The 2013 Christmas Card
The 2013 Christmas Card
By Meggan Connors
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: Sensual
When her father loses her in a poker game, Lexie Markland is sent to work in the household of Nicholas Wetherby for one year to pay off the debt. Innocent, but not naïve, she is savvy enough to know she must maintain her distance from this man, who frustrates her with his relentless teasing but whose kisses bring her to her knees. Because although she may be just another conquest to him, it’s not just her heart in jeopardy should she succumb to Nicholas’ considerable charms.
Since his brother’s death almost a year before, nothing has held Nicholas’ attention for long—not women, not booze, not even an excellent hand at cards. Nothing, that is, until he meets the woman he won in a drunken night of poker. Intrigued by his prize and her chilly reserve, he makes it his mission to crack Lexie’s cool demeanor. But even as passion explodes between them, the question remains: will Nicholas be able to take the ultimate risk…and gamble on love?
Nicholas Wetherby threw back his whiskey in a single swallow. He hadn’t touched his cards since he had first looked at them, casually raising bets as other players placed them. Recognizing Nicholas’s betting patterns as those of a man with a remarkable hand, the other players at the table folded, one after the other. All except one.
Idly twirling a silver dollar between his fingers, Nicholas leaned back in his chair, hooked his arm over the back and studied the last remaining a player, John Markland. Markland was a man who had been perpetually down on his luck since the death of his wife, and any good sense he may have once had must have died with her. Only an improbable run of good fortune brought Markland to this particular table, and he played like a man possessed. Nicholas had once heard he lived more or less hand-to-mouth in a seedy part of town with his daughter, and the stack of cash in front of him would keep him in food and booze for a good month. If the man had any common sense left, he wouldn’t push his luck—he would fold this hand, gather his winnings, and count both his cash and his blessings.
“How much you got, Markland?” he asked.
Tobacco smoke clung to the air as Markland mashed the end of his cigar between his teeth. Making a show of counting his money, he said, “Ninety.”
Still not looking back at his cards, Nicholas tossed in a hundred dollars. A part of him expected Markland to fold over the casual way he placed his bet, as if he didn’t care about the sum of money being wagered. And, in fact, he didn’t.
“Well, that ought to cover it.”
The desperate greed lighting his eyes poorly disguised, Markland stared at the cash in front of him. The problem with Markland was that he lacked both the fortitude and the skill to earn his money, so he had to win it. Pity he wasn’t even very good at that.
Nicholas despised men like him. But then, Nicholas despised just about everyone these days.
“I’ll sign over the house to you if you go all in, Wetherby.”
Nicholas chuckled, but it felt hollow in his gut. “I’m sure it’s mortgaged for more than it’s worth. I think not.”
He didn’t want anything Markland had to offer, but at least the betting was getting interesting. The familiar rush accompanying a big win caught his attention and pierced through the languor that had been dogging him for months. Ever since the death of his brother almost a year before, no amount of drink or women seemed to be able to fill the void in his life, though a big win at poker at least piqued his interest for a time.
“I’ll give you my watch,” Markland said, fishing into his pocket. “It’s pure gold.”
Nicholas eyed the banged-up trinket his opponent dangled in front of him, acting like a street vendor hawking ‘genuine diamonds’ or some cure-all elixir. As if he would want such a piece of junk. Nicholas almost wished the man had more pride.
“I have a pocket watch, and I don’t need another,” Nicholas replied, swiftly losing interest in the betting and wanting to move on to the next hand. “Just call with the ninety and let’s be done with this. Except for the cash in front of you, you have nothing I want.”
Markland fidgeted in his seat and tapped his index finger nervously on the worn, green felt of the card table. His eyes shifted from Nicholas to Nicholas’s money, and over at the bar. “A moment, Wetherby,” he said, holding up his hand. “Barkeep!” he shouted to the man standing behind the gleaming mahogany bar. When he turned in their direction, Markland said, “Bourbon whiskey, for me and my new friend here. The ‘48, if you would.”
“Going for the good stuff, I see.”
“Nothing but the best for me and my friends,” Markland said, raising a glass in a toast.
Never one to turn down a free drink—especially not one as good as the ‘48—Nicholas nodded his thanks, replied, “Indeed,” and drained his glass. He placed it on the table with heavy thud and said, “Just call.”
“No, wait!” Markland cried. “My daughter! If I lose, I’ll give you my daughter!”
Linda Bennett Pennell’s Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel
Genre: Historical fiction with romantic elements
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel tells a story of lives unfolding in different centuries, but linked and irrevocably altered by a series of murders in 1930.
Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan’s self-righteous vigilantism. Jack’s older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.
Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words I love you. Despite entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever.
June 14, 1930
Jack jammed a finger into each ear and swallowed hard. Any other time, he wouldn’t even notice the stupid sound. The river always sorta slurped just before it pulled stuff underground.
His stomach heaved again. Maybe he shouldn’t look either, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the circling current. When the head slipped under the water, the toe end lifted up. Slowly the tarpaulin wrapped body, at least that’s what it sure looked like, went completely vertical. It bobbed around a few times and finally gurgled its way down the sinkhole. Then everything went quiet . . . peaceful . . . crazily normal. Crickets sawed away again. An ole granddaddy bullfrog croaked his lonesomeness into the sultry midnight air.
Crouched in the shelter of a large palmetto clump, Jack’s muscles quivered and sweat rolled into his eyes, but he remained stock-still. His heart hammered like he had just finished the fifty yard dash, but that was nothing to what Zeke was probably feeling. He was still just a little kid in lots of ways.
When creeping damp warmed the soles of Jack’s bare feet, he grimaced and glanced sideways. Zeke looked back with eyes the size of saucers and mouthed the words I’m sorry. Jack shook his head then wrinkled his nose as the odor of ammonia and damp earth drifted up. He’d always heard that fear produced its own peculiar odor, but nobody ever said how close you had to be to actually smell it. He prayed you had to be real close; otherwise, he and Zeke were in big trouble.
The stranger standing on the riverbank stared out over the water for so long Jack wondered if the man thought the body might suddenly come flying up out of the sinkhole and float back upriver against the current. Funny, the things that popped into your head when you were scared witless.
The man removed a rag from his pocket and mopped his face. He paused, looked upstream, then turned and stared into the surrounding forest. As his gaze swept over their hiding place, Jack held his breath and prayed, but he could feel Zeke’s chest rising and falling in ragged jerks so he slipped his hand onto Zeke’s arm. Under the gentle pressure of Jack’s fingers, Zeke’s muscles trembled and jumped beneath his soft ebony skin. When Zeke licked his lips and parted them like he was about to yell out, Jack clapped a hand over the open mouth and wrapped his other arm around Zeke’s upper body, pulling him close and holding him tight. Zeke’s heart pounded against the bib of his overalls like it might jump clean out of his chest.
With one final look ‘round at the river and forest, the stranger strode to the hand crank of a Model T. The engine caught momentarily, then spluttered and died. A stream of profanity split the quiet night. The crank handle jerked from its shaft and slammed back into place. More grinding and more swearing followed until the thing finally coughed to life for good and a car door slammed. Only then did Jack relax his hold on Zeke.
“I want outta here. I wanna go home,” Zeke whispered hoarsely.
Lucky Zeke. Before Meg left home to move into town, Jack would have felt the same way. Now he didn’t care if he ever went home.
Jack cocked an ear in the Ford’s direction. “Hush so I can listen. I think he’s gone, but we’re gonna belly crawl in the opposite direction just to be sure we ain’t seen.”
“Through that briar patch? I ain’t got on no shoes or shirt.”
“Me neither. Come on. Don’t be such a baby.”
“I ain’t no baby,” Zeke hissed as he scrambled after Jack.
When the pine forest thinned out, Jack raised up on his knees for a look around. Without a word, Zeke jumped to his feet and started toward the road. Jack grabbed a strap on Zeke’s overalls and snatched him back onto his bottom.
“You taken complete leave of your senses?” Wiping sweat out of his eyes, Jack pushed his shaggy blonde hair to one side. “Check it out before you go bustin’ into the open.”
“Why you so bossy all the time? I ain’t stupid, ya know. Just cause you turned twelve don’t make you all growed up.”
Zeke’s lower lip stuck out, trembling a little. Whether it was from fear or anger, Jack wasn’t sure. Probably both. Peering into the night, he strained for the flash of headlights. Nothing but bright moonlight illuminated the road’s deep white sand. Finally confident that no vehicles were abroad, he grabbed Zeke’s hand and pulled him to his feet. With one final glance left, then right, they leapt onto the single lane track and ran like the devil was on their tails.
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel now available from Soul Mate Publishing
Confederado do Norte coming from Soul Mate in 2014
Buy link for Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel: http://amzn.to/16qq3k5
I am a native of Texas and still live in this great state. I married my high school sweetheart, years and years ago. We are both retired now. LOL.
We raised four children and have eight grandchildren, and grandchildren are Grand. At the moment, all my children and my grandchildren live within seventy miles of our home, lots of visits. My husband and I still love each other after all these years the stuff romance is made of, Happy Ever After!
Does it count that I’m still married to my first love? My love came to visit my older sister, drat the luck. He rode up to the house on his horse with graceful competence, one with the mount, tall in the saddle and all the other things written in western romance novels about the hero. Needless to say, I melted with admiration.
I thought he was so cute in his big, cowboy hat. I know he wore clothes, jeans, and boots etc., however, I don’t remember the color of the shirt, but that hat! Wow! To this day, I remember that gray hat set at a slant on his coal black hair. In fact, he still owns that same hat, a bit out of date and hanging in the hallway of our home. Our grandson wears it occasionally. It looks good on him, too.
I’m not positive when he noticed me, but I noticed him, at once. I think my hero thought I was only a child being only thirteen to his mature sixteen. The next time I saw him, he looked a little closer. Finally, he noticed and I noticed back. It didn’t take him long to come around to my way of thinking.
His coal black hair is now peppered with silver, and much to my disgust, he stopped wearing his cowboy hat. He replaced it with a cap.
Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman is a Regency romance.
Genre: Paranormal romance
Heat level: Sensual.
Hook: A woman trapped in an endless cycle of nightmares. A handsome hero committed to rescuing her. It’s just like Sleeping Beauty – except the dreaming damsel is the sword wielder and the hero is a psychic vampire feeding off her pain.
“The Leeches got their nickname from the way they eat.” Reed’s voice was even.
“They drink blood?” she breathed.
He shook his head. “A little less literal. The Broschi are empathic. They can feel and even evoke other people’s feelings, negative ones like fear, pain, horror.”
“Sun and stars,” she breathed. She got it.
She got it.
“They’re eating me,” she said, and laughed, but not humorously. “These superhuman, psychic Leech people are keeping me trapped in nightmares, eating my feelings.” Her chest felt heavy. She pressed her left hand against it and felt its gentle rise and fall.
None of this is real. All this drama, all this fear, all the pain and anger and malice. None of it exists except in the form of juicy brainwaves that these beings sip like mint juleps. No wonder she couldn’t die, couldn’t escape, couldn’t ever wake up.
Reed’s face was flushed, his nostrils wide. Her handsome hero. For a minute, she hated him, hated that he got to wake up, hated this situation, hated everything boxing her in this narrow world.
Katana glared at him for a moment. “I’m trapped in here,” she grated.
His face relaxed into compassion. Hers hardened.
“I know,” he said.
She stared at him for a moment longer. Finally, with a sigh, she leaned her head against the glass. “Who are you, Reed?”
“I’m a Leech, too, Katana.”
Purchasing the book: http://www.amazon.com/Hunted-Dreams-ebook/dp/B00CHUEIIG
Germany by Meggan Connors
When I was twenty, I lived in Germany for about nine months.
Now, I’d lived a relatively sheltered existence in my hometown. I went to elementary school, middle school, high school and University all in the same place. I’d known for a long time that I wanted out, but, well, things happen.
My parents, namely my mother, weren’t excited about this prospect of me going to Europe for any period of time. So I applied for a scholarship. And I got it. Though, as the only German major on campus going to a fledgling German exchange program, it wasn’t that hard.
(Yes, I was a German major. And an English Lit major. Oh, and a Linguistics major. I also had a double minor in History and Political Science. Employment apparently wasn’t high on my list of priorities, but I knew a lot about a lot of stuff that couldn’t make me any money)
Anyway, I got the scholarship. And it was only then, once I had the scholarship in hand and my bags packed, that I started to panic.
I was desperately shy. For years, I would panic at the idea at ordering at the drive through. No kidding. I only got over that because I went on a date with the kid who manned the window. It took me months to warm up. And here I was, thinking I was all that for getting on a plane and going someplace where I didn’t know a soul.
I’ll admit, I wondered if I would talk to anyone for the entire time I was there.
For most of my life, I’d known everyone. I’d gone to school with all the same people, and while college expanded my horizons, it was rare that I didn’t have a class or two with someone I’d known since third grade. I was so afraid of making a mistake, because if anyone found out… well, then everyone would find out. (Trust me on this one. It happened. More than once)
But I forced myself to get on that plane, even though those last few steps to my seat were like pulling teeth.
And it was the most amazing thing I had ever done for myself.
In Germany, where I knew no one, I found my voice.
I made mistakes. Lots of them. Like the time I was trying to talk about the condition of chickens in Kentucky, and my pronunciation for the word for chickens was corrected to the word for whores. Yeah, I thought it sounded wrong, but I went with it. So, I talked about how they were kept in tiny cages and pecked each other’s eyes out.
Whoopsie. No really, I meant the chickens.
But instead of hiding behind my hair, when I figured out where I’d gone wrong, I just laughed. I still laugh when I think about it. And I guess it was there that I discovered that if I messed up, it wouldn’t kill me. I discovered that mistakes are funny.
I crammed four years of college experiences into nine months, and stopped caring if everyone found out I wasn’t perfect. I started taking chances.
If I’d stayed in my sheltered little world, I never would have taken the risk of going to Germany. Maybe I would have found my voice another way, but something tells me I wouldn’t have. I would have stayed safe and quiet, but I never would have figured out how to be me.
I never would have figured out that, behind the quiet, introverted façade was a boisterous personality aching to get out. That, behind the demure, “Whatever you want” was a person with very definite opinions and feelings. And I never would have been brave enough to try to publish any of the stories in my head.
I never would have been brave enough to talk to the man who would become my husband. I never would have said the very outrageous thing that spurred him to ask me out.
To this day, I still think of myself as an introvert. I still have to spend some time alone every week, and I get cranky if we make too many plans in a month (three parties in one weekend last month nearly did me in). When I’ve had a stressful day, where I’ve had to “on” all day long, I still need to spend time staring at a wall just to decompress.
But I have a voice. I’ll stand up to anyone, and I’ll tell you what I think. If you’re really lucky, I’ll tell you a dirty joke.
I have Germany to thank for that.
Oh, and little things, I have a book coming out in a couple of months, and I’m super excited about it. Here’s the blurb, if you’re interested…
When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.
Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess… and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.
Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their wedding, and she’d long since given up on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if they were family. Who, for the first time since their marriage, cares for her as if she is, too.
Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meggan-Connors/
Or, I love to be stalked. Come visit my website at www.megganconnors.com
Murder in the Neighborhood
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Heat Level: Sensual
A handsome detective and a sexy reporter team to capture a killer who threatens their small-town-American community, even as they are tempted by sweet romance.
A killer is attacking respectable citizens in picturesque Hubbard, NY and leaving corpses on their front steps in the middle of the day. Detective Fowler isn’t certain who causes him to lose the most sleep, a certain sexy reporter with bouncing curls and sparkling black eyes or the elusive psychopath creating panic in his small town community. Together the detective and the reporter race to find the monster in their midst and return the town to the desirable place where people come to raise their families in peace and contentment. Can they sort through their differences to find romance even as they search for a determined stalker with murder on his mind? The clock ticks down on a man in a rage with a deadly mission.
A young woman competently filling a pair of gray slacks and a blue sweater was backing out of a bedroom with her hand still on the door. She was slightly built but of medium height with a thick mop of curly brown hair cut just at jaw line. A tiny waist and the snug slacks accented a firm, rounded bottom that strained and rippled the material as she stepped backwards from the room.
He thought he had seen those hips someplace before, but he waited patiently for the intruder to turn around. Would she recognize him outlined against the light? She finally did and gave a visible start and squeak of surprise.
“Miss Hampton,” he greeted keeping his voice quiet and noncommittal. He nodded with raised eyebrows, as he leaned against the doorjamb with his arms crossed in front of him waiting for her explanation. Her cheeks reddened slightly as she came toward him. He had never known such a rounded woman before. Everything about her made him think of succulent apples. She wasn’t fat. Just curvy round. He tried not to look down at her chest, which he knew would bring thoughts of Delicious to mind. He was slightly acquainted with Beverly Louise Hampton and more than a little wary. His attraction to her had his automatic defense mechanisms clicking, one by one, firmly into place.
“Hey, Detective Fowler,” she said warily by way of greeting. “I came in the back door from behind. I parked my car over on the next street because I knew the short cut through the yards. Used to ride my bike through here to get to school,” she babbled. “I guessed you would have all the official vehicles out front. I said hello to the police earlier,” she added, winding down and giving him a slightly apprehensive look. He knew she knew she shouldn’t be here.
She clutched a notebook to her chest nervously but tilted her chin up slightly. So, she wasn’t sorry she’d intruded herself into a crime scene. Just as he knew she’d monitored the calls to the police.
I am so excited to introduce one of my favorite new authors, Sarah Hegger! Sarah’s first book, The Bride Gift, is coming this Spring from Soul Mate Publishing.
My first love was, and still is, one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen. He works today as a professional actor and is married with two young children. I am thrilled to say that I can now wish him all the happiness in the world.
We met at university, both of us first year drama students. I think it fair to say we both fell fast and hard, as only the really young can do. About six months into our relationship, real disaster struck. We were crossing the street in front of the theatre, on our way to a performance. A man in a car at the intersection asked for directions. First Love stopped to give them. As they were talking, the lights changed and First Love ran for the sidewalk. He did not see another car, anticipating the green light, cut past a bus between him and the sidewalk. I watched, sickened as First Love was hit and flung several meters into the intersection.
Not a night I will ever forget. I have strange images that run through my mind, even now. The sneakers that flew off his feet to land far away from where he lay, the incredible kindness of strangers that crowded round and covered him with coats to keep him warm, the cop that told me not to worry – it was the ones that didn’t scream that you should worry about. I remember a woman who held his legs down while the paramedics put a mask on his face. First Love, in respiratory distress, kept pulling into a fetal position and it was dangerous for his lungs. I remember being in the ambulance with him – sirens, paramedics, trying to keep my balance as we raced to the hospital. Mostly, him telling me over and over again how much he loved me. Then, I remember the awful silence as he stopped speaking altogether.
We arrived at the hospital and someone told me to wash my face and hands before his mother arrived. I was covered in his blood. Then, the awful waiting. His family arriving. My family arriving and more waiting. The news filtering out of the emergency room was not good. Leg broken in two places, ribs broken, collapsed lung and a head wound. He was young they kept saying. He was young and fit and it was the best chance he had.
This part of the story ends happily, however. He had an amazing medical team that put his leg back together and First Love danced again – quite literally. He was a beautiful and talented dancer. It took several long weeks in the hospital, but he recovered fully. I was with him all the way.
The inevitable happened and as young guys do, he moved on. First Love broke up with me after about a year. I was devastated. I had invested so much of myself in him and his recovery. I couldn’t believe it was all over. And here is the part that I hate to admit. I lost it, behaved terribly and made his life a living hell for a couple of months.
About two years ago, I stumbled across him via the internet and wrote him the letter I have always wanted to write. I told him how much I had loved him and apologized for making him so miserable. I said that when I looked back now, it was with so much love and fondness. He wrote back within an hour. He said thank you for the letter. He had never forgotten how much he relied on me during that time in his life and all he remembered now, was the love.
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.
Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.
She currently lives in Draper, Utah, with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.
She would love it if you dropped by and said hello.
Coming in Spring, 2014 from Soul Mate Publishing
The Bride Gift by Sarah Hegger
1153, in the period dubbed ‘The Anarchy’, King Stephen and Empress Maud are not the only ones embroiled in a fierce battle of the sexes.
Determined to control her own destiny, wilful Helena of Lystanwold has chosen just the husband to suit her purposes. But, when her banished guardian uncle attempts to secure her future and climbs through her bedroom window with a new husband by a proxy marriage, she understandably balks. Notorious warrior Guy of Helston is everything Helena swore she would never marry; a man who lives by the sword, like the man who murdered her sister.
This marriage finally brings Guy close to his lifetime dream of gaining lands and a title. He is not about to let his feisty bride stand in his way. A master strategist, Guy sets out to woo and conquer his lady.
Against a backdrop of vengeance, war and betrayal, Guy and Helena must learn to forge a united front or risk losing everything.
For Readers, Writers, and Lovers of Historical Fiction
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