RT 2013 – Day 4

I’m at the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention in Kansas City this week. To Celebrate, I thought I’d post a bit from one of my books each day that I’m away. Looking for one of my books? You can find them all on my page at All Romance eBooks!

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Today I’m featuring Commitment – an All Romance eBooks best seller!

Commitment_MD

Tom Sullivan wants a woman who is willing to accept him as he is. The successful divorce attorney has seen enough of the flip side of love to know better than to promise forever. Women have tried to pin him down, but none have managed to make it stick.

Until Maggie McCann.

Maggie is only interested in one thing. Her fortieth birthday is looming and the tick-tock-tick-tock in her head means her biological clock is about to strike midnight on her dreams of finding Prince Charming. Armed with a new plan for her happily ever, she foregoes the Fairy Godmother routine and makes an appointment with a fertility clinic for a rendezvous with a sperm donor.

The last thing Maggie needs is to get mixed up with a player like Tom Sullivan.

A chance encounter and the opportunity to scratch a decade-long itch prove irresistible, and what starts as a one-night stand turns into a game of cat and mouse when Tom learns of Maggie’s plan to start a family on her own.

To Maggie, messing with a guy like Tom Sullivan is the single-girl equivalent of playing with fire, but she convinces herself to take what she can get for as long as she can and expect nothing more. But Tom falls hard and fast for Maggie, and now that they’re planning to have a baby together he starts banking on his own a happily ever after.

And here’s an excerpt!

The kitchen gadget aisle of Bed Bath & Beyond isn’t the place to make major life decisions, but there she was—there it was—staring her right in the face.

“No.”

The word popped out of her mouth before it registered with her brain. Maggie McCann glared at the plastic tube then turned away, feigning interest in a set of matched measuring cups until she could gather her wits. The answer wasn’t unreasonable. The thought was ridiculous, the location…highly inappropriate.

Inappropriate, but not unusual. A born nester, Maggie liked taking a spin through the house wares super-store. She found it relaxing. There was nothing in the world she wanted more than to have a real nest to feather. Not that the apartment above her shop wasn’t real. The entire brick and mortar building was very real. She had the gigantic mortgage to prove it. But she wanted a house, no, a home.

Maggie didn’t consider her forays into this Valhalla of domestic bliss a stop gap. These excursions were not a desperate attempt to fill an empty life with candleholders, no matter what Oprah implied. She just had an itch for Egyptian cotton, and the best way to scratch that itch was by indulging her yen for plush, thirsty bath sheets. Hell, the terry cloth tantalizers practically leapt from the shelves and into her arms, desperate to be the towel she wrapped around her bubble bath-scented body. Maggie clutched the latest volunteers to her bosom. How could she deny them their destiny?

Under normal circumstances, she didn’t bother with the kitchen section of the store. Maggie shopped to satisfy her bed and bath jones. She considered anything that required her to spend time slaving over a hot stove definitely ‘Beyond’, but her ancient can opener was grinding to a slow and painful death.

Sadly, Fred was the only one around to witness her heroics when she called ‘Clear!’ and jolted the appliance back to life with a stout slap. Not that he cared about her histrionics. The only thing that ever concerned Fred was his next meal. The longer she took to serve him, the louder his complaints. Just that morning, in the midst of her appliance saving routine, the overstuffed tabby took his dissatisfaction out on her by stepping on her toes, butting her with his head, and nudging her with his bulky body before he resorted to violence.

The pebbled scratch on her ankle itched. She wanted to blame cat scratch fever for the heat coursing through her body, but she knew Ted Nugent didn’t hold the answer. Panic clawed at her throat. Maggie focused on every piece but the one that called to her. She scanned the rows, desperately searching for the fancy hand-held can opener she’d seen advertised on TV—the one that guaranteed a soft silicone grip and safely rounded edges.

She spotted her quarry and stretched to yank the package from the wire hook. It clung for dear life, almost as if the damn thing sensed it was doomed to an existence filled with tomato soup and economy-sized cans of Gourmet de Gato.

“Join the club,” she muttered.

Maggie gave the opener another yank and it surrendered, sending her stumbling into a display of mixing bowls. She gasped and flailed. The turquoise towels she’d taken hostage in the bath department fell to the floor in a heap. She caught the edge of a shelf and the can opener landed on the heap of terrycloth with a muffled plop.

Above her head, the rattle of plastic and cardboard warned of imminent disaster. Maggie groaned in surrender as bubble-packed kitchen gadgets began to rain down from over-stocked hooks. A torrent of teaspoons and tablespoons clattered against the flour sifters, colanders, and measuring cups lining the bottom shelf. Her jaw dropped, and her eyes popped. A melon baller teetered on the edge of its hook, telegraphing its intent.

“No, don’t jump!”

It didn’t heed her plea. On its descent, the thick silicon handle caught the top of the package on the rung below. Maggie winced as she made eye contact with the dastardly implement again. The cardboard backing swung wildly, rocking to the tip of the prong.

“Oh no….”

Maggie stared in horror as it let go. The bulbous rubber ball caught the edge of a mortar and pestle set and sent the plastic tube bouncing in her direction. Her grip on the shelf tightened as her knees buckled. She blinked in dismay when the taunting tool defied all laws of physics by landing face-up, its tapered tip pointing directly at her.

She stared down at the turkey baster, blinking back the hot rush of tears prickling her eyes. “No.” Her whispered refusal lacked conviction, and she knew it.

“That’s okay. It happens all the time.” A woman in a blue polo shirt hurried over. “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

“No.” Maggie shook her head to clear it. “I mean, yes. Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry about the mess.”

“Sometimes the stockers get a little overzealous,” the woman said, offering an apologetic smile. “I hope you weren’t hurt.”

“No, not at all.”

Pulling a card from her pocket, the woman stepped over the forgotten towels. “I’m Jackie Dunforth, Store Manager. Take that up front and tell them I said to give you twenty percent off your purchase.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary—”

“You almost got sliced by a grater. It’s the least I can do.”

Maggie bent to scoop her selections from the floor, carefully avoiding the turkey baster as she groped for the can opener. “Thank you.” She juggled her purse, towels, can opener, and business card.

She didn’t bother shaking her hair back from her face when she straightened, hoping a curtain of hair might camouflage her flaming cheeks. “Sorry,” she whispered again and slinked away.

“Oh! Ma’am?” The manager’s voice rang out, echoing through the aisles. A grimace twisted Maggie’s lips. She turned, eying the store associate warily. The woman held up the turkey baster, waving the damn thing in the air like a flag for all to see. “Did you forget this?”

Maggie shook her head a tad too vehemently. “No!” The woman took a quick step back, a puzzled frown creasing her brow. Dragging in a deep breath, she straightened her shoulders and tossed her hair. “I don’t need it, and it’s not my fault if the damn thing is suicidal.”

With that, Maggie McCann, towel tramp and candle craver with an itch for Egyptian cotton, turned on her heel and fled from the beyond and the terrifying thoughts a taunting turkey baster implanted in her mind.

 

 

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RT 2013 – Day 3

I’m at the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention in Kansas City this week. To Celebrate, I thought I’d post a bit from one of my books each day that I’m away. Looking for one of my books? You can find them all on my page at All Romance eBooks!

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Today I’m featuring Contentment

 Contentment_Ethridge_MD

Tracy Sullivan seems to have it all, a handsome, devoted husband, three beautiful children, a steady career, and the perfect suburban home; but she isn’t happy.

The petty resentments that have built over fifteen years of marriage surface when Tracy tells her husband, Sean, that she is no longer interested in sex, and their marriage threatens to implode.

For the sake of their children, Tracy and Sean agree to lead separate lives under the same roof. With the help of a healthy dose of adult-rated fiction and some gentle prodding from a good friend, Tracy begins to rediscover who she is, what she wants, and the reasons she fell for Sean once upon a time.

After two years of soul-searching, Tracy is finally ready to embrace her happily ever after having learned that while happiness may be fleeting, contentment can last a lifetime.

And here’s an excerpt!

June 2008

   The cursor blinked, the little bastard. The flashing line taunted her, all but double-dog daring her to click the link. But there was someone on the other end. Someone who had seemingly nothing and absolutely everything to do with what may or may not be about to happen. Somewhere out there, caught in the World Wide Web, was a living, breathing person she had never met, never seen, and never heard of Tracy Sullivan.

   She glared at the cursor. Shouldn’t someone know they had this much of an impact on another human being? Doesn’t she deserve to know what she does matters to someone? Tracy assumed the author was a woman. Only a woman would understand.

   She pressed the button, and a strange sense of calm flooded her veins as the contact form appeared. After entering her email address, she typed, ‘Your stories’ in the subject line. Then she chickened out.

   Tracy wasn’t surprised. She’d been clucking like a crazed hen all day. I wonder if I’m sprouting feathers yet?

   Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted the telltale pink shopping bag peeking out from under the briefcase she’d had dumped on the chair. Tracy stared at the tiny pink bag, gnawing her bottom lip and remembering the agonizing forty-five minutes she had spent surrounded by a sea of lace and satin.

   She stuck out like a sore thumb in the Pepto-Bismol pink store. Her navy blue skirt and peep-toe pumps seemed like such good choices that morning. The skirt may have been navy, but it fit lean and snug. The hem fell below her knee making her feel like a sexy secretary. She’d paired the skirt with a deceptively simple, white cotton blouse that nipped in at the right spots, and finished the ensemble with the sinfully red high-heeled pumps and a slash of scarlet lipstick. The whole combination had almost given Sean whiplash as she rushed to the car to run the morning carpool shift.

   The clucking began. Whatever confidence Tracy had when she dashed out the door fled the moment the whipcord thin, I’m-barely-old-enough-to-order-a-drink salesclerk starting pulling baby dolls, teddies and negligees from the racks. 

   Tracy gawked at the displays, trying to envision prying her body into one of the scraps of fabric without benefit of a crowbar. She caught a glimpse of herself in one of the store’s many mirrors, and her heart sank. She looked exactly like what she was: an almost forty-year-old woman buying lingerie in a desperate attempt to salvage her failing marriage.

   She could almost hear the overgrown teenager thinking she’d have to exert some serious effort if she thought she wanted to lure her man back into the nest. These girls probably dealt with a lot of this. Every day, women her age must rush through their door in a blind panic hoping to recapture their youth. They rifle through the inventory of flame red lingerie and wonder if they can tolerate wearing a piece string splitting their ass on the off chance the butt floss might rekindle a spark.

   When this same eager, young saleswoman dared to hold a teeny-tiny bustier set in front of her own non-existent bosom, a woman browsing a rack of full-support brassieres muttered, “Nurse a coupla kids, sweetie,” under her breath.

Tracy chuckled, but the clucking began in earnest. The idea of teddies, baby dolls and bustiers had to be jettisoned. The last thing she wanted was to come off looking like a wannabe pin-up girl in a froth of scratchy lace and high-heeled, marabou-trimmed slippers.

   She didn’t even have a pair of marabou-trimmed slippers.

   Tracy snatched the bag from the chair and padded into the laundry room. She extracted her oldest, softest jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt from the pile waiting to be sorted and put away and stepped into the tiny powder room, refusing to meet her own gaze in the mirror above the sink.

   Being a chicken, she refused Sean’s offer of dinner, pleading a large lunch. She pretended she didn’t notice the bewildered confusion in his eyes when she brushed past him and rushed down the steps. She didn’t want him to spot the stupid pink bag. A few minutes later she dashed upstairs again. As silently as a ninja, she checked on the kids, steered clear of the kitchen where he prepared lunches for the next day, and sought refuge in the basement room that was her lair.

   She glanced up, tentatively scanning her reflection for one little scrap of bravado. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see him. For the first time in forever, she was dying to see him. But she wasn’t ready. She had to think, and lately she hadn’t been able to think clearly with Sean nearby.

   She needed a plan. She was nothing without a good plan, but once a plan was in place, boy watch out!

   Tracy slowly unbuttoned her blouse, but by the time she stripped out of the day’s work clothes she still had nothing. She reached into the pink bag and pulled out a matching bra and panty set in a demure, pale peach with cream lace. The choice bewildered her. For a moment, she wondered if she’d been in some kind of fugue-state when she made the purchase. Tracy hated the color orange and all of its derivatives. She hated fake, antique-looking lace. The last thing any woman staring down the barrel of forty needed was to put her body into something with the word ‘antique’ attached.

   She shook the seventy-five dollars worth of polyester at the mirror. “I should make you wear this as a punishment, chicken,” she muttered to her reflection.

She froze for a second, then cocked her head, giving the set another glance. The peach would warm her complexion, the teeny-bopper titty measurer said. The color would go nicely with her eyes. The lace might not be so old lady-ish on a pair of boobs which hadn’t gone completely south yet. She peeked at her bosom. Not bad, only halfway down.

   Tracy stripped off the serviceable bra and panties she wore. Biting off the tags, she caught sight of her body in the mirror and wished she hadn’t. Once she put the pretty new bra and panties on, though, a flicker of her fickle confidence returned.

   Turning from side to side, she inspected what little she could in the oval mirror above the sink. Not awful. She shook her boobs into the cups, pressing on the sides of the bra to be sure the girls were being displayed to their best advantage before slipping into her t-shirt and jeans.

   She caught sight of her bare feet as she left the bathroom and smiled.

   Brazen hussy red.

   That’s what Sean used to call the bright red polish she used on her toes. The glossy enamel gave her the boost she needed. Her poor toes had gone unpolished for too long. She wasn’t the girl she used to be, but she was okay with that. Now. At least she was no longer the foolish woman who had almost thrown everything away.

   This has gone on for too long.

   Tracy drew on the power of the crimson polish. After all, she needed to be brazen. She desperately wanted to be the hussy she had never been. She hurried to the computer before she could chicken out again. The cursor still winked at her. She glanced at the ceiling. Pots and pans clamored as they were piled in the kitchen sink. The cursor urged her on, flashing its silent, ‘Do it. Do It. You want to do it.’

   She wrung her hands. The water shut off, and the lilt of the familiar tune Sean always whistled while he wiped the counters carried down the steps. He was almost done. His kitchen would be sparkling clean and ready for another day’s battle.

   Another day’s battle. She straightened her spine. I can’t wait another day.

   Tracy glared at the nagging cursor and bent, ignoring the bite of the snug denim at her waist. She tabbed down to the tiny message window and paused, her fingers hovering above the keys. Biting her lip, she battled back the panic humming low and insistent in her brain and tried to think of the right words to say.

     From: Tsull1968@gmail.com

     Subject: Your stories

     Hi! You don’t know me. Well, you kind of do, because you have responded to some of my reviews, but you don’t really know me. I just wanted to tell you how much I love your stories. They have helped me more than I can ever explain. I read in your author’s notes and the messages you post on the boards that you think these are just silly stories you write and post to make people happy – and they do, I am incredibly happy whenever I get an email saying you have updated. But they are so much more. I just wanted to take a minute to thank you. I know you have no idea what I am truly thanking you for, and that’s okay. I needed to say thank you. So, thank you. Wish me luck.

    Tracy

   With a click of her mouse, the message flew off into cyber-space. Tracy stared at the monitor for a moment, wondering if she should wait for a reply.

   Maybe if I get one it would be a sign.

   But the sign came from above. The dishwasher hummed to life, and she realized she had to do something now. No more waiting. No more watching. No more sitting at the computer escaping into another couple’s world, another couple’s bed. This was it. Now or never.

   Tracy cringed at the words as they flitted through her head, but she knew they were the truth. She turned her back on the flashing cursor and headed for the stairs. The time had come. Tonight, Tracy Sullivan planned to seduce her husband of seventeen years, and he’d better damn well co-operate.

 

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RT 2013 – Day 2

I’m at the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention in Kansas City this week. To Celebrate, I thought I’d post a bit from one of my books each day that I’m away. Looking for one of my books? You can find them all on my page at All Romance eBooks!

qrcode.Margaret ARe

Yesterday we had a peek at Paramour. Today, we’ll continue Frank DeLuca’s story with Inamorata.

 

 inamorata_1 md

 

After twenty-five years of cooling his jets in a wall sconce, Frank DeLuca figured the afterlife owed him a break. Hadn’t he been a model ghost? He didn’t possess little kids, screw up the television reception, or throw random objects across the room just to get attention. Hell, he never even made creepy noises in the dead of night.

 

All he asked was a peaceful existence where someone would turn him on every once in a while. The light, that is. He needed just a little bit of light in his afterlife.

 

Instead, he got a sullen, silent little boy who cried for his mommy every night. The kid came with a set of hyper-tense grandparents whose marriage was crumbling under the weight of old insecurities and words left unspoken. As if that weren’t enough to drive a guy to hide out in his light fixture, providence tossed in a little a spitfire of a girl who flipped his switch in every way. Gina Ferro turned out to be the kid’s mother. She also happened to be a ghost.

 

Thrown together by Fate and bound by history, Frank and Gina must learn to trust each other with the keys to their pasts in order to unlock their eternity.

And here’s an excerpt!

“Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease.”

Frank DeLuca closed his eyes and prayed harder than he had ever prayed before. Considering the fact that he’d been trapped in some bizarre kind of purgatory on earth for the last twenty-five years, you can bet he’d done some pretty hard praying. But there was always room for improvement, and since he still hadn’t been sprung from this stupid fake-brass Brady Bunch wannabe light fixture, he gritted his teeth and tried again.

“Come on. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease.” His fingers curled into his palms. He tightened his fists, trying to cling to his last shred of patience. “Just turn on the light.”

He opened his eyes. Not that it made any damn difference. Everything in his world was black. The way it had been since he last saw Cam. The way it had been since he pried the screwdriver from her hand and asked her to turn out the light. It seemed like the right answer at the time. Of course, with Cam popping in and out of his room, he’d never had to deal with such a dark stretch of eternity before. Lesson learned.

“Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on,” he chanted into the darkness. “Turn. On. The. Fucking. Light.”

His order went unheeded. He could hear someone moving around the room. Her. The woman who moved a bunch of crap into his place and chattered away endlessly to some kid too young to talk, but still wouldn’t turn on the goddamn light.

“Sorry, not goddamned,” he whispered to whoever might be listening. After a quarter century in never-never-land, and god-only-knows how long in the dark, he was willing to concede the belief in anything if it meant a little light. “I can’t take it. I can’t take it.”

The mumbling was nothing new. He’d been mumbling to himself for days, weeks, months, and possibly years. Time lost all meaning when cricket chirps of one evening bled into a thousand others. His half-life hadn’t been worth a damn since Cam walked out of his world and into the land of the living. Okay, so she’d never really belonged in his half-here, half-somewhere else world—seeing as how she was alive and all—but still, Cam knew him. She knew about him once upon a time. And with nothing but time on his hands, Frank couldn’t help but wonder if she remembered, or if she was too busy living her perfect little life with her perfect college boy. Stupid, living, breathing jerk-off….

“Is he okay?”

The question jolted him from his reverie. Frank clamped his mouth shut and perked up. A man. The woman who’d been tearing his room apart came with a man. That made sense if there’s a kid, he reasoned. Then again, a woman doesn’t need a guy around to raise a child. He was proof of that. It had been just him and his mother after Big Frank bought it in a convenience store robbery, and no one missed his flying fists one tiny bit.

“He’s fine. Aren’t you, Jay?”

There was no answer from the kid, but that didn’t stop the lady from running like a freight train. At least he assumed it was a kid. For all he knew, the chatty broad could have redecorated his old bedroom for her dog.

“I think he likes his room. Don’t you, Jaden? Do you like your new room?”

No response from this Jay person. He shook his head. Please, God, let it be a kid and not a dog. A dog would just be too damn annoying. Frank clenched his fists, trying to conjure up a little of the patience he’d honed over a couple of decades stuck between heaven and hell. At least, he hoped his stint in this god-forsaken wall sconce wasn’t the final destination, otherwise organized religion had sure as hell picked the wrong travel agent for booking accommodations in the afterlife.

“Do you like all your new toys and games?”

Frank sighed. Desperation wormed its way into her voice. He should know; he’d been listening to this broad’s rhetorical questions since the truck squealed to a stop out front. He sure hoped she was talking to a kid and not a dog. Either way, he couldn’t blame the pooch/tyke for keeping his trap shut. What was the point in trying to edge a word in sideways when she was happy to plow on regardless, or worse, answer for him.

“Do you want to hug the teddy bear? I can hold Bugs for you if you want,” she offered. “Or maybe Grandpa could hold Bugs. That would be cool, wouldn’t it? If Grandpa held your bunny?”

Frank snorted and rolled his eyes. The coaxing routine was a repeat as well. “No, lady. He doesn’t want to hug the bear, or the duckie, or the mother-fuh…stupid platypus. He doesn’t want you to hold his bunny for him. You know what? I think he wants you to turn on the light and read him a book. A book would be great, huh? You don’t want the kid to grow up illiterate, do you?”

“I’ll, uh, I’m going to…”

Frank frowned when the man’s explanation trailed off down the hallway. Whatever the guy planned to do sounded sketchy and more than a little vague, even to a dead guy living in the light fixture.

“Awkward.” He tried to imitate the wry, singsong tone Cam used to use, but it sounded flat. Lifeless. Like him. Before he could sink into a fresh bout of self-pity, a sharp clap of hands ricocheted through him like the report of a pistol.

“Okay! Grandpa’s busy unpacking, but maybe later.”

The woman’s brittle cheerfulness made him cringe. He squeezed his eyes shut again, trying in vain to stem the trickle of sympathy that made his fingers twitch. Biting his lip, he hoped for the metallic tang of blood even though he knew it wouldn’t come. Purposefully, he flexed his hands, stretching his fingers and spreading them wide. He didn’t need the light to know exactly how much oil and grease there was ground into his nail beds and the creases of his knuckles. The pattern had been exactly the same for too damn many years.

“A book.” His voice came out ragged, the order more of a half-plea. “Just read to the kid. Please.”

Silence hung heavy in the air, muffling the scrape of drawers opening and closing and the rhythmic zffft-zffft-zffft of a box cutter slicing through tape. The silence rang in his ears like an alarm, the blare so loud he almost missed the sigh of a swallowed sob. Almost, but not quite.

“Oh shit,” he whispered into the darkness. “Okay. Never mind about the book. Forget the light. Okay?” She hiccupped softly, and he groaned. “Come on, lady. Don’t do that…”

He flinched, bracing himself when she sniffled loudly and clapped her hands again. There was no need to see her. He could almost feel the impact of her forced smile through the darkness. If asked to give testimony, Frank would swear to the god who never listened to him that he heard this woman swallow her pride. His throat ached, tightening around the lump that rose there.

“Want to read a book?” she asked in that damn Mary Poppins voice. There were rustling sounds as she flitted about the room. “I got a new Thomas book. Want to read Thomas?”

“Aw, shit-shit-shit.” Frank pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, bracing for the inevitable.

“And look, Jay, look at this cool old lamp above your bed.”

The switch snicked and that soul-deep pull grabbed him by the throat. Light—warm, golden, gorgeous light—beckoned him. He knew she wouldn’t be there. Cam had probably long-since forgotten him and married pansy-assed college-boy Brad. She was in the land of the living where she belonged, and he was…here. Always here. Trapped in nothingness.

A fingernail tapped the faux-brass sconce. “Maybe Oma can find you a new one, huh? Something more up to date?”

He let go, allowing the soul-crushing pain to swamp him, plummeting to earth once more. He couldn’t crash and burn any worse than he had before. Twice before. Once when he was living, and once long after he’d been dead. Frank blinked the glare from his eyes and focused on the blank wall in front of him. The rosebud wallpaper was gone. The sheetrock had been stripped, sanded, and painted blue. A blue that was just a half-shade lighter than the blue that coated the walls in nineteen-eighty-seven.

He shook his head to clear it. Finally, his gaze tracked to the right where he spotted a bookshelf loaded with books, games, and stuffed animals. At the very top, a collection of trophies like the one he once kept in this very room was proudly displayed. Tiny gold men holding bats glistened in the soft amber glow of evening. He gaped at them perched atop their faux marble and fake brass pedestals.

He could see it so perfectly in his mind’s eye. A spotless trophy, gleaming bright gold in the light cast from the cheesy 70s directional sconce mounted on the wall. His mother running her fingertip over the engraved plate bearing his name.

“Francis DeLuca.”

The name rolled off his lips even though he hadn’t spoken it aloud in nearly two decades. Not since the night he introduced himself to the little girl who moved into his room. Not since he fell in love with Cam.

His eyes locked on the gilt batter glued to the top of the tallest trophy. He couldn’t look away. Obviously they didn’t belong to the little guy snuggled into the race-car shaped bed. But something told him they belonged here, just like him.

He stared hard at that trophy, seeing his mother’s wind-up, flinching just as he flinched when she hurled it across the room, smashing the bulb in the brass-colored wall sconce to bits, stealing the last wisps of breath from his lungs, and sentencing him to an eternity as the middleman.

On August nineteenth, nineteen-eighty-seven, he died. That was the day he broke his mother’s heart. That was the day his fate was sealed.

 

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RT 2013 – Day 1

I’m at the Romantic Time Booklovers Convention in Kansas City this week. To Celebrate, I thought I’d post a bit from one of my books each day that I’m away. Looking for one of my books? You can find them all on my page at All Romance eBooks!

qrcode.Margaret ARe

 

Paramour_med_300dpi

Camellia Stafford has never been alone in her room. For twenty years, she’s been engaged in a fierce power struggle with her bedroom’s previous tenant, Frank DeLuca, the ghost trapped in the light fixture above her bed.Frank has one soft spot—Cam.

When Cam suffers the loss of her beloved father, she returns home to say good-bye, and confront her feelings for Frank–but finds an unexpected shoulder to lean on in neighbor, Bradley Mitchum. Cam falls hard and fast for the handsome ad man’s charming smile and passionate nature, but Brad’s easy-going exterior masks a steely backbone tempered by adversity.Now Cam must determine if her heart is strong enough to choose which dream could lead to a love that will last a lifetime.

Be sure to read the sequel to ParamourInamorata!

Praise for Paramour:

“Paramour is that story prolific readers search for that only happens once every now and then.” – BookingIt.net

“Everything about Paramour-the setting, the dialogue, the pacing and the hot sexy scenes, and most of all three of the most interesting characters you could want to meet plus a surprise ending-will keep this story in your mind long after the final page is turned.” – The Long and Short of It Reviews

“There are so many wonderful things about this book and I highly recommend it. It’s a different twist on the paranormal element, the chemistry between the characters is amazing and the love scenes are hot.” – Everybody Needs A Little Romance

And here’s an excerpt!

Heedless of her stained jeans, Cam fell face-first onto the narrow single bed. She wrapped her arms around a pillow stuffed into a faded rose-printed cotton sham. Inhaling deeply, she picked up the scent of Cheer detergent and searched for a hint of Love’s Baby Soft that used to linger in the room.

A tinge of something different tickled her nostrils. The heady, familiar aroma made the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention. The tantalizing fragrance wasn’t a trace of her father’s traditional splash of Old Spice. She raised her head, and her nostrils twitched as she tried to pick up the thread once more, but it was gone, drifting away like a memory.

Cam groaned her frustration and flipped onto her back to stare at the popcorn ceiling. She cataloged the familiar peaks and valleys while she ran through the list of things she’d need to accomplish in the next few days.

The silence hummed around her. Her stomach growled as if to chastise her for the casserole wasted on the kitchen floor. She rubbed the edge of her thumbnail over the pad of her index finger. When fidgeting didn’t prove effective, Cam pressed her hand over her heart and carefully measured the strength of each beat against her fingertips.

She told herself everything would be okay. Here in her room, she was safe. Her eyelashes fluttered with the herculean effort it took to open them.

Cam reached up and twisted the tiny stem on the cone-shaped reading lamp above her bed. A beam of light swept the length of the bed, bathing the faded comforter in a warm, golden glow. Cam basked in the soothing pool of light, safe in her girlhood room. She studied the rosebud-patterned wallpaper and silently thanked her mother for being too bohemian to collect Madam Alexander dolls. The silence throbbed like an ache. She closed her eyes and wished she could hear her father’s tuneless humming just one more time.

She didn’t stir when the edge of her bed dipped. Instead she held her breath for a moment before opening her eyes. Francis John DeLuca sat perched on the edge of the mattress.

She stared at him, drinking in the little details. She knew the leather bracelet he wore had sixteen rows of studs. The ends of the strip of coarse black hair he wore in a Mohawk curled ever so slightly. A tiny gold hoop in his ear gleamed in the light and a Metallica shirt stretched taut across his shoulders. The sleeves cut into his biceps, but the fabric made no indention in his smooth olive skin.

The scent was back, flooding her senses with the relief of homecoming. She wondered if he knew how many hours she’d spent at the men’s cologne counter sniffing samples, trying to place the fragrance. After twenty years of friendship, endless fights, and one unforgettable kiss, she’d wondered if she finally earned the right to ask questions.

“Are you really here?” she whispered, afraid she’d scare him away.

“Yeah.”

Their eyes met, and she tumbled into the depths of his dark gaze. Cam knew if she didn’t take the chance this time, she may never have another.

“What cologne do you wear?”

Frank’s eyes narrowed with typical caution. “Polo.”

“Huh. Smells different on you.”

His thick eyebrows rose, and a sardonic smile twitched his lips. “Might be because I’m dead.”

Cam swallowed hard and sat up. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Welcome home. I’m sorry.”

She shook her head, forcing a small, flirtatious smile. “Did you miss me?”

“Every damn day.”

“Then don’t leave me again.”

Frank raised his hand. His fingers twitched. She could feel heat radiating from his palm. Those warm fingers curved along the contour of her cheek. “I’ll make sure you’re never alone.”

Cam smiled, smoothing her palm over the rough hairs on the back of his hand. “With you around, how could I be?”

She stretched out once again and closed her eyes, certain he’d stay perched on the edge of her bed watching over her as she slept. Cam drifted off, secure in the knowledge that she would never truly be alone in her room.

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Monday Mayhem – I’m off again!

I’m going off to play with with the readers and writers at the 2013 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention this week!

Yay!

Not only do I look forward to the interaction, but it affords me the opportunity to use my favorite Paris Gellar line from the Gilmore Girls:

“Quick, Bob, get the children in the minivan because the world is obviously coming to an end.”

Mwahahaha! I can’t wait!

If you’re in the Kansas City, MO area, be sure to come and see me at Thursday’s EXPO. I’ll be signing copies of Commitment, Inamorata, and Spring Chickens from 4-6PM.

A few of the other events I’ll be attending:

Wednesday: 3:45-4:15pm – Carina Press publisher spotlight

Thursday: 10:00 – 10:30am – Club RT

4:00 – 6:00pm EXPO

Friday:   10:00 – 10:30am – Club RT

1:15 – 3:15pm RT Book Awards

Saturday: 7:15 – 7:45pm Fan-tastic Day Party

8:00 – 9:00pm Carina Press cocktail party

9:00 – 11:00pm Harlequin dance party

The rest of the time I’ll be attending programs, fangirling my favorite authors, and participating in very important meetings in the bar. I’m sure there will be pics, but I can’t guarantee they will be ones I can publish.

So let me ask you this…If you could meet any author, who would it be? Anyone you want me to stalk  meet for you?

See you next week! *blows kisses*

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Monday Mayhem – Hanging out

Hey! How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

Mine was busy but good. Same old, same old. Laundry, grocery shopping, hanging out with my DSRA pals and a internationally best selling author. You know, the usual.

Ha! I’m toally not that cool.

The Arkansas Literary Festival was held in Little Rock this weekend, and the ladies of the Diamond State Romance Authors were in the thick of it. What a fun, infomative, and inspirational weekend!

Friday night I dragged the hubby to the main library for a discussion on the evolution of erotic romance featuring editor/publisher Lori Perkins and the author of the best selling Crossfire series, Sylvia Day. Not only did the poor man survive, he actually learned some interesting things about publishing, romance, and the evolution of erotica and erotic romance in the publishing marketplace.

Then, Sylvia Day, who is also the current President of the Romance Writers of America, joined the Arkansas Diamonds for a luncheon to celebrate the chapter’s anniversary.

cake

Sylvia answered questions and shared her insights into the industry throughout the lunch. She put up with our clowning around quite nicely too.

Pals and partners in crime Megan Mitcham & Amy Fendley
Pals and partners in crime Megan Mitcham & Amy Fendley
Tina Medlock, Mandy Harbin, Parker Kincade, Brinda Berry, Voirey Linger
Tina Medlock, Mandy Harbin, Parker Kincade, Brinda Berry, Voirey Linger
I swear there was only Diet Coke in that glass.
I swear there was only Diet Coke in that glass.

And in the end, she graciously posed for pictures with us all.

group

SylDay

Yeah.. so how cool is that? Any Sylvia Day fans out there? Have you read the Crossfire series? Who did you hang out with this weekend?

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Monday Mayhem – Picture post

Had a busy weekend! It started with visitors:

Joey and Raylon
Mommy and grandbaby

Which led to much cooing and cuddling:

I think he likes Moogie best
I think he likes Moogie best

Then we took off to Southaven, MS for the M.R. Davis Library Mix & Mingle

I brought my lovely assistant along to flirt with the ladies.
I brought my lovely assistant along to flirt with the ladies.

Got to meet my fellow TMP author, Linda Rettstat

Linda
Linda

And met historical romance author, Mary McCall

What can I say? I gravitate to the chicks who like men in kilts.
What can I say? I gravitate to the chicks who like men in kilts.

Then we came home to this:

And just where have you been, Moogie?
And just where have you been, Moogie?

So we had to cuddle until we got back in his good graces

Granddad and Moogie are funny!
Granddad and Moogie are funny!

All in all, it was a pretty darn good weekend. I have a busy week ahead. Getting ready to head off to Texas for the day job. I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks, but I invited some friends over to keep you company. No keggers. I mean it.

So how was your weekend? Got a busy week ahead?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Appearances

I’m making some appearances (of the not deceiving variety) this spring. Check it out!

This weekend (March 23, 2013) I will be in South Haven, Mississippi for at Mix & Mingle at M.R. Davis Public Library. I’ll be chatting it up and signing books with seven other authors from 11:00am – 2:00pm. If you’re in the area, please stop by!

March_23_event 

May 1-5, I’ll be attending the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, MO. This is a big one, with authors and fans coming from all over to attend. I can’t wait! I’ll be signing at the Expo, so be sure to look for me. See button on sidebar >>>

June 7-9 I’m heading back to Cincinatti for the 2013 Reader and Author Get Together at the Marrott West Chester! I can’t wait to hook up with my writer and reader friends again!

reader-author2013-03

Other than that, all I have is business travel set in stone. What about you? Got any weekend dashes planned?

 

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Monday Mayhem – Smoke & Mirrors Edition

That’s right, I’m about to use a little trickery to distract you from the fact that I have nothing prepared. Are you shocked? This is supposed to be mayhem, right?

I’ve been working on stuff, I swear.

Every day I write, edit, redit, and then edit some more. My life is dedicated to eradicating the mysterious words I swear I did not type but show up in my manuscripts anyhow.

I’m about knee deep in Containment and psyching myself up to wade in deeper. This book is already an emotional rollercoaster.

Did the final read though on Always the Groomsman – the short story I’m including in TMP’s Wedding Day Collection due out this summer. Did I tell you about my story? It’s Tom and Maggie’s wedding! Squee!

I’m also compiling the Long Distance Love short stories for release later this year. Remember Jack and Ellie? Well, I’m tweaking the older stories so they flow and working six new stories over until they come up to snuff. Want to see the line up so far?

Concourse Christmas

New Year, New Expectations

I’ve Got You to Talk to Me

Be Mine

Kiss Me, I’m Full of Blarney

Going the Distance

The Feeling is Pari-Mutuel

Declarations of Dependence

Labor of Love

A Voyage of Discovery

Hallowed Eve

Veterans of Domestic Wars

Thanks Be to Grandma

Taking Off

It was so much fun to spend some time with those two crazy kids again. Oh, who am I kidding? It was fun to crawl inside Jack’s…head again. (Hey! Get your mind out of the gutter!). I missed Jack. Oh, I love Ellie too, but there’s something about Jack Rudolph that tugs at me. So…You want a taste?

I figured you might. Just to bring you up to speed…When last we saw our couple (Declarations of Dependence), Ellie’s reticence had poked a few sizable holes in Jack’s ego. This is taken from Labor of Love

Before the whole debacle at her parents Fourth of July cookout, he would have called her. Hell, there would have been at least two or three messages waiting on her phone if she hadn’t called until ten o’clock. But not these days.

These days he only called her when he was calling her back. Despite the new job with the Chicago field office and a schedule was more flexible than hers, he hadn’t come to see her in eight weeks. Eight long weeks. As a matter of fact, he hadn’t even suggested a visit. That was the straw that broke Ellie’s back.

He answered the phone and she said only, “I think we need to talk,” in greeting.

His sharp intake of breath cut the silence that hummed between them. He let it go with a hiss and punctuated the sentiment with a low grunt. “So talk.”

“I’m downstairs, but I can’t find a parking spot.”

“What?”

The shock in his tone triggered a smile. For once, she got one over on her very special agent.  “Surprise.”

“You’re here? In Chicago?”

“Right in front of your building, Rudolph,” she confirmed. “Do you think you can come down and guide my sleigh to a parking spot? I might need your nose to scare off the creepy guy lurking in the alley a couple of blocks over.”

Jack hesitated for a moment. Her stomach dropped to her toes as she heard the rustle of bedclothes. He juggled the phone. “Uh, hang on.”

The echo of a woman’s voice sent shivers down her spine and alarm bells started clanging in her head. Mortification burned hot in her cheeks. It could have been the TV. She hoped with all her heart it was the TV. She was almost one thousand percent certain the voice came from the TV. Still…

“Maybe I should just go to Laurie’s.” The thought of turning up on her sister’s doorstep in a flood of tears wasn’t particularly appealing, but it beat the crap out of coming face to face with the infinitesimal chance that he wasn’t watching TV. Oh God, what if he wasn’t? Why did she ever think it was a good idea to just show up?

Jack’s derisive snort yanked her back. “Are you kidding me?” The exasperation in his tone stoked the dying embers of hope in her heart. “Come down the alley. I’m opening the gate to the lot. My neighbor’s out of town this weekend. You can park in his spot.”

The TV. The voice had to be coming from the TV. Surely Jack wouldn’t be cruel enough to invite her in if he was…entertaining company. Niggling doubt chased her taillights. She held her breath as she made the sharp turn from the narrow alley into the crowded lot.

“Joe’s space is next to mine,” he huffed.

Ellie pulled into the spot and killed the engine as the back door opened. Fluorescent light spilled into the parking lot. He stood silhouetted in the doorway. The gate rolled shut behind her, trapping her there. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to open the door. She cast a glance over her shoulder as she climbed from the driver’s seat, keeping her hand wrapped around the top of the door. She had questions she needed to ask, and she was hoping the reinforced steel could shield her from any answers she didn’t want to hear.

Pressing the phone tight to her ear, she stared straight at him. “Do you still love me, Jack?”

****

Dun dun dun!

That was fun, wasn’t it? You know what else is fun? Talking about book boyfriends.

Jack is one of mine. I’m also partial to Jamie Fraser, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Roarke from JD Robb’s In Death series, and pretty much every Eversea and Redmond male from Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. Oh, and Morelli. I know, I know. Ranger is hot, blah blah blah. I like the guys who are the keepers, and that’s why I’m a Cupcake.

You?

 

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Monday Mayhem – Nervous Nellie Edition

I’m home! I’m home, I’m home, I’m home! Well, I’m home for another 10 days. 🙂 The good news is that my next trip will be pleasure and not business. The bad news? Well, I seem to have misplaced my motivation. I have a novel to write and I’m having a hard time getting into it.

If you’re my editor, please stop reading here.

I’ll make the deadline.

I swear.

You see, this story is going to be very different from anything I’ve written before. This story will deal with a very difficult subject matter – marital infidelity.

I will state here and now that I have no personal experience in this area. At least, not that I know of. If any of you know something I don’t know, please keep it to yourself. I’m a huge fan of oblivion. Unfortunately, my character, Shel, doesn’t have that luxury. The poor woman is going to have to deal with her husband’s indiscretion head-on.

As an author, this is a very exciting and intimidating prospect. You see, the main character is ‘speaking’ to me in 1st person. I’ve never written in 1st, only 3rd. It’s going to be a big jump to master a new style. Dealing with touchy subject matter is another worry, but one I’m queasy (not quasi)-excited to tackle. So yeah…while I’m looking forward to facing this life challenge with my character, I’m praying it’s the only time I ever have to deal with it.

I know that, like Shel, I’m just going to have to jump and start wading through it. Here’s hoping we both come out stronger on the other side.

What do you have going on in your world?

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