Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Interviewing Julie Eberhart Painter

Tami: Hello Julie! Welcome to the blog! How are you doing today?

Julie: Fine, of course, when I can talk about writing

Tami: Well we are glad to have you here. Let's talk about that great book of yours. That is an interesting title, what inspired the title Mortal Coil?

Julie: My grandmother lived in a nursing home in a 300-year old building in Philadelphia, PA. After she died at age 105, the home was investigated for a series of murders. It made the national news in 1984. The image of the old folks shuffling around from activity to activity inspired me to use Hamlet’s phrase, “When I shuffle off this mortal coil.”

Tami: A play on words, very interesting.

Julie: My weakness. I love a play on words and plan to use more of them for book titles. Champagne is considering another one now.

Tami: Can you tell me or do you plan on leaving me in suspense?

Julie: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Tangled Web seemed like a short poetic title to describe the serpentine road my heroine travels, especially this one.

Tami: It sounds like you must read a lot of books.

Julie: Almost as many as Stephen King. I always have a magazine going, a novel or autobiography going and an audio book for the car, although if Gershwin or Andrew Lloyd Webber are playing when I turn on my Public Radio station (WMFE), I wait.

Tami: Who are your favorite authors?

Julie: I lean toward mystery romance. Just discovered Harlan Coben. I like Greg Isles, but don’t like too much sick gore. Nora Roberts is just right. I’ve read all of John Grisham’s novels, and I’m a literary lover, such people as Ann Tyler, Margaret Attwood, and Anne Lamott are inspirational. Lamott’s first book on religion and of course Bird by Bird are her best. I cannot help but enjoy humor. Harlen Coben injects humor and irony that is very effective although some might call it author intrusion. He’s too funny to be deleted. We do think of the darndest things when we’re up against the wall—a place he spends a lot of time!

Tami: Oh, I love Nora Roberts! Have you read her In The Garden Tri.... oh never mind....let’s get back to Mortal Coil. You have several amusing scenes in that.

Julie: Courting and romance should start out lightheartedly. I was pleased that Kat Hall mentioned that in her review of Mortal Coil.

Tami: How long have you been with Champagne?

Julie: I just came into the family and love what I'm seeing. The openness, the help from other authors. My website now carries a picture of Nora Roberts and me because of Champagne author, Rebecca Savage, who has one of her with Nora at the Dallas 2007 convention. I'm learning a lot from the Yahoo groups.

Tami: You live in the US. How did you hear of us?

Julie: Providence. I was on a ship in the middle of the South Pacific when I was approached by Jim Woods, formerly an outdoor and gun expert who writes adventure for Champagne. He asked ‘Are you the writer?’ I said, ‘Yes. Are you the other one?’ The rest we know. I couldn’t wait to get home and write them a proposal.”

Tami: And that was Mortal Coil?

Julie: It was. I finished my final edit and sent it off. Of course the final edit isn’t really done until the publisher puts you out of your misery by bringing the book out. May was my lucky month!

Tami: It definitely sounds like it. Well welcome to the family and I can't wait to read some more from you. Thanks again for stopping by the blog to chat with me. Take care!

Julie: Thank you for having me. Epublishing is on the cutting edge of a new market. With all the competition in e-readers and small laptops, I feel fortunate to have joined Champagne Books when I did. Keep up your good work. A publicist is our outreach into the reading community.

Tami: OK guys, make sure to stop by to visit us when we will have

Monday, June 29, 2009

Excerpt - Delaney's Crossing by Stacey Coverstone

As he rifled through a cabinet for the cream, she slid off the table and walked straight over to the diplomas hanging in frames on the wall. As she scanned them, her eyes landed on one, which showed he'd attained his medical degree from the University of Chicago Medical School in May of…1884?

Her jaw dropped.

He turned. "What is it, Miss Marshall? You look as if you've seen a ghost." Gabriel sidled up to her and searched her face.

She reached down and pinched herself on the leg, causing a red welt to immediately rise.

His brow knitted together. "Why did you do that?"

"Because I need to know if I'm dreaming. That hurt, so I guess the answer is no. I'm not dreaming."

He continued to stare. "I don't understand."

Delaney's heart began to pound. She tried, but failed to keep from stammering when she explained. "I-I thought… I was dreaming this whole
thing, or we were on a movie set and…I kept thinking I was going to wake up sooner or later. But now, I don't think I'm dreaming at all."

"What whole thing?"

"You. The town. Washington Street. Those horses. The bridge. Everything!" Her gaze darted around the room. "That diploma on the wall
shows you received your medical degree in 1884, Dr. Whitman."

He nodded. "That's correct."

"No! That can't be correct. Please tell me that diploma is printed wrong and it should read 1994, or 2004."

He narrowed his eyes at her. "Perhaps I should check your head. Please sit down again. Did you hit it on the ground when I knocked you down?"

"No! No!" she cried, batting him away. She strode around the room and touched everything she could lay her hands on—just like a blind person
reading Braille. "This table is real. This glass window is real. The wooden floor, your equipment, and these medicine bottles are real."

"Of course they're real, Miss Marshall." Concern lined Gabriel's rugged features.

She stepped in front of him and plunged her fingers into his thick mane of auburn hair and said, "You are definitely real. Doctor, you have to
help me understand what's happening!"

"I'll try, just as soon as I understand it myself. Sit down and let me take your temperature."

"No! I don't have a fever." She spun away and spied his walnut desk in the corner. She scooped up the newspaper that was lying open on top, but
didn't bother to read the headline. Looking straight at the date in the corner of the Phoenix Herald, she read aloud, "June 7, 1888." How can it
be? It's impossible. A shiver ran down her spine and her stomach knotted.

What is it, Miss Marshall? Please tell me what's scaring you. Let me help." He placed a hand on her shoulder.

Expelling shallow breaths, she bent over and placed her hands on her knees. "I'm hyperventilating," she whispered.

Gabriel raced to his desk, rummaged through a drawer and pulled out a brown paper sack. He eased her back to the table, and she leaned against
it. He placed the bag over her mouth. "Breathe." She took several deep breaths.

When the danger of fainting had passed, he took her face in his hands and gently demanded, "Now, tell me. What is this all about?"

She fastened her gaze on him and said, "I don't know how it happened, but I think I've traveled back in time."

Excerpt - Heroes Die Young by T.M. Hunter

I awoke to a seductive female voice. “Aston...”

Too bad for me, it belonged to Jeanie, my ship’s computer. A cruel joke designed for mostly male pilots spending long periods alone. It was even worse when I ignored the fact she was simply a machine programmed to think.


“We’re entering the Toris system.”

Our current destination was my gateway to temporary financial security. I sat up from the hard, low-lying bunk, stood, and walked to the bridge. It was a short distance, nonetheless painful, as metallic floor panels clanked under my feet louder than normal.

As I walked onto my bridge, the hyper-speed engines disengaged and slowly wound down. I held onto my captain’s chair to steady myself until the ship reached a constant velocity. I sat down in my chair, reached into the side pocket, and pulled out the same bottle of Vladirian liquor that put me down.

“How are we doing on time?”

“Far ahead of schedule,” responded Jeanie.

The second of my four cargo hatches held a cargo container full of blue organic crystals. When I picked it up, the seller told me to take it to Toris, the outer planet in the system of the same name. I didn’t know why, but I’d double my pay if I made it to Toris fast enough ahead of schedule. They didn’t have to tell me twice.

“Let me know when we reach the station.”

I took a small taste of the light yellow liquid in the bottle. The storekeeper peddling the stuff at my last stop had filled me in with the full story behind the drink. A small animal called a Roshtu secreted the liquid as a defensive measure when attacked. The sweet smell and taste caused the attacking predator to lap it up and become intoxicated, while the Roshtu escaped unharmed. I took another drink, this one longer.

“So, Jeanie, what would you like me to buy you once I get paid?”

“I am currently running at peak performance, and have no requirements.”

I smiled and leaned back in my chair. I usually found scuttled and abandoned cargo, then sold it for profit. Scavenging was a less aggressive form of piracy, and usually safer, since you didn’t have to carry out threats of violence. Unfortunately, such cargo tended to be scarce, and had been more so lately. So, when I’d stumbled into an opportunity to carry cargo, I jumped at the chance. An extra bonus for speedy delivery didn’t hurt matters.

I took another sip of the Vladirian liquor and put it away. There needed to be something left to celebrate my fortune.


Jeanie ignored my question. “I’m picking up a ship on medium range sensors.”

The hair on the back of my neck rose. “Show me.”

My view screen lit up along the front wall of my bridge. A couple kilpars in length, the lines of the ship were smooth, tapering from the nose to a constant, rectangular cross-section around the first quarter of the hull. Near the back of the ship, I could see bell-shaped nozzles behind four embedded engines, darkened against the starfield. I recognized the configuration, but wanted some confirmation.

“Rulusian freighter?”

She gave the designation. “Green Three.”

I took another look at the sensor screen over my left armrest. “I don’t see any other ships out there.”

“There are none in the vicinity.”

A Rulusian freighter in an alien system, all by itself, made no sense. They often stuck together in vast convoys, to give themselves a better defensive position through sheer numbers.

“Status of the freighter?”

“Engines and main power are down, backup systems are in effect. No shields, no weapons charged.” She paused a moment. “No life signs.”

With the condition of the ship and no crew, I wondered what happened. Then a smile crossed my lips. I was a scavenger pirate at heart and wasn’t about to let a prime opportunity escape.

“Any cargo in the bays?”

Jeanie was hesitant. “Yes.”

“Well,” I chuckled, “what is it?”

“I’m picking up signs of cargo without accompanying records in the transport manifest.”


My smile grew. Rulusians were usually law-abiding. I had no idea why one of their ships would be hauling illegal cargo, but with three open bays on my ship and plenty of time to spare, there was only one thing on my mind.

Jeanie was too smart for her own good. “The logic of this situation does not compute.”

“It’s nice you worry about me, but I’ll be fine.” I nearly laughed at the thought of a machine with feelings.

She remained silent.

“Access their computer, and drop their cargo.”

“Unable to comply.”

If she wasn’t programmed to obey, I would have been upset. There had to be something wrong.


“The on-board systems were placed under a command-level lockout by the Captain of the vessel. Only the Captain can remove it.”

I clasped my hands behind my head and sighed as Green Three grew larger in the view screen. Finding the freighter made me think my luck was turning for the better. Now, the situation was tougher than it first seemed. My thoughts drifted to the state of the ship.

“Looks like they didn’t want anyone else gaining control. Maybe they abandoned her.”

“That theory appears plausible.”

I ran my hands through my dark brown, wavy locks, then massaged the tension out of the back of my neck. “I guess I’ll just have to go over and drop it manually. Move us to the starboard docking port.”

Friday, June 26, 2009

Swearing off paranormals......

When I finished Wicked Redemption, my latest paranormal release, I said I’d never write another book in this genre. Why? Because my voice, my entire writing style, is different with paranormals vs. my historical romances. The language is quick, modern, edgy. Writing in the contemporary world is certainly easier than world building in the past, but I love history. I love the research.

To tell you the truth, researching demons and the occult world scared me just a little. A friend suggested I watch the movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” He said it would educate me on the nature of demons. So I watched it.

I guess I have a low scare tolerance. Most people don’t find the movie scary. I, on the other hand, slept with the light on for over a week! Holy crow, this wasn’t my hero demon, Cole Turner! This demon was…well bad. But bad in a bad way.

I know this sounds pathetic, but writing Wicked Redemption kept me up nights. Not for the hot steamy parts, which I admit contain quite a few, but for the scary stuff. For the demon that Cole is.

So I swore off paranormals. But I miss them. I miss my bad boys. And I’ve started writing another one. This time with the heroine as a paranormal figure, I won’t say what. It’s a surprise.

~ Nancy

Nancy Henderson
Always a story...


Michael Davis
Author of the Year, 2008

One recurring question I get from friends and during interviews about my writing is, “On what do you base your stories?” It’s probably not an overstatement to presume that, like me, most writers base their scenes and ideas on things they’ve experienced or seen in their lives. Somewhere between 30% and 50% of the scenes I write come from memories. Perhaps, it’s the one area were getting older gives one an edge. There are so many things we see each day that offer an opportunity to wrap them into our stories.

For example, one day I was watching two young lovers share a soda and burger through the window of a diner. I was sitting outside in my car eating my burger alone (it was one of the many days my wife abandoned me for one of her girl clubs) and I was feeling especially lonely. I had just created a soul searching scene were a man had lost his wife in child birth and was struggling to move on. The polarity between lost love and new love really moved me. So guess what; it became a scene in one of my novels. In another case, I was having my once a week treat of a bacon and egg biscuit (I only allow myself to enjoy one per week), and an usual young lady walked in. She was unusual in her mannerisms, her attire and her shape. She was wearing a purple cowgirl hat, snake skin boots and tight, I mean tightttt, blue jeans. Add to this an exposed midsection that was tiny as hell and blossomed into an oversized pair of hips. As she approached the coffee counter, she swirled her hips and bobbed her head to the country music on the radio. No wonder the store grew silent and all male eyes focused on the mesmerizing motion swing gracefully in a pair of faded jeans.. Well, she just had to be an element to one of my stories. In fact, her part eventually took on sinister proportions. If you open you eyes to what goes on around you each day, combined with all the experiences across your life, the source for characters and scenes in your stories is unlimited.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chapter 1 - Tall, Dark and Handy by Nan Arnold (work in progress)


Never date a guy named Nero.

From personal experience, Melody Guilcrest could tell you there was some mystic connection between “your” Nero and that ancient Roman imperial flame starter. Okay, so Nero was rumored to be out of town when Rome burned down and the fiddle had yet to be invented. We get the connection? Right?

Anyway, Mel would tell you that the first thing “your” Nero would flambé would be your cool reserve. Oh, first he’d warm the dark places in your heart with a controlled burn. But later? Suffice it to say your heart would be nothing but ash in that crematorium where past love dwells.

Nero Nouri resided in another state, the last Mel heard,

So why was he currently seated across the diner from Melody? There he was in a corner banquette, looking as dashing as ever, snuggled next to a pretty young thing in a wrong-for-the-season strapless sun dress.

Then again, with Nero’s gym-taunt arm draped around a girl’s shoulders, she had little need for sleeves or straps. They’d be removed altogether at some point anyway.

Isn’t’ this special? Mel thought watching Nero who sat over there like an altar boy to Eros while she tried, as inconspicuously as possible given her chronic post nasal drip, to hover over a steaming bowl of chicken soup at a neighborhood diner.

The diner, decked out in a feel-good-fifty’s motif, all chrome and cheer, failed to lift her soggy spirits and Mel wondered what had happened to her erstwhile waiter.

Her head cold rendered Melody less patient than usual. She’d requested crackers, twice. Slow delivery was par for St. Sams, the barrier Island off Georgia’s southeast coast. The waiter was on “island time”, a pervasive languid attitude instilled in residents and service people alike around this resort town where Melody now lived and worked.

She took a breath for the courage and, defensively, raked her eyes over him one more time.
Yes, her bosom was heaving but the cause wasn’t lust or even unrequited rage; it was congestion. From a final glance in her hallway mirror before venturing out, Mel knew her baby blues were red and runny, like her nose. Nor had she washed her dark brown hair in days.
“Somebody, please shoot me now.” Mel grumbled no longer feverish, just miserable. And now, anxious. If only she were in the pink of health and sitting here, well groomed, with some great looking guy.

As if.

The only man on Mel’s horizon was some home inspector coming tomorrow since her landlord advised he wouldn’t entertain a lease extension on his condo. Lucky for Melody, the real estate market on St. Sams was presently deader than a gay guy’s future in Tehran.

Dead-pretty much what she’d be if Nero—

Darn. He saw her. His expression trumpeted disbelief at seeing her again

Ditto, buddy. Of all the diners in all the resort towns in all the world, why’d he pick Alfie’s today of all days?

“Check!” She called out and raised her arm.

Right. Like Gen-Y guy who took a half hour to bring her a bowl of soup would hop too before Melody’s complete and total humiliation unfolded for all to see.

Too late. Nero pried his arm from Honey Babe and strode toward Melody’s table. Strutted, actually. Nice hip action as usual.

Melody’s cell phone rang. Saved by the bell? She answered with a nasally, “Yeah?”

“Ms. Guilcrest?”


“My name is Andy Ricardo. I’m filling in for my brother-in-law, a home inspector, who was to look over Mr. Wordworth’s condo tomorrow. Will you be home around nine, or can you leave a key with a neighbor, so I can get in?”

“I’ll be there.” Hoping to forestall his appointment, she upped the cold to a public health threat. “I’m sick and it’s not spring fever. I’m recovering from the flu; just warning you I might be contagious.”

“Too bad, but that’s okay, I never get sick.”

She recalled the small print in her lease wherein she promised to allow such inconveniences and surrendered. “All right. I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Ricardo. Bye.”

“Wait. The realty agent might come, too.”

“Fantastic. The more the merrier. Goodbye.”

Nero leaned over. “Melody Guilcrest?”

How irritating. Two words from his lips and her body responded. She reprimanded that tingle between her thighs while his cologne fought valiantly, easily penetrating Mel’s phlegmy respiratory passages. A rascally black lock fell provocatively over his forehead as if trained.
She saw he wore his sideburns longer this year and there was a new addition, a goatee. Combined with his velvety black eyes, he looked like a Spanish Conquistador. Not to worry, she’d already made Nero’s List Of Conquests.

“Yes, Nero, only today, it’s less Melody and more like—Malady.” She sniffed and snorted for good measure. Mel’s nose, red and sore, probably turned wooden and grew several inches when she said, “That was my boyfriend on the phone. He’s coming over with fixings for a hot toddy.”
Had any other woman ever tried to look provocative while honking into a tissue? Pride made her lie to begin with and then gild the lily. “Says he has a new technique with Vick’s vapor rub.”

Nero grinned. “Maybe we can get together—he looked over at glaring Honey Babe— for a foursome while I’m here.”

“Don’t think so. I haven’t played golf in a l-o-n-g time.”

At the sound of his laughter, every woman in the place from six to sixty went on red-hot alert.
“Never met a woman with your wit.”

“Check!” Her arm shot skyward again.

“Are you in the phone book?”

“Enjoy your stay and spend lots of money like a good tourist.”

He chuckled. “Spoken like a tax payer. That tells me you live here, huh? I’ll call. Wouldn’t be right, not chatting over old times.”

Mel jerked her head to the right. “Don’t bother. You’d better chat up Miss New Times.”

“Let me buy your lunch.”

“How gracious.” What? Five or six bucks for a bowl of soup, including tip. “You were always too, too generous. But. Thanks.”

“It’s the least I could do.”

Got that right. Mel rose, braced herself on the chair back, and stood, careful not to leave before she saw Nero put down the cash for the idiot waiter.

“I’ll call.”


“It’s serious then, this current relationship?” Acclimated to southern drawl, she’d forgotten the brusque cadence of a Northeast accent. “I love a challenge.” She’d also forgotten the swagger that went with his.

“Goodbye.” Head high, Mel weaved out of the diner on the residual effects of Nighttime Nyquil-influenced feet. Gasoline had jumped almost a quarter in the past week and her earlier fuzzy thinking had convinced her she was within “easy” walking distance of the diner.
Normally true, but taking ten steps today was tough going, ambling a couple of blocks was a real test. She breathed deep, or as deeply as her lungs, in their diminished capacity, permitted.

Pine pollen dusted the world with a pale frost of yellow. Live oak boughs blew in the March breeze under the spell of the season’s last cool snap. Mild by most of the country’s standards, Melody’s wool blend sweater set and twill pants provided adequate warmth.

The partly cloudy day turned dark and the wind rose.


As if fan dancing, the trees shed a teasing spray of elongated tear-shaped leaves. In the distance, lightning sparked. Thunder rumbled over St. Sam’s Village area, where tee shirt merchants, art galleries, and tourist-favored restaurants plied their trade.

One or two rain drops fell on the bike trail, congested with weekend bikers and joggers alike, all trying to beat the storm. More drops baptized Mel’s head. She hadn’t brought an umbrella and hastened her pace.

“Good goin’, Mel.”

With luck, she’d be down with pneumonia when Handy Andy showed up tomorrow. Mel smiled; envisioning him fleeing, tool belt flying, after one glance at her prone, bed-ridden body. Nah, he was probably the conscientious type. Fussy Mr. Wordsworth wouldn’t hire any other kind.

An annoying drizzle ensued. Seconds later, a car shadowed her. The wiper blades scraped reluctantly across a mildly wet plane of glass and a power window slid down with a whirring sound.

Nero said, “Melody, get in.”

She wanted to blow off the invitation but precipitation suddenly escalated from damp to wet. Pride’s one thing, practicality was something else. Relax, Mel. There was a chaperon, of sorts.

“Obliged.” Mel scooted into the back seat of a sleek, black, foreign sedan. No introductions were made which was fine with her. “Drive about a block. It’s a terra cotta painted stucco building on the left side of the street.”

The leather seat held her like a warm, gloved hand. Only minutes later, they’d arrived at a small, neat building where she lived in one of four condos nestled among live oaks and a water oak or two. Melody didn’t want to leave the comfy seat but said, “Stop here.”

Nero gave the place a once over before his focus changed to Mel. “Feel better.”

“Thanks,” she mumbled.

For the first time, the perky brunette talked, “Yeah, better get right under the covers.” She shot Nero a look that implied hers was sound advice all around.

Melody hurled her fanny out of the car and ran for it, afraid to look back. Afraid she’d turn to salt, the kind you find in tears. Curiosity won out though.

Nero watched her, too. He waited until she unlocked her apartment door before he drove off. It occurred to her that, in the deepest sense, the man still knew where she lived.

Exactly what Melody deserved for ever having dated a guy named Nero.


Excerpt - Tainted Hero by Michael Davis

Five 5 star reviews, all excerpts, and buy locations
available at
(Released by

As a decorated Army Ranger, Eric Emerson is honor bound to defend the helpless, and trained to survive against a ruthless enemy, yet these skills were useless to protect his family. Riddled with guilt, he’s torn between his combat experience and the rules governing society. The conflict shatters his marriage, his job, and his sanity, until she saves him from his demons. Together, they stumble upon the Osiris study, a secretive government report that predicts a direr future unless there are draconian sacrifices. The attempt to unravel the mysterious nature of the study targets them for assassination until, once again, Eric embraces his dark side. The revelation about Osiris demands a horrific choice: ignore what they’ve found or become the seed to mankind’s survival, but at a terrible cost.

Excerpt 1 from TAINTED HERO

The explosion ripped the three-man team off the ground and tossed them into the air. Eric slammed face first in the sand. He pushed up on his knees, pressed the detached flap of flesh back down on his forehead, wiped the blood from his eye, and fought the pain hammering inside his skull. He turned toward his friend, but Mac was gone, only a hole remained where he had been seconds before. He saw Duke lying in the sand ...
The sound of the vehicle pulling into the driveway brought him out of the dream and back to the kitchen in his small house. Eric stood up from the table, walked over to the window above the sink, and stared at the two figures in the black car. The glow from the streetlight was insufficient to see their faces, but he knew, there in the passenger seat, it was her. The head of the passenger disappeared below the edge of the car window. When the head of the driver leaned back, Eric gripped the sides of his coffee mug. He watched for a moment to confirm his suspicions, and then he closed his eyes and lowered his head. He fought the impulse to end it all, to rush outside and set things straight.
Perhaps she’s right. Maybe if I had been here, things would have turned out different.
He took a deep breath, started to glance out the window one last time, but instead returned to his seat at the table, and waited.
Eric tapped his knuckles on the table as he sat alone in the dark. His eyes bored into the kitchen door until he heard the key turn in the lock. He listened to the door close and the light footsteps as they echoed through the small two-story house and advanced on his position. When the entry to the kitchen opened, the woman flipped the light switch and was startled.
“Damn, you scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know you were home from your trip. Where’s your car?”
“In the garage.”
“Why are you sitting in the dark?”
Eric surveyed his wife’s attire: the three-inch heels, the opal earrings he gave her on their first anniversary, and the strapless black dress. The same outfit she used to wear only when they went out, the one that made him proud she was his and no one else’s.
“It’s a bit late to be coming in, isn’t it? Where have you been?”
Karen paused for moment, tossed her keys on the counter, and responded without looking at her husband. “I was out with friends.”
“Do I know these friends?”
“It’s really getting old, to come home to an empty house every night, and find out you’ve been with your…friends.”
“Then stop traveling everywhere for that damn job. Besides, why the hell should you care what I do when you’re gone? I’m aware you’re not alone on those trips. I know you take one of your sluts with you, like that red headed major.”
Eric stood up. He scanned the hard expression on his wife’s beautiful face, the glistening black hair he longed to stroke. He glanced at the tight lips that once smiled whenever he was near, the soft lips he needed to touch, to taste. “No matter how many times you accuse me of infidelity, it doesn’t make it true. I swear I have not been with any other women during our entire marriage. Can you say the same for yourself?”
With an expression barren of emotion, Karen ignored the comment and turned toward the doorway to leave, but not without making one final cutting remark. “I don’t believe you. You haven’t been with me for a long time, so you must be screwing someone else. As always, this conversation has given me a headache. Don’t wake me when you come to bed, or when you go jogging in the morning.”
Eric remained alone in the kitchen with only the light beneath the doorsill stretching across the floor. While he stared past the door into the next room, he whispered to the only woman in his life, “Where did it go, Karen? You loved me once. Is it so easy to forget what we used to have, together? I still remember. I’ve tried hard not to let it go, but it becomes more difficult each day.”

Eric listened to the clock on his nightstand, and resisted the need for sleep. He knew it waited in the shadows of his nightmare. After two hours, he lost the battle. While he slept, the vision that hounded his dreams for so long returned: the fawn grazed toward the edge of the woodland, unaware of what lurked just inside the trees. In an instant, the beast lunged onto his prey. While it consumed her innocence, Eric was helpless. Chained to an oak tree, he was forced to observe while the demon mocked him. He could only watch from the hill as he lost her forever to that ruthless bastard. He ripped at the chains as they cut deep into his skin. He struggled against the bonds until the shackles that had imprisoned him all these years were covered with his blood. He ignored the gnawing pain, pushed against the tree with his feet, until the steel tore deep into his flesh and exposed the bone, but the chains remained, stopped him from saving her. Eric looked away and closed his eyes, but the tears continued to pour down his cheeks. The beast grunted with pleasure as it wrested the life from her small slender body. Eric screamed in agony, but no one was there on the lonely hill to listen. While he watched her die alone, he wept.
Eric sat up in his bed. The nightmare left him soaked in sweat. He gazed at his wife lying next to him, and started to reach for her. He needed to feel her soft skin, touch the taut ridge that flowed down her back. He yearned to be absolved of his guilt, or to achieve some semblance of comfort, but he pulled back, afraid of being rejected, again.
He felt alone, as always, all alone. He got up, walked into the spare bedroom, and curled up on the bed. Eric lay motionless, staring out the window at the stars in the night sky, until the tremors from the nightmare disappeared. After thirty minutes he fell asleep again, by himself, in the dark room.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Top 10 Countdown, #9 Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

#9 Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

There are many sites that have great articles regarding various methods of promotion. Hopefully some of them will spark your imagination and give you some ideas that you may not have previously thought about. You may use one of their ideas and spring board it into another or your could possibly spin it in a totally different direction. Remember if you don't like it, then do what David Bowie said and make Changes! The whole point is to get out there and research. If you've found this article then you are taking a step in the right direction. Now, bear in mind that I don't promote or work for any of these promotion websites, but I do read their articles from time to time. I find some of their facts, ideas and marketing ploys interesting but some of the information has absolutely no bearing on what I'm working on at the moment.

  •, What I love most about this site is that email reminders when they have posted new articles. I swear some days I would forget my name if I didn't have my driver's license to refer to. Now where did I put that wallet? So, that alone makes this site worth it for me, but wait...there's more! These articles are written by authors such as Rowena Cherry and Amber Scott and include great topics such as Email Promotion and Marketing. This is a wealth of knowledge handed to you on a silver platter, what more could you ask for? Oh, I know I could ask for chocolate, a million dollars, a three book contract and a cabana boy!
  •, This is a great networking site. Though it is important thatyou know that you will need to join EPIC to reap most of the benefits that they offer, but you can access their blog and various articles from the main page. It's definitely worth your time and effort for to take a look around. Make sure if you decide that you are going to try joining EPIC that you check out their membership criteria. There are two levels of membership and you may qualify for one or both of them.

  •, From what I've seen there are some decent tidbits here. And the fact that I am a bookaholic and they have contests also has absolutely no bearing at all in my choice to put them in this article. Honestly it was totally random.

  •, I've already found one of my pet peeves brought out into the forefront here and they said I was RIGHT! Isn't nice when you can find someone else who can validate you when you think know you are right? They have great, to the point, information that is very quick and easy to access. For finding out more about my pet peeve you need to see me in a couple of weeks when I say Gather All Your Friends Around.

  •, Now you need to remember something here, just because I or some other guy on the net says that this site or the next is the best, guess what? It might not be the best for you. Only you can determine if a site has any relevance to you at all. We all think that we are giving out the best and most relevant information to our friends and colleagues, but just because it works for me doesn't mean it will work for you. So make sure that when you are reading up on things that you take the "latest and greatest" (even when coming from me) with a grain of salt or twelve.

  •, Another site that has countless topics that helps me feed my reading ADD. I can read about nearly endless topics and get new ideas almost daily. Unfortunately, as with most of of the places I love to visit, I don't have time to go there every day and most of the time not even every other day. But it's great to know that when I need or want them, I can look at their left side bar and pull up my topics and off to my knowledge bank they go!

Search the web for sites that you are going to like. Just because these references do something for me, doesn't mean that they are going to do something for you. So, search out different promotional resources. Follow their advice, or don't. Use their ideas or change them. Jump into the water with both feet, the water's just fine!

And if you haven't realized it yet I like to talk and, I Wanna to Talk About Me! And if you don't believe me, come back next week to see what I have to say on the topic!

If you missed last week stop by here #10. Get your name out!

Interviewing Ed Williams

Tami: Hey Ed, welcome to the blog. I've been reading blogs around the internet the past two weeks by you and I have a feeling that we are going to have a ball today.

Ed: **crickets chirpin**

Tami: Again, Welcome Ed Williams to the blog......**
psssstttttt ED** Ed, where the heck are ya man? Kinda look like a fool standing up here alone! ED WILLIAMS GET YOUR BUTT TO THIS BLOG RIGHT THIS INSTANT!

Ed:Ummmmmm, okay darlin', I swear I didn't realize I'd been watchin' Dirty Harry flicks so long, I'm right here!

Tami: Don't you darlin' ... sorry into my parenting roll there for a minute. But anyway....welcome Ed, how ya doing now that you're here?

Ed: I'm doin' well, got my Diet Mountain Dew in one hand, my mouse in the other, and I probably shouldn't say much else. Guilt by inference, you know.

Tami: Well ya know we're glad to have you here and all, especially since we hear you have a new book comin' out in November. Tell me a little bit about ChristmaSin' and it's main character.

Ed: I guess I ought to give y'all a little background info first. I grew up in Juliette, Georgia, whose one claim to fame is that the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" was filmed there. Its official census population when I was growing up was exactly 400. I guess you could say it was one of those deals where you knew everyone and they all knew you. And you ended up either being involved in, or hearing about, all the various mischief that went on.

There were a lot of things that happened around Christmas over the years that I associated with Juliette. Lots of nice things happened, as an example people would take cakes and cookies to other people's houses and they called it "Christmasin'". On the other hand, the local men always organized a large, heavy stakes cockfight each year about a week before Christmas. The deal was that at least a few of the guys involved would win money, which would be used to finance their Christmas that year. Throw in the fact that I wrote this book as a 17 year old version of Ed Williams telling the story, and you have hormones, heartwarming stuff, and things the devil himself would be proud of. Add it all together and you truly have "ChristmaSin'".

I've gotten so damn tired over the years of reading so much sugary sweet Christmas stuff that I thought it might be fun to put some real-life Juliette events from years ago all together in one story, then have it told by a wild and horny seventeen year old kid, and tack on a little Christmas message at the end. I want to tell a different type Christmas story, and with "ChristmaSin'", I hope we have.

Tami: OK, since you want to give us a different kind of Christmas story, how about a taste of something that isn't so sugar and spice and everything nice. Give me a little peak Ed. I dare ya!

Ed: Tami, in other words, you want to know if I'm really bad or whether I'm like one of those pharmacists that turns into a motorcyle rider on the weekends?

Tami: Now Ed, you know that's not what I meant, but if you have a Harley we can talk. Now be a good boy (if you know how) and give us a taste of the book. I want to see inside the mind of Ed Williams.

Ed: I gotcha. I like to write things as I see them, and for them to be both fun and realistic. I hate being bored, so I do everything I can to try and see that my readers remember the words before them. In fact, if they don't like or love my books, I want them to hate the hell out of them. A writer's worst enemy is an indifferent audience, and I aim to see that that never happens. I don't write to save the world or influence people, I like to write stuff that goes straight to the heart, the reader's laughing instinct, groin, or better!

Santy has his bag over one shoulder and a walking stick clutched in his other hand. As he walks over to the church Christmas tree he turns to lower his bag to the floor. When he does, it causes his other hand to come around and thwack his walking stick right into the tree. It’s a pretty solid shot, several ornaments are popped or knocked out into the crowd, and a couple of tree limbs are broken and left dangling off the tree. Santy slips up for a second and said “damn“ right out loud, which causes almost everyone there to start laughing and buzzing around like a bunch of yard flies over at Winn Dixie. The Reverend Malkinski is trying to cover it all up by saying “darn” two or three times, but nobody is buying his feeble attempt at a dodge. Ed Jr. is tickled as all hell with the way Santy has just expressed himself, but he has to hold in his laughter as my mom is staring at him like a condemned man does the clock during his final hour. Of course, him not being able to laugh forces Brother and I to share his fate, as we both know that we would tote the red ass if we slip up and laugh out loud. That’s the worst thing to me about church, you have to hold stuff in sometimes when you‘d really just love to let it all out. We can’t do that, though, because Ed Jr. told me one time that, “If men could do anything they wanted, the world would be nothing but farts, jism, sass talk, and women whose legs were spread wider than the Grand Canyon.” He’s pretty much hitting that one on the head, although we guys don‘t wanna admit it.

The laughter finally dies down, and Santy goes over and sits down on a big wooden chair and starts handing out presents. He reads off each child’s name, and then that particular child comes up and receives their present. Most of the kids who come up are shy. They just get their gifts from Santy and walk back to their parents. One little girl, however, is different. Her name is Samantha Griffin, and when her name is called out she walks up and takes her gift from Santa. Then, instead of shying away or running off, she looks up at him and says, “Santa, I love you and God loves you. I didn’t get anything for Christmas last year 'cause my daddy got the cancer and died. Thank you for being so good to me.” If that isn‘t enough to tug at your heart, the little girl then holds her arms open for Santa to hug her. Santy does, and there aren’t too many dry eyes in the congregation while the two of them embrace. The little girl then steps back, waves at Santa, and returns to her seat. With all due respect to the Reverend Malkinski, little Samantha probably did more to remind everyone of what the true Christmas spirit is all about than anything else presented during this evening. And then some.

Tami: Well that certainly shows that Christmas isn't all sugar and spice and everything nice, no matter how hard others want to believe it. Talking about not being sugar and spice and everything nice, I need our readers to hear about your other books.

Ed: My first one was the first thing I ever wrote in my life beyond a school paper of some sort. It was a collection of very wild Juliette country boy stories that ended up with the title, "Sex, Dead Dogs, and Me: The Juliette Journals." That book started out in four bookstores in Macon, Georgia, and ended up being carried nationally by Books A Million and in the south by Barnes and Noble. Talk about a pure fluke, I always felt like the Forrest Gump of Literature after it came out. In 2000, the paperback version of the book was released, and in 2003 there were hardback and paperback versions of its sequel, "Rough As A Cob: More From the Juliette Journals." It did very well to boot.

A story of mine, "Sally the Screamer," was included in the recent (2007) Southern humor anthology, "Southern Fried Farce." It was such an honor to be in a book with writers like Roy Blount and Celia Rivenbark. And now there's "ChristmaSin'".

Tami: OK, everyone that's read this blog now wants to contact you and they just don't know where to go and what to do. They don't have a direct line to you like I do! So, tell them all Ed, where can they go to learn more about the 'real' Ed Williams?

Ed: Darlin', if they want to contact me, they can simply email me at: I also have a web site,, and a Twitter page,

Tami: Man, I'm havin' way too much fun to end the blog today, but if we keep chattin' I'll never get any work done. Thank you so much for stoppin' on by. (I wasn't talkin' like this when you first got here!) Got any closing words of wisdom for our readers or just somethin' to keep the good person in us a little bad?

Ed: Take a look at my book when it comes out, please, I'd hate to think I was sayin' all this stuff for nothing. And re being good and being bad, I'll just say this. I obviously never apologize for when I'm good, and I smile like hell when I think about being bad.
Or am bad.

Thanks everyone!

Tami: Well then from what I hear you must be smilin' alot. I hope you come back to see us soon Ed. Come on back next week guys we are going to have another interview.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Excerpt - Heartsong by Allison Knight

The year of Our Lord 1282

Rhianna ap Brynn Ffrydd swallowed her apprehension. She leaned against the cold stone wall of their cave and watched the English warriors gathering below in the valley. How she hated them.

This place offered little protection for her and her youngest brother, Arthur. Somehow, she had to get them away from here and back to their keep. She considered what few alternatives they had.

“I want them gone from here,” she muttered, thinking aloud.

“But, they will not go,” Arthur mumbled. “They wait for the rest of their army.”

Rhianna ignored him and slid to the floor of their hiding place. The English devils had torn her world asunder for a second time. On this day, the body of her sire lay on the mountain behind their keep, his life’s blood soaking into his beloved land, cut down by one of English knights below their cave. No one guarded her home and her older brothers waited in vain for an army who had somehow escaped their careful trap.

“Garrett deShay and Edward of England are responsible for this day,” she whispered her thoughts aloud, her husky tones coloring her melodious voice.

Was it only a fortnight ago she’d heard that name for the first time? Aye! The man had sent his messenger and with a harsh, ringing voice, he’d read from a coil of parchment.

“Garrett de Shay, the Lord of Knockin, as agent of Edward, King of England, demands surrender, surrender of Castle Bryn Ffrydd and all within and without.”

The Englishman had demanded nothing less than their souls.

She had to find a way to escape, get back to the keep and her charge as well as save the lad beside her. They could not be taken captive—for although Arthur was eight summers younger than she, he was still the son of a prince of Wales. Who knew what de Shay would do to him? And she had her own responsibilities.

“We must wait until darkness descends, slip from this cave and climb over the top of this mountain,” she murmured. It was their only chance.

Arthur nodded, “Aye, escape.” His pale face reflected his fear.

“Aye,” she murmured, trying to sound enthusiastic, to wipe some of the fear from his young face. He looked even younger than his fourteen summers.

Pounding hoofs announced the arrival of more horses. Chills shook her. Could Arthur have the right of it? Had more English arrived? She tried to swallow past the lump of panic in her throat. She had to see who had come to this valley, but when she stood, her brother grabbed her arm staying her.

“Wait,” he mouthed.

For a time all was quiet then a shout from below echoed through the cave.

“You in the cave, show yourself!”

The deep voice pierced Rhianna’s heart.

“I'll not show myself to an English cur.” Her words tumbled from her without a thought. “Leave now, or you will forfeit your lives in a pile of Welsh stones,” she shouted.

She gazed at Arthur her heart sinking. He shook his head, his face whiter than ever. She groaned with frustration. Would she never learn to keep her thoughts to herself? She should not have shouted at the enemy. Now they knew the cave held at least one Welshman.

Below the milling soldiers froze.

“A woman? There is a woman in the cave,” one soldier cried.

“We’re guarding a woman?” another asked.

Garrett dismounted, fighting to contain his rage. He glared at the men surrounding him.

“I don't want some woman.” He flung the words at his half brother, Colvin. “Where are the sons of Alwyn ap Brynn Ffrydd? You sent word the enemy was found.”

Colvin glared back.

Sweet Jesu, how Colvin hated him.

“Nay, my Lord.” A soldier under Colvin’s command stepped forward drawing his attention. “We did not know what we had cornered.”

“Why did you not rush the cave?” Garrett asked. “All these soldiers against one woman? Or are the brothers I seek in that cave as well?”

There was no answer, nor did he expect one. Colvin was a coward. If he had not been, Garrett knew his half brother would have found a way to kill him and take Knockin long ago. Colvin coveted everything Garrett possessed. It had always been so.

However, this was not the time for reflection. He released the ties of his chest guard.

“Here.” He turned to one of his men. “Help me with this. I will see what is in that cave.”

After he repositioned his sword, he placed a small dagger in his belt then started for the steep hill that led to the cave. Skirting rocks to stay in the shadows, he climbed toward the entrance.

Once he paused and yelled, “Woman, admit your plight. You are naught but a frightened wench. Come, I bid you show yourself. I will not harm you.”

“Nay! I tell you.” The woman yelled, “Begone, before I do you damage. I will place a curse upon your head. Leave! I want no putrid English bones to sully the soil of Wales.”

The fear in her husky voice eased some of Garrett’s concern. Was it possible she was alone? Mayhap he heard a second voice groan at her words.

He crept closer. Soon enough he would know if the cave held more than the woman.

Without making a sound, he grasped his sword, stealing toward the edge of the entrance. A quick glimpse revealed two figures pressed against the cave wall. One head of dark curls gleamed against the gray stone while lighter waves rested next to the first.

Another step in the shadows brought him closer. He studied the rear of the cave. Two horses shifted restlessly in one corner. He held back a chuckle. One looked much like an English battle horse, his brother’s horse. He paused, wondering how on Earth they had managed to steal his brother’s destrier.

He repressed a sigh of disgust. No other men hid here. The brothers he sought were not in this cave.

He watched the light-haired youth lean toward the other. He stared at their profiles and suddenly wanted to shout with victory. Colvin’s man, deVerny, had slain the man Edward wanted as hostage, but it appeared that here in this cave was one of the sons. He just might have a hostage for Edward after all.

Chapter 1 - Investment of the Heart by Linda Smith LaRoque

Simon Cole despised people who arrived late for
appointments. It showed a lack of respect for the other
person's time. That he waited for a woman, one he didn't
look forward to meeting, did little to soothe his mood.

He rolled his tense shoulders and neck, popped his
knuckles, then propped his elbows on the white tablecloth.
Leaning forward, he clasped his hands, and with his thumbs,
massaged his temples where the beginnings of a headache

Folks in Granite Springs considered him a fair,
considerate man—one always willing to lend a helping hand.
Today he hoped Hallie Barron would leave this restaurant
believing him to be a real bastard.

He would not, could not, let history repeat itself. If his
nephew, Justin, married Mrs. Barron's daughter, he feared
the boy would end up with a broken heart as had his father.
Justin's mother, Loretta, thought ranch life would be
romantic. It didn't take her long to get bored. She stuck it
out for a long time, then left five years ago leaving the
children to be reared on the ranch. When Sidney died in a
car crash two years later, protecting Justin and his little
sister Whitney, fell to Simon. If Mrs. Barron disliked him
enough, she might discourage the match.

Full to capacity, the room hummed with the low
murmur of voices, the clatter of dishes, and background
piano mood music. Periodic bursts of laughter broke through
the wall of restrained conversation.

Simon listened with half an ear, the sounds not much
different from the ones of cowboys in the cattle pen, the
lowing and whistling often interrupted by a bawling calf or
upset heifer.

Draining his first beer, he scanned the gaudy room,
taking in the familiar dark red flocked wallpaper, white
tablecloths, and heavy gold drapes pulled back with black
tassels. The red velvet swing suspended from the stage was
empty. He grinned. Damned if the place wasn't decked out
like an old west bordello, an expensive one. The décor
notwithstanding, they served superb steaks.

He ordered another beer and glanced around the
room. His gaze stopped at the attractive blonde sitting two
tables away. Dressed in a wrinkled-type skirt and a silky
close-fitting knit top, she sat with her chin propped on her
right hand. With her left, she drummed trimmed bare
fingernails on the white linen tablecloth that ended almost at
her lap. She sipped her iced tea as she surveyed the room,
her attention returning to the maitre d' near the entrance as
if expecting him to walk someone to her table.

Yeah, yeah, I know how you feel, honey. It's hell
waiting on someone when you've better things to do.
Hell. He had business in town this afternoon. If the
woman didn't hurry up, he'd end up stuck in the city instead
of returning to the ranch near Granite Springs. Not a
pleasant prospect since he hated the beds in motels. He
could call his cousin, Jo Beth. She'd be glad to see him, but
her matchmaking was an aggravation he didn't want to deal
with tonight.

A flash of color jerked his attention back to the nearby
table. The woman swiveled, swinging her arm over the back
of the chair, pulling her silky top tight across lush curves. He
caught his breath and almost choked on a mouthful of beer.
Jaw length blond hair teased her cheek. Straight white teeth
worried her rosy bottom lip. Oh, man. What a fine looking
woman. Scanning the area behind her, she appeared to
check the people at each table before moving on to the next.
When she turned back around, her gaze locked on his.

The pretty blonde blinked as he studied her. Heat
flushed her face. She didn't back down, and inspected him in
return. His eyes crinkled with mischief, and his shoulders
shook as he gave in to silent laughter. He held his beer
bottle with both hands, thumbs stroking the neck as if it
were a woman's neck. Her eyes widened, and her jaw
dropped as she observed his movements. When her gaze
returned to his face, he grinned and winked. She gasped at
his arrogance then she bit her lip to keep from laughing.

He watched as she picked up the napkin she'd dropped
when she'd turned. For a minute he thought she'd use it for
a fan to cool her still red face. But she stopped in mid motion
and laid it across her lap.

She sighed. Where was her dinner date? Most men she
knew arrived on time. It was her women friends who were
always late. She didn't consider this a date. It was a meeting
and since they were both busy people, they'd eat too.

Unable to resist the man's magnetic pull, she found
herself glancing sideways to study him. Somewhere in his
mid-forties, his plaid shirt, opened at the neck, exposed
traces of curling auburn hair. Below the short tablecloth, his
faded jeans hugged legs that ended in worn leather boots.
His wide-brimmed cowboy hat sat in the vacant chair to his
right. She looked again at his face, tanned and lined from
exposure to the sun, then back to his hat and boots.

Her mouth formed a silent "Uh-oh." Could this man be
Justin's uncle, her dinner date? Good grief, she hoped not. If
so, she'd burn to a cinder from embarrassment.

He'd said to look for a cowboy in a plaid shirt. She'd
been expecting a western shirt, not the casual sport shirt
type. This man didn't quite fit the picture in her head of a
rancher. Like she knew many ranchers.

Indecision gnawed at her. Should she confront him or
head for the door? Tired of waiting, she took another sip of
iced tea, then stood, picked up her purse and pushed in her

Simon watched her collect her things. Damn, she's
leaving. For some unknown reason, he was disappointed.
He'd enjoyed the harmless flirtation, not that he made a
habit of flirting. Hell, he never did. There was something
about her. Intelligence and a sense of humor radiated in her
eyes. As she'd studied him, he'd done likewise and could see
she wasn't too young for a man his age—in her late thirties
or early forties. He'd never understood why mature men
chased young women. They were smart enough, he
supposed, but what could they have in common, talk about?
What would she be like if they had a chance to get
acquainted? When he'd winked at her, she hadn't smiled, but
he could tell by the twitch of her lips she'd been tempted.

As soon as Justin took over the ranch, he hoped to
find a woman like this one. At one time he'd thought he and
Joanne would marry, but there was no spark between them,
at least not on his part. He knew she'd been disappointed,
but they'd remained good friends.

Right how, it appeared like his dinner guest had at last
arrived. A beaming petite woman, in her mid-fifties strolled
his way. She wiggled her fingers in greeting. He stood as she
approached and pasted a smile on his face. Without glancing
in his direction, she breezed past in a cloud of cloying
perfume and kissed the grinning man at the table behind

Well hell, it looks like she's not coming. I may as well
go ahead and order. When he turned back, the attractive
blonde stood beside his table.

This must be my lucky day. Without speaking he
enjoyed the view. Small smile lines crinkled around her eyes
and mouth, adding to her appeal. Without having met this
lady, he knew he could like her. Like, hell. He was attracted.
She smiled. "Hello, I—"

Her voice sounded warm and low, like aged whiskey,
soothing. Simon had a strong urge to pull her close to see if
her head would fit just under his chin. Not that he would
touch her. Hands clasped at her waist, she twisted them as
she looked at him and spoke.

"Excuse me," she said. "This is awkward, but I've been
waiting to meet a man named Simon Cole, and I wondered if
you were him?"

Oh, God, please no.

He nodded. She beamed and extended her hand. "Oh,
thank goodness. I was afraid I'd be making a fool of myself.
I'm Hallie Barron."

Oh hell, why did this woman have to be Hallie Barron?
His neck flushed with heat, his smile froze, and then melted
into a grimace. Disappointment hit him hard, leaving an ache
in his belly. He struggled to regain his composure, cover his

Hallie stood waiting for some response. The smiling,
teasing man turned sober, frowning at her. Had she made a
mistake? After a long pause, he gazed down at her
outstretched hand and in slow motion, clasped it.

"It's about time. I thought you'd never get here." He
pulled out a chair for her and motioned for her to join him.

"You've got to be kidding," she said, sitting. "I arrived
long before you."

He cleared his throat. "You're not what I expected."
She grinned and cocked an eyebrow. "What did you
expect? Someone a little older, perhaps?" Glancing at the
table behind him, she added. "Wearing a flower print dress
and a wide brimmed hat?"

"Maybe." He handed her a menu.

She laughed. "Well, you weren't what I expected
either. I watched for a man in a country western shirt—you
know, the kind with snaps down the front and on the
pockets—nothing like the sporty type you have on."
He glanced down at what he had on then back to her.

"Would you like a beer or mixed drink? If you don't mind, we
need to order. I've got appointments this afternoon." He
turned and signaled the waiter.

"Yes, a glass of white wine would be nice." A busy
woman herself, she understood his need to rush. "And a chef
salad with the dressing on the side." She clasped her hands
on the table. "I also have a busy afternoon, Mr. Cole, so,
shall we begin. What do you need to discuss with me?"

He leaned back in his chair. "I might as well get right
to the point. This is nothing personal, but I don't want my
nephew to marry your daughter." He released a breath and

For a minute Hallie couldn't speak, then blurted, "Well,
why not?" She picked up the glass of wine the waiter set
before her and took a sip. It was cool and tart on her tongue.

"From what I understand, you've never met Elise. How could
you object?"

Hands locked tight in her lap, knuckles white and
shoulders rigid, she listened in shocked silence. "This has
nothing to do with your daughter. I've nothing against her.
I'm sure she's a nice girl, but she's not the right one for
Justin." The hands that had caressed his beer bottle minutes
before now held it in a harsh grip. She expected it to shatter
any minute.

Not right for his nephew? Her daughter? "How do you
know this?" Angry sparks danced in her head making it
difficult to be civil. "Is this some kind of cowboy intuition or

A low growl erupted from him. Jaws clenched, he
leaned closer. Hallie straightened her back. "I know because
Justin's been sweet on the neighbor's daughter for years.
She's what both he and the ranch need. She's familiar with
the lifestyle and will bring our two properties together. The
Cole ranch needs that partnership to survive."

"He may have been fond of this girl at one time, but
now he's engaged to my daughter." The movement of her
hair tickled her cheek. She flipped it away in frustration.

He combed his fingers through his hair impatiently. "I
don't expect you to understand, being a city woman and all,
but your daughter can't be the help to Justin Caitlyn can. Of
what use would a woman with a theater degree be on a
working ranch? Tell me that."

Ignoring his question, she asked one of her own.

"What about love? Doesn't it have some importance? It's
obvious Elise is his choice, not this neighbor girl."

He snorted. "Love? These kids know nothing about it.
They've known each other for such a short time. They're
infatuated. You know—in lust."

His remark was the final straw. She threw her napkin
on the table and reached for her purse.

Simon clasped her hand to keep her in her seat.

"Please, Mrs. Barron, wait a minute and let me finish."
She pulled from his grasp but remained seated. "I
can't imagine what you could add to this delightful
conversation. I hope you know if you follow through on this,
Justin will end up hating you."

He shook his head and cleared his throat. "I'd hoped
you could help me. Between the two of us, given time, we
could help these kids see reason. You know, split them up."

The deep blue eyes that had crinkled with mischief, now
beseeched her. "I know it'd be hard for them at first, but it'd
be what's best for both of them. What do they have in
common? I'll tell you what, nothing. Your daughter doesn't
have the least idea what it's like to live and work on a

"That may be true, but if they love each other, they'll
work hard to overcome any differences they encounter."
Simon couldn't help but admire the woman. Her
defense of her daughter was as it should be. If the situation
were reversed, he'd do the same for Justin.

Keeping his voice down, he spoke through gritted
teeth. "I've seen first hand what can happen when two
people so different try to make a life in ranching. One of
them will be hurt, and, by God, I don't want it to be my
nephew. For that matter, I wouldn't want to wish it on your
daughter, either. Justin's mother put the ranch in financial
trouble. Caitlyn would bring land and the money needed to
return it to its original prosperity."

"I'm sorry, but not all women are like your sister-inlaw.
Maybe money can be found elsewhere." She knew a
way. Elise would inherit a large sum of money when she
married, but she'd promised Elise's father not to reveal the
information. "I'll not be party to this plot to break them up."
She stood, turned on her heel, and walked away from
the despicable man.

~ * ~

Simon shook his head. That went well. The look
of shock on her face, that pretty mouth shaped in an "O"
when he proposed they buddy up to sabotage the kids'
wedding plans, had been comical. However, he hadn't
laughed. Instead of elation, he felt empty. He respected her
defense of her daughter, but he had to make it clear. He'd do
whatever it took to prevent this marriage. The ranch's
future, as well as Justin's, was at stake.

What had caused his nephew's change of heart this
spring? The reason remained a mystery that worried him. At
Christmas, love had vibrated between him and Caitlyn like
heat rising on the scorching Texas highway. Then in March,
he changed.

Propping his elbows on the table, he dropped his head
into his hands and massaged his temples. A soft, subtle
scent reached his nostrils. Lowering his right hand, the one
he'd caught her wrist with to his nose, he sniffed. Her
fragrance smelled clean, fresh, and tart like the woman
herself. Heat coursed through his body. God, she was
something with her face flushed and fire in her eyes. His
reaction to her exceeded anything he'd felt for a woman in
years. He didn't understand it. What was it about her? It
must be her scent—those pheromones or whatever the hell
chemicals they say caused attraction these days. Doc better
add some Field and Stream magazines to the women's
magazines to her waiting room reading material.

Damn. He scowled at the sixteen-ounce sirloin he'd
been looking forward to. His appetite gone, he forced himself
to take a bite of his steak. Having met Hallie Barron and
faced her disdain, the food tasted like cardboard. The idea of
having made an enemy of her didn't sit well.

She'd left him no doubt of what she thought of him.
Her dislike made his job easier. One comment had cut to the
bone—would Justin hate him?

~ * ~

Hallie couldn't believe the audacity of that insufferable
man sitting in the restaurant.

Jerking open the door to her white Lincoln Town Car,
she threw her purse across the seat, then slid behind the
wheel. With the door closed it was hot enough to bake bread.
She started the car, turned the air conditioner on, and
directed the vents toward her flaming face. Laying her head
on the steering wheel, she strived for calm.

His comments echoed in her head. Yes, maybe the
kids were rushing things. They hadn't known each other
long, but to stoop to what he'd suggested went beyond
ludicrous. If he hadn't made her so mad, she'd have told him
she thought time together before the wedding was a good
idea. Let them get to know each other better on the turf
where they'd build their life together. Let nature take its
course, so to speak. But, to plan and plot against them? No
way would she stoop so low. And to think she had been
attracted to him.

Before she met him, that is. Yet, she couldn't help but
understand his worries. She respected him for trying to save
Justin's ranch, but no amount of money would assure
happiness. She'd learned that first hand. She'd wanted to tell
him Elise would bring money to the marriage but she'd
promised her husband she wouldn't. Elise didn't even know
about her inheritance. Her father hadn't wanted someone to
marry her for her money.

Georgetown was a short drive from Austin. Heavy
traffic made it take longer to reach. The cool air tossed her
hair, freezing her face and ears. She lowered the
temperature and adjusted the vents. What would she tell

Hallie turned onto the blacktop road leading to her
home north of Georgetown. Fruitless pear trees lined both
sides of the road, a glorious sight when in full bloom. Her
two-story brick Georgian home came into view. It was more
extravagant than she and James ever dreamed they'd have.

With four bedrooms, four and a half baths, they were very
comfortable. James, her deceased husband, had provided
well for them by investing in the stock market. The house
was paid for and she and both kids had substantial portfolios
for the future. Her dress shop, Stepping Up, on the square in
Georgetown provided whatever else they needed, like the
new car.

Elise lounged on the padded front porch glider, one
long bare leg hung over the armrest while the other kept up
the back and forth movement. Smile on her face, she
discarded her book and with the grace of a gazelle, met her
mother on the sidewalk.

"Hi, Mom. You're back early." Brow wrinkled, she
added. "Did everything go all right?"

Hallie put her arm around her daughter's waist and
hugged her to her side. They strolled up the walk together.

"Our meeting went fine. I wasn't hungry, so I left
before eating. We got our talking done and I wanted to get

My God. Lying to my own daughter. What will I stoop
to next?

Hallie opened the door and entered the cool of the
wide entry hall. Dropping her purse and keys on the hall
table, she walked into the living room, kicked off her shoes
and sat on the crème leather sofa with one leg drawn under
her. Double French doors drew her eye to the spacious lawn.
Crepe myrtle bushes, shaped into small trees, outlined the
circle drive. Their delicate pink blooms complemented the
accents of the muted mauve and green in her French country
decor. Like a cool watercolor painting, it was a soothing
scene, one she'd enjoyed for years.

At times like this, troubling situations or joyous
occasions, she missed James the most. She'd recovered from
her grief, but not the loneliness—the joy of sharing with
someone you love. Of course, she missed sex too, but until
today, no one had stirred her.

"And…?" Elise waited in expectation.

"And what?"

"Mother!" Elise stood with hands on her hips. She
plopped down beside Hallie. "You know what. Will he like
me? What's he like? Justin thinks he hung the moon."

Hallie smiled at her daughter, took her face in both
hands and kissed each cheek. She stroked the long flaxen
hair back behind each ear. She wasn't going to let Simon
Cole hurt her baby. "He will when he gets a chance to know

Elise leaned back and studied her mother's face.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means," she changed positions on the sofa to ease
the cramp in her hip, "Simon doesn't think you two are
suited, that you'll be able to adjust to living on the ranch so
far from a big city."

"Hmm. He doesn't, does he?" She stared out on the
lawn in thought and sighed. "Well, he has a right to his
opinion. I might feel the same if I were in his shoes. Justin's
mother couldn't handle it."

Relieved to have the issue in the open, Hallie relaxed.

"I'm glad you're not upset."

"What about you, Mom? How do you feel about our

"I have some reservations. You haven't known each
other long, and though you've been exposed to rural life,
you've never experienced the hard work involved." She
shrugged. "But, I can't dictate your life. I hope during the
next few months you'll explore your feelings and
expectations." Hallie stood. "Come into the bedroom with me
while I change into something comfortable."

She stepped into her large closet, Elise's chatter
following her path. "Justin called awhile ago. He's glad you
were meeting his Uncle Simon. Mom, he invited us to come
stay on the ranch for a couple of weeks."

Hallie froze in the process of removing her skirt. Two
weeks on the ranch with Simon Cole? Would either of them
survive? She'd never been so mad at a man before. And,
mad at herself for being attracted to him.

Stepping out of the skirt, she called to Elise from the
closet. "Let me think about it." Elise sounded happy about
the prospect.

"Sure, Mom."

The time for Elise and Justin would be beneficial, but
could she face Simon after their encounter today? A vacation
would be good for her. She hadn't taken one since the
summer before James died. Right after school started she'd
bought the boutique, remodeled and decorated before
bringing in a higher quality clothes. A vacation would be
good for her. She snorted. A cruise to Alaska, away from
Simon Cole, would be better.

Dressed in denim shorts and a white cotton blouse,
she sat on the bed to put on her sneakers.

The boutique wouldn't be a problem. Gladys would fill
in for her. She'd jump at the chance. But she would need to
come back to town for a day or two to meet with a lady from
Fredericksburg. The woman wanted to open a Stepping Up
Boutique in the small tourist town and wanted her help. If a
good credit risk, she might consider providing the funds.

Elise gave her a quick hug. "Let me know when you
make up your mind." She started for the door then turned
back. "You know, even if we don't go, you need to get away
from the store for awhile."

"Yes, you're right."

She couldn't tell Elise the full extent of her
conversation with Simon Cole. She'd be on the defensive
when she met him and not herself. After he met Elise, no
way could he not adore her.

If Simon pursued their attraction, would she be able to
resist him? The love and companionship of a man hadn't
been an issue before today. Now the need lingered in her
mind. Their encounter had been an eye opener. Her body
wasn't dead after all. Neither was her heart. But loving could
bring about hurt and disappointment. She wasn't sure she
wanted to expose her emotions again. Love and life with
James had been perfect, and his death devastated her. If she
decided to get involved with a man, it sure as heck wouldn't
be with Simon Cole. "Hell, yes I can resist him."

~ * ~

Elise appeared in the doorway of Hallie's bedroom.
Hair held on top of her head with a stretch band, it bounced
as she walked toward the bed.

"Mom, phone for you." She mouthed, "It's a man,"
and wiggled her eyebrows with a grin.

Hallie looked at the bedside clock. It read 10:25 p.m.
Who could be calling at this hour? And what man? Could it be
Simon? Her heart leapt at the possibility. Maybe he wanted
to cancel the invitation Justin had extended. Laying her book
aside, she took the phone from Elise.


"Sorry to call so late but I just got back to the ranch."
Goosebumps rose on her arms at the sound of his
sexy drawl. "Mr. Cole?"

Elise stretched out across the foot of the bed.

"Yes, this is Simon." He cleared his throat. "I hear
Justin invited you and your daughter out to the ranch for a
couple of weeks."

She held the phone to her nightshirt. "Out," she
whispered using her toe to urge Elise off the bed.

Elise left the room, closing the door behind her.

"Yes. Elise told me when I got home this afternoon."
She pulled at the threads on her chenille bedspread. "I've
given it some thought and don't think it's a good idea."

She held her breath waiting for his response, uncertain
how she'd feel if he agreed with her, then added. "After our
meeting today, it would be hard for either one of us to be
civil to each other."

"We're being polite right now. Don't you think we
could act like mature adults and be courteous regardless of
how we feel?"

So, he was still angry too. "Maybe. But don't you think
the kids and your mother will feel the tension between us?"
He was quiet for a moment.

"I think it's a good idea for you and Elise to visit. It'll
give her a chance to experience ranch life, and give her and
Justin time to get to know one another better."

"I can't argue with that." She smoothed out the
threads on the bedspread.

"Don't take me wrong, I'm still against this marriage
and will fight it tooth and nail, however—"

Hallie laughed. "You've made your intentions clear, Mr.
Cole. But, I think it would be a mistake to keep them from
having this one-on-one time together to see if their feelings
are genuine and lasting."

He coughed. "Mrs. Barron, I'm not a complete ogre
and if you decide to make the trip, I'll be nothing but polite
to you and your daughter while you're in our home."

She had to give the man credit. He'd called and
reinforced the invitation. She could at least do the same. "I'll
try not to show my animosity, though after our earlier
conversation, it'll be hard."

He chuckled. "I think we both know where we stand
on this issue."

~ * ~

Hanging up the phone, Simon leaned back in the old
leather chair, and propped his feet on the desk. Was he
doing the right thing going along with this visit? So much
was at stake. He sure as hell didn't want to cause a rift
between him and Justin. Justin was like his own son. He
didn't think Justin loved Elise, not the true abiding kind that
lasted a lifetime—like his parents, Anthony and Ruth Cole,
had shared.

Remembering the mornings he'd caught his dad
grabbing his mom and kissing her in front of the kitchen
stove made him smile. She'd tell Dad, "Go on about your
business, old man." He'd say, "I am. This is my business."

He'd swat her on the rear with his big hand, and popping him
with her dishtowel, she'd send him jumping out of her way.

That old stove still stood in the kitchen at the original
ranch house, his ranch. He looked around at the room—
Sidney's office. It was the one room in the dwelling where he
felt at home. His brother, Sidney, built this monstrosity five
miles west of the existing home place. His wife, Loretta,
didn't like the plain old farmhouse. Which worked out well
while Sidney was alive. Simon loved the old place where he'd
lived with their mother, Ruth, until his brother died. Now he
and Ruth were at the new house with Sidney's kids.
Simon lowered his feet to the floor, stood and walked
into the large den where his mother sat mending his and
Justin's work clothes. He leaned into the doorframe, one foot
crossed over the other in what he hoped resembled a relaxed

"Mama, Mrs. Barron and her daughter Elise are coming
Monday to stay for a couple of weeks. Will that be all right?"

Putting her sewing down, she smiled at him. "Of
course it will. I'll enjoy having some women in the house."

She patted the empty cushion next to her. Simon
walked over and sat down. She picked up the shirt and went
back to sewing on buttons. He put his arm around her
shoulders and hugged. Leaning down, he kissed the silver
hair at her temples. She still wore it long and pulled back,
twisted into a chignon, like Dad had loved it.

"You know I'm against this match, don't you, Mama?
They come from different backgrounds. Her mother is pretty,
like Loretta, only blonde. Doesn't look like she's worked a
day in her life. I can't see the relationship working. It's like
history repeating itself."

Her hands stopped their work as she thought about
what he'd said. "Simon, you can't know any such thing. You
can't judge all women by Loretta. I've always wondered if
your dislike and distrust of Loretta is why you never married.
You should have a family and kids of your own."

"I do. I've got you, Justin and Whitney. You're all the
family I need."

She sighed. "I know you're worried about finances and
afraid Justin will make a mistake like Sidney's. But, Justin's a
lot smarter than his daddy. He saw how he was hurt, and
he's level-headed."

"I hope you're right, Mama. But, I don't know how this
ranch is going to survive if this marriage takes place."

~ * ~

"Hell, son. You sure you're doing the right thing?"

Chester, Simon's grizzled cowhand turned chow boss, leaned
over his shoulder to better view the map Simon had drawn
for the women arriving the following day. Chester scratched
his week's worth of gray stubble as he talked. "If your mama
finds out what's going on she'll skin you alive."

Chester had known Simon most of his life. He'd
watched him grow to manhood and had been there for him
when both his father, Anthony, and brother Sidney died.
Simon hated to think what they'd have done if he hadn't
been here to help pick up the pieces. He loved the old coot,
as irritating as he could be at times.

"Well then, I'll have to make sure she doesn't find out,
Chester. I told Mama they would arrive Sunday or Monday. It
depends on how long they survive at the old cabin."

He leaned back in the old cowhide-covered chair and
folded his arms over his chest. "I'm betting they leave after
one day. Then I can tell Mama they called and changed their

Chester hitched up his baggy pants before he plunked
his skinny frame down in the chair across from him. "Simon,
you're fooling yourself. Your mama knows everything that
goes on around here, and I'm here to tell ya, she ain't gonna
like this, that's for dang sure."

Simon's chair hit the floor with a thunk. "It can't be
helped, Chester. We've got to do something to keep those
two kids apart."

He'd tried his best to come up with an idea of how to
make Justin and Elise break their engagement. The best he
could do was to make the women so uncomfortable they'd
want to leave. Being city ladies, they'd balk at the idea of
spending one night, much less two, at the old homestead

Chester jerked his skinny frame upright in the chair.

"We! Whatda ya mean, we? I'm staying out of this tangle.
Miz Ruth will run me clean off this place if she finds out I
took part in this farce."

He watched Chester run his hand through the few
strands of hair left on his head. They were so wispy it took
several passes to get them to lie down.

"Anyhow, don't you feel bad lying like this?"

Simon shoved his chair back from the table. "I feel like
shit and you know it."

He scooped up his map, walked to the door and stood
with one arm leaning against the frame, head down. "I need
your help, Chester. Please don't let me down." The screen
door slammed shut behind him.