Monday, June 27, 2016

Medieval Monday by Lane McFarland

Happy Medieval Monday! This week, we continue with our nature theme. Lane McFarland is my guest today. Her heroine Elsbeth is having trouble sleeping while trekking to Stonecrest with a group of orphans protected by a band of Scotland’s freedom fighters. In the early hours of the awaking morning, while the camp is asleep, she walks by the loch to clear her mind of the Brandon, the freedom fighter’s leader who is occupying more space in her thoughts than she wants. So, where is nature here? The beautiful imagery of her surroundings is made more interesting when she spies someone in the lock. It isn’ the black-throated diver! Enjoy the excerpt.
Excerpt from Elsbeth
Exhausted from a sleepless night spent on the unforgiving ground, Elsbeth curled on her side with Mum’s little wooden cross clutched in her hand. She stared at the campfire’s dying embers glowing through charred wood and ash. It would be light soon, and the group would continue their journey to Stonecrest.
Conflicting emotions churned her stomach like turbulent tides. Her heart fluttered at the memory of riding with Brandon but squeezed when she recalled his violent nature. She closed her eyes and tried to conjure Fabien’s image, his light hair and smiling face. But Brandon’s dark eyes and boyish grin emerged before her.
Wishing to get the man out of her head, she rose and wrapped her blanket around her shoulders. Bea slept beside the orphans, and Brandon’s men lay clustered in the small clearing. Elsbeth tiptoed from camp and strolled along a narrow dirt path, winding through trees and down to the loch. Brisk air blew off the water, and chill bumps peppered her skin. She rubbed her arms and tugged the blanket tighter about her neck.
Dawn bathed the awakening forest in golden hues, and fog wafted off the tranquil loch. A black-throated diver floated across the pond. The industrious bird disappeared beneath the surface, leaving nothing but ripples in its place. As she’d done so many times beside Da’s loch, Elsbeth studied the calm water and tried to guess where the creature would re-appear. Moments passed. Not even an air-bubble crested. Without so much as a splash, the creature bobbed to the top with a wiggling fish in its black bill.
Wistful memories of playing with her sisters while Mum and Da rested beneath a shade tree surfaced. Three long years had passed since she’d last seen her family. She was homesick and longed for those precious, carefree days.
The sun stretched, sending its warming rays through an arbor of branches and leaves. Brushing aside her melancholy, Elsbeth continued along the light-dappled trail. A thunderous roar drifted on the wind, and she hurried downhill to view the water cascading over a stone ledge. Mist off the noisy flow dotted her face, and a rainbow of blue, red, and yellow arched from one side of the falls to the other.
She hiked her skirt, hopped to a flat stone, then another, and landed on a grey boulder positioned before the falls. Stretching her legs, she settled in to enjoy the stunning view.
A torrent poured over the shelf’s edge into a deep pool. Spray wafted from the churning white water, sprinkling lush vegetation bordering a trail that snaked alongside the basin and disappeared behind the falls. Her gaze traveled across the deluge to the far side. Pleased to see the trail continued, she wondered what creatures stole behind the wall of water.
Her mind wandered back to Brandon McLeod. It aggravated her that he affected her so. She must keep her distance, but accomplishing such a feat while traveling with him would not be easy. Once Da arrived, she would leave the commander’s care and return home with the orphans. Until then, she would endeavor to stay away from the man.
Sadness washed over her and seeped into her heart. By all accounts, the plan should give her a sense of resolution, but the thought of leaving Brandon caused lonesome emptiness.
Something burst through the falls and dove into the deep pool.
Elsbeth gasped. She drew her legs beneath her bottom, poised to sprint. Her heart raced, and her gaze darted across the rippling water.
A man emerged.
Her breath caught at the sight of his broad shoulders and chiseled muscles. Black hair covered his sculpted chest and abdomen. He shook his head and droplets sluiced along his bronzed skin.
She swallowed, and her interest roamed lower, but the water’s shadowed darkness concealed his…other attributes.
He ran a hand through his wet hair as he waded in the basin.
She couldn’t look away. Curiosity and more than a twinge of disappointment piqued. Her eyes strained, and she craned her neck to have a better angle.
He raised his head, and his eyes locked on hers.
Heavens! He’d caught her admiring him. What the devil was wrong with her?
His boyish grin returned. “Good morn, Sister.”
Back Cover Copy for Elsbeth
Elsbeth MacDougall recoils at the violent Scottish rebellion and the bleak plight of orphans. Vowing to protect the homeless, she embarks on a journey to Scone and sets her course to become a nun, sheltering children from the cruelties of war. But when Brandon McLeod arrives at the Abby, he shakes her convictions and stirs provoking emotions she buried long ago.
After English soldiers murder his family, Brandon McLeod determines a course of revenge and leads numerous clans in Scotland’s fight for freedom. Bent on the annihilation of English oppression, he is resolved to a life of solitude, vowing never to marry and chance the pain of losing loved ones again. However, that was before he met the enchanting Elsbeth.
Buy Link for Elsbeth  Amazon

Friday, June 24, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Karen Docter

Welcome to Books, Chocolate and Wine. Today my guest author is Karen Docter. Just how much of Karen is in her characters. Read on and find out. As a treat, she’s given us an excerpt from Book 1 of her True Love in Uniform series, Cop on her Doorstep. Enjoy the post.
Romance authors are often asked, “Do you ever imagine yourself as the hero/heroine in your books?”
My answer? My characters tend to run around my head like a holodeck feature. I just join them periodically.
I would give up flavored coffee for a year – well, maybe I’d think about it – to have a holodeck in my office. Or my office on a holodeck. The first time I saw one on the starship Enterprise (Star Trek) the idea of having one of my own took hold. Sadly, I don’t have one. Whine. Pout.
Happily, I’ve learned to build whole scenes in my head and move my characters around until I’m happy with the “program” I’ve created. Once I have the story premise, the basic characters figured out, I set them free to move through the book their way.
Oh, I’m a part of the characters – or maybe it’s that the characters are a part of me at this point – but there can be no doubt these are “real” people, separate from me. They’re as real to me as any of the friends I hang out with…which can be unbelievably scary when a serial killer runs amok in my head while I’m washing the dishes.
The truth is, as a writer, I can’t help but leak a little bit of myself into my characters. As hard as I try to keep myself at a distance, despite my need to ensure each character is a person in his or her own right, I do influence them by the some of the choices I make. My experiences color those choices. Just a smidge in my contemporary romances. More than a smidge when I work on my suspense novels.  I do have a strong sense of justice!
I’ve never imagined myself as the heroine in my books. In fact, for the longest time, I had a devil of a time writing female characters. I just couldn’t relate to them. One of my critique partners, back in my “Jurassic” writing period, once asked me why I always made my heroines such witches-with-a-B. My snappy retort was that I wanted the hero. The heroine couldn’t have him. J
Yeah, I had a lot to learn about writing. That same critique partner also informed the newbie me there might be legal problems with the will I’d designed my story around.  I argued it was fiction. She argued fiction didn’t mean made up. Imagine that! That book didn’t survive. Our friendship did. And I learned a lot about characterization. I learned to step out of the way so my characters could live.
Yeah, I still love my heroes. My heroines have become close friends I care about, girlfriends I want to see achieve their goals and find love on the way. I don’t know where my villains come from, which makes them even scarier because I often don’t know what horrible thing they’re going to do until it appears on the computer screen. But this is the way characterization is meant to be…for me, at least.
I may have begun my writing journey all those years ago developing two-dimensional characters – okay, one dimensional with my heroines J – but these people are larger-than-life in my stories now. I have so many people running around my head now that I had to break away from writing only my contemporary romance True Love In Uniform series as Karen Docter and breathe life into my romantic suspense, Thorne’s Thorns series, writing as K.L. Docter. I have more than fifty stories in my TBW (To Be Written) folder.
With two genres to play with, I won’t run out of stories soon. The trick, for me, is finding a way to keep all of the people in my head silent long enough to write one story at a time. Of course, if someone would hurry up and design a holodeck for me, I’m sure my characters would enjoy a world to play in while they wait their turn.
Loving the man behind the uniform…
In the six years since her husband was killed by S.W.A.T., Carrie Padilla has spent long hours at work, rebuilding a life for herself and her son. The little time she has at home is spent keeping her eight-year-old son out of trouble, but he is all too eager to try to be the man in the house. When a handsome cop shows up on her doorstep, her errant son in tow, Carrie's heart stutters. The sexy Italian cop sets off all kinds of bells in her system, and she knows there's only one thing she can do to save what is left of her family, her husband’s memory, and her heart...avoid her new neighbor at all costs.
S.W.A.T. officer Jake Stefani already lost one little boy to gang violence, the dead boy’s older brother is missing, and Jake's not about to let the same thing happen to a neighbor's son. He drags the youngster home only to discover much more than a passing interest in the boy's beautiful, but wary, mother. Forced to take a leave of absence after a bust goes awry, Jake can think of nothing better to occupy his time than to keep Carrie and her son safe, and locate the missing teen who holds the key to taking the gang off the streets, once and for all. 
But Jake doesn’t count on his stubborn, intriguing neighbor distracting him from his job, or the passion that flares between them. He doesn’t expect her amazing son to steal a piece of his heart. Jake is ready to risk everything for Carrie, body and soul. But it’s not all up to him. If their new love is to survive, Carrie will need to be strong enough to see the man's beating heart behind the badge, to look beyond the pain of her past, and decide that loving again is worth the risk. 
Buy Links for Cop on Her Doorstep Amazon, B&NKOBOSmashwords
Excerpt from Cop on Her Doorstep
Carrie Padilla wished she could crawl back into bed. Maybe, under it. Any day that included a cop on her doorstep didn’t promise to be a good one. A policeman appearing at the crack of dawn spelled disaster. There must be some mistake.
The hope prompted her to peek through the peephole a second time to examine the identification she’d demanded. Her heart racing, she sucked in one short, shaky breath of air. Then another, longer one. Her head spun with the effort, so she had to settle her forehead against the door.
She couldn’t chance a one-on-one confrontation with a uniform again. Not this close. She may have beaten the impulse to fall apart every time a siren sounded in the distance or a police car appeared in her rearview mirror, but did she dare test herself with closer contact?
“If you’d like to call the station, Sergeant Grenich will vouch for me.” The voice was deep, authoritative, impossible to ignore.
Opening the door wouldn’t be her first choice. Then, neither would it be second or third. But Officer Jake Stefani wanted to speak with her and she didn’t have an excuse for turning him away. At least, no valid excuse.
Her fingers fumbled with the safety chain as she glanced down at her sweaty exercise gear. Sports bra, covered by the sleeveless Colorado Rockies T-shirt her husband bought her before he died. Her old running shorts, a tad less loose thanks to her recent make-up-for-the-loneliness, chocolate-peanut butter ice cream splurges. Running shoes with low-cut athletic socks.
She wore less to the local swimming pool, so why did she suddenly feel so naked? She was afraid it was due to more emotional reasons than physical ones. The problem was she didn’t have the nerve to ask the man outside to wait until she was better able to cope. He wasn’t likely to wait forever.
Unable to avoid the inevitable any longer, she threw open the door while one trembling hand tucked tendrils of damp, auburn hair back into her ponytail. Disconcerted to find herself nose to chest with the policeman, she stepped backward, her desire to bolt suddenly stronger. At only a few inches over five feet, she’d experienced her share of “tiny attacks” in the past, but never with this kind of intensity.
Amazingly enough, the uniform didn’t cause the problem. The man behind it did. Although he couldn’t quite lay claim to six feet, his crisp, dark blue shirt clung to a broad chest, his trousers molded to muscular legs. He didn't have the brawny physique of a body builder though, more the sleek, leashed power of a man trained in martial arts. Good heavens, but his biceps looked strong. Rock hard.
Something distinctly feminine within her quickened. Were arms like those capable of tenderness? A woman would feel safe there, secure, if she wasn’t crushed to death first.
Chasing the unruly notion away, she gazed elsewhere. The dark shading of the man’s square jaw suggested a beard needing two close shaves a day. His full lower lip was sensuous and bound to cause heartache, if a woman weren’t tripped up first by the mischievous bump of a slightly crooked nose. She blinked when she reached the kindest, warmest brown eyes she’d ever seen. They were the same rich shade as Swiss chocolate. Soft. Mouthwateringly tempting.
Wow. Too bad she was on a no-man diet.
About Karen Docter:
Amazon Bestselling Author Karen Docter writes contemporary romance. When she feels the need to feed the dark side, she writes intense suspense thrillers as K.L. Docter. She's an award-winning author, a four-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist, and won the coveted Kiss of Death Romance Writers Daphne du Maurier Award Category (Series) Romantic Mystery Unpublished division. When she's not saving her characters from death and destruction or helping them to fall in love, she loves camping and fishing with her family, reading, gardening & cooking. If she can do most of those things over a campfire, all the better!
Karen’s Contact Information
Social Media Links:
Twitter: @KarenDocter

Monday, June 20, 2016

Medieval Monday with Bambi Lynn

Happy Medieval Monday! We start a new theme this week, nature. Bambi Lynn is my guest today. Her heroine Kenna is in for a big surprise that would melt anyone’s heart. Ty sure hope’s so at least. Enjoy the excerpt.
Excerpt from Mask of the Highlander
It was late afternoon by the time they arrived at the dilapidated cottage. The door was nearly impossible to find amidst the overgrowth, even to one who knew where it was. Ty halted his stallion nearby and helped Kenna down from her own horse.
She eyed him with the suspicion that had been growing steadily since they passed the first village. She had made no comment as they skirted the ramshackle huts, but her cheery prattle had diminished considerably. By the time they passed the second, she had clammed up like a mute and said nary a word. Since leaving the third village behind them, she had made no effort to hide her uncertainty.
Ty would have found her wariness endearing had he not known the source, but at least she did not cower from him in fear. The hate and loathing she had shown at his homecoming was gone, leaving only doubt and caution. He could not be more proud than to have a wife of such strength as Kenna Cleary Vass.
She stood there, looking back and forth from him to the hidden door. "What are we doing here?"
Her voice trembled. Ty ached to soothe her concerns, but nothing he could say would accomplish that. Soon enough she would trust him, and if not sooner, then later.
He smiled and jerked his head toward the mass of brambles that hid the cottage. "I have something for you…inside." He reached through the brush and pushed the door open. Without waiting, he went inside and began lighting candles. By the time she joined him, the room was bathed in a soft glow that revealed a hideaway very different from the one they had visited the last time.
Kenna stopped just inside the threshold, a gasp of surprise the only sound in the small cottage. Ty busied himself starting a fire in the hearth, giving her time to look around. He squatted before the fire, staring at the growing flames. He ached to see her face, to know if she was pleased with what he had done.
He tensed when he felt her behind him. His body was already so hard for her. His craving surprised him at times. He was like a man starved, and she the only sustenance that could satisfy him. His skin tingled when she placed her hand on his shoulder.
"You did this?"
He stood, towering over her and filling the small room. "Lá breithe shona dhuit," he whispered.
She frowned at the phrase. "It's my birthday?" He nodded. She looked around with newfound surprise. "And all this…is for me?"
'All this' was a complete transformation of the sanctuary she had escaped to as a child. Gone were the few pieces of broken furniture, the cobwebs, the decades of dirt and neglect. The place had been scoured until nary a ball of dust remained, even the tiny window allowed in a scant amount of the remaining sunlight. The decrepit furniture had been replaced with a table, two short stools and a bed frame, a fresh inviting tick nestled inside. A bundle of primroses filled a vase in the middle of the table, filling the room with a spicy, comforting fragrance that reminded Ty of spring.
He smiled down at her. "I suppose fairies must have fixed the place up since the last time ye were here." He took her hand and lifted it to his mouth, pressing a soft kiss to her palm. "D'ye like it, then?"
Tears sparkled on her lashes, and he could tell she had trouble speaking. He almost laughed. That must be a first. She laid her palm against his cheek, smoothing the patch that covered his eye and staring deep into the other one.
"No one has ever done anything like this for me. Thank you."
He cocked his eyebrow at her, pressing her with his most devilish grin. "I hope ye have some other way of showin' yer thanks?"
Back Cover Copy for Mask of the Highlander
Kenna dreads her husband's homecoming like the plague. The man she married is vile and cruel. She has prayed every day of his absence he would be killed in the fighting, freeing her from a life of brutal torment and a loveless marriage. But the man on her doorstep has changed. This man is kind, gentle and sparks a fire in her she never felt in the early days of her marriage.
 Ty is returning home after years fighting in France. He yearns for the arms of his beautiful wife and to finally meet the daughter he has never known. But can Kenna forgive the man she married and love the man he has become?
Buy Links for Mask of the Highlander

Friday, June 17, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Amy Schisler

Welcome to Books, Chocolate and Wine. Today my guest author is Amy Schisler. She taken a trip with her husband and turned it into a contemporary romance with historical fiction woven in for good measure. Romance, suspense, an inherited vineyard in Italy, I’ll drink to that!
How did you come up with the idea for Whispering Vines?  My husband and I were visiting Italy and touring a vineyard outside of Verona.  As we walked through the fields and the winery, I could see a story unfolding in front of me.  Later in the week, I learned about an artist, whose work I completely fell in love with, and knew that it had to be featured in the book.  The story really unfolded on its own from there.
How much research did you conduct for Whispering Vines and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?  Who doesn’t love traveling to a foreign country and learning about producing and drinking wine?  In addition, I read a lot of books about the history of Italy during World War Two and the preservation and recovery of Italian art.  I did about three months’ worth of research before writing and the continued researching while writing.
Why did you decide to switch from romantic suspense to contemporary and historical romance?  My favorite books to read are mystery and suspense, so it was natural for me to begin there.  However, I don’t consider myself a “mystery” or “suspense writer.”  I’ve also written children’s books (one published and one that I am now marketing to publishers), and Whispering Vines is a contemporary romance with historical fiction woven through the story. I write what strikes my fancy and let the characters and the story dictate the genre.
What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?  I always begin with a basic storyline and a cast of characters.  I know where the book will begin and end, but I’m not one to plot the entire story.  The most important thing for me is to establish the characters.  I do a complete outline of the characters including their backstory, family history, idiosyncrasies, education, careers, etc.  Once the characters are established, the story really writes itself.
Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End?  I typically write the entire book in about three months but then take another month or so to re-read it and prepare it to be sent to my editor. I usually need another month or so, once I get it back, to perfect the book before it goes into pre-publishing.
When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?  My characters are completely in control.  They drive the story and sometimes even surprise me in the direction they take.  I sometimes find that a very insignificant character has taken a life of his or her own and become a major player in the book.  That’s always a lot of fun.
What books can we expect to see in the near future?  I’m really excited about the release of Whispering Vines, but I also have a children’s book that I am in the process of marketing to publishers. It’s a fairy take with a strong heroine and unlikely hero.  My illustrator is fabulous, and we can’t wait for children to read this story about a princess locked in a tower who takes her future into her own hands and finds a way to live the life she has always dreamed about.
When Alex O’Donnell’s world falls apart, she finds it hard to imagine that a door to a new world will open.  Leaving everything she knows behind, Alex moves from her Baltimore apartment to a villa in Italy where she discovers the inherited vineyard she never knew existed and a life of possibilities beyond her hopes and dreams.  
Arriving at the villa, Alex is taken aback by the animosity and scorn of the vineyard’s co-owner, Nicolas Giordano.  Resentful of Alex’s sudden appearance, Nicolas struggles to maintain his control over his business and his feelings for his new partner.
The discovery of a journal from World War II becomes the tie that binds Alex and Nicolas as they work to secure their future while putting together the pieces of a puzzle from the past.  Unlock the hidden secrets within the Whispering Vines.
Review for Whispering Vines
Ms. Schisler successfully intertwined a compelling and loving romance from Italy during World War II to a present day romance spanning three generations while educating the reader to the world of wine making and vineyards. This was an excellent story.                 ...5 Star Amazon Review
Amazon Buy Link for Whispering Vines
Excerpt from Whispering Vines
Lunch at Da Mimmo, a favorite of the Baltimore business crowd, was very nice, and Alex enjoyed sharing stories about Signora with Peter, Signora’s attorney.  Bald at the top, but fit and trim, Peter looked darn good for his age, not that Alex knew what that was.  She was never good at guessing ages.  He was charming and kind, and Alex couldn’t help but wonder why all men couldn’t be like him.  Their coffee had just arrived when Peter opened his briefcase and took out a manila folder.
“I would like to go over the contents of Signora Fonticelli’s will,” Peter said as he opened the folder.
Alex wasn’t sure how to react.  She picked up her napkin from her lap and wiped her mouth.  “Okay,” she said hesitantly.  “I’m not sure how that affects me.”
Peter put on a pair of reading glasses, glanced at the file, and then looked over the lenses at Alex.  “I assume Signora never mentioned anything to you about her will.”
Alex shook her head.  “Nothing.”
Peter took off his glasses and closed the folder.  “This may come as a shock to you.”  He put down the file and folded his hands on the table. 
Alex held her breath as he leveled his gaze on her.  Everyone else in the restaurant seemed to fade away as she waited for him to go on.
“Alex, do you know anything about Signora’s estate and holdings?”
Alex shook her head, unable to speak.
“Of course, there is the house in Baltimore,” Peter paused, and Alex nodded.   It would be just like Signora to leave Alex her home knowing that Alex was weeks away from graduation and would need to be thinking about her future.  Peter went on, “In addition, there is the vineyard and villa,” 
“Excuse me,” Alex stopped him.  “Vineyard?  Villa?”  Her head began to spin.  She had no idea where this was heading.
“Yes, just outside of Verona in the Valpolicella region.”  He paused for a second and smiled at Alex.  “My Italian is not that good, but Signora insisted I learn to at least pronounce that correctly.”  Alex smiled and motioned for him to go on though her mind was yelling for his to stop.  Alex had no idea what was coming, but she had a growing feeling that it was going to earth shattering, at least for her.
Peter picked up the folder again, opened it, removed a document, and replaced his reading glasses.  He cleared his throat.  “I, Isabella Abelli Fonticelli, being of sound mind and body, do hereby bequeath the following:
To Alexandra O’Donnell, my dearest companion and caregiver, my house at 117 Trinity Street and all of its contents, to be done with as she wishes (though I recommend selling it all and taking the money – you’ll need it to pay off your college loans).”  Peter looked at Alex and smiled.
“She always did like to give me advice on how to run my life,” Alex said quietly as tears formed in her eyes.  As she suspected, the house.  That wasn't such a big deal after all.  “That was very sweet of her.”
“There’s more,” Peter said, and Alex gasped in surprise as Peter looked back down at the document.  “…. I also leave Alexandra one half of my family’s vineyard, Belle Uva, to be shared with my great-nephew, Nicolas Giordano.”
Alex placed her hands on the table to steady herself as the earth shattering commenced.  She wished she had not had that glass of wine with her lunch.  It suddenly left a sour taste in her mouth, and the Italian cuisine that had smelled so wonderful just a few minutes before, now seemed strong and overpowering.  “Bell… what?”
“Belle Uva, which until last week, Signora shared with her great-nephew who inherited his grandfather’s half of the estate.  The name means ‘beautiful grapes.’  Signora stipulates that you and her great-nephew, Nicolas, are to share the estate and run the winery together.  I have papers and pictures for you with all of the details about the estate.  I’m afraid that it’s not as glamorous as it sounds.  The winery doesn’t seem to be as profitable as it once was.”  Peter began to pull more documents and photographs out of the folder, but his words seemed to be coming from the other end of a distant tunnel.  Alex felt dizzy.  “Signora and her great-nephew already had a contract that dealt with how they maintained their shares and profits.  Those conditions will remain unchanged.  You will simply inherit her shares and assume her profits.”
“No, please, stop,” Alex shook her head in confusion.  “I don’t understand.  I don’t live in Italy.  I know nothing about wine or vineyards or estates.  I’ve never even heard of Nicolas Geor, whatever his name was.  Talk about shares and profits is something I’ve never tried to understand.  This must be a mistake.”
Peter took off his glasses and looked at Alex with sincere compassion.  “I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job preparing you for this.  I did say it would be a shock.”
“To say the least,” Alex said as she buried her face in her hands.  She looked up and shook her head.  “I don’t know what to say.  What do I do?”
“I’m afraid I can’t answer that,” Peter said.  “If you wish, I can continue to handle the affairs of the vineyard, putting the profits, if there ever are any, into a portfolio for you.  You wouldn't have to do anything except perhaps hire an accountant to look over my shoulder, which is the smart thing to do these days.  Would you like to take the papers and photographs with you and go through them?”
Alex nodded, her mouth agape, as she reached a shaky hand for her cup.  “Yes, I guess so…” she whispered before she gulped down the lukewarm, now bitter-tasting coffee she had ordered after finishing her wine and tried to figure out what had just happened.  She spent her entire life dreaming of going to Italy, seeing the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence, walking along the Gran Canal of Venice, visiting the Vatican.  But never in her wildest dreams had she ever imagined that something like this would be the catalyst to take her there.  Alex had a lot to think about, but one thought ran through her mind over and over as she stared unseeing at Peter putting together a stack of papers – with no family to speak of, no boyfriend, and no job tying her down, what did she have to lose?
About Amy Schisler
Amy Schisler is the award winning author of three novels and one children’s book. Her weekly blog is followed by readers around the world. A former librarian and teacher, she writes from the Eastern Shore of Maryland where she lives with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs.  Her books are available internationally in print and ebook versions.
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Book Blast with Alice Orr

A story of tangled roots and tormented love
Two families are shaken to their roots. Vanessa Westerlo must find her roots. Bobby Rizzo is torn between Vanessa and his true roots. They are all tormented by love – past and too present.
Meanwhile a man has been murdered. And that is the most tormented tangle of all.
Alice Orr is known for “Delicious well written suspense spiced with a love story.”
She does it again in A Villain for Vanessa.
A Villain for Vanessa is Book 4 of the Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series set in Riverton, New York. This book features the Kalli family and the fortunate people who find safety and welcome at the Kalli homestead on Riverton Road. A Wrong Way Home is Book 1 of the series and A Year of Summer Shadows is Book 2. A Vacancy at the Inn is Book 3 and introduces the Miller family of Riverton Road Hill.
Review for A Villain for Vanessa
"This fourth in the Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series is the best yet. Alice Orr always knows how to tighten the screws on suspense and turn up the heat on romance. A Villain for Vanessa is an unrelenting example of how well she can do both."
…Amazon Review
Buy Link for A Villain for Vanessa
About Alice Orr

"Alice Orr is a brilliant writer who has a number one best seller in her pocket," says one Amazon reviewer. Alice loves to write. Especially romantic suspense novels and blog posts. She’s been a workshop leader, book editor and literary agent. Now she lives her dream of writing full-time. So far she’s published fifteen novels, three novellas and a memoir – both traditionally and independently. Alice wrote her nonfiction book, No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells, as a gift to the writers' community. A revised edition is now in progress. Amazon says, "This book has it all." And calls her novels, "Delicious well written suspense spiced with a love story." Most of all, Alice is thrilled to hear from readers. Visit her website at Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her husband Jonathan in New York City.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Medieval Monday with Cathy MacRae

Happy Medieval Monday. Today is the last of our conflict theme excerpts. Cathy MacRae is my guest. In this excerpt from The Highlander’s French Bride, a highlander defending a woman’s honor. The stuff romances are made of. Who win the duel? I hope you enjoy the passage.

Excerpt from The Highlander’s French Bride:
Horses whinnied, sensing danger in the air, but the people about her remained silent, anticipation evident in the lines of their bodies and the expressions on their faces. To her left she glimpsed a man as he eased forward, wearing the Hospitaller colors of white cross on a black tunic. A furtive look on his face, his hand drifted to the sword at his belt.
Slipping her dagger from the pocket in her cloak, Melisende turned toward the man, hand fisted on the knife’s hilt, angled just below belt level. “This is their fight, not yours, monsieur knight,” she admonished softly. His head turned at her words, distaste on the sneer of his lips as he saw who gave him challenge.
Melisende nudged him with the tip of her dagger, glancing down as she did to ensure he understood her threat, offering him a chance to reconsider. “Should you wish to assist, you will do so as a eunuch.” The knight blanched and stepped a pace away. Giving her an angry look, he disappeared into the crowd.
A quick look showed Kinnon’s men scattered at the perimeter of the crowd, and Melisende took a deep breath, satisfied they would do their best to keep others from interfering. The ring of steel shifted her attention back to the combatants.
Jean-Luc circled Kinnon. Melisende cringed to see the subtle change in Kinnon’s balance as he favored his injured leg. His gaze bore into Jean-Luc as he deflected the knight’s attacks. Melisende fumed. Fall, Jean-Luc. Trip over your overwhelming ego and be done with this nonsense. Furious barking sounded from within the stables. Jean-Baptiste!
Jean-Luc lunged again, just inside Kinnon’s defensive circle. Kinnon parried the thrust, but did not advance. “Fight me!” Jean-Luc roared. “Let us see who is the better man.”
For a heartbeat, nothing happened. Jean-Luc’s guard relaxed, the line of his shoulders drooped slightly, allowing the tip of his sword to dip down. “Coward.”
Kinnon’s attack was a blur of motion, and Melisende gasped, afraid his leg would betray him. He beat Jean-Luc back, his sword hammering against the knight’s, the ring of the blows nearly one continuous flurry of sound. In an instant, Kinnon was inside Jean-Luc’s guard. Holding the knight’s sword to the side, braced against his own, he rammed Jean-Luc with an uppercut from his left fist that sent the knight sprawling. He landed on the ground amid the dust, sliding a few feet from the force of Kinnon’s blow. Still clutching his sword, Jean-Luc thrust it tip-down into the earth, using the hilt to brace himself as he struggled to rise.
A crash sounded from the stable as the upper half of a stall door burst open, slamming against the wall. Jean-Baptiste leapt through the opening, landing on the ground at a hard run. He skidded to a halt before Jean-Luc, teeth flashing in the early light as he fought against Kinnon’s sharp command to hold.
“Get up,” Kinnon barked at Jean-Luc.
Clearly stunned from the blow, the man levered himself up, but slipped, falling to one knee. Kinnon kicked the weapon from Jean-Luc’s hand and stood one foot on the blade to keep him from picking it up again. Using the tip of his sword, he forced Jean-Luc’s chin up.
“I can finish this here, or ye can admit ye are an arrogant bastard and hie yerself away to yer barracks. Either way, it ends now.” He slid the blade a bit forward, toward the tempting pulse in the knight’s throat.
Jean-Luc spat in the dirt. “Keep la prostituée,” he snarled.
With a forceful kick to the man’s chin, Kinnon laid Jean-Luc in the dirt. “I dinnae call that an apology.”
He turned with a slight wince, and strode to the edge of the crowd, snapping his fingers for the dog to follow. With a last sniff at the prone knight, Jean-Baptiste bounded after Kinnon as he pushed through the throng, a dark scowl on his face.
Melisende gathered her skirts and ran after him, catching him as the Scots converged on him. “You are injured!” she exclaimed, half-questioning him, half-chiding him for fighting on a leg that was a possible liability.
His furious gaze stopped her. “He was drunk!” He stopped and snapped at his men over his shoulder. “Get the horses.” Half of them barreled their way through the crowd, the rest formed a guard about him and Melisende. Jean-Baptiste eyed them warily, hackles up.
“Forgive me,” he said to Melisende. “I am not angry with ye. I did not provoke him, and he was rather uncomplimentary about ye.” He cast a look at the knight’s form still sprawled on the ground. “Mayhap he will wake a better man.”
Back Cover Copy for The Highlander’s French Bride:
Heir to a lairdship, Kinnon Macrory is driven to prove his worth by fighting the English on the battlefields of France. His dreams of heroic valor are destroyed by the realities of war—the atrocities visited by fellow soldiers on the very people he is sworn to protect. Three years in a French prison for a crime he did not commit leave Kinnon longing for the one thing of beauty in his war-torn life—a young woman of great kindness and wisdom named Melisende.
Melisende de la Roche struggles to stay one step ahead of soldiers who would imprison her for helping an injured Scotsman wrongly accused of treason. She finds refuge in her uncle’s shop—until a chance encounter sends her fleeing into the unknown once again, haunted by the beguiling friendship with the troubled young Scotsman she is certain she will never see again.
Determined to find the woman of his dreams, Kinnon returns to France, only to discover a trail of clues to Melisende’s whereabouts. Their reunion will open the doors to passion, but half-truths and lies from the past could destroy the one thing they both are willing to fight for—each other.
Buy Link for The Highlander’s French Bride: Amazon

Friday, June 10, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Barbara Bettis

Medieval romance. I really love to read and write these stories. Welcome to Books, Chocolate and Wine. Today my guest is good friend Barbara Bettis. I love her stories and when she asked me what her post should be about… well, I’ll let her tell you.
Hi Everyone, Ruth asked me why I write. “Give me three reasons,” she said. Pinning down three reasons is hard to do, but here goes:
1. I write because I have certain stories I want to tell about certain characters.
I can’t say that I’m driven or that the characters won’t let me rest, as some authors experience. But my characters (and plots) nag and needle; they whisper and nudge and hang around the edges of my consciousness until finally I give up and write their stories. And just when I’ve gotten that book about wrapped up, and I think I can take a little time off or visit family or travel, another character comes calling. And he (or she) won’t leave.
No matter how I ignore him, he’s there. Like a shadow that follows me day and night. Darn pesky people, characters are.
No matter how often I tell them to go away, they lurk until, once again, I’m forced to the computer.  They have no sympathy!
Even in the midst of research, they’re there. I was minding my own business one day, in the process of clarifying a historical event for the WIP, when a phrase triggered an image of a character in the midst of a scene. For a different story. So there I was, trying to complete one novel with another vying for attention. I tried to pretend he wasn’t demanding his own book but I finally gave up and wrote it.
Now, back to the question.
2. I write because it's an excuse to ditch any diet I try to pretend I'm on that month.
Somehow ideas coalesce when I munch. One can rationalize a lot when in the throes of creativity. Or on deadline. Dust collects on the bathroom scales and I don't even notice. that leads to Reason No. 3.
3. An excuse not to clean house.
Oh, all right. I admit, 2 and 3 are effects not causes. The truth is, No. 1 is the reason I write. I love telling stories. And I hope readers like the stories as much as I like the process of creating them.
Thanks for having me today, Ruth. It’s always a joy to visit your blog.

Some call him a ruthless mercenary;
she calls him the knight of her heart

Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.   
Can Be Cruel                                                     
Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.                                                      
And Deadly  
When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the love he’s denied too long. Surely King John qwill see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.                                                                                                                               
Buy Links for The Heart of the Phoenix: Amazon                       
Excerpt from The Heart of the Phoenix:
At first, Evie thought it was the thud of her headache. Then the pounding came again, louder. She groaned and turned over. Opening her eyes told nothing; the blackness in the cabin was impenetrable.
“Marie?” Her voice rasped in a dry throat. No one answered. The girl must still be on deck. Evie
might as well have left Marie behind, for all the assistance the maid provided. With a groan, she swung her feet over the side of the bunk and felt her way along the wall toward the sound of another insistent knock.
“A moment,” she called. “I’m coming.” Who had the nerve to wake her in what must be the middle of the night? Hah. Need she even wonder? Her toe collided with something, and she yelped as she landed on her knees on the wood plank floor. Just what she needed. A broken foot.
The door burst open, bringing with it a dim light. “What’s wrong?” Stephen’s deep voice filled the room. “Where’s the damned lantern?”
“If I knew, I would have lighted it.” Blasted man. Did he think she enjoyed stumbling around in the dark? He acted as if she did so just to plague him.
Holding a shielded ship’s lantern high, he stepped toward the desk. “Here it is. Where’s that malkin who’s supposed to be your companion?”
“Leave Marie alone. I wanted privacy and gave her permission to go above.” Never mind that Evie had just complained about the same thing. He had no right to do so.
“What do you want?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”
“A little late to ask that, isn’t it?” He bent to coax the cabin lantern to flame.
“Oh, for the love of heaven. Stop plaguing me. Why are you here?”
“I thought you’d like to know the identity of our fellow passenger.”
“At this hour? Could you not have waited until morning?” Sweet Mary, preserve her patience. He was the most maddening man alive. Light flared in the cabin’s shuttered lantern, throwing a shadow across his face, reminding Evie of another reason he should not be here. Her body instantly throbbed to life.
She pressed her palms against her stomach and inhaled. Calm. She needed calm. He was not the most beautiful man she’d ever beheld. He did not possess the power to heat her blood to boiling. He did not care that she thought of him night and day.
That much was true, for certain.
“I have news that will make the rest of your trip joyful.”
His words centered her whirling mind, and Evie eyed him warily. What news could possible make her happy right now?
She ventured a guess. “You are leaving? Your second in command, the delightful Sir Macsen, will accompany me the rest of the way home?”
“Much better.”
Evie could tell Stephen was angry now by the way he glowered and roared in that whispery sort of way no one else could hear, but left her with no doubt of his displeasure.
“Your betrothed.” He bent and scooped her off the floor.
“What? What about him?”
“That’s the identity of the illustrious lord who’s sharing passage with us.”
“You’re drunk. And put me down. I’m perfectly capable of getting up on my own.”
“Be quiet. You have blood on your leg.”
“Of course I do. I tripped and fell trying to answer your pounding when you could easily have opened—” His words finally penetrated her throbbing head. “I’m bleeding?”
Oh, blast. The contents of her—empty—stomach churned. She attended the villagers’ hurts, bound the cuts and scrapes of servants and their children. The sight of their blood bothered her not a whit. But her own? Black spots danced at the corners of her vision, becoming larger and larger until she heard Stephen’s voice.
“Evie, Evie. What the hell?”
His voice echoed so far away. If she didn’t know better, she’d vow he sounded alarmed. Perhaps she’d close her eyes for a moment. As the ringing in her ears crescendoed, she recalled
his words. Betrothed.
Her betrothed was on board?
Dear Lord, just let me die.
About the Author:
A former health insurance claims adjuster, a former journalist, a former journalism teacher, Barbara Bettis plans never to be a “former” author. Currently, Dr. Barb supports her writing habit as an adjunct English instructor at a community college near her home in Missouri.
Social Media Links:

Monday, June 6, 2016

Medieval Monday with Jenna Jaxon

Happy Medieval Monday. Today we continue the theme, conflict. Jenna Jaxon is my guest. In this excerpt from Time Enough to Love, a knight challenges his friend over the affections for a lady. The outcome could be a draw or more devastating. Which will the men choose and which who will suffer the most? I hope you enjoy the passage.
Excerpt from Time Enough to Love:
Both knights had broken two lances on the torso—their scores were even. In order to win, one would need to either break a lance on the helm or unhorse their opponent. Either feat was possible, but highly improbable, given the lateness of the day and the weariness of the jousters. The best outcome would be for one lance to miss, giving the knight to break a lance victory. Another possibility was a draw if both men broke their lances on the torso. A draw would mean no victor; the debt of honor satisfied without a forfeit. That outcome might be best, but she could not help thinking in that case there would have been a great deal of effort wasted for nothing.
Geoffrey nodded slightly within his helm, as though acknowledging a strategy confirmed. Though the decision was unknown to her, she prayed it would make him the clear winner of the match.
In an instant, Geoffrey streaked down the lists. Alyse gasped at the ferocity with which Saracen raced toward his adversary. Lord Braeton drove his horse fiercely as well, but did not seem to reach the black steed’s breakneck speed.
Moments before the collision, Geoffrey angled his weapon upward slightly, aiming again for the helm and its additional points. Her heart flew into her throat. Should his lance glance off, as it had earlier, she would certainly be leading the first dance with Lord Braeton this evening. That prospect no longer held any delight for her, not after the physical pain this match must have cost Geoffrey—and Lord Braeton—and the mental anguish it had cost her. Had she not seemed so enthralled with the earl, mayhap the challenge would never have been issued. Or would not have been so avidly pursued by Geoffrey. If one of them were injured, it could surely be laid at her feet.
Geoffrey must win. He must.
The impact devastated both knights. Thomas’s lance splintered dramatically along Geoffrey’s right shoulder, twisting him around in the saddle and almost unseating him.
Geoffrey’s lance found its mark in the dead center of Thomas’s helm, snapping his head back with the force of the blow. An immediate cry of pain erupted from his helmet. Alyse bolted from her seat, raced out of the berfrois and onto the field.
* * * *
Thomas managed to pull his horse to a stop, and his squires ran to assist him as he dropped to the ground. Almost as quickly, Geoffrey leaped from his horse, cursing as he ran toward his friend.
’Tis my fault if he dies. I was angered at him. Christ, why did I not aim elsewhere and try to unseat him? Geoffrey could barely hold still as his squire removed his helmet. “Thomas! Thomas!”
Men had lowered his friend to the ground, where he lay motionless.
Dear God! The splinters—
He stared in horror at the long wooden slivers poking out of Thomas’s visor.
Sweet Jesu, have mercy. Holy Mary, mother of God, have mercy.
He fell to his knees beside him, afraid to touch him lest he drive the fragments deeper.
“Fetch the surgeon!” Geoffrey threw the command over his shoulder, his attention fixed on the still body. “Thomas.” He couldn’t be dead.
Back Cover Copy for Time Enough to Love
When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend. 
From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.
As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?

Buy Link: AMAZON

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Kim McMahill

Welcome to a late edition of Books, Chocolate and Wine. The computer gods were not with us this week. I’m happy to host Kim McMahill. We had some questions for her and wanted to hear about her April release, A Taste of Tragedy.  
Tell us about your latest release.
A Taste of Tragedy is my latest release and the second novel in the Risky Research Series. In the first novel, A Dose of Danger, a researcher and her team believe they had discovered a miracle weight loss pill, which makes them the targets of a deadly group intent on controlling the multi-billion dollar-a-year diet product industry. In A Taste of Tragedy, a company uses and promotes a potentially deadly sweetener in its Healthy and Delicious Foods line. The product turns the company into a global powerhouse, but when their newest vice president uncovers evidence that the healthy foods she’s been hired to promote may be dangerous, she is forced to reevaluate her priorities. As questions mount and the body count rises, she finds herself caught in the crosshairs of an organization that will stop at nothing to hide its secrets and protect its profits.
What are you working on now?
I’ve drafted the basic plot for the third novel in the Risky Research series, A Foundation of Fear. In this book we really get to know the villains on a personal level and learn that even the most deadly assassin may have something to fear.
Are you a plotter or a pantser and why did you choose that method?
I’m a little of both, and the degree of each depends on the story. Shrouded In Secrets had so many complex scenarios to keep track of that I had note cards and maps pinned to a cork board and a fairly detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. I always keep a running chapter-by-chapter cheat sheet at a minimum, but if the story is flowing, I just let it go and see where I end up.
What is your favorite movie and why?
One of my all-time favorite movies has to be Sahara. It is based on a Clive Cussler novel of the same name. It is an entertaining adventure where the characters are trying to stop an ecological disaster of epic proportions, yet somehow Cussler always weaves in a few things that make you laugh or at least smile. I’m also quite fond of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Everyone always dreams of a little adventure, but it takes strength to go outside your comfort zone and grab it.
Someone just gave you the best compliment ever.  What was it?
“I stayed up until two in the morning, because I just couldn’t put your book down until I finished it.” Whenever I hear that I feel like I really accomplished something with my writing. I write to entertain and take the reader on outrageous adventures.
Name something that is guaranteed to make you laugh and something that will always make you cry.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation always makes me laugh even though I watch it at least once every holiday season. I’m an easy crier. Pretty much everything makes me cry, which is why I read, write and watch action adventure and suspense. If I hear a book or movie is a “feel good” story, I generally avoid it because I know it will make me cry.
You get a month off from your regular personal life and writing routine to travel.  Where will you go?
I would take a very long exotic cruise. I love to see new places, so I wouldn’t really care where I go as long as it’s someplace new. I don’t have a bucket list. I am a self-proclaimed travel junkie and anywhere I haven’t been is someplace I want to go. I would choose a cruise so I could see a lot of different places and only unpack once.
Tell us about a hidden talent you have that most people don’t know about.
I can grow tomatoes, even when nothing else grows.  No matter where I’ve lived or what variety I plant, I usually produce plenty to eat fresh all summer, give away to friends and neighbors, and freeze enough to get me through the entire winter. I’ve even taken up making my own homemade spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce to use up more at any given time.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
My husband makes killer homemade baked macaroni and cheese. If you’ve only had mac and cheese out of a box, you have no idea what you’re missing.
What one piece of advice would you like to pass on to an up and coming author?
Keep your expectations realistic. No matter how good your work may be, the competition is tough and getting noticed takes as much work and skill as writing that great novel.

Her dream job has turned into a nightmare…
Back Cover Copy for A Taste of Tragedy:
Morgan Hunter sacrificed everything for her career. She had yet to encounter anything she wasn’t willing to do to succeed...until now. When she uncovers evidence that the healthy foods she’s been hired to promote may be dangerous, she must reevaluate her priorities. As questions mount and the body count rises she finds herself caught in the crosshairs of an organization that will stop at nothing to hide its secrets and protect its profits. With no one else to trust, Morgan is forced to seek help from the man she drove away, but whom she never stopped loving.

Reviews for A Taste of Tragedy:
The fast paced story is hard to put down and the time and effort put into the development of the characters kept this reader pushing on to the end. Great job, great read. Keep them coming Ms. McMahill! “
“If you love romantic suspense, you’ve got to read this book! I highly recommend it! I can’t wait to read the next installment in the Risky Research series!!!”
2 of the 11 (averaging 4.6 stars) Amazon reviews
Excerpt from A Taste of Tragedy:
Jiggling the mouse, Morgan brought her sleeping computer screen to life. A quick check of her e-mail verified there was nothing new that couldn’t wait until Monday. She opened her calendar for the next week and nearly groaned. Her second week on the job, and she had the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) coming in for routine inspections, and a meeting with the sales and marketing team. On top of that, her new boss and president of the company, Preston Hoyle, wanted a report by week’s end on her observations and initial plan of attack for increasing profits and returning the line to its highest level of sales.
“You’re here late.”
Speak of the devil. Morgan looked up at Preston and smiled. “I’m just wrapping up a few things and wanted to take one last peek at next week’s schedule to make sure Aaron didn’t add anything new since the last time I checked.”
“He’ll definitely keep you organized, and don’t hesitate to utilize his skills. He’s a sharp young man.”
Morgan stood, feeling small and somewhat intimidated by the tall, handsome man towering over her. Even with heels on, she couldn’t quite look him in his pale blue eyes and had to tilt her chin up. He was closer than she had realized, invading her personal space. His gaze seemed fixed on her lips, so she took a quick step back and reached for Aaron’s resume to insert some distance without seeming too obvious.
“I gathered that from his resume, and I can’t help but wonder how long I’ll have him with his education and experience. He seems a bit overqualified for the job.”
“Don’t worry about Aaron. He isn’t going anywhere, but you should. It’s Friday night. You’re new on the job and new in town, and you’ve put in more hours than I expect, especially during your first week. I feel a little guilty about the lack of assistance with your transition, but hopefully, Aaron has ensured you have everything you need. If my in-laws weren’t in town, I’d love to take you to dinner and show you what our fine city has to offer.”
The only way Morgan could describe the smile that followed his last statement was “lecherous,” and warning bells resounded in her head.
“I appreciate the sentiment, Mr. Hoyle, but it has been a long week, and as soon as I can close up here, I’m heading up to Sedona to our family vacation home. I plan to relax with a glass of wine and one of the Healthy and Delicious Foods entrees I haven’t tried yet before I tackle a year’s worth of dust and cobwebs tomorrow.”
“Now that’s dedication, but don’t get too carried away with these products. Your figure is just fine the way it is,” he said, letting his eyes linger too long on her breasts. “And please, call me Preston. I’m sure we’ll be working very closely together, including plenty of late nights, so no need to be so formal.”
Morgan didn’t know how to respond to his last comment so returned her focus to an innocuous topic. “According to the promotional material supplied by the advertising team, the Healthy and Delicious Foods line isn’t just for weight loss. I must admit, I’m very impressed with the data on GCF’s revolutionary natural sweetener, MFHG3, derived primarily from the monk fruit and hoodia gordonii. Not only does it sweeten foods, but the steroidal glycosides found in the Hoodia plant are reported to curb the appetite. It sounds almost too good to be true.”
“Yes, MFHG3 took this company from a small local manufacturer to a national powerhouse, catering to the thin-obsessed and health-crazed society. MFHG3 has changed the playing field and has all the other companies scrambling to catch up, but enough shoptalk. You need to get out of here, and if I miss my dinner reservation, my mother-in-law will yap about it all weekend. I would like to hear more about this place in Sedona soon. Sounds like a perfect weekend getaway from the heat, the city, and the stress of the job. Maybe you’ll even give me a tour one of these days.”
Not in this lifetime. She bit her lip and didn’t respond.
The smile he flashed at Morgan as he departed her office made her shudder. He seemed perfectly professional during the interview process. She hadn’t been alone with him in the same room all week, but this brief exchange warned her to avoid one-on-one time with her boss as much as possible, especially after hours in an empty and dark building.
Morgan dropped into her desk chair, powered down her computer, and stowed the lightweight laptop in her briefcase along with several files she had procured from accounting. Grasping the knob on the lower side drawer of her desk to retrieve her purse, she was reminded of one more thing she had forgotten to do this week.
She had intended to have Aaron submit a work order to have someone fix the drawer. Since it didn’t completely close, she wasn’t able to lock up her purse when she was down in the ground floor factory—not that anyone could get into her office with the tenacious Aaron sitting just outside her door. Mostly, it was simply annoying. The drawer shut enough that she didn’t catch a shin, so she forgot about it until she was stowing or retrieving her purse.
“I can’t believe this little gap is bugging me so much. I must be turning into my ex,” Morgan huffed as she sat down on the floor and scooted under her desk with the small flashlight from her key chain, hoping her boss didn’t return and catch her with her skirt hiked up.
She ran her fingers along the track and felt something at the very back. Wriggling even further under the desk, she shined the small light in the area where she detected the obstruction. The item was affixed with tape, but it took little effort to pry it free.
Crawling back out into the light, Morgan examined the small item. No larger than a paperclip, its identity was clear. She held a tiny flash drive between her fingers.
Hmm, curious place to keep data. She pondered the matter while looking closely at her find. “Wish I wouldn’t have already powered down my computer,” Morgan muttered as she dropped the small device into her purse, flipped off the lights, and headed for the elevator.
Author the Author:
Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming, which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. Kim started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for exotic world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happily-ever-after endings soon drew her into a world of romantic suspense. Along with writing adventure novels Kim has also published over eighty travel and geographic articles, and contributed to a travel anthology and cookbook. Kim currently resides in Colorado, and when not writing, she enjoys gardening, traveling, hiking, and spending time with family.
Kim’s Social Media Links: