Monday, November 13, 2017

Love the Wine You're With {+ Giveaway}


Love the Wine You’re With
Brooke E. Wayne
(Vineyard Pleasures Series, #2)
Publication date: November 1st 2017
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance
SPRINKLE an emotionally unavailable woman, a lovelorn man, and some delicious chemistry into the middle of the holidays then candy coat it with a whole lotta passion when a friends-with-benefits arrangement turns a vacation into an unexpected journey.
Blanca Grazia, queen of calm, has it all under control. Headstrong. Self-reliant. Determined. She thrives on an intriguing challenge.
So, when Blanca’s bestie, Maxine Novaline, begs her to distract Maxie’s boyfriend’s cousin while he’s visiting them in Napa Valley, California, Blanca is all about stepping it up for her BFF. Hot French guy? Yes, please.
All Blanca plans on doing is the—ehem—favor. Then she’ll just friend-zone Julien L’Angevin’s butt all the way back home to France where he belongs.
… Until that wrecking ball of a man decides to cash in on a favor of his own.
All Julien wants is another opportunity to see what this wild, pint-sized, fireball of independence is actually made of. Sugar? Spice? Everything nice?
Counting on Blanca’s wanderlust for worldly adventures, Julien invites her to his home in Champagne for Christmas. A traveling opportunity the American beauty can’t resist.
So what if they decide to add a little pinch of friends-with-benefits to the mix after they come face to face once more and realize that their physical chemistry can’t be denied?
Besides, their arrangement is only for one week. Then they’ll be continents apart again, and life will go on. Right?
LOVE THE WINE YOU’RE WITH is about a young woman bent on staying single while falling in love one scintillating wine tasting at a time.
***This novel is a snarky, passionate, sexy, funny, feel-good CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE-ROMANTIC COMEDY full of twists and turns that will have you laughing out loud from start to finish. Grab a glass of Champagne, kick up your stilettos, and enjoy the journey.***
Whine with Cheese (Vineyard Pleasures Series, #1)
Love the Wine You’re With (Vineyard Pleasures Series, #2)
Although, Love the Wine You’re With is the second book in the Vineyard Pleasures Series, it can be read as a STANDALONE. The story also plays fair to the other seasons, in addition to Christmastime, so it can be enjoyed all year long.
EXCERPT:
They walked in silence as they weaved around tourists of all nationalities. Blanca soaked in the diversity and half-heartedly discerned the different languages she heard in passing, picking up a phrase here and there as the Christmas spirit thrived among the bustling crowd.
In the distance, Julien leaned against the trunk of his car with his arms folded across his broad pecs. He was dressed in a dark blue cable knit sweater and gray slacks like he’d just come from a semi-formal event even though the sun had only been up for about an hour. He tilted his head to the side, and his blond hair fell in large, unkempt waves covering half of his face. Neither a smile nor a frown played upon his full lips, but the subtle wrinkles at the corner of his eye betrayed his excitement in seeing all of them.
He looked so beautiful … beautiful and sad.
Maybe, heartbroken might be a better word.
Blanca’s footsteps fell into a slower pace as she inspected him. It was one thing to know in the recesses of her memory that she had seen … and touched … and, let’s just come right out and be blunt … licked all of his bits and parts. But it was an entirely other matter when she had him trapped in her iPhone as nothing but an extreme close-up of sea-glass-bleached-by-the-sun eyes with a wicked grin that could seduce her outright. Except that she was impervious to his moves thanks to their lack of continental proximity.
But, seeing him again face to face sent an unexpected and entirely unwelcome zing of feels to her bits and parts, and an overwhelming urge to turn around and hop the next flight out kicked her in the chest right where she felt the biggest zing of all.
The gravity of the moment rushed up on all of them as Julien reached out to Chase first. Both men embraced one another, planting kisses on each other’s cheeks and breathing out their condolences over the loss of their grandmother.
They had grown up together at Julien’s family’s estate. Chase, though American-born, had spent almost all of his summers living in Champagne with Julien and his family, which was just a short walk across the driveway to his grandmother’s home, according to Chase’s explanation during one of their flights.
Julien pulled back from his cousin and faced Maxie, gripping both her shoulders and tugging her into a stoic kiss that barely grazed her cheek. When he finally turned to Blanca, his expression shifted to a curious eagerness that bordered on desperation, and her pulse decided to skyrocket.
What the?
“I am so pleased you’ve come to see me, to see my home. I wish it were under better circumstances.” Julien cupped Blanca’s face with his ice-cold palms and leaned down to kiss her cheek, catching the corner of her mouth causing her breath to hitch out loud.
As Blanca searched for a reply, Julien turned and opened the trunk and, with Chase’s help, jigsaw puzzled the suitcases and duffel bags into his car while Maxie shuffled Blanca into the back seat with her.
She crossed one leg over the other and started bouncing it back and forth.
“Are you okay?” Maxie patted Blanca’s white jeans-clad leg. “You’re going to stab one of these guys in the back with that spiked heel on your boot if you don’t calm down. What gives?”
“Nothing. Everything. I probably shouldn’t have come.”
“Why? Julien obviously wants you here. He only asked you every day for the last week if you’re still coming, and you even cancelled appointments for him. You can’t back out now. Besides, it’s Christmas. It’s our duty to spread some joy up in these guys.”
Spreading definitely leads to joy.
“I just don’t want him to get the wrong idea. I’m only here to see more of France. I didn’t think—” she lowered her voice to a whisper as Julien and Chase walked around the sides of the car. “I’d ever see him again, or, if I ever did, it would be like a whole year from now at another one of Chase’s parties or after our routine chit-chat eventually lost its steam.”
“So what? You talk to him all the time. What’s the big deal?”
“He’s just a friend. I don’t regret fooling around when we met, but I can’t be more than that now.”
Maxie chuckled and shook her head. “No one’s asking you to.”
Tell that to my heart.
Julien and Chase got into the car, slamming their creaky doors and continuing their conversation in French as Julien fired up the engine and pulled away from the airport. Maxie shrugged at Blanca and leaned in, expecting a translation.
Blanca listened for a seconds, tugging her fingers out of her black leather gloves. “The funeral is tomorrow afternoon with a huge gathering afterward, and it’s going to be packed,” she whispered. “We’re also the last to show up. Almost everyone’s here in the city. They’re, uh, he’s offering, no wait, he said you guys should stay with Chase’s parents at his grandma’s house because of all the drama he caused the last time you three were under one roof.” Hmph. “Which he’s still sorry about,” she added, under her breath. Then, her eyes flew open, and she swatted Julien’s shoulder with her gloves. “Hey, where am I supposed to stay?”
“With me,” Julien replied, then continued his conversation with Chase.
“Hellllo? Don’t I have any say in this decision?”
“You can stay in one of my parents’ guestrooms. I’m sure they won’t mind, but wouldn’t you rather keep me company? You spend all your nights with me on FaceTime as it is.”
He’s got me there.
Blanca leaned in and whispered into Maxie’s ear to ensure they couldn’t hear her. “If things get weird staying with Chase’s parents, I’ll fake a meltdown and get us into a hotel, and if Julien gets all grabby hands on me while I’m staying with him, I’ll, eh, I guess I’ll just see how it goes.”
Damn, I’m weak.
“Atta girl.”
“Shut it.”
Chase twisted around in his seat. “What are you two scheming now?”
“Nothing,” they both exclaimed at the same time.


Author Bio:
BROOKE E. WAYNE is a Contemporary Romantic Comedy novelist who lives the RomCom dream in California. She is married to a South Philly, Eagles-obsessed Italian who she met online before it was cool. They have two young daughters who flood their happily-ever-after lives with girly giggles and immeasurable love.
When she is not dribbling sticky sweet/sensual romance with a lighthearted, witty twist all over the pages of a RomCom manuscript, she teaches English Language Arts.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Taking a Break ... Again


Yeah, I know it seems I've been missing in action a lot lately and I don't mean to be, but life just has a way of doing that to you sometimes.

I will probably be away from the blog until Monday. However, I hope to get a chance to share a couple of items with you before then, time permitting. If not, I'll be back next week with a guest post and a number of reviews. I've been enjoying a couple of great books lately and need to get the reviews to you so you'll be sure to check out them out, if you haven't already.

In the meantime, I hope to drop by and visit with your blogs. I hope everyone has a chance to celebrate Veterans Day this coming Saturday and remember to give thanks to all the wonderful men and women who have and continue to serve so that we can enjoy our freedom.

Take care and thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups


I’m delighted to welcome author Andrew Joyce back to Thoughts in Progress. This time he has an intriguing new book to tell you about, it’s called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS.

Before you begin wondering about it’s all about, here a brief description of the book.

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups is a jumble of genres—seven hundred pages of fiction and nonfiction … some stories included against the author’s better judgment. If he had known that one day they’d be published, he might not have been as honest when describing his past. Here is a tome of true stories about the author’s criminal and misspent youth, historical accounts of the United States when She was young, and tales of imagination encompassing every conceivable variety—all presented as though the author is sitting next to you at a bar and you’re buying the drinks as long as he keeps coming up with captivating stories to hold your interest.
          Comprised of 218,000 words, you’ll have plenty to read for the foreseeable future. This is a book to have on your night table, to sample a story each night before extinguishing the lights and drifting off to a restful sleep.
          Mr. Joyce sincerely hopes that you will enjoy his stories because, as he has stated, “It took a lot of living to come up with the material for some of them.”

Now please join me in welcoming Andrew to Thoughts as he shares about his new release. Welcome, Andrew.

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce. I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. It came about because my editor hounded me for two years to put all my short stories into one collection. Actually, it was supposed to be a two-volume set because there was so much material. I fended her off for as long as possible. I didn’t want to do the work of editing all the stories. There were a lot of them. But she finally wore me down. Instead of two volumes, I put all the stories into a single book because I wanted to get the whole thing over with. I had other books to write.

Bedtime Stories is made up of fiction and nonfiction stories and some of ’em are about my criminal youth. I must tell you, I never thought any of these stories would see the light of day. I wrote them for myself and then forgot about them. By the way, there are all sorts of genres within its pages, from westerns to detective stories to love stories and just about anything else that you can imagine.

There are a whole lotta stories in the book—700 pages worth. Enough to keep you reading for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, here’s one of the shorter stories from the book.

Treasure

He stumbled upon the treasure quite by accident. He was exploring the vicinity when he happened upon it. His first thought was, This cannot be real. He cautiously approached it. Someone might be playing a trick on him. Maybe he was being observed. But no one sprung from a concealed location—no one yelled for him to halt his advance. It seemed safe to move forward. When he arrived at the treasure, he bent down to touch it, just to make sure it was real. After one touch, he fled to better-known and safer environs.

That night he could not sleep for thinking of what he had discovered. He thought and thought of ways he could explain it to members of his tribe. If he suddenly showed up with the treasure, anything he said would be suspect. One does not find treasure of this sort every day. No, he would have to think this through.

The next day he went back to where he had found the treasure, but dared not get too close. Instead, he peered at it from a distance. It was still there and untouched. But for how long would it stay undiscovered? A fire burned within him to possess it. If not for the taboo placed on matters of this sort by the Law Giver, he would claim the treasure as his own. But no, the Law Giver would never allow it.

As he tried to sleep on the second night after his discovery, he thought perhaps the Law Giver would understand. Perhaps he should approach her, and tell her of his find. No! If she forbade him from keeping the treasure, it would be lost forever. Conceivably, he could bring it to his village and hide it from the Law Giver. But … where could he hide it? The Law Giver was all-wise; she knew the secrets of his heart.

Quite unexpectedly, he overheard the Law Giver speaking of the place he had found the treasure. This is what he heard: “When they moved out, they told me they left a few things behind, and if we wanted anything, we were welcome to it. I’ve been too busy to go over there, but I think I’ll take a look this afternoon. Maybe there will be something Billy might like.”

Something I might like. Something I might like! Was she toying with him? Did she indeed know of the treasure? Later that afternoon, his mother called Billy to the front of the house. He was not allowed far from home because he was only five years old, so he appeared right away. His mother said, “Look what I found next door where the Simms used to live.” And there it was—the treasure!

His mother handed little Billy the bright red toy fire truck that had caused him to lose so much sleep. You see, Billy had been afraid his mother would think he had stolen it, even though it seemed to have been abandoned. And in his home, stealing was the one thing his mother, the Law Giver, would never tolerate.

Andrew, thanks for joining us today and enlightening us about your new book. I love the title. It makes you wonder before you ever turn a page.

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Andrew, here’s a brief bio.

Author Andrew Joyce
Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn't return from his journey until years later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books. His first novel, Redemption: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, was awarded the Editors' Choice Award for Best Western of 2013. A subsequent novel, Yellow Hair, received the Book of the Year award from Just Reviews and Best Historical Fiction of 2016 from Colleen's Book Reviews.

Andrew now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, Mahoney: An American Story.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Andrew’s visit. What were your thoughts about the treasure?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wolves and Roses {+ Giveaway}


Wolves & Roses
Christina Bauer
(Fairy Tales of the Magicorum #1)
Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: October 31st 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult

“If Janet Evanovich teamed with a young adult, fairy-tale author like Marissa Meyer (the Lunar Chronicles) or Alex Flinn (Beastly), the result might be something like Christina Bauer’s Wolves and Roses.” –Blue Ink Review
Seventeen-year-old Bryar Rose has a problem. She’s descended from one of the three magical races—shifters, fairies, or witches. That makes her one of the Magicorum, and Magicorum always follow a fairy tale life template. In Bryar’s case, that template should be Sleeping Beauty.
“Should” being the key word.
Trouble is, Bryar is nowhere near the sleeping beauty life template. Not even close. She doesn’t like birds or woodland creatures. She can’t sing. And she certainly can’t stand Prince Philpot, the so-called “His Highness of Hedge Funds” that her aunties want her to marry. Even worse, Bryar’s having recurring dreams of a bad boy hottie and is obsessed with finding papyri from ancient Egypt. What’s up with that?
All Bryar wants is to attend a regular high school with normal humans and forget all about shifters, fairies, witches, and the curse that Colonel Mallory the Magnificent placed on her. And she might be able to do just that–if only she can just keep her head down until her eighteenth birthday when the spell that’s ruined her life goes buh-bye.
But that plan gets turned upside down when Bryar Rose meets Knox, the bad boy who’s literally from her dreams. Knox is a powerful werewolf, and his presence in her life changes everything, and not just because he makes her knees turn into Jell-O. If Bryar can’t figure out who—or what—she really is, it might cost both her and Knox their lives… as well as jeopardize the very nature of magic itself.
FAIRY TALES OF THE MAGICORUM
1. Wolves And Roses (Fall 2017)
1.5. Moonlight And Midtown (Spring 2018)
2. Shifters And Glyphs (Fall 2018)
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Christina has graciously answered some questions for me concerning her writing. Join me in welcoming her to Thoughts as she shares about her story. Welcome, Christina.
 
Why I Write Paranormal Books, Even Though It Sometimes Sucks To Do So
By Christina Bauer, Author

The lovely folks at the Thoughts in Progress blog asked me to write a post about what drew me to writing books for the paranormal genre, and some of the pros and cons of doing so. Happy to share!

Why I Write Paranormal
To begin with, I read a lot of contemporary romance and I love-love-LOVE that genre, but when I try to write it, I get really hung up on the whole “that guy would never do that” thing.  Here’s a classic example of what the voice in my head says during such times: “Whoa therem Bauer! Bad boys stay bad. Unless you have this guy complete twenty years of therapy or have an anyeurysm, the dude is not going to change.” So, when I start to write 100% contemporary, I end up sticking to real life. All of which brings me to my problem with writing that genre.

Real life is really freaking depressing.

Life is hard and writing is my escape. Long story short, I’ve found that I can make things fun if I stick to fantasy. Within this uber genre, I’ve tried epic-style ‘swords and sorcery’ stuff (my Beholder series) as well as urban fantasy (Angelbound novels). With my new book, WOLVES AND ROSES, I have come the closest ever to crafting contemporary romance. There are certainly some paranormal elements in the book, but it’s not like the book is set in Purgatory or Hell like the Angelbound series (Beholder takes place in a modified version of the middle ages.) So, paranormal has been an evolution for me.

The Pros of Paranormal
I love world building and paranormal allows my imagination to run wild. I have a whole ancient Egypt thing coming with the future books after WOLVES AND ROSES which I am SUPER PSYCHED to share with you. But I can’t because SPOILERS.

All in all, the great part about paranormal is that I’m not stuck with anyone’s rules, even if those rules are so-called reality.

The Cons of Paranormal
In my opinion, the big challenge of paranormal is the same as its greatest benefit: world building. Let me explain. When you’re writing in ‘reality,’ you can just say ‘a guy walks into a bar’ and everyone knows what you mean: the guy is a dude who is not too young or old. He’s also moving forward on two feet and wearing pants. And the bar is a sort of generic place with bottles of booze and lots of tables.

Now say you step into a fairy soiree (this actually happens in WOLVES AND ROSES). What do the fairies look like? Do any of them wear pants? Do they fly or walk? Where do they have celebrations anyway? In other words, I have to set a TON of stuff up without taking up two pages describing everything before I get to the actual story. Not gonna lie. This part is a pain in the ass. But if I do it right, people feel transported to another realty in the story, which is what I’m after.

PRO TIP: It’s easy to get caught up in your own world building. To paraphrase Virginia Wolff: I carve out great caves behind my characters and only allow the reader to see a small sliver. You have to build a ton and pitch it. The reader will only feel that it’s there and that’s OK.

Conclusion
Overall, what’s both the biggest pro and con is that I love sharing my stories with you readers, but there’s no way for me to call you up after you’ve finished and talk. What did you like? What would you change? Where should the story go? So please please please, drop me a note or write a review of WOLVES AND ROSES. I can’t wait to hear from you! 

Christina, thanks for sharing your pros and cons of writing paranormal. I find it fascinating that writers can create other worlds for us readers to visit. Thanks.



Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers.
Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press. Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production.
She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.
Tour-wide giveaway (INTL)

  • Win The Wolves and Roses Treasure Box
  • Bry’s Earrings
  • Rose Hair Clip
  • Signed Copy Of Wolves and Roses

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Jalapeno Cupcake Wench


JALAPENO CUPCAKE WENCH by Carol Kilgore
◊ Series: The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, Book One
◊ Paperback: 346 pages
◊ Genre: Cozy Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
◊ Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 6, 2017)
◊ Language: English
◊ ISBN-10: 1977849679
◊ ISBN-13: 978-1977849670

SYNOPSIS:

 A hot and spicy taste of murder—and beyond.

Law enforcement consultant Gracie Hofner is assigned to a trendy San Antonio bakery to watch for a delivery. In addition to the intoxicating aromas of sugar and chocolate, she also has to fight her own attraction to the man working beside her, Donovan Beck. He’s a hunk and a half and perfect for a spring fling. If she had more time, Donovan would rank higher on her to-do list. But the number one spot is occupied by her search for a missing little girl, the target of a killer.
Gracie needs to find her pronto, and the odd super-instinct quirk that’s started plaguing her may help. If not, she can always listen if it says to buy a lottery ticket. Jalapeno Cupcake Wench is the first book in The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, a story so big, it takes three books to tell it.


When the first few paragraphs of a story make you feel like you know the protagonist, you can bet the rest of the tale is going to hold your attention until the very end.

That’s the case with author Carol Kilgore’s latest release, JALAPENO CUPCAKE WENCH. The story is the first installment in Kilgore’s Amazing Gracie Trilogy. If the tantalizing book cover isn’t enough to pull you quickly in, the first few pages will do the trick.

The author has created characters with faults and troubles readers can relate to. The characters are realistic with traits you will love and/or hate. With an eye for detail, the author places the reader in the middle of the action. She makes you feel a part of the adventure.

The story moves at a great pace keeping you on your toes with the twists and turns. Once you meet Gracie, you’ll be glad there are more stories to come.

Filled with suspense and a good dose of romance, JALAPENO CUPCAKE WENCH will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Jalapeno Cupcake Wench by Carol Kilgore, The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, Book One, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, @2017, ISBN: 978-1977849670, Paperback, 346 Pages

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the author. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.

Thanks so much for stopping by. What is a trait a character can have that makes you feel you know a person like that?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Sugarplum Way {+ Giveaway}


As we begin November you can’t help but think of the holidays and author Debbie Mason has a new release, SUGARPLUM WAY, to get us in the spirit.

To help celebrate the release, you could win one of 10 finished copies of SUGARPLUM WAY.

◊ SUGARPLUM WAY
◊ by Debbie Mason
Harmony Harbor series
◊ October 31, 2017 by Forever
◊ Mass Market: $7.99
◊ eBook: $5.99
◊ ISBN: 9781538744154

Add SUGARPLUM WAY to your bookshelf on Goodreads.

"Heartfelt and delightful!" -RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author

Romance writer Julia Landon knows how to write a happily-ever-after. Creating one for herself is a whole different story. But after a surprising--and surprisingly passionate--kiss under the mistletoe at Harmony Harbor's holiday party last year, Julia thought she might have finally found her very own chance at true love. Until she learns her Mr. Tall, Dark, and Broodingly Handsome has sworn off relationships. Well, if she can't have him in real life, Julia knows just how to get the next best thing....
          Aidan's only priority is to be the best single dad ever. And this year, he plans to make the holidays magical for his little girl, Ella Rose. But visions of stolen kisses under the mistletoe keep dancing in his head, and when he finds out Julia has written him into her latest novel, he can't help imagining the possibilities of a future together. Little does he know, though, Julia has been keeping a secret that threatens all their dreams. Luckily, 'tis the season for a little Christmas magic.


Here is an excerpt from this delightful story for your reading pleasure.

Aidan smiled that slow, sexy smile of his just before he lifted his gun and fired. The glass shattered, and the. . .
A shrill beeping sound pulled Julia out of the story. Startled, she jumped. Her initial thought was that she’d put on the teapot and had forgotten to turn off the burner. She blinked and opened her eyes. She’d been trying to get deeper into her character’s point of view by typing with her eyes closed. It hadn’t worked as well as she’d hoped. But it had ensured that she didn’t see the smoke . . . Smoke! There was smoke filling her living room. Again.
Duckety, duck, duck, duck. 
The annoying voice on the smoke detector bleated fire, fire.
“Julia, open the damn door!”
          Frantically searching under the papers littering her desk for her cell phone, she ignored the voice. Though she was impressed. It was amazing how real Adrian sounded. Like he was right outside . . . Wait a minute. He was calling her name, not Gillian’s. Crap, it was Aidan. Double crap, she knew why he was here. She’d thought she’d have until morning to face him.
          “Hang on! I—” She heard a loud bang at the same time she found her phone. “I’m coming!” she called, running to the outside entry door as she punched in the assigned number for the alarm company.
At the same time she realized there was no dial tone, Aidan kicked in her door. It bounced off the wall and the hulking shadow of a man filled the open doorway. If she hadn’t recognized his voice, she’d be terrified. Given the intimidating expression on his face, she wondered if maybe she should still be afraid.
          Fire, the smoke detector bleated again. Right, fire, smoke. “Hurry, I need your phone!” She made grabby motions with her fingers.
          He looked at her like she’d lost it and strode into the room. “Your alarm is connected to the station. They’ll be on their way. Where’s the fire? Do you have an extinguisher?”
          “No, no, I don’t need the fire department. I need your phone.” She rushed forward. He didn’t seem to understand the urgency of the situation, and she began patting him down.
          He reached in his pocket, punching in a code before handing her his phone. Of course his would be password protected.
          “Thanks,” she said to his back as he prowled around her apartment, no doubt looking for the source of the smoke. “Um, I think my nachos are on fire.”
She made a face at his muttered, “You have got to be shitting me.” And then went to look up the alarm company’s number on her phone, only to realize she couldn’t access it because her cell was dead. “Duck.”
She raced to her desk searching for the alarm company’s business card while muttering to herself, “I need the number. Where would I put the number for the alarm company? Laptop. Of course.” Laptop, no! It was on and open for him to see. She slammed the lid shut at the same time the oven door bang closed.
Aidan strode from the kitchen wearing her burned oven mitt and carrying a charbroiled tray of smoking ash. “It’s usually on the unit,” he said dryly before heading out the door.
Which went to prove that the man didn’t miss a thing, even her half-whispered conversation with herself.
At the return of his heavy footsteps, she turned her back to her desk, attempting to use her body as a shield. Widening her stance and her arms, she wrapped her fingers around the edge of the desk and leaned back in hopes of concealing any evidence of her book from his all-seeing cop’s eyes. 
          He glanced at her and then did a double take. She thought she heard a muttered, “Jesus,” before he retrieved his phone from her hand and continued across the living room, dodging a basket of laundry, a box of decorations she’d yet to put up on the tree, and a half-eaten bowl of cereal.
Wondering what was with the double take, she looked around. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Sure her place was a little messy, but he was a guy. He probably wouldn’t even notice. She thought of something he might notice and looked down.
Yep, that was probably the reason for the look. It was obvious she was cold, and her body-hugging black T-shirt read “Santa’s Favorite Ho” with the jolly old elf ho, ho, hoing, paired with black-and-white plaid flannel sleep pants.
When Aidan reached the other side of the living room, he placed the cell phone between his shoulder and ear and raised the window. “Yeah, it’s Aidan Gallagher. The call from 232 Main Street is a false alarm. That’s her. Five times, is that so? I’ll tell her, thanks.”
          “It wasn’t five false alarms. It was four.” She faced her desk to quickly bury a paperback copy of Warrior’s Kiss and her contract for Warrior’s Touch under some paper and turn her notepad upside down while doing a visual search for any other incriminating evidence.
“Doesn’t matter. You still broke the record for false alarms in a six-week timeframe. Dispatch says Mrs. Rosenbloom had three.”
“Are they charging me?”
“No” He answered his ringing phone and then bowed his head. “Hello, Dad. Yes, she’s fine. Is that right? Nachos. No, smoke’s not too bad. Okay, I’ll do that. Don’t remind me,” he grumbled and then disconnected.
Whatever his dad said to Aidan didn’t improve his already not-so-happy mood. She really didn’t feel like talking about the suggestion she’d made to Harper and why. Fending off his probing questions would be difficult, and she wasn’t exactly equipped to handle him tonight. She was tired, and her throat had passed sore an hour before. 
 “I really appreciate you dropping by, but it’s late, and I have an early day.” She forced a smile and moved to see him . . . out her broken door. She barely managed to stifle an anguished moan. She couldn’t face the thought of dealing with repairing the door tonight.
He lifted his chin to the left of the kitchen. “Is that your bedroom?”
She ignored her inner hussy who yelled who needs a bed and suggested Julia throw herself on the floor at his feet. Her inner hussy was way more optimistic about their chances of getting lucky tonight.
“Yes, but I don’t see . . . What do you think you’re doing?” she said as he walked over and opened her bedroom door. Umm, more like shoved it open. The clothes that had been hanging over her door this morning had fallen off when she closed it, and she’d been running late.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what you said to Harper and why. You’re tired? Fine, you can talk to me from your bed while I fix your door.” He looked around her bedroom. “If we can find your bed.”
She grabbed a pink lacy bra off the doorknob and held it behind her back. “I’ve been busy. I haven’t had time to tidy up.”
“What, like in a year?”
“Very funny. I’m sure your room isn’t any better.”
“Sugarplum, my bedroom didn’t look this bad when I was a kid.”
She kind of liked that he called her sugarplum but could do without the sarcasm. She scooted past him to scoop up her bras and panties and any other embarrassing items that were lying on the floor . . . and on the bed . . . and on her dresser. And half sticking out of her nightstand drawer! As breezily as she could, she moved to the front of the nightstand in hopes of blocking his view. “It’s a little smoky in here. Maybe you should open that window too?”
She smiled. He sighed.
As soon as his back was turned, she thigh-checked the nightstand drawer closed. Only it didn’t close. Instead it acted like a rocket launcher, and her fluorescent pink vibrator sailed through the air to land with a splash in the goldfish bowl sitting on the bench at the end of her bed. Her mouth fell open, and then she covered it, releasing a muffled, “I’ve killed Eric and Ariel!”
Aidan looked from the fish bowl to her and started to laugh, a deep rumbly sound that she would have enjoyed if it wasn’t at her expense and if . . . “It’s not funny! My fish are drowning. Save them!”
That made him laugh harder, and his shoulders started to shake. “Death by vibrator. Not a bad way to go.”
           “That’s a horrible thing to say, Aidan Gallagher.” She cautiously removed the vibrator from the water, her shoulders sagging in relief when Erik and Ariel swam to the surface. “And FYI, this is not a vibrator. It’s a personal massager.” She rubbed it against the back of her neck. “See, you should try it.”


Author Debbie Mason CREDIT Debbie Mazzura
Debbie Mason is the USA Today bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado and Harmony Harbor series. Her books have been praised for their "likable characters, clever dialogue and juicy plots" (RT Book Reviews).

When she isn't writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, three wonderful children, two adorable grandbabies, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella in Ontario, Canada.

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