Valentine’s Rewind: Not A Mistake sneak peek!

val tie 2I’m breaking the Valentine Rewind rules just a smidge to give you a peek into my upcoming release Not A Mistake. Ages back, I cut a short version of this Valentine’s Day flashback from my draft, so it seemed ripe for revival in this blog hop. This scene is Jordan’s rewind to an old memory of Dominic from when she was his student nursing an epic crush.


Jordan glanced around the bustling café and saw no familiar faces. Thank God. She sank deeper into the battered sofa and raised the book higher to hide her face. Surely, with this particular paperback in her hands, anyone who caught a glimpse of the flaming blush on her cheeks would know exactly why she’d turned church-door red. More slowly, she reread the mortifying passage in Professor Lawrence’s book.

To indulge in sexual fantasies about a colleague, friend, or acquaintance is undoubtably a form of sexual abuse, rendering them an object with no opportunity to consent. Whether romantic or explicit, the fantasy inevitably alters the relationship—innocence and mutuality are lost. Furthermore, as reported in the case studies cited above, nearly all illicit transgressions begin with fantasies of breeching the appropriate boundaries of the relationship. The fantasy is the first step, the story that rationalizes the unethical behavior to come.

Was he right?

She’d certainly let her mind, and the middle two fingers of her right hand, go wild imagining him without his permission. In an absurdly porn-esque scenario, she’d fantasized about him approaching her after class with a stern, “There’s something I need to speak to you about in private.” Once they were alone in his office, his gray eyes would burn with feral hunger and he would say, “I can’t resist anymore. I have to have you, just this once. Tell me you feel the same way.”

Jordan would step near his lean, powerful torso, feel the heat radiating off him, and say “You know I do,” before she kissed him.

She made sure always to wear a skirt to this particular fantasy, even though jeans were her standard seminary attire, so he could reach under it to cup her butt as he pulled her close, stroked her (by this point in the fantasy) very wet slit, then bent her over the desk and said filthy, un-professorial things in her ear while he fucked her.

Sure, maybe she’d felt a little awkward the next time she saw him, but so what? No way were those lusty daydreams the first step leading anywhere. Dominic if-your-eye-causes-you-to-lust-gouge-it-out Lawrence would never sleep with a student, and she wouldn’t want him to. His principles, if somewhat rigid, were also entirely admirable.

Someone coughed and her skin tightened. Could a throat clearing sound familiar? Because, if so, that might very well be…She lowered the book just enough to peek over the top.

Crap.

Professor Lawrence towered over her, a red demitasse in his hand, his golden eyebrows arched, his sandy hair in that perfectly sculpted swoop back from his forehead.

He took a seat on another shabby sofa across a narrow coffee table from her and rested his ankle on his opposite knee. “A little pleasure reading?”

The blush radiated from somewhere deep inside to smolder under her skin. But she tried to shake it off. Even if he’d caught her in flagrante delicto, rehashing her allegedly immoral fantasies about him, he couldn’t read her mind. In fact, that’s why his whole ethical argument was bogus. Thoughts were private and secret, and almost always harmless.

She closed the paperback, using her ballpoint pen to mark the page. For a churchy book, the cover wasn’t bad. An artsy close up of a man’s neck clothed in a clerical collar, and the title in large white block print: Sins of the Fathers. In it, he’d detailed his studies of clergy who’d abused their spiritual authority by conducting affairs with parishioners or church employees.

Her thumb rested on the L of his name. “It’s not exactly a beach read, but it’s fascinating.”

“And informative, I hope.” He brought the espresso to his lips. The mug was ridiculously small in his big hands, and yet he looked perfectly suave and sophisticated drinking from it while wearing one of his designer suits, his free arm draped over the back of the ratty, salmon-colored sofa.

She couldn’t believe this lowbrow café even stocked demitasses. Perhaps they kept only one of the fancy little cups, under a sign that read For the Sole Use of Professor Dominic Lawrence.

“Yes, very informative.” She shrugged, knowing her answer wasn’t what he’d intended in writing the book and yet also how very much he valued honesty. “I feel sorry for the victims, but honestly, I pity these priests too. Their stress, their isolation, their longing to be fully loved.”

“Of course you do.” His tight smile was either affectionate or patronizing—she was never quite sure.

“Your analysis of their motivation is…” She was no expert, but it seemed ethically flawless, only it was missing something.  “It’s a little unsympathetic.”

A flash of white teeth tipped his smile in the direction of warm affection and she wanted to bask in it, to fan the flickering feeling that just maybe he found her special, interesting, pretty.

“I’d love to argue this with you,” he said. “But I have precisely two minutes to drink my espresso, and I wanted to respond to the paper proposal you emailed me.”

“Oh, okay.” Every conversation with him felt rushed, like he was always on the way somewhere, leaving her with unspoken questions and embarrassingly futile desires.

“Your outline is very solid and you’re taking an interesting direction.”

“You don’t think including the example of my brother is too personal?”

He swallowed a sip of the coffee, his Adam’s apple bobbing. Even after reading his damn book, she wanted to lick it.

“Not at all,” he said. “I think it’s very moving, and perfectly appropriate to the assignment.”

Very moving? It was always the little glimpses of his heart that made her most curious. “Thanks. I’ll go ahead with it, then.”

“I look forward to reading it.” He tipped the last of the coffee to his mouth, the red cup a match for the tie he wore—mottled with penny-sized red hearts.

Even if it was the day before Valentine’s Day, the tie was so unlike his usual power stripes or tasteful paisleys that she leaned forward and squinted to be sure she hadn’t mistaken the pattern.

He smoothed it with his fingers. “Ugly, isn’t it?”

“Not at all. It’s just not your usual style.”

He held her gaze, and his stare felt like a silent commentary on the fact she paid attention to his style, but it was probably just his typical cranked-up intensity.

“Well, I’m off.” He set the little saucer and mug down with a clatter. “I’m preaching on the Feast of St. Valentine in chapel today. Retelling the story of his martyrdom at the hands of the Romans as an antidote to all the saccharine romantic love greeting card and chocolate manufacturers want us to associate with the day.”

“Wow. Sounds festive. Sorry I have to miss it—paper to write.”

He chuckled from deep in his throat, tapped his watch, stood and walked away.

She reopened the book and underlined the passage she’d been pondering. To indulge in sexual fantasies…is undoubtably a form of sexual abuse.

She found herself doodling one of the hearts from his tie in the margin, carefully inking in the crosshatch pattern that gave it a plump, 3-D look.

Valentine's Rewind giveawayPoor, hot Professor Lawrence. Maybe she should send him chocolates and a romantic greeting card with an anonymous note reminding him that God made us with bodies, and desires, and that he might feel better if he indulged his once in a while. Lord knows, they probably both needed to get laid. The difference was, if Jordan could ever dislodge the fantasies of him from her mind, she might meet a nice if less hot guy to love her, while Professor Lawrence seemed dead set on denying himself that, and any pleasure.


Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this little preview of Jordan and Dominic’s story! The next stop on the hop is Jodie Griffin Be sure to comment on each story to be eligible for the massive giveaway at the end. Full Schedule Here.
Leave me a comment here for a chance to win a signed print copy of one of my backlist books in the Blood Vine or Siren series.
Thanks for joining us for #ValentinesRewind! ♥

Not A Mistake Ebook CoverNot A Mistake (Hot Under Her Collar, #1)

Sometimes a scandal isn’t a sin…

On the night she graduates from seminary, Jordan Sykes finds herself in bed with Dominic Lawrence, the ethics professor she’s crushed on for years. Two months later, she discovers she’s pregnant and is determined to hide it to protect his career. Maybe, if she loves her new church like hell, they won’t fire her for being a single mother.

Dominic knows the difference between right and wrong, and he’s filled with remorse after sleeping with his favorite student. He’s offered the job of his dreams, but he’d be a hypocrite to accept without making things right with Jordan first.

Dominic proposes marriage to save their careers, never expecting they will prove a perfect—and passionate—match. But can Jordan give her heart to a man who still believes the first night they spent together was a mistake?

Now Available for Preorder:  Amazon  | iBooks | Goodreads

Kicking off the Valentine’s Rewind Blog Hop

Valentine's Rewind Social Media GraphicI’m thrilled to be participating in the Valentine’s Rewind Blog Hop this week. Along with posting a new, original Valentine’s scene, I’ll be doing a giveaway on my Friday post (An eARC of my upcoming release, and a signed paperback from my backlist, winner’s choice!).

But before then, you get to enjoy 20 original stories from these amazing authors!

Some authors will have their own giveaways, but we’ll also have one massive prize pack at the end of the week! One lucky winner will be the recipient of a huge gift bag, including gift cards, signed paperbacks, ebooks, and other V-day swag.

For a chance to win, all you’ve got to do is leave one little love note on each author’s post. On Valentine’s Day, we’ll pick one commenter at random to get the whole shabang. So start today and stay tuned all week for the Valentine Rewind–the links are posted below, but they won’t go live until the day they are scheduled.

 

Valentine's Rewind giveaway

 

Monday 2/8

Tamsen Parker

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Nicole Helm

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Julia Kelly

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Rebekah Weatherspoon

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Adriana Anders

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Tuesday 2/9

Zoe York

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CJ Lemire

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Alexis Anne

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Jennifer Blackwood

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Wednesday 2/10

Rebecca Grace Allen

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Emma Barry

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Audra North

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Kelly Maher

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Jeanette Grey

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Thursday 2/11

Karen Stivali

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KK Hendin

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Rebecca Paula

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Alexandra Haughton

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Kasey Lane

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Friday 2/12

Amber Belldene

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Jodie Griffin

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Alyssa Cole

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Suleikha Snyder

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Teresa Noelle Roberts

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Cover Reveal — Not A Mistake (Hot Under Her Collar, Book #1)

I’m so excited to reveal the cover of my upcoming release Not A Mistake (Hot Under Her Collar, Book #1).

To me, the most important thing about a cover is that it captures the feel of the book, and so I love this couple — their chemistry is a perfect match for Jordan and Dominick’s!

Not A Mistake Ebook Cover

Here’s the blurb:

Not A Mistake

Hot Under Her Collar, Book One

Sometimes a scandal isn’t a sin…

On the night she graduates from seminary, Jordan Sykes finds herself in bed with Dominic Lawrence, the ethics professor she’s crushed on for years. Two months later, she discovers she’s pregnant and is determined to hide it to protect his career. Maybe, if she loves her new church like hell, they won’t fire her for being a single mother.

Dominic knows the difference between right and wrong, and he’s filled with remorse after sleeping with his favorite student. He’s offered the job of his dreams, but he’d be a hypocrite to accept without making things right with Jordan first.

Dominic proposes marriage to save their careers, never expecting they will prove a perfect—and passionate—match. But can Jordan give her heart to a man who still believes the first night they spent together was a mistake?

Here’s how you can be sure not to miss this book!

Request an advanced ebook copy for review.

Add Not A Mistake to your Goodreads TBR.

Coming Out of My Cave in 2016

 

emerging from cave I spent most of 2015 in my writing cave, which is totally my happy place. I was working hard on several projects that I’m super excited about. Some of them are still top secret, but now that it’s a new year, some of them get to see the light!

That’s right—the books are coming! I’m planning a release schedule of 4-5 novels this year.

The first release, Not A Mistake (March 15), is my first foray into self-publishing, and it’s been really fun! It’s book one in my new contemporary series, Hot Under Her Collar, about young women clergy. Its uptight but swoony hero, of all the characters I’ve written, is the one I most wish I could magically make real. (Keep in mind, my Blood Vine series vampires actually are real, so I’m not offending them.)

You can read the blurb for Not A Mistake and add the book to your Goodreads TBR here.

Two Siren Romances are also scheduled to release with Lyrical this year as a follow up to The Siren’s Touch. Those books are ridiculously fun to write and I hope equally fun to read!

And now for a New Year’s Resolution…

Like a lot of authors, putting words on the page makes me happy. Inviting other people to read them makes me itch. Frankly, marketing is a skill set they don’t teach in seminary (which may explain the declining attendance in so many churches).

Also, I’m a raging extrovert. Surprisingly enough, trying to think through marketing plans mostly alone, with occasional panicked phone calls to my expert author friends was not the right approach for me (though my friends were always really nice about it J).

So, this year I asked for help.

I’m working with the awesome Lizzes at Liztastic Author Services to make some marketing plans, so that I feel less itchy and anxious about inviting others to read my book. It’s already working!

Now I feel like this:

cub in cave

 

Instead of like this:

polar bear in cave

 

You’ll probably see me around a lot more online. Liz Blue promises to be a little Dommey about prodding me not to disappear back into the writing cave. Oh, here she is now, cracking the whip! I better get back to work!

 

Bear-Tamer-Final.0

 

 

Coming Soon! — Not A Mistake

coming-soon_0

Hi friends,

I am so excited to announce the first book in what will be a big year of releases for me.  Not A Mistake will release on March 15! It’s the first book in the Hot Under Her Collar series.

Yep, you guessed it! In the Hot Under Her Collar books, Sex in the City goes to Seminary! Four ordinary young women, who happen to be newly ordained ministers, will fumble through their first jobs and find love, whether they want to or not. Although the women are clergy, these books do not qualify as Inspirational Romance because they have plenty of steamy sex in them. In fact, I hope they will inspire readers with all sorts of romantic feelings, because desire is divine!

Here’s the blurb:

Not A Mistake

Hot Under Her Collar, Book One

Sometimes a scandal isn’t a sin…

On the night she graduates from seminary, Jordan Sykes finds herself in bed with Dominic Lawrence, the ethics professor she’s crushed on for years. Two months later, she discovers she’s pregnant and is determined to hide it to protect his career. Maybe, if she loves her new church like hell, they won’t fire her for being a single mother.

Dominic knows the difference between right and wrong, and he’s filled with remorse after sleeping with his favorite student. He’s offered the job of his dreams, but he’d be a hypocrite to accept without making things right with Jordan first.

Dominic proposes marriage to save their careers, never expecting they will prove a perfect—and passionate—match. But can Jordan give her heart to a man who still believes the first night they spent together was a mistake?

Sounds fun, right? Here’s how you can be sure not to miss this book!

Request an advanced ebook copy for review.

Add Not A Mistake to your Goodreads TBR.

 

 

 

 

The Siren’s Touch release day!

 

Sirens Touch
My blog is pretty much officially in hibernation mode while I write my booty off and work at mommyhood and the day job, but it’s going to peek its head out of the cave today!

The book formerly known as…

I am so excited that The Siren’s Touch releases today! It’s a book very dear to my heart and the beginning of a fun new project!

The idea was born during my research for the Blood Vine series, as I was steeped in slavic folklore. It’s a dark fairytale with a solid dose of humor, as readers who know my books will expect from me.

But there’s something about that mix of dark and playful that makes it damn hard to market a book. Once upon a time, this story was called Temptress in a Teapot, and I often still think of it that way, even though it was really too silly a title for this sexy siren story.

If you decide to read The Siren’s Touch, please consider taking a few minutes afterward to post an honest review. Whether it’s good, bad, or meh, honest reviews help authors get discovered by readers and help readers find the books they’ll love.

 

Buy The Siren’s Touch at these online retailers:

   

 

Blurb:

One touch can change everything…

Hitman Dmitri Lisko is determined to avenge his father. Once he takes out the man he believes is responsible for his family’s tragedies, he’s done killing for good. But a mysterious woman may tempt Dmitri to change his plan.

Sonya Truss was murdered in a Ukrainian village in 1968. Now she’s reappeared in San Francisco as a rusalka—the ghost of a wronged woman. And she’s thirsty for the blood of her killer. But she has to make things right before she’s trapped between worlds forever.

Sonya’s enigmatic siren powers stir Dmitri’s long-buried chivalry, and he finds himself compelled to help her. He also can’t resist giving her a taste of the pleasures she never experienced while she was alive. Soon they discover that touch has surprising consequences. Yet when their shared mission comes to cross-purposes, they must choose between deadly sacrifice—or surrendering to the one act that can save them both.

60,000 Words

 

 

Excerpt from The Siren’s Touch

The teapot jostled like there was a frog inside.

He had to be hallucinating. Holy hell, he’d never been this hungover. Then again, he’d never been on a thirty-day bender either. Quitting cold turkey after a vodka-soaked month was bound to be rough on the system. The teapot was definitely not jittering, only his sanity. Caffeine might help.

He lifted the little round thing by the handle. A gust of steam poured out as deep-brown liquid trickled from its spout into his mug—an antique glass cup wrapped in silver filigree. In his hand, the teapot shook, jostling his arm.

Damn it. That was no hallucination.

A sudden puff of steam collided with his face. He set the teapot down and wiped his moist eyes. When he opened them again, he was certain he’d lost his mind.

Hovering over Elena’s postcard-perfect traditional Ukrainian table setting was a shimmering tea-colored woman. No, not a woman.

He reached for his weapon, knocking his chair to the floor. Scrambling across the room, he got as far as he could get from that…thing.

Back pressed to the wall, his heart drummed against his sternum. What the hell was she?

She dripped brown droplets of smoky Russian Caravan onto the table and gasped for air with her gossamer hands clasped at her neck. Her brown eyes stretched wide in her heart-shaped face.

Had he completely lost his mind? “Fuck.”

The thing yelped, flying away and leaving a sprinkling of tea droplets in her wake. As they fell to the ground, she grew whiter, becoming the soft, shiny color of a perfect pearl.

A ghost. Holy hell.

All his skin rose up in goose bumps. Could you shoot a ghost? Or a hallucination? He was damn sure going to try. He took aim.

She coughed and coughed and coughed some more, making a horrible wet retching sound. Then she darted to a spot near the window, bending her spectral shape over to hack, as if she could clear her throat. Only it didn’t seem to be working.

Without thinking, he lowered his weapon. “Breathe, girl. Be calm.”

Slowly, she straightened, and her chest rose and fell in the rhythm of breath. The sun shone through her translucent form, highlighting a smoking hot set of curves under a long, wet nightgown. Large brown nipples poked through the ghostly, damp fabric, and a dark vee between her legs drew his gaze.

Hell.

This wet dream of a sexy, drowned ghost was proof he’d jumped into the deep end.


 

The Siren’s Touch on Pinterest

I find Pinterest one of the most helpful research tools when writing. I can capture the people and places that inspired me and return to the images to double check details. The bonus is a fun photo board to share with readers. Check it out to see beautiful Kiev, Ukrainian teapots, and the very handsome prize fighter Vladimir Klitschko, who inspired Dmitri.

Release Day! One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo

OSNiSP_cover

Cassie Wilson is not me.

She’s the heroine of my novella, One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo, which releases today. And she’s a seminarian, which I once was. Unlike the heroes and heroines in my paranormal romance series Blood Vine, I have never been an ancient vampire queen, a blood slave, or a love-shy widow in lust with a curmudgeonly blood sucker.  Somehow, on my other release days, I never felt the need to point that out :-)

But One Sinful Night is different.  It’s my contemporary debut, and it has a premise I once actually lived.  The story revolves around a young woman about to go off to seminary.  More than ten years ago, I did the very thing and now I am an Episcopal priest.

The thing is, Cassie is a notorious good girl, and I don’t think anyone has called me that since middle school. Cassie’s struggle isn’t mine, although I faced many while finding my identity as a young clergy woman.  Hers isn’t uncommon, though—the desire to be sexually whole and free while also being a responsible, virtuous woman.  Many women, not just clergy, share this longing, and it was really fun to write about the man she loved trying to figure her out.

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write books set in the church because it’s got so much potential for juicy conflict, so much wonderful pathos and empathy, and also occasionally over the top bad behavior in both the pews and the pulpit. One Sinful Night was my first attempt, and if you decide to read it, I hope you’ll have as much fun traveling with Adam and Cassie to Sao Paulo as I did.


Blurb

Cassie Wilson has traveled to Brazil for her brother’s wedding; yet she’s the one with cold feet. She’s all set to begin seminary, but she’s sick and tired of being treated like a saint, especially by the best man. What she really needs is one sexy night with him to ease her jitters and give her a taste of normal life.

Adam Forrester crashed and burned at his dream job, screwing up all his hopes for a better life. Now he’s moved home to start over, but first he must confront the irresistible Cass, apologize for whatever happened on that drunken night he can’t remember, and make damn sure it doesn’t happen again. Only she has other plans.

He has typecast her as the good girl in his heart. Can she force him to see her as a real woman, desires and all?

One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo is a novella, approximately 80 pages long.

Buy here: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Blood Vine

Excerpt

Well, that had gone better than Adam expected. She hadn’t hit him, which he probably deserved. Though, he wasn’t completely sure what he had coming to him.

Justin tucked his chin in astonishment. “What the hell? Cassie, get back here and say hello.”

Adam couldn’t tell him that she had every right to be mad, or he’d go from best man to worst enemy in three seconds flat. “It’s cool. I’m sure she’s just tired.”

The back door slammed.

He took a deep breath. Best to clear the air and move on. “I’ll go check on her.” He strode away before Justin could argue.

Outside, she sat cross-legged on a bench against the garden wall, looking up. Above them, the clouds reflected back the city’s lights so brightly a night driver wouldn’t need headlights.

She didn’t spare him a glance. “You seem to have missed the hint, Adam. I don’t want to talk to you.”

“We have to walk out of the church together arm in arm on Saturday, so this is going to be a shitty couple of days if we can’t be civil, especially for Justin.”

She looked at her fingernails. “I’m always civil. I just want a little space.”

“Look, Cass, I know this is awkward. I really am sorry for what happened.”

Whatever that was, exactly, that resulted in your panties beside my pillow.

Her gray eyes settled on him, like Justin’s but prettier—almond shaped with thick lashes, so unsettlingly clear. The eyes he thought of when someone used that cliché ‘so-and-so has an old soul.’ And he only had a clue what the saying meant because of Cass.

“What are you sorry for?”

This he could answer truthfully, despite all he failed to remember. “That was no way to treat a girl like you.”

“A girl like me.” She smiled down at her knees.

He didn’t know what to make of her words or the strange curve of her lips, so he continued to study her.

She wore a faded pair of jeans, thready hems hanging over her sneakers. She never dressed so casually. Even in high school, she’d always worn skirts, old-fashioned ones that looked cute on her but would have looked geeky on anyone else. She had a classy kind of polish he’d always liked, different from the perfect shine on the women he’d worked with, and slept with, in New York.

Cassie glanced up at the house and licked her lips before rubbing them together.

No. She was nothing like those women. She was sweet, pretty, and so fucking kissable. And he hoped that was all he’d done that night, because a girl like her deserved better than a guy like him.


I’ve got a little giveaway going on to celebrate this release, if you’d like to enter to win an Amazon gift card, or a copy of the novella: Rafflecopter giveaway.

And can I get a shout out for this AMAZING cover? In the holiday shuffle, I haven’t been able to learn who did the design, but I absolutely love it and can’t wait to say thanks to the artist!

And, as always, if you read and enjoy the book, please take a second to review it! Reviews are the currency of author discoverability!

An Almost True Story–12 Days of Christmakwanzaka Blog Hop

12 Days Revision (1)I’m thrilled to be part of the 12 Days of Christmakwanzaka Blog Hop!  Be sure to stop by the other stories–there have been some really great ones this week!

BTW, after the story, I have some news and the link to a giveaway.

When Julia and Alyssa invited me, I instantly knew I wanted to write about a surreal moment I experienced last December, when I was on my way to a party where I would dress like this:

 

FullSizeRender (2)

 

Yep, that’s me dressed as Mrs. Claus.  With that clue and a caveat that I’m a happily married woman, I’ll leave it up to you to separate fact from fiction in this little story.  Tell me any theories you have in the comments! And I hope you enjoy this short, free read!


Vic shoved open the door to the Railroad Cafe.

“Extra large coffee.”

“Sure thing, officer.” The barista gave him a cup to fill from the array of pump pots. She didn’t ring him up, so he dropped two bucks into her tip jar.

He chose his usual, the extra-dark roast. The rich coffee steam smelled damn good, but it didn’t change the fact he hated this shift—watching a stop sign on a busy residential street.

This time of year, drivers assumed the department was trying to close a gap in their budget, which just made them more pissed off to get fined. He’d spent years patrolling the streets of Fallujah, watching Iraqi women and children grasp at normal lives.  Compared to that life and death shit, being an expensive nuisance to drivers felt like a waste of everyone’s time. But it was his job until a position opened up on the SWAT team, and the coffee was better here than on base.

The second he dropped behind the wheel, a car rolled past the stop sign.  Silver sedan, a little body damage.  From the driver’s long hair, probably a female.  He flipped on the flashers and rounded the corner, accelerating fast to catch up with the vehicle.

Her bumper sticker read, Make Love Not War, with peace signs for Os like something out of the sixties.

Dated, maybe, but he’d been to war, and he had no beef with the slogan.

He beeped his siren once and she pulled over fast.

At the driver’s window, dark hair with pink streaks greeted him. Also big hazel eyes, a little stud in her nose. The kind of girl he’d stared at hungrily across the high school cafeteria, but who didn’t fly with his clean-cut ROTC buddies.  She rolled down the window and the scent of candy canes hit him.  Boxes of them were stacked in her passenger seat, like she was a pink-haired elf on a special delivery.

“License and registration please.”

She already had them out and her hand shook.  Tattooed barbed wire circled her pale, narrow wrist, and her  arm was covered in goosebumps. Was she afraid of him? He’d hated that in Iraq. She squinted up at him, her eyes glassy.  Maybe she was high. He wanted to look at her pretty face until he figured it out, but instead he took the papers back to the patrol car.

He ran her through the computer. Amelia Scola. Spotless record.

Still…she’d rolled through that stop sign…

Back at her car, he passed her documents through the open window, briefly glimpsing her neon pink bra through a sheer white tee-shirt. At the thought of those small breasts bare, his mouth went dry. What was it about this girl?

“Ma’am, are you aware you failed to make a complete stop at the last intersection?”

“Did I?” She blew out a breath. “Molly told me not to drive.” Like the glassy surface of her eyes had melted, tears began to pool in her lids.

Please don’t. “Why’s that?”

She sniffed, her tears spilling.

Shit. His own eyes began to prickle. Last time this happened, when that dog owner started blubbering, Vic’s partner had given him hell for it.  Just his luck, he’d turned into one of those sympathetic criers, like his mom. Thank God for sunglasses.

“No need to cry, ma’am. I just asked a question.”

“I’m sorry.  God, this is embarrassing.  I have a killer migraine. But I have to get to work. I’ve never gotten a ticket—” She wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

A migraine. That explained her glassy eyes.

The tears building behind his own eyes finally escaped down his cheeks. He brushed them away with a silent prayer she hadn’t seen. But her eyes widened enough to convince him she had.

“You get migraines a lot?”

“Just sometimes.” She sniffed again, not a feminine sound, and yet intimate. It made him want to know her better, hear the other little sounds she made—of joy, or surprise.  If only he’d met her five minutes ago, back in the coffee shop—before the traffic violation and the damn crying.  “It started to get better, and I really have to get to work.”

“What’s so important that you have to go in sick?”

“I have to—” She hiccuped. “I have to dress up as Mrs. Claus at a party for foster kids.”

“Yeah, right. Mrs. Claus doesn’t have a nose piercing.”

“It comes out. And see.” She pointed her thumb toward the back seat, where a white-fur-trimmed red dress hung.

Well, shit. Miss Make Love Not War worked with foster kids? No way was he writing her a ticket. And not just because he couldn’t help but think of getting her naked on top of all that red velvet and fake fur.

He rapped his knuckles on the top of her car.  “Ma’am, I’m going to send you off with a warning–this citation would have set you back more than three-hundred dollars.”

“Thank you.”  She brushed away a tear from her cheek, and the damp trails of his own suddenly felt cold.

“Just doing my job.” And in that job he was strictly forbidden to ask out women when he pulled them over for traffic violations. Not that it mattered—what kind of woman would go out with a cop who cried instead of writing her a ticket?

“Really, thanks a million.” She smiled at him, her mask of fear and pain transformed—she was so captivating he could only nod and walk away.

Behind the wheel, watching her drive off, her sudden smile seemed all wrong. Had she really had a headache? Fuck. Probably not.

And no way was little tattooed-and-pierced Amelia Scola dressing up as Mrs. Claus.  She’d seen his tears and made him for a sucker, and he’d swallowed her line about foster kids hook, line, and sinker.

Two Days Later

“It’s totally him.” Amelia leaned close to Molly and whispered to her friend.

Blue eyes, impossibly long lashes, and he’d cried in sympathy of her Mrs. Claus predicament. She hadn’t stopped thinking about him, even though cops were so not her type. She’d been arrested enough times in her wayward youth to have major residual fear of that species of men. Except him.

“That’s officer cry baby?” Molly took a sip of her hard cider, eyes trained across the room. “Way hotter than I pictured.”

“Told you.”

He sat at a booth, surrounded by other guys who had the rumpled look of off duty cops. The Philosopher’s Club was Amelia and Molly’s local drinking hole.  Their buddy tended the dive’s bar, full of community college students and the blue collar folks who eked a living in this far corner of San Francisco. The cops and firefighters usually hung out one block up at Portal’s Tavern, but PT’s had a sign up that said closed until New Year’s Eve.

Amelia took a swig of her vodka gimlet, hoping it would cool the flush in her cheeks.

Officer Lopez sat straight and stoic as the other guys laughed, one of them even punching his shoulder. Maybe it was the light, but his high cheekbones looked a little pink, too.

The urge to thank him overwhelmed her. “I’m going over there.”

“To a table full of cops? Gi-rrrr-lll.” Molly shook her head with disbelief, drawing the word out into three syllables.

Determined, Amelia ducked under a sagging strand of Christmas lights. But halfway to his booth, her memories came back—the half-dozen times she’d been arrested for shop lifting, loitering, petty things any kid living on the street had to do.  There’d been nice cops, but she mostly remembered the ones who’d threatened or propositioned her. Mid-stride she lost her nerve and detoured, hiding behind a partition to rethink her plan.

The other cops spoke loudly, perfectly audible from her new location.  They were razzing Lopez about something…An old lady who’d tripped on the curb…An effeminate man who’d lost his dog…

Ah, hell.

Both times he’d cried in sympathy, and these guys weren’t going to cut him a break about it.

With no thought but to spare Lopez, she marched toward the cops acting just like the macho pricks she expected them to be.  Recognition transformed his impassive features, and his bright blue eyes burned with anger.

At her? Maybe he’d seen her record and regretted letting her go. She faltered but forced her feet forward. All that stuff was sealed tight since she’d been a minor. “Hi.”

“I don’t have anything to say to you.”

Ouch. Maybe he was another macho prick after all.  She should spin right around and return to Molly, but something about his fiery, pissed-off stare held her. She didn’t want to be afraid.

The men seated around him shifted, raked their gazes over her. Assholes.

“I can think of lots to say to her,” one volunteered.

“She,” Amelia said, “doesn’t want to hear it from you.”

“Go away, Ms. Scola,” Lopez growled.

Her skin broke out in goosebumps. He remembered her name.

“So now you’re hard as nails?” asked one of the cops, who jabbed him in the ribs. “Just tremble your lower lip, sugar. He’ll buy you a drink.”

Her handsome cop scowled, and she took a step back, ready to retreat.

“I’ll buy her a drink if Vic won’t,” said another cop.

She opened her mouth to refuse, but Officer Lopez said it first. “No.”

He vaulted himself over the table in one blurry movement, took firm hold of her elbow, and steered her toward the bar. If only it was to buy her a drink, and not to keep her from adding another story to their case against him.

“How was the party?” he growled.

“Uh?” Weird question. “My head pounded the whole time, but otherwise it was fine.”

“Give me a break. We both know you made that up to get out of a ticket.”

“Excuse me?” She grabbed her phone, calling up the pictures as proof. When she found one capturing an adorable pair of girls seated on her lap, she handed it over.

He sucked his cheeks in a little as he contemplated the picture. After a long moment, he said, “I thought for sure you’d fed me a bullshit story.”

“Geez. Suspicious much. You saw my costume.”

“Yeah. But you don’t exactly seem like the baking cookies type.”

She crossed her arms. “Hey. I can pre-heat the oven and slice store-bought cookie dough as well as anybody.”

He cracked a smile, like she’d hoped he would. “I guess I’m a little defensive about…” He shrugged and averted his gaze. “You know…the guys think I’m a softie.”

Her belly fluttered. He was so big and hot and freaking adorable. “Those guys seem like assholes.”

“They’re all right. Just being cops.”

“I don’t like cops much.”

He stiffened.

“Not usually, I mean.” On him, it was totally working for her. She reached up and smoothed the collar on his flannel shirt. His shoulders fell a little, relaxing under the touch. “See, I wasn’t always a good girl.”

“Are you one now?” One brow cocked over his blue eyes, stoking some hidden fire inside her.

“Mostly. Though I have my naughty moments.”

“I certainly hope so.” He clasped her wrists.

The gesture could have freaked her out from some other guy, but with him, it felt safe, good.

“And I wouldn’t worry about being a softie, Officer Lopez. From where I’m standing you’re hard in all the important places. Although, obviously I’d have to step closer, to be absolutely sure.”

He nodded gravely. “Well, we want you to be sure.” His big hands came around her waist, pulling her close enough to whisper in her ear. “You know, the other day, I was sorry we’d met like that, and not some other place.”

A rare sort of hopeful excitement bubbled up in her.  “Yeah? Why?”

“So I could do this.” His mouth brushed hers. Soft, careful lips. So much control.

She inched closer, pressing into him, opening her mouth to his tongue, and her heart to this one cop whom she wanted to know a lot better.


scavenger-hunt1

  • Want to play a Romance scavenger hunt?

  • Want to see me in my pajamas?

  • Want to hear the Rev. Amber Belldene Rx for how to get over a break up? Come play!

I’m participating in a fun author video scavenger hunt this month.  It’s hosted by Rachel at the RayKayBooks blog.  You can find an explanation here, with links to all the videos and giveaway, including the chance to have a secondary character in one of my books named after you.


 

blank-book-cover-graphicMy novella One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo will release Jan 5th from Entangled Publishing.  For news of that release and future books, please Sign up for my newsletter

On Turning Sappy: some thoughts about Christmas

The_Grinch_(That_Stole_Christmas)I’ll admit it.  I’m kind of a Grinch.  I like the Christmas season, but left to my own devices, I would be a minimalist about it.  The thing is, now I’m a mom, and that’s not an option.  As everyone keeps reminding me, it’s my job to create meaningful traditions for my kids, like my mom did for me, the dearest of which I still keep.

This is the first year my kids really get it.  They are three and a half and they’ll be in the preschool Christmas pageant.  They know the story of the baby Jesus, of Saint Nicholas, and they can sing lots of carols.  (They also know about Hanukkah, but DD seems to confuse it with Halloween, because according to her there are some people that don’t celebrate Christmas but who light seven candles and get to wear princess costumes instead.)

The kids’ excitement and wonder is precious, and so I don’t mind the decorating and the music.  Plus, as all you parents out there know, the more crafts and activities on hand, the easier it is to manage 3.5 year old twins, who start messing with each other given an idle second.  The giant box of festive foam-sticker crafts my aunt sends is a lifesaver!

So I’m becoming less of a Grinch, but even more, I am becoming out right sappy.  This morning in the car, I got weepy at the words to the Victorian Christmas carol “I Saw Three Ships,” specifically the line “And all the bells on earth shall ring.”

What an image, when you stop to consider it!  The whole world proclaiming peace and love by ringing bells simultaneously. Like a ginormous, universal wedding peal, thinks this romance writer.

The church season of Advent is all about longing for a future of peace, as the medieval hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” says:

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

My personal longing is not for a world where suddenly everyone accepts Jesus as their king, but that all of us stop caring about being right or powerful, and simply make peace.

Every time I turn on the news, I long for it more.

Every time I have to explain the brokenness of the world to my kids, I long for it more.

I think that’s why I’m turning into a sap.

And this morning in the car, with the kids in their car seats, I started outright bawling at  “Do you Hear What I hear?”  A shepherd boy who goes to the king, to tell him about a child, shivering in the cold? Gah! What mother can listen to that without crying?

Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere! 

This year, when I hear these Christmas songs, I can’t help but think of the baby Jesus as every child born into poverty, oppression, unjustly killed.

So yeah. I’m a sap. And I’ll decorate and make crafts and drink peppermint mochas and take hundred of pictures of my mini-shepherd and my mini-angel and keep listening to Raffi Christmas in the car.  But now, in a way I didn’t really understand before, I know I’m doing it all to teach my kids to see what’s wrong in the world, and to work to change those things.  And of course, to pray for peace, with people everywhere.

My parents are divorced, and as salient as any holiday memories are the terrible fights they had over putting up the Christmas tree (I know, I know–the mystery of my Grinchdom explained!).  Last year, my husband and I made the strategic marital decision to buy an artificial tree.  I’m sure there will still be plenty of stress this season, but we want our kids to remember love and peace in our home, not arguments about whether the trunk is straight.

And when I’m all prayed out, or the Christmas cheer gets to be too much, I am going to pour myself a bourbon with a splash of eggnog, cuddle up with my husband on the couch, and read (or sometimes write) a romance novel.


scavenger-hunt1

  • Want to play a Romance scavenger hunt?

  • Want to see me in my pajamas?

  • Want to hear the Rev. Amber Belldene Rx for how to get over a break up? Come play!

I’m participating in a fun author video scavenger hunt this month.  It’s hosted by Rachel at the RayKayBooks blog.  You can find an explanation here, with links to all the videos and giveaways, including the chance to have a secondary character in one of my books named after you.


blank-book-cover-graphic

My novella One Sinful Night in Sao Paulo will release Jan 5th from Entangled Publishing.  For news of that release and future books, please Sign up for my newsletter

Crammed Full of Gratitude  

Crammed full FridgeMy house is full of paper-and-glue turkeys made by my kids at preschool. My fridge is crammed full of an actual seventeen-pound turkey and all the ingredients for sides. It’s been impossibly hectic at work lately, although thankfully most of the tasks feel meaningful. My whole household has been struck down by a cold that turns into a cough and lasts forever. And we have seventeen of our best friends and family coming over for Thanksgiving Dinner tomorrow in our tiny little San Francisco house (Please don’t ask me where they are going to sit. I still have no idea!).

The virus in my body has demanded I sleep early and late, cutting into all my writing hours. But this morning I dragged myself out of bed and sat with my computer in the dark, peaceful house. I tried to write, but instead my thoughts ran to the meta, insisting I ponder why I write. That reflection morphed into this short list of things I’m grateful for about writing, and why I keep at it even when life is so full of other things to be thankful for.

  • The Romance Writers of America Community—When I first started writing, I was lost and alone, without a critique partner or a clue about the business of writing and selling romance, until I discovered RWA. I was thrilled when I learned I could go to a meeting right here in the Bay Area. Since then, I’ve made the most amazing friends and learned so much. Classes, conferences, contests—all of them were immeasurably helpful. But the very best part is the community of women. I’ve never been part of such a smart, supportive, fun, friendly, collaborative group before. It’s an honor and a privileged I am grateful for every day that I open my email, or log on to Twitter or Facebook.

  • Words—When I began writing historical books, I discovered that my public library provides free online access to the Oxford English Dictionary. Whenever I want to know the historical usage of a word or its detailed derivation, I pop on to the site. I love this resource, and I’ve lost hours chasing trails of etymologies. I confess I fall into a sense of awe when I do so, contemplating the history of language, how it changes, how we all use it and participate in its evolution. Language is what makes us human, and when I get sucked into the OED I love to revel in it.

  • Mirrors (of the metaphorical variety)—There are times when work and chores threaten to swallow up all my time and creative energy. But thankfully my husband, my friends, and my spiritual director will remind me not to succumb. They hold up a metaphorical mirror for me, and say things like, “Wow, your whole face lights up when you talk about your writing.” I love being a mom, a wife, a priest and a friend, but the folks who love me remind me that if I don’t make time for writing, I’m not taking care of my own soul, and so I am not filling any of those roles as well as I might.

  • Editors and Critique Partners—Lately, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to get people to tell you what you want to hear, and how much self-discipline is required to listen to the truth you need to hear instead. I’m immensely grateful for every critique partner and editor I’ve worked with. This kind of relationship is potentially profound, when people enter into it with trust, care for how feedback and suggestions are delivered, and the willingness to be unflinchingly honest. This level of sensitive, constructive honesty is a rare thing in the world, and I’m very grateful for it.

*I should probably confess that’s not actually my fridge in the photo. But this one captures how full I actually feel.