FIRST KISS TUESDAY: Black Hills Native Son by Debra Salonen

 BLACK HILLS NATIVE SON, Black Hills Rendezvous, Book 5

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His journey of discovery brings more than he ever hoped—a son, and the woman he was meant to love.

Eli Robideaux’s vision quest takes him down a road he never wanted to walk—to the past. His mistakes—even the ones he made for the right reasons—have come back to haunt him. He doesn’t understand why, but stumbling across Char Jones feels like grabbing on to a lifeline that might keep him from falling into the bone-deep despair that had been his father’s ruin.

No one is more surprised than Char when the unrequited love of her life walks into her Black Hills store, looking for the missing pieces of himself. She holds the key to one of those pieces—the son Eli never knew they had, the baby she put up for adoption. But is she brave enough to let go of her guilt and lead them on a journey that could hold love and hope…or almost certain heartbreak?

 


Eli has just learned that he had sex with underage Char the night before his wedding. He has no memory of the event because he’d been partying hard when he got in a fight with his cousin and may have suffered a concussion. Char took care of him at her aunt’s “kitchen” clinic. Since she’d been in love with Eli for as long as she could remember, she felt fate had given her a once-in-lifetime opportunity to live out her fantasy. As with many fantasies, there were repercussions—in Char’s case a pregnancy.

 

FIRST KISS Excerpt © Debra Salonen:

 

“Where’d we do it?”

She shook her head, as if she’d been expecting the question. “Pam saw patients in a small room off the kitchen. It was a screened porch when my grandparents lived there. She bought a used examination table from an old clinic. The back was raised about like this.” She held her hand horizontally between them then made the fingers tilt upward to a sixty-degree angle. “I thought it would better to keep your head elevated.”

He could have said something coarse but he managed to bite his tongue. “You were on top?”

“Yeah. It seemed safer—concussion wise.”

He turned to look at her, but it took too much effort to keep his gaze off her chest so he slumped down again and closed his eyes. “Do you really expect me to believe that a virgin would climb on top of an injured guy in her aunt’s make-shift E.R. where anybody could walk in?”

He heard her take in a deep breath, but he willed his eyes to remain closed. No leering.

“It didn’t take all that long, Eli. I put my hand down there and you were instantly hard. The smart thing would have been to give you a blow job, but I didn’t know how.”

His eyes popped open. “What do you mean you didn’t know how? That’s a no-brainer.”

The car made another unscheduled jog back and forth across the middle divider as she tossed up her hands on the steering wheel. “I’m sure I could have figured it out, but at the time, I didn’t want to look like a novice. Everyone said Bobbi was the best in school when it came to giving bj’s, and since you were marrying her the next day…”

He groaned, wishing he’d never asked. His soon-to-be ex-wife was a topic he had no intention of discussing. “So you got naked and hopped on top of me?”

“You wish,” she sputtered tapping the brakes to round a curve in the road. “Like you said, anybody could have walked in. As it happened, when Robert brought you in, it was past midnight. I’d already changed into my nightgown.”

Nightgown? A tingle of something he didn’t want to acknowledge shot down his spine. He gulped loudly. “Pink flannel?”

Her shoulders lifted and fell. “I don’t know. Maybe. Yeah, actually, I think it was. We had a warm spring, then, suddenly in early June, the weather turned cold. I remember someone saying if it snowed on her wedding, Bobbi was going to make the weatherman pay.”

He muttered a string of words he’d have busted his son’s chops for using. He’d had a dream for years that he secretly called his guilty pedophile dream. Only now he knew it wasn’t a dream, it was a memory.

Neither said anything for several miles. They were approaching the intersection of the main highway—he knew because he could see the cross-members of her white teepee—when he worked up the nerve to ask, “So, you had an abortion, huh?”

“What?”

Her shriek made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. She stomped on the brakes so hard he had to brace his hands on the dash, despite the safety belt that cut into his chest. The rebound slammed him against the seat.

The car slid sideways to a stop in the gravel driveway they’d left an hour or so earlier. “Get out. You’re not the man I thought you were. Back then or now. Go. Take the money I gave you and leave. Now.”

She reached across him to open the passenger door. Her body touched him—that is, her wool jacket pressed against his grubby thermal sweatshirt, which covered a couple of other layers. There was nothing sexual in the touch. Nothing sexual between them. Only anger and hurt on her part, and confusion and desperation on his. No reason in the freaking world for him to kiss her.

But he did. Hard, fast, deep, hot. And what flared to life like a fire carefully banked in a stark, barren hearth made less sense than anything that had happened so far. But, Lord God, it felt good. It felt real. Like a lifeline that would keep him from falling into the bone deep despair that had been his father’s ruin.

The last thing in the world Char had expected was for Eli to kiss her. Not a mushy Thank-God-I-finally-found-you kiss. Things like that only happened in romance novels. No. His lips were icy-cold, despite the heat blasting from the defroster, which she’d forgotten to turn off. His breath was surprisingly pleasant—as if he’d just sucked on a candy cane, but his several-days-old stubble felt like tiny wires piercing her skin.

It should have been the kiss from hell.

Should have been.

Instead of freaking out—was the car completely off the road? She couldn’t say for certain—she actually leaned in and made a little sighing sound that she couldn’t believe came from her lips. She was embarrassed, but not enough to push him away.

Even the fury she’d initially felt when he suggested that she might have had an abortion disappeared like air escaping from a punctured balloon the moment he pulled her again him. She wasn’t herself. She was… Oh, God, I’ve turned into my mother.

 

~~~

Black Hills Native Son, Book 5 in the Black Hills Rendezvous series, is available as pre-order on all channels and will be live tomorrow (Wed, Sept. 14)

Amazon / Nook / Kobo / iBooks / Google Play

 

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

Deb

 

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from COP ON HER DOORSTEP by Karen Docter

Cop Doorstep

Please welcome my guest today Karen Docter.  This wonderfully supportive author has some great stories to offer. I hope you’ll check out her website (link below) after you’ve read this dynamite 1ST KISS from COP ON HER DOORSTEP.

In the six years since her husband was killed by S.W.A.T., Carrie Padilla has spent long hours at work, rebuilding a life for herself and her son. The little time she has at home is spent keeping her eight-year-old son out of trouble, but he is all too eager to try to be the man in the house. When a handsome cop shows up on her doorstep, her errant son in tow, Carrie’s heart stutters. The sexy Italian cop sets off all kinds of bells in her system, and she knows there’s only one thing she can do to save what is left of her family, her husband’s memory, and her heart…avoid her new neighbor at all costs.


Jake and Carrie return from their first date…

“We’re home,” he said, pulling into his driveway.

Dragged from her reverie, she watched him walk around to assist her out of the car. With his large hand cupped around her elbow, he strode across the street. She had to take two steps to his one and, in no time, they came to a stop outside her front door.

Jeez. What was the rush? All of a sudden, Jake had become a stranger. Under the glowing porch light, his eyes looked calm enough—unreadable, in fact—but somehow, she sensed an edginess in his stiff stance.

“Do you have your keys?”

She handed them over and, within seconds, the front door was open and Jake was again standing two feet away.

His hasty retreat had the oddest effect on her. While she should be happy he didn’t seem to expect the requisite goodnight kiss of a real date, she only felt rejected. It was unnerving to know the woman inside her was still willing to court emotional chances.

Remember what happened the last time you jumped off that particular cliff.

The mental reminder was unwelcome, but it moved her to action. “Good night, Jake.” She leaned up to brush a kiss against his jaw.

It was a mistake, of course. The stream of electricity that arced from his skin to her lips caught her completely unprepared. It jolted sluggish nerve endings to life and randomly short-circuited what remained of her brain cells. Her legs unsteady, she searched his face.

It was surprisingly blank. Except for his eyes. They were no longer calm. Far from it. They were now dark and turbulent and fixed on her with hot intensity.

Only a fool played with fire, but she couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if she walked into the flames. Would they warm her or burn her to a crisp? The only way to know was to kiss him again.

Did she dare? How could she not? This was their one and only date, wasn’t it? She’d never get another chance.

“Good night, Carr—“

Her lips cut off Jake’s words and, for an instant, the heavenly feel of his mouth melding with hers was enough to quench her curiosity. His heat thawed her insides, filled the cold, empty spaces in her heart. It raced to keep up with the electrical impulses zipping through her body.

When she realized their lips were their sole point of contact even though she stood on her tiptoes to reach his mouth, she swayed into his body. “Jake?”

Carrie’s husky plea against his mouth, her taste, the feel of her yielding curves burrowing into his hard length…Jake couldn’t hold out against the relentless assault on his fractured senses. He’d wanted her to take the next step. She had and, damn his clamoring libido, he craved more.

Lowering his head, he took what he needed. His arms surrounded her, lifting her into his body until they meshed from chest to thigh. Her lips parted on a gasp of surprise, of acceptance. She wriggled against him. He groaned his approval.

His tongue thrust past the edges of her teeth, probing deeply. Without preliminary, without hesitation. He plundered her sweetness as he blindly pushed into the house, carrying her with him. He didn’t stop moving until they bumped into one of the entry walls.

Caught between two equally unyielding surfaces, Carrie moaned and dropped her purse to the floor. He kicked it aside and tossed the ring of keys that bit into his left hand after it. Reluctant to drag himself away from her drugging kisses, he sucked air into his starved lungs. “I didn’t mean, we shouldn’t, ah, hell.”

Recapturing her lips, he eased back so she could slide down his body. His hands gentled, trailed caresses along her spine beneath her jacket until they came to rest on her backside. With a low, tortured sound, he ground his erection intimately into her softness to alert her to his tenuous hold. “Carrie, honey,” he groaned at last, “tell me to stop.”

“Mmm.” Carrie responded to the rumble of his deep voice with an instinctive, feminine moan. Stop this? It had been too long since a man held her, made her feel so alive. So desirable and, oh, so desperately needy. Never had she encountered such a burning need to get near someone.

To alleviate the problem, she dragged her hands from his thick hair and worked her way down until she discovered a gap in his jacket. She dove inside where taut muscles rippled against her palms. The soft feel of only one thin layer of cotton between her fingertips and his naked skin set off tremors deep in her belly. Moving forward, she touched—

Something cold.

Something hard.

As if stung, she jerked both hands out of Jake’s jacket away from the holster tucked high against his body. “You’re wearing a gun?”

He trailed kisses along her jaw. “I always wear one,” he said, the words distant, unfocused, against her ear.

She tilted her head to grant him better access to the tender skin beneath her earlobe. Then harsh memories reverberated through her head like a sledgehammer, knocking down the walls of desire she’d been building like an ingenuous child with a new set of blocks.

What are you doing? Jake’s a cop. He wears a gun. Even on a date. The man’s a walking, talking risk, and your risk-taking days are long gone. She gulped for air to smother the panic.

“Carrie?”

Her brain barely functioned, but she knew she had to escape the question forming in his too sexy, hot chocolate eyes. She pushed him back several steps so he once again stood on her doorstep. “Good-bye, Jake,” she choked out before closing the door in his face.

Refusing to listen when he called her name, she locked the deadbolt with nerveless fingers and backed up until she knew she was far enough away to resist the temptation to reopen the door. To her house. Or to her heart.

 

Amazon: http://goo.gl/bUHNMu
B&N: http://goo.gl/6uoZTd
Kobo: https://goo.gl/fd92aB
All Romance Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-coponherdoorstep-2014481-149.html
Goodreads: https://goo.gl/FkaNvZ
Website: www.karendocter.com
~~~~

ZOOM! How exciting is that?! Sounds like the perfect summer read to me!

Stay cool, my friends.

Deb

 

FIRST KISS=TUESDAY (from SEDUCE ME TONIGHT by Katherine Garbera)

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Please enjoy an excerpt from author Katherine Garbera’s hot, new romance: SEDUCE ME TONIGHT!

WOO ME…

Designing and running a unique and successful family oriented South Carolina resort has been Alexandra Haughton’s passion. She’s not about to allow her crown jewel to be bought and revamped by a huge conglomerate even if CEO, Sterling Powell, personally arrives, champagne and contract in hand to try to persuade her to change her mind. He’s handsome, smart and wields a devilish smile that promises serious bedroom skills.  Alexandra’s interest is caught, but not for making a sale.  Her body may be on offer but not her hotel so Sterling needs to up his game. 

RESIST ME…

 Sterling Powell is determined to add Alexandra Haughton’s celebrated resort to his balance sheet, and the minute he sees her sexy lips mouth ‘no,’ the red flag of challenge has been waved.  He’s never backed down from a challenge, and it’s clear that his persuasive skills need to extend outside the boardroom. Alexandra Haughton requires some serious exploration of reintroducing to life’s most delicious pleasures—moonlit beach walks, candle-lit dinners and skin scorching kisses.  No one said he had to play fair, and he doesn’t intend to.  Only when sizzling sex isn’t enough and Sterling wants a more permanent merger, does he realize this is one challenge he can’t afford to lose.

SeduceMeTonight-MEDIUM

 

 

 EXCERPT:

       Sterling parked his car on the street and followed her up the walk to her townhouse.  She glanced over her shoulder at him.  He had a quiet intensity that made her more aware of her body; she could feel his gaze on her with each step she took.

     “Nice neighborhood,” he said as she unlocked her door and stepped inside.

     It would have been easier if they’d been swept away with passion, kissing frantically, and making out in her foyer, the way frenzied couples always seemed to mate in movies, but they weren’t young, impassioned lovers.  They were mature–

     Sterling caught her hand drawing her into his arms as the door closed behind them.  “Ah, that’s better.  No martini shaker to keep us apart.”

     He lowered his head, rubbing his lips lightly over hers as his hands slid lower on her back and drew her tightly against his body.  She shifted against him, angling her head to a more comfortable position under his.

     He teased her with nibbling kisses, but didn’t kiss her full on the mouth.  She waited for it, tensed each time he drew near but he always pulled away.  And the anticipation was driving her wild.  She sensed he was doing it on purpose, making damned sure that she knew he was in total control here.

     She plunged her fingers into his hair and held his mouth still on hers.  Opening her mouth, inviting him to taste her.  He thrust his tongue past the barrier of her teeth, deep in her mouth.

     She was overwhelmed by Sterling.  Held in his strong arms, one hard around her waist, the other smoothing a trail up and down her back.  His scent surrounded her.  Something raw and earthy–masculine and the salt from the sea breezes.  She tunneled her fingers deeper into his hair, holding onto him as if that would let her control him.  Keep control of him.  Make this crazy night about nothing but hot and wild sex.

     She pulled back from him, caressing his jaw as she trailed her hands down his neck to rest on his shoulders.  Her lips tingled from contact with him.  Her fingers rubbed over his stumbled jaw.  His dark hair was tousled from her fingers, his lips swollen.  He looked like a fallen angel ready for sin and she wanted to be the one to lead him down the path.

     “That was… unexpected.”

     “I wanted to make sure you understood why I was here,” he said after a few minutes.

     She doubted he knew why he was here.  Maybe he thought the way to get her cooperation with the merger was to seduce her.  Or maybe experience had taught him that dinner automatically translated into an invitation into the lady’s bedroom.  She didn’t care what his agenda was.  She had her own, and she wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted.

     What she needed.  She needed to figure out what made this man tick and then use it to drive him away.  Away from Charleston, away from Haughton House, and most definitely away from her.

AMAZON KINDLE

Ooh, baby! Me like!

Happy reading…and XOXO,

Deb

EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Deb Salonen’s Christmas Trifle + HER FOREVER GIFT!

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Food=love in my books.

To celebrate HER FOREVER GIFT, my Montana Mavericks’ holiday novella, going FREE on all platforms, I’m sharing a recipe–and excerpt–from the book.

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 Louise’s trifle isn’t something to be trifled with…and, as you’ll see, your options for fruit is varied, to say the least. Pick what your family likes and run with it, as Louise did.

trifle recipe

 

Christmas Trifle
Recipe Type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Debra Salonen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This dessert if light and refreshing and easy to prepare. Plus, you can pick your family’s favorite fruits. Be creative! These are the fruits my family likes best, my heroine, Louise Jenkins, chose other variations. Nuts and dried fruits might be interesting, as well.
Ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • 1 packaged Angel Food cake or 2 packaged sponge cakes, broken into pieces
  • 1 package fresh blueberries
  • 1 package fresh blackberries
  • 4 cups frozen strawberries (fresh are okay, too, but frozen are easier to come by at Christmastime)
  • 4 C whipping cream prepared to taste (I like mine not overly sweet with a couple of drops of vanilla)
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • optional: 1/4 C liquor (I use Cointreau for the hint of orange.)
  • optional: 1/4 C chocolate syrup
Instructions
  1. Wash fruit and drain completely. Reserve 1/4 cup of raspberries for decoration.
  2. Break cakes into bite-size pieces, set aside.
  3. Prepare whipping cream to stiff set, sweeten as you desire.
  4. Slice strawberries and mix with sugar and liquor, as desired.
  5. Layer cake on the bottom, fresh fruit, strawberry mixture, then whipped cream.
  6. Repeat.
  7. Arrange reserved raspberries on top, then drizzle with chocolate, if desired.
  8. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The longer it sits the more the flavors mingle.

 

Excerpt:

“The soup is fabulous, Louise,” her new son-in-law said.

“Really great, Grandma, can I have more?” Chloe asked.

“Of course. Eat up.” Louise stood to reach the ladle. “What about you, Mark?”

The youngest of them shook his head. “No, thanks. I’m leaving room for dessert.”

Everyone’s gaze followed Mark’s to the tall-sided glass bowl that held Louise’s trifle. She’d removed it from the refrigerator moments earlier so it could come to room temperature before serving. Three distinct strata were visible: coarsely torn bits of white cake topped by marinated cherries, blueberries, mandarin orange slices and pineapple, and lastly whipped cream. Each portion would be topped with warm Copper Mountain Chocolate Company’s decadent and nearly immoral dark chocolate syrup.

Mark wasn’t the only one to lick his lips.

“Where’d you learn to make that, Mom?” Bailey asked. “We’ve had it on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember.”

Louise looked at OC. The intensity of his stare made her blush. “I made it up. Our first Christmas after we were married, we were too poor to make anything fancy and I remembered reading that in olden days, people served stale cake with fruit that they marinated in rum or brandy then poured over the cake to make it palatable. So, that’s what I did.”

OC let out a laugh that made everyone look his way. “First time I ever saw your mother drunk.”

“Mom doesn’t drink.”

“She didn’t have to–every bite was like taking a shot.” OC slapped his knee. “It was funnier than heck. Unlike some people–” He tapped both thumbs to his chest.” –Luly was a happy drunk. But, boy, did she have a headache in the morning.”

Markie sat forward, rubbing his hands together. “Am I going to get drunk eating it?”

Paul elbowed him. “No.”

Paul looked at Louise for confirmation. “That was the last time I used whiskey to make my trifle, Mark. Sorry to disappoint you, but the brandy flavor comes from the little bit of natural fermentation produced by the fruit.” She leaned over and squeezed his thin little arm. “It still tastes yummy and you won’t have a terrible, horrible headache in the morning. Like I did.”

And my husband won’t have fallen off the wagon when he’s been doing so well, she didn’t add.

 

FREE:

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BN

iTunes

 

Have a wonderful Christmas, my friends! And may the New Year bring you many wonderful books!

Deb

EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY: Karen Sandler’s Potato Latkes / Celebrate Romance

 

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Food=love in my books.

Karen SandlerThis evening is the start of Hanukkah. What better way to celebrate than with a sweet, charming story and a delicious family recipe from author Karen Sandler.

She told me:

This recipe for potato pancakes came from my late father-in-law, Merle Sandler. We’ve made these latkes for decades for Hanukkah, and I had this recipe in mind while writing “The 8th Gift,” my contribution to the CELEBRATE Romance! anthology.

 

Potato Latkes
Recipe Type: side dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Author: Karen Sandler
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12
This wonderful recipe for potato pancakes came from my late father-in-law, Merle Sandler. We’ve made these latkes for decades for Hanukkah, and were what I had in mind while writing “The 8th Gift,” my contribution to the CELEBRATE! anthology.
Ingredients
  • 4 large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 c onion, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • dash pepper
  • oil for frying
  • applesauce and sour cream
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Heat oil in skillet, keep at a depth of ¼”. Have cookie sheets with paper towels ready. Heat oven to low heat to keep latkes warm while other batches are cooking.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, squeeze liquid out of potato clumps and add to hot oil. Flatten using back of spoon. Once brown (about 5 minutes) turn over and cook other side (about 4 minutes). Drain on paper towels and keep hot.
  3. Serve with dishes of applesauce and sour cream.
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The Eighth Gift — a Hanukkah story from Karen Sandler

And here’s an brief excerpt from Karen’s Celebrate Romance contribution, The 8th Gift:

The garage door opened, startling her awake. Unbelievably, she’d fallen asleep on her feet. “What is it?”

“I’m done. Front and back door both have deadbolts.”

She glanced up at the clock above the workbench. Nearly half-past midnight.

“I moved the laundry to the dryer,” he added as he descended the two steps to the garage.

She felt heat on her cheeks again. The thought of the thieves handling her intimates had sickened her. Imagining Jake’s big hands tugging her panties from the washer and tossing them into the dryer filled her with an entirely different sensation.

His gaze fixed on her again, the way it had sought her out when she’d been in the kitchen. Then he looked away, and his eyes found the special box, the one she’d received from Ian’s commander.

Jake crossed the garage and read the return address. He drew his hand across the packing tape sealing the box. “Ian’s personal effects?”

“I don’t even know what’s in it,” she blurted out. “I haven’t been able to open it.”

He just nodded. Of course he understood. “Are you going to be okay?”

Tears filled her eyes in an instant. “They took Aaron’s Hanukkah gifts. All of them. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Then she lost all control, sobbing, covering her face with her hands. When Jake wrapped his arms around her, she clutched him as if she’d die without him to hold onto. Her sobs were ugly and hurt her throat, her heart. All the pain of the last twelve months seemed to flood her all at once.

“We’ll figure it out,” Jake whispered. “Don’t worry, Sarah, we’ll figure it out.”

~~~

Celebrate Romance!

5 holidays/5 authors/ 5 heart-warming love stories.

Just 99¢ at: iTunes, KOBOAmazon , BN

 

Happy reading and Happy Hanukkah, my friends!

Deb

 

 

EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Lemonade (AKA 7-Up) Scones + a FREE book

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Food=love in my books.

trishYou may remember my guest blogger, Trish Morey.

Her latest release–Second Chance Bride–is part of The Great Wedding Giveaway series from Montana Born Books/Tule Publishing.

I enjoyed this book so much that when I found out it was going to be FREE  (May 20-24) I decided to reprise this blog in case you missed it! Here’s the LINK.

And check out Trish’s Lemonade (aka 7-Up) Scones recipe below. Doesn’t this sound like the PERFECT food for a wedding breakfast or bridal luncheon? And it looks so darn easy, even I could make it. 

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Lemonade Scones
Recipe Type: side dish
Cuisine: scones
Author: Trish Morey
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Please note, the instructions show two versions–one for those of us in the USA and one for those of you who understand metric. AND, it appears that “Lemonade” in Australia is actually “7-UP” in the US. Who knew?!!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pure cream
  • 1 cup lemonade/ or we in the US would be using 7-Up
  • 3 cups self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F) or 180C (350F) fan forced.
  2. Grease and flour baking tray, or line tray with baking paper.
  3. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly until combined. Scrape onto a floured surface, knead lightly and shape into rectangle about 3cm high. Cut scones with 5cm/2 inch scone cutter.
  4. Lightly dust with flour and bake for 15-20mins or until tops are brown.
  5. Serve with raspberry or strawberry jam and clotted cream.

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Excerpt:

“I heard there was a new girl.”

Scarlett jumped. She’d thought she was alone, but now her eyes were beginning to adjust to the low light, she could see the woman sitting on a sofa across the room, a magazine in her lap, her skin fair, her lips red and her long black hair gleaming under the lights like a silken curtain.

“It is that obvious?” Scarlett said, trying to sound light but painfully aware of the nerves in her voice. Any minute someone was going to figure her for the impostor she was and throw her out.

But then the woman smiled. “First day in a new place is always the hardest. I’m Jasmine,” she said, her name as exotic as her looks.

“Scarlett.”

“You’re American?”

“Yeah. From Montana. You?”

“Thailand,” she said, shifting the magazine to smooth down the fluffy hem of the red baby doll that floated just above her slim thighs. “Bella’s is a good place to work. You’ll like it.”

Scarlett very much doubted it but she smiled and nodded her thanks anyway. There was no point explaining she’d only be here until she made enough money for her fare home.

And then Bella walked in with her grey bob and pearls and looking so much more like a school librarian than any madam she could possibly have imagined.

She clapped her hands, “Look lively girls, Rule number one, let’s not keep the customer waiting.”

Uh-oh.

Scarlett was so not ready for this.  Oh, she might be Scarlett Buck, the flaky twin, the girl with the anti-Midas touch who could turn golden opportunities into dust and managed to do so with infuriating regularity. She might have driven her sister to despair and her mother to drink on too many occasions to count, but to be forced to this?

Jasmine rose from the sofa and flicked back her hair, no trace of hesitation. Whereas she–

Barely-contained nerves got the better of her.

Time.

She needed more time – just a few more minutes to get used to the idea.  ‘I’ll sit this one out,’ she offered. Jasmine was here first, after all.”

“Nonsense!” boomed Bella as she took her hand and hauled her off the sofa in a very un-school librarian kind of way. Before Scarlett knew it she was lined up alongside the other girl and Bella was reminding them to smile. “Nothing like being thrown in at the deep end, I always say.”

Great. So much for getting used to the idea. Any moment now a middle aged man with grey hair and a paunch would come sauntering through that door and size her up to be his sexual plaything for the next however long and still she would have to smile and make him feel like she wanted nothing more than to hop into the sack with him.

Just sex?

Oh, Scarlett Buck, you have really have done it this time.

She raised her eyes to the ceiling and sent one last silent prayer to the heavens and her family and anyone else who might possibly be listening up there and could help: I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. But it won’t be for long, I promise, and after this I’ll never, ever, disappoint you, ever again.

And then she heard Jasmine’s, “Welcome to Bella’s, I’m Jasmine,” and a cold shiver of apprehension snaked down her spine as she summoned up a smile. She opened her eyes, her hundred watt smile fully charged and ready to dazzle the client despite the nerves clawing at her insides. “Welcome to B—“

She stopped and blinked, and tried again. “Welcome to…”

But there was no finishing. Because it didn’t make sense. Because he didn’t make sense. She’d been expecting middle aged and desperate whereas the man in front of her was anything but. He was nowhere near middle aged for a start, his short cropped hair dark blonde and thick, and – she flicked her eyes down his denim clad legs and up again – there wasn’t so much as a hint of a paunch in sight.

Far from it.

Instead, he was built. Six foot two of hard-packed built, if she wasn’t mistaken, with a face that looked in the glow from the red light like it had been chiseled from outback rock itself, full of rugged angles and red planes and secret, shadowed depths.

Since when did someone who looked like him have to visit a place like this?

“You must forgive Scarlett,” Bella said from what sounded like a long way away. “She’s new.”

“Excuse me,” she said, snapping to, her smile getting tangled in the confusion on her lips.  “Welcome to Bella’s.”

And with that he was gone, disappeared with Bella back into the office to make his choice.

Like he needed time for that.

She dropped back into the sofa, her face in her hands. Oh god, was there nothing she could do right? Nothing she couldn’t screw up?

Apparently not.

She might as well pack her things right now.

“Scarlett!”

She looked up, resigned for the dressing down if not the sacking from Bella she knew was coming, that she knew she deserved. “Yes?”

“Congratulations.” Bella looked as surprised as Scarlett felt. “You just got your first client.”

OOOhhh…you have to be asking yourself…will she or won’t she? I can’t tell you. That wouldn’t be fair. Grab your FREE copy to find out.

Bon appetit! Happy reading! 

Deb