When I Get That Feeling

FeelingDisquiet. No one likes it, especially when that full-blown anxiety sets in. I feel it mostly when I haven’t been working toward my dream of becoming a successful author. I have said in previous posts that I love my full-time job. And I do. But being an author is my utmost, #1 career goal. Sometimes I lose sight of it and feel that creepy sense of disquiet sink in. Like something isn’t right. Like I’m settling for a more realistic retirement plan.

Does this mean I am a slave to my dreams? Could I go on vacation without bringing my laptop with me? Oh wow. The thought unsettles me like nothing else. That thing is an appendage, and without it I get kind of…well, bitchy. I don’t have to crack it open, just knowing it’s close by is enough. I love options, and if I get caught in a waiting room somewhere, I have them. Our mothers always told us to wear clean underwear in case we get in an accident. Well, I’d gladly exchange clean underwear for my laptop. Sorry, Mom, but I need something to do in the ER while waiting for those X-rays, like writing down all my experiences to put in a book someday. (And sorry, EMT’s, for the dirty underwear. If it makes you feel better, you may end up in a book, too.)

So when I get that feeling, I know it’s time to step out of reality and buckle down with some good ole fiction. I always feel better after getting back to work, even if it’s on those last, dreaded edits. I guess the moral to this post (if there needs to be one) is to never lose sight of your dreams, and never back down. If you’re committed enough, your brain won’t let you settle.

All Up In My Business

BusyJuggling my writing, my health, and my full-time job is a process that starts at the miracle hour of 3:00 AM. For some reason, God graced me with a brain that can only tap its right side in the morning. On rare occasions I would be in such a zone as to write all day until 2:00 AM, but that was only when the Sun, Earth, Moon and Mars were perfectly aligned. Other than that, noon meant quittin’ time. So when our four children no longer needed their mom 24/7, I went back into the work force and had no choice but to set an ungodly early alarm if I was going to get any writing done at all.

Unfortunately for my husband I am not a night person. When I get home from work, I am unable to follow the directions on a gravy packet let alone write anything worthy. This means I go to bed at 7:30 PM in order to roll out of bed at 3:00 AM. I’m used to it by now, my internal alarm set at nothing past 4:00. Who wants to sleep in anyway?

Oh, yeah. My husband.

Though I can no longer be a full-time writer, the full-time job is pretty wonderful. I have a steady paycheck now—money that I ration out between bills, weekly expenses, and fun stuff. I work close to home with practically no travel time and I love the people I work with. How many folks can say that? A positive attitude certainly helps, which I use to stay on task. Yes, becoming a successful, full-time author is moving a LOT slower than expected, but I’m good. Since I’m happy with my job, I can be patient.

scaleMy health, you ask? Yes, that is the sound of uncontrollable laughter bubbling out of my mouth. As an active writer, I reserve the right to subject myself to excessive inactivity, sleep deprivation and malnourishment. While my brain is in constant motion, my plan is (and has been for a long time) to start exercising my body tomorrow. Until then, I shall remain at high risk of diabetes, flat-butt, and deep vein thrombosis. That novel won’t write itself, after all, and it certainly won’t unfurl on a treadmill. Luckily I work for a hospital that promises incentives on healthcare in exchange for proof that I’ve been working toward a healthy diet and exercise. So it’s there for me when I decide to save sixty bucks a month by getting off my ass; which between work, kids, marriage and writing novels, who has the time?

Update: I did manage to squeeze in 30 minutes of walking for the last three days in a row. I broke a sweat, but not a big one, and I got to catch up on my Netflix shows. This regimen won’t win me any marathons, but for someone who only wears a Fitbit for those incoming texts, this is quite an accomplishment.

Take It Like a Boss


The pain of criticism: Let’s face it, that soul-shattering rebuff of something you’ve poured your heart into is responsible for millions of dried-up hopes and dreams around the globe. It happens more often than not, even for a writer who has had some success getting published, like myself for instance. So what do we do when faced with criticism of any variety?

NoWe write a blog post about it.

But we also learn from it, whether we agree or disagree. The trick is knowing how to take it like a boss. How many great authors out there have we lost to rejection or criticism? How many that went to college, paid big bucks for a degree in some form of literature, and learned how to put down a beautifully crafted string of sentences that is most certainly fit for public consumption? How many of you who simply decided to try writing a story one day and discovered a natural talent for it? The answer is more than we can afford, because it takes more than learned or inherited talent to make it in the published-author industry. I look at the cover of Romance Writers Review and I see a woman staring out the window, pen in hand, a soft look of whimsy on her fresh, innocent face. She is what symbolizes romance and the romance writers of today. Right?

Yeah, that’s not me. I see her and wonder if that’s how our love stories are expected to read, too. Based on feedback I’ve received from industry professionals, it’s a darned accurate assessment. This compels me to crack open a Kathleen Woodiwiss or a twentieth-century Johanna Lindsey (which, let’s face it, wasn’t that long ago) and I am blown away by how many modern rules were broken on one page alone. And I loved those stories. Still do. I eat them up like candy. They are the reason I wanted to write romance in the first place.

Does that make me old fashioned? Maybe. I’m only a few years shy of 50, after all. I get that times change. Rules change. Environments change. But in the age of the PC police, our acceptable conflicts have dwindled down to some pretty slim pickens. My advice to all writers is that if you feel so strongly about the story you want to tell, then tell it the way you want. For example, maybe what you’re writing isn’t a historical western romance. Maybe it’s a western saga, meant to be gritty and uncomfortable and make the fresh-faced idealists squirm in their love seats. We can’t change history, and the fact is that back then most women got married and had sex before the age of 18. Gasp! That’s against the rules of romance! But someone out there will agree with you and enjoy what you put down on paper.

So instead of caving to the rejection and hanging your dreams up like a ristra of dried peppers, try meeting all of your needs. Keep those peppers plump and juicy by broadening your scope. This will take an equal measure of talent, persistence, and backbone. Sure, if you want to be published that bad you can submit the vanilla romances for your agent to pitch. But if you have the desire to, write those other gems that truly stand out; are unique enough to satisfy a tougher pallet. They may not be romances, but they fit somewhere.

The moral of this post: It takes more than talent to survive this business. If you represent the majority of authors who don’t have the connections to slip through the back door of publishing, it will also take an enormous amount of ball-sweat to make those dreams come true. And perhaps some thinking outside the box. (PC Police Disclaimer: I have always enjoyed the word “balls” as a metaphor for strength. They don’t have to mean man balls, they can be nice, big, girl balls. Because let’s face it, “ovary-sweat” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the same way.)

The purpose of this post: to make me feel better. And I do.  Smile


Oh, Look…A New Website!

ImageYeah, I know, it’s about darned time. I figured since I’m splashing the web address all over social media, I might as well throw on a new blog post. (Last one was in October. I stink at this!) There are many new things going on. First of all, if you haven’t noticed, my website/blog just got a new look, which I am thrilled to show off. Let me explain some of the menu buttons.

I now have a “books” page where you’ll get to see what’s available from J. A. Dennam, complete with buy links. WAIT A MINUTE! What is that? My new novella, CRYSTAL MAC, is releasing April 8, 2014? (See how I slid that in there?) And, I’ve made it pretty easy to add it to your Goodreads TBR list. Pretty slick, huh?

Now, the Blog, Author Bio, Contact, and Connect pages are quite common and don’t need explanation. You’ll notice, however, I have a tab called Fun Stuff. Why didn’t I think of this before? Everyone loves fun stuff and every website should have it! Mine is loaded with visual excerpts of my books. (Okay, maybe not loaded, but I’m working on it.)

Last but not least, I draw attention to the very interesting tab called Members Only. You may be scratching your head, wondering if you should even push that button since you don’t know what might explode as a result. I promise, your digits are safe with me. Members Only will take you to my exclusive Facebook group, “Dennam’s Character Cave”. Members have access to all kinds of bonus features, such as sneak peek cover reveals, news, contests for cave dwellers only, and free character vignettes. If you aren’t already a member, anyone is free to join…as long as you’re 18 or older. (I reserve the right to get naughty with my characters.)

If you notice something missing or have ideas on how I can improve my new site, all suggestions are welcome. Thank you for visiting, and happy reading!

Truth and Humility Giveaway

ImageToday is the last day to enter the giveaway on my Facebook author page! Don’t miss your chance to win one of 2 signed limited edition paperbacks of book 1 in my Captive Series, TRUTH AND HUMILITY. Contest ends tonight!

Enter here: https://www.facebook.com/jadennamauthor

The First Installment of Romantic Suspense Author J. A. Dennam’s Captive Series

Danny Bennett knows that most of what keeps her family feuding with the Cahill clan is baseless accusations from both parties, but that doesn’t keep her from taking sides.  After all, when her fun-loving brother, Derek – the person she idolizes the most – has been accused of murder, her loyalties lay solidly with him.  But her loyalty to her chosen future is what she puts first when she applies for a dangerous job in order to pay for her college education.  Accustomed to living on the edge, Danny welcomes a good challenge…until she realizes she has unwittingly landed herself in the bowels of the enemy camp and fallen prey to her brother’s irresistibly sexy accuser.

Driven by hatred, Austin Cahill knows exactly what to do with the Bennett girl who saunters onto his jobsite under false pretenses: use her as a weapon against her brother, the man he holds responsible for his fiancé’s fatal drowning.  Derek Bennett must pay for his crimes, but Austin must coax a confession out of him first.  His plan to “own” Derek’s beloved baby sister should break the man, but he soon discovers a much bigger obstacle…his burgeoning desire for Danny.  When Derek comes for her, will Austin be prepared to let her go in exchange for the truth?  Will his quest for vengeance destroy the woman he’s grown to care for?  Or will it be the truth that brings them all down?

Launch day teasers – Excerpt 4 of BETWEEN FAITH AND FEAR:


Chapter 2

 When disaster strikes, one’s first instinct is to run from unforeseen dangers that soon may follow. Self-preservation makes us human. To cast it aside for those less able makes us brave.

“What a sweet boy you are…”

A familiar sound followed the softly spoken words. Her son’s velvet sigh was familiar to her, but the other voice was not. Slowly, Melanie opened her eyes to an unfamiliar scene. Once the blur cleared, she was able to make out the small shape of her toddler as he teetered toward the edge of the rough mattress she laid upon.

It happened in slow motion under the artificial light of a nearby lantern. As the boy tipped past the point of balance, Melanie rolled, reached for the back of her son’s overalls. Soft denim barely grazed her fingertips before he slipped from sight. Her gasp was stifled when he reappeared, held between two feminine hands in a flying hover. Laughter ensued.

With less strength than normal, Melanie scrambled to the edge of the bed to visually confirm the owner of those hands.

Raven hair fanned over floorboards like wings around a pale, haunting face. The woman who held little DJ by the middle could have been a ghost, but her full lips, stretched in an adoring smile, shone pink with life. Set against translucent skin in shocking contrast were large sapphire eyes that widened crazily when they focused on her.

“Well, hello, Momma.”

Melanie’s first instinct was to scream. Her second was to grab the nearest weapon and beat the crap out of the escaped lunatic on the floor. But that lunatic had her precious son and now held him tightly to her ample bosom.

“I…I know who you are,” Melanie stammered while slowly moving to her knees. DJ wiggled under the firm hold and the fear in her voice was poorly masked. “Please don’t hurt him.”

Rena Hellberg – certifiable killer – rolled her eyes in answer. “You think I’m going to boil him up for stew? Get real.”

When the woman rose from the floor, Melanie stumbled off the bed in order to keep the close proximity. “I just want you to give him back to me.”

“Ma,” the toddler said through cheeks squished between hand and breast.

“He’s doing just fine,” Rena assured, eyes wary beneath thick, black lashes. “You can barely stand up straight. I’ll take care of him until you’re right again.”

Anger mingled with panic. “Until I’m right? That’s rich coming from you!” Melanie took a steadying breath under the heat of Rena’s gaze. “He wants me. Please…”

Rena cocked her head. Slowly, she said, “Come and get him.”

It sounded like a challenge. Chills zinged down her spine. Melanie took a step and the room instantly began to sway beneath her feet. The lunatic laughed.

“Rena, that’s enough.”

The gravelly command came from behind and Melanie’s attempt to spin around finally brought her down. She caught herself on the bed avoiding an impact with the floor. Her eyes came up, barely caught the shadow of a man in the doorway of the large windowless room she occupied.

“Lay down,” he whispered, “and she’ll give him back.”

His words were meant for her. When it struck, Melanie sat down heavily on the bare mattress and struggled not to pass out from fear. “Who are you? Why did you take us?” Instead of answering, the figure disappeared. “Wait! Come back!”

“I’m not sure you want to know, sweetheart,” Rena answered. The woman approached the bed. “Come on. Lay down and I’ll give him back, just like he said.”

It was hard to trust a single word that escaped those lips, but Melanie obeyed and Rena transferred the wiggly toddler into her outstretched arms.

The reunion was tumultuous. Never before had Melanie experienced this kind of fear for her child, not even when he was caught downing a bottle of scented bath oil six months prior. “Oh, baby, Mommy’s got you…”

He was warm and soft, safe and sound, and he snuggled deeply within her fierce embrace.

The worn mattress dipped when Rena sat down beside them. “He’s so cute,” she said. “Such a chubby little face. It makes me want one all over again.” She retrieved a familiar pink blanket from the floor and put it in his pudgy hand. “But I’d highly recommend blue if we don’t want to confuse the kid later on.”

The woman almost sounded normal. Far from the crazy bitch who’d shot bullets at her and Danny two years ago.

Fatigue washed over Melanie now that her child was back in her arms. “Please, Rena. I don’t know what you have planned for us, but you need to let us go. DJ needs to be home, not in this…” she glanced around the room which was half cast in shadow from the white glow of the lantern, “this moldy old place, whatever it is. A classroom?”

Rena stretched out beside them, smiled at the baby who smiled back. “Chalkboard gave it away, huh? Don’t worry, I cleaned up once I heard we were getting this precious little guy. Talk about surprise! You got busy after our last encounter!”

“That last encounter almost killed me, and here you are chit-chatting like we’re girlfriends!” When the woman’s head reared back, Melanie checked her tone. “Sorry… I’m sorry.” A deep breath and a pressing kiss to DJ’s silky blonde hair restored her calm. “I’m just trying to make sense of things. You’re obviously behind this and I can’t help but think…”

“What? That I might be using you as bait to lure the happy Cahill couple into my evil trap?”

Melanie swallowed. “Something like that.”

“Ha!” Rena, dressed like a cat burglar in a black athletic ensemble, rolled from the bed and retrieved DJ’s diaper bag. “To be honest, I can’t figure out what Austin sees in her. I never thought he’d be into the tomboy slut type, but whatever.” She shrugged as she opened a plastic tub of Cheerios. DJ accepted the miniature “O” and immediately stuffed it into his mouth, held out his hand for another. “It’s history. Plus, I want to forget that part of my life…the parts I can remember, anyway.”

“Don’t bother trying to convince me you’re reformed, Rena. We wouldn’t be here if you were.”

Leaving the cereal within reach, the woman stood and turned her back. Shoulders stiff, she walked to the black rectangle at the far end of the room and chose a small white stick. The slow whisper-click of chalk gliding over slate gave eerie new life to the peeling paint and falling plaster surrounding them. When Rena finished, she put the chalk down, moved out of the way and headed for the door. It closed, locking behind her, leaving mother and child in the abandoned classroom alone.

In the ensuing silence, Melanie squinted until the printed words came into focus. When they did, goose bumps washed over her skin.

It’s not all about me.

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EV54VOG

Launch day teasers – Excerpt 3 of BETWEEN FAITH AND FEAR:


Chapter 1- Part 2

Her foot pressed the gas pedal. The engine raced, but the wheels of her 1993 Honda continued to roll backward.

“Dammit.” Melanie mashed the brake and struggled with the gearshift until something beneath her jerked. “Thank you, baby,” she mumbled as the car began to move forward. It was with high hopes that her poor excuse for transportation would get her through one more week before taking its dying breath. That new four-door Audi was just one paycheck away, then all those hours spent marketing, taking field trips to the park, serving lunch, and keeping records will have finally paid off…. not that she didn’t like her job.

Okay, she loved her job just as much as Mac did. But, truth be told, he was the reason for their daycare’s success. It gave single moms – and a few married ones – an excuse to see him every weekday when they dropped off their children. There was just something irresistible about such a big, burly man who could handle a wet sneeze as easily as a power tool. It got even worse when he started shaving his head. Mac was humble enough to deny it, but she loved to tease him about his appeal to women.

As she reached the curve that would steer her out of northern Springfield, her mind ventured to the phone call she’d gotten from Danny. Apparently, the woman who’d tried to kill them almost two years ago had just escaped Valley State Prison’s psychiatric ward. They believed she’d had outside help.

The news didn’t sit well. Rena Hellberg had turned all their lives upside down when Derek had become the single victim of her murderous rampage. Danny had lost her favorite of eight brothers, Melanie lost the only man she’d ever loved and DJ lost his father before they even realized he’d been conceived. Was it possible Rena had come back to stalk, lurk and kill again? If so, the police believed she’d lay low for a few days while attempting to avoid recapture.

Headlights streaked past the approaching woods as Melanie veered along the curve. With a gasp, she stomped on the brake until the small hatchback came to a screeching halt. When the dust cleared, a dog blinked at her through the windshield. Its long, black coat quivered in the breeze as it sat defiantly in the middle of her lane with a pink monogrammed blanket draped loosely from its teeth.

“No way…”

The temperamental engine sputtered beneath the hood. Precious moments ticked by as she processed things. Should she dare leave the car with her precious cargo nestled in the back seat? Heather-blue eyes darted to the rearview mirror to see if Mac had given chase, but the road behind her was clear. Of course. He wouldn’t leave baby Sasha.

Melanie reached for her purse, but her hand encountered an empty passenger seat instead. A mental snapshot of her oversized canvas bag sitting on the counter justified that ever-present feeling of forgetting something.

Jeez, she’d done it anyway! Her phone, her driver’s license… At least she hadn’t gotten too far away, but the least she could do was try to get Sasha’s blanket back. Maybe the four-legged critter would respond if she called him over.

When she rolled the window down, the passenger door opened. Light illuminated the car’s maroon interior as a person quietly slid into the seat beside her. As the door slammed shut, returning the interior to darkness, she opened her mouth to scream only to have it swallowed by warm, demanding lips. Something about them stirred memories deep within her soul, but fear reigned when his gloved hand curled around the base of her neck. A slight prick penetrated the skin just below her hairline.

Her claws came out. The intruder captured them before they could draw blood, but instead of punishing her, he angled his head, deepening the kiss while he gathered her closer. When his tongue glided across the roof of her mouth, her thought to sever it with her teeth instantly disappeared. A confusing cocktail of emotions flooded her body as her head began to swim.

No. I can’t go under… not with DJ in the… back…

* * *

As soon as the woman in his arms went limp, he promptly removed his tongue from her slackened mouth. He was lucky to still have it given the risk of sticking anything between vicious, snapping jaws. But the temptation of tasting her again had proven too great to ignore.

She hadn’t changed a bit. Even unconscious, Melanie Parker was a vision of flawless beauty. The brief glimpse of porcelain skin offered by the dome light wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy him, but soon he’d soak in as much of her as he wanted.

He opened his door and exited the car. Chewie hopped in and took his place in the passenger seat. The drug wouldn’t wear off for at least an hour, so there was no chance of the woman coming to while en route to his hideaway. No reason why she’d object to being stuffed in the cargo area.

The longer they stayed in the road, the greater the risk of getting caught. But he knew how to work fast in impossible situations and had her unbelted and in his arms in one swift move. But something wasn’t quite right.

Chewie had moved to the back seat. The sound of soft babble pricked his ears.

No. She left the baby with Mac…

Blood swiftly drained from his face. With Melanie’s weight adding to the sinking feeling in his gut, he bent below the doorsill and visually confirmed his worst fear.

Tiny fists had Chewie by the jowls. The dog took the abuse without complaint, instead leaned in and gave a tentative lick to the cherubic face beside him. A delighted squeal reverberated through the enclosed space and a pair of wondrous heather-blue eyes narrowed with laughter.

Holy shit!

He took a deep breath as he marveled at the smaller version of the woman he held. “Chewie, we are soooo screwed.”

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EV54VOG

Launch day teasers – Excerpt 2 of BETWEEN FAITH AND FEAR:


Chapter 1

Two years later:

 Cartoons lit up the TV on the corner stand. Melanie finished picking up the rest of her son’s toys from the living room floor and closed the lid of the plastic toy chest by the couch.

“Don’t forget your purse,” her roommate reminded from the easy chair as he put the bottle down and positioned the baby in his lap for a good burping.

“Thanks. And you have barf on your shirt again,” she teased with a wink.

Mac’s mustache quirked as he continued to pat the baby flung over his shoulder. “That would be Sasha’s.”

Melanie spotted Sasha’s monogrammed pink blanket on the floor, picked it up and handed it to him on her way to the kitchen. “You’re working late tonight.”

“Her mom’s working late. Should be by in an hour or so to pick her up.”

Since their shared apartment was so small, Melanie could easily hold the conversation from the open kitchen as she put the dinner dishes away. “You sure you don’t need me to stay?”

The big man almost looked affronted by her lack of faith as her fifteen month-old son, DJ, played on the floor at his feet. “Hey, I’ve dealt with a lot worse than upchucked peas and carrots. You have a long drive ahead of you. Better go before it gets too late.”

Her eyes darted to the microwave clock. “Bull Shoals isn’t that far.”

“Far enough in that heap of yours. Here, I’ll help you.” As soon as Mac transferred Sasha to the playpen, he went for Melanie’s luggage while she retrieved her son.

As he held the front door open, his fingers buried deep into DJ’s tickle spot. “Bye, sport. Have a good time this weekend with grandma and grandpa.”

DJ folded over with a giggle. Melanie ran a hand over his soft blond curls. “Herb promised to take us fishing.”

“Oooh, you get to eat worms. Wish I could be there to see it.”

“Oh! Speaking of goodbyes, we almost forgot!” She walked him over to the framed photo that hung just above the telephone table. “Say goodbye to Daddy,” and they both waved together.

“Ba Dada,” DJ said, his silky voice lingering over the last syllable.

It was a long, drawn out, respectful moment that never failed to clog her throat with emotion. As she studied Derek’s picture, her mind went back to the day it was taken. Fourth of July, almost a year before he was killed. The two of them sat in adjoining lawn chairs with their heads together, cold drinks in their hands and their faces alight with festive smiles.

Damn. His smile was just as addictive now as it was in life and she found herself answering it, albeit a bit sadly.

Mac put his hands on her shoulders from behind. “I get the ritual, Mel,” he said softly, “but it’s been two years. You need to try and move on.”

She frowned when she realized just how long she’d been standing there. “I know. I will.” And then she gave herself a mental shake. “It’s not that I can’t, it’s more because… you know, we’re so busy with the daycare and all.”

“Uh-huh.” Mac’s hands tightened their grip and he steered her back toward the door. “You’ve been using that excuse since we opened the place.”

“It’s not like you’ve been any better,” she complained over her shoulder.

“We’re not talking about my love life.”

“I think you should date Sasha’s mom,” she teased, the mood effectively lifted.

“Too straight-laced for me.”

It was all bullshit and she knew it. Mac was modest as ever. “You know she likes you.”

“It’s the babies. They’re chick magnets.” He tweaked DJ’s nose. “Especially this little stud.”

“Uh-huh.” Suspicion tinged her words. “I think you like her, too.”

He dismissed the notion with a grunt as he held out her purse. “She’s practically a kid.”

“She’s my age!”

They finally made it out onto the landing with luggage in tow.

“I’m more than a dozen years older than you.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” She grabbed DJ’s little arm and synthesized a wave. “Say goodbye to Grandpa Mac.”

Her cell phone rang on the counter. Apparently that hadn’t made it into her purse yet. Melanie transferred DJ over to Mac’s arms and went back inside. Her best friend’s face lit up the phone’s screen and she answered. “You’re an angel, Danny Cahill.”

There was a slight pause on the other end. “Okay…”

“And you’re DJ’s favorite aunt.”

“I’m his only aunt. Why all the love?”

“You just saved me from forgetting my phone. We were just about to leave for our big weekend with your parents.”

“That’s why I was calling. It might be a good idea for us all to go. Can you stop by our place first? We’ll take the truck?”

By the tone of Danny’s voice, Melanie could tell something was up. “Sure, sounds great. What made you change your mind?”

“We just got a call from our friendly neighborhood Sheriff.”

Uh-oh. Melanie turned toward Mac and gestured for him to come back inside while she transferred the call to speaker.

Danny said, “Guess who just escaped from prison?”



Melanie Parker. She was the last woman he’d ever made love to. The last woman to hold him with tenderness. The last woman to touch him without pain. His last good memory before falling headfirst into a harsh, questionable existence. Somehow this first covert look at her put him in a place he thought he’d never know again. And that was bad. As with the last mission, there was no room for feelings. It could only lead to failure.

Blond hair cascaded down a slender back in glorious, silken waves.

His hands fisting passionately in the sex-tangled mass.

A man stood with her in front of her apartment building holding an infant in his burly embrace. They were close enough so that when the baby dropped her monogrammed blanket, it landed on Melanie’s shoulder. The infant squealed when the soft pink bundle of cloth was returned to her and she immediately stuffed it between toothless gums.

The woman giggled and pressed her full lips to a tiny forehead.

Sculpted for kissing, tender, glossy…they taste of vanilla beneath his tongue.

Those same lips delivered another farewell kiss to the man he now recognized from another lifetime ago. Mac? What the hell?

Gloved fingers parted the leaves to offer a better look. A brushing wind drowned out her words, but they were spoken softly, affectionately as the trio stood in her assigned parking space.

So… she was with him now. One big happy fucking family.

Unwanted emotions washed through him like a harsh cleanser despite his attempt to tame them. Did he really expect her to wait? Not really, he’d been gone a long time, but a child? Yoga pants? She’d even cut herself some bangs, which screamed, “I’m settled.”

Suddenly, her lips stilled, remained parted in silence. When she glanced tentatively in his direction, he moved further into the shadows. His own heart stopped beating for a moment then crashed into a thunderous rhythm when her cautious perusal was over.

Damn. She’d felt him.

Leaving the infant behind, Melanie turned to the same old beater car she’d had when they were together and slid behind the wheel. If he remembered right, that ignition would turn over three sluggish times before… Yep. Just like he remembered. Everything was just as he remembered; only now there were two new players in her life: a husband and baby girl.

A slight pressure bore down on the tip of his toes. “Soon, Chewie,” he whispered, slowly returning the thick branch of leaves to its natural position. The anxious Shepherd mix beside him stood on all fours and brushed soft midnight fur against his knees. “We’ll get her soon.”

And then what? Electric heat arced down to impact with his groin. For some reason, his pecker wasn’t on the same page as his head, but he must not lose focus. Lives hung in the balance. Everything depended on his ability to pull off this particular heist.

With bolstered fortitude, he touched his leg thus giving his partner-in-crime the signal to proceed.

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EV54VOG

Launch day teasers – Excerpt 1 of BETWEEN FAITH AND FEAR:



“I have a confession to make.”

Those six words, so innocently spoken by a woman who straddled your lap, raised the kind of alarm bells Derek Bennett feared most. “Can it wait until after I’ve made you scream a little?”

Melanie’s big, blue doe-eyes denied him even that. “I know you’ve slept with a lot of women, Derek.”

“Uh… sure. And you’ve slept with a lot of men. We’re still okay with that, right?”

She took her luscious bottom lip between her teeth, gazed at his mouth. Her slender fingers came up, touched where she looked. “But I haven’t.”

Derek’s eyes narrowed. “Haven’t what?”

“I haven’t been with anyone but you in… a while.”

His shoulders tensed beneath the sweaty t-shirt. All he wanted by coming here was a little relief after a hard day’s work. What the hell had he just gotten himself into?

“Not that I haven’t had offers,” she continued in a rush. “I have. But my heart just wasn’t in it.”

He read the message in her eyes, clamped a hand over her mouth before she could voice it. They were on her bed in her tiny little apartment and he twisted, flipped her beneath him. “I’m not going to complain, Mel. Hell, I’m flattered. I’ll always be here for you, but we both know this can’t go past a certain point.”

Anger flattened her mouth beneath his rough hand and she tore away to blurt it out before he could stop her again.

“I love you, Derek.”

His head sagged between his shoulders.

But Melanie was relentless. “Deal with it. And if it’s too much for you, then you know where the door is.”

“What?” His head shot up again, annoyance in his tone. “Are you serious?”

She pushed him off and sat up. The condoms he’d just taken out of his wallet were waiting for use on her nightstand.

“I’ve thought about this long and hard,” she said sadly, hugging her arms. “I want something more from you. I’m not willing to share you anymore. If that means breaking things off entirely, then that’s what I’ll do because the thought of you making love to another woman is harder for me than being alone.”

Derek propped himself up on an elbow, reached out to brush his knuckles along her arm. “Come on, Mel…”

“If you can’t pay my price, you may as well not even touch me.”

He dropped his hand to the bedspread, looked around her room. “If you want me to yourself, babe, I’m good with that. Not particularly keen on the idea of sharing you, either.”

“But, do you love me?”

Shit. How did he know that wouldn’t be enough? He looked down at his crotch, noted the boner she’d purposefully worked up and he swore under his breath. “Dammit, Mel, your cruelty knows no bounds!”

“Cruelty. Ha!” Then she turned her back on him. The droop of her shoulders indicated the discussion was over. They were over.

“Just get out,” she said dejectedly. “Let someone else take care of that for you.”

And then she’d slammed the door in his face.


Golden-brown eyes scanned the road through sunglasses as he drove his 1970 Dodge Challenger through town. It would serve her right to do just that… take his unsatisfied needs to the river, hang out with the group of rock climbers he knew was there, scaling crags, swapping stories and bodily juices around the campfire. All he had to do was make a quick stop at the drug store since Melanie never gave him a chance to collect his stash of rubbers before kicking him out.

‘Twas a sure thing he’d get someone to take care of him tonight. Yep, his fellow thrill-seekers were a randy bunch, which was why he was so adamantly against any of the males getting close to his sister.

His other hand took the wheel when his phone rang on the seat beside him. The screen told him it was Danny. Speak of the devil.

“If you’re going to ask me about joining the group tonight, the answer’s no.” He wasn’t about to let her interfere in his night of sex play. Way too awkward.

“If I felt like it, I’d be there already.”

He didn’t like the tone, didn’t like that he couldn’t order her around anymore. “Then, what do you want?”

“Janice just called. She’s worried about Mel.”

“And why would she be?” Melanie was at home. He’d left her there a half hour ago.

“Because she’s acting weird. In Janice’s words ‘more slutty than usual.’ I thought you could at least stop by Jake’s and make sure she’s okay.”

“Jake’s! What the hell…”

“Look,” Danny purred in his ear, “if you don’t go, I will.”

“The hell you will!” His sister getting mauled in a joint like Jake’s? Forget it. “Just hang tight, I’m turning around.”

He cut the wheel hard. Tires screamed as he punched the clutch, shifted into first and leaned into the illegal U-turn. The 425 Hemi engine roared. The rear end fishtailed nicely before gripping the asphalt once again.

Time to test the limits of his ride.


Derek blew through the door, looked around until his eyes adjusted to the dim, smoky interior. Grunge rock blasted the place and a handful of patrons lined the bar, a few at the tables. A familiar shriek pricked his ears. He swore under his breath when Melanie’s blond head appeared above the others.

She was smiling down at some brute who’d just plunked her onto the bar. Wearing an obscenely short pleated skirt, her velvety thighs were bared to roaming hands.

When she spotted him cutting through the bar, her face fell.

Was he really ruining her day that much? “Get down.” His tone demanded obedience.

The lumberjack made a full body turn and faced Derek with an amused once-over. “Hey, short-shit. Take the long road.”

Undaunted, Derek’s eyes never strayed from Melanie’s and he held out his hand. She didn’t take it. “I’m not letting you do this,” he said finally, aware of Janice’s wide-eyed stare as she dried glasses behind the bar. The women were what he focused on. The meathead in front him, not so much.

“Look you little dick.” A hammy hand grabbed his outstretched arm. “I said get the hell away from my date.”

It took one elbow to the jaw. The man went down like a sack of spuds. Dirty pool, Derek thought, but he wasn’t in the mood to listen to the spiel. “Thanks, Janice,” he said, and took both of Melanie’s wrists. Her mouth was still open as he pulled her down, her bare cheeks squeaking against the polished surface of the bar.

“What did you do?” Melanie breathed as she gaped at the body on the floor.

But Derek didn’t answer as he dragged her out the door and through the parking lot. No, he was much too livid to interact with her just yet. Fucking high heels and a skirt like that… it’s a wonder she hadn’t been gang-banged in the first five minutes.

Not bothering to load her through the passenger side, Derek opened his door and forced her behind the wheel where she obediently scooched to make room. She was brooding, arms crossed under ample breasts when the engine roared to life.

“That wasn’t very nice,” she snapped. “The least you could do is give him fair warning that you’re stronger than you look.”

Derek sawed his teeth together, reached for the sunglasses on the dash as he steered out of the lot and directly into the setting sun. Why he was so damned angry he didn’t know. Melanie was her own woman, always had been. Why shouldn’t he let her pimp herself out to any blowhard with a penis?

The black Challenger sailed toward her neighborhood, entered a barren stretch of two-lane highway that bridged one suburb with another.

“I’m not going home.” When he didn’t reply, she said, “My car is still at Jake’s.”

“You should have thought about that before you left your apartment.”

“Derek Bennett, you can just kiss my ass!”

To his utter shock, she reached for the door handle. His instep mashed the brakes and the car came to a choked stop on the shoulder. By the time he’d set the emergency brake, she was huffing it on foot back toward town.


She didn’t bother to turn around. “If you’re strutting behind me in those sunglasses and tight jeans, you can get back in your pony car and go fuck yourself.”

He caught up with her easily, hoisted her up from behind and carried her under his arm. Wind blew up her skirt exposing her thong to any traffic that might drive by.

“Derek, put me down!”

“You didn’t mind baring your ass in public a minute ago.”

He opened the passenger door, cursed when her high-heel put a scratch in the paint. “You’re pushing it, Mel!” he thundered with outrage. Unwilling to risk the shoes again, he threw her down across the warm hood and gathered her hands behind her back. She was bent over in a most arousing position, her bottom half covered with little more than floss and a band of pleated plaid. Her long, silken hair fanned out over the scoop, and she screamed in frustration, kicked. Derek wedged his legs between hers in order to keep the jewels from taking a hit.

He leaned over her. “Are we going to calm down?”

“I hate you!”

“I thought you loved me.”

“You’ll never hear me say it again!”

“And you’ll never hear me say it at all,” he growled.

“Then, leave me alone!”

But that was the problem. He couldn’t. The thought angered him more than her rebellious move at Jake’s, but he’d be damned if he’d lose this battle alone. She was going down with him and, by the hungry look in her eyes, he didn’t think it would be a problem.


Moments later, his body dropped, forearms impacting heavily with the hood on each side of her head. His breath warmed her cheek.

“That… was so unfair,” she panted, though a post-coital smile played at her lips.

Derek squinted his eyes to clear the mud from his brain. Damned if he’d ever be able to see straight again. “Yes, it was. Remember that next time you want to work me up before kicking me to the curb.”

“I didn’t know it would make you so mad,” she breathed. “But I think I need to be taught another lesson.”

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