Courage, Strength, and Unconditional Love

What is the ultimate gift?

Cool off with a frosty New Year’s Eve Chapter One excerpt from The Garden Collection, a story of courage, strength, and unconditional love.  I’ve posted the New Year’s Eve Prologue to this sweet romance a few years ago. If you prefer to start there, here’s the LINK.  Enjoy.

 

Friday, December 31st – Present Day

Standing behind the counter at Mason’s Diner, Brianna Carlson waited for Henry Mason to pass her orders through the grill window. The breakfast and lunch crowd had her running. Now, the late lunchers filled only three of the ten stools at the counter and two of the eight booths along the windows.

Her half-sister Chloe’s paper snowflakes covered all of the windows as if another blizzard had hit town. Multi-color Christmas lights blinked around the window frames. By the cash register next to the counter, a two-foot-high fake Christmas tree held so many of Chloe’s homemade ornaments the patrons couldn’t see the branches.

Catching her breath, Brianna stared at the poster behind the register and smiled. Lucy 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?

Bree was proud of herself and so were the regulars at the diner. They 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 purse and shoes.

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

The retired men along the counter chuckled. “Are you daydreaming again, Cinderella?” Charlie asked as he took off his baseball cap that had covered his thinning gray fringe.

Blushing, she laughed. “Maybe I’ll find my Prince Charming tonight,” she replied, picking up the BLT and cheeseburger platters.

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

She set Charlie’s BLT in front of him and grabbed the ketchup from under the counter. “What do you think is in the box?” she asked, handing George the bottle for his burger and fries.

“Money?” George asked.

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

“I know what’s in the box,” Chloe said from the end of the counter. Her long brown hair in a thick braid matched her big sister’s. Chloe bit into a French fry and grinned.

“Well, my sweet one, please share with us,” Bev Mason said from behind the cash register. With her wrinkled smile, she played the elder matron with ease.

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

Bree laughed and nodded. “I always thought it was obvious,” she said, absently touching her gold locket tucked under her Mason’s Diner t-shirt.

“Tell us right now,” George demanded. He winked at Chloe as he wiped his mouth.

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

“Oh, and you’re a genius?” Bev asked

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

Brianna nodded. “You have a lot of wonderful tutors,” she said, glancing at her work family.

Chloe had grown up on that stool. They had put her name on it. Bree felt blessed that Bev and Henry let her work and care for Chloe at the same time. Over the years, the regulars had taken turns keeping her occupied. She and Chloe had many aunts and uncles.

As the men teased Chloe that they had made her smart, Officer Eddie Kent stomped his feet inside the door. In his dark blue uniform and auburn crew cut, he sat at the opposite end of the counter. Having known Eddie since they were in kindergarten, Bree greeted him with his usual glass of milk.

“It’s not ready yet?” he asked.

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

Bree quickly entered the kitchen and helped Henry with the order of rare steak and scrambled eggs with a side of raw onions and garlic toast. Eddie ate it every day he worked. Superstitious about his job, he said it kept him safe. For the last year, that’s all he ate. She carefully set 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 said, reaching for the knife.

“What?”

“Kent! I will explain it,” Chief Mason said, taking up the entire doorway.

Brianna looked at Cameron Mason, the Chief of Rushing for the last ten years. With his bushy brown mustache, he reminded her of a young Sam Elliott from the Western movies. He had the deep voice like him, too. All he needed was a cowboy hat. Bev and Henry were proud of him and his profession although Bev hoped he’d marry soon. She wanted grandbabies.

Bree thought of him as an overly protective big brother. Since she didn’t have a car or a license for that matter, he’d give them a ride occasionally across town to their tiny loft apartment. He also lectured her on safety. She and Chloe paid attention to all of his rules.

Chief Mason smoothed down his thick mustache with his thumb and finger and pointed her to the end booth. His business-like manner unnerved her. With a hand over her stomach, she sat.

He stopped Chloe from jumping off her stool. “Stay put. I want to talk to Bree in private.”

“Cam, what’s wrong?” she asked as he sat across from her.

“I just found out Wayne got parole.”

She gasped. “When?”

“He’ll be released tomorrow. Because of overcrowding, he’s being let out earlier than I had expected. There was nothing I could do.”

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

“I honestly don’t know. Follow my rules, Bree. They’ll keep you safe. If you see him anywhere in town, call my cell,” he said, pulling out his card.

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

Cam nodded and left for the kitchen to talk to his father. She stared out the window at the two fresh inches of snow. What should she do? Wayne’s letters from prison promised to take Chloe away from her. She had no legal rights. Could he come back and reclaim his daughter? She would not let that happen. He would never lay a hand on Chloe. Bree had taken the brunt for years so he wouldn’t hurt her.

Chloe knew next to nothing about her father. Bree had told her that he was in jail because he had hurt them. Bree had preached taking responsibility for your actions since Chloe could talk.

Chloe thought it was like being grounded for doing something naughty. That pretty much summed it up. Although Bree didn’t think Wayne would learn anything from the experience except more contempt toward her for putting him there. He would return to make her suffer. She had to leave. She jumped as Chloe slid in next to her.

“Bree, what’s the matter?

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

While she made plans in her head, she absently cleared the tables. While carrying the tub of dirty dishes, she banged her shin into the metal cart behind the counter. The tub crashed to the floor. Plates and mugs shattered. With tears in her eyes, she rushed to clean the mess. This usually happened when she was stressed or tired. With partial blindness in her left eye and a limp from a healed broken leg, her coordination sometimes made her clumsy.

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

Bree looked up at her. “I’m sorry.”

Bev smiled. “Honey, it’s an hour past your shift. We know it’s not your fault. Why don’t you and Chloe take off? Tonight’s the big night.”

As she put the last broken plate in the tub, she slid it to the side and stood. Charlie grinned and asked, “You’ll save me a dance?”

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

Bree smiled as they tried to cheer her up. “Only if you can recognize me. It’s a masquerade ball after all.”

She helped Chloe with her coat, hat, and mittens. Stepping outside, she took a deep breath. They would make a run for it. They’d hide, and Wayne would eventually give up looking. With a purpose, she reached for her sister’s hand.

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

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

Bree gently tugged Chloe’s hand down the street. They had three stops before she dropped Chloe off with Lucy, who was recuperating from a sprained ankle. Luckily, the stops were in order of the direction they were going. Chloe shuffled her boots through the snow on the sidewalk and sang “Let it Snow.”

After closing out her savings account with one hundred and twenty-six dollars, she pulled open the door to the pawnshop. The stifling heat hit them in the face as they wiped their boots on the rug just inside the door. She spotted Gus Fuller wearing a Santa hat. He had played Santa at the diner’s Christmas party. With a long white beard, he fit the part perfectly.

Bree sighed. “I need to talk to Gus for a moment. Do you want to wander around?” Chloe nodded and headed for the stack of board games while Bree met him at the counter. “I’d, uh, like to see what I can get for this,” she said, slipping her precious locket over her head.

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

She groaned. Robert had spent too much money on her. Her eyes started to water. She quickly wiped her face. This is about responsibility and survival not sentimental trinkets. She took the locket back from him and stared at it. She wore it all the time and touched it often. She was surprised the etched ivy hadn’t worn off. Finally nodding, she set it back on the counter. She had to protect Chloe. As she tucked the money into her wallet, Chloe joined her with a magic kit.

“Bree, do we have extra for this? It’s three dollars,” Chloe said.

Gus smiled. “It’s yours for a hug.”

Chloe laughed and ran around the counter. After paying with a hug, she kissed his cheek and tugged his beard. “Thanks, Gus.”

With slouched shoulders, Brianna moved toward the door.

“Bree, take care of yourself,” Gus said quietly.

She wanted to grab her locket and run. Instead, she limped out the door. There would be no turning back.

The bus station had one last departure at five tonight for Chicago. She didn’t think they’d have time to pack so she opted for the ten o’clock trip tomorrow morning. She wanted to be selfish and go to the gala. Her one last hurrah.

Continue reading The Garden Collection on AMAZON

All for One Lousy Hill

[My dad is the one in the front row far right side.]

“The hill wasn’t a casual slope of tall green grass like the ones at home. The Korean hills had jagged, protruding rock formations with narrow ridges at the top and clusters of leafless bushes throughout the area. The trees had been blown to bits long ago.

We headed to the outpost just below the top along the sub-ridges. Tonight, we supported the Marines surveilling the area. Another squad of Marines patrolled along the valley at the bottom of Reno.

This hill had gone back and forth so many times it had worn areas from mortar fire. The trenches with high sandbag walls were all shot to hell. Razor wire, mines, and booby traps from us and the enemy scattered throughout the valley and hills. Nobody could keep track of it all. It was one big crapshoot.”

Pre-Order Dearest Mother and Dad for $1.99

Release Date: May 21st, 2020

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Add Dearest Mother and Dad to your GOODREADS list

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

 

Sneak Peek Part 2 of Dearest Mother and Dad

Orrin doesn’t want his parents to worry while he’s serving as a corpsman during the Korean War, so he puts a twist on his letters to protect them.  His best friend, Rawley Armstrong, shares everything with his twin sister, so she’ll understand what he’s going through.  Here’s the second excerpt from Dearest Mother and Dad. What type of letter would you write? If you haven’t already, check out the Prologue here.

 

CHAPTER ONE

23 November 1952

Dearest Mother and Dad,

I know you’re disappointed in me for drinking. However, I am not becoming a drunkard and I did not chase after the dance hall girls. In my defense, I just finished eighteen weeks of basic field medical training at Portsmouth, VA and then specialized combat medical training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. That’s a lot of studying and it was only a couple of beers.

Mother, you shouldn’t worry. I’m with a great bunch of guys. We always go out as a group, but I will watch out for shady characters wanting to take my money. You should know the Navy doesn’t let us carry a lot of money so even if someone stole my wallet they wouldn’t get much.

Today is our last day of our fifteen-day infantry training with the Marines at Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Sergeant Dixon Mayo, a real nice fellow, said we’ll have an easy peasy day. Then, as a Navy Corpsman, I’ll be part of the Fleet Marine Force.

Enclosed is a picture of me and my buddy Rawley Armstrong. Doesn’t he look like that actor John Wayne from Rio Grande? Rawley acts tough and has a cocky swagger like John Wayne, but he’s a good egg. He did his last run through the obstacle course yesterday. He actually finished before some of the Marines. Anyway, I’ll write more tonight. I don’t want to be late for my turn on the course.

All the love a son can give,

Orrin

Rawley

From the doorway of the barracks overlooking the obstacle course, I crossed my arms and shook my head. Easy peasy, Orrin had said. Rawley, it can’t be that bad, he’d told me.

Well, after my turn yesterday, I tried to warn him. Now, the pounding rain blinded eighteen-year-old Orrin Connor as he crawled through the mud. His herringbone twill uniform, also called dungarees, went from olive drab to wet dirty brown. Two feet above the ground, a canopy of razor wire covered the quarter mile area.

For once, Orrin should be glad for his thin frame. He wiped his face, leaving a stream of dirt dripping down his chin. The firing of Marines’ M1 carbines and Chinese burp guns over his head thundered with the downpour. I, for one, would forever remember those sounds.

Orrin’s weapon dipped in and out of the mud while his medical pouch and three bandoliers periodically caught on the barbed wire. With a dozen Marines around him, he crept across the flooding obstacle course. The squad out-crawled him. Lagging behind, he winced when Sergeant Mayo stomped along the outside edge parallel to him.

I cringed as Mayo took a deep breath. “Connor, move your ass! By God, you’re going to do this and you’re going to like it!”

Short and stocky, the solid mass of a sergeant had a chip on his shoulder. His voice boomed louder than the gunfire. Even with all that yelling, he hadn’t once started the day hoarse.

When a piece of razor wire snagged Orrin’s bag again, he dropped his gun in the muddy water. With a groan, he yanked the medic bag, tearing the strap.

Someone howled, “Corpsman!”

From the barracks, I held my breath and watched Orrin raise his head then push the front of his crooked helmet above his brow. Standing at the end of the course, the Marines pointed to a downed man twenty feet in front of him. Leaving his gun, Orrin kept his medic bag above the mud and moved double-time. Cradling the bag, he knelt beside Alexander Marshall, clutching his shoulder. Orrin and I were slightly annoyed by the chiseled private who was a notorious ladies’ man. The women didn’t seem to mind. They still fawned over him and ignored the rest of us.

The thunder of gunfire abruptly stopped. The heavy showers, however, did not. The saturated Marines waited at the edge to the razor wire course. Using his body, Orrin shielded the wound from the rain. Leaning on the doorway of the barracks glad to be dry, I watched the drama unfold. Metal barbs bit into the back of Orrin’s neck as he worked to access Marshall’s shoulder. I’ve been bitten by those barbs once or twice so I knew it hurt.

“Corpsman! Get him out of there!” Mayo yelled, beet red and pacing into a bigger huff.

Orrin ignored him. Our training had taught us what to do and what not to do for each kind of wound.

Instead of acknowledging the sergeant, Orrin spoke calmly to the wounded man. “I can’t move you yet. First, I need to see what the issue is.”

“Connor! Pull him out! Now!” Mayo roared.

Marshall moved his hand. No wound existed. “Mayo’s test to see how you respond.”

With a nod, Orrin crossed the Marine’s arms on his chest, laying Marshall’s gun at an angle atop him, too. Unable to stand up due to the razor wire, he tugged the collar, moving him an inch in the rising water of the lowland course. The sharp barbs snagged his clothes and his straps, yanking him backward multiple times. He had to fix his crooked helmet often. After twenty minutes, he had only pulled him two feet. I thought Orrin could float him the twenty yards in the pond of mud. Apparently not.

Finally, Sergeant Mayo threw up his hands. “Marshall, out!”

The Marine flipped onto his abdomen, splashing the water, and quickly crawled out. Drenched, Orrin sighed and followed. The sergeant looked as though he was gearing up for a dressing down. We both disliked being yelled at, but then who did?

Exiting the course on his knees, Orrin started to stand, but the razor wire caught his pant leg. I cringed as he lost his balance and fell face first into the mud puddle. That had to be a mouth full of grit.

As soon as he stood up, Sergeant Mayo lit into him. The others waited as if Orrin’s reprimand might make up for their soaked bodies in the downpour that had yet to lessen. I had heard that California’s weather would be all sunshine. What a disappointment! Michigan’s weather was better. At least it had four seasons.

“You’re a Grade-A klutz! How the hell do you expect to save my Marines’ lives, you scrawny squid?” Mayo demanded.

“Adapting,” Orrin replied at attention.

I smiled at his answer. Ignoring the rain, Sergeant Mayo did not smile. He stared at him, dumbfounded by the answer, an answer that he had lectured about from the start of our two-week crash course.

Mayo clenched his jaw. “I hope to God you figure it out before your first patrol.”

“I won’t let them down.”

Mayo walked away, leaving a dozen men standing in the rain, probably wondering if they could finally dry off. As the Marines rushed in my direction, I retreated to the back corner of the rows of bunks, two beds high, and jumped onto the top one. I picked up where I left off in my letter beside a snapshot of my twin. At twenty, my sister had blue eyes like me. I’d have wavy brown hair like hers too, if it wasn’t for my buzz cut.

I spoke my mind here, which got me into trouble. My arms were pretty strong now with all the pushups they made me do. I wouldn’t tolerate stupidity, especially if I was drunk and in a bar with men bigger, dumber, and more muscular than I was. Although he was naïve, Orrin had my back and could be scrappy in a fight like a cornered wolverine. I was a bad influence on him. I thought he liked it, though. Just because we came from different backgrounds didn’t mean we can’t be friends…

 

Preorder your copy of Dearest Mother and Dad

$1.99

Release Date: May 21, 2020

AMAZON

BARNES&NOBLE

APPLE BOOKS

KOBO

GOODREADS

“One hundred and twenty Marines wounded. Eighteen dead. All for one lousy hill.”

 

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

 

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

 

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

Sneak Peek into Dearest Mother and Dad

Matt Connor from The Chemical Attraction Series has been through the emotional ringer. I recently added to his distress. Luckily, he has his wife, Eva, and his son, David, to help him. Here’s an excerpt from my newest novel, Dearest Mother and Dad. It’s a standalone piece of historical fiction about Matt’s father, Orrin Connor, who was a minor character in my Series.

PROLOGUE

Standing alone in the middle of his parents’ living room, Matt Connor rubbed the back of his crew cut. Where do I start? Framed family pictures consumed every space on the walls. He couldn’t tell what color the wallpaper was. Knickknacks gathered dust and cluttered the end tables, china cabinet, curios cabinets, shelves, and the hutch. What am I supposed to do with all of this bric-a-brac? He had so many questions, and he’d just buried the man who always had the answers.

His wife, Eva, and their seventeen-year-old son, David, were going to help him clean and prep the house to sell. The money would go into David’s college fund. Matt didn’t know what he’d do without Eva and David; they gave him solace after his parents’ deaths.

David burst through the front door, balancing a stack of flattened packing boxes, a roll of tape, and Sunday’s thick Kalamazoo Gazette. “Where do you want to start?” he asked his father, dumping his armload onto the living room carpet.

“Well,” Matt replied, “we can donate the books to the library and then the collectables and clothes to the Salvation Army.”

“That’s a good start.” Eva joined them from the kitchen. “I’ll call the women’s shelter to see what they need.”

For the next week, the Connor family packed and delivered items to various nonprofit charity sites around town. By the end of the week, when the house had been virtually emptied, Matt and David carried up from the basement two worn-out cardboard boxes labeled “Orrin’s stuff” in Matt’s father’s tidy cursive. They set the boxes in the middle of the empty living room floor. Eva had just returned, carrying in a large pizza and a six-pack of Coke.

David relieved her of the Cokes. “Last two boxes,” he informed her.

Sitting on the floor, they ate their dinner. In between bites, David rummaged inside the first box. He pulled out a thick stack of faded envelopes held together by a pale pink ribbon.

“These are dated 1952,” David said.

“Really?” Matt leaned over the other box. He picked up a picture of a General pinning a medal on what appeared to be his then-eighteen-year-old father, Orrin Connor, during the Korean War.

“Grandpa got a medal?” David asked. “For what?”

Eva opened the top letter as Matt stared at the photo. “I don’t know,” he replied. “Dad never talked about his experiences in Korea.”

“He was a corpsman,” Eva said, glancing at the letter.

“What’s a corpsman?” David asked.

“Like a medic,” she replied. “These are letters he mailed to his parents.”

“Wow,” David said. “Let’s read some. I don’t know much about that war.”

Eva looked at Matt. “Are you up for this?”

Matt nodded and leaned back against the bare wall. “I’d like to know more, too.”

…come back next week for an excerpt from Chapter One…

 

Preorder your copy of Dearest Mother and Dad

$1.99

Release Date: May 21, 2020

AMAZON

BARNES&NOBLE

APPLE BOOKS

KOBO

GOODREADS

“One hundred and twenty Marines wounded. Eighteen dead. All for one lousy hill.”

Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” ~ Katharine Hepburn

 

Seniors in college, Joe and Eva debate Taylor’s interest in the visiting professor of their weekend seminar in this excerpt from Their Rigid Rules.  Is Joe right?  Or is he just mad Taylor’s drawn to someone else?

***

Sitting on her bed in their dorm room, Taylor bit her thumbnail again. Joe quickened his pace between her and Eva’s beds and mumbled about not protecting her enough. For some reason, Eva smiled and watched him. He didn’t say anything for a while.

“Joey, are you mad at me?” Taylor asked, pulling her pillow onto her lap.

“Yeah, I’m pissed. This is some mess you’ve gotten yourself into,” he replied.

“Me? What did I do?”

“You’re flirting with your professor at the bar and at class. What’s the matter with you?”

With her mouth open, she stared at him then looked at Eva. She didn’t think she flirted although she considered trying. Feeling the tears in her eyes, she buried her face in her pillow.

“What’s wrong with flirting?” Eva asked him. “You can’t go an hour without hitting on a woman. Fess up. You’re really pissed that Taylor’s interested in a guy.”

Taylor looked up as Joe glared. “He’s her professor! It’s wrong,” he replied, scratching the back of his neck.

“Who do you think you are? The sex police?” Eva asked, leaning back.

Taylor’s eyes widened. “Sex! Jeez, we watched a couple of football games. That’s it.”

Joe turned on her. “That is not it. Reese Forester is not a student. He’s a private investigator.”

With her mouth open, Taylor stared in shock.

“Working for whom?” Eva asked.

“I have no frickin’ idea,” he replied, falling into her desk chair.

Taylor’s head spun. How much more confusing could this get? “Can we just call Dr. Morgan?” she asked, handing him the business card.

Joe glared at the card then at her. “No, you’re not calling him. We don’t know who hired Forester. He’s obviously checking into you.”

“What should I do?” Taylor asked, hugging the pillow tighter.

“Until I get those answers, stay away from Morgan,” he replied.

Eva jumped from the bed and stood level with Joe in the chair. “Wait a minute. Taylor hasn’t done anything wrong. They were only watching the game when Reese grabbed her arm. I would think you’d be happy that Dr. Morgan made sure she got home safely.”

“What are Morgan and Forester up to?” he demanded.

“I don’t know, but she can’t stay away from him. We need the credits from his seminar to graduate,” Eva replied.

After Joe stormed from the room, Taylor slid sideways from a sitting position on her bed to a fetal one. She needed to stick with her life plan. Any minor deviation was obviously a mistake.

***

THEIR RIGID RULES on Amazon

 

REVIEWS

“A fantastic job of balancing all the plot points for an enjoyable story and a satisfying ending.”

“The pace is quick, filled with action…the suspense was riveting.”

“If you’re looking for a new book to keep you on the edge of your seat, this would be the one to pick up!”

BLURB

Taylor Valentine, a senior at Western Michigan University, has had her life planned out since kindergarten. After her parents died while she was still in high school, she had perfected it to make them proud. Now, with the help of her best friends, Joe and Eva, she focuses on graduation and a career—romance in the far distant future. However, when the visiting professor enters the lecture hall, her perfect plan hits a snag.

Handsome history professor and decorated Marine, Dr. Stuart Morgan keeps infatuated students at a distance using his own set of strict rules. Nonetheless, he’s drawn to Taylor’s empathetic outlook. When death threats upend his boring life, he inadvertently puts her in danger. With pressure from family and foe pulling them apart, Stuart wonders if they can sustain the stress.

This Writer’s Way to Learn Spanish

When my daughter’s friend from Barcelona, Spain visited this past spring, I decided it was time to check off an item on my bucket list. Learning Spanish topped the list. As a translator, this young man knows four languages: English, Dutch, Spanish, and Catalan. I find that absolutely amazing.

For his next visit to the U.S., I wanted to learn a few words and phrases hoping to make him feel welcome. Well, he offered to help. He rewrote an excerpt of Chemical Attraction from English to Spanish and then he recorded it. Wow!

Since I know my story and characters better than anyone, I found the translation and exciting tutorial incredibly helpful. Hearing Joe, Madeline, and Sylvia come to life in Spanish was a bit surreal, too. I made this video. Follow along and enjoy.

Gracias, Kevin Nasarre Krols!

 

 

 

 

Is This Karma’s Revenge?

For Joe Roberts, this scene is a culmination of his life choices.  Is he unworthy of love?  With raw despair, he wonders if karma has finally caught up to him, demanding retribution.  Is this karma’s revenge?  Joe thinks so.

An excerpt from Chemical Reaction:

***

Joe loved his home. His sisters had helped decorate it. He and his brother-in-law Stuart hung out and played video games. But tonight, his apartment was an empty shell. He understood why Madeline hadn’t stayed. To have her find a woman in his bed was not how he wanted to start their new life together. Would they have a life together?

In the bathroom, he scrubbed Madeline’s ring and necklace with a spare toothbrush until every bit of soot had been removed. After a shower, he slipped the ring onto the necklace and then put it around his neck hoping to feel her energy. He felt despair. His or hers?

Opening the bedroom door, he saw the unmade bed and a red stiletto on the floor by his blinking answering machine. With a groaning shout, he ripped the comforter, sheets, and mattress pad off the bed and threw them into a pile. Not caring which telemarketer or utility company left messages, he flung the machine across the room. It hit the wall and shattered. Sitting on the naked mattress, he bent over and rubbed his eyes in frustration.

Was this payback for his past transgressions? Over the years, he had hurt many women. Now, all of their pain, hate, and sorrow hit him in the chest with such a profound force he had to gasp for a breath. Bitter anguish gnawed at his heart as he thought about ruining the only relationship he wanted, needed, craved, and may never have. Without her in his life, he didn’t think he could recover. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. Joe slid to the floor and cried.

***

How did Joe get to this point in his life?

Check out The Chemical Attraction Series and find out. 

 

Finding Intimacy in a Crowd

I first met my husband twenty-nine years ago at a bar when he asked me to dance.  The defining memory of us is still vivid in my mind.  I thought Joe and Madeline should have their own intimate moment while dancing.  Enjoy this excerpt from Chemical Attraction.

***

“. . . Keeping Madeline in his arms, Joe guided her into an East Coast Swing. He found it refreshing that she knew the steps. Not many of the women he’s dated did. He had to work extra hard to maneuver them around the dance floor. It got to the point where he just didn’t bother dancing. Now, he realized how much he missed it or maybe he finally found the right partner.

Madeline’s eyes sparkled as he spun her around. He winced at how much he liked making her smile. What the hell! Focus, damn it! Don’t get carried away!

***

“. . . In a formal dance position, Madeline shivered slightly at Joe’s warm hand on her waist. His other holding hers set a wave of heat to her face. She craved more of his touch. She gently squeezed his bicep and shoulder. Even through his suit jacket, she felt his taut muscles.

She inhaled his cologne mixed with his sweat from drumming earlier. He oozed a chemical attraction. As a neuroscientist, she had read about the effects of pheromones. Fascinated, she wanted to lean in closer to taste his neck. She blinked and stiffened slightly. Calm down! Joe was here officially as an agent of the FBI. And she would not become one of those women in his phone.

But, it had been a year since she danced in a man’s arms, her uncle’s arms. Most men couldn’t dance, not that she bothered to find out for sure. It didn’t surprise her that Joe knew how. She supposed it was another way of impressing women. And, damn, if it wasn’t working. . . .”

***

Pick up your copy of the stand-alone romantic thriller, Chemical Attraction (also the third book in The Chemical Attraction Series)

 

Horrible First Impressions

I have yet to make a good first impression; I’m too guarded. The affliction, I believe, is called Resting Bitch Face.

In this excerpt from THE KINDRED CODE, Eva meets Matt’s mother and makes a horrible first impression. . . .

*****

. . . Turning into the long unplowed driveway to the Ready’s farmhouse, Matt gunned it. Nothing was going to stop his time alone with Eva.

As Matt walked with David to the door, he lectured one last time. “No feigning sick and no causing trouble. Eva and I will pick you up Sunday morning.”

“Fine, but I get to hog her all day Sunday,” David said, knocking on the door.

“Deal.”

In a red cardigan sweater and skinny jeans, Kathy Ready opened the door. David quickly slipped through the crack. Kathy’s long, red manicured nails rested on the door and showed no signs of working on a farm. She usually glammed up in the winter off-season.

“Don’t worry about David. We have a few fun distractions for the boys this weekend. Enjoy your peace and quiet,” she said with a wink.

“Thank you. He has his cell just in case,” he replied, before turning from the door. Does everyone in town know about my romantic weekend? He’d ring Bobby’s neck. The gossip that passed his partner’s lips rivaled that of Matt’s mother, Gail Connor.

After sliding out of the driveway, he headed home. Having someone waiting for him gave him a thrill he had never felt before. As he turned onto Pine Street, he saw his mother enter his house. Crap! He hadn’t told her about his weekend plans, but he wondered if David had.

He hit the garage door opener and parked in the empty space. The other spot housed his push lawnmower and the snowblower. As he entered the house through the mudroom next to the kitchen, he heard his mom yelling.

“What in God’s name!”

“Damn, damn, damn,” he muttered, tossing his uniform coat over the wooden chair next to his kitchen table. Seeing his mother in the hallway, he quickly set his gun and belt on top of the refrigerator. Wondering where Eva was, he met his mother next to his bedroom doorway. With a tight curly poodle perm and newly-colored chestnut brown hair, Gail frowned at him.

“Matthew,” she demanded, “who’s that naked woman in your bed? She wears too much makeup.”

He leaned past his mother and saw Eva burying her face in his navy blue comforter, her embarrassment hidden behind her long red spiral curls. Damn, he liked seeing her in his bed.

“Can you be more specific?” he asked. He grinned when Eva stiffened and glared at him.

“Matthew, David could have seen this harlot,” Gail said.

Matt’s amusement at seeing Eva suddenly shifted to annoyance at his interfering mother. He clenched his jaw. “Don’t ever call her that again. Eva’s studying to be a doctor. I invited her here, and I expect David told you that. I just dropped him off at Jimmy’s for the weekend, of which you are also aware. I warned you about dropping by unannounced. Give me your key.”

He would not allow his mother to undermine this relationship. She opened her mouth but thought better of it. Dropping the key in his hand, she stormed out the front door. Dismissing his mother’s antics, he turned back to Eva.

“Hello,” he said, leaning on the door jam.

“You have a parade of women coming through here that you need more information?” Eva demanded. She reached over to retrieve her clothes on the nearby chair.

“It’s sarcasm. I never wanted to take the time to date until you,” he replied. “You definitely made a lasting first impression with my mother.”

She groaned and continued to put on her black leggings and pink bra under the covers. “God, I just wanted to surprise you,” she said.

“Oh boy, did you. Why are you getting dressed?” he asked with a chuckle.

“Seriously?” She slipped a bulky forest green sweater over her head then struggled to put her ankle cast back on.

“Did she kill the mood?” he asked.

Eva left off her wrist brace and threw back his comforter. Matt joined her as she stood beside the bed. She sighed into his uniform shirt. He lifted her chin and smiled. Her makeup was tastefully done in shades of brown against her heart-shaped face. He liked her classy look.

“How about dinner?” he asked, kissing her forehead.

She smiled. “Allenton has a night life?”

“Until eight o’clock,” he replied, hugging her. Would she get bored with this kind of life? He didn’t have much to offer her. “I was hoping to show off my sexy girlfriend.” He touched her soft cheek with his thumb.

“After meeting your mother, are you sure you want me to meet your town?”

“Oh yeah, I can’t wait,” he whispered, before kissing her lips. . . .

*****

THE KINDRED CODE is available in eBook and print formats: https://www.amazon.com/Kindred-Code-Chemical-Attraction-Book-ebook/dp/B073ZM4M7Z/

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