Today’s the day these two characters I’ve grown to love so much get set free into the wild (that’s your, the reader’s, hands). Hint: If you make it all the way to the end of this post, there’s a giveaway.

Read a little more about them…

Former social worker Roxie Fisher believes she’s cursed to never find happiness and an invitation to Cupid’s Café isn’t going to change her situation. All the same, against her better judgment, she gives it a try. What else does she have to lose?

After the death of his wife, accountant-turned-firefighter Aidan Craig, can’t stop taking ridiculous risks and never turns down a dare. So an invitation to Cupid’s Café is an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the social worker who helped him through the darkest days of his life. Now she’s the one struggling, and he’s compelled to help.

The two experience an immediate attraction, but Aidan swore to never become involved in another relationship, and Roxie can’t imagine daredevil Aidan being interested in a boring, cat-rescuer like her.

Can Roxie find the simple joy of taking a risk? Is Aidan willing to risk his heart? Or will they both lose out on a chance at true love?

Buy Links

I’ll update these as I can. For now:

Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | Scribd

A hot little excerpt when you click read more (and giveaway details)…

Read More →

I make a soundtrack for every story I write. I use them to help me write individual scenes and to create a sense of the full story. Following the advice of Lani Diane Rich (author and creator of Chipperish media), I find one song to be the song that would play over the ending credits of my book. It embodies the fullness and catharsis of my ending.

Exactly Like You had an ending credit song I’d never paid attention to (since I was about 8 when it was released). I’m not entirely sure how I ran across the song, unless it was just story fate, but it was Caught Up in You by 38 Special. Every day, when I prepared to write, I started the playlist with this song. I knew whose viewpoint that song was from and, so, who had to be the one to make the grand gesture at the end.

But I’m jumping ahead. This playlist was heavy on acoustic covers (which makes it my very favorite playlist ever) especially from the 80s. Why? I don’t have a clue. It’s just where my prewriting led me.

In the first kiss scene at a party, I relied heavily on two songs. A cover of I Wanna Dance with Somebody (all slowed down) by Rachel Brown and Crazy For You (a la Madonna but even better) by Alice Lamb. It was an intense scene with a lot of conflicting feelings and these two songs diluted it down to the essence of what was happening emotionally.

Roxie suffers from depression and it was very important to me that no one refer to her as crazy except for Roxie herself, and then only once. All the same, that feeling — that you’re crazy — can be very pervasive when trying to claw your way out of depression. This song, originally by Gnarls Barkley, Crazy covered by Mysha Didi helped me to get in Roxie’s head.

Honorable mention for that falling-in-love-feeling, at least from Roxie’s perspective, was Boom Clap covered by Lennon & Maisy. Roxie was feeling again, which is a relief after depression, and it felt great and scary all at once. Aidan, on the other hand, was less than happy to be falling in love after losing his wife two years ago.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite cover of Bad Romance as done by Lissie. Wow, so powerful. So true to the feeling of wanting someone even when you know you’re broken and they’re broken, but you might be whole together.

I could go on and on about how, song after song, this soundtrack is just righteous and perfect. I miss listening to this soundtrack as I fell asleep every night over the five weeks that I wrote the story. I hope you’ll give Exactly Like You a chance and, if you do and you love it, check out the soundtrack. It’s sort of a music behind the story encyclopedia.

(All links open in Spotify)

The music behind the story, Exactly Like You, available June 20. Click To Tweet

ALL IN FOR LOVE

An Inn Decent Proposal By Sharon Buchbinder

Perfect Odds By Lashanta Charles

A Ghost To Die For By Keta Diablo

Raising Kane By Kat Henry Doran

For Money Or Love By Margo Hoornstra

Take A Chance On Me By M.J. Schiller

About ALL IN FOR LOVE

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense Anthology

Release Date: June 1, 2017

ASIN B071V94BWM

Six award-winning authors bring you six *sweet to sensual* romances filled with suspense, thrills and maybe even a ghost or two—for less than the price of a cup of coffee—99 cents!

Welcome to La Bonne Chance Resort & Casino!

With thousands of people passing through the casino’s doors on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that a variety of lives and loves are on the line there. It’s said that you’re more likely to lose your heart at La Bonne Chance than a hand of poker. Whether you are the Director of Casino Operations or the guy who created its software, a jilted bride or a black jack dealer, a past guest’s ghost or a sous chef–when it comes to love, the stakes are high.

Thank goodness what happens at La Bonne Chance, doesn’t always stay at La Bonne Chance….

Ready to roll the dice?

An Inn Decent Proposal, Sharon Buchbinder
Can an hotelier with a past and a chef with a future revive the grand dame in a neglected old inn?

Perfect Odds, Lashanta Charles
When a jilted bride meets the man of her dreams, will she embrace the new plan, or cling stubbornly to the old one?

A Ghost To Die For, Keta Diablo
She didn’t believe in ghosts…until one showed up in her room.

Raising Kane, Kat Henry Doran
Funny how a night in jail will change a woman’s outlook on life.

For Money Or Love, Margo Hoornstra
She’s the one woman he can’t afford to lose.

Take A Chance On Me, M.J. Schiller
Who do you count on when the chips are down?

Giveaway

To add to the fun, we are giving away one gambling themed handmade item to ONE lucky commenter who will be selected by a Random Number Generator.

Links

Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071V94BWM

Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/allinforloveanthology/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35052000-all-in-for-love

Webpage http://lucky6authorsblog.blogspot.com/  

Want to read excerpts and more about the authors?

Read More →

Today, this super-smart scientist/writer/daydreamer extraordinaire is joining us to answer some questions about herself, her writing, and how to succeed as a writer. She’s also brought her book, A Hundred Kisses, and a killer excerpt.

What made you want to become a writer?

I am a daydreamer. I love art. I love words. I love to lose myself in the beautiful – be it another world or nature and art. My first role model was my mom, who would spend hours at her easel drawing and painting. She also incorporated poetry into her art. My elementary school art teacher was also an inspiration. As much as I loved to draw, I found myself pulled to the art of stories. It began as girlish fictional stories and teenager angst-heartbreak-filled poetry. This morphed into my love or romance in college. Even as I took a career path in science, the desire to write remained steadfast. And here I am.

What are your books about?

I like happy endings. Up until last year, I only wrote historical romance. I dabbled in a time-travel book (that one’s on hold). My next project is the prequel to A Hundred Kisses. However, people remark that you should “write what you know,” so I jumped genres completely for my latest manuscript (in the submission process), which is a contemporary mainstream women’s fiction novel inspired by personal experiences. I’ve also been working on getting some children’s picture books out there (with an autistic main character; again writing from life experiences). I also write for travel magazines. Perhaps I have too many ideas! But I’m enjoying dipping my fishing poles in a variety of pools.

What have you put most of your effort into regarding writing?

Aside from the actual writing itself… the things that have taken more time and effort include research, editing, learning the business, and honing my craft/skills. While writing the first few books (my “practice novels”), I spent much of my time learning the process, understanding the craft. There is no shortage of writer’s resource books on my shelf; some I still return to with each manuscript. Research is also par for the course, and I enjoy what I learn along the way, even if it doesn’t make it into the book. Learning the business is worth the time investment, too. That comes with plenty of networking and reading. Editing – the bane of most writers’ existence – is a necessary evil. And now, the next chapter in my writing journey has opened: marketing and promoting my book!

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

It depends on the book [wink, wink]. My historicals are completely fictional (although real history is packed in there). Of course , here is a little of the writer in all her characters.  Two very minor characters in A Hundred Kisses, Peter and Sham, are actually named from a town (Petersham) I drove through one day. My contemporary books tend to have more real-life inspirations. People I know. Family members. People who have wronged me or a loved one. Yup. No one is safe! I will say that I do love my secondary characters. On the querying road, I’ve had some agents say that they detract from the central story (of hero/heroine), where others have enjoyed their presence. I lean toward the later. In fact, the secondary characters quite often become leads in a future novel idea. I feel that a well-rounded cast brings life to a story.

What advice would you give a writer just starting out. Share three pearls of wisdom.

My three P’s:

  1. Patience. There is a lot of waiting in writing. It all works out on its own timeline, not ours. What to do while waiting (impatiently)? Write something else. Read. Research. Network. Do something to kill the time while you wait.
  2. Perseverance. Never, ever give up. No matter how many rejections or no’s you get, don’t give up if it’s your dream. I wrote 3 novels before the fourth one finally made it. It took me 19 years. Granted, there was some stopping and starting in there for jobs and early childrearing years, so it took a while. Rejections can hurt. Use them for good. How can you take that rejection and spin it to help you? (e.g. agent/editor/fellow author feedback on your writing/characters/plot – use that in the next manuscript or revise with that feedback in mind – that’s exactly how A Hundred Kisses came to be! I took the advice from an agent and ran with it.)
  3. Put in the time. This ties into #1. It takes time. There is no magic formula for writing success. I am still at the beginning of my publication journey. I put plenty of time into learning, honing, understanding. I am still journeying and learning. Like any career, it takes some time before you can truly blossom to your full potential. So this also ties into #2. Don’t give up.

Author bio:

Jean is a scientist, part-time education director, and a mom. She currently resides in Massachusetts and draws from her interests in history, science, the outdoors, and her family for inspiration. She enjoys writing non-fiction articles for family-oriented and travel magazines, and aspires to write children’s books while continuing to write novels. In 2008, she visited the land of her daydreams, Scotland, and it was nothing short of breathtaking. Jean enjoys tending to her flower gardens, tackling the biggest mountains in New England with her husband, and playing with her sons, while daydreaming about the next hero to write about…

Website: http://www.jeanmgrant.com

Twitter: @JeanGrant05

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeanmgrantauthor/

Buy Links

Amazon | The Wild Rose Press: E-book or Paperback

Blurb

1296

Two wedding nights. Two dead husbands.

Deirdre MacCoinneach wishes to understand her unusual ability to sense others’ lifeblood energies…and vows to discover if her gift killed the men she married. Her father’s search for a new and unsuspecting suitor for Deirdre becomes complicated when rumors of witchcraft abound.

Under the façade of a trader, Alasdair Montgomerie travels to Uist with pivotal information for a Claimant seeking the Scottish throne. A ruthless baron hunts him and a dark past haunts him, leaving little room for alliances with a Highland laird or his tempting daughter.

Awestruck when she realizes that her unlikely travel companion is the man from her visions, a man whose thickly veiled emotions are buried beneath his burning lifeblood, Deirdre wonders if he, too, will die in her bed if she follows her father’s orders. Amidst magic, superstition, and ghosts of the past, Alasdair and Deirdre find themselves falling together in a web of secrets and the curse of a hundred kisses…

Excerpt

She sensed no colors in the murky, lifeless water, and it was freeing. All breath escaped her. Muted visions passed before her eyes—her mother, her father, Gordon, and Cortland. Just a moment longer, she thought…

Suddenly, a burst of warm light invaded her thoughts as air filled her lungs. Red-hot hands burned her shoulders and ripped her from her icy grave. She breathed life into her body. She coughed, gagging on the change.

Muffled words yelled at her.

Oh, God, so hot. His fingers were like hot pokers. Her head pounded as she slowly returned to the present. Heat radiated from her rescuer. Somebody had pulled her from the water.

“Wh—?”

“Hush, lass. You nearly drowned.”

His voice was as soothing as a warm cup of goat’s milk on a winter’s day. A red-hot glow emanated from his body. Never before had she felt such a strong lifeblood, and it nearly burned her. She struggled in his arms to get free. She blinked, only seeing a blurry form before her. “Release me!”

She splashed and wriggled, and he did as told. She clambered to the shoreline. Numb and shaken, she began to dress. It wasn’t easy as she fumbled with slick fingers to put dry clothes over wet skin. She instantly regretted her naked swim. She pulled on her long-sleeved white chemise first.

She faced the forest, away from her rescuer. He quietly splashed to shore. His lifeblood burned into her back. He wasn’t far behind, but he stopped. She refused to look at him until she was fully clothed, not out of embarrassment of her nudity, but for what had just happened. He released a groan and mumbled under his breath about wet boots. His voice was not one of her father’s soldiers.

When she put the last garment on, her brown wool work kirtle, she squeezed out her sopping hair and swept her hands through the knotty mess. She fastened her belt and tied the lacings up the front of the kirtle. Blood returned to her fingertips, and she regained her composure. Belated awareness struck her, and she leaned down and searched through her bag for her dagger. She spun around.

She gasped as she saw the man sitting on the stone-covered shoreline, his wet boots off. Confusion and the hint of a scowl filled his strong-featured face. She staggered back, caught her heel on a stone, and fell, dropping the dagger. Dirt and pebbles stuck to her wet hands and feet, and she instinctively scrambled away from him.

His glower, iridescent dark blue eyes, and disheveled black hair were not unfamiliar. Staring at her was the man she had seen in her dream—it was the man from the wood.

I had this great topic (for other writers) dreamed up this month (actually last month, but I digress), but it’s been one of those months.

via GIPHY

I finally finished the second book I had to revise and submitted it to my publisher. Edits for the first (which is being published June 20!) should arrive any day. We had an Open House and Formal Dance here this week with the kids and my daughter’s last day of Cosmetology school was Wednesday.

And I wasn’t there because my husband had to have surgery WAY out of town. And, so of course, we took her out Monday to celebrate. A surprise party with cake then sushi.

It’s been a hell of a month. In just ten days, my daughter and I will be making our way to Arkansas, by way of Nashville (where we will spend the night, going and coming, because I can’t drive that long in one go), to spend a week. She’s meeting up with a friend and I’m spending several days holed up with my critique partner, where I will be slaving away at the third Infamous novel.

No, you didn’t miss the second one. I just submitted it. Cross your fingers, please, that the publisher likes it.

So, here’s a gif of Princess Leia because she’s my hero.

via GIPHY

I’m going to take a deep breath and remind myself that things will eventually settle down.

Welcome to my stop on the Highway Cafe Spring Tour!

Spring is hands down my favorite time of year. I live in rural West Virginia, in the US, and Spring is incredibly, blissfully green. Even the sunlight seems to reflect the greenness of the grass and budding leaves giving the air a refreshing quality.

I wanted to share a picture of typical West Virginia beauty. We get a bad rep in the media, but I won’t go into that. What we do have in spades is mountains, trees, flowers, creeks, and rivers.

This isn’t my view but it’s pretty damn close to what I see driving from my house to town on any given day. (Click either the picture above or the one to the left to get a full size view.)

I love my mountain home, but never more than in the Spring.

More about my novel, Infamous

Justine Montgomery, daughter of a divorced beauty queen and TV magnate, is a tabloid disaster after her infamous sex tape. She’s so desperate to help save her family’s home she turns to her deal-making dad. Can she prove to him she’s cut out for a career in television or will she lose it all?

Sawyer has his own past and a successful career is his only goal. Seeing Justine fail would mean the promotion of a lifetime, but things get complicated when he develops feelings for her. Suddenly, the lines between work, life, sex, and love are blurry.

They will have to overcome the bitterness of a rejected ex, the controlling actions of her father, and the half-truths they’re telling one another to forge a lasting partnership both on the job and off the clock.

Buy from Amazon right now!

Win a copy, plus many more books!

You can check out the home page of the Spring Tour here. My book, Infamous, along with several others can be won by visiting that page. Mention that you spotted the Easter eggs on my site (you’ll have to look for them) in the comments there.

Win a ton of great books in the Highway Cafe Spring Tour and find out why I adore Spring in WV. Click To Tweet

I said you’d have to look for them. I never said you’d have to look hard. ;-)

 

Remember the year I forgot to get my husband a chocolate bunny and he was devastated? Which was like three years ago, so go me for remembering. Sort of. As Meatloaf said, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”

So, anyway, I really stepped up my Easter game this year. Got to make a basket for my granddaughter (which I filled with books because Nana Lori is going to make a reader out of that girl). And my daughters got things they were dying for but had no idea they were getting. It was great. Part of the reason I indulged so much is because my husband helped me do the shopping this year (first time ever). He completely negates the better judgment side of me by saying, “Get it if you want.” I can’t argue with that.

Naturally, he was there so I couldn’t surprise-buy him a chocolate bunny.

And then… well, I forgot. I had Easter in the bag. A literal bag, hidden in my closet, all finished. I remember thinking about it once, but then I was in a hurry.

Come Easter, I had to tell him I’d forgotten. He wasn’t really as emotionally bereft as the first time so I kind of wonder if he didn’t buy himself one, to be honest. But, that’s not the point.

The worst part is, the man bought me a Twix Easter egg. He got me candy and I had forgotten his favorite thing. Well, his favorite thing about Easter. I’m pretty sure his favorite things are his Harley, the kids, and me–in that order.

So, basically, I just lost at marriage. Beat at my own game. It’s a good thing I have a Twix Easter egg to drown my shame in.

I forgot to buy one damn thing and I lost at marriage--Easter Edition! Click To Tweet

Blurb

 A liar…

Three weeks ago, James Maxwell’s wife died in a car accident, but he hasn’t been able to tell his five-year old daughter the heartbreaking truth behind her mother’s death. Instead, he packs them up and leaves for a summer resort in upstate New York to spend a few peaceful weeks and to gradually break the news. But a spirited and outspoken maid at the resort has figured out his secret.

A hater…

After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of her stepfather, Madison Smith has turned aimless and bitter toward the world—men, in particular. Her dead-end job at the local resort and her convenient girlfriend barely keep Madison from falling apart. When she meets James, however, she’s driven to protect his child from the darkness she sees inside him.

A forbidden kiss…

But Madison doesn’t expect to find that very darkness irresistible. Drowning in guilt and memories, neither does James expect to be drawn to the sharp-witted woman who has made his life miserable. When their tempers flare, a brutal kiss triggers a need that blurs the lines of hate and desire. As their lust spins out of control, they must decide if their attraction is worth fighting for or if love is the real enemy.

Please Note: This book is intended for mature audience. 18+ ONLY.

Buy links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2j9TXqe
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2j9UDM8

Author Bio

Saffron A. Kent: Romance Writer and Reader. Coffee Addict. White Russian Drinker. Imaginary Ballet Dancer. Wanna-be Poet. Lana Del Ray & Gillian Flynn Worshiper.

My stories are grey-shaded and NC-17. I write what I love to read. And what I love to read is always twisted and angsty and emotional. My characters desperately need therapy. They tend to kiss a lot too, among other naughty things.

I LOVE to chat with readers about reading and writing so come follow me!

Social links:

FB: https://www.facebook.com/SaffronAKent/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaffronAKent

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/saffronkent/

Website: http://www.saffronkent.com

Excerpt

A liar…a hater…a forbidden kiss…

My arm had begun to feel numb. I forgot to breathe as I looked at him. He could really hurt me. I knew this in my heart. He could really do it. My fear kicked into high gear. Please no. I didn’t think I could go through that again. Turned out people like me could be scared of some things, too. Surprise, my subconscious chanted, weakly.

I tried to free myself. “Let me go.”

He brought me even closer and puffed his stale breath on my face. I fought hard not to gag. His chest wasn’t touching mine, but one deep breath and it would brush. I stopped breathing.

A soft flick, a caress resonated on my skin where he’d grabbed me. It was so soft that it could’ve been air touching my skin, but I knew it was him. He was circling his thumb on my arm. My heart pounded, furious, afraid, and with a tinge of excitement. In the next second, the caress was gone like I’d dreamt it.

I struggled harder. “Let me go!” And then I broke down and uttered a word I hadn’t spoken like I meant it in a long while. “Please.”

This month has been spent in revision hell. I’m revising two novels and trying very hard to get them ready for a March 31 submission. One is a hard deadline; the other is self-imposed (important if we ever want to get our stories out there–there’s always a reason to not be writing if we let there be).

But there is no hell for the writer like Revision Hell.

I currently reside on the seventh level, the ‘this book sucks’ level where plot points and dialogue I thought were so cool in the first draft now strike me as vapid globs of desperation. Oh lord, deliver me from my woe!

–Writer Unboxed

Here’s this excellent post by Holly Lisle (my personal hero) on revising in one shot.

Here’s what she says on revision hell:

And let’s debunk one bit of writer myth while we’re here: Doing a seventeenth revision on a project does not make a writer an artist or move him above the writer hoi polloi any more than dressing entirely in black or wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow patches or big, black drover coats. These are all affectations, and smack of dilettantism. Real writers, and real artists, finish books and move on to the next project.

Because this is isn’t a real post, other than to gather resources I need (and you may need), here you go.

I hate revising more than anything in the universe. More than cleaning up cat puke. I am done with this book and do NOT want to work on it anymore.

This is where I’m at, y’all.

Once I do a first draft I, naturally, put the story away for a number of weeks to allow it to grow unfamiliar and, thus, fresh in my brain when I reread it. Then, I read it, taking notes on big picture problems. My last project, I ended up with sixty-five different notes and the list was about six pages long.

I’m preparing to go in this week and begin what I think of as deep revision. It’s a lot of editing, some rewriting, and a little adding whole new scenes. I’ll come out the other side with a new story on my hands; a deeper, more complete, richer story.

I wanted to give an example of what deep revision can do. I once wrote a post about the important elements of a sex scene. In it, I wrote:

Could you make the scene stronger by making them emotionally naked as opposed to physically naked?

If you go back to that previous post, you’ll see I included a first draft sex scene, but then ended up taking it out and replacing it with one that did just that (I’ll include a sample of it at the end; it’s from my book Infamous). Here’s why:

What I ended up replacing this scene with is one of connection, but the emotional sort. I finally realized that it’s too easy for my hero to make a sexual connection, but he never makes emotional connections. He pushed himself out of his comfort zone, he took a tiny step toward change. And she distinguished herself, in yet another way, as different from any other woman.

The reasons I made the change are described above, but it was also to increase the tension between these two characters, provide a richer understanding of their characters, and improve my story’s pacing.

Deep Revision can increase tension, characterization, and pacing--just for starters. Click To Tweet

For comparison purposes, I’m going to include a sample of that new scene below the signature. You can read it in its original form in the post about sex scenes. (It would make this post unnecessarily long to include both here.) I loved the new scene so much, it’s the main sample I used for marketing purposes. That is why deep revision is so important.

A sample from Infamous:

“Crap, now you’re going to be sweet? Now?” She tangled her fingers through the hair that covered her face and pushed it away. Next thing he knew, she’d wrapped her arms around his waist.

“Justine? Um… what are you doing?”

“I’m hugging you. Taking emotional comfort.”

“Like a leech.”

“Haven’t you ever hugged before?”

“I’ve never hugged anyone I wasn’t going to have sex with.”

“We’re not having sex.” She squeezed him tighter and rested her head on his shoulder. “Hug me back.”

Sawyer lifted his arms and wrapped them around her, his hands cupping her shoulders, pulling her closer. He dropped his head to rest on hers, and parts of him, so deep he couldn’t name them, pulled free and demanded his attention. Her hair smelled like fruit, the kind kids eat in the summer, juice dripping down their chins. “I’m fine with the hugging, but, just saying, I’m not responsible for any physical reaction hugging may induce.”

“Okay.” The word drifted out of her on a sigh.

He wasn’t equipped for this. There hadn’t been a lot of touching growing up, at least not the kind that didn’t end in a busted lip or a cracked rib. As an adult, there’d been lots of touching. But, not like this. The tighter he held her, the closer he wanted to be.

After a couple of minutes, he couldn’t take anymore. It seemed bigger than him, bigger and growing fast. He pulled back to look at her, hands still gripping her shoulders. “You look tired.”

“I haven’t slept since…” She tilted her head back, thinking. “I don’t remember. Couple of days.”

“So get some sleep.”

“I don’t know if I can.” She settled on the edge of the bed and looked down at her hands. “I have so many things running through my head right now.”

“I know what to do.” He slipped off the denim jacket he’d been wearing since some time last night. “Go find the least attractive thing you sleep in.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Why?”

“Because I said so. And because you need some sleep. You’ve got bags under your eyes big enough to hold your whole wardrobe.”

She lifted the lid of her luggage to pick through her clothes, grabbed something white she balled up in her hands, and dutifully went into the bathroom to change.

Sawyer looked at the closed door and then turned to the bed. He turned down the covers on one side and turned out the lights, except for the lamp beside the bed.

When she came out and flipped the bathroom light off behind her, Sawyer wanted to tell her to try again. Her choice was anything but unattractive. She’d slipped into a gown that settled halfway between her knees and…well, places he had no business concerning himself with. The gown flounced around her, touching her nowhere except under the arms and across her chest with a black ribbon gathering the material.

She lifted one foot and slid it behind the other. “Poppies.”

He dragged his gaze to her face. “What?”

“The flowers on the gown are poppies. They make you drowsy.” She slid her gaze to the side. “I found that amusing when I bought it.”

He held up his hands. “It’s fine. Get in the bed.”

“I don’t do pajamas. I have a thing against sleeping in pants. I like the way the sheets feel, cool and slippery, on my legs.” She looked past him to a corner of the room. “I talk a lot when I’m uncomfortable.”

“It’s fine.” He shifted toward the bed and then paused as her words sunk in. “Wait, you have panties on, though, right?”

“Of course.”

He tilted his head to glance at her with a frown, trying not to look at her bare legs. “Are they hot?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Right, no. Doesn’t matter. Lay down.” She stopped beside him at the foot of the bed and they stared at the down-turned blankets. “I want to make sure you get some sleep. You get under the covers, and I’ll lie on top so I don’t invade your not-pants-wearing space.”

“You’re volunteering to give me emotional comfort.”

“Shut up, Justine.”

She hopped into bed, twisting to pull the covers to the top of her shoulders, and lay on her side. He climbed on top of the blanket, scooted close. “Do people send you designer nightgowns, too?”

“Trying to sleep here.”

Her body moved in the rhythm of breath, slowed down, as her muscles softened and relaxed. He wanted to kiss her shoulder, to press his lips against it, to find out if it was as soft as it looked. And what was that scent? Her hair fanned across her pillow and it smelled like… watermelon? Strawberries? Apples?

She interrupted his fruity thoughts, her voice soft and blurry. “Thank you.”

“I’m an ass.”

“You’re okay right now, though.”

“I’m using you, right now, because I like how you smell. I’m an ass.”

She didn’t speak again, and he realized she was out. He should get up. Go to his own room. Get away from the bare legs, under the covers, and the shoulder, and the hair. Try to put whatever had awoken during that hug back to rest. In a minute, he’d get his jacket and go.