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!!!! 

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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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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 story, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow my blog!

MJ

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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

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

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….

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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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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

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

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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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

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

What I am Most Grateful For and My Chat with The Pink Diamond Lady, Minnie Lahongrais!

As the year winds down (can you believe it????) and Thanksgiving is just a few days away, its time to take stock of the people in your life and achievements made during the course of the year.

I am most thankful for my family who continue to support and encourage me, even when I get on their last nerve!

I am thankful for my health and for the creativity I have been blessed with that allows me to write. I’m also grateful for not wearing a straight jacket because of all the characters (aka Voices) in my head! 🙂

I am thankful to all of my readers who connect with me every day by sending messages, shout out the books, hit the ‘like’, ‘share’, and ‘tweet’ buttons on their pages and continue to ask when the next book is coming out (March 6, 2014! Whoo hoo!!!)

I am also grateful to all of the bloggers, eMagazines, television hosts, and Blog Talk Radio hosts who have invited me to participate in interviews, conferences, and phone chats. Every opportunity has allowed me to share a piece of me as an author, a mother, and wife.

(If you’d like to check out the interviews and guest post from this year, click here!)

My latest radio interview was done with author Minnie Lahongrais on her show, The Pink Diamond Inspirations Show, which is featured on All Media Radio 1 in the UK. And what fun did we have! I met Minnie several years ago via social networking on Twitter, back when I was learning the ropes of the social networking site. As an aspiring writer at the time, I was touched by her frustration from family and friends in regards to a book she published. I commented, offering my support, and since then, our friendship has grown. So when she contacted me saying she would like to interview me for her show, I was more than happy to say yes! So, sit back and listen as two girlfriends chat it up like we’ve been knowing each other for a lifetime, and get to know ME….

download (3)

Pink Diamond Inspirations on All News Radio

The Interview     The Blog Post

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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 by following this blog!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

#FreeReadFriday- Jaded (Book Two of The Butterfly Memoirs) – Chapter 3

Welcome back to another #FreeReadFriday!

As the holidays approach, life is going to be  hectic as preparations are made to celebrate  with friends and family. But book lovers know, your’s still going to squeeze in a few minutes to hide out to get your read on! To wet your appetite, I’m sharing another chapter in the The Butterfly Memoirs series.

Jaded is a story of two people who’ve been hurt by love and refuse to give in to temptation. Their attempts to be just friends evolve into a Friends with Benefits relationship.

But what happens after a couple finds their Happily Ever After and REAL LIFE sets in? 

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Get to know Yasmine and Zachariah….and fall in love again….

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

 When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

  Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

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Prologue and Chapter One

Chapter Two

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Chapter 3

 

Despite setting my alarm clock for four-forty-five, I overslept. At least I had taken a shower before going to bed. I selected my clothes the night before, so all that was left to do was make-up.

A horn honked behind me at the light. I finished applying eyeliner, flipped the visor up, and pushed on the gas. I fluffed my hair with one hand, glad my ear-length bob had a loose curl making it easy to style. It was easier to manage than the shoulder length hair I slaved over a few months ago.

The decision to cut my hair was about more than easy maintenance. It was about forgetting my past life and settling into reality.

No more expectations; no more games.

I drove into the Inn’s parking lot and parked, overwhelmed by the hard work of my family. The Phillips’ Family Inn I managed was larger than the original location and nestled in the rolling hills, minutes outside of Los Angeles. The hotel used to be an old Hollywood mansion until the area was re-zoned and the home remodeled to house eight regular rooms and two honeymoon suites. My parents lucked out on the property during a real estate auction.

Like others in the area, the property had beautiful landscaping. I’d recently contracted the yard maintenance to my best friend, Ebony’s fiancé, Brian Young, who owned a lawn care service. Even though he wasn’t always available to accompany his workers when they came, he’d trained them well. Over the last few months, Brian’s music career had taken off. He spent a lot of time in the studio of B&D Records.

After all, I owed them. Helping Ebony plan her dream wedding and hosting it at the Inn still didn’t feel like it was enough. I would do anything to help make their marriage possible.

Two months had passed since discovering my fiancé at the time was a bastard. After what he’d done to her…I still couldn’t fathom how she managed to pretend it never happened.

I couldn’t.

I sat in my car for a moment to gather myself, and ran a hand over my eyes, trying not to smudge my mascara. Now was not the time to think about the past. There were too many things to focus on, such as getting the hotel financial records to my mother. As predicted, she was not happy to hear she would not receive them last night. I covered myself by saying the computer crashed right before I sent them. The little white lie bought me time to get them completed today.

I seriously needed to step up my game. In order for my parents to be willing to fund my business as a fashion consultant, I needed to maintain the family business first. Now was not the time to slip up.

I exited my car and noted the time, six-thirty. I spied a car out of place in the parking lot and assumed it was the technician. I shut my door, walked around to the trunk of my cherry red Honda Accord, and retrieved my laptop bag. When I turned around, he had climbed out of his car, strapped a bag across his chest, and was unloading a large box from the trunk. I hurried up the steps of the Inn to open the door.

His smile was wide as he approached. “Good morning.”

Morning people get on my nerves.

“Sorry I’m late,” I said, trying to keep the irritation, stimulated by his cheery grin, hidden.

He adjusted the weight of the box in his arms. “Not a problem. Where are we going first?”

“My office.”

He followed me through the grand opening of the hotel living room, past the check-in counter, down the narrow hallway, and past the kitchen to a smaller room that served as my office.

The smell of burnt plastic assaulted us when I opened the door. After setting my bags on the floor, I immediately dug the Febreze air freshener from my desk drawer, sprayed, and opened a window.

“When you said your computer burned, I took that as a figurative statement.” His eyebrows furrowed as he looked for somewhere to settle the box. When done, he unhooked the bag strapped across his chest and went under my desk to access the damage. “It’s a good thing you used a surge protector or it could have been a lot worse. What happened?” He sat up from underneath the desk and adjusted the dark square frames on his wide nose.

Large, dark hazel eyes captured me. For a moment, I imagined him watching me as he explored my body.

“Ms. Phillips, did you hear me?”

I rubbed a hand over my face and blinked. “Sorry, still waking up.”

Yeah right. I was awake all right, along with other parts of my body. This man had some of the sexiest bedroom eyes.

His chuckle was deep. “Not a morning person, I remember.”

I walked over to the desk. “I saved a document and opened the accounting software when the screen went blank. I thought there was a power outage. I flipped the power switch on and then, poof,” I demonstrated with my hands. “Sparks flew.”

He smiled and a set of deep dimples appeared on both sides of his goatee. My attention went to his thick lips, imagining what they would feel like against mine.

The warm feeling taking over my body made it impossible to think. I forced my attention to the items on my desk. I hadn’t been this attracted to a man in months. Why now? Why him?

Even though he appeared to have a nice build, despite his geeky appearance, Zachariah Givens was not my type. When I was sure my thoughts were clear, I allowed myself to watch him. He’d disappeared under the desk again and proceeded to disconnect cords, leaving his firm derriere in plain view. I swallowed a groan. His butt looked good in those jeans.

I blinked. Jeans? He wasn’t wearing the geek uniform of black pants. When he emerged from beneath the desk, I realized he wore a polo shirt.

“How come you’re not in uniform?” I blurted.

“What?” He dragged the burned-out equipment from underneath my desk and glanced at his attire. “Oh, it’s my day off.”

My eyes widened. “Wait, you’re here off the clock?”

“I didn’t have anyone to send in at this time of the morning.” He dumped the cords in the trash and turned to retrieve the old computer tower. “Besides, I miss this part of the job. Being store manager keeps me inside all day. Don’t get me wrong, it has its benefits, but I’m good with my hands.” He glanced over at me. “And since you said our customer service over the phone sucks, I had to make it up to you.”

Good with his hands…God. I felt my face redden.

I forced myself to laugh. “Thank you, Mr. Givens.”

The old equipment removed, he walked over to open the new box. “Call me Zachariah, or Zack.” He smiled and those dimples popped again.

“Okay. You can call me Yasmine.” I stared at him a little too long.

He nodded in the direction of the old computer tower. “I’ll be honest…Yasmine, I don’t know if I’ll be able to salvage anything for you. I’ll get the new system up, start loading your programs, and then check it. I want to have you up and running as soon as possible.”

I sighed and glanced at the burnt shell. “I could use a miracle right now, and a cup of coffee. Would you like one?”

“No, I’m not big on caffeine. I’m a morning person by nature.” He chuckled when I rolled my eyes.

“To each his own,” I replied.

***

Several hours later, all of the computers – mine, Brandon’s, and the one at the check-in counter – were up and running and the software was nearly loaded. Mine took the most time since it was the hub for everything in the hotel. He’d even been nice enough to load the hotel business software, free of charge.

I sat on the other side of the office, working furiously on my laptop to compile the data for the business reports and receipts I kept in the filing cabinet- information that had been lost when the computer died. I promised myself to keep a backup on my laptop, USB drive, and any other digital format outside of the main office set up from now on. I did not intend to repeat this scenario.

“Yasmine, a few more minutes and I’ll be done,” Zack said. “Sorry I couldn’t save the hard drive.”

I glanced up from my screen. “No need to apologize. I should have had everything backed up. You live and learn.” I saved my work and checked the time on my laptop. “I can’t believe it’s that late already.” It was nearly eleven; I stood up and stretched. “Would you like something to eat? I don’t know about you, but I missed breakfast. It’ll be my treat. The kitchen is open and Mrs. Davenport will be making lunch.” I studied him for a moment. “I bet you’d like one of her Double Decker Monterey burgers. They are to die for.”

Zack appeared surprised by my offer. “I’d like that.”

I stopped in the doorway. “I’ll come get you when it’s done.”

Twenty minutes later, we sat in a booth in the rear of the dining room, away from the guests.

“This has got to be the best burger I’ve ever eaten. I would drive all the way back for another one.” Zack bit off a large bite. He’d finished half the thing in record time.

I smiled. “I’ll be sure to give your compliments to the chef.”

“I’ll be sure to kiss her.” He drank from his cup and pointed at my salad. “Why aren’t you eating one of these?”

I stabbed at my chicken salad with my fork and glanced at the remains of his burger. “Good question.” I laughed. “I ate one yesterday for lunch. Too many of them will mess with my figure.”

Zack’s eyebrow arched, but he remained silent.

My gaze dropped to my plate. In my past life, flirting was my way of determining if a man would be competent enough to handle my sexual needs. It was second nature.

But this was now.

Besides, trying to seduce Zack would be a waste of time; he didn’t seem interested anyway. Unlike most men I ran across, he didn’t flirt with me at all. Any other man would have taken my comment and told me how fine I was, or some other line, to find a way into my bed.

Not Zack. He was the epitome of the perfect gentleman, never uttering a suggestive comment or taking the obvious stroll over my body with his eyes. I caught him watching me once or twice, but it wasn’t lust in his gorgeous hazel orbs, it was something I had never seen before.

To be honest, it made me nervous not knowing what he was thinking. Yet at the same time, it was refreshing to be in the company of a man who was able to have an intelligent conversation without his panting tongue being in the way.

My cell phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and excused myself. “Yes, Mrs. Langford, how are you?” I waited a beat for her reply and dug into my purse for pen and paper to write notes. “Perfect, I’ll see you then.”

A smile of satisfaction spread across my face when I hung up.

“Must be good news,” Zack said before popping the last of the burger in his mouth.

“Very. I work with this program called Dress for Success. It helps underprivileged women prepare for job interviews. We take them shopping, show them what to wear, how to apply make-up, and do their hair. Anything we can do to help them succeed.”

Zack wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Really? What made you decide to do that?”

His question startled me. I looked up and found genuine interest in his eyes. Men in my past couldn’t care less what I did when we weren’t together. The only thing that interested them was what I did in the bedroom.

“I’m starting a business of my own outside of managing this hotel,” I said slowly, deciding whether I wanted to share the details.

“What kind of business?”

Apparently I had his full attention.

“As a fashion consultant. I’ve been helping friends and family for years. I’d like to help as many people as I can. Participation in a program like this allows me to give back to the community and help people free of charge. As a bonus, I get to build my portfolio and gain experience working with a variety of clients.”

I held my breath, waiting for a laugh or sarcastic comment sure to come.

“Do you work with more than underprivileged women?”

“What do you mean?”

“Would you work with a cancer survivor?”

My curiosity peaked. “Who are you talking about?”

“My mother.”

####

Available on AMAZON, B&N, iTunes, and SMASHWORDS for $3.99! Also available on PAPERBACK!

***JADED can be read as a stand-alone or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series. Buy your copy today!***

 Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

Looking for Book 1? Follow this link to learn more about A Heart Not Easily Broken!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

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#FreeReadsFriday!!!- Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs)

Welcome back to another #FreeReadsFriday where I share ‘what happens next’ in order to wet your appetite for a good weekend read!

This week I’m focusing on Chapter 2 of the Amazon Bestselling Novel, Jaded, the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs Series. If you haven’t read Chapter 1, take a second and check it out:

Jaded- Prologue and Chapter 1

So what happens next?

Get to know  Zachariah Givens, the man I like to call ‘The Quiet yet Passionate Hero”. 😉

Chapter 2

 

“Mr. Givens, there’s a customer on the line asking for you.”

“Thanks, Ralph.” I studied the flashing lines and sighed. I needed someone who could handle the in-store portion of the job. Ralph, a gangly-looking college kid, made an excellent technician, but his customer service skills were seriously lacking. “Which line?”

He shrugged, sheepishly.

I glanced at my watch, four-twenty-five, not long before quitting time. Perfect. With any luck, I could short cut through traffic, take my mother something for dinner, talk, and be home by seven.

That would leave plenty of time for exploring the benefits of my latest technological gadget. The newest iPad had everything I wanted and more.

First, I needed to send this week’s time sheets to the corporate office, then take my tour around the store and turn off the display computers for the night.

I grabbed the phone and handled three of the five calls on hold in record time; none of them were the customer who’d asked for me. Ralph was still on the original call.

I answered the next call on hold in time to hear an angry curse and the phone disconnect as soon as I spoke. At the same time, the door to the shop flew open and a light-skinned woman wearing heels, a skintight skirt, and a loosely buttoned shirt, stormed up to the counter. She didn’t appear pleased.

“First of all, the customer service phone etiquette here sucks.” Her eyes were blazing as she focused on poor Ralph who appeared to shrink two inches from her glare.

Then she zeroed in on me. Her grey eyes squinted in recognition. I remembered her as well. How could I forget a woman with skin the color of coffee with too much cream and eyes the color of steel? Her body was worth every ounce of admiration.

“You,” a red colored fingernail pointed at me, “you’re…,” she referred to a paper in her hand, “Zachariah Givens?”

“Yes,” I replied, ignoring the flash of heat running to my groin. The woman was sexy and annoying at the same time. Unfortunately, it was impossible to appreciate her looks while she shot daggers at me.

“I remember you. You came to my hotel two months ago and said I needed to upgrade my computer when it crashed. You patched it up, thanks again, but now I need a new one… like yesterday need a new one. I need what you listed here, but instead of one, I want three of them. I don’t have time to waste doing this again.” She waved the paper in front of my eyes.

My hands were resting on the counter top as I counted to ten, and then to twenty, before unclenching my teeth. Patience. Let her vent, get it out of her system, and then we could move on.

“Well, aren’t you going to look at this?” The paper waved again, sending a slight breeze of perfume.

Damn, she smelled good.

I counted to thirty, then reached out and waited for the paper to settle in my hand. Our eyes held for a moment before my attention went to it. Yasmine Phillips was her name and it was one of the last jobs I did as a technician before my promotion to store manager.

I studied my notes. “Do you still need authorization to place this order?”

“No, my father has no choice because the computer didn’t crash, it burned. I still have the metallic taste in my mouth.”

I glanced up. Bad idea. Her tongue ran over pale pink lips. Another shot to the groin. I adjusted my stance, glad to be standing behind the counter.

“I don’t have three of the computer systems listed. We have two of them­”

“Two? That is not enough.”

I glanced over the rim of my glasses. “I can get a third one from our sister store, but it will take a day or two.”

“Not acceptable.” She chewed on her bottom lip.

My attention went to her mouth. Focus, man. Why did this woman turn me on? She was nothing like anyone I’d ever dated. Then again, I had no interest in dating.

Ever since Melissa had left.

I did not want to think about her. Not now, not ever.

I walked over to the nearest computer and input the specification of the model in question. “It appears we’ve got something that will still fit your needs. There is an older model on clearance. That will leave some breathing room in your budget.” I explained the details of the computer and watched her eyes glaze over when she stopped listening.

“So it will do everything I need and save money, too?”

“Exactly, and there are three in stock.”

“I’ll take them.” She dug into her oversized purse for her wallet.

With the size of that thing, I expected a poodle or some other small dog’s head to pop up.

“Do you accept corporate cards?”

I nodded. “As long as it has a Visa or Master Card logo.”

She handed me the card and waited for me to type up the paperwork. “Will this be a self-installation or do you need a professional install? There’s an additional fee, per computer.”

“Professional install. Since they are clearance items, do they still come with warranty?”

“Yes, and there’s an additional discount from the warranty from your previous computer, which will increase your savings.”

“Thank you. Now, I need them tonight and—”

“We don’t have an installer available tonight. I can put you on the schedule for tomorrow morning.” I glanced up as her face went from the softened look of relief, to angry again.

“No, I need it tonight, not tomorrow. In fact, I need an entire hard drive saved so I can retrieve some important work.”

I glanced over at Ralph who had finally completed his phone call and looked worse for wear. As great as he was at his job, sending him to handle a triple install with a woman like Ms. Phillips would probably send the poor guy home crying.

“I don’t have anyone available for tonight. Ralph can come tomorrow morning. He’ll get you taken care of and see what he can do about your hard drive.”

She glanced over at Ralph who now quivered in his boots. “No, I want you. I don’t trust anyone else.”

“Unfortunately, as store manager, I don’t do customer installations anymore.”

“That’s not going to work for me. I need you.” Her eyes zeroed on me and softened slightly, almost like a plea.

I loved my job and the money was good, but a day hadn’t gone by when I didn’t miss going on service calls and working alone. I reviewed my options. Dale and Stephanie would be here in the morning and both were great techs.

I studied her. Her cat-like stare bore into me, waiting for my reply. She was determined to have her way. If I said no, I was sure she’d have a challenging remark to convince me to get the job done. I liked challenges. Working with Ms. Phillips seemed like a challenge. Since tomorrow was my day off, ensuring she was a satisfied customer, wouldn’t be a problem. I could handle this job off the clock. It would be a great change of pace.

“How about this…I’ll do the install myself in the morning. What’s the earliest I can arrive?”

“I’ll open for you anytime.”

I swallowed hard. Her statement, coupled with the ‘I need you,’ was not helping. I ignored my thoughts, chalking it up to over a year of celibacy and the presence of a fine woman. How the hell did she manage to stir me up on so many levels?

“How about six a.m.?”

She grimaced. “I’m not a morning person, but I need this done, so six it is.”

I finished writing up the sale, processed her payment, and handed her the receipt. To my surprise, she held out her hand to shake mine.

“Thank you, Mr. Givens. You have no idea what this means to me.”

With that, she disappeared out the door and into the cool evening air.

***

“Zachariah, you don’t have to hang around with me,” my mother said.

“I know.” I reached into the cabinet for two plates, silverware, and cups.

I studied my mom’s profile as she peered into the bag of chicken wings and French fries. She was still too thin to my liking, despite my attempts to help her eat healthy. Six months of chemotherapy had taken its toll, whittling away the vibrant woman who raised me. Her skin had lost its healthy glow; her caramel complexion waned and held a dark grey undertone.

Her long graying mane no longer graced her shoulders. Once her hair began falling out due to chemo treatments, she’d had it cut low. It had grown since then, but she decided to keep it cut short, barely longer than my own close shave. I missed the grey and black curls that once adorned her head. They had been a testament of her wisdom and amazing ability to persevere through the hardships of her life.

Yet, despite everything she’d endured physically and mentally in the last year, her eyes still conveyed the true beauty of her mind.

I loved my mother. Not just because she was my only living parent, but because she taught me so much.

After setting the dinnerware on the table, I took a moment to pull her into my arms while being sure not to squeeze too tightly. Even though her cancer had gone into remission, and she no longer received chemo, her body still ached.

She sighed and leaned against me. “I enjoy you checking on me, but you need a life of your own, son.”

I kissed her forehead before releasing her. “You are my life, Mom.”

She laughed lightly. “You know that’s not what I mean.”

I bit back my reply because no matter what I said, this conversation was going in one direction.

“You need a wife, Zachariah.”

I selected a few chicken wings from the box, put them on my plate, and followed up with celery sticks. “Been there, done that. It didn’t work.”

“That’s not true. Engagement is not the same thing as being married.” She picked up a wing without setting it on a plate and nibbled.

I didn’t like the fact she wasn’t eating a lot. She seemed to enjoy protein shakes more than actual food.

“Close enough,” I muttered before stuffing a hot wing in my mouth.

Melissa. For the second time today, her name popped up in my head. Damn. The thought of her messed with my appetite. Not wanting my mother to give up picking at her food, I forced myself to chew.

“All things happen for a reason, baby, whether we agree with them or not. Melissa was not meant for you.”

“Maybe, but it wasn’t because you had cancer. Don’t tell me you got sick so we would not get married. That’s messed up.” Unable to chew further, I tossed my wing on my plate. My mom didn’t even blink.

“Zachariah, you know that’s not what I meant. I got cancer because I got cancer. Melissa left because she wasn’t the woman you needed. She didn’t support you in your time of need, and I was the sick one. What do you think would have happened if you had gotten sick? The poor girl would probably have run home to her parents the moment she learned you were ill. Marriage vows include staying together through sickness and health, not just for richer or poorer.” She smirked. “I don’t think Melissa would have handled the ‘poorer part’ too well either.”

I wiped my hands on my napkin and allowed myself to smile. “Yeah, she was money hungry, which was not new. I would have provided for her, given her everything she wanted and then some.”

“True, and she would have drained you dry, financially and mentally,” she added, disposing of the wing she had finished. I held my breath and waited for her to pick up another one; she did.

“I know how to pick them, huh?”

My mother patted me on the knee. “One day, when you least expect it, the woman of your dreams is going to walk into your life and knock you sideways. Mark my words.”

I thought about the woman who’d come into my shop. Ms. Phillips was probably on the same high-maintenance level as Melissa. All beauty and attitude wrapped into one. I could imagine what her man put up with in order to be with her.

Then I pictured her body without the hip hugging skirt and low cut blouse covering what I imagined would be perfect breasts. One night with her would make a man overlook her issues.

I chuckled. “Glad at least one of us feels that way.”

I sure as hell didn’t.

####

Available on AMAZON, B&N, iTunes, and SMASHWORDS for $3.99! Also available on PAPERBACK!

***JADED can be read as a stand-alone or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series. Buy your copy today!***

 Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

 When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

 Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

***Read as a STAND-ALONE or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series!***

Looking for Book 1? Follow this link to learn more about A Heart Not Easily Broken!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

 

#FreeReadFriday!- A Heart Not Easily Broken- Chapter Three

Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed sharing the next chapters of Ebony and Brian’s story. If you’ve read Chapter One  you’ve gotten seen when they meet. You’ve also been introduced to the different side of Brian’s life in Chapter Two which threw Ebony for a loop. Now that she’s seen the ‘other side’, how does she react?

Today I’m featuring Chapter Three which happens to be one of my favorites! Why? Let’s just say there’s something about being ‘caught’ that leaves a lot of room for some fun. 🙂

Chapter 3

“Damn it.” I pushed the door shut with my foot, nearly dropping the books balanced in my arms. A quick peek out the living room blinds showed Brian staring at the closed front door with a smug look on his face.

Of all the people in southern California who cut grass, how in the world did he end up at my home? Where did Yasmine find this guy? Did she know Brian? After Saturday night, this smelled of a set up. My roommates gave me a hard time for not accepting his VIP offer. And now this. First, Yasmine calls at the last minute, knowing I’m on the way home and tells me to expect someone to be there cutting grass, and then coincidently forgets the guy’s name. Yeah, right.

Annoyed, I pulled my phone out of my purse. Of course, Yasmine’s phone went to voicemail.  Kaitlyn’s did too. It would be a waste of time to leave a message, but when they got home, there would be hell to pay. I appreciated their interest in my love life, but it was exactly that. Mine. After Saturday night’s attempt to set me up, they agreed to stay out of it.

The sound of a lawnmower gliding past the living room window got my attention. One of the guys rolled the mower across the grass. At least the yard would receive the attention it needed. I sighed in resignation and headed for the kitchen.

It was my turn to cook dinner. Tonight’s menu would consist of frozen lasagna and salad. Thank goodness for bagged salad, because I was in no mood to cut up any vegetables. Even though school was not in session, my goal was to stay on top of my game. Dr. Jacobs, my mentor and one of the head veterinarians on staff at the Los Angeles Zoo, allowed me to borrow several books from his personal library. He appreciated my hard work and offered to give me a heads up on classes I’d be taking in the fall. I was anxious to get started.

First, I needed to take a shower and wash off the odors of the animal clinic where I worked as a veterinarian’s assistant. Juggling both jobs was a lot of work, but the rewards were well worth it.

I closed my eyes and groaned. Oh, no, I reeked. No wonder Brian grinned like an idiot when he thought I wasn’t looking. It wasn’t as if he could talk. His shirt clung to his body, saturated with sweat as though he had run through my neighbor’s sprinklers.

I sighed, grabbed my things, and headed upstairs.

Unable to resist, I stacked the books on my desk and pulled out one that caught my attention the most. It dealt with the daily care of orangutans. The topic interested me most because of the zoo’s recent addition. Baby Nala was born a few days ago, but sadly, her mother died. It was now up to the zoo’s staff to provide the care she needed to keep her healthy until she matured enough to join the zoo exhibit. As an intern, I would be one of the select few tasked with this job. It promised to be a very rewarding experience.

After a quick review, I set the book down. The lasagna had another forty-five minutes to cook. I walked over to my window to check on the guys’ progress. They were nearly finished. It wouldn’t be long before Brian would be looking for payment.

Crap. He never answered my question. If he didn’t accept checks, he would have to follow me to the ATM.

I stripped down and reached in the shower to adjust the water temperature. Body wash in hand, I stepped into the steaming water.

The stench of work swirled down the drain, replaced by the scent of melons while the water caressed my body like a summer breeze. I pulled off my ponytail holder, letting the water run down my face while washing my hair. The next time Brian smelled me, I wanted it to be something soft and sweet, not animalistic.

Hold on, why did it matter how I smelled? Irritated by the thought, I scrubbed a little harder.

Brian smelled nice at the club. His rough, callused palm felt nice too. No wonder. He did more than strum a guitar all day. I admired that.

Getting out of the shower, I toweled off. Even though Brian was five times sweatier than when we’d met, it somehow made him more attractive. When I realized it was he standing at the truck, I assumed he would demand to know why I avoided his invitation. Instead, he’d been cordial, thank God, making the surprise easier on both of us. He was definitely about his business.

Oiled up, smelling good, my damp hair in a bun, and wearing a pair of cotton shorts and tank top, I headed back down to the kitchen. The lasagna should be nearing completion and so should Brian.

The buzzing sound of yard equipment drew my attention to the bay window. Somehow, they’d gotten over the locked gate. Oops, I’d forgotten to take the chain off before hopping in the shower. He was resourceful too.

Brian stood with his weed whacker, swinging it in a controlled arch along the fence. My eyes widened; the man was shirtless. The man had an incredibly strong looking back. His shorts hung loosely from his hips, exposing the top of his underwear from the weight of the sweat-stained shirt stuffed under his belt. Hmm, boxers or briefs? Sweat ran in heavy rivulets down his shoulder blades, trickling to the already damp shorts.

None of that compared to the way he looked when he turned around to speak to one of the guys working with him. His long torso, free of body fat, sported a light sprinkling of blond hair between his pecs.  His abdomen showed every cut of muscle I’d seen in high school biology textbooks. His abs were tight, his belly button nearly nonexistent.

Brian’s bronzed skin reminded me of a Greek statue, a testament of many hours spent working outside. His backward baseball cap hid the thick blond curls I’d seen at the club. The damp ringlets hung below its rim, accentuating his square facial structure and the shape of his nose. His blue eyes seemed to glow from deep within his skin.

Brian was unbelievably sexy.

One of the younger guys stepped into my line of sight, blocking my continued admiration of his anatomy. I bit my lip in irritation until Brian extended an arm. My eyes widened at the sight of tattoos over well-defined muscle. Intricate dark rings banded both biceps. How did I miss that? Oh yeah, his abs had distracted me. Curious, I stepped closer to the blinds, parting them. Damn, I couldn’t see the entire design. What was it?

At that moment, Brian faced the window. He remained expressionless for a moment before he squinted, then smiled.

Busted.

My face felt crimson. I took a moment to clear the expression on my face before grabbing three cold bottles of water out of the refrigerator and walking outside.

I surveyed the yard while offering him a bottle. “It looks good.”

“It sure does.”

I glanced at him. He didn’t hide the fact his gaze started at my bare legs and slowly traveled back up. His expression made his thoughts apparent. I started to open my mouth and comment, until our eyes met. His gaze sent a warm tingle along my skin, reminding me of the way I felt when he held my hand.

“Thanks for the water,” he added, before whistling to get the other workers’ attention.

Try as I might, it was impossible to keep my eyes off his body when his back was to me. I took the opportunity to peek at his tattoos again. Standing this close, I could make out a little more of the intricate design. To truly see it, I would have to get close, so close I could…

I looked up to find his lips tilted in a lopsided grin. Damn, busted again.

Not wanting him to think I was impressed, I forced my face to stay blank. “How much is it going to cost?” It was impossible to ignore the laugher hidden in those gorgeous blue orbs.

Brian took long draws of water, apparently in no rush to answer my question. I forced my eyes to stay on his and ignore the fact that sweat should not look so good.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

I frowned. “What do you mean? You’ve been here for nearly an hour.”

He shrugged, pulled a rag from his pocket, wiped his face, and then dragged the thing down his chest. I automatically followed the movement before snapping my eyes back to his. A slow grin spread across his face.

“It depends.”

“On what?”

“On how honest you’re going to be with me.”

I clamped my jaw tight while crossing my arms, fighting the irritation building. Brian apparently thought he could do or say anything to get his way. He did it when buying me a drink at the club. He’d done it when assuming I’d meet him in VIP. Now this.

My lack of a sex life and unexplained physical attraction to him made my irritability worse.

“Honest about what?” I ground out.

Brian’s eyes flashed with humor as he finished off the last of his water. “Why didn’t you meet me the other night? I looked for you, waited around thinking maybe you got stuck in the bathroom.” He crossed his arms, taking a wide stance. “Nothing. Not a note, not a message left with security. You just disappeared.”

Realization hit me. “You’re going to charge me more because I didn’t hook up with you?”

“Hey, don’t put words in my mouth. I haven’t decided what to charge. That’s not the same thing.”

“Okay, so what you really mean is if you like my answer, I’ll get a discount. If you don’t, then you’re going to screw me.”

Brian’s mischievous smile caused me to suck my teeth. Bad choice of words.

“Overcharging my customers is not good for business.” He chuckled. “Besides, offering a discount would be an incentive for you to answer the question and not avoid it the same way you avoided me.” He paused to unhook the weed whacker’s strap from around his neck and set it on the ground. He rolled his neck and shoulders then crossed his arms and resumed his wide-legged stance.

I glanced down and noticed the slight bow in his muscular legs. Damn, he looked good.

“Brian.” I forced myself to stare at the men bagging lawn clippings. “I went home.”

“Obviously. Why didn’t you stick around? You could have left your number if you needed to leave.”

Brian regarded me intently while waiting for my reply. His scrutiny made me nervous.

I took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before blowing it out. “Why do you care? There were plenty of women ready to jump at the opportunity to be with you. Why are you interested in me?”

“Why not? I’ve seen most of those women before.” He laughed at my screwed up facial expression. “That didn’t come out right. What I mean is they are all the same. None of them have caught my attention like you do.”

My mind went back to the buffet of women available at the bar, the brunette who gave me the evil eye, red heads, a few blonds, women of every size and shape.

“So you wanted me because I’m black. Or is it because you saw me wearing a tight dress and figured you’d get me in bed as a trophy. You know, sex with a black woman?” I rolled my eyes. “I’m an educated black woman with a good head on my shoulders, not some ‘ho from the hood. If that’s what you want, then I suggest you go take a ride down−”

Brian’s dimples popped as his lips pulled back in a hearty laugh. He shook his head. “I knew there was something about you I liked.”

I stared at him in confusion. Was he serious?

“You’re feisty and don’t hold back, I like that. And yes, the color of your skin did have something to do with it.”

I pointed a finger at him. “See, that’s what I thought.” I moved to march back inside, steam practically blowing from my ears.

“No, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking the wrong thing. Your skin is beautiful. And by the way, I’ve dated black women before.”

That comment put the brakes on my exit. “You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m not. But the color of your skin is not why I want to take you out.” His head cocked to the side as if remembering something. “Wait a minute, you’re avoiding my question. Why did you stand me up?”

“Stand you up? We weren’t on a date. You assumed I’d come running because you bought me a drink. Was I supposed to be impressed?”

A roguish grin appeared. “Most women would have been. Honestly, I’m glad you didn’t. It makes you more interesting.”

I smirked. “Interesting, yeah right. Would I have been this interesting if we never saw each other again?”

He shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not, I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is we’re here now. It’s a second chance to get to know you. I already know your name, where you live…” He wagged his eyebrows in an attempt to make me laugh I suppose.

It didn’t work. My internal alarm began to chime. If he didn’t like my answer, would he start stalking me?

He raised a hand to tick off fingers. “You’re educated, you have a smart mouth, and you’re not supposed to be attracted to me.” He creased his eyebrows in thought. “That’s not enough, I’ve got more questions.”

Vexed beyond belief, I threw my hands up in surrender.

“Okay, fine. If it will save money, I’ll play along. What’s the question?”

He grinned in victory while I massaged the bridge of my nose.

“Do you have a problem going out with me because I’m white?” he asked, straight to the point.

“What?”

His hands went up in defense. “Hey, you’re the one who made a big deal about it. Me? I see a sexy woman who’s got more to offer than just her looks and a body that’s…well, there’s a lot more going on, I’m curious. So what do you say?”

That was unexpected. It took several tries before I could open my mouth. “No, I don’t have a problem with you being white.”

“Somehow I find that hard to believe,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“Well, it’s true. One of my best friends and roommate is white,” I said in defense.

“Good. Since race is not a problem, go out with me tomorrow night.”

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If you haven’t read the Amazon Bestseller, A Heart Not Easily Broken, buy your copy today! It’s $3.99 and available for Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and on Smashwords. If Paperback is what you prefer, find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! 

 AHNEB FINAL COVER

Ebony is a smart, sexy, career-oriented black woman who wants nothing more than a summer fling with a man who challenges her mind and body. What she doesn’t expect is a blond-haired, blue-eyed bass player—who won’t take “no” for an answer—to accept the challenge.

When Ebony’s attempt at a brief fling turns into more, despite negative reactions from friends and family, she finds juggling love, family, and career are nothing compared to the ultimate betrayal she endures. Now her dreams spiral into lies and secrets that threaten her future and her best friend’s trust.

ONE CLICK for REVIEWS, FREE CHAPTER READS, ALL SALES LINKS!

For more information on The Butterfly Memoirs Series and a sample of the next book, Jadedvisit this link! 

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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!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

And the winner is…..

Yes! We have a winner!!

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by to help celebrate Ebony and Brian’s first Book-A-Versary! I had a wonderful time chatting with some of you online, and especially chatting with two wonderful book groups, Read You Later and the Real Readers Real Words (3RW) by phone. Hopefully you were able to tune in to one of the interviews, but if not, no worries! My interview with Read You Later is available on Blog Talk Radio! Click on the link and check it out!

For those of you who have been following me online, you know that I have entered the final stretch of preparing the next  book in The Butterfly Memoirs series, Lonely Heart….otherwise known as EDITING! So, I’m digging in! The winner of this months contest will receive an eBook copy of the book on the day it releases…..MARCH 6,  2014!!!!! I am very excited and can’t wait for readers to learn what happens next!

So, with that said, the winner of the Book-A-Versary contest is…….

Sharon Blount!!!!

Be sure to stay tuned to my blog, Facebook, and Instagram sites. I’ll be sharing snippets over the next few months, as well as having a few more contests with more opportunities to win eBooks and autographed paperbacks! You’ll need to access those sites in order to answer the contest questions!

And of course, if you haven’t read A Heart Not Easily Broken (Book 1) or Jaded (Book 2), or would like to know more about the series and it’s characters, Check out The Butterfly Memoirs page. There you’ll find character bios, diary posts, and a hidden scene!

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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 by following this blog!

MJ

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The Butterfly Memoirs- Contest and Book Review!

Did you read Sunday’s blog post????? If you missed it, you missed out on the ‘update’ of whats going on with Brian and Ebony of A Heart Not Easily Broken….AND….you missed the CONTEST!!!!
Follow the link to enter and you have a chance to win an ebook copy of the next book in the series, Lonely Heart, on it’s release day! (Release day will officially be announced next month!) The contest ends on September 30 and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, October the 1st!
If you haven’t read A Heart Not Easily Broken, but are curious as to what readers have to say, check out this great review from an Amazon Reader!
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely, Flowing, Lyrical, Absorbing, September 22, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

I first heard about M.J. and the Butterfly Memoirs series via Twitter, where I came across several positive reviews. I ran here to read what Amazon readers were saying and ordered both “A Heart Not Easily Broken” and “Jaded” that same day. When the books arrived, I eagerly began to read “A Heart Not Easily Broken.” To say I was hooked is an understatement. I loved the books, loved M. J.’s writing style, and now have a new favorite author.

I’ve read quite a number of novels in the IR genre over the years. My interest was primarily due to my own relationship, and the desire to see African-American women portrayed as appealing, interesting, sensual, fully-formed characters – women I could recognize and relate to, and with whom I could go on a journey as I read their stories. I wasn’t always able to find novels that embraced all those elements. However, M. J. hit all those notes, and made me care deeply about the characters. I recognized Ebony. I liked her very much. She was real to me. Her struggles were real. Her dreams and goals were real. Her insecurities were real. Her self-assessment was real.

M.J.’s characterization of Brian was also quite vivid and rooted in reality. He was a good guy. He wasn’t a billionaire whose money and lifestyle could erase any and all challenges the couple might face. He wasn’t Ebony’s “savior” – she could save herself. He was “simply” a good man, with dreams and goals of his own. One who could appreciate a beautiful woman – no matter the “outer” form. He just liked what he saw. But he was also a man who could appreciate a good woman – a man who wanted a partner, someone with whom he could grow – a woman willing to share her goals, and support him in his. And he was willing to do the same.

Ebony and Brian’s relationship flowed so organically – as other readers have mentioned. It wasn’t love at first sight. It was mutual appreciation, with a bit of lust (!) at first sight. Brian pursued her, to be sure, but they got to know each other slowly – in real time, it seemed. They didn’t rush. They continued to learn about about each other, and realized that the mix of similarities and differences made the other all the more appealing.

The “serious plot point” that I won’t spoil was handled deftly and realistically. One of the marks of a great writer is being able to take the reader completely into a particular “scene” or circumstance. Suffice it to say, M. J. is a great writer.

I could wax eloquent about this book for hours. I loved it so much, and it instantly became my standard against which I will assess all other IR romances. “Jaded”, the second book in the series, was another fantastic read, with richly drawn characters and some twists and turns I didn’t expect. The story truly pulled me in.

I was so glad I bought both books at the same time. I’m anxiously awaiting the 3rd book in this trilogy. Hurry up, M.J.! 🙂

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Learn more about the characters!

Character Biography

Ebony’s Diary

Brian’s Musings

Read Chapter One

The Deleted Scene

If you haven’t read the Amazon Bestseller, A Heart Not Easily Broken, buy your copy today! It’s $3.99 and available for Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and on Smashwords. If Paperback is what you prefer, find it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! 

AHNEB FINAL COVER

Ebony is a smart, sexy, career-oriented black woman who wants nothing more than a summer fling with a man who challenges her mind and body. What she doesn’t expect is a blond-haired, blue-eyed bass player—who won’t take “no” for an answer—to accept the challenge.

When Ebony’s attempt at a brief fling turns into more, despite negative reactions from friends and family, she finds juggling love, family, and career are nothing compared to the ultimate betrayal she endures. Now her dreams spiral into lies and secrets that threaten her future and her best friend’s trust.

ONE CLICK for REVIEWS, FREE CHAPTER READS, ALL SALES LINKS!

For more information on The Butterfly Memoirs Series and a sample of the next book, Jadedvisit this link! 

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

#8SundaySample- The Morning After

It seems I’ve been talking about sex a lot on my blog over the last few weeks, and with good reason. Those scenes can be the most fun to write! In fact, once I’ve gone through my process of outlining the story and developing the characters, it’s often the first scene that comes to mind…but not for the reason you my think.

Every love scene in my novels is there for a reason, and no, I don’t get carried away with adding them for the sake of  word count. When my characters take that step, its because something has changed between them, and that change moves the story forward. So of course the ‘morning after’ is just as important as the events that led up to a night of passion.

In Jaded, the first time the lead characters, Yasmine and Zachariah, come together, it is as friends…with benefits. Believe me, it’s not something either of them jump into, especially since both were left jaded and broken due to past relationships. After everything is said and done, Zachariah takes the time to study Yasmine as she sleeps, and discovers something about her that makes him see her once again in a whole new light….

Excerpt:

And damn, even her manicured toes were sexy.

Yasmine shifted in her sleep; the sigh of a satisfied lover escaped. Then her eyes opened and I knew exactly what captivated me.

It wasn’t the color or the sexy cat-like shape. It was the emotion, the soul hidden deep within the grey mist, hiding what she didn’t want the world to know. She used her mind, quick wit, and sexuality to hide her feelings.

I could see well beyond the sexy exterior, past the hurt, past the pain, and into the heart of who she truly was.

A woman who wanted to love – and be loved.

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What readers are saying about Jaded….

“After reading A Heart Not Easily Broken I was trying so hard to compare, but after reading the first couple of chapters of Jaded, I was beginning to realize there’s no comparison! Jaded is a book all of its own. There is some laughter and some moments when you do get emotional but altogether this a great read.”- Amazon Review

 

***Read as a STAND-ALONE or as part of The Butterfly Memoirs series!***

Available on AMAZON, B&N, iTunes, and SMASHWORDS for $3.99! Also available on PAPERBACK!

Autumn landscape

A devastating breakup leaves Yasmine Phillips in shambles. Unable to trust another man with her heart, she focuses on the one thing she can control—starting her own business.

 When her computer crashes, taking months of hard work with it, she must rely on computer genius Zachariah Givens to save her. A complete opposite of men from her past, she doesn’t expect the passion that ensues. But just as she finds happiness, she learns the truth about the other women in Zachariah’s life.

Amazon      Barnes & Noble      iTunes     Smashwords     Paperback

Looking for Book 1? Follow this link to learn more about A Heart Not Easily Broken!

Follow this link to more #8Sunday Samples!

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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!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email