Monday, December 11, 2017

#BookBlitz & #Giveaway - Beauty and Beastly: Steampunk Beauty and the Beast by Melanie Karsak


Beauty and Beastly: Steampunk Beauty and the Beast
Melanie Karsak
(Steampunk Fairy Tales)
Publication date: December 6th 2017
Genres: Adult, Fairy Tales, Steampunk
In this tale as old as time, Isabelle Hawking must tinker a solution to a heartbreaking mystery.
When Isabelle Hawking and her papa set out from London on a sea voyage, Isabelle is thrilled. Visiting foreign courts, learning from master tinkers, and studying mechanicals is her dream. And it doesn’t hurt that the trip also offers Isabelle an escape from her overbearing and unwanted suitor, Gerard LeBoeuf.
But Isabelle never arrives. Swept up in a tempest, her ship is lost.
Isabelle survives the storm only to be shipwrecked on a seemingly-deserted island. The magical place, dotted with standing stones, faerie mounds, and a crumbling castle, hints of an ancient past. Isabelle may be an unwilling guest, but her arrival marks a new beginning for the beastly residents of this forgotten land.
See how NY Times bestselling author Melanie Karsak puts a steampunk spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.
EXCERPT:
“Hello? Is anyone there?”
The sky overhead darkened, and in the distance, I heard the rumble of thunder.
Oh no. No, no, no.
I looked up at the sky. My head swam.
I needed to find shelter.
I turned to go back to the path, but when I did so, I didn’t see the path, nor the ring of mushrooms, nor anything else vaguely familiar.
Once more, the sky rumbled.
I felt the first of the raindrops on my head, but luckily, the thick leaves overhead sheltered me somewhat. As the storm rolled in, the forest grew dark.
I cast a glance around.
It didn’t matter which direction I went. Eventually I would find the shore once more.
Turning to head out, however, I spotted a bluish colored light in the distance. A house? A fire? A lantern? A…something.
“Hello?”
No reply.
Turning, I followed the bluish glow. I headed deeper into the forest, chasing after the light, but soon found its source. It was a mushroom. The glowing mushroom had been sitting on a rise. It had played a trick on my mind. Then I spotted another glowing fungus, then another, and another, all of which held an incandescent blue light. They grew in a straight line. Without a better recourse, and feeling half suspicious of the supernatural, I followed the glow of the blue mushrooms as the rain pattered overhead, the sky rumbling. I followed the blue lights deep into the ancient woods, aware that I was passing other sacred rings. I walked past a mound of earth, a barrow, the final resting place of some ancient person—and some said a passageway to the Otherworld—as I hurried deeper into the woods. Surely I would find the shoreline soon.
Lightning cracked overhead.
Then, on the horizon, I saw golden light. A fire? I squinted my eyes, trying to make out the shape through the trees, but my head ached miserably. Leaning heavily against my staff, I moved toward the golden colored light.
The forest thinned. The glowing mushrooms led me onward toward the glow of the yellow light in the distance. Praying to find someone—anyone—I followed along, well aware that my quick exertion had my stomach rolling. Black spots wriggled before my eyes. The line of mushrooms ended. To my shock, I’d blundered to the center of the island and found myself standing outside the gates of a castle.
I gazed up at the enormous structure. It towered over me, a black silhouette on the horizon. Light glowed through one of the windows in the upper floors. It was raining in earnest now. Not waiting a moment longer, I pushed the gate. It swung open with a creak.
It was pouring.
I leaned my walking staff against a metal bench in the perfectly manicured garden, then grabbing my skirts, I ran for the castle door. As I rushed, lightning flashed. It created an odd illusion on the bushes and flowers around me. For a moment, they all seemed to glimmer like metal under the bright light.
My temples pounded. My stomach rolled. I raced through the heavy rain to the castle door.
Hoping whoever was at home would forgive me for letting myself in, I pushed open the castle door and crept inside.
The place was eerily silent.
“Hello?” I called. “Is anyone here?”
Breathing deeply and quickly, I realized the moment I stopped that I was not well.
I cast a glance toward a roaring fireplace nearby. A chair was seated before the hearth, a glass of something dark sitting beside the seat. I heard a strange clicking sound.
“Hello?” I called again, but this time, my head began to spin. I put my hands on my hips, trying to catch my breath. I closed my eyes. Everything was twirling.
Footsteps approached.
“I-I’m sorry I let myself in but…” I began then opened my eyes.
Standing before me was a massive automaton, its silver eyes staring coldly at me.
A nauseous feeling swept over me, and my head swam. Black spots danced before my eyes.
“Pardon me. I think I’m about to—”
Faint.
But the word was lost.
And so was I.


Author Bio:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, The Burnt Earth Series, The Celtic Blood Series and Steampunk Fairy Tales. A steampunk connoisseur, zombie whisperer, and heir to the iron throne, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#BookBlitz & #Giveaway - A Shine That Defies the Dark by Jodi Gallegos


A Shine That Defies The Dark
Jodi Gallegos
Published by: Changing Tides Publishing
Publication date: December 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance
Gripping, romantic, and evocative of its time— A Shine that Defies the Dark is a spellbinding story of one woman who will stop at nothing to survive during a tumultuous time in American history.
After a six-year exile, Ophelia Breaux and her mother are overjoyed to return to the Louisiana bayou. But it seems the ghosts of the epic feud that drove them away still haunt Plaquemines Parish, and with the Great Depression sweeping the nation, the two soon find they can’t make ends meet.
Seeing no other option, Ophelia’s mother takes the drastic step of sharing her bed with the town judge in exchange for a reduced rent. The judge has had a life-long obsession with Momma, and Ophelia is desperate to end this arrangement and get her away from him.
When Remy Granger shows up, Ophelia knows it could mean more trouble—and that’s the last thing they need. Handsome and dangerous, he’s the first boy she ever kissed, and a member of the most notorious family in southern Louisiana—but he’s also got an opportunity for fast money in rumrunning. Ophelia goes all in, and it turns out she may have a knack for the business. But she’s going to have to run even faster if she wants to save Momma… dodging the cops, rival gangs, and her traitorous heart at every turn.
EXCERPT:
The air was dense with the heat and moisture of late spring in the bayou. Crickets chirped, frogs croaked nearby, and the gentle slush of water slapped against the shore.
The trail was uneven and difficult to traverse in the dark. Dixie and I grasped at each other to keep from falling. The T-strap shoes I’d worn didn’t have a terribly high heel, but my ankles threatened to roll with every step nonetheless. I was sure Dixie’s higher heels would be the end of her if we didn’t find even ground soon.
I lifted the hem of my trumpet skirt, the material thin and ragged. It wouldn’t stand many more repairs. I didn’t want to risk it being snagged by the loose twigs that swiped at us as we followed the dark trail.
The faint sounds of zydeco music drifted on the air and made its way through the trees. A happy chirping melody from an accordion and fiddle filled the night. The tension I’d been carrying floated away with the buoyant melody. My heart began to beat in time to the scratching tempo of the frottoir, and I might have begun dancing right there had my ankles not threatened to roll yet again.
Just as I was about to declare that no moonshine was worth a forced march through gator-infested swamps, the trees opened up and I saw a barn at the edge of a pond. Yellow light seeped through the open doors and between the weathered slats. There were a few cars parked along the structure, as well as in the clearing behind it, and two horses were tied to the low-hanging branches of a tree near the door.
The Granger boys hadn’t so much set up a speakeasy as they’d taken possession of an abandoned barn and opened the doors for anyone willing to take the risk along with them.
“Look, Ophelia, it’s perfect!” Dixie laughed. She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the line of people streaming toward the doors.
I stopped short and pointed to the roof of the barn. “That boy has a gun.”
Simon Carre ambled past me. “There’s two in the trees and one over there, too.” He pointed toward the field, but didn’t stop walking.
Dixie pulled on my hand. “Claude Moret’s gang beat Tully Bishop near to death for settin’ up his own business,” she said. “The Grangers ain’t about to take that chance. Besides, the danger’s what makes it fun.”
Dixie’s enthusiasm was infectious. My reluctance was serving no purpose. As cautious as I’d intended to be during our illegal escapade, apprehension melted away as soon as I passed through the open doors. For the first time in five months, I felt like I was just a girl again. Tonight there was no sadness. My only responsibility was to enjoy life back in the most vibrant place on earth.


Author Bio:
Jodi is a YA writer, black belt, registered nurse and case manager for a busy home health agency. She lives with her husband, three sons and an evolving herd of undisciplined animals in Colorado. She has a well-earned fear of bears, but tolerates the Teddy and Gummy variety. She has been obsessed with books, both reading and writing them, for most of her life and prefers the written word to having actual conversations. The most current projected completion date of her To Be Read book collection is May 17, 2176.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#BookBlitz & #Giveaway - The Storm by Amanda McKinney


The Storm
Amanda McKinney
(Berry Springs Series)
Publication date: December 5th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
The snow is dropping in Berry Springs… and so are the bodies...
On a pitch-black wintry night, Detective Dean Walker finds a man in the middle of an icy road, with a bullet between his eyes—a murder that is eerily similar to his father’s, which was never solved. Coincidence? No, Dean doesn’t believe in coincidences. He also doesn’t believe in love at first sight, until he meets the victim’s wife.
Psychologist Heidi Novak is hardly settling into her new mansion in the small, country town of Berry Springs, when she receives a late-night visit by the handsome Dean Walker. Seconds after learning that her husband has been murdered, gunshots explode around her and it becomes apparent that she is the next target.
With a massive winter storm looming, Dean races to find the killer and keep Heidi safe, while facing a long a list of suspects, including Heidi’s arrogant sister-in-law and a local, crusty cowboy. As the evidence mounts, Dean becomes more convinced than ever that his father’s murder is connected to the death of Heidi’s husband.
And he can’t help but think . . . will Heidi be the second love he loses to the ice-cold killer?
EXCERPT:
Dean pulled Dusty from the pen, saddled him up and jumped on.
“Alright buddy, let’s go.” He guided the horse out of the barn and into the dark night. He inhaled the cool winter air as Dusty leisurely stepped into the field.
He loved riding horses—something about it made him feel free; free of worry, free of stress. He closed his eyes for a moment and listened to sounds of the woods around him—the wind whispering through the tall pine trees, the sound of Dusty’s hooves crunching on the icy grass beneath him and the night calls of the thousand different critters that call the Ozark Mountains home. The faint smell of a fire burning somewhere in the distance tickled his nose.
Despite the picturesque surroundings, he looked into the woods and tensed. Usually, being alone on his land cleared his head and gave him a calmness that only the outdoors could provide. But, not tonight. Tonight, the woods seemed ominous in the dark night, with long shadows stretching across the field like fingers reaching to grab a hold of him.
Like someone watching him from the darkness, waiting to grab hold.
He thought of his mother, and the look in her eyes when she asked about Clint Novak. Although it wasn’t said, there was no doubt that she had been thinking the same thing he had been since he looked down at Clint’s body. Could it be the same person? The same person who killed his father six, now seven, years ago?
The thought seemed inconceivable. What was the connection between his father and Clint, and why wait seven years?
It wasn’t just the location of the bullet hole, it was just something in his gut that made him on edge about it. A sixth sense. And, obviously, something in his mother’s gut felt the same way, too.
He pulled Dusty to a stop where just seven years ago—to the day—he and his father were burning brush, right before his father was shot and killed.
He sat still for a moment. His eyes scanned the tree line in the distance—as he had done a million times—trying to put a face to the murderer who killed his father. Was it someone who knew him? Or, was it just pesky trespassers who got a little too trigger happy?
He took a deep breath and slid off the horse.
Flashbacks of holding his dead father in his arms shot like lightning through his head. His fists clenched as he paced the area.
As if Dusty knew what was going on, he bowed his head in grief, and respect for the dead.
Dean tilted his head to the sky, letting the light of the moon wash over him.
He whispered, “I’ll get him, Dad. I’ll get him.”
As tears threatened to sting his eyes, he reached into his pocket, pulled out the bottle of whiskey and took a sip. And, poured a little out for his father, as he did every year on this day.
Anger washed over him, and a renewed determination to catch the bastard that killed his father had him seething. He inhaled deeply, took another swig and looked into the woods.
He’d get the son of a bitch.
As he turned to mount Dusty, something in his gut twisted. A foreboding of something to come.


Author Bio:
Amanda McKinney, author of Sexy, Suspenseful Mysteries wrote her debut novel, LETHAL LEGACY, after walking away from her career to become a writer and stay-at-home mom. When Amanda isn’t tending to her two beautiful boys, she’s hidden behind her computer screen crafting page-turning murder mysteries, peppered with titillating love scenes. Having been born and raised in the south, Amanda’s books are set in small, country towns and reflect southern culture at its finest.
Amanda’s debut novel, LETHAL LEGACY, was released in January 2017, followed by the first two books in the BERRY SPRINGS SERIES, THE WOODS and THE LAKE. The third book in the series, THE STORM is scheduled to be released in the Winter of 2017.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

#BookBlitz & #Giveaway - Christmas in Atlantis by Alyssa Day


Christmas in Atlantis
Alyssa Day
(Poseidon’s Warriors)
Publication date: December 4th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
The Gift of the Magi…in Atlantis
A tortured warrior…
Warrior-turned-pirate Dare is the black sheep of all Atlantis. He enraged Poseidon, the sea god, so much that Dare had to forfeit his ship and the water spirit who inhabits it. For Dare, being denied the ocean is worse than death…until he comes home to a woman who drowns him in waves of hunger more powerful than the sea. But black sheep and scoundrels can never deserve love, even during the magic of the first Christmas in Atlantis.
An artist who sees the world through song…
After the accident that killed her parents and blinded her, Lyric discovered she had a special gift—that of song sight. She now sees the world in her own unique way, and her paintings are full of light and magic. When the Atlantean warrior she’s fallen in love with takes her to his home in Atlantis, she finds a rare magical artifact that could change her world forever. Or it could deliver to Dare the thing he most desires.
Atlantis’s first Christmas is coming…
It’s the season of miracles in Atlantis. A chance to make wishes come true. And when Lyric tells her new Atlantean friends O Henry’s story The Gift of the Magi, the world—and Lyric and Dare—may never be the same.
*Warning: This book contains magic, song sight, Atlantis, Poseidon, the gift of the magi, pirates, a king and queen, sibling rivalry, a black sheep, bad boys, warriors, paranormal romance, fantasy, Christmas decorations, holiday spiked eggnog, smugglers, ancient artifacts, romance, kisses, and a happily ever after. Read at your own risk!
EXCERPT:
“Time to close up shop.” Lyric turned toward the door, but before she even took a first step, it crashed open.
“I think I need your help,”
It was Dare; she knew him instantly. She could smell the sharp sent of wind and sky and saltwater that was uniquely his; she could pick his voice out of a thousand others.
“Dare?” She started toward him. “Are you–”
“I think I need –”
A heavy thud was the only conclusion to his sentence. He’d collapsed. She rushed over and knelt down beside him. She reached for his pulse, her fingers finding their way to the spot. His pulse was there; strong and reassuring. He was soaking wet, though; his skin was icy cold and he was shivering violently.
“Dare? Dare? What happened?”
He didn’t answer. Maybe he couldn’t answer. And of course she couldn’t see him, so she couldn’t even guess how badly he was hurt.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket and told it to call Dr. Miller.
No. She pressed END CALL.
“Call 911.”
No pirates were going to die on her watch.


Author Bio:
Alyssa Day is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than forty novels filled with kissing, laughter, mystery and magic. Alyssa’s paranormal series include the Poseidon’s Warriors and Cardinal Witches paranormal romances and the Tiger’s Eye Mysteries paranormal mysteries. Her many awards include Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award for outstanding romance fiction, and the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Paranormal Romance novel of 2012. Her books have been translated into a zillion languages, but she’s still holding out for Klingon.
You can hang out with her on Facebook and Twitter where she talks about her rescue dogs and her future pug ranch, and her blog, where she talks openly about her struggles with depression and hosts Mental Health Check In Fridays (www.alyssaday.com/blog).
She currently lives somewhere near an ocean with her Navy Guy husband, two kids, and any number of rescue dogs.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review - A Christmas Masquerade by Melissa H. North


Title:  A Christmas Masquerade
Author:  Melissa H. North
Genre:  Fiction, Steampunk, Holiday
Release Date:  October 15, 2017

About the Book:

A Christmas Masquerade is a short story.

Kingsley Radcliffe lives every day like it is Christmas, going out of his way to help those less fortunate than himself. But when a mysterious gift arrives on his doorstep with only a riddle inside, Kingsley along with his friend Ezra and his dog, Droolious, must unravel the clues to find the mysterious Christmas riddler.


Buy Links: Amazon 

My Review:

Here it is the first day of December, so I thought I'd try to get in as many holiday reads as possible before all the confusion and madness starts.  A Christmas Masquerade was a delightful quick read. The story is quite short but Melissa H. North filled those pages with love, humor, goodness and Christmas spirit. This was Christmas Steampunk at its finest, and it certainly put me in the Christmas spirit. Portions of the story almost read like Charles Dickens, but with a definite twist.

Kingsley Radcliffe is a man with a heart of gold, a man who lives the Christmas spirit each and every day. When he receives a mysterious Christmas gift containing a riddle, he and his friend Ezra and Ezra's dog, Droolious (Gosh, I love that name for a dog!), embark on a scavenger hunt that takes them on a Christmas Eve adventure, stopping from time to time to provide Christmas cheer to others. No spoilers here as to where they end up, but the journey was fun and eventful and the outcome was delightful. I was sorry that this story ended so quickly because I was so enjoying reading it. Melissa H. North created a beautifully constructed world with descriptions that allowed this reader to visualize everything as if I was right there, making me feel the warmth and compassion of someone with a true Christmas heart and a bit of humor with the steampunk additives and delightful names of people and places. And that's difficult to do with such a short story! Congratulations to a very talented author.  A Christmas Masquerade was the first book I've read from this author, but I certainly intend to read more from her.

Disclosure:  A complimentary copy was provided by the author and Reader's Favorites in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts, opinions and ratings are my own.


My Rating:


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

#BookReview - Not All Cowboys are Cruel by Angelica Hart

Title:  Not All Cowboys Are Cruel: A Baxter Homestead Romance
Author:  Angelica Hart
Genre:  Historical Romance, Western
Release Date:  August 17, 2017

About the Book:

When life has taken all you have, will there be enough left over to love?

Grace Isabella Lee is a woman on the run - from the past, from the lies, and from the ever-growing sense that she just ain't good enough to love. Matthew is a cowboy with a secret, who knows without doubt that anyone he loves will be taken from him, just as was his wife.

When Grace falls upon ruffians intent on defiling her, she all but gives up. But Matthew is her guardian angel, and soon becomes much more. Working together on the Baxter homestead, they will discover new truths - about themselves, about each other, and about the world itself.

Together, they reignite the fires of once-banked loves. Together, Grace and Matthew will find their way to safety, to happiness, and to love. 

Grace will teach him that he is more of a man than he ever thought, and Matthew will teach her that she CAN love again... because not all cowboys are cruel.

Buy Links: Amazon 

My Review:

Not All Cowboys are Cruel is a story about a young woman who has endured the worst of hardships. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Grace is forced to do whatever is necessary to allow her father and her to survive, even if that means working for the woman at the saloon. When her offer of work is rejected, Grace doesn't think her life could possibly get any harder. But it does. As she walked back to the handcart where she left her father, she is attacked by three ruffian's. That's when a lone stranger comes to her rescue. The story gets more intriguing as we discover more about the family Grace goes to work for, and as we discover who Matthew really is.

Angelica Hart tells an exciting story of hardships and hero's and how strong one young woman can be. The romance unfolded nicely but I had a difficult time connecting with some of the characters.  I couldn't quite grasp the personality of Matthew. He was frequently thinking about Grace, but was still so emotionally connected to his former wife that he actually shed tears, which made the romance with Grace slightly unbelievable. Then there was Clayton, one of those characters that you love to hate. He was just about as evil as a man could be and I could easily envision him. But I loved his mother! She was quite a character and what she had to say near the end of the story was terrific. Not All Cowboys are Cruel had a nice ending.

Disclosure:  A complimentary copy was provided by the author and Reader's Favorites in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts, opinions and ratings are my own.


My Rating:

About the Author:

Angelica Hart is the pen name of a fairly well-known author who reads a lot and writes even more. 

She lives with her family in her home in her city in her country in a world that belongs to us all.

Follow her through Twitter @AHartAuthor or on Facebook at facebook.com/AngelicaHartAuthor.

You can also sign up to be one of Angie's Friends (and get deals and free stuff!) at http://eepurl.com/cXYnXH.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

New Release! - Not Broken Anymore by Tawdra Kandle

Title:  Not Broken Anymore
Author:  Tawdra Kandle
Genre:  New Adult Romance
Release Date:  November 28, 2017

Football is everything, but love is the only game that matters.

Tate Durham, the newest Philadelphia football hottie, has been in love with Gia Capri since the moment he laid eyes on her back in college. Unfortunately, that happened the same night her destructive and doomed relationship with the troubled Matt Lampert began. Tate didn’t stand a chance. 

In the year since Matt took his own life, Gia’s been sleep-walking through her days and just barely surviving her nights. She’s not sure that she’s capable of anything else . . . until Tate finds her sitting on the floor of a grocery store, crying over potato chips.

Tate’s patience and honesty begins to heal what’s broken in Gia’s soul. Still, no matter how hard he tries—or how much he loves her—making her whole again might take more than he can give.

But love never gives up. And neither will Tate.

Buy Links:

Tweets:
“You are killing me with this book.” NOT BROKEN ANYMORE @tawdra #ReleaseDay #NewAdultRomance #FootballRomance #KeepingScore http://tiny.cc/NBAiBooks

The real thing is always worth the wait. <3 NOT BROKEN ANYMORE @tawdra #ReleaseDay #NewAdultRomance #FootballRomance #KeepingScore http://tiny.cc/NBAiBooks

Find your new #BookBoyfriend right here. NOT BROKEN ANYMORE @tawdra #ReleaseDay #NewAdultRomance #FootballRomance #KeepingScore http://books2read.com/NotBrokenAnymore

Not Broken Anymore Excerpt 

“So . . . no pressure, either outright or implied, right?” I spoke slowly, feeling my way. “You won’t push me, and you won’t . . . I don’t know, look at me or touch me in ways that could be construed as pressure?”

I expected Tate to agree readily, but he hesitated. “I don’t know if I can promise that. I’ll do my best not to gaze at you soulfully, and I’m not the kind of guy to mope around after anyone, but I can’t say you might not see what I’m feeling in my eyes. Can’t help that.”

I laughed a little. “You know, dude, if you were any other man, when I asked why you were here, you would’ve just fed me the friends-only line. I might not have bought it, but it would have given us both plausible deniability.”

Tate rested his chin on his hand and smiled serenely at me. “I’m not any other man.”

For a solid moment, I felt electricity crackle between us, and I couldn’t breathe. This was new, this hyper-awareness of another person, and I didn’t know quite what to do with it. I stared at Tate as my brain scrambled to figure out what to say or do next.

And then he sighed, breaking the spell.
“Ready for dessert?” He pushed back his chair and reached for my plate, carrying both his and mine to the sink. I cleared my throat and attempted to find normal again.

“Dessert? Need I remind you that we ate the cannoli several hours ago, when you claimed we hadn’t eaten lunch, and you were on the verge of starvation? Or did you buy a cake when I wasn’t looking? Or are you planning to whip something up in the next twenty minutes?”

Tate quirked his eyebrow at me over his shoulder. “Twenty minutes? Does that mean you’re tossing me out at nine?”

“No.” I shook my head and played with the spoon still in front of me. “It was just a figure of speech.”

“Good to know. But to answer your question, no, I didn’t buy any baked goods, and I’m not going to toss something together now. Nothing I have to bake, that is.” He rinsed off the scrubbed the plates with my new dish brush and set them into the drainer before turning to the fridge. “C’mon, woman. On your feet. This is something you can help me with.”

I stood up, watching as Tate withdrew the berries he’d bought. Dumping them into the colander, he washed them carefully before picking up the cutting board he’d used earlier to chop the potatoes.

“I’ll slice these if you’ll handle the whipped cream.” He reached for a knife.
I frowned. “We didn’t get any whipped cream.”

“Sure, we did.” Tate opened the refrigerator again, this time emerging with a small milk carton in his hand, which he set down on the counter in front of me. “Here you go.”

“Just what am I supposed to do with this?” I saw the words on the container. Heavy whipping cream clearly meant that whatever was inside the cardboard could somehow be transformed into the frothy goodness I loved, but I had no earthly idea how to go about making it happen.

“You’re going to whip it.” He winked at me. “Whip it good. I’ll get you started.”

I watched him moving around the kitchen, and I thought again how odd it was that such a large man could have such grace. I was willing to bet that it came from playing football, where I imagined his talent for maneuvering probably paid off.

Within a few moments, I had a small metal bowl, the brand-new electric hand mixer, a bag of powdered sugar and a bottle of vanilla laid out before me. I surveyed all of it with undisguised suspicion.

“Now pay attention, because this is tricky. Here’s the hardest part: dump the cream into the bowl.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ha, ha, ha, Mr. Smarty Pants Chef Guy. I think I can manage that.” I slid my thumb up the small crease and deftly opened the cardboard carton. The cream was thick and velvety as I poured it into the bowl. “Now what?”

“Plug in the mixer, submerge the beaters in the cream, and turn it on. Move it around a little now and then. And that’s pretty much it.” He turned back to his cutting board, slicing the tops of some luscious-looking red strawberries.

Gingerly, I dipped the shiny silver beaters into the liquid and used my thumb to move the switch to on. The small machine sprang to life, whirring in my hand. I held the bowl with my other fingers, staring into it, waiting for magic to happen.

A few minutes later, I was still waiting. “Tate, this isn’t working. It’s still just, like, cream.”
“Uh huh. Give it a little longer.” He didn’t even bother to look at me over his shoulder.

“But it isn’t changing. It’s just swirling around and around.” I raised my voice, in case he didn’t understand how serious this was. I was ruining the whipped cream.

“Yep, that’s how it works.” His voice remained serene and unconcerned.

I kept it up a little longer. “I think we must’ve gotten defective cream. It’s still all liquidy. Or maybe I messed it up.”

“The only way you can mess it up is if you whip the cream too long and it turns into butter. I don’t think you’re in danger of that yet.” He finished cutting up another berry, and drying his hands, stepped over to check out my work. “Okay, turn off the mixer for a minute, and then add some sugar and vanilla.”

I did as he instructed, resting the edge of the mixer against the side of the bowl. “How much?”

“Eh, two or three tablespoons of the powdered sugar and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla.”

I was troubled by his lack of precision in measurements. “Two or three? Which is it?” Tate sighed. “Start with two. We don’t want it too sweet, just sweet enough.”

“All right.” I flipped through the measuring spoons he’d bought today and found the right one before I carefully measured the sugar into the bowl. Next I poured two precise teaspoons of vanilla. “I did it. Now what?”

“Back to whipping.” Tate used a paper towel to gently dry the blueberries. “Just incorporate all of that into it.”

Setting my jaw, I got back to work, peering intensely at the whirling white that was threatening to hypnotize me. The cream made a pretty design as it ran through the beaters, and it reminded me a little of snow. As a matter of fact, it almost looked like . . .

“Tate!” I flicked off the mixer again. “It worked! It’s thickening. Look!” I stood back so that he could see into the bowl without moving away from his spot at the cutting board.

“Excellent. I knew you could do it. Now keep it up a little longer. It’s not quite ready yet. But watch it, because too long there and it really will turn into butter.”

“Huh.” I squinted down, nearly afraid to look away in case what was in the bowl might suddenly betray me. “Does it honestly happen that fast?”

“Nah. I mean, hypothetically speaking, if you had a stand mixer, and you were whipping cream, and you got distracted doing something else while it was mixing, and you forgot to check on it for a while . . . then yeah, it’s a possibility. But you’re on it.” He scooped all of the berries into a round glass bowl and moved over to stand closer to me. “I think you’re good now. See how it’s forming nice peaks?”

I did see, and I felt an unaccustomed surge of pride. “I did it. I can’t freaking believe it, but I made whipped cream.”

“Yes, you sure did.” He swiped one finger into the cream and stuck it into his mouth.

“Mmmmm, and you got the flavor right, too. Just sweet enough.” Before I could protest, he stuck that same finger back into my bowl again.

“Hey! Yuck! No double dipping. You’re going to ruin my masterpiece.” I scowled up at him.
“But I wanted you to have a taste, too.” So saying, he held up his whipped cream-covered finger a few inches from my lips. “Don’t you want to try it?”

My heart thudded a little. I hadn’t done anything like this . . . touched my tongue to any part of any man . . . for a long time. I swallowed and resisted the urge to fan myself. The kitchen was all of a sudden much warmer than it had been.

With a deep breath, I closed my eyes and lifted my mouth to his hand, closing around the creamy goodness. The second the flavor hit my tongue, I forgot all about how it got there.

“Oh . . . my . . . God.” I moaned the words. “That is amazing. So much better than the stuff I get in the can.”

“The real thing always is better.” Tate’s voice was hoarse, and he slid his finger out of my mouth. As I watched, he turned his back to me, busying himself with pulling out two small plates and a couple of forks. I wondered what I might have seen in his eyes if he hadn’t turned away. I wasn’t sure I’d have been able to deal with what whatever might have been there.

“Grab a spoon for your, uh, masterpiece, and let’s eat.” He lifted the berries on the cutting board and set the whole thing down on the table. “Serious conversations make me hungry.”

I rolled my eyes. “Is there anything that doesn’t make you hungry?”
Dragging out his chair, he shot me a wicked smile. “That’s for me to know and you to find out.  And lucky girl, you’ll get to find out, because as long as you’ll let me, I plan to spend as much of my free time with you as possible.”


Author Bio:

Tawdra Kandle writes romance, in just about all its forms. She loves unlikely pairings, strong women, sexy guys, hot love scenes and just enough conflict to make it interesting. Her books include young adult and new adult paranormal romance, new adult and adult contemporary romance and adult paramystery romance. She lives in central Florida with a husband, kids, sweet pup and too many cats. And yeah, she rocks purple hair. 



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The Novel Lady Published @ 2014 by Ipietoon