Midweek Tease: The Harvester Saga

MWTease15Good Morning! It’s Midweek Tease time and have I  got a deal for you today. For a limited time, The Harvester Saga, including The White Carnation, The White Lily, and The White Iris is available electronically as a three book bundle for less than one US dollar. That’s a savings of almost ten USD for the three books.

My publisher, Crimson Romance likes to offer these deals to readers as a way to promote my work, and so far I think it’s doing the job.

 

Here’s the blurb: Join Boston’s crack detective team as its members track down the most heinous serial killer to ever strike the city, the Harvester. Clues and cults, dead ends and danger await these expert crime solvers as they team up with the flames they left behind and race against time to save everything they love.

  • The White Carnation: The last person disgraced reporter Faye Lewis wants back in her life is Detective Rob Halliday, the man she blames for ruining her career and breaking her heart. But when she finds an old friend murdered, he’s assigned the case. Can they set their troubled past aside and work together, or will the Harvester serial killer and his cult followers reap another prize?
  • The White Lily: With kidnapped babies on the line, FBI cult specialist Lilith Munroe puts aside her emotional scars and offers her profiling skills to the Harvester task force. She’s assigned to work with Australian millionaire and law enforcement officer Jacob Andrews, who returned to the United States only to learn his family was a casualty of the commune he eventually escaped. Uneasy partners, the pair must learn to trust each other even as they fight their growing attraction. But when Lilith’s greatest fears materialize, will Jacob be able to overcome his anger and save the woman he loves?
  • The White Iris: Time’s running out for Special Agent Trevor Clark and his task force as the killer’s threats to unleash possible biological warfare could mean death for all of them. His only recourse is to swallow his pride and reach out to his former fiancee, the CDC’s renowned virologist, Dr. Julie Swift. She has to put her faith and her safety, as well as that of countless others, into the hands of a man she doesn’t trust. Can they forget their differences long enough to stop the Harvester and rediscover the love they once lost?

Sensuality Level: Sensual

Harvester saga

Now, for this week’s tease, taken from Book 1 of the saga, The White Carnation

Twenty minutes later, the unmarked police sedan pulled up behind the black and white outside the brownstone. The paramedics were parked farther along the street, just ahead of the police car, reducing traffic to a single lane. The coroner’s van pulled up behind them. Rob got out and approached the coroner.

“Amos, I didn’t expect to see you here so soon. I called for a bus, not the meat wagon.”

“Paramedics were nearby so Logan got here quickly. He radioed in—exsanguination due to a lacerated throat. He’s still up there. Nothing he can do for the victim, but your fiancée is taking it hard.”

“The victim was like a second mother to her.”

Your fiancée—Amos’s words were true once, but never again. There was no way Rob would hitch his wagon to a woman who could believe he’d betray her like that, a woman who’d put her job so far ahead of him, he’d barely been on her radar at times. The sex had been great, but love was supposed to be more than that. Still, she’d reached out to him. He took the stairs to the brownstone two at a time, his lean, muscular body having no problem with the climb. He flashed his badge at the officer who stood guarding the door. “Anyone showing any interest?”

“No, Detective. According to the concierge, the people in number five are in Europe, and I don’t think the rest of the residents are home from work yet. Looks like a robbery—the place has been tossed pretty good—and there’s no damage to the door, so she must have let them in. Logan says her throat’s been slit from behind.”

“Where’s Ms. Lewis?”

“In the living room with Logan. He wanted to take her to the ER—claims she’s in shock. I told him she had to stay put until you arrived. He’s pissed at me. Says I’m interfering with his job. He seems pretty friendly with her. I heard she’s some big shot investigative reporter.” He chuckled. “Some crime reporter—she’s puked a couple of times already.” He continued to laugh. Rob’s face must have reflected the anger moving to the surface because the guard choked it off.

“Rick Logan is one of the best paramedics we have. For the record, McMillan,” Rob read the nameplate on the policeman’s uniform, “the next time he says someone has to go the ER, you’d better damn well listen to him. And as for Ms. Lewis, the victim was a personal friend. It’s different when the victim’s someone you know.” His voice was clipped, his displeasure obvious.

Rob turned and entered the apartment. He’d learned the need to remain objective in order to do the job properly, but as he’d told the young officer, it was different when it was personal. Not only had the victim been an acquaintance, Faye was in there. He swallowed and tried to find the emotional distance he needed.

The place was a mess, just as the officer had said. He looked around quickly, his trained eye taking in everything in an instant—the wallet on the table, money on the floor mixed with the victim’s blood, the take-out bag, Faye’s purse and its scattered contents. Whatever this had been, it hadn’t been a routine robbery. Someone had been looking for something other than the usual snatch and grab items, so what were they after? What could Mrs. Green have that was worth dying for?

He found Faye sitting on the living-room sofa with Logan. Her face was red and blotchy, her blue-green eyes mascara-rimmed from her tears, and her clothing disheveled and covered in blood. She stood and moved forward, stopping before she reached him. Wrapping her arms around herself, she looked young and vulnerable, not a bit like the bitter, angry woman she’d been the last time he’d seen her.

“I’ll take it from here, Logan. Thanks for staying with her.” Rob’s voice was strong and steady, completely the opposite of the way he felt. Seeing her like this shook him to the core.

“No problem. Get her out of here as soon as you can. Don’t be too hard on her tonight. I know you need answers, but …” Logan shrugged and went into the other room.

“Are you okay?” Rob asked.

Faye closed the distance between them quickly, surprising him with the violence of her action as she shoved him back.

“Am I okay?” she shouted. “You can stand there and ask me that with my friend’s mother dead in the other room?” She punctuated her words with a shove. “No, I am not okay. I am most definitely not okay.” Fresh tears ran down her cheeks, and Rob instinctively reached for her to offer what comfort he could. She held herself stiffly for a few seconds before relaxing into his shoulder.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” he said, feeling like a fool. Holding her like this felt awkward and yet familiar. “I’m sorry for your loss.” His hand rubbed small circles on her back as he’d done many times before. “Home invasions don’t always make sense. There’s no sign of forced entry, so she must have let him in.”

Faye pushed away, her anger palpable.

“Seriously? Home invasion, my ass. Look around, Sherlock. Home invasions usually involve some kind of theft. Do you see anything worth stealing? The television is twenty years old, and it’s still here. The silverware is scattered all over, and she’s still wearing her rings.

The Harvester Saga is on pre-order for its August 29th release date.

https://www.amazon.com/Harvester-Saga-Romantic-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B01KGO49XI

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Harvester-Saga-Romantic-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B01KGO49XI

#MidWeekTease August 24, 2016


Tuesday Tales: From the Word Fan

Badge for TT - very small (1)Hello again. Welcome back to Tuesday Tales. Once more this week, I’m giving you another scene from Wedding Bell Blues, one that follows almost directly after last week’s.

Enjoy!

Glancing up MJ realized the couple approaching the table was the one who’d been arguing in front of her when the boat had landed. Neither looked particularly happy about their current situation. She hoped she and Paul were doing a better job of hiding their feelings. Before proper introductions could be made, Antoine arrived with her cocktail and Paul’s beer, and took orders from the others at the table.

Monsieur St. Louis materialized in front of them.

“Is everything to your liking?” he asked the woman, no doubt noting her agitation.

“It couldn’t be better,” she answered. The smile she gave him didn’t reach her eyes.

“Am I to understand we’ll be a team of six looking for the treasure?” her husband asked, annoyance barely hidden in his voice.

MJ realized that all of the other groups were groups of eight.

Oui et non. You will be joining Monsieur Leroux and his team. As they say, you six will have the advantage.”

“That’s great, isn’t it honey,” Mrs. Smith said, her smile genuine. “I’m a huge fan of his.”

The manager nodded. “C’est bien. Monsieur et Madame Davis, you will meet me in my office at nine in the morning, yes? That way we can wrap up the details before you go on your daily excursion.”

“We’ll be there,” Paul said, raising her hand to his lips and kissing the palm. Despite knowing it was all an act, the gesture thrilled her.

Ricky stood.

“I guess that’s my cue. As ‘Best Man’ I get to kick off the festivities,” he said, grinning broadly.

MJ glanced around the room, noting everyone was seated. Her friends were at a table just in front of them, Lindsay’s face hidden by the camera she clicked furiously.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Bear with me. I’m really not used to doing things like this.”

The crowd laughed softly.

“You’ll be great, mate,” someone said from the back of the room.

Australian or New Zealander?

She hadn’t realized people would come from so far away for this.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. For my first toast, I would like to welcome everyone here and thank you all for choosing Paradise Island for your honeymoon. I hope your marriages bring you all the love and happiness that I’ve found in mine.” He raised his glass. “To all of the lovely brides.”

MJ forced herself to sip her cocktail.

“This is really good. What’s in it?” she asked.

“Orange liqueur, champagne, and a dash of Quimbois magic,” Cindy said, holding up the small card with the information printed on it. “I check all the ingredients because I can’t have chocolate. It makes me sick. It is damn fine, isn’t it?”

“It is,” MJ agreed, taking another sip.

“We can all use a touch of magic right now,” Paul whispered in her ear.

“It’s going to take more than a touch of magic to get us out of this,” MJ answered softly. “Maybe we should find Lucette’s grandmother and find out what’s next.”

He chuckled. “I don’t know. Sometimes a surprise or two is nice. Like having you here with me and all of this.” He indicated the head table. Reaching for her empty hand, he squeezed gently. “We’ve got this.”

“If you say so,” she answered honestly, unable to hide her unease.

“Why don’t we forget about what could go wrong and enjoy ourselves like we said we would? I’m with the most beautiful woman in the room. I want to eat, drink, and be merry.”

For tomorrow we die echoed loudly in her head.

That’s it for now. Please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales

 

Look Who Dropped By Today: Angela Smith

OneWrongMoveeBookONE WRONG MOVE by Angela Smith
Genre: New Adult Suspense

Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Release Date: August 16, 2016
((((( BLURB )))))
Romance doesn’t fit into Camden Alexander’s hazardous line of work…

A DEA agent, Camden is deep undercover, posing as a chef on a dangerous drug operation. He wants to take down Darrell Weberley, the owner of the Vin Doux restaurant, who is suspected of manufacturing his own brand of designer drugs. The investigation leaves no time for romance, plus he can’t risk exposing his cover. His love ’em and leave ’em philosophy is the only thing that keeps his one night stands out of harm’s way.

Rayma O’Riley isn’t looking for a quick hook-up. She has her own agenda…

Rayma is bored with her position as anchorwoman for News 12. She misses the thrill of investigative reporting. When she receives an anonymous email about a lucrative restaurant manufacturing drugs, she decides to investigate the story in her free time. She quickly finds a source for information in the form of the handsome and flirty chef. She agrees to a date, thinking she can pry insider information out of Camden.

If Camden can’t convince Rayma to drop this investigation, Darrell will have both their heads…

Camden can’t blow his cover, but if Rayma doesn’t stop snooping around, he knows it will lead to trouble. He doesn’t want her getting hurt before he can take Darrell down. He tries to scare some sense into her, but Rayma releases an article about the restaurant’s below-the-law side business anyway.

Darrell Weberley isn’t the kind of man to let something like that go without punishment, and all it’s going to take is…
one wrong move.

NOW AVAILABLE! PURCHASE TODAY!

“He’ll expose his secret to save her, but will it cost them both?”

((((( AVAILABLE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED! )))))
One Wrong Move Available Now
((((( MEET THE AUTHOR )))))
Angela Smith is a Texas native and was dubbed most likely to write a novel during her senior year in high school since she always had her nose stuck in a book. Although high school was decades ago, the dream began when her mom read ‘Brer Rabbit’ to her and her sister so often they could recite it back to each other before ever learning to read. Research is one of her favorite parts of piecing together a story, and she loves creating new characters. Angela started with writing romantic suspense and is branching into other genres, but she hasn’t been able to write one yet where falling in love doesn’t come into play. She works as a certified paralegal and office manager at her local District Attorney’s office and spends her free time with her husband and the animals on her small farm. Although life in general keeps her very busy, her passion for writing and getting the stories out of her head tends to make her restless if she isn’t following what some people call her destiny.
limitless publishing blue 3

Midweek Tease: Hello Again

MWTease15Good morning. Welcome back to this week’s Midweek Tease. I got my copies of the paperback version of Hello Again, my paranormal suspense and thought I’d share a snippet from it.

 

 

“Shirley, what does the word tąhą́ši mean?” Bill asked. “I think that’s the way it was pronounced.” It was the word whatever had pulled him back from the light had used.

Shirley pursed her lips. “It means male relative, a cousin.” She held up the photograph, unaware she’d just rocked his world. “I suppose you could be distant cousins of some kind. The likeness is astonishing, but if you look closely you can see slight differences. Bill’s dimple is on the opposite side, and he has a mole on the edge of his eyebrow that Mike doesn’t have. Now, finish your soup. You two can talk and get to know one another while you do.”

HelloAgain-print-v1She walked away.

Bill continued to stare at the photograph. He raised his coffee cup to his lips as an uncomfortable thought took hold. Whatever had pulled him back from the light and saved his life had called him cousin, but he’d never sensed it had been a man—male yes, but a man … He couldn’t deny the evidence before him. He was the spitting image of Charley’s dead husband. The more he thought about it, the less he liked it. This was surreal. He looked like Mike. Did he sound like him, too?

“Not really, but she thinks so.”

The familiar voice inside his head spoke once more startling him, making him swallow his coffee down the wrong hole and cough, bringing Shirley to the table to slap him on the back.

You’re the one who pulled me out of the light. What kind of sick son of a bitch are you? You put those images of her in my mind, made me crave her, want to live, and for what? I won’t be your stand-in—not with her—not with anybody. You say you chose her for me? Well, I’m giving her back. You should’ve let me die.

“I couldn’t. There’s a lot I can’t explain yet, but trust me. Trust your heart. I chose you for her because you’re the only one she’ll accept. Your native heritage is far more complicated than you think it is. I’m part of you now, just as you’re part of me, but what matters is that you are, and will continue to be, the same man you always were. You won’t be standing in for me, you’ll be replacing me—in her life, in her heart, in her bed. Unless she accepts you, none of us will ever be free. They need you—she needs you. It’s up to you to convince her of that, and believe me, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“What?” he said aloud, anger in his voice.

“I asked if you’d eaten?” Charley said softly, cringing.

Damn.

“I’m sorry, I was wool-gathering as my foster-mother used to say. I did eat earlier. Shirley made pancakes.” How could he apologize for his anger when he didn’t understand it himself?

She nodded. “I see. Must be some pretty nasty thoughts going on in there.”

Rather than probing as he was afraid she’d do, she changed the topic.

“Mike had this incredible sweet tooth,” she said as if now that he knew about her husband, she had to share everything about the man with him.

“He loved pancakes, especially chocolate chip and banana ones. When he was in Afghanistan, he used to complain that breakfast was never as good as it had been at home.”

“A man after my own heart,” Bill said, feeling as if the earth was about to swallow him whole. He finally had an explanation for something that had baffled him. Up until he’d been shot, sweet things had curdled his stomach. He’d taken his coffee black and just the idea of something sweet for breakfast would’ve made him sick. Being possessed was taking on a whole new meaning. Just how much of the man he’d been was left?

Hello Again is available in paperback or ebook from Any Amazon retailer. https://www.amazon.com/Hello-Again-Susanne-Matthews/dp/0994898304

Now, please check out the rest of this week’s teasers. 

Tuesday Tales: From the Word Gray

Badge for TT - very small (1)Welcome this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. Thanks to Jean Joachim and the other members of this group who help me be the best writer I can be. I’m continuing with Wedding Bell Blues. As I did last week, I’m picking up right where I left off.

head tableCindy laughed. “Gosh, wait until the folks back home see this. We didn’t know anything about the treasure hunt and now, not only are we part of that, we’re going to be on television. I can’t believe it! The manager says instead of that small room we have on the top floor, we’ll be moved to an ocean-front bungalow. I’m amazed there would be one available.”

MJ looked at Paul, who nodded. As emotionally stressed as she was, it took everything in her not to burst into a fit of giggles that would lead to tears she would never be able to suppress.

“There must’ve been a cancellation,” she said, astonished she could speak, guessing that bungalow had probably been intended for Mark and Melena, and he would be livid when he saw his accommodations. She almost wished she could see his face when he checked in. First he would turn an ugly shade of gray as reality set in, and then the color would rise in him, until livid red, he would vent his anger and disdain in one of his infamous snit-fits that usually resulted in him getting whatever he wanted.

But not this time.

Cindy’s voice pulled her back to the table. “Can you believe it? We’ve never won anything important in our entire lives and now, not only are we here, we were chosen for this. I don’t even win at Bingo!”

“Since you’ve been this lucky, maybe you’ll find treasure, too,” MJ said, not because she believed it, but to keep her mind focused on the here and now, away from Mark and Melena and the hell that would ensue once they arrived.

“Wouldn’t that be something? Ricky’s a mechanic, and makes a good living—nothing over the top—but we manage. You two are here for fourteen days. Closing the garage for ten was hard enough. My mother wouldn’t survive the terrors for that long, she would have a breakdown for sure.”

Pain pierced MJ at the thought of the children she might never have. “You’ve got kids?

“Yes,” Ricky said, joining the conversation once more and pulling out his wallet to proudly display a picture of Cindy and two dark-haired, dark-eyed boys. “Ewan’s five and Sean’s three, and believe me, they can be a handful. This is the first time we’ve left them.” He reached for his wife’s hand. “We couldn’t afford a honeymoon six years ago when we got married. Now, she’ll be treated the way she deserves if only for a little while.”

Cindy blushed and kissed her husband. Envy tore at MJ.

“You treat me very well, and you know it,” Cindy said. “This is a wish come true, but not one I was pining for. This place is so beautiful it’s as if it’s touched by magic.”

Magic or voodoo.

MJ smiled, praying it looked natural. What she should be doing right now was finding Lucette’s grandmother and asking for a potion to protect herself from Mark’s wrath. He wasn’t going to like this one damn bit, and Mark on the warpath wouldn’t be a pleasant sight. Pretending to be engaged, legally or not, was one thing, but a new bride? And now she would be overseeing all of the festivities? Add to that the fact he’d probably lost his waterfront bungalow as well. He would be fit to be tied, and she would be the target of his rage.

As Sir Walter Scott said, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

She shivered.

“Cold?” Paul asked softly, the concern in his voice genuine, touching her despite her distraction. He really was the hero type.

She shook her head. “Not really—one of those ‘someone walked over my grave moments’. I’m fine.”

Paul frowned, but before he could say anything, Cindy went on. “When we got off that boat, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

“So did I,” MJ agreed. Only for her, the island might well become her own personal hell.

That’s it for now. Please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales

Midweek Tease: Desert Deception, a WIP

MWTease15Good morning. Today, I’m giving you a glimpse of my latest work in progress. Desert Deception is a super-edited version of Coming Home, a book released in 2013, when I was part of the Misty Matthews co-writing team. When Misty and I ended our collaboration, we pulled our work out of circulation and divided what we’d written between us, giving all rights to whichever book we’d chosen. I selected Coming Home, the story of a girl who returned home after a ten year absence only to fall in love.

What I’ve done is take the bare bones of the story and rewrite it into my specialty. romantic suspense. It’s my hope to have Desert Deception for sale come September.

Here is this week’s tease:

Piling her discarded leathers on top of his, he leaned against them and pulled her into and slightly onto him, so she could rest her head against his shoulder. She fit him, and it felt right to him. They belonged together—even if it was only for a little while. Her breathing was still ragged, and he knew it wouldn’t take much to send them both tumbling into oblivion again. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop the next time.

“I brought a book, and I thought I’d read to you,” he said huskily, trying to ignore the softness of her body molded to his—the peak of her breasts hard nubs against his chest.

“You’re going to read to me?” Her voice was shaky and surprised.

“Yeah, I thought you’d like that. Was I wrong?”

She shook her head. “No. I love being read to. What did you bring?” she asked snuggling into him. Her body trembled slightly, and he pulled the blanket over her.

“JT Coleson’s latest book. You haven’t started it yet, have you?”

“Good choice. No, I haven’t had much time for anything but Dr. Seuss,” she said and chuckled softly. “He’s Jaxon’s favorite author.”

Cole laughed. “I understand. I love him too, but don’t tell anyone.” He opened the book and stroked her silky hair as he read, stopping only to turn the pages. Before he’d finished chapter one, he heard her soft snores.

So much for his engrossing prose.

Closing the book softly, he stretched his arm behind his head making himself comfortable, listening to Casey’s soft breathing, and watching the meteorites fill the sky again, savoring the moment. He’d never felt so contented. Letting his fingers run through her soft, wavy hair, he sighed and closed his eyes… If this wasn’t a perfect moment, it was damn close.

A sound that didn’t belong in the night time desert startled him. The roar of engines, those belonging to heavy machinery, drifted on the breeze. Clicking off the lantern, he looked toward the sound, amazed to see lights dancing on the horizon. Number Six and Seven, both abandoned and closed, were out that way. Carl would’ve told him if Mrs. Skansen had decided to open either of those mines, and if she hadn’t opened them, then whoever was out there was mining illegally. He thought of Leon Walker. Maybe the old man hadn’t been the only one interested in finding gold, and if someone else was out there, the old man might not have fallen after all. He hoped whoever was out there was too busy to notice their light.

The loud cry of a mountain lion celebrating its kill, one that was probably too close for comfort, reminded him that they weren’t in the safest place. Turning on the flashlight rather than the lantern, he reluctantly roused Casey. The desert could be dangerous on any night, but thanks to those sounds, tonight those dangers were multiplied.

“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. If I let you rest any longer, you’ll miss curfew. I’m hoping for a second date.”

She smiled sleepily and sat up. “Sorry for falling asleep on you like that. Please don’t mention it to JT. It wasn’t the story. I haven’t been getting much sleep lately. I had to burn the midnight oil at work to get this time off, and I guess I was just so relaxed and comfortable…”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. Let’s get this picked up and head back into town.”

The crack of a rifle sounded, making her jump. “What was that?”

“Probably just a poacher out after deer,” he lied. It was most likely someone after that mountain lion. He prayed the man’s bullet had found its target. Dead, they were all safe, but a wounded animal roaming so near the town would be disastrous.

“Is he close to us?” the nervous tremor in his voice convinced him she didn’t need the truth.

“No, that shot was miles away. Sound really carries in the desert.”

“Well, it sounded really close.”

It was well after eleven when they returned to town and pulled up in front of his place. He’d offered to escort her to her mother’s, but she’d declined. Two motorcycles pulling into the driveway might wake Jaxon was her reason, and since he didn’t know enough about the sleeping habits of four year olds, he let it go.

She stood by her bike, and he moved to gather her into his arms. “You want to come in for a bit. Maybe have something a little stronger than coffee, or pick up where we ended off earlier.”

Check out the other Midweek Teasers.

#MidWeekTease August 10, 2016


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Tuesday Tales:From the Word Catch

Badge for TT - very small (1)Hello and welcome back to Tuesday Tales. I’m continuing with Wedding Bell Blues. We are well on our way to the climax where MJ and Paul will have to face Mark and Melena, but today, we have the start of their public performance as Monsieur and Madame Davis.  Enjoy.

This picks up right after last week’s post.

“I know you don’t believe me,” Paul said, his gaze begging her not to overreact. “I had nothing to do with this. I swear on my mother’s grave.”

Staring into his eyes, MJ read the truth there. Whoever had orchestrated this fiasco had done it without Paul’s knowledge. So who was to blame?

The manager bustled over to them, looking like a cross between the cat who’d swallowed the canary and a child caught with his fingers in the cookie jar.

Mais, c’est incroyable,” he said, softly enough that no one around them could hear. “As the Greeks would say, the gods have cast the dice. I did not even know your name was in the jar. If you will follow the maître d, he will escort you to your table, and félicitations.

“But we aren’t married,” she hissed, “and everyone thinks we are.” Well, everyone except Lindsay and Noel who seemed quite content to let the matter drop.

C’est de rien. Once you sign the agreement in the morning and after tomorrow night’s noce civil, it will not matter. Here, on Paradise Island, you will legally be bound. Now, stop worrying and enjoy yourselves.”

Before she could ask what a noce civil was, a chant went up from the crowd.

“Kiss her, kiss her, kiss her.”

MJ looked up, fear and panic making the butterflies in her stomach battle for supremacy.

“Looks like this is out of our hands now. In for a penny…” Paul bent his head and met her lips gently.

The moment his mouth touched hers, she lost the ability to think. All she could do was feel. Heat pulsed through her, sending wave after wave of desire rushing along every nerve she possessed. Unconsciously, she opened her mouth, and his tongue dove into her. She was on fire, a phoenix rising from the ashes of whatever existence she’d had before. The room vanished, and she floated in this new magical space where only the two of them existed. This was the end to her long-ago dream.

“Ahem.” The sound of someone clearing his throat pulled her back to earth just as Paul raised his head. Desire flashed through his eyes for a second, and with it the realization that he was rock-hard against her, proving he wasn’t as immune to her as she thought he was. That was no brotherly kiss.

The crowd applauded even harder. MJ looked away, certain her cheeks were afire.

“On the kiss meter, I’d say that was a twelve,” Lindsay said and laughed. “And it looks like I captured it.” She held up her camera for MJ to see.

MJ couldn’t speak. She wasn’t even sure she could breathe. If Paul hadn’t been holding her, she would’ve collapsed for sure. What had just happened? A kiss like that had to mean something.

“Shall we go, darling? They’re waiting for us, and I’m sure these people want to sit down and eat,” he said loud enough to be heard by those around them. “We can finish this later.”

He winked, and those nearby laughed. The gesture and the sound shattered the magical illusion, just as easily as if he’d thrown a bucket of ice water on her head. He’d been playing it up for the crowd. He didn’t have to catch his breath because the kiss had meant nothing to him other than adding another layer to this charade, a travesty she could easily come to regret. As far as his arousal went, Mark had always been able to rise to the occasion and look what that had gotten her.

Drawing on an inner strength she didn’t realize she possessed, she batted her eyes coquettishly, in reality not to flirt but to keep the tears away.

“Of course, dear.” She turned and smiled at the waiter. “Lead on.”

As they approached the head table, MJ pasted a grin on her face. No one here would see how devastated she was, especially not Paul. She could play her part as well as he did.

I’ll smile for ten days, and then I’ll shed an ocean of tears.

“Tonight, your server will be Antoine. Enjoy your meal.” He snapped his fingers and left to be followed immediately by a young Creole man dressed in black tie and white gloves, much as the maître d had been. Around them, people were slowly being seated.

“Bonsoir. I’m Antoine. Would you care for an aperitif? The sommelier’s suggestion is a champagne cocktail, but you may have whatever you like.”

“That sounds fine for me,” MJ said, hoping she might get drunk  to help her get through this, knowing it wouldn’t help one damn bit, and she’d probably end up making an even bigger fool of herself than she had.

“I’ll have a Blonde,” Paul said gruffly.

Antoine nodded and slipped away.

“MJ, about that kiss,” Paul started to speak, but MJ cut him off. She didn’t want to hear that it had all been an act. She’d gotten that part. She wasn’t as naive as he thought she was.

“I think we did great, don’t you? The crowd certainly bought it,” she said with more enthusiasm than she’d expected. “Lindsay said it was a twelve, so thank you. If we can keep this up, Mark will buy into it for sure.”

Paul cocked his head, his eyes troubled as if her words might’ve hurt him.

“Glad I lived up to your expectations.”

Before she could say anything, knowing that somehow she’d hurt him, the woman who’d pulled their names arrived at the table and sat on Paul’s left.

That’s it for now. Please take the time to check out the other  Tuesday Tales

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