Tag Archive: shapeshifter


Today is the first day of March, and we still haven’t really had any winter here yet. Oh, we’ve had some chilly periods, but it’s been unseasonably warm for large chunks of time in the last month or two. The most snow we’ve seen was the unexpected one back in November that piled up a quick few inches that didn’t last into the next day. For winter lovers, it’s been exceptionally disappointing, though I have a friend who’s thrilled. I’m still holding out hope that we might get some snow this month–the first day of spring isn’t for weeks, and we live in Pennsylvania, where sometimes the biggest snowstorms happen in March. I’m not saying I want a blizzard (though I wouldn’t say no to one), but I would like a little taste of actual winter before spring gets here.

I’ve started looking at my second Medusa manuscript, with an eye to doing some rewrites in the next month or so. Before I get back to it, I have a little snippet of story for you, from my third shifter story.

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The drive from the office to the school took fifteen minutes on a good day, so on a busy Friday afternoon, it took twenty-seven. Not counting the three additional minutes it took to find a place to park.

He climbed out of the car and waited until a shiny mini-van sped by with no regard for the other parents and children in the parking lot before he crossed, weaving around parents leading their children out–parents who had taken into account the Friday traffic and arrived early. He checked in at the security gate, and then entered the school grounds. Pandemonium. Children running around, shouting, laughing, parents calling for their kids, teachers attempting to corral some rowdies.

Knowing his kids, they wouldn’t have hurried out in the first rush. Baron dawdled.

A screech to his left had him turning in time to see a little red-haired girl leap onto her father’s back.

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

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

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

And it was just about the right size…

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

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

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

Not a chance.

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

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

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While I go back to rewrites, I’m thinking about making some hot chocolate to go with them. Even if it doesn’t feel like winter, it still is winter, so why not? What’s your go-to winter drink? And are you team winter or team warm?

(hot chocolate – Depositphotos)

 

 

( Silhouette of kissing couple – Depositphotos )

We’ve had a couple of crazy weeks at the day-job, and it occurred to a few of us the other day that we go a long stretch from the end of year holidays (Thanksgiving/Yule/Christmas/New Year) until there is another ‘day off’ holiday. Not that there aren’t holidays–Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day–just that they don’t get work holidays. Our next one is Memorial Day. It’s a long stretch from January 1st until May 25th. I’m kind of glad I have vacation time to fit in all year long, though I’m still going from my long weekend last month until the end of March before my next long weekend. I didn’t plan that well, did I?

This week is Valentine’s Day, the holiday for romance. I have a couple of fun gifts for my husband, things he will appreciate (I hope), because they involve hobbies he enjoys. We won’t be out joining the other people cramming restaurants Friday evening, we don’t necessarily need to do that anymore. Honestly, this is grocery week, so that’s where I will be heading right after work on Friday, before I go home. But we do other things for one another that are more meaningful than a once-a-year holiday. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate a good Valentine’s Day box of chocolate, because I absolutely do–my husband knows where my favorite candy-maker is locally. I’m just saying that after so many years together, there are everyday things that are just as important.

I’m about to go work on some novella things, but I have a snippet of my fifth shifter story for you first.

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Piper realized she was staring and dragged her gaze away from Joe’s wide chest, back to the book on her lap, flushing hotly. Holy shit.

He cleared his throat. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in here.”

“It’s your house,” she mumbled. She heard a soft sound and hoped it was his shirt going on.

“And you’re a guest here.” He cleared his throat again.

She dared a peek and found him watching her, hands in the pockets of his low-slung jeans, a faded blue t-shirt stretched over his chest. “Don’t be silly. You should be able to do as you like in your own house. And we’re only here for a few more days.”

He exhaled roughly. “Really?”

“I spoke to someone this afternoon at a complex in Auburndale, near the office. They have a vacancy.”

“I’ll go with you to look at it.”

She frowned. “That isn’t necessary.”

His mouth flattened. “It is. Is it a shifter complex?”

Piper narrowed her eyes at him. “That doesn’t matter.”

Irritation sparked in his eyes. “It matters, Piper. You can’t take your child somewhere that’s not secure.”

She clamped her jaw shut. Telling him to butt out of her business would be stupid at this point. Without his concern, she’d be scrambling to feed Keely on tips and less than minimum wage hours at a seedy, dive diner. She forced herself to take a slow breath.

Joe sat on the low table in front of her, and she noted the softening of his mouth. “I just want to be sure you two are okay.”

“Why?” She blinked. She hadn’t meant to ask that.

“Because you don’t have anyone else to do it.”

She looked away, stung.

He touched her knee, and she slanted a wary glance at him. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. Like I wouldn’t do it otherwise. If I’d realized sooner–”

Piper closed the book and got to her feet. “I’m not your responsibility, Joe. Not the annoying tag-along little sister.” She ignored the burn in her chest and turned away.

He caught her upper arm and swung her back as he stood. “Don’t put words in my mouth, Piper.”

She opened her own mouth to say…something. But she didn’t know what, and it didn’t matter–Joe kissed her. Kissed. Her. Hard, open-mouthed. For a second, she froze, and then realized she was kissing him back.

Stupid, Piper. 

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What are your plans for this Valentine’s Day? Something romantic? Spontaneous? Casual?

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

( 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 )

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!

 

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?

 

It is a pretty Sunday here–except it doesn’t feel like October begins in two days. I spent a good part of yesterday with a cousin at a wine festival, and it was even hotter yesterday than today. I’d love if Mother Nature got her act together. A few cool, crisp days with puffy white clouds and bright blue skies would be perfect. Instead, we’re looking at another day mid-week with the possibility of setting a new record-high temperature.

That’s what I’d like to see out of my window instead, or something similar, since that view is of the ridge behind my dad’s house a few years ago, and since he’s gone, I don’t get to enjoy that particular view anymore. Fall, that’s what I want, not more summer. (Though, to be honest, I am not minding that my tomatoes are still going strong. I have a lot in the freezer for this winter’s soups and sauces.)

Maybe my problem right now is a case of the blahs. I’ve been grocery shopping, but there isn’t anything in the house I want to eat. I have chores to do, but can’t seem to make myself go do them (besides the laundry which is necessary, and a quick run to pick up a birthday gift order that arrived in-store). I’m trying to persuade myself that I can make it a couple more weeks until my 4 day weekend writing retreat at the beach. And in the meantime, I have revisions to finish so I can get this Common Elements Romance Project novella of mine formatted and ready to go out into the world (I’m still working out details, but as soon as I have my release date finalized, you will all be the first to know!).

The beach sounds lovely right now. I’m hoping that when we get there in three weeks, it will be nice and quiet, no hurricanes (do you hear me, Mother Nature?), and not very many other people so we can write undistracted and enjoy an uncrowded beach when the writing is done each day. The place we stay in has a little kitchen, so we usually hit the grocery store on our way into town and pick up necessities for the duration–writing snacks, breakfast foods, lunch and dinner things. We usually bring adult beverages with us, as well as everything we could possibly need for several days of writing, and maybe some evening entertainment (probably no drinking games this year). I should probably make myself a note now to remember my bucket for seashell collecting during early morning and evening walks since I’m not sure which stores will be open in the off-season for forgotten necessities like little plastic buckets.

It’s been a few years since we did our beach-side writing retreat, and I’m actually really looking forward to it, even though the day-job will be crazy-busy leading up to my time off and worse when I get back. The break will be nice. My vacation in July was packed full of workshops and conference things, and I loved it, but it wasn’t very restful. The retreat will be full of writing time, but we are on our own schedule, so it won’t be as hectic as the conference (I am a little sad to miss the New Jersey Romance Writers conference this year, but since I was in NYC in July, NJRW will have to wait until next year. I’ll miss seeing some of my writing buddies, though.)

I have actually already started thinking about next year’s vacation time for the day-job–I hit a milestone anniversary early in 2020, so I’ll have another week of PTO coming, and I have a hard time using the PTO I already get, so I’m going to have to get creative to use more. I definitely want to get to NJRW next fall, but since the RWA conference won’t be in NYC next year, I don’t have that in my plans. That means I should schedule at least one week of vacation in the first half of the year, and another in the second half. Then I can sprinkle in a few long weekends (writing retreat, maybe?), and some days when I leave early for monthly writing group, and still have plenty of time left for necessary appointments or unexpected needs. Something to ponder, I suppose.

I should get back to my revisions while I’m waiting for the next load of laundry to come out of the dryer. Maybe I’ll even find the motivation to do another of the chores on my to-do list. Or maybe I’ll open one of the bottles of wine I brought home yesterday from the wine fest and put on a good movie after dinner and forget about the chores for today.

While I make up my mind about that, I have a little snippet of story to share with you, from my Freeing Medusa manuscript, the third in my Medusa’s Daughters trilogy.

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Katharine had had enough. Her skin was tingling with the need for release again, and her heart beat too fast. And she hadn’t seen any likely candidates. Even a desperate Medusa had standards.

Which meant it was time to go home and break out a couple more vibrators to get through tonight. Dammit.

She took another sip from her glass, smiling at Ramona from her post on the deck. Her friend danced enthusiastically with someone she’d greeted even more enthusiastically just a little while ago. She hated to interrupt, but it really was time to go home.

Katharine sighed and shifted her shoulders, trying to loosen up the tight muscles there, turning her gaze over the crowd one last time. Her breath caught in her chest.

He was gorgeous, in a rugged sort of way. His nose had been broken at least once, but it didn’t matter. A dimple dented his chin, and he had the brightest blue eyes she’d ever seen, black hair dipping over one of them. Even better, his green shirt stretched taut over strong shoulders and a wide chest, then tucked into a pair of jeans that fit nicely on narrow hips.

Her heart beat faster in anticipation.

Then he glanced up from his conversation with a shorter man whose arm was wrapped around an even shorter woman and caught her eye. A slow smile curved his mouth as his gaze slid down the front of her, then back up, making her skin warm in anticipation, lingering on her mouth.

Her lips tingled hopefully.

She took a drink from the cup she still held. Whatever frozen thing Ramona had given her earlier was melting and slushy, but she could still taste the bite of alcohol as it hit her tongue.

He moved away from the couple he was with, toward her, and her temperature went up a couple more degrees. His long-legged stride was confident, though he didn’t rush.

No, damn him, he made her wait, pausing once, briefly, to greet someone along the way.

She tightened her grip on the stem of the plastic cup and took a quick breath.

He finally stopped about two steps away, and she could smell his cologne, something musky that made her pulse race even faster.

She felt her nipples tighten inside her vest.

“Hi.” The low tone of his voice raised goosebumps on her arms despite the warm evening air.

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I’m heading back to Revision-Land until suppertime, and then I can figure out the rest of the evening. What do you do to get out of your own doldrums? I’d love some ideas for next time I find myself there.

 

( wine & pasta dinner – Depositophotos ) 

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

Tough choice, yes?

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

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

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

She shivered.

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

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

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

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

She swallowed as she turned to face him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her breath caught.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that he doubted he could catch her. Easily.

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

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

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

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

 

( To Do – Depositphotos )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s cold, Anton.”

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

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

Fuck, she was gorgeous.

His mate.

Her smile faded a little, and she swallowed hard.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cat tipped his head, watching her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

She shut her eyes and knocked again, harder.

Still nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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