New Release- Captivated by Stacy-Deanne

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Interracial Romantic Suspense

When she first lays eyes on Mya Riley’s slashed up body, Baltimore Detective Lisa Swanson is certain that the Sandman, a ruthless serial killer from her past has reemerged. Lisa dives headfirst into the case with her partner Dee, and lovesick Winston Lewis, a detective who grows more captivated with Lisa by the day.

The Sandman wreaks bloodthirsty havoc throughout the city, and this time he is determined to make Lisa his victim.

Armed with intense hatred for the Sandman and a stifling fear of who might end up dead next, Lisa struggles to solve the case by the book. But when the Sandman switches up his plan and goes after her lover Jake…Lisa ignores all the rules.

   Sugar and Spice Press  

Excerpt: 

“There’s a song stuck in my head.” He hummed it. “I was listening to it earlier but can’t think of the name.” He swayed Lisa while he hummed. “It’s been a while since we danced.” He twirled them around in circles.

Lisa laughed. “Whoa! You’re putting all the moves on me.”

“You always like it when I do this.” He lifted the front of his wheelchair off the floor and came back down. “You like that, huh?”

“Whoa!” She laughed. “You’re right. It’s been a while since we went dancing.” She put her hand in his as he swerved them across the kitchen. “So we can go dancing then.” She lifted her head from his shoulder. “We could both use a break, don’t you think?” She played with a button on his shirt. “We can go to the Rush.”

He rolled his eyes. “How come we always go to the wheelchair nightclubs?”

“I thought it was your favorite place. I just want you to be comfortable.”

“I want us to go dancing for real.” He laid his arm on the armrest. “I used to love dancing.” He got teary-eyed. “I miss that the most.”

She kissed his hand.

“I wanna take you dancing like a real man would.”

“You are a real man.” She got off him. “And we can dance the regular way right here.”

He got a paper towel off the table and dabbed his eyes. “What are you talking about?”

She went across to the living room and turned on the stereo in the entertainment system.

“Okay, let’s find something good.” She stopped on her favorite station that played old-school slow jams. The sultry beginning of Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” began. “Uh-huh.” Lisa bobbed her head. “That’s what I’m talking about.” She shimmied back into the kitchen.

“I love this song.” Jake tossed the paper towel on the table.

Lisa stood in front of him and held out her hands. “May I have this dance?”

“What?” he whispered.

She bent down. “You said you wanted to dance the real way. Let’s dance the real way.”

“You know my legs are too weak.”

She took his hands. “Then lean on me.”

He took a deep breath and slowly rose from the chair. “Oh.”

“It’s okay.” She put her arms around him. “I got you.”

He stood straight and put his weight on Lisa. “I’m six three and two hundred pounds.” He leaned on her. “I’m gonna crush you.”

“I’m stronger than you think.” She laid her head on his chest. “Just take it slow and relax.”

He stumbled a bit then picked up his feet in perfect rhythm.

“Wow.” Lisa held him tighter. “You’re a smooth dancer, Jake.”

His lips brushed her cheek. “This feels amazing.” He swayed. “Just like the old days.”

“See?” She moved her hand up his back. “Now you’re leading.” She lifted her head. “How does it feel?”

“I…” His voice cracked. “I haven’t danced since two thousand eight.”

“Well, you’re dancing now.” She kissed him. “And you’re doing it beautifully.”

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About the Author: 

Stacy-Deanne (Dee-Anne) is a published novelist of interracial romantic suspense and mystery novels. She started writing professionally in 1997 when she was nineteen years old. Stacy grew up loving the suspense genre. Her idols are Edgar Allan Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. Her love for Psycho and many of his movies fueled her fire for suspense.

She was born, raised, and resides in Houston, Texas.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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It’s Bernadette Marie’s 15th Release!!!!

Yep, that’s right, Bernadette Marie has published her 15th novel! If you’ve been following The Keller Family Series, then you’ve been waiting in anticipation for Book  Seven, HOME RUN!

HR2

Contemporary Romance

In one moment Christian Keller’s life was changed. Now as he picks up the pieces he wonders if he can possibly recoup what he lost.

Victoria Lincoln had a promising future with Christian until an accident took the life of her sister and left her as guardian to her two small children.

Their lives have gone in different directions, but Christian and Victoria’s paths will cross again. It will take a lot of change to pick up where they left off—if either of them can.

Amazon     5 Prince Publishing 

Excerpt: 

There was a pure energy in the car as they drove away from the arena. Christian Keller had it all, just when he thought he’d lost it.

His career ending injuries were just the start to finding out he could keep going and that’s what he was doing.

He’d just watched his sister perform with her husband, on stage at the Bridgestone Arena right there in Nashville. Hometown kids making it big time.

As his best friend Dave pulled out of the parking lot the number one country song came on the radio, and wouldn’t you know it, it was Clara and Warner Wright, his sister and her husband.

Christian’s fiancée Victoria hugged his arm and slid across the back seat as close as she could to him. “That was the best concert ever. Your sister and Warner were phenomenal. The Broke Tourists are one of my favorite bands. And that Savannah and her hair!”

Ashley, Victoria’s sister, turned in her seat and looked at her. “I know, right? Do you think we could buy hair like that?”

They both laughed, but Christian just took in the ambiance.

His career as a baseball player was over. He had come to grips with that. It had caused him a lot of emotional and physical pain, over the past year, but now he had new things to look forward too.

They were already talking about him coming into the organization as management. The woman of his dreams had accepted his marriage proposal and wore his ring. And tonight he’d take her home, to the home he had built—for them. It was a surprise and he had something very special planned.

“You know,” Victoria continued. “Ali would love a Savannah wig. We should think about marketing them.”

“My kids and their tastes,” Ashley added.

Laughter filled the car and then a scream pierced the air.

A blinding white light forced him to cover his eyes.

Christian sat up in bed. His heart was racing. His face and hair were wet. And he was alone.

He threw his head back against his pillow.

Of course he was alone. He’d been alone for almost a year and the replay of that night wouldn’t give him any peace.

Christian rolled to his side and he looked at his phone on the night stand. It was five-thirty in the morning. He let out a grunt and rolled out of bed.

It took a minute for his knee to be stable under him. His shoulder ached, as it had since the surgery on it after the accident.

He flipped on the light in the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. The jagged scar on his forehead was beginning to fade, but it would always remind him that on that night he’d lost everything. His career. His best friend. And even if her life wasn’t taken—he’d lost his fiancée.

Well that was life now. She had a lot to deal with too.

Christian splashed his face with cold water.

Victoria’s life had changed drastically when that drunk driver crossed the median. She’d lost her sister in that moment. Her leg was shattered. And she was the next of kin to her niece and nephew, whom she was now raising.

A single woman trying to advance her career and plan a wedding was now guardian to a two year old and a four year old—and he was no help.

Christian turned on the shower and let it warm.

He’d been so overwhelmed with losing his best friend he’d nearly lost his mind. And it wasn’t losing him it was watching him die and not being able to get free from the accident to help him.

Just the thought of it made his heart kick start again.

He slipped off his boxers and climbed into the shower. But no matter how hot the water was, it would never wash away the pain that day still caused.

By six thirty he was dressed and sitting in his quiet kitchen having a cup of coffee. The dress shirt and tie made him uncomfortable, but it was the way he had to dress for work now. He supposed he owed it to his brother and uncle for stepping in and giving him a job, though he didn’t care much about construction.

His entire family had stepped in when he needed them. There was no way to repay them. His sister Clara and cousin Avery were at his house daily to make sure he ate. His mother stopped and cleaned the house. His future sister-in-law Darcy made him freezer dinners and stocked them for him.

It had been like this for a year.

When would it all ease so he could get on with his life?

Before lunch the door to his office creaked open and Darcy stuck her head in.

“I’m going to lunch with my bridesmaids. Ed is free for Chinese food. He said to send you his way when you’re done.”

Christian nodded. “I’ll be done in a few.”

Darcy shut the door and Christian was alone, again. It was funny, he thought, for being so alone all the time there were always people around him. That was what came with a big family.

A new Chinese restaurant had opened just down the street and Ed had been dying to try it. Christian figured it would be good for leftovers and that would warm up for dinner. It was just one less thing to think about.

“So did you look over that proposal I sent you?” Ed asked as he adjusted the place setting in front of him.

“Yeah. I don’t know if I understand any of it. Could you work in some baseball terms?”

Ed laughed. “It’s a baseball stadium. I thought you’d want to be part of that.”

Christian put down his menu. “You’d think huh?”

He lazily looked around the restaurant and that was when a set of dark eyes caught his.

Victoria waved and was already walking toward them.

It had been nearly eight months since he’d seen her—since he’d told her that he wasn’t someone who could just take on someone else’s children and start from there. That was the day she walked out of his life. God, he was an idiot.

She looked different. Her hair was shorter and there were dark circles under her eyes, as if she hadn’t slept in eight months. He probably looked like that too. He never got a good night’s sleep.

“Hello, Chris.” She smiled down at him and then turned her smile to Ed. “Hi, Ed.”

“Tori!” Ed crawled out of the booth and gave her a hug. “How are you?”

“I’m good.” Christian wondered if she noticed her voice quivered.

“How are the kids?”

Christian watched as her jaw tightened and she kept her eyes on Ed. “Sam just turned three last weekend. He’s into everything. Ali just started kindergarten.”

“Wow.” Ed looked at Christian. “Kids get big fast, eh, Chris?”

Christian narrowed his stare on his brother.

“You’ll be at the wedding right?” Ed was touching her arm. “I thought Darcy said you’d RSVP’d.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Ali can’t stop talking about it.”

“I look forward to it.” Ed smiled and then both of them looked at Christian still seated in the booth.

“Guess we’ll see you then,” he croaked out.

Victoria nodded and forced a smile. As she walked past him, limping just as he did now too, she put her hand on his shoulder. “It was good to see you, Chris.”

Then she was gone.

Ed sat back down and shook his head. “You’re pathetic.”

“Me? Why?”

“She’s still in love with you.”

“She is not. She dumped me.”

“Because she had to.”

“Had to?” He picked up his hot tea and burned the pads of his fingers and then his throat. But it was worth it.

Ed opened the package of chop sticks by his plate and tore the two wooden pieces apart. “She lost a lot that night. Her sister died. Her brother-in-law died. She got two kids to raise and has no parents to help her. She’s all alone and all you could tell her was you weren’t ready for a fully formed family. I didn’t realize you were an asshole, until that day.”

If Christian was the man he used to be, he’d be up from that table and have pulled his brother out of that side of the booth by his shirt collar. But as if to remind him that he wasn’t an athlete any more, his knee throbbed and the pain shot up through his body.

“She didn’t need me around when she was trying to get things taken care of.”

“You’re right. Six surgeries on your leg and two toddlers at home is a piece of cake. Why have the man you love getting in the way?”

Christian swallowed hard. He didn’t need his brother poking at him. It had been a year and he felt bad enough.

Luckily the food arrived just in time for his brother to shove some in his mouth and shut up. Christian, on the other hand had lost his appetite.

He had become a pathetic loser and he’d lost the only thing that he’d ever cared about—Victoria.

He took another long, scalding sip of his tea. Maybe Ed’s wedding would be the perfect place to apologize for being an ass.

It wasn’t in him to be a father right now, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t be a friend. She looked as though she certainly could use one. And they’d been friends too—hadn’t they?

Christian tore open his chop sticks and broke them apart. As he picked up a pot sticker he thought about his parents.

They’d been divorced when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and her husband had walked out on her to marry another woman and have a baby. She was alone with three kids.

He tugged at his collar because it was getting hot.

His own father, who was at the time engaged to Kathy, still stepped up and took care of his mother. Damn, he’d even shaved his head for her.

That was love. That was commitment.

It was right too. His father’s marriage to Kathy lasted less than a day and he was back with Christian’s mom and had been married, again, ever since.

What had Christian done when the woman he loved needed him? He backed away.

He put down the pot sticker. Again, he wasn’t hungry.

They’d both lost a lot that night when that drunk driver hit that car. Lives changed in a flash—a bright white flash.

Ed was right. He was pathetic.

But he was done being pathetic. It was time Christian Keller took his life back—and the woman.

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5 Prince Publishing Launch Day for Bernadette Marie!About the Author: 

Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie is known for building families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series and single title books. The married mother of five sons promises Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it, because she lives it.

When not writing, Bernadette Marie is shuffling her sons to their many events—mostly hockey—and enjoying the beautiful views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from her front step. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.

A chronic entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie opened her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too.

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MJ

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5 Prince Publishing #NewRelease- Blissful Tragedy by Amy L. Gale!

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Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance

Sometimes love is more than tragedy or bliss.

 Ambitious 22-year-old Lexie Waters is intent on taking the advertising world by storm.  When she’s offered the soon to be open position she’s been vying for at a swanky advertising agency, there’s only one last summer separating her from dreams of corporate success.  Still bitter from catching her boyfriend cheating, she heads out for a night of fun to see her favorite band, Devil’s Garden, but fun turns into utter embarrassment when she insults the enticingly confident lead singer, Van Sinclair.  Van is intrigued by Lexie’s ability to resist his charm and secretly obtains her cell number.  Shocked but eager to get to know this captivating rocker, Lexie accepts Van’s invitation to see his next show, which requires an overnight stay.  The overwhelming feelings that follow take them both by surprise, and with two months left before starting her sought after new position, Lexie joins the tour. As she’s catapulted into the world of groupies and wild parties, she questions Van’s commitment to her. So what happens at summer’s end when time runs out?

Amazon     5 Prince Publishing

Excerpt: 

CHAPTER 1—THE CONCERT

 

An eerie silence takes over the dark night sky. I stare straight ahead and breathe slowly, trying to ignore the pounding of my heart. The crisp, cool, spring air caresses my body and heightens my senses. I shiver slightly. The bone-rattling drum beat pulsates through my chest. I jump up from my seat as the guitar screams its heavy ear-splitting shriek, like a choir of electric angels. A frenzy of loud cheers emerges, piercing through the calmness as hundreds of fans leap to their feet. The bright lights focus on center stage. I take a deep breath and stare at the silhouette slowly being illuminated.

Van Sinclair stands so close that if I lunged forward, I’d crash into six feet of pure muscle. My eyes fixate on his light-brown, shoulder length, perfectly messy hair that frames his chiseled face. Then, they travel down to the tight black T-shirt that clings to every sculpted muscle of his torso, flaunting them in just the right way. My lips part and chills flood my body causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. I hold in a deep breath and slowly exhale as he grips the microphone stand, pulling it close to his body. He closes his eyes and begins to belt out the lyrics. His raw powerful tones, both decades old and brand new at the same time, resonate through the night sky. Hot lights shining down on the stage highlight a bead of sweat that runs down his arm, over the impeccably detailed dragon tattooed on his left bicep. He lifts his head and looks into the crowd. My heart races as I stare into his exquisite emerald green eyes, mesmerized.

“Oh my God, he’s so hot!” Brooke yells into my ear, breaking my trance. “His picture doesn’t do him justice.”

“You can say that again,” Sydney agrees.

Breathless, all I can do is nod.

Devil’s Garden is promoting their best album yet. Even though the two-thousand-seat amphitheater is not the largest of venues, it’s sold out tonight. A wall of bodies closes in, pushing us toward the stage. The hard wood against my palms keeps the crowd at bay. Can it keep me from being crushed for the whole two hour set? My skin glistens as the three of us sway, moving to the music. Wait, is Van Sinclair watching me? Yeah right, like that would happen.

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Amy GaleAbout the Author: 

Romance author by night, pharmacist by day, Amy Gale loves rock music and the feel of sand between her toes.  She attended Wilkes University where she graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. In addition to writing, she enjoys baking, scary movies, rock concerts, and reading books at the beach.  She lives in the lush forest of Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, six cats, and golden retriever.

 Website     Twitter     Email

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MJ

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My Valentine’s Day Gift to You!

Once again, I’m bringing my readers a gift, by popular demand…a Mini Memoir of a day in the life of Yasmine and Zachariah!

If you’ve read Jaded, you’re familiar with the ups and downs of their relationship, and know that it was work for these two characters to find their happily ever after. But now it’s Valentine’s Day. How do they handle it? Check out this short story to find out!

And don’t forget to mark your calendars! Kaitlyn’s story, Lonely Heart will be here in 21 Days!!!! 

Autumn landscape

Valentine’s Day

Yasmine

 

“Yasmine, I looooovvvee it! As always, you know exactly what looks best on me!”

“Just doing my job.” I smiled as Mrs. Hill continued to model the strapless black dress, with the simple short sleeved jacket, I selected for her.

“Harold is going to be blown away,” she chuckled as her cheeks turned pink.

I laughed, too. Mrs. Hill was in her fifties and had been married for nearly thirty years. One of my most loyal customers, she’d been with me since I decided to start my own fashion consultant business a year ago.

“But, we both know the dress is not what’s going to blow him away. It’s what hidden beneath,” I teased.

Mrs. Hill’s attention turned to the sexy red lingerie hanging on the dressing room door. A mixture of excitement and trepidation appeared on her face. “Are you sure about that? I don’t have the body of a twenty-year old anymore.”

I inclined my head, putting one hand on my hip. “When have I steered you wrong?”

She wrung her hands. “Never…it’s just…it’s been a while since I’ve worn something sexy to bed.”

“Who said you had to wear it to bed? You and Mr. Hill are empty nesters. With Melody gone to college, there are no more kids in the house. You can christen your home all over again. Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time.”

A girlish laugh emerged as she covered her mouth with both hands. “I don’t know…”

“Look at it this way…at least you won’t get pregnant.” I slid to the end of the chair, gripped the armrest, and pulled my pregnant body out of the chair.  Sitting next to the dressing room made it easier to see my clients as they went through each wardrobe change. My hand went to the small of my back.

Carrying twins was kicking my butt. Six months into my pregnancy and I was twice as big as I had ever been. My breasts were swollen and feet aching. How in the world was I supposed to make it for three more months?

“You know, you’re right.” She eyed my belly and smiled. “I remember those days…aches and pains. After four kids, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have two inside at one time.”

I rubbed my belly as my son and daughter took turns kicking, and smiled. “Never a dull moment and I’m never alone.”

“So true. Okay, I’m going to take this off now. Do I need accessories to go with it?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll select a few pieces while you change.”

Mrs. Hill nodded, then slipped into the dressing room.

I made my way to the jewelry department of the store to select pieces to compliment her outfit.

Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year when couples were expected to declare their love for the world to see.

I lost my love for the holiday years ago.

After dealing with men on friends-with-benefits bases, for years my February 14th routine involved soaking in the bathtub with a glass of wine, followed by a double date with my two favorite men, Ben and Jerry. A pint of Karamel Sutra ice cream, and watching my DVD collection of Criminal Minds, filled my evening, taking my mind off of romance completely.

Well, except for imagining what it would be like to be with Shamar Moore.

But this year was different. I was no longer alone. Besides being pregnant, I was married to my best friend and the love of my life. Zachariah was everything I’d secretly wanted in a husband and more. What would I do without him?

I knew the answer too well. After our brief separation, it was obvious; being apart from him would devastate me.

Now that we were together again, why didn’t I feel the same way he did about the holiday?

For the past week he’d walked around the house humming; alluding to some secret surprise. I had no idea what it was, but knew it involved leaving the house for the night and having dinner at some romantic restaurant. After that, I’m sure coming home and making love was the next thing on his list.

I forced my attention back to my job and selected a platinum choker and matching earrings. Mrs. Hill would love it.

My client was set, but what was I going to wear tonight?

Over the past few months, my collection of maternity clothes had grown. Being a fashion consultant meant I had to look just as good, or better, than what I did for my clients. Even with a hurt back and swollen ankles.

I had several outfits to choose from, but honestly, I was too exhausted to be in the mood for anything else other putting on my comfortable night shirt and cuddling with my husband in bed.

“Oh that is perfect!”

Forced out of my thoughts, I turned to find Mrs. Hill standing next to me. I held the jewelry next to her dress. “Do you like it?”

“Absolutely!”

“Good, let’s go find a pair of shoes.”

****

“I’ll be leaving work soon. I can’t wait to see you. Our dinner reservations are for eight,” Zack said, his voice full of excitement.

I kept my sigh hidden, sat on the edge of the bed, and kicked off my fashionable flats. “You’re not going to tell me where we’re going, are you?”

He chuckled. “No, then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

I smiled and shook his head. His enthusiasm was infectious. “Well, I’m going to take a shower and freshen up a bit. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

My husband’s picture stayed on the screen for a few moments before the cell phone shut down to conserve power. I walked to the closet and searched through my wardrobe. Zack would be expecting something sexy…

I chuckled. With the thirty added pounds to my breasts, butt, and hips, sexy was the last thing I felt. Zack, on the other hand, loved every inch of my swollen body. He constantly wore the expression of a man proud of the fact that he’d been virile.

We were on our honeymoon when I suggested we not waste time starting a family. Zack had been eager to become a father. It wasn’t long before I got pregnant.

I selected a hot, red number guaranteed to make my husband happy. The maternity dress was a short crossover knit that featured a V-neck drop, allowing my bosom visibility.  I searched the closet floor for the perfect pair of shoes to go with it, deciding to put on a pair of pumps that accentuated my long legs. Those shoes would only be worn from the car and into the restaurant. In-between I’d wear my flats.

In the bathroom, I stepped into the shower, making use of the fragrant body wash that made me feel sexy. By the time I got out, my muscles were so relaxed, I needed to lie down. According to the clock beside the bed, I had at least forty-five minutes to take a nap before getting ready for our date. That would be enough time to rejuvenate for the evening my husband had in store.

 

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Valentine’s Day

Zachariah

 

“I need two dozen calla lilies.”

“Lucky lady,” the florist said, dollar signs in her eyes. “And this is for Valentine’s Day?”

“Yes, for my wife.” I would never get tired of saying that.

“Ahh…how long have you been married?”

“Eight months.”

“Congratulations. Is this is your first Valentine’s Day as a married couple?”

“It’s our first, ever.” The florist eyebrows rose in surprise. “It’s a long story,” I added.

She nodded, then walked to the refrigerated portion of the shop where a variety of fresh flowers were on display. “Your wife obviously likes calla lilies since you’re not asking for roses.”

“Yes, she does.”

“Since this is your first Valentine’s Day gift, I suggest you do something a bit more unique. Remember, this will set the standard for the next celebrations to come. Tell me about her. What else does she like? Is there something significant going on in your lives? Any accomplishments she’s proud of or that you are proud of?”

This was a no brainer. “She started her own business a few months ago, one she’s been working hard for since the day we met.”

“That’s good. What does she do?”

“She’s a fashion consultant and works with women who need help building their wardrobe and self-esteem.”

Her eyebrow went up. “Hmm…I could use help freshening up my wardrobe.”

I smiled. “I’ll be sure to give you her number.”

The florist perused the flowers, reaching in to select a few stems. “Anything else?”

“She’s pregnant with twins. A son and a daughter.” My chest poked out with pride.

“Oh, now that is something to celebrate. Congratulations, papa!”

“Thank you.” Even though the pregnancy was planned, I felt as though we’d hit the lottery. Twins ran on her side of the family, though, according to my mother-in-law, it had been years since a set were born.

“The perfect floral arrangement should represent her dreams, your children, your marriage… and your future.” She studied the flowers. “How about this, instead of calla lilies, we use Stargazer lilies. The full, vibrant blooms and rich pink color will represent your wife’s ambitions. We’ll accent it with traditional red and soft pink roses for friendship and passion, and…,” she searched around some more, then pulled out a few more flowers. “White Gerbera daisies for the innocence of your unborn children.”

I studied the assortment of flowers she held in her hand. “Wow, I’m impressed. That’s perfect.”

“Good. I’ll put these together for you. It should be ready in say…twenty minutes?”

“Enough time for me to go next door and look for a card to go with it.”

I left the flower shop and went to the grocery store next door. This evening was going to be perfect. I secured reservations for a dinner in advance of the holiday. The restaurant we were going to was special. It was the Italian restaurant where we had our first date.

I chuckled at the memory.

In truth, it was anything but a date. Instead, it was a last minute decision to go out for dinner to thank her for putting a smile on my mother’s face for her birthdate. At the time we were acquaintances; neither of us had any intention of getting involved in a romantic relationship.

Who know a candlelit dinner would lead to friendship, then love and marriage. And now, a family.

I checked my watch, then searched until I found the card bearing the perfect sentiment and imagining Yasmine’s reaction. Tonight was going to be perfect.

****

 “Yasmine, baby, I’m home!”

There was no answer.

I balanced the large vase of flowers in the crook of my arm, then closed and locked the door behind me. The house was dark and silent. Not the greeting I expected. She was usually in the kitchen or sitting in the living room watching TV or reading a book.

On instinct, I walked through the house, my heart racing, checking every room, forcing myself to ignore the flashback of the night we found my mother nearly unconscious.

The moment I reached the bedroom and turned on the light, I took a deep breath.

Yasmine laid on the bed, clothed in her bathrobe, slippers on her feet…and fast asleep. I sat the vase of flowers on the dresser and walked over to the bed, easing down beside her so as not to wake her.

Her hair was damp; her clothes for the evening lay at the foot of the bed. Apparently she decided to rest after getting out of the shower and instead fell into a deep slumber. I checked the time. There was no way we’d be able to make our reservation. A part of me felt disappointment; the other half understood my wife needed time to rest.

After all, she was carrying our babies.

I reached out to run a hand over her belly and was rewarded with a slight kick. I wished there was a way to tell which one of our children had attempted to say hello.

After a moment, I turned out the light and went into the kitchen to scrounge something up for dinner. When Yasmine woke, she would be hungry. Ravenous was the correct statement.

There was a Bertolli frozen meal for two in the freezer. Homemade Italian would work. I went into the living room and turned on a CD, letting the smooth sounds of Kem fill the house while I put together a salad and chilled a bottle of apple juice.

Once dinner was ready, I checked on Yasmine again; she was still asleep. Instead of waking her, I slid into bed behind her, slipping my hand around her belly, cradling her and our unborn babies once again.

Yasmine stirred when I nuzzled her neck. “Zack, baby, what time is it?”

“After eight,” I said, and then kissed her shoulder.

Her hand went to her forehead. “Oh man, I’m so sorry. I ruined everything.” She turned her head in an attempt to see me over her shoulder.

I kissed her lips. “You were asleep when I came home. I didn’t want to wake you, so I decided to make dinner instead.” I massaged her belly. “How are my babies?”

She smiled and placed her hand over mine. “Fine, and starving. It smells good. What did you make?”

“Shrimp Scampi and Linguine, salad, and garlic and cheese bread sticks.”

Her stomach growled, making me smile. “Dinner is simmering, so there’s no need for you to rush to get up.”

“Thank you,” she said, resting her head against the pillow and settling her back against me. “Oh wow, Zack, are those for me?”

I followed her line of site to the vase of fragrant flowers sitting on the bedroom dresser. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh, they are beautiful. Now I really feel awful. I didn’t get you anything. Between work and being tired…trying to figure out what you would want got pushed to the side. Then I come home and go to sleep…”

Yasmine had a lot on her plate. Managing her business, running our household, and managing her health while carrying our children. I could only imagine how worn out she would be once they were born.

“It’s okay, really.” I brushed the sting of disappointment aside.

Yasmine turned in my arms to face me, her expression pained. “No, there’s no excuse. I’ve already failed you once as a wife. I promised never to do it again, and yet…here we are.”

“We were both wrong then, and the past is the past.” I kissed her lips. “There’s no looking back, remember?”

“I know.” She sighed heavily, then looked down at her hand resting on my chest. “To be honest, Zack, I didn’t know how to handle Valentine’s Day. I’ve always spent it alone. Besides, spending money to tell someone you love them is overrated. If you love someone, you show them every day. There’s no need to go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money. Do you know how many relationships are ruined over the type of gift someone did or didn’t buy?”

“True, but that’s not us.” I ran a hand over her check, brushing her short locks away from her face.

“I know, I’m just saying, that’s how I feel. I guess since we’re married, there’s no need to feel like that anymore.”

I chuckled. “It’s funny, you’re anti-Valentine’s Day, and I’m willing to go all in.”

“And that’s what I love about you, Zack. You wear your heart on your sleeve, even when you think you don’t.”

“Only when it comes to you. You and our children are my future. I’m nothing without you.”

“I know what you mean. I can’t imagine being without you, either.”

I sat up and kissed my wife. The soft feel of her lips and fragrant smell of her skin was all I needed to know my wife loved me. “You know, there’s only one gift you can give that will forever mean the most to me.”

She studied my eyes as if getting the answer meant the difference between life and death. “What’s that?”

I rubbed her belly again. “Our children. Speaking of which, we need to decide on some names.”

“We already have two names. Belinda and Charles. I promised your mother her granddaughter would be named after her.”

“True, and I thank you for it. But don’t you think those names are a bit out dated?”

Yasmine smiled. “You sound just like your mother. She said the same thing.”

“I am my mother’s son. Why don’t we use them as middle names?”

She inclined her head in thought. “I can do that. I’ve been thinking…do you want to have a junior?”

“I thought about it, but since I’m not a junior and want my son to have my father’s name, I’m willing to wait until the next time I get you pregnant.”

Yasmine laughed. “Who said there would be a next time? I’m knocked up with twins. Our hand will be full for a while.”

“True, but I’m willing to bet after a year or two, I can convince you to try again.” I grinned and wagged my eyebrows.

“Yeah, well, I guess you could, especially since you know exactly how to turn me on.” I groaned as my wife ran a hand over my chest.

She had no idea how sexy she was. Full breasts, wide hips, and just the right amount of flesh on her already sexy behind…I loved my wife’s pregnant body. While I would love to have her back at her pre-pregnancy physic, a part of me was going to miss this.

“So, if we don’t name him Junior, and Charles will be his middle name, what do you think about Jayden?” she asked.

“Jayden? I like that.”

“So our son’s name will be Jayden Charles Givens. What about our daughter?”

“Well, I imagine her being as strong-willed as you, so she needs a strong name. I like Mackenzie.”

“Wow, that’s different. Mackenzie Belinda Givens?” Yasmine mulled over my suggestion.

“You don’t like it?”

“Actually, I do. Zack, do you realize in three months we will officially be a family? Your mother would be proud.”

I felt tightness in my chest. “I know, my father, too.” I kissed my wife, grateful yet again for the blessing bestowed upon me and for listening to my mother’s advice. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Yasmine.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.”

 

The End

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I hope you enjoyed this brief peek back into the life of Yasmine and Zachariah. For their full story, read Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs). Be sure to check out the character bios, and diary post! Look out for book 3, Lonely Heart, which will be available from 5 Prince Publishing on March 6, 2014! Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs. Happy Reading!

 

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LONELY HEART (Book 3 of The Butterfly Memoirs) Cover Reveal and Contest!!!!!

This has been a long time coming….okay to readers that is, but to me, it got here sooner than I expected! In 25 days, Kaitlyn Rodger’s story will be here. If you’ve followed The Butterfly Memoirs since Book 1, A Heart Not Easily Broken, then you know Kaitlyn has had a back seat to the drama in the lives of her best friends, Ebony and Yasmine. But regardless, every one has their own story….and some aren’t as innocent as they seem….

Autumn landscape

Contemporary Romance, Interracial Romance, Women’s Fiction

Instead of planning her wedding, Kaitlyn Rodgers is facing motherhood alone, the pressures of a new job, and caring for her rebellious younger sister. What should have been the happiest time of her life turns into one stressful event after another.

After watching his father struggle to raise a family by himself, auto mechanic Antonio Rodriguez refuses to follow his father’s footsteps…even if it means a lifetime of loneliness.

When Kaitlyn’s car breaks down, though, Antonio goes beyond auto repairs to take care of her needs. An unexpected friendship begins, allowing them a glimpse of happiness…until the father of Kaitlyn’s child returns, ready to offer her marriage and a future. But at what cost?

 Available from 5 Prince Publishing March 6th

Excerpt: 

Prologue

 

 “Kaity, are you sure this is what you want?”

A final scan of the room showed nothing left behind. “Yes, Ebony, I’m positive. Luke made it clear he doesn’t want this baby, which means he doesn’t want me.”

After months of failed attempts to convince my boyfriend of two years keeping our family together was best, I had had enough.  The moment he learned about the pregnancy, he suggested abortion. After arguing, he conceded to try and work things out. Everything went fine for a while, but the more I asked him to participate in the doctor’s appointments and for ideas about setting up the baby’s room, the more standoffish he became.

His decision to avoid the sonogram and ignore my calls and text messages was enough.

I had three months until my baby’s arrival.

My baby…Who’d have thought I’d become a single mom?

A few short months ago, my life was perfect. I worked my dream job and had a man who loved me.

Tunes out I was wrong about that.

I made some bad decisions in my life, but it was too late to change them now.

For the next three months my focus would be providing my baby with a happy home.  And regardless of what Luke thought, he would still have responsibility in providing for his child.

“That’s everythin’. Let’s get out of here before he gets home.”

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 ***Psst!!! If you haven’t read Book 2, Jaded, grab a copy today! Kaitlyn’s story starts here!***

***By the way, if you haven’t read the first novel in The Butterfly Memoirs, A Heart Not Easily Broken, now’s your chance! For ONE WEEK ONLY you can get it for .99 cents! Sale ends February 14th! Follow these links and tell a friend! Enter the RAFFLECOPTER CONTEST for a chance to win an Autographed Paperback copy of Lonely Heart (Book 3 of The Butterfly Memoirs)! Winner will be announced Monday 2/17/14! ***

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Introduction to The Butterfly Memoirs Series is on Sale for .99 cents!!!! LIMITED TIME ONLY!!!

That’s right! To celebrate the upcoming March 6th release of Lonely Heart (Book 3 of The Butterfly Memoirs), the first book in the series, A Heart Not Easily Broken (Book 1 of The Butterfly Memoirs), has been reduced for a LIMITED TIME ONLY!!!! Buy the eBook copy from your favorite local eBook retailer for just .99 cents!

AHNEB Sale with seal pic 450

Already read it? Don’t forget to find out what happens next in Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs), available for $3.99!

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Amazon      Amazon Stores Outside of U.S.     Barnes & Noble     Smashwords     Kobo     iTunes      Paperback 

And in the meantime, enter the Rafflecopter contest to win an AUTOGRAPHED PAPERBACK copy of Lonely Heart! Come back tomorrow for the COVER REVEAL!!! 

***ENTER THE CONTEST!!!!! *** (Contest has ended)

Winner will be announced Monday, 2/17/14!

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#FeatureFriday- No Conditions Book Blast and Book Giveaway!

No Conditions

O.C. Byrd is hard-working, handsome and newly married to the woman of his prayers. With his sights firmly set on becoming a Gospel recording artist, his determination is beginning to pay off, earning him a windstorm of recognition at the local level.

But will both his widespread notoriety and his marriage be jeopardized through the accidental discovery of his wife’s former lifestyle?

Amazon        Author Profile

Excerpt: 

Chapter Ten

“Okay, let’s hit that once more from the top,” directed one very perfection-driven recording engineer. Enoch “Z-man” Zimmerman is, by far, the most on-point dude I know; nothing gets by him—musically speaking—and if his name is attached to it, so is excellence. If I hadn’t known this about him beforehand, I would’ve ended this session an hour ago. Old dude is dipping into my pockets—deep. But, it’s all good. There’s no price tag on quality or knowing that your creative vision is being birthed and we did cover a lot of ground in these last two days. However, I was trying to come in under a budget since I still have to get updated headshots and that, alone, can cost a mint. Needless to say, the budget needs a budget.

From within the encapsulated sound booth, I quickly prepare myself for a retake by clearing my throat and rolling my head to work out neck and shoulder tension. This is the last track we’re recording, also my favorite, and I can’t risk anything getting in the way of my sound. I’ve reworked the lyrics and rearranged the music to Will Downing’s All About You and in a play on words, I decided to use the working title, All About Him, for my CD. Z-man, who was previously in a zone setting the levels on the control panel, gives me his ‘look,’ the one that says, any minute nowwaiting on you.

Closing my eyes, I ease into the moment by thinking of the unending blessings God has poured into my life, most recently the love and devotion of a woman who loves Him as much as I do. I give Z-man a thumbs up, our non-verbal cue that I’m ready to record. Through my headphones, I hear the music intro and seconds later, Z-man‘s voice comes through in a word, “Rolling.”

Swaying side to side, I’m feeling it and without forethought, I take ownership of the musical moment and sing, “I’m not a perfect man, I do the best I can…”

Inside of four minutes, Z-man shouts, “Perfect!” and just like that we’re done. Demo complete, mission accomplished. Talk about feeling good … man!

Collecting my sheet music from the copy stand, I give the booth the once-over and scan the small space for other belongings I might have overlooked. As if handling a Ming vase, I carefully place the headphones on the overhead hang. Lord knows the last thing I need now is to have Z-man add something else to my currently swollen studio tab.

“You know, O.C., I believe your voice has gotten much stronger. Not at all like when I first recorded you a few years back. You’ve got a more mature sound.”

Beaming with pride, “Man, a lot has gotten stronger and better with me.” I strike an impressive bodybuilder crab pose, careful not to flash the shiny new article of jewelry that now resides on the ring finger of my left land. We both laugh and post up a high-five on it.

“Oh, I know that look. Had it once upon a time myself,” Z-man reflects. “That’s the look of a man who’s found his better half. Congrats again, man. I wish you the best.” His voice fades as though he’s been a casualty of love. And while his wound may still be fresh, he is no love reject; he’s recovering from the death of his wife earlier this year.

“Thanks, Z,” I respond. Placing a sympathetic hand on his shoulder which serves as a point of contact as well, I whisper a brief prayer for his healing. “That means a lot, man.”

“I miss her, O.C.” his voice slightly cracking, “I miss her a lot.” Z-man’s body slowly slumps in his chair, his eyes misting despite his best efforts to blink back the tears.

Identifying with his pain in the presence of my own joy is a real challenge, but I do my best to console him anyway.

“You and Maggie…watching the two of you was…was…well, inspiring. Y’all were so in sync. I’ve never seen anything like it except for my Mom and Pops, of course.” Although I did my best to encourage Z-man, Goddess is the pro at this kind of thing since she deals with death and sorrow every day for a living.

I watch as a nostalgic smile sweeps across Z-man’s face. I must’ve said something right. Unfolding his grief-tormented body, he sits straight up and releases a fraction of his pain through a loud exhale, “Remember this…if this were your last day on earth, what would you look at more closely, more intensely? What would you appreciate? What would you want to savor? What would really be important to you?” He pauses and appears to be thinking about his next words.

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Follow the Tour! 

Enter to win an autographed copy!

head shotAbout the Author: 

Dr. Congress is a Best-Selling, Award-Winning Wordsmith, Literary Advisor, Publisher and creator of C.H.O.C. Lit™ Flavored Books (Christians Having Ordinary Challenges).
She holds a BA in Human Relations, Masters in Theology, Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Counseling and is a Certified Christian Life Coach.

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MJ

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#FeatureFriday- Many Strange Women by Parker J. Cole

cover

NEW RELEASE!

Many Strange Women, an inspirational romance novel by award-winning author Parker J. Cole, is a story of an unlikely couple Solomon Greene and Celeste Martin who never expected their relationship would be anything more than a bargain.

Synopsis: Solomon Greene made a deal with God–If He’d send him an unattractive woman, he’d marry her on sight and do what was spiritually right by God. After all, he needed that kind of wife to help him escape from his sordid past.

Celeste Martin made a deal with Solomon. She’d be his ugly wife. All she wanted in return was his name. She was in love with her sister’s fiancé and he would be the only man she’d ever love.

Solomon had no idea that he’d find his wife fascinating. Celeste didn’t know that one taste from her husband’s lips would have her wanting more. Yet many strange women were between them. Could Solomon ever escape from his past? Could Celeste ever love her husband?

Amazon     Electo Publishing

authorAbout the Author: 

Parker J. Cole is a writer and radio show host who spends most of her time reading, knitting, writing, cooking, and concocting new ideas for stories. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their beloved dog, Sarah. Her first novel, Dark Cherub, won Best of Spring Reading 2013 from eMediaCampaigns. Visit her website at www.parkerjcole.com

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#NewRelease- The Girl Before Eve by Lisa J. Hobman!

cover

Contemporary Romance

Unrequited love is the biggest heartache…

Lily and Adam have been best friends since the dawn of time.  Well, the dawn of their time.  Okay…since primary school actually.  Everyone accepted them as best friends.  Until one day, aged 18, Lily made a fateful discovery.  She was head over heels in love.

With Adam.

 Her unrequited feelings are hard to deal with initially but become even harder when Lily inadvertently introduces him to the love of his life.  It all started as a bit of a joke thanks to the other woman’s name.

 Eve.

Many years later and Adam is once again single and heartbroken and Lily is there to help him pick up the pieces.  Her methods are sometimes a little unorthodox and lead to ridiculous consequences.

Can Lily help Adam move on and find happiness again?  And can either of the friends recover from losing the love of their lives?

 Sometimes the one thing you want is way out of reach.

 Amazon     5 Prince Publishing

Excerpt:

Friends Will Be Friends (Queen)

The Beginning of Lily and Adam – Primary School 1986

“She is my friend, Stewart Campbell, and if I see you pinch anything from her ever, ever again or try to push her over, I will punch you on the nose, and then I’ll tell Mrs. Craven and she’ll tell your mum, and then you’ll be grounded…forever!” Adam yelled as he towered over the snivelling little blonde-haired boy whose T-shirt he was grasping.

“I’m going to tell my dad on you, and he’ll come to your house and kick your dad’s arse, and he’s lots bigger than your dad, you smelly pig!” Stewart retorted through his tears and threw the packet of crisps on the playground, the contents spilling out. He stamped on the crisps, crumbling them under his feet.

Adam laughed in the other boy’s face. “Oh no, he isn’t, and now I’m going to tell Mrs. Craven that you said a swear word! Don’t you ever hurt her again, do you hear me? She’s a girl and you should never, ever hit girls or pinch their snack. And now you’ve dropped it on the floor and she hasn’t got one. You’re just mean and nasty, Stewart Campbell. And that’s why nobody likes you!” Adam released the blonde boy’s T-shirt and pushed him away. The boy ran off to the other side of the playground just as the lunchtime supervisor came around the corner. She must have noticed the gathered crowd of children.

“Everything alright over here, Adam?” the tall, red-haired lady asked with a sour look on her face.

“Yes, Mrs. Craven. Stewart Campbell said a rude word though, so I told him off and said I was going to tell.”

“Oh did he now? That boy needs to learn some manners. I think I’ll tell his teacher. Perhaps a quick call home might be in order.” Mrs. Craven glanced toward Adam’s friend just as Lily wiped the tears from her eyes and pushed the mass of wild, dark curls from her damp face. “Lily? Have you been crying?”

Lily nodded.

“What happened?” Mrs. Craven asked, narrowing her eyes.

Lily worriedly looked to Adam.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Craven. Stewart was being mean and he took her snack and threw it on the floor and stamped on it. But I told him off for that, too.”

Mrs. Craven smiled and ruffled Adam’s scruffy, dark hair. “Eeeh, for nothing but a six-year-old boy you do look after her well, don’t you, son? You keep that up.” She patted his head lightly and then turned to walk over to where Stewart had run off to sulk.

Once Mrs. Craven was out of sight and the crowd of children had dispersed, Adam turned to Lily. “Here, you can have the rest of my crisps if you like.” He held out the blue crinkly packet to her.

“Thank you, Adders,” she croaked, almost in a whisper. “Youre my bestest friend.”

“Aye, I know that and you’re my bestest friend too, Lil, and Stewart Campbell is just a big meanie. You need to stay away from him. I’ll make sure he isn’t nasty to you again though. Don’t worry.” The two children walked over to the grass and sat down side by side.

“Are you coming to my house for tea on Saturday? My papa says we can have the paddling pool out if it’s sunny?” Lily asked munching on the salt and vinegar crisps.

Adam nodded. “Yep…I can’t wait. I’ve got one of those big water pistols that soak you through, so you’d better watch out.” He nudged her with a wide grin fixed in place.

She giggled. “Yeah, well I’m going to make sure I get my big sand castle bucket out then, and it holds about ten gallons of water, so you’d better watch out.” She nudged him back.

He snorted. “It does not! And anyway I’m a faster runner than you, so you’d better watch out.” He chuckled.

“It does, too! And you’re not faster than me…you run like a girl!” Lily jumped to her feet and set off at a sprint, her musical laughter echoing behind her.

“I’ll get you Lily Macrae! Just you wait!” Adam laughed heartily as he sprang up from the grass and set off in pursuit.

And there began the soundtrack to Adam and Lily’s lives…

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Lisa J. Hobman Author PicAbout the Author: 

Lisa is a happily married mum of one with two crazy dogs and a passion for writing.  After relocating to Scotland from England and writing her first novel she gave up on running a craft business to do what she loves full time and is now putting the finishing touches to books four and five so watch this space.

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#FeatureFriday- Sullivan’s Way by Wilhelmina Stolen

***5 Prince Publishing NEW RELEASE!!!!***

Cover

Historical Romance

A single day shattered her life and set in motion, events that would change the Sullivan family for generations.

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Marnie Joe Sullivan had the perfect life as the daughter of a wealthy Virginia businessman, but perfection wouldn’t last. As the War Between the States ends, she is struggling to keep her family together. After a botched robbery, fleeing rebels leave her mother dead and Marnie at the mercy of a killer. The year is 1867 and Virginia is still home to Confederate conspirators and a killer that must be stopped. Loyalty and love run deep in the Sullivan family and Marnie is no exception. As the eldest Sullivan, she feels obligated to rescue her father from the hangman’s noose. But a jailbreak at midnight lands her in the arms of Marshal Mason Kane.

 Death is never fair. Mason Kane is proof of that. The horror of war and the death of his brother made him a drunk. Consumed by guilt and grief, he finds himself occupying Richmond saloons and starting fights. But a forgotten promise to his brother forces him to put down the bottle and accept a friend’s plea for help. Mason has no idea that the scrawny, mud covered boy he just hit is Sullivan’s daughter and he has no idea just how tempting she is until he tries to mend her wounds. Bound by honor and promise, Mason sets out to find a killer. What he finds is the outlaw Marnie Sullivan. A woman he can’t live without and secrets that lie in the way.

 Amazon     5 Prince Publishing

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Excerpt:

February 2, 1868

Sullivan Settlement, Virginia

Them Damned Confederates

Marnie Joe Sullivan, a well-bred woman of Virginian wealth, sat at the head of her father’s table. Despite her cool exterior, she felt civility’s firm grip slip and a white-hot anger coil its way up her spine. The beast threatened to burst forth in a rage of unladylike vulgarities of which the gentlemen across from her would undoubtedly recoil and offer a hideous clicking sound of disapproval from their forked tongues! No, that wouldn’t do.

“Damn it Marnie! You can’t go!” The abrasive voice manifested itself from the older man sitting across from her. He heaved one foot upward and slammed it against the smooth cherry floor of the great room. The dull clap of the heavy boot vibrated against the stone walls of the Sullivan house, “We have to wait for Lucas. He’ll be back anytime now.” The stub from his missing first finger wiggled uncontrollably as he ran his gnarled fingers over his thinning, silver hair, creating a wild mess. The missing digit was Ike Ritchie’s trophy for his victorious fight in the Battle of Buena Vista in ’47, “Your Pa was crazy for going to Silver Creek!”

With an unwavering face of authority, Marnie lifted her chin and leveled her gaze. A delicate blush of pink rushed over both cheeks, “My Pa is not crazy! He’s grieving.” Her small fingers anxiously examined the delicate embroidery of her handkerchief as her eyes burned into Ike with disapproval. The midnight black of her silk dress couldn’t quench the green fire that raged in her eyes. Since her mother’s death, Marnie had adorned black in every sense of the word, her soul, her spirit, and her will were all shaded black by that day, but not today. Today was a day of action!

An indignant “humph” escaped the edge of her full lips. As if being prompted by the sound, a petite black woman stepped from the hall and stood with folded hands as they waited for their guests to arrive, her slate stare burning relentlessly into Marnie. Yes, yes, I know, Tillie! Ladies always remain calm! As leaders from the settlement below entered the room one by one, Marnie took a deep breath that generated a small look of understanding and approval from the housekeeper.

Marnie’s skin itched and burned from the laces of her corset, causing her to shift in her seat. Thanks to Tillie’s diligent efforts, she was presentable. It infuriated Marnie to know that over half the morning had been devoted to tying, lacing and buttoning her unmentionables just so she might look presentable to the men in front of her. In the time it had taken Tillie to carefully style her unruly blonde hair into the neatly formed chignon, she could have been half-way to Silver Creek. This is ridiculous! I don’t need their help! Will Roark, Louis Porter, and Charlie Wilcox, represented only a handful of families that homesteaded on her father’s land. The men had taken council at this house since Marnie had donned pigtails and played with dolls. They weren’t use to answering to anyone but her father, “Thank you all for coming on such short notice.”

Will looked confused, “Marnie, I don’t know what we could possibly do to help your Pa.”

Ike eased forward and rested his elbows on the table, “Marnie thought you gentlemen might accompany us into Silver Creek.”

Charlie frowned, “Why would we do that?”

“To help me break Papa from jail.” Marnie said hopefully.

Her statement provoked a laugh from Louis, “You want us to help you stage a jailbreak?” He glanced at the other men, “Is she serious?”

“I don’t find anything funny about it. It is possible.” Their snide smiles added to her frustration, “If we go in after dark, there’ll be only one or two guards.”

“That’s insane!” Louis interjected.

“No, it’s not!” With her fists clinched tightly at her side, she demanded an answer, “How can you sit there and do nothing to save him?” Their silence infuriated her. They weren’t taking her father’s capture seriously. “Papa’s been rotting in that jail for three days and God only knows how long Lucas will be gone!” It had been two days since her adopted brother, Lucas, set out for Richmond to find her Uncle, and Marnie’s confidence in the law and Maxwell Richardson was diminishing, “I haven’t seen my Uncle Max in years. How can we be sure he’ll even help Papa?”

“Maxwell won’t think twice about it.” With a dismissive hand, Ike waved her fears aside, “Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if old Maxwell dynamited the jail himself to free your Pa!”

It was because of her father’s selfish act that she sat like a plucked turkey, stitched and tied for the presentation at hand. Her father, Daniel Sullivan never left anything to coincidence. Why had he allowed himself to get caught by the law in Silver Creek? Haven’t I dealt with enough tragedy? Less than a year ago her mother lay lifeless on the floor as Marnie and her sister were ripped from their home and taken for ransom.

Tight lips controlled Marnie’s words. She lifted her chin and fought to steady her breathing. Back straight, shoulders square, you’re a Sullivan, baby girl! Her father’s voice echoed in her mind and unconsciously her posture straightened. Defiance rushed through her as the authority in her eyes demanded attention from each man.

“We can’t wait! Are you going to help me or not?” Marnie gave the table a single strike with her fist, “Someone answer me! My father gave you a roof over your head, and never asked for anything in return. Without his help, none of you would have anything. If Talon Dougal hangs Papa, nothing will prevent him from taking the mountain and everything around it!”

Louis adjusted his collar, “Marnie, we’re all concerned about your father, but he knew not to go. He was safe here. He knew if he went to town he would risk getting caught.”

“We could protect him here, but not in Silver Creek. Hell! We could be hanged right along with him!” Will shouted and Charlie nodded.

Ike agreed, “They’re right, Marnie.”

Twenty-five years ago, through dense forests and jagged rocks, her father carved out a life for not only his family, but for the families in the valley below. Now when he needed them, they cowered in fear like children, “So it will be the same as before? He needed you last year and you didn’t lift a hand to help him. You all wanted to run and hide.” She tapped the table with a finger, discarding the truth for her cause. The people around her father’s table were loyal, but fear made her desperate.

“Now wait just a damn minute little girl!” Her accusations brought Ike up out of his seat. In his younger day, he’d been a boxer, broad in the shoulder and narrow at the hip. Legend of the “Fists of Fury” spread through Texas like wildfire. Even now, his withered frame towered above Marnie. When his expression changed, she braced herself, “You seem to forget I was riding right alongside your Pa when them damned Confederates took you girls, and I helped him bury your Ma!” He shifted his weight from one leg to the other in agitation, “So don’t you go lecturing me about helping spring your Pa from jail!”

The outburst sent a silence over the men. Ike shook his head, “I’m sorry Marnie. I know you miss your ma, but−” Marnie watched him rub his furrowed face and produce a tender smile, “you girls, feel like you was my own and I don’t want to see ya get hurt.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, “We’ll wait for Lucas.” he instructed softly.

Marnie’s head shook feverishly, “We can’t wait. They could hang him at any time. Lucas might persuade the Governor to intervene in the charges against Papa, but Talon is a coward. He won’t wait for a judge or jury.” Marnie forced a wave of moving tears as she let out an, “Oh!” and pushed the handkerchief against her nose. She sniffed and dropped her head. Papa’s running out of time!

Ike eased down in a chair beside her, “Look Marnie, we can’t just go into the jail and ask for the key. He’s a wanted criminal, they’ll be guarding him close.”

“I won’t be moved by tears young lady.” Will interrupted Ike’s careful words, “I’d give my life for Daniel, but our actions have to be thought through. We wait.”

The firmness of Will’s words stilled her tears. I knew it! They’re not going to help me. Marnie refused to lose the fight. She calmed herself and raised her head, “I’m sorry, you’re right.” Her head nodded slightly in agreement and then bent forward with humility, “I know without your loyalty Papa would have been caught a long time ago, and Callie and I would probably be dead.” When she met Ike’s concerned face, the storm in her green eyes cleared, and a crafty smile eased its way onto her pouty lips, “Forgive me.” Her voice was soft, “I’m just scared.  I had to try.”

Ike cocked one bushy eyebrow upward and sighed, “Well girl, Lucas will be back from Richmond tomorrow.”

A half an hour later Marnie walked the last remaining man to the door. Ike shifted awkwardly and moved towards her. When the others had gone, he called Marnie by her childhood name, “Joe, in nineteen years I ain’t never seen you give into a fight. I saw them green eyes clear, and that means one thing. You’re up to something!”

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authorAbout the Author: 

Wilhelmina Stolen is the pseudonym for romance writer, Shannon Hayes. Shannon is a native of Kentucky and makes her home in a small southern town close to the Tennessee line. During her adolescence, her mother’s free spirited nature became restless causing the family to embark on a slew of adventurous moves across the country. The moves provoked a hunger for adventure and romance and introduced her to a wonderful world of history and beauty.

As with most writers, her stories began at an early age with long sessions of seclusion and secrecy. While her classmates and friends were outside playing, Shannon was locked away in her room hammering out ideas on an old 1940’s Royal typewriter.

After finding Mr. Right, Shannon found herself wanting the comfort and security of the small Kentucky town she longed to escape as a child. Fortune smiled upon her and she became the family historian; gathering pictures, wills, marriage certificates and everything else that somehow managed to fall into her lap. Stories flooded her mind and writing quickly became an obsession that turned into the Way of Hearts Saga. The saga spans six generations and three families.

Shannon holds an Associates in Applied Science in Technology, a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and Management as well as a Masters in Educational Leadership. Visit her author page at www.wilhelminastolen.com to learn more about the saga.

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