I have some exciting giveaways for everyone. First of all: BAD KARMA, the second book in the series is FREE today through July 22, so please download your copy right here>
And as a reward for leaving a comment below, you will be entered into a drawing to receive a free download of BAD MEDICINE, the first book in the series.
Since it rarely (and I mean RARELY) snows down here, we have slightly different Christmas and holiday traditions than our northern neighbors, but I remember making forts and having snowball fights as a kid in Oklahoma. One of our adopted traditions down here in Texas is to have tamales on New Year's Day for good luck. This is served right alongside the black-eyed peas and greens...Can't have too much good fortune and prosperity. What kind of holiday traditions do you celebrate in your family?
Scroll down to read the excerpt and leave a comment, but be sure to visit all the exciting blogs on the hop and rake in all the goodies from the awesome authors.
The Christmas novel is tentatively titled BAD SPIRITS. This excerpt is from the beginning and shows what's going on with two of the couples whose lives are twined together in The Edge of Texas. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.
Christmas at Home
Something about her face always brought a little clutch of joy to his chest. My wife.
Rafael Solis had just pulled up in the parking lot in front of his condo. From his tenth-floor vantage point he had always enjoyed a clear view of the bay.
His current view was centered on the lovely Chloe Solis as she maneuvered both his children from their car seats in back of the Escalade.
He turned off the ignition and sat in his department vehicle for a moment, smiling.
The wind was blowing off the bay. Chloe grasped four-year-old Lacy’s hand and clutched Daniel close to her chest. Her hair blew forward, and she turned into the wind to get it out of her eyes. She spotted him and a grin lit up her face. She commanded his presence with an upward jerk of her chin.
Rafael chuckled and swung out of the cruiser, pocketing the keys.
She gave out an exasperated sound in greeting. “And just when were you going to come to my aid, Mr. Raffy Solis?”
He reached for Daniel. “Sorry, baby. I was just admiring the scenery.”
“Less admiring and more man power, please.”
“Want me to grab those packages?” He nodded at the bundles filling the rear of the SUV.
“No, I want you to take Lacy while I bring some surprises inside.”
He squatted down to lift Lacy in his other arm. “Surprises?”
“Yes, I’m allowed to have surprises. Santa Claus isn't the only one with a naughty or nice list.”
He grinned at her. “And which list am I on?”
She laughed. “Both. Now, head for the elevator and I’ll be right behind you.”
“Not close enough. I will wait for you.” He still had nightmares about his near-misses with Chloe. Her sometimes rash actions had given him a couple of serious scares.
“Wait inside out of the wind. The children don’t need to be out in this gale.”
“I will be watching you from inside the lobby.” He fixed her with a stern glare.
“Yes, Sheriff. You can watch me, but you can’t peek.”
Rafael turned toward the entrance and carried his children inside. He turned to watch as she opened the back of the Escalade and gathered an armload of packages. “Careful, baby,” he said under his breath.
She made her way to the entrance and Rafael backed against the door to open it for her.
“Thanks,” she murmured. “Do not look at these p-r-e-s-e-n-t-s.”
“Not looking.” He stepped inside and followed her across the lobby. “Lacy, push the elevator for daddy.” He leaned down to allow his daughter to punch the up button. “Good girl.”
Lacy flashed a grin and squeezed his neck with both arms.
As they rode up to the tenth floor, he stole a glance at Chloe’s face. She looked happy and that made him happy. “Did you find something for your mom,” he asked.
“Noooo. She is the hardest person on the planet to shop for.”
“That doesn't sound right. Your mom is so down to earth. Just get her a gift card.”
“I can’t do that. A gift card is so impersonal.”
He cleared his throat. “Isn't that what we’re giving my parents?”
She blew out an exasperated breath. “And I’m giving them some nice framed pictures of the kids. They’re lucky to be on my shopping list at all.”
He chuckled, knowing full well why they weren't rating higher on Chloe’s ‘nice’ list. His mother’s efforts to break them up in high school had resulted in Chloe leaving him. Got her back, thank you very much. The elevator came to a stop and the doors swished apart. He trailed behind her to their condominium and managed to juggle kids and keys to open the door.
“I’m going to stash this stuff and you three stay right there.” Chloe disappeared in their bedroom and kicked the door shut behind her.
He set Lacy on her feet and put Daniel on the leather sofa. “Let’s get your coats off.” He took Lacy’s jacket and knit cap and draped them over a coat rack close to the front door and began the task of unwrapping Daniel. He pulled off the knit cap with ear flaps and tousled his dark curls. “That’s my boy,” he growled and grinned as Daniel giggled and kicked in response. “Chloe, I have a wet boy in here. Can you bring me a diaper and wipes?”
She backed into the room with a disposable diaper and a tub of wet wipes and closed the door firmly behind her. “Here you go.” She set them down on the sofa beside them. “Is everybody hungry?”
“Yes,” Lacy crowed. “I want ‘paghetti.”
“One vote for spaghetti. Any other requests?”
“Anything is fine with me,” Rafael said while finishing cleaning his son. “I’m just glad to be home.”
Chloe gave him a long look and took a few steps to the kitchen. “Hard day?”
Rafael scooped Daniel up and deposited him in his play pen. “Just a day.” He tried not to bring home his work-related issues, preferring to leave it all behind. His home was his sanctuary and his family would be sheltered from the ugliness he dealt with on a daily basis.
He tossed the soiled diaper and washed his hands in the sink. “You know what I would like?”
She turned from the refrigerator with a head of romaine lettuce and a bag of tomatoes. “What?”
“I would like a kiss from my busy wife, and I would like it right now.” He divested her of the veggies and placed them on the counter top.
Her expression softened, morphing to one of tenderness. “I can help you out with that.” She stepped into his embrace and offered up her face.
Rafael kissed her, savoring her lips, pressing her softness against his frame. Deliciosa.
“Would you like to start off with a salad?” she asked.
“Whatever you want to make is fine.” He grabbed another quick kiss and released her. “What I would like is a real Christmas tree. I’ll head over to
tomorrow after work and pick out a
really nice one.” Harlingen
She whirled around to gaze at him. “Really? I got us a nice artificial tree. It’s pretty and convenient to store.” She looked at him hopefully. “And it doesn't shed.”
He gave her an elaborate eye-roll. “Come on. A real tree smells like Christmas.”
“I got some pine scent spray.”
“Ugh! Not the same thing. You can do whatever else you want, but I insist on a real tree. You don’t have to do anything. I’ll find us the perfect tree.”
“Okay,” she said, using the same voice she used on Lacy when she was being petulant.
“I get your point,” he said. “But I’m holding firm on this one. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a real tree.”
“Hello, my Bridget, my beautiful baby girl.” Darla gazed in rapture at the lovely infant in her arms. Brushing her fingertips over the fine wisps of red hair, perhaps a bit lighter than her own, she marveled that she had created such a perfect miniature creature. Of course she’d had a little help. She gazed into the same silvery-blue eyes that set her husband apart from the everyday Adonis. The blue eyes, the rugged features, the set of his jaw, and oh, yes, that fine muscular body of his.
Mike was ridiculous. His grin went viral every time he caught her eye.
Yeah, Mr. Burke. I got your number. You would be so happy if I just stayed home and played mommy, wouldn't you? She was still out on maternity leave from her job as deputy in the sheriff’s office. She hadn't thought she would be so content to stay home with her twin boys and this new little addition, but, so far...it was going okay.
She watched as Mike laid a fire in the fireplace he had recently added to their home. There seemed to be no end to his talents.
This house had been a small, two-bedroom without any particular distinguishing characteristics. That was before she married this big gorgeous specimen. He had doubled the size of her home by adding on a master bedroom wing that elled around the back of the house and looked out onto the elaborate deck he had also built. Now he was talking about ripping out her tiny kitchen and bumping it out to include a family room. Whatever you want to do is fine with me. You have better taste than I do anyway.
“Do you want me to pick up a tree when I’m out tomorrow?” he called over her shoulder.
“Oh, we have a tree,” she said. “It’s in the garage.”
He stood and stuck his hands in the pockets of his camo pants, no doubt left over from his soldiering days. “Um…no we don’t.”
“What?” She sat up, jostling Bridget in doing so. “Where could it have gone? I know exactly where I put it last year.”
“I…uh, I tossed it out. Seriously, babe, it was gross. How long have you had that ratty old thing anyway?”
“You threw it out?” The breath in her lungs seemed to be frozen. How could you? I've had that tree since… She heaved a sigh. “You’re right. It was getting to be pretty ratty.”
“We can get a new one. And maybe some new ornaments too.” He sounded confident, but he sent her a questioning glance.
He flashed a boyish grin. “I’ll take Kip and Tad. They can help me pick out the perfect tree. You and baby girl stay here out of the wind. It’s pretty brisk out there.”
He had fallen into the habit of calling his unborn daughter Baby Girl Burke before she made her appearance. Now, although he had agreed on naming her after St. Bridget, the first female saint in
and a favorite of the
entire Bailey clan, she would probably always be baby girl to her doting daddy. Ireland
“Mike, I've lived here all my life. I managed to get the boys this far without killing them off with a gust of wind from the bay. I do know to cover her up when we’re outside.”
“Yes, your Snarkiness.” He grinned at her. “Just be careful. Don’t take any chances.” He came to stand beside her and placed one of his big, paw-like hands on her head, stroking it over her hair with remarkable gentleness. “I’m in love with you and with baby girl. I can’t help but be a little protective.”
She gazed up into his eyes. Her daughter’s eyes set into a rugged manly face. I’m powerless to resist. “I know. Sorry. I’m not a very patient person.”
He mimicked a stricken expression. “No!”
“Shut up, smart mouth.” She grinned. “I’m trying to chill out and be a mom for a while, but it’s not easy.”
“I've noticed. I want to protect you and you want to go out and shoot people.”
“I do not! I just miss the day-to-day action. I miss the team.” She broke off, realizing that he, having given up his career as a federal agent, must miss the same things. “I’m sorry, Mike. I know you gave up so much to marry me…to marry us. You’re doing such a great job of being a husband and you’re an awesome dad. I’ll try to be a better wife.” She grabbed his hand and laid her cheek against it. “I love you.”
He squatted down beside her. “Don’t worry, Darla. We’ll get this right.” He planted a kiss against her temple and went back to his fire-building. “This is our first Christmas as a family and I want everything to be perfect.
She chortled and adjusted Bridget on her shoulder. “Well, take a number. You’re a Bailey by marriage and mom has the market cornered on making a big production number out of Christmas. We will be allowed to celebrate Christmas eve here in our own home, but Christmas day will be spent at the Bailey patriarchal household where we will be showered with presents and stuffed with every kind of goodie you can imagine.”
He kept his gaze averted. “Sounds great.” His voice sounded strained.
A stab of pain seared through her chest when she grasped that Mike had never enjoyed the kind of family events she had always taken for granted. His mother had abandoned him at a very young age and he had grown up with his grandfather, a carpenter who taught Mike his skills.
She cleared her throat. “I mean, I want us to have a chance to make our own Christmas traditions. I’m not going back to work for a while, so I want to make our first year very special.”
He raised his head to glance her way.
Encouraged, she went on. “This is Bridget’s first Christmas, and it’s our first Christmas as husband and wife.”
He flashed a grin, signaling his return to good humor. “And it’s the first year for me to be a dad to the boys. I want it to be special for them too.”
“Oh, Mike.” She blinked back tears. “You do so much every day to make my life better. The best thing is the way you treat my boys. They needed you as much as I did.”
He smiled and came back over to her. Squatting down close to her, he cupped her cheek in his hand and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “That’s about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”