Tag Archives: release day

Release Day! – Heat Wave

Apr 28, 2017

Whew! It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for you all to read Heat Wave! This fun little novella is book 18 in the Magnolias & Moonshine project and book 3 or 4 (depending on how you look at it) in my Nerds of Paradise series! I’ve been bristling with anticipation, waiting for you all to read this, so why not get started now?

Chapter One

 

Atlanta, Georgia. Home. It didn’t matter that Dennis Long hadn’t lived in the burgeoning, busy city since he’d left for college when he was seventeen, or that Haskell, Wyoming was home now. Atlanta never really left a person’s blood. The sound of cicadas on hot nights, sleeping on the porch when his mom couldn’t afford to keep the air conditioning on, sweet tea after roaming around Grant Park with his buddies all afternoon, winters that teased without ever quite delivering…it was part of who he was. Those steamy streets and the humidity that turned his normally docile, brown hair curly, would always remind him of a happy childhood.

Well, an almost happy childhood. There were a few things that made his heart speed up when he thought about them. The way the kids on his block would tease him because of his height, pick him for the basketball team, then laugh at him when he tripped over his feet for one. Always being fawned over by teachers for being gifted, then called “brainiac” by the other kids as soon as those teachers’ backs were turned for another. Not to mention his complete inability to understand most people’s humor.

Oh, and her.

Angelica Jones.

“Dennis, man, where are you going?” Dennis’s old friend Leon called to him as he veered down a side aisle in the massive Georgia Tech auditorium. “Friends and Family seating is down this way.”

Dennis snorted, but scooted back out of the row of seats he had started to slide down. “I’m not family, and I don’t know if I exactly qualify as a friend.”

Leon laughed and slapped him on the back as he came close. “Come on, man. If you’re not a friend, then I don’t know who is.”

Dennis sent Leon a sideways look, but followed him down the aisle to a section near the front of the auditorium, nearest the stage where the doctoral program graduates would be receiving their diplomas. He and Leon had been thick as thieves from the ages of ten to when Dennis left to take UC Berkeley up on their early admissions offer. Leon had been the only other kid in their Ormewood Park neighborhood who was tall enough not to make Dennis feel like the Jolly Green Giant. A fact which didn’t make Dennis feel at all easy about sitting together near the front of the audience. They were bound to block someone’s view.

“I can’t wait to see the look on Angie’s face when she spots you sitting with the rest of us,” Leon said as they edged their way down a row of seats with a “Reserved” sign on the end. “She’s going to straight-up trip when she sees you.”

That’s what I’m afraid of, Dennis worried. He had a plan, though. Angelica hadn’t seen him in more than a decade. Since then, he’d earned his masters and PhD in record time, worked on a government rocket program where he’d had top secret clearance, and had secured an important position at Paradise Space Flight, a company that was going to turn heads in the next few years. He’d grown up, worked out, lost his boyish chub, and aside from the fact that interacting with most people was a thousand times more complex than the equations he solved every day, he was well aware of the image he now presented. And if using the charm he’d learned how to fake to convince Angelica to come work for Paradise Space Flight would help, then he would turn it on as high as he could. Rubbing in how well he’d done would be icing on the cake.

At least, that was the plan.

“She knows I’m coming,” he told Leon, testing out his newfound confidence—and hoping it didn’t come off as too cocky. Although cocky might work if he was going to play up how much he’d changed. “Paradise Space Flight has been trying to recruit her for their propulsion development team for almost a year now. Nobody can figure out why she doesn’t have a job lined up already. I’ve been sent to help seal the deal.”

“You don’t say.” Leon grinned at him over his shoulder, not buying the suave act at all, as they reached the middle of the long row of seats. “You and Angie always were the two biggest brains on the block.”

Dennis laughed, but he couldn’t keep his smile in place. They were the smartest on the block, no question about it. But that hadn’t put them on equal footing. Not by a long shot. At least not until today. Today was the day he would show Angelica Jones that it was time she showed him the respect he had always deserved.

“Land sakes, is that Dennis Long I see?” A dark-skinned woman with grey hair and a fashionable, flowered dress stood from her seat in the row in front of them, joy in her eyes.

“Hi, Mrs. Jones.” Dennis raised a hand to wave at her, but Angelica’s mom twisted to wrap him in the biggest hug she could manage with a chair between them. A thousand memories of sunshine days, home-baked cookies, and all the love his mom hadn’t had time to shower him with swooped back on Dennis, and he smiled, blowing his cool guy image to pieces.

“Look at you.” She held him at arm’s length, raking him from head to toe. “Mmm! That California sunshine sure did do you good. Angie’s going to pop a gut when she sees what a tall drink of water you’ve become.”

Dennis felt his face go hot as slithers of embarrassment zipped through him. His smile turned sheepish. “Thanks, Mrs. Jones, but I’m not in California anymore. I moved to Wyoming last year.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Angelica’s mom squeezed his arms one last time, making a sound at the muscle she found there, then rocked back to study him with a smile. “That company of yours was smart to send you, of all people, to woo my Angelica.” Dennis blushed even harder at the word “woo,” his gut tightening. “But you’d better watch out for that NASA guy who keeps calling. He’s determined.” She added an expression that said she was being polite.

“Dennis can take him,” Leon said, nudging Dennis’s shoulder with a sly grin. “He’s got all sorts of advantages no one else has.”

“Such as?” Dennis sent him a doubtful look.

“History.” Leon nodded. “No one else in the world has the kind of history you’ve got with Angie.”

“You can say that again,” Mrs. Jones laughed. “You remember the time you followed Angie home from that picnic when the two of you were, what, eight?”

“Was that the time Angie decided she was a princess and Dennis here was her squire?” Leon asked.

“It was part of that,” Mrs. Jones laughed on. “You picked a whole mess of dandelions along the way, and when the two of you reached our porch and you handed them to her, why, Angie took those flowers with a smile and shut the door in your poor face.”

Mrs. Jones and Leon laughed. Dennis tried to laugh along with them, but his chest ached at the memory, making him feel eight years old and two feet tall again. “I don’t know if I remembered to thank you for the cookies you handed me out the window,” he told Mrs. Jones.

“Cookies were more than Angie got for those antics,” Mrs. Jones replied, shaking her finger. “That little princess got sent to bed without her supper for being so mean to you.”

“Probably not for the last time,” Leon added as an aside.

“That’s the truth,” Mrs. Jones laughed.

 

Want to read more? You can find Heat Wave now at all the places where eBooks are sold:

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MZG2F6R

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heat-wave-merry-…/1125600413

Release Day – His Magical Bride

Mar 20, 2017

It’s release day for Book 10 in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series, His Magical Bride (or Talia: The Magical Bride, if you like the sweet version). I could sit here all day telling you about it, but why not get started reading Chapter One instead?

Haskell, Wyoming – 1877

Sheriff Trey Knighton had entertained some bad ideas in his day. Running away from the orphanage where he’d landed after cholera wiped out his family was one. Taking up with the Skunk Boys of Missouri was another. There were days when he felt like accepting the post of sheriff of Haskell, Wyoming was a bad idea too, but only when his jail cell was filled to bursting with men who’d drunk too much over at Sam’s saloon, The Silver Dollar.

On second thought, turning straight, coming clean, and taking the job in Haskell was the best decision he’d ever made, drunks harassing him on Saturday nights or not. But letting Howard Haskell twist his arm and convince him to send away for a mail-order bride? Definitely not one of his brighter ideas.

“I’m so excited,” Eden Chance told her friends, bouncing as much as her toddler, Winslow. At that moment, he and Wendy and Travis Montrose’s baby, Emanuel, were sitting in a buggy together, laughing and clapping over something that had the two little critters in hysterics.

“Lord knows how happy I am to have my friend Talia nearby again,” Wendy agreed.

“She always was such a sweet little thing,” Corva Haskell added, rocking a buggy of her own. Corva had two babies now, not just one, Howard Franklin Haskell and now a girl, Elizabeth, or Bitsy as people had started to call the poor thing.

Rounding out their group was Elspeth Strong, who hadn’t had any children of her own since coming out last year to marry Athos, the stationmaster. That hardly mattered, seeing as Athos already had eight of the little boogers. Five-year-old Thomas held Elspeth’s hand as he watched Winslow and Emanuel, giggling along with them.

Heck, Trey was surprised the ladies hadn’t decorated the train station with bunting and rosettes. They were treating the whole thing like a big party. True, all four of them had known his bride-to-be during their time at Hurst Home. Trey kicked the boards of the train platform and winced. He should probably take their involvement in welcoming Talia Lambert as an endorsement of her character. It should reassure him, help him to feel confident in his decision to be a husband. But land sakes, domesticity sure did make a man shake in his boots when he came face to face with it.

“No, no, Howard.” Corva jerked forward as her boy—nearly two now—stood in the buggy and tried to lean over the side.

“Down!” he declared, pointing at the ground.

“Don’t step on your sister,” Corva told him in turn. Bitsy let out an almighty wail, and kept screaming. Trey blanched.

“Let him run around a little,” Virginia Piedmont, baby Howard’s great-aunt, told Corva. “We’ll all keep an eye on him.”

“Well, if you think it’s safe,” Corva said, lifting the boy out of the buggy and setting him on his feet on the train platform.

“Of course, it’s safe.” Virginia dismissed her concerns with a wave.

To prove her wrong, little Howard tore straight for the tracks. Corva was too busy picking up and settling her girl to chase after Howard. Trey was closest, so he swept in and lifted the boy into the air before he could tumble off the platform and onto the tracks.

Of course, Trey didn’t know the first thing about how to hold a baby. He clamped the squirmy thing around his middle and held him at arm’s length. The boy kicked and screamed, whether in shock at being picked up by a stranger or in rage over being stopped on his way to certain death, Trey had no idea.

“Here, I’ll take him,” Virginia said.

“Please do.” Trey handed the boy over.

Little Howard continued to squirm in Virginia’s arms, but Virginia hardly blinked. She carried the boy to the back of the platform, set him down, and interested him in a pile of rocks right beside the stairs. The other two toddler boys sure as heck noticed their buddy’s freedom and began to fuss and wail to be let down too. Wendy and Eden were still chattering away in a tone of voice that rendered everything they said as incomprehensible background noise in Trey’s ears. They didn’t seem to miss a beat as they lifted their babies from the buggy and set them down on the platform.

The two toddlers proceeded to chase each other around the buggy, tripping a few times and occasionally hiding in their mothers’ skirts.

“I can’t wait to introduce Talia to Emma and Dean Meyers,” Eden said, managing to catch and steer her boy away from a nail sticking out of the platform without missing a beat in the conversation.

“Of course,” Wendy gasped. “With all her nursing experience, I’m sure Dr. Meyers could use Talia’s help in his clinic.”

“She might even be willing to travel out to the Indian camps with him,” Elspeth suggested.

“Can I go to the Indian camps, Mama?” Thomas asked her.

Elspeth laughed and ruffled his hair. “No, dear.”

“Why not?” Thomas frowned.

“It’s far too dangerous for a little boy.”

“I’m not little, I’m five now.” Thomas stomped his foot.

“But it’s still too dangerous.”

“But I’m brave.”

“And young.”

“It’s not fair,” Thomas shouted.

Trey flinched. Yep, this was definitely a terrible, terrible idea. Why hadn’t he considered it all before? A bride meant a wife, and a wife meant a family. And the only thing more terrifying than having a family, in his experience, was losing one.

A chuckle at Trey’s side drew his attention away from the whirlwind of children. “That right there is why I’ve avoided this whole mail-order bride craze,” Sam Standish, one of Trey’s closest friends, said.

The women weren’t the only ones who had come to meet Talia Lambert at the station. Trey’s friends had come to show their support too, although he didn’t know how supportive it was for Sam and George Pickering to stand there snickering behind their hands.

“Come on,” George argued. “It’s a wonderful thing for a man to have a family.”

“Says the man who only just got married,” Sam argued.

“That only means I’m a new convert to the beauty and wonder of marriage,” George said.

“Yeah, see if you’re still saying that in six months when your baby gets here,” Sam tossed back.

George shrugged. “I welcome my and Holly’s child. Because I, for one, am ready for the challenge of fatherhood.”

Trey swallowed. “Well, I’m not,” he muttered. “Why did I ever let myself get talked into this?”

His friends stared at him in surprise.

“You can’t be having second thoughts now,” George said.

“Second thoughts?” Virginia straightened from where she was playing with Howard at the other end of the platform. “Don’t you tell me you’re having second thoughts about sending for a wife, Trey Knighton.”

“How on earth did she hear me all the way over there?” Trey murmured, even quieter.

“Women are like that,” Sam said with a snigger. “You say something they don’t like and they’ll hear it from two territories away.”

Sam was right. All five of the women on the other side of the platform glared at him as though he’d declared he was done with not only their friend Talia, but the entire female of the species.

“So help me God, Sheriff Knighton,” Eden launched into him. “If you turn Talia away when she gets off that train, I will personally make sure whoever does your laundry washes your sheets with nettles from here on out.”

“How could you even think of not marrying her?” Wendy questioned, hands on her hips. Her stance only emphasized the bump of her and Travis’s next baby, which didn’t help the argument, in Trey’s eyes, at all.

Elspeth only shook her head, and Corva was too busy settling her wailing infant to add to the admonishment.

Trey held up his hands. “I’m not backing out of anything,” he said, though a large part of him wished he could.

“Good,” Eden, Wendy, and Elspeth answered at the same time.

“He couldn’t back out of it if he wanted to,” Virginia added. “Talia’s already on her way, and Trey knows as well as anyone what kind of life you girls from Hurst Home have known. He wouldn’t be snake enough to turn away a woman who has already had a hard time of it.”

The others nodded. Guilt gnawed at Trey’s gut. They were right, of course. He wasn’t low enough to send any woman back to an unfortunate life. But that didn’t mean he had to dive into marriage whole hog once Miss Lambert got there. Men and women had all sorts of marriages, ones that ended up with a parcel of kids and ones that involved separate rooms and separate lives.

“You would never catch me sending away for a bride,” Sam said.

At last, something Trey could latch onto that wouldn’t end with him getting in trouble. He turned to Sam. “You would too, and you know it.”

“Nuh-uh,” Sam protested. “I run a saloon. That’s no place for a good woman.”

“He never said you would marry a ‘good’ woman,” George chortled.

Sam sent a mock frown George’s way. “You sayin’ I should get hitched to one of Bonnie’s girls?”

George lost his smirk. Any mention of Bonnie’s girls inevitably touched a nerve with him, seeing as he and Bonnie were friends from way back. He’d unknowingly given Bonnie the money she’d used to start her cat-house too, although Trey knew as well as anyone in town—probably better—how Bonnie used her place to rescue the unrescuable, educate them, and send them on to new and better lives.

“Sam—” Trey thumped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “—the day will come when you’ll find yourself wanting the comforts of a wife.”

Sam raised a brow. “What, like you do?”

Trey let his hand drop to his side. Sam had a point.

 

And where can you buy this awesome book, you ask? Why, right here:

His Magical Bride (Spicy Version)

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQP4WKB

B&N – Coming Soon

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/his-magical-bride/id1217027807

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/his-magical-bride

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Merry_Farmer_His_Magical_Bride

(Spicy version is not and, alas, will not be available in KU, because it’s available everywhere else)

 

Talia: The Magical Bride (Sweet Version)

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQPCW7Y

(Only the sweet version is available in KU)

Release Day – Chaos Theory

Mar 03, 2017

Whew! After delays and set-backs due to everything from illness to just plain bad luck, Chaos Theory, Book 2 in the Nerds of Paradise series, is finally here! And it’s just 99 cents, for this weekend only! Bright and early on Monday, it’ll be back to its regular price of $3.99, so scoop it up now! And to put you in the mood, here’s the beginning of Chapter One…

Will Darling was running late. Which meant he was only five minutes ahead of schedule. Late or early, it didn’t matter. If he wasn’t exactly where his daily schedule told him he was supposed to be, a deep-seated feeling of dread filled him. That’s what came from being raised in a military family.

He closed the spreadsheet he’d taken home from work, and pushed back from his desk. The clock on the wall above his workstation said 11:35. He checked his watch. 11:35. Yep, five minutes early. That gave him time to pop into the bathroom of his swanky, Paradise Space Flight-issued apartment to switch out his glasses for contacts. In theory, he could go around with his glasses and no one would think anything of it. It wasn’t like his father would find out. But he’d rather not risk it.

As soon as his eyeballs were taken care of, he headed across the apartment to the door, picking up his phone from where it was charging on an end table by the sofa and his wallet beside it. He tucked the wallet in his back pocket, and checked the phone. 11:37. He checked his watch to be sure everything was coordinated. Good. Perfect. Let others laugh at him, but there was something about keeping to a schedule, staying on course, that filled Will with contentment. It was why he had chosen to work for Paradise Space Flight in the first place. The company was new, innovative, and miles away from the distracting chaos of big cities and government bureaucracy. NASA might have been more prestigious, as his dad was constantly, constantly reminding him, but PSF was focused. It was comfortable.

So was his apartment. Another awesome perk of working for Howie Haskell. Like most of the rest of the young, single engineers and scientists who had come to Wyoming to build the space flight company from the ground up, Will had taken advantage of the special employee housing. His apartment stood in the center of town, on the third floor above a clothing boutique. It was newly renovated and ran on renewable energy sources. But what Will loved most about it was the clean, streamlined design. He headed out the door, locking it with the fancy, high-security, electronic key all of the apartments had, and made his way down the airy, white-painted stairway to the ground floor and the front door. Even though the building had been constructed in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t frilly and crowded. It got the job done, and that’s all he had ever asked of anything.

“Hey, Will.”

Will glanced up as he stepped out into the balmy, spring air and found his team member, Laura Kincade, waving to him from across the street.

“Laura.” He waved back with a nod, lips twitching to what, for him, counted as a smile.

“Are you heading over to PSF for the big luncheon?”

“In a minute,” he called back to her, then nodded to the General Store one building over from his. “I need to pick up a few things first.” He didn’t really want to have a shouted conversation across a street packed with pedestrians, but it was Laura, so he’d make an exception. Besides, everyone looked as though they were heading up the street toward the PSF building instead of browsing through the shops anyhow.

“Okay,” Laura called back with another wave. “I’ll save you a seat.”

“Thanks.” He raised his hand in goodbye, then strode a few yards down to the General Store’s entrance. The advantage of being slightly ahead of schedule, he guessed, was that he could take time to interact with his friends without tensing up. Although, if he was keeping track, he’d been much less tense since moving to Haskell than he’d been for most of his life.

The General Store was another part of the reason he loved his new hometown. It was the perfect size for dropping in to pick up a few essentials in a hurry. On top of that, whoever had built it had a keen eye for ergonomics. He could make one efficient pass from the toiletries section where he picked up shaving gel—which he would need in exactly two days—to the stationary section for pens—because he was not one of those people who took pens from the office to use at home like they were perks of the job—to the snack food section for a large bag of unsalted nuts—because you had to live a little sometimes.

Yep. Everything was just where it needed to be. Everything was in precise order. Everything was—

“Whoops!”

He rounded the corner and nearly crashed right into a splash of color and brightness and wild blond curls. His heart thumped against his ribs, like someone was punching him from the inside, and his groin tightened.

“Sorry.” Melody Clutterbuck laughed as she made her apology. Her blue eyes sparkled with happiness and light. She wore a long wrap-around skirt printed with an Indian pattern and a white peasant blouse decorated with embroidery that matched the colors in her skirt. Her arms were filled with items from around the store, otherwise Will would have had a big glimpse of the creamy skin of her shoulders and chest.

It took his brain far too long to catch up enough to say, “No, I’m sorry. I should have looked where I was going.”

“You always look where you’re going.” She continued to smile as they headed to the counter at the front of the store. “I’m the one who was floating around like a leaf on the wind.”

Prickles of pleasure filled Will at the image. Melody was a leaf on the wind. He’d seen that the first time he met her, at the winter mixer Howie had held for his employees and the citizens of Haskell after Christmas. She’d been there with a group of her friends, looking just as amazing as she did now. His friends talked about that event as the day his supervisor, Scott Martin, had met the girl he was now engaged to, Casey Flint, but secretly, Will marked it as the night Melody had blown into his world.

He blinked himself out of thoughts that were, frankly, disturbing. He had a schedule to stick to, a routine. “Why don’t you have a basket?” He lifted his own blue plastic shopping basket.

Melody giggled, her face going pink. “I didn’t realize I was going to need one.”

They reached the register, and she spilled her purchases across the counter. Will did a double-take, brow sinking into a frown of confusion. Baby oil, sandpaper, latex gloves, and an enema.

“Hey Bernie,” Melody greeted the cashier, an white-haired guy who Will figured had been working there forever.

“Hey, Melody,” Bernie answered. “This everything?”

“Oh! I’ll take one of these too,” Melody added, face growing even pinker and her giggle more pronounced as she plucked a small jar of cherry lip balm from a display and popped it on the counter.

Will’s blood rushed to all the wrong places. Cherry lip balm? Baby oil? An enema? Why, why, why did that selection of items turn him on? And sandpaper? He swallowed hard, trying to rein in his imagination, and ran a hand over the bottom half of his face.

 

So are you ready to read? Chaos Theory is currently available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, and will be up on Google Play (as soon as they process it).

Release Day – Opposites Attract

Jan 30, 2017

Guys, you have no idea how happy I am that Opposites Attract, the first book in my Nerds of Paradise series about contemporary Haskell, Wyoming is out! I’ve wanted to write this series for so, so long, and it’s finally here! I’m, like, literally jumping up and down! But make sure you get out there and purchase Opposites Attract for the low, low price of 99 cents TODAY, because as of tomorrow, it’s going up to its regular price of $3.99! And if you want to get started reading, here’s a chunk of Chapter One!

Casey Flint loved her family more than anything on earth, but there were times when she wanted to strangle them.

“So let me get this straight,” she said as she sat between her father, Roscoe, and her brother, Ted, in Roscoe’s truck as they drove into town. “You went ahead and actually sold off five acres of our ranch to some stranger?”

“He’s not some stranger,” Ted explained, an edge of impatience in his voice. Roscoe merely frowned at the icy road in front of them. “He’s one of the engineers from Paradise Space Flight.”

The explanation did nothing to soothe the sting of betrayal pricking at Casey’s already unsettled heart. “You sold off a part of our family ranch, a ranch that has belonged to the Flints since the late 1880s, to some dorky engineer who probably wears a pocket protector and Spock ears all the time?”

Ted huffed a laugh. “I think that guy you met at the grocery store last month wasn’t the typical Paradise Space Flight employee.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Casey couldn’t stop herself from grinning just a little bit at the memory. The man she’d run into was a hoot. Nerdy as the day was long, and as far as she was concerned, typical of the wave of new residents in Haskell. They’d been a simple, although unique, ranching town since the original Howard Haskell founded the place in the 1860s. But now, a fresh crop of engineers, mathematicians, and astrophysicists had shown up to knock the whole town off-balance.

No one more so than Casey. And her life was already off-balance enough now that her mom was gone.

“My point is—” she went on.

“Oh, you were making a point?” Ted teased her.

Casey frowned and elbowed him hard. “My point is,” she repeated, “that all these guys—”

“And girls,” Ted quickly added.

“—that Howie Haskell is hiring to build his spaceships—”

“Supply rockets and independent vehicles to launch commercial satellites,” Ted butted in once again.

“—are not the sort we’re used to in Haskell,” Casey finished in a growl.

“Now, Casey,” Roscoe said in his gruff but steady voice. “I didn’t raise you to be prejudiced against anyone for any reason.”

“I’m not being prejudiced,” Casey insisted. “I’m just saying that Haskell has a certain rhythm, a certain pace and feeling. We’re a town of cowboys and we always have been.”

“If we’re such a town of cowboys, why did you stop competing in the rodeo?”

Ted was teasing, but his question struck straight to her core, filling her with guilt and regret. “I grew out of it,” she lied, gut twisting. “That’s not the point. We’re a traditional town full of traditional people, and it should stay that way.”

“Actually, Haskell has always been on the cutting edge of social justice issues and inclusion of new and sometimes radical ideas,” Ted corrected her.

“Shut up, nerd.” Casey elbowed him again, even as her heart swelled with pride in her brother and their hometown.

“Ah ha!” Ted laughed. “So by your own admission, nerds have always been an integral part of this town. I mean, if you consider one of your closest family members to be a nerd….”

Casey blew out an exasperated breath. “Brothers,” she muttered, as if that explained it all. She shook her head and went on with her train of thought. “All I’m saying is that I don’t like all this change. Things are changing way too fast. Why can’t everything just stay the way it was? We were all happy the way things were. Life was simple and easy. The town was like one big family. Now….” She shrugged, feeling a shiver race down her spine. The ache in her heart that had been there since her mother’s final, painful days throbbed. She sighed. “I just don’t like the way things are going.”

Rather than cracking a joke, Ted glanced over her head at Roscoe. Roscoe glanced briefly back. They both wore looks of deep concern and sorrow.

“What?” Casey asked.

Neither of them answered right away.

What?” Casey pressed when the silence grew too awkward.

Ted cleared his throat. “Ah, sis? Are you sure you’re not confusing your feelings about Mom’s death with everything that’s going on in town?”

“No,” Casey answered right away. “And keep Mom out of this. She wouldn’t like all the changes around here either. She certainly wouldn’t approve of you ripping out a part of the ranch and feeding it to the wolves.”

“Princess, we’ve talked about this,” Roscoe said, his voice as calm as ever. “Ranching is hard work. The market is getting tougher and tougher out there. We’re a small operation, and we’ve reached the limit of our capabilities. Unless we get a cash infusion, our whole operation will collapse. If that happens, we’ll lose the ranch entirely, not just a piece of it. Scott Martin has offered us a generous price for those five acres.”

“Scott Martin,” Casey grumbled, even as the prickly, uncomfortable feeling that her father was right about everything he was saying twisted her insides. “You’re selling a piece of our heritage to a man I’ve never so much as laid eyes on?”

Roscoe nodded patiently. “You would have laid eyes on him if you’d been at the meeting with Ted and me last week.”

“Last week was the week before Christmas,” Casey explained. “I had a ton of shopping to do, not to mention dozens of cookies to bake and volunteering at the senior center.”

“I’m not laying any blame on you,” Roscoe assured her. “Just sayin’ it like it is. The price Mr. Martin was willing to pay ensures that the ranch will continue to operate for at least another five years. After that, we’ll see how the economy is doing and reevaluate our position.”

Admiration and despair mingled in Casey’s gut. Her dad was a man among men. He’d worked hard his entire life, keeping the ranch functioning at peak productivity in a rapidly-changing world. Of course, her mom had been right there by his side, shouldering as much of the load as he did. They’d all been hit hard by her cancer, but Roscoe had continued to get up every day and tend to the herd in all weather and conditions. But Casey would have to be blind not to notice the strain around her dad’s eyes and mouth in the year since her mother’s death, or the way he moved just a little slower, his shoulders stooped just a little more.

“I can step up my game and work harder,” she blurted as the blossom of grief flowered in her chest. “I can take on more responsibility, do more than office work and dealing with distributors. I’ll get up early and help manage the herd too. Will you undo the land sale if I do that?”

A tired smile touched Roscoe’s lips. He reached a hand over to squeeze hers as it lay balled into a fist on the truck’s seat. “I love you, Princess. I know you’re doing everything you can and that your heart is in the right place. But I also know good and well that a broken heart can only take on so much before it breaks down.” He paused, then added. “Selling those five acres was the right thing to do.”

Casey ground her teeth, but there was no way she would contradict her dad. Even though every fiber of her being wanted to scream and thrash and battle against the horrible forces of change that left her feeling helpless and hopeless. It was that same helplessness that made everything she did these days seem somehow hollow and pointless. If only she had something she could do that would make a difference. If only she could really sink her teeth into a cause that would put her family back where it deserved to be and heal the wounds they all had. She had to find something to throw her energy into that would make her feel like she was fighting back, for her mom’s sake.

“Good Lord,” Ted said, laughing, as they pulled into the parking lot of the flashy, new Paradise Space Flight building. “Was everyone in Sweetwater County invited to this thing?”

Roscoe grunted, lips twitching to a grin, as he circled around, looking for a parking space.

Casey’s heartache and frustration were pushed to the back of her mind as she glanced through the windshield at the rows of cars and trucks. “Howie’s email said it was an all-town mixer.”

“All-county is more like it,” Ted said.

Roscoe found a spot to park as Casey said, “Well, you know the Haskell family. They’ve always thought it was their responsibility to entertain the whole town along with providing jobs and homes.”

“True,” Ted laughed. “Remember ‘Ice Cream Social 2013?’”

Casey snorted. “Remember how livid Howie was that we were ten gallons short of the world record for biggest sundae?”

“Or how about that masquerade ball last Halloween?”

“I think they’re still vacuuming up glitter at The Cattleman Hotel.” Casey burst into a fit of giggles as Roscoe cut the truck’s engine and opened the door.

Casey slid out the passenger side after Ted, hugging her vintage men’s pea coat close as a burst of icy air hit her. She, Ted, and Roscoe started walking up through the rows of cars and trucks together. The front door of the garish, five story, glass Paradise Space Flight building was illuminated with colored lights. It was December 29th, so Christmas decorations were still up, but already there were signs of New Year’s Eve decorations. Apparently, Howie had some sort of a light show planned. Cheerful music poured out of the front door every time an arriving guest opened it.

 

There you have it! Wanna read more? Opposites Attract is available now at all these fine retailers:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2iuIzGv

B&N – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/opposites-attract-merry-farmer/1125453825

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/opposites-attract/id1192996998

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/opposites-attract-29

Release Day! – Architect’s Angel

Dec 30, 2016

Here it is, folks! The last book from me in the Culpepper Cowboy series (although I know Kirsten Osbourne is planning at least one more)! I hope you enjoy Architect’s Angel and the super fun rivalry between Arch O’Donnell and Tabby Ross. Sometimes two people are just meant to be, in spite of how they get in their own way. Architect’s Angel is currently available at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited, but in three months it will be available wherever eBooks are sold. Wanna get started reading Chapter One? Her you go!

Christmas was only two days away, but so far, Dr. Tabitha Ross, Culpepper’s premier OB/GYN, had yet to get into the spirit.

“I just haven’t felt like celebrating,” she explained to her patient and friend, Elvie Lipinski, as Elvie sat in the chair on the other side of Tabby’s desk.

Elvie shrugged. “It takes a while for me to get into the Christmas spirit every year. Everyone rushes things so much. Why can’t we just focus on Thanksgiving before charging into all the consumerism and grabbiness?”

Tabby smirked. “Is grabbiness a word?”

“If it isn’t, it should be.” Elvie chuckled, then tilted her head to the side, a dreamy smile coming to her face. “Although, I’ll admit, this year has been so good that I was already blissed out—even before December.”

Tabby smiled for her friend and handed her the piece of paper she’d been explaining. “Totally understandable. That tends to happen when you meet a hunky guy out of the blue, marry him three seconds later, inherit a fortune, and settle down to raise a family. You’ll want to start taking prenatal vitamins now, by the way. Then, when you do come back in here with good news, you’ll be ready to go.”

Elvie took the paper with a beaming smile. “I can’t wait. I’m determined to beat both Doc and Nancy and Sly and Rachel in the whole baby race.”

“Still nothing from either of those pairs?”

“Not yet, but I know Doc and Nancy have started trying.” Elvie paused. “I think Sly and Rachel are too concerned with their businesses to get started on a family at the moment. You know those two, they have a five-year plan for everything.”

“Yeah.” Tabby laughed, but a part of her was unsettled. The part that sped instantly from thinking about the three older O’Donnell siblings and straight to the youngest.

Arch O’Donnell. She couldn’t even think about the man without pangs of…well, lots of pangs. The man was a menace. He was arrogant, self-involved, and petty. He’d gotten in her way at the class reunion six weeks ago, messing up her plans, arguing with her decisions, and generally making her job way more difficult than it needed to be. He’d been doing the same thing since their senior year of high school too. Just thinking about him set her teeth on edge.

Arch and his smarmy grin, that twinkle in his eyes, the smooth way he had of moving. He’d been away from Culpepper for years, first at school, then building his architecture business. But now he was back. Back in all his buff, snappy-dressing, male glory. He’d wound her up so tightly at the reunion, then had the nerve to ask her to dance. And the extra nerve to hold her close during that dance, his warmth seeping into her, his cologne intoxicating, his—

“Whoa! Earth to Tabby.” Elvie waved her hand to snap Tabby out of her thoughts.

“Sorry, what?” Tabby cleared her throat and sat straighter, pretending to fuss with the paperwork on her desk. It was almost quitting time anyhow.

Elvie wasn’t fooled. She fixed Tabby with a lop-sided grin. “I wonder what you were thinking about.”

“I was thinking about what I’m going to have for supper,” Tabby bluffed.

“No, you weren’t.”

Tabby stopped fussing with the papers and frowned at her friend. “How do you know?”

“Because you have that look in your eyes.”

“What look? I don’t have any looks,” she answered, a little too fast.

Elvie just leaned back in her chair and smiled. “So, no Christmas spirit this year?”

Tabby could see Elvie was trying to lure her into talking about Arch, but she took the bait anyhow. “I just don’t feel like it. Mom is in Tahiti with her new boyfriend this year.”

“Ooh, Tahiti!”

“And Dad…” She let her sentence trail off with a sigh. “Dad is Dad.”

“He still living in Haskell?” The corner of Elvie’s mouth twitched into a grin.

“Yeah,” Tabby answered, avoiding her eyes. “He and his partner have expanded their law firm, now that Paradise Space Flight is drawing more people to town. He says they’re up to their eyeballs in work.”

“Haskell isn’t that far away. Are you guys going to get together at all on Christmas day?”

“Well, Sammy and I are doing a little Christmas something together, though we haven’t decided what yet. Probably just brunch at her place before heading to church.”

“I see.” Elvie nodded and hummed. Her expression turned innocent…or rather, fake innocent. “Things are going to be way different in the O’Donnell family this year too, what with three out of the four of us getting married in the last year. Doc and Nancy already have plans to do their own thing on Christmas morning. Sly and Rachel keep talking about heading out to the ski lodge for a romantic getaway. And Evan and I are heading down to Colorado for a quick visit with his family.”

“Oh?” Tabby shouldn’t have commented on the plans at all. She knew just what Elvie would do with her single syllable.

She was right.

“You should get in touch with Arch to see if he wants to do something on Christmas,” Elvie said.

“No.” Tabby’s answer was swift and definitive.

“He’ll probably be feeling left out,” Elvie went on, tugging on exactly the right heartstrings. “With Evan and I gone, he’ll be all by himself in that old house.”

Tabby still couldn’t believe that with all of Evan’s new money, he and Elvie were still living in the old O’Donnell house with Arch.

“He could at least use some food after church,” Elvie went on. “Poor guy.”

Tabby sighed. “No.” This time, her argument was less solid. Probably because the unaccountable desire to be there for Arch on Christmas, to wrap her arms around him and tell him everything would be all right, that someone did actually care about him, reared its ugly head. “Arch and I hate each other,” she reminded Elvie…and herself. “We have since high school.”

“I was under the impression that you two dated in high school.”

Tabby’s face flared red. Her heart thumped faster. “That was only for a few months in the summer before senior year.”

“Yeah, but I remember that really well,” Elvie argued. “You two were all over each other. Head over heels. Arch couldn’t talk about anything else, and neither could you.”

“It was a long time ago, and it ended badly.” Tabby pushed her chair back and stood. She took off her white coat and hung it on the rack to the side of her desk. Elvie was the last patient of the day, and suddenly all Tabby wanted to do was go home and fix herself a comfort food dinner full of fat and carbs.

Elvie stood and joined Tabby at the rack, getting her coat as Tabby shrugged into hers. “How did it end again?”

Tabby huffed out a breath and stared hard at Elvie. “You know how it ended.”

“There had to have been more to it than that silly election for class president,” Elvie said.

Tabby focused on her coat’s zipper to keep the old hurt of that election from showing on her face. “Nope. It was the election. Or rather, the rivalry of the campaign.”

“I still can’t believe Arch ran against you, even after you told him you were running.”

Coats on, purses in hand, Tabby and Elvie headed for the door. Night had fallen on the other side of the windows they passed. Already, the days were getting longer, but only barely. It would be months still until Tabby left her office in the daylight.

“I can’t believe he ran against me either,” Tabby muttered as they reached the front desk.