Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Giveaway Hop 2013~The Reluctant Rancher

I’m really delighted to be taking part in the Summer Giveaway Hop. First of all, I have a FREE download for you from my YA-Fantasy, LEXICON. Please help yourself to a copy right here:  LEXICON will be FREE on August 1st and 2nd. However if you happen to be hopping on August 3rd or 4th, you're in luck, because on those days, THE RELUCTANT RANCHER will be FREE. Here is the link:
And I'm also offering a download of my  contemporary western romantic suspense, THE DOCTOR'S CHOICEto one lucky reader who leaves a comment below. This was the first book in the Badlands series. 
This Badlands series is set in the Panhandle of north Texas. In the sequel, (and my most recent contemporary western romantic suspense) The Reluctant Rancher, there are two love stories intertwined in this novel. In this scene, Sara Beth, a very young widow is thrilled when Frank, a cowboy has helped her bring her store into the virtual world by helping her to gain an internet account.

Sara Beth is becoming aware of Frank, but this just overwhelms her and she really doesn't know what to do with her feelings.

 By the time Frank pulled up in front, Sara Beth felt an unaccustomed surge of joy in her chest. She blushed. It’s just because I’m excited about the internet thing. She took a deep breath and expelled it, hoping her color had returned to normal by the time Frank pushed through the door.
“Hey, Sara Beth,” he sang out.
She couldn’t repress her grin. “Hey yourself, cowboy.”
“That’s me.” He winked at her.
Oh, my! Am I flirting? She struggled to breathe normally. “I signed up with the ISP folks, like you told me.”
“Great,” he said. “Let me get you hooked up.”
She nodded, not sure what getting ‘hooked up’ entailed.
Frank asked which company she had signed up with and made a quick phone call. He sat at the computer and very shortly announced that she was ‘live’. He rose from the chair and indicated that she was to be seated. “Do you have an e-mail account?”
When she said no, he proceeded to direct her through the steps of obtaining an email address for her store.
She smiled, feeling shy. “This is how people will write me when they want to buy something?”
He tilted his head. “Well, if they have a question, for sure. But they should be able to just click a button and make a purchase. Then you’ll be notified to send it to them and the money will go from their checking account or charge card to your account. We can get that all set up when we design your website.”
“My own website?” Thrilled, Sara Beth jumped up from her seat and swung around to face him. She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him hard.
Frank lifted her off her feet in a bear hug. She felt his cheek against hers, sending her heart into palpitations. When he set her back down, she blushed profusely.
“I’m so sorry.” She swallowed hard. “Oh, what you must think of me, Frank.” She stepped back and pressed her lips together.
“I think a lot of you, Sara Beth. You’re a fine woman and don’t you go having any doubts about that.”
She could feel her heart pounding hard. Indeed, it was drumming in her ears. “I just don’t know why I did that.”
He lifted her chin, forced her to meet his gaze. “Sara Beth,” he said quietly. “I like you too.”

I hope you enjoyed this little peek at The Reluctant Rancher. You can grab a copy on Amazon, where it is available as book II in the Badlands series...Or, you can grab it FREE on August 3rd and 4th using this link>  
The link for The Doctor's Choice is here>
Be sure to visit all the authors on the Summer Giveaway Hop and scoop up all the goodies. 
1. Bookhounds (US)
2. Bookhounds YA (US)
3. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (Int)
4. Doing Some Reading (US/Can)
5. The Reading Cave (US)
6. Waiting For Wentworth (Int)
7. DanaSquare (US)
8. Literary Rambles (Int)
9. Tammy @ Mug of Moxie(INT)
10 Bookworm Lisa (US)
11. Jessabella Reads (US)
12. Briana @ The Book Pixie (INT)
13. Looking for the Panacea (INT)
14. Always YA at Heart (US/CAN)
15. Diane Estrella @ That's What I'm Here For. . . . (US/Canada)
16. Lost in Ever After (INT)
17. I Love to Read and Review Books : ) (INT)
18. My Guilty Obsession (US)
19. Millie @ Millie D's Words (US)
20. Stacy Claflin, Author (US)
21. Rachel Brooks Writes
22. Booklovers LaceyCat (US)
23. Layers of Thought (US UK CAN)
24. Chapter by Chapter (Int)
25. Ketch's Book Nook (INT)
26. Blkosiner's Book Blog (US)
27. My Devotional Thoughts (WW)
28. Scribbler's Sojourn INT
30. Bookish Outsider (INT)
31. Imagine a World (INT)
32. Reading Lark (INT)
33. Cherry Mischievous (INT)
34. Ai Love Books (US)
35. Cuzinlogic (Int)
36. Jodi L. Milner, Fantasy Author (US)
37. Book Date (Int)
38. A Blog Hop Place for Books (INT)
39. Whitley Abell (US)
40. Donna On Palawan (INT)
41. YA Asylum (INTL)
42. Calista Anastasia Blogs (US)
43. Lisa Chalmers (US)
44. Kristi @ Books and Needlepoint (US)
45. Just a Booklover (INT)
46. Lena Sledge (INT)
47. READioactive Book Blog (INT)
48. Coffee and Characters (US)
49. Berds Fly (INT)
50. Just Another Story (INT)
51. Lara Lacombe - Romance Can Be Deadly (US)
52. Mary's Cup of Tea (US)
53. Read for your future! (US)
54. Michael Pierce, YA author (Int)
55. Jennifer Lane Books (INT)
56. The Overstuffed Bookcase (US)
57. Talia Jager, YA Author (US)
58. Laurie Here - Contemporary Fiction and MORE - INTL
59. Turning the Pages (US)
60. Chicks Writing Rocking YA (US)
61. Tawny Stokes (INT)
62. Deal Sharing Aunt USA
63. 3 Partners in Shopping USA
64. Katie's Clean Book Collection (US)
65. Bibliophile Mystery (INT)
66. Sher A Hart: Written Art (US)
67. Literary Meanderings (INT)
68. Elizabeth Seckman (US INT)
69. Confessions of a Vi3tBabe (US)
70. Lisa ~ Moon Shine Art Spot (US)
71. Books à la Mode (INT)
72. Mother Daughter Book Reviews (INT)
73. Be Joyful Always (INT)
74. The Novel Hermit (US)
75. Simply Infatuated (US)
76. Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist (US)
77. Brinda Berry Blogs (INT)
78. Maureen's Musings (US)
79. By The Book (US)
80. Gustatus Similis Pullus (US)
81. Brenda Maxfield's Smart & Sassy Teen Reads (INT)
82. A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust (U. S. )
83. Krista's Dust Jacket (Int)
84. Tara Manderino (US)
85. Book Referees (US)
86. Literary Winner (US)
87. Reviews By Karen (US)
88. Kate @ Ex Libris (INT)
89. Corina @ Pink Fluffy Hearts (US)
90. Several new release YA science fiction & fantasy (US)
91. Simple Wyrdings (US)
92. Getting Your Read On (INT)
93. Just Trying to Let it Be (INT)
94. A Bookish Escape (US & INT)
95. Cover2CoverBlog (INT)
96. Girls With Books (INT)
97. The Babbling Reader (INT)
98. Zili in the Sky (INT)
99. Mary @ SweepingMe (INT)
100  Popcorn Reads (US)
101. Effortlessly Reading (INT)
102. jennifersmusings (US)
103. Far Escape Reviews (INT)
104. Dark and Dreamy with C. C. Marks (US)
105. Writer's Corner (US)
106. Amy's Booket List - Danielle Steel (US)
107. Karissa @ Hidden in Pages (int)
108. A Little Bit of Everything
109. J. D. Faver on Living With The Muse (US)
110. Thinks Books (US)
111. The Bookish Daydreamer (INT)
112. Reader's Dialogue (US)
113. Lori @ Writing My Own Fairy Tale (INT)
114. The Readdicts (US & INT)
116. Vailia's Page Turner (US)
117. Cici's Theories (US)
118. DelSheree Gladden's Author Blog (US)
119. FlutterealFlight (INT)
120. Clever Girls Read (US) 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend Writing Warrior~8 Sentences from BAD GIRL!

Greetings on a hot Sunday in southeast Texas. I hope you’re staying cool. Today, I’m taking part in the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop.  Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to win a free download of BAD GIRL!
And I’m sharing a first kiss with you from BAD GIRL!, a strange romance that has been called a “psychological thriller” by reviewers. My heroine is a dominatrix and someone is killing her clients one-by-one, using a method related to their particular kink. Even worse, her newest client is the detective assigned to the case. Now he knows where she lives and he has come to invade her personal space. In the following brief snippet, Nick is leaving, but they have had a very tense and testy interview. Here’s what happens:

He lowered his head slowly and kissed her like he was taking a bite out of her, capturing her mouth with his. His tongue invaded, stroking hers and eliciting a spontaneous reaction. He kissed her hard and deep before he turned and slammed the door behind himself.
Kris swayed slightly, rocked by the sensual impact of Nick’s mouth. Securing both locks, she slid down to the floor with Tinker. She ran her tongue over her lips, tasting Nick’s rough kiss. Closing her eyes, she laughed as an angry tear rolled down her cheek.
What a total ass!
Except that she had kissed him back.

You can purchase BAD GIRL! at Amazon US
and other distributors

Be sure to visit all the Weekend Writing Warriors who are sharing their work today:   

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sweet Saturday Sample~KILL SHOT by JD Faver

Happy Saturday everyone! I'm going to share an excerpt from KILL SHOT a romantic suspense set in New York City. This is about lovers reunited when the heroine is suddenly thrust in the big middle of danger. This excerpt is from the beginning of the book and doesn't need much of an intro. I hope you enjoy it. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a free download. 

                                               KILL SHOT by J.D. Faver

A trickle of sweat ran down her neck and between her breasts. Micki swept the mass of honey blond curls off her neck, allowing a slight breeze to cool her as she admired the tree-lined drive. Her photographer’s eye lined up a shot for the coffee-table book she planned to create. Central Park was her favorite portrait studio, feeding her need to see blue sky and hear birds sing as she worked. She loved the park, even on a day this warm.
Opening the back of her car, she carefully placed the duffle on the rear deck before slamming the tailgate.
Micki started the motor with one leg still outside the vehicle, switching the A/C to high. She turned all the vents to blow in her face, then tucked in her leg and leaned out to close the door.
As she touched the handle, the driver’s side window shattered with a loud pop, raining small shards of splintered safety glass down her arm. Her ears rang, like she’d zoomed to a high altitude.
Stunned, Micki stared at her hand, covered with a fine mist of glass. She raised her eyes to the gaping hole in her side window. Prickles of fear swept across her flesh, sent a spiral of panic to constrict her airway and clutch her insides.
Micki looked back over her shoulder just as her rear window imploded. A scream raged in her throat, but came out as a whimper.
Stomping on the gas pedal, she slammed the door and veered out in front of another car, barely missing its front fender. Her tires squealed in protest as the driver swerved and braked.
Micki’s heart slammed against her ribs. She couldn’t catch her breath. With each thud of her heart, the need to escape the park escalated. She could feel the crosshairs trained on her neck.
Her tires squealed again as she cornered too fast, frightening a pedestrian back onto the curb.
Someone shot at me. The reality hit her like a slap in the face. Why shoot at a wedding photographer? It had to be a mistake. Was she being used for target practice by gang-bangers? Her only thought was to get out of the park. What if someone’s chasing me?
Micki groped for her cell phone, intending to punch in 911 but her fingers froze. What would she say? I’m driving like a maniac. Come find me. “Crapola!”
She punched number one on her speed dial instead, reaching out to the only person who’d ever made her feel completely safe. It wasn’t fair to call, but as she sped away from the park, she couldn’t think of a reasonable alternative. Both dread and longing rose up inside her chest. It rang three times before a breathy female voice answered. “Oz’ phone.”
Micki choked back a gasp. Her first instinct was to hang up, but she was too scared. She struggled to swallow the boulder-size lump in her throat. “Oz!...I need Oz.”
There was a long moment of silence. “May I tell him who’s calling?” The tone wasn’t breathy any more. Suspicion iced the words.
She hesitated, her heart pounding in her ears. “Micki.”
In the background, she heard Oz asking who was on the phone before the receiver was muffled and a brusque conversation took place.
“Micki?” He sounded tense. “What do you want?”
Her stomach clenched at the sound of his deep voice. She closed her eyes, wishing she hadn’t called. Some things never change. “I’m sorry to bother you, Oz. I don’t want to make things difficult.”
He snorted indelicately. “Too late for that.”
“I didn’t know who else to call.” She took a shaky breath. “Someone shot at me...twice.”
He inhaled sharply. “What happened? Are you all right?”
When she heard the concern in his voice, tears stung her eyes. “I--I did a bridal shoot in the park. Someone shot out my car windows.” The sound of gunfire shattering glass reverberated in her memory. “I got out of there as fast as I could. I was too scared to wait for the police.”
“You did the right thing, Micki. Are you being followed?”
She pulled up to a stoplight and peered at the driver in the car beside her. He stared in morbid fascination through the hole in her side window, his expression sending another jolt of fear to her gut. When the light changed, she pressed her foot on the accelerator to avoid his gawking.
“I don’t think so.”
“Where are you now?”
She glanced in her rear-view mirror at the mesh of glass surrounding the gaping hole behind her head. “About ten blocks from your new place.”
He sighed heavily. “I’ll meet you down in front.” The phone went dead.
She knew this was difficult for him, but it was difficult for her too, considering the last time they’d seen each other.
Oz was leaning up against the building as she pulled into the parking space. A familiar ache spread through her when she saw him. She could almost feel his arms holding her, his tall, lean body the perfect haven. Resting her head against his chest would make her feel safe and secure, but she’d given up the right to experience those things with him.
When he saw her, he ducked his head and raked his fingers through his thick, dark hair before pushing away from the wall.
He stepped into the street and surveyed her through the shattered window. His dark eyes assessed her. A half-smile quirked one side of his mouth. “What have you done now?” He opened her door and held up his hand. “Wait. Don’t scoot across the broken glass.” He brushed it off her seat with his hand.
She struggled to return his smile as he squatted beside her. A soft breeze ruffled his hair. She stifled the urge to stroke it into place. His gaze flicked over her, squeezed her heart as memories of their recent past crushed her.
He stood and extended his hand. “C’mon.”
Micki found herself deserted by the tiny shred of control with which she had driven here to face the man she’d turned her back on. She smiled, although tears sprang to her eyes. “Yes, Sir, Officer Osmond.” Her hand shook as she reached to take the one he offered.
“Oh, Micki,” his voice softened. “Don’t cry.”
But her tears refused to obey, spilling down her cheeks in twin rivulets. “Sorry,” she hiccupped. “I’m scared, Oz.”
“Damn!” He gathered her into his arms. “Damn!”
A tidal wave washed over her, turned her legs turned to rubber. Pressed against Oz’ lean, hard frame, fear and pain slipped away.
“I called this in,” he said. “There should be a squad car on the way.”
As if on cue, the high thin wail of a siren sounded in the distance.
He held her clasped tightly. “Micki, I...”
“Don’t worry,” she said, sniffling against his shirt. “I won’t take this personally.” She tried to smile but her lips quivered and a fresh spate of tears shook her body.
Oz sighed and patted her shoulder while he rocked her in his arms.
As Micki clung to him, a war of emotions raged inside her. She couldn’t remember why she’d felt compelled to break up with him. Oh, yeah, she’d wanted to accomplish something more with her life than just being Oz’ wife. She owed it to her dad. At least he had always believed in her.
The siren abruptly quit screaming when a patrol car screeched to a stop beside them, blocking her car in and causing motorists to have to swerve around them.
“What’s up, Oz? Are you subduing a felon?” The young officer swung the passenger door open, eyed Micki appreciatively and flashed her a grin.
A muscle in Oz’ jaw tightened. He released her and stepped away. “Someone shot at my...ex-girlfriend.”

If you enjoyed this excerpt you can download your copy of BAD KARMA at the following distributors>

Be sure to visit the other authors on Sweet Saturday Samples. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Christmas in July Blog Hop ~ J.D. Faver's Spin on Christmas in July

Well, it's roasting hot here in southeast Texas. I've been keeping cool by writing the next romantic thriller set on the Texas Gulf Coast, just north of the border with Mexico. Christmas comes to the Texas Riviera with the usual body count, but lots of love thrown in. This is novel #5 in the Edge of Texas series. 
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
December 15
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 Harlingen tomorrow after work and pick out a really nice one.”
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 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.
“Yeah, whatever.”
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 Ireland and a favorite of the entire Bailey clan, she would probably always be baby girl to her doting daddy.
“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.”