Summer Reading

Summer is here! Time for books that make you laugh, cry ( just a little bit), and cheer when the good guys win and lovers get their happily ever after.

Check out The Pride of Galveston Series

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Book Release! Compliments to the Chef is LIVE!

Compliments to the Chef is LIVE on Amazon- Action Romance Holly K. Ross Island Inspired Writer

Today is the DAY! Compliments to the Chef is live and available at Amazon. It is a Kindle book but you don’t have to own a kindle to read it. The Kindle App is free and will work on any device such as a phone, laptop, or tablet. Just download the app and you can search by my name, Holly K. Ross.

I love romance, a good love story, a good story, and a happy ending. This book is all of those things. The world is filled with angst and anxiety, my books are not. There is danger, but strong men and women face the danger, trust each other, and love wins. This is what makes a great story, a great love story, and the best kind of romance. Of course, every one gets a happily ever after.

As with most all my writing, it is island inspired. Regan LaRue is BOI (born on the island) in Galveston. She heads off to the University of Texas in Austin on a golf scholarship. She chose Austin because the city had the same vibe as Galveston along with great music and food- just like Galveston. She then passes on the MBA route for culinary school. Running her own business is her passion which leads her to cross paths with Chance Blakely- an easy going, pretty boy, lobbyist- at least that is what Regan thinks he is, and he is, but he is also more.

There are fireworks as his Alpha male ways clash with her fierce independent streak. With four older brothers and a father, she knows just how to handle an Alpha male. He blows it up more than once, but his comebacks are legendary.

Love wins and it is one fun ride.

It was tough wrapping up this book because I knew that I wouldn’t get to hang out with these people that I love every day. I know I sound weird, but if you hate for a book to end because you will miss the characters, trust me, the writer gets just as attached. But, I am so delighted to share them with you!

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So What Happens When You Write A Book?

So many things and, at the same time, not so much. Compliments to the Chef goes live on Friday and once I completed the editing and formatting there isn’t much to do. Except marketing- which is super important because if no one knows the book is out there, how can they buy it? But still, compared to the huge amount of work that went into writing 66 thousand words, it doesn’t feel like much.

Compliments to the Chef- Book #2 in The Pride of Galveston Series- action romance
https://www.amazon.com/Compliments-Chef-Millionaire-Pride-Galveston-ebook/dp/B08VGDHXX4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=holly+k.+ross&qid=1620136321&sr=8-1 You can pre-order now!

Once Friday comes, I will stalk the reports page at Amazon for about a week by then I will be engrossed in the next WIP (work in progress) and I will only be checking the reports page about once per month.

Of course, the process for me is different because I am self-publishing and I am very NEW to the whole process. I know there are other platforms so research is on my list of things to do and I am working on learning how to go with the paperback. Honestly, but the time Hard Thunder, the second book in the Hard Company Security Series, is out- my process will be completely different.

The learning curve is actually part of the fun for me, I like challenges and I like learning new things. So, improving my process and my marketing are pieces of this business I actually like.

What I do NOT like is editing! As I mentioned, this book is 66,000 words- I have read these words at least twenty-five times. I think I have just about memorized the whole freaking book. I have an editor in my daughter and she is so great. She has read the book that many times, as well. It’s not even her favorite genre. As the business grows, I will hire a professional who does this for a living and Savannah will be very grateful.

You know what I learned through editing this book? I never spell the word caramel correctly- LIKE NEVER. Spell check catches it every time. It just did when I typed it out in the previous sentence. So, its always a learning process and that is a good thing.

In a nutshell, here is how it goes:

  • Write the Rough Draft
  • Re-write
  • Re-write
  • Edit
  • Edit
  • Edit
  • Edit
  • Edit
  • Promote
  • Publish
  • Promote

It’s very simple, and yet it is not.

I have heard some say that writers hide behind the pen. This is such a lie. Writing reveals who the writer is, what they dream of, what they love, how their mind works- a writer is very exposed when they publish their work. That is what makes it hard to hit the publish button or the submit button if you are submitting it to an agent or publishing house.

I love this process. I love writing. I enjoy writing my books as much as I enjoy reading books- this surprised me. I will keep writing my happy books with happy endings and I hope you enjoy reading them!

When you do read them, please leave a review on my website, Amazon, or Goodreads- even better, leave a review at all three. Even if it is just once sentence.

I write the characters I love meeting in real life. They are never boring.

just don’t be an idiot. if her love was tough to win, i assure you her forgiveness is harder

JmStorm

Chance had to learn this the hard way. Love wins, but the fireworks along the way are spectacular!

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Write about what interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things
and nothing

My Biggest Fan- Restoring Home

Who’s your biggest fan?

Do you know who mine is? My husband.

He is my biggest fan and relentless supporter and I am his.

For me, being his biggest fan is easy. Tony is Mr. Steady, he rarely finds himself in a bad mood and his continual optimism is inspiring.

Me? I am a hot mess most of the time. And yet, he focusses on my strengths and praises me. He is convinced there is not a better writer, mother, wife on the planet.

You should be your spouse's biggest fan. Restoring Home, Marriage, and Love
st f

This means the WORLD to me. I struggled this past weekend. I had a writing deadline (which I met) and this had me in a funk. Not because I was behind and there was too much pressure. I thrive under pressure, I was struggling because of the onslaught of self-doubt that comes every time I meet a goal and whenever my work is about to be published. I get sideways and have a hard time picking up a pen or typing a sentence. This sort of behavior in its various forms has been present my whole adult life.

But, does my husband roll his eyes or tell me to get over it?

No, he tells me how brilliant I am. He focuses on my strengths and loves me through it. He accepts me the way I am and pushes me to believe in myself and to keep pursuing my goals and dreams.

I pray to God, that I am the same for him.

This world is nasty and mean, we have an enemy whose ONLY purpose and goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. Our home should be the safe harbor in the storm. Everyone in your home should feel safe, loved, and encouraged.

So, be your spouse’s biggest fan and relentless supporter.

If you are sitting there thinking that there is nothing to praise or support- you aren’t looking hard enough.

If you both go at each other like you are each other’s worst enemy- go get help. You are destroying your marriage and your kids. Grow up, stop seeking the drama and get help with breaking the dysfunctional cycle.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:20-21

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18-19

We have the power to build a happy marriage, well-adjusted kids, and a happily ever after and that power is in the words we use.

We have the power to wreck our marriage, destroy our kids, and trash our happily ever after and that power is in the words we use.

Watch your mouth!

Watch Your Mouth! Be careful with your words in your marriage. Speak kindly to your husband, wife. Holly K. Ross
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Kind words are like honey, marriage, romance, love, happily ever after
,

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Where to Eat in Galveston- Koop’s BBQ Kitchen and Catering

Wow, this place is so freaking good and so far from “normal”! Yes, they serve mouthwatering BBQ but that is just the beginning. But whatever they are throwing down, I am picking up- and then stuffing in my mouth.

Hamburger from Koop's BBQ Kitchen & Catering. Great food in Galveston TX, Holly K. Ross. Galveston Island
Cheeseburger from Koop’s BBQ Kitchen & Catering. Great food in Galveston TX,

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

Harriet Van Horne

You can tell that the folks at Koop’s love this food they serve! Everything is made from scratch and you can’t beat the flavors. Not only will you have a huge selection of BBQ in various forms such as tacos, lasagna, sandwiches and more, but on certain days you can find crab and shrimp mac & cheese, chicken spaghetti, and whatever else comes out of the creative minds and talented cooks at Koop’s.

There are two things you need to know:

#1- If you are offered Bacon Jam- say YES!

#2- Come early because they sell out fast- EVERYDAY

Seriously, they do sell out of the day’s specials but they do allow you to call ahead. The best way to keep up with what is available for the day is to follow them on Facebook.

These folks are fun and they make great food. You can beat the local food scene and Koop’s is definitely a star on the island.

Koop’s is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and open from 11:00 am to 4:00pm Tuesday- Saturday. You won’t be disappointed when you put this local eatery on your list.

As I said, you can call ahead and place your order. The only thing better than their BBQ is eating it on the beach which is just a few blocks away.

Koop’s BBQ Kitchen & Catering- 409-539-0059, 1110 Tremont, Galveston, TX 77550

For more good eats in Galveston, go to Texas Travels.

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A Sneak Peak- Compliments to the Chef

As she rolled the last crate in, she shucked out of her black chef’s coat. Hopping out in just her skinny black jeans and black tank, she turned to shut the doors.

“Need any help?” came a deep sexy voice.

Regan screamed, jumped and reached for her gun strapped to the small of her back.  Before she completed the draw, her brain registered that the voice belonged to the very handsome lobbyist.

“You!  Don’t you know better than to surprise someone like that?” she said as she fought to regain her composure.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Can I help you?” asked Regan in a tone that didn’t really sound all that helpful or sweet.

“You can have drinks with me tonight.” he said with a smile that had the same effect on Regan as a hot biscuit has on butter.

Even while melting, her tone was icy, “ I don’t even know your name but it doesn’t matter because I don’t date lobbyists.”

He grinned even bigger, “My name is Chance Blakely.  How did you know I am a lobbyist if you didn’t know who I am?”

Chance Blakely, Regan didn’t know him, but she did know of him.  He was not only a lobbyist but a heavy hitter in Austin.  Anyone involved in Texas politics knew who he was.

“For three years, I have served dinner to the who’s who in Austin.  It doesn’t take long to learn to recognize a lobbyist.”

“You say lobbyist like it’s a bad thing.” he said.

Good gracious, thought Regan, that grin.  Ignoring her girl parts, her brain continued,  “Anyone who advocates for a cause because of how much they are being paid, isn’t not someone who has any core values.”

“So, you are judging me because of my profession without even knowing me.”

“Yeah.”

“Wow, you don’t even feel bad about it.  Just one date, that’s all I ask.  Let’s see if you still don’t like me after one date.”  He was pushing but not in a way that was offensive.  He was smooth as silk, charismatic and not one bit ruffled by Regan’s tone or her words.

“I am not sure what part of ‘no’ you aren’t comprehending.  I would ask if you were always this dense but given the ring on your finger, I already know the answer.” said Regan as she nodded towards the college ring on his hand.

Chance glanced at his hand and looked up surprised.  “Let me guess, you are a Longhorn.”

“Hook ‘em”, Regan made the Longhorn sign of her Alma Mater, University of Texas. “See, we were destined to fail. You’re an Aggie and I’m a Longhorn.  So, we’ll just leave it alone. You go back to your lovely date and I’ll go on with my life.”

“She’s not my date.  No, I don’t think I’ll leave it alone.  How about breakfast?”

Regan couldn’t help but chuckle, he was so charming.

“No.” she said and stepped towards the door.

He moved and cut her off.  Her whole body reacted to his close presence.  He stood a great deal taller than her.  If her gaze were level, she would be looking at the button in the middle of what appeared to be some very defined pectoral muscles.  She had a thing for broad chests.

“Do I look like a serial killer to you?”

“No, what you look like is a heartache looking for a place to happen.  Now, are you going to move aside or am I going to have to pull my sidearm?  Please understand, I was raised knowing that you only pointed a gun if you intended to fire it.”

“No need to go there.  I’ll see you around.” He was still grinning like she was the most fun he had had in a long time.

“No, you won’t.  Have a nice night.” Said Regan as she headed in the staff entrance.

The Pride of Galveston Series, Romance, Love Story, Book, Happily Ever After by Holly K. Ross
Romance

If you think you fall in love with characters as a reader, imagine how the writer feels! I love Chance Blakely and Regan LaRue. Once again, the hero has his hands full with a smart-mouthed Texan- and this one even had a Cajun granny.

You get to Meet them May 7th! You can pre-order now or sign up for this newsletter and get notified when the book goes live.

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Out of the Shadows is LIVE! Check Out Chapter One!

Out of the Shadows went live last week! I thought you might like to a sample, so here you go- Chapter 1

I know you will love Brett and her fiery self.

Brett was on her last nerve when she got to the shoot.  The road construction confused her GPS which meant she was driving around in circles amidst native New Yorkers who honked at her while simultaneously yelling what she believed to be obscenities.  Finally, she arrived at the gardens only to find that the network had hired a photographer of their own choosing, completely disregarding her wishes.  Yes, they were footing the bill as this perfume was being released under the show’s label, but nevertheless, it was her face!

This new photographer focused entirely on “his art” and making a social statement.  The result was a fiasco.  Brett’s dress barely covered her “PYU”- her great-grandmother’s code for girl parts because a lady didn’t say words like vagina.  The mental image of what Mamaw would do if she saw Brett now made her giggle.  If that woman would disapprove, then she knew this look was not right for her brand.  A one shoulder red dress had been chosen for her with an asymmetrical collar.  If it weren’t for the length, the dress might work.  Brett was thinking on this subject when the make-up artist turned her to face the mirror.

“No. Freaking. Way,” thought Brett, “am I going to look at this ad campaign for months.”

Without saying a word, she walked out of the trailer and marched down to the set.  Roses were everywhere.  The tropical paradise had been improved upon by dozens of cut roses and dozens of potted shrub roses all to capture the essence of the perfume.

The heels were dangerously high, the dress shimmered red, and her hair was pulled back from her face in a severely tight bun.  The final touch was her make-up, in Brett’s mind it was a mix of Cruella Deville and Lady Gaga.

She stepped directly in front of the photographer, violating all rules of western society.

“What do you mean by this get up?!” Brett hissed.

The artist, also known as a photographer, was so startled that he hadn’t even time to catch his breath, much less reply.  That was just fine with Brett because she wasn’t done.

“I look like an evil queen straight out of a Disney cartoon!”

Stunned, the photographer replied, “This is how I visualize the work!  The danger with the beauty.  Society’s love and hate all in one stunning, gripping pose!”

“Well, that is just too bad for you.  I am not your art, this is not your vision, it is mine!  It is my name on the product, it is my face on the billboard, it is my reputation on the line, it is MY BRAND! If you want to make art, hire a model and do it on your own dime.”

Camila had Brett’s phone in her hand. Putting her phone to her ear, Brett didn’t even need to dial, Camilla already had help on the line.  “Hello, Harry- you will not believe what is going down here.  I am at the Conservatory and I need you.  This fool the network hired is totally in left field over this shoot.  Please say you will come?” pleaded Brett.

Harry Porter was a renowned photographer, better known for his photography of nature rather than humans. Brett was his only exception.  Perhaps it was because she so loved the land and it showed through her as he photographed her. 

“Thank you, dearie.  I’ll be waiting in the trailer for you.”  And with that, Brett turned and marched off to her trailer practically bouncing off one of the most ruggedly handsome men she had ever seen. She was still MAD and did not even bother to be polite, “Excuse you!” she spat out as she stormed by him.

Alex turned to watch her go, thinking that this one was a firecracker with a very nice backside and long legs, very full of herself and probably going to be trouble.  What a first impression.

And then, just as random as a bat on a nighttime hunt, a thought raced through his brain, “I bet she is dynamite in the sack.”

Alex followed Brett to the trailer. Brett had no idea that her new personal security detail had just watched the whole scene.

Walking in unannounced wasn’t the best way to handle the situation; because there was no one outside to check in with, he sent a text. He could have done this earlier, but where was the fun in that?

Brett checked her phone at the signal, “Camila, my new bodyguard is outside.  Will you show him in?”

Camila started clucking her tongue when she glanced out the window, Brett knew that meant she was excited about something. “Mama Mia- Gerard Butler and Winston Duke had a bambino! Such a gorgeous man! Lucky you!” Chattering in Spanish, she rushed to let him in.

“I can certainly see why they call you Alpha,” said Brett feeling very off balance as his presence filled the room, but not in a way that sucked the air from the room all at once.  No, his presence filled the room like the tide coming in- slow and steady but unstoppable.

“You can go Alpha on me anytime,” giggled Camila.

Brett shot her a look, “I believe I owe you an apology for being rude outside.  Can I ask why you didn’t introduce yourself?” clipped Brett.

“Good Morning, Alexander Jansen or Alex.  I am surprised you even realized that you were rude, I expect you are accustomed to giving commands to all those around you and having them jump.”  Alex replied curtly.  “Let’s see where this gets me,” he thought.

Brett didn’t speak, she simply settled her intense, green eyes on his and waited.  It was amazing what people will volunteer if you are just quiet and wait.  She waited to see what Alex would spill, but she got nothing.

The anger meter was already registering an 8 out of 10 and she was gunning for a fight.  Too much stress in the last thirty-six hours had her set to pounce.  The longer she was quiet the more her furry rose.  Camila knew exactly what she was looking at, she had watched Brett walk through the most difficult time in her life.  Brett was hardened steel but the most compassionate person Camilla had ever known.  As long as Brett’s sharp tongue was moving, it would blow over quickly, however, if and when quiet comes with anger there is going to be a reckoning.

            Brett sucked in a breath, ready to turn loose and fire Alex, when the door burst open and in walked Harry.

Harry, Harry, Harry- to describe Harry as just a brilliant photographer is like saying Mt. Everest is just a mountain.  He was so much more!   Harry could capture Brett like no one else.   The first time Harry met Brett he cracked her up with his description of the fashion industry and she had said, “You are a character!”  Her slow southern drawl had him smitten from day one.

“Good God, girl.  You look like an evil queen out of a fairytale!” exclaimed Harry.

“That is exactly what I said!” cried Brett.

“Brett Bentley to an Evil Queen- wouldn’t be a very long trip, would it?”  asked Alex.

A collective gasp sucked the oxygen out of the room and all eyes riveted on Alex and then on Brett.

Harry spoke first, “Actually, yes it would be a very long trip.”  He then turned to Brett, “However, if you offer me an apple, so help me, I will punch you in the throat!” he said with a bob of his head.

Brett burst out laughing- that deep gut laugh that gave away her Texas origins.

“Now, tell me why this man is still standing after that comment?” asked Harry

“Harry, this is my new personal security.  I was attacked yesterday,  this is who Mitchell thought would be the best fit for protecting me until we understand what we are dealing with.”

“I could be wrong, but I think you may need to have a chat with that son of yours.” said Harry.

Harry gave instructions to the stylists and sat to chat Brett up.  Alex watched and listened.  He was impressed with the loyalty of those that were close to Brett.

By the time the stylists were done with the second round, Brett was much more herself.  She only felt angry when she caught Alex watching her out of the corner of her eye.  It also angered her that he was so freaking good looking.  His creamy chocolate skin, amber eyes and salt & pepper hair made it hard to focus.  He would meet her eyes in the mirror and Brett would look away, she hadn’t felt this kind of attraction to any man since Adrian had died.

She knew he was essential at this time, but she was going to have a “come to Jesus meeting” with him later.  Then, she would have to call up that son of hers and find out just exactly what he was thinking matching her up with this fellow.

Harry worked his magic and pulled out a highly successful photo shoot further convincing Brett that he was simply the best in the business.

With the photo shoot done, Brett changed back into her skinny jeans, oversized green sweater, and tall leather boots.  Feeling far more comfortable in these clothes, she stepped out of the dressing room and practically ran into Alex.  Good gracious, he was big.

One day she would have to actually measure his chest. This thought then led to her picturing the size of his pecs and then wondering if there was a tattoo on one of them and that thought was leading to territory she wasn’t ready to explore.  Her head literally snapped when he spoke to her, causing her to appear like she was mentally lacking.

“I was asking where you parked.” repeated Alex.

“In the lot, just outside to the left,” replied Brett, “I am certain you don’t want me to drive, I assume you like to control every variable around you.”

“It does make it easier for me to protect you.  I have a strong feeling that you prefer to control every situation you are in and every person in your circle.”  He was baiting her again.

Brett fumed.  As she walked ahead, Alex grinned.  He was getting her off balance for a reason and soon he would explain but until then he was having some fun.  She was feisty and beautiful, the way those green eyes lit up when she was mad made him want to keep it going.

Brett always walked quickly and with purpose, in the quiet of the mid-afternoon winter day all that could be heard was the click of her boot heels as she led the way to the car.

As they neared a black Mercedes AMG G 63 SUV, Brett punched the fob and tossed the keys to Alex.  Alex was surprised; he had expected a sedan or a sports car, not an SUV with a sunroof and 4-wheel drive.

“You drive this around?” he asked.

“Yes, does that surprise you? I thought you already knew all about me, you have certainly decided that you don’t like me.”

They made their way back to Brett’s apartment in silence.  Alex was waiting to see how she responded to him with no one else around.  All he got was stone cold silence.

Once the valet had taken the SUV, Brett led him to the apartment.  Inside, Alex was surprised as the biggest, blackest dog he had ever seen came bounding up to Brett.

“Elliot!  I am so glad to see you!”  For the first time, Alex saw a genuinely happy Brett.  The sight was crazy, though.  This massive dog probably outweighed Brett but acted like a puppy.

Brett was apologizing for being gone so long, “The first photographer was a blooming idiot, so I had to call Harry.  What did you do today?”  She proceeded to carry on a conversation with him while she dropped off her coat and bag.

“Now, you need to meet Alex.  He is also called “Alpha”. I guess because he thinks he is the alpha male but that was before he met you, right?”  With that she turned to face Alex and acknowledged for the first time that he was even in the room.  “Elliott, say hello to the nice man.”

With that, Elliot walked right up to Alex and gingerly clamped his massive mouth over Alex’s crotch.  Alex froze, his dark skin going very pale and those gorgeous eyes were as wide as saucers.

With a low voice, Brett said, “I have no idea what is up your crawl about me, but I don’t really care.  My son thinks you are the best in your field, and I trust him explicitly, so I will put up with you.  You don’t have to like me to protect me, but you will show me respect.  If for no other reason, at the end of the day I sign your paychecks.   So, I am now going to sink into a hot bath that will, hopefully, remove the stress of this day from my face.  During that time, I expect you to find a new attitude.”

As she walked away, Alex wondered when this beast would let go of his junk.

“Elliot, release.” Brett looked back over her shoulder “By the way, at this dinner tonight you are supposed to be my date, so you are going to have to look like you like me or at the bare minimum, look at me like you want to bed me.”

            Just before entering her bedroom, she turned and said, “One more thing, I hope you brought a tux.  Don’t wear a tie, some necks were not made to wear ties and yours is one of those necks.”

He chuckled to himself, “Well, Alpha, you wanted to see what she was made of and you certainly found out.”

He was 55 years old and served 30 years in the Army, most of that in special forces, and never had he experienced anything like what just happened.  He had, of course, had certain individuals threaten to cut off certain appendages, but never had anyone come so close.

Alex let a slow grin grow from ear to ear, “This job might be fun after all.”

In her bedroom, Brett flopped on the bed.  Elliott jumped up beside her, as she rubbed his sleek fur, she couldn’t help but giggle.  It took her all day, but she finally got the upper hand with Mr. Alpha.  The look on his face when Elliot said “hello”!   “Good grief,” she thought, “plenty of people don’t like me after they meet me, but this one seemed to hate me from the get go.”

It didn’t take long and Brett was refreshed and ready to make another attempt at being friends with Alex.  For the first time, Brett looked at the morning from his perspective.  What a scene to walk in on!  She could see how it might have given him the impression that she was a diva.  Her stomach began to growl and she realized that she hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  Pulling on a pair of black yoga pants and a long-sleeved turquoise t-shirt, Brett went to offer an olive branch.

            Alex had his back to Brett as she entered the library.  The library was on the same side of the apartment as the master bath.  Alex was taking in the same view from the library window seat as Brett had while soaking in the tub.  Brett took a moment to appreciate his broad shoulders that tapered to a slim waist.

“It’s a remarkable view, isn’t it?”

Alex turned to see Brett in the doorway with Elliot by her side.

“It is breathtaking in its own way.  I prefer a little less concrete,” replied Alex, “before we start sparring again, I would like to explain my actions earlier.”

“By all means.”

“When I am hired to protect someone, there are many variables that must be factored into the equation.  One of the biggest factors is the client’s own reactions to a stressful situation.  I walked in on what I believe was a stressful situation, so I took the opportunity to push you and see how you reacted. I said a lot of things that I really didn’t mean simply to gage your responses.”

“So, did I pass or have you classified me as a hysterical woman?” grinned Brett.

“You never let the anger get out of control and I couldn’t intimidate you.”

“Ha!  I raised 4 teenagers, 3 of which were strong-willed females- intimidation was something that you NEVER showed if you wanted to survive to fight another day.”

“So, that was a neat trick with the dog.”

Brett giggled when she pictured the look on his face when Elliott latched on to his junk and her giggle turned into full on laughter.  “I deal with a lot of arrogant men and one thing that they all have in common is the fear of losing the family jewels.” Brett answered when she could once again speak.  Alex still didn’t find it all that funny, but watching her laugh was amusing.

“Why the name Elliot?  Seems like he should be named something more fierce.”

“Because he’s my hitter.”

Brett’s comment was met with a blank stare.

“You know, Leverage- the tv show- and Elliot is the hitter?  He’s played by Christian Kane.”

Still nothing on Alex’s part, “Really, you have never seen Leverage?”

“Nope.”

“Well, that is a downright shame.  Anyway, Elliot’s character is awesome and our favorite character so when it came time to name my dog it just seemed right.  I mean, after all, his job is to neutralize the bad guys so he’s my hitter.”

“I do have another question, who weighs more- you or the dog?”

“Don’t you know that asking about a woman’s weight is a great way to get Elliot to show you more of his parlor tricks?”  Brett teased. “Elliot is one-twenty five and I am a buck thirty.”

“Wow, you just told me your weight.  Most women would have sent Elliot after me again.”

“Most women are insecure and ridiculous. How about a late lunch? I’m hungry and I am sure you are after traveling.”

“Thank you. Yes, I am hungry but I thought we were eating dinner at the event tonight.”

“We are, but I am hungry now and the food at those events is usually not that good.”

To that Alex raised one eyebrow and gave Brett an inquisitive look.

“I know, it is the Food Channel and you would think that one thing you could count on when cooks get together is that the food would be amazing.  You would be wrong.  Let me give you a tour of the apartment and when we end in the kitchen, I will pull something light together.”

Into the large kitchen, Bret practically skipped.  “This is the best thing about this apartment, well except for my claw and ball bathtub that looks out onto the New York skyline.”

The kitchen was amazing, a huge professional range dominated one wall.  The glass subway tile on the walls shone bright and the black cabinets looked elegant against the white floors. The space was laid out by someone who obviously loved to cook.

“I could spend all day in this kitchen.  As a matter of fact, if I had used this kitchen to develop recipes for my new cookbook instead of cooking in the network’s test kitchens, I might not have been attacked.” said Brett with irritation in her voice.

“That is the first time you have mentioned the attack.  I saw the footage, thankfully you’ve had some training.  What’s your take on all of this?” asked Alex.  He studied her face as she answered.

“My take is that someone thought that they were going to snag me and get some ransom money.  Obviously, they didn’t do their homework or they would have known that Elliot would be with me.  This sort of thing comes with the territory of being famous and wealthy.  There is not a lot I can do at this point, so I don’t see any reason to fixate on it.  Plus, I have Elliot and you, so I will continue on with my life. Speaking of which, we have an event tonight, so I had better get us some food.”

At that, Brett walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out some cold roast and some vegetable beef soup.  Alex watched her move from one space to the other, slicing the roast into thin cuts and heating them in the cast iron skillet with au jus from the roast. She moved with surety and grace.  Within minutes, she had hot roast beef sandwiches and soup ready to go. 

She placed their plates on the small black table in the kitchen.  For the first time that day, they sat looking at each other from a distance close enough to see the color in each other’s eyes. It was a pleasant meal over which the schedule of the next day was discussed.  The conversation was easy, the kind you would have with a new acquaintance who you like but hasn’t actually become a friend yet.

Just as they were finishing their meal, the doorbell rang.  Brett went to open the door but Alex stopped her.  “Go sit in the living room, I’ll get this.”

“Bossy.” she thought but did what he said anyway.

Alex looked through the peephole and saw what he knew to be a detective and an FBI agent.

Alex opened the door, letting the detective and agent show their I.D.

“Good Afternoon, I am Detective Sloan, and this is Special Agent Parker with the FBI,” said Sloan.  Agent Parker was tall, at least 5’10”, very fit, blonde and fair skinned.  She seemed too kind to be with the FBI.

Brett looked concerned at the sight of the FBI agent.  “Hello, Mrs. Bentley,” Detective Sloan started off, “We have gotten some information concerning the attack yesterday and we need to ask you some more questions.”

“I take it the information is not good considering you brought back-up.” Brett looked over at Agent Parker. “Please, sit down and everyone call me Brett.”

“As you know, we had our suspicions about the attack being random.” Brett nodded and he continued, “However, what turned up today was very surprising.  When we ran the attacker through the databases, he turned up as a contract killer linked to several unsolved murders.”  He paused to let Brett take this in before continuing, “Once he popped up in the system, the FBI called, which is what led to Agent Parker being here with me.”

At this, Agent Parker cleared her throat, “Mrs. Bentley, I mean Brett, are you familiar with the Ramosa cartel from Paraguay?”

When Brett shook her head no, Parker continued: “Well, it is a violent cartel headed by Manual Ramosa.  He has smuggling routes through North America, especially in the United States.  We have been working to get inside the cartel for years, but it is very tight.”

“I appreciate what you are telling me, but I do not understand how this is linked to me and the attack yesterday.” said Brett.

Both of the officers breathed deeply, “The connection is that Ramosa hired the man who attacked you.”  Parker said and watched for her response.

Brett was stupefied.  “Why would a drug dealer from South America be at all interested in me?”

“Unfortunately, we have no idea at this time.  However, we are concerned that because the attack was unsuccessful there will be another. The contract was not specific to one person, but an open contract paying out to whomever gets the job done.  Also, Ramosa is not simply a drug dealer, he specializes in human trafficking.”  Parker continued, “Have you been outside of the US recently?”

“No, all of my travels have been stateside.  I arrived in New York on Sunday and was at the network studios on Monday.  Prior to that, I had been working from my home in Galveston or at the ranch just outside of Winnie.”

“I see, do you know of anyone in your organization that may have crossed paths with this cartel?”

“I can’t think of anyone or any incident at this time, but my group is large. As you probably know, my foundation is geared towards rescuing kids and placing them in permanent homes and helping single parent families in order to prevent kids from entering the foster system.  So, we have conflicting interests but I cannot think of a direct link or confrontation.  I have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a connection that I am not aware of.  I can give you the name of the forensic accounting firm that I use to audit my records and that of my foundation every six months.”

As Brett was talking, Alex noticed a shift- very subtle- in her body language.  She was telling the truth, but she was carefully leaving something out.

“You have your own records audited?” Detective Sloan asked.

“I do.  We have a lot of investments and a lot of donors; I do not want to be surprised by a donor that is connected to the wrong people and I am not risking having someone that I trust turn out to be a crook.”  As she spoke, Brett had stood up and walked into the gallery where her purse was on a table.  She returned with her phone and gave the information to Agent Parker.

Brett sighed as the weight of what was being said sunk in, “So, let me get this straight.  I have become the target of an evil man from Paraguay who has put a contract on me, for no apparent reason, so there could be more attacks coming since the first assassin failed.  Does this mean that if I go home I am taking the danger back to my family?”

“Well, yes.  That is what is going on.  Brett, I can assure you that we are doing what we can and will post agents to protect you.  However, the facts are what they are, if you go home this will follow you there.”  Parker was compassionate but straight forward, Brett liked that about her.

“This is a lot to take in.  Obviously, I can’t go home till this is resolved.  I plan to keep my schedule for the week but once I am finished with the meetings tomorrow and the gallery opening tomorrow night, I will head to my farm in West Virginia.  It is very isolated and will make it easier to see something coming.”  Brett was talking but she still couldn’t believe all of this was real and happening.

“That sounds like a good plan, we will have agents watching you.  I take it this gentleman is your personal security?” asked Parker.

“What?” Brett was taken back by the question and then realized that she hadn’t introduced Alex to anyone, “Oh, I apologize.  Yes, this is Alexander Jansen.  He is responsible for me now, lucky him.”

Alex shook hands and walked them to the door.  The three of them conferred for a few minutes, Brett was at the liquor cabinet when Alex walked back in the room.

            “Would you like one?” she asked, “I need to relax before dinner tonight and I don’t think a hot bath will do the job this time. Well, if this don’t beat all!  I am now the focus of some crazy S.O.B from South America and can’t even go home.”

Brett’s heavy southern drawl caught Alex by surprise.  Her accent was always evident, but now her voice was dripping with it. The first two shots had already had an effect on her and she was getting ready to down another.

Alex put his hand on the bottle.  “You know, you don’t strike me as a heavy drinker, but you do strike me as someone who needs her filter in place, especially if she is under stress and doesn’t like most of those people around her.  So, why don’t you let me put that up for you?”

“Just what makes you think I can’t handle my liquor?”

“Well, for starters everything you just said had about 3 extra vowels in it and I know from working with your son that you are not a drinker.”

“Fine, I have to get dressed anyway.” Brett swished over to the bedroom door and slammed it shut. As she passed Alex, he was pretty positive she patted her backside giving him the universal “bite me” sign.  It happened so fast he couldn’t be sure, but the thought made him chuckle.

Alex stood there processing all that had happened.  With this new information, he knew that simply acting as her personal security guard wasn’t enough.  He needed a team. He would discuss this with Brett later, right now he had to get her through the next few hours without her blowing up and having a meltdown.  He shook his head, he may not be sold on her farm girl image but he had to admit she was strong. All that had happened in the last 24 hours would have had most humans curled up in the fetal position after having gotten smash faced.

As Alex got dressed, he chuckled as he thought about Brett’s command to not wear a tie.  She was right, he had a neck that God never intended to wear a tie.  Not that he needed to be told how to dress.

Since leaving the Army, Alex had traded one uniform for another.  Tonight, instead of dress blues he would wear an Armani tux, with an open collared shirt.  He planned to impress Brett with his sense of style.  He showered and trimmed his stubble to look intentional instead of unkempt, applied his favorite cologne, dressed and then checked emails and returned texts till he heard Brett leave her room.

Alex strode into the library ready to knock Brett’s socks off but what he saw standing in the library stopped him in his tracks.

Brett stood before him with her auburn hair swept up into a bun.  Diamonds hung like tear drops from her ears highlighting her slender neck.  The dress she was wearing was floor length black velvet, long sleeved with a full back. But the neckline plunged deeply and the skirt was slit in the front right up the center.  There was probably only about 12 inches of fabric in between the plunge and the slit, just covering her abdomen and the tip top of her thighs.  This dress hinted at all the right places but revealed nothing.  For the first time, Alex could see just how long and shapely her legs were, her slender feet melded into her nude heels.  The only accents on the dress were four rhinestone buttons, one pair was just even with her hip bones with the second pair directly below those just at the top of her thighs. 

“Well Big A, have you got something to say?” Brett drawled.

“Big A, I like that.” thought Alex, to hear her draw it out with about a dozen “a’s” in it made his breath quicken.

He moved to stand about 3 feet in front of her, “Let’s just say that looking at you like I would want to bed you won’t be a problem tonight.”

Brett tilted her head and cut her eyes up at him.  Even in 4-inch heels, he still towered over her.  “I was hoping you might actually like me, but I’ll take what I can get.”  She grinned a sly grin and brushed up against him as she moved past.

“Elliot come.” she called.  Elliott appeared by her side wearing a huge rhinestone collar. What a stunning pair those two made.

Brett buzzed the front desk, “This is Ms. Bentley, please have my car brought round.”

“Alrighty then, let’s get this thing over with,” Brett said with a sigh.

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One Full Week- A Marine for Christmas

So, it has been one full week since I released A Marine For Christmas, and I have been amazed!

Thank you for all of your support! I am grateful for everyone who bought the book or downloaded it in Kindle Unlimited. I am also grateful for everyone who gave it a rating or left a review.

It made the decision to self-publish the rest of my books easy. I had fun, I am still learning a LOT, and I am excited. The thing that is probably the most appealing is the freedom to write what I want, how I want to and then control when it is available. For those that know me, this is not a surprise!

If you haven’t read the book, you can get it here: Amazon

If you have the book, please rate it or leave a review. Also, if you could take a moment and like the NICE reviews I would be so grateful!

You can find me and my books on Goodreads, a review here would also be greatly appreciated. Follow me (this is different than being my friend) and you will get notices when I have a new book available.

Also, if you join the newsletter over there in the sidebar, you will get notices of new books and exclusive content.

I can’t say it ENOUGH- Thank you!

Out of the Shadows will be released in January and a cover reveal this week!

This One Thing That Will Bring Peace to Your Marriage

Grace.

That is the one element that will make your marriage better. Grace will make any relationship you have better- including the relationship you have with yourself.

What is Grace exactly?

grace

Definition of grace

 (Entry 1 of 2)1a: unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification

b: a virtue coming from God

c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

2a: APPROVALFAVOR stayed in his good graces

b archaic MERCYPARDON

c: a special favor PRIVILEGEeach in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage— Rudyard Kipling

d: disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency

e: a temporary exemption : REPRIEVE

3a: a charming or attractive trait or characteristic Among disagreeable qualities he possessed the saving grace of humor.

b: a pleasing appearance or effect CHARMall the grace of youth— John Buchan

c: ease and suppleness of movement or bearing danced with such grace

grace verb gracedgracing

Definition of grace (Entry 2 of 2)

1: to confer dignity or honor on The king graced him with the rank of a knight.

2: ADORNEMBELLISH graveled walks graced with statues— J. A. Michener

There is a lot to this one word, but I think the part that applies the most to marriage is “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency“. Frequently, we demand more from those we live with, especially our spouse. We let our anger show, our impatience colors our words, and we keep a long list of flaws and mistakes. But, what would our marriage look like if we responded with grace instead of “justice” or harshness?

I think sometimes, especially for women, we think it is our duty or job to fix everyone around us. The world tells us that we do that by pointing our every flaw and demanding perfection. That isn’t how God does it. He offers GRACE every second of every day. If we are in a new season, he offers grace. If we are struggling, he offers grace. If we are learning a new way of being or doing, he offers grace.

Grace is key to living at peace.

My therapist once asked me what I wanted to remember in January when I thought about the holidays.

Peace- Joy- Reverence-Laughter- Ease

But most of all, in every season of my life, I want peace.

You need grace to have peace. You can’t be at peace with yourself if you don’t extend grace to yourself. You can’t live at peace with others if you don’t extend grace to others. There is a time for calling someone on their sh*&$. But those times are NOT everyday and not in every moment. Plus, if you are constantly busting someone over every flaw and mistake, they are not listening to you. However, if you deal grace like a drug dealer deals meth, people will listen when you come to them out of love and talk with them about a problem or pattern that needs attention.

GRACE should be thrown around like confetti on New Year’s Eve. Give it freely because God has certainly given it freely to you.

I also looked up antonyms for Grace:

Bitterness. Disapproval. Hostility. Unforgiveness.

Wow, sometimes you can learn more by looking at what something is not than what it is.

Jesus is our Prince of Peace. How fitting that His Father is a God of Grace.

Gratin Dauphinois- The Best Potatoes!

Food is essential to romance. Regardless of where the food comes from- a fancy restaurant, a cool dinner, or from home. The old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” has a lot of truth to it. I don’t know many women who are impervious to a man who cooks for her- or at least brings her tacos.

In A Marine for Christmas, Lucas is no different. Dixie blows his mind with Gratin Dauphinois and Beef Carbonnade. What good love story doesn’t have good food? I love cooking, I love growing food, and I love serving that food to those I love. So, my characters do as well. I hope you enjoy the recipe I have included for you!

You could call these scalloped potatoes, but Gratin Dauphinois has so much more flair!  It is hard to go wrong with potatoes, they are a humble food from the earth that need only a little dressing up.  You will be hard pressed to find a menu that can’t be complimented with a potato dish.  With the potatoes cooked in the oven with milk/cream, butter and a little garlic, the simplicity is deceptive.  This taste is subtle but engaging, the texture is smooth, and the experience is wonderful.

This dish complimented the Beef Carbonnade the family greatly enjoyed at our Christmas Dinner.  There was not a bit left after dinner, always a compliment to the cook!  Unless of course there is none left because the cook did a poor job of planning for her guests, but that was not the case- this time.

The humble potato!

Gratin Dauphinois

3 pounds of boiling potatoes– peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (the food processor works great for this)

1 cup of whole milk – I like to mix 3/4 cup whole milk with 1/4 cup cream- adds to the richness and wonderful texture.

1 clove garlic– pressed and spread on bottom of a buttered flame proof baking dish- I prefer a deep dish 9 inch cast iron skillet

3 tablespoons of butter plus more for greasing the bottom of the dish.

Once you have buttered the cast iron skillet and spread the pressed garlic, place the potatoes in the skillet spreading in layers.

Season the milk with salt and pepper, pour over potatoes.  Add more cream until the milk is 3/4 of the way up.  Place on burner and heat just to a simmer- this is a very important step so that the liquid and potatoes come together in the oven.

Distribute 3 tablespoons of butter (real butter, not margarine) on top of potatoes.

Bake in a 425′ oven for about 25 minutes- until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

Serve and be happy!  That is some flat out good food!  Great food does not have to be complicated to be wonderful.