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Persuasion – The Abcynians Book 1 by Frances Stockton


Persuasion
The Abcynians Book 1
By
Frances Stockon

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They have lived for centuries. An ancient, secretive race of were-panthers faced with near extinction. To assure their survival they must conceal their identities and abilities, while protecting mankind from an unimaginable, primordial evil.

As an Abcynian Elder, Garrick Forrester has survived wars, plagues, and arranged marriages. Nothing he’s experienced prepares him for the discovery of his mate living in his demesne, or for her resistance.

While aiding a child, Aisley Reeves is rescued by the Earl of Danford, whom a village healer should never dare approach without being summoned. At first, she is fascinated with the dark, mesmerizing lord who tempts her in a way no man has ever done. After he claims she’s to become his betrothed, she balks.

Already fearful her work and red hair might cause some to brand her as a witch, she believes it is best to keep her distance. When Aisley suffers a near mortal injury at the hands of his enemies, Garrick must gain her trust so that he can protect her. But can she trust her life to a man who is far more than…human?

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This series starts in 1453 and moves through the centuries. The jumps are of course because of the extremely long lives of the Abcynian’s and so we meet everyone necessary for peace to finally reign.

Garrick Forrester, Earl of Danford has finally returned home after years away, he’s surprised as he reaches his senses out over his lands to sense the presence of a female who could possibly be his mate. He’s deep in thought when he’s startled by the voice of his friend Lucien Montgomery, Lord Raybourne. Lucien has brought his son Valient to be trained as a knight.

Now this woman who could be his mate is also the healer Aisley. Her parents been Abcynian guards and so knew of the abilities of the Earl. What motivates Garrick to make a move is when she puts herself in danger to save a child from a shyster.

This is a favorite scene.

The villagers relayed their wishes and Aisley stepped back. She could not deny them a few moments pleasure. More coins hit the ground as Sedgewick demanded. Apparently pleased with the villagers, the visitor bowed once again in acceptance.

“Ah, at last my performers will grant your due,” Haywood pronounced. Proudly, he moved to the side.

Both the minstrel and the jester beckoned to the crowd and the curtain before them. Whispers filled the air, but they could not mask the eerie sawing drawing ever closer to the village. Did no one else hear the beast? It sounded as if he boomed from a mountaintop.

“Is someone cutting branches in the forest?” she asked.

“I hear nothing of the sort, Aisley,” Howard said.

Cease, little one, only you can hear me. I am close. Do not provoke the strangers, I will protect you and my tenants, someone said, a man, with a deep, gruff voice spoken so close to her ear, she swore his breath brushed her ear.

Unbidden, the scent of cinnamon tickled her nose, the memory it triggered bittersweet. Her father had always favored it in his porridge, a rarity to be certain, as it’d been a gift from Lord Danford in return for his physician’s fealty.

You like cinnamon, I shall procure some from the kitchens for you by the morrow. Ease your worry, it will be all right. Again, that voice, so compelling, so distinct and male, reached her.

“Who spoke to me of cinnamon?” Aisley demanded, glancing about. The villagers stared back as though she’d gone mad.

“Your attention, healer,” Haywood insisted. “To one and all, I give you living proof of werewolves in England!”

“Werewolves…are you mad, Haywood?” Andrew asked.

“Nay, I tell you true, feast your eyes on a werewolf’s babe.” Sedgewick swept his right hand toward the jester, who sliced a rope and the curtain shushed to the ground.

“Dastard!” Aisley cried as the villagers gasped. A little girl with large, rounded blue eyes stared at them and wept, pleading for love.

“What did you call me, woman?” Haywood questioned, his tone turning menacing.

“It matters not! How dare you cage a child?” she accused, her heart lurching painfully at the site of the girl’s dirt-strewn hair and face. Her eyes were different than most English children, though the fear within them reflected unspeakable cruelty.

“It is for yours and the villagers’ safety, dear lady.”

“Nay, this is an atrocity the likes of which none of us have seen.”

“All should know by now there’s no such thing as werewolves,” Howard said. “You show us an unfortunate child.”

“Can you not see her deformity? She is eight, practically mute with the mind of a babe,” Haywood insisted. “This occurs in the offspring of a werewolf.”

“You speak of what is evil!” Andrew White shouted.

“There is no evil here,” Aisley warned. Talk of evil could spread quickly amongst the villagers. “This little girl is an angel from God, not some mythical creature.”

“Mayhap the healer feels herself capable of speaking for God,” Sedgewick hedged, rounding on Aisley and marching toward her.

“There is nothing wrong in speaking of God.”

“Yet, you are certain you can dispel the existence of evil.”

“Evil is a man who can cage a child!” Aisley accused.

“How dare you speak to me with such disrespect! I see standing before me a woman of flame red hair, freckles, and a dark patch of skin right beneath her chin, one who shouldn’t be so outspoken.” Sedgewick looked at the villagers. “Your healer bears the marks of a witch.”

Unbidden, tiny bumps pricked Aisley’s skin as Sedgewick spoke of witchcraft. Because of her father’s teachings, Danford’s villagers and tenants did not believe a birthmark was the sign of evil. But such talk could sway minds, causing hysteria.

“My father and mother were good, decent Christians, as am I,” she said.

“She speaks the truth,” Andrew added in her defense.

The jester and the minstrel pulled long, sharp daggers from their scabbards. Andrew and others stepped forward to protect the women. Aisley turned away, rushing to the cage.

Realizing she shouldn’t have been so outspoken, she tried reason. “Please, free this child, let me take care of her,” she urged and reached for the door.

“Step away anon,” he sneered. “She was sold to me by a mother who’d have let her starve and has been in my charge for nigh unto three years. She is all but an animal that can only cry and bite if you venture too close. Would you care to see the teeth marks she’s left?”

“Mayhap she cries of hunger and defends herself out of fear. I am a healer. I can take care of her.”

Aisley faced the little girl, attempting to smile, to soothe as best she could from the slight distance. She would love to trace her wispy brown hair back behind her ears and wash away the dirt streaked across her sweet, plump face. Or, provide a warm meal and a safe place to sleep.

“You will be all right, angel,” she said, speaking gently so as not to frighten her further. “I promise to do right by you.” Paying no mind to the rush of voices warning her to stop, she rushed to the cage, seeking a key or a means to open it.

“Healer, take your hand from that door or I will smite you where you stand,” Sedgewick threatened, slamming her from behind into the cold, hard cage.

The sing of a sword echoed in her ear, still she showed no fear even as the stranger grasped her hair and jerked it so hard, her neck nearly snapped. From the corner of her eye, she saw the stranger raise his arm, the gleam of a blade frightening as she waited to die for the girl’s freedom.

“Touch what’s mine, knave, you will face a wrath unlike anything you could comprehend!” A man’s unexpected voice rumbled behind them, a haunting growl emanating all around her, within her.

Released at once, she looked about, discovering a man of considerable height and size for an Englishman hefted Haywood with a big hand wrapped about his throat. The stranger’s feet dangled from the ground, his eyes bulging.

Something within Aisley shifted, awakened, as if sensing her entire world would one day center upon her rescuer. Though she knew it was wrong to look right at a man whose finery marked him as a man of considerable rank, she couldn’t avert her gaze.

There was enough gray light left in the day to reveal his green eyes. Long straight hair fell between broad shoulders in a sleek black curtain. His face, free of beard growth, allowed her to see the sharp arch of his cheekbones, prominent nose, and strong squared chin.

Finding herself staring at his full, masculine lips, she felt an odd flutter low in her belly. There was no doubt that the man was strong, powerful, his bearing so proud she thought he was capable of standing just as he was for hours, mayhap days.

His long, muscular legs were encased in black braies and thigh-high boots. The expanse of his chest was apparent in a silver and blue cote-hardie. Though he’d not given in to gluttony, it amazed her to think such a big man could come upon the villagers without being heard.

As she stared, soldiers on horseback closed in on the common, joining their lord, swords drawn. Aisley knew who’d come to her aid.

The Earl of Danford maintained a lethal hold upon Sedgewick’s throat, and the rumbling growl continued, freezing her to the spot.
Stockton, Frances. Persuasion (The Abcynians). Kindle Locations (167-235). Kindle Edition.

This encounter not only saves the child, but also confirms that Aisley is Garrick’s mate. Although she is not exactly sure she can just accept that.

It also is the beginning of something far more nefarious. Sedgewick teams up with something far more dangerous than he could possibly imagine.

Aisley leads Garrick on a merry chase as he tries to keep her out of danger and eliminate an unimaginable evil.

Plenty of action, romance and sizzle in this book I couldn’t put down.

5 Contented Purrs for Frances!

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Frances Stockton

My love for storytelling began when I created my first fictional characters in kindergarten, convincing my family and friends that Red Henry and Green Henry were identical twin brothers in my school. They were mischievous, rarely did their homework, and even had girlfriends! Years later, I started to write, completing my first manuscript in middle school. I confess the heroine was a cross between a contemporary Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew, who’d been dating one of the Hardy Boys, but when I wrote “the end” I’d known I had more stories to tell. Of course, life intervened, but whether I was in high school, working as a Veterinary Technician, earning a degree in history and secondary education, or teaching, I was always writing and reading romances.

Finally, I met and married my hero and moved to New England. Shortly after, I joined RWA and the New England Chapter and have been writing faithfully ever since. I invite you to come and meet the Panthera.

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Her Righteous Protector – Night Storm Book 8 by Caitlyn O’Leary


Her Righteous Protector
Night Storm Book 8
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Caitlyn O’Leary

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Navy SEAL Lieutenant Max Hogan has watched as every single one of his men has paired off. He is beginning to wonder if there is something more to life than just mission after mission.

He is surprised the moment he’s asked to attend the reading of a will and even more surprised when he discovers who has passed away. He was sad this woman he’d had a brief relationship with was dead, but he hadn’t seen her for five years, so why in the world would he be sitting in her lawyer’s office?

Ten minutes later Max is staring at the man, uncomprehending. The lawyer’s words don’t make any sense. His lips continue to move, but all Max keeps hearing is that first sentence.

“Megan wanted you to have custody of your son if anything ever happened to her.”

He has a son?

Once centered around endless missions and keeping his men safe, Max’s life is about to change in ways he never expected. Can he rise to this unexpected challenge, and will he have to do it alone? Or will his son’s guardian turn out to be his closest ally—and more?

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When Max Hogan gets the notification to contact a Chicago lawyer about the will of one Meghan Todd,he’s puzzled. He doesn’t recall the name at all so he puts Kane on it to find out what he can about the woman. His team is called up on a mission, so he doesn’t get the chance to respond to the lawyer.

Even before they go wheels up things get complicated. Kostya Barona, the lieutenant of Omega Sky is waiting in his office. He apparently has information vital to this extraction. While this mission goes pretty smoothly in spite of including the Nuri family along with Lark Sorenson, it’s Lark who will become important later on. I’m also pretty sure Kostya and Lark are going to be a thing.

Returning home, Max finally contacts the lawyer and travels to Chicago. There he gets the official word that Zephyr, the child Meghan gave birth to is his. Although a DNA test would also be done to confirm it.

There’s also the child’s current guardian, Hannah. She’s devastated that Zephyr will be leaving Chicago to live in Virginia with his father.

Max isn’t leaving right away there are many things to settle, including the way he’s attracted to Hannah.

This is a favorite scene.

She looked up at him from under her lashes. She spoke quietly. “We’ve been in limbo, waiting for the test. At least I have.”

She wasn’t making any sense. They’d both known he was Zephyr’s father. But he waited so that she could say what she needed to, in her own time. She pushed her chair back from her desk and clutched the arms, her knuckles turning white.

“I… I…”

What in the hell?

Her eyes started to well up with tears. He turned and locked the door as she gulped in a silent sob. He was at her side in a flash.

Her head dropped and her hands lost their grip. Tears streaked down her face and before she had a chance to slide out of her chair he caught her. She was biting her lip so hard he thought she would break the skin. He knew it was to stifle her sob.

“Hannah,” he whispered. He turned them so that he was sitting in the chair and she was in his lap. He cuddled her close and she clung to his neck, her silent shudders were heartbreaking.

Shit!

How could they have not talked about this? How could he have not realized that she’d been living on a knife’s edge?

“Hannah, you’re not losing him,” he whispered harshly. She wasn’t hearing him. Her grief was absolute.

Max pulled her arms away from his neck, trying to tilt her face up so she could look at him, but her eyes were shut tight.

“Look at me, Hannah.”

Her head shook so wildly, her hair came out of her ponytail.

“Hannah!” He gripped her chin, forcing it up. “Look at me. You’re not losing him. I promise you. He needs you. You’re not losing him.”

She tried to pull away from his hold and turn to the door. “He’ll wake up soon,” she gasped. “He can’t see me like this. He’ll get upset.” Hannah’s voice sounded like she’d swallowed broken glass.

“Hannah, did you hear me? You’re not going to lose him.”

She started to struggle. “I need to clean up.”

“Everything’s going to be fine,” Max said soothingly.

Hannah shoved at him violently. “How! How can it be fine?” she shrieked softly. “How can it ever be fine again?” She stumbled off the chair and shoved the heels of her hands into her eyes. He would have pulled her into his embrace, but she lurched across the room and sagged against the door.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry Max,” she whimpered. He stalked her carefully as she tried valiantly to pull herself together.

How had he fucked up so badly? How?

“Zephyr needs you. I know that. How could you ever think that I would pull the two of you apart?”

She was mere inches away from him and he once again pulled her into his arms. He breathed a sigh of relief as she fell against his chest, but she was still softly keening in pain. She hadn’t heard him.

He bent his knees and cupped her cheeks, willing her to open her eyes.

“Hannah,” he kissed her forehead. “Look at me.” He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Please, Baby, look at me.”

Her eyes fluttered open.

“I was going to talk to you about this. I swear to God, I was going to talk to you about this. I got so excited about being able to tell him about being his dad, I didn’t think about how we would work things out.”

“Talk about what?” the words tumbled out of her mouth.

“Right now it’s important for him to stay here. He has you, he has your parents, he has this house. I’ve talked to my commander. I’m taking emergency family leave. We’re going to figure this out.”

“But eventually you have to go home to Virginia,” she whimpered.

“Zephyr is my priority. He’s our priority. I’m staying.”

She threw her arms around his neck. “Oh my God, Max. Do you mean it?” Her beautiful green eyes beamed up at him.

Her eyes shimmered, her lips were wet with her tears.

“Yes,” he said hoarsely.

“Max,” his name was a mere whisper, and he was lost.

He bent his head and brushed his lips against hers, testing, tasting.
Caitlyn O’Leary. Her Righteous Protector: Night Storm, Book Eight (Kindle Locations 1598-1632).

With the DNA test done confirming that Max is Zephyr father, there is still much to be done. There’s another problem that Max doesn’t know about.

Meghan’s parents have hired a lawyer and are contesting the guardianship to get custody of Zephyr.

I love this book and the way Max works his way into Zephyr’s life, firmly but gently. I also love the way his relationship with Hannah grows in a simmer to sizzle.

I can’t wait to see who’s next to tumble into love in this series.

5 Contented Purrs For Caitlyn!

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Caitlyn O’Leary

Caitlyn O’Leary is an avid reader, and considers herself a fan first and an author second. She reads a wide variety of genres, but finds herself going back to happily-ever-afters. Getting a chance to write, after years in corporate America is a dream come true. She hopes that her stories provide the kind of entertainment and escape that she has found from some of her favorite authors.

Her Series Include:
THE FOUND
It’s a bit Paranormal, a bit Sci-Fi and 100% Action/Adventure. The characters have special abilities, that make them targets.

MIDNIGHT DELTA
This is focused on a group of Navy Seals. What makes them special is their bond to one another, and the women they come to love.

FATE HARBOR
This is the series that started her career, it is a Menage Series that takes place in Fate Harbor Washington. It focuses on a tight knit community who live and love and care for one another.

She loves to hear from her readers. caitlyn@caitlynoleary.com


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Shattered Chaos – Steel Roses Book 1 by Samantha Bee


Shattered Chaos
Steel Roses Book 1
by
Samantha Bee

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Forbidden acts.
Evil intents.
Depraved souls.
Perverse pleasure.

Everything changed when I walked into my father’s office that day eight years ago. I lost everything, my home, my family, even myself.

I’m not the same girl I was back then. I’ve spent every day sharpening my broken edges to turn them into weapons. I embraced the chaos in my soul and now my heart beats to thunder and my blood flows with electricity.

The only thing keeping me alive? Knowing that I’ll wreck havoc on the ones who tore me apart.

I’ve built my throne with blood and grown my kingdom with violence. Now I’m ready to tear theirs down. I’ve gained the money, power and the skills to do it. The only thing I can’t do?

Love.

But it’s okay. I have rules for that.

NOTE:
Shattered Chaos is the first book in the contemporary new adult series, Steel Roses. It is a reverse harem, meaning the female protagonist has three or more love interests and will not be forced to choose. It is intended for mature audiences and contains themes of violence and revenge, high steam, and foul language.

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The prologue of this book takes place eight years prior. It contains a pretty horrific back story for Scar. I have to say I was hooked before I got to the first chapter.

We begin with a bit more back story but only eight months. Scar has gone to Steel Roses her friend had bailed on her, but she loves the environment, the flirting and dancing. A brief encounter outside while smoking perks my curiosity even more.

When she goes inside we learn she is something more than just a customer here as she heads directly to the VIP area. We meet Luca the owner and apparently her boss and one of only two people who knows her history. While she sometimes bartends and occasionally dances, it’s Luca who challenges her to dance when she’s not expecting to. Where she dances is also interesting as is the dance and Luca’s reactions.

It’s after the dancing that had me finding one of my favorite scenes.

“What’s up, Stranger?” I smile, feeling more like myself now that I’m not in Luca’s arms.

“Luca on your roster?” he asks.

I shake my head, looking at Luca from the corner of my eye, he looks confused at the familiarity the stranger is addressing me with, “Luca is just,” I hesitate, “Luca,” I shrug not really sure how else to explain it.

Stranger laughs, “Well shit, if that’s how you treat guys not even on your roster, I can’t wait to see how you treat the guys that are.”

I grin, “You may never find out.”

He clutches his hands to his chest as if I’ve wounded him, “Are you saying you don’t think I can impress you?”

I shrug, “Well you already got two strikes against you.”

Luca is looking back and forth between us probably trying to figure out how we know each other.

“Oh,” the stranger chuckles, “and pray tell, what are these strikes against me?”

“Well, you know Luca,” I say pointing to my boss who still looks confused, “and you’re too,” I hesitate trying to figure out exactly how to word it as I gesticulate up and down in his direction, “preppy looking,” I finally finish.

“Preppy?” Luca chokes out, cracking up at the same time the stranger gasps, feigning outrage.

“Wait, seriously?” Luca asks.

I just nod and shrug before checking my nails. Luca starts cracking up as he pulls me back into his side, wrapping his arm around me.

“Well, it’s clear you have no idea who you’re talking to,” he looks up at the stranger and asks, “Did you recognize her or are you just as clueless?”

The stranger shakes his head, “No, sorry man. I didn’t realize she was one of your dancers, let alone your favorite dancer. We met up outside and talked for a bit.”

Luca starts cracking up again, “Oh, this is great.” I look up at him trying to figure out exactly what it is he is so entertained by.

“Okay, Stormy,” he says, placing an odd amount of emphasis on my stage name. I raise my brow at him, but he just squeezes me tighter to him, not bothering to hide his amusement at all.

The stranger looks just as confused as I do. “This is Kade,” Luca continues gesturing to his friend before continuing, “He’s one of my cage fighters.”

Oh, well that explains why they both looked so confused at me calling him preppy, it also explains that dangerous vibe I got from him.

“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Luca continues, again placing an odd amount of emphasis but this time on the word long. I just stare at Luca, trying to figure out what exactly he’s trying to tell me.

“We met in foster care,” he continues.

I gasp, “No!”

Luca starts chuckling again as I’m finally putting it together. I look back at the stranger and start examining him all over again from head to toe. My eyes are drawn back to the scar on his cheek and gasp again. My fingers trail down my own cheek where his scar is. I was there when he got that scar. He got it defending me.

“Kade?” I whisper. I haven’t seen him since just after my eighteenth birthday when I left the group home we met in. He’s looking back and forth between me and Luca, obviously not recognizing me, not that I blame him. My own mother wouldn’t recognize me if she were still around to see me.

Now I understand why Luca is so amused, Kade is never going to believe it’s me. I lean more into Luca, letting a small smile spread across my face.

“Kade, I don’t know if you remember her,” I roll my eyes. He’s just being an ass now. Kade will remember me, he just won’t believe it’s me, “This is Letty.”

Kade’s mouth drops open and he starts perusing me the same way I just did to him. His eyes lingering at my still unbuttoned pants before moving up to examine the tattoos that only partially cover my scars. His eyes stop at the bottom of my sweatshirt where just the end of my chest scar from open heart surgery is visible.

“Letty?” he whispers, shaking his head. “No, Letty disappeared after she left.”

I wince, “I go by Scar, now.”

He cracks up, “There is no way you are the Letty I know,” he says, continuing to shake his head.

“There’s no fucking way.”

He looks at Luca who is shaking with silent laughter.

“Sorry for disappearing,” I say shrugging, not really knowing what else to say. I did disappear on him. He has every reason to hate me.

“No, no, no,” he says, still shaking his head at us, “There’s no fucking way. Letty was a goody two shoes who never drank, was soft spoken, liked pink and had light brown hair,”

“Dirty blonde,” I interrupt.

He cracks up and pulls me out of Luca’s arms spinning me in circles, “Holy fuck, it really is you!” he exclaims before putting me back down, “How are you the girl next door that I used to know? I can’t believe it. You used to wear your hair in pigtails.”

I finally laugh, realizing he doesn’t hate me, “Guilty.”

He presses his fingers tips at the base of my chest scar and moves his fingers up under my sweatshirt, “It’s really you, Letty?”

I laugh and nod, “It’s really me. Just a little different, nowadays.”

“Oh yeah, just a little?” Luca laughs.

Kade gestures between the two of us, “Oh, this dynamic makes so much more sense now,” he laughs.

I roll my eyes but Luca just shrugs. We’ve always had a strange relationship, flirting between the line of friendship and something more. He came into my life at the very lowest point and I leaned too much on him during that time. And ever since, if I’m being honest. If I was capable of falling in love with anyone, it would probably be Luca. Which is exactly why we both push the other away when we get too close and we’ve always been like that. Running from the inferno that threatens to consume us both every time we get too close.

Kade runs his thumb absentmindedly along the scar on his face, the one he got defending me.

“So,” he starts, staring at me, “I have to say. Now that I know who you are, I feel like I’ve done enough to earn a spot on your roster,” he finishes with a click of his tongue.

I start laughing but before I can even respond to him Luca is asking, “What roster do you keep referring to, man?”

I look over at him wondering how he’s going to respond. Luca knows I sleep around, we talk about it every so often, but I don’t think he’s ever had to actually meet any of my flavors of the month. I decide to just stick with honesty, I’ve never lied to Luca and don’t want to start now.

“Kade has been referring to the guys I’m currently fucking as being on my roster,” I shrug but don’t look at either of them. I must be looking uncomfortable because Candy walks by and passes me a beer with a wink.

Bless her soul.

Luca laughs it off, but I don’t miss how he slightly shifts towards me, Kade doesn’t miss it either. Kade raises an eyebrow at me but I just shrug and start sipping on my beer. The tension is almost unbearable, and I drink half my beer as the three of us just stand there staring at each other. Luca keeps scrunching his hands into fists like he’s holding himself back from reaching out to grab me again. Kade is just looking back and forth between us trying to figure us both out.

“Well,” I start as I lean towards Kade and run my finger down the path of his scar, “as partial as I am to this particular scar, you know too much about me for me to fuck you,” I shrug, “sorry about that.”

Luca starts laughing, “I know your rules, Scar,” he starts before hesitating looking back and forth between me and Kade, “but I would actually give him a shot.”

I think my jaw actually hits the floor. I have no response and I just stare at him waiting for the just kidding, but it never comes.

“What?” he asks, “He’s just as emotionally stunted as you are.”

Most people would probably take offense to that, but I can’t because it’s entirely true. I don’t do complicated and I definitely don’t do feelings. I do fun and I do sex. I don’t really care about hurting other people’s feelings or using people for their bodies. I’m upfront about it. Luca is one of the only people I still feel anything other than lust for, and while I don’t want to jump into a relationship with him either, I don’t want to hurt him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask at the same time Kade asks, “Is this some kind of test?”
Bee, Samantha . Shattered Chaos (Steel Roses Book 1). Kindle Locations (338-405). Kindle Edition.

There is a lot more to the relationship with Luca, but I totally get it. Now Kade is another story entirely as is Scar’s ‘real’ job.

We meet her tattoo artists Mikey and Ronan as her and Kade get tattoos to mark them being together again. Then we meet, Ian, Holden and Ty at the gym and Scar has a job to do for Rachel, a dealer gone rogue, it’s just one of many things Scar does. All this before we get to the present day.

The underground work Scar does and the men who help her are quite the team. She is the most brutal though and those that feel her wrath are most deserving of it. This is where we meet Joe.

We meet the men that will capture her heart in spite of the way she locks it up. There is Luca of course and Kade. Noah we meet in a fun way, and Ryder in a totally different scenario.

Plenty of sizzle, action, suspense, intrigue, laughter, tears and so much more, I can’t wait to read Deadly Chaos. I’m really glad that one is out, since this one does have a bit of a cliffhanger ending.

5 Contented Purrs for Samantha!

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Coming Soon!

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Born and raised in California, Samantha Bee lives for coffee, cheesecake, and chaos. She seems to attract psychos and can be needy and dramatic. However, those things get channeled to her muse in order to create dark and sexy worlds.

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Offed in the Orchids – Lovely Lethal Gardens Book 15 by Dale Mayer


Offed in the Orchids
Lovely Lethal Gardens Book 15
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer

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Riches to rags …
Finally it’s calm …
At least for the moment …
If she’s lucky …

Needing a break from all the murder and mayhem, Doreen and Mack plan an outing to see the local orchid show. Some of the displays are in the community center, but the more prized specimens of this genus require a visit to some of the gardeners’ homes, a rare opportunity not afforded to everyone.

This trip, not quite a date, affords Doreen a chance to enjoy not only the company of Mack but to get to know a few more of the colorful locals. But, when one of these locals ends up dead just after their visit, the dark underbelly of orchid growing is exposed and, with it, an old murder, … not to mention another new one.

Doreen and Mack just can’t catch a break. But can they catch a killer before he kills again?

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I love this series so much. As this book opens Doreen and Mack finally go on a date and of course all her animals go with them. I love Goliath, Thaddeaus, and Mugs they are so much a part of every one of these stories as they repeatedly come to Doreen’s aid.

Their date is an Orchid tour, a flower that Doreen is familiar with yet hasn’t ever attempted to grow on her own. It appears this flower has quite the cutthroat competition especially when creating a new variation.

There are several interesting characters we meet that will be become important later. I do love this date and every interaction between Doreen and Mack.

A favorite scene is dinner.

“You can start by telling me if you like fish-and-chips.” Mack glanced at her and then focused on the road.

“Yes,” she said, “I do. But I have the animals, and no way we can go inside a restaurant with them.”

He chuckled. “I’ve got that covered.”

She watched with interest as he pulled off the highway and into the long strip mall. Off to one side was a fish-and-chips place.

He said, “Stay here, and I’ll be right back.”

She watched as he hopped out and strode into the restaurant. Mugs started barking, as if he knew that food was imminent. Goliath’s tail twitched faster and faster, as if completely pissed off that they were delayed getting home. Thaddeus had returned to her shoulder and was curled up, as if he was tired.

“I’m tired too, guys,” she murmured. “I wouldn’t mind just going straight home. But, if this is something we can pick up and take out, now that’s a different story.” Because that would mean food as soon as they got home, and they were only about ten minutes away. And yet it was still ten minutes, and, when you were tired, even ten minutes seemed like a heck of a lot.

She watched the traffic around her. It was late on a Saturday but still not late as far as evenings went. People were still out shopping at the local grocery store right beside her. She wasn’t familiar with this area because she never really spent any time in this corner of town, but it seemed to get steady traffic and to stay busy. For that, she was grateful. Nobody needed to be out of work in this day and age, and she should know.

t sucked trying to get a job, and, for all her best efforts, she was still not getting very far with that. And that just brought her back to the whole lawyer thing. On a whim, she pulled out her phone and sent Nick a text, asking for an update. She got a response almost immediately, saying he didn’t have one. She frowned at that, as she pocketed her phone. Just then Mack came flying out of the restaurant, a big bag in his arms. She looked at him in surprise. “Did you get something already?”

He nodded. “I did.”

“Are we taking that home?” she asked hopefully.

He said, “Well, we could. Otherwise we can take it down to the beach.”

“Beach,” she said immediately.

He chuckled, as he moved the large bag onto her lap, brushing Mugs a bit off to the side. Mugs immediately caught the scent of the food and shoved his nose into the side of the bag, putting a great big dent in it.

She told him to get over. “They’re hungry too.”

“Well, that would be one vote for going home. Unless you think they might have enough to keep them busy at the beach that they’d be okay for a little while.”

“They’ll be okay for a bit,” she said, “but not too much longer.”

“Still, they should be doing what we say, not us doing what they say,” he said, with a laugh.

“Yeah, that’s the theory,” she said. As it was, he drove in the direction of home, then took a couple corners away and down to a spot where he parked. “The beach is right here. It’s a private little spot.”

Curious, she hopped out because she hadn’t seen too many beach access areas on the lake. As a matter of fact, she could really use a few more places she could walk to. Then she stepped out with all the animals gathering around, almost tripping her up.

Mack hurried to her side and snatched the food. He waited for her to untangle herself. “You ready?”

She nodded and then followed him down the path, where the beach opened up suddenly. “Wow,” she said. “This is beautiful.”

“It’s not too far from you,” he said. “I thought you would enjoy it.”

“Absolutely,” she said.

Several big logs were off to one side, so he moved to that area. “Are you okay if we sit here, or do you want to sit on the beach itself?”

She looked blissfully at the water. “I’m really hungry, and I would love to walk in the water, but after we eat.” She sat down on the log, straddling it, as he did the same, placing the bag on the log between them. “I’m surprised you could get it so fast.”

“They do an awful lot of takeout there,” he said, “and they’re used to people running in and picking up stuff.”

“Well, that was running in and picking up all right,” she murmured.

“You looked like you were too tired to deal with the thought of figuring out food or sitting in a restaurant.”

“I am,” she said. “Something was just so very wrong about Stranden.”

“It’s definitely a curiosity,” he murmured.

“I’m not sure that’s the right word. He seemed pretty adamant that Gloria’s son had stolen the orchid from him.”

“And yet I’ve known Gloria for many years,” he said. “I can’t imagine it.”

“Maybe it wasn’t Gloria. Maybe Stranden was right, and it was the son,” she said. “Did you know him?”

He shook his head. “No, I didn’t. But I do know her, and I can’t imagine that the son would be any different.”

“I can,” she said immediately. “We’ve seen it time and time again, where some people are strong upstanding citizens, who wouldn’t do anything wrong and who would bend over backward to help somebody. But then you get somebody else in the family, often a child who’s been enabled a bit too much,” she said gently. “They turn around and make everything bad and ugly for the family because they have a very different perception of what they should get in life. Especially without having to work for it.”

“Well, we can’t find out anything right now,” he said. “So let’s eat.” He opened up this huge bundle wrapped in newspaper, filled with pieces of fish and another one full of fries.

She immediately snatched up a fry and popped it into her mouth. “Oh, they’re still hot.”

He nodded. “Another reason why I wanted to go somewhere close, so we could eat a hot meal.”

She picked up a ketchup packet and raised an eyebrow in question. When he nodded, she immediately ripped it open and dumped ketchup on one corner and then repeated it with several other packets. And, while she busily doctored the fries, he split up the fish. But even with four pieces on her side, a pile was still left.

“Wow,” she marveled. “How much did you get?”

“Enough that we don’t have to worry about being hungry.” He smiled. “It’s reasonably cheap.”

When he told her how much it was, she stared. “For all of this?” He nodded. “Wow,” she repeated, looking down at it. “If there was a way to warm it up, I mean, just one of these meals would give me food for several days.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” he said, “but you’re right. An air fryer would do the job nicely. We’ll have to keep an eye out for a cheap used one for you.”

She was quite amazed that, even after she had her four pieces, and he had several more, still more fish was left over. “I’m impressed,” she said, finally full. “That is a really good value for the money.”

“It certainly is, even for takeout. If you go into the restaurant, it’s an all-you-can-eat deal.”

“I always wonder about those,” she said, “because, when I’m really hungry, I could probably eat more. But, if this is what you get on a normal serving, it’s of no advantage because I can’t eat more than this anyway.”

“And this way you get to take it home,” he reminded her.

She beamed. “And I have become a huge fan of leftovers.”
Dale Mayer. Offed in the Orchids (Kindle Locations 956-1017). Valley Publishing.

It’s a good thing they finished eating and had a bit of a walk before Mack gets called in to work.

We see a lot of Nan in this one too, always the instigator.

I really can’t wait for Doreen’s divorce to be resolved, that will be an interesting book.

In the mean time finding the murder and solving the cold case involved is plenty of fun and intrigue.

I really can’t wait for the next book in this series.

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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about-the-author-fall-cornucopia

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.


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Kill Song – Cardinal Sins Book 1 by Heather Long & Blake Blessing


Kill Song
Cardinal Sins Book 1
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Heather Long
&
Blake Blessing

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Open Case File
Memo
Honor my father.
There are four types of serial killers.
Hedonistic.
Power/control.
Mission-oriented.
Visionary.
Not all serial killers are caught.
At any given point,
there could be as many as fifty serial killers
active at a time.
Fifty.
I’m looking for one.

He’s male, likely in his forties or fifties now. He’s been killing successfully for more than three decades. I suspect even longer, though our timeline is based only on the earliest victim we’ve identified with his signature mark.

Seventy-nine kills that we are certain of.

A year ago, the unsub’s methods changed. It was a subtle shift. Instead of one or two bodies a year, five have been dropped. Forensic evidence remains inconclusive, but in my gut, I know something’s changed.

Either the unsub has a partner or he’s about to become a spree killer.

It’s only a matter of time before someone puts the coin into the right slot and the kill song begins.

Finding the unsub is my obsession. It was my father’s. He died without solving the mystery.

I won’t.

NOTE:
KILL SONG is a full length dark adult romance and psychological thriller with suspenseful themes. Any trigger warnings will be included in the foreword. Some situations may be uncomfortable for readers. This is a reverse harem novel, meaning the main character has more than one love interest. This is book one in the series.

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In the prologue of this book we meet Vienna as a child. She believes her father kills the monsters of the world.

As we begin the story we first meet Merrick, he’s being released from inpatient treatment. As he approaches the only open bar in the area he glances in the alley to see a woman in a compromising position with the man’s hand around her throat. His protective instincts kick in and he goes to her rescue. The ensuing battle leaves the man dead, but the woman isn’t upset at all and takes control of the situation. Not by calling the police though.

Vienna isn’t quite sure what to do about Merrick, he refuses to let her walk alone to her car even though she takes a very round-about way to get there. Realizing he really has no where to go she ends up taking him home with her.

This is a favorite scene.

The sweatpants were comfy and when I emerged from my room, Merrick stood at the end of the hall near the top of the stairs. He was still wearing the clothes he’d changed into in the alley, though his hair looked slicked back and his face clean.

I deliberately made a noise so he would hear my approach and he turned to give me an even wider smile. “You look great,” he murmured, with an almost insulting amount of awe in his voice. Either he caught it or my raised eyebrows warned him of the possible verbal misstep. “Not that you didn’t look fabulous before, but this looks just more— you.”

Daddy, he followed me home. I may have to keep him.

“Nice save,” I told him, then bopped his nose with a single finger before heading down the stairs. “I’ll give you a full tour tomorrow. I expect you’re tired, but if you write down your sizes, I’ll make sure to get you resupplied.”

If all he had left was that duffel bag, then he was going to need more.

And I was already planning everything he’d need, right down to the IDs. If he passed every test like he had these few…

Dammit, I was keeping him. Sorry, Daddy.

“Sure, a tour tomorrow is great. And it is getting late. I’d much rather keep you company in the kitchen anyway.” He opened an arm, inviting me to lead the way downstairs.

Such a gentleman, I almost smiled as I passed him.

“So, what do you do for work?” His voice echoed around the narrow staircase, and if I hadn’t been used to tamping down my responses, I might have stiffened. It was definitely a novelty, having someone asking such personal questions in my own space. Enough so that it set every instinct in my body off kilter.

“I do some odd jobs here and there. Enough to get by. I’m going to make some eggs and toast. You sure you don’t want anything?” I entered the kitchen and quietly started pulling the few ingredients from the fridge.

He leaned a hip against the counter, crossing his arms and seemingly content to just watch me beat the eggs.

“That’s great, so you won’t have to leave early in the morning or anything. I can help, you know. I’m a jack of all trades, master of none, kind of guy. No matter what kind of work you have lined up, I can help out.”

I paused my movements. That’s why he asked about my work, not to pry into my business but to make sure I wouldn’t leave him. He did say he formed attachments much too easy. I should really be concerned I wouldn’t be able to get rid of him if I needed to, but there seemed little doubt this man would find himself in trouble without me.

When I glanced up at him, I paused for an entirely different reason. Under the bright lights of the kitchen, with him barely a few feet away, I got a look of just how gorgeous Merrick really was. With sooty lashes framing ice blue eyes, and a few days stubble across his jaw, he was every inch the bad boy.

Which was hilarious, because he had more decency in his thumb than most of the human population… Even if he was a little strange.

Forcing my attention back to my severely whipped eggs, I set them down to put butter in the skillet. The buttery aroma quickly filled the air, while I came up with a response. It was quick, and it wasn’t smoothly evasive.

Note to self, make sure Merrick stays at least five feet away at all times, preferably in the shadows. I had never had an issue reacting to men, and I didn’t want to start now. The solution to that was knowing my boundaries, and Merrick just might be a hard line in the sand.

Damn it.

“Yeah. Okay…” I poured the eggs in the skillet and popped the bread in the toaster. It was slightly unnerving having someone so openly observing me. “I’m sure we can figure something out for you.”

“What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?” Another perky question to incite an unhealthy amount of teeth grinding.

What was on the agenda? Now that my target was taken care of, I needed to get started surveilling the next man on the list. Among other things…

“Probably some phone calls and administrative things. We can just take tomorrow easy.” Within minutes, I had the eggs dished up with the toast buttered lightly. I usually ate at the island or in my office, but with Merrick here, it seemed more polite to take him to the dining room.

No, I’d take him to the living room. At least there I could turn on the TV to distract him from the questions I wasn’t ready to answer.

I poured two glasses of water, handing one to him, before grabbing my plate and moving to the living room. His quick footsteps, falling softly to the same beat as mine, made me realize my mistake. I should have given him the tour, that way he wouldn’t feel inclined to follow me everywhere.

Snorting, I dropped into the oversized leather chair and clicked on the lamp. He would have stuck to my side regardless.

“Here, pick something for us to watch,” I said as I tossed him the remote. Daddy had always hated the internet, threatening to get rid of it from time to time, but how else were we supposed to do our work and keep a pulse on the news?

At least a few years ago, I was able to call in a favor with the network to set us up with a VPN, among other things to hide our presence.

“Oh man, this is a lot of pressure. I promise, no porn or true crime. I think we’ve had enough of both for the evening.” There went that damn smile again. At least I couldn’t see the startling hue of his eyes under the dim lamp light.

I was quickly beginning to think I was a sucker for blue eyes.
Heather Long; Blake Blessing. Kill Song: Cardinal Sins Book 1 (Kindle Locations 544-588).

That’s just the beginning. As the investigation begins we meet the FBI’s Cash Morgan, he’s also following in his father’s footsteps, in continuing the search for this serial killer. He’s determined not to fail. The two detectives on scene aren’t happy him being there, but he does get a clue they didn’t have before.

In order for Vienna to ‘keep’ Merrick he’d need a new identity. This leads to discovering a couple of things, first her computer guy is a leak and second a new computer guy, Fletcher. She’s probably going to keep him too.

We get to listen in on a phone conversation with her Uncle David who is also part of the Network she is now trying to get around. That’s an interesting relationship as well.

This book has the bodies piling up and left me with more questions than answers, but that’s okay I know I’ll get them eventually.

I truly hope we don’t have to wait long for the next book, I really need to see where this goes.

5 Contented Purrs for Heather and Blake!

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Heather Long Heather Long

USA Today bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas in the summertime.

From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories–her characters drive the books.

When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.


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Blake Blessing is no longer new on the Indie scene, but she’s still ecstatic about this chapter in life. She is a mom, wife, art enthusiast, and author.

She attended ten different schools growing up, so books became her constant friend. Escaping into books of all different genres made life fun and exciting. Blake was also raised on music and still blasts it through the house and car at every opportunity.

She has a weird sense of humor and a penchant for chocolate milk. It only makes sense she would one day go on to write her own stories.

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The Alien’s Veterinarian – Aliens and Animals Book 2 By Arizona Tape and Skye MacKinnon


The Alien’s Veterinarian
Aliens and Animals Book 2
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Arizona Tape
&
Skye Mac Kinnon

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No space adventure is complete without a cat

Abby prefers animals to people, which comes in handy since she’s a vet working long hours at a cat rescue. She can’t say no to a critter in need, so when she’s offered a quick and well-paid job to look after a pregnant jaguar, she accepts it. Problem is, she didn’t read the small print…

Sahra has travelled to Earth to find a healer who can help with the animals back on Kyven. But how do you persuade a human to leave their planet without revealing that you’re an alien? It’s time to twist the truth a little and abduct an unsuspecting vet.

Throughout the journey, their ability to work together is tested. When a storm and a dangerous beast threatens their lives, can they make it out together?

NOTE:
An out-of-this-world f/f romance with a cat-loving human woman and a determined alien female willing to do anything to find her mate. Part of the Aliens and Animals series.

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In the Alien’s Zookeeper we met Tilly and her animals as they were taken from earth. The mess up was on the part of Bavalla who is now Tilly’s mate. Now they have a pregnant leopard and she’s in trouble. They send Sahra to earth with directions to get medications and a Veterinarian. She kinda messes this up but at least not as badly as the previous book went.

Abby is surprised when Sahra requests her to come to her home to treat the cat in trouble and even more so when she sees the horse and buggy Sahra is driving instead of a car.

This is a favorite scene.

I stopped in my tracks when I saw the horse-drawn cart parked outside the practice. It didn’t look like one of the romantic wedding carriages that sometimes drove through the centre of town. This was something you would have found at a farm a hundred years ago. I’d cared for horses before, but most farmers and riders used specialist vets, so it was unusual for a horse to stand in front of my house.

I looked around for the owner, but the street was empty. Maybe they weren’t here to see me after all.

Sahra confidently headed to the cart and climbed on the driver’s seat. It was hers. Bloody hell. This woman was becoming more and more intriguing by the minute.

She held out a hand to help me up. When our fingers touched, a strange zing of electricity shot up my arm. I rubbed my hand, but the tingly feeling was gone.

The bench was narrow and our thighs touched when I took a seat. Again, the tiniest of electric shocks hit me.

Sahra seemed oblivious, taking the reins.

I put my vet’s bag in the back. The cart was strangely clean; not a single bit of hay or mud anywhere.

“Do you have medicine for cats?” Sahra asked, pointing at my bag.

“Yes, it’s got all the essentials. If I need anything else, I can write a prescription later.”

The horse moved without her having to say anything. Its hooves clacked on the tarmac, the sound echoing back from the narrow terrace houses.

“This is an unusual choice of vehicle,” I said after a moment’s silence.

“I was told this is what you use,” she replied in her strong accent that I still couldn’t place.

Was she making a joke? Or had she really thought that we used horse-drawn carts in 21st century England? She had to be from somewhere very remote without access to television, the internet or even a newspaper. No, this had to be joke.

“Where are we going?” I asked to skip the awkward moment. “Do you live far?”

For some reason, that made her chuckle.

“We need to stop on the way,” she said instead of giving an answer. “My sister’s mate gave me a list.”

“A list?” I asked curiously. “What kind of list?”

She handed me a scrap of paper. On top was the address of the veterinary pharmacy I got most of my own supplies from. Underneath someone had scrawled about twenty different drugs and salves. One I recognised as a powder I regularly prescribed for treating rodents’ skin infections.

“Is he a vet? Your sister’s mate?”

I found it strange how she described her, but maybe that was because of her lack of vocabulary.

“She looks after animals. A zookeep.”

“Zookeeper,” I corrected automatically, regretting it when her expression fell.

“But I totally understood zookeep, don’t worry. So she asked you to get all these things?”

Sahra nodded. “The list and a veteri… vetar…”

“Vet,” I said quickly. “Everyone calls us vets. Veterinarian takes forever to say.”

She gave me a grateful smile. “Vet. I like that. Do you know where we have to go?”

“Yes. We’re actually really close. Take a right turn over there and then a left at the junction. And – wait, those lights are turning red!”

* * *

Twenty minutes later, we had several bags full of bottles, pills, powders and creams in the back of the cart. I’d helped Sahra with persuading the pharmacist that yes, she really needed all those things. I wasn’t sure why that zookeeper didn’t get all those things herself, but it was actually quite fun to go shopping.

Cars kept passing us, some of them hitting their horns, but Sahra ignored them all. Her horse was surprisingly fast, so we weren’t as much of a traffic jam creator as I’d feared.

She pulled another piece of paper from her bag and handed it to me.

“My sister’s mate wrote words for you. She said you have to write your name on it.”

“A contract?”

Sahra only shrugged and looked straight ahead.

I scanned the handwritten document. It looked like it had been written in a hurry. Some of the words were smudged and completely illegible. I had to squint to make out what this letter was supposed to say.

By signing this contract, you agree to come …. to … and to care for the feline and her offspring until they’re well enough to be without veterinary care. You will be offered travel, … and generous remuneration. We will of course pay for any drugs prescribed. [insert amount here]

You will not divulge anything you see or hear during your stay on … once you have returned to your home. In return, we promise complete confidentiality.

This is a binding agreement under … law.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t read some of the smudged words. Still, the rest was enough to make sense.

“Isn’t this a bit over the top?” I asked. “I’d never gossip about a patient.”

Sahra smiled. For a moment, a trick of the light made her hair shimmer blue before it returned to its deep chestnut colour.

“I’m sorry. My sister’s mate says it’s important.” She shrugged. “She says you can write your own money.”

“Money? You mean my fee?”

She nodded. “Yes. Fee. That was the word. Sorry, I’m still learning.”

“Oh, you’re polydactyl!” I exclaimed when I spotted her extra fingers. “That’s rare for humans, but I see cats with it all the time.”

Sahra looked embarrassed and curled her hands into fists to hide the sixth digits. “

Sorry,” I said, feeling guilty for calling her out on it like that. “My social skills aren’t always the best. I spend most of my day with animals. They’re much easier to be around than people.”

“I agree,” Sahra muttered. “Animals are nice.”
Skye MacKinnon; Arizona Tape. The Alien’s Veterinarian: Aliens and Animals 2 (Kindle Locations 159-213).

The journey back to Kyven, is not without problems. Abby is more than a little curious, she just wants to make arrangements for her practice to be covered in her absence.

There’s more than a little tension between Sahra and Abby, and I really thought they’d figure it out sooner than they did.

A bit of drama, some sniffles, and giggles too. I can’t wait for Tamsia’s story.

5 Contented Purrs for Arizona and Skye!

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A creator at heart, Ari has always been in love with the idea of turning nothing into something. She wants to conquer the book world with stories that focus on inclusivity and diversity, writing what she likes to read. Whether it’s adventure or romance, dragons and vampires, or princesses and students, there’s something for everyone.

Born in China, raised in Belgium, and currently living in the United Kingdom with her girlfriend, Ari is a citizen of the world and loves discovering new cultures. Luckily, her crazy imagination lets her discover places she’s never been to, meet people that don’t exist, and talk to readers from all over the world.

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Skye MacKinnon

Skye MacKinnon is a USA Today & International Bestselling Author whose books are filled with strong heroines who don’t have to choose.

She embraces her Scottishness with fantastical Scottish settings and a dash of mythology, no matter if she’s writing about Celtic gods, cat shifters, or the streets of Edinburgh.

When she’s not typing away at her favourite cafe, Skye loves dried mango, as much exotic tea as she can squeeze into her cupboards, and being covered in pet hair by her two bunnies, Emma and Darwin.

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Owen – Hathaway House Book 15 by Dale Mayer


Owen
Hathaway House Book 15
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Dale Mayer

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Uncle Sam’s Navy wasn’t kind to Owen Powell. After he walked too close to a landmine, he was left with leg and back injuries and a rough road to regaining his health. His career is down the drain; his future is uncertain, and every day is a struggle toward better mental and physical health.

The last thing he expects to find is love in the midst of therapy at Hathaway House.

Penny Abigail has spent all her adult life trying to prove to her family that she’s strong enough after a lifetime of illnesses to live her life on her own terms. Although frail, she’s worked hard to get to where she’s at today. She has created several charities and hands out large sums of money to deserving organizations, including Hathaway House.

Meeting Owen wasn’t part of her plan, but she’s willing to run with it. The problem is convincing her overprotective family that the broken SEAL is good enough for her and is not just after her money …

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In the prologue to this book is the phone call Owen gets from his former roommate Nash. He’s astonished that Nash had put him on the waiting list without his knowledge and now there’s a bed available. He only has to finish the paperwork and he knows he has to go, the results he sees with Nash just prove that he can go further too.

Of course like so many other’s he over does it on the first day, using crutches instead of the wheelchair to prove he’s serious.

Penelope ‘Penny’ Abigail drops off a few animals at Stan’s vet clinic on the lower level of Hathaway House before making her way upstairs to see Dani. Hathaway House and Stan’s Clinic are just a couple of the many places that benefit from her financial trusts. With Dani busy she heads to the dining room for coffee, where Dennis talks her into a salad and fried chicken since she admits it’s been a while since she ate. This is where she meets Owen.

This is a favorite scene.

Penny smiled and watched as Owen awkwardly sat down and then propped the crutches up beside him.

“I am tired,” he admitted, “but there’s just something odd about being in a wheelchair.”

“Is it that bad?”

“Brings up all kinds of bad memories,” he admitted. “I haven’t quite adjusted to accepting that I need it for a time, and then later I can let it go. I just see myself heading down the pathway of my grandfather.”

“Was he wheelchair bound?” Grimly he nodded. “From a disease.”

“But you?”

“I walked too close to a land mine.”

She stopped and stared at him. “I hope you’re kidding,” she replied, her voice faint.

“I was on the outside of its blast radius. There was a group of us,” he explained. “So I only took a periphery impact. One of the guys lost both legs. He’s still having surgeries, trying to get enough of a stump to sit on. Another one of us died,” he added sadly. “It’s one of those times in life where you just keep trying to get better, but it doesn’t always work.”

“I get it,” she replied. “Sounds so sad.”

“It is, but I’m here, and I have mobility, and I have both legs,” he said. “So I really don’t have any right to complain.”

“Doesn’t stop us though, does it?” she added cheekily. She watched as his smile bloomed across his face.

“So why are you always here?” he asked. “I figured you must have been a nurse or someone off duty or I don’t know what. Most people here are in uniforms, not in jeans.”

“I wear many hats.” She chuckled. When he remained silent, as if wanting more, she explained. “I run my own businesses, which cover my many interests.” Again she laughed. “Also I’m loosely a consultant here.”

Owen raised his eyebrows. “So what do you consult on?”

She hesitated, then the Major joined them, with his usual boisterous self. “Ah, she’s just being modest, our Penny,” the Major said, bending to give her a kiss on the cheek. He turned to Owen, extending his hand. “I’m Dani’s father, but everyone calls me Major.”

“Nice to meet you, sir.”

“And this lady here is our benefactor, our personal social worker, and another animal lover in the fight to save them all.”

Owen turned in surprise to face Penny. “Wow. Impressive.”

“What brought you here today?” the Major asked Penny.

“I delivered a dog and two cats downstairs,” she explained. “Stan’s going to take care of them.”

“Are they yours?” Owen asked.

“Nope. I operate a charity that helps out animals at vet clinics, rescues, and other well-deserving institutions.”

“Ah, like the veterans at Hathaway House, by any chance?”

“One of the things that Dani and the Major have done here is they’ve opened up beds for those who can’t afford it and don’t have any medical coverage,” Penny said. “So my charities like to help out with that.”

Just then Dennis arrived with another plate of fried chicken, and— instead of a green salad— there was potato salad on the side.

“Oh my. I hear my stomach calling me. I’ll just go visit Ilse for a minute.” The Major winked at Penny and waved to Dennis, while calling out to Owen, “Nice to meet you, son. Stay the course.”

Penny watched as Owen stared after the Major, then at the food. Owen looked up at Dennis and asked, “Is this normal fare here?”

“Absolutely it is.” He proudly nodded. “Also, don’t you let her hogwash you into believing that she doesn’t do much. She’s a hugely valuable part of this place. She donates many hours as a social worker to our patients on an as-needed basis.”

“I believe it.” Owen nodded. “Apparently you are invaluable too, and whoever is on the staff behind those double doors.”

“Ilse runs the kitchen, and she’s got a wicked hand with food.” Dennis smiled. “So, enjoy.”

“That goes for both of us, I guess,” she noted. “We arrived in between meals, so I felt a little guilty.”

“Like you, I don’t know any better, so I think we can get away with it right now,” Owen said in a conspiratorial whisper.

Dennis shook his head. “You two are welcome here at any time. So eat up. Tell me what you think.”

Just as they both chomped down on their first piece of chicken, Dani came around the corner and joined them. “There you are.”

Owen watched as Penny hunched her shoulders guiltily, and Owen felt his own going the same way. They both stared up at Dani, waiting. She took one look at their faces and laughed. “Talk about two-year-olds caught in the act,” she said. “And where the heck did you get fried chicken from?”

They both looked at each other, at her, and then at Dennis.

“You had fried chicken today?” Dani asked. “And you didn’t tell me?”

“You didn’t show up for lunch,” Dennis said, shaking his head. “How am I supposed to do anything, if you don’t appear on the spot?”

“Maybe,” she muttered. Then she groaned, walked to the coffee station to grab a cup, and returned to join them again. “You guys are quite the picture.”

“You want a piece or two?” Penny asked, offering her plate.

Dani hesitated, and Penny urged her again. “Go ahead. I asked for two pieces, and he gave me three.”

“Yeah, but he also probably saw that you had dropped ten pounds. Are you feeling any better yet?”

“I am. Otherwise I wouldn’t be eating.”

Dani smiled and nodded.
Dale Mayer. Owen (Kindle Locations 284-311). Valley Publishing Ltd..

Owen leaves Dani and Penny to navigate back to his room. Unfortunately he gets turned around and almost collapses. It’s Penny who sees him as she’s leaving and helps him get where he needs to be.

Shane is going to be his Physical Therapist and one of the things that had me laughing is the green shake, it seems many end up drinking that.

Penny and Owen have many meals together and I really loved the connection that slowly forms.

Now Penny’s family is another thing altogether, trying to manipulate her into doing things she doesn’t want to do.

There is so much growth for both Owen and Penny as a relationship begins to form.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series!

5 Contented Purrs for Dale!

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Coming Soon!

about-the-author-fall-cornucopia

Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).

She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!

To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.


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Refuge – The Wanderer’s Book 2 by Becca Jameson


The world is no longer a safe place,
especially for women.
For several decades, the birth rate of females has been declining.
Militants, the government,
and private citizens alike will do anything
to find young women and force them
into unthinkable arrangements.

The Wanderers are a secret
underground society, born to provide
sanctuary for anyone who believes in
free will and democratic notions.
They have grown in numbers for many years
and have several compounds where
their citizens live in safety.

Refuge
The Wanderers Book 2
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Becca Jameson

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Ever since Ariel joined The Wanderers three months ago, she’s been battling the belief from everyone in the compound that she’s too young to enter into a relationship. She’s well-aware who started this rumor and continues to perpetuate it. Stuart. The man is infuriating, and she’s so done with him meddling in her life. No matter how gorgeous he is.

Most of the men won’t come near her. Thank goodness two men have chosen to ignore the idle threats from the surly Stuart and have been courting her. Kester and Tarin have helped her transition to life underground like the gentleman they are.

Stuart is a stubborn mule. He lives under the premise that he intends to keep Ariel at arm’s length, but no one else can have her either. Too bad for him Ariel isn’t mousy, and her life experience makes her far more mature than he gives her credit for. She’s ready to take her relationships to the next level. Stuart can either get on board or take a hike.

Life in this new world isn’t easy. They face danger every day. People die. It’s time for Stuart to face his past and decide if it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

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Ariel and Kester are on their fourth date and they are going to his apartment. More for the privacy than anything else. She’s still figuring things out with Kester and she also likes Tarin who works with her sister. It’s Stuart who causing her the most problems and she’s talking it all out with Kester.

This is a favorite scene.

Kester scooted closer and gripped her hand in her lap this time. “First of all, I spend time with you because I like you. You’re fun and fucking smart and sharp and gorgeous. When you laugh, the tinkling sound lights up a room.”

“Kes…”

He moaned and then spoke in a lower voice. “I really like when you call me Kes.”

“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t think…”

He shook his head. “I said I like it, Ariel. It makes me feel like I’m special to you or something.” He waved a hand through the air, dismissing the thought. “As for Stuart, I can’t tell you for sure why he’s being such an asshole around you. I’m not sure anyone really knows. But I can tell you, albeit reluctantly, that it’s not because he doesn’t like you.”

She narrowed her gaze, skeptically.

“I’m confident he’s so attracted to you that he can’t think straight around you. He warns everyone away from you because he wants you for himself. I don’t know why he’s stuck to this strange narrative in which he insists you’re too young to approach, but literally, no one else agrees with him.”

She gasped, eyes wide. “He does not want me for himself.” I wish he did. “He treats me like I’ve got a
communicable disease, Kes.”

Kester laughed. “It’s a front, I tell you. I’m not sure he even realizes it. He’s using your age as an excuse.”

“For what?”

Kester shrugged. “Damned if I know. But the way he grumbles and growls about you is a sure sign to everyone that he’s claiming you for his own and we should all back off.”

Ariel blinked at him. “That’s absurd.”

Kester shook his head. “I’m serious.”

“He’s never said a kind word to me. He barely looks me in the eye. He never comes near me. It’s obvious he can’t stand me.”

Kester chuckled again, his chest rising and falling. “It’s like middle school all over again.”

She cocked her head to one side. “I have no idea what that means. I have only a vague understanding of what middle school even is.”

Kester smiled at her and dropped his arm along the back of the couch, lifting a lock of her hair and letting it run through his fingers. “Damn, your hair is as soft as it looks.” He turned back to her face. “Middle school is where kids go between elementary and high school. The awkward ages of twelve to fourteen. Girls are far more mature than boys at that age, and boys tend to act like idiots tripping over each other to try to catch a girl’s attention.”

She frowned. “Not following.”

“When a thirteen-year-old boy likes a girl, he’ll tell everyone around that she’s gross so they will back off and she will look at him.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” She smiled.

He chuckled. She loved the sound of his laughter. “Agreed. But it’s true.”

“Okay, let’s say for one second that Stuart does have a childhood crush on me as you’re suggesting. Why do you keep pursuing me then? He’s your roommate. Surely, you don’t want to make him mad.” A flush raced up her face and she winced. “Unless, you’re not pursuing me at all, and I’ve misread you. Or…” She narrowed her gaze. “You’re doing it to annoy Stuart or to get me closer to him.”

Kester’s eyebrows shot up his forehead. “None of the above. I’m most definitely vying for your attention because I’m attracted to you. I couldn’t give two shits whether or not Stuart knows or cares or gets angry. His loss.”

She licked her lips. “My mother never mentioned how complicated men were.”

Kester laughed again. “To be fair, your mother didn’t live in a world where men outnumber women by such high margins. When your parents went into hiding over twenty years ago, the world was holding on by a thread, but it was still a mostly monogamous society.”

Kester stroked a finger down her cheek. She liked it. A lot. She wished he would do more than just that brief contact. She liked him, and like he’d said, even though she liked Stuart too, his loss. The infuriating man had pushed her away so many times, she’d lost count. It was impossible to believe he cared about her at all from the way he acted. In fact, his behavior suggested he saw himself more as a protector or father figure than a man attracted to a woman.

Kester released her hair on a sigh and gripped her hand again. “I’m under no illusion that there’s some kind of contest and in the end, I’ll win and get the girl. We don’t live in a world where that would be fair. I know you have feelings for Stuart. Your frustration with him speaks volumes, and I’ve seen the way you look at him.”

She winced. “And that doesn’t bother you?”

He shook his head. “I don’t let it. I can’t. I’d be a jackass if I claimed you for myself, especially since I know for a fact that Stuart and I aren’t the only two men who have noticed you.”

She gulped. “Who else?” Her heart was beating faster. It was so strange having this discussion. It shouldn’t be. She didn’t really know any other way of life. Other than the fact that her parents had lived in a monogamous relationship, she had no other models. Anything could be normal to her. After three months, she was far more accustomed to seeing polyamorous unions, especially among the younger crowd.

He smiled. “Well, every man who is single and under forty in the compound for starters. Who wouldn’t be interested in you? But more specifically, don’t tell me you aren’t aware that Tarin Gelman hunts you down as often as I do.”

Her cheeks heated again. He did. Tarin hadn’t been quite as blatant as Kester yet, but he did join her at meals sometimes and lingered longer than necessary to talk to her.

Kester grinned. “You did know.”

“Maybe. So now what? It’s not like when we arrived and Layla got snatched up by four men who were living as a family unit already. Tarin certainly doesn’t live with you two, Stuart and he have some sort of history that keeps them from exchanging civil discourse, and you and Stuart hardly speak to each other. Where does that leave me? What the heck am I supposed to do? There’s no way in the world I would let myself get passed around among three men in three separate relationships.” She cringed.

“And no one would ask that of you. If you’re interested in all three of us, just say the word, and I’ll talk to Tarin and Stu. It shouldn’t be your problem. The three of us will work it out.”

She eyed him skeptically again. It was too complicated to continue thinking about. “Can we stop talking about two other men who aren’t here?”

“Absolutely.”

“Good. Kiss me.”

He flinched. “You want me to kiss you?”

“Yep.” She scooted closer.

“Ariel…”

“What? I thought you just said you like me.”

“I do. A lot. But I don’t want to rush you.” She wondered if he had any idea how tightly he was gripping her fingers.

“You’re not rushing me. I just asked you to kiss me. It’s a simple task. Are you up to the challenge?” She lifted a brow, shocked by her boldness.

He stared at her, inhaling deeply. “You’re sure?”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, yes. But if you don’t want to…”

He released her fingers and cupped her face with both hands, holding her gaze for several seconds before bringing his lips to hers.

Ariel’s chest pounded as he closed the distance, and she sighed into his mouth the moment his lips touched hers. Soft. Gentle. Caring.

One of his hands slid to the back of her neck and angled her to one side so he could deepen the kiss, his tongue stroking along the seam of her lips until she parted for him on instinct.

She closed her eyes and reached for him, her hands coming to his waist and easing up his torso. It may have been a bold move on her part, but she wasn’t sorry. Being kissed was amazing.

“What the fuck?” A door snicked shut behind them, and Ariel jerked her head to the side at the same time as Kester. She hadn’t heard the door open. She’d been in her own world.

But it most certainly had opened and closed.

Stuart stood just inside, his broad shoulders seemingly broader than ever, his hands fisted at his sides, his brow furrowed. He was pissed.
Becca Jameson. Refuge: The Wanderers, Book Two (Kindle Locations 132-199). Becca Jameson Publishing.

Ariel is a strong woman and she’s not going to be deterred in her quest for happiness. Stuart isn’t going to be easy to win over, but all of them are going to work on it.

I love the way this comes together, with Ariel proving herself over and over again. There’s more insight into the way the compound works and the people they continue to rescue.

With some action, some intrigue, and a bit of sizzling heat, I couldn’t put this book down.

5 Contented Purrs for Becca!

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Coming Soon!

about-the-author-fall-cornucopia

Becca Jameson Becca Jameson

Becca Jameson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 books. She is most well-known for her Wolf Masters Series, her Fight Club series, and her Club Zodiac series. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and Goldendoodle. Two grown kids pop in every once in a while too! She is loving this journey and has dabbled in a variety of genres, including paranormal, sports romance, military, and BDSM.A total night owl, Becca writes late at night, sequestering herself in her office with a glass of red wine and a bar of dark chocolate, her fingers flying across the keyboard as her characters weave their own stories.

During the day–which never starts before ten in the morning!–she can be found jogging, running errands, or reading in her favorite hammock chair!

…where Alphas dominate…


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A Keepsake Christmas – A Sweet Christmas Anthology


8 Special Ornaments,
8 Special Women,
8 Memorable Christmases.
Bring the spirit of Christmas
into your heart with this collection
of all new sweet holiday romances
set in the popular series of
eight bestselling authors.

A Keepsake Christmas

Featuring

The Last Cottage on Pinewood Lane by Melissa McClone
The Cowboy’s Christmas Wish by Kristen Ethridge
I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Tess Thompson
No Matter How Far by Barbara Hinske
Blessings on State Street by Rachael Bloome
A Lot Like Christmas by Kathryn Cantrell
One Unforgettable Christmas by Tammy L. Grace
Tinsel and Teacups by Elle Rush

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The Last Cottage on Pinewood Lane

Melissa McClone

Will performing during a Christmas fundraiser bring a former figure-skating star the healing and love that have eluded her? Or will being back under the glaring spotlight only lead to more heartache and regrets?

Retired figure skater Natasha ‘Tasha’ Ramson manages the ice rink her parents built in their hometown for her brother Alec and her to practice. Her pairs then individual and him hockey. This year however her parents decided to sell the rink without telling anyone. As the rink closes breaking her heart, Tasha decides to spend Christmas alone in Berry Lake. She needs to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Elias Carpenter, is technically the youngest partner in his family’s law firm. In reality he’s being overworked by his father and grandfather. Now with the holiday’s coming his father puts even more in his lap. His grandmother is having heart issues and she won’t slow down unless her husband does, which means Elias gets the brunt of it all.

I love the way these two meet while she’s skating and his dog gets away from him.

So was Elias, but he would never admit that to Grammy. “It’s not so bad. The Berry Lake Cupcake Shop provides dessert and Brew and Steep brings coffee.”

“That’s the spirit.” Grammy’s enthusiasm filled Elias with warmth. “Did Sabine drop off the foster dog?”

Elias gripped the phone. “About fifteen minutes ago.”

“Tell me about the dog.”

“His name is Higgins, and he’s potty trained. Sabine said he’s chill.”

The clicking of paws made Elias look over at Higgins. A blur of blue headed out the front door. His stomach dropped. “Grammy, I need to go.”

“Talk to you later, dear. I love you.”

He disconnected from the call. “Dog. Higgins. Stop.”

Pulse pounding, Elias raced out the door. His feet sank into the snow covering his front yard.

Higgins ran toward the end of Pinewood Lane. The blue leash dragged behind him like a malfunctioning kite tail.

The dog wouldn’t get far. Elias’s legs and strides would overtake the dog’s shorter legs soon.

His breath huffed. At least no cars. “Higgins!”

The dog didn’t slow but sped up.

So much for Higgins being smart and chill. The dog needed obedience lessons.

Or a new foster.

Elias picked up the pace, ignoring the stitch in his side and the burn in his thighs. He’d been away from the gym for too long if a brief run wore him out.

Higgins ran past the last cottage. He veered between the tall pine trees onto the path that led to the lake. For a dog who’d only arrived, he seemed to know where he wanted to go.

Please don’t go on the ice.

The lake remained frozen most of the winter, but Elias didn’t want Higgins out on the ice. It was solid enough near the edges for people to skate, but farther out wasn’t as thick.

“Higgins.” His voice hung on the wind.

Elias cleared the trees to a snow-covered area known as Pinewood Beach in the summer. Higgins sat facing the lake at the edge, where a short ridge of snow had built up. He walked slowly so as not to spook the dog.

Movement caught Elias’s attention. He glanced past Higgins to the lake and squinted.

Someone was on the ice. He did a double take. A figure skater, wearing black— except for her skates and a multicolor beanie— glided across the ice. Her graceful movements with outstretched arms and fast spins reminded him of the ice show his grandmother dragged him to when he was twelve. He’d gotten snacks, which made the two hours pass quicker, but he would have rather watched the Mariners or Seahawks. That was well before the Volcanoes, an expansion hockey team, arrived in Seattle.

No music played, yet she skated as if performing for a packed arena. She… captivated Elias.

The skater must have tucked her hair inside the beanie, and he wanted to know what color her hair was. Eyes, too, but he stood too far away.

And then he remembered…

Higgins!

The dog sat facing the skater.

Elias took a slow, careful step and then another. The dog didn’t flinch.

Only another two feet to go. Snow crunched under his left foot. He inhaled sharply.

Higgins bolted across the ice directly in the path of…

“Stop!” Elias yelled.

Neither the dog nor skater listened. The leash slid across the ice right in front of the skater, who skated with her chin up.

“Be careful!”

The scene played out in slow motion. Higgins froze. Her right skate hit the leash, and she stumbled. The skater tried to keep her balance by sticking her arms out, but her action didn’t stop gravity. She hit the ice with a thud.

Higgins jumped on top of her and licked her face.

The skater laughed. She reached into her jacket pocket. “Well, this is a first. Where did you come from, cutie?”

Her voice wrapped around Elias, as warm and comfortable as a fleece blanket. He wanted to hear it again, only he wanted her to speak to him.

He stepped onto the ice, taking small steps to keep from falling. “Are you okay?”

The skater looked at him.

Gorgeous green eyes. Elias’s mouth went dry. He nearly fell flat on his back.

Forget speaking. All he could do was breathe.

“Is this your dog?” she asked.

“Sorta.” He came closer, unsure why he found himself so tongue-tied. A friend from law school had once told Elias that dogs were a chick magnet. But Higgins running into this woman seemed more like luck. “I’m fostering him for the holidays.”

She rubbed Higgins with a gloved hand. “Friendly.”

“He’d been in my house for less than five minutes when he took off. I’m sorry. Did you hurt yourself?”

She grabbed onto the leash, placed Higgins on the ice, and carefully stood. “I’ve taken much harder falls over the years, but thanks for the concern.”

“You skate a lot?” he blurted.

“Yes.” The amusement in her voice matched the twinkle in her eyes. “Not a fan of the sport?”

He shrugged. “I prefer hockey.”

“Of course, you do.” She appeared more resigned than upset. “Here you go.”

He took the leash from her.

“Thanks. I’m Elias.”

She hesitated. “Tasha.”

Tasha. The name suited her. “You’re not from around here.”

Tasha brushed off the snow from her backside. “No.”

Only locals came to this part of the lake unless… He remembered seeing a car he didn’t recognize drive by when he’d brought in the mail before he ate lunch. “You’re staying in the last cottage on Pinewood Lane.”

Tasha stiffened, and her eyes narrowed. “How do you know that?”

“I live in the second house on the right. The one you’re in is the only rental on the lane.” That might change. Dalton Dwyer had bought the cottage where Tasha was staying and would take possession in January. No one knew Dalton’s plans yet.

She laughed. “Small towns are always the same.”

“Everyone knows your business.”

Tasha nodded. “Aren’t you freezing out here?”

Elias wasn’t wearing a jacket, but somehow, he was warm. “I ran after Higgins, so I’m not cold.”
Melissa McClone; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – The Last Cottage on Pinewood Lane(Kindle Locations 564-571).

As Elias does the things necessary for his Grandmother and the Christmas Fund raiser, Tasha helps with an idea.

This brings them closer to each other and also to resolutions regarding their futures.

A lovely Christmas story with a special Christmas ornament sealing the moment.

5 Contented Purrs for Melissa!


The Cowboy’s Christmas Wish

Kristen Ethridge

Sarah Murdoch knew bringing her daughter, Jamie, halfway across the country to Port Provident, Texas would cause more anxiety than feel-good Christmas memories. But when Jamie bonds with Grant McCray, the owner of Beachcomber Stables, she begins to come out of her shell.

A family Christmas far away from home is not what Sarah would have chosen, especially the way her daughter Jamie’s anxiety ramps up during their travels. Port Provident is the small town her parents have chosen to gather and rented a home on the beach.

Grant owns Beachcomber Stables and he’s the first person Jamie sees as he’s riding down the beach with two other horses behind him.

Jamie’s apparently done a bit of research on her own and she really wants to go horseback riding. Sarah on the other hand is a bit conflicted what with business calls coming in, she obviously needs some down time as well.

This is a favorite scene.

Grant McCray adjusted the black hat atop his head. A breeze decided to blow in off the water today. It felt good. It didn’t feel like Christmas, exactly, but he was a native Texan. Grant had grown used to Decembers not feeling like they were described in the refrains of holiday songs.

He’d also grown used to early morning silence. It soothed his soul.

During the spring and summer, the lines at Beachcomber Stables formed early and lasted until the sun began to drift out of the sky. But in the winter, the tourists didn’t usually think about horseback riding first and foremost. Visitors to Port Provident were more interested in the party-like Santas on the Street annual event or the recently-revived Victorian Christmas goings-on. His horses would be participating in the Christmas Day parade, but that was about as close as he would get to holiday events this year.

Grant kind of liked it that way. He took a deep breath and smelled the salt in the air. Some people preferred pine and cocoa this time of year. But Grant thought salt and sand— and a little horse— smelled perfect, no matter what the date on the calendar said.

“Do you offer horseback rides here?” A woman’s voice behind him bounced off the roar of the waves.

Grant turned back toward the edge of the dunes. “Welcome to Beachcomber Stables. How can I help you, ma’am?”

The dusting of a smile passed across the blonde woman’s lips. The ladies loved the “ma’am.” The number one rule of riding horses for a living and wearing a cowboy hat was always call the ladies ma’am. It was an unbreakable part of the cowboy creed.

And women who felt special and respected tended to tip better. No sense in denying that fact, either, since the number two rule was to never tell a lie.

She pointed at a short, skinny young girl next to her. The blonde was fair as a snowflake, but the skin of the young girl was as strong as espresso. Her eyes reminded Grant of the color of the skin on the outside of an almond. They focused sharply on the crest of his black Resistol.

“My daughter would like to ride a horse if you have availability today.” She squeezed the little girl’s shoulder gently.

Grant nodded. Time to get to work. “We don’t have any appointments booked this morning. Would you like to go now?”

The little girl wore a pair of neon-pink closed-toe tennis shoes. They’d do. Grant would just need to make sure her feet were settled well in the stirrups.

She nodded, just barely enough to make her intentions known.

Grant reached the edge of the wooden-framed stable area and pointed to a dappled, older gray. “Great. I’d like to introduce you to my friend Master Y.”

This time, the little girl’s head shifted from side to side. “Chewie,” she said.

Grant looked at the palomino in the first stall. “Chewie is a great horse, but he’s usually the one that I ride. We go back a long way.”

The little girl bit her dusky-rose lip. She took a deep breath and held it, then let it out slowly.

“Is there any way that she could ride Chewie?” She dug in her purse and pulled out a credit card. “I’ll pay extra, if that makes any difference.”

It wasn’t the first time someone had tried to pay Grant to bend some rule or go back on something he’d said.

But as Grant’s eyes locked with the almond-brown center of the little girl’s own eyes, he knew it would be the first time he’d ever given in.

“Does she have any experience riding horses?”

The woman’s blonde ponytail bounced and strands of hair danced in the Gulf air. “No. This is her first time.”

Grant shrugged. He couldn’t explain it, but something in the little girl’s eyes tugged at his soul. She didn’t say much and the words she did say were barely above a whisper. Despite being on the beach and next to a stable of horses— two of Grant’s favorite places— the little girl hadn’t even cracked the smallest hint of a smile.

And Grant wanted to see her smile. There wasn’t much to envy about his life these days, but one of the perks was getting to see little faces light up with delight.

“Chewie’s a gentle giant. I’m sure they’ll get along well. I’ll ride Master Y. Are you going to ride with us? Luke Skytrotter would be happy to take you out.”

Grant walked into the equipment area of the stable and pulled out a black child-sized riding helmet, then gave the interior a spritz of disinfectant— he didn’t like to take chances with clients’ safety, whether it was protecting them from a fall or from sharing more than just the helmet.

Suddenly, a sound like tinkling windchimes cut through the air. The woman pulled a sleek cell phone out of her purse with no hesitation.

“Mama? Could you come?”

The woman’s thumb stopped a hair’s breadth above the rectangle on her screen that would connect the call. She hesitated, and Grant felt the stretch of tension in the air. She pursed her lips, then looked down at the glass-and-metal encased technology. Grant could see the color of the screen change as the call stopped ringing.

“It went to voicemail.” The look on her face seemed similar to the aftermath of sucking on a lemon. “I guess I can call them back in a bit, Jamie.”

As the phone slid back in her mother’s saddle tan leather purse, Grant saw the little girl’s shoulders slip into a more relaxed station.

Jamie. The shy little girl’s name was Jamie.

And somehow, Grant knew they’d be friends. It was her uptight mother he just wasn’t sure about.
Kristen Ethridge; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – The Cowboy’s Christmas Wish(Kindle Locations 2232-2277).

A horseback tour of the area and the Lighthouse begins a relationship that can’t be denied. Jamie speaks more freely and is more relaxed than ever before. Especially when she’s with Grant and her mother.

A beautiful Christmas story with hope, laughter and a special Christmas Ornament.

5 Contented Purrs for Kristen!


I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Tess Thompson

High school sweethearts Jennifer and Jack were supposed to be together forever. But Jack’s one night mistake tore them apart. Will they have the ultimate second chance at love more than 30 years later? Or is the secret she kept from him too much to forgive? Can the magical spirit of Christmas in Emerson Pass bring forgiveness and healing for these two star-crossed lovers?

Jack and Jennifer were high school sweethearts. They planned to go to college in Seattle together, but Jack’s summer indiscretion with Malinda changed everything.

Jennie was pregnant too, but she never told Jack. He married Malinda, his daughter Brandi the only glue to that marriage until it wasn’t enough and they divorced. Jennie moved to Seattle and has only returned a couple of times. Her daughter Crystal now lives here in Emerson Pass.

It’s been thirty years, Brandi and Crystal have been friends for a long time. Crystal spent summers here growing up. Now it really didn’t come as a surprise that Jack would want to see her. Even though it was more of a confrontation.

This is a favorite scene.

The server arrived with our food, saving me from having to answer. I hoped he’d forgotten the question he’d asked earlier, but no such luck. He dangled a French fry from his fingers. “You’ve stayed away because of me, haven’t you”

I smashed an avocado with the tines of my fork. “Not you. Seeing you with her.”

“It would have pretty much destroyed me if I’d seen you with anyone.”

I swallowed, unsure what to say. He needn’t have worried about me with anyone. I dated no one during the entirety of Crystal’s childhood. After she moved out of the house, I dated some, falling for a few men, only to be cheated on by each one of them. Why I evoked betrayal from men I initially thought were good was beyond comprehension. My therapist thought it was wrapped up in the original betrayal by Jack. That perhaps I purposely chose cheaters to prove to myself that they were all cheaters, regardless.

Jack draped his arms over the table. “And I hate thinking of you leaving the place you loved so much. Worse, that it was my fault.”

I pushed a slice of boiled egg nearer the blue cheese crumbles.

“Jennie?”

I jerked my head up at the sound of my old nickname. When I moved to Seattle, I’d made sure no one ever called me anything but Jennifer. “Yeah?”

“There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought about you and felt deep remorse.”

“Time heals all wounds.” That’s what my mother had told me when they sent me off to school with assurances that all I needed was time and a few new boys to turn my head. I’d forget all about Jack, my mother had promised me. What a joke that had proved to be. Still, one goes on. What other choice do we have?

“That’s not what you really want to say, is it?” Jack watched me with wary eyes. “What do you really want to say to me?”

I wanted to tell him about my first year in Seattle. How alone and sad I’d been. Because of you, I wanted to shout at him. You wrecked everything.

I’d lived in the apartment that Jack and I had rented, all the while hiding my belly with large sweatshirts. Fortunately for me, it never stopped raining in Seattle. Sweatshirts were the attire of choice during almost all seasons for everyone, not just a girl with a hidden pregnancy.

“Jack, I don’t understand what we’re doing here. We were kids back then. You can stop carrying around all this guilt. It’s nothing to me now.

“Whatever happened to the soda fountain?” I asked, changing the subject. “When did it close?”

“Back in the nineties, I think.” He ran a hand through his silvery blond hair. “I’d forgotten about that place.”

How could he forget? We’d shared so many laughs in the back booth of that place. Hoping to hide my hurt, I asked another question. “Someone should open another one. For all the old-timers in need of nostalgia.”

“Brandi’s bakery is kind of the new soda fountain. Only it’s coffee everyone wants these days.”

“And her scones,” I said. “Do you know she used to practice her recipes in my kitchen in Seattle?”

His deep sigh caused his shoulders to rise and fall. “I didn’t.”

“Did I say the wrong thing?” I asked.

“No, it’s not you. I wish she’d been able to do more of that at our house. Malinda was always too worried about her messing up the kitchen.”

“I never worried too much about any of that,” I said with a chuckle. “Crystal was the one in our house who kept everything tidy and organized. She loves a good spreadsheet and her lists.”

“I like spreadsheets and lists.”

I looked down at my salad, afraid to meet his eyes for fear he’d see right through me.

“Jennie, who was Crystal’s father?”

My turtleneck seemed to have grown tighter around my throat. I slipped a finger between the collar and my skin. “No one. A fling. I didn’t even know his name.”

For my parents and anyone else who cared enough to ask, I made up a story that just days after I moved to Seattle, I’d met a guy at a bar and had a one-night stand that produced a baby. A stranger, I told them. I hadn’t even known his name. My mother bought it, or seemed to, anyway. She and my father were as smitten with the baby as I.

“That seems unlikely,” Jack said.

“What do you mean?”

“You always remembered every detail about people. Their names and anything else you could draw out of them.”

“I was drunk,” I said. “You’re not the only one who could have a meaningless night of sex.”

“It wasn’t like that with Malinda. I mean, the night of sex. It was over in a second.”

I cringed and covered my face with my hands. The pain that image caused was undeniable.

“See there,” Jack said. “Whatever you’re thinking, that’s what you should say to me.”

“How could you have done that? After what we had?”

Jack let out a deep breath, looking for a moment like the man I’d once seen have his dislocated shoulder put back in place. “I was an idiot. There’s no explanation. What’s even worse— it was the only impulsive thing I’ve ever done. Trust me, I regretted it the moment it was over. If you’d known Malinda you might understand better— she was relentless like that. A dog with a bone. If she desired something, she wore a person down until she got what she wanted.”

“You broke my heart,” I whispered. All pretenses were gone. Tears had gathered at the corners of my eyes.

“When I heard you’d had a baby, I couldn’t believe it,” Jack said. “I assumed you’d met someone the minute you moved to Seattle. Should I continue to assume that?”

My throat was so dry and tight, I could barely get the words out of my mouth. “I already told you that.”

“There’s something missing from your story,” Jack said.

“None of this is any of your business. You decided you didn’t want any part of my life the minute you cheated on me.” I stuck my fork into a cherry tomato. Seeds and juice exploded onto its neighboring piece of turkey.

“Have you ever noticed how Crystal looks like my mother?”

The floor seemed to fall out from under me. I sank into the depths of a hole as dark as my secret.
Tess Thompson; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology -I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Kindle Locations 3209-3255).

The startling revelation leads to telling their girls they’re sisters and all that goes with that. Even as the two of them get closer again.

A tearful Christmas tale that gets brighter and a special Christmas ornament plays a role as well.

5 Contented Purrs for Tess!


No Matter How Far

Barbara Hinske

Where hidden treasures can hold the key to a heart and offer an unexpected path home…

Judy Young and her mother had a special sort of relationship with William Olsson, the owner of the Victorian Mansion behind their store. He gifted them gorgeous hand carved ornaments at Christmas, no two were the same. William died in 1990 and up until about 4 years ago the property had been well maintained. Now it’s showing some damage and as she approached in the back alley Judy notices a paper attached to the front door. The house is being auctioned for back taxes, not wanting the property to go into the hands of some developer, Judy enters the fray and wins. It takes a while but finally the property is legally hers and she can figure out what to do with it. But first she’s going to explore and get estimates from her best friend’s husband. She finds a box of ornaments meant for his nephew Jeffrey. It becomes a goal to find him and give him the ornaments that should be his.

Jeff Carson lost his wife to cancer, his son and daughter-in-law are now helping him clear out the house they shared. Jeff is ready to move on, but before he settles in a place for himself he’s going to travel a bit. As he’s going through some of the things for sale he finds a Christmas ornament gifted to him by his Uncle William and realizes he doesn’t want this particular box to be sold, it’s his only link to his mother and uncle.

Judy’s best friend Maggie’s daughter Susan helps her find Jeffrey and she emails him not expecting to hear anything since it’s Thanksgiving night. She does get a reply though along with a phone number and time to call the next night.

This is part of that conversation and a favorite scene.

“You can’t force someone to accept help. Sometimes people are on journeys that we wouldn’t choose for them, but we have to let them live their lives,” Judy said. “You said in your email that you found the ornament in your mother’s things?”

“Yes. I sold Mom’s house, furniture and all, and had her personal effects boxed up and sent to me. I put them in storage and didn’t touch them. I’d forgotten about the ornament— I hadn’t seen it in decades— until last fall when my son and daughter-in-law helped me with a garage sale. In fact, I found it in a bin, priced to sell.”

“Oh, no!” Judy looked at the box containing the wooden ornaments that William had carved for his nephew. “Do you remember your uncle?”

“Very vaguely. He stopped at our home one Christmas when he first came to this country from Sweden. He brought me the ornament that I sent you the photo of. He said that he made it. I remember being fascinated with it as a child.”

“So, William and Alma were on good terms?”

“At the time,” Jeff said, “but like she did with everyone else, she became suspicious of him and paranoid, and finally cut him out of her life.”

“The notes on these ornaments testify to the fact that your uncle loved you a great deal. He never forgot you, Jeff.”

Jeff swallowed hard against the lump in his throat.

“You must have these in time for Christmas,” Judy said, sensing his emotion. “Where can I send them to you? I’m happy to use an overnight delivery service, and I’ll insure them. Just give me an address. I’ll get them out tomorrow.”

Jeff had answered the call planning to ask Judy to mail the ornaments to Jason’s house at his expense. So, he was surprised to hear himself say, “Do you mind if I pick them up? I’m starting a road trip in about three weeks. I’m going to end up with my cousin in Phoenix for Christmas, and I’ll be driving right by Westbury on the way.” He winced as he said this since he knew Westbury was at least two hundred miles out of his way. He hoped she wouldn’t realize that.

“Sure,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere during the holiday rush. I’ve always wanted to close the shop for a week during January and go somewhere warm, like Phoenix. One of these years, I’m going to do it!”

“Great. I don’t want to risk the ornaments getting lost in the mail,” Jeff said. “And I’d love to meet you. I’ve enjoyed talking to you.”

“Me, too. This has been fun. I’ll keep them in the back room at Celebrations. I’ll email you the address.”

“Terrific.” He did some quick mileage calculations in his head. “I’ll plan to be there in the middle of the day on the twenty-first.” That would allow him ample time to complete his drive to Phoenix.

“I’ll be at the shop.”

“I’m looking forward to meeting you,” Jeff reiterated.

“Have a safe trip. See you soon.” Judy swiped to end the call and clutched the phone to her chest.
Barbara Hinske; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – No Matter How Far (Kindle Locations 4875-4899).

Their meeting is both sweet and serious as she offers him a tour of the home. She explained the massive repairs needed and he took quite the interest.

I truly enjoyed how this relationship grows so quickly yet perfectly.

5 Contented Purrs for Barbara!


Blessings on State Street

Rachael Bloome

Abigail Preston wants nothing more than to skip Christmas this year. But her holiday-free hideout in the quaint, charming town of Blessings Bay comes with a mysterious and unexpected house guest. Can two heartbroken strangers find hope and healing in the most Christmassy town on the coast?

Abby Preston is cancelling Christmas, what better place to do that but at a house she didn’t know her husband owned. She found out after Donnie, her test pilot husband, died in an accident last Thanksgiving. Facing another Christmas surrounded by memories of how he loved the holiday wouldn’t do. Blessings Bay seemed the perfect plan, a small town and a house she needs to figure out why was kept from her.

We meet Logan Matthews as he’s trying to rescue his neighbor’s Christmas decorations from the mud produced by the raging storm. Verna would be devastated at the destruction so he’d do what he could. Even though he’s mostly a recluse she won’t stop trying to get him to participate more around town. Little does he know he’s going to be getting company.

It was close to midnight as Abby arrives at the house, she got drenched between the car and the door. The darkness made her wish her phone hadn’t died so at least she’d have the flashlight. A noise from upstairs puts her on alert and she tasers the man who comes down the stairs.

This is a favorite scene.

Logan wasn’t sure which hurt worse, the cattle prod to the rib cage or his face getting cozy with the hardwood floor. Either way, he wouldn’t let his attacker get away with the cheap shot.His fingers curled, prepared to fight back.

“Who are you? And what are you doing here?” a strong yet feminine voice demanded in the darkness.

His assailant was a woman?

He hadn’t seen that coming. But then, he hadn’t seen the electrified metal prongs before they’d zapped him, either.

Whoever this woman was, she had gumption.

Detecting the faintest warble of fear in her words calmed his self-preservation instincts and he uncoiled his fist.

“Logan Mathews. I live here. Who are you?” He rolled onto his back, but didn’t get up, in case the movement provoked her again. While he was pretty sure a standard-issue Taser couldn’t cook his vital organs, he didn’t want to risk it.

“Abigail Preston. I own this house.”

He squinted, straining to glimpse her features in the shadows. But although he couldn’t see her face, a clear picture formed in his mind.

Abigail Preston… Donnie’s wife.

In all the years they’d served together in the Air Force, no other man had been prouder of his better half than Donnie. Even in boot camp, he’d taped a photo of her above his bed for everyone to see. Nothing crass or inappropriate, like some of the other guys posted.

In fact, all things considered, the snapshot had been fairly simple— a dark-haired woman at some restaurant, but Donnie couldn’t remember which one. She held a glass of ice water in one hand, her head thrown back, laughing at something Donnie said. As he told it, late afternoon sunlight had hit her just right, creating a halo effect. She’d looked so beautiful, so captivatingly blissful, he’d snapped a photo to preserve the memory.

What had stood out to Logan the most was the woman’s smile— the kind that lit up the world, but also seemed to belong only to you.

While it was a pleasant visual from the past, he had a feeling Abigail wasn’t smiling right now.

“I’m a friend of Donnie’s. We were in basic training together.”

“Really?” She didn’t bother hiding her skepticism, and he envisioned her dark eyebrows raised, her lips scrunched to the side. “I’ve never heard of you.”

He sighed inwardly, suppressing a groan.

Of course she hadn’t.

“What about Nugget?”

You’re Nugget?”

“The one and only.” He rose, stretching his full six foot two frame, hoping to regain some dignity.

He’d loathed that call sign every single day of his service. If he’d been smart, he would’ve participated in some good-natured bribery, which was how one of his buddies wound up with the name Shooter.

But no, he’d taken the moral high ground, and they’d named him after the sugary, walnut-laden dessert bar his grandmother sent him in regular care packages. But hey, at least they were delicious.

Besides, if he had a choice, he’d give anything to be back in the cockpit of an F-16, even if it meant reclaiming a call sign as humiliating as Nugget.

“Donnie used to talk about you all the time. And weren’t you the one who sent the box of desserts the day of the funeral?” Her words blended with a mixture of gratitude and something softer, something close to affection.

At the time, he’d wondered if he should’ve sent flowers instead, but the homemade Nevada Nuggets seemed more fitting, somehow. At least, Donnie would’ve gotten a kick out of it. “They’re an old family recipe. I hope you liked them.”

“I did. They were wonderful. So much better than flowers.”

Her tone carried a hint of a smile, and he was surprised by how badly he wanted to see it. “Why don’t we move into the sitting room? The power’s out because of the storm, but there’s a fire in there and I can scrounge up a couple of battery-operated lanterns.”

As she followed him into the next room, Logan mentally rehearsed half a dozen ways to ask the awkward yet all-important question— what was she doing here? And how long did she plan to stay?

But no matter how he phrased it, he couldn’t bring himself to form the words, realizing his future hung on her response.

After all, she owned the place. If she wanted to kick him out, she could.

The smoldering embers cast a peripheral glow, allowing Logan to glimpse Abigail for the first time.

Even dripping wet and a little worse for wear, she did something to his insides that closely resembled internal combustion. Only, in this case, it was ignited by striking hazel eyes instead of jet fuel.

Abruptly looking away, he rummaged through a desk drawer for a flashlight, then moved to the closet and retrieved two lanterns.

Clicking them on, he set them both on the coffee table, turning to look at her again.

Her eyes were fixed on his bare chest, and when he caught her staring, she flushed, quickly averting her gaze.

“The fire feels nice.” She stepped toward the hearth, stretching out her hands to gather warmth. And maybe mask the sudden rosiness in her cheeks.

“There’s a fireplace in the master bedroom, if you’d like me to build one in there for you….” He intentionally let his words trail off, hoping she’d fill in the blanks with her plans for the foreseeable future. When she didn’t, he added, “My room is upstairs, so you’re not putting me out or anything.”

He didn’t want to go into the morose psychological reasons of how he’d chosen the smallest room in the house over the large master suite because he didn’t feel he deserved it.

And thankfully, she didn’t ask.

She stood in an uneasy stance, kneading her lips together as though massaging the right words out of them. “I’m sorry to intrude like this. I had no idea you were living here. How, uh, how long has it been?”

“A couple of years. Donnie didn’t tell you?”

Something flashed in her eyes. Embarrassment? Sadness? Perhaps a mixture of the two. She shook her head.

Guilt clawed at Logan’s stomach. Why hadn’t Donnie told her? Was he worried she wouldn’t approve of the arrangement?

Logan always knew his friend had been far too generous. Sure, he paid the utilities and maintained the property, which wasn’t exactly easy considering large historic homes needed a ton of work. But Donnie would have made a small fortune selling the place. Maybe he hadn’t told his wife to avoid the conflict.

Logan hated the thought of being a wedge in their marriage even more than he hated being a burden.

“I’m sorry for the… mix-up tonight,” he said, putting it mildly. He’d likely have a nasty burn on his side in the morning. “This is your house. If you need me to leave, just say so. Only, I’d prefer to wait until after the storm, if that’s okay. Otherwise, the moving boxes might get a little soggy.” He grinned, hoping to add some levity to an all-around uncomfortable situation.

The corner of her mouth lifted, giving him a small taste of the smile he remembered. “That won’t be necessary. Honestly, I don’t really know what I plan to do with the place long-term, but for now, I was just hoping to get away for the holidays. Or more accurately, get away from the holidays.” She hesitated, slicking a strand of damp hair behind her ear. “I suppose we could work something out for the next few weeks. Find a way to coexist without getting in each other’s way. Would that be okay with you?”

She met his gaze, and his heart rate skyrocketed like the first time he experienced g-force. Coexist? As in, live within the same four walls? He wasn’t used to sharing his space with anyone, let alone someone like Abby.

His brain shouted, Eject! Eject!

But the rest of his body didn’t heed the warning. “Sure. We can make that work.”

“Great. I just have one… request,” she said in a tone that indicated it was more of a nonnegotiable. “I’m skipping Christmas this year. Which means no decorations, no tree, no holiday music, nothing festive whatsoever. Is that going to be a problem for you?”

“No, ma’am.”

He could handle nixing Christmas.

The real question was whether he could handle living with his attractive new houseguest.
Rachael Bloome; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – Blessings on State Street (Kindle Locations 5479-5546).

An overboard Main Street, a child falling out of a tree and an attraction Abby can’t deny, changes her feelings on celebrating this year.

Plus that special Christmas ornament to remember.

5 Contented Purrs for Rachael!


A Lot Like Christmas

Kathryn Cantrell

The place where destiny is the ultimate matchmaker. All you have to do is believe.

I have to say even though Iris Duncan believes in love at first sight, and believes Wesley is her one and only. The reason she’s in his father’s antique store is quite naïve. She’s tracking down her grandmother’s Christmas ornament, it’s signed by Lillian Davenport, the film star, who was her grandmother. She assumes she would just have to identify it and he would just hand it over.

Of course, Wesley can’t and won’t do that. Even though she says it was stolen and it was reported, he needs to go through proper channels, it’s his father’s store after all. After calling the sheriff, an ice storm begins, preventing the Sheriff from getting there and also them going anywhere. Fortunately, there is an apartment above the store where Wesley has been staying.

As soon as she got that ornament. Then she’d get started on their happily ever after. Her gran came first.

When the phone rang, a sinking feeling told her who would be on the other end of the line.

Wesley’s mouth firmed into a flat line as he listened. When he hung up, she held up a finger. “Let me guess. The sheriff isn’t coming.”

Wesley shook his head and her stomach dropped.

“The storm is much worse than forecasted,” he told her with a grimace. “The roads are impassable. He doesn’t think he’ll make it out until tomorrow morning at the earliest.”

Looked like she’d be staying in Superstition Springs then. She nodded once, mentally preparing for an overnight stay sans an overnight bag. “Is there a hotel nearby?”

He shrugged. “I’m not sure. Probably in La Grange. If you want me to call around for you, I don’t mind.”

La Grange was thirty miles away. No way was she putting that much distance between herself and that ornament. Plus she had a feeling that he’d mentioned it strictly as a ploy to get her to go away. Not happening. “I thought you just said the roads are bad. I meant here. In town.”

The very long pause did not reassure her. For someone who liked calculators so much, he sure wasn’t adding two and two together very fast.

“Maybe the roads aren’t too bad out here.”

She shot him an incredulous look. “In the boondocks? Sure. In Texas, bad weather always veers away from wide open spaces with few residents. Let’s check and see about that.”

Weaving through the furniture, she headed for the front to peer through the window. Big, white flakes fell from the sky at an alarmingly rapid rate, obscuring her vision.

“It’s snowing!” she called back to Wesley, charmed by the picturesque scene. “So beautiful. I guess I should have checked the forecast before driving this far from home. I mean, I knew it was cold. Can’t miss that. But snow in Texas? It’s been ages since it actually snowed here.”

She sensed him coming up behind her, an odd anomaly where she could feel his presence that she didn’t recall ever experiencing before with another person. It had been happening since she’d first noticed him, made more pronounced by her new understanding of why they’d been brought together— to help him believe in love again.

“Wow,” he said, sounding a bit dazed, his gaze roving across the landscape on the other side of the glass. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen snow. Especially that much of it.”

In the hour or so she’d been in the shop, white had coated every surface as far as the eye could see. Odd bumps stuck up every so often in a straight line edging the street. Bushes of some sort, the leaf tips dark against so much white.

“Christmas miracle,” she murmured cheerily.

“If you still think I should try to drive to La Gran—”

“You can’t drive in that.”

Well, then. She hid a smile. He’d cut her off a good two sentences before she’d expected him to. “Is there another choice? Someone who might have an extra room?”

His lid slammed shut and he heaved a sigh. “Yeah, someone as in me. My dad’s apartment is above the shop. It’s two bedrooms. But I can sleep down here in the store.”

“Oh, hmm.” She pretended to think about it, mostly because she had a feeling she’d overplay her hand if she jumped all over the invitation as lightning quick as she wanted to. His heavy sigh had told her scads. He was a good guy who had no intention of letting a woman drive alone in bad weather, but he was also a guy who didn’t enjoy having his self-imposed relationship moratorium challenged.

Also, she could be completely misreading the situation, and he really had a second career as an axe murderer.

Her best tactic here would be treading very lightly.

She held up her cell phone. No bars. But he’d warned her that would be the case already. Did axe murderers tell their victims cell service sucked? How would she know? She never watched those kinds of movies. In her world, good guys with well-defined shoulders always played the hero.

“You don’t have to sleep down here,” she said. “I would feel terrible for putting you out. Besides, I have a concealed handgun in my purse, just so you know.”

His brows shot up. “Really?”

Caught in the lie, she debated and finally shook her head. “No. I’d probably shoot myself before I shot anyone trying to harm me.”

“That’s okay.” He looked like he was trying not to laugh. At her. “I used to be a SEAL, so firearms are kind of my specialty. I won’t hurt you. I know that’s what someone with nefarious intentions would say, so probably it’s a small comfort.”

She wasn’t scared of him, if that’s what he’d meant. Maybe she should be, but she’d been alone with him for a while now already and she’d gotten no sense of him being a threat.

“Can I call my Gran to let her know I won’t be home tonight?” she asked with a nod to the corded phone behind the register. “So she won’t worry.”

Which doubled as a mechanism to make sure she didn’t disappear, never to be heard from again. Well, technically, that could still happen, but at least they’d know where to start looking.

“Of course.” He jetted back to the register and lifted the receiver, holding it to his ear, then extending it to her. “It’s working.”

That sealed it. An axe murderer definitely wouldn’t make sure the phone was operational and then let her make a call. She took a moment to study him surreptitiously as she dialed and waited for the call to connect.

Man, he was something to look at. Almost too pretty to be considered handsome, but his face had a rugged quality matched by his brawn that was too masculine to call him anything other than smoking hot. His eyes killed her. The color was something in and of itself, but after you got past the bright green/ hazel/ topaz combo, a depth shone from them. This guy had dimensions and she wanted to know about all of them.

Especially the name of the incredibly stupid woman who had worked him over to the point that he refused to even entertain the idea of a casual movie with another of her species. That was some next-level hurt he carried around inside.

The private nurse Iris had hired to look after Gran answered on the second ring. She explained the situation and gave the woman the number displayed above the dial, which she assumed was assigned to the shop. Not as good as the number upstairs at the residence but better than nothing.

It would have been lovely to actually speak with Gran but she’d been so confused lately. It wouldn’t have done any good to spend ten minutes explaining who she was, plus it hurt Iris’s heart to have to.

That ornament could be the key to unlocking a flood of Gran’s memories. It had to be.

“Well, that’s done,” she told him brightly instead of dwelling on things she couldn’t change. “Care to show me to my room so I can settle in?”

Which would take about two minutes since she had no luggage or even a toothbrush. Her host’s hospitality probably only extended so far, or she’d ask for some basics, and she’d rather save what good will she might have at the moment to fry bigger fish.

Silently, Wesley extended a hand to the rear of the shop, where thankfully, a staircase unfolded upwards to the second floor. She’d envisioned a building this old having an external staircase, requiring a stout constitution to brave the cold in order to get to the residence.

“Oh, this is lovely,” she exclaimed as the staircase led straight to the open living room and kitchen.

Glass comprised most of the far wall, giving her a bird’s eye view of the nothingness spreading beyond the edge of the town. A blanket of white covered everything, a smattering of trees and scrub brush standing sentinel, but she had a feeling it was just as breathtaking without the snow.

The owner had selected some of the best pieces from his business, choosing to furnish his personal space with honey-red finishes. German influences mostly, judging by the ornate legs on the wardrobe converted into an entertainment center. The fabric couch stuck out as the lone modern hold out, which was unsurprising given the fussy patterns often favored by furniture makers of the previous centuries.

“The extra room is this way,” he said and she didn’t miss the stiffness.

He didn’t like her being here, but he didn’t feel like he had a choice, so he was making the best of it. Which she appreciated. Everyone had choices and he could have kicked her out into the storm. The snow still fell in furious swirls, easily the worst snowstorm she’d ever seen in real life. The fact that he’d instantly assessed the weather situation and made the difficult choice spoke to her soul in a way she’d never have anticipated.

That’s okay. She fully intended to reverse the way he thought about her presence in his life. There was no telling how long she had to make that happen, but the weather had certainly done its part to assist fate. She’d make full use of the opportunity presented to her.
Kathryn Cantrell; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – A Lot Like Christmas (Kindle Locations 7741-7813).

The progression from strangers to something more is rather interesting as Iris pushes and Wesley retreats.

However, there is something about snow in Texas, Christmas and being stuck together.

A beautiful ornament, secrets, and the beginning of a romance.

5 Contented Purrs for Kathryn!


One Unforgettable Christmas

Tammy L. Grace

An exhausted ER doctor looking to escape the city. A beach-loving workaholic executive stuck in a snow-covered valley. Will the charm of the town and the magic of the holidays be enough to mend their broken hearts?

Hugh Whitman just got the surprise of his life. His Aunt Betty left him not only her home in Snow Valley but also her bookstore and rental properties, but there’s a catch. He can’t sell anything or hire a manager for the book store until he’s worked there for 30 days. He really prefers LA and beaches to the cold of Snow Valley but he couldn’t just turn his back on it all.

The cold is getting to him since he really doesn’t have the proper clothing. Thoroughly chilled he first stops at Latte Dah for coffee enjoying the warm atmosphere as he arranges the time off. He’d also need to find some appropriate clothing for his stay. He has lunch at Rosie’s diner, where he meets Harper. It’s snowing as he heads towards his aunt’s house observing the prime location of the book store. He doesn’t get very far before he slips and falls flat.

He’s rescued by Harper, who lives just past his aunt’s Victorian home. With his ankle injured, she assists him inside only to realize he won’t be able to maneuver the stairs. She property she’s renting is one of his Aunt Betty’s and has a small guest cottage so she offers that to him. I got a real kick out of him thinking her dog Duncan was a guy.

Hugh begins his time at the book store and discovers the closeness of the community as the Christmas spirit seems to come alive.

Harper’s mother, Allison is coming to town for the holidays. Allison is an overworked ER doctor and her contract is ending. She’s hoping her time with her daughter in Snow Valley will help her sort out what her next steps should be.

Hugh invites Harper to bring her Mom to dinner at the Mistletoe Lodge as his treat and a thank you for the help she’s given him. There’s going to be quite the surprise coming.

This is a favorite scene.

She met his eyes and stifled a gasp. The deep blue eyes she hadn’t seen in over twenty-five years, widened. Hugh stepped closer, his face inches from hers. She could smell the woodsy scent of his aftershave and detected notes of sandalwood along his strong jawline.

He grinned and said, “Allie Oop? It is you.”

Harper’s brow furrowed as she looked at Hugh and then her mother. “That’s what Grandpa always called you. You two know each other?”

Allison swallowed hard. “Uh, yeah, a hundred years ago.” Her eyes met his again. “Hugh, I can’t believe you’re here and, uh, well, I just can’t believe it.”

He wrapped her in a long hug, and then took her hands in his. “You look just as stunning as ever. You haven’t changed a bit.” He smiled and moved to pull out a chair. “Please sit down.”

He did the same for Harper, who sat wide-eyed between them. Both she and Hugh rearranged their place settings to accommodate their left-handedness. Harper turned toward her mom. “So, I met Hugh a couple of weeks ago. He fell on the sidewalk and hurt his ankle. He’s Betty’s nephew.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Well, you know that. Anyway, I offered to let him stay in my guesthouse because of all the stairs at Betty’s.”

Allison ran her finger along the edge of the menu. “I can’t believe you didn’t mention him.”

The color rose in Harper’s cheeks. “I didn’t want you to worry. I know you aren’t wild about me renting out the guesthouse.” She winked at Hugh. “To total strangers who could be serial killers.”

He chuckled. “I told her the same thing. I’m back at Betty’s now. I didn’t want to be in the way when Harper’s mom came to visit. She never said your name or I might have put it together.”

They studied the menus. “Everything looks terrific,” said Hugh. “My treat, so you ladies order whatever you like. Lobster, steak, the sky’s the limit.”

Harper shook her head. “No lobster for me. I’m allergic to shellfish.”

Hugh’s head snapped to face her. “Me, too. I can do fish, but not shellfish. I don’t need any more medical visits while I’m here.”

The waitress came to take their orders. As much as Allison had been looking forward to dinner, her appetite had disappeared and nothing sounded good. She settled on a chicken dish, and since Harper was driving, a glass of merlot.

“So, your ankle is better?” asked Allison, before taking a healthy swallow from her glass.

“Not one hundred percent, but much better.” He stuck his foot out. “Doc Archer gave me a brace and I’ve been diligent about wearing it.”

“Ah, good old Doc Archer. He’s a sweetheart.” Allison brought her hand to her mouth in such a hurry, she almost tipped over her wineglass. “I forgot to say how sorry I am about Betty. She was such a lovely person.”

Hugh pressed his lips together. “Oh, thank you. She was a much better aunt than I was a nephew, I’m sorry to say. I have a new appreciation for her after spending these last weeks trying to fill her shoes.” He took a sip of water. “She was my only family and now she’s gone. It’s really made me think.”

“I’m truly sorry. We lost my mom almost two years ago and my dad before that. I understand that horrible sense of loss.”

He nodded. “I’m so sorry, Allie.” He met her eyes with such intensity, she looked away and took another drink from her glass.

He turned his attention to Harper. “So, is your mom excited about your news?”

“News?” Allison turned toward her daughter and watched her eyes widen and smile fall.

“Uh, well, I haven’t told her. I meant to, I’ve just been so busy and we haven’t had time to talk much.” She looked between Hugh and her mom. “I’ve decided I want to stay in Snow Valley and be a teacher, like Grandma.” She went on to say she’d looked into online programs and that she could complete her degree and then get a student teaching job at the local school district.

It warmed Allison’s heart to hear the excitement in Harper’s voice and the idea of her following in her mom’s footsteps. But that her daughter had discussed her future with Hugh, a relative stranger, made her eyes sting with unshed tears.

Harper rambled on, telling her she’d been helping Hugh, and Duncan had been staying at the bookshop while she worked. Allison half-listened to the conversation as she watched her daughter.

Her daughter with the same dark hair and blue eyes as Hugh, who was allergic to shellfish, and left-handed. She watched the two of them and wondered how she was going to tell him. Her stomach buckled at the idea. How would Harper react? Would Hugh figure it out?

She asked the waitress for another glass of wine.
Tammy L. Grace; A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – One Unforgettable Christmas (Kindle Locations 9374-9411).

The attraction between Allison and Hugh is apparent, and her secret won’t remain that way long.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way this romantic tale plays out, with love, laughter and some tears as well.

5 Contented Purrs for Tammy!


Tinsel and Teacups

Elle Rush

A bubbly barista and a shy, single-father antique dealer must set aside their rivalry to find the best Christmas teacup ever when they are nominated to run the Holiday Beach food bank fundraiser. Will the spirit of Christmas overcome their competitive streaks?

Rachel Best is on the hunt for tea cups, she does a holiday auction at her coffee shop, By The Cup, to provide for the food bank.

Owen Daye is already at the Christmas craft and antique sale and Rachel is sure he’s already snatched up all the good stuff. Owen’s grandfather owns Golden Daye Antiques and Owen has been taking over for him. Unlike his grandfather, Owen hadn’t responded to her request to partner with her on the auction.

The last straw for Rachel was when he bought a rare Prairie Pioneer a style from the days of the Great Depression. Unfortunately it was her fault she was stunned to see it, her mind going in all directions as she stared at it, not processing when he asked if she wanted it.

There’s an interesting catalyst in this story, a cat named Holly. Apparently the stray goes between Rachel’s shop and Owen’s. His young son Ritchie has befriended the cat who spends time in their storage area.

This is a favorite scene.

The next afternoon, Owen was ringing up a customer’s purchase when Rachel slipped in through the front door. She’d arrived early to ensure nobody else purchased the Prairie Pioneer before she had a chance to, but she didn’t see it on it any of the shelves in the housewares area. She moved through the fine arts corner and came up empty there too. She was preparing to start a row-to-row search, when Owen approached her holding a massive red latte cup covered in white polka dots.

“It’s on the house,” Owen said when he handed it to her. “Pops was upset when he realized you didn’t contact the store to for our usual donation. Maybe you’ll accept this as part of our contribution.”

That was strange. And slightly accusatory. “I understand nobody returning my calls with both Goldie and your father being in the hospital, but I also sent a letter asking Golden Daye Antiques if they wanted to participate. I assume you still had somebody going through the mail to pay bills and such. I still didn’t get any response. So please tell your grandpa I didn’t forget about him and his previous generosity.”

The shocked look on his face seemed genuine. “I don’t remember any letter. But the store was in such upheaval when I arrived, it could have accidentally been thrown out. I’m very sorry if it had been. Pops is all about being active in the community but can’t do a lot this year, which is why he volunteered me.” Owen grabbed a sheet of tissue paper from underneath the counter and gave it a flick.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t pay attention to the direction, and the delicate wrapper flapped against the bulletin board and dislodged several of Richie’s masterpieces. The rectangular drawings flew across the counter and onto the floor. “Nuts!” he exclaimed.

Rachel scooped up two that landed by her feet, turning them over so she could see the drawings. “Your son has a thing for snowmen,” she said as she offered them back, “but it’s a clever way to keep him occupied at the counter.”

Owen didn’t take them. He was staring at the letter in his own hand. The unopened letter, she noted, with her name as the return addressee. Owen flipped it to the backside to look at what might be a horse and cowboy according to the hat, then returned to the front. He handed it to her.

“This is the letter I sent,” she said after a quick glance.

“I didn’t see it. By the looks of it, Richie confiscated it for his artwork before any of us had a chance.” Owen slit it open and withdrew a plain sheet of printer paper. Rachel knew what he was reading: best wishes for a fast recovery, and a request for her to come by the store to discuss teacups if Goldie was feeling up to it at a later date.

Rachel pinched her lips together. The whole situation was a dumpster fire. Nobody would benefit if she continued to let it burn. “I guess it’s kind of pointless to be mad at the next Picasso simply because he escaped supervision,” she said.

“I am really sorry. I didn’t realize we hadn’t opened your letter before he drew on it—”

“It’s not your fault.” She gave a little snort. “Okay, it’s ninety percent not your fault. At least I know now that you weren’t ignoring me on purpose. I was starting to wonder.” Then she gave Owen a truly friendly smile for the first time. “Can I start over?”

“Sure.”

“Hi, I’m Rachel Best, and I own By the Cup. It’s a coffee shop on Lakeside Drive. I know you’re new to Holiday Beach, but would you like to contribute to my annual fundraiser for the local food bank and donate a teacup to a good cause?” She stuck out her hand.

He gave it a hearty shake. “Hi, Rachel Best. I’m Owen Daye, the new manager for Golden Daye Antiques. My son and I just moved to town, and I’d love to participate in your fundraiser.”

“Daddy, why are you holding the lady’s hand?” A blond boy raced over to him from the front door.

“We just agreed to work together, so we shook hands to make a deal,” Owen explained. He lifted the now-opened letter, but Rachel shook her head, letting him know he didn’t have to mention it now. Instead, he introduced Rachel to his son Richie.

“Are you going to work here now?” Richie said. “Do you know old stuff?”

“No. I work at a coffee shop.”

Without warning, Richie pivoted and changed the conversation.

“I have a cat.”

“I have a cat too. Well, half a cat. She doesn’t live with me all the time,” Rachel said.

“My cat lives in the store. I’m going to go play with her now.” Owen’s son didn’t even say goodbye before he took off, leaving a trail of dirt and melting snow on the floor.

“That was Richie,” Owen said. “On a cookie high, apparently.”

“We napped really hard after day care. We needed to refuel,” Goldie said, as he stomped the snow off his boots at the front door. “In fact, I could use some caffeinated fuel, so I’m going to run. Rachel, it’s lovely to see you again.”

“You too, Mr. Daye.”

“Are you and Owen all organized?”

“We’re just about to start.”

Owen ushered Rachel through the store to the large storage room. She heard Richie talking to somebody in one corner, but Owen led her in the other direction and showed her two conveniently empty metal storage units against the far wall. “Will these work?” he asked.

“I think they’ll be fine. I can’t imagine that we’ll get enough to fill all those shelves.”

“I think you’re underestimating your appeal. I’ll bet you a beer at the Escape Room that all these shelves are full to bursting by the time the auction’s over.”

Owen might be new to Holiday Beach, but that didn’t mean he was wrong. Christmas was the season of giving, and Josh had already sent her the names of two businesses wanting to make donations. She was certain the various businesses around town would fall over themselves to be part of the auction. “Bet accepted. I’ll happily pay up if I’m wrong.”

“While I have you here, I want to apologize about the antique show the other day,” Owen said.

She froze. The revelation about her letter going astray had completely shoved their antique show confrontation and her intention of asking for the Prairie Pioneer out of her mind. Owen’s apologetic green eyes and his adorable son were dangerous distractions. “Before you say anything, I have to ask a huge favor,” she interrupted. “Do you still have the Prairie Pioneer in stock? I want it. Badly.”

Before he could respond, there was a crash at the other end of the room. Then one word. “Daddy!”

Rachel didn’t have kids, but she could differentiate between a “come and see” and a “I need help” scream. Owen could too; he was already halfway there before her feet moved.

They found Richie surround by a sea of shattered glass and crockery. The little boy’s tear-stained face looked up at them in fear. “Daddy,” he cried again. An art piece that was balancing precariously on the edge of an upper shelf trembled at the noise.

Owen strode through the broken shards, shoved the glass sculpture further onto the shelf, then scooped up his son and handed him off to Rachel. She backed away and watched Owen study the scene.

“Are you okay, kiddo?”

“I didn’t do it.”

“I know you didn’t.” Rachel could see the little boy couldn’t reach that high. “Did you see what happened?” Owen asked gently.

Richie sniffed in her arms. Rachel dug a tissue out of her coat pocket and wiped his nose. “Are you hurt, Richie? Did you get cut?”

“No. Daddy, the cat did it! She was walking on the top shelf and I told her no and I said get down and then she pushed the thing and it crashed and then she got scared and pushed more things off when she ran away.” Richie sniffed again.

“I know she’s normally good about staying off the shelves, but I also don’t usually put light breakables up on them either.” He looked around the storeroom. “Richie, do you know where she went? I should make sure she’s not cut either.”

“She ran away out the window.” Rachel guessed it was Owen’s steady manner that calmed Richie so quickly. His tears dried, and he twisted in her arms as he took in the shattered glass and china on the floor. “Wow, she really made a mess.”

“She sure did. Will you go with Miss Rachel while I sweep it up? I don’t want any little boys or cats to cut themselves.” He raised his eyebrows to her as he spoke to his son, and she nodded. She could watch a child for a few minutes while he cleaned the disaster zone. Rachel spotted busted wine glass stems, pieces of a large bowl and a pitcher handle, and more broken cups and saucers than she could count, all laying in a puddle of water.

She was glad it wasn’t her cleaning up. “My cat likes fish a lot. What does your cat like to eat?” she asked Richie as she took him back into the store.

By the time Owen was finished cleaning, Rachel had to get back to the coffee shop. She was restocking sugar packets when she realized that she’d never received an answer about buying the Prairie Pioneer.
Elle Rush. A Keepsake Christmas: A Sweet Romance Anthology – Tinsel and Teacups (Kindle Locations 10333-10405).

From the injured cat to the elusive Prairie Pioneer cup, to the silent auction this is a wonderful Christmas romance.

5 Contented Purrs for Elle!


Melissa McClone’s Bio and Links

With a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, Melissa worked for a major airline where she traveled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters.

Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim practices and other activities.

Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds, and cats who think they rule the house. They do!


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Kristen Ethridge’s Bio and Links
Kristen Ethridge is a USA Today Bestselling Author who writes Sweet Escape Romance— stories with hope, heart and happily-ever-after. You can find Kristen in her native habitat— a Texas patio— where she’s likely to be savoring the joy of a crispy taco, along with a glass of iced tea.

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Tess Thompson’s Bio and Links

Tess Thompson is the USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author of contemporary and historical Romantic Women’s Fiction with nearly 40 published titles. When asked to describe her books, she could never figure out what to say that would perfectly sum them up until she landed on, Hometowns and Heartstrings.

She’s married to her prince, Best Husband Ever, and is the mother of their blended family of four kids and five cats. Best Husband Ever is seventeen months younger, which qualifies Tess as a Cougar, a title she wears proudly. Her Bonus Sons are young adults with pretty hair and big brains like their dad. Daughters, better known as Princess One and Two, are teenagers who make their mama proud because they’re kind. They’re also smart, but a mother shouldn’t brag.

Tess loves lazy afternoons watching football, hanging out on the back patio with Best Husband Ever, reading in bed, binge-watching television series, red wine, strong coffee and walks on crisp autumn days. She laughs a little too loudly, never knows what to make for dinner, looks ridiculous kickboxing in an attempt to combat her muffin top, and always complains about the rain even though she chose to live in Seattle.

She’s proud to have grown up in a small town like the ones in her novels. After graduating from the University of Southern California Drama School, she had hopes of becoming an actress but was called instead to writing fiction. She’s grateful to spend most days in her office matchmaking her characters while her favorite cat Mittens (shhh…don’t tell the others) sleeps on the desk.

She adores hearing from readers, so don’t hesitate to say hello or sign up for her newsletter.

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Barbara Hinske’s Bio and Links

Barbara Hinske is an attorney who recently left the practice of law to pursue her career as a full-time novelist. Her latest novel, Guiding Emily, was conceived during a tour of The Foundation for Blind Children. She was inspired and moved by their mission and is donating half of her proceeds from the book to the Foundation. Barb is also the author of the bestselling Rosemont series and the murder mysteries in her ‘Who’s There?!’ collection. Her novella The Christmas Club was made into a 2019 Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

She inherited the fiction gene from her father who wrote mysteries when he retired and told her a story every night of her childhood. She and her husband share their own Rosemont with two adorable and spoiled dogs. A true homebody, she is besotted with decorating, entertaining, cooking, and gardening.

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Rachael Bloome’s Bio and Links

Rachael Bloome is a hopeful romantic. Joyfully living in her very own love story, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two rescue dogs, Finley and Monkey. When she’s not writing, helping to run the family coffee roasting business, or getting together with friends, she’s busy planning their next big adventure.

Torn between her small-town roots and her passion for traveling the world, she weaves both into her stories ~ and her life.

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Kathryn Cantrell’s Bio and Links

Kathryn Cantrell is the sweeter version of USA Today bestselling author Kat Cantrell. She read her first Harlequin novel in third grade and has been scribbling in notebooks since she learned to spell. What else would she write but romance? When she’s not writing about characters on the journey to happily ever after, she can be found at a taekwondo tournament, watching Big Bang Theory or dancing with her kids to Duran Duran and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Kathryn, her husband and their two boys live in North Texas. As Kat, she’s a Harlequin So You Think You Can Write winner and a former RWA® Golden Heart® finalist for best unpublished series contemporary manuscript.

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Tammy L. Grace’s Bio and Links

Born and raised in Nevada, Tammy L. Grace loved reading at a young age. With the help of her middle school teacher, she discovered the joy of writing. After spending a career in local and state government service, she retired and finally has the time to dedicate to writing.

When Tammy isn’t working on ideas for a novel, she’s spending time with family and friends or supporting her addiction to books and chocolate. She and her husband have one grown son and a spoiled golden retriever. Sadly, she lost Zoe in 2017, but is training her new golden puppy, Izzy, to be her writing buddy. Zoe was the inspiration for all the canine companions in her books.

She enjoys a variety of fiction, but is always drawn to characters she loves and wants to be transported to another place when reading. She hopes you’ll feel at home as you meet the small-town characters in the picturesque setting of Friday Harbor in her best-selling Hometown Harbor Series. She’s also created equally memorable and interesting characters in her Cooper Harrington Detective Novels. She released the first book, Beach Haven, in her Glass Beach Cottage Series and plans two more in the coming years.

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Elle Rush’s Bio and Links

Elle Rush is a contemporary romance author from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. When she’s not travelling, she’s hard at work writing books which are set all over the world. From Hollywood to the house next door, her heroes will make you sigh and her heroines will make you laugh out loud.

Elle has a degree in Spanish and French, barely passed German, and has flunked poetry in every language she ever studied, including English. She also has mild addictions to tea, her garden, bad sci-fi movies, and HGTV.

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Defending Sparrow – Team Trojan: Brotherhood Protectors WorldColorado Book 4 by Jen Talty


Defending Sparrow
Team Trojan: Brotherhood Protectors Colorado Book 4
By
USA Today Bestselling Author
Author

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Sparrow Oakley has spent her adult life serving the good people of Fool’s Gold, Colorado and trying to forget she’s the daughter of the leader of one of the biggest crime organizations in the state. So, when she has to arrest a fellow officer and her mentor for doing business with the Renegades, Sparrow wonders if her mother is lurking in the shadows and when she’s going to make good a promise she made long ago.

Stone Bishop’s career in the military as a Green Beret had come to an abrupt end. However, Stone is used to adversity and quickly took a job with new branch of the Brotherhood Protectors with his buddies from Team Trojan. Stone figures if he can handle civilian life, he can handle anything. That is until Sparrow Oakley walks into his life. He’s prepared to protect her, but he has no idea how to protect his heart.

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At the end of Tactical Takeover: Brotherhood Protector’s Colorado Book 4 we learn a new team is arriving. These are their stories as the settle in with this group. There are five books in this multi-author mini-series. I will be reading them all. Of course I’m not starting with the first one either…sigh.

We meet Sparrow Oakley as she’s meets up with her friend Casey Jones and her boyfriend Hondo at Gunny’s Watering Hole. She’s just picking up her meal as she’s on duty. As a Deputy Sheriff in Fool’s Gold she works as many shifts as she can. Always on the look out for evidence that the Renegades are setting up.

Stone Bishop is another of Team Trojan, he’s good friends with Hondo and would love for Sparrow to go out on a date with him. She just won’t give him the chance. While she has her reasons, the attraction is definitely mutual.

Now Sparrow has a unique connection to the Renegades, her father was once the number two guy and he turned evidence putting the leader in jail. Her mother on the other hand is now in charge and she wants her daughter. There’s rumors that the old Bittner place was sold to Frank Bingo, who may have connections to the Renegades. They aren’t supposed be anywhere near her father or this town, per an agreement made long ago.

Her boss Jesse doesn’t want her investigating anything alone when it comes to them. Not that she’s going to listen. She’s just observing after all. She’s set up close and about to eat when Stone pulls up.

This is just a part of that conversation.

“That’s got to be kind of cool having a bestselling author for a mom.”

“She’s the best,” Stone said.

“Where did she come up with that name for a pen name? And I have to ask, what’s her real name?”

“Elizabeth Bishop. TL Stone incorporates all of her kids.”

Sparrow blinked. She loved TL Stone’s work but feared she’d want to write a story about the Renegade Organization someday and include Sparrow’s father in it— which would not be a good idea.

“I get the stone reference, but I thought maybe that was a nickname.”

“Nope. It’s my mom’s maiden name. Thomas is my brother’s name, and Lisa is my sister.” Stone shrugged. “Considering both my brother and sister work for the FBI, and my dad is the DA in Albany, New York, she figured writing under a pen name might be a good idea.”

“Not to mention, you’re special forces.”

“Nothing special about me anymore,” he said with a bit of bitterness.

“You have an interesting and talented family. I imagine holiday dinners are filled with a lot of I can’t talk about that while your mother tries to read between the lines for her next bestseller.”

Stone smiled. “My sister just finished a huge case, and some of the victims are going to work with my mom to write their stories. All with the feds’ permission, though there will be a lot of legal stuff to deal with. It’s pretty cool, and my sister and mom are excited to be working together.” Stone ran a hand through his dark hair. “It’s weird being the only one in the family without a law degree.”

“I can imagine. My father used to tell me that when I first became a deputy, he slept with one eye open.” She relaxed her stance and leaned against the hood of her car.

“Why?”

“He was worried that I would arrest him.”

“That’s funny,” Stone said.

It might make for a silly anecdote during light conversation, but it had been a legit concern, especially since her dad had to keep his fingers in the thick of things for a period of time as the cops gathered all the evidence they needed and made sure her father could keep his get-out-of-jail-free card.

Every once in a while, his old crew showed up, asking for favors. He never did them, but he walked a fine line between staying alive and keeping himself out of jail, and that was a difficult feat when everyone knew that he was the one who’d turned on Titus.

But for whatever reason, Titus had put a no-touch order on Alfred Oakley. Not that Sparrow trusted anything Titus said or did— even from behind bars. And she still wished her father had taken the witness-protection deal. She didn’t care if that meant she’d never see him again; she would at least know he was safe, and she wouldn’t constantly be looking over her shoulder.

She tilted her head, putting her hand over her eyes. It was time to be blunt, especially if Stone had come all the way out here to discuss her dad and Titus. She could handle the occasional joke and local small talk because it wasn’t like everyone didn’t know what’d happened, but no fucking way would it make its way into an TL Stone bestseller.

“Not to be rude, but I never want my father’s story to be fodder for your mother‘s books. So, if that’s why you stopped, or if you’re looking to set up a meeting or something, please tell your mom to forget it. My father’s life is still in jeopardy. He has no federal protection and—”

“I understand that, and while I’m sure the Renegade Organization is on my mother’s interest list, she doesn’t include people who either don’t want to be involved in a book or who would be harmed by the publication. She also has my father’s career to consider, as well as her kids.” He reached out and squeezed Sparrow’s biceps. “Besides, your father made it perfectly clear that he wasn’t interested when he threatened my life if it ever happened. So, it’s certainly not why I stopped when I saw your vehicle.”

Her gaze immediately went to the fingers curled around her upper arm.

“Sorry, officer.” He let go and raised his hands.

“Why did you stop? Because last I heard, you’d found a place to rent just outside of town, which isn’t anywhere near here, so you’re not on your way there.” She trusted Hondo with her life, and Stone had been on Hondo’s special forces team.

Which meant that Hondo trusted Stone with his life.

That should have a ripple-down effect. S

he knew what had happened to Team Trojan. They had gotten a raw deal. She also knew how bitter all the men had been about their sudden exit from the military. Their lives had been turned upside down, all because they had moral compasses that put them in direct conflict with their new commanding officer, forcing them out of the only job they’d known.

For some, it had been their identity.

Something she could relate to.

However, that twist of fate could alter a person in ways no one could see coming. Just because Stone had gone into the army as the kind of man Sparrow wanted as a partner if she ever went into battle, didn’t mean he’d come out that kind of person.

“No. It’s not,” he admitted. “I’m headed into Colorado Springs to do some furniture shopping for my new digs, which I haven’t moved into yet because I need a bedroom set, a couch… shit like that.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“I’m hoping to be one and done. I hate shopping.”

“You should go to Rooms Staged. They have groupings. Just pick what you like, make sure it’s in stock, sign on the dotted line, and they will bring it to your doorstep in a week. Easy-peasy.”

“I like easy-peasy,” he said, lifting his finger.

“But that’s also not why I stopped.”

“Dare I ask?”

“I’ve never been to a ghost town, and I thought maybe you’d go with me.”

She cocked her head. “Are you asking me on a date?” It wasn’t often that anyone asked her out. Having grown up in Fool’s Gold, her prospects for male companionship were few. She generally had to go outside of town to find a date, but there was always her connection to the Renegade Organization that left some men either scared or full-on running away.

Or wondering if she was a dirty cop.

“If that’s what it sounds like, then yes, I am.”

“I’m shocked you haven’t been to Stephensville. It’s the first place everyone goes. Well, outside of Gunny’s Watering Hole or the Lucky Strike Casino.”

Once again, Stone smiled. That killer grin would be her demise. “I love Gunny’s.” He pointed to the passenger seat. “I know you do, too.”

“Speaking of, my lunch is getting cold.”

“Sorry about that,” he said. “As far as the casino goes, well, you know I play a little with your dad, but not that much. Not really my thing. But ghosts? They kind of fascinate me. And scare me at the same time.”

She laughed. Little did he know that ghost towns weren’t what he thought. “Aw. Are you looking for someone to hold your hand while you visit the ghost town?”

“Something like that.”

“Sure. Why the hell not? Do you have plans tomorrow evening?” She’d lost her fucking marbles.

“I do not.” He reached out and squeezed her shoulder. “I’ll pick you up around five. We can have dinner at Gunny’s before we head over.”

“I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it sounds like you’ve got yourself a date.”

“See you tomorrow.” He turned and waved, glancing over his shoulder. “By the way, someone is coming out of the barn.”
Jen Talty. Defending Sparrow: Brotherhood Protectors World (Kindle Locations 225-288). Twisted Page Press, LLC.

From this point on things get a bit crazy, from Jesse getting into a whole lotta trouble, to Sparrow’s mother showing up.

I couldn’t put this book down, I had to get all the answers.

5 Contented Purrs for Jen

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Jen Talty

Welcome to my World! I’m a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance.

I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.

I’m currently enjoying the next phase of my life…the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.


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