The Sparks family is back again and this time…it’s Jeannette’s turn to get her life sorted out. In a family of rambunctious cousins, she’s used to being the shy, quiet one. But when she comes out of her shell, she comes OUT in style. Maris’ firefighters, Diego and Luc have had their eye on her for years and when they spy a way to finally convince her to go out with them, they take it.
The end result? A sexy m/m/f affair.
Sparks in Texas, book 3
Jeannette’s life is…nice. Great job in the family restaurant, cute house, sweet cat. All very nice…and boring…and maybe a little lonely. But she’ll suffer that price for the safety she desperately covets. Now, if only something could keep her safe from the temptation that is Luc and Diego. The gorgeous firemen are a danger to her libido, if not her heart.
Lovers Luc and Diego have had a hunger for the pretty cook at Sparks Barbecue since they rolled into town three years ago. But everyone knows Jeannette doesn’t date, so the men’s lust seems destined to go unslaked, no matter how much they want her in their bed. If friendship is all she’s willing to offer, Luc and Diego will greedily take it.
That changes quickly when an arsonist throws Jeannette in harm’s way, forcing her to find security and comfort in Luc and Diego’s arms. But the trio’s simmering heat is barely a flicker before the men learn Jeannette has secrets that run dark and deep…presenting them with a challenge unlike any they’ve yet to face.
Note: This book contains a scene of abuse from 16-year-old Jeannette’s past.
Throughout the dance she’d shared with Luc, she had been aware of Diego’s eyes on them. Somehow knowing he’d been watching had excited her, though she was hard-pressed to understand why. It was as if she wanted Diego to know how Luc was making her feel…because she sensed that made Diego happy.
Which was bizarre, because she had no idea if that was true or not.
Diego took her into his arms, tugging her until her breasts were pressed firmly against his chest. He didn’t ask, didn’t hesitate. He simply took. While that idea should terrify her, it didn’t. Instead, he had a way of making her feel cherished, safe, protected.
Like Luc, Diego was a skilled dancer. With subtle pushes and pulls, he guided them, taking over so that she could just enjoy the moment.
“You liked Luc’s kiss.”
It wasn’t a question, but she answered anyway. “Yes.”
“I liked watching it.”
“I know,” she whispered.
“Do you understand now?”
It was a vague question, but Jeannette didn’t need clarification. She knew what he was alluding to. She nodded.
“You feel it to. I can see it in your eyes. Even though you’re dancing with me, focused just on me, you know he’s there watching us. It makes you hot and shivery inside, doesn’t it?”
She swallowed, struggling to find her voice. “It does, but—” She tried to stop herself, tried to beat back the fears. It appeared Nettie refused to go down without a fight.
“But nothing.” Diego tightened his grip. However, this time she couldn’t sink into the embrace. Her back stiffened as self-preservation and years of running away ganged up on her.
He loosened his hold, tipping her chin up, forcing her to face him. “We’re going to take this nice and slow, Jeannette. But we’re not stopping.”
“I can’t…do…” Again, the words died. She couldn’t go where they wanted to take her. But damn if she didn’t want them to try anyway.
“You can’t tonight. I can see that. But we’re not going to stop trying. We’ve got as many nights as we need, all the time in the world.”
She frowned and asked the question that had tormented her since they’d pulled her into the park and insisted on this date. “Why would you go to all that trouble?”
“If this weren’t our first date, I’d take you home and turn you over my knee for that. Even now, I’m sorely tempted.”
Had he seriously just threatened to spank her? And was she honestly disappointed he was resisting? God, this whole night was confusing. And maddening. And sexy as hell.
Regardless, her spine stiffened. “All I’m saying is, you and Luc could basically have your pick of women around here. I’m not sure why you’d want—”
Diego placed his finger over her lips. “I’m going to advise you to stop while you’re ahead. If I hear one more self-deprecating comment come out of those pretty lips of yours tonight, I won’t be held responsible for my actions. And believe me, angel, as much as you might want to tempt me on that, you aren’t ready for it.”
Jeannette wasn’t sure how to reply. Diego’s thumb stroked her lower lip, his gaze glued to her mouth like a starving man eyeing a steak.
Though the slow music continued to fill the air, couples swaying back and forth around them, neither of them moved. Instead, they stood there, on the edge of the floor, and looked at each other.
Diego didn’t seek to close the distance between them. In fact, it seemed as if he were waiting for something. Waiting for her.
“Kiss me,” she whispered.
He smiled at her request. He had been waiting for an invitation. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Something Sparked is available now!
“The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been.” – Albert Einstein
On Tuesday, Something Sparked (the third book in the Sparks in Texas series) releases. It revolves around a family who own and operate a very successful barbecue restaurant in the fictional Texas town of Maris. So who are these people? Where do they come from? The Sparks in Texas series is the series I never intended to write. Isn’t that the way things go sometimes? Several years ago, I was invited to participate in a Red, Hot and Boom group project where a bunch of authors got together to write short stories connected to the Fourth of July. We each just agreed to write a story with that holiday in it. They weren’t tied together in any other way. Just the date. I thought it sounded like a hoot, so I hopped in, delighted by the invitation because there were quite a few wonderful authors involved and (in case you haven’t noticed) I’m a social writer. Which basically means I LOVE WORKING WITH OTHER AUTHORS. Writing is a solitary field, so when the opportunity arises to collaborate with others comes along, if I have the time, I’m all in. I love a good party! Just ask Lexxie Couper…and Lila Dubois…and Erin Nicholas…and Cari Quinn…and…well, you get the picture.
My short story within that holiday collaboration was Sparks Fly. I based the story on a conversation I’d had with my cousin, Tony. He is basically one of my very favorite cousins (I have a ton and we grew up together close to the family farm–or “compound” as we jokingly refer to it because we think it makes us sound like characters from the TV show, Dallas–and we’re all as close as siblings). Tony is my drunk dialer. Calls me whenever he’s drunk. I see his name pop up on my cell and it’s game over. I shut down whatever I’m doing and answer because I know I’m guaranteed a good laugh. That boy is damn funny. He called me one night around Christmastime several years ago and the conversation was just a bit more serious. He’d gotten married and he and his new wife were struggling to “get pregnant”. He said some things that night that stuck with me. So much so, that the next morning, I opened up a blank document and just started writing down some of the lines he said that were haunting me. I’m not sure I’d ever heard the “we can’t have a baby” fear from the male perspective before. It was heartbreaking.
That story stuck. And STUCK. I saved the document, closed it up and didn’t look at it for another year. Until the Fourth of July invitation came along and I thought “At last! A home for my Tony story.” So I wrote Sparks Fly thinking I’d put it in the holiday series and never look back. Yeah. Right. My hero in the story, Evan, came with…you guessed it…COUSINS. A lot of them. Even so, I was knee deep in at least three other series, so I said to myself…”Forget it. You don’t have time. Walk away.” I have issues with being told what to do. Especially when it’s me giving the orders because…damn…I’m an opinionated bitch and what the hell do I know anyway? I wrapped up one series, then another and then…I was invited to participate in Brenda Novak’s box sets. That’s right. Brenda Novak. Invited. Me.
After I picked myself up off the floor, I replied with an immediate HELL YEAH, I’m in and Sparks Fly started coming back to me. I began to think maybe I should write my “cousins series.” And then I thought, what better platform to launch it from than with Brenda Novak. I sat down and drew a family tree. I’d been wanting to write about a big family since Wild Irish and this seemed to be my chance. As the names hit the page, the family becoming more real to me, I knew I was there. The Sparks family is my new Collins family. My new Compass family. Nothing makes me happier than family and I was able to create one with a close-knit group of cousins, which makes me so happy. If you read the dedication to Saturday Night Special, it’s dedicated to my girls cousins, the sisters I never had. My cousins are THE BOMB.
I wanted to give you the background on the series and even share my family tree with you so you can see how everyone is connected and what stories I’m planning to write in the near future. I’ve bolded the names of the cousins who will be getting stories.
Five sons. That’s where the tree sprouts.
Family runs Sparks Barbeque, one of the most successful restaurants in the South—famous for their barbeque.
- George (oldest) and Stella – Judge of the local court system. Stella is a housewife. Live in big house on Main Street. Two kids.
Tyson – doctor in Maris
Paige – manager at Sparks BBQ (business degree—does scheduling and ordering, keeps books, can’t cook)
- Ronnie and Beverly – Ronnie runs the local stock sale. Beverly owns the bakery next door to Sparks BBQ. Two kids.
Evan – cop, new father of a daughter
Lacy – waitress at Sparks
- Doug and Katie – Killed in a car accident. Two kids, taken in and raised by George and Stella
Jeannette – cook at Sparks BBQ, 16 when parents died
Gia – 10 when parents died, computer whiz. Sets up the Sparks website and waitresses. Web designer.
- Lynn and Barbara – Own and operate the hardware store. One child.
Sydney– two months younger than Jeannette. Cook at BBQ
- TJ and Louise – Youngest of the brothers. Took over BBQ from his father. Works there occasionally, but mainly just hangs out to chew the fat with his cronies. Louise works with Bev in the bakery.
Macie – bartender at Sparks BBQ
Adele – waitress at Sparks
Age order of cousins:
Evan – 35 (married to Annie, works at bank – 35) – Sparks Fly – out now
Tyson – 34
Jeannette – 31 (dating Diego and Luc, firefighters – 30) – Something Sparked – out Sept. 1
Sydney – 31 (engaged to Chas, former Marine – 31) – Waiting for You – out now
Macie – 30 – The Long Way Home – out early 2016
Paige – 28
Lacy – 27
Adele – 25
Gia – 25
It’s Thursday and I thought it might be fun to do a little throwback post, taking a peek at an older story you may have missed along the way. Because of You is one of my earliest books and a personal favorite. It’s book one of a three-book series about the four sexy as sin James brothers.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Jessie said as she walked up to the front porch of the huge ranch house. The party she’d been reluctantly dragged to was already in full swing if the blaring music and loud voices coming from inside were any indication.
“You need to get out, Jess. You can’t hide out in that tiny apartment of yours forever. You need to live a little,” Todd said, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and dragging her forward.
“I’m not ready for this. I told you that,” she said, repeating the argument that had begun several days ago when Todd, her best friend since childhood, had told her he was taking her out to a party.
“No,” Stephen said, walking on her other side. “I believe what you said was you weren’t ready to go out and meet other men. That’s not going to be a problem here.”
“Because?” she asked, waiting for Stephen to elaborate. He and Todd had been very closed-mouthed about where they were going.
Stephen laughed. “Our friend Jacob James lives here and throws this party every year. It’s an annual event he likes to call Gay Fest.”
Jessie rolled her eyes at Stephen’s joke. He and Todd had been a couple for nearly a decade and she adored them both. They’d rallied around her after her husband’s death. Although she lived over three hours away, in the city, they’d made the trek toDenverto spend many weekends with her in an attempt to help her through her grief. She was an only child, estranged from her mother and stepfather, and in her mind, Todd and Stephen were her family now.
“Very funny, Stephen. Really. Hysterical.” She replied deadpan as Todd laughed.
“It’s just a party, Jess. You used to love to go out. We’ll down a few shots, dance around Jake’s backyard, you can throw your bra on the bonfire, we’ll all sing karaoke and—”
“Oh Jesus, you never said anything about karaoke.” She groaned, stopping mid-step.
Stephen gripped her arm and started moving her toward the door. “Just ABBA songs,” he said.
“Shit,” she muttered. They made their way up the front porch and into the house. The place was packed with people and Jessie found herself instantly besieged by Todd and Stephen’s friends. Jacob was the first to greet them and Jessie instantly liked the man.
“Well, it’s about time you got the girl over here for me to meet,” he said, playfully chastising Todd. “I mean, you do live a whole mile away. I’ve heard all about you, Miss Jessie, and I’ve decided I’m going to steal you away from Todd and we’re going to be best friends.” As he spoke, he linked arms with her.
Todd grabbed her free hand and pulled back. “Get your own damn best friend. Jessie is mine,” he teased.
Jessie laughed and shoved them away. “I’ll be friends with both of you if you get me something to drink. I have a feeling I’m going to have to be very drunk to tolerate spending time with either of you tonight.”
“Way ahead of you,” Stephen said, fighting his way back through the crowd. He handed her and Todd each a cold bottle of beer. “Good turnout, Jake.”
“Tell me about it. My brothers are gonna go through the roof when they see how many people have shown up. Attendance seems to double every year. Going to have to start renting a banquet hall at this rate.”
Stephen laughed. “Well at least it’s not raining. I noticed you’ve got a good crowd hanging around out back.”
“Doc’s out there right now, working to start the bonfire, and we’ve cleared off the patio for dancing. My brother Matt’s band is setting up to play later.”
“You’re lucky to have such cool brothers,” Todd said and Jacob nodded.
“Tell me about it. They’re the best. Even Mark helped me set up a bunch of tents in the backyard and cleared away some of the living room furniture so people can crash on the floor or outside if they want. Of course, after that, he hit the road. He’s still not comfortable around this many gay men,” Jacob joked. “I told him I had lots of guys I’d like to set him up with. Man, you should have seen him spin tires in the driveway to escape.”
“You shouldn’t tease the poor guy,” Todd said. “At least your brothers tolerate the fact you’re gay. My parents are still convinced therapy and drugs can cure my homosexual affliction.”
“Hey, Jake. Where are the chips?” someone yelled from the kitchen.
“Ah, the duties of hosting never end. Why don’t you all head out to the backyard? Once everyone’s well on their way to wasted, we’ll start the ABBA singing contest.”
“Oh crap,” Jessie muttered so only Todd and Stephen could hear her. “I thought you were joking about that.”
The guys laughed and they walked through the house to the back door. There were even more people gathered on the lawn. Most were men, but Jessie spied a few women scattered amongst the partiers.
“Who are all these people?” she asked.
“Jacob’s got lots and lots of friends. We don’t exactly live in the most liberal-minded of communities, so a few years ago—after he came out—he decided to start holding a Gay Fest. Started out with just a dozen or so friends who shared the lifestyle. Word seems to have spread though and now folks have started driving from as far as two hundred miles away to attend. It’s just a fun night where we can let down our guard and party it up,” Todd answered.
Jessie nodded. “That’s cool.”
She tagged along behind her friends as they reconnected with acquaintances from previous parties. They always introduced her and she tried to join in the conversations, but her heart just wasn’t in a festive mood. Before her husband’s death, she’d loved a good time as much as the next person, but lately it seemed to take too much energy—something she was definitely lacking. The memory of Tommy floated through her mind. She was certain Todd had suggested this quick vacation hoping that the break would clear her thoughts and encourage her to stop pursuing shadows that weren’t there.
Shadows that called her every night.
For the past month, she’d been plagued bymidnightphone calls. She’d tried to have them traced, but the number belonged to one of those pay-as-you-go cell phones. The police and Todd had chalked them up to a prank caller and Jessie wished she felt as certain the calls were harmless. There was something very frightening about the silence that always greeted her at the other end of the line.
“You’re drifting,” Todd said, leaning down to talk loudly into her ear. They were standing far too close to the speakers for her sanity. She spotted a bar set up at the end of the patio with a few empty stools.
“Drifting? I can’t even hear myself think. I’m going to go drum up another beer. You guys want anything?” she asked.
“Naw, I’m good,” Todd said as Stephen shook his head. She waved and walked away. Climbing up onto one of the tall barstools, she sighed heavily, looking back at the crowd. It really was a terrific get-together. Jacob definitely knew how to throw a hell of a party.
“That’s not a fun face,” a voice said from behind the bar.
Jessie turned to find a handsome man smiling at her. Holy wow, she thought as she looked into the man’s deep green eyes. His dirty blond hair was neatly trimmed and he had honest-to-God dimples. Inwardly she groaned. Just my luck, she thought. First spark of attraction she’d felt since her husband died and, of course, it was toward a gay man.
“Oh, I’m having fun,” she assured him. “Just a bit tired and not in much of a party mood.”
“How about a liquid pep-me-up? I’m mixing drinks tonight because I’m not in a party mood myself. Seemed easier to volunteer for this job rather than to fight my way through the revelers and try to participate in small talk,” the man answered. “I’m Caleb, by the way.”
“Jessie,” she replied, reaching out to shake Caleb’s outstretched hand. “Jessie Warner.”
“I don’t think I recognize you, Jessie Warner. Are you from around here?”
“No, I’m here on vacation. I’ve been visiting with Todd and Stephen for the past couple of weeks. They live about a mile down the road.”
“I know those guys pretty well. I forgot Todd mentioned he had company. Best friend from kindergarten, I think he said.”
Jessie rolled her eyes and laughed. “Yep, that’s me. Todd loves to tell everyone exactly how long we’ve known each other.”
“Got to admit, I figured Jessie, the lifelong friend, was a man,” Caleb said. As he spoke he mixed several liquors with orange juice before handing it to the man sitting next to her.
“Thanks, Caleb,” the man said, walking back to his friends.
“Everyone thinks that. Curse of my name,” she said.
“What are you drinking?” Caleb asked.
“Oh, just beer. I’m heading back home tomorrow and wouldn’t want to do it with a headache.”
“Smart woman,” he said, uncapping a bottle of ice-cold beer and handing it to her. “Where’s home?”
“Right now, it’sDenver.”
“Right now?” he asked.
“Todd and Stephen are trying to talk me into moving here. I’m a website designer and I basically work out of my house. My friends think I need to move out of the big, bad city.” Her words were a joke, but she had been giving their request some serious consideration.
She would never have dreamed of leavingDenverbefore Tommy’s death, but over the past eight months, she’d had more than her fair share of bad karma. She’d been mugged a few weeks earlier and although she hadn’t been seriously hurt, it had triggered a fear in her that hadn’t been there before. Between that, the prank calls, the feeling of constantly being watched, and her unfounded suspicions about Tommy’s death, she was one giant mass of nerves.
Since coming to stay with her friends, the paranoia had gone away. No more late night calls, no eyes watching her every move. Todd and Stephen lived on a nice-sized ranch just outsideSaratoga,Wyomingand the peacefulness of the area, the beauty of the landscape was certainly calling to her. She’d only been here two weeks, but she was already starting to feel like her old self. She was tired of being frightened—jumping at every sound, flinching at every sudden movement.
“Well, I may not be impartial, but I don’t think you could pick a better spot on earth to settle down than right here,” Caleb said.
“Oh, so you’re a local? Not one of the masses who drive hours to attend Gay Fest?”
Caleb laughed long and loud at her question and she wondered what he found so funny. “No,” he finally answered. “I didn’t drive at all. I live here with the host. Jacob’s my insane-but-loveable kid brother. And, sweetheart, I ain’t gay.”
“I’d rather regret the things I have done than regret the things I have not done.” — Lucille Ball, actress
“Cause a little trouble. It’s good for you.” – Angelina Jolie
“My only advice is to stay aware, listen carefully, and yell for help if you need it.” – Judy Blume
“Laughter is an instant vacation.”
— Milton Berle, comedian and actor
“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”
— Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist
WINNER (week two) – KRIS GALL FORD for her Facebook post! Her prize is a $25 gift card to Amazon
WINNER (week one) – NIKKI LAWSON for her tweet! Her prize is signed copies of Wine & Moonlight AND Friends & Lovers.
Thanks so much to everyone for participating. There were HUNDREDS of entries! And a huge thanks for making the release of Say Something so wonderful.
Happy Hump Day!