Friday, July 21, 2017

#GiveAway ~ PRINCESS BREEZE By Beverly Stowe McClure ~ @beverlymcclure @MCBookTours

You’re never too young to begin reading and it’s always fun to find a delightful story that you can follow. Today author Beverly Stowe McClure stops by as part of her PRINCESS BREEZE Blog Tour through MC Book Tours.
PRINCESS BREEZE
Series: Breeze (Book 2)
By Beverly Stowe McClure

As part of the celebration you can enter the tour-wide giveaway (courtesy of the
author) for one of two paperback copies of the book (U.S. only) being given
away. Please see the end of the post for more details.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~
About the Book: 

For months, Breeze Brannigan has heard nothing from Cam, the prince she met at school and who disappeared one night, without telling her goodbye. On the night, she graduates from middle school, however, he contacts her and invites her to visit Isla del Fuego, his home. Who could refuse such an invitation? 

Breeze along with her whole family and best friends, Amy and Allison, soon sail to the island, where she and Cam renew their friendship. But danger lurks; a legend comes to life; and Breeze finds herself in the middle of a battle that can have one winner.

 Paperback: 236 pages
 Publisher: 4RV
Young Adult (June 11, 2017)
 Language: English
 ISBN-10: 1940310555
 ISBN-13: 978-1940310558

PRINCESS BREEZE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and 4RV Publishing.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Excerpt: 

We spun our bicycles to a stop maybe half a football field away from the volcano. My aching legs thanked me when I climbed off the seat and propped the bicycle on the kickstand. Bicycling on city streets was one thing; riding over bumpy trails that zigzagged through bushes and trees and potholes was another. I slurped down a long drink from the water bottle Cam handed me. The warm temperature plus the humidity caused curls to pop up on top of curls, until my head closely resembled a poodle before a trimming. My hair no longer bothered me the way it once did, however, since Cam convinced me it was just hair, not who I was. Besides, more important matters held my attention, namely, the mountain rising to the heavens in front of me.
A thin stream of smoke circled the top of the volcano. In the grayish mist, eyes appeared. Huh? Eyes? No way. The smoke only resembled eyes. I scrubbed a fist over my face and looked again. Smoke twirled in an odd sort of dance. The eyes had vanished. The sun evidently addled my brain. Other voices chattered softly: Amy’s, Allison’s, Cam’s. All was normal; no one mentioned seeing eyes. 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
The first book in the series is JUST BREEZE.


Eighth grade starts out the same as every other year for Breeze Brannigan. She's still the tallest student, boy or girl, in her class, wears shoes that would fit an elephant, and her smilereveals dazzling braces that blind everyone within ten feet. Then she meets Cam, the new boy in school who speaks with an accent and must be from another planet, for none of the earthling boys she knows are so polite. He also has a
secret, a secret that could mean life or death for Cam and his mother and that Breeze must help him keep.


Paperback: 196 pages
 Publisher: 4RV
Publishing LLC (August 31, 2009)
 Language: English
 ISBN-10: 0984070826
 ISBN-13: 978-0984070824

JUST BREEZE is available on Amazon.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
About the Author:
Most of the time, you’ll find Award-Winning Author Beverly Stowe McClure at her computer, typing stories young voices whisper in her ears. When she’s not writing, she’s snapping pictures of wildlife, flowers, and clouds. She’s affectionately known as the “Bug Lady.” She’s not telling why. To relax she plays the piano. Her fur babies don’t appreciate good music and hide when she
tickles the ivories.

Beverly is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She also teaches a women’s Sunday school class at her church.

For more on Beverly and her writing visit her at her:

Twitter @beverlymcclure

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Thanks for stopping by today during Beverly’s visit. Do you enjoy finding books to share with youngsters in your life?


This is a tour-wide giveaway (courtesy of the author) for one of two paperback copies of the book (U.S. only). The giveaway ends at 12 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, July 25.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below (if it shows up) and follow the instructions. If the widget doesn’t appear, just click HERE and it will take you to the Rafflecopter page where you can enter. Be sure to make a
comment here before clicking on the link above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#ExcerptReveal ~ THE BEAUTY OF US By Kristen Proby ~ @Handbagjunkie



From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby comes a sexy, new standalone contemporary romance in her Fusion Series, THE BEAUTY OF US, releasing August 22, 2017! Check out the chapter below and get to know Trevor and Riley!


About THE BEAUTY OF US:

New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby delivers another sizzling novel in her delectable and sexy Fusion series.

Riley Gibson is over the moon at the prospect of having her restaurant, Seduction, on the Best Bites TV network. This could be the big break she’s been waiting for. But the idea of having an in-house show on a regular basis is a whole other matter. Their lives would be turned upside down, and convincing Mia, her best friend and head chef of Seduction, that having cameras in her kitchen every day is a good idea is daunting. Still, Riley knows it’s an opportunity she can’t afford to pass on. And when she meets Trevor Cooper, the show’s executive producer, she’s stunned by their intense chemistry.

Trevor’s sole intention is to persuade Riley to allow Best Bites TV to do a show on her restaurant. But when he walks into Riley’s office, he stops dead in his tracks. The professional, aloof woman on the phone is incredibly beautiful and funny. But can he convince her that he’s interested in Riley for himself? Or is he using the undeniable pull between them to persuade her to agree to his offer?

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Add to your Goodreads



And Don’t Miss the First Three Novels in the Fusion Series, LISTEN TO ME, CLOSE TO YOU, and BLUSH FOR ME!

Excerpt: 

Chapter 2

~Trevor~

I didn’t sleep worth shit last night. I waited for a response to my e-mail from Riley for a while; I’m not exactly sure why. I just don’t like the thought of her being embarrassed.

Because she has no reason to be. She didn’t know who I was, and it was closing time. She was venting to her friends.

It’s really no big deal.

But I could see the mortification in her big blue eyes when she realized who I was, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

When no response came, and for all I know she hasn’t even read the e-mail yet, I sat down for a game on the PS4. I don’t travel anywhere without it. Some people read to unwind. Some go to the gym, and there are times I do the same. But to truly relax, I enjoy gaming. I have since I was a kid.

So I settled in the apartment the network has rented for me this month and played online with my friends, talking about our days and shooting the enemy.

We played well past midnight, and I usually would have gone right to bed afterward, but my mind was still turning, making falling asleep impossible. The restaurant is better than I imagined through my research on their website and customer reviews. It’s visually stunning, the food is fantastic, and they’ve hit the mark on the sexy factor.

But added to that, the five women who own the place are all beautiful, smart, and will make for great TV. Viewers will eat this show up, pun intended.

I lean over the sink and wash my face, not bothering to shave today, and as I dry off, I reach for my phone.

I have several new e-mails.

The most recent is from Riley Gibson.

Trevor,

Thank you for your kind email. I apologize again for the conversation last night. I would like to promise that we don’t always talk like that at work, but that would be a lie. At least we keep it to closing time over a glass of wine.

Enjoy Portland,

Riley

I grin and sling the towel over my bare shoulders. Riley isn’t what I had pictured in my head before I got here. I knew that she was pretty because their photos are on their website, but she’s much prettier in person.

And animated.

Working with her will be fun.

And a test to my libido. Because Riley is fucking sexy. I’ve never mixed business and sex before, and I don’t plan to start now, but keeping my hands off her will be a test of wills.

And that too should be fun.

After my run this morning, I stopped by a bagel place to eat and read a newspaper, came back to the apartment for a shower, and I think I’ll go to Seduction for lunch. I hadn’t planned to go back there until my meeting with Riley tomorrow, but I also haven’t had lunch there yet.

I dress quickly in jeans and a red T-shirt and walk the six or so blocks to the restaurant.

They’ve just opened, so they’re not busy yet. The atmosphere is calm, the lighting a bit brighter than last night, making it a fun spot to meet with colleagues or friends for lunch.

I’m seated on the far side of the restaurant, where it meets the bar, and I can see Riley and the other women sitting around a high table, talking.

Loud enough for me to hear.

“So, he’ll be here tomorrow. Filming doesn’t start for another week, unless the timetable has been moved up,” Riley says, studying her iPad and checking things off a list. “It would be great if we could watch our language.”

“Right,” Mia says, rolling her eyes. “Because that’s gonna happen.”

“Just watch the F-bombs then,” Riley says with a grin. “And I’ll do my best not to vent to him about my horrible dating experiences. Not that I’ll be having any more of those.”

“I wish I’d been here for that,” Addie says with a smile. “It’s hilarious.”

“No, it’s not,” Riley says, but smiles and covers her lips with her fingers. “Okay, it’s a little funny. I’ll be working from home today.”

“Why?” The blonde speaking, I presume Cami, asks.

“Because I have a roofer coming today,” Riley says. “But if you need me, just call. I can come back after he leaves.”

“Go.” Mia waves her off. “We’ve got this.”

The girls all stand, about to go their own ways to get their day started. They’re clearly good friends, which will come across well on film.

Riley walks out of the bar and glances up, spotting me.

“Hi.” I offer her a smile and motion for her to join me. She sits, sets her iPad aside, and squares her shoulders.

I love a woman with grit.

“Why are you here?” she asks.

“I’m having lunch,” I reply, and gesture to the salad sitting in front of me. “It’s delicious. Adding the brussels sprouts is smart.”

“I’ll pass that along to Mia,” she says, and then laughs. “I guess you heard the part where I asked the girls to not swear.”

“I did,” I reply, and patiently butter a piece of warm bread. “Don’t worry about that stuff. They’re adults.”

“With potty mouths,” she says.

“And we can bleep stuff out, or ask them to rephrase. You’ve already got the gig, Riley. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. This isn’t an audition.”

“I know.” She sighs and reaches over to take a piece of my bread, surprising and delighting me. “I just want things to go smoothly.”

“Perhaps you should order lunch too.”

“I don’t have time,” she says, and then her blue eyes widen as she realizes what she just did. “I’m so sorry. I eat when I’m stressed out, and I didn’t—”

“No.” I hold my hand up to stop her. “It’s fine. I like that you’re relaxed with me. I think you need to relax more often.”

“What are you, my life coach now?”

“If you like. Did you cancel those dating sites like I suggested?”

She bites her lip and looks to the side, then nods. “I did.”

“Good.” I take a bite of salad and nod. “Are you sure you don’t want some food?”

“I rarely have time to eat,” Riley says, and checks the time on her phone. “In fact, I should go. I have to meet the roofer at my house.”

“What’s wrong with your roof?”

“It’s old,” she says with a shrug. “That’s what happens when you buy an old house. I’m fixing it up a little at a time.”

I nod, and find that I don’t want her to go quite yet. I want to talk more, to learn more about her.

“Why don’t you come to my apartment tonight and I’ll cook you dinner?”

She pauses and stares at me for a moment. “Why?”

I laugh and set my fork down. “Because I asked you to. We’re going to be working closely over the next few weeks, we might as well get to know each other a little better. Also, we can discuss my new duties as your life coach.”

“Well.” Her lips twitch as she thinks it over for a moment, a myriad of emotions moving across her beautiful face, and finally she says, “Okay. Do you mind texting me the address and the time?”

“Not at all,” I reply, and immediately pass her my phone. “Plug in your number and I’ll text you this afternoon.”

She complies, passes it back, and smiles. “Okay, see you later.”

And with that, she’s off. Her ass swaying enticingly in her tight skirt, calves flexing from the height of her heels, and the food I’m currently chewing immediately tastes like cardboard.

Jesus.

And I just voluntarily offered to spend time with her. Alone.

I’m a fucking glutton for punishment.

[no ornament]

“I’m starving,” Riley immediately says as I open the door. She’s in jeans and a well-loved University of Oregon sweatshirt, her hair is pulled up in a ponytail, and she looks like she could be a co-ed herself. “I forgot to eat today.”

“Does that happen every day?” I ask as I gesture for her to come inside and close the door behind her.

“Most days,” she admits. “Is this one of those bad choices that you’re gonna coach me through?”

“Yes,” I reply, and lead her into the kitchen. “You have to eat.”

“I know, I just get focused on other things, and the next thing I know, the day is gone and I’m starving.” She passes me two bottles of wine. “I didn’t know what we were having, so I brought red and white.”

“Thanks.” I grin and set them both on the counter. “I made salmon and asparagus with baby red potatoes. What goes best with that?”

Her eyes light up. “The white. Holy shit, are you a chef yourself?”

“I went to culinary school,” I reply, and squeeze some lemon on the salmon before plating it. “But I discovered I was better at a desk job.”

“That’s unusual,” she says, her head tilted to the side as she listens. “Most people fight to get out of a desk job.”

“Not me. I have a ton of respect for Mia, because being a chef isn’t easy, and pleasing people sucks.”

“True.” Riley nods. “She doesn’t get many plates sent back to her, but there are a few. Can I pour you a glass?”

“No thanks,” I reply, and reach in the fridge for a bottle of water. “I don’t drink alcohol.”

“Oh.” She frowns. “I’m sorry. I can drink water too.”

“It’s fine,” I reply, and pat her shoulder. “I don’t mind if you drink. I just don’t.”

“But last night, you were drinking Jack and Coke.”

“Nope, just Coke.”

She sits at the table, still frowning. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry for.” I set our plates down. “I’ve been sober for ten years. I’m not the kind of alcoholic who can’t be around others having a drink. It was never that bad for me. I’m just a better person if I don’t drink.”

“Good for you for knowing that,” she says, holding her glass out to clink against my water. “This looks delicious.”

“You sound surprised.”

“I expected pizza or Chinese takeout,” she says. “Honestly, that’s probably what you would have gotten from me. I’m also surprised that you’re not staying in a hotel.”

“I’m here long enough that the network sprung for the apartment. They usually do when I’m somewhere longer than a week or so.”

“You must travel a lot for this job,” she says, eating her food like a starving child. I don’t know if she even tastes it, she’s eating so fast.

“I travel often,” I reply, and grin when she takes the last bite. “Are you going to lick the plate?”

“Maybe,” she says with a grin. “I’m not even embarrassed that I ate that so fast. It was delicious.”

“I’m glad you liked it. There’s more.”

“No, I’m good,” she says, and reaches in her bag, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen. “You can eat while I interview you.”

“For what?”

“For the position of life coach,” she says with a sassy grin. I want to kiss that grin right off her face, but instead I take a bite of potato and gesture for her to begin.

“Okay, first question: What qualifications do you have that make you a good fit for this position?”

“Well, I have a few years on you, so I would say wisdom with age.”

She tilts her head to the side, the way she does when she’s turning something over in her head. “You can’t be that much older than me.”

“I’m thirty-seven.”

“Seven years,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“A lot can happen in seven years,” I reply, and sip my water.

“Okay, I’ll give you that.” She checks something off on her paper.

“Did you really write down questions?”

“Of course. I’m the queen of lists and the roofer was at my house forever.” She bites her lip as she looks at her list. “How many women have you life-coached in the past?”

“Well, I didn’t have an official job title, but I have two younger sisters, and an ex-wife, so I would say three.”

“But the wife is an ex, so maybe that did go well?” Riley asks. “And are your sisters productive members of society?”

“As opposed to being in jail?” I ask, laughing. “You’re hilarious, Riley.”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“My sisters are great. The older one is married, a stay-at-home mom with two kids, and the younger one is a waitress.”

“But the ex-wife thing didn’t work out.”

“She’s not a mess, we just both decided that she shouldn’t be my wife anymore.”

“Why?”

I sit back in my chair and wipe my mouth on my napkin. “Because she thought it was a good idea to have sex with other men.”

Her eyebrows climb on her forehead and she blinks twice. “That’s a good reason.”

“I thought so.”

“Okay, next question.” She checks something on her paper and looks up at me with a smile. “How do you intend to be compensated for your work?”

“I’m working pro bono,” I reply with a wink.

“Why?”

“Because I’m going to be here anyway, and why not.” I shrug and finish the food on my plate. “What else do you want to know?”

“Is my coming to a virtual stranger’s apartment by myself one of the bad decisions you should have coached me on?”

I smile and set my plate aside so I can lean on the table. “Did the girls tell you that coming here by yourself was a bad idea?”

“I only talked to Cami and she thought I should come. Plus, I have a concealed carry, so I feel pretty confident that I’m safe.”

I raise a brow and cross my arms over my chest. “You carry a gun with you?”

“Hell to the yes,” she replies, and offers me a sweet smile. “I’ve been meeting strange men on the Internet. You bet your ass I’ve been armed.”

“Good idea,” I reply with a nod. “There are a lot of crazies out there.”

“Yes. But I think that if you’re gonna meet a crazy, it could be anywhere. Online, in a bar, at the gas station. They’re everywhere.”

“That’s true too,” I reply, and nod. “Well, I’m glad you’re being cautious.”

“I’m nobody’s victim,” she says, as casually as if she’s telling me her shoe size.

That’s fucking sexy.

“Do you have any other questions?”

“Not really,” she says, and shrugs. “I didn’t really write anything down. But it was fun to interrogate you a bit.”

“Now I have questions,” I reply, and smile when she cocks her head and purses her lips. “Do you really think you need a life coach?”

“No, I have my shit together,” she says with a grin.

“Why were you really on all of those sites?”

She shrugs. “Because it’s not easy meeting people. And sometimes a girl wants to go out on a date.”

“You don’t need me,” I reply, and smile. “But I’ll be around for a while, just in case.”

“Just in case I slip and fall back into the online dating?”

“That, or if you just want to have dinner, or chat. And I think we should watch a marathon of Star Wars. Your lack of knowledge is cause for concern.”

“It’s kind of a guy thing,” she says.

“I know many women who like Star Wars.”

“Well, I would watch one or two.”

“You need to see them all to understand what’s happening.”

“That’s a lot of hours of my life that I’ll never get back,” she says with a frown. “Aren’t there CliffsNotes somewhere? A speedy way to get caught up?”

“No,” I reply, and fist my hands in my lap so I don’t reach out and tuck her hair behind her ear.

Or yank her against me so I can kiss the fuck out of her.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

“Are you always this observant?”

“I’m an overthinker,” she says. “So yeah, I’m an observer.”

“I’ve been labeled an overthinker too,” I say with a grin.

“Would you say it’s an accurate assessment?”

“Oh yeah,” I say with a nod, and stand to clear our plates away. She stands to help. “I’ve got this.”

“No way, you cooked, so I’ll help clean.”

She walks ahead of me, her empty glass in one hand and her plate in the other. “Do you use the dishwasher, or do you wash by hand?”

“There are people who still wash by hand?”

“I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen them in the wild,” she says, and smiles up at me when I join her. “So I guess that means we use the dishwasher?”

“Yes.” She rinses and I load, and a few short minutes later, we’re done.

“Well, I suppose I should go,” she says, and checks the time on her phone. “Oh, Cami texted. I guess I should reply so she doesn’t think you killed me after the entrée.”

She smirks and types on her phone, then turns it off and looks up at me.

“Thanks for dinner.”

“You’re welcome.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Unfortunately, it won’t be in my bed.

“You will.”

“Okay.” She gathers her bag, notepad and pen, and walks to the door. “Sleep well tonight.”

I grin and congratulate myself for not dragging my fingertips down her cheek.

You sleep well tonight, Riley.”

“Okay. Bye.”

She leaves and I close the door, letting out a slow breath. Jesus, she’s sexy and funny and smart as fuck.

And I’m not going to touch her while I’m here.

How the fuck am I going to do that? 

Don’t miss the first chapter of THE BEAUTY OF US! You can read it here!

About Kristen Proby:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kristen Proby is the author of the bestselling With Me In Seattle and Love Under the Big Sky series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong, humorous characters with a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves.

Kristen lives in Montana, where she enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.

THE BEAUTY OF US Goodreads ** Kristen Proby Goodreads


Thursday, July 20, 2017

#SpotLight ~ My Sexy Veterinarian By Bonnie Phelps ~ @bonniephelps15

 My Sexy Veterinarian
By Bonnie Phelps
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
BLURB: 
Nate Kincaid, wants to get out of debt and get his family off his back about his relationship status. The second means he needs a serious girlfriend, but after the death of his fiancé, he isn’t ready. No one knows about his nightmares—the ones that chase him into the dark places of grief. Dealing with debt means his fledgling veterinary practice must be successful—business before anything else. Always. Maybe a pretend relationship would solve his second problem so he can concentrate on the first. 

Full-time psychologist and part-time model, Lauren Royall, has the perfect life. As a therapist she helps people. As a model, her free spirit reigns. When Nate suggests she pose as his girlfriend, she accepts on a lark. Lauren senses his pain and wants to help. She hadn’t counted on falling for the guy or the painful memories from her past his situation evokes.

Publication Date: June 19, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Book Length: 66,800 words/ paperback 210 pages
Published by: Lilac Lace Press
AISN (Amazon): B072VVDMB7
ISBN (Amazon): 13: 978-0-9989303-0-5 
ISBN (paperback): 13: 978-0-9989303-1-2
AISN (Paperback): ASIN: 0998930318

Book Links:

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Excerpt:
Nate looked down at his feet and rolled his shoulders. As his body gradually relaxed, he shook his head, his lips a thin line. No matter how good intentioned, his mom managed to push his buttons when she got on the topic of his love life. The problem was, she was right. It was high time he settled down, had that family he’d always wanted, little ones trailing after him, a wife waiting for him at home.
But the thought of what he could lose wound him up tighter than a Chihuahua in a crowd of strangers. Was it possible to care about a woman, live with her, have children with her, but be okay if life went south and he lost her? He couldn’t survive being dragged back down into the dark, black hole of grief he’d been living in the past few years.
When he looked up, his heart did a rapid rat-tat-tat. Well, well, well. What have we here? His cousin, Crystal, was walking toward him and at her side was one of the most drop-dead gorgeous women he’d ever seen. She was tall, with a mass of wavy platinum blonde hair tumbling around a face that was at once sweet and sexy. And talk about curves. Sensuous enough to make a man want to get down on his knees and beg her to notice him, yet sleek and classy like a high-price race horse. He shoved the anxiety he felt at being pressured about his love life back in the cubby where it belonged. Maybe today wasn’t going to suck after all.
When Crystal reached him, she gave him a quick, friendly hug, then stepped back and looked him up and down. “No obvious bruising, no blood, so it seems you escaped your mom relatively unscathed.”
Nate’s chuckle felt more like a piece of bread stuck in his throat than any humor at the situation. “You saw my mom?”
“Yes, and wisely kept my distance until she’d finished raking you over the coals. What did you do to piss her off this time?”
“She was chewing me out because I thwarted another one of her match-making attempts.” He did his best to keep his tone light, like this was no big deal, but the assessing look in the blonde’s crystal blue eyes told him he wasn’t fooling her. Empathy and understanding radiated off her like the rays of the sun. Not his usual type, but if she wasn’t looking for anything serious, he could see himself dating her and hopefully shift his mom’s focus off his relationship status.
When it appeared Crystal wasn’t going to add anything, the mystery woman discretely elbowed his cousin in the ribs. He knew it. Crystal wasn’t standing in front of him by accident. He buried the inward sigh and kept his face neutral except for his brows raised in question.
Her moment of hesitation passed and Crystal launched in to what she’d come to do. “Nate, have you met Lauren yet? She’s come to church with me a few times, but I haven’t seen you lately.”
“No, this summer’s been crazy. Animals need attention when they need it and could care less about my plans. Now that Sue Ann has gotten her license and joined the practice, things should ease up a bit and I can get out more.”
“In that case, Lauren Royall, meet Nate Kincaid.”
He stuck out his hand and felt a jolt of pure energy travel up his arm as he enfolded her soft, delicate hand in his. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.”
Her voice was soft, soothing, with a drawl he couldn’t quite place. She looked him directly in the eye. This woman met life head on. Maybe dating her wouldn’t be such a good idea.
“Lauren moved here a few months ago to join a marriage and family counseling practice and hasn’t had time to meet many people,” Crystal said. “Why don’t you two find us a table and get acquainted while I grab food. I’m starving.”
“You’re always starving.” Nate reached out and pinched her ribs. “Don’t know where a little thing like you puts it all, but grab some for me while you’re at it.”
  “You got it.”
Nate hooked his thumbs in his front pockets and watched his cousin bustle away. Huffing out a breath, he muttered, “Is there any female in this family who isn’t trying to hook me up?” Keeping his hands in his pockets he resisted the strange desire to go cave man and carry Lauren off somewhere. Instead, inclining his head toward the tables, he asked, “Should we find a place to sit?”
He felt her gaze on him and turned his head. The mischief dancing in her eyes made him feel alive and interested for the first time in a long time. Unease skittered across his scalp. He didn’t want to feel attraction.
“I can’t speak to Crystal’s intentions, but I spotted you as soon as we arrived and asked her to introduce us.”
“You did? Why?”
“You’re attractive.” She tilted her head and those lush lips formed a curious pout. “There’s something about you intrigues me. I want to find out what.” She shrugged. “I’ve made it a policy to let instinct guide me.”
“Isn’t that a bit risky? Acting without thinking it through?”
“Let me guess. You’re an analysis and reason guy?”
“Yeah. What’s wrong with that?” His body tightened and he stepped away. His tone sounded like a rusty hinge.
“Absolutely nothing. In fact I admire the trait. Sometimes wish I had a little more of it.” Her head bobbed side-to-side in a carefree way.
“I sense a ‘but’ at the end of your sentence.” He pulled out a chair for her at the long, folding table. Instead of sitting beside her, he moved to sit across from her. She made him skittish as a horse in a thunder storm, but an idea began percolating. He needed a fake girlfriend. She must be unattached or Crystal wouldn’t have introduced them. He’d think on that for a while. There was also something familiar about her, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“We can find ourselves facing difficult, painful, even frightening situations, whether we carefully plan our lives or fly by the seat of our pants. Life has a habit of throwing us curve balls.” She crossed her arms and lifted her shoulders. “The ‘going with my gut’ approach has worked for me, but it’s not for everyone.”
Somewhat mollified, he decided to switch topics. “Where did you move from?”
“Raleigh, North Carolina, where I went to college, but home is Charleston, South Carolina.”
“I thought I detected an accent. I like it. A different cadence than we’re used to around here.” He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Crystal said you’re a counselor. Does that mean you’re some kind of shrink or something?” Suspicion tightened his throat. Was his family sicking her on him to fix him?
He figured he’d stepped in it when she narrowed her eyes and with a quick movement shook the hair away from her face.
“Do you know how the term ‘shrink’ originated?”
He shrugged. “No, but I bet you’re going to tell me.” Yup, he’d hit a sore spot and a playful smile tugged at his lips. This playfulness was something else he hadn’t felt in a while.
“In the field’s infancy people used to think psychiatrists actually shrunk peoples’ minds and started comparing practitioners to the aboriginal tribes that shrunk heads. It was as though the process of addressing mental health issues was somehow mystical and at the same time – nefarious.”
“You don’t say.” Feisty —so unlike his fiancé’s unflappable demeanor. Sharon had been steady and he’d always known what she’d been thinking.
“I do say.” She rested her elbows on the table and propped her chin in her fists. She leveled a discerning gaze at him that made him want to squirm. “If people called you a ‘quack,’ how would you feel?”
A sharp pain stabbed him in the gut. “I wouldn’t like it. I worked hard to get the education and training I needed to be a vet and I’m proud of what I do. I’m guessing the same applies to you. So how do you describe what you do?”
“My job is to help clients develop strategies to address whatever is holding them back from being the person they want to be.”
“Basically, talking them down from the ledge?” Thoughtfully he ran his finger across his chin just below his lips and saw her eyes track the movement. She had to refocus before answering and a jolt of excitement made his breath catch.
“Sometimes the situation is critical and as you say, we talk them down.” She leaned back in her chair. “But the vast majority seek therapy because they realize something is missing in their lives, things could be better, they could be better—and they want better. My goal is to help them find it. Does that help explain what I do?”
“I think so. You help people who need someone to hold their hands, instead of sucking it up and moving on.”
“You don’t think too highly of my profession, do you?”
He shrugged. “I can’t imagine sitting around spilling my guts to a stranger.”
“So if you felt like something was missing in your life, but had no idea what it was or how to change, you wouldn’t want help trying to figure it out? You’d prefer to stay stuck?”
He grunted in response and shifted in his chair. “Are you always so certain you know what’s best for other people?” She made him feel uncomfortable. He didn’t like being reminded a big chunk of him was gone. He wanted the better she talked about but was he willing to risk getting it?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Author Bio:

Rumor has it that Bonnie began telling stories at a very early age. Photos exist of the author toddling around the corner of the house covered in mud babbling about magic rabbits leading her through the garden. Her parents were amused – until they discovered she had also walked across the newly poured cement patio – which only added fuel to the fire of her passion for writing. From then on, her active imagination continued to churn out plots and character sketches always wondering how different people would behave in similar situations. People are endlessly fascinating and stories are everywhere. 

Bonnie used her writing skills throughout her professional life as a fundraiser and marketer for several nonprofits. She enjoyed the chance to tell and share the story of worthy organizations. In the late 1980s, Bonnie authored a syndicated column in several California newspapers in which she shared the experiences and misadventures of life as a wife and mother. The jury is out on whether or not her children appreciated her candor. Because Bonnie has romance in her soul, she also worked as a Wedding Planner for several years. Absolutely loved it!! She craves anything sweet, revels in any chance to travel, and is addicted to Ancestry.com. A native Californian, the author lives in Northern California with her husband.

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