Since I started writing, I’ve wanted to see my name on a cover.

I wanted the surge of joy, of knowing I made that! I started this blog in 2007, and it’s always been my-name.com. Because, this is me. I have a thing about being real and I don’t want to hide anything about myself. (Yes, I recognize the irony of including my web address name on the image. Wait, is that irony or idiocy?)

In the last few months, though, I’ve started to feel a little discomfort.

Writing is highly personal. I’m not saying I act out the risque scenes in my novels at all, but I do fill every sentence with a bit of my soul. And that, for me, is far more personal. Do I really want to deal with people being able to climb inside my head that way?  Not people, reader people or other writers–they get it. But, say, those I come in contact with at work or who attend church with me.

The argument in favor of #writing anonymously. #pennames Click To Tweet

I just keep bumping into this wall.

Don’t post that, someone who comes into the office might take it the wrong way. Don’t talk about your feelings, you have to look people in the eye. And then, I feel fake. It’s not about being fake, it’s about the freedom to be MORE real because there’s a seperateness. My personal life, my professional life, my writing life, my basketball mom life–all different. My life.

And, in the end, it’s my choice.

So, I’ll give you plenty of warning. If you get here by RSS, email, twitter, or my Facebook page, you won’t have any trouble finding me.

siglori

P.S. On the writing side, I’m writing a novella for a submission call. It’s romance set in the 1950s, which I adore. If I don’t get picked up, I may publish it here. Someone’s going to read the damn thing. ;-)

Image was created using images from elitebackdrops.com and Mel’s Brushes.

What do the things in the title have in common? Me, getting sentimental. And overusing Kleenexes.

Over at Heart-Shaped Glasses today, I’m blogging about (reflecting on, actually, since that’s our theme this month) the tradition I started for my girls when they were little nearly nineteen years ago. Of course, I got sappy. Because, hello? I cry over commercials. Does anyone remember the Kodak one, with the little girl dancing on her dad’s shoes and then they’re dancing at her wedding? I still remember the song. I think Michael Bolton sung it, but don’t hold that against me.

(Tried to embed the video above, but if it’s not showing up, try this.)

Anyway, a little comment love over there wouldn’t hurt my feelings any. And you could win a book. As in more than one chance to win…

I’ll be back here next week. And even I don’t know what I might say.

siglori

Writer’s Digest is studying the romance novel today (and giving you a bit of a glimpse into the book I’m currently reading, On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells by Leigh Michaels).

I say: If you’re not a beginner, the first 85 pages are full of info you’ve heard before.  But then, it’s writing gold.  Give it a shot.

My favorite, the real “formula” of a romance:

What romance novels have in common is this: A romance novel is the story of a man and a woman who, while they’re solving a problem that threatens to keep them apart, discover that the love they feel for each other is the sort that comes along only once in a lifetime; this discovery leads to a permanent commitment and a happy ending.

via Writer’s Digest – Studying the Romance Novel.

’tis be, as described, th’ best character name finder ever. Let’s spy wit’ ye eye, ye can pick which letters it can’t or must start wit’ or end wit’, th’ length ‘n number ‘o syllables, even what letter sequence it contain. Then thar’s style preferences, like: Traditional, Contemporary/Invented, Passin’ Fashion ‘o th’ Past, etc. Then ye decide how popular a name ye want ‘n whether it be popular in locales outside th’ U.S. Extremely awesome. ‘n once it gives ye a list ‘o names, then ye really start diggin’ in.

ETA: This post is in Pirate, because it’s…. Talk Like A Pirate Day! Using the translator at postlikeapirate.com

I’ve got goodies and one of them is the second book in the Via Las Vegas series!

He needs roots.

She needs money.

A whirlwind wedding could solve all their problems…if it doesn’t bring the Vegas mob down on their heads.

Grace Winters needs a miracle in the form of cash. A young widow with a stack of bills and a dead-end job, she’d do anything to save herself, her son, and her mother from the street. Anything but gamble—the Vegas vice that got her husband killed.

Dominic Rosas needs a happy family—or at least the appearance of one—to buy out his father’s shares in the Lucky Star Casino, ousting the vicious man and avenging his sister. When he finds himself wildly attracted to a down-on-her-luck waitress with a stubborn will and a sharp sense of humor, a hasty marriage seems the obvious solution to both of their problems.

To Grace, Dominic seems too good to be true, a kind man with money to burn and an inner strength a world away from her gambling-addicted husband. They share a spark she’s never felt before, giving her hope that maybe this time marriage might work. But when she finds out he’s investing in the Lucky Star, the mob casino where her husband gambled away their future, the dream crashes around her. Dominic swears he can invest in the casino, avenge his sister, and keep her safe, but Grace fears she’s placed her bets on the wrong man—again.

It’s available today at the following retailers:

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

Goodreads

On to the other goodies. Available to win is a $25 Amazon gift card and this beautiful bracelet. It’s one of a kind and was designed by hardweardesigns.

Finally, how to enter. There’s a lot of easy ways, some worth more entries than others.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank all of you who are celebrating this book with me today. You’re lovely and I appreciate you so much.

Grace Winters’ cheeks hurt from smiling as she poured what had to be her hundredth cup of coffee today. She’d learned two things since becoming a waitress. First, if she didn’t smile, someone, truck driver or businessman, would tell her how much prettier she’d be if she did. Second, the amount of tips doubled when she did it before they asked. Apparently, being “pretty” made the service better.

Right now, she needed every dime she could scrape up. If it meant she walked around grinning like an idiot, though her feet ached and her life lay in tatters, then so be it. The bells on the door jangled. Grace glanced up in time to see an extremely handsome man in an expensive suit stroll in and head straight for the payphone. Tucked under an arm, he carried a leather bag, like a large black doctor’s bag with the clasp on top. New in town, maybe?

He was tall, with olive skin, piercing dark eyes, and thick black hair that tumbled over his forehead in waves. Italian. He had to be Italian, or at least have Roman blood running through his veins. She turned around to grab an order from the window, then paused to watch him.

More than any of the visually appealing traits, he carried a presence with him. When his eyes landed on her for a moment, Grace couldn’t not be aware. Attraction sparked in her chest, heavy and scary. That was the very last thing she needed.

“Hey, miss! Where’s my order?” the robust man at table four called out. She pasted on a grin and delivered the hamburger and fries she’d been holding.

Her gaze kept drifting back to the man sitting inside the phone alcove, despite scolding herself and promising that this time was the very last look she’d take. After he finished, he sat down at the counter, flipped over his coffee cup, and lifted a finger. When she grabbed the pot and sidled up to him, she allowed herself to think only about one day not needing this job. She’d get ahead, take a typing class. Then she’d carefully and at her discretion smile when she wanted.

He offered his own grin, one that did something strange to her legs, making them weak and hot all at once. “What else can I get you?” she asked, surprised by the flush of heat in her cheeks. Some widow she was turning out to be.

“You have the prettiest green eyes.” He chuckled. “Did that sound like a line?”

“A little.” The stiff expression slid off her face, a genuine smile taking its place.

“Sorry. I bet someone as beautiful as you gets a lot of them. Lines, I mean.”

“You could say that.” She frowned at the compliment. She happened to know she didn’t look beautiful today. She’d overslept because she’d been up all night with her son Bobby. Her hair was falling out of the hastily-plaited braids on either side of her head, and she wore no makeup. Biting her lip, she let her gaze drift past him and gave a shuddery sigh. “I’m sorry. I’m having a bad day. How about that coffee on the house?”

“Everyone is entitled to a bad day”—he looked at her name tag—“Grace. You ever get breaks? I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee.”

Any other day, especially after the fight with her mom about Bobby, her anger would be coming to a boil now. She’d bite back a retort, give another fake smile, and walk back into the kitchen. She didn’t know what about this man, except that quiver of attraction, made this any different.

She sighed and met his expectant gaze. “Things usually slow down in about half an hour. Can you wait?”

“Definitely.” His dark eyes held something, like they were in on a secret together.

Just as she’d predicted, the diner cleared out in thirty minutes, leaving only two regulars in Janine’s section. Grace ducked under the counter at the end and plopped down on the stool beside the man before she poured two fresh coffees. She placed the coffee pot to the side and turned to him. “Since you’re not wearing a helpful name tag, let’s try again. Hi, I’m Grace. And you are?”

A laugh rumbled from his chest. “Dominic. It’s Dominic.”

***

Dominic had sat on the stool nursing a cup of coffee for the last thirty minutes and, despite the laughter Grace had been able to pull from him, nothing had lessened his rage at his parents. He needed to kill a little more time, and that’s how he came to be sitting beside a beautiful woman in a cheap pink uniform that reminded him of a feminine, round birthday cake—except the curvy parts looked much more palatable. “So,” he began, hoping to hold her attention for a while longer, “why the bad day?”

In no hurry, she poured sugar from the glass dispenser into her coffee and stirred it with a spoon. “Why don’t you tell me about your day?”

“Because I want to know more about you.”

“Um…I live with my mother. I have a five-year-old son who, I have to admit, is a holy terror. Scared yet?” She had high cheekbones and a lush bottom lip that created a perfect heart when her mouth was pursed like it was this second.

Innocence, that’s what he sensed from her. And kindness. Maybe a shy sense of humor. What would she think of his life, the excesses he paid for, like laundry service, to make life simpler? She wasn’t like anyone he’d dated, women who owned lavish dresses that would put the cheap pink uniform to shame. And, yet…she’d snagged his attention.

“Doesn’t your husband help with the kid?” he asked.

She lifted her left hand and wiggled her fingers. “Widowed. Seriously widowed. He crashed his car, and it exploded.”

“I’m sorry.” He took a sip of his coffee, quiet for a moment.

“Thank you.” She dipped her head. “So, what about you? What’s your story?”

“My bad day? I had to fly all day to get back here because my parents were trying to institutionalize my sister so they could steal her inheritance. Lucky for them, my sister left me a message that she’s safe. That’s why I stopped here—to check in with my household manager.”

With a low whistle, Grace shook her head. “Your day is officially worse than mine. How does your wife feel about in-laws like that?”

“Never married.” He leaned closer, and her scent, oranges, surrounded him.

Grace looked around the diner like she might get up and end their conversation, so he rushed to fill the silence. “I manage a hotel in New York. I actually won an award last night—the hotel won an award. I’ve increased revenue by three-hundred percent since I became manager.”

“Very impressive.” She lifted a finger and twirled it to encompass the diner. “Coffee sales have increased by twenty percent since I started here.”

Dominic laughed, and she offered him a grin. “Is that right?” he asked.

“No, but it sounds good.” The grin slid off her face, and she heaved a sigh. “I should probably get back to work.”

He couldn’t simply let her go. He’d walk out of here and never see her again—unacceptable. “Come out with me tonight.”

“Are you going back home?”

“At some point.”

“That would be fun.” Standing from the stool, she shook her head slowly as she gathered up her coffee cup and saucer in one hand and picked up the pot with the other. “I don’t date for fun. I do nothing for fun reasons, not for two years now.”

“When your husband…?”

“Right.” He could see the struggle on her face, the frown furrowing between her brows. She might’ve said yes if she didn’t have so many responsibilities now. “No dates, but the consolation prize is pie.”

Something flowed between them, a thing he’d never experienced before. All he could say was, “I’ll take apple.”

“You got it. But, listen, the prize thing was a joke. You’ve got to pay for it.” He laughed deeply, the third time she’d done it to him. He couldn’t remember when he’d last laughed before coming in here. It was that as much as her beauty that attracted him.

She stood, ducked back under the counter, and brought him a wide slice of pie.

He devoured it, savoring every bite, and watched her while she wiped down the counter and refilled the sugar dispensers. When he finished, a satisfied sigh escaped him. Duty called him for now, but if he could find an excuse to come back in and see the hard-working, charming waitress before he went back to New York, he wouldn’t hesitate.

He slid a twenty under the saucer for her. Her gaze slid back to land on him, and he tipped his hat in goodbye then slipped out the door.

Dominic took off his suit jacket and draped it over his arm, then began the mile-long trek to his parents’ home. He should’ve called a cab, but at this point it would take one at least a half-hour to get here and he didn’t want to put off the confrontation with his parents any longer.

By the time he got to the neighborhood where his parents lived now, perspiration made his skin sticky under his white dress shirt. He loosened his tie a bit and lifted a hand to wave at the elderly woman who lived down the street. She made him cookies whenever he visited. Probably because his mother was the least maternal person he knew.

When he arrived, he rang the doorbell, but no one—not even Mrs. C.—answered his summons. He turned the handle and pushed the door open. Inside, he could hear raised voices coming from the living room, and he followed them down the hall, across the polished tile floor.

“Mrs. C.?” He called out for the housekeeper, but again got no answer.

With a nudge, he pushed the six-paneled wooden door open. His father stood in front of him, his back to Dominic. Across the wide room, his mother’s face distorted like a monster and she picked up a crystal vase and threw it at his father.

It went wide and exploded to Dominic’s right. He winced away from it just as his mother noticed him standing there. His mother, Vivian, moved to stand by the window, a cigarette smoldering in one hand, and glared at his father.

His father, Benny, turned to him. Red splotches stood out prominently on Benny’s face. Blood trickled from a small cut the vase must’ve caused on his father’s cheek.

When Dominic’s grandfather had died, his dad had looked at him with disdain and said, “Well, I guess you can quit working now. Sit back; let his investments take care of you.” That was the only indication Benny had given that he resented being passed over for the wealth Dominic’s grandfather had accumulated.

Instead, Dominic had worked even harder, and the award he’d won last night was a much coveted one in the hospitality industry. His father had always underestimated him, and it always hit him in a way that made him want to prove the old man wrong. Every time.

“Where’s Layla?” Dominic asked, his voice soft. He knew where she was, but how would his parents respond to the question?

“How should we know?” his father replied.

Vivian began speaking in Italian, then paused. She considered using her mother’s tongue beneath her. “She’s gone,” she started over, her accent perfectly American. “And good riddance to her.”

“Mm-hmm.” Dominic took another step into the room. “Get out, Mamma.”

“Why?” She crossed her arms, obstinate. Instead of leaving, she tossed her head and gave him her best withering gaze.

“Because I’ll deal with you later. Because,” Dominic went on, “I don’t expect any better from you.”

For some reason, Vivian flashed a triumphant smile in his father’s direction, then scurried for the door. She paused to take Dominic’s chin in one hand. “You’re a good boy.”

“Stop it.”

“I’m going, darling. Remind your father what ridiculous lengths your sister will go to to make me look bad.”

“She doesn’t lie. Just go.”

Her lips pressed into a thin, coral line, then she exited the room. Dominic turned on his father. “You son-of-a-bitch. Layla worships you. How could you do that to her?”

“Layla is twenty-five, and I have always provided for her. She had no need for that money.”

“That wasn’t your decision to make—it was hers. And trying to make her look crazy?”

“Oh, come on, son. She is crazy.”

Dominic advanced on his father who, in turn, stalked toward the bar.

“She is a product of growing up in this house. You barely paid her any attention, and Mamma saw her as a threat the first time someone remarked on how beautiful she was going to be.”

With a wave of his hand, Benny dismissed that. Fury blurred Dominic’s vision for a moment, and he closed his eyes to try to regain control. He had to get out of this house before he did something he’d regret. “She got a pittance compared to Anthony and me. Why go after hers?”

“Because it was easy. You’re a businessman now. Do you take on the lion or the lamb first?”

“The lamb?” he repeated, disbelief flooding his voice. Had his father really just said that? His head began to throb, and his heartbeat pulsed in his ears. “I’m going to destroy you, Papà. Like the lion devours the lamb.”

His father lifted his glass in a mocking toast. “You’re welcome to try.”

At this point, Dominic saw a clear choice: he could, and would prefer to, throttle his father or he could go and figure out exactly how to make good on his threat. He turned on his heel and walked straight out of the house. He was halfway back to the diner again before he saw a payphone. Sifting through the change in his pocket, he dialed zero. The operator directed his call to a cab company, and Dominic settled on a bench to seethe while he waited for his ride.

He thought back to his phone call to Charles at his apartment in New York. That had been his entire purpose for going into the diner. He’d never expected to meet a blonde angel with guileless green eyes and a beatific smile.

Charles managed Dominic’s life. He made sure the dry-cleaning hung in his closet and that the housekeeper, who came by three times a week, changed the sheets and did the grocery shopping. He could’ve called him a fairy godfather, really, for taking care of all the mundane crap Dominic didn’t care about, but knew needed doing, like paying bills and opening mail. Instead, he left it at manager and friend.

The operator had confirmed the call then patched them through. “Charles? Listen, I just wanted to know if my sister checked in with you.”

Charles had informed him that Layla had called an hour or so ago. “She went on for a full two minutes that she specifically told you to wait and then said you could reach her at The Desert Palms Hotel.”

He needed to ride around and look at the sights. Maybe reminiscing over the quickly changing city would cool his anger. The Desert Palms Hotel would be his next stop. He wanted to see for himself that his sister was safe and unharmed.

Chapter One

 The day started like any other day for Layla; her mother caught her filching food from the main house refrigerator and attacked. She didn’t come in swinging, though. It was more a thoughtful demolition of carefully planned and timed attacks.

With the aqua refrigerator open, Layla bit into an apple and eyed the Chardonnay in the door. Too early. She kept her back turned to her mother. Layla, darling, she would always begin. Then, bam, she’d cut more efficiently than Layla ever could herself.

“The Purple People Eater” came on the radio at that moment, static crackling over it, and as Layla turned to face her, her mother cringed. Vivian Rosas hated modern music.

“Layla, darling. I’ve made you an appointment with a doctor in the city. He’s very confident he can help you.”

Mouth full of apple to annoy her mother, who liked to pretend she’d been born and bred with class, Layla asked, “Help with what?”

Vivian, in her attempts to appear as if she’d come into the world elegant and perfect, wore a long, violet silk dressing gown with a full skirt. It would’ve cost a fortune. Despite the nightwear, her mother’s ebony hair was already carefully coiffed into a high bouffant.

“Your father and I have grown concerned since the incident at his hotel.”

“It wasn’t a big deal, Mother. I’ll find somewhere else to while away the never-ending glamour of my days.”

Her mother’s lips tightened. “You’re isolated. You have no friends, no prospects for a husband. You stay in the pool house with all the windows blacked out.”

“It’s a dark room. You can’t exactly throw open the curtains and let the sun shine in.”

At this point, her mother pulled a paring knife from the drawer and slowly began to peel the skin from an apple. So, this would be one of those arguments. When her mother truly attacked Layla, she made certain to leave something sharp in view. First, she would tear Layla to ribbons with her words, then leave some pointy object around so Layla would start slicing for relief.

“We believe you may benefit from the treatment Dr. Smythe is using with great success. It makes one forget all about the unpleasant thoughts that turn a well-bred young woman into a monster,” Vivian said.

Apple skin, a building spiral, piled up on the counter. Her mother had a strict policy against cleaning up after herself in any way. Leave it for the help, she believed, ignoring she was only a generation removed from “the help.” Layla’s voice came out a bit hoarse, which she hated. “I’m not going to the doctor.”

“But, Layla, darling, we don’t need your consent. Not if your father has you declared incompetent.”

“He would never do that to me.” Unspoken between them lay the truth that her mother would absolutely do such a thing.

“Maybe not before. But this hotel business has him worried. Imagine, his daughter persona non-grata in his own casino.”

“It’s not his; if it was I could still go there whenever I liked.” The knife gleamed wet with apple juice on the counter, within easy reach. “I have to go. I have somewhere to be.” Anywhere but here, with that knife.

“But where could you possibly have to go? You have no friends. You flit around Vegas doing God knows what—taking photographs of people without their consent, apparently.”

And then the lie materialized. Layla didn’t think about it, just recognized the awful clawing of panic in her stomach. Her parents would put her in some institution and let them shock her brain until she could be led around like a docile pet. “I have a date. I’m seeing someone.”

“Really?” Her mother drew the word out, disbelief dripping from each syllable. “What does he do?”

“He works. At his job.” From her place at the fridge, Layla tossed the apple core toward the sink. Ordinarily, she’d never leave extra work for those who worked in the house, especially Mrs. C. The housekeeper had been nothing but kind to her. Right now, though, she couldn’t walk toward that counter, toward the knife that called to her.

“Fascinating, darling. And what, exactly, is his job?”

“I’m late, Mother. I’ll tell you all about him when I get home. Or whenever I next see you.” She’d overslept this morning. Normally, she made it in, ate a bite, chatted with Mrs. C, and lit out before her mother ever woke from a liquor-induced slumber.

Layla rushed out the back door, stopped in the pool house, also known as her current residence, and grabbed her camera bag. She slung it into the front seat of the convertible and screeched down the driveway. Only one thing would ease the anxiety crawling all over her skin right now.

****

Jace strode quickly toward the more secluded bungalows in the rear of the casino with his newest over-eager employee. The kid was the son of a shareholder, shipped out here from New York. Luckily, Jace had been given explicit instructions—train him, give him no special treatment. If the kid wanted to move up, he’d have to prove himself to Jace.

So far, he’d tried a little too hard to please. The trick was to meet the demands of the big shots who stayed here while remaining on equal footing with them. They didn’t trust you to be discreet or to take a bullet to keep them safe if you acted like some squealing teenager meeting her idol for the first time.

“All right, kid, listen. See this area? You’re in charge of making sure nobody except Mr. Stone and his guest come back here. Period.”

“What about the other guests?”

Jace had to be careful how he worded things. Stone and his bodyguard had been coming to stay at The Desert Palms for two years now because Jace protected their secret. A secret that could destroy Stone and the other man’s lives if even a whiff of it got out.

“Mr. Stone has rented the bungalows on either side of his. There aren’t any other guests. He does this all the time. Not a big deal. You stand here. You keep your mouth shut. You see nothing. You signed that confidentiality contract, remember?”

There wasn’t a chance the kid would screw the casino over by going to the press about the affair. Unfortunately, there was every possibility that he would quit in disgust once he realized why Stone needed so much privacy. It was 1958, but some things never changed.

“I—yes. Yes, sir. But…” The kid’s eyes darted past Jace’s shoulder and back in a nervous dance.

“What? Was I unclear?”

“But what about that lady on the roof of the casino?”

Jace twisted and squinted. The sun hung behind her, but he could make out a lithe figure, elbows resting on the wall of the second-story roof. When she shifted, the sun glinted off glass. “What the… Are those binoculars?”

She shifted again, and he could make out what was in her hands. “Damn it! That’s a camera. Go get her and bring her down here, now!”

Jace started for the bungalows. Best thing until the kid got to the roof was to act casual and try for damage control.

“Hey, you! Get down here!” the kid called out.

Shooting a glare behind him, Jace pulled up short. The woman stood and took off like a streak.

“I said go get her,” he said through clenched teeth.

“I thought this would get her attention faster.”

“Well, it did. And now she’s leaving. If you want this job, you’d better catch her. Actually, don’t engage her. Just follow, discreetly. Then come back and tell me where she goes. You got all that?”

A quick nod, then the kid took off like a racehorse. Hell, at least he was fast. Idiot.

Jace tapped his fist against his head, forcing his brain to focus on how to handle this. If she was press, he could threaten her with jail for trespassing. Still might not work. Those people acted like they had the moral high ground, even when they skulked around and invaded people’s private lives. But what else could it be? A rival hotel, trying to figure out how Jace managed to always get the biggest star in Hollywood to come to this hotel nearly every weekend? Yeah, maybe.

He’d figure out how to handle it when he knew what he was dealing with. Until then, he strode toward the middle bungalow and knocked on the door. It took a good three minutes before Douglas Stone answered the door wearing only a pair of chinos. “Jace? What’s going on?”

“We had an intruder, and I noticed your curtains are open a bit.” Just enough for a really good lens. “We’re handling it, but I wanted you to be aware.”

“Were they on the grounds back here?” Mr. Stone rocked back on the heels and rubbed the back of his neck. He tried to look past Jace’s shoulders.

“No, not on the grounds. Try not to worry. I’ll take care of everything.”

“You always do. Thanks, buddy.” He clapped Jace on the shoulder and shut the bungalow door.

Thanks, buddy. He had to get every trace of those photos back. Stone was a good guy. What he did in his private time was his own business. And, just as bad, if what Stone did on his own time, in this hotel, got out… Well, Jace could forget about his job. He’d be lucky to get a job sweeping up the floors. And he’d never maintain the contacts he needed to build his own hotel and casino someday.

Jace headed back to his office in hopes one of the guys on the floor had seen something. A thin girl, dark hair, with a camera. That’s all he had. The sun had been at her back. He truly had no idea who he had to find.

After Jace questioned two of his guys, the idiot kid came back. His white button-up soaked with sweat, he’d loosened his tie so much he could easily have slipped it over his head. Jace sent the man from the floor out. “Tell me you know where she is. Tell me that, or I swear I’ll hang you by that ugly tie of yours until you’re dead.”

“I followed her home. Don’t think she even realized I was tailing her.” The kid gulped for air between sentences. “Got an address.”

“Then I guess you get to live. What is it?”

“Do I still work here?” The kid stood frozen, his eyes huge.

“Not if you don’t write that address down in the next five seconds and get out of my face.”

The kid did it and scooted out the door. Jace needed to learn his name.

At his desk, Jace studied the address. A nice area, expensive houses. Definitely not the press, then. That was some relief. Whatever happened with the photo, it wouldn’t be front-page copy tomorrow. Probably.

Jace dialed the PI he used to handle delicate problems. Truthfully, he used the PI more than he would ever have expected. But that was the job—solving problems, cleaning up messes, and keeping secrets. And, damn it, he was good at his job. Unfortunately, this was already one of those days that included all three at once.

Killing time, he walked the floor, he monitored the tables, he checked in the bar to make sure no one got out of hand. The longest two hours of his life. Finally, his secretary paged him over the PA, and he jogged down to his office.

“Anything?”

“The house belongs to a Benito Rosas, goes by Benny. Sound familiar?”

Jace jotted the name down. “Never heard of him.”

His PI loved to drag out good information, like a housewife sharing gossip over the fence. “Full-blooded Italian, parents-from-the-old-country type. He owns about thirty percent in The Lucky Star Hotel and Casino. Likely for a very close friend of his who’s connected to some heavy hitters in New York.”

“That’s not good news. But he’s not who I saw.”

“He has a daughter. Layla Rosas. Single, but there was a fiancé. Lives with her parents. It’s all I’ve got, Jace.”

“You don’t know what she does? Is she a journalist?”

“She doesn’t do anything. She sure as hell ain’t no journalist.”

“Thanks. I’ll be in touch if I need anything else.” Jace dropped the phone back onto the cradle. Layla Rosas. Why had this nobody been hanging around here? He was willing to bet she’d landed the shot of the decade. Journalist or not, she couldn’t have been on that roof pointing her camera at Douglas Stone’s window by accident.

He intended to find out. First thing in the morning, give her time to think she’d gotten away clean. Then he’d surprise her on her own turf.

****

Jace drove south of Vegas the next morning. The sun already beat down in shimmering waves of heat. Without all the nighttime traffic, the trip only took twenty minutes. The address wasn’t hard to find. A new house, all square shapes and big windows. Not so nice he had to worry about gates or a guard, so that helped.

He parked his car beside the curb and walked up the long sidewalk, landscaped on both side with round rocks and hearty cacti. Jace rang the bell and waited. Eventually, a matronly lady with orange hair corkscrewed in all directions, wearing an apron and glasses on a chain, answered the door. “Can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Layla.” He hadn’t expected the need to bypass any doorkeepers, so to speak, and he quickly decided a tone of familiarity was his best bet.

“And can I tell her the purpose of this call?”

Yeah, she wasn’t giving an inch. “We’re close friends. Jace Russell.”

Her gaze skimmed him with disdain, and she leaned a shoulder against the door. “How come I’ve never heard of you?”

“Well, here’s the thing, we’ve been keeping things private.” His PI had told him she was single, so intimating they were a little more than friends might bring him face-to-face with her. It would be best to shake her up, surprise her on her own turf. But if this didn’t work, he could always camp out front at the curb in his car.

“Hmm. So, you’re the man she mentioned to her mother?”

“I sure hope so!” Jace burst into a conspiratorial laugh, and just like he hoped, the woman laughed with him.

“Come on, then.” The housekeeper turned and walked straight back through the house, never stopping to see if he followed, to a wall of windows and a sliding glass door. “Layla’s either by the pool or in the pool house.” She gestured that way and shut the door behind him.

He walked a little down the rolling lawn until he saw the thin, dark-haired girl lounging in a chair beside the pool.

He had to play this carefully if he wanted the negatives back. The trick would be figuring out what this oddball, Layla, wanted.

 


Want to find out more or just hit the buy button? You’ll find everything you need on the book page.

Happy reading! xo

Blurb:

Two years after her husband’s death, Kelly believes her romantic life is done. Until she reconnects with her girlhood crush on social media, and as fate would have it, he lives across the street.

James is over the whole true-love thing. His grasping ex-wife tore that belief out of him, when she left him for a rich, old man. Then he finds out his first love moved to San Diego too, and their attraction burns as hot as ever.

What they don’t know is that Fate didn’t bring them together – the Guardian Angel Corps did, led by two unlikely Cupids – Kelly’s late husband and Zane, a rough and tumble, 19th century cowboy. When a Fallen Angel decides to tear Kelly and James apart, cherubs and harps aren’t going to cut it, and Zane’s unique skills might be just what they need to get a second chance at their first love.

Excerpt:

She flashed a bright smile at her old friend,  “I sent a friend request to Susie Davidson, and I want to see if she’s responded.”

“Susie Davidson,” Grace’s voice dripped with disdain, “we didn’t badger you into doing this so you could reconnect with Susie Davidson.”

“Hey, what’ve you got against old Susie? She was an integral part of our nerd squad in high school,” David said. “Right, Kel?”

When she didn’t reply, he glanced over at his old friend to see her frozen at her computer, all the color drained from her face. “Kel, what’s wrong?”

“I didn’t hear from Susie, but I did get a message from James Flynn,” she whispered.

David jumped to his feet and peeked over her shoulder at the computer screen. “Yummy James Flynn from Rye?”

Grace snickered, “Sounds like a sandwich. I’ll have a Yummy James Flynn on rye. Hold the mayo.”

Kelly and David swung their heads in unison to stare at her.

“What? It’s not my fault you two come from a town named after a bread.”

David shook his head mournfully and intoned, “Californians.”

“Native, baby.”  The blonde woman grinned playfully, “And don’t you New England Yankees forget it.”

“What does he say, Kel?” David asked with interest.

Kelly gulped, “He wanted to get in touch and maybe meet for a drink.”  She twisted her head to look up at David, her eyes huge on her pale face, “He lives here, David. In San Diego.”

Buy Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Amazon UK | The Wild Rose Press

Author Bio:

My career has been a winding road. I worked in the business world for years, got my MLS and worked in a school library, and am now living my dream as an author. I love to read and write contemporary and fantasy romance. I live in Maryland, with my husband, who is my real-life romance hero. We both enjoy traveling to visit our far-flung family and friends, and spending time on the beach with an umbrella drink and a good book.

Contact:

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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 now. http://bit.ly/2q71ely 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!

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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.

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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/  

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