Snippet Saturday: Life in a Northern Town

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is small towns. I’ve written a couple pieces of fiction that take place in an imaginary small town in Tennessee, Tallwood, that may or may not be based on a lot of experience LIVING in small towns in Tennessee! In fact, I have a new Tallwood contemporary romance coming out from Entangled Publishing at the end of July!

In celebration let’s learn a little bit about Tallwood from the novella What She Deserves, a high school reunion romance…

“Bottoms up.” Peter tinked his glass against hers. “Then we can dance.”

“Are you trying to get me drunk?”

“Not this early in the evening. I’ll work on that later.”

“In your dreams, Duvall.” Upon closer inspection, she could see the boy she’d known in his features. All he’d done was grow several inches, fill out, get a tan, lose the glasses and acne. Same cleft in his chin. Same hazel eyes. Same dark blond hair.

Same…personality? Or had he matured? What if he started with that competitive crap again? Lord knows she’d avoided people like that since graduating high school. Four years of feuding with Peter had been enough.

He lowered his head like he was going to tell her a secret, and his breath wafted across her face. Champagne and toothpaste. He had the most incredibly long lashes.

Winnie licked her lips and felt something inside her come alive at his proximity.

“Winnie,” he said, his voice almost a whisper.

“What?” It was like he’d cast a spell. She couldn’t move. A couple inches closer and he’d be touching her. Kissing her.

And then he was touching her. His hand slipped beneath her wrap, brushing her skin. “I’ve waited ten years to tell you something.”

“That sounds heavy.” Winnie backed away before he got any closer. Before she got any closer. “Let me guess. You cheated to get valedictorian, and it was supposed to be me.”

He chuckled, but it didn’t break the mood that had settled over him. “I’m serious. If you hadn’t come tonight, I was going to look you up.” He had the expression of a man about to confess something earth-shattering.

She wasn’t sure she wanted her world shattered right now. Not by Peter Duvall. She was a woman on a mission, and it didn’t include her former academic rival.

“If you waited ten years,” she said with forced gaiety, “you can wait a couple more hours. I want to mingle before I get sentimental and teary. I worked hard to look this good.”

“You’ve got things to do and people to impress. I understand.” Peter drained his champagne glass and set it on the bar.

She couldn’t tell if he was frustrated or relieved. “Promise me one thing.”

“Just one?” he asked, his hazel eyes unreadable.

“If I get nominated for any awards tonight, don’t run against me.”

“Aw, but I wanted to be Reunion Queen. Is that the one you’re hoping for?”

She giggled. Had he had this sense of humor in high school? “I’d rather win ‘Most Likely To Succeed’. I kind of wanted that one in high school.”

“Me, too. But our scholarships came in more handy than an award. And I’d say we both succeeded, wouldn’t you?”

“I suppose we did.” Neither of them had had a lot of money growing up, but neither had most of the kids in Tallwood. Contrary to high school movies, income hadn’t been the primary factor in who was welcome in which cliques.

She and Peter and the other nerds—they’d been invisible. Unless somebody needed a whipping boy or help on an essay.

In a fit of insanity, Winnie shifted towards Peter, her wrap slipping down her back. If she didn’t confide in somebody, she’d never know if she was nuts or simply shallow. “It would be nice to be noticed. Don’t you enjoy how everyone is noticing you?”

His gaze roved up and down her body. “I think you’ll be noticed. I’m sure you can bring all your high school fantasies to life in that dress.”

“Do you think it’s too much?” She tried not to blush and failed. Peter Duvall was checking her out. Admiring her. Instead of it being gross, it stirred her blood.

He cupped her bare shoulder, his thumb rubbing the skin. “It’s a lot. But it’s not out of place.”

“It must seem like I’m fishing for compliments.”

His fingers toyed with the beaded strap of her gown. If he pushed it down her shoulder, her dress would slide off. The straps were the only thing holding it up.

“You’re not fishing,” he said. “You’re just asking my opinion. I’m happy to give it. I think you look sexy as hell.”

Her blush deepening, she ducked her head. He thought she was sexy.

Should she tell him he was too?

***

Places you can buy What She Deserves:
All Romance Ebooks
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Books on Board
Diesel Ebooks
Fictionwise
Google
Kobo
Mobipocket
Powells
Samhain Publishing

Sony Ebooks
Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

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Jody Wallace
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Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
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Myla Jackson

Snippet Saturday: Author’s Choice

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is author’s choice. I just republished my very first piece of fiction ever, an extremely naughty story called “Strip-O-Gram”, so today I’m going to share the beginning of it with you.

***

The things you do for money when you’re flat broke and a real sucker. Otherwise known as a Pisces, Libra rising. Otherwise known as Kitty Bradshaw. Otherwise known as me.

I tightened the belt of my beige trench coat more securely around my waist and watched the numbers on the elevator light up. Two, three, four… My stomach roiled like a morning-after hangover, and the strap on my stiletto sandals bit across my toes. When I fluttered my eyelashes, the thick mascara threatened to glue my eyes shut.

At least then I wouldn’t be able to witness my incipient infamy. My black mask concealed my identity but nothing else; I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t need the money so badly.

In for a penny—make that a bunch of pennies—in for a pound.

The elevator stopped on six. The gold-toned doors slid open to reveal the sedate, chilly lobby of Vanishing Breed, the computer software firm where my friend and client, Sandra, worked. Tall ficus plants formed leafy parentheses on either side of the front desk. The receptionist, a slender woman with a silver headset, forced a smile. She had to be at least a little shocked to see a masked, trench-coated woman gallivanting around the building.

“Welcome to Vanishing Breed,” she said. “Can I help you?”

I fumbled out the slip of paper where Sandra had scribbled my instructions.

“I’m here to see Nathan…Gill-ami?” I had no idea how to pronounce the guy’s last name. Sandra said he wasn’t French or anything, just a prick with a secret on-staff girlfriend (despite the company no-dating policy) who’d recently been promoted. By him. I couldn’t remember if I’d met Mr. Guillaume, Sandra’s boss, at the holiday party she dragged me to, but I’d been a little preoccupied that night.

What a night it had been. First I’d realized I was terribly underdressed—one lady and I were the only ones in funky holiday sweaters instead of sequins and glitz. Shortly thereafter, Sandra deserted me for that Rob guy, and I found the open bar. What was I supposed to do? Probably not what I did do, but heck, I didn’t work here.

And yet here I was. Underdressed again. Would he be here? The guy I…met?

“Mr. Guillaume?” the receptionist repeated, pronouncing it correctly.

“Yes, please.”

Suddenly my mask felt transparent, and my palms began to sweat in the black silk gloves. No going back now. Sandra expected me at eleven-thirty and it was eleven-fifteen. I’d done this before, in college, when I needed cash. No big deal. I had the training. I had the experience. I had the mask. Easy money.

“Can I tell him who’s here?” the receptionist asked. She eyed me uncertainly.

“Hmm.” How to answer without ruining the suspense? “Tell him it’s a birthday present. A surprise.”

More information: http://www.jodywallace.com/books/stripogram.htm

****

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

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Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Felicity Heaton

Snippet Saturday: Circle in the Sand

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is circle in the sand — warm weather excerpts. I’m going to share an excerpt about 1/3 of the way through 1000 Kisses that literally takes place on a beach after our hero and heroine have made a daring escape….

***

Anisette woke on a dark, deserted beach. Thousands of stars. Big moon. Sand cushioned her, but Ani felt like she’d belly flopped into granite. Her bones ached. She hovered near wakefulness, memories flickering like an old candle.

When she’d transported everyone, she hadn’t had time to sync her spell with the ring and hadn’t been sure how they’d land. But she wasn’t alone. The boom and crash of the surf couldn’t hide a familiar grumble.

She sat up, head muzzy. “Embor?”

His body sprawled nearby. When she spoke, he rolled onto his side. Sand coated his cheek. “I hate humanspace.”

Her mouth tasted foul, but any shakiness from her magical outlay was gone. They must have been asleep awhile. “How long have we been here?”

“No idea.” He crawled to her. Blood spattered his tunic. “It’s still night.”

“How are you feeling?” In humanspace, she had no magic to repair the damage done to him—or that he’d done to himself. Energy globe dependence had an ugly recovery phase if one had no help.

“Surprisingly terrible.”

“I imagine so.” Of all the people in the Realm, she’d never have thought Embor Fiertag would have gotten himself hooked on globes. At the same time, he was so stubborn, she wasn’t that shocked. “Headache? Irritability? Intermittent tremors?”

Goodness, if he didn’t manifest any tremors, she’d never have known the difference.

He raised an eyebrow. “I feel like a gnome chewed my leg and I crashed on a beach.”

***

Find out more, including buy links, at http://www.jodywallace.com/books/onethousandkisses.htm

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

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Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
Leah Braemel
Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
Mandy M. Roth
McKenna Jeffries
http://shilohwalker.com/website
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Felicity Heaton
TJ Michaels
Mari Carr

Snippet Saturday: Tangible

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is author’s choice. I have a new book coming out on Tuesday, an urban fantasy called Tangible. I’m going to share the blurb and cover on the off-chance you like urban fantasy with grumpy heroes, smart heroines and nightmares that walk the alleyways. While Tangible *does* have vampires and zombies, typical urban fantasy elements these days, I promise you they are not the standard vampires and zombies…

***


Dreams don’t come true, but nightmares do.

When Zeke Garrett is reactivated to mentor the next dreamer that pops up on the Somnium’s radar, he’s sure it’s a mistake. The covert organization is still struggling to conceal the fallout from his last assignment, a fatal catastrophe.

From the first blast of her pepper spray, he realizes this neonati, whose nightmares manifest vampires straight from the pages of pop-culture, is more than he bargained for—a potential dreamwalker. But before her training can begin, he has to convince the stubborn, mouthy woman she’s not dreaming.

Maggie Mackey hasn’t slept well in a month, but that doesn’t explain how the monsters from her nightmares suddenly seem so real. Or why, when a team of intimidating, sword-wielding toughs rescue her, their leader captures her mouth in a swift, knee-weakening kiss.

Once he tears himself away, Zeke’s mental forehead smacking begins. Their embrace has confirmed they have a rare tangible bond, a phenomenon which fooled him once before. Somehow he must tutor the woman of his dreams without getting attached. Otherwise her nightmares could become his own.

Warning: Title contains lots of cussing, pop culture references and monsters with nasty, big, pointy teeth.

Buy Links for Tangible:

Amazon (preorder)

B&N (preorder)

Kobo (preorder)

Samhain (preorder)

You can find the entire first chapter free online at my site! And I have review copies if you’d be so kind as to to contact me about them! (Man, I would love some reviews, good, bad or neutral). And I’m going to post from the second chapter in my newsletter next week! And I haven’t had a book out in a while and I’m so excited!

First chapter: http://www.jodywallace.com/snips/tangibleexcerpt.htm

***

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

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Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
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Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
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http://shilohwalker.com/website
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Lissa Matthews
Felicity Heaton
Mari Carr

Snippet Saturday: Always On My Mind


Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is always on my mind. Thought I’d share this scene from Claustrophobic Christmas when our hero, James, is trying to figure out why he keeps obsessing over the heroine…

***

James watched Darcy go with mixed feelings. The one person he paradoxically had and hadn’t wanted to see more than anyone in the world, and damned if she didn’t show up. Speak of the devil.

But Darcy Burkell was no demon come to ruin his life and cast his soul into Hell. Hardly. She was kind of a goody-two-shoes. Kind of fussy. Kind of frumpy. God, that sweat suit!

She was the kind of woman he never had anything to do with, but at the same time, she was all he could think about. She made him laugh and she made him worry about her and she made him crazy wondering what it would be like.

Itbeing sex. With her.

When he’d shown up at her office, her hair had been in all these dark, shiny curls and she’d had two buttons undone on her blouse so he could see a hint of pale cleavage. She had enough to entice but not so much it looked like her chest would get in the way when they were mashed up together, hot and heavy. And then there were her tight skirt and round hips. Yeah, a man could grab onto Darcy and not get tired of her any time soon.

But instead of being happy to see him, she’d stared at him like he had two deformed heads. And proceeded to make up some crap about a boyfriend he knew was crap the minute she said it.

Even in that day-glow sweat suit, he still wanted her, and he neverwanted a woman who’d shot him down. Thanks, but no thanks. There were plenty of easier women. And by easy he didn’t mean slutty, he just meant easy to predict, easy to be with and easy to leave.

His feelings for Darcy had crept up on him like kudzu. One day he’d been thrilled to have a punctual client who asked for material that inspired him, and the next he’d noticed that whenever he took a great shot, he wanted to share it with her. He passed the world’s largest garden gnome en route to a job, and he wanted to laugh at it with her. He saw dolphins leaping in the Atlantic…the aurora borealis over Nome…the foamy white spray of a waterfall in Brazil…he wanted to turn to her and say, “Look, Darcy. Would you look at that? It’s almost as amazing as you are.”

Not so amazing if she’d had the poor taste to reject him, he supposed, trying to patch the gaping wound in his ego. Women, right? Can’t live with them in their condos, can’t ask them to live in your tent.
 

*****

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com  * http://www.meankitty.com  

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Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
Leah Braemel
Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
McKenna Jeffries
http://shilohwalker.com/website
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Lissa Matthews
TJ Michaels
Mari Carr

Snippet Saturday: Hero’s First Glance of Heroine

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is the hero’s first glimpse of the heroine. I’m sharing from Tangible, which will be released later this month! So excited to have new books in the works.

***

Zeke hated it when the dreamers were Joss Whedon fans. Based on the pixel-perfect accuracy of the vampires she’d conjured—vamps who were now attempting to eat her—this dreamer had memorized every incarnation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from the show transcripts to the books to the comics.

Cursing, he flung his knife at an oncoming vamp and whirled to stake a second. The ugly mother snarled its way up the spike before exploding into a million particles of dust. How the hell many were there? The density of the pack wasn’t a good sign.

In fact, it was very, very bad. Especially for him.

The neo they were here to collar huddled in the alley behind him, brandishing a gigantic pocketbook like a flail. Blood from a small wound at her throat trickled down her skin and stained the collar of her coat. He had to hand it to her. She had moxie. And a seriously overactive imagination that had to be harnessed before it got her and everyone else killed.

Well, at least she’d stopped screaming.

[[[[snip to a couple pages later]]]]

Enough light filtered in that he could distinguish the woman’s features and form. Not a kid, thank God. Past her twenties—the most common age for neonati. The cut on her throat looked like a failed bite. It would sting but wasn’t dangerous. Caucasian, US citizen from the accent, with long disheveled hair, dark eyes with circles under them, and a round, cold-reddened face. Five-foot-five or six. She boasted what seemed to be generous curves under her heavy coat and fuzzy pants.

She was on the pretty side of ordinary, with intelligence in her sharp gaze and alertness in her body language.

**PREORDER LINKS**

Amazon (preorder)

B&N (preorder)

Kobo (preorder)

Samhain (preorder)

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com  * http://www.meankitty.com  

SOCIAL MEDIA:
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Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
Leah Braemel
Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
McKenna Jeffries
http://shilohwalker.com/website
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Felicity Heaton
Lissa Matthews
TJ Michaels

Snippet Saturday: Her Man (Heroine’s First Glimpse of Hero)

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is the heroine’s first glimpse of the hero. I’ve asked a writer friend, Jeffe Kennedy, if she has any good examples of this, and she sent me this excerpt from RUBY, her upcoming BDSM novella from Carina press! You can find out more about Jeffe at http://www.jeffekennedy.com/

***

A crash from the kitchen shattered the mood, heads swiveling to catch the source of the commotion, a voice bellowing, quite clearly now, “Not in my restaurant!”

A man in chef’s whites charged out among the elegant tables, zeroed in on her and, with a sneer twisting his handsome mouth, strode up to her table.

“You do not tell me.”

“Excuse me?” Dani looked him up and down to steady herself. Slim, American—which surprised her because most five-stars seemed to think they needed European chefs—dark eyes that matched his neatly trimmed beard, a piratical gold hoop in one ear. Was that a Cajun accent? Surely not.

“I cook for you. You eat. That’s how this works.” He gave the abandoned half roll a glinting glance of contempt. “You will have my snapper as I give it to you. I promise it will be perfect.”

She set her teeth. “I pay and you make what I want. That is how this works.”

He reassessed her and Dani felt his estimation rise, as it always did. She knew what they saw when they looked at her—the cursed cupid’s bow lips, her thickly lashed gray eyes, the round cheeks that never slimmed, no matter her body fat, and the Grecian black curls that would not be tamed in this humidity. She looked like a china doll.

It always shocked them that she wasn’t as sweet as she looked. Surprise!

Fire sparked in his black eyes. Behind him, the maitre d’ hovered. She pursed her lips, painted a perfect candy red, and raised the arches of her brows. “Did I stutter?”

Unexpectedly, a smile crept through his anger, not of pleasure, but of a challenge taken. An image of him tossing her over the table, raising her skirt and plunging into her flashed through her mind, so vivid and sudden, so unlike her usual thoughts, that she wondered if somehow it came from him.

Preorder: (out 5/13)
* http://ebooks.carinapress.com/596A9FE5-6720-463F-AFF6-18BB8DC73133/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=2D484F91-0B6A-40A1-8B4E-CC8777DDABA6
* http://www.amazon.com/Ruby-Facets-of-Passion-ebook/dp/B00BED271M/ref=la_B001KIASYE_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1366843718&sr=1-6
* http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ruby-jeffe-kennedy/1114811862?ean=9781426895487
* https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ruby-1151275-340.html  

******

Jody Wallace
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

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Myla Jackson
Lauren Dane
Leah Braemel
Caris Roane
Eliza Gayle
McKenna Jeffries
http://shilohwalker.com/website
Taige Crenshaw
Delilah Devlin
HelenKay Dimon
Lissa Matthews
Felicity Heaton
Mari Carr

Snippet Saturday: Author’s Choice

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is author’s choice, and I’m sharing a little somthing from a friend’s book: FORBIDDEN FIRES by Jodie Griffin.

Jodie has been victimized by Meankitty a couple times already (Text Cattification: http://blog.jodywallace.com/2012/10/snippet-saturday-bump-in-night.html and Cover Cattification: http://blog.jodywallace.com/2012/03/cattification-feline-fantasies.html). She’s such a good sport! But we aren’t cattifying this excerpt. It’s straight up.

**************

He’d seen this side of Dee before and knew it was time to back off. For now, anyway, but he wasn’t giving in without the final word. He held up both hands in supplication. “Look, I’m sorry. My timing sucks, okay? But don’t you dare tell me you weren’t into it.”

She opened her mouth and then snapped it closed again. Without another word, she turned and stalked away from him, muttering under her breath.

He wanted nothing more than to reach out and shake her. Damn it, she was shutting him out, the way she always did. As he watched her retreating back, the angel on his other shoulder demanded equal time from his conscience. A little voice—an annoying one—reminded him that he knew why she did it, and he understood it. Now he just needed to accept that she was looking for a little space to regain her equilibrium.

And damn it, she was right. They were working. Eight dead bodies should be enough to keep his libido in check—and keep his mind on the case. Eight. Disgust rolled through him and he swore, then picked up the boots and brought them over to her.

“Here,” he said quietly, talking to her back. “You can rip me a new one later. I was out of line, and I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

She turned to face him, and his heart clenched painfully. Her eyes brimmed with unshed tears and, if he was right, self-recrimination. Which was totally fucked up.

“Dee—”

“Don’t, Colin. Just don’t.” She shook her head, her voice on the verge of breaking. “Give me the boots.”

As she kicked off one of her shoes, he knelt down in front of her, holding the boot upright so she could step into it. Her hand dropped onto his shoulder to steady herself. He sucked in a deep breath but kept silent, helping her with the second boot.

While his head was bent, her hand landed softly on his hair for a long second. “You’re right, I was into it.” Her voice was soft, as if the admission pained her. “But we need to focus. Or you need a different partner.”

With that, she turned and clomped off toward the house.

***

Tremors shook Delia’s hands as she waited for Colin at the foot of the steps to the mansion. She might be pissed off at him—and herself—but she wasn’t stupid enough to go into the house without him. She didn’t know much about structural integrity or arson, so she didn’t know what to look for or where it was safe to walk.

She felt him step behind her, to the side, and tensed as one arm came around her shoulders. He squeezed once, pressed a soft kiss against her temple and then let her go. His simple acknowledgement of her feelings made her heart stutter.

So much for being over him.

“I don’t want any partner but you, Delia Robinson,” he murmured softly in her ear. “I can’t think of anyone else I want at my side and watching my back.”

“Then let’s get to work,” she said, wincing at the husky tone to her voice. Tears did that to her. Really, they did.

***

You’re welcome!

Jody W. & Meankitty
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

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Selena Blake

Snippet Saturday: Try a Little Tenderness

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is try a little tenderness. I’m sharing an excerpt from Caught in Amber, an sf romance by my friend Cathy Pegau, which you can find out more about at Cathy’s website: http://cathypegau.com/

In this story, the hero, Sterling, has just talked the heroine, Sasha, into helping him try to bring down her ex boyfriend, a dangerous drug dealer…

Sterling preceded Sasha into his room and twisted the light switch just inside the door. A single globe flickered to life overhead, threatened to go out then glowed with a harsh white glare to reveal just how crappy a room can be obtained for fifty untraceable credits a week.

Finding an unwired, relatively safe place to conduct his business required compromises to be met, breathing room being one of them. The dank little space at the end of a danker hallway wouldn’t hold more than four adults without forcing someone to stand in the doorway. He hadn’t expected to bring anyone here, least of all someone who could turn on him if she chose to. But something about Sasha James said he could trust her. He hoped he was right.

Sterling closed the door behind them, not bothering to lock it. No one else lived in the building, and leaving it unlocked might ease Sasha’s mind somewhat. He removed his coat and hung it on one of the hooks jutting from the back of the door.

Sasha wrapped her arms around herself, as if she were still standing out in the snow. Her skin looked starkly pale in the unforgiving light; he couldn’t read her expression. Did he scare her that much, or was it the situation? Probably a little of both, but it couldn’t be helped. All he could do was assure her he’d do his damnedest to keep her safe. As long as she played square with him.

“Have a seat,” he said.

Not that there was much choice in seating. A narrow cot sagged against the left-hand wall. Across from the bed was a rickety, straight-backed chair with barely space for a body to move between them.
In the corner beside the chair, a Revivalists Chapbook sat on a low, painted chest.

She took the chair and turned to face the bed, her knees together beneath her black skirt. The hem rose as she sat, revealing the shapely curve of her legs. What did the rest of her look like beneath the heavy material clothes and tights?

Sterling gave himself a mental shake. She was anxious enough. No need for him to add ogling her legs to the stress.

“Do you want me to take your coat?” He approached her as he would a wounded animal, risking the loss of an arm if he moved too fast.

“No, I’m good. Just start talking so I can get back.” She threaded a hand through the long strands of hair on top of her head.

Her eyes held steady on his as he sat across from her on the thin mattress. The bed frame creaked beneath him. Face to face, their knees nearly touched. The smallness of the room had never bothered him until now. It was impossible to ignore how tiny it was, with the two of them filling the space.

Impossible to ignore how close she was when a mere intake of breath brought her rain-and-flower scent to him.

Sterling swallowed hard and shifted backward, eliciting a rhythmic creaking from the frame. Heat rushed to his face as Sasha’s gaze dropped to the bed then quickly rose to meet his eyes. She scooted back as far as she could on the hard chair.

“I’m going to get a job that doesn’t start until after twelve-hundred. Maybe on a planet that never has winter.” Her tone was conversational, but the words were more than lamentation about being tied to the system or the relentless cold of Nevarro. They probed for affirmation, reminded him about the terms of their agreement.

Sterling nodded, confirming a promise he wasn’t completely sure he’d be able to keep. He’d pull every string he could to make it happen for her; he just couldn’t guarantee her chip would be deactivated like he’d said. His only relationship to Corrections was his friendship with Mickelson. But telling her that now would blow everything.

“I know you don’t want to be with Christiansen any longer than necessary,” he said, rubbing the side of his hand across the scar on his forehead. “The less time you’re with him, the better.”

Sasha snorted a quiet laugh. “At least we agree there.” He smiled and her cheeks pinked, but instead of glancing away she kept her gaze on him. “Where did you get that? The scar, I mean. Most people would have had it erased.”

Sterling stopped rubbing the slightly raised line and lowered his hand. “An accident, when I was a boy. Fell on my head off a cattle feeder and got stomped.” She winced, and the compassion in her eyes for the injured boy he’d been embarrassed him. He waved off her concern. “Dad refused scar treatment, saying it would teach me not to fool around near the cows, but okayed a new eye so I could still work. Impressed my friends when I made it move independent of the other.”

Sasha laughed at his childhood antics. Unguarded moments brought out a side of her Sterling liked. A side of her he’d bet hadn’t seen the light of day in a long time.

As if realizing she’d let him see too much, she sobered, her features closing to him once again. She cleared her throat. “What do you need me to do?”

Mentally, Sterling shook his head at her wariness. Damn Christiansen for what he’d done to her. “Introduce me as a potential amber dealer, someone who can expand his distribution in a new direction.”

The muscles in her jaw tensed. “What better way to get close to him than be the same kind of low-life bastard he is, right?”

“Exactly. I’ll be a guard you met at rehab, someone who works the system as well as works for it.”

“That’ll sound true enough,” she said with a wry grin.

Sterling ran his hand over his damp hair. “Yeah, as frustrating as that is in real life, it works to our advantage.”

“So you’ll be a guard-cum-drug dealer at the rehab center.” She shrugged and shook her head, dismissing the set-up. “Those are a demi-cred a dozen. He’ll never bite on that.”

“Not at the rehab center. I’ll propose dealing at one of the correctional mines.”

Not to say there wasn’t drug use in the correctional mines, but it was underexploited territory for amber dealers because of the high security of the facilities. There’d been a shake-up at Exeter Mining a few months before, when the company had flouted CMA practice standards and the development of their revolutionary K-73 filters hit a lethal snag.

The scandal had been brought to a head by the unlikeliest of people—Liv Braxton, a corporate blackmailer who fell in love with Exeter’s VP of research, Zia Talbot. Sterling had more than enough evidence to slam Exeter for its unethical, deadly research, and the fallout prompted a flurry of increased safety measures, tighter regulations and harsher penalties. Exeter’s disgrace now brought the CMA running for the slightest infraction, both in government-run correctional mines and in the private sector.

Illegal ventures were difficult to pull off, but not impossible. If he could convince Christiansen selling amber in the correctional mines was doable, he might be able to forge a relationship with the drug dealer and get close enough to Kylie to get her out. Sterling’s position at the agency gave him plenty of inside information and some room to maneuver between departments, allowing him to create a scenario he hoped Christiansen wouldn’t be able to resist.

He also hoped his superiors would understand, as his wasn’t a sanctioned operation. Easier to ask for forgiveness for stepping on Justice Department toes than for permission. Maybe. And if he lost his job or became an inmate himself over his plan? Well, that was a risk he was more than willing to take.

The CMA and Justice Department weren’t his only worries. If Christiansen discovered he wasn’t who he claimed to be, it would likely get him killed and possibly put Kylie and Sasha in danger. He was used to the challenges of undercover work. Involving civilians was another matter.

Sasha stared at him, doubt clear on her face. “Do you really think you can pull that off?”

“We just have to make Christiansen think I can.” He grinned at her, but she didn’t seem to share his confidence. His smile faltered. “Without you, he probably wouldn’t see me at all. With you, maybe I can get close enough, get inside fast enough to get Kylie out of there.”

A sadness darkened her eyes. “If she sees you first, if she learns you’re there to get her, she’ll hide. Or tell Guy. You know that, don’t you?”

Her words and expression spoke of experience, making him wince. Had Sasha hidden from her family when they tried to retrieve her from Christiansen’s hold? Had they given up on her? Was that why there was no record of them ever coming to visit her at the NCRC? No record of a comm call or message in the last five years?

He couldn’t imagine abandoning his sister like that, but would she spurn him and their family for the drug? If she were caught in amber, Kylie wouldn’t care about him, wouldn’t care if Christiansen threw him out or maybe even killed him. The idea of his own little sister turning on him made Sterling shake with pain and anger. He knew amber did strange things to users, and he prayed he could get Kylie out before she sank that far.

“I know. For some reason, Kylie’s PR position doesn’t allow her to travel away from his compound very often. When she does, it’s with Christiansen or a bunch of other people.” Or was it her position with the bastard himself that kept her locked away behind the gate and walls? Either way, Sterling knew it was risky to infiltrate the drug dealer’s world, but he had no choice. “That’s why I need you to get me an in. If I can get past Christiansen, I can try to find her on my own. As long as I see her before she sees me, I have a good chance of getting her out.”

Kylie’s life, and the lives of who knew how many women who followed her, might depend on it. He knew Sasha realized it as well, but fear of Christiansen lurked in her eyes.

“He won’t believe me,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll mess up.”

“No, you won’t. You’ll be fine.” She had to pave the way for him or he was back at square one. “Christiansen’ll be wary of you coming back into his life, but if you can convince him you’re trying to make peace, it’ll work.”

“Guy’s no fool. After the way I talked to him last time we were in the same room, he’ll expect I’m up to something.”

“I know.”

Her eyes narrowed and she cocked her head. “And you’ll counter that how? With a note from my parole agent attesting to the sincerity of my backslide?”

“You’ll tell him what he wants to hear, Sasha.” He shifted on the bed, their knees less than a hand-span apart as he leaned closer. The flowery scent of her shampoo reminded him just how close they were. And how much closer they could be with the slightest shift of his body. “What he needs to hear from you.”

“Which is?”

“That you were wrong to leave him.” She stiffened but said nothing, maybe too incensed to speak, so he continued. “You were wrong—you couldn’t make it on the outside without him. Your stint at the NCRC told you that much and more, and now you want to make it up to him.”

“And if he doesn’t believe me?” Her voice was quiet with worry. The soft puffs of her breath he felt on his cheek made his gut quiver.

Swallowing hard, Sterling shrugged and sat back, feigning a casual manner he didn’t feel in the least. “Your part is done, and I try something else.”

“That’s it? I can walk away?” She sounded doubtful.

“Your Level Two status stays. I swear to that.”

“But if I can get you in, you’ll get the chip deactivated.”

He nodded, unable to speak the lie. If he left any room for doubt, she would never agree to work with him.

Sterling cleared his throat and swallowed the lump that nearly choked him. His job often had him bending the truth, if not outright lying. Why was it so difficult this time? His original plan to make her a simple deal of parole status upgrade had become a promise for something he wasn’t sure he could keep, and he felt guilty for lying to her.

“If Guy throws me out first thing,” she said, “I’m no worse off than I am now. Except he remembers I’m alive.”

“Trust me, he remembers now.”

Fear darkened her face and Sasha dropped her gaze to her feet. She took two deep breaths, as if gathering her strength. When she looked at him again, the fear was tempered by something else. Determination? Anger? Disgust? “And if he believes me? If he believes I want to work with him, to…be with him?”

Her voice was low, a rough whisper of dread. They both knew what going back to Christiansen, going back into that world, could do to her. Could she resist the opportunity to return to that lifestyle, even if it negated every struggle she’d been through for the past eight years?

Sterling surrounded one of her hands with both of his. Her skin, cool at first, warmed quickly. He thought she’d pull away, but instead her fist relaxed. He felt the heat of her palm against his fingers as he slid his hand into hers. They fit well together, and he couldn’t help stroking the back of her fingers with his thumb. Her eyes widened, the dark pupils expanding to leave a ring of stormy gray iris.

“I promise to keep you safe. I won’t let him hurt you. We’ll get you away from him. Data wipe, relocation. Whatever you need.”

“You can’t make that promise,” she said, her voice still no louder than a whisper. “I know what he’s capable of. Those pictures…” She shuddered but held his gaze, challenging him. “What do you have to protect me and your sister from that?”

The answer was easy and came to him without hesitation. He emphasized the words by tightening his grip on her hands. She grasped his harder, as if knowing what was to come. “My life. I’ll protect you with my life.”

Doubt flickered then receded from her eyes. She trusted that he’d protect her. Trusted that he’d help her get her life back. No matter what happened, if he and Sasha lived through this, he was going to get the chip deactivated for her.

“Okay,” she said softly.

Left hand still in hers, Sterling raised his right hand, cupped her jaw and brushed the pad of his thumb across her cheek.

Sasha didn’t move.

Relief and gratitude thickened his voice. “Thank you,” he said.

She closed her eyes, brows drawn together. For the briefest moment, she pressed her cheek against his palm. Warmth seeped into his skin, and Sterling stifled a groan. He could lean forward and kiss her. How would she taste? What would her mouth—her body—feel like against his?

***

Caught in Amber is currently on sale at pretty much all online vendors! Here’s a few.

http://ebooks.carinapress.com/652C0048-E197-440B-903B-512959E17A5A/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=66D4DC2D-DB1D-4045-BE29-EC8D45A34312

http://www.amazon.com/Caught-in-Amber-ebook/dp/B00A22UVNM

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caught-in-amber-cathy-pegau/1113832192?ean=9781426894985

Jody W. + Meankitty
Author, Cat Person, Amigurumist
http://www.jodywallace.com * http://www.meankitty.com

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Snippet Saturday: Author’s Choice

Snippet Saturday is the brainchild of author Lauren Dane, wherein a group of authors select thematic excerpts from their work and share them on Saturday mornings. This Saturday’s snippet is “Author’s Choice” and since I love food…we’re going with food. My scene was taken from the latter half of A Spell for Susannah, my first published novel — so beware if you don’t like spoilers! — and features our heroine, Princess Susannah, attempting to converse with the very young Prince Hanson during a formal banquet, who reveals some interesting information about our hero Jon Tom, seated elsewhere.

***

Despite Susannah’s attempts to converse with Sir Hanson, her father monopolized the young man’s attention during the formal banquet. The baronet handled the many glasses and plates with aplomb. He ate a good deal with the tiny banquet spoons and nodded at the King, who sat at the table’s head along with the Queen. The hundred or so other nobles and, she supposed, Jon Tom, were seated at other tables in the room, the roar of conversation muted but lively. Who was Jon Tom seated beside? If it was a noble daughter, she was probably twisted around in her seat for a glimpse of Sir Hanson.

Through the apricot compote and the broiled garlic artichoke hearts, through the almond-crusted halibut and the cucumber peas, through the buttered mussels and the pepper-cheese flowers, an army of servants whisked the miniature plates and bowls onto and off of everyone’s placemat. The King rambled on and on. Susannah finished her puff pastry and wondered why her father had taken such a liking to Sir Hanson. Perhaps he was just doing his part to ensnare an heir.

“Sir Hanson, don’t you like your cheese pastry?” Susannah asked him. “The filling is made from the milk of the Reston cows common to your homeland.”

The baronet gave her a weak smile and gulped down his pastry. The current style for formal banquets was to serve as plentiful a selection as possible, necessitating tiny portions of each in miniature dishes. One was meant to sample everything offered, and if it wasn’t to your taste, at least the spoons didn’t hold much. The crystal thimbles of wines and liqueurs with each course were voluntary, and Susannah drank water during the meal—in a regular-sized glass.

The baronet sat to the King’s left and Calypso to the Queen’s right. Susannah dined between Sir Hanson and Peter and traced a pattern on the damask tablecloth with her spoon. Because she had only Peter to speak to and Peter was in a sulk, Susannah ate more than she normally did. She squirmed in her rigid, formal corset. She wished she could go upstairs, take off her stupid court headdress and brush out her hair.

Her father waved away a second serving of chocolate trifle. The Queen caught Susannah’s gaze and narrowed her eyes, tilting her head slightly to indicate the baronet. Then she engaged her husband in conversation.

Susannah took a deep breath, then another. Perhaps it would make more room inside her corset for all the food. What might Hanson like besides cows? “My father mentioned the superior hunting in the Oldtree Forest, I’m sure. Do you enjoy hunting?”

She pitched the question loud enough for Calypso to hear. Although it wasn’t the thing to converse across the table, her family didn’t stand on absolute ceremony. Besides, her father wasn’t obeying the rules of polite discourse, so why should she? If she could get Calypso chattering about horses and hounds, they’d give their father a run for his coins.

“Not really, Princess Susannah.” The tablecloth rustled near Hanson’s legs, and she realized he was nervously tapping his foot on the ground.

Poor fellow. She widened her eyes at Calypso and inclined her head toward Hortense. Hopefully Hortense wasn’t still so disgusted with Susannah she refused to answer the call of duty. They needed to yank the conversation away from their father, or their mother would lambaste them.

Hortense tinked her spoon against the trifle bowl, as if by accident. Hanson glanced up. “Has our father described our Justice Chambers?” she asked. “He resolves a higher proportion of citizen complaints than any other kingdom.”

The baronet nodded and licked chocolate from his tiny spoon. Little curls had sprung up all over his head and bushed around his circlet, making him look even younger. Across the table, Hortense pursed her lips.

Unaware of the byplay, Hanson quaffed a thimble of hot vanilla liqueur. “Jon said the Justice Chambers were a marvel of efficiency.”

“Mr. Tom?” Susannah nearly crumpled her spoon in her fist. “When did you have the opportunity to speak with him?”

“He took me about this morning. Showed me the lay of the land.” The baronet’s cheeks were flushed, probably from the amount of alcohol he’d consumed over the course of the meal. The thimbles were deceptive, Susannah had learned long ago.

“The lay of the land.” Susannah didn’t know how to take that and ignored Calypso and Hortense across the table, both making “shush” faces. “So Mr. Tom spent the morning with you. He didn’t mention it to me.”

“Why would he? If he’s here to sneak about and investigate you, it seems as how he wouldn’t tell you what he’s up to all day long.”

Places to buy A Spell for Susannah:

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Hungry now??

Jody W.
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

****

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