Sunday, April 30, 2017

Diane Burton shares background for The Case of the Meddling Mama

Today, Diane Burton shares Background for 
The Case of the Meddling Mama

In the 1990s, Hubs and I spent weekends with our daughter visiting colleges. Anyone who has done that knows the drill. We were lucky in that she knew she didn’t want to go to a large state school. I say lucky because she knew where she would thrive. (We wondered how to pay for a private school.) The first school, she knew immediately she didn’t like it. We bailed after lunch. But when we visited Hope College in Holland, Michigan, she made her decision. Getting an academic scholarship made it financially easier on her and us. For four years, we visited Holland and loved the resort town on Lake Michigan.




If you’ve read any of my Alex O’Hara PI mysteries, something should sound familiar. The series is set in a small, fictitious Lake Michigan resort town. At the time I wrote the first book, The Case of the Bygone Brother, we lived in the middle of Michigan—not too far for road trips to get a feel for the area. Then our daughter and her family moved from Indianapolis to Holland. More road trips. With both Hubs and I retired and no reason to stay where we were, we decided to move close to our two grandchildren.

What better way to research the area?

Did you know Michigan has more miles of coastline than any other of the lower 48 states? It’s a hardy soul who swims in Lake Superior—ever, except for crazy college kids (my son for one). Rarely does anyone swim in Lake Michigan before August. Cold, cold, cold. Fishing, boating (esp. sailing), and kitesurfing (in wet suits) are more popular.



Although we see them at a distance, freighters ply the Great Lakes carrying coal, iron ore, grain, and other products. Because of the St. Lawrence Seaway, ships are able to go from Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean. Having lived in Michigan most of my life, I take these things for granted. On Sunday afternoons, Dad would pack all of us in the car and we’d go to Belle Isle, a Detroit city park in the Detroit River, and we’d watch the freighters go by.


Photo credit: Wikipedia

Along the Lake Michigan coast, you can find many state, county, and city parks. The beaches are filled with clean sand. Many have playground equipment. Sunbathers come in abundance. But my favorite aspect of the Lake Michigan beach is it’s a great place for a wedding—my son’s.



I’ve thought about culminating the ongoing romance between Alex (short for Alexandra) and Nick on the beach. But what would his mother say?


Blurb:
Once again, Alex O’Hara is up to her ears in mysteries. After surviving an attempted murder, all she wants is R&R time with Nick Palzetti. But his mother leaving his father (“that horse’s patoot”) and moving in with Alex puts a crimp in their plans. Then Nick leaves on assignment and the teen she rescued from an abusive father believes his buddy is doing drugs. Meanwhile, Alex has two easy cases to take her mind off her shaky relationship with Nick—a philandering husband and a background check on a client’s boyfriend. Piece of cake.

Excerpt:
“Alexandra, is that you?” Maria Palzetti, Nick’s mom and self-appointed office manager, called out as I came in through the back door of the agency.

“Yes, it’s me.”

“It is I,” Maria corrected as she bustled down the hall. Short and a little on the plump side, she always looked stylish. Today, she wore a floral infinity scarf over a soft lavender short-sleeve sweater and a gray skirt. Her salt-and-pepper hair framed her face on which she wore light make-up. “Always remember to use proper English.”

“Yes, Mother,” I said, hoping my grin would take the sting out of my smart-aleck response. After Mom died, Maria had become the closest thing to a mother, even though she never tried to take Mom’s place. Actually, she was my mother-in-law—she just didn’t know it.

And I wasn’t saying.


A delightful cozy mystery in which the PI is a young woman, named Alex, with so many strange issues, such as she’s married to a hottie (Nick), but she doesn’t want anyone to know, including her parents and parents-in-law since her husband keeps disappearing. There’s a reason why, but you’ll have to read the book to discover it. Alex lives in a small town. She likes knowing everyone. But does she truly know all the people of her town? I don’t think so!

Alex, at one point, says she falls into criminal activities by accident, and her friends (and secret husband) agree with that conclusion. Still, I was a bit horrified to discover how much trouble she can fall into.
If you like amusing entries into the heroine’s life, ending with a puzzle that merges two different unsolved crimes into one life and death disaster, you will love this book, for there is nothing not to love. Highly recommend for both cozy mystery readers and hard core mystery readers with a sense of humor.




The Case of the Meddling Mama: An Alex O’Hara Novel is available at:


Bio:
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianeburton.com

Connect with Diane Burton online

Sign up for Diane’s new release alert: http://eepurl.com/bdHtYf


Monday, April 24, 2017

Luck Be An Angel - How the story came to be


How this story came to be.
I created this story from the children's rhyme. But to be honest, I only remembered the first two lines of the Mother Goose Poem.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. 
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. 

I had no memory of the third and fourth line of the poem and upon looking them up, I don't like them at all:

She gave them some broth without any bread; 
And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

So in my book, the mother is in her 30's and adores her plethora of sons. Honestly, she is the kindest person you'll ever meet. Fortunately, for her and her boys, she has a guardian angel who ensures she and boys get whatever they need, mostly by winning contests. 

I also threw in the very mean town I once lived in. My mother was concerned by the race riots in Pine Bluff. (It was getting a bit crazed. Schools were being set on fire, students killed.) So she packed up my brother and me, bought a trailer, and moved to an all white town with some of the meanest people I've ever known.

Seriously, this town did not want refugees from Pine Bluff. They had just built a lovely school and now it was overflowing with riff-raff from Pine Bluff.

So none of the local students would talk to any of the 'new' students. Thus, I focused on befriending the other new students like myself. In short order, I had about thirty friends. This was good for us all, since a tribe of thirty was more than even the worst of the homegrown trouble wished to deal with.

In fact, some of the abused locals asked to join our group.  Thus, in short order, life got better for my posse. That was not the case for everyone. A girl who was also from my prior school in Pine Bluff, but wanted nothing to do with me and my group, was determined to go it alone. Only she reported a girl for smoking in the bathroom and in less than an hour later she had to be taken to the hospital. She'd been beaten and kicked by a mob. Needless to say, she returned to our old school in Pine Bluff once she recovered. She felt safer there.

With my ever-growing posse, I usually had no issue with locals, but there was one situation where several locals stole twenty dollars out of my purse. And sadly, one of the locals was a member of my group. (She'd been forced to help them.) The principle reamed me when I reported the locals for stealing twenty dollars from me, insisted they wouldn't do such a thing, but when I mentioned the one girl had already admitted to doing it, he called them in, and eventually, the twenty dollars was returned. 

However, that set a fire under the principal to find a reason to kick me out of school. With my large posse of friendly people, we never got in fights or caused trouble.  

So they focused on my mother. After my brother graduated, she often left me at our trailer alone. I was fine being alone, but the school saw it as an opportunity to kick me out. Thus, Mother had to return to the trailer, rather than staying at her house, closer to work. This made her very grumpy.

During the summer we would always return to our house, and missing my friends I would write to them. Being a budding author even then, I would write them funny stories about a plastic poodle name Alfie and all the trouble he would get in.

One of the mothers read one of my stories in which Alfie keep me up all night with his drinking and smoking pot.

She, of course, let all the mothers know, and when I returned to school, I discovered none of my friends were allowed to talk to me. They were apologetic, but their moms now believed me the worst teen on the planet.  

Thus, I asked Mother if we could return to Pine Bluff.
Mother was thrilled to shorten her commute by half. So I returned to my truly integrated school, and while the education wasn't half as good, the company was fabulous. I had friends who had never left and I made new friends as well.

So when writing Luck Be An Angel, I chose the meanest town I've ever known for Sara Smith and her sixteen boys. Still, I changed its name to Briarville because this town had no problem killing people who weren't white and who weren't being 'proper'. Seriously, the KKK was alive and well there, and probably still is.



In my story, a reporter, Ethan Long, acquires fake certificates so he can be a "tutor" for her 16 boys, while he discovers who the father is to the boys. Without a doubt, there is only one father, for the boys are nearly identical except for height. 



What Ethan hadn't planned to do was fall in love with the woman, but she is the nicest person he has ever met.

So now he must decide which is more important: the woman and her sons that he has grown to love, or his crappy job with a horrible boss. Sounds like an easy choice, but his personal life has always been a disaster while his professional life has kept him sane.

Hmmmmm I wonder which way it will go....


This is an uplifting, sweet romance. 




Reporter, Ethan Long, is sent into the backwoods of Arkansas to investigate a woman who claims her sixteen boys were born by Immaculate Conception. Not believing in divine intervention, Ethan plans to uncover the identity of the man who continues to impregnate Sara Smith every year, leaving her to raise her sons on nothing but luck and love. He enters their home as a tutor and eventually discovers the truth, but not before he has fallen in love with Sara and her wonderful boys. Now he must face his own crossroad in life and decide whether to follow his heart or his professional obligations.

DON'T FORGET!
IT'S 99 CENTS
FROM APR 24-30

So Far, everyone who has reviewed 
Luck Be An Angel has given it 5 stars
but it needs more reviews
or it will never be able to be promoted,
So check it out while it is on sale!


“This story will keep you up reading and make you believe in miracles. I couldn't stop when I started, I had to know how the story would end. Once again, I can blame Ms. O'Connor for my lack of sleep but I really did gain so much more!”

*5 stars!!!
“I loved everything about this story. A Sweet and Fabulous ‘feel good’ Valentines story with love, laughter, and trouble on the side.”  LLB
*5 stars!!!

“If you like books that make you think and smile, question your own and society’s behaviour, and finish it with a glowing smile and renewed belief in the power of love, then I can highly recommend O’Connor’s latest gem.”  Devika Fernando
*5 stars!!!

“This is a sweet romance with a touch of angel magic! I love the wonderful bond between mom and child (all 16!) and the way Ethan looks out for them all. Luck Be An Angel is a quick read and a lovely poignant story.”
*5 stars!!!


“I loved Ethan, Sara, and her sixteen kids, each having individual personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. When Ethan meets Sara and her kids, he is automatically taken with them, as are you, the reader. It's a wonderful and unique story that I highly recommend!!” 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Veronica Scott and Liza O'Connor's characters from two different worlds share their lives with you



Rana: Hi Caitlyn, I’m Rana. Liza suggested I invite you over because she thought we’d like each other.

Caitlyn: Lovely to meet you! Thanks for inviting me – I brought a special blend of herbal tea for us to enjoy while we chat. I do a lot of work with herbs and spices, and brewing possets and teas.

Rana: You are most kind. Oh, this is a lovely tea! Thank you. I’m so glad you came over. When I’m alone, I tend to get sad. I lost both my parents in a single day. My parents were the King and Queen of Stronghold. I was brokenhearted to discover my mother dead in her bed, and completely devastated when I realized it was my father who had killed her.

Caitlyn: Why would he do that?

Rana: Our castle was under siege and in a misguided attempt to save her from the vile king attacking us, my father killed her so she wouldn’t be forced to become the evil king’s wife. What he didn’t know is that my mother, his wife, was a powerful fairy, as am I. My father was human, and for some odd reason, all humans on the planet Hope seem to fear fairies.

Caitlyn: I’m human through and through, although I possess a lot of magic.

Rana: So you aren’t afraid of me?

Caitlyn: Not at all.

Rana: I’m very glad you came to meet me. Tell me more about yourself!

Caitlyn: As a hereditary priestess in my homeland of Ordlathus, I’m sworn to serve a demanding and cantankerous goddess.

Rana: Do you have family to support and advise you when matters get hard?

Caitlyn: Yes and no. My family is large and happy, and fortunately my parents are still alive. By the time I return home after the events in the book, it will have been over a year since I was there! I missed celebrating my birthday at home but Kyler, the leopard shifter, brought me a special cake and a present he’d made himself – he’s a wood carver among other talents, so that cheered me up.

Rana:  That was very nice of him. 

From what Liza told me, it sounds as if both of us must hide our true powers. I’m sorry you’re under the thumb of the Witch Queen. In comparison, I was most fortunate. While the ministers attempted to declare me a child, unfit to rule, my very fine general and his men ensured I would become queen. Still, I did have to kill or fire over half my ministers.

Caitlyn: Well, I’ve hidden my powers because I’m at the Witch Queen’s palace under false pretenses. She thinks I want to learn her brand of magic, join her supporters and help her work spells, but I’m really there to find a magical jewel her ancestor stole from my people. My magic is more organic in nature than hers, which she has to focus through use of crystals and gemstones. The queen and her sisters underestimate me for far too long, which was my plan! When they mistreat Kyler to steal his magic, however, I get angry and I use my abilities to intercede on his behalf as much as I can.

Rana: Do you love this young man, Kyler? I fell in love when I was pretending to be my Finance Minister's apprentice. The cutest boy, named Princeton, was in the meeting. I had no idea how boring finance could be! Fortunately, Princeton declared he needed air so we and a small fellow that I was positive was a fairy went sightseeing about Crystalhold. What a beautiful, shiny place! But a week later I had to leave, never to see Princeton again. Instead, I agreed to marry the King of Crystal’s son.  Only problem was I had given my heart to Princeton.
What about you?

Caitlyn: I didn’t travel to the Witch Queen’s lands looking to fall in love, but there was something special about Kyler, the shifter she’s holding captive. He’s tall and handsome as a human and highly imposing and dangerous as a leopard. His magic matches nicely with mine and the two of us can work together as quite a team, when the Witch Queen isn’t demanding he support her dark spells. At first, Kyler and I try to avoid each other and fight our attraction, but once he realizes I’m his mate, it becomes impossible not to be together. But he’s completely supportive of the task I’ve been sent to accomplish, retrieving the magic jewel.

Rana: Yet another similarity! He sounds like a grand and special fellow. When I finally met the king’s son, I was thrilled because it was Princeton. Only not as nice. When we met and fell in love in one week, we both pretended to be other people. I called myself Urmage and Seren called himself Princeton. And honestly, we only revealed out better parts. Within an hour of meeting him as the Prince, I didn’t like him at all. Nor did he like me. But I dearly loved his father, the King of Crystalhold, so I persisted and eventually we fell in love all over, but this time to the real people we are, warts and all.
 How about you? Are matters going well between you and Kyler?

Caitlyn: Well yes, he accepts me for who I am and I certainly have no problem accepting that he walks as a leopard at times. I’m not afraid of the cat and I love the man. So we two do well together! Sounds like you and your beloved are quite a well-matched pair too. Best wishes for happiness.

Rana: Thank you!  It has been so fun meeting a human who has no fear of fairies and has magic of her own.  I must read your book to discover if you find the magic jewel.

To meet these fabulous young ladies,
you must travel to the following locations:
Ordlathus,

The story:
Concealing her own considerable magical powers, Caitlyn enters the service of the northern Witch Queen masquerading as a simple healer. Under order from her goddess, she’s searching for a magical gem stolen long ago from her own people, believed to be hidden in the massive castle. The task is daunting but Caitlyn is sure she can locate the gem and escape, bringing the prize back to the temple where it belongs. Until she meets the captive shifter and her loyalties become dangerously divided.
In payment for her past services to his people, Kyler the leopard shifter has entered into a life of servitude far from his forest home, allowing the Witch Queen to tap his magic to power her ever darker spells. Factions at Court are threatening to turn the Queen to the Shadow. Her increasing demands for magic will cut short his nearly immortal lifespan. Kyler’s resigned to his fate until the day he crosses paths with the new arrival, whose secrets and magic entice and attract both man and leopard. Has he met his mate at last?
The Queen will never willingly release him from captivity. Caitlyn’s goddess refuses to grant her any delay in accomplishing her own task. Can they locate the magical gem, fight the Shadow and win free of the Witch Queen to earn the right to be together?
Buy Links:

****
Stronghold/Ironhold/Crystalhold
Blurb
Rana is only sixteen when she becomes queen. Her first challenge is to quell an internal coup while a massive army storms the gates of her castle. Her enemies believe her to be a child, but she has powers they’ve never suspected. She also has great dreams for her people, and she will do whatever is necessary to make them happen, even marrying a prince she does not want.
SALES LINK
RANA: TEENAGE QUEEN

Buy today for 99cents!




About the Authors:

Veronica Scott
Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.

Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”

Liza O’Connor
Liza O’Connor lives in Denville, NJ with her dog Jess. They hike in fabulous woods every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Having an adventurous nature, she learned to fly small Cessnas in NJ, hang-glide in New Zealand, kayak in Pennsylvania, ski in New York, scuba dive with great white sharks in Australia, dig up dinosaur bones in Montana, sky dive in Indiana, and raft a class four river in Tasmania. She’s an avid gardener, amateur photographer, and dabbler in watercolors and graphic arts. Yet through her entire life, her first love has and always will be writing novels.



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Orlosian Warriors Series by Dariel Raye

ORLOSIAN WARRIORS series
Books 1 & 2

by Dariel Raye


Genre: Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy







CALM ASSURANCE




Two hearts, two different worlds, uncompromising love.

A straight-laced Nephilim-descendant and a human trouble-magnet?


When Asriel - Orlosian Warrior, descendant of Nephilim, law enforcer – is sent to guard Malina, a human with a penchant for drawing trouble like a tornado, she becomes his obsession.


With no hope of finding love in his dimension, he breaks the cardinal rule, leaving his home to protect her, but she has also drawn the attention of his enemies, and he is forced to face demons from his past. If Asriel chooses to stay with Malina, not only does he risk forfeiting his right to ever return to his dimension, but he will need her blood to survive.






 



DESTINY'S FAVOR


His world shifted the moment she was born. Now, nothing can stop him from making her his…


Imagine a man who looks like an angel, wings and all. What would you do if you met such a man, and he told you that he exists for only one purpose, to claim you and only you?


Destiny Carter is a feisty, take-charge, Rubenesque beauty with a tough façade. She finds herself caught in that age-old quandary of always being the bridesmaid but never the bride. A string of lackluster relationships leaves her hopeless and ready to settle for whatever comes along, until she meets Japheth, the man her fiancé claims is his best friend. Japheth’s arrival is heralded by an attack on Destiny’s life, but somehow, from some instinct deep within her, she knows this is only the beginning.


Born more than 200 years ago, Japheth looks like an angel, but he’s far from it. In his world, the ratio of men to women is 500 to 1, and although he’s a superior being, he’s willing to break the most sacred law of his brothers, even to drink human blood, if it means having the one that he believes is meant for him alone. When he meets Destiny, he knows she’s the one he’s been searching for. To claim her, though, Japheth will have to betray a friend, risk his life, and, perhaps hardest of all, humble himself enough to win her love.





Still too far away to get a good look at the legendary J, Destiny watched the two men pull each other into a brief man hug. As she did, her mind wandered back to her conversation with Memaw: “Destiny, you be extra careful the next few days, okay? Memaw’s got a feeling.” She wondered what all the sudden drama was about, especially since she was always careful. The older woman was always right, though, so she couldn’t help glancing around cautiously as she walked. Memaw had said those same words to her the night she was attacked, so it was always good to heed her advice, always better to be safe than sorry.


J bent to pick up his one bag, and before she could even close the gap between them, they were heading back toward her.


Destiny overheard part of their conversation as they neared: “Man, I know it’s after two and all, but I’ve never seen people sleepin’ at a bus station like this before. I swear, everybody’s laid out but you.” She also couldn’t help but notice J’s striking gait as he stalked closer, almost graceful but with a natural swagger. All jungle cat in a man’s body, was the only thought that came to mind. Realizing that she was staring far too much, she dragged her gaze from Robert’s friend and surveyed the station, but she was still hesitant to stop admiring him. Something about the way he moved sent a jolt of energy rushing through her, punching her guilt button in the process. Surely, she and Robert were not a match made in Heaven, but that certainly didn’t make it okay to have the thoughts she was having about his best friend.


Even during that beautiful season of the year, the dreary bus station looked and felt dank, grim, and hopeless. The floodlights, although strategically placed, barely pierced the darkness, and the skinny trees left over from the last time anyone cared reminded her of how she really felt about being alone.


A sudden blur of movement caught Destiny’s attention as they walked on, and fear and nausea invaded her, welling up from their hiding places. A tall, dark figure rushed toward her, his hands reaching out like claws, eager to grab her. Time stood still as waves of nausea struck, rendering her unable to move, a predicament she’d never found herself in until that reality-changing attack.


Destiny stumbled and fell to the ground. Every one of her survival instincts kicked in, and she was ready to fight if necessary, but just as quickly as the shadow appeared, it was gone. The station was eerily quiet and still again, and she found herself standing there, with no memory of getting up from the ground. She glanced around, checking all sides, then turned to face Robert and J as they stopped in front of her as if nothing had happened.


“Baby, this is Japheth Danaelson, J. J, this is Destiny Carter, my fiancé,” Robert casually said.


She tried to dismiss the hazy monster as nothing more than a flashback, but subconsciously, she knew better; Destiny was convinced that something really had just tried to attack her again, even if it did stop in its tracks and vanish. Despite her disorientation, wobbly knees, and the feeling that she had somehow skipped through time, and despite the fact that her mind was now reeling with doubt over what she’d just seen, Japheth’s presence overshadowed everything else. Up close, he was absolutely breathtaking.










Dariel Raye is an animal lover, animal rights activist, musician, and award-winning author of powerful paranormal romance and dark urban fantasy with IR/MC (Interracial/Multi-cultural) alpha male heroes to die for, and strong heroines with hearts worth winning. She fell in love with books and started reciting stories at the age of 3. A counseling psychologist, classically trained vocalist, and pianist, she plays over 11 musical instruments, and naturally incorporates behavioral psychology into her characters. Her stories tell of shifters, vamps, angels, demons, and fey (the Vodouin variety). She is also a Netflix paranormal TV series binger.


Dariel is currently writing two series: “Dark Sentinels” (wolf shifters), and “Orlosian Warriors” (Vampire-like Nephilim). For more about Dariel, follow her blog or visit her website. She also publishes a new release newsletter. If you enjoyed this book, please post a review on review sites. You can also follow her and contact her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Truly, Madly, Whiskey by Melissa Foster

TRULY, MADLY, WHISKEY
a stand-alone romance 
by Melissa Foster


Genre: Contemporary Romance



A new, emotionally riveting, sexy standalone romance by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster. Watch mysteriously sexy Bear Whiskey claw his way to his happily ever after with sassy, rebellious Crystal Moon.


In TRULY, MADLY, WHISKEY…


Eight months is a long damn time to have the hots for a woman who keeps a guy at arm’s length. But Crystal Moon is no ordinary woman. She’s a sinfully sexy, sass-mouthed badass, and the subject of Bear Whiskey’s midnight fantasies. She’s also one of his closest friends.


Just when Crystal thinks she has her life under control, scorching-hot, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely loyal Bear pushes all her sexual buttons, relentless in his pursuit to make her his.


The more Bear pushes, the hotter their passion burns, unearthing memories for Crystal that are best kept buried. But there’s no stopping the collision of her past and present, catapulting the two lovers down an emotionally charged road that has them questioning all they thought they knew.


"When it comes to contemporary romances with realistic characters, an emotional love story and smokin' hot sex, author Melissa Foster always delivers!" The Romance Reviews


"Like Nora Roberts, Melissa Foster has captivated me with her fantastic, sexy, romantic stories." K. Winning


"One of the greatest contemporary romance authors of all time." Underneath the Covers


"I'm highly addicted to her stories, and still want to kick my own behind for taking so long to finally read her." The Power of Three Readers












They drove to Woody’s Burgers in silence, which was how he knew there was probably more to this than a shitty visit with her mother. He also knew she wasn’t going to tell him what was really going on. At least not yet. He came on strong, but they had a solid friendship that felt more like a relationship and went beyond his desire to finally taste her luscious mouth. He cared about her, and one way or another, he’d figure out a way to get her to talk. He had to, because knowing she was hurting and not being able to fix it made him want to tear someone’s head off.


He parked the truck and reached across the seat, giving her hand a comforting squeeze. “Hey.” He waited until she met his gaze. “Whatever’s going on, you know you can talk to me.”


Her eyes fell to their hands, and a hint of a smile lifted her lips. “Yeah, I know. Thanks.”


Woody’s was a low-key burger joint with brick walls that had been painted white and bright green tables and benches. Overgrown ferns and decorative iron lights hung from metal rods along the ceiling. The floor was a mismatched patchwork of wooden planks. It didn’t look like much, but they had the best burgers and fries in Peaceful Harbor, and tonight Bear had the prettiest girl in the harbor on his arm, too. It was a good night, despite the cloud hanging over Crystal’s head. He’d shelter her from whatever storm came her way.


He slid into the booth beside her.


“There are two benches for a reason,” she pointed out.


“Oh, right.” He kicked his feet up on the bench across from them, the tips of his black leather boots visible over the edge of the table.


She laughed.


“Your turn.” He tapped her thigh, leaving his hand there as she lifted her feet beside his.


She pushed his hand from her thigh without a word, and he stretched his arm across the back of the bench.


“Are you always like this?” She picked up the menu and looked it over.


“You’ve known me for a long time. You tell me.”


“I know how you are with me. I mean with other girls. I’ve never been out with you, like on a date.”


He began kneading the tension from her shoulder. “Then maybe it’s time to remedy that.”


The waitress interrupted before she could respond, and they ordered burgers and fries, and Crystal ordered a milk shake. Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry mixed, please. She was unique in everything she did, and he loved that about her. Their food came quickly, and they made small talk about getting ready for Tru and Gemma’s wedding.


When he couldn’t stand the edge in her voice any longer, he said, “Tell me about your mom.”


She shrugged. “Nothing to tell. We’re not very close.”


“Why was tonight so rough?” He picked up a fry and dunked it in her shake as she lifted her burger to her mouth.


“Um…?” She lowered her burger to the plate. “What are you doing?”


“Dunking my fry in your shake.” He popped it in his mouth. “Haven’t we done this before?”


“No.”


“We’ve known each other for almost a year and we’ve never had fries and shakes? That’s not true and you know it.”


“You’ve never dunked your fry in my shake,” she clarified.


He brushed his shoulder against hers. “Whose fault is that? I would love to bury my fry in your luscious milk shake.”


She laughed. “Not happening.” She took a big bite of her burger, her cheeks puffing out like a chipmunk, clearly trying to avoid talking about that.


He finished his burger and put his arm around her again, dipping another fry in her shake. He held it up for her, and she swatted his hand away, pointing to her full mouth. Her eyes were wide, but smiling, which he totally dug.


“Okay, I’ll tell you what. Tell me why tonight was so rough, and I’ll leave your shake alone.”


She shook her head, and he dunked another fry. She whimpered, trying to swallow her burger as quickly as she could.


“My girl doesn’t swallow well. Noted.”


She laughed/snorted and choked on her burger. He patted her on the back, both of them laughing.


“I’ll help you with that whole swallowing thing,” he offered, which made her laugh harder, causing her to snort again.


She tried to catch her breath, and he dunked another fry.


“Hey!”


“Just try one. You’ll like it. I promise.”


She eyed the fry as if it were poison.


“One bite.” He dragged the fry along her lower lip. Leaning closer, he said, “You’d better lick that off before I do.”


Her eyes narrowed, and her tongue swept over her lower lip.


“Christ Almighty,” he grumbled.


She laughed. “That’s pretty good. Salty and sweet.”


“Stick with me, baby. I’ll make sure you get your fill of salty and sweet.”



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Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance (M/F, M/M, F/F), romantic suspense, thrillers, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa's emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented. Her books have been recommended by USA Today's book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the World Literary Café.

Melissa has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Her interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping others see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

Melissa is available to chat with book clubs and welcomes comments and emails from her readers. Visit Melissa on Facebook or her personal website.

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