Archive for the ‘Teaser Tuesday’ Category

Guest Author – Nan O’Berry – Teaser Tuesday

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Happy Tuesday, y’all! Hope all is going well as we head into the final days of July.

Today I have guest author, Nan O’Berry, who just had a release come out dealing in and around the Pony Express. So, for all those historical lovers, check it out!

****

Hi all,
I want to thank Aliyah Burke for allowing me a bit of her space.
I’m Nan O’Berry. I write contemporary and historical sweet romances. I am thrilled to have a indie release called Always, Clay. Clay is a pony express rider for Three Rivers Station. He and several other riders will be sharing their stories in six books written by myself and Reina Torres.
Check out Always, Clay.
Always Clay ebook cover
The Express took men and rode them hard across the West. That adventuring spirit belonged to the men, full of life, ready for whatever met them on the trail, everything, except for love.
Clay Adams longs for a place to fit in. He finds one with the Hawkins family and the express, but a chance meeting in the general store changes his goals. A soft smile, a single hello has him wanting to see the daughter of a rancher and wondering if it’s possible to fall in love at first sight?
Emma Rawlings, the only daughter of the Rawlings family, wants to begin the big adventure of carving out a ranch with her soul mate. She meets one of the express riders at the general store. His soft spoken tone and nod of his head sends her heart to flutter. Could he be the one?
Life in the Wild West is never simple. Someone is bent on causing trouble for the Express and Clay is caught in the cross-hairs. Ambushed, shot, and left for dead, Clay must find his way back to Emma, but has he the right to bring Emma into such a dangerous union or is family something that he’ll just never have?
Sign up for my newsletter by visiting my website:
nanoberryauthor
Follow me on facebook: http://bit.ly/2uJ6pnb
To read more about Clay, please use this link: http://amzn.to/2vfbdl7
Check out the first book in the series, Always, Ransom at: http://amzn.to/2tD7pYL

Holiday Liaison

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

You may remember this story from Whispers when it was out with Bridget Midway and Yvette Hines’ stories as well. This one has also been expanded and will be out later in 2017.

Starview, Colorado

Sage Addison climbed from the idling taxi and waited while the driver placed her bags on a cart beside a baggage porter. He looked sharp in his red, grey, and black colors. She sighed and glanced down at her boots, they’d sunk into the snow, which fell faster than the plows or shovels could keep up. The actual walkway up to the building was salted but where she stood wasn’t under any covering.

She tipped the man who’d brought her here, safely, from the airport and followed the one hauling her luggage inside the place she’d be calling home for the next two weeks. The Village Resort. A perfect blend of rustic and modern, she could already see the appeal it had. She was anxious to check in and go to her room so she could go hit the slopes.

Pausing at the desk, she smiled at the man behind the counter in what she was quickly coming to see as staff colors around here. Red, black, and grey. This man wore a grey shirt, covered by a red jacket and she had noticed his black pants when he walked up.

“Welcome to Village Resort,” he said with an easy smile.

“Thank you.” She gave him the necessary information and waited while he confirmed her registration.

Once she signed in, she followed the porter who led her to her room. He placed her bags down as she looked around. Damn! Okay, this was nice.

“Where’s the lift to go up the mountain?” she asked, knowing it had to be near, based on the cables she saw on her arrival.

“Guests at the Village Resort have access to an exclusive line. You just enter through the lobby to get there.”

Double damn! That’s what I am talking about. She smiled her thanks and tipped him before swiftly unpacking. She stared longingly at the king-sized bed knowing it would feel like heaven compared to the one-inch foam mattress she’d been sleeping on. Instead of indulging herself, she pushed through the doors leading to the balcony and stared up at the snow blanketing the mountain. The crisp Colorado air made her smile and sigh with contentment.

This will be a good Christmas. Although she’d miss her family, she just couldn’t take one more holiday where she got the third degree about her lack of dating men, no husband, or kids. The endless setups and crocodile tears from her parents who just “wanted grandkids before they were too old to enjoy them.”

So one afternoon sitting in the main ranger station for her district—before they went out to their remote station—she had been talking with a friend who, in her opinion, spent way too much time on the internet. Jason Guestrap had told her about an ad he’d seen for a single’s only thing offered in Colorado for over the holidays. So she’d signed up to go, just wanting a holiday where it was fun and possibly a vacation fling.

So, she was here for two weeks. To enjoy a week before the single’s thing started and then a week of it. After which she had to get back and work, so some of the others could have time off during the holidays as well. Wind whipped around her and she closed her eyes in pure bliss as it flowed over her exposed skin along with the falling flakes, making her feel alive.

Time to hit the slopes. She’d check more out about the single’s gathering and what it offered later. Right now, something else was on her mind. She reentered her room and changed into one of her ski outfits.

A spring in her step, she made her way down to the line for the gondola and rode it up with her skis beside her. Following the signs, she made her way to the black diamond slope. She’d go for a double black diamond run later after she got back into it and tested out the mountain, its powder, and whatnot.

Three runs later, she was exhausted and trudged back to the resort. As she neared the entrance, she stared at the people spilling from taxis and personal vehicles. A large black suburban with racks on top—holding skis and boards—pulled up and four doors opened simultaneously.

Four men stepped free at the same time and her breath caught. Hot damn! As if it came from a movie where the vehicle pulls up and on cue all the handsome men step free and the surrounding women swoon. If this was what would be showing up for the singles thing, perhaps she’d not hide from most of the activities but actually participate. Actively.

All of them were tall and fit. All in jeans and boots with jackets on shielding them from the weather. One black man who reminded her a bit of Shemar Moore, one who looked Native American to her. The other two were white. Each one of them was gorgeous all the way around

She wasn’t the only one who’d noticed them either. Many women were giving them an extremely thorough perusal. The man who’d been on the driver’s side rear walked around the back and paused at the end, staring at her.

Her belly clenched and flipped around. Dear Lord he was fine. His faded medium blue jeans hugged well-muscled legs, even with his dark brown leather jacket she could see—and appreciate—the width of his shoulders and lean waist.

His face was angles and chiseled making him ruggedly handsome. There was nothing pretty on him. His hair was black with a false disheveled look; destructured effect, layering on the sides and she assumed nape, with longer spiked strands on top.

Goodness, she wanted to touch it. He had tanned skin and from this distance, she couldn’t tell the shade of his eyes. She wished she were closer. One of the men with him said something and he replied while still staring at her. Hell, it could be he was staring at someone past her, she didn’t know. A slight grin turned up one corner of his mouth as he walked to where the other three waited for him.

Shaking off her feeling, she headed inside, craving a warm shower and some food. Still, as she went on her way it wasn’t easy not to turn her head for a final look. Whatever women nabbed those men were going to be some lucky ones.

“Hell, for all I know they’re not even here for the singles thing. It is a week early after all. They could be couples, or married.”

She stripped and walked naked into the lavish bathroom. Some of the feel maybe rustic around this resort but the bathroom wasn’t one of them. She turned the water on and stepped beneath the streaming lines with a groan of relief. Good pressure and she rested her hands along the sandstone and green hue of the tiles lining the shower allowing it to work out her kinks.

Finished, she stepped from the steamy shower and wrapped in a large robe. Reaching for her oil, she sat on the ottoman at the foot of the large bed. Popping the top, she began smoothing it on her skin. This was a specific blend one she’d had a friend make for her.

Once that was done, she went to the clothes she’d laid out and ran a critical eye over them. No, she wasn’t vain but those four men were making her rethink the desire to snag a man. Well, not rethink, just push up the timetable a bit. Why wait for the singles thing? Especially if she could have one now.

After her skin dried, absorbing all the oil, she dressed, refusing to change her attire and slipped on some shoes as she pocketed her keycard and some money. Then she left the room and headed downstairs to find some food.

Striding through the lobby, she took in the lovely décor. Hands in her pockets, she headed through the doors and outside into the night. Starview was really a pretty place. She could see some definite bonuses here. Tucking some hair behind her ear, she left to do some exploring and get some food. Her stomach was not happy since it was still on the other time zone. It wanted some nourishment.

She returned, full and content. In the lobby, she paused and walked over to a section where they had a breakdown of the Single’s-only gathering. Her gaze ran over all the offered things to do. Dog sledding. Now that sounded interesting. Maybe one day she’d try that. Ice skating she’d do. There was also a listing of the mixers and things the hotel was throwing to get the singles together.

A burst of laughter escaped her and she shook her head. What the hell was she doing?

“Something amusing?” A deep voice said from her left.

She turned and stared at the man next to her. Oh dear Lord. It was one of the hottie’s from earlier who’d gotten out of the suburban. Not just one of, but the one who’d stopped and stared at her. Up this close, she saw his eyes were a stunning pale green. Very intense surrounded by his darker coloring. On his chin, he had a small scar, like Harrison Ford had. It added to the masculinity he portrayed.

Damn he was fine. Firm bow shaped lips, strong chin. Oh…her mind could go on and on. She refused to look any lower because she knew she’d be transfixed on his groin. Instead, she smiled.

Something Tangible

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Another that came back from PIP. It’s around 50k now and will still be tied in to the same one it was when both stories were with Passion in Print.

She got to her feet and put her mug in the sink. He was eating the jam covered toasted muffin she’d given him. “Finished?”

He nodded, licking the remnants of the blackberry jam from his thumb. She took his plate and cup.

“We have about an hour before the weather turns really bad. So let’s go.”

“Go?”

“Yes. I have to check on Morarity. We have to hurry to beat the weather.”

“Why am I going?”

“Because I don’t know you and I’m not leaving you in my house.” Tossing some clothes at him, she almost laughed at his comical expression.

“What am I to do with these?”

“You have something else better to wear outside than your fancy suits? It’s not a trip through a city we’re taking. Don’t worry, they’re clean.”

He left wordlessly and returned a few minutes later. Her breath left her in a rush. Oh dear Lord. He’d looked good in a suit but it was nothing to how the jeans and long sleeved T-shirt made him appear. Some men couldn’t pull off both. He could.

Personally, she wanted a man in jeans. One who wasn’t afraid of getting dirty. The suit fit him wonderfully, but the shirt and jeans were a bit snug. And…wowza, what they amplified was more than enough to remind parts of her just how long they’d been neglected.

“Let’s go.”

Glacier raced to the door, tail wagging. She led the way leaving her unwanted, too damn handsome guest, to follow. Trekking over the well-worn path, she cast occasional looks to the one trailing. He didn’t speak and she had no problem with that.

Twenty minutes later, she paused at the top of a hill staring down the rocky path to the lighthouse. Waves crashed onto the shore and the outlying rocks. The ocean’s scent made her smile.

“Be careful going down.” Then she scampered nimbly down with Glacier at her side.

He appeared beside her. She peeked at him, mesmerized by a bead of sweat which trailed down his temple. Oh, this isn’t good. I can’t be attracted to him. Why did her body pick now to reawaken?

“Don’t react to anything he says or does. He’s not a fan of people, especially strangers.” She offered the warning as the man in discussion left the lighthouse and headed towards them.

“Morarity,” she said, hugging him. “I came to check on you. Are you okay?”

He blinked at her, his brown eyes sharp and assessing as he stared at the man behind her. “You brought a spy.” He lifted his arm and aimed the pistol in his hand at Brett.

Christ, it was his Smith and Wesson M&P .357. She immediately shifted and stepped between them. “Lower it.”

“You know how I hate intruders. He looks like a wastrel. Reeks of money despite your attempt to dress him better.”

“I can’t let you shoot him, Morarity. Put it down.”

“Damn it, LJ.” But despite his grumbling, he did as she’d ordered.

Born to Fly: Wild As The Wind

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Final in the Stark brothers. Again, this one has about 5k new material and an awesome new cover by the ever talented @kimberlykillion

AliyahBurke_WildAstheWind

Verity Andrews sighed with contentment as she pushed to her feet and wiped her dirty hands on her khaki shorts until they were clean. The warm air from the Mediterranean Sea cooled the sweat from her body. Through her mirrored shades she scanned the coastline of Kríti, or Crete to the rest of the world. She’d come here years ago to complete her thesis in archeology, focusing on Minoan history, and had never left. It was her day off and she was out enjoying her time near Kalives. She was exploring around Kastelli Hill that lay east of the town and housed the remnants of the Castello Apicorono, a fortified settlement identified by some scholars as the location site of ancient Ippokoronion. She stared down at the long sandy beach that ran alongside most of the town. Kalives was a big tourist attraction sitting at the entrance to Souda Bay; it drew many visitors with the sea on one side and low hills on the other.

It was early Saturday morning and she caught movement off to her right and turned her head. Oh my! A lone man jogged along the path heading in her direction. The morning sun glowed off his tanned body and only enhanced her vision of the muscular naked torso. Have I said oh my? She swallowed and did her best not to stare, but tall, muscular and tanned made it very difficult. His strides were smooth and even, suggesting he did this often. As he passed her, she turned her head in time to follow his action and watched him until she could no longer see him.

Black hair, tanned skin, and an angular face were all she saw before he was gone. Well, that and one hell of an ass in those shorts. Well defined arms and legs too. Fanning herself, Verity took a few deep breaths before she headed back down to the town.

She ambled along, staring at the pathways littered with mosaics and the walls in which stones in shapes of different creatures were stuffed. Fresh baked bread and pastries lent their scents to the air and Verity inhaled them greedily. When she reached the small outdoor café she visited every time she came to this town, Verity sat down and waited for service.

“Kaliméra, Verity. Wonderful to see you again.”

Looking up, Verity smiled at the older man who stood before her, a white apron wrapped around his middle. She reached for his hand and squeezed it gently after he placed a small blue ceramic mug on the wrought iron table before her. Verity knew it was coffee, served just the way she loved it; gliko. Very sweet. Since being over here she’d come to love her coffee served what many considered to be “Turkish”, where the loose grounds are in the bottom of the small cup, and the coffee is very strong.

“Yassou, Apostolos. It’s wonderful to see you again.”

“You stay away for far too long, my dear. We’re not that far from Iraklio.”

She heard the subtle reprimand in his voice. “I know. I’ve just been busy.”

Apostolos looked at her and nodded in understanding. “Your usual this morning? I’m assuming you’ve been out visiting around Kastelli Hill.”

“You know me well, Apostolos. And yes, my usual. Please.” Releasing his hand, she picked up the coffee he’d set before her.

“Be right up.” He walked away calling out her order in Greek.

Swallowing some of the hot brew, Verity sighed and removed her sunglasses. The wind picked up, moving through her hair and she turned her head before tucking some strands behind her ear. Her breakfast arrived and Apostolos joined her. This often happened because she was almost always the only customer at that time, or one of a few. After breakfast, alone with a topped off cup of coffee, Verity glanced behind her and froze.

Oh damn!

Moving down the sidewalk across the narrow street was the man from earlier. The runner. He still jogged and looked just as smoking hot as he had when he’d gone past her the first time. This time, his head turned and he looked at her. Verity couldn’t explain the feelings that rocked her. Her heart pounded and her hands shook. As nonchalantly as she could, she faced forward again and finished her coffee. Setting her cup down, Verity grabbed her glasses and walked inside the café to pay.

“Adio, Apostolos. I’ll stop by before I head back to Iraklio.”

He bent over her hand and kissed it. “Until next time, Verity Andrews.”

She left with a wave and a smile. Slipping her sunglasses on, Verity headed down to the beach. She had a few hours to kill before she met up with her friends. Very few people were out on the white sands and she strolled along, hands in her pockets.

Up ahead of her she could make out the figure of a person running. What are the chances? The way her body began to react she knew it had to be the same man. It wasn’t logical, she hadn’t even spoken to him, not even a simple “good morning,” and yet he was making her lightheaded. The closer he came the more parched she began to feel.

Fingers clenched in her pockets when he slowed and veered a bit closer to her. By the time he reached her he was almost walking. Jogging in slow motion. Sweet mother… The man was downright mouthwatering. She ogled him, grateful for the way her glasses hid her searching gaze. Dropping her stare to the sand, she worked her way up.

He wore tennis shoes with no socks. Powerful legs and a lean waist led up to his torso which was well—very well—defined. She made out with ease the six-pack he sported. His arms were strong and made her think things like him holding her in bed with nothing on. When she reached his face it was as if he knew she was checking him out, for there was an arrogant smirk on his lips. He flashed a grin, and straight white teeth shone out against his tanned skin. As he passed her, she saw his eyes, cornflower blue with thick curly lashes.

Verity couldn’t help it; she turned with him as he moved past her. Her own mouth curved up when he jogged backward for a bit, his masculine grin growing wider before he winked and touched his temple with two fingers in silent salute. She chuckled and waved before continuing her walk.

Oh, what a man like that could do to me. Oh, what I would like to do to him. Verity snuck one more glance over her shoulder and bit her lower lip as his tight ass vanished from view. Wow! “Uh, uh, uh. They just don’t make men like that anymore.”

Later on that morning when she met up with some friends and colleagues there lingered a faint satisfied smile on her face as that man’s image hung around in her mind.

“You have a big suspicious grin on your face, Verity. Find something this morning?” Kasey Schmidt asked.

Verity winked and nodded. “Oh boy, did I.”

“I know that sound. You found a man,” Kasey announced. “Give.” She scooted her chair closer.

“Well, I didn’t actually meet him. Just saw him jogging. Three times.”

“Three times, just today?” Kasey whistled low. “It’s fate. Third time’s the charm. He checked you out too, didn’t he?”

“A bit,” Verity admitted with another grin.

“And how did he look?” That warm feeling filled her again as she described her handsome jogger to Kasey who punched her in the shoulder after she finished and said, “Remind me to go with you on your next early outing.”

“You don’t like getting up before the sun, Kasey.”

“For eye candy like that, I can learn.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “The power of persuasion.”

“Hey, it’s called adaptation.”

“Is that what we’re calling it now?” Verity asked, a trace of sarcasm in her voice.

Kasey punched her in the arm again and flipped her, off causing Verity to burst out laughing.

Verity took a drink of her fruit juice and sighed with satisfaction as she was drawn back in to the conversation going on around them. It was late morning when they split to each go their own ways. Getting a bottle of water to carry with her, Verity waved her farewells and walked back up the beach, threading in and out of the numerous people who now lined the waters of Souda Bay.

Wow, I have a half a day to myself. What should I do? At her car, she climbed in and headed for the nearby village of Kalami. It wasn’t long before she had passed behind the fields of bamboo to locate a hidden beach, Kyani Akti, as it was known by the locals. Sitting on a large rock, Verity took a stick, and drew abstract designs in the damp sand as she enjoyed the beautiful weather. A while later her phone rang. She answered to discover her friend Larry inviting her to a party that evening. With the time and location set, Verity pushed to her feet and made her way back to her car. There was a need to shop for something other than shorts and a tank top to wear.

 

The Detective’s Lover

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

One more that I got back the rights to. I am also working on the stories for the brothers so those will be coming as well.

This is the current cover, there will be a new one once I get it made.

TheDetectivesLover

The newly-dark skateboard park was shattered with a single shot, followed by muzzle flashes and the stutter of an automatic weapon.

Ra-tat-tat-tat. Ra-tat-tat-tat.

Silence returned as quickly as it had been destroyed. Not even dogs barked in the area. As the night progressed, rain came and cleansed the city. Blood mixed with the water and washed down into Seattle’s drainage system.

An early morning jogger heading through the park discovered the body. He grabbed his phone from his pocket, called 911, and then waited for the police to arrive.

****

A detective’s car rolled up and stopped, its red flashing light cutting through the misty conditions. A tall, powerful man exited. His stern face settled into grim lines as steel-gray eyes flickered around the crime scene, taking in the yellow tape defining the perimeter. He noticed an officer taking a statement from a man in running clothes. The coroner stood in the drizzle, beside a gurney and the sheet-covered victim, waiting on him.

The detective sighed. Nothing worse than starting a Sunday morning with a dead body. Being a detective was hard. However, Ian Cavanaugh added onto this by being in Homicide. Carrying his Starbucks coffee with him, he went to the victim.

“Sorry for the hold up, Parsons. Won’t take me but a minute and I’ll let you get the vic back to the morgue.” His deep voice stopped the coroner in his conversation with his assistant.

“Morning, Ian,” the old man said as he wiped some moisture off his face. The morning drizzle had picked up, becoming a steady rain.

“Whaddya got?” Ian crouched beside the dead body. His hand reached for the sheet and slowly drew it away so he could see the face.

Gil Parsons answered, “Multiple shots. Some through-and-through, some not. With the rain I don’t know what trace has been ruined and lost, but I’ll let you know, what I know, as soon as I know it.” The man sighed and waited for Ian to look.

“Thanks.” Ian glanced down at the unseeing eyes staring back at him. “Ah, hell,” he muttered.

“You know him?”

Running his hand down his face, Ian didn’t answer right away. He closed those sightless green eyes and recovered him with the sheet. Ian drained the remainder of his coffee before crushing the cup in his fist.

“Ian?” Parsons spoke in a low voice.

“This here is Gregory Maddox.” Ian rested a hand on his thigh as he pushed to his feet. “I know you’ve heard of the Maddox clan.”

Gil and his assistant got the body ready for transport with swift effectiveness. “The foster kids that raised holy hell?”

Ian helped load the body in the van, his mangled coffee cup stark against the somber blackness of the body bag. “Those are the ones. Trouble alone, terror on wheels when together.” He sighed. “Only one lives here now, I should go tell him.” At the last second, Ian grabbed his cup off the bag.

“Bye, Ian.” Parsons climbed into his vehicle and drove off.

Ian watched him go. His mind worked fast as he stood there in the increasing rain. I hope this is solved, and fast, before the Maddox Clan is reunited.

Shaking off the twinge of foreboding, Ian tossed the cup in a trash receptacle, headed to his car and on toward the house of Herschel Maddox. The streets of Seattle may very well turn into a war zone if this wasn’t cleared up very soon.

****

Fallon Maddox stood at a high vantage point, alone, and watched through the gray haze the burial of the only father she could recall with fondness. The hole was just waiting for the men press the button to lower his casket down into the waiting ground.

She picked out her four brothers. They had all made it. She hadn’t been sure, when Herschel called to tell her the news, if they would all make it. But there they were.

Clayborne. Shawn. Herschel and his family. And the youngest sibling, Dylan. She felt tears prick the backs of her eyes.

She never moved from her position. She was late in arriving and it was a miracle that she had made it. Part of her wanted to be down there, but the part that won wanted to be alone, needed to be alone. Fallon observed stoically as people said their farewells and got into their vehicles. It was a huge turnout.

Finally, it was just her brothers and a man she didn’t recognize. Snatches of their conversation reached her. The voice of the unknown struck her as familiar, but she couldn’t place from where. Her brothers were upset and it was from more than just their recent loss.

Fallon stopped herself from going down there when Clayborne sent his fist flying into the guy’s face. Now was not the time to get involved in an altercation. Herschel stepped in and so she remained where she was. The one in the scuffle with Clayborne turned his head and looked in her direction. Fallon stepped behind a tree and remained hidden from view. Hiding wasn’t her forte, but she wasn’t up to questions yet. Fallon had to say her goodbyes first, which was something to be done in private.

Once everyone had left, Fallon moved to the grave and laid a bouquet of flowers at her mother’s headstone before saying her final farewell to her father and leaving a single rose for him. Silently she walked to the waiting taxi and climbed in.

The taxi pulled up to her childhood home. Fallon paid the driver, took a deep breath, and got out. I can’t believe Pops is gone. Picking up her duffle bag, she walked up the steps, unlocked the door, and entered the silent house. The door clicked behind her, the sound reverberating through her empty soul. She was alone. Her bag hit the floor as she turned on a light. Her eyes swept the room. Memories danced before her. With another deep breath, she proceeded further into the room. It all looked the same. Light tan carpet and comfortable but old furniture.

The walls were covered by myriads of photos. A small smile crossed her face as she looked at her family. Why did Pops have to die?

“I miss you, Pops,” she said absently as she retrieved her satchel and headed towards the room she had used while living there.

Pushing open the door, Fallon was shocked to see that nothing in there had changed since her last visit. Her patchwork quilt still covered the twin bed. Over the pillow hung a framed cross-stitch her foster mother, Nadine, had made for her.

FALLON DELU MADDOX

She set her olive green bag on the dark cherry rocker and touched the framed work. The thread was vibrant red and sat on a white background. A new wave of tears threatened.

Fallon turned a complete circle, pausing as she was met by her reflection. The dark brown eyes staring back at her seemed dull and lifeless. Looking intently at her image, Fallon touched her face. Funny, she didn’t remember her face being that tired looking, there were bags under her eyes. Again tears threatened and this time she allowed them to escape. She was safe here. No need to be tough as nails. No one watched over her shoulder at how she behaved.

For the time being, she could be what her body needed to be. A child who had just lost a parent. Not a United States Marine. Not a hard-ass, take-no-shit instructor. Just a mourning child. A half-stumble landed her on her bed where she promptly curled up with her one-eyed doll. The sobs came and after a fashion so did the much needed sleep.

Voices woke her. Loud, angry voices. Fallon was instantly awake as she ascertained where the yelling was originating.

“Clay,” she whispered, getting out of bed and going to the door.

She would recognize the graveled baritone of her brother’s tone anywhere. The one she didn’t recognize was the one in the discussion with him. Still that ripple of familiarity danced across her skin, just as it had at the cemetery. So, whoever it was, the same person had exchanged blows with her brother.

Pressing her ear to the door, she eavesdropped on the two men.

Her brother was yelling. “I don’t give a flying fuck what bullshit story you told Herschel! I’m not buying. I want that report.”

“It was a gang hit,” a deep voice countered.

“Fuck you. That area is a neutral one, we both know it, and Herschel knows it as well.”

“The whole place was shot up. It’s just a case of wrong place, wrong time,” the unknown male responded.

She heard her brother growl low before the sound of flesh against flesh reached her. “Oh Clay,” she muttered, yanking open the door and moving swiftly down the hall.

Rounding the corner, she narrowed her eyes at the sight of her brother pressed up against the wall, unable to move an inch. There was a gun pressed against his back.

She reacted immediately. Within seconds, Fallon slammed the larger man to the floor, his gun skidding out of reach.

Interwoven

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

This story is related to Holiday Liaison which will be out again soon.

interwovenwithlogo

Kane Lennox stared at the drying pools of blood around the bodies. Bodies of hostages which shouldn’t be there. Shoving back his anger, he shook his head. He couldn’t be pissed off about it now. There was a job to do. It wasn’t his fault they didn’t get called out until just now. Sweat ran down every inch of skin but he held his position, waiting for the “go” command. It was hot as fuck, crouched as he was in full tactical gear.

“Go.”

The order came, delivered by a graveled man’s voice. Smoker’s voice. In the point position, Kane kicked in the door as the rest of the ones with him followed. They moved swiftly and methodically until he got the all clear from the men with him.

“No hostages here.” Kane frowned. This wasn’t right.

“Where the hell did they go?” Mark “Hammer” Chavez asked the question they all wondered.

“How the fuck did ten hostages and the jackasses who took them disappear without a trace?” Kane muttered more to himself as he wiped more sweat from his face.

The other half of the team who’d gone in the back—to cover that exit—arrived. He stared into the angry blue gaze of Brenda Folton, the lone woman on the team.

“Well?” she snapped.

“Gone.”

Her round of curses only echoed what the rest of them felt. Ignoring the chatter in his ear, Kane readjusted the hold on his MP-5.

“Search again. False wall, trap door, something has to be here.” Pressing the heel of his boot down, he itched his foot. “Go now. The longer we dally the further they get.” He kicked over a chair and swore. “Who out there had the goddamn schematics for this place. And how the hell did you not notice the disappearance of thirteen heat signatures?”

Mumbled excuses reached him and he rolled his eyes in disgust.

“Gabriel!” He jerked his head up at the use of his nickname. “Over here.” Folton waved to him.

He strode through the house to the den where the couch had been slid back—on its track, a fucking track—exposing a trap door.

“This was planned.” He stated the obvious as he stared down into the darkness.

“we’ll take it from here.”

Kane whirled to see four guys there in suits and blue windbreakers with the yellow lettering announcing their affiliation.

“Feds?”

“Special Agent Morrison.” The man stepped forward only to be blocked by two of those on Kane’s team. He eventually went around them and walked up to Kane.

“You’re going down there with that? Your identifying windbreaker and your 9mm?”

Morrison glared. Kane was already bored with the exchange. This dickwad was taking precious seconds off the clock.

“We can use some of your gear.”

Snickers came from all around. “Sorry, boyo. Our gear. Our responsibility.”

“We have taken over.”

Kane sucked on his teeth. “You remind me of a little boy who wants to stomp his feet and whine to mama. Tell you what, my boss is out there in the shade beneath that large tent. Take it up with him.” He whirled around and gestured to the others.

“What’s up, Gabriel?” Hammer asked.

“I need two to stay here while the rest of us go down. See if you can find anything which may tell where this trail comes up. Then get there and wait.”

Hammer and Spike immediately walked off.

“What about the feds?” Brenda asked.

“I’ll be goddamned if I sit on my ass while they wait for some gear to be flown in. We’re going in.”

Fist bumps ensued.

“Feds say wait.” That was the voice of their boss, Smitty Jones.

“They can double-time it once they get all geared up and take over once they catch us.”

“Kane.” A warning.

“Captain. We’re here, ready, and have trained for this. I’m not sitting it out and letting more die. Do you not see the hostage bodies out there, bloating in the sun?”

“Damn straight you’re not. Get going.”

Kane signaled for them to proceed. Lights on, they descended into the dark gloom.

“Only one direction to go. Let’s get it done.”

The four of them set off at a jog, keeping an eye out for tripwires or things of the like.

“Smitty?” Kane asked as he brought up the rear. “Do you copy?”

Nothing.

“Stay alert guys, we’re on our own.” After a bit more, they pulled up at his order. “Smell that?”

“Metallic,” Doug commented.

Yes and a lot of it. He made his way to the front. “Lights out.” The tunnel cascaded into darkness. He flipped down his NVG’s. “Count it. One two. Stay sharp.”

Born to Fly: You Save Me

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Second in the Stark brothers Born to Fly series. As with Landing in Love, this one has about 5k of new content added.

AliyahBurke_YouSaveMe 1

The club was loud; the music shook the walls and the dancers did the same to the smooth tile floor beneath her feet. Delaney Byrd wove in and out of the gyrating bodies to the bar, parched and ready to get some liquid down her throat. The bartender, a tall hunk of a man whose physique and features reminded her more of Shemar Moore than anything else, turned toward her and lifted his chin in silent question.

“Two beers please, domestic” she said loudly leaning along the shiny black bar top.

Within moments, he’d placed them down before her. “Here you go, gorgeous.”

He winked and dragged the cloth from his shoulder across the counter before taking the bill she handed him. A smile curved up his mouth showing her a dimple in his left cheek. Damnation, he’s fine. She took the change he handed her and slid a tip back across to him. With another wink, he slipped the bill into his pocket.

“Thanks,” he said.

“No, thank you,” she replied toasting him with a beer and grabbing the other she slipped back into the crowd. Delaney made her way back to where her friend Heather Trells sat at a table, her long leg across the other chair to keep it for her. “Here you go, one beer, courtesy of the hunky bartender.”

Heather glanced up and smiled at her, her teeth brilliant white against her darker skin. “Oh thank God you’re back, I’m thirsty. Wait, hunky bartender? Is that what you said?”

Sitting down, Delaney took a drink of her beer and laughed. She stared at her friend; Heather’s brown eyes sparkled with humor. Her dark brown skin had some leftover glitter on it from the earlier party she had been to. Her outfit was tight and she looked hot. But then Heather always did. Delaney hadn’t gone to the first party but had come here to meet her friend and join her for a celebration.

“Yes, he was good looking.” A waggle of eyebrows. “Think Derek Morgan only a bit taller and darker.”

“Damn. And?”

She pursed her lips, narrowing her gaze. “And what? I got the beers.” Delany gestured to their drinks.

“Hooking up with him?”

She damn near spewed beer from her mouth. “Are you crazy? Why would I do that?”

Heather barely blinked. “He’s hunky, or so you said. And let’s face it, you mentioned Agent Morgan so we all know he’s fine.”

He sure is. “I don’t sleep with guys just because they look good.” Well, not anymore. As if reading her mind, Heather merely arched a finely plucked brow. “What…fine since I’ve gotten back to the States I don’t do that anymore.”

Her lips twitched. “Had more fun in Japan though, I bet.”

“It was a one-time thing,” Delaney said with a slight snap. The memory was more painful that she cared to admit.

Heather was nonplussed by her bite of attitude, in fact, it was as if Delany had meowed at her like a tiny cute fluffy kitchen. Damn lawyers.

“Right, if you say so. Ever think there is a reason you’ve never done such a thing again? Perhaps because the man with that black hair, kickass body, and sapphire blue eyes meant something more to you? But, if you say it was a one-time thing, Delany, I’ll let it go. Doubt it, but hey what do I know? I mean, you kept a by-all-accounts gorgeous Marine pilot enamored with you without even trying. So this is me letting it go, if you say that’s all it was, who am I to argue?” Heather tipped up her bottle and drank.

An attorney who does a damn good job arguing for a living. “I say so, Heather,” she said rolling her eyes.

Her friend held up a hand and Delaney knew she would say no more on it for the night. Heather backing off was barely a twenty-four hour deal, but she’d take what she could get. A man came up and asked Heather to dance; Delaney watched her go with him, pulled her friend’s beer closer and hooked her boot around the leg of the recently vacated chair.

Holding her own drink to her mouth, Delaney paused and remembered the man she’d had the fling with. Fling, can we really call it that? First Lieutenant Garrick Stark. Handsome. Texan. Marine pilot. And damn good with his hands, mouth, and other parts of his body. The way Heather talked it was like she’d done the one night thing all the time while in Japan. She hadn’t. Her “thing” with that one guy had started as that but she couldn’t get enough of him, so one night had turned to two and that turned into a year until she came back to the States. Just up and left without a word to him, of course he’d been deployed when she had moved back.

They did very few things like a couple, for the most part it was sexual between them. Hot and heavy. Not that she minded but she did long for something more every now and then. More than just a physical exchange. Something simple like walking down the street, holding hands. Seeing a movie. The tiny things.

A few songs later Heather came back all smiles. “Do you mind if I go with him?” Heather asked reaching for her beer.

Delaney lifted a brow. “I’m not your mom. If you want to go with him then fine. Just make sure you know what you’re doing.” Hell, I could have stayed home, I know how this goes.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Heather said setting the bottle back down.

“Be careful.”

“Always am, sweetie.” She leaned over and pressed their cheeks together. “Sorry for bailing on you.”

The man walked up and stood behind Heather. Delaney made sure to capture his gaze before she said, “I’ll expect your call in the morning before we have to be in court.”

Heather stood up and nodded. “I’ll talk to you then, hon. Good night.” With a wave they slipped off into the crowd.

With another swallow of beer, Delaney sighed. Just my luck. Get dragged out to a bar and then left alone. She stayed sitting until her drink was gone then she headed back out onto the floor. It didn’t take long for her to get lost in the pounding rhythm of the music. When she needed a drink, she slipped through to the bar again. The same guy was there and he looked at her with a grin.

“Back already? You must have missed me.”

She chuckled and nodded sagely. “That could be. Or it could be I’m thirsty.”

“Well, I’m here to serve. Two beers again?”

“No, not this time. One water please.”

“One? One implies you are alone.”

“Does it now?” She leaned against the bar. “I thought it implied I just needed one drink this time around.” Maybe Heather has a point and I should find someone for a no-strings attached night of sex. It’s been eight months.

“You know us bartenders analyze things.” He handed her a chilled bottled water. “On the house.”

Their fingertips glanced off each other, she was confident he’d done it on purpose. Not that she minded. “You sure?”

“Just save me a dance, will you?” he asked.

“You stuck back there for a while?”

Glancing at his watch he grinned. “Ten minutes to long?”

“I think I can handle that. Come find me when you’re done.”

“You can count on it,” he said.

She’d finished her water and had gone to the bathroom by the time the bartender showed up at her side. His brown eyes twinkled in the lights as he stared down at her.

Facing him completely, she asked over the music, “Do I at least get to know your name?”

“Rafe,” he answered leaning closer. He ran his gaze over her a few times. “What about your name?”

“I’m—”

“Delaney Kiojah Byrd.” A masculine voice streaked out from behind the music and wrapped around her, causing goose bumps to explode up all over her skin.

Oh shit. It was a tone she knew well. A deep and thick lazy Texas drawl that could turn her from respectable woman to hussy craving his touch all over her in less than a heartbeat. What the hell is he doing here? I must be imagining things. The way her body was reacting, Delaney knew there was no such luck for her on that front.

Rafe stared behind her, one eyebrow raised. “And you are?”

“The one who will hurt you if you don’t walk away right now.” Masculine assuredness flowed from the tone.

Without turning around, Delaney sighed. “Let me handle this, Rafe. I’ll come find you in a few.”

He glanced between the two of them, oddly protective. “Are you sure?”

“She’s sure,” the one behind her answered.

“I’ll be at the bar,” Rafe told her and walked off.

Spinning around ready to blast the speaker for his highhanded arrogance, Delaney promptly lost her breath. Before her stood the man she’d spent a year with. The only man on the face of this earth who knew her body as well as she did, perhaps better. A few inches over six feet, muscular body, tanned skin, black hair which used to be kept in a close marine cut had gotten—dare she say it, shaggy for him, and dark sapphire blue eyes which could—and did—turn her into mush. Marine pilot Garrick “Paladin” Stark.

“First Lieutenant Garrick Stark,” she said, doing her best to ignore the pull this man had on her. “How nice to see you again.”

His gaze blazed with possessiveness as he ran it over her body, making her want to shift and tug on her clothing. Or remove it all together and jump his fine ass.

“Actually, it’s Captain Stark now.” His drawl poured over her skin like honey on a dark sultry night.

Captain Stark. Ohhh, that sounds so much better. “Congratulations on your promotion. If you’ll excuse me—”

“No. I don’t think so, sugar.”

She bit back her whimper at his endearment. Before he’d entered her life, she’d despised names like that being attached to her, but when they rolled off his tongue, with that toe curling Texas twang it was all she could do to stop the flood of moisture from escaping. “I don’t really care what you think; I owe the bartender a dance.”

His black lashes lowered and hid his eyes but not the fire that shot from them. “You go dance a dance with your pretty boy bartender. I’ll wait.”

Lifting her chin, she glared at him. “You seem to be under the impression I’m going to be going anywhere with you.”

“You are.” Garrick stepped closer, her traitorous body tingled and grew wetter with unrestrained desire. “Either walking at my side or tossed over my shoulder.” Lowering his face to hers he whispered, “One dance, sugar. And dressed the way you are, there’d better be a hell of a lot space between y’all. Or I’ll rip the parts of his body off him what touches you.”

It took all of her willpower not to close the minute distance between them and kiss his bow-shaped lips. “Arrogant…” she muttered before stomping off. He wasn’t ever jealous or possessive like this back in Japan.

Soon she had located Rafe and they were out on the floor dancing, but even as she moved with the handsome man her mind was upon none other than Garrick Stark. Captain Garrick Stark. After the dance, she exchanged numbers with Rafe but made her way to the side.

I can’t believe I’m letting him tell me what to do. I’m a grown woman for cryin’ out loud. Setting her jaw, Delaney prepared herself for a battle. Hot or not. It doesn’t matter that I’m ready to drop my panties just because of a look from him, I’m in charge of my life, not him. Even she didn’t believe that.

Inferno

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

This story was part of the 12M/12A box set collection. I’ve added another 25k to it and I do hope you will enjoy the story when it is released.

Burke_CF_Inferno LG

“Checkmate.”

Narrowing her eyes, Jazz Delahoussaye crossed her arms and huffed. “Are you sure?”

The twinkling blue gaze of the man across from her gave her the answer she longed to ignore.

“Fine,” she groused. “You win.”

“Again.” His grin was so wide it waggled his snowy mustache.

She nodded. “Again.” Her concession, playfully frustrated had him smiling all over. “Tell me again why I agree to play this game with you?”

“Because I’m a crotchety old man who only likes you and if you don’t I’ll be sitting here all by myself. And you love me.”

“Humph.” She stared at him from below her black leather newsboy. “You’re a lot of bluster.”

“Nope.” He drank the coffee she’d brought him while using his other hand to reset the board. “Once more?”

Despite the cold bite to the air promising more snow within the day, she readjusted her seat and assisted him in setting up the board. He was right, she did love him. Helmutt Müller had a reputation of being a mean old bastard. She’d seen it happen but his offhand comments didn’t bother her and one day she’d been in the park and he’d been alone. So she’d sat and asked if he wanted to play a game. They’d begun a budding friendship, one that had grown over the years until she truly did love him. And for that reason, she was willing to continue sitting outside in this God-forsaken cold ass, turn titties into diamond cutter weather.

This is what happens when I move somewhere because of a man. Like that’s happening again. She burrowed deeper into her thick coat and curved her fingers around the drink before her.

“I should let you go first since you are lacking in intelligence.”

She drank some hot chocolate unperturbed by his comment. “What does it say about you that you continue to ask me to play this damn game if I’m so lacking?” She cocked her eyebrow at him.

“You should respect your elders.”

“And you should have your mouth washed out with soap. Move old man, I’m cold.”

“You find a man, get fat with babies and you will be warm. But maybe you are no good and no man wants you.”

“That’s probably it. Although I could also say no man wants to put up with our relationship.” She moved her pawn.

“You bring a good man around and I may consider being nice to him. You bring thugs and stupid whiny men. You need a real one.”

“Right,” she said. “Now I’m taking dating advice from you.”

He pinned his gaze on her. “You should.”

“You hit on a statue two months ago. I’m pretty confident I can do this myself.” She waggled her finger at him.

“I was making statement.”

“Reverting back to your broken English only works on occasion and right now, it’s not.” Her cell rang and she held up a finger before taking the call. “One moment.” She didn’t even check the caller id. “Hello?”

“Seriously? Is that how you answer the phone?”

Jazz bit back her groan of distaste. “Carla,” she said in a false honeyed voice. “Did you call me all the way from your glass office to correct the way I answer my phone?”

“I just find it hard to believe your cousin is such a proper woman and you…well, you’re you.”

Jazz reached for her drink only to recall she’d already finished it. “Carla, Carla, Carla. I’m sure for someone of your ilk, that was supposed to be an insult, yet, I’m so glad you think I’m me. Whew, I’d been concerned for some time now that I was becoming an uptight bitch like you. Worried about nothing other than my appearance and how those Hollywood stars would like me if I ran into one. Shoving my fat ass into clothes three sizes to small and tottering on heels that God wouldn’t put the devil in. Now that that’s all cleared up, why are you calling me?” Helmutt arched an eyebrow at her but she was far to annoyed to check herself.

“You’re such a bitch.”

“With a sunny disposition. Why are you calling me? Did something happen to Regina?”

“No, your cousin is fine. She asked me to call you.”

“You’re her secretary. That’s your job, stop sounding as if she asked you to scrub a urinal with your tongue.”

Across the table from her, Helmutt moved his knight and slapped the clock with more force than necessary. She glared at him before staring at the board and moved her bishop.

“That’s disgusting.”

“Or for fuck’s sake, Carla. Tell me what she wants.”

“She wants you to take over this project she has. She needs you to set up a photo shoot with a man. You have the month of September. She is emailing you all the details and she said not to let you back out of it. You know some people so, call one of them. Inside her email is the contact information of the, Braden Niles, who will come and do the shoot. And she said not to let her down.”

“And where is my cousin at right now?” Her cold had vanished and she had a throbbing in the back of her head.

“Indisposed.” Carla’s tone grated. “Get it done.”

The call ended and she shoved her phone back in her pocket. Her head pounded and she longed to toss tables or smash things. Her cousin’s comments of how she always went off half-cocked echoed in her mind. Prob why she had Carla call claiming she was indisposed.

Why Regina put this on her, she couldn’t begin to fathom. What the fuck did she know about finding a model for a photo shoot? And then involving September. Did that matter?

Gods her head hurt and she squinted. Her phone buzzed and she whipped it out to see the information Carla-whore sent to her. Ready to chuck it all, she swore at the last line. FOR CHARITY.

Damn her cousin for knowing how to get her to do this.

He took her queen with his next move and tsked. “You are very distracted today. I need good opponent.”

She didn’t even attempt a smart comeback. Merely shrugged and tipped over her king. “I agree.”

His expression sobered. “You tell me your problem, I fix.”

“I wish. If only it was that simple.”

“What is problem?”

“My cousin, Regina. I told you about her, works for a big company and blah blah, anyway she’s on this committee and long story short, she made a promise in my name. One I don’t even know I can fulfill. I can’t let them down though, it’s for charity. Which is why I know she stuck me with it, I can’t say no to a good cause.”

“Why did she make the promise?”

Jazz gripped her travel mug, wishing for the briefest moment hers were a disposable cup so she could have some small satisfaction of crushing it.

“Beats the crap out of me. Regina is always after me to do more, be more.”

He righted the king she’d knocked over. “She thinks you underachieve.”

“Now your English is fine?”

He pointed at her. “I help. I fix. We play chess and you pay attention. Now, what you need?”

“And we’re back to broken English. All right, why not.” She leaned forward. “I need a hot ass man who will be fine posing for a photo shoot. No money, it’s all for charity. I don’t know the photographer or anything about what he requires for a shoot.” She cupped her mug. “So, still think you can fix it?”

He set up the board again. “Easy.”

She leaned first to the left then right. “I’m sorry, there a man you’ve been hiding back there I don’t know about?”

“No. You use my grandson, Bastian.”

Oh, this can’t be good. “Your grandson.” She sucked on her teeth. “He lives here in Chicago?”

“No, Georgia.”

At least it’s not Louisiana. “So I should just fly down there and scour Georgia for your grandson?

“Don’t be foolish. We go to hometown. I’ve not been there in years. Good to return.”

She frowned, not liking this direction even more. “You’re coming with me?”

His grin was full of trouble. “Of course. It will be fun. We go next week. To Atlanta first, rent car. I think you can drive. I see you then. Get me good seat on plane. I have date, I see you later.” He walked off.

She allowed her head to settle on the edge of the granite table. “Sweet Jesus, what have I just gotten myself into?”

That Fateful Ride

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

This is from That Fateful Ride which had previously been out via Passion in Print. I’ve gotten the rights back and have lengthened the story from 25k to about 50k. Enjoy.

1860, Nebraska Territory

“I have to do this mama,” Rebecca Freeman insisted, hefting the heavy saddle on the back on her dun gelding, Polaris. Hot dry air flowed over her as the wind picked up, swirling and sending up little dust cyclones. She blinked a few times, doing her best to keep the dirt from stinging her eyes.

“You’re a girl who’s got no business riding there.” The disapproval was so strong she could taste it. “None!”

Rebecca sighed and flipped up the stirrup to settle upon the seat. “Mama, I have to. We have no choice. We need the money. Robert’s laid up with his injuries. I can do this. They’ll never know.” She refused to budge an inch.

“You get caught and you’ll be wishin’ you was dead.”

Her mama spoke the truth and she didn’t want to think about how much it worried her. Cinch tightened, she patted Polaris on the neck as she dropped the stirrup back down and went to stand before her mama. Sally Freeman was a tall beautiful woman who had seen her more than her share of difficulties. She could cook a mean meal out of next to nothing or shoot the wings off a fly if she so chose.

“I won’t get caught. I ride and shoot better than Robert. Besides, I can’t take in extra washing, it won’t do enough.”

Her mama scowled and crossed her arms. “You come back in and let me fix yer hair. You made a mess of it.”

She nodded and dutifully followed her back inside their small house. It was a much of a blessing as she’d get. Hair fixed and wrapped along with her breasts, she peeked in on her brother. Shallow rasped breaths filled the room and she blinked back tears as she kissed him on the head.

“Stay alive, Robert.”

“Becca,” he said on a graveled pain-filled voice. “You can’t. I changed my mind. It’s too dangerous.”

“I know the trail and the oath. I can do this. I am doing this.” One final kiss and she headed out. Her mother waited by the door and handed her a small bag.

They exchanged no hugs or words. Rebecca did her best to ignore the pile of thick black locks, which lay on the hard packed dirt fluttering around courtesy of the wind. It was a sign. The loss of innocence. The changing of times and it unsettled her.

By Polaris, she adjusted the red neck cloth as Robert always wore. She preferred blue, but from this moment on, she was no longer Rebecca Freeman. Now she was Robert Freeman. Reins in one hand, she swung up with considerable ease into the saddle, and rode off towards the station to await her first pickup. She spared no looks back. Robert wouldn’t so neither would she.

She had gone to the station before and had met the station master. An old crotchety man yet fair, which was all that mattered to her. It took her a good while to get there. Once she arrived, she tied Polaris in some welcome shade and headed in. At the last minute, she remembered Robert walked heavier than she did and so she stomped a bit harder, jangling her spurs.

A bell clanged above her head, announcing her arrival. It all looked the same.

“You’re early.”

Her heart pounded, this was the first test, to see if she could pull this off. “Yes sir.”

“Delivery won’t be here for about ten minutes, if he’s on time.”

“I’ll be outside.”

She tugged briefly on the brim of her hat before heading back out. The wind had picked up again and she leaned against a pole of the shelter over Polaris. Behind them sat the barn, which housed the Pony Express horses.

Off in the distance a cloud of dust grew closer and closer. The air changed. Crackling with energy, it skated up and down her spine. Even Polaris must have felt it for he lifted his head; ears swiveled toward the incoming rider and snorted. She untied him and double-checked her saddle. She looked up to see Ethan nearing.

“You know you’re supposed to use our horses.”

Yeah she knew, but she trusted Polaris with her life, so she’d ride him. “This is my sister’s horse. He runs like the wind.”

Ethan stood beside her. He was a large man and she watched him run sure hands over her mount. A grunt of approval before he patted his side.

“Good and sturdy. Looks like one of those Injun horses from the Blackfoot region. Saw some of them a whiles back. Good stock. Keep an eye on this horse, people are liable to want to steal him.”

She hesitated; she’d not expected him to know the region she’d acquired him. Thankfully, the approaching rider made it so she didn’t have to. She mounted, the familiar feel calming her nerves. This was it. The time had come.

Polaris sidestepped beneath her, feeling her anxiousness. Absently, she patted the muscled neck. Easy boy, it’s almost time. She shifted and relaxed a bit more at the accustomed creak of leather.

Ethan hurried out into the sun yet she hesitated. Two deep breaths before she touched her heels to Polaris and moved him out. Butterflies swarmed in her belly and she sought to keep her doubt hidden.

You’ll be fine, she told herself. She knew the route, had gone over it numerous times until she was confident. Yet, all that assuredness slipped to a hiding spot back in the dark recess of her mind.

The hoof beats grew louder and she felt the tingle race up her spine again. Excitement began to replace the uncertainty. A brown horse thundered into view, wet with sweat and blowing hard. The man sawed back on the reins and the animal slid to a halt, almost sitting on the ground.

Ethan ran and grabbed the delivery and waved at her. “Let’s get going, boy!”

She moved Polaris near, ensuring to keep her hat low over her eyes. The moment he secured the mochila, the mail pouch, she set her heels to Polaris, and they shot off. Part of her almost sent him off in a dead run but she knew that would be stupid. He would exhaust himself. Therefore, they loped. Polaris had a large stride and they would make good time. Also, if they ran into any hostiles, he would have some speed left in his reserves to get her out of danger. As they headed out of sight, she cast a glance over her shoulder.

She’d done it!

Managed to fool them and had set out on her first leg of running the Pony Express.

Rules of Engagement

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Here’s a snippet from my upcoming Rules of Engagement.

Preston Marks put the beer to his lips and drank as he pinched the bridge of his nose. The music wasn’t his style but then there wasn’t a lot of strip dancing to classical. Sure he listened to other music but classical held his demons at bay whenever he was home.

He still wasn’t truly home, hell, he wasn’t even in the right state. At least I’m CONUS instead of humping it through some fucking ‘Stan country. He’d been gone a long time. He wanted a quiet room and darkness but a friend from his hometown called and said he was nearby. So he agreed to meet him.

“Preston the Marksman. How the hell are you?”

He angled away from the skinny Asian on the pole before him to find his childhood friend approaching. Grey Sorenson.

“Grey,” he said with a smile. “Great to see you, man.” He stood for a hug.

“You too. Heard you’ve been spending a lot of time down range.”

He shrugged. “Seems so. Been missing a lot of time on our soil.”

“It happens.”

“True.” They sat back at the bare and Grey waved for his own beer. “What are you doing up here. Aren’t you supposed to be in Georgia? Have to admit, I was shocked to hear from you.”

“I was on my honeymoon but we got sent out and just got back so I was up here to get the car and head home.”

Preston blinked a few times as his brows shot up. “When the fuck did you get married? Better yet, who married you? And why would you be honeymooning in Maine?”

Grey drank before rolling the bottle on its edge. “Sarah Mallery, we came because she had some business up here but it turns out hers was shorter than mine.”

“The fuck?” He faced Grey. Not a match I would have picked.

“See what happens when you don’t come home?”

“I heard about her brother but damn, how the hell did you two end up together?”

“Fell hard.” He grinned. “and let’s face it, I’m adorable.”

“You’re an ass,” he countered instantly.

Grey laughed. “Not all the time.” A pause. “Okay, yes I am. But she loves me.”

“Congrats. Is she out?”

“Actually I am. She’s still active. I’m with a private company now. We’re just getting back from Turkey. And I ran into a few friends up here too. Who knew Maine was such a hotspot.”

“Hey Grey,” a new man called out.

Preston glanced to the right to find two more men approaching. One was well over six feet, black hair, and he saw brown eyes when they got closer. The other he recognized as Tate Irvin, former SEAL and current member of GAPS. Tate was fit and had vivid blue eyes. The other man he bet his life was also spec ops, it wasn’t hard to miss with the way they carried themselves.

“Wondering where you’d gotten to. Guys this here is Preston Marks, from my hometown. Preston, meet Jason “Snake” LaRue, who works with me at Tungsten Protective Services and Tate Irving who works with GAPS.

He nodded and stuck his hand out to Tate. “Good to see you again.” He’d been assigned to work with some members of GAPS in Mosul, that’s where he’d first met Tate.

“You too. Hella better conditions that we meet under now.”

As a collective unit, the group moved to a table in the back and ordered another round. A waitress with a big rack, tiny waist, and even smaller shorts brought their drinks and another—okay four—orders of wings.

“Here you gentlemen go.” Preston winked at her and chuckled at her reaction. She flamed as red as her shirt. It didn’t change the come hither look she leveled at him. or the others. He’d not had a woman in a long time, far to long. From her expression she’d be a willing participant.

“Go ahead,” Grey said. “I’m sure I’ll still be on this wing when you finish.”

He flipped him off ad got to his feet, all intentions for a quick fuck in the back. However, instincts that had kept him alive had him ducking as a glass mug sailed by his head, spilling droplets into his hair. He dodged that but the man following it collided with him.

Preston grunted as the over three-hundred-pound man hit into him, driving him back a pace or two. Beyond him, the instigator, released a loud roar and charged.

Bar fight! His brain echoed the yell from another corner of the room. It was a swarm. He grinned at the looks on Tate’s face as he and the others joined in the fracas. Nothing men liked more was a good bar brawl. Especially this group, he knew they were like him in that aspect.

Three hours later, he sat in a holding cell with the others and moved his aching jaw. A few good punches had been landed. Nothing like a bunch of drunk hillbillies to make him feel some pain.

“What are you three grumbling about over there?” he asked.

“How much our women aren’t going to be pleased,” Jason said. “At least Etta.”

Grey smirked. “Sarah will be pissed she missed the fight.”

“Damn Marines.”

Grey laughed. “I think it’s something in the water at home. Princess became a cop and married Chase.”

“Shit. Wouldn’t have expected that. Not with her family and where he came from.”

“A lot of us were shocked.”

“You lot,” a burly man snapped. “get out of my jail.”

With pleasure. He rose and walked with the others to the door.

“No charges. They said you four just got caught up in the brawl.” The barrel chested man crossed his arms.

“Let’s go before they change their minds.” Grey led the way and the others followed. Man was a natural leader. Tate he’d seen in action firsthand and Jason—him he’d heard about. Wasn’t everyday a man took out one of his own with such blatant decision.