Coming July 1: Romancing The Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes


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Today I’m teasing you with a tiny sampler of my story Saved By The Marine, which is featured in the box set Romancing The Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes. This box set is available on preorder July 1. I’m excited to be in this set with Jan Springer, Adrienne Bell, Toni Anderson, Riley J. Ford, Lisa Hughey, Kathy Kulig, Carded Pineiro, Sharon Hamilton and Karen Fenech. Here’s a taste of the box set.

Romancing The Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes

Whether it’s romance, suspense, or action/adventure—Romancing the Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes Box Set offers ten romance stories with something for everyone who craves a hot military hero. For a limited time this is your chance to enjoy books from today’s New York Times, USA Today, and national bestselling authors.

Excerpt from Denise A. Agnew’s Saved By The Marine:

Explosive danger creates a whirlwind of heat between two strangers…

At forty years old, Candy Cartright isn’t eager to indulge in girlish dreams of ‘happily ever after’ when she attends her friend’s wedding. When she runs into a suit and tie guy at the hotel bar, she thinks he’s a nerd businessman.

Retired US Marine Mike Compton finds it amusing that Candy at first mistakes him for a nerd. He’s not looking for a hookup, but he can’t resist the challenge in her eyes. However, when unexpected danger forces them into tight quarters, they discover there’s a hell of lot more to both of them than meets the eye.

* *

Mike followed her onto the dance floor. As they eased into a tight spot, she flowed into his arms on instinct. He didn’t hold her close—he kept their distance formal. She placed her hand on his shoulder, and he cupped her waist and hand. As the music grew a little louder, she smiled up at him. Mike was tall. Even with her heels the top of her head only came level with his eyes. She drew in a deep breath and found his all-male scent a bit intoxicating. Right. It is just the whiskey. But one whiskey didn’t usually cause her to feel this giddy, and being this close to Mike Compton gave her a definite thrill she couldn’t explain. As they moved slowly, the love song’s sultry sound drew her nearer to Mike. She appreciated his formality, yet one part of her wondered what it would feel like to be held close in his arms. His big hands were so damned gentle on hers, yet she sensed a lot of leashed power within them. She caught site of Jessica and Arnie watching her, and Jessica gave her a thumbs up sign. Arnie had a big grin. For a half second she wondered if they’d set her up. Nah. Jessica wouldn’t do that. Would she? She had to know.

“Did Jessica put you up to this?” she asked.

He leaned in closer. His gaze was puzzled. “Put me up to what?”

“I thought maybe she sent you over to dance with me.”

He smiled. “She didn’t send me over. I was late getting to the bar because I was on the slopes skiing earlier today, then I went to dinner with an old friend. Just got in not long ago.”

“Ah, I see.” Time to change the subject. “Did you grow up around here?”

“Yeah, I did. My parents did, too. They owned a ranch here. Mom still works it with my brother and his wife.”

After that they clammed up, and she wondered if his silence meant she’d made a horrible first impression. They moved around the dance floor and after two songs her feet wouldn’t take it any more.

“Afraid these shoes are killing me,” she said with a groan.

He smiled. “Let’s get back to our drinks.”

As he released her hand the warmth of his fingers passing over hers sent a sweet tingle through her skin. She sank onto the barstool and nursed her drink, while he took his time with the remainder of his beer.

“Thanks for the dances,” he said quietly, his eyes still intent on her.

She hadn’t experienced this level of male attention in so long she wasn’t sure what to do with it. She was out of practice making clever conversation.

“You’re welcome. You’re a good dancer.” She didn’t know what the hell to say next, so she said the first odd thing that came to mind. “How tall are you anyway?”

“Six three.”

“Are you a friend of Arnie’s?” she asked, elevating her voice a little as a loud song cam over the speakers.

“From way back. We’ve worked together before.”

A little spark of surprise hit her. “Military?”

“Yep.” When she gaped at him, he grinned.

She bit her lower lip. “I was thinking you could be anything from a soldier to an accountant.”

His nose wrinkled and he chuckled. “Oh, man. Accountant.”

Slightly embarrassed that she’d assumed so much, she said, “Sorry. The glasses threw me off.”

He peered at her. “Are you telling me you’re one of those people who judges by looks?”

Feeling like an idiot, she fessed up. “I don’t usually. But I confess I did this time.”

“It’s okay.” He gestured at the glasses. “I usually wear contacts. These are my BC glasses.”

“BC?”

“Birth control glasses.”

She gave a short burst of laughter. “I see. Because…”

“If you wear them no one will want to make love to you,” he said in a deadpan tone.

Wow. Warmth filled her lower body at the thought of kissing him much less doing the nasty with him. Her imagination went riot. What would he be like as a lover? Were his muscles as glorious as she imagined? Stop Candy. Despite the personal admonition, her body didn’t care. Her nipples tightened against her bra. Thank God the slight padding would camouflage high beams.

Time to get some perspective. “I’ll be right back. Off to powder my nose.”

He nodded. “Where are the restrooms anyway?”

“In the hallway down toward the exit.” She stood and shifted the small clutch handbag over her shoulder.

“I’m going that way, too. Meet you back at the bar?” he asked as he stood and followed her toward the door leading into the hallway.

“Meet you there.” She smiled as he headed in the same direction as her—the men’s room lay across the hallway from the women’s restroom.

Minutes later she stood near the sinks using a hand dryer when she thought she heard a few noises outside she couldn’t identify. Shouts? She stood still and tried to hear over the obnoxious roar of the hand dryer. Again she heard something. A booming noise? What the—?

Her heartbeat picked up the pace. Hands dry, she headed toward the door when she heard shouts outside and then screams and then— Oh shit.

Gunfire.

 

Release Day! Excerpt: Winterfall (The Wasteland Trilogy #3)

Howdy all! I hope you’ve had a great week. Today is the release of Winterfall (The Wasteland Trilogy #3). I had a great time writing about people in Maine after a super volcano explodes in California. Poor California! Always getting destroyed in disaster movies. When I wrote The Wasteland Trilogy I decided these stories would be more about the hero and heroine in each story, their relationship and maybe some of the things that happened to them when the volcano erupted. These stories aren’t about the actual eruptions themselves, but more what might/could/has been theorized would happen on the East Coast of the United States if an event like this did happen. But again, these stories are more about relationships and how people might form those relationships in a time of crisis. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into Winterfall. You can find Winterfall at the following outlets:

Liquid Silver Books

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

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A firefighter and a former soldier have survived an apocalypse, but there is still danger lurking in the winter light

Firefighter Juliet Van Pelt’s strength comes from previous adversity, but there’s an arsonist in town who wants to crank up the heat. When threatening letters target her, she turns to the one man she has never forgotten. Former Army Ranger and sniper Mark O’Day can’t forget the woman he met months ago when their city was in chaos and they shared a dangerous moment. When opportunity brings her into his life again and danger threatens, he knows there is no alternative but to keep her close and never let her go.

* *

Juliet’s eyes almost teared when she caught sight of the four homes across the street leveled to nothing more than charred ruins. “What a mess.”

Mark’s voice sounded a little hoarse. “I’m thankful it didn’t leap the street and get to your house, but I feel bad for those people.”

She couldn’t make her throat work as she imagined all the memories in the burned structures. “At least no one was killed or injured.”

“At least.”

When they parked behind Jeeter and Okono, she unbuckled her seatbelt. “I won’t take long.”

“Want me to go with you?”

She glanced at Jeeter and Okono standing expectantly on the sidewalk. “I have a feeling they’re volunteering for duty.” She grinned. “Gotta keep the overkill going.”

He laughed and they exited the SUV. Part of her wondered if she was imagining it, but were three men actually jockeying for her attention? It didn’t make sense for Okono, because all he’d shown her was misogynistic tendencies. Jeeter liked her, but she wasn’t convinced he wanted her as his girlfriend. Now Mark…Mark did it for her mentally and physically. His teasing, the banter, and their talk about sex had thrilled her on a level she hadn’t experienced with a man in ages. Remembering how hot and amazing his kisses were threatened to set her panties on fire. Part of her thought maybe she should just do him and get it out of her system.

Someone was speaking to her, but she’d totally missed what they’d said. “What?”

Jeeter frowned, and she hated seeing that since he usually had such a happy-go-lucky personality. “You okay? You were about a mile away.”

She smiled to reassure the three men staring at her. “Absolutely. I’ll get my mail.” She walked over to the mailbox, grabbed the bundle of envelopes inside and walked toward them. “You guys hang out here, and I’ll go inside and get a bag ready. I need my car, so I’ll back that onto the street.”

To her surprise, no one objected.

“Amazing,” she said. “That was easy.”

“What was easy?” Okono asked.

She smiled and saluted as she walked away.

She drew in a deep breath and reality hit her in the face. The air still smelled like smoke. She headed up the sidewalk. Once inside the house, she shut the door. She’d left all the curtains closed and had to flip a light on to see. Damn. Even the house smelled like smoke. She wrinkled her nose and threw the mail on the living room table. She took the stairs quickly and went to her bedroom to put together a bag. She threw together a few days’ worth of easy wear clothing. Who knew how long the investigation would take? If they kept this street evacuated for a while, she didn’t plan on returning any time soon. Yet she also couldn’t rely on Sentry Security’s continuing hospitality. She shrugged off the worry. She’d deal with things as they came.

She removed her heels, which were starting to bug her feet, and dragged off the pantyhose, which were making her legs itch. “Thank you God.”

She shucked the sweater dress and tossed it into the hamper, then slipped into her favorite blue sweater, a pair of relaxed jeans, and athletic shoes. When she went downstairs with her weekender bag, she noticed the combination telephone and answering machine for the first time. She had one message. Without thinking she pushed the button to listen.

“Hi sweetie. This is Dad.”

She dropped the bag on the floor in surprise. That was his voice all right. Gravelly. Deep.

“Yeah, I know you’re not too crazy to hear from me. I’m out of prison finally. I’ve served my time and want to reconnect. I heard about the fires in Buckleport and the one across from your house. Wanted to make sure you were okay. If you…look, you probably hate my guts and I understand that. I’d like to connect, though. I’ll try calling you again soon. Take care and stay safe.”

Shivers ran up and down her body, goosebumps trailing up her arms. Dad. Years had gone by since they’d talked, since she’d made the decision to cut him out of her life. Could he have changed in that time? Or had the penitentiary turned him into a worse monster? She rubbed her arms. Whatever. She needed to report this to the Fire Marshal and the police.

“Great. Just great,” she said.

She retrieved the mail and leafed through it quickly in case there was a bill to pay. Junk mail mostly.

“Well, we know the apocalypse wasn’t too bad. People still send junk mail,” she said.

One envelope made her blood run cold, and she tossed the rest on the table. Same white standard size business envelope with no return address and her name printed in blue ink on the front. Same handwriting. No stamp. Her heartbeat quickened, her pulse feeling erratic. She reached for the mail opener and sliced it open. Slowly, holding on to the paper like it was a bomb, she drew the paper out and unfolded it.

Dear Juliet,

I’m sorry you haven’t seen the folly of your ways yet. I don’t blame you for what’s happened, even though some men would. You’re continuing to ignore me even though it is dangerous to do so. You know I’m the only one you can depend on. The fires won’t stop until you acknowledge that you need me. Yes, I started the fires across from you. I could have taken your house, but I have no intention of hurting you at any time. Now that man you’ve been with. That security guy. That’s another thing. I do plan to hurt him.

Admit it and join with me. You want the fire as much as I do. It’s the only way to cleanse the horrible society we’ve created. The volcano was only the beginning, you know. The beginning of the end. Help me start the fires and we’ll make the process go faster. Everything must burn. Everything. And when everything is burned, we will start again. Together.

Love,

Fire Starter

The doorbell rang. She gasped and dropped the letter. “God.”

Cover Reveal: Romancing The Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes

Whooohoooo! Romancing The Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes will be available for preorder July 1. In the meantime, feast your eyes on this glorious cover.

What makes a hot military hero?

Whether it’s romance, suspense, or action/adventure—Romancing the Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes Box Set offers ten romance stories with something for everyone who craves a hot military hero. For a limited time this is your chance to enjoy books from today’s New York Times, USA Today, and national bestselling authors.

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Excerpt: Winterfall (Wasteland Trilogy #3)

Hey everyone! Coming June 15 is the release of Winterfall, the third story in my Wasteland Trilogy. I’d say the final story because this was supposed to be a trilogy, but there is a novella coming out called Nightfall that features a reoccurring character from the previous three stories and it will be out this year as well. In the meantime, you can preorder you copy of Winterfall now at Liquid Silver Books for a discount right here.

Here’s a tidbit from the story to tantalize your palate.

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A firefighter and a former soldier have survived an apocalypse, but there is still danger lurking in the winter light

Firefighter Juliet Van Pelt’s strength comes from previous adversity, but there’s an arsonist in town who wants to crank up the heat. When threatening letters target her, she turns to the one man she has never forgotten.

Former Army Ranger and sniper Mark O’Day can’t forget the woman he met months ago when their city was in chaos and they shared a dangerous moment. When opportunity brings her into his life again and danger threatens, he knows there is no alternative but to keep her close and never let her go.

* *

Buckleport, Maine

October

“Damn, Van Pelt, the way you’re polishing that tumbler is giving me ideas,” Firefighter Decker Okono leered.

Juliet Van Pelt broke from her trance long enough to throw a glare his way. They stood at the sink in the kitchen area of Fire Station Three finishing kitchen duty. Soon she’d take the mandatory forty-eight-hour time off, even if they needed every hand they could get. Besides, her accounting job waited at home, demanding she take care of her “day job” business. As a volunteer, she didn’t get paid, she fought fires for free. Okono, on the other hand, was a full-fledged firefighter with a few years under his belt and the paycheck to go with it.

She continued to dry the glass, turning her attention back to the busy street beyond the station house. “Keep on dreaming, Okono.”

She’d been dreaming all right. Pretending that January’s Long Valley Super Volcano eruption in California hadn’t jacked up their world. Hadn’t wreaked havoc across the United States. Bangor’s population had increased tenfold since the disaster, as waves of refugees from the western states poured into the eastern seaboard and points north. Traffic jammed the streets, and they’d worked a record number of car wrecks in the last week. Fires, too. The job never ended. In the months since the volcano had destroyed the world as they’d known it, things had improved. Riots had ceased, but crime had skyrocketed, and poverty and a general economic downturn had made life a far grimmer situation.

She opened the cabinet to her upper right and deposited the glass.

“Baby, there’s no need for you to dream,” Okono said. “I have everything you need right here inside this uniform.”

Seriously? She almost choked on the idea of sharing anything intimate with the ex-Navy SEAL, especially sex. Even meaningful conversation with this goober seemed completely beyond the realm of possibility.

“I thought Navy SEALS were supposed to be all honorable and shit,” she said, injecting toughness into her voice.

She felt rather than saw him bristle, and for a second wondered if she’d crossed the line. She didn’t know him, not really. If he decided to go postal, she was in deep kimchee. Okono grunted and rinsed another glass. He handed it to her and she dried it thoroughly before adding it to the cabinet.

“I’m as honorable as you’re gonna get, little lady.” His accent changed to fake southern. He was from New Jersey. “There aren’t many good men out there, Van Pelt. A woman needs a protector in this big, bad world. You could do worse than me.”

She laughed, but the sound held nothing but derision. “Yeah, right.”

“I’m serious. This is a different world. More dangerous since Long Valley. And it isn’t getting better anytime soon.”

Got that right. But not this guy. No, she didn’t want or need his protection. Especially not a man who thought his status as a former SEAL entitled him to front row seats to everything, including sex. He seemed to never have heard of sexual harassment, and she could report him. Thing is, she didn’t want the conflict. She could handle his brand of idiocy with one hand tied behind her back.

No, there were other men…far more agreeable than Okono. Her mind flashed back to April when a nasty fire had taken down a warehouse. A serial arsonist had been operating in Buckleport for months now. Scores of buildings had burned and the arson investigators hadn’t closed in on a suspect yet. During that fire she’d met a man who continued to intrude on her thoughts day and night. Hell, he’d done more than that. The nameless man had been part of a security team making sure firefighters weren’t harassed by some bad-ass-wannabes. Her mind drifted to the conversation.

The fire had cooled down, the destruction pretty complete, the old warehouse a smoldering ruin. They’d be here for hours more knocking down any flare ups. One of the rednecks who’d harassed the crew stepped toward her when she’d stopped near the ladder truck to strip off her self-contained breathing apparatus.

“Hey, pretty lady,” the man said, his big body and ham-sized biceps showing pure power. “What the hell are you doing out here? Women shouldn’t be taking a man’s job.”

“What?” she asked, not even sure she’d heard him right. She wasn’t up for games–she was hot, tired, and grimy as hell.

He crossed those beefy arms. “Women ain’t designed to be firefighters.”

“I’m not taking anyone’s job, bub. I’m a volunteer. I don’t get paid.” His mouth dropped open, but before he could say anything else stupid, she continued. “If you don’t mind, I have work to do.”

The man’s glare grew hot with anger. “Listen, bitch–”

“Move along, sir,” a deeper voice said from slightly behind her.

She turned her attention to the man the voice belonged to, and he approached with his semi-automatic clasped in front of him. Her rescuer stood taller than six feet and had dangerous written all over him.

The dipwad who’d given her a hard time stepped back and held both hands up. “Hey, hey. No need to get all violent with me, cop.”

“I’m not a cop. Move back and let the firefighter do her job.”

Her rescuer wore a black baseball cap, tactical or flak vest over a black t-shirt, a pair of khaki cargo pants, and a seriously thunderous frown. She’d seen two men and one woman pile out of an unmarked black SUV not long ago and realized they were one of the private security teams who now supplemented police and military in protecting the city. Security dude owned a powerful, ripped physique that said he might have been in the military at one point. Sunglasses and a baseball cap didn’t camouflage his craggy good looks. His dark hair, almost black, was cut military short as well. All of that wouldn’t have normally drawn her attention, but his voice had a certain quality…an intense, whiskey-deep sound.

“Move along,” the private security man said to the redneck wannabe.

When the guy backed away and left, security dude took his glasses off. His dark chocolate eyes held an intensity that slammed into her with a force she hadn’t expected. She saw undeniable curiosity and attraction in the way he looked at her, but his attention didn’t feel slimy.

“You all right?” he asked.

“Of course.” Defensiveness dripped from her tone. “I can handle myself.”

His gaze swept up and down her body, the look in his eyes telling her he liked what he saw very much. Unlike the slimeball who’d just left, the security dude’s attention sent a wild thrill through her belly.

“I’m sure you can,” security dude said. “But I’m here to help if you need me.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t need you.”

Her captain called her name right then, and when she saw security dude next he was at least fifty yards away.

After that day she hadn’t seen him again, but God she’d dreamed about mystery security man. Hot, sexy dreams that made no sense.

 

Finding Our Stride: Books Of The Heart

A long time ago the light bulb came on for me. You know those times when all of a sudden you see so clearly what you wished you’d seen before. Yeah. That. It took me a while to realize that while I love to write contemporary novels, I seem to find historical novels so compelling to write. Maybe it’s the research I love or creating a whole new take on an event in history that I can’t resist visiting. Such was the case in my historical romance Before The Dawn, set in 1850 Pennsylvania. All of my historical novels are books of my heart, which I can’t say for every contemporary I’ve written. I’m sharing an excerpt here today of a scene from Before The Dawn. Hope you enjoy it!

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A fallen woman must decide to stay down, or rise and fight…

Elijah McKinnon has been found innocent of a heinous murder, but it doesn’t erase the hellish years in prison he endured. He boards the train to Pittsburgh a changed man, certain he will never feel free until he’s wreaked revenge on the brother who ruined his life.

The passenger who catches his eye is intriguing, but he’s seen her kind before. The kind who puts on airs—and looks down on Irishmen. Still, he can’t seem to stop himself from stepping between her and a pack of ruthless cads.

Mary Jane Lawson is grateful for the handsome stranger’s help, but her journey has a higher purpose: to rise above her shattered reputation and declare her independence, come flood or famine. Propriety says she should refuse Elijah’s suggestion they pose as husband and wife—for her own protection, of course. Her practical side says it won’t hurt to pretend, just this once.

Come nightfall, though, their little charade must be carried all the way to shared sleeping quarters, where their vulnerabilities become painfully clear. And when danger past and present threatens, trusting each other becomes a matter of life and death.

* *

She stumbled along in his wake, no energy to ask why they pushed onward into the woods where no one from the train could help them. Thinking that far ahead caused more trepidation, so she concentrated on planting one shoe in front of the other. After what seemed an endless time, a rocky outcropping and massive hill rose in front of them.

“Thank the saints.” He tugged her forward. “Here.” He released her hand long enough to shove aside shrubbery and reveal a tall opening. She saw his throat work as he swallowed hard. “Damnation. I don’t want to go in here, but we must. I’ll go first, you follow.”

His voice snapped like a general, and she flinched. His eyes went hard, unyielding.

The darkness beyond the crevice appeared to be a wide mouth without teeth. What horrors lay inside? Unreasoning fear stilled her courage. She sucked in a quick breath. If Elijah could conquer his apprehension, so could she.

He crawled in, headfirst. When he disappeared into the maw, all went quiet. Even the wind didn’t stir, and the rain stopped. Her entire body quaked. Nightmares of deep, unknown places from childhood tormented her from the edges. They beckoned, dared her to stay brave and to remain sane.

Elijah’s hand came out and then his head. “It’s larger than I thought. It’s a deep rock shelter.”

She clasped his hand and leaned down. He released her once she started inside. She crawled on hands and knees and discovered enough headroom to stand and several feet on both sides. Light penetrated from a large crack in the ceiling.

He inched around in front of her and made certain the hole stayed thoroughly covered by the foliage. Turning back, he stopped. He put one finger to his lips in a gesture of silence. He pulled his weapon from the inner waistcoat pocket and held it, prepared for use. They stayed that way for several minutes. Time stretched in front of her, an eternity of waiting, of anxiety ridden breaths and heart pounding apprehension. Safety still felt far removed. Now that they had stopped running, she heard her own breath rasping, her heart pounding in her ears as her body slowed. Reaction came without remorse. Tears flowed and fell to her cheeks. She regulated her breath by slow turns, and yet her body remained tense. After what seemed an eternity, he made his way past her and sat against one wall. He gestured for her to come closer.

She eased towards him on her hands and knees, her crinoline bunching up in the way. Frustrated, she frowned. She never hated fashion more than this moment.

“Take off the crinoline. We’re leaving it and the corset behind,” he said.

She hesitated and then realized the wisdom in his request. Mary Jane rose to her feet. “Help me. I have to remove the dress first.”

He nodded, his face etched with a harsh determination. She turned away from him. Methodically he unbuttoned the back of the dress while she pulled the hatpins out of her hat and hair. As his fingers moved, a fleeting thought raced by. Even in these desperate moments of flight, his fingers brushing with heat through dress, corset and chemise somehow made her incredibly aware of him as a man. Then the thought fled.

She tossed the pins in a corner and flung the hat aside. She was surprised the thing had not fallen off before now. Her dress stuck to her, sodden with rain and made the buttons more difficult to undo. She would have to dress in it again once she removed the corset and crinoline, but what choice did she have? Before she knew it the shoulders and the tight sleeves eased away from her skin. Eager, she pulled the garment off her arms until she peeled it all the way down and it fell around her waist. She wriggled to shove it off her hips. She stepped out of the dress and worked on the ties that held the crinoline in place. As they remained quiet, a sense of urgency filled the air. They must hurry in case his brother found them and they must fight. She shoved the horsehair padding downward, and he came around to the front and knelt in front of her.

“Here,” he whispered. “Lift your legs one at a time, and I’ll pull it off.”

She complied, and quicker than she expected, Elijah crumpled the nuisance and shoved it into a corner. Without speaking he returned to stand behind her and made short work of the corset laces. When it loosened around her ribs, she sucked in a breath. That felt so much better. Though she never worn her corset particularly tight, removing the garment was liberating. She took one deep breath after another. When he loosened it completely, he pulled it over her head. It, too, went into the corner.

Now that she stood in nothing but chemise, pantalets, stockings and boots, she trembled with cold. His hands rested on her shoulders for a second, and then he turned her around.

His eyes had lost their harshness, but they held no awareness of her as a woman. He had shut down for the fight, all efficiency in the face of danger. “I know the dress is cold and wet, but you have to put it back on. If they find us here…”

She put her fingers over his lips. For a few unguarded seconds, his eyes flared. She’d never imagined green eyes could burn this bright and hot with emotion. Quickly he shut it off, like a flame doused under a rush of water. He helped her back into the dress, which went much faster.

Once done, he sat, propped his back against the wall and stared at her. He drew up one leg and propped his forearm on his knee. With his disheveled hair, sweat beading on his forehead, and a harsh look in his eyes, he looked every inch the dastardly criminal. Part of her wanted to run from him too. After all, she was in this predicament because his brother had a vendetta with Elijah. His rumpled waistcoat hung open, dirt and something red smeared over one side. Worry speared her.

She sank to her knees in the damp earth in front of him. She grabbed the lapels of his waistcoat and parted them. “You are bleeding.”

“No. I’m not. That’s the blood of the man I killed.”

Her lips parted but nothing came out at first. She struggled with her words. “We both… I hit that man with a rock, Elijah. I killed him.”

“I know, darlin’.” His voice softened, the rough understanding lowering his husky voice. “I know.”

More tears came, and as they rained down, her face crumpled.

“Shhh…” He reached for her and pulled her into his lap.

He cuddled her close, his powerful arms providing shelter she desperately craved. She wept quietly, holding back the rage screaming fear. She shuddered and quaked. She saw a misery in his gaze, a genuine sorrow. She touched his face and felt the bristle of beard growing there. In those quiet moments, Mary Jane heard nothing more than gentle breaths, felt nothing more than his heat beneath her, cradling and comforting.

Understanding, like that she had witnessed before, warmed his eyes and softened his visage. His lips parted. She stared at that handsome mouth and wanted it on hers with undeniable desperation.

Closer, closer still, he tilted towards her until…his mouth touched hers with exquisite gentleness. When her lips parted under pressure, his tongue pushed inside. Retreated. Caressed. Owned her mouth with sweet, deep thrusts. She arched into that kiss, breath puffing into him, mouth moving in response, tongue tangling in carnal dance.

Elijah broke away with a gasp, eyes still blazing.

He leaned closer until he whispered in her ear. “If we were anywhere else and completely safe, you would be beneath me. Naked.”

Blunt as his words were, they excited Mary Jane and made her forget their harrowing flight.

“But we can’t.” His burning gaze lingered on her mouth, then recaptured her eyes. “I would put you in danger, and that’s the last thing I want. Promise me something.”

“Anything.” The word, so definitive and complete, left her throat without a pause.

“If they find us here and anything happens to me, you fight with everything in you. You fight to live. You understand?”

“No—I— you are not going to die.” Her voice broke. “That will not happen.”

“If there’s one thing I learned incarcerated in Eastern State, it was that bad things happen and you cannot always stop them. If that bad thing happens, and I cannot keep you safe…you do what you need in order to live.” His gaze was fierce and demanding. “You understand me?”

“Yes.” The excruciating thought twisted a hot knife in her breast. “Yes.”

 

War Time London: One London Night

Last week I profiled Geri Foster’s World War Two novel and this week I’m profiling my World War Two novel One London Night. Writing a story set during World War Two is a challenge, but it’s also an amazing and rich time period ripe with possibilities for creativity. I loved writing One London Night. Here’s a snippet of the danger my characters encounter during the Blitz of 1940.

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War Time London, 1940

A time when uncertainty festers within even the strongest of men.

A time when fear rules everyone’s lives.

A time when love dares to defy the devastation of war.

After years away, American War Correspondent Sylvie Hunnicut returns to England determined to put aside tumultuous memories and muster the courage to cover the war in Great Britain. Guilt she harbors over a horrible accident that permanently injured childhood friend Alec Kent threatens to destroy their relationship. Secret longings for him remain in her heart, even if he wants nothing to do with her.

Alec Kent’s disability works against him in serving his country, until he signs on with the Auxiliary Fire Service. Sylvie’s return brings to the forefront Alec’s hidden love for her, and a determination to prove himself to his disapproving father.

But war promises to destroy the possibility of love and bring a great city to its knees.

* *

Riding in the car with Alec, Bent, and Felix as they towed a pump toward Howard’s Timber Yard was about the most exciting thing Sylvie had ever experienced. She acknowledged a part of herself, right then and there, she hadn’t known existed before tonight. Adventure ran in her blood. Of course she should have known this before. She’d gotten into jams more than once with her stubborn insistence on challenging established rules.

As they rolled through the streets, the glows from more than one fire reminded her this wasn’t an adventure but deadly business. Nervous but thrilled to ride along, Sylvie caught herself talking too much.

“She’s quite the pip, ain’t she?” Felix asked.

Sylvie turned toward Felix—he sat right next to her in the back seat. “I’m right here, Felix. You’re talking about me as if I’m not here.”

A bashful look came over his face. “Sorry, miss.”

“I’d watch out, Felix. She is a pip,” Alec said.

She wanted to pop off with a snappy something that would show them all her mettle. Instead she kept it professional. As the dark buildings went buy, light from the fires ahead made the way easier to navigate. Tension traveled up her body, her muscles going tight.

“Here we go.” Bink’s voice reflected concern. “Straight into hell.”

Sylvie decided to remember what he’d said. Darkness prevented her from making notes. Time passed slowly as they continued slow progress along the streets.

“No wonder things burn down around here. We can’t move any faster,” she said.

“Can’t be helped,” Bink said from the seat in front of her. “We run over a civilian, there will be hell to pay.”

She didn’t want them to think she criticized their efforts. “Of course. If you crash, you can’t help anyone else.”

When they reached the timber yards a long time later, Sylvie quickly discovered her ignorance about firefighting. Walls of flame shot upward from the timber yard despite the efforts of dozens upon dozens of pumps on the scene. As Alec pulled the pump into line with the others, Felix and Bent bailed out to get orders on where they were needed the most.

“My God. Where do you start?” she asked.

In awe and fear, she watched the flames devour everything in their path, barely held back by the firefighters’ efforts.

“Damn good question.” Alec handed her something from the front seat. “Wear these.”

In the dark she almost couldn’t tell what was in her hand. “What is it?”

“Gas goggles. You don’t want eye injuries. I’m wearing a pair.” He slid a balaclava over his head and fastened the goggles in place before putting on the helmet. Then he handed her an extra helmet.

“What…” she started to say.

“Get rid of the fancy hat and wear the helmet and goggles.”

She stared at him for a few seconds.

“I’m serious, Sylvie. Wear it.”

Despite the bossy tone, she knew he was right. “Sparks off the fire.”

With the goggles and other head covering, he looked like some sort of weird creature from a nightmare. “That’s right.”

She worked on removing the hat and tossed it aside. Her hair tumbled down, but she ignored it. She didn’t have time to braid it. She’d have to work the situation with what clothing she possessed.

Felix opened the door. “When you two are done playing, we’ve got a fire out here. They want this pump over on the north side.”

She heard Alec curse under his breath. “Get in.”

As she plopped the helmet on her head, Alec drove them to the north side. As the fire drew nearer, she could feel the heat in the car. Tension rose inside Sylvie. Her stomach tumbled and flipped with an anxiety she couldn’t contain. She’d never crept closer and closer to a fire this huge in her life. She leaned forward to look out the windshield as fear threatened to derail her plans for calm.

You’re a journalist, Sylvie. No matter what you’re feeling, you have to do this.

She drew in a breath and let it out slowly. Noise outside the car hid the sound. Good. If they knew how nervous this made her, they’d believe all the things said about women as war correspondents. It didn’t matter if this whole thing scared her to death, she couldn’t show it.

The car and pump drew to a halt. Her heart raced as Alec and the other men hurried out of the car. She sat there a second too long before she noticed Alec, Felix, and Bink manned the hoses. She wished she had a camera, but her memory would have to do the trick, and maybe she could write some notes if the fire made it light enough. She hesitated, the fierce flames sending a primitive fear through her she’d only experienced once before.

Her mind flashed back to being fourteen and hearing Alec’s cry of agony as glass tore into his right eye. Recalling that horrible experience hurt enough, but the flames…the flames dove into everything primitive inside her. She’d been prepared, hadn’t she? She’d imagined this scene before.

She forced herself out of the car but stood near it, as if it would be a bastion of safety if things got out of control.

Heat blasted her, and she took an involuntary step back. Glad for sturdy shoes and practical clothing, she directed her attention toward recording everything she could in her mind’s eye. Water spouted from the hose Alec and the other men pointed at the relentless conflagration. Streams of water came from another hose manned by other men. They’d hooked up the hose to a hydrant. She shoved aside all apprehension and allowed her senses to absorb the situation. She’d need all this for her article. Fear sliced like a knife through her, but she closed her eyes and listened.

An angry roar and snapping sound told her the fire had no mercy. It was a beast without conscience or morals. Heat came in waves. Snaps and crackles mingled with the ping, plop, and zing of mortar popping and melting. Bricks crumbled and fell. The noise almost eclipsed the drone of Germans flying overhead and the ack-ack noise of anti-aircraft guns.

She opened her eyes and matched what she saw with the hellacious sounds. Fire shot up from the center of the building and made the windows look like yellow eyes staring at her in condemnation. An element of helplessness overwhelmed Sylvie. She took out her notebook and managed a few perfunctory notes. She couldn’t fight this fire, and the men nearby put their lives on the line doing what they could to tame this beast. Shouts mixed with grunts of exertion. She was hot and tired already, and the night was certainly young. She remembered them explaining that if it was an oil bomb fire, they’d take care of it with a special foam. But this wasn’t that type of fire, apparently—she didn’t see any crew using foam. As time dragged on, the pumps at the fire started to make progress. She wandered away from the car but kept herself far away from the timber yard and other buildings.

A roar came from somewhere nearby, and someone shouted.

“Sylvie!”

Alec’s voice reached over the horrible sound of hell coming undone, and she realized the building behind her was listing to the side and new flames had cropped up. Sparks had found their way over her head.

“Sylvie, get away from there!”

Alec raced toward her, and she darted toward him and what she hoped was safety.

 

 

 

Geri Foster and Love Released (World War II Historical Romantic Suspense)

Today I’m welcoming author Geri Foster and her new leap into historical Romantic Suspense with her first Women of Courage story, Love Released. I want to applaud Geri for writing historical romances that are different! The creativity coach in me is thrilled to see any writer take a step toward writing what really thrills them. Welcome Geri!

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For all the years I’ve been writing, not once did I consider writing a Historical Romantic Suspense. I’ve always leaned toward danger and suspense, but more in the cotemporary world with spies, special agents and lots of action.

As I continued to write these books, in the back of my mind was a very frightened, weary young woman begging me to tell her story. I ignored her for over a year, with my critique partners, writer friends and even my editor telling me to go for it. I believed that Women of Courage simply wasn’t my kind of story and not what people had come to expect from me.

What would my readers and fans say? Would they cross over? Going from Action Adventure to Historical Romantic Suspense is a wide gap. It was a gamble. What if no one liked that era? Was it too soon to write a post-World War II book?

I would be stepping out of my comfort zone as a writer and I was very leery.

Another thing that frightened me was that this story would be an extremely emotional story of true love and I didn’t know if I was up to that. I would have to write raw, gritty and heartbreaking scenes. That’s so difficult for a writer to settle into. But, the story also had its rewards. There were other touching scenes of tenderness of loving a child, heartwarming reunions, true bonds, and happy ever after.

No longer able to keep the story inside, I set out on this daunting journey with the idea I’d write one book and see how it goes. I learned in the writing world it doesn’t pay to make plans. Every story has a life of its own and Women of Courage would not allow me to stop until the story was finished.

I set the story where I was familiar, my great grandmother’s hometown. My hometown is twelve miles away. So much of the story is set in a fictional place that’s a blend of both places.

My character’s name is Cora and so was my grandmother’s, and that’s just a hint of how much of the story parallels things I’m comfortable with.

I hope you will try this serial. While I’d meant it to be one, maybe two books, it’s grown much larger and even as I write this, it continues to grow.

If you like to immerse yourself into the lives of fascinating characters facing the difficulties of life after the Second World War, people forgiving the past and finding true, deep, abiding love then you’ll enjoy Women of Courage.

* *

She’s running from a past, he’s duty-bound to protect her.

He stands on the other side of sorrow and despair with a love so vast and strong it reaches into her soul and sparks the courage to become the woman she dares.

Cora Williams is an ex-con with no place to go but Gibbs City, Missouri. A small mid-western town where she hopes to remain undisturbed and unobtrusive. With her nephew Jack, her wants are simple, to hide from the horrors of her past.

Sheriff Virgil Carter is a WW2 veteran with demons of his own, but Parker County is his to protect. That includes a young, beautiful woman newly released from prison who longs to be left alone.

Love often comes like sleep, softly, quietly and unexpectedly. You just have to close your eyes and dream.

Geri Foster Bio

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Geri Foster is a multi-genre author with over 15 titles. They include her bestselling Romantic Suspense series Falcon Securities, the Historical Romantic Suspense serial Women of Courage and cute, short, sexy ERoms, Accidental Pleasures. She stays busy continuing her series and consistently coming up with new and exciting stories for her readers.

She’s been writing for years and enjoys hearing from her fans and chatting on her Facebook Groups, Women of Courage Book readers and Smart Women’s Romantic Suspense Readers Group. She’s been a member of RWA for almost twenty years, and belongs to two local chapters.

She enjoys her grandchildren, friends, family, and traveling. Europe is her favorite destination. She always has fun at conferences and can usually be found at the bar.

She lives with her husband and their shy rescue dog, Lola, in the DFW area of Texas.

Links for Book One of Woman Of Courage-Love Released

Amazon

iBooks

Kobo

Google

B&N

Writing: Keeping The Daydream Alive

 

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Pardon me if I’ve posted this blog before! I just emerged from several hours of writing. I’m still in that fog, that ecstasy stage when I’ve written a scene I’m very pleased with. I’m planning on jumping straight into writing more this afternoon. Strike while the iron is hot. Lately I’ve been compelled to talk more about writing and what a writer needs to keep that iron hot. Writers listen to far too many shoulds I think. There’s a lot to be said for doing things your own way and to use another tried and true saying…damn the torpedoes.

Don’t daydream. Don’t be unrealistic. Don’t have fun.

As children we are sometimes lectured to rein in our creativity, and as adults the admonitions are often equally as powerful. Adults often forget or perhaps we’ve never known, that in order to create we must daydream and we must open ourselves to possibilities. And by gosh we’ve gotta have fun.

Whether we’re painting, dancing, sculpting, drawing or writing, we have limited ability to create satisfying art if we don’t daydream. As children we did it naturally. As adults we often need to relearn how to discover the beauty of daydreaming and the benefits it can have for our creative practice.

Rediscovering daydreaming can be as easy as taking the time to remember our childhoods. As a creative people we can usually recall those blissful moments of staring outside and being fascinated with the world. Play was the ultimate in creativity.

Few things are more exciting than finding that much talked about inner child. Because without that innocence, that piece of us that says it’s all right to play, creativity can escape us.

How do we recapture that bliss? It could be as simple as trying this one simple idea:

Take a pad of paper outside wherever you won’t be disturbed. It could be a park, your backyard or even your front porch. Breathe deeply and absorb what you’re hearing and seeing. Reconnect with the part of you that wants to return to basics. Scribble. Sketch even if you aren’t a painter or into drawing. Brainstorm a story idea based on what you see around you even if you aren’t a storyteller. Color outside of the lines. No idea is too strange. No picture is too ugly. This is your recess. Children don’t know they “can’t” do something until they’re told they can’t. Remember what it was like before someone told you “no.”

Try this whenever you’re feeling creatively stifled and discover how much easier it is to access the beauty of daydreaming.

Denise A. Agnew is the author of over 60 novels. Denise is also a paranormal investigator, Reiki Master and Certified Creativity Coach.  Visit Denise’s websites at www.creativepencoaching.com and www.deniseagnew.com.

 

Just Say Yes To Creativity

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It’s entirely possible that I said ALL of this in another blog not that long ago. My brain is a bit pickled from traveling. Got back from being out of town last week. :)

In my other hat as a creativity coach, I see the many slings and arrows (stealing from Shakespeare here) that creative people endure on a daily basis. Steven Pressfield, in his great book The War of Art, calls it resistance. A resistance formed by the mind that says, “Hey I can do the dishes and bow down to other outside influences before I write.” But there’s another way authors can make themselves nuts. Okay there are A LOT of other ways authors can make themselves nuts. One in particular is refusing to create what you want most to create.

Creativity. It asks you to perform, to write, to paint, to dance. It asks you to do something so few will ever do, because most people are afraid. Most people are slotted into a box early on, even if they once ventured, as a child, toward creativity.

I don’t know about you, but I think it is counterproductive to creativity to tell your muse to shut up. Yet writers do it every day. I so often see writers, who burn to create, sitting inside a box. The box that says, “This is the thing to write, because everyone else is writing it.” I also hear writers say, “I can’t wait to finish writing this book so I can start the book I really want to write.” Does this seem counter to creativity to you? To write something you don’t want to write? Perhaps there are writers who are happiest in a box. And this cool. They should stay and do what they want if most of the time they are happy. But there are far more writers who long to create that weird story. The one that nags at them in the middle of the night. If they’ve always been a romance author and this idea they have is for a mainstream book or a horror novel or some genre they’ve never tried before, they’ll shut themselves down. Or they’ll allow someone else to shut them down. It’s not practical to write that crazy idea. What will people think? It doesn’t matter what they think. Or what I think. It’s your creativity asking you to have the adventure. So have it and be joyful.

Many writers I know (including myself), will get wild ideas for a novel. Do I say, “Damn that sounds like a super complex story and it will be a lot of work and it’s way outside of what I’ve done before.” Yes, I say all of that. Then I notice how I feel about the book ideas. I get, really excited. I also get scared. Yet I know the complex ideas, the exciting and scary are usually amazingly fulfilling, the most gratifying stories I’ll ever write. So I write down the ideas and keep them in a future book file. Because my current work in progress is one of those wild ideas I had a long time ago. You know what? That’s exciting. That’s creativity working in me.

Keep your mind open to the possibilities and allow your creativity to say yes to things instead of no. It’s amazing how much happiness and joy there is to be found in just saying yes.

Creativity & Creative Truths

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When I started creativity coaching training, I wished to learn new ways to bring into focus a truth I believed in and still believe to this day. Creative people must create, or the host of mental and physical problems that come from denying their creativity is enormous. From my own creative work and coaching experience, I’ve repeatedly witnessed the misery that comes from individuals not acknowledging and acting on their creativity. Creativity, for some, is as vital to life as breathing.

Despite this reality, fighting against a societal belief (and internal belief) that says creativity isn’t worthy may not be the best tactic.

Perhaps discovering personal creative truth is better.

What do I mean by creative truth? It’s surrendering to the understanding that for some creativity is vital to physical and mental health. I’ve seen creative people talk themselves into a restrictive box filled with “shoulds.” I believe creative individuals need coaches who can help them discover personal creative truth. While there are infinite creative truths, a few jumped to mind as I trained to become a coach that I believe are vital for lifelong creativity.

Creative Truths I’ve Discovered

*Any impulse to create should always be honored.

*Stifling creativity because of outside expectations is often damaging to free expression.

*Individuals must discover which creative method motivates them and recognize there is no wrong way to create.

*Acknowledging a childlike desire to play (recess if you will) usually results in joyful creation.

*Problems with inspiration begin when you talk yourself out of being who you are as a creator.

*Refilling the creative well often gives the creative individual what they need to boost them over any roadblock.

*Creating what you believe is interesting and meaningful is top priority. Creating what someone else deems worthy will eventually be unsatisfying.

I hope every creative journey you take brings you the greatest of happiness and health.

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Denise A. Agnew, owner of Creative Pen Coaching, brings over twenty years in the publishing industry into her creativity coaching. Denise helps individuals excavate their way to the truth behind their creative challenges. Contact her at www.creativepencoaching.com and denise@creativepencoaching.com