A new romantic suspense box set for only 99 cents? Yes, please!

Where can you find a three-book read with romance, suspense, AND characters who leave you wanting more–all for less a buck? How about right here?

Check out my friend Lisa Hughey’s new box set–which is 99 cents for a limited! As a very special preview treat, I happen to have an excerpt below . . . keep scrolling, because I promise, you’ll be hooked once you read this tempting tidbit.

This box set includes the first three books in the ALIAS series: Stalked, Hunted, and Vanished.

Stalked: Opposites attract, unfortunately.

Rule follower, Federal US Deputy Marshal Alex Saunders has been assigned to protect a federal judge after the judge receives death threats. This detail is standard until the judge insists on his son’s PR firm provide backup security, which isn’t even in the rule book. But because Alex is already in hot water, he follows orders to keep the judge happy.

Rulebreaker, and former CIA analyst, Kita Kim reluctantly agrees to go undercover, posing as the judge’s aide slash girlfriend, but in return she expects her boss at ALIAS to help her protect an abused woman and her nieces even though technically keeping the children from their father is against the law.

From the very start, Alex and Kita disagree about everything. But their sizzling attraction continues to grow as the threats against the judge escalate and put them all in danger. Can these two opposites find enough common ground outside the bedroom, or will their diverse philosophies result in disaster?

Hunted: There’s only one thing worse than seeing your unrequited crush every day at the office…and that’s getting trapped with him in a snowy mountain cabin.

Maria Torres has been through hell and back. A former kidnapping victim, she’s used to being famous for all the wrong reasons and having people handle her with kid gloves. And it seems that the man of her dreams, Dwayne Lameko, is no different.

So when an ALIAS client requests her presence on an op, Maria believes she’s ready to spread her wings and prove all her co-workers wrong…especially Dwayne. But when danger follows them into the wilderness, Maria has no choice but to prove to herself and Dwayne that she’s strong enough to handle anything…even his love.

Maria Torres was first introduced in the Family Stone series, Still the One. She finally gets her happily ever after.

Vanished: He’ll do anything to find his brother’s killer….

His final opportunity…

On an unsanctioned mission, Scottish NCA officer Hamish Ballard tracks his brother’s killer across the ocean…until he hits a dead end at Adams-Larsen Inc and Associates, a supposed PR company. Owner Jillian Larsen knows more than she admits, and he’ll do anything to uncover her secrets, even fake an interest her. He’s got one week to complete his goal. But his attraction is all too real and using her when she was just a name in a report was easy, but now he’s falling hard for his foe.

Her first responsibility…

Jillian Larsen’s purpose in life is helping people who are in jeopardy disappear and she has never betrayed a client. When a Scottish hottie accuses her company of hiding a criminal, she has no intention of revealing her client’s whereabouts or giving in to her inconvenient attraction for the sexy pain in her ass. But what does she do if the woman she relocated turns out to be a criminal? When her business partner vanishes along with their complicit client, can she use Hamish to track them down without risking her heart?

Their only chance…

He needs her resources. She needs his intelligence. Working together is the only logical choice, but it means jeopardizing everything.

Now enjoy this sneak peek from the first book in the box set!

Excerpt from Stalked

Alex Saunders already hated this job.

Federal judge Robert “call me Bobby” Adams was a pain in the ass. He’d agreed to protection and then demanded a backup. A private backup. From everything Alex could ascertain, the judge was throwing his son a bone, tossing cash to the son’s firm, Adams-Larsen Inc. and Associates. The judge insisted on hiring them as secondary security protection. A service that as far as Alex could tell, the firm was ill-equipped to provide.

Adams-Larsen was an image consulting firm. He tried to keep an open mind…although in his opinion if you lived a clean life, you shouldn’t need help cleaning up your image.

So far, he’d seen a chick dressed as a giant mugger assaulting a frail woman that a strong gust of October wind would blow away. He couldn’t say why he thought the mugger was a woman, except that there’d been something in her stance….

She’d been watching him and he’d had a vision of stripping away the mugger outfit to reveal what lay beneath. Her gaze had pierced the armor of his self-control and for a moment, he’d been tempted to stand by the floor-to-ceiling windows and just…watch.

Mentally he gave himself a slap. He was acting just like the guy harassing the judge. Except something hinky was definitely going on with the judge and his stalker. Alex just didn’t know what. Yet.

They stopped by a receptionist’s desk. The judge halted, bent to the Latina woman who guarded the inner sanctum of this business.

“Maria.” The judge’s voice had softened, gentled.

Ho now. What was that all about?

“Hello, Judge Adams.”

“Now, darlin’, I’ve told you to call me Bobby.” He reached out to clasp one of her hands, but after she pulled back subtly, the judge patted her hand. “How are you?”

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her smile uneasy. “I’m doing…good.”

“I’m very pleased to hear that.” Judge Adams beetled his brows. “You need anything, you call me.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The weirdest part of the whole exchange was the way the judge acted almost fatherly toward the woman. In the two hours Alex had observed him relating to women, he hadn’t once displayed this kind of behavior. And he’d watched Judge Adams interact with a lot of women.

“Gentlemen.” A smoky contralto interrupted his thoughts. Alex turned toward the sexy voice and stopped.

She was freaking gorgeous.

Slender, stacked, and elegant. She wore a suit with a pencil skirt in a bold patriotic red, glossy lips matched her skirt and demanded attention, and a pair of heels made her legs look fantastic. She had classic Scandinavian coloring, white-blond hair, pale skin, and high cheekbones with unusual dark gray eyes.

The judge straightened. “Jillian, dear.”

So this was Jillian Larsen. The judge’s son’s business partner. For some reason her name sounded familiar. The judge smiled and clasped Jillian Larsen around the shoulders, embracing her in a hug that went on just a little too long.

Her smile was absolutely, politely professional as she eased away. “Nice to see you again, Judge.”

“Where’s Marsh?”

“Marsh is on assignment right now.” She was lying through her perfectly straight, unnaturally white teeth. “He sent his regrets.”

“Not a problem.” The judge dismissed the statement, either not knowing or not caring that she’d lied. “I had planned to request a favor from you in any event.”

“Why don’t you both come into my office.” Jillian Larsen led them toward a set of tall mahogany doors. “And you can tell me all about it.”

Her stride hitched for a barely perceptible moment, then she led them away from the giant desk situated in front of a wall of bookshelves and toward a more casual sitting area with wing chairs and a small sofa. She strode easily and confidently, leaving the men in her wake, while the judge stared at her butt for just a little too long.

She was young enough be to his daughter. But that didn’t seem to matter to the man. He was an equal opportunity dawg. With the very bizarre exception of the receptionist.

Jillian Larsen sat in a wing chair, leaving another chair and a settee for Alex and the judge.

Quickly Judge Adams introduced Alex, only by name, not mentioning the reason he was accompanied, then skimmed over the details of his problem.

Jillian Larsen didn’t say a word as the judge glossed over the specifics of receiving very detailed emails, expertly encoded letters no less, with explicit death threats. No cut-and-paste pictures out of magazines for this guy. The US Marshals’ computer guys were still trying to de-code the high-tech encryption. And they still hadn’t determined where the emails originated from.

Jillian listened intently, her mouth pursed and her unusual gray eyes flat.

The judge wound up, “So you see my dear, I’m hoping that we can hire you to be an additional…pair of eyes until this nonsense stops.”

Without even glancing at Alex, she demurred. “You’re asking us to engage out of our area of expertise, Judge. You are not our typical agency client.” She pulled out a smartphone and started thumbing through her contacts. “I can recommend several good security—”

“Jillian. Cut the horseshit.” The judge’s affable, good-old-boy demeanor had been replaced by the guy who’d managed to survive the Congressional vetting process unscathed and made difficult decisions to send traitors and high-level criminals to federal prison for life. “I need you to make this happen.”

Alex was pretty sure there was a threat in Judge Adams’s words but damned if he could figure out that underlying warning.

“You’re in a precarious position as it is after the debacle last month with the FBI.”

Maybe that was why her name sounded familiar. Memories finally clicked. A prominent Russian businessman with shady connections had been killed in a shootout right here at Adams-Larsen. The story in the press was that the Russian had a love interest in DC and had entered the country illegally. Something had gone awry and he’d taken a hostage. Congress was set to hold private hearings on the situation, wanting to know how the man got into the country and why he ended up dead. Alex had thought there was a whole hell of a lot of logistical things left out of that story.

“It would be embarrassing if you ended up with more negative press. Not great for a…PR agency.”

Mentally Alex perked up. Forget the prior veiled warning, the judge had just very clearly and overtly bullied Jillian Larsen, his son’s business partner. Although Alex still had no idea what the judge was talking about.

Jillian blinked, never once losing her composure. “With Bliss and Rissa mostly on the West Coast these days, I’m shorthanded right now.”

“You’ll do.”

Denial in her gaze was swift but her comeback was smooth and unhurried. “I’m sorry but I’m needed here at the moment. Perhaps Dwayne.”

“Need a woman.” The judge was shaking his head. “She can pose as my personal aide.”

Finally the reason they were here clicked in Alex’s brain. The judge didn’t want an additional bodyguard, he wanted a playmate. Or he wanted a bodyguard who looked like a playmate.

“Ms. Larsen, perhaps it would ease your mind to know that the US Marshals will be running point on Judge Adams’s case and he will be under their protection.”

“That would be you?” she asked coolly.

Alex nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

Her eyes went flat again, almost as if his being a deputy marshal worked against him. Alex could practically see her brain synapses firing as she considered then rejected options. But she didn’t shut the judge down. Did that mean she didn’t trust the US Marshals? The United States Marshals office was the best personal protection security in the world. Certainly head and shoulders above some Beltway spin doctors who were so bad at PR they were going to be part of a congressional hearing.

This detail was a freaking train wreck.

But on his last job, after loudly protesting the authenticity and suitability of the US Marshal’s witness he’d been charged with protecting, Alex had received an official reprimand from HR. It didn’t matter that his instincts had been right on target. The fucking idiot had violated the terms of WitSec within a week of being relocated, and in another week he’d been dead.

Killed by the very people he was supposed to be hiding from.

Alex had a bad feeling about this job. But the ding in his personnel file didn’t give a shit, and he could not afford to fuck up this assignment.

The immediate consequence of speaking up on his last case had been a transfer to the Judicial Protection branch of the Marshals, and the protection of one ornery Judge Robert “call me Bobby” Adams.

Right away the judge had put him in an awkward position by requesting the addition of an Adams-Larsen employee. But Alex’s new boss told him to do whatever the judge wanted to keep him happy. Having additional backup outside the assigned Marshals—namely him and his partner, Shep—was highly unusual.

“I may have one person.” She was so reluctant that Alex couldn’t imagine her choice would be acceptable.

“Well, go get her,” the judge ordered.

Jillian Larsen moved elegantly, crossing her legs, and pressed a button on her cell phone, turning it into a two-way comm system. “Maria, can you page Kita for me?”

The judge glanced at his diamond-rimmed, 14-carat gold Rolex. “I’ve got an important pretrial meeting in an hour.”

Alex was an expert at reading people. Jillian Larsen wanted desperately to tell Judge Adams to go to hell, but she pasted a very polite smile on her lips and held back the harsh words.
“Maria, have her come up right away.”

Alex made a mental note to check into the background of the employees of this agency. He hadn’t had a chance to do more than find out they did image consulting since Judge Adams dropped this bomb on him.

“But, Jill.” They could all hear the hesitation in her assistant’s voice. “She’s in the sparring room.”

“Right. Away.”

“Okay.” You asked for it was implicitly implied in the receptionist’s dubious tone.
#

Kita rushed up the stairs. Was something wrong with Marsh? She couldn’t believe that thought hadn’t occurred to her when the judge walked in.

They needed to see her right away.

She’d removed the padded assailant suit, stripped down to a tight wicking sleeveless top and a pair of skimpy spandex shorts. She’d tugged on a pair of running shoes and splashed water on her face and skimmed over her pony. The temp inside the assailant suit got damn hot and her face felt like she’d sat in the sun at a Nationals game in the dead of summer. She also smelled a little funky and the quick spritz of Dwayne’s Axe didn’t really mask the odor. She’d have preferred a cold shower. But Jillian had said, “Right away.”

Kita burst into the reception area. “Everything okay? Something wrong with Marsh?”

“Not as far as I know,” Maria Torres said softly. She was still finding her confidence. She’d been abducted as a teenager and spent eight years in a solitary prison before she’d managed to escape. Kita couldn’t even imagine the fortitude it had taken for her to not crumble up and wither away. But she hadn’t. And slowly but surely Maria was coming out of her shell and growing into the woman she was meant to be.

Relief washed over Kita.

“When you ask for right away, this is what you get, stinky and sweaty.” Kita grinned.

“Apparently they couldn’t wait for you.” Maria rolled her eyes and Kita loved that little bit of ’tude. “Go on in.”

She strode into Jillian Larsen’s office, then felt as if she’d walked into an alternative dimension.

Three people, elegantly dressed, sipping beverages out of delicate china cups, turned at the same time as if choreographed. They were having a tea party and she’d just crashed it.

“You wanted to see me.” Right away. They sure hadn’t given her time to clean up.

“Kita, thanks for coming so quickly.” Jillian put down her cup, the clatter of china loud in the suddenly silent room.

In her St. John suit and matching pumps, with her perfectly smooth blond hair and expertly applied makeup, Jill was the epitome of polished and poised. Kita was the unkempt homeless girl compared to Jillian’s high society princess.

Both men rose to their feet. If she hadn’t been distracted by the sheer power of the man to her right she might have been amused at their old-fashioned gesture.

Immediately her gaze went to the unknown man. Up close his presence was even more compelling. Blue-black hair, a leanly chiseled, uncompromising face, and the stoic expression in his reserved pale blue eyes captivated her.

Like the magnetic pull of the moon, she couldn’t stop staring at him. She was drawn to him. Power. He’d exuded it merely sitting in the effeminate chair.

His shoulders were broad, and although his button-down cotton shirt was just a little too loose to reveal the muscles beneath, she sensed his strength. And she wondered again who he was and what he wanted with her.

She knew what she wanted with him.

Get it now for only 99 cents!!

Climate Change, Controversy and the Anti-Cinderella Chronicles

When I began writing The Anti-Cinderella Chronicles, I didn’t know much about the characters. I knew a bit about their history together, about what their future would hold, but as far as interests, careers . . . that was still hazy.

However, I knew from Fifty Frogs that Kyra’s roommate was Vivian’s sister Shelby, and  Shelby was a graduate student at a college in Maine. So that meant Kyra was in Maine, too . . . and it just so happened that my youngest daughter had recently transferred to a college in Maine.

Unity is a young school, established in 1965. It is known as America’s Environmental College, and since my daughter was majoring in sustainable agriculture, it was her dream school. Winning the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship allowed her to realize that dream.

None of us had visited Unity the weekend that we dropped off Cate. But it made enough of an impression on me that I realized something important: both Kyra and Nicky were involved in sustainability in various ways, whether that was food sourcing, agriculture or the over-arching need to redeem our environment.

So that’s how two of my lead characters became activists.

From the beginning, a few readers mentioned this sub-story. For me, it’s important that my characters are well-rounded, with rich histories and deep passions not only for each other but for their talents, their careers or their hobbies. It made perfect sense that if Kyra was pursuing her graduate degree in sustainable ag, she’d have a lot to say on the subject (I might have first-hand knowledge on that!).

All of my books include details and some research into whatever career the characters have chosen. Thus I was a tad surprised that readers seemed to react strongly one way or the other to Kyra and Nicky’s work. And with the release of the latest book, those reactions seemed to ramp up a little more.

So let’s talk about this.

First, we’ll acknowledge the elephant in the room. Yes, I personally  believe that climate change is real, that our planet is hurting and that humans are systematically and definitely destroying our one and only world. That’s something I’ve always acknowledged as truth, even back in the days when I was more conservative politically. I’m a product of the 1970’s, after all, when we were all trying to be more environmentally conscious.

But please keep reading, even if you don’t agree with me.

In addition to my sustainability and environmental beliefs, I also am convinced that climate change and ecological responsibility are not a political topic. Politicians of every stripe have attempted to make them political for their own advantages.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. My daughter and I were talking the other day. She said, “It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t take much to make some small changes, and even if you’re skeptical about whether or not climate change is real, it doesn’t hurt anyone to make those changes. Worst case, you’ve left the earth a little bit cleaner.”

Hey, I’m not naive. I understand that some of the changes needed aren’t little ones, and I know that they could impact the bottom line of big companies. If you don’t buy that the science is legit, you’d be loathe to make changes that would cost you some bucks.

And while I find recent studies very credible (and damn scary!), I also don’t believe that all science is right on target. After all, we’ve seen that things are changing all the time. But in this case, all the evidence points to the need for all of us, all over the world, to pull together and do whatever we can to help.

I think it’s important to note something, too. I write romance. Fiction. The books in question don’t claim to be treatises on this topic. They’re entertaining stories about people who came from my imagination. So while you may not agree with the inclusion of touchy subjects, please remember that this is all supposed to be fun.

I promise you, the book contains more couple time than controversy.

One reader asked me whether all of my books from now on would include some element of this ‘controversial’ topic. No. That would be silly and limiting, because not all of my characters are involved in this line of work. Kyra and Nicky are . . . and yes, there may be some of the same in the next book in this world, A Dozen Dreams. But I have 71 other books NOT in the Anti-Cinderella World that don’t even mention climate change or sustainability. Try those!

Will I go back and change things in the existing Anti-Cinderella world to avoid controversy? HELL, no. These are my books. These are characters created in my mind, people who are real to me and whose opinions, actions and emotions sprang from genuine inspiration. They remind me of the real-life people whose work I admire, of my daughter and her passion for growing food in a more sustainable manner, of those who sacrifice much in order to make this world a better place.

Today is World Environment Day. If you are offended by the idea of protecting our earth, if you are not alarmed by the dwindling ability of our planet to support its population, if you are not heartbroken by the growing numbers of extinct or endangered species . . . then maybe today doesn’t matter to you.

But it matters to me. It matters to my children, and it will matter to my sweet grandbaby. And if doesn’t matter to more of us, and soon, the consequences will force our hands.

Happy World Environment Day, y’all. Go hug a tree, plant a flower, turn off lights you don’t need, walk instead of drive, kiss a farmer . . . and hey, read the latest Anti-Cinderella book. Even if you don’t agree with climate change, it’s a dang good love story, and we all need more of those.

 

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Why I Write Strong Women–and Why It Matters

 

I don’t remember how I began writing strong women. I do recall, though, an early review of my first book Fearless wherein the review jeered that it should have been FearFUL because Tas was such a timid soul. And I remember thinking . . . well, no. She isn’t. She is just a seventeen-year-old girl who has led a protected life and needs to find her own strength. This is the story of how that will happen.

(And that’s exactly what happened in the four books of The King Quartet and by the fifteenth book in the overall series, Age of Aquarius. So there.)

Still, at some point, I began to internalize this concept as I wrote. I made a conscious decision that the women in my books wouldn’t be damsels in distress or weak creatures. I wanted them instead to be sassy, spunky, confident and able.

Recently, I was at a writers’ conference, where I was discussing romance with a group of other authors. The ages of the writers ranged from (probably) early 30’s to mid-70’s. The conversation was lively and interesting, until some time toward the end, when one author remarked, “Well, we all just have to keep writing strong women.”

To my shock, the younger authors reacted badly to that idea. One replied, “Oh, no, I never write strong women–they’re bitches. Readers hate strong women.”

Those of us who were older hardly knew what to say. It bothered me so much that I brought it up to a bunch of other author friends. And then once I got home, I decided I wanted to do something constructive, which is why today we’re kicking off the #IWriteStrongWomen #IReadStrongWomen campaign.

Please understand that I think strength comes in all forms. I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama for over 20 years. That is strength, baby.

Strength doesn’t come from education or money or career or religion or status. It comes from inside you. It comes from experience and choices and–and love. Loving someone else is a measure of great strength and courage.

I write women who’ve never been to college (Jude and Nell and Emmy and Jenna and Ashley and Tori, among them), women who have advanced degrees (Elizabeth, Abby, Maureen), women who would be considered white-collar professionals and and those who own their own businesses and those who are full-time moms . . . what they have in common is their heart and the strength there.

And this is important to me because I have three daughters and will shortly have a granddaughter. I want to leave them a legacy of example–whether that’s in real life or on the page–of women who can do anything they set their minds to do.

I invite you to join our Facebook group,  We Read Strong Women. It’s just fun and chatting about our favorite kickass heroines and their stories–oh, and just maybe a little about the sexy guys who love these spunky women!

I also invite you to join our campaign by posting on your favorite social media site. Just share a picture of one of your favorite strong leading women along with a hash tag like:

#strongwomen
#strongwomenwriteromance
#strongisthenewsexy
#strongwomengreatbooks
#romancetakesastrongwoman
#iwritestrongwo
men

And tell us WHY you read strong women! I can’t wait to see what you have to say.

Psst . . . want to win some goodies?

August has been a little weird and wonky in my life. Between prep for Indie BookFest, getting quite sick at Indie BookFest, traveling to Maine to drop off my daughter at college . . . I feel like normal has been hard to find!

And I was left with a ton of paperbacks when I couldn’t sign at IBF, so that’s why I decided to run this super-fun giveaway–not only books, but all the goodies any rabid reader might need. Enter below .  . . and good luck! 


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