thump of bass that first snagged her attention rather than the shiny red sport utility vehicle’s finely tuned engine. Walking backward, she stuck out her thumb, but needn’t have bothered. The driver was already slowing, easing the SUV onto the shoulder just behind her.

It was a man.

Roz hunched her shoulders and pretended to be unconcerned that she was a lone female walking down the side of a deserted highway at dusk.

The man rolled down the window as he flipped off the tunes. “Hello.”

“Hey.”

Now that she had a good look at him, she guessed him to be in his mid-thirties. His hair was straight and the color of strong coffee. He wore it short and tidy. His eyes were dark and she got the feeling his steady gaze didn’t miss much. Still, the lines that fanned out toward his temples looked like the kind put there by laughter and time spent outdoors rather than squinty-eyed meanness. Overall, he looked reputable enough. She felt her muscles uncoil slightly.

“That your car back there?” He hitched a thumb over his shoulder and motioned.

Roz nodded, deciding to keep her answers brief and noncommittal. “Engine trouble.”

He made what might have been a sympathetic noise in the back of his throat before asking, “Where you heading?”

West, she almost said. It would have been the truth, but since most people expected a destination rather than a direction, she figured it would make him suspicious. And the last thing Roz wanted to do was make the one person who stood between her and frostbite uncomfortable. So she said, “Wisconsin.” It was the next state she would come to on her journey West, so it wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Afraid I’m not going that far.”

“Oh.” Her feet felt frozen to the ground. “Where are you going?”

“Chance Harbor. It’s northwest of here, on Superior’s shore, about halfway between the Porcupine Mountains and Hancock. I can drop you in one of the little towns we come to before we hit North U.S. 45,” he offered. “There’s bound to be a repair shop.”

“Chance Harbor,” she repeated. “I don’t recall seeing it on the map.”

He grunted out a laugh. “It’s so small it doesn’t make many maps, but ask any fisherman and he’ll know the place. Some call it Last Chance Harbor, because it’s one of the few safe places where they can ride out a storm before heading up around the Keweenaw Peninsula.”

A safe place, she thought. Was there really such a thing? In twenty-six years, she had yet to find one. Still, she liked the name. And, since her entire life had been one big messy work of fate, not helped in the least by her impulsive nature, she made up her mind.

“I’ll go there.”

“To Chance Harbor?” Dark eyebrows shot up in surprise and she wasn’t blind to the speculation she saw brewing in his gaze. “What about your car?”

“It’s not going anywhere,” she said flatly. “I’m surprised it made it the past few hundred miles.”

“Chance Harbor is a little out of the way if you’ll be heading to Wisconsin.”

“That’s okay, I’ll consider it the scenic route. I need to get a temporary job anyway. Think I might find work there? I’m running a little low on spending money.”

Low, as in none, she thought grimly.

“It’s off season for tourists, but there might be something, nothing that will pay more than minimum wage, mind you.”

Roz was already tossing her duffle bag into the vehicle’s back seat when she said, “That’s good enough for me.”

When they were back on the road, he turned up the music again, but not nearly as loud. Still, it hammered through the Jeep and seemed to echo through the empty cavern of her stomach. When exactly had she last eaten? And could the five lint-covered M&Ms she’d found in her jacket pocket that morning be considered a meal? She decided to concentrate on the music instead.

Roz never would have taken the man for an AC/DC fan. Top Forty, maybe. And, based on the down jacket and faded denim he wore and the fact that they were out in the sticks, Country. Put him in a cowboy hat and spurs and lash him to the back of the bucking bronco, and he’d look right at home. But he seemed too clean cut, too George Strait-ish to enjoy the raunchy lyrics and gyrating rhythms of hard rock. Yet, she could see his thumbs tapping discreetly on the steering wheel in time to the bass and she got the feeling if she weren’t in the truck he’d be belting out the words to the very appropriate “Highway to Hell.”

He glanced her way. “I’m Mason, by the way. Mason Striker.”

“Roz.”

He waited a beat, apparently for a last name. When she didn’t oblige, he thankfully didn’t press. “Nice to meet you, Roz. Let me know if you get too warm.”

Too warm? She nearly laughed. She’d lost all feeling in her toes and was at the point that taking a blowtorch to them would have been welcome. But she said, “I’ll do that.”

***

So, if you were a Voice judge for writers, would I make your team with that? Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win an ecopy of the book!

Jackie Braun is the author of more than 30 books for Harlequin and Entangled. In the Shelter of His Arms was out of print for quite a while, but it’s been given new life as an ebook. If you want to read the rest of Roz and Mason’s story, you can buy it on Amazon.

 

 

3

Doing NaNo? How about Christmas?

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by Donna Alward

This November I’m “sort of” doing NaNoWriMo. That’s because I’m not writing a NEW project from start to finish, but rather finishing one project and starting the next. The first is a fun cowboy/dating service story for Samhain Publishing, which I’m doing as part of a series with the fab Jenna Bayley-Burke and Sarah M Anderson. But now I’m shifting to a new story. The goal is to write between 40-50,000 words throughout the month between the two projects.

HW2010Snowman_ssThe new story is the first in a duet for Harlequin American and it’s a Christmas story. I love holiday stories, and I particularly love writing them BEFORE Christmas. Yes, November is also one of my busiest months of the year, but I do love Christmas and it’s so much easier to get in the spirit of writing a Christmas story when you’re in the lead up. Let’s face it, in January you’re ready for it all to be over for another year. It’s not really the time you want to be cranking up the Christmas carols and baking shortbread, you know?

Know what’s great about holiday stories? INSTANT ATMOSPHERE! You can really play up decorations, traditions, food, community events…it’s all there for you to choose from. There’s something magical about it and how lovely is it to use that in a romance? Your characters can build a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Decorate a tree, bake cookies, sit in front of a fire… oh yeah.

I love them so much I have two of them out this year. And at least one out next – think sexy rancher and a hard working single-mum and adorable children. Know what’s got more awww factor than a Christmas romance? A Christmas romance that also has strong men and babies! SO FUN.

So while I’m sparking up the holiday tunes and making shopping lists and making word count, I’ll leave you with the links to my two current holiday releases. THE COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS GIFT is the first in a new trilogy from Harlequin American, and CHRISTMAS AT SEASHELL COTTAGE is a digital release from St. Martin’s Press, book “1.5” in the Jewell Cove series.

www.donnaalward.com

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9

Permission to Play…. by Samantha Hunter

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One of the biggest problems about being a writer is that once it’s your work, it often stops being fun, which we start to see as separate from our work, instead of an integral part of it. This means doing writing that is fun, that leaves you energized or creatively stimulated, as part of your work.

tumblr_lz9qsvJ1bk1qz4e4aI first discovered that feeling in grade school, when the teacher posted a picture on the board every week and told us to write a story about it. Writing prompts, like the picture on the board, are a direct route back to fun, but they are more than that, too. They are, in many ways, the heart of creativity for a writer. They are permission to play.

I was reminded of this when a tweet came across my Twitter feed offering 100 writing prompts, found in Part One and Part Two of the Wise Ink blog. I scanned them and knew I had to try at least one as soon as possible! I chose number 54, “Create a plague that wreaks havoc on a small community” — because here I saw the opportunity for a twist. It’s off the cuff, but then, most writing exercises will be, so you can’t be too picky. Just go with it…

A Plague of Bubbles

She’d known it was coming, Ursula thought as she sat across from her boyfriend, Henry, at dinner that evening. They were both quiet, both ordering the same thing they usually did, and after sharing a few soundbytes about their day, they’d lapsed into silence, as usual. She just didn’t have anything to say. She was boring. He was boring (especially in bed, she had to admit). Blah.

Henry was going to break up with her. She could practically see him revving up the courage. So Ursula sat up straight, and decided to take the bull by the horns. She’d break up with him first. That would give her something, some shred of dignity to hold on to when she went to bed alone that evening.

Leveling her gaze on his, she started to speak, to tell him they had been drifting apart for a while, that nothing was working, and it was better that they go their separate ways. . .and his eyes widened as he listened. Not because of what she said, but because as she spoke – or tried to — bubbles came from her mouth, not words.

bubsShe frowned, tried again — was it the wine?

But no matter how she tried to form the words, only bubbles floated from her lips, filling the space around them, the luminous orbs buoyed on the currents of conversation and movement in the restaurant, the heat from candles on the table, reflecting colors and faces of all they surrounded.

Henry started to say something about it, only to find big, shiny bubbles popping from his own perfect lips as well. It was something Ursula had stopped noticing, how nice his mouth was. She’d always enjoyed the shape of Henry’s lips, especially when they kissed. Or when he smiled, like he was doing now. Their eyes met in mutual interest, the two them trapped in their own little bubble, for just a few moments.

Then someone pointed to a man who had been arguing with the restaurant manager was suddenly spouting tiny, angry bubbles as if they were being shot from some kind of machine, pushing hundreds of little, glinting bursts of air into the room. Wonder took the place of anger and argument, stony silence carried off into the air. Everyone laughed, making even more bubbles.

Until an older man, confused and upset at the spectacle, grabbed his chest, keeling over. People tried to call for help, but. . .only bubbles. His family cried soapy, sad foam at his side, clinging to their phones, unable to ask for help.

Ursula grabbed Henry’s hand and ran into the street. She grabbed the arm of a policeman, trying to see if he knew what was going on, to get help, but to no avail as both were separated by the growning wall of translucent spheres. Frustration and fear gripped her as she saw a man knock someone over, stealing their bag, but no cries for help were possible, the victim’s cries bursting on the pavement as they were uttered.

Only bubbles. . .so many bubbles that they filled the air, surrounded everyone in dense foam, bubble-saturated chaos everywhere. . . .

—————–

As hard as it is to imagine, this is real writing work. While silly, this kind of creative exercise what keeps our creative minds limber.

I would probably have Ursula and Henry find the cure (vinegar? LOL) and save the day, and also, when their voices came back, perhaps she would tell him she loved him instead of breaking up with him, or something to that end — we have to have an HEA, unless we could, of course, have the entire world dissolve in bubbles. In a really dark version, the bubbles start sucking out all the oxygen . . . So you see the possibilities for even a silly story.

The challenge of finding all of the different descriptions I could for “bubbles” was also good writing exercise for the brain, and perhaps adding even more “b” words for alliteration would work, too. I could keep reworking it, but I won’t, —  the point is just to have some fun, stretch a little and enjoy it. Then you let some of the aftereffects carry you into your regular work.

Even if you aren’t a writer, providing these kinds of prompts for your kids, or for conversation starters over the dinner table — what plagues would your kids create? :)

Have you ever used writing prompts for your writing or for fun?

Whether you are a writer or not, what kind of “plague” would you create? ;) Or, did you find another one that appealed to you, or can you think of a fun writing prompt to share? :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

A bit of sparkle by Kate Hardy

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Kate HardyI’ve always enjoyed putting a bit of sparkle into other people’s lives where I can. So when I put the outline together for ‘A New Year Marriage Proposal’, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – make my heroine into a secret fairy godmother. (It’s what I’d do if I was in her position, so I really enjoyed developing that side of the book.) My heroine absolutely LOVES Christmas. (I have ‘Christmas’ every single weekend in December – sharing it with the family and friends I don’t get to see on the day. Four Christmas dinners, four lots of silly Santa presents to unwrap at the table after dinner, party hats and board games. So, yes, I’m with Carissa.)

But the holiday season isn’t always easy for people. My hero hates Christmas because it has a lot of unhappy memories for him. I find the teen days of December really hard as I lost one parent in that bit of the month, and buried the other in the same week a quarter of a century later. So I understand where Quinn is coming from, too.

What happens when someone who loves Christmas meets someone who hates Christmas? In this case, it turns into a challenge. Can Carissa teach Quinn to love the sparkle of the holiday season? (My editor wanted to go on all their dates, LOL.)

In the book, Christmas also has a lot to do with my heroine’s parents – or, rather, the song Carissa’s father wrote which made him a fortune and means that she can fund her ‘Fairy Godmother’ work, known as ‘Project Sparkle’ (which was the working title of the book – sadly I didn’t get to keep it).

And that song owes a lot to something that happened to my heroine as a small child… and also happened to my daughter when she was six weeks old. Bronchiolitis. (It’s basically a virus that causes a really bad cold in adults, but in babies it gums up the tiny little tubes in their lungs (the bronchioles) and means they need oxygen treatment in order to breathe. We’re talking a week in hospital and feeding the baby via a tube down her nose. Not nice at all.) Chloe spent her first Christmas in hospital. On Christmas Eve, her older brother (aged three and a half) asked me, ‘Will Santa bring my little sister home for Christmas?’ (I cried all the way home after that.) You might, um, see something very similar in the book, when my hero sings some of that Christmas song.

What puts the sparkle into Christmas for me is my children. Nativity plays (and I defy any parent not to tear up during ‘Away in A Manger’ – or, for the really tiny ones, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’). Watching them opening their presents. (OK, so they’re teens now and much more difficult to buy for, but I plan things through the year and always manage to find something they really want but aren’t expecting.) Putting decorations on the tree (and I admit I cried when the home-made decorations from nursery school finally fell apart and couldn’t be used any more). Christmas music – with all of us singing in the car on the way to school/sixth form.

What puts the sparkle into Christmas for you?

NYMPKate’s latest release is A New Year Marriage Proposal. You can find out more about the book, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/) – or find her on Facebook

 

 

 

 

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To Knit or Cross-Stitch . . .

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So things have started to wind down for me. My job is smoother than it was a couple of months ago, I writing more regularly and I’m digging into some Christmas books.

Enough on the plate, right?

There is a part of me that wants to do something else. Something non-work related.

I’m finally weeding through everything in the house preparing for working from home and I found a bunch of my old cross-stitching supplies. A binder had a few of the projects I wanted to work on. I created a sampler for my oldest when he was born and I’ve always wanted to cross-stitch Christmas stockings for the boys.

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Cute, huh? It will take a long time to get it done and do it right.

A few weeks ago, Liz Fielding posted a knitted scarf on her Facebook page. I immediately fell in love with the design. I used to knit as well and thought, “Maybe, I could do this too.”

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I think if I did this, I would make some of the darker browns lighter. It’s a beginner’s project so I could use it to get back into knitting. And in the end, I would hopefully have something practical I could use.

With everything on my plate, I realize I can’t do both. I must choose the best option for me. Which do you think would work? Both will be a lot of work but it will be something I can do once winter sets in here in ‘The Mitten.’

 

Abbi :-)

4

Score One for the Little People by Barbara Wallace

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red cupEver since Starbucks opened in my home town, I have looked forward to the return of their holiday drinks.  Specifically, the eggnog latte.  Since my gluten allergy was diagnosed, fancy coffees such as caramel macchiatos and vanilla lattes have been erased from my diet.  (Starbucks doesn’t guarantee their syrups are gluten free.)  However, the eggnog latte is the one guaranteed holiday treat I know I can enjoy.  I look forward to drinking it so much I actually mark my calendar for November 1 – the day the holiday drinks return.

So imagine my frustration (re: anger and annoyance) when I walked in this year to discover the eggnog latte had been discontinued everywhere but the Pacific Northwest locations!  (They, by the way, were having their own controvery; Starbucks took away their Gingerbread Latte.)

I immediately went home and voiced my annoyance to their customer service department.  I even pulled the pompous author card and told them I would be “sharing my frustration with my 2000 social media followers”.  Then I went on Twitter and did just that.  More than once.

Well ,wouldn’t you know, I wasn’t the only person who was upset by this marketing decision.  THOUSANDS of customers wrote to Starbucks to express their disappointment.  The company’s Twitter feed and Facebook page were littered with complaints as well.

Yesterday customer service answered me.  (Technically, they tweeted back after I noted on Twitter that they hadn’t contacted me.)  THE PEOPLE WON!  Eggnog lattes and gingerbread lattes will roll out countrywide November 17th.  As my friend, author Shae Connor said, “we have achieved Latte Equality.”

Score one for the  little people!

I say we take this wave of new found social media power and use it for another cause.  How about getting Harlequin Series Romance back on bookstore shelves?  I know I’d love to see the Romance and Superromance lines back in Barnes & Noble – and all the lines back at Walmart.  How about you?

PS: Because I couldn’t live without my eggnog latte, I did find an alternative place about an hour from my house who serves them.  I also learned how to make the mix at home.  For those interested, it’s 2/3’s cup eggnog and 1/2 cup double strength coffee.

 

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Barbara Wallace’s latest book, THE UNEXPECTED HONEYMOON is out this month.

Larissa coverA holiday to remember… 

Widower Carlos Chavez manages La Joya del Mayan, the most romantic resort in Mexico. On good days, the romance passes unnoticed; on dark days, it only reminds him of his loss. 

But the honeymoon suite’s latest guest, Larissa Boyd, has rocked his steadfastness. Stunningly beautiful, she seems lost. And no wonder…she’s on a honeymoon for one!  

The chemistry is instant—and their similarities run deep. Could it be that the two loneliest hearts in Mexico have found love…in the most unexpected of places?

 

Amazon               Barnes & Noble                 Harlequin             Mills & Boon

 

 

THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS

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When I sat down last year to come up with an idea for a Christmas story for a character I already knew…Eloise Vaughn…24-year-old widow from Olivia Prentiss’s book DARING TO TRUST THE BOSS…I knew the story had to be special.

To people who read Olivia’s book, Eloise seemed to have everything…except a job. LOL But the truth was, she suffered in silence. She’d married a motorcycle-riding blue collar worker and gotten herself kicked out of her blue-blood family. Then when he died from cancer after she nursed him, desperately trying to keep him alive, her family didn’t care. They had kicked her out because she was common, They did not want her back.

Ricky Langley lost his eighteen-month-old son in an automobile accident. Christmas tears him apart because when he sees a tree or decorations or hears a Christmas song, he sees the joy on his baby’s face. And now that baby is gone.

All that makes you think the book will be a real downer. LOL! But it isn’t. Though sad, Eloise is determined to make a good life for herself. Deep down, she has what it takes to be successful and get back into life…she KNOWS it. She just needs a little help.

Wealthy Ricky believes success is hollow. But somehow over the course of their pretend dates designed to make his business partners and friends think he’s getting beyond the loss of his son, Eloise’s attitude begins to give him real hope and he KNOWS he has to help her.

THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS isn’t the story of loss. It’s the story of two people finding each other and helping each other open their eyes and love again. Even if it means risk.

Here’s a little taste…

 

There was always too much month left at the end of Eloise Vaughn’s money.

“Here, put these crackers in your purse.” Laura Beth Matthews gathered a handful of crackers from the party buffet of their newly married friend, Olivia Engle, and shoved them at Eloise.

She gasped. “So now we’re reduced to stealing crackers?”

“Five crackers are lunch.”

Eloise sighed but opened her Chanel purse and let her roommate dump the crackers inside.

“I’m sorry, Coco.”

Laura Beth said, “Coco?”

“Chanel…” She shook her head. “Never mind.”

Hoping no one saw the crackers falling into her purse, Eloise glanced around the Christmas party at the women wearing shiny cocktail dresses in shades of red and green and the tuxedo-clad men. Subdued gold and silver decorations gave the Engles’ penthouse a sophisticated glow. The clink of ice in glasses, laughter of guests and the air of importance—wealth and power—wafted around her.

For fifty cents she could work this room and probably leave with a date. But she didn’t want a date. She’d had the love of her life and had lost him. Now, she wanted a job, a good-paying job, a permanent position that would support her. Unfortunately, her degree didn’t seem to translate well into actual work. In lieu of a job, she’d take another roommate, someone to help with the rent on the apartment she shared with Laura Beth. Then the pressure would be off, and the salary from the temp job she currently had at a law firm would be enough that she and Laura Beth could buy food again.

But she wouldn’t find a roommate here. All of these people could afford their own condos. Maybe two condos…and a beach house.

Laura Beth studied the remaining food. “It’s too bad we can’t pour some of this dip in our purses.”

Eloise shoved her purse behind her back. “I draw the line at dip. No dip. Not on the inside of my Chanel.”

“You do realize you could sell some of those overpriced clothes, handbags and shoes you own and probably eat for an entire year.”

“Most of my stuff is five years old. No one would want it.”

Laura Beth sniffed a laugh. “You make it work.”

“Only because I know how to change a collar or add a belt.”

“So update your stuff and then sell it.”

She couldn’t. Not that she loved clothes and dressing up so much that she’d die without accessories. It was more that these clothes were the last piece of herself she had. The last piece of the starry-eyed college junior, one year away from graduating, who’d run away and married her Prince Charming.

Her heart pinched. Prince Charming seemed like an odd description. Especially given that she and Wayne had had their troubles. After they married, her wealthy parents had disowned her, and Wayne couldn’t find a job. So she’d had to work as a waitress, and they’d fought. A lot. Then he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, he’d died. Overwhelmed with grief and confused that death could be so swift and so cruel, she’d gone home, hoping her parents would help her cope. But they wouldn’t even come to the door. Through the maid, they’d reminded her that they had disowned her and didn’t want her and her troubles visiting their doorstep.

At first she’d been crushed, then she was sad, then she got angry. But that only fueled her determination. Come hell or high water she intended to make it. Big. She didn’t know where or how, but she intended to make it. Not just to show her parents, but so she could be happy again.

*

“I’d like you to meet my cousin.”

Ricky Langley glanced up in horror as his lawyer walked up to him with a thirty-something woman. With her hair in a tight black ball on the back of her head and her bright red dress clinging to her curves, she eyed him appreciatively.

“Janine Barron, this is Ricky Langley.”

“It’s a pleasure.” Her voice shivered just the tiniest bit, as if she were so thrilled to meet him she couldn’t quite catch her breath.

Another man might have been pleased—maybe even proud—that his lawyer liked him enough to introduce him to a relative. But since his son had died, he’d been besieged by a loss so intense that thoughts of love, romance or even meeting somebody weren’t anywhere on his radar.

He said, “It’s nice to meet you,” and managed ten minutes of polite conversation, but when he found an opportunity, he slipped away.

He wove through conversation groups as he walked across Tucker Engle’s sleek living room. Although Tucker had married six months ago, his New York City penthouse still claimed the sophisticated furnishings of a bachelor pad. Chrome and black leather furniture sat on white shag carpet atop dark hardwood floors. The Christmas tree Tucker had decorated with his new wife, Olivia, glittered with all silver and gold ornaments. The cherry wood mantle over the fireplace boasted one stocking…for Baby Engle. Not yet born, the child hadn’t been named. They wouldn’t tell the sex either. It was all to be a grand surprise.

He pursed his lips as his breathing stuttered. He thought of the one and only Christmas he’d shared with his son. Blake had been born December twenty-seventh, so he was two days shy of a year on his first Christmas day. He’d clapped when he’d seen the tree lit with brightly colored lights that reflected off the tinsel. He’d eaten Christmas cookies. And he’d gone just a bit bananas when he’d awakened Christmas morning to find tons of gifts all for him. He couldn’t talk, so he squeaked and squealed for joy. He had torn off wrapping paper, liked the boxes better than the actual gifts and in general made a mess of Ricky’s pristine penthouse.

It had been the best Christmas of Ricky’s life. And now he had nothing.

He sucked in a breath. He shouldn’t have come to this party. He might be eighteen months into his grief, but some things, like Christmas celebrations, would always level him. Worse, he had twelve more of these events on his calendar. Ten parties, one wedding and one fraternity reunion. Last year, six months into his grief, he could reasonably bow out. This year, people were beginning to worry.

He turned to race away from the mantle and bumped into somebody’s purse. He swore he heard a crunch as his hands swung around to catch his victim.

“Damn it! I think you crushed my crackers.”

The scowl on the blonde’s beautiful face surprised him so much he forgot he was too unhappy to talk with anyone. “You have crackers in your purse?”

She sighed heavily and tucked a strand of her long yellow hair behind her ear. “Not usually.” She glanced at his tuxedo, gave him a quick once-over, then shook her head. “Never mind. You’re a little too rich to understand.”

“Oh, you took crackers from the buffet table for lunch next week.” At her horrified look, he inclined his head. “I used to be poor. Did the same thing at parties.”

“Yeah, well, this was my roommate’s idea. Typically, I’m not the kind of girl who steals.”

“You’re not stealing. Those crackers were set out for the guests. You’re a guest. Besides, it’s the end of the night. Once we all leave, the leftovers will probably be thrown away. Or given to a homeless shelter.”

She squeezed her eyes shut in misery. “Great. Now I’m taking crackers out of the mouths of homeless people. I hate this city.”

He gaped at her. “How can you hate New York?”

“I don’t hate New York, per se. I just hate that it costs so much to live here.”

She suddenly straightened. Right before his eyes she changed from a frantic working girl into a princess.

Her shoulders back, her smile polite and subdued, she said, “If you’ll excuse me, I want to say goodbye to Olivia and Tucker.”

He stepped out of her way. “Of course.”

Three things hit him at once. First, she was gorgeous. Her gold dress hugged her high breasts, slim waist and round bottom as if it were made for her. Second, she was refined and polite for someone reduced to taking the extra crackers from a party. Third, she’d barely given him a second look.

“Ricky!”

Ricky pivoted and saw his attorney scrambling toward him.

“I understand your reluctance to get back into the swing of things, but I’m not going to apologize for trying to find you someone. If you don’t soon start dating, people are going to wonder about you.”

Hadn’t he just thought the same thing himself? “I hope they come up with some good stories.”

“This isn’t funny. You’re a businessman. People don’t want to sign contracts with unstable men.”

“Being single doesn’t make me unstable. I can name lots of men who did very well as bachelors.”

“Yeah, but most of them don’t have a children’s video game line they’re about to release.”

He turned away. “I’ll take my chances.”

His attorney caught his arm and stopped him. “You’ll be wrong. Look, do you want support when you take this new company public next year? Then you’d better look alive. Like a guy worth supporting.”

His attorney stormed off at the same time Cracker Girl walked by, her head twisting from side to side as if she were looking for someone.

A starburst of pleasure shot through him, surprising him. She was beautiful. Physically perfect. And with a conscience. Although taking crackers from a party didn’t rank up there with grand theft auto, he could see it upset her.

He laughed and shook his head, but he stopped mid-motion. Good grief. She’d made him laugh.

 

Check it out!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0373743122/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1NVNG18EM3PH3VQHYGM8&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-twelve-dates-of-christmas-susan-meier/1119564021?ean=9780373743124

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS COVER

 

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