It's My Birthday!

...and I've decided to celebrate--witness the confetti. Too much?  Anyway, as I was saying, I've decided a party is in order. So I'm going to give away a download of one book from my backlist (HERE) to the commenter who comes up with the best idea for a birthday present or how I should be spending my birthday.

Not that there's anything wrong with the way I'm spending this birthday, but it is somewhat quiet and lacking in an abundance of festivity. Although there were mimosas and homemade (not by me) cinnamon rolls.  Mmm. Brunch. Gotta love it.

And, in the meantime, I'm going to post a brief excerpt from Dream Under the Hill. This is the first scene of Nick's birthday. It ends up being quite an eventful day for the poor dear, but in this scene everything is perfectly halcyon, just like a birthday should be. Enjoy!


The Spring Equinox falls in the month that nearly all Native Traditions recognize as being one of Big Winds—big changes. And big changes have certainly come to Oberon this spring… along with an ancient evil that must finally be laid to rest.

In a month marked by birth, death and marriage, the inhabitants of Oberon must all come to terms with what’s really important to each of them—important enough to die for.

Only one thing is certain. When the winds of change finally stop blowing nothing—and no one—will be the same.

Today was Palm Sunday, and if he’d still been a good Catholic, Nick knew he’d probably be getting ready to attend Mass. But the Church was something he’d long since fallen away from, and, Good Catholic was a category from which he’d been definitively barred, not just for his divorce and subsequent re-marriage, but for a whole host of supposed sins that, according to canon, had irreparably stained his soul. And while he would have liked to once again experience the feelings of Absolution and Grace, that he used to receive from the sacraments, all things considered, he didn’t miss it very much.

What he would miss, however, were mornings like these, cooking breakfast for his family, and sharing some quality time with his son, Cole.

“You having fun there, buddy?” Nick asked the little boy, smiling at the two year old’s attempts to stir the batter for this morning’s waffles. “You’ve been at that a while. Think it’s almost ready?”

Cole shook his head. “Noooo,” he replied, still gamely slapping the big wooden spoon around in the bowl; clearly intending to beat the batter into complete submission.

“All right, we’ll give it a little longer then,” Nick told him, chuckling to himself as he went back to tending to the orange hollandaise sauce he was making for the eggs Benedict.

Sunday breakfast was Nick’s new sacrament. It was also his favorite meal to cook these days, which was odd, considering the one item he’d always considered his signature dish—meatballs––wasn’t usually thought of as a breakfast staple. However, since his family was, once again, eating Sunday dinner at Lucy’s house, more often than not, breakfast had become his one chance to really cut loose.

Not that his breakfasts were always as elaborate as this morning’s meal, but today was special. It was his forty-fifth birthday, and he felt like celebrating.

He also felt like staying home, drawing the day out, enjoying the time with his family and friends. Which was partly why, when Sinead had invited them all to the inn for breakfast, he’d declined. Much as he loved his friend and appreciated her cooking, he didn’t want to go anywhere today.

The impulse surprised him. He’d realized only recently that he’d finally begun to think of this house as home.

After almost three years, it was long overdue. It was high time he learned to relax into his new life, to accept that fate had handed him a second chance, to stop worrying that it might all be taken away again.

He took the hollandaise off the heat, checked on the home fries warming in the oven, and then took a minute to stir the tomato sauce simmering on the back of the stove.

The aroma, when he lifted the cover off the pot, wafted him back to his own childhood, and made him happier than ever to be spending this time in the kitchen with his own son. “Does that smell good, Cole?” he asked.

The little boy nodded and mumbled, “Yeshh,” but absently, as he continued to concentrate on his work.

At this rate those waffles might end up being part of Monday’s breakfast. “You know you can stop that now, if you want,” Nick suggested, but as he half expected, Cole shook his head stubbornly. “All right, well, let me know if you get tired.”

The rest of breakfast was either warming in the oven or chilling in the fridge––less the eggs, of course, which he’d poach while the waffles cooked––leaving Nick with nothing to do but contemplate dinner.

After breakfast, he’d put the lemon-garlic chicken in the oven, make the meatballs, and stuff the manicotti. Once all of that was accomplished, there was only kale to sauté, eggplant to fry and a huge antipasto salad platter to assemble, with olives, artichokes and marinated mushrooms, roasted peppers and zucchini, a variety of cheeses, smoked meats, capers, anchovies, tuna––and anything else he could think of.

Lucy had offered to make the antipasto as part of her contribution to the meal, but again he’d declined. It was the first dish he’d been allowed to ‘cook’ as a boy helping his parents in the kitchen, and he’d retained a special fondness for it.

Maybe Cole would like to help him with that, too, he thought, smiling as he turned to his son again. “Okay, why don’t you give me that, now, Cole,” he said, attempting to gently pry the bowl of batter away from him.

Cole’s eyes narrowed. From the angry set of his chin and the way he was scowling, Nick was pretty sure he was getting ready to pitch a tantrum.

Quickly, he took the pan of home fries from the oven and spooned a few of them onto a plate. “Here, try these potatoes. Tell me if they’re good.”

For an instant, Cole’s eyes narrowed even more, but then he smiled, reaching eagerly for the plate in Nick’s hand. Nick smiled, too. Despite his own mother’s insistence that Cole was the image of Nick as a baby, Nick didn’t think it was an easy call to make. It was hard to determine which of his parents Cole most resembled. Until he smiled, and then it was no contest. He was Scout all over, when he smiled.

“Happy birthday, Dad,” his daughter, Kate, murmured, drifting into the kitchen to give him a hug.

Nick hugged her back. “Thanks, sweetie. Are you ready for breakfast? I was just about to start the waffles.”

“Okay,” Kate replied agreeably. She smiled at her brother. “Are those good, Cole? Can I have one?”

Cole stopped chewing and looked at her. It was hard to know what he was thinking, but no was his favorite new word, and Nick would have been not at all surprised if he used it now. Instead, Cole extended his hand, and the very soggy looking potato he’d been clutching, toward his sister.

“Mmm. Yum, yum,” Kate said, only pretending to eat it.

Nick smiled at his children. He didn’t have a lot of personal experience with sibling relationships, but he was surprised and gratified by how well his kids seemed to get along. Probably the age difference helped with that, he thought. Still, a toddler and a teenager? He must have been out of his mind starting a second family when he was already in his forties. But, crazy or not, it was what Scout wanted, and he knew he wouldn’t have done a single thing differently.

However, given how strained things had become between them; how moody and short tempered he’d been of late, he wondered if she realized that was still true? Maybe, it was time he made sure she did.

“I tell you what, Kate,” he said, as he poured some coffee into a mug. “Keep an eye on Cole for a couple of minutes, while I go upstairs and wake Scout. Then we can all have breakfast together.”


To read more about this title (including reviews and another excerpt) click on the button.

For more information on the Oberon series, visit the website at www.OberonCalifornia.us


While we're on the subject...

...of Spring. What, you missed my obsession with the season? Well, anyway, I have a post up at the Nine Naughty Novelists' blog today all about my adventures this week in wineland. But, it seems I'm not yet ready to put the topic to bed and so...here's an excerpt from Touch of a Vanished Hand--book 5 in the Oberon series.

True, the story takes place at the height of Summer, but it's set in a winery so, it works for me. Also, it's got a fabulous new cover as well.



Nick brought his motorcycle to a stop in the winery’s parking lot.  He took off his helmet, and felt the moisture on his skin evaporate in the dry heat radiating from the yellow stone walls. 

He looked around grudgingly.  Lupa e Cervo was certainly a showplace, no question about it.  Christ, even the parking lot offered a fabulous view. 
The massive granite blocks that made up the mansion in which the winery was housed were mellowed to a buttery hue, softened by ivy, by bougainvillea, by time.  Endless rows of grapevines surrounded the building.  They curved over the hills in every direction, drawing the eye along with them.  Although Nick knew it was an illusion, the impression that they extended all the way to the ocean which could just barely be seen--a blue smudge far in the distance--was almost irresistible. 
And it all belonged to Adam Sasso.  Scout’s stepbrother.  The only family she had left and, for the past six months, a pestiferous pain in Nick’s butt.
“Nice view,” Ryan remarked taking off his own helmet.  “Guess I didn’t really get a chance to see it last time.”  He sighed--a little too heavily, Nick thought, given the circumstances.
 “Yeah.”  Nick eyed the other man curiously.  Ryan seemed unusually quiet today.  “Thanks for coming out here with me.”
For a moment a look of surprise flashed across Ryan’s face.  “Oh, uh...yeah, sure.  No problem,” he said as he climbed off his bike.  “What’s the deal here anyway?”
Nick shrugged.  “Ah, who knows.  Sasso’s claiming someone’s been attempting to break into the place.  I asked him if he wanted to file a report, but of course he can’t prove that anything’s going on, so he declined.”
Nick paused to light a cigarette.  Adam was up to something.  That was why he’d asked Ryan to tag along.  He wanted a witness to this meeting--just in case.  He focused his attention on the view as he shook out the match, and tried hard to shake off the feeling he was being manipulated.  “Scout’s show is happening in a little less than two weeks.  Supposedly I’m here to offer any suggestions I can think of in the way of increased security.”
“Security, huh?”  Ryan chuckled as they headed up the stairs and across the wide stone terrace.  “Think maybe the guy’s wishing he’d taken a few of the dogs, after all?”
“Yeah, maybe.”  The dogs would have been a good idea.  But although Nick, Ryan and most of their friends and relations had all adopted at least one of the supposedly wild dogs which had terrorized the town for months, Adam had declined that offer, as well.  At the time, he’d claimed he had all the security he needed.  Nick couldn’t help but wonder what had happened in the meantime to change his mind.
The view from the terrace was even more impressive than the view from the parking lot.  From here, he could see a small, white farmhouse, bracketed by trees, anchored on a postage stamp lawn of emerald green.  And, beyond it, the distant shimmer of a tiny lake, set like a sapphire in the wide gold field that was home to half a dozen peacefully grazing horses. 
“Nick.  Thank you for coming.”  Adam’s voice came out of the shadows, the rest of him emerged an instant later. 
With his shoulder-length, blond hair, patrician features and wide green eyes Adam Sasso looked like he had just stepped from the pages of GQ.  He was impeccably dressed, as always, and his gracious tones and graceful nod of greeting seemed too studied to be genuine.
Nick supposed he was meant to be impressed by Adam’s sudden appearance--or possibly discomfited by it--but he’d met enough guys like Adam in his life to know better than to take any of them too seriously.
They were pretentious SOB’s, the whole lot of them.  Former nerds who’d reinvented themselves and seemed honestly to believe that being smart and financially stable gave them special rights--placed them above the law.  Nick usually took great pleasure in putting them back in their places. 
A pleasure which fate had denied him in this case. 
“Adam.”  He nodded curtly at the closest thing he had to a brother-in-law.  “You remember Ryan, don’t you?  What can we do for you?”
Adam gazed unblinkingly at Ryan for a long moment before slowly extending his hand.  “Yes, of course.  You were with Siobhan Quinn at the dinner here last February, weren’t you?”
“Yeah, that was me.”  Ryan shook hands with him briefly, and then looked away across the terrace.  “Nice place you’ve got.” 
“Thank you.”  There was a thread of amusement in Adam’s voice.  He turned to Nick.  “Come on, why don’t I show you where the problem is?”

To read more about this title (including reviews and another excerpt) click on the button.

For more information on the Oberon series, visit the website at www.OberonCalifornia.us


Speaking of Spring...

I've been thinking a lot about Spring this week--never mind what the calendar says, or the likelihood that it will start raining again tomorrow. Never mind the fact I'm wearing socks this morning because it's really not as warm as it could be. Bottom line: the sun's out, the sky's blue, there are flowers in bloom. It's Spring, damn it.

And, because it's Spring, I'm celebrating with an excerpt from my quintessential spring book, A Taste of Honey.

Ooh, and here's a look at its snazzy new cover:


Lucy drove out to the nursery early that afternoon, with the windows rolled down.  No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom, an album she’d ‘liberated’ from her teenage son’s music collection several years earlier, was blasting from the Explorer’s CD player, and a plan for fixing the deteriorating relationship between her husband and her son was cooking in her head.  In fact, if things worked out the way she hoped they would, she might even be able to give her own relationship with Dan some added spice.  

 It was a glorious Spring day.  The air along the coast was warm and lushly scented with yerba buena, eucalyptus and sage.  Fat, majestic puffs sailed across the sky, casting cloud-shaped shadows onto the earth and sea below, further mottling the already variegated landscape.  When she turned off the coast road onto the canyon drive that led to the nursery, she saw that the  hills that lined the way, gray-green, emerald, and gold for most of the year, had been transformed.  They’d blossomed overnight into an almost endless expanse of  orange and blue--mostly California poppies and lupine--disrupted only where the spiky silver foliage and dried flower heads of wild artichokes broke through to tower above them. 

It was the same thing that happened every year, but, as always, the beauty of it took her by surprise and made her catch her breath.

It was a perfect day for a picnic, she had decided after leaving Marsha and Scout that morning; and so she had gone home and packed a basket with which she hoped to tempt Dan to join her at Seth’s ball game this afternoon. 

The relationship between the two men in her life had become so strained of late.  And, even though she had taken care to pack all of Dan’s favorites--marinated artichoke hearts, olives stuffed with sun dried tomatoes, roasted eggplant and goat cheese sandwiches on fresh foccacia bread, and a mint-mango salad--she wasn’t sure that even that would do the trick.

It wasn’t so much that she feared her husband’s relationship with their son was in any real danger of becoming irrevocably damaged, as had happened to Dan’s relationship with his own father; although the possibility had certainly occurred to her, and more than once.  It was just that it was so very obvious how much both he and Seth were suffering from their estrangement.  And it would be good for Seth to see that, annoyed as he often was with him, his father still supported his efforts. 

Besides, she knew very well that her own attendance at his games was almost more frustrating for Seth than supportive.  Despite all her years as a spectator, Lucy still seemed to be missing the finer points of the game.  Their mutual interest in baseball had always been a passion that Dan and Seth enjoyed sharing.  And really, what was the point of sports, if not to allow men the opportunity to renew their bonds with one another without shedding too much blood?

She pulled off the road before she reached the nursery’s main entrance, unlocked one of the gates that led directly into the fields, and detoured through the back of the nursery’s grounds to check on her hives.  Sunlight shimmered in the air, and as she walked through the field she breathed in deep lungfuls scented with the heady fragrance of flowering plants and warm earth.  The bees were everywhere; crawling on the flowers, filling the air with their busy flights, and clustering around the hives’ entrances in a carefully choreographed confusion.  Lucy reminded herself to keep all her movements slow as she moved among them.  She was entranced by their gentleness as they detoured around her.  Even without the honey, she’d enjoy keeping them.  Of course, she hadn’t been stung yet, although everyone who worked with bees assured her that it was inevitable, and she hadn’t yet been forced to contend with a swarm, either.  Perhaps she’d feel a little less enthusiastic after either of those occurred.  But for now, it was a terrific little sideline business.

She watched the bees for several minutes longer, observing their activity, trying to take a count of the bees as they moved in and out of the hives, as she’d been taught to do; looking for anything unusual, any suggestion that the hives were ailing.  Finally, satisfied that all was well, she slowly turned and walked back towards her car.  She’d come back out here this weekend, with all her equipment, so she could inspect the hives properly, but right now, she had an even more interesting project to work on. 

Seth was not the only one whose bonds with Dan could use a little renewing, she thought.  It had been months since she and Dan had enjoyed the kind of romantic adventure she had planned for them.  Altogether too many months.  And man could not live by sports alone.

She’d included a jar of her honey in the picnic basket.  If she and Dan could find a private, secluded little spot for their picnic, perhaps she’d find a way to increase his appreciation for her new hobby.
Click on the button to read more about this title--including reviews and another excerpt.
For more information about the series, visit the Oberon website at www.OberonCalifornia.us


Myths and Legends

It's Spring! Well, okay, not really. But it feels like it today, or at least it looks like it, what with the sun finally coming out from behind the clouds and the cherry trees in bloom. I love cherry blossoms. In fact, I think I may need to get my son to add some falling cherry blossoms to my tattoos.Hmm...

Cherry blossoms make me think of cherries--which I love, btw--and that reminds me of cherry trees, and that reminds me that tomorrow is President's Day. Which might seem an odd train of thought to a lot of people because you just don't hear the old story about George Washington and the cherry tree much anymore. With good reason, I might add, since it's completely fictitious. Not, of course, that there's anything wrong with fiction!

I guess it must be coded in our DNA, this urge to create not just stories but myths, legends, fables...or, as some might term it, lies. But a made-up story that pretends to be real created to teach children the importance of telling the truth? I know it's early and I haven't had much coffee yet today, but my mind is seriously boggling.

As luck would have it, I've been working this week on a story about three people who are all lying, mostly to themselves, but to each other as well. And, no, I'm not going to share anything from that one just yet because I'm just not that far into it.

Instead, I'm going to share a snippet of Old Sins, Long Shadows, the second book in the Children of Night series and the sequel to In the Dark. I wish I could share the cover with you all as well, but I can't yet. Trust me, however, it's gorgeous!

This series is about vampires, so it fits in well with the whole "myths and legends" title of this post. In this book, a lot of the focus is on Conrad and Damian: how they met, how they fell in love, how they fell apart and came back together again. I have several more books planned and there's still a lot that hasn't been revealed about their respective backgrounds--and, oh, the reviews I'm going to get about all the loose ends I've left hanging! I can only imagine. *sigh*  

Still, I'm as satisfied as I can be with this book. Maybe too satisfied as I'm having a little trouble letting it go so that I can work on other books. So, I'm going to post the blurb and a bit of an excerpt here, and then go back to working on...I don't know...something else. Look for this book to be available on May 3rd. Just a little over two months away. I can't wait.

For the sake of vampire twins Marc and Julie, Conrad and Damian present a united parental front. In reality, their truce is a sham. Conrad struggles against the urge to bring his estranged mate back to his bed. Damian misinterprets Conrad’s explosive temper as proof their relationship is irreparably broken.

When an old enemy’s quest to create a dangerous new breed of vampire threatens the twins’ lives, it’s imperative the estranged lovers put the past behind them. Or the shadows of the past will tear apart everything they hold dear. 

“Ah, there you are!” Damian swept into the kitchen, startling Conrad, who was seated at the table. “Good. I’ve been looking for you.”

Conrad fumbled the PVC blood bag he was holding, nearly dropping it. He bit back an oath and glanced up, scowling. Damian was dressed as though he’d just come from the gym, and all in black like a damn cliché. His dark hair was pulled away from his face and the scent of exertion still clung to his skin. Conrad’s fingers clenched more tightly around the bag in his hand. His heart pounded with a savage rhythm. Of all the people he could not bear to be this close to right now, with his hunger running rampant and his self-control at low ebb, Damian undoubtedly topped the list.

“What do you want?” he growled, frustrated by his inability to tame the simmering need that even now was urging him to grab Damian by the throat, slam him against the nearest surface, bury his fangs in his neck and reclaim what was his. He buried his fangs in the bag instead and felt his gut heave at the faint chemical taste.

It tasted wrong. It was always going to taste wrong. And it was never going to be enough to satisfy either his hunger or his thirst.

“I need to talk to you about something.” Seemingly oblivious to Conrad’s foul mood, Damian pulled out a chair and seated himself. He was close enough to Conrad they could have clasped hands on the tabletop had either of them been so inclined. Close enough that they might speak softly to each other and not be overheard. Entirely. Too. Close.

“Very well then. Talk.” Forcing himself not to recoil, Conrad swallowed another mouthful. Another tremor wracked his frame. He tried not to imagine the pitiful picture he must be presenting. He would survive it. His pride had taken worse hits than this over the centuries.

Damian made no answer. Conrad glanced impatiently at him. “Well?”

Damian waved a hand at the bags heaped on the table. “What are you doing here with all of this?”
It was so stupid a question Conrad refused to even dignify it with an answer. “Is that really what you came down here to talk to me about? I would have thought you’d have better things to do with your time.” He drained the pouch in his hand, tossed it aside and was reaching for another when Damian put out a hand to stop him.

“Espere,” he said. “Querido, wait.” His fingers closed on Conrad’s wrist and time stalled.

A low growl rose from Conrad’s throat as he stared, transfixed, at the hand on his arm. His control began to slip. Furious, he lifted his gaze to Damian’s face and the hand was hurriedly withdrawn, but Conrad’s skin still burned from the touch. With his eyes locked on Damian’s, daring him to try and interfere again, he picked up a new bag and deliberately sank his teeth into the plastic.

Damian’s nostrils flared. “Honestly, if this is all you’ve been eating, it’s no wonder you’ve yet to regain your full strength. You need fresh food, Conrad. Living food. Shall I find you some?”

Conrad sighed. He knew exactly what he needed and didn’t need, as well as what he could and could not have. He drained the second bag and reached for a third, forcing himself to speak calmly. “No, this is not all I’m eating. But, this early in the day… I fear I do not always find myself in the proper frame of mind to attempt anything else.”

He toyed with the unappetizing bag while he considered his options, coming quickly to the same conclusion he’d already drawn. There were none. By later this evening the edge of his hunger would be blunted. The worst of his venom would have been reabsorbed. He would have more choices. Until then, no matter how much he wished to feed from the living, he would not do it. He couldn’t take the chance of damaging one of the staff. That would only cause trouble, start rumors and end badly. As for attempting to take nourishment from one of his own… Appealing though the thought of it was, as an option it was even less acceptable.

His gaze following his thoughts, he cast a glance in Damian’s direction. His eyes cut to the scarf knotted at Damian’s throat. Anguish flared. Did Damian mean for it to serve as a constant reminder to him of the injuries it covered—injuries Conrad himself had inflicted—or was that just a happy accident?

He forced his gaze back to Damian’s face and inquired coldly, “You weren’t by any chance thinking of offering yourself for the purpose of slaking my thirst, were you?” As he’d expected, Damian’s face blanched. One hand crept protectively toward his neck. Conrad sneered, cruelly amused by the sudden increase in the tempo of Damian’s pulse. “No. Not such a pleasant thought, is it?”

Damian swallowed hard. He placed both hands on the table and deliberately folded them together. His face impassive, he met Conrad’s eyes with a steady gaze. “You still aren’t sleeping well, are you? Is it the nightmares again?”

Above all else, Conrad hated that Damian should know him so well. That he could so unerringly pinpoint the exact location of every weakness, every fault line, every flaw. “Yes.”

“What can I do to help?”

Conrad sighed. “You can tell me whatever it is you came here to talk to me about and then you can leave me to finish my meal in peace.”

Damian frowned crossly. “Very well, then. We need to do something about the twins. They’re having a little more trouble adjusting to life here than I’d expected. I thought, perhaps, if I could explain to them—”

Conrad put up a hand to silence him. “No. Absolutely not.”

“Just enough so they can understand why—”

“I said no!”

“You did not even let me finish.” Damian’s dark eyes narrowed in annoyance. “How do you know what I was about to say?”

“It really doesn’t matter, does it?” Conrad asked in what he hoped was a reasonable tone. “I know you’re hoping I’ll change my mind about something, that I’ll agree to do things in a different way—your way. I have no intention of doing so.”


Happy Valentine's Day!!

Since it's Valentine's Day (and since I still  have all these pretty little hearts sprinkling the page) I thought I'd get into the spirit of things by posting an excerpt from Sound of a Voice That is Still.

This is one of my favorite Valentine's Day scenes, featuring one of my favorite couples...

Lucy took a long last look around the bedroom. It was perfect. Rose scented
candles stood ready on each of the nightstands, and in their bathroom a bottle of vanilla flavored massage oil steamed peacefully in the bottle warmer. A picnic basket
containing most of the ingredients for the meal she’d planned sat ready on the bed.
Olives and oysters and double cream Brie. And cherry tomatoes—out of season, of
course, and not nearly as good as the ones they’d get later in the year, but that could not be helped. She’d fared better with the avocados and the artichokes.

Two weeks of searching had turned up several bottles of a nice Cabernet that was a
near match for the wine they had shared all those years ago. She’d struck out when it
came to the fresh strawberries, however. To compensate she’d bought a box of
marzipan fruit and two cans of whipped cream.

She was ready. Closing the door behind her, she headed down the hallway toward
her kitchen to check on the rest of the meal. She looked at her watch, to see how much
time she had, and felt a momentary tightness in her chest when she saw how late it was. Where was he? Surely he wouldn’t be late tonight?

Not that there was any hurry, of course. They had all night to eat and talk, and to
love each other. To remember the way things used to be. Could still be. Were.
She could hear Mandy and Kate giggling in the family room as they watched one of
the videos she’d rented for them. She thought of Scout and her cousin, probably
already checked in at the spa—already in bed, perhaps. And Marsha, out to dinner with
Sam. She tried to rein in the jealousy which for weeks had threatened to overwhelm

She’d had a whole lifetime of loving and being loved, after all. It was petty of her
to begrudge her two best friends a little of the same happiness she had, wasn’t it? But
she did, all the same.

As she checked on the artichokes, wiggling a couple of the outer leaves to see how
loose they were, she imagined how it would feel to slide one of them into his mouth, to feel the touch of his lips as they brushed against the tips of her fingers. The faint tug as
she pulled the leaf out again, and his teeth clamped down on it, resisting her. She
imagined the taste of and the feel of melted butter as it dripped down her chin. The
sweet aftertaste in both their mouths as he licked the butter away and then kissed her.

The artichokes were ready she decided, turning off the heat beneath the pot. And so
was she. Ready to break down the wall that had sprung up between her and Dan.
Ready to break through the silence that threatened to suffocate them both. Ready to
reclaim her marriage.

And reclaim her husband, too, from whatever it was that had stolen so much of his
attention recently.

She had everything she needed to accomplish her task, except for one little thing.
Dan still wasn’t home. She resisted the urge to check her watch again, and uncorked
one of the bottles of wine. It was just as well that he was late. It was a fairly young
vintage, after all. It could use a few minutes to breathe. She poured herself a glass of it, anyway, admiring the deep, clear color of the wine.

Three drops, red as heart’s blood fell on the white tile counter. She wiped them up
and licked her finger, and then turned at the sound of the door opening, her chest tight

“Hey babe. Sorry I’m late,” Dan said, smiling as he came toward her. He was
carrying a bouquet of roses and a small, insulated paper bag.

Lucy could hear her heart thudding in her ears. “Hey, yourself,” she murmured,
putting her glass down, and leaning back against the counter. She cocked her head to
the side. “What’s in the bag?”

He put the roses on the counter and leaned in close. “Your Valentine’s present.”
He pushed her hair back behind her ear and nuzzled her neck. His voice was a warm
whisper. “Part of it, anyway. I thought maybe we could take this back to our bedroom
with us later, maybe have our dessert in there tonight?”

He brushed a brief kiss against her lips and then pulled away, and handed her the
bag. “Here. Take a look.” He rested his hands on the counter, one on either side of
her, and watched as she opened the bag.

“Lavender ice cream?” Her favorite. She stared at him in wonder. There was only
one place in town that made it, and then only during the summer. “How’d you get it?”

He flashed her his most mischievous grin. “It was easy. I just called and asked if
they’d make up a batch of it special for me. Told them I’d give them a real good deal
on the lavender this year, if they did. That’s why I’m late tonight, I had to stop
downtown and pick it up.”

Lucy clutched the pint container against her chest, mindless of the chill, as she
thought about the velvety smoothness of the ice cream, the sweet taste of lavender, the way it would feel later tonight, as it melted on her skin.

Dan’s eyes gleamed as he watched her. “Well? Don’t you have anything for me?”

She nodded and reached for his hand. “Come on. I’ll show you. Bring the roses,”
she said, smiling at him over her shoulder.

She’d been foolish to be so worried, she thought, as she led him down the hallway
towards their bedroom. Nothing had changed between them. They were still on the
same wavelength, still in sync. Still in love.

She dropped his hand as they entered the bedroom. Crossing to the bed, she pulled
down a corner of the bedspread, so he could see the rose petals she’d layered between the sheets: red and white, just like the ones he’d brought her.

He smiled at her from across their bed. “The red rose is a falcon and the white rose
is a dove,” he recited softly. “The red rose whispers passion and the white rose
breathes of love. Looks like we might have been thinking along similar lines today.”

“Hmmm.” She returned his smile. “Looks like.”

He frowned suddenly. “Except...I think I may have reversed the order of those

She shrugged, and rested one knee on the bed. “Does it really matter?”

“No.” His glance sizzled as it wandered slowly over her. “Not at all. So, what are
you tonight? A falcon, or a dove?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged again. “I haven’t decided, yet. Maybe neither.”

“Neither, huh?” He looked amused. “Why don’t you come over here and let me
change your mind about that.”

She peered up at him teasingly, “What’s your hurry, Cavanaugh? You got places
to go?”

“Just one,” he said. His glance went briefly to the basket on the bed between them.
“Are we having a picnic?”

She nodded. “Take a look.”

She held her breath and watched as he lifted the lid and looked inside; watched the
smile that slowly crept across his face, watched his throat work as he swallowed. He
remembered. Her heart soared at the look in his eyes when he looked at her again; at
the heat and the passion that blazed within them.

“C’mere,” he said and his voice, husky with emotion, warm and dark, set all her
nerves aflame. He reached for her across the bed and she went to him, she felt his arms close around her, felt the sting of tears in her eyes as he kissed her. His lips, warm and familiar, told her everything she wanted to know. All the things he hadn’t put into words in so long.

My favorite thing about this book is how all the couples' stories intersect and parallel each others. And I have rather a few couples, as it happens; four, to be exact--which is fitting since it's actually the fourth book I wrote, even though it's only number three in the series.

I hope you'll check it out, if you haven't already. It's available in paperback and digital formats and it's also one of the books I'll be signing in LA this April at the Romantic Times Booklover's Convention.

  • Paperback: 446 pages
  • Publisher: SynergEbooks (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074430783X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0744307832
ebook: Word count 159,168
ISBN: 0744306892
Heat Index   
Available in: Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Reader, HTML, Mobipocket, Epub


    Spreading the Love Blog Tour

    Welcome back, blog hoppers and happy Valentine’s Day! Once again we have our awesome tour bar at the top of the page (courtesy of our awesome tour guides—thank you Alanna and Michael). Simply follow the trail for yummy reads and a chance to win some great books and other prizes.

    If you stumbled upon this tour by accident (or if you happen to fall off along the way) not to worry! Just visit http://justromance.me/bloghop/ to start at the beginning.

    (Photo Copyright 2011 Michael Clothier)

    A Rose for Rosa

    He won't have remembered that it's Valentine's Day. As Rosa pedaled her way through the crowded streets on her way to meet Marq for their weekly coffee “date”, she reminded herself over and over again not to expect too much. It was too soon in their relationship for her to assume that February 14th meant anything to him other than another Monday.

    It had been like-at-first-sight when the two of them met—both involved with someone else, both more than content with friendship…and a little harmless flirtation on the side. They’d shared laughter at each other’s jokes. They’d shared sympathy when their relationships ended. Then, just this past weekend, they’d shared a pizza, their first kiss, and the realization that their friendship had unexpectedly caught fire. But it was too soon to acknowledge that fact with hearts and flowers—wasn't it? It was just too soon for Valentine’s Day—much too soon.

    Reaching the café, Rosa parked her bike, straightened her clothes, tried to settle her nerves. What was the big deal? It was just coffee with a friend—with Marquis—just like every week. But it really wasn’t like every week, and she couldn’t fool herself into believing that it was. Not with lacy red hearts decorating the café’s steam-fogged windows, or with memories of Marq’s lips on hers setting her own heart to pounding.

    “Too soon,” she muttered to herself again. “Maybe next year.”

    If only they’d figured things out earlier—even a couple of weeks earlier. But what was the use of “what ifs”? They hadn't figured things out earlier. And, now?

    “It's just another Monday,” she told herself as she straightened her shoulders and reached for the door knob.

    Warmth and chatter and the sweet smell of coffee and pastries washed over her as she stepped inside. Her gaze went at once to their usual table. Her heart sank when she found it empty. He was always here before her. Always. Unless he wasn’t coming.

    There’d been a few times when one of them hadn’t been able to make it—although even from the start they’d each been scrupulous about letting the other know if they were going to be absent or late. Maybe she’d read things wrong this weekend? Maybe she’d scared him off somehow?

    “Happy Valentine’s Day, pretty lady.”

    Rosa’s heart stuttered at his words—and at the sight of Marq, on one knee, holding out a rose. “For me?” she couldn’t keep from asking, even as she blushed over her own stupidity. Of course it’s for you, you idiot. “You remembered.” There. That was at least a little better.

    “A rose for my Rosa,” Marq murmured with a little smile. Then his eyes grew wide, his gaze vaguely reproachful. “Of course I remembered—did you really think I wouldn’t?”

    “I-I thought, maybe, it was…too soon.”

    Nodding, Marq got to his feet. “I know,” he said as he embraced her. “We really should have figured things out much earlier, shouldn’t we?”

    “Things?” She returned his embrace, reveling in the spicy scent of soap and cologne and man.

    Marq pulled away a little, gazing at her gravely. "Yes, "things"." He shook his head. “I think I’ve loved you from the start.”

    “Oh.” Rosa’s heart sped up. She wouldn’t be needing coffee to get her blood moving this morning. In fact, she might never need coffee again. She couldn't stop the smile that spread across her face. “Me, too.”

    She sighed blissfully as his lips met hers again. So what if she hadn’t thought to get anything for him? They had time now. She could make it up to him. And next year…next year they’d both remember.


    My prize this time around is a download of Let Me Count the Ways.

     She's thinking fling, he's thinking forever.

    Former film star Claire Calhoun has been Mike's fantasy since the first time he saw her bare it all for the camera. Now, she's in his bed and he'll do whatever’s necessary to keep her there. But he's not a stalker, right? He's just a devoted fan.
    To read more about this title, go to http://www.liquidsilverbooks.com/books/letmecounttheways.htm

    If you enjoyed the stories posted during our New Year’s tour, and want to read them again (along with some additions) be sure to pick up your copy at: