Sunday, April 15, 2018

Everyone needs their own armrest avenger on a long flight

I'm flying to San Francisco today to see friends before heading up to the LA Times Festival of Books later in the week. I'm on my first Virgin American flight and loving it--I have an exit row all to myself and I've just found out that my main cabin select ticket includes free alcohol, meals, and snacks.

My very real socked interloper
on this flight to SFO.
So here I am, buzzing along through edits on Camp H.O.W.L. 3, when suddenly I see a socked foot worm its way onto my armrest. Gross? Definitely. But also hilarious, because the same damn thing happens in the opening scene of Under a Blue Moon, which is Camp H.O.W.L. 2. So in honor of this blatant violation of the rules of polite society, I'm going to give you half of the first chapter of the next book, which is due out in mid-June.

In it you'll meet Drew, an armrest avenger who saves Nick from the same fate I'm experiencing. Alas, my conscience won't allow me to take the measures he did, so I'm just going to order another rum and orange juice and pretend it's not there.


Under a Blue Moon
A Camp H.O.W.L. novel


Traveling never brought out the best in Nick. He was self-aware enough to realize that, and he could even pinpoint what about travel was a stressor. If he had a patient who complained of anxiety, headaches, and poorly bottled-up rage while traveling, he would help them come up with coping mechanisms for the psychological stress and figure out how to best mitigate the physical symptoms.

But like almost all psychologists, he was a bad patient. He didn’t do his homework or follow the steps he’d prescribe for anyone else in his situation. Hence his sour mood and the blinding headache he had at the moment.

Really, though, he’d checked when March’s full moon was, and it had been at the beginning of the month. He hadn’t realized there was another one at the end and that it coincided with the day he was flying to Indiana. Astronomers called them blue moons, but he called them a pain in the ass.

Nick took a deep, grounding breath and tried to ignore the scents it brought with it. Someone three rows back had brought a burrito on the plane. Nick was pretty sure that was on the psychological checklist for sociopaths. Lack of remorse or shame? Check. Pathological egocentricity?

Check. Brings strong-smelling foods into enclosed spaces? Double check.

Planes were always difficult because of the sheer number of people who were on and off of them in a day. His sister swore by essential oils— she’d dab herself with peppermint or something else bitingly astringent before getting on a plane, overwhelming her senses with an unpleasant but at least controlled scent. His Alpha always flew with earplugs and noise-canceling headphones. He claimed that with a light-proof eye mask, it was possible to sleep on a plane and wake up at your destination, skipping the hours of discomfort in between.

Nick called bullshit on the last part. There was absolutely no way a werewolf could sleep on a plane. Maybe if he was flying with no one on the plane but his Pack. Maybe. But sitting in a vulnerable position among a bunch of strangers? And worse, human strangers who boarded a plane with their AXE Body Spray, flowery fabric softener, and pungent burritos? Granted, they couldn’t know how those strong scents assaulted a supernatural nose, but surely even humans thought that stuff stank.

His seat shook as the person behind him moved around, and a  second later a socked foot emerged between the seats and propped itself on Nick’s armrest. Nick gritted his teeth and fought the urge to whirl around and bare shifted fangs at the person. At least the foot didn’t smell, but still. Common decency.

He was never flying with an airline that didn’t give you seat assignments again, no matter how outrageous the baggage fees were on other carriers. He normally boarded shortly before the flight attendants closed the doors, but on this airline he’d been assigned a boarding position, and if he hadn’t boarded early, he’d have been stuck in an even worse spot than he was in now. At least the seat next to him was empty.

He’d taken the window because it was the farthest he could get from the other passengers, and thankfully the person who’d sat in his aisle had left a seat between them. With any luck it would stay empty.

Nick leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, but that only magnified his other senses. He could hear the baggage handlers tossing suitcases into the cargo hold underneath them and the low hum of the pilots running through their preflight checks. A kid a few rows back needed a diaper change, and someone else was watching one of those annoying BuzzFeed videos without headphones.

His flight from Denver to St. Louis had left so early that his fellow passengers had been blissfully quiet. Most had slept. He’d stuffed his earbuds in and listened to Morrissey wail about toxic relationships and the failings of the human condition to while away the two and a half hours.

This flight was barely an hour in the air, so with any luck he’d make it to Indianapolis before his migraine made his head explode. 

“Sorry, just sliding by,” a voice said, and a moment later someone dropped into the seat next to him. He heard a hiss and a squeal from the row behind them, and when he cracked open an eye, he was gratified to see a laptop bag sitting on top of the armrest-stealing foot.

The bag lifted and the socked foot disappeared abruptly amid angry muttering from the girl it belonged to. Nick wondered if offering the man a high five would be considered rude.

“Sorry,” the man mouthed when Nick turned to him. “That was probably rude, but oh my God, who does that?”

The man gestured toward the armrest, and Nick half fell in love in that moment. He’d done it on purpose! And he was gorgeous, Nick realized as he took in the man’s strong jaw and broad shoulders. His cheeks were flushed like he’d had to run to catch the flight, and holy hell, between that and the bedhead, the effect went straight to Nick’s groin.

“Sociopaths,” Nick mouthed back. “Same people who bring Chipotle on the plane.”

The guy laughed, revealing a set of perfect teeth and the beginnings of laugh lines crinkling around his eyes.

“I’m Drew.”

He leaned in but didn’t offer Nick his hand, which was a mercy. It was a basic Were instinct to avoid carrying a stranger’s scent, but humans didn’t know that was the reason he always recoiled from what they saw as a friendly handshake.

Not that Nick’s wolf would mind carrying Drew’s scent. It was intoxicating. Warm and soft but not overwhelming. Natural, without the harsh chemical tang most deodorants and soaps carried. So few humans opted for unscented products. It was a shame, because a person’s natural pheromones were almost always more alluring than whatever artificial fragrance they cloaked them with.

“Nick.”

Drew settled back into his own seat, leaving the armrest between them clear. The drumbeat of Nick’s incessant migraine quieted a notch, buffered from the rest of the plane by the oasis of Drew’s delicious scent.

Drew buckled his belt and grinned at him. “Are you a plane talker or a plane ignorer? Because I can do either.”

Nick laughed. “Usually an ignorer, but I can make an exception for an armrest avenger.”

Drew glanced down at the empty armrest. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“You most definitely should have, and I’m glad you did.”

“No, I could have caused a Lisfranc fracture if it hit in the right spot. I treated one last week caused by something lighter than my laptop.”

Drew looked distraught, like maybe he was going to check on the intruding foot, and a wave of possessiveness washed over Nick. He didn’t want Drew chatting anyone else up on the plane, even if it was just to make sure the owner of the socked foot was okay.

Nick leaned out of the cocoon of Drew’s scent and took a breath, trying to subtly search for the smell of pain that would accompany a broken bone. Someone in the row behind them had opened a bag of
Twizzlers, but that was the extent of the olfactory feedback. Definitely not injured.

“She’s fine.”

Drew blinked at him, and Nick backpedaled. Shit. What the hell was he doing? How was he going to teach wolflings how to manage themselves in public if he was stupid enough to scent the air in front of a human? God, the moon was really messing with him today. His nana had always said blue moons brought good relationship luck, but he wasn’t feeling particularly lucky—or relatable—today.

“Uh, like, broken bones hurt, right? And she didn’t cry out or anything, so I’m just assuming....”

Drew flicked a gaze back to the armrest, leaning in toward Nick again. “And how do you know it’s a she?”

Because he’d been able to smell it on the foot. He’d picked up the sweet, cloying scent of hormonal birth control.

“Uh, the sock was pink?”

It had been gray, but he was praying Drew hadn’t noticed that.

Drew gave him a sharp look but shrugged and eased back into his seat. “No harm no foul, then. I’d hate to break my Hippocratic Oath the day before starting a new job. It would suck to make it through six years of junkies and hypochondriacs with a clean record and then fuck up right before starting my own practice.”

The tension building in Nick’s shoulders eased. Occam’s razor never failed. People wanted to believe the easiest explanation, even if it contradicted what they’d seen with their own eyes. “So doctor, eh? I
figured, since you called it a Lisfranc fracture instead of just saying you could have broken the top bone on her foot.”

“There isn’t just one bone on the top of the foot.”

“Of course there isn’t. Like a quarter of the human body’s bones are in the feet.”

Drew raised a brow. “Let me guess. You’re a podiatrist?”

Nick choked out a laugh. God, he couldn’t imagine a Were in a job like that. Surrounded by smelly feet all day? No. “Psychologist, but my anatomy professor was particularly obsessed with feet.”

“That sounds more like something that would have come up in your clinicals,” Drew said, and Nick bobbed his thigh out to touch Drew’s as they laughed. The touch was electric, and Nick’s stomach dipped like the bottom had dropped out of the world.

A moment later it happened again, but he’d shaken himself out of his flirting haze enough to realize it was the plane, not some erotic connection between the two of them.

The PA crackled on. “Sorry folks, we’re in for a rough ride. Flight attendants, please take your seats. The weather pattern we were keeping an eye on has shifted. We were trying to stay to the north of it, but it’s on the move. We’re doing everything we can in the cockpit to get out in front of this storm, but it looks like we’re stuck with her for the moment.”

There was a beat of silence before a flight attendant picked up.

“We will do our best to resume drink service as soon as the captain gives us the all clear, but it’s a short flight to Indy and we may not be able to. We do apologize for the inconvenience.”

The plane dipped and jolted again, and several people screamed.

“The captain has turned on the seat belt sign, so please make sure your belt is securely fastened. At this time we ask that you return all loose items to their spot under the seat in front of you.”

Nick opened the shade on his window, exposing violently hued clouds and rain streaking across the surface of the glass. Lightning forked across the sky, and the plane seemed to vibrate with the almost
instantaneous thunder.

Drew’s breath fanned across his cheek as he leaned over Nick to get a better view. “Damn.”

The plane jolted again, and someone a few rows behind them started crying. Nick’s ears popped, which must mean they were descending.

“Folks, air traffic control is closing the Indianapolis airport due to hail and some movement in the clouds over there. We’re being diverted to Chicago. We’re about two hundred miles out from O’Hare, so we’re going to start preparations for landing. We should have you on the ground in twenty to thirty minutes.”

Thunder rocked the plane again, and there was a long beat of silence before the flight attendants started moving carefully around the front of the cabin.

“We do apologize for the inconvenience, but we’re told this is our safest option, so it’s the one we’re going to take. Once we’re on the ground in Chicago, agents will meet the plane to help get you to your final destination. If Indianapolis is your final destination, there will be more information about when that airport will be open to air traffic again once we land.”

Drew grimaced and moved back out of Nick’s space, and Nick slid the shade shut, blocking out the storm. “Headed to Indianapolis or just passing through?” he asked.

“Final destination, unfortunately. I was supposed to be picked up at the airport by my new boss.”

“Me too.” Nick tapped his fingers on his thighs, restless. “So this ‘movement in the clouds’ thing the pilot was talking about—that was a veiled reference to tornadoes, right?”

“Not so veiled, but yeah. I take it you’re not from the Midwest?” Drew seemed wholly unconcerned, which itself was a bit concerning. Were tornadoes that common here? How could he be stuck on a tin can in weather like this and not be worried? “No. You are?”

“I’ve lived in St. Louis most of my life. Left for college and my residency but ended up back there.” A soft smile curved across Drew’s lips. “My family, we’re close. And that’s where they are, so it’s where I stayed. But to answer your question, this weather isn’t anything to be too concerned about. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

God, what had he gotten himself into? He’d only done a cursory amount of research on Southern Indiana. It got less snow than Denver but had the same wild swings in temperature. He’d read it was humid in the summer, which would be interesting. The brochures had all promised air- conditioned cabins, and he hadn’t read much further than that.

“Sounds like we might be stuck in Chicago for a bit.”

As long as Drew was stuck with him, Nick could think of worse things. He didn’t technically have to be at Camp H.O.W.L. until the staff meeting on Sunday night, which gave him all of tomorrow afternoon to figure out how to get to camp from Chicago.

“I bet we won’t get out of O’Hare till Sunday. There are probably delays all over if the weather’s this bad.” Drew raised an eyebrow suggestively and Nick’s pulse jumped at the blatant invitation.

Yeah, he could work with this.


Under a Blue Moon
Bru Baker


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#WIPWednesday Return to Camp H.O.W.L.

It's been an egregiously long time since I posted a #WIPWednesday, but in my defense, it's because I've been too caught up writing to remember to do it. So that's something, right? 

I'm working on Camp H.O.W.L. 3 right now but I figured dumping you right into book 3 without giving you a taste of book 2 wouldn't be fair. So today's #WIPWednesday is an excerpt from Under a Blue Moon, which is book 2 in the Camp H.O.W.L. series. You'll still get to see bits of Adrian and Tate, but the main characters are Drew and Nick, both of whom are new staffers at Camp H.O.W.L.

They have instant chemistry, but Drew is human, which throws up some red flags for Nick, who's a werewolf. Of course, he'd known Drew was human when he'd slept with him the night before...but he hadn't realized they'd be working together.

In this excerpt, Nick has just arrived at Camp H.O.W.L. and is heading to his first staff meeting. He's nervous about meeting everyone and still a little hung up on the amazing guy he'd had a one-night stand. They hadn't even exchanged numbers, so of course Drew is the last person he'd expect to see at Camp H.O.W.L.

If you haven't read book 1 yet, you can pick it up here in ebook, print, or audio!

Enjoy!



Once in a blue moon, opposites find they’re a perfect match.

Nick Perry is tired of helping people with their marriages, so when a spot opens up to work with teens at Camp H.O.W.L., he jumps at it. He doesn’t expect to fall in lust with the dreamy new camp doctor, Drew Welch. But Drew is human, and Nick has seen secrets ruin too many relationships to think that a human/werewolf romance can go anywhere.

Happy-go-lucky Drew may not sprout claws, but he’s been part of the Were community all his life. He has no trouble fitting in at the camp—except for Nick’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the growing attraction between them and his ridiculous stance on dating humans. Fate intervenes when one of his private practice patients threatens Drew’s life. Will the close call help Nick to see a connection like theirs isn’t something to let go of?
_________________________EXCERPT____________________________

Under a Blue Moon
Camp H.O.W.L. book 2
Dreamspinner Press, release date June 2018


It was smart, isolating the camp on a parcel of land surrounded by public parklands. Nick bet if he looked at the land records he’d find the national parkland had been donated by a wealthy family, with the camp itself being left as private property. Hidden on thousands of acres, people would have eventually forgotten the entire tract wasn’t public land. 
Anyone who stumbled on Camp H.O.W.L. now saw miles of fencing and warnings about not picking up hitchhikers. The camp was officially a private program for troubled teens who needed nature therapy. 
He hadn’t come across a wolfling yet, but dinner was just ending. They’d still been in lockdown when he and Harris had arrived, and now he could hear the muffled chaos of a large group of teens talking and eating in the mess hall nearby. He’d already looked over the roster of kids in his cabin—all boys. They were breaking him in gently, because God only knew what a cabin full of teenage girl drama would be like. 
The infirmary was one of the few buildings on campus that didn’t have a view of the lake. Every light blazed like some sort of homing beacon. Did they always leave it lit up like that, or was it for his benefit? 
Nick lifted a shoulder and sniffed at his shirt, reassuring himself he’d changed out of Drew’s dirty one at the cabin. He’d stuffed it in his suitcase after unpacking—lying and telling himself he’d stashed it there so it didn’t get mixed in with his laundry and not in a lame attempt to preserve the remnants of their scents mixed together. 
He jogged up the cedar stairs and into the building, following the quiet hum of conversation through the small lobby and deeper into the darkened hallway. There was an empty desk—reception, he guessed—and few small exam rooms with the doors propped open. A staircase led upstairs, but the voices were coming from farther back. He emerged onto a large screened-in porch, joining a group of about ten people who were milling around with plates of food. 
Anne Marie snagged him immediately. “Welcome, Nick. We usually eat in the mess hall before the meeting, but today was a little hectic with the storm cleanup. The mess sent over some food, and we were just finishing up. Help yourself if you’re hungry.” 
His stomach was too tied up in knots to eat, but he knew he’d regret it later if he didn’t try to force something down. It wasn’t like he could make a Taco Bell run at midnight if he got hungry. 
The dinner laid out on the table didn’t look like something that had been pulled together for a last-minute meal. There were platters of roast beef sandwiches on thick slices of brioche, several types of salads, and some sort of soup that smelled mouthwatering. Spicy and sweet. 
His pulse quickened as he took another breath. It wasn’t the soup. 
He was wearing one of his own clean shirts, but Drew’s smell was unmistakable. He’d spent last night trying to memorize it to give himself something to think about on his lonely nights at camp. Nick turned around and scanned the room, looking for the source of the smell. Anne Marie was talking to Kenya, and the rest of the staff was clustered in groups of threes and fours, chatting. Harris was nowhere to be seen, but he’d told Nick he had mess-hall duty, so he was probably still there keeping an eye on the wolflings.
There weren’t any other familiar faces, and Nick forced himself to take a calming breath. Clearly he was losing his mind. 
Nick helped himself to a plate and a sandwich and wandered over to the edge of the porch. The infirmary might not have a view of the lake, but it had its own pond out back. Water burbled down a pebbled wall, and he could smell the citrusy tang of the lemongrass growing in pots along the edge. It blended nicely with the sharp smell of the evergreens that blanketed the forest. The entire setup was peaceful and relaxing, which made sense. This was an infirmary, after all. Weres were immune to most diseases and infections, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t break bones or injure themselves in the same ways humans did. They just healed faster—especially in an environment like this. 
“It’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon reading,” Kenya said, joining him. “The pond has koi in it, and when it gets a little warmer, we’ll bring out hammocks and chairs so everyone can enjoy the pond. Though I suppose that might change. Diann kept the pond and the porch open for anyone, but it’s not actually meant to be a public space. The camp doctor lives upstairs, so this is really an extension of his home.” 
Nick hadn’t realized the doctor lived there, but it made sense. The stairs he’d passed probably led to an apartment. The doctor needed to be available at all hours to care for sick wolflings, and living above the infirmary would make that easy. 
“I think you’ll like him,” she said, gesturing over his shoulder toward the hallway. “You two are about the same age, and he’s got a great sense of humor.” 
The spicy-sweet smell intensified, and Nick turned around, panic building tight and hot in his throat. It couldn’t be, could it? 
But it was. 
Drew stood in the doorway, freshly showered and dressed in a Camp H.O.W.L. T-shirt that was just a little bit too big. It dipped below his collarbone, exposing a love bite Nick had left there last night. It was only visible for a second, disappearing behind the sweater Drew pulled over his head before stepping onto the porch. 
“Sorry for holding you up,” Drew said, slightly breathless. “I wanted to wash the plane off.” 
He’d probably wanted to wash the scent of a werewolf off too. Nick had done the same as soon as he’d gotten into his room, even though smelling a human on him wouldn’t have caused any problems. Not like the scent of a foreign wolf would in a new den.
Drew’s hair had been mussed by the collar of his sweater, and he absently ran his hands through it to tame it, a motion that looked so practiced Nick doubted he knew he was doing it, let alone how sexy it was. 
“Already wearing the merch, Dr. Welch?” someone called from a chair a few feet away.
Drew laughed. “Like it’s a surprise, Scott. I think this one is yours, isn’t it? I recognize the ketchup stain under the O.” 
“Why aren’t you wearing mine?” a tiny blonde sitting on the arm of an easy chair called out. 
“The one you sent had literal sparkles and ended under my nipples, Kaylee. I’m saving it for a special occasion, obviously.” 
The thought of Drew in a skin-tight belly shirt made Nick shiver. What the hell was going on? Was this actually happening or was he having some sort of stress-induced hallucination? If it really was Drew—and his nose was telling him it was—then why was he acting like he knew every werewolf in the room? How was he even in the room? This was a Were camp, and the last time he’d checked, Drew was decidedly lacking in an inner wolf. 
“Everyone sent Drew an article of clothing that carried their scent so he’d smell like Pack when he got here,” Kenya explained, leaning in to whisper in his ear. “We figured it would be easier for the wolflings to accept a human if he smelled like he belonged here right from the beginning.” 
It wasn’t just a scent thing. Drew acted like he belonged here, too. He was completely at home, joking around with everyone like they were old friends. Hell, he wasn’t even wearing shoes. The sight of his bare toes poking out from the hem of his jeans was so domestic it made Nick want to pounce and claim him right there on the floor. The thought made him scowl at the bare wooden planks like they’d offended him. Even though he’d been fantasizing about finding Drew all day, seeing him here was nightmare. Nick didn’t want a relationship with him, not a real one. And now that they were coworkers, they certainly couldn’t be fuck buddies. 
Kenya turned to face him, and Nick realized he hadn’t said anything since Drew had walked in. 
“That isn’t going to be a problem, is it?” she asked sharply. “Drew being human?” 
As a coworker? No. But as a huge complication in Nick’s work life? Yes.

__________________________________________________________________

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Holiday treats for your sweet tooth


 Holiday romances

Thanksgiving is behind us and we're coming up on that holiday sweet spot--early enough in the season we're still feeling warm and fuzzy, before we've been exhausted by holiday shopping and baking and what can seem like an endless parade of parties and family visits.

Or maybe that's just my introvert showing. 

At any rate, it's time for sweet holiday treats, classic movie marathons, and best of all, cozy holiday stories! It's no secret that I love writing holiday stories. My first book was a short in the Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar collection in 2012 (Traditions from the Heart), which means I celebrated my five-year publishing anniversary on Dec. 1. Hard to believe I now have 20 books out with Dreamspinner! (And five of them are holiday stories!) And how fitting is it that book 20 was also a holiday short story for the Advent calendar? It was so awesome to have my 20th book come out on the 5th anniversary of my first release. *g*

                                                                                             AMAZON   BARNES AND NOBLE  DREAMSPINNER   KOBO


What I'm reading

AMAZON  BN  KOBO
AMAZON

I've been working feverishly on Under a Blue Moon, the sequel to Camp H.O.W.L., and now that it's safely in the hands of my editor at Dreamspinner I can gorge on some holiday reads. 

I've already read (and LOVED) the holiday offerings from Caraway Carter and Hunter Frost. They're both feel-good reads that are a little outside the traditional holiday story. 

We'll be working on getting our Christmas decorations up in the Baker household this weekend, and I always make a batch of peppermint bark to sustain us. I bought the expensive stuff for years until I realized how easy it to make yourself. Though now we probably eat way too much of it through the holiday season. *g* Once you make this for friends I promise it will be what they ask you to bring to holiday parties forever after. It looks impressive and tastes great, and you don't have to tell them it's dead simple to make!


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WIP Wednesday: Christmas in June

If you follow me on Facebook you know I've been in a self-imposed holiday music hell for the last week or so as I finished up my Dreamspinner Press Advent submission. I'd been working on it on and off for months and found I needed to buckle down and focus or I'd never make the deadline.

My kids were beyond tired of Christmas pop, so they were thrilled when I picked them up from camp yesterday blasting the Hamilton soundtrack. That's right, my Advent draft is finished!

I'm so excited to introduce you to Grant, Josh, and Aubrey in today's excerpt. As you can see (that's them in the snowglobe), Josh and Aubrey are ridiculously adorable together, so I'm sure you can sympathize with how irresistible Grant finds them when they walk into his art studio looking for Christmas craft lessons.

Audiobook news


Between that and the Tall, Dark, and Deported audiobook coming out on Monday, it's been an exciting week for me--and it's only Wednesday! Dorian Bane does an amazing job on it, so I hope you'll listen to the sample. I love the way he makes Crawford and Mateus come alive and infuses both of them with so much personality. This is my first title to be released in audiobook and I thought it would be weird to hear my words but it was so much fun to listen to. (And now that I don't have to listen to holiday music in the car on my commute, I can listen to the entire thing today when I head in to work later! *g*)


Excerpt

The wreath Thing 2 and I made last Christmas.
And now, enjoy some crafty Christmas fun with Josh, Aubrey, and Grant from my latest WIP. Grant is talking Aubrey through making an ornament wreath (see the picture) while Josh listens. He's been flirting with Josh for several lessons and decides it's time to double down on his innuendo...even though he's pretty sure Josh is straight.

❄❄🎄❄❄

Grant rooted around in the basket and found the set of glittery rub-on letters he’d put in earlier. “You said you were giving the wreath to your aunt, right Aubrey?”

Aubrey shifted her focus to him without missing a beat. “My Aunt Jo.”

“Well, if you think she’d like it we can monogram the wreath with her initials. I think it would look great with the frosted ornaments you’ve picked out.”
 
Aubrey squealed. “She’d love that!”

“Okay. Well, once we get your wreath glued together we’ll put these letters on the three ornaments that are in the center. What do you think? Top or bottom?”

Josh made a choking noise from the next table where he’d sunk into a chair with his coffee. Grant looked up, startled, and then caught the accidental innuendo. Instead of backing away from it as he should have, he dug in deeper. “If it was for me I’d say bottom. It’s my favorite position for things like that. It’s always better on the bottom.”Josh’s coffee sloshed when he put it down abruptly, spilling over his knuckles as his coughing fit continued. Grant didn’t know if that was a good thing or not, but at least he’d tried.

“I want to put them at the bottom,” Aubrey said, blessedly oblivious to the undertones. “Monograms are the things with the letters from her name, aren’t they?”

Aubrey’s wreath was all arranged, so Grant turned on the glue gun to warm it up. He’d gone with an assortment of bright colors for his, laid haphazardly. It was a big contrast to Aubrey’s carefully laid pattern of understated colors. They looked great next to each other. He’d have to take a photo for the studio’s Instagram when they were done. And maybe a few with Aubrey and Hot Divorced Dad for his own personal scrapbook of students with their art.

“You can do monograms two ways. You can do the first letter from her first and last name only or you can add her middle initial, too,” he told her. Josh had recovered from his coughing fit and was watching them with a veiled expression, his long legs splayed as he lounged in a chair that was meant for someone much smaller than him. Grant’s knees were practically touching his ears, so he could sympathize.

Aubrey studied her wreath. “It would be nice and centered if we do the one with three.”

The kid had great instincts. Grant hoped she’d become a regular, and not just because Josh came with her. He didn’t know if she had any natural talent for drawing or painting, but her eye for color and design was well beyond her age. He’d bet that carried over into artistic talent, especially given how well her father could paint.

“We’ll do three, then. You’ll need to find her initials in capital letters.”

Aubrey talked to herself as she chose the letters. “Josephine Clarke.” She frowned and looked over her shoulder at Josh. “What’s her middle name?”

“Lynn,” Josh said without hesitation.

That must mean this aunt was his sister. Between the shared last name and his certainty about her middle name, it made sense.

“Hmm.” Aubrey dug through and found an L. “Mom’s middle name is Lydia.”

“And mine is Leonard,” Josh said.

Aubrey giggled. “So you all have the same monogram?”

Josh’s ex hadn’t changed her last name? Didn’t women usually do that after a divorce? And her name started with J, too? They’d probably had one of those weddings with their initials engraved on everything. It would have been cute. Grant kind of hated her for that.

The light on the glue gun clicked off, signaling it was ready to use. Was Aubrey ready to handle it on her own? Grant flicked his glance from the glue gun to Josh, who shrugged.

“She’s used one before, but I don’t know how closely Jill supervised.”

So the ex’s name must be Jill. Josh and Jill. It’s too adorable to hate them. Ugh.

“I’m allowed to hold the pieces together,” Aubrey said. She waved a hand dismissively.

“You have to put the glue on.”

Well that settled that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WIP Wednesday to celebrate the upcoming release of Tall, Dark, and Deported!


It's almost release day for Tall, Dark, and Deported, and I admit I've been spending most of my time writing blog tour posts instead of working on a WIP. I'm going to share a favorite scene from the book for #WIP Wednesday instead.
I hope you'll join me at my tour stops for a few video readings, a killer recipe for homemade hot pretzels, and a tongue-in-cheek look at what an author does on release day, just to highlight a few. *g*

Tour stops:

March 25: MM Good Books: A primer in our favorite category romance tropes

March 29: Kimmers Erotic Book Banter: Why Crawford and Mateus's story makes good fiction but bad reality

March 30: Open Skye: Meet Mateus and Crawford

March 31: My fiction Nook: Video reading

April 1: Alpha Book Reviews: Top 10 things authors do on release day

April 3: Novel Approach: The Auntie Anne's copycat recipe you never knew your life was missing

April 4: Love Bytes: Video reading (featuring those delectable pretzels)

April 5: Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words: Interview

April 6: Boy Meets Boy: Video reading

April 6: Kimi-Chan Experience: LA Times Festival of Books and what's next

And now for the promised excerpt: Mateus and Crawford met only hours ago, but they're already married. It was a ploy to keep Mateus from being deported, but Crawford is finding it has some bonuses for him, too. Namely, making his ex-husband and co-worker Davis cattily jealous. 


Tall, Dark, and DeportedRelease date: April 1


“I had no idea you were getting married,” Davis said when he finally tore his eyes away and looked at Crawford. His cheek twitched, just like it always did when he was annoyed, but that was the only giveaway to show he wasn’t as enthusiastically pleased as his tone suggested. Davis always had been excellent at reading situations and acting exactly as he should. “And that you were bringing your new husband along to Vancouver.”

“They were just married today,” Michelle said helpfully.

The twitch grew more pronounced. “Is that so?” he asked, giving Crawford a speculative look. “Well, then, I must agree with Michelle. We insist you take the penthouse suite. And you’ll join me for dinner tonight, won’t you? I was planning to dine here at the hotel with some of the management staff, but since this is a special occasion, I think that can wait. We can have the concierge secure a reservation somewhere appropriately festive.”

Crawford’s mouth fell open, but before he could let loose a scathing retort—leave it to Davis to make Crawford’s remarriage all about him, Jesus—Mateus spoke up.

“That is so kind of you, but I have plans for my husband tonight.” Mateus’s voice was like velvet, making it clear that those plans he so glibly referenced were definitely not for public consumption. He ran a proprietary hand up Crawford’s back and down his arm, twining their hands together.

Davis visibly flinched, his eyes widening. “Tomorrow, then. I insist. My treat, to celebrate. It really is amazing to see Crawford married again,” he said, his composure returning with his smirk. The look he gave Crawford was speculative, like he could see right through him. He’d always been a lot better at reading people than Crawford had. After all, he’d correctly sized Crawford up as a chump, hadn’t he?

“Ah, I don’t know if I’ll be done with him by then, but I don’t want to keep him from his work. I suppose I can share,” Mateus purred.

Davis colored a bit at the insinuation that he was nothing but a coworker. “I do wonder why you chose to get married right now,” Davis said, a gleam in his eye. “The timing is a bit curious. I mean, you hadn’t said anything about your husband-to-be in any of our conference calls, and then you get married the day you’re going to see me?” He turned to Mateus and lowered his voice conspiratorially. “Surely you know who I am. I can’t imagine Crawford hasn’t told you about me.”

Crawford felt like he was in the middle of a tennis match or a particularly vicious argument on some Real Housewives spin-off. He knew he should intervene, but he couldn’t seem to make himself speak. It would be so easy to smile and shrug Davis off, claiming they were tired and needed to get up to their room. It would be totally plausible that newlyweds would want alone time, but it was also mortifying that the clerk and the entire lobby would assume he and Mateus were going upstairs to have sex.

“Oh, he has,” Mateus said, his smile still firmly in place. He squeezed Crawford’s hand. “Shall we go up, meu amor?"

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Something a little different

Today for #WIPWednesday I'm changing lanes a bit and sharing something from my first foray into lesbian romance. (No worries if that's not your genre--we'll be back to gay romance next week with more from my werewolves, Tate and Adrian!)

Not only is it a lesbian romance, it's a Regency historical, which is also something new for me. It's a novelette, so it was a low-stress way for me to dip my toe into both genres. I had a blast with it and it has been well received, so it likely won't be my last. *g*

This is also my first time self-publishing something, so I don't have my usual channels to get the word out about a new release. (If you have any tips, drop me a line!)



Heart's Thaw


Release date: Dec. 4, 2016

Calliope snickered, earning herself a dark look from Helena that only served to make her laugh harder. It really was quite amusing. On her end of things, at any rate.
“I told you not to bait him, but you did it anyway,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest, hoping the restriction would help her gain her breath and stop chuckling.
Helena’s lips pursed but she didn't respond to Calliope’s taunt. It was something Calliope could get used to, and a fresh gale of laughter threatened.
 But Helena’s reflexes were still her own, afflicted as she was, and Calliope barely had time to duck before a riding boot went soaring over her head, smacking into the wall behind her with a loud thump.
“Do you want to rouse Baron Thane?” Calliope asked, lifting an eyebrow challengingly.
Helena’s teeth clicked together as she bit back a retort, her blue eyes cold as steel as she glared out from under a wispy fringe of long, blonde locks that had escaped their binding and framed her face. Smooth, soft cheeks that were usually rouged and powdered when Calliope saw them twitched with the effort of her restraint. Her lips had been bitten to a fetching cherry-red, pressed into a pout that looked more seductive than quelling.
Calliope straightened her back, unsuccessfully trying to school her features into a look of regret. How long had she fantasized about this? Having Helena beat down her door at all hours, hair in wild disarray and eyes sparkling with lust?
Of course, in the fantasies, things went a bit differently. Fantasy Helena was there because she truly desired Calliope, not because an angry incubus had bespelled her with a curse that she trusted no one other than Calliope to help her lift. In her fantasies, she and Helena shared long, intimate chats tangled up together in the bedclothes, enjoying the afterglow.
More importantly, in the fantasies, Helena wasn't half-mad with panic. She barely looked like herself, her hair mussed and falling from the meticulous braid that Calliope knew Helena's maid twisted it into nightly. Helena looked like a caricature of herself standing there in her plain night shift, her chest heaving and cheeks flushed from her frantic dash from her own quarters to Calliope’s.
She also looked a good five years younger. Calliope had never seen Helena without the careful coif and artfully applied paint that Helena usually wore like armor. Standing there freshly scrubbed and clad in plain cotton that didn't look any fancier than what Calliope herself was wearing, Helena could have been mistaken for one of the chamber maids.
Except for her sharp tongue. That was definitely the same. The story Helena had just woven in her usual soft, lilting tones—marred by a gratuitous use of profanity and several completely unnecessary affronts on Calliope’s intellect and general person that assured Calliope that Helena was indeed herself—seemed too far-fetched to be believable.
In fact, had Calliope not been with Helena when the two of them had come upon a comely young gentleman in the woods during their late afternoon ride, Calliope wouldn't have believed her.
But Calliope remembered well how eagerly the man bid for Helena's attention, and how shocked and angry he had been when he had been primly rebuked. He had the look of someone who'd had never had his advances rejected before, and given his ethereal beauty and fine linens, Calliope thought he probably hadn't.
Helena hadn't held her tongue then, either. By the time she'd finished dressing the gentleman down for having the gall to speak so frankly to someone of Helena's station, the man's face had practically been puce.
Calliope had thought it a trick of light when his features changed, but one look at Helena's terrified face had put paid to that. Somehow they'd had the luck to stumble across an incubus, and Her Ladyship, daughter and only child of the Duke of Keering, Helena Alexandra Gertrude Heart, had mortally offended him.
He'd flashed to Helena's side before Calliope could even pull the dagger she wore at her belt whenever they left the safety of the estate, but he didn't strike. He merely whispered something to her, something that had Helena's face draining of what little color it had left.
She and Calliope had fled, of course. And even with his preternatural grace, the incubus hadn't been able to catch them as they'd galloped away on their mounts, two of the stables' most reliable and fleet-footed steeds. Calliope had assumed they'd escaped him, but apparently she'd been wrong. Perhaps he hadn't given chase not because he knew he couldn't catch them, but because he'd already exacted his revenge. Not that Calliope could get Helena to tell her exactly what the spell was. She'd said only that she it was base and abominable and that she needed Calliope to help her break it before the effects became permanent.
You can find out what happens by picking up Heart's Thaw for .99 cents on Amazon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

WIP Wednesday: Meet Adrian, an adorable fail!wolf

Last week I shared a snippet from Camp H.O.W.L. so you could meet Tate, a Were psychologist who works as a camp counselor helping teenagers who need to learn to master their Shift. This week I'm introducing you to his toughest challenge yet--Adrian, the 27-year-old son of the Portland Alpha who never hit his Werewolf puberty. Weres Turn when they're nineteen, so when that year came and went, Adrian and his family adjusted to the news that he was human.

Until his 27th birthday rolls around and he finds himself hitting Were puberty--in the middle of a crowded city street. Adrian's pretty much the definition of a fail!wolf. I can't wait for you to get to know him! *g*

Camp H.O.W.L.

Adrian stopped at the crosswalk and took a sip of his coffee as he waited for the light to change. He nearly heaved when the bitter liquid spilled across his tongue. He’d ordered this drink dozens of times and it had always been sweet and smooth, nothing like this awful concoction. The taste of burnt coffee lingered in his mouth, held there by a syrupy residue that he could feel like a weight against his tongue. 

He licked against his teeth, trying to rid his tongue of the sensation. This entire day had been a nightmare, and he’d only been up for an hour. Even the hot shower he’d taken to try to loosen his tensed muscles and ease his headache had been a disaster. The hotel must have been having water pressure problems because the rain shower head had been anything but relaxing. The water had hit his skin like tiny missiles, leaving him feeling tender and raw afterward. 

The light changed and Adrian moved across the wide street with the smattering of people who’d been waiting near him. The man nearest him must have had his Bluetooth headset turned up to eleven--Adrian could hear every word. He glanced over, surprised that the nicely dressed businessman wasn’t more concerned about privacy. From what Adrian had heard, it sounded like the man was listening to an audiobook or pod cast that was describing a sex scene in lurid detail. No one around them looked the slightest bit scandalized, which made Adrian reevaluate some of his assumptions about Indianapolis. The book would have raised some eyebrows even in his liberal hometown of Portland, but it got nary a sideways glance here in the Heartland. 

Adrian brought his foot down hard on the curb and almost went sprawling, but the businessman he’d been watching grabbed him by the elbow and kept him on his feet. Adrian’s satchel swung forward and slammed into the man, the impact knocking one of his earbuds out. 

Adrian’s face flamed when a long, loud moan split the air, but no one noticed. The businessman gave him a concerned glance once he’d steadied Adrian on the sidewalk, but Adrian waved him off with a quick thanks. The book continued to play, muted slightly when the man tucked the earbud back into place.

Adrian stopped short, stepping to the side when another group of people went by. No one had heard. That’s why they hadn’t reacted. Because the man had been listening at normal volume, and even when the earbud had fallen out, no one had heard because it hadn’t been audible. 
Except he’d heard.

Adrian rubbed his hand across his face. What was going on? He was used to seeing his Packmates react to to things that were outside the register he could process, but he’d obviously never experienced that himself.

He'd never given much thought to what Were senses must be like. Sure, he'd seen his sister flinch when fire alarms went off, or noticed how irritable his family could get when they were in a loud, crowded restaurant. But mostly, the Weres he knew adapted to their heightened senses.

That couldn't really be what was happening, though. He didn't know anyone who had Were senses but not the ability to Shift. Not that he personally knew anyone born to Were parents who was a human—like him. But still. No one hit Were puberty at twenty-seven. Did they?
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