Read More from Calle J. Brookes

Free Stories from Finley Creek and more…

Forever Holding Phil went live today! In this second book in the There is a Season series, Phil–father of the heroines in Masterson County books 1-4–gets his second chance at love when Glenna Carnes moves to Masterson to work as his temporary housekeeper. It can get real complicated, real quick–considering between them, they have 11 children ranging from 27 years old all the way down to 2!

The book is available at Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and directly from Calle’s website. (Google Play is being a bit difficult, and should be live soon!) For links to the retailers, click the image below or visit: https://buy.bookfunnel.com/dns7bg9suz

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post anything. I didn’t realize how long it had been.

I’ve been running around like a crazy woman for the past month, helping with kiddo’s softball team. She’s in an 11U league through our county, and is the pitcher. She either has practice, a game, or wants me to practice with her every single night that she can. Plus a few other things like physical therapy and her tae kwon do, and other activities have kept me hopping like mad. Around her crazy schedule, I’m working on finishing Seasons 4, I’m halfway through the next Masterson book (Linsey and Chandler), and I’m a quarter of the way through the next Small-Town Sheriffs book–Zoey and Murdoch.

I didn’t even realize I hadn’t updated the blog. I have finished There is a Season #3, and it will be back from the editor soon. It’ll release on June 21st.

It’s available to preorder at your favorite retailer!

I’ve included an excerpt below! It was a really fun book to write, as I got to explore a POV I’d never used before.

Also, Denying the Devil, Masterson County #4 is up in audio at Apple, Google Play, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo, as well as Chirp.

And finally… for the month of May, if you buy directly from my website, you can save 20% off your total order by using the coupon code SAVE20.

Not Kissing Nick

Chapter 1

The first thing Nick Tyler saw when he entered the building of the trucking company he ran with his nephew was a small, but perfect feminine rear end encased in khaki trousers. It was stuck straight up in the air, while the woman attached to it bent under the old metal desk one of his nieces had sourced for them to use in the main office.

The woman was muttering something dire as she reached for whatever she just couldn’t grab. 

“I could help you with that, if you’d like,” Nick said. He mostly just wanted to figure out who it was under his desk. It was a very nice rear end, after all.

The woman yelped, bumped her head, and stood quickly. She stared at him. 

He stared back.

She had hair that warred between red and brown that she’d pulled up in a twist. Big light blue eyes stared at him and a soft pink mouth parted slightly. An absolutely perfect looking mouth.

She was damned gorgeous. It was rather hard to miss.

“Nick? Wow. I think we both got old.” She gave a rueful grin that told him exactly who she was. She had sweet dimples and a smile that was crooked enough to say she liked to break the rules just a little bit.

Just like before. 

Robin. It really was her. Staring right back at him.

He had always liked how little Robin Patton looked.

She hadn’t changed much. Just gotten older. A little curvier, but that was a good thing. A very good thing from where he was standing. 

She had to be thirty-eight or nine now. 

“Robin, it’s good to see you.” 

“You, too, Nick.” She eyed him warily. Like she was afraid of him? Robin hadn’t been afraid of anything. She knew what she wanted and she went after it. 

She’d been pure hell on wheels once.

Until that damned Sheriff Gunderson had started harassing her. She’d been just a kid. Gunderson had been old enough to be her father. Nick had never forgotten the terror in her eyes that night he and Phil had found her and Gunderson alongside the highway. 

That had been the deciding factor. She’d left town then—and hadn’t come back.

The last place he’d expected to see her was in his own office, acting as if she belonged there. 

His nephew Chandler had let him know he’d hired a new secretary last week. Nick had been so busy with booking a large run that he hadn’t paid much attention.

Nick suspected he was looking at his new secretary right now. 

Damn

“Settling in ok?” He wasn’t sure he wanted Robin Patton working with him every single day. She was going to be highly distracting.  

Just like before. 

She remembered. Just like he did.

Robin had been taunting him …tempting him on purpose. 

He could see the memories of those two stolen kisses in the blue eyes staring at him now. She’d been so sweet—and it had been Robin who had kissed him. Had put those hands of hers places she had no business putting them—back then.

Nick had done the right thing both times. Probably a bit more harshly than he should have. He’d just…wanted her to understand. She had to stay away from him back then. Or he would do something totally stupid. She hadn’t been ready. He’d known that. He was nine years older—when she’d been almost nineteen, that had mattered.

This woman had been enough to tempt a saint into doing something totally stupid. Nick had never missed that.

The heat in her cheeks intensified. 

“It is good to see you. I mean that,” Nick said, softly.

Seeing her, yes. He wouldn’t mind seeing a lot more of her. She was buttoned up to the neck in a prissy little purple blouse that hid far more than it revealed. Far cry from what she’d been wearing the last time she’d practically accosted him. 

He’d always remembered her in that little blue tank top and the cut off shorts that had revealed far, far too much of Robin. 

This schoolmarm getup was the exact opposite of that.

Did she realize how that tempted a man, too? His fingers itched to hit those tiny buttons and just yank them off forever. See what that silky smooth skin looked like beneath. To touch that skin…

Having her in his office, thirty feet away from his own desk? That was going to prove problematic. Unless… “So what have you been up to over the last twenty years? Married, sixteen kids?”

Please let her say she had a six-foot-seven former linebacker husband just waiting for her to get home. Someone who’d kick Nick’s ass for the thoughts he was having right now. Someone who’d bring her lunch every day just so he could glower at Nick and Chandler and make certain they were behaving around the temptress that was Robin Patton.

That might be enough to have Nick behaving. Maybe.

She gave a soft smile. She looked so…shy. Robin had never been shy with him before. “I was married, but he passed away. I have three kids, though. Nine-year-old twin boys, and a little girl. She’s two-and-a-half—but going on thirty-five. She looks just like my sister.” 

He had never imagined her having kids. In his head, she was still the almost girl she’d been back then. The one who had tempted and tormented him and had him breaking out in a sweat. 

He’d always wondered what happened to the girl she had been. “What are their names?” 

“Philip and Wesley, and Rebecca. We call her Becky.” 

He saw the pain there and he reacted to the familiar names—her sister, her brother-in-law, and Wesley had been her grandfather’s name. The grandfather she and her sister had adored. Before he could stop himself, he cupped her cheek in one hand. 

Her skin was just as smooth as it had been twenty years ago. 

Traces of the girl remained, but…Robin was all grown up now. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Right in front of him. Widowed.

Every male cell of him was standing on alert, shouting Robin! It’s Robin! Grab hold now! 

Like they’d been waiting for her all along.

“I’m sorry about your sister, honey.” Losing her sister Becky in a car accident five years ago had been devastating for all of them. Nick had feared his brother would never recover. 

“Yeah, me, too.” 

He was half-afraid she’d start crying. That had sheer panic going through him. “But you are home for good now?” 

She nodded, a tentative smile on her lips. “I think so. Thank you for the job. I really needed it.” 

“Thank you. We needed someone we can trust in here. I’m trying to get things up and running so I can kick Chandler to the curb.” Then…it would just be him and Robin in the office every day. Together. 

Working side by side. Almost touching. 

Well, his office was down the hall, but…it was close enough. 

He was never going to survive this.

Startled blue eyes met his now. “Why would you do that?” 

“It’s no secret around the family. He wants a restaurant of his own, but was already committed to taking over here before I convinced him to let me buy in. I’m going to take over here and shove him off the ledge. The whole family is scheming to get him moving on his restaurant. He’s a bit risk adverse, that nephew of mine.” 

“Aren’t we all?” She stepped back firmly. 

Nick really didn’t want to let her get too far away. 

The exact opposite. 

It had been a long time, years, since he’d felt instant attraction to a beautiful—available—woman.

It figured that it would be her.

She smelled nice. She looked nice. And the idea that she was going to be right there in his office—and there wasn’t a big burly husband to keep him in check…

Robin Patton always had tempted the hell out of him. From the time she’d been almost nineteen to the day she’d run from town and Clive Gunderson, with four hundred dollar bills his brother had given her in her pocket. 

Nick’s four hundred dollars. He’d given it to his brother for her. 

He hadn’t known any other way to help her, except by taking her with him when he’d left Masterson for the army when his leave was up. 

He’d seriously considered it that night. Just…taking her with him and leaving Masterson forever. Marrying her, signing up for base housing. Building a life with a not-quite-nineteen-year-old girl who had never seen more than little Masterson County.

She wouldn’t have been ready for the life of a military wife, on her own so much, away from their families, friends. Home

Far from it. 

And he wouldn’t have wanted her with him just to escape a man who had no business stalking her. 

She’d just been too damned young back then.

But…he wasn’t too old for her now. 

There was no husband in the picture for her. No wife in the picture for him. No Clive Gunderson terrifying her.

Robin wasn’t too young now.

Nick wasn’t going to survive.

What had Phil been thinking, talking Chandler into hiring her

He had only one real answer.

His brother had done it on purpose.

Phil was out to get him. Out to put pure temptation right in front of Nick, just to mess with Nick’s head. 

Because Phil could—and was evil that way. 

Phil was getting back at Nick now for something. That was the only rational explanation. 

Probably for Nick’s continual flirting with Phil’s new ‘housekeeper’ whenever he saw her. 

Nick couldn’t help himself—one, it annoyed his widowed older brother, and two, Glenna was an extremely attractive woman. 

Phil had noticed that himself.

That’s why Glenna now wore an engagement ring on her left hand—and had a beautiful glow whenever she looked at Nick’s older brother.

Well played, big brother. Well played, indeed.

Nick just stood there and stared at her like a total idiot.

Chapter 2

Nicholas Tyler. In the flesh. 

Wow. 

Some flesh just got better with time. It totally wasn’t fair. She’d thought of him through the years. More than she’d wanted to admit. Imagined him getting a paunch and a receding hair line.

Yeah, that hadn’t happened.

Nick looked even better than he had before.

Every Tyler had red in their hair; Nick was no exception. His eyes were still that dark blue that she had never forgotten. His shoulders still broad and muscled.

He was three or four inches over six feet, tall and strong. He had almost fourteen inches on her. 

Nick had always seemed larger than life. 

Maybe he’d had been. Hotly intense, determined to get out of Masterson for a while, to build a life for himself that wasn’t ranch-related. Wild and rugged and just a little bit too dangerous for the tame life that was Masterson.

A woman would burn up in flames if Nick Tyler even looked at her. 

Robin had been no exception. None at all.

Her first crush at fifteen had been on Nick Tyler. Her first kiss had been Nick, when she’d been all of eighteen and a half.

It had taken all the courage she possessed to kiss him that day.

He’d shot her down, fast. Saying… he was too old for a child like her.

The last thing she was going to do was allow herself to get distracted from her plans by her still too-hot new boss. 

It wasn’t fair that he looked like that. Broad-shouldered, hard chested, strong—it was obvious Nick had taken care of himself in the last two decades. 

Either that, or time had been really, really good to him. 

She suspected it was that—every Tyler man she’d ever met was far too good-looking for a woman’s own good.

He didn’t deserve it. She just knew he didn’t. There had to be an inner troll inside him somewhere. Something that would make a man like him still be unmarried and…free to the first woman to snap him up.

Not that Robin was the type to snap anyone up. Even if she’d wanted to.

Marriage had cured her of romance forever, after all.

As he settled into the office behind her desk, with the door partially opened in case she had questions, Robin sat at her desk and remembered. 

Tried to come up with a game plan where her new, far too hot to be real, boss was concerned. 

His nephew Chandler was, as her best friend Rory would say, too delicious to be real—but he was just a younger, less seasoned version of Nick. She’d thought that the first time she’d met Chandler.

When he’d told her that the uncle he worked so closely with was Nick her heart had dropped straight to her gut, as she’d remembered.

Phil hadn’t told her Nick was back.

Nick was going to be dangerous. There was no denying that.

She needed a real plan. Number one—she wasn’t going to be as foolish as she’d been twenty years ago. 

That meant absolutely no kissing Nick.

No remembering kissing Nick. No thinking about kissing Nick. And no wanting to be kissing Nick. It was as simple as that.

Just because she was back in Masterson, didn’t mean she and Nick were going to pick right back up where she had left off.

Twenty years was a long time to be away from home. She had only been back in Masterson for a little over a week. She was bound to feel disconcerted and disoriented coming back. Especially considering the traumatic way she’d left town back then. Half of her nightmares had started in Masterson—the other half had ended in Finley Creek. 

Robin was still recovering. 

Never had she been more terrified than she had been that night.  

She’d had to get out of Masterson back then; she wouldn’t have survived there. Not with the way Clive Gunderson had been terrorizing her. Stalking her.

It would have just kept escalating until he’d hurt her. 

Robin would never forget that. 

Her best friend Glenna had told her that Phil still felt guilty for not stopping Clive sooner. Said Phil had believed he could have done more for Robin than what he had. But that just wasn’t true.

Clive had had all the power then. No one could miss that.

Phil was working past it—with Glenna’s help. Glenna had needed help weeks ago, had needed to get out of Finley Creek. She’d found her way to Masterson, instead.

To Phil. Glenna moving to Masterson had given Robin the courage to come back home. To bring her children back to their family, too.

She just couldn’t be distracted by a man like Nick.  

Her kids…they came first. No matter what. And they deserved to know her family, too. 

That meant, she was going to learn everything she could about the trucking business and what she was supposed to be doing exactly. Make this job work for her. So that she could make Masterson work for them. Even if that meant her new best friend was the last Tyler man in Masterson she would ever want to work with. Every day. Seeing Nick every weekday, from 8:30 am until 4:30 in the afternoon.

Nick. Right there. Looking like that.

Darn it. It wasn’t fair that the man still looked hot enough to melt a woman’s insides. 

She was so going to have to get ahold of herself. She had a future to focus on, after all.

Chapter 3

His sexy-as-sin secretary was deliberately avoiding him. 

Nick would bet a million, if he had it, that that was exactly what she had been doing—all week long. He bit back a laugh at what he knew it meant.

Robin was going out of her way to never be alone with him.

When Nick would look at her directly, a faint red would hit her cheeks. It took him two days to figure out that she felt safer with Chandler. And most certainly not safe with Nick. 

Nick had spent four days—and nights—trying to decide what he wanted to do about that. 

He’d dreamed about doing something about that, actually. 

In hot detail.

Last night hadn’t helped. And the only thing he’d done was eat dinner at his brother Phil’s.

Phil had had people everywhere. The chaos had driven Nick nuts, but in a good way. Everyone had looked like they were happy and right where they belonged. Together.

But when he had seen how Glenna had looked at his brother in the rare moment they’d almost been alone…

A shot of envy so strong he’d never felt anything like it before had torn right through Nick in that moment. 

He wanted a woman like Glenna to look at him in the same way.

Then…Glenna had turned to Nick and asked him how her best friend Robin was working out.

Oh, what he’d wanted to say in that moment would have shocked the sweet little blonde his brother had a real thing for. Right down to her then-bare little toes.

They were getting married in a matter of weeks. Phil hadn’t wasted any time, that was for sure. Phil had eight kids—three still under the age of eighteen—and Glenna had three, all under the age of seven. His brother was going to get a chance to do the dad thing all over again with three more daughters. 

Phil’s house had been full of people, of family, of laughter. Of love.

Nick hadn’t missed that. Nor had he missed the contrast between that and his own current existence.

Nick was still bunking on the office fold-out in the back until he made a plan to get his nephews together and fix the house he’d bought from his uncle ten years back. For when he eventually retired from the army.

The house was in reasonable shape. It needed new floors, new plumbing, and updated wiring. Then cosmetics. He had the money for all of it, he just figured he’d get to it in his own good time. He was in no hurry.

Paint chips and countertop choices weren’t exactly his forte. 

Nick would get his house finished eventually. All three thousand square feet of it. When he’d bought the place—once his own paternal uncle’s—he’d thought he’d find a woman and settle down there in Masterson someday. He’d have three or four kids and a loving wife of his own that he’d adore as much as Phil had adored his Becky. His and Phil’s, and the rest of his brothers’, kids would all grow up together. Until he and his brothers were doddering old idiots, flirting with their still way-too-hot wives—while great-grandkids ran around like wild demons. That had been what Nick had wanted. Imagined.

Life apparently hadn’t had that in mind for Nick. Or for three of his older brothers, who they’d already lost. Lost long before those brothers had even the first grandchild among them. That would always sting.

It had been time he came home, to enjoy the time left with his family. 

Even if he’d done so alone.

At forty-seven, he was good with that. Mostly.

It still got lonely sometimes. Phil’s house of chaos just illustrated that even more.

Nick had spent four nights on that office couch imagining he could smell the lotion Robin used on her hands. Blueberry. Blueberry and vanilla; he’d wondered far too often if she used that lotion everywhere. 

Nick wanted to find out, up close and personal.

He’d even devised a plan involving sending her three kids—who he had yet to meet—to Phil’s, and just absconding with their mother for the weekend. 

There was a cabin up behind Phil’s place…it would do perfectly. He and Robin could…get to know each other again. 

If she was willing. In his fantasies over the last week, Robin had been very, very willing.

Nick wanted that woman, bad.

Wanting her now was giving him more gray hair. And sleepless nights.

And she was aware of him, too. 

Now he had to figure out what it was he was going to do about her.

There was quite a bit he wanted to do to her, after all.

He was contemplating that list while he listened to her moving around in the reception area when someone walked through the front door, the first Friday morning Robin had worked for them.

Nick coughed, both to clear his throat and to clear his head from lustful thoughts about his secretary, and stood. 

If it was a potential client, it was him they’d want to see. 

Chandler had left for the afternoon on other business. If Nick got rid of whoever was out there, he’d be able to steal a few minutes with Robin before she darted away for the weekend. 

Maybe, if he was lucky, he could get her to smile at him one more time. He’d always loved it when that woman smiled.

And this time…Nick was going to chase her. Like he wished he could have before. He wasn’t much of a planner—but a woman like Robin demanded a man be a master strategist to make what he wanted happen.

He was going to catch that woman. As fast as he possibly could.

Chapter 4

Robin was organizing her new filing system when a dark-haired woman stepped inside the front door of the small modular home that served as the headquarters for Tyler Trucking, a little redheaded girl of around six or seven at her side.

“Hello, can I help you?” Robin stood and rounded the metal desk. The woman had a backpack over one shoulder, clutched two duffle bags in one hand, and held the girl by the other. 

“Actually, I’m Jude. Jude Tyler.” She turned slightly, and Robin saw the small rounding of the woman’s stomach.

Robin took the heaviest bag from her quickly. 

“Are you looking for Chandler or Nick?” The woman was around a decade younger than Robin, she thought. Big green eyes dominated her face. Very pretty, in an understated way.

“Nick. I’m also Chandler’s sister-in-law. I…this is a bit awkward. I’m the head of child and family services for this region. But I’m actually here on official business today. Normally, I’d have had one of my people handle this particular case, but they aren’t in the office right now and Nova has been waiting long enough. Years too long for this, in my opinion.” She glanced down at the little girl, a compassionate look in her eyes. Robin studied the child quickly. She was a few years older than Robin’s own daughter, but a few years younger than Robin’s sons. So…between four and seven or so. Tiny, dainty. Big dark-blue eyes looked up at Robin warily. Fire-engine red curly hair was everywhere, and very long. Tangled, and it looked like it could use a good washing. Maybe even two. 

Her clothes weren’t exactly the cleanest, either. And they weren’t in the greatest condition. She was ragged and unkempt in a way that Robin’s heart broke to see.

The social worker was kind and gentle when she spoke to the little girl. “You can have a seat right here. Here’s Snuggly, too. You hold him while I talk for a few minutes, ok?” She handed the little girl a battered yellow bear.

The little girl nodded solemnly. She looked at Robin suspiciously out of tired, world-weary eyes that no little girl her age should ever possess. Robin wanted to scoop her up and hold her tight, tell her everything would be ok. Just like she would her baby Becky if the world turned scary.

“I have some juice in the fridge. Would you like one? I have some fish crackers. My little girl says they are the best ever. My boys like them, too.”

Robin looked at the social worker, who nodded. “Thank you. Nova has had a very, very long morning. A snack probably wouldn’t hurt. I just got her two hours ago myself. And we had to do paperwork to transfer her to our region. She’s had to sit around waiting. She’s colored me a bunch of beautiful pictures already.”

“Then it sounds like goldfish are exactly what’s needed. I’m Robin. My sister was Phil Tyler’s wife.”

“Oh, of course. Welcome back to Masterson. Are you settling in ok?”

“Starting to. The kids are adjusting. It helps having their cousins around, and Glenna’s girls.” Robin grabbed one of the juice boxes and one of the snack bags of goldfish crackers, grateful she had grabbed what she could find that morning for her own lunch today—a run to the grocery store was in order. Someone—she had three suspects—had eaten the food she’d bought to put in her own lunch this week. She took care of the little girl, as Nick came into the small waiting area. “This has been their first week at the school.”

And fingers crossed, it had gone ok. Thankfully. So far. Her boys could be handfuls.

Another handful came out of his office and stared.

Nick looked at the younger woman and concern hit his far-too-handsome face.

“Jude, honey? What’s going on? Are you ok? Chandler’s not here right now…”

Jude pulled in a deep breath and faced him. “Well, it’s not Chandler we’re here to see, Nick. I have something to tell you. Something very important.”

“Oh? What is it?”

Robin studied the little girl again. Social services didn’t just show up at a man’s work with a kid in tow. Not without good reason. “Can we talk in private? There are things Nova doesn’t need to hear right now.”

Nick just nodded. Stepped aside so she could go ahead of him into his office at the end of the hall. Robin listened as his door closed.

An inkling of things to come tickled her gut.

“I can’t get my fishies open,” the little girl whispered as soon as Nick and the social worker were gone. “Can you help me?”

Robin knelt down. And looked into those dark blue eyes behind little glasses. Those eyes looked so familiar. Eyes just that color and shape had watched her while she’d worked this week. 

Tyler blue. The kid had Tyler blue eyes. And red hair. Just like every Tyler Robin had ever seen.

A social worker on official business had just showed up on Nick Tyler’s doorstep. Robin wasn’t stupid. She strongly suspected what was about to happen. She just hoped the man was ready…

Rhea Masterson and Gerald Talley have known each other for more than fifty years. Gerald’s always been the real stick-in-the-mud, trying to tell Rhea what she should and shouldn’t do.

That hasn’t changed now that General Gerald has returned to Masterson after his retirement. How is Rhea supposed to deal with Gerald, while helping his daughter Marin heal from the trauma she’d recently experienced?

Sparks fly between Rhea and the man who was her late husband’s closest friend in this new later in life romance series set in Masterson County.

Rhea and Gerald’s book is $3.99 until Friday, when it reverts to its full price of $4.99.

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One more week until Rhea’s book releases!

I’m in the final rush around to get things ready for release—I’ll be uploading the paperback over the next few days to get it up for launch.

Rhea’s book, Just Loving Gerald, releases on 4/12. Book two, Phil’s story, Forever Holding Phil, releases on 5/17. I’m ‘thinking’ at this point book 3 will release on 6/21, but I need to talk to my editor before I know for sure. Book 4 (featuring Charlotte’s father, from the Finley Creek series!) will most likely release in July or August.

If things are productive today, I’ll be sending book 3 flying off to my editor. Book 3 involves Phil Tyler’s younger brother Nick—and the woman who has always tempted him. (Hint: it’s Phil’s late wife’s sister, who ran away from Masterson County twenty years ago!). It turned into a sweet story that I love, featuring a twelve-year-old boy I had never intended to create. But…now…once he gets a bit older, I can see him being the hero of his own book someday!

Paperbacks & Large Print!

I’ve also been hard at work at creating paperbacks of my entire catalog. And large print. I do feel very strongly that the books need to be in large print. (I went to the eye doctor last week, and the eyeballs haven’t gotten a bit more worse than expected, so large print is dear to my heart!)

I do plan to sell signed copies through my website—at a much better price than Amazon can offer. I have now made all of the ebooks available for direct sale via my website. Amazon’s TOS say I can’t price lower than they do, but…

I can offer as many coupons as I want. (After all, they are my books, and it’s my site!).

Coupon for 20% off…

So now I’m offering a 20% Off coupon for the month of April, on all the ebooksl. (Just type in SAVE20 when prompted). The books are delivered via bookfunnel, which is so easy to use. Plus, Bookfunnel has a great customer service experience.

Masterson #4 in Audio

Another thing I just finished doing an hour ago—I final proofed Masterson #4 (Perci and Nate) in audio! I’m not sure the actual release date, but it’ll be soon. 

Sometime next week, I’ll be prepping the next Masterson for audio (Maggie and Clint). I hope to have all the current Mastersons in audio by Christmas.

The narrator for this book absolutely nailed Nate’s character perfectly, and I love how he portrayed Perci. I got the shivers in several spots in the book. 😉 

If you’d like to listen, I’ve included a sample here.

If you are interested in books 1-3 in audio, Chirp has the best prices. The audiobooks are also available on Apple, Kobo, and Google Play!

I’m hard at work, finishing some books, and playing around with making hand-poured candles this week.

It’s our “break” between basketball ending and softball starting, so I’m trying to get a few things done. Kiddo’s got a test for her purple belt in tae Kwan do this Saturday, too.

She’s exhausting, lol. And very nervous about testing for her belt in front of the rest of her class.

I did get the preorder uploaded for book 2 in the There is a Season... series this week. It’s now available as a preorder. (I’m working on Google now!) The excerpt below is from Forever Holding Phil!

Phil Tyler, the dad from the first four Masterson novellas, is being tormented by the woman he hired to be his housekeeper! That’s a bit ironic, that’s for sure. It releases on May 17th. If you haven’t grabbed your copy of the preorder of book 1 (Just Loving Gerald) featuring Rhea Masterson, the mom from the first four Masterson novellas, you can grab it here now, as well!

There came a time when you had to make a choice. 

This was one of them.

“I’m going to have to do something.”

Glenna Carnes stared at the four women surrounding her as the words seared themselves into her soul. She couldn’t keep doing this to her daughters.

All Glenna wanted was for her daughters to feel safe. This was just proof that she was failing miserably at that task. 

Emmaline was still crying. Emmy—her tough one. Her middle child who had never been afraid of anything before. Today she had been terrified by a delivery man. 

Glenna scooped her up and rocked her, meeting the eyes of her two closest friends, and the two other women at W4HAV, the women’s charity where she worked as a trauma counselor. They all knew this couldn’t keep going on. This fear was destroying her baby girls. “I…this is getting out of hand. I can’t seem to avoid them anywhere. I have to do something.”

The delivery man hadn’t been one of her former brothers-in-law, but Emmy hadn’t known that. All her just almost five-year-old daughter remembered about the uncle who had shown up in the front yard four months ago screaming that Glenna owed them something was that he had been dressed in a private-delivery-company uniform. That had been enough to have her little girl screaming today. Between that and the way her seven-year-old Evangeline flinched each time the telephone rang and her two-and-a-half-year-old baby Eleanor cried and resisted whenever Glenna tried to leave her in the co-op nursery room now…

The girls weren’t getting over their fears—they were just getting worse.

She had to do something.

Glenna looked at Robin and Rory, her two closest friends on the planet. Her sisters of the heart. Rory had scooped Elly into her own arms and was rocking her, too. 

Her most empathetic baby always cried when one of her sisters was upset. 

Evey watched from the doorway to the children’s playroom at W4HAV, a leery look on her beautiful face. One filled with suspicion. Fear. Worry that no child her age should have.

It was the last straw. 

Her ex’s family wasn’t anywhere near them now—not that she knew, anyway, but she wouldn’t put it past them—but their constant harassment of her was destroying her daughters’ sense of safety and peace. 

She wouldn’t have it. Not any longer.

She’d do anything for her daughters.

She looked at the women surrounding her. She knew how the charity operated—knew   what it was capable of. And Lacy, the blond woman next to her, had been trying to talk her into asking for help for weeks “I need to find a place to get away for a while. Build a new life for the four of us. Where they don’t have to be afraid of their father’s family any longer.”

It wasn’t running, exactly. It was relocating. Doing what was best for her daughters.

Even though it meant leaving everything, everyone, she knew behind.

“I have to do this. Before I change my mind.”

“Where are you going to go?” Robin asked, tears filling her big blue eyes. Tears—and understanding. Robin and Rory knew her struggles, knew exactly what battle she had been fighting for just too long…

Robin’s own two-year-old daughter was in the playroom with Robin’s nine-year-old twin boys. Innocent children, too. 

Children who had experienced far too much pain already. 

All Glenna wanted was for them to grow up in a world without this kind of fear and hurt and loss. If she could keep that from touching her girls, she would do whatever it took.

“I…I don’t know. I just know I have to get them away from here for a while. So that they can learn not to be afraid.” Her heart broke for her daughters. She’d tried everything from confronting her ex’s family to speaking with an attorney about restraining orders against all of them. 

She’d filed a report with Detective Acardi, a friend of Rory’s, after the latest incident. 

He had told her the Texas State Police could make a case for attempted kidnapping, but her ex-mother-in-law would probably plead it down to maintaining a common nuisance or something trivial like that. 

Never mind that Elly had had dreams of the scary lady trying to take her away every night since. Nothing Glenna did could fix that.

“I have a brother, but…he lives on a military base. I don’t want to impose on him.” Her half brother would let them stay with him for a while, but it would be awkward for them all. They weren’t exactly close.

“Let W4HAV find you a place,” Lacy said for about the fifteenth time in a week. “It’s what we do.”

“I know.” She didn’t want to need that kind of help. There were women out there who needed the escape the women’s charity provided far more than Glenna did. Abused women who needed to get away however they could. Abused men, too, who came to W4HAV for help, though far fewer men would admit they needed the help than women.

Glenna was a respected mental health counselor; she led four different counseling groups for the charity at two o’clock, four days each week. She worked the intake desk four nights a week from three thirty p.m. until nine, when she took the girls home and put them to bed. She had a small home she had purchased on Boethe Street after she’d paid off half of her student debt, and then she’d paid that house and her remaining debt off with the life insurance policy she’d still had on her ex at the time of his death over two years ago. 

She had a good job, her bills were paid, there was a roof over their heads, and her children were safe. They should have been just fine.

But they weren’t.

Her ex’s family could get to them at any time. 

His mother walking into the church multipurpose room where the homeschool co-op met each week and nearly walking out with Elly had just proven that. 

There had been a homeschool dad Glenna had known well in the parking lot who had seen what was happening—and stopped it. Just in time. She had been lucky he had recognized Elly that day and stepped in to make a difference. Had questioned.

Glenna hadn’t slept well since. 

Her arms tightened around Emmy. Her bright, fiery, passionate, brave little girl who would challenge the world just because she could.

Crying because of a package left on the desk at W4HAV. 

Glenna understood how trauma worked, though she didn’t work with children in her groups. She wasn’t going to see the trauma of their father’s death get compounded with her own children because of his family.

That was one thing he had been adamant about when she’d filed for divorce—he hadn’t wanted his mother or three brothers anywhere near the girls. No matter what. That had been something he and Glenna had actually agreed on.

Lincoln’s mother didn’t believe that. And she was determined to get to the girls, no matter what. 

“I need someplace to go. Even if it means I’m washing dishes for a living for a while. I need to get out of Finley Creek. Before they destroy my daughters even more.”

Lacy asked for her to give her a day or two to work things out. To find some options that would suit Glenna and the girls. 

Glenna knew how it worked. There was a fund that no one talked about. 

The escape fund.

It was designed to help those victims of violence who had no real recourse but to run.

Glenna wasn’t like that. 

The same procedures in place for that, would help her now. 

She looked at her children one more time. Yes. She would do whatever she had to for her girls. Anything.

Even if it meant leaving everything behind.

***

He wasn’t dead yet. At fifty, Philip Tyler knew he still had a lot of kick left in him. Even if it didn’t feel like it, all the time. He was too damned tired for this constant traveling between Masterson, Wyoming and Finley Creek, Texas. That was becoming clearer every time.

It was time he figured something else out.

He had a plan—go home, let his nephew Fletcher buy in to his partnership with Travis Worthington-Deane in Texas, and hire himself a housekeeper.

So he could spend more time with the four daughters and three sons he had in Masterson. His seven grandkids and any others that came along. And his oldest son, whenever that boy bothered to come back in from L.A. where he was making his own way in the world.

Phil wanted time with his family.

Phil wasn’t going to retire exactly. He was going to slow things down some. He’d accomplished what he’d set out to do with this partnership. His ranch was secure, for whichever of his kids took it over eventually. He had paid down most of his debts, and had put a little back in case some of the younger kids needed help with college. 

He had finished what he’d set out to do. That didn’t mean he was dead yet, though.

Now it was time to sit back and enjoy it. Enjoy the remainder of his younger kids’ childhoods while he still had that opportunity. And get to know the boy who was almost a man before it was too late.

Phil had taken Lacy and Travis up on their offer to spend another night with them after he’d not been able to get a flight in time the night before. He enjoyed himself. They were good kids. Good friends. He considered them family, too.

He was fond of them both, even if little Lacy, a blond dynamo a few years older than Phil’s eldest girl, was nervous with any man not her husband or his brothers when they got too close into her space. She was getting better with him, poor kid. After nearly dying in much the same way as Phil’s third daughter, Perci. 

Lacy reminded him of Perci.

Both girls had that same fighting spirit. 

It had given him time to talk with them about his plans for the next few months.

Or rather, his lack of plans. Phil was looking forward to it. Thanks to money he and Travis had earned through their risks, he had some extra cash. Cash he intended to use to fix up the house and barns a bit. He wanted to tackle the basement, finally. He and his late wife, Becky, had planned for years to finish it out and make a genuine family space down there for the kids. 

He just had the three at home now. He suspected Pete would stick around once he turned eighteen in six months, though. Phil was hoping. His second son was a rancher born and bred. He didn’t see Pete going anywhere too far away. If that was what his son wanted, then so be it. Phil would support him.

Just as he’d supported Phoenix’s move to Hollywood of all places. His oldest son had left after they’d used Phil’s ranch as a location shoot two and a half years ago. Phoenix was making his own way there.

Phil thought leaving Masterson was probably the best for Phoenix, but not having one of his children right there stung.

Phil thought about that as he and Travis headed toward the women’s charity Lacy volunteered at several nights a week. 

He was hoping to meet his new housekeeper there. Lacy had talked with him quietly the evening before. Had asked him to consider a woman she’d known for years.

He was there to do a favor for Lacy. That was it.

Travis’s daughter babbled at him as they walked up the sidewalk toward the charity. Phil laughed. 

The sight of little Alonna with her white-blond hair sticking up everywhere, and her little plaid shirt and denim overalls was cute. Made him miss his grandchildren. All seven of them, from five-year-old Ivy all the way down to the newest, Griffen. 

Phil would admit it—he was a homebody family man. He wanted to go home, and know he didn’t have to go anywhere for a while if he didn’t want to.

He’d turned his rental car in already—Travis was going to drop him off at the airport after he dropped the baby off with Lacy.

At W4HAV. Phil had heard great things about it but had never been there himself.

His niece Maggie had stayed with Travis’s in-laws for a few months after some trouble in Masterson. She’d received counseling there at the charity that she said had helped her through a great deal.

He was going to make a small donation while he was there. It was the least he could do for the place that had helped his Maggie. 

And if he could help Lacy help someone else in need, then Phil was going to damned well do it.

He saw the woman they were looking for the instant he opened the door to the charity and stepped inside.

Lacy stood near the receptionist desk speaking with a woman who looked so much like Phil’s daughters Pip and Perci that he did a double take.

And then he couldn’t believe what he was seeing at all. Who he was seeing.

***

Phil!

Phil opened his arms, and the woman jumped straight into them. He wrapped her up tight and just held her.

As everyone around them stared. He just held her. Remembered her as a scrawny, terrified kid so long ago. Finally, she pulled back. Wiped her wet cheeks.

Phil ignored the crowd around him.

He got his first real look at his late wife’s baby sister. She had put on a bit of weight, but not much. Still was on the small side.

Her sister had been the same way. His daughters all took after that side of their family. 

Robin’s hair was the same burnished red as three of Phil’s daughters, and three of his sons’. Her eyes were a lighter shade of blue. He and Becky had both been blue-eyed redheads. Their children had been bound to inherit the same.

Seeing Robin was like seeing Becky all over again. Twenty years—it had been twenty years, now. He’d heard rumors she’d returned to Masterson fifteen years ago, but it hadn’t been her. He’d looked for her. They’d missed her so damned much. Especially her sister.

But she was in front of him right now. 

“I didn’t realize you were in Finley Creek.”

“I bounced around a bit…after I left…and ended up here. Built a life here. Married. I’m a widow, now. Three years ago.”

He suspected it was more complicated than she was making it out to be. Phil looked at the people surrounding them. Even little Alonna was watching them. He saw the obvious confusion. “Robin is my late wife’s younger sister. She had to leave Masterson twenty years or so ago after some trouble with the former sheriff. We haven’t seen her since. Or really even known where she was. One hell of a coincidence finding her here.”

Once again, an oversimplification of what had been an extremely tense situation, and Robin had been no more than eighteen at the time.

Phil had put her on the bus out of town himself, with four hundred borrowed dollars and a prayer. He would never forget how that moment had felt.

“You needing a job, Robbie? It’s yours. Come on home.” He had had to help her leave, because he had had no other way to protect her back then. 

“I’m not the one for the job, Phil. But…my best friend, Glenna…is.” She stepped aside, and he got his first good look at the woman sitting at the table behind her.

She was around the same age as Robin, maybe a bit older. But was around three inches taller and a bit curvier. But not much. She was a pretty woman, one who would probably age very well. And there was a fear, a sadness, in her eyes that Phil didn’t like to see.

It was far too similar to what had been in his second daughter’s eyes not that long ago. 

The woman stood. Stared at him out of beautiful green eyes. She held out a hand. “Hello, I’m Glenna Carnes, Robin’s best friend. I’m the one who…Lacy…told me you are looking for a housekeeper to help with your children.”

Phil wrapped his fingers around hers. She had a very soft, feminine hand. Delicate and silk beneath his work-roughened fingers. “Yes. I will be honest. It’s not a high-paying job. I simply can’t afford it now. And the work will only be part-time now. I am throwing in room and board as part of the deal.”

“I’d…need that. I want to start completely fresh somewhere away from Finley Creek. I am not a housekeeper by trade, though I worked my way through college with my own cleaning business eighteen years ago. I know what the work involves.”

“Glenna is a licensed mental health counselor here,” Lacy, his business partner’s wife, said quietly. “She’s intending to transfer her license to wherever she settles eventually. That will take time. She’ll need a job in the meantime. I thought the two of you could help each other.”

Phil nodded. He hadn’t had any intention of interviewing a housekeeper tonight. He’d wanted to wait a few weeks after he got home. Talk to the boys—he still had three at home, ranging from almost eighteen down to his youngest at ten—see what kind of a woman they wanted living in their house.

When Lacy had come to him, telling him of a woman who needed a bit of help for a while, Phil had had to say yes. He was the kind of man who did what he could to help those who needed it.

Finding Robin again was just a miracle that he had never expected to have again.  

“What kind of job do you have in Masterson?” Robin asked quietly.

Glenna stepped forward, shooting him a shy look that had him feeling a bit protective. She did have that air about her just like his daughter Pip had once had. “I should tell you before this goes any further. If you offered me the job, I wouldn’t come alone. I have three children. Girls. Ages seven, almost five, and two-and-a-half..”

That was something he hadn’t counted on. He also saw the fear in her eyes.

The desperation. 

She wanted out of Finley Creek. And Robin and Lacy were trying to help her.

“I need someone to help me with the ranch now. The house, I mean. And the boys. It’s not fair to keep putting it on the girls when they are trying to build their own lives, their own families. I need someone I can trust, but I can’t afford much more than room and board. I can feed extra mouths, Mrs. Carnes. Food’s not the problem. And I have extra bedrooms. I was planning on hiring someone when I got home. Pip and Phoebe usually help with the boys, but they have four kids between them now. I can’t keep asking this of my girls. I’m a fair employer, and the ranch is a safe place for kids. I’ve made sure of that years ago. There will be room for them to play and grow. They’ll be treated as honorary Tylers. And it’ll get you far away from Texas, if that’s what you’re wanting. For as long as you are needing it to.”

* * *

Glenna didn’t see where she had much choice. Not if she wanted to take the girls someplace safe. Lacy had called her late the night before and told her she had a job in mind for her. That Lacy was one hundred percent certain the job would be perfect for her—and would provide exactly the safety she was looking for her girls. 

Glenna wanted that so much. They couldn’t even play in the yard without fear that Lincoln’s crazy family would drive by and harass them again. They lived three blocks away. His family walked by her house every single day. 

After they tried to take Elly, Glenna hadn’t been able to sleep at night, afraid they’d break in and take one—or all—of the girls. She and the girls could just leave—just pack up the rest of their things, load a rental truck and just…go. 

To Masterson.

Leaving Rory and Robin. To even think of that was like the idea of tearing off a limb. 

They were her family, too.

“It is beautiful there,” Robin said. She had spoken of home so many times, but the reason why she had left had always been a secret. “Go there, Glenna. It’s a wonderful place.”

“Room for you and yours, too, Robin. There always will be. And don’t you ever forget it. We can do some shifting around, and if the kids wouldn’t mind doubling up, there are plenty of bedrooms. The house may be small, but it was built for a family.”

Glenna looked over at her children, at her three little girls playing together, with Robin’s daughter’s bright strawberry-red head in the middle of them. The boys, older, strong and sturdy, played a board game. They were laughing, having fun. Being children. 

She lived in a tiny house on Boethe Street. Robin was just three doors down. They were still trying to fight with insurance companies more than a year after the tornado, just to make the rest of the repairs. Half of Robin’s windows were still covered with plywood. Their yards were tiny, not much room for children to run and play. Boethe Street wasn’t the kind of place you let your children play unattended either.

Not like the place this man had described.  

His name was Philip Tyler. He’d been married to Robin’s sister Rebecca. Robin’s children: Philip, Wesley Tyler, and Rebecca.

Her best friend had missed her family so much she’d named her children after them. 

She looked at him, wondering what she should say next. Lacy Deane’s baby reached for him, and he took her. Naturally. Like he’d held her a hundred times before. 

She just wanted someplace where she and her girls could relax. Not worry about someone gossiping about something they’d done to Lincoln’s mother or brothers. 

The petty harassment his family repeatedly dished out to her and her daughters was sickening. They walked by her house all the time. Calling to her, calling to the girls. Nothing she’d done had been able to stop them.

Rory had even asked a few friends from the TSP to talk to them. It hadn’t helped. 

If a six-foot-four, angry detective from Major Crimes couldn’t stop them from harassing her, nothing could.

She just wanted to get away from it. Here was a man that her best friend was telling her she could trust offering her exactly that. 

She just had to make a deal with a total stranger to make it happen…

The past few months have gone by extremely fast for me. I’m going to “blame” kiddo’s sports schedule. She went straight from volleyball into basketball. Basketball ended this past Saturday–the same day the softball coach called to tell me we had enough girls to form actual teams this year, and to confirm I’d be there to help this season.

Practice starts in two weeks. But kiddo–she’s already “dragging” me out into the yard to throw bright yellow things at me. All I have to defend myself with is a leather thing on my hand. I’m just supposed to keep it in front of me… (Ok, so I actually do know what I am doing on the ball field…)

I enjoy watching her play–I enjoy watching her in all of her activities. Now that she’s getting a bit older, (she’s 11 now!), she’s getting a lot more freedom and independence. She’s building relationships with people now. She sees the same kids at most of her activities–she’s at the age when friendships matter more than everything. That is one of the great things about living in a small town.

I love small town life. If I had unlimited free time, I’d travel to all the small towns I could and just absorb their history.

I think that is one reason I enjoy the Masterson County series so much. The way people connect in a small town. I want to know my kiddo is going to have connections as she grows.

My new series focuses on connections.

But…it’s not really new.

It’s set in Masterson County.

It features some characters that came before. Book one starts off with Joel, Nate, Matt, and Levi’s mother. And she’s busy tormenting her new neighbor: Gerald Talley. (Gerald is the father of Miranda Talley, by the way. She’s from the PAVAD series, and she was featured in Buried Secrets!). Gerald is also the uncle of Darcey, Dixie, Dusty, Daisy, and Charlotte. (Charlotte was heavily featured in Finley Creek’s Stand Next to Me!). He’s the father of Marin, Miranda, and Meyra.

All of them are on the schedule to get their own books soon.

But there are a few things new about this series.

  1. It is not romantic suspense. Masterson County is just too small for that many bad guys to be running around believably. (Although small towns do have their fair share of bad guys!)
  2. It is later in life contemporary romance. Romance doesn’t just happen in your twenties or thirties. Sometimes, it smacks you in the face in your forties or beyond. (Or, in Rhea’s case…her sixtieth birthday!). I found writing older characters to be so much fun. They don’t have the insecurities or the same needs as younger characters, and are usually confident enough to know themselves better. That changed dynamics a bit!
  3. This is a limited number series. There are going to be approximately 4-8 titles. Then I have other series’ planned!
  4. These books are going to be releasing rather quickly. More details on releases will come later, though.

Book 1 is now available as a pre-order. (click here!)

THAT DAMNED MAN IS BACK. 

This is not good. She isn’t ready for her late husband’s best friend now.

Widowed Rhea Masterson is finally finding her footing again after losing her husband so suddenly three years ago. Life is good—her sons have all married and are making her the grandchildren she adores. She is happy now.


Until he came back home, anyway.

Retired general-turned-diplomat Gerald Talley is moving his overly rigid hiney in right next door. The man is militant, bossy, arrogant, clueless and just a real pain in the neck. Seeing him brings the memories of the only man she would ever love. Gerald and her husband had been almost inseparable for decades.

And it hurts to remember…

HE IS USED TO MAKING THINGS HAPPEN. 

He fixes things that are broken. That isn’t happening now.

He’s failing where it matters most.


His daughter had suffered a horrible trauma two months earlier—but Marin needs more help than Gerald is equipped to give. He is not used to failure. Especially his own.

Gerald is not about to fail his daughter ever again.

THERE IS ONLY ONE WOMAN HE CAN TURN TO.

Rhea.

As maddening as she’s always been, he needs her. So much.

Rhea’s the one person who can reach his daughter in her time of greatest need, and neither Gerald nor Rhea are ready to let Marin keep breaking the way she is. Now these two need to team up to fix this…

Before Marin slips further away.

But along the way, they realize one truth:

Maybe… life isn’t over when you lose the one you love.

Maybe you can fall in love again—with the friend you’ve never realized you’ve had right next to you all along.

Also: Jude & that Barratt Man

Jude & That Barratt Man has been released as an ebook. There are two versions of this book. One, available at all the major ebook retailer sites (click here).

Available at Most Retailers.

The other edition contains bonus material (a prologue and epilogue featuring Mel and Houghton Barratt). It is only available through direct purchase from me, through Payhip. If you use the coupon code JUDE25 you’ll save 25% off the full retail price of the bonus edition.

Buy Direct!

And one more quick note! I am in the process of getting the website updated–so if things seem like an alien landed in the middle of the Masterson page, etc. I apologize. I’m also in the process of getting as many of the books into paperback as I can. In 2022, I will be selling signed paperbacks directly from the website!

I had to cut some great scenes from Nikki & Hunter’s book (Meaning in Masterson) to keep it under my word count goal. They all featured Nikki’s brother Fletcher. Fletcher can be a bit clueless! I thought you might enjoy getting to know him. He’ll eventually get his own book, too. (As will Ben and Gil!)

Deleted Scene 1:

Dusty Talley was one of the most perfect women to ever walk the planet. Fletcher Tyler was almost one hundred percent certain of it.

She was also definitely not the woman for him.

But he could appreciate the sight before him. Long, straight blond hair hung loose around her shoulders, almost to her waist. Big green eyes shot fire at him and his brother.

It was mostly his brother that her ire was directed at now.

Not that Fletcher fully blamed her. Ben had overstepped a bit. It was always Ben with Dusty lately, it seemed.

It was hard for them not to. She had practically grown up right in front of them, side by side with their baby sister. Fletcher and his brothers had been watching out for Dusty almost as long as they had Nikki. It was just what they did.

Dusty and Nikki had given Fletcher gray hair a time or two, with the things they’d get up to. It was almost like they’d had devils nipping at their heels, his father had said once.

Fletcher could agree with that.

His father had said it was because the two young girls had learned early on about their own mortality. And wanted to enjoy every moment of life they’d been given.

It had taken Fletcher a while to understand what his father had meant about that.

Nikki had been so hurt by their mother’s death. And Dusty… she’d collapsed in the middle of a tae kwon do studio during a group lesson not even two months after they’d buried Fletcher’s mother. From a heart condition Dusty had been battling all her childhood. She’d only been fourteen or fifteen he thought. They’d taken her back for emergency surgery.

They had almost lost her.

Fletcher had been there that day. He had carried her to his truck and rushed her to the hospital himself, Nikki terrified beside her, holding Dusty up in her arms, begging her best friend to just be ok. To not leave Nikki, too. Hard not to feel protective over the girls after that.

Nikki had been beyond terrified. Fletcher had taken care of his little sister himself, then. While they waited.

It had made a guy feel a bit overprotective of the sweet and gorgeous blonde in front of him. Dusty was like another baby sister to him.

Fletcher knew it was his duty to protect. Same probably went for Ben.

Dusty had her arms crossed over her Come to Flo’s Diner hoodie, as she stared up at Ben.

“You are a massive idiot,” she said. “Both of you. You don’t have the right to tell me who I can date and who I can’t. I am not Nikki! And you can’t even tell her, either. Why can’t you get that through your thick skulls?”

Ben reached out and patted Dusty on the head. Fletcher practically saw the steam coming out of her ears at that one. That wouldn’t calm her down—Fletcher had tried it before. Dusty was quiet—but she could sure breathe fire when she wanted.

Ben was about to get singed.

“You can do better than that damned Cadell Grady, Dusty.”

“Why? Cadell is a nice guy who I like very much.” Dusty’s frustration was practically visible, steam coming right out her ears.

“He’s a Grady.”

“So? You’re not telling me you’re holding what his father did to Maggie and Marin against him?”

Ben just shrugged. Fletcher knew that was exactly what his brother was doing. Maybe it wasn’t fair, but it was the truth. He didn’t exactly want Dusty going around with a Grady right now. He didn’t trust the guy at all. Guy had to be almost ten years older than Dusty, too.

What kind of guy wanted to date the cousin of the woman his own father had shot?

Talk about awkward.

Besides, Dusty needed better than a stuffy, workaholic attorney. Dusty enjoyed being outdoors, working with animals. Everyone knew that. She came out to Gil’s new place with Nikki at least once a week to ride the horses.

Gil and Ben were talking about giving her a horse for her birthday coming up, too. It had been Ben’s idea, but Fletcher thought it was a good one. He’d pitch in on the purchase price, too.

They just wanted to take care of their pseudo-baby-sister, after all.

Even so, Ben threatening Cadell right there in the middle of the diner probably hadn’t been the way to go about it. Ben was a former military cop, after all. He knew everything there was to know about guns. Not to mention the mixed martial arts his brother had been into since he was no older than their ten-year-old cousin Parker, after all.

Fletcher had his own black belt in tae kwon do, but his was nothing compared to the skill Ben had. Fletcher hadn’t been able to keep up.

His brother scared people. And that he wrote books about murder and mayhem didn’t help his reputation.

Ben just wanted to protect Dusty. Too bad the girl was too stubborn to see that.

Dusty and Nikki both.

Deleted Scene 2:

Worrying about his sister was just something he did. Fletcher suspected the same was true for his brothers. It always had been, from the moment their parents had brought the little lump home from the hospital. Her eyes had been funny—he remembered thinking that the first time he saw her.

His parents had explained that she wouldn’t be able to see very well. Probably for a very, very long time. Years. And that her brothers had to help take care of her.

They had.

When she’d been a teenager, eye surgery had corrected a big portion of her vision issues enough that she could see ten times better than she had before, but by that time, taking care of Nikki was ingrained in him.

Of course, he was a Tyler, and taking care of their women and girls was ingrained in a Tyler man’s DNA.

He knew she’d said she’d be just fine, but the idea that his little sister could be sitting in an old building with no power and frozen pipes and no real heat—or way for her to reheat food in her microwave—had him worried.

She liked to say that she could take care of herself completely, but he suspected that was just pure stubbornness. No one did stubborn better than his baby sister, after all.

“She should have gone to the inn. Stayed with Dusty. What was so different about this time? She stays with Dusty all the time, and they do each other’s nails and chatter about boys while it storms.”

“When they were thirteen,” Gil said. Fletcher got the impression his oldest brother was laughing at him. Gil did that sometimes, when he thought Fletcher was being an idiot. “They stopped talking about boys years ago. They’ve moved on to men now, I believe. I heard Gabe Masterson is sniffing around Dusty. And Eli… well… he’s been spending an awful lot of time in the diner. But only during Nikki’s shifts, I heard. Or is it the other way around and Eli is there during Dusty’s shifts and Gabe during Nikki’s? They are not girls anymore, you two. Something to keep in mind. Men are going to come around. It’s just inevitable. I’m surprised they’ve both not married yet, actually. Nikki’s going to eventually want a family of her own. Look at Maggie and Uncle Phil’s girls. It’s just a matter of time. If she’s not too set in her ways, our stubborn little sister.”

Nikki marrying some guy? Hell. Fletcher had never even considered it. He did the math in his head quickly. Nikki was only twenty-four, Dusty a half year older. They were too young to be thinking about settling down, seriously. Right? “What’s the big rush? She’s still young. They both are.”

Ben growled something from the rear seat. Fletcher had beaten him to the front passenger seat, and Ben had been grumbling ever since. They were full-grown men, but sometimes defeating your older brother for a place in the car was oddly satisfying, still.

Especially faster than the speed of light Benji-the-ass.

Probably because Gil and Ben used to beat him up every chance they got. “What was that?”

“Gabe Masterson is an arrogant asshole. He needs to stay away from Dusty. She doesn’t need a man like him.”

“What’s wrong with a nice, steady, stable, successful pediatrician like Gabe?” Gil asked. “He’s a good friend. And has been for years. I’d fully trust him with Nikki or Dusty. He wouldn’t do anything he shouldn’t. You aren’t holding his brother against him, are you?”

Fletcher knew what he meant. Jack Masterson had stolen their cousin Martin’s girl right out from beneath Martin’s nose. Not even six months later, he’d done the same to Ben with another girl.

Jack was supposed to have been their friend. That his brother was sniffing around their Dusty, well, that didn’t sit so well with Fletcher, either. And that the other brother was looking in Nikki’s direction?

Nope. Not going to happen.

“Dusty is old enough to make her own decisions about who she dates, and even who she sleeps with,” Gil said firmly. “You two are to stay out of her love life. Or she may borrow Matt’s scalpel he uses to neuter dogs and come after the two of you. I heard about the last incident.”

Fletcher winced in shame. Maybe they shouldn’t have run that Hoffman guy off in quite the manner that they had. But Ben hadn’t liked the way the man had been flirting with their Dusty. They’d been duty-bound as her pseudo-big-brothers to run him off.

Even if that had just exasperated Dusty, and made Nikki laugh like a little lunatic behind the counter.

His sister got a kick out of the weirdest things.

Fletcher had mostly been just joking—Dusty had always had her head on her shoulders where guys were concerned—but Ben…

Ben had actually meant it.

Ben had chased that guy off from Dusty like he was a junkyard dog, with only one nicely shaped bone to guard.

They’d known Barand Hoffman their entire life.

The guy had looked at Ben like Ben had gone mad.

Maybe he had.

Dusty really had been angry that day. He’d probably need to apologize first chance he got. At least for his part.

“I just want to check on Nikki. She’s up to something. I just know it,” Ben said. “And I heard a rumor Rowland Bowles and some of his people are back in town—including Phoenix, which I confirmed myself—and may have been seen with either Maggie or Nikki in town. I want to make sure she isn’t being bothered.”

Well, Fletcher had to agree with him there.

Nikki had been extra secretive when he’d brought the kerosene. And she’d kept looking toward that empty apartment.

Like… maybe someone had been in there.

Maybe his sister had had a man in the building that she didn’t want Fletcher to know about? Rowland Bowles, maybe? The guy had been all about Nikki after she’d been shot, coming to check on her, bringing her expensive flowers and stuff. That could turn a young girl’s head.

Especially since he’s so famous. Easy for a girl like Nikki to just get star struck or something.

That… that idea was crazy.

His sister wasn’t experienced enough for that. Hell, if she’d done more than kiss a guy or two a few times, Fletcher would eat his favorite hat. With ketchup.

He wondered idly if they’d ever scraped the ketchup off the ceiling of the diner after that last major incident with Marin there. He’d have to ask Dusty the next time he saw her.

He’d stop by when he got a chance. See if Dusty had a clue what Nikki was up to.

Just in case.

And he’d tell Dusty upfront… it hadn’t been his idea to run off that Hoffman. It had been Ben’s.

Gil’s warning about Matt’s scalpel was a good one.

Dusty had a bit of a temper when she was riled.

Deleted Scene 3:

After the party for his uncle—aka the latest Tyler excuse to get together—ended, Fletcher spent some time helping Martin and his cousins clean the remodeled barn everyone was affectionately calling Tyler Hall. There were metal chairs to fold and hang on the rack, the floors needed swept—some of the younger Tylers were messy—and the trash needed taken out.

Martin’s brother Michael was busy tending to his sweet, pretty little wife. She wasn’t handling the morning sickness all that great, Fletcher thought. It was knocking her flat.

She sure was trying, though.

Michael was a darned lucky man. To have found Jude like that—and then to have been able to save her from that monster who had tried to kill her and her little friend Linsey.

Linsey had been there tonight, with Jude. She was a beautiful woman, with wildly curling blond hair, a tiny but curvy body, and a sense of humor that would leave a man in stitches. Well, most of the time. She had spent a fair amount of time today snipping at Martin’s brother, Chandler.

Fletcher thought about Linsey as he ran the broom over the concrete floor Michael and Martin had spent some time staining with a pretty cherry wood color.

Maybe Nikki had been right. Maybe he’d been alone too long. A woman of his own wouldn’t be so bad. He shot another look at Michael and Jude. Followed by one at Michael’s sister Maggie, where she stood bundling her son into his winter coat while her husband did the same to their daughter.

Maggie seemed wildly happy, too. She was smiling now. Her husband leaned down and said something, then snagged a kiss. Clint was a quiet guy. Maybe he thought no one was watching. Or maybe he was so happy with his woman that he just didn’t care who saw?

Movement caught his eye. Fletcher looked toward the doors. Just in time to see that darned Hunter Louis Clark holding Nikki’s coat out to her, a firm expression on his face.

Nikki always had needed to be reminded to put on her coat sometimes. Gloves and hat, too. Which Clark held in his other hand.

Nikki grinned up at Hunter. There was an ease between them that had Fletcher’s attention focusing.

Right before his eyes, Clark brushed a hand down Fletcher’s baby sister’s cheek. Touched her mouth. Lingered.

The look in the man’s eyes…

That wasn’t right.

Fletcher started in that direction.

Hell. That bastard was putting the moves on Nikki. Right there in front of them. Even though Fletcher had thought the guy wasn’t interested in Nikki that way before.

Nikki. That was just crazy.

Here he’d almost convinced himself the man wasn’t so bad, after all.

Fletcher was going to have to warn his brothers. See what they thought should be done.

They wouldn’t just stand by and watch as Nikki got hurt by some love’em and leave’em type. Not even for a moment.

Fletcher was going to kick the guy’s ass.

Then again, didn’t Clark have some serious martial arts training or something?

Maybe Fletcher would just sic Ben on Clark instead.

Deleted Scene 4:

That damned Hunter Louis Clark had broken her heart. It was obvious when he got a good look at his baby sister’s face. Fletcher didn’t know what else to do, so he just scooped her up. Nikki didn’t weigh much. Sometimes he forgot how small she was. How it was his job to protect her from assholes like Clark.

He should have stepped in. Kept this from happening. Everyone could see that it would have. Clark… whether he was a nice guy or not, he wasn’t the kind of guy meant for Masterson. Not permanently, anyway.

And his sister was—of any of them, Masterson was in his sister’s blood so deep Fletcher didn’t think she could ever be happy anywhere else. Not really.

Not even with the man she loved.

Holy hell, he hoped her feelings for Clark weren’t that deep. That she’d get over the man quick enough.

It had been over a week now since Clark had left.

At first, he’d thought Nikki was just… not feeling great. Now Fletcher realized how stupid he’d been—she was grieving.

Heart-broken over what that ass Clark had done to her.

For a moment, Fletcher actually considered hunting that bastard down and making him hurt the way his baby sister was.

But sanity took hold after a moment.

Clark wasn’t good for Nikki. It was better she hurt a little now, then be totally devastated later when the inevitable happened and he left her cold turkey. After she loved him.

She hadn’t been with him enough to love him now. Fletcher was thankful for that, at least.

There were other men in Masterson. Men who would suit his little sister far better than some untrustworthy Hollywood type.

Once the snows thawed and it was easier for Nikki to get out a bit, he’d happily introduce her to some men he knew. Men he respected, and knew would take good care of a sweet woman like Nikki. She’d have to move out of town, eventually.

But she’d make a decent rancher’s wife.

Maybe. She didn’t cook all that great, and she didn’t like doing ranch chores, but she’d make a great mother. Of course, she’d have to find a way into town every day. He couldn’t see her leaving the bookstore. She loved it too much.

Maybe he’d better stick to the guys he knew who lived close to town. There was Shane Lowell. He was a decent sort of a few years older than Fletcher, and a doctor. He lived right there by the inn, so she’d be close to Dusty. Shane had a couple of kids already. Zach Lowell, the deputy, was Shane’s cousin. He was a decent enough guy. And he thought there was a surgeon named Paterson around. Not to mention Gabe Masterson. And there wasn’t a darned thing wrong with Eli Masterson, either.

Except… guilt settled in his gut. He and Ben and Gil had chased Gabe and Eli off just a few weeks ago.

From Nikki and Dusty. Maybe they shouldn’t have done that.

“Just tell me what I need to do, and I’ll do it. Just to make everything better. Like a good big brother.” He rocked back and forth a bit as his eyes met Dusty’s.

Those soul-stealing green eyes of hers were filled with concern and heartbreak. She just shook her head at Fletcher. She knew…

There was nothing either of them could do to make this better.

Nikki stepped back, and Fletcher yanked Dusty close for a hug. She wasn’t half-bad as a pseudo-baby sister. He was glad Nikki had her.

He told her that, too.

Then watched as she led his sister back to the rear of the diner, where they kept their things. Nikki would spend some time with Dusty and her sisters and cousins. And Flo. Flo had been like a stand-in grandmother to Nikki. He knew that.

Maybe between them, they could help Nikki get through this.

Maybe. Fletcher sure as hell didn’t know what else to do.

He looked up as the girls left the diner. He’d offered to drive them to the inn, but Nikki wanted to walk—despite the cold. She said she needed to see the town around her tonight.

And Dusty… Dusty would be at her side, like she always had been. No matter what life had shoved in Nikki’s face, Dusty would always be there.

She’d earned Fletcher’s undying loyalty for that.

Ben sank down into the empty chair. He hadn’t seen his brother come in. He grunted at Ben. The last thing Fletcher wanted to do was talk right now.

His heart was breaking for Nikki right now. “What do you want?”

“What were you doing, hugging all over Dusty like that?”

“What do you mean? I hugged her right after I hugged Nikki. To say thank you for taking care of our sister. What’s your problem with it?”

“I don’t have a problem with it at all. I’m just looking out for her, that’s all. Making sure you weren’t hugging her because she was hurt or upset. That’s all.”

Fletcher looked into eyes as blue as his own. He snorted. “Sure you don’t. You can’t tell her who she can hug and can’t, bro. She’s not really our sister, you know. You probably should stop forgetting that.”

A look went through his brother’s eyes. One that told Fletcher just what exactly he had missed.

Hell.

Ben had it bad… for Dusty.

Fletcher doubted the big doofus even knew it. Fletcher wasn’t about to say a darned thing.

Ben would have to figure that out for himself.

Fletcher thought about his sister’s sad little face. He’d hate to see Ben hurt Dusty like that. He knew his brother wouldn’t mean to, but relationships were hard. Things could go wrong in a moment.

Deleted Scene 5:

His little sister’s heart was still breaking. Fletcher could see it in her big blue eyes. But Nikki was the stubborn type. She wouldn’t let anyone see it.

Dusty had spent the night with her, he thought. It was obvious, considering what she was wearing.

Ben said something—probably something stupid—and Dusty shot him a heated look.

It was ruined by the girly pink pajamas she was wearing and the two childish braids. She looked like she had when she’d been a kid, running around his parents’ house, getting into stuff.

They’d played with dolls and stickers, then talked about boys, and then their futures. All right around him.

Fletcher had watched them both grow up.

He hadn’t missed that Dusty was an adult now. A damned attractive one, at that. His cousin Derrick had mentioned that to him and Ben just a few weeks ago. Ben had punched Derrick, pretending to be joking. But Fletcher thought his brother meant it when he’d told Derrick to stay away, that Dusty wasn’t old enough for what Derrick had said.

Hell, Derrick had just mentioned asking her to the movies once the roads to the next county cleared a bit. Harmless.

Dusty was six months older than Nikki. She wasn’t a kid any longer.

That sank in as Fletcher watched her hook an arm around Nikki’s shoulders.

Nikki was an adult. Capable of making her own decisions—even about her love life.

Why hadn’t Fletcher seen that before?

Maybe he and his brothers were as clueless as Dusty and his sister had always said.

“Come on, girls. Get dressed. We’ll take you back to Gil’s place for a few days,” Ben said. “Ride out the incoming storm there.”

“I’d love to hang around with you three cavemen,” Dusty said, rolling those gorgeous greens of hers. “But I’m on at the inn for the next three evenings, while Daisy handles parent-teacher conferences. Nik? Why don’t you come stay at the inn with me? You can have Char’s room. We’ll go through the stuff she left and text her mean messages.”

“How is she doing?” Fletcher asked. He… knew… Charlotte Talley well, after all. In the most elemental of ways. But he doubted she’d told her slightly younger cousin that.

And Fletcher’s daddy had taught him long ago that a gentleman didn’t kiss and tell.

That some rogue cops in Finley Creek had shot her and her friends just pissed him off.

They might have dated six or seven years ago, when she’d been nineteen and he twenty-three, and it had ended, but he had always cared about the woman.

Charlotte had been pure hell on wheels.

“She’s better. Back to work now.”

“Good.”

“I think… I think I’d like that. I need to get out of here for a while. I’ll walk home to open the store each morning. We’ll hang out, like we used to.”

It wasn’t exactly what Fletcher wanted, but as Dusty hugged Nikki again, he understood—she’d know how to help Nikki deal with whatever was bothering her. Far better than Fletcher and Ben and Gil could.

Fletcher wasn’t stupid—it was all about Hunter Louis Clark.

Damn that bastard for hurting Fletcher’s sister.

She’d been an easy mark. Sweet, naïve, right there across the hall from him in the middle of winter. She had been right there.

Of course, a man like Clark would take advantage of that. Men like him weren’t raised to be gentleman.

Not like Tylers were.

As Dusty turned again, to say something to Ben—who she seemed to think constantly talked out of his ass lately—Fletcher took in the beautiful feminine body, the gorgeous face, and the far-too smart mouth.

Hell, of course, some guy would look at Dusty and want her. She was damned hot. Sexy, even. Fletcher almost gawked as that sank in. Dusty wasn’t a kid anymore. Guys would want her.

Some of those guys wouldn’t be good guys.

With no dad or brothers of her own, of course, she needed Fletcher, Gil, and Ben to look out for her. Make sure some guy didn’t take advantage of her, or break her heart.

Maybe it would be best if Dusty just got with a Tyler man. He’d be sure to treat her right, to take care of her. A Tyler wouldn’t take advantage of her either. Not like Clark had Fletcher’s sister.

He’d just make a point of telling Derrick if he wanted to date Dusty, he could.

Fletcher would just have to make Ben behave himself.

Ben really didn’t have the right to dictate to Dusty what she did with her love life, after all.

He shot another look at his older brother and Nikki’s best friend.

They were glaring at each other, Ben towering over her, almost. Hell, he almost had his arms around her. Did Dusty even realize that?

Ben was the tallest of Fletcher and his brothers. Ben had one of Dusty’s braids in his hands. She had a furious look on her face.

There was a lot of heat between the two of them now. He didn’t remember them acting like that before. He’d have to ask his brother about it, first chance he got.

In the meantime, Fletcher’s baby sister needed a hug.

She looked like her entire world was ending.

If you haven’t grabbed your copy of Meaning in Masterson, click here!

I am a bit behind in getting a blog up. Kiddo started basketball games and we have practice one night and a game the next already. O.o Softball starts in two weeks, too.

(I’m still not sure how MY child ended up liking sports, as clumsy as her parents both are!)

ANYWAY,

Nikki and Hunter are finally out there. 😀 (Click the image below…)

AN ORDINARY GIRL…
 IN AN ORDINARY WORLD

Nikki Tyler knows exactly what she is—and where she belongs. She’s a Tyler—and that means Masterson County.

When the most sought after producer in Hollywood wants to make a documentary about her family, Nikki reluctantly agrees to help…

But…she hadn’t counted on Hunter Clark.

HE IS MORE THAN JUST AN ACTOR.

Hunter is considered the hottest action star in Hollywood, but he wants to be far more than that. He wants to produce—to create. To have people speak his words.

When he’s given the opportunity to do just that, Hunter jumps at the chance.

Even though he knows it means… her.

Nikki.

The one woman Hunter has never forgotten. The one woman he has never stopped dreaming about. Hunter knows he’s not the kind of man a real woman like Nikki needs—but he just can’t keep it professional between them.

He just…can’t. 

★ JUST A TEMPORARY THING. ★

Nikki knows Hunter’s time in Masterson is only temporary.

So

She’ll just love him while she can. And protect her heart somehow…

Because L.A. is already calling his name…

But someone doesn’t like the hold Nikki has over Hunter, and he’ll stop at nothing to get Hunter back to where he thinks Hunter belongs.

Even kill the one woman standing in his way.

Can Nikki survive long enough to show Hunter just how real the love between a Hollywood man and a small-town girl can be?

I haven’t had time to blog over the last few weeks–we’ve had a few health issues and things that have derailed my work schedule. I’m slowly getting back into the routine after the holidays, as well.

I’m hard at work on new books. Zoey’s book is going to be an absolute monster to write! In it, I will expand and resolve a HUGE plot line that starts in the PAVAD series and runs throughout the Finley series and ends in a Small-Town Sheriff book! It’s the story of Zoey’s mother and just how she managed to have so many children that she sold for profit.

The Children of Denise Daviess saga started in Redeeming. It is the story of Zoey’s eldest brother Luc. Right now, Redeeming is on sale for $0.99, if you’ve never read it.

Next is REVEALING–Zoey’s older sister Paige’s story. In this book, younger sister Ariella is introduced!

The following Finley Creek novels tell more of Denise’s story:

WOUNDS THAT WON’T HEAL (Rafe)

AS THE NIGHT ENDS (Ariella)

LOST IN THE WIND (Nikkie Jean)

In STAND NEXT TO ME (the latest Finley Creek novel) Zoey has a major role–and a major life changing event.

There are more missing children of Denise Daviess out there. Some of them will most definitely get their stories told, too!

Zoe’s hero is Murdoch Lake–her co-sheriff and mortal enemy! (I love a good enemies-to-lovers novel!).

Murdoch is the brother of the hero in HIDING. Some of Murdoch’s family story is told in that book, if you want to check that out as well.

Zoey and Murdoch’s book (tentatively titled HEAR HER CRIES) will release LATE 2022. There will be a few other releases between now and then.

Nikki and Hunter’s book is now available for preorder (everywhere except Google Play, which is still publishing, anyway.)

The release date will be Feb. 12th. (THE LISTINGS SAY IT’S 25-28 PAGES LONG. IT’S ACTUALLY OVER 200!). I’ll post the Google Play link as soon as it goes live.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ AN ORDINARY GIRL…

— IN AN ORDINARY WORLD. ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

When the most sought after producer in Hollywood wants to make a document about her family, Nikki reluctantly agrees to help…

Nikki Tyler knows exactly what she is—and where she belongs. She’s a Tyler—and that means Masterson County.

She hadn’t counted on Hunter Clark. Hottest guy in Hollywood. On her doorstep. Asking to be let in.

★ ★ HE IS MORE THAN JUST AN ACTOR. ★ ★

Hunter is considered the hottest action star in Hollywood, but he wants to be far more than that. He wants to produce—to create. To have people speak his words.

When he’s given the opportunity to do just that, Hunter jumps at the chance.

Even though he knows it means… her.

Nikki.

The one woman Hunter has never forgotten. The one woman he has never stopped dreaming about. Hunter knows he’s not the kind of man a real woman like Nikki needs—but he just can’t keep it professional between them.

★ JUST A TEMPORARY THING. ★

Nikki knows Hunter’s time in Masterson is only temporary.

So…

She’ll just love him while she can. Because L.A. is already calling his name…

But someone doesn’t like the hold Nikki has over Hunter, and he’ll stop at nothing to get Hunter back to where Hunter belongs. Even kill the one woman standing in his way. Can Nikki survive long enough to show Hunter just how real the love between a Hollywood man and a small-town girl can be?