Excerpt Day: The Time Stone

A quick note for you audiobook listeners – the audio version of Flame & Stone is available now! Narrated by the truly excellent Kevin Clay, I think you’re really gonna love it!

I’ve mentioned the kid’s book I’ve been working on a few times lately, and thought you might a little taste. Keep in mind, of course, that this is just the unedited first draft, and subject to all sorts of changes…


Excerpt: The Time Stone
(The Stone Scavengers, Book 1)

Sydney Pointer wrinkled her nose at the nasty smell that hit her just as Ripley Edwards, boy detective found another important clue. Looking up from her book, she was surprised to see an old man in rumpled layers of dirty clothing with the kind of mountain-man facial hair she’d only seen on TV slide into the booth across from her.

She glanced around the nearly empty diner, but her mother was nowhere to be seen. Her heart pounded in her chest so loud she was sure the man could see it, but she tried to stay calm as she closed her book and reached for her bag. Surely he couldn’t move as fast as an eleven-year-old, she thought. She began to scoot out of the booth when he spoke.

“I have something for you, Sydney.”

She froze at her name, fear turning to panic as she wondered what else he knew about her. She tried to remember everything her mom had taught her in case a strange man ever tried to take her. She opened her mouth to scream, but stopped when the man slid a tattered piece of paper across the table.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said. “But I need to give you this. It’s something your father was working on until recently. I’m sure he’d want you to have it.”

Sydney forgot her fear for a moment at the mention of her dad. He’d left when Sydney was a toddler – off on another one of the treasure hunts he was so fond of. An amateur archaeologist who could never be happy rooted in one place, her mother had always said with a wistful smile. He’d tried, her mother told her, but after a year of missed holidays and sporadic hour-long visits, they’d divorced and Sydney hadn’t seen him since, even though he still kept a house in town for the rare occasion when he wasn’t off treasure-hunting.

“You know my dad?” Sydney let her bag fall to the bench and looked closer at the man. He looked…tired. His hair was long and knotted, his beard in serious need of a comb and shampoo, his teeth crooked and brown, and the lines on his face etched in deep, sunburned furrows. There was something in his gaze though that seemed honest.

Something non-threatening in his hunched posture and shaking bent fingers.

“I know him very well, child.” He pointed to the list, but made no move to reach across the table. “Your dad was looking for these stone talismans – keys, he called them – when he disappeared six months ago. Insisted that together they would open some sort of ancient treasure trove. One that supposedly holds the secret to life-long happiness for whoever opens it.”

Sydney looked at the list, which consisted of six crude pencil drawings with a title scrawled in rough handwriting under each one. At the top the drawing was of a circle with a triangle standing on top. It was labeled Time Stone. There was also a flower blossom, an arrowhead, a heart with a crack down the middle, and what looked like a scroll of some sort.

“He was trying to find these? But how did he know where to look? And if they’re made of stone, aren’t they very heavy?”

The old man chuckled. “A talisman is a small object believed to bring good luck to whoever holds it. Your father found the first one – The Time Stone, he called it. I’ve seen it. It’s a sundial no bigger than a half-dollar coin.” He curled his gnarled thumb and forefinger into a circle to demonstrate. “Legend has it that each talisman has a clue on the bottom that leads to the next. Whoever follows the clues and finds the stones will eventually find the treasure as well.”

Sydney frowned. “He disappeared? What happened to him? Is someone looking for him?” She looked for her mother again. They had to do something. “Did you call the police?”

“I don’t know what happened to him, kiddo. And I suspect the police won’t be able to help.” The man hesitated, and then looked her in the eye. “He had some…trouble getting the first stone. As if there were something protecting it. The last thing he told me before he left was that I should pass this list on to you when you turn eighteen.” He coughed, a wet, phlegmy sound. “I’m afraid I’m not going to live that long, kiddo, so you’ll have to take it now.”

“Sydney Ann Pointer, what did I tell you about talking to strangers?”

Relieved that she’d finally showed up, Sydney looked up at her mother, who only glanced at her before turning on the old man.

“Who are you, sir, and why are you talking to my daughter?”

The old man raised his head, and Sydney’s mother gasped, putting a hand to her heart.

“Hello Daphne. It’s been a long time.”


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Excerpt Day: Shelter

I wrote this for one of the Rattles flash fiction anthologies I put together back in February of 2012.  Enjoy!


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Shelter

Her fingers shaking, the girl worked at the back door lock until it finally gave. Pushing the door open, she carefully peered around the corner, listening for any signs of life. Hearing nothing save the occasional whistle as the wind howled through tiny fissures, she crossed the threshold and closed the door, relieved to be out of the elements.

The kitchen looked strangely like any normal kitchen, a table and chairs that should have been stolen long ago still standing sentry, waiting for the family to return. She took a chair and braced it under the door knob then checked the cupboards, relieved to find some expired canned goods. Better those than some of the leftovers she’d eaten from dumpsters – probably safer too. Finding a can opener in a drawer, she made a meal of cold soup concentrate and put the spam in her bag for later.

There was still plenty of time before dark so she gave herself a tour. As if the family had just disappeared into thin air, the furnishings were still largely intact and she fought a growing sense of unease as she moved through the rooms. The house had been vacant a long time, according to the barely readable foreclosure note on the front window – why hadn’t it been looted like all the others?

The staircase leading to the upper level continued higher, and after she’d inspected all of the rooms she followed it up, the door at the top opening with a loud creak. In stark contrast to the rest of the house, the attic was empty save an old rotting sofa against the far wall. Clearly from a different era entirely, it spoke to her. Called to her, really, and as she moved closer, images of elegant ball gowns and long, silky gloves flashed through her mind. Two women sitting with drinks in hand and ice around their necks, gossiping with heads bent close together. A couple, her hand held reverently in his as he asked her a very important question. Two neatly pressed children sitting on either side of their nanny as she reads them a story.

Running a hand over the antique fabric, she wondered what it would have been like. Would she have made the same decisions? Angered the same type of man? Given up her life for the freedom to continue breathing?

Dropping her bag on the floor, she sunk onto the now-lumpy seat and watched out the lone window as the sun went down, taking the light with it. Yawning, she pulled her coats tighter around her shoulders and lay down, her back curving perfectly into the sofa’s embrace as she drifted off to sleep.

***

She woke to warmth on her face and birds chattering merrily outside the window. Unwilling to open her eyes just yet, she rubbed her cheek on the soft, slippery fabric and marveled at how lovely it still felt even in poor condition. Then she heard voices approaching – human voices – and her eyes flew open. Someone was in the house. And she was not supposed to be. Sitting up and reaching for her bag, she was across the room before the realization hit her.

This wasn’t the same house. Either that, or she’d been delirious the night before.

Glancing back over her shoulder, she took in the old sofa, no longer old, but beautifully restored as if someone had only just acquired it. Dark walnut bookshelves lined the walls, filled with what appeared to be expensive hardbound volumes. Looking forward, she was faced with an imposing desk made of thick wood that matched the shelves.

The door opened and she held her breath, inwardly cringing at the thought of going to jail – or worse. The man who peered around the door frame was tall and although not exactly classically handsome, attractive enough to catch her attention. She waited for the yelling to begin, but he only studied her with concern.

“We’ve been looking for you, darling. Is everything okay?”

Confused, she hesitated. Darling? She looked closer at his face, worried that there was no spark of recognition firing.

“I…I fell asleep,” she said, lowering her eyes.

That’s when she noticed her shoes. Not the warm, thick and decidedly unattractive boots she’d stolen from an ex-military hobo, but delicate flats that hugged her feet gently without adding any weight. Holding her arms out, she felt faint as she took in the full skirt and light cotton shirt that had somehow replaced her torn jeans and the layers above it.

“You look pale, my dear. Perhaps you should go lie down for awhile. I can see our guests out.”
Lifting her head, she stared at him, wondering if he’d done this to her while she slept. He’d given her a way to escape, but she felt an overwhelming urge to stay by his side. He would take care of her. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she did. Shaking her head, she forced a smile.

“No, that’s all right. I can come with you.”

He smiled, nodded, took her hand. She followed him into another room, where beautiful women and sharp men danced and laughed and danced some more, just like she’d envisioned earlier. The attic seemed far away, and every second she spent twirling in his arms was bliss. Never had she been so happy.

That night, she lay beside him, tucked against his body after he’d given her more pleasure than she’d known in a long time. As she drifted off, she thought about that poor homeless girl who fell asleep on her couch. It must have all been a horrible dream.

***

Voices were murmuring above her head, and she shivered, the cold burrowing deep into her bones.

“Will she make it?”

“There’s nothing we can do.”

The voices faded away, and she smiled, snuggling into the warm darkness as he pulled her closer.


The Old Sofa is available in digital formats from these online retailers:

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New Release & Excerpt: Flame & Stone

Today I’m excited to (finally) announce the release of my first paranormal romantic suspense, Flame & Stone, Book 1 in the new Dunning Manor series.

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Flame & Stone
Dunning Manor, Book 1

It takes a lot of heat to melt a heart of stone…

Flames once put the heartbroken Thomas Grady under the ancient curse of an old manor house. Two hundred years later, fire fueled by an unholy passion drives Katie Watson to the same manor for protection. Assigned as her guardian under duress, Thomas just wants to do his job and go back to his perch at the top of the manor.

Katie falls hard for her new protector, even as they’re planning an intervention for her nemesis. Now that she’s found him, she refuses to give him up – even if that means she has to travel through both time and space to make it happen…

Flame & Stone is available now in ebook format for $2.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, and Smashwords, and will be available at other online retailers within the week. The print copy will be out within the next month!


Excerpt:

For a long moment, the hall was deathly quiet. Katie glanced at her friends, still apparently stuck in some trance, and then back to the monks, those glassy black eyes staring right through her, or so it seemed. They didn’t move a muscle, and she frowned, wondering if they were even still alive.

Finally, they stood in unison, the action forcing her to take a step back. They began to walk in a circle around her, kicking up a slight breeze that gradually grew in substance, though apparently only within the circle they’d created.

“Katherine Watson. Your enemy has been vanquished, and the warrior returned to the manor, but for bringing your enemy here rather than taking your warrior’s council, you will not be allowed to break the curse. As per the requirements for aide from the manor, you are hereby banished, and are never to return again.”

“Wait! No!” The wind swirled around her like a miniature cyclone now, and she tried to push through it, tried to get to Thomas, but it flung her back every time.

“You can’t do this! You can’t keep us apart! It’s not fair!”

The wind turned to a cloud, the cloud dark and angry around her, and tears slid down her cheeks as she felt herself lifted off the ground.

“No!” she screamed into her swirling cocoon. “I’ll find you, Thomas – I swear! I won’t give up!”

The cloud disappeared in a puff and she dropped to the ground, hitting hard and collapsing from the impact. Stunned, she rolled to her back and saw stars – real stars in the vast, navy blue night sky above. Crickets and frogs chirped in tandem as her fingers curled around dirt and grass. She sat up, looking this way and that, but though she was sure this was the right clearing, there was no sign of the manor anywhere.

“No,” she murmured, swiping at the tears on her face. “They can’t do this. I won’t let them.” She didn’t want to leave, but there wasn’t anything else she could do here, and she was pretty sure those damn druids wouldn’t be coming back.

After one last long look, she ran back to the car and slid behind the wheel. Locking the doors, she just sat there, stunned and shaking. She went over everything that happened, image after unbelievable image flashing through her mind. The manor was gone. Thomas was gone. Peter was dead, and Sarah was…a gargoyle now? It all felt like a dream, something her mind had made up while she was sleeping, and just like that, it was gone. Had it all just been a strange fantasy? Was she going crazy?

No. Even if everything else was fake, Thomas was real. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name, and when she closed her eyes, she could feel him next to her, holding her, hear his deep, gentle voice in her ear.

She had to find him. She would not give him up.

She started the car and peeled off the gravel shoulder and onto the pavement, only slowing when a local cop flashed his lights at her on his way to somewhere else.

She needed help. Someone who had seen the manor, who knew the legend, and someone who knew about druid magic, whatever that was. She had no idea where to find such a person, but the internet seemed like a good place to start, and there was no time to waste.

Frantic to find him by the time she reached her house, she ran inside and grabbed a pen, a notepad, and a couple sodas from the refrigerator before heading to her computer desk. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she entered the first search terms and started scrolling through results.


Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the final version! Up next in the Dunning Manor series – Sarah’s story, coming later this year…

 

 

Excerpt Day & Audio Release: Jasmine Betrayal

JB_Audio_300Today I’m pleased to announce that Jasmine Betrayal, the third story in the BeauTEAful Summer series is now available in audiobook format! You can pick up your copy either on Amazon, Audible or iTunes, and it’s narrated by David C. Fisher, who narrated Deadly Chai as well. Today’s excerpt is from Jasmine Betrayal, of course…enjoy!

Also, don’t forget to sign up for Variety News – the new serial story starts Monday, exclusively for newsletter subscribers!


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Excerpt: Jasmine Betrayal

Resigned for the moment, Genevieve followed Max back out and past most of the doors at ground level until they reached the last, closest to where he’d parked the truck. They went inside and he locked the double-keyed deadbolt, pocketing the room key. Genevieve looked around.

There are probably bed bugs in that mattress,” she remarked, headed toward a door she assumed led to a bathroom. Poking her head in, she moved back just as quickly, wrinkling her nose. “I’m pretty sure the maid quit a long time ago too. Are you sure we can’t just get our money back and go somewhere the inanimate objects won’t try to kill us?”

Max sat down on the edge of the bed and swung his legs up, laying his head on a pillow and closing his eyes. “You really want to get our hostess out of bed again? Be my guest. And we won’t be here long. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive, which is the whole point. Come lay down and get some rest.” He patted the space beside him, and it finally dawned on her.

There’s only one bed.”

He cracked one eye open, regarding her with a look that said he thought she might have a screw loose.

You’re smart. This room was closest to the truck, and cheap. Get over it.” He closed his eyes again, letting a breath out long and slow as he relaxed into the comforter.

Just the sight of it made her itch.

The only other furniture in the room was a small square television stand with an equally square TV, and a pair of square wooden chairs with tan leather-look backs and seats that looked only slightly more comfortable than those in the office had. She glanced at the bed, and then at the chairs again, finally pulling one chair to face the other, and stretching out as well as she could between them.

You’re gonna have a kinked neck,” Max warned. “Not to mention serious back pain.”

She shot him a dirty look, but he hadn’t even opened his eyes. Bastard.

We’re not going to be here that long – your words.” She crossed her arms over her chest and scooted around to find a semi-comfortable spot as his breathing slowed, evening out.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d dozed, but at some point she twitched, jerking her head up and barely suppressing a cry of pain when the predicted kink in her neck materialized. Rubbing it with one hand, she looked over at Max, who had shifted onto his side.

The keys to the room and the truck – her truck – were lying on the bed beside him, apparently having worked their way out of his pocket.

She chewed her lower lip. Contrary to what both Max and the goons chasing her probably thought, she hadn’t been staying in her father’s old trailer. She couldn’t, not while she was sorting through his things, trying to make sense of his life. Instead, she’d subletted an apartment in Little Rock, and that’s where she’d been working on all the accounting and legal paperwork.

The deed was there too. It would be hard for anyone to track her down there, since the lease wasn’t actually in her name. If she could just get there, she could lay low, talk to a lawyer and figure out some way to get Jenkins off her back.

It would depend a lot on how sound Max was sleeping, and whether the stabbing pain in the center of her lower back was going to be a big issue or not.

Deciding a test was in order, she carefully pushed the chair her feet were resting on away a few inches, making a slight scraping sound on the low, industrial carpet. Standing up, she winced at the pain as her body protested. Hands on her hips, she leaned back, then forward, trying to stretch out the knot, but even though it loosened slightly, she knew it was going to be a long drive back to town.

If she could figure out which way that was.

Max still appeared to be sleeping and she studied his face for a moment. The hard, square jaw, thick black eyebrows and small, slightly crooked nose reminded her of a quintessential mobster. A pinstripe suit and fedora, and he could easily step back into the New York twenties without even attracting attention. His lips were full and oh-so-kissable, and for the second or third time since they’d met, she wondered what they would feel like against hers.

Doing her best to move naturally, she leaned over and grabbed the keys, one at a time so they didn’t jingle together. Two steps got her from the bed to the door, and she spent way too much time trying to quietly fit the key into the sticky deadbolt, and yet more precious seconds trying to coax the key to turn. Whoever had installed these locks sure wasn’t worried about safety, but since she wouldn’t be back, she saw no point in complaining.

Finally getting the door open, she left the room key hanging in the lock and carefully pulled it shut. Then she jogged around the corner to the truck, got behind the wheel and moved the seat forward.

Fired up the engine. Shifted into drive. Put her foot on the gas.

The passenger door opened and Max hopped in, his door closing forcefully as she pulled away from the building.

So,” he said, as if she hadn’t just tried to ditch him cold. “Where are we going?”


Want to read the rest? Get your copy of Jasmine Betrayal in digital and audio formats from these fine retailers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | All Romance eBooks
| Smashwords | Audible | iTunes


 

Excerpt Day: MacKenzie Saves the World

This week’s excerpt is from one of the most emotionally draining books I’ve ever written (yet). I love these two – even though I tortured them quite mercilessly…


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Excerpt: MacKenzie Saves the World

Step away from the car, please,” she said in a loud, confident tone that carried across the lot. “I have pepper spray, and I’ll use it if I have to.”

A deep, familiar chuckle wafted toward her on the breeze as the figure straightened, holding both hands up in submission as he took a few steps away from the car and into the pool of light from a nearby streetlamp.

Easy there, tiger,” Josh said, his amused expression becoming clear as she drew closer. Letting her arms drop, she shook her head, stowing the pepper spray again.

Why are you here?” she asked, not entirely sure she wanted to know the answer. He dropped his hands and came closer.

Too close.

She started to step back, but he reached out, gently grasping her upper arms to hold her in place.

I tried to stay away,” he said, his tone serious. “And if you’re smart, you’ll tell me to leave you alone, though I’ll be perfectly honest – I’m not sure I can. There’s just something about you…” he raised one hand to caress the side of her face, his fingers trailing lightly down over the side of her neck.

She looked down at his chest, trying not to tremble at his touch. This was it. She had to choose whether to let him in and probably get hurt, or keep him out and do her best to forget that she had feelings for him.

Walking away was the smart thing to do. And she was nothing if not smart.

He coaxed her to look up with his hand, and she saw the same angst that must be in her eyes reflected in his.

This is a really bad idea,” she murmured. He gave her a slight nod.

I think we’ve established that pretty well at this point.” He waited another heartbeat, and then took a step back. “So we’re going to be smart then, right?” His hand slipped away from her skin, leaving her bereft of his warmth.

She could do this. She could get in her car, buy herself dinner and go home. Maybe she’d cry herself to sleep, but maybe not. They hadn’t even kissed, for crying out loud.

He nodded again at her silence and turned to walk away.

No,” she whispered, willing him to stop. But he didn’t, and an overwhelming sense of panic shot through her, made her take a step forward, and then another until she was running after him.

He turned at the sound of her footsteps and opened his arms, gathering her close as she reached him.

When his lips touched hers, it was quite possibly the most right thing she’d felt in a long, long time.


Want to read more? MacKenzie Saves the World is available now at all major online retailers, in ebook format:

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Excerpt Day: Sleep With Me

Today’s excerpt takes place at a tropical resort, where the weather is exactly the opposite of our weather here in Montana today (18 inches of snow on the ground and cold, thank you very much). Enjoy!


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Sleep With Me (excerpt)

“Wine me, dine me, shag me…then leave. That’s the deal.”

Katherine knew she should smile or maybe flip her hair and bat her eyes, but the man she’d approached at the bar looked experienced enough to know what she was asking for. Voices murmured around them as she waited for the answer.

“Shag you?” he repeated, the corners of his lips curving up. “Does anyone actually say that anymore?”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s better than the alternative. Are you in or not? Because I have a prescription to fill and I need to find a guy to fill it by tomorrow.”

The man chuckled. “You have a prescription for sex? And any guy will do? Then why me?”

“Well…I find you physically attractive,” Katherine said with a shrug. “And you also look like the kind of guy who doesn’t mind a one-night stand, which is basically what we’re discussing. I don’t want an attachment, I don’t need to find true love, and I don’t need a guy who wants my number. I just want drinks, dinner and sex. Then we go our separate ways. But apparently I misjudged you, so I apologize for interrupting your evening.”

She turned away, scanning the room for any other potentially suitable candidates. Who would have thought this assignment would be so difficult? Candace was so going to pay when she got home. Take a vacation, she’d said. Get laid. Nothing like a good orgasm to take care of that whole not-sleeping issue.

Right. Katherine wondered when her friend-slash-therapist had tried to get laid last. After being mistaken for a call girl twice and now turned down for…well, she wasn’t exactly sure why she’d been rejected this last time…she was about ready to go back to her little bungalow on the beach and stay there for the rest of the week.

A jolt of awareness shot up her arm as warm fingers closed around her left wrist. Instinctively she pulled away, but her captor wouldn’t let go. She looked down into her most recent target’s amused emerald eyes.

“Hang on a sec,” he said, finally releasing her wrist. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it, I just wanted to know why me. When were you thinking this little date would occur? And why drinking and dinner first, if all you want is sex?”

Katherine was all too aware that it had gotten quiet in the bar. Apparently their little conversation was garnering a lot of attention – something she really didn’t want.

“You know what?” She moved a step back from the bar, keeping her wrists out of reach. “Forget it. It was a stupid idea. I’ll…um…see you around. Or not. A girl can hope.” She walked as quickly as she could while maintaining a cool facade to the front door and pushed out into the humid island evening. Slipping her shoes off, she hooked the straps with a finger and set off towards the beach.

She’d barely begun to feel the sand between her toes when her mystery man ran up beside her.

“Giving up so easily?” he asked, keeping pace as she kept walking. “Or just looking for a new pool to choose from?”

She rolled her eyes, doing her best to ignore the distinctly male scent that was far too enticing. “Why do you care? You made it pretty clear you were more amused than interested, so just forget I said anything. I withdraw the proposal. Leave me alone.”

He chuckled, the warm sound sending an unwelcome tingle up her spine. “But then I wouldn’t get to see the guy who finally agrees to…ah…fill your prescription. Who’s your doctor, anyways? I think I could use a prescription like that.”

Katherine stopped, letting out a long sigh as she watched the huge sun slip far too quickly below the horizon. She turned to the man beside her and frowned.

“What is your name?” she asked, irritated that she didn’t already know.

He grinned, holding out his hand. “David Patton. And you are?”

“Katherine Gibson. Nice to meet you,” she said automatically, reaching out to grasp his palm. She barely suppressing a gasp of awareness when her skin contacted his, and yanked her hand back before she could stop herself. The lights from the waterfront bars cast a dark orange glow over everything, but she could still see his amusement in the dim light.

“Listen David. You’ve had your fun, I’ve embarrassed myself and I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. So I’m going back to my hut now. Alone. You have a good evening.”

She brushed by him and continued on her way, hoping her burning cheeks had been mostly shadowed. Half-expecting him to show up at her side again, she was inexplicably annoyed when he didn’t.

“Hey Kat!”

She cringed at the nickname she’d hated since grade school and kept walking.

“Meet me here tomorrow night at six,” David called out. It was a statement, not a question, but that didn’t surprise her from a guy like that. She considered it for a second before she yelled over her shoulder to him.

“Sorry, I’m busy. Thanks anyways though.” With a small, hopefully dismissive wave she continued on down the beach to the hut she’d rented.

Once inside, she flopped down on the bed and wished she hadn’t paid up front. The whole vacation had been Candace’s idea, and her friend had pushed for the non-refundable advance payment option. Probably because she knew Katherine would be ready to leave after the first night.

Rolling over, she picked up the phone and dialed room service, ordering dinner for delivery. Maybe tomorrow she could find a tour to take or something interesting.

Something that didn’t involve men.


Want to read more? Sleep With Me is available now at all major online retailers, in print and ebook format:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | All Romance eBooks |
Smashwords | Kobo