When romance mirrors real life, how high are the expectations for the hero? Does the author set the bar too high? Are the men we read too romantic? too loving? too sensitive? Where is the line between real life and a good book, and how blurry can the line be?

This is on my mind...mostly because in RL, something happened to me that made me go, "Ugh! Really?!" And it involved something I wanted to do...something we thought wasn't going to be able to happen, but then the turn of events that would allow it to happen, but apparently what I wanted to do was no longer in the forefront of anyone's mind. [sorry to be so vague, but you get the idea] Let's just say, life has its disappointments.

Sooo, that got me thinking about the books I read and how good the heroes are... but, I have to admit, the mark of a great book--for me--is when the characters reveal some of those real life tendencies. The hero who doesn't ask before planning something. The hero who forgot about the so important event. And yes, those books are out there. I read them in the romance genre. And I always smile when the hero messes up. Because it reminds me that we can love imperfection.

Of course, we have to...if we want to love anyone human, that is. hahaha.

And I think the way we romance the reader--as authors--is by revealing the hero's deep down. Deep down, they want to make the heroine happy [and most good men do in RL, too]. Deep down, that oversight or mistake is as innocent as their personality. Men think differently than women, but they want the same things--love, respect, passion. Authors can bring those feelings to the surface.

Romance the reader with Real Life. Just do it.
With Love,


I heard someone refer to romance as "fluff" again this week. Actually, it's been a loooong time since I've heard that term. Maybe I've been talking to a different sort of people in the last several years. Or maybe I've merely chosen to ignore what is right in front of my face.

Either way, it surprised me to hear it. Especially from someone who reads it

So the question is, what makes it fluff? Is it really the happy ending? Does the fact that the story ends with a satisfying, emotional conclusion make the story airy? soft? How about the sex? Is it the sex that makes it fluffy? I'm a little confused. Let's look at these aspects of romance that make the romance romance. Right? These are two characteristics of a book that set it apart from other genres.

Happily Ever After [HEA]
...the American Dream. Pursuit of happiness. Love that lasts a lifetime.

There's a chance--and I'm going out on a limb here--that this is what all people are looking for, whether they do it by taking up extreme sports or by dating off and on through their twenties. The goal in life is happiness, completion, purpose. Sooo clue me in, what's fluffy about reaching a dream, succeeding in a goal?

The fact that a romance novel portrays that journey to HEA is proof that it is NOT fluff.
Fluff would be..what? Making a goal and getting there without effort. Fluff would be... no conflict. Two people meet, fall in love, get married, have kids...and gah, gah, gah til death did they part. BORING.

I haven't read a romance novel like that. Honest to goodness, if a romance novel doesn't have conflict, it isn't going to sell! A publisher is NOT going to buy it.

Maybe this misconception by fluff-claiming readers is that the story ends at The End. Maybe they read to that satisfying ending and think... "that would never happen." or "Sure, like that couple is just going to live together forever and be happy for the rest of their lives." But what the romance novel shows is that Love conquers the bad. That they've made it through the worst--or something really awful--and survived. They'll do it again the next time, too. Suzanne Brockmann does a great job of showing this. Through her series, you see the HEA couple from book a previous book hit bumps in the road again. And I think that's what's so appealing about her books. The story doesn't stop.

The books I read hit on all the hot topics we find in life every day--divorce, sickness, career choices, sibling rivalry, death, morals and ethics, self-esteem... The people are just like people I know. Do we like the HEA? Yes. Do we get to the end of the story and go, "Awww." Probably. Do these reaction indicate an empty, airy, meaningless experience? I don't think so. More, it's a sign that we've come through something trying and won. That's the meat of the story. The story would be nothing without the trials, conflicts, and characterizations.

Fluff? I think not...
Wow, I just went on and on and on. For the record. I am not offended that people don't read romance. There are gobs of readers reading all sorts of books. Some like Fanstasy and sci-fi, some DIY, some memoirs and auto-biographies...some like historical or msyteries. There is so much to read these days!! We should all read whatever makes us happy. Just, don't go calling romance Fluff because it makes you feel happy and "destresses" you. Happy--no matter how you define it, i.e. getting to heaven or finding mr. right or making a million dollars--is the ultimate goal!! Would you define your own journey and goal as Fluff? I can't speak for everyone, but somehow, I doubt it.

Next week, I'll speak on that oh-so-hush-hush topic in romance, Sex. But I wonder if that's even necessary, because it's one of the most powerful aspects of humanity...so, not really fluff, eh? I mean it's so important...we're told to wait for 'the one', we have to do it for marriage to be official, it speaks for men, can be used by women, and without a doubt can change the course of a person's life. There's hardly anything fluffy about sex. It's important, sacred, powerful, and, over-all, not fluffy. There. Nevermind about next week. :D

Have a great week.
With Love,

New Year--Blog Hop

It's the Last and First round of Just Romance Me Blog Hops! I love how that works... a nice circle in time. The blog keeps going, don't forget to click the link to visit the next blog in line. Life surely doesn't end on 12/31 nor does it really start on 1/1. We just get to keep going...

I'm ending my year thinking, where am I going?
After doing the same thing for the last two years, part of me wants to start the new year differently...

New Genre?
New Publisher?
New schedule?
Maybe an agent?

I've thought I wasn't very goal oriented, but maybe it's not that exactly, maybe it's just that I need new goals. Instead of the usual write three books, sub to this company, sub to that company, write a novella, and do two crits a week--all fine and good--I want my end of year to reflect what I'm doing during the year. 2014 didn't really do that for me.

So, on to 2015...
Tomorrow I'm doing a drawing for all my Newletter subscribers. One copy of Letters From Home, my Christmas story, and a ten dollar Amazon Gift card. So find that little subscription form in the sidebar and sign up. :D <3 It's going to be a great year. Why not start it with a great book?

Letters From Home

An Army doctor, Lena Rodriguez has always been too busy with school or the Army for romance. But the letters she received during deployment have captured her heart. Back home for the holidays, she awaits Christmas morning to meet the man who has turned her life upside down.

When Zack Benson watched his best friend's sister Lena leave for Afghanistan, he knew he had to tell her he loved her. So he sent her anonymous love letters. Now that she’s home, he realizes he's made a tactical error. Lena has fallen for the man in those letters but still thinks of him as a brother. He has to convince her otherwise because if he succeeds, he’ll get the best Christmas present ever. But if he fails, he could lose her for good.


Now the weekend was upon them. Another tradition checked off. Another day closer to Christmas. She’d always loved the winter carnival, so it had been easy to agree when he’d suggested it. He’d made it clear this was a date. There was no way in heaven or hell she could pretend he didn’t mean a real one this time. Two people, holding hands, eating cotton candy…riding the Ferris Wheel.
“I’m so embarrassed, though.” Lena pulled her jacket closer to her body as the night air took another dive toward freezing.
“Why?” Zack took her hand and pulled her toward the line for the Ferris Wheel.
“My mother is match-making.” She’d been horrified speechless at the realization. “I feel like I should apologize.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“Of course not. You’re the one who kissed me.”
He shrugged. “Not going to apologize for that, either. Besides, you kissed me back.”
He made her heart pound and her head forget all about the letters. And she wanted to kiss him again, too. Now that she’d had a chance to get used to the idea, she wanted to do a lot more than kiss him. But she’d known him for so long. He was like a brother. A really good-looking, muscley—she shook her head to banish the thought and cleared her throat. Not going to go there.
“I have three years left of my commitment, Zack.” Lena got in line behind another couple then turned to him. “How the heck am I supposed to start a relationship now?”
He lifted a brow. “Are you serious? Isn’t that what you plan on doing with letter guy?”
Heat rose on her cheeks. “Oh, well. That’s different.”
“Because we already have a relationship going.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes, we do!”
She opened her mouth to answer, but just as quickly he grabbed her, circled her neck with his arm, and covered her mouth with his hand. She couldn’t help grinning. All the combatives training she’d done over the years weren’t going to help her against Zack, who’d had the same training, was twice her size, and at least eight inches taller.
Instead of fighting, she put an arm around his waist and tucked her hand into his pocket. She really liked the feel of him at her side. He slowly lowered his hand from her mouth, but his arm stayed at her shoulder. She leaned her head against his chest and soaked in the joyful atmosphere as the crowds slowly dwindled and the night grew dark. Yeah, she could get used to this.

My Babies -- COVER REVEAL!

Life is full of surprises!! And this past weekend was no exception for this writer...

First, I recieved my edits back, approved! I need to do a run-through with the copy editor and check for all those pesky little mistakes, but the most exciting part [for this visual person] is that they sent the cover of Unwanted Vows. *squeeeee*

*big smiley face*

On top of that... I was officially diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Bed rest. Hard, inconvenient, but feasible, especially since I was going to have all this "free" time on my hands. Well, that lasted about 3 days. My editor finished reviewing my manuscript, and I delivered Jack Edwin Walter.


My little baby needs some hospital time, but he is doing so well... he's strong. And sweet. And handsome. And gorgeous. He'll be bulked up in no time! Then he'll be home....

Stay tuned for actual release day news. :D :D 
....on the book. haha. <3

Christmas in July with Entangled Publishing

I pulled an old GIF for the NEW celebration. 
If you've found your way here, maybe it's because you joined the party on FB, HERE.

A scavenger hunt...but let's be real, all the answers are right here. Feel free to look around, hop over to my official WEBPAGE, and see what's going on with me.

But for the quickie, lunchtime break in hopes of a quick win on the scavenger hunt, look no further!!!

Answer 1. I write under the name Beth Rhodes.
Answer 2. Book two of the Rodriguez Family series is about Maria...Lena's sister.
Maria Rodriguez has been the well-behaved middle child her entire life—obedient and hard-working. But when a handsome stranger visits her small town and the sparks fly, she throws aside everything she knows is right to be with him. Then he walks away and she finds herself pregnant. Maria does the one thing she knows is right—goes to find him.
 The product of a nasty divorce, David March no longer believes in love between two people. He wants a simple, no-strings-attached marriage of convenience that will satisfy his responsibility to the baby yet leave his heart safe. Unfortunately, the more Maria is around, the more he has to fight his feelings for her.
 Maria is torn between her love for David and her desire to have it all—family, trust, and love. But as he continues to keep his distance, she begins to wonder if their differences are too great to overcome.

End of July used to be mid summer for me...now that I have kids in school, it's actually the end of my summer. I have three kids that start back up on 8-11 and another one that starts a week later. CRAZY! This Christmas celebration in like...an end of a season for me. 

One that I am thoroughly looking forward to!...
Enjoy the party, and I hope you win lots of prizes.

Why Romance?

I still think about this question every now and again. It's the self-reflection that comes up over time. Just recently, I've been seeing all the hype about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie releasing soon.

I never read the book. I won't see the movie, either. 

I don't even know that I'd call it romance. Erotic and Romance have distinct differences when you get to the nitty-gritty of story-telling. A happily-ever-after is not a given in erotic fiction. Like with women's Lit--for example, The Help. Truthfully, I don't pick up women's lit for the life of me. It's unsatisfying to read about women who may...or may not find a happily ever after.

But the hype of Fifty Shades brings about the controversy of romance, in general. Sex! In Books! Because for the first time in a long time, this erotic tale [notice I didn't say romance] is front and center of commercial fiction. This is a sexual journey... as people see, or like to see, or believe that sex has become--some kind of freedom, and that the freedom of sex will bring some kind of resolution. To me, that's the element that separates romance from erotic fiction. In romance, sex might bring change or create conflict or even bond two characters. As in real life--whether we believe sex is good before or after marriage--sex does these things. But it's not about the sex. It's the emotion behind making love that forces a person to look deeper into themselves and find a truth. What is love? How will it change a person? Is this a change the character can allow?

Recently, a facebook friend posted something. Sex before marriage is a lie. 

Now, I was raised conservatively enough to understand where this person is coming from. True love waits..and all that, yet at the same time, the statement feels wrong, it feels judgemental... a blanket statement that doesn't truly encompass everything good about humanity, including our faults. And without faults, we would have no need for this Love that we claim--forgiveness, mercy, and grace. 

So I commented.

Sex before marriage is human.

Is it part of your story? Does love exist in a vacuum of faultlessness? Or do we show our characters in real life? Is sex something to hide just because it's sacred or special or meant for that one person? Or is it time to have an open discussion about it? Do we not already talk about sex...woman to woman? Mother to daughter? Husband to wife?

Romance is inspiration and encouragement to maintain the vows we made [or want to make]. Reading romance is a small blip in a life full of DIY books, how-to manuals, conferences, retreats, workshops, and therapy sessions--all telling us how to live better, love more, and be happy.

So, why not read a romance? write a romance?....

Now, I have to get back to my latest book in which Mr. Perfection completely fails by falling for the most imperfect, flawed woman he's ever met...and bugger him, he wants her like he's never wanted anyone else, including the very nice, mother-approved woman he's been dating for a year and has every intention of marrying!! Will he be able to control his suddenly over-active libido and maintain his self-appointed heading to the perfect life, or will the road bring him to a point where conflict and discovery make him stronger and lead him to true love?

Gee, I know what I'm wishing for even if it does mean sex before marriage. <3 Way more satisfying to overcome the conflict, the idea that this perfect life is just going to land in our lap. To overcome the idea that we know what's right for ourselves!

Have a great weekend, friends.
With Love,

prompt fun

The title sounds like the fun I'm having is punctual... on time. Ha! Instead, I had a great time last night with several fellow writers in town. We were led through a few writing prompts inspired by words, phrases, and even a photo.

 I shared one bit on Facebook, and I thought I'd do the same on my blog with another selection.

Sometimes we get stuck in our writing... seriously. I haven't had such a freeing time writing in months. I've been neck deep in stories already started, characters I've been thinking about for ages. This was such a breath of fresh air. It really reminded me of why I like writing.

The possibilities are endless!!

This small bit was inspired by a photo of a house. Low-slung porch with doors and windows open, it had a warm homey feel to it. A swing off to the left and two chairs on the right had pillows. Made me want to step up and stay awhile...

...All the doors were open, inviting the young woman up the steps and over the front porch. She paused on the threshold and knocked on the dark wood. “Hello in the house,” she called out.
A breeze whispered by.
She entered, a flutter of nerves settling in her stomach. “Anyone home?”
The television was on in the corner of the great, open space. Two big sofas sat eskew to the right angles. An afghan hung over the back of one. Inviting, she thought, as she made her way toward the open doorway opposite her entry.
A breeze whispered by.
The rocker over to her left caught the moving hair and creaked. The old wood burning stove sat in the corner beyond, cold and dark. On the wall hung an old time photo, a family portrait. Women in skirts, men in their suits, gripping lapels. Not a grin on one face, except for the little one.
Just off to the right, a small child posed, knickers riding high on one leg, a ball in his hand....

I don't know about you, but I do believe there's a ghost story in that one somewhere. I'm filing it away for the next time I feel the need to break out of my rut!

Have a great week, friends!
With love,

MMA vs. The Gold Rush

I sat down to watch television. First was a lovely half hour with Joseph Rosendo, Travelscope. He was visiting British Columbia. And OMG, just gorgeous. Of course, he featured all the hotspots, the coast, through the different regions and finally ending up at the old mining town of Barkersville. He went fly-fishing, canoing, and sightseeing. He saw bears and moose. And the scenery!! Gorgeous mountains.

I couldn't help but think about the place as an alternative to my own country. I mean, if I was ever going to enter the Witness Protection Program or just relocate, in general... I would be pleased to find myself up there! And, of course, my mind immediately went to the next story. Could I write something contemporary? Or maybe an historical? I could include the gold rush... bawdy men-infested towns--brothels vs. churches. The struggle to survive cold, northern winters and the gold rush fever itself.

So tempting!

When that was over, I found myself watching MMA--that fighting craze going on right now. Extreme fighting. I read a book--Against the Ropes [NOT a sweet read]--and I liked it. Reading it and then watching the fight on television today, I wondered how a person would be inspired by this.

But the fact that I liked the book well-enough just goes to show that we don't have to be stuck in a rut or like only one thing. :) Maybe if I watched these fights enough, I'd get inspired. <3

Have a great week, friends.
With Love,

--> see what I mean???  

Revisions and Rewrites

It's true...i'm in it big time on Unwanted Vows.
There's this myth that an author doesn't want to mess with "their baby," that they've raised this manuscript from infancy and it's perfect. But I don't agree. I find that the hesitation to change something has more to do with the ripple effect.

Yes, one change instigates numerous others. Even when I get down to the nitty gritty and find a new brilliant way to show exactly what I mean without causing the most havoc, I find there is at least one surprise.

For example, one little change, postponing a "first date" by a couple of weeks, totally screws with my day-care dilemma. When the first date ends up being at the hero's parents' home and the hero's mother graciously offers to help out with the baby until the heroine can find a permanent spot in one of the nurseries in town... well that's divine providence.

Unfortunately, without that date... i need to make more stuff up.

Back to the drawing board, if you will.

But maybe it's a good thing because my heroine is inclined to keep to herself and NOT ask for help--oh, the humility, the pride! I guess she's going to have to step out of her comfort zone.

Definitely, not a bad thing. And perhaps, better than what was written originally, eh?

Where is Success?

We've been talking about Success [yes, i'm going to capitalize that word in the blog post], and how to get it, in my critique group. We've been talking about Street Teams--these fan clubs put together by an author that spread the word when new books come out. We've talked about the writing. The promotion and marketing....

So many variables in reaching Success. How do we get it right? Where is Success? WHAT is Success?

The bottom line? Success is different for everyone.


That's it?! That's what you have for us? [the crowd groans in disappointment]

I know, but it's true. Success is personal and it is attained by each author differently.

For me, Success comes in writing a book. I don't care if I never sell it. When I have a completed manuscript in front of me, and I know it's the best I can do, I'm happy. I'm successful. This is a big deal. Do you want to know why? Most writers never finish that manuscript. NEVER. Even when it seems like everyone around me is writing, finishing, and selling manuscripts, in my head, I know that there are just as many and then a lot more people who aren't.

Maybe that makes me too laidback...maybe I should aim higher! But, my other belief maintains that Success is all about the long tail [as one of my crit partners so nicely put it]. Have you ever heard about that writer who worked for years and years and years on the same manuscript? Wrote, rewrote, edited-to-death, and then wrote again? That's just not going to work. We have to keep moving. Start new projects, finish projects, let go of the ones that will never ever sell no matter what we do to them. This isn't easy. I have a Romantic Suspense series. Three books of that series are written, but I have yet to be able to sell the first one. ACK! I love this story! About once a year, I pull this story out and I try to "fix" it. But more and more, I think...maybe it wasn't meant to be. :'(  So sad, but truth. And if I don't waste a month every year messing with it, think of all the other stuff I could do.

Authors have to be able to put more books on the market. Every year, another one or two or even three if we're lucky. Persistance. Secondary to that is the promotion and marketing.

Yes, I believe promotion and marketing is important and it works! I know it works. I've seen it work with my own books. But it's short term. You can't promo the hell out of one book for the next ten years. Eventually, you have to have another book to give the readers, or they will forget about you.

Think long-term. Think GREAT writing and stories that capture a heart. People love books. People buy books, and they'll continue doing so until the end of time--even if it does mean digitally. Romance, Horror, Sci-fi, Women's Lit. No matter what you write, writing is the key. Get it down, make it good, and put it out there.

Have a great weekend, friends, and happy writing!
With Love,

My Writing Process -- Blog Tour

Thanks to Ellen Butler, fellow Entangled author of Second Chance Christmas, for asking me to join this awesome Blog Tour where authors are sharing...how it all works. You can check out her story writing process HERE.
Now... for me.
     What am I working on?
This month I'm working on the second story in a new series [surprising, even to me!]. The first book came out in November--Letters From Home. The new one is Maria's story. She fell in love with a wanderer and, when she goes to find him, discovers he's not exactly who she thought... :)

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is a hard question!! Romance's strength is in its clichés and tropes. Readers know what they are getting and crave the happily-ever-after!! But, that aside... I think my writing shows a deep sense of family that isn't always evident in category romance. Big, Catholic families. Small ones, too. But I like writing what I know, and I know family. I like to show the struggles inside the conscience...and no one knows the conscience [and guilt] better than an Irish Catholic! haha. Me!

No one knows making love better, either... so, I have lots going for me when it comes to romance. *blush* hahaha.

    Why do I write what I do?
I love romance! I love happy endings. I love taking characters from not-so-great to incredibly blessed. The truth is, we all struggle in life. There is nothing better than picking up a good book and reading about someone else who overcame the same kind of struggles... or maybe not-so-the-same. But still, when the heroine flees for her life and overcomes a serial killing maniac, satisfaction ensues. Especially when there's a handsome guy at her side along the way.

     How does your writing process work?
Getting an idea comes first. Usually it's the characters... maybe I'll read something online, in the news, or even in a book. And it will stick with me and develop in my brain. That being said, the majority of my ideas come from my own books. I have several series, and the reason behind that is because from those books come other books!! Like Lena's story...and then Maria's story...and eventually--as I write Maria's--I can feel a brother story coming along. I think Lucas is about to become the next strong character in this story.

And then I just write. I plot the story so I have some idea where I'm going. I create backstory and write it down so I know what's driving my characters. That's when the fun begins and the characters come alive...when I can suddenly see them in the "movie." :) Until I get to The End and smile.

Mornings are my happy time. I get up at 4am every morning and write for 2 hours, coffee included! The rest of the day is a little sporadic--I do have 5 kids, but I can usually get in a few more words before the day ends.

This was great fun. I hope you enjoyed it. If you came here from Ellen's blog, go back!! Find another thread on the chain and follow it through. :D I had no takers...and typically, I'm the end of the line on any chain that comes my way. It's SOP for me. ;)

Have a great week!
With Love,

Fantastic Friday

End of the week Review
We had a freak snow storm... oh wait, that's right. It's January!! Winter time. So, not so freakish, although we've had some great, mild weather lately--40s and 50s since just before Christmas. One day of frigid and today we are back to 56 as a high. :D Should be like that all weekend. Not bad at all!!

I'm reading another Katy Regnery book, and it is GOOD! She was the third ebook I tried in one day. The first two were...freebies or something and, booo! They did not stand up. FWIW, Katy's book is self-published and it is wonderfully written, wonderfully edited and has a beautiful cover. Don't judge a book by its publishing status! Also, I picked up a paperback by Lisa Jackson, and Oh. My. Word. I read one scene--gruesome murder. An epilogue that left me hanging. But it made me think... I used to read stuff like this all the time! Tami Hoag, Sandra Brown. I've lost touch with the truly suspenseful, GOOD book. I've been reading these contemporary romances...sometimes with a mystery or suspense element, but nothing reads as well as a good, mainstream Romantic Suspense. Category just does not compare, even if it is a suspense.

My writing went really well this week. I did have two days here at the end of the week where I was banging my head against the wall, trying to find time to work. Lots of stuff going on this week--appointments, meetings, taxi obligations, etc. But I did at least 500 words a day, yesterday being the slowest at 526 words. And, of course, I'm loving the story... the contemporary romance--no suspense.

Maybe I need work on another dark story. It's been a while. I'm out of practice!!

There's a new link at the top of my Blog labeled "Home." It's my new webpage. It also reveals a few surprises, so come on over and visit. See what that's all about...and then forget you ever knew me. hahaha. Just kidding. :D

Have a wonderful weekend!
With Love,

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

And I'm doing a Fabulous Giveaway!!
Because you know what?
It's cold outside, and there is nothing like cold outside to made a booklover want to read...that's a given. But this year, I broke out from my mold.

This year, I did something I haven't done since I was in my teens.
I ice-skated! [and despite the photo, I was doing it without holding on! haha] That's my wee, sweet daughter, Darla.

It was absolutely addicting. I worried that I wouldn't be able to do it. That it wasn't like riding a bike, ya know, and I'd fall flat on my ass a few hundred times before the hour or two were up.

But I didn't. It was awesome. I even smoked the old man, who is determined enough to learn something new in order to keep up. ;) :D Actually, he's quite athletic and a runner, so I wasn't surprised at all that he caught on so well. A few more outings with him, and I'm sure he'll be passing me by! 

So, tell me, what's one thing you did as a kid [and this includes even the younger crowd!!] that you haven't done in years? Sledding? Ice skating? Skiing? 

Are you living in the south and it's been years since you roller skated? Bowled? 

Leave a comment!! I'm giving away a $5 Amazon Giftcard, randomly selected from everyone who visits the crazy fun Baby-It's-Cold-Outside Blog Hop put on by JustRomance.me

And if it's still January 3rd, you've blasted through the blog hop, and you're bored, I'll be on Facebook, doing another giveaway, being hosted by my publishing company on their page as I chat about my new release, Letters From Home. Come on and join the fun.


ON SALE NOW! Only .99 for a limited time.
This book and all Entangled Flirts...

Zack finally caught Lena’s gaze from across the table, and he lifted a brow as if to ask her, what is this?

Not that he didn’t enjoy spending time with the family. As a matter of fact, until the holidays had come around, there’d only been a few dinners since summer ended. School, work, and life had taken precedence.

Lena shrugged and a slight flush rose on her cheeks.

“Lena, you and me, at the pool table for a game.” When it looked like she might refuse, Zack stood and went around the table.

“I play winner.” Juan called out.

“Oh, no. I can’t. I stink at pool, Zack. You know very well how badly I play pool.”

“Come on. Smart girl like you should have no problem setting up a table and sinking a few balls.

Practice, that’s all.” Zack tugged on Lena’s chair. He took her hand and was surprised to feel a slight tremble in it. He tightened his grip. “Relax, I’m not going to bite. It’s just a friendly game of billiards.”

She laughed, almost nervously. He let her hand go when they reached the little cove with a table in it.

They were just hidden from view, enough to be able to talk privately, or make out. But that was just his imagination running away with him.

They both took a cue, and Zack set the table. Her silence put him on edge. Usually he knew what she was thinking, now he felt out-of-sorts. He’d asked her out on a date—hadn’t he?

She’d come with an entourage.


He looked up and found her waiting for him. He made the opening break and nodded to her. “Your turn.”

She stared at him with a blush rising on her cheeks. “Where do I start?”

He relaxed, smiled at her, then studied the table, looking for her first move. “Over here,” he started and took her arm to guide her around to where the cue ball sat. “Go for the solids. You can hit the four in, no problem. Easy peasy.”

She stood behind her cue and leaned over the table.

“No. Not like that.” Zack moved in behind her.

The idea hadn’t started out as a ploy, but now that he was here, breathing in the delicious scent of her perfume, he enjoyed the heat of her against his skin where his arms met hers. They were hip to hip. He cupped her hand in his and rested the cue stick on top of it. She fit perfectly under his arm and against his body.

He cleared his throat as lust shot straight through his bones. “Ready?”

She turned her head and eyed him suspiciously. Her gaze fell to his lips for a fraction of a second, but she turned back to the table and took her shot. The light bracelets at her wrists chimed, and the purple ball rolled into the corner pocket. “Okay.” She grinned, turning into his space. His hands went to her shoulders where they met skin, supple and smooth.

“That wasn’t too hard at all,” she whispered. Her breath seemed caught in her throat, as if maybe, maybe she felt something too.

Zack stayed where he was, absorbing her warmth, the happiness that seemed to roll off her. This was what he’d wanted for her when he asked her to go out with him. Just a chance to have some fun, remember what it was like when they were younger.

He brushed strands of her hair from her face, the touch making his heart stutter. The urge to kiss her overwhelmed him. “Lena.”


With his thumb, Zack traced a line along her collarbone. He tunneled his hand under the thick weight of her dark hair. Her eyes were wide with wonder. When he dipped his head to taste her, her lips parted, and she sucked in a breath.

Zack’s heart was pounding. Like the staccato of his M16, beating against his chest.

The kiss was soft and slow, and at first she didn’t respond at all. On the verge of letting her go completely, he felt her hands come up and grip his waist. Her lips moved against his.

Nothing in his entire life had felt so right before. He sank into her.

“Hey guys…Whoa!”

Zack groaned at the intrusion. Lena broke away, sucked in another breath, this one filled with shock and what-did-I-do?

His eyes slid shut. Damn it.