I’m just stopping by to give a quick update. I caught a nasty respiratory infection that sent the asthma going totally out of control for a few weeks. It set me back a bit on schedule. But…Murdoch and Zoey are rocking along at an awesome pace. I’ve been staying up at night with Libby the Wonder Dog (she can’t get up and down on her own now, but once she’s on her feet there is no stopping her!)
This book is turning out way differently than I’d originally imagined. When I’d first gotten the idea for the book it was back in 2017 or so. The technology it was based on became obsolete last year, lol. So it required some pivots. Now, I’m loving the story even more!
I don’t know the release date (it depends on when I get it to the editor and what her schedule looks like), but I do suspect it will be late April/early May when Zoey releases.
In the meantime, I found this little one-shot slice-of-life that I’d played with when I was stuck on something else. I thought you might enjoy it!
Izzie’s Secret Valentine…
(ONE MONTH BEFORE THE EVENTS OF STAND NEXT TO ME)
Dr. Allen Jacobson was a man on a mission.
Finding his wife and getting that woman to spill the beans was the heart of that mission.
Izadora MacNamara Jacobson was hiding something. He wasn’t stupid. The woman could be the most obstinate creature on the planet, especially when something was bothering her. She had been quiet for the last week. While she wasn’t exactly a loud woman to begin with…she was rarely quiet with him at all.
Especially when he did something to get under her skin. He’d tried that two days ago, just trying to get her to release whatever she was bottling inside.
He strongly suspected it had something to do with the man walking just ahead of him now.
Dr. Jeoffrey Stockton got beneath Allen’s skin faster than he would ever admit to anyone who didn’t know the truth about the older man. Things would always be tense between Allen and Izzie and that man.
Only a handful of people in the largest hospital in Finley Creek knew who Stockton was to Izzie. Allen tolerated the man—mostly because of how the man had helped him save Izzie the night he could have lost her right here in this very building.
But when Stockton looked over his shoulder at him, Allen knew he was about to get stopped before he could succeed in his mission. “Has she been feeling well lately?”
Allen hesitated. He knew the she in question, of course. “I…am not certain. Something has been bothering her for at least a week. What makes you ask?”
“I keep an eye on my daughter, Allen. You can count on that. I could tell she was tired the last time I saw her. And she looked pale.”
Intense worry shot through Allen. He’d thought he was possibly imagining it. He was a damned emergency trauma surgeon and until the hospital had hired four more physicians to work the emergency department recently, he’d spent a good deal of time in the ED. He knew when someone was ill.
That it was his own wife—Izzie was his world. His heart.
Something happening to her was his biggest nightmare, followed by something happening to his baby sister. “I’m going to find out tonight.”
“Good. Take care of her. I know she’ll probably never forgive me, never let me in. Hell, I don’t know what her mother filled her head with years ago. I know that I just wasn’t there when she needed me. But…I’ll always love my children. All of them.”
Allen just nodded. He’d seen Stockton’s younger children. Two girls—one a teenager and one barely school-age—and three boys in between. All of them looked like Izzie in some way or another.
Izzie was open to meeting the kids eventually. She was just afraid of getting hurt. He completely understood that. And it was entirely up to her what she did with her father next.
Stockton veered to the left. Allen went right. Toward the ED.
Where his world waited.
Izzie was beyond exhausted.
She had two hours to go on her shift. Allen was probably finished for the day. He normally spent the time difference between their shifts on paperwork or wandering around the hospital like a far too gorgeous ghost, getting all the newer nurses in a tizzy.
They’d get all excited—her husband was gorgeous, after all—but the man was going home with her.
Izzie was going to get through the next two hours, and then she was going to curl herself around her husband and not move. For the rest of the night.
Never had she been so tired in her life.
No one had warned her about this part.
Someone nudged her arm. “You look a little green, Izzers. You ok?”
Izzie nodded. Nikkie Jean had taken a full twelve weeks maternity leave after giving birth to her twin baby girls. But she was back now. “I’m good. Just tired.”
“And a bit…wheezy.” Nikkie Jean peered at her like Izzie was a bug. “Taking the meds?”
“Of course.” Though she would definitely have to speak to her physician—not her husband, nor her best friend—about what meds would be safe to take. Nikkie Jean and Allen together…they would hover. They would drive her insane, practically watching every breath she took.
And once she added her uncle Jake to the mix…
He could hover with the best of them, that man. Of course, he had raised her, but still…
“Just having a bit of an off few days with the asthma,” Izzie said as the elevator binged. Two tall men walked out, confident in every step they took.
“My, what a pretty, pretty man right there,” Nikkie Jean said, snarky as always. “I think one of us should grab him and hold on tight.”
“I would, but I am still on for two more hours.” He looked good. It had been a good shift for him, then. Sometimes he’d come for her when the shadows of what he did became too much.
He was intense. A gifted trauma surgeon, rocketing to the top of his field. Pride in her husband’s accomplishments was a real thing.
He came right to her. She checked the clock. She was about to take her break. He had perfect timing. She’d spend the next fifteen minutes with her husband, and think about various ways she could tell him exactly what the man had done to her.
He was seriously going to be proud of himself now.
They’d only been trying for a little while, after all.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” His hand went to her back, his fingers spreading. Scorching her through her scrubs top. She loved it when the man touched her. They touched occasionally at the hospital, but they were both professionals. No pawing at each other here.
That could wait until she got him home and got him out of that suit…
“I’m a little wheezy tonight. I was just about to go upstairs, get some air.” They had a spot on the roof she’d always think of their spot. He’d kissed her there so many times before.
Izzie smiled. Maybe that would be the best spot. She had kept the secret long enough. She’d wanted to get it confirmed with Dr. Kaur—her friend Layla—first. “Come with?”
She hadn’t even had to ask.
They took the elevator to the top floor and quietly opened the door to the roof.
Then she was in his arms, and he was holding her. He didn’t kiss her. They didn’t do that here, not while one of them was on the clock. But after they were both off the clock…she’d shared a kiss or one hundred with him here before. Right here, in this spot, looking out over the city.
“I’m getting concerned about the wheezing, Iz,” he said, brushing his fingers over her cheek. She loved it when the man touched her.
Hard to believe this was the man she’d considered her worst nightmare not all that long ago. The world had certainly changed for her since then. All it had taken was an F4 tornado to do it.
“I suspect I know what’s causing it.” She pressed close for a moment. He was a foot taller than she was, and his chest was hard and broad and just perfect. She could stay curled up there forever.
“Hormones. I’ve heard that can happen—“ She shot him a wicked look. “When a woman gets pregnant…”
Just like that, a shell-shocked expression hit his eyes. “Pregnant. You’re pregnant.”
Well. She’d rattled Mr. Confident.
She always loved when that happened. “We’re pregnant. You’re the one who got me in this interesting condition.” Izzie wrapped her fingers around the perfect Windsor knot of his tie and pulled him down to her level. She couldn’t help herself. Izzie pressed a kiss to those perfect lips of his. When she pulled back, she laughed. “We’re due on Valentine’s Day.”
Which she thought was absolutely perfect. They probably wouldn’t have the baby on the actual due date, but…her hand dropped to her stomach. She liked the idea of a little Valentine. “Congratulations, Dr. Jacobson. You’re going to be a daddy.”
His hands went around her waist, and he was lifting her, spinning. Laughing. “You, Izadora MacNamara Jacobson, have just made me the happiest man in the world.”
This time, they did kiss. Right there under the Texas moon, the lights of the city surrounding them…
It seems like 2022 both dragged…and flew by. It was a very crazy year here. My mom had a stroke last January (right after her 3rd or 4th bout with Covid) and it took her a long while to get back up to speed.
She’s “mostly” back to her not-so-old mischievous self (she turned 61 in Oct!) Just last week, I caught her in the woods with my kiddo, her usual partner in crime…swinging on an old rope she’d tossed over a tree branch.
In July, Mom got hit with COVID again, and shared it with us. (My second go-round, despite vaccination).
It took me a few extra weeks to feel better, but man, was the brain fog REAL. (If I hadn’t had some books already written ahead of schedule, I’d have been toast!). I’m mostly back to normal now (mostly…)
2022 was a bit of a blur for about eight months.
I am so hoping this January I can rest!
But…now it’s time for my state of the Calle-verse update.
In 2022, I released Masterson book #7), all four of the There is a Season… contemporary romance books, plus Masterson #8 and Masterson #9 And the online serial that turned into a novella was also published to the retailers. Eight books in one year. I haven’t done that in a long time.
For those who aren’t aware, in 2017, I fell and did major damage to some discs in my neck that still cause issues even after five years of treatment and weekly physical therapy. It slowed my writing WAY down for a few years, and I had to drop two of my series’ because I couldn’t physically keep up. I went from 8 books a year down to 2 or 3 books released for several years.
Now, for 2023, I am working on even more books.
Most will be set in the Finley Creek “world”, I think.There are at least 2 Mastersons planned. I never set my schedule in stone b/c of physical therapy, flare-ups, rescuing my mother from rope swings and rogue ducks, etc.
I am hoping to have at least the first two books of Finley Creek: Enemies Within (the next set of Finleys) finished this year, rather early. Powell/Gunnar and Haldyn/Jarrod, but I don’t know whose story will be first.
My current main project is Zoey’s book, Hearing her Cries. She’s Small-Town Sheriffs book 2! I have been waiting since 2018 to get to her book (I was working on hers when I fell, actually). However, the technology her storyline was based on is as of 2021..now scientifically obsolete.
So she’s getting a bit of an overhaul, and it is going very, very well. I am extremely excited to get back to the Small-Town Sheriff titles. I have six other STS titles listed on the schedule (it was five, but Boone from Gil/Sage’s book snuck his way onto the list, I think!) I hated having to put them on hold as long as I did.
They are longer books, and more romantic thriller than romantic suspense. Far more complicated, too. A lot harder to write.
It’s Zoey Daviess and Murdoch Lake. He’s all big and rough around the edges and Zoey’s all cool and guarded. But Murdoch has a sweet side that I am loving exploring.
For 2023, I am doing some new things, but I’ll get into those at a later date (some of these “new things” involve PAVAD! PAVAD has definitely not been forgotten).
I am also planning to do more things that are directly available to readers, via my own bookstore. (One of those is Jenny and Rowland from the Masterson series. Watch for their story coming as a free online serial in 2023!).
I love the creative control hosting my own store is giving me now. Amazon and the other retailers can be very restrictive when it comes to pricing and how they ‘arrange’ series and that kind of thing.
I do plan to have a members-only section on my website, where there will be discounts on books, free short stories, and sneak peeks at upcoming releases, stories that are exclusive to my site for the first year, deleted scenes, games, puzzles, T-shirts, that kind of thing.
Membership will be free, but it will be behind a log-in wall.
I do think a lot more authors will be having direct-to-reader stores in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for your favorite authors’ sites. I know I plan to buy directly from authors I love instead of going through retailers.
In 2023, I’m going to focus on just writing more. And more and more and more.
I love, love, love writing.
When I had to slow down, it was very difficult for me. Writing fuels me in a way other (non-family) things just don’t.
I’m planning to take 2023 to sit back and enjoy the process again.
Running a publishing business requires wearing a lot of hats to do so successfully—unless you hire someone to help (which I may be doing in the next few years, I haven’t decided yet). And it does take a lot of time. Time I would far rather spend on writing more things. I’m basically taking 2023 “off” to play with the writing again.
For the business side of things:
In 2023, I’m focusing on getting my website rebuilt to the way I like it, and on getting the entire catalog into paperbacks and large prints. That’s about it, other than the writing.
My first commitment will always be to writing strong, complex, entertaining, original books with characters that are relatable and understandable, who are facing incredible odds that they learn to triumph over—together. No matter what.
That is my brand promise now, and it has been since Feb. 2, 2011 when my first book released (a now defunct pen name and that book is down, for possible relaunch later).
This brand promise will continue to be what I promise my readers going forward.
Every book I release will be as strong as I can make it from a story-telling perspective. I want to bring my characters to life as much as I possibly can.
I want to do more contemporary romances, too. Especially in Masterson. I really enjoyed writing the There is a Season…series. A small town like that is just perfect for contemporary romances. And with all those yummy Tyler cousins wandering around…how can I resist?
My 2023 resolutions.
Always write the BEST books I possibly can.
Write as much as I possibly can.
Stick to my brand promise.
Enjoy this writing gig and my readers, who have blessed me in so many ways!
And for a wrap up of what to watch for, books that I have currently started (but don’t know release dates for):
Zoey and Murdoch in Hearing her Cries. This will most likely be the next release.
Powell and Gunnar. Title TBD Finley Creek: Enemies Within. (Finley Creek #12 or #13)
Haldyn and Jarrod. Title TBD Finley Creek: Enemies Within (Finley Creek #12 or #13)
Auggie and Calloway in Seeing the Scars (Masterson #TBD).
Meyra and Brandt. Title TBD (Masterson #TBD).
Natalie and Micah. PAVAD #19 SAVING
Jenny and Rowland. Title TBD. (Masterson #TBD).
One final word:
The Dardanos paranormal books: Where I am at with them now…
I have NOT abandoned them at all. I love, love, love my paranormal world. I work in it for a little while every night. I am still in the process of rewriting these titles. Several books in the series needed strengthening a bit to fit the brand promise I’d mentioned above.
I did have to let them stall out in 2017. In 2018/2019, I took them down for rewrites and started relaunching them in late 2020 through 2021. With illness dominating my 2022, and a scramble to keep up with other things, the PNR once more got back-burnered.
The next PNR title is a brand-new title featuring a couple that I have been waiting 11 years to finally get to write (Becca and Matt). It is actually going to be finished within the next month, and sent off to the editor.
After that, there are two more full rewrites planned. And then there are partial rewrites (a bit of sprucing up, mostly) planned for the rest of the books in the series. I plan to weave some all-new stories in around those, as well.
I will finish Phaena and Eaudne’s stories last, as they are the final stories I had originally intended, and their books are going to be intense. And I want them to be the ones to have the ultimate challenges, because that’s where the first books led so long ago. (My paranormals were actually my very first books!)
Watch for more information on the PNR in 2023, for sure…
It’s been a very busy week! I hope everyone had a great holiday. 😀 Ours was nice and relaxed. I have two releases this week. Feeling Like Forever, featuring Gil and Sage, is Masterson County book #9. And a third Storm Story novelette is now live!
Masterson #9 released without a hitch this morning. I really enjoyed writing this one. And it just sort of…flew…from my fingers. Gil…was flat out adorable. Which really surprised me! Since I never planned on the Masterson series going past Perci and Nate’s story (book #4). But I wanted Phoebe, Pip, Pan & Perci and to have an even bigger extended family. So I gave them their Tyler cousins…And with each one of those Tyler boys I create, I fall a bit harder for them myself! I’m not sure who exactly will get their book next. Or even if it will be a Tyler! (I know it’s either Dusty, Meyra, Marin, or Auggie). I do know that I really enjoy the Mastersons and intend to write a lot more!
HE SAVED HER THAT NIGHT. NOW HE WANTS FOREVER…
The old proverb says that if you save a life, it is yours. Well, Gil Tyler had never believed that before. Until he found the gorgeous sheriff’s deputy lying alongside the highway, about to become a victim of the storm. Now, he can’t get her out of his head. Or his heart. But convincing the reluctant-for-romance Sage that he’s not the hot-headed Tyler he used to be is proving harder than he expected. But he’s a Tyler—he knows the woman meant for him when he sees her. It’ll just take some careful planning—and maybe an apology to her brother for that whole breaking the guy’s nose thing—to show Sage that Gil’s feelings for her are the real deal now.
And he wants forever with her…
SHE’S NOT READY FOR ROMANCE WITH A MAN LIKE HIM.
Small towns held their own secrets. Deputy Sage Lowell knows the same holds true for her beloved Masterson County. She’s determined not to let those secrets destroy her town. No matter what the personal cost of the investigation might be. Sage is focused now on solving the biggest case to ever hit Masterson—she doesn’t have the time, or the inclination, to worry about romance. Especially romance with a hot rancher who is one of those hot-headed, hot-tempered Tylers. Tyler men mean trouble—she’s seen it before. A Tyler had broken her brother’s nose once, and she’d almost arrested two for brawling recently. With each other. Yes, she has other things to worry about besides the intense look of hunger in Gil Tyler’s eyes…
Like solving this case before someone Gil loves pays the ultimate price. And Masterson will never be the same again…
Anyway…if you’ve not grabbed your copy yet, you can find links to your preferred retailer here:
For the Storm Story novelette featuring radio meteorologist Houston Evers and his rich-girl-with-a-secret radio producer Brooke, check out STORM THREAT.
She just wants to feel safe again.
Brooke Jacobs hasn’t trusted a man in a long, long time. She hides her fear behind a confident, take-charge attitude. But it’s just a sham. Someday soon, someone is going to see the real her. But Brooke has bigger problems—the station engineer is stalking her, and she doesn’t know how to make him stop.
Meteorologist Houston Evers wrote Brooke off as just another rich girl riding on daddy’s money. Until they are trapped at the station while an F4 tornado is destroying their city.
But more than just the storm is threatening Brooke now, and Houston is all that stands between her and the danger coming her way.
Can Houston show Brooke that he’s the kind of man she can trust forever? Before it’s too late?
Just a really quick update. I want to wish everyone who celebrates a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holidays! We’re knee-deep in prep for Christmas, and trying to stay warm. We’re all snug and toasty inside. I’m busy making next year’s release schedule and writing schedule. I do all my planning in pencil now, though. With my mobility issues, I’m never quite sure ahead of time what my work days will look like. I am happy with the plans I have so far, though! So far, there will definitely be more Mastersons, Zoey’s book (a Small-Town Sheriff title), and the start of Enemies Within (Finley Creeks).
Sage and Gil’s book (Masterson #9) releases on 12/27. It’s available for preorder now!
A woman’s arm was what he saw first. Pale white skin, almost in the damned road. Then the rest of her. Clinging to the side of the embankment. Above the drop-off that had claimed more lives in the county than any other.
The sheriff’s department SUV was almost obscured in the storm, teetering on the edge of the worst curve in the county. Wreck Curve Road—he’d lost an aunt to Wreck Curve Road not long enough ago to forget how it had hurt.
Then again, he’d never forget how much that had hurt.
Gilbert Tyler swore and jerked his truck to the side of the road as carefully as he could.
Floods were coming. The rain was getting worse. It was damned dangerous out here now. Had he not gotten caught up at the airport sending one of his ranch hands back to California to be with the kid’s dying father, he wouldn’t have been out there himself.
There had been signs of mudslides a quarter of a mile back. It could happen here at any moment. He’d been trying to get home before it got much worse out.
Tylers respected the weather and how capricious a bitch Mother Nature could be. For damned good reason.
He’d lost another aunt and uncle in a freak flood not far from where he was now more than ten years ago next summer. It had taken too damned long to find their bodies. He’d been one of the searchers.
He’d found his aunt.
He would never forget.
Gil grabbed his phone and the first aid kit he kept in the truck and scrambled over the loose gravel toward the drop-off. From the long dark hair matted in the mud and the smaller body, he knew exactly which deputy he was about to find. There was only one female deputy with the Masterson County Sheriff’s Department.
“Deputy Lowell? Sage, honey, can you hear me? Come on, honey. Time to wake up. Please wake up. I’m not too keen on the idea of you not.”
He slipped in the loose rocks, tripped on some roots. The rain made it damned hard to see her. Hell, he had almost missed her. He’d just seen her damned arm.
If he hadn’t seen her, she probably wouldn’t have been found at all.
Not in time anyway. Darcey Talley had been warning people over the radio that road closures were imminent and to watch for signs of slides for hours now.
No one would have been on this road after him. Gil was sure of it.
He was her last chance.
She’d crawled up the damned drop-off. The SUV had gone over the side. She’d gotten out. And she’d crawled.
He could just imagine the terror this woman had felt.
She’d gotten as far up the embankment as she could. It was a hell of a climb behind them, especially for a woman—even one in top physical shape like a sheriff’s deputy would be.
He could probably make it, but too many others wouldn’t be able to.
That she had…
She’d gotten lucky to make it this far. Luckier still to have been seen at all.
But here she was, in the mud. So damned alone.
With the floods and the storm—with only him to help. He was a former volunteer first responder. He’d had the training to help. Gil leaned over her. Checked her pulse.
It was there. Not as strong as he would have liked, but it was there.
When he touched her, she rolled to her back. Her green Masterson County Sheriff’s Department polo was drenched and muddy and clung to her body.
It obscured any hint of blood. He used his phone’s flashlight app to get a better look as lightning struck too damned close for his peace of mind. The storm was getting far worse.
He had to get her out of there before the whole damned mountain crumbled above them.
There wasn’t much blood on her. Just at the back of her head. She must have fallen, struck her head on something, then rolled and crawled a bit before passing out.
He couldn’t leave her where she was. He knew better than to move someone with a possible head, back, or neck trauma, but there was no way she’d be safe where she was while he called for help.
With the rising waters and the almost inevitable flooding—worse than he’d seen in years—the only real option he had was to keep going and take her on to his place.
Call the sheriff when he got there, report the mudslides blocking the highway behind him, report the deputy’s injuries. Call the head of the local hospital, his cousin’s husband. Find out what he needed to do.
He’d get her to safety, then do what he had to do next.
Gil was a taller-than-average, bigger-than-average, stronger-than-average man who’d earned his way when he was younger by doing the tough, physical jobs no one else would or could. He was strong enough, and he knew it. Lifting a woman, even a long-legged one like the deputy, was no problem.
The rain was, though. The wind. And there were branches breaking around them left and right.
The worst of the storm was getting closer.
Gil shifted his stance, braced his body against the wind. He lifted her as carefully as he could. She made a mewling sound that tore right through him. He’d always hated it when someone was hurting.
It took some curses and some doing, but he got her to his truck. He always carried a blanket there. It came in handy. He covered her quickly and jacked up the heat in his truck.
It took him forty minutes to go the twenty-minute drive, but he pulled in to the ranch that still stumped him every time he got his first look at it.
The Preston Ranch. Biggest, wealthiest ranch in southwestern Wyoming. And it was his. He hadn’t ever expected to own it. He’d not done a damned thing to earn it.
Vince Preston had explained why he’d chosen Gil in a codicil to his will.
Vince had worked his entire life to build what he had—he’d wanted to die knowing it would be taken care of.
By someone who loved it as much as he had. Gil had been left a ranch worth more than most others in the entire state. Combined. Gil would love it most. And he did. But it sure as hell didn’t feel like home.
He’d spent the last year and a half living in the big house. He’d spent two years before that in the foreman’s house. Before that, he’d spent eight years in the bunkhouse.
He’d been at home there in the three-bedroom foreman’s place. Not here.
He felt like the old farm dog being brought inside to lay by the fire sometimes. Now he was just grateful to be there. To get Sage where he could make sure she was ok and safe before deciding what to do next.
Gil carried the woman up the porch steps, almost getting blown over by the wind. Then he had her on his living room couch. He grabbed the phone.
Gil called the hospital, demanding to speak to his cousin Perci; her husband, Nate; or the deputy’s doctor brother. He got put on hold.
Just as she opened her eyes. Fear went across her face. Her eyes widened.
He shifted the phone and knelt next to her. “Hey, you’re safe here, honey.”
“Why am I here? You are…a Tyler, aren’t you?” she asked in a broken voice, just blinking those gorgeous brown eyes at him.
“You’re at the Preston Ranch. I’m Gil.” He helped her sit up a bit. “I’m one of Nikki’s brothers. Do you remember me? I was three or four years behind your brother in school.” And if he remembered correctly, three or four years ahead of this woman. He had a vague impression of a tall, skinny, dark-haired girl always with a basketball in her hand.
“One of Nikki’s boneheads, you mean?” She blinked up at him. Her face was pale. Far too pale. But that terrified look wasn’t on her face now. He could only imagine how she’d just felt, waking with a man she barely knew leaning over her.
“Yeah, I’ve heard she calls us that occasionally. Like daily.” He checked the phone. Still on hold. “Can you tell me what happened out there?”
“Something jumped in the road. I swerved, I think…” She closed her eyes and leaned back. She had long eyelashes that contrasted against her skin. There were red marks on her cheeks. Scrapes. “I think it was a man. But I didn’t get a good look at him. I hydroplaned, and the Tahoe went over the rail. I need to call the sheriff. We need to get out there. See if someone was hurt.”
“Someone was. You were.” He dropped the phone to the table and slipped his hands under her arms. He lowered her back to the cushions. She tried to resist—he had a feeling this woman was on the stubborn side—but it was obvious she was still very weak. “I found you. I don’t know how long you were lying there. And you were in and out for forty minutes on the ride.”
“Why didn’t you take me to the hospital?” She shot him a suspicious look. Nature of the job or natural personality? He wondered.
“Floods and mudslides blocking the road back into town. Entire bridge was out on Masterson Valley Road. I had to detour down the service road that connects here to the old Beise place. I had already spoken to some of my family. Tyler Road is out, and so is the one between here and Levi Masterson’s place. No other way into town now. Unless we kept going north to Jackson, but word on the radio is they were getting hit harder than we were. And air ambulances can’t get out now. The storm is too rough.”
She nodded a small bit. Winced. Her hand went to the back of her head, but she wasn’t showing signs of more serious injury, thankfully. She was already trying to move around, like the woman just couldn’t sit still. “They were saying this one’s the storm of the century. On the radio. Weather stations. We were all hands on deck. I was finishing a call and checking road conditions when…”
“Well, you’re safe here. I barely saw you at all. If I hadn’t…” They wouldn’t have found her in time. She could have rolled right down the side of the damned mountain and drown in the river at the bottom. Or been lost beneath the mud.
But he had found her.
Now he got a good look at her.
He liked what he saw—minus the mud, of course. He didn’t think he’d ever been that close to her before as adults. Just on the periphery of wherever their paths had crossed. He’d seen her from a distance a few times—when some of his family had gotten into trouble.
She had always been like a quiet shadow. Just flickering in the background, working as Joel Masterson’s faithful sidekick. He’d always gotten the impression of quiet competence, and a slightly plain, utilitarian woman with brown hair scraped back into a serviceable hair style, and bulky department-issue polos and khakis.
He had been wrong on that front. Extremely so.
Sage Lowell was a very pretty woman. She had big medium-brown eyes, with long lashes—eyes that held the secrets of the world. And smooth, perfect fair skin.
She had a beautiful mouth, one that Gil bet would smile even more beautifully when she wasn’t hurting. The hair was dark, but not black, he didn’t think. But it needed washed.
She was around five eight or so and average built. Fit, toned. The sheriff’s department polo and khakis were ruined.
And clung to feminine curves he really hadn’t expected.
Then again, he hadn’t exactly looked closer before—he’d had too much going on in his life over the last eighteen months to even think about beautiful women. Or to notice when one got too close. Until his sister and her best friend ran them off, anyway. They had taken it upon themselves to protect him from gold diggers apparently.
A sound from his phone had him grabbing it quickly. He explained the situation, reassured by what he was told by the head of the hospital.
Her brother Shane was there and asked to speak with her. She answered a bunch of questions, growing a bit more exasperated with Shane.
Gil smiled a bit at that. She sounded like his own sister when he or his brothers would hover.
Finally, her brother was satisfied she was going to be as good as she could be. Then the man gave Gil a list of things to watch out for.
Plus, a warning to behave himself with Shane’s baby sister.
By the time Gil disconnected, the pretty deputy was sound asleep on his couch—covered in mud and he didn’t know what else. Gil called the sheriff next. Explained to him exactly what had happened and reassured him that Sage was going to be just fine right where she was. That Gil would make sure of it.
The sheriff and his dispatcher had been getting worried when she hadn’t responded to their calls.
Joel confirmed what Gil already knew. There was no way off Tyler Mountain tonight. Except by air. With the two already-confirmed, severe storms within forty miles of the county on two sides, despite most of the tornado activity each year being on the opposite side of the state from Masterson County, that wasn’t going to happen unless the worst occurred and there was no other choice.
Gil couldn’t leave her there on his couch, covered in mud. He leaned over her, placed one hand on her cheek. He wouldn’t deny it—he felt a bit protective of her now, seeing how pitiful and defenseless she looked. “Sage, honey, open your eyes. Come on. I know you’re tired, but I’ve heated the guest bath. I found some clothes that will fit you. Come on, that’s it.”
Those brown eyes of hers just blinked at him for a moment. Then she gave a rueful smile. “I’m sorry. Thank you, by the way. For finding me. Getting me here.”
Their voices weren’t above a whisper. “Anytime.”
Tylers were the most beautiful men. Sage had always thought so—the ones she knew, anyway. Josh, the paramedic she crossed paths with most often, resembled the man who had rescued her. She’d been a year behind his brother Fletcher in school, she thought. She’d been in school with several of the Tyler cousins, too. At least a dozen, though they hadn’t run around in the same circles. Tyler boys—well, men—were a force to be reckoned with—and were trouble in every way imaginable. One had climbed out the biology room window to play hooky right in front of her once, motioning for Sage to be quiet while he did so.
They were all a bit unforgettable, those wild Tylers of Tyler Township. In more ways than one.
Only Gil seemed a few inches taller than the ones she remembered, and far more muscled. More rugged in that way some men had that melted a woman’s toes. He wore only an undershirt and battered jeans—they did nothing to hide how physically fit this man was.
And brilliant white socks. The socks made her want to smile for some strange reason.
His hair was rich dark red, and it stuck up everywhere, untamed. It curled, she realized.
His sister had naturally curly red hair, too. On him, it was almost boyish. He probably hadn’t had to fight the tangles natural curls could bring—like his sister Nikki and Sage had commiserated on before. Her own hair curled everywhere—unless she pulled it back in a serviceable braid while it was still wet every single day.
Gil was still watching her. He wasn’t the most handsome of the Tylers she knew, but there was something about him that made it difficult to look away.
He helped her stand. She was wobbly, but Sage was used to standing on her own two feet. She was determined. She could do this. “Thank you.”
“Just don’t overdo it. Call out if you need me.”
She didn’t. Sage was used to handling things for herself, being the one who just got things done. She knew herself very well—she was more on the independent side than anything else.
It was a matter of pride, after all.
It took her a bit longer than she wanted to think about, but she was able to take a shower in the ridiculously opulent bathroom. She took a good look around—the guest suite, anyway. It was pale lavender, with what she suspected was expensive silk wallpaper and exquisite, hand-carved furniture. Complete with Kaece Tyler’s distinctive touch.
This was Viv Preston’s former room; she’d bet her next paycheck on it. This was the Preston Ranch.
Everyone knew of it. Everyone knew how Gil had inherited it as well.
The hardworking cowboy inheriting millions. Multiple ranches and farms and properties. Even a few small grain distilleries throughout Wyoming and Colorado. Gil Tyler had inherited it all.
He was a state legend.
And one of the most eligible bachelors in the region apparently.
Women practically threw themselves at him now—his sister Nikki had told her and Dusty that at the diner one day—just to get to the money. Dusty had said Gil was such a nice guy he often didn’t see what they wanted from him. Nikki and Dusty were acting as Gil-guards, protecting him from the wild gold diggers out there after him now. Nikki had told her a hilarious story about Dusty practically draping herself sexily over Gil in the middle of the diner one day to run off a particularly mercenary woman just two months ago. They’d all laughed about that—except this man, apparently.
Nikki said he had just been embarrassed that day.
Maybe she didn’t know him, but she knew his family.
She could do this. It wasn’t going to be that awkward. Just something to get through before she returned to her real life—cop by day, nanny to her brother’s heathen children by night. She’d look at a stay at the Preston Ranch as a minivacation, or something.
Then she’d get back to her real life. And figure out if she had seen a man who had looked just like Gil Tyler out there alongside the road or not.
She didn’t think she had been hallucinating. But it had been dark, and with the storm, maybe she had seen a moose calf? Moose weren’t superprevalent around Masterson County, but an occasional sighting happened. And they weren’t that far away from black-bear and grizzly-bear range—Masterson County was a bit too far south for bears, but it happened sometimes.
Memories of the man who’d been alongside the highway had her breath catching. She’d explained over the phone to Joel exactly what she had seen. Sage was ninety percent convinced it had been a man out there, in dark clothing, with a hat on his head. Not an animal.
Then again, man could be far more dangerous than any animal.
Joel had promised they’d have someone out there as soon as they could. That was going to be a long while, though. He was now officially a deputy down, after all.
Joel couldn’t make any promises. Theoretically, she understood that, but she wanted to be out there doing her job—and helping.
That wasn’t about to happen. Unless she wanted to ride a horse out of here, she wasn’t going anywhere until the floods subsided. And at least one of the six possible routes into the county was open again.
That could take days. Days.
Alone. With Gil Tyler.
That was the goal of half the single women in Masterson.
Too bad it was totally wasted on her.
Desmond Preston clung to the door handle of the big old truck and fought panic. He prayed they would live through this, that they wouldn’t go over the side of the mountain, or die in mudslides, or…
This…was a sin. He had no doubt of that. He had his inhaler in his pocket, but he refused to use it in front of the men he was with.
The men would just look at him derisively and cut Desmond down right where he was. None of them liked each other very much. But as long as Desmond’s father was footing the bill for everything that they did, Desmond would have to play the game with Brian Tanner and Larry Kellman.
His father had sent him out here with Brian as punishment. Desmond and his father had both known that. Just who Morris Preston was punishing hadn’t exactly been clear.
Lightning flashed overhead, and thunder rumbled. They needed to get off the mountain as fast as they could.
The sheriff’s deputy, she could be a problem. She had seen Brian getting back in the truck. They both knew that. Brian and Larry had gotten out of the truck to take care of her.
Desmond just sat there and waited.
He was certain he would hear a bullet at any minute, as Brian took care of the deputy once and for all.
Desmond heard nothing. Nothing but the storm.
The truck shook as Brian, a man almost twenty years older than Desmond, climbed back in. He was covered in mud from the waist down. Desmond recoiled in disgust. “You’re filthy.”
“I…slipped…in the damned mud looking for that f’ing woman.”
Brian took his battered ball cap and threw it toward the back seat of the truck. It landed on a kid’s booster seat. Brian Tanner had five or six kids. All girls, every last one of them. Desmond pitied those little girls every time he thought about them. No innocent young life deserved Brian Tanner for a father. But Desmond didn’t quite know how to help them—even though he wanted to.
“Will she be a problem?” Desmond asked.
Larry heard him as he climbed in the back next to that car seat. “Not anymore. She was pretty dazed. I took care of her after the crash, one quick hit the back of the head. Mother Nature will do the rest—no signs we were even out here. Look at her SUV. Hell, she’s probably already dead, covered in mud. I couldn’t even find her. Unless some damned hero came swooping in and carried her away while we were up the road, she’s already dead. They’ll find her body in a few days most likely. If the coyotes don’t get to her first. I did get this little beauty out of the car, though.”
He waved an actual gun around like it was a prize from a carnival game. Desmond bit back the bile.
If anyone was filled with demons, it was Larry Kellman. Desmond despised him.
Desmond looked. Mud had already surrounded the white Tahoe, not a hundred feet from where they were parked. Chances were good it would be crushed beneath even more mud by morning. They’d been long gone after that crash—but Brian and Larry had doubled back when they were finished unloading Brian’s truck.
Just to see. Brian had wanted to see. To loot the deputy’s SUV. Desmond shivered as he thought about what it meant.
She. There was only one female deputy in Masterson County. Desmond knew exactly who she was.
Desmond had known Sage Lowell half of his life. From the moment her family had moved into town and she had been enrolled in the Masterson County school system. They had sat beside each other a few times. Worked together occasionally.
He knew her. He liked her.
She had never made him feel like less of a man because of his asthma and lack of stature and lack of athletic ability—even though she had been the star of the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams. She’d always been nice to him. Listening to him whenever he’d had an opinion.
He’d almost asked her to the prom their junior year but had gotten too nervous. She’d gone with Logen Hauffman instead.
The idea that he had any small part in what would inevitably be her death sickened him. She didn’t deserve to die this way.
Murder was a sin, after all.
But she was out there somewhere. In the storm. Dying. And Desmond had a small part in it.
Desmond couldn’t do anything about it. He felt so helpless sometimes. It was going to destroy him some day.
And he would deserve it.
He’d found her a bag of clothes Nikki’s best friend, Dusty, had left the last time they had had a girl party in his theater room. That had been several months back.
Before Hunter, his new brother-in-law, had entered the picture. Before his sister and Dusty had almost died out there on Tyler Road in a snowstorm. Gil still fought the fury that brought. He probably always would. Dusty and the deputy were about the same size.
Sage had left her long hair down over her shoulders. He didn’t think he had ever seen her with it down. It was long, dark, and curled invitingly. Wildly. Hair like that made a man want to touch.
She shot a look at him. “I’m sorry for this inconvenience. I know an unexpected house guest isn’t exactly what you want to be dealing with tonight.”
“I don’t mind, Sage. I’m just glad I saw you. The alternative is not something I want to think about.” Gil had pulled sodas from the fridge and heated up some leftovers. He had grabbed some pain pills his sister’s fiancé had left behind in the guest room. He’d called and cleared giving them to her with her brother while she’d been in the shower. He wanted Sage to feel comfortable in his home.
Dusty’s clothes were a bit loose on her. The blonde who went everywhere with his sister was a bit curvier than the athletically built woman in front of him. The pink of the Flo’s Diner T-shirt was definitely her color, though. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her in anything other than sheriff’s department green.
She looked young and sweet and gorgeous, even with the contusions on her forehead and the half-dozen scrapes on her pretty cheeks.
Why had he never noticed her before?
Then again, when he’d been a simple ranch hand, he hadn’t exactly been looking for a special woman right away. He’d been waiting until he had enough money saved to buy his own place someday. To combine it with the small place he’d inherited from his parents—next to the one they’d left his youngest brother. They’d left a small place behind their original homestead to Gil. Another next to it had gone to Fletcher. Then the main place had been left to all four of their children. Fletcher and Gil had bought out Nikki and Ben fully when Gil had inherited from Vince. Fletcher was paying him back for his share of the purchase price each month now.
Fletcher was still there now. Gil had loaned him some of Vince Preston’s money a year ago to keep Fletcher’s places going. In exchange—his brother ran Gil’s own inheritance from their parents. Gil helped his brother with the work whenever he could.
Why not? He had plenty of money to pay people to run this place while he worked with his own hands and back on the homestead where he’d grown up. Gil needed to work his parents’ place sometimes. It helped him remember who he was and from where he had come. To remember them.
“Sit down, honey. I have some food. It’s not much, just leftovers. But it’s hot.” The endearment had just slipped out again. It seemed to fit her, too.
She nodded, her cheeks still sweetly red. There was a look in those brown eyes that made him feel important. Like she was seeing him—and not just that Tyler guy who’d inherited the Preston Ranch.
Hells, Gil wanted to touch her. His fingers almost itched to do just that. She gave him a smile, revealing the smallest dimple in her right cheek, but not one in the left. Sudden, intense attraction shot right through him. He coughed lightly. “Please, sit.”
She lowered herself gingerly to the chair.
“How’s the head? Your brother said you could take some of the pain pills Hunter left here after he was shot. He prescribed them to him to begin with, but Hunter was too stubborn to take them.”
“Shane said it was probably a mild concussion. It hurts, but not enough for pain pills.” She shot him a look. “How long was I out?”
“Depends on how long you were out there. I turned off your vehicle and grabbed your bag. It was next to the Tahoe, and some of your things had spilled out. The door was wide open, but the seats weren’t too wet. So I don’t think you were out too long.” She’d be in a lot worse shape if she had. Her brother had made that clear—and told Gil to call him if things changed immediately. Gil had the impression Shane Lowell would do whatever it took to get up the mountain after his sister if it did.
Or just to get her out of Gil’s evil clutches.
Gil understood that just fine. He and Shane Lowell had a not-so-great history of their own that had ended with Gil’s fist in the man’s gut too many years ago to count—not to mention, he’d broken the guy’s nose on another occasion. Over a different girl that time. He’d long forgotten the girls involved, but he suspected the good Dr. Lowell might not have. Hell, that had to have been a good dozen years or so ago.
“I think I hit the back of my head when I fell on the hill.” She touched her scalp lightly. “I’m not sure how. Hitting the back of my head doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s where the lump is.”
Gil had found the lump himself. “I’m going to keep an eye on you—until your brother or the sheriff comes to get you. But I’ll level with you—”
“It’s going to be a while.”
She slept in one of Gil’s shirts and a pair of baggy gym shorts he’d found in one of the guest rooms. He’d said one of his sister’s friends had left them behind—when Nikki still bothered to visit him out there now that she had that movie star husband of hers. Gil had been teasing, but she suspected he did miss his sister, who had married the Hollywood actor Hunter Louis Clark in the last year.
It was natural Nikki spent less time at her brother’s.
The shirt dwarfed her. Gil was a bigger-than-average man. His shoulders were broader than any man’s she had ever dated. His arms were muscled and strong. Brawny, her mom would call him if she were ever to see him. Strong and fit, and hot enough to make even the most reticent woman willing to do something she probably should not.
Sage was going to have to be careful here. She’d made mistakes with a man a lot like Gil before. It had ended badly—with her brother and cousin having to rescue her and threatening to kill the guy for hitting her.
She’d been reluctant with men ever since.
The storm had ended partway through the night, but Sage wasn’t going anywhere. In the meantime, she was stuck there on the Preston Ranch. With Gil. Alone. Hard to get past that.
There were ranch hands around—she’d seen them through the window—but it was almost like she and Gil were in their own little world right now.
He was an amicable host, of course. Helpful, attentive, attractive. No denying that. After he’d fed her dinner the night before he had lured her down to the basement level of the massive home that was far too big for just one man.
It was so big he said it had two separate basements. That was just crazy.
There had been a theater room down there that anyone would envy. It was decorated in 1940s vintage movie decor and had a giant popcorn machine that could not be the least bit practical.
“This room was the one massive change I made to the property when it became mine. Vince was using the space to store family mementos. The last thing I wanted around was Viv’s baby photos. This room and the pool are mostly bait. I used them to lure Nikki and her friends out here occasionally so that I can still see my sister. Until Hunter gets his studio in their house completely built, he’s been ‘borrowing’ it. And”—he shot her a far-too-gorgeous grin that had her laughing—“I use it myself every chance I can get it. Movies are a hobby of mine—but don’t tell Hunter. I’ve seen every movie he’s ever made, except the children’s movies.”
“Don’t worry. I think my brother’s kids have all of those if you ever want to borrow.” She had watched Hunter as Prince Rufus so many times she could recite that entire movie in her sleep. Backward.
“I also have it set up with streaming. The world…is my oyster here.” He had looked so boyish and wicked Sage laughed and relaxed. She’d settled in an overly large reclining seat next to his, feeling more comfortable with a man than she ever had before. He’d popped the popcorn and pulled soda out of the fridge.
They’d watched two movies together until she had drifted off right there next to him. She hadn’t wakened until the credits were rolling on the second movie—one of Hunter Louis Clark’s adventure films.
Gil had lightly shaken her awake. She had smiled at him and thanked him. Sage hadn’t missed the look of masculine appreciation—and almost hunger—in his blue eyes.
That had had her scurrying to the guest room so fast she’d probably made tread marks on his hardwood floors from Dusty Talley’s borrowed tennis shoes.
The next day, fortunately, was mostly sunny and warmer when she woke. And there were more clean clothes in Dusty’s bag, just like oil in the biblical lamp. Sage intended to take them with her when she left, launder them, and return them to Dusty herself.
He was already up doing whatever it was the heir to the Preston fortune did on a warm Tuesday morning in September. He left her a note to make herself comfortable and that he would be back in around eleven for lunch. Sage couldn’t help herself—she poked around the library that every bookworm on the planet would envy.
He’d spent a lot of time there, she suspected. It felt more lived in than some of the other rooms in the main house. There were family photos everywhere. Sage studied one of what had to be all the Tylers, outdoors, somewhere.
She had no trouble seeing the flame-red hair of a twenty-something-year-old Gil.
His younger cousin’s hair was just as red as Gil’s. Junie wasn’t more than eleven or so in the photo. Em—eight or nine in the photo—was absolutely tiny, being held aloft by the man who had to be her father. Sage studied him for a moment. In the photo, he was about the same age Gil was now. He looked a great deal like Gil, and like Gil’s uncle Nick, and his cousins Martin and Mason. But Gil’s hair was so red it was distinctive. None of the other Tyler men had hair quite that red.
She curled up in the big stuffed chair that she just knew he favored for a long while. It smelled like him. Warm and masculine and slightly woodsy.
She was seriously on the edge of losing her sanity here.
Sage didn’t go around noticing how attractive men smelled. Far from it. That was just crazy.
Right at eleven, there he was. He slipped mud-caked boots off at the back door, revealing bright-white socks again and huge man feet. He grinned at her, his dark red hair sticking up all over his head. It made him seem so normal.
Then again, this was just Gil, her friend Nikki’s older brother. What would be so abnormal about that?
She’d had lunch ready—Sage wasn’t used to sitting ideal, and he’d said to make herself at home. The least she could do was make lunch for the man after all he’d done for her.
It felt remarkably like a first or second date to Sage. As the day wore on, it felt like a third and fourth and fifth, for that matter.
But she was going to tell herself not to think that way.
Then the man lured her outside into the sunshine.
It was the absolutely perfect day. She had always loved being outdoors, for one thing. In the sunshine. With a beautiful man next to her.
Sage…was putty. She had no resistance. No resistance to the man whatsoever. She was going to have to remind herself that this wasn’t a good idea.
Sage looked at him, asking the question that had been on her mind since just after lunch. “What’s it like to own something like this?”
He had been very open with every question she had asked—she knew she was pushing, but Sage had always been very curious.
“Hell, I don’t know the answer to that yet. I’m still trying to figure that out.” And she heard the uncertainty in his words now. She tried to imagine it. She’d probably be adrift for a while, too.
They walked up the gravel path for a moment. There was an older home right there around the bend in the drive. Like everything else on the property, it was in good repair. “That’s the foreman’s house. I lived there for two years before I moved in with Vince Preston to take care of him in his last few months, after Viv was arrested for hiring Rutherford to kill my cousin. It was home. And a good one—I intended to move back into it when the time came, and just keep working for whoever inherited this place. I thought it would be Vince’s great-nephews or -nieces, honestly. I was making a good living as his foreman—he paid a reasonably fair wage. I figured I’d meet someone eventually and we’d settle down there first. Have a few kids, that kind of thing. And I’d save up until I had enough money to move back to the place that had been my parents’. I’d use the money to get it running for myself. They’d left me their ranch and left Fletcher my mother’s parents’ place next door. They’d left Ben his building in town, and left Nikki mom’s little bookstore. Both their places have apartments on the upper floors. Then Fletcher inherited our uncle Ben Fletcher’s place when he passed. My parents didn’t have much, but they had more than quite a few, and I was determined to make what they left me something my own kids would be proud of. I never imagined…this. Still don’t feel like it was ever meant to be mine. I think I might have just been Vince’s consolation prize.”
There were emotions on his face that she couldn’t quite identify. Emotions that told her he was struggling, but Sage didn’t say a word. Her fingers tightened on his. She hadn’t realized she was still holding his hand—but she was.
She must have been on most of the walk. But it had felt natural.
He was an old-school kind of man, she suspected. A bit of a throwback. Not really willing to let people—especially a woman—know if he was struggling. He looked at her. “Today, the truth, just between us. I’m not even sure what it was Vince expected me to do with this place at all.”
She knew what they said about him in town. Nikki had freely shared with all of her friends why Vincent Preston had left his ranch to Gil—and not one of his great-nephews or -nieces. “You do love it.”
It wasn’t a question. It had been obvious in the way he had spoken of his future plans for the place that Gil got something from the land. From ranching. Like it recharged him.
It was the way she felt doing her job when she knew she helped people.
“Yeah, I do love this place. I’m going to see it is taken care of, that it won’t go to waste with me. Future generations will know that I did my best to make this place the best that I could. I don’t feel like I earned it, Sage. But I’m going to take care of it so that future generations will know I did deserve it. That I cherished the gifts I’ve been given.”
That, right there, showed her exactly the kind of man Gilbert Tyler was on the inside. Sage left her hand in his. Because…it felt like it was exactly what she was supposed to do.
Even though every rational part of her was telling her to pull back. Before she did something stupid.
“How do you know she’s with Gil?” Desmond asked his father over dinner after his father had sent Desmond’s younger brother out of the room the day after the storm. “I haven’t heard anything around town, other than she had been in an accident.”
And survived. Somehow. The grace of God. Guardian angels, perhaps?
He didn’t know whether he should be happy that Sage had survived whatever it was that Brian and Larry had attempted to do to her.
The biggest part of Desmond was. He had prayed for forgiveness for his actions for the past day and a half, weeping over Sage. He had even lit a candle in her memory. Begged God for forgiveness for what he’d not done to save her.
When he had heard she had lived, he had known his prayers had been answered. Then…concern for himself and his father had set in. If she had seen Brian and Larry out there, and could identify them…
To find out she had been rescued by Gilbert Tyler, though, that stung. Gil had inherited everything that Desmond’s father’s uncle had been building for a lifetime. It wasn’t fair, or right, that the fruits of his great-uncle’s labors had gone to basically a stranger.
That money, that ranch, really should have gone to Desmond or his brothers. Even one—or all—of his three sisters, though women certainly had no place ranching.
His father had made that clear time and time again when he had dragged Desmond and Brenden around the ranch, making them work for their keep—while their sisters had been made to stay inside with the housekeeper, studying.
Brian sat in the chair across from Desmond’s father. Dwarfing it, in a way that Desmond just couldn’t. Desmond’s father was a big man, too. Far bigger than Desmond. Morris Preston was strong and burly from years of working the ranches his own father had inherited. Morris’s wealth had just grown in the last thirty years.
His father was proud of that, and he should be. But greed was his father’s cardinal sin.
Morris wanted more. Lots more. He had always wanted more. And he’d instilled it in Desmond and his brother. He was starting the same with their young half brother, as well.
Desmond had always thought his sisters had gotten lucky—their father hadn’t paid much attention to training them at all. No, but he knew his father had plans to someday trade the girls to some of his business associates when the time was right. When they were older, and if the girls would just do what they were told.
Desmond thought that would prove harder than his father expected, though. His three sisters had minds of their own. His father’s avarice was behind this association with Brian Tanner and Larry Kellman.
The three older men in the room made Desmond feel like a puny child again. They enjoyed mocking him for that very reason.
His father level look at Brian. One filled with disgust. “Have you gone soft? You should have helped Larry finish her off out there.”
“Hell, even if she saw me face-to-face, she wouldn’t recognize me. I’m not too worried,” Brian said, arrogant and cocksure like he always was. Brian didn’t like Desmond’s father much. “Besides, I’m not a damned killer, remember? I’ve told you years ago that that is a line I will not cross. Ever. A man has to have standards, after all.”
Desmond’s father just leveled a look at the three younger men. “You’ll do whatever it takes to preserve your own hides. I’m not stupid. None of us wants to go to prison for this. And we’re all in it up to our balls. Don’t forget that.”
“What about Sage?” Desmond asked.
“I will handle Sage Lowell if she becomes a problem,” Desmond’s father said, a cold and terrifying look in his eyes Desmond had seen before. “You can count on that.”
Just a quick update before I get back to arguing with Zoey’s book (It’s proving difficult!) and finishing up some much more cooperative projects for the new year. (It’s Murdoch Lake who is being so difficult in Zoey’s book. He likes being difficult…)
Google Play now allows authors to create audiobooks read by their artificial intelligence program. As an experiment, I did my shortest series and am thrilled with the results!
These titles will only be available on Google Play (makes sense, it’s their tools that allow the audiobooks to be created, after all!) and as soon as I figure out how to offer them direct, they’ll be available to purchase through my site/store.
But for now…
Rhea and Gerald’s book Just Loving Gerald is available for free! It’s only going to be free for a few weeks so snag a copy–and share the link–now!
Also, in case you missed it, Chandler and Linsey’s book is now available. It was a fun one to write, that’s for sure! (I had no idea where the kids came from before I started writing. Or WHY things happened the way they did. And…the Finley Creek cross-over part…Yeah, totally unexpected! And a bit longer than I anticipated!)
Also, be sure to grab a preorder copy of Sage and Gil’s book, Feeling Like Forever. It releases on Dec. 27!
I’m a bit behind posting links today. I’ve been fighting technology and cranky internet all day. So…right to the good stuff. Book 8, Chandler & Linsey’s book, Standing the Storm, is now available everywhere!
And…because book 9 is just hours away from being thrust into the editor’s hands…Book 9, Feeling Like Forever, is now up for preorder! (Book 9 was supposed to not be on the schedule to write until 2025, and was book 13 on the schedule, but…Sage and Gil had far different plans…)
MASTERSON 8 IS LIVE.
LIFE CAN CHANGE IN AN INSTANT.
No one knows that better than Masterson County social worker, Linsey Hodson. She’d learned that lesson fast when a crazy stalker nearly killed her and her best friend Jude fourteen months ago.
When a close childhood friend dies, Linsey’s life changes again. Three young children and a brand-new baby girl are now dependent on Linsey to make the world right for them. To be the mother they deserve—to fulfill the promise she’d made long ago.
LINSEY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A STORM OF CHAOS. HE’S SMART ENOUGH TO STAY AWAY.
Chandler Tyler is a busy man—one with plans. He runs a successful trucking company, has multiple rental properties around Masterson County, and is about to open the restaurant he’s been planning for years.
He doesn’t have time to be distracted by that little blond pain-in-the-ass Linsey. Or the chaos that almost always surrounds her. But Linsey needs help, right now. He’s the only one who can give it. Even though every time he gets within range of Linsey, storms erupt instantly.
He’d rescue her this one time, then they’d go their separate ways. That sounded like a fair plan to him now.
NOTHING EVER STAYS THE SAME.
But seeing Linsey’s determination to be the mother four innocent kids deserve ignites an answering fire in him. To protect. To help. To hold her in his arms and show her that the storm between her and him is just the beginning of the passion they can create together.
While Chandler’s making new plans to get the woman he wants more than anything, someone else is getting much too close. And they are determined to take what matters most from Chandler, however they can.
That includes Linsey…and the four children they love so much…
The old proverb says that if you save a life, it is yours. Well, Gil Tyler had never believed that before. Until he found the gorgeous sheriff’s deputy lying alongside the highway, about to become a victim of the storm.
Now, he can’t get her out of his head. Or his heart. But convincing the reluctant-for-romance Sage that he’s not the hot-headed Tyler he used to be is proving harder than he expected. But he’s a Tyler—he knows the woman meant for him when he sees her. It’ll just take some careful planning—and maybe an apology to her brother for that whole breaking the guy’s nose thing—to show Sage that Gil’s feelings for her are the real deal now.
And he wants forever with her…
SHE’S NOT READY FOR ROMANCE WITH A MAN LIKE HIM.
Small towns held their own secrets. Deputy Sage Lowell knows the same holds true for her beloved Masterson County. She’s determined not to let those secrets destroy her town. No matter what the personal cost of the investigation might be.
Sage is focused now on solving the biggest case to ever hit Masterson—she doesn’t have the time, or the inclination, to worry about romance.
Especially romance with a hot rancher who is one of those hot-headed, hot-tempered Tylers.
Tyler men mean trouble—she’s seen it before.
A Tyler had broken her brother’s nose once, and she’d almost arrested two for brawling recently. With each other.
Yes, she has other things to worry about besides the intense look of hunger in Gil Tyler’s eyes…
Like solving this case before someone Gil loves pays the ultimate price. And Masterson will never be the same again…
Well, I had a great blog post all written about the sheriff’s deputy that showed up on my doorstep last week to ask me some questions. (It’s ok, it was about an old cell number I’d had…more than six or seven years ago…nothing major). It was at 8 a.m. though. After I had been up until four a.m. with Super Libby the Mutant Mutt. Yeah, I was a bit too sleep-drunk to pay much attention to what was going on. Or what his uniform looked like. Or how tall he was…or whether he fit well as a prototype for the Finleys or was he more of a “Masterson” kind of deputy.
I totally blew a perfect opportunity for some field research. (And right when I’m writing deputy Sage L.’s book from the Mastersons!).
Well, so…since the laptop ate the blog post (I killed my MacBook Air the next day, so it wasn’t a great start to the week…)…I’ll just get to the heart of the matter.
The next release!
My editor has it now. She’s going to get it back to me in time to release on Friday!
So October, 28th, watch for the next Masterson book, Standing the Storm! This one isn’t up for preorder–the editor wasn’t able to schedule it back in time for a preorder, so I’ll post links when it goes live.
In the meantime, I have also just uploaded a new Finley Creek Halloween short story! (These are short, slice-of-life scenes taking place on Halloween at Finley Creek General Hospital). Both Layla and Joy–a new character in Finley Creek–will get their full stories told. I’m just not sure of their release dates (or years!).
I’m in the process of finishing up a few things and cleaning out my “vault”. I finished up the next Storm Story novelette, Storm Damage. It’s now up on Bookfunnel. I also updated the cover on the first Storm Story (Storm Warning) while I was at it.
If you missed it, it’s the story of Major Crimes Detective Sean Callum and his partner’s little sister, Autumn Evers.
Storm Damage is the story of Major Crimes Detective Mike Evers and the M.E. assistant who gets beneath his skin faster than any woman on the planet.
DESTRUCTION IS EVERYWHERE.
Detective Mike Evers has always had a thing for assistant M.E. Daryn Mabry. She thought he was the scum of the earth. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get her to change her mind.
But when an F4 tornado destroys the Texas State Police building around them, it’s up to the two of them to work together. To save lives. People they love—including Mike’s little sister—are trapped.
And the storm was only the beginning…
This is a 50 page novelette set in the Finley Creek universe.
You can buy your copy at: https://buy.bookfunnel.com/ff1sxgex9j It’s $1.29, but if you use code SAVE20, you’ll save 20%. (Not just on this book, the code works on any of the books available on the direct store!).
HE’D WANTED HIS BEST FRIEND’S LITTLE SISTER FOR YEARS.
After an F4 tornado destroys the Finley Creek Texas State Police building, Detective Sean Callum knows there is no more time to waste. Trapped with his best friend’s younger sister, evidence tech Autumn Evers, he doesn’t know if rescue was going to get to them in time. Sean makes himself a promise—if they get out in time, he is going to finally tell Autumn exactly how he feels.
In other news, I’ll be determining a release date for Linsey’s book Standing the Storm sometime in the next week. I just need to discuss timing with my editor. It took a few directions I hadn’t anticipated, but I really enjoyed writing it. I’ll be putting it up for a preorder next week!
Wow. It’s almost autumn! I’m not sure how this year has flown by. I blinked back at Christmas and then…it’s September.
I realized I haven’t updated in a while. Things have been pretty hectic here. It usually is! Kiddo skipped another grade, and is now enrolled in an online high school. She’ll be twelve in December, so it was a bit of a shock. She does everything via the internet, since we homeschool. High school and getting her adjusted is taking quite a bit of my time over the last few weeks, but I think we’ve found a good routine. She’ll have to take her first proctored exam soon—we’ll see how the routine goes after that.
It has cut into my work time a bit. Combined with me still having some covid after-effects and some seriously irritating brain fog, I’m about to go crazy from lack of writing time.
I am hard at work on Masterson #8, Linsey and Chandler’s story. Zoey’s book is on the schedule, but it’s a very complicated book and I’m not sure when it will be ready for launch. Linsey and Chandler’s book, Standing the Storm, will most likely release in October, depending on the editor’s schedule. I’ll have more details soon.
I’m also in the early stages of drafting the first Finley Creek: Enemies Within. Powell and Gunnar are going on quite an adventure!
Now that we are getting kiddo on a routine with the high school and I’m back at work again (around kiddo’s schedule and Libby the Dog’s needs! Libby will hit the big 1-7 in Dec!) I’m working on some new things, too. I’ll share more details when I have some more dates nailed down, etc.
In the meantime, I redid the cover on last year’s Halloween ghost story. If you missed it, you can download a free copy (It’s also got its own page on the blog, right up there at the top!).
Also, if you missed it…
The fourth book in the There is a Season… series is now out. As of right now, that book is going to be the last in the series for a while. I have more titles planned, I just don’t know where they’ll be on my schedule. The fourth book straddles both Masterson County and Finley Creek series. If you missed it and you’re waiting on the next Finleys, be sure to check out Never Chasing Charlie. Charlotte and Daniel McKellen are major players in it!
Well, this has been a crazy, crazy week! (It somehow always seems crazy around here lately.) Kiddo and I both have suspected Covid (my mom tested positive on Friday, after spending all day out here on Wednesday, and kiddo and I both have symptoms and fever). Kiddo is doing a lot better than this morning, but I feel horrible.
I plan to just sleep for the next week or so! Kiddo does have to miss her softball travel team tryouts, so she’s pretty upset. But…there are other teams out there (we’re signed up for a few other tryouts, already).
I did get Rory’s book back a little sooner than anticipated. It’s now LIVE on all the retailers!
Here’s a quick blurb (and links). Then I’m crashing again!
Rory Price made a mistake. Her Second Greatest Mistake to be exact. With…Texas State Police Detective Charlie Fields.
A man…she wasn’t so sure she even liked. Then when he gave her the brush off the next morning, Rory had to make a decision.
She was going to put that man behind her and move on! (Not so easy to do when one of her best friends is Charlie’s daughter Charlotte–her partner in the TSP forensics department!)
Things just keep getting more complicated after that…
Rory and Charlie’s book is now LIVE! It’s the final Season book–at least for a while–and I greatly enjoyed writing the entire series. It let me explore characters in a different way than I have before. There may be more Seasons books (or novellas) coming, I just don’t know when.
**Never Chasing Charlie is a bit different from the others in the series.
It takes place half in Masterson… and half in Finley Creek.
There are characters from both series’ who make appearances!***