Cookies for Courting – Excerpt 3

April 23, 2015

Cookies for Courting-400x600

Marshall stood and shook hands, enjoying the confident touch and the rough skin on Pace’s fingers. He wondered if art caused the calluses or if Pace had a hobby that prevented them from staying smooth. Marshall enjoyed art but knew little about artists.

He forced his fingers to relax their hold. He could easily imagine his hands sliding across Pace’s skin in a more intimate encounter. He swallowed back a groan. He needed to stop thinking like that if he wished to stay focused for this interview.

“Please have a seat and show me your portfolio while you tell me a little about yourself.”

Pace’s bright smile reappeared. “They are sort of the same thing.”

“What are?”

“My art and myself.” Pace settled down in the chair across from Marshall. He looked around. “It might be easier to show you on the couch.”

The black leather couch he’d bought because it suited the office interior mocked Marshall with its long flat surface.

Marshall cleared his throat. “No, just scoot closer to the desk. This is fine.”

No way could he trust himself with a sexy artist, a lockable door, and an extremely comfortable piece of furniture. Marshall sometimes napped on that couch if he had to stay late at work or attend a dinner meeting. He knew he could lie completely flat with plenty of room for a hot artist to ride his cock.

“Is there a problem?” Pace frowned.

“Um, no.” Marshall discreetly thumped his cock, then wiggled in his seat. “Please show me what you have.”

He’d wait until the job was finished before he pursued any romantic interests. Surely, it couldn’t take that long to paint a mural. He could wait a few weeks before he jumped Pace.

Pace licked his lips as he opened the binder.

Scratch that. Maybe he could wait a few hours. Marshall made a note to go to a club tonight and find a willing body, preferably a blond.

When Pace opened his portfolio, Marshall forgot about his attraction for a bit. Page after page of photos revealed a man with a brilliant, rare talent. Each painting brought an extra vibrancy to the rooms they graced. Although the art wasn’t all something he could see in his own home, he admired the skill behind it.

“Which one did you do for Mrs. Breverton? She raved about hers.” Marshall couldn’t contain his curiosity over what this free-spirited man could possibly have created for the uptight matriarch.

Mrs. Breverton rarely said a kind word about anyone, but she couldn’t say enough nice things about Pace. Marshall had imagined an uptight, buttoned-up professor-type who had students doing the hard work. Pace wasn’t even close to Marshall’s mental image.

Pace flipped through a couple of pages. “This one!” He pointed to the photo on the left side.

Marshall spun the portfolio around to get a better look. “Wow!”

“It was for her garden room.”

A riotous collection of flowers covered the wall. Looking closer, Marshall spied exotic birds peering through the petals, giving off the impression of an enchanted tropical hideout.

“It’s beautiful.” Pace’s attention to detail had Marshall turning the photo this way and that to see as much as possible. “How long did it take?”

“That one took four months, but only because of all the details and she kept changing her mind.”

Marshall laughed at Pace’s wry tone. “Well, in the end, she was pleased. She went on and on about how much she liked it.”

“Good. I like to hear about happy clients.” The words were routine, but Pace’s tone conveyed that he really did want his customers to be happy.

“Like I said, you must know it is stunning.”

Pace shrugged. “People look for different things in their art, but I was happy with how it came out,” Pace said with a fascinating show of modesty.

The more contact he had with the sweet artist, the more Marshall wanted to devour him. He curled his fingers around the edges of the desk to resist the urge to grab Pace closer.

Spring & Contest!

April 23, 2015

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Spring! I love the season spring. Especially living in Seattle it’s like the city explodes with colors and scents. What is your favorite flower or season? Do you like the nippy cold of winter? The toasty warmth of summer, the tempting cocoa drinking temperatures of fall or is spring your season? Post below and one person will win a $25.00 ARe GC!

Amy’s Book – Food for Thought

April 23, 2015

FoodForThought

EMMETT’S FRIEND Vinnie had the best family reunions.

Emmett, who had grown up as an only child with his dad, had always envied them. Fourth of July arrived, and Emmett and Vinnie would be on chair duty, setting up the backyard for relatives, over a hundred of them, people even Vinnie didn’t know. The pool would be filled and cleaned for the kids, and trees needed to be pruned so they didn’t drop leaves into the pool or on anybody’s heads or in the giant vats of food that every one of Vinnie’s female relatives brought or helped prepare in the kitchen.

Emmett and his father were always invited, and for Emmett, getting to run around with the other kids carrying sparklers and playing in the pool was better than Christmas. At Christmas, Emmett got presents, but at the reunion, he got family.

Emmett’s father passed away in Emmett’s senior year of college, and Vinnie got married to Angela this past year, and the reunion seemed especially important. Christine, his girlfriend, hadn’t been able to make it—she had to work, and since she was planning to take Emmett to her parents’ house for Christmas, Emmett figured he could go alone.

Besides, he really was surprisingly ambiguous about the whole “Christmas” thing, but he didn’t know what to do about that.

Instead, he immersed himself in the reunion, taking instructions from Vinnie’s mom, Flora, and eventually, after helping load the pig into the barbecue pit and the prime rib into the slow cooker, he became her helper in the kitchen.

“Okay, so, six and a half cups of warm water in the pot,” Flora said. She was doing something complicated with a meat grinder and stuffing fixings, even though it was the middle of July. Emmett had tasted her Fourth of July stuffing, though, and he had no objections whatsoever.

“Done,” Emmett said promptly.

“Three tablespoons of yeast.”

Emmett looked into the brown yeast container and tried not to think that this was a living organism, waiting to be released from dormancy. He threw the little bastards into the warm water and said, “Done!”

“Good, now three tablespoons of salt—stir it until it’s dissolved.”

“Done!”

“And now thirteen cups of flour.”

Emmett grinned at her, a slight, middle-aged woman with graying black hair and drooping breasts under a flowered apron that her mother had probably worn. Her five kids had been fixtures in Emmett’s life from kindergarten and beyond. “That’s not gonna be so quick,” he said promptly.

“I know it. That’s good, though. We can talk. Now tell me about this girl.”

Emmett started carefully counting cups of flour. “She’s nice,” he said vaguely. “You’d like her.”

Flora would adore Christine. Christine came from a large family, she was kind and sassy and liked to cook.

“Yeah, what would I like about her?”

“She’s got a big family. She believes in ’em. So, you know. Emmett gets a big family.”

He smiled happily while stirring the flour into the thickening mass of dough, because he really wanted that family.

“Emmett has us,” Flora said, not sounding as happy as Emmett had hoped. “I would prefer Emmett had a girl he wanted to make babies with.”

“Ew!” Emmett cried, and then held up the spoon with a gooey dollop of dough on it. “It’s, uhm, too wet. I think I need another two cups, don’t you?”

“Uh-huh.” Flora watched him add the flour, her usually generous mouth compressed into a firm line. “Please don’t lie to me, Emmett.”

Emmett looked away. “I wouldn’t dream of it,” he lied.

“I happen to know that Jordyn is a boy’s name too,” she said, her tone brooking no bullshit, and Emmett kneaded the dough with unnecessary force.

“It’s a girl’s name,” he said.

“You’ll wreck that bread—it’s mixed enough. Put the towel on top and put it in the corner of the counter.”

Emmett did as he was instructed, thinking hard to try to get out of this. At the beginning of his junior year in college he’d taken the bus from Sacramento to Chico, just to have dinner at Flora’s table before he saw his dad the next day. He hadn’t announced why he was coming, he’d just asked Vinnie if his mom would mind.

That night, as he got ready to sleep in Vinnie’s room, Flora came in with an extra blanket.

“You look like hell,” she said quietly. “Who broke your heart?”

Emmett said the name without thinking. “Jordyn.”

“What did she do?”

So he’d told the story about growing close to someone for an entire school year, of thinking the two of them had a future, and of making promises to get back together as soon as school started again.

And of unreturned phone calls and texts, and of getting back to school to find that the person you thought you’d loved was now with someone else, and the whole world thought they were the perfect couple.

He’d told Vinnie’s mom everything….

With the exception of one or two teeny little details.

And Flora had been the one person who’d known, including Emmett’s father, whom Emmett visited once a week. It stayed that way until Emmett told Vinnie the story at Christmas. He’d been better by then, not quite so thin and wild-eyed, and Vinnie had given him a brother’s hug, and told him about Angela.

And nobody had ever challenged him on those one or two teeny little details, until right now.

“Emmett?” Flora said kindly.

“What else do you want me to do?” Emmett asked, smiling gamely. He had a good smile—his face was sort of plain, bony, with a long jaw and teeth not quite bucked enough for braces—but he knew when he smiled, his full lips eased the harshness, erased the impression of his slightly crooked teeth, made him beautiful.

“I want you to tell me something real about this girl,” Flora said gently.

Emmett thought carefully, trying to find a detail that would make Christine good enough for the only mother he really remembered. “She wears these really skinny black skirts,” Emmett said. “They look severe, and businesslike, right? And she wears blazers over them, even in the summer. But underneath, she buys these adorable little shirts with cartoon characters. Unless she has a meeting or something, she’s a grown-up wearing Hello Kitty! Or Dora the Explorer. And she likes to watch those shows at night, when she’s working. That’s her background noise, and she knows all the episodes.”

His smile relaxed, and he nodded hopefully into Flora’s eyes. “It’s really cute.”

Flora regarded him sorrowfully. “You’re leaving tomorrow?”

“Yeah,” Emmett said, feeling bad. “You know, low man on the totem pole—don’t get to take the whole week off.” He was in the marketing department at Intel, along with Christine. They’d started dating when she needed a plus-one for her sister’s wedding, and everybody had been so nice to him—Christine’s dad had wanted to talk stocks and her brother had wanted to talk sports. Her sisters had wanted to talk television shows and her mother had wanted to talk cooking. It was, in fact, a lot like Vinnie’s reunion, except Emmett knew all of Vinnie’s relatives, and Vinnie’s dad didn’t keep asking him how serious he was about his daughter.

Emmett, who hadn’t been in the market to date anyone had immediately started asking Christine to movies and out to dinner. Yeah, the good-night kisses were sort of tepid, and she kept hinting that she wanted a sleepover, but whenever she got too grabby, he just got her started about the sister who got married and how her other two sisters were planning their weddings and how her two brothers wanted kids and suddenly, she wasn’t interested in sexy times anymore, she was interested in babies, and he figured that they could manage the sexy times when there were babies at the end of it.

Babies meant family, and yes, Emmett was a fan.

Flora pursed her mouth. “So she wears cute cartoon character T-shirts. How big are her boobs?”

Emmett could swear his eyes did the “Ayoooga!” thing, like the cartoon characters on Christine’s shirts. “I don’t know!” he floundered, moving his flour-coated hands a lot. “Standard size, I guess!” He thought about it. “Uhm, smaller than Angela’s.”

Flora raised her thin, gray eyebrows. “All my daughters are smaller than Angela’s. Are they smaller than Cecily’s?”

“I don’t know!” Emmett burst out, waving more flour around the Tomiche’s kitchen. “I don’t look at your daughters’ boobs!”

“Aha!” Flora crowed, like she’d caught Vinnie stealing pies. (Vinnie had stolen a lot of food in Emmett’s name when they’d been kids. Flora had finally gotten wise and started asking Emmett if he’d gotten the pie or the cookies or, in one case, the half of a wedding cake. When Emmett gave her the blank stare before sputtering and trying to cover for Vinnie, Vinnie had gotten into a lot of trouble as well.)

“Aha what? What’s aha?” Emmett looked around the kitchen wildly, taking in the old yellow wallpaper, the peeling veneer on the pasteboard cabinets, and battered tan tile. A showcase, this place was not, but Emmett felt like he’d been ambushed in his place of safety. “Why would you yell ‘Aha!’ at me? I thought you liked me!”

Flora’s deep brown eyes—so much like Vinnie’s—were nothing but kind. “I love you, Emmett. That’s why I want you to be happy. Honey, you don’t have to be a chauvinist pig to look at a pretty girl’s boobs. The fact that you were surrounded with pretty girl’s boobs and you didn’t notice a little? That makes me think that maybe pretty girls aren’t what you’re looking for.”

Emmett swallowed, touched and, weirdly enough, near tears. But there were a hundred people gathering on Flora’s lawn, and he didn’t feel like talking about Jordyn and Christine and about his next-door neighbor who wasn’t like either of them.

“I, uh, should wash my hands if I’m going to help Vinnie with the barbecue,” he said, hoping she’d just drop it.

She sighed and shrugged. “You do that, Emmett, but I’ve got you until tomorrow, and this isn’t over, you hear me?”

“Gotta go unbury the pig, Flora—catch you later!”

He ran away then, retreated without shame. He’d been there the night Vinnie’s mom had cornered Vinnie in the living room about marrying Angela because the poor girl couldn’t see that he was an idiot and Flora wanted what was best for her idiot son, even if it was more than he deserved.

Contest!

April 23, 2015

For a $25.00 Amazon GC…..

What is your favorite food? I’m partial to bread. I love a fresh loaf, hot from the oven with butter. What’s your one food you couldn’t live without? One winner will be chosen.

Cookies for Courting – Excerpt 2

April 23, 2015

Cookies for Courting-400x600WAITING FOR the elevator, Marshall Hunter brushed at his sleeve. String seemed to follow him around. Ever since his niece had moved into his condo: lint, hair ribbons, and odd bits of string were all over the place, multiplying like rabbits during breeding season.

Although parking in the garage was a nice perk of owning the company, having to wait for the elevator to cycle through ten floors before he reached his office got tiring every morning. Still, he refused to be one of those people who insisted on having his own executive elevator. His time wasn’t any more valuable than his employees’. Besides, it was good for employee morale to see the owner having to deal with daily irritations like everyone else.

He turned his attention to his phone while he stood there, hoping to decipher the e-mail his assistant sent him.

“Excuse me, sorry.”

Marshall scooted back to make room for a slim blond wearing a pair of dark jeans and a bright red T-shirt. He blinked at the color even though it was probably too late and had already burned onto his retinas.

The newcomer’s head came to Marshall’s shoulder, and he clutched a black binder. A smudge of bright blue dotted his right cheek, as if trying to call attention to the man’s natural beauty.

“You have a bit of paint on your face,” Marshall said.

The blond turned his head and gave Marshall the jolt of seeing his entire face. Damn, the man skipped handsome and went directly to breathtaking.

One golden eyebrow tilted up above a set of warm brown eyes. “I’m sorry?”

“Your cheek.” Marshall motioned to his own face to indicate placement. “You have some blue on it.”

“Crap,” the angel said. He tried to peer above the other occupants in the elevator to see his reflection on the doors, but he wasn’t tall enough.

“Here, let me.” Marshall pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the gorgeous man’s face. It took a bit of rubbing, but after a minute or two, the paint came off, leaving a bit of red skin behind. “Sorry if I hurt you.”

“No, it’s fine. Thanks. I appreciate it. It was hard enough to find something to wear without stains.”

The man’s good-natured acceptance of being paint splattered charmed Marshall much more than his spotless date the other night. The tidy stockbroker he’d gone out with had spent the entire time pumping Marshall for information about his investment portfolio and giving him unneeded advice. Marshall owned an investment company; he didn’t need financial tips. Maybe the guy thought it would make them appear more compatible. All it did for Marshall was make him end the evening early.

Marshall had a feeling any date with the man beside him would end up dirty, messy, and thoroughly entertaining. His cock began to harden. The elevator bell dinged and several people got off, making it possible for the artist to step farther away. Marshall clamped his lips together to hold back his instinctive protest over the increased distance between them.

 

The Life of a Writer!

April 23, 2015

I know you’re imagining my day of eating bon bons and wearing silk jammies while petting my fluffy cat while waiting for literary inspiration. Or my husband’s view of drinking hard liquor while hunched over an old metal desk (he tells me repeatedly I’ll never be Hemingway without a lot more alcohol.) But truly my life is pretty dull. Here it is in all it’s glory.

6:00 wake up to hubby’s alarm, because who can sleep through that horrible noise.

6:30 blearily accept coffee from hubby as apology for waking me up.

7:00 hubby yells at oldest for not having shoes on

7:15 oldest yells at hubby about why they haven’t left yet. (Yes, they do this every…single…day)

8:00 I tell youngest to get dressed and brush his teeth while I do the same. (I get the easy child)

8:30 take youngest to school

9:00 sit down with more coffee and write

9:10 go tell dog to stop barking at people it isn’t HIS STREET!

9:30-2:30 writing and marketing with breaks for lunch, letting the dog in and out and shoving the whichever cat stole my computer chair when I stood up

2:30 get youngest from school

3:00 explain to older son who just came from school why I haven’t come up with a game plan for dinner

5:00 give up and order out

6:30 go back to writing for a bit before I go to bed.

For a Rainy Afternoon!

April 23, 2015

ForaRainyAfternoonLG

RJ’s book kicked off the anthology with an adorable tale of two men and apples. Yeah, it’s not quite as dirty as that sound. *snicker*

Here’s the Dreamspinner buy link but you can get it at your favorite ebookstore.

Excerpt:

“AT LEAST you tried, Robbie.” Doris patted my hand gently in her usual reassuring way. I didn’t need reassurance. I needed the damn cake to bloody work. I mean, how difficult could it be to not fuck up something when I had the recipe sitting in front of me?

 

I poked what was left of the applesauce cake with a fork. The mess let out an audible “bleurgh” as it collapsed in on itself around the massive hole that had somehow appeared during the cooking of it.

 

“I followed the recipe.” And I had followed it, to the letter. Every single cup of flour and tablespoon of butter, every teaspoon of nutmeg, and I’d even performed algebra to work out what two-thirds of a cup was compared to a whole cup. Doris patted my hand again and nodded in her most reassuring fashion.

 

“Maggie made this cake for nearly ninety years. You’re not supposed to be able to get it right the first time.”

 

My chest tightened in grief, which twisted in and around my heart. Maggie Simmons had been the reason I’d stayed in this village. When all my friends had left for the city or even the next town over, I was the one who had come home with a degree in art and no idea what to do with it, then stayed. Three years of study and a first in my degree and I was lost. Maggie had cornered me by the phone box one Monday morning, talking at me about her cairn terrier who had curled in and out of my legs as Maggie spoke, the leather of the lead wrapping around my legs. I can remember that day so clearly as the single moment when my life changed:

 

“I’ve bought the old station house,” she’d explained, and I must have said something very polite in return. I was always polite, and I liked Maggie. After all, not only was she a fixture in Burton Hartshorn, she was also an indomitable force of nature and had a mean throwing arm. If I was honest, she’d scared me just a little bit. I remember getting rotten fruit thrown at me with pinpoint accuracy when she caught me and two friends trying to steal apples from her small orchard. The phantom ache of an apple to the face had me pressing my fingers on my cheekbone and wincing inwardly.

 

“I’m building a library,” she added.

 

“Where?” Surely not here in Burton Hartshorn, population three hundred and off the beaten track? Why would we need a library when we could just as well get over to Buckingham to use the library there? I remembered the excitement of the library trip out with my dad in his shiny Ford Mondeo. Libraries are big sprawling rows of shelves of every conceivable book possible; they’re not tiny places in the back end of nowhere.

 

“Not really a library,” she confided to me on that summer’s day. “We could move the post office there when Silvia retires at Christmas, and there would be tables, with tea and coffee from a small counter, and a reading area with big comfy sofas. We could run a book-swap program and maybe advertise with the local school.” I recall the wistful expression on her face. Even then, ten years back, she was old. Well, as old as any person in their seventies and eighties appears to someone fresh out of university.

 

“Sounds lovely.” I felt then that I was damning her with faint praise, and maybe I was. What she proposed did sound lovely. I was never happier than with my nose in a book, tea next to me, and maybe a couple of chocolate chip cookies on a plate. Add in rain against the window and I was in heaven. Of course a boyfriend next to me, with his head in my lap, would be the icing on the cake. Abruptly whatever Maggie was saying to me mixed in with a recent break up of a university romance.

 

“Well, I wanted to talk to you,” she continued and punctuated each word with a tug on her dog’s leash until the tangling around my legs was enough so I would never be able to move. “You’re back now, and I need someone to run this place. Not much money, mind you, but there’s rooms on the top floor, and you could do what you wanted with them.”

 

“Pardon me?” I asked, stupefied.

 

“I like your mother,” she said, slightly impatient. “She said to me you were rootless, and that building something around books and history and family would be an excellent idea. She suggested a small gallery area for your paintings, which I think is a lovely idea.”

 

I wish I could have concentrated on the good parts in that sentence, but at the time all I could think was that I was angry my mum thought I was rootless. Just because I was lying longer in bed in the mornings and was becoming obsessed with daytime TV didn’t mean I was rootless. Just because I wasn’t painting at the moment didn’t mean I couldn’t if I wanted to. Right?

 

With a final tug of the leash, I was free from the leather confines, but I didn’t move. Maggie was teasing me about a job. She had to be. I glanced around me to see if anyone was watching. My gaze caught on the beautiful old station house. L-shaped, it sat close to the deep cutting where the Great Central Main Line used to run steam trains from London to Manchester. Mothballed in the sixties, the station house had fallen into disrepair until a brewery tried to turn it into a pub. How in the hell they thought they would have anything in the way of clientele given the Red Lion was at the other end of the village, I don’t know. It didn’t last long, and for the last ten years or so, the station house had been a rental property with a high turnover.

 

“It’s a beautiful place.” Maggie sounded wistful.

 

The thatched roof needed fixing, the white windows lacked new paint, and the dark blue door was three different shades in peeled-off layers. And the garden was wild. Not just wild with weeds, but with a glorious display of autumn greens and golds that never failed to make me stop and look. Not that I am into flowers so much, but the whole effect, with the thatch and the small leaded windows and the general air of neglect, somehow captured my imagination.

 

“Very beautiful.”

 

“So, I inherited money and I bought it. You should know that. It’s mine, permanent, some small place that you could make a home.” She spoke so carefully and stared right at me with determination in her expression.

 

“You want me to run the post office?” Real life caught up with my wild imaginings in which I single-handedly restored the former station house into exactly what Maggie wanted. Large oaks shaded the garden to the rear, and ivy spread from the main house to a small seventies extension with roof lights. I imagined tearing back enough of the ivy to expose the beautiful original brickwork of the unique station house.

 

“Not just the post office,” she continued. “Stamps, parcels and post, and a small shop stocking the essentials. Like tea bags, milk, mustard, and marmite.”

 

I didn’t flinch at the strange combination of what Maggie thought were essentials. Although I did hate it when I ran out and my toast remained bereft of marmite. “Mustard. Marmite. Okay.”

 

“And the café,” she added. “With a small library, good books, and lots of romances. Maybe some DVDs. When could you start?”

 

I stood there for the longest time and even crouched down to pet the small dog just to give myself time to think. No one knew how much money Maggie had, but she clearly had enough to think of buying the old house that had once been the station on this old line. She wasn’t reclusive with money out of sight, but she wasn’t flashy either, and no one knew a lot about her. She was the very solid and focused backbone of this village while somehow remaining private. Her own cottage, the aptly named Apple Tree Cottage with its fruit orchard, was right at the center of village life just opposite the duck pond and the village green. The cottage itself dated back three hundred years, and when I was young, rumors said that Maggie was the same age.

 

“I have an interview at the hospital in patient records. Tomorrow.” I needed her to realize I had options.

 

She nodded. “Good, good. Not your thing, though, is it?”

 

Me? Stuck in an office with computers? No, it wasn’t my thing, but it was good money and there was a staff canteen with discounts. Rent to my mum, fuel in my car, enough money to buy beer and art supplies, and I would be happy. Apart from sacrificing eight hours a day, five days a week to the evil day job, that was.

 

What prompted me to agree I didn’t know. But the endless stretch of long summer days with no idea of what I wanted to do lay before me, and I didn’t really want to take the admin job. I wanted time to paint and live and do something special.

 

“No,” I answered then. “I can start now.” The small addition made her smile, and just making this decision was the best thing I’d ever done.

 

That was then, and now, nearly ten years had passed in which I had been the person in this special place. Pulling back ivy to reveal history was the easy part. Stocking, maintenance work, fundraising, those had been the difficult bits. And every Thursday morning, Maggie would come with her friends, all of whom she had known forever, and they would sit and talk and drink tea, and swap books, and make everything right in my world.

 

My art was good—I’d even sold some of the pieces and made enough to save some money after buying myself a car. What I was saving for, I don’t know. Probably that same nebulous future I had always been searching for.

 

Then last month happened. When the end came, it was sudden. Maggie didn’t come to her Thursday tea and cake meet-up, but she’d visited on Friday, told me point-blank her time was up, and that at ninety-one, she’d done her bit. After all, she’d left the station house and bequeathed it in some kind of weird estate contract for the future, and that legacy was just as important as her children.

 

I’d listened to her talk, and every word had knotted inside my heart in an impossible ball of grief, and that was exactly how it had remained. The day we laid Maggie Simmons to rest had been bright and sunny. The four weeks since had been the strangest of my life. I didn’t have a boyfriend at that moment. In fact, if I was really honest with myself, I hadn’t had a real boyfriend in over a year. The last of them, Josh, short, blond, and devious, had been the one who put me off men for the longest time. His ability to fuck up everything had left me wary and tired of the scene, of nights out, of drinking and dancing and being on view. I just wanted peace, I wanted my village in the Buckinghamshire countryside, and I wanted to lick my wounds and find Mr. Right.

 

“Are you okay?” Mrs. Patterson asked gently. I snapped back to the here and now and refocused my gaze on the cake. Applesauce cake was one of Maggie’s most requested bakes in the small café. Alongside an ancient whistling kettle and beautiful mismatched china cups and saucers, the cake was like part of Maggie and the shop. The cake was moist, flecks of apple and a vein of cinnamon in each bite—always perfect. She’d scrawled down a recipe for me from memory, but clearly something must’ve been wrong with it.

 

“I just wanted to do something nice.” This was the first Thursday since the funeral that everyone had met up again. Five instead of six now, there had been some tears and laughter over remembered times. This was the way that Maggie would want to be honored by the five women who called themselves friends.

 

“And we love you for that,” Mrs. Patterson said. “Maggie would have laughed,” she added with a cheeky wink. Mrs. Patterson was definitely one for the whole flirting business. One or two of the knots inside me unraveled gently, and I relaxed the breath that had caught in my chest. They were here talking about Maggie, remembering her, and even though my attempt at doing the same had failed miserably, it didn’t matter. Somehow during the making of a damn apple cake, I had crossed over from grief to acceptance for the loss of the woman I looked on as fondly as my own grandmother.

 

“Yes.” I poked at it again, and it deflated even further. “She would have.”

 

When they left it was nearly five, and I cleared up and washed the crockery and cutlery. Each piece of china had its place in the small kitchen, and only when everything was put away did I actually relax. I probably needed to get out of the house for the evening. Make my way over to Northampton maybe, meet up with Tim or Jack, friends from uni, or even Anna from the village, who had been my partner in crime when we were young kids with the freedom of every day after school to be filled with fun.

 

I tipped away the water remaining in the kettle and placed it back on the stove. Somehow I misjudged it and the edge of it clanked on the iron of the hob, the vibration of the clash traveling up my arm.

 

“Fuck it,” I snapped, because that is what a person did when inanimate objects screwed around with them. No one asked what was wrong, no one would. “Sad fucking bastard, talking to yourself,” I muttered.

 

Then with conviction that this evening would improve with beer and friends, I climbed up to my large open bedroom with its views over acres of green fields. I was going out, and I was going to celebrate Maggie’s life my way: by getting completely pissed and talking crap with anyone who would listen.

 

By the time I’d showered, had exchanged numerous texts with Jack about which pub was better, and had decided what to wear, it was nearly seven. Wallet and keys found, I locked up the station house and crossed to my car, noting that some bastard of a bird had seen fit to christen the polished silver doors.

 

“Story of my life.”

Dragons are Fun! Win one!

April 23, 2015

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Yeah it has nothing to do with Cookies for Courting but I couldn’t resist giving away a few of my dragons. If you haven’t won one and aren’t going to a conference this year, enter to win. To win mention your favorite Dreamspinner Book. I need to beef up my reading list :)

Sneak Peak! First Excerpt!

April 23, 2015

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If you haven’t had a chance to purchase you copy of Cookies for Courting…here is a little bit. *sigh* every time I see this cover I want a cookie. LOL

 

* * * *

PACE BARLOW slathered his brush with thick acrylic paint. Swiping his hand sideways, he drew a fat crimson line across the canvas. He stepped back to examine it for a minute before doing the same thing again, intersecting the two marks. Biting his lip, he considered the large, still mostly white, space. He’d already finished his piece for the auction, but this one had pulled him out of bed and insisted he do another painting. Sometimes art was a bitchy mistress.

“I need blue.” He turned to locate his tube of cobalt paint. Scanning the pile on his side table, he groaned. He really needed to pick up his studio. He’d been in an artistic cloud for the past few days and hadn’t paid much attention to his surroundings. A hurricane could’ve hit the room and it wouldn’t have made a difference in the overall tidiness of his workspace.

His cell phone rang. The sound of crickets chirping distracted him from his search. He’d chosen that ringtone because it was just irritating enough to pull him out of his art. Normally, he ignored the phone, but on the off chance it could be a customer, he decided to answer it.

His checking account was becoming perilously low—again. If this kept up, he’d have to dip into his trust fund. He hated to do that. It dented his pride when he had to fall back upon the money his grandfather had left him.

Pace preferred to live a life of meaning and donate his time and interest income to various charities around town. Instead of lounging around a big house or working on his tan like his trust-fund friends.

After placing his brush and palette on a paint-spattered crate, Pace grabbed his phone from its safety zone on top of a high shelf.

Pace didn’t recognize the number but pressed to connect anyway. “Hello?”

“Is this Pace Barlow?” a woman asked in a no-nonsense voice.

Pace’s money senses tingled. “Yes.”

“I’m Joyce Smith, Marshall Hunter’s assistant. He’s asked me to find an artist to paint a mural for his niece’s bedroom. You were highly recommended by Mrs. Breverton. Would you be interested in coming in and interviewing with Mr. Hunter about the job?”

Pace cleared his throat. “I’d be happy to.”

“Would tomorrow at ten work for you? We’re trying to get this project started as soon as possible.”

“That would be fine.” Pace struggled to keep his voice steady and not screech with excitement. He loved doing murals. Mrs. Breverton had been a bitchy, demanding client, but she’d paid really well and he’d received two other jobs from her recommendations. He might not want to live off his inheritance, but he didn’t mind using his connections. A guy had to eat.

“Excellent. Don’t forget to bring your portfolio.”

“Will do.” Pace said his good-byes, then disconnected and spun in a circle, pumping his fist. “Yes!”

The day was looking up after all. His phone rang again. Pace stopped jumping around long enough to answer.

“Hello?”

“Pace, where are you? You were supposed to be here like an hour ago,” a hard Russian-accented voice demanded.

Oh crap.

He’d completely forgotten he was supposed to meet his friend at the new nightclub that had opened a few streets from his studio.

“Sandy? Sorry, man. I got involved in my painting. I’m not going to make it. I might have a job lined up, and I need to bring my portfolio to an interview tomorrow. I haven’t updated it in a few months.”

Sandlova Aliev, nephew of Boris Aliev, head of the Russian mob, made a rude, annoyed sound. “How am I going to attract the right man if you aren’t here to be bait?”

“Sandy, I might get to do a mural.” Pace couldn’t help the whine in his voice. He knew he was in the wrong, but he needed a new art project.

Sandy sighed. “Fine, but if I don’t get sex tonight I’m blaming you.”

Pace could sympathize. It had been a while since he’d had sex, but in a

Contest!

April 23, 2015

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Everyone has a favorite cookie recipe or should. No seriously I don’t want to hear how you don’t like sweets go get yourself a savory no-sugar tNo-aste one if you want but you need a cookie!!!

My favorite one to make is my husband’s favorite. I got it from an old Sunset Magazine recipe which I don’t have any more but I found a link of one here. I do a few things differently, I take out half the raisins and add cranberries and I only use a 1/4 cup instead of a half cup which reduces the cooking time in half. And whatever you do DON’T use margarine instead of butter it completely ruins them. (my mother-in-law learned that the hard way)

Now to enter the contest you need to post a link to your favorite online cookie recipe. That one everyone craves. Now if you don’t bake feel free to cheat and post one someone else makes for you. Not everyone has the time to bake.

Winner will be randomly chosen and sent a $10.00 Amazon GC for their awesomeness.