BESTSELLING AND AWARD WINNING AUTHOR OF WESTERN ROMANCE!
Caroline Clemmons writes historical and contemporary genre fiction. Historical romances, contemporary romantic suspense, mysteries, and paranormals are among her current works. Learn more about her at www.carolineclemmons.com
This novel is the first book in Willow Rose's electrifying new Harry Hunter series.
Detective Harry Hunter of Miami PD’s homicide squad throws himself into a case no one asked him to solve.
Four teenagers from one of Miami's affluent neighborhoods are murdered on a boat. Another is found in a dumpster. All five of them go to the same school and are on a list of witnesses to another crime.
Because he's in bad standing with his boss, Harry is given the task of protecting a possible future victim, but Harry isn't always known to follow his boss's orders.
Soon, he'll risk everything while racing to stop a killer who has left everyone else in the homicide squad shaking in terror.
ALL THE GOOD GIRLS is the first book in the Harry Hunter Mystery Series and can be read as a standalone.
The Queen of Scream aka Willow Rose is a #1 Amazon Best-selling Author and an Amazon ALL-star Author of more than 60 novels.
She writes Mystery, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Horror, Supernatural thrillers, and Fantasy.
Willow's books are fast-paced, nail-biting pageturners with twists you won't see coming. Several of her books have reached the Kindle top 10 of ALL books in the US, UK, and Canada. She has sold more than three million books.
Willow lives on Florida's Space Coast with her husband and two daughters. When she is not writing or reading, you will find her surfing and watch the dolphins play in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
Saturday, March 28, is another book birthday for me! POLKA WITH PAULINE, The Matchmaker’s Ball,
book 8, is available in e-book, is in KU, and will soon be in paperback. This stand-alone is a sweet western historical romance. It's on preorder until its release.
you getting cabin fever? If you’re at home, why not curl up with a book? There’s a
vacation waiting within the pages. Come travel with us!
the blurb summary of POLKA WITH PAULINE set in the nineteenth century:
Brubaker arrives in Creede, Colorado from Denver to help care for her aunt while
the aunt’s broken leg heals. Her aunt and uncle are special favorites of
Pauline’s. They’ve recently retired to Creede due to her uncle’s heart
problems. Pauline’s hesitant to give in to her attraction to Creighton because
she will only be in Creede the few weeks her aunt needs her help. Her parents
and her life are in Denver.
Reed makes amazing pieces of furniture. They sell as fast as he can create
them. Creighton meets Pauline when her aunt and the sponsor of the Matchmaker
Balls conspire to have them attend a dance together. He is immediately
attracted to Pauline but she gives mixed signals. Later a man who claims to be
her fiancé warns Creighton away from her. Creighton is too smart to fall for
fire bombs destroy Creighton’s workshop and his living quarters in the back, and
he’s almost trapped inside. Fortunately, he has purchased a house in order to
marry Pauline and had moved some of his things there before the fire. Who sent
firebombs into his workshop? The
arsonist must be caught before Pauline, her aunt and uncle, and Creighton are
Pauline and Creighton were playing
chess when the doorbell chimed. He’d been calling on her two or three times a
Uncle Henry folded his newspaper. “Not
expecting anyone. I’ll see who that can be.”
Pauline froze when she heard the
visitor’s voice. What on earth was he doing here?
Creighton looked up from the chess
board and stared at her face. “I should go.”
She reached across the game table and
laid her hand on his. “There’s really no reason to leave. Please stay.”
Henry led the way into the parlor.
“Jasper Tabor, this is Creighton Reed, a local friend.”
Jasper surveyed the room. “I hope I’m
not interrupting your evening.”
He was a handsome man whose attire was
neat and of the latest style. His light brown hair was sleek and his handlebar
mustache waxed to perfection. She could find no fault with his appearance. She
couldn’t pinpoint a single reason for her distrust. Perhaps it was the
predatory look in his brown eyes.
Uncle Henry gestured to her and
Creighton. “Not at all, Jasper. Creighton is a good friend. Have a seat. What
brings you to Creede?”
Jasper sat in the new rocking chair.
“Curiosity mostly. I wondered how you’re getting on here. Fred thought I should
check on Pauline.”
Pauline stared at him. “Did Papa send
you to check up on me?”
I hope this finds
you well and content. My routine hasn’t changed much. Hero and I don’t have
small children in the house to stay home from school, Hero is retired, and we
have enough groceries for a week or two—more if we eat pinto beans and cornbread.
care and stay inside your home or in your yard. Stay well, my friends!
Don't forget the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post!
Laurel's Safe Harbor The Flowers of Avenel Book 4 By Karen Tjebben Contemporary Romance
Date Published: March 20, 2020
Five years ago, April Copeland died so that Laurel Hansen could be born. Escaping from the Callahan brothers hadn’t been easy, but she did it for her unborn daughter, Kara. Now, living in the quiet beach town of Avenel, Laurel feels safe. She’s built a life for herself and Kara. She may even open her heart to a man again, but feeling safe and being safe are two very different things.
Dalton Motley is the kind of guy ladies throw themselves at, which makes Laurel’s disinterest in him more attractive. They’d met once. He’d even been a sort of knight in shining armor to her. So, when she doesn’t recall his name, a seed of disappointment wriggles into his soul, but it’s not there for long. Her delightful laugh thrums gently over his heart and snatches the disappointment before it can take root. Between the joy in her eyes and the feminine timbre of her voice, he’s a goner. It didn’t matter that she didn’t recall his name. He was going to break down the walls she’d built around her heart.
Liam Callahan is an alpha-male who demands respect wherever he goes. He runs two successful businesses: one legal, the other not. During a trip down the coast, Fate smiles upon him. In an accidental meeting, he brushes hands with a young woman. When their gazes connect, her eyes grow big with revulsion. A hint of recognition blooms in Liam’s memory. The tone and cadence of her words spoken in fear make his heart beat a little faster. Was she the one who got away?
A nervous tension coiled in Laurel’s gut when she spotted the lone man along the beach. Who was he? Was he following them?
“What do you think?” Dalton asked.
She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry.” She shook her head in embarrassment. “What did you ask me?”
Dalton didn’t like the way tension wrinkled the skinned around her eyes or how she tightened her lips. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
She shook her head and uttered a weak, “Nothing.”
“I don’t buy that. Really, what’s wrong?” He rubbed his hands up and down her arms. “You can trust me.”
His words tugged at her heart. He wanted her to trust him, and from the way he kissed her, with such passion and gentleness, she knew that she could. How she felt that so confidently and so quickly should scare her. She’d trusted Rory and Liam. She’d closed her eyes to the red flags popping up around the Callahan brothers, but she couldn’t find a single yellow flag waving around Dalton.
Could she trust him? Her heart pounded a resounding yes, and surprisingly, her brain acknowledged the truth. If she ever wanted something real with a man, she’d have to share her past.
“There’s someone from my past that I said goodbye to years ago. I didn’t think our paths would ever cross again.” She’d prayed that their paths would never cross, that she could live a normal existence without the fear of the brothers entering her life.
She gave a noncommittal shrug of a shoulder. “I saw someone today that reminded me of him. That’s all.” And that was all she was telling Dalton. No way would she get into the truth of who the Callahan brothers were. What they did for a living. The kind of men she was hiding from.
Guest Author Post
The Nurtured Lure of Romantic
by Karen Tjebben
The love of literature is built in
children’s early years. As toddlers, children pour over the pages, admiring
pictures that capture their attention and ignite their imaginations. As
children grow into adolescence, books are an easy way to build connections from
one world or time to another. The magical pages transport children to different
times and cultures. They get to swim with mermaids or travel through rough
waters in rickety boats with explorers. There is no limit to the adventures
children can enjoy through books.
And who doesn’t like a little
romance? Without realizing it, our culture has provided literature with hints
of romance to young children for centuries. Some of the timeless classics woo
young girls with the delights of love and protection. As a child, what are some
of your favorite stories? Cinderella,
Beauty and the Beast, or The Princess Bride? The underlying
current of friendship and love cannot be denied, no matter how innocent and
subtle. And you cannot forget the amazing effect Disney has on children. Disney
is just now creating stronger, independent female characters who don’t wait to
be rescued, but who slay their own villains and overcome their challenges.
Parents have used literature
sprinkled with fear to teach their children about the dangers in the world
around us. The Brothers Grimm wrote classics so troubling that they have been altered
to soften the horror for children and lessen the nightmares that surely result.
Hansel and Gretel,Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood taught the dangers of trusting strangers and
making bad decisions. And for adolescents, the riveting true events portrayed
in Number the Stars and Stella by Starlight frighten and inform
young adolescents of the true evils that lurk around them. There’s an
excitement and rush of adrenaline that suspense or horror books provide to the
It’s no surprise that the romance
genre is a billion-dollar industry. People have been conditioned to love happy
endings and the occasional fright. So, the blending of romance with suspense
delivers an incredible pull that keeps readers turning the pages long after
About the Author
Karen Tjebben lives in central North Carolina with her wonderful husband and twin daughters. She loves traveling the world. Whether it’s to the heights of Yosemite, the white sands of the Caribbean, or even Down Under, she’s always ready to pack a bag in search of inspiration. She enjoys creating worlds filled with unique characters that will delight and raise goose bumps on her readers.
Don't forget the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!
Hazard in Hampshire
Date Published: Oct 13, 2019
Publisher: Camel Press
Claire Barclay returns to England from her last post in Seattle, buying a house in a village and settling down at forty-six. She responds to an invitation to tea and stumbles upon the murdered body of Mrs. Paulson, a prominent villager. As the first person to find the victim, she is one of the first to be investigated. She answers the persistent questions of Detective Inspector Mark Evans and is determined to give him another suspect. Mrs. Paulson had been the president of the local Mystery Books Club? Was the motive for murder located in the archives of the book club? She had lived in the village all her life, been involved in many organizations and societies and knew many secrets of the villagers. Was one secret too dangerous for her to keep? She had been wealthy and left her money to a member of the club. Could the legatee have been impatient for her inheritance? Three ladies from San Francisco join Claire’s book tour and, with avid curiosity, help Claire investigate the murder. Complicated by Claire`s need to care for her newly acquired Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, they travel through Hampshire, Sussex and Oxfordshire to visit sites of mystery writers. The tourists are enthusiastic about mystery novels and also about the local murder and offer imaginative solutions. Claire listens to their advice, attempting to ferret out the story behind the murder while trying not to impede the official enquiry of the increasingly attractive Detective Inspector Mark Evans.
An independent woman, her dog and murder. Throw in a Hampshire village and you have the perfect setting for a cozy.
I had expected my hostess at the tea party to be boring. I hadn’t expected her to be dead. When I first glimpsed her, I wasn’t sure if the body was my hostess. But she was the only person in the gazebo and she had asked me to meet her there. This must be Mrs. Paulson. I swallowed, tried to steady my breathing and looked for someone to ask. The street was screened by a trellis of roses, preventing me from seeing anyone passing by. I couldn’t hear anyone. There was no one to accept the responsibly of dealing with this except me. Mrs. Paulson wasn’t a friend of mine. I didn’t even remember her. She claimed she’d met me at a conference and sent an invitation to tea which arrived just as I was looking for an escape from my house.
First thing that morning, I’d tried to fix the sink. I managed to shut off the water and attempted to loosen a nut put on by a plumber with sadistic intentions. It would not budge. I heard the letter box lid clang. Good. A distraction. I’d give up on the plumbing as an impossible task. I pushed to my feet, cracked my head on the slanted sink, but managed to stand straight in the tiny loo and deposit the
useless wrench in the sink. Since I was back in England, it wasn’t a wrench, it was a spanner. Still useless.
I trailed my hand along the rail as I moved quickly down the stairs, admiring the warm brown wood someone carved many years ago. I smiled. It was all mine. After all my years of traveling, I was surprised to discover I was a nester at heart and passionate about owning a home.
The envelope I fished from the letter box was square, not the usual business style. Inside, I found an invitation to afternoon tea. Today. Afternoon tea? I hadn’t been to afternoon tea since I was a child.
“Mrs. Ernest Paulson requests the honour of your presence at her home……”
I read the rest of the printed invitation quickly. The date and time, today at two, were written in elegant cursive as was a message on the bottom. “I look forward to pursuing our acquaintance started at the Crimefest in Bristol.”
Bristol. I couldn’t put a face to her name as there were numerous people who had milled around, chatting and asking questions at the conference. She must have been one of the attendees, living here in my new village. This was a chance to meet someone local. I’d go and leave my plumbing problems behind me.
I walked up her gravel walk, printed invitation with its written gracious message tucked in my rucksack. She lived in an attractive brick two-up-twodown cottage with wisteria rambling over the front porch and yellow roses almost covering the front paned windows. A bee hummed past my ear. It was a beautiful spot, a quintessential English village cottage and garden.
“Take the left-hand path to the gazebo,” the instructions had said. “I will serve tea there.”
Dutifully, I turned left and approached the charming octagonal gazebo. I could see a table laden with teapot, cups and saucers and a tier of goodies, but no Mrs. Paulson. As I approached the brick steps I saw a foot, Joseph Siegal shoe, mid-range expensive, then the ankle and finally a woman stretched out on the wooden floor.
“Mrs. Paulson?” I leaned over her. “What’s the matter?”
She was silent. A chaffinch twittered nearby and a brambling called its buzzerlike steady note. I could hear a car rumble past on the road. I touched her wrist. No pulse. Every tour guide has to have a first-aid certificate, so I knew how to detect a pulse. I tried at the carotid artery. Again, no pulse. No respirations. Wide open blue eyes, glazed and immobile. Mrs. Paulson was definitely dead. Should I
start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? I hesitated. Could I get her heart working? Should I compress her chest? Those glazed eyes told me not to try. She was dead.
I shuddered. Think, Claire. A smack above the heart can sometimes re-start it. I’d try it. I punched her hard in the sternum. Her body rolled a little, but there was no response. I struck her chest twice more and could detect no difference. Not even a flutter from her pulse. Whoever Mrs. Paulson had been, she was gone.
I sat back, reached into my rucksack for my cell phone and hit 9-9-9. I was calm. The cell phone was shaking. I gave my cell phone number to the crisp voice on the other end. It asked me to wait. Of course, I’d wait.
I didn’t remember her from Bristol. She looked to be about sixty or so, hair still dark and pulled back with a couple of small combs keeping it away from her face. She wore a long vest over a blousy shirt and long pants. Nothing was skewed or disarranged. She hadn’t fought off anyone. She didn’t look as though she had been hit, shot or shaken. Maybe a heart attack? I worked hard at logically assessing the scene, trying to stem off the shakes that were waiting to rock my body. There was a scent of roses that was sweet and enduring. Somehow it was indecent to leave Mrs. Paulson alone, and the ambulance dispatcher expected me to stay. I took a long deep breath. That was better. I studied the red roses peeking in through the gazebo supports their canes surrounded by a thick bush. I gazed intently, looking for a thrush twittering somewhere in that bush. It seemed an eon before the ambulance arrived. I gave my name, Claire Barclay, and my new address, The Briars A, to the young constable who arrived with the ambulance. I told him what I had done in case there was a bruise on her sternum that confounded the police surgeon.
“Good of you to try, madam. Not everyone knows enough to do that.” He smiled at me.
“It didn’t help.” I swallowed. I wished I remembered more from my First Aid classes.
“Once in a while it does help.” He was comforting.
I showed him the invitation I’d received and told him I couldn’t identify her as Mrs. Paulson as I couldn’t remember her from the Bristol conference. I hoped I was making sense. Conference. Bristol. Mystery books. It might have sounded like gobblygook.
“Not to worry, madam,” he said. “I know her.”
“Oh, that’s good. Is it Mrs. Paulson?”
“Yes, it is. Are you all right?” He was either kind, or he was worried I was falling apart in front of him.
Please tell us about growing up. Siblings? Locale?
I grew up in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia with three sisters and two brothers. We lived on a small farm and, for some reason which psychiatrists may have a field day with, I preferred to be outside cleaning the barn than inside cleaning the house. When we had time off from music practise, school work and chores, we disappeared into the twelve acres of woods and appeared only for meals.
Were you the shy kid or the tomboy? Married, single? Children?
I read all the time I wasn’t outside, and was caught several times reading under the covers with a flashlight—which wasn’t allowed. I read the “Anne” and “Emily” books by L.M. Montgomery and was determined to be a writer. However, that ambition I kept to myself as it wasn’t seen as practical in my family. I loved learning and took a science degree in nursing and went to the wilds of the Cariboo country of BC to work as a public health nurse. I married, had a family of three, moved to a ranch there and continued to nurse, farm and herd children.
When they were in school, I worked part-time as a nurse and part-time as a writer and eventually over many years published with trade publishers ten Young Adult and middle-grade novels and twelve non-fiction, usually around teen issues. I have lost count of how many books I’ve written, as I’m not sure if one is supposed to include translations (Korean, Chinese, Norwegian, Czech, French, Italian).
When I retired from nursing, I gave myself the luxury of writing cozy mysteries, the genre I’d been reading and enjoying for a long time. It’s quite lovely to spend the days with my characters. In a series, I can become involved with their development as emotionally richer personalities and find I am thrilled by it.
When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
Of course, I read and usually cozy mysteries by other authors. I now live on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia very near the ocean and so join a regular crew to outrigger paddle. We see a lot of wildlife on the ocean and get exercise. I am a struggling violin player in a chamber orchestra. Occasionally, I join friends and play Celtic fiddle.
And I garden, mindlessly weeding in the summer.
I admire your ability to paddle an outrigger. How long have you been writing?
Seriously? To deadlines? Since 1982.
Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
I write in my office which is dedicated to my writing and research. It has filing cabinets, two computers (one working and one working very slowly, but has some addresses on it I need), a desk with my working computer, another desk with room to spread out for correcting manuscripts and writing by hand and paper piled up and spilling over everywhere—even on the floor.
Your office sounds very much like mine if you throw in bookcases. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I write about two chapters as a pantser and then plot the book chapter by chapter. The plot can jump and change, though, but I start as an organized writer.
Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?
Yes, I write daily. And have a three-year writing plan. In the morning, I take my dog, Heidi, for a walk, pour myself a coffee and then start writing. I surface about noon.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise readers.
I learn to fly in my late 30s. My expertise was assessed by my oldest son who asked his dad as we were approaching the runway, “Let Mom land. We get more bumps that way.”
How amusing. I’d love to be able to pilot a plane. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Everyone says: Keep writing. I’m not different. The secret to producing readable work is to keep writing, every day. Writers have faith in an individual perspective on the world. Readers want to see the world through the eyes of a particular writer. Writers need to believe that their views matter.
What has helped you in your writing career?
I have been helped immensely by editors. Cheerleaders, friends who think everything you write is wonderful are encouraging, but editors who point out your mistakes are even more valuable.
What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
I hope readers escape for a time into Claire Barclay’s world where they can get as much pleasure from reading it as I did in writing it.
About the Author
Emma Dakin has written over thirty published books, many under the name of Marion Crook. She completed her PhD in education, went on to teach at university and continued to write, because writing, as most readers know, is at least a compulsion, if not an addiction. After years of reading every cozy mystery she could find, Emma wrote Hazards in Hampshire: The British Book Tour Mysteries. One of the joys of setting a novel in Britain is the need to travel there. She enjoyed absorbing the differences in attitude in the distinct British counties and tried to interpret the Cornish accent (next book) and the unique culture of Yorkshire (third book). She lives on the Sunshine Coast, near Vancouver, Canada, but claims her British ancestors “keep popping into my head with their purely British remarks”.
One of the nice things about being an author is meeting
(sometimes only online) other authors and readers. I’ve been fortunate enough
to meet some truly creative and interesting people. Being an author has led me
to become associated with new concepts.
Multi-author projects (MAPs) are something I enjoy. Although
the books are stand-alone, they usually involve the same locale. That is true
with The Matchmaker Series. Each of the books is set in Creede, Colorado at the
same year in the late 1880s. The first book in the series is TWO-STEP WITH
TESS, by Jo Noelle.
My contribution is POLKA WITH PAULINE. An author I recently
met online is the only person I’ve ever met with that name. I like the name and
chose Pauline for the heroine. The hero is named Creighton. I met a cute child
of that name, nephew of a friend. I loved the name and saved it in a recess of
I hope you’ll preorder POLKA WITH PAULINE, The Matchmaker’s
Ball book 8. The Universal Amazon link is http://mybook.to/Pauline.
It will be available in print and e-book and will be in KU. I releases on
Friday, March 28.
Here's an excerpt:
and Creighton were playing chess when the doorbell chimed. He’d been calling on
her two or three times a week.
Henry folded his newspaper. “Not expecting anyone. I’ll see who that can be.”
froze when she heard the visitor’s voice. What on earth was he doing here?
looked up from the chess board and stared at her face. “I should go.”
reached across the game table and laid her hand on his. “There’s really no
reason to leave. Please stay.”
led the way into the parlor. “Jasper Tabor, this is Creighton Reed, a local
surveyed the room. “I hope I’m not interrupting your evening.”
was a handsome man whose attire was neat and of the latest style. His light
brown hair was sleek and his handlebar mustache waxed to perfection. She could
find no fault with his appearance. She couldn’t pinpoint a single reason for
her distrust. Perhaps it was the predatory look in his brown eyes.
Henry gestured to her and Creighton. “Not at all, Jasper. Creighton is a good
friend. Have a seat. What brings you to Creede?”
sat in the new rocking chair. “Curiosity mostly. I wondered how you’re getting
on here. Fred thought I should check on Pauline.”
stared at him. “Did Papa send you to check up on me?”
chuckled and held up a hand. “Don’t get riled at me. I happened to say I was
curious about Creede and he said if I came I should check on you. We had
wondered if this would be a good place for a new store. Not full scale, but one
of the reduced size ones that we have in smaller markets.”
uncle shook his head. “Not the right place. As it is, most residents are rough,
not the type to shop at Brubaker’s. When the ore plays out, this place will
lose residents by the thousands. In my opinion Creede will be a nicer place to
DON'T MISS THE RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY AT THE END OF THE POST!
Never a Bride
At the Shore Book 3
by Caridad Pinero
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Emma never dreamed that the happily-ever-after would change her life. . .
But as her two best friends find love, Emma worries about what her future will bring. She has seen all too often what happens once husbands and children arrive. She puts on a brave face because she wants her buddies to be happy, but as a wedding planner, she has seen one too many marriages go south. Not to mention her parents' bitter divorce which has soured her on the idea of marriage for herself. She can't imagine ever finding a man who can bring her a forever kind of romance.
He's been in love with her forever and can't understand why she can't see it. . .
Carlo da Costa knows why Emma avoids relationships and yet he can't help but wonder how someone who puts such love and care into others' dreams can't allow herself to believe in the fairy tale. He sees the yearning on her face when she spends time with him and his big boisterous family and knows that deep inside, she wants the same thing. Carlo hopes that one day he can provide her with that because he's sure Emma holds the key to his heart in her hands.
The bouquet shot toward her head like a spaceship launched at the moon.
Emma Grant had no time to deflect the missile. She tangled her fingers into the luscious petals of the peonies, roses, and hydrangea, rousing fragrant floral scents as the bouquet grazed her face. When she was in wedding planner mode, she would have taken the time to appreciate the freshness of the blooms, but tonight she was also a bridesmaid and best friend and totally unhappy about her current predicament.
Flowers fisted in her hand, Emma whirled to face her other best friend and maid of honor, Connie Reyes, who with a subtle hip check, had knocked Emma straight into the path of the flying tussie mussie. “I thought you were my friend!”
“Totally,” Connie said with a broad smile and waltzed off to the side of the dance floor to where Carlo Gonzalez, her caterer extraordinaire and longtime man crush, stood with some of his wait staff.
Her friends thought Carlo was the man to give Emma her happily-ever-after, except it wasn’t possible that someone like Carlo could love someone like her. She was broken inside and had been for some time while Carlo was everything good in this world. A loving son and a supportive brother. A go-to-guy for her and so many others. But a lover? Even though her insides ignited at the thought of making love with the incredibly handsome Carlo, Emma knew it could only lead to misery on way too many levels.
He was her business partner of sorts and she valued how well they worked together. They had even talked about forming an event planning business more than once so Emma could have her own company and Carlo could expand his. Not to mention that he was her best friend and she couldn’t imagine not having him in her life, but she was certain that was what would happen if they tried to go from friends to lovers and it didn’t work out.
But Emma’s fears weren’t keeping Connie from trying to drag Carlo into the center of the dance floor for the next part of the wedding ritual. He protested at first and as all eyes settled on him as he balked, embarrassment engulfed her. His hesitation confirmed to Emma that changing the nature of their relationship was not necessarily something he wanted to do either.
Others soon joined in to offer Connie assistance and Carlo finally relented, although clearly reluctant. The handsome caterer stood with the other single men, and as the groom prepared his garter toss, Emma closed her eyes and mumbled a prayer beneath her breath.
“Dear Lord, please be good to me,” she said and half-opened her eyes to watch.
Apparently God wasn’t listening since the garter flew across the air, and like a horseshoe tossed at a ring, the circle of baby blue satin ribbon and beige lace landed on Carlo’s index finger, earning hoots and shouts from all gathered at the perfect catch.
Emma groaned and popped her eyes wide open as Carlo stood there, dangling the garter for all to see. A stain of color marred his cheeks as he peeked at her with a chagrined smile.
The heat of a blush erupted all across her face and up to her ears. She half glanced at Connie who had returned to stand by her and Emma said, “I will kill you for this. When you least suspect it, it will happen.”
Connie couldn’t stifle her chuckle, and when the groom’s brother and best man Jonathan Pierce strolled to her friend’s side, Connie high-fived Jonathan for his assistance with the plot. Connie murmured something to him that Emma couldn’t quite hear as the band launched into a sexy riff to continue the wedding tradition. Carlo sauntered over, garter dangling from his finger as someone placed a chair for her to sit on in the middle of the makeshift dance floor.
“The quicker you get it over with, the easier it will be,” Emma thought, hurried out, and unceremoniously plopped onto the chair. It was like taking off a bandage with a quick rip. It cut the pain much like she wanted to lessen the humiliation of Carlo being forced into this wedding tradition.
The sexy music continued as Carlo kneeled before her and mouthed “Don’t worry.” In deference to the fancy event being held at the Sinclair beachfront mansion, he was dressed in a tuxedo. The black of the tux emphasized the deep brown of his thick wavy hair. The electric white shirt was the perfect foil against olive skin that still bore the remnants of a summer tan. He smiled at her, his teeth toothpaste bright and perfect. The smile was brilliant and transformed the chiseled features of his face. Made his chocolate brown eyes gleam with a mix of amusement and awkwardness.
It was way too easy to picture him as the groom. Her groom, but that was an impossible wish. As his gaze locked with hers, she detected something different for a moment. Something dangerous that she tried to convince herself wasn’t there. There was no way that was there, she told herself.
She silently pleaded with him not to make the situation worse. Ever the gentleman, he heeded her plea and kept it clean as she looked up toward the inky night sky to avoid watching him. His touch was deferential while he slipped the lacy fabric past her shoe and ankle, but even the faintest whisper of his rough palm against her skin had her trembling inside and heat racing across her body. He moved the garter up a little higher to her calf and paused, forcing Emma to look at him to find out the reason for his delay.
Carlo grinned sexily and the fire at her core ignited into a five-alarm blaze. He was just so damn handsome and it was impossible not to imagine doing more with him. He inched the garter past her knee, his palm teasing her smooth skin, but stopped there despite the entreaties of the single men to go ever higher. He wagged his head, shook his finger in a no-way gesture, and tenderly draped Emma’s gown back over her legs.
Emma met his gaze once more, thankful, but this time it was impossible to miss that his look was filled with yearning. With that emotion, she had maybe hoped for and dreaded at the same time. And then Carlo did something totally unexpected and decidedly risky. He wrapped an arm around her waist, urged her to her feet, and slowly drew her close.
Her knees trembled and her heart pounded so loudly, she barely heard the music and cheers from those who’d maybe had a little too much to drink during the festivities. Carlo steadied her, keeping his arm around her waist as he cradled her jaw. Slowly he leaned toward her and tilted her face up with the gentlest pressure.
She could have backed away. Could have stopped him, but truthfully she didn’t want him to stop. She inched up on her tiptoes to meet his lips.
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NY Times and USA Today Bestseller Caridad Pineiro is a Jersey Girl who just wants to write, travel, and spend more time with family and friends. Caridad is the author of over 50 novels/novellas and has sold over 1 million books worldwide. Caridad loves romance novels, super heroes, TV and cooking. For more information on Caridad, please visit www.caridad.com or www.rebornvampirenovels.com. You can also find Caridad/Charity at the links below:
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A Fresh Restart
by Chelsea Falin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
A sweet contemporary friends-to-lovers romance novella with a strong dose of second chance at love and a sweet HEA. No cliffhangers. (Heat Level: 2 flames.)
Josette Miller and Walker Anderson grew up together in small-town, Dade City, Florida. Inseparable during their youth, Josette dreamed of growing up and moving away. When she left ten years ago, Josette didn’t know how Walker really felt about her.
But Dade City just wasn’t the same with Josette, and Walker left shortly after, regretting he’d never told Josette how he felt. In a twist of fate, Josette and Walker find themselves moving home within months of each other. They aren’t kids, anymore, and the attraction this time around is mutual. Maybe a “Fresh Restart” is just what they needed to get their happily ever after.
Today, Walker had begun tearing down the home. He’d decided to go at it a bit at a time, instead of hiring a demolishing company. After all the construction work he’d done, he knew a small home like this posed minimal danger if he knocked it out and removed it himself.
He’d just finished taking a sledgehammer to one corner of the house, stepping back as the structure creaked and pieces of old rotten wood tumbled, leaving a gaping hole to the inside.
“You being destructive or productive, Walker?” The feminine voice reached his ears as it had been doing all night… much to his horror this morning.
Walker turned and smiled at Josette, who carried a small picnic basket on one arm. Her long hair was pulled back as usual, and she wore a pair of denim cutoff shorts that reached halfway down her thighs below a plain black sleeveless tank. “Can’t it be both?”
Josette shook her head and laughed softly. “You’ve gotten a lot done, Wild Man. When I came into town, I didn’t recognize the place at all.” She paused. “But why not hiring someone to demolish it for you? That could be dangerous, you know.”
“Oh, I’ve done plenty of small-scale demolitions. Not worried about it. Plus, this’ll save me money and keep me busy, so it’s a winning solution.” Walker directed a grin her way and she rolled her eyes but smiled.
“Well, I just wanted to stop by and see how it was coming… oh, and I brought you a few things. It’s hot today, so I thought you might want something.”
“Isn’t it hot here everyday?” Walker pulled out a rag from his back pocket and wiped a fresh line of glistening sweat from his brow. Josette nodded and continued to stand in the same spot, looking awkward. Why was that? Walker couldn’t remember the girl he’d grown up with ever looking awkward. “What’d you bring me, girl?”
Josette shook her head. She’d been lost in thought. “Oh, it’s not much. We cut up a watermelon yesterday, so I brought you some of that. There’s also two water bottles and some sweet tea, plus some biscuits if you get hungry later.”
Walker strode over to her in long, slightly bowlegged strides. Her bright green eyes looked into his blue ones as he took the basket from her. Josette seemed out of it, and… could she be awkward because, after all these years, she’d finally decided she liked him? Maybe it was the muscles. He’d had more than one woman tell him his muscles were attractive.
Instead of making a joke, which was tempting, he asked “You alright Josie Posey? You seem upset.”
Josette nodded. “Yes, I’m fine.”
Josette looked around at the property with a little too much interest, and Walker walked his picnic basket to his truck where it would stay out of the sun a few more moments while he finished the side of the house he was working on bringing down. When he turned back around, Josette stood with her arms crossed on her chest. Uh oh, he thought. She only did that when she was really upset. Stubborn woman that she was, she’d have to have the reason dragged out of her.
Walker walked back over to Josette and, standing close, he bent his head down a bit so he could look her in the eyes with one eyebrow arched high. “You gonna tell me what’s wrong? Or do you want me to whoop it out of you like old times?”
Josette’s eyes grew wide. “You wouldn’t dare.” Her voice held a threat over the disbelief, and he knew if he tried to throw her over his shoulder like he used to, she’d come close to killing him.
Walker shrugged and sat down directly on the sandy dirt where a thick carpet of grass had once grown. He bent one knee up and crossed the other in front of him. Josette didn’t need an invitation before sitting on the dirt in front of him. She pulled her knees up to her chest, and looked at the ground between them instead of directly at him.
“Well?” Walker kept his voice low and looked at her.
Chelsea Falinis the 25 year old independent author of well over ten titles. She began writing with intents to publish in 2006, at age 16, and finally published in 2009, at age 19. Chelsea writes in a variety of genres, including but not limited to: romance, young adult, comedy, cooking, poetry, and dramatic fiction. Professionally, Chelsea is also a freelance blog/article writer, web designer, and book blogger.
In her personal life, Chelsea is the mother of a six year old daughter. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, fishing, hiking, biking, traveling, and spending time with her friends or family.