upcoming release

Have you heard about the Heaven and Hell Duet?

Releasing this fall is the Heaven and Hell Duet, which includes Hell and a Hard Place (October 11, 2018) and Light in the Dark (November 8, 2018). My love and excitement for these two books surpasses that of all my books before. I absolutely cannot wait to share this duet with y'all. 

It's a bit of a rollercoaster ride that will definitely bring out some strong emotions and that's all I'll say right now. But be sure to stay tuned and check into my social media for teasers. Read on for the blurb and check out the awesome cover.

What's a girl to do when she's in love with her best friend but she can't have him? Well, I pretend I'm not. I keep my best friend, FC, close and keep my life moving forward. I work. I date. I see my therapist for my mental health issues. But everything always leads back to FC, no matter what I do. The distance between us, FC's secrets, and our own relationships keep us apart while bringing us closer together.

I'm a guy with loads of problems. Where do I even begin? I'm an on-again off-again smoker. I'm an alcoholic. I have a best friend of twelve years who I can't live without, and I only recently met Idaline in person when she let me escape to her house one night. Oh, and did I mention I have an abusive girlfriend? That every day winds up being worse than that last? I'm stuck between hell and a hard place with the dimmest of lights at the end of the tunnel. And that light might not even be there tomorrow. Because things will get worse before they get better.

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Another Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Defend

Chapter Two

Brent

“I’m the oldest,” I say, answering her question. “There are five years between each of us. Do you have siblings?”

“An older sister.” Jamie wears a slight frown as she stabs a piece of her waffle and I wonder if she realizes it. I also wonder if she knows how beautiful she is. She seems confident enough, but I feel like there are many layers to her. I was instantly attracted to her, tears and all. She has this kind of beauty that makes a man want to throw her over his shoulder, carry her off, and make sure he keeps her all to himself.

“Do you have a good relationship with her?” I’m not sure why I’m pushing. Hell, I’m not sure why I’m still here with a twenty-one-year-old, but I can’t seem to find any reason to leave. There seems to be some magnetic pull to her that I can’t resist. Has been since the moment I saw her hunched over her knees on the sidewalk.

Jamie shrugs. “How’s life been since your divorce?”

I’m not quite sure if she wants anything specific or not, so I answer with what comes to mind. “It’s been good. I work, more than anyone likes. I date here and there. And I make time for my kids.”

“What do you mean about your work?”

I lean forward a little bit, my elbows rest on the table, and my hands clasp in the air above my empty plate. “Okay, here’s the deal. I love my job. I love working and staying busy. Unless there is a reason for me to not work, then I’m at the shop doing just that. Because this is how I am, my daughter thinks I’m a workaholic, which I guess I am, but she thinks it’s a bad thing and she worries. I could step away from my work any time as long as I have a reason to. She doesn’t think so, however. Not only is she on my case, but now, she has my brothers on my case too.”

Jamie smiles and leans forward, mimicking my stance. “So, what you’re saying is that you need someone to see, which will ease everyone’s worries.”

“You offering yourself?”

“Do you see anyone else at this table? Of course I am.”

I grin as I shake my head. “Still way too trusting, Jamie.” She rolls her eyes at that. “I think we need to return to that forgotten issue.” I nearly fainted and she about choked.

“You’re hot and you’re sweet; I can get over it.” She raises her eyebrows in a challenge, waiting for my answer. How did she get that I’m sweet out of a few hours with me? Sure, I helped her with her tire, but that wasn’t extraordinary. “I’m waiting, Brent,” she says in a bit of a singsong manner.

“I’ll make an exception for you,” I decide only as the words flow out of my mouth.

Jamie’s smile is bright and quick. The waitress brings over our bill and I pay. While we wait for her to bring back my card, I ask, “Why don’t you like college?”

“I don’t like school,” she replies flatly. “I’m only in college because my parents insist and they’re paying. If I could quit and do something that doesn’t require a degree, but keeps me around people, I’d be happy.”

I frown. “You don’t think your parents would understand that?”

“I’m still in college, aren’t I? Trust me, if I thought telling them would be better than suffering through four years of this hell, I would drop out in a heartbeat.”

The waitress drops off the receipt and my card. I don’t like what she’s telling me, but it’s not like I can change her situation. We slide out of the booth and I rest my hand on her lower back. I wait until we’re back inside my truck to ask my question again.

“Why do you hate school so much?”

“Ah, ah, ah. I can’t spill but so much about myself in one night and that one is a whopper. We’re not ready for that answer. You’ll have to ask me again another day.”

Hmm. “Okay. Where do you see yourself in five years?”

“Five years, ten years, twenty years, it’s all the same. Hopefully, I’ll have a job I enjoy and in a good relationship with a man I love. That’s all I want out of life.”

It sounds so simple. Maybe too simple. All she wants is a job and a man? No kids? Nothing else on her list?

“Thank you for dinner, by the way,” she adds.

“You’re welcome. We’ll do it again sometime.”

“That sounds like conviction and certainty in your voice.”

I glance over and see her smiling. “It is,” I confirm.

We ride the rest of the way in silence. It seems as if Jamie’s mood darkens by the second. When I park my truck next to her car, she confirms my suspicions with a sigh.

“I have to go back to campus. Yay me.”

“Hand me your keys.” She doesn’t ask or give me a look; she just hands them over. Again, the girl is way too trusting of people. I get out, the cold nipping at my skin, and go over to her car to crank it. It’ll be nice and toasty by the time she gets in it.

“See? Seriously so sweet,” she says as I get back into the truck.

I shrug. “I have manners.”

Jamie stares at me for a moment. “Huh.”

“What?” I don’t know what that huh means.

“I’ve realized that all the guys I know have no manners. None. Absolutely none.” She shakes her head in astonishment. “I don’t know anyone who would open a door for me, much less crank my car so it’s warm when I get in it. You are something else, Brent.”

No, I’m not. It’s just a damn shame that there aren’t more people with such manners out there. “Your car should be warm and toasty.” I get out and walk around to open the door for her, making her smile once again.

“When do you plan to see me again?” she asks.

“Tomorrow at six in the morning?” Her jaw drops and I laugh. “We could run and I’d make you breakfast afterward. You need a good start to your day so we don’t have a repeat of whatever happened today.”

“Six?”

“Six,” I confirm.

She pulls her phone from her pocket. “What’s your number?” I recite it for her and she adds, “I’ll text you later to get your address. I wasn’t exactly paying attention earlier, so there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to find your house again.” Jamie takes a step closer and closer until our chests touch. It doesn’t seem like enough, yet it is all the same. “One last question before I go. Is this considered a date and if so, do I get a—”

She is not about to ask that question, so I cut her off with a kiss. Within seconds of our lips and tongues meeting, my arms rope around her waist and I move to lean her against the car. She shivers as the cold from the car presses against her back. Her hands rest on my shoulders, her nails digging into the skin as she leans up and presses herself into me, kissing me harder and deeper. A soft moan leaves her to echo into my mouth.

I pull away, breathing as hard as if I just went running. I... What the hell was that? In all my years, no woman has done whatever the hell she just did to me. Kissing when I was a teenager and horny as hell didn’t even feel that good, that right. She tasted sweet and somehow, she smells a little like chocolate.

I need to get my head checked.

Instead, I clear my throat and open the door for Jamie. “Drive safe.”

She slides into the driver’s seat, buckles up, but looks at me. “One more?”

I laugh as I lean into the car and kiss her one more time. “Dress just a little warmer tomorrow. It’ll be colder.”

She tsks. “You’re bossy. I’ll see you in the morning, Brent.”

“Drive safe,” I repeat because one can never be too careful. I close her door, step back, and stand there until her tail lights disappear.

By the time I make it home, Jamie has texted me that she made it back to campus safe and sound and she needs my address for the morning. Now that I’m away from her, I can’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking, even as I respond to her. She’s not much older than Kayla. I can’t seriously think about doing anythingwith her, can I? Even if I’m completely interested in finding out a little more about her?

What would my kids think? How would I feel if the situation was reversed? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. It’s not like I’m about to jump into a relationship with this woman. There’s no harm in exploring the waters, right? And just the other day, Kayla actually told me to date more. Granted, she told me so I’d work less if I was dating someone, but that’s beside the point. I’ll just see what happens and if it seems like it might become more than casual, I’ll reevaluate. In the meantime, I have a feeling that Jamie is exactly the person I need to see right now.

~ ~ ~

She knocks on my door five minutes after six. I pull it open, keep my face expressionless, and say, “You’re late.”

Jamie rolls her eyes. “Sorry, boss. I needed this.” She holds up a coffee cup. “As soon as I set this down, we can get started.” She walks past me and adds, “You’re lucky I’m here at all. Do you realize how early it is? Too early, that’s how early.” No shorts this morning, but no pants either. She went midway with capris. And no long-sleeved shirt like me, either. She’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt. How is she not freezing her ass off? “Okay, let’s go.”

“Are you sure you’re ready? I have a jacket if you’d like to borrow it.”

“No, thanks. I overheat when I run. This is enough.” She walks out the door, jogs down the steps, and I have no choice but to follow her.

I catch up to her on the sidewalk. We start slow and steady without any talking. This is the odd thing about running with a partner. You have to learn their running habits. What’s their pace like? Do they enjoy talking or do they prefer not to? I normally run alone, so I enjoy the silence. Jamie had her phone in an armband yesterday with earbuds attached, but I notice it’s missing today.

We run five miles in silence by the time we make it back to my house.

“No wonder you look so great.” She rests her hands on her hips and takes a few breaths. “You’re a workhorse. I almost didn’t think I was going to make it.”

“You should’ve said something.” I hand her her now cold coffee and lead her into the kitchen, where I pull out a seat and make her sit.

“I was fine. You just have a...” Her voice trails off as she thinks and I wash my hands before getting started on our breakfast. “I don’t know what to call it. How I run is based on my emotions. It’s never a smooth, solid run like that.”

“I don’t know if that means it was enjoyable or not.”

“It was. What’s for breakfast?”

“Eggs, bacon, toast?”

She nods in agreement. “How did you get into running?”

“Ran track in high school. It’s a bit of an addiction. You?”

Jamie sighs. “Ever heard of the freshman fifteen?” I nod. “It was more like the freshman fifty for me. Running helped me lose it. I got into the habit of running every day.” She glances down at her lap and then her gaze moves around the kitchen. Everywhere, but at me. “I was scared if I broke my habit, I’d gain it back. That’s not something I want to experience again.”

“There’s more to that story, isn’t there?” Her not looking me in the eyes was my first clue, but maybe I’m wrong.

“None that you’re going to hear.” Or maybe I’m right. “What’s different about your life since your divorce?”

“It’s actually not that different from being married, which probably says a lot about my marriage.” I leave that line of thought behind and say, “I still work a lot. Only changes are I now live alone, I see my son less, and I can date other people.”

“What about your daughter?”

“She lives with her boyfriend now. I see her about the same as I did before. Maybe slightly less with the boyfriend and her new jobs. Where are you from?” I don’t want to talk about my kids just yet. Her age is still too much at the forefront of my mind.

“Charlotte. I wanted some distance between my family and me, and they were adamant about staying in-state for school. I almost went to the university in Wilmington, but changed my mind.”

I make our plates, fix myself a cup of coffee, and walk over to the table. “Still good?” I ask, nodding to her drink. “Or would you like something else?”

“Actually, can I have some water?”

“Sure.” Once I’ve fixed her a glass of iced water, we’re finally able to eat.

Except, Jamie’s eyes are fixed to my fridge.

“What is it?” I ask.

She stands and walks over to the refrigerator. She points to one of the pictures from a family vacation last year. “Who are these people?”

“My kids: Kayla and Gregory. Why?” My muscles tense and coil, ready to spring into defensive mode if necessary.

“Your daughter is Kayla Murphy?” She releases a short breath before looking over at me. “I have a class with her this semester.”

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A Final Sneak Peek: Worth the Risk

Chapter Three

Raelynn

Bree stays home with Elias and his mom while I take Jackson to school. I may shed a few tears on the way home because for the first time, my baby wanted to walk by himself to class. I walked him to the entrance of the school, and then he left me without a backward glance. It was almost like the first day of school all over again. I had to go inside anyway to update his files with a new home address.

When I return, Elias goes straight into showing me every nook and cranny of the house practically before having another round of discussion in the kitchen with his mother nearby with Bree.

“I won’t be home until kinda late because we have a game tonight,” he continues. “Lock the doors if you go to bed before I get home, but if you set the alarm, make sure you do the silent alarm. That way it won’t go off when I come in and wake the kids. I have to run out and get a key made for you before I head to the rink. Is there anything you or Jackson need me to pick up? Do you want me to go ahead and set up her carseat in your car, so you don’t have to do it later?”

“I don’t think so, and if you want. It doesn’t matter.”

“I’ll do it.” He nods to himself. “And here’s a credit card you can use in case you decide there is something you need or would like to have here.”

He holds out the card, but I stare at it, flicking my gaze to see a disapproving look from his mother. “Um, that’s okay. We’ll be fine.” It doesn’t feel right to basically have my employer’s credit card to use at my disposal for things for Bree or Jackson and me. It’s worse that his mother watches my every move, waiting for me to mess up so she can convince him to fire me. It feels that way, at least.

“Raelynn, take it. I said I’d provide groceries for y’all. There’s a road trip coming up around Thanksgiving. You’ll need this. I’m not always going to be here or have time to go shopping.” Reluctantly, I take it, and he adds, “You don’t need to ask before you use it either, but Mom will show you where to put the receipts. Need anything else before I go?”

I think about my car, which is low on gas. I think about my phone bill, which is due today and will likely wipe my account of what money I have left. “Could I get this week’s pay already?”

“Yeah, sure.” He disappears upstairs and returns a minute later with a check.

I’ve never made so much money in one week before. I almost feel like I should argue about the amount since I’m living here rent free, utilities free, and grocery free, but I’m not. This was the amount he offered and I could definitely use the money.

“Thank you,” I say softly.

“Just don’t let me down.” He walks over to his mother, kisses her cheek, and then leans down to kiss Bree’s forehead, causing her to have that goofy baby smile. “Love you, princess.” It’s so sweet to watch Elias interact with his daughter. It also makes me wonder how he ended up with custody; he’s yet to mention her mother. I’ll have to ask about that later. I don’t want to be unprepared in case someone shows up. “I’ll be back shortly, Raelynn,” Elias tells me before heading out the door.

With her son gone, Alice interviews me with far more questions than her son did. I answer them completely. What harm is there in telling her that Jackson and I have struggled and the only reason I’m here is because I needed a job and Elias was offering? She asks me if I’m trying to take advantage of him, but when it becomes clear that I’m not because I had no clue I could take advantage of him, she accepts that. When she asks of my past, I politely shut her down. My past is my own and has no relevance.

~ ~ ~

Alice hugs Bree in her arms. “Take good care of my granddaughter, okay? I have complete faith that you will, but I have to say it anyway.”

“I will take care of her as if she’s my own,” I promise. Today is a big day for a couple of reasons, one of which is Alice leaves to go home.

I’m also here to take care of my daughter, Ma,” Elias tells her. “She’ll be fine. Unless you don’t trust us?”

“I trust you. That’s how I’m able to leave.”

It’s been nice to have Alice around. She’s helped me adjust to things here, learn my way around, and feel comfortable, somewhat. It’s nice to know she’s giving me her official stamp of approval.

Alice kisses Bree’s cheeks until Elias takes matters into his own hands and takes Bree away, giving her to me.

“It’s time to go, Ma. We don’t want you to miss your flight.”

“Fine. Fine.” Alice hugs me, kisses Bree one last time, and says, “Tell Jackson I said goodbye.”

“I will.” He’s already at school, so he’s missing the goodbye session. Alice did say goodbye to him this morning, but I’ll be sure to pass along the second goodbye.

Elias leaves to take his mother to the airport and I focus on a new milestone I must cross. Elias is about to leave for his first road trip with me as his nanny. I’m slightly terrified, especially since his mother is gone. To stay calm, I’ve been doing what I’m doing right now: sitting on the floor, playing with Bree, so I don’t have to think about it.

“Hey,” Elias says as he comes into the living room. “Feeling good about being on your own?”

“Yeah,” I lie. I mean, I can take care of my own baby, no problem, but it’s giving me serious anxiety to be left alone in someone else’s house with someone else’s baby and with someone else’s credit card to use as I see fit. What if I mess up? What if I do something that’s not up to his standards? I don’t feel like I know Elias well enough to know boundaries yet.

“Good. I, uh...”

At the sound of Elias sounding nervous, I glance up. “Is something wrong? Did I do something?”

“No,” he quickly says. “I feel like a jackass, but I’m not sure what’s the polite way to tell my nanny to give me my baby and sort of leave me alone until I have to leave.”

I laugh. “You say, ‘Raelynn, I’m about to leave for a few days and I’d really like to spend some time with my daughter before I go. Shoo, please.’” I stand, picking Bree up as I go, and hand her to him. “There you go. I’ll be in my room.”

Elias’s smile slowly disappears. “You don’t have to hole up in your room.”

“I don’t mind,” I say, meaning it. “Pretend I’m not even here.” I walk away before he can say anything else.

This is another thing I haven’t figured out yet. When and how to give him space. I live here, but I’m also an employee. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I don’t want him to feel like I’m constantly intruding on his space or on his time with his daughter, like I almost accidentally did just now. That’s one reason why the other night, when he texted me after a game, mentioning how the guys were going to a bar and he was debating going with them, I told him he should go. The kids were asleep. Why should he rush home? To keep me company? Ha.

I need to figure out a game plan to combat this. This, as in, a way to make sure he’s free to do as he wishes in his own home, and even out of it. I guess Jackson and I could always hang out in our rooms or outside when he’s home. We’d always be out of his way if we did that.

Despite my nerves and uncertainties, this job has been such a blessing. I’ve been able to do some schoolwork when I manage to snag some free time. Thankfully, Elias has internet, so I don’t have to go to the library to get my work done. I’ve been slowly working through earning a degree online. I’ve been lucky to receive grants through financial aid to pay for the expenses. I normally do my work when Elias has a game or once everyone has gone to bed.

I’ve been getting my baby fill, too. Every now and then, I’d wish I could find someone only to give Jackson a little brother or sister. He’s such a shy kid who sticks to himself. Maybe a sibling would help. I was an only child and I hope that one day I can give Jackson siblings. One day when I’m better off financially, which means it’ll be a long time before I can entertain the idea. Well, I’d need a man, too, but that’s not the point.

This is the only drawback to a job like this. I love babies. Jackson was a good baby. Then again, I was so in love with him, he could’ve cried twenty hours out of the day and I would have thought he was a good baby. Bree is also a good baby. She loves to interact and play. She naps during the day. She cries and makes a fuss when she wants something. She’s crawling up a storm and loves for us to walk around the house together. She’s adorable.

After awhile, Elias calls my name because it’s time for him to leave. He’s been great, too. It’s been sweet to watch him with Bree, but also because my second day here? When he was out getting a spare key made for me, he bought Jackson a nightlight. He refused to let me pay him back for it, but it was sweet that he decided to do that for Jackson.

As he hands Bree to me and I say, “Say bye bye to DaDa,” I see the nerves on his face for the first time. That’s not reassuring in the least, especially when Bree hiccups and whines a little, reaching for him. She knows what bye bye means. She also knows who DaDa is.

“Take care of my princess, please,” he says softly with his eyes on her.

“I promise I will.”

“If she says a coherent word that’s not DaDa, don’t tell me.” At that, I laugh and Elias looks at me. “Okay, tell me anyway.” He smiles easily and kisses her forehead once again. “I’ll see you soon. Call me if you need me.”

“Go,” I whisper. He’s wasting time unnecessarily. Elias nods and then he’s gone.

Bree and I play the day away until it’s time for her afternoon nap. She wakes up just in time for us to leave to pick Jackson up for school. Jackson has settled in okay; he’s taken a great interest in hockey all of a sudden. We watched a game on TV last night for the first time, but saw a player get hurt. Not so much fun. However, I’ve never seen Jackson take so much interest in something before. He keeps asking me about things, but I don’t know anything about the game.

“Momma, Bree is looking at me,” he says from the backseat on the way home. He hasn’t quite gotten used to her yet.

“She’s curious about you. Why don’t you talk to her? Or sing to her?”

Jackson decides to talk. He does so for a few minutes, but then asks, “Is Bree really a princess? She doesn’t look like a princess and Mr. EJ calls her princess.”

I smile and say, “She’s his princess. Like how you’re my baby.”

“So, she’s not really a princess?” he asks, not letting it go as I pull into the driveway.

“It doesn’t really matter.”

“Definitely not a princess,” he mutters. “Where’s Mr. EJ?” he asks once we’re inside and it’s clear we’re home alone.

“Mr. EJ is on a road trip. The team goes to other cities to play games.”

“Can we watch the games?” he asks hopefully.

“Maybe.”

Later that night, my phone vibrates with a video call from Elias. Before I answer, I pick Bree up from where she’s playing on the floor and say, “Want to talk to DaDa?” Her face lights up with a smile, and I’m pretty sure it’s only because I said DaDa. I swipe across on my phone and hold it away from us.

Bree is looking at me with her smile, patting my chest, until she hears Elias say, “There’s my princess.” Her head swivels toward the phone and she squeals.

Jackson leans over from next to me, his eyes filling the screen. “Hey, Mr. EJ.”

Elias laughs. “Hey, J-man. Did you have a good day at school?” My heart warms a little at him entertaining Jackson, even though he only called to see his little girl. It’s already sweet that he has a nickname for my son, too.

A foul smell tickles my nose as Jackson answers him. “Jackson, hold my phone for a second, and you don’t have to hold it so close to your face.” I peek into Bree’s diaper and find the source. “Talk to Mr. EJ. Elias, I’m changing her diaper real quick and then she’s all yours, I promise.”

“No rush,” he says.

Bree is pretty easy to change. She likes to play with her feet. As long as you talk or sing to her, she’s happy and lets me clean her up and change diapers rather quickly. Jackson has gone quiet on Elias by the time I return, leaving him to do all the talking. Sometimes, he talks to him just fine. Others? He reverts to being shy.

“Thanks, baby,” I say, kissing the top of his head. Jackson doesn’t waste a second saying goodbye to Elias and handing the phone back to me. “No coherent words so far,” I tell him, causing him to smile.

“Good. How’d today go?”

“Just like every other day,” I speak over Bree who wants to talk just as much in her gibberish. Elias doesn’t seem to know who to focus on: me or her. I decide to be quiet and let her talk, making sure I smile and laugh when she seems to want a reaction.

“She really likes you,” he says quietly, bringing my gaze back to my phone. “She cried a little when you left the room today; that was when I knew. She doesn’t do that for just anyone.”

I can’t tell if he’s happy about this or not, so I’m not sure what I should say. “I really like her, too,” is what I settle on.

He talks to her for a little bit before it’s time for me to lay her down for the night. He doesn’t hang up, though. Oh, no. I have to take her upstairs, place her in her crib, and then let Elias say goodnight. She cries as I walk out of the room and Elias frowns.

“I always hate when she does that, even though I know she’ll stop within a minute or so. It took my mom a long time to convince me not to stay by her side all night.”

“It’s nice that you had a good support system to help you learn the ropes.” It took forever to become semi-confident in my actions as Jackson’s parent because I was so young and didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. A question seems to be on the tip of Elias’s tongue, but I don’t want to talk about me or my past. “I’ll let you go. I need to get Jackson ready to wind down for the night as well and tidy up the house.”

Elias nods and says goodnight, hanging up a moment later. I take a deep breath and peer into Bree’s room. She’s still lying down. I’ve caught her standing up a few times after I’ve walked out. I’ll check on her later to see if she’s asleep.

~ ~ ~

The next day, Jackson watches cartoons while Bree sits on my hip. She’s been a bit fussy, so I’ve been dancing around the house with her, singing, much to Jackson’s annoyance. Bree has loved it, though. There’s a knock on the door and I freeze, mid-step. I should have no guests with Elias gone. What if it’s her mother? I still don’t know if she may pop up at some point. Damn it, I should’ve asked Elias!

With a deep breath, I slowly walk over to the door and open it. My eyes nearly pop out of my head. Never thought it would be this guy. “Brayden, right?” The man from the quilt shop. Elias told me his name is Brayden. He’s one of his teammates and Deanna is his girlfriend.

“Yeah. Sorry to drop by like this, but I needed to get out of the house. Can I hang here for a while?”

“Um.” Why on earth would he want to do that? Why is he even here? Then, it hits me. He was the guy who was injured in the game Jackson and I watched. I glance over my shoulder at Jackson, who watches with interest with his chin resting on the top of the back of the couch. This guy was nice to me. He’s friends with Elias. “Sure,” I say, not totally confident in this answer.

“You can say no, you know. I just wanted to see Bree, but if you’re not comfortable or whatever...”

“No, that’s okay. Come in.” I won’t take it back now. I step aside and Brayden doesn’t give me a chance to change my mind again.

“Hey, Jackson,” he says as I close the door.

He knows my son’s name? Jackson looks as surprised as I feel. Elias probably told him.

“This is Mr. Brayden, Jackson. He’s friends with Mr. EJ.” Jackson, my shy, shy boy. He turns around and focuses on the TV. “Sorry. He’s shy around new people.” That’s what I always say. “Did you want to hold her?”

“Yes, please.” He holds his hands out for Bree and I let him take her, watching as he walks into the living room as if he’s been here before.

For a moment, I worry if this is the right decision. Would Elias want him over here while he’s not here? Would he want him to play with Bree? Does Elias know he’s here? But then, I remind myself that this guy helped me get this job, so Elias has to trust him.

“Do you mind if I catch up on some chores?” Might as well take advantage of the unexpected babysitter.

“No, go ahead,” he says. “I’ll find you if we need anything.”

“Thanks.” I glance down at Jackson. “I’ll be in the kitchen, baby.” He doesn’t look up at me. “Mr. Brayden plays hockey with Mr. EJ, so you’ll be fine,” I add, hoping that relaxes him. He finally glances at Brayden when I say that.

Feeling better about things, I leave the three of them to clean up the house. I scrub and clean the kitchen until it’s sparkling before I return the living room to check on my guest.

“How is it going in here?” I ask.

“Is there a place I can lie down for a minute?”

He wants to lie down? I nod, hoping I didn’t look too surprised. Brayden and Bree are behind me as we walk upstairs. “You can lie in here if you want,” I say as he lays Bree down in her crib. “But if you’d rather have a bigger bed, you can have your pick of Elias’s or Jackson’s, I guess.” I’m certainly not offering mine, even if he does seem nice enough.

Brayden seems confused for a moment, which worries me, but then he says, “I’ll lie in here. I’ll be out of here soon.”

“Let me know if you need anything.”

The moment he nods, I leave the room, pulling the door until it’s almost closed. I could use a break for a while, so I go sit with Jackson. He and Brayden apparently talked about hockey. Jackson shows me what he’s learned, which is mostly what the referee’s signals mean.

He, of course, wants to watch the hockey game tonight and I don’t think I can deny him. He won’t be able to stay up for all of it, but he can watch some of it. The game comes on and I keep glancing at the clock. Where is Brayden? It’s getting kind of late. I wait and I wait, but when eight thirty rolls around, I walk upstairs.

He’s lying on the bed with a pillow over his head. Oh, man. I have to wake him up. He probably wants to go home. With a deep breath, I shake his shoulder. “Brayden? Brayden?” He lifts the pillow and winces immediately. “I’m sorry to wake you, but it’s getting kind of late and I thought you might want to wake up.”

“What time is it?” he grumbles.

“Eight thirty.”

“I’m sorry.”

He rubs his forehead before standing and sighing. When he has to blindly reach out for the wall to steady himself, I worry about what happens if I have to support him. This is a big, tall man. I am not even average height for a woman. He’d probably crush me if I had to help him down the stairs. He’d lose his footing and then we’d fall and I’d die either from the fall or him landing on me.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yeah.” He pats his pockets and then pulls out a phone. “I’m going to make a phone call.”

He seems to be fine. Bree stands in her crib, so I pick her up to take her with me downstairs. She’s not used to people in and out of her room and talking, or to going to sleep as early as she did. Tonight will be a long one with her; I just have a feeling.

I reclaim my seat next to Jackson on the couch and Bree pulls on my hair. It’s her favorite thing to do. She doesn’t really pull too hard. She likes to tug while her fingers try to make knots form in my hair.

Brayden’s footsteps are heavy down the stairs. “Someone’s coming to pick me up,” he says. I nod as he takes a seat in the chair, looking absolutely miserable. He leaves with a quick thanks and a see you later once he sees his ride is here.

With him gone, I focus on getting Bree back to bed. With Elias gone for a few days and Jackson out of school until next Monday due to Thanksgiving, my plan is to take him shopping. He’s in desperate need of new clothes and now, I have some money to buy him some. It’ll be interesting to shop with both him and Bree, but I’m sure I’ll manage just fine.

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Another Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Worth the Risk

Chapter Two

EJ

Damn. I didn’t see this coming at all. Not to have a hot as sin woman knock on my door to be Bree’s nanny, sort of recommended to me by Brayden, or the fact that she’d be a single mom. Raelynn looks at me with these big, watery green eyes. All I thought I was getting was a new roommate, but adding a kid to the mix makes things trickier, doesn’t it?

There’s a buzz from her pocket and she winces.

“I’m sorry. I need to pick him up from school.” She carefully hands Bree back to me. “I’m sorry for wasting your time.” She moves for the door the moment my princess is securely in my arms.

“Wait,” I call out, standing to follow her. “You threw me for a loop. I wasn’t expecting that. You’re the first person I’ve interviewed who I’ve liked and actually seems interested. I need someone to hire, too. The job is yours if you want it. We’ll figure the rest out as we go.”

I’ve never seen such a heavy tension leave someone before, but I swear, it’s like I lifted the world from her shoulders.

“Can I start this afternoon?”

“Yeah, sure. Come back here once you pick up your boy.”

She surprises the hell out of me by coming over and hugging me, careful not to disturb Bree. “Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me.” The sincerity is obvious.

I nod as she pulls away with embarrassment. “Hey, what does he like to eat?”

She chuckles to herself. “Hotdogs and mac and cheese are his favorites. He likes to drink water or apple juice, too.”

I nod. Raelynn leaves. I cancel the remaining interviews just in time for Bree to start whining, so I feed her, change her, and gather her up to run to the store. Hotdogs and mac and cheese are not regular items in my kitchen. Once I’m back home, I sit on the couch with Bree in my lap and play patty cake, which causes her to giggle constantly. My mother also returns. I sent her out for a spa day because I felt like hiring a nanny needed to be something I did on my own.

Now that I have a nanny, Mom will be able to move back home. She was home over the summer, but she came back once the season started. Mom has been helping me adjust to becoming a dad and learning how to take care of a baby, but she can’t stay forever. Hence, the nanny search. It’s taken way longer than I thought possible.

“Well?” Mom asks.

“We have a nanny.”

“Oh, yeah? Do you think she’ll be good?”

“Yeah. Her name’s Raelynn. She’s younger than I am, but she knows what she’s doing. She’s actually a single mom. She seems to have had a rough time; she has no one but her kid.”

“Wait. They’re both moving in with you?” Mom frowns at this and I know she is feeling the same thing I was when Raelynn told me about her son.

“They should be here soon. Her son is five, so he’s in school during the day.”

“Are you sure about this, son?” Mom interrupts.

“Yeah. Bree likes her and Raelynn seems perfect for the job. I have a good feeling it’ll work out like it should.” That’s the only reason I still hired her. My gut told me the second she held my daughter that this girl was the one. I can’t waste any more time looking for other okay nannies when I know I’ve found a fantastic one.

Mom is quiet for a moment. “Okay then. I’m going to stick around for a few days and make sure she passes my inspection.”

“Ma.” That causes her to glare at me. “You might make her nervous.”

“And? She’s going to be caring for my granddaughter. I need to make sure your instincts are correct.”

Before I can argue with her further, there’s a knock on my door. I forgot to take down the sign about the doorbell. I open the door with Bree in one arm and Mom hovering behind me to find Raelynn and the spitting image of her in the form of a little boy. He has his arms wrapped around her thigh as he hides behind her, peeking out with one eye.

“Hey. Come on in. This is my mom, Alice. She’s been helping me so far and she’ll be here until you get settled in.”

I step aside. The boy stays glued to Raelynn’s side as she and my mom shake hands. We go into the living room and he climbs onto Raelynn’s lap.

“Hey,” I say gently. He glances at me. “What’s your name?”

He ignores me and Raelynn rubs his back. “Jackson’s shy when it comes to new people.” She glances down at him. “Jackson, this is Mr. Bertuzzi. Don’t you want to tell him hey?”

Jackson looks over with his head still resting on his mom’s shoulder and mumbles, “Hey.”

“My friends call me EJ; you can too.” No way that kid should have to say Bertuzzi if he ever does talk to me. “Want to watch cartoons with my mom while I talk to your mom in the kitchen?”

Jackson shakes his head. Raelynn whispers something in his ear. “Any cartoon will work,” she tells me. Jackson moves to his own seat on the couch. “I’ll be right in there, okay?” she tells him as she stands. I place Bree in my mom’s lap and we go into the kitchen.

We hammer out the details of her pay, and she thanks me like three more times for giving her the job.

“What’s your story?” I finally ask. She’s definitely got one.

A wry smile appears as she glances into the living room. “Which one?” Raelynn shakes her head. “Most recently, stuff happened back to back to back to make making ends meet that much harder; I lost my job and apartment this morning, and everything I own is in my car. If you hadn’t given me this job, the last of my money would’ve been spent on dinner for Jackson and a very cheap hotel room.”

“You don’t have any family? Or friends?”

She shakes her head. “It’s just Jackson and me.” Raelynn clears her throat. “Can you watch him while I get our things and put them in our room?”

“Sure.” Then I realize she said our room. “Actually, I have another spare bedroom, the one next to yours. Jackson can have it.” There’s a twin bed in Bree’s room, so I’ll sleep in there and let Mom have my room until she leaves.

“Oh. Thank you.”

I feel like I should help her, or do it for her, but she may want to move her things herself. She goes outside and I return to the living room. Jackson’s eyes widen as he watches his mom walk out the door.

“It’s okay.” He whips around to look at me. “She’s getting your stuff out of the car. She’ll be right back.”

“You aren’t going to help her?” Mom asks.

“She seemed to want to do it herself. Go move your things into my room.”

She purses her lips, but gets up to do it, leaving me alone with the boy.

Jackson sits on the edge of the couch and seems to be anxious as he waits for his mom. Then he looks at me. “You’re a Rebel.”

My eyebrows rise. “Yeah, I am.”

“You were at my school.” His little legs swing, bumping into the couch each time.

“I was?”

He nods. Oh, maybe I was. We went to some of the local schools in September, right before training camp, for this reading program thing. We read to a few classes and then played ball hockey with the older kids.

“What’s hockey?” he asks as if he’s been dying to ask this question ever since I went to his school.

“It’s a game. Like baseball or basketball, but you play on ice with skates.”

Raelynn walks back inside, her arms loaded with stuff. She smiles at Jackson before continuing up the stairs. Bree cries, so I pick her up from where Mom placed her in the pack ʻn play and sit on the couch. Jackson and Bree eye each other. Bree leans over and tries to grab Jackson, but he leans away from her.

“Who’s that?” he asks.

“This is Bree. I’m her dad.”

“She drools a lot.”

I laugh. “Sometimes. I bet you drooled a lot when you were a baby.”

Jackson doesn’t seem to like that idea. “Momma,” he says when she comes back down the stairs.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Did I drool when I was a baby?”

She laughs. “Yep. All babies drool.” She kisses the top of his head before going back out to her car.

“Mr. EJ, I’m thirsty.”

Part of me wants to correct him and tell him he can just call me EJ, but if his mom has told him to say mister, then I don’t want to overstep. “What would you like to drink?”

“Apple juice.”

“You’re in luck. I have some of that. Come on.” He follows me into the kitchen. “Do you drink out of a big boy’s cup?”

“Yep,” he answers, popping the p just like Raelynn did earlier.

I find my smallest plastic cup and pour him some juice. I hear the door open and close, and then footsteps up the stairs. I carefully watch him and I’m kind of impressed when he drinks out of his big boy cup without spilling his juice. I so have a ton to learn about kids. Raelynn appears in the kitchen a moment later, some papers in her hand.

“Momma, look! No straw!”

“I see. Did you tell Mr. EJ thanks for fixing you something to drink?”

“Thanks,” he quickly says.

“Welcome, buddy.”

Raelynn looks uncomfortable for a second. “Um, mind if we use your table? He’s got some homework.”

“In kindergarten?” I ask with disbelief.

She laughs. “Yep.”

“Go ahead. I’ll start dinner.” I put Bree in her seat and get busy while listening to Raelynn help Jackson focus on his homework. “Are you guys allergic to anything?” I ask as Mom appears in the kitchen.

“No.”

Good to know. I let Raelynn know that there’s an extra carseat in the garage and that she can park in there starting tomorrow. I’ll run out to get an extra key made in the morning. I’ll need to write down the code for the alarm system, too. I give her my cell, Mom’s cell, and the number of some people within the organization in case of an emergency. I’ll give her the full house tour tomorrow morning.

Jackson is delighted about having hotdogs and mac and cheese. I feel like an oddball in my own house as Raelynn asks him about his day and the apparent upcoming field trip. Jackson can be a chatterbox if he’s talking to someone he likes. Raelynn offers to clean up, but I decline her offer. I go upstairs to change a stinky diaper, something I didn’t think I would be doing at twenty-four, that’s for sure. Raelynn and Jackson are cuddled on the couch, watching TV when I come back.

We watch cartoons before Raelynn declares it’s bath time. Bree is fast asleep on my chest, so I show Raelynn where everything is after laying her down.

“I like her,” Mom declares. “She seems like a good mother and that means she’ll be a great nanny.”

“Told ya.”

She rolls her eyes. “I’m going ahead to bed.”

I follow after her to get what I need from my room, so I won’t disturb her later. Afterward, I check on Raelynn and Jackson. The bathroom door is open, showing it’s empty, so I peek into Jackson’s bedroom.

“I wanna go home, Momma. I don’t wanna stay here. Why can’t we go home?”

“This is part of Momma’s new job, baby. Isn’t this better than our home? You even get your own room here.” He didn’t have his own room before? “You know how Peter Pan goes on an adventure? That’s what we’re doing. We’re on an adventure.”

Jackson seems to think about this. “Is Mr. EJ Captain Hook?”

Raelynn laughs. “No, he’s not. Think you’ll be okay in here by yourself?”

“I’m scared.”

She crawls into bed next to him, her back facing me. “I’ll be right here while you fall asleep, okay?”

He must nod because they don’t talk anymore. I quietly move away to stop eavesdropping. I can’t imagine how bad things might’ve been for her, or what it must be like to raise a kid without any help or a lot of money. Kids are expensive, and mine isn’t but nine months old. With Bree down for the count, I quickly jump into the shower. Afterward, I head downstairs to turn off the lights, lock the doors, and set the alarm.

Jackson is all alone in his room, I peek into Bree’s room, and then stop outside of Raelynn’s. The door is cracked. I’m about to knock when I hear soft cries. Oh man. I’ve never been good around crying chicks. Do I knock or leave her alone? Before I can think better of it, I push her door open.

“Raelynn? You okay?”

She’s lying on her side, her back facing me, and she hasn’t yet changed into any pajamas. Still, I can see her quickly wipe her eyes. “I’m fine. I was tired, so I’m going to bed early.”

“Okay. Well, um, I’ll be across the hall in Bree’s room if you need anything. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the morning.” I wait to see if she’ll say anything, but she doesn’t. “Good night, Raelynn.”

“G’night, Elias.”

With that, I close her door and retreat to my temporary bedroom. Bree was a surprise that entered my life. I was a carefree guy who played the sport he loved for a living. Then, all of a sudden, I’m a single dad with an unfamiliar set of responsibilities. I’ve never worried so much in my life. I don’t know what I would’ve done if my mom hadn’t dropped everything to come help me. I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time, so I’m relieved to have Raelynn, an expert practically like my mom, around to take care of Bree when I’m not here, but to also help me out.

I fall asleep in the pink room, worried that I’m going to somehow mess my little princess up.

~ ~ ~

Something pokes my shoulder and then I hear, “Mr. EJ. Mr. EJ. Mr. EJ.”

My eyes creak open to see Jackson standing next to the bed. “What’s wrong?”

“Where’s my momma?”

I toss my sheets aside and am surprised when Jackson takes my hand. “Her bedroom is right next to yours,” I whisper as we cross the hall to her room. Raelynn is on her back, her arms above her head, and she’s sound asleep.

“Momma,” Jackson whispers, poking her in the ribs before I can say her name.

Her eyes fly open and she quickly sits up. I’ve never seen someone wake up so fast. “You okay, baby? What’s wrong?” She glances between us.

“He found Bree’s room by accident. He was looking for you.”

“He didn’t wake her, did he?” I shake my head. “I’m sorry he woke you, Elias.”

I shrug. “I live with a baby. It’s okay.”

Jackson lets go of my hand to crawl in bed with his mom. She seems able to handle the situation, so I turn to leave. “Momma, I wanna sleep with you,” I hear Jackson say. “It’s too dark in that room.”

“Okay, come on.”

I make a mental note to find the kid a nightlight when I get the key made in the morning. Since I’m up, I peek into Bree’s crib. Her eyes are open and I’m surprised she’s not crying. “Hey, princess,” I whisper, reaching my hand inside her crib, smiling when she grabs a finger. I pick her up and settle into a recliner that’s in her room. I rock her gently until she falls back to sleep.

My life has been turned upside down. It’s been hard and exhausting and more often than not, I feel like a dumbass. But it’s been worth it. Bree has made it worth it.

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Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Worth the Risk

Chapter One

Raelynn

“You’re fired.”

My mouth drops. “What? You can’t do that!”

“We need people who are dependable, and you are not,” my jerk of a boss says calmly.

“My son was sick, and I’m the only one who can be with him. What was I supposed to do? You can’t fire me over this.”

“I just did.”

He hangs up on me like the bastard he is and I lean forward, clutching the steering wheel. This can’t happen to me. My eyes water with tears and I take deep breaths because I can’t cry. No matter how badly I want and need to. It’s been one bad thing after the other for months and now, I’m jobless and homeless.

“Momma,” Jackson’s soft voice says from the backseat.

I take a quick deep breath and turn to look at him. “What’s wrong, baby?”

“I don’t wanna go to school.”

We sit in the school’s parking lot. There shouldn’t be a reason why he doesn’t want to go. I unbuckle my seatbelt and lean over the console to reach him in the backseat, resting my hand on his knee. “Why? What’s wrong?”

He frowns. “I don’t feel good.”

I touch his forehead with the back of my hand; he doesn’t have a fever. He was sick earlier this week, but he’s been doing better. “Try and if you feel really bad, tell Mrs. Solomon, okay?”

He nods. I get out and walk around to his door. He unbuckles himself because he’s a big boy and Momma can’t do it anymore. He hops out and I reach in to grab his book bag. I have until he gets out of school for the day to find a job and a place to live.

He holds my hand and we walk up the breezeway and into the school. The closer we get to his classroom, the closer Jackson walks next to me. He’s always been a quiet kid, but when it comes to new people, he’s super shy. It’s only ever been the two of us, so it takes some adjusting when new people come into the picture. He has been in school for about three months, but he still refuses to walk in without me.

Mrs. Solomon smiles when she sees us and crouches to be eye level with Jackson. “Hey, Jackson.” She holds out her hand and after a few seconds, Jackson takes it. He walks away, glancing over his shoulder to wave goodbye to me. The tears can’t be helped now. I wait until he takes his seat before I leave. Not that I have anywhere to go. I was already trying to find another job because my boss is a sleazy bastard. I put in applications everywhere I can think of, but nothing has panned out so far.

I get in my car and break down like I’ve wanted to do for the past few months. The sobs rip through me, tearing me apart so easily while this voice in my head berates me for letting things get this bad in the first place. How could I let Jackson down? What kind of mother loses her job and home in one day? A terrible one. That’s me. How did I become like this?

I’ve been a strong person for so long, but life has finally broken me. Everything I own is in this dingy car. It’s loaded down with what few possessions we own since we had to be out today. What am I going to do now? Why does everything have to be so hard for Jackson and me? We’ve managed to get by just fine until a few months ago when everything started going wrong left and right and sucked my money away faster than I could make it.

You’d think in the five years I’ve been on my own, I would’ve made some friends and have someone to help me, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m as alone now as I was when I left the hospital with a newborn in my arms. My parents were strict, hypocrites of preachers. They told me that I made the bed, and I would lay in it. They had as much issue with the fact that I was pregnant at sixteen as who the father was.

My parents got on my nerves so bad and stressed me out so much during my pregnancy that I nearly had him early twice. I went into labor on my seventeenth birthday and Jackson was born early the following morning. Everything was set. I had a job and I was able to move out and in with a family friend. As soon as I scraped up enough to move away, I did. I went across state lines and never looked back. My parents don’t know where I live and haven’t ever seen their grandson.

I’ve had to grow up, learn how to be not just a parent, but a single parent completely on my own, and survive for the two of us. I’ve managed to do it. There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but my son has always been fed and had a place to sleep.

Until today.

I can’t fail my son now. Something has to give. There’s only seventy bucks to my name. My son needs a place to sleep and I need to be able to feed him. I wipe my tears and sniff a few times. The time for Raelynn’s pity party is over. I need to move forward for Jackson’s sake. First, I stop by the public library, type up a résumé, and print off fifty copies. Hopefully paying the library to use their printer lands me a job before I go broke. With résumés in hand, I visit places of business and with more confidence than I actually have, demand to speak with whoever is in charge of hiring new employees and plead my pathetic case.

Like how I’m currently in a quilt shop faced with a pretty blonde and a tall, intimidating man. With a quick, steadying breath I hope they won’t notice, I hold out my hand, which the woman takes. “Hello, my name is Raelynn Woods. I’m sorry if I bothered you while you were busy,” I glance to the man, his black eye and busted lip particularly, but force the words to continue out of my mouth, “but I wanted to make sure I talked to the person in charge.” I find my résumé in my purse and hand it to her. “I don’t know if you have any positions open, but I’m in desperate need of a job, so if one opens up, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep me in mind.”

She tells me what everyone has told me today. “I will. I don’t have anything right now.”

My shoulders fall. Is it too soon to give up hope and cry again? I’m nearly out of résumés. Someone has to have job opening. Someone has to be willing to hire me.

“Are you open to any kind of job?” the man asks, surprising me. He seemed content to stand and hang around.

“Yes.” If he’s offering, I’ll take it. I don’t care what it is, I’ll do it. I’m desperate.

“What about as a nanny?”

“I can do that. I have references, experience, and I’m CPR-certified.” The words can’t leave my mouth fast enough. At this point, I’ll take what I can get and figure out details later.

“Stay here for a second,” he says.

“What are you doing?” the woman asks him.

He says a name as he steps away with a phone in his hand. I watch him talk on the phone, hoping that this is my chance. The one that will ease the tension in my muscles, that will start me back on the up and up with Jackson. I don’t know how being a nanny will work, considering I have my own son, but surely it’s just babysitting during the day and maybe late at night, right?

Before I can worry too much, the man is back.

“Here’s the deal. I have a friend who is a single parent and he needs a nanny to help with his little girl, Bree. She’s almost nine months old. He can explain everything to you during the interview, which he’d like to do as soon as you can make it to his house because he’s in between interviews right now. Deanna, where’s a pen and paper?” She walks around the counter to grab him what he asked for and he asks me, “Can you go now?”

My anxiety returns as it hits me. It’s a single father? I don’t know any of these people. “To this man’s house?” I manage to say. I’m supposed to go to some random guy’s house? Is he insane?

“He’s a good guy. I can go with you if you’re uncomfortable going alone; that’s totally understandable,” Deanna says.

Is a potential job worth this? Her reassurances help, but I don’t know. I glance at the man. What if his friend looks like him? I’m being a judgmental bitch right now when I have no choice, but I also have no clue what he does or what I’m walking into here.

“Can you read that?” He holds out the piece of paper with his handwriting and I nod. “Are you going? He doesn’t have all day.” Deanna slaps his arm from across the counter. “What?” he asks.

“Don’t pressure her. She doesn’t know us and you’re trying to send her to a man’s house and she doesn’t know him either. And you got beat up at work, so you look a little sketchy.” What kind of work does he do where he walks away looking like that?

He frowns. “I’m not pressuring her.” He glances at her. “I look sketchy?”

“Intimidating,” I correct, using the word I first thought of when I saw him.

He smiles. “That’s a better answer.” He looks at me. “We’re all good people, but Deanna can go with you if you want. Here.” He pulls his phone back out and after a moment, he turns it toward me to show off a picture of a little baby girl. “That’s his daughter. How dangerous does she look?”

Okay, he has a point. I debate it while the two banter until I hear Deanna ask, “Anyway, would you like for me to ride out there with you?”

“You don’t mind?” It would make me feel more comfortable, if she’s willing.

“Not at all.”

“His mom is probably there too,” the man adds.

I nod. That works for me. I follow Deanna outside and then to this man’s house. It’s a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I could never afford to live here, that’s for sure. The house almost reminds me of a doll house from the outside. I wonder what this man’s job is.

I glance into my rearview mirror. I look frazzled and out of place. I tried to freshen up in the bathroom at the library, but obviously, I did a bad job. No wonder people don’t want to hire me. With a deep breath, I run my fingers through my hair again and get out to meet Deanna. It’s now or never. Deanna and I walk up the pebbled walkway. There’s a sign on the door.

Sleeping baby. DO NOT RING DOORBELL. Knock. Quietly.

Deanna raps her knuckles on the door softly. I want to ask her what his name is again, but he answers before I can.

“Hey, EJ,” Deanna says. “This is Raelynn Woods.” She looks at me. “Are you good?”

I nod and she waves as she leaves. EJ is a handsome young guy in jeans and a T-shirt that flaunts strong arms covered with tattoos. He appears to be not too much older than myself if I had to guess.

He sticks out his hand. “EJ Bertuzzi. Nice to meet you.”

I shake it. “You too.” No need to repeat my name when he already knows it. He steps aside for me to walk in.

How does a guy this young afford a place like this? Much less a nanny. Maybe he’s into something shady with all of those tattoos. Shut it, Raelynn. No judging. I follow EJ through his gorgeous house and into the kitchen. It feels rude to gawk at his house, even if he can’t see me, so I stare at his back. It’s broad and leads to a huge ass and thick legs. Damn. I shake my head. No ogling the potential boss either!

“Have a seat.” He motions to the dining table. “Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thanks. Does EJ stand for anything?” It’s a stupid thing to ask, considering he’s supposed to be interviewing me, but I can’t help it. I see a name like that and I’m always curious.

“Elias James, first and middle name, but only my mother calls me that. Most of my friends just call me EJ.”

Elias. That’s a pretty name. He seems more like an Elias to me for some reason. “So, I could call you Elias?” I ask.

He shrugs as he grabs something for himself from the fridge and then sits down across from me. “If you want. I don’t care.” He’s a bit intimidating between his size and those tattoos. What is it with intimidating men today? “Okay, here’s the deal,” he starts, getting down to business. “I haven’t liked or trusted anyone I’ve interviewed so far, and I’d like to finally find someone so my mom can return home. If I like you and I think you’ll work out, then I’ll give you a chance. Do you happen to watch hockey?”

I’m so thrown off guard by his question that it takes a second to shake my head. I’d need something other than an antenna to watch that.

“Well, that’s what I do. I play for the Carolina Rebels. I travel and have a rigorous schedule for most of the year. I need someone I can trust to be with Bree and who is willing to keep in contact with me while I’m on the road. You’d live here, and you’d be paid well. We can go over specifics if I decide I like you. So far, what do you think?”

I’d have to live here? Oh, boy. I wasn’t counting on that. He’s going to shun me the moment I tell him I have a little boy. But maybe if he likes me enough first, then we can somehow work out an arrangement? I don’t know. But I find myself saying, “I think I’m still interested.”

Elias smiles. It’s such a pretty smile. “Great. Other possible duties would be tidying up. Your number one priority would be taking care of Bree. You’d have vacation time during the offseason and—”

“When is that?” I interrupt, curious. “Sorry, I don’t know much about hockey. Or anything about it at all, really.”

“It’s okay. Season ends in April, unless we make it to playoffs. So, let’s just say late June to early September. You could take that entire time off or as little as two weeks. Up to you. I get one mandated day off every week during the season; that can be your day off, but if for some reason you need another day, let me know with plenty of advance notice if possible.”

Elias goes on and on about his schedule and things he’d want from me. Maybe Jackson and I could live here with him while I’m a nanny. That would solve both my job problem and living arrangements. But is that the right decision? Should I even contemplate that? Would Elias?

Soft cries comes from a nearby baby monitor and Elias jumps up.

“She’s awake,” he says with a crooked smile. The man just got hotter.

I shake those thoughts from my mind. “Can I come with you to meet her?”

If possible, his grin widens. “Sure. Come on.”

I follow him up the stairs. “You have a beautiful home,” I say what I’ve been thinking since I walked in.

“Thanks,” he mumbles. “My mom had a hand in decorating.”

The room we enter is a pink explosion fitted for a princess. Elias picks up his baby and rocks her gently. I step next to him.

“She’s beautiful,” I whisper, even though she’s awake.

“That she is.”

Elias seems enthralled by his daughter and it tugs at my heart. Bree reaches her arm out to me.

“Can I hold her?”

He hesitates, but then nods, handing her over to me like she’s his most prized possession.

“Hey, pretty girl,” I coo. She smiles. Holding her makes me wish Jackson was still a baby. Bree makes baby noises and I laugh when she tugs on my hair.

“You’re a natural,” Elias says. “You seem like you know more than I do,” he chuckles.

I shrug it off.

“Come on.”

I follow him out of the room, but in the opposite direction of the stairs. He walks two doors down and opens the one on the opposite side of the hall.

“This would be your room. If you’d rather have your own things in here instead, I can move this stuff to storage, no problem.”

I nod, my stomach churning and tying in knots. I need to tell him about my son. Elias leads me back downstairs to the kitchen. Bree has dozed off again with her head on my shoulder, so he lets me continue to hold her.

“Any questions or concerns? Because I’m ready to make an offer.”

“I have the job?”

“If you want it.”

The relief at hearing those words overwhelms me and I squeeze my eyes closed to stop the tears. I will them away. This isn’t a sure thing yet. “Um, yes, I do have some concerns.”

Elias frowns, not expecting that. “What are they?”

Bree stirs and I take the opportunity to look at her instead of him. “I...I’m a single mom of a five-year-old. If I accept the job offer, if you’re still offering, then it would be my son and myself moving in.”

“How old are you?”

I lift my head. He doesn’t think I could be the mom of a five-year-old. “Twenty-two,” I answer curtly. I hope like hell he tries to judge me. That is one thing that brings out my inner momma bear. Judge me for almost anything else, but not that.

“Oh, man. I wasn’t expecting the kid.”

My heart sinks and my inner beggar makes an appearance. “Please. I need this job. I’m completely qualified seeing as how I’ve been taking care of my son for five years by myself. He’s in school for most of the day, and he’s a good kid, I swear. I can do this job and take care of your little girl. You wouldn’t have to worry about feeding him either. I can buy the food for him.” Elias said he would cover the grocery bill for me. “Please, don’t let this cause you not to hire me. I need this job. Please.”

Elias just stares at me. That can’t be a good sign.

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One More Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Steady!

Chapter Two

Kayla

“Whose hoodie is that? Where have you been? I thought you were coming home sooner.”

I sigh at my mom. Still living at home instead of on campus means enduring her nosy questions. “It’s a guy’s. I was out, and apparently, my plans changed. I’m going to my room.”

She says something under her breath, but I ignore her and continue to my room. My dad tried to tell her that since I’m in college, I should have more freedom. Mom told him he didn’t live here anymore, so he should stay out of it. It’s been a battle ever since.

I plop onto my bed and take a deep breath. As I relive the afternoon’s events, I try to figure out what exactly happened. I think about all the ways it could’ve gone wrong. How I could be tied up and in a trunk on my way out of the country right now. Logan and his sister seemed nice enough. That’s the first time I’ve met a guy’s family the day I met him. It wasn’t bad, though.

The incessant buzzing of my vibrating phone cuts into my reminiscing with a call from my dad. “Hey, Daddy.”

“Hey. How’s my little girl doing today?” he asks. I may be twenty and his oldest child, but I’m his only girl and therefore, I’ll always be his little girl. I don’t mind at all.

“Good. Just getting home. How was your day?”

“I’ve been at the shop.” My dad is a mechanic. He and my uncles own a shop where they do pretty much anything to cars.

“Are you still there? Have you had dinner yet? You should go home and eat, Dad.” Ever since my parents divorced, my dad spends most of his time working. I waste my breath, trying to get him to go home and rest, but I’m worried about him. He worked crazy hours before, but I feel like he works all the time now. That can’t be good for him.

Dad laughs. “Quit worrying about me. The only one of us who is supposed to do the worrying is me. Now, tell me about your day.”

I roll my eyes. “I still worry. You’re all alone now.”

“I’m fine.” His voice is firm and allows no room for me to continue on that line of thought. I guess my argument is too predictable if he knows just from that one sentence that I was about to start my you-should-be-with-mom lecture. I’ll even admit that part of the reason I want him back with my mom is so he can handle her and keep her off my back.

“Fine. I practiced my guitar.” Code for playing at the coffeehouse since I haven’t told them about that yet. “And I went out with a guy I met.”

Dad grumbles under his breath. “How’d it go?” he asks anyway.

“Good. He won me over enough to get my number. Now, I’m back at home for the night.”

“Why don’t you tell me more about this young man?”

I laugh. They used to be boys, but Dad begrudgingly upgraded them to young men now that I’m in college. “But what if it doesn’t work out? Then I just told you about a boy for nothing.”

“I’m not going to talk to you for a week since you’re in college now, Kayla. Humor your daddy.”

I smile. He says it as if I set the limit, but he did. Since Mom has been so overbearing still, Dad thought he should limit his contact with me to give me more space. He only calls me once a week, but makes sure I know I can call whenever I want.

“Well, his name is Logan.” Dad grumbles when I mention the proposal and again when I bring up how he led me to a house, but otherwise, he quietly listens as I recount the evening.

“He sounds like a jackass.”

I laugh. “That’s what you say every time I tell you about a date.”

“And how often am I right?”

“A lot of the times,” I acknowledge.

“Exactly. Okay, I’m gonna get off here and let you do whatever it is you do now that you’re in college. Study, hopefully. Call if you need me. I’ll talk to you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy.”

We hang up and I close my eyes for a moment. I don’t know why my parents’ divorce surprised me so much. My brother, Gregory, says he knew it was coming. I was apparently oblivious to whatever problems my parents were having. I thought they were happy and still in love. They were the high school sweethearts who would grow old together.

Or not, as it turns out.

I was pissed at both of my parents. Mom for asking for it, though Dad swears to this day it was mutual, and Dad for agreeing to it so easily. Mom asked, Dad gave in, they separated, and later, they made it official. Dad even bought himself a present! He bought a new truck. Who the hell does that? And maybe it’s crazy for me to still want them together, but their lame excuse for divorcing was they “grew apart.” Well, grow back together! They put no effort into trying to keep their marriage intact.

That is what pisses me off the most.

My phone beeps with a text from an unfamiliar number.

Unknown: Hey, it’s Logan. Miss me yet? Too soon?

I laugh and save his number before responding.

Me: Yes, it’s too soon.

Logan: Well, what about my marriage proposal?

Me: Having dinner at your sister’s is not a date, so no answer for you yet.

Logan: That’s true. When can I see you again? I’m asking now because you must have so many guys chasing after you that I need you to pencil me into the next available free space in your calendar.

Me: Depends. What are we doing?

Logan: I’ll give you options and you can pick. My brother-in-law plays hockey. Option #1: We can go to a game. Yes or pass to option two?

A hockey game? That might be fun. Dad watches the Rebels so I’ve seen a few pro games on TV before. I don’t know if he’s talking about a pro game or not. They didn’t really talk about Sydney’s husband while we were at her house. Either way, it’ll be fun.

Me: Sounds like fun. When are you thinking?

It takes a few minutes before the next text comes in.

Logan: Thursday night. Will that work?

Me: Yep.

Logan: Can’t wait. Gotta go. Savannah is annoyed Lo-Lo is paying more attention to his phone than her. Talk soon.

I smile. It’s sweet that he went back to his sister’s house to visit with his niece. He obviously loves his family. That’s a good trait to have. I put my phone away, grab my laptop and a textbook, and continue working on one of my first papers of the semester until my phone rings again with a call from a friend I met on campus.

“It’s Saturday! Why aren’t you hitting up parties?” Suzanne asks. “Please tell me you aren’t studying.”

“School first.”

I imagine she’s rolling her eyes right about now as she says, “You’re missing out on so much.” That’s what she always says, but so far, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I still go to parties, meet boys, and have plenty of fun. What’s wrong with staying in here and there to prioritize? Not to mention, the course-load can be freaking ridiculous in college. Schoolwork is all I have time for sometimes. The semester practically just started; I have no plans to get behind any time soon.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come? I could pick you up.”

“I’m good.”

She groans and hangs up without another word. She’s clearly on her way to one of those parties I’m missing out on.

The night is quiet. Mom checks in on me like I’m a five-year-old who needs supervision still. When she opens my door to poke her head in, I simply point to my textbook and go back to work, ignoring her. I love my mom, I do, but ever since she kicked Dad out, she has been way too obsessed with us.

I manage to get the first draft of my paper done around eleven. Perfect time to stop and head to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m playing at the coffeehouse again and then who knows what I’ll get into.


I first learned of the coffeehouse when I was simply walking around one day. I wanted to get away from home and here was a place that wanted people to sing for the customers. Jackpot. Some people in the coffeehouse pay no attention to me. Others like to watch and listen, but very few are as captivated as Logan was yesterday.

Today is a day where no one cares. That’s okay. I play my set, collect the few tips I manage to earn, and head out. The park Logan and I went to is calling my name. The park is my favorite place to go, play, and write new songs. January isn’t the ideal time to go, but I don’t mind. And today, I’m wearing Logan’s hoodie to help keep me warm. Mom eyed me hard when I walked out of the house with it on. She was dying to ask me where I was going, and I was completely prepared to give her a vague answer.

Who cares where I’m going? Who cares if I’m wearing a guy’s hoodie, which smells totally amazing? I could’ve died and gone to heaven when I put it on yesterday. What is it with guys’ hoodies anyway? They always smell so freaking good and wear so much better. At least he isn’t around to see that I’m wearing it again today. I’m not sure if he’d smirk and find it cute or think I’m crazy. You never know with guys.

Sitting at the same bench as yesterday, I bring my legs up to criss-cross them and lay my notebook on the side next to me. There’s one song I’ve been working on for a month. Nothing is flowing well: not the music nor the lyrics. It’s irking me so much. Everything is right there on the tip of my pencil, but it’s like my hand is frozen and can’t write down anything. The signals cross somewhere between my brain and my hand.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in and out for a minute or so before my hands find their place on my guitar. The notes strum out slowly and surely until I reach the part where the song abruptly ends. I start again, this time softly singing to myself. The words die, but the notes manage to continue a little bit longer and I hurry to jot them down before starting from the beginning once again. My process repeats like this over and over, sometimes writing down words, other times notes, until I mold and edit and complete the song. Once done, I grab my notebook and look over my notes and scribbles.

“You are amazing.”

Screaming, I drop the notebook and clutch my guitar to my chest. My heart hammers in my chest as I look up and see Logan.

He grins as he closes the distance between us, picks up my notebook, and sits next to me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he says as he hands back my notebook. The fact that he doesn’t even look makes me feel good. Why, I don’t know. He was basically spying on me just now, so him not looking doesn’t exactly equate to a respect of privacy. But somehow, it does.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was driving by and I saw you. I drive by this place all the time, but never paid much attention to it before. Savannah and I normally go to one closer to their house, or just stay and play in their backyard.” His eyes drift down to his hoodie and his grin grows, but he doesn’t say anything else. “Should I go? I don’t want to keep you from working.”

“I’m finished, actually.”

“Is that a subtle acceptance for me to stay?”

I smile and nod. “Sure. How was your night with Savannah?”

“Good. Savannah, Andrew, and I all played together while Syd snuck off to relax. I may have let Savannah eat some ice cream since she wasn’t around.” Logan grins at his sneaky accomplishment and I laugh.

“You’re a good uncle.”

“It’s fun. Speaking of which, what do you like to do for fun other than serenade people?”

“Live the college life.”

Logan chuckles and smiles, almost to himself. “Parties, drinking, and all-nighters?”

“Well, I’m not twenty-one yet, so...”

He laughs. “You’re in college, though.”

“That’s very stereotypical thinking, Logan,” I tease.

“If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.” His brows shoot up while he waits for me to prove him wrong. Since I have drunk at college parties before, I can’t. It’s a true bummer, especially when he gets this cocky grin on his face.

“What do you do for fun?”

Logan shrugs. “Not much anymore. I work, hang with Sydney and the kids, and find pretty girls who sing to hang out with.”

I roll my eyes hard at that last bit. “I think you’re trying too hard to butter me up.”

“It’s not working?”

“Not really.”

He laughs. “Come on then. Let’s get out of here. Trust me enough to ride with me this time?”

Instead of answering, I let him take my hand and pull me up. After putting my guitar and notebook into my car, I lock the doors, grab my purse, and follow Logan to his car. When he heads to his door, I hesitate as I stand next to mine. My dad’s voice filters through my mind.

If they don’t open the door for you, you don’t go, Kayla. You’re a woman, a lady, and too many guys these days forget how to treat one. Don’t let them treat you any less than the absolute best. And that includes opening every door for you.

Dad drilled various versions of that into me from a fairly early age. It still trips me up to this day when a guy doesn’t do it. I always hesitate, hear my daddy’s voice, and wonder what to do. Making a guy open my door for me has ended badly, believe it or not. Dad will always say that proves they aren’t worth it.

The sound of the window rolling down lets me know that I’ve been pondering this for too long. “What are you doing? Having second thoughts?” Logan teases.

Well, only one way to find out how Logan will react. I lean down to look in at him. “I don’t know what your daddy taught you, but mine taught me that if I was with a man, I wouldn’t have to touch a door handle.”

His eyes nearly pop out of his head as he scrambles out of the car. “Shit, Kayla. Sorry. I was too excited about the fact that you’re going somewhere with me,” he says, the words rushing out of his mouth as he rounds the front of the car. “I swear I have manners and chivalry isn’t dead and all that stuff.”

I can’t help but laugh. “It’s okay.”

“Here.” He seems so flustered that he hands me my seatbelt. At least he doesn’t try to buckle me in. With amusement, I watch as he triple-checks that all my limbs are inside the car before he closes the door and jogs around to the other side. “Sorry,” he repeats.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” I tell him seriously. I’m starting to feel bad about his reaction. “My dad is old-fashioned and so serious about those things, I can’t help but think about it.”

Logan reaches over to take my hand as he backs up and then pulls out of the park. “Honestly, it’s fine. You caught me off guard is all. I don’t think any girl has ever demanded it before. They should. I’m normally more on top of my game, but I don’t know what happened. Do you have instances like that often?”

“More than my dad would approve of. They don’t all go so well either.”

“Really?” Logan’s voice hitches a bit with surprise.

“Yeah. One guy left me stranded because I essentially said the same thing to him as I did to you and it pissed him off. Some are miffed and do it, but I never hear from them again. Then, there are guys like you who do it and everything is fine.”

“A guy left you stranded?” he asks incredulously.

“Yeah, my dad was pissed because I called him to come pick me up. I was upset over it and he was the only one I wanted to call.”

“That’s insane. I’m sorry, Kayla. Sounds like you have a good dad, though.”

“Yeah. Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” he says with a smile.

We’re quiet the rest of the way, but then we arrive and I’m confused. “What is this place?” There are a ton of people out here for it to be as chilly as it is today. There are also at least two dozen trucks lined up.

“It’s like a food truck convention of sorts.” I must wrinkle my nose because he says, “Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Some of the best food I’ve ever had has come off of a food truck. It’ll be great, I promise. Don’t move.”

I laugh and unbuckle my seatbelt as I wait for him to move around to open my door for me. He takes my hand, tells me to leave my purse if I want, and then leads the way into the rather massive crowd.

“Here’s the game plan. We’ll pick one thing per truck and share. That way we can try as many as possible. I would like to think I’ve gotten good at doing this, so do you give me free rein to choose for us?”

“Go ahead.”

He grins and pulls me along. The line is long for every single truck, which is good. It gives Logan plenty of time to scan the menu. My phone vibrates in my pocket and I take a quick peek.

Mom: When are you coming home?

Me: Don’t know.

Mom: I need to know how much dinner to fix, Kayla.

Me: Count me out.

After eating with him, I won’t be hungry and Mom won’t have to worry about feeding me. I focus on the menu as I slip my phone into my pocket and wonder what Logan will order. This truck is all about burgers with sides like fries and mac and cheese. Logan picks a burger and fries. He’s already breaking his one thing per truck rule. After a couple minutes of searching, we find a place to sit down and eat.

He slides the containers in front of me. “You first,” he says as he steals a fry, causing me to laugh.

I grab the burger and take a big bite. Holy moly. I don’t know what all is on this thing or what seasoning they used, but it might just be the best burger I’ve ever had. I hand it to Logan and grab a fry. Those are pretty good, too.

“This is the best date ever already,” I say when he hands the burger back. “This burger is delicious.”

His grin is cocky. “I told you. Just wait. There are more to try.”

“I’m ready.” There’s a brief lull before I say, “Can I ask you something?”

“Let’s hear it.”

“You’ve mentioned Sydney, your stepmom and your dad, but not your mom. How come? What’s your relationship with her like?” The moment the words leave my mouth, I know I asked the wrong question. Logan tenses ever so slightly, but it’s enough that I notice.

Have I screwed up already?

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Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Steady!

Chapter One

Logan

Life sucks. It has ever since I graduated from college last year. My best friend, Carey, has moved in with her boyfriend. My sister, Sydney, has gotten married and given me a nephew to love on, in addition to my niece. Yet, here I am. Single. Struggling to find a job that fits the degree I earned. Bored as fuck with life. I almost want to go back to college when life was more fun. Almost.

Everyone made out as if life after college would be like cruising on a highway. Easygoing and you’d go places. That has not happened for me. I’m still working the sucky job I got while in college because I can’t find one more appropriate. The girls I would see don’t appeal to me anymore. Life has turned into a cycle where I go to work, come home, mope, and sometimes beg Sydney to let her kids come over. I don’t actually have to beg, but it’s sad that a baby and a three-year-old are the highlights of my life right now.

My sigh echoes around my lonely apartment. When Carey left, I decided to move too. A one-bedroom apartment made more sense money-wise and space-wise than a three-bedroom. Sydney told me I could move in with them, but that would make me feel even more pathetic than I already do. Besides, I do not want to be in the Rhett household. I’m over there enough as it is. I can’t see her husband, Ian, being happy with me spending even more time there. I like my own space, too.

Ever since I graduated, it’s like I immediately fell into this rut. A rut which keeps getting deeper and deeper. If something doesn’t happen soon, I’ll be convinced that there’s no way out. I need a new job. I need some excitement. I need something other than the exact life I’m currently living.

My phone rings with a call from Sydney. It’s tempting to ignore it, just because I’m in no mood to pretend like my life is where I want it, but I don’t ignore her calls.

“Hey, Syd.”

“Hey! I haven’t heard from you all week! What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” I answer honestly. Absolutely fucking nothing is happening in my life. That’s the problem.

“Well, what are you up to this weekend?”

“Nothing,” I repeat.

Sydney is quiet for a moment. “What’s going on, Logan? Please don’t say nothing.”

“It’s nothing to worry about, Syd. Just in a mood. How’s my niece and nephew?”

I’m thankful that she lets it go. “I think we’ve finally nipped her jealousy in the bud.” It didn’t take long after baby Andrew was born before Savannah decided while she loved her baby brother, she didn’t like all the attention he was getting. He was born back in October; it’s now January. “Or have a handle on it, at least,” Sydney continues. “Andrew is cute and adorable and a good baby as usual. Except for when he’s not.”

I laugh. “Maybe he has more of Ian in him than we thought.”

“That’s probably it,” she agrees. “Savannah wants to see her Lo-Lo.”

I snort. “Ian must be gone on a trip.” Ever since Ian entered Savannah’s life, she only wants to see me when her daddy’s gone. Well, that’s when she wants to see me the most.

“She asked me yesterday before he left, actually. Want to come over for dinner?”

“Sure. I’ll be over in a bit.”

I pack a bag, just in case Savannah wants me to spend the night. She often does. Before I can deal with an active little kid, I need some coffee. The lack of energy pulsing through my veins is equivalent to the energy in my life. Quite simply, there is none. With my bag all packed, I head out for my favorite coffeehouse.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I mutter under my breath.

They’re closed for remodeling. Great way to lose customers. I pull up the map on my phone and see there’s another one close by. I like to go to non-corporate coffeehouses, so while there may be five that are closer to me than the one I’m going to, they are not for me.

When I walk into the store, my brain acknowledges that music is playing. However, the only thing I clearly focus on is the relief that there is not a line. I step up to the counter and order my coffee. That’s when I hear the most angelic, magnificent, powerful voice. Whirling around, I discover it’s not just music, but live music.

There’s a small stage in the corner by the window. A girl sits on a stool with a guitar in her lap. Her hands move fluently; her eyes are closed. Her lips move with the words of the song.

“Hello? Here’s your coffee.”

I face the cashier and take my drink. My body seemingly moves on its own to find a seat to watch her. Her foot taps. Her body sways as if she’s completely lost in the song. Her hands move with such grace on the guitar. The song reaches its height and man, the girl has a set of lungs on her. I’m completely mesmerized. She’s beautiful, too. Well, from what I can see. The guitar hides some of her. She has ridiculously long, wavy black hair. It looks to be almost to her hips. What color are her eyes? When will she open her eyes?

At some point, I should look away, but I can’t. She’s too lost in her song, and I’m too lost in watching her sing.

The song comes to a close and green eyes flash open, landing right on me. Again, I should look away instead of staring at her, but hell, she’s pretty. Fuck, a slow smile rises. I smile back and mouth marry me before I can think better of it. I’m too swept away to think clearly. She laughs; the mic echoes the sound and intensifies my infatuation. She thanks the clapping crowd as she steps off the stool. Once she collects her tips, she leaves the tiny stage.

With her guitar in hand, she walks over to me. I stand and shake the hand she offers.

“Kayla.” The smile on her face is enough to make me want to drop me to my knees and propose again.

“Logan.”

“Did you propose to me, Logan?” she asks with a giggle.

“Depends on what your answer would be.”

She sweeps her eyes over me. “I deserve a date before I can answer, don’t you think?”

“When are you done here?” I ask.

Her eyebrows rise in surprise. “That was my last song.”

“Then let’s go.” I hold out my hand. It hovers in the air for a solid thirty seconds.

“I’m driving myself.” When I nod in acceptance, she finally takes my hand. Hers is soft and slightly smaller in mine. She waves to the cashier as we walk out. I show her what my car looks like before we walk to her car. I stand silently, enjoy how she glances over at me while she puts her guitar safely away in its case, and then I open the driver’s door for her.

“Just follow me.”

“I will.”

At the second stoplight, my phone lights up with a text from Sydney and the plans I made crash down on me. Damn it. We’ll make a pit stop. She’s likely told Savannah I’m coming. I can’t let that little girl down. I’ll drop in for five minutes and tell Savannah I have to go, but I’ll come back tomorrow. It’ll be easier for me to let her down in person than to let Sydney be the bad guy.

We pull into Sydney’s driveway and I get out to see Kayla rethinking this entire thing. I told her we were going out and we come to a person’s house. I walk to her car. She rolls down the window.

“So, here’s the thing. I forgot I was supposed to come to my sister’s for dinner; I just need five minutes and we can go.”

Skepticism creeps into her eyes. “You couldn’t call her instead?”

“No. This is simpler.” She probably doesn’t understand how, but that’s okay. “Would you like to come in with me?” I’d hate to leave her sitting in the car.

“To meet your sister?” Her head tilts a little bit and the skepticism continues to rise.

I laugh. “I’m starting to think you don’t believe I’m meeting my sister at all. That settles it.” I open her car door. “Come on.” I hold my hand out.

She gets out of the car and takes my hand. “Were you hoping I’d say no? What will your girlfriend think?”

I laugh again. “It’s my sister. Well, technically, she’s my stepsister, but she might as well be my sister.” We walk up to the door and I open it without knocking. “Savannah, Lo-Lo is here!” I shout.

Kayla gives me another one of those brow-raising looks. Little pounding footsteps come and there she is. I release Kayla’s hand to crouch and pick her up.

“How’s my favorite niece?”

“Good. Who’s that?” She points to Kayla.

“That’s my new friend, Kayla. Where’s your mommy?”

She points upstairs. I start walking and motion for Kayla to follow us. We find her in Andrew’s room, changing his diaper. “Oh! You didn’t tell me you were bringing someone. Sorry,” she says to Kayla.

“I can’t stay,” I say, earning a glare from Sydney. “I’m sorry!”

“You told me you were coming for dinner and all I’ve heard since then is how Lo-Lo is coming over. Now, you’re telling me you aren’t staying? Why? Did you just meet her?” She glances at Kayla and smiles. “No offense and I’m not angry at you.”

“You’re leaving?” Savannah pouts.

“See,” Sydney says as she picks Andrew up.

“We can stay.”

Everyone looks at Kayla. “For real?” I ask.

She shrugs with a smile. “You proposed, only makes sense that I meet the family.”

You what?” Sydney exclaims as I grin at Kayla. I think I’m in love already.

“Do you have enough for one more, Syd?” I ask.

“Of course.”

“Then, let’s eat.”

We head back downstairs while Sydney talks to Kayla. She finally introduces herself, learns Kayla’s name, and finds out that I did indeed just meet her. They leave me with the kids while they bring dinner to the table. Kayla doesn’t look like she feels out of place. She looks like she belongs here.

“What’s this proposing mess, Logan?” Sydney asks as we sit down to eat.

“She was singing in the coffeehouse. When she finished, I asked her to marry me. She laughed, but agreed to go out with me first.”

“He didn’t ask. He mouthed it at me,” Kayla corrects.

“And you just said yes?”

“I am a catch, you know,” I say with a roll of my eyes.

“Lo-Lo,” Savannah says, stealing my attention.

The bad thing about having dinner here is that Kayla is free to talk mostly to Sydney. Savannah talks to me too much for me to talk to Kayla. Regardless, it’s nice to hear her voice. I keep imagining her singing. We need to escape. I need to know more about her than Sydney does.

The moment dinner is over, I stand. “I love y’all, but we gotta hit the road.”

“No, Lo-Lo!” Savannah shouts.

“I’ll come back tomorrow or tonight to see you, but you have to be a good girl.” She pouts her lips, which makes me laugh. I lean over to kiss her forehead and then stand to kiss Andrew on the forehead, too. “Thanks for dinner, Syd. I’ll call you later. Call me if you need anything.”

“Have I called you once while Ian is away?”

I snort. “All the time.” It’s an exaggeration, but she does call here and there.

“Thank you for letting me intrude,” Kayla says. Impatiently, I wait while goodbyes are said once and for all. “Where to now, Lo-Lo?” she teases.

“Somewhere we can talk. Ideas?”

“Follow me.”

I’d follow her anywhere. To Antarctica to freeze to death? Done. To the pits of Hell? Done. To Heaven? I’m practically already there with her. But for right now, we get into our respective cars and I follow her to a park. It’s a bit chilly outside, but if this is where she’s comfortable, it works for me. I grab a hoodie from the backseat and an extra in case she needs one. It turns out she doesn’t have one, which makes her smile as I offer one of mine.

“Thanks.”

I shrug and pull mine over my head while we walk over to a picnic table, straddling the bench.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“You.”

“What about me?” she asks. She goes to stick her hands in the kangaroo pocket, but I grab them in mine first. Wow. Her hands are soft. I wasn’t imagining it earlier. Kayla flicks her gaze back and forth between our hands and my eyes with pure curiosity.

“How long have you been singing?”

“Since I could talk.”

“Do you know you’re amazing?” I give her a little smirk; that, my question, or both makes her laugh.

“I think I’m decent, but thank you for the compliment.”

My thumbs rub over her knuckles. “Why do you sing in the coffeehouse?”

Kayla shrugs. “It’s a great way to earn extra cash and a way for me to perform, even if it is just in a coffeehouse.”

“What do you normally do, if this is extra cash?”

She frowns for a moment. “Nothing. I’m a sophomore in college.”

I sit upright. “What? For real?”

“You don’t go to Whaley Jones University?” Her eyes fall to the WJU hoodie I’m currently wearing.

“No, I graduated last year.” My gaze falls to our hands. Well, this puts a new spin on things. I hadn’t considered where she’d be in life or her age or anything of the sort. I simply assumed we were in the same place and the same age.

Kayla dips her head and leans forward. “Well, then.” Her voice changes with a tone of conspiracy. “It sounds like I have an older man after my heart.”

I laugh. “Sounds like. Is music your major then?”

Kayla sighs. It’s such a heavy, disappointed sigh. “No. I’m declaring anthropology as my major and music as my minor.”

“How come? It doesn’t sound like you’re thrilled about it.”

“I can’t see my parents approving of it.”

“But music is what you want to do?” She nods. “Do you know what I’ve learned?”

“What?”

“When you grow up, you have to make the decisions you want because guess what? Your parents won’t be living your life and as an adult, they lose control anyway. They’ll get over it. It’s your life; do what you want.”

Kayla chuckles. “Yeah, I’m not that brave yet. Music is what I want to do, but I’m not sure what they would think of it. I would like their approval, whether I technically need it or not. And right now, I do rely on them, so I feel like they have a say.”

“Understandable.”

“Have you always been close to your stepsister?”

I flare my eyes. “Ooh, the girl is becoming interested in me now. About time.” She laughs and I gather my thoughts on my relationship with Sydney. “We didn’t care for one another at first, but we became friends.” I shrug a shoulder. “I don’t know. We just got close and have stayed that way. It’s why I call her my sister instead, because I consider her my sister. Do you have siblings?”

She nods. “A younger brother, but we never get along. Or never as well as you seem to get along with Sydney.” Her mouth opens, but she hesitates. “Can I ask you something personal?”

“Sure.”

“What was it like when your parents divorced? How did you feel about it?”

Out of all the questions she could’ve asked me, I never would’ve thought of those. I try to think back on my parents’ divorce. “I don’t know. It happened when I was seven. My dad didn’t marry my stepmom until way later. All I really remember about it is my dad saying he wasn’t gonna live with us anymore, but he still loved us, and me begging to live with him.”

“Oh.” Kayla seems disappointed in my answer.

“Are your parents together?”

She shakes her head. “They’re officially divorced as of last year.”

“Not taking it so well?”

“Not really,” she admits. With a deep breath, her eyes find mine. “Let’s talk about something else. What was your first impression of me?”

“Well, I heard you before I saw you. I was hooked. And when I saw you, I was swept away because you were so beautiful and I wanted to see what color your eyes were. You?”

She smirks, which gives me a heads-up that something funny is coming. “My exact thought was why is this creepy hot guy staring at me?”

“Hot, huh?” I smile.

“Don’t forget creepy.”

“I think you threw that in there for your own amusement. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here with me now.”

“Maybe. Maybe I like to be a stupid college kid sometimes.” Kayla pulls her hands from mine. “It’s dark out here. I should go.”

I stand with her. “Can I have your number?”

Kayla glances around, stalling. She’ll say no. I don’t know why when nothing has gone wrong, unless she’s here to humor me.

“Yes, you can,” she finally says. I whip out my phone so fast and have it ready before she can take her next breath, making her laugh.

Once she recites it, she goes to take the hoodie off. “Keep it for now,” I say. “I don’t want you to be cold on your way home.”

The smile she gives me is a killer. “Thanks, Logan. I’ll see you later.”

Yes. Yes, you will.

Preorder on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

The next Carolina Rebels book is up for preorder!

WorthTheRisk_ecover.jpg

EJ fans, have you heard? Worth the Risk is the next Carolina Rebels novel, and it will release April 12, 2018! Read on for all the details! :)

EJ Bertuzzi didn’t expect to be a father so soon in life, and he’s had to rely on others for help when it comes to taking care of his little princess, Bree. At first, it was his mom, and after a long, excruciating search, it’s now his attractive nanny, Raelynn. But EJ has some insecurities. Not to mention, the last thing he needs to do is something to cause his perfect nanny to quit.

Raelynn Woods is a young single mom who has had many lows in her life with the only bright spot being her son, Jackson. For the past five years, she's done whatever she's had to do to make ends meet for her and Jackson. Raelynn has a difficult time trusting others and letting people in, but she hopes working as EJ's nanny can help change that and bring some much needed stability into their lives.

EJ and Raelynn battle with their attraction to one another while struggling to keep a friendly, yet professional relationship. If they give each other a chance, they might just discover the outcome is worth the risk.

Get it on iBooks | Nook | Kobo

(Amazon linking coming as soon as I can list it on that site!)

Have you heard about my new series?

My new Hearts in Carolina series starts off on January 4, 2018 with Steady! And, if you've been reading the Carolina Rebels series, it's with a character you're already familiar with: Logan (Sydney's stepbrother) from It's Our Time

Steady is a New Adult Romance.

Steady_Lindsay Paige

A chance meeting and a spontaneous marriage proposal leads Logan Archer on a first date that turns his dull, unhappy life around. With her help, he finally lands his dream job. But what Logan really wants is his dream girl to spend his time with.

He’s certain that girl is Kayla. He’ll do whatever is necessary to secure a future with her.

Kayla Murphy might be able to turn down Logan’s many proposals, but she can’t resist his charm, his many nicknames for her, or his ability to make her laugh when it’s the last thing she wants to do.

But unwanted distractions threaten what these two are building together.

 

Get it on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

About the series: The novels will be set in North Carolina, loosely connected to one another, and can be read in any order. There will also be some crossover with my Carolina Rebels series on occasion, as seen with Steady.

WIP Progress Report

WIP Progress Report.jpg

- Title: Untitled
- Genre: Hockey Romance
- Word Count/Goal: 49,409/80,000
- Release Date: Spring 2018
- Series? Carolina Rebels 

It's been a LONG time since I posted my last WIP progress report, which was back in mid-June. I've been slacking, and I apologize.

There is a lot to catch up on, but I'll start with my current WIP. 

So, Scott & Sylvia's An Unexpected Life released last month. Brayden's book, Attached to You, releases next month. We've already met Rebels Noah, Marc, and Ian as well.

Up next and the Rebel starring in this WIP?

EJ!

His story has been flowing so smoothly! I can't wait to get this first draft done. I've had his story in my head for a very long time and it feels so good to finally write it. I can't wait to share it with you next year!

Now that you're all caught up on my current project, let me catch you up on my others.

Other Projects:
The first book in my New Adult Romance series, Hearts in Carolina, goes to edits and gets a cover soon! More details to come. (If you liked Logan from It's Our Time, then you'll be excited about this book!)

- As soon as my secret project (a newsletter exclusive) is ready, it'll be shared with my newsletter subscribers

- As I mentioned above, the next Carolina Rebels book, Attached to You, releases October 19, 2017.

WIP Progress Report (#18)

WIP Progress Report.jpg

- Title: I have two possibilities, but haven't decided yet!
- Genre: Hockey Romance
- Release Date: Late 2017
- Series? Carolina Rebels

It took two days longer than expected because...well, the reason isn't important. BUT WOOHOO THIS BOOK IS DONE!

And by done, I mean the first draft is complete.

It's now time for me to do revisions.

And dance! 

You're probably thinking, "Damn, Lindsay. You seem more excited than usual about finishing this book. What's up with that? I'm highly suspicious here."

I see your point. Let me explain. As you can see above, this book is set to release late this year. It's May and my first draft is done (ahead of schedule). Which means, I'm ahead of schedule in general.

Which is good because I'm changing up my schedule and I needed a window in order to assess things, plan things, plot things, and finishing this book meant reaching the much needed time slot to do all of those things. Finishing it early? Tickles me to death because that means I can do all of that this month and pick right up on my schedule on June 1st and not be behind! 

That feels worthy of another one these.

<<<<<<<

So, that's what's next, plus what's in my other projects section below. It's still a heavy workload this month, but reaching this point means I'll be dancing like Carlton while I work. ;)

Other Projects:
The couple after Ian was edited last month, but I now have to go through it and make the changes, and get it ready until the final version is complete! This novella also got a cover, which I'll reveal soon. (If you're in Lindsay's League, you'll see it first!)

- This month, one of my secret projects is resting before it undergoes final revisions and edits. My timeline for this is still too tentative to announce anything definite yet.

- I'm also working to finish writing the second secret project this month.

WIP Progress Report (#13)

To recap, these "progress reports" are basically a way for y'all to know a little more about what I'm working on and to be able to follow along with the process. The main update will be on my current WIP, but at the end, there will be quick updates on other projects. 

- Title: Untitled
- Genre: Hockey Romance
- Word Count/Goal: 7,710/?
- Release Date: Tentatively sometime in 2017
- Series? #3 in the Carolina Rebels series, but it's a novella.

It's been forever (since August) since I've done a progress report! It's about time y'all get the news on the latest WIP, right?! Well, I've set aside Because It's You for the moment while my betas have it and I've started on the next leg of the Carolina Rebels series. After Marc comes Ian Rhett. 

Ian Rhett will be getting a prequel novella, which is what I'm working on now. His story starts long before where his novel will start, hence the reason he's getting a prequel. You can see that I also put a question mark for my word count goal because I'm not too sure how long I want it to be yet, so I'm just going to see where it ends up.

It's fun so far! I'm in love with this series; I was initially going to break to work on a standalone, but the words are flowing, so I'm going to keep going! That's really all I have for this go round. I just wanted to give a quick update. Plus, I have to go study for a test I have to take later today.

Other Projects:
- I'll start planning a secret mini project this week or next week as well.
- As I said earlier, Because It's You is currently with my betas.

Carolina Rebels News!

First of all, thank y'all for a fantastic release of Back to Me! I've said it before, and I'll said it again: I didn't think it was possible for me to be even more excited for a series than I already was, but I am! All thanks to seeing your excitement match mine! So, thank you!

Now, let's move on to the news! If you're a member of my Facebook group, Lindsay's League, then you've already seen the beautiful cover for the next Carolina Rebels book, but that's not only one thing I'm sharing today. 

The second book is Because It's You and it will release February 20, 2017 (my birthday)! If you've read Back to Me, then you know it's about Marc Polinski. If you haven't read Back to Me, then get a glance at the cover and don't read any further as the blurb can be a bit spoiler-y, I think. So, you've been warned.

Marc Polinski is known for having fun, always smiling, and being a third wheel for his friends, Noah and Meredith. A rare one night stand at a Halloween party and running into the woman again sets Marc on a path of no return. He can’t walk away from her, even if he wanted to, and he absolutely doesn’t want to do that.

Elizabeth Boyd hasn’t dated in a long time and if it wasn’t for her sister-in-law, she wouldn’t have been pushed toward the seemingly bad idea of Marc Polinski. She’s not sure she wants to date, but she can’t seem to turn Marc down either. Little by little, she lets Marc wiggle past all of her defenses.

Their relationship is rocky from the start, and with both of them having demons and secrets, things between them are a struggle. Will they be able to overcome their pasts, let each other in, and start building a life together or will they find they were doomed from the start?

Get it on iBooks | Nook | Kobo

(Amazon link will be available in late November or so.)

WIP Progress Report (#12)

To recap, these "progress reports" are basically a way for y'all to know a little more about what I'm working on and to be able to follow along with the process. The main update will be on my current WIP, but at the end, there will be quick updates on other projects. 

- Title: Untitled
- Genre: Hockey Romance
- Word Count/Goal: 34,971/80,000
- Release Date: Tentatively, early 2017
- Series? Book 2 in the Carolina Rebels series.

This is sort of a double update. First, let's tackle the first book in the Carolina Rebels series, which will release October 4th, has a cover, and is currently available for preorder. Back to Me is officially D-O-N-E with revisions. It's about to lace up its skates and head off to the editor. :D I finished just in time since school starts Monday. I also recently finished picking out the teasers for the book, so next, I'll be putting those together as well as ordering bookmarks for the series.

Second, I've been working on the next book in the series, and I'm in LOVE. There's just something special about this book and these characters. I've laughed, I've cried, I've wanted to hug them both. It's been fun to write so far. I'm cruising right along and right on schedule, which is a relief! 

I'm so excited about this series and I can't wait for y'all to be introduced to the team in October. This new series is going to be so much fun!

Other Projects:

Making Me Sane is gearing up for release on September 7th! Don't miss out on the anticipated sequel to Driving Me Mad. Sign up for my newsletter so you'll be able to read the first five chapters on September 1st!

WIP Progress Report (#10)

To recap, these "progress reports" are basically a way for y'all to know a little more about what I'm working on and to be able to follow along with the process. The main update will be on my current WIP, but at the end, there will be quick updates on other projects. 

 

Title: 

Making Me Sane (Sanity, #2)

- Genre:

 New Adult Romance w/ Anxiety/Depression 

- Release Date:

 Tentatively, the summer of 2016

- Series? 

Will be book 2 of 2.

Y'all. This book is DONE. Well, the first draft is complete. I've been working so hard this past week to finish this book on time, and I've finished a few days early! I'm so excited about all the things that happen to Brittany and Trace in this book. I can't wait to share this couple with you. I just love them so much!

I've updated the word count box on the left and noted my new primary WIP! My next WIP is Noah and Meredith's book, the first in my upcoming hockey romance series featuring players on the Carolina Rebels team. I'm super excited about that series. I'll be start it as soon as I get back from my Alaskan cruise. It's going to be so nice to have a break before more work starts. I'm leaving my computer at home. I'll be without my phone and internet and it should be great! The only electronic device I'll be using is my Kindle, which is really for the traveling to and from Seattle, where we're actually leaving from.

I just had to make a post about finishing this book. Next step is to send it to my betas before revisions, edits, and formatting. I'm hoping to release it shortly after 

Driving Me Mad

 releases on July 6th, so y'all don't have to wait too long to see what happens next. :)

Other Projects:

Mary and I will be spending the next few months getting the final three books in

The Ninth Inning series

ready for release.

That's all for now. Happy reading!

WIP Progress Report (#9)

To recap, these "progress reports" are basically a way for y'all to know a little more about what I'm working on and to be able to follow along with the process. The main update will be on my current WIP, but at the end, there will be quick updates on other projects. 

Title: Making Me Sane (Sanity, #2)
- Genre: New Adult Romance w/ Anxiety/Depression 
- Word Count/Goal: 39,526/80,000
- Release Date: Tentatively, the summer of 2016
- Series? Will be book 2 of 2.

Today, I released I'm less than 500 words away from the halfway point of this WIP, word-wise! That is awesome, especially since I have exactly one month to finish it. My time is being cut short because I leave for a cruise next month. Hitting the halfway point is a great reason to post a progress report!

I also realized that there are some key parts I need to figure out for the rest of the book. That could be helpful when writing the last half of their story, you know. ;) As soon as that's done, I can keep writing, wrap the book off, and ship it to my betas.

I feel like I can't say too terribly much about this book because I don't want to give anything away, especially since y'all don't even know what happens in the first book yet. I am enjoying this one as much as the first one. They are dealing with new challenges, old ones, and having to deal with the things life can throw at them. 

That's all for now! While I'm plotting away, make sure you check out the series page to get all the details about the first book, Driving Me Mad.

Other Projects:
While writing this book, I'm outlining the next project after this one, which will be a hockey romance series featuring players from my new Carolina Rebels team. I've actually written scenes here and there for the first four books. I'm very excited about these!

Mary and I are still working on The Ninth Inning series as well! We're writing the last book in the series, while also prepping the remaining books for publishing. 

WIP Progress Report (#8)

To recap, these "progress reports" are basically a way for y'all to know a little more about what I'm working on and to be able to follow along with the process. The main update will be on my current WIP, but at the end, there will be quick updates on other projects. 

In this WIP PR, we're tackling the second book with Brittany and Trace. 

- Titled: Making Me Sane (Sanity, #2)
- Genre: New Adult Romance w/ Anxiety/Depression 
- Word Count/Goal: 15,589/80,000
- Release Date: Tentatively, the summer of 2016
- Series? Will be book 2 of 2.
- First Sentence of Last Chapter Written: 
Never, in all the years I've known Brittany, has there been distance between us.

The first book with Brittany and Trace, Driving Me Mad, will be going to the editor soon, so that's exciting! Right now, I'm working on their second book and hope to have it done by the end of next month, and I think I'm on pace for that.

It's really interesting to be writing this book because it occurs a year after the first one ends. I can't wait to share more with y'all. I'll first reveal the covers for both books in my April newsletter, so be sure to sign up if you haven't already.

I have a ton to accomplish this month, so I better head out and write more of this book!

Other Projects:
While writing this book, I'm outlining the next project after this one, which will be a hockey romance series. :D

Mary and I are still working on The Ninth Inning series as well! 

WIP Progress Report (#7)

To recap, these "progress reports" are basically a way for y'all to know a little more about what I'm working on and to be able to follow along with the process. The main update will be on my solos, but at the end, there will be quick updates on other projects. 

I'm jumping right in with this PR on Brittany and Trace's story.

- Tentatively titled: For Now
- Genre: New Adult Romance w/ Anxiety/Depression 
- Word Count/Goal: 69,977/80,000
- Release Date: Tentatively, the summer of 2016
- Series? Will be book 1 of 2.
- First Sentence of Last Chapter Written: 
She hasn't smiled since she arrived.

What's new? Well, I have a tentative title and I'm closing in on reaching my goal for the word count with a little over 10,000 words to go. I just finished outlining what is left to be told of the story. I have four chapters remaining in this WIP! 

Holy moly.

I don't feel like I'm close to the end, which is probably because their story will pick up again in a second book. I feel like this has been a quick book to write, even though it hasn't. So what's different to make it feel like that?

For one, I joined a challenge with other authors to write at least 100 words a day. That's definitely helped me make sure I write a little chunk every single day as well as having a general outline for this book from the beginning. I've always known where it's going, how it's going to end, and a few key parts that need to happen. I haven't written this book any faster than my others; it isn't any shorter either. Yet, still feels like my time with these characters so far have flown by. Maybe it's just because I've had so much going on in other areas of my life as well. 

Anyway, that's all for this progress report. The next one will mean I've finished the draft! 

Other Projects:
Bending Under Pressure is patiently awaiting its release day next month. I'm getting teasers and such ready. 

I'll be writing more on books from The Ninth Inning series.

That's all for now! I just wanted to write a quick update during the intermission of this Detroit/Buffalo game, and since I had an update to give!

Stay safe and warm in this weather, y'all!

Have you heard about these 2016 releases yet?

You may have already seen this if you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, but if not, then get excited! I'm here to reveal some 2016 releases.

First, I have a standalone Young Adult Romance, Bending Under Pressure.

Releasing February 20, 2016.
Preorder on AmazoniBooksB&N, or Kobo.
Add to Goodreads.
Haley Summers is struggling. She's in a new town with new teammates. She's unsure if she likes her new stepdad. She doesn't know why her father isn't answering her calls and keeps bailing on her. The only thing she has going for her is a boy who is struggling just as much as she is.

Keelan Moore is always feeling pressure. He wants to be a good kid for his adoptive parents while getting reacquainted with his birth mom and that part of his family. The only thing he has going for him is Haley and showing her just how fun her new home can be.

Pressure is hitting them from all sides. Can they survive unscathed while bending under pressure?

Next, we have Season 2 in The Ninth Inning series. Amazon links will be slow to appear due to their preorder policy. However, you can expect Trent to be on Amazon by the end of the month.

Releasing March 25, 2016.
Preorder on iBooksB&N, or Kobo.
Add to Goodreads.
The Ninth Inning series presents Memphis Angels’ second baseman, Trent Baker.

Trent Baker is struggling after losing his wife. He has to enlist the help of his grandmother to help him care for his daughter while trying to play baseball and work through his grief. The girl he meets at the gym becomes a friend and someone he can talk to, but she brings her own complications to the table.


Scarlett Knowles is a caring social worker who puts the needs of the children before her. When Scarlett finally gets the nerve to speak to Trent, she believes it’ll be a one-time encounter until he keeps popping up everywhere she goes. The more they run into each other and the more they talk, the worse she feels about the secret she carries.


When the secret is revealed, more complications arise to put them both in a predicament neither are sure they want.


The win will be hard fought, but are Trent and Scarlett willing to put in the work together?

Releasing April 25, 2016.
Preorder on iBooksB&N, Kobo.
Add to Goodreads.
The Ninth Inning series presents Memphis Angels’ shortstop, Jordan Johnson.

Jordan Johnson loves his wife more than anything. After suffering a traumatic loss together, he’s willing to give her whatever she needs. She needs space, he’ll give her space. She needs time, he’ll give her time. However, when Heidi asks for a divorce, Jordan refuses to give it to her. It’s tough sometimes, but Jordan won’t stop fighting for them.


Heidi Johnson’s life seems to be a fairytale with the perfect baseball husband, the great vacation beach house, and a good career. Then, tragedy hit her from nowhere. Now, she’s trying to figure out which way is up and which is down. She figures leaving Jordan and focusing on opening her own business will make the pain go away, but it doesn’t help. Finally, she tells Jordan a divorce is what she needs, but he’s too stubborn to give her what she wants the most.


Jordan won’t give up on her and Heidi won’t change her mind. Will he push her further away by reminding her of what they had? Will she push him too far with her rejections that he’ll never come back? Or can they save their marriage?


When they’re put into the ninth inning, will Jordan be able to hold tight to Heidi or will her stubbornness be the end of the game?


Releasing May 25, 2016.
Preorder on iBooksB&N, or Kobo.
Add to Goodreads
The Ninth Inning series presents Memphis Angels’ third baseman, Colby Wilson.

Colby Wilson gets talked into making a profile on a dating website. It’s been a not-so-great experience so far, especially since his teammates have given him the nickname of Sugar Daddy thanks to the mistake of sharing his experiences. Colby just wants to settle down and finally have a place to call home once and for all. Then, he decides to meet the only sane person he’s been able to talk to on the dating website.


Ariella Craft is a homicide detective who spends more time working cases than working on her love life. As a last resort, she decides to sign up for online dating and ends up talking to someone who doesn’t seem to be crazy. After taking sound advice from her sister, Ariella meets the man she’s been chatting with.


There is nothing but shock when they discover each other’s identities. Colby and Ariella need to prioritize their careers and love lives, but when devastation hits them, it’s more difficult than they both thought it would be.


Life is throwing nothing but curveballs. Colby and Ariella need to hit it out of the park before they strike out.
That's all I have for now! 2016 is looking to be busy in terms of releases, but I'm excited nonetheless! Hope you are as well.

Without a Doubt: Chapter Reveal

As I said before, every month from now until the release, I'm going to reveal a chapter from the book until you've read the first five chapters.

If you want to read the chapters before I post them on the blog, then you should sign up for my monthly newsletter because my subscribers get the link first.

Without further ado, here is the Prologue-Chapter Three of Emerson and Eva's story. Enjoy! Only two more chapters to go!

Emerson Montgomery loves his high school sweetheart, Kelly Price. He'd do anything for her, including agreeing to a break where they'll see other people as he heads off to college. Struggling with the break and guilt over dating other people, Emerson meets Eva, a beautiful, funny, easygoing, and nosey junior.

Eva Harvey chose this particular college with the hopes of fulfilling her own fairytale and falling in love at the same college where her parents met. She does her best to go with the flow and simply see what happens, but Emerson simultaneously causes her to fall in love while making her second guess everything along the way.

There's some things you know without a doubt. However, Eva causes Emerson to doubt everything he believes about his future while he causes her to doubt what's right in front of her. Can they find a way to erase all doubts or will it tear them apart in the process?
Preorder Without a Doubt on AmazoniBooksB&N, or Kobo, and add the book to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.