June 23, 2017
Book Spotlight and Giveaway - ALL IN FOR LOVE - Anthology
ALL IN FOR LOVE
An Inn Decent Proposal By Sharon Buchbinder
Perfect Odds By Lashanta Charles
A Ghost To Die For By Keta Diablo
Raising Kane By Kat Henry Doran
For Money Or Love By Margo Hoornstra
Take A Chance On Me By M.J. Schiller
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense Anthology
Release Date: June 1, 2017
Six award-winning authors bring you six *sweet to sensual* romances filled with suspense, thrills and maybe even a ghost or two—for less than the price of a cup of coffee—99 cents!
Welcome to La Bonne Chance Resort & Casino!
With thousands of people passing through the casino’s doors on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that a variety of lives and loves are on the line there. It’s said that you’re more likely to lose your heart at La Bonne Chance than a hand of poker. Whether you are the Director of Casino Operations or the guy who created its software, a jilted bride or a black jack dealer, a past guest’s ghost or a sous chef--when it comes to love, the stakes are high.
Thank goodness what happens at La Bonne Chance, doesn’t always stay at La Bonne Chance….
Ready to roll the dice?
An Inn Decent Proposal, Sharon Buchbinder
Can an hotelier with a past and a chef with a future revive the grand dame in a neglected old inn?
Perfect Odds, Lashanta Charles
When a jilted bride meets the man of her dreams, will she embrace the new plan, or cling stubbornly to the old one?
A Ghost To Die For, Keta Diablo
She didn't believe in ghosts...until one showed up in her room.
Raising Kane, Kat Henry Doran
Funny how a night in jail will change a woman's outlook on life.
For Money Or Love, Margo Hoornstra
She's the one woman he can't afford to lose.
Take A Chance On Me, M.J. Schiller
Who do you count on when the chips are down?
To add to the fun, we are giving away one gambling themed handmade item to ONE lucky commenter who will be selected by a Random Number Generator.
Buy Link Amazon
Are you ready to roll the dice?
Excerpts and Author Fun Facts
Excerpt from An Inn Decent Proposal by Sharon Buchbinder
After the hotel auction, a stunned Jim Rawlings and excited Genie King go to Sips, a local coffee house. Overwhelmed with self-doubts verging on buyer’s remorse, Jim begins to question his sanity. Genie, on the other hand, is bursting with enthusiasm and ideas…
“Why did you want this place?”
“The old girl called to me, begged me to save her.” He gave Genie a wistful smile. “Do I sound crazy?”
“You call the Inn ‘she,’ too?”
“Yes, she’s like a grand old dame who’s fallen on hard times. Remember the parties? The famous people who stayed and played there? Celebrities came to the Inn because they knew their privacy and secrets were safe with us. If those walls could talk! Every day was new and exciting. I would love to bring back her glory days.”
Genie leaped up, ran around the table and hugged him. “I have the same dream. We can do it.”
HE HESITATED FOR A MOMENT, THEN RETURNED THE GESTURE, HIS HANDS UNABLE TO RESIST LINGERING ON HER LUSCIOUS CURVES JUST A TAD TOO LONG. GENIE’S INVITING CLEAVAGE MADE HIM WISH THEY WERE SOMEWHERE PRIVATE. HE COULD SCARCELY BREATHE AND HAD TO SHAKE HIS HEAD TO DISPEL NAUGHTY IMAGES OF NUZZLING HER SOFT BREASTS. “WE CAN DO WHAT?”
She sat down again, but clung to his hands. “I’ve done the research. The Inn should be in the National Park Service Historic Registry—but it isn’t. If we can get her added to the Registry, there are laws and standards about how we make the rehabilitation. We can bring it up to modern codes, but have to use certain treatments—”
“I HATE TO BURST YOUR BUBBLE, BUT WHERE WILL WE GET THE MONEY TO DO ALL THIS?” HE WASN’T SURE HE COULD AFFORD TOO MANY MORE BIG GAMBLES LIKE THIS LAST ONE.
Her face flushed and her sapphire blue eyes sparkled. “If we can get her added to the Registry, we’ll qualify for special low interest loans. And for a major tax credit. And we have a million dollars in equity.”
“Pretty, smart—and you say you can cook? If you can do all that, you are a genie.”
She released his hands, pulled her shoulders back, and inadvertently gave him a better glimpse of her bosom. Genie gave him a scalding look. “Are you challenging my cooking, Mr. Rawlings?”
Uh-oh. He never dreamed of Genie having a little temper. He couldn’t resist tweaking her. “I’m sure you’re a solid cook.”
She stood, almost knocking her chair over. “Solid? What the hell does that mean? Average? Good enough to make the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner for the family—but not good enough to cook for guests? Tell you what, Mr. Critic, you come to my house for dinner tomorrow night.” She scribbled her address on a business card and threw it on the table. “My food makes men go weak at the knees.”
HYPNOTIZED BY THE SWAY OF HER VOLUPTUOUS ASS AS SHE STALKED OUT OF THE NEARLY EMPTY CAFÉ, JIM BET IT WASN’T JUST THIS SAUCY WOMAN’S COOKING THAT MADE STRONG MEN WEAK.
ABOUT SHARON BUCHBINDER
SHARON BUCHBINDER AND HER HUSBAND USED TO BREED AND SHOW EGYPTIAN MAUS AND COLOR POINT PERSIANS (FORMERLY CALLED HIMALAYANS). IF YOU’VE EVER SEEN THE MOCKUMENTARY, BEST IN SHOW, YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE 24 OUT OF 52 WEEKENDS A YEAR FOR THIS WILD AND CRAZY COUPLE. WHEN SHARON RETURNED TO SCHOOL FOR HER PHD IN 1986, SHE DECIDED A DOCTORAL PROGRAM PLUS A TODDLER PLUS A FULL TIME JOB WAS MORE THAN ENOUGH AND THEY PLACED ALL THEIR CATS IN GOOD HOMES—INCLUDING THEIR OWN.
* * *
Excerpt from Perfect Odds by Lashanta Charles
CALLISTA IS MEETING HER FIANCÉ AT THE AIRPORT SO THEY CAN FLY OUT TO N.Y. WHERE THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO GET MARRIED, BUT IT SEEMS PLANS HAVE BEEN CHANGED WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE.
“James? Where are you? They’re boarding everyone now,” I say when I answer.
“I’m not coming,” he says.
I pause in making my way to the attendant station. Surely I heard him wrong.
“Hang on a sec, let me ask them how long we have before they can no longer wait. If you’re here already it shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll just need to hurry. Like, sprint through the airport or maybe get one of those guys on the carts to give you a ride somehow.”
The attendant smiles at me and holds her hand out for my boarding pass. I move to give it to her, but hear James speaking again.
“Cali, you’re not listening. I’m not there. I’m not coming,” he says.
Pulling my boarding pass away from the attendant, I force a smile and step away for privacy. “What are you talking about, James? I’m here waiting for you.” As if he doesn’t know that. He helped me load our luggage into the car before I left this morning. Is this some sick joke he’s pulling right now?
“I’M NOT COMING, CALI,” JAMES REPEATS FOR THE THIRD TIME.
I stare numbly at the ‘now boarding’ screen above the attendant. I heard him the first two times. It makes as much sense now as it did then – none.
“I don’t understand. You can’t not come. I can see if they’ll schedule us for a different flight. I’m sure it’s not too late. We’re getting there early enough that one day won’t really matter,” I tell him.
He lets out an exasperated sigh. He’s annoyed? We’re two weeks away from our wedding and I’m at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, sans fiancé. I battled an hour and a half of traffic to get here and get us both checked in two hours early, lugged all our suitcases – overweight, I might add – only for him to call when it’s time to board the flight to New York and tell me he’s not coming, yet, he’s the one who’s annoyed?
“I don’t know what else to say, Cali. I’m trying to do right by you here. We both knew this wouldn’t end well.”
I splutter. Try as I might, I can no longer get the words to flow from my mouth to have this conversation. We didn’t know anything of the sort. Do right by me? How is standing me up for our wedding doing right by me? I didn’t ask to marry myself. I didn’t insist on us having a short engagement or me moving in with him. I definitely didn’t count on any of this.
ABOUT LASHANTA CHARLES
SO I DON'T REALLY HAVE ANYTHING TOO WITTY, BUT I HAVE A 6-YEAR-OLD WITH A SHARP TONGUE. ONE OF THE THINGS I ALWAYS TELL MY KIDS IS THAT MOMMY AND DADDY KNOWS EVERYTHING. SO ONE DAY I'M TAKING MY DAUGHTER TO THE STORE TO BUY TOYS WITH HER BIRTHDAY MONEY. THIS IS HOW THE CONVERSATION WENT:
HER: SO, WHO GAVE ME THIS BIRTHDAY MONEY?
ME: POPPY (GRANDAD)
HER: OH, I REALLY MISS POPPY. I WANT TO GO SEE HIM.
ME: WELL, YOU HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THIS SUMMER, WHEN YOU'RE OUT OF SCHOOL.
ME: BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO LEARN THINGS IN SCHOOL AND IF YOU MISS A DAY, YOU'LL MISS WHAT YOU NEED TO LEARN AND THEN YOU WON'T KNOW EVERYTHING.
HER: OHHHHH, YOU MEAN LIKE YOU AND DADDY DON'T REALLY KNOW EVERYTHING EVEN THOUGH YOU SAY YOU DO?
* * *
EXCERPT FROM A GHOST TO DIE FOR BY KETA DIABLO
Rooney encounters a stranger in her hotel room and soon finds out he's a ghost!
ROONEY LOOKED AT THE MAN THROUGH NARROWED EYES. "YOU WEREN'T AT THE SÉANCE ON STAGE, SO WHAT THEN, WERE YOU IN THE AUDIENCE?"
NO, I WAS ON STAGE, BUT KIND OF HANGING AROUND IN THE BACKGROUND. HE PUT HIS HANDS IN THE AIR, PALMS OUT. I SWEAR, I WON'T HURT YOU, BUT I BEEN LURKING AROUND THIS HOTEL FOR TWO MONTHS NOW WONDERING HOW I WAS GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS MESS. THEN YOU ARRIVED AT LA BONNE CHANCE WITH YOUR SISTER, YOU KNOW, THE FABULOUS FONTAINE SISTERS, THE CRÈME-DELA-CRÈME OF PSYCHICS, AND MY PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED.
She snorted. "I'm not a psychic, mister, so if that's your angle, you picked the wrong sister."
NO, I PICKED THE RIGHT SISTER. NOW IF ONLY I CAN GET HER TO HEAR ME OUT.
"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOU OUT; I WANT YOU TO GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOTEL ROOM. LIKE NOW!" WHEN HE DIDN'T COMPLY, SHE MOVED THE CAN OF HAIR SPRAY UNTIL IT LOOMED INCHES FROM HIS FACE. "I'M GOING TO COUNT TO THREE. IF YOU AREN'T OUT OF THAT CHAIR AND OUT THAT DOOR BY THEN, I'M GIVING YOU A FACE FULL OF HAIR SPRAY."
GO AHEAD. MAYBE THEN YOU'LL REALIZE WHAT I AM AND LISTEN.
"YOU ASKED FOR IT." SHE HELD THE NOZZLE DOWN AND LET HIM HAVE IT RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES. HE DIDN'T MOVE A MUSCLE, DIDN'T REACT AT ALL. MUCH TO HER DISMAY, SHE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE THE SATISFACTION OF SEEING HIM BLINK. THE DRIZZLE AND AROMA OF HAIR SPRAY HUNG HEAVY IN THE AIR BUT DIDN'T SEEM TO BOTHER HIM NEARLY AS MUCH AS IT DID HER. THROUGH A SERIES OF CHOKES AND CHORTLES SHE MANAGED TO EKE OUT THE WORDS. "WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF WEIRDO WITH INHUMAN DEFENSES?"
YOU ASKED ME WHAT I AM AND I'M TELLING YOU. I'M A GHOST.
EYES WIDE, VOICE IN SHRIEK MODE, SHE FELL ONTO THE EDGE OF THE BED AND GLARED AT HIM. "YOU CAN'T BE A GHOST. I DON'T BELIEVE IN GHOSTS!"
UNDERSTANDABLE. NEITHER DID I UNTIL I BECAME ONE.
SHE REACHED OUT AND TOUCHED HIS ARM, MORE TO PROVE HIM WRONG THAN ANYTHING ELSE. A STARTLED SCREAM ESCAPED WHEN HER FINGERS DANCED THROUGH VACANT AIR. COMING TO HER FEET, SHE PACED A SMALL AREA BESIDE THE BED. "THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING. IT ISN'T POSSIBLE."
THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I SAID WHEN THEY PUSHED ME OFF THE BALCONY AND I WOUND UP IN THIS STATE.
SHE RESUMED HER PRIOR POSITION ON THE BED. "SOMEONE PUSHED YOU OFF A BALCONY?"
MORE LIKE TOSSED ME OVER, RIGHT HERE AT THE LA BONNE CHANCE CASINO, SEVENTH FLOOR, TWO MONTHS AGO.
"TWO MONTHS AGO? YOU'VE BEEN WANDERING AROUND HERE FOR TWO MONTHS?"
HE RELEASED AN EXASPERATED SIGH. I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT BE A GOOD LISTENER, BUT I'VE SAID THAT TWICE NOW. TWO MONTHS AGO I DIED, AND YES I'VE BEEN HANGING OUT HERE, TWIDDLING MY THUMBS AND TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO NEXT.
"You can't leave the hotel?"
NOT YET, ANYWAY. I'M WORKING ON IT, BUT YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH ENERGY IT TAKES JUST TO PROJECT MY VOICE. NO ONE ELSE HAS BEEN ABLE TO HEAR ME, OR SEE ME, UNTIL YOU, ROONEY, AND NOW I SEEM TO BE EXPERIENCING A RENEWED SENSE OF ENERGY.
"STOP SAYING MY NAME AS IF WE'RE BESTIES."
WELL, AFTER THAT SÉANCE AND THE CONVERSATION YOU HAD WITH VIOLET ABOUT YOUR LITTLE SISTER, VANESSA, I KIND OF FEEL AS IF WE ARE.
ABOUT KETA DIABLO
Keta once dressed up as old man on Halloween and picked up her 9th grader at school in costume! Needless to say, he wasn't pleased. In fact, he refused to get in the car. She followed him out of the parking lot and down the street for two blocks before he'd even look at her. Yes, he finally got in, but didn't appreciate her humor...at all. Update: He's in college now and says the "old man" incident is now one of his fondest childhood memories.
* * *
EXCERPT FROM RAISING KANE BY KAT HENRY DORAN
Lt. Kieran Pollack signs in to work and comes up against the woman of his dreams: Mallory Kane, ace investigative reporter. Unfortunately she's just spent the night in jail and is in no mood to speak with anyone--particularly a cop.
“ANYTHING I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE I HEAD UPSTAIRS, SARGE?”
“It’s all there.” The night duty man passed him the report from the previous platoon. “The usual pugs, thugs and mugs threw themselves a circus down at The Dirty Dawg last night.”
Kieran scrawled his name on the sign-in roster. “Again? Somebody ought to look into closing down that pest hole.”
“I bet the Mayor is thinkin’ along those same lines. With the Chief on vacation and the Deputy Chief at a meeting out of town, as PIO it’s your job to handle the fallout. Lucky man.”
Fall-out? “What are you talking about?”
A woman with mile-long legs and hair the color of roasting chestnuts strode past the desk, heading in the direction of the revolving door.
“Overnight guest,” the sergeant advised under his breath. “TV Reporter. I was you, I’d head that one off at the pass.”
In addition to a talent for scoping out shapely legs, Kieran possessed the good sense to act on sound advice. After shooting both cuffs and ensuring his tie hung straight, he glided up beside the woman. “Excuse me, miss?”
She stopped, threw back her shoulders, then turned. “Yes?”
In the shimmer of an early morning sun he saw a nasty bruise blossoming across one cheekbone and winced. “Does that hurt as bad as it looks?”
“Who are you and what do you want?”
She possessed a voice designed to make a man think of hot nights and cool sheets. Extending a hand, he launched into his usual PIO song and dance. “Kieran Pollack, Public Information Officer for the Victory PD. What’s a pretty thing such as yourself doing in a joint like this?”
The screech of tires on the street outside obscured any response she might have made. Panel vans bearing the logos of the local TV affiliates disgorged reporters and camera-persons who wasted no time in storming the doors to the Public Safety Building.
Kieran attempted to head her off at the pass with a fast two-step and a faster line of bull. “Look, can you help out this hard working public servant?”
She raised one hand to shield her injured cheek. “Not without my attorney.”
“Aw, now. Why do you want to go and do something like that? We don’t need no lousy lawyers to make things right, do we?”
“I believe it’s somewhere in the Bill of Rights,” she murmured, eluding his out-stretched hand with a fast step to the left.
“PLEASE. HEAR ME OUT,” HE PRESSED, ONE EYE ON THE CAMERA-PERSONS NOW JOCKEYING FOR POSITION JUST INSIDE THE DOORS. “I CAN MAKE THIS ALL DISAPPEAR―IF WE COULD GO SOMEPLACE TO TALK. IT WOULD BE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE, I PROMISE.”
A SPARK FLARED IN THOSE DULL, PAIN-FILLED EYES. “I’D SOONER WALK BAREFOOT THROUGH A NEST OF PIT VIPERS THAN SPEND ONE SECOND ALONE WITH ANY MEMBER OF THE VICTORY POLICE DEPARTMENT.”
ABOUT KAT DORAN
THERE WAS THE TIME I PLAYED PRIVATE DUTY NURSE FOR MY UNCLE, AFTER HE UNDERWENT A RESECTION OF AN AORTIC ANEURYSM. VERY SCARY FOR A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT REASONS. IT BECAME MY JOB TO ENSURE FATHER JOE GOT SUFFICIENT REST WHICH BOILED DOWN TO PLAYING TRAFFIC COP AND TIME-KEEPER ON VISITORS. ON ONE AFTERNOON, I COULD SEE JOE WAS FATIGUED AND NEEDED A NAP. AS I ROUNDED UP THE CROWD TO SEND THEM OUT THE DOOR, ONE SMIRKED AT ME. "WHO'S NURSE RATCHED, JOE?" HE ASKED.
I SAID, "WHO ARE YOU, THE POPE?"
HE SAID, "CLOSE TO IT, HONEY. I'M THE BISHOP."
* * *
EXCERPT FROM FOR MONEY OR LOVE BY MARGO HOORNSTRA
Lindsey Carr's two best friends, Rita and Anne, discuss exactly why she and her mega-millionaire boss, Daniel Montgomery, are no longer romantically involved.
SHOOTING LINDSEY A QUICKLY MANUFACTURED SMILE, SHE TURNED HER FULL ATTENTION TO THE EYE CANDY. “NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. THOSE ARE BEDROOM EYES.” SHE TRAILED HER FINGERTIPS OVER DANIEL’S FOREHEAD, DOWN HIS CHEEK AND ONTO THE OUTLINE OF HIS LIPS.
LINDSEY BROUGHT BOTH HANDS TO HER LAP UNDER THE TABLE, LOCKED HER FINGERS TOGETHER AND SQUEEZED. IT WAS A FOUR-PAGE SPREAD IN TODAY’S TECH MAGAZINE. THE PICTURE OF DANIEL’S FOREHEAD, CHEEK AND LIPS.
An important distinction to remember. If that had been her boss in the flesh he’d be blushing beet red from all the fluttery female attention. Daniel Montgomery was different than most other powerful millionaires. Those she’d heard about anyway. Certainly drop dead gorgeous as had been established. With a mile wide shy streak not many people knew about or even suspected. Hands still clasped, Lindsey leaned away from the display.
ANNE SLID HER GLASS ASIDE AND MOVED UP TO FILL THE VOID, HER CRITICAL GAZE FOCUSED ON DANIEL’S PICTURE. “I’M NEVER SURE WHAT THE TERM ‘BEDROOM EYES’ MEANS.”
“NOT DROOPY OR SLEEPY.” RITA DIDN’T BOTHER TO LOOK UP. “SEXY. THERE’S NO OTHER WORD FOR IT. WELL, MAYBE EROTIC WOULD FIT. I MUST SAY, LINDSEY. IT AMAZES ME YOU CAN WORK SIDE BY SIDE WITH THIS MAN DAY IN AND DAY OUT AND MANAGE TO KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF.”
“IT’S EASY.” SHE MURMURED THE BLATANT LIE. VERY EASY. HE DOES THE SAME AND THEN SOME.
“You and this marvelous specimen.” Rita waited until Lindsey glanced up then met her eye to eye. “As a couple, are old news, right? That’s what you’ve said.”
“ABSOLUTELY.” PURPOSELY LOWERING HER VOICE, SHE MENTALLY COUNTED TO FIVE BEFORE SHE SPOKE AGAIN. “WE DID THE DATING THING FOR A WHILE.” SHE SHRUGGED ONE SHOULDER FOR EFFECT. “IT DIDN’T WORK FOR US.”
LINDSEY TOOK A SMALL GULP OF WINE TO AVOID HAVING TO SHARE MORE, AND WAS RELIEVED WHEN RITA AND ANNE WENT BACK TO HUNK BROWSING. TRYING HER BEST TO IGNORE THE FACT IT WAS DANIEL’S HUNK THEY BROWSED, SHE GAVE UP TO GIVE INTO HER OWN THOUGHTS ABOUT THE MAN. BOWING TO A MUTUAL ATTRACTION THAT BECAME EVIDENT SOON AFTER THEY MET, LINDSEY AND DANIEL DATED FOR A TIME. A VERY SHORT TIME, CONSISTING OF A FEW CASUAL DINNERS, A COUPLE OF MOVIES. THAT ONE NIGHT IN….
“WHY DIDN’T IT WORK FOR YOU EXACTLY?”
UNSURE WHO ASKED THE QUESTION, LINDSEY LOOKED UP THEN BLINKED. “IT JUST DIDN’T.” SHE SLOWLY LET OUT A BREATH. “I DON’T THINK OF DANIEL MONTGOMERY IN THAT WAY.” MUCH ANYMORE.
“Then why are you blushing?” Her sharp gaze unrelenting, Rita leaned considered her from across the table. “Care to share?”
I’LL HAVE NO PEACE AROUND HERE UNTIL I DO. TAKING HER TIME TO INDULGE IN ANOTHER SIP, SHE COMPLETED A LONG, SLOW SWALLOW THEN LICKED HER LIPS.
ABOUT MARGO HOORNSTRA
BECOMING A COFFEE CONNOISSEUR WASN’T AN INSTANT FALL HEAD OVER HEELS EVENT FOR MARGO HOORNSTRA. INITIAL CUPS WERE LOADED WITH MILK AND SUGAR. WHEN THE CHILDREN ARRIVED, TWO AM FEEDINGS COUPLED WITH SIX AM RISINGS FOR WORK NECESSITATED MORE INDISPENSABLE CAFFEINE. FLAVORED, ICED, LATTES AND SUCH, A TRUE COFFEE AFICIONADO, SHE COVETS THEM ALL.
* * *
EXCERPT FROM TAKE A CHANCE ON ME BY M.J. SCHILLER
AFTER CHASING LEADS AT THE STATION, CASH RETURNS TO HIS HOME WHERE HIS PARTNER, IAN, IS SUPPOSED TO BE WATCHING OVER THE MURDER WITNESS, HARPER...
CASH SLOWLY PULLED HIS KEYS OUT OF THE DOOR, EXAMINING THE PAIR. “WHAT’S GOING ON?”
“NOTHING. RIGHT, IAN?”
IAN NODDED LOOSELY. “NOTHING. LIKE SHE SAID.”
CASH CLOSED THE DOOR AND SET HIS KEYS ON THE END TABLE. “UH-HUH.” HE STUCK HIS HANDS IN HIS POCKETS. “WHAT’S BEHIND YOUR BACK?”
IAN SHOT A GLANCE AT HARPER. “YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN.” HE DUCKED INTO THE KITCHEN.
“COWARD,” SHE MUMBLED OUT OF THE SIDE OF HER MOUTH.
CASH MOVED FORWARD, AND SHE TOOK A STEP BACK. HE LUNGED, CATCHING HER, AND CAUSING HER TO SCREAM. HE WRESTLED THE BOTTLE FROM HER HAND AND BROUGHT IT OUT WHERE HE COULD SEE IT. IAN RAN IN, HIS CONCERNED GAZE DARTING TO HARPER. HE STOPPED AND PUT A HAND OVER HIS HEART, LEANING AGAINST THE SIDE OF THE ARCHWAY BETWEEN THE TWO ROOMS.
“HMM.” CASH TOOK A STEP BACK, TILTING THE BOTTLE. HE FOUGHT THE SMILE TUGGING ON HIS LIPS. “IS THIS MY JÄGER?”
IAN AND HARPER LOOKED AT EACH OTHER WITH OPEN MOUTHS, BUT NEITHER SPOKE.
CASH AMBLED OVER TO THE COFFEE TABLE AND CLINKED THE BOTTLE AGAINST THE SHOT GLASSES AS HE SET IT DOWN. “SO—AND CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG—IT LOOKS LIKE, WHILE I’VE BEEN OUT WORKING MY ASS OFF, THE TWO OF YOU WERE BUSY GETTING SNOCKERED.”
“OH, NO.” HARPER SHOOK HER HEAD. “WE WERE WORKING HARD, RIGHT, IAN?”
IAN MADE AN ATTEMPT TO STAND STRAIGHT, BUT SWAYED COMICALLY. “WE WERE WORKING HARD.” HE NODDED, BUT TURNED TO HARPER. “WHAT WERE WE WORKING HARD AT AGAIN?”
“LOOKING AT THE MUG SHOTS.”
“OH. YEAH. THAT’S RIGHT. WE WERE LOOKING AT THE MUG SHOTS.” HE FACED CASH. “AND DOING SHOTS.”
“SH-SH-SH. IT’S A SECRET.” HARPER LAUGHED.
IAN CHUCKLED ALONG WITH HER. “OH, YEAH.”
CASH PUT HIS HANDS ON HIS HIPS. “WELL, I HATE TO TELL YOU, FRIENDS, BUT THE CAT’S OUT OF THE BAG NOW.”
“CAT? WHAT CAT?” HARPER LAUGHED, SEEMING TO BE SLIGHTLY MORE SOBER THAN HER PARTNER IN CRIME, HIS PARTNER.
“HE HAS A CAT?” IAN SEEMED GENUINELY CONFUSED, LOOKING AROUND FOR THE FELINE. “YOU NEVER TOLD ME YOU HAD A CAT.”
HARPER SPUTTERED AND BROKE INTO LAUGHTER AGAIN.
CASH SAT, HIDING HIS CHUCKLE. SHE WAS SO DAMNED CUTE. HE PUT HIS FEET ON THE COFFEE TABLE, SPREADING HIS ARMS OUT ALONG THE TOP OF THE COUCH. “WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS ANYHOW?”
THEY POINTED AT EACH OTHER.
“IT WAS MINE?” HARPER ASKED. IAN NODDED. “OH. IT WAS MINE.” SHE SMILED AND DIDN’T APPEAR TO TRY TO HIDE HER PRIDE.
CASH SHOOK HIS HEAD, STARING AT THEM FOR A MOMENT. HE STOOD AND PULLED OUT HIS PHONE. “OKAY, IAN. I’M CALLING YOU AN UBER.” HE PUNCHED SOME BUTTONS. “CHRISSY’S GONNA KICK YOUR BUTT. AND THE NEXT TIME SHE SEES ME, SHE’S GONNA KICK MY BUTT.” HE LOOKED AT HIS SCREEN. “TWO MINUTES AWAY.” HE CAME OVER AND PUT HIS ARM AROUND IAN, STEERING HIM TO THE DOOR.
CASH GRABBED HIS JACKET OFF A RECLINER. “YES, YOU ARE. MAYBE THE NIGHT AIR WILL SOBER YOU UP SOME.”
“I DOUBT IT.”
CASH LAUGHED. “I DOUBT IT, TOO. AND YOU, LITTLE MISSIE—” HE SWUNG AROUND TO POINT TO HER.
SHE LOOKED ABOUT, THEN PUT A FINGER ON HER CHEST AND MOUTHED “ME?”
“YES, YOU. DON’T THINK YOU’RE OFF THE HOOK. I’LL DEAL WITH YOU WHEN I GET BACK.”
ABOUT M.J. SCHILLER
ONE DAY--WHEN M.J.'S TRIPLETS WERE ABOUT TWO, AND HER ELDEST FOUR--SHE WAS DOING LAUNDRY AND MATCHING UP THE SOCKS, ONE OF HER LEAST FAVORITE CHORES. SHE LINED THEM UP ALL ALONG HER ARMS AS SHE HUNTED FOR THEIR MATES. AFTER A BIT OF FRUITLESS SEARCHING, SHE GLANCED AT THE TIME AND REALIZED SHE NEEDED TO HUSTLE TO BE ON TIME FOR A PRAYER SERVICE SHE WAS ATTENDING AT HER CHURCH.
SHE MADE IT IN TIME, HER FOUR CHILDREN IN TOW, AND REMOVED HER COAT BEFORE KNEELING TO SAY A PRAYER. AN HALF HOUR LATER, AS SHE PIOUSLY PRAYED ALONG WITH THE CONGREGATION, HER ELDEST ASKED, "MOMMY, WHY DO YOU HAVE A SOCK ON YOUR SHOULDER?" SHE HAD MISSED REMOVING ONE OF HER HUSBAND'S LONG, MATELESS GYM SOCKS!