Turns out, y’all aren’t any more interesting than I am...
I'm not sure what that says about the group of us, to be honest. Nothing exciting, that's for sure. 😉
But based on the emails I got from y'all in the past week, you know how to par-tay on New Year's Eve about as well as I do.
I'd be worried if I were you. 😉 Just sayin'...
One of the requests I got a couple of times was a shot of Reagan and Jasmine the Healing Cat, snuggled up together on the new recliner I'd managed to heave-ho home. Well, truth is, Jasmine wasn't quite sure what to make of this new recliner in her midst. She spent several days just smelling it (it didn't smell like anything to me – yes, I checked – but then again, I obviously don't have the finely tuned nose that Jasmine does) and then a couple more days trying to figure out how to get up on it. With her being cross-eyed, it always takes her a bit to maneuver around new things.
Like a giant life-sized puzzle that she has to unravel.
But in the end, she got up there, and Reagan and Jasmine the Healing Cat came to an agreement – she'd share the foot of the recliner with him. Because she is that nice. She's since decided that she is willing to share the armrest, the seat, and the back of the chair also.
She may be a sweet, loving cat, but don't be fooled – she is a cat. I don't know why you're here on this earth, but Reagan and I are here to pet and love on Jasmine. Just ask her.
In other news, I finally finished Flames of Love. Today. Like, ten minutes ago. Can you guys feel the joy and excitement radiating off me in waves? 'Cause it's totally there.
I should clarify: When I say "finish," I really mean, "I got to the end of the story and now I have to start at the beginning and clean everything up." So not finished-finished, but step-one-finished. Which is still pretty damn cool.
Speaking of starting at the beginning, I thought I'd share Chapter One with y'all today. The preorder and contest links are below the excerpt, and then you'll find a new release by one of my closest writing friends, Tessa Layne. She's amazeballs. Be sure to check her new book out.
Until next week, enjoy the (unedited) first chapter!
Chapter 1 – Jaxson
Jaxson Anderson pushed the plate-glass door open, the overhead bell tinkling, announcing his entrance. The warmth, the yeast and sugar smell…it rushed over him, surrounding him, and he almost stopped dead in his tracks, wanting to do nothing but breathe it all in. He hadn’t been in an honest-to-God bakery in ages, and had forgotten how damn delicious they smelled.
Before he could make a real ass out of himself by literally drooling just from the smell alone, though, a head popped up from behind the front counter. A cute brunette, her hair in a braid flopped over her shoulder, shot him a smile. “Welcome to the Muffin Man,” she called out, pushing some stray tendrils out of her face with the back of her hand. “You been in here before?”
He’d hardly been in the town of Sawyer more than a couple of hours. “Nope, first time here,” he said as he walked closer to the front display case, and the adorable brunette behind it. She looked a little younger than him, with wide, innocent eyes that made her appear even younger as she peered up at him.
She was this tiny little thing that he was sure he could tuck under his arm and run with down the football field. Between her tiny stature and her wide eyes, she gave off the impression that she was twelve.
Except…he gulped. Those curves. No 12-year-old girl had those curves.
“Well then, an extra welcome!” she said, sending him another dizzying smile. “I’m glad you stopped by. Are you a…tourist?” She looked a little puzzled at that idea, giving him a quick up-and-down glance.
No, he probably didn’t look a damn thing like a tourist. Most fire chiefs didn’t.
“Just new in town,” he told her. “What is good he–Sugar?!” he said. He was staring straight at her delectable chest.
Which was probably not his best move. He knew he was being rude, but hey, she was the one who’d pinned her name tag on it. “Your name is Sugar?!”
She rolled her eyes at him, which now that he was close enough, he could see they were a deep brown color. Like the color of the chocolate cake sitting in the display case between them. “Don’t bother making a joke,” she told him pertly. “I’ve heard every one of them that is funny, and a whole lot that aren’t. I promise you, you won’t be original.”
He leaned on the clear glass goodies counter, content for a moment to ignore the copious amounts of sugar underneath his arms, and instead focus on the Sugar in front of him. “So…basically, your parents hated you.”
“Pretty much!” she said cheerfully, shooting him a laughing grin. Right then, a guy came through the swinging doors from the back, and Jaxson nodded towards him.
“Is his name Flour?” he asked dryly.
“No, but I like how you think!” Sugar looked over at her co-worker and laughed. “Gage, he thinks you ought to change your name to Flour!”
Gage looked up from off-loading a batch of muffins into a side display case. “Hey, my parents didn’t hate me,” he drawled in a deep voice, proving that he’d overheard their discussion. “Don’t drag me into this.”
“I think I’m gonna start calling you Muffin,” Sugar mused, shooting her co-worker a grin. “Or maybe Baby Cakes.”
Gage rolled his eyes. “That’s just what this town needs to hear,” he grumbled and disappeared into the back, carrying his empty tray with him.
“Woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” Sugar said in way of explanation, complete with a shrug, as she turned back to Jaxson. “So, what can I get for you? Coffee? Donuts? A…muffin, perhaps?” Her voice was a little too innocent.
Jaxson’s eyes shot up to hers. Was she teasing?
Her eyes were glinting with mischief. She was.
“I was thinking that I might be in the mood for some baby cakes,” he said, his tone as innocent as hers. She burst out laughing.
“I think I like you,” she said, shooting him a wide grin after she caught her breath.
“You’d like me even more if I had some coffee and a donut in me,” he informed her. “I’m a lot more fun to be around when I’m awake.”
“Even more fun?” she echoed, wrinkling her nose as she turned to grab a to-go cup. “Damn. I’m not sure if I can handle that much fun. Maybe I shouldn’t get your coffee after all.”
“Never come between a man and his coffee,” he intoned, only three-quarters joking.
More like half, really.
“Fair enough,” she said, filling the cup from the dispenser. Tendrils of steam encircled her hand and then melted away. “So what brings you to Sawyer, if you’re not a tourist?”
She turned back around, deftly grabbing a lid and pushing it into place even as she was sliding the cup across the counter to him.
Yeah, she had some experience serving up coffee. He wondered for a moment how long she’d worked at the Muffin Man.
“I’m the new fire chief in town,” he said, pulling the already warm cup towards him to sip at the life-giving liquid inside. He was staring down at the display case as he said it, contemplating which donut was the most deserving of being eaten, but even out of the corner of his eye, he could tell she’d stiffened up. His eyes shot up and caught her look. She was staring at him, mouth open. “What’s wrong?” he asked, confused. He looked behind him, thinking maybe someone had snuck up behind him who she didn’t care for, but no one was there.
He looked back at Sugar and she was smiling again, although it didn’t appear nearly as natural as it had before.
“Nothing,” she said. She cleared her throat. “What kind of donut did you want?”
“Maple bar, please.”
She nodded, slipping the long, golden donut into a brown paper bag.
“Hold on,” he said, another sip of coffee helping his brain begin to actually do something useful, “why don’t you make that a dozen donuts? I’m meeting with the guys down at the station for the first time this morning – holding a little get-together, you know? I should probably bring donuts with me. Help break the ice.”
She mumbled something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like, “You’re gonna need more than donuts,” but when he shot her a questioning look, she just smiled back innocently.
“Do you care which kind?” she asked.
“Variety,” he said, shrugging.
She got to work, sliding some bear claws, a cake donut, some more maple bars, and a couple of sugar donuts into a cardboard box stamped “Muffin Man” on top. She rang him up quickly and after he slid his card into the machine, entering his PIN, she pushed the box across the counter to him.
“Good luck today,” she said, sending him an overly brilliant smile. She followed it up by mumbling something else under her breath, and this time, he only caught the word “need.”
“What?” he asked, irritated.
“Nothing! Enjoy your donuts, sir.”
“I figured I knew your name; you should know mine. Jaxson. Plus, I’m too damn young to be called sir.”
“Enjoy your donuts…Jaxson.”
He slid them onto his arm and balanced his coffee cup in his other hand, making his way back towards the door. If every damn person in Sawyer was gonna take up mumbling underneath their breath when they were talking to him, he was gonna be stark-raving mad within the week.
I'm running a preorder contest; if you've missed all of the info, here's a page that explains it all clearly. In a nutshell, you simply preorder Flames of Love for $0.99, and then upload your receipt to enter the contest here.
That's it! Super simple. ❤️ If you have any problems or questions, please email me and I'll happily walk you through it.
Okay, here's Tessa's book as promised. You guys will love it! Available on all storefronts. 😀
A Hero's Heart by Tessa Layne
The town superstar has just met his match
When retired Army Captain and Prairie’s favorite son, Sterling Walker, returns home to join Resolution Ranch, he finds himself face to face with his biggest rival- Emma Sinclaire, the sole daughter of Prairie’s oldest family- all grown up, gorgeous, and glaring daggers at him.
Will it be winner take all in this battle of hearts?
A rising star at Kansas City’s internationally acclaimed Royal Fountain Media, Emma agrees to personally oversee the marketing and fundraising campaign for Resolution Ranch. But she never expected to come face to face with her high school nemesis, Sterling Walker, let alone have to work closely with him. As they face off across the boardroom, she can’t deny her attraction to the smart, sexy, soldier who engages her in battle at every turn.
When a moment of carelessness threatens to shut down the fundraiser before it starts, Sterling will put everything on the line to protect Emma’s reputation. Will it be enough to win Emma’s heart for good? Or will the fallout be the ruin of Resolution Ranch?
NOTE: All novels in this series are full-length standalone novels with an HEA.
Available on all storefronts!