FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from BLACK HILLS RANCHER by Debra Salonen #BlackHillsRendezvous

 BLACK HILLS RANCHER, Black Hills Rendezvous, Book 8

Black-Hills-Rancher-Kobo

The last thing Cade Garrity expected when he went to Sentinel Pass to meet Jessie Bouchard—a prospective, short-term tenant willing to trade a little childcare in return for a discounted rent—was to save her life. But the video her twin sister, Remy, shot doesn’t lie. And the fact that the nutcase who booby-trapped Jessie’s stunt is still on the loose makes it impossible for Cade to turn his back on her. But Cade married a woman who put satisfying her need for excitement ahead of her family–ahead of him–and it killed her. He’s not going down that road again no matter how much he desires Jessie Bouchard.

Despite what people think, Jessie does not have a death wish. She learned at a young age the only way to handle pain and fear was to face it head on. That’s what she does. And she’s convinced herself that living for the moment is enough–until she meets Cade and his daughter, Shiloh. There may be more to life than that next death-defying stunt, but does she deserve the kind of life Cade has to offer? She isn’t sure, and unless she finds the person who is trying to kill her, she won’t get a chance to answer that question.


FIRST KISS Excerpt © Loner Llama Press:

 

She stopped moving away from him. “I’m not easy.” She blanched and added quickly, “I don’t mean sexually. I mean, in general. But you have a daughter and I…I have my career.”

“So, we keep those things separate.”

He reached out to touch the side of her face. “Neither of those excuses is good enough to keep me from kissing you. Got any better ones?”

He looked into her eyes and waited, watching for his answer. Her lips parted…and smiled. “Not really.”

“Good.” Then he leaned over to press his lips to hers. Soft and warm. Nice. Very nice. But salty.

As if reading his mind, she pulled back and licked her lips. “You taste like sea water.”

Which, apparently, wasn’t a bad thing because she moved closer and kissed him again, lips parted this time, welcoming his tongue to explore and parry. The deeper he explored, the sweeter she tasted. Root beer and ice cream sweet. Jessie Bouchard sweet.

He broke it off because his body started telling him it was more than happy to take things to the next level. Whoa. Not so fast, he silently cautioned. One step at a time. He didn’t know for certain he could pull off a casual, summer fling, no strings attached. But he sure as heck wanted to consider the option.

“Nice,” he said taking a step back.

“It was.” She sounded surprised. “You’re a good kisser. And here you gave me the impression you were out of practice.”

He could tell she was teasing, but he definitely didn’t want to talk about his dating disasters of late. He hadn’t gone out with anyone since arriving in South Dakota. In part, because he’d come to the conclusion that single fathers of a certain age should never let their friends or family set them up on blind dates.

“I haven’t roped for ten years, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how.”

~~~

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Happy reading! And thank you, thank you, thank you, for remembering to leave a review!

Deb

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY: MONTANA COWBOY by Debra Salonen


 Montana COWBOY

Austen Zabrinski looks the part —

He’s got the ranch, the boots, the hat and even a few head of cattle, but everybody in Marietta, Montana, knows the former golden boy of Marietta High is a wealthy politician, not a cowboy. And even though that nasty scandal in Helena might have knocked him down a notch or two in the polls, what kind of a fool would trade access to the halls of power in Helena and a Harvard law degree for a ranch in western Montana? Possibly one whose new neighbor, Serena James–the woman the guys at Grey’s Saloon call “…the Red Hot Llama Mama”–makes him start to think about what he wants out of life, instead of what’s expected of him.

Serena James knows trouble when it hops her fence–

Moving to Montana and deleting her blog seemed like the perfect solution to her online stalker problem. Serena’s ready for a fresh start, but when her escrow on her ranch falls through, she has to scramble to find an immediate but temporary safe haven to rent for her herd of 50 alpacas, two llamas and one giant dog. Serena’s barely moved in when Austen Zabrinski–the man her landlord called “my absentee ranch owner brother who lives and works in Helena”–hops the fence in need of a lift. Even at first glance, Serena can tell he’s nobody cowboy, but who’s to say that isn’t a good thing? A little tryst with her gorgeous, sexy, here-today-gone-to-Helena-tomorrow neighbor might be the perfect welcome to Montana.


Excerpt © Tule Publishing

What’s his story?

Since they’d practically had sex–in her mind–she decided to ask.

Once he was seated with his safety belt snug across his flat belly, she turned the key in the ignition and put the truck in gear.

“So, fill me in. You own a ranch your brother called a tax write-off. You’ve as much as admitted you’re nobody’s cowboy. You wear three-hundred-dollar jeans. I don’t see a wedding ring. Your nose is sunburned. So I take that to mean you don’t have a wife or live-in girlfriend to remind you to put on sunscreen.”

He let out a gruff cough. “Very observant. The jeans are two years old.”

“But look brand new.”

“I don’t–didn’t–come to the ranch very often in the past.”

She waited.

“No wife. Never married. My last…friend-with-benefits wanted more than I’m in a position to give at the moment. I’m not sure we’re still friends. But I’m positive the benefits have been canceled.”

She’d always been a sucker for smart men with a sense of humor. The leftover dewy feeling in her crotch–and the fact she was a stranger in a strange land–made her bold. “So, if someone new to the area was interested in that sort of position–friends-with-benefits-no-strings-attached–how would one apply? Online? Or in person?”

He tossed back his head and gave a deep, masculine laugh that sent a stream of shivers down her spine, pooling conveniently in her already primed lady parts. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel.

Since they’d reached the end of her driveway and had no traffic behind her, she threw the shifter into park and turned to face him.

Before she could offer any slightly embarrassed disclaimer for such an obvious come on, he released the latch on his safety belt and moved closer.

“In person. I go with my gut. Usually one kiss will do. Either there’s chemistry or there’s not.”

“Chemistry. Crap. My least favorite subject in school. But I do like kissing.”

She leaned in, too.

#

Austen could have come up with a dozen–make that a trillion–reasons not to kiss this beautiful stranger. But, for all his reputed logic and claims he was a rule maker, not a rule breaker, he was lonely. And…as much as it killed him to admit the fact, he’d had reached a point where he was unsure of what to do next. Him. Rudderless. Now, living in the moment seemed like the only rational choice he had.

Besides…she offered. It wouldn’t be neighborly to turn her down. Right?

He caught her lips, which were softer than he’d imagined. A perfect match to his. Her eyes remained opened…for their initial contact, then her lids lowered in a sultry, utterly into it way that made him give a low, unplanned growl. What was it about that moment of surrender that brought out the beast in him?

When her perfect lips parted to invite him in, he closed his eyes, too. She tasted good. Mint gum? Maybe just leftover toothpaste. But there was sweetness, as well. A hint of honey. And he wanted more.

While his mouth plundered, his hands moved down her back to pull her closer.

“Um, oh…no. Seatbelt,” she murmured.

He pulled back and looked down. “Oh. Duh.”

He stabbed the release button so she could slip free of it.

They stalled…for half a second before she grinned and plastered herself against him. “Um. You’re a good kisser. Very good. But I want you to be sure. No doubts.”

She wasn’t aggressive, just methodical. As if she were hitting all the bullet points in a textbook called Rules of Kissing. Austen could have stopped her at any point and said, “You’re hired.” But a part of him couldn’t wait to be taken to school.

She nibbled and teased. Her tongue engaged his in a clever, nonverbal debate. A first for him. Kissing had always been a mere step on the road to the big show. With Serena, a stranger, the playful exploration was fun.

What would sex be like with her?

Would? Hell, no. Will. What will sex with Serena be like?

He wrapped his arms around her possessively. He had to find out. Now. Right now.

Honk. Honk.

 🙂

 ~~~

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Deb

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from HER REBEL TO KISS by Debra Salonen #Love, Montana

Book 3 – Love, Montana

HER REBEL TO KISS

A masked ball. Two star-crossed lovers. A New Year’s Eve kiss at midnight. Who says Fate doesn’t have a sense of humor?

 

Excerpt HER REBEL TO KISS © Tule Publishing:

“It’s that time, my friends. Grab a glass of champagne and that special person. Here we go. Ten…nine…”

Bailey’s voice got drowned out by the crowd.

“Eight…seven…”

He closed his arms around Nicole to keep her safe as more people flooded onto the dance floor.

“Six,” she said, looking directly into his eyes. The lights had come up so he could study the subtle hues mixed in the blue of her irises.

Beautiful eyes.Familiar, somehow.

“Five,” a voice boomed to his left.

Tucker, who was holding Amanda the same way Justin held Nicole, gave Justin a guy-nod that seemed to say, “Way to go, bro!”

Justin liked to think he didn’t need his friends’ validation to feel good about his choices, but this time he was navigating new waters. Dangerous waters. This woman was about to become his boss. That couldn’t be good.

But Nicole didn’t feel dangerous or threatening.

“Four…”

She felt as though she’d been made to dance with him. They fit together perfectly. He liked every thing about her, except her job.

“Three…” If he and Nicole were going to do this, he had to make sure they had an end game in place.

New Year’s Eve. Maybe the weekend. They’d play that part by ear, but after Monday nothing could happen between them.

“Two,” he said softly.

“One,” she whispered, looking into his eyes with a question he was ready to answer.

“Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year,” he said before lowering his head to press his lips to hers.

He expected the usual few minutes of testing the waters, feeling each other out, but that didn’t happen. From the moment their lips met, he felt as if he’d crossed the Rubicon. This wasn’t a one-time deal. They’d done this a million times. Together. Theirs was a reunion of souls kissing across eons, remembering.

Her lips parted, her tongue seeking his without hesitation. He hadn’t expected such frankness, but her greedy pleasure made him need more, too.

He closed his eyes and immersed himself in her sweetness, a combination of honey and spice. He would have gone on exploring this newfound fascination forever if not for the sensation of something touching his head. He pulled back and look around.

“The balloons,” Nicole cried, letting go of him to tap at the large white, gold and silver balloons cascading around them.

Confetti shot from somewhere nearby added to the glitter and excitement. Nicole was pulled from his arms to exchange air kisses and hugs with perfect strangers. Justin found himself in a bear hug, too.

“Helluva thing, huh? Beats the crap out of last year,” Tucker said.

Justin clapped Tucker on the back. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“I mean starting the year off with someone you care about. There’s a first time for everything, Ona always says.”

Ona, Tucker’s Cajun grandmother, was a font of truisms. Justin had met her twice and loved the dear woman as the grandmother he’d never had. I wonder what Ona would say about me kissing my future boss? Probably something arcane about not defecating where you eat, damn it.

He caught up with Nicole before anyone else could dance her away. He grabbed her hand and spun her slightly off-balance back into his arms. “Unfinished business,” he mumbled against her lips.

She may have started to protest but her reaction changed the minute she realized this kiss meant business. His tongue wasn’t polite or inquisitive. Justin knew what he wanted, and it started now. They were both breathless when he broke off the kiss before embarrassing himself too badly. His body reacted to her in a way he didn’t remember happening with any of his previous lovers.

“You’re coming with me, right?”

“That depends on which of our rooms is closer.”

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DEB

FIRST KISS = TUESDAY: MONTANA SECRET SANTA by Debra Salonen #whatlovetasteslike

 


 

Snippet © Debra Salonen:

With the entire table pressed into taste-testing service, Jonah stood and motioned for Krista to follow him across the room to an open space near a gorgeous holiday display. “Mom assured me this Santa thing won’t take every hour of every day. She said it’s gotten a lot easier since your partner set up an online presence.”

Krista tried not to inhale too deeply because his scent–a combination of winter fresh air, chocolate, and hint of pine–was too distracting. “We might consider creating a private Facebook group and doing the initial critique process for wishes there.”

He held up a hand for a high-five. “Great idea. Then, a few of us can meet here each morning to brainstorm ways to fill the agreed upon wishes and set a budget.”

The touch of his palm connected in a weird way that made her close her fingers in a fist as she dropped her hand to her side. “I may not be able to make every…” She pictured the check. “I’ll be here.”

“Me, too. It’ll be the incentive I need to walk the dogs early. Tonight, I’ll set up an overall plan and flowchart so we can track when and how our requests come in. We’ll need to do the same for the income side of things. I’m curious as to why the donation well suddenly went dry. The sooner we get our account set up online, the sooner we can track things in real time.”

Krista found his analytical approach reassuring. His grand gesture with the check might have had a bit of the theater behind it, but his approach to business was a lot like her own.

“Simple and transparent works for me. As I said earlier, my family is in show business. Nothing is ever straightforward when you’re surrounded by thespians.”

He moved a smidgen closer. “Simplicity of design is key to both my inventions and my business strategy. When I start overthinking something, I step back for a new perspective. I usually hop on my bike. Exercise is a great distraction for an overactive mind.”

“Well, this is Montana. Your bike riding is going to be limited to cycling in the gym for the next few months.”

She chewed on her bottom lip debating about how frank to be. He’d given her ten thousand reasons to say yes to this partnership, but what exactly would that involve? Her inner bullshit reader said he had to have another agenda. And she sure as heck never considered herself a spokesperson for Christmas.

“Blue Sky is my baby. Christmas is a one-off. Four weeks. Blow and go. It’s over and done and I’m looking at a new month, a new intern and no jobs lined up.”

“What about your partner? Is she out of the picture completely?”

Krista didn’t know and the not knowing kept her awake at night. She hated ambiguity. Black and white. Bottom line. Profit and loss. Those were her touchstones.

“Amanda should be able to provide backup by phone. But I want you to know that Blue Sky will always be my first priority.”

He held out his hand. “Understood.”

She shook it twice, intending to let go and return to their table, but as Sage passed by on her way to the counter, she said, “Mistletoe.”

“Huh?”

“What?”

Sage pointed up. “House rules. A kiss is mandatory.”

Krista groaned. She’d witnessed this bit of holiday mischief several times when she’d been in the shop. “But–“

Before she could express her protest, Jonah wrapped his arms around her–not unlike the way he had when he broke her fall. Only this time, he was in front of her. And his lips hovered an inch from hers, waiting for permission.

She closed her eyes and leaned in to get the silly kiss over.

The instant his lips touched hers, the magnitude of her mistake hit. Not only had Jonah Andrews been drinking her favorite cocoa, but the sweetness mixed with his natural chemistry created a potent combination that made her knees turn rubbery and her heart begin to pound. She kissed him back because she was powerless to do otherwise.

Luckily, a smattering of applause brought her back to her senses.

Cheeks burning, she turned and bowed. Being the daughter of an actor had to be good for something, right?

~~~

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Deb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from BLACK HILLS OUTCAST by Debra Salonen #BlackHillsRendezvous

 BLACK HILLS OUTCAST, Black Hills Rendezvous, Book 6 

 Excerpt © Loner Llama Press:

“Are you an actor?”

He made a scoffing sound. “Good grief, no. I stay as far away from the Sentinel Passtime people as possible. I’m sure they’re nice enough, but their energy is enervating.”

Books. Art. Silk. Vocabulary words. She searched his face but nothing came to her. His beard was starting to fluff out again as it dried. His hair had filled in around his face covering his ears. He was starting to look more like the Rufus she knew.

“Listen, Rachel, I’m sorry about the peep show. I didn’t expect you for a couple of hours. I needed to think, and I do my best thinking in a bath. The house design didn’t lend itself to an indoor tub and I don’t like the cold well enough to sit in one outside in the winter, so I had the copper tub made. I call it my Saturday night special,” he said, a sort of self-deprecating humor in his tone.

She knew he bathed more often than once a week. “Today’s Tuesday.”

“I know. Like I said, I needed to think.”

Now, the humor was gone and something faintly foreboding seemed to linger in the air. “You’re pulling the plug on your Web site, aren’t you?”

“Not the sales part, but everything else,” he admitted.

She’d sensed his growing disenchantment with the whole online-community concept, but she’d ignored his concerns in favor of what she thought best for him. Shades of Mom, Jack would have said.

“Then, I guess we’re done here,” she said, trying to salvage a scrap of pride. She started toward where he was standing, intending to leave. He didn’t need her. No one did. Not really.

“Rachel,” he said, his voice low and conflicted. He stepped to the left to block her way. His large, warm hand closed around her forearm when she tried to push him aside. “You’re wrong about that.”

Then he pulled her to him, his arms enclosing her in a cocoon of warmth that made her think she might be in the middle of one of his Dreamhouses. Safe and secure.

His kiss was not at all what she was expecting. Soft, gentle and far too proper—at first. When she tilted her head and leaned into him, his reaction matched hers. Their tongues got involved. Their breathing changed. Her hands were touching—or were they gripping?—his massive shoulders.

She’d wanted to do that since day one. As wrong as it was, she’d never experienced anything that felt so right—even the odd, cushiony texture of his beard. She wanted more. Everything. Every inch of that gorgeous body she’d seen in the water.

At what price, Rachel? Her mother’s voice. You mixed business and pleasure once before and look how well that turned out.

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Deb

First Kiss=Tuesday from HER ROGUE TO TAME by Debra Salonen #Love, Montana

 

HER  ROGUE TO TAME

Love, Montana, Book II

Roommates with benefits. A temporary arrangement between two people with time on their hands. Who could possibly get hurt?

“Get your Zip On” – That’s Tucker Montgomery‘s slogan for the new zip line he’s building near Marietta, Montana. But before Tucker can get the first pole in the ground, he suffers an injury that could cost him everything, until help arrives in a surprising–but gorgeous–package: Amanda Heller. They’ll share her grandmother’s guesthouse while he supervises the old Victorian’s restoration… all with the added benefit of exploring a sizzling mutual attraction.

Amanda Heller knows her exile to Montana is her family’s excuse to spare them the embarrassing fallout from her very public break-up with her ex-boss’s son that left her jobless and living in her parent’s Manhattan home. But then Amanda strikes a bargain with injured, sexy businessman Tucker Montgomery, who needs a place to stay while recovering. A hot summer fling seems just the thing for Amanda and Tucker, something to enjoy for a month or two tops. Most certainly not long enough to fall in love….

 ~~~~~

         FIRST KISS ©Tule Publishing:

He let out a sigh of relief when saw Justin catch up to Amanda. He could see them arguing but couldn’t hear a word over the rumble of a second cement truck idling in line. The concrete guys all huddled in readiness to shovel the wet cement into the hole and spread it around the four-foot square base as soon as the wet concoction started down the chute.

At the last possible second, Justin snatched the box from Amanda’s hands and dove for the hole. Luckily, the plan called for six inches of cement to go into the hole as a base for the pole that would then be raised in place using winches and pulleys.

Tucker held his breath as he saw Justin check the box then reach into the hole as far as he could. A second later, with the help of two concrete guys, he popped back to his feet.

Justin spun around to give Tucker a thumbs-up gesture at the same moment Amanda kicked him in the shins and stormed off.

Tucker was still laughing when Amanda reached him. “Your friend’s a glory hog. That was my job.”

“He didn’t want you to get dirty.”

“You didn’t trust me to do it right.”

It struck him that he and Justin accidentally had hurt her feelings. Did society girls suffer from wounded pride the way normal people did? “I was afraid you were going to break your neck or get run over by the cement truck.”

She crossed her arms and glared at him. “I’m tougher than I look. You have to be to survive in a family like mine. Next time you ask for my help, forget it.”

He moved closer and did something he knew he’d regret later. He grabbed her firmly by the shoulders, letting his crutches fall. Balancing all his weight on his good leg, he pulled her to him and kissed her. Hard, but not fast. The opposite of fast. He took his time to experience every damn nuance, like how she resisted him for three and a half seconds. And how, when she gave in, her mouth softened and her lips parted to invite him in.

The thought crossed his mind that this was one of those I’ll-remember-this-moment-forever sort of thing. Was it? Would he never forget the first time he kissed Amanda Heller?

Of course not. She was just a pretty girl who kissed like a damn siren luring him to the wicked rocks where he’d crash and burn. There was nothing special about her. Other than her taste, maybe. Honey sweet but with some intangible something all her own.

But even if Amanda was different from all the other girls he’d kissed–and enjoyed–over the years, she most definitely wasn’t a long-term prospect. God, no. Not that he was looking for a forever love–something he knew existed because Ona and Twig had been inseparable right up till the day he died.

But even if Tucker bought into that happily-ever-after fantasy, he had way too much on his plate to get involved with Amanda Heller–even for the short term.

Too bad he had a feeling that decision was completely out of his hands. Her kiss told him she might be up for a little tryst he decided to call: “Roommates with benefits.”

 

 


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  ~~~~

Happy reading, my friends!

Deb

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY: A Thankful Heart by Melissa McClone #whatlovetasteslike

When is a first kiss not a first kiss?

I call this cute scene from A THANKFUL HEART — my friend Melissa McClone’s new Love at the Chocolate Shop a “near miss.” I think you’ll agree it’s just too charming to miss on a technicality.

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Snippet © Tule Publishing:

“I should let you get back to your father.”

“I’ll walk you to the door.” Bryce didn’t want to say goodnight. Not yet.

“This isn’t Seattle.”

“I know.” He got out of his truck and met her on the sidewalk. “But if Marietta didn’t have any crime, there wouldn’t be a police department.”

She narrowed her gaze. “Is everyone who lives in a big city this paranoid?”

“Not paranoid. Cautious.”

Bryce followed her up the steps. The wood creaked beneath his feet. Paint was peeling, but the structure looked solid. He’d love to see the inside, but his father was waiting at home.

The porch light bathed Dakota in a soft glow. Beautiful.

She looked up at him. “Thanks again for the ride.”

“Anytime.” And surprisingly, he meant it. “Though I doubt you’ll take me up on it again.”

Dakota raised her chin. “You never know.”

No, you don’t.

What Bryce knew was he wanted to do was kiss her. He didn’t know Dakota, but something about her appealed to him in a way he’d never felt. She captivated him.

Maybe it was the way she nurtured those around her. Or maybe it was her sense of humor that kept him off guard at unexpected times. Or maybe it was the easy way she’d forgiven him and accepted his apology.

His gaze traveled from her eyes to her lips.

Soft lips. The kind made for long, hot kisses.

His temperature shot up. His collar tightened.

Bryce wanted to kiss her, but that wasn’t why he was here. He straightened. “Keep us posted on what Lori says.”

Dakota stuck the key in the door. “Will do. Thanks again for the ride.”

She opened the door.

Something covered in fur bounded out and landed against him. He cringed, but this time the fight or flight response didn’t kick in. His muscles, however, tensed into hard knots. He hadn’t been prepared for another greeting from the beast, he managed not to be knocked backwards, but licking ensued.

More this time.

Bryce cringed. He really didn’t like big dogs. A good thing his dad kept hand sanitizer in the glove box.

~~~~~~

ath

 

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Deb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from MONTANA DARLING by Debra Salonen

First Kiss= TUESDAY

It’s October, Book Girls. We all know what that means:

Breast Cancer Awareness! 

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I’ve only written one book with a breast cancer surviver heroine, but Mia Zabrinski is one of my favorites. Heroic, stoic, determined to do the right for her children and herself–alone, if she must. And she certainly doesn’t expect to find someone who thinks she’s perfect. But a real hero loves with his whole heart–even if it’s battered and bruised from losses of his own. 

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EXCERPT ©DEBRA SALONEN:

He handed her one of the paper cups. “These should be cooled just enough. I come here once a week with my cocoa.”

 She snapped off the lid and lifted the rim to her lips. The lush warm smell made her taste buds gush. Her hand trembled a bit. Cocoa was made with sugar. Sugar fed cancer cells… Stop, a voice in her mind ordered. Her mother’s voice. Just enjoy for once.

 She took a sip. “Mmm,” she murmured, the cup’s rim still touching her bottom lip.

 She closed her eyes and drank more–a long, satisfying gulp of warm joy.

 She heard a clicking sound and looked at Ryker, who had his camera to his eye. “Sorry,” he said, still clicking. “The purity of satisfaction on your face was too perfect to pass up. Sage would pay me big bucks to let her use this image in her advertising.”

 His grin was so self-satisfied and unapologetic she wanted to yank the camera out of his hands, but in a way he reminded her of Hunter, who used to be that confident of his gifts, that happy when something he drew or made from a tub of Legos turned out. That was before he escaped into video games to avoid having to deal with his imploding family. She missed that look so much she could cry.

 Ryker distracted her, though, with a throaty, masculine chortle. “I almost forgot your test.”

 “What kind of test?”

 “You’ll see.” He stretched out his arms, fingers linked, like some kind of warm-up. The sunlight created something freakishly like glitter highlights in his mop of curls. The guy was handsome enough to be in a freakin’ TV commercial, she thought. He had the kind of face you couldn’t help liking and trusting. Hello, Ma’am. Might I interest you in something delicious but so bad for your body you may as well just throw in the towel? Trust me, you’ll love it.

 He set his camera aside and scooted forward. His butt must barely be touching the iron rail, she thought, resisting the urge to look. She hadn’t had sex–or even thought about sex–for so long she’d begun to wonder if her surgeon removed her libido along with all her other body parts. Most days she felt like a neutered cat, but, suddenly, seeing a handsome younger man balancing on the balls of his feet in a full squat while tempting her with some special, sinful treat, resonated with her inner cougar.

He unrolled the crimped bag, then reached inside with his long, beautiful fingers.

Who notices a man’s fingers, for God’s sake? she thought.

Horny, hormonal women with no social life.

“Close your eyes.”

“Again? I don’t think so. Standing on Main Street with people around was one thing, but you could have an ax in your backpack for all I know.”

His roar of laughter triggered a funny lightening inside her. She hadn’t laughed in too long. At what point had she turned hard and dry and humorless? No wonder her kids hated her.

Tears pricked behind her lids. She set her cup on one of the rails and leaned forward, too. Motioning for him to get on with what he had planned. “Just do it.”

He didn’t respond right away.

Nervous, she licked her lips. “Come on. I don’t have all day.”

“Open up.”

She swallowed first, the noise loud in her ears. Could he read her nervousness? She felt a blush creep into her cheeks.

Something small and soft was deposited carefully on her tongue. She closed her mouth and tasted. Flavors exploded so vividly she couldn’t quite register every aspect. The contrast of savory and sweet, smooth and chunky confused her brain’s identification centers. “Am I supposed to tell you what this is?” she said as well as she could manage without her saliva glands tripping her up.

“Yes.”

She kept her eyes closed so she could concentrate. “Caramel.”

It wasn’t a question.

“Uh-huh. Easy.”

“Dark chocolate. My favorite.”

For some reason, he groaned and muttered, “Really?”

“I’m pretty sure the tiny bit of crunch was sea salt.”

“Correct.” His tone was that of a teacher who expected her to fail.

Mia Zabrinski didn’t fail. She’d passed every test she’d ever taken…except for one–a mammogram.

She swished her tongue around, testing for the missing flavor. “Chili. Habanero, to be exact.”

She opened her eyes and looked at him. His wicked grin told her she’d gotten it wrong. “Close. Well, technically, I’d have given it to you if you’d left it at pepper. But Sage calls these Kick Starters. She’s been beta testing them for a week and finally settled on chipotle.”

The instant he said the word she tasted the lingering hint of smoke that had been masked by the rich warmth of the chocolate.

“Damn. You’re right.”

Their gazes met and held.

His eyes intrigued her, challenged her to go deeper and find out more about him. A foolish waste of time. The guy lived in a stupid tent. Winter was coming. He wouldn’t be sticking around for long. He was leaving. Not soon enough for her to get her basement dug, but soon.

A fact, which, a voice in her head reasoned, made him perfect for a rebound fling.

Once the word “fling” lodged in her brain she couldn’t unthink it. She’d been with two men in her life. First, her high school boyfriend who moved away their senior year and lasted about three letters and half a dozen phone calls before he broke up with her, and then she’d made the mistake of falling head over heels for her twin brother’s college roommate and best friend, Edward. Her college lover. Her husband. The narcissistic dilettante who abandoned her when she needed him most.

 Mia didn’t like it when people–especially strangers–invaded her space. Ryker’s face was closer than she normally tolerated, but she didn’t pull back. She couldn’t. His gaze seemed to look past the superficial aspects of her hair, her face, her features, to see into the depths of her soul to the damaged, brittle woman terrified to re-engage with life.

The last thing she needed was a man. A man who wanted something from her.

He wants my land, the lawyer in her thought.

He wants my body, the woman in her thought.

No. He only thinks he does.

“I have–had–.” She never knew how to put it. “Um…breast cancer.”

“That must have sucked.”

“It wasn’t the high point of my life. But I’m on the road to recovery. All my tests have come back clear. I caught it early and wiped it out at the source.”

She shifted her shoulders unconsciously feeling the dull reminder of the implants.

“You’ll feel more like yourself if you don’t have to lug around prosthetics,” Mom had coaxed.

“I don’t plan to wear falsies, Mom. I’ll be flat chested for the rest of my life. Lots of women are.”

“You won’t be happy with that, Mia,” Doctor Sharsmith had insisted. “Your clothes won’t fit right. Your femininity will take a serious hit. I’ve had patients who chose that route, but within six months they changed their minds. Breasts are a part of your body image, Mia. Let me give you back your natural curves.”

 So, she’d agreed to more surgeries. More risks. More fear that she might not wake up from the anesthesia, and her poor children would be left in the care of their irresponsible and morally challenged father.

Now, she was outwardly normal–or some vague semblance of normal. She was skinny. Weak. Vulnerable to germs. Terrified of carcinogens, sugar, processed foods, and artificial dyes. She hated looking at herself in the mirror, and the question had crossed her mind lately whether or not any man would ever desire her?

 If she wasn’t totally mistaken, this man found her attractive. Or thought he did.

Maybe this is a distraction to game me into giving up my land.

Like that would happen.

Members of the Big Sky Mavericks never gave up.

Period.

Suddenly feeling more like her old self than she had in months, she leaned in and kissed him. Three…four…seconds of heart-stopping strangeness. His lips solidly touching hers. No tongue or heavy breathing, just a tingling caused no doubt by the “mones,” as her future sister-in-law called the little buggers.

Bailey. Cake tasting.

She jerked back. “Cake.”

“No, thanks. But I wouldn’t mind another kiss.”

~~~

Mia’s a fighter, a survivor and a mom. If you need a bit of inspiration before you head to your annual mammogram…

MontanaDarling-MEDIUM

iBooks      KOBO       AMAZON       BN       GooglePLAY

Happy reading,

Deb

PS: you can get more insights into this couple’s HEA in MONTANA MAVERICK and MONTANA MIRACLE

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from Melt My Heart, Cowboy by C. J. Carmichael #whatlovetasteslike

Please welcome my friend and fellow “Love at the Chocolate Shop” author, C. J. Carmichael, whose new novel MELT MY HEART, COWBOY has just released. I love C. J.’s writing style and her wonderful, deeply thought-out characters. This particular snippet made me laugh. I immediately created this meme below, which I call “Cowboy Logic.”

melt-my-heart-cowboy-quote

I hope you enjoy the snippet and I really hope you’ll join us at our Launch Party tomorrow on Facebook between 3-8 PM (pacific). Here’s the link to join the Main Street Marietta group. (You’re not in any way obligated to remain in the group after the party, but, of course, we hope you will fall in love with Marietta and our wonderful group of readers, authors and friends.) MAIN STREET MARIETTA FB


 

FIRST KISS Excerpt © C. J. Carmichael:

“Sounds like your mom was pretty special.”

“She was.” When they were both finished eating, he got up to clear the table. “And so was your dad, I hear. The owner of the hardware store was telling me that your dad was a bestselling novelist.”

“It’s true.”

“That’s impressive. Do you have any of his books?”

“Of course. They’re in my parents’ bedroom. My dad did all his writing there. Want to see?”

She was obviously proud of her father, which was kind of adorable. “I do.”

He followed her down the hall to the spacious master bedroom. The spotless room had a museum-type aura about it, no doubt because it hadn’t been lived in for many months. Brant’s attention went first to the large king-sized bed, made pristinely, with a folded quilt at the edge. Rosie walked past this, to the far corner where a large desk was flanked by a filing cabinet and a bookshelf.

First thing he noticed was a portrait of a handsome couple in their fifties. “This your parents?”

“Yes. They had that portrait taken shortly after my Mom’s cancer diagnosis.”

“They were older then, your parents?”

“Mom was almost thirty when she had Daniel, and forty-one with me.”

“Interesting. There’s a big gap between Sara Maria and me, too.”

“Not the easiest way to have a family. I was only eight when Daniel moved out of the house. I hardly knew him until Mom got sick. After that he was a lot better about phoning regularly. And he came home every Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Brant nodded, but made no comment about there being a lot of days in the year between Christmas and Thanksgiving. During that time he supposed Rosie had shouldered the brunt of the care for their parents.

“And here are the books.” Rosie pointed to a row of mass paperbacks on the lower shelf. “All twenty-two novels, in order of publication.”

“Impressive.” He opened one at random and read the dedication, which was to “my son Daniel Linn, the screenwriter.”

“Sounds like your dad was pretty proud of your brother.”

“We all were. And I still am, of course. He’s working on an idea for TV series right now. If it gets backing, it will really make his career.”

“Sounds exciting. Guess you can’t wait to get to move there and be a part of it?”

She nodded.

“It’s good to have dreams.”

“Do you?”

“I’m more about living for the moment.”

“Is that a fact?”

“Like this moment. Right now.”

He wondered if she was aware how close they were standing, their shoulders just inches apart. He could see sandy-colored freckles on her nose, and the sweep of her eyelashes as she glanced from him to the bookshelf.

He reached out to touch her hair, which was trying to escape her hair clasp again. “I think this is about to fall out.” Indeed as soon as he touched it, the plastic clip fell to the floor and curls tumbled thickly around her sweet, round face.

Her gaze locked in on his and her pink lips parted.

Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea in the world. But he had to kiss her.

Gently sliding one hand around her back, brushing the back of her head with the other, he pressed his lips to hers.

For several intoxicating seconds all thoughts were swept from his mind.

Then he felt her hand on his chest. A soft push away.

“What’s wrong?”

“This isn’t a good idea. We have a deal. We’re…business partners.”

“That’s one way to look at our situation. Here’s another. We’re two friends doing favors for one another.”

“Friends? A week ago you barely knew my name.”

New friends then. And you know what happens to men and women who become friends? They often turn into lovers. It happens every day.”

“But—I’m going to be moving.”

“You’re here now. Let me ask you this—did you like the kiss?”

Eyes luminous, she nodded.

“Then how about we try it again?”

~~~

melt_450

Melt My Heart, Cowboy is available now!

Amazon / Nook / Kobo / iBooks

 

chocshoppartymeme1

 

 

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY: Caleb’s Christmas Wish by Debra Salonen #WestCoastHEA

CALEB’S CHRISTMAS WISH – West Coast Happily-Ever-After,  Book III

How far would you go for the sake of a child?

Black Friday. Black ice. Lives changed in a blink.

The lines in Miami financier Jake Westin’s world are crisp and easy to delineate: black and red, profit and loss. On paper. Until the day after Thanksgiving when Allison Jeffries—a woman he’s heard about for four and a half years but never met—calls to tell him the world they’ve shared from opposite sides of the country will never be the same. Pam and Kenny Rydell—Jake’s best friend and only link to the “bad ol’ days” of his youth—died in a car accident on the way to a Sierra ski resort, leaving their son, Caleb, with his grandmother, who upon hearing the news of her only daughter’s death went into cardiac arrest. In an instant, Caleb’s godparents—two grieving strangers who never imagined the worst-case scenario becoming a reality—must decide how to best care for the little boy they both love.

Jake is determined to do the right thing for Caleb—even if that means facing demons from his own loss-filled childhood and dealing with the woman Kenny called “a sweetheart but wound too tight for her own good.” Allison suffers no illusion that she’d make a good mother. After all, hasn’t she let her computer business fill the gap left by a failed marriage and aborted pregnancy? But she’ll do anything in her power to give her godson the life Pam intended for her son—even if that means sharing a house with the charismatic stranger Pam teasingly called “Jake the Rake–a broken heart waiting to happen.”


 

FIRST KISS Excerpt © Debra Salonen:

 

“I’m home. And I have pizza.”

Allison’s cheerful greeting made Jake want to crawl under the table. She’d been working in Fresno all day while he and Caleb had delivered canned goods, done a little Christmas shopping and taken a nap. Now, instead of giving his partner some much-needed down time, he was leaving her alone to care for a rowdy little rascal who refused to bathe.

“Ummm, pizza,” Caleb cheered, racing past Jake to meet her at the back door. “I want pizza. I want pizza.”

Jake hurried after him. Even though he felt guilty about leaving, Jake rationalized that this outing wasn’t entirely his fault. He’d been coerced by Richard, who wanted to introduce Jake to the volunteer firemen. The group planned to honor Kenny at a memorial next month and needed Jake’s input.

“Let me help,” Jake said, hurrying to relieve Allison of a plastic bag obviously filled with a six-pack of cans.

“Thanks,” she said. “The handle was cutting off circulation to my fingers.” She shook her hand then walked to the kitchen counter where she placed a large cardboard box and a paper sack.

“So how did we do today?” she asked, stealing a piece of pepperoni off the pie. “Cans galore?”

“We topped last year’s total by how much, Caleb?”

“Six million,” the little boy said, taking the paper plates and napkins out of the sack.

“Six hundred,” Jake corrected, trying not to laugh.

“Wow,” Allison exclaimed. She hung up her coat and washed her hands. “That’s impressive. How ’bout money-wise?”

“Eight trillion dollars,” Caleb said his eyes aglitter.

Jake loved to see his godson joke. This was the child he remembered from summer. Jake extended his arms in an impression of Frankenstein and ambled toward the little boy. “How much?” he roared.

“Eight thousand,” Caleb squealed, dodging left when Jake lurched right. Napkins flew into the air. Allison tried to catch them and wound up tripping over Jake’s foot. His only recourse to prevent her from falling was to snatch her into his outstretched arms, which curled backwards without conscious thought.

“Oh,” Allison said, with a small exhale. Her face was close to Jake’s. Her breath carried the tangy scent of pepperoni.

“Eiou,” Caleb cried, ducking behind the paper plates he still held. “Kissing. Just like Mommy and Daddy.”

Allison righted herself almost immediately and stepped back. “Sorry.”

“No apology needed. It was my fault.”

Caleb yanked on Jake’s pocket. “You didn’t kiss her.”

“Well, no…I…um.” Jake felt his face heat up. He was rarely speechless, but this was definitely one of those times.

“Shall we eat?” Allison asked, her voice wobbly. “I’m starved.”

Caleb tugged again and motioned Jake to bend down for a private chat. In a loud whisper, the child said, “You have to kiss her. Girls like kisses. We can’t lose another mom, Jake.”

Jake’s breath left him. He put his hand to his face and squeezed the bridge of his nose to keep his tears at bay.

Suddenly, he sensed Allison’s presence. She picked up Caleb and put her free arm around Jake’s back to pull him into a hug. “Everybody likes kisses,” she said softly. She pressed her lips to his cheek, and then did the same to Caleb.

The child hugged her fiercely then wiggled free. “Can I have chocolate milk with my pizza?”

Allison smiled. “Sure. There’s a carton in the door of the fridge.”

Her arm was still touching him. Her warmth enveloped him. Her scent made his mouth water. Girls weren’t the only ones who liked kisses. He lowered his head and touched his lips to hers. She gave a startled peep but didn’t move away. He kissed her again, his tongue teasing her lips that parted hesitantly.

The whooshing sound of the refrigerator door closing made her jump back. Her expression was unreadable, but her blush told him she was embarrassed and regretted the kiss. Jake wished he did, but in all honesty, he wanted more.

~~~

Caleb’s Christmas Wish is available from these fine vendors!

Amazon / Nook / Kobo / iBooks / Google Play

 

Thanks for reading! Your positive reviews are greatly appreciated!!

Deb