Friday, July 31, 2009

Extreme Close Up Chapter 4

Ally came to consciousness shortly before eight o’clock and the memory that Jack was there, sleeping in her spare bedroom, catapulted her mind into wakefulness. There was no way she was going back to sleep. With a sigh, she swung her legs out of bed and sat there.
Although she worked at home now, she disciplined herself to rise at seven-thirty every morning and stuck to a schedule as much as she could. But on weekends she allowed herself the luxury of staying in bed as long as she wanted and only worked if she felt a burning need to get stuff down. When things were going well with her writing, she just wanted to keep going and never stop. Too bad that hadn’t happened recently. Lately, she’d rather scrub her toilets than sit in front of that computer.
She loved sleeping in. Loved snuggling into the covers, inhaling the familiar warm scent of them, stretching her limbs against their silky softness, letting her mind wander wherever it wanted to.
But today…Jack was there. She slowly shook her head as she stood and walked into her bathroom to have a shower. It was unbelievable.
She pulled on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, leaving her feet bare. When she opened her door and stepped into the hallway, her eyes shot straight to the door of Jack’s room, still closed. Probably burnt out after traveling halfway around the world, not to mention all the emotional exhaustion of finding out he had a daughter.
She couldn’t imagine what that would be like. He must be completely thunderstruck. What had Brittany been thinking? But then, again, maybe Brittany had done him a favor. What would Jack’s life have been like had he known about the baby? He would have married Brittany. He likely wouldn’t have been able to go to college, probably would have gotten a job at the Garden City Sun, taking pictures of 4H events and little league games. He’d have been miserable without the excitement and adrenaline rush of getting those risky but revealing shots. Everyone always knew he was destined for great things with his incredible talent and adventurous streak.
In her small, bright kitchen she started a pot of coffee, plunged some bread into the toaster, then went to find her newspaper. Outside, she shivered in the damp morning air. The cement of her front doorstep chilled her bare toes. The rhythmic whoosh of the neighbor’s sprinkler watering his lush lawn had her frowning at the brown patch of grass in front of her building. Ah, well.
Back in the kitchen when she heard movement upstairs she tensed, then forced herself to relax. It was Jack, for God’s sake. The person in the world she should be most comfortable with. Except...everything was different. He was different.
His footsteps thunked down the stairs a few minutes later and she turned to him as he entered the kitchen. Her heart gave a little extra beat. She still couldn’t get over how he’d changed. He was a man.
She almost laughed at the thought. He’d always been a man. But now he was...a man. Big and dark, clear blue eyes compelling in his tanned face, the experiences he’d had gave him a mature, guarded look that was intensely masculine and...sexual. That intense, moody side of him she’d sometimes seen in high school seemed closer to the surface, and it was...disturbing.

“Good morning,” she said, smiling and trying to keep her voice from shaking. “Want some coffee?”
“Oh, yeah, I need coffee.”
She jumped off her stool to get a mug for him. She handed it to him and he poured the coffee.
“ need milk.”
He shook his head. “Nah. I’ve gotten used to it black. Black and really strong.”
“I have toast. Or blueberry muffins.” She leaned on the counter as he lifted the steaming cup to his lips, nicely shaped, firm but full. She dragged her gaze away from them. “And juice.”
“Toast is fine. I’m starving.”
She reached for the bread, but he waved her aside. “I can make it,” he said. “You finish yours. You got peanut butter?” “Sure.”
“God, I missed peanut butter.” He took the jar from her, opened it and sniffed it. “Oh, yeah.”
Something so simple gave him so much pleasure, and reminded her how long he’d been gone. “I’d love to hear about the places you’ve been. Sometime.”
“Be careful. I could talk for hours.”
He devoured the first two pieces of toast, popped two more into the toaster, then another two. She watched him finish off the loaf of bread with astonishment. “I guess I forgot how much you like to eat,” she told him faintly.
“I’ll buy you another loaf of bread.”
She looked at him and saw the glint in his eye.
“Damn right you will.”
They both grinned. And just like that, things were easy again.
With a feeling of buoyancy, Ally got up to slide their plates into the dishwasher and refill their coffee mugs. “Did you sleep okay?” she asked.
“Not really.” He shrugged. “Had a lot on my mind. I was kind of wired.”
“No kidding.” Her heart squeezed tightly in her chest. “It’ll be okay, Jack.”
One corner of his mouth deepened. “Sure. I guess I should call Brittany and let her know I’m here.” He looked at his watch, then reached for the cell phone on his belt. He thumbed through his contacts and then pressed the button to dial.
When he’d finished the awkward conversation with Brittany, they’d arranged to meet that afternoon at a Starbucks near her place. Then he tried Carter again, but once again, no luck.
Ally frowned. “I wonder if he’s out of town. He does travel back and forth to San Diego quite a bit.”
Jack nodded.
“So,” Ally said brightly. “Do you want me to come with you this afternoon?”

* * *

Jack knew he should be strong enough to do it on his own, but damn, he’d wanted her to come. Her calmness soothed him, made him feel like it would all be okay. And it wasn’t like they had any secrets from each other. He didn’t know what Brittany would think of it, but hey, why should he care - this was the woman who’d kept his daughter from him for nine years.
“Yeah, sure,” he’d said gruffly in response to her question. .
Now his gut clenched as he drove, following Ally’s directions to Pasadena. He pulled onto the freeway, accelerated up to the speed of the LA traffic. Sun glinted off speeding chrome and glass surrounding them, and heat shimmered off concrete as he manoeuvred the curves and lane changes. Ally told him which exit to take and soon they pulled into a strip mall parking lot, outside a Starbucks.
The cool air conditioning hit them as they walked in. The hiss and growl of the espresso machine floated over the chatter of the Saturday afternoon crowd and a rich warm coffee aroma scented the air. Brittany sat at a small table in the back.
She looked different. She wore her blonde hair shorter now, and fine lines around her eyes and mouth hinted at fatigue...and nerves.
The whole situation was surreal.
“I hope you don’t mind that Ally came,” he said to Brittany.
She shook her head. “No. That’s fine. It’s nice to see you again, Ally. Do you two want to get coffee?”
When they were all settled at the table, fragrant cups steaming in front of them, Brittany said, “Well. This is awkward.” All three huffed an uncomfortable laugh. “I guess I should start.”
Jack saw Ally smile encouragingly at Brittany. Ally and Brittany had been pretty good friends too.
“Um...where’s Sarah?” Jack asked.
“At home. With a babysitter. I didn’t want to just introduce you two to each other without preparing her. Or you.”
Jack nodded. Some of his tension seeped out of him at the knowledge he didn’t have to deal with that emotional land mine right now.
“I guess I owe you an apology first,” Brittany said slowly, looking down at her coffee. She swallowed, then raised her eyes to Jack’s. “I never told you about Sarah because I knew if I did, you would stay.”
He stared at her. “Oh.”
She continued. “I know you would have done whatever I wanted. You even would have married me if I’d pushed. You had so much talent, everyone knew you were going to do great things. I didn’t want to get in the way of that. And the truth is, I wasn’t ready to get married either. So I told you I’d had a miscarriage.” She looked away. “I came and stayed with my aunt and uncle here in Pasadena.”
“You’re not...married?” He felt Ally’s glance.
Brittany shook her head. “No. I almost got married...a couple of years ago. But...stuff got in the way.” She waved a hand. “Never mind about that right now.”
“Tell me more about Sarah.”
“Well, she’s nine years old. People say she looks like me.”
Jack smiled. “Blonde hair? Blue eyes?”
“Yes.” Pride glowed in her eyes. “And she’s smart, too. She learned how to read before she even started kindergarten and she gets great marks at school. Her teachers love her. She does ballet and gymnastics. Her favorite food is pepperoni pizza.”
“She sounds...perfect.”
Brittany made a face. “Well, she’s almost perfect.”
“So, when do I get to meet her?”
Brittany searched his face. “You really do want to meet her?”
His brows rose. “I wouldn’t have come home if I didn’t want to.”
Relief lightened her features. “That’s good. I know I called you out of the blue, but...”
“Why did you call me now, Britt?”

Extreme Close Up Chapter 5

If you're enjoying Extreme Close Up, please consider going to TextNovel and voting for it - you have to register, which is a pain, but only takes a minute and there are lots of other great stories there, too!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sheldon Barnes has been...

If you've read How to Save a Life you know Sheldon Barnes is the psychopathic serial killer.
He was recently moved from a California institute to "The Brink" - the papers below might be a little small to read but I think if you click on it you'll see it full screen. They do art therapy at The Brink so the picture below is one of Sheldon's twisted pieces of art.

For more info about The Brink check this out :

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week I finished Crazy Wild by Tara Janzen. Another great story. I love how her characters are all such individuals. Creed is a wounded hero. It was kind of funny how one of the themes of this story echoes my own book that's out this week, How to Save a Life. Creed is the big tough agent trying to save Cody's life, but in the end they really save each other.

One more to read - Crazy Kisses - and then I can get the newest one out this month, Breaking Loose, can't wait!

And I also read Bending the Rules by Susan Andersen. She has a great style and tells a good story, too, this one features a character from her last book, Poppy, from Cutting Loose.

Just starting: True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson. I've never read a Rachel Gibson book but I thought I should check it out. Will report back next week!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Today I'm blogging about my new release at the Amber Heat and Amber Allure authors blog....

And tomorrow some interesting information about the villain in the story...!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Release day contest - we have a winner!

Well that didn't take long! I've emailed the winner re: format, thanks everyone for emailing, you guys ROCK!

Release day and contest!

My second Amber Quill Press book is out today (Amber Heat) – How to Save a Life.

Marli McKinnon returns to Cactus Jack’s Saloon, hoping to find the man who murdered her best friend. Instead she meets another stranger - a big, gorgeous man with whom she shares a surprising connection, to whom she’s unwillingly attracted.

FBI Special Agent Trey Nicholson’s life was ripped apart by the biggest screw-up of his career. When Trey realizes with horror that the serial killer he let get away has killed again, he too feels a need to do something. Each motivated by guilt, Trey and Marli work together to try to find the killer before he kills again...before he kills Marli.

Trey would be absolutely mortified by this, but he’s up for Hottest Hero at The Romance Studio - Summer 2009 go vote for him! Trey’s a bossy, overprotective FBI agent who saves Marli’s life more than once. Only he doesn’t realize she’s not the only one who needs saving - and there’s more than one way to save a life.

Here’s a photo that inspired Trey…


Okay this one’s tricky, so I’m leaving it open indefinitely. The first one to email me at and answer this question wins a free download of How to Save a Life:

Which of my other books has a small connection to How to Save a Life, and what is the connection?

HINT: You don’t have to have read How to Save a Life, just the excerpt on the Amber Heat website , or my website but you would have to read the other book….

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Extreme Close Up Chapter 3

Sorry this is late! I was away at a lake cottage with NO INTERNET ACCESS. I survived, but barely :-)

Jack sat back and took a breath. “Okay. Remember Brittany Fullerton?”
She blinked. “Yes, of course.” How could she forget? Brittany had been Jack’s high school girlfriend. In their senior year, Brittany had gotten pregnant. It had been an agonizing time for all of them―Jack and his family, Brittany’s family, Ally and Carter too, as they tried to help their best friend get through it.
“Well,” he wrestled with the words. “She didn’t have a miscarriage.”
She stared at him. “Huh? Yes she did.”
“No. She told me she did. Her parents made her stay away from me. She called me and told me she’d had a miscarriage. Then we went away to college and I never saw her again. Apparently she moved away from Garden City and lived with some relatives. She had the baby in December that year.”
“Oh my God,” Ally whispered, her breath catching. Holy freaking crap. “How do you know that?”
“She called me. A couple of weeks ago.”
Ally shook her head, still dumbfounded. “She called you? How did she know how to get hold of you?” And I didn’t, were the unspoken words in her head.
“She tracked me down through the agency. She e-mailed me. It took a while for it to get around to me. When I got it, I called her. She lives in LA now, believe it or not.”
“Wow. I don’t know what to say.” She blinked, her head whirling. How could this be? Questions ricocheted around in her brain. “Why? Why did she call you now? Why did she keep that from you all these years? Oh, my God, Jack.”
“I know. I had all the same questions.” He gave her a rueful smile. “I only talked to her for a few minutes on the phone so I don’t have all the answers yet.”
“Is you have a son...or a daughter?” Her insides clenched with emotions that she couldn’t even begin to identify, so many of them, tangled and twisting.
“A daughter.” Jack’s lips compressed and he looked down at his hands. “She’s nine years old. Her name is Sarah.”
“Wow.” No other words came to mind. Just...“Wow.”
“Yeah. Took me by surprise, too. My life is pretty much turned upside down right now.”
“Oh, Jack.”
Memories of the night Jack had told her about Brittany’s pregnancy flooded Ally’s mind, all those emotions deluging her again, and her throat closed up. He’d been devastated by the pregnancy, had agonized over what to do. He’d wanted so badly to do the right thing, but the choices he’d faced had been formidable―standing by Brittany and being a father to his child, or leaving to pursue the photojournalism career he’d always wanted. No, not just wanted. He’d been destined for that career.
He was her best friend. Back then she’d vowed to stand by him no matter what, and she had. And she would do it again. Her anger toward him dissipated like morning fog in the sun. She never could stay mad at anyone for long. Especially Jack.
She laid a hand on top of his warm brown fingers. For a moment they just looked down at her hand on his, so much smaller, her skin pale compared to his dark tan. Then Jack turned his hand and clasped hers and raised tortured eyes to her face.

* * *

“Oh, Jack,” she said again, her velvet-soft voice brushing over him. “That is unbelievable.”
“She said she’ll explain more when I see her. So here I am.”
“You haven’t seen her yet?”
He shook his head. “Just got off the plane a few hours ago. I stayed in London last night. I’m kind of wiped, so I planned to call her tomorrow.”
Ally nodded again, her fingers twined with his.
“You may as well stay here tonight,” she said slowly. “You’re tired and it’s no big deal. We...I mean, I have a guest room. You can try to get hold of Carter tomorrow.”
“Thanks.” What a fucking roller coaster ride this was. He’d expected a warm welcome from his old friends, discovered they’d split up, found out Ally was pissed as hell at him. Now she’d offered to let him stay there ...relief lightened some of the worries weighing him down although a hard knot remained in his gut.
“What are friends for?” She cleared her throat.
“I did keep in touch with Carter, I swear to you.” He wanted her to believe him. “I assumed he was passing on news to you. I don’t know what the hell he was doing, but please believe me Ally.”
She gazed back at him, eyes full of questions but then she nodded. “We’ll track down Carter tomorrow and find out what the hell game he was playing.” Her pretty mouth firmed. “I know you and he are still friends, but I have no problem giving him shit.”
Jack felt his mouth quirk into an unwilling smile. Ally never said a bad word about anybody, always tried to avoid any conflict, never liked to fight or argue. Unlike Carter. And here she was, ready to take him on. Interesting.
“You must be exhausted,” she said. “Are you hungry? I can make you something to eat.”
He shook his head. “No, not hungry, but I am beat. It’s...” he glanced at his watch, “...four a.m. my time.”
“Oh, lord. Come on. I’ll show you the guest room.”
“I’ll just run out to the car and get my stuff.”
“Okay.” She blew out the candle and a wisp of jasmine-scented smoke curled up from it.
He turned and left the room, ran down the front door steps of her home in the dark to the rental car. He found his canvas bag on wheels and another of camera gear and hauled it all into Ally’s place. She waited in the hall.
Three bedrooms and a bathroom occupied the upper floor. By the hall light Jack could see a computer sitting on a desk in the third dark room. Ally showed him the bathroom, provided towels, then led him into the guest room. The furniture all looked like flea market finds, the old iron headboard painted a shiny white, the nightstand a chipped, scratched table. He dropped his gear in front of a dresser also painted glossy white. None of it matched, but the whole of it was charming.
Ally switched on a light and looked around. “It’s not luxurious,” she apologized. “I haven’t spent a lot of time decorating it. I don’t have many overnight guests.”
“It’s fine, Ally.”
They stood there looking at each other for a moment. She was so gorgeous―breath-stealing, heart-slamming, sexy-as-hell gorgeous. He longed to reach out and touch the silky, thick auburn hair, run a finger over those faint freckles on her nose. Her eyes grew darker and she swallowed.
“If you need anything, that’s my room.” She pointed across the hall. “Good night, Jack.”
He watched her close her bedroom door, then shut his own. He was so exhausted he was seeing double, but he had a feeling sleep was going to be difficult.
He stripped out of his clothes and slid naked between the sheets of Ally’s guest bed, clicked off the lamp, then lay there staring at the ceiling. The moonlight shining in the window cast everything into blue and grey shadows.
What the hell was with Carter? He’d never told Ally he’d heard from him? Fuck! No wonder she was pissed at him.
And Carter cheating on Ally. The dumbass. He’d messed up the best thing he’d probably ever have. Jack had no idea who Carter had cheated with, but no way could she be anywhere near as great as Ally. What a fucking idiot Carter was.
Memories of high school when Carter had moved to Garden City swarmed Jack’s mind. Carter had apparently left a girlfriend in Mariposa, but it wasn’t long before he was dating Jenn. And how about all the times in college Jack had suspected Carter was screwing around on whatever girl he’d been dating at the time. Jack had never said anything to Ally about that. She never could see Carter’s faults. She just loved everybody.
He folded his arms behind his head, wide awake despite his body’s fatigue. Strangely, tomorrow he was about to call Brittany, who he hadn’t seen in nine years, about his new-found daughter―yet all he could think about was Ally.
He should be thinking about his daughter, dammit. Would he meet her tomorrow? What would she be like? He didn’t know much about kids. Nine years old...he tried to remember back to his own childhood. What, grade three? Four? His memories were faint.
It was bizarre, becoming a father overnight. He didn’t feel like a father. Not even a little. Could he even be a good father? And how could he have any kind of relationship with a child, when his job took him to the other side of the world? He almost choked on the panic rising in him.
Get a grip, man. He was here and he had to deal. He rolled over, punched the pillow flat.
But his thoughts drifted back to Ally. Seeing her again had been just as disturbing as he’d feared, but he wasn’t sure if the fact that Carter was out of the picture helped...or made it worse.

If you're enjoying Extreme Close Up, please consider going to TextNovel and voting for it - you have to register, which is a pain, but only takes a minute and there are lots of other great stories there, too!

Extreme Close Up Chapter 4

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guest blogging

Today I'm guest blogging at fellow author Leah Braemel's blog - check it out and win a prize of a free download of one of my books.

I'm out of town for a couple of days with limited internet access so I'll send the prize when I'm back. (Typing on a Mac right now and it's driving me crazy)

Tomorrow's installment of Extreme Close Up will likely be posted a bit late. If I can find a spot with wifi I'll do it tomorrow might be Saturday though, sorry!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Despite my post yesterday about having too much to do, I always have time to read. :-)
Just not as much :-(

I finished Crazy Sweet by Tara Janzen and continuing my Tara Marathon have moved on to Crazy Wild.

Thats' it. :-(

Oh yeah and Greyound Summer by Nara Malone

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The pace is killing me!

The irony is not lost on me.

I am Ms Hurry-Up, Can’t-Wait, The-Publishing-Industry-Works-Way-Too-Slow.

But the pace is killing me.

This is what my To Do List looked like on Thursday:

Write blog post for my own blog for Friday
Write guest blog post for fellow author’s blog for July 23
Write blog post for Amber Quill Press blog for July 27
Polish manuscript for full request from agent and send
Judge 2 contest entries (did one already, 2 left)
Proof print galley for Friends with Benefits
Send Samhain editor promo excerpt for next release
Send off suggested blog topics for guest blogger in August
Send scavenger hunt question to LASR
Post another instalment at Dorchester/TextNovel contest
Participate in “Not going to conference conferences” at Divas and Passionate Ink

This doesn’t include just keeping up with emails, etc. And I have a full time day job.

Then…my editor sent me another galley to proof (for those who don’t know, this means reading the WHOLE BOOK) for my book coming out this weekend. This had to go to the top of the list.

Then I got a contract offer from another editor. Forms to fill out to get that started.

What’s not on this list? WRITING!

My WIP has certainly been moving slowly and it’s getting frustrating. I’ve been really happy to have a new release coming out every 2-3 months but with all the other work that goes along with it (forms, contracts, editing, promo work) the pace is killing me. And I have five more books coming out between now and June 2010!

I know some reading this might be thinking, what is she whining about? She’s published! And others who have contract deadlines, who have to write three books in the next year, may be thinking the same. Believe me, I’m not whining. I’m thrilled about all this. But it’s another irony that my goal this year was to slow down. I meant slow down with my writing, but I guess what I actually need to do is slow down some of the other things I'm doing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Whipped Cream

This week I'm the featured author at Whipped Cream - come read about my self-diagnosed anxiety disorder, my snobby dog, sex and food, and more! You could one a free download of any one of my books.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Ally stared at Jack. What was wrong? Had he been injured? She knew his work was risky, took him into dangerous areas…but he looked okay.
“What kind of problem?” Her stomach tightened and quivered. God, who would have thought she’d ever be nervous in Jack’s company? What had happened to them? Why had he taken off like that? And why was he back?
The physical changes in Jack were enough to throw her off. He’d always been good looking, tall and rangy, his light brown hair a bit shaggy. Now he was gorgeous, his skin tanned a deep bronze, his hair, still longish, lightened by the sun into gold and caramel streaks.
And he’d filled out. Where before he’d been lanky, he was now broad and muscular and hard. His shoulders seemed impossibly wide compared to the last time she’d seen him. His faded jeans hung on lean hips and a white buttoned shirt was loose over them, the sleeves rolled back on strong brown forearms.
His hands, holding the beer bottle, drew her eyes. He had beautiful hands. The way he held a camera, cradled the lens, manipulated the focusing ring with long, lean fingers had always been graceful and...well, sexy.
“Never mind that right now,” he answered. “Tell me what happened between you and Carter.” His mouth tightened into a hard line. Her eyes went back to his face and there she saw the most changes. Those intense sapphire eyes that had been eager, hopeful, and trusting were now shadowed and wary. What kinds of terrible things had he seen in the last five years?
Ally hesitated. It didn’t hurt like it once had, but talking about her break-up with Carter wasn’t her favorite topic of conversation. “He cheated on me. More than once. So I kicked his ass out of here. That’s what happened.”
His jaw went slack. Another shadow crossed his eyes. “He cheated on you? Oh, Ally.”
She shrugged. “It was a while ago. I’m over it.” She lifted the beer to her lips and drank, and the sharp bubbles burned her throat.
He looked at her with an odd expression, sympathetic eyes but his mouth twitched...almost like he wanted to smile. “I hope you kicked his ass.”
She choked on a laugh. “At the time it was devastating, and it still kind of stings, but...” she shrugged. “I’m okay.”
“I’m really sorry,” Jack said slowly. “That sucks.”
Yeah. It sucked to have someone you thought loved you - someone you’d been friends with for years, someone you cared about - turn around and skewer you in the back, rendering everything you’d shared meaningless and hollow.
And since that was the second time it had happened to her, her already beat-up psyche had been whacked pretty good. And here Jack sat, sympathetic and...completely clueless.
But he said he’d kept in touch with Carter. How could that be? Why wouldn’t Carter have told her that?
Silence weighed heavy on them as they looked at each other, Ally’s mind full of questions and simmering resentment. They’d been best friends and there had never been awkward silence like this between them. Her chest squeezed.
“How long are you here for?” she finally asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. As long as it takes.”
“Well. That’s pretty cryptic. Are you going to explain anything?” He closed his eyes. “Look. I came here because I have a problem and you and Carter are my two best friends.”
At that, something snapped inside her. She stood up, trembling. “No,” she said from behind clenched teeth. “We are not your two best friends. Best friends don’t disappear without saying a word. Best friends keep in touch. Best friends don’t abandon each other for no good reason.”
His mouth dropped open. “But...”
She held up a hand. “Now you have a problem you think you can just show up here and expect us to help you out. Where were you when I needed you? When my life was ripped apart?” She glared at him.
He blinked rapidly at her attack. “Ally...”
Again she held up a trembling hand. “No.”
Jack stood and stepped toward her. God, he seemed taller. Could that be possible? Maybe it was just because he was broader, darker.
“Ally, stop.” She backed away from him, but he grabbed her hands and held her there. He looked down at her and his eyes, full of pain and sorrow, reached into hers and touched something deep inside her. “I had a reason for leaving.”
She swallowed. “Oh, yeah? What was it?”
His gaze skittered away from hers. “Well, uh...”
She sighed with vexation. “Never mind.”
“I had no idea you were so mad at me.” Bewilderment drew his brows together.
“What the hell did you expect?”
“I thought you’d be happy to see me.” He shook his head. “I had no idea...Carter never said a word. Like I said, we e-mailed back and forth. I was traveling in some pretty remote areas, technology was iffy at times, and I didn’t always have time, but I did keep in touch. He told me you were doing great and you said hi and Merry Christmas and all that crap.” He let go of one hand to rub his face. “I don’t get it.”
“Neither do I.”
With the hand that still held her, he gave a tug and pulled her over to the couch and down, so they sat side by side. She inhaled Jack’s scent, a spicy musk scent warmed by his skin, as unfamiliar as if he were a stranger. She dug her trembling fingers into the upholstery.
“Do you have a new number for Carter?” he asked. “I want to call him.”
“Yes. I have it somewhere.” She paused, then stood and walked over to her purse sitting on a desk and pulled out her cell phone. She thumbed through her contacts and found Carter's new number. Jack called the number from his cell phone but there was no answer.
“Well, damn.” He snapped the phone closed. “Why wouldn’t he have told me he’d moved? I guess he never expected me to show up here.”
Ally took a deep breath, trying to come to grips with what was happening. Holy crap. Jack was back, sitting beside her and he was okay. Whole. In one...big...
She’d worried about him over the years. The day she’d come across his name in a photo credit had jolted her out of her wounded huff and led her to Google, which had revealed Jack’s incredible success. His photographs had been published in national magazines, newspapers, even international publications, winning award after award. But the things he’d had to do get those photos! After that, knowing where he was and what he was doing, she’d been terrified every time she heard in the news about any journalist or photographer injured in Afghanistan or Iraq, desperately searching the newspapers and the Internet for names.
She’d been proud of him, too, although reluctant to admit it because of her anger and hurt. She’d surreptitiously tracked his amazing photographs and career with pride and admiration...even a little envy.
But no way was she going to tell him that, now. The big jerk.
“Tell me about your work,” Jack said, leaning forward. She shifted away from him.
“I’m doing okay.”
Jack gestured to her home. “Looks like it.”
“I didn’t mean financially,” she said dryly. “Carter and I bought this place together. I had to buy him out of his half when he left, meaning I am now deeply in debt. But, whatever.” She paused. “After college, I took that job at LA Life Magazine as a junior editor. I learned a lot, and I started freelancing. I sold a fair bit, enough to make a living at it. Then, last year...” she paused, looked at him uncertainly. Hard to believe he hadn’t heard. “I sold my first book.”
His eyes widened. “You’re kidding.”
“You don’t need to look so shocked.”
“No, no. I’m not shocked. Of course I’m not. You’re a great writer. I’m impressed.”
“Thanks.” Her stomach cramped as she thought about her work in progress. Or rather, not in progress. So not in progress.
“Wow. What’s it about? What kind of book?”
“It’s a novel,” she told him. “Mystery/suspense.”
“That’s quite an accomplishment.”
She smiled. Yeah, it had been an accomplishment for her. She’d never really known that’s what she wanted to do. The book, strangely enough, had come out of the pain of Carter’s betrayal and her imaginings about revenge. Not long after that had happened, she’d started playing around with an idea and the words had spilled out of her. Which she could not say about her second project.
“I can’t believe I didn’t know about it,” Jack said slowly. “Carter never told me.”
“Well, it was after we broke up.”
He nodded, his face thoughtful. “But still...” He shook his head. “Congratulations. That is really fantastic.”
“Thank you.” Now was the time to congratulate him, too, on all his accomplishments - but she couldn’t bring herself to admit how she’d secretly tracked his career.
“I’d love to read it. I don’t suppose you have a copy?”
The thought of Jack reading her book made her feel like she was about to jump out of an airplane. “Uh...sure. I’ll see if I can find one.”
“That would be awesome.”
Silence expanded around them. Jack looked at his watch. “I guess I should go.”
“Where are you staying?”
He shrugged. “I thought I might impose on you and Carter, but of course I didn’t realize...the situation. I’ll track Carter down.”
Jack shrugged, gave her a crooked smile. “It doesn't matter. I’ve slept in some hellish places. If I have to find a hotel room it won’t be the end of the world.”
“Are you just going to leave without even telling me why you’re here?”
Jack looked away and shoved a hand into his hair. He blew out a long exhalation. “Hell. No.”
She waited, curiosity and anxiety zinging through her.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Continuing with a few things: Greyound Summer by Nara Malone and The California Directory of Fine Wines (I'm anxious to get started on that next story, I must start writing down a few things but I'm finally making progress on my WIP)

Double Play by Jill Shalvis - I love Jill Shalvis!

Crazy Love by Tara Janzen - I love Tara Janzen! Even though I'm reading these all out of order, it's so fun to get to know a little bit about the different characters and then read their whole story. I've met Skeeter Bang in other stories, but this is hers.

Crazy Sweet by Tara Janzen - I've just started this and all I can say is Whoa! Tara's books are smokin' hot but this couple is actually into bondage! And I'm dying to know how it all turns out for Red Dog...

Monday, July 13, 2009

I have a new book coming out...

July 26

Amber Quill Press

Here's a sneak peek at the story...and stay tuned for something really cool about the pyschopathic serial killer villain in this story!

She was looking for a man.
Marli couldn’t sit at home submerged in grief and guilt any longer. Returning to the location of her ultimate shame made her skin crawl and her stomach tighten unpleasantly, but she didn’t know how else to get out of the sinkhole her life had become, how else to dig herself out of this crater of depression and blame.
She surveyed Cactus Jack’s Saloon, scanning the face of every man leaning against a rough wooden post chatting up a woman, every guy sitting at the long bar nursing a beer, every male partner two-stepping on the dance floor to the twang of steel guitars.
Marli swept her gaze across the crowded tables. From her seat at the end of the bar, she had a view of the entire saloon. Perfect.
She sipped her Diet Coke. She liked sleek, sexy clubs with throbbing techno dance music and people dressed in trendy clothes, not blue jeans and cowboy boots. But Cactus Jack’s had been Krista’s favorite place.
Memories of the last night she’d been there played through Marli’s head like a movie trailer. Krista laughing and dancing with that guy…Ron. The way Ron had looked Marli up and down. Krista accusing her of flirting with Ron. Krista leaving with Ron, and the way he’d turned and smirked at Marli as they’d walked out.
Marli shuddered.
Someone slid onto the bar stool next to her, and Marli’s stomach jolted with nerves. Her gaze flew to his face, expecting dark eyes and a blond moustache. But she met flame-blue eyes in a clean-shaven face. Strong. Square jaw, nice mouth. Gorgeous.
She drew in a shaky breath and turned away from the handsome stranger, relief and adrenaline sliding through her body.
“Sorry,” he murmured. “Didn’t mean to startle you. Is this seat taken?”
“No.” She didn’t look at him. He wasn’t what she was looking for. She tightened her grip on the icy-slick glass of cola and directed her gaze back out to the rowdy bar.
“Are you meeting someone here?” the man asked. “If he shows up, just let me know and I’ll move.”
“I’m not meeting anyone,” she said quietly. “I’m kind of looking for someone, but he’s not here.”
“Well, if you see him, just let me know.”
Yeah, right. “Sure.”
The bartender appeared in front of them. “Surf Coast Pale Ale,” the stranger requested. “Can I order food here?”
“You bet.” The bartender slapped a laminated menu onto the bar, looked at Marli. “Another Diet Coke?”
She nodded, swirled the melting ice in her glass and finished it off.
“I’ll have a steak—medium rare. And fries.” The man handed the menu over to the bartender, who disappeared with it.
Marli felt the stranger’s eyes on her again. She doggedly avoided looking at him, instead continuing her scan of the bar.
“You like country music?”
She repressed a sigh. Had this happened a few weeks ago, making small talk with a handsome man would have been a given. The way he looked—a definite given. But not now.
“I hate country music.”
“Ah. So…what’s a gorgeous girl like you doing here…all alone in a country bar…drinking Diet Coke?”
“There’s an original line.” She tried to give him a freezing look. She wasn’t very good at it. On the contrary—apparently something about her attracted men like wasps to syrup, without her even trying. Which had led to the whole big freaking mess her life was in.
“It wasn’t a line,” he muttered. “I’m not trying to pick you up. Just making conversation.”
She pressed her lips together and looked away, then back, studying him out of the corner of her eye. Talk about tall, dark and handsome. But not handsome in a pretty-boy way. His face was tough looking, square-jawed, serious, his mouth firm and straight. But when he’d smiled…whew. It was enough to make a girl’s panties damp and her nipples hard.
And he was big. He took up all his own space and some of hers. His faded jeans covered thick, muscular thighs. His white button-up shirt didn’t hide the flat muscles of his chest and the bulge of biceps beneath the thin cotton. Big hands held his beer bottle, which he’d been drinking very slowly, the turned-back cuffs of his shirt revealing strong wrists. He gave off an aura of safety. Protection. Awareness tingled; attraction sparked inside her. Damn. Talk about crappy timing.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Starting today, every Friday I'll be posting my next free read EXTREME CLOSE UP:

Five years ago, talented photojournalist Jack Templeton took off for Iraq without even saying goodbye to his two best friends, Ally and Carter, after he saw them kissing. In love with Ally himself, he couldn’t bear to stay. Now a call from his high school girlfriend has brought him home. He needs his friends and hopes they’ll support him like they did in the past, although he dreads seeing them as a couple. But things have changed since Jack left. As his problems worsen and he realizes his feelings for Ally haven’t diminished, he struggles with choices between love and friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and saving a life...

My last story, INSATIABLE, attracted a lot of hits to my blog and got a couple of good reviews from readers at Web Fiction Guide Listings Insatiable, so I'm gonna do another one!

Chapter One

Leaving the way he had five years ago was one of the hardest things Jack Templeton had ever done. Since then, the things he’d seen and done had changed him, toughened him...hell, damn near killed him. And yet, coming home might be the hardest thing ever.
Jack checked the address he had for his friends, Carter and Ally. He wasn’t familiar with this part of Los Angeles. Garden City, California where he’d grown up was about a million miles away. He took another look at the map that he’d gotten from the rental car company at LAX and frowned. Yeah, this was it.
He wished he had a better reason to come home. His life was so screwed up right now, he still couldn’t believe it. He’d taken off five years ago to get away from an unbearable situation, and now he was coming home to just as big a mess. After the phone call from Brittany, the mother of all bombs might as well have exploded in his life.
He sat in the parked car for long moments while he worked up the nerve to go in. His stomach tightened with apprehension, his jaw ached. He glanced at his watch. Eight o’clock on a Friday evening. He hadn’t called ahead, so he had no idea if they were even home.
Their home. He rubbed at the tight ache in his chest brought on by thinking about Carter and Ally living together. His mouth tensed with determination. Ally and Carter had been his best friends – they’d be overjoyed to see him again, no doubt. He was just being an idiot.
He climbed out of the car and slammed the door shut, then walked up the sidewalk toward the building, one foot in front of the other, hands thrust in his jeans pockets. The older building had been converted to condominium units, maintaining the Spanish charm and character. The neighborhood wasn’t as upscale as Jack would’ve thought Carter would choose, but decent.
A basket of colorful flowers swayed beside the front door in the evening breeze. Ally’s touch, no doubt. Her favorite color – scarlet. The bright blooms matched the red door. He framed the image into a photograph with his eyes and his imagination - the vivid, saturated crimson of the door and flowers hot against the creamy stucco. Nice.
Again he hesitated before ringing the doorbell. Never mind watching bombs explode, seeing people killed, hearing people cry as loved ones died in their arms…watching Ally and Carter together was going to be the biggest test of his strength he’d ever experienced.
He pressed the button and waited, leaning against the wall. At first he thought he might get a reprieve, that there was no one home, but then he heard the locks on the door clicking.
The door opened and there was Ally.
Freeze frame.
She stood in the door, backlit by the light inside the condo, her hair a fiery halo, her slim body vividly outlined. It was as if the depth of field was shallow, Ally in perfect focus, everything else blurring out. His breath choked him, his heart pounded so hard he thought it might come right out of his chest.
She stared at him in complete and utter astonishment.
“Jack?” She slowly shook her head, her long, auburn hair sliding like silk around her shoulders.
“Ally.” He forced a smile. He studied the picture she made in the doorway. Her hair had grown longer, her body more rounded and curvy. He used to tease her in high school and college about being a skinny beanpole but now
Her eyes had always done him in, hazel eyes sparkling with green, gold and brown, and had the ability to see right inside a person. Those eyes now stared at him, wide with shock and disbelief.
“What are you doing here?” Then she blinked. “God, that sounded rude.”
“But a perfectly good question.” He tried to sound light-hearted and friendly. “I’m home.”
Again, she shook her head slowly, then apparently realized they were still standing at her front door. She stepped back and held the door for him.
“Uh ...come in ...”
“Sorry I didn’t call.” He stepped inside, his gaze moving around. “I didn’t know if you’d be home on a Friday night.”
She gave a little laugh that he didn’t know how to interpret.
His initial impression of their home was color – vibrant and alive, like Ally.
He walked in further and Ally shut the door behind him. She led the way into the living room, furnished in an eclectic mix of antiques, refinished junk and new furniture. His photographer’s eyes took in the red walls and patterned carpet on the floor in shades of butter yellow, pale blue and red. Furniture upholstered in stripes, checks and solid red and yellow fabrics could have been wildly garish, but instead looked warm and comfortable.
“Nice place.” Especially compared to the tents and shacks he’d slept in over the years. Of course, there had been five-star hotels in Paris, London and Cairo as well, but not so often.
“Thank you.” She pushed a hand through her hair and continued to stare at him. “Please, sit down. Can I get you a drink ...?”
Yeah, he could use a drink right about now. “That would be great. Whatever you’ve got.”
Hey, she remembered his beverage of choice. “Sure.”
She disappeared through another door and he took a seat on the sofa. His gaze moved from framed photographs on the wall, over a display of ruby, topaz and sapphire-colored glass bottles, to an overflowing bookcase. A fat candle sat on the ancient trunk that served as a coffee table, burning with a lazy flame and filling the air with an exotic floral scent – jasmine? – that took him back to the Middle East.
Ally returned with two bottles of beer. “I didn’t know if you’d want a glass,” she said. “I can get you one...”
He shook his head and took the proffered drink. “No, this is fine.”
“You always drank from the bottle,” she murmured. She sat in a chair across from him. She took a quick sip from her own bottle and looked at him...coolly. Hell, her gaze could inflict frostbite.
He’d expected a warmer welcome from his best friend after being away for five years. After all, it was him struggling with this whole deal, not Ally.
“Where’s Carter?” he asked, tipping the bottle to his lips. The sharp cold fizz tickled his throat as he drank.
Again she stared at him with confusion. “Carter? I have no idea.”
Now it was his turn for his mouth to drop open. “Huh?”
She and Carter had been living together for almost five years. Yet she didn’t know where he was?
She still stared at him, those amazing eyes pinning him there, and he started to sweat. “You don’t know where he is?” he asked stupidly.
She shook her head slowly, her slender brows drawn together. “Carter and I split up almost two years ago.”
Holy shit. That was not what he’d expected. He struggled to keep his face expressionless even as something - gladness? relief? – fizzed up inside him.
“I’m...I’m sorry,” he finally managed to say. “I had no idea.”
Why the hell not, was his next question. He and Carter had kept in touch over the years by e-mail. Not every day, or even every month, but he’d heard about Carter and Ally moving in together, Carter’s promotions in the prestigious law firm he worked for. He definitely would have remembered Carter telling him that he and Ally had split up. Weird.
“Well, how would you? Since we never heard from you.” The ice in her voice and her words took him aback.
He swallowed hard and gulped down a healthy swig of beer. “But I did keep in touch with Carter.”
She shook her head, a crease between her eyes. “No, you didn’t. You just took off without even saying good-bye, never told us where we could reach you, what you were doing. You could have been dead, for all we knew.”
“Carter knew where I was,” he told her with bewilderment. “I e-mailed him. I e-mailed him a lot.”
She stared at him, eyes huge. “No. He would have told me. We talked about it.”
Now he shook his head. “I don’t know what’s going on,” he said firmly. “But I did e-mail Carter. He wrote me back with your news. I knew you two had moved in together.” He rubbed his forehead. “But he never told me that you’d split up.”
“I don’t get it either,” she said, her voice still frosty. “But it doesn’t matter. You never e-mailed me.”
That was true. Painfully true. They’d been best friends and he’d never contacted her once since he’d left.
“I’m sorry, Ally.” He made the apology but didn’t want to offer any more explanation. She looked at him with an almost hurt expression on her face.
“Never mind.” She waved a hand, sipped her beer. “It doesn’t matter.” She still looked unsettled and ...well, pissed. “So, tell me why you’re here, suddenly showing up out of the blue.”
He pressed his lips together and looked down at the beer bottle clasped in his hands, the glass icy smooth beneath his fingers. “Well. I have a bit of a problem. Hell, that’s an understatement.” He thrust a hand through his hair, looked everywhere around the room but at Ally. “I have a huge goddamn problem.”


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

This week I finished:
A Perfect Match – by Shelley Bradley – a nice light contemporary romance by one of my favorite authors, lots of great sexual tension.

Submission by Cherie Feather – I started this book some time ago, and just picked up it again and finished it. I ended up really enjoying this BDSM story for the most part. I still had problems with some of the "definitions" at the beginning, but once past that, the story was hot and innovative.

The California Directory of Fine Wineries J
Picked this book up in Solvang, California during our recent stay there. It is research for my next story idea…J

And I’m almost finished Dear Sir, I’m Yours by Joely Sue Burkhart – I really enjoyed this BDSM story from a Samhain author I've never read before.

And still keeping up with Greyound Summer by Nara Malone -if you haven't checked this story out, you should. Nara's a brilliant writer and this story is a great summer journey. The Editors at selected Greyhound Summer as an Editor’s Pick and you can read the story there too and vote for Greyhound Summer.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Last day

I don’t want to go home!

I have a BIG pout on. I seriously love this place so much. I don’t know why I feel such a connection to it – maybe because it’s so beautiful with the mountains and the ocean and the flowers and the palm trees. Or because I’m always on vacation when I’m here and can leave all the stress and problems of real life at home.

It’s so nice that they celebrated our last day with fireworks – oh, okay, it’s because it’s the Fourth of July. Awesome fireworks on the beach. I've never seen Cabrillo like that! I specially love the ones that look like palm trees. We went to the parade on State Street this afternoon and checked out some of the things going on at the beach – the usual Sunday Arts and Crafts show was on today, and we drank huge pina coladas out of pineapples. Only problem was getting dinner – our favourite pizza restaurant was closed – DAMMIT! We ended up eating hot dogs and curly fries at the beach.

Between the edits on How to Save a Life and this trip, we’ve learned to speak American:
Trash not garbage
Check not bill (In a restaurant)
Soda not pop
Restroom or bathroom not washroom
Napkin not serviette
And many people, when you say thank you, instead of saying “you’re welcome” say “uh-huh”.

I have to remind myself of the good things about going home – sleeping on our own bed, cooking our own food, seeing our dog who we’ve missed so much especially every time we see a dog here. But I know we’ll be back...some day. Hopefully not too far away...

Friday, July 3, 2009


Solvang The winery we went to...outside and inside...

Santa Ynez valley...

Santa Barbara near the Biltmore Hotel

Vacation Day...what day is it?

I've lost track. Back to Santa Barbara (that's our hotel above). Had a lazier day around the pool, walked on the beach after dinner. This city is filling up - compared to Monday and Tuesday which were quiet, we had a hard time finding parking this evening. The holiday weekend is heating up. I've never been in the US for the Fourth of July so this will be interesting...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Greyound Summer by Nara Malone is keeping me reading as things heat up for Arie. Good thing I brought my laptop on my holiday!

I finished Strong Silent Type and went right on to Branded as Trouble, both by Lorelei James. Branded as Trouble had a couple both with interesting pasts. I really liked the way they understand each other's struggles.

Now I'm reading Bound by Love by TA Chase...

Will post more later about Vacation Day 5....

10:15 PM
This day was like a dream. I know it would be a better story if everything went wrong, but it was so good. So perfect.

This trip was to be our 25th anniversary celebration. Our kids insisted on coming with us (they're teenagers, 16 and 19) and even though we wanted this to be our trip, we let them come because, hey, we actually like our kids, and strangely enough, our kids like us. I don't know how many teenagers like to spend time with their parents, but ours do and we feel lucky - although sometimes we say "could we just have a couple of hours alone???" Well, today we got it - we left Santa Barbara around noon - left the kids there on their own. We drove through San Marcos pass, through ear-popping ups and downs, into the valley. We passed areas that were burnt during the recent fires. We drove through golden hills, dotted with curly green trees, and spotted at least three eagles soaring above.

We first went to a winery near Santa Ynez, so beautiful, (pix tomorrow - my official photog didn't bring his laptop to convert from raw to JPEG). Then we checked into our stunning boutique hotel in Solvang - French country furniture, dark walls, a fireplace - and the bed was very nice, too. :-) We wandered around town, bought a few Christmas ornaments ( we collect those from everywhere we travel), bought strawberries at the farmers market, then went back to the hotel for dinner.

Included in our hotel package was dinner and it was fabulous - and we got a free bottle of wine! So nice. After dinner we put on our robes from the room and went down to the hot tub. Met a nice couple whose kids were too young to leave alone, but they were getting pretty frisky in the hot tub anyway and ...well, it was hard not to, also. Two fireplaces lit up the hot tub area, so nice, and we had the lovely wine we'd bought earlier, with nice stemless wine glasses from the room.

I'd had an idea for a story kicking around in my head, but I've found I need to combine ideas - and today I got another idea, so I combined the two while I was floating in the hot tub - yes! Great story beginning...I haven't written at all while on this trip, but I'm still thinking about it....