Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 Sneak Peek of "A Cowboy for Christmas" by Magdalena Scott

Hello! I'm delighted to share the first chapter of Hannah Kincaid's romance with you today. It's included in our annual anthology, "Sweet Christmas Kisses 4." If you've never visited my imaginary town of Serendipity, Indiana, this is a great time! "A Cowboy for Christmas" is book 9 in the series, but you can start here without any problems. I hope you'll enjoy! --Magdalena


~*~

Chapter 1

His eyes were wild with hatred. His breath escaped in hot, fast gasps. Everyone had told me that coming here was a mistake, and they were about to be proven very right. Unable to move, I watched as he leaned down. At the last second, I closed my eyes…

A soft, warm sensation tickled my outstretched palm. Then silence.

Opening my eyes, I met his for a moment before he tossed his head and snorted at my obvious fear. I had survived for now, but wondered what would happen next time.

My friend Jessica nudged me. “Hannah. Chill out, girlfriend. You lived through it.”

I sucked in a deep breath and stepped back from the massive chestnut horse on the other side of the wood slat fence. Killer—what an apt name. Turning, I managed a weak smile at Jessica. “Wow. You were right. That wasn’t so bad.”

She laughed loudly. “You passed apple slice administration 101, but just barely. It couldn’t be more obvious you’re afraid of horses. Tell me again why you wanted to work here on the Rocking H. Be sure to include the part that it has nothing to do with my brother Jacob.” When she mentioned his name, her face clouded, but in an instant was back to normal.

We’d had this conversation before, she and her sister Ashley and I, over coffee by the massive native-stone fireplace in the chuck wagon building. Now, Jessica and I walked away from the corral toward the dude ranch’s chuck wagon and guest housing. A cold wind blew my hair into my face. I pulled a scrunchie out of my jeans pocket, ran my fingers through my red hair, and created a thick ponytail. These days, looking good was reserved for evenings out, and there were few of those. How far I’d fallen since the days at Indiana University-Bloomington, when I didn’t leave the dorm floor looking less than my best.

“I’m still waiting for a job in environmental management,” I said. “I have profiles posted everywhere I can think of, and every night I follow up on whatever I find online. But in Serendipity, this is the closest thing to it.”

“Closest thing to a job or to environmental management?” She waved a hand, not expecting a response. “I know, I know. Ashley and I adore having you here while you try to find the right position to start your career. But we’re afraid that, even temporarily, it’s not a good fit for you.”

“I’ll get used to the horses. I’m making progress already, don’t you think?”

She was silent, but her facial expression spoke volumes.

“Okaa-ay. I will make progress. I’ve only been here a month, after all. I appreciate the two of you hiring me when the tree farm job ended. Especially since you sort of went behind your brothers’ backs to do it.”

“Jacob’s fine. He has plenty to take care of and keep his mind busy without second-guessing our staffing choice. And Michael—well, he doesn’t know what’s happening here except very generally.”

As far as I could tell, he didn’t care either. Three siblings lived and worked at the ranch—Jessica, Ashley, and Jacob. Michael, whom I’d never met, seemed to be a partner in name only. The fact that Killer, Michael’s horse, lived here seemed to indicate he had an intention of visiting sometime. Either that or he had abandoned the horse, just as it seemed he had abandoned his siblings.

The Rocking H Dude Ranch had opened just six months ago and had done better than most folks in Serendipity expected. For a small backward town, we had some outside-the-box businesses, like the bed and breakfast added to the Standish family’s Christmas tree farm across the road from the Rocking H. B&B guests stayed in tiny cabins sprinkled among the acres of Christmas trees. The location of Serendipity, twenty miles from the nearest interstate, had kept the town from growing as much as some of the other county seats, so recent improvements had been needed.

Jessica picked up her pace. “Come on. We have work to do.”

“Whatever I need to do today is an easy downhill slide from having my palm investigated by Killer’s mouth.”

“Muzzle,” she corrected, giggling. “And you’re probably right about that.”

We cleaned and straightened guest rooms while their occupants were on a trail ride with Jacob and Ashley. Twenty guests—a full complement, in spite of the chill November weather. When the guest rooms were finished, Jessica started dinner, and I cleaned the rest of the building interior. This day, like every day since graduating from IU in the spring, was light years away from what I envisioned.

Everyone returned mid-afternoon. After seeing to the horses with help from Jacob, Ashley, and Jessica, the guests burst into the chuck wagon laughing and cheerfully complaining of soreness. I served hot cocoa and soft drinks while the people who knew all things dude ranch finished up in the barn. Much of what happened here was beyond the scope of my position.

When the siblings entered the room full of guests, there was an obvious rise in enthusiasm. Every set of visitors relished the experience of playing cowboy for a few days while staying at the rustic dude ranch. Jacob’s handsome face was glowing with his enjoyment of the way he spent his work days.
When I handed him a cup of cocoa, he thanked me and put an arm around my shoulders. “Having you here with us on the Rocking H makes everything better, Hannah.”

Part of my reason for seeking this temporary job was to get to know Jacob, but so far that hadn’t worked out as planned. When we were together, he was funny, engaging, and flirtatious. But he was the same way with everyone else. I had fallen for him on sight, but months into our “relationship,” I was still nothing special to Jacob Hollingsworth.

The first time I met him was this summer when I was working at the Christmas tree farm. As new neighbors, he, Jessica, and Ashley paid a visit. He was tall and slim, in well-worn jeans and a pale blue Western shirt that matched his eyes. His tan was deep, and his Stetson white. To me, he was a perfect specimen of what a cowboy should look like. He even called my boss, Francie Standish Carrington, ma’am, which I thought was very brave. My mom feels old when people call her that, but I couldn’t tell what Francie thought about it.

It’s possible that Jacob’s sparkling eyes and brilliant smile helped soften the blow. They sure did things to me.

Now, one of the guests asked him a question. He crossed the room, squatted down next to her, and soon had everyone in the palm of his hand with his easy repartee and folksy stories.


I realized what I was doing wrong here. Being the support staff would never bring me close to Jacob. I needed to be part of the important goings-on of the ranch. My stomach clutched. That meant doing more than timidly feeding apple slices to horses. I needed to learn to ride.




You can pre-order Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 for only 99 cents and have it delivered to your reader on September 26th.


Plus, join us for the Facebook Launch Party on Tuesday, September 26th for giveaways, prizes, games & a chance to meet all the authors!


Magdalena Scott is a USA Today bestselling author of small town sweet romance and women's fiction. Learn more/connect by visiting her website.
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Excerpt of The Vegas Proposal by Julie Jarnagin

Hi Readers! Happy September!

I have to say, I'm enjoying this time of year. We're returning to a normal routine with school in session, but we haven't hit the craziness of the holidays yet. I'm enjoying being back in the groove of things after a crazy summer.

Today, I wanted share an excerpt of my novel, The Vegas Proposal. This is my most recent full length novel. I hope you enjoy!

Here's a little about the book:

A celebrity wedding would save her family’s Las Vegas chapel—as long as she doesn’t fall for the groom.  
The Traditions Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas has been in Claire Grigg’s family for three generations, and she dreams of restoring the struggling chapel to its original glory. When Claire discovers the chapel’s financial problems and the strain it’s putting on her parents’ marriage, Claire commits to doing whatever it takes to save the business. 
Vegas is the last stop on Ben Karr’s tour, and he’s afraid he’ll soon be added to a long list of one-hit wonders. He’s determined to prove that his talent deserves to be taken seriously and all the sacrifices his grandmother made were worth it. He’s known more for his frequent break-ups with famous women than his music. Until he can repair his public image, Ben’s label refuses to invest in another album. 
Ben devises a radical plan to save his career––a fake wedding to his starlet ex-girlfriend—but the adorable chapel director and her talk of true love and commitment is making him rethink the scam. Will Claire and Ben let go of their dreams and risk it all to grab onto a shot at true love?
Excerpt:
The bright Las Vegas sunlight flooded through the open doorway into the dim lobby. Claire stepped forward to greet the guests. “Welcome to…” Her gaze landed on Benjamin Karr, and her mind went blank. “Um. Welcome to…” She’d listened to his song on the radio as she’d driven across town this morning. Faithful and true. No matter what we go through. Our love will be faithful and true.
“Traditions Wedding Chapel?” the crooner asked.
Claire nodded. “Uh, yes. Exactly. Welcome to Traditions Wedding Chapel.”
He flashed a smile and pointed the hat in his hand toward the entrance. With his crisp white shirt, the thin black tie, and the signature fedora in his hand, Benjamin could have been a member of the Rat Pack. “Is your neon sign outside original? It reminds me of old school Las Vegas.”
Claire was still nodding like an idiot when a laugh she couldn’t control slipped from her lips.
A petite blonde stepped beside him. “Well, I’m glad we got all that figured out.”
The blonde pulled the designer sunglasses from her face, and Claire gasped. “You’re Evelyn Lee.”
Reality hit Claire like a handful of rice to the face. The young Hollywood couple was standing in the foyer of a wedding chapel—her wedding chapel. The news had reported that they’d split, but here they were, staring at her.
Famous for being a former teen beauty queen turned actress, Evelyn showed off her best pageant smile. “Apparently, you read People. And you are?”
Claire chided herself for allowing the professionalism she prided herself on to slip away. She swallowed her excitement. “I’m Claire Griggs. This is my family’s chapel.”
Benjamin moved the gray hat into his left hand and reached out to her. “Hi, Claire. I’m Ben.”

Benjamin Karr slid his hand into hers, and Claire’s heels wobbled underneath her. Probably more famous for the tabloid stories about his short-term relationships with beautiful starlets than for his music, he was even more handsome in person than on television. His strong jawline, dark brown hair, and green eyes rivaled any movie star’s. Claire pulled her hand away, hoping they couldn’t see that inside she was doing back flips. “It’s great to meet both of you. What can we do for you?”
Evelyn slipped her arm in the crook of his. “Benny and I wanted to talk to you about a wedding.”
The spark of hope ignited in Claire’s chest. They were here to get married! The notorious bachelor was actually going to settle down. The problems Traditions had competing with the newer chapels and the fancy hotel wedding services would be over the moment the story of their ceremony hit the celebrity blogs and news sites. Couples from everywhere would want to get married in the same chapel as Evelyn Lee and Benjamin Karr.
Benjamin turned his face toward Evelyn, and a look of discord passed between them. It looked like the stories about his fear of commitment were more than rumors.
You can find the book on Amazon here!

Julie Jarnagin is a USA Today bestselling author of sweet and inspirational romance. She grew up in a small Oklahoma town where her family farmed and ranched. These days she lives in a not-so-big city with her amazing husband and two young sons who tolerate all her nerdy quirks. Julie earned a B.A. in Journalism / Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. 
www.JulieJarnagin.com

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 Sneak Peek! First Chapter of Saving Mistletoe by Shanna Hatfield



Sweet Christmas Kisses 4  will releasing next week on September 26! I'm super excited to share my contribution to the boxed set with you today. You can read the first chapter of Saving Mistletoe below! Enjoy!



Chapter One

Portland, Oregon

“No, no, no, no,” Ellen Meade chanted, glaring at the blank, black screen of her cell phone in disgust. Hadn’t she charged it just a few hours ago?  With her luck, the charger hadn’t been fully plugged in and she’d failed to notice in her haste to get out the door.

What else could go wrong? This day, this whole disastrous week, or was it year, might give her ulcers if she survived it.

She stopped on the downtown Portland sidewalk and glanced around. Although she was only a dozen or so blocks from her office, she hadn’t visited this particular part of town for a long time and had no idea how to find her client.

With the client’s address and phone number trapped in her dead phone, along with directions on how to find Mr. Smith’s office, she experienced a moment of panic. Situations like this never happened to her. Ellen was always organized. Always. She planned everything with care and foresight, leaving no room for surprises or failures.

Yet, despite her best efforts, nothing had gone according to plan recently.

Last year, her best friend had gone to Atlanta for a brief visit, fallen in love with some hunky horse wrangler who turned out to be a wealthy plantation owner, and married him a short time later. Tara and Brett were the epitome of wedded bliss, especially with a baby on the way.

Not that Ellen begrudged her friend a single second of happiness. Truly, she was thrilled Tara was living out her happily ever after, even if it was in Georgia and Ellen remained in Oregon.

When they were younger, dreaming of how they would take life by storm, Ellen had set her goals and achieved them with startling precision. The list of achievements she pursued wasn’t long or complicated: graduate from high school with honors, earn a full scholarship to college, graduate at the top of her class, pass the bar exam, take a job with a firm that guaranteed promotions and prestige, earn a partnership and get married — all before she turned twenty-six.

After celebrating her birthday two weeks ago, she’d felt the twinges of disappointment plucking at her soul. She’d failed to live up to her own expectations. Without a boyfriend in sight, the possibility of getting married seemed even more far-fetched than gaining a partnership at the firm where she worked.

The partnership that opened up last month went, of course, to the nephew of one of the founding partners. The man was severely lacking brain cells, but Ellen couldn’t very well tell her boss that. She supposed they’d figure it out soon enough. In the meantime, she assumed additional responsibilities in her already overwhelming workload, including meeting with this client whom she had no idea how to find.

A quick glimpse at her watch confirmed she had less than ten minutes to find the building or she’d be late.

What she wouldn’t give for the good old days when public telephones, and telephone books, could be found every few blocks. If she had access to one, she could call her client. As it was, she knew she should have written down the address instead of relying solely on her phone.

The July sun beat down on her in an unexpected heat wave. Sweat trickled between her shoulder blades and slithered along her spine, increasing her discomfort. She should have taken a cab, one with air conditioning. Instead, she’d decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and take in the blue skies, blooming flowers, and sweetness of summer on a stroll to meet Mr. Smith. Now she was overheated, anxiety-plagued, dripping sweat, and about to be unforgivably late.

“This is just perfect,” she muttered, dropping her phone inside the leather bag she carried over her shoulder before adjusting the bag’s strap.

“Think, think, think,” she said, rubbing her temple with one hand and closing her eyes.

Her mind drew a blank. Not so much as a hint of the address came to her.  No sudden recall pointed her in the right direction. No burst of brilliance helped her remember the client’s phone number.

Frustrated and resolved to returning to her office to retrieve the information she needed, she spun around and smacked into something warm and extremely solid. Momentarily stunned, she was afraid of what she’d hit. She cringed as she considered the possibilities of what she’d done.

The scent of leather and a man’s masculine fragrance mingled with an aroma she vaguely recalled from summer camp when she was thirteen. She’d spent six weeks learning how to ride a horse among the other activities.

What in the world was a horse doing in downtown Portland and how had she blindly smacked into it?

Slowly opening her eyes, she glanced up at the scowling, tanned face of a police officer as he sat astride his large chestnut mount. The horse shook his mane and glanced back at her, as though he measured her worth and found her severely lacking.

She pushed against the man’s muscled thigh to regain her balance and took a step back. The contact with his leg left her further unsettled than she’d been mere seconds before.

Who had muscles like that, anyway? His thigh felt like it was made of steel. What was the guy, a fitness nut? The short sleeves of his uniform shirt only accented his biceps and broad shoulders.
A brief perusal that started at the top of his hat and ended at the toes of his shiny leather riding boots confirmed that the man was, indeed, in prime physical shape.

His gaze held a hint of scorn as he continued to stare at her with a disapproving frown.

“May I help you, miss?” he asked in a smooth voice that held the hint of a drawl. He didn’t sound Southern, exactly, but he wasn’t from Portland, that was for sure. The man had a rugged, outdoorsy look to him. His seat on the back of the tall horse only accentuated the persona.

“No, thank you,” she said. Another step back nearly carried her into two businessmen walking past her. One of them gave her a cool glare while the other shot her an interested glance.

“Are you sure, miss? You seem to be a little lost.” The officer’s expression didn’t soften as he held her gaze with eyes that were a surprisingly clear shade of blue. In spite of his gruffness, Ellen couldn’t help but notice the sculpted firmness of his lips, particularly the top one.

Unbidden, thoughts of kissing it flew into her head. The only explanation she could latch onto was the possibility she had lost her mind. That had to be it. Stress, too many hours on the job, and the fact her last real date had been back in college definitely contributed to her current enthralled state.

The officer leaned down from the saddle, studying her. “Are you an attorney?” The frown lines on his forehead deepened and angry sparks ignited in his eyes.

Shocked by his question, Ellen mutely nodded.

“Did you defend Jonathan Westmont a few months ago?” he asked, a hard edge seeping into his tone.

“As a matter of fact, I did.” Ellen couldn’t think of any reason this officer would know who she was, unless… She took a moment to picture him in a dress uniform, with fury riding his features as he offered testimony at the trial. If his hostile glares could have brought about her demise, she wouldn’t have made it out of the courtroom alive. The high-profile case and the fact she’d won earned her a hefty promotion and a promise she’d be considered the next time a partnership became available.

Ellen had experienced her share of doubts about her client’s innocence. However, her job wasn’t to judge him, but defend him. She’d done her job exceptionally well. Hopefully, her client would learn from his near miss with a prison cell as his abode and not find himself in a similar mess in the future.

“Johnnie Westmont is as guilty as sin and thanks to you the people he cheated won’t ever get their money back, or have any closure on the devastation he caused.” The officer straightened and gave her a loathsome look. “Not only that, but it’s just a matter of time before he does it again. You should feel proud of yourself for making certain a criminal was allowed to go free. If he’s the poster child for the types of people you represent, how do you sleep at night?”

“Why do you seem to have such a vested, personal interest in him, sir?” Ellen asked, affronted. In spite of her irritation, her curiosity sought satisfaction.  What did it matter to Officer Handsome-And-Hotheaded? How dare he condemn her for doing her best for the client?

“I don’t have a personal interest in him, but anyone smarter than an idiot could see he was guilty. One of his victims just happens to be a friend of mine. And I’m the one who found out about his scheme, which is why I testified.” He gave her a long, observant glance. “Is there some reason you’re wandering around here? Do you need assistance? Escorted somewhere? Arrested for assaulting an officer?”

From the dark look on his face, she got the idea helping her might give the man an acute case of indigestion. No doubt lingered in her mind that he’d take great pleasure in hauling her in and locking her in a jail cell.

“No thank you, Officer,” she snapped and turned back in the direction she’d originally headed. 

Conscience pricked by his condemnation, she didn’t want to think about all the concerns his questions stirred.

In fact, sleep had become an elusive wish at night since she’d accepted her first promotion at the firm. The higher up the ladder she climbed, the more she felt urged to leave behind the moral and ethical compasses that had always guided her. She didn’t like representing clients she thought were guilty, but when her boss told her to take a case, she took it without question.

Lately, it was getting harder and harder to help clients she knew were scamming, cheating, lying scum dressed in expensive suits.

Ellen had such big dreams, such high hopes about being a high-powered, successful attorney. Now, her dreams inched toward delusions while the power she’d fought hard to gain seemed false and empty at best.

Regardless, it wasn’t any of the police officer’s business and today wasn’t the day to allow her mind and heart to engage in a heated debate.

 Even if she was lost, she refused to admit to him how badly she needed to find her client’s office. Her boss had stressed the importance of keeping Mr. Smith happy. Ellen had a feeling showing up late wouldn’t sit well with the man.

The clip clop of the horse’s hooves on the sidewalk kept step behind her as she marched forward, with no idea where she needed to go. Half a block later, she tossed a glance over her shoulder to find the officer and horse right behind her. She took a step to the right and stopped, turning back with an accusatory glower.

“Is there some reason you are following me?” she asked, indignant and growing annoyed.

“Who says I’m following you. I’m on duty and this is part of the area I’m patrolling today.” He smirked. “Are you sure you don’t need help?”

Ellen swallowed her pride and narrowed her gaze. “Do you know where to find the office of Smith and Matlock? They have an investment firm somewhere in this area.”

The officer nodded. “I sure do.”

Out of patience, Ellen wanted to stamp her foot. “And? Where can I find it?”

Those enticing lips curved upward in an almost grin as he pointed to a building across the street. “Right there.”

“Oh.” Ellen looked at the building, noticing the sign out front and the street numbers that jangled in her memory. “Thank you, Officer…”

“Tipton, miss. Burke Tipton.” With surprising politeness, he tipped his hat to her then rode away.

Ellen watched him until he turned a corner before racing across the street. As she hurried onto the elevator, she pondered if she’d see the cranky officer again and felt vexed that she wanted to.




Pre-order Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 today for just 99 cents and have it delivered to your e-reader on September 26th!

Amazon  /  Nook  /  iTunes  / Kobo  /  Google Play


 ******



Be sure to join us at the Facebook Release Party on Tuesday, September 26th for books, giveaways, games, and more!



After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 Sneak Peek! First Chapter of "Unique Christmas" by Beate Boeker

This month, you're getting plenty of sneak peeks into our anthology "Sweet Christmas Kisses 4, and today, it's my turn to post the first chapter of "Unique Christmas". I hope you'll enjoy dipping into the story!  

UNIQUE CHRISTMAS
by Beate Boeker


Tomorrow is Christmas. The thought should have made me happy. Instead, it made me feel tired. I rubbed my eyes as I mounted the last rickety steps into my office to get my coat before going home. Major mistake. My right foot got caught somehow, and I fell through the flimsy door into my shadowy attic office, landing on my knees.
Grumbling, I picked myself up. My clumsiness had started sometime in my teens, when my legs and arms had grown with a speed that was downright scary. At the time, people laughed at me and found me cute. But now, I was thirty-two years old, and I still had all sorts of accidents all the time, and it wasn't cute anymore. It was Embarrassing, with a capital E. At least, nobody had seen me this time.
I work as Public Relations Manager at the small but international advertising agency Bello & Pronto in Florence, Italy. This year, the agency had grown like my arms in my teens, and my boss had employed six new people. However, he had not really considered the need for all of us to sit and work somewhere, so the resulting space problem had given us a sardine-in-a-can-feeling.
When I had fallen over my colleague's feet for the sixth time in one week in September, which resulted in a hissing fit of said colleague (I admit, her legs were a bit blue), my boss had the brilliant idea to give me some more space and quiet – by placing me in the attic. Never mind that it wasn't really insulated. Never mind that you could only reach my new office by climbing the most rickety stairs you've ever seen.
For an instant, I had wondered if he was trying to throw me out of my job in some subtle way. Or murder me. However, I'd worked for my boss for six years already, and I knew he was a dear at heart. So I bought a rope to give myself something to hold onto when I mounted, and I accepted my new office. To my surprise, it was heaven. While writing the press releases I needed to churn out at an ever-increasing speed, absolute quiet helped me make the words sing, and when I lifted my head, I could look straight into the attic window on the house at the other side of the street.
Not that there was much to see. It was a dusty little window, and it showed an attic similar to mine, empty, with the exception of tons of dust and an old wooden cupboard at the far wall. That cupboard intrigued me. When I got stuck with my texts, I went to my window, opened it, leaned out and tried to imagine how that huge cupboard had ended up in the attic, and what it contained.
My office is in Via Montenerone, in the historic city center of Florence, but the street hardly ever appears on a map – it's simply too small. The distance between the houses is so narrow I can almost touch the opposite wall when I lean out the window and stretch out my arm. I only tried that once. With my propensity for falling, it's better not to press your luck when leaning out of windows. I contented myself with looking and speculating and admiring the fancy woodwork on the cupboard. Its doors were covered with little carved flowers I could easily discern when the sun shone in. That happened every day for about five minutes, but only until mid-September. Then the sun sank too low. I already looked forward to spring and wondered when the sun would make it above the roof tops again, so it could reach the room.
Now, I rubbed my knee and hobbled to my desk to get my handbag and coat. Ten days without work stretched out ahead of me, and I couldn't wait to crash and sleep and relax. It had been an exhausting year.
From the retreating voices downstairs, I knew I'd soon be on my own in the building. Not that this was anything new. I'm a night owl and had long since received the keys to the office. Besides, we'd just said good bye and Merry Christmas to each other with a bit of Prosecco and some snacks. The office was about to close for the year, about an hour later than planned, but we were getting there.
I sighed with happiness and suppressed the slight feeling of unease that pooled in my stomach. My parents had gone on a cruise this year, leaving me alone for the first Christmas since I was born. I'd told them to go ahead and enjoy the sunshine, but now that Christmas was here, I wasn't so sure anymore.
My sort-of boyfriend Rodolfo had also gone home to his parents in Milano for Christmas. I had to admit I'd waved him off with a lifting of my heart when his car had finally driven down the road. His stuffy presence had become unbearable these last weeks. Rodolfo was a lawyer and compliance manager at a big bank. He earned tons of money, making sure everyone in his bank stuck to every single law the governments of Europe and Italy had ever dreamed up. Some made sense. Most didn't. He didn't care about that. He spent his days enforcing all of them. When I got to know Rodolfo eight months ago, I had no idea a compliance manager had to have the most nitpicking personality imaginable. Talk about professional deformation: He quoted paragraphs at me even while undressing, and that really made me nervous.
On the other hand, he was a dear. He was sweet and reliable and steady. I did value that, which was why I tried to make a go of our relationship, but finally, a week ago, I gave up. I told him we needed to think about our relationship, and some time apart would help both of us to see clearer. He was devastated. I was relieved.
But now, with Christmas almost upon me, I hesitated. Was I going to be lonely? “Nonsense,” I told myself, trying to make my voice sound firm. “I'll finally have time to--” I lifted my head and stopped mid-sentence.
The attic window in the house next door, the one that had intrigued me, was alight. I could see it clearly, a rectangle in the dark, like a medium-sized television screen or a tiny theater stage. A man sat at a desk that seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. He had his profile to me, and I could see his strong jaw, his coffee latte skin, and his mop of dark curls as if I stood in the same room. He stared at the screen of a notebook with a frown that made his eyebrows bristle, and he was wearing an ugly, hand-knitted sweater made of some mottled brown wool. Where had he sprung from?
Mesmerized, I took a step forward. In all these weeks, I had never seen a soul up there. The attics had been my private area, giving me the feeling the roofs were my world alone, and now, just before Christmas, this guy had appeared like . . . like Father Christmas.
I smiled at myself. No, he didn't look like Father Christmas at all. I took my time to survey him a bit better. He looked like a teddy bear. A brown, cuddly teddy bear, particularly with that rough sweater and those unruly curls. A Christmas Teddy.
Actually, it was quite a nice view – a decided improvement. But what terrible timing! Would he still be sitting here in the New Year? I had spent my life in this attic these last weeks – at least, that's how it felt – and now, on the very day when I planned to go on vacation, he appeared. It wasn't fair.
Maybe I could say something nice to him? Something like Merry Christmas or equally meaningful stuff? Yes, that's what I would do. Maybe we could have a little chat and I could find out if he'd come to stay for longer.
I went to the window, took hold of the handle and yanked it open. The window had a tendency to get stuck, but I'd long ago learned the trick. If I pulled just so, with all my might, and twisted it a bit to the side, it would open with a little, familiar creak.
There it was. The creak.
Then I heard another creak. Only it wasn't a creak. It was a crash. And then, before I knew what was happening, the whole window became unstuck and crashed onto my head. I went down like a sack of potatoes.


To read the full story (and 13 other stories besides!), you can pre-order SWEET CHRISTMAS KISSES 4 for only 99 cents here: 
Amazon: http://a.co/600caJ1
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You will meet all the authors and there'll be plenty of prizes and fun! We hope you see you there . . .

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Book Release and Book Sale



THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES was released on 9/5. 

This is a story about love and family, and what we’d do to protect them…and in so doing, protect ourselves. Hannah Cooper, living a secluded life in Cooper’s Hollow, made choices she kept secret and years later those secrets may need to be revealed. 

How far would you go to protect your loved ones? And will they forgive you when they find out? (Excerpt below)


THE HAPPINESS IN BETWEEN is on sale for the month of September for $1.99. http://ow.ly/6bN330eyGDK  I hope you’ll take advantage of the sale if you haven’t already read it. Here’s a brief description: 

Cassandra "Sandra" Hurst did everything right growing up and believed that would give her a bright future, but instead she got Trent Hurst. Her parents helped with the divorce but then she made the same mistakes all over again, and this time they won’s, but her aunt offers her the opportunity to house sit at the old family place on Shoemaker Road to regroup and recover herself. 

Sandra got lost between what she wanted in life and what she found. If she has the opportunity for a second chance, will she have the guts to try?


Excerpt from THE MEMORY OF BUTTERFLIES:

Prologue: 
 
My daughter, Ellen, will graduate from high school this year. The closer we get to graduation, the harder the past is coming at me, kicking like a living creature and forcing its way back into my life. With it, it brings happy memories but also those that were gladly forgotten—including the memory of how I lost my Ellen seventeen years ago, then found her again. I grew up in Virginia, in the woods of Cooper’s Hollow amid the leafy green shadows of Elk Ridge. The rough banks of Cub Creek cut through our land from north to south such that one was never far from the music of its dark water. 

Our small house had sheltered many generations of Coopers, including those resting in the family cemetery on the hill opposite the house. I never wanted to be anywhere else except for a brief time, eighteen years ago, when I, myself, was about to graduate from high school. Six years after that, our home in Cooper’s Hollow burned down, and we were forced to move into town—we being Ellen and me. 

The nearby town of Mineral wasn’t big by most people’s standards, but from my perspective, it certainly was. Moving into town was scary, in part because Ellen was kindergarten age. I’d never wanted to draw attention, and it would be noticeable if she didn’t start school. It was time for it anyway, and it turned out that when it came to school and being around teachers and other children, Ellen was like a lively duck landing in a sparkling lake—it was made for her. I’d taught her some at home, and the school administrators, recognizing her quick mind, moved her into first grade early. Our new life was a perfect fit for Ellen. So, while I talked for the next dozen years about rebuilding our house and going back to live in the Hollow, I never actually got around to doing anything about it. Instead, I settled into the daily life of being a mom, working at my pottery business, and even volunteering at church and with the ladies’ auxiliary. How my grandmother would’ve laughed at the idea of my toting a homemade pound cake or a pasta casserole to a function! But you fit in as you can where you find yourself, and residing in town was social. Very different from living in the Hollow. 

For these last several years, I’ve been biding my time, waiting until the timing was right for both of us—for Ellen to graduate and begin her college career and for me to return home to Cooper’s Hollow permanently—to finally face the past.

::-::-::-::-::

Grace Greene is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author of women’s fiction and contemporary romance set in her native Virginia (Kincaid’s Hope, Cub Creek, The Happiness In Between, The Memory of Butterflies) and the breezy beaches of Emerald Isle, North Carolina (Beach Rental, Beach Winds, Beach Walk, Beach Christmas). Her debut novel, Beach Rental, and the sequel, Beach Winds, are both Top Picks by RT Book Reviews magazine. For more about the author and her books, visit www.gracegreene.com or connect with her on Twitter @Grace_Greene and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GraceGreeneBooks.