Home » Posts tagged 'The Romance Studio'

Tag Archives: The Romance Studio

F.A.S.T. Balls Get’s 5 Hearts from TRS!

TaraLain_FastBalls_453Hi everyone — I’m thrilled to tell you that F.A.S.T. Balls, my new firefighter romance, just received 5 HEARTS from the Romance Studio!! I’m thrilled. This means it is eligible for the 5 Heart Sweetheart vote which starts Monday. So I will remind you! LOL

Excerpt: F.A.S.T. Balls by Tara Lain; The Gay Fireman and the Homophobe

Available at AMAZON  ARe

Firefighter and surfing champion, Jerry Wallender, looks like a hero to the world, but he can’t see it. He keeps falling for these intellectual guys who end up making him feel dumb and unneeded.  On top of that, Mick Cassidy, super-gorgeous firefighter and total homophobe, makes Jerry’s life miserable with his slurs. Then one day Mick’s nice to Jerry and, at the Firefighter’s Ball, Jerry offers a helping hand and ends up with a hand-job. What the hell is going on?

Mick Cassidy is great with fighting fires and solving math problems but rotten with people. Raised by a gay-hating preacher, Mick’s carefully constructed world of gay bashing starts to crumble when he meets Jerry, the nicest, kindest man he’s ever known.  Mick’s never wanted a woman and can’t stop thinking about sex with Jerry. In fact, he can’t stop doing it. Does that make him gay? And if he’s gay, what happens to his whole life? A hook-up between sweet Jerry and mean Mick might be total disaster — or the smartest idea Jerry ever had.

The band got into the spirit and segued from the cha cha into a meringue. Jerry didn’t know this one as well but he mimicked Andres and pretty soon had the rhythm. Some people were standing around watching them while others joined in and danced. Andres was so gorgeous and so great at dancing. He even spun a couple of the women around as he danced by them and they squealed. What a charmer.

The musicians worked up to a big finish. Andres pulled Jerry in close then spun him out in a twirl. He circled twice, laughed, and…stopped dead.

Holy crap. Standing on the edge of the dance floor staring at the dancers with big green eyes was the yummiest thing he’d ever seen. Mick Cassidy, tall, straight and strong in a dress blue uniform, the light from the ballroom chandeliers shining off his pale gold hair.

Jerry stared.

Mick stared.

Jerry glanced at the girl standing next to Mick. Really pretty in a blue dress. But nothing, underline nothing, he had seen in a long time was as pretty as that big, hunky homophobe. Mick might be mean as piss, as Hunter said, but he stood there proving that sometimes things that were bad for you are the ones you want most.

A hand on his shoulder woke him up. “You okay, Jerry?”

“Oh, sorry.” He turned and smiled at Andres, but man, it was hard tearing his eyes away. “I just saw someone I know.”

He headed back to the table and Andres stepped up beside him. “Was the person you know that golden dreamboat in blue by any chance?”

He wasn’t going to pretend he didn’t know who Andres meant. “Yeah, that’s the guy I was telling Rod and Hunter about. The one who was nice to me.”

“Oh guapo, he can be nice to me anytime.”

Jerry laughed. “Yeah. Too bad he’s a raging fag hater.”

“So why was he nice?”

“I still haven’t figured that out.”

 

* * *

 

He’d been turned to stone. Hell, he had to move. This was stupid. Mick watched Jerry’s retreating back moving off the dance floor and saw him guiding a beautiful Mexican with him. Who the hell was that? Jerry had said his boyfriend had left him. He’d sure moved on fast.

“You know that guy?”

He glanced at Jezebel. Oh right, she was with him. “Yes, he works on my shift a lot of the time.”

“Sure is a good dancer. He a fag? Must be, if he’s dancing with a guy, right.”

Whoa. He used that word all the time but it sounded bad when she said it about Jerry. “Yeah, he’s gay.”

“Must be like your father says. You see a lot of gay guys in Laguna.”

“Yes.” It felt weird to have his father’s ideas dragged into his work life.

She looked out at the dancers. “I always figured what your father says is a load of crap. Gay people are born that way so it has to be God’s will and if it’s not then God’s a load of crap.”

Mick gasped and looked at her. Really looked. “I don’t believe you just said that.”

 

You can find Tara HERE:

Website:              http://www.taralain.com

Blog:                      http://www.taralain.com/blog

Goodreads:        http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4541791.Tara_Lain

Twitter:               http://twitter.com/taralain

FB Page:               http://www.facebook.com/taralain

Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 21. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.  She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books.  Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

 

What’s happening after the story? By Cait Jarrod

Ever wonder what happens with the characters after the story ended? Check out my interview with Jake and Pamela Gibson of Kidnapped Hearts, Book 1 of  the Band of Friends Series.

Click picture to buy in print or ebook.

website: caitjarrod.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/15uHZA5

My interview with Jake and Pamela, the hero and heroine, from Kidnapped Hearts:

A month after their story is released I have an appointment with Pamela and Jake to find out how life is treating them. Briefcase in tow, I step inside The Memory Café onto a black and white tile floor. Instantly, I’m transported to the storyline of Kidnapped Hearts.

A touch nervous at my first interview, I wipe my brow and run my fingers through my short golden locks.

“Hello.” A sparkling eyed, dark-haired woman approaches me. A hint of pink in her cheeks gives her a healthy glow.

Wow, they do resemble the Caribbean.

I stretch out my hand, looking at her eye level. “Hi, I’m Cait Jarrod.”

She smiles. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but a nice firm handshake surprises me.

“Pamela Gibson. It’s good to meet you. My husband will be here soon. In the meantime, would you like a glass of wine?”

Never turning down wine, I smile. “I’d love some.”

“Right this way.”

Irises and daisies adorn the tables. Everything the book said about the café was true. I smooth the back of my dress as I sit down at a white-linen table with a platter of cheese, crackers, and grapes. I like this woman more and more by the minute.

“Which type of wine do you prefer?”

I notice what appears to be the beginning of a baby bump, but divert my eyes. “Do you have a preference?”

“Sauvignon Blanc is her choice.” A dark-haired man steps forward, kisses Pamela on the lips, and gives me his hand. “Jake Gibson. You must be Ms. Jarrod.”

Blue eyes stare at me. What’s with the blue eyes? “Yes, please call me Cait.” His grip doesn’t catch me off guard. I knew it’d be strong. “I’ll have Sauvignon, then.”

“I’ll get it, Sweetheart,” he says to Pamela and kisses her cheek this time.

Pamela watches, smiling. Within a few seconds, he’s back carrying two glasses of water and my wine. Maybe my suspicions of the bump are correct. “You two won’t be joining me?”

“No, I’m pregnant.” She giggles, as Jake reaches over and rubs her stomach, covered by a loose fitting blouse.

“Are you going to tell her?” he asks.

My eyebrows lift and I sip the wine. She said she’s pregnant. What more could it be?

“I’m having twins.”

The liquid rushes up my nose and I cough. “Excuse me. You startled me. Congratulations! That’s wonderful news.” I sputter, trying to get some sort of composure.

Jake darts over to the bar.

I clear my throat. “If it’s okay, I’d like to start the interview.”

“I’m ready as I’ll ever be.” Pamela grabs a cracker and tops it with a piece of cheese.

My nose burns and I push the wine aside, then pull out a notepad and pencil from my briefcase. “I’m old school. I like to take notes. Do you mind?”

“No, not at all.” She reaches for a grape.

I wonder if I am preventing her from eating lunch.

“Here’s some water.” Jake chuckles. “You should have seen my reaction. I did more than snort wine.”

“He spilled a cup of hot coffee in his lap.” Pamela laughs.

I swallow some water, getting the tickle out of my throat. These two are precious. They make me feel right at home. “I’ll start with the easy stuff. When did you two get married?”

“About four months ago.”

I sit back in my chair. “Oh, I thought it was recent, since the story just came out.” I lift my pencil in a light-bulb moment. “Silly me. Of course, the incident happened a little while ago.”

“Five months, since she agreed to become Mrs. Gibson.”

“He got jealous of my Rambo name.”

“You acted like him, Pamela.” I tease.

The gleam in her eyes disappears and Jake squeezes her hand.

“It’s still hard talking about the events. It’s no secret at the time Vivian and I didn’t get along, but what my stepfather did to her.” She draws in a deep breath.

“Let’s move on.” Jake interrupts. “Ask me some questions.”

I nod and Pamela wipes her tears from her cheek.

“During the situation with Sanjar, the terrorist, what was the most difficult task you had to do that involved Pamela?”

He stretches out his legs and groans. “Every one that put her life in jeopardy. I can’t pick one. They all sucked. Uhm, sorry.”

“No, it’s alright. I understand.” I glance at Pamela who had gotten herself together. “What about for you? What part of the ordeal concerning Jake scared you the most?”

“When Jake and Steve’s boats collided. I’ll never forget the fear that ran through me.” She swallowed. “Yet, the lighthouse was the worse. I waited on the deck while Jake had run back upstairs to get his pack. A few seconds later, I heard a gunshot.” Her body trembles.

Jake scoots his chair closer to her, wraps his arm around her shoulders, and tugs her into him. “You don’t have to say anymore.”

“I want to. Seeing him, bleeding …” Her words drift off.

This woman has shot two people, killing one. How does an untrained person undergo such peril? “Pamela …” I prop my elbow on the table and rest my chin on my hand. “How do you deal with it?”

Her eyes grow wide. “You mean to shoot someone?”

I nod.

“I try not to think about it, but those men left me no choice.”

“No, nightmares?”

“No, not with Jake beside me.”

Jake’s cell rings and he glances at the number. “I need to take this. Excuse me.”

He steps away and again. Pamela watches. The love she has for him is obvious. “What about him attracted you?”

“Oh.” She hoots and faces me. “His tenderness, I think. When he snuck up behind me during the thunderstorm in there? ” She points in the direction of the kitchen.

“When you met?”

“Yes. In a gentle, caring voice, he said, ‘You have to trust me.’ I was in the middle of a crisis, yet I found something that I didn’t know I was missing. Him.

I listen to her, forgetting to take notes.

“Paul will be here in a few minutes to pick me up,” Jake said, returning to the table. “

My cue the interview is almost over. I straighten. “Paul’s your foster brother? How is he?”

“He’s good,” he said.

“I think he might have found someone,” she shifts and crosses her legs.

“There’s a lot of baggage, Pamela. Don’t wish for this relationship to work out just yet.” He leans closer to me. “She likes to play matchmaker.”

A solid smack on his arm, and she says, “I do not. Well. I just want him to be happy.”

“Me, too, but first, the possible murder on the farm needs to be resolved, and Mags ex locked up behind bars before I’m okay about the two of them.” Jake slid a hand down his face and glances at his wife. “And we thought we had a rough start.”

I’m intrigued. A murder. Ex-husband. “Will I be hearing this story later?”

Pamela tilts her head. “I imagine so.”

Another book around the corner. Good. “What about Steve and Celine? Are they dating?”

“Pamela, Sweetheart.”

I glace over my shoulder. A sweet-looking older woman with gray hair and blue eyes walks toward us … again with the eyes.

“Your father is on the phone. Something about what medicine did Grand Ann take to upset her stomach last week.” The woman turns to me. “I’m sorry. I was wrapped up in getting Donald his answer, I didn’t see you.” She passes the phone to Pamela

“Cait, this is my step-mother, Marge Young.”

She does radiate warmth. “Nice to meet you.”

“You, too. I don’t mean to be rude, but there’s cooking to be done for the evening crowd.”

I observe the other patrons. My attention glued to the interview, I hadn’t notice the tables filling.

“Love you, too, Dad.” Pamela places the phone on the table. “Where were we? Oh yeah, Steve and Celine. They are a mystery. I can’t figure them out.”

“Steve is gone a lot. If I can ever get him to retire and join the Old Town Detectives, then they might have a chance.”

“He’s interested in buying the safe house we stayed at,” Pamela says. “It was a beautiful place.”

The beach house on the Chesapeake Bay sounds delightful. “Kaz’s Den?” I ask, not quite sure if I got the name right.

“The flower gardens were magnificent.”

“I imagine the owners were not happy when it blew up.”

Jake chuckles. “That’s an understatement. They returned from Key West furious. It’s being repaired now, but it’s doubtful the owners will ever live there again. It was their summer home. I think the whole incident took away the emotional value.” Jake rubs his jaw. “I feel bad about it.”

Pamela stood. “I’ll be right back. I need to go to the little girls’ room.”

When she was out of earshot, I face the handsome detective. “I’m curious, what is it about Pamela that caught your attention?”

His eyebrows shot up. “You’re kidding, right? You’ve looked at the woman; spoke to her, what’s not to love?”

He had a point there, but I want specifics. “Not one thing in particular?”

He stares at his folded hands and smiles before meeting my gaze. “You ever eat a piece of candy and love the outside as much as the filling?”

“Yes, Reese’s Cup.”

He taps the table with his fingers. “Exactly. Do you like the chocolate or the peanut butter best?”

I know where he’s going, and decide to answer anyway. “I can’t pick.”

“Because the whole package is what you love.”

“Package, what do you love?” Pamela sits next to her husband.

He squeezes her knee. “You.”

She giggles. “You’re such a riot. What did he compare me to?”

“A Reese’s Cup.”

“Perfect.”

“Well, I think you two have given me everything I need.” I slip my notepad and pencil in my briefcase and they escort me to the door. “When I’m finished typing my notes, I’ll email it to you to read first.”

“I’d appreciate it,” Jake said, opening the door for me. “There’s my ride.”

A dimple-faced man in a Jeep is parked in front of the Café.

Paul. I can’t wait to hear his story.

Rekindled Short Story by Cait Jarrod

Click image to buy ebook.

Angie Kilpatrick, a CEO in the pharmaceutical world, has achieved everything she set out to do, yet lives with regret for walking away from the only man she’s ever loved. A decade later, she has the chance to fix her mistake. Instead of a happy reunion, she finds an angry man and another who puts her in a problematic situation.

Shots are fired and Angie is on a quest once again to locate for her lost love.
What she discovers is the man she thought was gone from her life forever.

Reviews:

Rekindled is a sweet romance about getting a second chance with your first love. Highly recommended for anyone who loves a quick romance with characters that you can relate to and believe in their stories and lives.  They have a few tense moments that only make their reunion that much sweeter.  This is one of the amazing before bed short stories that leave you with a smile on your face and joy in your heart.

     ~Star Illustrious Illusions

I loved this book. I found this book to be dangerous yet exciting, witty and adventurous! It had a hero I could root for and a lost love. I do believe in 2nd chances. Kuddos to Cait Jarrod for her storytelling ways. I could really see this story happening in real life too! Thank you Cait Jarrod. I can’t wait to read more. :)

     ~Teri Berg

For all you romantic buffs with a taste for a kiss of passion, Rekindled brings to life the story of a second chance at love between high school sweethearts and adult lovers. Cait Jarrod’s mix of romance, along with the intense deep sighs of physical pleasure, make this book a great read for the romantic enthusiast.

     ~Jeff Davis, author

Rekindled is a wonderful short story about two adults trying for a second chance at true love. A sweet romance that shows how no matter the obstacles, what is meant to be is meant to be. Cait skillfully weaves us into the lives of these two characters and makes us ache and cheer for them. It was a definite page turner and a must read.

     ~Kishan Paul

Reviews – Kidnapped Hearts by Cait Jarrod

Click picture to buy in print or ebook.

If you like fast paced, full of action and plenty of romance, then this is the book for you. I absolutely loved it! The first thing to catch my eye is the setting, Fredericksburg, VA. That’s really close to where I live and I go there often, so it was neat to read about places I’ve been to or heard of.

Now to the book: It was very well written, and it keeps you guessing all the way to the very last page, and no, you won’t be able to figure most of it out. I like that kind of read, keeps me engaged throughout the entire thing. I instantly liked Pamela, what was nice and different about her was how strong she was, not the typical damsel in distress. And fiery at that. She may have had her weak moments within the story, but they were few and far between.

Then there is FBI Agent Jake Gibson, retired…*sigh*, yet another fictional boyfriend to add to my ever-growing list. The poor man has been through hell and back, then it happens all over again. You will also meet a bunch of Pamela’s friends, known as the Band of Friends, or BOF for short. They are all likeable and strong. I’m hoping that each and every one gets their own books!

The overall plot of the story (without giving away any spoilers) is that someone thinks Pamela has stolen bearer bonds, and will do anything and hurt anyone to get them. Then the attacks start and Jake is put on the case to protect her and try to solve the case. To make things more complicated for them, there are people who want Jake dead from a previous undercover case he was on. Now the bad guys know Jakes real identity due to a possible leak inside the FBI.

The times, trials and crazy adventures they go through bring Jake and Pamela closer, but can she live and love a man that constantly puts his life on the line, a man that works one of the most dangerous jobs there is? Will he ever escape the people who are after him and will use anything, especially Pamela, against him to make him weak? I won’t tell. You’ll have to read to find out. But trust me, this book will not disappoint.
There were times I laughed, cried got mad but those are the best books right?! The ones that actually bring you to their world and evoke your emotions? And fear not my friends, the romance & love scenes are so very tastefully written, yet so believable. All in all, yes I would re-read this book, recommend it to friends, and I will most certainly read more books (especially if they are a series extended from this book) by this Author.

    ~Crystal Taylor, Reviewer

Kidnapped Hearts is my favorite of Ms. Jarrod’s stories so far.  But then again, I love a longer more intricate story with a little suspense and romance to liven things up. Kidnapped Hearts in a way is also about characters who get a second chance at love.  Although they never had a  relationship, they did have crushes prior to the incidents that throw them together for the ride of their lives.

Cait Jarrod creates characters that will tug at your heart strings and her scenarios will have you on the edge of your seat and glancing out of your own windows when you hear something unusual.  This was one of those stories I had trouble putting down once I started.  Pamela is a sweet young woman that has no clue why she is under attack from someone unknown, but she sure is glad Jake suddenly shows up back in town and is there to protect her when the going gets tough. 

I really can’t say enough about Kidnapped Hearts and the master story teller that is Cait Jarrod.  Her tales will entrance you and before you know it several hours will probably have passed while you were lost in Pamela & Jakes lives. . . Pick this one up if you are looking for a story with a little bit of everything, mystery, thriller, passion, and romance!

     ~Star, Illustrious Illusions

I always enjoy a well-written cop romance with tough, handsome law enforcers and smart, beautiful women. This one has an intricate plot with several unexpected twists, and I seriously had trouble putting it down

      ~Lea Bronsen, author

This book will grab you in the first chapter with suspense, humor, and great chemistry between Jake and Pamela from the get go. Lots of action and romance – an enjoyable read for sure.

     ~Shelly Hickman, author

The story starts with lightening, and the sizzle never stops. Cafe owner Pamela just wants to make her business successful, but gets swept up into a plot not of her making. A mysterious FBI agent initially rescues her from the dark only to lose her to the danger he stirred up. He thought he was beyond finding love again, but in his fight to find Pamela he realizes he has more to lose than just another case.

Kidnapped Hearts is a fast pace page turner that will keep you reading and when you close the book at the end, it will be with a smile.

     ~Lucien Knight

Kidnapped Hearts & Online short – Nothing is as it Seems by Cait Jarrod

Kidnapped Hearts, the first in the Band Of Friends, series.

Fast paced, full of action, and plenty of romance

KH - small

To buy now: Click image

Small town girl and owner of The Memory Café, Pamela Young, regales in her life with her friends, aptly named the Band of Friends until her life is turned upside down with stolen bearer bonds.

After a five-year disappearing act, Jake Gibson returns home retired from the FBI and ready to make amends with his estranged family. A freelance case falls into his lap, involving the woman he’d resisted years ago. Jake will do anything to protect Pamela, even put his life in jeopardy along with his heart.

How ’bout a taste of  paranormal?

Nothing is as it Seems, online short story

From her perch on the back porch steps of Greenwood Manor, Charlene stared at the one room building in the corner of the yard. The schoolhouse with the chipped paint gave her the creeps ever since she arrived.

She sipped Pinot and rested her arm on her leg. Why did she tell Paul England she’d stay at the Manor tonight, Halloween of all nights?

He sounded desperate, that’s why. A group of her closest friends, affectionally named the Band of Friends, jumped whenever one of them needed help. The sun faded, casting a vibrant orangish-yellow glow on the grounds. With its descent, shadows loomed over the two hundred year old building, adding to her jumpiness.

A white patch, not square nor rectangle, but a shape with no borders flew from the building right in front of her to the schoolhouse. Her arm froze midair with her drink touching her lips and goose bumps rose on her arms.

“I need Larry.” She jumped up and darted into the house to grab her purse. After she was kidnapped in the mountains, he gave her his number and said to call whenever she needed him. She tugged the card out of the inside zipper pocket and dialed his number on her cell. It went to voice mail.

Crud!

She looked out the kitchen window. A light beamed across the yard. She rushed to the counter and looked out. Evening dropped a blanket of darkness, but the moon shined. She rolled her eyes. A full moon. What more could happen on the ghostly night?

Outside, a door slammed, and her heart pounded in her ears. Paul trusted her to look after the plantation, not watch from a far. If her son came along, instead of choosing to be with his grandmother to go trick or treating, he would have rushed to the schoolhouse and checked it out. After all, the man of the family presented a brave front.

Light danced out the schoolhouse window and onto the boxwoods near the building. The tension between her shoulder blades tightened. Teens must be partying. She downed the rest of the wine and set the glass on the counter. Time to enforce what Paul asked. With feet of clay, she left the kitchen walked through the screened porch to the steps. The cooling air made her wrap her arms under her chest.

Crickets chirped. A coyote howled. Ghost stories involving the Manor thrashed into her mind. Her friends, Paul and Jake, once mentioned the ghost of a man who’d been murdered.

Cait’s links:

Finish reading at: http://caitjarrod.com/nothing-is-as-it-seems/

Website: caitjarrod.com

Facebook Fan Page: http://on.fb.me/15uHZA5

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CaitJarrod

 Goodreads: http://bit.ly/17O0xXb

Lynx, Rodeo Romance, Book 1

Meet Lynx Maddox the Wild Cat of the Rodeo circuit.

Meet Lynx Maddox the Wild Cat of the Rodeo circuit.

Blurb: With a dangerous reputation for taking chances and tempting fate, rugged cowboy Lynx Maddox had one goal in life–to win the coveted Silver Buckle rodeo championship. But when he sets eyes on lovely Rachel Scott, be becomes determined to capture her as well.

Chapter One

Charlene hadn’t told Rachel that she’d fixed her up with a cowboy, much less Lynx Maddox, the “Wild Cat” of the rodeo circuit. Rachel sighed. She should have known. After all, Charlene only dated men who wore boots and Stetsons.
Rachel Scott cringed at the very thought even as her gaze took in the breadth of Lynx Maddox’s chest, his broad shoulders, and dark green eyes that scanned her with blatant masculine approval.

Despite her stern efforts to control it, her heart pounded against her rib cage. She’d seen him sitting at the table with Charlene Davis and Dan Elder before he’d spotted her. Oh, she’d allowed herself to look when he’d walked her way–looking didn’t hurt. And it was okay to dream–a little fantasy never harmed a woman. But that was it; that was where it ended. After watching her father die in the arena, Rachel had sworn she’d never have anything to do with another rodeo cowboy.

She stopped her train of thoughts and managed to give the cowboy a smile.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, accepting his extended hand. She felt the strength in his warm callused fingers. Rachel tried to ignore a fluttering sensation low in her stomach. There was one thing she was certain of as she looked up at his piercing eyes and uncompromising jaw–men like him had trouble written all over them. And she doubted Lynx Maddox would prove to be an exception.

“Rachel, I’m glad you came tonight.” His voice was soft as velvet and laced with a Texas drawl.

He smelled of woodsy masculine cologne and the sudden rise in her body temperature clued Rachel to the unexpected twist to this encounter–she was much too aware of this sexy cowboy. So aware, in fact, she had difficulty recalling her own name! She focused on the warmth of his hand against hers and she knew, although his grip was light, he was very strong. Nevertheless, his strength wasn’t affecting her nearly as much as the power of his presence; it vibrated everywhere, even from the sawdust-covered floor beneath her feet. His slow, lingering smile seemed to unravel what remained of her composure. For several seconds she seemed incapable of speech, or even movement.

Good Lord, she was having heart palpitations!
Her reaction was so out of character, Rachel was at a loss as to what to do.

“I hope you didn’t mind meetin’ us here,” he said, easily, oblivious to her inner turmoil.
His question seemed to release her tongue from its state of paralysis.

“No. Not at all,” she replied, feeling somewhat less nervous.

“I’ll see you home, of course,” Lynx said, ushering her farther into the room.

I don’t think so, she thought, eyeing the tall stranger. Meeting Lynx here at the honky-tonk was one thing; going home with him was entirely another. She didn’t voice her decision, however, she knew Charlene would be horrified if she dared to offend him. So exercising her limited diplomatic skills, Rachel sidestepped the issue. “Is it always this crowded in here? And so loud?” she asked, suddenly feeling claustrophobic. The drummer seemed to have placed himself inside her head, his sticks pounding against her skull, and the raucous noise of the patrons made it almost impossible to hear herself think. The packed crowd made it difficult to breath.

“Friday nights are always busy. Haven’t you been here before?” he asked.

“No.” She realized her comment was a bit sharp, but she couldn’t help that. Honky-tonk bars were fine for other people, but not for her. If it weren’t for her fast-talking best friend, Charlene Davis, she wouldn’t be here–feeling so out of place and strangely vulnerable.

“What happened?” he asked, looking down at her. “Lose a bet?”

“Sort of,” she mumbled so low he couldn’t hear her. Forcing a smile, Rachel said, “I guess everyone should experience this once.” More than her hearing was under assault. Somewhere low in her body, a riotous group of sensuous messages beat in rhythm to the band, the lyrics communicating thoughts about Lynx Maddox she shouldn’t even be thinking.

Lynx arched one dark, sardonic eyebrow. “This place will grow on you. Trust me.”

Rachel stopped and looked up at him warily. She knew better than to trust him—or anybody. At twenty-four, she’d been on her own for years. After a moment, she regained her composure. “Dan and Charlene have a table for us across the room, don’t they?”
She peered through the smoke that diffused the colored lights revolving overhead, and swallowed as the bitter haze of tobacco coated the back of her throat. A cloud of it hovered near the ceiling, giving the mirrored wall behind the bar a bluish look. The air was stale and smelled of barley malt, tobacco and hay. Rachel blinked, her eyes burning.

Lynx grinned. “Well, they did. It’s kinda difficult to tell right now, though.”

Rachel couldn’t help but agree, especially since his white western shirt stretched across his impressive chest, which was more than wide enough to block her view. When he shifted, she couldn’t tell how many people were standing beyond him. “How on earth are we going to get through that mob?” she asked.

“We don’t have to,” he said, easily.

“What do you mean?” Rachel asked, puzzled.

“We have another choice. We can sneak out the back door to some quiet, secluded spot where we could, ah, get better acquainted.”

A hot flush of denial raced to her cheeks and Rachel knew she was about to tell a lie. “Thanks, but I think running the gauntlet is a better idea right now. I’m sure Charlene wants me to meet her date.”

Not the least bit offended, Lynx winked at her.
“Okay, sweetheart. Stick with me, and I’ll show you how a man makes a path.”

Lynx placed his hand under her forearm to guide her toward the table. Rachel felt heat rise along the length of her spine, and a fine sweat gathered at the small of her back. Darn Charlene and her matchmaking. Ever since Rachel’s break-up with Steven two years ago, Charlene had hovered over her like a mother hen. Finally, after months of badgering, Rachel had given in and agreed to show up at the honky-tonk that night. Now, with Lynx so close, she could almost feel him breathe, Rachel wondered about the wisdom of her actions.

No man was worth the risk of losing her peace of mind. In her life, what men had offered her had turned out to be mirages. Rachel knew all about mirages, and she made sure she steered clear of them.
As they made their way toward the center of the dance floor, someone bumped her from the side. The man was wearing high-heeled, western boots designed for something far less physical than evasive maneuvers. Rachel felt herself thrown off balance, and automatically reached for Lynx’s arm.

His grasp tightened around her wrist, to steady her.

Embarrassed at being reduced to grappling with her date, Rachel quickly regained her footing. As soon as she succeeded, she moved to step away from him.

Assessing the situation, Lynx held her hand. His brows drew together in displeasure as he shot a warning glance toward the offender. “Justin,” he growled. “Watch your step, cowboy.” Though unsteady on his feet, the man still managed to back off in a hurry.

“Careful,” he addressed her. His voice, though gruff, held a soothing tone. Grateful for it, and the fact that he seemed willing to ignore her embarrassment, Rachel breathed a soft sign of relief.

It was his next comment, which had her emotions zinging. “A woman can’t be too careful in a place like this.”
Rachel shook her head and chuckled to herself. Those were her thoughts, exactly.

Rachel tried to convince herself that the rush she felt upon making eye contact with Lynx had to do with their close proximity, not the dark-haired man’s expression.

A muscle in Lynx’s lean cheek jumped in response to her appraisal and exasperation lurked in the depths of his eyes, the greenest eyes she’d ever seen. It was at that moment Rachel realized she was in trouble. A warning bell clamored in her brain like the buzzer in a calf-roping contest, still Rachel chose to ignore it.

Lynx wrapped his arm around her shoulder, glancing at the crowd. “Don’t worry Rachel–you’ll get the knack of it,” he said, pulling her to his side. “Relax and let me do all the work.”

Somehow, she managed to tear her gaze away from his, to put one wobbly foot in front of the other.
Forcing herself not to stiffen at his nearness,

Rachel adjusted to the rock-hardness of his body. She knew that professional bull riders were strong–built heavy in the chest and shoulders; still, Lynx was a mountain of a man, topping six feet by two or three inches.

“Come on,” he said, swinging her into his arms. “Looks like there’s only one way to get to the table.”
Rachel gave a gasp of surprise by the sudden turn of events. Finding herself pulled against him, she refused to crane her neck to look up, so she stared at the middle of his chest. She swallowed. Maybe it was the shock of being held in his arms, or the topsy-turvy, surreal feel to the evening, but her insides wouldn’t stop quaking, and the way his hand kept stroking her side didn’t help. To make matters worse, strands of her hair were tumbling loose from its French twist. With those loose strands flowing down to her breasts, she knew she resembled a wide-eyed flower child far more than a capable, independent woman.
The way Lynx looked at her only confirmed her suspicions.

Lynx tucked her head against his chest. “I won’t bite. You can relax a little.”

Fat chance, she thought as she followed his graceful steps around the dance floor. Lynx was very good at taking control. He was brisk without being rude, and it obvious he didn’t know her. Not that she was unreasonable or difficult, Rachel assured herself; she simply had her principles—that was all.
As they neared the table, Charlene stood up and waved. Lynx grinned and guided Rachel into a complicated two-step that left her gasping for breath.

Charlene let out a whoop of delight when they reached the table. “You two sure dance well together,” she said, glancing at them with a speculative gleam in her eye as she reached for her date’s arm. “Rachel, honey, I want you to meet Dan Elder.”

“Hello Dan,” Rachel replied, and smiled at the lanky, red-haired man, trying not to act uncomfortable with Charlene’s appraising look. Stepping away from Lynx, she returned the offered handshake. “Charlene’s been looking forward to this evening for weeks. It’s good to finally meet you.”

“I’m sure glad you decided to join us, Rachel. Otherwise I’d still be waiting for Charlene to get ready.”

Charlene gave Dan a playful jab to the ribs with her elbow, and he grinned. “I didn’t hear you complaining. As I recall, you were too busy pawing through my refrigerator–”

“Can I help it if you make the best meat loaf this side of the Mississippi?”

Charlene gave a snort of disbelief. “You’re from Texas. What do you know about the Mississippi?”

Lynx chuckled. “She’s got you there, cousin.”

“I reckon so.”

Lynx pulled out a chair and Rachel gave him a polite smile as he seated her.
Quarters were crowded, the chairs wedged closely together. Rachel tried not to notice the heat of Lynx’s muscular thigh pressed against hers. Why hadn’t she maneuvered closer to Charlene? This was crazy. She shouldn’t be feeling this way. Thinking these thoughts.

She didn’t mean to touch his arm when she reached for a napkin. Or bump his thigh with her leg, did she?
Immediately, Lynx put down his drink. His gaze began to roam over her face and Rachel caught her breath.
It was as if they were tangled in some web of emotion that was unbreakable. Suddenly everything before her seemed to shift into slow motion.

A smile was out of the question, she though, as she stared at his lips. She knew if he lowered his head and touched his lips to hers, it would have triggered such heat it would have ignited a Fourth of July firecracker between them.

“What would you like to drink?” he asked, voice low as his gaze held hers captive.
Somehow, she managed a wry smile and a weak shrug at his question.
Resisting a sudden urge to fan herself as her body temperature rose by sensual degrees, Rachel grappled with what seemed to be a mind-bending decision.

Fortunately, a portly waiter chose that moment to pop up beside Rachel’s shoulder. “What’ll it be folks?”

“Bourbon and water,” Charlene replied, her long rhinestone earrings dancing as she shifted to bring her chair closer to the table.

“And you, miss?”
At his prompting, Rachel gave a quick look at the posted menu and said, “I’ll have a Dr. Pepper, heavy on the ice.” She had to do something about the searing heat of the room.

“Honey, what are you doing?” Charlene hissed.

“I’m. . .ordering a drink,” she replied.

Rachel’s gaze darted back to Lynx and watched a look of grim humor cross his features. “Sam, refill the beers,” he told the waiter.

Dan frowned. Reaching for his beer, he turned his attention to Charlene.
Lynx leaned toward Rachel. “First dates are hell, aren’t they?” he asked, before taking a long swallow of his beer.

Oh, yes,” she said the words with a wealth of feeling. “I hope never to go through this again!” Pinning a strand of her hair back in place, she was suddenly aware of how rude she sounded. “I’m sorry. . .I didn’t mean–”

Lynx looked at her mortified expression and laughed. “It’s okay, Rachel. I find your honesty refreshing. If you like we can pretend this is our second date, that way we’ll be more relaxed,” he told her.

“I suppose we could,” she said, considering the idea. “I’m not an authority, though,” she responded, ignoring the fluttering sensations his comment caused. She didn’t dare entertain the thought of seeing him again. Did she? Not that he intended to ask, she reminded herself. “This is my first blind date.”

“Ah. I sort of guessed that.”

“Really? How could you?” she asked, disconcerted, wondering what else he’d figured out.

“The high-heeled boots, meeting me here, and your purse.”

“My purse?”

Lynx pushed his Stetson farther back on his head. A strand of rich, dark auburn hair teased at his forehead. He lowered his voice to a deep, rumbling whisper. “Yep. Your purse. You hold it in a death grip. I noticed it right away. Maddox, I said to myself, now here’s a woman carrying a heap of mad money.”
Rachel glanced down at her purse, which was cradled in her lap, and grinned. “You’re right on all counts.”

Lynx leaned back in his chair. “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the basics, okay?”

Dropping her handbag to the floor beneath her chair, Rachel smiled. “Okay. So tell me how long will you and Dan be staying in Montana?”

“A couple of weeks. Then we’ll head back to Cheyenne for a few days.”

“Traveling the rodeo circuit keeps you on the road a great deal of the time, doesn’t it?” Rachel asked, remembering the seemingly endless cross-country drives her family had made when she was a child.

Lynx nodded. “We put in the miles all right,” he replied, leaning closer. “I’ve always liked this part of Montana.”
He was a cowboy on the move, she reminded herself, which meant there was nothing left to say. He’d be leaving soon, Rachel reminded herself–she wouldn’t get hurt. All she had to do was shut the door to her emotions. A light-hearted evening would be fun.

“Then I’ll be back,” he said.

“You’ll be back?” she parroted. “Why?”

Lynx laughed at her question. “It’s a good thing I’m not easily offended–”

“Well, I didn’t expect you to be planning a return visit, that’s all.” Rachel said, face flaming.

“So I gather from your reaction. Dan’s put a down payment on a small ranch. Didn’t Charlene tell you?”
“Well, yes. But I was under the impression you were going back to Texas after the season ended.”
“I will eventually. When I have some free time I’ll be helping Dan with his barn raising, and other repairs.”

“I see.” Rachel said, not knowing what to say. Or what to think. All she knew was the bottom dropped from her stomach as he inched closer to catch her words. The noise level was horrendous in this part of the room, but Lynx was painfully near, causing her to block out her surroundings. Her throat went dry and she couldn’t stop staring at his mouth. She had to get a hold of herself. She’d just met the man.

All she could think about was the way his voice teased at her, reminding her of the life she’d walked away from two years ago. Memories of an intimacy she never wanted to experience again filled her mind.
Being here with Lynx should have made the memories more painful, but for some reason it wasn’t so.

Although she knew it was crazy and totally unlike her, she didn’t want to leave the honky-tonk and go home. She wanted to be with Lynx. Even though it meant stepping back into forbidden territory, and risking her carefully restored confidence, Rachel elected to remain where she was.

However, with her decision came the knowledge of her extreme vulnerability.
Thankfully, the waiter chose that moment to bring their drinks. Rachel lowered her gazed and struggled to make small talk.
After a moment she said, “I’ve never been Cheyenne, Wyoming or Frontier Days.”
Lynx toyed with a long strand of her black hair and brushed it away from her face. “Cheyenne, Wyoming is a rodeo town, Frontier Days is a three-day celebration,” Lynx said. “It’s a huge tourist attraction, and the town goes all-out for it. The locals say Cheyenne only has two seasons–winter and Frontier Days.”
Dan and Charlene turned their attention back to the couple.

“Don’t be talking about going, just yet,” Charlene said, clutching Dan’s hand. “You fellas just got home yesterday.”

“Now, Charlene,” Dan warned. “You know how much purse money’s at stake here.”

“I know. . .”

Rachel melted against the back of her chair, as Lynx’s finger tip brushed a strand of hair from her face. Her body shivered all the way to her toes. Fidgeting with a silver bracelet on her wrist, Rachel didn’t know how to deal with this type of covert seduction. “You’ll have a good time then,” she said addressing her comment to both men.
“Everyone has a good time,” Lynx clarified.
Dan chuckled. “Everyone who’s able, anyway.”

Rachel reached for her glass, glancing at Dan. “I don’t understand.”

Dan pushed his hat further back on his head, revealing a bright cop of red hair. “I landed in front of the angry end of a bull last year and broke my arm. Lynx had a hell of a good time, though.”

Rachel saw Lynx shoot a warning glance at Dan.

“Except for the hang-over the next morning,” Dan mumbled.
Rachel smothered a smile at the expression on Lynx’s face, which told her it wasn’t a frequent indulgence on his part. He allowed Dan’s comment to slip past, and Rachel glanced across the table at Dan. “Are you competing this year?” she asked him.

“Sure. I’m fine now,” Dan said, lifting his wrist for her inspection.

Charlene ran her palm over Dan’s wrist. “This year you’re going to be more careful, aren’t you?”

“I reckon so. . .”
T
he rest of the conversation was lost to Rachel because
Lynx tapped his square-tipped finger on the side of her glass. “It appears to me you’ve got enough ice in that glass to start your own Montana blizzard, Rachel.”

“You think so? I happen to like ice. There’s nothing quite like a cold drink on a warm night.”
“I could think of a few things. . .”
Lynx studied her, amusement lurking in his eyes. He was daring her to continue to ignore him–to deny the attraction between them.

She tried. She really tried to ignore him, to pretend they were simply old friends and nothing more.
Rachel traced her finger tip along the mouth of the frosty glass and acted unconcerned when she felt the rough edge of his jeans brush against her ankle. She even tapped her foot in time with the easy tempo of the band when Lynx rested his arm along the back of her chair. She was a grown woman. She could get past physical attraction.
Couldn’t she?

Lynx drummed his thumb against the tabletop to a classic tune. “Pretty good band, isn’t it?”
His comment earned him an appraising look. “Pretty loud,” she replied.

“Yeah. That’s the best part.”

Rachel smiled. Lynx wasn’t at all what she’d expected. Sexy, take-charge, Texas rodeo cowboy one moment, and charming, non-threatening date the next. She didn’t know what to make of the situation.
Or Lynx Maddox.

It was only the cologne, she reminded herself when Lynx leaned closer and pointed out the skill of the fiddle player–she always loved the scent of a good cologne. Warm and musky. Or, maybe it was his reputation that held such appeal–he was a rodeo cowboy. Bull riders flirted with death and danger every day, and that alone could be a real turn on for some women.
Still she knew none of those things was the real reason she was reacting this way.
His heart-stopping green eyes were her undoing. Weren’t they? But what about his smile? she asked herself. Lord, he had a gorgeous smile.

“Rachel don’t you want your drink?” he asked.

“Ah, I’m waiting for some of the ice to melt,” she said glancing at the small iceberg in the center of the glass.
“Why don’t you let me have this one? I’ll order you something. . . warmer.”
“Coffee would be good,” she agreed.
“Rachel, are you doing okay?” Charlene asked, pulling away from the shelter of Dan’s arm. “You’re awfully quiet.”
“Yes. Of course,” she replied.
“Good. Then Dan and I are doing to leave you two alone for a while. We’re going to fight for some space on the dance floor.”
“A while?” Dan snorted, staring at the dance floor. “We may be gone for a couple of days.”
“Go on, enjoy yourself,” Rachel urged.

“We’ll stay here and hold the table,” Lynx said, tossing his Stetson on Charlene’s vacated chair. His shoulder brushed against Rachel’s and she jerked at the sudden contact. Lynx didn’t seem to notice her discomfort, because he inched forward and plucked the cherry from her glass. Biting into the bright red cherry, he pulled the fruit from its stem.

Rachel’s throat tightened in reaction. Without thought, her tongue moistened her lower lip. She’d just agreed to stay at the table, alone, with Lynx. Not a good idea.

She felt his leg brush against hers, and her toes curled inside of her boots. Her breath caught in her throat when she watched him take a swallow of her soda. The thick, corded muscles of his neck making the action seem almost vulnerable.
Yes. Definitely a bad idea for them to be together like this.

“So tell me, Rachel,” Lynx said, setting down the glass. “What made you and Charlene choose this particular honky-tonk?”
She glanced around the room and understood his curiosity. She wondered what she was doing there. Rachel was certain that she looked as out of place as she felt. In an impish tone she said, “Why the four-star service, of course.”
Lynx grinned and glanced around the room. “Ah, yes. You must mean the small bowls of chips and salsa on the tables, and the baseball bat next to the bar. Nice touches.”

“And the cocktail napkins. Don’t forget those. See Charlene and I each have one.”
“Let me have a look. . .yours says Joe’s Place. . .the prints blurred, but I believe it says San Antonio–”
“You’re joking, aren’t you?” Rachel asked, half convinced, as she reached for the napkin.
He chuckled. “Had you going for a moment, didn’t I?”
“Well, yes, you did,” she replied, an easy smile curving her lips. “I was really disappointed when I read the imprint on the napkin and found it only carried an ad for pizza delivery.”
Before Lynx had a chance to respond, a winded Charlene and a rumpled Dan returned to the table.
“It’s too crowded to dance,” Charlene gushed, handing Lynx his Stetson before sliding into her chair.
“Crowded? More like standing in the center of a stockyard in Abilene! I couldn’t move for fear of being stampeded!” Dan said, taking a swig of his beer.

Both Lynx and Rachel laughed, their gaze meeting as they joined in the shared joke.
She was having a good time, she realized. She hadn’t expected to enjoy the evening nor feel so comfortable with Lynx and Dan, but she did. The evening went along in that light-hearted tone for another hour. It wasn’t until Lynx and Dan left the table in search of coffee that everything changed.
“Rachel, honey, why’s that man staring at you?” Charlene asked, glancing to right of her friend.
“You’re imagining things.”
“No I’m not. He keeps watching you. . .oh, no, here he comes–”

“Charlene, you’re scaring me.” Rachel twisted her chair to get a look at the man. He was stocky and looked to be in his early thirties. He also looked vaguely familiar.

Before she could act, the man lunged against her, catching her off guard. He grabbed her wrist, “Wanna dance?”
She jerked her hand free. “No I don’t. I think it would be best if you went back to your table.” She was concerned but she wasn’t frightened, yet. She glared at him for several counts, her heart pounding. If she kept her head, he’d leave her alone. If he didn’t, she’d scream the roof down!
“I’ll buy you another drink. . .”
“No–” Rachel shot back.

“Justin, leave the lady alone.” Lynx’s voice was a low growl right behind her. “The lady asked me to buy her a drink,” the drunk whined.

“I did not!”
“Rachel,” Lynx ordered, quietly. “I’ll handle this.”

Rachel felt her spine snap to attention. She’d never responded well to orders, no matter how well intended.
The drunk stumbled, landing on top of Rachel. She let out a squeal of surprise as glasses and mugs of beer careened off the table and on to the floor.
“Get off of me!” she said, shoving at his shoulders.
Before she could act, Lynx stepped forward, yanking the man off of Rachel. “Justin, didn’t your mother ever teach you any manners?” Lynx asked.
Justin said something foul under his breath and Rachel saw Lynx’s expression change.

In swift, economical movements, Lynx spun the man around and grabbed him by the collar. One hard blow from his fist catapulted the man backwards. He crashed into a table and several wooden chairs. The sound of splintering wood filled the room, and suddenly Rachel found herself the unwelcome center of attention.
“Charlene?” Rachel searched the room for her friend and found her gone. So what was she supposed to do now?
The question was quickly answered. Lynx made his way to Rachel’s side seconds before several rowdies joined in the fracas in the center of the room.
“Damn,” Lynx said, exasperated. He ducked the first punch. “Rachel, what in hell are you doing standing there? Get out of here!” His words were almost drowned out by the sound of breaking glass.
“Where?” she shouted.

Lynx pointed toward the back exit. “Move! This is a brawl, not a square dance!”
Rachel did a quick hop-step around several cowboys to get to a pillar near the wall. A barroom brawl? No, Lynx must me mistaken. She’d never seen a fistfight before. She couldn’t be in the middle of a brawl. She watched a chair fly across the room and shatter a section of the wide mirror that hung behind the bar. Then she watched the bartender duck behind the counter as glass rained down. Lynx was right. This was a brawl!

Two more fights broke out on the dance floor. Rachel’s stomach knotted and she felt sick as she watched the mounting bedlam. The cowboy Lynx had punched lunged to his feet and charged at Lynx.

Lynx had a broad smile on his face as he glanced her way. He was enjoying himself! Rachel couldn’t believe it. Lynx grabbed the man by the collar and looked like he was prepared to bang the man’s head against the wall.

Dan slugged a dark haired cowboy and sent him sprawling under a table. Meanwhile, Charlene gamily picked her way over to

Rachel side and tugged her through the crowd toward the exit.

“Don’t stand here gawking, honey.”
Rachel made her way outside before she fully realized what had happened.
The ruckus was quickly turning into a riot before
her eyes, and Lynx and Dan were trapped in the center of the room.

The volume of crashing and banging was escalating, but the whoops and hollers were less and less frequent. Maybe things were starting to calm down.

Rachel winced when she heard the unmistakable sound of a body hitting the wall. “Charlene, do you think anyone will get hurt?”
“Naw. This happens all the time. Things’ll calm down as soon as–”

Suddenly a low growl, accompanied by several groans and curses, caught Rachel’s attention.
Barney, the honky-tonk’s bouncer, a Goliath in lumberjack clothing, hauled a man to the doorway, and with one mighty swing hurled him outside. The man whizzed past Rachel. He hit the ground with a heavy thud. He groaned once, but didn’t move.
A flicker of realization penetrated Rachel’s mind as she stared at the ground.
Lynx Maddox lay spread-eagle at her feet.

Wiping her damp palms against her skirt, Rachel bent down and tapped Lynx firmly on the shoulder.

“Lynx. Lynx Maddox.”

Hearing the feminine voice, he smiled. Looked like he’d won the fight after all. He cracked one eye open and fought to focus it. He stared at the wavering form next to him. Dark hair. Rachel. He grinned, pleased with the soft hesitation in her silvery voice.

Lynx struggled to raise himself onto his elbows and gave her a look of amusement. He knew his face was the picture of astonishment, and he felt his smile vanish. As the awareness of his surroundings faded and his elbows gave way beneath him, Lynx knew he was going to collapse. In the distance, he heard Rachel cry out in alarm.

His last conscious memory was of Charlene Davis hobbling toward him, one of her shoes in her hand, shouting, “Darn you, Barney. You threw out the wrong cowboy!”

Happy Monday! Celebrate with an excerpt from Escaping Darkness.

Hi everyone. I hope your Monday is fantastic! I wanted to make it a little brighter by sharing an excerpt from Escaping Darkness, novella 1.5 of The Stone Legacy Series. …Or maybe it won’t make your day brighter…

Vonnie, A reviewer on Amazon said–”Woah…that’s dark

So if your up for a little horror, a little YA, and a whole lot of adventure and romance, check out he excerpt below. Maybe  it will lighten the load of the beginning of your work week, and intrigue you to check out the series. 

Image

 

 

Tara’s mother strolled into the cell—Sarian, cloaked in yet another form. Her strawberry blonde hair fell straight over her shoulders, thinning from age and the constant abuse of cocaine and Tequila.

She was exactly how Tara remembered her from the last time they saw each other.

Tara had managed to stay composed through Sarian’s prior attempts to tear information out of her, but you can’t tell what you don’t know. Of course, he didn’t believe her. Still, this time, in the body of her mother, Tara’s heart shriveled, and after a moment of watching the woman, she turned her head.

Drops of cold sweat zigzagged down Tara’s back and over the ridges of her spine.

“Where is your guardian when you need her?” She whispered in a soft coo.

Tara hung her head. “Please…let me go.”

“And if I do, will you tell me how to break the obedience spell?” With a delicate touch, her mother tilted up Tara’s chin. Her gaze met her mother’s. The eyes staring back were the same brown, tired eyes Tara stared into as a child while wishing her mother would be sober enough to read her a bedtime story. The same eyes that returned her childlike hope with sharp glares of resentment. Her mother never wanted her. That much had always been clear.

Anger churned inside Tara. Sarian had approached her in the form of Renato and Ashley, but this was an all time low. It was another attempt to scare her into compliance, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her fear.

Slowly the woman stood, and from under the folds of a baggy sweatshirt, a heavy mallet appeared. Tara gasped with wide eyes. “No!” She tried to shake free, but the splints clamped around her legs kept her from attempting more than once. Pain quaked up her body. Her gaze followed the weapon used to drive in the wedges.

“Usually The Boots are very effective in extracting information—a method from the medieval era.” Her mother’s lips curled into an insidious grin. She held up the mallet, pivoting it in the air. “Or perhaps I should try another approach.” She lowered the weapon, and her features morphed until the mallet transformed into a cane—her mother’s appearance transforming with it into Sarian’s true form. He stood in front of her wearing a suit, his hair slicked back. “Perhaps I’ll allow Yaxche to have its way with you.” His grin widened.

A slithering coil caught her peripheral vision. Tara frantically glanced around. Thick roots snaked through the soil and over the ground beneath her feet.

“This tree has kept the dead trapped in the underworld since time began.” Sarian slowly backed away.

The chair she sat in began to tremble. Tiny vines sprouted from the armrests and crawled along her wrist. Her eyes widened when she realized that the entire time her chair had been made of roots, all woven together and perfectly still.

The prison cell door slammed shut, and Sarian peered through the bars. “I’m sure it would appreciate a live meal. That is, unless you have some information for me.”

Vines wound around her feet and the legs of the chair. Thicker roots sprouted around the edge of the room. Scarlet capillaries clustered under the bark caressing the delicate skin on the back of her hand.

She watched the vines move with the rhythm of her chest, rising and falling with every breath. Paralyzed with fear, she could only sit there in horror as she realized…

The roots were breathing. 

***

Shaky, Tara managed to make it to the bathroom before her knees buckled. She grabbed onto the sink for support while she splashed her face with cold water until it dripped from her nose and chin.

A small part of her wished she’d had the answer to Sarian’s question. She didn’t know anything about the obedience spell at the time—hell, she still didn’t. No details at least. If she had, she could have told him and it all would have ended. He eventually figured it out anyway from what Peter said.

Tara hadn’t seen Ashley since it happened, and the thought of her best friend being out there, fighting to save Jayden without complete control over her stone, made Tara’s stomach ache. After taking the time to really think about it, she couldn’t have told him. Not if it meant she would be responsible for the consequences—blood of countless innocent people on her hands. No thanks.

She lifted her gaze and stared into the mirror at the ghostly image – her former self, now paler with dark circles under her eyes. Even her hair seemed lifeless, lacking the body it usually had. She pushed up the lumps of curls, but they just sagged down again when she let them go. 

Tara paused, wondering what else about her had changed.

She hesitantly moved in front of the full-length mirror and peeled off her pajamas. Standing in her underwear, the full gravity of her deterioration was in clear view. Her ribs were defined, and her pelvic bones had begun to protrude. She had always wanted to be thinner, to smooth out her curves until she had a lean torso and slim hips—but not this way. Worse, there was nothing she could do to stop it.

Back in bed, a pillow acted as her comforter. She wrapped her arms around it and rested her cheek against it. She knew there was no way she’d go back to sleep now. That last flashback had been enough to keep her awake for weeks. She could still feel the vines tightening around her wrists, and hear the slow, hissing exhale of the roots.

This must be what Ashley endured all those nights in the orphanage—the reason she never slept, hated the night and the dark. She understood now, the cruelty of sleep not being an option.

The down feather pillow held the aroma of fabric softener. Not even a hint of fresh rain. With a deep sigh, she crawled from between the sheets and slipped on her robe before she cracked the door open and peeked into the silent hall. The soft glow of the evening lights cast warmth across the walls. Quiet steps led her to Peter’s door. She knocked, her heart growing heavy while she waited for him to answer in the middle of the night for the umpteenth time. It wasn’t right for her to drag him into her mess.She still hadn’t apologized for the way she took her frustration out on him earlier that day, but without Peter, she would be all alone. His love was the only comfort she had now that Ashley was gone.

Tara rested her palm on the wall, and she pushed the dark fog away from the edges of her vision. Dizzy spells and now this?

The door opened, and Tara quickly straightened. She didn’t want to worry him, although it was obvious by the look on his face her effort hadn’t paid off. Peter stepped aside.

The smell of fresh rain washed over her when she entered his room. His fingers caught her wrist, and she melted into him.

She knew he deserved so much better than her. “I’m sorry,” she whispered in the dark room.

He pushed the door shut and wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t ever be sorry for needing me. I’m always here.”

She sniffled, her entire body aching for relief. She curled her fingers through his shaggy hair, and trailed her hands down his shoulders. “Mmm, you smell so good.” Her lips found the curve under his jaw. He tasted just as amazing.

A watery laugh bubbled in his chest. “Do I?” His hands found her waist and ran up the soft robe over the curves of her back.

The more she thought about how he made her feel, the more her chest tightened. She wanted to be submerged in his serenity, his flavor, his skin. Suddenly the answer to her turmoil became clear.

She slowly untied the belt of her robe while kissing him. When she shrugged her shoulders back, the robe slipped off and puddled on the floor. His skin was warm  under her fingers, and she moved her body closer to his. Peter’s muscles flexed beneath her palm. A hint of guilt made her hesitate. She had told him when they first started dating that she wasn’t ready for this, and ever since, she had held true to that oath. Her advances were going against everything they’d established, but she couldn’t help herself. She needed him—to take away the pain and misery.

Her chest moved up and down with each sharp breath.

He tasted like heaven, or the first rays of sunlight breaking through the night sky. Tara whimpered and opened her mouth just enough for his tongue to slip between her lips.

Peter didn’t disappoint. He gripped her hips, causing a shiver to roll over her skin.

He broke away, spent a moment gazing into her eyes, and smiled. She entwined their fingers and led him toward the bed.

“You came here for this?” His voice sounded deeper, softer, and more seductive than she’d ever heard before. There was no reason to reply. He may not have known why she wanted him, but it was obvious what she wanted. When they reached the bed, Tara’s stomach tightened. This would be the first time she would willingly give herself to anyone. If she thought about it too much, she’d lose her nerve.

Peter followed her onto the plush mattress. One hand planted on either side of her, he trapped her against the pillow. He let out a sharp breath when she pulled him closer.

Every touch melted away a bit more of her misery and made it easier to forget. His muscular body pushed  against hers, and she let out a tiny gasp.

His lips found hers again, and he all too quickly pulled away. “I love you.”

Her heart swelled. She felt the same, more than even she could admit. He was the only one who could take away her suffering and tear the torment straight out of her chest. She loved him, but she also needed him to fix her, or she may go insane.

He backed away and climbed off the bed. Tara peered through the dark room. She couldn’t see him very well. Then it occurred to her, he was getting protection. He must have been carrying it around. A mixture of fear and excitement whirled through her.

He came back with something in his hand, but it wasn’t flat and square with a round bulge in a metallic wrapper.

It was black and velvet.
A box.

The light clicked on, assaulting Tara’s eyes. She blinked and found Peter on one knee. His chest pumped up and down with shallow breaths. She noticed the gentle quake in his touch, and the fact that she hadn’t seen him look so nervous since the first time he kissed her. She suddenly felt sick.

His eyes were so genuine, it should have made her happy. Instead, her mind whitewashed with panic. A ring? She didn’t want to jump to conclusions. Maybe it was just a pair of earrings, or a necklace? She’d feel like a total idiot if she freaked out before finding out.

But if it was…Tara’s chest tightened.

He kissed the back of her hand. “First, I need to ask you something.” 

Tara dragged her legs over the side of the bed, gripping the edge of the mattress. “What is this, Peter?”

He drew in a deep breath. “You are the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and the days I spent not knowing if you were alive or dead were the worst days of my life. After that, I made a promise to myself that I would never let you go.” He slowly opened the box to reveal a gold band with a pear cut diamond in the center and tiny blue gems framing its curves.

She pressed her shaking fingers over her lips. This was bad. How could he ask her to marry him when she was…her, and he deserved so much better.

He shifted his weight, still on one knee. “Please say something.”

“Why are you asking me this now?” Now, when she knew a part of her was using him for the peace he could give her.

His hand trailed from her ankle up her leg. “I know we’re young, and it may seem crazy to everyone else, but I don’t care. I want to be with you, but only if you love me enough to not regret it.”

“Regret it?” Her throat went so dry, she could barely swallow.

“I want us to be together, Tara. I want you, forever.” Her muscles froze. “Forever?”
Her mind exploded with a sickening realization—one she’d never faced. Not until now.

“Forever is a long time, Peter.”

His lips parted, and he hung his head. “If you’re going to say no, please…for the love of God, don’t drag it out.” She rested her hand on his cheek. “I just…” It felt like someone had stabbed her in the chest with guilt. “Shit.” 

He stared up at her. “That’s the response I get? Shit?”

Her breath recoiled. “No. I’m sorry.” She rubbed her eyes. “But…forever for you isn’t forever for me.” When she dropped her hands to her lap, despair seemed to fill her beyond capacity. “Haven’t you ever thought about that?”

“What are you talking about?”

She stared down at the polished gold band and sparkling stones. “Someday I’ll leave you behind.”

Peter pushed off the floor and sat beside her. “Don’t think about that. You’re all I want, and if we’re going to be together like this…” His fingers trailed down the curve of her shoulder. “I want to be sure our first time isn’t something you wish you could take back.”

Slowly, her eyes met his, and a scar deep inside of her heart ripped open. A scar created from all the first times she had never wanted—all the first times her mom’s boyfriends forced on her when she had been too young to fight back.

Peter knew about her past. She never expected that he would mention it again—especially at a time like this, when she was almost naked, offering what little worth she still had to him.

Tara stood and backed away from the bed. “Don’t you think I know that already? I’ve always wished I could take it back—be braver, stronger, tell someone.” She anchored her hand over her mouth to trap in a sob. Her legs clenched together, and she doubled over. “I’ll never be able to take it back.” Shaking fingers twisted around her limp curls. “Never.”

“Tara. I was just—”

“Trying to help?” Her eyes shot back open, and she 

stood before backing toward the door. The pain turned septic, morphing into rage. Her eyes narrowed. “Do I look like I have a fix me sign tacked onto my back?”

“Of course not.” He stood and reached out to her.

Her heart shattered. She felt it deep inside, in a place she didn’t know existed. A place that was tender and fragile. A place still not tainted with regret, but now in ruins.

Staring at his devastated expression, she couldn’t think of anything but how perfect he was. Flawless, gentle, and kind—a healer, an ability only given to someone with a pure, sincere heart. She was just a used up, worn out girl with nothing to offer him.

Her jaw squared, and she gathered the courage to do what she knew was right. The words scraped through her mind, up her throat, and finally out of her mouth in a shaky whisper. “No. No to getting married.” She grabbed her robe and slipped it on, then opened the door and lingered on the threshold. Unable to bear looking him in the eyes, she stared into the empty hall as she forced the rest out of her lips. “No to us.” 

AMAZON   BARNES AND NOBLE    KOBO     ALL ROMANCE E-BOOKS

I can’t wait for the next book, to know more about Ashley! ”Naznin Azeez  

 
 
Thanks for taking the time to read the excerpt. I hope you enjoyed it. If you’d like to visit me on my website, I’d love to have you! 
 
 
 

Theresa McClinton and The Stone Legacy Series

Hello everyone! Welcome to the TRS End Of Summer bash. I’m so excited to be here!

So I have *BIG NEWS* And I’m over-the-moon excited. 

Lights of Aurora, book two of The Stone Legacy series, is officially in edits and is being prepared to release onto the world! If you haven’t read the first two books–The Stone Guardian, and novella 1.5, Escaping Darkness–I’ll share them below. 

 

Image

 

When myth becomes reality, reality becomes a nightmare.

Like any other teenager in America, Ashley just wants a normal life. But growing up in an orphanage for the insane is anything but normal. After endless therapy and increasing medication, her nightmares have only gotten worse. 

Probably because they’re not nightmares.

When Ashley’s mysteriously abducted, she finds a reality even less normal than the orphanage. And she discovers something else—she’s no ordinary orphan. Faced with enemies thought to only exist in fairy tales, Ashley discovers she possesses a powerful Maya bloodline. She’s the daughter of an ancient Maya Guardian, whose duty is to protect the Stone of Muuk’ich, an enchanted relic blessed by the gods. But first she must get it back from Sarian, a power-hungry demigod who slaughtered the last guardian—Ashley’s mother. Without the stone, all will be lost. 

When she meets Arwan, a hot Belizean time bender, his delicious olive skin and dark eyes make her feel a little less alone. But his gentle whispers and reassuring touch might not be all they seem. How can she balance love and duty when it’s up to her to prevent the rising of the underworld? Especially when the guy she loves might be its crown prince…

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     All Romance E-books

 

 

Image

 

She may have spent years in an asylum, but that didn’t make her crazy–just fearless.

Dropped in Moscow with her friends on an impossible mission against underworld forces, Tara is left to her feelings of overwhelming inadequacy. Her boyfriend is a healer, her best friend is “the Guardian,” and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. The only thing she has been able to contribute are her memories, which has left her with nightmares of her time spent at the mercy of the evil Sarian–who everyone has gone to fight.

Alone with her emotions, Tara finds herself falling into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.

He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground rings of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…

Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo books     All Romance E-books

 

 

 

 

Like mythology? Check out The Stone Legacy Series.

Hey all of you wonderful YA fans. As many of you may already know, I give away a book every month on the 15th right here on TRS’s Book A Day Giveaway. When I realized there would be a party here just for YA books, I was so excited I just had to post. So here I am!

The Stone Legacy series is new and fresh to the YA world, based around Maya mythology, set in a contemporary setting, with a whole lot of paranormal stuff in the mix.

 

BOOK ONE OF THE STONE LEGACY SERIES: THE STONE GUARDIAN

Image

 

OVERALL 4.5/5 STAR RATING ON AMAZON!

When myth becomes reality, reality becomes a nightmare.

Like any other teenager in America, Ashley just wants a normal life. But growing up in an orphanage for the insane is anything but normal. After endless therapy and increasing medication, her nightmares have only gotten worse. 

Probably because they’re not nightmares.

When Ashley’s mysteriously abducted, she finds a reality even less normal than the orphanage. And she discovers something else—she’s no ordinary orphan. Faced with enemies thought to only exist in fairy tales, Ashley discovers she possesses a powerful Maya bloodline. She’s the daughter of an ancient Maya Guardian, whose duty is to protect the Stone of Muuk’ich, an enchanted relic blessed by the gods. But first she must get it back from Sarian, a power-hungry demigod who slaughtered the last guardian—Ashley’s mother. Without the stone, all will be lost. 

When she meets Arwan, a hot Belizean time bender, his delicious olive skin and dark eyes make her feel a little less alone. But his gentle whispers and reassuring touch might not be all they seem. How can she balance love and duty when it’s up to her to prevent the rising of the underworld? Especially when the guy she loves might be its crown prince…

CHECK OUT THE BOOK TRAILER!

*****

NOVELLA 1.5 OF THE STONE LEGACY SERIES: ESCAPING DARKNESS

Image

OVERALL 4.5/5 STAR RATING ON AMAZON!

She may have spent years in an asylum, but that didn’t make her crazy–just fearless.

Dropped in Moscow with her friends on an impossible mission against underworld forces, Tara is left to her feelings of overwhelming inadequacy. Her boyfriend is a healer, her best friend is “the Guardian,” and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. The only thing she has been able to contribute are her memories, which has left her with nightmares of her time spent at the mercy of the evil Sarian–who everyone has gone to fight.

Alone with her emotions, Tara finds herself falling into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.

He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground rings of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…

 

CHECK OUT THE BOOK TRAILER!

 

WHERE TO BUY?

AMAZON

BARNES AND NOBLE

KOBO BOOKS

ALL ROMANCE E-BOOKS

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Image

 

WWW.THERESAMCCLINTON.COM

A long time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of young adult and new adult paranormal and contemporary romance.

 

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and was repeatedly guilt tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries and explored dozens of U.S. states—including an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. But wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.

A Great Year with TRS!

cropped-rp-header2

This has been a wonderful year for me.  I have published three books since February, and TRS has helped me spread the news about all three! :)  I feel I’ve formed “cyber friendships” with the TRS team.  I will always contact them first when I publish a new book because of the way they have demonstrated to me they really are interested in their clients as people, and not just as account numbers.  That is a HUGE deal in this day and age.   I have to give a “shout out” to Holly who has been especially kind and encouraging concerning my father’s terminal illness.  Thanks, Holly.

Here are the books I’ve promoted with the help of TRS….

178981601One Sizzling Summer  197574382

kp-lovebeyondthecurve3121121_0154

All of these books may be purchased at BookStrand Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I came across this poster last night that reminded me of Charlotte from Love Beyond the Curve (and all of us REAL women out there! :) )  I’ll leave you with it, and wish all of you a wonderful week!  Thanks for a great anniversary celebration here at TRS! :)484272_10151259141080816_1537334459_n

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55,960 other followers