Tag Archives: romance

Author Showcase – Kendall Ryan (Finding Alexei)

He’s bossy, moody, and overprotective.

He’s also a pro athlete who needs to focus on winning games and staying out of the headlines.

I’m fiercely independent and need a man like I need a second period each month.

So when our worlds collide, I never expected him to be the one to jump in and save me. Especially not when my ex-roommate disappears, leaving me with her baby.

I’m clueless about babies—and it shows. Good thing Alexei isn’t. With six nieces and nephews and an apparent hero complex, the dude is both sexy and more than capable. It’s a combination that makes it easy to forget we’re just playing house.

 

Chapter Preview Courtesy of Kendall Ryan’s Website

 

Alexei

She’s petite yet curvy with a nice ass and beautiful tits. But that’s not the first thing I notice about her.

The first thing that strikes me is that her coat isn’t warm enough for a Chicago winter.

It’s dark out, and barely above freezing. She’s standing on a street corner discussing something with a man in hushed tones, waving her hands dramatically as she speaks. It’s nearly midnight, and the street is almost deserted.

She has long dark hair, a trim build, and a full pouty mouth. And she seems to be pissed off. Curious about her, I stalk closer and then slow my pace.

“Fine. Tell me what it’ll take, sweetheart,” the guy says to her.

She stiffens and puts one hand on her hip. “I’m not for sale, asshole. I did my job, but that’s it. When you step outside those doors, the fantasy ends.”

They’re standing outside a dingy club, the kind of place that smells of rancid smoke, cheap beer, and meaningless sex. I should know. I’ve been here once or twice for bachelor parties and those kinds of things. My friends would call it a titty bar. But my friends are mostly pro football players, and their manners leave a lot to be desired.

The place isn’t really a strip club, more like a topless bar where beautiful women serve drinks in their underwear. It all seemed innocent enough, until now . . . until a sinking feeling washes over me as I watch this woman get propositioned in the street as she’s trying to leave work.

The guy laughs, the sound abrasive, like he doesn’t believe her. “Three hundred bucks. Come on, baby. It’ll be fast.”

She chews on one of those pouty lips as she weighs his words, contemplating what looks to be a life-changing decision . . . and not life-changing in a positive way.

Don’t do it, lady . . . just say no to what this asshole is offering you.

Part of me knows I need to mind my own damn business, that this guy just wants a quick fuck. Who am I to judge how this woman chooses to support herself? The other part of me—the fierce protector in me—says this is a situation that I can’t ignore. I won’t allow this asshole to force a woman to do something she’s not comfortable with.

I walk over, my legs moving of their own volition.

“Excuse me,” I say, interrupting them.

Her gaze swings over to mine, and the guy she’s with does a double-take. I tower over him by at least half a foot. Now that I have a better look at him, I see the guy is middle-aged, round in the midsection, his hair graying at his temples. I also know I can take him if it comes to that.

He shoots me a look that’s half pissed off that I interrupted his bargaining session, and half panicked that I may kick his ass. The latter is definitely what he should be more concerned about if he tries any shit. I may just decide to do it anyway, despite the fact I just promised my agent I’ll behave myself and not end up on any more tabloid news sites.

“The lady said to leave her alone. I suggest you get the fuck out of here.” I glare down at the guy.

His eyes narrow, but he takes a step back and holds up his palms. “Fine. Going.”

He takes off down the street and disappears around the corner, leaving me standing across from the woman. She’s probably no more than five foot three, a hundred twenty pounds soaking wet. No way she could have defended herself against someone his size. More importantly, she shouldn’t have to defend herself from that prick.

“Were you really going to go home with that guy?”

She shakes her head. “No. He didn’t want to take me home. Just wanted me to show him my boobs and have me give him a hand job in the back seat of his car. He may or may not have mentioned something about finishing himself off on my breasts too.”

I wait to see if she’s joking, but sadly, I can tell what she’s saying is the truth.

Then she looks at me, with the prettiest shade of blue eyes I’ve ever seen, and my heart almost stops. “For the record—guys are gross.”

I chuckle at her surprising honesty. “Not denying that.”

Men can be real creeps. I’ve seen the evening news. Sadly, there’s just no arguing against her logic. Some of us are still good guys, but I don’t say this to her. I just let her believe what she wants.

“I’m Alexei,” I say, offering her my hand.

For a second, she just looks at my hand, and I don’t think she’s going to take it. But then finally, after deciding that she can trust me, at least for something as simple as a handshake, she places her small palm in mine and shakes my hand. She’s freezing.

“I’m Ryleigh. Thanks for, um . . . saving me.”

I haven’t done anything yet. I wanted to punch that guy in the fucking jaw when I heard him propositioning her. Instead, I let him walk away unscathed. Lucky prick.

“Do you work here?” I lift my gaze to the neon sign blazing above our heads in the darkness. I scrub a hand over my face as I picture the petite woman standing before me scantily clad and serving drinks to a group of horny men with grabby hands and fat wallets.

She nods.

“You a stripper, then?” I ask.

Ryleigh makes an annoyed sound in her throat. “It’s a topless bar. I’m not a stripper.”

I knew as much, but part of me didn’t want to admit I’ve been a customer at the place. It’s not exactly a classy establishment. “But you serve drinks in your underwear.”

“As I said, men are gross. Sadly, they also pay my bills.”

I chuckle, again surprised by her. “I’m not denying it. And not that you asked for it, but in my point of view, men are visual creatures. And women are beautiful. We enjoy seeing them any chance we can get.”

She merely rolls her eyes, clearly not buying my bullshit. “Listen, as nice as it is to freeze my lady balls off and stand out here talking to you, I need to find a way to get home.”

“Where’s your ride? I can wait with you.” The words just stumbling out of my mouth before I can think about it.

“My car’s in the shop, and my friend bailed on giving me a ride.”

I nod, processing everything. Something also tells me she needs that three hundred bucks the guy was offering her. I take a deep breath, weighing my options. It’s either go home alone to my $6 million penthouse and lie awake wondering if she’s okay . . . or drive her home myself and convince her to just take the money I have in my wallet. It’s not like I need it.

As tired as I was walking out of my dinner meeting with Slate, now I’m way too keyed up for sleep. It’s then that I realize going home alone would be pointless.

“Is that what you needed the money for? Your car?”

Her inquisitive blue gaze meets mine, and for a second, I think she’s going to deny that she needs the money. She’ll probably try to save face by telling me I read the situation wrong, and she was never actually entertaining that scumbag’s offer.

Instead, she surprises me for the third time in five minutes.

“No. Well, yes. But not tonight. My immediate concern is getting home and taking care of my roommate’s baby.”

“Baby?” I ask, lifting one eyebrow.

She nods, tucking a long strand of silky brown hair behind her ear. “My ex-roommate, actually. She, um, dropped off her baby a few days ago and left. I have no idea when she’s coming back. I need to pick up diapers, more clothes, and baby formula. All of that stuff costs money.” Ryleigh straightens, her posture stiffening, like she’s revealed too much. “You know what, don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out. I always do.”

“Where’s the baby now?” It’s after midnight, after all. But no matter how late it is, I’m not letting her walk away just yet.

“My neighbor is babysitting her so I could work.”

Something inside me believes Ryleigh’s telling the truth. Even though the last thing I want to do tonight is deal with a sad woman who has what sounds like more drama than an episode of Law & Order, with an even more unusual twist of playing nanny for someone’s baby, I find myself gesturing toward my car. My black Mercedes is parked right across the street.

“I’ll take you.”

She narrows her eyes. “I don’t even know who you are. Why would I trust you?”

I don’t point out that she was just considering getting into the car of a complete stranger. Or that she was considering doing unsavory activities with said stranger. I could tell her it’s because I grew up with three sisters, and I have a big heart. I could tell her that I have six nieces and nephews, that I’m good with babies. I could even hand her my business card and tell her she could ruin me with one call to the media about how I tried to pick her up outside a nightclub. But I don’t say any of those things. Instead, I find myself wanting her to trust me on instinct alone.

I finally settle on, “Because I’m offering to help you. No strings.”

“No strings, as in I don’t have to show you my boobs?”

I almost choke on the laugh that crawls up my chest. “Only if you want to, but remember . . . we men are visual creatures.” I offer her my best playboy smirk, the one that usually makes women swoon, only to find it has no effect on Ryleigh.

Strange.

Maybe it’s because she doesn’t know who I am, but she treats me differently than the women I usually meet, as if I’m a regular guy and not a famous millionaire sports star who easily melts women with simply a smile.

Ryleigh has no idea that I’m Alex Ivan, pro football player for the Chicago Hawks. She doesn’t swoon and bat her eyelashes or try to impress me. In fact, she doesn’t follow any of the normal protocols. Clearly, she’s not a gold digger, because if she were, she could talk me out of way more than three hundred bucks. An even bigger part of me knows I could add several zeroes behind that figure, and she’d need every damn dime.

“Fine. I’ll take the ride. But it’s going to be a hard pass on the boobs.”

“Whatever you want.”

The truth is, she’s gorgeous, and if she wanted to share her body with me, I’d jump at the fucking chance. But something about her no-nonsense demeanor tells me that’s not going to happen, which is probably for the best. I don’t have time to get tangled up in something right now, anyway. I have to focus on myself and my career now more than ever.

After another moment’s hesitation, Ryleigh looks back at the club one last time, and then to my car. I can see the moment she makes up her mind, letting out a soft sigh.

“Don’t make me regret this,” she mutters under her breath before she follows me to my car.

I hit the button on the key fob to start the engine, then unlock the doors. When we slide inside, I turn up the heat and direct the vents toward her.

“Thank you,” she says, buckling her seat belt. “Nice car.” Her gaze lingers on the sleek wood paneling, supple leather, and chrome fixtures.

“Thanks,” I murmur, suddenly feeling a little sheepish about the opulence of my luxury sedan while she has to consider back-alley propositions just to feed her baby. No, not her baby, her ex-roommate’s baby, which makes this entire situation even crazier. I shift into drive and pull out onto the road. “So, where to?”

“Oh, right.” Ryleigh rattles off her address, and I wince.

I’ve only been to that area of the city once, and it was by accident because I was lost. It’s not a safe or very nice area, and I hate to think about her walking around after dark alone, petite beauty that she is.

“So, your name, Alexei, is that . . .”

“Russian. My parents moved here when I was six.” I also have no fucking clue why I told her my name is Alexei. Everyone calls me Alex. Everyone except for my mothers and sisters.

“Do you remember much of it? Living in Russia? I’ve never been out of the United States. I’ve barely been out of the Midwest.”

“A little. My parents tried to keep up the traditions for us. They were proud of their heritage. We spoke Russian at home, and every Friday, my mother would make a big traditional meal.”

“What kinds of foods are in traditional Russian meals? Like borscht?”

I chuckle. “Borscht is disgusting.” It’s a beet soup that looks like a bowl of blood. “My favorites were the cabbage rolls and herb-and-meat-filled pies she would make.”

“That sounds amazing. I haven’t eaten a real home-cooked meal in a long time.”

All this talk about food makes me wonder if she’s hungry, if I should offer to stop and get something for her to eat. Then I decide against it because I don’t want her to feel that I think she’s a charity case. Plus, dinner together seems too personal, and I can’t do personal right now. She’s a big girl. She can feed herself.

The conversation I just had with my agent at dinner rings through my head. I need to keep my head down and stay focused on winning. Prove that I’m worth the huge contract that was just plopped into my lap. Period.

“What about you?” I ask. “Family in the area?”

She shakes her head, folding her hands in her lap. “I was an only child. Both of my parents have passed on.”

“I’m sorry.” Shit. Now I wish I’d never asked, because her story has gotten even more pitiful.

She shakes her head, still looking out the windshield. “It’s okay.”

We drive in silence for a few minutes, and when we get closer to her neighborhood, I spot a superstore that’s all lit up on the corner, one of those twenty-four-hour places. I pull into the parking lot and park the car.

Ryleigh’s gaze swings to mine, and I can sense the question on her parted lips.

I recall a piece of advice a coach gave me once about how people would come out of the woodwork asking for money once I signed my first big contract. He recommended instead of giving out cash that I should give them what they need—you know, like paying an electric bill versus handing someone a hundred bucks.

“Why are you stopping here? My place is still a few blocks away.” She gives me a curious look.

“Let’s get the stuff you need.” Plus, if she’s lying about the baby, now would be the time to come clean.

She swallows and nods. “Thank you.”

I grab a cart and we wander the store aisles, finally locating the baby section. She grabs a package of diapers, the smallest she can find, and places it in the cart. I know how quickly babies go through diapers. Those will only last her a couple of days, and I open my mouth to object. Then I decide I’m being a controlling asshole, and should let her do this her way. Next, we find baby formula, and Ryleigh selects a yellow tub of the stuff, groaning when she sees how expensive it is. Babies go through formula faster than diapers, and I know she needs a few of those tubs, but I stay focused on what she wants.

“What else do you need?” I ask, turning to face her.

Under the bright lights, I can see how truly beautiful she is for the first time. Her hair is the color of deep honey. It looked brown outside, but here in the light, shades of gold run through the soft waves. Her skin is like porcelain, soft and creamy, and her eyes are the most striking shade of blue, fringed in thick black lashes. Stunning.

As if she can sense me watching her, she chews on her lower lip and shakes her head. “I’m really not sure. I don’t know the first thing about babies. She cries a lot, and I . . .”

“How old is she?”

“Two months.”

I push the cart to the next aisle and find what I’m looking for. “Does she use one of these?” I ask, selecting a pacifier.

“I’m not sure. My ex-roommate left me with almost nothing. It’s worth a shot.”

I toss a couple of them into the cart and then grab a Boppy pillow. “What about one of these?”

Ryleigh’s delicately arched eyebrows lift. “What the hell is it?”

I laugh again, amused by her honesty. “It’s a special pillow. She can do tummy time. Sometimes the crying is due to gas bubbles. This could help.”

“How do you know so much about babies?” Her eyes widen and lock onto mine.

I shrug, pushing the cart toward the checkout. “I have six nieces and nephews. I babysit them sometimes.” Whether I want to or not. I smile, thinking about my sisters shoving one or more babies into my arms anytime we’re at a family gathering.

We work together unloading the contents of the cart onto the conveyor belt. When the cart is empty, I pull out my gold card and hand it to the cashier.

Ryleigh stiffens. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I’ve got this, no worries.”

She looks at me, and I can see the wheels spinning in her head. She wants to trust me, wants to think I’m being chivalrous and gallant, but she’s wary because she’s likely never had a white knight ride in and save her. I see her underlying distrust, and for some reason, I want to prove to her that tonight, her white knight is real.

Besides, I’m not letting her spend whatever tip money she made tonight on this. I’m sure she needs it for other things, like fixing her car or feeding herself, not for taking care of a baby unexpectedly dropped off on her doorstep. I still need to get to the bottom of that story, but I sense that now’s not the time.

The cashier is watching our exchange with narrowed eyes. I smile and whisper to Ryleigh that she can pay me back if she likes, but it’s really not necessary.

The cashier rings up the items we’ve purchased, and I accept the bags after sliding my credit card back into my wallet.

Once I have the bags loaded into the back seat of my car, we set off again. A few minutes later, we’ve arrived, and when I park on the street and step out of the car, I get angry.

 

And my anger only intensifies with every step toward Ryleigh’s apartment.

 

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A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen titles, Kendall Ryan has sold over 2 million books and her books have been translated into several languages in countries around the world.

Her books have also appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than three dozen times. Ryan has been featured in such publications as USA Today, Newsweek, and InTouch Magazine.
She lives in Texas with her husband and two sons.
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Review of “Between The Shadows (Lake Lanier Mysteries)” – Casi McLean

She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one… 

After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold. 

An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnaping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. 

Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life? 

 

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Confederate States of America currency circa 1865

 

(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

Time travel stories and movies capture viewers’ interest because many of us have pondered when and where we would go, if given the opportunity. I myself have considered, many times over, whom I would like to meet.

In Between The Shadows, Casi McLean takes us back in time to the Civil War era. There, readers are thrust into one suspenseful moment after another while York and Kenzi attempt to save a woman’s life without altering the present.

That’s the real issue with time traveling… you can’t alter history. York took steps to make sure history was left intact. (For you history buffs, you’ll be pleased to know the missing Confederate gold is the main focal point in the plot and Casi addresses it again before we reach The End.)

Whether you are traveling to the past or coming to the present, the experience can be overwhelming. On the trip to the present, this is where Casi does a fantastic job of showing how our simple luxuries can be confusing to a person.

Suspense, love, bit of history, couple surprise moments, and a HEA……. All of these combine to make a story readers will want to relive time and time again.

 

Heart Rating System 

1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 

Score: ❤❤❤1/2

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~~ CHECK THESE OUT! ~~

BUY NOW AT AMAZON: KINDLE / PAPERBACK 
or at these other fine locations: Barnes and Noble / Kobo / iTunes
 
 
 

 

 
 

Award winning author, Casi McLean, pens novels to stir the soul with romance, suspense, and a sprinkle of magic. Her writing crosses genres from ethereal, captivating shorts with eerie twist endings to believable time slips, mystical plots, and sensual romantic suspense, like Beneath The Lake, WINNER: 2016 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for BEST Romantic Suspense.

Casi’s powerful memoir, Wingless Butterfly: Healing The Broken Child Within, shares an inspirational message of courage, tenacity, and hope, and displays her unique ability to excel in nonfiction and self-help as well as fiction. Known for enchanting stories with magical description, McLean entices readers in nonfiction as well with fascinating hooks to hold them captive in storylines they can’t put down.

Her romance entwines strong, believable heroines with delicious hot heroes to tempt the deepest desires then fans the flames, sweeping readers into their innermost romantic fantasies. Ms. McLean weaves exceptional romantic mystery with suspenseful settings and lovable characters you’ll devour. You’ll see, hear, and feel the magical eeriness of one fateful night. You’ll swear her time travel could happen, be mystified by her other worldly images, and feel heat of romantic suspense, but most of all you’ll want more.

 

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Author Showcase – Lori Wilde (The Christmas Key: A Twilight, Texas Novel)

There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love.

She saw him in her dreams . . .

It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face-to-face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there an even greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have.

She was his buddy’s sister . . .

Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and one of his fellow soldiers loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son . . . and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet, sexy smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?

 

(Excerpt courtesy of Lori Wilde’s Website)

 

December 2nd, The Teal Peacock, Twilight, Texas.

“Hon, if I put another thing on top of that pile, you’re not going to be able to see where you’re going.”

Undaunted, Naomi Luther dropped her shoulders. The subtle move lowered the boxes stacked in her arms about half an inch. She was a pro. For the past five years, she’d owned Perfect Fit, a personal-shopping business. She had this.

“Lookee,” Naomi said. “If you take that last box out of the bag, there’s enough room to slide it right on top of the others. And I’ll be able to hold it all down with my chin.”

The older woman behind the counter, Patsy Crouch, looked skeptical. “One false move and the whole shebang will come crashing down.”

“I’ll be fine,” Naomi reassured her with a jovial grin. “Go ahead. Stock it to me.”

“You are so funny,” Patsy laughed. “It’s amazing the way you’ve bounced back after—”

“Gotta keep my spirits up for Hunter.” She polished her smile, brightening its sheen. Hoping to head Patsy off at the pass. This Christmas mustbe a happy one. Which granted, was hard to pull off when everyone in town kept recounting her family’s sorrows.

“How are things with Robert?” Patsy asked.

Naomi pressed her lips together. She didn’t want to get into her love life. Or lack there of. “Robert and I are….”

What was her situation with her long-distance boyfriend? She wished she knew. When Robert took the job in Denver, they’d had an understanding. Robert would get his life and career in Colorado established and then she would join him and they’d get married. It wasn’t an official engagement. Nothing formal. He’d not asked for her hand in marriage. But she’d planned on marrying him since she was a junior in high school. She had a hope chest, and a wedding idea book stuffed with dreams.

 But since last Christmas, everything had changed. And Naomi was no longer quite sure where she and Robert stood. She hadn’t seen him in four months. They texted, but it was not daily. They’d both been so busy. Shocked, she realized they hadn’t even talked on the phone in over a month.

“It’s complicated,” she said as much to herself as to Patsy. “All my focus is on Hunter right now. It has to be.”

“Does that mean he’s free to date other people?”

That pulled her up short. She hadn’t really thought about it. Robert hadn’t mentioned wanting to see other people. Was he seeing other people?

“How about you?”

Naomi made a dismissive sound. “If I had time for dating I could fly to Denver every few weeks and reconnect with Robert..”

“Robert’s not coming around to the idea of you adopting Hunter, is he?” Patsy looked at her over the rim of the reading glasses perched on the end of her nose. “That’s the real issue.”

Patsy made a good point, but she wasn’t going to discuss that. She and her parents had decided as a family that Naomi should be the one to adopt Hunter since her mother’s health was fragile and her parents were both over sixty. Robert hadn’t understood, and asked why her parents were trying to “saddle” her with her dead brother’s baby.

They’d had a huge fight over it. He didn’t get that adopting Hunter had been heridea, not her folks. In fact, they’d tried to dissuade her, telling her they didn’t want her to give up her life to raise her brother’s child. But Hunter was everything to her.

Her relationship with Robert had not been the same since, even though he’d apologized, and they’d smoothed things over.

On the surface, anyway.

“I’m sure everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.” Patsy took the box out of the shopping bag she’d just put it in.

“Hopefully..” Naomi felt unsettled by Patsy’s questions because she didn’t know the answers, and she hated not being in control.

“How’s your mother?” Patsy’s voice lowered, knitting a sympathetic tone.

Naomi flinched at the pity, but kept the smile pasted on her face. Nothing was gonna get her down. The family had been steeped in sorrow long enough. Being happy didn’t mean they still didn’t grieve their losses. But if she’d learned anything, it was that life was short and you had to make the most of it.

And hey, in high school, she hadn’t been a cheerleader for nothing. Rah, Rah Twilight Titans.

“Mom’s good.”

“I know this is a rough time of year for your family. The holidays—”

“We’re fine.” Her smile stiffened, but she kept her voice loose. A flag flapping in the breeze. Oh, say can you see, life is good, good, good. “We’re doing great. Honest.”

“You’ve all suffered a huge loss.” Patsy added the box to the leaning Tower of Pisa in Naomi’s arms. “It’s okay to grieve. I—”

“Could you open the door for me, please? Thank you.” Naomi locked her elbows to help brace the load. Mashed her chin against the top package. Squelched the sad feelings rising up inside her.

None of that, Missy.

“How far to your van?” Patsy asked.

“It’s in the shop. Transmission overhaul. It’ll be out of commission all week.” But she wasn’t letting the inconvenience get her down.

“So how are you getting all this home?”

“Jana’s swinging around to pick me up at the curb.”

“You sure you don’t need help getting the packages into Jana’s Jeep?” Patsy folded the empty bag emblazoned with a teal peacock and stuck it back inside the drawer.

“Juggling packages is all part of the Christmas fun, right?”

Patsy hustled across the old wooden floor to open the door, moving fast for a woman in her late sixties. “Do mind your step, hon, and watch out for the workmen setting up Dickens.”

During the first weekend in December, tourists flocked to Twilight. Looking for fun at the annual Dickens on the Square festival. Normally, Naomi loved this time of year. But after last year’s tragedies…

Stop. No unwanted thoughts. Come hell or high water, this was going to be the best Christmas ever. No excuses.

With the packages blocking her view, Naomi inched down the stairs of the Teal Peacock. Workmen were stringing electrical cords and wiring. Two crewmembers carried neon orange sawhorses. They were using them to block off the cross streets.

Dang it. Now, Jana wouldn’t be able to drive through that way and pick her up. She’d have to wait on the curb with her unwieldy load while Jana circled around to the back of the building.

No worries, no worries. Smile. Life is good. Yes, her arms were screaming at her to put down the packages, but she could ignore the burn for a little longer.

Hurry, Jana, hurry.

It was okay. Achy arms weren’t going to kill her, and it wasn’t as if she didn’t have a loving community to help. Things were so much better than they were a year ago. She counted her blessings. She was healthy. Her business was turning a profit. She had parents who loved her. She lived in the best small town in Texas.

And she had the sweetest little boy who was about to become her son. Who could ask for anything more?

“Thank you,” she murmured skyward. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Jana’s black Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled up to the curb. Whew! Nick of time. Relieved, she headed toward the back of the Jeep.

“Here, here,” said one of the workmen. “Let me help.” The man stretched out long, reached for the handle, and flung the door open.

“Thank you.” Naomi breathed, offered him a harried smile. Nice man. Helpful. She dumped the packages in the backseat, and slammed the door. Heard her cell phone ding from the bottom of her purse.

She wanted to ignore it, but with Hunter in preschool, she didn’t dare. Digging in her purse for the phone, she hopped into the passenger seat. Without looking around, she clicked on her seatbelt.

The workman shut the door behind her. She nodded at him, waved.

“Hello,” she said into the phone, but the caller hung up. She pulled the phone from her ear to see who’d called.

Jana.

Huh? Why was Jana calling her when she was sitting right here in the car with her? She turned to her best friend.

But it was not Jana sitting in the driver’s seat.

Rather, it was a man. A tall man. A handsome man. A complete stranger. And…

Sweet

Holy

Mother

of

baby

Jesus…

He bore an uncanny resemblance to the dark-haired man she’d dreamed of last Christmas Eve, when she’d slept with a kismet cookie under her pillow. Not that she believed in the legend.

And yet, here he was.

Believe me now?Taunted the legend.

“Eeep!” Naomi cried, scrambling for the door handle to jump out.

But the seatbelt yanked her backward, Tightening down on her chest. Which he must have noticed. Because he was staring at her breasts with an amused expression on his gorgeous mug.

Feeling like a ginormous idiot for getting into the wrong vehicle, she blurted, “Who are you?”

“Better question,” he said in a voice as deep and dark as the Brazos River at midnight. “Who are you?”

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Lori Wilde is the New York TimesUSA Today and Publishers’ Weekly bestselling author of 85 works of romantic fiction. She’s a three time Romance Writers’ of America RITA finalist and has four times been nominated for Romantic Times Readers’ Choice Award. She has won numerous other awards as well. Her books have been translated into 26 languages, with more than four million copies of her books sold worldwide. Her breakout novel, The First Love Cookie Club, has been optioned for a TV movie.

Lori is a registered nurse with a BSN from Texas Christian University. She holds a certificate in forensics, and is also a certified yoga instructor.

A fifth generation Texan, Lori lives with her husband, Bill, in the Cutting Horse Capital of the World; where they run Epiphany Orchards, a writing/creativity retreat for the care and enrichment of the artistic soul.

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Author Showcase – Laura M. Baird (Rory’s Christmas Angel)

Print Length: 110 pages

Instinct kicks in as Frankie Chandler, former Navy nurse, now soon to be veterinarian, witnesses an accident and rushes to save a man’s life. When State Trooper Rory Sanders arrives on the scene, he’s awestruck at the sight of the gorgeous woman taking charge. Once the frenzy is over, both are reluctant to walk away from their mutual attraction. But they’ll each have to get beyond their hesitations, such as Rory telling himself it’s okay to let love in while raising his daughter after losing his wife, and Frankie who’s never had a serious relationship in her life because she’s been focused on school while also helping raise her nephew. Will the power of love win out and make their Christmas wishes come true?

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~~ Excerpt ~~

 

Widower, Florida State Trooper Rory Sanders encounters ex-Naval nurse, Frankie Chandler, at a road-side accident. One look has him bewildered at his instant attraction. Is it a sign that he’s ready to open his heart in order to find love again?

While pursuing her degree in veterinary science as well as helping raise her young nephew, Frankie doesn’t have time for a relationship. But fate has no concept of time when the striking Rory Sanders bursts onto the scene.

Rory ran to the scene and catalogued what was happening. An older man stood by while a younger man and a woman were crouched down attempting to pull someone out of the car. He couldn’t see the woman’s face as her back was to him. All he could see was a red and black flannel shirt atop jeans that fit snugly to a shapely backside.

Jesus! What’s wrong with you? You’re at an accident, not here to ogle this woman!

As he got closer, he heard the woman yell, “Three!” And everything seemed to happen at once. He heard the clicking of the seat belt, and he saw rapid movements of the man and woman cradling the victim as they carefully maneuvered him out of the crunched car. He saw the woman turn and bright green eyes collided with his, leaving him momentarily stunned. Short blond hair haloed her face as a rosy blush colored her cheeks. Probably from the exertion. Or more likely from the heat of the car which suddenly had flames bursting from the engine compartment.

“Move!” the woman yelled.

While they scrambled to pull the man further away from the vehicle, Rory shot forward to assist. He grabbed near the victim’s shoulders while the woman held the torso and the younger man moved to hold the legs. Together, they got the victim a safe distance from the burning car before setting him down, he and the woman kneeling at his upper body. Looking at the man, he noticed a gash across his forehead that was bleeding freely, and he appeared unresponsive.

Before Rory could act, the woman was tearing off her flannel to reveal a black tank top beneath. As well as more shapely anatomy. Rory tried hard not to stare at the generous breasts and the well-toned arms, at the intricate tattoo gracing an arm—the design he couldn’t quite make out due to the woman’s quick movements.

“He’s unresponsive!” she yelled. “Hold this to his head while I start CPR.” She shoved her shirt into Rory’s hands while she assessed for a pulse. She must have felt one, because her next step had been to check for breathing. As her cheek hovered above the victim’s mouth, she looked down at the man’s chest. Her next move then had been to tilt the chin up and pinch this nose while she gave breaths.

Oh, to have that beautiful face so near to him. To have those lips touch his.

Rory shook his head to clear his incredible thoughts, wondering what the hell was wrong with him.

“His pulse is faint but he’s not breathing,” she said. “I’ll continue breaths until the ambulance arrives.”

That prompted Rory to speak. “An ambulance should be here shortly, coming from Gainesville.” While kneeling down on the opposite side of the victim, across from the angel … er … the woman, he continued. “I’ll relieve you if needed. I’m Trooper Sanders. Rory Sanders.”

After two more breaths, the woman pierced him with her emerald eyes and said, “I’m Chandler, Frankie Chandler.” Her voice had been almost lyrical even in the tense situation, and he shouldn’t have been zeroing in on her plump lips, but that’s exactly what he did.

“Used to be a nurse in the Navy,” the older man supplied as he stated his name while standing over the scene. “I didn’t think it wise to move the man, but she seemed certain it had to be done. Good thing, seeing as he would have burned to a crisp if not for her actions.”

Rory looked to see flames licking over every inch of the vehicle. He clicked his radio to update the situation, saying they’d need a fire truck and a wrecker on scene. Once he got the affirmative from Dee, he faced the group again.

“That’s for sure,” said the younger man. “I’m Frank and that’s my truck.” He indicated to the parked semi with a nod of his head. “Saw this guy weaving all over, in and out of traffic until he clipped my truck and flipped. Scariest thing I ever saw.”

Rory looked at each person before his gaze fell back onto Frankie as she finished another round of breaths. Or was it Franki? Or Franky? Dammit! Concentrate! “Pretty brave and quick thinking.”

“I couldn’t not help. Instinctual training took over.” She once again positioned her face over the victim’s mouth while feeling his pulse. Bringing her head back up, she said, “Still not breathing and his pulse is even weaker. May have to start compressions.”

Rory nodded. “Are you still a nurse?”

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m in my final year at U of F, becoming a vet.”

“A veterinarian?” Rory asked, knowing he must have seemed dumbfounded. All he could do was stare at Frankie, wanting to know more.

“Yes.” She smiled. And boy, what that did to her face, her entire presence. Even with the smudged dust on her skin and her hair in disarray, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. “Are you all right, Sanders?” she asked.

Was he? 

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Wife, mother, former U. S. Army, and dental hygienist, I can now add published author to the list. I’m slowly transitioning out of hygiene, hoping to make writing a full-time endeavor. After writing for many years, my publishing dreams came true in August of 2017 with the release of my debut contemporary romance, “Keyed Up”. Since then, I’ve had the fortune to work with several publishers, and as of June 4th, my eighth title was released. Hopefully many more are on the way!

I write in a variety of romance subgenres: contemporary, comedy, and erotic, with stories containing suspense and small-town romance in the works. I’m constantly learning, loving the journey, and all the amazing people I’m meeting. A voracious reader myself, I enjoy all romance from contemporary to erotic to paranormal to suspenseful.

I strive to write stories I can be proud of and enjoyed by many; ones that are not only sexy and fun, but thoughtful as well.

I grew up on the East Coast and now reside on the West Coast, having lived in FL, GA, SC, MA, ID, and WA. Hubby and I hope to fill our passports with stamps from Scotland and Fiji, to name a few destinations. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the beauty of the PNW.

 

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Author Showcase – Kristina Knight (Christmas in a Small Town: A Slippery Rock Novel)

Running out on her wedding was the best decision ever!

A cheating fiancé sends Camden Harris fleeing to her grandparents’ home in Missouri. When her ex follows, determined to win her back, Camden makes a deal with neighbor Levi Walters: they’ll pretend to be in love and she’ll support his plan to buy her grandparents’ land. 

The boy from her childhood has grown up into an impressive man. His charm, good looks and sweet gestures make it difficult for Camden to remember this is fake. And Levi’s kisses only confuse her more.

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“You guys didn’t play with me when I went to defense. How would you know what I looked like?”

Collin blinked. “High-definition TV. Replay shows. And, you know, we did play with you all through junior high and high school. Doesn’t matter if you’re quarterbacking or playing the defensive line, like you did in college and the pros—the Levi Walters focus is the same.”

“Also, and I don’t think we can emphasize this enough, at least three of your throws pushed the dart through the board and into the wall. So what’s up?” Aiden rolled his bottle of beer through his hands, making it scrape against the table.

It grated on Levi’s nerves.

Just because he had a few strong throws didn’t mean something was bothering him. He certainly wasn’t upset. Levi Walters didn’t get upset. He focused on the job at hand until it was done. Then he focused on the next job. He didn’t get upset. He didn’t get bothered. He didn’t wonder why good things happened to other people.

Which made it all the more weird that he couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the guys and their new relationships.

But he definitely wasn’t bothered.

“What do you guys think about the bike trail they’re talking about? The one that will follow the old railroad tracks?”

Collin and Aiden exchanged a look. Neither said anything.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. That land is undeveloped, but it’s adjacent to the ranch, and to the Harris property, too. Could lead to mischievousness, especially during the summer months.”

“He broke out a twenty-five-cent word,” Aiden said.

“Still avoiding the actual conversation, too,” Collin replied. As if Levi weren’t sitting right there with them. As if he weren’t trying to hold a legitimate conversation instead of whatever it was the two of them were trying to get him to admit to.

“Nothing’s bugging me.” He settled his shoulders against the back of the booth. “Just here to throw darts.” The guys stared at him. “And that bike trail could lead to all kinds of other prob—”

The door to the bar opened, and Levi stopped talking. He couldn’t breathe, and that didn’t make any sense at all. It was just a woman. Pretty brown hair pinned up on her head. Pale, creamy skin. He couldn’t see her eyes from this distance, but her lips were red and turned up at the corners. She twirled a set of car keys on her finger, and gathered the train of her dress—a wedding dress, and that was weird—in her other hand, saving it from the closing of the door.

“You were saying?” Collin prodded him, but Levi couldn’t remember what the three of them had been talking about. He’d been a little annoyed with them. Something about the bike trail that still hadn’t been decided on by the county commissioners.

His mouth went a little dry, and he forced himself to take a long breath. Tried to make his heart stop galloping in his chest. She was…the most beautiful figment his imagination had ever created.

“Something’s definitely wrong with him,” Aiden said. And Levi realized his friend was right.

There was something very, very wrong with a man who hallucinated a beautiful woman in a wedding dress. Something really wrong.

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Famous in a Small Town (A Slippery Rock Novel, book 1) 

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Rebel In A Small Town (A Slippery Rock Novel, book 2)

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Breakup in a Small Town (A Slippery Rock Novel, book 3)

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 Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police–no, she wasn’t a troublemaker, she was a journalist. Her career took her all over the United States, writing about everything from a serial killer’s capture to the National Finals Rodeo. Along the way she found her very own Knight in Shining Cowboy Boots and an abiding love for romance novels. Kristina writes contemporary romance with a smattering of sass, sex and (of course) drama, and she loves hearing from readers. And just like the characters from her favorite books, she’s living her own happily ever after.

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