The Christmas One

10306463_834753826546333_7070579436273180240_n

 

The Christmas One

Merry Christmas to my wonderful readers!

Here’s a little Christmas vignette, featuring Sam and Meghan.

 I hope you enjoy it!

Light spilled into the bedroom, bathing Meghan’s face in its soft glow. I lay next to her in our bed, watching the beams play across the smooth white skin of her cheek. Pale red lashes teased the faint freckles, and one lock of her hair had fallen near her full red lips. I brushed it away with the tip of my finger, but she didn’t stir.

I loved the luxury of gazing at her when she was asleep, when she didn’t know I was staring. If she caught me doing it during the day, I’d never hear the end of it. She’d tease me, her face going that soft pink that made me want to pull her close and nibble down her neck. And most mornings, I was up and out of bed long before the sun rose. Working a farm was a twenty-four/seven job, and it was only this time of year, in the dead of winter, that I got a little break. I wasn’t about to waste it by jumping out of bed before I had to.

“What time is it?” She spoke without opening her eyes.

“Early. For you, anyway. It’s not seven yet.”

“Mmmmmm.” She hummed, her lips pressing together. “Then why are you awake?”

“How did you know I was?” I leaned closer, catching her ear lobe between my teeth.

“I could feel you staring at me. It’s creepy.” She shivered as my tongue tickled a spot on her neck.

“It might be creepy if I were some random guy, but I’m your husband, which means I’m exempt from creepy-guy status. I can stare at you all I want. I’ve got a signed document giving me permission.”

“Hmph.” She sounded skeptical, but I spied the subtle twitch of her lips.

“Hey, baby?” I nuzzled the curve of her shoulder.

“Yeah?” She opened one eye, regarding me with curiosity.

“Merry Christmas. I love you.”

Meghan turned toward me, sliding her arms around my neck. “Merry Christmas, Sam. I love you, too.” She kissed my jaw, then my cheek, working her way to my mouth, where she took her time, teasing my bottom lip with her teeth, tracing the outline with the tip of her tongue.

“Don’t you want to see what Santa left you under the tree?” I snuck one hand under her nightshirt, over the warm satin skin of her stomach and up to cup her breast. My thumb circled her stiff nipple, and I was rewarded with her sharp intake of breath.

“I think I’d rather unwrap the gift that’s right here.” She snuggled closer, pressing her hot core against the stiffness between my legs.

Thrusting my hips forward, I growled into her ear. “Have you been a naughty girl? Do I need to—”

“Merry Christmas, Uncle Sam! Are you awake, Auntie Megs?” My niece’s voice cut throw the haze of desire. It was followed by the slam of the kitchen door and the pounding of her footsteps heading toward the stairs.

“Fuck.” I dropped my forehead against Meghan’s shoulder, groaning.

She giggled. “Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s off the table right now.” She nudged up my chin with her finger, sealed my lips with one intense, soul-stabbing kiss, and then sat up, patting my ass. “Come on, Uncle Sam. You need to get your, uh, self, under control before Bridget opens that door. In three, two, one . . .”

“Come on, you guys! Mommy and Daddy said I can’t open anything until you come downstairs. We walked all the way over here, and guess what? Daddy says it smells like snow. And I saw a deer right on the edge of the woods. Are you coming?”

~~~***~~~

“It never fails to amaze me that I can spend hours shopping and wrapping, and the opening is over in a matter of minutes.” My sister yawned and snuggled back against her husband, tucking her feet beneath her on the sofa. My eyes strayed down to where her grey cotton shirt stretched over the small bump at her middle. I glanced at Meghan, wondering if her thoughts were following my own, but she was occupied on the floor, examining a new set of charcoal pencils Santa had brought Bridget.

“Which is actually a good thing in this case, since we need to get over to Mom’s. Reenie just texted that she and Smith are already there, and Iona’s crew is on the way.” Flynn swiped his thumb over his phone and grinned at me. “We’ll leave the newlyweds alone.” He kissed the top of Ali’s head, his hand skimming over her bump in a way that was both possessive and casual. “Enjoy it. Once the rugrats come along, the relaxing Christmas mornings are a distant memory.”

I snorted. “Yeah, the last relaxing Christmas morning I had was before Bridget was born.” I’d spent more holidays with Bridge than Flynn had, and I wasn’t going to let him forget it.

“Touche’.” Flynn was a good guy, and I knew he appreciated the years I’d taken care of Ali and Bridget, when he wasn’t around. He nudged Ali up. “C’mon, woman. Get moving, or Mom’ll be calling to see where we are.”

Meghan and I stood by the Christmas tree as they bundled up for the short walk back across the fields and down the path, to the small house they’d built on the farm. Ali stood on tiptoe to kiss my cheek.

“Merry Christmas, big brother. See you later on for dinner at Mason and Rilla’s?”

I nodded. “Yeah, but we’re not staying late. We’re hitting the road early tomorrow morning, so we can get to the Cove by lunch time. Meghan’s mom is anxious for us to be there.”

“Understood.” She hugged my wife before they were all out the door, Bridget’s excited chatter the last thing I heard as they disappeared around the bend.

And then the house was quiet. Meghan sighed and turned toward the fridge.

“You want some eggs, or shall I make pancakes?”

“Hey.” I came behind her and circled my arms around her waist. “You okay?”

“Of course.” Her voice was too bright, too perky. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

The effect of the words was ruined by the catch in her breath. I closed my eyes, dropped my face to bury in her neck and pressed one hand over her flat stomach.

“It’s stupid.” She spoke so softly, I had to concentrate to hear her. “I mean . . . it wasn’t even . . . we barely knew I was pregnant.” She sniffled. “And it wasn’t like we wanted a baby so soon. It was just an accident.”

“Meghan.” I gripped her upper arms and turned her to face me. “No child of ours could ever be an accident. And no child of ours will ever be unwanted.” I lifted her face so that I could see her eyes, bright with unshed tears. “I won’t pretend to know what you went through, or what you’re feeling now. But I hate that you’re hurting. And I’d do anything to stop it.”

She rubbed her forehead against my shoulder. “I don’t think there’s anything I can do except get through it. I’m trying to be happy for Rilla and for Ali—I am happy for them. But it still hurts a little that they’re getting what I was too dumb to know I wanted.”

“Darlin’, you weren’t dumb. We were both surprised, and we were still adjusting when—well, when there wasn’t anything to adjust to anymore. Stop beating yourself up.” I brushed at her cheeks with my thumbs, swiping at the salty tracks. “And when the time’s right, it’ll be our turn. There’s a baby in our future. I know that for sure.”

Meghan sniffed again. “How can you know that? Maybe this was our baby. Maybe our only chance.”

“I know, because we’ll never give up. When we’re ready, it’ll happen.” I kissed her on the mouth, hard and quick. “And until then, I’m going to enjoy the time I have with my gorgeous, sexy wife.”

She gave a half-laugh, half-sob and caught her hands together behind my neck. “How on earth did I ever get lucky enough to find you?”

I laughed. “You got drunk at a bar in my town, had a bad serpentine belt, and I just happened to be the guy who came to your rescue.” I touched my lips to the turned-up tip of her nose. “And then you came back and rescued me from my dull and boring life. See, baby? It all works out.”

Meghan threaded her fingers through my hair and tugged me down toward her face. “Merry Christmas, Sam. I love you.”

“Merry Christmas, Meghan. I love you right back.” I gave in to her coaxing and kissed her again, this time slow and full of promise.

When she came up for air, some of the pain had seeped out of her eyes. “How about those pancakes?”

I bent, scooping her up in my arms and holding her tight to me. “Pancakes later. First . . .” I pivoted and made my way to the stairs. “You. Me. Upstairs. Naked. Lots of naked.”

She giggled, and the sound warmed my heart.

“You always have the best ideas.”

~~~***~~~

The End . . . for now

Review

The familiarity of home, the warmth of family ties, the sweet sensation of being wrapped in the arms of THE ONE love thatTLOEbookSW meant everything. . .each story is a remarkable package of all this and more.

–Olivia Hardin
USA Today Best-Selling Romance Author

From the Author

The One Trilogy begins with Sam and Meghan’s story in The Last One . . .

Nobody ever said love was simple.
It continues with Flynn and Ali’s re-discovered love in The First One . . .
Can first love last forever?
And it concludes with Mason and Rilla’s surprising romance in The Only One.
Sometimes love isn’t the easy choice. Sometimes it’s the only one.
Writing these books has been an amazing experience. For nearly a year, part of me has lived in the small Georgia town of Burton. I’ve loved watching this community: embracing their sorrows, celebrating their joys and exulting in their love stories.
I hope you’ll spend some time in Burton, too. One warning: you may not want to leave.
And if you enjoy The One Trilogy, come back to Burton for the Always Love TrilogyAlways For You is available now, and Always My Own is coming January 26th!

The Last One

FREE on all venues for a limited time

iBooks/Amazon/Nook/Kobo/Google Play

Death A La Mode is Here!

12181790_10205435627473561_1906281753_n

The second book in the Recipe for Death series is here!

Jackie’s still adjusting to having a steady boyfriend—not to mention getting used to the fact that Lucas is a death broker/vampire. With the help of his ex-lover Cathryn—whom Jackie doesn’t quite trust—they’re trying to figure out why Lucas was turned—and by whom. 
Jackie’s biggest challenge at the moment, though, is creating a winning entry to the annual Perfect Pecan Pie Festival, the premiere food contest in Palm Dunes, Florida. Testing recipes and running her new restaurant are keeping her busy.

But no one’s too busy for murder.

When people around local up-and-coming folk singer Crissy Darwin begin turning up dead, Lucas is pulled into the investigation. He and Jackie suspect that Crissy herself is the target. But can they solve the mystery before the killer strikes again—and without ruining the Festival?

Pour yourself a nice glass of Lambrusco, cut a slice of pie and settle in to see what happens.

Get your copy here!

iBooks/Amazon/Nook/Google Play/Kobo/Goodreads

And Book 1, Death Fricassee is on sale for only 99 cents!Death Fricassee

iBooks/Amazon/Nook

I’m Reading All Played Out by Cora Carmack

I’ve been waiting for this book for freakin’ ever, so it had major expectations to meet. And it did. Oh, baby, did it.

Nell is Dylan’s roommate (Dylan, female lead of All Broke Down). And anyone reading these books knows that Mateo Torres is the house clown–the one about whom everyone laughs and shakes their heads. He’s also a bit of a manwhore.

Nell on the other hand is focused and driven–school and her career are it for her. After a bad bout of the lonelies, she decides to experiment and try out ‘real’ college life before she graduates. To that end, she makes a list and sets about to check off the items.

Accomplishing this task puts our girl squarely in the path of sexy Torres. . .and he falls hard. How he wins her skittish and reluctant heart is spun sweetly and with earnest realism; we see Nell yearning and pulling back while Torres exercises admirable patience and depth as yet unseen in his character.

I love when an author takes a side character we assume we knew–whom we had stereotyped–and brings him out, makes him 3-D and deep. It’s a good reminder that when we pigeonhole people, we’re doing them and ourselves a disservice.

My one and only complaint about this book is that Stella’s story, which I’ve been waiting impatiently to read, isn’t up for preorder yet. EARLY 2016!!! Gah, I’ll wither away and die before then. (Not really. At least, I hope not.)

If you haven’t read The Rusk University books, RUN and get them all. Right now. Go on, shoo. And read them, and then come back and thank me. ‘Cause I know you will.

Crystal Cove Cover Teasers!

This is going to be a summer of lovin’ . . . beach lovin’! And really, is there anything better?

I’m excited beyond the telling that the next two Crystal Cove books are coming out. Their release dates are June 29th and August 23rd.

AND The Posse, the book that started it all and made us everyone want to live in the Cove (or at least keep a summer house there!) will be included in a special beach-themed box set coming out June 28th. You heard it here first, folks. More info coming very soon, but here are some of the preorder links!

iBooks/Nook/Kobo

Last week, I revealed the gorgeous new cover for The Posse on my Facebook page. I’m including it here today . . . along with the brand-new, not-yet-seen-outside-the-Temptresses cover for The Plan. I adore these covers so freaking much–aren’t they amazing? (MUCHO love to Stephanie Nelson of Once Upon A Time covers!!)

So here’s The Posse‘s dreamy new look . . .

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]

 

And this is the cover for The Plan, releasing June 29th!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]

 

Emmy Carter is a hard-working, no-nonsense woman. She’s focused only on supporting her family and growing her pie business. Working weekend nights at The RipTide is just something she does to help pay the bills. When it comes to men–or love–she’s not interested. Since the day her surfer-boy husband walked out the door to find bigger waves, Emmy’s been determined never to give another man power over her heart.

Cooper Davis agrees. He’s been married–and divorced–twice, and he’s got no desire to make it a trifecta. He has his carpentry business, which is his passion, and his teen-aged daughter to keep him busy. The posse, his best friends since boyhood, tease him about finding the right woman. But Cooper knows she doesn’t exist.

When Emmy and Cooper share a casual hook-up late one night, isn’t a big deal. It’s just a one-time thing. Until it isn’t. And although neither of them will admit to themselves or each other that they want more, each encounter only brings them closer to the happily-ever-after they never planned to have.

Like it or not. . .it’s all part of The Plan.

iBooks/Amazon/Nook

The One Trilogy Tease

THE LTKTO3FINALAST ONE

“Hi.” Her voice was low, and one side of her mouth lifted in a smile.

“I see you girls got home. Finally.” I didn’t mean to say them, but the words came blasting out before I thought about it. Because she was Meghan, and she never did what I expect-

ed, she only lifted one eyebrow.
“I brought your sister home as promised, safe and sound.

I had one beer, hours ago, and my car didn’t break down.” She slid her foot between both of mine, her eyes still steady. “This is where you say, ‘Thank you, Meghan.’”

I let out a breath. “Yeah. Thanks. How drunk is she? Did she get groped?”

“Not by me.” Her smile grew, and she pivoted sideways and dropped onto my lap. Out of instinct, I caught her by the hips.

“What are you doing?”

“You brought up groping. It seemed like a good idea.” She leaned onto my chest and twined her arms around my neck. “You kissed me this morning. I know you said it was a mistake, and maybe you meant that. But right now, I don’t care. I want to kiss you.” She brought her lips to my jaw, nipping along the line until she reached my ear. “What do you think, Sam?”

iBooks/Amazon

THE FIRST ONE

“How did I ever get lucky enough to deserve you?” Ali laid her head on the back of the seat. “What do you see in me? I’m not special.”

“You’re the most special. Ali, you’re beautiful, and not just on the outside. You’re nice to people, you’re funny, and . . .” I TKTO8finalshrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t describe it. I just know it.”

“I love you, Flynn.” She said it as though she couldn’t help it, as though the words surprised her as much as they did me. “I—I know that sounds weird, or maybe you’re not ready—”

“I love you, Ali.” I spoke before she could backtrack any- more. “I’ve loved you for a long time. It’s not weird. It just is.”

“When did you know?”

I hesitated. I wasn’t sure she’d want to hear this, to know the truth. But I’d promised to be honest and open with her always. “It was after your parents. After the accident.”

There was a brief flare of pain on her face, but she didn’t look away, so I went on. “You were hurting so much, and you were so sad. Crushed. I knew then that I never wanted to leave you. I wanted to do anything to make sure you never had to feel that way again, for the rest of your life. I never want to be away from you.” I sucked in a breath and for the first time, I spoke the words that would both define us and doom us. “I want you to come with me, Ali, when I leave Burton. This town, it’s just . . . too small. I’m getting out of here as soon as we graduate. I’m going to see the world. I’m going to travel as far as I can, for as long as I can. And I want you to come with me.”

iBooks/Amazon

 

TKTO5FINAL

THE ONLY ONE

I opened the kitchen door, sniffing in appreciation. Meat- loaf. But although dinner was clearly underway, Rilla and Piper were nowhere to be seen. I was about to call their names when I heard music coming from down the hall.

Following the sound, I headed for my mother’s room, where the unmistakable lyrics and tune of Come on, Eileen were blasting. I glanced into the room and then did a double take.

Rilla was dancing. She had the music turned up loud, and she was swinging her hips in time with it. Those jeans that had been making me hot and bothered for quite a while clung to her ass as she shook it. And she was singing along.

I was a musician, and even more, I had the gift of recognizing musical talent. It had been my job in Nashville, and I was damned good at it. I’d heard the magic in Lu’s voice the first time we met. It had been a big part of falling in love with her.

Rilla didn’t have talent. She didn’t sing badly, but she was barely on key. She wasn’t going to win any talent contests, and she’d never be signing a recording contract. But all the same, the sound of her belting out those words, some of which she got horribly wrong, was one of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard.

She was singing with such joy and abandon. And she was dancing with the same freedom. My pretty girl had never looked more beautiful to me.

iBooks/Amazon