Saturday, February 25, 2017

(Re)Introducing MJ Bennett - My hero for 28 years.

As a writer, you come to love all of your characters, even the bad ones, as your babies. Truth be told, though, there are some that sneak a little farther into your heart than the others. Some have been with you a long time. Some have taken some of your best (or worst) qualities and defeated demons that maybe you haven't quite been able to defeat on your own yet. If you're lucky, some become your heroes.

I've loved once such character since I was nineteen years old. In 1989 I was in a tough spot, probably the toughest I've ever been in. I was homeless in Los Angeles, living out of my car, without anything to hold onto except that I was in love, and I was sure that something better was coming despite all the evidence otherwise.

Ever since I watched Three's Company as a little kid, I always wanted to live in California. I wanted to be near the ocean, smack dab in the middle of the action. I loved entertainment. Movies, TV, music... I wanted to be right in the midst of it all. Even in all my yearbooks, there were promises of reaching those golden shores. It was always my goal.

Of course, it didn't happen like I had hoped it would happen. I had dreamed of going there, living in a cramped beachfront apartment with my bestie, as I worked my way through college - UCLA, of course. Instead, I ended up living in the back of a 1977 Buick LeSabre with my then boyfriend, Dan. We arrived in Los Angeles early 1989 with a few hundred dollars in our pockets and a dream of something better than the dead-end we'd found in Amarillo, Texas.

Unfortunately L.A. didn't work like Amarillo, and a few hundred dollars wasn't even close to enough to covering everything. We were out of money in a minute. When we reached another dead-end with my family in California, we ended up living on the streets for six months. We parked behind a grocery store in Van Nuys, next to a railroad where Amtrak trains would scream past a pretty deserted street no one ever drove down unless they needed to.

That LeSabre became our apartment, thanks to a couple of towels we'd stick in the windows for some privacy. Through the unemployment agency, I started taking some computer classes I could pay for later, after I got a job, while Dan worked day labor to keep gas in the car and food somewhat in our stomach. Some days were more of a challenge than others. I remember distinctly prowling the floorboards of our car just for a few dimes to pay for $0.33 tacos from Taco Bell. That's when you know you're broke.

Sometimes we ended up rooting through the trash of that grocery store, in hopes to find stuff that had expired and been thrown away, even though it was still edible. My baloney's first name in those days? "Expired."

Once a week we'd get a hotel room, for a bed, for a shower, for shelter. TV became a luxury.

There wasn't a whole lot to do to entertain ourselves in the downtime. We started going to parks. Griffith Park, in particular, was a favorite. With my limited diet and extra exercise, I even managed to dip below 200lbs for the first time in years.

Funny thing when you don't belong anywhere. You have no claim to anywhere. I didn't feel right *anywhere* or around anyone. Mostly I'd sit in the car and listen to music, my constant companion (and comfort) since I was nine. And, just like other times in my life, it became a muse. One memorable day I heard "Welcome to the Jungle" by GNR. It had been a favorite since it came out in 1987, but suddenly it had a lot more meaning.

This wasn't just a "song" anymore. It was now playing in heavy rotation on the soundtrack of my personal experience. And it was terrifying. So I dealt with it the way I always dealt with it. I wrote about it.

The idea started like many do. It was sparked by a question. What if? What would happen? What about? What if I had been younger when I landed in Los Angeles? What if I had been alone? What if I had no car, which felt like a mansion in comparison to living out of boxes or tents or under blankets like other, less fortunate, homeless did?

Yes, even in the midst of the most outrageous poverty I'd ever known, I still knew how to recognize what privileges I had. I was raised Southern Baptist, where you were trained to be thankful even for the crap that happened to you - because there was always someone else who had it worse.

So what if I was all those things, and I needed someone else to save me?

For someone like me, the idea of being "saved" wasn't a comfortable one. So this thought, born out of necessity, had me contemplate how a hero for me might take shape. He would have to embody everything I already idolized about Dan, so naturally this meant a rebel. And since conservative rules had never really worked out for me, I didn't mind if this new hero had to live outside the law, or the conventions of society. I decided to make him a biker, because I already knew from Dan they were fearless. They were the cowboys who rode upon steel horses, with a code of honor all their own. Likewise mine would be, riding his Harley in search of the vulnerable to save them, to protect them.

He'd have to appreciate art even in his violence, trading garish gun violence for eloquent, poetic martial arts. There would have to be something deeper about him than a thug or a brute.

As I developed this hero, I had a clear idea of what this person would mean for my vulnerable runaway. It was never romantic, because the hero would be so much older than the person he was trying to save. That was when the most important "what if" occurred to me:

What if it wasn't a man?

Back in those days, action films starred big tough guys and girls were mostly the victims or the shiny decoration. I knew this because this was also back in the good girlfriend (or wannabe girlfriend) days, when I'd watch scores of these kinds of movies just because Dan liked them. I rarely had anyone to identify with, and often got mad at the "good girls" who fell for these atypical men. That Kelly Lynch character in Road House drove me to distraction. I straight up wanted to cut a bitch. I was tired of those goodie goodie wastes of estrogen, who needed the bad boy to come and save them, because they were too damned caught up in being proper. What if my bad-ass biker hero was a chick instead? One who needed no hero for herself, and instead lived her life in such a way she was a hero to everyone else?

Back in 1989 this was a novel idea to me.

Thus MJ Bennett was born.

I poured everything I wanted to be into this character in a time when I felt none of these qualities. I wanted her to be tough. To be fearless. To be strong. She was a tough nut to crack, like me, but inside of her there was this amazing heart that cared more than it should. And she had the scars to prove it.

I wanted her wounded but powerful. Flawed and unapologetic. Beautiful but thorny and forbidding to touch, like a rose. I wanted all the complexities that come with being a woman, because only we are allowed to be soft and hard at the same time. I'm not ashamed to say I fell in love with her precisely because of those contradictions.

She came alive on those notebook pages as I wrote the story down long-hand. My first full-length novel was conceived in the front seat of that LeSabre, where I would go on to labor and deliver it in a Buick parked next to some railroad tracks. In a very real way, she saved me. She gave me hope of things that could be. Things I could be. It pained me for decades that I couldn't write her story as well as it deserved to be told. I loved her too much. I was afraid to hurt her. This is a horrible spot for a writer to be in. I had a lot to learn yet, about writing and about life. I needed time to get into her head, to save myself from several tight spots all on my own.

To become my own hero.

In 2014 I finally gathered the courage it took to rewrite the story. This landed me my first literary manager, which resulted in my first traditional book deal. Not unlike moving to L.A. in 1989 on a wing and a prayer, a lot of this didn't turn out like I had hoped it would. Let's just say I'm still digging for change out of my floorboard. But there were so many lessons I learned from that as well, with unexpected highlights that literally might throw open the door to *all* of my goals, not just the one where I get to see MJ come to life in a book.

For that reason, I brought her home to me, so I can give her once again to you. It's MJ and me against the world, which it always has been for damn near 30 years.

I think we're both ready. More than anything I want you to know her. More than anything I know you will love her.

If you love my romances, there is love to be had in this book. If you love my sagas, there is angst and suspense galore. If you love my heroines, my flawed, imperfect, bad-ass, no fucks given heroines, MJ is and always has been my queen. She will not disappoint you.

If you need a hero... if you need a good guy to win, someone oppressed to fight against the system, to rise up and defeat evil that seeks to do harm on the most vulnerable...

MJ Bennett is that hero.

She is my magnum opus. And I knew that she would be since I was nineteen years old.

This is MJ, who has the knack of showing up right when someone needs her the most.

Haley rounded the corner as quietly as she could. For once, being short and slight worked in her favor. She flattened herself against the brick building as she drew closer. She could see Todd on his knees, his nose already bloodied from a punch.

The hum of electricity from a nearby transformer made her hair stand on end. She watched one of the attackers caress the side of Todd’s beautiful face with the sharp tip of his switchblade. “Maybe we should just pull his teeth out one by one. He doesn’t need them anyway, since he’s nothing more than some fucking little cocksucker.”

She could tell that Todd was scared, but he said nothing. He didn’t even bother to fight back. He endured, just like he endured all the other things he had to do to survive. He stayed submissive on his knees as one of his attackers held him by his long hair. The other shrugged out of his jacket, revealing a muscled torso that bulged against a tight white wife beater tank top. This action revealed a bold sleeve tattoo on his right arm, which featured a goat’s head and a pentagram.

It was exactly like the towering statue in Isbecky’s bedroom.

With a gasp, she turned away—right into the chest of yet another young man wearing the same dark clothes and tennis shoes.

“What do we have here?” he mused, smiling down at her. “Haley, is it? The boss is going to be real happy to see you again.”

Before she could bolt, he twisted her arm behind her back and forced her over to his other companions, where Todd was still down on his knees.

“We found her,” the new aggressor told his friends. “Let’s go.”

“Nuh-uh,” the one in front of Todd said, unzipping his jeans. “I ain’t done yet.”

The one holding her chuckled. “I guess we got some time.” He shoved Haley down to her knees next to Todd. “We can’t touch you, but you can watch. Maybe you’ll learn something.”

She tried to look away as the assailant exposed himself, but her captor turned her head, forcing her to look on. Her scrambled brain struggled to process the noise of the city just feet from where she sat, terrified. Her mind raced, trying to think of what she could say or do to save herself and to save Todd. All hope seemed lost.

And that was when she heard another sound rising in the distance, cutting through the city noise. It was low at first, like the roar of a lion in the distance. The ground vibrated beneath her as the sound grew louder and more distinct, with the chest-rattling rumble of thunder.

But that couldn’t be right. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Yet a storm was coming, and it arrived on a black Heritage Softail that jumped the corner and skidded right into the alley.

Haley’s elation that they might be saved was short-lived. The rider took off the matching black helmet, revealing a long braid of copper-red hair and piercing green eyes surrounded by heavy dark makeup.

It was a woman.

This sight took everyone in the alley off guard. She took her time dismounting, making sure that her helmet was in place and her leather jacket was slung over the side. She stood at her full height. Though she seemed slight next to the massive bike, she wasn’t dainty by any means. In fact, she was probably the most striking woman that Haley had ever seen. She wore her black T-shirt and jeans like a second skin, and her thick biker boots added another two inches to her height, for a total of five feet and eight inches. There were fingerless leather riding gloves on her hands and a worn American flag bandana secured around one wrist.

The woman spotted the half-naked aggressor in front of Todd. She adopted a smirk and crossed her arms against her chest. “What’s he supposed to do? Pick his teeth with that thing?”

Haley heard the pop of a spring-loaded switchblade near her ear. Her captor tugged her head back by her hair and laid the cool metal against her vulnerable neck.

“He’s gonna get a mouthful of my cock,” the other assailant said. “Get on your knees and I’ll give you some too.”

“I really don’t think you have enough to go around, Junior.” The man’s expression darkened, but she was undaunted. “How about you let these kids go so we can all party together?”

“Naw.” He shook his head. “But maybe we’ll start with you.”

The woman barely moved as he approached her, almost as if she were inviting him to do so. Haley watched breathlessly as the man grabbed the woman by the wrist. In one fluid motion she stepped toward him with her right foot, which he clearly wasn’t expecting. She used his own momentum against him to lift the wrist he thought he had captured and ram her elbow right into his chin.

The action was so graceful and so quick that his head jerked back like a candy dispenser. He didn’t even see it coming. In that split second of confusion, she grabbed his body and rammed her knee right into his solar plexus. He fell backwards onto the ground, gasping for breath.

His two companions released Todd and Haley to advance on this mysterious biker, who was now a larger threat. Though Todd had the good sense to quickly dart out of sight, Haley stayed right where she was, transfixed by the fight unfolding in front of her. The street was just feet away. She could easily have bolted. She could have gone for help.

Instead she found herself compelled to watch as the two thugs tried to circle this odd woman. She stepped backward, keeping her eyes on both assailants as they brandished their weapons and prepared for battle. The one closest to her unraveled the chain he wore around his waist, and they laughed when her eyes widened. Their laughter quickly subsided when she took a step toward the man with the chain. He raised it like a whip, but when it came down, she caught it up near his own hand, her leather gloves taking the brunt of the impact. Like before, she brought her attacker into her body, and right into that knee, until he too was winded by a decisive blow to the solar plexus. He gasped for air. His buddy’s switchblade clattered to the ground, and he took off for the safety of the busy street.

The woman turned her attention towards Haley, who was the only person left standing in the alley. “You okay?” she asked. Haley thought she nodded, but she was too stunned to know for sure.

Who is she? Who isn't she? Find out this April as I re-release CHASING THUNDER under my own imprint. For a limited time, you can one-click now at $0.99. The price will be going up closer to the publication date to it's final $3.99 price, so buy quickly to save more. This will be an Amazon Exclusive for at least 90 days, which will definitely be a treat for all my KU fans.

Take a chance, get to know MJ Bennett. She's always been my hero. Maybe, just maybe, she can be yours, too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine #14 - Eli Blake. I didn't want to love him. But I do. I really, really do.

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?


What stands out most about him?

He's a superstar.

Nice guy or douche?

Big time, enormous, colossal douche. Douche with a capital "D" douche. DDDDOOOOUUUUCCHHHHEEEEE.

Favorite moment with him?

When I sat down to write Eli, I had a pretty clear idea of what I was going for. We'll get to that later, but suffice it to say, he did not disappoint.

I wanted to write someone so cocky, so arrogant, so egotistical, so full of himself that any little glimpse of a a "real boy" underneath it all would blow. Everyone. AWAY. (Starting with me.)

This was that moment for me. This was where I knew I could love him. (I've added some previous scenes for context.)

Thanks to his celebrity status, we were ushered back into a private waiting room, to wait our turn behind the other non-critical injuries currently clogging up the hospital ER. An hour ticked painfully by, and my ankle darkened by the minute. It was clearly bruising from my pinkie toe all the way up to my lower calf. Eli smirk fell as he watched, calculating how we were going to handle this new complication.

“You’re going to have to stay with me,” he decided.

“No way in hell,” I replied. I was in a lot of pain, but I wasn’t delirious, for fuck’s sake.

“You can’t stay in your apartment,” he reasoned. “Especially if they put you on crutches.”

I thought about the narrow stairwell at Ling’s place. It would be a bitch to navigate that steep, dark staircase on crutches, but it was infinitely more preferable to staying at Eli’s place.

Then it occurred to me that I only had one month left before I had to move out of my apartment, which meant not only would I have to walk up and down those stairs every day, I was going to have to find a way to move what little stuff I had there into a whole new place entirely.

“You’re such an asshole,” I muttered before I gently held my ankle, which had now swollen twice its size.

“It was an accident, Carly. You know that.”

“Do I?” I shot back. His eyes met mine.

“Yeah. You do. I didn’t hurt you on purpose.”

“No, you never hurt anyone on purpose,” I sneered. “Just behind everyone’s back like the sniveling coward you are.”

It was his turn to get mad. “What do you want me to do? I can’t go back in time and change anything.”

My eyes shot to his. “You could apologize. That’s what normal humans do when they fuck up. ‘Gee, Carly. I seem to have really hurt you. I’m so sorry.’ Not, ‘here, let’s use your injury as an excuse to move in with me, because we can’t let PING to use video against us and hurt my precious career.’” I growled deep in my throat. “Face it. Everything always works out the way you want it to.”

He didn’t get a chance to reply before we were taken back to the examination room. He stood by quietly as the doctor began his examination.

I ended up moving in with Eli Blake not on Valentine’s Day, like he wanted, but January 17th, just five days into our year-long contract. All because of my Grade III ankle sprain, and the six damnable weeks it would take to heal.

By the time I left the ER, I had a brand new splint and boot for my ankle, along with some crutches, which would make navigating the narrow stairwell of my current apartment practically an Olympian feat, especially given I did this now for an audience of curious camera monkeys who wanted to publicize my every move—the more embarrassing the better.

So I didn’t argue much when Satan—I mean, Eli—offered to let me recuperate in his Malibu beach house.

He kept things quiet on the drive there. He didn’t even play the radio. When we got there, he pulled the car as close as he could to the front door to make it easier on me.

Of course, navigating my new crutches like a newborn gazelle was anything but easy. Eli hovered around me to make sure I didn’t fall.

I so wanted to stick one of my crutches where the sun didn’t shine.

As soon as we entered the hallway, the polished wood floor presented yet another challenge. It took me what felt like an hour and a half to get down to the sunken living room, where I nearly broke my neck maneuvering down the wide steps. I hobbled towards one of the leather sofas, where I collapsed gratefully. The hydrocodone they had given me at the hospital had finally kicked in, though it really didn’t do much to help with the pain. I just didn’t really care I was in it anymore.

“Let’s get you into bed,” he said as he placed everything aside. “It’s a lot more comfortable than this small sofa.”

“I don’t care,” I mumbled as my head lolled on my shoulders. I could have slept on a bed of nails at that point.

Little did I know that was exactly where Eli planned to take me. He whisked me up into his arms, not even bothering with the crutches. This was bad enough. Folded in half, stuffed in his arms, I knew he could feel every inch and bulge he despised.

Worse, he pointed us right towards his master bedroom.

It scared me straight. I practically clawed at the wall to stop his progress. “I’m not sleeping in your bedroom,” I told him.

“It’s the only bedroom on the ground floor,” he countered without even looking at my face.

“How convenient,” I snapped. He just clutched me tighter. “Let me go, Eli, or I swear to God…”

He didn’t even let me finish. His blue eyes flashed at mine. “You’ll do what, Gimpy?”

Suddenly it made perfect sense why Rhonda had turned Frank’s office into a carny ring-toss. This egomaniac didn’t give a shit. About anything. Or anyone. “I hate you.”

“Maybe. But you need me. So pull up your big-girl panties and deal with it.”

He kicked open the door to his bedroom and stalked purposefully towards the bed. I couldn’t help but note the irony of our situation. Out of all the girls he had brought into this very room, likely carrying them to bed just like he was carrying me, I was the only one he would never dream of seducing, despite all the songs he sang.

So I didn’t argue as he placed me on the bed, grabbing some of the extra pillows to prop up my leg per doctor’s orders. Instead I laid flat, as bone-weary as I had ever been since coming to California. The exhausting events of the day finally took their toll. With the help of heavy narcotic medication, I was asleep before he finished fussing over me.

It was dark when I awoke some time later. The window blinds were open, as well as the patio door, so I could hear the waves crash against the shore just outside on Eli’s private stretch of beach.

My leg was propped up on the extra pillows, and a thin blanket covered me to give me a little warmth against the cool ocean breeze that filtered through his room. There was a glass of water on the nightstand beside the bed, along with my phone. My crutches were in reach just beyond that, in case I needed to get up for any reason, like going to the bathroom.

It was practically thoughtful. And very puzzling.

Our eyes met when he walked back into the room. “I feel like watching some TV. Want to join me?”

I swallowed my immediate denial, which came as natural as breathing. “Sure,” I finally said.

He walked over to where I sat and scooped me effortlessly into his arms.

“I can walk, you know,” I muttered.

“No, you can’t,” he said. “Non-weight bearing, remembering?"

“That’s why I have crutches.”

“The media room is downstairs,” he commented. “Besides, I would think my new loving girlfriend would entertain any excuse to be in my arms.”

I swallowed any retort and allowed him to carry me downstairs into his epic media room, at the end of a long, Kelly green hallway with the same polished wood flooring as in the entryway.

The walls of the media room, however, were flame red, as were the leather sofas that sat in front of an 88” curved TV with every bell and whistle any man in his 20s might require. There were at least three game systems as well as video and audio equipment. On the other side of this windowless room was a fully stocked bar. “You spared no expense,” I commented.

“I’m not afraid to pay for the best,” he replied, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Thanks to my .5mg hydrocodone, I didn’t make it long into the movie. I awoke just long enough to feel Eli jostle me back into his arms to carry me back upstairs to bed. Like before, he set up my leg on the pillow and covered me up so that I wouldn’t get too chilly from the open windows. He refilled the water, brought me my phone and my computer, which he placed on the other side of the bed.

He didn’t say anything, leaving me alone in the bedroom. I thought maybe he’d gone back down to the media room, but instead he brought me a piece of cake and some milk, which he placed on the table beside me. As he straightened, our eyes met. I sucked up all my pride as best I could. “Thank you.”

A hint of a smile tugged at his mouth. “You’re welcome.”

I watched as he walked back around the bed and towards the other end of the bedroom, where his office was. He reached the door before he turned back to face me. “Carly?”

I held my breath. “Yes?”

“I’m really sorry that I hurt you today.”

His apology was softly delivered, with no smirk to be seen. It was everything I had wanted all day, and everything I was sure the likes of Eli Blake could never deliver.

“Thank you,” I said softly, stumbling over my own tongue in my surprise.

He nodded and shut the door behind him.

What do you love about him?

His tenacity. When he wants something, he'll do whatever needs to be done to make it happen. He is not afraid to work for his dream, either.

What do you hate about him?

His an entitled, self-absorbed prick who sees things a very specific way. And he's self-absorbed to think everyone else must feel the same.

If you went on a date, where would you go?

Dancing barefoot on a beach, next to a posh, five-star restaurant where he introduced me to exotic new food and wine.

Who inspired him?

This guy.

Who might play him in a movie?

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

I found this one while still working on the outline. It became the instant theme.

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

A few more than I want to own at the present time. Ask me in a year. Maybe I'll be a little braver then.

Where can we find him?

GLITTER ON THE WEB was my best-seller for 2016, and it's all full of Eli Goodness (AND badness.) Not only can you win your own copy with my sweepstakes, but it's going to have its own countdown deal all Valentine's Day. The quicker you one-click, the more you save. But, wait! There's more! The story continues in FULL-FIGURED FLOOZIES, which is available to read FOR FREE through Kindle Unlimited.

Enjoy a little Eli on this, our last day of this promotion. And wait till next year, when I hope to introducing you to at least one more dreamy hero, while exploring more stories with our old favorites.

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all. From all my guys and me. <3

Monday, February 13, 2017

Valentine #13 - Another Multiple, courtesy of Caz Bixby #RomanceWeek

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?

Late twenties.

What stands out most about him?

His smirk. He's up to absolutely no good, but you can't help but find that a lil appealing.

Nice guy or douche?

Depends on what's in it for him.

Favorite moment moments with him?

I have a confession. I love Caz probably more than any other Book Boyfriend. (Don't tell the others.) Truth is...I'm okay to let the others go to the women that populate their lives, but I haven't been able to part with Caz yet. It's just too much fun letting him wreak havoc wherever he lands, the ultimate temptation. He first appears in MASTERS FOR LIFE, where he had one task: make sure Devlin and CC never get their HEA.

He appraised me thoughtfully. “Guess we better hit the gym then. New Year’s Eve will be here before you know it.”

“I’ve been ready for a half-hour.”

He glanced down at his suit. “Oh yeah,” he said with a grin. He put his glass onto the table before he stood. He crossed the distance between us in two steps, before hovering over me with a different kind of smoldering glance all his own. I watched as he tugged free his tie, which snapped from around his neck before he trailed it across one of my wrists. My fists balled tightly, so he tossed the tie away. With that despicable smirk, he ran his hands up his sculpted chest until his fingers circled that top button. Slowly he released them, one at a time, revealing his sculpted bare chest underneath, which caught me off guard. His bold tattoos on both arms appeared to breathe thanks to his rippling muscles.

He took off the shirt and tossed it onto the sofa next to me, before angling his pelvis towards my face. “Help me with my pants?” he said as he held his hands out to the sides of his hips, like he was presenting me with pure gold. I practically breathed fire, but I didn’t move one muscle. “No? I guess I can do it then.”

His strong fingers unfastened his dress slacks, slowly unzipping them. His slacks fell to the floor, revealing snug compression workout shorts that hugged his defined bulge proudly. As he stepped out of his pants, I realized that he still wore his dress shoes. “Looks like you forgot something,” I sneered.

He chuckled as he kicked off his shoes. He reached for one sock. “I guess I’ll have to go bare. Do you mind?”

I scowled at his innuendo. “You’re such a pig.”

He leaned over me, backing me up against the cushion of the sofa, one arm on either side of me. “We’re all animals deep down, baby.” His gaze liberally drifted towards my mouth. “So what do you say? Wanna burn some calories?”

But he wasn't just throwing a wrench between Devlin and Caz's "pussycat" CC. He got hit by a thunderbolt of his own when he met the women he would come to call "Sunshine" - Carly Reynolds in GLITTER ON THE WEB. Despite how hard Carly and her douchebag hero Eli were trying to sell a fake relationship, Caz saw through all that mess just like only Caz would. And he called her out on it like only he could.

“Care to dance?” he offered and I shook my head.

“I probably shouldn’t.”

“Why not? He’s having a good time,” he added, nodding once again to the dance floor. There Eli was sandwiched in between my two friends, who were having a sexy good time grinding against a famous, sexy crooner. “Come on,” Caz urged. “I really want to dance and my favorite girl is behind the bar.” I still hemmed and hawed, so he added, “Don’t you want to show a poor, lonely guy some of that southern hospitality?”

I looked up into those playful hazel eyes. I couldn’t help but smile. “Okay.”

He pulled me towards the dance floor, where Lola had just started playing “More Than a Mouthful.” Caz plastered me against his hard body. “I love this song,” he grinned, and I knew in an instant he was completely incorrigible. “So tell me what it’s like to fall in love under a microscope,” he said.

“You should know,” I countered. “You’re more famous than I am.”

He laughed. “I don’t do love, sweets. I do sex and lots of it.”

The way his body moved against me left no room for argument about that.

“Then you and Clem are perfect for each other,” I teased.

He laughed again. “Clem is a hoot. And a riot in the sack.”

My eyes widened. “You slept with her?” That didn’t sound like Clem at all. Normally she never mixed business with pleasure.

“I sleep with everyone,” he grinned, unabashed. “Haven’t you heard?”

My eyes narrowed. “Oh. So you’re a liar.”

He leaned forward with that cheeky grin. “Takes one to know one.” I gasped as I realized what was happening. “Don’t worry. I’m not here to bust you. But if you want to sell this relationship, you’re going to have to go for broke, baby doll. I can smell the neglect all over you. You haven’t been properly fucked in,” he paused to lean closer still and peer into my face, “four months at least.”

I gasped at how on the nose he was. Who the fuck was this guy?

“If you ever need help in that department, I’m available for that too. No one sells a lie better than Caz Bixby. Ask anyone.”

“Thanks,” I muttered as I tried to turn away, but he pulled me back.

“Don’t get all sore. Come on. Let’s dance,” he added softly as he pulled me closer.

Just then another man’s hand landed on my arm. It was Eli, and he wasn’t happy. “Is this jerk giving you a hard time, babe?”

Always in character, I thought. Caz, unfortunately, ran with it.

“Not yet, but I’m trying,” he added with that self-satisfied smirk that rivaled Eli’s.

“She’s with me,” Eli practically growled at him.

Undaunted, Caz shot back, “Sorry, man, it was hard to tell, considering you were dancing with other girls and all.”

Eli’s glare narrowed to pinpoints. “Who are you?”

Caz reached out his hand. “Caz Bixby. Clem works for my show.”

I could see Eli quickly process the data. “I see.”

“Clem was working the bar so I asked Carly here for a dance. Figured no harm, no foul, right? I mean it’s Valentine’s Day. All the pretty girls deserve a dance on Valentine’s Day.”

“You’re so right,” Eli said as he pulled me to his side. “Carly’s dance card is full. But I’m sure you’ll find another.”

“I always do,” Caz said. His eyes returned to me. “They all come to Caz eventually,” he grinned as he bowed, then disappeared into the crowd.

I have to admit I get excited when he pops up in my stories. He definitely knows how to bring it, no matter who you are or what you need. In MASKED IN THE MUSIC, young hottie Rudy Renfro needed someone to see him for exactly who he was and guide him to who he would ultimately become. Who other than Caz?

“That was brutal.”

I shot to my feet and spun around, peering into the darkness just beyond the light’s edge. I saw the bright tip of a burning cigarette, though when the smell hit me, I knew it wasn’t an ordinary cigarette. The man stepped from the shadows, coming more into view. He sported a tux like nobody’s business, tall and beautiful, roughly around thirty, with sun-bleached sandy hair that flopped over one of his incredible amber eyes. He offered the joint.

I didn’t refuse it. When other people walked through the doors, he motioned for me to join him in the shadows, where we could partake in private.

Out of sheer curiosity, I followed. I gave him back the joint and he inhaled deeply. “God, I hate these things. Fucking boring as hell. That’s why I bring my own party favors,” he grinned before he exhaled a cloud of fragrant smoke.

“Then why do you come?” I asked as I took another hit of my own.

He shrugged. “It’s a good cause. Besides, wearing a tux, dancing with all the pretty girls and drinking from a full bar all night isn’t a bad way to make a living.”

I peered at him even closer in the low light. Why did he look so familiar?

He answered my unspoken question with an outstretched hand. “Caz Bixby. In case you’re wondering where you’ve seen me before.”

My eyes opened wide. His reputation had definitely preceded him. He was probably the best known male escort on the planet, hence why he’d be working a party like this one. I took his hand, which he held for just a beat longer than necessary. “And you are…?” he asked with one cocked eyebrow.

“Rudy Renfro,” I supplied. His smirk deepened.

“Please tell me you have a job worthy of such a celebrity name,” he teased.

“I play guitar in a band,” I dismissed easily.

“A rocker,” he surmised as he glanced me over. “Not what I would have guessed. Good for you.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know what I am anymore.”

He chuckled again as he took one last hit, before he snubbed it out on the stone wall. “You’re not in love with that pretty girl, you know that much.”

“Yeah,” I muttered as I glanced back at the patio.

He clapped his hand on my shoulder. “Hey. Don’t beat yourself up. You can’t help it you’re gay.”

My eyes shot to his. Even in the shadows of the darkened gardens, I could see how they pierced through my armor to see right to the very heart of me. It was one thing for my sister to see it. She’d known me her entire life. It was another for Tony to see it, because he could see physically how I reacted to him. But a stranger I just met? I stammered as I tried to find my footing.

“I’m not… I just… what?”

He pulled me into the crook of his arm. “Don’t panic, Rudy Renfro. Your secret is safe with me. And before you drive yourself crazy with the question, no. I don’t think everyone can tell. But it’s my job to see what people lack so that I can give it to them. And dude, your frustration is full-tilt.”

My gaze narrowed. “Is this where you give me your card and tell me to call you for a little alone time?”

With the flick of his wrist, he offered his card.

“Sorry,” I said as I pushed away. “I don’t think I can afford your rates.”

He chuckled as he followed me through the darkened garden. “You are probably right about that, young Rudy. I’ve never been in one but I’ve heard bar bands don’t pay for shit.”

I made a face he couldn’t see. He could read an awful lot for such a short acquaintance. “So I guess you’re just wasting your time.”

I could feel his shrug. “Maybe it’s the mood of the evening, but I’m feeling kind of charitable.”

I spun around to face him. “I’m not interested, okay?”

His grin deepened. “Is it the whole virgin thing, or are you just that tied up in knots over the guy who won’t return the favor?”

I gaped at him. He stepped forward.

“So it is what’s behind Door #2. Again, your secret is safe with me.” He put his card into my breast pocket. “But if you ever need a friend, especially one who has many friends in the music biz, call me. No strings. No hourly rate.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “You mean you’d fuck me for free?”

He chuckled as he stepped forward, till we were practically nose to nose. “I don’t give away freebies to men,” he assured as he bent closer, his mouth above mine. “But you remind me of someone I used to know. And I guess I kind of like you, baby.”

With that he kissed me. It wasn’t sexual—just a peck. It floored me all the same as he patted the pocket where his card now hid and left me alone in the darkness.

That's the thing about Caz Bixby. He adds to. Adds to what? *Everything.* He's so bad, but so good at it. He never makes apologies for who he is. And if he claims you, he'll never give up on you. For all his douche-bag ways, he is probably the most romantic of all my heroes, even when he's being a full-fledged floozy

Meredith Levi was a stunning woman, with long, black hair and an immaculate figure, and eyes so bright and blue he wanted to dive right in and swim around in them for a while. She was smart, she was educated. She knew what she wanted. And she wanted one night with Caz Bixby.

He’d give it to her. He’d take her into his arms, letting his hands wander all over her body. He’d strip her slowly, relishing each inch of flesh as it bared itself to him, like a present on Christmas morning. He’d taste those lips, thrusting his tongue inside to swirl around hers, an intimate promise he’d keep the minute he dove between her thighs later. He’d tease one breast, then the other, until she was breathless and begging for him.

He knew what he had to offer. Nine solid inches of ecstasy that would make her eyes widen with surprise as he opened her body up to him with one commanding thrust. God, he got off on that. Every single fucking time, he got off on that. They would get so wet, allowing their bodies to accommodate him until he was buried inside of them. Neither one of them would know where he ended nor where she began, both impaled and consumed.

And then he’d fuck her. He’d watch her face and listen to her gasps and moans, letting her guide him to what felt best. Every woman was different. It was like putting together a new puzzle every time. He loved them wild. He loved them tame. He loved them shy. He loved them bold.

He loved, most of all, showing them they could be everything all at once.

He’d stare into their faces and memorize every detail. He never had to think of someone else to get him there. That trick was for amateurs and he’d long become a master. He could fuck anyone he wanted for whatever reason he wanted. That was his trick of the trade.

It was only after they had fallen asleep, happy and satisfied that his thoughts would wander. Lately they had wandered right to Carly Reynolds. Unlike Coralie, who belonged to the man he regarded a best friend and mortal enemy, Carly was a free agent. There were no rings on her fingers, and Eli Blake was unlikely to put them there.

Most importantly there were no children binding her with their umbilical cord to another man. That was one rule even Caz Bixby wouldn’t break.

But she had already proven she could love a man like him by falling hard for a smug asshole like Eli. Caz knew that they only needed one night together to steal her away. Caz knew something about women that Eli simply didn’t. They deserved better than being a toy locked in someone’s private box. They needed to be celebrated. They needed to be worshipped like the goddesses they were.

Only Caz could give her that, he decided.

And he would.

He would.

He killed his brandy by the time Meredith slipped through the bedroom door, wearing an expensive negligee. The cameras rolled as he joined her in the middle of the room, taking her into his arms for a passionate kiss.

Caz Bixby was on the clock, about to make yet another woman’s fantasy come true.

His could wait a while longer for his own.

For now.

What do you love about him?

His smirk. His wise cracks. His flirting. He makes people feel special. That's his job. And he's a master.

What do you hate about him?

He manipulates with that smirk. He hides behind his wise cracks, and he'll never ever stop flirting with everyone he meets. It's a game to him. A challenge. He falls in love often, but always with those safely tucked away with others. For all his bravado, he often runs scared.

If you went on a date, where would you go?

Caz is the kind of person who would not only strive to give you something you wanted, but something you needed. If you were afraid of flying, he'd charter a plan and screw your brains out the whole trip so you'd never be scared again. He will always, ALWAYS, take you right to the edge.

Who inspired him?

I had a visual prototype the second I saw this guy...

Who might play him in a movie?

I hate to repeat myself, but there really is only one perfect choice...

Any songs that remind you of him?

Let him entertain ya till you scream...

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

We're covering so many books, it's hard to keep track of them all.

Where can we find him?

He's introduced in MASTERS FOR LIFE, which is book #2 of the Masters series. He returns to heat things up in MASTERS FOREVER. If you ever thought I didn't go far enough, THAT is the book to check out...

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. His hands slid up my sides, raising my arms to link around his neck. I was powerless to stop him, a slave to the beat that guided us.

“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, where they once again rested. 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. It was as if wherever he touched, whatever he did, he had to get that silent permission first. We undulated to the song, no longer three separate people, connected by the thundering beat of the music.

In GLITTER ON THE WEB, he makes life more interesting for Carly. Remember, you only have a few days left to enter the sweepstakes to get that book for free.

He pops up in MASKED IN THE MUSIC, where he makes Rudy his protege. That book is FREE today only.

Finally he plays a major part in FULL-FIGURED FLOOZIES, because he's Caz Freaking Bixby. There's no Floozie any bigger.

Enjoy getting to know Caz. He'll get his own book one day, when I'm ready to let him go. Until then he's mine all mine.

Thankfully I know how to share. ;)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentine #12: Devlin. A Master... for hire.

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?

Late twenties. Old enough to know better, young enough to not care.

What stands out most about him?

He's built for your pleasure, a chameleon who can change to fit your every need.

Nice guy or douche?

That is the question, isn't it?

Favorite moment with him?

Okay. So. This story came about after my bestie and I were talking like besties do. He asked me if I would ever pay a guy to have sex. I was raised in the conservative South, around the first few notches in the heart of the Bible Belt. Paying for something as salacious as sex is strictly forbidden... and as such, deliciously taboo.

So I gave it some thought. If I had the means and desire, *would* I pay for sex? Could I pay for something that would ultimately mean nothing, except scratching some itch?

The more I thought about it, the more I could see why someone would. Instead of dating scores of men to keep yourself occupied, you could order what you wanted, when you wanted. When you needed. I'm sure I'm not the only woman who has pulled that slot machine handle and ended with duds more times than you care to admit. Maybe they're an ass. Maybe they're a basket case. Maybe they can't find he clitoris with two hands, a road map and a flashlight. Imagine just calling a number and a hot man shows up on your doorstep, ready to meet your every command. No muss. No fuss. No strings. He knows what to do and do it *well.*

Whether you call him once or a hundred times, there are no weirdo emotional commitments, just good ol' fashioned, red-blooded passion at your beck and call whenever you wanted it.

That sounded like a fun little playground for someone like me. I'm an Alpha Female. I like to be in control. I prefer the chase if I'm in charge of it, that way I know exactly what I'm going to get and what I can tolerate. If someone pursued me it'd freak me the fuck out, essentially turning the predator into prey. And I don't do "prey."

But with a Bad Boy for hire, he has certain rules to follow. MY rules. We can go right to the brink of danger and dangle our tippy toes over the line without any real risk.

I find that sexy. Having a man who knows what I need and is focused solely on giving it to me, SEXY.

Devlin Masters. Sexy. It's his job to be. And he's damned good at it.

Devlin shadowed me as I walked Gus and Lucy to the door. I stood waving after them long after they disappeared down the pathway and into the darkness beyond. Devlin finally reached around me to close the front door with one hand, which ultimately pinned me between the solid, hard wood of the door and the solid, hard wall of his chest. He leaned forward, towering above me, so close that I could feel the heat from his incredible body. His gaze swept over me, as if peeling away every inch of my clothes with nothing more than a look, before it finally settled on my face.

My eyes met his. This was where it got complicated, I knew. We could spend the rest of our night ‘talking’, but I hadn’t paid to talk. I could have had that with Oliver without paying one thin dime. I had wanted something more than that, and had for a long, long time. I knew it, and I suspected that Devlin knew it, too. He was, after all, a professional.

So what now? Did I take a green light for granted here, or what? Did I simply ask for sex? Or did wait for him to make a move? Did we talk about it, or just go at it like a couple of people might on a “real” date? The clock was ticking and I had absolutely no idea what to do next.

He answered my silent questions with a slow, confident smirk as he locked the door behind us with a resounding click. He leaned forward, his mouth so near to my skin I could feel his breath against me. My knees nearly gave way when he said, “Alone at last.”

I nodded, gulped hard and licked my lips. He chuckled a bit before he turned back to the living room, tugging my hand in his so that I would follow. “You should get us some glasses, Coralie,” he murmured as he reached for the bottle of champagne to uncork it.

I nodded dutifully and scurried around the corner to the kitchen, returning with a couple of cobalt blue champagne flutes. He shrugged out of his jacket as I perched on the sofa to pour us our wine. It was a wonder I didn’t spill it everywhere. I couldn’t wrench my gaze away from his body if I tried. Those broad shoulders… that solid chest…the promise of that bulge in those slim-fitting pants…and for the next couple of hours or so it was all mine, bought and paid for.


My pulse raced as he sat next to me, so close that I became intoxicated on the spicy, woodsy scent of his cologne. I was sure he could see my hand tremble when I handed him his glass.

Those sultry eyes rendered me mute as he stared at me. Finally he raised his glass. “To old friends and new beginnings,” he said in a voice so soft, it felt like an actual caress.

I nodded as I clinked our glasses together. I couldn’t tear my eyes from his supple mouth as he drank. Again, I drained another glass. I reached for the bottle, but Devlin leaned forward to grab my hand. “You’re not going to need that,” he murmured in a low voice that sent a shock wave to my core.

“I’m—I’m not?” I stammered.

He shook his head. My head was floating as high as a cloud as he took the glass from my hand and set it on the coffee table in front of me. He eased back against the couch, capturing my face with his hand. His thumb brushed rhythmically over my cheek as he stared down into my face. “I think I know what you want, Coralie. I definitely know what you need. The question is… do you trust me to give it to you?”

My eyes widened as I stared up at him. Slowly I nodded. I stared at his mouth as it descended towards mine, closing over my lips finally in a soft, sensual kiss.

What do you love about him?

He's powerful, which I find hot as hell. He can take what he wants without stealing it like a thief, because he knows how to make it something you want more than you've ever wanted anything. He'll command. You'll gladly acquiesce because he can mold himself into any fantasy. And he can assess that need in an instant, paying attention to all the details.

What do you hate about him?

He's secretive. He's jealous. His dark side is fairly dark and more often than not, his demons drive him. That's the thing about power. There is always price to be paid.

If you went on a date, where would you go?

Anywhere I fucking wanted.

Who inspired him?

Oddly enough, I inspired him. He's a Scorpio male, which fascinates me as a Scorpio female. I've never dated one or been intimate with one, mostly because - like I said above - relinquishing that kind of control to another person would be terrifying. So instead I gave him all of my qualities, good and bad, to have that experience within the safe confines of a book.

“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.”

Who might play him in a movie?

I've crushed hard on James McAvoy since I saw Penelope years ago. My crush took a pretty big hit with the movie Split, which shifted my crush status to "it's complicated" - (not unlike Colin Farrell after Fright Night.) Suffice it to say, if you need someone with intensity that can fit into whatever role he needs to play... he is now an indisputable choice.

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

Devlin is full of surprises. It stands to reason. You buy a guy to fit your fantasy, you kind of lose him in the character. But Devlin is so, so, so much more than that. He let me know fairly early on he was a classical pianist, which surprised me as much as it surprised everyone else...

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.”

Inadvertently this opened my musical inspiration up big time throughout the series, introducing me to classical pieces I had never heard before. This one is probably my favorite, from a scene in MASTERS FOREVER.

But the song that stands out the most is the one that I struggled to find. After I found out Devlin could play, it became a no-brainer that he'd play a song for CC. But what would he play? I needed it to be affirming but not overly committal. He couldn't pledge his love for her by this early scene in their relationship, but I wanted him to express wonder at all she was. And if it featured piano, all the better. After some extensive research, I came up with...

This song inspires a couple of scenes in the book, the second of which reduced me to tears. Imagine someone saying that to you and really meaning it - especially if you've never really had anyone say that to you before. I literally sobbed, thinking this would be the romantic ideal. It touched my heart.

Here's where it gets interesting... a few months after I wrote this, my husband came home from work one day *insisting* that I needed to hear this song he heard on the radio, saying it reminded him of me in every way.

I'll let you guess which song it was while I go get some tissue...

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

We've already covered several of the bases. He's a Scorpio, check. That song, check. That everything figures so prominently in Vegas, where I got married, check. One of the bigger issues I dealt with was the ridiculous nature of clothes sizing for "plus-size" women, and the whole nature of "plus-size" in general. I used some of my own experiences when it comes to shopping for clothes as a basis behind the argument, including some of the (smaller) sizes I've worn in my life, only to be corrected in reviews that this book couldn't have been written by a woman because these sizes would have made her HUUUUUUUUUGE.

Such is the chance you take planting such personal Easter Eggs I suppose...

Where can we find him?

We start our journey with Devlin in MASTERS FOR HIRE, which on sale today for only $0.99. That's the fairy tale romance version. It doesn't get down and dirty until book two, MASTERS FOR LIFE, which is where the fantasy falls apart. Finally, in perhaps my most erotic book ever written under my real name, everything explodes in MASTERS FOREVER. But the story doesn't end there. Thanks to Graham Baxter, Devlin earns his own place in the Groupie Universe, so they cameo in other stories, such as FULL-FIGURED FLOOZIES.

And it all starts with a bargain of $0.99 - which is a significant discount off of Devlin's hourly rate.

I may be biased, but I think he's worth every penny...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Valentine #11: Jonah Riley, pure Southern Comfort

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?


What stands out most about him?

He's a solid, stand-up guy. He says what he means and means what he says.

Nice guy or douche?

He's one of the nicest guys I've written. But he has his douche moments. He's young. He's got a temper. It gets the better of him sometimes.

Favorite moment with him?

My dad died when I was eleven. He pretty much filled my world as my caretaker back in the day, so losing him tore a gigantic hole in my life. Thanks to my aunt, his sister, who took care of me in those dark days that followed, I had a never-ending stream of books to read. They were Harlequin romances she used to get four at a time, those thin little white-cover novels that a fast reader could demolish in a day. There were stacks and stacks of them and I inhaled them, clinging particularly to the men I read about since I was suddenly without any strong, male influence in my life. No brothers except older stepbrothers I barely met and hardly knew. No grandpas. All my uncles lived out of town. But within those books I could feel protected again. I could step into those romances, the wide-eyed ingenue, and the hero could save me from my loneliness and despair.

Most ran together, quite honestly. The books were formulaic. I knew what I could expect. Pretty soon I got burned out on generic happy endings. They no longer rang true to my ear. Bad things happened. Things weren't perfect. Right around that time, I found my first Janet Dailey book, "Six White Horses." I remember the name of the book and I remember the story, which is more than I could say for dozens I read around the same time. One, it was one of her Americana series, so it was set in the South. Being a proper Southern girl, this pleased me. Two, the hero was a gigantic ass and the heroine was true Oklahoma grit who wasn't going to take ANY of that mess. They HATED each other, but man there was some serious heat between them.

When I set out to write a Southern Romance of my own, I dug DEEP into this dynamic. It is my personal ode to a story that changed forever how I look at romance.

Thank you, Janet.

I headed out to my truck by ten-thirty. Before I could turn the key, I spotted someone across the parking lot kicking and screaming at a POS special with its hood up.

That someone was wearing ripped blue jeans and a hoodie.

I started the truck and drove slowly over to her section of the darkened, mostly abandoned parking lot. Most of the crowd, including those who were giving her the most grief, was inside getting their buzz on, listening to the next act.

I rolled down my window as I got to her. “Having trouble?”

She whirled around to glare at me. When she saw my face she rolled her eyes. “I’m fine,” she said as she turned around to the stalled vehicle.

I stopped the truck and slid out. “You may be fine but your car is on its last leg.” I glanced down at the engine, which looked to be about a hundred years old. “Let me give you a ride.”

She glanced me over with disdain. “Yeah, no thanks.”

“Fine, then how about a jump?”

“How about get lost?” she snapped. “Go play Boy Scout somewhere else.”

She was clearly pissed, but I would have been too after what happened after her gig. “I’m just trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help,” she spat.

“Look, I know it’s been a rough night…” My comment was cut short when she whirled around, a tiny, fiery bundle of fury.

“Don’t you understand English? Get lost!”

My blood started to boil. “Fine! Stay here all night. See if I care.” I turned toward the truck, but before I got to the driver’s side I stopped myself. I tried to remind myself that she wasn’t angry with me. It had been a shitty crowd, with a bunch of drunk assholes ready to jump all over her like they deserved to. I couldn’t very well leave her there, not with all the aggressive jerks who had tried to ambush her in the club. They wouldn’t stop at no, and that was no kind of guy to run into in a dark parking lot. I took a deep breath before I turned back and walked over to the car.

Her eyes widened as I approached. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“I’m helping you,” I told her before I circled her waist with my hands and lifted her away from her car so I could figure out what was wrong with it. “Too bad you’re too damned stubborn to see that.”

“Fuck you!” she spat, hissing at me like an angry cat.

I ignored her as I fiddled with the engine. I sidestepped her to climb inside and turn the key. Nothing. I got out, rounding to the front of the car to test the connections. Despite the ancient car, the battery was new. I retrieved my tools from my truck and within a minute her car fired to life. She stood staring at me, stupefied.

“Connection was loose,” I told her as I put my tools back in the box. “Shouldn’t give you any more trouble.”

I put the tool box back in the bed of the truck before I hopped in the cab and gunned my own engine. She walked, reluctantly, to my window. “Thank you,” she managed.

I looked her in those big doe eyes, which were a lot more contrite than angry. “You’re welcome.”

“I’d offer you money, but…” She trailed off, looking embarrassed.

I held her gaze for just a minute longer before I said, “Don’t worry about it. Finding out there’s a woman under there and not some feral cat is payment enough.”

I left her sputtering behind me as I squealed out of the parking lot.

What do you love about him?

He's all the best part of a good Texas man. He's got honor. He's got fight. He's got a big heart. He would do anything for his sick sister or his grieving mother. He's not going to settle. He's going to meet every challenge head-on. He is the very definition of cowboy the fuck up.

What do you hate about him?

He's stubborn as a mule. He can be pushy. He's young, still, so he can be immature. Things had come relatively easy for him growing up, it takes a little adjustment to be told "no."

If you went on a date, where would you go?

A picnic in the countryside.

Who inspired him?

I grew up in Texas, so I know a little bit about Texas men. He was all the good stuff, poured into tight-fitting blue jeans.

Who might play him in a movie?

More of who *should* have played him. I've only had one perfect Southern Ideal since 1985, and that was this guy..

*Sigh*. Orry. Where do you go from there, honestly?

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

Like most of my music-driven stories, there are a lot of songs that crafted Jonah.

And, of course, the duets...

BUT, having said that, this is their love theme to me.

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

You know, I can't think of anything offhand.

Where can we find him?

SOUTHERN ROCKER BOY is Jonah's story, which is free today. SOUTHERN ROCKER CHICK is Lacy's. They are told from dual perspectives because I really wanted to examine the idea, "There's his story, there's her story and the cold, hard truth." We get to see how that all plays out in SOUTHERN ROCKER SHOWDOWN. But the story doesn't end there. Jonah and Lacy become part of the Groupie Universe, so they pop up in FULL-FIGURED FLOOZIES.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine #10 - Your #fridayreads takes you back to what coulda been.

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?

Six, nine, twelve, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, twenty-two, twenty-eight, twenty-nine and thirty-eight.

What stands out most about him?

He is Jake Ryan. If you understand that reference, this book is the PERFECT book for you.

Nice guy or douche?

He's a douche who thinks he's a nice guy. Or a nice guy who doesn't realize he's being a douche. It goes either way.

Favorite moment with him?

Here's what you have to understand about The Leftover Club. It is my ode to unrequited love. That era of unblemished hope of things that might come is quite a remarkable thing. Every moment carries delicious weight. Time loses all meaning. Every comment is reexamined and reanalyzed into perpetuity. Every near-touch, every breathless moment wondering might end in a kiss, makes the heart stop and the mind race. That shit is intoxicating to me, almost more so than the conquest in many ways. So I decided to devote a book to it. Dylan is a mix of every crush I've ever had, every guy that "got away." He's based on my first kiss on a schoolyard, that first "real" kiss by a pool, that boy who was extra nice to me because he wanted to "let me down easy" when I chased him around like a puppy, that guy who "saw" me and didn't run away, virtually making one of the darkest times in my life more bearable, and his echo I find in several guys that followed. He's that guy I loved/wanted without telling, but he always knew, and he still made me feel special, less weird and okay even if he didn't feel the same way.

In a way, they were all that guy. So it's fitting that they all found their way into Dylan Fenn.

There's no way I could pick a favorite if I tried.

Dylan grabbed my arm and propelled me out toward his car. He said nothing as he unlocked the door and thrust me in the passenger seat. He revved the engine once he got in, and then screeched around in an illegal U-turn as he pointed the car towards home.

“That was stupid, Roni,” he finally muttered once we hit the Pacific Coast Highway. “You can’t go alone with guys like that. They’re only after one thing.”

“Not from me,” I said softly.

“From anyone,” he corrected. “All those guys want is an easy lay.”

“I’m not an easy lay,” I snapped. “I’m a virgin.”

He stole a brief glance. “For now.”

I was starting to get angry. “What is that supposed to mean?”

He sighed. “Insecure virgins are a number one target.”

“You’d know,” I snapped.

He pulled off the main road and headed down toward the beach, pulling into the parking lot and killing the engine. He swiveled to face me from his bucket seat. “Is that the kind of guy you think I am?”

I held his gaze for as long as I dared. Finally I looked away. “I don’t know what kind of guy you are.”

“I’m a guy who cares about you,” he said softly, which forced me to look at him again. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

It was hollow comfort. I had been hopelessly infatuated with Dylan Fenn since I saw him ace a spelling bee in the first grade. A lot of good that had done me over the years.

Silence stretched on indeterminately between us until finally he said, “Truth or dare?”

My eyes met his. “What?”

“Truth or dare?” he repeated.

“There are no merry-go-rounds here,” I pointed out.

He conceded that point with a nod of his head. Then he reached across me to pull a joint from the glove box. He lit it up, inhaled deep, and then handed it to me. I took it begrudgingly and gingerly took a hit. “Hold it in,” he instructed, and I did. “Good. Give it a few minutes and you’ll feel like you’re right back on that merry-go-round.”

After I finished coughing and sputtering, I leaned back against my seat and closed my eyes. Just like he said, within minutes I felt like I was flying. “Truth or dare?” he repeated softly.

I didn’t bother to open my eyes. “Truth.”

“Would you have slept with Todd if he had asked?”

I exhaled slowly. “I don’t know,” I finally said. And that was the God’s honest truth. “It’s not like anyone has ever asked.”

“Would you have kissed him?” Dylan persisted.

“I don’t know. Probably. I mean look at me, Dylan. I’m a cliché. Sweet sixteen and never been kissed.”

“I think you’re forgetting something,” he said softly.

I glared at him. “That wasn’t a real kiss.”

A long moment passed before either of us spoke. “You’re right,” he finally conceded. “It wasn’t. We were just kids and it was just a silly dare.”

Though I long suspected it, it hurt to hear him say so. I started to look away but his hand curled around the back of my neck and pulled me back. “This is a real kiss,” he said before he leaned toward me and his mouth landed on mine.

I was in shock. I gasped, which parted my lips, a clear invitation for him to deepen the kiss. I tasted the alcohol on his tongue as it slid between my lips and meshed with mine. Inside I went up just like a roman candle. A rush of emotion flooded over me and I had no clue what to do with it. I sat rigid in my seat, as if I moved, or even breathed, I’d wake up lip-to-lip once again with my pillow.

His fingers tangled in my hair as he deepened the kiss, a moan of his own locked in his throat. His breathing was ragged as he broke apart. I knew my eyes were big and wide as I stared at him, unsure what to do next. He sighed as his eyes scanned my face. Gently he brushed my hair from my face before planting a long, lingering peck on my lips.

Without another word, he scooted back to his seat, started the car and pulled out of the lot towards home.

What do you love about him?

Like I said, he's a combination of all my unrequited crushes. Like the very first boy who turned my head when I was six, he is smart. Like my first great "love" when I was twelve, he is as funny as he is sweet. He looks like an idol, and makes me swoon like one too. Yet he's accessible, just close enough to touch even though I know I shouldn't. He's everything I wanted, when all I could do was want it, silently and from afar. He is everything I fear might be too good for me.

What do you hate about him?

He is walking angst. You never know where he's coming from, even if you think you do. He's just as scared of getting close as you are, so the missed opportunities stack up, which makes him want to give up entirely. Instead he'll chase after things that feed his ego, because that's how he copes. Deep inside he's still an abandoned little boy.

If you went on a date, where would you go?

We'd picnic on a forgotten merry-go-round in an abandoned park.

Who inspired him?

The better question is who *didn't*. I will say this much: the "club" is very much a real thing.

Who might play him in a movie?

If we're going for "the ultimate boy," I guess we could go with...

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

Oh, the songs...

All the songs...

SO many songs...

Ultimately, though... there could be only one.

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

You'd be hard-pressed to find something that WASN'T an Easter Egg in this story. That first kiss story was lifted right out of my "real" life. My dad died when I was young, which left me with a big hole in my life to fill. This was done best by my childhood friend, who just happened to be gay. At one point, my mom and I lived with another family, a divorcee and her two kids. (He was also the cutest boy in that grade, which meant I had a TON of new "girlfriends" as a result.) That scene with the high school coach was based on real events. Most of the things Roni loved, I loved, from the shows that she watched to the music she listened to. I embellished a LOT, so no experience is *exactly* the same, but there couldn't have been more of me poured into it if I wanted.

Where can we find him?

THE LEFTOVER CLUB. For now, anyway. A reader asked me if I would consider writing a story about Meghan, and, given how old she'd be right now, that is certainly a possibility. I think she'd fit into my Groupie Universe quite nicely, actually.

Until then, you can take a stroll back in time and read The Leftover Club, which is free today only.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Valentine #9 - Xander, My Sexy Brit

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?

He is 26.

What stands out most about him?

He's a sexy Brit smack in the middle of the Lone Star State. Let's just say... that stands out.

Nice guy or douche?

He's arrogant, but he's not a douchebag. He doesn't need to take anything away from anyone else to be completely assured who he is and what he can do. I guess you could say he has an ego, but he's not a maniac about it.

Favorite moment with him?

Xander brings with him a lot of heat. He knows what you need. He knows he can give it to you. He's excited to see you transform into the kind of woman he already knows you are, and won't let you wuss out of living your life right on the edge... where he can catch you, and you will fly. When you find a guy like that? Perfect seduction, even if you're determined to fight it. There's no staying a "good girl" around the likes of Xander Davy.

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.”

What do you love about him?

I've been a sucker for a British accent since I fell for Davy Jones at the grand ol age of nine. Add dark hair and mesmerizing eyes, you basically have my trifecta of temptation. Ahem...

What do you hate about him?

He's too good to be true. With a guy like that, you know only heartache can follow.

If you went on a date, where would you go?

His place. And I might never want to leave.

Who inspired him?

Like I said, Brits have had a long-standing appeal to me. In my life, I've met a few that came along when I was feeling down aobut myself, and proceeded to make me see myself in a whole new light. This was for them.

Who might play him in a movie?

It'd have to be someone who could smoulder, but also someone who could bring the fun of a younger man in a younger man/older woman romance.

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

This helped inspire the Dallas scene...

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

I set this story in my hometown, so there were a lot of affectionate nods to how I grew up.

Where can we find him?

BACK FOR SECONDS. (For Now.) It is also free today only.