Midday Masquerade

 

Happy Sunday everyone. I’m happy to be posting an excerpt from Midday Masquerade to celebrate this month of romance. Midday Masquerade, like all my romances, weaves Celtic character and a wee bit of magic into quirky small town romance. Hope you enjoy it.

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Primrose Lund walked into the architecture office carrying a stack of misaligned papers in one hand, a determined set to her delicate chin, and an air of purpose that never failed to bring a smile to Lorcan Flynn’s heart. Primrose was a woman of purpose. A woman of definite opinions. A woman who was so filled with depth and color on the inside that she dare not display such extravagance on the outside. Others thought her plain. Lorcan found her captivating and elusive, and he wanted to know every one of her secrets no matter how long it took to reveal her inner peacock.

They say one learns to covet what one sees every day.

Lorcan Flynn didn’t know if that was true in his case. He didn’t see Primrose Lund every day, although he did his best to.

He didn’t need to see her every day to covet her touch or to desire her warm brown eyes shining into his with that combination of shy intelligence and genuine generosity of spirit that ignited him and gave him a measure of peace at the same time.

Lately he’d seen more in her eyes than an interest in books and old maps and pocket watches that kept poor time. Lately he’d caught Primrose looking at him with a sensual intensity that had little to do with the shell of respectability she wore like armor. Lately he’d caught a glimpse of Primrose’s inner hellion. And, he liked what he saw.

He coveted that bit of her with the kind of scorching heat he feared wouldn’t go away until he turned ninety-nine. By then, he hoped, he’d be used to the elemental pull she had on him.

It all started with a mask.

Not a balaclava sort of mask designed for escape and evade. No, this mask was created to reveal inner desires: to entice the wearer to don it freely, and the viewer to be aroused by that secret glimpse into the depths of the wearer’s soul. Lorcan had designed it to evoke the kind of carnal pleasure that started in the psyche and ended in the flesh.

He’d poured his own raw needs into it as he wet, tooled and sculpted the leather. He’d refined his desires as he shaded it, adding layers of luminous paint with smatterings of copper and gold. He’d been thinking of a woman then, but one he saw only in shadow. He felt her rather than saw her, catching only fleeting images in his sleep.

He made the mask for her.

Because he needed to.

In those moments when he was honest with himself, he conceded that he made the mask for himself, because the woman who inspired it didn’t really exist. At least that was what Lorcan thought until the moment Primrose Scott walked into his office, asking him to design a new shop for her. Primrose had placed a hodgepodge set of sketches done in colored pencils on various sized sheets of paper, some that looked more like scraps than actual paper, and made a beeline straight for one mask he created, displayed among a half dozen others on the wall opposite his desk.

“This is lovely,” she’d said staring as if looking at something by Rodin or Da Vinci.

There was no mistaking that Primrose had been focused on his mask, when he’d asked if she’d like to see it closer.

She said, “Oh, yes, please,” in a voice that hit him in his gut, twisting it in a way that tightened every inch of him.

“Go ahead. Take it down. Feel it in your hands. Hold it to your face. That’s the only way to truly judge if it fits you.”

She didn’t hesitate; she took it off the wall and held his mask to her face. Her large chocolate colored eyes gleamed at him from behind molded leather that was created to entrance. It did more than that with Primrose, it transformed her into something approaching a creature of mythical allure.

It was a Green woman mask, crafted with leaf motifs, delicate ferns, twigs, and wispy golden and silver threads adorned with tiny hand-cut crystals that looked like floating drops of dew capturing the light, bending it, sending cascades of prism colors outward with every turn of Primrose’s head. It had a very Celtic flare about it by design. It was fit for a Celtic nature goddess, and Primrose wore it well.

It suited her.

It suited him.

So much so, he’d given it to her with no payment save for her promise to wear it at the Renaissance Faire three times during the summer season.

Lorcan got the feeling that Primrose was not the kind of woman who accepted presents from men she didn’t know, or even from those she did. She struck him as careful and calculated in what she gave and what she took. He didn’t judge that; he respected it.

Yet, she’d looked at him through his mask, and her eyes flared as if somehow he’d challenged her to do something she wasn’t sure she was capable of doing.

Her small chin went up. She squared her shoulders and pushed them down, elongating her neck, as if by doing so she could somehow look down on a man easily seven inches taller than her. She almost did too, albeit from across the room. He’d have smiled if he hadn’t been afraid that would scare her. He’d been told more than once that he looked predatory when he smiled.

She kept the mask on while she walked back to him, posture ramrod straight. She held her hand out for him to shake. “It’s a bargain, Mr. Flynn.”

He shook her hand, a feeling of supreme satisfaction flowing through him. She must have felt it too because she startled at his touch before squeezing with the kind of authority he’d experienced only from men, for whom their handshake was truly their bond.

Then she walked out. Still wearing what was now her mask. Never once mentioning the sketches she splayed on his desk.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

She’d struck a bargain with the devil.

An Irish devil with a smile that curled her toes and warmed her from the inside out, making her think of dark, elusive, wonderful things. The kind of things that dreams—dark, sensual and bone-meltingly sweet—were made of. Since the first day she’d seen him in Shute Pond, he’d haunted her, like an itch that no amount of scratching could satisfy.

Lorcan Flynn. His name suited him. Strong. Mysterious. Celtic.

Just like him.

He was everything she let herself dream about when she imagined her ideal lover. Dark hair, tall, with lithe yet sculpted musculature that enticed but didn’t overwhelm, and blue eyes as bright as the sky in June. It wasn’t his physical appeal that made her heart beat faster when he walked into a room. It was the way his eyes warmed when he looked at her, as if she were water to a thirsty man or the finest Scotch whisky to a connoisseur. Every time he looked at her, she felt precious to him.

He made her feel important every time he smiled.

Midday Masquerade is available alone at:

and also as part of my Four Seasons of Romance at:

Love on the Pony Express Trail

Please welcome

Lizzi Tremayne

Hello everyone!

I love this blog because I come from a real small town…with ONLY a Main Street, a little place in the Santa Cruz Mountains called La Honda, California! I moved halfway across the world to New Zealand…and guess what?  I found another Main Street town!  I now live out of the little Main Street mining town of Waihi, New Zealand, in an even smaller road 10 km out of town…it’s not even a main one. Just a lot of cows.

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hills-of-gold-6x9-ebook-coversm-fileThe Main Street in my first novel, A Long Trail Rolling, and at the start of The Hills of Gold Unchanging ( just released last week!), is…well, it’s actually a trail. A wagon trail, and the Pony Express Trail, in the 1860’s in Utah.

The stories in my first fiction series, The Long Trails, are historical romantic thrillers, with plenty of horses and action! I’m a horse vet, so you guessed it, there’s plenty of that in there too!

The scene…

My heroes Aleksandra and Xavier have just met…just after Aleksandra’s life has fallen apart at the seams. She’s just taken offense at something Xavier said, and he’s headed out the door, while she stayed inside to talk with Scotty, the trading post keeper….

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Xavier was harnessing Dzień to the wagon when Aleksandra came outside.

‘I can do that,’ she snapped, rushing to the side of the pony, her blue eyes icy and cheeks flushed pink. Xavier smiled at her back as she hurried around to the pony’s other side to finish.

‘I’m sure you can, Querida, but I’m happy to help,’ he said, wrapping a breeching strap around the shaft and buckling it snugly.

‘Thanks,’ she said, tight-lipped, looking away as her hands slid down Dzień’s rump towards the crupper.

‘Any possibility you might tell me just why you went loco on me back there?’ Xavier watched her brows drop as she stared at a strap she’d just buckled too tightly. Her lips tightened further as she readjusted it.

‘I want nothing to do with people who insult my friends.’

Como, what?’ He shook his head and blinked at her.

‘My friends, the Shoshone. The only friends I have left alive, other than Scotty,‘ she said from between clenched teeth, and then slumped, sobbing, against Dzień.

Cautious of her all-too-effective looking sword, Xavier slowly approached her. He slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him, watchful for any fast moves on her part, not caring if her tears soaked his shirt. How long they stayed like this, he neither knew nor cared. Once her sobs quieted, he slipped his fingers under her chin, lifting her face to stare into the watery depths of her blue eyes.

‘Okay now, Querida?’

‘As okay as possible, I guess.’ She dropped her head again. ‘The Shoshone have been family to me, especially since Mama died,’ she murmured into his shirt.

‘Are you sure you won’t stay here? I’ll sleep in the stable, if it would make you happier.’

She closed her eyes and was still.

‘No, it’s okay. I’m sorry, Xavier. I’m upset, but that’s no excuse for my rudeness. Thank you for this.’ She nodded her head at his tear stained chest.

De nada. It is nothing.’ He smiled. ‘May I accompany you to your home, at least?’

‘No, really, I’m fine, thank you again. I’d better go farewell Scotty. It’s getting late.’

‘If you’re sure…’ Xavier shook his head and followed Aleksandra back inside.

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Buy A Long Trail Rolling, and The Hills of Gold Unchanging at:

Amazon

Visit Lizzi at her website

See you there!

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Lizzi Tremayne

Lizzi Tremayne

Lizzi and I met several years ago online and although I’ve never met her in person, we have talked by phone. Lizzi stays busy! She is a veterinarian who specializes in horses, and she’s very active with New Zealand’s Romance Writers. She writes and she rides! So how does she do her research when she lives so far from her childhood home? Lizzi never does anything ordinary. She spent her vacation on horseback, riding the historic trails of our west! Her stories are fast paced and suitable for any horse lover in the house who loves history, a little romance, and a whole lot of intrigue, mixed with action.  There’s a reason why her books win awards.

Sweet & Small, The Greatest Month of All

j-m-maurerauthorHi! I’m J.M. Maurer, one of the newest members of Authors of Main Street. You may have heard about me through my writing, or our paths have crossed during some previous moment in time, or you might not know me at all. If so, we can use this time to become new friends (yay)! Whatever the case, I’m super excited to be here.

I love February. For me, it’s not just about that one day in the middle of the month. No, for me, it’s all about the chocolate. Sweet. Semi-sweet. Dark. White. In my coffee. On my finger. Spread across my morning toast. And, by the way, have you ever put chocolate in your pot roast?

It is true that cocoa and chocolate have neuroprotective effects on our body. Did I tell you I’m a registered nurse? Well, fair warning to you, my future posts might get rather interesting. But back to chocolate and that wonderful morsel you just slid past your lips.

That yummy bite contains numerous substances, my favorite being the antioxidant molecules (flavonoids) that are so beneficial to our brain. In fact, our brain loves an influx of these suckers. They’ve been known for elevating mood, preserving cognitive function, improving blood flow, and decreasing the risk of stroke. There is also research that suggests the substances in chocolate play a key role in memory.

There’s an added bonus of cardiovascular health as these flavonoids also help prevent clogged arteries and raise the levels of good cholesterol. Chocolate is also full of magnesium, which helps keep our bones strong, our nerves transmitting the appropriate signals, and our energy centers happy.

Chocolate certainly keeps me happy.

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So what’s an appropriate serving size?  1.5 ounces will do your body good. Any more than that and you might want to hit the gym.

***One important side note about flavonoids…they act a bit like aspirin. So if you are already taking prescription blood thinners, be cautious with your chocolate intake and follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to consuming it. Though, I doubt a small bite during what’s been referred to as “Sweet & Small, The Greatest Month of All” will harm you.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my books while you eat your bite. This is from Seeking Redemption (Book 2 in the Emerging From Darkness Trilogy). Here, Matthew has the perfect evening planned. He spends the day sending Jess riddles. Each riddle leads her to discovering the next. The evening is nearly ruined by…spoilers…but she eventually figures out where she’s supposed to meet him. They’re on a private rooftop, sitting at a table set for two.

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… After returning my attention to the intricately folded napkin on my plate, I stared at the masterpiece and wondered how long it took him to fold it to perfection. Forethought and time had obviously been given to it, folding it into the impressive and complex pattern that sat before me. I didn’t want to dismantle it; it was too beautiful.

But Matthew leaned forward, removed the pink flower from the center, and placed it in my hair, tucking it gently behind my ear. “Unwrap it,” he said, brushing his fingers along my jaw.

I looked at him for a moment, the upward curl of his lips and his eyes glistening under the lights of the cabana charming me. Caught within his smile, I had to force myself to return to the napkin that was folded like a rose on my plate, and coax my trembling fingers to move.

As I reached for a section to pull, Matthew sat patiently at my side, his smile so freaking beautiful. He nodded for me to continue. I pulled the corner sections apart and gasped, the hidden gift now clearly in view, sparkling in contrast against the black cloth.

Unable to move, I stared at it as Matthew stood up and reached over me, lifting the diamond pendant from its resting spot and displaying it for a moment in front of me.

“I love you,” he purred, then secured the white gold clasp around my neck and kissed the top of my head.

Surprised and cognizant of his love, I drew my hand to clasp the pendant, stood up, and pulled him into my arms.

“I love you too,” I whispered, clawing at his back and pressing my cheek against his chest. “Thank you.”

“I’ve said it before, Jess. This is me, showing you how much love your heart can hold, cherishing you like you’ve never been cherished, loving you like you never even knew you could be loved. Forever.” He pulled away, lifted my chin, and kissed me. “Forever,” he repeated, his lips brushing against mine.

We kissed until he broke contact. “Dance with me.”

It was a command, not a request, and I giggled as he stood and took me in his arms, holding me firmly as he led with purpose and style.

I’d been mostly tuning out the soft lyrics in the background, listening to Matthew instead, but as his tight embrace rocked me under the stars with the cool breeze blowing through my hair, I heard it, Savage Garden’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply”—the lyrics enchanting us during our first dance.

Following along with his subtle footwork and mentally absorbing the words, I wiped away a few stray tears as they rolled down my cheek, feeling emotional in the moment and deeply touched by the song. It was our beautiful moment, during a day that had been not so appealing at times but was absolutely perfect now.

“Forever.” The word traveled past my lips, becoming etched on my heart and stored with great meaning in my mind.

Emerging From Darkness Trilogy

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I took this picture at L.A. Burdick Chocolate in Cambridge, MA. It’s one of my favorite “Main Street” places.

What’s your favorite chocolate? Do you remember my name? If not, why not try increasing your daily dose of flavonoids? 

A Tale of Love Almost as Old as Ireland

Who likes knights in shining armor?

Please welcome Anna Markland.

 

 

My Main Street is in Victoria, British Columbia.

Thank you for the opportunity to share an excerpt from The Taking of Ireland. This novel represents a departure from the medieval romances I usually write. It is set in Ireland in a time of myth, even before the arrival of the Celts. I’ll preface the excerpt with the book’s foreword to give you some background.

I categorize my novels as “steamy”, but this excerpt is pure romance.

My tale was initially inspired by the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), a collection of poems and prose narratives that purports to be a history of Ireland and the Irish people from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. 

The earliest version was compiled in the 11th century (probably by Christian monks) and tells of Ireland being settled (or taken) six times by six groups of people.

My story centers on the last two groups, the Tuatha Dè Danann, who in the Lebor represent Ireland’s pagan gods, and the Milesians who sailed from Galicia and represent the Irish people, the Gaels.

Most scholars regard the Lebor as myth rather than history, and it was perhaps an attempt to reconcile native Irish myth with the Christian view of history.

I often base my plots on actual historical events, but this tale didn’t provide such a framework, which left my imagination free to soar into the realm of the mythical and magical. It was a scary journey into the unknown at first, but one I thoroughly enjoyed once the ideas began to flow and I got to know my characters.

Bear in mind, however, that my Tuathans and Gaelicians are figments of my imagination and are not meant to be a literal interpretation of the pseudo-historical peoples in the Lebor.

“Myth is more potent than history. 

Dreams are more powerful than facts.”

~Robert Fulghum

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Excerpt:

After spending several hours speaking with the men and impatiently supervising trivial tasks, Sibrán returned to the secluded bank, dismayed to see Aislinn shivering. She still sat atop the rock and looked in need of comfort. He handed her the broad leaf on which he’d piled a few choice pieces of roasted boar. “This will warm you,” he assured her. “Careful. It’s still hot.”

“I feel the heat through the burdock leaf,” she agreed, accepting the food with a smile.

“Burdock? Can we eat it?”

“The roots and stems of the plant are delicious. You can try the leaves, but I warn you they are bitter.” She looked to the forest. “I hope Lop isn’t being a nuisance.”

He sat beside her and took a chunk of meat from his own leaf, elated when she didn’t move away. “Don’t worry on his account. He’s gone off somewhere to gnaw on a juicy bone the men gave him.”

Her smile of relief pleased him. “Eat,” he cajoled.

She obeyed and nibbled at a piece of meat.

He shifted his position and sank his teeth into a piece of crispy crackling. It was one of his favorite parts of a roasted pig.

He risked an occasional glance at her face, filled with an urge to taste the grease on her lips. She seemed to have a good appetite and finished the meat quickly. He studied the wilting leaf as she licked her fingers. “You were hungry,” he said.

She turned her doe-like eyes on him. “I was.” Then she reached up and smoothed her thumb over his cheek. “You have a morsel of…”

Her touch sent him over the edge. He cast his food to the ground, took her into his arms and put his mouth on hers. He’d expected to savor the salty taste of the boar, but Aislinn’s warm sweetness and the intriguing perfume of her skin overwhelmed his senses.

Emboldened when she didn’t push him away, he coaxed with his tongue, elated when she opened her mouth and allowed him entry. He breathed his need into her, welcomed her tongue into his mouth and suckled like a starving child.

He lifted his hand to her nape and pressed his fingers into her scalp, growling when she whimpered.

It was more than a kiss. It was a magical, transforming experience, but wetness on his cheek caused him to look at her face. Perplexed to see tears, he pulled her onto his lap and crushed her to his chest. “Don’t weep, Aislinn. For a man and a woman to share such an incredible kiss is a thing of wonder. I accept the gods have led me to this troubled land in order to bring peace and prosperity as the new king. It was our destiny we meet. You were meant to be my queen.”

Sobbing, she struggled off his lap. “No, Sibrán. You have been at sea for too long. There are many beautiful maidens in Inisfail who will be happy to couple with you.”

Angered he’d misinterpreted her feelings, he got to his feet. “I am not a man to make promises without forethought. I want you, Aislinn. I thought you wanted me, but apparently…”

She held up a trembling hand. “It’s of no matter what I want. I am Moqorr’s bondservant and forbidden to lie with a man.”

His throat tightened. Hurtful words escaped his mouth before he had a chance to think better of it. “You warm his bed?”

He caught hold of her wrist before her hand struck his face. He narrowed his eyes. “In Gaelicia death would be the punishment for striking a prince.”

“Kill me then,” she breathed. “I would prefer to die than have you believe I consort with Moqorr.”

The despair in her voice betrayed her hatred of the High King. His anger fled. He gathered her into his arms again. “Then why would he object if you pledged yourself to me?”

She made no reply, but it was of some consolation that she allowed him to hold her as she wept.

The Taking of Ireland

Amazon: http://a.co/6GErhWh

Anna’s touch of steam is never too hot. But her heroes are definitely worthy of a  little heat. Do you realize the strength they must have to handle a sword? But her heroes know how to be gentle, too. So grab her book, a blanket, your favorite beverage, and settle in for a delicious read.

A Past Love, an Inn, and a Ghost

Christmas at the Granger Inn. Sydney and Cole’s journey can be found in a five book set—Christmas at the Inn on Main Street amzn.to/2f5eyd9

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Christmas at the Granger Inn is set on Main Street in the fictitious town of Raddwell, Virginia, where the people are kind and take care of each other. Sydney left behind her dreams and took over her mother’s flower shop after her mother had passed away. She’d promised to keep the shop up and running, and there was no way she would break the promise to her mother. Her word was honor. Old secrets and old money lives here to keep the town going. As a newcomer, Sydney discovers there is one mysterious secret that will shatter one woman’s trust.

A high school misunderstanding could continue to keep Sydney and Cole apart forever. Pick up a copy to see if the two of them can forgive each other.

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Sydney unpacked what little she’d brought with her, then stretched out on the bed. She closed her eyes but couldn’t manage to relax. She had time on her hands before Friday night’s dinner, so she thought some exercise would benefit her body and mind.

She followed a path down a short slanted hill toward the lake, settled on a wooden bench, pulled her scarf snug around her neck, then slid off the lid from a cup of hot chocolate. Her breath floated in the cold winter air, then disappeared as a light gust of wind surrounded her. While she observed a squirrel scamper over the light dusting of snow that had fallen in the late afternoon, she smiled to herself and expected that he was still stockpiling enough food for the winter.

The sound of shoes crunched lightly over the snow, and prompted her to glance up to see who she’d be required to deal with. She’d wandered down the path for privacy and wasn’t in the mood yet to engage with another attendee in empty conversation. In spite of her desire for time alone when she could manage it, it didn’t look as though now was going to be one of those times.

As she turned around, her heart hammered at the sight of the man who stood before her. She inwardly groaned and experienced a flash of regret for attending the reunion this weekend. Tension gathered around her shoulders and neck. She had thought she was prepared, but suddenly realized she simply wasn’t ready to greet the man who’d broken her heart. That knowledge cemented her to the cold bench, and a bitter breeze crawled under her coat collar.

She grabbed at her collar and pressed it to her skin. Of all the luck. Still, she’d known seeing him at the reunion was bound to happen. Time to face the music.

“Hi, Sydney. I thought I recognized you walking down here.”

Even though he was only twenty-eight by now, streaks of gray had blended through his beard, around his temples and in his curly, black hair. She was reminded of that description “salt and pepper.” The gray added a distinguished—“in his prime”—appearance. Despite a momentary struggle to hold back those old familiar feelings toward Cole, her heart fluttered. When she dared to look into his eyes, her breath caught.

This…not now…not now. Please, God. Don’t let me be caught in his clutches again.

She wondered if he’d grown better looking than he’d been in high school. And he had.

Get a grip, Sydney. You’ve gotten over Cole. Right? She sighed at the realization. Consciously or not, it would seem I’m not over you as much as I thought.

She pasted on a smile while the notion of wishing the ground would open up and swallow her, flashed through her head. Fat chance of that happening.

Just when she’d made progress in dealing with Will’s death and had slowly moved on, this new trouble showed up. Cole. Now she was certain she shouldn’t have agreed to come to the Inn. Nothing like faking a smile, but she could do it. She did do it.

“Cole Meyers. What a surprise, but good to see you. How long has it been?”

Cole grinned that famous smile at her and when he did, smile lines crinkled around his eyes. “Maybe nine, ten years I think? I was eighteen, so it would’ve been 2006. Too long.”

“It has been a long time.”

He shuffled from one foot to the other. “Mind if I sit?”

“Not at all.”

Liar. This…I do not need.

Sydney fleetingly wondered if he’d ever had second doubts about how innocent that hug and kiss on Ron’s cheek was, and that he’d thrown away the future they might have had for no reason. “Not at all,” she repeated and patted the bench. “How are you?”

“Good. You look well and haven’t changed a bit. You’re still as lovely as I remembered.”

He’s married and coming on to me? What’s up with that?

“Thanks, Cole. I’m good.” Her lips tightened at his intent, or what she perceived was his intent. “I’ve never been better.”

Do I need to remind him he has a wife? Evidently so.

“I hope your wife enjoys the reunion. It’s a bit hard sometimes for the spouses to have a pleasant time at these gatherings. You know, not much in common, not knowing anyone.”

“Well…” Cole dragged in a deep breath and gazed at her. “I guess you haven’t heard.”

On alert, Sydney waited with bated breath for Cole to explain his comment. “I don’t suppose I have. I have no inkling what you’re talking about. Why don’t you give me a hint?”

I wish you Butterflies, Music and Love…

Small Town Romance

Guest Author – Magdalena Scott

Hello! I’m so excited to be with you here today. I’m a USA Today Bestselling Author of small town sweet romance and women’s fiction. I have two series so far–one set in Legend, Tennessee, and the other in Serendipity, Indiana.

The excerpt below is from WHERE HER HEART IS, book 3 of the McClains of Legend, Tennessee series. During the month of February, you can buy WHERE HER HEART IS for only 99 cents. And book 1, MIDNIGHT IN LEGEND, TN, is free!

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WHERE HER HEART IS

Betsy McClain left Legend, Tennessee two years ago, with a broken heart, a baby to care for, and precious little else. She’s done well in the city, and so has daughter LizBeth Ann. A heartfelt request from Dorothy McClain is the only thing that could bring them back to Legend, even temporarily.

Mike McClain wants to get to know his only child, but Betsy isn’t cutting him any slack. Good looks and the old McClain charm seem to be failing him. Betsy is not the same love-struck girl he married, nor the girl who left Legend in a flurry of anger and tears. But he’s changed too. Can’t she see that?

Mike is renovating the house where Betsy and LizBeth Ann are staying. Everyone in Legend would like to see them get back together. The only thing standing in the way is Betsy’s stubbornness…or is it Mike’s?

Set-up for the excerpt:

Mike is driving Betsy and LizBeth Ann back to the house in Betsy’s car. They’ve been to see Old Doc Parker because Betsy fell at the house. She’s on crutches with a badly sprained ankle.

Excerpt:

Betsy swatted at him gently, and smiled. It could have been a moment from a few years ago, when they’d been carefree.

“I hope you didn’t have other plans for the morning that all this has ruined, Mike.”

“Nope. Not really. Hey, why not have an early lunch while we’re out? You’re not gonna be walking around in the kitchen right away.”

“Well. I’d hate to make a fool of myself with these crutches in a restaurant.”

“We could have a picnic,” said LizBeth Ann.

“Sure,” Mike said, smiling. He caught her eye in the rear view mirror. “We like picnics, don’t we, Princess?”

“We love picnics!”

He drove to The Pig—the Piggly Wiggly grocery—and took LizBeth Ann in with him to choose their lunch. Then they went to Lake Legend, where he parked the Bug under a big maple tree.

“You feel like hobbling over to the picnic table, Betsy, or you want me to drag it over to you?”

“Drag it here, slave.” She threw her head back, closed her eyes, and gestured royally for the table to come hither.

In a moment she heard the scrape of wood on pavement and opened her eyes to see the picnic table six inches from where she sat. He hadn’t dragged it, of course. She could see the grass was fine. He had picked it up and carried it to her. Big strong guy, this Mike McClain. She looked up at him, noticing his goofy grin. Handsome too, for an almost-ex-husband.

“I can get to the table okay, I think.”

“All right. You get settled on the bench, and I’ll carry it back over in the grass.”

“Yay!” LizBeth Ann clapped her hands.

“No he won’t, honey. He’s just kidding.” She looked up at Mike. “You’re kidding, right?”

“I could do it.”

Well. Maybe he could. But what was brute strength without… She forgot what it was that Mike lacked. Not consideration for others. He definitely had shown that. Not responsibility. He’d made a very noisy point of that every morning since she’d come back to town.

His faults didn’t bear thinking about, of course. It was just a matter of time before they’d get the divorce papers signed.

The sandwiches, chips, apples, and bottled drinks made for a simple picnic, but somehow the mood was festive.

“Can I go on a boat?”

“What?” Betsy came out of the blurry reverie she’d been enjoying, watching the pedal boats move around on the lake.

“Can I go on a boat, Mommy?” She looked over at Mike then and batted her eyelashes. “Daddy?”

Lord help us. Where had the child learned eyelash-batting? She wasn’t even three years old for goodness’ sake!

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Forever Your Valentine

Valentine cover new red hair.inddFaith Kinley would rather forget all about Valentine’s Day. Last February 14th, she caught her husband with another woman. This Valentine’s Day takes a turn for the better when Faith runs into dead-sexy Cole McKenna. Attraction crackles between them, but Cole’s a confirmed bachelor whose career as a hockey scout keeps him on the road most of the year. With her heart still mending from her divorce, Faith resolves to keep her relationship with Cole strictly platonic—a pledge that becomes harder to keep as they grow closer. Will one night together ruin their friendship, or could they be falling in love?

This excerpt finds Faith and Cole on a day trip to picturesque Pelee Island. After watching the sunset, Cole spontaneously picks a handful of daisies and makes a daisy chain …

Cole finished off the chain by joining the first stem to the last, and then placed the crown over her hair. His mouth canted into an uncertain smile.

She reached up to gingerly touch the blooms circling her head. “I love it.”

“I love how you look in it.”

Faith curled her fingers around his hand. She felt warm and alive beside him, so peaceful and so much herself, as though she’d regained the equilibrium she’d lost a year and a half ago when she’d discovered Ted’s infidelity and her world spun apart. Somehow the pieces of her shattered spirit had settled back into place, and when she looked at Cole, and touched him, pure happiness sprouted in her heart.

She stepped closer and tilted her face up to brush her mouth against his. Resting her hand on his nape, she closed her eyes and welcomed the warmth of his arms encircling her waist to hold her close. Cole’s lips caressed hers with gentle strokes that gradually deepened, until her blood flowed hot with response.

Breaking the kiss, she eased away from him but held his gaze. The orange light of the sunset glowed in his eyes like flames.

“I guess we should head back to the airport,” he said in a thickened voice, and then cleared his throat.

Faith shook her head. She drew a breath before replying. “Do you suppose they have any vacant rooms at that bed and breakfast you mentioned?”

He stared at her with his brows gathered. “I don’t know. I … what are you saying?”

Her heart pulsed against her ribs. “We don’t have to leave tonight, do we? We could head home tomorrow morning.”

“Is that really what you want?” Cole studied her face with narrowed eyes, assessing.

“Isn’t it what you want?”

“God, yes, but … I don’t want you to think I brought you here for some grand seduction.”

Faith arched an eyebrow. “Did you ever question what I had in mind?”

“Well … no. Not that I didn’t hope…” He lifted a shoulder as one edge of his mouth quirked.

“Today has been so perfect, Cole, I don’t want it to end.” Euphoria swept through her. She’d made the decision to follow her desire rather than second-guess herself. Whatever tomorrow might bring, she wanted Cole tonight.

Forever Your Valentine is only 99 cents at Amazon.