Meghan and Sam . . . The Last One (Six Years Later!)

{Sam and Meghan’s story begins in The Last One, where they find their happily-ever-after. It continues through The First One, The Only One, The Always One, The Hard One and The Forever One  . . . and the pair are even mentioned a few times in some Crystal Cove Romances, too! But wait, there’s more! I have two previously shared extra epilogues . . . and now a new update on the pair right here.You might want to read the other two first. Enjoy!}

–Meghan and Sam at the Beach

–Fourth of July . . . Small Town Style

The peaceful quiet of my late-afternoon was pierced by a wail coming through the baby monitor that perched on the kitchen table, next to the bowl of green beans I was in the middle of popping for dinner. I grimaced, waiting for the inevitable, and I wasn’t disappointed: a second voice joined the first complaints.

I groaned and rested my forehead against my hand. It wasn’t that I didn’t love my sweet babies–I did, so much. But this time of day was tough for all of us. My mother had sympathetically called it the witching hour when I’d described how between the end of their last nap and the beginning of dinner,  nothing seemed to make the little ones happy.

The misery was compounded this time of year, too, because Sam was so busy, he didn’t get in from the fields until much later. During the winter, I loved that he was at the house so much. I’d gotten positively spoiled by having a second parent around to help me corral the kidlets. But right now, he was up to his neck in onions, tomatoes, and peaches.

The noise level from upstairs rose another decibel, and I pushed back my chair to comfort the twins before things got worse.

***

Twenty minutes later, we were all back in the kitchen. Daniella, my chestnut-haired daughter, was busy on the floor with a metal pot and a wooden spoon, while her red-haired brother Justin was in the high chair finishing his second banana. I’d learned from hard experience that not letting their hunger get ahead of me was key to survival.

I’d just settled back at the table with my beans when I heard a knock on the kitchen door, which was followed in short order by the knob turning as my sister-in-law’s face appeared.

“Yoohoo! Anyone home?”

Both of the twins stopped what they were doing, their attention arrested, and then in unison, they broke into squeals of delight. Aunt Ali was a favorite among my little brood. Happily for all of us, she and her husband, Flynn, along with their two children, had just moved back to Burton to live here full-time after years of dividing their time between New York City and the little house they’d built here on the farm. Ali had told me privately that she was sick of big-city living, but their official reason for making the move was that they were expecting their third baby and wanted to be closer to family.

I watched with a smile as Ali scooped up Daniella and loved on her before turning to Justin to blow raspberries in his neck. When she’d pulled out a chair and plunked down with Dani in her lap, I cocked an eyebrow.

“Were you in the neighborhood, or are you just here to check on my sanity?”

Ali laughed. “Both. I just left the stand in the capable hands of Matt Westin. He’s doing a terrific job over there, which is awesome because I don’t feel like waddling around this fall when I’m huge.” She patted the tiny bump behind my daughter. “But I’m here for a reason. I’m kidnapping your babies.”

I frowned. “What? Why?”

“Because I know what it’s like to have a toddler, and I can only imagine that two is double the . . . fun.” She winked.

“Did your brother put you up to this?” I narrowed my eyes.

“He told me that you’ve been worn out, and he was worried because he feels like he can’t be in two places at once. So . . . I offered to come take these little cherubs home with me for the night.”

“Are you sure?” I was dubious. “It’s not like you don’t have your own hands full.”

“Ah, but the difference is that I have Bridget. Never underestimate the value of a fourteeen-year-old girl who loves babies.”

That was true. My niece was wonderful with the twins.

“So go get the kids’ stuff . . . and then take a nap before my brother gets home.”

I suddenly had a burst of energy at the prospect of an evening alone with my sexy husband. “Just give me five minutes!”

I heard Ali giggling, but I was too busy taking the steps two at a time to care.

***

An hour and a half later, I was a new woman. I’d taken a long and leisurely bath, taking the time to shave all the interesting parts of my body that had been recently neglected. Over my smooth and sleek skin, I’d pulled on a floaty sundress . . . and nothing else.

Back down in the kitchen, I cleaned up Dani’s pots and spoons and Justin’s messy high chair. I was just rinsing my hands when I glanced out the window at a very arresting sight.

My husband stood in his usual position at the outside sink in the shed. He’d shucked off his T-shirt and was letting the water run over his hands, splashing it onto his sculpted chest.

With a wide grin, I dashed out the kitchen door and danced across the grass, slipping behind him to wrap my arms around his middle and press my cheek into his muscled back.

I was fairly certain that he hadn’t heard me, but he wasn’t surprised by my touch. His hands, still wet, covered mine.

“Who could this be?” His voice, teasing and low, rumbled against my ear. “Careful, my wife might be around somewhere.”

“Ah, don’t worry about your wife. She’s a mess. I’m much more fun. I’m the hot college student who’s just here for the summer. The one who’s been teasing you and flirting with you for weeks. The one who keeps you up at night, making you wonder what she’s wearing under her dresses.”

“Oh, really?” Sam turned in my arms, drawing me against him. His eyes, hot and wanting, bore into mine. “And have you been watching me out here?”

“Every. Single. Day.” I punctuated the words with open-mouthed kisses to his chest.

“Hmmmm.” He threaded his fingers into my hair. “You smell damn good, too. Good enough for me to scoop up and carry upstairs to my bedroom . . . where I fully intend to do dirty things to you all night long.”

I shivered in delight and hooked my arms around his neck. “I hope that’s a promise.”

“It is.” Angling his head, Sam lowered his mouth to mine, his lips and tongues giving me a tantalizing preview of exactly what to expect.

When he came up for air, he pressed his forehead to mine. “By the way . . . even though it was that sexy, teasing college girl I fell in love with, it’s my much sexier and even hotter wife who keeps me in love.” His hand framed my face.

I sighed, kissing his jaw. “Sometimes I forget that.”

Sam’s lips curved into a smile that was brimming with love and promise. “Then let me spend tonight reminding you, darlin’.”

And let me tell you . . . he did.

An early taste of INFORMED CONSENT

I’m so excited! This is the very first sneak peek excerpt of Informed Consent Book 1 of Diagnosis: Love. If you’ve been reading the serial Pretend You’re Mine, you already got a little taste of St. Agnes Hospital and Dr. Girard . . . but in this section, the new naturopath doctor meets the sexy guy in charge. But who’s really the boss?

Preorder here! Coming July 21st


“Oh, my God. Why didn’t you tell me he was back?” Darcy’s eyes went round as she whispered to the nurse next to her—I couldn’t remember the other woman’s name. Addy? Abby? Something like that.

“I didn’t know. He wasn’t scheduled to be here until Monday.” Both women’s eyes were fastened somewhere over my shoulder, and I had the irresistible human urge to twist in my chair to see the object of their excitement, even though I had a hunch that I already knew the answer. With a sense of fatalistic resignation, I ventured a glance down the hallway.

The man who stood outside of Angela Spencer’s room, reading from her file, had a . . . presence. I wasn’t sure why that was my first impression of him, but it was true. I could only see him profile, and the corridor was dim, since we hadn’t yet switched the lights to full brightness for the day shift, but even from this angle, I made out the breadth of his shoulders and the way his dark gray T-shirt hugged his chest. I noticed that his hair was longer than I’d expected it to be; the way everyone in this hospital talked about the revered Dr. Deacon Girard, I thought he’d be perfectly coiffed, with hair like my Ken doll used to have. Of course, old Ken’s ‘do had been molded plastic . . .

Dr. Foxy, I thought, remembering Jenny’s confidences with a smirk.

As though he felt the weight of my stare, Dr. Girard’s head turned slightly. I couldn’t tell for sure from this distance, but I thought maybe he was looking at me. My face grew warm, and I hoped like hell my cheeks weren’t flaming red.

With no little effort, I bent my head over the keyboard again and tried to remember what I’d been doing a minute ago. Frowning at the screen, I dragged my attention back to Mr. Crew’s latest bloodwork report.

“Dr. Carson?”

His voice was deep and nuanced, with just the faintest hint of the south woven into it. The eyes that rested on me were an almost shockingly bright green, framed by long, dark lashes. His nose was straight, his jaw strong and his lips were surprisingly full.

I realized that he was waiting for me to respond. Unfortunately, I was afraid I might have forgotten how to speak.

“Uh—”

“You are Dr. Carson, aren’t you? Our new naturopathic doctor?” He leaned his folded arms onto the counter in front of me, gazing down over the computer’s monitor.

I cleared my throat. “Yes. I’m Emma Carson.”

He chuckled softly. “That’s a relief. I’m pretty sure I know most of the people working on this floor, but I was taking a risk by assuming the person I didn’t recognize was the naturopath.” He extended his hand. “I’m Deacon Girard. I’m sorry I wasn’t on hand when you arrived.”

“No problem.” I slid my fingers into his, squeezing slightly. “I heard you were off saving the world while the rest of us were back here slogging away.”

The moment the words left my mouth, I knew they were wrong. I wanted to bite off my tongue.

Dr. Girard’s eyes took on a decided chill as he pulled his hand away. “I don’t know about saving the world. I was working with a group in South America—an organization that’s trying to eradicate childhood hunger. The doctor who’d been scheduled to work that tour was in a car accident, and they needed a last-minute substitute. If they’d been able to get anyone else, I wouldn’t have left. Going away two weeks after we opened this wing wasn’t exactly part of my plan.”

“I didn’t mean to—” I began, anxious to walk back my mistake, but Dr. Girard ignored me.

“I landed in Tampa a few hours ago and drove home. I planned to sleep all day today and come in here on Monday morning after I had the weekend to catch up, but then I read the messages from Mira. She said the new naturopath was trying to completely re-do Mrs. Spencer’s care plan. So instead of going to bed as I’d planned, I took a shower, got dressed and dragged my ass in here to make sure you weren’t screwing up all of my work.”

The embarrassment I’d been feeling morphed into indignation. “Hey, I’m not screwing up anything. I have no idea what Mira might have told you—” I gave her name special emphasis. “But I didn’t re-do anything. I just added my own recommendations and made some adjustments to her dietary plan.” I paused. “And we discussed some alternatives to some aspects of her treatment. Nothing that will affect the outcome.”

“And just how the hell can you be sure of that?” His jaw clenched. “You’ve been here for what . . . a week? And you think you know better than the doctor who’s been managing her illness for months?” He pointed a finger at me, like I was a child who’d misbehaved. “I’ve known Angela since she was diagnosed. She was referred to me by her primary care doctor, and I’ve been working with her out of the Calumbra Center until this wing opened. You had no right to make any changes without going through me.”

“Dr. Girard, with all due respect—”

He snorted and rolled his eyes, and I wanted nothing more than to haul off and clobber him. Instead, I pushed my chair back and rose to my feet, stiffening my spine and narrowing my eyes.

“It was my understanding when I took this position that my role would be as a full partner in the planning and implementation of treatment for the patients here. That’s how it usually works. I don’t know what your experience is with naturopathic doctors, but we don’t exist to do your scut work. We’re not window dressing to make your facility look like it’s forward thinking and innovative. I’m here to make sure the patients have every benefit of both worlds—of science and nature, of traditional medicine and natural remedies. That’s how this works.”

Dr. Girard’s eyes glittered with something akin to fury. “Dr. Carson, this is my hospital. My wing. My town. I’m the one who calls the shots. I’m the one who says how things work, and I’m here to tell you that the kind of partnership you envision is only possible if there is mutual respect. And that sort of respect begins with not making arbitrary decisions about care.” He smacked one palm flat onto the counter, making the two nurses who were staring at both of us jump. “This morning, I’ll be explaining to the Spencers that until such a time as I see the need for change, Angela’s chemo will proceed exactly as I originally prescribed. In the meantime, you will stay away from her unless I give you express permission to participate.”

I was so angry, so supremely pissed off that my head began to spin a little. Still, I held it together as I leaned forward and spoke in a tone my friends and enemies would’ve recognized as deadly.

“The hell I will. You may be the guy who made this wing possible, and you might be the big man on campus in this town. But you’re not my boss, Dr. Girard. You’d do well to keep that in mind before you go around issuing ultimatums and directives.” I eased back slightly and pasted an icy smile on my lips. “And until such a time as the board tells me otherwise, I’m going to keep on doing my job. So you can take all your bullshit superiority crap and shove it right up your fine ass.”

Preorder here! Coming July 21st

I’ll take three hot soldiers for a thousand, Alex!

I am thrilled to announce that the next installment in my popular and super-sexy Career Soldier series is releasing on April 7th (which just happens to be my birthday)!

And today, I’m revealing the sizzling covers, designed by the talented Meg Murrey. Check them out below and click PREORDER so all three will show up in your e-reader in a month.

 

The Mustang

 

 

Duty. Honor. Country. 

Love. Romance. Passion.

Lark

Look, I don’t need a psychologist to tell me why I am the way I am. I grew up with a mom who was forever chasing her happily-ever-after, never considering the cost to herself–or to me. That’s why I’m not interested in fairy tales or in finding some elusive prince charming to solve all of my problems.

Until I meet him in the bar where I work. One night of fun somehow begins to mean more, and it scares the crap out of me.

Nolan

I joined the Army when I was just a kid, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with my life. I never dreamed I’d love it enough to make it my career, but now here I am, an officer, stationed at West Point, leading a company of soldiers. What started as an escape has become my passion–and it’s one that doesn’t have space for anything–or anyone–else.

Until I meet her at my buddy’s bachelor party. I think I’m indulging in one meaningless night, but I can’t stop thinking about her. Remembering her. Wanting her.

Preorder Here! 

 

The Rotorhead

 

Duty. Honor. Country. 

Love. Romance. Passion.

Addison

The last thing I wanted was to move back in with my father, the hard-ass who raised me in the same strict military style that he ran every platoon, company and battalion he led. But thanks to some of my, uh, ‘life choices’, I’m living with my dad at West Point–and everyone knows me as the commandant’s wild daughter. I hate it.

Until I meet him one night at a party off-post. Sure, he’s a little too straight and serious for me, but still . . . he might be the one addiction that I can’t quit.

Sawyer

I’m an Army helicopter pilot. It’s my life, my dream and everything I ever wanted. Being stationed at West Point is fine for now, but I see it as a stepping stone for my next big move. When the commandant asks me to keep my eye on his out-of-control daughter, I agree to do it. I’ll do anything to keep advancing my career.

Until I meet her. Running into her at that party isn’t as random as she thinks, but pretty soon, I find it hard to remember the real reason I’m spending time with her . . . I just know I can’t stop.

 

Preorder here!

 

The Shavetail

 

Duty. Honor. Country. 

Love. Romance. Passion.

Paige

For two long years, I’ve been silently and hopelessly in love with a guy who doesn’t see me as anything but a casual friend. I stood by and watched as he found a woman to love–and as she dumped him the day before their wedding. I haven’t given him even a hint about my true feelings.

Until the day he asked me to be his pretend girlfriend. Now that he needs me, I finally have the chance I’ve been longing for–to show him how perfect we can be together.

Wyatt

My life was perfect. I was about to graduate from West Point and marry the most beautiful girl in the world all in the same day, then launch my career as a brand-new second lieutenant. When my fiancee dumped me, I thought I’d lost everything. I didn’t know how to go on.

Until the day I panicked and asked my friend to be my fake girlfriend. She saved my ass, and now I find myself looking for reasons to keep her close . . . because it turns out I don’t want to let her go.

 

Preorder here!

 

 

 

 

Let the good times roll with a Mardi Gras menu!

In our family, we laissez les bons temps rouler on Mardi Gras! Our day begins with beignets and cafe au lait as we listen to New Orleans jazz . . . then for dinner, we pull out all the stops: gumbo and mock choux corn, with King cake and praline sundaes for dessert. YUM!

Want to know how we do it? I’ll share a couple of recipes . . .

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (from Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, courtesy of his book The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American)

  • 1 pound sausage (any kind, though we prefer andouille)
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 3 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2.5 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tbs poultry seasoning
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1.5 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a large pot with just a little oil. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and fry the chicken until brown. Remove and set aside.

Add flour to the pan and cook until you have a dark, rich roux, about the color of peanut butter. Scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to get up all the goodness. Add the vegetables and the garlic and saute until limp. Add the stock and stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings and simmer, cover, for at least one hour.

Add the chicken and sausage, and cook until the chicken is tender, usually about an hour . . . I simmer it all day.

Serve over hot, fresh rice. The proper way to dish it up is to put the gumbo into the bowl first and then add the rice.

 

Praline Sundae Sauce (from The Gumbo Shop in New Orleans, my favorite place to eat in the Quarter–best after Mass at St. Louis Cathedral)

  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • 2 cups dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup double-strength black coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups roasted pecan halves or pieces

Place the sugar in a large, heavy pot and set it over medium heat. Stirring often, slowly let the sugar melt and caramelize until dark brown, being careful not to let it burn. Add 2 cups of dark corn syrup. Add 1 cup of water along with the coffee and butter. Bring the pot to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water.

Add the roasted pecans shortly before serving so they will maintain their crispness. Without the pecans added, the sauce will keep for several weeks in a covered container. If you choose to refrigerate it, which is unnecessary, be sure to let it get back to room temperature before serving.

Super Bowl Recipes for a Winning Party!

Is there anything that goes better with football than food? The perfect Super Bowl gathering this Sunday has to include recipes that are delicious, fun and easy to eat. Each dish is the perfect opportunity to score big for the home team!

The top five must-serve football foods for the 2020 season are:

  • Beermosa Let’s face it: mimosas aren’t really football drinks. In those prissy little flutes, they don’t hold up to yelling at theIMG_2732 refs or chest bumps when your team scores. But a beermosa, served in a sturdy mason jar, is just what you need for a Sunday late morning or early afternoon gathering . . . or basically any time.  My recipe is simple: two fingers of orange juice, then fill the jar with my favorite beer. I used Bud Light with Lime, to add a little more citrus kick.
  • Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels Wings are a football party staple, but they’re a mess to make and to eat. These pinwheels give you a taste of buffalo and bleu cheese together without all the napkins! They’re quick and easy to make, and they go a long way. There are many variations, but this is one I like.
  • Roasted Garlic Cheese Dip Football party dips have to possess enough ooomph to knock down a linebacker. This one seems delicate enough, but it packs a punch. The cheese is rich, FullSizeRender 22but it’s the roasted garlic that makes this dish soar like the pigskin through the uprights. Serve this dip with toasted croutons, and you can’t go wrong.  Find the recipe here.
  • Tot Skewers Plain old French fries are so 2014. And even if you dress them up with cheese and bacon, they tend to become soggy–and hard to eat. But these tot skewers are a step up: they stay crispy, and they’re super-yummy, too. The ranch seasoning is the secret here–get the whole story!
  • Bread Bowl Chili Having a football celebration without chili is a definite flag on the play. But serving it up in a way that’s new and fun is the real challenge. That’s why these adorable bread bowls are perfect. They contain just enough chili to satisfy–and these crusty sea salt and rosemary rolls are just the thing to add both flavor and a brand-new way to enjoy it. Pipe a little sour cream over top to form the football stitching and add FullSizeRender 20some creaminess.  Use your own favorite chili recipe, scoop out the rolls and dish it up.

I’ll be serving all these dishes this Sunday as we enjoy the game! I think Leo, Quinn and the rest of the gang would approve of this menu!