Category: Tiger shifters


Today was a little break from all of the work crazy for me (though one of my teammates went in to the office today, and I was there yesterday). I went with a friend to the gemstone show we enjoy every year.  That was good and bad. Good, because it is a brief respite from work and chores. Bad, at least this year, because one of our favorite vendors wasn’t there, which was disappointing. It meant we had to work a bit harder to find some of what we wanted. But we also discovered a new vendor with very pretty (and not very expensive!) things at her booth. I had a hard time deciding between two rings, one with my birthstone and another with tanzanite. The birthstone won today, but the tanzanite is in my future, because it turns out this designer is only a short drive away from home, so I can go see her when I am ready for the other ring.

Tough choice, yes?

Our day off as a much-needed break, and now I’m trying to gear up for the next two days at the day-job, when things will likely be mostly out of our control and insane. So I have a little writing to do, and maybe a little reading before I call it a day and try to sleep a full night before two really long days. Before I do that, I have a little story snippet to share with you, this week from my first shifter story.

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He didn’t want to spook her, not so soon, but he pulled her as near as he dared when they stepped onto the dance floor, setting his free hand on her hip to guide her steps, and she put her own free hand on his shoulder.

She smelled good. Something vaguely citrusy, and, beneath that, Tessa. He inhaled deeply, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand.

She shivered.

The song, and therefore the dance, wasn’t nearly long enough, but Harley knew not to push his luck when she stepped back at the end of it. Warm color tinted her cheeks, and she didn’t meet his gaze. “I really do need to get some sleep, Harley.”

“I did promise, didn’t I?” He consoled himself with the notion that this was only his first move in what would be a very long game.

He didn’t even protest when she remained mostly quiet for the drive back to the house in the dusky summer evening. They walked into the house in silence. She shot him a curious glance when he continued at her side up the stairs. “Thank you for feeding me, Harley,” she said when they reached the first landing.

“No problem.” He touched her elbow, and she resumed walking along the hallway to the guest room she always used.

She swallowed as she turned to face him.

He gave in to the urge to brush a strand of hair away from her temple, and watched her eyes widen, surprise darkening them.

Harley bent nearer. Her hand shot up, so his mouth ran into it. He lifted one eyebrow.

“What are you doing?” Her voice quavered just a little.

He smiled against her palm, enjoying the warmth of her skin. “Kissing you good-night. It’s customary at the end of a date.”

Her eyes widened still more. “We’re not dating.”

He kissed her palm. “I believe we just returned from a dinner date. Dancing and drinks.” He inhaled her scent, and his desire kicked up a few more notches.

Her throat worked as she swallowed, color tinting her cheeks. “I think this is a bad idea.”

He stifled another smile at the way her voice shook and instead flicked his tongue out to taste her skin.

Her breath caught.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea.” He nibbled his way across her palm to her thumb. “You taste good. I can’t wait to taste your mouth.”

Her breathing resumed, much faster now. “Harley.”

He caught her hand and eased it to the wall beside her head as he closed the distance between them so only an inch separated their lips. “Yes, Tessa?”

Emotion swirled in her wide green eyes. He scented her burgeoning arousal in the air, and his body tightened in response.

He waited several heartbeats, watching her gaze slide to his mouth, and noted the way her tongue flicked out at the corner of her lips. Then he ducked in to kiss her.

She tasted better than he’d imagined. Warm and sweet. Her lips parted easily under his, but he deliberately kept the kiss light. She was already spooked, wary. If he dove in head-first, she’d run away fast.

Not that he doubted he could catch her. Easily.

When he finally lifted his head, her eyes were shut, and her lips parted and wet. Tempting him to bend back and take them again. Just briefly. Then he released her. It took a few seconds before her lashes fluttered up, and her hand slowly dropped to her side.

Harley banked the urge to press closer. The scant space between them already had his senses reeling. He waited until her eyes cleared slightly. “Sleep well, little Tessa,” he said softly, taking a step back. The cooler air flowing between them did nothing to dampen his arousal.

Or hers, judging by the flush on her face and the wild pulse beating in the hollow of her throat. She swallowed hard and reached behind her for the doorknob. “Good night.” It came out a hoarse whisper.

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Now I’m going to go work on another story, maybe find some supper, take the rest of my lone day off for the weekend. I just have to get through the next two days of insanity, and then a (hopefully!) easier day Wednesday before I have a long weekend to write. Are any of you facing a really crazy work-week, too? Are you doing something fun today to help you get through it? Or just barreling onward?

 

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( To Do – Depositphotos )

I think I may have mentioned how busy we are at the day-job this month–our busiest week of the year is coming up in the next ten days or so, plus we have team members on vacation (I started that last month myself when I went to the conference, and I absolutely feel everyone should use their vacation time!), and our team is short-handed on my side by one person, so we’ve been doing a lot of juggling. And I’m about to toss an unplanned day off into the mix for a family funeral. I don’t feel bad about going to the funeral, though I do feel bad that I’m taking off in a week like the one we’re facing at work. But I had already planned on some weekend hours next week, so I’ll make up for it.

The past week has been non-stop busy at work, too, so my brain was pretty fried by the time I came home Friday evening with Chinese take-out to go with my mango daiquiris. I intended to write yesterday. Then life happened. So even though my brain is still fried today, I’m getting ready to go write anyway. Any words I manage to get on pages might be complete crap, but I’m going to do it anyway, because it’s doubtful that I will get many durint the week ahead, between extra time at the day-job and family things.

On a lighter note, the weather here is slightly cooler, almost like Mother Nature is teasing the end of summer (finally!), and I have a billion tomatoes in my garden. Okay, maybe not a billion, but more than I can eat to keep up with them. Time to start freezing tomatoes for soups and sauces over the winter, plus I’ve started taking some into the office to share. Honestly, the fresh vegetables and fruits are my favorite part of summer. Okay, my only favorite part of summer, because I hate the heat and humidity.

Maybe a winter story snippet to cool things down in case it’s hot today where you are, this time from my fourth shifter story.

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Laney flushed, dropping her shirt. It was silly to be self-conscious when he’d already seen her naked more times than she could count. Stupid. Taking quick breath, she unfastened her jeans and gave them a shove past her hips, along with her panties. Not looking at Anton, she stepped out of the pile of her clothing, and Shifted.

She padded down the snowy steps and into the yard, relaxing.

Until she felt a nudge at her hip. She whirled and found a big tiger. Anton. His tiger was beautiful, green-eyed and strong. He nudged her side again, and she realized he wanted her to go that way. She brushed him lightly with her muzzle before turning to go where he wanted her.

She walked for a few moments, then broke into a run. She hadn’t run in such a long time. But it was safe here. Had she been in human form, she would have laughed with the sheer joy that filled her. Instead, she put her head back and howled.

* * *

Anton trotted after Laney, chuffing when she howled. He let her lead the way, pausing sometimes to examine their surroundings, running until she needed to catch her breath, rolling in the snow.

Gods, she was beautiful, whether in human or wolf form. And he sensed this was the first time she’d fully relaxed in a very long time.

A blob of cold, wet snow hit him in the face, and he narrowed his eyes, focusing his full attention on her again.

Laney Shifted, pushing to her bare feet as she scooped up a handful of snow, deftly shaping it before she lobbed it at him, laughing.

For a second, he froze, snow sticking in his fur, and then he Shifted, too, launching himself at her.

Laney laughed and dodged to her left, but he still caught her waist, tumbling her down into the snow again. She shrieked, and he laughed, putting his face into the side of her neck.

“It’s cold, Anton.”

“Should’ve thought of that before you hit me with a snowball,” he muttered, licking her earlobe.

She gasped, then he inhaled sharply when she plopped two handfuls of snow onto his bare back. Laney laughed again, and he lifted his head.

Fuck, she was gorgeous.

His mate.

Her smile faded a little, and she swallowed hard.

Anton shifted so he was fully over her, so her warm belly cradled his erection. A quick burst of her arousal scented the air between them, and, still holding her gaze, he lowered his head to brush his mouth over hers.

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Now I’m going to dredge up some new words from someplace. Who else’s week is going to be insanely busy? What are you planning for a few moments of quiet and sanity? I could use the ideas.

 

I’m home from the conference, the laundry is done, and I’ve even put away most of the things I carted home with me from New York, and now I have to go back to the day-job tomorrow even though I’d like to stay home and write some more. But we’re not there yet.

The conference was busy, jammed with people as you would expect when a writing conference is in NYC, the traditional home of publishing. Lots of great authors there, presenting workshops and signing books. I didn’t intend to bring a ton of books home, but somehow, my suitcase was packed as full as I could get it, and I still had more stuffed into a tote bag. It was quite a workout heaving my suitcase into the overhead on the train, and then wrestling it back down again when we reached my stop without giving myself (or my seat-mate) a concussion. I didn’t even bring all of the books home that I acquired–I sent a couple home with my roommate for her daughters. And I really was judicious when I went to the booksignings about how many authors I asked to sign books. Maybe they just multiplied once I got them back to our room.

We had a great view of Times Square from our room–if you wanted to be there to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve but didn’t want to be jammed into the streets with thousands of other people, you could see it from that room. Two women from my monthly writing group were also at the conference, and we had some really good meals while we were in the city. The first night I was there, I ate at a diner my husband and I stumbled on during our last visit, and while I was having supper, a group of NYC’s finest also came in for dinner. My writing group friends were disappointed that they missed it and wanted to make sure get to see it. One of them went back with me another night, and we were treated to the same nice view of the ‘Hot Cops’ as we called them. Our other friend was disappointed she missed that, but on our last night, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant nearby and she got her own view of some of NYC’s ‘Hot Cops’.

I went to a fair number of workshops on indie publishing, and marketing/branding while I was at the conference, so I actually started playing around with some new headers for my social media pages. I could use some opinions on what I have so far, so I have a poll on my Facebook page, and created a separate poll here. I’d love if you took a look at these and let me know which one you prefer.

Before I have to start really thinking about work in the morning, I have a little story snippet from my first shifter manuscript to share with you while I get in a little more writing time.

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Tessa could not stop smiling after she hung up the phone. Amy had whooped when she shared the news. Her second stop was to see the tiger.

He sat when she came into the room, his golden gaze alert.

“Hi, buddy.” She dropped to the floor in the middle of the room, almost bouncing. “I found you a wonderful new home. They’re going to come and get you next week. You’re going to love it. They’ll build you a huge new enclosure. You’ll have more tiger friends. Maybe even a girlfriend.” Tessa grinned.

The cat tipped his head, watching her.

She stayed there until her boss arrived, and then she shared the news with him, too.

Joe arrived in the middle of it, and she excused herself to gather her things.

“Your place tonight?” he asked as they headed for the door.

“Um, not right now,” she said, feeling heat rush to her face. “I need to get some books from the library.” She had left the books there last night–she’d been a little distracted by another tiger. But she really wanted to share her good news with him.

Joe waited till she’d gone inside before he backed the jeep up and left again.

She went in, a little disappointed not to find him waiting in the library, or in any of the other rooms on the ground floor. Hands sweating, she headed up the steps.

Tessa swallowed hard, screwing up her nerve when she got to the door. After a few more seconds, she let out a shaky breath and knocked. Once.

Nothing.

She shut her eyes and knocked again, harder.

Still nothing.

After a couple seconds, she decided to bolt. As she turned away, a whisper of sound alerted her to someone on the stairs, and she flushed, pulse racing. Great, now someone else would know she’d gone to Harley’s suite.

Except it was Harley who rounded the corner. He paused for half a second when he saw her, then a hint of a smile touched his lips. “Hello, Tessa.”

The sexy rumble in his greeting made her catch her breath, and she struggled to suck in a little air before she cleared her throat. “Hi,” she managed, suddenly aware they were alone up here. Her brain flashed intimate images from last night, last weekend, and heat flashed through her.

“I didn’t expect to see you this evening.” He came to a stop about a foot away. Just near enough that the warm scent of him enveloped her, teasing her senses. “I thought you’d be working late again.”

She found her gaze caught on his mouth, and she forced it back up to his, trying very hard not to think of all the ways he’d used his mouth on her. Failing.

As if he knew what was going on in her head, Harley smiled a little more. “Tessa?”

She gave herself a mental shake, warmth expanding from her middle. “I found a home for the tiger this afternoon. A reserve that specializes in cats.”

“That’s great.” He tipped his head to one side, his golden gaze sliding over her face until she blushed again. “And you came looking for me,” he murmured, his eyes darkening.

She opened her mouth to speak, but had no idea what she’d meant to say. Her system seemed to be on Harley-overload–she was much too aware of him, the quiet sound of his breathing, the remembered feel of his hard fingers on her skin.

Her heartbeat sounded much too loud and fast in her ears.

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Before I forget, I have a guest blog post going live at Delilah Devlin’s blog on Friday, Aug. 2, and there is a giveaway, so maybe you want to pop over there and give it a look.

Now I’m going to write and pretend I get to stay home to do it every day. What are you doing this hot summer week?

 

 

Today will be a super-fast post. Our internet has been down at home since Friday evening, and there is no end in sight, so I took a quick drive up the road to Panera to check on things.

I have been writing today–easier to be undistracted (except by the flashing DSL light on the router) when there is no access to anything else. I’ve also started packing for my trip next week. Not clothing yet, but other essentials. I’ve also picked up some snacks to take along, and some local chocolate for my out-of-state roommate.

Hopefully our internet will be fixed soon, and I’ll have a longer post for you, with a story snippet. What do you do when you lose access to something you rely on? A small freak-out? Major meltdown?

 

 

(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?

 

 

 

(Writing – Depositphotos)

I’ve had a rather productive writing week, and am hoping for another one. I did take a break on Friday for good music, food and wine with a friend, but am back at it now. One thing is troubling me, and that is a title for this novella I will have out later this year for the Common Elements Romance Project. Sometimes titles come easy. Other times, they don’t come at all. This one is harder, but I need to figure it out, because I have my cover picked out and need to get that wrapped up. How awful is it that I’m having a harder time with the title than the story blurb?

I took a little break from this yesterday to read through one of the shifter stories that’s been nagging at me this week. One of my brain’s ways of either a) telling me I need to stop looking so hard at what I’m working on, or b) procrastinating. Could be either in this case. In any case, I have a little snippet from that to share with you today.

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India shifted in place, wishing that for once she’d picked the slightly more reasonable heels instead of the killer, fuck-me shoes. Maid of honor duties included dancing at the reception, and her toes had begun protesting several hours ago.

“You should dance some more, India,” Tessa said, sliding her arm around India’s waist. “For both of us.”

India glanced down at her best friend. “You’re not too pregnant to dance your wedding night away, you know, Mrs. Wentworth.” She put her own arm around her friend’s shoulders.

“But too tired.” Tessa’s smile was still radiant. “You didn’t bring a date.”

India thought she hid her wince pretty well. “Too much work to find dates right now.”

“Uh-huh.” Her friend slanted a doubtful glance up at her. “What about Jon?”

She shook her head. “I haven’t seen him since before you moved down here.” Hadn’t thought of him either.

Tessa bit her lower lip, and India sighed.

“What?”

“I was just thinking…” The other woman hesitated. “There was an Irish shifter you used to see a few years ago.”

India’s chest squeezed painfully, stealing her breath. Trust Tessa to remember him. “That was a long time ago,” she managed after a moment.

Tessa caught her gaze and held it.

India forced a smile. “Why don’t you enjoy your own wedding day before you start planning mine?” she teased.

Her friend laughed, and India relaxed a tiny bit.

“Excuse me.” Harley pushed between them. “I want to dance with my wife.” He didn’t wait for a response, just guided Tessa away.

India smiled and took her champagne glass to the nearest empty chair. The table’s occupants had abandoned their seats for the dance floor. Or maybe the bar. She kicked off her shoes with a sigh of relief and propped her feet on the chair beside her, watching her brother and her best friend swaying together, completely absorbed in one another.

She was not jealous of her best friend and her brother.

It had been a beautiful wedding, and India had cried happy tears for them–and a few regretful tears for herself, if she were honest.

She sighed and reached up to rub at the ache that started at the base of her skull and spread upward to squeeze around the rest of her head. She considered undoing the sleek twist of her hair to alleviate a tiny bit of the pressure, but decided to wait a little longer.

Her mother sat down a minute later with a sigh. “You’re not dancing.”

India tipped her head to look over at her mother. “My feet hurt. Stupid new shoes.”

Lareina laughed. “And you’re alone.”

“Please let’s not go there. Tessa already did.”

Her mom’s smile faded slightly. “I’m sorry, baby.” She reached over to touch India’s cheek. “Are you all right?”

India caught her mom’s hand. “Of course. Just busy with work.”

Lareina studied her for a few moments, seeing too much as she always did. “Come and see me this week.”

“I’ll be in New York a couple days this week, Mom. I’m sorry.” She was sorry–and she wasn’t, because it meant she avoided a grilling on her lack of love life for a few more days. “When I get back, I’ll stop over.”

Her mother didn’t look satisfied with that, but she didn’t protest, just tightened her hold on India’s hand.

“Ah, Lareina.” Boyd Wentworth cleared his throat from behind India. “Would you like to dance with me?”

India’s eyes rounded. Her father asking her mother to dance?

Her mother gave India’s hand a squeeze. “Certainly, Boyd.” She stood again and released India to head for the dance floor.

Boyd stared after her for a few seconds, then trailed along behind her.

India stared after both of them, wondering if she’d fallen into another dimension. Her parents had been divorced for a long time, and acrimoniously. What the hell?

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Now that I’ve taken a short break, I’m back to work. For my writing friends, how often do you have trouble with titles? For my reading friends, how much do titles draw you in?

Have a great week!

 

 

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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

Yes, I know the Romance Writers of America annual conference is not until the end of July. But there are things that have to be done beforehand. Like travel arrangements. Like figuring out dining options. Like new business cards. Like scheduling meet-ups with writer friends and industry people. Like personal prep, like scheduling a salon appointment, finding comfortable-but-not-ugly shoes, what to wear, if-you-have-time-to-see-anything-outside-the-conference-hotel amusements. Probably way more than that, but that’s all I can think of right this second.

I may have fallen into some of these distractions in the past week or so. I have my train tickets for the trip. I have a list of restaurants for dinner during the week and certificates for several, so I have options (though to be fair, I have actually only added a few places to my existing list in the last week). I have my hair appointment set for the week before the conference.

My pretty new business cards are ordered. Yes, I do still have my old business cards, and plenty of them. But they have the cover for Hunting Medusa on them, and since that is currently not available, I wanted something different. I love those cards, but I don’t think they are the right thing for right now. My husband didn’t understand that logic, but I bet some of my writing friends will.

I have not yet had any success in the shoe-shopping even though I have dedicated a sizable chunk of time to the search, but I’ll persist.

And I have just begun to set up times to meet with writing friends, so that will also be on-going for the next two months.

The other big prep thing on my list (besides packing, and I’m so not there yet either) is figuring out which workshops I want to get to. That doesn’t sound like a big task, but trust me, it really is. I’ve got the workshop schedule printed out, and have been through it at least half a dozen times already. I start with just a read-through. Then I go back with a pen and mark things that sound interesting. The next run-through is with a yellow highlighter, to make the big wish-list. My most recent run-through was with a blue highlighter (after an in-between with orange), to narrow down the list further. I will still have to whittle it down a lot. There are some time-slots when there isn’t anything that sounds good to me, and others where every single workshop is something I want to go to. I find this almost always happens, no matter what the conference is, big or small. It’s okay. If there really isn’t anything in a time slot that will be useful for me, it’s a good time to catch my breath or meet up with a friend for a cup of tea, or maybe even to look at notes I took in a previous workshop. I learned a long time ago that I do need to take a break periodically. Even a three day conference is a lot if you don’t stop and take a break once in a while. Yes, the conference is work, but it should also be fun, and if you’re completely brain-dead and exhausted after the second day, the rest of it will be wasted. So I’ve learned to pace myself. And to order the workshop recordings for later, because even in the workshops you get to, there will be something you missed, or want to go back to.

Funnily enough, though, amid all of these non-writing things I have been doing in the past couple of weeks, I have also gotten a fair number of words written, which makes me super happy. I am wrapping up the novella for the Common Elements Romance Project, and trying desperately to come up with a title so I can order my cover (already found the perfect one!). I also took a mosey through a couple of my shifter stories and made some minor tweaks. I have a trilogy of novellas I wrote a number of years ago, too, that I looked at this week. With a little bit of updating, and some fine-tuning, I feel like I could probably release those in the not-so-distant future, which is exciting.

So, while I have strayed from the straight-ahead writing-only path in the last couple of weeks, I am still making forward progress on several fronts, so I don’t feel badly about the side-tracks. In fact, today, while I have laundry going, I am going back to the Common Elements novella and aiming to get a lot closer to ‘The End’. I may also watch the last episode of a Netflix series I’ve been loving so much I hate for it to end and then have to wait for an eon until the next season.

Before I go, I have a little story snippet for you, from the fifth shifter story.

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Joe set his jaw and nodded once, turning away.

Piper wrapped her arms over her middle, listening to his footsteps heading away from the library. She fought the urge to go after him. The disappointment in his eyes stung–knowing it was there because of her made guilt well up in her chest, burning.

She didn’t think it was unreasonable to want to do something without him looking over her shoulder.

As soon as she thought it, she groaned and covered her eyes. Of course she didn’t mean it that way. She was grateful he was keeping her and Keely safe, but she was so used to being on her own…

She blew out a hard breath and squared her shoulders. She owed him an apology.

She didn’t find him in the living room, or the kitchen, or even the bedroom, so she finally headed downstairs. She came to a stop in the open doorway of the workout room, her mouth going dry. His sweaty torso gleamed under the lights as he punched and kicked a heavy bag hung near the back wall–hard and fast, over and over.

He didn’t notice her for several minutes, so she took the time to marshal her thoughts, to note the anger and frustration in his expression, the way his eyes narrowed on his target, his jaw still tight. The sweat darkening his hair and sheening his skin.

She swallowed hard and collected herself, walking across the room.

Joe caught the bag in both hands and slid a glance at her, but didn’t speak, his breath coming still faster.

“I’m sorry, Joe.”

He blew out a rough breath and released the bag, turning toward her, but not looking at her.

Her chest hurt. “I didn’t mean that.”

He shrugged, examining his knuckles.

“Look at me please,” she whispered.

The disappointment still shadowed his eyes when he met her gaze, but the hurt sent sharper pain jabbing at her heart. “Oh, Joe, I shouldn’t have taken my frustration out on you. I didn’t mean it.”

He looked away again. “You’re allowed to tell me to go away.”

She took another step toward him. “I don’t want you to go away, Joe.” Her throat hurt looking at him, so beautiful and so guarded. “I don’t,” she repeated, taking another step that put her in arm’s reach. Cautiously, she stretched out her hand to brush his wrist. “I’m angry that Alden has been able to wreak havoc on my life even now. But, Joe, I don’t want you to go away. I am so happy to be here. So happy to be with you. I’m so sorry.” She slid her hand up his slick forearm, up to the tense muscles beyond. “If we could stay here for a month, I could prove that.”

He startled her by yanking her close, his hard hands on her upper arms.

But instead of fear, she felt a rush of something else–excitement.

“You don’t have to prove anything to me, Piper,” he ground out.

“Let me.” She leaned in and pressed a kiss in the center of his chest. Salt met her lips, and she brushed them against his skin again.

“Piper.”

She flattened her hand against his arm, feeling the way his muscles bunched under her touch. Smiling a little, she licked the same spot on his chest.

His breathing snagged, and his fingers tightened on her arms.

Piper nibbled across his skin to his nipple, and he growled. She licked it, just to hear him growl again.

“Pretty Piper, you’re playing with fire,” he rasped.

She tipped her head back a little and studied him–the fierce need glittering in his eyes, the muscle bunching at his jaw, the color staining his cheekbones. And still, he had himself reined in, under control–even if he was on the edge of losing that control. “Let me play with fire,” she whispered back.

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Now I’m off to write. I hope you all have a beautiful week!

Vintage pitcher of lemonade – Depositphotos

 

 

 

( Vintage pitcher of lemonade )

It feels like summer here this weekend, and I am not happy about that. Not at all, especially since our spring so far has consisted mostly of rain, rain, and more rain, with some chilly days in between. I’m not surprised, this is, after all, Pennsylvania, but I am disappointed. And worried this year will be like last year, with record rain (we’re already ahead of last year in this neck of the woods with precipitation), and hot weather in between. None of us enjoyed last summer, except maybe the water birds that live around the pond near my day-job office. This weekend has been even more unbearable, because we’re waiting for a new motor for our central air conditioning unit, so the inside temp right now is 84 degrees (down from 86 earlier when it was 89 outside). It’s actually a few degrees cooler outside since clouds started bubbling up. I was hoping for a good, cooling thunderstorm, but it doesn’t seem like I’m getting that wish granted. Sleeping will be a challenge tonight.

The good news is that by the time it gets this warm again next weekend, the new a/c motor will be installed and I can stay comfortable while I write. Or, rather, I can stay comfortable while I write after getting home from some day-job OT. And I will definitely appreciate the a/c being functional. I don’t know how my sister puts up with the hot and humid weather down South where she lives.

Right now, I’m taking a short break from writing, but am getting ready to dive back in. Before I go, I have a little snippet of story to share with you from my fifth shifter manuscript.

_________________

Piper swallowed hard as she nodded. “Thank you,” she managed. She got to her feet and pretended not to notice the slight hesitation before the older woman shook her outstretched hand.

She walked out of the office, listening to the panicked beat of her pulse in her ears. No job, no rent, no food, no prospects. She ducked out of the cold, misty rain under the battered metal awning of a café and took a slow breath.

She’d be fine. She would find something. Soon. She took another deep breath and let it slowly out. Some of her panic dissipated. Or she could pretend it had. She tucked her coat tighter under her chin, then paused when the faded orange and black window sign caught her eye.

Help wanted. She looked inside the dusty window, into the dingy restaurant. She’d never waited tables before, but if it meant Keely had a roof over her head and food to eat, Piper could do anything.

Gathering her nerve, she pushed the door open. Pocked linoleum squeaked under her wet shoes, and she looked around. It was worse than it had appeared from outside–peeling vinyl stools at the old-fashioned counter and orange bench seats even more faded than the window sign bracketed the booths along the wall.

An older woman emerged from a dented silver swinging door, balancing two plates and a coffee pot. “Sit anywhere. I’ll be with you in a second,” she said as she hustled past.

Piper opened her mouth to speak, then shut it. Instead, she perched on the edge of the first stool at the counter, heart drumming against her ribs.

The other woman breezed to a stop beside her a few seconds later. “What can I get you?”

“I saw the sign in the window.”

The waitress’s eyebrows went up. “Really?” She studied Piper for a moment. “Well, Dave won’t be in till Friday. You’ll have to come back then.”

Two days. “Okay,” she said. “What time will he be in?”

The waitress’s mouth thinned a little. “Probably not till after the breakfast rush. You wait tables before?”

“No, but I learn fast.”

The other woman’s gaze slid over her again, slower, before landing on her face. “It’s part time, pay’s shit.” Sympathy softened her tone as she named a figure.

Piper tried to hide her dismay at the low number. “I need the job,” she whispered.

“Then come back Friday to see Dave.” She patted Piper’s arm and disappeared into the kitchen again.

Piper pushed to her feet and straightened her shoulders. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d had a job she didn’t like, but she’d do just about anything to keep food in her daughter’s belly and a roof over her head. Waiting tables in a crummy diner wasn’t the worst possibility.

“Hey, hon!”

She turned back from the door to face the waitress, who held out a brown paper lunch bag. “Oh, but–”

“Take it.” The older woman smiled a little. “I hope you find something better.”

Piper’s eyes burned as she took the warm bag. “Thank you.”

The waitress patted her arm again. “It’s nothin’. Eat it while it’s hot.” She bustled away to a table crowded with several old men.

Piper cradled the bag to her chest and went out into the chilly mist again, before she started to cry. She hadn’t done that in a long time, and she didn’t have time now for the indulgence. Instead she inhaled the scent of meatloaf and spices from the bag and straightened her spine. She had to find a job.

By the time she trudged up the cracked cement steps of her apartment building two hours later, the bag was cold, and so were her fingers and nose. No respectable shifter business would hire her, thanks to her stupid brother, and none of the human businesses she’d ventured into were interested in her either.

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Funny how that is story #5 when I started out planning only 3, and this one was supposed to be the third. Anyway, I’m back to my other project while I hope the thunder starting to rumble nearby is bringing a good breeze to cool things down. And, failing that, maybe have a little ice cream.

( Close up of ice cream – Depositphotos )

 

 

( 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.

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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.”

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