Pioneer Instinct: Eliza and Frank

 PioneerInstinctCoverArtEliza O’Malley made her way through the crowds and wondered if her father and brothers had prepared the pens that would be needed to care for so many animals. Well, she would know soon. Her boot heels clicked on the boardwalk as she passed others by, intent on doing the necessary business so they could leave as soon as Papa showed up. After she passed a few shops she saw, just ahead, a building with a large sign that read BANK.

The crowd on the walk had stopped moving – they appeared to gather around something she couldn’t see, all gawking at whatever was at the center of the walk. Eliza gritted her teeth in irritation. She did not have time for this. She stepped off the wooden sidewalk and into the street to bypass them.

Eliza bit back a scream when the sudden sound of hoof beats and the thudding vibration on the hard packed earth beneath her feet alerted her she had made what could be a deadly misstep. So lost in her thoughts, she’d walked right into the path of a galloping horse.

Instinct took over and Eliza stretched out her hand and grasped the bridle, not even realizing there was a man on the horse’s back.

Her heart beat so hard she thought it may beat itself out of her chest. Eliza looked up to the rider. He was a mountain of a man. She couldn’t see his face clearly due to his wide rimmed hat, but his height and breadth blocked the sun and caused her heart to stutter and her breath to catch in her throat.

With a grace that belied his girth, the man leaped from the horse and yanked the bridle from her hand.

“And what do you think you are doing, grabbing my horse? Are ye daft, woman? I came close enough to running you down when I was in control of my horse.”

The adrenalin rush brought on by fear immediately turned to anger. Was this man implying that she was feeble minded?

She jerked her gaze up to meet his eyes. “I’ll have you know I had perfect control, sir.”

“A woman in control would not step in the path of a moving horse,” he scoffed. His voice was deep and rumbled out of his strong, broad chest, and despite her anger with him, his voice did strange things to her tummy, turning it all warm and jumpy.

She grit her teeth again, embarrassment now mixed with irritation, but she wasn’t backing down.

“The sun was in my eyes, sir. I didn’t see you at first.”

He glared down at her, looking for all the world like he might wrap those large hands around her neck, and her breath caught in her throat. Oh, my. She was being taken to task by the most beautiful man she had ever seen. His eyes were a deep, dark blue, almost midnight blue with flecks of green scattered in the depths. The sandy lashes that framed them were longer than any man had a right to sport. His hair, a dark copper color, curly and unruly, brushed his collar and framed a strong, square face. His lips, currently pressed together in annoyance, were full, and his complexion was deeply tanned with a slight ruddy cast.

Eliza stepped back from the sheer impact of his physical beauty and caught her heel on the raised sidewalk. With a quickness which belied his mass, he reached out and caught her by the arm before she fell backward.

He shook his head, the look he gave her one she was sure was reserved for those not quite in their right mind. “Lass!”

Her arm, where his hand steadied her, burned and tingled at the same time. She did not hear the lecture that spurted from his mouth. No, instead she busily cataloged every detail of this irate but handsome man. His tapered waist and strong, very long legs were impressive, as long, wide and sturdy as tree branches, and she gulped back a sigh. He released her arm and put one hand on his hip, while the other held the reins and bridle to his horse. A black and white sheep dog sat at his side and watched her intently. The dog stood and ambled closer, sniffed at her hand, then leaned in, pressing its body close to her. She gave it a pat and scratched behind its ears before she looked back at its stern owner. When she returned her gaze to his face, his lips were turned down in a stern frown. He raised an imploring hand.

“I could have killed you, lass. It is a rough and tumble town, Cheyenne. You’ll need to be more careful.”

“Yes, sir, I will.” She swallowed, more confused by her awareness of this man than the fact she had indeed almost been killed. “Thank you.” She began to step back onto the boardwalk, but once again he took her arm and held her in place.

“You’re new here.” It wasn’t a question.

She leaned her head to one side so she could look up at him again.

He blew out a resigned sigh. “Let me escort you. What is your destination?”

Eliza’s mouth went dry at the unexpected offer and she had trouble forming the words. She nodded the direction she’d been going. “The bank,” she finally squeaked out, “but you don’t have to.”

He gave his head another shake, his lips curled into a small half smile as he studied her. “Yes, Miss, I think I do.

The mountain of a man nodded and flipped the reins of his horse over a hitching rail before he assisted her with the step, then offered his arm and walked her into the bank.

Download now from Amazon or Desert Breeze Publishing  to read the rest of the story.

Mike’s First Impressions of the Grown Up Winter

Survival Instinct — Book 2 of the Time After Time Saga, is set in the future in San Francisco.SurvivalInstinctCoverArt

Because Mike and Winter have known each other all their lives, there isn’t exactly a first meeting scene, but here is their first grown-up meeting:

Mike found her at her captain’s desk. The blue light of the flashlight reflected off the no-glare, paper-white computer monitor and showed her face, casting sharp shadows over the planes and valleys of her features. Her pin light was clenched in her teeth, and she murmured around it, likely speaking into her neural cell memo pad.

Not giving himself time to overthink, or her a chance to notice she was no longer alone, he sprung, taking her down to the floor with a forearm to the front of her neck and an arm around her tiny waist.

She had not seen him coming.

He reached inside her jacket and unclipped her weapon from its holster, pulling it out and shoving it into the waist of his jeans at the small of his back.

The pin light landed with a loud clang on the tile floor and its light popped, leaving the small office in complete darkness.

Mike had the advantage, of course, not only having surprise on his side, but his size and the fact he could see whereas Winter was blind.

Nether spoke, only fought.

Mike’s view of her glowed green with his night vision contacts. Her body moved like poetry in motion, her focus was absolute, her chin set and determined. Blind or not, she fought him like a wild cat. Her Tai-Chi was expert, she was clearly using the sound of his breathing to ‘see’ him and landed some outright painful hits and major kicks to his body with her size five combat boots before he’d had enough and slammed his full weight on her, pinning her to the floor.

“I have a name!” she shouted. “Call J. D. off from my grandmother now!”

Mike stilled.

What?

“I’ve already logged Baker’s name in my memo pad, and set up automatic email delivery of it from my Neural cell.” she tried to knee him. “My Neural stops transmitting, those emails will hit every law enforcement agency and news station on the west coast.”

Her eyes narrowed. He knew she could not see him but that didn’t stop her from glaring, then her full lips pulled into a smirk and admiration welled within him for her courage and nerve.

“You are so screwed,” she scoffed. “You guys dropped the ball bringing J.D. within your corrupt little fold. He’s weak. You know he’s your teams’ weak link, that’s probably why you put him on granny duty. It won’t take anytime at all during interrogation for the threat of penal colony 867 to get to him. I can see it now. He turns on all of you to keep himself earth bound!”

Pieces of the puzzle fell into place while she yelled. Yes, he’d seen her talking to the key suspects this past week, but from what she was saying now, thinking she was being attacked by one of the bad guys, it was glaringly clear she had known about the corrupt cops and had been chatting them up to get a handle on who all was involved, the same as he had been.

Knowing what he did of the Parkers’ little girl, she likely planned to take down the rogue cops single-handedly.

He squared his shoulders, clinched his teeth in determination. She wouldn’t have to now. No, now she had him in her corner. Although, she didn’t know it yet, they would somehow gather the evidence they needed to positively confirm the identity of the twelve preps he’d tagged, and stop them in their dirty tracks.

Relief her impromptu speech had cleared her as a suspect distracted him. Mike swallowed as she continued to thrash beneath him, his body responded accordingly even though his mind was far removed from the physical.

Winter Parker was a victim, not a villain.

Against all odds, her grandmother had somehow become another victim.

Their interest in Winter and her grandmother didn’t make any sense that he could see.

It was high time he asked her what was going on.

“Listen to me, Winter,” he hissed in her ear. “We don’t have much time before they override your block on the doors.”

She went perfectly still and quiet.

He pressed his advantage, easing his weight off her just a bit. “We need to talk, and I think it’s in both our best interests if we are not found here together until we compare notes.”

She frowned at him, her eyes narrowed. “Who are you?”

Sounds of doors unlocking clicked through the building, the lights flickered then snapped on.

He blinked twice to set his contacts into normal mode and Winter, her ice blue eyes haunted and huge, stared unblinking at him.

His lips pulled into a half smile. “It’s Mike, Winter, Mike Hunter. And we’ve got to get out of here.”

First meeting — Sean and Dr. Al

   Dog inspection Doctor Al was a woman. That was the first thing that registered. She was petite, with very small but competent hands examining King’s body. “Carol has given your dog a dose of an
antihistamine to quiet what appears to be an allergic reaction.” She flicked her gaze to him.     “How long ago did this bite or sting happen?”
Her presence was calming. He shook away the tears that formed in his eyes at the thought of how close he’d come to losing his partner, his best friend. “Only a few minutes.” He cleared
his throat in an effort to dislodge the fear and grief clogging it. “Maybe ten minutes ago. I was a couple of blocks from here, and figured it was faster to run in than to risk going home for my
car.” He looked down at his running sweats, gave her what he hoped was an apologetic grin. “I know I stink and I don’t have any I.D. with me.” Embarrassed heat warmed his cheeks. “Or
money, because we were out running. But I don’t live far,” he assured her with a quick gesture of his hands. He hoped he could count on small town acceptance. “As soon as we have this situation
under control I’ll go get them.”
She nodded, continuing her examination. “Has this ever happened before?” When he shook his head she added, “Looks like there is only the one sting. What’s your dog’s name?”
He slid a glance to his dog. “King Solomon, but I just call him King.” At the sound of his name King raised his head, then got to his feet on the exam table, standing eye level with him
and a head taller than the doc. He leaned in and licked at his master’s face. Sean laughed, partly in relief, partly in the surging joy that his dog really would be okay. He put his arm around
King’s neck and the dog rested his chin on his shoulder.
Doctor Al lowered the stethoscope and looked into his eyes, and his breath locked in his lungs when he realized how beautiful she was. Auburn hair brushed her shoulders and framed
her face, and eyes the color of the bluest sky met his. His knees went weak. He swallowed.
A hint of pink touched her cheeks and she averted her gaze from him back to King. “I’d like to watch him for a couple of hours, make sure we don’t have any further reaction.” With
gentle fingers, she touched King’s face above the swollen eye. “I also want to clean this wound once the swelling has gone down, make sure we have the stinger and that we don’t risk infection.
Can you come back after lunch?”
Sean nodded. He usually didn’t have so much trouble thinking of something to say, but Doctor Al left him speechless. He cleared his throat. “I’ll have a break at work around 2:00.
Would that be okay?”
She nodded. “I’m sure that will work. Check with Carol at the front desk before you go.”
She smiled, and dimples appeared on both sides of her mouth. Kissing dimples. Where that thought came from, he had no idea, but he wanted to brush his lips against those smooth
cheeks, flick his tongue into the little crevasses and claim them, claim her, as his own. He shook his head, a wry smile touching his lips. Boy, oh boy, he had it bad.
She had been so serious before now. Then that smile, wow, it hit him in the gut with joy.
She started to turn away and he wondered how he could get her to stay just another minute. As if she heard his mind call out to hers, she turned, tilted her head a little, and put out
one hand. It shook, just a bit, and his heart sang. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t the only one affected by this — whatever it was which had tossed him into a sea of want — of need.
“In our hurry to get King taken care of we didn’t introduce ourselves. I’m Allison Green.” He engulfed that dainty hand in his own. It was cool, smooth, and soft. “Sean Barnett. I’m
more glad to meet you than I can ever say.” He covered their joined hands with his other hand, hoping to warm her a little, hoping to keep her close just a moment more. “Thank you so much,
Doctor Allison Green.”
There was that smile again, those irresistible kissing dimples winking out at him. “You are very welcome, Sean Barnett.” She took the end of King’s leash, which dangled from his
collar. “See you in a few hours. King, come. Heel.” King didn’t look back, just dropped down to the floor from the exam table and meekly followed the Doc without even waiting for a release
command from Sean. She did have a way with animals.

Download Animal Instinct, the first of the Time After Time Saga, from Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.

Time Traveling Enemy in 15th Century England

ProtectiveInstinctCoverArtTime After Time Saga Book Four releases August 11

Sabrina Bridges clings to her birthright as a Heartmark woman, convinced she will overcome the time-traveling enemy that plagues the women of her family. She is certain she will obtain true love with the man she gives her heart to. But how will her trusting heart survive when she learns that very man has deceived her since the moment they met?

Nicolas Mitchell’s loyalty to family and country are tested by the woman who may lead him to one who threatens all he holds dear. Nick must steel his heart against her, and deny his protective instinct for the woman who speaks of an ancient family legend and her belief that together he and she will forge a love that will last forever. Will Nick be able to complete his last mission as a spy for the Crown or will he betray his country for the sake of love?

Order from Desert Breeze Publishing.

 

 

Celebrating book release with a chance to win!

OutOfAgonyCoverArtOut of Agony now available!

I am so excited about the release of Book Four in the Starting Over Series. I hope you are, too.

We are celebrating with some great prizes including an Amazon gift card, a Starbucks/Teavana Gift Card and a free download of one of the other books in this series.

Comment here and enter for a chance to win

About this book: Brian Van Pelt has barely survived an anguished year of loss, hiding his sorrows under the facade of a cool and uncaring attorney. Not able to deny his grief any long, heartache drives him to collapse and his life takes an unexpected turn.

When Jessie Ingram comes to work at his law firm, she is intrigued by the conflicting darkness of Brian’s behavior and the tender inconsistencies that hint at something deeper within him.

Despite her interest, she has her own pain, supporting her niece Sara, who is has a virulent cancer with aggressive treatments that take such a toll they would not be worth it — except they are Sara’s only hope of survival.

Will life’s hardships bring Brian and Jessie together? Will they be able to heal and possibly find love?

Excerpt:

Will caught Jessie’s gaze. “Sorry that meltdown came now, of all times. Looks like you may be on your own with Adams, unless something changes very soon.” He bent down and picked up the papers on the floor. When he straightened he handed them to her.

“Sir, may I ask what that was all about?”

“You may, but it isn’t my story to tell. Let’s just say Brian had more than his share of personal sadness in the last year and it’s finally caught up with him.”

“Okay, I understand. But, sir, as I tried to tell Van Pelt, I can’t find the files and depositions from his earlier work. Would it be okay if I looked around in his office? If he isn’t here…”

“You’re right, we can’t wait much longer.” With a short nod, Will headed to Brian’s office, unlocked the main door, and another one in the back of the room — a storage closet?

“Thank you, sir.” Her boss left for his office and closed the door. She looked around the room. Sterile, too neat. Maybe the files in his desk drawers would reveal more.

Brian’s desk chair sat oddly positioned. Not to one side as one would leave it naturally after rising from it, but pushed back against the desk and perfectly centered in the opening. As she had done the day before, Jessie pulled it out and perched on the edge of the too-tall chair. She opened the file drawer on the left, and found it empty. How very strange. She turned to the other side of the desk, and opened the top utility drawer. Empty, too. The bottom drawer held only one thin file, unlabeled. She pulled it out and placed it on the desk. She opened it to find what she least expected.

The picture of a little girl smiled up at her. She was probably around kindergarten age, judging by the one missing front tooth. Was Brian Van Pelt a father? She turned to the next sheet and found a crayon picture of a house, three people and a dog. The people were labeled Mommy, Daddy and Trudy in a child’s crayoned letters. The dog was Ollie. Beside the house was a big tree with a swing hanging from it.

She put the folder back into the drawer and turned to the closet. She didn’t mean to be nosy about his personal life. Will said he’d recently divorced. All the personal connections were probably damaged or at least fragile, even with his little girl. Still, it was mind boggling that he didn’t have a single work paper in his desk. He must have work files somewhere.

She opened the closet door and gasped at the sight of open file drawers, some no longer in the frame but tipped on their sides against the marred walls as if someone had thrown them there. It would take great strength to throw a full file drawer. Papers spread everywhere. She looked over her shoulder at the compulsively neat office, and back at the devastation before her. Could these contrasting areas be the workspace of the same man? It was incomprehensible. How could the cold, calculating, maybe even mean man be the man who saved the kindergarten photo and drawing in the place closest to him?

Download now and read the rest of this story.

 

Through July 21 — 99cents for More Than a Job

cover for on line adIn honor or the release of Book Four in the Starting Over series, Book One is on sale.

Starting Over Book One: More Than A Job

Paige Hamilton is forced to seek a new life when her consuming, 24/7 job ends at the hands of a new company owner. But Paige is a survivor, and begins to build a new life, one that may even have room for romance.

A handsome stranger helps her through the transition, and soon she falls fast and hard for Joshua Robinson. Then she discovers he is the cruel owner, and that the company she loved — the company that cared so much about the adults with disabilities who lived in their homes — is in a downward spiral that puts the life of one of her friends at risk.

Romance, job loss, life coaching, hidden family treasures, and a secret about an uncle she’d never met — Paige learns that life is More Than A Job.

http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Starting-Over-Book-ebook/dp/B007F4D0CO/ref=la_B008E8P1AO_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405892439&sr=1-4

First Kiss – Brian and Jessie

“How about a walk now?” Jessie smiled up at him. “It is a beautiful evening. If you let me drop the food in my car and pick up my jacket, I’d love to walk around the plaza.”

“Perfect.” He claimed her free hand in his and they walked out into the gentle spring night.

After he settled the jacket around her shoulders, he buttoned the top button for her. He reached for one of the curls around her face. It was soft and springy to his touch, just as he’d imagined.

“Naturally curly or cuOutOfAgonyCoverArtrling iron?”

“Naturally curly.” She winked at him. “When you meet the rest of the family you will see it is definitely in the genes.”

He’d like to meet her family someday.

He stroked her cheek with one knuckle. She was so beautiful. She watched his eyes as he moved his hand down to her chin. He tipped her face a little closer to his. Her rosy pink lips parted slightly. They simply begged for a kiss and he couldn’t resist. He dropped his lips to hers, continuing the soft, gentle theme of their evening. Her lips were warm and smooth under his. He brushed them lightly and pulled back a bit so he could see her response.

She reached up to cradle his face between her hands, sinking her fingers into his beard, and pulled his face closer. She kissed him back, a sweet, warm, caring kiss.

Her touch soothed the pain in him somehow. She broke the kiss and looked at him. Tears swam in her eyes. “It’s today, isn’t it?”

For a heartbeat he wasn’t sure what she was asking, but connected the tears with his own grief and nodded.

“I thought so. Thank you for sharing this day with me. How difficult that must have been.”

“Not as much as you might think. Want to take a stroll while I tell you about it?”

Buy Out of Agony from Amazon.com or Dessert Breeze Publishing. Available July 21.

A first kiss for Jen and Michael

Excerpt from Finding Her Voice:FindingHerVoiceCoverArt

“Are you as giddy as I am, Jen? I feel like a young lad with his first crush.”

“Yes, I am giddy. As much as we’ve talked, and as much as I’ve enjoyed our daily conversations, this is much, much nicer.” She took his arm and pulled him a little closer to her side. He put his arm around her waist, and she copied the gesture. They paced their steps to match.

“It is nicer, but I must admit I feel close to you whether we talk or not, walk or not. Since the first day we connected online I was drawn to you, you know.”

“You, too?” She stopped walking and he turned to look at her. Her face was radiant in the fading light.

He traced her jaw with one finger, needing to continue to touch her.

“Me, too. You captured my heart before we’d shared ten words.”

Was that a blush? Hard to tell between the naturally dark skin tone and the limited light.

“Is that a little crazy?”

He shook his head and attempted to explain. “I don’t think so. I think there are kindred souls in this world. People who know and understand each other instinctively, effortlessly. I suspect we are two such people. I marvel at the connection, the way I feel so comfortable and so at ease with you, the way you seem to understand what I try to say even if I stumble over my words.”

They stood a few inches apart. She stepped forward, closed the distance between them and placed her lips to his ear.

“And when you whisper in my ear, like this,” she murmured softly, “I get goosebumps — the good kind.”

He reached out with one hand firmly on her waist so she couldn’t lean away, and with the other, stroked her cheek. She leaned into his hand and looked into his eyes again, then closed her eyelids and parted her lips ever so slightly.

It was an unmistakable invitation, and he obliged very gently, dropped his mouth to hers, and moved lightly across. She increased the pressure ever so slightly, kissed him back. He was the one who pulled away. She opened her eyes and looked into his again.

Placing a hand on each side of her face, he stroked his thumbs over her high cheekbones. “Oh, Jen, luv, touching you is sweet. So sweet.”

She smiled ever so slightly and leaned in for another kiss. “Sweet indeed, sweet Michael,” she whispered and then kissed him again.

Buy Finding Her Voice today at Desert Breeze Publishing or Amazon.com