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Still a casting director in my own mind

So you may have noticed that Shifter Woods: Snarl isn’t out yet. There’s a good reason for that–I’ve been having the very devil of a time finishing it. For some reason (which we will get to in a moment) I haven’t been able to get the characters to talk to me and tell me why they’re doing what they’re doing. This means that I can’t write about them because I don’t know them; I’ve already trashed three chapters because they were going nowhere and doing nothing for the story.

And then it hit me last night–I didn’t cast Jack and Kate in my head. Because I think very cinematically (frustrated screenwriter here), I always mentally cast my characters because then I can set them loose the in the story, “watch” what they’re doing, and write it down. I thought that coming up with a cover for SW:S meant that I could just use the models for my mental casting, but since I’ve never seen them move, talk, or emote it simply was not working for me.

So, last night, I cast Jack and Kate (oddly enough I’d already cast Kate’s father and a lot of the supporting characters–I was being ridiculously stubborn about my leads, though). Et voila, I woke up this morning with a VERY important scene that broke my block and will lead to the rest of the storyline. Which is a freaking relief, let me tell you.

Oh, my casting? Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure Richard Armitage is either a wolf shifter or part elf in real life, judging from those points on his years, and he’s very good at playing conflicted yet dead sexy characters so he’s a great choice for my Alpha wolf without a pack. And while I know there’s been a lot of controversy around her for some of her tone-deaf role choices, Scarlett Johansson is really the best person to play Kate–she’s good at being snarky, she can handle action roles (there’s going to be a chapter where Jack and Kate team up to find a little girl lost in the mountains), and she looks enough like the cover model that I won’t have to change anything to make Kate and the cover coincide.

The new goal is to bring this out on 7/31. Let’s get ‘er done.

Surfacing

Hoo boy, this has been an insane month so far, and it’s only the 10th. In between A/C failures in both our upstairs and downstairs units (the downstairs unit was a grand to repair, so luckily the upstairs unit was still under warranty and could be fixed for free), trying to get Shifter Woods: Snarl (I typed Snark there which is appropriate — this story has been fighting me like you would not believe) finished and out the door, getting back to work on Behind the Iron Cross, and finishing up a BUTTLOAD of jewelry in a very hot garage, it’s been interesting.

Did I mention that I’m also retaining about ten pounds (seriously) of water weight due to the oncoming Shark Week and look (and feel) like I’m seven months’ pregnant? I am clearly allergic to being female. It’s supposed to start tomorrow and I can already feel the blessed hormonal shift because suddenly I have energy again and want to eat vegetables. I just vacuumed the downstairs and as soon as this rain stops and the rush hour traffic dies down I’m getting the makings for stir fry, as well as egg salad and chicken salad for the rest of the week’s lunches.

And Midol, because damn. Ten pounds, people. I’m astounded my heart is still working.

But back to writing things. I think I worked out the problem with Snarl — basically, I have a packless wolf Alpha shifter/SEAL who’s been hired by his former commanding officer to work at the family ski lodge in Esposito County. He’s also been told to stay away from the officer’s daughter. Problem is, the daughter is Wolfie’s mate, AND she lost her sense of smell so she can’t tell she’s his mate. So Wolfie is dealing with a slew of emotions — honor, duty, a sense of being unworthy due to losing his pack, AND confusion as to how to convince her that they’re meant to be together since she can’t smell it — that’s stopping him from claiming her. Then I realized I had a chance to show how shifters learn to love when they’re not being driven by the mating instinct. In Kate’s case, she’s going to think, “I don’t care what my father says, I’m an adult and I want you, PLUS I’m heir to the pack’s Alpha so Dad can learn to deal” and go after Wolfie, re-igniting his sense of self-worth and leading her to realize that they’re mates. Boom, the block evaporated.

So, yeah, Snarl should be finished this week, God willing and the crick don’t rise. Iron Cross is 75% finished so I’m going to get that done as soon as Snarl is out, with an aim to releasing it in mid August, and then it’s on to Shifter Woods: Scream (Deputy Jane’s story, where she finds out she’s mated to a hot tiger shifter/FBI agent AND a half-elf zookeeper. Because I like complicating things).

Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! I’m back, and this week I’m teasing you with some more from the third installment in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. Some background: Jack Hawthorne is a ex-SEAL and wolf shifter who shows up in Esposito County looking for work at his former commanding officer’s ski lodge. He never expects to find his mate there as well — except that Kate Chandler is a cougar shifter, can’t smell due to a childhood accident (and thus can’t recognize Jack as her mate), and is the daughter of Jack’s former commander. As I like to say, hijinks ensue!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

“I like you, Jack. And I’d like to go to bed with you. I hope that doesn’t shock you.”

He choked back a laugh. If his dick got any harder it was going to break the zipper on his jeans. “It doesn’t.”

She leaned forward, celadon eyes glowing in the soft light from the fireplace. “And I get the impression you want the same thing.”

Oh, Christ yes. His wolf raised its muzzle and howled. It took every ounce of self-control he had to stay on his side of the couch. “Yeah, I do,” he said roughly.

Her eyes narrowed. “Then why do you keep holding me off? Did my dad say something to you?”

And there it was. He let out a long breath through his nose, struggling to keep his desire on a tight leash. “Pretty much. You know what he’s like. You’re a no-fly zone as far as he’s concerned.”

Her lips pursed, making them even more plump and kissable. An insanely hot image of them wrapped around his cock as her tongue massaged the underside of his shaft surged through his mind, making him want to howl along with his wolf. “I’m thirty years old, Jack. I can assure you, I haven’t been a virgin for well over a decade. And while I love my dad, he doesn’t get to decide who I sleep with.” She pushed the popcorn bowl towards him and stood up.

Before he could ask what she was doing, she took her sweater’s hem and pulled it up in a slow, teasing motion. It revealed smooth, creamy skin over sleek muscles and a set of small, round breasts cupped in a scrap of blue lace that was more confection than bra. His mouth went dry at the sight, hands burning to rip off that lace, free those perfect tits, kiss and suck them until all he could taste was her.

Smiling, she shook her hair free of the neckline and let the sweater drop onto the great room’s rug. “I’m going to my room. You can join me, if you want, or you can watch the rest of the movie. It’s your choice.”

Turning, she sauntered off, hips swinging hypnotically. It took him two tries to find the remote control and turn off the TV before he followed.


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m teasing you with some more from the third installment in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. Some background: Jack Hawthorne is a ex-SEAL and wolf shifter who shows up in Esposito County looking for work at his former commanding officer’s ski lodge. He never expects to find his mate there as well — except that Kate Chandler is a cougar shifter, can’t smell due to a childhood accident (and thus can’t recognize Jack as her mate), and is the daughter of Jack’s former commander. As I like to say, hijinks ensue!

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Jack shook the worst of the snow from his parka, stamping his boots to dislodge more of the cold white stuff on the back porch before closing the door. “Getting a little deep out there,” he said laconically.

Kate smirked. “You think this is deep, you should be here during one of our blizzards.” She leaned against the mud room door frame, trying not to ogle as the hunky wolf shifter peeled off more of his outer layers. “You’d have a problem getting through the snowfall.”

He grinned as he hung up parka, hat, and scarf. “You’d be surprised. We get bad winters in North Carolina, too. I’m pretty good at dealing with snow.”

She wondered how he was going to deal with the news that her father would be staying in town overnight. It left them alone together in the house, with a nice little snowstorm blowing outside, and if that wasn’t a recipe for falling into bed and fucking their brains out she didn’t know what was–

Her next thought fled as Jack finished stripping down to a thermal T that outlined his broad shoulders and rock-hard pecs. His battered old jeans fit like they had been tailored for him, and she couldn’t help staring at the large package under the fly. Oh, yum.

Even with him fresh from outside, the heat from the big wolf shifter’s body drifted across the space between them, warming her skin. What would it be like if she moved closer, put her arm around his neck? Would he take it as the invitation it was, or would he back off on orders from her father?

I am an adult. I make the decisions in my life, dammit. And if I want to go to bed with Jack, I will.

She allowed herself a wry smile. Assuming he wants to, of course. But she was ninety-nine percent sure that he would be more than happy to visit her bedroom and relieve the growing desire that had been hitting her with increasing frequency since the day he showed up.

Use your words, Chandler. “So,” she said after clearing her throat, “Dad’s decided to stay in town and ride out the storm there, which means we’re on our own tonight. What do you want to do?”

He glanced down at her, and she was sure she saw a flicker of desire in those blue depths. And then he smiled. “Can we watch a movie?”

She wanted to growl in frustration. “Seriously?”

“Yeah. I like movies. Haven’t been able to see a lot of them recently.” He shrugged. “But if you don’t want to, that’s okay.”

Her cougar yowled in protest. Bed! Now! Before the Alpha gets back!

She pushed it back, thinking. The wall of the Chandler great room was one huge DVD collection, and that didn’t include all the films they had in streaming format. If she played her cards right, snuggling up on the couch with Jack while they watched something could definitely turn into something more. “What kinds of movies do you like?”

He considered it. “Believe it or not, I’m not big on action movies,” he admitted. “I like comedies, SF, and fantasy, given my choice.”

Fantasy. A brilliant idea popped into her head. “We have the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Plus I have popcorn. We could make it a marathon.”

He grinned, teeth white against the tan of his skin. “Ma’am, you had me at popcorn.”

****

Jack tossed a buttery popcorn kernel into his mouth as Bernard Hill magically changed from an aged husk back into a vigorous Theoden on the Chandler’s huge flatscreen TV. “I love this part. I’m a total sucker for a redemption story.”

Kate sat cross-legged on the couch next to him. In a soft moss sweater and brown leggings, she looked like a gorgeous little forest sprite, and keeping his hands off her was becoming more and more a test of willpower. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Wormtongue was a sleazy bastard. And I had such a crush on Theoden when the movie first came out.”

That surprised him. “Really? You must’ve been a kid at the time.”

“Mm, no. I was fourteen. Just the right time for puberty to strike with a vengeance.” She stole a handful of popcorn from the large bowl between then. “All my friends were crazy about Viggo or one of the hobbits, but I thought Theoden was seriously sexy. Must have been all that angst and leather armor.”

“I guess.” A gleam of hope flickered to life. She liked brave, strong leaders who weren’t perfect. And you’re a packless Alpha. Lucky you, you were pretty much made for her.

He ignored the snarky voice. “Hey, don’t eat all my popcorn,” he said, grabbing a handful for himself.

“That’s our popcorn, specialist, and I can always make some more,” she teased, pushing his hand aside with her own. The contact was platonic, but it still sent warmth rushing over Jack’s skin and nerves. He was grateful for the throw pillow he’d casually arranged over his crotch, camouflaging the semi he’d been sporting on and off since Kate had sat down next to him. Her proximity and the heat coming from the fireplace filled the air with her scent, locking onto every pheromone receptor he had and urging him to claim her. Watching an extended cut of the Rings trilogy with her sitting next to him had somehow become a strangely enjoyable form of torture.

As long as he didn’t have to stand up at any point. “So Viggo didn’t do it for you?” he added.

She shrugged. “He’s handsome. But he’s not my type.”

The words left his mouth before he could stop them: “What is your type?”

He winced, worried that he’d overstepped his bounds. But Kate smiled. “Someone who’s capable, confident, but not a macho Alphahole. A little vulnerability is nice. He doesn’t always have to be the strong one. I like to be leaned on once in a while, as long as I know I can do the same thing when I need help. And he has to have a good sense of humor.”

Jack ignored the sudden cascade of dirty limericks and jokes tumbling through his head. “Okay,” he said, readjusting his pillow. “In that case, I guess Aragorn is a little humorless.”

“Exactly. He’s so damn driven. But you can imagine Theoden having a beer and relaxing with some shield maidens once all the fighting was done. It also helps that I saw the outtake where Viggo cracked Bernard up by reminding him about being turned into a LOTR action figure.” She dropped her voice into an accented growl. “‘They’ll make ten thousand at least, for children to play stupid games with.’”

Jack grinned. “Now that has to be weird, knowing that someone made you into a doll.”

“Right? I mean, think of the potential for voodoo misuse.”

They both laughed at that before settling back, watching as the Fellowship persuaded Theoden and the rest of the Rohirrim to help out Gondor. But Jack couldn’t help mulling over what Kate had said. Since the moment he’d learned that she couldn’t smell him as her mate, he’d been worried that there was no way he could attract her, especially with his packless status. But it seemed that the sexy cougar shifter was far more open minded than he’d thought. And she likes capable, confident men. If that’s not a SEAL, I don’t know what is.

He reached for more popcorn and once again met her hand doing the same thing. This time the contact send a burst of heat through him, raw and hungry for more contact with his gorgeous little cougar. Underneath the throw pillow his cock surged up, tightening painfully against his jeans.

Kate left her hand touching his over the nubbly kernels. “Maybe we should talk about the elephant in the room?” she said slowly.

He took in a breath and wanted to groan at the deliciousness of her scent. “Yeah, maybe we should.”


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m continuing on from my most recent snippet of Shifter Woods: Snarl. When we last saw Jack and Kate, he’d just informed her that any shifter at Cougar Ridge Ski Lodge would be able to smell the fact that she’d just enjoyed a solo morning orgasm. After that, things get—complicated. Yeah, let’s say complicated.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Jack winced as Kate jerked back in her chair, green eyes wide with shock. He hadn’t meant to be so blunt, but the heady scent of her satisfied desire hung in the air like a shimmering cloud of delicious, cock-hardening perfume. He wasn’t going to be able to stand up for a few minutes as it was, and the only thing stopping him from flipping over the table, grabbing her and taking her back to bed was the knowledge that Commander Chandler would undoubtedly boot him from the lodge for that. But damn, it would be worth it.

“You—you can smell that?” she stammered.

Christ, could he. “Yeah. And so can every other shifter in the lodge. Just wash up again, maybe get some fresh underwear.”

Biting her lip, she dropped the fork on her unfinished omelet and stood up, hurrying past him. A wave of guilt stung him and he grabbed her wrist. “Wait.”

She jerked free, not looking at him. “What?”

“I’m—I’m sorry. I just—” Don’t want you going out there smelling so goddamn good. It was bad enough watching the male cougars at the lodge stare after her like she was the hottest thing on the mountain. Which, of course, she was, but they weren’t supposed to look at her like that. His wolf howled in agreement. If she went out there smelling like sex in the bargain, one of them was bound to make a move, manager or not, and then he’d have to act. “I didn’t want you to be embarrassed,” he finished.

“Yeah, little late for that.” She crossed her arms defensively over her chest. All that did was plump up her breasts under the pretty sweater she was wearing, making his cock throb harder. “I’m not responsible for what happens in my dreams, okay?”

She still wouldn’t look at him, blooms of color tinting those sharp cheekbones and making her even more appetizing. A tantalizing thought occurred to him then—was I in her dream? Did her subconscious recognize him as her mate? It would only be fair, seeing as she was starring in all of his wet dreams this last week.

But there was a hot scent of rising anger under the humiliation, and pissing her off at this stage wasn’t smart. “I know, and I’m sorry for being so blunt. It’s like—telling you that you have a piece of spinach in your teeth.” He shrugged, wishing he was better with words. “You could be a little bit embarrassed in front of me, or really embarrassed in front of every shifter at the lodge. Including your dad.”

Her lips pursed at that. Finally, reluctantly, she nodded. “I see your point. In that case, thank you.”

If he hadn’t been able to tell from her scent, the terse tone would have told him she was still embarrassed. He searched for something reassuring to say when she added, “Does it smell … bad?”

There was no way she could ever smell bad to him, especially not at the moment. If he got any harder he’d rip through his damn jeans. “No,” he said roughly. “No, it smells … really good.”

“Even to you?”

Celadon eyes filled with another question, one that that caused his wolf to howl again, urging him to claim his female. It took every ounce of self-control to remain seated when his entire body ached with the need to touch her, pull her down on his lap and prove how much he wanted her. “Especially to me,” he breathed.

She swallowed hard at that. “I … I’d better go.” Ducking her head, she didn’t quite run out of the kitchen, but it was close.

Alone, Jack gazed at the remnants of his breakfast, then pushed the plate away. This couldn’t go on. He had to talk to Chandler. And then he had to figure out how to tell Kate the truth.


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week is another teaser from the third book in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. Kate’s becoming more and more attracted to this lone wolf shifter her dad invited to live with them — but will she ever figure out why? Hmm…

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Over the next week the Chandler household slowly shifted to absorb its newest member into the daily routine. Kate learned that Jack woke up earlier than she did, which made sharing the hallway bathroom easier. He even cleaned up after himself, wiping down the shower and sink and depositing the damp towels in the bathroom hamper, which constituted a genuine miracle in her opinion. And while they had an automatic coffee maker, Jack had unilaterally taken on the role of breakfast chef and made sure that they started the day off with omelets, bacon and eggs, or other protein-dense meals.

Judging by what she’d heard from Wayne and Patty, the wolf shifter was fitting in well with the maintenance crew at the lodge, too. He willingly took on the messier jobs, picking up garbage along the runs and unblocking clogged sinks and toilets without a complaint. He also handled cleanup tasks on the public side of things, and she’d had to push her cougar down firmly a few times when she caught some of the female guests flirting with him. He’s a free agent. He can do what he likes.

But he never took a single human female up on an offer. Instead, he showed up for dinner every night and handled the dishwashing and kitchen cleaning afterwards. In the back of her mind, she wondered if he’d left someone back in North Carolina. She couldn’t have been a heart’s mate, otherwise she would have followed him. A bitter memory bubbled up at that, and she squelched it. Or he—maybe Jack’s gay? But I haven’t seen him checking out any of the guys, either.

All she knew was that he wasn’t interested in her. After that first dinner she hadn’t tried to flirt with him again. Being shot down was never fun, and having it happen in her own kitchen sucked donkey balls. Which made it all the more frustrating that Jack still managed to carbonate her hormones, a fact she took pains to hide from her father. Worse, her REM sleep had taken on an erotic life of its own. That morning she’d woken up from a sweetly hot dream of making out with Jack during a spring thunderstorm. The sky flashed and growled through her bedroom window and rain pounded against the glass as they’d sprawled together on her bed, kissing enthusiastically. For some reason her sadistic subconscious had kept both of them fully clothed, but Jack was lying between her legs in the dream and she could feel his thick erection brushing directly over her clit, driving her crazy with need. When the alarm went off and woke her up, she’d been left with no choice but to rub out a mercifully quick orgasm, gasping his name softly as she stroked herself.

After showering and getting dressed, she was sure that all traces of her sexfest had been rinsed down the drain. But Jack’s head came up the moment she sauntered into the kitchen. His nostrils flared as he sniffed, and his pupils dilated before he lowered his head again and focused on his omelet.

She didn’t have a sense of smell, but she damn well knew the signs of desire when she saw them. Well, I’ll be damned. “Hey,” she said, pouring herself a cup of coffee before sitting in front of her own omelet. “Where’s Dad?”

“He went over to the lodge early, said there was some equipment he had to deal with.”

That made sense. It also meant she had Jack all to herself for a few minutes. Might as well make the most of it. “Sleep well?”

Jack coughed a little, clearing his throat. “Um, yeah. You?”

“Oh, yeah.” She decided to poke the wolf a bit. “You ever wake up from a really great dream and you just know it’s going to be a good day?”

Blue eyes came up to meet her gaze, sending a little thrill through her. “Yeah,” he said softly. “As a matter of face, I have.”

Holding his gaze, she sliced off a fragment of omelet and forked it into her mouth. “Well, it’s going to be a really good day,” she said after chewing and swallowing. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, wolf man.

He licked his lips, and she was pretty sure it wasn’t because of the omelet. “Kate?” he said softly.

She leaned a fraction closer. “Yes?”

“You should clean up some more before going outside. Every shifter who comes near you will know you just came.”


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m doing another sneak peek at the third book in my Esposito Country Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl. I am not making things easy for Jack, but hey, the only easy day for a SEAL is yesterday.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Jack wiped up the last bit of sauce with a scrap of garlic bread and popped it into his mouth, chewing happily. The rich tang of sautéed garlic and onions had combined with the herbal bite of chopped fresh basil, the spice of toasted oregano, and a smooth, meaty tomato sauce into something that was purely amazing. Poured over al dente pasta and with a green salad on the side and a glass of good Merlot in front of him, it was by far the best meal he’d had in some time. “That was absolutely incredible, Kate,” he said after swallowing. “You’re a hell of a good cook.”

Across the table, Chandler was scraping his own plate clean with more garlic bread, having demolished his own pile of pasta and sauce with gusto. “Damn right she is,” he said with obvious pride. “And she makes a mean chicken parmesan, too.”

“Gotta keep you guys fed and functional,” Kate said, giving her father a wink as she twirled up the last of her own spaghetti around her fork. “And since I cooked, you two can clean up.”

Chandler sighed, but nodded. “Fair’s fair.”

Jack sat back, content. The dinnertime conversation had been easy enough, with Chandler sounding him out on how his first day had gone and Kate praising his assessment skills. The older male’s eyes had narrowed when he heard about the asshole guest in the bar. “He didn’t touch you, did he?”

A corner of her mouth curled. “He tried. Nothing I haven’t handled before.” Her smile widened in Jack’s direction. “But Jack definitely made it easier for me.”

Chandler gave him an approving look. “Well, all right. But next time you call security if some jackass tries something.”

“Sir, yes sir.” Her tone was gently mocking, but Jack thought he heard an edge under it. He hoped it was just the natural tension between a father’s protective instincts and a daughter’s urge to be independent. And if it isn’t, who do you side with? Your former commander, or your future mate?

That was a problem for another time. “Everyone done?” he asked.

Both Chandlers nodded. He got up, taking their plates and silverware and stacking them on his own. “I’ll get these in the kitchen.”

The surprised look on Kate’s face suggested that clearing the table wasn’t part of what her father considered “cleaning up.” He flashed a grin at her as he scooped up his former commander’s silverware and added them to the small pile of cutlery on the topmost plate. “Dishwasher, right?”

She grinned back. “I like him, Dad. Can we keep him?”

Chandler’s long-suffering eyeroll required Jack to swallow a chuckle as he carried the plates into the homey kitchen, opening the dishwasher he’d spotted during his reconnoiter after work and slotting things into their respective racks. Another trip brought in the wine glasses and salad bowls. He was studying the leftover sauce in its pot on the stove and wondering where the storage containers were when he smelled her standing behind him.

Turning, he saw her with hands on her hips, another of those feline grins lighting up her face. “You know, you don’t have to do everything yourself,” she chided. “Dad’s perfectly capable of putting stuff in the dishwasher.”

He shrugged, wondering what she would do if he admitted his real reason for being helpful—the hope that he’d get her alone for a few minutes. “Just trying to pull my weight.”

“Yeah, I figured.” She stepped closer, stopping when she was only a few inches away. “Look, I don’t know your back story, and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. But this isn’t Coronado. You don’t have to prove anything here.”

The mention of the Navy base made his gut contract a little with longing. “That’s not how SEALs work,” he said, trying to keep his tone gentle. “We keep going, no matter what. I’d think you’d know that by now.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.” She blew out a soft breath, and he couldn’t stop himself from inhaling. That was a mistake. Even with the overtones of garlic, onion, and wine, her essence was a sweetly golden beacon that reached into his soul and made his wolf howl in primal longing. Our mate. Ours.

And she was. His hands ached with the need to touch her, kiss her, pull her close and let her scent drench his skin. Her sweet round tits would feel amazing against his chest, and his rapidly hardening dick wanted to press against her belly, ride the rising tide of their paired desire—

No. I promised Chandler. She’s off limits.

The thought of the older male learning that he’d broken his vow had the same effect as diving into an ice cold breaker. His wolf growled this time, furious at his refusal. Our mate!

And she can’t smell that, plus I made a damn promise. So back the fuck off, furbag.

His wolf retreated, still growling. He stepped back as well, bumping into the stove. “There’s a lot of sauce left over,” he said, keeping his tone brisk. “Want me to freeze it?”

A flicker of disappointment flashed in her eyes. “Yeah. Use the pint containers in the cabinet left of the sink.”

“Got it.” He turned, aware that she was standing there watching him. You know the drill. It’s all mind over matter — if I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Except that he did mind, dammit. And he had no idea how to fix it.


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Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week we’re cutting away to my shifter romance Shifter Woods: Snarl and picking up where I’d left off. Jack, a former SEAL and Alpha wolf shifter, has discovered that the cougar shifter daughter of his former commander is his mate — but she can’t smell due to an accident and has no idea that they’re meant to be together. He’s just dissuaded a horny customer of the Cougar Ridge Ski Resort from harassing her, and Kate is both appreciative and irritated. Let’s see which emotion wins out.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

A flicker of pleasure lit Kate’s belly at Jack’s behavior. She wasn’t looking forward to having to put the guest on the floor, but it wouldn’t be the first time she’d had to physically discourage a horny human male.

And then Jack made it unnecessary. The independent side of her bristled at him stepping in, but something very basic and female appreciated both the effort and his verbal support of her. “Let go of the gentleman, Mr. Hawthorne. I have this,” she said crisply.

Jack let go of the guest immediately. “Yes, ma’am.”

As expected, the human straightened up and went directly into aggression mode. “Who the fuck do you think you are,” he yelled at Jack. “I’m gonna sue you for assault.”

“No, you’re not.” Kate stepped between them, giving the guest a flat, feline smile. “Because if you do, I’ll countersue for harassment, which our cameras captured,” she nodded at the unobtrusive camera mount in the ceiling. The man looked up at it and blanched. “And then I’ll make sure you’re barred from every ski resort in New Mexico. And believe me, I can.” She allowed her smile to widen. “So I suggest you go upstairs, get packed, and leave. We’ll reimburse you for the day’s room rental, of course.”

The human swallowed audibly, attention flickering between her and Jack. She could feel the wolf shifter standing just behind her, menace radiating over her shoulder. “Fine. Didn’t want to stay here, anyway,” he muttered, shuffling around them and through the bar’s double doors.

Kate let out a breath, then turned to Jack. “Thank you for that, but it wasn’t necessary.”

Unexpectedly he smiled at her. The expression lit his eyes, making them sparkle, and she couldn’t stop herself from smiling back. “I know, and I’m sorry if I overstepped,” he said, his voice a low rumble. “But you applying a beat down would’ve hit him on his male bump, and he would have sued just to soothe his ego. This way, he gets to think he was smart to leave, and you don’t have to worry about nuisance lawsuits.”

She felt a moment of surprise at the assessment, then wanted to laugh. Why the hell are you surprised? He’s a SEAL — threat assessment is what they’re good at. “I … see. Well, anything that makes my life easier is always appreciated.”

His smile warmed a few degrees. “I live to serve.”

And the flutter low in her belly was back. She couldn’t help imagining him naked and in her bed, all furry and hard and willing to serve— Jesus Haploid Christ, Chandler, get your mind out of the gutter. “Are you off now?”

“According to Wayne.” He looked abashed. “I came up here to drop off the stuff I found on the trails. I offered to go back and keep working, but—”

She wanted to smack herself. Every SEAL she’d ever met had insane levels of endurance when it came to physical labor, and clearly Hawthorne wanted to work. “That wasn’t a criticism,” she said quickly. “If you were heading back to the house, I was going to ask you to take out the sausage meat out of the freezer and let it thaw. I forgot to do it before I left this morning.”

“Oh. Yeah, I can do that.” He shoved his hands in his parka’s pockets. “Do you want me to do anything else?”

The need beneath the question, the drive to be active and useful, was something she understood perfectly. “We’ve got some wood behind the house that need splitting. Dad keeps meaning to get to it, but he’s been swamped these last few weeks. If you could get those chopped for the fireplace—”

His smile was back. “Be happy to. Where do you keep your ax?”

“In the shed behind the house. There’s a chainsaw there, too, if you want to cut the logs up for easier chopping.”

He snorted. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Kate shook her head. Yeah, he’s a SEAL. “You got your orders, specialist,” she said, allowing a hint of playfulness into her tone.

“Yes, ma’am.” Another arm twitch of a smothered salute and he headed off. She watched him go, wishing that his parka didn’t get in the way of watching what she suspected was a truly magnificent ass.


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When Writers Burn Out

Not flame out — that’s a different blog post. But burnout is a real thing, especially for writers who have to hit deadline after deadline in quick succession and then wind up wanting to set their writing device on fire.

Or is that just me? Maybe it’s just me. See, I spent the last four months of 2017 pretty much glued to my computer cranking out Lady of Thorns and Red Robin and the Huntsman, plus getting work done on Cross Current. After I uploaded Red Robin to Amazon on December 15, my brain said, “Okay, you’re done for the year. No writing until January 1. I mean it.”

And Lord, the idea appealed. So I actually enjoyed my Christmas/New Year break because I wasn’t getting up and immediately chaining myself to my writing desk. I cleaned, made cookies and fruitcake, and even dug out an old afghan project that I’d started in 2013 and worked on it while watching movies and TV shows. Bliss.

But then January rolled around and I started work on my first conteporary romcom, To My Muse … and ran into a problem. I couldn’t make myself stick to working the way I had with my other still. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was writing a romcom instead of a SF/fantasy/paranormal romance. I didn’t think so because I was enjoying what I was doing, but man, I just did not want to nail my butt to a chair anymore.

At that point I remembered that I had promised my BFF’s husband that I would make him a sterling silver and turquoise bracelet in memory of his grandmother. I headed out to the garage on a relatively warm day in February and set out the things I would need to make this piece, and promptly realized that 1) I’d never bezel set a stone before, 2) I needed some twisted wire and black guilder’s wax, and 3) I also didn’t know how to rivet leather for the wristband part.

Research time. So I went off and watched videos on bezel creation and setting (Thank you, Online Jewelry Academy and Professor John Ahr!), and wound up making these for practice:

To my surprise, a friend saw the first one and insisted on buying it. I didn’t like how I’d folded over the bezel wall or set the loops on the second one, so I reset it. A friend then bought THAT one. Wow.

Confident that I now had the hang of bezel making down, I got to work on the turquoise bracelet piece. If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty well.

But THEN I thought, “Well, hey, I have this nifty piece of Picasso marble that would make a great pendant, and I should try and set that. Ooh, and I can cut out the Stark sigil in back and call it Winterfell.” So I did.

A third friend saw it and bought it. Whoa.

At this point I realized that I was looking at a ginormous Amex bill at the beginning of March because I had paid for two website renewals and a membership to a local romance con. Since I’d already sold three pendants, I thought I would keep making more and hopefully sell them so that I could pay off said Amex bill (BTW, the blue aventurine and tiger’s eye pendants are still available at my Etsy store. The etched brass pendant was my first attempt at salt water etching, and will be going to a friend’s daughter as a “magic” amulet).

Suddenly it was March and I realized I hadn’t done any serious writing since late January. And my writing brain was starting to get itchy. So I got back to work on To My Muse and started the third novella in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl this week, and man, that felt good.

So, yeah, sometimes I need to take a little break from the writing, especially if I’ve been pushing myself for months at a time. But I promise you, I’ll always come back to it. And I may have some pretty sparklies to offer as well.

Mid Week Tease: Shifter Woods: Snarl #MidWeekTease #MWTease

MWTease15Hello, lovelies! This week I’m continuing on with a snippet from my paranormal romance Shifter Woods: Snarl. In this section, former SEAL and packless wolf shifter Jack Hawthorne has just started working at Cougar Ridge Ski Resort and is trying to adjust to life as a maintenance worker — oh, and he also has to figure out how to convince gorgeous cougar shifter Kate Chandler that she’s his mate. No pressure.

Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!

Jack slowed the snowmobile, leaning over to snag a pair of polarized goggles off the disturbed snow. Reaching behind to flip open the small bin attached to the back of the vehicle, he added the goggles to his collection of hats, gloves, sunglasses, and other lost apparel. Actual garbage such as waxed cups, napkins, and other detritus from the outdoor snack bar went into a separate, larger container behind the Lost and Found bin. The level of the crap in the garbage bin was depressingly high.

Jesus, humans are slobs. He revved the throttle and kicked the snowmobile back into gear, continuing his trash patrol along the sides of the ski run. Do they think cleaning fairies pick up after them or something? A sudden image of the burlier members of the maintenance crew in sparkly tutus came to him, each shifter gravely waving wands at dropped paper plates while intoning Potteresque cleaning spells.

Despite his disgust at the slovenly habits of the resort customers, his first day had gone well enough. The parka Kate had washed and dried for him, plus a layer of long johns under his jeans and thick wool socks in his boots kept the worst of the mountain chill off his body. The only part that really ached was his face. He could feel traces of windburn around the edges of his goggles and over the scarf (also provided by Kate) that protected his mouth. Compared to SEAL training, though, a little windburn was a walk in the park.

He completed his ascent to the top of the crest, slowing to a crawl and guiding his machine away from the resort’s public areas to the maintenance garage at the back of the lodge. A tall, shaggy cougar shifter named Wayne who had been introduced as the head of maintenance looked up from tinkering with another snowmobile’s engine, raising a hand in greeting. “Hola, buddy. How goes the trash run?”

Jack shut off the engine. “Got a full bin, plus some lost stuff. The customers need to be schooled on policing their trash.”

Wayne snorted. “Yeah, good luck with that. They figure that’s what we get paid for. And it can get nasty, too. One time I found an adult diaper out there. Used.”

Jack grimaced as he unlatched the garbage bin and hauled it over to the large green trash barrels. “Found some goggles and stuff, too. What do I do with them?”

“Take them up to the lodge’s check-in desk. They have a lost and found box there. Anything that isn’t claimed after a month gets auctioned off to the employees.” Wayne waggled his eyebrows. “I got a sweet iPod Classic that way.”

“Nice.” After reattaching the now-empty garbage bin to the snowmobile, Jack opened the lost and found bin and grabbing the damp items he’d stowed there. “What do you want me to do after I drop these off?”

“A work ethic. I like it.” Wayne shook his head. “No, it’s after five, man. You’re done for the day. Stop off at the canteen and grab something hot to eat, then head on home. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

The statement had been well-intended, but it still made Jack’s soul ache. Home. He had a spare room (a nice one, granted), but that wasn’t really a home, at least not for him. Pushing the lurking depression to the back of his mind, he nodded and headed over to the ski lodge.

As he ducked through the gate in the maintenance shed wall his nose was hit with a olfactory sledgehammer of humanity. Cougar Ridge was a popular skiing getaway in New Mexico, and even this late in the season there was still a steady stream of people getting off the lift and heading down the deep powder trails. The crisp air was at just the right temperature to hold a daunting array of scents—human sweat, musk, pheromones, perfumes and colognes, the long chain monomers of expensive ski gear, diesel from the lift, and the dimmer smells of surrounding evergreens, hard-packed dirt under melting snow, and various small furry creatures in the underbrush.

Keep it under control. Breathing through his mouth, Jack lowered his head and edged through the humans, focusing on the two-story redwood lodge up ahead.

“Excuse me?” A trio of young women, all of them dressed in upscale cold weather gear, stepped in front of him. “Do you work here?” the leader of the trio, a pretty brunette with big doe eyes, asked.

He glanced down at his worn parka and stained jeans. The other workers all wore Cougar Ridge jackets, but there hadn’t been one big enough to fit him in the lodge’s locker area. Yeah, not like any of these folks are wearing decade-old gear. “Um, yes. Can I help you?”

Her smile’s wattage kicked up a notch. “We were just wondering if there’s anything to do around here at night? Like, is there a place to go dancing?”

Jack tried to remember if he’d seen anything when he first hit down. “I can’t think of anything, ma’am. But it’s my first day here and I don’t know the area that well.”

She giggled. “Ma’am—that’s so sweet. My name’s Andrea, and this is Jazmine and Rachelle,” she nodded at her friends. “What’s your name?”

“Um, Jack.”

“Well, Um-Jack, it’s nice to meet you.” She extended a hand coyly, and he juggled the retrieved items in order to shake it. “Maybe you’d like to get to know the area with us? My rental fits four. We can pick you up after you get off work.”

Belatedly, Jack realized the lithe human female was hitting on him. Judging from the pheromones wafting off all three of them, her wingmen were just as enthusiastic about the idea. Man, you’re getting old. In the old days he would have been more than happy to go out dancing with them and spend the rest of the night rocking their worlds if they were up for it.

Now that he’d met Kate, however, the idea held absolutely no appeal. “I’m sorry, ladies, but I’m seeing someone and she’s absolutely vicious,” he said. Well, it wasn’t completely untrue. He had seen Kate a handful of times, and was confident she could take on three human women and slash them to ribbons. “Thank you for the offer, though. It’s much appreciated.”

He added a wink and Andrea giggled again. “Well, if you change your mind, we’ll be here until Monday,” she said, winking back before the three of them sauntered towards the slopes, healthy young things on the prowl for some entertainment. Good hunting, ladies. More amused than anything, Jack continued towards the lodge.

Inside, he headed to the checkin desk where a pretty cougar female was doing something behind the high counter. “For the lost and found,” he said, placing the retrieved items on the desk.

“Thanks,” the female said, then blinked. “Oh, wait. You’re the new guy, right?”

“Yeah. Jack Hawthorne.”

The female smiled. “Patty Elgin. Kate said she wanted to talk to you if you stopped by. She’s checking inventory in the bar.” She pointed down a hallway towards a redwood-bordered double door with a carved sign over it that said THE PANTHER’S PROWL.

“Thanks.” Jack headed to the bar, wondering if he was in some kind of trouble. Kate had seemed friendly enough at breakfast, but she was also very upfront about what she expected from the males she shared a home with. Shit, did I leave something in the sink this morning?

The moment he stepped through the doors he picked up a cheerful array of beer, wine, and liquor scents that reminded him of various shore leaves over the years. Over them, however, was Kate’s warm rosemary and sandalwood scent, along with the odor of a human male who had been drinking.

He immediately spotted her standing next to the long bar, arms crossed over her chest as she glared up at a beefy male in an expensive sweater and slacks who was looming over her. “I just want to get to know you, honey,” the human said, giving her a sloppy smile.

Jack’s hackles rose and he had to smother a growl. Get the fuck away from my mate.

“And I already told you, I’m working,” Kate said in a clipped tone. “So if you’ll excuse me—”

The man’s arm shot out, blocking off her escape route. “Come on, honey, don’t be like that,” he wheedled. “We could have a lot of fun in my room.”

Her expression changed, turning icy. “Do you like that arm?”

The man blinked. “What?”

She nodded at the thick limb in her way. “Do you like that arm?”

“Uh, yeah. Why?”

“If you want to keep it attached to your shoulder, get it off my bar now.”

The human’s heartbeat and respiration sped up, and a complicated mix of anger, shame, and arousal bubbled up through the beer scent. Clearly the man was one of those assholes who got off on intimidating women.

“Ooh, you some kind of black belt?” he sneered. “You think you can take me?”

Before Kate could reply, Jack stepped up and grabbed the man’s wrist, yanking it off the bar. The man stumbled in surprise and Jack used the momentum to slam him face first into the polished mahogany, neatly pinning him while yanking his hand up between his shoulder blades. “Hey, boss,” he said, keeping his tone pleasant. “Want me to show this gentleman to the door?”


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