Tag Archive: shapeshifter


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?

 

 

(Cake and ice-cream – Depositphotos)

I am still without internet at my house, so am crashing the Panera up the road from home once again so I can check in on everything that’s happening in my world and beyond. While I get ready to call our provider (again!) when I get home.

I’ve also been cursing Mother Nature for the ridiculously high temperatures this week. As I write this, our high temp at home today was officially 100 degrees. Much, much too hot for me. It looks like a slightly cooler start to next week, before it gets back up around 90. Good thing for me I’ll be inside the conference hotel all week for the annual Romance Writers of America conference.

I finished most of my packing earlier today. Now I just have a few things to tuck into my suitcase the morning I leave, and my tote bag to prep. I hope I didn’t forget to put anything on my ginormous list. I am really excited to get to NYC, not just for the conference, but because it means I also get to meet up with writer friends I haven’t seen in too long (and some I see fairly regularly) to catch up and talk shop.

I do need to finish whittling down my workshop list. I still have a couple of time slots I can’t make up my mind about. I’ll have to think about that tomorrow while I’m staying inside the air conditioning for one last extra-hot day to write. I might even polish my nails while I’m at it. I should also think about what kind of cheesecake I’m going to bring home with me next weekend for my birthday.

While I’m thinking about that, I have a little story snippet to share with you, this week from Hunting Medusa.

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Kallan sank onto the hard chair at the table and buried his face in his hands. Tonight wasn’t working out at all as he’d imagined it might. Andrea had warned him that morning she wouldn’t forget what he’d done last night. A mirthless laugh rumbled up his chest. He should have realized Andrea wouldn’t completely surrender. She was a fighter, his Medusa.

He frowned. She wasn’t his Medusa. She wasn’t his anything. Perhaps a temporary lover. And ultimately, his target. His family’s enemy.

That didn’t mean he’d allow his cousin get to her, however.

With that thought in mind, he booted up the laptop, fingers tapping over the keyboard. Sure enough, Great-Uncle Ari had responded to Kallan’s earlier posting, with a command to Stavros to head in the same direction rather than to follow his own lead. None of the cousins ever disobeyed Aristotle Tassos, even now when they were adults and hunting on their own—not even Stavros, arrogant and brutal as he was.

Breathing a small sigh of relief, Kallan idly pulled up his favorite page of the mythologies, one with plenty of photos of ancient artifacts to go along with the stories. Artifacts which had never been seen publicly, items that had instead passed down through generations of Harvesters. Currently, Cousin Demitrios was the keeper of the private collection, though word among the cousins was he wanted to get back in on the hunt and turn the curatorship over to his brother Vasily. That was up to Great-Uncle Ari, and the old bastard never rushed a decision.

He scrolled through several pages until he got to the photo he was searching for. A large urn decorated in great detail, including a scene depicting the very beautiful Medusa about to be slain by Perseus. The first Medusa was gorgeous, with wide eyes and a generous figure. The spitting, hissing snakes atop her head didn’t detract at all from her beauty.

He looked up at the ceiling. There was only silence from Andrea’s bedroom. He wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

He glanced again at the urn. Perhaps she should see it.

To what purpose, though? The voice in his head sounded very like Ari.

He frowned and picked up the computer, then headed for the steps and ignored the imaginary voice.

The light was still on in the bedroom, and Andrea sat just where he’d left her, her shoulders slumped.

Something in his chest tightened. He reminded himself she’d set this in motion, but he still felt a pang of guilt.

He cleared his throat. “I have something you should see.”

She didn’t move, didn’t jump, didn’t give any indication she’d heard him.

Kallan’s frown deepened as he crossed the room to her.

She was sleeping. Sitting there exactly where he’d left her, with tear stains on her cheeks.

Goddess, he felt even worse. He put the laptop on her dresser and turned back to the bed so he could ease her down into a more comfortable position. Certainly more comfortable than sleeping sitting up. She didn’t wake, just burrowed into the pillow, making an indistinct sound of protest.

For a moment, he watched her, trying to figure out why his chest ached and failing. He gave himself a shake and returned to the computer, then shut it down before he kicked off his shoes and stretched out behind her on the bed, careful not to disturb her. She’d had a rough enough day.

He smiled to himself at that and shut his eyes. They both needed some sleep to deal with what was coming.

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Now I’m going to venture back out into the heat and head home to my own a/c and do a little reading before I call it a day. What will you be doing this week while I’m filling my brain with new information at the conference and visiting with writing friends?

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

(field of daisy flowers- Depositphotos) 

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

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

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

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

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

How could she be so weak?

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

When pacing didn’t work, she went to the window. The small solar lights below lit up the shadowy gardens in places the moonlight didn’t reach.

Brighter lights shone in the pool, where a large shape moved through the water.

Harley. Her mouth went dry. Beautiful.

And naked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And kept her wide awake for hours.

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

 

 

 

(Writing – Depositphotos)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tessa bit her lower lip, and India sighed.

“What?”

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

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

Tessa caught her gaze and held it.

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

Her friend laughed, and India relaxed a tiny bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lareina laughed. “And you’re alone.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week!