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Tuesday Teaser 12/12/17 Strong Hearts Chapter 1b

 

Happy Tuesday! I’m under the weather, so I’m home from work today.  I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping, but I’m awake right now and decided that I should take advantage of my alertness to make a post. I plan to do my annual Stuffed Christmas Stocking giveaway soon. If you’d like to enter to win a stocking stuffed with books and swag, the entry form will arrive in my newsletter this weekend. If you don’t get my newsletter, you can sign up by filling out this form. This picture doesn’t include everything I’m giving away. There will be more books, a calendar with each month featuring one of book covers, another mug, more candy… We’ll see how much I can stuff into that stocking! This is just a quick pic I took this morning of some of the items.  😉

 

Here is the Tuesday Teaser. Enjoy!

 

Denise watched the two men walk away and shook her head. Two men who were so hot in such different ways didn’t cross her path often, and she wanted to watch them for as long as possible.

“That right there,” drawled her sister beside her, “is one fine Mr. Hottie McHotPants.”

Denise turned to Stella with an arched brow. “Which one?”

“Which one?” Stella’s blue eyes opened wide. “The handsome one, of course. Not the oaf who fell on top of me.”

“The one who fell on you wasn’t as handsome as the other man,” Denise conceded, “but he had a great physique.”

Her sister shuddered delicately. “Oh, sure, if you like men who look like wrestling stars.”

“I do.” She remembered the way the big man’s arms stretched the sleeves of his t-shirt. The shirt was the kind that had been washed so much the blue had faded to gray, and the thin fabric clung to every taut curve and valley of his sculpted torso. “I really, really do.”

“Oh, Sissie, you’re simply hopeless.”

Maybe I am, she thought. Twenty-nine and not a single serious relationship to show for it. Denise tipped her longneck to her lips for the last swallow. “Ready to go?”

“It’s only ten!”

“I work at six,” she reminded Stella.

Stella looked around, maybe hoping for someone else to trip. After a minute, she sighed. “Alright. Let’s go back to that dump you call home.”

Denise set the bottle on the bar very carefully. “Since I’m letting you stay there rent free until you find a job, you shouldn’t complain.”

“Oh.” Stella covered her painted mouth with delicate fingers. “I know. I shouldn’t have said that. You’ve been better to me than I deserve. I’m sorry.”

Denise nodded. Her sister always apologized when she said something mean. It was as if Stella was simply unaware of how her comments sounded, but Denise didn’t buy it. Stella was twenty-nine, a little old for the innocent act. In Denise’s opinion, Stella had plenty of smarts, but she was stupid when it came to men. Stella probably thought the opposite. Denise shook her head. Her sister had left Mississippi dead broke and desperate after her boyfriend kicked her out of their apartment. Denise would never, ever put herself in a position where she depended on a man for everything. Nope, as sure as God made Texas, she would never be under a man’s control.

But it didn’t do any good to try to convince Stella that she could be self-sufficient. The main reason Stella had wanted to go out tonight was to meet some men. Billie’s Bar & Grill was a place where Denise and her last boyfriend had gone to unwind. She should have known it wasn’t Stella’s kind of place as soon as she came out of her room in that tiny silver dress.

With a sigh, Denise pushed off the bar stool. “Let’s go.”

In the car, Stella twisted a lock of hair around her finger. “Did you truly like that big guy?”

“Yeah.” He hadn’t been handsome. His face was too hard and blunt for that, but every muscle defined by his tight T-shirt oozed masculinity. Just remembering the ridges and valleys of his torso made her girl parts remember what they were for. Denise cleared her throat. “Yeah, I did.”

“Well … The bouncer called him Doc. Do you think he’s a doctor? A doctor would make a great boyfriend.”

Denise recalled the tattoo on the guy’s arm. It was a military unit’s emblem. He might have been a medic, but a doctor? “I doubt it.”

“I suppose not. He didn’t look like a doctor,” her sister agreed regretfully. “If you had a rich boyfriend you wouldn’t have to live in such a dump. I mean,” she quickly corrected herself, “such a small place.”

It’s not that small, Denise wanted to say, but she kept her mouth shut. She parked her car on the street and led the way up the steps to her admittedly crappy, but fairly roomy, two-bedroom apartment. Stella was almost right when she called the place a dump. She tried to see her place through the eyes of a stranger. The entryway was tiny, so she moved into the kitchen to allow Stella to come in. Yeah, maybe it was a dump. The couch in the living room was upholstered in gold and green plaid that matched the carpet. The shag carpet was avocado green and may have been new in the 1970s. The stains and worn out spots testified to its age. The jumbo-sized recliner, bought at a secondhand store for next to nothing, was neon pink. It might have been an eyesore, but it was comfortable.

Denise hung her keys up with a shrug. It was home. The neighborhood was decent, and the rent was low enough that even someone who was a full-time student at UT Dallas, served in the Texas National Guard, and worked twenty hours a week at an animal shelter could afford it. The carpet was clean if stained, and it didn’t matter if the appliances gave out now and then, because she knew how to get them working without pestering the landlord.

In her glittery cocktail dress, Stella looked as out of place as a hot house flower in a tin can stuffed with daisies. She headed off to the second bedroom, which until a week ago had been Denise’s office. “Good night, Sissy. See you in the morning.” She paused to flash a cheeky grin. “Dream of your muscle man. Maybe that will put you in a better mood.”

Denise rolled her eyes and went to her room to get ready for bed. She did dream of the muscle man. She woke, sweaty and heart pounding a hundred miles an hour, shuddering with the strength of her orgasm. Wow, she thought, wiping the sweat from her upper lip, if that’s what a dream of him does to me, imagine what it would be like with the man himself!

But in her busy life, where would she find time for a boyfriend? Well, maybe for him she could make time. She kicked the tangled sheet off and stretched out on her back. Tomorrow was her busy day. Work at Dog Heaven for three hours, attended three classes, then another two hours at the shelter.  Maybe she could swing by Billie’s for a beer tomorrow after work and ask around about her dream lover? She flung her pillow over her head and told herself to not be an idiot.

But after work the next evening, she swung into Billie’s. What could it hurt, right?

Tuesday Teaser 12/5/17 Strong Hearts Chapter 1a

Well, I’ve been giving little snips from here and there in the story. I’ve decided it’s time to start at the beginning. This is unedited, so it might change a bit here and there, but I like this. This story releases on January 17 2018.

WARNING: strong language.

 

STRONG HEARTS

copyright by Maddy Barone

Chapter One

 

Brutus would have pounded that asshole into a pancake if the bouncers hadn’t stopped him. It took both to drag him off.  The blood dripping from the little shit’s nose made him smile. Smiling hurt his split lip, though, so he settled for a sneer.

“That’s what you get for disrespecting the United States Marine Corps,” he said, allowing the bouncer to pull him a little further away. He knew the bouncer, Matt Martinez, was a Marine himself. “Did you hear what that little rat said?”

“No, and it doesn’t matter.” Martinez sighed. “Come on, Doc, you know what Billie said last time you got into a fight here.”

“That was three months ago!”

Brutus shot the rat who didn’t give honor where honor was due one last dirty look and followed Martinez to a stool at the end of the bar. Along the way they passed several patrons at the bar who seemed to be pretending to be deaf and blind. One caught his eye, a platinum blonde who had to have had breast implants. The Dolly Parton wannabe didn’t impress him. He plopped himself down on the bar stool Martinez pointed him to and waved for Jerry, the bartender.

Before he could order a beer, Martinez spoke. “Coffee or a coke, Doc. When your buddy gets here, you let him take you home.”

A cold spot spread in Brutus’ throat. “You’re cutting me off? It’s only ten o’clock!”

Martinez thumped a fist on his shoulder. “That’s Billie’s rule. If you fight, you leave. And you’ve had too much to drink to drive home yourself, so you just sit here and wait for your ride.”

Brutus slumped on the bar. “Who’d’ja you call?”

“Wolfe. Who else? You gonna cause any more trouble?”

“No.”

He’d drink his coffee like a good boy and let his friend take him home.  Brutus rested his forehead on a fist and stared morosely into the black coffee Jerry brought him. He heard the jukebox switch to a different song, something slow and melancholy. The clack of pool balls reminded him that he’d been having a good night, downing a few beers, shooting a few games, and relaxing after a long shift at the station house. Then that little ass wipe invited him to play. He was probably twenty-one, barely legal, and thought he was a hustler. Whatever. They were playing for almost nothing, so Brutus didn’t care if he lost. Everything was cool, until that guy started talking about how useless Marines were. Things went downhill fast after that.

He tried a sip of coffee. It hurt his split lip. With careful fingers, he gingerly explored the injury. Damn.  The swelling had better go down before his next shift. Three days. It should be gone by then. If not … Hopefully, Captain Stewart wouldn’t be around to notice. Brutus didn’t need another lecture from his boss. He reached for the bowl of pretzels on the bar and had to hide a wince. His ribs were sore from a right hook. That kid had some good moves, at the pool table and away from it. Brutus was going to feel this tomorrow. It was a lot like that fight he’d had back in Camp Fallujah. Or was he thinking about that fight in Camp Dreamland?  Or Camp Dakota? His service days in Iraq were more than ten years ago, so it hard to keep that straight.

“Gunnison.”

Brutus jerked his head up. His partner stood there, looking down at him with a small frown. “Hey, Wolfe. You got here fast.”

“I was already out.”

That’s right, Wolfe was taking his latest piece of arm candy to a movie or something. “Damn, did this mess up your date?”

“No, Cherilyn wanted an early night. I just dropped her off.”

“Aw, too bad. So, you havta sleep alone tonight?” Brutus looked his partner up and down. Wolfe was everything Brutus was not: handsome, light on his feet, tall and muscular without being a hulk, and charming. A real chick magnet. Women went crazy for Wolfe’s pretty boy face.  “Well, it has to happen to everyone sometimes, right?”

Wolfe blew out a breath and shook his head with a half-disgusted, half-affectionate smile. “Shut up. Ready to go?”

“Yeah, sure,” Brutus pushed the still full coffee cup away and lurched to his feet. He had to catch himself on the bar. Maybe he’d had more than he’d realized. He straightened and testing his walking ability. Wolfe watched him without offering to help. Yeah, his buddy understood a man’s pride. “Lead the way.”

He did okay until he tripped over the pointy toe of a sparkly high-heeled shoe and landed nose first in a bountiful cleavage. Brutus might not have the polished manners of some men, but his mama had whupped common decency into him.  He jerked upright and staggered a step back.

“Sorry, ma’am,” he blurted. “Are you hurt?”

The platinum blonde gave a throaty laugh and made minute adjustments to neckline of her low-cut dress.  “Why, I just don’t believe I know.”

Her accept was deep south, not Texas, and her sex kitten purr was directed at Wolfe, not him. Brutus took one long look at her and decided his buddy was welcome to her. She was beautiful but fake. Too much makeup, and too much of her body on display. Billie’s Bar & Grill was one step above a dive, and that short, sequined dress should be worn in a place where fancy cocktails were served.

He glanced at his friend to see his reaction. Wolfe, as usual, showed little. He liked living up to his Native American ancestors’ reputation for stoicism, but Brutus had known him since the old days in Iraq. Behind that coolly polite façade, his buddy was laughing his ass off.

The blonde flicked her foot. The sparkly shoe landed at Wolfe’s feet. “Why, look at that,” she cooed. “My shoe just plumb fell off.”

There was a pause in the noise as the jukebox switched songs. From the other side of the blonde came a sigh. Brutus stepped a little to the right to see who was sitting next to the blonde. For a full five seconds, his lungs forgot how to work.

This was how a woman ought to look. Brown hair pulled up in a bouncy ponytail. Blue jeans neither too baggy nor too tight, and a plaid shirt worn open over a white T-shirt. Her cleavage probably wasn’t as impressive as the blonde’s, but it had a perfect curve. He followed the long line of her leg and saw she was wearing cowboy boots. Worn out cowboy boots, not the pretty, shiny kind city cowgirls wore for show. If she was wearing makeup, Brutus couldn’t tell. Her face was pretty. Not Miss America beautiful, but pretty. Damn. She was Brutus’ prefect woman. Right now, she looked annoyed. Even that looked good on her.

“Stella, for crying out loud.” She turned on the barstool to Wolfe. “I’m so sorry,” she said.

Brutus sighed. Now that she’d gotten a look at his buddy, she wouldn’t have the time of day for him.

But she remined slightly apologetic, not even blinking at Wolfe. No gasp. No staring worshipfully, no blush or smile. She took the shoe Wolfe held out to her. “Thanks,” she said briefly, and thrust it at the blonde.  “Put your shoe on, Stella,” she said in a furious whisper.

“Relax, Sissie.” The blonde pouted and turned slipping her shoe on into a languorous tease. If she wasn’t careful, those tits were going to pop right out of her dress. The pouty smiles and bedroom eyes were directed at Wolfe. The ponytail girl sighed again. Wolfe didn’t respond except to punch a light fist into Brutus’ bicep.  “Ready to go?” he asked.

Brutus couldn’t resist one last look at the pretty brown-haired girl. Her eyes, large and blue, looked at him with a hint of disapproval. His back went up.

“What are you looking at?” he demanded.

Her cool blue eyes ran up him, and then down him. “Nothing much,” she said, turning back to the bar.

“Ouch,” murmured Wolfe, hidden laughter in his voice. Probably no one else heard it, but Brutus did. “Come on, buddy.”

Outside, the air was hot and laden with humidity. Normal for Dallas on the first day of September even at ten at night. Brutus took a lungful of the thick air in before climbing in Wolfe’s pick up.

“Man, did you see her?” Brutus sighed happily. “If I dream about her tonight I’ll be a happy man.”

Wolfe drove out of the parking lot. He stopped at a red light and raised a dubious eyebrow. “I didn’t think she was your type.”

“What? You kidding?” Brutus closed his eyes and remembered the sweet curve of breasts against a white T-shirt half covered by a western style shirt. “She’s exactly my type. Such perfect tits.”

The light turned green and Wolfe stepped on the gas. “Yeah, I guess they were pretty spectacular. Big enough to fill even your hands.”

Brutus’ eyes popped open. “I’m not talking about the blonde!”

“Oh?”

“No. The little brunette gal sitting next to her. The cute one who looked like an actual person.”

“Oh,” Wolfe said with a note of comprehension. “Sure, she was pretty. Looked nice, too. Someone you could really talk to.”

The truth of that hit Brutus’ drunken mind like a sledgehammer. The blonde looked like a man hunter, the kind you took to bed and that was all. The brunette looked like the kind you took home to meet mom.  A girl like that wouldn’t want anything to do with a big brute like him.

Wolfe must have misunderstood his silence, because he went hastily on. “I don’t know that blonde lady. For all I know, she’d be great to talk to. We shouldn’t judge someone by the way they dress.”

Brutus snorted. “Right. We should judge by the way they act. I’ll bet my next paycheck that blonde wished you’d have been the one to trip and land on her tits. Her shoe fell off right in front of you, and that didn’t happen on its own.”

“Thank God your little brunette saved me from having to put it back on the blonde’s foot.”

His little brunette. Brutus reveled in the sound of that. “Yeah. Lucky you.”

Wolfe pulled his pickup into the short driveway in front of Brutus’ house. “Look, give me a call in the morning and I’ll give you a ride back to your truck.” He turned to study him, eyebrows pulling low. “You’ve been partying a lot lately, even when we have back to back shifts. You okay?”

That Indian had always been a little too perceptive. “Geez, Wolfe, you want to talk about our feelings now?”

His buddy snorted a laugh. “Get out of here. See you tomorrow.”

Brutus unlocked the front door and tossed his keys on the table in the front hall in time to catch his dog, Rowdy. The brown mutt was big and mean looking, but loyal and even loving with the right person.  Just like him.

“We’re a lot alike, boy,” he whispered, scratching behind the floppy ears. “One thing is different, though. You had your balls cut off, but the lady dogs still like you. I still have mine, but the ladies don’t like me.”

With that happy thought, he went to bed.

Tuesday Teaser 11/28/17 Strong Hearts

Here is another little snip from my current work in progress.  I feel like I’m really making progress on this one.  And I really, really love Brutus and Denise.

 

The great thing about Billie’s Bar and Grill was that no one ever dressed up. Denise, wearing jeans covered with dog hair stuck to the dog slobber embedded in the denim, pushed opened the door, and stepped to one side. She paused there for a moment to let her eyes adjust. After the bright sun, she was nearly blind in the lower light in the bar. The delicious smell of greasy burgers hit her nose and woke a growl in her stomach. The clack of pool balls and the whoop of men told her at least one game was in progress. She might head back that way later, but for now she wanted a beer, a burger, and some information. All of those could be found at the bar. She made her way through a scatter of tables and parked her butt on a tall stool.

Billie herself was working the bar and she greeted Denise with a nod and something close to a smile. For Billie, that was a warm welcome. The bar owner was a trim fifty-something with short salt and pepper hair and a brisk, no nonsense manner. Even if Denise hadn’t known it, she would have guessed Billie was retired military. Billie had put in her twenty-five in the Marine Corps, and was now enjoying retirement as the owner of a neighborhood bar. Military and ex-military were always welcome here.

“Hey, Chickie,” she called as Denise hooked the heels of her boots over the bottom rung of the stool. “What’ll it be?”

“Beer and a burger basket,” Denise replied. “You know how I like it.”

Billie hollered the order to the back where her husband, Big Joe, manned the grill. She grabbed a longneck out of the case and placed in on the bar in front of Denise. “We haven’t seen you in here for a couple of months. What have you been up to?”

“Just the usual. Work, school, and more work.” She downed a swallow and let it roll, fizzing, down her throat. “That’s good.”

Billie nodded. “Nothing like a cold beer on a hot day. So, what’s up with you and what’s-his-face? That sailor you were seeing last year.”

Denise drank some more. “That’s done. He wanted me to spend more time with him, but you know.” She shrugged wryly. “Work, school, and more work.”

Billie didn’t say any of the usual sympathetic words, just nodded. “When will you be done with school?”

“This is my last year. God willing and the crick don’t rise, I’ll graduate in the spring.”

“You will.” Billie sounded sure. “You work harder than anyone. That’s just who you are.”

Another patron down the bar waved for Billie’s attention. Alone, Denise nursed her beer. The big, flat screen TV mounted in the corner showed a baseball game. The Rangers were down by one in the bottom of the eighth. She hadn’t been to a single game this summer. She loved baseball. Why hadn’t she made the time before school started?

“Hey, sweet cheeks.”

She turned to see Dale, one of the regulars, slide onto the stool beside hers. “Hey, Dale. You do know that anyone else who called me sweet cheeks would regret it, right?”

He laughed and raised a finger to catch Billie’s eye. Billie nodded and went to the cooler. Dale turned to grin at Denise. “I know, but you like my wife too much to hurt me.”

That was true. Dale might act like a flirt, but he was a safe flirt. He was utterly devoted to Marilyn, and had been for the last twenty years. “You’re lucky to have her.”

The creases that age and sun had put on his face shifted in a small, soft smile. “Don’t I know it.” The smile grew. “I saw you here last night, with some high stepping looker.”

“My sister,” she confirmed. “She’s moving to Dallas from Mississippi. She’ll be staying with me for a little while until she finds a job.”

Billie joined them and gave Dale his beer. “Yeah, I heard you were here last night with a woman in a cocktail dress.” Billie shook her head. “A cocktail dress,” she repeated, in something between disgust and wonder.

“I know.” Denise winced. “My sister asked me to take her to my favorite place to hang and get a drink. I guess she meant a club.”

Dale hooted with laughter, and Billie chuckled.

“I don’t go to clubs.” Denise waved her arms around to indicate her surroundings “When I want to go out for a drink, I want to go somewhere that I can relax, maybe shoot some pool or throw some darts. Somewhere like this.” Denise took another sip of her beer. “Last night was interesting. There was a fight back there.” She jerked her chin toward the back where the pool tables were. “The guy who was in it tripped over my sister on his way out.”

Billie muttered something that Denise didn’t catch. Trying to act casual, she asked, “I don’t think I’ve seen him around here before. Is he a regular?”

Billie’s expression was a mix of exasperation and fondness. “Gunnison. He’s trouble. No one you need to know.”

Denise’s mind went to armed robbery, drug dealing, and breaking kneecaps for a crime lord. “Trouble with the law?”

Billie shrugged and wiped her towel over the bar. “Not that kind of trouble. He fights. The man will fight at the drop of a hat. Hell, he’ll drop the hat himself.”

Teaser Tuesday 11/21/17: Strong Hearts

Happy Tuesday!

 

I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I decided you deserved a little snip from my current work in progress. It is entitled Strong Hearts and comes out in January. Here is a little conversation between the hero and heroine the morning after their first night together. The heroine is not a morning person.  🙂

“Mornin’, Dee,” Brutus said.

Denise’s eyes shot open. The curtains blocked most of the light, but enough came through for her to recognize Brutus’ bedroom. He stood beisde the bed, bending down to kiss her. He tasted minty fresh. She didn’t.

“Ugh.” She pushed up on one elbow, shoving her hair away from her face. “You brushed your teeth already.”

“Yeah, I got up a while ago.” He ran a finger over her cheek in a caress so gentle she almost didn’t feel it. “A man could sure get used to waking up next to you.”

What few brain cells were awake in her head were mush. She made a valiant effort to focus on him.“Uh,” she grunted. “Thanks.”

He directed a beaming smile at her and she concluded he was suicidally chipper in the morning. Since the next thing he did was hand her a cup of coffee, she decided he could live. Besides, he looked darned good in a towel barely hanging onto his hips and little beads of water glistening on his pecs. As memories of last night bombarded her, she decided he looked even better without the towel.

Happy Halloween!

However you celebrate this day, I hope you have a fun, safe, and fabulous time!

I know I’ve posted this every year at this time for several years now, but there may be some who haven’t read this little short scene. I wrote this for a fall themed blog hop. This takes place one year after Wolf’s Glory and features a sneak peek at the heroine of Victoria’s Cat as an infant. Enjoy!

 

Glory folded her arms, considering the exterior of the small house her mate had built for her. It was painted white, with a wide porch of natural wood on three sides, and a chimney made of native Black Hills stone climbing the fourth. A wisp of smoke rising from the chimney showed white in the sapphire blue of the late afternoon sky. Glory stepped back a few yards, looking at the postcard-perfect view of the house against the reds and golds of the autumn foliage. It was cute.

Glory didn’t do cute. How could she turn cute into scary? Halloween was only a few weeks away. Except for last year, she’d always gone all out decorating for her favorite holiday. Last year … Well, last year she’d been too busy to do anything for Halloween. Between surviving a plane crash, meeting and marrying a hunky werewolf, and finding out she’d gone forward to a time after Armageddon, she’d completely lost track of the days.

But this year would be different. Glory put her hands on her hips, strolling from one end of the house to the other, considering where the spider webs would look most effective.

“Sunshine.”

At the scolding sound of her hunky werewolf’s voice, Glory turned to see him walking toward her from his mother’s house a hundred yards away. Shadow was, as always, all but naked in just moccasins and a breechcloth. His hair, black and thick and heavy, hung down his back to his butt, leaving his broad, beautifully muscled chest bare. At six feet and six inches tall, he was the only man who made Glory feel petite. Hell, he was six inches taller than she was, and almost outweighed her. The fierce Lakota Wolf Clan warrior, who was a terrifying sight in battle, tenderly cradled a pink and blue bundle in one arm.

“Sunshine,” he scolded again. “You are supposed to be lying down, resting.”

“Quit being so bossy. I just wanted to think about how to decorate for Halloween.” She lifted her lips for his kiss and twitched the edge of the baby blanket aside to peek at their daughter’s face. “Hey, there, little Miss Vicki,” she cooed.

“Sh, she’s sleeping.” Shadow hooked his free arm around her waist and towed her up the steps of the porch into their house. “I thought you wanted to call her Victoria.”

“Well, yeah.” Glory watched him set the baby down in her cradle with as much care as if the afghan Lisa Madison had made was wrapped around nitroglycerin. “Victoria for my grandmother, Jillian for Jill, and Tara for your mom. But Victoria Jillian Tara Wolfe is a big mouthful for such a little thing.”

Not that Vicki had felt that little while she was being born. The books in Kearney’s library talked about the joy and beauty of childbirth. They were lucky she wasn’t allowed to burn them. Joy and beauty, her ass. Still, Glory didn’t remember the pain nearly as vividly she remembered the expression on Shadow’s face: terror and joy and awe, all mixed together, as he held the screaming scrap of humanity that was his daughter in his big hands. Glory wished cameras still existed. She never wanted to forget that sight or that moment in time.

“Hm … I wonder what she should be for Halloween? I think I could put together a little witch costume. Do you think we could get a pointy hat to stay on her head?”

“Sunshine, she’s only five weeks old.”

Glory reluctantly agreed. “She’s too young this year, but soon she’ll be going all around the neighborhood Trick or Treating, going to parties, playing with the boys …”

“PLAY—” Almost too late, Shadow remembered to keep his voice low. “Playing with boys?” he hissed, his eyes taking on that weird werewolf glow.

“Uh-huh. You know, Chase and Raven and Matt.”

His eyes went back to normal. “Oh, her cousins, you mean.”

Glory hid a grimace. Their daughter was going to have a hell of a time finding a boy brave enough to date her. That was years away, though, and Glory’s thoughts were on something in the present. She watched her mate put another log on the fire, admiring the way the muscles in his back bunched and smoothed as he moved. Her mate was mouthwateringly sexy. “For this year, I have the perfect costumes for us.”

He turned in a flare of hair, eyes wide in apprehension. “I don’t wear costumes,” he warned her.

“Good,” she purred. “I like you naked best. I thought I could be Little Red Riding Hood and you could be the Big Bad Wolf.” She let her fingers comb through his hair, smooth down his chest to the knot of the cord that held his breechcloth up. “But I don’t have a costume, so I guess we’ll just have to pretend. If I took off my clothes, could you pretend to take a red cloak off me?”

He swallowed hard. “Sunshine, is it too soon? It’s only been a few weeks.”

“Almost six weeks. Jill says everything has healed up just fine after the birth.” She succeeded in loosening his breechcloth. It dropped, showing that though his words were reluctant, his body wasn’t. She took him in her hand, loving the heat and the weight of him. “I’ve missed you, Big Guy.”

His teeth caught her earlobe. “I’ve missed you, Sunshine. I’ll go slow, I promise.”

“Go as fast as you want, but remember the baby’s sleeping. Don’t roar and howl at the end like you always do.”

“Me?” He let go of her ear to give her a wolfish grin. “Who is it that screams my name when she comes?”

She faked a scowl. “I’m not anywhere near as loud as you.”

Shadow lifted her lightly into his arms and shouldered his way into their bedroom. “We’ll see,” he threatened.

Glory surrendered to his hands and mouth. This was a contest she could live with. And if she lost, well, she could live with that too.

Twenty minutes after their bedroom door closed, a roar and a scream woke the baby. In the cradle her grandfather had carved for her, Victoria blinked startled blue eyes, shoved a tiny fist into her mouth and fell back asleep.

My Aspirin Desensitization Update

It has been two years since I was desensitized to aspirin at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. I’ve had several inquiries, both here on my blog and in emails, asking how I’m doing. The answer is I am doing good. Not great, like I-never-had-a-sinus-problem, not lousy, like why-did-I-even-bother.  But good is ten times better than I was before I went to the Mayo Clinic.

That’s an honest answer, but it doesn’t really tell you very much, does it? Let me begin with some background. I have had repeated sinus infections for about 30 years. Maybe only 25. I honestly can’t remember. It seems like my whole life I’ve had sinus trouble. Infections don’t respond well to antibiotics, but I’ve had a LOT of them. Over the years, I have become a connoisseur of antibiotics. In addition to the infections, I also have sinus polyps, which doesn’t help with the infections. Since the antibiotics don’t work, I’ve had multiple sinus surgeries. I might get a few months of relief after a surgery, but the polyps came back in only a few months each time. I also developed asthma. And aspirin or ibuprofen could literally send me to the Emergency Room. I spent years sleeping with a wet pillow and a dry mouth because I couldn’t breathe through my nose. I had NO sense of smell. And somehow, the loss of being able to smell my coffee in the morning was the worst thing of all. It was a nightmare way to live. You get the picture, right? Bottom line: Maddy was miserable.

Then my new ENT told me I had Sampters Triad, also called AERD (Aspirin Exasperated Respiratory Disease) and suggested Aspirin Desensitization. You can read about my actual procedure on an earlier post here.

So, what do I feel like today, 2 years after the procedure? For one thing, my head feels light. No pressure and pain or the weight of congestion.  I can always breathe through my nose. Seriously. Even during two sinus infections I’ve developed in the past two years, I could breathe through my nose. And did you catch that? Only TWO infections??!!! Right now I am suffering with allergies (it’s October, right?) and I feel a little crappy, but this is only a faint shadow of what I used to feel like EVERY SINGLE DAY. And I know it will go away in a few weeks.

I have some sense of smell.  It’s not a vivid as I would like, but this morning I smelled my coffee, even with a little congestion from the allergies. This might be partly because I get a kenalog shot in the spring and in the fall. I had one in May, and it is still working well enough for me to smell my coffee. I call that a win. People who have never lost their sense of smell may not truly understand how wonderful it is to come out of the shower and smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen.

AERD is the kind of thing that can make life difficult. And since it it pretty much invisible, sufferers don’t get much sympathy. People have told me things like, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. Better to lose your sense of smell than your sight.” Which is completely true. I even joke about not having to smell the cast box. But imagine not smelling when the toaster catches fire.  Or the roses your husband gave you for your anniversary. Or the scent of your baby’s hair. It IS a loss, but unless you’ve experienced that loss, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

Are the polyps back? Possibly. My doctor said she couldn’t see any, but she was only looking with the naked eye. The linings of my nasal passages were a little thicker than is normal. That could be from repeated infections and surgeries. There may be polyps up higher in the sinuses that she cannot see, but as long as I am able to breathe she isn’t too concerned about them. I’m guessing the rhinocort I use daily is keeping them at bay.

I am still taking two aspirin a day, along with a zyrtec. Before the procedure, I used to use my albuterol inhaler every day, usually multiple times. Now it’s only when I’m going to exercise and occasionally if I start to feel out of breath. The budesonide rinses are out of my budget, so I just irrigate my nose with saline several times a week (more at the moment with the allergies) and use Rhinocort before bed.

When people ask me if I’m glad I did the aspirin desensitization, my answer is a resounding YES. My sinuses are not perfect. I still get a bit congested, and my sense of smell isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be. But just being able to breathe has made my life so much better. Breathing means better sleep, and better sleep means more energy, and more energy means I get to do more of the stuff I want. I’m not much of a drinker, but I can even enjoy a glass of red wine, which two years ago would have sent me into wheezing overdrive. So, yeah, I’m glad I did it.

Have you had the Aspirin Challenge done? How has it affected your life?

Almost October!

October is coming soon! It is possibly my favorite month of the year. I know, I know, I always say September is my favorite. But September still has several days in the 90s, and by this time I am sick to death of summer. The change from summer to fall has started, but we’re not there yet.  And this September wasn’t a good one for me. I spent nearly all of it on Tylenol 3 due to the tooth abscess. I did very little writing. I was tired and crabby, and can you imagine how hard it is to write a sexy love scene when you have to hold an ice pack to your cheek? It does nothing for the mood, let me tell you.

A week ago, on September 21, I had a root canal. I’ve had a few root canals before, and they didn’t hurt much.  I remember being a little sore from holding my mouth open so wide for a long time, and a little bruised feeling from the shot. This one was the kind that gives root canals their bad name.  Holy moly, I hurt! Thursday, Friday and Saturday were terrible. Sunday was better. On Monday, I must have relapsed, because I hurt for all 10 hours I worked.  Tuesday was better, and Wednesday was good. Today I chomped on carrots, so I think I have officially recovered. I go back for the second part on October 4. The dentist said it would be painless. We’ll see.

Fun fact: President Todd is loosely based on my dentist. *ahem* My dentist is actually nothing like Todd. I just used the name.

October is going to be MY MONTH. I am going to write like it’s going out of style. I will do some sewing and knitting, and I’m going to spin. You will see some teasers and excerpts. We will have fun!

 

That is all.

Happy Birthday to MEEEEE!!!

 

My birthday is Friday, September 22nd. Yay!!  It’s my favorite day of the year, and might be even if it wasn’t my birthday. My mom says it was the hottest day of the year. I’m not sure if it was literally the hottest day (September weather is notoriously fickle. The high one day is 95, and the next day it might be 55) or if it only felt like it was the hottest day to a woman in labor. At any rate, by this time I feel like the end of hot weather is near, and that is a great thing. To celebrate, I have gathered all of my books which have been published in paperback, plus some swag, and some books from other authors that you may like. Why did I do that? So I can give it away, of course!

I will be sending out a newsletter on Wednesday or Thursday with a link for everyone to enter to win.  I have a tooth abscess, so my funnest birthday present will be a root canal on Thursday the 21st. I guess I sound a little sarcastic, but honestly, part of me is looking forward to it. Anything to get rid of this pain!!!  LOL

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What is Maddy Up To These Days?

Hello, long time no write. The summer is about over and I don’t even know how that happened. I mean, isn’t it August next month? No? Ack!!!!

I have started this blog post three different times, but I can’t seem to get the words I want out in the order I want. I give up. This is a somewhat rambling update on what I’ve been doing for the past few months.

STRONG HEARTS

About two years ago (maybe a little less?) Paige Tyler invited me to be a part of her Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World. I’ve never written a contemporary romance. I like fantasy and paranormal romance. But Paige is such a nice person, and I thought it would be fun to try something different. I wrote Brave Hearts, a story of Dusty Wolfe (an great uncle of Shadow and Taye) and Isabel Ybarra. The was a character in that story who was supposed to be hardly more than a name. But Brutus Gunnison ended up being so fun to write that I asked Paige if I could write his story too. She said sure.  Strong Hearts  was due to the editor on September 15. However, that is NOT happening. I have written most days this summer, but not enough words in a day to finish Brutus and Denise’s story on time. Paige has graciously agreed to allow me to be switched from October release to the January 2018 release.

DAUGHTERS OF THE WOLF CLAN:

I finished Victoria’s Cat and it was published in July. The next story in the series was supposed to be Patia and Ray. But the story I want to tell more is Colby and Gina’s story. I’m calling in Gina’s Wolf. But the series title is Daughters of the Wolf Clan.  So I spent time trying to decide if I should change the series title to Children of the Wolf Clan. But two books are already published with Daughters in the description and on the covers, so that could be messy. I could have a 1 book series call the Son of the Wolf Clan…  You see the conundrum. At the moment, when I try to think of a story for Ray and Patia I have a big blank. But I have a general outline for Colby and Gina. So I should write their story next. Right?

Well… a few weeks ago I was forcibly stuck by a brilliant idea for a new series.

THE GRYPHON LORDS

Over a thousand years ago, there was an ancient race of shapeshifters who wielded magic and controlled weather. The primitive humans called them a variety of names like Dragon, Gryphon, etc, and sometimes worshipped them as gods. Because there were far more males and females, the males were fighting to claim a mate. So many of them died in these battles that the elders commanded some of the young males to be sent to sleep in out of the way places on the Earth. When these males wake in a post-apocalyptic world, they find so sign of their people. The humans can’t hurt them, but they fear the gryphons. On four days a year the humans leave offerings for them on a hilltop. Sometimes it is a cow or some other valuable food. Sometimes it is a man who has been convicted of a crime. In the first book, The Storm King, it is a young woman. Naturally, since this is a romance, the gryphon lord doesn’t eat her. He shifts to a human shape to court her.

I am having a hard time trying to decide what to write after I finish Strong Hearts. Gina’s Wolf? Poor Colby. He’s currently wandering around Nebraska and Iowa in a daze of lost memory while his mate is in desperate need of rescue. Or The Storm King? The woman, a young american named Ashley Quinn, is fascinated, but she wishes he wouldn’t make it rain and thunder every time he’s pissed off.

That is what I’ve been doing this summer. Writing, day dreaming, knitting, and hoping for fall. Not winter, although that will come soon enough. I hope to begin the Tuesday Teasers (or either Gina’s Wolf or The Storm King!) by October 10.

 

See you then!

 

 

Victoria’s Cat Is Out!

 

     Victoria Wolfe, the only daughter of the Alpha of the Lakota Wolf Clan, has a mind of her own. Her father might put his foot down, but when she wants something, she gets it. And she wants Marty Madison. His calm steady nature calls to her volatile spirit. The fact that he turns into a mountain lion at will doesn’t matter to her at all.

     Marty Madison has never seen a woman as beautiful as Victoria. Her lush figure and pretty face appeal to him, but what entices him most is her self-assurance. No demure young miss, she faces the world with a steely core of inner strength. Too bad her father objects to him being a mountain cat.

     They thought the only obstacle to their marital happiness was her father. They were wrong. An evil empire is rising in the east, one which threatens not only them, but the homes and lives of everyone they love. Marty will need all of his steady calm to survive. Victoria will need all her steely inner strength to hold on. In a world under threat, can their love triumph over adversity?

 

Buy it NOW at these e-tailers

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

 

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