#TirgearrTuesday – One Night in Tampa by Angelique Migliore

Blended Worlds Are Better Worlds


Mari Fuentes is running her first 5K race—dreaming about the grant she hopes to win for her next documentary—when she discovers Convivio “Viv” Ricco—former ordnance soldier, wounded warrior with deadly Italian sex appeal, and notorious smartass—is keeping up with her. Finishing the race together is just the start to her day.


Viv is new to the Tampa area, and even though he’s hotter than the sand on a Florida beach in August and doesn’t need any distractions, Mari agrees to spend the day with him to show him around.


Viv thinks Mari is the most determined woman he’s ever met. But even as her passion bubbles to the surface, he can’t convince her to stay with him. She has an exclusive community event to attend that he isn’t allowed to attend. Nevertheless, Viv embarks on a new mission to become the most import celebrity Tampa has ever embraced.


If Viv can’t steal Mari away for one night, how will he ever steal her heart?

• • •

 

Mariposa del Pilar Fuentes

I smiled at myself and inhaled a deep breath of pride as I ran along with the thinning masses. Being a slow runner had its advantages as the route along Bayshore Boulevard wasn’t nearly as crowded now as in the beginning. And running my first 5K proved doable as long as I focused on something else—like something other than the sweat tickling its way down in between my tetas. I gave my modest bosom a quick, hopefully inconspicuous, shake to dislodge any other would-be travelers, and I said a quick “thank you” to Santa Maria del Pilar for my no more than B cups. My big ass required enough attention—from care to clothes. I didn’t know how the bigger-breasted girls managed boob sweat in the Tampa Bay humidity. I crossed myself on their behalf. Dios las bendiga, señoritas.

I ran to finish this race, but the excitement of finishing grad school also spurred me on. How much dinero did I need, exactly? I mentally ticked off a list in my brain of everything left to schedule for my final documentary project. Cinematographer. Sound recordist. Van, plus driver. Luckily, I would be the scriptwriter and the editor, so I still had a choice to pay myself a stipend or not. It wasn’t as if I lacked my own money, but that negated the skills required to successfully budget for a documentary.

The stipend decision could wait until after the fundraiser tonight. I already had the production management software, and I would use the university’s studio to edit. The marketing dollars and cents still required calculations, but that part of my graduate project and thesis challenged me the most. More time, however, couldn’t be bought at any price. Grad school completion hung in the cool morning air in front of my face like a fat, juicy carrot.

My first documentary on the homeless population of Tampa Bay exceeded my benchmark for success last year, and I intended to further my investigations this year with an expanded project.

A refreshingly cool early-spring breeze blew over me from the gulf. The sun barely broke the horizon and was peeking through the ‘land of the flowers.’ Foot races around here had to start super early, else the runners dropped like flies when it got too hot. My reward for all this early-morning training and running: tickets to the Strawberry Festival with unlimited strawberries and whipped cream! Also, the beautiful Spanish-tiled houses, towering waterfront palms, and skyline of downtown Tampa painted a picture-perfect running route.

If I weren’t running, I wouldn’t be breaking a sweat, but the weather would change soon. The homeless who were forced to live in the elements would get uncomfortable before long, and it would be harder for me to find them when the weather increased to sweltering. I needed the money to make the documentary sooner rather than later. I swallowed hard and swallowed my pride even harder at the idea of the ball tonight and what I had signed myself up for to make sure I had the money sooner.

I erased thoughts of my impending humiliation out of my mind and took in my surroundings. With Davis Islands and the water on my right and the convention center’s bright blue columns in sight down the boulevard, I heard the finish line nearing as the music and celebrations pounded their way to me. It was time to get my head out of the clouds and back into this race.

Even at my fastest, I still ran pretty slow compared to everyone else, so I stayed to the far-right side of the lane. I adjusted my sunglasses, glanced down at the track, and jumped as if I had been assaulted in a B-rated horror movie.

“¡Mierda!” I screamed at the sneaker as I jumped over it, and as if the sneaker didn’t scare me bad enough, something hung out of the shoe. A foot? Without a leg attached to it? “¡Dios Mio!”

I changed direction, screamed again, and flailed my hands in front of my face in the most pathetic attempt to rid my eyes of the sight. Oh, God, I think I’m going to be sick.

An evil laugh—no, a hysterical laugh—belted out beside me. I found the owner of said laugh, and all I could see was a neon green racing shirt which, not coincidentally, matched the one I wore. The race shirt spread taut over a chest as wide as Cuba with a thick arm on either side, and its owner leaned up against a streetlight pole with one hand and held his gut with the other, as he all but pointed and laughed at me.

• • •

While in her third year of French at high school, Angelique was forced to journal every day. Never the lover of her own personal diaries, she instead rewrote Romeo and Juliet, en Françias. Except that Romeo was a duck-billed platypus, and Juliet was a strawberry. It was a doomed, albeit deliciously sweet, relationship from the start.

Long before that, Angelique wrote and performed ridiculously caddy commercials in grade school with her best friend Shannon. Ever the optimist, she believes the best is yet to come, sharing a meal is the quickest route to peace, and love conquers all. Although she was born and raised in the paradise that is the Emerald Coast of the Florida Panhandle, not traveling has never been an option for Angelique.

Today, Angelique writes character-driven love stories of various heat levels in settings from Earth to the nearest Black Hole which range from the Cosmic past to the Inter-galactic future. She also loves rugby. And champagne. With fresh raspberries, if you please.

• • •

Find Angelique Online:

First Chapter Friday – Seven Dirty Words

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ISBN: 9781310160417
ASIN: B00XB8JCH0

I died for a short while the first time we met. There was no fluttering in my chest, no somersault of my stomach, no burning in my loins; my heart literally stopped. He was tall, at least six foot four, and dressed in a pair of worn indigo jeans that perfectly matched his intense stare. A silk black shirt covered what I imagined to be a ripple of hard muscle, and opened at the top, showing a dusting of tight dark curls. His thick neck led towards a razor-sharp, square jaw line, a straight nose that had clearly never seen the ill-effects of rough play, and deep hooded eyes. His hair had been styled with a slight wave. I was sure it was dark brown, but it could have easily been black, and had shots of silver-grey streaking through it.

My face was lined up with his toes, or more precisely, his pristinely polished black patent Chukka boots. Palms down in the thick mud beneath me, I pushed up and sneaked a glance at the man in front of me. He looked none-too-pleased to see his clothes spattered with flecks of dirt from where I had landed and splashed him. I struggled to get to my feet as my boots slipped against the wet grass. Eventually I got to my knees and leant back, looking up at him. I forced a grin onto my mud-covered face, but he didn’t return it. Finally able to stand, I wiped my hands down the sides of my bare thighs.

His glare speared through the apology that I tried to splutter, words failing to come. In the distance I heard someone call my name. Looking over my shoulder I saw my teammates beckoning me to re-join the group.

“Sorry.” The word leapt forward.

A dark eyebrow flicked upwards. “Are you going to pay for the dry-cleaning?” he asked, enunciating each word as though he was talking to some insolent child.

“It’s a muddy field, you’re watching a rugby match,” I countered, my eyes narrowing. “Try stepping away from the lines.”

“You’ve got a mouth on you.” A smile twitched at the corners of his lips.

I’ve got a mouth on me? What the hell was that supposed to mean? I was about to make some comment about him being arrogant and conceited, but the captain of the team had already reached my heel.

“You coming?” Lou tugged on my elbow, throwing a smile towards the man who loomed over me.

“Yeah,” I said, racing back into the game.

“Who’s your friend?” Lou asked, nodding towards Tall, Dark, and Smouldering.

“I haven’t got a clue, but he wasn’t impressed by my skidding halt!” I laughed, tossing her the ball.

We finished practice at two o’clock, as we did every Saturday afternoon. I listened to the laughter and loud chattering of my teammates and friends as I scrubbed at the mud that caked my arms, legs, and face. Warm water pummelled at my aching muscles. I rubbed away the dirt and sweat with a floral shower gel. I made a point of using feminine scented products, since I lived in such a masculine world.

Not only did I play rugby—a game that my mother always told me was unbecoming for a woman of my standing—I lived with two men, and worked in an office where I was the only female. I was also incredibly single. My exes were exes because they found my lifestyle impossible to deal with, and non-conquests refused to believe that I wasn’t a lesbian. Saying that, it had been over a year since I’d even tried to get anyone into my bed…

After the game, I decided to forego the usual routine of drinks at the local pub, and instead headed home to nurse the scrapes and scratches that marked my elbows, knees and chin.

Walking back to my Volkswagen Golf, I saw Tall, Dark, and Smouldering leaning against a tree. His arms were folded tightly in front of him, and he had a foot resting on one of the many boulders that separated the car park from the fields.

I threw a nod and a smile towards him as I rummaged in my jean pockets for my keys, dumping the battered and muddied holdall next to the wheel.

“Good game?” he asked, but when I looked up I realised he wasn’t pointing the question in my direction. A stick-thin, terribly young blonde had appeared by his side and kissed him on the cheek. She clutched a hockey stick in her right hand, and handed him a pink rucksack with the other.

Part of me felt almost embarrassed that I had wanted him to be talking to me. I hurriedly bundled into the car and went home.

Home was an old farmhouse at the edge of a well-to-do village, nestled in the heart of Hampshire, shared with two men; and no, neither of them were gay. I’d occasionally questioned the sexuality of my brother Mark, what with his flair for style, and his love of shopping and spas. Then again, I’d also been introduced to the many girls that had graced our home for a single night.

The other man to reside with us was Daniel Turnbull. Danny was gorgeous in every sense of the word, but may as well have been my other brother. I’d known him all my life, since he and Mark were best friends. He was also ultra-macho to the point of being a Neanderthal. It would not surprise me if one day I caught him dragging the lifeless body of some poor girl he’d clonked over the head, taking her back to his cave.

When I arrived home, both men sat in the living room, feet resting on the coffee table, beer bottle in one hand, Xbox controller in the other.

“Jeez,” I muttered, as I tried to resist sniffing the air in fear of my gag reflex reacting to the scent of primal male. Unfortunately, when you live with two men under the age of thirty, it is impossible to avoid the stench of sweaty socks, stale beer, and cheesy nachos. Combined with the fact that it was the height of summer, and you have one highly stink-filled house.

I dumped the holdall next to the washing machine and looked around the kitchen. Bowls filled with the residue of the morning’s breakfasts, an empty milk carton, several empty booze bottles, used newspapers, and layers of shed clothes were scattered around the room.

“We seriously need to tidy up,” I yelled, knowing full well that the only reaction I’d get would be an annoyed grunt or two.

Opening the dishwasher, I peered in, sighing as I discovered that it was still full of dirty pots from two days ago. The stench of old food was unbelievable, and my head snapped backwards with such force I was surprised I still had neck bones. Ripping open a packet from under the sink, I aimed the blue and yellow tablet at the little box in the door, before slamming it shut and pressing the white button. It whirred and chugged noisily as I ran the water in what little space I could find in the sink and began to sort through the pots and rubbish, attempting to find a clean spot.

Peeling a pair of boxer shorts from the back of a chair, I grimaced and flung them towards the holdall by the washing machine. “Disgusting men,” I chuntered, even though I knew that our living arrangements were as much my fault as theirs.

But that didn’t stop me from blaming them.

“Stick the kettle on,” called a voice from the front room, grating on my final nerve.

A deep growl vibrated in the base of my throat as I stormed into the room and began yelling several obscenities at them.

“All right, chill Butch!” Mark laughed.

He knew I hated that school nickname. I wanted to throw something at my brother’s head, but knew that Mother would only chastise me for having put him in hospital with a split skull yet again. Golden Boy could do no wrong. Fortunately, our father always took my side when it came to arguments, so we were evenly defended.

Danny saw sense and ducked into the next room to make tea for everyone. That is the glorious, if not slightly annoying, thing about living in England. We are the country that truly believes, without any shadow of a doubt, that a simple hot beverage can solve all issues. Arguing kids? Cup of tea. Problems at work? Cup of tea. World war, mass hunger, poverty? Have a cup of bleeding Rosy Lee.

I marched after Danny, spitting my annoyances out as he busied himself by the kettle. Throwing dirty clothes towards the washing machine and chucking empty packets in the bin did nothing to soothe my frustrations.

“Bad game?” Danny asked in an attempt at small talk.

“Not really,” I grunted, sinking into the one chair that no longer had clothes, newspapers, and pots covering it.

“Go on then.”

“Go on then, what?” I asked, squinting to emphasise my annoyance.

“Go on then, tell us what your problem is.” By this time Mark had joined us, shoving everything off the chair opposite me to land on the floor. I glowered at him like an angry cat threatening to hiss and spit.

“Jesus H. Someone’s pissed you off,” Mark groaned.

“No,” I said, my eyebrows furrowing into a tight knot. Confusion settled in. Had someone pissed me off?

“Seriously Butch, we know you far too well. Spill it.”

“Nothing!” I snapped, perhaps too quickly.

“What’s his name, and what did he do?” Danny this time, his voice getting deeper as though ready to go into full-blown protective mode.

I rolled my eyes and tried to ignore him.

“Sis, you have to tell us now.” Mark leant forward and grabbed my hands. I pulled away and threw him a ‘What-the-hell?’ look. He laughed and fell backwards into the seat again.

Danny plonked a mug each in front of us. The liquid sloshed over the sides, giving me yet more to clean up.

“Okay, okay,” I relented, picking up the mug and sipping at the too-cool drink. Danny always added too much milk for my taste, but it was still welcomed, helping to massage away the aches and pains that plagued my muscles.

I proceeded to tell them all about Tall, Dark, and Smouldering—whom I’d already shortened to TDS—even though I wasn’t sure why he was the one in my head. I could have come up with a thousand excuses for my foul mood. Rough game, bad drivers, untidy house, but the truth was that he was still at the front of my thoughts.

He had riled me in a way that I had never been riled before.

“Sounds like you’re in L.O.V.E!” cooed Mark, ridiculing me.

I wanted to slap him, but couldn’t reach, and didn’t dare throw lukewarm tea across the room, so I settled for a scowl.

Downing the rest of my drink, I headed for the holdall and dirty clothes piled on top of it, shoving them all into the machine before filling it with powder and liquids to get rid of the muck and smells, and switching it on.

“You two can finish the kitchen,” I yelled as I went up to the sanctuary of my bedroom.

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#TirgearrTuesday – Lacey Goes to Tokyo by CH Lyn

International travel means international danger.


Lacey Devaine is a four-year veteran of a spy ring which fronts as an exclusive escort service, Miss Belle’s Travel Guides. Maintaining her cover is Lacey’s number one priority to protect the integrity of the operation she works for.


While on assignment in Tokyo, a nosy newspaper reporter threatens to blow the lid off a scandal that will put dozens of innocent lives at risk. To protect her cover, Miss Belle is called in to act on intelligence Lacey has uncovered.


Can these beautiful, intelligent, and deadly women complete this assignment in time and emerge unscathed? Or will this mission be their last?

• • •

 

Lacey

Layovers are a Hassle

I hurry through the massive food court, focusing on the coffee shop ahead of me, rather than the dozen or so different scents forcing their way into my nose. The sweetness of sugary glaze you can almost taste on the back of your tongue; the thick, salty, warmth in the air from the multitude of fryers; the weird, cold smell that accompanies cheap sandwich meat… I march through them all to order my drink and then sink into a plush armchair in the far corner.

My fingers curl automatically around the small blue and green orb dangling from a silver chain around my neck. I lean back, take a deep breath, cross my short legs, and sigh. Four hours. There are now four hours to burn in Heathrow, one of England’s largest airports.

Miss Belle is a mess. The poor woman’s been working for weeks with no break. She set up my assignment in record time. When the congresswoman called, we only had a week to get things together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to be placed on this assignment. It’s one of the more important ones I’ve done lately, and I get to see Nathan again. It’s been a long time.

I haven’t seen him since my old life.

The barista brings me a small Americano. I flash her a smile and take a sip before pulling out my little black book.

I need to call Chang and have him set up the room. The Park Hyatt isn’t my favorite hotel in Tokyo (it’s a little far from any of the national gardens for my taste), but the Auto Manufacturing Leaders conference takes place there this week. It makes sense that the CFO of the second most productive car manufacturing company in the United States is staying in the same hotel.

The phone rings once, twice, three times. I glance at the round silver watch on my wrist and realize it’s three in the morning in Tokyo. I wince and go to hang up when a sleepy voice barks, “Who the fuck is this?” in Japanese.

“I’m so sorry, Chang,” I respond in the same language. “I didn’t realize what time it is there. It’s Lacey.”

His tone immediately changes, and it’s clear he’s woken up at hearing my name. It’s been that way since high school. Men try to be charming around me.

“Lacey!” Heavily accented English this time. “How wonderful to hear from you. What can I do for you?”

“I’m headed out your way for some business. I planned on getting there four hours before my appointment, but I got stuck with a delay and won’t be leaving London for a while.”

“Oh, no.”

I hear the grin in his voice. He didn’t know I was heading to Tokyo. Miss Belle must have been serious about cutting him out after the last Japan trip.

“What can I do to help? You know I’d do anything to help one of Miss Belle’s girls.”

I let out a silent chuckle. Miss Belle is the only one allowed to call us “girls.” I’m fairly sure it’s one of the reasons for the cutting out. “I need you to set up my staging room. I’ll email you the details. It’s a normal set up, but no video this time. Just audio and emergency equipment. Do you still have my bag?”

“Of course!” There is a shuffle on the other end of the phone. “I’ll have it all taken care of before you arrive. I’ll be waiting for your email.”

“Thanks, Chang. I owe you one.”

“Yes.” His tone goes dry. “Perhaps you will speak to Miss Belle on my behalf? I notice I do not get a call from her as often as I used to.”

This time my chuckle is loud. “I’ll see what I can do. And I’ll call you when I fly in.”

“Thank you, Lacey. It is always wonderful to hear from you.”

I hang up and set down my phone. I sip my Americano and gaze around the bustling airport. A row of fluffy teddy bears with Britain’s flag line the edge of the coffee counter. Twin little boys keep pulling one down while their mother (I assume) exasperatedly tries to order a drink.

Men in suits, women in heels, and tourists with their camera phones clicking away furiously pass me in a sea of faces.

Miss Belle always says I sit too still. She says I have too much patience. She and I were in line at Starbucks, and the people in front of us took about five minutes ordering. By our turn, she was cursing under her breath and stamping her foot hard enough to break a heel.

My gran always said we need to have patience and understanding for those around us. She taught my foster siblings and me the meaning of a deep breath and the value of a calm mind. Those lessons helped a lot after she died. I learned to be still, at peace when fire raged around me.

It’s not a lesson any sixteen-year-old should have to learn. But it was Amanda or me, and she was only ten. I told Miss Belle when she found me, I knew what I was doing. I’d have done it again.

I shake my head and focus on something else. Gran passed a long time ago, but it still burns to remember she is gone.

I buy a New York Times from the barista, offering a smile to the twins as I sit back down. Their mother glares.

It’s probably the shirt. Or the pants. Or the belly ring. Or the whole combination. I used to mind when people looked at me that way. Now it barely grabs my attention.

I settle back into my chair and flip open the paper. I should do some research on Nathan’s security team, and on the other guests at this week’s event, but I’ll have time for that on the flight. Now, to catch up on current events. Another chuckle escapes my lips. If the paper knew half the current events I know about, a lot more people would be reading it.

• • •

 

C.H. Lyn grew up in a small town in Northern California and still loves visiting her hometown. Her obsession with books cannot be overstated. She grew up reading on the playground, writing during her classes, and sneaking that next chapter with a flashlight underneath the covers, long after she was supposed be asleep. Now, she works part time at a bookstore while following her husband around the world during his time in the U.S. Air Force. With a beautiful little girl, and a giant German Shepard, their family looks forward to experiencing new people, places, and cultures.

C.H. Lyn has been lucky enough to have friend and family who constantly provide all the support she could ask for. It is her hope that the strong and diverse female characters she writes will have a positive impact, and help to motivate young women to do everything they want with their lives.

• • •

Find Melora Online:

Website – https://www.chlyn.com

#TirgearrTuesday – Earthbound by Melora Johnson

Ally Reynolds is a veterinarian specializing in raptor rehabilitation in New Hampshire. Other than one horrific incident in her childhood and a little extra “spark” for healing in her hands, both of which she has kept secret from even her best friend, her life has been singularly boring. It has also been extremely lonely. Ally longs for someone to share her life with, but how can she trust someone with her secret?

Matthew Blake, an ornithologist at Cornell University, calls Ally, asking for her help with an injured raptor. Matthew grew up in New Zealand and has lived around the world. He has read about Ally’s high success rates in raptor rehabilitation and suspects there is more to it than is generally known.

Matthew has some secrets of his own; he is a demon hunter. He suspects Ally’s healing powers could benefit him. He wants her to join him and thinks they’d make a great team.

Can Ally trust him or is he just using her? Matthew definitely has more secrets, and some of them are about her.

• • •

“Doctor Reynolds,” a male voice called out from across the room, pulling me back to the present. It sounded somewhat familiar.

I looked up, shielding my eyes from the afternoon sun shining in the front window as a male figure strode toward me, blond hair haloed by the light. He stopped in front of me.

Startled, I rose to my feet and looked into a chiseled face, his eyes the indeterminate blue green of sea glass like I’d collected along the shoreline once as a teenager. His dark golden blond hair was short and spiky, his lopsided grin pure perfection. He was gorgeous.

In my experience, gorgeous men were not to be trusted. Well, no men really were. Oh, all right, no one was, period.

“Doctor Allyson Reynolds? I’m Doctor Matthew Scott Blake. I’m honored to have you join us. I’ve read your articles in the Raptor Rehab Newsletter.”

He held out a hand, but when I put out mine to shake it, he simply captured mine in his and placed his other hand over it. His eyes flashed green with golden flecks in the sunlight.

“I’m glad to be here,” I said, not at all sure I was anymore, as my pulse sped up. “Please, call me Ally.”

“All right, Ally it is.”

I want to climb him like a tree. I swallowed, aghast at my own thoughts. I’d only known him a few minutes.

His hands were so warm. My mother’s voice played in my head, Gorgeous men are dangerous, arrogant, and being involved with them will lead to no good. I frowned.

“It’s so good to see you…” he said. At my expression, he faltered and cleared his throat. The wattage of his smile dimmed significantly. “I mean, to meet you. I’ve been following your work since I arrived in the States, in the newsletter.”

He turned, drawing my hand through his arm. “Please, let me show you around the facilities here.”

“Uh, thank you,” I murmured, wondering how to tactfully withdraw my arm. My attraction to him was overwhelming. At the same time, his overly familiar attitude seemed a little odd.

A tall woman, her long, brown hair in a ponytail, appeared at the doorway through which Matt had arrived. She positively glowered at my arm through Matthew’s. She wore work boots, khaki shorts, and a sand colored polo shirt with the university logo, so I assumed she worked there as well. She approached us and stopped several feet away, then turned a bright smile on Matthew. “Hi, Matt. What brings you down from the Ornithology Lab?”

“This is Doctor Allyson Reynolds, the veterinarian and raptor rehabilitation specialist I suggested to Rick we bring in to help with the injured eagle from Sapsucker Woods.”

Shelly took one more look at my arm entwined with Matthew’s then smiled again at him. “Would you like me to show her around?”

He paused a moment before replying. “That’s okay, Shelly. I can handle it, I know my way. No need to take time out of your busy schedule. I’ll just show Doctor Reynolds around, then bring her to meet Rick. He’s the one overseeing the care of the eagle. Oh…” He turned to me. “This is Doctor Shelly Madison, she’s a clinical associate professor in zoo medicine.”

I saw my chance and pulled my arm out of his, ostensibly to shake Shelly’s hand. I murmured hello. She responded stiffly. Her behavior made more sense to me than his. Why treat me like an honored guest? I was just a vet who specialized in raptor rehab. I had been so anxious to get out of town I’d jumped at the chance, but now there was one question paramount in my mind—why had he called me? They were the experts here.

“Now, let’s show you around the animal hospital here.” His hands clenched, his bicep bulging under his short sleeve as he tugged the inner door to the offices open for me.

I fought the urge to retreat a step. Here stood a warrior from medieval legend. It would have been more appropriate for him to be dressed in leather armor than a button-down, short-sleeved khaki shirt, but he grabbed my hand and drew me around Shelly. “We’ll start in the library.”

As we walked, I had a stern conversation with my subconscious. Go to Ithaca, you said. You’ll get away from anyone Jen wants to set you up with, you said.

Matthew squeezed my hand. I looked up to see him beaming at me. My stomach lurched. I was out of the nest and free falling.

• • •

Melora Johnson grew up in a small town in Upstate New York, and still lives in the state with her husband, daughter, a black cat, and quite a few chickens. She writes poetry, horror, science-fiction & fantasy but dabbles in other genres and daylights as a librarian because that is where she hears the best stories. She also runs a thriving writers group. Of course, into every life a little rain must fall, as well as the occasional tornado, but you’ll find that amply covered in her writing.

• • •

Find Melora Online:

Website – http://www.melorajohnson.com

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/MeloraJohnson.Writer

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18209725.melora_johnson

Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/melorajohnson

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/melorajohnson

Blog – http://melorajohnson.wordpress.com

Tirgearr Publishing  – http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Johnson_Melora

The Trouble with Holly by Kirsti Ahlers

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Blurb:

Holly McIntyre has just been invited to join a group of her friends who are traveling to France for a wine tasting trip that will end in Paris. Holly has dreamed of taking a trip to France since she was a little girl. Now the only thing standing between her and her dream trip is her checking account. Well, she’s not going to miss out on this chance, even if it means getting a demeaning job as an elf for Santa Clause at Harrington’s Department Store. Holly hates Christmas, finds it too commercial and just can never seem to get into the holiday spirit. Of course the Santa she’s being an elf for has way to much holiday happiness, so this is not going to be an easy task, but Paris is on the other side. Now if she could only ignore the red hot attraction burning between Santa and herself. Oh, Santa, baby!

Christopher Harrington loves the holidays and volunteers every year as Santa at his family’s department store. This year his elf is anything but a happy little soul. And yet, he is drawn to Holly and her sassy personality and realizes she poses as a holiday challenge. He’s going to get this prickly little Scrooge to come around and see there really is magic to the Christmas season and that not everyone is interested in things bought in a store. Holly might mean trouble but Christopher is not afraid of that. Trouble can be fun.

Extract:

Holly McIntyre blew out a breath as she frowned down at her checking account balance and worked hard to resist the urge to scream in utter frustration.

“Well, do you think you can swing it?” Dahlia asked as she continued to file her nails, smacking on her gum without a care in the world.

“I don’t think so.” Holly nibbled on the inside of her lower lip.

“You’ve got to come, Holly; we’re talking France!”

“Yeah, I know.” Holly wanted to spend Christmas in France, going on wine tasting trips and strolling the Champs-Élysées. She wanted to experience the city she’d been dreaming about since she was a little girl. And here was her chance to leave the cold and windy city of Chicago for Paris.

Dahlia set her emery board down and pinned Holly with a determined look. “You’re going to go; you deserve this trip, and I won’t take no for an answer.” She reached over for the legal pad that had Holly’s budget written on it and ran her perfectly manicured fingertip down the yellow lined paper. “Girl you’re so organized you give professional organizers like me a bad name.”

Holly laughed. It was true; although Dahlia owned her own organizing business and could organize a hoarder into a happy Zen place, she didn’t prescribe to the same thought process.

Dahlia pushed the legal pad back across the table. “Maybe you could pick up another job?”

“Yeah, because interior design jobs are just dropping out of the sky like snowflakes.” Holly was an interior designer but business had fallen off with the turn of the economy and people just weren’t redoing kitchens and other rooms. She had enough clients and projects to keep the wolf from the door as it were but not enough to buy a ticket to Paris.

“Get a second job!” Dahlia clapped her hands together in glee. “Find a part time job; the holidays are right around the corner,and you can find something that will pay well enough for a plane ticket and a week of hotels.”

“Gee, is that all?” Holly pushed her dark hair behind her right ear and continued to look at her pitiful budget. She really needed to save and put money aside, for when trip opportunities like this arose, she could go without any guilt.

“You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I do.” Holly stood and went into the kitchen and grabbed a glass before filling it with some water. “I need to find something that will allow me to work on the jobs I’ve got and still be able to fund a trip to Europe. I doubt seriously I’ll find that.”

Dahlia, one never to sit around and wait for things to happen, was already looking in the want ads. “Here you go! This will be perfect.”

That was just too easy, and Holly went over to the table and leaned over to look at what advertisement had her friend so excited.

“Oh no. Hell no.” Holly shook her head back and forth. “No way.” She backed away from the table and went back to the kitchen to put the glass in the sink.

“Come on, Holly. It will be fun. And you would only have to work a few hours a week.”

“Are you high? I’m not going to do that.” She pointed her finger at the offending paper. “I’d rather sling drinks at a bar, or ask if someone wants to supersize their fries with their order.”

Dahlia shivered. “Eww. Food service is not for you, my friend.”

“Well, that,” she pointed once again to the newspaper, “isn’t for me either.”

“What if I applied with you? Would you do it then? Just think you could go to Paris! The Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, the Louvre! And don’t get me started on the wine!”

Holly crossed her arms across her chest and sighed. She did want to go to Paris; she wanted to go badly. But the idea of dressing up as an elf for Harrington’s Department store’s Holiday Village made her want to break out in a rash. She loathed the holidays, found Christmas to be nothing but a “Hey, what are you gonna get me” grasping holiday.

The meaning and the magic was gone and had been since she was a little girl and learned Santa was really her Uncle Matthew. Still, there had been something about those country Christmas’s she missed. Perhaps it was the family or the innocence of the whole thing. Now, Christmas was all about money and what big electronic thing was going to be sitting under the tree. Her family was scattered; none of them in Illinois anymore and with lives of their own. In fact of all her brothers and sisters—there were six—she really only seemed to talk to them on Christmas Eve and on birthdays. It was sad really. This is why going to France with her girlfriends seemed like such a wonderful idea. She wouldn’t be sitting alone watching movies and eating ice cream by the ton.

“Okay, I’ll do it.” Holly uncrossed her arms and walked back to the kitchen table, dropping down into the chair. “I mean how bad could it be?”

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About the Author:

Kristi Ahlers is a California girl! She grew up in Northern California in a small city called Yuba City. Since then she’s lived in Brussels, Belgium, and England along with a myriad of other locations. A former flight attendant, she was able to continue to feed her love of travel. This has greatly influenced her writing, allowing her to pen stories about places she’s managed to visit and things she’s experienced.

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