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A Peek Inside "Accidental Valentine"

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A Peek Inside "Accidental Valentine"

My steamy Valentine’s romance, Accidental Valentine, is officially launched and available!

Want a peek inside the short but oh-so-sweet story? You got it — keep reading to enjoy the first couple of chapters . . .

💋 Chapter One 💋

✨ Beau ✨

I lean back from the architectural plan sprawled out on the table before me, chewing my lip as I consider my work. Ms. Edwards is particularly fastidious, set on creating and owning the quirkiest house in our small western town — but at half the price of what such a house would normally cost. I’ve been trying to find ways to cut corners on the fenestration while still sketching in the spots of flair and character that she expects. 


It is, in other words, a huge pain in my ass.


My cell phone rings and I reach for it, eager for a mental break from the Edwards plans. 
Until I see that it’s from my mother.


Shit. 
It’s mid February, just a few days until Valentine’s Day, and I know exactly why she’s calling.


There’s no point in avoiding her call, though. You can’t hide in a town this small, no matter how much it’s growing. And it is growing, quickly, which is great for business.


Still. As tempting as it is to ignore the phone, I know it would be an exercise in futility.


“Hey, Mom. What’s up?” The words are tired even to my own ears. I brace myself for what’s coming.


“Beau, I just wanted to touch base with you about —“


“The annual Valentine’s square dance?” I finish.


She makes a noise of amusement. “How’d you know, dear? It’s like you read my mind.”


“Well,” I said, voice wry, “I know just how much this event means to you.” I know it a little too well, actually, I add silently.


“You’re planning on being there?”


As if I have a choice. “Of course.”


“Excellent. Now, I’ve got a partner all set for you. She’s a lovely girl from —“


“You don’t have to do that, you know.” I sigh. “I really would rather you didn’t.”


“This is important, Beau. You can’t show up to the big dance alone.”


“The scandal.” I roll my eyes.


She misses the point. “Exactly.” I picture her nodding her head vigorously, her bleached blonde halo of meticulously arranged curls bobbing.


“You know, I actually thought I might find my own partner this year.” I speak without thinking. 
Silence descends over the line for a moment.

“You’ve already got a partner lined up?” she asks.


“Yeah.” I know I should not be saying this — I know that odds are I won’t be able to follow through on such a promise, knowing how picky I am — but I can’t stop myself. 


Another pause. “And you’re sure.” Her words are not a question.


“Mom.” I square my shoulders and lie through my teeth, ignoring the knot of doubt tightening in my gut. “Trust me. I’ve got this.”


Her voice brightens as if illuminated by a rare day of winter sunshine. “Well, I must say, that’s refreshing to hear, dear. I can’t wait to meet her.”


“Yeah,” I say again, the knot in my belly pinching tighter. “You’re going to love her.”


I hang up the phone and lay it next to the architectural plans. Suddenly, this complicated project is not the most difficult thing in my life. 
Now I have to come up with a date to bring to square dance my parents host at their barn every Valentine’s Day — a task that I’ve attempted many years before, and failed at. 


Sure, our once tiny town is slowly but surely blossoming into a small city. But for someone who’s lived here his whole life — someone who knows the vast majority of the people who populate this corner of the world — it’s hard to find a thoughtful, interesting woman who gets my blood pumping. 


Most of the women I’ve met here are strong, capable, gun-toting mountain gals — but can’t hold a conversation about much more than the state football team, hunting season, and floating the river. 


I love all of those things. But I want more. An intelligent conversation about current events, or a book, or, hell, even a Netflix show. I want a woman to stimulate my mind as much as she stimulates my desire — and vice versa. 


That’s hard to find around here.


But I don’t have to find the girl of my dreams for this square dance. I just have to find a woman who will go.


That can’t be so difficult. Right?


I rub my eyes with the heels of my hands. Who am I kidding? This might take something of a miracle.

💋 Chapter Two 💋

✨ Scarlett ✨

I try not to slam my first graders’ chairs on top of their desks as I clean up the classroom at the end of the day. Celine, my fellow first grade teacher and classroom neighbor, is leaning in the door frame, chatting up a storm that has no end in sight.


“This Valentine’s Day is going to be so good,” she’s gushing, “I know it.” I’ve already been the sole audience for a detailed description of last year’s Valentine’s Day. And New Year’s. And Christmas. Her boyfriend is the best boyfriend ever — her words, not mine — and I wish she would just shut the fuck up about him and their apparently perfect long term relationship.


I finish putting the chairs up and move to empty the pencil sharpener, trying to shake out my grumpy feelings along with the shavings.


“I feel so lucky.” Celine emits a dramatic sigh worthy of a high school theater production. “Sam absolutely showers me with love and attention. Isn’t he the best?”


“The best,” I mutter, stalking to my desk and starting to sort the papers covering it. “He sounds swell.”


She doesn’t catch my less than enthusiastic tone. “I wonder if he’ll propose to me this year.” She turns to me, folding her hands and clutching them close to her heart like the most annoying Disney princess come to life. “Do you think he will, Scarlett? Do you?”


I manage to suppress an eye roll, but only just. “I don’t know, Celine.” I shove my laptop in my bag and shrug into my coat. “Maybe.”


She sighs again, practically swooning. She straightens as I cross the classroom toward her. “Do you have any plans for Valentine’s Day? I think it’s the saddest day of the year to be alone.”


This time I do roll my eyes, but it doesn’t phase my co-worker.
“

I hope you won’t be alone, Scarlett. You’re such a catch.”


Her words are earnest, and I know she means well, but something about them cuts. I give what I hope is a breezy laugh. “Of course I have plans,” I say as I click off the classroom lights. 


“Oh good,” she gushes, stepping out of the doorway so I can shut and lock the door. “What are you going to do?”


“Um,” I say. “It’s a surprise. Yeah. This guy I’m seeing wants to dazzle me with V-Day surprises.” With that I make a hasty retreat, practically running for the school’s main entrance. “See you tomorrow.”


“I can’t wait to hear all about,” Celine calls after me. “It’s going to be awesome.”


It would be awesome.


If it wasn’t a straight up lie.


The truth is, I can’t manage to find a guy who will go on more than one or two dates with me before he disappears, or tells me he met someone else that he’s getting serious with, or decides he’s not ready to date, or or or. 


I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. All these guys want to grab a drink with me, but that’s it. It’s not like I’m even sleeping with them. 
It hurts a girl’s ego after a while.


Sometimes I wonder if my standards are too high. There are lots of guys in this place that wouldn’t mind settling down with me — if I would quit working and go full on stay-at-home-mom. Guys who don’t keep up with current events, guys with no interest in the arts, guys who don’t read anything more than their fantasy football team’s stats.


I could be married right now if I wanted that.


But I don’t.


I want more. 


Often I think moving here was a mistake. I came with romantic ideas of studly cowboys and dive bars filled with heart and community. Those fantasies have not exactly come to life.


But I love my job, which is the reason I came. It’s hard to get a good teaching gig in the big cities, because everyone wants to live there. Not as many want to relocate to a tiny, windswept town that sees more snow than sunshine each year.


I knew an opportunity when I saw one, and I took it. I don’t regret that.


I just wish it didn’t mean I had to be so damn lonely.


Stomping snow off my boots and settling into my car, I turn the key in the ignition and let the engine run, warming.


I know I shouldn’t let Celine get to me. I know I have a lot of good shit going for me here. But I can’t help it. Some stubborn part of me takes my co-worker’s question as a challenge.


I am going to have plans this Valentine’s Day. It might not be anywhere close to the lie I told Celine, but I am going to have fun this year instead of moping in my house, alone.


Setting my jaw, I put my car into drive and roll away from school, feeling an unfamiliar hope kindling in my heart.

Want to read the rest of Beau and Scarlett’s swoon-worthy story? You can grab it here — and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

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A Peek Inside "Our Happy Holiday"

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A Peek Inside "Our Happy Holiday"

hot holiday romance book

My steamy Christmas romance, Our Happy Holiday, is officially launched and available!

Want a peek inside the saucy short story? You got it — keep reading to enjoy the first chapter . . .

🎄 Chapter One 🎄

✨ Holly ✨

I close the door of my house behind me and shrug off my coat. My home spreads quiet around me — a welcome refuge after the too-cheerful din of the university’s staff Christmas party tonight.

I can’t stop my lip from curling a little at the scene I’d just left — all my colleagues decked out in their holiday best to gather in the campus ballroom beneath the soft light of twinkle lights. There was a three course dinner, live music, dancing, even a Santa for couples to take their photos with. Everyone laughing, embracing, wishing each other well.

It was, in a word, excruciating.

I slip off my heels and head to the kitchen to pour myself a well-deserved glass of wine. I’d barely had any at the party, after all, and I wanted to wash away the memory of tonight. At least for a while.

I pad to the living room and, setting my wine on the coffee table, begin to build a fire in the stone fireplace. What I wanted more than anything was an cozy night snuggled up under a blanket with Netflix.

The old newspaper that I use as tinder begins to smoke and curl beneath the twin logs I set on top of the stack. I inhale the scent, relishing it. This is what I need — a real fire to warm me from the snow quietly falling against my town’s mountain backdrop, and no one expecting me to show a single ounce of cheer.

Something’s wrong. The smoke isn’t rising up the chimney but instead billows into my living room. I try to wave it away, coughing, so I can get a look inside the fireplace. But the smoke is so thick, burning my eyes. I open and close the flue damper, but that does nothing to help the situation.

Shit. I was so distracted by thinking about the staff party that I forgot to make sure the chimney was clear. I have a hunch that something is stuck in there, and low, too, even though I have no idea what.

I grab a poker and, closing my eyes and holding my breath, shove it up inside the chimney, feeling with its metal tip.

It doesn’t come up against anything, but that doesn’t mean my hunch is wrong. I take the bucket of water waiting next to the fireplace and slosh some of it over the infant flames. They hiss and go out, and I sigh with a small measure of relief — at least there’s no more smoke filling my house.

But I want my cozy fire — no, I need it. Everyone else might think this is the happiest time of the year, but it’s not for me. It’s the saddest.

I push the encroaching memories away. No, I’ve got a chimney to attend to. No time for moping.

Standing up, I dust my hands off on my short satin red dress, not caring if any soot gets on the shimmery fabric. Stalking toward the door, I throw my coat back on and shove my feet into the tall muck boots waiting there.

I head back outside, stamping through the snow for the storage shed. I rummage in there for a moment in the light of the waxing moon and emerge with a ladder and a flashlight. Hauling both to the side of my house, I set the ladder against the wall next to the chimney and begin my ascent.

“Do you need any help, ma’am?”

I freeze at the polite inquiry. Before turning, I know who the deep, liquid voice belongs to — my construction worker neighbor who is always tinkering on his house, and sticking his nose into my business anytime I try to work on mine.

Stifling an expletive or five, I look over my shoulder. Sure enough, it’s him, standing on his side of the fence between our properties. He’s wearing a heavy jacket and jeans that hug his hips in just the right way, and he’s got — I blink — what looks like a black streak of soot across his forehead.

“No, thank you,” I say through gritted teeth. I try to make the tone of my voice sound like a thick wall with a GET OUT sign tacked to it.

He keeps standing there, hands shoved in his pockets, a small smile playing over his lips. “Trouble with your chimney?” He lifts his chin toward my house.

I grind my teeth together. “Something like that.” I make to turn back to the task at hand, but this guy can’t stop talking.

“Funny,” he said, then stopped.

“What exactly is so funny?” I can’t help but ask, feeling my blood pressure rise.

“I had a bit of chimney trouble myself this evening.”

“What an intriguing coincidence,” I said, words devoid of amusement.

To hell with him. Nothing and nobody were going to keep me from my fire. I kept climbing the ladder.

“Yeah,” he continued, talking to my turned back. “I tried to start a fire in my hearth tonight, and ended up filling the room with smoke.”

I’m at the roof now, scanning for ice on the shingles, but his words catch my interest at last. “Really?”

He nods.

“That’s what happened to me just now,” I said slowly, hating to offer him anything like a conversation. “And that never happens when I make a fire here.”

“Me neither. Like I said,” he said, and I caught the hint of humor trimming his words like a garland, “funny.”

I give in with a sigh, turning toward him as much as I safely can on the ladder. “Okay, fine. I’ll bite. What was the deal with yours.”

That small smile gives way to an all out grin. “You’re not going to like it.”

I want to answer, How would you know what I do and do not like? But instead I swallow the words and say, “Spill it.” So much more polite. I roll my eyes at myself.

“Santa.” His voice is like hot cocoa, warm and sweet, and I can tell he’s enjoying himself.

I fix him with a flat stare. “Santa?”

He raises a single hand. “Scout’s honor.”

Shaking my head at myself, I resist the urge to grumble. “Okay, hang on, I’ll come down.”

I begin to the descend the ladder.

Later, I decide to blame the tight dress I’m wearing and the sips of wine I had inside. But it was probably more that I was distracted by that insufferable man, probably always thinking I can’t handle homeowner duties just because I’m a woman.

When my boot, caked with snow, slips against the slick metal rungs, I fling my torso forward to clutch at the sides of the ladder. Instead of steadying me, this only jolts the ladder from its position and causes it to keel over. I cling to it, eyes squeezing shut, bracing myself from a bone shaking collision with the frozen earth.

Instead, the stomach-turning fall ends in softness and warmth. I open my eyes to find strong arms somehow holding me, prying my cold grip from the ladder.

“Hey now,” he says, crooning as if I were a frightened fawn tangled in fencing wire. “Hey there. You’re okay. I’ve got you.”

My heart is leaping liking a wild reindeer, and I can’t tell if it’s from the fall or from his hand cradling my head as if it were a precious, fragile gift.

I also can’t decide if I want him to let me go or keep holding me close forever.

Want to read the rest of Holly and Dash’s hot holiday love story? You can grab it here — and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

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