Sunday, February 14, 2016

Swoon-a-palooza Book Boyfriend #14: INTRODUCING Eli Blake! (Cover reveal, pre-order, $0.99 sale! LTO)

And now, finally, our last book boyfriend for the 2016 Swoon-a-palooza. This guy is brand new. Technically you're not even going to meet him until May. But if you like douche bags who need a lot of work to turn them around, THIS is your guy.

Here's the blurb:

After Eli Blake’s viral video “Big Girl/Big Heart” shoots him right to the top of the charts, he rises to fame shamelessly tapping into this niche. Because of his striking good looks, all his faithful groupies want desperately to believe every word he sings, like he’s not another run-of-the-mill superficial jerk.

One little wrinkle. He totally is.

After a vindictive ex goes public that he secretly hates fat chicks, Eli must find a full-figured decoy pronto. Obviously the only way to save his rocketing career before it collapses under the weight of one lie is telling an even bigger one. Enter voluptuous Carly Reynolds, his agent’s assistant, who knows what kind of arrogant fake he is and can’t stand him as a result.

Still, a girl’s gotta eat, and it’s not every day you get a million bucks for telling one teeny tiny fib. Surely she can handle this lying, philandering opportunist for a year. It's not like she'll actually fall for the guy.

Or will she?

In GLITTER ON THE WEB, Ginger Voight returns her readers to the fabulous world of the rich and the famous, with all the delicious complications that entails. One ordinary girl is forced to go for broke and risk it all, and maybe…just maybe… find something real in one beautifully tangled web of deception.

I get to play around with the rich and the famous again, where nothing is like it seems. I like exploring that duplicity a lot, and with my new couple, Eli and Carly, I get to do it as honestly as I've ever done it. There are no real lies between them. They are both honest about their agendas, which, essentially means they're using each other for their own personal gain. They don't like each other, and don't pretend to. This is all just business.

Which begs the question, could YOU fake a relationship for a whole year with someone you hated, JUST for a million-dollar payday?

A prologue, to whet your whistle:

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be living with one of the most idolized men in music, I never would have believed you. In fact, I likely would have laughed in your face. Me? Plain ol’ Carly Reynolds? The girl voted most likely to be forgotten within ten minutes of graduation?

Ch’yeah right.

Nobody but nobody expected such a thing, least of all me. Up until a year ago, I wasn’t the kind of girl who flew around in private jets, whisked away to tropical islands on a whim; nor was I one who regularly frequented Vegas, Los Angeles and New York, or walked enough red carpet to pave a path from Burbank straight to the Santa Monica Pier.

And I certainly wasn’t the kind of girl who could hold a superstar’s entire career in my hands.

No. Up until a year ago, I was the kind of girl who brought coffee for the people that did all that stuff. I filed paperwork and answered phones, and if I was really lucky I could write a press release. I collected a paycheck, one that barely paid for a 900-square foot apartment above a Chinese restaurant in Hollywood.

So what changed?

In short, a parakeet died.

Her name was Rosie Blue, though, from the pictures at least, I can attest she was neither rosy nor blue. She was mostly white with yellow spots, with what looked like one black eye. You know, like she’d gone a few rounds in the ring but had lived to tell the tale.

That was until a run-in with Beau Jangles, a sixteen-pound Maine coon cat. To his credit, he did hold off killing Rosie for an entire week after they became unlikely roommates. But Rosie had a taste of wanderlust in her blood, and regularly broke out of her own cage to go prowling around her new digs, just to see what was going on.

Suffice it to say… she bit off way more than she could chew. (Though, technically speaking, she wasn’t the one doing the chewing.)

Thanks to her unexpected demise, the same could be said about me. (And no comment.)

So how did some ordinary girl from the Lone Star state end up in the position I’m in, practically betrothed to one of the sexiest, most infuriating men on planet Earth? A man who, up until a year ago, I pretty much hated with a white hot passion?

How much time have you got?

GLITTER ON THE WEB will bring all the riches and excess of my FULLERTON FAMILY SAGA, wrapped in the familiar (read: fake) rock star world of GROUPIE - where Graham AND Vanni will definitely make an appearance - all with the quirky humor of a take-no-prisoners type of heroine unlike anyone I've written yet. If you think this one is going to fall easily for the pretty boy just because he's got game, you've got another thing coming.

She's a mighty Sequoia, and his saw - though impressive - isn't as big as he thinks it is.

So what can I tell you about Eli? He's a pompous jerk with an inflated ego. It's not necessarily unearned, he does possess some unique talents and qualities, and he knows better than most how to play the hands he was dealt to ensure a win. He's privileged and self-centered, which means this pop star can and will go through hordes of groupies in his career.

Provided they're not fat anyway. The man does have some standards, after all.

You're probably going to hate him. That he's as hot as he is will likely piss you off. The more despicable he is, the hotter he has to be, otherwise we'd all staple him to a tree somewhere.

But his journey will be an interesting one, as we see what living with someone "normal" does for our superstar. Will this "normal" girl give him a deeper, more empathetic perspective of the world around him? Or will he just try to bang her just to prove he can, because she can't reject him. How will he ever recover when he realizes there's one woman on planet Earth isn't entranced by his magical penis?

You'll have to wait till May for answers to those questions.

You don't, however, have to wait till May to pre-order your copy. GLITTER ON THE WEB, my 28th novel, will release May 10. It is available to pre-order now on Amazon, soon to be live on iTunes and B&N. I'm offering it at the special introductory price of $0.99, which will go up in increments as we get closer to the publish date, where it will revert back to its regular price of $3.99. Don't be intimidated by the price. This is a standalone novel, not a series, so you don't have to worry about cliffhangers or waiting around for the next book.

Here's the cover, one of my favorites to date.

So Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Thanks so much for reading along the last two weeks, learning about all my guys. Hopefully by next Valentine's Day, I'll add three or four more. ;)

Swoon-a-Palooza Book Boyfriend #13 - Caz Bixby (Another $0.99 sale! LTO)

Devlin Masters was our romantic hero in the male escort romance, MASTERS FOR HIRE. Caz Bixby, however, is just a down and dirty manwhore. He genuinely is the yang to Devlin's yin. I didn't see him coming in Book 1, but the second he introduced him in book 2 of the MASTERS SAGA, MASTERS FOR LIFE, he made himself QUITE at home.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name,” I said, sweet as sugar.

He smiled wider. “Caz. Caz Bixby. I’m a friend of your Aunt Margot’s.”

“He’s my personal trainer,” she purred as she stretched out on the chaise lounge.

Of course he was. Next to Devlin, I had never seen a man more anatomically accurate. His jaw was squared, just like it had been sculpted from marble. From the way his clothes fit, I was pretty sure that everything below the neck was just as defined. He looked like he could have stepped out of a magazine.

He caught how my gaze swept over him, and I could tell by that glint in those bright amber green eyes that he both welcomed and expected the attention.

Like I was saying in my last blog, Devlin is a huge question mark. He gave our CC the fairytale of her dreams in Vegas, which they take back with them to Los Angeles in a very permanent way. Despite "leveling up" in their relationship, much remains a mystery about Devlin. He holds many, many secrets, which he refuses to share with CC, expecting her to trust him.

Essentially he's asking her to take him at face value like he accepted her. But it's not going so well. Once Caz hits the scene... it gets even worse.

“You know I’d never take lessons from Margot’s slimy boy toy, right?”

“You’re goddamned right you’re not. You’re never to talk to that man again.” His voice was laced with hostility, and his eyes flashed with anger as he turned to face me. “Do you understand me, Coralie?”

My eyes narrowed as I stared at him. “So let me get this straight. You can train some enchantress for her Ironman triathlon, and possibly my beautiful niece on the piano, but I’m never to do anything with another man ever again?”

“Not that man,” he growled.

“Why not?”

“Coralie,” he started in a foreboding voice, but I was over it. He was the one being unfair and unreasonable. He expected me to take it on the chin every time he interacted with some woman, but I couldn’t even take fucking tennis lessons?

“I’ll take them if I want to take them,” I informed him coolly.

“Coralie,” he repeated, his jaw clenched tight.

“You want me to trust you? Then trust me. I would never betray you, Devlin. And you know that.”

He was silent for a moment before he finally sighed. “It’s not you I don’t trust.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Caz Bixby isn’t just some fitness instructor or sports trainer,” he informed me in a resigned monotone.

My gut tightened. “How do you know that?”

“I know everything about Caz Bixby,” Devlin finally admitted. “He’s a gigolo, Coralie. Just like me.”

Here's the thing. The only thing that can break up Dev and CC are the secrets Dev harbors. And just one guess who knows every single one of them?

They say familiarity breeds contempt, and this was never truer than in the case of Dev and Caz, who are intrinsically linked by their shared history. They hate each other, but they can't get rid of each other... though God knows they try. In Book 2, Caz is essentially our antagonist. He doesn't want these two together, and he'll do anything he can to wedge them apart. This includes hitting on CC whenever he really doesn't care for "fat chicks." He gets paid to fuck, though, so he knows how to fake it. When the fates align to put her in his world on a weekly basis, as this "personal trainer" whips her into shape, he makes sure to turn up the heat.

By the time Caz showed up, I was finally ready to face him for Round Two, where he would no doubt try to weasel into my psyche and plant more suspicion and doubt. He wore a pretty self-confident smile when I opened the door. He also wore a suit and carried roses, along with a bottle of champagne. He entered the room with the swagger of a man who thought he had the upper hand.

“I thought we were going to work out,” I stated as I closed the door behind him.

“Oh, we will,” he said as he handed off the roses to me. “But there are several ways to do that, aren’t there?”

I took the roses into the kitchen to find a vase. He followed behind.

“This is really some place you have here.”

“Thank you,” I said in a clipped voice. I knew he was circling something and, of course, he was.

“You ever wonder how many women Devlin had to fuck to afford this place?”

I sent him a severe side-eye glare. “It doesn’t matter how many women he fucked in the past. He’s only fucking me now.”

Caz chuckled softly. “Oh, the many ways those words can be interpreted. So tell me. How did [Dev] take the news when you told him about our deal?”

“What makes you think I did?”

He shrugged. “Because you’re a good girl. You’re going to give him a play-by-play of all our interactions because you still feel like you need to earn his trust.”

I gave his outfit the once over. “I take it that you showed up tonight like we were on some kind of date just to undermine my efforts.”

“Of course,” he admitted gleefully, with a self-satisfied smirk. “You’re paying $10,000 a week for my services. You might as well get what you paid for.” He walked towards me until he was practically shadowing me from behind. His voice lowered as he toyed with a tendril of my long hair. “Fucking, by the way, is definitely on the table. Just in case you were wondering.”

I pulled away with a scowl. “I wasn’t.”

That made Caz laugh too. “Let me guess. Good ol’ Dev has fucked you so much and so well this past week, you’re too sore to even consider it. And you probably think that was an accident, too.”

I turned to face him. “He fucked me often and well because that’s what we do.”

“Right,” he agreed. “Like I said, you get what you pay for.”

“You’re disgusting,” I snapped before I walked away from him.

“But I’m right,” he said as he followed me. “And deep down, you know it.”

The tension between these three is OFF. THE. CHARTS. Is it dangerous? Lethal? Erotic? You tell me.

I reached for a lamp, which cast a mellow light across the large living room. Devlin sat in one of the chairs, still in his suit from work, his shirt open at the collar, his tie long abandoned. He held a crystal decanter in one hand. It was once full of expensive Scotch, but he had all but drained it. I could smell it all the way across the room.

He waited until we got a little closer before he said anything. I realized that Caz’s discarded suit was draped across the arm of his chair, with the shoes right on the floor next to him. It sent an involuntary shudder through me when I met Dev’s murderous gaze. His voice was every bit as malevolent.

“Nice workout?”

“Fabulous,” Caz grinned. “[CC] is quite… flexible. And that stamina. Wow.” He ran a hand down his glistening chest, along his skin tight shorts, near his pronounced package. Devlin’s cheek twitched as he tried to keep his composure. It only made Caz try that much harder to get under his skin. “But I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.”

I was afraid that Dev’s head might actually explode. I crossed over to him, where I reached for Caz’s clothes. Devlin circled my wrist in his fingers, tightening his grip without even looking at me. Instead he stared straight at Caz. “They’re his clothes. Let Caz get them.”

The two men stared at each other for a long moment. Finally Caz approached, but slowly. I felt Dev coil, almost like a snake, the closer he got. He raised his other arm, which made Caz stop immediately, but all Dev did was take another swig of liquor from the decanter he held. His mouth curved slightly, as if he knew how unsettled the other man had become. Caz was no longer smiling as he reached forward, deliberately and cautiously, for his clothes. Devlin had him locked in that lethal glare, while he held onto my wrist with a white-knuckled grip. I could practically feel him twitch, in anticipation of any movement.

Caz withdrew his clothes, but his tie trailed behind. He clearly debated whether or not it was worth a second brush with Devlin to retrieve it.

Devlin wasn’t going to let him off the hook. “Don’t forget your tie, Casper,” he murmured.

Another unspoken moment passed between them, like an electrical current. “Keep it,” Caz said. “I know how you like ties.”

Dev’s hand gripped my wrist even harder. I knew he was doing everything he could not to fly up from that chair throttle him. Caz must have known it too, because his smile returned. “See you next week,” he said before he finally left.

You got your fairy tale in Book 1. In Book 2, we're going for pure angst. In Book 3, MASTERS FOREVER, I gun the motor even harder. You get erotica, drama, romance and a complete family saga. And these two professional lovers will give our heroine WAYYYYY more than she ever even dreamed.

“Jesus,” Caz exhaled as he rolled his eyes. He grabbed the remote and turned to a music channel that had pulsating dance music. He dragged me up by the hand. “This is a party, for fuck’s sake.”

“Caz, I don’t want to,” I tried to protest as he pulled me to the center of my living room. Still holding the remote, he turned down all the lights courtesy of the dimmer.

“Come on, pussycat. If you wanted to stay here and feel sorry for yourself, you’d have never left.”

A dance tune by Madonna began to play, the aptly titled “Hung Up.” Caz pulled me close, his hands on my hips, to guide me through the sensual movements as we began to undulate to the music. I stole glances at Dev, who watched us from his spot in the corner of my couch.

It was the very same corner where he had been that first night, when he commanded that I strip for him. He had seduced me that night, confidently and well. My flesh responded instantly to the memory. I shuddered and looked way, focusing on Caz, who danced closely to me, grinding his hips against me, his eyes locked with mine. “Only a couple of hours left, baby,” he said. “Do you really want to spend it sad?”

The music pulsated around me, a rolling beat that made the entire room felt like it was spinning and tumbling through space. Of course, that might have been the pot. My brain had taken off somewhere around Pluto. That, combined with the alcohol I had consumed, helped me submit to the dance. I closed my eyes and just allowed myself to ride the music.

“That’s it,” Caz murmured. “Let yourself go. You know you want to.”

Again my eyes sought Dev. Maybe I was waiting for permission. Maybe I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to lose his shit again. My eyes snapped open when I realized he was no longer sitting on the sofa.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I felt him fall into step behind me, pinning me between both of them.

“Dev,” I started, but his mouth landed right next to my ear.

“Shh,” he shushed, and it sent an involuntary shudder all the way through my body. His hands landed on my hips just above Caz’s. They both guided my movements as we danced closely together. I shivered as Dev’s hands slid up my sides, hooking my arms on his as they curved around each shoulder to pull my arms back. Using his body he arched my back towards Caz, who danced even closer, his hands sliding up my sides until his thumbs could brush under each full breast.

Their eyes locked, and the intensity of their stare took my breath away. It was as if they communicated with no words at all, with Caz immediately followed Dev’s lead.

Yep, my lovelies. For the first time - EVER - I go *there.* No really. I go THERE. There's a reason my Steven's mother, grandmother, sister and all my kids aren't allowed to read it.


Because of all the secrets and spoilers in the second and third books of the MASTERS SAGA, I can't say too much more. All I CAN say is that these two men flipped my world topsy-turvy.

And I enjoyed every fucking minute of it.

I can't say I had an actor in mind to play Caz, but I happened upon this particular video around the time I was writing the books and I found it VERY inspiring.

This personal trainer inspired Caz SO much, down to every freaking tattoo. AND BEARDS, which I don't normally like. In fact, I was never supposed to like Caz at all. His entire presence in this book was to tear my couple apart from the inside, working in tandem with one of the biggest bitches I have EVER written to date: Suzanne Everhart. Not only are they out to torpedo my couple, but both thought it would be easy because of CC's size. Neither hide this.

He reached for a tendril of my hair, caressing the silky strands between his finger and his thumb. “I like that you proved me wrong. It excites me when I think of you. And I know if I keep coming by your house week after week, I’m going to find a way to get you into bed. I won’t stop. I don’t stop. That’s what Suzanne’s counting on. She needs to break you. She needs to show Devlin that you are just like everyone else. Just like her.”

I pulled my hair from his grasp. “Why can’t she just leave me alone? Why can’t you?”

“As long as blood is pumping, her teeth are going to be in that jugular, CC. Me too. We’re not nice people. We’re not good people. We play the game and that’s it.”

“Thanks for being honest, I guess,” I said as I started to push past him. He grabbed my arm and held me close.

“I’m the only one with the balls to be honest with you, Coralie. And you know it.”

He's an arrogant prick with his own self-serving agenda. But something happened along the way that I wasn't expecting. He won me over, despite the horrible things he did. He was compelling and interesting. I wanted/needed to know more. This made him the kind of character that we WILL be seeing again. I have him scheduled to appear as a supporting character in three upcoming books. By the time he gets a story of his own, we'll ALL be aching for it. (And I kind of think he's going to make damned sure of it... starting first with twisting me around his finger.)

I have a lot of work to do with Caz yet, but he has a whole lot of potential.

And I can't resist him. Bottom line.

For a limited time only MASTERS FOR LIFE is on sale for $0.99, which, with the sale on MASTERS FOR HIRE, brings the grand total for all three full-length novels to less than $5. I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase the entire MASTERS SAGA, because you WILL curse me by the end of Book 2. Seriously, if you can't jump - immediately - to the next book, you'd hunt me down with a freaking pitch fork. It's on par with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, without the three-year wait to see how it resolves.

One-click THE MASTERS SAGA if you dare...

Swoon-a-Palooza Book Boyfriend #12 - Devlin Masters ($0.99 sale, limited time only!)

It's probably become crystal clear over the last two weeks that I write a variety of book boyfriends. Anything you want, I've probably written it - aside from maybe a true Dom in terms of the D/s lifestyle. That's not really my cuppa tea. What gets me off isn't so much a kink itself as much as it is the complications that inherently pop up whenever you give your heart or body away to another person. That's why the emotional connection is my main focus, rather than how Tab A inserts into Slot B. Or C. Or F. Or G. (Think about it...)

I write nice guys and I write douche bags. I have stable, one-women men and gallivanting, unapologetic manwhores. I have dominant men ready to take command, and easy-going men who provide unconditional love, support and encouragement. There's room for all, and I find all equally compelling for different reasons.

Since it's Walking Dead Day, I'll put it like this: If I can fall in love with both Rick AND Glenn, why limit myself to either? When in doubt, choose both! (Sometimes even at the same time... but I'm ahead of myself. You're just going to have to check out Book Boyfriend #13.)

Some are rich, some are poor. Some are best friends that fit just like a missing piece of a puzzle. Others are frustrating thorns in our side as we try to mold them into something worthy of a HEA. The best thing about my job is that I get to fall in love over and over again and it never gets old or stale, because I have virtually any guy I can dream of at the tips of my fingers.

It. Is. Awesome.

Well, last year I decided I was ready for a professional.

Devlin Masters is a male escort. A gigolo, if you prefer.

So when my best friend asked the rhetorical question of if I would ever pay for sex, my brain started spinning on all the complications and benefits that could entail. What if you could get whatever fantasy you wanted, no strings attached, provided by a super hot guy whose only focus in life is making you feel good? You didn't have to worry about rejection, or spend half the date dissecting whether or not he REALLY wants you, afraid to be yourself, afraid to drive him away, when all you want to do is jump his bones.

You go into the date with full permission that you can, in whatever way you want. It's literally his job to provide that to you.

How delicious.

So I created Devlin Masters. Like his name may hint, he's a commanding kind of guy. He's also a pretty big mystery from the start. That's what happens when a man has taken it upon himself to be a clean slate for every client. He can do anything, be anyone. Being honest about himself would actually prove counterproductive to the fantasy. Instead he becomes an expert in reading what his clients want or need and bringing it to life. A guy like this needs repeat business, after all. When you're charging $400 an hour, four hours is better than two, and a weekend is better than a date.

The only way to build his empire is to learn how to adapt himself, like a chameleon, to whoever is writing the check. After three years, he's pretty darned good at it.

“So tell me about this party.”

“It’s a fundraising benefit,” I started. “We’re raising money for children affected by neurological disorders, to help their families pay for the cost of care, and provide therapy and support. Friends of the family are hosting at my family home in Bel Air.”

“Sounds wonderful,” he said. “I assume it’s black tie.”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Do you have a dress already?”

I blinked in confusion. It seemed such an odd question. “I… well… I’m torn between two,” I finally admitted. And it was true. I really was. As much as I liked the one that Lucy found for me, I didn’t know if I could show up at the party in a dress that didn’t come from Cabot’s. It was a big deal.

“I can make that choice a little easier for you. What’s your size?”

I nearly choked on my saliva. Was this an insidious way to figure out what kind of heavy lifting he’d have to do on the date? “Depends on the store,” I finally replied.

“What are your measurements, then?” he persisted. It immediately set off warning bells. All this time I had pretended that his desire for me was a given, simply because he was getting paid to bring my fantasy to life. It never occurred to me that he would actually have to pretend to be interested. That took a little wind out of my sails.

I cleared my throat, suddenly very self-conscious. “It’s, um, 46/34/44,” I finally managed, feeling, for the first time in my life, embarrassed to answer the question.

That he hesitated didn’t help matters at all. “So, size 14, then?”

I cleared my throat again. “Like I said, it depends on the store and the designer. Thanks to…,” I swallowed hard, “thanks to my bust size, it can fluctuate between a 14 and a 16, possibly an 18 if they even keep the size in stock.”

I hadn't meant for it to sound as bitter as it did. Fortunately Devlin didn't miss a beat. “Did you have a particular color scheme in mind? Did you want classic or modern?”

“Whatever makes me look beautiful,” I answered in a near squeak. I almost—almost—wanted to add, “If such a magic dress exists,” but I stopped myself. Why I felt I had to throw myself on the grenade of his rejection was a mystery to me, as if making fun of myself first would make it hurt less if he did it. I hadn’t pulled such a juvenile stunt since I was in high school, when I tried to be the quirky, funny sidekick to Lucy’s pretty Queen Bee.

And why was I trying to impress him anyway? He was the one who needed the job.

He chuckled then, which took me by surprise, as if he could read my thoughts. “All women are beautiful if you just know where to look.”

It was out of my mouth before I could stop it. “That has to make your job a little easier.”

“Indeed,” he replied. “I tell you what. Send me photos of yourself in the outfits you’ve already purchased.”


“Because I have a few ideas how to make you feel beautiful.”

I couldn’t help but notice he said ‘feel’ instead of ‘look.’ There was probably a very good reason for that. “You don’t even know what I look like,” I pointed out.

“Hence the photos,” he replied, humor lacing his tone.

“You know, I’m not even really convinced that I can go through with this,” I started. He was quick to cut me off.

“Of course you can. Now send me your photos, Coralie.”

As you can see, Coralie Cabot, or CC as she's called, is another Rubenesque heroine. It didn't start out that way. Though I tend to write plus-size heroines, that's not ALL I want to write about. Sure their conflicts hit me right where I live, and I feel a certain responsibility to make sure their voices are heard, but - like my men - I like to shake things up every now and then. This is true of whatever size they are, as well. Whereas Shannon, from LOVE PLUS ONE was insecure about her looks, Andy from GROUPIE didn't give a rat's ass, and she was 4 sizes bigger. I like to write about individuals, and more often than not they reveal themselves to me as I write, often changing the very things I planned with such care.

This was CC.

Initially I was going to make her thin because I didn't want to have size play into it. This was a book about sexual fulfillment and empowerment. I didn't want to write a book that could EVER be mistaken as some overweight sad sack was so desperate for a man that she needed to pay one in order to get laid. We get enough of that bullshit in our culture. I'll be damned I'm going to further propagate it.

The more I got to know her, though, the more I realized that the real issue wasn't that she was fat or thin. She was unfulfilled because she wasn't inherently valued. Her whole life she had been painted into a corner, stuffed into an ill-fitting box because that made other people more comfortable.

The best way to convey this WAS to make her heavier, because there's no place that message is so strongly reinforced as in the media.

The Cabot family runs one of the biggest department stores in the country, leaders in haute couture. Being overweight presents a whole slew of complications when it comes to fashion, most notably when it comes to sizing. There's been a lot of focus these past several years about making more inclusive to a plus-size clientele, by using plus-size models and making sexier, hip clothing to fit those who wore sizes other than small, medium and large.

This made me question why there's even a separation there into such ambiguously named groups at all. If the average size woman is a size 14/16, then why are those numbers pushed as a "plus-size"? If that's the average, isn't that the medium? Why treat being those sizes in particular as if it's an anomaly? If anything, there's size average, petite and large. But to segregate those groups out like that is stupid anyway because what one store sizes at small, medium, large or plus is not universal among all stores in the first place.

Worse, sizes aren't universal. What fits in one store might not fit in another, thanks to the differences in design and production. If you're "plus-size," this problem compounds exponentially.

Once I put CC in fashion, there was no going back from making her a larger woman. The bigger sociopolitical comment here is that it's STUPID to value women based on their size because there's no universal standard there, not really. It's a system rigged to make us all feel bad about ourselves. When you feel bad about yourself, you accept treatment you don't deserve because you've been conned into believing that you do. It's a way to diminish us and we give them permission to do it by agreeing. There's something wrong with me. It's my own fault I feel bad. If someone's a dick to me, then *I* need to change so everyone around me will play nice.

Nothing hurt me worse than seeing reviews come in for this book by those who further disparaged the character for her size. If I remember right, one questioned if I was a woman at all, or even did my research, to make her the size I did. Apparently to this particular reviewer this was HA-YOOOGE and unrealistic, particularly that 46"-size chest. (Which is around her boobs by the way, not just her ribcage. As a size-22/24, MY undercarriage is 44" around, so thanks, I guess, for that all too important reminder that I'm gigantic. I just can't hear that enough.)

It does, however, prove my point. As you can see above, CC's measurements were ample and unbalanced. I made her top-heavy for a reason, to show how sizing is a bullshit standard to judge women, because there IS NO STANDARD in how our many different bodies are shaped. This is why sizing guides change from store to store. Consider Salma Hayek, whose measurements are 39-24-36. According to this chart, her hips put her at a size 4, her waist a size 0 and her bust a size 10. At Lane Bryant, her bust would put her in a size 14. Her official size of record? A 4. Because sure... THAT makes sense.

This is the size dysmorphia we all indulge in every time we delegate a woman's value down to a collection of measurements. Really, if you don't count her boobs, which were made to be bigger on purpose, just to further prove we women don't come in cookie-cutter proportions, CC's still on the small end of plus. So please think twice before you berate a character for being HUGE just because of a scary number. If you do research, you'll find most size-14s, with all those scary measurements (particularly in the 40"-range) don't look all that different from everyone else, and certainly not the kind of HUGE that would make someone highlight it for a review as unrealistic.

For the record I see CC as more the model in the middle, Elly Mayday, whose measurements are 37.5-29-43.5. CC is a bit thicker around the middle and has an disproportionate bust, but you kind of see how it fills in to be a little thicker than most the women we see in the media, but not some kind of ginormous freak who wouldn't exist outside of a side show. Let's be a little more generous to our fellow women, so we don't inadvertently make them feel lesser than because they're different. Their life experience/perspective has value, too. The great thing about a book is we can try on someone else's skin and share that perspective. It should teach us all empathy, but sadly that is not often the case, particularly when it comes to how women are viewed in media.

Christina Hendricks, one of the few actresses allowed to be an unapologetic size-14, comes in at 42-30-39.

I personally don't think there's anything undesirable about her.

This is the story that CC informed me we'd tell. In real life terms, CC is fairly "normal" - if there is such a thing. A little heavier, sure; she definitely doesn't fit into many of the clothes her store sells. And it's because of that, father AND her boyfriend - the people who should love her most - expect her to change to fit in.

By the time the story opens, this isn't going so well... hence her need to find someone who can listen to her and meet her needs specifically. Because she's not some desperate sad sack, she decides to take control of it by using her wealth to order exactly what she wants... just like a cheesecake.

“How long have you been an escort?”

Another grin. “Long enough to know better than to answer that question. So you lived with your best friend. What was your social life like beyond that? Did you date?”

It was my turn to chuckle. “I maintained a 4.25 GPA. There was no time to date. Besides, Lucy was always better at that kind of thing than me.”

“And why’s that?”

I shrugged again. “I just had other priorities.” He let a beat pass, so I found myself expounding. “I guess I was kind of like the den mother. I wanted to keep the place clean. I wanted to maintain the bills. I was the one picking up empty bottles and dried vomit, while Lucy was the belle of the ball.”

“Were you bitter about that?”

“God, no,” I said at once. “Some of us are meant to be Queen. The others merely resign themselves to serve. I guess because I had been thrust into the nurturer-caregiver role as a teenager that it was just more natural to me to take care of things, maintain them… keep them running as smoothly as possible. That’s my comfort zone, I think.”

“Comfort zones are pretty restrictive,” he commented. “Didn’t you ever want to just break free and do your own thing, your way?”

I met his gaze directly. “Why do you think I called you?”

His smile broadened. “Good answer.”

Needless to say, I had no illusions going into this how much sex would play into this courtship. This is not an all-ages romance, not by a long shot. My biggest fan, Steven's grandmother, has begged and begged me for new books, but there's NO WAY I can introduce her to this series. This is about fulfillment, starting with her very basic need for intimacy. This is the kind of relationship created to start - and stay - in bed. But a weird thing happens when you get your needs met by someone whose sole focus is to make you feel like a queen...

You can't get enough, and pretty soon "just sex" isn't enough.

After their first date, she calls him again to accompany her in Vegas for a week while her best friend elopes. Devlin has a pretty good idea by this point what our fair CC wants to get out of the week. She wants a fairy tale so much she's willing to pay $25,000 for it. And Devlin is prepared to earn every single penny twice.

His mouth landed on mine for a deep, urgent kiss, as if he didn’t give one damn if anyone else saw. I felt his body respond, and my knees wobbled as I swooned against him.

When the elevator bell dinged, I practically threw him inside. It had been a great night, but it was definitely time to get our special party started.

Devlin must have felt the same way, because we were alone in the car, he pushed me up against the wall, his hand between my legs in an instant. “Devlin!” I protested with an embarrassed giggle as I looked around for security cameras.

“Anytime, anywhere,” he reminded. He then proceeded to make me come hard by floors 3, 15 and 27. I could barely walk by the time the doors finally opened and we walked the remaining distance to our private room. I gazed up at him with dazed eyes as he fit the key in the lock. It made me feel far drunker than I had felt all night despite the river of alcohol I’d consumed. Indeed, it might have been the champagne catching up to me. But it was probably the multiple orgasms. Either way, the night was off to a promising start.

After he opened the door, he turned to me with that heart-stopping look in his eyes. He pulled me to him, taking my breath away before he planted yet another scorching kiss on my mouth. “Are you ready, Coralie?” he murmured against my lips, tugging and toying with them between his teeth.

“For what?” I asked breathlessly, though the question was moot. I would have done just about anything at that point. I needed him so bad it hurt to breathe.

“The best fucking week of your life,” he answered before he swept me into his arms kicked the door shut behind us.

So... yeah. There's a lot of sex in this book. Of all the books I've written, this series most qualifies me for erotic romance. The sex scenes are shameless, getting more graphic than I normally describe in my books. There is language. There are sex scenes that push the boundaries of acceptability. In fact, the way I approach sex at all in this book is unconventional, particularly the idea of fidelity. If you're the kind of person who considers it "cheating" if, after the couple meets, there is sex with other people, I wouldn't think a book about professional escorts and sex for hire probably would be your cup of tea anyway.. If it is, I'll be frank. There weren't a whole lot of boundaries I wasn't willing to push with this one, particularly the cheating stuff, and the sometimes gray areas how sex with others is defined. I made Devlin a Scorpio, because that's sort of the Holy Grail of Zodiac lovers. Though I've never actually been with one myself, I AM one, so I used that mindset accordingly.

We stayed downtown most of the evening, eating $0.99 shrimp cocktails, listening to live music and trying our luck in several of the casinos, including one that still accepted and dispensed coins. Lucy was beside herself.

Now that the stress of the wedding belonged solely to someone else, she was able to let loose and have some fun. She wanted to sample a little bit of everything along Fremont Street. I hopped off her bandwagon when she decided to order a shot of alcohol with an actual scorpion in it.

“Seriously, Lucy? Do you really want to risk your life this close to your perfect day by ingesting a poisonous bug?” I asked, making a face.

Devlin chuckled. “Scorpions aren’t poisonous, they’re venomous. They have to sting you to do real damage, and these bad boys aren’t stinging anyone anymore,” he said as he motioned for two shots.

I shuddered anyway. “Yeah, no thanks.”

“No stomach to try a delicacy?” he teased.

“Not even a little bit,” I assured him. Yet strangely, knowing he was willing to do so only made him more exciting to me.

Clearly I had gone over to the dark side.

“And how do you know so much about scorpions, mister?” Lucy asked him.

He shrugged. “Let’s just say the subject has always fascinated me. People are so scared of them, but really, they’re mostly misunderstood. Plus, I’m a Scorpio,” he added, which suddenly explained why he had a sexy tribal scorpion tattoo trailing across his lower abdomen, heading towards exciting places south of his waistband.

Lucy, who had already gone through her astrology phase, chuckled. “That explains so much. It also gives me an idea.”

“Should I be scared?” he asked her as the bartender placed two scorpion shots in front of them.

“Always,” she grinned. They toasted with their drinks. I had to give Lucy credit. She didn’t even hesitate as she threw back that shot, swallowing the scorpion whole with nothing more than a cough or two to choke it down.

Devlin, on the other hand, drained the shot but kept the scorpion between his teeth, laying it out on his impressive tongue before he chewed it like it was a mouthful of caviar. Our gaze never wavered and that smirk never faltered. He kept me close to him though I squirmed and shook my head when he reached for a kiss.

“Eww, no!” I giggled as I turned away.

“Come on,” he encouraged with that damnable smirk. “A dangerous kiss for a dangerous girl.”

“You’re dangerous,” I corrected.

Those eyes entrapped me once more. “And that’s what you love most about me.”

Here's the thing about Scorpios. They're as aggravating as they are compelling. Devlin has a code he absolutely tries to live by. It just doesn't look like anyone else's the more we peel the layers back.

In fact, there's much about this man that is an enigma, where he continually surprises CC with more than she could have ever imagined when she ordered a hot guy/masterful lover off the Internet.

Lucy plopped herself down in front of the baby grand in her magnificent suite, and proceeded to pound out the most off-key rendition of chopsticks I had ever heard. It made all of us groan, but she didn’t care. Finally Devlin edged me off of his lap.

“I’m sorry, Lucy. I can’t let you do that to that beautiful instrument.” He waved her away before he took his place on the bench.

“You know how to play?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.

“I’ve tickled a few ivories,” he assured as he sent me a naughty little wink. He then cracked his knuckles, tossed back his hair placed his hands over the keys.

I don’t know what any of us were expecting him to play, but I am fairly certain none of us expected him to launch into a classical piece, Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The more surprising part was how well he played it. He started slow, to create the atmosphere, allowing the music to lift us all on this swell of emotion he created with each note. This was more than a rehearsed piece of music. This was a song from his soul. And it was simply beautiful.

Lucy, Gus and I stared between ourselves in stunned disbelief. Of all the things I expected to learn this week, finding out Devlin Masters was some kind of piano virtuoso was nowhere on the list. It shamed me instantly. I had begun to see him as one-dimensional because that was the nature of his business—but that was not the whole of the man. Not by a long shot.

I studied him as he played, as if watching someone else entirely. He held the proper posture, his back strong and straight, striking a commanding silhouette in front of the grand piano. His dark hair tickled his neck near the collar of his shirt as he subtly tossed his head in an unconscious response to the music. Those incredible eyes closed, losing himself in the piece as his strong fingers confidently struck every key. It was clear with the emotional depth he demonstrated in this impromptu performance that he was more deeply faceted than I had previously thought.

I had to wonder what other things he had to show me.

We were speechless when he was done. It took a full second or two for us to applaud, after which he said, “I really should get around to taking lessons someday.”

With Devlin, you never know what to expect next. I expected him to be down and dirty between the sheets, but I swooned just as hard as she did when I found out he could play the piano.

“So what other songs do you play?”

Another shrug. “This, that and the other. Everything really.” He started to slowly play a popular Beatles tune that was fitting for the occasion. When he began singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Gus and I joined Lucy at the piano so we could all sing along. It was a rousing little number that made Lucy clap her hands with joy. “Now you have to sing one for CC!” she announced before she plopped me down on the bench beside him.

He studied me for a moment, pursing his lips as he contemplated what song to sing. Finally his fingers landed lightly on the keys. I recognized the Bruno Mars song immediately as this gorgeous guy proceeded to sing to me how amazing and perfect I was, just the way I was. That he sang it well only ensured I’d never forget being serenaded like this for the rest of my life. I knew that he probably learned that song as a tool of his trade, to make all the ladies weak in the knees when he sang, so they’d feel even more wanted and desired.

That he sang about my eyes and not my boobs was a nice touch. “Always choose the one who notices your eyes,” Lucy had told me, which was good advice for a regular date, but didn’t really apply to a paid one.

It was still nice to hear, though, especially when he sang it right to me. When he punctuated the song with a slow, tantalizing kiss, I almost believed him.

I can't even HEAR that song anymore with crying because of the love story Devlin Masters delivered right to my door. That my husband dedicated it to me a little bit after I wrote it, not knowing the connection because I hadn't told him yet, only makes it that much better.

Some things are just meant to be.

And that is Devlin and CC, even though it's not your typical boy-meets-girl romance. He came into her life to show her something very special about herself. I know a little bit about how the world around you treats you like you don't count, because you're not what they think you should be. I know a bit about working twice as hard to be amazing in every other way, to make up for these "alleged" flaws. And I know a little bit about how it feels to finally have someone tell you, "Hey, I see you. And you're amazing." I know how hard it is to believe them, because you've been conned into thinking that there's something wrong with you and nobody would ever love that part of you that you've been conditioned to hate or find inferior.

By the second time I use that song in the book, I totally believed he meant every single word - so much so I had to stop writing so I could SOB like a NEWBORN BABE.

This is the romance that awaits you with Devlin Masters. In book one, MASTERS FOR HIRE, you get the full fantasy. The saga itself takes some interesting twists and turns, which we'll get to in our next blog, but when it comes to Book 1, it was all about the romance and the wish fulfillment for happily ever after against the odds.

We'll deal with Real Life when our couple gets back to Los Angeles, and a friend of his - who knows Devlin much better than CC does - comes along to jack everything up, including any idea of a HEA between our two blissful lovers.

For now, though... we'll swoon hard and long over Devlin, the truest manwhore I've ever written, since he actually got paid to sleep with a bunch of women.

But somehow... I forgave him.

For just ninety-nine pennies, you can find out if you will too. MASTERS FOR HIRE is on sale RIGHT NOW for a limited time online. The $0.99 price is live at Amazon and iTunes, and coming soon to B&N.

While I didn't have a casting choice for Devlin, I did have a prototype, thanks to one of my idols, Glenn Frey. In the mid-80s, he released an album called The All-Nighter. The title song is about a lover who knows exactly what women need and want, and to find this man would be a heady addiction. It may have taken me nearly 30 years to write him, but suffice it to say, Devlin has been percolating for a VERY long time.

(I plan to write a blog devoted to Glenn, and how devastated I was over his passing, but I'm still piecing my heart together over that one. All I can say is the Grammys better do him right. If they don't, by God I will.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Swoon-a-Palooza Book Boyfriend #11 - Xander Davy, includes a re-release/ONE DAY FREEBIE

We've talked a lot about some of my nice guys. I bet a few of you out there are hankering for a naughty boy. I serve up a tasty little morsel in BACK FOR SECONDS, where we get to meet Xander Davy.

Remember when I told you all that my first celebrity crush was Davy Jones? Well, he inspired Xander somewhat, in that he is British, with dark hair and enough charisma that it's impossible not to become discombobulated just from being in his presence. Hence the last name, which was a not-so-subtle homage to Mr. Jones.

When I first developed the plot for BACK FOR SECONDS, I knew I wanted to use a Brit. Like many other American women, I'm a bit of sucker for a British accent. It can make just about anything sound sexy. And don't get me started on hearing my name in an English accent. Waterboarding me would be a waste of energy. If you really need information, STAT, whisper sweet nothings in my ear with that accent, using my name often and well, and I'll tell you anything you want to know.

Like long hair, it is another form of kryptonite that will render me powerless.

The other thing I wanted to do was use an older protagonist. I write about young girls all the time, and that's been fun. But I wanted to parlay the life experience of a woman in her 40s, who has other concerns beyond finding her HEA. She's been down that road, she knows how that story ends. It ended with her cheating louse of a husband trading in his 40-year-old wife on a couple of 20-year-old employees. I wanted to riiiiiIIIPPPPPP the rug right from underneath her feet and see how she would rise to the challenge. She went from upper class housewife to an unemployed single mom in a matter of weeks, returning home to her Mama and her Gran so that they could help her get back on her feet.

Not helping in this task were her three children, who were equally thrown off balance by this sudden and dramatic change. Five-year-old Hannah couldn't understand why she couldn't stay in the bedroom she'd occupied her entire life. Fourteen-year-old Nash was quiet and sullen, not letting anyone inside his head to help sort it all through. And then there was Kari. She was fifteen, so everything happening in her world was more important than it had ever been or would ever be. When she has to move across town, to a new school, away from all her money and her popular friends, she blames her mother for the crisis.

Needless to say, our protagonist Joely has a lot on her plate. The last thing she'd ever consider adding to the list is an ill-timed affair with a younger man.

Did I happen to mention that Xander is 26? He's also the manager for her mother's restaurant, so it's not like she can ignore him. And he makes damn sure she can't even when she tries.

Still. Joely Morgan has one focus. She needs to get a job pronto in order to get on her feet, to become financially independent so that she can take care of her family. She never wants to give anyone the power to pull the rug out from under her again.

But it's Xander.

“What’s all that about?” she wanted to know.

“What’s what about?” he asked as he popped another huge bite into his mouth. His dark eyes watched her closely.

“Playing buddy-buddy with my kids,” she replied as she took his plate and headed back toward the sink. The chair scraped against the tile as he stood and walked over to join her.

His mouth was still full when he said, “It’s called being nice.”

Her look was skeptical. “Look. They’re going through a difficult time right now.”

He swallowed his last mouthful. His eyes kept hers captive as he ran his tongue around the corner of his mouth to capture any leftover frosting. “I know,” he finally said. “Your mother told me.”

Inwardly Joely groaned. That explained everything. “Great.”

He leaned against the counter. “It’s no big deal. Lillian thought maybe I could connect with Nash. He’s alone in a house full of women now. She thinks he could use a man to talk to.”

From where they stood nearly a foot apart, she could see his broad shoulders straining against the navy blue shirt he wore. His legs were long, crossed casually at the ankle, as he linked his hands and rested his elbow on the counter. Her nose filled with the scent of his cologne, a mixture of wood and spice. There was no doubt about it. He most definitely was a man. And the look in his eyes wouldn’t let her forget it. “I just,” she started but then found herself flustered and stammering. “I don’t know how long I’ll be here and I don’t want them to get attached to anything temporary. I appreciate the thought, but it’s not necessary.”

He towered over her 5’5-inch frame, studying her long brown hair and her deep brown eyes. The longer he stood without saying anything, the more nervous she got. When the tip of his thumb brushed the side of her mouth, she nearly jumped right out of her skin. Her doe eyes opened even wider as she watched him lick his thumb. “Missed a spot,” he murmured.

She was still sputtering behind him as he walked from the kitchen.

When Xander meets Joely, he can tell a few things right off the bat. She has zero self-esteem, thanks mostly to a mostly loveless marriage. She wears the neglect like a second skin. And even if she can't see it, he does. She needs a little excitement, and this young ladies' man takes it upon himself to provide it.

“Would you like to dance?”

Novanna practically shoved her out of the booth. “She’d love to.”

Joely stared helplessly back at her grinning friend as Xander pulled her to the crowded dance floor. The dance tune gave way to a Peter Gabriel classic, made popular in an iconic movie from her youth. Xander responded by pulling her closer, fitting her against his strong lines of his hard body. She gulped hard as her eyes drifted up to meet his. Those brown eyes, lightened with gold and green flecks, studied her intensely.

“What are you doing?” she finally said.

“Dancing with a beautiful woman,” he murmured in response as his gaze drifted lazily towards her mouth. “It’s one of the perks of going to a nightclub.”

“Please,” she scoffed. “You’re just taking pity on me because you think I’m some middle-aged reject.”

His eyebrows lifted. “So you think you know what I’m thinking, do you?”

All her senses were overloaded. She hadn’t been this close to a man in a very long time, even before Russell’s affair. Xander’s young sculpted body made all her senses go haywire. She held onto anger, because it was the only bullet left in the chamber of her common sense. “You tell me,” she said.

He leaned down next to her ear and murmured, “I think I already did.” His hand, which had been placed squarely on her back, splayed out as it traveled down the contour of her spine, coming to rest on the small of her back, pushing her into him. For a second there she forgot to breathe. “It’s not Spring Break in New Orleans, but it’s not a bad way to spend a Friday night.”

She glared at him. “Novanna was making all that up.”

“You never got drunk in New Orleans?” he asked with an innocent cock of his eyebrow. She sputtered in response, which made him chuckle. “You hide it well under this domestic veneer, but I get the feeling there’s a tigress under there somewhere. I’m just waiting for her to come out to play.”

“What do you think my mother would say about this?”

He ran his other hand down her arm to clasp her hand. “I don’t kiss and tell, love. Your mother doesn’t have to know. No one has to know.” He brushed his thumb against the palm of her left hand, which wedding rings no longer graced. “Just you and me alone, no restrictions, no limitations. Sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it?”

She glared at him. “So I’m just some one night stand, wham, bam, thank you ma’am?”

He held her closer so she could feel the promise of his hard body. “You can decide that for yourself.”

It was all too much. She hadn’t been touched like that in years, maybe ever. The look in his eyes was primal, like a caveman about to knock his newest conquest over the head with a club to drag her back to his cave by the hair. Whether he meant what he said or he was just teasing her because he could, it scared her straight. This was not the place for a newly single mom who was knocking on 40’s door.

“I already did,” she hissed under breath. “I’m not some booty call.” She wrenched away from him and stalked to the table. She barely said goodbye to Novanna before she stormed out of the club entirely. For the second time that day, she slammed as many doors as she could between her and that annoying, arrogant dickhead, Xander Davy.

As you can see, he's got a lot to teach her and she's got a lot to learn. When I first plotted the book, I fully intended to make it an erotic romance for more mature readers. I wanted it to be down and dirty, as this young'un showed her a few new tricks. He was dominant without being domineering, like her husband. I knew under his masterful seduction, she'd come alive in ways she hadn't been able to before. She just had to learn how to let go.

When she returned to the house, she met a delivery driver at the door, who carried a large white box. “Miss Morgan?” he asked.

She fought the urge to correct him and say, “Mrs. Morgan,” considering, like Xander and Novanna had said, that wasn’t who she was anymore. “Yes,” she said as she approached.

“Package for you,” he said as he handed it off.

She fished a few dollars from her purse to tip the young man before carrying the large parcel into the house and up the stairs. She didn’t stop until she reached the bedroom, where she deposited the box onto her bed. Before she could rip it open, her phone rang.

It was Xander.

“Good morning,” he crooned into her ear.

“I assume you had something to do with this,” she said as she sat on the bed next to her gift.

“Guilty as charged,” he admitted happily. “Open it.”

She put him on speakerphone before she lifted the top of the box away and moved the tissue aside to reveal a silky black and lace dress. “Oh, Xander,” she murmured as she withdrew it, revealing a flowing skirt, snug bodice with a sweetheart neckline that dipped low in front. The wide straps were made of lace and the style was much like the other 50s-inspired clothing he’d selected for her. He clearly preferred retro glamour. “It’s lovely.”

“I’m glad you like it. I can’t wait until tonight so I can see you in it.” She shivered in spite of herself. “There’s just one thing,” he murmured.

“What’s that?”

“You’re not allowed to wear any underwear underneath it,” he said in a voice so low it nearly made Joely groan out loud.

“Allowed?” she echoed.

“That’s right. No panties. No bra. Just you. When I hold you close to me tonight at The Ranch, I want to know that I’m just a fine bit of silk away from fucking you right there on that dance floor. And I want everyone else to know it, too.”

“Xander,” she started, but he wouldn’t allow it.

“Ah, ah,” he said, and she could hear the smirk in his voice. “I’m the one in charge, remember? And you will be a good girl and do as you’re told.”

She could barely breathe. “Okay.”

“That’s not all,” he said. “I want you to drop off the kids wearing this dress.”

Her heart nearly stopped. “Why?”

“I want him to see what he threw away.”

She made a face he couldn’t see. “He won’t care,” she said.

“Yes, he will,” Xander promised. “Because somewhere deep down he’ll know that this weekend you belong to someone new.”

::clutching pearls:: Oh, my nerves.

Needless to say almost every aspect of writing and publishing this book was a helluva lot of fun, including the research. I got to use my first sexy cover. I finally got dip my toe into the erotic romance genre. I was as ready for Xander to teach me a few things as Joely was.

Truth is this story is so much more than a book about a sexual relationship, even though it is a sexual awakening. Mostly this was about a woman learning how resilient she could be, and how powerful she could be, all on her own. And what better teacher than this guy?

So I've released a second edition of this story, with a new cover, and a new focus, with certain editorial problems addressed from the earlier edition. This new edition is gaining ground in Kindle Unlimited, but I'm giving away copies FREE all day to anyone who wants to give it a re-read. Or read for the first time. I hope you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was by this story and these characters.

This book still has all that Ginger Voight angst my fans love so much, only this time I keep it right at home, between a family as it fractures, and how they struggled to regain their footing. Complicating matters just a little bit? The fact that Joely's teenaged daughter sets her sights on Xander, who is about as many years older than her as he is younger than Joely. In Kari's mind that means she thinks she has a chance, especially since she has no clue that her mother is dating him on the sly. This keeps her from jumping all over the chance to campaign on her father's behalf for a family reconciliation, something ol' Cheater McCheaterson decides he wants when he catches a new man sniffing around the wife he threw away.

I didn't need the bright lights to tell this story. It was about as human as human gets. I even set the location right in my birthplace of Abilene, Texas, where I (mostly) grew up, just to show a little hometown pride. I consider this book my "comfort food." It's sexy and romantic, with all those titillating moments that keep ME turning the page, but it's got heart. Lots and lots of heart. In the end, I found myself looking up to Joely, hoping I can pull out my own miracle like she did. She inspired me. Xander seduced me. All the characters really kind of have their day, which is why this book is the first in a series, but not a trilogy.

Unlike my other sagas, which typically take about three books to resolve, each book is essentially self-contained, at least as far as the relationships are concerned. In this Lone Star Second Chance at Love series, three different couples will star in three different books, which each one facing new relationships in the face of losing an old one.

So fear not. If you want to know whether or not Joely and Xander make it to their happily ever after, you'll get the answers by the end of book one, before they become supporting characters in Book Two, which will branch off to Amarillo to tell the love story of one of their friends.

Consider this book a trolley car. The story will continue, but it's up to you to figure out where to jump on or off.

And right now you can do it all for free. Pick up BACK FOR SECONDS, Second Edition, FREE to everyone today only.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Swoon-a-Palooza Book Boyfriend #10 - Jake Dalton (Includes one-day Freebie!)

They say you never forget your first, and boy are they right.

Jake Dalton wasn't my first book boyfriend, but he IS the first book boyfriend who would have chosen someone like me. For that reason alone, I gotta love him.

I wrote LOVE PLUS ONE in 2006/2007, as part of a "protest" against all the traditional romance novels. I had just finished reading Waiting to Exhale and I was rather annoyed that, once again, the fat chick had been used mostly as a prop. She was comic relief, who wasn't expected to live the exciting, sexy jet-set life of her thinner counterparts. She was luck to get what she got, and she knew it.

That, coupled with Danielle Steel using fat as a character flaw in one of her books, particularly couched in terms of a serious issue like domestic abuse, just rubbed me the wrong way. I was tired of not being represented in the books I read. From the time I was eleven, I was reading about "thin and beautiful" heroines who were allowed and encouraged to race towards their happily ever afters. I'd only read one book up till then that had a fat main protagonist... and wouldn't you know being fat was the biggest hurdle she had to jump. She had to change THAT in order to have all her dreams come true.

Subtly, even without the authors meaning to, I was subconsciously programmed to believe that "thin and beautiful" was the only way to get love, and if someone like me wanted a little romance, I had better hit the gym.

There's only one thing wrong with that. I had managed to find love and romance, including sex, without ever having to lose weight myself. My HEA didn't hinge on my losing weight to find a guy; it depended entirely on finding a guy who could love me regardless of what I weighed.

In our culture this is considered "unrealistic." But since I had found that, I knew that I could write that. And that's what I did.

I gingerly dipped my toe into the Rubenesque genre by making my heroine a more forgivable size-12, which is roughly the average of most American women. I knew that they could identify with Shannon, including her insecurities as she compared herself with everyone around her that wasn't a little bigger, or thick, or, dare I use the term, fat.

I put a lot of me in Shannon, which is why, by 2007, she had a lot of growing up still to do.

By no surprise I put a lot of Steven in Jake, Shannon's very best friend and one of the few men on the planet who could see through her dress size to the girl underneath.

He was the one who saw her potential and lovingly pushed her towards it, even when she was scared shitless of reaching for any brass ring.

As soon as it was polite to do so, he herded her outside on the patio for some private conversation. He was dying to hear what Dixie had said about her idea. He thought it was a lock, and he couldn’t wait to see her get the promotion she deserved.

“So. Tell me. What did Dixie say?”

She shrugged and headed toward the swing that still hung from the big tree out back.

His heart sank. “You mean you didn’t tell her?” She sent him a sheepish glance. “Shannon.”

“What? Come on. It’s a worn out idea. What’s the point?”

“Says who?”

“Says Rex, that’s who.”

Jake came over to her and pushed her swing into motion. “You mean Dogface, Lord of the Reptilian People?”

“He’s not that bad.” He grabbed the rope and put an abrupt stop to her swinging to stare at her. She shrugged and looked away. “We swapped ideas. He said it was good but he said the timing was all wrong. It’s not like he made fun of it or anything. Which is better than what I did to his idea,” she added, figuring it made her point.

Jake started pushing her swing again. “I still think you should run it past Dixie. What can it hurt?”

“Actually it hurts plenty. It took a lot of guts to tell someone I work with about my idea. I walked around all day with this big old balloon of hope, only to have it deflated.”

“Rejection is a part of life, Shan. Everybody goes through it. Even all your heroes have dealt with it. The trick is to get beyond that and find the person who says yes.”

“If I could do that I’d be married and have ten kids by now, and my mother wouldn’t have to bribe you with dinner to shove Taylor down your throat.”

He laughed. “It wasn’t that bad.”

This time she stopped the swing and glared at him. He couldn’t help grinning as he sprawled out on the lawn beside the swing. “Okay, so we both need some help standing up to the puppet masters. You go tell Dixie about your idea and I’ll stand up to your Mom.”

He was serious. And she was scared. “But what if it’s a bad idea?”

He shrugged. “Then you’re no better or worse off than you were. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

She couldn’t help but smile. He was right. Like always. What would she ever do without him?

That conversation is pure Steven right there. It could have been lifted from from our lives together, in the many times he had to be my biggest cheerleader to take my own leaps of faith.

And, just like Steven, he was right there with no-nonsense straight talk to keep her on task, even if it risked hurting her feelings.

“If you don’t go back and fight for that idea, then maybe you deserve to have it stolen.”

She was shocked. “What?”

“Listen to me. I’ve known you for a long time, and there are some things I know for certain about you. You’re smart. You’re funny. You’re amazingly talented. And you’re also the biggest obstacle you face. You walk away from challenges so you never have to fail, but you can’t succeed that way either.” She turned away. He knew her too well. “Let’s face it, Shan. Producing this new show would require you to get out of your own way and put it all on the line. I think... no. I know you can do it. But until you know that too, then maybe the people who have that confidence are just better people for the job.”

Tears coursed down her cheeks. She came there for comfort, not a butt-whooping. They’d known each other for nearly a decade, and now he decides to implement tough love? “Thanks a lot.”

But Jake wasn’t falling for it. He’d held his tongue long enough. It was time to push his little bird out of the nest. “Shan, I love you.”

“No, you don’t.” It was another wail.

“Yes, I do. If I didn’t, I’d put on a hat and join your little pity party. But what you need most is to hear that you can go back to that studio, you can confront that jerk and let Dixie know the truth. She will believe you because something this good could only come from you. And it is good. And it will succeed. And you do deserve it.” Her eyes met his. “This is your chance, honey. You just have to go claim it.”

By no surprise, he doesn't take it on the chin when she ignores his advice and tries to hide in the shadows where she thinks she belongs.

Shannon finally opened the door to Jake’s persistent knock. Her hair hung in tendrils outside of the normally tight ponytail she wore. Her glasses were askew. She wore a pair of sweat pants that looked as though they’d never actually seen a drop of sweat, and her stylish ensemble was topped off with a well-worn pair of slippers that looked like bear paws.

“I take it you didn’t go back to the studio.”

She snorted. “What gave it away?”

He was confused. “I don’t understand. What changed your mind?”

She shrugged as she lumbered back into the apartment. He’d never understand, so it was pointless to explain. She had every intention of going to work the next day and claiming her idea, but a nightmare ended up changing her mind. She dreamed that she’d gone back to work and strutted right to Dixie’s office, but when she opened the door she stood on the edge of a hundred-story building, teetering right on the edge. The whole world watched from below as she lost her footing and plummeted toward the ground.

She had jerked awake in her bed, in the throes of a panic attack unlike anything she’d ever experienced. The dream had merged all her worst fears into one epic nightmare. It took a whole gallon of ice cream to calm her down.

Clearly the dream was an omen. And she was no longer convinced that her dreams were worth pursuing if that was the cost of their coming true. “Does it matter?” she finally asked, though she really didn’t expect an answer.

Jake followed her into the apartment. The scattered debris made it look like a Chinese restaurant had exploded in the middle of her living room. “Apparently not,” he sighed as he watched her flop down on the couch and grab her remote.

He grabbed it just as fast and turned off the television he suspected hadn’t been off in at least two and half weeks.

“Hey! I was just about to find out if Carly and Sonny were going to get back together.”

Soap operas, he thought with a groan. It was definitely time for an intervention.

“You have ten minutes.”

“Before you turn back into a frog?”

“Before I pick you up and carry you into the bathroom and plop you in the shower.”

“You and what army?”

He loomed large over her and she shrank back into the sofa. This man had muscles and ate his spinach. “I was kidding.”

His face remained stern. “Well, I’m not. You’re going to go take a shower and I’m going to drive you to the studio. We’re going to get your job back.” She shook her head. “Forget it.”

He shrugged. “Suit yourself.” With his two strong arms he effortlessly lifted her up like a bale of hay, despite her very loud protests and wiggling. “Jake!” she squealed from her precarious perch atop his shoulder. “Put me down!”

He shook his head and held her tighter as they maneuvered the tight hallway heading toward her bathroom. She clutched door frames and scraped her fingernails along the wall to put a halt to their journey, but Jake was a man on a mission.

Toiletries went flying and he pulled the curtain back with one hand, using the same hand to turn on her shower. It was a shot of icy cold water that sprayed over both of them. “My clothes!”

“Smell as though they could use a washing too,” was his blithe remark. “Besides. Do you really want to be naked right now?”

She shook her head emphatically. Aside from her doctor, men didn’t generally see her naked. She felt no need to tarnish such a pristine record.

“Either way works for me,” he said as he handed her a bar of soap.

After a comedy of errors, both Shannon and Jake end up cast for the reality show she had gone to fight for. He'd be the bachelor on this new dating show, and she'd be the "mole" inside the girl's house, to weed out the bitches and pick the right match for Jake.

They knew going into it that there could only be one choice.

“No. Nope. Nada. No way.”

Jorge and Jake watched Shannon vigorously scrub the layer of makeup Jorge had previously applied with such care. No matter how much beauty he tried to plaster on her face, the ugly truth was that she was not ready for prime time television. It was impossible.

“Don’t hold back,” Jorge remarked. “Tell us how you really feel.”

“How do I really feel? You want to know how I really feel? I feel like a gigantic jerk, that’s how I feel. I belong behind the camera, not in front of it. Dixie’s crazy if she thinks I’m going to willingly go on national TV.” That was the total opposite of invisible, and it just would never do.

“It’s up to you,” Jorge replied. “But I think you’re missing a huge opportunity.”

“Oh yes. The opportunity to make a fool of myself doesn’t come along every day. Just every other day.”

“Slow down. Think about this for a second. Rex stole your idea. This is your chance to steal it right back.”

That stopped the scrubbing. Momentarily. “What do you mean?”

“He’s a producer, but this is unscripted, reality television. That means once those cameras roll, you guys would be the ones in control. Whether the show is good, or whether the show flops, is completely up to you.”

She considered it for a nanosecond. “Regardless.” She took a deep breath and sank back into the makeup chair. “Do you realize how idiotic I’ll look next to the swimsuit models he’s probably already cast?”

Jorge came to stand behind her and run his hands through her recently styled hair, fluffing and primping. “You will look like most of the women who watch the show, which will be a first for reality TV.” None of them could argue that point. “Who would you root for if you were watching? And wouldn’t that just chap Rex’s ass?”

She nodded, but then shook her head. Even with his masterful touch with her hair, with the makeup gone she looked way too plain and unbecoming to pass for a hopeful bachelorette.

“You know, Dixie offered me this gig but I turned her down. I didn’t want to work with Rex. But if you decide to do it, I’ll be there in a second. How’s that for an offer you can’t refuse?”

“It’s very nice,” Shannon conceded. “But even you can’t fix what Nature missed.”

He stood back and crossed his arms. “Excuse me?”

She swung around in the chair. “Okay, maybe you can. But we’re talking a full-time commitment.”

He just smiled and swung her back to the mirror. “Then I’ll move into the bachelorette pad for a few months. Tell me where there’s a down side.”

“But it isn’t fair to Jake,” she motioned to her still silent friend. “He doesn’t want to a part of a televised meat market.”

Jorge laughed. “Oh yes. Surrounded by twenty adoring females. It’d be hell.”

Jake just smiled. Although he wouldn’t have chosen this for himself, he thought the idea had some merit. Not to find a mate, necessarily, but to see his friend finally take her destiny into her own hands.

And if he had to date twenty lovely women to facilitate that… it was a dirty job but someone had to do it.


He shrugged it off. “Like I’ve always said, Shan. Life is full of lessons. It’s a—”

“Learning experience,” she finished for him. She sighed. “So what would we have to do?”

Jorge hopped up on the counter and they all leaned in together. “I think we can all agree that we don’t trust Rex.”

Both Shannon and Jake answered immediately. “Right.”

“So you can’t necessarily control how he edits the show. But the money is on who the bachelor will choose. And that is very much in your control.”

“So who do I choose?” Jake asked.

A light bulb appeared at once over Shannon’s head. “Me.”

Jorge smiled. “By Jorge I think you’ve got it. What better Cinderella story for a Just Dixie audience?”

Jake and Shannon shared a look. This could actually work.
But something happens when the light shines bright on someone so used to living in the shadows. It changes the way she sees everything... including her best buddy, Jake.

They sat close together, comfortable old friends.

“I’ve missed you,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with my nights without my favorite IM buddy.”

She laughed. “I’ve seen the video. You have plenty to keep you busy.”

He chewed the corner of his mouth to conceal his embarrassed grin. “Well, you know.”

She nodded. She knew. As much as he’d begun this journey to help her reclaim what Rex stole, he was still human.

“So what’s it like for you? I don’t get to see any tapes,” he reminded her.

Purple feathers and misplaced underwear flashed in her mind. “Thank God.”

That got his attention. “Okay. Now you have to tell me.”

Her entire face turned red as she shook her head. “No way, buster. That’s not how this game is played.”

“You know,” he said, donning his best German accent, “ve have vays of making you talk.” He held up two hands in prime tickle position, which made her giggle before he even touched her.

“You wouldn’t dare!”

He dared. He dove right in and tickled her until she was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. “Okay, okay!” she gasped. “Uncle!”

Mercifully he stopped, but he didn’t move. As she caught her breath she realized that he had her pinned against the seat, their faces mere inches apart.

Time stood still as she stared into those baby blues up close. She had dreamed of being in his arms like this, but nothing compared to actually being there. She could feel every muscle as his warm, hard body pressed against her.

“Well?” he whispered with a crooked grin.

“Well what?” she whispered back, having completely forgotten the original line of questioning.

Jake seemed extremely amused. He didn’t move an inch. “What goes on at the Bachelorette Pad when I’m not around?”

“Oh,” she said. She licked her lips which drew his gaze that direction. The butterflies in her stomach clog danced their way to her feet when his eyes briefly glanced down at her mouth.

“Gossiping. Grooming. Sacred shaving rituals. You know. Girl stuff.”

He nodded, but he didn’t look as if he believed her.

And he also didn’t look like he had any intention to let her go. He held her so close she knew he could feel her tremble. Minute by minute, she grew more and more visible, not only as a woman, but as a woman who was developing feelings for a man.

“Jake,” she said softly, almost pleadingly.

His gaze drifted to her mouth and voice was warm like butter when he said, “Shannon.” She had never heard her name said like that before, from anyone, especially her best friend. It promptly turned her insides into goo.

Unfortunately for Shannon, she realizes that she's falling for handsome, hunky Jake, her steady bestie for ten years, around the time she has to fight 20 more women for his heart. And not just any women. We're talking *reality dating show* women. To say she stands out is an understatement, particularly to the other girls.

Jake wasn't having that either.

Kayleigh found Jake still sitting in the room with a perplexed look on his face. “Hey, you. Why are you in here all alone?”

His gave her an absent-minded answer. He had other things on his mind. “Shannon just left.”

“Ah.” Kayleigh entered the room and took a seat beside Jake. It was her spot, she’d decided, and she was going to do everything she could to be there. “You know I passed her in the hall and she seemed upset. Did you two have a fight?”

He gave a quick shake of his head. The thought was ludicrous. He and Shannon never fought.

They also never kept secrets, which was the hardest part of this new situation. Neither one could be honest about what they thought or felt. They were putting on an act, every single day, which felt completely unnatural for their ten-year friendship.

Jake realized then that he could ask Kayleigh’s insight. She’d been at the house. Maybe she knew what was eating Shannon.

“Did she say something?”

“She didn’t really have to say anything,” Kayleigh explained. “She mentioned that the date did not go well, but didn’t elaborate. We all kind of decided that meant it really didn’t go well.” She waited but Jake gave nothing away. “You’re very sweet, you know that?”

“Is that so?” he asked, but the absent question was inherently rhetorical.

“Being so nice to someone like Shannon,” Kayleigh expounded.

That got his attention. “Someone like Shannon?”

Kayleigh sensed that she had to broach the subject carefully. “You know. Someone who isn’t very well suited to you.”

His eyes narrowed as he studied her. He and Shannon had been thick as thieves for ten years. How could anyone think that they weren’t suited for each other? “And why isn’t Shannon suited to me?”

For the first time since she met him, his easy-going manner evaporated. Kayleigh laughed, and hoped to put him at ease. “For instance, you love the outdoors. You’re athletic. You’re adventurous. She’s… not.”

He waited. She was trying to say something, and suddenly he really wanted to know what it was.

“You’re a great guy,” Shannon continued. “You didn’t want her to be among the first to go. You even give her individual dates. But it’s not like you’re actually going to fall in love with her.”

He sat back and searched her face. Had he really been toying with the idea she might be the kind of girl he’d like to keep seeing after the show? “Why not?”

Kayleigh decided once again to change tactics. She leaned toward him. “Because you’re going to fall in love with me.” She gave him a winning smile that begged for a kiss.

He did not oblige. “It’s much too early to decide that,” he reminded as he stood. “Let’s get back to the party.”

Kayleigh left that room with a lot less confidence than when she entered.

Suffice it to say, Jake Dalton is one of my most swoon-worthy men, the first of my many "Good Guys." If you want a sexy romp with a cocky douche bag, this isn't that book. Read my GROUPIE or MASTERS sagas instead.

But if you want to know what it means to fall in love with your best friend... Jake's your guy.

They ended their evening with one last dance, and when the final notes of the music echoed away, they stood in the circle of one another’s arms, locked in each other’s eyes. Her heart thundered in her chest as she wondered if he was thinking about kissing her as much as she was thinking about kissing him. The moment was perfect. It was romantic. It felt just as right, at least to her.

He wore an unreadable expression on his face, one she’d never ever seen before, so it was frustratingly hard to tell how he felt about it. Her hopes began to climb when his hand cupped her face, with one thumb absently caressing her full bottom lip. “What?” she finally said in a breathless whisper.

“I made a mistake a couple of weeks ago,” he said at last, his low, soft voice bouncing off of her tightly drawn senses.

Her eyes fixed on his mouth. Thanks to her dreams, she could already imagine what it would feel like to kiss him. And even if it was only an act for the viewing audience, suddenly it was all she wanted to do. “What was that?”

“I gave away something I should have saved for the perfect moment. For right now. For you.”

Her breath caught as she realized that his head was lowering towards hers. The minute his mouth opened over hers, she was a goner. Her lips parted like they had in her dreams, unconsciously, with a wanton gasp, and fireworks exploded in her brain as his tongue meshed at once with hers.

It took her a whole second to process what was going on. It was real! Jake was kissing her! And not just a I-kinda-like-you-so-I-think-I’ll-kiss-you kiss. With Jake clutching her tight, his hand weaving into her hair to crush his mouth against hers, it felt more like I-wanna-kiss-you-so-bad-it-physically-hurts kiss. Whether it was for the show, or the ultimate fuck-you to Rex, didn’t seem to matter. Instead she focused on how his tongue tasted like wine as he conquered her mouth in ways her limited imagination just couldn’t picture. She practically swooned against him and he held her tight in his strong arms.

They were breathless when he finally broke apart. Seconds passed as they stared at each other. Finally his face broke apart in a lopsided, self-satisfied grin. “Now that’s a first kiss that counts.”

Shannon couldn’t speak as she nodded. Her whole body was flushed. “Jake,” she started, though she had no idea what thought could possibly follow.

Instead he bent his head towards hers and lightly kissed her on the tip of her nose before he rested his forehead on hers. “Thank you,” he whispered. “For what?” she whispered back.

“For the best date so far.”

As for who I'd cast, it'd have to be someone who was rugged and strong, like a rancher should be. He'd have to have the zen of an old soul, which you could see the minute you looked into his eyes, which would immediately put you at ease. He can't take himself too seriously. He'd have to be romantic and kind and accessible, but with a strong code of honor what it meant to be to be a man... and how that translated into his treatment of women.

Basically I'm open to suggestions. To me he's simply Jake, and I love him every bit as if he were real.

Fortunately, thanks to my own HEA, he totally is. I see him every time I look into my husband's blue eyes. And since you can't have him (sorry, I don't share,) I gave you Jake.

You're welcome.

LOVE PLUS ONE is free to read through Kindle Unlimited. Today only, everyone can download a copy.

Join me and let's fall in love with one helluva bachelor.