Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thanksgiving: A Time for Homecomings


A week from today is Thanksgiving, and I'm so excited because it's one of my favorite holidays. Part of the reason is that I enjoy cooking, another part is that there's no decorating or present pressure, and another part is because I've always believed that Thanksgiving isn't just about being thankful. Thanksgiving is also about homecomings. Grandparents coming home from Florida. Aunts and uncles coming to visit us in New Jersey. Now that I'm a mom, it means my kids come home from college and my mother visits from wherever she's traveling in the world. 

While my current romantic suspense release EVERY DEEP DESIRE has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, it is a homecoming book. It's about an ex-Green Beret who disappeared wife eight years earlier, ended up in Leavenworth, and has come home unexpectedly to protect his wife. I've posted an excerpt below of what I call their HOMECOMING SCENE. It's the first time Juliet has seen her ex-husband Rafe in eight years, and seeing him again is not at all what she expected.

EXCERPT from EVERY DEEP DESIRE:


Voices sounded from near the fountain, and Juliet looked up. Bob and the water inspector were arguing again. Sighing, she slipped her phone in her pocket and went toward them…and stopped.

A man over six feet tall had come through the privacy fence and strode toward the fountain. She paused not just because he wore combat boots, low-riding jeans, and a black T-shirt that outlined his ridged stomach, wide shoulders, and tattooed arms. Not just because he reminded her of Michelangelo’s marble male studies exhibit that’d left her with pudding knees. Not just because he carried the aura of carved masculine perfection with ease.

She paused because his gait stole her breath. Elegant, even graceful, he moved with a determined purpose wrapped in fluid weightlessness. She wouldn’t call it eerie so much as powerful. It had to take enormous strength and self-control to move a body as large and muscular as his so…beautifully.
He spoke to Bob, who pointed toward her. The man nodded, shrugged on the leather biker jacket he carried, and turned. Oh God. His long stride ate up the plank walkway while she wiped her palms on her dress and inhaled deeply. In the space of her exhale, he stopped a few feet away. His brown-eyed gaze clasped onto hers with a longing that kept her still. His sheer size and the yearning in his eyes flooded her with the kind of heat that pooled low.

He was larger than she remembered. And the way he studied her, like she was the only thing in this world worth noticing, reminded her of everything they’d been to each other. Everything they’d once had in that forever-and-always kind of way. Which ended up being a total lie.

She had to remember that.

She swallowed. “Hello, Rafe.”

Seriously? The man had abandoned and betrayed her, and that’s all she could say? She couldn’t even keep the tremor out of her voice.

Juliet.” It sounded like a prayer, and her breath hitched in the back of her throat. After eight years, she still remembered how her name resonated on his lips, how the word ended with his soft drawl instead of a sharp consonant.

She blinked while he took her hands and moved in. He brushed a kiss on her cheek, and his familiar musky scent teased her nose. She closed her eyes, and her eyelids burned. It was like the anger and sadness and disappointment that had lived inside her for so long were so deeply buried they couldn’t find their way out. She could only stand there, feel his lips on her face, and remember what used to be. Part of her—the traitorous part that exhaled when the kiss ended—was even relieved that he was still alive. For a few of the eight years he’d been away, she hadn’t been sure.

Could she be more pathetic? Probably not. Because she considered the possibility that if she kept her eyes shut, time wouldn’t only stop, it would swing back to the last hours they’d spent together. The last moment they’d been happy.

What is wrong with me?

She opened her eyes and used her fingers to wipe her cheeks. Her gaze darted around—to her worktable, the fountain over his shoulder, his dusty boots—until landing on the blue ribbon wrapped around his wrist under his jacket’s sleeve. She was over him. So why was this so hard? What was it about him that made her tremble, made her limbs feel heavy? She should be angry and dismissive, yet all she could do was ask, “What are you doing here?”

There were so many other questions loaded into that one: Why did you leave me? Where did you go? What were you doing? Do your tattoos mean what you said they mean?That prickly feeling rushed through her again, and she fisted her hands until her nails cut her palms.

His relentless gaze shone with unapologetic determination. A trait she remembered. “The army released me from prison.”

“For God’s sake, why?” She hadn’t meant to screech—and had, in fact, never screeched before—yet his flinch testified to her pitch and tone. She tucked a stray hair behind her ear and shook her head. Embarrassment sent a flush from her neck to her face.

“The army dropped the charges and let me go.” His voice was low and melodic. He even reached out to touch the strand that wouldn’t stay put and hung over her forehead. Except she turned until he lowered his hand. “I know seeing me must be…unsettling.”

Unsettling. Yes. That was a word she could support. She took two deep breaths before meeting the heat in his eyes. “I thought you had a life sentence.”

Or was that a lie too?

He shoved his hands in his front pockets. Despite his jacket, the movement only emphasized the width of his muscled chest. He was so much bigger than when he’d left. “One day I was in solitary confinement, the next I was free.”

She frowned. The whole thing sounded sketchy. “Do you know why? Or who orchestrated it?”

“No.”

She studied the handsome face she used to cup with her hands and caress at will. Square jaw framed by firm cheekbones and deep-brown eyes. Shorn hair with slashes for eyebrows. Lips that protected white teeth, one with a small chip from the time he fell out of the tree next to her balcony. The same face she’d once loved now had tiny lines around the eyes, a jagged scar on the forehead, and a darkness in its eyes. “So you came home?”

He stayed still under her visual assault, as if daring her to look at all of him.As if daring her to see the man who had supposedly gone AWOL to work as a gunrunning mercenary. As if daring her to ask the question they both knew she wanted to ask but was too afraid to.

“Yes.” He spoke softly, his words edged with steel. “I came home.”

With his obvious physical strength and don’t-screw-with-me-or-I’ll-kill-you attitude, he seemed capable of working for an arms dealer. Heck, he could even bean arms dealer. Yet he kept a polite distance between them and moved slightly so the shadow he cast kept the sun out of her eyes. Then there was his upper body, which shook as if the act of standing still in a garden, talking to her, required a tremendous amount of self-control.

Frustrated with her all-over-the-place emotions, she tucked back that damn stray hair again and walked toward the fountain. He fell into step next to her. “When are you leaving?”

Depends.” The way that word rolled off his tongue, heavy and intense, loaded it with all sorts of meanings.

“On what?”

“On you.”

She stopped near Bob and faced Rafe. “You nuked my life, yet your decision depends on me?”

“Yes.” For the first time, his attention shifted from her to the horse rising out of the fountain four feet away. “Pegasus?” Memories of their childhood were evident in his half smile. “Our winged horse?”

She shrugged. If he wanted to play the deflection game, she would too. Because no matter what he said or did, she wasn’t going to allow him to mess up her life again. She was no longer the wounded bird he’d married. “Classical architecture is still around. Timeless beauty always trumps dead war heroes.”

When he turned to her again, his stare took in her clunky, steel-toed garden clogs and pink linen dress up to her hard hat–mussed hair. “It does indeed.”

She pressed her palms against her skirt. “What do you want.” No question mark. A direct statement requiring a direct answer.

His eyes narrowed. “To see you.”

Why?” Her question sounded desperate, but she didn’t care. “It’s been eight years.”

He ran a hand over his head and glanced away. “Because it’s been eight years, and I need to make sure you’re okay.”

“I sent our divorce papers to you in Leavenworth.” She grabbed his leather-clad arm and forced him to look at her. “We’re not married anymore. I’m not your wife.”

“Juliet.” His voice was so broken she almost couldn’t hear the words. “No matter what the world says, and regardless of what you believe, you’ll always be my wife. Your safety always trumps everything.”

Thunder hit hard, much closer this time, and she wrapped her arms around herself. “What does that mean?”

“I’m here to protect you. And I’m not leaving until I do.”

----------------------------------------------------

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Gracealways defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google
And adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Movin' On...A New Series!

I've been hip deep in edits lately. But it make it easier to work on the same books in a series when you've got book one's edits fresh in your mind!

Here's a look at the first book in my new series, Movin' On, entitled THE WHOLE PACKAGE, which releases January 29, 2019.

Enjoy!


BLURB: Always the caretaker, former Marine Reid Griffith wants to help his brother adjust to civilian life…and help other former servicemen. What better way to utilize their brawn, discipline, and charm than a moving company that hires veterans? But although Reid prides himself on being strategic, he certainly doesn’t plan to fall in the spotlight of one brilliant—and beautiful—PR whiz…
PR expert Naomi Starr is determined to bring Vets on the Go! into the spotlight. But when she meets Reid, it might mean breaking her rule to never mix business with pleasure. Especially once she discovers that underneath Reid’s sexy rough-and-tumble exterior is a vulnerable man who just might need what she’s got to give.



EXCERPT:
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Her continuous stare made him a little uncomfortable.
“Something wrong?”
“Hmm. I think we need to brand you as a family company first. You and your brother, together, would really work to sell Vets on the Go!”
“My cousin’s also a partner. We all kind of look alike, so you’d see the family resemblance.”
“Even better.” She made a few notes. “So we highlight you three, then pepper the interview with your brawny, good-looking employees. And bam, you’ve already made an impression on the thousands of single women needing to move.”
“Now we’re targeting women?”
“Yes. And families and veterans themselves. You have an original appeal, and not just because you’re handsome.” She flushed and hurried to add, “And by you, I mean your team and your business.”
“So I’m not handsome then?” he asked to tease her, loving that blush.
Naomi cleared her throat and said dryly, “I think you’re well aware of your looks. My point is we use every weapon in your arsenal. You have fit, appealing employees who’ve served our country. That’s three for three. Now looking at your rates…” She swiveled her computer monitor so he could see it. “Leo, our data guru, sent me a comparison to see who your major competitors are.”
“We went through this before we started the company,” he said.
“Bear with me.” They went over more numbers, enough to make his head spin. In certain demographics, they seemed to hit the mark while missing entirely in others. “So you see, if you raise this rate but drop this fee, you’ll still come out even.”
“That’s if this marketing works.”
She gave him another of those penetrating looks that caused the sparks in his belly to start up and dance. “Oh, it’ll work.”
“Confident in your abilities, huh?”
“You know what, Reid? I am. Now, I’ve got the same issues as most women.” Her charming smile disarmed him. “I often wonder, does this outfit make me look fat? Is my hair the mess I think it is? Will he call like he said he would?” She turned uber-professional between one breath and the next. “But one thing I’m not is deluded about my professional abilities. I won’t promise what we can’t deliver. I know how to help businesses grow and flourish, and yes, I’m damn good at what I do.”
He believed her a hundred percent. “Okay then.” He studied her right back, noticing the plump curve of her lips. The sparkle in her blue eyes. He took his pen and signed the contract, then pushed the folder back to her, irritated that he had to work to maintain control, aware of his racing pulse. 
Reid was man enough to handle being attracted to a beautiful woman. Didn’t mean he had to follow his dick where it led. “But for the record, the outfit is flattering, your hair is beautiful, and if he’s dumb enough not to call back, he doesn’t deserve you.” He stood before he made a bigger fool of himself. “I’ll set up the interview with the news station and let you know.”
“Ah, right. Good.” She cleared her throat. “Once I have that information, we can meet again to prep you for it. That, and I have a few more ideas I’ve been considering.”
“Great.” He just stared down at her.
“Any questions for me?” she asked, sounding way too perky.
“Yes.” He stared some more, until that bright smile dimmed. He let her see his attraction, let her know that yes, he did find her smokin’ hot.
“Your question?” she asked and licked her lips. Her gaze dropped to his mouth for a second before shooting back to his eyes.
Gratified to know she felt the same chemistry, he winked at her and saw her blush again. “My question is this… Where do you get your coffee? Because that cup I had was amazing.”


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Exercise Your Right to Vote!

I have only four words for you today:

Get Out And VOTE!

I know what you're thinking. I'm only one person with one vote. My vote doesn't count for much, and what I want doesn't matter to anyone else.

WRONG! 

Now, granted, in a presidential election, the popular vote is not the last word on who gets to be president. When your state or district goes for the candidate you didn't vote for, voting can seem sort of pointless.

But this is a midterm election. At no other time does your vote count more than in these state and local elections. Your voice has a much better chance of being heard right now, so don't waste the opportunity!

Don't know who or what to vote for in your area? Tired of TV ads that only tell the negatives about the candidates and nothing about their political platforms? Newspaper articles baffling you? I ran across this site: https://votesaveamerica.com/ballot, which I found helpful.

But whichever party or candidate appeals to you, please don't let them down by staying home.

Don't Forget to Vote!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Excerpt from Recklessly Ever After


Gavin St. James

After the hell I’ve been through in the Marines—in life—there’s nothing I crave more than routine, stability, peace. Until McKenna Brewer walks into my life. 

She’s impulsive, fiery, tempting as hell, and everything I don’t need. But when she offers me a night of no-strings-attached passion, I can’t resist.

When our night together has unexpected consequences, I can’t help but think this might be the perfect opportunity to show McKenna just how much I want her. 

The only problem? She doesn’t do forevers. But forever is exactly what I need with her.

***

Recklessly Ever After is available now! Enjoy this excerpt!


With a couple of nineties rom-coms tucked inside my purse, and a fresh carton of Ben & Jerry’s  in a bag hanging off my forearm, buried in the bottom of my purse, I was determined to make up for lost time.
I knocked twice, like always. Once to make my presence known, and the next to make sure Max wasn’t in there screwing one of his many flavors—though I didn’t see his car either. Unlike every other time I’d stopped by, nobody answered…at least at first. But then I heard it—a grunt, followed by a, fuck me and then an, I’m coming, hold on.
“Oh, God.” I took a step back, looking over my shoulder toward the driveway, more than ready to run.
No, no, no. I knew that voice.
There was no time to escape, though, because a second later he was there. And quite frankly, my legs weren’t capable of moving, either. Because the moment that door whipped open and I saw him standing there, I was screwed with a capital S.
“McKenna…” He said my name on an exhale, while his hypnotic green eyes raked over me in one long, agonizing swoop. His cheeks grew bright red—making him look bashful and, adorable, not the tough- guy like his friends tried to be. When he bowed his head, I took a second to look him over too, frowning when I noted a clump of black sticky, gooey stuff clinging to the ends of his lashes, and a smearing of something shiny and red on the corners of his lips and clinging to his beard.
“H-hi.” I cleared my throat, attempting to remember why I was there in the first place. The intensity emitting from this man tended to make me forget pretty much everything.
“What are you doing here?” He folded his arms over his massive chest. The same chest I’d touched… The same chest I’d kissed…
I blinked. “W-where’s Addie?”
He frowned and that beard of his shifted, conforming with the movements of his jaw. “Grocery store. She asked me to watch Chloe for half an hour.”
“You? Watch Chloe?” I snorted.
“Yeah. Me.” His eyebrows drew together as he propped one hand against the door frame, a dare in his words that said, challenge me and you will lose.
Except I highly doubted this man could ever beat me in a match of wits. Regardless, he did have me mesmerized, like as always. His hotness, his coyness, the vulnerability I knew he embodied… Total. Human. Catnip.
I swallowed, watching his forearm flex. Gavin was humongous in every sense of the word. I may might have been a little tipsy when we’d had sex, but the delicious soreness between my legs the next morning proved that big was so very worth it.
My face grew hot at the memory, my mouth opening and closing like a dunce’s. Who was I? Where was I? And why the hell did I have an unexplainable urge to drop to my knees before him?
Because you like him.
I frowned and held my chin up high. “Mind if I come in and make sure you didn’t tie the tyke up?” Without waiting for a response, I ducked under his outstretched arm, holding my breath as I did. Unfortunately, the air in my lungs did little to block the heavenly, masculine smell he emitted. Spice, pine, soap… The combination made my lady parts tingle and my head spin in remembrance.
I didn’t do men for more than a night. Not anymore. Not since Penis-Head Paul. So, what was my issue? One and done, that’s the way it was supposed to be. Not third time’s a charm, damn it.
Ignoring his are-you-kidding-me expression, I headed into the living room, finding the coffee table filled with all things princess. Crowns, feather boas, fake earrings, and… “Is that makeup?”
He cleared his throat. “Yeah, um, give me a second, would ya?”
I grinned at him, watching, yet again, as he bowed his head—this time rubbing at the clingy black goo on his eyes and, yes, the red lipstick on his beard.
Oh. My. God.
He’d let the kid put it on him?
Be still, my beating heart.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Excerpt from Between a Highlander and a Hard Place

A fierce Englishwoman on the run...
A Highland Laird who needs a proper wife...
And a desire neither can resist.

Athena Trappes thinks she’s in love…until she discovers the scoundrel only wanted her as his bit on the side. Enraged, she does what any spirited Englishwoman would do: set fire to his belongings, incur his dangerous wrath, and flee—immediately. With nowhere else to turn, she seeks freedom in the wilds of Scotland.

Highland Laird Symon Grant lost his wife years ago, and it’s his duty to find another. Athena is not exactly what the clan has in mind for him, but Symon’s heart burns with unexpected passion for the woman who would risk everything to be free.
***

Between a Highlander and a Hard Place is available October 30th! Enjoy this excerpt!



The difficulty with escaping was a person needed a place to go. Athena discovered the truth of her dilemma once she spied her uncle’s home. The moon was rising, but the night was still bitter. The sturdy wool dress she had lamented wasn’t pretty enough was now her dearest friend, for it kept her from shivering.
At least as far as the chill in the night went.
Inside her heart, there was ice forming.
What a fool I was.
And now, her lack of judgment was going to destroy everything. Galwell would do as he promised, she had little doubt. It felt as though his shell had cracked, allowing her to see what manner of foul creature he truly was. Well, she would not allow him to claim a victory over her. But how? Nobles controlled the world. His blue blood would be seen as more honest than her word. The sin of her parents would be taken as a stain against her account of what had happened.
He could accuse her of thievery. Have her flogged or any other manner of horrible fates. Yet there was nowhere else to go.
“Athena?” The door suddenly opened wide, the light from within illuminating her. “Thank Christ! I have been near to death with worry.” Henry was pulling her inside, even as she tried to fend him off. She didn’t really want to. No, he was her family, the man who called her his own when others had advised him to abandon her to an orphan’s lot.
“Tell me true,” he demanded once the door was shut and the warm glow of the candles on the table surrounded her.
Sweet Christ, she had not given enough thanks for how wonderful her home was. The world beyond the door was crueler than she might ever have imagined.
“Athena.” There was a subtle reprimand in her uncle’s voice.
Her memory rushed in with vivid recollection of Galwell’s threats. “I must leave.”
Henry’s forehead furrowed.
“I must,” she insisted. “Oh, Uncle, I have made a grave misjudgment of character.”
Henry held up a hand. His fingertips were marked with scars from years of toil at his trade. She fought back nausea as she recalled how Galwell had promised to destroy it all in his quest to have her submission.
“Tell me everything. We shall find a solution.”
“I must leave,” she muttered, suddenly losing the strength to stand. She lowered herself onto one of the benches at the table. A place she had so often enjoyed the company of her family. Now it was empty, and she faced the knowledge that she could not be there at dawn when they came down to break their fast.
“Galwell…came upon me as I was leaving service…in his carriage…”
Henry had always been a man able to keep his thoughts hidden. Tonight she witnessed him fighting for control of his temper. It flashed in his eyes as he tapped the tabletop with his fist.
“I shall have to leave…” And yet she had no idea where to go. “Galwell will ruin you.”
“Aye, he’s a black-hearted man and no mistake.”
Her uncle stood, pacing about the kitchen. He stopped as he came to some sort of decision. Athena stood, ready to face whatever he might say as her due for loving unwisely.
“We need time,” Henry said. “I am not a man without friends, but it will require planning to ensure Galwell cannot destroy us. As a noble, his word will be listened to first and with more weight. I will have to make inquiries discreetly, for not many will go against Galwell’s blood. At least publicly. Behind closed doors is another matter entirely.”
There was a commotion on the street, the sound of boots stamping against the cobblestones as men approached.
“The priest hole,” Henry whispered.
He didn’t wait but grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward a side of the hearth. There he ran his fingers along a stone until he found the small indentation where he could open a hidden door. She had to turn sideways to fit into the hollowed-out section of the wall. Her uncle closed it, locking her behind the wall of the common room.
It was dark, but she’d often played in the space as a child. She drew in a deep breath and slid down farther, to where she could see into the kitchen through tiny places where the plaster had been removed so a hidden priest might see out.
Someone pounded on the door.
“What’s all this?” her uncle asked gruffly. “Is that my niece at last? I’m sick with worry.”
“We are here for Athena Trappes.”
Through the peepholes, Athena saw the constables with their white staffs. All along the street, doors opened as the neighbors came to investigate why the sheriff had sent the constables out into the night.
Every honest man was expected to show he was not harboring a criminal by opening his door wide.
“And you come to me?” Henry demanded. “Why?”
It wasn’t a lie. Athena realized Henry was a man who was bound by his honor. She bit her lip as her insides churned. Tonight her fate would be decided.
“Baron Scrope’s son has accused her of setting fire to his London home.”
There was a shifting among those watching in the streets. Fire was a grave crime because it might spread so easily in the tight confines of the city.
“You say my niece was with Galwell?” Henry demanded again. “Before he finished the contracts with me? He has offered for my niece and then takes her to his home? I will have satisfaction!”
“So will the sheriff,” the captain of the constables said. “You shall—”
Henry interrupted the man. “You will return to the sheriff and demand to know why Galwell Scrope took my niece to his home when he had sworn to finish negotiating contracts with me, as he pledged his word of honor to do. What manner of a man is noble by birth and yet not honest in his dealing with a common man such as myself? He stood in my home and vowed to wed Athena! It is well known on this street! If my niece set a fire, she was likely attempting to escape from a man who is dishonorable at his core. Did he attempt to make her his whore?”
Now there was a mumbling among those watching, good men who had indeed heard Galwell say he would wed her. The constable captain was uncertain. He looked between Henry and the crowd moving closer.
“I will put the question to the sheriff.”
The constables turned and marched away. Henry nodded to a few of his neighbors before firmly shutting the door.
She wanted to be relieved. But her worry only grew as she recognized just how much power Galwell wielded.
“Stay in there, Athena. I shall return.”
Her uncle was gone a moment later, slipping out of the back door.
It left her alone with her thoughts.
Love hurt.
Her heart was torn. Oh, she understood she owed not a single tear to Galwell, not after what he had done and threatened to do.
And yet her dreams were a pile of rubble at her feet, her world upside down, and even hope seemed beyond her grasp as she felt as though she was turning as hard and cold as the stones she was pressed against.
Perhaps that was for the best.
Yes.
It truly was.
She would never love again, for men were vile creatures. They declared themselves so many things, and beneath it all was naught but the craving to use women to satisfy their lust.