FIRST KISS=TUESDAY from NEVER SAY NEVER by Debra Salonen #westcoastHEA

NEVER SAY NEVER

West Coast Happily-Ever-After, Book 2

 

FIRST KISS © Loner Llama Press

~~~

He stopped her.  “One confession at a time. I owe you an apology.”

She looked up. “For what?”

“For being an ass the day of Patrick’s funeral. I was mad at the world, and I needed somebody to blame for what happened. I didn’t care who I hurt in the process. You. My dad. Hell, I probably said something nasty to my mother, too, but I don’t remember.” He glanced toward the door. “Don’t ask her, okay? I’m a Kelly. Humbling myself once a day is all I can take.”

Her lips curved upward but only for a moment. “Why are you bringing this up tonight, Joe?”

“Because ever since you picked me up at the airport I’ve felt like there was some ponderous weight between us. Patrick. The past. Our past. And, of course, my asinine behavior at the funeral. I was hoping if I apologized we might find a way to get past it.”

“Why? Because we’re going to be working together—well, in close proximity—for the next few weeks?”

Her tone sounded contentious. “Yes, partly.”

“Because you’re already bored and need a little romance to spice up your stay?”

Momentarily stunned speechless, he watched her tap the corner of the envelope to her lips. “Well, I hate to disappoint you, but it isn’t going to happen. I may be a small town girl who is too afraid of life to risk leaving Worthington, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plans. I do. And you aren’t part of them.”

Too afraid of life to risk leaving Worthington. His words came back to haunt him. The night by the lake, after they’d made love, Joe had asked Lisa to go with him. She’d refused, and he’d accused her of being too afraid to take a chance on a bigger life outside of Worthington.

“I was eighteen and full of myself. I thought I had all the answers when, in fact, I didn’t even know what the questions were.”

He shook his head and made a gesture toward the bar where the sound of laughter filtered under the door. “You proved me wrong, didn’t you? You’ve met your goal of graduating from college. You have a lot of friends who think you’re fabulous, and your son has turned out great—despite a few little age-related glitches. You have a lot more to show for your life than I do.”

She set down the card and took a step closer. “How can you say that? You’re a successful filmmaker. You’re living your dream.”

“I left here convinced I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg. That didn’t happen.”

She smiled the way she would have if Brandon had said something self-effacing. “So neither of us has set the world on fire,” she said with a shrug. “I’ve decided there comes a time when you either embrace your life—flaws and all—or give up.”

She shook her head and a lock of golden-red hair escaped from her fancy updo and danced across her shoulders. He took her by the wrist and pulled her a step closer. There bodies weren’t quite touching, but he could reach her by leaning forward.

He moved slowly, giving her a chance to back away, but she didn’t. He put his mouth on hers. She didn’t respond right away, but after a heartbeat her mouth opened. At first, all he could taste was the tangy flavor of the wine she’d been drinking, then her tongue touched his and memories poured into his mind. Even after all these years, she still tasted like Lisa.

This, he realized, was what he’d wanted all night. All week. Ever since he’d walked out the doors of the airport and seen her standing beside her perky little car. He needed this. He needed her.

But Lisa apparently didn’t need him.

Stepping back, she held on to the table with one hand and used the other to touch her lips, as if making sure they were still there.

“I stole a kiss, not your lips,” Joe said, trying to lighten the moment.

She didn’t smile. “I can’t do this, Joe. Not now. Not until… There’s something you…” She didn’t finish the thought. “I’m sorry. I have to get back to my guests.”

With that, she walked out of the room.

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Happy reading!

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: MONTANA ROGUE by Debra Salonen

First Kiss= TUESDAY

MontanaRogue-LARGE

MONTANA ROGUE – Big Sky Mavericks, Book VI

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….

 ~~~~~

         Excerpt: MONTANA ROGUE

 

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 shoulders, letting his crutches fall. Balancing all his weight on his good leg, he pulled 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, he told himself. Other than her taste, maybe. Honey sweet but with some intangible something all her own.

But even if Amanda was different from all the others 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.”

1

 


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  ~~~~

Look for MONTANA MIRACLE next month, my friends!

Deb

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First Kiss Tuesday: MONTANA HERO by Debra Salonen

First Kiss= TUESDAY

MontanaHero-LARGE

MONTANA HERO – Big Sky Mavericks, Book V

 I’m so excited to share my new Big Sky Mavericks’ title: MONTANA HERO. My hero, Flynn Bensen, first appeared in his brother, Ryker’s, book: MONTANA DARLING. I love the Bensen brothers, and it was fun to reconnect with Ryker and Mia in this new book.

Would you like to meet Flynn Bensen and Kat Robinson? I really loved writing these two characters. They feel so genuine to me–both survivors and both heroes to me. You’ll see why.

“Hero? Hell, no. A woman died despite Flynn Bensen’s best efforts to save her from the wild fire that nearly took them both. The last thing he expects from his job as head of Crawford County, Montana’s Search And Rescue is another life and death scenario–this time racing against the clock and a storm to find ten-year-old Brady Robinson. And this time it’s personal, because Brady is the son of Kat Robinson, the woman Flynn loves.”

~~~~~

         Excerpt: MONTANA HERO

 

“How ’bout a cup of tea?”

She nodded. Anything to stall.

He led the way to the kitchen, flicking on lights that illuminated a workshop that must have been a family room at some time in the house’s life. The sparkle and pop of silver, gold and semi-precious stones brought a smile to her face, despite what she knew was coming.

“Bailey’s really talented, isn’t she? I bought a pair of her earrings at the Big Marietta Fair last summer. They were my favorite until I lost one in the laundry.”

Flynn busied himself by filling a kettle with water. “I heard the ladies who work here talking about a replacement they were working on. Bring the one you have to work and I’ll…” He didn’t finish the thought. Instead, he reached overhead for a box of herbal tea choices.

He carried the box and two mugs to the table.

“Are you quitting because of what happened at the school today?”

“Mostly.”

She sat opposite him. She didn’t dare sit too close. Giving up her job was only part of her penance. She’d come to the conclusion that this could have been avoided if she’d been a more attentive mother. Brady somehow picked up on her latent, mostly hidden–even from herself–desire to have a “real” family.

Since that was never going to happen, she owed it to herself and her son to hunker down, regroup and refocus all her energy on Brady.

“Brady thought he was helping me.”

He cocked his head in that thoughtful, questioning way that told her he was listening intently to what she had to say. “That’s not surprising. You’re the center of his universe.”

An observation? Or judgment?

“It might be different with two parents, but even when Greg was in the picture, he was hands-off where Brady was concerned.”

“How come?”

“Honestly, I think he was afraid Brady was smarter than him. Which Brady is. His intelligence is off the charts, but he’s never been able to connect well with people.”

“So, you’ve had to be his advocate, his interpreter.”

A strange flush of pleasure swept through her. “Yes. You could say that. Especially when he was younger.”

The kettle started to whistle. Kat couldn’t stop her gaze from following him. He hadn’t changed out of his jeans and long-sleeve red shirt, but she was certain she’d never seen any man looks sexier in “uniform.”

He carried the kettle using a potholder on the handle and placed another on the table. Thoughtful. Did she know any men who would do that?

Zero.

“Pick your poison,” he said offering the box of individual tea bags to her first.

She grabbed one without looking. What did it matter? She ripped open the package and dunked it in the hot water, watching the reddish hue spread.

What did I pick?

She flattened the crumpled envelope to read: cranberry spice.

Oh.

When she looked up, she found Flynn watching her, a hint of a smile on his lips–as if he knew exactly what she’d done.

He held up his little package. “Mint. Helps settle my stomach after a big meal so I can sleep better.”

“Do you have trouble sleeping?”

His gaze dropped. “I was having nightmares. Post-traumatic stress, probably. The guys wanted me to see a shrink, but then my brother contacted me about this job, and I decided to see if a change of venue would help.”

“Did it?”

“Yes. And no. I’m still not sleeping as soundly as I used to, but no more nightmares.”

They sat in silence a few minutes, just the tick-tock of a clock above the stove keeping track of their wasted time. “I’ve never talked to anyone about my possible connection to the Zabrinski family. I went back and forth in my mind about whether or not I should ever bring it up.” She swallowed hard. “What if I was wrong? What if my mother slept with every guy in town and this is just a big misunderstanding? It could ruin a person’s life.”

He took a sip of tea before answering. “You don’t owe me any explanation, Kat. Especially not if you’re leaving Marietta.”

She rubbed her knucklesd across her forehead. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Looks to me like you’re resigning.”

“Yes. I’m quitting SAR. You deserve someone better. You have a strong moral compass, Flynn. I thought I did, too, but, lately…” She stared into the pink murkiness of her tea. “I should have done something about Ken’s blatant sexism.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I’ve been asking myself the same question lately. Maybe I got in the habit of advocating for others, like Mom, Brady, and Molly, and somehow lost track of myself.”

A line from an old movie she and Brady watched a couple of nights ago came back to her. “Not once did I ask what’s in it for me,” she quipped with a lightness she didn’t feel.

Flynn’s sudden grin made herme breath catch. She set the mug on the table hard, hoping he didn’t see her hand shake.

“Field of Dreams. I’ve probably seen it a hundred times.”

He leaned forward, bracing his elbows on the table. “Feeling disconnected from your body or your emotions is one of the symptoms of Vicarious Trauma, Katherine. You need to make time for you. Find a few of those missing pieces.” His smile changed. “I say that as your friend, not your boss.”

“I need to kiss you,” she said.

He blinked. “Really? Now?”

“Yes. Would that be okay?”

He tried not to smile; she could tell by the way his lips twitched. Finally, he gave in and grinned. “Oh, all right. Since you’re no longer my employee.”

As excuses go, it worked. She’d used it, too.

She got up and walked to his side of the table. She waited for him to scoot back his chair, leaving ample room for her to sit on his lap. His rock hard thighs supported her weight without question. She indulged in something she’d wanted to do from that first moment they’d sat stood with a box of doughnuts between them;, she ran her hands across his broad, muscular shoulders.

“How much does that pack you’re always carrying around weigh?”

“Eighty pounds, fully stocked. Give or take.”

“Are you always On Call?”

“Not officially, but I feel an obligation to my training. If I had a the chance to help someone and didn’t go because I wasn’t prepared, I’d feel pretty awful.”

She knew that about him without being told. He took his responsibilities seriously. As did she. It might be the thing she loved best…No. Don’t go there. This isn’t about love or any long-term emotion. It’s about grabbing a tiny bit of goodness for myself before all hell breaks loose.

She kept her eyes open so she could memorize his face as she lowered her head. His eyelashes were thick, like Brady’s, but not as curly. His brows were trim and darker than his lashes. She liked the little bits some might consider flaws. She saw them as his unique perfection.

She bumped her nose lightly against his, drawing a smile that warmed the hue of his eyes, which looked more gray when she was sitting across the table from him, but now looked blue. She wetted her lips with the tip of her tongue before tilting her head to touch her lips to his.

After two weeks of mental foreplay, she’d fully expected a zing, but the charge that swept through her entire body took her breath away. Better than good. When she started to pull back, Flynn deepened the kiss.

“Not enough. Not nearly enough,” he murmured with a low growl that released a the surge of yearning Kat had kept carefully banked.

His tongue teased her lips until she opened them for him with a tiny moan that covered her cry for more. His taste held a smoky flavor of beer and garlic. And the hint of mint from his tea. She explored without hesitation…until he pulled back.

Was he ending things or…

“Are we doing this?”

Of course, he would ask. Flynn wasn’t the type to assume anything.

“Yes. Please. Just one night. That’s all I’m asking for.”

He lowered his forehead to touch hers.

“I can’t promise that, but I’m willing to try.”

Then he stood up, as if she were as light as his pack, and he carried her to his room. What girl doesn’t dream of this from her Cinderella days, Kat thought, resting her head against his shoulder?

She’d take the dream for as long as it lasted.


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Barnes and Noble is coming…soon, I hope! Look for a newsletter announcing Nook availability as soon as possible.

 ~~~~

Happy reading, my friends!  Deb

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Cover Reveal & Excerpt: MONTANA HERO by Debra Salonen

MontanaHero-LARGE

MONTANA HERO – Big Sky Mavericks, Book V

I’m so excited to share my new release, which is presently available for Pre-Order at all of these great venues:

Amazon

iTunes

KOBO

Google Play

Amazon UK

This is my first Pre-Order. Talk about easy! Hit the buy link and you’ll have it automatically shipped to your e-reader the moment it “drops” on AUG. 13th –and, if it comes out at a cheaper price, that’s the price you’ll pay. Talk about Win-Win!

Would you like to meet Flynn Bensen and Kat Robinson? I really loved writing these two characters. They feel so genuine to me–both survivors and both heroes to me. You’ll see why.

~~~~~

Excerpt: MONTANA HERO

 

Mid-March, Marietta, Montana

“Fake it till you make it,” Flynn Bensen muttered under his breath as he marched the short distance from his designated parking spot to the front door of the Crawford County Search and Rescue Headquarters. “Here goes nothing.”

Or everything.

The nondescript prefab building sat a stone’s throw from the Sheriff’s Department, which possessed more gravitas given its brick facade. In the four weeks since arriving in Marietta, Montana, Flynn had spent the bulk of his time in training, meetings, and an inconveniently timed regional workshop in Missoula preparing to take over the job of Commander of Crawford County SAR, a division of the Sheriff’s Department. With three permanent employees, six on-call EMTs, and a volunteer staff of over a hundred during the high season, Flynn would have his hands full.

As he did now. Literally.

He’d bought the biggest box of doughnuts the local bakery had. Bear claws and apple fritters to maple bars and jelly-filled doughnuts. Sugar on steroids. The smell made his saliva glands kick into overdrive.

He dashed up the three-step rise and, balancing the box on the palm of his left hand, grabbed the lever-type handle to twist and pull.

It twisted but didn’t give as he expected. The cold of the metal burned his palm and he let go, cursing under his breath. Gloves. He’d left them in the truck. The cold never felt quite this bitter in Tennessee.

“You’re not in Tennessee any more, buddy boy,” he pictured his brother, Ryker, saying. “But, spring is coming. I promise.”

He glanced around at the piles of gritty-looking snow outlining the parking lot. He’d seen a few hardy—or foolish—sprouts of green on the sunny side of a few homes, but in the month since his move from the Great Smoky Mountains, which had been his home for nearly ten years, he’d felt winter’s arctic blast more than once.

The weather was the least of Flynn’s worries at the moment. It would play a huge role in his job, he’d been told. But, his chief goal today was to meet and greet his staff. Something he couldn’t do if he couldn’t get inside.

He noticed a warm yellow light spilling from the two curtained windows bracketing the door. Someone was inside.

He used the corner of the bakery box to push back the cuff of his heavy jacket to check his watch. Seven. The exact time he’d asked everyone to meet him here.

Managing personnel. That was what kept him awake at night lately. He’d been an employee of the National Park Service for most of his adult life. He’d moved up the grades by way of good reviews, not from a burning ambition to call the shots. He’d learned at a young age from his very successful father that work defined a man. Good or bad. His father’s credo had been, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to the best of your ability.”

That early teaching might explain why Flynn’s younger brother, Ryker, was a world-class photographer, but it didn’t address the reason for Flynn’s reluctance to move into a managerial position…until now. At thirty-two…soon to be thirty-three.

He reached for his keys, which he’d clipped to a belt loop—a practice he’d gotten into after leaving them in his truck once too often. Unhooking the clip one-handed stretched his balancing abilities but he finally had the cluster of keys in hand. He located the one he thought fit the front door of the building.

He’d just inserted the key in the lock when the door suddenly burst outward, making Flynn step back. The heel of his boot hit the metal threshold between the ramp and the porch. The big box wobbled as he reached out to keep from cartwheeling backward.

“Oh, shit,” a woman’s voice said.

No shit, he silently seconded. He didn’t recognize the voice or the woman in the doorway but his first impression hit hard and fast. Pretty. Amused.

“Save the doughnuts,” he barked, juggling the box in her direction.

“Oh, hell, no.”

She reached out and grabbed his right forearm and held on with a strength that surprised him, since she was half his size. The box tipped and fell, but given the short distance between them, it only dropped as far as Flynn’s waist before his rescuer pulled him to safety.

The box lodged vertically between them. His left arm automatically wrapped behind her back. His right clasped between her hands. The top of her head, which reached just about to Flynn’s chin, was pointed down.

“Wow. Good catch. You brought doughnuts?”

She let go of his arm to take hold of the box before looking up.

Green eyes.

Oh, I am so screwed.

Laughing green eyes. Intelligent, too. Full of piss and vinegar as his mother might say. The kind of eyes that had proven to be Flynn’s downfall more than once in the past—especially the recent past.

“Yes. From the bakery.”

“Cool.” She stepped back and spun around, box in hand. “Guys, he brought doughnuts. Ken never did that.”

Flynn figured out her name by process of elimination. She wasn’t old enough to be Janet, the main dispatcher, and the third woman designated for that task couldn’t make the meeting because her child was sick. She’d called at five to tell him.

That left Katherine Robinson. “She goes by Kat,” the County Personnel Director told him. “Single mom. Moved here from Texas. Started as a relief dispatcher. Got a permanent spot when Margie Crain retired at the first of the year. She’s good. Only thing keeping her from applying for your job was her son. She didn’t want to take time away from him.”

Flynn hadn’t asked for details. He believed in letting people tell their own stories. And he had a feeling Katherine Robinson’s story would be one he’d enjoy hearing.

He stomped the slush from his boots, re-clipped the keys to his belt loop, and then stepped inside.

“Good morning,” he said, unzipping his jacket. He’d dressed to impress—khaki cargo pants and long-sleeve red T-shirt with the SAR logo on the chest pocket. The color combo of SAR’s official uniform, he’d been told.

He glanced around. Not a single other red shirt among them.

“Thank you all for coming in early. I’d hoped to connect with each of you before this, but the Sheriff had other plans for me.” He kept his tone light with just a hint of irony. He knew how the system worked, as did these seasoned veterans, he was certain. “But you’ll be happy to know we are now the proud owners of the complete 2015 Emergency Response Handbook and FEMA’s Emergency Response to Terrorism, volumes I and II, if you need a little light reading.”

“Welcome to our world,” a tall, skinny guy with a shaved head and trim goatee said. Dressed in a standard issue navy blue paramedic jumpsuit, the fellow took a giant bite of a powdered sugar doughnut he’d plucked from the box Kat Robinson passed around. Residual white granules snowed across his broad chest.

After shoving the final bit into his wide mouth, he advanced toward Flynn, dusting sugar from his hands. “Brad Johnson. EMT.”

The other five paramedics, one in uniform and four in street clothes, followed suit. Four men, two women.

Flynn had read the performance reviews of every member of his team. It had become clear within a few pages that his predecessor had obvious favorites. Katherine Robinson was not one of them. Flynn wondered why.

After shucking his coat and hanging it up on a designated hook, Flynn shook hands with each of them. He tried to fit a face to the names he’d studied last night. Brad, Jeff, Kermit, Mike, Brenda, and Kerry. The ambulance service was contracted with the County Sheriff’s Department and didn’t fall under Flynn’s control, per se, but since the two teams worked closely together and space in the jail was at a premium, the EMT crew used a section of the SAR building for their base of operations, too.

“I look forward to getting to know each of you. If you have any ideas for making SAR run more smoothly, I’d love to hear them.”

“Just let us do our jobs,” Kat Robinson piped up from a spot behind the dispatch desk.

“That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” Flynn asked.

He felt the tension in the room as he walked to the coffee station that had been set up at the back of the room. Instead of grabbing a cup, he turned and looked at the group. “Let’s clear the air.”

He took a breath and let it out. “I’ve read the reports. I have a general idea what went down with the previous administration. I’m not a bureaucrat by nature. I’ve been on fire lines long enough to know that you don’t make it back if you’re not all playing on the same team.”

His last close call hit that tripwire of memory. A “flashback,” the shrinks called it. He used willpower to keep the images at bay. “I’m hoping we can be a team that puts our rescue calls first, but each other a close second.”

The silence made him wonder what he’d just stepped in? Piles of old loyalty? Land mines left by the previous toxic administration?

Kat Robinson came to his rescue. She stood and clapped. “Call me an optimist, but I have a good feeling about you.” She looked at the others. “How bad can he be? We already had the worst.”

The cold, flat tone of her voice told him there was no love loss where Kenneth Morrison was concerned, but he watched the face of the other dispatcher for her reaction. The senior woman wore a nearly unreadable mask. She reminded Flynn of his mother, who over the years had perfected her “iceberg” look, as Ryker called it. “All you ever see with Mom is the tip of the iceberg. It’s what’s underneath her smile that crushes your soul when it hits.”

The woman—Janet Haynes, Flynn believed—was fifty-seven. On the tall side…five-foot-eight, maybe. Not extremely overweight, but most of the extra pounds had settled in her backside. Her voice carried when she said, “Kenny did his best. And he’s not here to defend himself.”

Her eyes narrowed in an unattractive squint as she turned to face Flynn. “We had a team. We did good work. One mistake and you go down in flames. That’s what living and working in a small town, with small-minded people, will get you. I have two years left for my thirty, then I’m outa here. Just so you know.”

Got it, Flynn thought. Don’t expect to find you on my team either of those years.

The others? Time would tell. Associations, favorites, who-was-screwing-whom would shake out and reveal itself soon enough. In the meantime, he had an agenda of his own to put in place.

He walked to his office, a small cubicle near the restrooms. He might have thought it was a janitorial closet if not for the filing cabinets and Internet connection. The only window faced the interior, so he could keep an eye on his underlings, apparently.

He’d printed out a welcome letter-slash-questionnaire last night. “Utterly cheesy,” Ryker called it.

“Smart and heartfelt,” Mia, Ryker’s fiancée, had countered saucily.

As he passed a copy to each person, he said, “You’ll see a couple of team-building exercises listed here, including a zip line adventure a buddy of mine is setting up. The initial course will be open in mid- to late-May, depending on the weather, with the full course completed in time for summer tourists.”

“Do you plan to invite the volunteers, too?” Kermit asked.

“To each of the training exercises? Yes. To the team-building excursions? No.”

The two female EMTs had their heads together talking in muffled voices. Flynn couldn’t get a sense from their body language if they were pleased or pissed.

“Look,” he said, “I’m coming into a very well-oiled machine. I get that. I’m not planning to make major changes to your established protocol any time soon. I want to use the next couple of months to observe and get a feel for how you operate. I’ll probably respond to every call. Don’t freak out. I won’t be doing formal evaluations. I merely need to see how we react to 911 calls and what I…we…can do to improve our recovery success rate.”

He carried his thermal mug to the coffee urn at the back of the room. He didn’t have any diehard ideology he felt compelled to press upon them. But his last boss had taught him a few things about being a manager, and now was Flynn’s time to try implementing them.

“You’ll see I included my schedule this week. I will do my best to be available if anyone wants to talk. But to break the ice, I’d appreciate it if you’d each return your questionnaire for a quick one-on-one chat. Consider it your chance to tell me what you think works best about this unit’s present protocols and what you think needs changing.”

He made a sweeping gesture. “I left a job that I loved to move nearly two thousand miles away to take a job that pays less and is completely outside my comfort zone, so obviously change doesn’t scare me. Feel free to make a list.”

Everyone nodded, except Kat Robinson, who was already scribbling like mad. Somebody knows exactly what needs changing and she isn’t afraid to say so, he thought, forcing his eyes to look away from her pretty auburn head bowed so intently over her work, like a student taking the SATs.

Flynn’s gut told him he was going to like her—even if his mind cried, “No way, buddy boy. You know what happened the last time you fell for someone you worked with.”

Darla happened.

His ex-wife, who was happily remarried and living in the house Flynn bought with his first inheritance. He’d let her pick the “house of her dreams’ thinking they’d be living in it together. Wrong. Schmuck that he was, he didn’t see the writing on the newly painted walls until she broke the news she’d never really gotten over her first love, who was newly single and well…sorry, Flynn.

He wasn’t going down that road again. Ever. Ryker had encouraged him to start looking for a house sooner rather than later. “Things don’t stay on the market for long around here, Flynn. Even if you decide to rent instead of buy, you need to get out there and look.”

They both knew Flynn’s temporary living quarters in the back of Bailey Jenkins-Zabrinski’s jewelry shop were just that—temporary. Ryker, too, had made use of the cozy rooms for a few months when he first moved to Marietta. Now, Ryker and Mia were building a new home on the lot he and Flynn had inherited from their father. With the money Ryker paid for Flynn’s share, Flynn decided he could be picky and find exactly the right spot that called to him. No bride with a hidden agenda would take half of it in the divorce. Because if Flynn ever fell in love again—a very big if—he planned to think with his head, not his libido.

END OF EXCERPT


 

Happy reading, my friends. Oh, and if you’re not signed up for my NEWSLETTER, which will be out on August 13 — same day as this release — please do. Here’s the prize one winner will receive: a fab Tule Book Girls tote, an autographed print copy of the story that started the Big Sky Mavericks series and two limited edition bookmarks.

Will that winner be YOU?

Aug newsletter prize small

Happy reading, my friends!

 

New Cover Reveal!

Big Bang! Theory

 It’s here. The Big Bang! Theory cover.

(And the book itself is not far behind, I promise.)

I’m so excited to share my final Screw Senility cover. Didn’t my cover designer Kim Van Meter do a great job?

Strangely, I hadn’t thought of giving Judy an HEA — Happily Ever After–until I saw the “vector” (the art image Kim purchased to use in the design) of the plump lady carrying her skinny groom. Yes, the characture is over the top and not really Judy or her judge, but it’s fun and tells you a lot about the story in one glance.

When I showed it to a friend, her response was: “Judy’s losing weight not gaining it. She looks bigger in this pic. I have to check.”

I LOVED her concern for Judy. So I put all four covers together so you can see the progression.

Screw Senility Collage

Yes, Judy is losing weight, but she’s never going to be a skinny mini. She’s earthy and real and that’s what my readers love about her. Here are a couple of fun quotes from reviews:

“Judy Banger, a woman of a certain age, has endured teasing about her name all her life. Now she’s banged an oldster to death. Oops!” ~Sue

“I’m still laughing every time I think of Judy Banger and her thoughts on sex and life in general.” ~Barbs

“While Debra has classically written “family-based romance” stories, she has strayed here in this short story that celebrates the empowerment of a single woman in her …mid 50s? Judy Banger is all personality, hip and sass, yet she’s down to earth, and thinks things through carefully–how she manages to get into these situations…well, I can only attribute it to plain bad luck.” ~ Rasa

“I have never read anything like this. Nothing even close, in fact. I’m not referring to the erotic parts of the book, but to the outrageous, hilarious protagonist.” ~ Sheri

“Baby boomers who can laugh at themselves and acknowledge our on-going interest in sex will enjoy this explicit “coming of age” for Judy Banger. Yes, that is really her name.”~Paula

“Move over Ethel there’s a new chubby blonde neighbor in the trailer park and she might just screw your man next.”~ BookGoddess

 Reviews are the lifeblood of self-publishing sales. So far, I’ve been super lucky. I’ve only received one 1-star review on BN. Here it is:

“I have read several books by this author and they have always been very interesting. I won’t purchase any more of this particular series. It is much too graphic for my taste.” – anonymous

 Seriously, this is my ONLY review for any of this series on NOOK. Either Nook readers don’t read me or they’ve been scared away by this bad review (which obviously is based on a matter of taste, which of course is that reader’s right and opinion but since it’s the only review, it really looks bad.)

I need some Nook loving. Anybody? Pretty please…

 ~~~~

I just got my manuscript back from two copyeditors. Hope to have it On Sale next week. Woo-hoo!!

 Here’s a little EXCERPT:

Why me? Why did I have to be the one to break the scandalous news to Fletcher’s dad? Your son is opening a sex club for people who like a little pain with their pleasure.

Judy decided Wiley looked like the type who preferred to pull off the bandage in one quick snap rather than inching it off, so she added the rest. “He emailed me his business plan last week. Probably because I told him I used to work in a law office. He said he’s got a realtor looking for an old house in an area already zoned for business. Some communities are more open to this type of business than others. You probably know that.”

She didn’t mention Fletcher’s offer to have her move south and be his office manager. An offer she hadn’t completely crossed off her list of possibilities. The only thing holding her here was her house, which she figured was “underwater.” She’d need to wait out the market or lose what she had into it.

“What kind of sex club?”

“I assume it’ll cater to people who like BDSM. Bondage, sadomasochism–“

“Got it.” The intensity of his stare made her gulp. Was that the look he gave condemned prisoners headed to prison for life? “Is it legal?”

“If you’re zoned properly and you maintain a strict no-minors policy, I believe so. You’re a judge. Why ask me?”

“Is my son gay?”

Judy gulped too big a swallow of coffee. She didn’t have the simple yes or no answer he wanted. She could have repeated what Fletcher told her before he left town. “Dad’s always known I was different, but he spent my entire life trying to make me conform. All that did was drive us further apart. Oddly enough, Judy, meeting you is what convinced me I needed a start fresh.”

“Me?” she’d shrieked. “Why me?”

“Because you’re authentic. You don’t pretend to be anyone other than who you are, and I like who you are. I’m ready to start liking myself again.”

Judy didn’t believe that for a minute. She’d never been anybody’s role model and didn’t want to become one.

She also hated gossip and sure as hell didn’t want to be caught in the middle of a father-son power play. “You’re asking the wrong person,” she told Fletcher’s father. “Does it matter if he is?”

She gave the man credit for answering without a hint of hesitation. “Not in the least. I want him to know that, but how do you say the words without sounding condescending or patronizing? We’ve never really been close, but we generally could talk things out–until he picked becoming a cop over going to law school. The dispute turned ugly. We’d go for days without speaking. Frankly, I was surprised when he stuck around. I thought he’d made peace with his choices. Apparently, I was wrong.” His sigh seemed weighted with disappointment. “Do you have regrets, Judy?”

She hooted softly. “I’m fifty-four years old. You don’t live that long without wishing you’d done a thing or two differently.” She paused. “Like buying Intel when I had the chance. ‘Let my ex talk me out of it. Second biggest mistake of my life.”

“I take it he was the first?” His half-smile was among the most handsome she’d ever seen. I wonder where meeting Wiley Canby will rank on my list of regrets? Time would tell. Nothing good would come from the powerful magnetic pull she felt toward him, of that she was certain.

Look for it SOON!

Deb