Read More from Calle J. Brookes

Free Stories from Finley Creek and more…

I got lucky! The collarbone is NOT broken, just severely bruised. Anti-inflammatories, steroids, and extra physical therapy for a few weeks and I’ll be as good as new. I am back at work again, too. I am not a happy camper when I am forced to not write. I get really edgy.

I was able to have an almost normal week so far. 😀

I’m working on finishing Nikki and Hunter’s book. I have a few more things to do and then it’ll be on its way to the editor–with no actual delay, after all.

I don’t know the release date yet; I’ll need to talk to my editor about her schedule, but I should know soon. Right now, I’m focusing on getting everything ready for Shelby’s release on 12/21. (Available as a pre-order on 12/16!). I’m hoping to release Shelby as a paperback and large-print hardback at the same time as the ebook. That just depends on if the formatting is complete by release day.

It has definitely been crazy busy around here. I am looking forward to January, when things settle down (we tend to get snowed in for days where we live) and all I have to do is worry about writing books.

That’s what I love to do. This week alone, I’ve started Zoey’s book (a month early!), and started making notes for upcoming Finleys. And I had one scene pop into my head out of nowhere… For Miranda’s PAVAD title, which is several books away.

Meanwhile, I have included a bonus look at Nikki! Nikki and Hunter will (most likely) release in mid-February.

This couldn’t be it. 

Hunter Clark stared at the Stop in Time bookshop and double checked the address one more time.

Someone somewhere had one hell of a sense of humor. Maybe he’d deserved this for pissing off karma or something. For some reason, he hadn’t put it together when he’d gotten the details of this project.

He should have. It should have jumped out at him like a damned neon sign. Here there be danger! Go back, hero! Go back! Now!

She was probably in there. 

Snow poured down around him, almost blinding him. 

He’d never been through a Wyoming winter—he wasn’t looking forward to this one, even though he was at the tail end of it now. He hoped.

But here he was.

Masterson County looked just the same as it had when he’d been there filming before. Except for the white coating everywhere he looked.

Before everything had gone to hell, he’d ended up with a damned broken leg, nine weeks of physical therapy, two corrective surgeries, another nine weeks of physical therapy, and a totally derailed plan.

Because of his injury he’d missed out on the movie of a lifetime. It would take him a while to recover from that.

Emotionally—not financially. Hunter was very, very good at managing his business assets. Financially, he could take the next decade off and it wouldn’t affect his quality of life or his lifestyle one bit. But the opportunity the lost movie had presented—that stung. A great deal. Still.

He was a businessman first—actor second. He wasn’t going to be an actor forever, either. It was the idea that he was going to go stir-crazy that had him here, working on the next phase of his career.

It was time. He had always wanted more than just repeating someone else’s words.

If he didn’t do this now, he probably never would. Hunter knew himself well enough to know that. He was very risk-adverse, especially when it came to his business plan for his future.

His life.

This was his biggest risk yet.

Hunter didn’t want to just star in the movies—he wanted to write them. Create them from scratch. Produce. All of it that he could. Fortunately, his former director Rowland Bowles was giving him the shot to do just that.

Bowles wanted the story of the Tylers and Mastersons of Masterson County. For a Rowland Bowles docudrama. They weren’t Rowland’s highest earning projects, but the docudramas brought in consistent returns.

Hunter wanted in on it. He wanted his name attached, as his first step. After the docudrama, he’d do two or three more true-story projects, then he was going to start writing movies from scratch.

Take the leap toward the goals he’d had for more than a decade now.

Put his voice out there. He wouldn’t be repeating someone else’s words forever. 

He wanted the world to hear his own.

That was why Hunter was there. This was a serious project that he wanted his name attached to. Unfortunately, the Mastersons weren’t so open to the idea of a screenplay based on the hells they’d all been through before.

Rowland was persistent, though. 

So here Hunter was—opportunity chasing. 

Starting at the Stop in Time bookstore, downtown Masterson, Wyoming.

He got the feeling his life would change the very moment he stepped inside. Which was crazy.

Four brothers—the sheriff, the veterinarian, the physician, and the rancher—had met, fallen for, and saved four beautiful young women when those women had been targeted by nasty criminals. He was there to write their stories, period. 

Nothing life-changing or epic would happen just because he stood on the snow-covered walkway in front of a struggling country bookstore.

That those four young women had been sisters was almost ridiculous to consider. That both Rowland and Hunter had been instrumental in their rescues made this story more real to both men. Important. 

And would draw a crowd to wherever Rowland chose to release it.

Hunter didn’t just want to get it right, he wanted to get it perfect.

That meant he had to liaise with the cousin the sisters had chosen.

A little cousin who apparently lived above the Stop in Time bookstore on Main and was a writer. It was either her, or her brother—the famous, and reportedly cantankerous mystery writer Tyler Bennett—who was capricious and too damned hard to pin down to work with. Tyler Bennett had a reputation for being a total pain in the ass.

Rowland had wanted this woman, whom he had worked with before, instead. 

Of course Rowland had—Rowland Bowles had a real thing for young, beautiful redheaded women. Everyone knew that.

Dangle a redhead in front of Rowland, and the other man was putty.

Young, beautiful redheaded women.

That described her perfectly.

Hunter owed Rowland in more ways than one.

That meant her.

Nicolette Tyler. 

He hadn’t forgotten Nikki for even a single moment. The woman had marched across his dreams at least once a night for six months now. 

Sometimes erotic. Sometimes not.

But always there.

Most times had just been her beckoning him. Sometimes she wore the costume from the movie in his dreams. She’d had a good-sized supporting role. One that still made him smile when he thought about how she had looked, even though they’d only had two or three scenes together total, and she’d had a double in for two of them. A gauzy fairy costume, with light blue wings, and big steampunk goggles on her face. Goggles that hid her glasses. Strawberry red hair floating wildly around her shoulders. Pale creamy shoulders that made a man want to touch. 

Sometimes in his dreams she wore nothing but dark blue ultra-feminine feminine silk and a siren’s smile. That hair would be spread out over his pillows, his fingers buried in it while he took from her what he wanted.

Other times it was just a vague impression of her taunting him. 

Waving one small hand in his direction and asking what he was waiting for. Asking when he was coming back. Her hand beckoned over and over again. Calling him back.

To her. To a blue-eyed redhead he had never forgotten.

As if the woman in the dreams knew he would return to her. Some day. 

Even though he hadn’t been back to Masterson in over two and a half years.

Before the first two weeks of dreaming about her were over, he’d been googling her on social media. He’d actually thought about friending her. Just so he could see what she was doing in this little hamlet that time had forgotten. 

He’d looked at photos of her on her cousin Pandora’s page, instead. 

But that was far too much like stalking for his peace of mind—Hunter had forced himself to stop doing that after the second time. It had been best to just force the woman who hadn’t seen him as just some famous movie star like every other woman did straight from his head. 

He was still trying to get her out of his dreams. Somehow.

He’d thought he’d done a good enough job of that that he could come back to Masterson County and not see her. Bother with her. It had been more than two years since he had ever spoken to her, after all. 

Hunter was not the kind of man to get obsessed. At least…not with a woman. 

Usually.

He should have known better. Karma and all that.

His cast was finally off. His life was getting back to normal. He was moving forward. The only thing left to do was somehow get his dream woman dealt with so he could get back on track with his career plan. 

Career dreams took precedence over fantasies of a woman he’d never had.

Hunter didn’t want to be distracted right now.

He was waiting for her to open the damned door before he damned well froze to death.

Hunter stood there, looking in, not caring who drove past. The sign said Closed. But the lights were on. Beckoning him. To her. Damn it.

It honestly felt like he was returning home.

To a woman he’d interacted with less than a handful of times. 

He didn’t understand that at all.

But there he was. 

Returning.

To a redheaded little waif seven years his junior. Who had never even known he would have given anything to have her for his own. If only for a little while.

He stood staring for the longest time.

Until that door opened.

And then there she was. 

Nikki Tyler. The woman who was haunting him.

Looking as perfectly wholesome and sweet as ever. “Mr. Clark, I thought that was you. But I wasn’t sure with the snow. And well…you were too far away for me to be sure. Come in. It’s freezing outside.” She waved her hand at him, urging him forward. “Nobody stays outside for long in this.”

She’d barely looked at him. Just like before. Tilting her head to one side, her gaze sliding just past him, her eyes looking big and slightly unfocused behind her thick glasses, darting just a little to the left and back to the right.

Had she ever fully seen him? 

Hunter honestly didn’t know.

“Hello, Nikki. I didn’t realize I’d be staying with you.” Oh, he wanted to. The stupid part of him did, anyway. He took a moment to study her once he’d made it inside the bookstore that she’d told him had been her mother’s. He studied the changes in her that two years had brought. 

He liked what he saw.

She’d matured a bit. She didn’t look as young and innocent as she had before. She’d barely been legal back then. Twenty-one or so. She’d been twenty-one and so damned naive…

Far too young for him. Too unworldly. That was exactly what she had been. He’d reminded himself of that. Because he’d wanted her so damned much then, too.

She wore well-worn jeans that outlined her hips tauntingly. The navy sweater cupped feminine flesh in the most perfect of ways and was almost the same color as her eyes. Her hair curled in long wild ringlets that were more gold than red. It was shorter than before, though, but only by a few inches. He thought. He hadn’t exactly measured the wildness that was her hair.

Her eyes were still the bluest of dark blues. They were hidden behind thick glasses. Purple glasses, now. They had been blue, before. 

As far as he knew, she could barely see twenty feet in front of her. Literally. She often tripped and fell. Bumped into things. 

She had bumped into him the first time they’d met. 

He smiled as he remembered the one time he’d caught her. He’d held her in his arms for one half second all those months ago. Nikki had looked up at him and asked who he was. 

Nikki hadn’t recognized him—not even as the star of the very movie she was a part of making. He’d spent weeks in Masterson being followed and fawned over by almost every woman he met—yet there was one woman who apparently could care less that he was one of the hottest stars from Hollywood.

She’d crushed his ego and intrigued him immediately.

That had been so far outside of his experience, he hadn’t been able to forget her.

She’d practically been imprinted on him ever since.

He knew it was crazy. He could have almost any woman he wanted with just a wave of his hand. It was a perk of being who he was. 

But all he’d been able to think about for the last six months was this woman who hadn’t even known who he was until he’d told her he was the star of the movie.

The movie had been made over two-and-a-half years ago. It would release in four months, once the special effects were complete. It had been a long three years for the project, with delays left and right. But now…it was almost ready. Rowland had given it the green light just this past week.

Rowland was the biggest perfectionist Hunter had ever known. He’d delayed and delayed, until Gretta was perfect.

Hunter had forgotten Nikki in those almost three years. Mostly. 

Until everything had changed. The night of the wreck.

Hunter had nearly died. 

Hunter had never forgotten her. Apparently, the night he’d almost died had reminded him of that. Of what she represented.

He’d been pinned beneath his damned car for more than an hour and a half—and he had thought about her. Wished he’d had a woman like her in his life, a family. A real one of his own. Someone to care whether he lived or died, someone he could hold at night and not feel alone. 

Someone who truly saw him for him, flaws and all. And not as the Hunter Louis Clark.

Hers had been the face in his mind as he’d slipped into unconsciousness that night. Her name had been on his lips. The last thought he’d had before he’d passed out from pain was that he wished he had kissed her at least once.

He swore she’d haunted him in the day and a half he’d been under sedation. He could almost imagine her eyes were what he had dreamed about then.

Now he couldn’t get her out of his head. She tormented him. 

“Pan asked me to let you have the apartment across from mine while you’re here.”

Hunter’s stomach fell. “Across from yours?”

He’d hoped Pandora had meant Nikki owned apartments somewhere and not that she lived in one. Right next door. Right there, tempting him. 

“I hope you don’t mind. It’s upstairs and to the left. My place, the larger apartment, is to the right. The only thing I ask is that you never leave anything in the hallway or on the stairs. For obvious safety reasons.” She pushed her glasses up her lightly freckled nose and stared at him.

Maybe.

Did she even see him at all? With Nikki, it was hard to tell. He knew she had bad eyesight, but just how significant it was, he didn’t really know.

“How long did you plan to stay? Pan said you’d agreed to pay asking price on the apartment. More if I furnished it for you. I had my brothers bring over some pieces from our ranch just in case I rented it out furnished next time, but if they’re not to your liking I can find some others. There are towels and some quilts already in there. I know it’s not Hollywood or L.A. but it’s warm and dry and since we’ll be working together, it’ll be convenient. About the screenplay…I have everything for the book I’m writing. You’re welcome to look over it. Pan and her sisters get final approval. And their husbands, of course.”

“Nikki, take a breath. We have the next four weeks to…talk.” 

Four weeks. Working closely with the one woman he actually ached for. Who looked far better than he’d remembered. He’d hoped seeing her would make this hunger go away. He had thought seeing the reality of her would erase the fantasy from his head.

Apparently not.

Hunter feared it would be the exact opposite.

Damn it, he’d never make it. He’d have her naked under those quilts of hers within two weeks. Hunter knew himself. Knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of the one woman he’d wanted more than anything in a very long time.

Only the knowledge that the last thing he would ever want to do was hurt her would keep his hands off of her, where they belonged. Maybe.

Not even her three older brothers were enough to scare him away.

The knowledge that he’d leave, and would never want to leave her hurting, would keep his hands off. Hopefully.

“I know. But it’s best to just get everything out there between us. I don’t really want to do this with you, Mr. Clark.”

“It’s Hunter.” He stepped closer. Her head tilted up and she blinked at him, but she didn’t back away. “And why not?”

“It’s personal. What happened to my family, I mean. I wasn’t a part of all of it, but I did almost die because of it. And so did my cousins. I have had nightmares because of it. Not something I’m sure I want up on the screen for the whole world to see. I don’t want you to sensationalize it. Romanticize it.”

“Yet you’re writing a book about it?”

“I’m writing an account of it, yes. With interviews with those involved. Non-fiction.”

“You haven’t interviewed me. I was there, too, remember?” He’d gotten a concussion for his troubles. He’d never forget waking on the Mastersons’ damned couch, with her leaning over him. With those perfect lips right there.

He’d almost forgotten about her. Went about his life, putting Masterson behind him. Until one early morning crash on the freeway had changed him. Made him remember her. Made him confront his life, his regrets, and his secret wishes he hadn’t allowed himself to think about since he was twenty years old.

Made him wish his life had been different. That he had experienced it all.

With her. 

He didn’t even know why he had focused so much on Nikki when he lay dying. He’d dated a few other women since Masterson. Several times, though none were serious. 

He just couldn’t stop thinking about Nikki since the wreck.

Stupid, he knew. But it was how he felt.

He had laid there, bleeding to death and trapped and wishing he had taken the time to know the woman in front of him. The one woman who didn’t seem to care that he was The Hunter Louis Clark, leading man, who just treated him like Hunter Clark, person. Good or bad.

He wasn’t even certain she’d liked him back then.

Hell, he was in Masterson to exorcise his demons. Starting with her. He wasn’t blind to that.

“I know. But…I remember what happened to you. I was there right next to you. You really weren’t needed.”

Hunter snorted. He supposed he wasn’t.

“You have a point. But I’m here now. And sweetie—you’re not going to push me away. Bowles wants this screenplay written. And I’m going to do it. Before the premiere of Grettahappens.” Hunter leaned down, until he was right in her face. Those blue eyes, beautiful but slightly unfocused when they looked into his, widened. He was close enough to count those freckles of hers. It took everything he had not to kiss her. To just grab hold of her and show her… “Have I made myself clear?”

***

Oh, this was hilarious. 

Nikki laughed. Right in his far too handsome face. He thought he could intimidate her into doing what he wanted. Because he was bigger? Stronger? Older? Far more dominant? 

Yeah, right.

She was used to gorgeous men trying to intimidate her. 

She was a Tyler. 

She’d been dealing with domineering, alpha males since she was in diapers. Hunter Louis Clark had nothing on a batch of over-testosteroned Tyler men when they got on a roll.

Best to make him aware of that right now. Before he said or did something stupid and bruised that most fragile of things—his male ego. She suspected he had a rather well developed…ego. It was written all over him.

“You won’t get what you want by threatening or intimidating me, Mr. Hunter Louis Clark. You even try and I’ll evict you so quickly, you’ll slide down the mountain back to where you belong.” Nikki raised her chin in challenge. “Probably with my brothers and cousins helping you on your way.”

She’d grown up with three Tyler brothers, and a million male cousins. Nothing would be allowed to intimidate her. Especially not this guy. 

She’d googled him after she’d met him. She’d read every article she could find on him. At large font. Nikki doubted she’d missed anything about him. The general consensus out there was that he was shrewd, relentless, cold and calculating. Business-obsessed. Especially where his career was concerned.

And women.

He didn’t have a great reputation for staying power, though he was described as charming. Gentlemanly. There hadn’t been any “Hunter Acts Like Jackass” articles that she’d found online, anyway.

He wasn’t so charming now. 

She forced herself to hold her ground, even though she wanted to back away. She was going to be living across from this man for four weeks. She wasn’t about to let him intimidate her.

Even if he was ten inches taller, a hundred twenty-five pounds heavier and pure solid man muscle. She knew what those muscles looked like—she’d watched his last movie, where he’d spent half of it without a shirt on. Right there in front of her on the big screen.

It had been her first Hunter Louis Clark movie. But not her last. She’d binged on all of him she could find. For research purposes, of course.

He could easily pick her up and do whatever he wanted to with her. 

That thought had her breath catching. 

It had been a very long time since a man had done what he wanted to with her. A long time. Three and a half years, to be exact. When she’d been young, dumb, and only twenty-one, months before the movie had ever started to be filmed in Masterson.

She liked to think she’d learned a bit more discretion since then.

“I’m not going anywhere, Nikki. You can count on that. So tell me…what’s the going rate for this little place of yours?”

She didn’t know what made her say it, but Nikki tripled the rate she’d originally been going for. 

Just because he did frighten her when he looked at her like that.

She wasn’t used to being afraid of men. Not by a long shot.

She had a collection of big brothers that kept most men in town in line, where she was concerned. If they were even brave enough to get close to her at all.

Most weren’t.

Of course, most didn’t try. She was just ordinary little Nikki Tyler, after all. She had the total bookworm thing going for her. The only guys who looked her way were the ones happiest with their noses buried in books.

They liked Nikki for one reason only—she wasn’t very intimidating. She made a guy feel safe or something. 

Safe, boring little Nikki Tyler. If she didn’t live in Masterson were there were far more guys than available girls, she probably wouldn’t have dated even as much as she had.

She knew the odds.

Of course, Nikki was just fine with that fact. It was guys like Hunter who made her unsettled. 

He hadn’t before. Before he had just been another one of Rowland Bowles’s people cluttering up her town. Until the day she’d met him by nearly tripping over him. Not one of her finest moments, that was for certain. When they’d had to help save her cousin Pandora later, he’d been just another person to help.

Now he was in her space, invading her world.

She most definitely did not like that.

“Sounds reasonable.” He brushed past her. Nikki squeaked and got out of his way—forgetting she was standing on the small step that ran from the back of the bookstore to the stairs leading up to her private quarters. She teetered, and barely caught herself in time. She did not want to take another header down those stairs. Been there, done that. 

Had broken her arm once, too. 

His hand wrapped around her arm. He pulled her closer. So close his scent surrounded her. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No. Just me being clumsy again. You might as well get used to it. It happens.” Unfortunately, her eye condition made her misjudge when she was moving sometimes. It also caused dizziness and vertigo. Nikki was used to it—but most of her family made too big of a deal about it. “I’m a real danger to myself and others when I decide to move too quickly.”

His finger brushed against the skin of her inner elbow exposed by the sweater she’d pushed up earlier, just touching her there. Stroking. 

She fought a shiver. Nikki stared up at him. He was a little blurred around the edges in the low light. She’d dimmed the lights after he’d entered, so that she wouldn’t have to come back downstairs—but he was most definitely Hunter Louis Clark, the guy all the tabloids claimed was the contender for the country’s hottest actor of all time. He was running neck and neck with the Davis brothers, last she’d read.

She’d met Slater Davis and his brother Quade during the Rowland Bowles movie project. They were some seriously hot looking men. And…

Slater definitely knew how to kiss a woman, Nikki could say that from personal experience. 

But…Slater Davis wasn’t Hunter. He still had something extra.

Well…pretty was as pretty did. He’d seemed like a nice guy before, but he’d already tried to intimidate her once today. Nikki wasn’t stupid. 

She wasn’t about to let him push her around. She was top dog around here. 

She knew how to handle big strong guys who thought the world revolved around them—she’d become an expert at that by the time she was two. Hunter Louis Clark wasn’t anyone special. No matter what he thought.

She pulled her arm free. “I’ll show you to your apartment. This way.”

***

Hunter followed her up the stairs, eyes trained exactly where they didn’t need to be. Nikki had a fit little body with curves exactly where they were supposed to be. And those jeans…worn in just the right places…cupped her perfectly.

Made a man’s fingers itch to touch. 

Hell, he would love to have the right to touch.

Sheer feminine perfection was just two steps above him. He was such a damned pervert.

She’d kick him to the curb if she knew what he was thinking right now.

Set her brothers on him, too. He thought she had at least two. He’d met so many Tylers before he didn’t remember who was which. 

Except for her oldest brother Gil. He was memorable. That guy was as big as Hunter and strong as a bull. 

Hunter hadn’t missed that before.

Her apartment door was open. Hunter wanted to go in, see what made Nikki tick. All he got was a quick impression of clean minimal lines and bright happy colors. Before she was opening the door directly across the hall. 

She would be twenty feet away from him for four weeks. At least.

He was never going to survive. Someone somewhere up above must truly have it out for Hunter right now.

“Are you ok?” She paused on the step. He almost ran right into her. “You made a weird sound.”

He probably had. Seeing her perfectly curved little rear right there in front of him. He was such an asshole sometimes. Hunter thought quickly. “The knee…not fully healed yet. Sometimes stairs get the best of me. Especially after a long drive.”

“I’m sorry. I remember reading about that accident. How many cars were involved. Your name was mentioned so I followed the story, just to make sure you were ok.”

He nodded. That had been one of the two darkest moments in his life. He had been pinned under his own car—and could hear people crying for help in the cars surrounding him. He hadn’t been able to do a damned thing to help them. Some of them, including children, hadn’t made it long enough for help to get to them.

He’d have traded both his damned legs to have been able to help them. To at least been able to help one of them. Or to get to those kids, somehow.

Hunter would never forget the sounds of their pain.

He had been the first to call 911. He hadn’t been soon enough.

He would never forget feeling that helpless. 

“It’s been slow going. But the leg is almost back to normal. The doctors initially thought it never would be. So I am thankful for that.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re ok. I know Pan was worried.”

“She emailed me at least every other day after it happened. She’s become a good friend.” And Hunter would always value that. He didn’t have many genuine friends he could count on. 

He valued every one that he did—Nikki’s cousin and Rowland Bowles topped his list. Brad, his personal assistant and manager, too. That was it.

“She’s nervous about this entire project. They all are. We Tylers, we’re a little bit on the reclusive side at times. Well, most of us. Fletcher, Davan, Jacan, Kaece and Phoenix and apparently Parker are a bit different—Parker especially loved the attention. They enjoyed the movie filming. Making movies are all he talks about. He has a poster of Rowland in his bedroom. And your sword from the movie. Rowland gave it to him. The idea Rowland might come back with Phoenix sometime thrills him.”

“I’m nervous about the project, too. I have a lot riding on it.”

She just stared at him, as she paused just outside the apartment door. “I think we all do. Here it is. Home sweet home. It’s not much, but it’s clean and dry and I think it’s better than staying at the inn right now. Pan said you’d prefer an apartment over a hotel room.”

“The last time I stayed at the inn I was practically mobbed. The staff was wonderful, but some of the other guests…” He winced, remembering. Someone had let his location leak. “Rowland had to get in a trailer for me after that.”

The inn had been overrun with fans. All looking for him. They had done some significant damages, too. 

“Yeah, I heard about that.” She sent him a mischievous smile that shot straight through him. “My bestie was the clerk at the time. Dusty told me all about the chaos.”

“This…apartment will stay our little secret. I’m here to work. That’s it. Not be the evening’s entertainment.”

He’d just have to remind himself of his goals every time she looked at him with perfect blue eyes and those sweet pink lips curved in a welcoming smile just for him. 

This couldn’t be it. 

Hunter Clark stared at the Stop in Time bookshop and double checked the address one more time.

Someone somewhere had one hell of a sense of humor. Maybe he’d deserved this for pissing off karma or something. For some reason, he hadn’t put it together when he’d gotten the details of this project.

He should have. It should have jumped out at him like a damned neon sign. Here there be danger! Go back, hero! Go back! Now!

She was probably in there. 

Snow poured down around him, almost blinding him. 

He’d never been through a Wyoming winter—he wasn’t looking forward to this one, even though he was at the tail end of it now. He hoped.

But here he was.

Masterson County looked just the same as it had when he’d been there filming before. Except for the white coating everywhere he looked.

Before everything had gone to hell, he’d ended up with a damned broken leg, nine weeks of physical therapy, two corrective surgeries, another nine weeks of physical therapy, and a totally derailed plan.

Because of his injury he’d missed out on the movie of a lifetime. It would take him a while to recover from that.

Emotionally—not financially. Hunter was very, very good at managing his business assets. Financially, he could take the next decade off and it wouldn’t affect his quality of life or his lifestyle one bit. But the opportunity the lost movie had presented—that stung. A great deal. Still.

He was a businessman first—actor second. He wasn’t going to be an actor forever, either. It was the idea that he was going to go stir-crazy that had him here, working on the next phase of his career.

It was time. He had always wanted more than just repeating someone else’s words.

If he didn’t do this now, he probably never would. Hunter knew himself well enough to know that. He was very risk-adverse, especially when it came to his business plan for his future.

His life.

This was his biggest risk yet.

Hunter didn’t want to just star in the movies—he wanted to write them. Create them from scratch. Produce. All of it that he could. Fortunately, his former director Rowland Bowles was giving him the shot to do just that.

Bowles wanted the story of the Tylers and Mastersons of Masterson County. For a Rowland Bowles docudrama. They weren’t Rowland’s highest earning projects, but the docudramas brought in consistent returns.

Hunter wanted in on it. He wanted his name attached, as his first step. After the docudrama, he’d do two or three more true-story projects, then he was going to start writing movies from scratch.

Take the leap toward the goals he’d had for more than a decade now.

Put his voice out there. He wouldn’t be repeating someone else’s words forever. 

He wanted the world to hear his own.

That was why Hunter was there. This was a serious project that he wanted his name attached to. Unfortunately, the Mastersons weren’t so open to the idea of a screenplay based on the hells they’d all been through before.

Rowland was persistent, though. 

So here Hunter was—opportunity chasing. 

Starting at the Stop in Time bookstore, downtown Masterson, Wyoming.

He got the feeling his life would change the very moment he stepped inside. Which was crazy.

Four brothers—the sheriff, the veterinarian, the physician, and the rancher—had met, fallen for, and saved four beautiful young women when those women had been targeted by nasty criminals. He was there to write their stories, period. 

Nothing life-changing or epic would happen just because he stood on the snow-covered walkway in front of a struggling country bookstore.

That those four young women had been sisters was almost ridiculous to consider. That both Rowland and Hunter had been instrumental in their rescues made this story more real to both men. Important. 

And would draw a crowd to wherever Rowland chose to release it.

Hunter didn’t just want to get it right, he wanted to get it perfect.

That meant he had to liaise with the cousin the sisters had chosen.

A little cousin who apparently lived above the Stop in Time bookstore on Main and was a writer. It was either her, or her brother—the famous, and reportedly cantankerous mystery writer Tyler Bennett—who was capricious and too damned hard to pin down to work with. Tyler Bennett had a reputation for being a total pain in the ass.

Rowland had wanted this woman, whom he had worked with before, instead. 

Of course Rowland had—Rowland Bowles had a real thing for young, beautiful redheaded women. Everyone knew that.

Dangle a redhead in front of Rowland, and the other man was putty.

Young, beautiful redheaded women.

That described her perfectly.

Hunter owed Rowland in more ways than one.

That meant her.

Nicolette Tyler. 

He hadn’t forgotten Nikki for even a single moment. The woman had marched across his dreams at least once a night for six months now. 

Sometimes erotic. Sometimes not.

But always there.

Most times had just been her beckoning him. Sometimes she wore the costume from the movie in his dreams. She’d had a good-sized supporting role. One that still made him smile when he thought about how she had looked, even though they’d only had two or three scenes together total, and she’d had a double in for two of them. A gauzy fairy costume, with light blue wings, and big steampunk goggles on her face. Goggles that hid her glasses. Strawberry red hair floating wildly around her shoulders. Pale creamy shoulders that made a man want to touch. 

Sometimes in his dreams she wore nothing but dark blue ultra-feminine feminine silk and a siren’s smile. That hair would be spread out over his pillows, his fingers buried in it while he took from her what he wanted.

Other times it was just a vague impression of her taunting him. 

Waving one small hand in his direction and asking what he was waiting for. Asking when he was coming back. Her hand beckoned over and over again. Calling him back.

To her. To a blue-eyed redhead he had never forgotten.

As if the woman in the dreams knew he would return to her. Some day. 

Even though he hadn’t been back to Masterson in over two and a half years.

Before the first two weeks of dreaming about her were over, he’d been googling her on social media. He’d actually thought about friending her. Just so he could see what she was doing in this little hamlet that time had forgotten. 

He’d looked at photos of her on her cousin Pandora’s page, instead. 

But that was far too much like stalking for his peace of mind—Hunter had forced himself to stop doing that after the second time. It had been best to just force the woman who hadn’t seen him as just some famous movie star like every other woman did straight from his head. 

He was still trying to get her out of his dreams. Somehow.

He’d thought he’d done a good enough job of that that he could come back to Masterson County and not see her. Bother with her. It had been more than two years since he had ever spoken to her, after all. 

Hunter was not the kind of man to get obsessed. At least…not with a woman. 

Usually.

He should have known better. Karma and all that.

His cast was finally off. His life was getting back to normal. He was moving forward. The only thing left to do was somehow get his dream woman dealt with so he could get back on track with his career plan. 

Career dreams took precedence over fantasies of a woman he’d never had.

Hunter didn’t want to be distracted right now.

He was waiting for her to open the damned door before he damned well froze to death.

Hunter stood there, looking in, not caring who drove past. The sign said Closed. But the lights were on. Beckoning him. To her. Damn it.

It honestly felt like he was returning home.

To a woman he’d interacted with less than a handful of times. 

He didn’t understand that at all.

But there he was. 

Returning.

To a redheaded little waif seven years his junior. Who had never even known he would have given anything to have her for his own. If only for a little while.

He stood staring for the longest time.

Until that door opened.

And then there she was. 

Nikki Tyler. The woman who was haunting him.

Looking as perfectly wholesome and sweet as ever. “Mr. Clark, I thought that was you. But I wasn’t sure with the snow. And well…you were too far away for me to be sure. Come in. It’s freezing outside.” She waved her hand at him, urging him forward. “Nobody stays outside for long in this.”

She’d barely looked at him. Just like before. Tilting her head to one side, her gaze sliding just past him, her eyes looking big and slightly unfocused behind her thick glasses, darting just a little to the left and back to the right.

Had she ever fully seen him? 

Hunter honestly didn’t know.

“Hello, Nikki. I didn’t realize I’d be staying with you.” Oh, he wanted to. The stupid part of him did, anyway. He took a moment to study her once he’d made it inside the bookstore that she’d told him had been her mother’s. He studied the changes in her that two years had brought. 

He liked what he saw.

She’d matured a bit. She didn’t look as young and innocent as she had before. She’d barely been legal back then. Twenty-one or so. She’d been twenty-one and so damned naive…

Far too young for him. Too unworldly. That was exactly what she had been. He’d reminded himself of that. Because he’d wanted her so damned much then, too.

She wore well-worn jeans that outlined her hips tauntingly. The navy sweater cupped feminine flesh in the most perfect of ways and was almost the same color as her eyes. Her hair curled in long wild ringlets that were more gold than red. It was shorter than before, though, but only by a few inches. He thought. He hadn’t exactly measured the wildness that was her hair.

Her eyes were still the bluest of dark blues. They were hidden behind thick glasses. Purple glasses, now. They had been blue, before. 

As far as he knew, she could barely see twenty feet in front of her. Literally. She often tripped and fell. Bumped into things. 

She had bumped into him the first time they’d met. 

He smiled as he remembered the one time he’d caught her. He’d held her in his arms for one half second all those months ago. Nikki had looked up at him and asked who he was. 

Nikki hadn’t recognized him—not even as the star of the very movie she was a part of making. He’d spent weeks in Masterson being followed and fawned over by almost every woman he met—yet there was one woman who apparently could care less that he was one of the hottest stars from Hollywood.

She’d crushed his ego and intrigued him immediately.

That had been so far outside of his experience, he hadn’t been able to forget her.

She’d practically been imprinted on him ever since.

He knew it was crazy. He could have almost any woman he wanted with just a wave of his hand. It was a perk of being who he was. 

But all he’d been able to think about for the last six months was this woman who hadn’t even known who he was until he’d told her he was the star of the movie.

The movie had been made over two-and-a-half years ago. It would release in four months, once the special effects were complete. It had been a long three years for the project, with delays left and right. But now…it was almost ready. Rowland had given it the green light just this past week.

Rowland was the biggest perfectionist Hunter had ever known. He’d delayed and delayed, until Gretta was perfect.

Hunter had forgotten Nikki in those almost three years. Mostly. 

Until everything had changed. The night of the wreck.

Hunter had nearly died. 

Hunter had never forgotten her. Apparently, the night he’d almost died had reminded him of that. Of what she represented.

He’d been pinned beneath his damned car for more than an hour and a half—and he had thought about her. Wished he’d had a woman like her in his life, a family. A real one of his own. Someone to care whether he lived or died, someone he could hold at night and not feel alone. 

Someone who truly saw him for him, flaws and all. And not as the Hunter Louis Clark.

Hers had been the face in his mind as he’d slipped into unconsciousness that night. Her name had been on his lips. The last thought he’d had before he’d passed out from pain was that he wished he had kissed her at least once.

He swore she’d haunted him in the day and a half he’d been under sedation. He could almost imagine her eyes were what he had dreamed about then.

Now he couldn’t get her out of his head. She tormented him. 

“Pan asked me to let you have the apartment across from mine while you’re here.”

Hunter’s stomach fell. “Across from yours?”

He’d hoped Pandora had meant Nikki owned apartments somewhere and not that she lived in one. Right next door. Right there, tempting him. 

“I hope you don’t mind. It’s upstairs and to the left. My place, the larger apartment, is to the right. The only thing I ask is that you never leave anything in the hallway or on the stairs. For obvious safety reasons.” She pushed her glasses up her lightly freckled nose and stared at him.

Maybe.

Did she even see him at all? With Nikki, it was hard to tell. He knew she had bad eyesight, but just how significant it was, he didn’t really know.

“How long did you plan to stay? Pan said you’d agreed to pay asking price on the apartment. More if I furnished it for you. I had my brothers bring over some pieces from our ranch just in case I rented it out furnished next time, but if they’re not to your liking I can find some others. There are towels and some quilts already in there. I know it’s not Hollywood or L.A. but it’s warm and dry and since we’ll be working together, it’ll be convenient. About the screenplay…I have everything for the book I’m writing. You’re welcome to look over it. Pan and her sisters get final approval. And their husbands, of course.”

“Nikki, take a breath. We have the next four weeks to…talk.” 

Four weeks. Working closely with the one woman he actually ached for. Who looked far better than he’d remembered. He’d hoped seeing her would make this hunger go away. He had thought seeing the reality of her would erase the fantasy from his head.

Apparently not.

Hunter feared it would be the exact opposite.

Damn it, he’d never make it. He’d have her naked under those quilts of hers within two weeks. Hunter knew himself. Knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of the one woman he’d wanted more than anything in a very long time.

Only the knowledge that the last thing he would ever want to do was hurt her would keep his hands off of her, where they belonged. Maybe.

Not even her three older brothers were enough to scare him away.

The knowledge that he’d leave, and would never want to leave her hurting, would keep his hands off. Hopefully.

“I know. But it’s best to just get everything out there between us. I don’t really want to do this with you, Mr. Clark.”

“It’s Hunter.” He stepped closer. Her head tilted up and she blinked at him, but she didn’t back away. “And why not?”

“It’s personal. What happened to my family, I mean. I wasn’t a part of all of it, but I did almost die because of it. And so did my cousins. I have had nightmares because of it. Not something I’m sure I want up on the screen for the whole world to see. I don’t want you to sensationalize it. Romanticize it.”

“Yet you’re writing a book about it?”

“I’m writing an account of it, yes. With interviews with those involved. Non-fiction.”

“You haven’t interviewed me. I was there, too, remember?” He’d gotten a concussion for his troubles. He’d never forget waking on the Mastersons’ damned couch, with her leaning over him. With those perfect lips right there.

He’d almost forgotten about her. Went about his life, putting Masterson behind him. Until one early morning crash on the freeway had changed him. Made him remember her. Made him confront his life, his regrets, and his secret wishes he hadn’t allowed himself to think about since he was twenty years old.

Made him wish his life had been different. That he had experienced it all.

With her. 

He didn’t even know why he had focused so much on Nikki when he lay dying. He’d dated a few other women since Masterson. Several times, though none were serious. 

He just couldn’t stop thinking about Nikki since the wreck.

Stupid, he knew. But it was how he felt.

He had laid there, bleeding to death and trapped and wishing he had taken the time to know the woman in front of him. The one woman who didn’t seem to care that he was The Hunter Louis Clark, leading man, who just treated him like Hunter Clark, person. Good or bad.

He wasn’t even certain she’d liked him back then.

Hell, he was in Masterson to exorcise his demons. Starting with her. He wasn’t blind to that.

“I know. But…I remember what happened to you. I was there right next to you. You really weren’t needed.”

Hunter snorted. He supposed he wasn’t.

“You have a point. But I’m here now. And sweetie—you’re not going to push me away. Bowles wants this screenplay written. And I’m going to do it. Before the premiere of Grettahappens.” Hunter leaned down, until he was right in her face. Those blue eyes, beautiful but slightly unfocused when they looked into his, widened. He was close enough to count those freckles of hers. It took everything he had not to kiss her. To just grab hold of her and show her… “Have I made myself clear?”

***

Oh, this was hilarious. 

Nikki laughed. Right in his far too handsome face. He thought he could intimidate her into doing what he wanted. Because he was bigger? Stronger? Older? Far more dominant? 

Yeah, right.

She was used to gorgeous men trying to intimidate her. 

She was a Tyler. 

She’d been dealing with domineering, alpha males since she was in diapers. Hunter Louis Clark had nothing on a batch of over-testosteroned Tyler men when they got on a roll.

Best to make him aware of that right now. Before he said or did something stupid and bruised that most fragile of things—his male ego. She suspected he had a rather well developed…ego. It was written all over him.

“You won’t get what you want by threatening or intimidating me, Mr. Hunter Louis Clark. You even try and I’ll evict you so quickly, you’ll slide down the mountain back to where you belong.” Nikki raised her chin in challenge. “Probably with my brothers and cousins helping you on your way.”

She’d grown up with three Tyler brothers, and a million male cousins. Nothing would be allowed to intimidate her. Especially not this guy. 

She’d googled him after she’d met him. She’d read every article she could find on him. At large font. Nikki doubted she’d missed anything about him. The general consensus out there was that he was shrewd, relentless, cold and calculating. Business-obsessed. Especially where his career was concerned.

And women.

He didn’t have a great reputation for staying power, though he was described as charming. Gentlemanly. There hadn’t been any “Hunter Acts Like Jackass” articles that she’d found online, anyway.

He wasn’t so charming now. 

She forced herself to hold her ground, even though she wanted to back away. She was going to be living across from this man for four weeks. She wasn’t about to let him intimidate her.

Even if he was ten inches taller, a hundred twenty-five pounds heavier and pure solid man muscle. She knew what those muscles looked like—she’d watched his last movie, where he’d spent half of it without a shirt on. Right there in front of her on the big screen.

It had been her first Hunter Louis Clark movie. But not her last. She’d binged on all of him she could find. For research purposes, of course.

He could easily pick her up and do whatever he wanted to with her. 

That thought had her breath catching. 

It had been a very long time since a man had done what he wanted to with her. A long time. Three and a half years, to be exact. When she’d been young, dumb, and only twenty-one, months before the movie had ever started to be filmed in Masterson.

She liked to think she’d learned a bit more discretion since then.

“I’m not going anywhere, Nikki. You can count on that. So tell me…what’s the going rate for this little place of yours?”

She didn’t know what made her say it, but Nikki tripled the rate she’d originally been going for. 

Just because he did frighten her when he looked at her like that.

She wasn’t used to being afraid of men. Not by a long shot.

She had a collection of big brothers that kept most men in town in line, where she was concerned. If they were even brave enough to get close to her at all.

Most weren’t.

Of course, most didn’t try. She was just ordinary little Nikki Tyler, after all. She had the total bookworm thing going for her. The only guys who looked her way were the ones happiest with their noses buried in books.

They liked Nikki for one reason only—she wasn’t very intimidating. She made a guy feel safe or something. 

Safe, boring little Nikki Tyler. If she didn’t live in Masterson were there were far more guys than available girls, she probably wouldn’t have dated even as much as she had.

She knew the odds.

Of course, Nikki was just fine with that fact. It was guys like Hunter who made her unsettled. 

He hadn’t before. Before he had just been another one of Rowland Bowles’s people cluttering up her town. Until the day she’d met him by nearly tripping over him. Not one of her finest moments, that was for certain. When they’d had to help save her cousin Pandora later, he’d been just another person to help.

Now he was in her space, invading her world.

She most definitely did not like that.

“Sounds reasonable.” He brushed past her. Nikki squeaked and got out of his way—forgetting she was standing on the small step that ran from the back of the bookstore to the stairs leading up to her private quarters. She teetered, and barely caught herself in time. She did not want to take another header down those stairs. Been there, done that. 

Had broken her arm once, too. 

His hand wrapped around her arm. He pulled her closer. So close his scent surrounded her. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No. Just me being clumsy again. You might as well get used to it. It happens.” Unfortunately, her eye condition made her misjudge when she was moving sometimes. It also caused dizziness and vertigo. Nikki was used to it—but most of her family made too big of a deal about it. “I’m a real danger to myself and others when I decide to move too quickly.”

His finger brushed against the skin of her inner elbow exposed by the sweater she’d pushed up earlier, just touching her there. Stroking. 

She fought a shiver. Nikki stared up at him. He was a little blurred around the edges in the low light. She’d dimmed the lights after he’d entered, so that she wouldn’t have to come back downstairs—but he was most definitely Hunter Louis Clark, the guy all the tabloids claimed was the contender for the country’s hottest actor of all time. He was running neck and neck with the Davis brothers, last she’d read.

She’d met Slater Davis and his brother Quade during the Rowland Bowles movie project. They were some seriously hot looking men. And…

Slater definitely knew how to kiss a woman, Nikki could say that from personal experience. 

But…Slater Davis wasn’t Hunter. He still had something extra.

Well…pretty was as pretty did. He’d seemed like a nice guy before, but he’d already tried to intimidate her once today. Nikki wasn’t stupid. 

She wasn’t about to let him push her around. She was top dog around here. 

She knew how to handle big strong guys who thought the world revolved around them—she’d become an expert at that by the time she was two. Hunter Louis Clark wasn’t anyone special. No matter what he thought.

She pulled her arm free. “I’ll show you to your apartment. This way.”

***

Hunter followed her up the stairs, eyes trained exactly where they didn’t need to be. Nikki had a fit little body with curves exactly where they were supposed to be. And those jeans…worn in just the right places…cupped her perfectly.

Made a man’s fingers itch to touch. 

Hell, he would love to have the right to touch.

Sheer feminine perfection was just two steps above him. He was such a damned pervert.

She’d kick him to the curb if she knew what he was thinking right now.

Set her brothers on him, too. He thought she had at least two. He’d met so many Tylers before he didn’t remember who was which. 

Except for her oldest brother Gil. He was memorable. That guy was as big as Hunter and strong as a bull. 

Hunter hadn’t missed that before.

Her apartment door was open. Hunter wanted to go in, see what made Nikki tick. All he got was a quick impression of clean minimal lines and bright happy colors. Before she was opening the door directly across the hall. 

She would be twenty feet away from him for four weeks. At least.

He was never going to survive. Someone somewhere up above must truly have it out for Hunter right now.

“Are you ok?” She paused on the step. He almost ran right into her. “You made a weird sound.”

He probably had. Seeing her perfectly curved little rear right there in front of him. He was such an asshole sometimes. Hunter thought quickly. “The knee…not fully healed yet. Sometimes stairs get the best of me. Especially after a long drive.”

“I’m sorry. I remember reading about that accident. How many cars were involved. Your name was mentioned so I followed the story, just to make sure you were ok.”

He nodded. That had been one of the two darkest moments in his life. He had been pinned under his own car—and could hear people crying for help in the cars surrounding him. He hadn’t been able to do a damned thing to help them. Some of them, including children, hadn’t made it long enough for help to get to them.

He’d have traded both his damned legs to have been able to help them. To at least been able to help one of them. Or to get to those kids, somehow.

Hunter would never forget the sounds of their pain.

He had been the first to call 911. He hadn’t been soon enough.

He would never forget feeling that helpless. 

“It’s been slow going. But the leg is almost back to normal. The doctors initially thought it never would be. So I am thankful for that.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re ok. I know Pan was worried.”

“She emailed me at least every other day after it happened. She’s become a good friend.” And Hunter would always value that. He didn’t have many genuine friends he could count on. 

He valued every one that he did—Nikki’s cousin and Rowland Bowles topped his list. Brad, his personal assistant and manager, too. That was it.

“She’s nervous about this entire project. They all are. We Tylers, we’re a little bit on the reclusive side at times. Well, most of us. Fletcher, Davan, Jacan, Kaece and Phoenix and apparently Parker are a bit different—Parker especially loved the attention. They enjoyed the movie filming. Making movies are all he talks about. He has a poster of Rowland in his bedroom. And your sword from the movie. Rowland gave it to him. The idea Rowland might come back with Phoenix sometime thrills him.”

“I’m nervous about the project, too. I have a lot riding on it.”

She just stared at him, as she paused just outside the apartment door. “I think we all do. Here it is. Home sweet home. It’s not much, but it’s clean and dry and I think it’s better than staying at the inn right now. Pan said you’d prefer an apartment over a hotel room.”

“The last time I stayed at the inn I was practically mobbed. The staff was wonderful, but some of the other guests…” He winced, remembering. Someone had let his location leak. “Rowland had to get in a trailer for me after that.”

The inn had been overrun with fans. All looking for him. They had done some significant damages, too. 

“Yeah, I heard about that.” She sent him a mischievous smile that shot straight through him. “My bestie was the clerk at the time. Dusty told me all about the chaos.”

“This…apartment will stay our little secret. I’m here to work. That’s it. Not be the evening’s entertainment.”

He’d just have to remind himself of his goals every time she looked at him with perfect blue eyes and those sweet pink lips curved in a welcoming smile just for him. 

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a wonderful holiday! We stay home on Thanksgiving every year, and do the visiting on Christmas. Thanksgiving is (almost) always really relaxed for us. 

This year was a bit more chaotic—all my fault, too. I had an accident last Friday and put off going to the urgent care until Wednesday. Now, thanks to the holiday weekend in between, and us being in a really rural, really small area,

I won’t get the X-ray results until Monday. But we’re 99% certain I’ve broken a rib or two—and my collarbone. 

I landed on the shoulder that always hurts (the one I’m in long-term physical therapy for), and I just didn’t know I’d hurt it worse than I thought, until it wasn’t getting better.

Whoops. I guess I shouldn’t have tried to “fly” off the porch the way I did… 

(For those that are wondering, I do have low vision, which in my case, impacts my balance and equilibrium. I fall more frequently than most people…It just happens…)

This fall derails my plans a tiny bit. Just a tiny bit…

Because…for the first time in years I’ve been able to get ahead on the schedule! (Thank goodness! I have two more books almost ready to go to the editor, they just need final edits. Which have been delayed because of this).

Now, I’m just waiting for a replacement voice recorder (mine walked away somewhere in my office and I can’t find it anywhere) so that I can dictate instead of type every day. Something I already do (until my recorder walked away, anyway), so I don’t anticipate too many delays for the next 6-12 weeks. 

I’ve also been told by my kid that she’s getting me giant rolls of bubble wrap for Christmas, and is going to “mommify the mummy” (she’s very punny) every time I leave the house. And even when I am in the house, as she doesn’t trust me any longer…

She’s also taken it on herself to tie my shoes…in triple knots…

I am taking it easy this weekend and giving my body a chance to relax and giving my brain a break, too. (Aka, I’m reading! I just can’t get enough of memoirs and autobiographies lately. Especially of highly successful women. I find them fascinating.)

Right now, I’m working my way through Betty White’s books. I’m starting with Here We Go Again (https://books.apple.com/us/book/here-we-go-again/id381480746) , which covers her first five decades in television. It’s awesome! If there is any woman in the world I’d love to sit down and talk with, it would be Betty White.  

I have a final release date for Shelby’s book, as well! 

This book… it turned into something I never intended it, too. I knew that Shelby belonged with Jake and I knew there was a history for Shelby that she had hidden from Allen. The thing is…I didn’t know what her history was. I did know that Shelby struggled to connect with people—I just didn’t know why. I knew it wasn’t because of her speech impediment. It was something more. Something that brought her to W4HAV. 

Shelby’s book took on a life of its own, one that I never imagined. For one thing, Shelby’s story started a full year after the storm! 

For that reason, I am not putting her as part of the Finley Creek: Disaster miniseries, though she is connected to it. 

Shelby won’t be a part of a mini-series. She’s my first stand-alone Finley novel! She’s also the longest book I have written. She just needed more room for her story to be told. 

Jake, too, surprised me. He needed extra space for his story, as well. Jake takes a lot of his identity from the people he works with. His purpose and passion in life. That needed to be shown, as well. And to be honest, Jake’s sidekicks were a lot of fun to write! 

Shelby and Jake’s book, Stand Next to Me, will be available as a preorder, starting on Dec. 16th and will release on Dec. 21st. From Dec. 16 through Dec. 26th, it will be available at $5.99, so grab your copy early. 

I will post links when the preorder goes live!

The ‘tentative’ Shelby cover. It may change. I don’t know yet.

On Dec. 27thStand Next to Me will move to its regular price of $7.49. At 100 pages+ longer than Nikkie Jean, Annie, and Izzie, there is a lot to sink your teeth into! 

There will be at least one more stand-alone coming in the Finley Creek universe that I know of (Layla and Cage, sometime later down the road). The next Finley Creek miniseries will feature Powell Barratt, Haldyn Harris, Madison McAlister, and Charlotte Talley. I am really, really, really looking forward to those books, as all the characters (who appear in Shelby’s book) were so intriguing to write. After their series, it’ll be Layla and Cage, and then…if no one pops up in between…

It’ll be time for the final Beck sister and her friends to get their stories!

For the rest of this month and all of December, I’m finishing up a Masterson title (Nikki) and working on a few new, secret projects I’m not ready to talk about…  I was going to have Nikki off to the editor by 12/4, but thanks to my solo flight off the porch, I’m pushing that back a few weeks. She’ll still release around Valentine’s Day, though!

After that, it’ll be Zoey Daviess’s turn (finally) to be written. I’ve been wanting to do another Small-Town Sheriff book for a long, long time! It’ll be in Zoey’s book that some questions about her mother and birth siblings will finally be answered. And just how there are at least 20 children of Denise Daviess out there will finally be revealed! Zoey will be an epic book, both to read and write.

I don’t know her release date yet, and there may be a few shorter books released between Nikki and Zoey’s books, but on Jan 2, I will finally get to start writing Zoey!

But now…kiddo and her daddy are at Grandma’s house today. I’m going to finish doing some shopping. (After I get the piece of tape out of Freyja’s mouth, anyway, and rescue Freyja’s kitten from the tablecloth that has currently mummified him). The fuzzballs are getting a bit riled up, apparently…

But for me…it’s shopping time! It is Black Friday after all!

Which brings me to one final thing: 

Amazon. Those crazy people have discounted Buried Secrets’ paperback version to $6.16. (I am not sure how this came about). It is regularly $14.99…the ebook version is $4.99! So, if you do paperbacks and haven’t read Buried Secrets, grab a copy today before it goes up again!

Buried Secrets is the cross-over mystery/procedural that combines Finley Creek, PAVAD, and Masterson County series! It is also the prequel for later books to come in a brand new series, hopefully to launch in 2023. 

And…because it’s leading into Christmas my favorite Christmas romantic suspense that I’ve written, is free until January. If you’ve not read Falling yet, grab a copy. 

Falling is a girl-next-door, friends-to-lovers Christmas romantic suspense featuring assistant medical examiner Mia Ripley and Evan Stephenson—the son of the man who nearly killed Mia in Watching. Things got a bit…complicated…when Evan moved right into the condo next door!

Now Evan has to protect her from men who want to kill her…but he’s not the only one out there who is watching over Mia now!

(Stalking, a PAVAD novella, is also a “Christmas” time romantic suspense, though the holiday doesn’t feature as much as it does in Falling). 

Current Calle freebies include: Beginning, Waiting, Watching, Second Chances, Stalking, and Falling (in the PAVAD series), Seeking the Sheriff (Masterson series), Her Best Friend’s Keeper and Lost in the Wind, as well as novellas Hope for Finley Creek and Before the Rain Breaks (Finley Creek series). (These can be found at ALL the major ebook retailers, not just Amazon!)

Plus, the first three stories in the paranormal relaunch series (Fated to her Vampire, Taken by the King, Stolen by the Warrior by C.J. Brookes). 

Current sale titles at $0.99 for a limited time: Wanting (PAVAD), Discovering the Doctor (Masterson), and If the Dark Wins (Finley). 

And, of course, that paperback Buried Secrets that’s sitting there at Amazon for $6.16 for now. 

****These offers can (and will) change at any time, so if you still need to grab a copy of one of these titles do it quick! Several will be returning to full price very, very soon!***

I’ve been working away on the next books, and starting those that come after. NANO (writing 50,000 words in a month) has gone well. I’ve already ordered my winner’s t-shirt. Kiddo’s volleyball has ended (thank goodness, I was getting exhausted!) and she’d taking a break before we sign up for a winter rec basketball league. She’s never played basketball, so…I’m looking forward to the adventure. O.o

I still don’t know the actual release date for Shelby yet. I’m thinking it’s going to be the week before Christmas. Nikki and Hunter’s book will probably be the week before Valentine’s Day, but I’m not 100% certain. I also hope to have another novelette available for sale on my website, featuring Shelby’s bestie Daryn and that adorable TSP cop Mike Evers who was first introduced in Gabby’s book so long ago.

I did find one more deleted scene from Shelby that was a lot of fun to write!

Friends…

The evening was better than the afternoon. She got the information she needed from her private investigator, then let her friends convince her that a trip to Mamaw’s Place followed by drooling over Hunter Louis Clark for two hours would be totally worth it. And it was. The actor was absolutely gorgeous. 

And looked nothing like the bane of her existence except for the rich black hair.

Shelby tried not to think about Jake.

He’d wanted something. She was sure of it.

“You know, this place is awesome. I’d hate to see it go out of business if it doesn’t sell,” Charlotte said, quietly, while they were eating dinner—once again at the diner, since it was near the theater. “It reminds me of home.”

There was a sadness in her eyes. Shelby leaned closer. “You ok?”

“Yeah. Just…I was in that movie with Hunter Louis Clark that he filmed in Masterson. I played a fairy. I almost died epically in one of the final scenes. One of my best acting moments, I might add. Seeing him made me miss home, where my cousins are. This place…my grandmother runs a diner up there. Well, she did. Now she mostly just meddles in everyone else’s business while flirting around with a man ten years her junior. He’s seventy-three. I grew up waiting tables there. My cousins manage it now. I would be working a few nights a week there and at the inn—we own that, too—if I was home. I have seven cousins. We all grew up together, living at the inn, one big mess of Talley girls. I miss it so much sometimes. Down here…I have family here, but we definitely aren’t close. I don’t think we ever will be. But…there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity to do my job up there. And I love what I do, too. I’d have to live clear across the state from my family to work forensics up there, probably. Or give up forensics all together. I don’t want to do that.”

Powell leaned forward. “My brother has a thing for one of those cousins of hers, too. Brandt. She’s all he talks about. He’s buying property up there to be close to her.”

Charlotte perked up, green eyes widening. “Seriously? Which one? Marin? I can so see that. She’d be the type to captivate a beautiful Barratt man. She captivates every guy she meets. She works hard at it.”

“Nope. The youngest one that starts with an ‘M’.”

Meyra? No way. No way. That’s awesome.” Charlotte’s pleasure faded right before their eyes.  “But…she’s never leaving Masterson County, Powell. She never has. I’m not sure she ever could. I mean never. Masterson County—and the diner—is her home. She’s found where she belongs.”

There was a look in the other woman’s eyes that said Charlotte hadn’t yet. Well, Shelby understood that. She hadn’t even left her shell enough to begin the journey. Let alone find the finish line. 

To know where she belonged.

She looked around the diner. Then at her attorney. Who was also a property attorney and realtor and knew just about everything house and building related possible. “Well, h-h-how much would it cost to buy a place like this?”

Powell’s brow arched. She had a hefty portfolio of her own that she managed. Powell helped Shelby with her own. Shelby suspected it would continue to grow over her lifetime. “Let me think…” 

If Shelby went by Jake’s standards, the five of them shouldn’t have become friends at all. Powell and Shelby were of the wealthiest one percent. To some people that would seriously matter. 

To some horribly judgmental people, anyway.

To her, it didn’t. These people were her friends because they understood her. Cared about and accepted her just as she was. That was priceless. 

If all they ever did together was come to this little diner and spend a few hours talking, it was worth it to her. 

They were the first friends she’d had since that horrible night five years ago. Zoey and Daryn had been before—Charlotte and Madison and Powell were the first after. 

They were the first risk she had taken since a woman she’d thought was her friend years ago had led her into what had amounted to a trap, just because she was jealous of something Shelby had said or done years ago. 

Something Shelby still had no idea of. And never would. She hadn’t spoken to that woman since that night.

She trusted these women. And that mattered. “Let’s do it. I think we should. We can hire someone to run it. Keep the original staff, even, if they want. Why not? I have the money. It’s just sitting there, molding. Logan told me in his will to use it to have some actual fun. I want a diner of my own. Where I can spend time with my friends, the people who matter to me.”

Powell just blinked her blue eyes. Nothing ruffled Powell Barratt. “While I’m not sure random whim purchases were what he had in mind, at least a diner is better than a yacht or a racehorse or something. Ok, we can work out the details this week. I own a restaurant; I’ll get you a copy of my profit and loss and we can discuss it. See if it’s what you really want to do.”

“I’m going to do this.” Resolve filled her. Yes. She was going to do this.

This was the first impulsive thing she’d done with Logan’s money. Something just for her. No charity funds created, no paying people’s medical bills because they couldn’t come up with the money. No donating to various causes suggested by Mel. 

She did all of that, and would probably do that forever. But something special just for herself? She hadn’t done that yet at all.

No. Now she was going to buy something for her.

Even if she didn’t do anything more than step inside occasionally and pretend to just be a regular person again, it would be hers.

She rather did miss doing that.

Being normal.

She hadn’t felt normal in five years, after all…

I’m still working away like crazy, around kid’s homeschool, taekwondo, and volleyball schedule. Plus a few medical appointments of my own. It’s amazing how drive time to appointments can suck up writing time! I’m also trying to work in time to do some Christmas shopping and kiddo b-day shopping. Talk about chaos.

This month is Nano (for those who aren’t familiar, it’s an event where writers from all over the place try to get a book or 50,000 words written in one month. (I actually average around 80-100,000 a month on good months). I’m using Nano as a way to finish a few half-finished projects. And start a few new things.

So November is just a month of WORDS.

The editor has Shelby now. When she is finished with that, she’ll be getting the next Masterson–Nikki and Hunter. Their book is almost finished. I just need another week or two and it’s on its way.

I’ll know actual release dates and preorder dates later this month. I won’t be doing as long a preorder as I did on Jude and Michael or Maggie and Clint. And I will be offering Shelby at a discounted preorder price of $5.99. After one week, she’ll be raising in price, so watch the blog and Facebook for updates.

In the meantime, here’s probably my favorite scene I had to cut from Shelby…

CAVEMEN…THEY ARE EVERYWHERE

(AT SHELBY’S…)

“That blonde behemoth has a brain the size of a walnut,” Powell said, as she looked at Shelby.

“His name is Gunnar Erickson. He’s part of Major Crimes. I’ve only spoken to him once or twice. What did he say?” Shelby asked.

“He said that he was going to take a page out of Houghton’s book and just carry me away. I could totally kick my cousin’s ass for that.”

Houghton had scooped Mel up and carried her away. Now every Barratt in the state teased about doing the same. 

Except for Powell.

Zoey snickered, grabbing soda out of Shelby’s refrigerator. “Did he mean it, though? He’s not bad looking, after all. He’s actually a nice guy I’ve worked with before. Of all the guys in Major Crimes, he’s probably the least irritating. Even if he does talk a lot.”

“That’s beside the point.”

Gunnar Erickson was a gorgeous man. Nothing bad looking about him. He was as gorgeous as Daniel or Jake, he was just blonde and blue-eyed instead.

“He reminds me of Thor or a Viking,” Shelby said. “All hard muscles and perfectly chiseled. Yum, yum.”

Powell’s cheeks just got even darker. Her blue eyes almost glowed from emotion. Irritation. “He was just trying to distract me from whatever was going on with you and Detective MacNamara. I knew what he was up to. And I’m not going to fall for it. He has to be a total playboy, the way he looks and talks. And flirts. And that’s the last thing I’m interested in.”

“Not really,” Charlotte said, coming into the kitchen with Madison in time to hear her words. “They’re gone, by the way. And Gunnar? He’s not a playboy, he just flirts.  Part of his defenses. He’s really good at flirting, but everybody knows the truth.”

“It’s really sad, actually.” Madison said. “Poor man. I can’t imagine it.”

“What?” Powell asked. Shelby handed her a soda. She would make a list. Her friends liked junk food. They said they rarely indulged. Well, they could indulge in her place. She’d keep it stocked.

“Gunnar is all alone, Powell,” Charlotte said, grabbing the lone orange can. “His wife was killed five years ago. Drunk driver out on drug charges. She was seven months pregnant; he lost them both. Rumor has it he hasn’t dated anyone seriously since. He doesn’t have much family either. He’s good friends with the chief. It’s why he moved to Finley Creek to begin with. They were really close; they said he was there with them at the funerals of the chief’s family when they were killed.”

Shelby winced. The guy had always seemed like a big jokester to her. “That’s so…so…so sad.”

It deflated Powell’s anger. “Still, it was obvious the man wasn’t serious. And that’s horrible, what happened to his wife. I can’t imagine losing the one I loved like that.”

Charlotte nodded. “You should be aware, Powell. Rumor also had it that Gunnar lit into the attorney who had gotten the man out on drug charges after. Some say he still blames her, and all attorneys, for his wife’s death. The driver was a lawyer, too.”

“Well, he knows what I am. Another reason why I know he wasn’t serious. Let’s talk about anything other than the men who were hanging around Shelby’s driveway.”

“Do we have to?” Charlotte asked. She sent a wicked look at Shelby. “I want to know if Jake has kissed Shelby yet—other than when he was devouring her in the foyer when I walked in. It was like he was gobbling her right up. And melting the tile floor.”

“Charlotte, be good. Shelby probably has a no-kiss-and-tell policy, unlike someone else I know. Someone who has kissed half of Major Crimes now. Or is it all of them? No?” Madison thumped Charlotte on the back of the head.

“I have not kissed Sean or Gunnar, and of course I have not kissed Detective Charlie Fields. That will never happen; even a peck on the cheek for him, that old poophead father of mine. But all the others, yes. I have kissed them. Well, except for Daniel McKellen. Also something that will never happen, I might add. Ick. Even the thought makes me want to drink an entire bottle of mouthwash. Drink it—not rinse. Anyone kissing Daniel McKellen has to have cooties by now. I need to ask Haldyn if she’s been tested for cooties lately.”

Charlotte sneered.  It surprised Shelby. The man in question was very nice—and very attractive. “Y-y-you don’t like Daniel?”

Charlotte shook her head. “Not for a minute. I don’t trust him at all. He’s too smooth. Polished and practiced. Something about him raises the hair on the back of my neck.”

Madison snickered. “The problem with Daniel is that Daniel doesn’t get all stupid when Charlotte smiles at him, like the rest of the goon squad does. And never has. He seems to be totally immune to her. Daniel doesn’t follow her prescribed script. He does seem to have a thing for Haldyn. Maybe. She’s never fully said. For a while there, I was afraid Char would get all of Major Crimes all riled up and there’d be fist fights over her.”

“They can be rather primitive. That doesn’t mean it’s my doing…” Charlotte shrugged, then gave a wicked grin. “But it’s fun to watch. And…dating the guys in Major Crimes really yanks Pops’s chain, so why wouldn’t I?”

From what Shelby could tell, Charlotte really enjoyed tormenting her biological father—who worked with Jake in Major Crimes—whenever she could.

Madison turned to Charlotte. “You kissed Dom? When?”

“I didn’t kissed Dom—he kissed me. There was a mistletoe involved.”

“Really? Imagine that. The man is such a dog.”

Shelby wasn’t going to touch that with a 10-foot pole. Madison had a lot to say about the son of the man her mother had married. 

And most of it wasn’t good.

“D-d-does anyone fully get along with the men in Major Crimes?” she asked. 

Charlotte and Madison looked at each other. 

“No,” Madison said, shaking her head. “Someone is always arguing with somebody else.” 

“It’s because the men in Major Crimes are so primitive. They are walking cavemen, you know. I really want to study their DNA. See what percentage is total Neanderthal. Can you imagine comparing their DNA to the DNA of the sophisticated, sexy, intelligent, civilized Barratts of Barrett County?” Charlotte covered her heart with her hands and made a thump-thump motion, grinning wickedly at Powell. “It would be an interesting case study. Can you help us out? All we need are a few samples. But we have to get them by kissing. No boring swabs allowed.”

Powell shook her head. “Ick, Char. Oh, my brothers and cousins are cavemen, too. They just dress in slightly better furs and ride bigger mammoths than your pals at the TSP. Have Bailey grab you a sample from Clay. You’ll see. Just as caveman as the rest of them.”

Shelby laughed as her friends kept talking about Jake’s team. Not all of it was good. They hadn’t been friends before. Not until Shelby had gotten Powell involved in turning the children’s choir into a nonprofit. 

She looked around, the only ones missing today were Daryn and Haldyn, who were working. Daryn was covering shifts for her sister-in-law A.J. after the birth of her baby. 

Zoey, Madison, Charlotte, Powell, Haldyn and Daryn—she had friends. Real friends, that she thought she could depend on, and trust now…she would never forget that…

I’m hard at work on Nikki and Hunter (in between letting crazy border collies out to potty!). I do think it’s going to be called “Meaning in Masterson” as that fits the storyline really well. I’m past the half-way mark now. I still don’t know the release date on it. Or Shelby.

My editor has Shelby’s book but Shelby’s book ended up being considerably longer than anticipated (it happens that way sometimes!), so that changes the schedule a bit. I’ll post the preorder date (it’ll have a very short preorder!) and the preorder price.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween for those who do the trick-or-treat thing. (Kiddo has chosen to go as a fox and thinks she’s taking the kitten as a pet lion… Now, since our town does it on Saturday night and we are picking him up from getting neutered Saturday morning, I’m pretty certain the kitten isn’t going to go trick-or-treating, lol.).

I did have to trim some scenes from Shelby’s book. They are great scenes, some of my favorite ones actually, but because of the word length of the book, I had to cut them. Watch for them over the next couple weeks.

Here’s the first! (Because it’s unedited, you might find an error or two!).

MEANWHILE…AT THE BALL…

(The book opens with Jake and Shelby going with Allen and Izzie to one of Mel’s charity benefits!)

Jake watched her. He couldn’t help himself. Some Barratt or another was constantly grabbing her, dragging her out to dance. Then the guy would go back to the table, and grab one of the other women. Including Daniel’s date. Daniel didn’t seem to mind that much.

Even Mike’s wife took a turn around the dance floor with a Barratt or two.

Mike just shrugged, after he joined Jake and Dom and Daniel. “She’s mine. And she knows it. Isn’t she gorgeous?”

She looked at Mike once and held out a beckoning hand. Like a siren luring the man to his doom.

Mike trotted over to her immediately, a slobbery look on his face. Just like that, they lost Mike Evers to the dark side forever. Pitiful.

“So who are they?” His teammate Dominic Acardi asked, after one pulled Madison to the dance floor. Again. “I didn’t even know Madison would be here.”

“Those are all Barratt cousins or second cousins, I think,” Izzie said, smirking at Jake and his friends. “They are all very nice men, too. I’ve danced with just about all of them at one time or another, and dated two of them. I didn’t realize Shelby and Zoey were friends with Madison, Haldyn, and Charlotte, though. They look like they are having a great time.”

Allen had his hand on her shoulder, rubbing lightly. Jake wanted to smack him. Maybe the two were married, but he didn’t like some guy pawing at his niece like that. Allen had his hands on her all the time. No wonder Izzie was pregnant. The guy was a real dog. “She and Zoey have been friends for years. And I believe the others are from the children’s choir.”

Allen nodded. He looked for his sister. Jake resisted following his gaze. “She’s a very talented pianist. She considered going pro when she was in her late teens, early twenties.” A look of pain went through the man’s gray eyes. “She certainly could have. But she didn’t. She used to compose as well. I don’t believe she does any longer.”

Jake sensed another story there, too. He wanted to know all the woman’s secrets.

He watched Shelby for a while longer. She was laughing. Another man, this one a good two or three inches taller than Jake, convinced her to dance with him again.

They looked beautiful together. Perfect.

This was Shelby’s world. Glitz and glamour and wealthy men fawning all over her. Wanting to hold her, touch her, make her smile.

Shelby’s world. Not his. Jake would never forget that.

None of the other women held a candle to her. Intriguing, maddening, and gorgeous as they were. 

None were Shelby.

She was happy now. Relaxed. Her choice of friends was surprising. He would have thought she had nothing in common with women like Chuckie and Madison and Zoey Daviess.

The woman was a bundle of contradictions. 

Dom grunted something. 

He was beyond pissed, apparently. 

No wonder. Everyone knew he had it bad for Madison. He just hadn’t been brave enough to tell her that. The two of them squabbled constantly. To hide the attraction?

Maybe.

Hell, Jake could understand that.

He was living it, after all…

I’ve finally finished the story that I started years ago. Thank you for being so patient as I healed from the nasty falls that caused me to get delayed on everything. I’m finally back on a decent schedule again with the writing!

I am going to do a final read through of Shelby’s book. I’m sending it to the editor Monday. I’ll know an actual release date next week. I’m also at the mid-point of Hunter and Nikki, from the Masterson series. I’m looking forward to 2022 and what I can get accomplished.

Now, no more wasting time…

Here is the final chapter of Jude & that Barratt Man!

★ SHE’S NEVER HAD A FAMILY OF HER OWN. ★

After a disastrous marriage to an abusive man, social worker Jude Hopewell wants nothing more than to build herself a new life in the little town she’s claimed as her own.

Jude feels safe in Masterson, like she never has anywhere before. Until one night when her car breaks down in the worst part of town. And one of those wild Tyler boys comes to her rescue.

 TYLERS—MEN SMART WOMEN KNOW TO AVOID

Tylers have reputations as hell-raisers, troublemakers, and men who like violence just a little too much. Jude has been down that road once. She’s learned her lesson well. It’s best to just stay away.

Then Jude’s past resurfaces—and that one night with Michael is forgotten.

All she wants now is to feel safe again.

★ SHE’S NOT HIS KIND OF WOMAN AT ALL. 

Rancher Michael Tyler had a few nasty encounters with a social worker before. A woman who made her living screwing with other people’s lives has no place in his. Except… he just can’t forget Jude. Can’t forget the way it felt right when he’d held her in his arms that one night.

Then the sheriff asks Michael and his brothers for a favor.

A favor that changes everything between them.

Now, to get to Jude, the madman will have to go through Michael—and his four brothers—first.

Michael makes her a vow. He’ll always keep her safe.

No one will ever hurt her again… 

★ BUT IS THIS A PROMISE HE CAN KEEP? 

This blog is a bit longer than usual. It has several links, too. I put up a new chapter in Jude and Hughes and put up a novelette for sale in the Finley Creek universe. (I’m working on the second novelette next week!)

Well, so I’ve been busy. Back in physical therapy and juggling kid’s schedule between tae kwon do and volleyball and homeschool co-op. Seems like we’re going places more than we stay home. I warned her that as she got older, if she wanted to do “stuff” it was going to be more work. She seems up to the challenge! She’s in tae kwon do now, working hard toward that purple belt. She’s not afraid to work hard when she wants something… (Now if I could just get her to work that hard on her homeschool…)

I just posted chapter 25 of Jude and Hughes. I think there is going to be one more chapter before it’s finished. Maybe, there may be one plus an epilogue. I’ll probably leave Jude and Hughes up until after Christmas. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it yet, though I do plan to put it into a downloaded ebook format soon.

Anyway, I have another day or two of polishing on Shelby’s book to go, then Monday, it’ll be headed to the editor! I was a bit conflicted about Shelby’s book and where it would fit into the series. It is a part of the Disaster series, but it really serves almost as a complete stand-alone. And it is a lead-in to the next Small-Town Sheriff book (Zoey Daviess and Murdoch Lake), and a lead up to the next Finley Creek series.

That one features four men from the TSP, are all enemies-to-lovers stories, and are going to be a little more on the action/adventure romance side, I think.

Shelby and Jake’s book is the longest book I have ever written, coming in around 10-20 pages longer than Bailey and Clay’s Holding the Truth. It was a really fun book to write, as Shelby’s personality was a complete mystery to me until I started writing.

Once I get her cover done and get her sent to the editor and we agree on a date to get it back to me, I’ll be putting Shelby/Jake up as a preorder.

And don’t forget, Monday is Jude and Michael’s release date for the Masterson series! I really enjoyed writing Michael’s character. I’m already working on the next Masterson as well. They are fun to write–they are a little different than the Finleys and the PAVADS. Finleys especially require more research so they can be a bit draining. Mastersons are great to write in between. If you haven’t preordered, you can do so by scrolling to the bottom of the link: https://www.callejbrookes.com/masterson-county-series

I’ve also put up a short story on Payhip (and Smashwords, though Payhip is 20c cheaper!). It takes place during the tornado that destroyed part of Finley Creek. It’s called Storm Warning, and features Detective Sean Callum from the TSP. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is the story of Sean and the woman he has loved for years–his partner Mike Evers’s younger sister Autumn! (Payhip link) (Smashwords Link)

Delivered by Bookfunnel, in a variety of formats, including a web browser option.
Smashwords link with a variety of formats.

I’m in the finishing days on Shelby and Jake, so today’s blog is going to be super short so I don’t lose momentum. 😀 I am also halfway through another Masterson (Nikki and Hunter). I “hope” to have at least one of the books out by Christmas. It just depends on my actual finish dates and when the editor can schedule them in. (I don’t book in advance since I never know my actual finish dates.) I am revising Shelby’s cover–same model, different pose–but don’t have it finished yet. I have Nikki’s cover done–but her title is still undecided.

I posted another of the final chapters of Jude and Hughes. It’s one of my favorites, as she is taking control! I do think another week or two and it will be finished.

My plans for Jude is to leave her up on the blog for a while, then pull her down, revise her a bit, and send her off to my wonderful editor. After that, I will be creating her in ebook format. I will be offering her through direct sale here on the website. Something I’m really excited to be doing.

Jude cover
Jude wouldn’t let that Barratt man get the best of her!

In fact, I have a few things that I will be starting to over direct probably sometime this month or next month! But more to come on that later!

Just posted one of the final chapters for Jude & Hughes!

I’m hard at work on the next Finley Creek. I don’t have a release date yet, nor is it up for preorder yet, but the book will certainly be finished this month, then off to the editor!

I’ll post when I put it up for preorder. I am also changing the cover a bit. I don’t know how yet, but the current cover just didn’t “fit”.

I’ve included a sneak peek.

I’m taking tomorrow off–kiddo has her first volleyball game tomorrow evening, and it’s a bit of drive from here. The two of us are checking into a hotel and making a mom/daughter day of it. She’s growing up too fast for me–she’s playing on junior varsity teams in sports, she’s in the seventh grade (a few years early), just earned her green belt in tae kwon do and has a “real” boyfriend at tae kwon do (They get to walk out together and cross the street together–it’s “real” love, as only 10 and 12 year olds can do). I’m not sure how this happened… But I’m enjoying every minute with her, and am very proud of the person she’s becoming. (Even if she is a weeeee bit snarky!)

Anyway…

Here’s a short look at Shelby & Jake!