An eternal bachelor convinced he’s finally found ‘the one’ vs. a woman scarred by her past. It’s gonna get messy…

Who’s ready for Wally’s love story?

Wally, sure is. He’s waited nearly sixty years for ‘the one’. Unfortunately, Chrissie isn’t interested in love. She’s too busy worrying about a stalker. Besides, she knows from experience love can burst into flames – literally. But Wally defines the word ‘persistent’. (And maybe stubborn, too, but don’t tell him I said that)

Can Wally, the confirmed bachelor, tempt Chrissie into giving him a chance?

Want a sample before you buy? No problem. Here you go:

Chapter 1

Why is it called the Secret Service if everyone knows about it?

“Welcome to You Cheat, We Eat,” I greet the woman entering the PI offices. “How can I help you today?”

The woman pauses for a moment before screaming like a banshee and launching herself at me. I sigh before getting to my feet and rounding my desk to meet her. I barely stop myself from rolling my eyes at her. Does she seriously think she can take me on?

I’m five-foot-ten, highly trained, and keep myself in shape by lifting weights a few times a week and jogging nearly every day. The woman ‘attacking’ me is approximately five-foot-three, dressed in cumbersome clothing constraining her movements, and is obviously untrained.

I say untrained because she’s flailing her arms at me like she’s a windmill. Does she think she’s Don Quixote? Snort. I know chivalry is dead unlike the knight errant who read way too many romances before deciding to revive the social code of conduct. Another reason to stay far, far away from romance.

I grasp her wrists and spin her around to pin them behind her back. The woman’s shoulders slump and her legs give out from her as she wails. I maneuver her until she’s sitting in a chair and release my hold on her.

“Hailey!” I shout because I can deal with danger, but I don’t deal with emotion and a woman bawling her eyes out qualifies as emotion even if she did ‘attack’ me mere moments ago.

Hailey is my boss at You Cheat, We Eat. As the name suggests, the PI firm specializes in finding spouses who don’t honor their vows. I’m nearly two decades older than my boss and I have the experience to work as a PI, but I’m not interested.

I’m done with wading through the filth of humanity, thank you very much. I’ll stick to accounting, invoicing, filing, and the other boring administrative stuff for now. Although, I do run background checks for all the investigators.

Hailey rushes out of her office, a 9 mm in her hand. Her hand drops when she sees the woman sitting in the chair sobbing her heart out. “Oh.”

I frown. “Yeah. Oh.” I motion my hand toward the woman. “You’re up.”

Phoebe, the other PI at the firm, peeks her head out of her office. She blows out a breath of air when she realizes there’s no danger. “I heard a scuffle, but the big guy wouldn’t let me out of the room to back you up.”

I raise an eyebrow and stare at her. Back me up? She’s hilarious. One, I don’t need backup. Ever. And two, Phoebe couldn’t back me up if she tried. The woman is Ms. Fashionista. Seriously. She’s currently wearing a dress that hugs all her curves and three-inch heels. I don’t know anything about fashion, but I do know enough to recognize expensive, and her clothes are definitely expensive.

I hear a grunt before her husband, Ryker, joins her at the door. Ryker is a badass bounty hunter. At six-foot-six, he’s a mountain of a man. I could still take him.

“Chrissie didn’t need your help.” He stares at me as if expecting me to respond to his statement with information about my background. He can keep staring because I’m not revealing any of my secrets to him or Hailey or Phoebe. I may consider the women my friends, but secrets are meant to remain private for a reason.

“It’s all your fault,” the woman screams and points at Hailey.

Hailey’s eyes widen. “My fault? What did I do?”

“You caught my husband cheating and now he’s left me for the other woman. He’s not supposed to leave me for the other woman! He’s supposed to fall to his knees and pledge his undying love to me.”

I keep my face passive, but inside I’m shaking my head in disbelief at this woman. Someone else who’s been reading too many romance novels.

Hailey’s head tilts to the side as she studies the woman. “Mrs. Winter?” At the woman’s nod, she kneels in front of her. “Why don’t you come into my office, and we can discuss this?”

Mrs. Winter rears back. “What’s there to discuss? Like you would know anything about betrayal with your perfect little life with your perfect little husband.”

She’s not wrong. Hailey married her high school crush, Aiden, at the beginning of the year. The two are still in their ‘honeymoon’ period and are disgustingly perfect. They can’t keep their hands off of each other, but if they think they can have nookie time while I’m in charge of this office, they’ve got another thing coming.

Phoebe raises her hand. “I know a lot about betrayal. Do you want to get a coffee with me?”

Phoebe’s not lying. I don’t know the whole story, but her first husband apparently was a complete and utter dick. In fact, he’s currently in prison for kidnapping her. He wanted to force her to have his children.

Gorgeous women always cause men to lose their minds and, make no mistake about it, Phoebe is gorgeous. She has exotic green eyes with a slight slant to them set in a heart-shaped face. And her body is a perfect hourglass shape.

Hailey is no slouch either. She doesn’t have curves like Phoebe, but she has the whole lithe dancer body thing going on. With her long brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes, she looks like she was the head cheerleader in high school. She wasn’t, though. Apparently, she was a bit of a drama geek and Aiden bullied her about it. There’s definitely a story there.

Mrs. Winter glares at Phoebe. “What would you know about betrayal? You’re beautiful.”

And beautiful people don’t know anything about betrayal? Trust me, betrayal is blind.

Ryker growls and stands in front of Phoebe. “You will not talk to my wife in this manner.”

Sigh. He had to say wife, didn’t he? Idiot. The word wife is totally going to set her off.

“Wife!” she screams and points at Phoebe. “You have no idea.”

“You’re done,” Ryker declares before approaching Mrs. Winter. He hoists her from the chair by her arm before proceeding to escort her out of the office and down the hall to the elevator.

Once she’s on the elevator with the doors closed behind her, he marches back to the office. He glares at me. “You should have handled her.”

I raise an eyebrow. “She wasn’t dangerous.”

“She was rude to my wife.”

“Rude doesn’t equal dangerous. You should know this.”

His nostrils flare as he stares at me. I fold my arms across my chest and stare right back at him. Does he think he can intimidate me? Silly man.

Phoebe tugs on her husband’s arm. “Leave Chrissie alone. Her job isn’t to keep me safe.”

Before Ryker can speak, I do. “You weren’t in danger, Phoebe. And I will make certain you’re always safe when you’re in the office.”

“Maybe we should get you a weapon.” Hailey’s nose scrunches as she considers the idea. “This isn’t the first crazy client we’ve had, and it won’t be the last.”

“I can deal with crazy.” And I can. “Crazy doesn’t equal dangerous, but I can deal with dangerous as well.” Because I already have a weapon.

Ryker grunts and spins on his heel to return to his office. This is his M.O. whenever he thinks the talk will turn to ‘women’s shit’. His words. Not mine.

Phoebe and Hailey sit in the chairs across from my desk. They appear to be settling in for a talk. Oh goodie. In case you missed it, I’m being sarcastic.

“We can get the uncles to teach you to shoot,” Hailey suggests.

The uncles aren’t Hailey’s blood relatives. It’s a group of four men who served with Hailey’s dad in the military.

“I don’t need anyone to teach me how to shoot. Certainly not the uncles.”

Phoebe waggles her eyebrows. “Not even Wally?”

At the mention of Wally, my belly flutters. The guy drives me absolutely bananas, but I can’t deny he’s one handsome man. I put his age somewhere in his fifties, but he doesn’t look a day over forty.

His black hair doesn’t have a hint of gray in it, although his beard is dotted with gray making him appear distinguished. Judging by his broad shoulders and strong biceps, he keeps himself in shape. And I do appreciate a man who takes care of himself. But it’s his eyes that get to me. They’re dark green and when he stares at me, it’s like he’s peering into my soul.

Wally and the rest of the ‘uncles’ retired from the Army ages ago, but I suspect Wally hasn’t completely retired, however. Not when I know he’s been digging into my past. He’s pissed off because he ran into a brick wall. A brick wall I have no intention of pulling down or letting him scale. Skeletons should stay hidden in the closet for a reason.  

“I can shoot.”

Hailey leans closer. “You can? How did you learn? When did you learn? Where did you learn?”

I don’t fill her in on the details. They don’t need to know the US government taught me to shoot nearly every weapon known to man. I shrug instead.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Phoebe giggles. “Wrong thing to say. Now, you’ve made her curious. She’s going to dig and dig until she finds out all the answers to her questions.”

Hailey frowns. “I think you have me confused with Suzie. I can allow my friends to have secrets.”

Suzie is Hailey’s business partner. She used to be the office manager until her brewery business took off. Now, she spends her days brewing beer and I do her job.

Phoebe snorts. “Yeah, right.”

The phone rings and offers me a reprieve. I know better than to dive on the distraction, though. Diving would pique Hailey’s curiosity more than it already is. She won’t find anything if she digs around in my past, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my working days evading her questions either.

“Are you going to answer the phone?” Hailey asks.

“Are we finished with this conversation? I didn’t want to appear rude.”

Hailey stands. “We’re done.”

Phoebe’s nose wrinkles. “We are?”

As I watch Hailey and Phoebe return to their respective offices, I think about how exhausting it is to be friends with people you can’t tell the truth about your past. This is why I’ve never had close friends outside people I met at ‘the office’ before. I should back off from their friendship for a while. I nod to myself. It’s for the best.

Decision made, I pick up the phone.

Can a cynic find love with a Dutchman?

Dutch Online is here! It’s the fifth and – sniff, sniff – final book of the Love in the Lowlands series.

Dutch Online is the love story of Sofia and Rafael. Sofia is the definition of weary of dating. When men date you to meet your beautiful mom, it’s just plain creepy. And Rafael doesn’t have time for love in between three jobs and raising a sister who’s ill with kidney disease. But the two enjoy chatting to each other online. And Sofia may have even developed a bit of a crush on Rafael – sight unseen.

But when they meet in person, it’s a disaster. A prank gone wrong may cause this love story to stall before it can even begin.

What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite: 

Chapter 1

“Can I help you?” I ask when a man sits next to me at the restaurant where I’m waiting for my parents to arrive for Sunday brunch. This guy – whoever he is – is not invited, and he’s certainly not welcome.  

He winks at me. “I think it’s me who can help you.”

I groan. It’s barely 11 a.m. It’s way too early for some random dude to be sprouting stupid pick-up lines.

“I think you’ve got the wrong table, buddy,” I tell him.

Before he can respond, I hear a ruckus at the entrance to the restaurant. Sounds like my parents have arrived. I check my watch. Ten minutes past eleven. Wow. They’re barely late today.

I watch as Mama sends air kisses to everyone and anyone. She does like to make an entrance. If I’m being objective – a feat I find difficult to achieve with regard to Mama – she doesn’t have to work hard at it considering she’s six-foot-tall, has the legs of a ballet dancer, and the face of a model, which makes sense since she is a model.

I stand when she reaches the table. “Mama,” I whisper in greeting as I kiss her cheeks.

“How are you, my little rabbit?”

Before I can answer, she notices the man sitting at the table and claps her hand. “I see you’ve met Tyson.”

Awesome. I’ve been set up by my mother – again. I’m thirty-one years old. The last thing I need is for my mom to find me a man. Mama disagrees. She thinks a man is exactly what I need. It’s not. Especially not the type of man she’s always throwing at me.  

I growl. “Mama.”

“Now, now, don’t be snippy with your mama.” My father leans over and kisses my cheeks.

“Hello, Pai.”

He pulls out a chair for my mother, and she sends him a wink over her shoulder. My parents are like yin and yang. Pai is Afro-Brazilian, whereas Mama is Russian with the palest of pale skins. I don’t think she’s ever enjoyed the sun on her face. I’m not exaggerating. As a model, Mama avoids the sun.

When I was young, I went through a phase during which I was convinced she was a vampire. All the facts lined up – she doesn’t go out in the sun, she doesn’t look a day over thirty, and she hardly ever eats human food. I might have been a bit obsessed with vampire romance in those days.

As soon as Mama’s butt hits the chair, a waiter nearly trips over his own shoes in his rush to our table to take our order. Correction – Mama’s order. While he bats his lashes at Mama, he doesn’t bother to notice the rest of us. You get used to being invisible when your mother is a Russian supermodel.

My father was a model too, but he quit the business soon after I was born. While my mother continued her career, he raised me, and we followed her around the globe to wherever she was working. Being homeschooled while spending your days at various photoshoots throughout the world isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.

“Let’s get the introductions over with, shall we?” Mama says with a big smile on her face. I know this smile. It means she thinks she’s won. Ha! As if. She can force me to have brunch with this man, but she can’t force me to go out on an actual date with him.    

“Tyson, this is my daughter, Fifi.”

I cringe at her use of my childhood nickname. I extend my hand to him. “It’s Sofia actually.”

His hand is limp in mine. “Are you a model like your mother?” He winks at my mom.

“Um, no. I’m a photographer.”

His eyes widen like he’s surprised. “You’re Fifi Silva? The photographer?”

I stop myself before I roll my eyes. Mama loses her mind when I act ‘childish’ and rolling your eyes no matter your age is considered childish in her book. I nod instead.

Tyson places his hand on his chest and gasps. I hope this guy isn’t trying to break into acting because I’m not buying his little act.

“Sasha didn’t tell me her daughter is a famous photographer.”

The snort is out before I can stop it. Mama clears her throat. If she were a normal mother – one who isn’t worried facial expressions cause wrinkles – she’d be frowning at me big time.

“I’m not a famous photographer.” My name is known in the fashion world, but it’s not where my heart lies. Artistic photography doesn’t pay the bills, though.

Tyson completely ignores my words. “What are you working on now? Do you have a shoot coming up? Do you know if they need any talent? Any male talent if you know what I mean.”

How would I know if they need any talent? It’s not like I’m in charge of selecting the models. My job is to show up when they tell me to, do my magic, and leave. I don’t want to be involved with fashion photography any more than that. In fact, I’d give up fashion photography completely if I could. But I can’t. It pays the bills. And there are always bills to be paid.   

“But, Fifi, maybe you could see if Tyson could work on your next shoot,” my mother pushes.

“I’m not working on any fashion shoots at the moment.”

Pai leans forward. “What are you working on, baby girl?”

Pai and I share a special bond since we spent practically every waking moment together until I hit fourteen and was allowed to attend an actual high school. He knows my love of photography has nothing to do with taking pictures of beautiful people.

“I have a show coming up at a little gallery in Chelsea,” I tell him.

“This is wonderful.”

He raises a hand and snaps his fingers. A waitress appears within seconds. My Pai may be nearing sixty, but he remains gorgeous with his smooth dark skin, bright green eyes, high cheekbones, and strong jaw. Between mama and Pai we always receive good service at restaurants.

“A round of Caipirinhas,” he orders.

Mama immediately corrects him. “You know I don’t drink sugar. A bottle of vodka.”

“Why don’t you ask Tyson to tell you about himself?” Mama isn’t asking. She never asks. She orders in question form. It’s an art.

“Tyson, why don’t you tell me about yourself?” I ask like the dutiful daughter I am.

His phone buzzes and he picks it up from where it’s sitting next to his glass of water. He reads the message and types a reply before responding to me. “What did you say?”

Great. Another person who is as obsessed with his phone as he is with his appearance. Where does my mother find these men?

I force myself to repeat the question. “I asked if you could tell me about yourself.”

He gives me what I call the model smile – all teeth and zero genuineness. 

“I’m Tyson no last name, twenty-four, six-foot-two, one-hundred-sixty pounds, and I specialize in fashion modeling.”

I don’t bother responding to him. Instead, I cock an eyebrow at my mother. Is she serious? She’s setting me up with twenty-four-year-olds now? Did she forget how old I am?

I’m not allowed to say I’m thirty-one in her presence. If I’m thirty-one, then she can’t pretend to be thirty-nine. I’ll keep silent, but if she expects me to outright lie about my age, she’s got another thing coming.

“He’s in the prime of his life,” is her response.

My dad clears his throat and puffs out his chest. “I’m in the prime of my life.”

Mama pats his arm. “Of course, you are, dear. Of course, you are.”

Tyson’s phone buzzes again. He chuckles as he reads the message before typing in a response. I’ve had about enough of this.

“Excuse me,” I say and stand. “I need the restroom.”

He doesn’t bother looking up from his phone as I step away from the table. Mama really picked a winner with this one.

I find the restroom and lock myself in. I wish I could claim a bad case of the stomach flu, but I can’t. Mama is a complete germaphobe who would have an ambulance here before I can finish saying stomach flu.

I wash my hands and give myself a little pep talk instead. It’s one Sunday a month. I can handle Mama and her scheming for a few hours once a month. Pep talk done I step out of the restroom to find my father waiting on me.

He doesn’t say a word and hauls me into his arms. “I’m sorry, baby girl. Your mama doesn’t mean to hurt you. She wants you to be happy.”

“I am happy. I don’t need a man to make me happy.”

“I know, Sofia. I know. But she worries about you. You don’t have a man. You don’t date.”

At his words, all common sense abandons me. “What if I had a man?”

He loosens his grip to gaze down at me. “You have a man? This is wonderful news.”

“No, I meant—” I don’t get a chance to explain I was speaking hypothetically before he’s dragging me through the restaurant.

“Sasha, Sasha,” he shouts as we approach the table. “Our baby girl has a man.”

“I—” I open my mouth to explain the misunderstanding, but I don’t get a chance before Mama is jumping from her chair and embracing me.

“This is wonderful news, my little rabbit. Such wonderful news.” She releases me and I see she’s smiling.

She’s actually smiling and it’s not for a camera. Shit. Shit. Shit. There’s no way I can say I don’t have a man now.

“Sit. Sit. Sit.” She points at Tyson. “You go now.”

At her words, he finally stops concentrating on his phone and looks up. “But you said—”

“Leave,” I tell him. “Whatever she promised you isn’t going to happen anyway.”

“I should have known. There’s a reason everyone in the industry calls you an uptight bitch,” he snarls at me before spinning around and stomping out of the restaurant.

“Ignore him.” Mama pours shots of vodka. “Now, we drink.”

She hands me a glass and raises hers. “To my Sofia finding love.”

Love? Who said anything about love? I’ve seen enough of the world to know the love my parents share is rare. I have a better chance of finding an Alpa Reflex Model I camera in perfect condition than love.

But my mama is a romantic. She’s convinced I need to find love to be happy and now she thinks I’ve found it.

I slam my shot of vodka.

This isn’t going to end well for me.

Can a vacation romance turn into a happily ever after? If Char has anything to say about it, it can and will.

Dutch Courage is here! The fourth book in the Love in the Lowlands series is Char’s story. 

When Nico runs Char over with his bike on the Greek island of Rhodes, Char looks up to find a Greek god staring down at her. Actually, Nico is Dutch, but she’s not being picky.

Two days in Greece turn into a long-distance relationship, but Char wants more than occasional visits. She gives up her life in Wisconsin and moves to Holland to be with Nico. Except when she arrives in Holland, Nico ghosts her.

She probably should have told him she was moving across the ocean to live in The Hague to be near him before giving up everything back home. She needs to figure out what to do pronto before her brand-spanking-new American friends in The Hague take over.  

She just needs to gather a bit of Dutch Courage first.

What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite: 

Chapter 1

Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I hit you with my bike again?

I lift my face to the sun and throw out my arms before twirling around in a circle.

“Isn’t this wonderful? The absolute best! Can you believe this weather? Why don’t we live here full-time? Back home, they’re in the middle of a spring snowstorm and here we are with the sun shining and blue skies.”

“It’s bad karma to rub the weather in people’s faces,” my sister, Robin, points out.

I let my arms drop and stick my tongue out at her. “Don’t be a Debbie Downer. I’m not rubbing it in anyone’s face. I’m merely commenting on how wonderful the weather here in Greece is and enjoying not being in cold Wisconsin.” I do an exaggerated shiver at the idea of being back home right now.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my home. There’s a lot to love. My family and friends are nearby. I have a great job that fulfills me even if it sounds corny to say so. And my apartment is absolutely adorable. But the weather? Yuck. A thousand times yuck.

I am not going to think about snow in April right now. I’m on the Greek island of Rhodes and not back home dealing with snow boots, shoveling the driveway, or having my fifteen-minute commute turn into a two-hour drama. I shake my head and push those thoughts right out of my mind.

“I don’t understand why we can’t be on the beach right now,” Robin whines.

“We have plenty of time to lay on the beach. I want to see this monastery.”

“Of course, you do.” Do I detect a fair bit of sarcasm coming from my dear sister? Why, yes. Yes, I do. “But why do we have to hike up this hill? We could have rented a car.”

We’re on our way to the Monastery of Filerimos. I’m absolutely dying to visit since the architecture is different than the usual monasteries in Greece. It was built by the Knights of Saint John in the 15th Century and constructed with stone in a Gothic style.

I wish I was an architect. But after two classes in architectural making at college, I realized I’m more into looking at pretty buildings than I am into designing them. I thought about studying art history, but my dad nearly had a coronary at the idea. Since he paid for my college education and I didn’t want to put him in an early grave, I chose to major in accounting.

“It’s great exercise. After we’ve done this hike, we’ll be able to eat and drink whatever we want all day long without feeling guilty. We can laze at the beach and do absolutely nothing while drinking those fancy cocktails you like.”

“I wouldn’t have felt guilty without doing this ten-mile hike,” she grumbles.  

“It’s ten kilometers, not ten miles. There’s one point six miles in a kilometer making the hike slightly over six miles. Six point two miles to be exact. If I’m being truly accurate, it’s six point two one three seven miles.”

She shoves my shoulder. “Math nerd.”

“Being able to divide ten by one point six does not make me a math nerd.”

Truth is I am a bit of a math nerd. You have to at least like math to end up in accounting. Numbers, numbers, numbers – it’s what we do all day long every day of the year.

I thread my arm through her elbow. “Come on. I think this is the last curve before we see the monastery.”

We’re doing our best to hug the side of the road as we walk since there’s not much of a shoulder on this hilly road. As we follow the bend in the road, I hear shouting before a bike appears out of the blue.

“Watch out,” the biker shouts.

I push Robin to the side, but there’s no time for me to escape. The breaks on the bike squeal as the rider tries to stop his forward momentum, but it’s too late. He barrels right into me. I fly into the bush as the bike crashes on its side.

“Shit. Shit. Are you okay? How do you ask if you’re okay in Greek?”

“Ow! How the hell would I know?” I ask as I rub the shoulder I fell on. It feels wet. I pull my hand away to look at it and discover it’s covered in blood. Crap.

“Move out on my way, you big behemoth. Let me see my sister.”

“I was a scout. I know first aid,” he says as he examines at my shoulder. “Verdorie! You’re bleeding.”

I hold up my hand covered in blood. “No shit, Sherlock. What was your first clue?”

He chuckles. “An English woman with a sense of humor. I thought they didn’t exist.”

I glare at him. “I’m not English. I’m American, you imbecile.”

He inclines his head. “My apologies. Now, do you have any bandages with you? We need to clean the wound and cover it.”

“Yes, of course, I do. I always carry a package of bandages and antibiotic crème with me while I’m hiking in the wilds of Greece.”

He smiles. “Excellent.”

“I’m being sarcastic. Don’t they have sarcasm in Greece?”

“Oh, I’m not Greek. I’m Dutch. Nicolaas de Ruiter at your service.” He does a little bow.

Despite my shoulder burning something fierce, I take a moment to check out the man. He has dark wavy hair I want to run my hands through to see if it’s as soft as it looks. My hands itch to touch his olive-toned skin to discover if the color is natural or the result of suntanning on the beach. His eyes are dark brown and, despite the circumstances, sparkling with mirth. I don’t know what he thinks is amusing, but I want to find out.

I’m forgiving myself for thinking he was Greek because he most definitely looks Greek. In fact, he looks like a man you’d find on the cover of some vacation romance novel set in Greece.  

“I’m Charlotte. You can call me Char or Charlotte, but never Charlie.” I wrinkle my nose. “Charlie is a boy’s name. And the woman leaning over your shoulder is my sister Robin. We’re on vacation.”

“Is the introduction hour over now?” Robin asks. “Maybe we can take care of your shoulder. You know, the one that’s bleeding.” Sarcasm runs in our family.

Before I have a chance to respond, Nicolaas stands and whips off his t-shirt. Now, this is the picture you’ll find on the cover of a romance novel. A sexy romance novel. Wowzer! Someone works out. I lift my hand to touch the ridges of his six-pack abs, but then I remember I literally met this man less than five minutes ago. No touching allowed, Char.

“Here,” he says and places his t-shirt against my bleeding shoulder.

“Ouch! Take it easy. Looking like a Greek god doesn’t give you all-healing powers you know.”  

“You think I look like a Greek god? I may not be Greek but for you, I can pretend.” He winks.

Robin shoves him out of the way. “Maybe we should clean the wound first, lady killer.” She peels the t-shirt away and lifts her water bottle to douse me. I raise my hands to stop her.

“Let’s wait to clean the wound until we’re somewhere I can take my shirt off.” I’m wearing a white tank top. There’s no way she can clean my shoulder without it getting wet. The whole word doesn’t need to get a look at my bra.

Nicolaas wiggles his eyebrows at me. “I can take your top off for you.”

I shove him away. “Creep.”

“I’m merely trying to help.”

A bike skids to a stop next to us. “Wat is er gebeurd?”

Nicolaas motions to the man on the bike. “This is my friend Guus.”

I glance over at the man, but I’m having a hard time looking away from Nicolaas’ bare chest. I notice there’s a smattering of dark hair near his belly button, but otherwise, his chest is devoid of hair. I do love a man who doesn’t have too much chest hair. Miles of smooth skin for my hands to explore.

“We need to get you back to the hotel to clean your wound.” Robin’s words break my trance.

Yes, Charlotte, maybe you should concentrate on being injured instead of drooling over some guy you just met. Some guy who is the reason you’re injured in the first place.

“Okay,” I say and stumble to my feet with Nicolaas’ help.

“Come on. I’ll take you on my bike.”

My eyes widen. He has got to be kidding me. “I’m not getting on that death trap!”

He places his hands over his heart and flutters his lashes. “I’m wounded. A dutchman’s bike is sacred.”

I roll my eyes. “Whatever. I’m not riding on the handlebars.”

“It’s too far to walk back with you injured,” Robin points out.

“Here.” Nicolaas shoves the bike my way. “You can take my bike. I’ll walk back and pick my bike up at your hotel later.”

I bite my lip and study the bike. I haven’t been on one since I was a teenager. And the road is steep as all get out. Trust me, I know. I walked up it.

“Come on,” he pushes, “it’s the least I can do since I ran into you and all.” He’s not wrong.

I guess biking is better than walking. I grab hold of the handlebars. “Thank you,” I say before telling him the name of the hotel where we’re staying and hop on the bike.

“Hey! What about me?” Robin shouts before I can leave.

Guus grunts. “Here. Take my bike.”

I offer Nicolaas his shirt, but he cringes when he sees his white t-shirt is now stained red. “It’s fine. You keep it.”

The bike wobbles as I start pedaling. I tighten my grip on the handlebars. I can do this. There’s a reason for the saying it’s like riding a bike after all.

“See you later,” I shout at Nicolaas and Guus, but I don’t look back. I don’t trust myself to not wipe out if I look anywhere but straight in front of me. One accident is my limit for the day.    

Mia doesn’t want a real relationship, but Matthijs is determined to change her mind in any way he can 😏

Double Dutch is here! The third book in the Love in the Lowlands series is Mia’s story. 

Mia thought moving to Holland would give her marriage a second chance. Her husband Bob obviously doesn’t agree. Nope. Mr. Cheater McCheaterson is up to his old tricks. The jerk takes it even further and runs off to Prague to live with his girlfriend. And now Mia’s stuck in The Hague with no husband and a dubious legal status to stay in the country. Enter Matthijs and an offer to fake a relationship. Only, Matthijs isn’t faking a thing. 

Ready to read all about how their love story pans out?

What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite: 

Chapter 1

Friend – a person who thinks it’s okay to bang your door down when all you want is to be left the hell alone

Bang! Bang! Bang!

“Let us in,” Abby shouts. I swear the woman has the largest set of lungs in The Hague. Instead of a nerdy engineer, she should be a newspaper hawker. Although, those don’t actually exist anymore.  

I walk to the door and lean against it while she continues to shout the place down.

“Please,” Avery begs when Abby takes a break. “We don’t want you to be alone.”

I chew on my thumbnail as I consider how to answer. This is all my fault. I shouldn’t have called Abby blubbering like a little girl. It’s not the first time Abby has rushed to my side when my husband and I were having problems. Husband. Yeah, right. Some kind of husband Bob is.  

“I want to be alone,” I finally whisper through the door.

“You may want to be alone, Mia. But being alone is the last thing you need right now,” Avery insists.

I unlock the door, but before I can open it, Abby pushes her way through. “Where’s the asshole? I need to show him my right hook.”

She marches off in search of Bob. Good luck finding him here. Even before he left me, he was never here. And now the tears are flowing again. Stupid tears.  

Avery hauls me into her arms and rocks me back and forth. “I’m sorry.”

“Where is he?”

I untangle myself from Avery’s grasp to find Abby standing in the hallway with her hands fisted on her hips.

“Gone,” I whisper. The idea of telling my two closest friends who are obnoxiously in love with their partners how I couldn’t make my marriage work makes my stomach churn. I’m such a failure.   

“Like gone-gone?” Abby asks and opens the door to the bedroom to inspect for herself. “His clothes aren’t here,” she shouts from inside.

Avery takes my hand and leads me toward the living room. “Ignore her. She’s going to do what she’s going to do.”

“I’m beginning to think I should have let her give birth to Sylvia in the middle of the common area,” I mutter.

It sounds like a movie, but I seriously met Abby five minutes before her water broke and had to rush her to the hospital before she gave birth in the common area of the apartment building since her husband, Jasper, was nowhere to be found.

“Oh, my wonderful nerd!” Abby shouts, and I cringe. Darn it. I should have locked the spare bedroom.

She sticks her head out of the room and motions to Avery. “You have got to see this!”

“Maybe we should concentrate on helping Mia instead of whatever crazy shit you’re currently up to,” Avery suggests.

“No freaking way. This is the absolute best. The best!” Abby raises her fist in victory.

Avery bites her lips before shrugging. “Sorry, Mia. But I can’t resist.” She steps toward the room.

I seize her wrist to try and stop her. “No.” I may be an inch taller and several inches wider than Avery, but she has no problem dragging me into the spare bedroom.

Her mouth drops open as she looks around at the historical model I’ve painstakingly built over the past year.

“This is what you’re excited about? I thought you found a dead body. Preferably Bob’s dead body. I was already sifting through a list of lawyer friends in my head to find a defense attorney for Mia.”

Avery and her boyfriend, Niels, are lawyers. Avery is actually Niels’ boss. While she’s an uptight lawyer, he’s a fun-loving guy who doesn’t take anything too seriously. Watching her fight her attraction to the man has been the best entertainment over the past year.   

Abby snorts. “Defense attorney. If I found Bob’s body, we’d be getting our shovels and a bunch of burly men to help us bury him in the dunes.”

I plant my hands on my hips and glare at her. “Bob does not deserve a burial in the dunes. You know it’s where the Nazis shot and killed resistance members. It would be a disservice to those heroes to bury Bob there.”

“I didn’t know resistance members were buried in the dunes but considering this…” Abby indicates my model of Operation Market Garden – aka the allied forces offensive to rid the Netherlands of the Nazi occupation – with a flick of her hand. “You certainly do.”

I blush. “Can we stop talking about my model now?”

Abby smirks. “Of course, we can. Let’s talk about where Bob is.”

Ugh. I walked right into that, didn’t I? “Do you want me to explain the model?” I backpedal.

I don’t wait for them to answer, because I know what their answer will be. And no, I don’t want to talk about my lying, cheating, scum of a husband.

“Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful military operation fought in the Netherlands in September 1944. It was the brainchild of Montgomery—”

“Whoa!” Avery lifts a hand in a stop motion. “I’m going to stop you right there. As much as I’d love to learn more about the history of the Netherlands, I want to hear why Bob’s things are gone.”

“Sucky. I want to nerd out over the discovery of Mia’s nerdiness, but Avery’s right. Where’s Bob?”

I do an about-face and march to the kitchen. If we’re talking about Bob, I need a glass of wine. One glass of wine? More like a gallon of wine.

“You get the wine. I’ll get Mia,” Avery bosses before she places her hands on my shoulders to guide me to my sofa. Abby arrives moments later and shoves a glass of wine in my hand.

“Welp. Tell us what happened. Did Bob finally admit he’s a cheating piece of scum I wouldn’t bother to scrape off my boots and you kicked him to the curb?” Abby asks as she collapses in a chair.

Avery wraps an arm around my shoulders. “A little sensitivity, Abby.”

She rolls her eyes in response. “If you want sensitive, you called the wrong person. And may I remind everyone, Mia called me. Not you.”

“Of course, she called you. She didn’t want to ruin my surprise party.” Avery frowns at me. “Total bullshit by the way.”

On no! I ruined her party. Niels surprised her today with a house he bought for her. A house Avery’s been drooling over since she first relocated to Holland. Her party completely slipped my mind. Some kind of friend I am.

I go to slap myself upside the head. Unfortunately, I forgot I’m holding a glass of wine, and the wine spills everywhere. I look down. I’m a complete disaster. My blouse gapes open as it’s a tad bit too tight. My jeans are practically threadbare after wearing them nearly every day since I can’t fit into any other pairs. And now there’s wine spilled all over me. No wonder my husband left me.

Abby growls. “No. Don’t you dare go there. You are a gorgeous woman. The only person who doesn’t see how lovely you are is you.”

I grunt. “And Bob.”

Avery clears her throat. “I disagree, Mia. I think Bob knows how lovely you are. Why do you think he puts you down all the time?” She holds up a hand when I go to reply. “It’s not because you’re fat, because you are not fat. No, it’s because he knows you’re too damn good for him and doesn’t deserve you.”

“Amen, sister!” Abby shouts before clapping.

“If he knows I’m too good for him, why did he leave me?” I ask my jeans because I’m too much of a chicken to look my friends in the face as I admit how I failed to keep my marriage together.

Abby rolls her eyes. “Duh. Because he’s an asshole. Exhibit number 1 – he was cheating on you.”

I gasp. “You knew?”

“Um, yeah, Mia, I knew. He may not work for my team, but we work in the same department. And men talk. They say women gossip, but men have big ass mouths.”

Abby is a project manager in the engineering department at Petroix Oil, the company Bob also works for as an engineer. Avery works there, too. Not in the engineering department, obviously. She’s the head legal counsel of the entire company.

“Did you know?” I ask Avery.

She shakes her head. “No, but I suspected. There’s no reason to travel as much as he did for ‘work’ after all.”

I slam my wine glass on the table and jump to my feet. “This is great. Just great. Everyone knew he was cheating on me. I’m humiliated.”

“She’s mad. This is good,” Abby says to Avery.

“Angry is better than heartbroken,” Avery responds.

“The worst part is this isn’t the first time. Why the hell do you think we came to Holland in the first place?”

Abby raises her hand. “Because it’s awesome!”

I ignore her to continue my rant. “Bob was messing around with a woman on his team back home in Atlanta. When I found out, I told him to choose – her or me. He chose me, but he worked with her every day. I couldn’t handle it. When an opportunity arose to transfer to The Hague, I demanded he take it. I thought it would be a fresh start for us. Fresh start? Yeah, right. It didn’t take but a month before he was leaving the room to take calls and spending more time traveling than at home.”

“You’re better off without him,” Abby declares.

“No, I’m not,” I scream. “I want my marriage to work. I don’t want to be a divorcee at the age of twenty-nine for gosh sakes.”

“Who the fuck cares if you’re a divorcee at twenty-nine or whatever age? Who gives the first shit what people think about you? Are you happy? Do you love him?” Abby pauses. “Do you truly love him with all your heart?”

When I don’t answer right away, she pushes, “Well, do you?”

Gulp. I don’t want to answer her question, but I force myself to. “Yes, I love him,” I lie.

Avery tilts her head and studies me. “Are you positive? I’m not an expert at love…”

Talk about an understatement. The woman fought her current partner, Niels, to the bitter end. Seriously, the bitter end. She nearly left him for a stupid job.

 “…but the way Bob is with you doesn’t spell love to me.”

“You don’t know him the way I do,” is the only thing I can come up with to say.

Abby blows out a long puff of air. “Are you serious right now? I’ve watched him treat you like dog shit for the past year.”

She stands and walks to me. I retreat but she grasps my hands and squeezes before I can get very far.

“One thing I’ve learned in life is when people show you who they are, you listen. Bob has shown you who he is. Is he the person you love, or are you in love with the idea of being in love?”

I glare at her. How dare she judge my relationship with Bob? She doesn’t know the first thing about us. And, if I have it my way, she never will. The secret of why I have to make my marriage work shall never be revealed by me.  

Avery claps her hands. “Okay. Arguing about Bob isn’t getting us anywhere. Let’s move on to the important issue here.”

I wrinkle my brow. “Important issue? What’s more important than Bob leaving me?”

She takes a deep breath before plowing forward and making my already shitty day even shittier.  “Um, do you have permission to live in Holland if Bob and you aren’t together?”  

Abby rolls her eyes. “Oh boy, lawyer Avery is in the house.”

My eyes widen, and my knees go weak. Fire and damnation! Avery’s right. I’m on a spousal visa. If I no longer have the spouse, I no longer have permission to stay in the country. I collapse on the floor.

“What am I going to do? I have a new job at ASH starting in a month.”

Avery wrinkles her nose at me. “What the heck is ASH? You’re not going to work in a coffee shop, are you?”

For heaven’s sake, you take a woman one time to experience marijuana at a coffee shop and you never hear the end of it.

“ASH is the American School of the Hague,” Abby answers like she knows everything. She kind of does. She’s a freaking genius after all.

“Will this school give you a visa to stay?” Avery asks.

I shake my head. “No, it’s a ‘local’ job. The position is specifically for people who already have permission to live and work in Holland.”

Avery pats my shoulder. “Don’t you worry. We’ll figure it out. After all, I do know a whole bunch of lawyers.” She winks.

I know she thinks she can solve all my problems because she’s a lawyer, but she’s wrong. It’s not like she can snap her fingers and suddenly a visa for me to stay and work in Holland will appear. She’s not a magician.

Shit. Bob leaving me is worse than I thought. And I already thought it was pretty horrible.

Can a fun-loving Dutchman convince an uptight attorney to break all her rules?

Book 2 in the Love in the Lowlands Series is here! 🥳🥳🥳 Avery is not looking for love. Like she has time for love. Pff. The woman is the definition of workaholic. And she loves it! Niels, on the other hand, just wants to have fun. Preferably with the sexy uptight attorney who happens to be his boss. Ready to read all about how their love story pans out?

What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite: 

Chapter 1

Den what?

“Avery, can I see you in my office?”

For most people, that question from their boss causes fear and trepidation. Not for me. I have been waiting for this call. I pump my arm and mouth a silent YES! before answering the question in my best professional voice.

“I’ll be right there, Nora.”  

As soon as I hang up the phone, I jump to my feet and do a little dance. Woo-hoo! This is it! Finally! I am getting the promotion I’ve been working my ass off for. When I’m promoted to Head Legal Counsel of North America, I’ll be the youngest head legal counsel this company has ever seen.

Age is but a number. I know I can do this job. I deserve this job. I live and breathe for Petroix Oil.   

Okay, Avery. Calm down. You haven’t got the job yet. I stop my dancing and pat my bun to make certain no wayward hairs have escaped before straightening my skirt. I make an attempt to smooth the wrinkles out of my suit jacket, but it’s a lost cause. This is what happens when you arrive at the office at o-dark-thirty and roll up your sleeves to get to work.  

I reach for the door with a smile on my face. Oops. I’ll freak out the rest of the legal department if I step foot outside my office smiling. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some grumpity grump, but office hours are for working, not laughing and joking around. Laughing and joking around does not get you promoted to Head Legal Counsel at the age of thirty-six.

Head Legal Counsel! I raise my hands in the air and do another celebratory dance before clearing my throat and wiping the smile from my face. Avery Potts, professional and serious attorney, is back.  

“Avery,” my boss Nora greets me as I walk into her office.

Nora is the top legal dog at Petroix Oil. She’s the Director of Legal Affairs of Petroix Oil and my boss’s boss. She’s around sixty and always has a kind word for everyone. How she remains nice and calm while sitting on the board of a male dominated company is beyond me. She’s my hero.

“Please, have a seat.” She gestures to the conference table.

Once I’m seated, I keep my hands under the table to hide how much they’re trembling. This is happening. It’s really happening.

“I’m certain you’ve heard about Denis leaving us by now.”

Denis was the Head Legal Counsel of North America – the position directly under Director of Legal Affairs. He left Petroix for a position at a beverage company clearing the path for me to take his position.

I clear my throat to ensure I don’t sound giddy with excitement when I answer. “Yes.”

“This means we’re forced to do some shuffling around with the management positions,” Nora continues.

I hold my breath as I wait for her to continue. My current position is the Assistant Head Legal Counsel of North America. It’s only natural for me to be promoted to the head legal counsel position. I cross my fingers and hope with all my might.

Nora grins. “I’m happy to offer you the position of Head Legal Counsel of the EMEA market.”

My smile spreads from ear to ear. “Thank you. I’m excited for this challenge,” I say before my brain processes her words. “Wait. Did you say EMEA?”

“Yes, Luther, who is currently the EMEA director, will take over Denis’s position.”

This is not what I was hoping for. Not at all. But I maintain the smile on my face. “I’ve been working as Denis’s assistant for the past five years. I thought him leaving meant I could step into his position.”

Nora studies my face for a moment before frowning. “I’m sorry, Avery, but I don’t think you’re ready for the position yet.”

I bite my tongue to stop myself from arguing with her. Nora may project puppies and cuddles from the outside but on the inside, she’s an astute businesswoman with a world-class legal mind. If she doesn’t think I’m ready for the position yet no arguing will change her mind.

“I understand.” I stand, but Nora stops me before I can leave.

“Wait a minute. Don’t you want to hear more about the EMEA position? It’s a significant raise, and you’ll be relocating to Europe.”

Relocating to Europe? I guess it makes sense since EMEA does stand for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. But a relocation to Europe wasn’t on my radar. Hell. I’ve never even been to Europe. Who has time for vacations when you’re determined to become the youngest director in the history of the company?

“Where in Europe?” I ask.

“The Hague in the Netherlands.”

Of course. The Hague is where our European headquarters are located.

“You don’t think it would be better if I stayed here to help Luther adjust to his new position?” And hopefully steal the position out from under his hands sooner rather than later.

Nora drums her fingers together as she studies me. Can she see right through me? Does she know I’m planning to steal Luther’s position as soon as I can?

“No. I think the position in The Hague as Head Legal Counsel EMEA will be a good fit for you. It will give you a chance to grow into a management position,” she pauses, “since management is exactly where you want to be.”

I don’t deny it. I’m ambitious, and I’m not ashamed of it.

She cocks an eyebrow in challenge. “Unless you have some reason for not wanting to relocate?”

Way to be subtle, Nora. She won’t come right out and ask me about my personal situation, but her meaning is clear. Do I have a relationship that will interfere with my moving? Nora may project a grandmotherly vibe, but she’s not even a mother and she’s made it perfectly clear she thinks women are incapable of combining a relationship with a career.  

“No, there’s no reason. Let’s talk about the position in The Hague.”

When I walk out of her office thirty minutes later, my mind is already processing the million things I need to do to make this move happen. I have a month to transfer my current files to another lawyer and pack my house to relocate overseas. Of course, I can always change my mind and not accept the position, but I’m not an idiot. Head Legal Counsel EMEA may not be the position I was hoping for, but it’s still a promotion with a big, fat raise.

I whip out my phone and begin making a to-do list as I walk into my office.

“Surprise!”

At the shout, I shriek and fumble my phone. I look up to see my assistant, John, standing in my office next to my desk where there’s a balloon bouquet. The balloons say congrats on your new job. I frown. They’re not wrong. I do have a new job. Just not the one I wanted.

“Shit, John. You scared me.”

John isn’t actually my assistant. He’s the assistant for three lawyers in the office, but since my workload is heavier than the other two lawyers, he works almost exclusively for me.

“What’s wrong?”

At John’s question, I shut the door. “I didn’t get the job.”

“Sit. Explain.”

I collapse in the chair behind my desk, and he shoves a coffee into my hands. I take a sip. “Is this a pumpkin spice latte?”

The warm, fuzzy feeling of drinking my favorite beverage disappears when I realize I won’t be getting any pumpkin spice lattes in The Hague.  

“What’s going on?” John takes the seat in front of my desk and settles in for a gab.

If anyone else asked me the question, I’d send them on their way in no uncertain terms. Work hours are not the time to discuss personal situations. Trust me, I’ve tried to send John on his way. With zero success. Every time I shut him down, he puts my work at the bottom of his to-do pile. The sneaky man certainly knows how to get his way.

“They’re sending me away.”

John rolls his eyes. “Stop being melodramatic and tell me what happened in your meeting with Nora.”  

My eyes widen at his words. No one – and I do mean no one – has ever accused me of being melodramatic before. Geez, Avery. Get it together. You got offered a huge promotion. Be thankful.

“You’re looking at the new Head Legal Counsel for the EMEA market.”

“EMEA? As in Europe, Middle East, and Africa?”

“Yep.”

“But Luther is the Head Legal Counsel of the EMEA market.”

“No, Luther is the Head Legal Counsel of North America. I’m taking his position and he’s taking Denis’s place.”

John fast claps with a smile on his face from ear to ear. “Wow. This is exciting. You’re moving to Den Haag! Yeah! You have to take pictures of the criminal court for me.”

“Den what? What are you talking about?”

He purses his lips. “I forgot you don’t watch tv. There’s this great show. It’s a bunch of detectives. They form an international team and chase after—”

I raise my hand to stop him. He’ll go on and on about the show if I let him. It’s not like he can convince me to watch it. I don’t have time for television. Working twelve-hour days doesn’t exactly leave much time for silly things like tv or a love life for that matter.

“As much as I’d love to sit here and chit-chat.” John snorts. He knows the thing I like least in life is chit-chatting. “I have an appointment with a relocation consultant.”

John jumps to his feet. “I am beyond excited. I’m going to search for flights now. If you book early enough in advance, you can get some great deals. You’ll be settled by next summer. I’ll visit then,” he announces before leaving.

Settled by next summer? Summer is nearly a year away. How long will I be banished to Europe? Banished? Talk about being melodramatic. Enough, Avery. This is a promotion, not a demotion or banishment. It isn’t the job I was expecting, but I’ll still give it one-hundred and ten percent.

Can Jasper convince the relationship averse Abby he’s worth the risk? ❤️❤️❤️

The last thing Abby expects when she lands in The Hague for a new job is to run into Jasper. She takes one look at the hot geek and decides it’s time for some sexy times. Sexy times of a non-permanent nature, of course, because Abby doesn’t do relationships. But when their one-night stand has unexpected consequences, Jasper is all in for giving a relationship a try. Can he convince Abby he’s worth the risk?

What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite: 

Chapter 1

Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create them. ~ Scott Adams

I skip as I make my way to my new place of work. Whoa! Skip? Slow your roll, Abby. You don’t want everyone at your new job thinking you’re some kind of country bumpkin, do you? The answer is a definitive N – O!  

I have been hippity hoppity-ing my way all over the world waiting on the perfect position, and I think I have finally found it with Petroix Oil in The Hague in Holland. I know what you’re thinking – an oil company has the perfect position for an environmental engineer specializing in renewable energy? Yeah, right. But it sure is the perfect position.

Petroix has been working on developing renewable energy technology for a few years now and guess who they just hired to lead the team? Points to self. That’s right. Moi! Technically, it’s a temporary position and I’m not an employee – I’m a contractor – but it’s all the same dif. They’re going to love me and beg me to work here by the end of my contract. Trust me on this.

I burst into the building and march my way to the security desk. I don’t make it very far before I hear someone call my name.

“Abigail Diamond?”

Yep, my last name is diamond. When you can choose your own last name, obviously you pick the strongest, naturally occurring material on earth. And diamonds also happen to be way pretty and shiny.

I stop walking and turn to the woman who called my name. “It’s Abby,” I clarify.

Abigail sounds like some old lady, and I am definitely not an old lady. Unless you consider thirty-two old, which I do not. Plus, look at me. I am in no way to be confused with an elderly woman. My long dark hair has streaks of purple in it for gosh sakes. I’m also five-foot-eight. No little old lady to be found here.

To complete the picture, let me also say, I’m way skinny. My small frame serves to accent my perky breasts. Yes, I called my own breasts perky. A woman can be proud of her assets, you know. Especially when said woman has no rear-end to speak of. I also wear glasses and have dark brown eyes. Like, seriously dark. People ask me what my ethnicity is all the time because of my eyes. As if I have a clue who my parents are. Spoiler alert – I don’t.

“I’m Famke. Welcome to Petroix Oil,” the woman says as we shake hands.

I beam a smile her way. “I’m happy to be here.”

I’m not blowing smoke up her ass. I am seriously happy to be here. Fingers crossed my roaming days are behind me and I can settle down in this city along the North Sea.

“If you’ll follow me.”

I won’t bore you with the next hours of my life. I’m bored enough for the both of us. No need to share my torture with you. There are meetings with security for a badge, meetings with Human Resources to go over a shit ton of paperwork, and a final meeting with IT to get me set up with a laptop and phone. Yawn! Told you – boring!

 I am itching to get to work by the time Famke shows me to my office. “It’s probably not what you’re used to,” she says as I look around the room.

Not what I’m used to? What does she think? I’m some self-made millionaire who expects a corner office with a view. I am a self-made millionaire, but I’ve never had a corner office let alone a view. And it’s not like this office is in some dank basement with no windows and a weird smell reminiscent of the time I accidentally found myself in a dumpster.

Yes, it was as horrible as you could expect. No, I didn’t get some weird disease. And, no, it wasn’t entirely on purpose. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

“It’ll do,” I tell Famke. Oh, FYI, Famke is my new assistant. How cool is that? I’ve got my own assistant. I’ll have taken over this company before you know it.

“Do you want to meet your team?”

Told you I’m cool. I have my own team and everything. But it’s not cool if you get too jacked up about how cool you are, so I hold in my giddy laughter and grunt instead. “What I’d really like is some coffee.”

“I’ll get you some.”

I don’t let her leave. It may be cool to have my own assistant, but I’m not that boss. You know the one. The one who makes her assistant get her coffee, do her laundry, and take care of her cat. I don’t have a cat, but you get what I’m saying.

“Lead the way.”

I follow Famke as she walks through a series of tunnels to the breakroom where I nearly fall to my knees at the sight greeting me. As it is, I can’t help myself from hugging the machine.

“It’s a real coffee machine. An honest to goodness bean machine.”

Famke giggles. “Um, yes. The engineers threatened to go on strike if they didn’t get some decent coffee.”

Sounds about right. Engineers cannot work without coffee. Myself included.

“Okay. Show me how this baby works.”

I could probably figure it out for myself, but it would involve me taking the machine apart and putting it back together again, and I don’t think anyone in this department would be happy with me spending several hours fooling around with their coffee machine. But when no one’s around, I’m totally playing with it.

“It’s super easy,” Famke says and goes on to explain how the miracle machine works.

To my disappointment, it is super easy. It obviously needs more functionality. Coffee in hand I start walking back through the tunnels to my office with Famke.

Her phone rings. “I need to take this. Will you be okay walking back on your own?”

I roll my eyes. This girl has been on her own most of her life. Of course, I can make it by myself to my office. I might take a few wrong turns, but I need to do some reconnaissance on the place anyway.

I whistle as I walk through the hallways peeking into everyone’s offices as I go. Hardly anyone notices me. No, this building is full of good little engineers with their eyes glued to their computers. I’m liking this place more and more.

I spot a tall man walking toward me. Since I’m five-eight, I love me a tall man. This one has dark, curly hair, strong cheekbones, and a square jaw. Hubba hubba. He’s also wearing black nerd glasses and a t-shirt with the words What part don’t you understand? on it with a schematic. And I thought this day couldn’t get any better.

He doesn’t look up as I walk toward him. No, he’s too busy playing with his phone. I clear my throat. “Ahem.” But he doesn’t notice. I try again. “Ahem!” I sound like I’m coughing up a fur ball from that cat I don’t have, but he still doesn’t notice me.

In fact, he walks right into me, and my coffee spills all down my front. He doesn’t even look up after it happens. What. The. Actual. Hell? I watch him walk away for a second before I remember I have a voice and I know how to use it.

“Hey, asshat! In what world is it okay to run into a woman, make her spill her drink all over herself, and then walk away without even bothering to mumble an apology? Spoiler alert – in no world is it okay.”  

The man flinches and his phone clatters to the ground. I cringe, but the phone appears to be fine. It has one of those bumpers on it for clumsy kids. The man picks up his phone before spinning around and facing me. His eyes widen when he sees how my white t-shirt is now covered in black coffee.

Het spijt me.”

Um, what? I know I took this job in Holland where Dutch is the native language, but the person who recruited me swore up and down everyone speaks English. I ended up promising to take a Dutch course, but it’s my first day. No one can expect me to understand the language yet. Come on, I’m a genius, not some savant language whisperer.

“I’m sorry,” the man says in English this time. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” I’ve got a few t-shirts in my work bag as this kind of thing tends to happen to me a lot. No, I’m not a klutz. I’m a driven woman who doesn’t always have time to pay attention to silly things like walls and doors.

“Do you work here?” I ask when he merely stands there staring at me.

“Um, yes. I’m Jasper.” He steps closer and holds out his hand.

I study him as we shake hands. I was not wrong about his good looks. He’s even better looking up close. Yowza! Me want to take a ride on the Jasper train.

“I’m Abby. It’s my first day.”

His eyes light with recognition. “You’re the new project manager of the clean energy department.”

I bow. “In person.”

“I’m in the mechanical engineering department. We work closely with your group. I’m sure I’ll see you around.” His phone pings, and he looks down. “Oops! I’m late to a meeting. Sorry about your t-shirt.”

He waves and walks off without a backward glance. Do I not rate a backward glance? Shit. Way to make a girl feel like she’s worthless. Nope. I’m not worthless. He must be married. Yep, there’s no other explanation possible. He’s married.

 

Can the silver fox convince the single mother to give him a chance? ❤️❤️❤️

FINALLY! Max is getting his love story. Are you ready for a silver fox to find love? Spoiler alert: Faith is not ready for Max to find love. No, she thinks he should stop butting his nose in her business. I wonder who’s going to win this battle of wills 😉

What’s that? You need more before you can make up your mind? I aim to please! Here’s the first chapter to whet your appetite: 

Chapter 1

Parenting was much easier when I was hypothetically raising my non-existent son.

“I don’t want to go,” Ollie says in that whiny voice teenagers around the world have perfected.

I nearly snap at him. Oh boy, do I want to snap at him. But a good mother does not snap at her son, and I do try to be a good mother. Instead, I take a deep breath and find my inner calm before responding.

“And I didn’t want to give up all my friends and my job to move to Milwaukee, but here we are.” I guess I didn’t find my inner calm after all.

Ollie comes to a screeching halt. Or as much of a screeching halt as a lanky, hasn’t grown into his long limbs yet, fifteen-year-old can come to. “I’m sorry, Ma. I didn’t mean for you to lose everything and move us here. I was only trying to help.”

Sigh. Oliver Benjamin Bakker is always ‘only trying to help’. But how can I berate him for having the biggest heart in the world? I can’t, is how. I don’t understand how I and my jerk of an ex-husband, Silas, created the most perfect creature in the world, which is exactly what this boy with puppy dog brown eyes, shaggy brown hair, and freckles galore is, but we did.

“Stop it, Ma.”

“Stop what?” What am I doing wrong now?

He bumps my shoulder. “You know what. The whole mushy look you get on your face right before you try to hug me to death.”

“Me? Hug you to death?” I mock before I throw my arms around him and try to do that very thing he hates.

“Ma, we’re in public.” He may complain, but he does wrap his arms around me and squeezes me back. My boy may be fifteen, but he’s not afraid to show his mom a little love. This right here is why I work two jobs and run around playing taxi for him.

“Can we go inside now?”

“I thought you didn’t want to go,” I tease as I release him from my hug of death.

He scoffs. “Even seeing your boss and all his weirdo friends is better than getting mauled to death in a parking lot.”

To say my son is not a fan of my boss is a vast understatement. It’s a shame since my boss at McGraw’s Pub, where I’m currently working as a cleaner, is a sweetheart. Unfortunately, he calls all the women in his life darling, which my boy takes offense to. Ollie’s convinced my boss, aka Pops, is hitting on me all the time. As if I have time for a relationship.

“You ready?” I ask as I grasp the handle to the door of the pub.

The pub is closed to the public tonight so we can celebrate Suzie and Grayson’s surprise wedding. Suzie is the best friend of Pops’ daughter, Hailey. She and Grayson eloped this weekend to Las Vegas. Actually, Suzie didn’t know what Grayson had planned. The two weren’t engaged as far as I know, but he swept her off to Vegas for Labor Day weekend where he ambushed her with a completely planned wedding. Only a former soldier could possibly plan and execute a romantic elopement without crazy girl Suzie catching on.

“You’re doing it again,” Ollie whines.

“What?”

“Getting the mushy look on your face. Do you need another hug?” he asks despite his nose scrunching in distaste. I should probably hug him to tease him. Lucky for him, there’s no time as some of Suzie’s friends have arrived and are waiting to enter behind us.

“Hi, Faith!” Phoebe smiles in greeting. As usual, the woman looks like she just stepped off the runway in Paris. You would never guess she’s a private investigator at the PI firm Hailey and Suzie own together. I look at her wrap dress and high heels, and then down at the black slacks and blouse I’m wearing. I fiddle with the hem of my blouse. It’s one of my nicest, satin with a plunging neckline, but should I have worn a skirt?

“I love this shirt.” Phoebe fingers the sleeve of my blouse. “It looks great on your figure. I can’t wear a plunging neckline without worrying about giving people an unintended peep show.” She motions to her more than abundant breasts. Lucky her. I was apparently last in line when they were handing out curves.   

Her fiancé, Ryker, puts his arm around her shoulders and tugs her near. “You look beautiful, Princess,” he whispers before kissing her forehead. She practically melts into his side.

It’s not hard to imagine Ryker is a big, badass bounty hunter. He’s at least six and a half feet tall and is built like a Mack truck. His entire body telegraphs menace. If it weren’t for the soft looks he shares with Phoebe, I’d be more than a little apprehensive of the man.

Behind them, Ollie feigns gagging at their display of affection. I roll my eyes at him, but secretly I’m relieved he’s not obsessed with girls yet. I know the phase will come when girls and teenage hormones will overtake him. And I’m not looking forward to the day.

“Pops is going to love this top,” Phoebe says with a wink as she strolls past us into the pub.

I ignore her comment. Pops’ daughter and all her friends have been pushing Pops and me together since my first day of work cleaning at the pub. No thanks. One teenage boy at a time is enough for me. Never mind how my skin erupts in goosebumps every time his bright blue eyes gaze at me.

“Come on.” I motion for Ollie to proceed me into the pub. “Let’s get this over with.”

Although we’re one of the last to arrive, the pub isn’t overly crowded when we walk in. Suzie and Grayson are standing in the middle of the room next to a table of gifts. Two older couples are standing with them. This must be the parents. Judging by the screeching, someone’s mom is not happy they eloped.

At a table to the right, Suzie’s uncles are congregating. Actually, Lenny, Barney, Wally, and Sid aren’t her uncles. In fact, they’re no one’s uncles as far as I can figure. From what I’ve gathered, the four men are former Army buddies of Pops who helped raise Hailey after her mom took off.

Pops is in his usual position behind the bar. He looks up as we walk in and aims a smile our way. “Spitfire, you made it.”

I nearly turn into a puddle of goo when he calls me spitfire. I know it’s stupid. I’m a forty-five-year old woman, I shouldn’t be going all gooey over a man calling me spitfire – especially not my boss. But he calls every other woman in the world darling. Not me. For me, he has a special nickname. Having a man who looks like Pops direct his attention my way causes parts of my body I thought had died off from lack of attention to wake up.    

If you look silver fox up in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Pops. His hair may be silver, but it looks lush and soft. I can’t help but wonder what it would feel like if I ran my hands through it. His gray-tinged beard makes him look distinguished even in his standard uniform of jeans and a t-shirt with the logo for McGraw’s Pub on it. The t-shirt is stretched to the max over his shoulders and biceps. He may be in his mid-fifties, but he hasn’t let his tall physique go. My fingers itch to touch those hard muscles. But it’s his eyes that ensnare me. They’re bright blue and when he looks at you, you feel like you’re the only person in the world who exists for him.

I wave. “Hi!” Great. I sound like a total dork.

“Faith!” Suzie calls and draws my attention away from the silver fox.

The red-headed firecracker rushes to me and throws her arms around me. Or, I should say, she tries to throw her arms around me. I may not be tall at five-six, but Suzie barely passes the five-foot mark. I’m not sure why she’s clinging to me, though, it’s not like we’re close friends.

“Save me,” she whispers.

“In-law or parents?” I ask. I have some experience with judgmental in-laws. According to them, it’s all my fault Silas left me and my son. As if there’s ever an excuse to leave your child.

“Parents,” Suzie whispers. “My in-laws are the bomb.”

“Lucky you,” I mutter before clearing my throat. “I have a present for you.” And the dorkiness continues. Of course, I have a present for her. It’s her party.

“Grayson,” Suzie shouts and waves her brand-new husband over. “Come here.”

He grins at the two sets of parents before sauntering our way. He may only be an inch or two taller than me, but his broad physique screams soldier who can take care of business.

“Now I know where your crazy comes from,” he says as he takes Suzie’s hand in his.

She huffs. “Who are you calling crazy?”

Grayson opens his mouth, but I lift the gift bag and shove it in their faces before he can insert his foot. “Happy marriage!”

Suzie bounces on her toes and snatches the bag from me. “Thank you!”

“It’s no big deal.”

Despite working two jobs, I’m not exactly flush with cash. Things would be much easier if I could find a job as a paralegal. But law firms do background checks on their employees, and I can’t chance my name popping up on someone’s computer. Thus, a cleaning job and a filing job. Together I’m earning barely half of what my previous paralegal position paid.

Suzie removes the gift from the bag and her eyes widen. “These are way cool. Thank you!” She shoves the mugs at Grayson and hugs me again.

I pat her back. “Um, you’re welcome.”

When she releases me, it’s Grayson’s turn. “Awesome gift, Faith. Thanks.”

“It’s nothing.” I had two beer mugs engraved with the logo of Suzie’s microbrewery – Shorty’s Brewing Sensation. On top of owning the private investigator business with Hailey, Suzie brews beer. In fact, her beer is becoming quite popular with the local bars.

“Oh wow.” Hailey joins us and takes one of the mugs from Suzie’s hands. “These are cool. I wish I had thought of this.”

Hailey’s husband, Aiden, steps up behind her. “You want me to take our gift back?”

Hailey and Aiden look like they stepped off the pages of a high school yearbook. He’s the quintessential quarterback with his tall, fit body. While Hailey resembles the head cheerleader with her long, dancer body. Looks can be deceiving, though. He’s now a police detective, she’s a private investigator. From what I hear, they re-connected while Hailey was on a case and Aiden caught her snooping where she shouldn’t have been.   

Suzie slaps Aiden’s chest. “No take backs, mister.”

I try to tamp down my jealousy as I watch the friends interact. It’s not their fault I had to abandon my friends when Ollie and I fled to Milwaukee. The police advised I cut all contact with them after we settled in, and, except for my best friend Valerie who I keep in touch with via social media, I’ve been a good girl and listened to their advice. I can only hope the people Ollie pissed off aren’t sophisticated enough to hack into my social media accounts.

I excuse myself and head toward the restrooms. I need a moment to myself before I let my jealousy consume me. When I exit the restroom, Pops is waiting on me.

He steps toward me with a predatory gleam in his eyes, and I freeze. His hand lifts, and he tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. I inhale and his crispy, woodsy scent fills my lungs. I want to roll around in it.

“Thanks for coming, Spitfire.”

His breath on my skin causes my hormones to go wild. Calm down, hormones. I’m not a lovesick teenager. My hormones don’t care. My belly warms, and my breasts swell. Uh oh. Danger. I step back, but there’s nowhere to go. I’m cornered in the hallway with my back up against the wall – literally.

“Of course, we came, Pops,” I manage to say without sounding too breathy.

He growls. “You don’t call me Pops.”

I wrinkle my brow in confusion. “But everyone calls you Pops.” Oh shit. I slap my palm against my forehead when I realize what I’ve done wrong. He’s my boss. Of course, I shouldn’t act familiar with him. “I’m sorry, Mr. McGraw.”

His growl intensifies, and he takes a step closer until his chest is barely an inch from mine. My fingers itch to touch him, and I’m tempted to arch my back and rub my breasts against him. What is wrong with me? I’m not a hussy. Hell, since my ex Silas left, I’ve barely dated let alone touched a man. Why is this one causing me to act like someone I am most definitely not?  

“I am not Mr. McGraw or Pops to you. You call me Max.”

“M-m-max?” I hate how my voice stutters, but I can’t catch my breath when he’s this close.

“Or darling or sweetheart or baby. I’ll answer to any of those names as long as you’re the one doing the calling.”

My eyes widen. “I thought we agreed we weren’t going to date.” Because, despite what I told Ollie, Pops has asked me out. I’m not exactly lying to my son. Asking someone out is not the same thing as hitting on them. I am a master at treading a fine line between the truth and a lie.

It’s a non-issue anyway. I’m not stupid. I’m not dating my boss. Besides, I’m in Milwaukee temporarily.  

“Fair warning. I’m done waiting.”

“Ma!” Ollie shouts, and I tear my eyes away from Max’s blue gaze. “What are you doing?”

Lord save me from fifteen-year-old sons. “I’m fine. I’ll be there in a minute.”

He glares at Max who returns his glare with one of his own. While he’s distracted, I shove him and catch him enough off guard that I’m able to duck under his arm.

“I’m ready to go,” I tell Ollie, although we arrived less than an hour ago.

Before I can make my escape, Max yells, “See you tomorrow, Spitfire.” As if I need the reminder.  

What happens when the knitters accuse the wrong person of murder?

Silly question. Of course, they ‘apologize’ by solving the murder themselves!

It’s release day! Yeah! Hold the Coffee is on sale now for just 99 pennies. Seriously, you can’t buy anything for 99 pennies anymore. Wrong! You can buy Hold the Coffee for that much and then you’ll have something to read tonight when you’re exhausted from a week of working at home. Here’s the link.

Want me to whet your appetite before you go one-clicking? Not a problem. Here’s the first chapter for your reading enjoyment.

Chapter 1

Eavesdropping – listening in on a conversation when you should darn well know better

I collapse on the sofa next to my best friend Jack. “Tired, Izzy?”

I snort. Tired? I’m not tired. I’m exhausted. No, I’m beyond exhausted. Having a baby who’s teething will do that to a person. Especially when said person has a husband who is a police detective working on a big case, which is keeping him out at all hours of the day and night.        

I want to crawl into bed and sleep for a year, maybe two. But there’s no chance of getting any rest today. A group of my late grandma’s knitting friends are here for their knitting get-together, although not a whole lot of knitting gets done if you ask me. Gossiping and eating? Those get accomplished in spades. Knitting? Not so much.

The grandma gang meets every Sunday and once a month it’s my turn to host the meeting at my house, also known as my late grandma Anna’s place. Technically Anna wasn’t my grandmother. She was my former husband’s grandma, but I claimed her as mine.

“What case is Noel working on?” Betty asks.

I have no idea. My husband Noel refuses to tell me what cases he’s working on. Part of the reason he won’t talk about his work with me is these ladies. In addition to being world-class knitters, they are nosy as all get out and fancy themselves sleuths. He gets a bit touchy when they stick their noses into police business.

The knitters – Betty, Rosemary, Martha, Rose, and Ally – even came up with a name for their group – The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives. It sounds crazy, but they’re extremely proud of their ‘sleuth prowess’. In fact, they claim they recently solved the murder of their friend Bernadette. Never mind I, not them, was the one in the room when the confession happened.

Rosemary stops knitting to sigh in my direction. “I remember those sleepless nights with a crying baby like they were yesterday.” She smiles at her granddaughter, Dee. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. You won’t have to do it all alone. When Tommy’s on shift at the fire station, I’ll spend the night and help you out.”

“Dee’s pregnant?” Betty screams. Although, with her hearing failing, she’s almost always screaming lately.

Dee holds up her hands. “I am not pregnant. I just got engaged for gosh sakes.”

Betty’s lips purse. “You got engaged months ago. When’s the wedding?”

I giggle as Dee stares at the ceiling as if asking for guidance. Good luck finding guidance from the knitters there. I’ve been searching up there for years without success.

Her fiancé Tommy wraps his arm around her. “I wouldn’t mind having a baby.”

Dee’s eyes bug out of her head before she slaps his chest. Since his chest is the equivalent of hard granite, the only affect her slap has is to make her wince in pain. “Do not give them any fuel for the fire. Don’t you know better by now?”

Tommy knows better all right. But he also knows the sole way he’s going to push Dee into marrying him some time this decade is if the knitters are on the case. Dee is a bit gun shy. After her first marriage ended in murder, I can’t blame her.

Tommy shrugs all nonchalant like, but I can see the gleam in his eyes. He knows exactly what he’s doing. “All I’m saying is I want to have a baby with you. Preferably before I’m old and gray.” He mumbles the last part, but we all hear him.

“I need time to plan the wedding and I’m not having a baby until we’re married.”

I have to cover my mouth to stop my laughter from exploding out of me. She said the wrong thing in front of the wrong people.

“Ladies, needles down,” Betty commands. She fancies herself the leader of the group. The other ladies humor her because she’s a bit scary. She’s also pretty good at managing this gaggle of women.

“I’ll take point,” she starts as the ladies focus their attention on her.

Take point? I mouth at Jack. I guess she’s seen all of the Murder, She Wrote re-runs and has moved onto Criminal Minds.

“You can’t be point. Delilah is my granddaughter. If anyone is going to be in charge of planning her wedding, it’s going to be me.” Rosemary crosses her arms over her chest and harrumphs.

Dee raises her hand. “It’s my wedding. Maybe I should be in charge?”

Betty grunts. “You had your chance. Too late.”

“No, no, no. I should be in charge. I’m the town’s matchmaker. It makes sense if I plan the wedding as well,” Martha chimes in.

She does indeed fancy herself the town’s matchmaker. Never mind she’s never actually successfully matched anyone. She actually set Jack up on a date with Tommy. The same Tommy who is in love with Dee.

Dee opens her mouth to answer Martha, but the door bangs open and Rose rushes inside. Between gasps for breath, she manages to tell us, “He’s dead. I can’t believe he’s dead.”

I stand and take her elbow to help her to a seat. “Let me get you some water.”

By the time I fill a glass with water and return, Rose is surrounded by her knitting friends. While Rosemary, Martha, and Ally appear concerned, Betty’s eyes are twinkling with excitement. I push them out of my way.

“Let her breathe.” I hand her the glass of water. “Take your time. I can hold off the old ladies, no problem.” I wink.

“Who are you calling old, young lady?” Betty scowls at me.

I’m forty-one years old. Young, I am not. But I am smart enough to know saying the o-as in old-word in front of the knitters is a surefire way to move their attention off Rose and onto me.

Rose tugs on my shirt. “It’s okay, Izzy.”

I study her face to make sure she is indeed okay before moving out of the way. The knitters descend upon her once again.

“What’s going on? Who’s dead?”

“Is it murder?”

Betty rubs her hands together. “Goodie. Things were getting a bit dull around here.”

Dull around here? It’s been mere weeks since their last ‘case’. How much excitement do they need?

“Totally dull. Come on, Rose darling, bring some sparkle into our lives.” Jack presses his hands together and bats his eyelashes in her direction.

“I didn’t say anything about murder,” Rose protests.

I chuckle. These ladies have the penchant to turn any death into murder. Starting with my grandmother who supposedly died peacefully in her sleep. She was murdered, claimed the knitting ladies. To my utter surprise, they were right.

Betty takes a seat at the dining room table and motions for the other ladies to take their places. Once everyone is settled, she pulls a pen and one of those little spiral bound notebooks detectives carry out of her pocket. Oh boy. Does she carry one of those with her everywhere now?

She taps the notebook with her pen. “Start at the beginning.”

“The beginning? There is no beginning. This isn’t a story.”

Martha grunts. “How disappointing.” She stands. “I need to get back to my knitting project.”

“Sit!” Betty barks and Martha drops into her chair. “Let’s hear what Rose has to say before we dismiss the situation.”

“Clifford is dead.”

“Clifford?” I ask. I’m sure I know whoever it is. It’s hard not to know everyone when you live in a small town, but my mind is coming up blank. I blame Colt. Babies have a way of making you forget your own name.

“Clifford Simmons. He ushers at church.”

Betty grunts. “How the man ever became an usher in church is beyond me.”

“What do you mean?”

“He is not a good Christian.” Betty’s lips purse in obvious disapproval.  

She doesn’t say anything more about him. Of course, now I’m curious. In Betty’s book, ‘not a good Christian’ can mean anything from wearing wrinkled pants to church to being a complete and total scoundrel.

“What happened?” Jack is practically bouncing on his toes.

He loves the adventures of the so-called knitting detectives. He thinks they’re a hoot. I don’t necessarily disagree, but someone needs to make sure they don’t go completely off the rails. Mayhem will ensue if that happens.

“I’m not sure. I was walking back to the administration offices after taking a break with Milly when Ezra came running out of my office screaming Clifford was having a heart attack.” Rose swallows before continuing, “By the time I made it back there, it was too late.”

“This is disappointing,” Betty grumbles. “A heart attack isn’t murder.”

“Not necessarily,” Ally says, and all eyes focus on her.

“What do you mean?” I barely dare to ask, but I’m too curious not to. Besides, if I don’t ask, one of the gray-haired crew will.

“I heard Milly talking the other day,” she whispers. My eyes widen. Unlike the rest of this nosy crew, Ally isn’t usually an eavesdropper.

“And? Don’t keep us in suspense.” Betty isn’t known for her patience.

“Milly said she was going to kill Clifford. And she would do it in such a way no one would know what happened.”

“Excellent.” Betty scribbles away on her notepad. “We’ll start with Milly as a suspect then.”

“A suspect in what?” Noel asks as he joins our group. He kisses my forehead in greeting before focusing his attention on Betty.

“Never you mind.”

He crosses his arms over his chest and glares down at her. “Try again.”

“Betty thinks Clifford Simmons was murdered because Ally overheard Milly saying she was going to kill him,” Rose explains and Betty frowns at her.

Noel scratches his head. “Clifford? He died of a heart attack at the church today, didn’t he?” He doesn’t wait for a response before continuing, “There’s no foul play suspected.”

“Because they don’t know about Milly’s statement,” Betty says. Her voice making it clear she doesn’t think much of the local police department.

Noel rubs a hand over his beard. “The autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow. I’ll ask around.”

Betty claps. “Okay, ladies. I think we’ve overstayed our welcome.”

I smirk. They haven’t overstayed their welcome. They want to discuss the ‘case’ more out of Noel’s presence. When Jack winks and follows them out the door, I know I’m right. He motions he’ll call me later. Yep. They are definitely off to come up with another one of their hare-brained schemes.

“At least everyone’s attention is no longer on my wedding,” Dee whispers as she hugs me good-bye. I don’t say anything, but she’s wrong if she thinks her grandma isn’t going to be all up in her business planning her wedding. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet. After all, it’s been weeks since the proposal. Personally, I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Continue reading Hold the Coffee

Can a bunch of gray-haired knitters solve a murder?

The gray-haired knitting detectives are back! Oops. They’d like me to let you know they never went anyway. They claim I neglected them. Hmm… No comment.

What are those knitters up to now? The craft store burned down with the owner Bernadette inside. The police claim it was an accident since Bernadette was smoking. No way, say the knitters! Bernadette was not a smoker. It’s time for them to solve this mystery themselves.

Curious? Here’s an extended excerpt to whet your appetite!

Chapter 1

It’s not kidnapping if we give him back.

“Can I have my baby back now, please?” I ask politely despite my toe tapping in impatience. The knitting ladies are always stealing my baby to cuddle him. They don’t even mind if he spoils his diaper. They’re ‘happy to help’. Their words, not mine.

“But Colt wants to spend time with his grandma, doesn’t he?” Betty rubs her nose against his and he coos in delight.  

Betty isn’t actually Colt’s grandma. She’s not related to me or my husband. No, she and her knitting crew of friends adopted me when my grandma died. Except Grandma didn’t die, she was murdered. And Anna wasn’t really my grandma, she was my late husband’s grandma. It’s a complicated and long story.

Suffice it to say, Betty, Rosemary, Martha, Rose, and Ally – aka the knitting crew – now consider themselves my grandma as well as my baby’s grandma. I should be excited they all consider themselves grandmas to my baby – especially since I have no contact with my own mother – but I’m not. Not when they never give me a chance to cuddle him.

My husband, Noel joins us and plants a kiss on my hair. “Betty steal our baby again?” He doesn’t bother waiting for a reply. He walks over to her, and she readily hands Colt over to him.

I growl. “Why are you willing to give him the baby but not me?”

“Because everyone knows a man holding a baby is a dish.” She winks.

I roll my eyes. She’s right. Noel is hot as all get out holding Colt. The man is the very definition of tall, dark, and handsome, but the woman is in her eighties for gosh sakes.

“If I’m your granddaughter, then isn’t he your grandson?”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t look!” A round of uh-huhs greets her announcement.

“They’re not wrong,” my best friend, Jack says as he throws his arm around me. He makes an exaggerated sigh as he watches Noel cradle Colt in his arms. 

I slap his chest. “You have your own man. You remember Damien, don’t you? Stop staring at mine.”

“But mine’s not here. I need something pretty to feast my eyes on, Iz.” He pouts.

I resist the temptation to roll my eyes again and duck under his arm as I head for the kitchen. When my grandmother lived in this house, the knitting crew met here once a month for an afternoon of knitting. I’ve carried on the tradition. I didn’t think my nod to tradition was an excuse for them to continually steal my baby. I was wrong.   

“Where’s Damien?” I ask Jack as I open the oven to check on the meatloaf. It smells delicious and my stomach growls. Too bad I’m on a diet since I’ve yet to lose the weight from having Colt. Poor me.

“He’s visiting his family today. He’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Why didn’t you go with him?”

Jack places a hand over his heart and widens his eyes. “And miss an afternoon with my favorite gaggle of knitters?” He flutters his lashes. “Never.”

I shove the pile of plates into his hands. “Here. Make yourself useful at least.” 

While Jack sets the table, I prepare the food. In addition to the meatloaf, there’s scalloped potatoes, green beans, and for me a boring salad of lettuce leaves and carrots.

There’s a knock on the door before it opens. “We’re here,” Tommy yells as he and Dee appear in the dining room.  

Dee is the knitter Rosemary’s granddaughter. She moved back to town last year when she left her husband. Her husband wasn’t happy about her leaving and followed her back. Then, he ended up dead – murdered, in fact. The police immediately pointed the finger at Dee. The knitting crew – who dubbed themselves the gray-haired knitting detectives – jumped at the chance to clear her name and find the real killer. They fancy themselves amateur detectives.

“I was about to call you. Why are you late?”

Dee ducks her head but not before I see the blush spread across her cheeks. “No reason,” she mumbles.

Tommy smirks and pulls her close, making it painfully obvious why they’re late.

Rosemary pushes her way through the knitters to reach her granddaughter. She pulls her into a hug. “Glad you could make it, Delilah.” She releases her and grabs her hands for a squeeze.

“And?” Betty asks.

I’m confused. And what?

Rosemary’s lips turn down in a frown. “No engagement ring.”  

Dee snatches her hands back. “I can’t believe you, Grandma!”

Rose pulls a notebook out of her bag. “We’re going to have to re-do the chart. No one had longer than six months.”

While I was busy giving birth to Colt, Tommy got down on one knee at the hospital. Except he didn’t ask Dee for her hand in marriage. He gave her a promise ring instead. A gorgeous ruby, but not a diamond. Naturally, the knitters used the occasion to start a betting pool. The women are shameless gambling addicts.

Martha looks Tommy up and down before shaking her head at him. “I’m disappointed in you.”

Martha fancies herself a matchmaker. Never mind she first set Tommy up with Jack as she thought he was gay. She claims she knew Tommy wasn’t gay, but she was trying to push him. Yeah, right. Can you say world’s worst matchmaker?  

“I’ll take eight months,” Jack shouts and pulls out his wallet. Dee’s mouth drops open as she stares at him. He winks. “Nothing personal, darling, but daddy has his eye on a new coat.”

As if Jack needs the money from a bet to buy a new coat. The man owns a successful business downtown. Fabulous, Darling is a clothing store catering to cross-dressers and big and beautiful women. It sounds like an odd combination, but it works.

Noel returns holding a freshly diapered Colt. I open my arms for my baby. Ally gets there before me. She snatches the baby from my husband and then walks away as if she didn’t just commit a kidnapping.  

“I’m going to seriously stop hosting your knitting gatherings if you ladies don’t stop kidnapping my baby,” I grumble.

“It’s one afternoon a month, Izzy,” Betty points out. “You get him for the rest of the month.”

If only that were true. The ladies are always stopping by to get some extra cuddle time with Colt. It’s sweet, but Colt won’t be a baby forever. I don’t want to miss out on any cuddles especially since he won’t be getting any brothers or sisters.

Since I was over forty when Colt was born, Noel put his foot down after the birth. He doesn’t want us to try for more children as there are all kinds of risks with an older mom. I’m fine with sticking to one child, but I do want the chance to enjoy my one child.  

“Now, stop your grumping and sit down,” Betty orders. She fancies herself the leader of the knitting ladies. She says leader, I say tyrant.

We take our seats at the dining room table and I watch as everyone fills their plates with food I refuse to eat. I concentrate on my salad. My incredibly sad looking salad.

“Why are you eating rabbit food?” Jack asks as he stuffs an obnoxiously sized slice of meatloaf into his mouth.

I glare at him. He knows perfectly well I’m on a diet to lose those last ten pounds from giving birth to Colt. He also knows the knitters and my husband think I’m being ridiculous. While Noel keeps his mouth shut – he’s not a stupid man after all – the ladies do not. They will needle me and needle me until I give in and eat half the meatloaf. Pun intended.

Time to change the subject. “How is Sam the Ram coming along, Ally?”

Ally is knitting Colt a stuffed sheep as my son can’t get enough of his stuffed animals. I feel bad because the pattern is quite difficult. You need to work with multiple cable charts, shaping and finishing techniques. Confession – I have no idea what any of those words mean except to say it’s a complicated design.

Ally grins, although she hates being the center of attention. It’s hard to believe, but she’s maintained her timid demeanor despite being friends with this group of knitting hooligans.

“It’s going well, but I’m nearly out of cream wool.”

“Which means it’s time for a trip to Bernadette’s,” Betty says.

“Who’s Bernadette?” Dee asks.

“Bernadette owns the craft store, The Craft Nook, downtown. I’m sure you’ve met her before. She attends our church,” Rosemary explains.

Martha rubs her hands together. “I met a widower I think would make the perfect match for Bernadette.”

Poor Bernadette. Knowing Martha, the widower is not anywhere close to a good match, let alone the perfect match.

“Bernadette has no interest in a new husband,” Betty points out.

“She’ll change her tune when she meets Ken.”

Betty purses her lips. “You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“Just because you don’t want a new husband doesn’t mean no one else does,” Martha argues.  

Before I have a chance to stop the ladies from getting into a full-blown argument, Colt decides he’s done not being the center of attention. He grabs a fistful of his mashed banana and throws it at me. The gooey substance lands on my chest before gliding down into the front of my t-shirt. Blech. Slimy.   

The knitters oh and ah as if he’s adorable. I have mashed banana dripping into my bra, but no one pays me one lick of attention. I guess I know how important I am to them.    

Release & Peek into A Soldier for Suzie

It’s time to welcome Suzie and Grayson’s love story into the world! Are you ready for a former soldier and a klutzy girl to fall in love? Warning! It’s not a smooth ride, but where’s the fun in a smooth ride? Smooth rides are for driving in Istanbul traffic, not love stories. Any hoo – who’s ready for Suzie’s story? Click on the cover now or scroll down and read the first chapter.

Chapter 1

Stop trying to make everyone happy. You’re not beer.

“You Cheat, We Eat, Suzie speaking. How can we make your life better today?” I answer the phone with a cheery voice despite feeling nowhere near cheery.

“Um… my husband’s cheating on me,” whispers the voice on the telephone.

Lucky for her. Cheating husbands is our specialty. “We are here to help, Mrs. …”  

“Tyler,” she fills in.

“Mrs. Tyler, can you tell me why you think your husband is cheating?”

After some hiccups by clients who were – to put it mildly – bat shit crazy, my partner Hailey insists I get details before scheduling an appointment with a prospective client for our PI business. In my defense, how could I have possibly known there are cat owners in this world who want to approve their cats’ lovers? Or people who think a dentist can put a listening device in their crown?

“You see…” she trails off.

This is where my past comes in handy. I know exactly how she’s feeling, because – in my unfortunate experience – men are the scum of the earth.

“Take a deep breath, Mrs. Tyler.” I hear her inhale. “And let it out slowly. There you go,” I coax. “Now, tell me what Mr. Tyler did.”

 She clears her throat. “It’s like this. I was snooping through his things before Christmas because I don’t like surprises.” She’s preaching to the choir. Surprises suck.

“And I found this gorgeous necklace. It was a chunky gold chain with a heart pendant. The pendant even had a ruby in it.”

“Sounds nice,” I murmur when she goes quiet.

“Yes, it was lovely. I was very excited. My husband never buys me jewelry. I couldn’t wait until Christmas day. Imagine my surprise when I got some stupid CDs instead. He must have given the necklace to some other women!” she screeches, and I hold the telephone away from my ear. Ouch. “I bet it was his secretary. She’s this pretty young twenty-something while I’m the frumpy mother of his children.”

I wait until she runs out of steam to ask, “Mrs. Tyler, you do realize you’ve told me the plot to Love, Actually?”  

“And? It could have happened to me, too!”

Could have? Oh great, another nut job. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Tyler, but I don’t believe we can be of any assistance to you.” I hang up the phone before she has a chance to start screeching again. There’s a limit to how much screeching my ears can take, and the limit has been met and exceeded.  

The door opens and Hailey walks in with her dogs, Leroy and Lola, trotting behind her.

“Please tell me you walked Leroy first.” He’s a puppy and has a tendency to pee everywhere, although he prefers to pee on the corner of Phoebe’s desk. There is a slight chance I squirted some potty-training spray on her desk. 

I couldn’t help myself. Phoebe is this super uptight rich girl. Watching her shriek when Leroy pees is the highlight of my week. Of course, Phoebe is no longer uptight. Nope. Since she nabbed herself a man, aka Ryker the smoking hot bounty hunter, she’s changed.

Hailey rolls her eyes. “Of course, I walked him.”

Hailey and Phoebe are the private investigators at the PI firm You Cheat, We Eat that Hailey and I started together. As you can probably tell from the name, we specialize in catching cheating husbands in the act. Although, since Phoebe joined us, we’ve added a bunch of insurance fraud cases to our docket, too.

I am not a PI. No, I’m the person who holds the whole business together. I do the accounting, invoicing, filing, all the boring administrative stuff. I wouldn’t mind going out on a case or two, but Hailey says I’m not inconspicuous. She’s just jealous my awesomeness cannot be disguised.

The door opens again and Phoebe strolls in. Lola whines and jumps toward her, but Hailey holds fast to her leash.

“No, Lola. It’s not nice to hump our friends,” Hailey admonishes her dog.

“I don’t know. Some friends are nice to hump.”

Hailey’s ears perk up at my comment and she settles herself at one of the chairs in front of my desk. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts rubbing her hands in glee. Ugh. Hailey is my best friend from forever. She knows better than to push me on my dating life.

Dating life? What dating life? I don’t date. I have fun and move on. I have my reasons. And she was there to witness my reasons come to life.

But since Hailey got engaged to her high school crush, Aiden, she sees love and romance every fricking where. It’s annoying as all get out. She’s also happy and cheerful constantly. Blech. I shouldn’t begrudge my friend her happiness, but sometimes I am the teeniest bit jealous. Because I will never have a man who loves me and wants to marry me. Not a chance. I’ve learned my lesson. Men and relationships are not for me.

Phoebe takes the chair next to Hailey. Great. Another in love woman who sees hearts and butterflies wherever she looks. Her big, bad bounty hunter proposed to her on Christmas morning. Although I was the one who pushed her to get together with Ryker, I still can’t believe she gave him a second chance, let alone said yes to his proposal.  

“Speaking of humping friends, are there any particular friends you’re humping now, Suzie?” Hailey wiggles her eyebrows.

She’s referring to my friend Grayson who, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, she thinks I’m interested in. But I am not talking to her about my relationship with Grayson, which is one-hundred percent platonic if you must know. I look around for a distraction. I notice Leroy slinking off toward Phoebe’s office. Perfect!

“Leroy,” I shout and jump up to rush after him. “No peeing!”

I trip over the strap of my bag laying on the floor – of course, I do! – and end up flat on my back. Hailey and Phoebe bend over the desk to check out the train wreck that is Suzie and walking.  

“Are you okay?” Phoebe asks.

Yes, I’m okay. I’m a bit of a klutz. I trip on my own two feet more times in one day than I can count. But if I say I’m fine, there’s a chance the girls resume their interrogation of my non-existent love life. Not on my watch, they aren’t.

“Ow.” I scrunch my nose and rub the back of my head. “My head hurts.”

Hailey rolls her eyes. “You didn’t even hit the back of your head.” She stands and walks toward her office. “If you didn’t want to talk about Grayson, all you had to do was tell us.”

Because she would have listened to me and backed off? Does she think I’m stupid?

“You sure you’re okay?” Phoebe asks.

“I’m fine.” I wave her away when she holds out a hand to help me stand.

The last thing I need is perfect looking Phoebe helping klutziest girl in the world, Suzie stand up. I know I’m not being fair. It’s not Phoebe’s fault she’s gorgeous. And she is gorgeous. She’s tall – five-foot-nine to my measly five-foot-two – and has curves in all the right places. She’s blonde with green eyes and plush lips in a heart-shaped face. It’s no wonder her husband went nuts trying to get her back and force her to have his babies.

I, on the other hand, am your typical redhead complete with pasty white skin that goes from ghost white to crisp as bacon with no stops in between. My body is curvy, but unlike sexy Phoebe, my curves tend toward pudgy. My face may be considered cute by some, but beautiful? Nah. My eyes can’t make up their mind what color they are – the ring around the pupil is blue, but the outer ring is brown – and my lips are way too big for my face. Good thing I’m not looking for a man.

“Where’s Ryker?” I ask when I’m on my feet.

“He’s chasing a skip.”

“He took off the day after Christmas?”

I’m surprised the man let her out of his sight the day after proposing. If you look up alpha male in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Ryker. Of course, when you see the picture of the six-foot-six bearded man with dark green eyes that can see right through you, you’ll also understand why Phoebe threw caution into the wind and took a chance on the man. Ryker is h-a-w-t – Hawt!

At Phoebe’s nod, I ask, “Will he be home in time for New Year’s Eve?”

New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. Hailey’s dad owns a bar, McGraw’s Pub, and he throws the best parties. Of course, the free drinks don’t hurt. And then there are the pranks. Hailey’s dad has a bunch of former Army buddies he plays poker with who practically live in the pub. They are beyond hilarious when they start playing pranks. I rub my hands together. I can’t wait to see what they get up to this year.  

“He promised to be home in two days, in plenty of time for the party. I should have gone with him. I don’t have any cases right now anyway.”

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a dead zone in the PI business. Or at least in our PI business, it is. Most couples are all lovely-dovey during the holidays. But those holiday feelings fade fast. January is our busiest month of the year.

“Why didn’t you go with him?”

Her nose scrunches up. “He thinks it’s dangerous. As if I can’t handle myself.”

I bite my tongue to stop my laugh from exploding out of me. Phoebe was a total coward when she first started at, We Cheat, You Eat. Handle herself? Ask her about the time she ended up in someone’s pool some time. Although she’s getting stronger, she literally escaped a kidnapping all by her lonesome, she’s still got a ways to go.

“Phoebe!” Hailey shouts. “Can you come in here? I need some help.”

“She probably needs me to reach the top shelf for her,” Phoebe mutters before sauntering off.

Hailey isn’t exactly short at five-foot-eight, but Phoebe never lets the chance pass to needle her about her one-inch height deficiency.

In case you’re wondering, Hailey is gorgeous too. I’m literally surrounded by gorgeous women. Although Hailey doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. She complains about being too thin constantly. Whatever. I’d take her skinny self with her long, brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes over my chubby ass any day of the week.  

I wait until Phoebe shuts the door behind her to roll my chair to the door to eavesdrop. I seriously don’t understand why they bother shutting the door. They know I’m going to eavesdrop anyway. When will they learn?