Tag Archive: excerpt


Our weather-guessers promised several inches of snow for our area yesterday. We got a dusting, topped off with a whole lot of sleet. This time of year, the front of our house doesn’t get much sun, so the driveway will probably be icy for a few more days, until the temps go up a little again. But I did get the ice off my car so I can get to work tomorrow, so that’s something, right?

The good news for me this week is I took a couple days off from the day-job. I can have a break (last week was insane, and we weren’t expecting that), and I can get some things done at home. I’m doing the same thing again in March, June, and September, and I still have to figure out where to plug in another 40+ hours of vacation time that I can’t carry over into next year, so I may sneak in another long weekend or two. We’ll see. This week, my first day off will be a combo of fun and tasks: I’m having lunch with eldest, then working on a small project at his house, before I head to my monthly writing group dinner. Then the second day, I’ll get another task or two done here at home, maybe something I wanted to do ages ago, like shredding paper and cleaning off my dressers. I might even go use my gift card for an hour on the massage table, if I feel like I got enough work done.

Of course, the big aim for a four-day weekend is writing time. Hopefully when I’m back here to chat next weekend, it will be with an update on how productive my four days were.

Before I head off to work on finishing some revisions, I have a little story snippet for you, this week from my first shifter story.

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When he let the conversation flag for a moment, the band that had begun playing in the next room half an hour ago caught her attention. If her toe-tapping and faint smile were any indication, they were playing a song she liked.

Even better.

Harley got to his feet and held out his hand. “Come dance with me.”

Wariness clouded her eyes instantly.

“Please. You looked like this is a song you enjoy, so dance with me.”

Evidently her normal logic was a little clouded by the wine she’d consumed and by how tired she was, because she put one hand in his, her fingers sending heat over his palm and up his arm.

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.

He waited while she fumbled with the door, resisting the urge to grab her for one more kiss. He watched her back into the bedroom, her wide eyes fixed on his face until she pushed the door shut.

He grinned, feeling his pulse race. Tessa tasted incredible. And he wanted more.

He’d have to think hard about his next move in this game, because he didn’t intend to let her get away. Not just yet.

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What does your week look like? All work and no play? Or are you getting in some time to do something you enjoy? Maybe some overdue chores? Do you need an accountability buddy?

 

 

 

That’s what I feel like this week. We’re not quite halfway into the new month, and I feel like I’m really far behind already. Ugh. Not the way I wanted to start the new year. I know what I need to do to get caught up, but I haven’t managed to pull it off.

In better news, we finally had our New Year’s dinner with the boys today. All kinds of yummy food, plus a nice visit. The dishes will wait, because I really, really have to finish the revisions I should have finished a week ago. While I go dig into that, I have a short story snippet for you today from Hunting Medusa.

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It was one of those days when having the Medusa’s fabled power to turn people to stone would really come in handy.

Andrea Rosakis did not, however, have that ability, not this week, anyway. Even though she was the reigning Medusa.

She glared at the man on her back porch, wondering if he could ever understand how lucky he was she wasn’t suffering from PMS this week. And why wouldn’t he stop talking? Her fingers itched to slam the door.

“…if you just have five minutes, ma’am,” he concluded.

She narrowed her gaze on the vacuum beside him. “No, thank you.” And how the hell had he found her all the way out here? No one ever bothered to follow her rough, muddy driveway all the way to the top, even if they did ignore the “No Trespassing” signs posted at the foot of it. Not to mention the protective warding she had set at the boundaries of the entire property. Sure, it wasn’t the heavy artillery of protection spells, but no one else had ever gotten past it. This man however, had not only ignored the signs and the subtle “go away” protections, but managed the entire bumpy, muddy track into the woods and halfway up the mountain. Just to hear her say, “No.”

And he didn’t look discouraged. At all.

Andi almost wished she were PMSing this week, though it would be a real pain in the ass to have to get rid of a life-sized stone statue of a vacuum salesman.

Or maybe she could keep it. He was very pretty, even if he annoyed her. He was tall and broad, his inky black hair was a tad too long, and his bright green eyes held her attention. At least as stone, he’d be silent and still pretty. She gave herself a mental shake. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this—”

“When would be a better time?”

“Never.”

He did blink at that, but his smile never disappeared. “I’ll have to check my calendar.”

She snorted, then clapped her free hand over her mouth. Laughing would not discourage the man. “Look, I’m sure it’s a great vacuum, but I don’t need it. I don’t want to see how it works, and I’d like you to get off my property.”

His smile did fade a little bit. “Well, I suppose, if that’s what you really want.”

She quirked an eyebrow, trying not to smile again. He had the faintest hint of an accent, but she couldn’t place it. Not without hearing him talk some more, and she didn’t want to encourage that either, or he’d just keep trying to sell her an expensive vacuum she didn’t need.

“Maybe I could talk you into meeting me for coffee sometime then,” he said.

Her jaw dropped. The cute salesman was hitting on her. For half a second, she indulged the fantasy of a date with the hunk. A real date, maybe ending with a real kiss. Her pulse quickened. Then she remembered one good date led to more, and eventually, it led to guys running away from her, gibbering like idiots when PMS struck. She shut her mouth and ignored the regret burning in her middle. “Sorry, but no.”

“You’re a hard woman,” he said lightly, his bright gaze sliding down to her mouth. “I’ll leave my card in case you change your mind. About the coffee, that is.” He forced a small card into her hand and picked up his vacuum.

Andi stared after him as he strode off her porch. The bulky vacuum looked like it weighed nothing in his hand, swinging at his side on his way to the shiny, new truck parked behind her car.

When he took one hand from the steering wheel to wave at her, she stopped herself from lifting her hand in response. He turned the truck around and vanished down the drive into the trees. Frowning, she went back inside and shut the door, then locked it and re-armed the alarm. He’d tossed the vacuum into the bed of the truck. A very strong salesman.

Who didn’t seem to care the impending rain was going to damage his expensive vacuum.

She turned back to the door and stared out the narrow window beside it, her heart beating faster now with alarm. Maybe he didn’t realize. Or maybe he really hadn’t come here to sell her a vacuum.

She swallowed hard.

Aunt Celosia had always told the cousins stories of the Harvesters, the men who still hunted for the Medusa. Somehow, Andi had always thought they’d be more frightening. More obvious. Ugly men intent on murder.

If this vacuum salesman was a Harvester, he was sneaky. Of course, if he was a Harvester, he would be sneaky, as Perseus had been when he killed the first Medusa.

She was in a lot of trouble.

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This is my goal for this week:

( Make things happen – Depositphotos )

What are your aims for this week? Just get through the week? Or something more ambitious? Do you have a plan for how to make it happen? I always love new ideas, so please share!

 

( 2020 new year – Depositphotos )

Just a few days now until the new year starts. Are you all ready? It isn’t just a new year, but a whole new decade starts this week, so it seems like a bigger deal than just every other New Year’s Day, doesn’t it?

That said, I am still working on my writing goals for the year. I had second thoughts about my list last week, about what I think I can really accomplish in the new year, so I took another look at them and made some adjustments. My plan is to wrap those up today and reprint my bright goal sheets for my planner and my bulletin board. My other project for today is to whittle down my choices for my word of the year. I don’t think I’ll get the list down to one today, but I still have a couple of days to do that. Today I’ll be happy to get it into single digits.

So I can get back to new year plans, I have a little story snippet today from my Common Elements Romance Project novella.

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She’d spent half the night staring up at the darkness and worrying that she’d chosen wrong. What if she’d imagined the interest? What if she’d just made a huge mistake?

Lucie had been at the kitchen table with the teapot for two hours already, and was contemplating heating water for more tea when the knock sounded at the back door at eight-thirty. Her breath caught. Time to face the music. She bundled her sweater tighter as she got to her feet and went to open the door.

“Hi, Lucie!” Hayden bounded into the room, dragging his teddy bear by one leg. “I had cereal for breakfast today. What did you eat?”

She smiled, turning to watch him even though she was aware of his father stepping into the house. “I didn’t have breakfast, just tea.”

The little boy frowned. “Grandma says breakfast is im…imp…important,” he said carefully. “You shoulda had some of my cereal.”

She stifled a chuckle. “Thanks, Hayden. I’ll make up for it later.”

Nate closed the door, and her urge to laugh vanished as she glanced back.

“Good morning.” She blushed.

His somber gaze locked on hers. “Good morning. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

She nodded. “Of course. We’ll be fine. I think we might bake cookies this morning. Or bread. Maybe both.” She shut her mouth to keep from chattering on stupidly.

The corner of his mouth twitched. “I’ll pop in when I finish staining these cabinets. You might be ready to get rid of him by then.”

She blinked.

“And maybe we could talk about last night,” he added in an undertone that made more heat rush to her face.

“Um…”

He grinned, and the dimple made her breath catch.

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Are you still hashing out your 2020 goals, or are you ready for the new year to start?

 

( Photo on Trends Hype )

( family at feast – Depositphotos )

In the coming week or two, there will be lots of scenes like the one above all over the country and the world. We used to have large family holidays when I was growing up, with grandparents, sometimes aunts and uncles and cousins, too. Holidays are a lot easier for kids than for the adults, aren’t they? All the kids have to do is wait until the big day, though that seems interminable to a six-year-old, whether it’s a birthday or Christmas. Kids don’t see all the work leading up to the holiday, even if they “help” to decorate cookies. I remember cookie-baking days, and I’m sure we made even more work for my mom with our help decorating sand tarts and gingerbread men.

Over the years, our gatherings have grown smaller for holidays and birthdays. Siblings and cousins scatter for school and then jobs. Older family members are no longer with us. These days for holidays and birthdays, it is usually just the four of us. Small, cozy holidays are a lot different than long-ago holidays, but still a nice way to spend a day, with closest family gathered around the table for a good meal.

I have a little holiday snippet from my fourth tiger shifter story for you today.

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Laney looked like she might cry.

Anton tamped down the urge to smile.
“Oh,” she said after a few seconds, “you really shouldn’t have, Lareina.”

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

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

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

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

“Perfect,” Lareina said firmly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She swallowed. “But I’m–”

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

She clamped her teeth on her lower lip.

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

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Now I have some eggnog cookies that need to be put into a cookie tin if the glaze has set, and some fudge that needs cut. Here’s hoping that your holidays this week, no matter which ones you celebrate, are wonderful and filled with family and friends you love. And I hope you all find a few moments of quiet to catch your breath, too!

 

( tea with Christmas Cookies – Depositphotos )

(Christmas Cookies – Depositphotos)

 

I should have gotten a lot more done this weekend. Except I’m currently trying to fight off some ick. I’ve been chugging tea all day, in hopes of making my throat feel better. It doesn’t. I had hot and sour soup for lunch. It didn’t help. I finally broke down and took some cold meds for the slight fever I had earlier in the afternoon.

I had big plans to figure out cookies to bake next weekend, and maybe start on the grocery list. Instead, what I’d really like to do is curl up in bed. If it was a different week, I might seriously consider taking off from the day-job, but we have a pretty busy couple of days coming up, so I’ll go to bed early tonight and medicate, and keep my germs to myself while we get through Tuesday. Then we’ll see.

I’m going to attempt to get something done this evening before my early bedtime, but before I do, I have a little story snippet for you, from Hunting Medusa.

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Andi realized before she opened her eyes that the Harvester was sleeping with his arm around her. It was why she was so warm.

She frowned and peered through her eyelashes. Early light shone in the window on the other side of the room. The last thing she remembered was racking her brain trying to figure out if the Harvester had any other special talents he hadn’t told her about besides the lock thing. Now she was beneath the sheet and blanket, and his body heat warmed the back of her even more.

She shifted slightly, and knew when he came fully awake.

“Good morning, Andrea.”

She didn’t answer, setting her jaw.

His fingers slid slowly over her belly as he withdrew his arm, and she ground her teeth against the surge of PMS-fueled desire, certain the caress was a deliberate tease. Not that she’d give in to her hormones again. Not with him.

“We have work to do today.”

She shut her eyes.

“I have something for you.”

Something soft brushed her cheek, and she realized it was the sleep mask. She jerked her head away.

“You did agree.” His tone was patient.

She glared at the dresser and watched a big gouge mark appear on the side.

“Ah, yes, definitely time for this.” He chuckled and slipped it over her head.

Andi kept her mouth shut, hoping she didn’t grind her molars to dust.

“Do you want to hear our plans for the day?”

She curled her fingers into a fist beneath the blankets, trying to tell herself it was best if she didn’t hit him again today. Not three days in a row.

“No? You’re not at all curious?” He adjusted the mask, then touched the short hair at her nape. “I have something I want you to see, but it will have to wait for a day or two now. Today, we’re going to figure out a place to go to avoid my cousin when he gets back from Ohio.”

She jerked her head in his direction before she could stop herself.

“Mm. Yes, it seems Cousin Stavros got orders from our great-uncle to follow my hot lead there instead of heading here to follow up on his own leads. That gives us a few days to decide what to do.”

She turned her head away again on the pillow, considering. She hadn’t actually seen the entire message he’d posted, just the part about being on her trail and that he would complete his assignment in the next few days. She hadn’t seen where he told them he was.

He patted her hip. “Come on. Time to get up.”

She sat up reluctantly, her mind awhirl. It was possible he had actually lied to his cousin. But why? Because he wanted the glory for himself? Because he wanted the amulet even more desperately? She couldn’t begin to guess at his reasoning.

His strong hands settled at her waist to lift her to her feet.

She stumbled, off-balance from her imposed blindness, and he steadied her against him.

She took a step back, bumping into the bed, and he chuckled.

“I don’t think you’ll make it down the stairs this way.”

“I’m fine,” she said stiffly, reaching out to push him away.

He flattened her hand on his chest so she could feel his strong heartbeat. “I meant with the handcuff.”

She clenched her jaw.

He undid the cuff, and she wondered idly if he’d used the key or his handy talent. Then he caught her wrist in his free hand and turned her.

She concentrated on getting out of the room without crashing into anything. Or into him. She made it down the stairs without incident, then sat when he gave her a gentle nudge into a chair at the kitchen table.

“What would you like for breakfast?”

“Your obituary.”

He was silent for a few seconds, and she smiled, childishly pleased with herself.

“For a woman who’s just missed out on what was bound to be a very unpleasant encounter with Stavros, you don’t sound very grateful,” he said at last.

“One Harvester or another.” She shrugged.

His silence this time was more protracted, and tension filled the room.

She realized he may not just be thinking of his task, but of what had occurred between them already. She felt heat in her cheeks, suddenly grateful he was behind her.

Eventually, she heard him moving on the other side of the island, and she relaxed a little. Her belly twinged, and she stifled a sigh. Right on time. She stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“Bathroom.” She felt her way to the end of the table, mentally reviewing the space ahead of her. About fifteen steps to the half bath between the kitchen and living room, and no furniture in her path.

He didn’t argue, but his footsteps came nearer, and then his fingers caught her wrist.

“I can get there on my own.”

“I’m sure you can.” Nonetheless he guided her along the short hallway. “I’d hate for you to bump into anything and bruise yourself.” He released her at the doorway.

Andi didn’t flip him off as her first instinct suggested, but instead went into the smaller room and closed the door firmly—she hoped right in his face. She flipped the sleep mask up and glanced at her reflection in the mirror over the sink. Her spiky hair would have to wait. Right on cue, another cramp made her flatten one hand low on her belly.

A few minutes later—some aspirin washed down with a little water and her hair finger-combed—she hesitated for a few seconds, then tugged the sleep mask back down and fumbled for the doorknob. He might not still be standing outside the door, so if she walked back to the kitchen without the mask, he’d have time to turn away before she could do any damage to him. And he had held up his part of their bargain last night by producing the scissors she wanted.

Kallan met her at the door and guided her back to the table. “Do you need anything else?”

“The couch and a heating pad in about half an hour.” She sat. If he intended to wait on her, then he could really wait on her.

One of his hands brushed over the top of her head as he moved away. “I’ll see what I can do about that.”

She frowned. “And stop touching me.”

He muttered something she couldn’t quite hear, then banged a pan onto the stovetop.

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Our nearly-19-year-old kitty seems to be having some issues, too, today. We could use some good thoughts while we wait for the vet to come take a look at her tomorrow.

Did you get everything done this weekend that you wanted? Or did you have other things get in your way? Have a good week!

 

In Need of Motivation

( sticky notes with the word everything – Depositphotos )

Right now I’m looking at my to-do list, which looks about two miles long, and I can’t seem to motivate myself to do anything about it today. What I’d like to do is crawl into bed early tonight. To be fair, I spent most of last night sick, so I’m more tired than usual, but that isn’t everything.

We’re about to go into a busy stretch at work, with a weird schedule, and part of me is stressing about that. Plus I’ve looked over my goals list from the beginning of the year, and that has left me more than a little disappointed with my lack of progress on some things. I’m also behind on my Common Elements Romance Project novella. I kind of wish I could take a vacation. Not necessarily to go anywhere, just to stay home and do some of the things on my to-do list.

So how do you motivate yourself when you don’t feel motivated? I need a jump-start.

While I’m searching for some motivation, I have a little story snippet to share with you from my Common Elements Romance Project novella.

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Lucie didn’t argue when Nate refused her help with the dishes. Her insides were still shaky from the realization that he was attracted to her.

“I’ll see you in the mornin’, Lucie!” Hayden shouted, hopping on one foot.

She smiled as she put her sweater on. “Yes, you will, buddy.” They’d already decided that Hayden would join her after breakfast so Nate could cram in a few hours of work before he headed to the hospital to see his dad and try to get his mother to come home to sleep in her own bed rather than the less-than-ideal pull-out chair-bed in his dad’s hospital room.

She wasn’t sure that was a battle he would win, but she understood his concern.

Hayden gave her a quick hug and then ran back to his book in the living room.

“I really do appreciate this, Lucie,” Nate said from where he stood at the sink.

“It’s nothing, Nate,” she said lightly. “Keeps me from having to spend endless hours on the job search sites and getting more depressed than I already am.” She kept her head down as she buttoned her sweater up to her chin.

“It isn’t nothing to me.”

His firm, quiet tone made her look up, and her mouth went dry. The shadows in his brown eyes made her curl her fingers around the edges of her sweater to keep from reaching out.

“I’m not accustomed to asking for help.” He cleared his throat. “I appreciate it.”

She swallowed. “It’s no problem,” she whispered. Dammit, hot, attracted to her, and vulnerable. Shit, that was trouble. She took a slow breath. “I’ll see you in the morning then.” She inched toward the door.

A hint of awareness darkened his eyes, but he stayed where he was. “Good night, Lucie.”

She took two more steps, clearing the doorway to the mud room, and a little relief sank into her belly. Until she heard his footsteps behind her.

Within reach of the back door, she whirled around. He stood at the open doorway of the kitchen, undisguised desire in his eyes this time. Her heart skipped a beat, and she felt a quick rush of excitement that she tried to squash as he stepped into the mud room. She held her breath as he took another step. One more. Until he stood a foot away, and her breath rushed out.

He studied her face for a long moment, and she wondered what he saw, what he was looking for. Impulsively, she moved closer to him, noting the way his eyes rounded, and she stretched up to brush a kiss on his mouth, then stepped back.

“Good night, Nate,” she whispered, reaching behind her for the doorknob.

His dark gaze followed her out the door, and she turned away, feeling a smile curve her lips.

Well, that was nice. She could deal with the repercussions another day, and, for now, be reminded she was still alive.

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Okay, I’m off to figure out supper and work on some cards that have to go in the mail tomorrow. Hit me with your best ways to self-motivate when you’re not feeling any.

 

 

 

My to-do list isn’t quite as bad as the poor woman above, but it feels like it some days. I’m winding down a mini-vacation right now, and I feel like I haven’t accomplished nearly enough for as many days as I’ve been home.

To be fair, my time off was over the Thanksgiving weekend, so I spent the day before and the day of in the kitchen for a large chunk of the day, and washing dishes for days. I did wrap up a small project yesterday that I started a couple weeks ago. Today, I’ve cleared a bunch of things out of my in-boxes, but not much else, though I am heading back to Revision-land shortly. That leaves tomorrow, my last day before I head back to the day-job, to get the laundry done, and try to knock out something else from my to-do list. I’m not sure what yet. I’ll have to give it some thought.

Before I lose myself in revisions again, though, I have a little story snippet to share with you, from Hunting Medusa.

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Andrea rested her head on her folded arms on the kitchen table, only half listening to Kallan typing on his keyboard. She didn’t want to die just yet. She knew for sure she didn’t want to be mutilated before she died.

But she didn’t look forward to killing the Harvester either.

She never should have had sex with him. She knew it. She’d known it beforehand.

And she should definitely not still want him.

When the phone rang, it was a relief. For a few seconds. Until she realized it was Thalia. “My cousin.” She didn’t think she needed to explain her mental caller I.D. to him.

Kallan held her gaze for a long moment. “Don’t try to let her know what’s going on,” he said at last. “I know where a lot of your cousins are located, and I’m not the only one.”

Her heart pounded harder at the implication, but she got to her feet and picked up the receiver. “Hello, Thalia. How are you?”

“I’m fine, Andi, but I think you need to get away for a while.”

She frowned, feeling Kallan’s presence behind her. Close behind her. Close enough to hear her conversation. “What do you mean?” His body heat teased her.

“The Harvesters are out and about. I’m afraid for you.”

Andi shut her eyes for a second, then opened them again when he put his hands on her shoulders. She shot him a glare and moved away, back toward the table. “I’m fine.”

“Please don’t ignore this, Andi. You know I’m hardly ever wrong.”

That was true. But she wondered if her cousin realized she was very often late with her flashes of intuition. Far too late in this case. “Okay. I’ll give it some thought, all right? Mom said something the other day about visiting.” Gods, had it only been two days ago? “And Aunt Lydia just called yesterday too. I could go to see either of them if anything seems odd.”

His hands settled on her shoulders again, massaging the tense muscles there.

She didn’t bother to shrug him off this time. He was persistent. “I could even come visit with you,” she teased, forcing a lightness into her tone.

Her cousin cleared her throat. “I actually have company right now,” she said after a moment, and Andi could almost see her blushing. “You remember I met someone in Athens last summer? Well, he’s come again to stay for a while.” Even over the phone, the emotion in Thalia’s voice was obvious.

One more cousin safe—none of the cousins who’d fallen in love ever had the curse land on their heads. A tiny bit of relief made her relax further under Kallan’s touch. “That’s terrific, Thalia. When do the rest of us get to meet him?”

“We’re talking dates,” the other woman said, a hint of a smile in her tone now. “I’ll be sure to let you know.”

“Good. And thanks for the warning. I miss you.”

“I miss you, too. I’ve got to go, Andi. Talk to you soon. But promise you’ll be careful. Danger is coming from more than one direction.”

She pushed the off button on the phone and shut her eyes, ignoring the slight sting in them. She was not envious of Thalia’s good fortune. She was just in an impossible situation here.

His warm breath brushed the top of her head a second before his lips. “That was good.”

She wanted to tell him to go screw himself. She wanted a weapon to swing at him. She wanted him to wrap his arms around her and carry her down onto the nearest flat surface.

Her eyes popped open. Damned hormones.

His hands slid down her sides and wrapped around her, settling her back against his chest as if he’d read her mind. She hoped he didn’t have that ability.

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I think before I call it a day today, I am going to take a little time to make a list of my to-dos, the musts and the would-be-nices. That will make it easier to prioritize the next few weeks before the new year starts.

Who else needs to get a lot done in the next few weeks? Do you have a game plan to do everything? I can always use some new ideas, if you’re willing to share.

 

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. I’ve spent some of the past two days in the kitchen–my final loaf of sage and onion bread is baking in my bread machine right now for the stuffing we’ll eat on Thursday and the house smells so good right now. I almost hate to wait four days to sample the bread. But I will, and I’ll be grateful for it on Thanksgiving.

We don’t always think about the good things in our lives, the things we have that others envy because they don’t have them. I’ve been trying to be more aware of all of the positive in my life, all of the people and things I have in my life that are worth some gratitude. Family, good friends, a home, a job I like, food to eat. The list is long.

I grumble like many others about household chores, like dish washing, but those dirty dishes mean we ate. Or the laundry, but those dirty clothes mean we have plenty of clothing. Bill paying, but those utility bills mean we have a roof over our heads. It’s all a matter of perspective. Some days, it’s harder to frame those things positively. But I’m working on it.

This week, I am thankful for my family and the dinner we’ll share on Thursday. I will be thankful for Thanksgiving dinners past, spent with extended family I don’t see much anymore, or who are no longer with us–I am thankful we had time together when they were still here.

I am thankful for the season’s first snowfall earlier today, even though the sun came out and melted all of it away–I got to watch it come down, big, fat, wet snowflakes that piled up quickly and made the neighborhood look like winter, just for a little while. I’m thankful I get to write the stories I love, for my friends who also write and get me.

I can keep going, but I’ll stop here. I have a little story snippet to share with you, from my fourth shifter story.

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Laney looked like she might cry.

Anton tamped down the urge to smile.

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

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

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

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

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

“Perfect,” Lareina said firmly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She swallowed. “But I’m–”

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

She clamped her teeth on her lower lip.

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

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

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

She nodded once, swallowing.

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

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

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

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

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

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Now I’m going to go find something for dinner that doesn’t involve leftovers to take up space in the refrigerator (the turkey is taking up a lot of space there right now), and then I’m going back to my revisions.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving week? I would love to know!

 

 

( 2020 goals – Depositphotos )

I know, I know, it’s only November, but it’s mid-November, and before you know it, it’s going to be January. Plus this is typically the time I start thinking about what I want to accomplish in the new year, usually because I have a goal-setting workshop in December. No goal-setting workshop this year, but it’s still time for me to look at what I did this year and try to figure out what I can realistically do in the new year. So my plan for this week, once we get through Monday and Tuesday at the day-job in our busiest week of the year, is to start by looking at my 2019 goals to see what I did right and wrong, and to start playing with a wish list of what I want for 2020.

My more immediate goal is to get through the next couple of days without succumbing to the ick that started to rear its head last night, making my sinuses throb and my throat sore. Toward that end, I have a big pot of vegetable soup on the kitchen stove right now, full of garlic and ginger and other good stuff to ward off the ick. It smells really good in my house right now. An added bonus is that I made a giant slow cooker full of mac and cheese yesterday, and half of that is still here, too, so between that and the soup, I don’t have to worry about what we’ll eat this week. (For those of you wondering about the other half of the mac and cheese, well, I sent that home with the boys when they stopped in last night. They love homemade mac, and I mentioned earlier in the week that I’d be making it, because that’s a guarantee I’ll see them. Moms are smart that way.)

Now I’m about to finish my (hopefully!) last pass through my Common Elements Romance Project novella while I have some soup. While I do that, I have a little story snippet for you from that novella.

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Lucie jumped at the knock on the back door, then used her elbow to shut off the faucet, grabbing the dish towel to dry her hands on the way to the door. She turned on the light over the door, and her eyebrows rose at the sight of Nate on the steps, Hayden hanging from his back. She tugged the door open. “Hi, guys.”

“Hi, Lucie.”

She frowned at the grim expression on Nate’s face. “Are you okay?” She tossed the towel toward the counter.

“We’re fine, but my dad isn’t. The paramedic unit just landed the helicopter to take him to the mainland hospital. I hate to ask…to bother you, but I need to get my mom to the ferry to go to the hospital, and I wonder if you’d mind hanging out with Hayden for a while.”

Startled, she blinked at him. “Sure.”

“At our house?” He winced. “It’ll be bedtime soon.”

“Of course, let me grab my sweater. Come on in.” She hurried away to the living room to shut off the TV and pick up her heavy sweater from the arm of the couch. She grabbed her phone and the book she’d left on the coffee table last night. She might need some entertainment after Hayden was in bed. When she turned around, Nate stood inside the closed door, stress framing his mouth and eyes with faint lines. “Let’s go,” she said, summoning a smile.

After making sure she had the key in her pocket, she locked the door and pulled it shut. She hurried after Nate, whose long strides got him to the fence several seconds before her. She followed him across the yard and into his house, pausing in the mud room to kick off her sneakers, before emerging into a kitchen that made her want to drool–gorgeous honey-toned cabinets with pale, gold-flecked stone counters, and a serious stove that actually made her stop mid-step to gawk at the six burners and built-in griddle. Shaking her head, she dragged her gaze away from it to where Nate crouched a few feet away, unzipping Hayden’s jacket.

The little guy was in pajamas already, soft, fuzzy blue covered with cartoon characters in bright colors. He turned away from his dad to grin up at her.

“Hi, Lucie.”

She smiled back. “Hiya.” She met Nate’s eyes, and her smile faded. “We’ll be fine, Nate. What time is bedtime?”

“Eight.” He swallowed, then stuck his hand into his pocket, and she heard the faint clink of his keys. “We usually read a story first, but just one. I don’t know how long I’ll be, Lucie. Are you sure–”

“I’m positive,” she interrupted, stepping toward him to pat his arm. “We’ll be fine. I have some kid experience, I promise.” She stopped herself from hugging him. She didn’t know him well enough for that, even though he looked a little shell-shocked. “You go get your mom. Maybe leave your cell number by the phone.”

He nodded, then bent to kiss his son’s head. “You be good, buddy.”

“’Kay, Daddy.”

After another few seconds’ hesitation, he took a quick breath and squared his shoulders. “I really appreciate it, Lucie.”

“No problem,” she said lightly. “I’ll see you later.” She watched him scribble on a note pad near the kitchen phone, then lock the door behind himself on the way out. She turned to the little boy who stood a few feet away. “So, we have some time before you have to go to bed. What do you usually do before story-time?”

A sly smile curved his mouth. “We could have a snack.”

She laughed and dropped to her knees in front of him. “Let me see your teeth.”

His smile vanished. Busted. “How’d you know I already brushed?”

“I wasn’t kidding when I said I had some kid experience, buddy.” She tweaked his chin, and he smiled again.

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Is anyone else thinking yet about goals for the new year? Just me?

 

I almost set ‘Comfort and Joy’ as the title of this post, but I don’t want to confuse the seasons for anyone. I’m just thinking about the things that comfort and make us happy today. Now that it’s fall, the soup pot is getting a workout, which makes me happy. Right now, there is leftover potato soup from yesterday’s dinner in the fridge. Today, it’s some of my favorite tea and movie soundtracks while I work on rewrites and laundry, and I am seriously considering one of my favorite movies as a treat before starting the work-week, since it will be a long work-week that extends into the following week without much of a break. Who else loves Love Actually? My husband laughed at me the other night when I said I haven’t seen it since July, but that’s kind of a long time between viewings of a movie I love. Honestly, I could probably watch it once a month and still love it. Kind of like The Princess Bride, or Practical Magic. Or maybe the Harry Potter movies. They make me happy. Last night we watched another favorite, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar.

There is nothing wrong with a good rewatch of a movie that makes you happy, or rereading a book you love. (I have Linda Howard’s Death Angel on my desk right now, waiting to be reread.  Again.) Sometimes it’s for comfort, sometimes just the pleasure.

For me, along with the chores, today is for catching my breath a little, and that requires some comfort. Before I start my movie, though, I have a snippet of my first shifter story to share with you.

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“We don’t want to make waves bigger than we can deal with right now. Let’s just concentrate on keeping Tessa safe. Then we can kick somebody’s ass later, once we get this contract issue settled again.”

Harley took a sip of his beer, studying his father. “I’d rather just go kick their asses now.”

Boyd smiled. “I know. But you’re patient, and smart.” He took a longer drink of his own beer.

Harley didn’t like that assessment very much at the moment.

“Besides, I think you have more important matters to deal with.” He winked.

Harley’s brow shot up. “Really?”

“I may not be around all the time, but I pay attention.” Boyd tipped his bottle toward his son. “Now I need to go make nice with my wife.”

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’m going back to my novella revisions for now. What things are your favorites for comfort? Foods? Books? Music? Movies?