Category: holiday


It’s the start of Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. Along with my normal weekend chores today, I started the bread bake for this week–I normally bake the bread we use for stuffing the turkey. Today the first loaf is done and cooling in the kitchen, and it smells really good. The other two will have to wait until Wednesday, when I’m off from the day-job so I can do kitchen things.

There are a lot of things I am thankful for, there always are. Just today, I can think of plenty. My family is healthy. We’re all well-fed. We have roofs over our heads, and jobs to keep us that way. My washer and dryer work, so all of the week’s laundry is just about finished at last. My bread machine still works after nearly twenty years (and me finding out, accidentally, today that the lid is removable, though it does now have a couple nicks in it), and makes scrumptious bread for us. I have a roomful of books to read. I still have time off to schedule at the day-job before the end of the year. The great 80s music that is playing from downstairs right now. I had an idea for a new story (or several stories?). So many things.

Before I go back to my Thanksgiving prep list to make sure I don’t miss anything this week, I have a little story snippet to share with you, from the fourth story in my shifter series.

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Laney looked like she might cry.

Anton tamped down the urge to smile.

“Oh,” she said after a few seconds, “you really shouldn’t have, Lareina.”

“Nonsense.” His aunt hugged her tight with one arm. “You’re family now. And they’ll look much better on you than sitting in a locked box.”

Laney’s gaze flicked to his, and he grinned at her.

“Put them on, dear.” His aunt winked at him. “Let’s see.”

Reluctantly, Laney took the earrings out of the box and fumbled them on.

“Perfect,” Lareina said firmly.

Laney murmured another thank-you, but he’d bet she was wishing for a way out.

“And they’ll go with Mom’s necklace,” he said helpfully.

Laney shot him a drop-dead look, which he ignored, crossing to sit on the arm of the loveseat beside her. He brushed her hair back to see the platinum and emerald dangling from her ear. “Very pretty.” He leaned down and feathered a kiss at her temple.

Exhaling a long breath, she turned to his aunt. “They’re lovely.”

Anton rubbed his hand in a small circle between her shoulder blades, feeling a little of the tension ease.

His aunt patted her knee. “Why don’t I refill your glass? I need to check the bread anyway.”

He waited until Lareina had bustled away with Laney’s half-empty wineglass, then he claimed the spot beside his mate. “What’s wrong?”

She met his gaze, then dropped hers after a moment. “It’s too much.”

He dragged in a slow breath. “It’s family.”

She swallowed. “But I’m–”

“My mate,” he said firmly, and her gaze snapped back up to his.

She clamped her teeth on her lower lip.

Anton set one hand at the back of her neck and leaned closer. “Merry Christmas, Laney,” he whispered.

She shut her eyes, but not before he caught a glimpse of tears.

Anton kissed her lightly, wondering if she would kiss him back. She did, but only for a moment then leaned away, blushing. He touched her jaw, holding her shiny gaze. “You okay?”

She nodded once, swallowing.

“It’s a lot,” he mused, “all of them.”

Laney shrugged, looking away. “Not so bad. There was always a houseful when I was at home.”

Of course. “How did you spend the last two Christmases?”

She nibbled at her lower lip for a second. “I worked the first one, and last year I spent the day at a homeless shelter, serving dinner. Less lonely, plus I got to remind myself things really weren’t so bad for me.” She shrugged once more.

Anton wished again that he’d done more damage to Shepley the other night. He wrapped one arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer.

________________

Now I’ve got to finish this list so I can get some writing done before I call it a day! What are you thankful for this week?

 

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The picture above is one I took at my dad’s a few years ago in the fall.  It was slightly earlier than November, but right now here, we have some trees that are still holding onto green leaves, some that are totally bare (thanks to a fall storm system the past two days), and some with a few fall colors holding on, kind of like in that photo.  And it’s chilly here today, though not as cold as yesterday, when the wind was blowing non-stop and the actual high temperature was about forty degrees, so there was wind-chill to factor in, too.

It’s a good day to stay inside. For some, that means chores. I did those yesterday after I finished my errands, so I would have today to write. The trouble is, there are always more chores. Plus I have to figure out what we’re going to be eating for Thanksgiving dinner in a week and a half, because my schedule at the day-job is going to be pretty crazy the next ten days. Of course there’ll be turkey and stuffing (I’ll make the sage and onion bread for that myself), mashed potatoes and gravy, corn pudding, and homemade cranberry sauce…all of our usuals. But I still have to figure out a dessert (no pumpkin pie!), a dinner bread, and maybe a fish dish for me since I don’t eat turkey anymore. We’ll see how things go next weekend–I’ll probably be working at least one day next weekend to get through the beginning of Thanksgiving week a little easier, so that will limit what I can accomplish besides laundry so we have clean clothes for work. If you have ideas for dessert, I’d love to hear them.

Now I’m going to dive back into my novella. My normal write-before-work-starts and lunchtime writing sessions have gone by the wayside the last week or so. I was lucky to be able to get to eat anything at all nearly every day last week, and I’m not counting on too many lunch breaks in the next seven days at the day-job either. Before I go, I have a little snippet to share with you from Hunting Medusa.

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Slowly, Andi walked back down the hallway until she reached the end. The door was glossy, dark wood, and she touched it lightly before putting the key into the lock. It took a little effort to get it to turn, and then she swung the door open onto a big, bright room dominated by an enormous bed.

She blushed.

“Hey.” Kallan’s greeting was soft, but still made her jump. “Nice.”

She stepped aside so he could carry in their suitcase and backpacks.

He dropped them in front of the open closet and pushed the room door shut, then latched it and fastened the chain. “Now, let’s see.” He turned back to her, his eyes bright with intent.

Andi stood on the spot, part of her wanting to run from the overwhelming need rushing through her, and the other part wanting to let him have his way with her.

She’d been reading too many of the older, early romance novels, if she was having thoughts like that, she mused, hearing her pulse pound in her ears. No one said things like “have his way with her”.

But she thought she might like it if he did.

“Are you tired?”

She thought about it. “Yes. And no.”

His lips curved slightly. “Really?”

“Thank you.” Before her brain was useless, she needed to remind herself of one more thing.

He tilted his head. “For what?”

“For reminding me who I am here.”

His expression cleared. “It would have been really hard to explain to that lovely old lady why the name on your passport doesn’t match the name you gave her.” He smiled, squaring his shoulders. “Did you want to take that walk on the shore now?”

She shook her head. “No. Let’s go to bed.” Her tone was husky, even to her own ears, and his eyes darkened in response.

“So you are tired, after all.” He tugged his shirt free of his jeans, whipped it over his head and took a step toward her.

Her gaze slid down over his chest, lingering, then back up to his face. “Not exactly.” She yanked off her own shirt, gratified to see his stunned expression when the garment went flying across the room. She took a step toward him then, and it was his turn to swallow, hard.

She put her hands on his chest, skimmed lightly over the muscles there, before detouring to his sides, then up to his shoulders.

“Andrea.”

She smiled. “Yes, Kallan?”

His throat worked, and she heard his breath catch when she rubbed her palms down over his hard little nipples. “What are you doing?”

“Touching.” She stretched up to drift a kiss on his parted lips, then dragged her open mouth along his stubbled jaw to his throat. Under her hands, his heart pounded faster. “Tasting.” She nipped at his shoulder next, then flicked her tongue over the same spot.

His breathing went ragged.

“Are you tired, Kallan?” She leaned closer to press her aching breasts against his chest, and stifled a sigh of relief.

He captured her waist and lifted her to him, his mouth demanding when it caught hers. Along her belly, she felt his arousal, hard and hot. Her own body echoed the latter, dampening her panties.

She slid one arm around his neck, tangling her fingers in his loose hair while the kiss went on and on.

Agaph,” he rasped against her lips.

In reply, she wrapped her legs around his waist, making him groan when she rocked into him. “Tell me what that means,” she breathed.

“Love.” One of his hands slid down under her, holding her more securely. Temptingly close to where she wanted him to touch, but not near enough.

________________

I hope you’re all staying toasty on this chilly November day. I may make some soup again today. Probably not pumpkin, though that looks really good, doesn’t it?

If you have dessert ideas for Thanksgiving, I’d love to hear them. Hope you all have a great week!

 

 

 

 

( Photo by bleublogger on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )

It’s officially November now, and the weather really does feel like fall finally. And I’ve taken yet another look at my goals for the year, starting with the original goals from January, and then the revised goals, and the revised-again goals. And you know what I’ve decided? I’m tired of life getting in the way of my writing goals the last few years.

So here is what is going to happen:

I am going to give myself a break for the next two months.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. It just means I am not going to stress anymore over the list of goals that are staring accusingly at me from the bulletin board beside my desk. It means I will keep writing. I will participate in the goal-setting workshop that I love in December and set my goals for 2019. I will read every chance I get. And I will be ready to kick some goal ass starting in January.

I am going to set good, realistic goals for next year, not that I haven’t set realistic goals the past few years, it’s just that life has thrown me a few serious curveballs. And next year, nothing is going to stop me from reaching them. I have been working on a novella for a Common Elements project for release in November 2019, and I’m excited about that story. I am going to get my Medusa back out into the world, and her two cousins will follow. Lots of writing things are on my mind, and I’ll fine-tune them next month during the workshop.

Before I get back to my weekly household chores, I have a little story snippet to share with you from the second Medusa book, Protecting Medusa.

________________

Aristotle Tassos dropped to his knees beside his desk, bowing his head. “My Lady,” he murmured, his heart pounding faster.

“Your nephew is dead, Aristotle.”

His head jerked up, and he stifled the urge to blanch under the steely grey gaze of Athena. “My nephew?” He had a terrible feeling he knew to which nephew She referred this time.

“Yes. That fool Nestor. He was killed at the Medusa’s home.” She glared down at him. “Why did he not kill her before they killed him?”

Ari swallowed, his mouth dry. Another dead nephew. Beneath his knees, the plush carpet was not plush enough. “I’m sorry, My Lady. I know he intended to–”

“Intended to.” Her lip curled with distaste. “It seems to me that all the Tassos family is able to do these days is intend to do their job.” The tall woman in the flowing white gown folded Her arms over Her chest. “I grow weary of the lack of results.”

He bowed his head under Her furious gaze. “I am so sorry, My Lady. I vow to you, we will kill that monster for You.” He shut his eyes.

“Perhaps I should remind you then,” she said after a moment, “that there are repercussions if this task is not carried out, Aristotle. I will take out my frustration with your family on you if this monster is not killed.”

He bowed lower. “I promise, it will be done.” He tried to slow his too-quick breathing.

When there was only silence in response to his words, he dared to lift his head a few inches.

The Goddess was gone.

He struggled to his feet and braced himself on the edge of his desk, his heart pounding too quickly. He concentrated on breathing evenly, trying to make his pulse slow down. Perspiration dripped into his right eye, and he brushed it away, noting the way his fingers shook.

He moved carefully around the desk to his chair and dropped into it, then fumbled in the top right drawer until he found a pill box, popping a small white tablet into his mouth and swallowing it. After a moment, his heartbeat began to drop back into a more regular rhythm.

In a few more minutes, he felt better, though worry still pulsed along his veins. He’d done all he could over the years to teach his nephews the importance of fulfilling this task for the Goddess. Surely it couldn’t be so difficult now that there were so many modern technologies at their fingertips. Not to mention the special abilities the Goddess had gifted them with.

He sat up straighter in his chair, setting his jaw. They would do this job, by the Goddess, and he would make certain of it.

He glared at the photo on the front of his desk, an old black and white picture of a young man. “You fool, Iphis. Look what you have brought us to.

The Goddess would kill you all over if She knew what you’d done. All these years later, and I am still cleaning up your mess.”

He reached for the phone on the corner of his desk.

These boys would come to heel, and they would do it now.

________________

Are any of you thinking about your goals for next year? Are they ambitious enough? I’m aiming high, how about you?

( Photo by xJason.Rogersx on Foter.com / CC BY )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

( Photo by Kate#2112 on Foter.com / CC BY )

It looks like fall outside, with leaves falling and changing colors, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It was almost 90 degrees here today. I’m really ready for fall.

Things have been hectic since my vacation ended, and I’m already ready for my next time off–I have a conference to go to in less than two weeks, and will have a four-day weekend for that (which will be right in the middle of another crazy-busy week at the day-job, naturally).  I also didn’t get to see my sister due to an unavoidable change to her travel plans, so I’m bummed about that. Next trip, I suppose.

The good news right now is the extended weather forecast tells me it will actually feel like fall by the end of the week. I might get to wear long sleeves finally, not just in the office where the thermostat is set on Arctic-blast and we wear sweaters most of the year. That will help me figure out my conference packing, too. Of course, conference rooms are notoriously chilly, too, so sweaters will definitely be on the packing list.

I have to narrow down my workshop wish-list, too. There are a couple of blocks when there are 4-5 great workshops all at the same time, and I’ll have to figure out which 1 is an absolute must and then maybe get recordings of the others afterward so I can still listen to them. One of the best parts of the conference will be seeing writing friends (and hopefully making some new ones!) I haven’t seen in a while. The last few years kinda put a wrench in my usual conference-going, so I haven’t seen most of my writing buddies in a long time. This conference is one of my favorite October things every year, and I’m excited to be able to go back finally.

Before I get back to my re-read of this shifter manuscript, I have a little  snippet from the first shifter story to share with you.

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All he wanted when he got in the house was to find something to eat, perhaps a cold drink, and then to park himself in front of something mindless on the television for the rest of the evening. But when he walked into the otherwise silent house, the phone was ringing. No other cars were in the drive, which meant either he needed to answer it, or listen to it ring until the machine kicked in.

He debated for half a second: cold beer or ringing phone. It would take far less time to reach the telephone than it would to get to the refrigerator in the kitchen, and he’d be able to hear the phone the entire time. Sighing, he headed for the nearest phone just inside the library.

Harley smiled when he saw the name on the caller i.d. It was about time he got lucky. His evening was suddenly looking up. He snagged the phone from the cradle. “Hello, little Tessa.”

There was silence for a moment, and then he heard her inhale shakily. “I need to speak to India please.” Even her voice trembled.

Surely she wasn’t that upset by having him answer the phone. He must have startled her. “She’s not here.” He wasn’t sure he managed to keep the smugness from his tone.

Another shaky breath reached his ear. Then a sniffle.

On alert now, he frowned. “Tessa? What’s wrong, honey?”

“Someone broke into the house,” she whispered.

His heart pounded faster. He stuck his free hand into his pocket and grabbed the car keys. “Call the police, Tessa.” He strode out of the office toward the entry hall.

“I did. They’re here, but they won’t let me go inside. They said I won’t be able to stay here tonight.”

And he could hear in her tone that right now, she didn’t want to stay there. He stopped near the front door. “I’ll be right there. Are you okay? You didn’t walk in on whoever it was?”

“I’m fine.”

He resisted the need to snort his disbelief at that claim. He could hear in her voice that she was far from fine. “I’ll be there in just a couple of minutes, honey.” He pushed the off button on the phone and dropped it to the table beside the door on his way out.

It took him seven minutes and a lot of miles an hour over the speed limit to reach Tessa’s place, and he saw the flashing red lights on the police cars before he even got in view of the house. When he jerked his car to a stop at the end of her very crowded driveway, he saw her, standing outside the front door, arms wrapped over her middle. Shaking.

His protective instinct rose up with a growl as he shoved the door open and climbed out of the car. The cops had left her standing there alone. Unprotected.

Her front door had been smashed in, shattered. There was no need to use that much force, he thought as he strode nearer. Whoever did it had done so maliciously, simply to destroy it.

Tessa had been watching the proceedings inside her house, but she glanced over her shoulder then, her wide eyes dark with fear.

He held up his hands, though he knew she was aware he meant her no harm. “Hey,” he said softly.

Her lower lip quivered, just a little, and then she sank her teeth into it, to keep it still.

“Ah, Tessa.” He stepped nearer and tugged her against himself, feeling the shivers racing over her. He also noticed the way her spine stiffened in his embrace, but he held her securely anyway, rubbing one hand up her back, her soft work shirt warm under his touch. “It’ll be all right.”

She didn’t reply, just hid her face against his shoulder, her breath coming in quick bursts.

He was afraid she was going to cry.

He’d never seen Tessa cry, not in all the years he’d known her. Not when she’d been a scared little girl visiting his rowdy family for the first time. Never when she’d fallen and wound up with bloody knees or hands from some harebrained idea India had had during their play visits. Not when she went away to college on her own. Not even when she’d returned for first her grandma’s and then her aunt’s funerals.

This scared the hell out of him.

Then he noticed the scent, and all his senses went on alert.

Of course he could smell Tessa’s familiar scent, but nearby, he scented shifters. Not his family, not tigers, but something vaguely familiar.

Shifters had done this to Tessa’s house.

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Harley is one of my favorites (at the moment, anyway), and I really want to finish polishing his story so he and Tessa can meet the world (not sure when, exactly). Anyway, I’m going back to them.

So how is your fall so far? Actually fall, or is it still more like summer where you are, too?

(   Photo by RebeccaVC1 on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )

 

 

( Photo by Dougtone on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

I actually can see the light at the end of the tunnel at long last, in more than one situation. My crazy work schedule has just under 3 weeks before my vacation (and I may get to visit with my sister that week, so yay!), and we’re starting to wind down the settlement of my aunt’s estate, finally. That will be a huge relief to wrap that up after all this time. But I’m starting this (short) work week with a horrible cold. One of my co-workers had it last week, and mine started Saturday. I’m just glad it waited till then, because we went out Friday night to see a band we like, and it would have sucked to be sick for that. I have to say, though, I’m not looking forward to working while feeling this way, especially when we’re so busy. But grown-ups have to suck it up, right?

I had big plans for the weekend, since it’s Labor Day, so an extra day off meant chores, reading, writing. Or just resting and generally being lazy and grumpy while blowing my nose non-stop instead. My head hurts too much to read, and I have been sneezing non-stop. I did think I might get to sleep a little later than usual this morning, but the company that has been replacing the roof and siding on my next door neighbor’s house actually came out to work today, bright and early, so no resting going on. I should get some earplugs maybe. I’ve given up on the cold medicine, because I didn’t notice any difference at all yesterday or last night, so I’ll just keep popping vitamin C tablets like a fiend, drinking soup and lots of tea, and go to bed early tonight.

I do want to get some reading done, though, before the weekend is over, so I think I’m going to give that another try shortly. But I also wanted to say hi, and drop in a little story snippet for the week, from the first tiger shifter story.

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India had given her more than one speculative glance during the evening, but thankfully, she hadn’t asked the questions Tessa knew were on her mind. It was late when they returned to the house, so Tessa didn’t argue about spending the night–the house was quiet when they went inside, and she hoped everyone was already sleeping. Or at least, that Harley was. Remembering what she’d let him do earlier kept her awake far later that night. How could she be so weak?

She wanted to settle into bed after India went into her suite, but her brain wouldn’t stop circling back to what she’d done earlier. She paced the room for a few minutes, trying to force her mind to clear.

When pacing didn’t work, she went to the window. The small solar lights below lit up the shadowy gardens in places the moonlight didn’t reach.
Brighter lights shone in the pool, where a large shape moved through the water.

Harley. Her mouth went dry. Beautiful.

And naked.

She swallowed hard, watching his powerful strokes through the water, strong arms and legs propelling him quickly from one end of the pool to the other.

It was a very pretty sight, she mused, admiring the play of his muscles, his sleek, wet skin. Her cheeks heated.

He stopped suddenly at the near end of the pool, lifting his head to look up at her.

Caught. The warmth in her cheeks spread to the rest of her.

He couldn’t see her. She’d turned off the bedroom light when India had gone to bed.

But she knew he knew she was there, even though he resumed swimming his laps, a little slower now.

And when he climbed the steps at the shallow end of the pool a few minutes later, she covered her mouth with one hand. Whoa!

Harley, naked, was an incredible sight. And wet, naked, aroused Harley made her knees weak.

He picked up a towel from one of the chairs nearby, and rubbed his back briskly, as he turned his face up toward her window. She backed away, heart pounding. He did not know she was there. He couldn’t.

She crawled into bed and curled into a ball in the center of the mattress, but no matter how tight she closed her eyes, she couldn’t stop seeing him emerging from the pool, water sluicing down his body, his erection jutting out in front of him.

That would have mortified her teenage self, and her adult self was more than a little embarrassed to have been gawking.

But wow… That would fuel plenty of fantasies in the future.

And kept her wide awake for hours.

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( Photo by out of ideas on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

Now I’m off to try to read a little before I call it a day. I’ll see you back here next weekend!

 

Now that the big day has passed, I guess it’s time to wind down the festivities. There is only so much cake and ice cream one person can eat (or should eat, maybe, if they’re trying to be conscientious about getting healthier). Still, the month only has a few more days, so maybe we just downsize the intake of birthday cake…

( Photo on Foter.com )

I spent part of my birthday morning at the eye doctor for a very overdue exam, and just ordered new (and much stronger) glasses, but for fun, I followed it up with an hour on the massage table, and then the boys came over for dinner and cake, which made me happy. The hubby and I are winding down my birthday weekend with dinner at my favorite Asian restaurant tonight, before I buckle down to work again.  Work = the day-job and the writing job. That said, I’ll keep this post short and sweet for a change. I have a story snippet for you, from the third Medusa story, Freeing Medusa.

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Katharine bolted upright in bed, breathing hard, and Hunter shot upright, too, suddenly wide awake, and caught one of her flailing arms.

“Easy,” he murmured, “easy, Kat.” He set his other hand on her back.

She went suddenly still, her breath coming too quickly. “Sorry,” she managed after a moment. “Bad dream.”

“Lie down.” He loosened his hold on her wrist, gratified when she obeyed him, dropping back onto her pillow again. He eased down beside her, stroking his hand along her arm, lightly, from wrist to elbow and back. “What was the dream?”

She took a deep breath and held it for a moment, then let it out slowly. “Athena.”

Hunter exhaled, too. “You okay?”

He heard the movement her head made on the pillow as she shook it. “She’s angry.”

“You can tell that from a dream?”

“Not sure it’s just a dream, exactly,” she said softly. “Not this time.”

“What do you mean?” He let his fingers stay circled around her wrist, feeling the rush of her pulse beneath his forefinger.

“I know what a dream feels like.” She went silent for a moment again. “This wasn’t a dream. This is something else. She was with Aristotle, and She’s furious that I’m not dead.”

Hunter frowned in the dark, wishing he could see her eyes. “And?”

Another rustle of the blankets. Maybe a shrug, judging by the slight motion of her arm in his hold. “He’s afraid. That’s it.”

He smiled at the frustration he heard in her tone, but only for a second. An angry Goddess couldn’t be a good thing. Not when the Goddess in question had placed a curse on a family that had lasted for millennia. “Does She rely on them to do all the work as far as tracking the Medusa?”

Her breathing slowed a little. “I don’t know,” she said after a few seconds. “We could find out from Andi’s husband Kallan, I suppose.”

“You’d think a Goddess would be able to give them an unfair advantage in their hunt, wouldn’t you?”

Her pulse eased a bit under his fingers. “You would.” She sounded as if she were seriously thinking about it.

“It sounds like She doesn’t, though. I wonder why?” Hunter rubbed his thumb along the back of her hand.

If Athena wanted the Medusa dead so badly, one would think She’d give her Harvesters every advantage She could.

“Maybe She can’t?”

It was definitely a question, he noted. Her tone was uncertain, plain even in the dark.

Hunter lifted her hand to his mouth and brushed a quick kiss across the back of her fingers. “I don’t know, but we can try to figure it out in the morning. Can you go back to sleep?”

Her fingers tightened in his hold for a quick second before relaxing again. “I can try.”

He let their joined hands drop to the bed between them. “Try, honey.” He listened to her for a while, the tiny shifting motions as she settled back into the bed, her breathing slowing gradually. While his own brain raced.

Why wouldn’t Athena help Her Harvesters? Why would She expect them to do all the work on their own?

Maybe She couldn’t find the Medusa Herself.

He lay awake for hours, thinking about the possibilities and what they might mean for Katharine, until his brain finally shut down from sheer exhaustion.

He jerked awake again when Kat stretched in her sleep, and he realized he was wrapped around her, the soft curve of her ass snuggled into his groin, one of her breasts only inches from where his hand rested on her ribs. He shut his eyes for a second, allowing himself to savor the feel of her against him, just for another couple heartbeats before he eased away from her, putting a few much needed inches between her cotton-clad butt and his strengthening erection.

He took a slow breath, but all that got him was a bigger lungful of her scent. He rolled onto his back and slid one foot up to bend his leg. The sheet and blanket weren’t nearly as warm as Katharine.

She shifted beside him again, rolling first onto her back, then onto her side to face him.

Hunter stifled a groan when her hand landed on his abdomen and her leg brushed his. Her fingers flexed along his belly, and he covered her hand with his own to keep her from sliding her fingers any lower.

A sleepy sound escaped her as she snuggled closer again.

Torture. He shut his eyes. It was torture to have her fingers so close.

Her knee rubbed along his thigh, higher.

His heart pounded harder, drowning out the quiet voice of reason in his head that was attempting to remind him he could wait until she was ready for any more intimacy.

Her knee nudged at his erection, and the groan rumbled up from his throat this time. He slid away, until he could put one foot on the floor and get out of bed.

Kat’s hand moved across the blanket for a few seconds, as if she were searching for something, then stopped, and her breathing evened out again.

He shut his eyes for a heartbeat, then turned away to gather clean clothes and head for the shower. A cold shower.

________________

Okay, maybe one more cake, just to finish off the month.

I hope you all have a great week!

 

( Photo on Foter.com )

I think I mentioned last week that it is my birthday month. I don’t actually feel like celebrating, but I think maybe those are the times you probably need to do it anyway, right?  So I’m looking for reasons to celebrate all month long, every day–though I won’t be having cake every day, that isn’t on the diet.  Maybe this much cake for me this month…

( Photo by Theresa Thompson on Foter.com / CC BY )

Who else has a birthday this month? Are you celebrating, or are you feeling more ambivalent about it like me? We should celebrate together, all month long!

We’re having our first nice days (read: not hot as the second level of hell) in a couple of weeks right now, but I had to close up the house and turn on the air conditioner anyway, because it’s laundry day, and the hot air from the dryer vent blows right into two of our open windows, making the inside of the house too hot.  I’m kind of okay with that, since we’d have to turn it back on tomorrow anyhow, plus I spent most of yesterday outside doing garden stuff at my aunt’s house. Got a nice migraine to go with it from the very bright sun, too, which was not how I imagined the day going. But a large chunk of yard work is done. and I came home and took a nap and most of the headache was gone when I got up. Today, along with laundry, and food prep for the next few days, is writing day. I have my music on random play right now, but will have to change that to my ‘soundtrack’ for this novella (fun, beachy, summertime songs) when I finish up here.  And a different ‘soundtrack’ when I go back to revisions on Protecting Medusa. Right now, there is some really great Hans Zimmer movie music playing (if you haven’t listened to him, one of my faves is his soundtrack from Sherlock Holmes), and that always makes me happy.

Before I dig into my writing, I have a little snippet from Protecting Medusa for you.

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It seemed an eternity before she heard steady footsteps crunching in the snow leading to the backdoor, and she tensed even more, pain sliding up the back of her neck. Her breath escaped in a rush when she realized it was Ryder stepping inside, and she lowered her dagger to her side, eyes closing for a second. Thank you, Gods.

He shut the door and knelt in front of her, his face somber. “It’s all right.” He touched her cheek with cold fingers, and she shut her eyes again.

“Gone?” She opened her eyes and found his brown eyes hardened.

“Dead.”

She gasped, the room tilting sharply to one side.

“Either him or you, and I’d prefer him.” He helped her to her feet. “I’ve got to get rid of him.” He cupped her elbows in his hands for a moment while he studied her expression. “Drink some of that orange juice, baby. You look mighty pale.” He guided her back to her seat and pushed her into it, then took the dagger from her nerveless fingers.

While she picked up her glass in both hands, he tugged her skirt up far enough to reveal the soft leather sheath strapped to her thigh.

“Nice,” he murmured, then put her blade back into it and snapped it shut. His fingers, hard and a little rough, lingered against her skin, distracting her from her chaotic thoughts for a couple of seconds. He inhaled shakily, then pulled her skirt back into place, rising again. “Reset the alarm behind me, Mena. I’ll be back as soon as I can, and do not go anywhere without me.” He bent to kiss the top of her head, and then strode out the back door to his truck.

She rose to follow his order, still shocked, then stood there at the back door, staring out into the snow as the sound of his truck faded away. He’d killed someone to protect her.

The thought chilled her. Not necessarily that he’d killed someone. She imagined he’d killed before, during his time in the military and working for the intelligence agency. But to keep her safe… Someone who would have killed her given the opportunity. That was the chilling part.

The Harvesters had really found her.

She shivered, wrapping her arms around her waist and turning away from the door. Her mother and Jason were in danger with her here. Far more than she’d ever imagined.

Her chest tightened with fear. She needed to go somewhere else. Somewhere the Harvesters wouldn’t kill her family to get to her. Away.

She scraped her breakfast into the trash, her hands shaking so much she dropped her fork into the can, too. Her breath came too fast, making her dizzy. She picked up the fork, carrying it and her plate to the sink. She turned on the water, too hot, but she put her hands under it anyway, wincing before adjusting the temperature a little.

Where would she go?

Oh, Gods, how would she go? How could she not see Jason again? She bit her lip against the sting of tears in her eyes. She’d had him since Desi gave birth to him six years ago.

The phone rang, startling her, and she sniffed, grabbing a dish towel on her way to pick it up. “Hello?”

“Good, you’re still there.” Ryder.

She sniffled again. “I have to go.”

“Not without me.” His tone was hard. “That’s why I told you not to go anywhere without me. I knew you were going to get there.”

Philomena wiped the towel over her cheek. “It’s not safe for them if I’m here.”

“I know, baby,” he said, more gently. “But wait for me. We’ll do this together. I can keep you safe.”

She dropped into the chair he’d abandoned, staring at his half-eaten breakfast. “I can’t stay here.”

“Mena.”

She stuck his fork into the small mound of eggs on the plate, her mind spinning in too many directions, and her heart still pounded hard enough to drown out most of those thoughts, even if she could capture one.

“Mena.” His tone hardened again.

“What, Ryder?”

“Stay with me here.” He took a deep breath and released it. “I’ll be back at the house in maybe twenty minutes. My buddy will be there in the next hour or so. We have to stay for a little while, to get him settled. To say goodbye to Aggie and Jason temporarily. But we’ll go together, do you understand me?”

She picked up a forkful of eggs, trying to concentrate on his words and staring at the bright yellow of the eggs. “Together, huh?”

“Yes, together. You and me.”

She stuck the eggs into her mouth without thinking, and her stomach growled. She blinked, chewing slowly. With Ryder. She didn’t doubt he could keep her safe from the Harvesters. “Okay,” she said at last.

________________

Now I’m going to go write, but I think maybe the rest of you need some cake, too.

 

If your birthday is this week, have an extra helping, and happy birthday!

 

 

I’m talking about the weather–I don’t think there is such a thing as too hot when it comes to romance novels.

I should have taken a photo of our thermometer an hour ago when I went past it–99 degrees, and the sensor for it is in the shade, so I’m afraid to wonder what our backyard feels like directly in the sun. Fortunately, I don’t have to go outside today to find out–I should, because my tomatoes need to be tied up more on their stakes, but they can wait until it doesn’t feel like the first level of hell outside. I’ve been trying to space out the household chores for the weekend that are generating more heat.  My younger son’s birthday was mid-week, so we had his birthday dinner last night, and he wanted mac and cheese, which requires the oven. So the laundry waited until today, and I’m going to only do the really necessary stuff today, and then the other couple of loads that aren’t needed immediately over the next few days.

My other plans for this afternoon are to make a huge batch of salad so I don’t have to cook anything for a couple of days, work on a manuscript, and do some reading. While in our air-conditioned house, pretending it isn’t so miserable outside. Maybe I can pretend it’s winter instead.

That looks much better.

On the other hand, it is now my birthday month. So maybe I can hold off on the snow for a little longer and instead have cake and ice cream. Oh! Or just ice cream cake!

( Photo on Foter.com )

That looks amazing, and I might have to make one of those when the date is closer.

While I’m trying to find ways to pretend summer isn’t really here, I have a little snippet of the third Medusa to share with you.

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Hunter stuck close all afternoon, not giving her a chance to do anything foolish, as he was sure she was planning to do the first chance she got. He sat on the recliner while she curled into a corner of the sofa with her laptop. Every so often, her fingers would fly over the keyboard, then she would simply sit and scroll slowly over whatever it was she was reading.

For a while, he studied some papers he’d brought home the day before, then he moved on to his laptop, searching for Greek myths online. Eventually, she sighed, and leaned back in her seat.

“What’s wrong?” He lifted his gaze from his screen, away from a fascinating college paper someone had written about Perseus and Medusa, noting the faint frown lines on her forehead. Whatever it was, she was aggravated.

Her mouth tightened for a moment, before she blew out a quick breath. “My cousin’s husband.”

He set his laptop aside and rested his elbows on his knees. “What did he say?”

Her grey eyes were stormy when she lifted her gaze to meet his again. “He said he wants to talk to you.”

Hunter stifled the smile that wanted to spread over his face at her words. “Really?” He noted the slight narrowing of her eyes and realized he hadn’t kept the smile from his tone.

“I told him it’s not necessary.”

“I disagree.” He set his laptop on the coffee table and got up from his seat to join her on the sofa. “Which husband is this?”

“The security guy.” Katharine’s mouth tightened. “And it isn’t necessary. I’m not staying here indefinitely and putting you in danger, too.”

“I think that’s my choice to make.” He leaned over and looked at the screen on her laptop, where a short email had a telephone number after a signature. Hunter scooped his cell from the table and dialed the number, watching her expression darken still further. Right now, she could be as pissed off as she wanted.

She pushed to her feet and dropped her laptop onto the coffee table, pacing away from him in the direction of the fireplace.

“Hi, this is Hunter Phelps,” he said when a gruff male voice answered the line. “I’m with Katharine.”

There was a brief silence, and then he heard the other man sigh softly. “Did you have to wrestle the phone number out of her?”

He chuckled, watching her shoulders tense. “Not quite.”

“I’m Ryder Ware, married to Katharine’s cousin Mena. How did you get involved in this?”

“That’s kind of personal. Let’s just say I happened to be going to visit at just the right time to catch the Harvester entering her house.”

The other man muttered something under his breath. “Damn,” he said. “She didn’t say he’d gotten into the house.” He blew out a breath. “That’s bad, if they know where she lives. You can’t let her go back there.”

“Working on it.” He watched her scowl as she turned to pace back again, avoiding his gaze.

“Work harder. She’ll be stubborn and won’t make it easy for you.”

“I’ve noticed that.” He followed her back across the room, noting the flex of her muscles in the faded jeans she wore, her thighs strong as she strode across his living room. He smiled a little.

“Ah, that didn’t take long.”

“No.” He moved to stand in the doorway, blocking any attempt she might make to leave. “As soon as she felt better, actually.”

Katharine glared at him over her shoulder.

His smile widened.

“That sounds about right. She hasn’t made any actual attempt to go, has she?”

“Not yet.”

“Good. I’ll have Mena try to persuade her that staying with you right now is in her best interest.”

“She mentioned you have a security company.”

“Yes.” The other man’s voice sounded satisfied. “But there’s only so much even I can do against the Harvesters.”

Hunter’s smile faded. “That doesn’t sound good.”

Katharine shot him a frown as she dropped onto the sofa and picked up her laptop again.

“These people are determined, Hunter. They don’t stop, and there are thousands of them.”

He considered that. “Is there any way to know which ones are in the area?”

Ryder sighed. “No. There are permanent addresses, of course, many of them along the eastern seaboard, but they move all around on their hunt. Mena and Katharine’s cousin Andi had Harvesters from across the country hunting her in Maine years ago.”

Hunter didn’t like the sound of that. “That’ll make this a bit more challenging then.”

The other man laughed, humorlessly. “I think that’s an understatement. You need to keep her out of sight as much as possible. They have no way to connect her to you, do they?”

“No. I made sure we weren’t followed when we left her house, and this relationship is still pretty new.” He noted the way her shoulders stiffened at his words. He wondered if she were more annoyed by his refusal to let her leave on her own, or his characterization of them as having a relationship.

________________

I do love Hunter, and the third Medusa is set during the summertime, so I guess that is a good snippet for today. Now I’m off to get my salad stuff started so I can sit down with Nora and maybe a frozen beverage.

How are you staying cool this week?

( Photo by alexbrn on Foter.com / CC BY )

 

 

 

It’s been a crazy week at the day-job: by the end of this week, there will be three of us doing the job of five on my team, because the other two are leaving for new adventures. It will be the first time since our team was formed last August that we’ve had any staffing changes. We do have someone new starting, but it will be a few weeks until he is trained and really ready to take on some of the work the other two are leaving behind, which means for a couple of weeks, things are going to be insane. Normally, I work with about a dozen people. Until the new guy is trained, I’m adding fifteen more to my list, and I have to say I’m freaking out a little. Even when he is ready to take on his own work, we’ll still have more than we started with, until the final spot on the team is filled again, and we don’t know when that will be.

I’ve been trying to ignore the new, longer list until it’s actually in effect, but it’s still sitting there on my desk, staring at me while I’m doing my normal work. And then yesterday, a helpful little voice in my head pointed out how much more time it is going to take me to deal with these things at the day-job, and boy, that’s really going to cut into the writing time.  Picture me beating my head on the nearest wall.

So I am setting my writing goals aside for the present (and trying not to freak out about that, too), and I am just going to write, revise, study in any free moments I get.  Like I normally do, only with less free moments, I suppose.  And now that I’ve thought about that, I’m kind of freaking out.

 

Nope, not going to freak out. I’m going to take a couple of deep breaths and think of something nice. Like going to see Nora Roberts, Linda Howard and Barbara Delinsky next month. That will be a fun booksigning. And even before that, we’ll have a birthday dinner here for my younger son, so there’ll be good food and family. Okay, I feel a little better.

Before I go get more writing time in, I have a little snippet of story for you, from the third Medusa.

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Hunter had to do more digging to find Katharine than he’d guessed would be necessary. It took him several hours and finally a phone call to a friend at the DOT to get her mailing and street addresses. By then it was too late to call or show up at her door unannounced. But he headed there in the morning after checking in at the office to see what Mary Ann had on tap for him. Luckily, he had a couple hours free before he had to meet with a new client.

He debated getting her a gift certificate for a lingerie store to take along, to replace the underwear he’d destroyed, then decided that might be a little much, considering he was still virtually a stranger.

Instead, he picked up a fistful of daisies and drove across town to the address his buddy had given him last night. A neat little one story white house with an attached garage. Two narrow flowerbeds flanked the two steps to the front door.

And a tall guy in black shoved open a window at the side of the house as Hunter eased his car along the street.

Heart pounding faster, he didn’t stop in front of her house as he’d intended, but down the street several houses, and the way the homes were spaced on her street, it was far enough that the guy wouldn’t hear him and automatically assume he was coming to Katharine’s. He left the daisies on the seat and sprinted back to her house, through her neighbors’ yards. He peered around the corner of her house. The side window was open, and there was no sign of the man. He was inside.

Hunter’s pulse quickened even more. No time to call the cops. He stepped up to the front door, noting the alarm company sticker in the front window. He didn’t want to do damage to her door, though, or alert the intruder to his entry, so he pulled a pick out of his pocket and jiggled it carefully in the lock until the latch gave. Then he stepped inside, holding his breath while hoping the alarm would take a few seconds before it went off.

There was silence through the little house. Maybe she hadn’t set the alarm. He shut the door with no sound. Then he heard a low voice.

Good thing he hadn’t given up carrying. He whipped his gun out as he crept through the living room, past the empty kitchen and an office. He stopped when he got to the open door of the bedroom, leveling his gun on the dark man standing over her bed with a wicked-looking, slightly curved blade in his hand. In the open collar of his shirt, a gold pendant gleamed around his neck, something too small for Hunter to see exactly what it was. A few feet from there, the curtain fluttered in the breeze coming through the open window.

“Drop it,” he said evenly, hoping Katharine stayed right where she was, lumped beneath her blankets.

The guy jumped, startled, clearly so absorbed in his own plans that he hadn’t paid any attention to the rest of the house. Good thing for Hunter, and for Katharine. Bad thing for the intruder.

From the corner of his eyes, Hunter saw movement on the pillow, but he couldn’t take his gaze off the intruder to see what it was. He just hoped she stayed in her spot on the opposite side of the bed long enough for him to deal with this asshole.

“Do you really want to stop me?” the other man said in heavily accented English. “From killing this monster?”

“No monsters here, buddy. Drop the knife. Now.” He jerked his gun a little, indicating the rocking chair in front of the closet where the knife wouldn’t be easily reachable again. More movement on the pillow, and this time, it looked like a couple of snakes in his peripheral vision. Couldn’t be. He kept his gaze on the other man. “Do it.”

The other man’s dark eyes narrowed, mouth tightening, his expression furious. “It is my duty to kill the Medusa.”

Hunter cocked his weapon. “If you don’t drop your weapon now, buddy, I’m going to put a very large hole in you. One you will not recover from.”

The dark guy muttered something Hunter couldn’t understand, something foreign, and, after a few more seconds, tossed the blade away, but not where Hunter had indicated. Instead, he threw it over the bed so it stuck in the plaster wall beside the mirror attached to her dresser. When Hunter glanced away from him to be certain that the dagger hadn’t done any damage to Katharine, the intruder leaped out the open window.

“Dammit,” he muttered, striding to the window in time to see the back of the other guy vanishing around the neighbor’s back porch a few dozen yards away. He pulled his head back in and froze.

Those were snakes on the pillow, several of them.

“Katharine,” he said quietly.

“You should go, Hunter.” Her voice was choked, hushed.

He frowned, his gaze still on the snakes. They were in her hair. “Honey, there are snakes–”

“I know. You should go.” She sucked in a harsh breath, and the lump of her under the blankets contracted.

His frown deepened. That couldn’t be. The snakes were not just in her hair, they were her hair. His eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. “Honey, I think you’d better tell me.” His racing mind called up the other man’s words–“the Medusa.”

But those old myths weren’t real.

One of the dark snakes lifted its head from the pillow in his direction and hissed at him.

________________

Now I’m going to go write, but I could use some encouragement this week, to keep from any more freaking out.  What do you do when things are super-insane in your life?

 

 

( Photo by KatVitulano Photos on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )

Here in the U.S, it’s the last day of Memorial Day weekend, and, for some of us, a three-day weekend. I had a to-do list for the weekend. Some of the things on it have been checked off, but others have not. Then again, there were things that I got accomplished that weren’t on my list, so I guess it evens out.

One of the things on my list was family time, and I got that, twice, which was nice. The boys came for lunch on Saturday, and then came again today, which coincided with a visit from in-laws, so it was more family than I’d anticipated.  It will probably have to hold me through next weekend, because I’ll be heading to Maryland with one or two reading/writing buddies on Saturday to see my idol Nora, as well as Robyn Carr, and some other ladies (maybe a gent or two? I’ve lost track of the authors-signing list), and then for some girl time afterward, which we haven’t done in ages. We try to get to Nora’s signings more regularly than we have in the last year, but it’s been a while.  Our routine is to get there early so we can be in the first group into the signing, and then we head off to a cute little town in West Virginia for lunch and a little shopping before we head home. It’s always a lot of fun, and I’m glad we’re going for this one.

I’ve been sneaking in a little prep work on a novella for a group project this past week.  I haven’t written anything short in a while, so it might be a challenge for me.  I do have some novellas tucked away in my ‘manuscripts to rework’ file, and I believe a few of them are actually pretty good. (One of the things on my writing to-do list for the year is to read through some older manuscripts to see what might be salvageable going forward. So far, some of the things I’ve looked at are probably things I can improve to publishable levels, and some will move into the ‘completed, but never going out into the world’ file. Ha!)

I have also gotten in a little writing time, in spite of the craziness at the day-job last week, which was a nice surprise.  I’m hoping to get some more this week, which would put me in a good place for my revised writing goals for the year.  Right now, though, I’m going to get in some reading time, but I have a little bit of story to share with you first, from one of those novellas I think I can probably fix up.

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Boone Thatcher froze in his tracks as he rounded the corner of the house. She was at it again. His heart pounded in his head until he couldn’t hear anything else.

Long, bare legs, braced on the rickety metal ladder.

He let his gaze slide up them, from her bare, paint-spattered toes, to her shapely calves, to slender thighs topped by fringey, cut-off shorts that only covered her ass by a few scant inches.

The blood rushing in his veins all dropped southward, to his groin, at the images his mind summoned up. Had been summoning up for months now. Made him want to loosen his already-undone tie to get some air in his lungs.

“Oh, hi, Boone.” Moira Dawley smiled brightly down at him, dripping paint from her narrow paintbrush onto the shrub beside her ladder. “I didn’t hear you.”

He swallowed, his mouth dry, and forced his gaze up from the curve of her bottom, past the faded white t-shirt with a hole near one hip, to her face, to brown eyes like melted chocolate. Dark and decadent. Eyes he wanted to drown in.

He jerked his wayward mind back from the brink. “Hi, Moira. I got your message.”

Her smile disappeared. “Oh.” Faint color touched her fair, freckled cheeks.

He frowned. Her message hadn’t hinted at anything bad.

She stuck her brush into the tray resting atop the shaky ladder and backed down.

Boone resisted the urge to catch her around the waist and lift her off. Each gentle sway of her hips was torture.

By the time she stepped onto the ground again, he struggled to breathe evenly. Sweat ran down his back under his dark uniform shirt, dampened his nape on the way.

Moira looked at him curiously. “You okay, Boone?”

He nodded. “Just a little warm.”

The curiosity became disbelief, then cleared. “Were you working out after your shift?”

He nodded again. Somehow, he didn’t think that one little lie was a very big deal. Not as big as if he told her the truth: his tongue was about to drag on the ground from the sight of her bare legs.

She smiled a little. “I made lemonade. Come on in.” She waved at him as she moved past, heading for the back door into her little house.

He shook himself mentally and followed her inside, then barely managed to swallow back a groan at the sight of her bent over in front of the refrigerator. Her shorts rode up so he got a fleeting glimpse of white lace panties.

He rested his forehead against the cool wall and shut his eyes. Shit, what did I do to deserve this torture?

“Oh, my. You must’ve really overdone it,” she said, patting his arm as she brushed by him.

Boone opened one eye to squint at her. She poured lemonade into two tall glasses, ice cubes clinking faintly, her movements efficient. When she turned around, holding out one of the glasses, he forced himself upright and took the glass. “Thanks.” The cool liquid soothed his parched throat.

Moira smiled again and returned the pitcher to the fridge. “Sit down.”

He sat, warily. Something in her face now served as a warning.

She sat, too, her fingers sliding along the sides of her own glass, and her gaze shuttered by long lashes.

“What’s wrong? You run out of red paint again?”

One corner of her mouth turned up at his teasing tone, and she shot him a measuring glance. “No, I think I’ve got enough paint for now.”

“So what is it?” He set his glass down and rubbed his sweaty hand on his thigh under the table. Why hadn’t he changed into shorts and a t-shirt before coming over? His uniform wasn’t made for panting over a woman. Hell, it wasn’t even designed for summertime use, really. Dark navy pants and a matching shirt with a tie. Someone out there really hated cops.

Boone frowned. “You make it sound like it’s something terrible.”

“It’s a little embarrassing.” She flashed him another quick look, faint color touching her cheekbones, then pushed to her feet.

His breathing hitched when she leaned on the edge of the counter, bracing herself with her hands on either side of her hips so her t-shirt pulled tighter over the swell of her breasts.

“It’s a relationship thing.”

His gaze swung back to hers. “What?” Much as he wanted it to be otherwise, the only relationship they had thus far was that of friends.

“I need some advice, and I don’t have any other men I can ask.” More color tinted her cheeks, and she dropped her gaze to the table in front of him.

Boone considered that. If she was asking him about another man, he wasn’t sure what he’d say. He knew he’d want to kill the guy, though.

She sighed and moved back to her seat, lacing her fingers to prop her chin on them, lifting her gaze back to his. In hers, he read uncertainty and determination in equal measures.

He waited.

Her throat worked as she swallowed, and she sat up straighter, laying her hands flat on the table on either side of her forgotten lemonade. “I need you to help me be sexier.”

Boone slumped back in his seat, all the air rushing from his lungs. Of all the things she could’ve asked him, he couldn’t think of one more impossible. “What?” he croaked.

________________

Do you have a slightly shorter work-week this week, too? Will that make it better or worse? While I’m dealing with the insanity tomorrow, I’d love to hear that I’m not alone!