Thursday, April 30, 2015

DECEMBER By Linda Oatman High ~ Guest Post ~ Stop The Bullying ~ Giveaway

By Linda Oatman High 

Giveaway:  $10 Evernight Teen Gift Certificate and 1 Signed Print Copy. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter.

Guest Post
Stop The Bullying
By Linda Oatman High

On December 20th, 1991, in bucolic Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Laurie Show was murdered. She was 16, less than one month short of turning 17. She was my Cousin Hazel’s daughter, her beloved only child.
Five days before Christmas, with wrapped gifts under the tree, Laurie Show lost her life. She lost it in her own bedroom, to three teens – local kids between the ages of 17 and 20 - who had bullied and stalked Laurie for months before the crime. 
Hazel, divorced from Laurie’s father John Show, would answer the telephone and it was Michelle, always Michelle, 18 and pregnant to a boy Laurie had briefly dated . . . for about a week, when Lawrence and Michelle had broken up. 
Michelle screamed obscenities, threatening Laurie. She stalked her, attacking and injuring Laurie in the parking lot of the mall where Laurie worked. My cousin and Laurie filed assault charges, and the outrage flared even worse. Michelle attempted to recruit friends to harass Laurie, to hurt her, to tie her up, to cut her hair, to kill her.
One of the friends recruited by Michelle was Tabby, a new girl in town. The other one was Lawrence, the boy with whom Michelle was having a baby, the boy that Laurie had dated for about a week, the boy that had date-raped Laurie.
Ultimately, in the early morning of December 20th, 1991, the stalking and bullying and harassment and threats became a terrible reality, with my cousin’s lovely daughter bleeding on her bedroom floor. Hazel hurried home from the fake guidance counselor appointment with which she’d been set up, and her daughter lay dying, her throat slashed from ear-to-ear, multiple stab wounds piercing her body. There was a rope around Laurie’s neck; Hazel frantically cut it and held her daughter for the last time. Laurie was still alive.
“Michelle did it,” Laurie whispered again and again as Hazel held her in her arms in that surreal space of a minute ticking past. “Michelle did it. Love you. Love you. Love you. Love you.” Laurie died cradled in Hazel’s arms, a smile of peace crossing her face as she passed.
Hazel knew exactly who Michelle was. She’d been dealing with Michelle’s phone calls, with her threats, with her harassment for months. East Lampeter police were called numerous times, but they could not take any action until Michelle actually hurt Laurie physically, in the mall parking lot. There was a warrant for Michelle’s arrest, but it was too late. She killed Laurie Show before the police could stop it. Before Hazel or John could stop it.
There was a long and dramatic and much-publicized trial, with twists and turns and allegations of police misconduct, mistakes, and errors. I won’t go into all the details; anybody can find them online by googling Laurie’s name. 
It was a heart-wrenching, horrible time. I went to one of the trials in Lancaster, and I sat directly behind Michelle, who was oddly decked out in a glittery sequined white dress that could have been a wedding gown. I couldn’t stop looking at her hands, those small pale teenaged hands that had recently held that knife, stolen that life.  Hands that had cut away the very heart of Hazel and John Show, of everyone who loved Laurie.
After the judge announced the guilty verdict, reporters and family raced to the pay phones outside the courtroom. I stood in line behind a weeping woman, a crumbling middle-aged stranger, falling apart inches in front of me.
We were all crying, those of us who were family and friends. I asked the stranger her name. “I’m Tabby’s mother,” she blurted, and she collapsed into my arms. I later saw my cousin Hazel embracing the woman. They were sharing their pain, each of them having lost a daughter in different ways. It was the same pain: the pain of a mother drowning in unbearable grief.
A bitter December rain fell on the day of Laurie’s funeral. It was Christmastime; the lines stretched far down the sidewalk outside the funeral home. A few teenagers fainted, some wailed, their screams echoing in the gray and crying sky. I can still feel the bone-chilling cold of that day, see the umbrellas, hear the wrenching sobs of teenagers facing something nobody of any age should have to face. 
Some kids stood silent and nervous, holding the anguish inside. I didn’t know who was grieving for Laurie, who was grieving for Michelle, who was grieving for Tabby, who was grieving for Lawrence . . . but it didn’t matter. The intense sorrow hovered, palpable; hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of lives changed by the violence of that day.
The crime shook Lancaster County to its core; the shock waves reverberated. National news media picked up the story.  
"I think it was the fact that they were all middle-class youths with no mental illnesses," said Jack A. Kenneff, the Lancaster County first assistant district attorney who prosecuted all three defendants. "People just couldn't accept that this kind of thing could happen to that kind of people."
Hazel turned mourning into action, working with a purpose for an anti-stalking law, petitioning legislators for nearly a year. The law was finally passed in the state of Pennsylvania in June of 1993. We’d had no stalking laws on the books up until that point, and Laurie could not be helped until she was physically hurt. Even then, the law could not act quickly enough. East Lampeter detectives started working on the case against Michelle four days before she killed Laurie.
“Laurie was my life,” Hazel said. “I had to do something.” 
My cousin wanted to save someone else, to use her fierce grief to ensure that her baby’s fate was nobody else’s. 
Back then, we called it “stalking.” Now the term is “bullying.” Whatever you call it, the results are the same: pain. Deep, agonizing pain. When you stalk, when you bully, you cause pain. Pain to the victim, pain to the family, and eventually sometimes pain to yourself and your family and friends as well.
When Laurie died, my children were young: ages 1 to 8. Now they’re grown, and, like all families, we’ve experienced some tough times. Heartaches and heartbreaks, and we’re now going through one with my youngest son. When I spoke to Hazel last night, to tell her about my book DECEMBER and how it’s highly fictionalized but based upon Laurie and the crime that’s never left my heart and my memories, she thanked me for letting her know. And then she was worried about me, about us, about our family and the difficult struggle we’re having with my youngest son’s recently-manifested battle with mental illness. 
“You’re one of the strongest people I know,” I said to Hazel. “I think about you all the time, and wonder how you went through what you did.”
“I have no answers,” Hazel said. 
And there are no answers. All that’s left is the question of who Laurie Show would be today. She would have turned 40 in January. Maybe she’d have children; Hazel and John would be grandparents. Laurie would be at the Haas family reunions, and December 20th, 1991 would be just another ordinary day.
But instead, Laurie is forever 16 on the verge of 17 in our minds. Blonde-haired and brown-eyed, tall and willowy and smiling. She’s buried in a nearby cemetery, with her grandparents. 
I visited Laurie’s grave when I started to write the book, and I talked to her. I told her that I was writing a cautionary tale in the first-person voice of a lonely new girl in town who gets drawn into a crime, in hopes of preventing this tragedy for some other kid. I told Laurie that it felt like a lesson in forgiveness for me, writing in this girl’s voice, and that it was fiction but based very much upon what happened to her. 
I like to think that Laurie answered, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that she’s in a better place. A place with no more pain: a place of beautiful peace, a happy place of family and faith and love and joy. A place where nobody ever hurts anybody else, where bullies do not exist. And I like to believe that she forgives.
One of Laurie’s old teddy bears sits on a small chair by the fireplace in my dad’s house. When I look at it, I think of Laurie: little Laurie, teenage Laurie. And I think of Hazel and John, and the heavy ache they will carry every day for the rest of their lives: the enormous emptiness of forever missing that bubbly little girl, that gorgeous teenager, the woman she would be today.
Tabby and Michelle are now in their 40s; so is Lawrence.  The women are in prison for life. Lawrence was released on a plea bargain in 2003, in exchange for information about that day, about December 20th, 1991. The teens all pointed fingers at each other, wanting to push the main burden of the crime onto someone other than themselves. 
Nobody on this earth except those three know the whole truth of exactly what happened that day, but one thing we know for sure: all three teenagers were part of it. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. They all participated in the stalking, in the bullying, in the violent vortex of events that led to Laurie Show’s death. It was a trio of evil actions and really bad decisions, a catastrophic culmination of months of hatred based on mundane teenage jealousy.
If those three could go back in time, I’m sure they would. If each one of them could change their behavior on that day, or on any of the days that led up to That Day, I’m willing to bet that they’d take that chance. We wish Laurie could have another chance, to be somewhere else on the morning of December 20th, 1991.
If you’re a kid in school and you see someone being bullied, take a deep breath and step in. Speak up. Be brave. Try to change it, to stop it. Don’t join it. Your life could be forever changed.
If you’re the victim of a bully, say something. Reach out for help. It’s there, if you ask for it, and sometimes things really can get better. Do your best not to give in to the darkness of despair.
And if you’re a bully, or part of a plot to bully, stop it, dammit. Stop it now.
And do it in honor of Laurie.

~Editor's Pick~

Lake Millay has goals, hopes, and dreams...until she moves to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and becomes ensnared in a vortex of violence. 

Bullying and stalking become Lake’s life, and ultimately the destroyer of her dreams. 

A cautionary tale based on the true story of Laurie Show, murdered by three teens in 1991.

Contemporary YA Romance/Bullying, 54k

Buy Links:  

Evernight Teen    Amazon   ARe


 “This gazing globe’s really old, like from the 1800s.  People believed that a witch couldn’t sneak up on you when you were looking into the dome.”   The voice comes from nowhere and from everywhere, and an electric bolt of fear buzzes through my body.  My heart thunders, filling my chest and ears.  I’m dizzy, numb with shock, not able to move. 
Then a face appears––a face––blurring and blending into my own in the rounded silver of the globe.   I scream, filling my body and my heart and my ears, and I leap and fall backwards, banging hard into flesh and bone:  a person.
I scream again and fall on my knees in the mud. 
“HELP!  NO!”
“Man.  You’re jumpy.  Sorry if I scared you.”
It’s a girl, just a scrawny anorexic-looking girl, about my age, fair-haired and pale, with fake-looking cobalt-colored eyes.  She’s one of those girls with an upturned little nose and perfect teeth.  Flawless complexion.  Makeup.  Teeny-weeny, clean white shorts.  Tanned cheerleaderish legs.
I gasp, trying to catch my breath.
“You scared the crap out of me.”
“Man, you scare easy.”  Knuckles on hips, she cocks her head to the side, pale hair falling over those bright blue eyes.
I press my hand to my heart.  Puke climbs up my throat, and then slides back down again.
“What are you so jumpy about?  There’s nothing to be scared of around here.  Not like it’s an epicenter for crime.”
There are definitely shades of cheerleader in this girl, yet none of that high-pitched perkiness.  Clouds of sadness seem to be leaking from her eyes and her smile and her voice, despite the faultless exterior.  A tiny diamond-like chip glints on her nose. 
“We don’t even lock our doors around here,” she says.
I heave myself to a standing position.  My heart’s still racing in a marathon of terror.
“What did you think I was?” the girl asks and I shrug.
“A wacko.  Weirdo.  Murderer.  You never know.”
She barks out a laugh. 
“All of the above,” she says.  “You better run.”
I try to smile.
“Here,” she says, reaching down to pluck a flower. “Peace offering.”  She holds a red-nailed hand toward me––her thumb and finger, daintily holding the stem of the red flower.
I take it.   Our fingers graze.
 “Servants also used these gazing globes to be sneaky and watch their bosses,” the girl says.  “Pretty far-out, huh?”
I’m still shaking, but I nod.
“Cool shirt.  I can tell that you’re not from around here.”
I look down, suddenly super-aware I’m about fifty pounds bigger than this chick.  This makes me irritable, and I shove the red flower into the pocket of my shorts.
 “What are you doing here, anyway?” I ask.  “Don’t they have laws about trespassing around here?”
“Just checking out the new neighbors,” she says with a shrug of bony shoulders.  Her voice is like cornhusk: raspy and rough.
 “Where’d you come from?”
“Over there.”  She points with her sharp little chin.  “Through the field and to the left.  When the corn’s down in the winter, you can actually see our place.”
“I’m Brit Dannon,” she says.   “Brit with one T, not two.  You’re the new preacher’s kid, I presume?  Got any pot?”
“What?”  I almost laugh. 
“Got any weed?”
“No, I . . . don’t smoke.”
“Man.  You really aren’t from around here.  What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lake Millay.”  There’s a final feeble clank of thunder, like beaters in an empty metal bowl, and then the sun comes out, shining.  Brit Dannon seems to shimmer:  shiny hair and makeup and nails and that perfect-girl sparkly shirt, with sequins spelling out the word Princess. 
“Welcome to Badger Gap, Lake Millay,” she says.  “The Center of the Universe!  The most happenin’ location on the planet!  The place that’s going to freaking change your life!” 

About the Author:
Linda Oatman High is an author/journalist/playwright who lives in Lancaster County, PA. She’s published more than 20 books for children and teens, and her books have won many awards and honors, including VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) “Perfect Ten” awards. Linda also writes for adults, and her short story NICKEL MINES HARDWARE, based upon the Amish school shootings of 2006, was honored in England in 2012 with the Sunday Times EFG Short Story award shortlist. Linda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she presents at schools from K-college both nationally and internationally. 


After She's Gone by Lisa Jackson ~ Cover Reveal

After She’s Gone 
by Lisa Jackson


Cassie Kramer and her younger sister, Allie, learned the hazards of fame long ago. Together, they’d survived the horror of a crazed fan who nearly killed their mother, former Hollywood actress Jenna Hughes. Still, Cassie moved to L.A., urging Allie to follow. As a team, they’d take the town by storm.  But Allie, finally free of small-town Oregon, and just that little bit more beautiful, also proved to be more talented—and driven. Where Cassie got bit parts, Allie rose to stardom. But now her body double has been shot on the set of her latest movie—and Allie is missing.
Police discover that the last call to Allie’s phone came from Cassie, though she has no recollection of making it. Instead of looking like a concerned relative, Cassie is starting to look like a suspect—the jealous sister who finally grew sick of playing a supporting role. As the tabloids go into a frenzy, Cassie ends up on a Portland psych ward. Is she just imagining the sinister figure who comes to her bedside, whispering about Allie—a visitor of whom there is no record? Is someone trying to help—or drive her mad?

Convinced she’s the only one who can find Allie, Cassie checks herself out of the hospital. But a sudden slew of macabre murders— each victim masked with a likeness of a member of Cassie’s family—makes Cassie fear for her safety and her sanity. The only way to end the nightmare is to find out what really happened to Allie. And with each discovery, Cassie realizes that no one can be trusted to keep her safe—least of all herself…

Publisher: Kensington Books

After She’s Gone is available for pre-order at   AmazonKobo and Google Play

Lisa Jackson Bio:

Lisa Jackson is the number-one New York Times bestselling author of more than 85 novels, including Afraid to Die, Tell Me, You Don’t Want to Know, Running Scared, Without Mercy, Malice, and Shiver. She is also the co-author of the Colony Series, co-written with her sister, Nancy Bush. There are over 20 million copies of Lisa Jackson’s books in print in twenty languages.

Before she became a nationally bestselling author, Lisa Jackson was a mother struggling to keep food on the table by writing novels, hoping against hope that someone would pay her for them. Today, neck deep in murder, her books appear on The New York Times, the USA Today, and the Publishers Weekly national bestseller lists.

With over thirty bestsellers to her name, Lisa Jackson is a master of taking readers to the edge of sanity – and back – in novels that buzz with dangerous secrets and deadly passions.  She continues to be fascinated by the minds and motives of both her killers and their pursuers—the personal, the professional and downright twisted.  As she builds the puzzle of relationships, actions, clues, lies and personal histories that haunt her protagonists, she must also confront the fear and terror faced by her victims, and the harsh and enduring truth that, in the real world, terror and madness touch far too many lives and families.

For More Information
Visit Lisa’s website.
Connect with Lisa on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Goodreads

Awakening Her Desires by Cassidy K. O'Connor ~ Spotlight

Awakening Her Desires 
by Cassidy K. O'Connor 

Keara lives a peaceful life with her faery clan in the hills of Ireland. She is nearing her coming of age ceremony where she is to choose her mate for life. Her instincts are telling her that she is meant for more than this simple life.

A chance encounter in a nearby human town reveals another clan to Keara. The Laochra Gra are faery women who have sworn allegiance to Queen Cliodhana. They use magic and seduction to protect human's from falling prey to the evil Lianhan Shee. Any man who falls for the Lianhan Shee will die a horrific death. The Loachra Gra must pair these men with their soul mates before that can happen.

Will Keara do what is expected of her by her clan or join up with the Laochra Gra to save mankind?

** This is the Prequel to the Love's Protector Series. Books 1 and 2 are already out!

***This is an 18+ Erotic novella***


I open the door and can’t help the giggle that escapes.

“Um Mom, I don’t think we have enough food.”

The look on her face when she sees how many women have shown up is awesome. I am pleased to see Sarah and her mother at the front of the line. They hand mom a plate of brownies and look back at the crowd gathered behind them.

“We had a feeling this would be popular so we told the elders we needed the hall for another practice run. How about we move this party over there?”

A few of the women push in and start grabbing the food and drinks we had set out. A short walk later, we have everything laid out in the hall. As people are grabbing food and drinks, I take a minute to count. There are thirty two women of varying ages. I don’t understand why so many are here.

Mom shushes everyone and asks us all to sit.

“I must say, when I planned this meeting I only expected it to be Keara and a few of her friends. I hope we all can share our knowledge and maybe learn something as well. Would anyone like to start?”

Glenna, one of the clan elders, stands up.

“When my Samuel was alive, he loved it when I shaved his balls.”

There is quite a bit of sputtering and choking from around the room.

“That’s not all, he also liked to suck my toes.”

“Well, thank you, Glenna, for jumping right in. Maybe we should start with a more general topic and work our way into the details.”

Glenna shrugs and sits back down.

Buy Links:


Author Bio:

Cassidy K O'Connor is a born and raised Floridian who loves to travel but never forgets where her roots are. She married her high school sweetheart, they have 3 kids and a crazy dog. Travelling and reading are her two favorite hobbies. Cassidy loves all things Ireland and has been lucky enough to visit twice. Her first book 'The Evolution of Sam' was published August of 2014 and she has plans for many more.

Stalker Links:





Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wild Heat By Lucy Monroe ~ Spotlight ~ Excerpt

Wild Heat 

By Lucy Monroe 

Sometimes old flames are the hottest of all . . .

In the quaint little town of Cailkirn, Alaska, it’s impossible to keep a secret, especially one as juicy as the unexpected return of Kitty Grant. Tack MacKinnon remembers her wild red curls and even wilder spirit—and still feels the sting from when she shattered his heart in college. But there’s a pain in Kitty’s gorgeous eyes that guts him to the core and Tack is determined to do whatever it takes to see the woman he still loves smile again—even if it means taking on her demons as his own.

After fleeing an abusive ex-husband, Kitty decides that the best way to heal her broken heart is to come back home. But she gets a whole new shock when she sees how undeniably sexy Tack has become. More handsome, more muscular, more charming—more everything—he’s impossible to resist. Before she knows it, they’re reigniting sparks that could set the whole state of Alaska on fire. Yet trust doesn’t come easy to Kitty anymore, and as things heat up between her and Tack, she can’t help but wonder if one of them is going to get burned . . .

(unedited version)


“We’re all going to die this way.”

Caitlin Grant’s head snapped up at the high pitched tones of the small boy in the seat beside her.

He looked up at her with an earnest brown gaze that dared her to disagree.

“Shh…sweetheart,” his mother comforted from his other side, her tone more worried than confident. Still, she rubbed his short nappy hair in a tender gesture. “It’s going to be fine, Joey. You heard the captain. It’s just turbulence.”

“The plane is shaking, mom. This can’t be good.” Joey sounded so adult and so childish at the same time.

Caitlin felt her lips curving into her first smile in months. “We’re coming into Anchorage.” Their early morning flight was right on time. “It’s usually choppy on these flights.”

“You’ve been on a shaky plane before?” the boy demanded.

Caitlin nodded, one bright red curl slipping from its clip to brush her cheek. “Many times.”

Fighting the near irresistible urge to get up and go to the bathroom so she could smooth her hair uniformly back into the clip, despite the captain’s instructions to remain seated, Caitlin tucked the errant strands behind her ear.

“This is really bad.” Joey’s tone indicated disbelief for her calm assurances.

Doubt in her judgment was something Caitlin was very familiar with. Whether it was the way she chose to wear her hair, or the orchestra she hired to play at their annual outdoor fete, her ex-husband had frequently expressed concerns about Caitlin’s questionable choices, opinions and taste.

She’d learned not to defend herself because arguing always made it worse.

Tempted to fall back into old patterns and withdraw, Caitlin couldn’t ignore the small boy’s worry however. And she could not forget the final bit of advice from her therapist at their last appointment.

Leaving your husband isn’t going to change what you need it to if you continue to live as if he’s still looking over your shoulder.

Taking a deep breath, Caitlin forced further reassurance from a tight throat. “I’ve been on planes that shook worse than a baby’s rattle and with a lot more noise.”
How ridiculous for it to be so difficult for her to add support to her own assertions.

“Really?” Joey asked hopefully.

Caitlin managed another smile. “Really.”

“And you didn’t die?”

She actually had to suppress the urge to grin at that. Schooling her expression into lines of seriousness, she said, “No.”

His mother wasn’t as adept at hiding her reaction, doing a poor job of hiding her snigger with a cough.

Joey didn’t seem to notice. “Cool.”

A burst of raucous laughter from the rows behind them surprised Caitlin enough to draw her gaze. Was that Rock Jepsom’s younger brother?

The last Caitlin had heard, Carey had taken off for Hollywood with his inheritance and no intention to return. Just like Caitlin, except her inheritance had barely covered the cost of university.

Carey had had a couple million to support his dreams. He sure didn’t look like he was coming back broken like she was. In fact, he was surrounded by a group who were clearly in the industry.

Caitlin had spent eight years living the life in LA, nine if she counted her engagement. She recognized actors and production people as easily as she did a knockoff Chanel bag.

What were they all doing heading into Anchorage? A lot of movies purported to be set in Alaska, but few actually were.

It was a joke among residents how often the media got it seriously wrong in their attempts to portray America’s largest state.

She wouldn’t have expected Carey to be the one to take up that cause though. Not even a little bit.

But then she’d never expected to move back to Cailkirn either.

Tack MacKinnon finished nailing down the new stair riser on the back porch steps of the Knit & Pearl Bed and Breakfast.

It was a rare morning off for him during tourist season. Even though it was early May, he still had plenty to do getting his business ready for the busier months to come. Whether he was out blueprinting a new tour, navigating old ones and looking for changes in the land over the past year, or taking out some of the early season clients, Tack’s long hours had already started.

He’d planned a trip into Kenai for this morning, but when the eldest Grant sister had phoned to ask for his help, he hadn’t even considered saying no.

He might be a MacKinnon, but everyone pitched in to help the Grant sisters. The last of that particular founding family still living in Cailkirn, they were as close to town royalty as anyone was ever going to get.

While Alma Winter was no longer technically a Grant, she was still considered one of “The Grant Sisters” just as her sister-in-law, Moya Grant, was. Both elderly women had lost their husbands before Tack had even been born. The final sister, Elspeth Grant had never married.

And was one of the most vigilant matchmakers in all of Alaska.

“Oh, thank you, Tack. You’re such a good boy.” Miss Elspeth smiled at him from the wide porch. “You’ll stay for some tea, won’t you?”

“Of course, Miss Elspeth.” It was getting late to make the trip into Kenai and be back in time for his afternoon tour anyway. “A man would have to be a fool to turn down your shortbread cookies.”

Miss Elspeth went pink with pleasure. “Maggie Grant brought the recipe from the Old Country and it hasn’t changed in nearly two centuries. Our dear grandmother passed it down to me even though Alma is the oldest.”

“My da won’t admit it, but they’re even better than my gran’s shortbread.” Tack grinned up at the elderly spinster. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention that to Gran MacKinnon though.”

Miss Elspeth laughed, the sound soft and youthful despite being closer to seventy than sixty. “Your secret is safe with me. I’ve got a secret of my own you know.”

“From who?”

“Everyone. I haven’t even told Moya,” she finished in a conspiratorial whisper.



That surprised him. The two elderly ladies had been best friends before they became sisters via marriage and were extremely close. Usually, what one knew, so did the other — and both delighted in knowing something Miz Alma did not.

The childlike delight in Miss Elspeth’s faded blue eyes made him smile. “Are you going to tell me?”

“You know, I think I just might.” She nodded, her straight red hair fluttering in the breeze. “Yes. You deserve it; you take such good care of us.”

Tack knew better than to push the older woman, but he was curious. Any secret Miss Elspeth considered worth keeping would be interesting, to say the least.

Some might the think the Grant sisters were a few crayons shy of a full box. What with all three of them still dying their hair red, claiming to be a good twenty years younger than they were and wearing fancy hats to church every Sunday.

Then there was the way they Miz Moya talked to the ghost of her deceased husband, in company. All three of the sister were convinced their home-turned-bed-and-breakfast was haunted by the first Maggie Grant.

Still, Tack liked them.

No one in the town loved Cailkirn more or was more dedicated to the town’s thriving.

None of them wanted it to turn into another Anchorage, or even Fairbanks, but Cailkirn was less than a decade shy of its two hundredth birthday. He and the Grant sisters shared the need to know it would celebrate that centennial and many more.

Miss Elspeth had fussed Tack’s muscular six and a half foot frame into a sturdy wooden chair at her kitchen table and put the kettle on before she returned to her secret. “Someone’s coming home and I bet you’ll never guess who.”

Tack didn’t want to steal Miss Elspeth’s thunder. So, he didn’t tell her that he’d heard rumors of Rock Jepsom’s younger brother coming. Carey and a bunch of his friends had booked into the Northern Lights Lodge. With twenty guest rooms, it was the only thing resembling a hotel in, or around Cailkirn.

The vast majority of Cailkirn’s tourist income came from the more than half a million guests from the cruise ships that docked daily in their ports May thru September. Day only visitors, they had no need for local lodgings.

In a bid for town harmony, Tack did his best to share the MacKinnon Bros. Tours clients between the lodge run by the Sutherlands and the Grant sisters’ B&B. Thankfully the different types of accommodations appealed to different types of his “Enjoy the Real Alaska Experience” clients.

“Who’s coming for a visit, Miss Elspeth?”

“Oh, she’s not coming for a visit. She’s coming home to stay. I always knew she would, no matter what Alma said. Sean would have too, if he and Gina hadn’t been in that terrible accident.”

The mention of Miz Moya’s dead son and daughter-in-law sent a frisson of foreboding through Tack. “She?” he asked in sepulcher tones.

Miss Elspeth could not mean who he thought she did. Granddaughter to Miz Moya, Kitty…Caitlin please…Barston was married to a mover and shaker in the City of Lights. She hadn’t stepped foot in Alaska since dropping out of college to marry Cain Barston eight years ago.

No way was she coming home to Cailkirn. Unlike Tack, her former best friend and the fool who’d loved her too much and too long, the petite redhead hated Alaska. She especially despised life in the small town that her parents had fought so hard to leave behind.

“Yes, my niece.” Miss Elspeth put her hands together as if in prayer. “Kitty’s coming home.”

Tack took a big gulp of tea and then choked as he tried not to spit it out in shock at its scalding heat.

Miss Elspeth was up patting his back before he realized she’d crossed the kitchen. “Are you all right Tack? You work too hard. You need to take a day off.”

He didn’t mention that today, or at least that morning was supposed to be exactly that. Doing so would be churlish and there was something truly wrong about being grumpy with a Grant sister. Even after she announced the woman that had broken Tack’s heart and abandoned their friendship for the acceptance of people like Cain Barston was coming home.

Moving home.

“What about Barston?”

“She divorced him.” There was something in Miss Elspeth’s tone.

Grief. Anger. Satisfaction.

It was all there.

“I didn’t realize they were having problems.”

“Well, it’s not as if you listen to talk about her. You practically run from the room when Kitty is mentioned.”

“I do not.” Though probably? He did.

She’d been the love of his life and she’d never seen him as more than a disposable friend.

“Well, that is neither here nor there. Kitty always said everything was fine, but we could see there were difficulties. She lost her spark, our Kitty. She also lost so much weight she looked like a skeleton.” Miss Elspeth had maintained the trim figure of her Miss Alaska days, but she’d never been rail thin like so many of the women he’d met in Los Angeles.

“That’s not all that abnormal for LA, Miss Elspeth.” He didn’t like the thought that Kitty’s blue eyes had lost their shine though.

Her summer sky gaze, so different from his dark one, had been the first thing his six year old self had noticed about the new girl in school. Pale with tiny freckles, she’d been so different than a boy who took his coloring from his Inuit mother. He’d been mesmerized by that difference and she’d never lost her fascination for him.

Which was why he’d never allowed himself to stick around when people were talking about her. The only way to sever his Kitty addiction had been to cut off all ties to her, just like she’d cut off all ties to him.

“If you’d seen her, you wouldn’t say that. When she called from the hospital, she weighed ninety-three pounds.”

Pain pierced Tack’s heart, though he’d never acknowledge it. “That can’t be right.”

Sure Kitty had lost some weight once they moved to California to attend USC, but she’d been healthy the last time Tack saw her. Curves in all the right places, she might have been a little thin for his taste. She’d still turned him on like no other woman ever had. Kitty hadn’t been bone-protruding skinny by any stretch.

Miss Elspeth sat down with her own cup of tea, her expression somber. “Our Kitty almost died and we weren’t there. Moya went though, after our girl called. She stayed with Kitty for six weeks. You remember?”

“Yes.” It had been the previous winter.

Despite her lifelong and very vocal lack of desire to ever visit the Lower 48, Miz Moya had said she was going south for the sunshine. Tack had thought it odd, but chalked it up to the elderly woman missing her only grandchild.

“Kitty said that’s why she’d had so many broken bones over the last couple of years. They’d gotten brittle she said.” Miss Elspeth frowned. “Grant bones don’t go brittle. We’re hardy stock. My grandfather lived to be ninety and Gran another twelve years after that. Neither had a single bone break in all those years.”

“Kitty broke something?” Tack asked in disbelief.

She’d gotten into more scrapes as a kid, always taking risks. He could remember the tumble she’d taken when they’d been hiking on Resurrection Pass when they were twelve. It had about stopped his heart, but she hadn’t so much as gotten a hairline fracture.

“More than one something. She didn’t break her wrist, crack two of her ribs or her clavicle bone bumping into walls, no matter how brittle her bones.”

Bile rose in Tack’s throat. “Cain Barston beat her?”

Elspeth’s lips thinned in a sad line. “Kitty never said so, but that man destroyed our girl.”

“She’s coming home now, though.” Tack just didn’t understand why, if it had been that bad, Kitty hadn’t come back a long time ago.

Or at the very least last spring when a pretty subdued Miz Moya had returned to Cailkirn. She’d stayed in California another full year by his reckoning.

Was her dislike for their small town life so strong she’d rather live with a monster than come back to it?

Miss Elspeth reached out and patted Tack’s hand, her smile belied by the tears sparkling in her faded blue eyes. “You’re right. She is moving home. And it’s going to be all right.“

Tack rose from the table and gave the older woman a gentle but firm hug. “Of course it will.”

Tack had more doubts on that front than he’d had since bringing his broken heart home to Cailkirn seven years ago, but he wouldn’t voice them.

He’d transferred to Idaho State after the summer Kitty got engaged to Cain Barston and graduated with a degree in Outdoor Education two years later. He’d come home to an offer from his father and Granddad MacKinnon to help finance Tack’s dream of starting a wilderness guide business back in Cailkirn.

Their only proviso had been he take Egan his brother into the business as well, once he’d gotten training. Tack had agreed without reservation. Even thought he was four years younger, next to Kitty Grant, Egan had been Tack’s best friend.

Kitty had dropped out of USC her junior year in favor of her MRS and moved on to bigger and brighter things.

Or so he’d thought.

Tack could not believe the vibrant girl who had sparked every one of his fantasies since his first sexual thought had stayed with a man who abused her. That she’d let herself get so dangerously underweight.

He didn’t know what had gone on in that marriage, but it didn’t sound like Kitty’s plans to get away from their small town had worked out the way she’d expected them to.

Troubled, Tack left Miss Elspeth in her immaculately clean kitchen after promising to return to the B&B for dinner with the sisters that evening.

It was their customary way of showing gratitude. Since Miz Moya was one of the best cooks on the Kenai and Miss Elspeth was equal in her baking, most Cailkirn residents considered such an invitation a pretty nice thank you.

Keyed up by the idea of returning to Cailkirn for the first time in almost a decade, Caitlin walked behind Joey and his mother toward baggage claim.

When they arrived a huge man stepped forward stopping the mother and son’s progress. Like a lot of Alaskan men, particular those who lived outside of the major cities, he had facial hair. However, he had it neatly trimmed close to his face. Even so, it was longer than the close cropped beard and mustache Tack MacKinnon wore, which looked like a perpetual five o’clock shadow, but was a lot less bristly. The only beard Caitlin had ever found appealing.

And why she’d already started thinking about Tack, Caitlin didn’t know. She’d callously jettisoned the man from her life, betraying years of friendship. She doubted Tack would have the time of day for her anymore, much less be interested in renewing their acquaintance.

There would be no healing of that particular self-inflicted wound in her heart. Considering how stomped on and shredded that organ had been over the past years, Kitty was surprised at the level of regret that thought elicited in her.

She’d pretty much decided her heart was beyond fixing. And the last thing she needed was the vulnerability of any kind of relationship, even friendship.

Pushing aside her own disturbed thoughts, Caitlin couldn’t help noticing the way Joey and his mother reacted to the man who was so clearly there to meet them. Joey was staring up at the man in rapt fascination, but his mother appeared as nauseated as she had on the plane, her gaze shadowed by trepidation.

“Is this my new daddy?” Joey asked with the keen interest and innocence of a small boy.

The man having the looks of a modern day Cossack, the mother with the accent and delicate pale features of a Southern belle and the little boy with short nappy hair and skin the color of coffee with just a dash of cream, the small family embodied the diversity so much a part of her home state.

The man stared down at the boy for several seconds of tense silence. Then he addressed the woman. “Savannah Marie?”


“You didn’t say you had a child.”

“You didn’t ask.”

He turned abruptly and started walking.

Savannah’s shoulder’s slumped, the defeat in her posture too familiar for Caitlin to ignore it.

Not that she’d let her sense of despondency show like this woman, but Caitlin had felt it too long and too deeply not to recognize it in another human being.

She reached out to touch Savannah’s shoulder and offer help, though heaven knew Caitlin wasn’t anyone’s idea of a hero.

However before her hand connected the man turned back with a brusque, “Aren’t you coming? You’ll need to point out your bags for me. We’ve got to get on the road. The drive to Cailkirn from here isn’t short.”

The Southern woman’s sigh of relief and whispered, “Thank God,” got to Caitlin in a way that nothing else had in a long time.

Before she could talk herself out of it, she let her hand fall on Savannah’s shoulder, causing the other woman to stop and turn to face Caitlin. “Pardon?”

“You’re going to Cailkirn?” Caitlin forced herself to ask.

The other woman’s grey gaze reflected the mix of emotions Caitlin had heard in her voice a moment ago as well as confusion. “I think so?”

Caitlin nodded. “Come on then. Let’s get our bags. We’re going to the same place and I’m going to ask your…friend,” she settled on, uncertain what the relationship was at this point. “Into giving me a ride.”

“Oh, I don’t know…”

“Don’t worry. I won’t take up a lot of room.” Caitlin winked, proud of herself for making the comment without feeling the shame that usually accompanied any reference to her body.


“He won’t mind. It’s an Alaskan thing. Neighbors help neighbors. Especially in the small towns, but nowhere more than in Cailkirn.”

They reached the luggage carousel and the bearded man.

“Caitlin Grant.” She put her hand out to him. “I’m headed to the Knit and Pearl B&B. I would really appreciate a ride if you’ve got room.”

“Nikolai Vasov.” He shook Caitlin’s hand. “I know the Grant sisters.”

Caitlin gave Nikolai the polite expression that she’d perfected in her years with Cain. “I’m not surprised. Most people in Cailkirn do.”

Her grandmother and great-aunts had lived in the small town on the Kenai Peninsula their entire lives. With her grandfather and Great-uncle Teddy gone, the three elderly ladies shared the spacious Victorian house that had been built on the original Grant homestead more than a hundred years ago — after the family had amassed sufficient wealth.

As far as Caitlin knew, her Aunt Elspeth had never lived anywhere else and her grandmother had lived in the Grant home since her marriage to Uncle Ardal forty years ago. Aunt Alma had moved back into the big house after Teddy Winter’s death a few years after the turn of the century.

It was a couple of years after the oldest Grant sister moved in that the sisters decided to turn the house into a bed and breakfast. Caitlin had been preparing to go away to college and her grandmother and aunts claimed they needed something to keep them busy.

“You are a relation?” Nikolai asked.

“Moya is my grandmother.” Caitlin didn’t recognize Nikolai, but he looked a little like the Vasov boy who had been a couple of years ahead of her and Tack in school. “Are you related to Alexi Vasov?”

“He’s my cousin.”

She nodded, vaguely remembering talk about Alexi’s uncle. Peder Vasov had left Cailkirn right after high school just like Caitlin’s parents. Somehow, both their children had ended up back in the town settled by Scots and Russians, integrating a small Inuit village along the way to incorporated town status.

Sudden clarity washed over Nikolai’s expression. “You are Kitty. You grew up in Cailkirn.”

“Since I was six, yes.” Since the devastating death of both her parents. “Gran Moya and her sisters raised me. Uncle Teddy too.”

His death had hurt almost as much as that of her parents.

Every single one of her older caregivers had loved Cailkirn with a passion she’d never been able to match.

The only thing Caitlin had ever wanted was to get out. Out of Cailkirn. Out of Alaska. Away from the pain of loss she associated with living there.

She’d made it, only to learn that the world outside was cruel and demoralizing.

Nikolai had the look of a man who might have figured that out too, even if he’d originally called the Lower 48 home.

He nodded his head abruptly. “We’ll make room for you.”

He didn’t ask how much luggage she had. It wasn’t the Cailkirn way. He might not have been born there, but he’d apparently lived there long enough to learn it.

Caitlin turned to Savannah and her son. “I should introduce myself to you too, I think. I’m Caitlin Grant and you can find me at the Knit & Pearl Bed and Breakfast. You and your son will always be welcome.”

Though she was probably the last woman who should be trying to offer hope and help to someone else, Caitlin couldn’t seem to stop herself.

“I’m Joseph, but everybody calls me Joey,” the little dark-haired boy offered while his mother stood in apparent shock.

Caitlin shook his hand and didn’t tell him she’d heard his name on the plane. “It’s very nice to meet you, Joseph. I’ll call you Joey if you like.”

“Yes.” He stared at his mom, clearly waiting for her to say something.

The other woman offered her hand. “My name is Savannah…” she cast a sidelong glance at Nickolai.

He gazed back, his expression impenetrable.

Savannah took a deep breath. “Vasov. I’m Savannah Vasov.”

Caitlin schooled her features not to show her shock. She hadn’t heard of a proxy marriage since she was a teenager, but what else could this be? With Nikolai not knowing about Joey and Savannah showing such uncertainty about the use of her last name.

In a state where the male population outnumbered females of marriageable age especially, long distance relationships were not uncommon. Marriages brought about through a third party weren’t unheard of either.

Heck, they happened in the Lower 48 too. The matchmaking entities were an ingrained part of American life now. Entire reality shows were dedicated to the concept of matchmaking and selective pool dating with the endgame being a marriage.

Proxy marriages were a lot less common though, to the point of being almost unheard of. Oh, they happened, most commonly among active duty military though.

They were only legal in six states, California being one of them — which explained how Savannah and Nik had managed to marry by proxy. It wasn’t a legal practice for an Alaskan based marriage ceremony.

Though foreign brides marrying American men by proxy was still an active practice. Caitlin had known more than one beautiful Eastern European or Asian woman back in LA who had married her wealthy, but otherwise unremarkable middle aged husband, by proxy. It had worked out beautifully for some and not so well for others.

But then Caitlin’s marriage had been its own horror story. She was the last person to judge another woman for the criteria by which she made her choices.

Regardless, the strong suspicion that Savannah had agreed to such an arrangement only told Caitlin how desperate the other woman had to have been.


With more than 7 million copies of her books in print worldwide, award winning and USA Today bestseller Lucy Monroe has published over 60 books and had her stories translated for sale all over the world.  While she writes multiple subgenres of romance, all of her books are sexy, deeply emotional and adhere to the concept that love will conquer all.  A passionate devotee of romance, she adores sharing her love for the genre with her readers.