Today’s snippet comes from my first Magnolia Blossom Publishing books, MERRY’S GHOST.
When writer and paranormal investigator Chase Seacort comes to spend a few weeks at a friend’s Hampton getaway, all he wants is to be alone, finish his current book about East Coast hauntings, and try to put the horrid events of his past year behind him.
All thoughts about a quiet respite alone vanish when he meets his quirky, gorgeous neighbor. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty captivates him with her perpetual smile and free and easy personality.
Merry June lives a quiet life in her beach house, devoting herself to her two loves – art and photography. Once she discovers Chase’s identity, she can’t wait to introduce him to her great-grandaunt Davinia. But Davinia rarely shows herself to others.
You wouldn’t either if you were a ghost trapped between this world and the next.
With Chase’s help, he and Merry investigate the mystery that’s kept Davinia’s spirit prisoner in the house for over 100 years, and in so doing discover a history of infidelity, heartache, and murder.
When a face from Chase’s recent past puts Merry’s life in danger, he must fight two battles for the woman he’s come to love – one on the spiritual plane and one in the physical world.
From across the street, he watched her work.
“Okay, Sam. Now open your arms wide like this.” Merry moved back from behind the tripod and extended her arms out to the sides, palms up. “Turn your face up to the sky, close your eyes, and smile as big as you can.”
Sam, all red hair and freckles and just turning eleven, did as he was told.
Merry smiled and crouched down behind the camera. “Okay. Stay that way until I say three.” She counted, snapping away as she did.
“That was great, Sam. Just great.”
The boy ran down from the gazebo steps, his smile the size of a cavern opening. “Really, Merry? Was it good?”
She laid a hand on his shoulder. “Better than good. Can I call you again if I need a male model?”
Sam lifted his shoulders and puffed out his chest with pride. “Sure thing, Merry. Anytime. You just call.”
“I will. And thanks for the soda. Thank your grandma, too.”
“Sure thing.” With that, he hopped on his skateboard and headed back towards the beach.
Chase watched her reload the camera and move the tripod to a new location, a few feet forward from where she’d been. All around her on the ground stood bags of what he assumed to be photographic supplies. Each satchel was open, and he noticed two extra hand cameras lying together next to the curb.
But it was to the woman his eyes strayed to and stayed. She was dressed as she’d been when they’d met, her feet still barefoot even though the concrete had to be scorching. With the sun shining full force down upon her head, the blondness of her hair seemed white in the bright light. Her face was free, no sunglasses to bar the glare of the sun. She stepped back from the camera, made a rectangular lens with her index fingers and thumbs, and peered into it. Chase saw her nod, once, then go back to the camera.
In rapid succession, she took numerous photographs of the aging town gazebo. It stood four square in the center of Main Street in front of the City Hall and courthouse. Against the fading red brick of both official edifices, the Victorian-spiraled, circular gazebo stood out, contrasting against them with its newly painted white facade. Hundreds of purple, pink and white Impatiens had been planted around the outer edge of it.
In all, the scene was a beautiful one to his untrained eye. He wondered how it would look captured on film from her viewpoint.
His breathing quickened as he found himself walking over to her. He hadn’t planned this, he told himself. Didn’t know if he wanted to see her again so soon. But he had no choice as his body took over his mind and propelled him toward her.
She was changing film again, securing one of the other cameras to the tripod.
“So you’re a photographer as well as a sea shell collector,” he said when he was sure she could hear him.
Her smile came first, as she folded the film into the camera. He thought it was as if she’d known he was there, watching her, all along, and had just been waiting for him to approach. Then she turned to him. The sun blasted full force into her face and she squinted against its blinding glare. She said, “Among other things.”
The cannonball that shot into his mid-section when she stared up at him made his stomach muscles tighten into tangled knots.
Switching the cameras, she turned the tripod away from the gazebo, aiming it straight in his direction. While he stood, watching her, she bent and winked into the viewfinder.
“Going to take my picture?” he asked.
She stood up, hands on hips, and angled her head to one side. “Not unless you want me to. I’m trying to get to the Post Office before the sun moves.”
“Don’t let me disturb you, then.” He turned, intent on walking away.
“You don’t have to go,” she said, squatting down again. “I don’t mind being watched when I work.”
“Being watched?” he came towards her, hands in his pockets.
“Hmmm.” Hands in place, she clicked the shutter. “You were watching when I was photographing Sam, weren’t you?”
Damn. She’d seen him. His embarrassment made him silent.
Merry clicked a few more shots then straightened and turned to him. “It’s okay,” she said, smiling. “Like I said, I don’t mind. Sometimes an audience is good for me. Keeps me on my toes.”
Why, he asked himself, every time she smiled like that, did he want to drag her against his body and cover her mouth with his own? Where had this desire come from? And why was it directed at her, a woman he didn’t know and couldn’t make up his mind if he even wanted to?
To hide his uneasiness, he decided to challenge it by being honest. “I saw Sam come into the grocery store. He was all excited about being photographed by you. He practically flew out of the store with your drink.”
She started packing up her gear, taking the film from the cameras and putting them into the pockets of her shorts. “Sam’s always been a ham. I first photographed him when he was seven and I found him sitting on the beach, a caramel apple dripping all over his face. His mother loved the shot so much she used it for their Christmas card that year.”
Her laugh gamboled through the air. He’d never heard a sound that was at one time so childlike yet so thoroughly seductive.
“His grandmother thinks he’s in love with you,” he said, picking up one of her bags and handing it to her.
“Thanks. Selma’s a card, smokes too much, and has a heart as big as the ocean. She loves that boy no end.”
“I thought the same thing when I was in her store.”
“Speaking of the store,” she tossed the last of the bags over her shoulder, “I’ve got to get a few things myself.”
When she went to pick up the tripod, her hand collided with his as he’d had the same idea.
Together, their fingers stayed twined around the pole for a few seconds. Neither of them had the desire to remove their grips.
The heat that Chase had felt before was now at a boiling point. For the briefest of seconds, he found himself energized by her touch, vitalized by the feel of her skin against his. It was almost like being struck by lightning.
“Where’s your car?” he asked, barely able to keep the aching going on within him banked from her ears. “You’ve got an awful lot to carry. Let me take this.”
“No car. I walked.”
“You came all this way, carrying this load, alone?”
“Sure. I do it all the time. I can manage.” The gentle tug she exerted on the pole was met with resistance. “Can I have my tripod?” she asked, a playful smile dancing on her face.
His eyebrows furrowed above the glasses. “It’s too hot to walk, ” he said. “My car’s about two blocks away. Come on, I’ll drive you home.”
“It’s okay, I can walk. Besides, I need to stop at Selma’s.”
“I’m parked right outside her store,” he said, taking one of the bags off her shoulder.
He began walking and she had no choice but to follow.
“Are you always so bossy?” she asked, matching him stride for stride, even though she was barefoot and carrying a third of her weight on her shoulders.
“I’m not bossy,” he said, “just practical. It’s almost ninety degrees. You’d be exhausted by the time you got home, carrying all this.”
“Like I said, I’m used to it.” One arm slung over the bag across her shoulder, and she peered at him from the corner of her eye as they walked along.
So, the third book in my ROMANTIC HAUNTINGS series from Magnolia Blossom Publishing is almost ready to send to the editors. I thought I’d give you a little sneak peek at my character images for Genevieve Gordon and Declan Wolffe, my heroine and hero.
Gigi is a tenth-generation witch, real estate agent, and all-around great gal. I actually gave her lavender eyes just like Liz Taylor and they’re a plot point in the book. Gigi’s vowed never to marry because explaining her status and abilities to a would-be-husband is daunting to say the least and might prove catastrophic in the long run. The only man who’s ever known what she is Declan Wolffe, her first and only love. The problem is, Declan left town at 18 leaving her brokenhearted and in the emotional dust without so much as a backward glance.
But now Dec’s back in town.
Declan’s family life was anything but exemplary. His father was an abusive alcoholic, his mother a schizophrenic who never sought treatment. The town viewed Dec as less-than, something he always hated. When he left at 18 he made a promise to himself that one day he would return a success. And he has.
And he wants Gigi back in his life.
The problem: She’s made her own promise to never let any man stomp on her heart ever again, and that includes her first love.
I hope so, hee hee. More details to come once I have a publishing schedule, but for now, here’s a little snippet I wrote about these two meeting up again:
IT’S WITCH O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE
A sudden kerfuffle behind her had heads turning. The City Council members all shifted and glanced over her shoulder at something in the back of the room.
The noise level rose and Gigi, along with every other person in the room, tried to see what was causing the commotion. From the doorway into the chamber she could see a tall man with shoulders almost as wide as the door, standing and regarding the room.
From her vantage point she couldn’t see his face, only the outline of his body and the fact he wore dark sunglasses. He was huge, though, that much she could tell. Well above six feet.
A wave of sound swelled around her until it became a tsunami of words she couldn’t discern with any clarity.
The man moved into the room and Gigi was stuck at once by his command of the space. Those standing in the aisles moved out of his way as he stalked – there really was no other word for it – toward the front.
There was a familiarity to that strut, but she couldn’t for the life of her think what it was.
Short hair outlined his face, dotted with streaks of stark silver at the temples. His skin was deeply tanned, giving an indication he spent a great deal of time out of doors. A fawn-colored sports jacket covered a jet-black collared shirt open at the neck, sans tie. As he moved through the crowd, and even though she couldn’t see his eyes behind the glasses, she had the unmistakable impression he was staring right at her.
Her heart rate kicked up a little as a sixth sense of awareness shot through her.
Harlan Peters banged his gavel to quiet the rumbling room. When the noise hushed, his voice rang out. “Sir, you are interrupting a town business meeting. Who are you and what business do you have here?”
“My apologies,” the man said.
The voice was hauntingly familiar, too.
He stopped just shy of the podium where she stood, his attention focused on the panel at the front of the room.
“I meant no disrespect, but I thought it might make a difference if you heard from me in person,” he said. “It is, after all, my proposal you’re voting on.”
A collective gasp ran around the room.
“You’re Weber?” Peters asked.
A smile as recognizable now as it has been twenty years ago lit the man’s face and made Gigi’s lungs empty of air.
“Weber’s the name of my company,” he said, “named after my—”
“Mother,” Gigi finished.
Turning to her, the man removed his sunglasses and she found a pair of eyes she’d thought never to see again in this lifetime.
With a nod, he said, “Hey, Genny,” a corner of his mouth dipping down on one side in a smirk that still snuck into her dreams. “Long time.”
“Not nearly long enough,” she said to the first boy she’d ever kissed.
And the one who’d shattered her heart into a million irreparable pieces.
Anger crashed through her and before she could get a grip on the escalating fury the ceiling lights flickered and then two bulbs directly above them simultaneously exploded.
Currently working on the third book in the ROMANTIC HAUNTINGS series for Magnolia Blossom Publishing, IT’S WITCH O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE. It’s a Paranormal, second chance at love, coming home again romanc.
This one involves Genny Gordon and Declan Wolffe. Dec was her first love, left town at 18, broke her heart, and has now returned.
When Genny gets angry, her powers tend to go a little haywire, causing anything electrical in the vicinity to jumpstart. Here’s a quick scene I’m working on that details those incidents…
Folding her arms across her chest she leaned back against the counter and glared at him. “I was simply trying to do us both a favor. It’s, as you’ve said, obvious we still have…a thing between us, a deep physical attraction that keeps popping up whenever we’re together. Even Kathy said she could practically smell our pheromones secreting when we’re in the same room.”
He nodded and pulled the bottle back into his hands. He took a drink, his gaze never leaving hers.
“I figured we’d meet it head-on.”
“And just have secret sex.”
“Well, yeah. We’re certainly not going to have it in public.”
“Why do you want to keep it a secret? Ashamed to be seen with me after all these years.” He knew it was a dig, but in some small part of him he was concerned she might be. Genny had worked hard for her upstanding reputation in the community, while his past seemed to still be a hot topic, evidenced by the Barstone Bee byline.
The garbage disposal turned on, the loud whir startling him. From pithy to pissed to furious. Seems she didn’t have as tight a hold on that anger as she thought.
“That’s a disgusting thing to say,” she said, “and you know damn well it’s not true.”
“Is it? Why all the secrecy then? No public outings, no going to the movies or out to dinner. Just straight sex.”
Her eyes narrowed and when she lifted her chin and sliced him with a mere eyebrow lift, he got as hard as concrete before his pulse could trip once.
“You used to like sex, Dec. A lot, if memory serves.”
He swallowed. “Still do,” he said, proud he could modulate his voice to hide what was going on within him.
“Well, good. So do I. We’re not clumsy teenagers anymore, either. We both bring a couple decades of experience along with us.”
“Had a lot of it in this arena, have ya? With anyone I might know?”
As she glared at him the microwave beeped and the door flew open.
Since he hadn’t put anything in it to heat, he knew her magical dander was up.
Again, good. The more she got angry about this stupid scheme, the better.
One of my Romance Gems sistahs, prolific and talented writer KARA O’NEAL, has a new book out, titled FELICITY’S FORTUNE for Magnolia Blossom Publishing and I asked her to give me a little info on it so I could share it with all of you. Here’s Kara….
I could hardly wait for the second book in my Gamblers and Gunslingers series – FELICITY’S FORTUNE – to release!
When we visited St. Joseph, Missouri, we had to stop at Jesse James’ house. While I was walking through those rooms, I wondered about his wife.
She’d set up a house, cooked meals, raised children…and her husband was an outlaw. She knew what he was, and that surprised me. Of course, who knew how she felt about his choices, and I’m sure it was hard to leave him since she loved him.
But I thought…what if she hadn’t known? What if a woman had married a man who was an outlaw, and she discovered it…
I had to give her a mighty hero, and so Butch Wilder grew in my mind’s eye. And he’s a good one. He had to be a little sinful, though, but he’s got a big, big, big heart!
I loved writing this story. Felicity’s daughters are the cutest little things.
I also enjoyed sending Felicity to Hell’s Half Acre, because God bless Texas, but that place was scary. It belonged in a book.
You know, that’s the best thing about being an author. You get to put cool places, events and people in your books.
I hope y’all enjoy Felicity and Butch’s story as much as I did! Happy reading!
ABOUT THE BOOK….
Felicity Capwell Archer had no idea she’d married a thief and a killer. And even though she’s the one who turns him in, people still think she helped her former husband steal and is now hiding the money. To protect herself from the repercussions and attacks, she hires Butch Wilder. Gambler. Gunslinger. And a giant who hides a heart of gold.
Butch Wilder grew up on the streets of New Orleans, learning how to fight, how to gamble and how to use a Colt .45 with deadly precision. When Felicity begs him to protect her family, she’s too damned pretty and too intriguing to turn down. Determined to avoid any emotional attachments and to keep it purely professional, Butch takes the job. But he finds himself sitting down to nice meals, walking her children to school and being part of a family for the first time.
Only by finding and returning the stolen loot can Felicity and her daughters ever truly be safe. Following clues she deciphers from her former husband’s letters, Felicity and Butch travel to the outlaw-infested Hell’s Half Acre. It’s madness, but Butch will do anything to protect Felicity. Even if it means his life.
A LITTLE EXCERPT…
When Butch reached Rickman’s office, he tried to see through the windows to the inside, but the grimy panes allowed for nothing. Cautious but unafraid, he walked in without hesitation.
But when he found who had come calling, he about swallowed his tongue. He stopped short, his hand on the knob, his mind devoid of all thought.
“Are you Mr. Wilder?”
Her honey voice poured through him, grabbing hold of his senses.
She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry to interrupt your work, sir, but I’m looking for Mr. Butch Wilder. Are you he?”
Snap out of it, man! Butch blinked then cleared his throat. “Uh, yeah. Yes. I’m Butch Wilder.” He shut the door.
She looked him over.
He steeled himself against the fear he might see in her eyes due to his size, but when her gaze touched his face, what he found was desperation. Confused and a little nervous, he wrapped his thumbs around his suspenders.
“Do you know who I am?”
Would it upset her if he did? But he couldn’t lie to her. Somehow she’d know if he did. “Yes.”
She twitched her lips as if frustrated by her infamy. He couldn’t blame her.
After letting out a slow exhale, she said, “My home, and by that I really refer to my children, my housekeeper and myself, has been under attack since my former husband was arrested and tried.”
So…she had gotten divorced. Or was it an annulment? He stayed quiet, not knowing what she wanted or if he was allowed to respond.
“We need constant protection until this is settled.” She waved a hand in the air. “Until either the…the hanging or…” She paused, and her gaze went distant.
He narrowed his eyes slightly. What bothered her? The event she hadn’t mentioned or the hanging?
She shook her head. “I apologize. The last weeks have been rather harrowing.”
He could imagine. From the arrest, to the trial, to now…
A portion of what she’d said registered in his mind. “I’m sorry, ma’am. But why are you here? You mentioned…protection?” Hell. Was she going to ask him to…
“Yes. The sheriff’s office can’t provide anyone, so he suggested I hire you.”
Butch’s mind whirled with the implications.
“I will pay you well, plus meals, because I would prefer it if you moved into my home. People come at all times of the day and night. I’m fearful of what has occurred in my absence for the last few hours.” She pressed two fingers to her temple and rubbed. “Not that I can do anything about it,” she muttered. She let out a weary exhale.
While she struggled with exhaustion, he tried to make sense of what she was offering. It was ridiculous. Him? Butch Wilder? Protect her? And her family?
Award-winning author, Kara O’Neal is a teacher and lives in Texas with her husband and three children She writes stories with strong family ties, lots of romance, and guaranteed happy endings! Please visit her at www.karaoneal.com.
We met WIll in book 1, Merry’s Ghost. He’s Merry’s older brother, an Academy Award Winning indie filmmaker. In this book, he’s filming the script of Merry’s Ghost, as penned by CD Seacort – his now brother-in-law and Merry’s hubby, and he’s found the perfect house to shoot in. The only problem? The owner is very reluctant to have a film made in her home.
Here’s the blurb and a little taste of the story…
Hotshot movie director Wilton June is in pre-production for a new movie. The moment he sees Maison Toussaint he decides it’s the perfect setting for the film and wants to rent it. The one stumbling block? The owner isn’t sure she can let her ancestral home be used in a movie.
Botanist Jerica Toussaint needs cash – a lot of it – to keep her home up to code and her herbal healing business alive. June’s financial offer is oh-so-tempting, as is the director himself. But the house has a secret Jerica’s guarded her entire life. Can she, in good conscience, rent it to a man who may expose it?
Convincing Jerica to trust him with her home – and her secret – is no easy feat and after a time Will realizes he needs to convince her to trust him with one more thing: her heart.
As far as spooky, make-your-skin-crawl, haunted-looking houses went, this one was perfect, Wilton June mused as he gazed up at the Victorian structure. It could have been on the cover of a coffee table book titled The House Buyer’s Guide to Ghostly Mansions.
Four stories tall, it was by far the biggest house he’d seen since he’d started scouting for locations in Boston and the surrounding area.
The uppermost level consisted of a single, square room, circled by floor-to-ceiling windows on all four sides, and set in the dead center of the house.
I bet you can see the entire town from any window you look through. The natural light must be incredible on a sunny day.
Always a bonus for a cinematographer. The ground floor was ringed by a full, covered porch, Corinthian columns supporting the overhang awning every few feet. Stained glass windows filled the second level, the third supporting a half balcony running along the length of the front of the house. The paint, a steely, cold grey, could have been the original as it was faded and peeling in spots. The drab, lifeless color added to the house’s eerie aesthetic. The shutters ran to black and a few hung from their hinges. A huge front yard sported beyond rust-laden wrought iron gates and boasted an overgrowth of dead grass and weeds he’d bet hadn’t seen any action from a lawnmower in some time. Off to one side stood a rose arbor, withered vines and decayed blooms covering it from top to bottom and once again adding to the dead look and feel of the place.
“It’s perfect,” he told the woman standing at his side.
Realtor Genevieve Gordon tossed him a look indicating either, a, he was crazy, or, b, she was afraid he might be pulling her leg and wasting her time.
No one who viewed this place would ever use perfect as a description.
But for what Will wanted, it was.“What are the specs?”She handed him a brochure filled with the home’s dimensions. Will calculated the necessary room he’d need for three stationary cameras, sound equipment, and extra lighting.
Perfect shot through his mind again.
“Can we go inside? I’d like to see how the rooms are situated and get an idea of the space.”
Ms. Gordon made a face his mother would have termed pinched.
“Are you sure you want to? I mean, the spec pages have pictures of the main rooms and all the dimensions. Isn’t that enough?”
He wondered what prompted the concern lacing her tone.
“If you don’t mind, I want to see the setup for myself, the flow from room to room, to ensure it can fit all my equipment and if it’s big enough for what I need to do.”
She sighed. “I’ll have to call the owner for approval.”
He cocked his head. “Don’t all owners want potential tenants to do a walk-through? In my experience, that’s what usually seals the deal.”
“You’re the first person in over two years who’s expressed any interest in the place.”
He could tell the moment she uttered the words, she regretted giving them life. Her mouth slammed to a hard, closed line and she glanced down at her shoes.
Strange response for someone looking to make a commission.
“You mentioned at the office the owner refuses to sign a rental agreement until she meets the potential renter, right?” he asked. “Wants to size them up? Interview them?”
“That’s the major stipulation for her leasing it. This is her ancestral home. It’s been in her family for four generations and she wants to ensure whoever does rent it is going to take care of it.”
“Got it.” He glanced back at the structure, saw in his mind’s eye the opening scene, how he’d film it, the angles he’d shoot from.
“I have every intention of taking care of this place.”
“Just know as another condition for renting,” the realtor said, “Miss Toussaint would require six months’ rent, up front. No refunds if you leave early. No matter what the reason.”
Again, strange wording, but he let it slide. He’d only leave when the project planned was complete and the film was in the can. Nothing else would make him leave, because one thing everyone said about Academy Award-winning documentarian and director Wilton June, he never walked away from anything before he was done with it.
With anticipation to start working twitching about within him, he turned to the petite brunette and said, “I want to see the inside of the house. Go ahead and give her a call. Let’s do this.”
From my WIP for Magnolia Blossom THE HAUNTING OF WILTON JUNE (No release date yet but soon, I hope!)
My heroine, Jerica, is a botanist
Here ya go:
For three days they avoided one another, each telling themselves it wasn’t really avoidance as much as work that occupied their every waking moment.
Jerica knew it for the lie it was on the first day as she set out with her deliveries. From the moment Will walked out of the cottage she’d thought of little else but him.
And that kiss.
She’d analyzed it, conceptualized it, even going so far as to make a little mental chart enumerating all the ways Will’s kiss made her feel.
#1 like she was cherished.
#2 like she mattered.
#3 like she was a desirable woman.
#4 like if she’d given him the slightest prompting they would have wound up in her big brass bed spending the rest of the afternoon, evening, and night doing wild and wicked things to one another.
Her cheeks grew warm from the memory of his tongue mating with hers, sipping from it, drawing nourishment, as she printed instruction labels for the salves cooling in her workroom.
Her legs grew restless as she fantasized what his body looked like under his comfortable clothes. All that lean and lithe muscle under his shirt had felt staggering when she’d run her hands up his chest.
Her thighs shook at the remembrance of the way his erection had pressed, throbbed, and grown larger when it had been nestled against the apex of her jeans.
She berated herself when she had to start an emulsion of Slipper Elm tea twice because she’d miscalculated the right amount of elm powder and honey. She’d been picturing Will the way he looked as he’d sat across from her eating the soup and sandwiches she’d prepared. The light in his eyes had been bright, the blues in them meshing into a startling chaos of color. His lips had grown wet from sipping the soup, tiny traces of tomato-red sticking to the corners.
You need to get a grip, girl.
Once you start breaking out in an erotic sweat from the way a soup color looks on someone’s mouth, it’s time to take a break, reboot your brain, and call it a day on the naughty-thoughts-daydreaming.
Which is what she did.
Unfortunately, the moment she laid her head down on her pillow Will’s face popped into her brain again and thoughts of whether he slept in his underwear or nude raced through her mind.
She pictured both, individually, and had to throw the warm blankets off her growing-hot body.
The man simply occupied he thoughts to the point of ridiculousness.