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I am back from the New Jersey Romance Writers conference, full of ideas and inspiration, and so happy to have spent time with friends I haven’t seen in too long. Plus I’ve made a few new friends, too!

I have a longer to-do list in preparation for getting my Medusa’s Daughters trilogy out into the world, thanks to an indie publishing session I went to yesterday, and notes from other workshops that I want to go back to after I get through the next couple of crazy days at the day-job. I can’t wait to dive back into my shifters (hence the pretty tiger above). I’m also looking forward to listening to the recordings of sessions that happened simultaneously with some I attended (it would have been a very good weekend to have clones!), so I can see what I missed in the other panels. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference so I can see my long-distance friends again, though I hope that I’ll see some of them between now and then.

Besides the wonderful conference this weekend, it finally feels like fall here, so I am really a happy camper now.

Before I try to get myself ready for the day-job again, I have a little snippet of the novella I’m working on for release next November to share with you.

________________

Lucie had been on the island for almost two weeks, but the view from the back door of her temporary home still took her breath away. Right now, she realized she’d been standing there staring, slack-jawed, at the sunlight glinting off the bright blue ocean waves for a good five minutes. Shaking her head, she pulled the door shut and stepped down onto the sidewalk, feeling in her purse for her car keys.

She closed her fingers on the fob as a giggle reached her ears. She turned to the white picket fence that bordered the property next door as a big multi-colored ball sailed over it, toward her. She caught it before it hit her in the face and started across the grass, balancing the ball on her hand.

Another giggle sounded as she neared the fence, and she adjusted her direction a tiny bit, so she came to a stop and looked directly down onto a blond head with tousled, curly hair.

“I think you lost something,” she said.

The little boy’s face tipped up quickly, his blue eyes wide with surprise–as if he couldn’t believe she’d found him so easily.

Lucie grinned and held the ball higher.

He smiled back and got to his feet, brushing off his jeans-clad butt.

From seeing him playing outside several times already, she’d guessed he was three or four, and now that she was seeing him at closer range, she scaled that back to three.

“Hi, I’m Hayden,” he said, holding out his right hand.

It was her turn to be surprised. She shook his hand, bemused. “Hi, Hayden, I’m Lucie.” Not too many three-year-olds had such good manners. Aside from the ball toss at her face, that is. “Nice to meet you.”

He glanced up at his ball. “Me ‘n’ my dad are your neighbors.”

“I see that.” She noted he hadn’t mentioned his mom. “Who were you playing with?” She gave the ball a little bounce.

“Maybe you wanna play with me.”

Ah. She squelched the pang in her chest. “I wish I could, but I’m on my way to town. Maybe we could play another time?” she added when his grin vanished.

“Like this afternoon?”

“Hayden!”

The deep voice got her attention, and the little boy’s, just before a tall, sandy-haired man rounded the back corner of the next-door house.

Lucie’s mouth went dry. Wowza!

________________

Now I have to get back to reality for a few days. How is your October looking this week?

 

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

Finally! It finally feels like fall here in Pennsylvania the last few days, and I’m so happy about that. Even better, it looks like the fall weather is going to stick around all week. That will certainly make it easier for me to pack for the New Jersey Romance Writers conference later this week.

I’ve been taking a harder look at my first couple of shifter stories, and how I need to tighten up the over-reaching conflict for the series.  Going to have to do some more rewriting. It will make the stories better, and it’s a definite pitfall of being a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, rather than a plotter. My brain just doesn’t work that way, and I’ve tried more than once to plot out my stories.  I guess the good news is the only deadline I had for wrapping these up was my own, and not a publisher’s deadline. (Though I would rather have the publisher’s deadline, because I work better with real deadlines!)

Anyway, I will be spending some time working on making this series conflict stronger, but not until after I get back from the conference. We have an insanely busy week coming up at the day-job, and I’ll be out of the office for the conference for two of those five days. I’ll do my best not to feel guilty about that, but I am absolutely going to have a great time at the conference and attend some workshops bound to get my creative juices flowing. There is one on my must-list about self-publishing that will come in handy for my Medusa trilogy.

I’m also looking at my goals for this year with an eye to revising them (yes, again). There are some that are just not doable in the next two and a half months, but some things I can still accomplish that will put me closer to making more of my goals next year. Yes, I do start thinking about goals for the new year this early. I had a good chat with a writing friend yesterday that made me take a fresh look at some of my goals for the future, and I’m sure a few of the workshops on my list for this weekend will also give me ideas for refining and adjusting my goals, too.

( Photo by Glen Bowman on Foter.com / CC BY )

Before I go back to my notes for my shifter series, I have a little story snippet to share with you.

________________

India closed the file full of wedding pictures on her laptop and set the computer aside. Tessa and Harley had sent the rough shots as soon as they arrived from the photographer. Dozens of them, including one of her looking wistfully at her brother and new sister-in-law. She pushed to her feet and paced to the window.

Sighing, she reached up with one hand to unclip her hair from the neat twist she usually wore for work. That alleviated a tiny bit of the pressure in her head, but the rest was internal. She tossed the clip onto her desk and used both hands to rub at the base of her skull.

It had been a long week. Her uncle Adar had stormed into her office early Monday morning, growling about her treatment of his shiny new wife at the wedding reception, then a report she’d sent to Boris’s secretary had gone missing before lunchtime, and things had gone downhill from there.

Her only consolation right now was that she had one day left till the weekend. Of course, next week, she’d be stuck in Shifter Alliance Conference meetings in New York City all week. She stared down at the traffic and pedestrians on the street below, resting her forehead against the window. If she were going to New York to shop, that would be one thing, but with the conference schedule, she wouldn’t have time to wander the city on the hunt for any fabulous shopping opportunities or bargains.

She shut her eyes and took a deep breath. Work. She needed a vacation. Somewhere on a beach, with room service.

She straightened and returned to her desk. She needed to get through next week before she could think about time off. And right now, there was a scheduling report on her computer–she should have been looking at that instead of Harley and Tessa’s wedding pictures, since the report was due this afternoon.

She leaned forward in her chair and turned the computer back around, tapping the keys to bring up the report again. Rubbing her temple to ease the ache in her head, it took her a few minutes to refocus her attention on the screen. Work.

An hour later, she’d nearly finished compiling the report, when India felt eyes on her, making the fine hairs at the back of her neck prickle. She looked up, frowning. No one. She tapped her fingers on the desktop, shifting her gaze to the window.

And then she saw him, standing at the window across the street.

Her heart leaped into high gear, and she tried to slow it down, tried to convince herself it was just her imagination, just a little wishful thinking left over from the weekend. Her imagination.

Even though she knew it wasn’t.

Rory was here.

Heat flashed through her, molten, and left her shivering. If she tried to leave the office, her legs would never hold her.

She couldn’t see his face clearly from here, but she didn’t need to. She knew it almost as well as her own, even after all this time.

She shut her eyes and turned back to her desk.

Her phone rang, and she nearly jumped out of her chair. Laughing at herself, she picked it up. “Hello?”

“Hello, a rúnsearc.” The lilting Irish accent teased her ear, familiar, sexy.

She went still, except for her racing heart. “What do you want?” The question came out hoarse, but she couldn’t help it. Her imagination went wild. Memories, good and bad, flooded through her.

He chuckled, and arousal stirred in her belly, spreading outward. She knew what he wanted. “Have dinner with me,” he said after a second.

“No.” She was a little surprised she’d managed to sound like she meant that.

“You’d really make me wait until the meeting next week to have a meal together?”

India shut her eyes. He would be there. Dear Gods.

“India, a rúnsearc?”

“Why are you here?” She should have just repeated her refusal and hung up.

“Why do you think?”

To torture her, obviously. Every part of her wanted to go to him, even now. “Because you’re a glutton for punishment,” she muttered.

He laughed again. “For you? Of course.”

She’d meant herself, and she flushed, trying to ignore the slow, thick trickle of heat in her veins, the building throb in her belly.

“But the pleasure is so much better,” he whispered.

A moan tried to climb her throat, and she covered her mouth with her free hand to contain it.

“I know you remember, too. How good.”

His words had every part of her body on high alert. Of course she remembered.

“Have dinner with me. Please.”

“When?” She’d meant to say ‘no’ again. Really.

________________

I was on the verge of saying how much I love Rory, but then I realized I said the same thing about Harley. I meant it, too, about both of them. It’s true, I love them both, and all of the other heroes in my shifter series. Someday, I hope readers will feel the same way.

Now I’m going back to work, and I’m going to enjoy my fall weather all week long. I hope you all do the same!

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________

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

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

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

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

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

Another shaky breath reached his ear. Then a sniffle.

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

“Someone broke into the house,” she whispered.

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

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

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

“I’m fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was afraid she was going to cry.

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

This scared the hell out of him.

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

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

Shifters had done this to Tessa’s house.

________________

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

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

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

 

 

( Photo by davidmulder61 on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

I’m not quite to 0 days until vacation, but close…only 2 as I write this, Of course, they’re going to be two very long days involving overtime and bonus paid-time-off added to my month of September, but only two more days. Plus, for our extra long days, we’ll be fed at suppertime, which is nice, on top of the extra PTO just for this week’s extra hours. It is nice to be appreciated.

I’m pretty sure the first day of my vacation will be spent recovering from the past week, and I have an appointment on the second day (and probably another on the last day), but then I have my to-do list, and my oldest son’s birthday for the rest, and possibly a visit with my sister in there, too, depending on how much rain she ends up with from the hurricane and how much clean-up that causes.

One thing I do have on my list that I absolutely will get accomplished is writing. I want to put a big dent in the novella I’m working on for next year’s Common Elements project. Not sure if I’ve told you about that yet, but I will tell you more about it down the road.

I’ve also got to clean up here in my office. I need some work space cleared off, and haven’t had time to do that. It was on last year’s vacation week to-do list, before my vacation plans went to hell.  It’ll be easier to create when the clutter is put away where it belongs.

For now, though, I am going to start getting my things together for the next two days, and get to bed at a reasonable time so I’m well-rested and functional. Before I go, I have a little snippet of the first shifter story to share this week.

________________

When she made her way along the hall, her heart thundering in her ears, the low rumble of male voices grew louder. Tessa turned the corner and froze. The double doors to Boyd’s study were open wide, and the first person she saw was Harley.

His dark blazer fit snugly over his broad shoulders. The white shirt open at the neck exposed golden muscles.

Her mouth went dry at the sight of him. He was really taking her out to dinner. As a prelude to more. To be with her. Her heart stopped beating for a painful moment.

She couldn’t do this.
His gaze swung away from whatever he’d been looking at on the desk, and heat flared in the tawny depths when his gaze landed on her. He stepped around the desk, toward the hallway, and she resisted her sudden, desperate urge to flee under the very predatory expression on his face. He would only give chase if she did.

Not that she could run in these damned heels anyway.

He paused in the doorway, his amber gaze sliding down from her face to the neckline of her dress. Further. Then, just as slowly and trailing scorching heat all the way, back up to her face. “You look very nice, Tessa,” he murmured.

She realized the voices in the study had gone silent, and she slid along the wall a little, away from him.

A hint of a smile tugged at one corner of his mouth, and he mirrored the move.

She swallowed hard. “Thank you.” She couldn’t do any better than a ragged whisper.

“Are you ready?”

She stared into his eyes for a long moment, nervousness rising up to choke her, and then shook her head.

He raised one eyebrow.

She slid further along the wall, feeling her legs tremble as she side-stepped. Almost to the front door.

He stalked her to the door, the smile on his face growing with each measured step.

She fumbled behind her for the doorknob for several seconds. Surely by now he could hear her heart pounding against her ribs.

“Are you running away?” The question was almost a purr.

She finally closed her fingers around the knob. “Of c-course n-not.” Even her voice was shaking now. Fantastic. She tugged the door open and sidled out through the opening.

He continued to follow, backing her right up against one of the cars.

She hoped it was hers.

“You know it would be easier if you could see where you were going.”

If she turned and ran… A shudder ran through her, and it wasn’t all fear. Not even most of it. Too much anticipation flowed through her veins.

He took one last step toward her, pressing her flat between the car and himself.

Oh, my Gods. She shut her eyes for a second. Every inch of him was hard, and there were some inches pressing into her belly that were extra-hard.

“You’ve run before, Tessa,” he murmured, leaning down so his warm breath brushed her temple and cheek.

She swallowed, wishing for a little moisture in her dry mouth. It seemed every bit of liquid in her was pooling between her legs at the moment.

“You’ve walked away from me, turning your back on me. Presenting.”

She opened her mouth to protest that, knowing it would be a lie, but nothing came out.

He dragged his mouth over hers, lightly, sending a shocking jolt of heat rushing through her. “And now it’s time to do it for real.” He nipped at her lower lip. “Turn around, Tessa.” His hand cupped her hip.

She shook her head.

“You’ve been playing with fire.” His open mouth slid along her cheek. “I’ve enjoyed the play. Now it’s time to get serious.” His hand at her hip slipped between her ass and the side of the car. “Turn around.” He punctuated the command with a sharp nip at her earlobe.

“We have an audience,” she managed, her pulse racing so fast she wondered how long it would take before she either hyperventilated or passed out.

“Go away,” he called without turning around. The front door closed with a bang behind him. “Better?” He sucked her earlobe between his lips for a second.

She shook her head. “Picture windows,” she managed.

He squeezed her bottom, lifting her into the erection that scalded her through their clothing, and caught her mouth with his, deeper this time.

________________

Here’s to a great week for you all!

 

 

( Photo by Auntie K on Foter.com / CC BY )

Our weekend has been very wet again, but this time it was actually in the forecast, so I planned ahead, knowing what the next week and a half look like for me at the day-job: chores on Saturday, mental health break day on Sunday. I almost accomplished all the chores yesterday, but I definitely accomplished my mental health break today after wrapping up the last couple of chores. I watched a couple of movies, read a favorite author and relaxed. It was a good day for it, too, since it rained pretty hard most of the day. It probably would have been a good day for a nap, too, but I had other things on my lazy Sunday to-do list. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the insanity at the day-job, with no break for about 9 days. Then it’s vacation week, and I will probably spend the entire first day doing nothing to recuperate.

Before I get my things together for tomorrow, I have a little story snippet for you, from Hunting Medusa.

________________

She wouldn’t be able to come back to her house if she didn’t kill him, concern or no concern. He hadn’t needed to take such good care of her, though, in order to keep her alive. She frowned. He could have handcuffed her in the basement and tossed down bread and water. She pushed aside the brewing confusion—she had bigger problems right now than trying to figure out the Harvester’s motivation.

He steered her downstairs to the kitchen, and she didn’t argue when he pointed to one of the chairs at the table and went to work on breakfast.

Even if she did kill him, it sounded like his cousin was well on his way to finding her, which meant she still couldn’t come back to her house.

The thought made her a bit sad. She loved this house—alone in the woods, with the beautiful forest in summer, and a fantastic view of the valley below in the fall and winter. Even if she was lonely sometimes.

His laptop beeped from its spot on the counter, and he turned away from the stove to look at it. His expression hardened in a flash. “Damn.”

Andi didn’t like that look. “What?”

“Stavros.”

A shiver snaked its way up her spine, and she folded her arms over her chest. “Not so happy with you?”

“He’s already on his way back. He’ll be here by tonight.”

She shot to her feet. Dealing with one Harvester at a time was a challenge, but she couldn’t possibly handle two. Not now. Thalia’s words rang in her head. Danger is coming from more than one direction. Well, hell.

Kallan caught her gaze. “We can’t wait until tomorrow, Andrea.”

She shook her head, panic freezing her lungs, then swelling and rising into her throat so it nearly choked her.

“All right. Breakfast, and then we need to go.” He stirred something in the pot and then shut off the burner.

Andi didn’t want breakfast. She just wanted to move. Her stomach churned uneasily, and her head started to thump in time with her heart.

He put a bowl on the table in front of her and touched her shoulder. “You need to eat.”

She glanced down at the bowl, filled with steaming oatmeal, sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins, and felt a lump in her throat. “I’m not hungry.”

“You’ll need it later.” He pushed her shoulder gently, and she sank back onto the chair.

He sat beside her, tucking into his own breakfast.

After a moment, she picked up her spoon and stuck it into the oatmeal. He was right, damn him.

“Andrea.”

She looked up at his gentle tone.

“Will you trust me not to let him get you?”

How could she trust a man destined to kill her?

As if he read the question on her face, his jaw clenched. “I promise, agaph, he won’t kill you. I won’t let him.”

His vow rang out in the still room, and for some reason, it made her panic subside just a little. She let out a shaky breath and lifted some oatmeal to her mouth.

________________

Now I’m off to wrap up a couple little things before I call it a day. I hope you all have an easy week ahead!

 

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

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

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

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

________________

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

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

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

Harley. Her mouth went dry. Beautiful.

And naked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And kept her wide awake for hours.

________________

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

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

 

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

Just when it looks like things at the day-job will settle down, they don’t. I’ve just finished two consecutive 50+ hour weeks at the day-job, and my brain is tired. We also had a big schedule change for mid-September, which means things will be insane again right through the day before my vacation starts. I’m kind of glad we aren’t going away for the whole week now, because all I’m going to want to do the first day is recuperate.

I have been sneaking in a little writing time, though, on days when I manage a lunch break, or before I dive into the work in the mornings again, so I’m making a little progress on this novella I’ve committed to for next year. (I’m also glad it is for next year, not this fall!) Since I worked again yesterday, then came home to dinner with all my guys for a change (yay!), today is about chores and catch-up, and when I get to that point, a little reading time and some writing, before I go to bed so I can start all over again tomorrow.

I hope you have all been finding more down-time than I’ve managed in the past two weeks. I know it’s back-to-school season, too, so there are plenty of things to accomplish for that successful transition. I kind of miss those days.

Before I go wrap up the last of my chores for the weekend, I have a little snippet of tiger shifter #4 to share with you today.

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“Just wondering how you’ve gone so long without them catching up before now.” He brushed his thumb at the side of her neck.

She finished chewing the briny olive slower than she needed to, debating with herself. Finally she swallowed and reached for another. “I’ve moved around a lot,” she said at last. “And evidently Edwin hired actual professionals this time, instead of sending pack-mates again.” When she slid a quick glance up, she could see Anton was pondering her words and judging her honesty.

“He’s already sent pack-mates after you?”

“Several times.” She lifted one shoulder. “I’m not dumb, but I haven’t made it that hard either, by using a fake name or anything.”

He didn’t speak, his green gaze too sharp.

She ate the second olive, wondering if he was thinking how stupid could one woman be.

“How many times before now?” he asked after several moments.

Laney counted in her head. Vegas, Tulsa, Cleveland, Indy, Williamsburg… “Six.” She smiled a little, thinking about Baltimore.

“What happened?”

She slid a sidelong glance at him, still smiling. “I don’t know what you mean.

Unexpectedly, he grinned, and her breath caught.

Wow. And she’d thought he was attractive before. This, though…

“What did you do to them?” His thumb rubbed a little circle against her skin. “I know you did something, from the look on your face.”

Laney took a shallow breath. The tiger wasn’t just smart and dangerous, he was gorgeous. “I might have sent gifts to his room while I disabled his car.”

“What kind of gifts?”

“Pizza and then a hooker, followed a little later by the cops.”

He laughed, and goose bumps rose on her skin. “I like it. Devious and clever. You should come work with me.”

She didn’t care how strong the wine was, her mouth was dry. She took a sip. “I have a job, thanks,” she murmured, her gaze stuck on his smile, which faded after her words.

“He probably found you that way.”

She nodded once, her own smile fading. “Probably.” And if Edwin had resorted to a pro, he would be able to find her that way again, no matter where she went, dammit. She wasn’t sure how much a fake identity would cost, but she had a feeling it would do more than dent her stash of emergency funds. Shit.

Anton picked up another salami roll. “Open.”

Automatically, she obeyed, though she wondered now how she could stay under the radar without having to spend a fortune on a new identity.

Until his thumb brushed her mouth. Heat flashed through her.

Her gaze shot to his face. His expression hadn’t changed, but she noticed his eyes were shadowed. She made herself concentrate on chewing, though she couldn’t look away. Finally, when she’d swallowed the last of the appetizer, she cleared her throat. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

His lips curved a little, but the smile didn’t come close to reaching his eyes. “When was the last time you were on a date?”

She blushed, finally forcing her gaze away. “A long time ago,” she murmured. “And he didn’t look at me like that.” Like she was the appetizer, main course, and dessert.

Anton chuckled as he picked up his glass. “Not a good date, then.”

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I hadn’t originally planned a story for Anton, but I discovered as I was writing the first two stories in the series that he needed one, too.  What do you think?

Now I’m off to finish the chores–ie, making my giant batch of salad so I have lunch and/or dinner for work the next few days, and the rest of the laundry, before I can do a little relaxing.

How are you winding down your summer? Relaxing, or super-busy?

( Photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )

 

 

I’d like to be counting down to my vacation week, but it’s still too far away for me to do that. So instead, I’m going to keep my head down and keep writing in my spare moments.  I actually can see the light at the end of the tunnel at the day-job. We have a new trainee starting this week, but it will be about a month before she’s ready to actually do the job, so we still have a few crazy weeks ahead before we can slow down and catch our breath. And right after that is my vacation week, and I have plenty of things on that to-do list already, aside from the trip to the beach.

 

Actually, I have a pretty huge to-do list in general.  I need to break that down into categories, like ‘do now’, ‘do by the end of the year’, and ‘do when you can’. I used to be much better about weekly to-do lists and goals, and need to get back into that. I used to break down the yearly goals I set to monthly, and then weekly, by day. Now I do my goals for the year and break them down by month, but the past two and a half years, plans kind of went to hell with all of the family things we had going on. I really have to get my brain back into list-mode. I love a good list, and checking things off when they’re completed–I do them at the day-job all the time, I’ve just gotten out of the habit in the rest of my life and I need to fix that.

Exercise used to be on my weekly lists, and that’s been off the radar for a long time–when I worked retail, I got plenty of exercise in during the work-day, but now I sit at a desk all day, which isn’t so good for the size of my behind. One of my teammates and I actually added a daily walk to our work calendar so we get up and move for at least ten minutes once a day (unless all hell has broken loose and we’re lucky to make it to the bathroom), and are adding a second one this week.

I used to have page goals on my weekly goals as well, which went a long way toward making the annual writing goals. I’m already plotting for my 2019 goals that I won’t set till December about how to get that figured in early so I make better progress again.  Right now, I’m still studying and researching things I need to know for jumping into the self-publishing pool (which, by the way, is a scary place!). There are a lot of things to know and do there, and since I’ve never done some of them before, I want to make sure I’m doing it right. Too many people put books out themselves who have clearly not done enough homework, and I don’t want to be one of them. I want the Medusa trilogy to go out into the world ready to fly. Some more in-depth study will be happening during my vacation week.

I am going to get some fun time in, along with all of the work. We have concert tickets for the end of the month for a group with some musicians my husband and I both like from their previous bands, so that will be an interesting evening. And next month, right before my vacation week, a friend and I are having a mini-retreat the day before the next Nora Roberts signing, and I can’t wait. We’ll head down the day before the signing, check into our hotel and spend the rest of the day writing, and then be at the signing the next morning.

Before I get back to weekend chores, I have a little story snippet to share with you, from the first tiger shifter story (which is still currently nameless).

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His father’s words stuck with him the rest of the night, and again the next day. Boyd was right. Dealing with Tessa would take all his attention.

Now if only he could cross paths with her.

He got lucky the next evening. India had left a note in the kitchen that Tessa was stopping by after work to pick up some books, just in case India wasn’t back from New York on time.

He grinned to himself as he made his way to where he knew she’d go when she arrived. India was, indeed, still in New York, so she wouldn’t be there to meet Tessa.

But he would.

He heard the front door, and her laughter reached his ears along with his brother Joe’s voice. Joe’s heavier footsteps continued up the stairs, and Tessa’s slower, lighter ones came along the hallway. To the library. To him.

Harley lounged in his chair, deliberately not letting her know he was there. How long would it take her to notice his presence?

She dallied for a few minutes in front of the shelves that housed the African cat books even though he knew she’d read all of them at least twice. He took the time to admire her toned legs beneath the hem of her khaki skirt. The shape of her hips as she leaned her weight on one leg. Then she meandered past the native plants of New England shelf, her fingers trailing along the spines as she went.

He imagined what her fingers would feel like sliding over his skin that way, and his body came to attention.

She stopped in front of the garden design area, head tilted. After a moment, she pulled a book out, then another, then several more, and lugged the whole stack to the wide worktable several steps away from him.

He held his breath.

She dropped the books loudly, and then froze when her gaze landed on him.

“Hello, little Tessa,” he said softly.

Panic flitted through her eyes, and her pulse beat madly in the hollow of her throat. “Harley.” It came out strangled.

“Planning a garden?” He stayed where he was, hoping she wouldn’t flee.

She lifted a shoulder jerkily. “Someday.”

He stifled his grin. She was still poised for flight. “What kind of garden?”

She blinked at him. “What?”

“What kind of garden?” he repeated evenly. “Formal, cottage? Something in between?”

A tiny frown line appeared between her eyebrows, as if she were trying to decide his intent. “Probably cottage style,” she said at last, dropping her gaze to the stack of books in front of her. “Formal gardens are pretty, but require more work than I have time for.” She glanced at him again, wariness clouding her eyes.

He leaned forward in his seat, watching her tense still more. The first hint of her arousal scented the air. “I haven’t seen you for a couple days, Tessa.” He pushed to his feet.

She swallowed hard, blushing. “I’ve been busy at work.”

Liar. “I thought maybe you were avoiding me.” He moved to the work table, standing opposite her so he could see the way her eyes darkened.

“Of course not,” she murmured, dropping her gaze to the books again.

“I’m glad to hear that, since I was hoping to kiss you again.”

Her gaze jumped to his face. “We agreed that wasn’t a good idea.”

Harley shook his head slowly, holding her gaze. “I never agreed to that.” He took a step toward the corner of the table, then another, until he rounded the table and stood beside her.

Tessa’s prey instincts were good. She was fairly quivering with the need to run. But she held her ground anyway. He touched her arm lightly with his knuckles and watched the goose bumps lift along her soft skin.

You said it would be a good idea not to kiss again, but I’d never agree to something like that when I know it’s a fat lie.”

Her eyes widened a little more. “I disagree.”

“Liar.” He slid his hand higher, until he could catch her warm nape against his palm.

She set her hands on his chest when he turned her. “Whatever happened to leaving siblings’ friends alone? Or not screwing with the humans?”

He’d been bending toward her and it was his turn to freeze. “That’s Adar’s opinion, Tessa. Not mine.” He pulled her slightly closer. Now it was his turn to lie. “And all I’m talking about is a little kissing.”

Her gaze landed on his lips and her tongue darted out at the corner of her mouth, almost too quickly for him to see.

Almost. He stifled a groan and bent to kiss her, quickly. Lightly. And again. Again. Until she opened her mouth, her fingers curling into his shirtfront.

Gotcha!

One kiss turned into two, into five, until he lost count. The taste of her was addicting.

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I hope you all get in some down-time this week.  Find a hammock and take a book along!

Young lady reading the book in the hammock on tropical beach at sunset

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

Now that party month is over, it’s back to nose-to-the-grindstone mode for me. Last month was also insanely busy at the day-job since we’re still short-handed, but I did manage to get some writing done. Have I mentioned the novella project I’m working on for next year? I’ve been working on that when I get a few minutes to break at the day-job, and just cranked out a few thousand words on that this afternoon. I’ll share more about that another day, though.

Anyway, things aren’t going to slow down at the day-job quite yet. We have a really heavy week coming up in two weeks, and then we have a new teammate starting to train, so maybe in a month things will lighten up for the rest of us a little bit. Just in time for my vacation week at the end of September. Plans for that have changed, no Maine this fall after all, but I am going to sneak off to the beach for a couple days. I’m disappointed not to be going to my favorite state this year, but I’ll have time to do some of the things I had planned to do on my vacation week last summer that never happened because instead I was working on my late aunt’s house. Not really what I was hoping for when I planned my vacation week, but necessary tasks. I may even give myself a head-start with some of those things by working on a couple of those projects on weekends in the next month or so, at least one day each weekend while I’m already doing my regular weekly household chores, so I can still have the other day to read, to write, and to relax just a little.

We still have projects at my aunt’s house, which is now my boys’ house. That makes me happy–I’ve been going to that house my entire life, because it belonged to my grandparents before it was my aunt’s. The boys are working on making it their own–we spent a weekend ripping up carpets last fall, and they’ve been painting and making other changes to suit them–but it’s still family, so I’m glad.  I have some outdoor projects to get to there before winter comes, but those aren’t high on my priority list right now.

Maybe Maine next year instead. In the meantime, I’m going to keep working on my writing and revising so I can get my Medusa stories out into the world, again for the first, and for the first time for the second and third books. Before I go find something for supper, I have a little story snippet to share with you, this week from Freeing Medusa, the third in the trilogy.

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Katharine watched him, rather like she might look at a strange animal, he thought. “I don’t understand why you would do this,” she said finally. “You have a home and a job, your own business. A life.”

Hunter resisted the need to sigh, but only barely. “You’re not safe, and I’d never send anyone out alone when I could help keep them safe.”

“So you have a knight in shining armor complex.”

He glared at her. “I don’t. But I have a vocal conscience.”

She narrowed her own eyes. “Believe me when I tell you I’ll be fine.”

He shook his head. “No can do.”

She shoved to her feet.

“And I’ve promised your family I’ll keep you protected.”

She froze, looking poised to stomp away. “I don’t suppose you’ll feel any remorse for playing the family guilt card, do you?”

He smiled, knowing he’d just won another skirmish. “None.”

“Of course you don’t.” She shut her eyes for a second. “How about the guilt I’ll have if anything happens to you?”

“Not so much.” He settled deeper into his chair. “You still don’t trust me completely. I’m okay with that,” he continued when she shot a sidelong look at him. “I know I’m capable, and you will, too, eventually.”

“How many men have you killed?”

He blinked at her, then cleared his throat. “That I know of?”

Kat folded her arms on her chest, her gaze leveled on his face.

He considered for a moment not answering. Then he reconsidered. “Probably a couple dozen, minimum. Afghanistan, a few other places.” He shrugged, one-shouldered. “One in the line of duty as a cop.” He could still remember the look on that guy’s face–it broadcast the man’s intent even better than the weapon he’d held. “I would’ve put a bullet in that guy in your bedroom, Kat, if he’d made the tiniest move in your direction after I got there. He knew it, too. It’s why he went out the window.” Hunter dropped his foot back to the floor.

She still didn’t look convinced.

He pushed to his feet. “Are you angling to be restrained?” he asked lightly. “I do have handcuffs, you know.”

Her eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. “What? Of course not.” Still, color tinted her cheeks, and he imagined she was thinking about the possibility. “No,” she said more firmly, shifting her gaze away.

“You let me know when you change your mind.” He kept his tone light, moving toward her.

Kat glanced at him. “Don’t stalk me.”

He smiled. “Do I look like I’m trying to sneak?” He reached out and caught one of her wrists, pulling her closer despite her reluctance. “I was trying to be up-front. If I’d been sneaking just now, like that, you could send me back to basic training for a refresher.”

She gave a tug at her wrist, but he held on, just enough to keep her where she was. “Hunter.”

He let his smile widen. “I understand trusting me with your life is a lot different than trusting me with your body.” He enjoyed the color deepening in her cheeks. “But please try.”

She studied his face for a few long heartbeats. “You know it’s got nothing to do with you personally, right? I just don’t trust that many people,” she said finally.

“I know.” He leaned closer, bending to rest his forehead against hers. “Give it a try.”

She sighed. “I can’t make any promises, but I’ll try.”

His heart bounced harder in his chest. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

She rolled her eyes and gave him a shove, but he wrapped his other arm around her back, and her eyes widened a little. “Hunter–”

He kissed her, just a brush of his lips over hers, still holding her gaze. “Thank you.” And when he released her, he was gratified to see the way her eyes darkened.

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Now I’m off to find some supper and get in some reading time before I gear up for this crazy week at the day-job.  More studying of the things I need to do before I am ready to dive into the self-publishing pool.  Keep going, on whatever you’re working on this week!

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

 

 

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

( Photo on Foter.com )

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunter exhaled, too. “You okay?”

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

“You can tell that from a dream?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe She can’t?”

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe She couldn’t find the Medusa Herself.

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

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

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

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

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

A sleepy sound escaped her as she snuggled closer again.

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

Her knee rubbed along his thigh, higher.

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you all have a great week!