Saturday, February 22, 2020

99 cent sale for BREAKING THE RULES

Jake Campbell hates rules. Undercover to stop a drug ring at a posh Cape Cod resort, he can’t resist the fiery head chef, Abbie Duncan. She may be on the suspect list, but he can’t keep his hands to himself. With a rising body count, he must keep Abbie safe…but can he trust her with his jaded heart?

Abigail Duncan planted both elbows on the bar and leaned in close, t-shirt pulling tight against her curves. After the day she’d had, this was one more headache she didn’t want to deal with. “Level with me, Brian. How many has he had tonight?”

The bartender shook his head with a frown, looking her straight in the eye and ignoring her assets. “Like I said, Abbie, it’s still his first pint. George has been nursing it for the last hour.” He opened the cooler to grab several long necks, deftly flipping the caps as he plunked them onto a tray.

She heaved a sigh and let her shoulders relax a fraction. “Okay, I believe you. It’s just that his doctor said he’s not supposed to drink with his new meds.”

“Yeah, but your dad can’t watch the Red Sox with the guys and not have a beer in front of him.” Brian gestured at the table of retired cops jeering at the big screen. “Stop being a spoilsport and let him have his fun.”

Her shoulders stiffened again. “Honestly, I didn’t know he’d be here when I decided to bring the Inn’s kitchen crew for after-work drinks. There’s only one sports bar in town, you know.”

“It’s all good. Try not to worry so much.” Brian handed her the tray of drinks. “You sure you got this?”

She winked at him as she balanced the tray on her left hand, then made her way through the crowd of baseball fans.

Back at the foosball table in the corner, four of her co-workers engaged in a fierce battle. The rest crowded around to cheer them on. If today was any indication, her kitchen should run smoothly this summer. After all, Mothers’ Day was one of the busiest days of the year – despite the $95 per person charge for the buffet spread. Everything went off without a hitch. Well, almost everything. It was a five-star restaurant. Something was always making the head chef apoplectic.

One of the new fry-cooks – Dimitri? Or is that Matko? Those two are like peas in a pod – scored a goal and raised both hands in victory while the other side began to protest. Raising her voice above the din, Abbie congratulated the winning team as she rested the tray of drinks on the edge of the foosball table. “This round’s on me, you guys. Great job today.” Eager hands reached for the long necks, clinking the bottles together in salute.

“To a great boss.” Ian threw an arm around her shoulder to pull her close. He’d been the expediter in her kitchen for the past several summers, always choosing to winter somewhere warmer, whether Key West, Barbados, or this past year in L.A. “Your menu was genius, no matter what that fat bastard Delacorte says. If anything was a problem today, it was the big man’s attitude.”

Abbie felt her cheeks heat while everyone raised their bottles and voices in agreement. Francois Delacorte, the Executive Chef of Chatham’s prestigious Atlantic Coastal Inn, wasn’t one to mince words. There was no mistaking his outrage at discovering the kid-friendly choices discretely tucked away on a corner table at the Inn’s exclusive buffet.

In Abbie’s opinion, Delacorte’s outrage was directly linked to his mile-wide misogynistic streak. Since his first day at the Inn, he’d taken an immediate dislike to both Abbie as Chef de Cuisine in the Inn’s main dining room, and her coworker Miranda, the Executive Pastry Chef, and took every opportunity to belittle their abilities.

A hand jostled her shoulder. “Earth to Abbie,” Ian said, laughter in his voice as she focused her gaze on him. “We lost you for a moment there.” He clinked his bottle to hers. “Don’t let him get to you.”
She gave Ian a half smile and sipped her beer. She had to put up with the pompous Frenchman for a few more months before she had enough in her bank account. After years of taking orders from others, she was ready – more than ready – to strike out on her own. Her goal was to open her own restaurant before her thirtieth birthday, a mere year and a half away. One final summer at The Inn wouldn’t kill her, but it certainly wouldn’t be a cakewalk.

Tipping the bottle to her lips, Abbie drained the rest of her Bass Ale. Swiping the back of her hand across her mouth, she locked eyes with the most delicious hunk of blond stranger she’d seen in… well, in forever. He sat at one of the high top tables along the back wall, his wide shoulders and solid biceps stretching his shirt in intriguing ways. The smallest of smiles played across sculpted lips while he held her captive with his eyes. The air seemed to whoosh out of the room as she struggled to breathe under the intensity of his stare, each second lasting an eternity. She licked her suddenly dry lips, trying to grab the reins of her runaway libido.

The guy’s dark-haired companion turned to follow his friend’s gaze. The second man’s lazy grin looked cocky as hell, raking his eyes up and down her body before giving her a deliberate nod and wink. Really? Abbie chuckled as she shook her head and turned away, the intensity of the moment evaporating like steam over a sauce pot. Ian nudged her with an elbow. “What’s so funny?”

Abbie had more important things to focus on than some blond in a bar, no matter how godlike his physique. She smiled at her coworker. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

*          *          *

Jake Campbell frowned, his focus sliding away from the curvaceous redhead and back to his partner. “What do you think you’re doing? Jeez, Garcia, we can’t afford to screw up this job.”

The other man snorted in disbelief. “Yeah, right. I saw you checking out her ass when she passed by with that tray of drinks.”

Jake’s voice lowered to an angry growl. “She works at the restaurant, you moron. Didn’t you go through the case file?” Okay, so maybe he had been checking out her curves. A guy notices perfection when it walks by him.

“I don’t remember any of those uptight cooks having an ass like that. This op gets better by the minute.” Garcia tipped his beer bottle and leered toward the foosball table.

A surge of annoyance flared through Jake. “She’s a suspect, not your personal eye candy. Her bank turned her down for a loan last year. Money problems are always a strong motivator. Plus, you’re spending the next month working with her as your boss.”

“Technically, the pastry cooks work for the Executive Pastry Chef, who works in tangent with the Chef de Cuisine and reports directly to the Executive Chef.”

“What the…?”

Garcia smiled. “My sisters both work in fancy Boston restaurants. I know the pecking order. Although working under that redhead sounds like it might be fun. Under her, on top of her… Hell, I can think of lots of interesting positions.”

“Are you taking any of this seriously? We’re chasing drug dealers, not one-night stands.”

“I’m getting into my undercover persona. My character’s a player, remember? Besides, one night with a woman who looks like that would never be enough.”

“Garcia, take this seriously. We can’t afford another op going south.”

His friend’s expression turned grim. “Dude, I’m acutely aware of our job responsibilities. You need to lighten up before you tank the rest of your career because of one stupid chick. You’re thirty four, not dead.”

Jake started to protest but Garcia held up one hand and shook his head. “Listen, Campbell, it’s time you move on. I know Tessa broke your heart but she didn’t chop off your dick.”

Jake went still. “My ex has nothing to do with this.”

“She has everything to do with your crappy attitude, and everything to do with you blowing your cover on a job we spent three months setting up. Three months of me sitting surveillance in that cockroach-infested apartment, all down the drain. Because of her.”

Yeah, he couldn’t deny that. Getting arrested for assault and making headlines while undercover was not Jake’s most shining moment. “You should’ve put in for a new partner.”

“When the captain offered us this undercover gig with Chatham P.D., I told you this was our chance to hit the restart button. Together. Get out from under that black cloud that’s been dogging us. Plus, spring on Cape Cod is supposed to be awesome.”

“As long as someone’s happy,” Jake grumbled. “I still think it’s odd that the Chatham police chief reached out to Boston for undercover help. You’d think a town like this would be too small to hide a mole in the department.”

“That’s exactly the problem. In a town this small, everyone knows everyone, and it’s probably second nature to put your friends above the law.”

Jake grimaced. He may have crossed a few lines in the past, but how did any policeman justify breaking the law? Finishing the last of his beer, he pushed back his stool. “I need another drink.”

“Because I brought up Tessa?” Garcia shook his head. “Let it go, man. Let her go.”

“Believe me, I already have.” Jake wasn’t a forgive-and-forget kind of guy. He’d never forget the day he’d stopped by Tessa’s apartment at lunchtime and found her skinny ass in bed with her yoga instructor. She claimed the sex meant nothing. That she loved Jake. Yeah, right. He didn’t need Tessa’s version of love.

“Want another beer or not?”

Garcia fished a twenty out of his wallet. “See what kind of tequila they’ve got back there too. I’m buying.”


“Like Mama always says, it’s not a celebration without tequila.”

After two years as Garcia’s partner, Jake was used to hearing what Mama had to say on practically every subject, but this was a new one. “What are we celebrating?”

Garcia smirked. “The fact that your junk didn’t wither and die. I saw the way you eyed the redhead. It’s time you got on with your life.”

Jake glanced over Garcia’s head to where the woman in question pulled out her ponytail holder and ran her fingers through long, wavy locks that looked so soft, so touchable. She laughed at something her companion said, a throaty sound that twisted Jake’s gut in a strange way.

Maybe Garcia was right. It was time to move on.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday Book Review: The SInclair Sisters trilogy by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

About Book One:

There aren't many jobs available in the tiny village of Arness, Scotland, which is why Mairi Sinclair works online—as a virtual girlfriend. For a weekly fee, she emails, messages and sends photos to desk-bound geeks around the world. Nothing dodgy, mind you, she keeps her clothes on! Mairi loves her job, because the last thing she wants is to be tied down to one man forever. Life is so much simpler when you can keep men at a distance.

And that's why she's upset when her virtual boyfriends start turning up in town. Someone has hacked her online presence and given out her real life address. To make matters worse, they've told the world that she's looking for a husband and the first virtual boyfriend to romance her properly will win the role in real life. Mairi needs help to fend off the hordes. She needs help to hide and find out who sold out her details. Fortunately, local mechanic and one time boyfriend, Keir McKenzie, is more than willing to help her—for a price. He too wants a chance to win Mairi's heart and tie her down forever.

About Book 2:
The local branch of the Scottish Women’s Institute want to use Kintyre Mansion to hold their annual fundraising ball. There’s only one problem—its owner.

Duncan Stewart is a young widower, still reeling from grief two years after losing his wife, and making the town suffer while he does it. The artist doesn’t paint anymore—he’s become a bad-tempered recluse. The only person he can tolerate for any length of time is his housekeeper—whom he feels overly protective toward, in a professional sort of way…mostly. It seems his grief is coming to an end, and the only woman who interests him in the slightest is the one who’s off limits. The one who works for him. And, the one who’s very much up to something…

Donna Sinclair, the mansion’s housekeeper, is well known for her three weaknesses: being a sucker for a good sob story, an injured animal and a lost soul. And there are days when her boss is all three—and it makes him a little cranky. Which is why she hasn’t told him that she’s given the Women’s Institute permission to hold their fundraising ball at the mansion. Now all she needs to do is get him out of the building for the weekend of the party. There’s only one problem with her plan—Duncan is practically a hermit and has barely set foot out of the mansion since his wife died.

But Donna has a secret weapon on her side—her crazy sisters who would do just about anything to help her out!

About Book 3:
It turned out hell was a small town in the Scottish Highlands. Oh, sure, the locals called it Invertary, but Agnes Sinclair knew better—the town even had an old woman everyone called Satan. If that wasn’t a sign she was in hell, she didn’t know what was. All Agnes had ever wanted was to get out of Scotland, and now she was stuck there with no escape. And all because of one teeny, tiny incident (he totally deserved it!) that got her blacklisted in the hotel industry. Now, her only career option is managing a hotel owned by a guy who looks like Disco Santa, in a town where everyone marched to their own damn beat. And, as if being trapped in hell wasn’t bad enough, a spate of thefts at the hotel makes the owner call in a member of Benson Security to help her get to the bottom of them. Agnes doesn’t need help. She especially doesn’t need it from a sexy single father whose every breath tempts her to reevaluate what she wants out of life. A man who makes her wonder if Invertary is where she truly belongs. 
My Take:

If you've never read a book by Janet Elizabeth Henderson, you are sorely missing out on one of the brightest authors writing romantic comedy and suspense today. Her characters are laugh-out-loud funny and her dialogue crackles with wit and wisdom. The situations she dreams up are so enjoyable and completely entertaining, and are a wonderful escape from the dreary grey of winter.

Her Sinclair Sisters trilogy includes three stories that each stand on their own, but are so much more enjoyable when read all together. They also overlap slightly with two of the other series she writes, but you can pick up any of the books and read them as standalones and still totally enjoy the ride.

Of these three, I'm not even sure if I can choose a favorite story. Each is unique in its storytelling and character arc, as each sister is different from the next. I totally recommend starting with Book 1 and reading all three, but you can also pick and choose in no particular order. 

Each is available in Kindle for $4.99 and worth every penny.

Grab your copies on AMAZON today. 


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Writing Wednesday: Got Valentine Reads?

Looking for a Valentine read to get you in the holiday spirit? Here's an excerpt from my Valentine Novella, SAY YES, part of The Wild Rose Press Candy Hearts series.

First the blurb:

Darby Malone has trouble saying no. Hosting a children’s Valentine party at her recently renovated gallery is the last straw, and the last time she intends to say yes to anything. That is, until she meets Ben, a well-known Cape Cod artist with eyes as deep and blue as the ocean. He stirs feelings in her that have been dormant for too long. Can she afford to say yes to him?
Ben Phillips needs this gallery show. His life has been empty since his wife died four years ago, his paintings the only thing giving him solace. But his style has changed, his art completely different than the breezy shore paintings he staked his reputation on. Can he convince Darby to give him a chance – and to consider him for more than just a place on her gallery walls? Will she give him a place in her heart as well?

Now, here's the first chapter to get you started...

Chapter One, SAY YES by Katie O'Sullivan

Darby Malone sat back on her heels to swipe a hand across her forehead, pushing the dark curls out of her eyes to glare at the sticky floor. The neon blue goo teased her from between the myriad cracks of the wide pine floor, ground right into the worn wood by unsuspecting little feet. Who knew they even made blue gummy bears?

Not that she was strict about food on the premises. Since opening her doors last summer, Darby hosted all manner of events in her cozy Main Street gallery, from exhibit openings to book signings to themed holiday parties. That was definitely part of her problem. She couldn’t seem to say no when anyone asked for help. She swore under her breath and attacked the stains with the scrubby side of the sponge, wondering what other surprises she’d find while cleaning.

It sounded like a good idea when her older sister Chelsea approached her about hosting the Girl Scout event in her gallery. Foot traffic along the streets of Orleans slowed to a crawl in February. The mother-daughter pre-Valentine party was a celebrated tradition in the small seaside town, something to look forward to in the middle of a grey and snowy winter. Something Darby herself once enjoyed, even if those days seemed like a lifetime ago. Since when does 28 feel ancient?

Her young niece radiated excitement at the idea of playing co-host at the gallery. Upping her coolness factor was reason enough for Darby to say yes, although getting to know other women her own age was another motivating factor. It didn’t work out that way, as the moms only showed up briefly at the beginning to drop off their daughters and at the end for pick up. The moms also took care of the catering, including the sticky gummy bears, cupcakes with screaming pink frosting that smeared everywhere and some sort of blue juice boxes that left drips and splotches on the beige couch in the reception area.

The girls knocked three paintings off the wall, but neither the art nor the kids sustained permanent damage. Luckily Darby packed away the delicate hand-blown glass exhibit before the event started. She wasn’t stupid, even if she did seem to have a big S for sucker emblazoned on her forehead.

That S was her main reason for moving back to Cape Cod. It wasn’t just to be closer to her parents and her sister’s family, although she had a lot of missed time to make up for. What she really wanted was to erase that big S and start over. She left her old gallery and a series of failed relationships behind in New York City, hoping for a fresh beginning.

But things changed. She’d been away from the Cape for ten years. Darby tried hard to fit in, to play nice, to make things work. Saying yes and accommodating every request…and how far did that get her? Sure, her events were well attended, but how often did those partygoers spend money? Like most Cape businesses, she relied on the summer tourists to keep her gallery in the black. Most of the locals attended her events for the free wine. Or in this case, the blue juice. She rocked back on her heels again to survey her work. “Blue is unnatural,” she proclaimed out loud. “If I ever have kids of my own, I swear they’ll never eat anything blue. Ever.”

“But what about blueberries?”

The deep, seductive voice surprised her. Her leg slipped out sideways and she lost her balance, sprawling across the floor. She turned and glanced up at the speaker. Cobalt blue eyes sparkled back at her, surrounded by amused laugh lines and underlined by a wide smile. “And blackberries, too. Full of antioxidants and also blue.”

Blue like his gorgeous eyes, purred the little voice inside her head. Darby grimaced, wanting to strangle that little voice even as her pulse quickened and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood rigid in anticipation. Anticipation of what? Her mouth hung open as she stared up at the handsome man in the faded jeans and well-worn leather jacket.

She finally found her voice. “I’m sorry, do I know you? If you’re here to pick up one of the Scouts, she already left with your wife.”

Blue Eyes chuckled, the sound washing over her like a rogue wave claiming the beach at high tide. She tried to resist the pull, even as she felt herself going under. “I’m not looking for a Girl Scout.”

A delicious thrill ran through Darby at his suggestive tone and words. Suddenly she realized her compromising position, sprawled on the floor as he towered over her, smiling that wide, intoxicating grin. She clambered to her feet, smoothing her long skirt and hurrying to introduce herself, never losing sight of those deep blue pools. A girl could drown in eyes like those. “Hey, sorry. I’m Darby Malone. This is my gallery. And you are…”

A look of shock and recognition flitted across his handsome features. “You’re Darby? Wait, of course you are, how stupid of me.” He extended a hand and she shook it, his calloused hands warm and strong. “Ben Phillips. We have an appointment.”

“Mr. Phillips. Welcome. But I thought our appointment was scheduled for tomorrow morning?”

His smile held firm under her scrutiny. “Just got back into town from a long weekend in Vermont. Thought I’d take a chance and drop by since I noticed all the lights on. I didn’t realize Tuesday evenings were so busy around here.”

Was that teasing in his voice? “My niece’s Girl Scout troop can be rather rambunctious.”

“Do you host many children’s events?”

She didn’t hear judgment or condescension in his voice, like she had from some of the other business owners on the street. Only curiosity. “No.” Her mouth turned up in a full-on smile. “But I know I have a tendency to say yes to too many causes and events. I was just promising myself to say no to the next person who asked for a favor.”

Maybe it was her imagination, but she could swear his complexion paled. “Now why would you do a silly thing like that? If Prince Charming himself walked through those doors tonight, less than two weeks before Valentine’s Day, would you honestly turn him down?”

Her grin widened, accepting his challenge head-on. She gestured to the blue smears still in evidence along the floorboards. “If Prince Charming smashed gummy bears into my wood floors, then yes, I’d tell him to hit the road. Luckily they’re getting refinished at the end of the month.”

His gaze followed her hand, taking in the stains. “I see where you get your issues with blue food. Although, to be fair, I still think you should reconsider banning all food sources that happen to be in the blue family. Blueberries in particular are supposed to be one of those superfoods.”

“So you’re a blueberry expert, Mr. Phillips?” She eyed him with open curiosity. She’d looked him up on the internet in anticipation of tomorrow morning’s meeting, but his website didn’t have a photo of the artist himself. He looked so much younger than she’d imagined. And infinitely hotter.

He chuckled again, the sound smoothing across her skin like a warm summer breeze. “I’m a painter. My sister, on the other hand, owns a berry farm in Vermont. Blueberries are one of Mother Nature’s gifts to mankind.” He paused, his expression turning serious as he took a step forward. “But I’m not here to discuss the merits of blue food.”

Every muscle in her body tensed at his proximity. Her mouth went dry and her brain clicked into hyperdrive, suddenly aware of every last detail of the six-foot god standing far too close. The shadow of scruff along his chiseled jawline, the salty ocean smell wafting off his leather jacket, the weathered tan along his cheeks and nose giving him the look of someone who spent all their time outdoors wearing sunglasses. His dark blond hair, tossed every which way by the February wind, looked like he’d just rolled out of bed. Darby wondered what it would be like to be in that bed with him, tousling her hands through the unruly mop, tugging him closer to taste those sculpted lips…

She blinked hard, reining in her fantasy. This was strictly business. Ben Phillips was kind of a big deal in the Cape Cod art community; it would be a coup for her little gallery to handle some of his paintings. She’d been surprised when he responded to her mass mailing with a request for this meeting.

He cleared his throat, looking hesitant, maybe even a little unsure of himself. “Maybe this is a bad time. I should come back in the morning as originally scheduled.”

“No, no,” she said, regaining control of her voice. “You just caught me by surprise. I guess I expected you to be…different.”

His brow furrowed, mouth quirking up on one side. “Different? How?”

She headed for the office desk in the corner, talking over her shoulder so he wouldn’t notice the heat suffusing her cheeks. “You seem too young, too laid back, to be such a well-known artist.” Reaching the desk, she sat and grabbed her planning calendar, shuffling pages and not meeting his gaze.

“Thanks, I think.” He trailed in her wake, seating himself in the chair opposite hers.

She tilted her head to one side, deciding to be honest. “Don’t get me wrong, but I’m not even sure why you’d want to exhibit in a little gallery like mine. I’d be excited for the opportunity to work with you, but there must be bigger, better known places on Cape Cod that want you and your work.”

“You’d be surprised.” He reached for the glass bowl of candy hearts on her desk. “Uh-oh, don’t look now but there’s more blue food in your gallery.”

Darby rolled her eyes. “They aren’t sticky and they don’t melt or stain. Besides, who doesn’t need a little burst of sugar now and then?”

He rested the bowl in his lap while he picked colored hearts out one by one. He carefully lined six candies in a row along the edge of the desk. Strong looking hands with long fingers positioned each heart precisely the same distance apart in a pastel rainbow order, starting with pink and ending with purple.

“What are you doing?”

“I haven’t actually seen these in years, not since grade school,” he said, not taking his eyes off the candy hearts. “I can’t say I remember some of these sayings. Text Me? Definitely not the same as when I was in school.” He held up a white heart to show her the hot pink words before tossing it into his mouth.

She shrugged, another grin tugging at her lips. “Everyone needs to change with the times, I guess. Even Valentine candy.”

Want more? Grab your copy of SAY YES  on AMAZON