Monday, July 31, 2017

Linda O'Connor shares Perfectly Skeptical in the boxset Tropical Tryst

PERFECTLY SKEPTICAL

by Linda O’Connor




Dr. Brianna Scott looked forward to sleeping away her staycation, until a lucky windfall meant an upgrade to palm trees, an ocean view . . . and the sexy Dr. Matt Gaelen. She’ll play and have fun, but can a holiday fling really turn into a soul mate for life? Doubtful.

Matt has no radar for sniffing out gold-diggers and protecting his heart. Until now. Brianna is more turned off than turned on by his wealth. What are his chances of getting her to overlook it? Dubious at best.

Improbable and uncertain, iffy and unlikely – the typical path to love.

Perfectly Skeptical . . . love when you least expect it.



Excerpt:
She stopped in her tracks and squealed, almost bumping into a man standing on her porch. He put out his hand to steady her.
“Oh my god, you scared me,” she said, taking a deep breath.
Laughing blue eyes looked back at her. “Sorry about that. I was just about to knock, but you beat me to it.” His eyes swept the length of her. “I was sent to see how you’re doing.”
Brianna stiffened. “I’m fine. Why?” She hadn’t advertised she was going away. Her parents and Maisy were the only ones who knew where she was.
“You haven’t been out and about.”
Who’s keeping tabs? And who would send this dark-haired, all muscle, all-male hunk with the relaxed island smile and disarming blue eyes? Not her parents, that’s for sure. Maisy? It was entirely possible. Maisy’s reach was surprisingly long.
Don’t live a little. Live a lot. Maisy, you’re a cheeky devil, sending a male escort. He looked at her with a patient smile, waiting for her to catch up. Something about a tropical paradise and his sexy bod made her consider. Brianna narrowed her eyes at him. “Are you married?”
“Nope.”
“Do you have nail fungus?”
He blinked and his smile faltered. “No. Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m feeling great.” She stepped closer to him. His eyes darkened. He didn’t step away. What the hell – she could play this game. Be cool. Fake nonchalance. Cultivate some of that swagger that came so easily to Maisy. Her heart pounded, but he didn’t need to know.
She went on her toes and brushed her lips against his. When he responded and took control, Brianna felt a tingle from her head to her toes. She pressed closer and felt the hard muscle of his chest through the thin shirt he wore. He caressed the bare skin of her back and skimmed her waist. She opened her mouth to take him deeper and their tongues danced. This wasn’t the kiss of a boy. This was the kiss of experience. Maybe Maisy had it right – if you were going to play, you might as well play with top-of-the-line equipment.
He ran his hands down her arms and then gripped them gently and pushed her away, breaking off the kiss. Brianna raised startled eyes to his and made a noise in protest.
“I’m sorry.” He stepped back, putting more distance between them, and cleared his throat. “I think you have the wrong idea. I’m Matt Gaelen. Dr. Matt Gaelen.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Jerome and Maria were worried because you hadn’t shown up at the restaurant, so they asked me to come and check on you.”
“Jerome and Maria. Owners of the villas?”
“Yes.”
Uh-oh. “You weren’t sent by Maisy?”
“No, I don’t know a Maisy.” He grinned. “Though I wish I did.”
She felt a flush rise on her cheeks. So much for living it up. “I’m very sorry,” she said stiffly. “That was a misunderstanding.” She grimaced. “It won’t happen again.” She’d stay well and truly hidden under a rock of mortification.
He raised an eyebrow. “Well, I’m happy to see you’re fine. Better than fine.” He smiled. “I’ll let them know.” He turned and jogged down the steps. And then he stopped and looked back. “But it does seem a shame that it won’t happen again.”
Brianna blew out a breath and watched him go. That wasn’t embarrassing. She cringed. This was precisely why she wanted solitude and privacy. She shook her head at herself and picked up her towel. The light was fading, but she still had time for a quick dip to cool off.
Let that be a lesson learned – well two, really: don’t jump to conclusions, and Dr. Matt Gaelen is an excellent kisser.





While a novella, this ‘perfectly’ story is my favorite of the entire series.
And I have adored this series.

Linda O’Connor has truly mastered the art of a short story. Everything was perfectly timed, humorously delivered, and emotionally packed. To be honest I got a bit weepy near the end on several occasions.

While I won’t talk about the details, let me say this delightful contemporary romance novella reads like a full length novel. Nothing feels rushed or left out. Best news: you can enjoy it during an hour lunch break and be happy and productive for the rest of the day. Much of the story is spent on Little Caymen Island. It will make you want to take the next flight to Caymen.

I highly recommend you read this. You can find it within the Boxset: Tropical Trysts. I haven’t read the other books in the boxset, but this one is a winner.





Buy Links:
Perfectly Skeptical, a Perfectly Series novella, will be featured in the Tropical Tryst Boxed Set. Escape with 25 brand new and exclusive sexy reads from NY Times, USA Today, and International bestselling authors. This set is perfect for romance lovers of all kinds. Offering up passionate and enticing tales, set in hot and tropical settings, this collection will feed your need for summer sexiness! Available for pre-order for only 99 cents. Release date Aug. 1!
Bonus: Visit www.tropicaltryst.com for special pre-order giveaways and join the Tropical Tryst Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/TropicalTryst/) for updates and a chance to win Tropical Tryst swag!

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tropical-tryst-nicole-morgan/1126270355?ean=9781508076988
Pronoun: https://books.pronoun.com/tropical-tryst/


Bio:
Linda O’Connor started writing a few years ago when she needed a creative outlet other than subtly rearranging the displays at the local home décor store. It turns out she loves writing romantic comedies and has a few more stories to tell. When not writing, she’s a physician at an Urgent Care Clinic (well, even when she is writing she’s a physician, and it shows up in her stories :D ). She hangs out at www.lindaoconnor.net.
Laugh every day. Love every minute.

Social Media:
Website/Blog/Newsletter:  http://www.lindaoconnor.net
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LindaOConnorAuthor
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/LindaOConnor98




Saturday, July 29, 2017

Daryl Devore shares Darien's Desire.


DARIEN'S DESIRE
Two Hearts ~ One Love series, book 2

by Daryl Devoré


Genre: Contemporary Romance *heat level hot*






It's complicated is not only her relationship status, but the definition of Erika Bailey's life. She loves managing her drag queen club in Bangkok, Thailand, but her rock star boyfriend resides in North Carolina. And to top it off, her father threatens she must stay away from Darien or lose the Pink Flamingo. Does she protect her club or her love?


Darien Scott, Grammy award winning international superstar, wants nothing more than to wake up in the arms of Erika, the woman he loves, but contractual obligations force him to exotic video shoots and an isolated movie set with one of Hollywood's sexiest stars.


With the feeding frenzy of social media trending every aspect of Darien's life—real or not—it's hard for Erika to know the truth. Will she be able to see through the lies and trust Darien? Or will evidence from damaging Internet rumors condemn their relationship?




Erika rubbed her palms on her thighs. "Darien went out with his friends and they got a little drunk. Then some girls came over and started chatting."


"Bitches." Sandee pursed his lips.


"Oh, I haven't got to the bitch yet."


"What?" Sandee pressed his hand on his chest.


"Her name's Savannah and she's an ex."


His eyes widen. "Oh. No. He didn't. I will bitch slap that boy the next time I see him." He chuckled. "I think I just channeled Ra-chell."


"She kissed him. Twice. Then suggested they leave for somewhere more private."


He placed his hands over his ears. "La la la. I'm not listening."


Erika laughed and pulled his hands down. "He didn't go with her. He went home."


Sandee scratched his head. "So why are you so sad?"


"He almost did. What if he had?" Her voice broke on the last word.


"Look on the bright side. He didn't cheat on you." Sandee held out his hands palm up. "Think of it this way. He went to the donut store. He had a choice between a chocolate covered donut or a bagel." He lifted his left hand. "Donut." Then his right hand. "Bagel. The donut has sprinkles. Sprinkles will get a man every time. I outta know, I'm awesome with sprinkles." He fanned himself.


"Trust me Sandee, there is no one as fab-U-lous as you."


"I know. But back to Darien. Darien wants the donut. He lusts after the donut. His groin is on fire for the sprinkles."


Erika waved her hand in front of her face. "I'm getting the picture."


"But did he eat the donut?" Sandee shook his head. "No. He tossed the donut on her ass." He flipped his left hand with a pompous sneer.


"Which leaves me being the bagel." She raised an eyebrow.




A lot of new information shows in up book 2, but for the most part, the group of characters are the same. Still, we discover a disturbing fact about her father. It’s not just that he’s threatening to close and tear down the Flamingo, but other disturbing things occur as well, such as showing up in England when he shouldn’t have known Erika was in England at all.

So her father is on my radar now.

Also, when she goes for a run, two guys try to jump her. Being a tough cookie, she escapes, and puts it on the back burner. That turns out to be a serious risk.

Once again, danger abounds. But something more worrisome occurs as well. Long Distance Relations rarely last. She’s in Bangkok and Darien’s in the states. And every time Darien goes out, the paparazzi and fans are there to capture his bad boy ways. And if it’s a slow press day, they can always pull something up from his past.

Will Erika and Darien survive the constant bombardment? Will her father eventually give in and get to know the man she loves? 


I’ll admit I got weepy eyed near the end, and once again, Daryl ended the story well, but with a hanging thread. So I’m expecting another fine story in the future.

5 glorious stars








Erika Bailey, owner/manager of a drag queen club in Bangkok, Thailand has happily settled into all aspects of her new life, except for her lack of a love life. When a new diva auditions, Erika is bewildered over her instant attraction to the blond God, Apollo. 


Darien Scott is on vacation after a world tour and mistakenly figures the safest place to be is at The Black Dragon with the head of a Triad. When the club is hit, Darien is the only person to get out alive. Now he's running from the police and a Triad. Mistake number 1.


Disguised as a drag queen, he's hired by Erika, but falls hard for his new boss, then struggles with not coming clean with her. Mistake number 2.


Can he fix his mistakes and find a life filled with love or is he headed straight for mistake number 3?





Daryl Devore (@darydevore) lives in an in old farmhouse in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, a large salt water aquarium full of fish, a black cat named Licorice and some house ghosts. Her daughter is grown and has flown the nest. Daryl loves to take long walks up her quiet country road, or snow shoe across the back acres and in the summer, kayak along the St. Lawrence River. She has touched a moon rock, a mammoth and a meteorite. She's been deep in the ocean in a submarine, flown high over Niagara Falls in a helicopter and used the ladies room in a royal palace. Life's an adventure and Daryl's having fun living it.


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Valerie Ullmer Releases Xander (A Dark Assassins Novel Bk 3)

 Xander (A Dark Assassins Novel Book Three)



Xander (A Dark Assassins Novel Book Three)
By Valerie Ullmer

Genre:  Paranormal Romance



BLURB

Half-human, half-shifter.
 Xander has secretly yearned for a mate for most of his immortal existence, and yet after three of his friends found exactly what he’s always wanted, he’d come to believe that he’d missed his chance at happiness.


Until he heard her voice.

Frost is a wildlife biologist and tracker and she has been assigned, despite her adamant protests, to lead mercenaries into the mountains of Snowfall, Colorado for the sole purpose of killing immortal shifters.  In order to protect those who have no idea the kind of danger they are in, she agrees.  As she leads the armed men on a wild chase around the snow-covered pines, she could sense that she was running out of time.

Until she heard his voice.


Xander understands exactly who Frost is the moment he hears her thoughts.  With the help of Kane and Gunnar, they eliminate those in her group as they try to keep her safe.  But during the fight, she is hurt and all of his protective instincts flare to life.  As Xander learns more about her, he realizes that Frost might be the key to the creation of the immortals, both vampire and shifter.  



But when she becomes a target from those who want to destroy the Dark Company and Xander’s family, how far will he go to save her?


 Buy Links 




 Excerpt

Xander froze when he heard a feminine voice carry over to him, she sounded closer than she had been even a few moments before.  He should have sensed her coming closer.  But the only question on his mind was why the fuck she was tagging along with a group of mercenaries.  He heard the voice again, a tinny version of her voice, and for a long moment he couldn’t understand the words.  Until she stepped forward.

No, no.  Not that way.  Not that way.

Something warmed his chest as he heard her in his head as clearly as they were speaking aloud.  A familiarity washed over him and he felt connected to this woman in an elemental way.  A feeling a peace settled over him.  He knew this was the first time he’d ever heard her voice.  He was so stunned and happy that he didn’t even question how they were able to mind link.

Can either of you hear the woman’s thoughts?

Woman?  Gunnar sounded confused.

Kane’s reply was quick and clipped.  No.

Hello?

Hello?

Xander tried to get her attention.  Can you hear me?
He held his breath when he heard her distinct gasp, knowing that their mind link worked.  His chest filled with dread at the thought that she gave herself away, until he heard her next words.

“I spotted a grizzly bear in the trees to the west.  Sorry, I startled him and he ran off.”

For long seconds, the men in the clearing stared at the woman before they were ordered to keep searching.

Xander stood close enough that he could see her curves underneath the heavy white parka.  And having the worst timing in the world, Xander felt himself harden.  He took a deep, cleansing breath of sharp mountain air that instantly cooled his overheated body.

Yes, I can hear you.  These men, seven in total, are looking for immortals.  They have been contracted by my boss at U.S. Fish and Wildlife to kill them.  Apparently the immortals are supposed to become animals.  Can you help me without hurting yourself?  They are heavily armed.

Xander was taken completely by surprise.  She didn’t question their connection but instead relayed vital information that he would need.  He could also start to feel her emotions.  She wasn’t scared, just determined.  He could hear her heart beating at a fast rate and her breathing strained from either the hike up the mountain or the tension in the air.  He watched as she subtly shifted her head around as she searched for him, unable to spot him in the trees.

We can help.  I’m going to communicate with my team and we’ll take out the men.  Are you okay with that?

Yes, I know they are paid mercenaries and I’m pissed that they killed a wolf two days ago for no other reason than they wanted to shoot something.

What’s your name?

Frost.

Frost, I’m Xander.  When I tell you to run, run south.  Okay?

Yes, I understand.

Xander relayed the conversation he had with Frost.  We are going to have to kill them, there’s no other way around it.  They couldn’t have a threat looming over them, especially if one escaped and brought in a stronger, more trained group of mercenaries.  Although they could easily defeat any group of fighters, keeping their existence a secret was crucial.  The more humans that knew about them, the bigger the danger it posed.

Working as a team, they closed in on the unsuspecting mercenaries.  At first, they quietly removed those men who were stationed on the outer perimeter, using knives to subdue them, or in Xander’s case, using his bare hands and quickly snapping their necks.  He didn’t want Frost to see blood on him.  The only sound he could hear detect was the grunts of the men who were dispatched.  By the time Gunnar, Kane, and he closed in on their ranks, there were only three mercenaries remaining.

The older man spotted movement in Gunnar’s direction and without hesitation raised his weapon and started firing.  The wolf easily dodged the shots before melting farther into the trees.  Silence descended upon the area as the man searched for Gunnar.

Frost, run south, keep as low as you can and use the trees as cover.


About Author


Valerie writes paranormal and contemporary romances with strong alpha males and brilliant, beautiful heroines. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her wonderfully supportive husband and their funny and wise black lab. She's addicted to coffee, crime shows, and reading and writing character driven romances.

 Socal Media 




Monday, July 24, 2017

Gina Danna shares a Civil War Picnic


Civil War Era Picnics  - Oh my!



In celebration of my upcoming release, Unconditional Surrender, the 2nd book in Hearts Touched By Fire series on the Civil War, I wanted to share with you how the Victorians entertained during the long, hot days of summer.

Today, summertime usually means more free time, more festivities and get-togethers with people going to fireworks, picnics and concerts to name a few. Back during the 19th century, people did many of the same things, though transportation was not as fast as we are used to, so in order to make events more fun, house parties in the South were big affairs, with people arriving at the host’s house and staying for days, even weeks.

But let us look at an event we do today—picnics. Unlike today, with many serving hotdogs, hamburgers, chips, potato salads and much more, the type for the Victorians were more like a multi-course meals served outside — ‘dinner alfresco.’ The following list contains what was available for a party of forty, according to Isabella Beeton, Book of Household Management, 1861.

                                

Sherry to start
Claret for meats
Champagne for desserts
Brandy to finish
36 quarts of ale
72 bottles of ginger-beer
Soda-water
Lemonade
Water is not taken as it ‘can usually be obtained, so it is useless to take it.’
A joint of cold roast beef
A joint of cold boiled beef
Two ribs of lamb
Two shoulders of lamb
Four roast fowls
Two roast ducks
One ham
One tongue
Two lobsters
One piece of collared calf’s head
Eighteen lettuces
Six baskets of salad
Six cucumbers
Stewed fruit well sweetened
Three or four dozen plain pastry biscuits to eat with the stewed fruit
Two dozen fruit turnovers
Four dozen cheesecakes
Two cold puddings in moulds
Two blanc-manges in moulds
A few jam puffs
One large cold plum pudding
A few baskets of fresh fruit
Three dozen plan biscuits
A piece of cheese
Six pounds of butter
Assorted breads
Rolls
Cakes
One half pound of tea
Coffee is not suitable for a picnic, being difficult to make

Things not to be forgotten at a picnic –

A stick of horseradish
Bottles of mint-sauce
Salad dressing
Vinegar
Made mustard
Pepper, salt, good oil and pounded sugar

Beverages  -

3 dozen quart bottles of ale
Ginger-beer
Soda-water
Lemonade of each two dozen bottles
Six bottles of sherry
Six bottles of claret
Champagne a discretion
Any other light wine that may be preferred
Two bottles of brandy


The above is list is overwhelming. They also took china, crystal and silverware, since paperplates, plastic cups and throw-away forks and spoons do not exist. The weight of all this required wagons and the cost? No doubt exorbitant! 

But collard calf’s head? Tongue? And all that alcohol. Wow!


                     


Blurb -
Unconditional Surrender
Hearts Touched By Fire, Vol 2

Confederate Major Charles Silvers has had enough war. After two years of fighting, his view of a glorious Southern victory over the North has lost its luster and been replaced by a burning desire to return home to Virginia and life as it used to be, before the war. When he meets Sarah Lawrence during the siege on Vicksburg, Mississippi, he is convinced the blond-haired beauty could fill the void in his life—but what he does not know is that this Southern belle isn’t what she appears to be…
Tortured by memories of the night in 1860 when masked bushwackers torched her Mississippi home and killed her father, Sarah escaped the South. Now, however, she’s back and seeking revenge. As one of the best spies in the Union Army, she’s in a unique position to get her wish. For her, a Confederate Major, even a devastatingly handsome one, is just the tool to obtain the information the Union needs—even at the cost of her heart. 


Available August 28, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Luck be an Angel, a sweet romance with a guardian angel.


Meet Sara: She is the sweetest, most patient, encouraging and hardworking mom you’ll ever meet.  

Sadly, the ‘good people of Briarville” wish to judge and destroy Sara’s life. The shops won’t even allow her to buy from them. She has to drive all the way to Fayetteville. When she recently won a house, but had no property to build upon, the town purchased her some cheap bog-land OUTSIDE of their city limits, so her kids no longer could go to school.
What terrible unforgivable act has Sara done to make a whole town hate her? Each year on February 14, she gets pregnant with another child. When the story begins, she has sixteen boys and one in the bun. And here’s the kicker: She insists that she’s never laid with a man.
Well, the townspeople don’t believe her. So once she moves into her new home, they explain her boys can no longer attend the Briarville school. Then, Child Services steps in and warns if she does not obtain a tutor in the next week, they will have to take the boys and place them in foster homes.
Thankfully, Ethan arrives, pretending to be a tutor arrives just in time. His motives aren’t pure, but his timing is impeccable!

BLURB
 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.

EXCERPT
Sam came running out the back door. “Mom, our school teacher has come! Joshua’s started the interview.”
His declaration caused all the boys to drop the clothes and run into the house, leaving Sara to pick up the fallen clothes and add them to the pile requiring a second wash.
Sara hurried with her chore, worried that the poor woman would run off before she could intervene. The sight of so many boys, identical but in age, all in one room, could be a bit terrifying.
By the cluster of bodies in the kitchen, she assumed Joshua had chosen his favorite room for the interview. She shook her head and gently moved her mass of boys about so she could enter.
She heard Joshua’s voice, full of challenge. “By only moving one match, I want you to make a perfect square.”
Her eldest wasn’t interviewing; he was testing the poor woman…
She finally moved aside Colby so she could see the teacher and apologize for her son’s inquisition. Her apology was lost in the shock of discovering the teacher was not a woman. He was most decidedly a man, probably in his late thirties, with a long nose, which gave him a slightly hawkish look. His dark eyes presently sparkled with amusement as he studied the puzzle her son had posed. She liked his face. He looked like a good man. Only she didn’t want a man. She couldn’t have a man here. She had enough problems with the townspeople thinking ill of her as it was.
The man leaned over and gently tugged on the leg of one match a bit, making a tiny square in the center. The younger boys cheered his success.
He stood and bowed to the applause of the boys and then grew serious when he noticed a smiling woman standing in the midst of her boys. She smiled and stepped forward.
Joshua stood up, his chest puffed out with pride. “I’ve checked him out, Ma. He’ll do just fine.”
“Does that mean they won’t take us away now?” her ten-year-old, Oliver, asked.
Peter ruffled his younger brother’s hair. “That’s right O, you can stop screaming in your sleep now.”

SALES LINK
For
Luck be an Angel

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.

A Long Road to Love Series
Humorous Contemporary Disaster Romance

CONTEMPORARY SUSPENSE
White Oak Mafia Series
Snarky, Romantic, Suspense Thriller

Often Humorous, Contemporary, Romance/Suspense
Standalone books with a special twist
Even the strong can use a helping hand when life gets hard.

Humorous, Contemporary Romance with Ghost & Ghost cat

Sweet Contemporary Romance with a Paranormal twist




Monday, July 17, 2017

The Danger of Being a Spin off


While Jacko works for Xavier and tolerates Vic, in A Right to Love, he and Alice are the main characters and the rest of the crew, including Vic and Xavier, are secondary characters. Thus, it technically didn't qualify to be part of THE ADVENTURES OF XAVIER & VIC. So it became a spinoff, which I labeled Book 2.5. Sadly, I've discovered that has resulted in poor Jack and Alice being terribly ignored. Peeps happily read through books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. 6, 7, and 8, not realizing they have missed a book which shares details you won't learn otherwise.
To hopefully correct the situation, I'm going to create a 3 book series about Jacko. For you see, Alice wasn't Jacko's first love. He had fallen for Lady Anne as well, and she has two books, in which poor Jacko looks like a contender but get's kick to curb eventually. Then he returns to England, and meets Alice. Their story is a long one. Perhaps, I'll divide it in two and make it four spinoffs. Maybe, I'll call the series FINDING LOVE or maybe Jacko's Search for Love.



Jacko, a gypsy with a great love for stealing, rescues a suffragette from Bedlam. Upon returning the elderly woman to safety, he meets her blue-stocking daughter. Alice has decided she prefers managing her estate farms over London society. She is resigned to never marry until the handsome and surprisingly wealthy man with a dark past and several identities steals her heart.

Jacko struggled to keep his eyes open. It seemed like days since he had last slept. He tried to recall the last time he had a solid four hours of rest. Thinking back, he groaned at the answer. Not since Davy asked him to assist Vic. God, Xavier’s pup was about to run him into the ground with her relentless tasks.
Normally, he would have refused this assignment. Any damn fool could follow the directions here. He came for one reason.
As he turned the last curve in the road, his heart lifted at the sight of Alice standing outside of the house, waiting for him. He blinked, uncertain if she were real or an illusion of his sleep-deprived mind. He had left so abruptly last time, he hardly deserved such a welcome.
As he neared, she stepped forward, as if impatient to receive him. Now certain she was not an illusion, he smiled in return and nudged the horses to move a bit faster.
The horses ignored him. Five hours of lugging a load of humans had taken its toll on all. When he pulled to a halt, Alice stood next to the wagon, shifting from foot to foot, impatiently waiting for him to tie off the horses and get down.
He cursed softly as he struggled with his simple task. Her groomsman, Dom, climbed up from the other side. “I’ll take it from here, sir.”
Jacko rested his hand on Dom’s arm and nodded in appreciation. He then stumbled off the wagon. He would have fallen if not for Alice’s strong grip around his waist. God, she felt wonderful.
“Are you hurt?” she asked as her hands frisked his chest. The electricity in her touch helped him revive.
“I’m just tired. Vic is a hard taskmaster.”
Alice brushed gentle fingers over his cheek. When he looked in her eyes he saw more than concern, he saw both desire and love. He shook his head and tried to clear his mind. Ladies did not love men like him.
“Let me get you to bed,” she said.
Now certain he had fallen asleep and simply dreamed her looks of love and desire, he shook his head. “I have to wake up.”
“Just lean on me,” she insisted. She then spoke loudly to the assembled company. “Welcome to Litchfield. My butler Thomas will see you settled. If any of you know why you are here, please let him know.”


Still certain he dreamed, he laughed at her request. He had never heard a more dignified admission of confusion. “God, you are magnificent.”