Monday, May 23, 2022
Friday, May 20, 2022
THE PROMISE THAT KATY DID, by Annette Lyon: After the death of Sue Ellen, the closest thing she has to family, Katy knows it’s time to leave the house she’s lived in as a guest and start over in the city. She quickly secures a job, but before leaving, she must honor the unusual promise she made to Sue Ellen on her deathbed: meet with Mr. Balmer. The elderly gentleman arranges for his grandson Barrett to escort her to a town dance. That evening, shy Katy quickly feels at ease with her partner. If her new position weren’t taking her from town, perhaps something could develop between them. But Barrett may not feel the same about her, and besides, they don't have enough time to find out.
A LADY OF SENSE, by Sarah M. Eden: Eleanor Sherwood has lived her entire life under her parents’ thumb with little hope of escape. When they choose the unbearable Mr. Broadstead to be her future husband, she begs her father for another option. He arranges for her to meet Peter Havensham, who quickly proves himself a good and kindhearted gentleman, completely different from Mr. Broadstead, and utterly undeserving of a forced engagement. Eleanor cannot bring herself to prey upon Peter’s honor, but neither can she imagine a life with Mr. Broadstead. What is a lady to do when faced with such an impossible choice?
A SECOND CHANCE, by Heather B. Moore: Virginia needs a new start in order to recover from her broken marriage, so when her best friend Millie invites Virginia to Chicago, she goes to live with her friend’s family. But when Millie asked Virginia to participate in a double-date, Virginia knows she’s not ready to start dating again. Reluctantly she agrees, only to find out that Max might just be the man who can repair the cracks in her heart.
Three Contemporary Romance Novellas
BRAELYNN’S BLIND DATE, by Victorine E. Lieske. When Braelynn agrees to go on a blind date, she thinks she’s hit the jackpot. Tyler is gorgeous and the perfect gentleman. Of course she should have known it was too good to be true. It turns out that Tyler really wasn’t Tyler, but a random stranger who went along with Braelynn’s mistaken assumption. So, she chalks it up to a dumb mistake until she gets to work Monday morning and discovers that her gorgeous blind date is now her new boss.
BIANCA’S HOPE, by Rachel Branton: A blind-date-gone-wrong is not the way Bianca would have chosen to celebrate the news that she might be losing her business, but saying no to the sister who took care of her after their mother’s death proves impossible. So for one date, one torturous evening, she’ll endure the company of an infuriating, heartless man she has no intention of ever seeing again. She doesn’t expect her heart to have other plans. Bianca soon learns that sometimes the unexpected is not only what you need, it’s exactly what you’ve been waiting for all along.
BLIND SPOT, by Sariah Wilson: Ria has prepared most of her life to meet her prince, trouble is, her mother keeps yanking her back to reality. So when Ria reads about a country teeming with princes, she drops everything and applies to grad school. But every blind date goes wrong, and while Ria commiserates with her roommate Tessa and Tessa’s totally un-prince-like brother Paolo, Ria discovers that all the things she thought she wanted in a man are far from what she really needs.
Thursday, May 19, 2022
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Ever since his career-ending injury, Pat has bounced from job to job, idea to idea, short-lived relationship to short-lived relationship. But when his father purchases the town of Sheet Cake, Pat suddenly sees his life with clear purpose: get his brothers on board with his dad's wild idea and win back the one woman who got away.
Lindy was supposed to be traveling the world, not stuck in a small town, caring for her niece. But she would do anything to keep custody of Jo--even if that looks like a marriage of convenience with the man who already broke her heart once.
Now if she can only keep herself from falling back in love with her husband...
Monday, May 16, 2022
Friday, May 13, 2022
Daniel Crawford isn’t sure what to do with his grandfather’s Indiana estate and is tired of high-pressure tactics from potential buyers. When he discovers a woman scaling the fence camera in hand, he determines to keep her off his land. He is surprised to discover his trespasser is the little girl who climbed the fence two decades ago to become his friend.
Struggling to find common ground, neither one can deny growing attraction. But with the paparazzi following every move and bloggers anxiously spreading rumors, can Daniel and Mandy mend the fences that have come between them?
Monday, May 2, 2022
Friday, April 29, 2022
If you need a romance with lots of emotion and heart, Worth the Risk, is free today!
Get your free copy here
Here's the back copy:
When Alicia's former crush Jeff comes into work, he's never looked better. But he already broke her heart once . . .
When Alicia moves back to Pine Valley to help her mom through a serious addiction, the last person she wants to see is her teenage crush, Jeff Finch, who destroyed their friendship in one single disastrous night. Alicia is determined to not let anything about Jeff affect her, especially since she hasn’t seen him in ten years. All she knows is that he’s living a successful and charmed life, and she is more than happy to keep anything between them in the past. But when he shows up with a date at the restaurant where she works, Alicia realizes she’s still not over her feelings, and Jeff is definitely looking at her in a way he never has before.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
I'm so excited to be welcoming Heather B. Moore to Book Chat Book Club in May! She is an amazing author, writes in multi-genres, and weaves stories that I can't put down until I turned the last page. We'll be discussing her new romance, Just Add Romance, and asking her all about her secret to success. I hope you'll save the date and join me!
You can join the Book Chat Book Club on Facebook HERE
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
If you've been waiting to introduce a friend to my books or are missing a paperback from your collection, now you can get them for a steal! There are just so many good deals, I had to pass them along.
Monday, April 25, 2022
Friday, April 15, 2022
Get your free copy HERE
A cryptic phone call overheard by a pregnant woman makes her the next target for murder. Can Aubree protect herself, her unborn child, and her heart?
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
If you have a moment, could you vote today?
In order to vote, you can click HERE to log in or create an account. (It's free) They want to make sure everything is fair. If you are creating a new account they will send you an email to verify that you are really you. You must click that in order to vote.
Then once you are logged in, you can click HERE to vote.
Thank you SO much!
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
To tell you the truth, though, it's a little scary for me to not have oxygen in my house anymore. When I mentioned that fear to the pulmonologist, he said that feeling is normal when your lungs have felt oxygen hunger. It's something like PTSD in the way that your body doesn't forget what being starved for oxygen felt like. So, being worried about not having oxygen readily available after what I've been through is normal. Which is reassuring, in a way. It's funny, when I first got the oxygen concentrator to help me breathe, it was so loud and sounded a bit like Darth Vader in my room. I didn't know how I'd ever sleep through the noise. But after seven months, that sound has become so comforting to me, and it will be so strange not to have it anymore. But I just need to remind myself that I'm strong enough to breathe without it. I can do this.
Saturday, April 2, 2022
There is a flash sale going on right now for Paige Edwards' romantic suspense, Danger on the Loch. I haven't read this one, but the back copy makes it sound good!
Get your copy for $1.99 HERE
Here's the back copy:Raised by a cold and distant mother, photographer Paisley Clark has spent her life daydreaming about the father she doesn’t remember. Paisley’s dream turns to reality when a DNA test brings her in contact with the mysterious man. With her financial situation a disaster and her childhood friend James Pressley-Coombes working across the pond in Scotland, Paisley is emboldened to accept her father’s invitation to visit him.
She arrives in the Highlands only to discover that she isn’t Paisley Clark at all but a titled lady, the daughter of a Scottish duke. Despite the warm welcome and the comfort of James’s presence, dangerous undercurrents surround Castle Rannoch, her father’s estate. Overwhelmed, Paisley takes refuge in her camera and James’s steady presence to provide a sense of normalcy in her rags-to-riches transformation. But her once-easy relationship with James is changing, deepening beyond friendship in a surprising twist of events. Before they have time to examine their feelings, Paisley inadvertently captures a shocking image in one of her photographs—a picture worth killing for.
Friday, April 1, 2022
Thursday, March 31, 2022
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Last week, I was asked to play a musical number in church and my immediate reaction was to say no, I'm sorry, I can't do that anymore. But I didn't. I thought about it. I looked at the music. It wasn't hard. Maybe I could do it, I told myself. I practiced it on my own and felt pretty good about it, so I went to the first rehearsal.
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Monday, March 28, 2022
With Hebrew, humor, and reassurance, author Tamara Uzelac Hall injects a much-needed dose of reality into women’s interpretation of this section of scripture with this truth: all of us are virtuous. This book teaches how to embrace the unique and impactful role you already play and will help you discover a truth that will change the way you view your life: no matter your progress on the path, thou art already a virtuous woman!
Friday, March 25, 2022
Sarah is looking forward to the company retreat, namely because she’ll finally meet Clint—the man she’s been Instant Messaging for a few months. As a single mom, Sarah gets out . . . well, never. So adding vacation days onto the retreat so she can spend time with Clint is daring, yet exciting. She just hopes that the suave on-line Clint will live up to the man she hopes to share her heart with.
CHASING TESS by Annette Lyon
Tess had been patiently waiting through three years of law school for James to pop the question. The night has finally arrived—at his graduation party. But his big announcement turns out to be completely unexpected . . . and devastating. Tess flees the party, promising herself she’ll never let herself waste time on James again. But as she makes a desperate cross-country drive, James makes his own plans on how to win her back.
DANCING AT THE FLEA MARKET by Heather Justesen
Mara, fresh out of the cold North Dakota tundra, spends her spring break in Texas with close friend, Anna. When the two women run into Carter, an impatient man with a painful past, it takes hearing Mara’s stunning voice at the local Karaoke club to thaw his heart. But as Mara gets to know Carter, she has to decide if the distance between their lives and homes is worth trying to bridge.
THE BEST LAID PLANS by Sarah M. Eden
Madison gives up a vacation to Cancún with her office friends to return home and babysit her mother, who is in another sketchy relationship. The only problem with returning home is running into Derek, her ex-boyfriend who she decided to break up with before he could break up with her—Madison believes in always being one step ahead. When Derek teams up with Madison to investigate whether her mother is dating the right guy, Madison has a hard time ignoring what her heart is telling her about giving Derek another chance.
PICTURE PERFECT by Heather B. Moore
Gemma has never done anything out of the ordinary, until her boyfriend Randy starts to ignore her. But even cutting and dyeing her hair doesn’t get his attention. She decides to join her old high school friends for spring vacation, only to be faced with Drew, her best friend who suddenly seems interested in her as more than a friend. Gemma must determine if her heart is on the rebound or if it’s finally met its true match.
THE SCIENCE OF SENTIMENT by Aubrey Mace
Rosie will do anything to forget Kevin, his completely perfect kisses, and the fact that he dumped her. When she arrives at her grandfather’s mountain cabin for a spring getaway, she discovers her worst nightmare—Kevin has been invited to stay the weekend too. Since there is only room for one in such a small space, Rosie is determined to kick Kevin out. But Kevin has other plans . . . which might include a reminder of why he’s the perfect kisser.
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Last week, I was asked to play a musical number in church and my immediate reaction was to say no, I'm sorry, I can't do that anymore. But I didn't. I thought about it. I looked at the music. It wasn't hard. Maybe I could do it, I told myself. I practiced it on my own and felt pretty good about it, so I went to the first rehearsal.
Monday, March 21, 2022
Olivia Dalton has a reputation in the DA's office---tough, thorough, and fierce when she's closing a case. Those skills are essential in the courtroom, but not in the relationship department---until Mick Donovan crosses her path. Everyone thinks he's a player, but when an unexpected situation arises, she glimpses an honorable man instead. Olivia is drawn to him, but he pushes her away, unable to shake the past that still haunts him.
Mick Donovan learned at a young age never to let anyone close because those you love never stay. Keeping people at arms-length has never been hard for him---until he meets Olivia Dalton. Mick is caught up in a case she's prosecuting, and he can't deny his attraction to her, but when she uncovers the past he's kept carefully hidden, he's sure she'll turn away. Yet, even with all his secrets in the open, Olivia reaches out. Can he let his guard down long enough to let her in and take a chance on love?
Friday, March 18, 2022
In one horrible night, Clare is forced to give up her life as a kitchen maid to become the princess’s decoy. Thrust into a dangerous new world of royals and deadly politics, she must learn how to be the princess’s perfect double to ensure her betrothal to an enemy prince. Desperate to survive, Clare throws herself into self-defense training, taught by her distractingly attractive bodyguard, Bennick. The spark between them is undeniable, though a relationship is forbidden. When a ruthless assassin begins stalking her, it becomes frighteningly clear that some will stop at nothing to end the tenuous peace—and Clare’s life.
Across the northern mountains, Prince Grayson is his father’s ultimate weapon. His name inspires fear in all who hear it, but no one knows his heavily guarded secret. He carries out every brutal order only because his father holds power over the one person he cares about. Grayson’s silent obedience is tested, however, when his father reveals plans to exploit the marriage alliance between two of their greatest enemies. If Grayson submits, the blood of thousands will spill. If he resists, the girl who means everything to him will die.
The fate of Eyrinthia hangs in the balance. Some want peace. Some want war. All will be thrown into chaos.
Thursday, March 17, 2022
I hope you are wearing green today and don't get pinched! The leprechaun was too sneaky at our house, so we didn't catch him, but he did leave behind some chocolate gold coins. Such a nice leprechaun!
May you have all the luck of the Irish today!
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Meg Gorton finds herself alone and lonely in Florida. Three years earlier, she packed what she could fit into her sister's car, told her husband, Gary, where he could find her, and asked him to take care of Moses, their beloved black Labrador. For years, she'd tried to talk Gary into moving away from their home in Woodstock, Virginia. They both needed a fresh start after a painful loss and when their grandson Troy graduates from high school, Meg knows it's time. But Meg also knows that if she wants a new beginning, she'll have to do it alone. Now, with some looming health issues, Meg has a plan to finally bring Gary to Gulf Breeze.
Gary wasn't able to move on the same way Meg did. Haunted by the family's tragedy, and painfully aware of his guilt because he feels so responsible, he's stuck with nothing but a gig as owner and driver of the bus for his local minor league baseball team. And, of course, he still thinks about the day his wife drove away. At least he still has Moses, who is always willing to listen when Gary talks about his regrets and all the things he should have done differently.
Everything changes when Meg writes Gary a letter with a surprise request. She wants him to bring Moses to Florida so she can see Moses one last time. Gary is reluctant to go, but Troy loves the idea and suggests they could even travel together on Gary's bus. Along the way, Gary takes a detour to visit Troy's ex-girlfriend, Grace—the one who got away. Gary might not know how to fix things with his wife, but he knows he doesn't want Troy to make the same mistakes he did.
Although Moses is just a dog, he's very observant. He knows things—like that Gary hasn't been the same since Meg left, Troy is hiding something, and Grace's fingers smell like bacon. It doesn't take long for Moses to learn they are going on a road trip to see Meg. He misses her and senses Gary's loneliness. He also knows he's an old dog and that his time is near, but there are still important things only he can do.
Even the Dog Knows is a novel that will take readers on a thousand-mile journey to meet strangers and find forgiveness, understanding, healing, and the meaning of true and lasting love.
Jason Wright is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author, creator, and speaker. His work has appeared in more than a hundred newspapers, magazines, and websites across the United States, including the Washington Times, the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, CNN.com, and FoxNews.com. Jason and his wife, Kodi, live in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley.
Monday, March 7, 2022
I have a big announcement and I am so excited to share it with you!
I love talking about books that I'm reading and being able to recommend books that I've enjoyed. It's one of my very favorite things! I can seriously chat about books with nearly anyone.
Friday, March 4, 2022
Monday, February 28, 2022
The recipe I made this week was a Sheet Pan Steak and Parmesan Potatoes. The recipe was super easy to follow and I was excited to try it! At first I was skeptical because the steak, potatoes, and asparagus were all covered in garlic and parmesan, but they all tasted great. For me, the cook time and prep time were a bit off (the steak and potatoes needed MUCH longer than the recommended 6 minutes to cook) but I was happy with the result and would make it again. It made plenty of food so it’s good for a family of 4 or for leftovers! I have a list of other recipes from this book to try and I can’t wait!
Scrumptious from the Girl Who Ate Everything combines Christy’s expert professional experience as a recipe writer for both Betty Crocker and General Mills with her life experience as a mother of five and one of ten siblings. Christy knows food often is the centerpiece of family life and can be a major undertaking, requiring creativity, planning, practice, and purpose.
Christy showcases 101 of her favorite recipes, each beautifully photographed using natural light from a window in her home, and includes detailed instructions for prep time along with helpful tips.
From unforgettable Sunday brunches with Banana Muffins, to easy weeknight one-pan dinners like One-Pan Chicken Enchilada Skillet, to low-carb meals like Egg Roll in a Bowl, to rolling out the works for a game-day crowd, including her NFL-husband’s favorites like Jalapeno Popper Bread and Garlic Parmesan Wings, this is the family-friendly cookbook for anyone looking to plan quick-and-easy meals and wants a way to bring people together, feasting on food which can only be described as scrumptious.
Saturday, February 26, 2022
Friday, February 25, 2022
MAGGIE'S SONG by Karey WhiteMaggie Jensen is part of a trio of best friends with Lucas and Dan. Together, they own and run Wild Country Hiking Tours. When Lucas returns to the company after getting his college degree, Maggie realizes that the crush she had on him as a teenager has now blossomed into so much more. But Lucas still treats her as one of the guys, and Maggie worries that if she tells him her real feelings, their relationship will be damaged forever.
JUST FLY by Krista Lynne Jensen
When Wren is faced with the devastating news of her grandfather's death, her mom finds a mysterious letter from a woman named Dot in Seattle. Wren visits the woman herself to deliver the news in person. Wren learns of the bucket list Dot and Gramps had put together with the help of Dot's grandson, Seth. Dot challenges Wren to take her grandfather's place in completing the list. Before the week of adventure is over, Seth has impressed Wren in more ways than one. But is that enough to overcome Wren's fear of losing those she loves?
HOW TO REWRITE A LOVE LETTER by Diane Darcy
High school teacher Julie Ashburn believes she’ll never live the “event” down in which she wrote her true feelings in a love letter to Principal Dane Parker, and he laughed out loud, mocking her. Now that her honors English students want to write love letters for the school fundraiser, Dane turns down the idea flat. Julie tries to convince him that it was her students’ idea and not any sort of payback. But when a student writes a fake love letter from the principal to Julie, everything gets even more mixed up, and both Julie and Dane are caught up in a series of misunderstandings that might be impossible to sort out.
A THOUSAND WORDS by Sarah M. Eden
Shannon Ryan has been waiting half a year to be reunited with her fiance, Patrick, with only the letters between them keeping their relationship alive. He finally sends for her after securing a good job with the Sidney newspaper, and she can’t wait to be reunited with him, swept up in his arms and thoroughly kissed. And of course, married as soon as possible. But when she arrives at the train station, there is no Patrick waiting for her. Shannon must discover if the man she loves still has feelings for her.
BETWEEN THE LINES by Annette Lyon
Jane Martin is intelligent but extremely shy, especially around men. When the Aid and Cultural Society proposes a letter-writing program, Jane signs up, hoping she can find true friendship. The program doesn’t run as smoothly as expected, and unknown to Jane, one of the men in her city becomes her writing friend. Thomas Allred has always known Jane, but reading her letters written to his secret persona, opens his eyes to what an amazing woman she is. The only trouble is, Jane doesn’t know that the man who she is falling in love with through letters is also Thomas, the man who is falling in love with her in person.
BLACKBERRY HOLLOW by Heather B. Moore
Lucy Quinn travels to England to inspect her inherited estate before she puts it on the market. She spends time learning about her ancestors. What she doesn’t expect is Calvin Bevans, the man living next door. The two families have been divided by a misunderstanding decades old, and when Lucy discovers a set of love letters, she learns the truth. As Calvin helps her unravel the hidden secrets between the two families, Lucy finds that she has more reasons to stay in England than to return to New York.
Monday, February 14, 2022
I hope you have a wonderful day full of love for significant others, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, friends, and most especially for yourself! You deserve it!
Here's some virtual chocolate and flowers. Happy Valentine's Day!
Saturday, February 12, 2022
Martha Keyes has been recommended to me several times and her book, The Widow and the Highlander is free today! I'm definitely downloading this one.
Get your free copy HERE
Here's the back copy:
She needs to be protected. He'll take on the job...for a price.
Christina MacKinnon is secretly relieved to be a widow. She is equally desperate to distance herself from the clan of her dead husband, but as the heir to his estate—one she needs in order to support her siblings—she must first stave off both the advances and threats of the man next in line to inherit. It seems the only person she can turn to is a nearby stranger who seems inclined to help her. But he has a request….
Freshly returned from the war, Lachlan Kincaid has one aim: to see justice served to the MacKinnons for betraying his family years ago and depriving him of his inheritance. While biding his time at a nearby inn, he discovers the death of the MacKinnon laird—whose widow has inherited everything. The way to accomplish his goal is becoming more evident, but the path is murkier than he could have foreseen.
As Christina’s and Lachlan’s lives intersect, it becomes clear that their separate aims may well only be achievable if they join forces. But to do so is to court more danger, and it requires a sacrifice Christina isn’t sure she’s prepared to make.
Friday, February 11, 2022
This is just a fun Jandy Valentine's Day fanfic. No copyright infringement is intended, it's just for entertainment purposes only.
Happy Valentine's Day to my SEAL Team friends who love Jason and Mandy!
Mandy tucked her hair behind her ear and glanced in the rearview mirror one more time. Jason had been so mysterious on the phone. He’d just gotten back from a mission and she’d expected to meet him at home, but he’d asked to meet up with her at a private shooting range. She pulled into the parking lot and saw his truck sitting near the front. Parking next to him, she got out and headed to the building perched on a small hill.
“Hey.” Jason gave her that half-smile she loved as he crossed the lobby. She noticed the cut over his eye and a bruise along his jaw. The mission must have gotten up close and personal, but he was still standing. That’s what mattered. The moment she was in arm’s reach, he pulled her close, his embrace enveloping her.
She pressed her cheek against his chest and relaxed into him. She needed this. Him. He centered her. She breathed him in, still smelling a bit of plane exhaust on him. “Hey.”
He held her for an extra moment, then drew back. “I was worried we wouldn’t make it home in time for Valentine’s Day and I didn't want to miss our first one. I know I should probably be giving you flowers and taking you to a fancy restaurant, but I thought, let’s do something we both love.” He gave her a full out grin.
“For the record, I do love flowers and good food,” Mandy told him, holding back a smile.
“You’ll love this more. I had some shooting stages set for us. You know, for a friendly little shooting competition.” He took her hand and headed for the far doors that led out to the field next to the club.
She chuckled and shook her head. “Can we have friendly competitions?”
“Of course we can. This will be fun.” His thumb caressed the back of her hand and butterflies started low in her stomach. Even the smallest touch from him garnered a physical reaction and they’d been apart for two weeks. She bit her lip and slowly let out a breath. If he could wait, so could she. Right now, she had to focus, especially if this was going to be a competition.
They headed to the center field where stages, or wooden props set to look like buildings, corners, and even targets, were set up in different formations. “How many stages are we doing?” she asked him.
“Let’s do all three.” Jason slung an arm around her shoulders. “Unless you’re worried you’re too rusty?”
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.” She walked toward the staff member waiting for them at the first station, holding their ear protection. A little shiver of excitement ran up her spine as her competitive side reared up inside her.
“Glocks?” Jason asked.
“Sounds good.” She picked up the gun and shifted its weight around in her hand for a second until she found her most comfortable grip. “What sort of competition do you have in mind?”
“Speed and accuracy. And then we’ll hit MJ’s.” He smirked, leaning his hip against the table. He looked every inch like Bravo 1 with well-defined muscles and an air of authority. Her heart rate picked up the longer she looked at him.
“You want to eat at MJ’s and not the Bulkhead?” She lifted a brow.
“Maybe I want to feed you some great fries.” His gaze pinned her, and her mind immediately went back to the fries he’d fed her in Rehoboth. The need to be alone with him ramped up again. There were a lot of great memories in Rehoboth.
She flushed and looked down at her gun to regain her equilibrium. “Is the winner buying dinner?”
“Well, there are other attractions there.” He lifted his eyebrows, obviously giving her clues to what he was getting at.
And then it hit her exactly where he was going with this. MJ’s had a karaoke bar. “So, loser has to sing karaoke.” Her chest tightened at the thought and the competition he had in mind jumped to high-stakes. She hated singing in public.
His lazy grin was back and her heart tripped a beat. Is he trying to distract me? “Oh, it’s even better than that,” he continued. “Loser has to sing whatever song the winner chooses.” He picked up his weapon and nodded toward her. “Unless you’re not up for it.”
“Oh, I’m up for it.” Mandy injected her you-better-believe-it tone to make that statement sound true, even though adrenaline was starting to pump through her. The man was a SEAL. Bravo 1. This might be too easy for him, but even if it was, she’d be sure to give him a run for his money. She moved toward the first stage and got ready. “Hope you’ve been practicing singing in the shower or something. I’ve got a few songs in mind for you.”
“Confident. I like that.” He moved into position, slightly ahead of her. “Keep thinking positive.”
She bumped him to the side. “Ladies first.”
He acquiesced and let her by. “No problem. Then I’ll know the score to beat.”
“And be sad when you don’t.” She stepped up to the first wooden target, the thought of standing on the stage to sing in front of people making her fight or flight response zing through her veins. She had to win. Up on the balls of her feet, she waited for the signal. The buzzer went off and she carefully aimed for her first targets.
The first two were easy. It was automatic as she hit the targets and stepped to the next barrier. Exhilaration washed over her. She followed the marked path and slipped to the wooden barrier to get around the corner for her next shot. She was on her game and hit the three targets dead center, even the hard one that was sort of hidden. Turning to her left, she took the last two shots before she headed for the second part of the course. She could feel Jason’s eyes on her, but she couldn’t let him faze her.
The second stage had eight targets, some close and some far, separated by blue barrels. The sun was beating down on her and she wished she would’ve taken her jacket off, but she reloaded and went forward, not focusing on anything beyond the course in front of her. The new stage took a little more concentration, but she made it through, only missing her mark once. Moving on to the third stage, she dared to glance back at Jason. His face was a cool, calm mask as he made his shots. She’d seen him work in the field and it never failed to amaze her how good his instincts were.
She turned and reloaded, firing at the six targets lined up across the field. This was the last easy part before the final stage that looked trickier than the others. This part of the course had a little makeshift wooden area like a room in a house with doorways and windows. The targets were placed strategically outside. She headed for the first one, a close target near the door that was easy to get. The next target was through a window, four targets placed close together with one sort of behind the other. She was pretty sure she got those, and headed for the back doorway. This one had one metal target placed further back and two wooden ones, closer to the door. She squeezed the trigger, feeling a surge of satisfaction as the bullet hit its mark. She had a healthy respect for guns, especially in her former line of work, but there was just something about being able to control the weapon and hit what she aimed for.
She shot at the last five targets as quickly as she could, confident she’d made good time and hit her marks. The range officer next to her instructed her to finish, unload, and clear. As she did so, he moved closer. “Slide forward, holster.” His voice was fast and sounded like an auctioneer. He must get tired of saying that all day long.
She stepped back into the safe zone and waited for Jason. He soon came into view. His form was beautiful when he shot, graceful and easy. This was second nature to him. It looked like he was hitting most of his targets, too. Even if she didn’t win, she’d still done a good job. She took a deep breath. Jason was right, this was a great Valentine’s date.
When he was done, they both waited while the scores were tallied. “Still feeling confident?” he asked her, nudging her shoulder.
“Oh yeah.” But really, her stomach was doing little somersaults. Jason was one of the best in the world. If she lost, it would suck to have to sing, but she wouldn’t let him see an ounce of uncertainty. Her competitive nature would never let that guard down.
“Did I mention I asked Sonny and Davis to meet us there?” he said, pulling her in and wrapping his arms around her. “Just to make it more fun.”
She wrapped her arms around him, glad he couldn’t see her face. If she lost and had to sing in front of them, she’d never live that down. With the team just getting back, maybe they had better things to do. “Hope they like your singing voice.” But even though her words sounded self-assured, she knew her bravado was slipping the longer they waited for their scores.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the range officer was coming toward them, shaking his head. That didn’t bode well. She stepped back, shading her eyes.
“How’d it turn out?” Jason asked, straightening to face the man.
“That’s the closest I’ve ever seen a score,” he said, looking up at Jason as he stopped a few feet away from them. “Nearly a tie.”
“Is there a clear winner?” Jason’s voice didn’t sound as confident as it had a minute ago. Mandy tensed, waiting for the verdict.
The guy scratched his chin. “Yep. The lady was just a bit faster and she wins by a half point.”
Jason threw his head back in mock frustration, his eyes meeting hers. “Seriously? I demand a recount.”
Mandy laughed, relief lacing through her. “Sorry. No sore losers here. The lady won by a half point. The judge has spoken.” She stepped forward and took his hand, trying not to show how worried she’d truly been. Patting his arm, she smiled up at him. “Don’t worry, I won’t make you sing anything too embarrassing. Definitely something from the ‘80s though. There’s just something fun about that decade, you know?”
Jason groaned good-naturedly. “I never knew you had a mean streak. The ‘80s? Really?” He slowly walked her across the field to her car, the sudden silence in the air standing out to her. For just a second they weren’t at a gun club, they were just strolling outdoors, enjoying each other’s company. It was so peaceful Mandy wanted to make it last longer, but all too soon they were in the parking lot.
“I wish I could have picked you up so we didn’t have to go in separate cars, but meeting you here made more sense time-wise.” He stopped and opened her driver side door.
“I’m just glad you’re home and honestly, after karaoke, riding in separate cars might be a blessing.” She smiled up at him. “You might not want to be too close to me once you see what I have planned.”
He didn’t respond, his gaze flicking to her lips. She rose up on her tiptoes at the same moment he reached for her, his hands sliding around her waist. His lips slanted over hers and Mandy closed her eyes, pulling him close. The feeling of belonging she always had when she was with him washed over her. The fire that had been slowly burning between them leaped to life and she deepened the kiss, wishing they were home. It took all her willpower to pull back. Cradling his face between her two hands, she swallowed hard, trying not to kiss him again.
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, his voice low and husky.
She nearly groaned, her entire body leaning toward him, the pull he had on her so strong, but she hastily pulled back. “Now that I know we have people waiting on us, we better get going. I’ll see you at MJ’s, but just so you know, we aren’t staying long,” she told him in her best no-nonsense voice. She ducked into her car and he chuckled before running a hand over his face and sucking in a breath. Mandy loved that he was just as affected as she was.
Following his truck out of the parking lot, she turned on some music. She went over some other ‘80s bands in her mind. Would she really make him do David Lee Roth? Maybe something by Def Leppard? She was trying to imagine him on stage and the thought made her laugh. He’d totally get into though. He always threw himself into everything he did. She’d always thought it was part of living on a dangerous edge. When the job was done, the team came back, did their best to relax, maybe forget a little, and tried to live life to the fullest, glad to still be here.
Pulling into the karaoke bar parking lot, she watched him get out of his truck and met him halfway.
“So did you decide on a song?” he asked as he took her hand and they walked into MJ’s. She loved that he was always touching her in some way with his arm around her or holding her hand. That closeness was like coming home, the piece of her that had always been missing now back where it belonged. With Jason.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” she teased, squeezing his hand.
As soon as they walked to the hostess podium, they saw Sonny and Davis waving to them from a nearby table. “We thought you guys would never get here. The karaoke is about to start,” Sonny said, when they were close enough to hear. “So, who won?”
“Do you even need to ask?” Mandy said, buffing her nails on her shoulder as they sat down.
“That’s my girl,” Davis said with a laugh. “Pay up, Sonny.”
“You bet against me?” Mandy turned accusing eyes on Sonny. “Wow. No faith at all.”
“Hey, he’s Bravo 1. I thought he might have some moves, but I guess not when it comes to his girl.” Sonny pulled out a five-dollar bill. "Maybe he's tired after that mission."
“No, no,” Jason held up his hands. “No excuses. She was faster than me so she won. This time.” He rested his hand on her shoulder as he sat down in the chair beside her. “And believe me, Sonny, I have moves, but apparently she has half a point better ones.”
“I’m hoping we’ll see some of your moves up on the stage tonight,” Mandy said sweetly, leaning her elbows on the table.
Everyone laughed. “Maybe I should have said best out of three,” Jason said, rubbing his hands over his face.
“Hindsight is 20/20.” Mandy tilted her head toward the stage. “You better get up there. Maybe ask for the David Lee Roth one I Ain’t Got Nobody.”
Jason raised his eyebrows. “That’s the song you picked? Doesn’t that one talk about a gigolo or something?”
Davis snorted. “That’s the one.”
“If it’s not too much, I think you’d want to do your best impression of the guy onstage. You want to make it good, right? Show you’re a good sport.” Mandy could hardly contain her laughter at the look on Jason’s face. “As my Valentine’s present.”
Jason leaned over to Sonny. “I should have gone with the flowers and fancy dinner. Next time I say the words "friendly competition" and "Mandy" in the same breath, remind me that she doesn’t do friendly competitions, okay?
“Live and learn, buddy.” Sonny shook his head. “And remember―the only easy day was yesterday.”