Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Risk-Reward by Caitlyn Willows


RISK-REWARD
by Caitlyn Willows
Romantic Suspense- BDSM
November 2016
Cover Artist - Valerie Tibbs
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN 978-1-68252-237-0


What Casey Sullivan wants Casey Sullivan gets. And she wants David Deacon back. But how can she convince the hard-charging district attorney that they are better together than they are apart? How can she convince him that they have the life experience now to overcome their past demons? Easy. By offering him a reward for every risk he dares to take.

Wanting her had to be a sin. Having her could mean her death. It was why Dave had walked away all those years ago, and why he’d avoided her since. Yet the universe clearly had plans of its own. Plans that pushed them together more and more as their respective careers soared. upping the game when that lure failed to tempt him by constantly throwing him in her path. He couldn’t resist any longer. A one-night stand to get her out of his system, that was his plan, until Casey grabbed him by the heart and reminded Dave that for every risk there is a reward.


But the demons of the past linger, reminding them both of a risk neither has ever been able to face. It’s hard to see a reward when all that exists is a fear that all the life experience in the world can’t seem to banish.

Buy Links:

Loose Id
Amazon
All Romance Ebooks

Excerpt:

Casey woke to an erection poking against her backside, David’s lips nibbling her neck, his hand wrapped around her breast, and his thumb flicking her nipple. Sunlight trickled through a part in the drapes. The bedside clock proclaimed it to be nine o’clock. Late for her, even on a Sunday morning. Her phone next to the clock agreed. It flashed a rainbow of colors announcing missed calls, texts, and messages. But she hadn’t fallen asleep until five, and not because of her lascivious bedmate.

“I presume you have a plan for my morning breath?” she mumbled. His smelled minty fresh. Cheater.

“I do.”

He rolled her facedown, pulled her to all fours, and plunged his cock inside her.

“Your foreplay is a little lacking. But I’ll allow it.” Casey wiggled her hips. “Make it quick. I need coffee.”

David nipped her shoulder. “And I need you.”

Hot fingers brushed over her belly and stopped over her swelling clit. She nestled her cheek into her pillow, riding his strokes to a quick, sweet orgasm that left them both out of breath. He dotted kisses down her spine before rolling free.

“Let me get rid of this thing, and the bathroom’s all yours.” He kissed her and left the bed. “There’s a carafe of coffee over there.” He pointed to the table and chairs across the room.

“You could have led with that when you woke me.” She crawled out of bed and stumbled for the coffee.

“I didn’t want you to come that quickly. Pour a cup for me, would you?”

“My pleasure.” Casey leaned over the table and filled the two mugs. The sweet ambrosia of coffee filled her senses. David had even remembered she liked half-and-half.

“All yours.”

She glanced up to find him knotting the belt on the white robe she’d given him downstairs. “What? No breakfast pastry?”

David laughed and landed a solid swat against her backside as he sank into the chair. She let out a yelp and jerked upright.

“You do know how to live dangerously, don’t you? Don’t start something you can’t finish.”

“Oh, I can finish it. After I’ve had my coffee.” He winked and blew the steam off his mug.

“We’ll see about that, mister.” Casey placed her palms on the armrests and leaned in. “I’d be willing to bet you don’t even realize what you have started.”

“You might be surprised.”

That lift to his eyebrow challenged her. “Indeed.” She pushed away and headed off to take care of her own needs.

Behind closed doors, her thoughts intruded. David had slept without issue, deeply and soundly. For all her talk about being able to protect herself, she’d been hypervigilant to his every sound and move. She’d pushed to have him back in her life, thinking it wouldn’t matter, that she had a handle on what had happened. Fear ruled the great and powerful Casey Sullivan instead. She was supposed to be the strong one. Hell, she was the strong one. Not this time. That she was vulnerable and human knocked her down more than a few pegs.

That long-ago night had played in her mind over and over. It had happened so fast. One minute she’d been sound asleep. His scream had awakened her a second before his hand had clamped around her throat. She’d clawed for freedom and thrashed around for a weapon—the bedside landline—and hit him as hard as she could. David had jolted awake on a “What the fuck?” Casey had rolled away and turned on the lights. Terror had filled his eyes. They’d fallen into each other’s arms, sobbing.

She glanced in the mirror and found tears trickling down her cheeks. David couldn’t see her like this. It would involve too much explaining. Telling him would cause her to lose him all over again, and that was the last thing she wanted. But to live like this, with this constant fear? Now she knew how David felt. He’d lived with it openly all this time while she’d buried her head in the sand.

“Goddamn it,” she muttered, frantically flicking away tears. “Stop your fucking crying. Casey Sullivan does not cry.” Apparently this Casey Sullivan did and was making up for lost time.

She spun away from the mirror and charged into the shower stall. The glass door banged closed behind her. She twisted on the double showerheads and sank onto the marble bench set in the wall between them. Palms pressed into her eyes, she doubled over and let her agony out. Her dreams of a happily-ever-after with David taunted her. She’d been so cocky and sure of herself, never for one second imagining she was vulnerable.

“Oh, baby, what’s wrong?

Casey jerked her head up. David shrugged off the robe and stepped into the shower. He reached for her, or she reached for him, or… Hell, she didn’t know. She’d been so lost in her agony she hadn’t even heard him walk in. Now that he was here, she didn’t want to let go. Ever.

David took the seat and cradled her on his lap. He soothed her with soft words and gentle caresses. It made her cry all the more. Not once did he press her for information. Maybe on some level, he already knew.

“Come on.” He kissed her forehead. “Let’s get you cleaned up and out of here before the hot water runs out.”

There was little chance of that. Still, she let him care for her—washing her and her hair, turning the water off, towel drying her, even combing the tangles from her hair. Her love. Her man. Her heart and soul. And the one thing that scared her half to death. She’d been a fine one to talk counseling when she hadn’t done the same for herself. She hadn’t thought it mattered. She was wrong.

“Into the robe.”

David guided her arms through the sleeves, tied the rob shut, and then put his own robe back on before scooping her into his arms and carrying her back to the seating area. After sitting in his chair, he cradled her on his lap and handed her the mug of coffee. “If it’s too cold, I’ll dump it and pour you a new one.”

Casey sipped. It was too cold. “No, it’s perfect.” You’re perfect. I’ve missed you so much. I love you.
“Did I hurt you last night?” He brushed his hand over her thigh.

“No. You slept very well.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.”

“Because you were afraid I’d attack you.”

“Yes.” Damn, she couldn’t look him in the eye. This wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have. It would mean they were truly over. He’d never be back. Everything was lost.

Under the circumstances, isn’t that for the best?

Her heart screamed no while logic said yes.

“I guess even having kick-ass martial-art skills isn’t enough to chase the fear away, is it?” He reached for his mug.

Casey used the distraction to slip into the chair next to him. “I wasn’t expecting it,” she freely admitted.

“I can understand that. We talk about having control, but the fear is always in control. At least that’s how it is for me.”

She drained her mug and reached over him to set it on the table. “What do we do about it?”
David put his mug aside as well and pulled her astride his lap. “I don’t know.”

At least he hadn’t said I told you so. He brushed his thumbs against her sides. Judging from that worry line between his eyebrows, his thoughts were elsewhere. She could feel his walls going up and didn’t know how to stop that, or if she wanted to.

“I hate doubting my instincts.” Casey curled her fingers over his shoulders.

“Which ones? The ones that insisted you lure me to your bed, or the ones telling you that you’ve put yourself in a potentially lethal situation? Before you answer”—he pressed his index finger over her lips—“I have a war inside me too right now. One part of me says this was a big mistake. The other one…” He cupped her head to his shoulder. “I need time to think. You need some sleep.”

In other words, he was leaving. It tore her heart into itty-bitty pieces. She raised her head and kissed him, long and sweet, saying good-bye and begging him to stay at the same time. When their lips parted, he patted her on the butt and lifted her from his lap and onto the cushion.

“Take the Cherokee.” She tucked her feet under her and poured another mug of coffee. “I’ll arrange to get it later.”

“Thanks.”

He dressed quietly and efficiently. Casey drank her fill of him while she could. She felt like a coward, letting him go this way. Another alien concept. She was the one in charge, the one with the answers, the one who made everything all right.

David’s last act was to drape his jacket and tie over his arm. All told, it had taken him less than five minutes to prepare to walk out of her life again. He looked devastatingly handsome with his white shirt open at the collar. Temptation urged her to lick the hollow of his throat. That would lead to her unbuttoning the shirt, exploring his chest, cupping his crotch, dragging him back to bed. It was David who took action, though, bracing his hands on the armrests as he leaned in to kiss her good-bye. It started as a gentle touch of lips, then he thrust his tongue inside and deepened the kiss.

Casey bunched her robe in her fist and fought the moan welling up in her throat. He pulled away on a sharp gasp and butted his forehead to hers.

“I’ll call you. Okay?”

Somehow she managed to nod. He drew in a sigh as he stood, stared into her eyes for a couple of heartbeats, then walked away. Casey strained her ears for his passage through the house but heard nothing. The place was acoustically perfect. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Fifteen.

Finally she unfolded herself from her nest. Her phone rested on the nightstand. She’d lose herself in work, practice schooling her expression to neutral the next time their paths crossed in the course of business. Crawling into bed, she scrolled through the list of missed calls first. Connie, of course. They spoke at least twice a day. He’d called five times and left a CALL ME RIGHT NOW! text. She didn’t know whether to be alarmed or annoyed. Annoyed won out. Conrad Baxter might be a killer in the boardroom and dripping money, but he could also be one hell of a drama queen. Casey didn’t think she had the patience to deal with it right now. She had her own problems.

She heaved a sigh. Who better to tell her troubles to than Connie? He’d laid the world at her feet, helped her be all she was, and she him. He and Seth were her best friends and confidantes. Whatever meltdown he was having, he could damn well wait while she dumped her stuff on him for a change.

“Well, well, well,” he chortled when she called.

“Long night, angel?” Seth added.

Damn it all, they had her on speaker.

“You called?” she replied.

Laughter burst over the phone.

“Distant and snotty,” Connie said. “I love it.”

“Don’t play coy with us.”

She could almost see Seth wagging his finger.

“You and lover boy made the paper,” Seth said

“Political section. Lovely night shot. A hot embrace. Captioned Lawyers In Love?” Connie added.
Fuck! “In the Times?”

“Oh yes,” they replied.

“Is he still there? Have we overstepped? Was it all you—”

“Stop it, Connie. Everything is all fucked up!” Her tears welled up again.

“Then spill all, darling. Need us there? We’ll head out right now.”

Suddenly, she was too spent emotionally to share confidences. “Not now. I’ve got work to do.” And a newspaper to grab from the driveway. She’d have to call David and warn him. There’d be fallout of some kind, even if it was only teasing. The district attorney hooking up with the people’s advocate was big gossip.

“I want to meet him,” Connie said, all humor vacant from his voice. “And if he doesn’t already know about us, you need to tell him before someone else does.”

He didn’t know. Enlightening him now was unnecessary. It was over. Even if David was able to overcome his fear, he wouldn’t be able to overcome hers. “Please. He hasn’t bothered to check on me in all these years, he certainly doesn’t need to be privy to our secrets now. It was a one-night stand, nothing more.”

“The picture says differently, angel,” Seth softly replied. “I’ll send you a snap of it.”


“Heat of the moment,” she snapped. “The moment’s over.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Teamwork by Caitlyn Willows


TEAMWORK
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance - Romantic Suspense (BDSM, menage)
October 2016
Cover Artist - Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN: 978-1-68252-228-8

FBI Special Agents Matt Oliver and Allie Quinn have a reputation for doing whatever it takes to stay alive and get the job done. It’s an added plus that part of their undercover assignment includes unfettered sex. Little do they realize what doing anything will involve when they come together for what is supposed to be a simple job…or how distracting that “anything” will be.

A short vacation keeps those sparks flying, but as they reassume their fake identities, each wonders if they can maintain that do-anything reputation now that love is barreling their way. Doing whatever it takes to complete an undercover mission holds new meaning to a man in love with his partner—a partner he now has to share with another man.

Bonus Story – Never Too Late: Simon Petrocelli and Emily Keating lost everything dear to them, including each other. Will Fate grant them another chance or is it too late?

NOTE: Re-release, re-edited and better than ever!

BUY LINKS:

Loose Id
All Romance Ebooks
Amazon

REVIEW:

4-1/2 STARS!!! Scorching BDSM, m̩nage and voyeuristic sex scenes combine with a continuing love story to fill the pages as only Willows can do...proving this erotica author has staying power. РLisa Kelly, Romantic Times

EXCERPT:

Matt Oliver sank into the chair in his closet of a room and scrubbed his hand down his face. Holy shit, she was a hot woman. And one hell of an agent on top of that.

He’d worked with a lot of agents over the years—male and female. They all did what they had to in order to get the job done and stay alive. But this one? She was his other half, crazy as that sounded. She not only did whatever it took, lived the part she was playing, but she made him believe it too. They’d played off each other, instinctively trusting and knowing what the other was aiming for. No signals. No prearranged scenario. Just going for it.

Gordie wasn’t lying when he’d said she was a looker. Matt’s dick had noticed her walk in the second his eyes did. That long, gold-brown hair tumbled around her shoulders, the slight sway of her hips as she walked toward the cluster of chairs, that flash of her tits. God, he wanted to see them, suck her nipples until they were puckered and hard, knead them over and…

He rubbed the back of his neck. Twice he’d fucked her and still he had a raging hard-on. She was in his blood from the second he’d thrust his cock into her. But he really knew he was lost when he’d knelt between her thighs to hide the flash drive in her pussy. The taste of her he’d taken wasn’t just for Sumner’s cameras. All Matt had wanted to do was bury his face in her juices and feast. He wanted to feel what it was like to love her without spectators, to stretch out in a bed and lose himself in the heat of her body, to hear her cry out his real name, to have her clutch him and come over and over again.

Sumner was right. She was a very big distraction. Matt couldn’t think straight. The way she’d wrapped herself around him when he’d nailed her against the wall. The way she’d taken the punishment Sumner decreed like she enjoyed every bit of it. He sucked in a sharp breath and tried to squeeze his erection into submission. He’d love to have her in a big bed, them loving each other until they collapsed from exhaustion, only to wake up and do it all over again. No worries but him and her.
Matt jumped up and started to pace. He had to think, to somehow force his craving for her aside and focus. Gordie and his wife were dead if he didn’t think of something to save them. One thing Sumner liked was the complete submission of another person. The threat of punishment followed by anal sex kept his men in line. Gordie and Eva Kidwell were screwed, literally.

The flash drive with all the information on Sumner’s activities was now with—God, what was her real name? It was going to drive him crazy until he found out.

He prayed he hadn’t hurt her during any of this. He’d pulled back on the paddle as much as he could. But then she’d started wiggling that sweet ass of hers. Careful as Matt had tried to be, he’d be the first to admit it had turned him on big time. They were lucky Sumner gave her to him, instead of taking her for himself. The man would have shown no mercy, especially believing she was a hooker.
Thank God he’d managed to think fast enough to give her that cover. He hid his smile from Sumner’s ever-watching camera. She thought as quickly as he did. When this was over…

Matt stopped in mid-stride. Fuck! He’d forgotten to pay her for services and she didn’t ask. Thanks to Eva, Sumner would be extra diligent and notice the lapse.

Think!

The train came to a full stop. He had to act now. Maybe there was a way to end all of this now.
He whipped open the door and stormed for the nearest exit. The conductor scowled when he pushed by.

“I’ll catch up at another stop. I’ve got unfinished business with a certain lady. Long light brown hair, short skirt, killer body.”

The conductor pointed her direction. Matt took off in hot pursuit. His actions and the story should appease Sumner. If everything went well, there wouldn’t be a party to rejoin.

There wasn’t a sight of the woman, but that was fine. He wasn’t looking for her. He was searching for something more elusive. A fucking pay phone. One that couldn’t be seen from the train.

He took the stairs to the street two at a time and found his objective. A quick call to 911 set things in motion. He’d wait long enough to make sure all went according to his plan and prayed it was in time to save the Kidwells. Then and only then would he pursue his next objective—to find her. And nothing was going to stand in his way.

* * * *

Allie slid the flash drive across the desk to Herb. All she wanted was to duck her tired body under a hot shower and wash the day away. She’d spent the trip back to the office worried about Matteo and Gordie. Eva too, although she couldn’t help feeling the bitch got what she deserved. Much as she wanted to find a way to help them, she knew her primary goal—her only goal—was to get that drive back to headquarters. Knowing that still didn’t make the job any easier.

“Good job.” Herb returned her badge and weapon to her.

Allie tucked both into the hidden pocket at the bottom of her tote. “I don’t think Gordie made it. There was a major complication.”

“Would that have anything to do with the bomb threat someone called in on that train?”

Her mind blanked. “What?”

“Someone called in a bomb threat. Said gambling was a sin and no charity should be forced to take tainted money. The train was stopped in D.C. and all passengers evacuated. Sumner and his men were arrested on assault charges. Caught in the act. This should help keep them in jail.” He held up the drive. “And, of course, the bomb threat gives us a good excuse to search those railcars with a fine-toothed comb.”

Other evidence would be rolling their way. “And Gordie?”

“He and his ex are in the hospital, but it looks like they’ll be all right,” Herb said.

Damn, Matteo was good. He’d gotten the information out and saved all their lives in the process. She wondered what had happened with him. Had he been arrested with the rest of Sumner’s men? If not, what ploy had he used to get out?

Herb laced his hands behind his bald head and leaned back. “Did you make the call? Sounds like a trick you’d use.”

Allie smiled. “Nope, not this time. Must’ve been that infamous inside man. I’d love to know how he managed it. Any clue who he is?”

“None.”

She thought about the panties lying in the bottom of her tote. His DNA was on them as well as hers. An analysis would give her his name. Somehow it didn’t feel right to do that, especially if it might jeopardize his current situation.

“Do you have a list of who was arrested with Sumner?”

He snapped his chair upright and typed a few words into the computer. “Here you go.” He pointed toward the monitor.

Leaning over the desk, Allie scanned the list. Matteo’s name wasn’t on it. “Was anyone killed or injured during the arrest?”

“Other than Gordie and Eva Kidwell, there was nothing.”

“Damn, he’s good.”

“The inside man?”

“Yeah, first time I’ve ever worked with a fellow agent I was absolutely certain would do whatever it takes to stay alive and protect the mission. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.”

“If it’s more work you’re looking for…”

Laughing, Allie stood. “Later. I’m going on vacation. I really need a break after this one.”

“Intense, was it?”

“You have no idea.”

* * * *

Matt allowed himself a triumphant smile. There she was, the woman who’d haunted his dreams and his cock since he fucked her up against a wall. She lay in the shade of a beach cabana, eyes closed while a masseur slowly rubbed oil over her almost nude body. She wore a scrap of white material that passed for a bikini, and she wore it damn well. Actually, judging from the way the man’s hands skimmed over her, she only wore the bottoms. Two days in the tropical sun had already tanned her skin. He wanted to lick every inch of it.

The second Matt saw his ploy had been successful, he went in search of her. His demands led him to Herb Walker. That was the easy part. Convincing her supervisor to give up her name and present location took…

Matt laughed to himself. It had taken the truth, more or less. One, that he wanted to work with her again. Two, that he wanted to make sure there was no ill-will between them. That had made the man smile. Apparently, she’d indicated a desire to work with him as well. Three, that she was hot as hell and Matt wanted a shot.

Now, here he was, mere feet away from Allie Quinn, nursing a hard-on that he had a hell of a time keeping under control. Anyone and everyone on the beach could see it bulging against his navy blue swim trunks. Let them look. He was proud of every inch of it.

Determined strides carried him to her cabana. The masseur stopped when Matt’s shadow blocked the light from the entrance. Allie hoisted herself onto her elbows a second later, peering over her shoulder to see who had the nerve to interrupt her session. A sultry smile curved her lips when she realized it was him.

“Hi, honey. I see you made it,” she said, settling back down onto the narrow table. “How was work?”

Matt laughed and tossed his beach towel to the vacant lounge chair. “Same old stuff. And you?”

“Another day, another dollar-fifty.”

He slipped the bottle of oil from the masseur’s hand. “Thank you. My lady and I would like some alone time now.”

The man flashed him a knowing smile, tugged the knots free on the ropes holding the canvas door open, and left.

Matt squeezed a little oil on his hands. “Wow, I hardly know where to start.”

“Your real name would be nice.” She groaned when he stroked his hands down her back.

His hard-on throbbed all the more. “Matt Oliver. Walker told me where to find you.”

She grinned. “I did make him aware I wanted to work with that amazing inside man again.”

“So I understand. You’re pretty amazing yourself. Shall I count the ways?”

“No, just lavish your attention and adoration on my body.”

“It would be my pleasure, or should I say our pleasure. I need to lie low for a bit, so I figured—”

“You can lie with me high or low.”

God, he loved her smile.

“I was hoping you’d say that.” He breached her bikini bottoms, smiling when she lifted her hips for him to tug them down. Tan marks clearly defined her creamy butt. Relief poured through him. “I’m glad to see you’re no worse from the incident. You don’t know how badly I felt.”

“It was preferable to a bullet in my head. You were as careful as you could be under the circumstances. I’d say they all got the show of their lives. Judging from the wet spots on their trousers, the memory will probably keep them warm behind prison bars. Besides”—she gave him another naughty smile over her shoulder—“I don’t have a problem with a little discipline every now and then, properly applied, with the skill and precision you seem to possess.”

“Oh, baby, you are a dream come true.”


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Letting Go, Ego, and Being Present

Simple words above in the heading: letting go, ego, being present. Yet they are some of the most powerful tools you can ever possess. They are also very hard to master. But learning to do so not only enriches your life, it clears the way for some wonderfully magical things to happen. It weaves positivity around you and those with whom you associate.

Letting Go: This mean exactly what it says -- let go. We all have experienced unpleasant things in our lives. We all have had to stand by and helplessly watch friends and loved ones suffer. At that point you may have turned to whatever Higher Power in which you believe, beseeching that Higher Power for help. Your Higher Power is your strength, the source of all wisdom and comfort. It's as natural as breathing for you to go there. Great! Now...let go.

Many people miss the letting-go step. For ease in explanation, I'm going to call this beseeching "prayer." So you've prayed to your Higher Power...and nothing happens in your time frame. So you pray again and again and again. Stop for a moment and think about what you're doing. How can you be helped if you are constantly on the "phone" asking for help? Even Higher Powers need to set the wheels in motion to render aid.

Ask for guidance and help. Then let it go. Each time you find yourself returning to (aka dwelling on) the problem, stop and tell yourself, "No. I've already asked for help. I'm going to let it go and trust help will be given."

Example 1: When we moved to our present location there was an occupied piece of vacant property next to us. We wanted to buy it, but the absentee owner never responded to our requests. Years went by and we watched with increasing dismay as questionable individuals doing questionable things took over the property (with the owner's consent). Eventually the property was semi-abandoned once more, leaving behind a rat-infested pile of... Well, it looked like a garbage dump and there was nothing we could do. I worried constantly about who might wind up living there, and about buying the place. Thirty years of worry. Finally, on one May day I consciously let it go. In August of that same year, the owner came knocking at our door to sell.

Example 2: A friend was in a constant state of stress. I talked to her about letting go. She didn't listen. Her life was falling into disarray. The turning point came when she was up for promotion. She filled out the paperwork, sent it in, then realized she'd forgotten something important. She freaked out! I sat her down and we had the letting-go talk again. She agreed to try, but she came back after the weekend and more upset than ever. "I've been letting go all weekend and it hasn't help!" I took her hands and replied, "You've asked for help. Now get off the phone and let help happen." And I gave her the advice I mentioned above. She agreed to do it. Two weeks later, she got her promotion.

Now here's the thing you need to understand... When you ask for help and guidance, you must also underscore that request with "for the greater good." Why? The simple answer is that your Higher Power knows what is best for you. It sees the whole picture. You are only seeing this point in time. The person who breaks your heart today could very well be leading you to the love of your life. The success you crave at one place might not be the right place for you. "For the greater good and help me accept that."

I had a dear friend in ill health. My request was to "please help her, for the greater good." The reply I got back deep in my mind was, "You do realize what must happen to help her." I quietly answered, "I do." She passed away shortly thereafter. Another time a friend asked me to "put something out there" to help her with a situation. So I agreed. The response I got back was, "Are you sure? Because she might not like the fix." My response was, "Never mind."

Ego: This is an even harder concept to grasp. It's new-to-me information learned over the last five years. Very hard to master. I do find myself slipping more times than I wish. Once you get the concept, happiness fills you from the inside out. Not only for yourself but also happiness for others and their achievements. Now to try to explain it.

Find yourself jealous of someone else's success? Ego. It's their life path, not yours. I admit it's hard not to feel jealous, but take a step back. You have no idea what that person is going through. Even Oscar winners have to deal with trauma and heartbreak. Are you and a friend up for the same award? Be proud and supportive of your friend's win.

Ego can be front and center in the workplace. If no one can do the job better than you... Whoa! That's ego talking -- unless it's someone else telling you that. You can take pride in your accomplishments, but when you start getting territorial keep on watch for ego to flare. Someone once told me, "If you are irreplaceable, you are unpromotable." I never forgot those words.Now I will say there are times to be territorial. If your own welfare is at stake, you have every right to guard yourself, because there are those who do try to sabotage you to make themselves look good. That's an example of their ego being in charge of them. I've discovered ego in a lot of volunteer organizations as well. Someone leaves a position and another person steps in, only to have the predecessor try to make the newcomer do everything his/her way. Worse yet, the predecessor sabotages the newcomer's efforts.

Other examples might be... You've always made the apple pie for the family holiday gathering. Now a newcomer is doing the same thing. You and someone else buy similar presents for a favored someone. Someone else brought a birthday cake to work when you always do it. In all these situations our ego rears up in outrage. Try to calm down. There's enough for everyone. Great minds and all that.

Ego will flare up when you least expect it. People who feel their every move and word is precious -- ego. Ego is filtered into every piece of gossip, every negative action. I know it's hard to watch someone else's star soar while you are still on the ground. Again, it's that person's life path. You have your own wonderful life path on which to walk. Chin up. Smile on. One step and then another.

Being Present: Simply put, this means being in the here and now with what you are doing at the time. Giving full attention to the person or activity you are presently engaged in. Be there. Listen. Store information. Learn. No distractions. If you are meeting a friend for lunch, give that person your time.
If you are at an event, put a smile on (or don your professional demeanor, if that is applicable). Engage people. I'm not saying you must be chatty. A genuine smile has a wealth of information in it.
Be aware of your surroundings. Feel the moment. (Be safety conscious as well.) Being present means setting aside the electronic devices that distract us. By being present you are recharging your soul.

I'd love to tell you that I'm a pro at all of this. I'm not. We all have our moments and our setbacks. Step at a time. Put the tools in place. You won't regret it.

:) Caitlyn Willows


Monday, September 5, 2016

Hired Hand by Caitlyn Willows



HIRED HAND
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance - Contemporary - Novella
August 2016

Socialite Melissa Brody is beyond livid when she discovers the trust fund she's been waiting for is tied to a Texas dude ranch. In order to inherit, she has to prove herself worthy. She has to work at the ranch for six months!

Colton Adams has helped his father manage the Double-Trouble Dude Ranch for years. Now comes the cowboy's biggest challenge—make sure the partner's granddaughter is ready to take the reins. It's apparent from the get-go Melissa is in sore need of something, and Colton is just the man to give it to her.


NOTE: Hired Hand was previously published in 2004. It has been re-edited and re-released for your reading pleasure.


BUY LINK:


REVIEWS:

5 CUPS!!! Hired Hand is a funny and sexy story of a woman trying to work for the first time in her life. Melissa comes from a privileged background but now must find out how to cope with real life, which she does, marvelously so; meanwhile Colt imagines the hardships to come but in actual fact Melissa surprises him, in a whole heap of ways. This was a fantastic read for me, a story of hope, romance and of course, lots of hot, smoldering sex. ~Sheryl, Coffee Time Romance Reviews

5 STARS!!! A short story with a full plot that keeps your attention to the last page…a satisfying sensual romantic read. ~Patrice Storie, Just Erotic Romance Reviews

FIVE UNICORNS!!! [O]ne of the best short contemporary romances I’ve read in quite awhile... Hired Hand is a well-rounded story that seems to be missing nothing! Hot, erotic love scenes blend flawlessly with characters that you grow to love and an ending for Melissa and Colton that totally satisfies while leaving the reader anxious to have stories for the secondary characters that were introduced. Caitlyn Willows Hired Hand will not disappoint readers of erotic contemporary romance. ~Melissa, Enchanted In Romance

FOUR RIBBONS!!! The sparks fly as soon as Melissa and Colt set eyes on each other and the pages just ignite throughout the rest of the story. Ms. Willows takes the spoiled heiress and shows us that she can work hard for her money and the man of her dreams. HIRED HAND is a story filled with romance and love that will make you sigh and keep you turning the pages. ~Bea Sigman, Romance Junkies

FOUR ANGELS!!! A fresh, erotic read that is sure to entertain. The story is delivered with humor and raw sexuality that makes Melissa and Colton fun characters to get to know. There are moments of outright hilarity that will have readers applauding the style with which Colton tries to prepare Melissa for becoming the newest hired hand. ~Amanda, Fallen Angel Reviews

FIVE HEARTS!!! I have to warn you; the jeans scene is just hilarious. And I just love these two characters; I enjoyed the fact that they fall for each other so easily, that their preconceptions are easily pushed aside with little hindrance, and that they are absolutely made for one other. The lust between the two is instantaneous. For romance readers looking for a perfect relationship story, this one can go right up there will the best. ~Glenda K. Bauerle, The Romance Studio

EXCERPT:

Colton Adams crushed his empty Coke can in his fist. The glorious day they’d all been waiting for was here. Melissa Brody was twenty-five. Whoop-de-do. Little did he realize he was the one who was going to be assigned to babysit her. His father and grandfather stared at him over the supper table. He’d been tag-teamed and he damn sure didn’t like that. Where the hell were his brothers? And the women—they’d scurried out of the dining room like rats deserting a sinking ship.

“Fine,” he finally said. “I’ll pick Miss Priss-Ass up at the airport and bring her here. She can stay out of our way for the next six months, then pick up her prize money and be on her way.”

Granddad dusted his fingers through his sparse, white hair. At least he still had hair. Dad lost his long ago, and it didn’t look hopeful for Colt either. It was just as well. Getting it cut regularly was nothing but a hassle. He’d often thought of shaving himself bald and being done with it.

“I understand how you feel, Colt,” Granddad said. “But I have an obligation to Asher. He and I worked hard to build this place. He didn’t want to give it away to someone who wouldn’t appreciate what it took to earn it.”
“Well, what the fuck do you want me to do?”

Pick that time for Mom to walk in. She tsked and patted his shoulder. “Such language. And here I thought I’d raised gentlemen.” She put a slice of hot apple pie in front each of them, then left.

Colt pushed his aside. His stomach was too soured now to enjoy it. He turned to his father, hoping to get him to see some sense. “Dad, she’s going to get in the way. We’ve got a business to run. I don’t have time to—”
“We’re always needing an extra hand around here. From what Dan says, it isn’t going to hurt Melissa to work for a change. While he and her mother understood the value of hard work, her stepmother has spoiled her from the start. Dan felt so guilty over the child losing her mother he let it go. By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.”

“So we’re supposed to help him fix it.”

“Don’t raise your voice, dear,” his grandmother said from behind him. “It’s unbecoming.” She scooped vanilla ice cream onto the pie slices and left.

They were in cahoots, all of them. He couldn’t even get a good mad going without someone yanking him to a stop. “Why me? Why can’t Wes do it?”

“With a baby on the way, he’s got enough to worry about.”

“If he’d kept it in his pants, he wouldn’t have that problem,” Colt grumbled. Sure enough Wes swung through the door and plopped down in the chair beside him. Even had the nerve to steal his apple pie!

“You’re one to talk,” his brother said around a mouthful of food. “Although, maybe if you took it out of your pants more often, you wouldn’t be so damned grouchy.”

He was on the verge of telling Wes to fuck off when his mother placed another piece of pie before him. Grandma was right behind her with the ice cream. Colt threw up his hands and pushed away from the table.
“Will you all just—”

Five sets of brown eyes stared at him, waiting for him to finish. It was no use. He was surrounded. A good man knew when to quit.

“All right. You win. I’ll pick her up at the airport. But”—he lifted his finger—“we’ve got a group going out and another coming in the next morning. I’m not making two trips.”

Dad smacked the table. “Perfect time for her to start learning the ropes.”

Colt swallowed a mumbled complaint, grabbed his pie, and stomped out to the porch swing.

The bunkhouse was just settling down. One by one lights clicked off in the guestrooms. His brother, Trent, would be about done cleaning up the community room where they gathered for meals and other events. After a warm day, a breeze now kicked the stars around. He could hear the horses’ slow gaits in the pasture beyond as they found their places to graze and rest. When it was warm, they let the horses stay out. In the winter, they’d all be in the barn, safe and cozy.

Business boomed at the Double-Trouble Ranch. Tourists couldn’t get enough of playing cowboy. The Adamses gave them what they wanted, and they still kept coming—some from as far away as Japan and Germany. That seemed to be where they got the most out-of-country visitors. From time to time, they’d also host a group from whatever conference was going on in Austin. Most of those were just for the Friday night hay rides or the Saturday night barbecue and dancing. The Adams family ran this place with a precision the military would envy. They had to or it would all go to hell.

Working a ranch was rough enough. Opening it to tourists doubled the work. Adding the oil drilling concession helped fill the coffers. They’d done so well, they could easily hand it over to a staff and the family could sit back in style. But where was the fun in that?

Colt loved the thrill of rounding up the herd, of seeing the birth of a new calf, or any of the other animals for that matter. And nothing tickled him more than to hear the squeal of a child as he rode a horse for the first time. Or the unrepressed giggle of one of the tourists as they roped their dummy bull. Hand it over to someone else? Over his dead body.

Now the princess herself was coming. As far as he was concerned, she could take her money and leave. Obviously, he wasn’t going to get his way on that. It had always frosted him that a portion of the ranch earnings always wound up in her trust account. She’d never had to do a thing for it, except be born. There might be some sweet justice here in seeing her dirty her lily-white hands. They should have bought out her share long ago, but Granddad refused to even consider it, and Dad backed him up.

The screen door squeaked open. Granddad joined him on the swing. They sat there watching the stars while Colt finished his pie. Then he set the plate aside and leaned back.

“You’re too quiet, Granddad. You got something on your mind. Pissed about her coming?”

“Nope,” he said with a sigh. “Just praying I can live up to my word to do right by her. I don’t want her leaving here without us having done everything we can to make her live up to her potential. If there’s going to be a failure, let it be hers, not ours.”

“Why?”

“Because I gave my word.”

Noble to a fault, but then weren’t all the Adamses?

“What if she doesn’t make the cut?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “Guess we keep trying until she does. She won’t get that trust or any further money from it until she can prove herself. Guess it’ll be up to her to decide when she comes back.”

And operations would be interrupted each time she did. It was best to get this over with now. “I’ll do everything I can, Granddad.”

“Going to have to do more than that, Colt.” He rubbed his knees as he leaned forward. “I know it’s not your nature, but I want you to ride her hard. I want you dogging her twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I want her broke and tamed. I don’t want anyone saying we didn’t do everything in our power to bring her around to understand there’s nothing more rewarding than a good day’s work.”

“And you’re willing to sacrifice your first-born grandson to do so.” Colt feigned hurt.

His grandfather chuckled and clapped him on the back. “Wes and Andrea have the baby coming. Trent is too swayed by a pretty face. So, yes, the vote for you was unanimous. Just remember to guard your jewels. Some of them fillies kick pretty hard.”






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rough Cut by Caitlyn Willows



ROUGH CUT
by Caitlyn Willows
Erotic Romance - Romantic Suspense
August 2016
Cover Artist - Scott Carpenter
Loose Id www.loose-id.com
ISBN: 978-1-68252-182-9

The only thing six months of undercover work have gotten FBI Agent Tony Driscoll is a chronic case of the hots for Blythe Smithers—an itch he definitely decides needs scratching.

Blythe’s been waiting for Mr. Right, but what harm is there in a little fling with the sexy massage therapist while biding her time?

A tryst turns into teamwork as Tony and Blythe search for smuggled diamonds—a fortune someone is willing to kill to possess. As love nudges lust aside, can Tony and Blythe live long enough to enjoy it?

NOTES: Re-release, previously titled Undercover Lover, re-edited and better than ever!

Finalist-2006 Golden Quill Award
Finalist-2005 HOLT Medallion
Finalist-2006 EPPIE Award

Buy links:
Loose Id
Amazon
All Romance Ebooks

Excerpt:
Tony left the building as he’d arrived—through alleys, side streets, and many blocks between it and where he’d parked. Massage clients waited.

He passed the morning working absentmindedly, longing for the day when he could put this undercover assignment behind him. Most of his clientele were rich, pasty white, and overweight. The only bright spot in this whole business had been Blythe, and she had been from the start. His problem now was how to hang on to her once his work here was done.

More guilt tweaked him. He was using her now to get to the Cambridges, and he sure didn’t feel good about that. Plus, once the Cambridges were behind bars, she’d be out of a job. He didn’t feel good about that either and knew he definitely wouldn’t be one of her favorite people after that happened. Hell, she didn’t even know his real name. Somehow he had to find a way to tell her what was going on. Trent would have a fit, thinking he’d compromised the investigation. But Tony’s instincts told him he could trust Blythe. With her close connection to the Cambridges, she might be able to help. That also meant putting her at risk, so she had the right to be fully informed.

Tony kneaded a roll of fat on the middle-aged woman before him. She grunted like a pig. With every day that passed, he hated this work more and more. Trent wasn’t the only one who was impatient for results. Right now, the only woman he wanted to lay hands on in any manner was Blythe.

“Okay, Mrs. Powell, all done for today.” He wiped his hands on a length of toweling while he gave her wide berth.

She tucked the sheet around her. “So soon? Feels like you just started.”

Felt like hours to him. Tony forced a smile he didn’t feel. “I know what you mean. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
A little before noon.

Just enough time to get to Stephanie’s office building before Blythe left. If he hurried. He reached the place with no time to spare. Watching from the far side of the parking lot, his breath caught when Blythe walked out. A raging hard-on shot to life seconds later. Blythe was dressed in hot pink capri pants with a matching floral camp shirt. White sandals graced her slender feet. Sunglasses covered her eyes.

He shifted in his seat as he palmed his erection, trying to find a more comfortable position that simply didn’t exist. Blythe always had that effect on him. In the months before, he’d been able to handle it. But now that he’d had her? Misery. It was all he could do to stay in the truck and not rush her.
The image of him dragging her to the truck, throwing her in the backseat, and fucking her until the struts cracked under the pressure was sweet. Something to put on their to-do list—when it was dark and not in a public place. Although forbidden sex and the danger of being caught would certainly make things hotter. He bet he wouldn’t have to do much talking to convince Blythe.

He pulled his wandering thoughts to a screeching halt and tried to focus on the job.

After a quick look in both directions, she crossed the street. Now all he had to do was get past the security guard, who was what had made entering at night impossible. Blythe’s presence during the day had hindered Tony’s chance to search Stephanie’s office.

He waited until he saw Blythe’s cherry-red Sentra turn the corner, then strode into the building like he did every weekday—ready to give Stephanie her daily massage. The guard never challenged him, and building security didn’t require anyone to sign in. It was almost as if the guard was there for show, a visual deterrent to anyone coming in who shouldn’t. Tony nodded a greeting the man’s way and continued on.

So far, so good.

The hallway was deserted. Like all the other times he’d been here. In less time than it took to think about it, he had the lock picked and was in.

Tony stowed his table and bag near the door. Where in the hell should he start? He had one hour to hit pay dirt. A sign on Blythe’s desk invited customers to ring the bell because she was in back.
He glanced that way. Light from an open closet door caught his eye. He edged toward it, scanning piles of papers, files, and samples as he went. Nothing looked promising.

He pushed the door open wider and smiled. It wasn’t a closet after all. It was a huge workroom cluttered with furniture in various stages of upholstery. Rolling steel doors covered the delivery entrance. It wasn’t the safest place to hide diamonds, but Stephanie sure didn’t lack for niches to do so.

Tony aimed for the workbench against the wall. His foot hit something hard in his haste. Metal skittered across the tile—a tack hammer. He glanced around and saw a black Naugahyde sofa. Each seam was edged in sparkling gems.

It’s too simple. Too obvious. And perfect. No one would ever guess they were diamonds. The smuggled gems were supposed to be rough. There was nothing to say they hadn’t been polished. Stephanie did have acquaintances in the jewelry business. Someone could be convinced to do her a favor, for the right amount of money.

He retrieved a jeweler’s loupe from his duffel bag of tricks, then hurried back for a closer look. Damn. Rhinestones, every single one of them. Even the ones in the bowl holding the supply.
Back to square one, and time was running out.
* * * *
Blythe pushed her lettuce around her plate. She’d been unable to concentrate for most of the morning. At least at the office she could mindlessly do finish work on the Caplin sofa while every other thought focused on Tony.

She missed him, couldn’t wait to see him again, craved him more than the richest chocolate. Silly, when they’d only been involved less than a day. After watching him all these months, trying to avoid him now was useless. He was every fantasy come true and then some.

Fling, my ass. She was already stuck on the guy. For all she knew, she had been all along.

Blythe cursed herself a thousand times over. He wasn’t what she wanted. Yet the idea of ending it tore her in two. She didn’t know what the hell to do.

“I swear you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”

She looked Eileen Cronkite’s way. A frown had pulled her perfectly arched eyebrows together. Frustration darkened her blue eyes as she flicked back a wayward strand on her long, black hair. They went to lunch once a month, jabbering the hour away. Eileen sure got a raw deal this time.

“Something’s on your mind. Give it up.”

They’d known each other since high school and had always shared their darkest secrets and desires. Why should this be any different?

Blythe set her fork aside. It was different. It felt too private, too special to share. “All right. I’ve met someone. No. I’ve met the someone. We are absolutely, positively sexually compatible in every single way. He’s charming, considerate, funny, great looking.”

“But?”

God love her, at least Eileen didn’t cheer. “He’s lacking on the career issue.”

They waited while the waiter cleared their plates.

“He sounds like everything you’ve ever wanted.” Eileen’s voice was low, for Blythe’s ears only.

She nodded. The memory of him set her body thrumming for attention, and not just for the sex. Their camaraderie over breakfast kept tugging at her heart.

“Is his job so important?” Eileen’s question was softly spoken.

Blythe had been asking herself the same question all morning. She laughed lightly. “I guess I wanted someone with a little more ambition.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s a masseur. Door-to-door. Like a salesman.”

Eileen shrugged. “Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any ambition. They can make good money. His way means little overhead. Maybe it’s what makes him happy. Isn’t a happy sex god more important than a self-centered, power-hungry maniac?”

She had a point. “I’m afraid, Eileen.”

“Of what? Of falling in love?”

She nodded. “Of being hurt. Of making a mistake. Of having a broken heart. You name it.”

“Of living?” Eileen stirred her straw through her iced tea. “You’ve never mentioned any man before. Obviously, this is someone you’ve just met. Aren’t you jumping to conclusions?”

“I’ve known him for about six months. I’ve just avoided him.”

“Until now.”

“Yeah. I caved. I couldn’t help it. I was like a time bomb ready to explode. And he…” Blythe couldn’t put it into words.

“Tell me about him.” Eileen flicked her long fingers through the air. “Besides the sex stuff.”

Blythe had always admired her friend’s hands—smooth, long fingers with perfect nails. Eileen took care of them too, sometimes to obsession, changing the polish every day or several times in one day. Even during tax season, when she worked hellacious hours.

Blythe pulled in a breath as she struggled for the words to explain Tony. How she wasn’t afraid in his arms. The comfort and warmth she felt curled beside him at night. How thoughtful he was to have coffee ready. His consideration and respect in not rushing out, in wanting to date. She was offering free sex, and he wasn’t biting. Damn it, Tony seemed to want more. But the only thing she could tell Eileen was, “His kisses make me want to melt.”

Eileen rolled her blue eyes. “Oh boy, you’ve got it bad.”

“I told him I don’t want him to kiss me anymore.”

Eileen laughed so hard heads turned their way. “And you think that’s going to help?”

Blythe covered her eyes with one hand. It sounded ridiculous, even to her ears, even knowing how one kiss destroyed her senses. “What am I going to do?”

“Why try to analyze it? Why not take what comes? Enjoy the great sex, the princess treatment I assume he’s offering you, and let nature take care of the rest.”

Easier said than done. It wasn’t Eileen’s heart they were talking about here.

“It could also be that you’re so horny, anything will get you going. It’s been forever since you’ve gotten any.”

Blythe removed her hand and shrugged. “No one’s caught my interest.”

“Well, I’d say you’re plenty caught right now. Take advantage of it before the next long dry spell. If there is one.”

Sound advice. Maybe she was overanalyzing this. It was just that Tony was so different from what she’d expected. She’d seriously misjudged the man. Every bad thing she thought about him was wrong. He was caring, funny, charming, attentive, and right now, she sorely regretted having blown him off for lunch.

Blythe laughed to herself. There’s an image for you. She should have “blown him off” for lunch. It sounded much more intriguing than picking apart a relationship that might or might not exist. This was new, fun, exciting. He was everything sexual she craved in a man and had never found. And here she was, missing out on a great nooner to complain to Eileen.

With any luck, she might just be able to catch him before his next client. Surely Stephanie had his phone number somewhere.

She tossed some bills on the table. “Sorry, Eileen, gotta run.”

“I bet I can guess what you’re about to do.”

She smiled. “I’ll leave that to your imagination.” Luck was with her. Every light was green on the way back to the office. Excitement pushed the accelerator just beyond the speed limit. Once she arrived, it was all Blythe could do to keep from running into the building. She nodded a greeting to the guard and hurried down the hallway.

Please, let him be available.

She shoved the key into the lock, ducked inside, and froze. His massage table and bag were propped against the wall.

“Tony?”

SHIT. HE WAS caught. He glanced at his watch. She was back way early. He had to think of something fast.

Tony grabbed a length of drapery tassel. “I’m in the back. Are you alone?”

He looped the ends over brackets in the wall, then twisted his wrists through the silken cord and waited for her like a sacrifice.

“I am. How did you—”

Blythe stopped short of the door. Her smile was quick as she raked her gaze over him. “I’m liking this.”

“I stopped by on the off chance you might’ve changed your mind. The door was unlocked.”

“Really? Odd. I’ll be right back. I need to make sure that door is locked this time.”

By the time she returned, Tony’s hard-on pulsed for freedom.

Smiling, she knotted his wrists to the brackets. A flick of her fingers opened the button on his jeans and sliced his zipper down.

“Now, Mr. Blake, about that blowjob. You are about to have the best one of your life.”

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Across A Sea Of Stars by Caitlyn Willows



ACROSS A SEA OF STARS
by Caitlyn Willows
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Romance
June 2016
Cover Art by Trace Edward Zaber

A night of debauchery has made Kes realize how much he’s wasted his life. Fate delivers him a chance to turn things around. All he has to do is retrieve a stolen Planet Skipper and deliver the culprits responsible for its theft. Once the task is accomplished, his entry into the Interplanetary Commission is guaranteed. But the Universe has another plan—Anne Sherwood.

Anne has always believed that everything happens for a reason. She prides herself on being open-minded. A world of possibility and wonder lay open to those who were willing to accept. But even she has her doubts when she learns the hot-as-heck man she’s spent the night with reveals he’s from another planet.

Through Kes, Anne discovers a power of her own she’d never imagined—the ability to control energy. It’s a power that’s growing by the minute. A power that could get out of control if she allowed it to do so. Now someone from Kes’s past is aware of it, too. And he wants it for himself.

Author Note: This story is a compilation of three short stories previously sold separately: Stargazer, Star Traveler, and Star Chaser. I always felt it was better told as one story, and so it has been revised and placed into one novel.

BUY LINK:


REVIEWS:

"Five Shooting Stars! When a jaded space traveler meets a starry eye romantic they get a beautiful love story. I loved Across the Sea of Stars by Caitlyn Willows. It is a great love story that made me smile and really have a lot of aww moments too. Plenty of heat between the characters too to keep me reading.Kestral he is tired of one night stands that mean nothing. He wants his life to have more meaning than that. He blocks out his fears and disappointments in life by having sex with random strangers. He has one last chance to prove he can follow his dreams. He is going to change his life and take that chance. He knows this is it for him all or nothing and he is willing to gamble it all to win.Anne she is from Earth. She is upbeat, optimistic, dreamer. She sees a shooting star she loves watching the night sky. When she is attacked in the parking lot by a group of drunk men, Kestral saves her.They hit it off right from the start. But Kestral wonders if Anne can handle who he really is and will pursuing her cost him his dream job or not.Over all this is one sweet story I couldn’t stop reading. I will have this one on my keeper shelf." - Redz World Reviews.

EXCERPT:

Anne Sherwood sorted her tips by denomination. Two hundred dollars! A great night! But then, paydays for the military community normally were. She stuffed the wad of money deep into her big black leather tote and smiled up at her coworker.

“Ready to call it a night, Peggy?”

“I’ll say.” She tucked a strand of her platinum blonde hair back into place in its braid. “My feet are killing me.”

“They did keep us running tonight. But it was a good night.”

“Little Miss Mary Sunshine as always.” Peggy laughed lightly. “I swear, if a customer left you a quarter, you’d still think it was a good night. You even dealt with that problem table wearing a smile.”

Anne couldn’t help it. It was so much easier being happy than sad. If a person looked hard enough, they could always find something good in a situation.

She steered Peggy toward the door. “You need to get home to that man of yours. That’ll put a smile on your face.”

Peggy glowed with anticipation. “Your plans?”

“I’m off for groceries, then home to my menagerie.” She swung open the glass door and stepped into the late summer night.

“Damn it to hell,” Peggy muttered. “The streetlight’s out again. Find some good in that.”

A flash across the sky caught Anne’s eye. “Look.” She jerked her hand toward the disintegrating meteorite. “A shooting star.”

Peggy merely shrugged. “Is there a night when you don’t see one?”

Eyes wide, Anne scanned the heavens for more. “Hardly. I love watching them, wondering where they came from, how old they are. There’s going to be one heck of a shower tonight. Are you going to stay up to watch?”

“At one in the morning? Are you crazy?”

Anne glanced at her friend. Peggy’s eyebrows had shot up to her hairline, or close to it.

“Life’s too short to spend it sleeping. This is an event.”

“Yes, and it happens every year. So what’s the big deal?”

“It’s…celestial.”

The awe with which she’d said the word earned Peggy’s laughter. “Yes, and magic, too. Like the comets.” Peggy tossed a hug around her shoulders. “See you Tuesday. Enjoy your weekend. We’re spending ours in Vegas.” She walked on to the parking lot.

“Enjoy.” Anne lifted her hand in a wave the other woman didn’t see, while she scanned the sky again. Two more meteorites shot across a star-kissed field of black. It was going to be a spectacular show later on. She couldn’t wait.

“Well, well, well. Look what we got here.”

The deep voice drifted to Anne from the shadows of the building. Three men stepped from the inky depths. Fear crawled through her body. She shot her gaze to the parking lot. Peggy was already gone. If Anne hurried, she might be able to make the safety of the restaurant. Two deputy sheriffs were finishing up dinner inside.

As if anticipating her move, the men surrounded her, chortling with glee. They were the problem table she’d dealt with earlier. They’d been drunk then and were worse now. She ticked off identifying characteristics—white males, slender, early twenties, baggy jeans and sports jerseys, black knit caps.
“It’s our cheery little waitress,” one said.

“Wonder how friendly she really is,” said another.

“Come on, sweet thang.” The man in front of her gestured toward her tote. “We could use a little sumpin, sumpin. Gonna give it up without a fight?”

Anne sucked in a breath, ready to scream her lungs out. A big hand clamped over her mouth from behind. The man reeked of french fries, stale beer, and cigarettes. He clamped his arm around her waist, while his friend tried to peel her fingers away from the purse straps.

“Yeah, fight, baby. That’s the way I likes it. Fight it hard.”

A green glow lit them like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Anne clicked her gaze skyward. A meteorite zoomed low overhead, shooting green flames as it traveled from east to west. It was a truly phenomenal event.

The hand over her mouth loosened. Anne saw her chance. Pulling power from deep within her gut, she prepared to unleash a blood-curdling scream.

“I think you’d better let the lady go.” Another man stepped into their circle. His voice was low, firm, and music to her ears. Help was here. Judging from his stance, he wasn’t going to put up with any shit.

Anne watched the green ball slowly disappear over the horizon. Its remnants highlighted the gold and red in the man’s tousled brown hair. He wore light-colored khakis and a pullover shirt she swore matched the fading meteorite.

“Yeah? And who’s gonna make us?”

Anne saw the flash of metal.

“He’s got a knife!”

They charged him as one. The man crouched low and snapped out his palms. With a muttered oof, two were hurled against the brick wall. Gasps for breath followed. Her savior whipped a fist around to their partner.

Anne had to blink twice. She swore she saw light pulse as he made contact. The mugger tumbled backward, hitting the ground hard. Eyes wide, he scrambled to his feet and took off. His friends wasted no time following. Anne listened to their footsteps beating a path to safety.

“Are you all right, miss?”

Long fingers curled around her upper arm. What she could only describe as energy coursed through her, lifting every baby-fine hair she possessed. Deep brown eyes studied her. His eyebrows tugged together as he waited for her response.

Anne was mesmerized by his sharp, angled features—the long, straight nose, the squared jaw, the hint of shadow carved just under his cheekbones, his full lips. What was his smile like? Were his teeth white and perfect? She wanted to stretch to her toes and kiss him, to wrap her arms around his waist and nestle her head against his broad chest. His touch, his nearness made her feel safe, protected. Desire overwhelmed her. Nothing was a more powerful aphrodisiac than heroics. But this felt like so much more than about sex. Yes, his nearness made her thrum, but there was safety and calmness that said things she’d never imagined. Things she’d believed existed only in stories. Trust, love, forever. Words like the one, love at first sight, and happily ever after danced on the edges of her mind.

“I’m fine, thanks to you,” she finally managed to say.

“Fortunately, I just happened to be in the area.”

He caressed his thumb over her arm in slow circles. Anne’s blood thrummed with each round. She imagined the calloused digit on her nipple, flicking it back and forth until it was hard. Then he’d wrap his full lips around it. His breath would be hot, his tongue wet, his touch…

“We should probably call the police.” He dropped his arm, breaking the sensual spell, but not the connection she felt.

Anne hugged herself against the sensations and tried to focus on the attack. Nothing was stolen, she wasn’t hurt, and they were long gone by now, so why bother? Her conscience intruded. If they did this once, they’d do it again. She had to notify the deputy sheriffs.

She glanced at her watch. What about her groceries? It was getting late. Her animals needed her.
“Do you have a cell phone?”

His question cut through her thoughts. “Yes, but there are two deputies eating inside. I could report the incident to them. But…”

Head tilted slightly, he waited for her to continue, then prompted her with a, “Yes?”

Anne looked up at him again. His eyebrows were still inched close. “I have to get to the store before it closes. My animals need me and food. Reports take forever to fill out.”

Worry faded with his bright smile. Anne’s legs wobbled. The man was gorgeous!

“These creeps need to be reported. I’ll go to the store for you, Anne. Just give me a list.”

She narrowed her eyes. “How did you know my name?”

Light laughter swirled around her, caressing her skin into goose bumps. “Your name tag.” He tapped the plastic badge.

Feeling foolish, she laughed. “Of course. Anne Sherwood.” She extended her hand to his.

“Kestral Dermot. It’s a family name. Friends call me Kes.” His hand wrapped around hers. Warmth spread up her arm, through her body. Her breathing quickened. “I’ll be glad to go to the store for you while you file your report. A list and some cash is all I need.”

Was it an underhanded trick to take her money and run, or a genuine desire to help her? Her instincts and heart screamed trust. Logic be damned.

A spate of shooting stars burst over his head. An omen to back up those instincts. The stars had yet to fail her when she searched them.

“Thank you. I do want these men stopped before they hurt someone.” She dug through her tote for the list, then handed it and her hard-earned tips to him. “It’s probably more than you need—”

“Then you’ll get a receipt and change back. Mind if I borrow your car? Mine’s down. I was headed to a pay phone when I saw you. My cell phone’s dead.”

Anne slipped him her keys, her trust, and her heart.