“New Year’s Home”

What is the ultimate gift?

This short story is based on The Garden Collection, one of my favorite novels to reflect on during the holidays … “The heartwarming story of struggle, determination, heartache, and true love …”

 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31ST

In Mason’s Diner in rural West Michigan, six-year-old Chloe Miller’s paper snowflakes cover all of the windows as if another blizzard hit town. Multicolor Christmas lights blink around the window frames. By the cash register, a two-foot-high fake Christmas tree holds so many of Chloe’s homemade ornaments the patrons can’t see the branches.

Standing behind the counter, Brianna Carlson waits for Henry Mason to pass her orders through the grill window. She stares at the poster behind the register.

Her best friend, Lucy Donovan, had suggested Bree put her own doodle sketches to good work and enter the competition to design the New Year’s Eve Gala poster. Out of one hundred applicants, she won.

She had drawn dark snowy woods where the old trees have snarled branches. The trees’ arthritic fingers reach for the sparkling red box with a bright white bow that illuminates the small clearing. The caption reads WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE GIFT?

The regulars at the diner celebrated her excitement by encouraging her to attend the gala. As the winner, she received one hundred dollars and a ticket to the party. She had saved her money for three weeks to buy a dress with matching shoes.

“Bree, your order’s up,” Henry yells from behind the grill. She sees only his eyes and the top of his bandana-covered baldhead through the open window.

The retired men on the stools at the counter chuckle. “Are you daydreaming again, Cinderella?” Charlie asks.

She blushes. “Maybe I’ll find my Prince Charming tonight,” she replies, picking up the cheeseburger platters.

George unrolls his silverware from his napkin. “Are you ever going to tell us what’s in the red box from your poster?”

She grabs the ketchup from under the counter. “What do you think is in the box?”

George takes the bottle. “Money?”

“How about keys to a yacht?” Charlie adds.

“I know what’s in the box,” Chloe says from the end of the counter. Her long brown hair in a thick braid matches her big sister’s. Chloe bites into a French fry and grins.

“Well, my sweet one, please share with us,” Bev Mason says from behind the cash register.

Chloe looks at her. “Can I tell them?”

Bree nods. “I always thought it was obvious.” She caresses the etched ivy on her gold heart-shaped locket, an emerald in its center.

“Tell us right now,” George demands. He winks at Chloe as he wipes his mouth.

“It’s LOVE, sillies. I can’t believe you never guessed it.”

“Oh, I forgot you’re a genius,” Bev jokes.

“I’ve gotten all excellent marks so far in first grade.”

Brianna nods. “You have a lot of wonderful tutors,” she says, glancing at her work family. Chloe grew up on that stool. They even put her name on it.

As the men tease Chloe that they made her smart, Officer Eddie Kent stomps his feet inside the door. In his dark blue uniform and auburn crew cut, he sits at the opposite end of the counter. Bree greets him with his usual glass of milk.

“It’s not ready yet?” he asks.

“I wasn’t sure you were working today. I’ll get right on it.”

Bree quickly enters the kitchen and helps Henry with the order of rare steak and scrambled eggs with a side of raw onions and garlic toast. Eddie eats it every day he works.

She carefully sets his plates in front of him. She had learned not to stand too close afterward.

“Bree, don’t worry. I’m here if you need anything,” Eddie says, reaching for the knife.

“What?”

“Kent! I will explain it,” Chief Cameron Mason says, taking up the entire doorway. He smooths down his thick mustache with his thumb and finger then points her to the end booth. With a hand over her stomach, she sits. He stops Chloe from jumping off her stool. “Stay put. I want to talk to Bree in private.”

“Cam, what’s wrong?” she asks as he slides in across from her.

“Wayne is being paroled due to overcrowding.”

She gasps. “When?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Oh, God.” She places her shaking hands on her lap. Chloe stares at her reaction. “Do you think he’ll come back here?” she whispers.

“I honestly don’t know. If you see him anywhere in town, call my cell,” he says, pulling out his card.

She stops him. “I still have it memorized.”

Cam leaves for the kitchen to talk to his father. She stares out the window at the two fresh inches of snow. What should she do?

Wayne Miller’s letters from prison promised to take Chloe away from her. Bree has no legal rights to Chloe. Could he reclaim his daughter?

Bree had taken the brunt for years so he wouldn’t hurt her half-sister. She would not let Wayne hurt her now.

She jumps as Chloe slides in next to her. “Bree, what’s the matter?

She hugs her. “Nothing for you to worry about, my sweet Clover.” She nudges her out of the booth. “I have to get back to work.”

While carrying the tub of dirty dishes, she bangs her shin into the metal cart behind the counter. The tub crashes to the floor. Plates and mugs shatter. With tears in her eyes, she rushes to clean the mess. Partial blindness in her left eye and a limp from a healed broken leg makes her clumsy, especially when stressed or tired.

Eddie Kent laughs as he finishes his meal. “Bev, have you run out of plates yet?”

Bree looks up at her. “I’m sorry.”

“Honey, we know it’s not your fault. Why don’t you and Chloe take off? Tonight’s the big night. Happy early birthday.”

As she puts the last broken plate in the tub, she slides it to the side and stands. Charlie asks, “You’ll save me a dance?”

“I’m first in line. She promised me yesterday,” George adds.

“Only if you recognize me. It’s a masquerade ball after all.”

Thankful for their understanding, Brianna helps Chloe with her coat, hat, and mittens. Stepping outside, she takes a deep breath. They would make a run for it. They’d hide, and Wayne would eventually give up looking. With a purpose, she reaches for her sister’s hand.

“Bree, do you want a ride?” Eddie asks, absently patting the gun at his side.

Resisting the urge to wrinkle her nose at his horrid breath, she shakes her head. “We have errands. Thank you though.”

Chloe shuffles her boots through the snow on the sidewalk and sings “Let it Snow.”

After closing out her savings account with one hundred and twenty-six dollars, she pulls open the door to the pawnshop. The stifling heat hits them in the face as they wipe their boots on the rug just inside the door. In a Santa hat, Gus Fuller strokes his long white beard and waves.

Bree sighs. “I need to talk to Gus for a moment. Do you want to wander around?” Chloe nods and heads for the stack of board games while Bree meets him at the counter. “I’d, uh, like to see what I can get for this,” she says, slipping her precious locket over her head. A treasured gift from Lucy’s brother, Robert.

Gus turns it in his hand. “This is a high-end piece. I’d say it’s worth a grand. I can only give you five hundred, but Donovan’s Jewelry may give you more.”

She groans. Robert had spent too much money on her. She quickly wipes her eyes. This is about responsibility and survival not a sentimental trinket.

Bree takes the locket back from him and stares at it. She wears it all the time and touches it often. Finally nodding, she sets it back on the counter. As she tucks the money into her wallet, Chloe joins her with a magic kit.

“Do we have extra for this? It’s three dollars,” Chloe says.

“It’s yours for a hug,” Gus replies.

Chloe runs around the counter. After paying with a hug, she kisses his cheek and tugs his beard. “Thanks, Gus.”

With slouched shoulders, Bree moves toward the door.

“Take care,” Gus says quietly.

She wants to grab her locket and run. Instead, she limps out the door. No turning back. At the bus station, she opts for the trip tomorrow morning so she can attend the gala. Her one last hurrah.

“What are you going to wish for?” Chloe asks as they walk down the snowy sidewalk.

“Hmm, my birthday wish,” she says, swinging Chloe’s hand. “What would your wish be?”

“It’s a secret.”

“You’re keeping secrets from me?” Bree asks.

“Only my wish.”

“Are you wishing to hold hands with your boyfriend, Patrick Dugan, during recess?”

Chloe yanks her hand away. “I don’t like Patrick.”

“If you say so.”

“Well, I don’t,” Chloe replies.

Bree laughs. “So what’s your wish or should I keep guessing?”

Chloe takes a deep breath. “I wish I had a mom.”

Bree winces. Her eyes blur again. “I’m sorry things are different for us. I try to take care of you the best I can.”

Now, Bree would be making their lives even more difficult. The stress and worry sends an ache to her leg as they walk up the hill.

“Bree, I didn’t mean—”

“It’s okay, Clover. I sometimes wish for that, too.” Bree points to the golf course country club where the gala would be held. Delivery trucks drop off flowers and balloons. The band unloads their equipment. “Should I bring you home one of those huge balloons? Silver or gold?”

“Both,” Chloe replies, taking her hand again.

Bree slows her pace and huffs as they approach Paul and Marta Donovan’s house. She and Chloe live in the studio loft above their two-stall garage.

After retrieving Chloe’s backpack for her overnight stay, they enter the main house through the huge kitchen. Passing two freshly pressed tuxedos still in their plastic wrap, Chloe races up the steps. Bree limps behind her.

In Lucy’s room, a cluttered oak desk overlooks the snow-covered in-ground pool and golf course. Working from home, Lucy has a knack for marketing while Robert, always away, travels the world and designs amazing necklaces, earrings, and bracelets for the family business — Donovan’s Jewelry.

On the plum couch, Chloe scoots closer to Lucy so they can look at her new magic kit.

Lucy grins as if she knows a secret. “Turning twenty-one will be your best birthday ever. I can feel it. The stars have finally aligned.”

Lucy believes in Happily Ever After scenarios. She had said having a sprained ankle would allow her to watch Chloe while Bree went to the gala this year.

“A new year always brings hope and excitement,” she replies, letting Lucy’s positive energy wash over her. “Are you sure you’re up to this?”

“Chloe and I are going to have a girls’ spa night with facials and manicures,” Lucy says.

“Oh boy,” Chloe says. “Bree, you can go now.”

Bree kisses Lucy’s cheek and whispers a “thank you” in her ear. “Behave, my sweet Clover. I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning.”

“Why so early?” Lucy asks. “We’re staying up until midnight.”

“I want to start celebrating my birthday. Chloe promised to be extra nice. I want to take advantage of it.”

“You’re not going to be mean, are you?” Chloe asks.

“I’m going to be so horrible, and you’ll still have to be nice,” Bree replies, kissing her head. Chloe laughs at her jest and pushes her away.

After leaving the main house, Bree hurries up the steps to the loft. Inside, she kicks off her boots and tosses her coat on the double bed that she and Chloe share. She loves this small space but her home no longer.

XXX

 

Read more about Brianna and her struggle in the novel, The Garden Collection

 

The Garden Collection: Blurb

A few words of encouragement can stay with you for a lifetime. Robert and Brianna’s childhood friendship grew into respect for each other and their ideas. Robert gave her the confidence to stand up for herself. Brianna helped him see his artistic potential and encouraged him to travel for his inspiration. He found it in the letters she wrote.

Now struggling to care for her six-year-old half-sister, Chloe, after their mother abandoned them, Brianna Carlson receives news that her abusive stepfather will be released from prison. Still limping from a once broken leg, she’s terrified he’ll come back to hurt Chloe this time. She decides to leave town.

While traveling for his family’s jewelry business, Robert Donovan designed The Garden Collection, his newest line of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Returning home, he discovers Brianna had lied in every letter she sent. She never received any of his. Before he can demand answers, she disappears without Chloe. As Robert learns about Brianna’s life during his absence, he sets out to find her and convince her to trust him again.

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Meet David Connor from The Chemical Attraction Series

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Eva O’Sullivan, Taylor Valentine, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

David Connor, a high school senior and son of Matt Connor, has an integral part in the series. David brings Eva and his dad together in Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code, finds a body in the cornfield in Chemical Attraction, and then saves a young woman’s life in Chemical Reaction. Today, he answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: What was it like growing up with a dad who’s the Chief of Police?

DAVID: Eva and my dad know everyone in our rural town. I still can’t get away with anything without them hearing about it. You wouldn’t believe how many adults are tattlers here. It’s also scary. I was eight the first time Dad was shot on duty and I had nightmares. To help me work through it, he let me stay with him in the hospital.

CHRISTINA: Let’s talk about Eva for a moment. You met her before your dad did. What drew you to her?

DAVID: Well, I met Aunt Taylor first. She introduced me to Eva who helped me with my homework during Dad’s stint in rehab. At the time, I thought third grade math was stupid. Anyway, I adored her from the beginning. She would play with the hair by my ear. It was comforting. I remember Dad and I were supposed to go to a movie after he and Eva first met. Dad quizzed me about her until we visited her again later that night. She once told me about The Kindred Code: Blood means nothing; Love is everything. My mom, Aunt Taylor, and Uncle Joe have a tight bond; I’m glad Dad and I are part of it.

CHRISTINA: Let’s discuss your Uncle Joe. You really didn’t know he worked for the FBI?

DAVID: I had no idea. I remember seeing Peter’s gun in the hospital cafeteria. That’s how I met Taylor. I didn’t put it together that Peter was in law enforcement. I thought Uncle Joe and Peter worked in a boring office…selling insurance or something equally dull. At family gatherings, they never talked about their jobs. Wow, what a bad assumption.

CHRISTINA: What do you want to do after you graduate from high school?

DAVID: Right now, I want to get through this last year. I’m hoping to graduate early then start college next spring. Growing up, I thought I’d go into law enforcement and be a cop like my dad, but now I’m interested in the FBI like my uncle.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for sharing your story, David. Stay safe and good luck in your senior year. To read more about David and his adventures, check out The Chemical Attraction Series.

The Chemical Attraction Series GRATITUDE GIVEAWAY

I am thankful for so much this year.  After his deployment overseas, my son made it home for Thanksgiving.  What a blessing to have my daughter and son home together.  I’ve missed their jovial banter.

I’d like to show my gratitude with a Chemical Attraction Series Giveaway.

Up for grabs:

A signed Second Edition print of Their Rigid Rules (Book One),

A signed Second Edition print of The Kindred Code (Book Two),

A signed print of Searching for Her (Series Anthology),

PLUS Bookmarks, Door Hangers, and Notepads.

To Enter:

1) CLICK on this LINK to 48fourteen’s Facebook Post.

2) Then, follow the steps to enter.

EASY PEASY!

Thank you.  I appreciate your support.

[The winner will be chosen by 48fourteen on December 8th.]

Visit my Amazon SERIES Page to learn more about my stories.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074FZ6CHZ

I Love Joe

 

I. Love.  Joe.

There … I said it. Joe Roberts IS my favorite character out of all my novels. Why? Well, like many of us, he’s searching for his purpose, he’s searching for love, and he’s searching for the woman, who will help him understand him.

I’ve described Joe as charismatic yet brooding, a womanizer on the surface. Deep down, Joe’s searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate—the one person who will love him “for” his faults not “in spite” of them.

From an early age, Joe’s wanted to be an FBI agent and he’s wanted to find true love. Through hard work, he achieved the first. He’s struggling with the second and wonders if he’s worthy of love.

As an offshoot from The Chemical Attraction Series, Searching for Her is about Joe’s heartache. He’s slowly losing hope for that soul connection. He doesn’t realize that it’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve been there. I know how he feels. He compelled me to write his story.

Would you like a behind-the-scenes look at Joe Roberts?
Searching for Her is FREE on Instafreebie

Searching for Her, an anthology of short stories about Joe Roberts from The Chemical Attraction Series, takes place after The Kindred Code leading into Chemical Attraction. During the eight-year span of these seven stories—as seen through the eyes of his family—Joe gradually loses faith that he’ll find his soulmate.

His sisters, Taylor and Eva, conspire to help him. Convinced Madeline Pierce is his perfect match, Eva and Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia push for a connection. Each time they try to force a meeting, it backfires.

Unbeknownst to Joe and his family, the Synchronicity of the Universe is at work. Can Joe decipher the subtle signs pointing him toward Destiny’s grand plan with Madeline? Many could die if he doesn’t.

Have you read The Chemical Attraction Series?
Please consider writing a review on any or all of the novels.
Thank you.
Christina’s Amazon Page

 

Ten Reasons to Read/Reread The Chemical Attraction Series

Here are my TEN REASONS why you should read/reread The Chemical Attraction Series:

#10 – The Re-release of the Series

One of the reasons for the second edition release is to put the Series in chronological order. The newest novel, The Kindred Code, is the sequel to Their Rigid Rules. (Saying the sequel to the prequel was a mouthful.) With the order change, I was able to add more scenes to Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction for a smoother transition. I love the result and think you will, too.

#9 – A New Addition

The Kindred Code is divided into three storylines: Matt & Eva’s budding romance, Peter & Joe’s new working relationship, Taylor & Stuart’s engagement struggles.

I love Matt and David’s bond. Matt’s a great dad always putting David first. All of a sudden, he meets Eva, who completely mesmerizes him. They aren’t saving the world, only each other. However, it’s not all wine and roses for Stuart and Taylor. They’re together but miles apart; and it’ll stay that way until they share their pain and fears.

Meanwhile, Joe and Peter work on an unofficial assignment before Joe heads to Quantico for his FBI training. Joe simply has to sweet talk the waitress for information, but they soon uncover a sinister plot. This novel picks up two weeks after Their Rigid Rules.

#8 – Hot Alpha Men

As a history professor and former Marine, STUART MORGAN, a blond, blue-eyed war hero, battles his inner demons. Although he longs for mental peace from an empathetic woman, his rigid rules prevent it.

Ruggedly handsome with a calm demeanor, Officer MATT CONNOR recovers from a gunshot wound obtained while on duty. As a single parent, he pushes any romantic life aside and focuses on raising his eight-year-old son, David.

Charismatic yet brooding, JOE ROBERTS is a womanizer on the surface. Deep down, he’s searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

#7 – Strong Sexy Women

TAYLOR VALENTINE, a natural beauty, embraces her vanilla tendencies. Her plan for her life reinforces those traits. Kindhearted, she doesn’t apologize for giving people the benefit of the doubt.

EVA O’SULLIVAN, a petite Irish spitfire with auburn spiral curls, has big opinions, and you know them whether you want to or not. Masking her vulnerability, she wears her willfulness like armor.

Akin to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, MADELINE PIERCE, a dedicated scientist, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship. With her Ice Queen persona set, she hides within the realm of her research.

#6 – More Romance

I consider my Series to be equal parts romance and thriller. I think the romance and action feed off each other creating the suspense. Now, there’s more romance as I delve deeper into Eva and Matt’s and Taylor and Stuart’s relationships. The combo of respect and humor in Joe and Peter’s bromance is also fleshed out in both Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code.

In Chemical Attraction, Joe’s player ways hinder his potential relationship with Madeline during the case. I’ve amped up their sexual tension. While finishing the case in Chemical Reaction, Joe cares deeply for Madeline. His actions reflect his love for her, intensifying the decisions and choices he makes to save her from her abductor… some good, some bad. He’s torn between his personal desire and his professional integrity.

#5 – Based on Real Places

I love giving a shout out to Michigan where all four seasons can be felt in a single week. In Their Rigid Rules, I describe autumn at Western Michigan University. In The Kindred Code, winter in Michigan is my main focus. I also mention Allegan’s Regent Theater, the Grill House, Minnie’s Diner, and Marr Haven Wool Yarn Farm.

In Chemical Attraction, I’ve referenced a hot humid summer in Allegan (aka Allenton), its beautiful boardwalk along the Kalamazoo River, Bubba’s bar, the Griswold Auditorium (aka my fictional Hartford Auditorium), and the Delano Mansion Inn (aka Sylvia’s B & B).

Although the external description of the Delano Inn and Sylvia’s B & B is the same, the inside couldn’t be more different. I refer to Sylvia’s as a comfortable farmhouse-style B & B. The Delano has a classy Victorian-style decor. If you get a chance to stay there, do. The owner Marcia Neigebauer goes out of her way to make you feel welcome … much like Sylvia, my fictional owner.

Summer carries over into Chemical Reaction. The focus is back on Allegan, Detroit, and the Great Lakes. Although I’ve lived in Michigan most of my life, I still learned so much more about the Great Lakes and the Welland Canal’s locks between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario that bypasses Niagara Falls.

#4 – Science & Holistic Aspects

What happens when science runs amuck? Who has the courage to stop it?

With a degree in Biology and a diploma in Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, I’m passionate about science as well as holistic health. In Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction, a nanotechnology drug designed as a medical cure ends up a bio-weapon. Meanwhile, for Joe and Madeline, the healing power of love is incredibly profound. I love exploring the physical science, the emotional workings of our mind and heart, and the spiritual energy that taps into our passions.

#3 – New Cover Art

Although I like the original cover art, I love the newer versions … simplistic and meaningful to the novels. When Taylor meets Stuart for the first time, her life’s plan goes up in flames in Their Rigid Rules. A single ring in The Kindred Code changes the family dynamic forever. With the recently added scenes to Chemical Attraction, the cell phone in the water fits perfectly within the storyline while the floating beaker in Chemical Reaction represents the chase along the Great Lakes.

#2 – More Humor

Throughout the Series, Joe, Taylor, and Eva needle each other with playful sibling banter. In The Kindred Code, Joe’s joking nature tests his and Peter’s new working friendship while Taylor’s and Eva’s first impressions with their future mothers-in-law go awry then increasingly worse. With the additional scenes to Chemical Attraction, Joe’s Fun Phone wreaks havoc in his pursuit of Madeline, who isn’t falling for his lame pickup lines.

#1 – My Best has gotten Better

I had the opportunity to improve the stories with everything I’ve learned over the last few years. These characters have been in my head for over a decade. Now, I’m able to share more of their backstory. A special thanks to my publisher, Juanita Samborski. I’m grateful for her faith in the Series and in me. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished.

The Chemical Attraction Series on AMAZON

*****

Goodreads Author Page

48fourteen Publishing

The Chemical Attraction Series Facebook Page

Chemical Attraction: New Cover & New Content

Here’s a sneak peek into some of the new content:

With his FBI badge hanging off a chain around his neck, Joe Roberts, in jeans and a t-shirt, set a file and large coffee on the counter in the FBI reception area in the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit. He patiently waited for Jane Whitmore, the young doe-eyed woman behind the counter, to hang up her phone.

On the early Saturday morning, he glanced around the empty area. Offices surrounded the perimeter of the floor with the hallways connecting as a square. Eight large rooms in the middle were used for meetings, evidence, and work areas.

Joe liked the shared space in the larger work room with his team although they probably didn’t. Known as a hardass, he had vowed that no one would ever get hurt on his watch. His solemn promise rivaled the FBI’s motto of Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.

When Jane hung up her phone, Joe handed her the coffee. “Thanks for coming in on your day off. Is he here yet?” The whole office had the day off. Except for a rare three-day weekend, he hadn’t taken a real vacation in years.

“No, but you can wait in his office,” she replied, smelling the coffee’s cinnamon aroma, her favorite.

Joe shifted his legs as he leaned on the counter. “I dropped my work phone in the … well … let’s just say it got wet. Can you acquisition me another?”

She smiled. “Sure. I’ll have one for you Tuesday.”

“No hurry. I’ll be gone for a week or so. I have my private cell until then.” Joe took her picture with his cell then added her number to his contact list.

“At the Director’s request, I had the black suit you leave here for court pressed. It should arrive after your meeting,” Jane said.

“Moneypenny, you deserve another raise,” he replied.

“Sweet talker.”

“Hey, hey, you know the rules. If your father caught me flirting with you, he’d assign me to an Alaskan outpost,” Joe said.

Jane laughed. “And here I thought you liked living on the edge. I wouldn’t tell.”

“Seriously? He’d ship you to a convent.”

“Good point. By the way, be thankful you’re leaving. I heard Rita has her sights set on you this week,” Jane said.

Joe cringed. “I’m glad you have my back.” After checking the empty area again, Joe leaned over the counter and gave her a peck on the cheek.

Inside Division Director Peter Bingaman’s large office, with a sofa, coffee table, and private bathroom, Joe sat in one of the three chairs across from the enormous desk. Propping his feet on the corner of it, he leaned back and stared at the woman’s headshot clipped to the front of the file. With her golden brown hair in a bun, she smiled back at him. He wondered how long her hair was. When the Director walked in, Joe snapped back to his new assignment.

Peter shoved Joe’s tennis shoes off the edge of his desk before sitting behind it. “Jane’s out there grinning like the cat that ate the canary. What did you do?” Peter demanded.

“What do you mean? She’s waiting for my suit to arrive,” he replied, sitting up in his chair.

“You called her Moneypenny again, didn’t you? Never mind. Just give me the specifics on this new case.”

Joe passed him the thin file. “Well, I ID’d the anonymous caller as Dr. Madeline Pierce. She’s a scientist working with nanotechnology at BennTech’s Research Facility in Allenton. Her call didn’t give us much information though.”

“It warrants attention. You may have to deal with Matt Connor,” Peter said, glancing at Madeline’s picture on the file.

“I’m a professional, Pete. I would never let my personal life interfere with my career.”

“How many times have we been over this, Agent Roberts? I’m Director Bingaman in this building.”

Joe snorted. “Yes, Sir. Eva and my brother-in-law won’t be an issue.” When Joe’s cell vibrated, he checked it. A sexy brunette’s photo identified her as the caller. Cringing, Joe let it go to voicemail then snapped a picture of Peter to add to his contacts. “I gotta use my private cell until Jane orders me another work one.”

“Don’t get distracted with your Fun Phone. That’s what Eva calls it, right?”

Joe scowled. “Yeah, that’s what she calls it. She’s been bugging me to go to the memorial fundraiser there … so two birds.”

Peter chuckled at Madeline’s picture then set aside the file. “A word of warning: Your sister has an agenda. She called me to make sure you had a few days off to attend that party,” he said, leaning back in his chair.

“Great. Another setup,” Joe replied, rubbing the back of his head.

“Have fun with that. I only want work-related updates, especially since this scientist researches and develops drugs.”

With a nod, Joe stood. Out of respect for his mentor, he used his t-shirt to wipe off his shoe smudge from the desk before leaving.

Grab your copy of Chemical Attraction on July 19th

In the meantime, add CHEMICAL ATTRACTION to Goodreads

And sign up for updates and giveaways: CHRISTINA’S NEWSLETTER

An Auspicious Day

JULY 19th will be a big day for me … and for you. Have you heard? We’re re-releasing The Chemical Attraction Series with a new book order, a new novel (The Kindred Code), new covers, and new scenes.

These characters have been in my head for over a decade. I can’t wait to share more of their story.

Also on that day, I’m giving away Searching for Her, an anthology of short stories based on the Series. However, it’s an exclusive offer for subscribers of my newsletter.

Sign up now: CHRISTINA’S NEWSLETTER

THEN, on JULY 19th, you’ll receive a reminder about the re-release AND the link to download your FREE copy of Searching for Her.

***

In the meantime, can I entice you with the blurb and excerpt from Searching for Her?

***

Searching for Her, an anthology of short stories about Joe Roberts from The Chemical Attraction Series, takes place after The Kindred Code leading into Chemical Attraction. During the eight-year span of these seven stories—as seen through the eyes of his family—Joe gradually loses faith that he’ll find his soulmate.

His sisters, Taylor and Eva, conspire to help him. Convinced Madeline Pierce is his perfect match, Eva and Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia push for a connection. Each time they try to force a meeting, it backfires.

Unbeknownst to Joe and his family, the Synchronicity of the Universe is at work. Can Joe decipher the subtle signs pointing him toward Destiny’s grand plan with Madeline? Many could die if he doesn’t.

***

…Standing next to Maggie, Joe put his elbow on the bar and angled his body toward her. Her friend had left, and she sat bored watching the football game. She ignored him until he spoke.

“Do you see my friends over there?” He casually pointed to Orr and Anderson. “The ones you shot down earlier.”

She glanced at them then looked at Joe. Instead of reaming him like the other undercover agents, she blinked then smiled unfurrowing her brow, a glint of arousal in her eye. He had her full attention now as if he hypnotized her.

“Unfricking believable,” Peter muttered through Joe’s ear com. He had no idea how Joe did that. His eyes? His smile? Sorcery?

“Yes, I remember,” she replied with a softness she hadn’t used before. Was she under Joe’s spell?

With his finger, Joe lightly touched the inside of her wrist on the hand that suddenly stopped caressing the condensation on the glass of her mixed drink. “Well, they bet me forty dollars that I couldn’t get you to kiss my cheek…”

~ from “Peter’s Pet”

***

…Katie Kelley, their young busty waitress, set two more fresh frosted mugs in front of them. Her tight jeans and low-cut Dugan’s t-shirt accentuated her curves and cleavage. “Peter, who’s your cute friend?”

Sitting up straighter, Joe smiled. Peter could feel Joe’s pheromones waft toward Katie. He pictured a smoke-shaped hand reaching out of the fog seductively luring her closer. With a sigh, he sat back not wanting to get sucked into the crosscurrent.

“Katie, Joe’s a colleague,” he replied as an introduction.

“Ooh, a sexy guy with a good job. How irresistible!” She squeezed Joe’s bicep before leaving.

“I really hope she’s not related to you,” Joe said, checking out her behind.

Peter groaned. “She’s not.”

While eating the house special of tender pot roast, red potatoes, and steamed asparagus, Joe and Katie flirted. Feeling like a third wheel, Peter put up with it so he wouldn’t have to talk about Martin. He finally slid his empty plate aside.

“I hate to interrupt your little dance with the waitress, but we have an issue to discuss.”

Joe wiped his mouth and sat back. “Maggie’s phone number? You know I didn’t ask her for it.”

“We’ll deal with that on Monday. This is something else…”

~ from “Peter’s Pet”

***

…Sylvia put the food containers of ham, scalloped potatoes, yams, and slices of pumpkin pie in the fridge. Eva must have known Madeline wouldn’t stop by there, so she sent Joseph here. They had horrible timing.

“I wanted to check in with you since I didn’t have a chance to attend Herbert’s funeral,” Joe said as she poured them each a cup of coffee. He leaned over to smell the flowers then took the mug she offered. “How have you been doing?”

Sitting diagonally to him, she sipped her coffee. “Some days are better than others.”

“Yeah, the holidays can be rough,” he said. “After Taylor’s parents died, that first Christmas was brutal. All the traditions we grew up with seemed to have died, too.” With a matter-of-fact attitude, he empathized with her grief. She found it comforting.

“I miss him every day. I still expect him to walk through the front door,” she replied.

Leaning back, Joseph retrieved the box of tissues on the counter by her stack of cookbooks and set it between them. “Is all that pain worth it?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Tennyson’s quote: Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” He shifted in his chair. “Is it better?” he asked.

Pushing the tissue box aside, she reached for his hand not sure if he’d pull away. He gently lay his other over hers, warming them. His eyes seemed to search her face for the answers.

“I have a lifetime of loving memories with Herbert that I’d never give up. Your time will come,” she replied.

He sat back in his chair, letting go of her hand, shielding his vulnerability. Her niece did that often. Sylvia had tried to get her to share her feelings, too, but Madeline had only touched the surface, pushing her pain deep down inside her core.

Contemplating her answer, Joseph stared into his empty mug. “I want my life to be better, but I’m tired of searching…”

~ from “Purple Roses”

***

I hope you’ll join me JULY 24th for the first day of 48fourteen’s week-long BOOKTOPIA EVENT on Facebook.

With a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I’ll share Feng Shui tips, helpful acupressure points, and various tidbits on holistic health. You’ll also learn more about my Series. Oh, and you don’t want to miss out on the giveaways…lots of giveaways.

48fourteen’s BOOKTOPIA   

THE KINDRED CODE: Did you know?

Some writers say they put bits of themselves into their stories. I, too, have incorporated parts of my life in my writing. I call it — Therapy. These are a few of my bits and pieces that sparked my series. (You may sense a Back in My Day theme as you read them.)

DID YOU KNOW I spoke with an Afghan war veteran about his experiences? He helped bring authenticity to Stuart’s PTSD flashback scene. I’ve known my son’s friend since they were in middle school together. He’s grown into a caring responsible young man. Caleb, thank you for your service. I’m proud of you.

DID YOU KNOW I modeled the tiny spunky nun in this story after Sister Maxine Magee from The Sisters of St. Joseph? I knew her through Nazareth College and our church. She sang “Ava Maria” at my wedding. She recently passed away. I’ll miss the little gal with a big voice and heart to match.

DID YOU KNOW I named Linda Lou’s bar, after my mom? She’s not fond of her middle name. Now, it’s out there in the book world. (Take that, Mom, for grounding me when I was fourteen.) In another book, I name a Great Lakes cruise ship after my dad. I though the USS Hershall Floyd has a certain ring to it. (I’m hilarious!)

 

MARK your calendars for the release of The Kindred Code on Wednesday, July 19th.

ADD The Kindred Code to GOODREADS 

AND sign up for my newsletter and get a reminder:

CHRISTINA’S NEWSLETTER 

 

THEIR RIGID RULES: Did you know?

Some writers say they put bits of themselves into their stories. I, too, have incorporated parts of my life in my writing. I call it — Therapy. These are a few of my bits and pieces that sparked my series. (You may sense a Back in My Day theme as you read them.)

DID YOU KNOW Taylor and Eva’s dorm room isn’t set up like the dorms at Western Michigan University? Instead, it’s akin to the dorms at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo where I attended college. At my small college, two buildings had four floors each. The men were on only one of the floors since the campus first became coed in 1971. Shout out! Go Moles! (Yes, that was our mascot.)

DID YOU KNOW Holly’s Bistro on Westnage Avenue in Kalamazoo was a real place? Stuart takes Taylor to Holly’s on their first official date. My now husband Kraig and I had dinner there often while dating. Sadly, the romantic restaurant isn’t there anymore.

DID YOU KNOW Matt Connor’s son, David, started out as such a minor role that I used my son David’s name? I wanted a strong name, and my son’s was right there. Now, David Connor has become an integral character in the Series. I don’t regret naming him after my son, however, my David may receive flack for it. (Sorry/Not sorry, Son.)

Mark your calendars for the re-release of Their Rigid Rules on Wednesday, July 19th.

OR better yet, sign up for my newsletter and get a reminder:

CHRISTINA’S NEWSLETTER 

(Signing up automatically enters you into the drawings for all my giveaways.)

Cover Reveals & Relaunch of The Chemical Attraction Series

The Chemical Attraction Series has had a major makeover – both inside and out. On July 19th, the entire series will be re-released. The books will be a little bit hotter, and will come full circle, giving you more of the characters you have grown to love.

The re-release will be aligned with the new release of The Kindred Code, now Book 2 of the series. Confused? Don’t be, the only books you need to read in order is Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction…the rest is up to you.

***

Now, for an inside look at The Kindred Code:

Taylor Valentine, Eva O’Sullivan, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They believe in The Kindred Code: blood means nothing and love is everything. After all, they’ve been together every day since the third grade. As their lives take different paths after college, they wonder if their mantra will stay true.

When word gets out that Professor Stuart Morgan had dated Taylor while in his class, the publicity takes a toll on their relationship. While Taylor recovers from a gunshot wound, Stuart struggles with his PTSD. Instead of sharing their pain, they drift further apart.

With his son, David, at a sleepover, Officer Matt Connor invites Eva to his home. During their romantic weekend, volatile confrontations erupt between Matt’s mother and Eva and David’s biological mother and Eva. The rural town enjoys the uproar. Even on her best behavior, Eva worries about the chaos she brings to Matt and David’s lives.

Before Joe heads to the FBI Academy, Director Peter Bingaman asks for his help on an unofficial case. He needs an outsider, who’s smart and quick on his feet. Joe jumps at the chance to test his skills. Before long, they uncover horrendous crimes. Suddenly, Joe’s in over his head.

Will Joe’s family put aside their problems and come to his aid before it’s too late? And what will that mean for his career as an agent?

***

Add it to your Goodreads TBR List

Series Cover Design by Ampersand Book Covers

BONUS: Searching for Her will be FREE July 19th

Here’s a sneak peek into my new anthology:

Searching for Her, an anthology of short stories about Joe Roberts from The Chemical Attraction Series, takes place after The Kindred Code leading into Chemical Attraction. During the eight-year span of these seven stories—as seen through the eyes of his family—Joe gradually loses faith that he’ll find his soulmate.

His sisters, Taylor and Eva, conspire to help him. Convinced Madeline Pierce is his perfect match, Eva and Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia push for a connection. Each time they try to force a meeting, it backfires.

Unbeknownst to Joe and his family, the Synchronicity of the Universe is at work. Can Joe decipher the subtle signs pointing him toward Destiny’s grand plan with Madeline? Many could die if he doesn’t.