Category: holiday


(field of daisy flowers- Depositphotos) 

The summer weather appears to be settling in here to stay. It’s been hot and sticky all week, with a slight break after last night’s thunderstorms–only upper 80s today, and a little less humid with the wind blowing all day. The next week looks more like last week, hot and humid, so I’ll be staying inside as much as possible, even on the holiday Thursday. I’ll leave the grilling to my husband and stay indoors.

I had my weekend planned out: we had birthday dinner plans for my younger son for yesterday, and I intended to write today. Neither day went according to plan. I had the requested mac and cheese ready to go in the oven for yesterday’s dinner, only to discover the oven had not heated up at all. So we had to pack everything up and take it to the boys’ house and have dinner there instead of here. Today was going to be my writing day, except I wound up hanging out with the boys for a while again and then doing some unplanned chores. Best laid plans…

That’s okay. I just took a little stroll around outside to take a look at the gardens, though, since it’s cooled down. I am going to have tomatoes coming out of my ears in a few weeks. I planted seven different kinds of tomatoes and discovered a few weeks ago that a ‘volunteer’ had also sprouted from last year’s tomatoes. Two of the new plants aren’t doing very well. The other five and the volunteer are going to have a billion tomatoes. I’ve been picking cherry tomatoes for a few weeks now, which is nice, but there are plants on the other five plants as well. I can’t wait! I’m not a summer fan, but the best thing about the season for me is all of the fresh produce, the veggies and fruits. So good! Nothing that comes from the grocery store out of season is even close (I’m looking at you, tomatoes!). I have plans for some of those fresh veggies for our holiday dinner this week, and maybe a little of season 3 of Stranger Things while we’re at it.

But since I am off-schedule for the weekend, I really need to get a little writing done this evening, so I’ve got a short snippet from the first shifter story to share with you.

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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.

Tessa 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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Now I’m off to write. How are you spending this first, hot week of summer?

 

 

 

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Goal Target – Depositphotos

 

It’s Sunday, the laundry’s half done, and the house is quiet (aside from noisy cat, who thinks she needs fed every time I walk from one room to another). That means writing time, so this will be short and sweet.

It’s also Father’s Day. My husband is spending part of the day with the boys, doing guy stuff and having a great time. And i have been thinking about my dad.  I miss him.

Before I get back to my writing, I have a little story snippet for you, from the second of my tiger shifter stories.

===============

Vivi made conversation with the boys, but Berdine kept her distance. She gave Boris several pouty, teary-eyed glances, but when he beckoned her, she went instead to talk to her cousin.

He sighed, but let her alone for now. He could have a discussion with her later. Bryce clambered into his lap, and Boris gave him a hug. “How’re you doing, buddy?”

“I’m good, Daddy. I’m glad I’m not gonna be the baby no more.”

“You never said anything about being the youngest.”

“There hasta be a mommy for a baby.”

Boris hid his wince at the stab of pain near his heart. “And a daddy,” he pointed out.

Bryce grinned. “But the daddy can’t have the baby, silly.”

Boris hugged his son again. “Of course, how could I forget?” None of his four youngest had talked much lately about their mother’s abandonment.

Bryce squeezed his arms around Boris’s neck, then pushed away. “I like her, but what should I call her?”

Good question. “Maybe you should ask Vivi,” he said, watching her laugh at something Bo had said.

“Good idea.” Bryce scrambled to his feet and raced over to join his brothers and Vivi.

Boyd appeared in the family room doorway before Boris had decided whether to join them or collect Berdine. He pushed to his feet and headed toward his father instead.

Boyd tipped his head toward the hallway, and Boris nodded, following the older man to his office. He closed the door behind him while his father dropped onto the nearest chair.

“You just found out, didn’t you?”

Boris sat beside him. “Yes, yesterday.” He met his father’s gaze.

“A mate?”

Heat climbed the back of his neck. “I didn’t plan it.”

Clearly.

It was written in his father’s expression, though he didn’t say it. Finally, Boyd sighed and looked away. “Make sure she understands the danger.”

“We’ve already had that conversation. I think it’s the only reason I got her here.”

“Losing your touch, son?” Boyd teased gruffly as he got to his feet.

Boris laughed. “I am out of practice, I guess.”

“Brush up then. I like Vivi.” He patted Boris’s shoulder. “I’m going to go visit with her.”

Boris stuck his hands in his pockets as he followed his father back to the noisy family room, pondering the unspoken warning.

================

I’m going back to my writing, and maybe try to sneak in some reading time, too before the weekend is over. How are you spending your weekend?

 

 

I know Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. is the unofficial start to the summer season. Only it actually feels like summer at my house. Here we are, for the second weekend in a row, sweating our butts off because it’s too hot for this time of year, and the a/c is not yet fixed. Turns out the motor we were told to order was not the right size, and the one we actually need is on back-order. Ugh. First I thought, hey, no problem, I’ll just catch up on the magazines that came this week, and the Sunday paper, do a couple of chores and some writing until the thunderstorms in our forecast get here and cool it down.

( thermometer with hot temperature – Depositphotos )

It was a good plan. Except we haven’t gotten any of those storms allegedly headed our way, and it is almost 90. Windows are open, but that just lets more hot air in, and it doesn’t move well through the house because of the layout of the windows–except for the kitchen and the front door, no windows on the back of the house align with any on the front of the house. None. So the fans don’t help either. So I’ve mostly spent my afternoon hot and cranky while weeding out the week’s magazines and the paper, and not written a single word because I can’t get in the right mind-set. And not done my chores either, because they involve hot water. Nope.

So before I go hunt down a couple of sugar-free popsicles, I have a little story snippet for you, this time from Hunting Medusa.

________________

Andi kept up her steady pace as they trekked farther into the forest. The sounds of the birds and chattering squirrels kept them company, as they had for the past two hours. He didn’t try to carry on a conversation with her while they walked. He was clearly accustomed to physical activity.

Which meant she’d have a harder time than she’d anticipated in ditching him.

Not that she’d imagined it would be easy.

Nothing could possibly be easy about this. Her luck clearly didn’t run in that direction.

She paused to take a sip of water from the bottle she’d tucked into the side of her backpack, and he stopped beside her. Warmth spread up her spine, and she frowned into the bottle she held. Stop it. He was not potential mate material, no matter how happy her hormones were when he was near.

“All right?” He took a quick drink from his own water, his arm brushing hers as he did so.

She shifted her weight onto her other foot, away from him. “Fine.”

He met her gaze.

Her pulse skipped.

“I know you don’t want to trust me, but you can. On this, you can.”

It sounded like a vow, she thought, panic making her heart beat faster. She didn’t want to believe him.

But on this one thing, she realized she did. Of course she did. Even though she hadn’t wanted to, she’d trusted him not to kill her after they’d made their bargain for the scissors. He’d earned it.

She swallowed, her mouth dry, and lifted her water bottle to her lips again, giving herself a distraction from the intensity in his green eyes.

He sighed, then took another drink.

Andi closed her eyes briefly, girding herself, and capped her bottle. The next stretch would be more of a challenge. Maybe this would be where her luck changed.

Or not.

Two hours later, she panted softly, her heart pounding hard as she put one hand on the nearest tree trunk and dropped her head to pour the rest of her lukewarm water over the back of her neck.

Straight up the side of the mountain, and he was still not doing more than breathing hard, the bastard.

She felt her backpack shift, and glanced to the side.

“Getting you another drink.” He tugged a bottle out and then rezipped her pack.

She mumbled her thanks and chugged down half the bottle in one go. Then turned in time to see his throat working as he swallowed the last of his bottle. His skin glistened with sweat, muscles beneath shifting and making her want to touch. With her fingers, her tongue.

She inhaled slowly and looked away again. It seemed she was stuck with him. At least for now.

He touched her arm, and she lifted her gaze. “Do you want a break?”

She shook her head. “Not if we want to get there before dark.”

He frowned. “What if I think you need a break?”

Andi felt a little surge of annoyance. “You’re not my father.”

“Thank Goddess,” he muttered, brushing away a drop of perspiration from her temple.

She blushed.

“Andrea, I’m just trying to point out, and obviously badly, you had a really rough day yesterday, and maybe you should take it a little easier than you have so far today.”

“I’m sorry.” She took a drink from the fresh bottle. “I haven’t had to run for my life before, and I’m not used to requiring help, and apparently, neither is sitting well.”

Kallan smiled a little, and his fingers slid down to the corner of her mouth. “Apology accepted.” He leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose lightly, startling her.

She resisted the urge to shift her head so their mouths would meet. Instead, she put her bottles away and adjusted her pack on her shoulders. “The next leg should be easier.”

He gave her a knowing smile, but kept his mouth shut.

And she found herself smiling back.

Stupid.

But her smile didn’t fade as quickly this time.

As she walked, more slowly now, she let her mind drift to what it would be like to actually have a real relationship again. If she could ignore the fact he’d come to kill her, there were other aspects of the past few days she could get used to. Like having someone to talk to who didn’t think she was a complete nutcase. Like having someone who not only believed in the myths that shaped her life, but had also been influenced by them. Like the smoking-hot sex.

She fanned herself a little.

“You all right?”

Heat climbed her throat. “Still cooling down from that last segment,” she called back over her shoulder. “Jackass,” she added under her breath.

She resolved to think of nothing but getting to safety for now. Getting distracted by wishing for things she knew she could never have wouldn’t keep her safe from Kallan’s cousin.

Andi froze in mid-stride, her heart thundering in her chest suddenly, and it wasn’t from exertion this time. Her gaze stuck on the dark, shiny creature lying across their path, and her pulse pounded in her ears.

His hands landed on her shoulders. “What?”

“S-snake,” she whispered.

“Are you kidding?” He moved to stand beside her, and looked into her face. “You’re serious,” he said after a couple seconds, a grin tugging at his mouth. He glanced to the trail ahead and started to laugh. “It’s only a garter snake.”

Andi ground her teeth together, heat climbing her neck to her face, but not in a good way now. Just because that damned Athena had cursed her to sprout snakes on her head every month didn’t mean she liked them.

He laughed until she wanted to hit him. Or better yet, turn him to stone. Too bad she wasn’t PMSing anymore.

Not looking at Kallan, she folded her arms and waited for the snake to finish slithering across the path.

Still chuckling, he gestured to the trail ahead. “All clear.”

She hated him. Sticking her chin in the air, she marched past him, barely resisting the urge to smack him as she went. She consoled herself with that mental image for a few minutes, of punching him square in the nose. Or mouth. Maybe knocking the smug grin off his face. Drawing blood would be good. She curled her fingers into fists at her sides as she went, only vaguely aware of him close on her heels.

After a while, though, she grew more aware of his nearness, as the forest darkened around them. His heat was within reach, if she stopped and stretched out her arm. Not that she would. Especially not now.

________________

Now that I’m reading that, I think it would have been better if I grabbed a winter scene from the second in the Medusa trilogy, or maybe from one of the shifter stories, to cool things down. Well, too late now.

How are you staying cool on this long weekend? Or are you where it is too cool and you’d rather it was warmer?

 

 

 

( chocolate cheesecake – Dreamstime )

It is Mother’s Day here today. I’ve already had a visit from and meal with my boys, which was lovely. I also know I’m lucky that happens, and that not every mom is that lucky, so I am extra-appreciative for my own kids, and that they’re close enough to get here regularly.

I have a little story snippet from my first tiger shifter story to share with you today.

________________

Harley tapped on the door before he turned the knob. “Mom?”

“In the kitchen, Harley.”

He moved inside, noting the drawn curtains in the living room and dining room. But bright sunlight came from the end of the hallway, and when he got to the archway, he saw his mother working at the wide island, rolling out a piece of dough.

“Hi, honey.” She smiled up at him while he stepped fully into the room. “How are you?”

He bent to kiss her cheek. “Okay. What are you making?”

“Chicken pot pie. I got hungry for it weeks ago, but it was too hot for the oven. Sit. I’ll get you some lemonade.”

He sat on one of the stools across from her. “I’m good, Mom.”

“So what brings you here today? Playing hooky?” She wrapped the dough carefully around her rolling pin to transfer it to her baking dish.

“Kind of.” He leaned his elbows on the counter.

“And you’re here and not stalking Tessa?” She slanted him a teasing glance.

Heat climbed the back of his neck. “Something like that.” He rubbed one hand along the side of his face.

One of her brows lifted. “What did you do?”

He frowned, ignoring the twinge of guilt in his belly. “Why does it have to be me?”

She smiled, a secretive, knowing smile. “Men are all very alike in some ways.”

“You know, if a man said that about women, we’d be called chauvinistic.”

Her smile widened. “What did you do, Harley?”

He stifled the impulse to squirm on his seat. “I might have pulled a caveman. But I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“Ah, an accidental caveman.” She didn’t look at him, instead chopping several potatoes swiftly, though her mouth twitched at the corners, as if she were stifling impulses of her own.

Harley sighed. “I wanted to take her away this weekend, but I should have gone about it differently. Then I went to her office earlier to take her for a long lunch. She told me to leave.”

“Because you demanded she just drop everything?” His mother’s tone was innocent, but her eyes gleamed with laughter.

“Something like that.” He sighed.

“Well, you’d do better to be there, trying to make things right with Tessa than sitting here in my kitchen, moping.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Did you come for sympathy or advice? Hand me the parsley.”

He handed over the cluster of green leaves. “Yes.”

She didn’t restrain her laugh this time. “Honey, you did this to yourself, so it’s difficult to muster up much sympathy. As for advice, well, I don’t think you really need that either. You know what you need to do.”

He watched her smooth, quick motions as she chopped the herbs into her chicken and vegetables. She was right. But he’d run out of patience, waiting to see if Tessa would admit to her feelings, would talk about a future with him. Instead, she kept talking about her new job, and he’d lost his grip on his patience.

His mother tapped his wrist, and he glanced over to see her holding a cookie.

“It’s not quite the same as a bloody knee or a fat lip, but cookies make everything better.”

He took it, smiling in spite of himself. “Not everything, you know.” He bit into it–chunks of chocolate and pieces of walnut. “Mm. I could be wrong.”

She laughed again and put another round piece of dough on top of her potpie. “Why don’t you bring Tessa by for dinner? If I don’t have company, this will be here forever.”

“If I can get her to speak to me again, I will.” He polished off the rest of the cookie. “Are there more of these?”

His mother put the baking dish in the oven. “Yes, but your issue isn’t dire enough for two.” She straightened up. “Go find Tessa and fix things, then let me know about dinner.”

“Can there be cookies for dessert?” He pushed off the stool.

“No. I’ve got something better for dessert.” She tilted her head so he could kiss her cheek. “I love you, Harley.”

“I know, Mom. I love you, too.” He gave her a quick hug, too. “I’ll call you later.”

She smiled, and he left the kitchen, thinking.

It wasn’t a matter of ‘finding’ Tessa. He knew exactly where she was. It was more a matter of finding the right way to apologize to her. He should be almost an expert at it by now.

He steered the car toward the zoo, his stomach tightening the closer he got. Nervousness. He’d never been nervous about a woman before Tessa. He knew she had feelings for him, but it seemed she had no intention of admitting to them.

That stung, but he’d deal with it. Eventually, she’d let her guard down. But right now, he needed to make sure she knew how truly sorry he was about that morning.

Flowers? Maybe not for this.

He frowned as he thought. Maybe if he crawled and begged, he mused darkly.

Then the sign at the next crossroad made him slam on the brakes and execute a quick turn. The gift shop at the stables had exactly what he needed.

          #          #          #

When Harley strode into her office wearing donkey ears, Tessa laughed before she knew she meant to, then clapped her hand over her mouth, trying to muster up a glare.

He plopped down beside her desk on his knees, and she gaped at him. “I acted like an ass this morning,” he began, making her swallow back another laugh, “and I am sorrier than you can imagine. Please forgive me, Tessa.”

She still felt the urge to laugh, to at least snicker at how ridiculous he looked, but another part of her recognized what a big deal it was that he’d come here like this. She wondered if he’d signed in at the reception desk wearing the ears.

And he waited, not looking the least bit embarrassed about the tall grey ears he’d put on. Jackass, indeed.

Tessa sighed. “Oh, Harley.”

He held her gaze, patient, though worry lurked in the depths of his golden eyes.

How could she not? “Yes.”

He grabbed her arm first, then, when she tipped forward in her seat, her waist, to pull her into his arms, burying his face in her throat. “I am so sorry, honey.”

One of his fake ears rubbed against her nose, and she reached to move it out of her face. The entire headband came off, and she chuckled. “Where on earth did you find those?”

“Don’t lose it,” he mumbled, his lips brushing her collarbone, “I might need them again.”

________________

Now I’m off to spend some time writing. I hope you’re all doing something you love today, too!

 

 

 

 

( Light at the end of the tunnel –  Depositphotos )

Just two more days of the crazy-busy at the day-job, and then I can catch my breath. Let my brain be functional again for writing. I can’t wait. Plus I have a writing night to look forward to on Thursday, followed by a 3-day weekend, which will be for garden chores at the boys’ and maybe a few things here. And writing. I would like to spend a little time moving my desk, too, so we can get the rest of the painting out of the way. I’m still trying to decide if I actually need the second monitor set up or not. If I set it up, I need either a new desk, or a small desk I can set beside my current desk, to make my own L desk.

While it would be nice to have the two-screen set-up I have at the day-job, I’m not sure it’s actually necessary here in my home office. Plus if I don’t do that, then I have room to put a bookcase and maybe a chair in here. That is a very tempting option–who doesn’t want a place to sit and read? And I will always need another bookcase (then I could clear up some of the messy stacks in my book room, lol). I’ve actually already scoped out a couple of bookcases that would work, though I haven’t seen a chair yet that I love that doesn’t cost a fortune. We’ll see.

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here today. I should be doing some yard work today, but today is family dinner day, so the boys will be here a little later. At the moment, I have some peppers pickling to go into a salsa for the steak hubs will throw on the grill later for himself and the boys, and I should get started on the salsa itself (and figure out exactly what I’m doing with the salmon I’ll be eating). But before I go back to work in the kitchen, I have a little story snippet for you, from the third book in my Medusa trilogy.

_______________

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.

________________

Now I’m going to get back to work in the kitchen so dinner will be ready when the boys get here. How are you spending this beautiful spring day?

 

 

The story I’m working on is for a group project that will be released this fall. (And yes, it is past my self-imposed deadline, thanks for pointing that out.) I am really enjoying the heroine in this story, and the hero…well, he is pretty yummy. I love that they’re falling in love, in spite of all the very good reasons why they shouldn’t. I also love that they have a little matchmaking help from a couple of directions they wouldn’t have expected. I am getting a little anxious about wrapping it up, though, so I’m just going to leave you with a little story snippet for Valentine’s Day week, this time from my third Medusa story, Freeing Medusa, before I get back to the novella.

 

( Kissing – Depositphotos )

 

Katharine released a slow breath, forcing herself to relax her jaw, and reached up to shove the scarf off her eyes after the door clicked shut.

He’d even set her tote bag on the floor inside the door.

Tears stung her eyes at that unexpected kindness.

She was overreacting, she knew. Partly due to her overloaded hormones. Partly because she was so angry that she’d been unable to defend herself against the Harvester since she’d felt safe enough in her house to take the damned painkiller.

She’d been the Medusa for six years now, and with her alarm system in place, she’d felt confident enough there after all this time…

She shut her eyes for a second, her fingers curling into fists at her sides.

None of this was Hunter’s fault. All he’d done was save her life, not sic the Harvester on her when she was vulnerable.

That she was ultimately responsible for her near-death experience made her angrier. At herself. Hunter just happened to be within firing range.

“Katharine? You okay?”

“Fine,” she said shortly. “I’m fine.” She took a long, deep breath, then released it.

When she’d finished washing her hands, she fumbled the blindfold back down over her eyes and reached for the doorknob, groping empty air.

“Coming in,” he said, and she dropped her hand back to her side. “Okay?”

“Yes.” His hard fingers slid over hers. “Thank you, Hunter.”

He pulled her along with him, thirteen paces to the bed.

“For saving my life earlier.”

“Not a problem.” He made her sit, then she felt his fingers on her shoelaces. “Nice blade,” he said mildly, easing her boot from her foot.

She swallowed. “If I hadn’t taken that pill earlier, I could have used it. Or just turned him to stone.”

“Well, you won’t need the dagger here. Not now. I have a state of the art security system, and nobody followed us from your place, so you’re safe here.” He took her other boot off. “You want to get out of the jeans and back into a nightshirt? Something more comfortable for you?”

Katharine hesitated, biting her lip. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen her naked already. Up close and personal. “Yes,” she whispered.

“Okay. I’ll go grab the rest of your stuff from the garage. Don’t go anywhere.”

“Ha, ha.” Still, she smiled a little, listening to his footsteps on the stairs, the sound fading as he walked away from the entry hall. The room smelled like Hunter, she mused as she sat there on the edge of his bed. That same musky, spicy scent that had set her body humming Friday night.

She almost wished it were Friday night again.

________________

Are you celebrating Valentine’s Day this week? Do you and your other half do something special to mark the day, or is it just another Thursday?

 

 

( Hands Heart – Depositphotos )

It’s February, so you know what that means? Valentine’s Day, the official day of sweethearts everywhere. I enjoy Valentine’s Day as much as the next person, but I’m a romantic, so I feel like love shouldn’t only be celebrated one day a year. I’m sure I’m not alone in that belief–look how many romance readers and writers there are out in the world.

Rather than lecture about not celebrating love all year long, I’m going to skip ahead to the part of my weekly post where we have the story excerpt. This week, it comes from the first story in my tiger shifter series.

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Even the next day, Harley’s words stuck with her. She ignored his calls to her cell phone late in the morning and shortly after lunch while she sorted through old files. Finally, when he called a third time, she gathered up her purse and headed out, telling Amy she needed to run some errands.

She needed a distraction from the circling of her thoughts and from work, and it just so happened she was out of food at her house. A trip into the village was just as good a way as any to distract her.

She drove from work into town, making a mental list as she went and deliberately not thinking about Harley or Ezra. Finding a good parking space along one of the main streets, she put her purse strap over her shoulder and set off. She took her time, pausing to look in store windows as she went. She detoured into the tiny flower shop when some bright daisies and gladiolus caught her eye. The arrangement would brighten up her very empty home. She apologized when she bumped into a tall, blondish man in a black t-shirt on her way to the exit. He murmured something unintelligible and went back to looking at the roses in the cooler.

Next, she headed to the grocery store for some soda and a piece of fish to broil for dinner. After that, she continued on her leisurely way, admiring some hanging plant pots outside the hardware store, browsing the magazines at the bookstore, and then heading to the market. She picked up a basket, intent on finding some fresh vegetables to go with her fish for supper. Maybe some squash and tomatoes. She added both to her basket and picked her way along the row of bins, admiring the selection. Someday, she’d have a garden of her own to grow these things in. She smiled to herself, imagining that for a moment.

Tessa glanced up when she caught some small motion from the corner of her eye and realized that the big, rangy man with the dirty blond hair that she’d seen in the flower shop was picking his way along the produce bins in her direction, casually. A little too casually.

Her heart started to beat faster. The flower shop was several blocks away, and she’d left the car parked on that side of the square.

Maybe she was being paranoid.

The man stopped, picking up some oranges and very determinedly not looking in her direction.

She set down the basket she’d filled, and she walked away from the produce bins to the street corner. From the corner of her eye, she saw him look up and take a step toward her.

This was bad.

Without waiting for the stoplight to change, she ran out into the street, glancing back to find him striding after her confidently. Several cars honked their horns at her, but she didn’t stop running and heard the squeal of brakes. A loud thump sounded somewhere behind her, but she didn’t turn to see what had caused it. Her chest ached already, but she kept going, pushing her way through other pedestrians. When she reached the end of the next block, she dared a glance back over her shoulder. She didn’t see him, but she didn’t slow down, panting as she whipped around the corner and started to backtrack toward her car, her flowers flapping and her grocery bag thumping along her hip.

By the time she reached the car, she was lagging, her breath coming much too quickly, and sweat rolled down the back of her neck, soaking her shirt beneath the strap of her purse. She fumbled in the pocket on the outside of her purse for the car keys, glancing back over her shoulder to be sure the big man hadn’t figured out the direction she’d taken. Evidently, he had not. She jammed the key in the lock and yanked the door open. As she slid into the driver’s seat, her breath caught.

He had found her.

She jerked the door shut as he pounded toward the car from the opposite direction she’d just taken. She fumbled to get the key in the ignition, aware that her panting was growing faster again.

He was getting closer.

She hit the button to lock the doors on the car and finally slid the key into the ignition, turning it hard. The engine turned over, and she whimpered in relief.

But he was there now, grabbing for her door handle. And he looked as if he might have had a collision with one of those cars she’d dodged a few blocks away. Blood oozed down the side of his face, and his black shirt was torn across the back.

She yanked the gear shift into drive and stomped on the gas pedal.

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Now I’m going to go have dinner with my husband, but I’d love to hear your thoughts this week about the whole Valentine’s Day phenomenon: do you rely on the holiday or spread the joy all year?

 

 

 

 

(Depositphotos)

Today officially winds down the winter holiday week here, and we wrapped up our week with our usual family New Year’s dinner. Tomorrow, it’s back to work. I have my writing goals nailed down for the year and have made sure I’m going to be accountable for working toward them with some writer friends. Now we get to the fun part–balancing the writing plans with real life.

I actually spent some time today looking at my day-job schedule for the year to see where I’ll have down-time there to work on other things. Oh, the day-job schedule rarely stays the same from the beginning of the year to the end–people take vacations so the rest of us on the team help out, or something changes on the schedule at the last minute, you all know what I mean. But I have a game-plan, which is a good start. Of course, I also realized that not only is my busiest sales rep scheduled for the week in July when I’ll be in New York City for the annual Romance Writers of America conference, but several others are scheduled that week as well. I do feel bad about leaving that for someone else to handle, but since RWA’s conference only comes to NYC every four years, I don’t feel bad enough to take the conference off my schedule.

I’ve added my goals and dates to my pretty new 2019 planner, which is already in my work tote bag (with my current work-in-progress), so I will be seeing those goals every day. They’re posted on my bulletin board here in my home office, staring at me every time I sit here at my desk. And I’ve shared them with a small group of writer friends so I am not the only one who knows about my plans.

Before I call it a day, I have some writing to do, but I have a little story snippet to share with you first, from the second story in my shifter series.

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The elevator came to a smooth stop on the conference level, and Rory used his grip on her hand to steer India from the car.

She strode beside him, then realized if anyone came out and saw them there would be questions. She tugged on her hand.

He shot her a sidelong glance.

“Let go.”

Reluctance flattened his mouth a little, but he did as she asked before they reached the meeting room. She preceded him inside, her gaze sweeping over the occupants–the Russian from Chicago was still there, along with the bear from Washington, and her father.

Adar hurried in a moment later, and heat crawled up her throat. If her uncle had caught her with Rory, he would have had a stroke. And a screaming fit. No wonder half of his kids didn’t speak to him, and the other half were miserable.

A few other envoys returned momentarily, and India relaxed a little. Back to business.

Her father cleared his throat once everyone had reclaimed their seats. “We need to decide what our next step is with these rogues,” he began. “Our sources suggest their growing numbers are in preparation for a bigger, wider-spread attack than last time.”

“What do you suggest? Attack first? Try to negotiate with them? Arrange a union between our groups and theirs as a show of good faith?” the Russian asked.

Adar leaned forward. “India would be perfect.”

Before she could protest, Rory growled.

Adar either didn’t notice or just ignored him. “She’d be a perfect candidate,” he continued, and she narrowed her eyes at him. “She’s diplomatic and able to take care of herself–”

“You are not giving my mate to anyone, old man,” Rory growled, shoving to his feet.

India’s eyes widened, then she shut them for a second. Shit.

Adar gaped at Rory for a moment, then narrowed his eyes. “She is not your mate, wolf, or have you forgotten?”

Rory leaned over the table. “I have forgotten nothing, including my mate.” He held Adar’s gaze, a dangerous glint in his eyes.

Damn him. She could not believe he’d just blurted that out. After all this time… Her pulse quickened.

Her uncle pushed to his feet, slowly. “You won’t have her.”

“She is mine already.”

“Stop it,” she said, at the same time as her father.

Adar looked at her, anger turning his cheekbones ruddy. “You had better not–”

She swallowed back her own growl, though she couldn’t do anything about the anger she knew he would see in her eyes.

“Enough,” Boyd shouted, rising as Rory reached over the table for her uncle. “Adar, you need to stop interfering. Their mating is none of your business.”

She blinked. Then glared at Rory and Adar.

“Can we get back to the issue of these rogues?” Boyd asked gruffly.

India fumed for the next hour, though she found it harder to concentrate on the discussion when everyone in the room kept sneaking furtive glances at her and Rory.

Boyd put both hands up finally, when the discussion had degenerated to random, shitty ideas or accusations of stupidity. “Ladies and gentlemen, I think we need to take a break. Let’s reconvene in the morning, when we’ve all had some time to think about this, all right?” He looked around the room, holding gazes and waiting for nods of agreement. “Great. I’m sure we’ll come up with a workable solution to deal with these rogues.”

India pushed to her feet. Steam must be coming out of her ears by now. Adar rose and started toward her.

“Adar.”

She glanced over when her father spoke again.

Her uncle’s mouth pinched, then he turned to face his brother.

“You will mind your own business,” Boyd repeated, giving his brother a hard stare.

Adar scowled, but nodded finally and changed direction, heading out the door.

She let out a slow breath.

Boyd held her gaze for a second, then looked at Rory. “I think you two need to hash this out privately.”

“Of course.” Rory nodded and rounded the table.

She blinked at his hand wrapping around her arm, then frowned up at him.

“Let’s go, a rúnsearc,” he said softly.

She opted not to protest while her father watched them.

“I’ll see you in the morning, India,” Boyd said.

Rory ushered her from the meeting room, and she let him. Until they were in the hall.

Then she tugged on her arm.

Rory’s fingers tightened. “Don’t make me put you over my shoulder,” he said in a low rumble.

India’s eye widened. “You have got to be kidding me.” Though she remembered a time or two when he’d carried her off somewhere, over his shoulder. Usually shortly before he– Don’t go there, India.

“Even though everyone knows now, I’m sure there will still be plenty of speculation on why we haven’t been together. You can feed it, or let them wonder.” He kept his grip on her arm all the way into the elevator.

She shut her mouth when several of the delegates joined them on the elevator, eying them curiously. She caught and held the gaze of one of the Russian tigers, until he finally flushed and looked away. Damned nosy busybodies.

She kept a bland expression on her face while more people crowded in the car, though she finally realized her father had called Rory earlier to tell him about the rogues.

He already knew.

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Now I’m off to do some writing before bedtime. I wish you all a very happy new year!

2019 goals banner – Depositphotos

 

 

 

That’s what I was doing yesterday, making a couple batches of cookies for the boys, who’ll be here a little later for dinner. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful holiday. For those who simply celebrate a family day, like we do here, I hope you also have a wonderful day. Our group this year is smaller than it used to be, but just as well-loved. Either way, make sure you eat lots of cookies!

 

Festive holiday table setting – Depositphotos

 

 

 

Yes, it’s that week. I’ve been thinking about my goals for next year for a while, in anticipation of the annual online goal-setting workshop Delilah Devlin does, and I think I have them settled finally.  Just the writing goals, that is. If you’ve been here a while, you know I don’t do resolutions for the new year, just writing goals, and sometimes a personal goal or two.

I don’t think my writing goals are too ambitious, but I won’t be slacking if I am going to make all of them happen. My goals the past two years weren’t too ambitious either, but it’s been a rough couple of years for our family, so I feel okay about the things that I have accomplished in the last two years (and am trying not to feel too bad about the ones I didn’t get done).

Dream, Plan, Work, Make it Happen-Depositphotos

 

Next up on my to-do list this month is figuring out a word of the year, one thing to focus on in the new year. I have some friends who have chosen a word of the year the past couple of years, and I had considered it for this year, but couldn’t settle on one–I know I have more than one area that I could improve on or focus on, which made it a bit too challenging to narrow down last December. This year I’m picking one. I haven’t decided which one yet, but will hopefully narrow down my list in the next week so I can whittle it down to one the next week. Have any of you tried this yet? What did you think?

Now I’m off to spend a little time with my husband before I call it a day, but before I go, I have a little story snippet to share with you, from my third shifter story.

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Boris turned to search for Baron, and a flutter of green caught his eye–a loose blouse on a curvy brunette.

Then she pivoted, laughing at the small girl holding her hand, and Bori’s heartbeat quickened–Vivi.

The breeze caught a school identification tag hung around her neck and her blouse again, this time, pressing the garment tight to her, and revealing the unmistakable curve of her belly. Her pregnant belly. It was small, but he knew what that curve meant.

And it was just about the right size…

Vivi’s smile faded as her head came up, and she sniffed the air delicately. Her gaze swung over the crowd of children, and locked on his face. All of the color faded from her cheeks, and her eyes widened.

He watched the child beside her tug on her hand, and Vivi bent back to her for a second, then, reluctance lining her face, released the girl, who leaped into another woman’s arms. Vivi straightened slowly, and he strode through the throng of kids toward her.

Alarm darkened her eyes, and she glanced around, as if thinking of fleeing.

Not a chance.

Three more strides put him in front of her. Her shoulders set, and her wary gaze crawled up to his face.

“Vivi, how nice to see you,” he said softly. He leaned closer and sniffed–the same delicious, earthy scent he remembered, along with a fainter undertone of his own familiar scent. His baby.

“Ah,…”

“Dad!” Baron’s cry diverted both of them. “I’m so glad to see you!” His son flung himself at Boris’s leg and hung on. “Hey, Ms. Todd.” Baron grinned up at her. “I didn’t know you knew my dad.”

Bright color rushed to her cheeks, and her smile was forced.

Boris ruffled his son’s hair. “I do know Ms. Todd,” he said, his gaze sliding down to her belly again. “In fact, she’s having dinner with me tonight.”

Her pointed chin jutted stubbornly, and he saw in her eyes the need to argue battle with her realization of their audience at her workplace.

Boris realized his shock had already dissipated–must be because of their proximity.

How could she have been so close all this time?

He caught himself looking at her belly again and dragged his gaze back to hers.

“You should come have dinner at our house, Ms. Todd,” Baron said, catching her hand. “It’s pizza night.”

Some of the color faded from her face again, and she swallowed hard. “That sounds delicious, Baron, but–”

“But we’re going out to dinner tonight, buddy,” Boris interrupted, “at a grown-up restaurant. Maybe next week she’ll join us for pizza night.” He noted her swallowing more several times, as if the notion of pizza made her want to throw up. “So I’ll pick you up at six-thirty,” he said, more gently than he might have if he hadn’t noticed her discomfort.

“Oh, but…” She stopped when she locked gazes with him again. “Fine.”

He grinned. She hadn’t pointed out that he didn’t know where she lived, probably because she knew it would be easy to find out. Or because she had other plans. He fixed her with ‘The Look’ as India and Tessa used to call it when they were kids. “You will be there,” he added, tone steely.

After a moment, she dipped her chin once, and he took that as agreement.

“Do you have your backpack?” he asked his son.

“Got it. Let’s go, Dad!” Baron wrapped his hand around Boris’s. “See ya next week, Ms. Todd!”

“Enjoy your pizza,” she said with a genuine smile.

Boris turned away reluctantly, noting the way the kids closed in around her again.

And his brain began to function a bit better as he buckled Baron into the car seat, as he listened to Bo and Berdine bicker over who would sit where.

Vivi was pregnant. With his baby.

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I hope you all have a great week with plenty of reading time!