FIRST KISS=TUESDAY (from The Taming of the Bachelor by Jane Porter)

 

auth_JanePorterPlease welcome my friend and author extraordinaire, Jane Porter. You are sooo lucky today because she’s sharing a snippet from her brand new release, THE TAMING OF THE BACHELOR, a Taming of the Sheenans romance. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for Dillon’s story!!!

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Dillon Sheenan refuses to be tamed…

After three years running the family ranch, sexy thirty-year-old Dillon Sheenan has a one way plane ticket out of Montana. He’s eager to put small town life, with its emphasis on brides, babies, and families, behind him as he’s certainly not interested in being a dad, or even ready to settle down.

Beautiful single mom, Paige Joffe, juggles a lot, between running Main Street Diner and coping with her money-pit of a Victorian on Bramble Lane.  She doesn’t have time for anything but taking care of the loves of her life, Addison and Tyler, and working to pay down bills. But one date–and an incredibly hot kiss–with Dillon Sheenan wakes her up and makes her dream again.

Until she finds out Dillon’s already bought his ticket out of town…

Is Dillon about to break the heart of the only woman he’s ever loved?

 


The Taming of the Bachelor

by

Jane Porter

 

“It’s late,” Dillon growled, rising, grabbing the dishes and picking up plates and cups and carrying them to the kitchen.

One of the forks fell midway and she picked it up and followed him into the kitchen. “Just leave the dishes in the sink,” she said, “I’ll do them tomorrow.”

He did as she directed, then turned to face her. “What about you?” he asked, arms crossing over his chest. “What do you need?”

She wrinkled her nose as she counted off a list on her fingers. “New electrical and plumping…a furnace that works. Windows that seal. Floorboards that don’t creak. Not too bad, huh?”

His chest tightened. She was making light of her problems, but it couldn’t be easy. Her life hadn’t been easy. “That’s it?” he teased gently, admiring her more than ever. “That’s all you need? Fix those little things and your life will be a dream?”

“No, but the house would be sorted.”

Her smile never wavered but he saw a glimpse of exhaustion in her eyes and it made him want to protect her. Someone should protect her. “There’s nothing you want for you? Nothing you need?”

She moved past him, squeezing in to turn the water on in the sink, covering the dishes. “I don’t know…I don’t let myself go there.”

He didn’t move, so they were both at the sink, practically standing hip to hip. “Why not?”

She grabbed a scrubbing pad and attacked the dishes. “It’s better not to question. Better to stay focused.”

His brow furrowed as he watched her scour the dishes as if they were baking pans instead of simple dessert plates. “That makes you happy?”

Her slim shoulders twisted and her blonde head dipped, making it difficult to see her face. “It keeps me…focused.”

“Focused?”

“You know….to keep from losing…hope.” Her hands stilled, and for a moment the only sound was that of the running water, and then she drew a quick breath and turned the water off. “Or is it faith?” she added, frowning and reaching for a dishtowel to dry her hands. Her frown disappeared as she flashed a rueful smile. “To be honest, I’m not sure anymore.”

Dillon felt out of his depth here. He hadn’t grown up attending church regularly. His mom was Catholic, and she’d raised her oldest boys Catholic, but stopped going to church regularly when Dillon was in kindergarten. “Your faith was important to you?”

“It was once everything.”

“What happened to it?”

She draped the yellow striped towel on a bar, smoothing it. “Lewis died and I’ve just felt very….alone. Hard to see God in all the struggles.”

He didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t sure he was supposed to say anything.

Paige managed another small, wry smile. “So now I don’t ask for too much, or want too much. I count my blessings and stay busy, appreciating what I have, rather than thinking about what I don’t have.”

“This is why I’m such a fan,” he said quietly as he reached for her, his arm circling her, drawing her towards him. “You are strong and funny and sweet—”

“Stop there before you call me nice. Because I’m really not all that sweet, or nice.”

He smiled crookedly then carefully brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. Her skin felt so warm and soft. His fingers curled in. He stroked her cheekbone again.

Her lips parted and he felt the whoosh of air leaving her mouth as a caress against his neck, down his chest. She was so beautiful. Need throbbed in him, warring with common sense.

He should go. He needed to go. They were too alone here.

Far too much temptation.

“Should go,” he said, dropping his head, covering her lips with his.

It was a goodbye kiss. That’s really all it was. Goodbye, and closure. The end of a sentence…a chapter. He was closing this chapter, the one where Marietta was home, and Paige owned a piece of his heart. But now he was leaving—Montana, his family, the ranch, her—leaving all of it to start a new chapter.

The kiss was equal parts sweet and bittersweet, and he drew the kiss out, lingering over the sweet fullness of her lips, and the stunning heat of her mouth.

Her lips were softly parted when he lifted his head, her eyes wide, dark, bewildered.

“That was um…” She swallowed, blinked, trying to pull herself together. “Not bad.”

The corner of his mouth tugged. He brushed his knuckles across her lovely flushed cheek. He was hard and hungry but there was no way in the world he’d hurt her. Not when she’d been hurt so badly by others before him. “As long as you’re not disappointed.”

“Don’t think I’m disappointed…well, actually, I’m not sure.”

“No?”

“You might need to do that one more time. Just to know for certain.”

Amused, he drew her closer, her hips against his, his arms locking in the small of her back. “Sounds as if I didn’t get the job done right.”

She tipped her head back to better see him. “No, no. I wouldn’t say that. It’s probably just me. I’m out of practice.”

There were so many secrets in her eyes, secrets and shadows that made her expression mysterious, and yet vulnerable. She was both strong and soft, tough and tender, and maybe that’s what drew him to her—the fact that she was such a contradiction. How could you not admire her?

His head dipped and he kissed her again, drowning out the voices in his head that said he shouldn’t be doing this, that he shouldn’t care. He couldn’t get involved. He wasn’t good for her. He’d never be good for her, or her kids. They needed a father. He didn’t want to be a father. So simple. All of this was so simple.

Except when his mouth was on hers and his lips were parting hers, tasting her, and nothing felt more right, or natural, than her, in his arms.

~~~

For your convenience, here are some buy links:


 Ooooh, how yummy and romantic is that? Thank you, Jane!

And thanks for reading, my friends. I appreciate your interest, your comments and your shares on FaceBook.

We have some great snippets coming up.

See you next week.

Deb

 

 

EAT=LOVE=TOO HOT TO COOK winner & the Summer Escape bundle

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Food=love in my books and apparently in my readers’ lives, too. I had some GREAT recipes and cool summer meal suggestions (click back to last week’s blog if you want to check them out). All were too good to compare so I put each entry in the tote and drew the winner of this awesome Tule Publishing Tote Bag.

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The winner is:  Christina Fashant.

Chicken Caprese Wraps
Recipe Type: main dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Christina Fashant
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Too hot to cook? Not if you’re motivated to eat well and stay out of your hot kitchen. Thanks to all the entrants for some great summer dining suggestions.
Ingredients
  • 4 Large Flour Tortillas
  • 8 Slices Roasted Chicken Cold Cut
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/2 chopped Basil
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, cored and sliced
  • 4 leafs Romaine Lettuce
  • 1/4 Sour Cream
  • 1/4 cup Italian Dressing
Instructions
  1. Mix sour cream and Italian dressing together in a small dish. Spread on tortillas.
  2. Layer lettuce, tomatoes, basil, chicken, and cheese.
  3. Roll up tightly and ENJOY!

Summer Escape

For the month of August only, Tule Publishing is offering a fabulous 12-book bundle called Summer Escape. Let me tell you why I am sooo pleased and proud that Cowgirl Come Home is part of this bundle.

The Summer Escape Boxed set is dedicated to Heather Ferguson, a Bozeman single mom, educator and book lover who was killed last spring in a tragic car accident that also took the life of two of her children. She left behind three children. Her sister is raising her sister’s children along with her own. The authors have donated their stories for the month and every dollar from this set goes to a college fund for Heather’s three children.  Here is the dedication page of Summer Escape. summer escape dedication

Buy HERE. Even if you’ve read a few of the stories, you can’t go wrong with this “almost free” collection. Think about “gifting” this bundle to friends. Such a great deal for a great cause. Please help a fellow reader. Book girls stick together! Thank you!!!

Happy reading!

DEB

Deb’s summer fun: contest, music & cover REVEAL!

Summer has arrived!

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Let there be BOOKS, MUSIC and FUN!

BREAKING Book NEWS: Cowgirl, Come Home” (my first new, full-length romance from Tule Press) will be released on July 18. Here’s a sneak peek at my cover.

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I am sooo excited. My editor loved this story! I can’t wait for you all-my loyal readers and friends–to read it.

And I have more exciting news. There will be three spin-offs from this book. My “Big Sky Mavericks” trilogy is tentatively set to release in August, October and December.

Color me giddy!

BREAKING Contest NEWS: my June “Sounds of Summer” contest prize is a Bem (pronounced Beam) Music Cube.  

71XoVMf9clL._SL1500_-1(Bem wireless bluetooth speakers for your MP3 player, iPad, phone, etc. — a $100 value!)

I bought this little guy and loved it so much, I decided to offer one as a prize on my website contest. Click HERE to sign up.

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So…what are you doing for FUN this summer?

* Traveling? (I’ll be at RWA in San Antonio in July 22-26.)

* Reading? Check out these great pool-side reads from Tule’s new Holiday imprint, which is launching on  Tuesday, June 17, with a party on Facebook. There will be great prizes to win, and you can hang out with some of the Tule authors. I’ll be there at 7:30 p.m. Pacific.

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* Shopping? It’s never too early to be thinking about Christmas, right? To get you in the mood, here’s a great Christmas bundle currently on sale (99¢ thru 6/8):

“The Cowboys of Copper Mountain”

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This 4-book bundle is filled with extras, including GREAT recipes and my sweet short story, A Hundred Years or More. I’m so proud! If you hurry, you can register to win one of these excellent prize packages, including a $50 gift card at Amazon.

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* Listening to music? Maybe if you win the Bem, you’ll download some of the tunes from my “Cowgirl, Come Home” playlist. I hope to post this on my website in the very near future.

What are you listening to? I’d love to know. Maybe it’s something my next hero, Austen Zabrinski, will be playing on his iPod.

Deb

EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Deb Salonen’s Christmas Pudding + A Bundle of Cowboys!

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Food=love in my books.

To celebrate the release of The Cowboys of Copper Mountain bundle, I’m reprising my Warm Chocolate Pudding recipe. Who can resist something this yummy, rich, delicious…and the pudding’s good, too. 😉

Check out this great party and contest. (Book goes on sale sometime today–Tuesday–for six days – ONLY.)

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Did I mention this bundle is packed full of great stories AND recipes–some of them are mine. I’m hoping this one made the cut. It’s really delicious!

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Warm Chocolate Puddings
Recipe Type: dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Martha Stewart (www.marthastewart.com)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Get the prep work done ahead of time then pop the tray into the oven shorty before you’re ready for the grand finale. Guaranteed to impress.
Ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • 4 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Ice cream for each serving (optional) (any flavor) or whipped cream!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place four 6- to 8-ounce ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in 2 tablespoons sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among bowls. (Puddings can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)
  5. Bake until tops are puffed and cracked but insides are still quite soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 20 to 25 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes if puddings were previously refrigerated. Serve, warm or at room temperature (puddings may sink as they cool), topped with ice cream, if desired.

Check out the cute cover of The Cowboys of Copper Mountain. Don’t miss the most excellent sale price of 99¢ (six days only), but even at the regular price of $4.99, it’s a great deal. Four complete books AND tons of other goodies–it is Christmas in June, after all!

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AMAZON

Enjoy and happy reading, my friends!

Deb

EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Lilian Darcy’s SPINACH AND FETA QUICHE

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Food=love in my books.

I’m so pleased to share a recipe from one of my favorite authors, Lilian Darcy. I’m reading her newest release, The Sweetest Sound, right now. And loving it. The Sweetest Sound is part of Lilian’s “River Bend Series” for MontanaBorn Books.

To research the Montana setting, Lilian (right) and publisher/author Jane Porter explored neighboring towns close to fictional Marietta, including Livingston, below.

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“I’m not going to lie to you, this isn’t low-fat or low-carb, nor does it have a Spanish theme to suit the Spanish heroine of The Sweetest Sound, but it is delicious, and if you serve it with a big colorful green salad it’s even more delicious,” Lilian says.

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Spinach and Feta Quiche
Recipe Type: main dish
Cuisine: vegetarian
Author: Lilian Darcy
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Little secret in our family:- Sometimes if the weather’s cold, you don’t feel like a green salad, but we make it with a warm vinaigrette dressing and suddenly it works for winter after all. If you want to try a warm vinaigrette, just lightly fry in a big slurp of olive oil your choice of any or all of the following ingredients, finely chopped:- garlic, onion, herbs, sundried tomatoes, capers, and/or anchovies, add a bit of salt and pepper, and the vinegar of your choice. Toss well with the salad right before serving. Expect that the salad leaves will wilt a little. My kids will eat three times as much salad if it’s done this way than they’ll eat if it’s cold. And since I’m a cook who does things by eye and instinct, some of the quantities for the quiche filling fall into the “what looks right to you” category.
Ingredients
  • For the pastry
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 oz/85 grams butter
  • 3 oz/85 grams chilled cream cheese
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons chilled cream
  • Mix the flour and salt. Cut the butter and the cream cheese into small pieces and cut them into the flour with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers, till the mixture is crumbly. Drizzle on the cream and mix in until the dough clumps together. Press into a flat-ish circle, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour. (You can keep it for a day or two, if needed.)
  • Roll out the pastry to fit your desired pie dish.
  • For the filling:
  • 1 bag washed baby spinach leaves. (These come in different sizes, so use whichever size fits the amount of spinach you’d like. Remember that it will lose a lot of volume when cooked.)
  • 4 – 8 oz/100- 200 grams feta cheese. (Again, how much you use depends on how strong you like your feta flavour.)
  • 6 – 8 eggs.
  • ½ to 1 cup cream.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. (The feta will be pretty salty, so you probably don’t need this unless you’re a salt fiend.)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C.
  2. Lightly steam the spinach, just until it goes limp, then let it cool until it’s not too hot to touch. Squeeze out any liquid and chop roughly. Crumble the feta cheese.
  3. Put the spinach into your pie dish on top of the rolled out pastry, and sprinkle the feta evenly on top.
  4. Mix the eggs and cream well, adding salt and pepper if desired, and then pour in.
  5. Bake until pastry is golden at the edges and filling is set. Cooking time varies, but estimate 40-50 minutes. (If the crust is getting too brown, lower temperature until egg mixture is set.)

Now, check out The Sweetest Sound. I’ve been waiting to meet Charlie ever since I read The Sweetest Thing. I can’t wait to see what happens when…if…he goes back to Marietta.

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EXCERPT

Ramona sang with her eyes closed. Charlie had noticed this before. Oh, she opened them sometimes, but when she was in the midst of a soaring section of music, they drifted shut and she lifted her face like someone blind, or praying.

Today, though, two days after she’d turned him down for coffee, she was closing her eyes for a different reason, as he came past.

Because of me.

She wanted to pretend she hadn’t seen him, and it was a good and clever little ruse, but he wasn’t going to accept it. Deliberately, he let half a minute tick by – enough for her to presume that he would have gone by her and entered the hospital’s main building – then he dropped a noisy handful of rustling notes and clinking coins into the dark red velour hat that sat on the pavement in front of her, and waited.

Sure enough, she instinctively opened her eyes to thank whoever had been so generous. As soon as she saw him, her eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in resistance.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi, yourself,” she retorted. If she’d been a cat, her fur would be standing on end. “And thank you.”

“For…?”

“For your contribution.” It sounded very distancing and formal. Intentionally, he knew. She knew how to use good manners as a weapon.

Was this a game? He didn’t like it. He didn’t want her to think any of this was about games.

And yet a part of him did like it.

Liked some of it – the bite of her resistance, the strength in her. He liked what it said about her. She was clever, he could tell, and she was strong. There was something that she wanted, and it was very clear to her, and this… thing… between them would get in the way of it, so she was saying no. Apparently she knew how to stick to her goals. He wondered what the goals were.

“I can’t decide which I like best,” he said now. “The singing, the guitar or the violin.”

“And you haven’t even seen me dance.”

Okay, now that was flirting, and would have been even without the saucy, crooked little smile and the lift of her hip.

He felt a kick of satisfaction.

So, Miss Ramona with the twenty syllable name, I’m not wrong about this, despite how you’re pushing me away.

As he’d done on Monday, he found himself feverishly shifting his schedule around in his head, wrangling a way to squeeze an extra half hour out of a day that already needed twenty-five hours in it if he was going to have a hope of getting everything done.

But then, just as quickly, he re-thought. If he didn’t ask, she couldn’t say no. If he didn’t push, she had nothing to push back against. She might find that harder. He could simply stop and talk to her for a few minutes every time he saw her here, and she’d eventually have to admit that she – Eventually?

I don’t have time for “eventually.” I don’t have time for messing around.

His intentions did another screaming one-eighty degree turn, although he wasn’t normally this indecisive. “Is there a class today?” he asked. “Fencing, or voice, or modern dance?”

“No, no class.”

“Have coffee with me, then.”

But she shook her head.

“C’mon…” He growled the word, sure of his pull on her. He was not wrong about her awareness, he knew it. They’d virtually admitted to it the other day, both of them.

Now, her pupils had darkened, and she was breathing faster. Her body couldn’t decide if she was a trapped animal or a female in heat. Maybe both at once.

“I can’t,” she said. “You must know that I mean it.” She looked miserable, but he had to take her at her word. He might have quite a healthy dose of self-confidence, but he wasn’t the kind of guy to bulldoze a woman when she didn’t want it.

All he could do was to beat a strategic retreat. “Okay,” he said. “I won’t push.” He showed her his palms like a criminal wanting to prove himself weaponless, and then turned to leave.

When he reached his office, the phone was ringing on his desk and he grabbed it, already irritated before he even knew who the caller was. There’d been a couple of them this week – or maybe the same caller, more than once – who hadn’t left messages. This wasn’t a number that received a lot of junk calls. So who…?

His impatience clawed higher as he put the phone to his ear and barked out a greeting. Something else to squeeze in, when Ramona had already kept him too long out in the freezing February air?

Whatever this call was about, he’d deal with it quickly if he possibly could, because he was already running behind.

Ten minutes later, his whole world had changed.

He had changed. His plans, his intentions, his sense of himself.

Two thousand miles away in Montana, his birth mother wanted to get in touch.

 

Click here to buy: AMAZON. (It will be out soon at other ebook venues.)

~~~

Oh! Will he or won’t he? I have to find out.

Maybe tonight.

Bon appetit! And happy reading, my friends!

Deb

 

EAT=LOVE=TUESDAY Deb Salonen’s Asparagus Salad with Chickpeas and Potatoes

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Food=love in my books.

Since Easter arrives this Sunday, I thought I’d share a favorite recipe of mine AND a snippet from the book I just turned in: Cowgirl Come Home.

It won’t be out until August 8, but I’m really excited about writing for the upcoming MontanaBorn FAIR series because the current MontanaBorn BRIDES series is knock-your-socks-off fabulous.

Here’s a link to the website where you can buy the first three titles (Katherine’s releases right after Easter). MontanaBrides

Do yourself a favor and stock up. They’re delicious…as is my super simple asparagus salad recipe. 

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Roasted Asparagus Salad with Chickpeas and Potatoes
Recipe Type: side dish
Cuisine: vegan
Author: Deb Salonen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Variations: Spice it up with any of the following optional ingredients: Red pepper flakes, fresh or dried herbs such as oregano and basil, or sliced kalamata olives
Ingredients
  • 2 medium gold or red potatoes, about 10 ounces
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 12 ounces), trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette (buy or make by mixing 1/4 C olive oil, 1/8 C vinegar, 1 Tbsp sugar, salt and pepper to taste, pinch of chili flakes optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Cook the potatoes until tender but still firm in any way you choose (boil, microwave, or bake). Allow to cool slightly and cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large serving bowl along with the chickpeas.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, spread the asparagus on a baking sheet and sprinkle the onion over it. In a corner of the sheet, place the unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast until asparagus is tender yet still crisp, about 15 minutes, stirring once after 7 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Set the garlic aside to cool for a few minutes and put the asparagus into the bowl with the potatoes. When the garlic is cool, peel it and place it in a small bowl. Mash it well with a fork; then stir in the salad dressing. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and stir gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Note: Makes 2 large, one-pot meal servings or 4 side servings.

The coolest thing about writing a book in a multi-author series is seeing one of MY characters appear in ANOTHER author’s book. This is especially exciting when the other author is New York Times bestselling author Jane Porter.

To read Beauty’s Kiss for FREE, click HERE.

Beauty's Kiss  

In Beauty’s Kiss, you’ll meet Louise Jenkins, my heroine, Bailey’s mother. Here’s Louise in my book:

Oscar Jenkins double-fisted the thin, scratchy sheets at his side. He hated everything about this so-called hospital. The thin plastic mattress, the crappy sheets and pilled, nappy cotton blanket. But worst of all, he detested the crappy slop they tried to pass off as food.

“Honey, please. Bailey’s coming. She’ll be at the house when I bring you home…if you eat and…eliminate.”

“Shit. Say it, Luly. For once in your life, call it like it is.”

Louise Billingham Jenkins, his wife of nearly forty years, blushed like the schoolgirl she was when they first met. Sweet. Innocent. Still was. Even after all this time in constant contact with him–the lowest piece of scat that ever rolled off Copper Mountain.

“Don’t be coarse.” She advanced on him with a spoon and a palm-sized cup of something beige. “Try the pudding. You said you liked it.”

He snarled and pressed his head and shoulders into the skinny foam pillow. “Must have been the drugs.”

She held the shimmery, flesh-tone glob a few inches from his lips. The tiny quake of her hand compromised his resolve. He opened his mouth, clamped down on the spoon and wouldn’t let go. Louise frowned sternly, but he could tell she was fighting back a smile.

“Baby.”

He covered her hand with his tenderly, before prying the handle free. The banana-flavored slop lodged in the back of his throat and nearly gagged him, but he forced it down.

“I can feed myself.”

She turned away–probably so he couldn’t see her smile of triumph. Louise wasn’t one to gloat. Not that he’d given her many opportunities for jubilation during their years together. When he looked back at his life–and he’d had plenty of time for retrospection since his body started falling apart, he couldn’t say for sure why she’d put up with all his crap for so damn long. He sure as hell wouldn’t have stuck around if the shoe had been on the other foot.

I’d have lit out just like Bailey did.

His gaze fell to the flat stretch of covers where his left foot should have rested. His appetite disappeared. His mouth turned dry.

Life as he knew it was gone. And despite his pissing and moaning about the skyrocketing costs of fishing licenses and gas and idiot clients and the government’s nose in his business, OC loved hunting and fishing and teaching even the dumbest flatlander how to catch a trout or two.

And, now, thanks to his cussed orneriness–and some poorly timed budget cuts at the library, he and Louise were looking at serious financial problems.

Louise had tried to keep the worst of it from him. But yesterday, she’d tearfully admitted her fears.

“We’re in bad shape, Oscar. The County changed insurance companies last year and our co-pay went up. Plus, they’re trying to disallow one of your surgeries. If I miss any more work, I might not even qualify for the library’s policy. And with you not being able to work, our savings is pretty much gone.”

“The company can’t be bankrupt,” he said. “Jack told me we lost a few bookings, but he’s been out with clients every day–even on Sunday.”

Jack Sawyer had worked for Jenkins’ Fish and Game off and on for sixteen years. His wife, Marla, handled the company’s bookings and website.

“Jack’s good, but he’s not you, Oscar. And even if he were as good as you, people don’t pay big bucks to go fishing with Jack Sawyer. They want the Fish Whisperer.”

OC took another bite of puke pudding to keep from sneering. The name was a joke, of course. Tossed out in Wolf’s Den one night when he’d started howling for some dumb reason. To his chagrin, the name stuck. And bookings picked up.

Apparently, the Fish Whisperer even had a blog–whatever that was.

Now, thanks to OC’s ridiculous so-called fame, Jenkins’ Fish and Game, was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. And, to make matters worse, his daughter was coming home.

As badly as he’d screwed up his health and finances, both were small potatoes compared to the mess he’d made with Bailey. “Who’d you say is picking her up at the airport?”

“I didn’t.”

Louise glanced at her watch surreptitiously. Bailey’s plane had landed thirty minutes earlier. Paul would have been there to meet her. A shock her daughter never would have seen coming, but not the worst she had in store.

“She hasn’t been cleared to drive, has she?” Oscar asked.

“I don’t know.”

She took a calming breath–to prepare for the explosion to follow. He’d find out eventually, and certain news was better coming from her. “I asked Paul Zabrinski to pick her up. He had to take Chloe and Mark to their mother’s. He said it was no problem.”

“No problem? Woman, are you out of your mind? Bailey’s probably back on the airplane by now.”

Louise pulled her smart phone out of her pocket. “The next flight to Fresno isn’t until tomorrow morning. She isn’t going anywhere.”

Oscar shook his head from side to side, slowly, as if the effort took every last ounce of his energy. No surprise since he ate barely enough to keep a fly alive. Just one of the many reasons Louise needed Bailey here.

Louise had tried everything to reignite the spark in her husband’s eyes, but nothing helped. And from their phone conversations, Louise knew Bailey was skating perilously close to the edge of her own demon-filled pit of depression. The two people she loved most were giving up, and Louise would use every resource available to spark a fire. Even asking Bailey’s oldest “frenemy,” as the kids at the library might say, to meet her plane.

“That took balls, Luly.”

~~~

Have a lovely Easter, dear friends. And if you’re enjoying a Spring Break, I hope you’ll include these wonderful stories in your reading line-up.

Bon appetit! Happy reading!

Deb