Sunday, April 13, 2014

Out Now - A Dance with the Devil

I finished editing it early, so I'm releasing it early!

A DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, the second novella in the Devilish Devalles series, is available now. The first novella is THE DEVIL TO PAY.

You can purchase A DANCE WITH THE DEVIL at AmazonAll Romance eBooks, and Smashwords. Coming soon to the iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. The print version is also available at Amazon.

Have you added it to your Goodreads bookshelf? You can do that now.

As the Earl of Blackmore, Lucas Devalle is no stranger to the scandals propagated by Society’s elite, particularly since more than a few of those scandals have come about due to the Devalle family’s affairs. As such, it comes as no surprise when a young lady in search of a scandal attempts to entrap him at the ball he’s giving to honor his brother’s betrothal. He is surprised when second young lady intervenes in the name of freeing him from an undesirable fate. Why would anyone feel the need to safeguard his name when he is one of the devilish Devalles?

When she escaped into the gardens at Lord Blackmore’s ball, Miss Julianna Selwyn’s intentions had merely been to escape from an elderly, marriage-minded marquess’s unwanted advances. She never planned to eavesdrop on her host. But no matter how wicked Lord Blackmore is purported to be, he doesn’t deserve to be forced into the parson’s mousetrap when he’s done nothing wrong. Had Julianna not overheard every sordid detail of a young lady’s plan to ensnare the earl, however, she might have avoided initiating her own scandalous to-do.

With his curiosity piqued, Luke does what any reasonable man, rogue or not, would do—he seeks out an introduction to his charming liberator. Upon uncovering Julianna’s dilemma, he’s determined to return the favor as only he can: he makes certain his rescuer gets more than just A Dance with the Devil.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Dance with the Devil

It's been a while since I've had a historical romance release, but I've finally got one on its way. :)

A DANCE WITH THE DEVIL is the second novella in the Devilish Devalles series, following THE DEVIL TO PAY.

As the Earl of Blackmore, Lucas Devalle is no stranger to the scandals propagated by Society’s elite, particularly since more than a few of those scandals have come about due to the Devalle family’s affairs. As such, it comes as no surprise when a young lady in search of a scandal attempts to entrap him at the ball he’s giving to honor his brother’s betrothal. He is surprised when second young lady intervenes in the name of freeing him from an undesirable fate. Why would anyone feel the need to safeguard his name when he is one of the devilish Devalles?

When she escaped into the gardens at Lord Blackmore’s ball, Miss Julianna Selwyn’s intentions had merely been to escape from an elderly, marriage-minded marquess’s unwanted advances. She never planned to eavesdrop on her host. But no matter how wicked Lord Blackmore is purported to be, he doesn’t deserve to be forced into the parson’s mousetrap when he’s done nothing wrong. Had Julianna not overheard every sordid detail of a young lady’s plan to ensnare the earl, however, she might have avoided initiating her own scandalous to-do.

With his curiosity piqued, Luke does what any reasonable man, rogue or not, would do—he seeks out an introduction to his charming liberator. Upon uncovering Julianna’s dilemma, he’s determined to return the favor as only he can: he makes certain his rescuer gets more than just A Dance with the Devil.

It will release on April 17, 2014. You can add it to your Goodreads bookshelf now.

In May, I'll be releasing the third Bexley-Smythe Quintet novella, THICK AS THIEVES, as a standalone title. Be on the lookout for more news on that.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Light the Lamp

The third full book in the Portland Storm series is on its way. :) Are you ready to LIGHT THE LAMP?

Life’s been rough lately for Noelle Payne, but she’s not one to let negativity rule. So, she lost her job? She’ll find another one. The bank foreclosed on the house? Well, she can live out of her car for a while. There’s always an upside to be found…but now Noelle needs to find something to give her life meaning. She owes it to the universe to figure it out, too, because a stranger just saved her life.

When Liam Kallen’s wife died, his goal-scoring ability died with her. After a trade from the only pro hockey team he’s ever played for, he’s now playing for the NHL’s Portland Storm. Everyone said he needed a change of scenery, but nothing changes until he rescues Noelle. All of a sudden, the world once again looks bright and he’s lighting the lamp like he used to.

Noelle’s cheerful disposition is just the bit of sunlight Liam needs in his life. He wants to give her everything she needs because she’s everything he wants. The problem? She doesn’t believe she needs anything…at least nothing material. The one thing they both know she truly needs—a real purpose—also happens to be the one thing he doesn’t know how to give her. If he can’t help her find that, she might walk away and take all her sunshine with her.

LIGHT THE LAMP will be available in June, 2014. And you can already add it to your Goodreads TBR pile!

Want to be sure you're one of the first to know when LIGHT THE LAMP is available? Sign up for my mailing list and it'll come straight to your email inbox.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Out Now - Seduced by The Game

SEDUCED BY THE GAME is out now! You can get it today at Amazon, Barnes and NobleAll Romance eBooks, and Smashwords. It's making its way to the other ebook retailers out there, too, so hopefully you won't have to wait long.

This anthology features my novella, TAKING A SHOT, which is book 2.5 in the Portland Storm series. Best of all? The authors are supporting a great cause with this anthology: Hockey Fights Cancer. Go get it today, and help us in the fight against a disease which affects us all in some way or another.

It’s time to drop the gloves and fight! Support the Fight against cancer, that is. This anthology of 8 brand new novellas is hot enough to melt the ice these players skate on. Featuring stories from popular New York Times & USA Today, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble bestselling authors, including Toni Aleo, Cassandra Carr, Cindy Carr, Jami Davenport, Catherine Gayle, Jaymee Jacobs, V.L. Locey, Bianca Sommerland, and Nikki Worrell

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author – Toni Aleo TANGLED IN THE LACES

In Tangled in the Laces, Karson King is on the fast track to the pros and Lacey Martin is coming back from a hard fight against cancer and is terrified of him but their love is too much to ignore. Will Karson prove that he will protect her heart at all costs, or will he leave Lacey to pick up the pieces of her life once again?

Cassandra Carr and Cindy Carr – HOOKING HANNAH

When Hannah attends an all-star game, she doesn’t expect a hockey player of all people to turn her world upside down. Her sister is married to a player and Hannah never wanted that life. But Scott could change everything. For Scott’s part, he has to know the woman who stirred his blood with just a look, and once he does, he realizes he wants Hannah to be his forever. Now to convince her…

Jami Davenport – CRASHING THE BOARDS (Seattle Sockeyes 1.5)

Professional party crasher Izzy Maxwell needs the cooperation of reluctant party guest Cooper Black, the team captain of Seattle’s new hockey team, but Cooper can’t get past his anger over the team’s relocation to Seattle. Can Izzy melt Cooper’s frozen heart or will this party crash along with her fledgling business?

Catherine Gayle – TAKING A SHOT (Portland Storm book 2.5)

Katie Weber has had a crush on Jamie Babcock for almost two years, since he joined her father’s pro hockey team, the Portland Storm as an eighteen-year-old rookie. When cancer takes her health, her hair, and even her friends, she can’t bear to go to senior prom…until Jamie intervenes.

Jaymee Jacobs – A VALUABLE TRADE

Bryan’s life gets turned upside down when he gets traded to the Dallas Comets, and things get even messier when he meets Georgiana, the Director of Team Services. He’s got a lot of work to do to prove his worth to his new team, but Georgiana’s sure he’ll prove to be a valuable trade.


Superstar Cam Evans is fighting to climb out of a slump that’s growing worse with each day of living in denial. Fresh from the minors, Jacobi Neal is hungry for the chance to play back-up for the legendary goalie. Can two men battle each other, their inner demons, and the sizzling attraction building between them?

Bianca Sommerland – BLIND PASS (Dartmouth Cobras 0.5)

Nothing could stop Tim Rowe, the assistant coach of the Dartmouth Cobras, from falling in love with Madeline, but love alone can’t satisfy every need. Sometimes, to reach the goal, you have to take the chance with a … Blind Pass.

Nikki Worrell – CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN (Prequel to the Scorpions Series)

Keith Lambert is the captain of the Flyers—until he’s not. To everyone’s shock, he’s traded to the San Diego Scorpions. As if that’s not bad enough, Phoebe, his girlfriend of two years, decides she doesn’t love him enough to follow.

All alone in a new town, Keith is drawn to Kelly, his take-out delivery girl. When she shows up at ice girl tryouts, he’s lost. She’s all he can see. Can he convince her to forget her past and take a chance on him or is he destined to be alone in a new town a little bit longer?

**Proud Supporters of Hockey Fights Cancer

Friday, March 21, 2014

Win a Copy of On the Fly!

I'm running a Goodreads giveaway for On the Fly! It's super easy to enter and win. Just go here and use your Goodreads account to sign up.

While you're there, why don't you go ahead and add it to your Bookshelf, as well?

Don't forget, SEDUCED BY THE GAME, the hockey romance anthology featuring book 2.5 of my Portland Storm series, will be out on April 10. All profits are being donated to cancer charities!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Seduced by the Game - Coming Soon

It's coming next month! SEDUCED BY THE GAME 2014 is not too far away. Publication will take place in mid-to-late April, 2014.

I'm thrilled to be one of the authors involved in releasing Seduced by the Game, an anthology of hockey romance novellas written by a number of bestselling authors.

Not only will you get 8 novellas for the price of a single book, but all of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology for a full year will be donated to Hockey Fights Cancer **. After that year is up, each author will get her story back to re-release as she sees fit. Then the 2015 version of SEDUCED BY THE GAME will be released to take its place.

This is the first in what is planned to be an annual release of anthologies with proceeds being donated to the charity.

The authors all donated our novellas for this project, but it went so far beyond just the authors involved. We also got cover art donated, a logo designed, editing and proofreading was donated, marketing support is being donated--it's been a huge team coming together all for this one cause.

You can add SEDUCED BY THE GAME to your Goodreads bookshelf now!

I'll share more details as they are available, but for now here's a little more about my part in the anthology.

My novella is TAKING A SHOT, which is book 2.5 in the PORTLAND STORM series. What's it about?

Katie Weber has lost her health due to leukemia, and now her chemotherapy treatments have taken her hair. She’s not about to show up to her senior prom bald and let her classmates steal her dignity, too. Prom is no place for a girl who looks more like an alien than a high school student, especially when her so-called friends all dropped her like she had the plague at the first mention of the word cancer. Katie could never get up the courage to ask Jamie—her crush for almost two years, ever since he joined her dad’s NHL team—to take her. Not with the way she looks now. Besides, her dad would absolutely murder him.

Jamie Babcock knows its bad news to fall for his Portland Storm teammate’s daughter, but he’s had a thing for Katie since the first time he met her when he was just a wide-eyed, eighteen-year-old rookie. Now cancer might take her away before he ever grows the balls to do anything about it, though. Her father won’t be happy about it, but Jamie has to take a shot and ask to take her to her prom. It seems like Katie has just about given up, and he can’t let her go without giving her some good memories…something to hold on to. She’s still got her whole life ahead of her—she just has to keep living it. If he can convince her of that, nothing her father might do to him will matter.

Want a sneak peek? Here you go, but go grab some tissues first--just in case.

The team started to leave the ice after the morning skate, so this was my best chance, at least to just get it done and over with without Mom crying. I’d had enough of crying for a while—hers, my own, and everyone else’s, too. Dad wouldn’t cry over this—not in front of his teammates, at least—so I should be safe from tears for a bit as long as I could escape Mom’s hovering and get to him.

Dad played for the National Hockey League’s Portland Storm. Game-day skates weren’t open to the general public, but Mom and I didn’t count as part of the public around here. We were family.

Ever since I’d started chemotherapy treatments for my leukemia a few weeks ago, the Storm’s general manager and coaching staff had been allowing me to come and watch the closed practices in addition to the off-day practices.

Mom always came with me. Sometimes it seemed as though she believed she could make me better just by being with me, which was ridiculous. Even these awful drugs might not make me better, so how could she? I wasn’t exactly going to keel over and die while she wasn’t looking, but she didn’t like to let me out of her sight these days, as if she needed the physical reminder to know I was still alive. The only things I needed to remind me that I was alive were the aches and pains I’d been having.

I’d thought radiation was bad right up until the chemo started. Then I discovered that radiation was just the warm-up. Cancer treatments weren’t for the faint of heart.

I figured the bigwigs with the Storm were just allowing me to tag along because I didn’t have a whole lot to do these days. Maybe a little bit because they felt sorry for me, too, but this was one instance where I was more than willing to take advantage of some pity.

Plus, I thought it helped Dad not worry too much, and that could only help him to perform in games the way he needed to. Some days I thought my cancer was harder on my parents than it was on me. Not physically, so much, but emotionally. I didn’t want to die, but I’d just kind of resigned myself to the fact that it might happen. They hadn’t. Not yet, at least. And so they hovered. And worried. And cried.

I wished they would just accept that it might happen. That would be a whole lot easier for all of us.

With my treatments making me so sick, the school district had assigned me a laptop and had given me access to online coursework and a tutor who came to my house once a week for two hours. All I did other than my online classes and tutoring sessions was sleep, puke, try to imagine myself healthy again, and follow the Storm. Everything else had been put on hold—indefinitely.

That last bit, getting to follow the Storm, was the only part of my life keeping me sane, at least now in the early stages of chemo. I’d been going stir-crazy without school and Glee Club and all the other regular teenager things filling my days, and going to their practices and games gave me something to focus on other than how sometimes I wished it would just end, whatever that meant. They gave me something to believe in, and there hadn’t been much of that lately.

My eyes followed my dad as he skated off the ice, gave me a brief wave, and headed down the tunnel with the rest of the guys. It was now or never. I didn’t want to lie to Mom, but if I was going to go through with this, I didn’t have much choice because of her hovering-to-keep-me-alive thing.

Cancer sucks and it kills a lot of people, and there was no question I might die, but it probably wasn’t going to happen today. I was pretty sure I’d feel a lot worse than I did before it was all over. Not that I wanted to feel worse. I just wanted it to end.

I turned toward Mom and tried to look green, which wasn’t all that hard these days. “I think I might be sick.”

“Oh, Katie, today? You don’t usually get sick so many days after a treatment…”

I put my hand up to my mouth, as though I was trying to hold back some puke. “Yeah. Today. I’ll meet you by the parking garage when I’m done.”

I didn’t give her a chance to argue. I took off at a run, bolting up the stairs away from the Moda Center’s ice with my hand over my mouth the entire way. I left my jacket, purse, and the throw blanket she’d brought with us to keep me warm behind with her. That way she’d have to gather it all up before she could follow. That should give me enough time to get to the bowels of the arena instead of making a beeline for the bathroom without her seeing where I was heading.

Sure enough, I got onto the elevator and the doors closed behind me without Mom appearing in the concourse.

I got off at ice level, and I made my way along the concrete walkway toward the Storm’s offices and locker room. When I got to the double doors I was looking for, Daniel “Hammer” Hamm, one of the assistant coaches, was just making his way out and preparing to let the press in. They were standing just outside the doors, three men who’d become increasingly more familiar to me over the last few weeks.

I needed to get in before the press. They would be in there too long. I couldn’t wait for them to finish and leave or else Mom would really freak out. If they beat me inside, I’d have to just go meet Mom and forget all about talking to Dad without having her around.

“Hammer!” I called out, still from some distance away. I was proud that I only sounded a little panicky, not like I was in a full-fledged freak-out.

He looked at me with his eyes squinting into a funny expression. I jogged the rest of the distance even though it left me winded so he wouldn’t have to wait too long for an explanation, and so I wouldn’t have to keep shouting. All three of the media guys spun their heads around to stare at me, too. I wished they would back off.

“Can I get in there for a minute?” I asked. “There’s something I need my dad for. It should only take a few minutes.”

He frowned. “What do you need that can’t wait until he gets home, Katie? We have to let the media in…”

I reached into my pocket and showed him what I’d placed in there before leaving home this morning, keeping it hidden from the reporters who were craning their heads to see while trying to pretend that they weren’t doing exactly that.

Hammer looked down at my hand and swallowed hard a couple of times. His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat, like Dad’s did when he was trying not to get emotional. Then he nodded, and I put my hand back in my pocket.

“Let me go back in and make sure all the boys have clothes on so your dad doesn’t have to kill anyone,” he said. “Stay right here.” He looked over to the press, who were waiting for their chance to go in and interview some of the players. “It’s going to be a few more minutes, guys. Sorry.”

A moment later, he opened one of the doors and let me in, closing it firmly behind me so no one else could follow. I made my way straight for my dad’s stall.

He shook his head when he saw me, a slight frown turning down the corners of his lips. His eyes looked tired, with red streaks and bags under them. He’d only started looking like that and showing his age recently. I hated that I was the reason why.

“What’s going on, Katie?” he asked.

I took a deep breath for courage. Then I emptied my pocket again and held the clump of my hair up for him to see. “It’s starting to fall out. I don’t want to wait and have it leave me with bald patches. I just want to shave it off.” My voice kept cracking over the words, which sucked. I didn’t want anyone to know how scared I was.

I’d woken up this morning and had nearly gotten sick when I found this big wad on my pillow. Heck of a way to wake up. Some more had come out when I’d brushed my hair, leaving a bald patch in the back that I’d had to hide with strategic barrette placement. I hadn’t wanted Mom to see it. Or Luke and Dani, my younger brother and sister. They all worried so much, and this would only make the fears more real—bring them closer to coming true. As long as I had hair, we’d been able to pretend that I was just a little sick. This was going to shoot that idea out of the water, though.

It was unnaturally quiet in the locker room. The team had been playing well lately, winning more than losing, so that meant they were usually laughing and joking with each other when they were all together, keeping things loose. So I knew the guys were listening, even if their heads were turned away and they were pretending to keep busy with other things. It didn’t matter if they heard, though. They could handle this—a lot better than Mom could, at any rate. Maybe better than I could.

Dad stared at the hair in my hand for a minute and then kissed my forehead. “Does your mom know you’re down here?”

“No. I told her I felt sick and I’d meet her at the garage.”

“She’s going to kill me.” His jaw was tight, like he was grinding his teeth, and his Adam’s apple bobbed hard a couple of times.

I nodded. “It’ll be better this way.” Maybe not better, but at least easier.

“I know.” He turned to Cam Johnson, one of his teammates, who was a few stalls down. “Jonny? You have your hair clippers here?” Jonny had kept his hair buzzed short, like a military cut, for as long as I’d known him.

“Yeah, gimme a sec.” He reached overhead and took out a shoebox. He brought it over to us. “You want me to do it?”

“No, I’ll do it,” Dad said. His voice kept getting heavier, deeper. He was barely keeping it together. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked him to do this with his teammates all around. Maybe I should have just kept trying to hide it with barrettes until I couldn’t hide it any longer.

“Use one of the guards first until you get most of her hair off,” Jonny said. “Then go back over it without a guard. That’ll help keep it from pulling and hurting her.” He winked and gave me a kind smile before he went back to doing whatever he’d been doing.

“Okay.” Dad sorted through the guards in the box. He selected one and settled it over the cutting mechanism.

“Here, Katie,” a deep voice said from behind me.

I turned to see Eric Zellinger, the team captain, holding a folding chair and a towel. “Sit down,” Zee said. “We’ll put this over your shoulders to catch the hair.”

I nodded, biting down on my lip. A lot more of the guys were getting involved in this than I’d counted on. This was turning into something bigger than I’d expected, and it made me wish I’d thought it through better. All I’d been thinking about was Mom and her hovering.

He set the chair on the floor, and I dropped onto it. Dad put the towel around my shoulders. I removed the barrettes from my hair and stuck them in my pocket, not that I’d need them again anytime soon. I held the ends of the towel together in the front, staring down at my lap so he should have easy access. My hands were shaking, so I pressed my fingers tight to my chest so maybe the guys wouldn’t notice how worked up I was.

The clippers buzzed to life by my ear, but then nothing happened. I lifted my head. At least half the team had stopped what they were doing to watch, some of them shifting uncomfortably. I didn’t mean to make them uncomfortable. I just didn’t know what else to do without upsetting Mom.

“You sure you’re ready?” Dad asked. His voice cracked just like mine had.

I wasn’t even close to ready and I couldn’t make my body stop shuddering, but I said, “Yes. Do it.” I tilted my head back so I could see him, and I gave him a big, fake smile before lowering my head again. I’d always been a good actress, but based on the way his eyes were shining, he hadn’t bought it this time.

My attention shifted to Babs—Jamie Babcock, the youngest guy on the team, and the one I’d had the hugest crush on for forever. Or at least since I’d first met him when he’d started playing for the Storm. He looked as green as I’d tried to be in order to convince Mom I was sick. I didn’t want him to see me bald—he might turn his back on me as fast as all my school friends had—but I couldn’t kick him out. I was the intruder here, not him. Besides, I was going to be bald one way or another soon. Unless I was planning on hiding out in my bedroom for the next several months, chances were he was going to see me like that.

“Okay,” Dad said finally, his usually steady voice shaking as hard as I was. He trailed his fingers through my hair in the back, as though he needed to touch it one more time in case it never came back.

I couldn’t look away from Babs, and he didn’t look away from me. He was sitting on the bench at his stall, his hands fisted at his sides, as the cool plastic guard touched down against my forehead. It glided back along my scalp, and large clumps of my hair rained down onto the towel over my shoulders. I caught a piece of it in my free hand. The long, brown strands still felt vibrant and alive.

Not like me. I hadn’t felt vibrant in so long I almost didn’t remember what it was like, and I didn’t know if I wanted to be alive anymore if it had to hurt this bad.

I let the hair slip through my fingers and fall to my feet.

It didn’t take long for Dad to finish the first pass with the guard, even with being careful around my ears. He powered the clippers off and removed the guard, tossing it back into the shoebox behind him. A moment later, the now-familiar buzzing sound filled the room again.

This time, I could feel the metal against my flesh. It was warm from the motor and a little scratchy, but it was oddly comforting. My scalp had been sensitive for days—a sure sign, according to my oncologist, that the hair loss would start soon. Dad went over some spots multiple times, then he rubbed my bald head to feel if he’d missed anything.

He turned the clippers off again, picked up a few strands of hair from the towel, shoved them in his pocket, and kissed the top of my head.

“You’ve got to tell me,” I said. “Do I have any weird bumpy spots?” I needed some warning about things like that before I looked in a mirror. It was going to be enough of a shock to see myself without any hair. I’d always had a full head of long, thick brown hair, ever since I was really little. Even in my baby pictures I had a lot of hair. Mom said I’d come out that way.

“No weird bumpy spots,” Dad said. He sounded gruff. I knew this wasn’t easy for him. None of it was.

“Okay.” I carefully took the towel off, looking down for the first time to see the mound of brown hair at my feet and surrounding the chair.

Jonny brought over a damp cloth and handed it to Dad. It was warm when he wiped it over my head, neck, and face to pick up any loose hairs.

I got up and kissed Dad on the cheek. “Is there a mirror around? I need to see.”

Zee jerked his head to the side, toward another part of the room. “Over here.”

I went to where he’d indicated and stared in shock at my reflection. It was still me—still my blue eyes, even though they seemed tired and sunken in, still my nose and my dry lips, still my slightly hollowed out cheekbones. But I looked like an alien. If my friends hadn’t already dropped me, they definitely would now. Who would want to hang out with the weird alien girl? The lack of hair only seemed to emphasize the features that made it obvious I was sick. I let my hands run over my head as I turned to see myself from every angle.

No weird bumpy spots. Dad hadn’t lied.

The clippers buzzed to life again, and I raced back into the main part of the locker room. My dad was in the chair. Jonny was shaving Dad’s head.

“Oh, Daddy.” I’d been able to get through losing my own hair without crying, but this time I couldn’t hold my stupid tears back. “Mom really will kill you now.”

He winked and reached for my hand. I held it, watching as his salt-and-pepper hair joined mine on the floor around the chair. Jonny finished shaving Dad’s head a lot quicker than Dad had done mine.

“No weird bumpy spots?” Dad asked me.

I brushed away a tear and shook my head. “No weird bumpy spots.”

He got up and left without saying another word, heading toward the mirror.

Jonny started to put the clippers away, but Babs got up and said, “Not yet. Do mine next.”

“No!” I couldn’t believe I’d just shouted at him, but I couldn’t let Babs do that, even though the thought that he was willing to made my belly flip.

I loved his hair. It was this perfect blondish-brown shade, and he had it cut in a faux hawk lately that made me want to run my fingers through it. I couldn’t do anything like that. Dad would kill Babs if he even looked at me funny, whether he’d done anything or not—not that he ever would. I was just another girl with a crush on him. He had more than enough of those to choose from. There was no reason he should choose me over any of the rest of them.

Babs was only a couple of years older than me—only twenty—but I didn’t think age was really the issue for Dad when it came to the thought of me and a guy. He was stuck on the fact that I was still in high school, and he seemed to think I shouldn’t even date until I was about sixty or seventy, or maybe not even then.

It didn’t seem to matter to him that I’d already turned eighteen and was old enough that I could make my own choices. It happened two and a half weeks ago, actually, on the day that I’d started my first chemo treatment. Happy birthday to me. Here’s some cake you can puke up later.

Babs stood in the middle of the locker room, his hands still balled into fists at his sides, staring at me. “I want to,” he said. “I feel like it’s the only thing I can do.”

There wasn’t anything for him to do. I shook my head, this time feeling like I might actually get sick. “Please, don’t. I can handle losing my hair, but I don’t think I can take it if you shave yours off. Plus, all of Portland would hate me.”

He laughed, but it was an angry sort of laugh. Hurt. Like I’d hurt his feelings, which made no sense at all. He clenched his jaw, and it made his dimples come out. “Okay,” he said finally. “But only because you asked me not to.”

I took a couple of steps until I was standing right in front of him. “Thank you, Babs,” I whispered.

“Jamie,” he said. “Call me Jamie.”

As he spoke, I could smell the sweet-and-spicy cinnamon scent on his breath from the mints he was always popping in his mouth. I was that close.

I stretched up on my toes and kissed him on the cheek, right where his dimple always showed up. “Jamie…thank you.” I don’t know what made me kiss him like that, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.

He brought his hand up, and I thought he might touch my cheek or my head. My pulse thundered like a wild stampede, and I couldn’t breathe for wanting him to touch me in some small way, even though it was a crazy thought in the first place.

“You’d better back away from my little girl, dipshit,” Dad said from right behind me.

Jamie dropped his hand to his side so fast you would have thought Dad had shot it.

I took a step back, almost bumping into my dad. “It’s my fault. He didn’t do anything.” I turned to face him, and Jamie backed away to busy himself with something else. “Really, Dad.”

“Your mother’s waiting for you,” he said, but I knew he was pissed. His eyes were more bloodshot than before, like he’d been crying. That was probably why he’d left for a minute—not so much to look at his own bald head.

I nodded. “Yeah. I’m going.”

“Are you two coming to lunch with us today?”

“If I can get her to stop crying once she sees me like this. I’ll text you to let you know.” I raced out of the locker room before either of us started crying again and hurried past the reporters before they realized I didn’t have any hair left.

**While all proceeds from the anthology will be donated to various charities through Hockey Fights Cancer, the authors claim no connection to the NHL or the NHLPA. All stories contained within the anthology SEDUCED BY THE GAME are the property of the authors. The cover and the logo for SEDUCED BY THE GAME are the property of the artists. Credit will be given to those who've contributed in promotion or marketing with the permission of involved parties.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Limited Time Sale - Breakaway

For a limited time only, you can get the ebook version of BREAKAWAY for only $0.99.

What's it about?

She’s reaching for a breakaway pass. 

Dana Campbell has spent the past seven years in self-imposed isolation for a crime she didn’t commit. The danger is well in the past, but her panic attacks make it impossible to have a normal, healthy relationship with a man. Even her counselor has given up on her. She has to find someone she trusts to help her fight through the panic, or her seven-year ordeal will become a lifetime sentence. There’s only one man she feels safe enough to ask. 

He got caught with his head down. 

As the captain of the NHL’s once elite but now fading Portland Storm, Eric Zellinger knows a thing or two about keeping his focus on the job. Questions are flying about his ability to lead the team back to the playoffs. If they don’t make it, he might be shipped out of town. It’s the worst time possible for his best friend’s kid sister to divide his focus. How can he give her what she needs without jeopardizing both the Storm’s playoff hopes and his future with the team? 

It’s her only chance, but it’s his last shot.

It's available at this price at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords. It WILL be available at the reduced price soon at the iBookstore and Kobo, but at the moment they're still processing the discount.

If you enjoy it, check out the second book in the series, ON THE FLY.

Injury after injury has put Brenden Campbell’s NHL career on hold for years. Now he’s playing for the Portland Storm and determined to make it stick. Few things in life drive him more than being told he can’t have something he wants, and what he wants most is to prove he belongs. Brenden also wants Rachel Shaw, the cute, little redhead who just got hired as the general manager’s new assistant. But then she went and made herself off-limits, telling him: “I don’t date.” Those three words pretty much guarantee that he’ll do everything he can to change her mind. 

Rachel is changing things up on the fly for her family, moving them somewhere she can be the kind of mom her kids deserve. Allowing anyone else to be in their lives is out of the question, at least until her instincts get back on track. How else can she be sure who to steer the kids clear of? Right now she trusts no one, including herself, and especially not a man like Brenden Campbell. He’s way too handsome and a little bit cocky. Falling for a guy like him is a mistake she can’t afford to make twice

You can get it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords--it's not yet available at iTunes, but will be soon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

BIG News

If you "like" me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, then you probably know I've had a secret project in the works. (Or a super-seekrit one. Whichever.)

Well, now I can tell you a little more about that.

There's going to be a hockey romance anthology, and it's going to include novellas from nine different authors. I'm going to be one of those authors, along with the likes of Toni Aleo, Cassandra Carr, Bianca Sommerland, and Jami Davenport.

The best thing about it? All the proceeds are going to be donated to Hockey Fights Cancer. That's right--none of us are going to be earning a penny from it and it's all going to a very good cause.

The stories are going to link back to each author's current hockey series, so for my readers that means you'll get more of my Portland Storm characters. If you've already read the first two books in the series, BREAKAWAY and ON THE FLY, then you already know the two at the heart of this one: Babs and Katie. I kind of left y'all hanging at the end of ON THE FLY with Katie...and this story will answer some of that even though it isn't their full story. These two both still have some growing up to do before I can really write their happily ever after, but you'll get a taste of what's to come.

I'll share more details as they are finalized and we get closer to release, but I can't WAIT to share this anthology with you.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On the Fly - OUT NOW

It's early! But I didn't want to make you wait any longer. You can go put On the Fly on your ereader now.

Injury after injury has put Brenden Campbell’s NHL career on hold for years. Now he’s playing for the Portland Storm and determined to make it stick. Few things in life drive him more than being told he can’t have something he wants, and what he wants most is to prove he belongs. Brenden also wants Rachel Shaw, the cute, little redhead who just got hired as the general manager’s new assistant. But then she went and made herself off-limits, telling him: “I don’t date.” Those three words pretty much guarantee that he’ll do everything he can to change her mind.

Rachel is changing things up on the fly for her family, moving them somewhere she can be the kind of mom her kids deserve. Allowing anyone else to be in their lives is out of the question, at least until her instincts get back on track. How else can she be sure who to steer the kids clear of? Right now she trusts no one, including herself, and especially not a man like Brenden Campbell. He’s way too handsome and a little bit cocky. Falling for a guy like him is a mistake she can’t afford to make twice.

You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords. Coming soon to the iBookstore, Kobo, and other ebook retailers. The print version is also on its way.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sneak Peek: On the Fly, Unedited Chapter 2

I had a great response again when I shared the first unedited chapter of On the Fly. To tide you over while I'm waiting to get it back from my editor, here's the second chapter!

If you haven't read the first chapter yet, you can find that here.

On the Fly will release at the end of February, on or around the 26th, so you've only got about two more weeks to wait before you can read the whole thing.


The team had almost finished practice by the time I’d gone to see Drywall Tierney, the team’s head equipment manager. He helped me to sort out what gear I needed to take with me and what would be provided in Seattle. They were winding things down on the ice, so I hung around for a bit. I needed to talk to Jamie Babcock.
Babs was an almost-twenty-year-old hockey phenom and, at least for this season, my roommate. Last season, he’d lived with Zee so he could adjust to life as a pro hockey player and to being away from his mom and dad. When I got called up to finish last season in Portland, I’d lived with them, too. This year, Babs and I both thought it would be better to give Zee and Dana some space, some privacy. We got a condo together near downtown, a nice place not too far from either the arena or the practice facility.
I liked Babs. He didn’t need me to babysit him or anything, but he had still jumped at the idea of us living together. I was pretty sure it was that he wouldn’t have to figure out how to cook for himself, more than anything, that convinced him it was a good idea.
Babs wasn’t that great in the kitchen. Actually, he was a holy terror in the kitchen. I’d banned him from ever touching the stove within a week of us moving into the new place. Not much later, I’d added the oven, the toaster, and the coffee maker to the list of off-limit appliances. It was best for all involved if Babs didn’t attempt to make anything more complicated than a peanut butter sandwich.
When the boys came off the ice, I told him the news about me heading to Seattle for a week.
He was busy changing out of his gear. “Damn, Soupy,” he said once I finished talking. “That sucks. I mean, it’ll be good to get back on the ice, but…”
He didn’t have to finish that thought.
“Anyway, you’ll have to find a way to feed yourself for a week,” I said, making a joke instead of focusing on the fact that, once more, I was on my way down to the minors. It was easier to laugh off my frustration than to face my fears.
Zee hung his pads neatly in his stall, proving himself to be just about the perfect human once again. His perfection would probably annoy me more if he wasn’t my best friend, but I’d spent more than half my life witnessing it. “You can come hang out with me and Dana some,” he said. “She misses you, and then you won’t have to starve.”
Babs blushed, which only made him more adorable than he already was. Adorable wasn’t a word I’d usually use about another guy, but this kid slayed me.
“Yeah, all right,” he said.
I was glad they were going to look after him. He may not need a babysitter, but he could definitely make good use of a personal chef.
Before things got even more awkward, I figured it was better for me to just head out. “Yeah. Anyway, I have to be there in the morning. Better go pack so I can get on the road.” It was about a two-and-a-half-hour drive so there was no point in flying.
I headed toward the garage, but halfway there I saw that redhead, Rachel Shaw, coming down the stairs. She had her head down and was talking to herself, having this whole long, drawn-out conversation back and forth. Well, conversation probably wasn’t quite the right word. It was more like an argument. Out loud. Every step of the way down the stairs.
I’d never seen anything more adorable, and that included Babs and his fucking blushes and dimples. I moved into position at the foot of the stairs and waited for her.
Once she was close enough for me to hear what she was saying, I realized she had the most fascinating southern accent I’d ever heard. I must not have heard her say enough when I’d run into her earlier, or I surely would have noticed it. “…But it isn’t for me,” she muttered. “It’s for Maddie and Tuck. I can accept it for them. I have to.”
She almost walked straight into me, which would have made us even. Plus, it would have given me a great excuse to touch her again, to put my arms out and help steady her. Right before she would have barreled into me she realized I was there, nearly jumping back in shock.
“Who’s winning?” I asked, giving her a smile that had always made girls melt in the past.
“Winning what?”
Yeah, so Rachel Shaw didn’t melt. Instead, she narrowed those green eyes on me, and she had to crane her neck back to see my face. She couldn’t be taller than five feet or so. Definitely not my usual type. Besides, she was eyeing me like I was the most suspicious man on the planet. This chick wanted nothing to do with me.
I couldn’t help myself, though. I wanted to talk to her, to keep hearing that southern accent. “The argument. Are you going to take it—whatever it is—or not?”
She pulled the strap of her purse over her head to rest on the opposite shoulder. I let my eyes follow the line it made, angling down her chest, between her boobs. I shouldn’t have done that. But I’m just a man like any other, and as such there are few things in the world that will draw my eye like a good pair of boobs. Rachel Shaw definitely had a pair worth looking at to go along with her cute ass.
Hell, I had to stop thinking like that.
She didn’t answer my question. She glared at me, which she absolutely should have done since I was staring shamelessly at her rack. “If you’ll excuse me,” she said, pushing past me and heading toward the parking garage. “I have somewhere to be.”
Since I was already on my way out to the garage, I figured I’d walk with her. She was much faster than me, faster than she should’ve been, considering how short her legs were and how long mine were. I’m six foot four, but I couldn’t walk at anything resembling a leisurely pace if I wanted to keep up with her.
Which I did—I wanted to keep up with her, keep talking to her, keep hearing that drawl.
I didn’t really understand it. Not at all. I mean, she was adorable with her freckles and all, but there ought to be a lot more involved in gaining my interest than appearances, shouldn’t there? “Where do you have to be?” I asked despite myself.
She slowed down enough to give me an exasperated look, but she didn’t stop. “I have to pick my kids up at school.”
Kids? Shit. I took a quick look down at her hand, but there was no wedding ring. But kids just meant complications—time spent with them, dealing with exes—and I had enough complications of my own. Not that it should matter to me. I wasn’t interested. I mean, not really. She wasn’t my type. Other than her breasts. They were nice and perky still, even though she had kids. Not too big, but more than enough to play with.
I had to remind myself that I had no business thinking about playing with her boobs. This business with getting sent to Seattle was obviously fucking with my head. That didn’t stop me from saying, “School doesn’t get out for a few hours. Can I buy you lunch?” Okay, so maybe I was interested.
She didn’t slow down. “No.”
“Coffee, then? That won’t take too long. There’s a place right down—”
“Not gonna happen.” This time, she stopped suddenly and spun around to face me. “I don’t even know who you are. I’d appreciate it if you’d back off.” Then she started her sprint-walking again.
We’d made it into the garage, and the heels of her flats were clacking along on the concrete. She pulled her keys out of her pocket, holding the long car key in front of her like a weapon.
Every time she shot me down, my interest only grew. How the hell did that work? I wasn’t used to being rejected, not by women. Just by hockey teams lately. “Brenden Campbell,” I said, holding out my hand, but she ignored it and kept going. “What is it? You have a boyfriend or something? A husband?”
Yeah, there was no ring, but it had to be something like that. Surely. Didn’t it? Girls didn’t just brush me off, not usually. I’d never been a player or anything like that, but I’d never had a problem getting a girl to go out with me before.
She stopped in front of a gray Ford Taurus that might have seen better days at one point but it was too beat-up-looking at present for me to be sure. The backseat was littered with toys and a couple of kids’ booster seats. She put the key in the lock and turned it, then opened the door and got in.
I put my hand on the door, stopping her from shutting it. “Just let me take you out. One date.” One date would be more than enough for me to work my charm on her, for her to come around.
I had no clue what the look she was giving me meant.
“I don’t date,” she said emphatically. Then she jerked the door out of my hand and closed it, started the engine, backed out of her spot, and drove off. I stood there watching her Texas license plate fade away into the distance.
She didn’t date?
I could have handled something along the lines of I don’t date athletes, or maybe I don’t date cocky bastards who don’t know how to take a hint. I could have figured out a way to work around those excuses, to break down her defenses and get her to see reason. But ‘I don’t date?’ No dating—period? That one statement, complex in its simplicity, had me standing in the parking garage scratching my head for a few minutes after she left.
I finally started making my way up to my car on the next level, but then I remembered I hadn’t gotten my hotel information from Martha. I would rather get that now than come back to the practice facility before heading out of town, so I made my way back into the building.
When I got to the second floor and arrived at her desk, Martha didn’t even look up from her computer. Again. She just reached over to a letter tray, picked up an envelope, and handed it to me. “Your hotel reservation and other pertinent information is inside, Campbell. Any questions, just call me.”
“Thanks, Martha.” I started to walk off, but then my curiosity got the better of me. I came back to her desk. “Actually, I do have one question for you. Who’s Rachel Shaw?”
For the first time in my experience playing for the Storm, Martha stopped what she was doing and really looked at me. “She’s my replacement. I’m finally going to retire and travel with my husband. She starts training next Monday.”
“Yeah.” I nodded, trying not to seem too interested. “Thanks, Martha.”
       Next Monday. I’d be back in Portland by then.


I was still shaking with excitement by the time I picked Maddie and Tuck up from school that afternoon. They were easy to spot in the crowd of kids coming out of the building and swarming toward me. Both my kids had my same bright-red hair, and they both hated it just as much as I had when I was their age. Redheads get picked on all the time, and being called “carrot top” is nowhere near the worst of it. At least it hadn’t been back when I was in school. I doubted things had changed much over the years.
As soon as I saw them, I raised my hand as high as I could and waved until they saw me.
Tuck ran straight at me and leaped into my arms with a ginormous hug. He dropped his backpack at my feet and let me lift him up into the air. “Guess what?” he said, grinning so big that the two holes where his front teeth should have been were gaping at me, one on top and one on bottom. “Two and two is four!”
“You’re right,” I agreed. I kissed the freckles on his cheeks and mussed his hair as I set him back on the ground. “Did Mrs. Christenson teach you that?”
He wasn’t yet six, and Mrs. Christenson was his second kindergarten teacher. I worried that uprooting the kids in the middle of the school year would hurt their education, but I worried more about what would have happened if we had stayed.
“Nah. I learnded it myself.” He was still learning how verbs worked, how to conjugate them properly. I loved how he would say things like learnded and burnded and fakeded. All too soon, he was going to know the proper way to say these things. He was growing up too fast. They both were. I sometimes wished I could freeze certain moments in time and keep my kids just as they were right then.
That wasn’t possible, though. They were going to grow up and experience whatever life had to throw at them. No matter how much I wanted to protect them from the ugliness life might bring, I couldn’t. Not completely.
I laughed and picked up his backpack, putting the straps over his shoulders. Then I smiled at Maddie.
She was hanging back like she did so often lately. Maddie didn’t smile much anymore. She used to be completely uninhibited like Tuck, giggling and saying silly things and making me smile. A few years ago, that all changed.
At first, I thought she was just getting older and it was normal. We all become a bit more inhibited, a bit more guarded, as we age. But not like Maddie.
I finally found out what was behind the change about six months ago. I had come home from work one night and relieved Jason so he could go home. Jason was my ex-husband, Maddie and Tuck’s dad. We shared custody, and he would stay at my apartment with the kids while I worked every night. By the time I’d get home, they’d be asleep in bed, and he’d leave. We’d been doing it that way for years, ever since the divorce, when I started working so I could provide for them.
But one night, when I opened the door to Tuck’s room to check on him, he wasn’t asleep. That shocked me, because Tuck was the soundest sleeper I’d ever known. He was crying these big, huge, gut-wrenching sobs. At first I’d thought maybe he’d had a nightmare. But it had been nothing as simple as that. Jason had spanked him because Tuck had come to investigate the cries coming from Maddie’s room. He’d gone to see what was wrong, and he’d found his father in the act of molesting my little girl.
Through the legal investigation and subsequent counseling for me and both kids, I learned it had been going on for at least three years.
Three years. Under my own roof.
The man who had given me my daughter had also taken her away from me.
She was still here, but she wasn’t the same. Maddie would never be the same again.
At least now I knew he could never hurt her again. Even if he someday got out of prison, the courts wouldn’t allow him to come near her. Now I just had to figure out how to protect her from everyone and everything else in the world.
“Did you have a good day at school?” I asked, holding out my hand to her. She didn’t take it, but she walked along beside me.
Maddie looked a heck of a lot older than her eight years—not in her physical appearance, but something in her eyes. She had my eyes, green with gold flecks all around them, but hers looked like those of an old soul. She talked like one sometimes, too, not like a eight-year-old child.
“It was fine.”
It was fine was her way of telling me to back off. Her counselor had suggested it back in Texas—a simple phrase she could use when she needed space.
That only made me more curious about what had happened, if anything, but it would have to wait for another time for us to talk about it. It might be nothing and she just didn’t want to talk. Or she might not want to talk in front of Tuck. She was really protective of him, always trying to make sure he was sheltered from things he was too young for. Similar to how I was with her.
“Okay,” I said as we got to my car. “Listen, I have some news. We’re going out for ice cream to celebrate.”
“Yes!” Tuck said as he practically jumped into his booster seat. There were few things in life that could excite him more than ice cream. He fastened his seat belt and picked up a Hot Wheels car off the seat beside him, immediately making it race along his leg while he made vrrrroom sounds. He could entertain himself like that for hours.
I waited for Maddie to get in so I could close the door and go around to the driver’s seat. She looked up at me with wary eyes and dropped her voice so Tuck couldn’t hear. “Can we afford it? We shouldn’t go if we can’t afford it.”
God, I hated how she was worried about things like money. She should be worried about whether she should wear blue or purple barrettes in her hair with her favorite outfit, not about how tight my finances were. I dropped down to my knees so I could look her in the eye. “We can. I’ll explain when we get there, okay?”
“You’re sure?”
I nodded.
I gave her a little peck on her forehead, and she got in. She buckled her belt, and I closed the door. By the time I got around to the driver’s side, a tear had trickled down my cheek.
Damn it. I brushed it away with the back of my hand while I got in and started the car. I checked the rearview mirror. Tuck was still racing his cars, and Maddie had pulled a book out of her backpack to read.
I took a breath and pulled out into traffic. This was going to get better. Maddie would get better. Otherwise, why did I bring my kids halfway across the country?

We’re going to live there?” Tuck asked. His hazel eyes were as big as his face as he stared out the window of the ice cream shop.
The condo building Jim Sutter had recommended was right across the street from where I’d brought the kids. There was a park with a play area within walking distance, Powell’s Books was only a short drive away, and there was an after-school care program near the condo that I could get the kids into. I’d already gone by this afternoon before they’d gotten out of school and signed a lease, putting down a deposit with the money Mr. Sutter had insisted I take.
A signing bonus, he’d called it. I’d said only players get signing bonuses, but he just shook his head at me.
“Not in this case.”
I’d never in my life seen so much money at one time.
“We’ll go look at it after you finish your ice cream,” I said to Tuck.
The mint chocolate chip ice cream was dripping out of his cone and spreading all over the table. Nothing I could throw at the mess would stop it. I’d given up the fight to stop the ice cream’s progress after tossing a big stack of napkins on it. I’d have to get a rag from the workers once he was done. He had gotten more of that sticky stuff on his face than he had in his mouth. All I could do was grin at him.
Maddie had asked for a small bowl of vanilla, no cone, nothing on it. I figured she was still worried about money and was trying to get the cheapest thing on the menu.
“They’ll let Pumpkin live with us?” she asked between bites.
Pumpkin was the huge, fluffy, orange tabby cat I’d had since I was twelve years old. I was twenty-five now, which made him fourteen. He was starting to get on in years, and the move had been harder on him than it was on the rest of us.
It didn’t surprise me that Maddie was concerned about him. The day she was born, he’d become her cat more than mine. I’d caught him in her crib on countless occasions when she was a baby, curled up right by her side. If we’d tried to close her door so he couldn’t get in, he’d clawed at the carpet and whined and cried until we let him in out of fear that he’d wake her up. He’d always looked out for her, so now she was looking out for him.
I smiled. “Absolutely. It’s got hardwood floors. No carpet for him to tear up.”
Tuck gave me his best dubious look, raising his left eyebrow so high it was comical. “Are you really gonna work for a hockey team, Mommy?”
“Really, really.” I finished off my hot fudge sundae and wiped my face with one of the few napkins I’d held back from trying to clean up after him. “Mr. Sutter said we can even go to some of the games.”
One of my new job perks was four tickets to every home game. I’d told Mr. Sutter I wanted to donate all the ones on school nights to some charitable cause or another because that was too late to have the kids out. But it would be nice to be able to treat them to something like a hockey game on the weekends.
“Awe-some!” he squealed, emphasizing each syllable. Then the last of his mint chocolate chip plopped off his cone and splatted on the table. He started giggling uncontrollably.
His laughter was infectious. As good as I felt with how today had gone, I was laughing in no time. Even Maddie laughed for a second before quietly going back to her bowl of vanilla. I went to the counter for a bucket and rag to clean up Tuck’s mess.
I was still in awe over it all. I mean, the salary for this job was going to be more than I had ever come close to making before. It had full benefits—health and life insurance, 401(k), vacation and sick time—plus all sorts of perks like the game tickets. I couldn’t figure out why Mr. Sutter was giving the job to me. Yeah, he’d said he had a thing for the underdog and that his mom was a single mom, too. But still. It wasn’t quite clicking. Especially not since he’d handed me that check today.
“Get yourself a place to live,” he’d said. “Buy some furniture. Get an appropriate wardrobe, because we have a dress code. Do something fun with your kids and something to spoil yourself, and we’ll see you next week.”
Who did things like that? No one I’d ever met.
It’d been hard to have faith in humanity ever since I’d gotten pregnant when I was sixteen, and instead of loving me through it like I thought the Bible taught people to do, my parents had kicked me out and told me never to come back. Dad was a minister. He’d said he couldn’t allow sin like mine to stay in his house, that it was like inviting Satan to stay.
It had gotten even harder to believe in people after what Jason had done to Maddie.
But now, this man I’d only known for the length of a thirty-minute interview was trying to turn my life upside down in the best way possible. I didn’t know how to process it.
When I got back to the table, Maddie had finished her ice cream and Tuck was licking the table.
“You,” I said to him, trying hard to have a stern mom voice instead of falling into another fit of laughter at his antics. “Into the bathroom, right this second. Go clean yourself up. I don’t want any sticky stuff in my car, you hear?”
He was still giggling like a loon while he pranced off to wash. I set to work wiping down the table, and Maddie took all our trash to throw it away. When Tuck came back, his hair and shirt were drenched but at least he was clean.
“You’d better zip your coat up tight before we go outside,” I told him. None of us were used to the colder weather here yet. In Texas, we were more likely to have temperatures in the seventies than in the thirties in December.
“Yes, Mommy.” He got his arms in and was struggling with the zipper, but Maddie helped him close it.
I pulled my own coat on and slipped my purse strap over my head so it hung across my body. “All right. Ready to go see the new place?”
“Are we staying there tonight?” Maddie asked. She sounded nervous.
I hated that there’d been so much change for her, but change was necessary. “Not tonight. We’re just looking tonight.” That’d give her time to adjust to the idea and me time to get some furniture in there, some beds to sleep on.
A minute later, I’d parked the car and was leading the kids to the elevator. Our unit was on the twelfth floor. We got off, and I led them down the hall to our door. I’d just put the key in the lock when the door to the unit directly across the hall from ours opened.
Out of habit, I turned to smile at my new neighbor, my Texan nature shining through.
Then I froze.
Brenden Campbell—the too tall, too big, and entirely too good-looking hockey player who’d hounded me for a date earlier—was standing in the hallway between our doors. He had a wheeled suitcase in his hand and a question in his eye.
“Hi, Rachel,” he said.
“Mommy?” Maddie moved closer to me and reached up to put her hand in mine.
She never wanted to hold my hand anymore.
I finished unlocking the door and opened it. “How about y’all go check it out? I’ll be in in a minute, okay?”
They went in, and I closed the door after them. I could hear Tuck’s little feet clomping along as he raced from room to room. I turned around to find Brenden staring at me. Hard.
“So you live here?” I finally asked.
“Yeah, me and Babs—one of the other guys on the team. And you’re moving in?”
I nodded.
His eyes practically sparkled when he smiled at me, and my belly flipped with awareness. “Martha told me you were going to be Jim’s new assistant. And now we’re living across from each other? Well, that’ll make things nice and convenient.”
Convenient? Hardly. Awkward would be a heck of a lot more like it.
He rocked on his feet. “Yeah. Well, I’ve got to go. I’m heading to Seattle for the week. If you need anything, Babs is a good kid. He’ll help you.”
“Yeah. Thanks,” I said. I had no intention of asking this Babs person for help, or Brenden Campbell, or anyone else. It had been hard enough to accept the help Jim Sutter had insisted on giving me.
Brenden started heading toward the elevator, but then he stopped and turned around. He was smiling again, that same smile he’d given me a moment ago that made me tingle in a way I hadn’t experienced in years. “Just don’t let Babs cook,” he said. “Unless you want your kids to die of food poisoning or the place to go up in flames.”
I was pretty sure he was flirting with me. How sad was that, that a man might be flirting with me but I didn’t know for sure? I laughed briefly, but then he got onto the elevator and was gone.
A nervous zing raced through me. I tried to convince myself that it was because of the job, the new condo, all the changes taking place. Not because of Brenden Campbell.
       But that was a lie, and I damn well knew it.