I hope you are all well and hanging in there whether you are working from home, providing an essential service, or on the front lines with health and medical personnel. These are tough times, but we are assured we will get through them. And, like all challenging experiences, we will be stronger from having overcome this situation, but what do you do in the meantime if you’re social distancing at home and are sick of binge watching tv shows?
Here are some suggestions on how to make your time at home less stressful. I’d also recommend trying to keep as close to your normal routine as possible. You can get up, go to bed, and eat meals a little later, but try not to vary those times too much and make sure to shower and dress each day.
Pray. Even if your house of worship is closed to services, check to see if they are offering online sermons or prayer sessions. If not, view the others that are available and/or pray on your own. It will boost your spirit and help calm you. If you don’t believe in prayer, meditation is also helpful.
Learn. There are daily updates about the Coronavirus, but be careful to tune into the trusted sites. There’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet. The main site you should check is https://www.cdc.gov/. Check your local library’s website for other links and information sources. Take advantage of online education. There are many online courses, some of which are free.
Read. Do you have a pile of To-be-read books? Now’s the time to explore them. If you own an e-reader, you can download free books from Overdrive or Amazon. Many authors, including myself, are offering free copies of their books. If you like mysteries, my psychological mystery, Sea Scope is free until Monday, March 23.
Exercise. Don’t skip your workout. Even if you can’t go to the gym, there are many YouTube video exercise classes. I recommend Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home program, but there are a variety of others. Put on your favorite music and dance. Walking outside is also good for the spirit. If you have a dog, he will enjoy laps around the neighborhood, and it will refresh and energize you.
Eat. Don’t skip meals or binge snack because you’re upset, bored, or frightened by what’s happening. Fill yourself with healthy choices — fruits and vegetables. They will keep your immune system strong.
Write. If you keep a journal, continue to write it. If you don’t, it might help to start one. Record your daily feelings, thoughts, ideas. If you prefer creative writing to journaling, write a story or start a book. Keep inspired. Stretch your imagination muscles.
Call. Phone your friends, co-workers, relatives and check in on them. If you’ve been leading a busy life and haven’t had time to keep in touch with people often, now you have the chance. You can also text, chat, Facetime, or write letters.
Play. If you’re home with kids or there are others in your house, take out the Monopoly, Scrabble, or other board game or plug in the XBox and challenge them to a match. Have some fun and destress. If you’re alone, there are online games such as Solitaire. Or you can find some virtual opponents. You might even consider checking out a virtual world such as Second Life. If you have pets, cats and dogs are wonderful companions. Your kitty and/or dog will enjoy some extra snuggle and playtime with you.
Clean. It’s spring. Why not jumpstart your spring cleaning and organizing? It will provide you with exercise and a feeling of accomplishment.
10. Laugh. Humor always helps in tense situations. Check out some of the funny photos and messages on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Check out YouTube for funny videos.
I hope some of these tips help you. If you have any others, please post them in the comments.
I’m honored to have Laura Childs, author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, here to talk about herself and her books and also to share the blog tour for her latest release.
Hello, Laura, and welcome. How long have you been published? What titles/series have you published with which publisher?
I’ve been lucky enough to have published 45 books over the past 20 years. My series include the New York Times bestselling Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. All are with Berkley, a division of Penguin Random House.
That’s wonderful. Please tell us about your newest book, Lavender Blue Murder.
As tea shop owner Theodosia and her tea sommelier Drayton enjoy a British-style day of shooting at Creekmore Plantation, gunshots explode like Black Cat firecrackers. But the distinctive pop of a handgun sounds too close for comfort. Theodosia wanders into a neighboring lavender field and discovers their host Reginald Doyle bleeding to death. Hours later, a fire rips through the Doyle’s plantation house. A shooting and a fire feel way too coincidental, so Theodosia launches an investigation. Fingers are pointed, suspects abound, and old secrets are revealed even as Reginald’s daughter-in law is missing and presumed drowned. A wild, cross-country chase with more shots fired reveals the killer. This is one of my most action-packed mysteries yet!
It sounds exciting.
What are your goals as a writer?
Always to entertain and delight my reader. There are so many good books, movies, TV shows, etc. out there, that I really try my best to come up with quirky murders and interesting, twisty plots.
Judging by your success, I’d say you’ve managed to do that.
What type of reader do you attract?
My readers are all ages – I always say my books are good for girls to grandmas. But I get a lot of male readers too. I think it’s primarily women who buy my books and then their husbands or boyfriends pick them up and read them too.
Interesting. I feel the same way about my books. I know men have read my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series, although I’m sure they attract women more.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Read the genre you’re most interested in writing and check Publisher’s Weekly to see what editors are buying. Then try to write a little bit each day. When you’re first starting out, it really helps to outline your book. Also, make your chapter one super exciting, weave any necessary back story into later chapters, and try to keep your story moving forward at a super-fast pace.
Great advice. As a librarian, I read a variety of books and am also now a reviewer for Booklist. However, I’m a pantster, so I should probably try to outline more. I’ve also been told that my mysteries pick up later in the book, so I need to add more excitement in the earlier chapters.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before becoming published?
Mostly just finding time. I was CEO of my own marketing firm so it was difficult to carve out time to work on my novels.
Finding time to write is a big issue for most authors. I know it is for me, as I work full-time as a librarian. Your marketing background must’ve helped you when it came to promoting your books.
What do you like most about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
Much like running a marketing firm, I enjoy being my own boss. I can skip a day of work or I can write for 20 hours straight if I choose. My toughest challenges always come in piecing together a good plot and jump starting the book with a scary murder. On the other hand, there are so many delicious ways to kill a person!
Very well put.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
I love the idea of an amateur sleuth who isn’t constrained by the usual police procedures, regulations, search warrants, etc. That allows my amateur sleuths to snoop around to her heart’s content!
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title?
Love to! Here you go:
Theodosia couldn’t bear it any longer. She knew she had to do something to keep Fawn from being shot to death!
Theodosia lifted her flashlight high above her head and swung it with all her might, as if she were hitting the winning home run in the final game of the World Series. As the flashlight crashed into the dusty window, the old glass shattered like skim ice on a pond. Shards of brittle glass flew like a hail of bullets. Theodosia felt a sting hit her forehead, watched as hundreds more sharp pieces blew into the old barn.
“Stop!” Theodosia screamed with all the sound and fury she could muster. “Drop the gun, Jacoby!”
Caught off guard by the sudden noise and slivers of glass that had come blasting out of nowhere, Jacoby’s hand wavered slightly as he squeezed the trigger.
Tea-Maven Theodosia Browning brews up trouble in the latest Tea Shop Mystery from New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs.
Tea maven Theodosia Browning and her tea sommelier Drayton Conneley are guests at a bird hunt styled in the precise manner of an English shooting party. Which means elevenses (sloe gin fizzes), gun loaders, the drawing of pegs, fine looking bird dogs, and shooting costumes of tweed, herringbone, and suede.
But as gunshots explode like a riff of Black Cat firecrackers, another shot sounds too close for comfort to Theodosia and Drayton. Intrigued but worried, Theodosia wanders into the neighbor’s lavender field where she discovers their host, Reginald Doyle, bleeding to death.
His wife, Meredith, is beside herself with grief and begs Theodosia and Drayton to stay the night. But Theodosia awakens at 2:00A.M. to find smoke in her room and the house on fire. As the fire department screams in and the investigating sheriff returns, Meredith again pleads with Theodosia for help.
As Theodosia investigates, fingers are pointed, secrets are uncovered, Reginald’s daughter-in-law goes missing presumed drowned, and Meredith is determined to find answers via a séance. All the while Theodosia worries if she’s made a mistake in inviting a prime suspect to her upscale Lavender Lady Tea.
INCLUDES DELICIOUS RECIPES AND TEA TIME TIPS!
About Laura Childs
Laura Childs is the New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO/Creative Director of her own marketing firm and authored several screenplays. She is married to a professor of Chinese art history, loves to travel, rides horses, enjoys fundraising for various non-profits, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.
Laura specializes in cozy mysteries that have the pace of a thriller (a thrillzy!) Her three series are:
The Tea Shop Mysteries – set in the historic district of Charleston and featuring Theodosia Browning, owner of the Indigo Tea Shop. Theodosia is a savvy entrepreneur, and pet mom to service dog Earl Grey. She’s also an intelligent, focused amateur sleuth who doesn’t rely on coincidences or inept police work to solve crimes. This charming series is highly atmospheric and rife with the history and mystery that is Charleston.
The Scrapbooking Mysteries – a slightly edgier series that take place in New Orleans. The main character, Carmela, owns Memory Mine scrapbooking shop in the French Quarter and is forever getting into trouble with her friend, Ava, who owns the Juju Voodoo shop. New Orleans’ spooky above-ground cemeteries, jazz clubs, bayous, and Mardi Gras madness make their presence known here!
The Cackleberry Club Mysteries – set in Kindred, a fictional town in the Midwest. In a rehabbed Spur station, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, three semi-desperate, forty-plus women have launched the Cackleberry Club. Eggs are the morning specialty here and this cozy cafe even offers a book nook and yarn shop. Business is good but murder could lead to the cafe’s undoing! This series offers recipes, knitting, cake decorating, and a dash of spirituality.
Bound for Murder is the fourth book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series. I’ve read them all and they just keep getting better. Maybe it is because the characters feel like old friends. ~Diane Reviews Books
Blue Ridge library director Amy Webber learns it wasn’t all peace and love among the “flower children” when a corpse is unearthed on the grounds of a 1960s commune.
Taylorsford Public Library director Amy Webber’s friend “Sunny” Fields is running for mayor. But nothing puts a damper on a campaign like an actual skeleton in a candidate’s closet. Sunny’s grandparents ran a commune back in the 1960s on their organic farm. But these former hippies face criminal charges when human remains are found in their fields–and a forensic examination reveals that the death was neither natural nor accidental.
With Sunny’s mayoral hopes fading, Amy sets her wedding plans aside, says “not yet” to the dress, and uses her research skills to clear her best friend’s family. Any of the now-elderly commune members could have been the culprit. As former hippies perish one by one, Amy and her friends Richard, Aunt Lydia, and Hugh Chen pursue every lead. But if Amy can’t find whoever killed these “flower children,” someone may soon be placing flowers on her grave.
About Virginia Gilbert
Victoria Gilbert, raised in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, turned her early obsession with reading into a dual career as an author and librarian. Victoria has worked as a reference librarian, research librarian, and library director. When not writing or reading, she likes to spend her time watching films, gardening, or traveling. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers and lives in North Carolina. This is her fourth Blue Ridge Library mystery.
My daughter attended a high school homecoming this past weekend while I was at the local author fair at the Port Jefferson Public Library. As I was setting up my table, I received a call from her on my cell that she’d won a fish in a contest and didn’t know what to do with it. We’d had fish when she was young after my cat died and we hadn’t yet replaced him. We hadn’t had any luck with those fish, as most of them died within a week. The longest-living one was doing well until we introduced another fish to the tank to keep him company. I remember how upset she was when I told her that her fish “Rocket” had died. She’d named him after the children’s show Little Einsteins.
When I got home from the fair, Holly was watching the goldfish swim in a small tank she got at the carnival where she’d transferred him from his bag. We knew he needed a larger tank and one that filtered the water. I recalled having found our old tank recently and putting it in the garage. The next day, Holly moved the fish to a bowl with fresh water where he swam around quickly. While I was out, she went in the garage got our old tank, cleaned everything, and set it up. When I came home, she told me she was missing the filter, so we ran out to a pet store and spoke with a fish specialist who gave us the proper one. In addition, we purchased additional fish flakes and a couple of other items to help prepare the water. The store owner gave us instructions, and she followed them. When the fish, she named Kirishima for an anime character got into the new tank, he seemed to adjust and enjoyed the bigger space.
I posted to Facebook about our getting him and asking if anyone also kept fish with cats since we have Stripey. A few responded that they did and had no problems.
When I went to work at the library yesterday, I picked up a book on goldfish for further information. When I came home, Kirishima was swimming around and exploring the aquarium. I put on some music to do my exercising, and he seemed to “dance” with me. I took a video of him which, unfortunately, turned out to be his last one.
When I didn’t see Kirishima this morning, I was worried. He didn’t seem to be anywhere in the tank. When fish die, they usually float to the top, but he wasn’t up there. My daughter took the lid off the tank and finally found him in the filter. He floated to the bottom and lay there. We knew he was gone. I think Holly took it better than me. I’d begun to enjoy watching him swim. I realized that most carnival fish are sickly, so I shouldn’t have expected him to last long. Yet I blamed myself. Did I do something wrong? Did we feed him too much or too little? Did we rush him into the aquarium? Did we not give him enough light or darkness? All these questions will never be answered. I only know that I feel a loss. Maybe we’ll get another fish. Maybe we’ll just put away the aquarium again. It’s strange to mourn a fish we only had 3 days, but he was beginning to grow on us. It’s possible I took it harder than my daughter who seemed to accept it.
I try to tell myself it’s for the best. We have a cat, after all, but he didn’t seem to even notice the aquarium we put in our window. I tell myself it would’ve been one more thing to take care of in our busy lives and one more thing to worry about when we go away. Yet I can’t help the sadness I feel. We’ll send him on his way tonight to Rainbow Pond or wherever fish go. Rest in Peace, Kirishima. Perhaps I’ll find a place for you in my next book.
This isn’t my usual post about books and writing, but I know a lot of you have seen my Facebook and Twitter posts about losing my Mom on July 21st. So many of you online friends have sent condolences, lovely pictures, and private messages. My publisher emailed me to let me know that I should take my time before I dived back into edits on the book that I’m currently completing. Locally, my friends and family were there for me Monday night at the Funeral Parlor viewing. Several members of my church dropped by to express their sympathy. A large number of my co-workers came from the library. Two neighbors of my mother also attended the viewing and one came to the mass yesterday at St. Paul the Apostle Church. Some people have donated to animal associations in her memory because she was a big animal lover, and our house always had pets. Without the support of all these wonderful people, my family and I would’ve had an even a harder time coping with our mother’s death.
On Monday night, I shared some memories of my mom after the Deacon read Bible passages and prayers for her. For those who weren’t able to make it due to distance or other commitments, I’m including it on this post. I know many of you have also suffered the loss of a parent or other close relative or friend. No matter how old or sick they are, it throws you for a loop. Your world turns upside down. The guilt is always there, even though the sensible side of you knows that there was nothing you could do. Even though you realize that they are in a better place rather than subsisting without a quality of life.
Thank you again for your patience and kindness at this sad time as I deal with my grief. As words have always been important to me, below are the ones I wrote in memory of Mom. I will also be dedicating my upcoming book to her.
My Mom was seventeen when she married and had three kids before she was twenty-one. She had her fourth, me, eleven years after my brother, Jack. She told me that when the doctor asked her what she wanted — a boy or a girl — because she already had two sons and a daughter, she said she’d like to have another little girl because daughters are special to mom’s. Now that I have my own daughter, I understand how she felt.
As the baby of the family, I was a little spoiled by my older siblings and parents. When my sister and brothers married and left the house, my Mom and I grew even closer. Since there were less mouths to feed, she stopped preparing the wonderful meals I remember – her special meatloaf, delicious spaghetti with homemade sauce, and pot roasts with roasted potatoes that I woke up smelling as a child when she started cooking early on a weekend morning. The three of us would go to dinner at the Sizzler which used to be on Old Country Road and was my Dad’s favorite restaurant. Mom and I also dined for lunch on our birthdays in February and May at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho.
When I was ten, Mom and I went to Cantiague park for a picnic before school started in September. We noticed a gray and white stray cat that looked hungry and wasn’t wearing a collar. My mother, an animal lover, took the cat home. She tried to find its owner, but no one claimed her, so we kept her. I named her Kitty, and she had three kittens the following month. The two male cats got out of the house and never came home. We had the mother cat and her daughter for a long time. We had many other cats and a few dogs throughout the years that Mom cared for, and I remember the sadness we all felt when we lost them.
As I grew older, Mom and I would shop at what used to be the Mid Island Plaza (now Broadway Commons) at Gertz which later became Sterns and is now Macy’s. There was a mystery theater there once, and I remember having a nice meal and a fun afternoon with her at the show. There was also a BINGO hall at Mid-Island, and Mom and I loved to go there, too. We never won a lot but enjoyed playing and being together. Mom was luckier at lottery tickets. She never won any huge prizes, but she won smaller amounts that she reinvested in more tickets hoping she’d hit the jackpot.
Another store that Mom and I used to shop at was Newberry’s that was like a 5 and dime shop. Mom bought sewing supplies there. When I first married twenty-six years ago, Newberry’s was still around. They opened a pet shop in the store and Mom, sensing that I was lonely since my husband was working nights at that time, suggested we go there and look at the kittens. That’s how I got my cat, Floppy. After he passed and Mom went into White Oaks, I took her Siamese cat Oliver whom she’d had for twelve years. She loved that cat so much that she refused to leave him at her house when she lost power during Hurricane Sandy, so we took them both into ours. Later, when I adopted Oliver, I learned what a special cat he was. He’s been gone less than a year now, and I want to think they’ve found one another wherever they are.
Before Mom started suffering from dementia, she gave me a pin that was in her family that she wanted me to pass on to my daughter, Holly. I kept it in a safe place and showed it to her recently. That wasn’t the only thing she left us. I know she left me with a love of animals and books that I’m sharing with Holly. She read to me all the time as a child, and maybe that’s why I became a librarian and an author. I’m glad I had my mother for 90 years, although the last five of those weren’t the best for her.
One thing that gives me comfort now that she’s gone is a story she told me a long time ago. Even though she married out of her faith, she was raised Catholic in a religious home and we used to go to Church together. She said that when she was young, she was given the last rites by her family’s priest when she was very ill with Rheumatic Fever. There was a painting of Jesus in her bedroom. She was running a very high temperature and lapsed into delirium. She saw a white light at the end of a tunnel where Jesus stood in a white robe. He told her to go back because it wasn’t her time. She went on to marry my father and raise four children and lived to see her 90th birthday. Remembering this tale she told me, as I stood by her bedside a few days ago while another priest gave her the last rites, I realized that it was now her time. She’s with her beloved cat, Oliver who died this past November; her older sister Madeline who passed away two years ago, and my Dad who’s been gone for fifteen years. I miss her but hope to see her again one day when it’s my time.
Two envelopes. Two holocaust survivors. Two anonymous bearer
bonds each worth one million pounds. Corporate forensic
investigator, Cydney Granger, with help from beyond the grave,
enters a world previously unknown to her to unravel the truth
behind a web of secrets, lies, corruption, blackmail and hidden
Nazi loot as new horrors of the Third Reich come to light.
Still struggling to come to terms with the apparent death of her
husband, Captain Steve Granger, five years’ earlier Cydney puts her
personal feelings to one side and is determined to bring to justice
an escaped Nazi criminal, Adolf Weissmuller, living under the assumed
name of Albert Whiteman, whose son is about to run for the US
presidency. Can Albert ever make amends for his crimes against
humanity, or are some actions beyond forgiveness …?
Will Cydney, along with her trusted and tough protector, former
sergeant, Sean O’Connell, also uncover the truth surrounding
The consequences of Cydney’s investigations, stretching back
before WWII, are far reaching with the potential to bring down a
banking dynasty as she faces insurmountable odds from which
there is only one final solution.
The dramatic follow-up to The Shadows Behind Her Smile,
a compelling debut which takes the reader from the heart of Cydney’s
corporate world to the ruins of war-torn Damascus and where men
will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
Albert Whiteman had led his life for the last fifty-eight years feeling confident he had left his past behind. Now, through his own fault, it was about to come back and bite him extremely hard and harm everything he had set in motion for his son to become president of the United States of America. How his fellow officers would have laughed to even think that the son of a Nazi officer, his own child, might one day hold that position.
He had not thought about his past until recently. It was almost as if it hadn’t happened, an episode in a book he’d read, as if he was so detached from his previous existence, repressing any memories and never haunted by images. Now, he questioned whether in fact he should feel any guilt for his actions. He’d never considered this or any consequences of the actual mass murders he had committed and the exterminations, but the thought alone and the questioning in his mind was eating away at him on a daily, almost hourly basis. He couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and was unable to function. It was essential to his existence and to his life to have answers, especially now he didn’t have long left on this earth and would have to face his Maker. He felt no remorse; how could he when everything he had done had been on the orders of his senior officers?
Never a religious man at all or God fearing, he had started to attend a catholic church in the last year, initially chosen purely because the architecture and the statue outside of the Madonna and Child attracted him more than any others. The church dated back to the 1830s and was built in a pseudo-gothic style, and somehow it had managed to escape destruction in the civil war. With its sweeping vista across the gorge of the Shenandoah River, it gave the man a sense of peace which he didn’t receive where he lived one hundred and fifty miles away, and he was struck by the richness of everything about it.
When Albert sauntered into the church it enraptured him, which came as a shock. The first time he had simply entered through the open door and stood inside the vestibule before going through into the nave where he gazed wonderingly around him, admiring the stained-glass windows and statues that honoured religious figures and illustrated the Bible’s words. Around the walls were plaques of the story of Christ’s crucifixion. He felt drawn by the sense and smell of it all and the fullness of an all-consuming silence, and the cold, instead of repelling him, was somehow comforting. From childhood, religion to him was cold. The few times he was forced to attend church with his parents as a young boy, he’d found it unemotional and uncaring. He had never understood the draw or why you had to pray to God or anyone you couldn’t see or hear. Was the lack of heat to give you a sense of Hell in comparison? The preacher always drummed into him that was where everyone would end up if they didn’t abide by the rules set out in an ancient text. Now he may be thinking differently because that’s all he had left.
Title: Fame & Obsession Author: Cora Kenborn Genre: Romantic Suspense Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Design Publisher: Limitless Publishing Editor: Gillian Leonard of Lilypad Editing Expected Release Date: Oct. 25th, 2016 Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Struggling writer Phoebe Ryan abandons her southern roots and heads to New York, determined to leave her nightmarish past behind… She was not expecting to meet a famous rock star, or to be coerced into ghostwriting his autobiography. But she tries to maintain focus on her dream of becoming an author, despite the attraction she feels for the sexy rocker, not to mention the baggage that comes with him.
Julian Bale’s world was shattered one drunken night, and it almost ruined him…
Weighed down by guilt, he blames himself for an accident he could’ve prevented. He will play the game, but swears his hot little ghostwriter will never get that story out of him. As much as he wants her, if he has to choose between his dream and hers, it’s no contest.
Phoebe and Julian give in to a forbidden attraction, and their public romance risks both their lives…
An obsessive fan is on the loose and now that the secret’s out, it’s made them both targets. The psychotic stalker is determined to have Julian for herself, even if she has to reveal their sordid pasts and eliminate Phoebe to do it.
He lives for fame. She lives to hide. Obsession lives to ruin them both.
Cora Kenborn writes romantic suspense novels with strong heroines, complex alphas, harrowing danger, and snappy banter. She is the author of the rock star stalker series, Lords of Lyre but refuses to be pigeon holed into one specific genre. She loves delving into the twisted mind of a dark villain as well as giggling while writing rom-com banter.
Cora lives in Eastern North Carolina and is a true Southern girl, growing up on sweet tea, front porches, and the simple life. She says “y’all,” “fixin’ to,” and should you deserve it, will “bless your heart.” She’s the proud mother three hyperactive and occasionally adorable children, and the wife of a husband who tolerates her chaotic writer’s cave.
Although reading is her passion, she can usually be found watching true crime shows and crafting inspiration for twisted new tales. Cora admits to being a horrible cook, an even worse baker, and believes she’s more dangerous with a hot glue gun than any weapon on earth. Oh, and she and autocorrect are mortal enemies.
The coiled body behind me tensed, ready to detonate. Whoever defended me could hold his own, but I could still take everybody out with one flick of the wrist. Chivalry felt warm and fuzzy but I learned a long time ago that one hundred and fifty volts felt electric and twitchy.
Turning my chin to the side, I whispered on an exhale, “It’s fine, I’ve got this.”
A low laugh against my neck curled my toes.
“You so don’t got this.” His chest rumbled as a strong hand ran skilled fingers around my hair. I tilted my chin, watching his eyes harden. “You’re up my ass, shit-for-brains. Don’t ever touch what’s mine.” He shifted his lips against my ear. “Right, baby?”
One suitor tested my patience, but two pushed my limit. I opened my mouth to tell him off when he stole the moment and pressed his lips against mine. Resisting, I murmured veiled threats as he pulled me toward him. The impromptu kiss dissolved into failed waves of aggression, and I inexplicably responded to him. Before I knew it, I’d wrapped my arms around his neck.
After a few heartbeats of kissing a complete stranger, I finally regained what dignity I had left, shoved his chest, and faced him with fire blazing in my eyes. He snickered and waved as my aggressor stalked off. Shooting him a death glare, I reached for my drink. After scanning for witnesses, I brought it to my lips and drained it.
“Thirsty?” He smirked.
“What the hell was that?”
He snatched the drink out of my hands, giving me a wink before tipping it back for the last drop. “You weren’t exactly pushing me away. Besides, I just saved your ass. Heath Vaughn was inches from having a hand up that thing you call a dress.”
“I didn’t ask for your help!” I bit back. “I don’t even know who the hell you—wait, who?”
“Somebody had to step in or you’d have spent the night in jail with that concealed, illegal shit in your purse. You’re telling me you didn’t know that was Vaughn? Maybe because we haven’t time-warped back to his 1995 five minutes of fame.” He walked past me with a smirk plastered across his face.
Struggling to catch up with him, I grabbed his shoulder in disbelief. “That’s a joke, right?”
“Afraid not. Vaughn in the flesh, and apparently in the sauce too. Why do you care so much what he thinks?” He eyed me curiously, his jade-green eyes knocking me breathless.
Finally allowing myself a full look at him, I quickly averted my eyes before he could see my racing pulse reflected in them. Chaotic chocolate spiked hair pointed in every direction and hinted at a carefully constructed morning-after look. A small silver earring caught flashes of light in the darkness and tattoos decorated each uncovered arm.
Remembering to breathe became a chore.
“Because I’m screwed!” I shouted, frantically waving my phone. “My boss is already pissed at me, and I was supposed to meet Vaughn here for an interview, and—why am I telling you this?”
“Calm down.” He grinned, revealing a deep dimple in his left cheek. “Look, the dude’s so far tanked he won’t remember he was here, much less you were. Give me your phone.”
“I’m not giving you my phone. I don’t even know you.”
Rolling his eyes, he snatched my phone out of my hands. “Didn’t stop you from making out with me, did it?” He scanned the email I’d been checking all night. Typing furiously, his lips curved upward and he handed it back. “All fixed.”
“What did you do?” Thankfully, previous defense training taught me to never label emails with personal information. In the darkness, he’d never scroll back far enough to know my name.
“Why must you question brilliance?” he countered with a sigh. “You sent him an email concerned for his safety since he never showed for your interview. You waited but had to leave because you actually work for a living. You’d love to reschedule since you’re such a huge fan and were disappointed at the missed opportunity to hear all about his crap-ass reality show, since I assume that’s all he would’ve wanted to talk about.”